Saturday, March 27, 2010

British Flapjacks - Not to be confused with American Flapjacks! Oh, and some local wildflowers for this Spring...

Saturday mornings is not only my chance to catch a few extra winks of sleep-- it's a morning I set aside to make something special for breakfast.  Sometimes I like to whip up a quick batch of muffins, or homemade waffles.  Eggs are a favorite, too. Heck, Craig and I just enjoy our leisurely Saturday morning breakfast! In the March 2010 issue of Bon Appetit, Molly Weizenberg (of the very success blog "Orangette" and a recently published author, published this recipe.  I was definitely intrigued. My definition of Flapjacks, for all of my American life, has been pancakes. But these are different in the US...they are more of a bar cookie.  Molly's version of British Flapjacks requires an ingredient I had never heard of before-- Golden Syrup.  I filed this recipe in my "gotta try" part of my brain that reminded me to scout out this elusive ingredient. At last!  I found Lyle's Golden Syrup at my local World Market for less than $4.00.  Gripping my new treasure, I was ready to give this recipe a go.

Golden Syrup is made from Cane Sugar.  What is the bottle set in? It's my 8x8 pan, which I have lined with a parchment paper "sling".  I read the reviews from folks who made this recipe.  Several complained that they couldn't get the bars out of the pan. Problem solved...

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Greek Zucchini Fritters – Kolokithokeftedes with Tzatziki Sauce

Last weekend, I got a little carried away grating fresh zucchini to make a Pineapple-Zucchini Cake-- which my husband and son ate with great relish!  I don't like to waste food,  so I pondered what to make with the leftover grated zucchini.  I must read dozens of recipes a week, so my subconscious mind reminded me of "zucchini fritters".  I've never made them, but it seems like a great idea.  My google searched found several versions for Greek Zucchini Fritters.  Some of my favorite Greek ingredients are feta cheese and lemon.  I try to keep Greek Yogurt in my fridge, at all times.  I zeroed in on a new blog (to me) called "Whipped".  I love this version, because of the panko crumbs.  That was it!  I began by making my tried & true very quick Tzatziki Sauce.

Mix Greek yogurt ( find that the nonfat version works great), a grated clove of garlic, cucumber, the juice of 1 lemon and ½ teaspoon cumin. That's it!  I do add fresh dill-- but I held back on that because I was putting it into the fritters.   I also serve this sauce with my Ground Gyros recipe-- which is also very flavorful and one of my husband's favorite quick week night dinners.

I show you how I grate zucchini in a food processor, and how I use a ricer to drain all the excess water right here.  Otherwise, use a box grater for the zucchini, and it's important that you squeeze the excess water with your hands, or by wringing it with a tea towel or cheese cloth.  Soggy zucchini makes soggy fritters and that is not very appetizing!  NOTE: Use young zucchini, not ones that have grown to the size of a baseball bat! The younger, the sweeter. The older, the more bitter (hmmm, sounds like me!) Chop some green onion.  Add some Feta Cheese. For the herbs, you can use fresh mint and fresh dill.  My husband doesn't like mint, so I cut fresh dill (from my Spring garden) and flat leaf parsley.

Add one beaten egg, about 1/2 cup of flour (I added less, figuring I could add more if I needed to), 3-4 Tablespoons Japanese panko crumbs and combine this with a fork.  Easy!  The batter should be wet enough to bind together. I didn't need a full 1/2 cup of flour.

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Eatin' My Daily Fruits & Veggies: Pineapple Zucchini Cake

Let's face it-- the The Pioneer Woman is cooking for a brood of active kids, and hard-working cowboys.  Craig and I are living in an empty nest, so we both want to limit how much butter and heavy cream we consume, on a regular basis. So, my good mood turned cranky-- and there's a reason I am admitting this to you.  I just couldn't find a dessert recipe that was hitting the visual taste bud meter for me.   Finally, I decided that Ree's Pineapple Zucchini Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting looked easy enough to make-- and I had everything in stock.  The only thing I was not going to tempt myself into making was the frosting--  and not because I wouldn't like it.  On the contrary, I didn't want the temptation to eat it.
You need two cups of grated zucchini.  If you've never had zucchini cake, I can promise you that it doesn't taste like zucchini.  I would venture to guess that this squash vegetable has a lot of moisture-- and that's one of the keys to this very moist cake.  You can use a box grate, but my food processor makes it so easy.  These are four average sized zucchini's (turns out I only needed two).  You want to squeeze out the excess water-- and I use my ricer for this. It's super easy and it works great for spinach as well. Otherwise, squeeze it out in a towel.

