Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Cranberry Orange Shortbread

My eldest daughter is the one who found this recipe when she was first married. We all loved it, and I've made the cookies every year since. The original recipe calls for the addition of chopped white chocolate to the dough, but I found I preferred it best without the white chocolate. 

They keep well and taste even better. Buttery, with a hint of citrus, and some chewy tartness in the cranberries. 

Cranberry Orange Shortbread

1/2 pound butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup icing sugar
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. 

Cream butter and icing sugar in a mixing bowl. Beat until light. Add the orange zest, vanilla, and cranberries. 

Add the flour and cornstarch and mix well. 

Chill the dough for about 20 minutes if it is too soft to handle. Roll mixture into small balls and place on parchment lined baking sheets. Press the tops of the cookies with a fork that has been dipped in flour to prevent sticking. 

Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until pale golden around the edges. Cool on a baking rack. Store tightly covered, or frozen. 

Note:  The original recipe called for the dough to be rolled to about 1/4 inch thickness and then cut out, but I found that the edges were often ragged because of the cranberries, so I form them into balls. Rolling is certainly an option. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Chocolate Pecan Brownie Kisses

It seems that more and more people are eating gluten-free (not me!) for medical or other reasons. I like to offer something gluten free, but I'm not prepared to fill my pantry with all kinds of different flours that I'll use infrequently. So I look for things that are naturally gluten-free. I was going through my recipe box and found this recipe. I have no idea where it came from.

These are easy to make and quite delectable, with a brownie-ish texture in the center. I think they could be frozen, too. 

Chocolate Pecan Brownie Kisses (makes about 36)

6 oz semisweet chocolate (I used Baker's chocolate squares)
2 egg whites, at room temperature
pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line three cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Melt the chocolate squares (6 oz) in a double boiler or microwave. Cool slightly. 

Whip the egg whites with the salt, vinegar and vanilla until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, keep beating until stiff peaks form. 

Pour the melted chocolate over top, then the chocolate chips and pecans. Fold in as lightly as possible. A few white streaks will remain. The batter will be very sticky.

Use two spoons to drop blobs of batter onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake in the middle of the oven, for 8-12 minutes, until cookies lose their wet look, and hold their shape when you gently lift them. Let rest on cookie sheets for 1-2 minutes. (You can transfer them to wire racks for further cooling, but I just let mine cool on the parchment lined cookie sheets. 

Store in airtight containers in fridge for up to 5 days. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Pumpkin Cranberry Bundt Cake

Here we are in rainy November. A good time for a moist, flavorful cake, I think. This one fits the bill perfectly. I've made it for a number of years and have never been disappointed. Full of the season's flavours, it could even be considered "healthy" with the use of whole wheat flour.

Pumpkin Cranberry Bundt Cake

2 cups whole wheat flour (or use 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (fresh is best)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup canned pureed pumpkin (not pie filling)
1 cup fresh cranberries (or frozen and thawed), coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Butter and flour an 8 cup Bundt pan. 

In a large bowl, combine the flour, spices, baking soda and salt. Stir to combine and set aside.

In a smaller bowl, whisk the eggs until foamy (you could certainly use a mixer for this.) Add the sugar, then the oil and pumpkin and mix until well blended. 

Add the pumpkin mixture to the flour mixture and stir just until combined. Gently stir in the cranberries. Pour batter into the prepared Bundt pan. Bake for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a rack.

Dust with icing sugar to serve, or make a glaze with maple syrup, a little soft butter, and icing sugar. (I made a glaze.)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Cranberry Sauce

I love cranberry sauce with turkey and chicken throughout the year, so when cranberries come into season in the fall, I buy several bag fulls and preserve enough for the year. It's easy to do and the result tastes so much better, in my opinion, than anything commercial. 

Cranberry Sauce

4 cups fresh cranberries, washed and drained
2 cups water
1 stick of cinnamon, 3-4 inches
2 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon orange zest

Bring the cranberries, water, and cinnamon stick to boil in a large pot over high heat. When boiling, reduce to medium low and simmer 20 minutes. You will hear the cranberries go pop, pop, pop - a lovely sound. 

Add the sugar and simmer another 5 minutes. Stir in the orange zest for the last minute or so.

