Posts tagged ‘sweets’

April 5, 2012

menu for a spring luncheon

ginger marinated pork tenderloin

french potato salad

sesame seed asparagus

angel food cake with strawberries

the original inspiration for this meal  fixed for a recent family dinner was from a cooking class i attended some years ago.  i particularly remember this class, sitting on a stool at a large counter feeling much like a dumpy housewife, when in swept a rail thin, beautifully dressed middle aged woman with a designer bag.  as the class progressed,  i felt so intimidated.

until she opened her mouth.

the instructor was stirring something with a simple wooden spoon.  thin lady asked: “so, this spoon, is this something all good cooks use? and are they very expensive?”  i just about fell off my stool.  she obviously thought this was basic cooking 101.  i mean really.  a wooden spoon???  it was all i could do not to holler “oh my goodness madam. yes.  we all have one.  i have six. and they each cost more than your bag.”

while the class wasn’t general cooking, the menu presented wasn’t terribly difficult either.  i make it often in the spring, and even made it once for easter dinner using chicken instead of the pork.    while the potato salad is served warm or at room temperature, it can be made a day ahead, and the pork can be marinated overnight. you then have time to finish cleaning the house, decorate, and set the table.

once the meat is put in the oven the day of the meal, all that needs to be done is the asparagus and the strawberries for the cake, which i confess, was store bought.  if you want to make an angel food cake from scratch then, yes, a bit more effort is required, and (in my honest opinion) more power to ya.

french potato salad

the red and white potatoes are optional, but they add a very nice touch. i used mini yukon golds instead of white and they were wonderful.

1 pound of small white boiling potatoes

1 pound of small red boiling potatoes

2 tablespoons good dry white wine

2 tablespoons of chicken stock

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon of dijon mustard

2 teaspoons of kosher salt

3/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

10 tablespoons of olive oil

1/4 cup of minced scallions; green and white parts

2 tablespoons minced fresh dill

2 tablespoons of minced fresh parsley

2 tablespoons chiffonade of fresh basil leaves

bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  add the red and white potatoes and cook for 20-30 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork.  drain in a colander, and place a towel over them to steam for an additional 1o minutes.  when cool enough to handle cut into halves or quarters (if the potatoes are large) and place in a medium bowl.  toss gently with the wine and chicken stock.  allow the liquids to soak into the warm potatoes before proceeding.

combine the vinegar, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper and slowly whisk in the olive oil.  add the vinaigrette to the potatoes.  add the scallions, dill, parsley, basil, and salt and pepper and toss.  serve warm or at room temperature.

serves 4-6

ginger marinated pork tenderloin

1 cup of honey

3/4 cup of soy sauce

1/4 cup of minced garlic (about 12 cloves)

1/2 cup of fresh grated ginger root

3 pounds of pork tenderloin ( i used two; 1 1/2 pounds each)

combine the honey, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger.  pour over the tenderloin and cover.

allow to marinate overnight.  remove pork to foil lined baking sheet.  if desired, pour some of the marinade over the pork and discard the remainder.   bake at  375 degrees for 30-45 minutes or until pork reaches desired internal temperature (mine is 160 degrees).  do not overbake.

serves 4-6

sesame seed asparagus

1 pound of fresh asparagus

2 tablespoons of toasted sesame seeds

2 teaspoons of sesame seed oil, plus more as desired

salt and pepper to taste

lightly steam asparagus; drain, and arrange on serving platter.  season with salt and pepper.  sprinkle with sesame seeds, and drizzle with the sesame seed oil.   serve immediately.

serves 4-6

angel food cake with strawberries

make the strawberries earlier in the day so the juices have time to release.

1 prepared angel food cake

8 oz. of strawberries

2 tablespoons of sugar

1 cup of whipping cream

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

1 teaspoon of vanilla

slice cake and arrange on serving dish or platter.  wash, hull, and slice strawberries.  sprinkle with sugar and set aside.  pour cream into mixing bowl.  add powdered sugar and vanilla.  whip just until stiff peaks form.  to serve, spoon berries over a slice of cake and top with the whipped cream.