 There we have two cups of dry, grated zucchini.  The remaining two cups are in my fridge-- and I have an idea with what to make with them. But, back to dessert...

Drain a 20 oz. can of crushed pineapple, and reserve the juice.  The juice is to be used if the batter is too thick or for the ream cheese frosting. (I'll explain that later.)

The dry ingredients are easy-- all-purpose flour, sugar, 3 tablespoons of canola oil and two large eggs. You might not have whole wheat pastry flour, so it's okay to us regular flour.  Fortunately, I had a bag of pastry flour, and I was glad to finally be able to use it.

You don't even need to drag out the stand mixer. This is all easily mixed by hand. Simply add the wet ingredients to the dry, add vanilla (I added a bit of my Bakery Emulsion that I'm fond of).  Fold in the zucchini and pineapple.  NOTE: Do you see pineapple in here?  This is where my grumpy mood comes in to the story line.....

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Creamy Asparagus Soup: A Soup of a Different Color, from Cook's Country

 Today, being St. Patrick's Day, I've seen so many beautiful "green" dishes.  It's is purely, by coincidence, that I have this vibrantly green, beautiful (and very tasty) Creamy Asparagus Soup to share with all of you.  This recipe is in the April 2010 issue of Cook's Country-- one of my favorite recipe magazines. I took these photos on Monday night, shortly before all my natural lighting was gone.  For that reason, you can't really appreciate what a verdant green this soup turned out to be. There are two secret ingredients, that the test kitchen of Cook's Country (same owners as Cook's Illustrated) added that delivered surprisingly great results. What are they?  First, let's start with the basics-- fresh asparagus.  This bunch is from Mexico, but today I see that locally grown California asparagus has hit the markets at $1.97 a pound. I'm so happy, because we love asparagus.

 TIP: I save these blue bands. They are perfect for tying bouquet garni (herbs for seasoning soup stock and stews).  Kitchen twine is great, but these hold up really well in hot liquids.

Prepare the leeks, but washing and cutting them and washing them well.  If you are unfamiliar with how to prep leeks, click here. Cut tips off asparagus spears and chop stalks into 1/2-inch pieces. Melt 1 1/2 tablespoons butter (I used a combo of olive oil and unsalted butter) in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add asparagus tips and cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender, about 2 minutes. Set aside.

Right here, I could have eaten all of these. OK. I ate one. It was delicious. 

Add remaining butter and asparagus, leeks, 1/2 tablespoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper to empty pot and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes.The secret ingredients are about to be revealed...

Add broth to pot and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in peas and Parmesan. Peas and Parmesan?  Yes, that's right. Cook's Country found that the peas gave a vibrant green color to the soup, but taste testers couldn't detect the peas.  The Parmesan's slightly nutty flavor was a good balance to the asparagus, the article said. Now, to make the soup creamy....

Puree soup in blender in 2 batches and return to pot. However, kudos to you if you have an immersion blender. I've written this dozens of times-- I find it so much easier to puree my soups right in the pot! Why bother pouring soups, in batches, into a blender and then back into the pot?  Whatever floats your boat. Last, stir in cream, lemon juice, and asparagus tips, and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve. 
 This is the truth-- I made this soup in less than 30 minutes! Of course, how did it taste, you wonder?

Winner, winner, winner!  Craig and I both loved this soup a lot.  The first thing we commented about was the pretty color.  We do taste with our eyes, don't we?  The balance of asparagus flavor was perfect.  Craig didn't taste the peas nor the Parmesan cheese.  These surprising ingredients complemented the overall flavor of the soup.  I think you could easily substitute the heavy cream for half and half, or even milk.  To us, 1/4 cup of heavy cream for six servings isn't too big an indulgence.  

This soup is worthy of company.  It's elegant, flavorful and not too heavy. It's a perfect Spring Time Soup. 

Spring has arrived in my hometown!

I always post a printable recipe card at the end of each recipe post. If you cannot view it, you might be using an older version of Internet Explorer. You should be able to view my recipe cards with Safari, Mozilla, Google Chrome and Internet Explorer. If you still can't view the recipe card, all of my recipes are stored on Key Ingredient, by clicking here. If you still can't figure out how to view the printable recipe card, please email me at and I am happy to help.

