Saturday, August 30, 2014

("Creamless") Creamy Cauliflower Soup

In almost six years of sharing recipes on my food blog, I think this is the longest dry spell I've had in the kitchen. I was battling against heavy fatigue (wacky thyroids), and I just couldn't muster the energy to cook, photograph, write and edit a recipe post-- let alone have an appetite to eat dinner with my husband.
Most times, I'd just fall asleep within moments of arriving home, from work.

Worse, I quit visiting food blogs and reading my favorite cooking magazines.  This is so out of character for me, because my happiest place, at home,  is in the kitchen.  I'm starting to feel better, so I'm hoping to share many of the recipes I've made, and are waiting for me to edit and write-- like this delicious soup.

Today, being Labor Day Weekend, I can start thinking about my favorite type of Fall cooking-- braising meats, making stews, baking bread and making soups for dinner.  Fortunately, our climate rarely gets into the trip-digit temps that many of my East Coast and Southwestern friends endure.  Plus, I do a lot of pressure cooking so that the kitchen stays nice and cool.

With our average temps in the low 70's,  I had no problem making this fabulous soup, this summer.  I loved it so much, that I've made it a few times.  With the exception of the cauliflower "croutons" that are cooked in browned butter, this soup is low-fat-- and there is no chicken stock nor cream, in it!

One of my favorite Cooking Magazine is "Cook's Illustrated" and I also subscribe to their website, so I can watch their videos, on demand.  This is where I saw this recipe, and here is CI's explanation of the recipe:
For a creamy cauliflower soup without cream, we relied on cauliflower’s low insoluble fiber content to produce a velvety smooth puree. To ensure that cauliflower flavor remained at the forefront, we cooked the cauliflower in seasoned water (instead of broth), skipped the spice rack entirely, and bolstered the soup with sautéed onion and leek. We added the cauliflower to the simmering water in two stages so that we got the grassy flavor of just-cooked cauliflower and the sweeter, nuttier flavor of long-cooked cauliflower. Finally, we fried florets in butter until both browned and used each as a separate, richly flavored garnish.

As you can see, I trimmed the "core" of the cauliflower and sliced it thin.  No waste!

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Homemade Marshmallow Creme

**At the end of this post, I will announce the winner of my Ball Canning Giveaway, and talk about a new recipe card format that I'm switching over to.**

Until this Monday, our home is without water. Isn't that exciting? One of our fire sprinklers decided to spring a leak, while my husband was away on his annual camping trip. Luckily, I was able to find the lever to cut off the water. Hence, I'm unable to cook or bake because the sight of unwashed pots, pans and dishes makes me feel out of sorts.

So I'm going to share this recipe that I made a while ago. I've been sitting on sharing it with you, because I have several ideas on how to use this marshmallow creme recipe. My busy work, and night classes, have gotten into my way of creating new recipe posts.  It's all good, because you are going to want to make this!

I try to keep a jar of marshmallow creme in my pantry, but sometimes I run out.  Now I know that I can make my own with ingredients that I already have in my home-- egg whites, sugar, corn syrup, water and vanilla. The end result of my efforts yielded a creamy and velvety marshmallow creme.  It was really hard to resist not eating it all-- and that's the truth!

Making homemade marshmallow creme isn't super difficult, though you do need a candy thermometer. This is a kid friendly recipe, in that they will want to eat it by the spoonfuls. But, you want to keep them safely away from the boiling sugar and water mixture.

The first step is to beat egg whites and cream of tartar together until light and frothy. With the mixer running, slowly pour in 2 tablespoons sugar; beat until soft peaks form. Set aside.

On the stove top, combine water, sugar and corn syrup, and give it a good whisk and then cook until boiling.

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Saturday, August 9, 2014

Easy Homemade Pickles and Salsa and a Ball® FreshTECH Automatic Home Canning System Review

 Photo source: Jarden Home Brands

I'm both delighted, and thankful, to have an ongoing relationship with the wonderful people at Jarden Home Brands. This company brings us Ball Brand Canning products, and I confess that I am a regular customer at the Fresh Preserving Website.