February 14, 2012

hazelnut linzer hearts

when i was fifteen i got my first job.  it wasn’t a real job in the sense that i was paid for it, but it felt real to me.  i was a volunteer in the day surgery ward of a hospital.  i guess one would call it the equivalent of a candy striper.  my uniform was not a pretty pink and white  but was instead a royal blue pinafore with a “volunteen” name badge.  i worked once a week, all day, stripping beds and wheeling discharged patients to their car.  day surgery wasn’t much of a happenin’ place and i frequently had a lot of time on my hands.  one afternoon, reading through an old magazine while waiting for something to do, i came across a recipe for some beautifully photographed linzer hearts.  i wasn’t an experienced enough baker to know that this was a very traditional  cookie, but in feeling grown up, i decided i wanted to start my own recipe collection and i would start with these hearts.  i copied it out onto a paper towel of all things,  apparently the only thing available to me at the time.  i still have it, and it has a place amongst the holiday recipes in my recipe box.  the original calls for ground almonds but i had ground hazelnuts on hand and decided to use them instead.  they were wonderful.  i found my ground hazelnuts at whole foods: they were a bob’s red mill product. these pretty cookies do take some time but they are well worth the effort.

happy valentines day!

linzer hearts

1 1/2 c flour

1/2 t baking powder

1/2 t ground cinnamon

1/8 t ground cloves

1/2 c butter (unsalted please!) at room temperature

1/2 c packed dark brown sugar

1/4 c granulated sugar

1 large egg

1/2 c ground hazelnuts

1/3 cup seedless raspberry jam; melted (if  you cannot find seedless raspberry jam, pour the jam through a strainer after it is melted.  this sounds like a big deal but it really isn’t a lot of trouble).

2/3 c semi-sweet chocolate chips melted, for decoration

powdered sugar for dusting

mix flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and cloves.  set aside.

in a large bowl, beat butter and sugars with electric mixer until fluffy.  beat in egg, fold in hazelnuts.  gradually stir in flour mixture until blended.  divide dough in half.  shape into flattened rounds, wrap, and refrigerate for one hour or until firm enough to roll out.

heat oven to 350 and have ungreased cookie sheets ready.

on a lightly floured surface, roll half the dough at a time to 1/8″ thickness.  cut out hearts with a 3″ heart shape cookie cutter.  place half the hearts 1″ apart on cookie sheet.  cut a 2″ heart from the center of remaining hearts.  place heart frames on cookie sheet.

re-roll scraps.

bake 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned.  immediately remove to racks to cool completely.  dip the heart tips or rounded edge of the heart frames in melted chocolate.  cool on wax paper until chocolate is firm.  using wax paper to cover chocolate, dust frames with powdered sugar if desired.

brush one side of the whole hearts with the raspberry jam.  top with decorated frame to form a “sandwich”.  serve immediately.

makes 20 cookies

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September 30, 2011

from the cookbooks on my shelf

it’s friday!  the last friday in september and a lovely fall day.  actually the fall weather is still a bit slow in coming on and i have worried about  my cool weather crops that prefer lower daytime temps.  i’ve been bitten by the fall bug this weekend however, and am tempted to set aside some time to bake something and get to making that fall wreath for the door (subject of a future post).  i’m also in the middle of a Pantry Project that really needs to be completed (also the subject of a future post) so i’m not sure yet whether that will win out over my desire for pumpkin cookies? cake? muffns? or not.

now to a cookbook review…

it is no secret that i love to cook.  i love to cook with recipes.  i’m not usually one to strike out on my own and attempt something original, i like to go by the book.  i do though have a small kitchen and i have never seen the point of owning an entire library of cookbooks that are never used, so i am very choosy about what goes on my single cookbook shelf above my sink.   i like to choose books that are a resource on one specific type of cooking (say french bistro or breads) or an excellent general resource on the basics.  neiman marcus taste  by kevin garvin is one of those great general resources.

how i came to own it: this was given to me a few years ago as a christmas gift from my sister.

why it stays on the shelf as opposed to being relegated to the “give away” pile: in addition to this being a beautiful book (it could sit on a coffee table) it is loaded with some amazing recipes.   while not exhaustive, it does contain a wide variety from appetizers, to salads, entrees, and desserts.  i have to say their cookie recipes are exceptional (orange marmalade cookies anyone?).  the majority of the recipes are taken from helen corbitt’s (the original food director of neiman marcus in the 5o’s and 60’s) files and updated by the current director kevin garvin, along with some family favorites of his own.  i had the privilege of lunching last year at the flagship neiman marcus and passed garvin in the elevator wearing his chef’s whites.  i did not have the nerve to tell him “i have your cookbook!!” but i did stare in a most pop-eyed unladylike fashion.