Pour into hot, sterilized jars and seal with lids that have been boiled for 5 minutes. Screw on the lids finger tight and leave the jars to cool. You'll hear the lids pop as they seal.

Yields about 4 half-pints of cranberry sauce.

The cinnamon stick and orange zest could certainly be left out if you prefer a sauce with pure cranberry flavour. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Cooler nights mean cooler days which means soup is so appealing. I could eat soup every day. This is almost a non-recipe, consisting of just 5 ingredients (plus seasoning.) It's similar to the Ginger-Warmed Butternut Squash Soup recipe posted in January, but without the ginger and pear. It's filling, homey, and warming - and with some grilled cheese sandwiches - makes a lovely supper. 

 Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-2 inch cubes
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
1 Tablespoon olive oil
4 cups chicken broth
2 Tablespoons heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 F. Toss the squash cubes and onion quarters with the olive oil. Spread on rimmed baking sheet and roast for about 40 minutes, or until tender and browning.

Place the vegetables in a large pot, add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Cool slightly, then puree. Add more broth or water if the mixture is too thick. Adjust seasonings, Just before serving stir in the cream. 

For a fun presentation, drizzle a bit of cream on top of each soup bowl and sprinkle with a few sunflower seeds. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Roasted Red Peppers with Olives and Parsley

Red bell peppers were plentiful at the market one day in the spring and I bought a lot of them. Then comes the question of how to serve them - one can only eat so many red peppers raw. I often make a mixture of roasted vegetables - zucchini, onions, peppers, mushrooms - and decided to try just the peppers. Roasting them at a high temperature makes them soft, juicy and caramelized on the edges. The leftovers are good cold, in a salad.

Roasted Red Peppers with Olives and Parsley

Red bell peppers, at least one per person (for the two of us I did 4, so as to have leftovers)
olive oil
coarse kosher salt
2 Tablespoons sliced olives (Kalamata or olive-cured)
2 Tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
1/4 cup soft goat cheese (chèvre)

Seed the peppers and cut into long strips, about 1/2 - 3/4 inch wide. Toss on a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil, just enough to coat each strip. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Roast at 425 degrees for 40-50 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the peppers are soft and beginning to brown on the edges. Place on a serving plate, sprinkle with the olives and goat cheese. Toss the parsley on top just before serving.

Adding a sliced onion to the peppers before roasting is also delicious. Substitute whatever type of fresh cheese you like - I've used a sheep's milk feta for friends with dairy allergies.

Grilled Rosemary Steak

The weather cleared up after a week of dullness and I've been inspired to cook on the grill again. Earlier this week I made Grilled Rosemary Steak which we enjoyed out on the deck as the sun slanted in the west. This is as easy a recipe as you can get. We enjoyed it with Potato Splats, Roasted Peppers with Olives and Parsley, and some sauteed patty pan squash.

Grilled Rosemary Steak

2 strip loin steaks (or however many you need)
olive oil
finely chopped fresh rosemary
freshly ground black pepper

Several hours before grilling the steaks, coat them on both sides with a little olive oil, rub in some rosemary and pepper and let marinate in the refrigerator. About 20 minutes before grilling, take the steaks out of the refrigerator and let them come to room temperature. 

Preheat the grill to medium or medium high and grill until done as desired, preferably a bit underdone as the meat will continue cooking as it rests. Sprinkle with salt, remove from the heat and let rest on a covered dish while you eat your salad or first course. Serve and enjoy.  

Rosemary Parmesan Coins

These are addictive little morsels of buttery, lemony, cheese and herb-flavoured goodness. I like to keep a couple of rolls of the dough in the freezer to have on hand and bake fresh for guests. Or me. They are delicious as a pre-dinner snack. 

Rosemary Parmesan Coins

1 1/3 cups flour
3/4 cup lightly packed grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1 Tablespoon finely minced fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, chilled
1 large egg yolk
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Combine the first 6 ingredients in a food processor. Pulse until blended. Add the butter and pulse until the dough resembles coarse crumbs. Stir together the egg yolk and lemon juice. Drizzle over the flour mixture. Pulse until small moist crumbs begin to form. 