I became hooked on canning during the summer of 2009.  I bought Jarden Home Brand's book, "The Ball Blue Book to Preserving" . This book has become my "go to" when  looking for canning recipe inspiration. and for clear instructions.  The first homemade jam I made was  Classic Strawberry.  Since then, I've made a variety of jams and jellies and I have not bought commercially made jams ever since!

Last year, Jarden Home Brands sent me a Ball® FreshTECH Automatic Jam & Jelly Maker to test and review.  I absolutely love it, and use it often. I made a Strawberry-Raspberry Vanilla jam and homemade Grape Jelly which have become two of my personal favorite flavors.  This product makes jam and jelly making fool-proof and simple because I can do "small batch" canning.  I say that, because I love canning so much, but I don't necessarily want to make dozens and dozens of jars-- of the same flavor-- at once.

When Jarden Home Brands graciously offered to send me the Ball® FreshTECH Automatic Home Canning System to review, I was ecstatic!   We love Bread and Butter pickles, which I've made before, because of the balance of tart and sweet. However, I've never made Kosher Dill Pickles. So,  I ordered the Ball Brand Bread & Butter Pickle Mix and the Ball Brand Kosher Dill Pickle Mix, while waiting to hear the roar of my local UPS truck.

When my package arrived, from Jarden Home Brands, I immediately read the enclosed recipe booklet from cover to cover. I was ready to make make pickles and salsa, and began to follow the instructions.  The machine is easy to set up. Unpack it, wash the inner pot, plug it in and go!

One of the biggest reasons I liked the concept of the Ball® FreshTECH Automatic Home Canning System is that I didn't have to fill a huge pot with water (that feels like it weighs a ton), only to have to wait for 45 minutes for it to come to a boil so that I could "water can" the jars.  All I had to do was fill the inner pot with significantly less water, which is pre-marked with a fill line.  I set four pint jars (16 ounce) on top of the rack...

...shut and locked the lid and pressed two buttons to start the sterilization process.  Easy!
NOTE: I know this is a lengthy post, but I have so much so share-- and there is a giveaway at the very end of this post!

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Saturday, August 2, 2014

Creamy Cheesecake with Caramel Sauce and Biscoff Cookie Crust - Pressure Cooker Style, in 15 minutes!

Hi everyone!  I have been Missing In Action, from this blog, for three weeks. This is a first, and I have so missed not having the time nor energy to share what I've been making for my family and friends.  I have been busy with a summer school class. My husband and I were blessed to travel to British Columbia, which we absolutely loved.  Two days after our Canada adventure ended, I headed into the busiest two weeks of my job.  I've been wanting to share this recipe with you for a while, because I love cheesecake. So, I'm baaaaaaaaaaaaack!

Now that summer is under way-- and rapidly coming to a close-- I think about people who lives in climates where it gets really HOT. Where I live, I'm happiest when our average temperature hit 75 degrees. I have friends and family who live in Texas, Missouri, Rhode Island and parts of Arizona. I cannot fathom what it's like to live in triple-digit weather, nor do I understand what it's like to experience sticky humidity!

So, once again, I can give one more reason that owning a pressure cooker can be a life saver when it's too hot to bake.   I tested this theory by "baking" my first dessert in my electric pressure cooker.  Making a cheesecake seemed like the perfect choice to start with.  I've made many cheesecakes over the years. Some I've baked without a "baine marie" (water bath) and some with.  The theory behind using a water bath is to keep the oven moisture high and to cook more slowly.  A pressure cooker, I was confident, could do just that!

I like a traditional graham cracker crust, but this time I wanted to use Biscoff Cookies instead.  Otherwise known as speculoos cookies, these are very addictive.  The are buttery, crispy with a perfect balance of spice-- and just a hint of cinnamon.  I am happy to see that they are easier to find at my local grocery store, so I don't have to resort to ordering them from Amazon.

I didn't photograph the process of making the cream cheese filling, because it's basic and simple enough.  It's very important to bring the cream cheese to room temperature.  Using my stand mixer, I mixed the cream cheese and sugar until completely smooth (lump-free). Then I added pure vanilla extract blended until combined. Last,  added 2 large eggs (also at room temperature, and mixed until just combined.  (You want to avoid over beating, because it can cause too much air in the batter-- which could lead to a cracked surface.) 

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