to whom i would recommend this book: a fellow foodie.  someone who enjoys cooking as well as presentation.  this is not for someone who counts calories, or is on a restricted diet; and while the recipes are rated according to skill level, this would not be for someone just starting out in the kitchen.

i would also add: nearly every recipe is photographed, the book contains a very interesting history about the neiman marcus restaurants.  and just for what it’s worth and just in case you were wondering:  the book does not contain the recipe for the (urban) legendary $250 neiman marcus cookie.

my rating: four spoons (out of five)

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July 3, 2011

strawberries in a basket

just because.

i thought they looked pretty in my new red collapsible strainer (which i love btw) and had to snap a pick while getting them ready for strawberry shortcake.  please remember that i am not a photographer and this is not a photography blog.

and this is what they look like when they get dressed up to go out.  no i didn’t make these.  my husband ordered them for me as an anniversary surprise last week.  they were too cute not to include with the strawberries in a basket.

June 15, 2011

mocha chip ice cream

i absolutely love ice cream.  it is my all time favorite comfort food right up there with meat loaf and macaroni and cheese.  until i started making my own, i would buy it in the tiny lidded containers and keep them in the door of my freezer.  by taking just a spoonful here and there (rather than eating it by the bowlful) i could make it last forever, and somehow a bite didn’t seem to really count for calories, even if i had several bites in one day as i was want to do.

when we got married, one of the first things i registered for was an ice cream maker.  i don’t recall the brand or the make; probably because it didn’t work.  even after following the recipe and manufacturer’s instructions to a “t”, we just ended up with an inedible soupy mess: a mess that didn’t even remotely resemble ice cream.

a few years ago though, i invested in a cuisinart maker and have used it often it ever since.  not only does it do a fantastic job, but the little recipe booklet that came with it is amazing.

however, last week i decided to venture from the tried and true recipes in the little book and attempt something different.  i added my own twist to a recipe from the all new ultimate southern living cookbook and fell in love with mocha chip ice cream.  now, this stuff, obviously, has coffee in it.  somehow though, i thought that after it had been combined with other things, put through an ice cream freezer, and then frozen for a few days the caffeine would lose its power.  not so.  i indulged in a bowlful the other night and within half an hour i was quite chatty and went on gabbing for the rest of the evening.  this is what caffeine does to me.  that may not sound like much but one of my husband’s many nick names for me is “quietness”.  i say all that to say that if you are like myself and particularly sensitive to caffeine, you may not want to indulge before bedtime.  and if you choose to treat your kidlets, serve with extreme caution.

mocha chip ice cream

(adapted from the all new ultimate southern living cookbook)

1 1/2 cups of ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips, divided

1/2 cup of strong brewed coffee

2 c whipping cream

1 c  half and half

3/4 c sugar, divided

3 T instant coffee granules

4 egg yolks

in a double boiler or saucepan over very low heat, melt 1 c of the chocolate chips.  stir in brewed coffee and set aside.

bring whipping cream, half and half, 1/2 cup of sugar, and the coffee granules to a boil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar and coffee dissolve.

beat egg yolks and remaining sugar with electric mixer on high speed until thick and pale; similar in consistency to  mayonnaise.  adjust speed to low and very slowly add the hot cream mixture to the yolk mixture.  return to saucepan.

cook over medium heat stirring constantly for about 6-8 minutes or until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon.  remove from heat, stir in chocolate mixture. cover and chill overnight.

pour into ice cream freezer and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions, adding the remaining 1/2 cup of chocolate chips.

yield: 5 cups

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April 15, 2011

confessions for a friday morning

*last night was the first tornado warning of the year.  while the wind blew, the sky spit hail, and the sirens blared for approximately one hour, i, like any safe, responsible person should – cleaned the bathroom in full view of a glass window where i could watch the storm.

*my husband is out of town this week.  i can’t sleep when he is gone, so i have stayed up irresponsibly late every night watching  period flicks on my laptop.  now i feel i would like to own a corset.