Turn the mixture out onto an unfloured work surface. Work the dough (it will look like a pile of crumbs), smearing onto the counter and mashing it together until it forms a cohesive dough. Shape into a 1 to 1 1/2 inch diameter log. Wrap in plastic. Chill for an hour or more. Slice 1/4 inch thick and place on parchment lined baking sheets. 

Bake at 375 degrees for 15 - 20 minutes. Watch carefully for the last few minutes as they can burn quickly.

After wrapping in plastic, the dough can be frozen. Thaw slightly at room temperature to slice and bake.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Sage and Ginger Mixed Nuts

Pecans, almonds, peanuts, cashews - I love them all. A nut mix is a great thing to serve with drinks before dinner, or, if you must, instead of dinner. Any combination of nuts and seeds can be used, here I've used almonds, pecans, peanuts and pumpkin seeds. Faintly sweet, gently spicy, and fragrant with sage and ginger. Mmmm.

Sage and Ginger Mixed Nuts

2 1/2 cup nuts (can be all of one kind or a mixture to your liking)
1 egg white
1 Tablespoon water
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons minced fresh sage
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
dash or two of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Mix the egg white and water lightly with a fork. Add the nuts and stir to cover. Combine the brown sugar, sage, ginger, pepper and salt and then add it to the nuts, stirring well to coat. Spread on a parchment lined large baking sheet. Bake at 325 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until the nuts are golden brown and the sugar has lightly caramelized. Be careful towards the end as it takes no time at all for the nuts to go from golden brown to burnt. 

Cool, break apart and store in a covered container. Can be frozen. 

Green Beans with Sage and Bacon

My garden is bursting with green beans these days. I'm freezing a lot of them for soups and stews in the winter, and we're looking for new ways to eat them fresh, too. Bacon is always good with green beans, and I wondered about trying sage with them, since my sage bush is enormous. I think they marry well - the brightness of crisp tender beans plus salty bacon plus earthy sage - with a little onion added in. 

Green Beans with Sage and Bacon

Green beans, tailed and tipped - about 3 cups
4 slices bacon
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced (about 1/4 cup or less)
1 Tablespoon minced fresh sage
salt and pepper to taste

Place the beans in a saucepan and cover with a little water. Salt and bring to a boil, covered. Simmer until barely tender and still bright green. The younger the beans, the less time it will take. 
Meanwhile, cook the bacon slices until crisp. Remove from the pan and let drain on paper towel.
In a small skillet, heat the olive oil and add the onions. Saute until softened. Add the sage and saute for a few minutes until the mixture is fragrant. 
Combine all ingredients and season to taste.

Platz aka Plum Cake

 Platz is a Mennonite treat baked often by my mother and my aunts. It highlights fresh summer fruits like plums, peaches, apricots and berries, but any fruit can be used. Best eaten the day it's made, although a slice for breakfast tastes pretty good, too. In Germany, this is known as Plummen Kuchen - Plum Cake.

Fruit Platz

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons butter
1 cup cream (light, or even milk)
1 egg
 Fresh fruit: Use pitted cherries, plum slices, apricot halves, apples or peaches

Mix together the flour, baking powder and sugar. Add the butter and mix with your fingers to form fine crumbs. Stir together the egg and cream, then add to the flour mixture and stir just until moistened.
Pat out (flour your hands) onto a greased baking sheet (15 x 10 inches). I prefer lining my baking sheet with parchment paper. You want the dough to be fairly thin, but it doesn't necessarily have to fill out the entire baking sheet. 
Place a single layer of fruit over the dough. Top with the Crumb Topping, known as Ruebel.

Ruebel (Crumb Topping)

3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 Tablespoons butter

Mix the flour, sugar and baking powder together, then rub in the butter and add cream to make coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over the fruit. Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Blueberry Sauce

8-10 cup of fresh blueberries, rinsed and drained
2 cups sugar (next time I'd cut the sugar by at least half - this batch was too sweet)
2 cups water
2 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed and drained (you will add these later)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest
3 Tablespoons lemon juice (bottled)

Combine the  8 - 10 cups of blueberries, sugar and water in a large stainless steel pot. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Maintain the mixture at a steady boil for 15 minutes. Stir and mash the berries as they cook.

Add the 2 cups of blueberries and the cinnamon. Boil for 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the lemon zest and juice. 