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Does this Blog Make My Butt Look Big? A Healthy Breakfast-- I do eat like this more than you might think!

 I received a sweet email from a friend of mine who follows my blog. She was telling me how much she enjoys my blog, and that she's made a couple of my recipes.  Susie mentioned that she tries to cook less red meat and is looking for ways to cook healthier.  I agree!  I hope that those of you who follow my blog don't think that I cook and eat every day like the majority of recipes that I post!  Honest, I don't!  The reason I don't blog every meal I make, is that some of them are-- well, simple and healthy quick meals. I figure that most people are looking for recipes on food blogs that are different... sometimes decadent... or maybe something you've forgotten about from your childhood.  Sometimes I hope to simply inspire timid cooks to try something they thought was more complicated to make that it really is.  With that said, last week, Linda at Ciao Chow Linda posted a citrus salad that had me mesmerized:

For one, I had all of the ingredients-- I had Texas Ruby Red Grapefruits, blood oranges and Navel Oranges (I wish I had Cara Cara, but hey...).  I loved the idea of the maple syrup, lime juice, cilantro, mint, olive oil and vinegar and few other goodies. I was totally licking my chops and I was on a mission to make this! Saturday morning, I took my first official early morning swim in the outdoor pool in our subdivision. (I know, I know... my girlfriend that I spoke to, today, tells me it's rained tons in her hometown of Providence, RI.) I'm sorry, but I live in California!  My point is, I had a great swim workout and I'm ready to shed some winter pounds.  I wanted citrus salad now!  I pondered how to do this-- while sitting alone in the post-swim jacuzzi (tough life, huh?).  Then it hit me!  I decided to "supreme" cut my fruit. That simply means to cut off the outer peel, including the bitter pith.  But, first, zest the citrus peel. I saved about 2 Tablespoons of orange zest.  Please tell me you have a microplane!  I've said this many times-- you'd have to pry mine out of my cold dead hands. I cannot imagine not having a zester or two...or five in my kitchen. Which I do. Ahem.

 Carefully with a good paring knife, I cut in between each membrane and there you have it! I do this right over a bowl, so I can save all that wonderful juice.

  These look like citrus jewels to me. Beautiful!

For breakfast, I went with a sweeter dressing.  I used about 1 cup of non-fat vanilla yogurt.  I added about 1 Tablespoon of honey, about 1/4 cup of the fruit juices and the zest.  Me like zest!  Start with a little zest, and add more if you want-- which is exactly what I did. Whisk it, and it's nice to let it chill a bit for the flavors to say hello to one another.  I wanted protein, too.  Now, why don't I poach eggs very often? Do you?  When I think of poached eggs, I think of Eggs Benedict.  But, um...that's not exactly healthy.  I thought of Eggs Florentine, and I did have some spinach... so here's a healthy way I often prepare fresh spinach.  Add some olive oil into a skillet-- not a lot, just a think coat. Add a clove or two of fresh peeled garlic, and slowly heat the oil.  Now add spinach-- a LOT of spinach. I used 1/2 bag of spinach. It wilts down to nothing.  In a matter of a few minutes, look! Season with a pinch of kosher salt & pepper. Want some heat? Add some red pepper flakes. This takes about 5 or so minutes to have the spinach good to go.

 Bring a skillet of water to a boil. I add a little white vinegar-- oh, a splash. Hey, I don't measure!  Break open an egg into a small bowl, and ease it into the boiling water.

I'm not a rocket scientist, but the vinegar helps to keep the whites from feathering out too much. It works.
We like our eggs poached between 3-4 minutes.  I remove them with a "spider", or a slotted spoon works. I lay them on a paper towel.... then I slide them on top of cooked spinach.  It's time to plate everything. 

 There's the healthy dressing....

Well? Is this healthy?  Does it look exciting?

 This is 3 minutes of poaching. If that's too runny for you-- one more minute should do it.

This breakfast really hit the spot for me.  I ate two helpings of the fruit.  I actually made more fruit, and it's ready for my lunch box.   While this might not be the most exciting recipes I've ever posted, this is how we roll at home more often than I post.  If anything, I hoped I inspired non-poacher cooks to try this method.  As for the citrus salad.... Linda, thank you for inspiring me to make this.  I'll definitely make her savory recipe, but I have a pretty big batch of the yogurt dressing to enjoy.  It's so simple to make, but it helps me to stay away from things I make for the men in my life-- like Berry Puff Turnovers

There is no recipe to print. Do you really need one?  Well, Susie-- try this one for you and Mike!  Thanks for your sweet emails.  