Fill clean 1/2 pint jars, allowing 1/2 inch headspace. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. 

Yields 8 jars (1/2 pint) 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Cheese Souffle with Chives

The thought of making a souffle can send cooks into a bit of a tizzy. Before classes ended in June, I substitute taught a Home Ec class where the teacher asked me to demonstrate a Cheese Souffle. I've made souffles before, but wanted to make sure this particular recipe would turn out, so I made it at home the night before. Mmmm. Light and fluffy, with cheesy herby goodness! I ate the leftover one (deflated) for breakfast. It tasted just as good.

Basically a souffle is a thick white sauce enriched with egg yolks and seasoned with vegetables, cheese and/or herbs, to which stiffly beaten egg whites are folded in and the mixture is baked until golden and puffy. If you've never tried making a souffle you'll be surprised at how easy it really is. Infusing the milk with a bay leaf adds subtle flavor, but you can easily skip that step.
Cheese Souffle with Chives

1 cup milk
1 bay leaf
3 Tablespoons butter
5 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 eggs, separated
1 cup finely grated cheese, Gruyère is good, or Swiss, or Emmenthal
2 Tablespoons minced chives 
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 4 cup souffle dish or any straight-sided casserole dish. Alternately, use 8 -1/2 cup ramekins. Dust with flour or finely grated Parmesan cheese. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat the milk with the bay leaf until scalded. Remove from heat, cover, and let infuse for about 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and discard it.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter, whisk in the flour and cook, whisking continually, for about 1 minute. Add the infused milk and continue whisking until the sauce is smooth and thickened. In a separate dish whisk the egg yolks until combined, then pour in a little of the sauce, whisking to combine. When about 1/3 of the sauce mixture is mixed into the egg yolks, return the yolks and sauce to the remaining sauce in the pan and whisk until thickened and bubbly. 

Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese and chives. Add salt and pepper to taste. The mixture should be quite highly seasoned.

Beat the egg whites into stiff peaks. Stir in a spoonful of the whites into the sauce to lighten the mixture, then fold the mixture into the whites, until just a few white streaks remain. Fill the souffle mold or ramekins to just below the top. Run your finger around the inside edge to form a small trough. This will help the souffles rise evenly.

Place the dishes into a glass baking dish and pour boiling water around the ramekins or mold, to about two-thirds up the sides. Be careful to not spill any water into the souffles. Bake until puffed and golden. Individual souffles should take 18 - 25 minutes, a larger one 25 - 30 minutes.

Remove from the water and serve immediately.



Gougères, aka Cheese Puffs

Cream Puffs, filled with sweetened whipped cream and topped with chocolate, are delectable. A friend of mine makes the best ones and always has them in her freezer, ready to pull out at a moment's notice. But did you know that you can use the same dough - pâte à choux - to make savory puffs as well? Adding cheese and herbs to the dough gives the puffs new taste. They are delicious as appetizers, and can be frozen, then reheated in the oven before serving. I've used chives and oregano in this recipe, but other herbs could easily be substituted.

Gougères with Oregano, Chives and Swiss Cheese

1 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs
1 cup finely grated Swiss cheese (or substitute any flavor cheese)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano (2 teaspoons dried)
1 Tablespoon minced fresh chives

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

In medium saucepan, bring water and butter to the boil. Add salt and flour, all at once, stirring vigorously. The mixture will look lumpy at first, then smooth out to a doughy paste. Remove from heat. Stir in cheese and herbs. Add eggs, one at a time, stirring vigorously (this takes some work) until each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next one.

Drop by small spoonfuls onto parchment lined baking sheets. Bake 20 minutes or until puffed and golden. Remove to a rack to cool. Serve warm. 

Makes about 3 dozen small puffs.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Raspberry Thyme Vinaigrette

Rather than use a raspberry vinegar for this salad dressing, whole berries are instead blended into the white wine vinegar mixture before adding the oil. The berries stay a bit chunky, adding texture to the dressing. A hint of honey and mustard deepen the flavors.

Raspberry Thyme Vinaigrette

1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1-2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
16-20 raspberries, either fresh or frozen (thawed)
1/2 cup grapeseed oil (or other mild vegetable oil)

Whisk together the white wine vinegar, honey, mustard, thyme leaves, salt and pepper. Add the raspberries and mash them with a spoon to mix them into the mixture. With a whisk, add the oil gradually. The dressing will separate in the refrigerator, so be sure to shake well before serving.

Makes about 1 cup of dressing and will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator.

Orange Thyme Shortbread

Shortbread is a classic favorite and so versatile. I like the combination of orange and thyme flavors in savory dishes, so I thought I'd try them together in a sweet. Buttery, crispy, slightly sweet, with a bit of citrus and a hint of thyme, these are wonderful cookies to accompany afternoon tea. Or morning coffee. 

 Orange Thyme Shortbread

1 cup of butter, room temperature
3/4 cup icing sugar
1 Tablespoon fresh orange zest
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch

In a mixer or food processor, beat the butter until smooth and creamy. Add the icing sugar and beat well. Add the orange zest, thyme leaves, flour and cornstarch until well incorporated. Form the dough into a ball, wrap in waxed paper and chill for about 20 minutes.

Roll dough, between parchment paper sheets, or on a floured surface, to 1/4 inch thick. Cut with a floured cutter and place on lined baking sheet. Bake at 300 degrees for 18 minutes or until light golden brown. 

Cool on baking sheet for a few minutes, then remove to a cooling rack. Makes about 36 2-1/2 inch cookies.

Note:  For a little more savoriness, sprinkle the tops of the cookies with fleur de sel or fine sea salt. I did that to a few of them, and they are definitely my favorites.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Caramelized Onion Tart

Purchased puff pastry and a half an hour or so of caramelizing onions makes this an easy appetizer to pull together. It can be done ahead and slightly reheated in the oven, but it takes just fine at room temperature, too. The ingredients are simple but the combination of crisp pastry, softly sweet onions and a hint of cheese and thyme is satisfying.

Caramelized Onion Tart

1 package puff pastry
4 large yellow onions, peeled, halved and cut into slices
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (or Romano or Asiago)
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Roll out the pastry (or cut the pre-rolled sheets) into two strips, each about 15 inches long and 5 inches wide. Place each strip onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Pre-bake the strips for 10 minutes at 425 degrees. The pastry will puff up dramatically, then fall.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the onions and gently stir and cook them down. They shouldn't brown, but will slowly soften and caramelize. When they are completely softened and limp, sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Spoon the onions onto the pastry - if it's still puffy, just poke it with a fork and pile on the onions. 

Sprinkle with the cheese and thyme leaves. Bake 10 minutes longer. Cut into crosswise pieces about 2 inches wide to serve. Let cool slightly before serving.

Layered Tomato Salad

Nothing says summer like fresh tomatoes and herbs. This recipe is so easy, and fast. It can be made for a few people or many. 

In a wide dish or rimmed plate, layer sliced tomatoes - red, yellow, orange, or whatever you can find. A few cherry or grape tomatoes halved and sprinkled on top would be good, too. Sprinkle with drained capers and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Dot softened goat cheese on top, and sprinkle all with torn fresh basil leaves.  

Some of our lactose intolerant friends just have problems with cow's milk cheeses. So goat's milk (chevre) or feta is an option, as is sheep's milk. If you look in your deli section, you'll find cheeses made from the milk of various animals.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Zucchini Vegetable Medley

Summer means vegetables fresh from the market or the garden. However, this recipe, although best with freshly picked produce, is fine with supermarket fare as well. Zucchini, corn, tomatoes and fresh basil are sauteed, topped with a little cheese and baked until bubbly. Easy to prepare ahead and bake at the last minute, this dish is wonderful with grilled meats, and really highlights the flavours of summer.

Zucchini Vegetable Medley

2 medium zucchini, cut into bite sized chunks (zucchini varies greatly in size - use about 4 cups)
1 medium onion, diced
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon butter
3 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup of corn kernels - fresh is best, frozen is perfectly fine
salt and pepper to taste
1-2 Tablespoons of fresh basil, sliced thinly
1/2 - 1 cup of freshly grated cheese, either Parmesan or mozzarella

In a large skillet, heat the oil and butter until melted over medium high heat. Add the onion and sauteed until tender crisp, about 3 minutes. Add the zucchini, stir and saute until the zucchini is beginning to soften. Add the tomatoes and garlic, continue stirring and sauteeing until the tomatoes have lost some of their liquid. Add the corn and cook for about 1 minute.