Hugs & Healthy,

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Berry Puff Turnovers, from King Arthur Flour-- and some baking tips for the fearful baker!

My husband is from the Midwest-- Missouri, to be specific.  He loves pie.  Specifically, he loves berry pie.  I adore my husband, and when he fixed my oven within 24 hours of the igniter sputtering it's last flicker of gas-- well, I wanted to make him something special.  I like pie, but it's not my #1 favorite dessert. I love tarts...custardy tarts.  But, today wasn't about me!  I was going to make a pie crust-- and then I read a food blog that I often visit.  "The Kitchen Witch" is Erma Bombeck, reincarnated... with an attitude.  She's hilarious and I chuckled when I read her post how she just can't bake.  Long story short, I have heard this so many times.  I've also heard too many people say that they can't make pie crusts.  They say that no matter what they do-- they turn out rock hard and lousy.  I admit, that I keep a box of frozen Trader Joe's pie crusts for days I want to make something fast-- like my plum galette. Rolling out pastry really isn't as hard as people think. There are just a few basic rules-- that if you follow them, I bet you can make tender pie crusts.  Today's recipe is one I've planned to make since summer.  I bookmarked the recipe, and bought most of the ingredients and gadgets that KAF "pitched" within the recipe. I hope, that at the end of this post, you'll try making pie crusts or these puff turnovers. I'm sure glad I did:

I'll talk about pie crusts another time, because people swear that shortening/lard is the key.  This "Blitz" puff pastry dough uses all butter and sour cream.  First tip: you want the butter to ice cold. I don't use margarine, and I don't recommend. It's dessert... this is no place to cut calories, because the fat is what makes this puff. I use a food processor, and I pulse the butter with the dry ingredients of flour, baking powder and salt.  Second tip: Don't over work the dough!  That's what makes it tough.  You want chunks of butter.

You'll be adding 4 oz of sour cream. I do use lite sour cream, because I think it works well. Maybe yogurt would work, but I didn't want to risk it. Let me know if you try it! Add the sour cream and pulse it until just combined. Pat the dough into a rough square, then roll it into an 8" x 10" rectangle-- it's best to do this on a floured surface. Speaking of surfaces...
I have a marble pastry board, that I've used for years. I like it, because I freeze it for about 30 minutes so it stays nice and cold.  If you don't have one, don't sweat it.  It just buys me more time to work with pastry dough, which wants to stay cold.  Dust both sides of the dough with flour. Starting with one of the shorter (8") ends, fold it in thirds like a business letter, flip it over (so the open flap is on the bottom), and turn it 90°.
 Roll the dough into an 8" x 10" rectangle again. Fold it in thirds, wrap in plastic, and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes (or overnight) before using.
NOTE: This is a very important step, to get puffy and tender dough.

There were prisms coming from Craig's stained glass that were casting over my pastry photos. I noticed my feline, Tiger Lilly, was basking in the late afternoon sun and turning over from side-to-side. She looks like puff pastry, herself! Sorry, I couldn't help myself..

While the dough is chilling, make the filling. Mix the sugar and ClearJel till well combined ** (ClearJel is a product sold on King Arthur's website.) **If you're using cornstarch, mix it with enough cold water to dissolve.   Add the sugar mixture to the raspberries, tossing to combine. Stir in the vanilla and cinnamon-- I didn't use cinnamon  and added 1/2 tsp almond extract, which I prefer-- (and the cornstarch/water mixture, if you're using cornstarch). My opinion? I really like ClearJel for thickening my fruit recipes.
 Heat the mixture in a saucepan over very low heat, stirring, till the berries soften and fall apart. The mixture will be thick and jam-like, even though it doesn't really warm up much; this will take under 5 minutes. If you use cornstarch, cook and stir till the mixture bubbles and thickens. You can prepare the filling up to several days before; cover and refrigerate till you're ready to use it.
NOTE: I only used half the fruit mixture, so decrease by half if you don't want leftovers. I do!