Remove from the heat, season to taste and stir in the basil leaves. Turn into a shallow baking dish and top with the cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes or until bubbly and hot. 

Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce

It's summer. Strawberries are the first fruits to ripen. Fragrant, juicy and oh, so sweet. I freeze bags of them for use in the winter - for smoothies, desserts, and sauces. Thinking about how I use them, I realized that I often make a sauce for pancakes or for cheesecake and other desserts. How much more convenient it would be to have a sauce ready to go from a jar! 

I had a hard time finding a recipe I wanted. Finally, I concocted one of my own. I'm happy with it, and you might be, too. Sweet strawberries combine with tart rhubarb for a sauce that has deep flavour and isn't overly sweet. 

4 cups sliced rhubarb
4 cups sliced strawberries (depending on the size, I either halve the berries or slice them)
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1/4 cup water
dash of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a large saucepan, combine the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, salt and water. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring well. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring almost constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly. The consistency should be sauce-like. Remove from heat and add the vanilla.

Place into clean jars (about 5 half-pint or 250 ml), cover with sterilized lids and screw on the caps finger tight. Place into a hot water bath and process for 15 minutes. Cool on the counter and ensure that the lids are sealed before storing in a cool dry place. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Rhubarb Fool

This dessert is easy, light, delicious, and takes advantage of one of the first things to harvest from a spring garden - rhubarb. Stewed, then stirred gently into whipped cream, the result is cloudlike sweetness with an edge of tang. The rhubarb is also wonderful over ice cream, stirred into yogurt, or eaten plain.

Rhubarb Sauce
1 1/2 - 2 pounds of rhubarb stalks, washed and cut into 1 inch slices
1 cup of white sugar
2 tablespoons of candied ginger, finely chopped

Place all the ingredients into a heavy bottomed saucepan. Place over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb releases its juices and begins to soften. Raise the heat slightly and continue cooking until the rhubarb is soft, about 30 minutes. Cool completely.

Rhubarb Fool

1-2 cups of rhubarb sauce
1-2 cups of whipped cream, unsweetened

Stir the rhubarb gently into the whipped cream. Pile into a bowl or serving dishes. Will keep for a short time in the fridge. You can adjust the proportion of rhubarb to cream to your own taste.

This will serve 4 - 6 people, with some rhubarb sauce leftover.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Lemon Bars

My mother makes the most wonderful lemon bars. This is her recipe. I love them. Sweet and tart with fresh lemon flavour, paired with buttery richness from the crust. They are classic.

Lemon Bars

2 cups all-purpose flour (I usually substitute 1 cup of whole wheat flour for 1 cup of white)
1/2 cup sifted icing sugar
1 cup cold butter, cut into 1 inch cubes

Combine flour and icing sugar in food processor. Add butter and pulse until mixture just starts to form crumbs that can be pressed together. Press into ungreased 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until lightly browned.

While crust is baking, prepare the filling.

4 eggs
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
2 cups white sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

additional icing sugar for sifting over top

Place eggs. lemon juice and sugar in food processor bowl. Whirl until thick and smooth. Sift together flour and baking powder, add to mixture and pulse just until combined. Pour over hot, browned crust. Bake at 350 degrees for an additional 25 minutes. 

Sift additional icing sugar over top when baking is complete. Cool and cut into bars. Can be frozen.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Moroccan Vegetable Ragout

This recipe is taken from The Best of Fine Cooking's Soups and Stews 2013. Meatless and full of good flavour, it was easy to make and came together in about 40 minutes. It would be great served over couscous or quinoa. 

Moroccan Vegetable Ragout

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced 
1 3-4 inch cinnamon stick
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 cups peeled and cubed sweet potatoes
1 14-16 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (I used 1/2 can and froze the remainder)
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
1/2 cup pitted green Greek or Italian olives (I used Kalamata olives)
6 Tablespoons orange juice, preferably fresh
1 1/2 teaspoons honey (I used 1 Tablespoon)
2 cups lightly packed, very coarsely chopped kale leaves (I used frozen chopped spinach, about 1/2 cup)
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently until soft and lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

Add the cumin and cinnamon stick, stirring all the while until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the sweet potatoes, chickpeas, tomatoes and their juice, olives, orange juice, and honey. Add 1 cup water (or chicken broth). Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until the sweet potatoes are barely tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in the kale. Cover and continue cooking until wilted and softened, about another 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Applesauce Muffins

Applesauce is great on its own or with some yogurt, perhaps on pancakes. I was looking for a way to use up some of my home-canned applesauce and found this recipe on Epicurious. I adapted it and was very pleased with the result. Tender, buttery, a hint of cinnamon warmth, and a bit of sweetness on top. Perfect for breakfast or a snack, with tea or coffee.

Applesauce Muffins (makes 12 medium muffins)

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated, if possible)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup melted butter
Optional: 1/2 cup chopped pecans, walnuts or hazelnuts, or 1/2 cup plumped raisins

Cinnamon sugar for topping (2 Tablespoons sugar, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon)

Grease a muffin tin, or line with paper liners. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In large bowl, combine whole wheat flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Stir well, breaking up any lumps in the sugar. 

In medium bowl, lightly beat eggs until whites and yolks are combined. Add applesauce and melted butter. Stir well.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Add optional ingredients, if desired. Stir until just combined. Do not over-mix. Spoon into the muffin tins. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake until set and browned on top, 18 - 20 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving. But do eat them warm - delicious!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Copycat Green Beans

When I eat in a restaurant, I like to try new dishes - things I've never tasted before, or new ways of preparing an old favourite. During our California vacation last week, we ate at The Chart House restaurant in Carlsbad. Our table overlooked the water, which was lit by spotlights that drew fish close to shore, and gulls, since the fishing was so good. White crested waves with white gulls above made for a beautiful sight, although Tim pointed out that the lights were not very fair to the fish.

I enjoyed a piece of macadamia-nut encrusted mahi, served with a peanut sauce and a mango salsa. It was good, although I thought the combination of nuts wasn't the best. The macadamia flavour was overwhelmed by the peanut sauce. What I really enjoyed were the Asian Green Beans. Blistered skins, still a bit crunchy, with a sweet and salty sauce that made the prosaic green bean into something irresistible.

Tonight I tried my own version of the recipe and I'm fairly pleased with the result. 

Copycat Green Beans

1 pound of fresh green beans, stem ends trimmed, washed
2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon Siracha sauce (or another chili sauce), optional
1 teaspoon honey (or more to taste)
1 Tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

In a small skillet, heat 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil to medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry for about 1 minute, until fragrant, but not browned. Turn off the heat and add the soy sauce, honey and Siracha chili sauce. Stir to combine. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the remaining Tablespoon of oil to medium high. Add the green beans. Cook, tossing every 30 seconds or so, for about 7 minutes, or until crisp tender. Watch carefully so the beans do not burn, but they may char a little. Pour over the soy sauce mixture and toss to heat. Place on serving dish and sprinkle sesame seeds over.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Ginger-Warmed Butternut Squash Pear Soup

On a cold day in January (or any other month), there's nothing like a bowl of soup, along with some crusty bread and a salad, for dinner. I created this soup from what was on hand - ginger, garlic, onion, butternut squash, and a ripe pear. Additional flavour comes from roasting the squash in the oven until tender and just beginning to carmelize. The layers of flavours blend into a creamy, satisfying soup that I plan on making again and again. The pear addition is optional, but added a touch of sweetness that I enjoyed.

Ginger-warmed Butternut Squash Pear Soup

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1 inch cubes (about 3 cups)
1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 - 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 ripe pear, peeled and cored, cut into chunks
4 cups chicken stock
salt to taste

Toss the squash cubes with the first amount of olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and roast at 400 degrees until tender and just beginning to brown, about 45 minutes. 

While the squash is roasting, heat the second Tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy pot. Add the diced onion and saute until softened. Add the minced garlic and ginger, stir for 1 - 2 minutes and then add the pear chunks. When the butternut squash is cooked, add it to the mixture, and pour the chicken stock over all. Bring to a gentle boil and simmer about 20 minutes, until all the vegetables are thoroughly cooked. Remove from the heat, puree with a stick blender, season to taste and serve.