So, here's another gadget I bought from King Arthur-- turnover press.  You don't need these, by the way. You can cut squares and fold the turnovers into triangles. But, I'm a gadgetholic. It's a curse to my budget.  This is my maiden voyage with these. As expected, I ran into some trouble:

An hour later, I removed the pastry from the fridge.  On a marble surface, I added flour.  Don't unfold the dough!  You want to roll it out.  Another tip: to avoid frustration, I roll my dough, and give it a quarter turn.  This prevents the dough from sticking to the rolling surface, resulting in torn dough. I've done this so many times, but now this helps me a lot.  The press has a side that automatically cuts the dough for. Cool! I read the directions-- press the dough into the form, then add the filling and squeeze. Ooops!  The filling oozed out a hole in the pastry.  I considered giving up.  But, I don't give up that easily. Think, think, think.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

My oven is fixed-- TGIF Savory Palmiers from Ina Garten

I am one very lucky wife, to have a Mr. Fix-It kind of husband.  On Wednesday, my oven died.  Thank you for your sympathy-- you do understand the horror of not being able to bake, roast or broil. Fortunately, my husband was able to buy a new igniter , and my gas oven is working beautifully!  The timing could not be more perfect because, most Fridays, Craig and I look forward to having an end-of-the-week cocktail (usually an ice cold beer) and some a tapas style dinner.  I prefer to make something that doesn't take much time to put together, but has enough sustenance  to count as dinner-- sometime a side salad rounds out the meal  perfectly.

I don't use puff pastry on a regular basis, because I know that it's layers of butter that puffs up.  Still, puff pastry is such a versatile product to work with.  I have no desire to make puff pastry from scratch! I let Pepperidge Farm do all of the work!  I've made Ina Garten's easy Cheese Danish, which was a big hit with all of us.  I've also made Raspberry Palmiers, which are my son's favorite.  For Christmas, this year, I made Salmon En Croute (or you could call it Salmon Wellington) with Cremini Duxelles.  The Duxelles are so easy to make, and we loved them.  I had extra Duxelles that I decided to freeze-- though I wasn't sure if that was such a good idea. Before I made Ina's very simple looking Savory Palmier's, I decided to see if the Duxelles would thaw well and make an easy filling for pinwheel style h'ors doevres.  Enough chit-chat-- let's get on with it!

To make Ina Garten's Savory Palmiers, I toasted some pine nuts and I lightly rolled out a sheet of puff pastry.  I like to thaw my puff pastry, overnight, in the fridge. I've done quick thaws on my counter, too.  Either way, I try to keep the pastry chilled enough so that it puffs up nicely once the pastry hits a hot oven.

The top left photo shows mounds of thawed Duxelles. I know what you might be thinking-- it's not pretty. It could, potentially, resemble something an animal left that is having some intestinal difficulties.  'Nuff said. Cremini mushrooms, thyme, white wine, shallots and parsley... mmmmm. Delicious!

With another sheet of puff pastry, I made Ina Garten's recipe.   I make my own pesto, which I freeze and/or store in a glass jar in the refrigerator.  After slathering a layer of pesto,  I added the toasted pine nuts (which I almost burned... so watch the dry roasting in a pan very closely).  I sprinkled some chopped sun-dried tomatoes.  Ina uses goat cheese, but I only had fresh feta.  (I opted not to add salt, which was a wise decision.) So, that's what I used.  If you aren't sure how to roll up palmiers, I show you how here.

After a rough week, on a Friday night, I'm not going for perfection in how I rolled them.  These are for a private party of two people, and we aren't fussy.  Slice them up and put them into a preheated oven at 400F for about 14 minutes.  I would check these sooner, because it depends on your oven and the thickness of your slices.

Look at that sizzling butter! Allow them to cool for a few minutes...

I am happy to report that the Duxelles are excellent rolled up in puff pastry!  C'mon, how could it not be?  We really loved Ina's combo of sun-dried tomatoes, pest and toasted pine nuts. I did not feel that salt was missing at all.

I can't say that I favored one version over another.  

I look forward to having home grown tomatoes again.  I still love Ina's Tomato and Three Cheese Tart-- which is also made with puff pastry.  For those of you who watch The Barefoot Contessa on Food Network, you will understand when I say that Craig is my "Jeffrey".  It's obvious that Ina cooks for her husband with a lot of love.  My husband appreciates everything that I make.  We really enjoy our quiet little Happy Hours at home.  I hope you try these sometime-- while they're a bit indulgent on butter, we whip up a small batch of these as an occasional treat.

I have some baking and roasting to get busy with this weekend, now that my oven is back!

TGIF from our kitchen,

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