*i am capable of appreciating other things: my husband has introduced me to the x-files.  i can’t watch them though when i am alone in the house and when there is a thunderstorm.

*the other night i awoke to find my bedroom door glowing.  it took me a while to realize my grow lights in the room across the hall had switched on over the tomatoes.  my first thought was that  it was some sort of paranormal something pottering about in the cluttered room across the hall, come to do whatever it is paranormal somethings do.  this is why  my husband made me promise i would never watch the x-files while home alone.

*last night i slept with the dog as protection against paranormal somethings.  i told myself though that it was for his benefit as he is scared of thunderstorms.

*i have celebrated  the launch of the planting season by buying all sorts of flowers.  i placed a huge order for perennials last week and yesterday i brought home the plants for my container garden.  i realized though, that my back porch will soon be covered with things needing to go in and was overwhelmed at the prospect.  so much so, that i have tagged on to my errands list today  another trip to lowe’s to pick up a few more dianthus while they still have the color i want.

*yes, sometimes i shop at lowe’s.  it is much closer to me  than any other nursery in town.

*my birthday is wednesday.  i am feeling very apprehensive about this.  i will be 39 29.  this is way too close to 40 30 for my comfort.  i still have within me an inner child about the age of seven.  in order to cope, i am allowing this inner child to focus on the important things about birthdays: cake and presents. (which btw will be chocolate ganache cupcakes with seven minute frosting; and another set of grow lights to both scare the liver out of me while home alone at night and to further nurture my obsession with growing things) focusing on these things crowds out the adult who tends to worry too much about things like gray hair, turkey neck, and someday maybe being mistaken for my child’s grandmother.

*i am seriously considering skipping my run today (much needed in anticipation of cupcakes with seven minute frosting) in lieu of potting up some of those plants…

March 21, 2011

vintage postcard cookies

i first saw these in a catalog that came through the mail last summer when our kitchen was under construction.  being the huge fan of anything vintage i was instantly wowed by them.  these edible postcard transfers are available through a company called fancy flours.  the images are printed onto an edible paper (think, very very thin communion wafer) then fixed to a cookie.  the result is an amazing, absolutely adorable edible vintage postcard.

the trouble for me was finding a sugar cookie recipe.  i am usually not a huge fan of decorated sugar cookies.  in my opinion, they are pretty to look at but usually lacking in flavor, or overly sweet.   i think i have settled though, on the sugar cookie recipe from the williams-sonoma cookie cookbook.  the recipe is simple: butter, sugar, flour, and egg yolks; but a generous addition of vanilla gives a great flavor.

rolling them out can prove to be a bit tricky  however, as the dough softens pretty quickly.  it helps somewhat to put the cookie sheet, cut out cookies and all, into the fridge for a few minutes before putting them into the oven to bake.  they are not as apt to spread and lose shape.

fancy flours recommends a 3×5″ rectangular cookie cutter just for the postcard cookies.  it proved to be a bit large in transferring the cut cookie to the sheet, and it did spread some  in baking.  to keep a nice shape, i cut them out a second time after baking.  i did this immediately after they were removed from the oven, still soft, and still on the pan.

the directions for the edible paper recommended using either a buttercream or royal icing and i decided to go with the royal so they could be stacked when stored.  the icing needs to be completely dry, and completely smooth.  i learned this the hard way.

the transfers are cut out and affixed to the cookie with clear corn syrup.  i used a pastry brush and carefully brushed the back of each transfer, then gently stuck it to the iced cookie.  it was a bit tricky getting the corners to stick.

as with the sample in the catalog, i used the edible iridescent glitter to finish them off.  not perfect, but for the first try completely acceptable.  we enjoyed them as a finish to our belated saint paddy’s day dinner.

i plan to try these again, piping a border around the edge to compensate for any little corners that don’t stay put and to give it a more polished, less crafty look.   in addition to the saint patrick’s day transfers that i bought, i ordered a set  that look like vintage seed packets.  i will give those shot in a few weeks or so. we may have to have a happy spring party to warrant the excuse for more cookies.   😛




fancy flours

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March 18, 2011

mocha toffee chocolate cookies. a recipe review.

recently i made these to send to a very dear friend  who claims to be a fan of chocolate, coffee, and toffee.  in contemplating recipes,  i came across this one from betty crocker and was thrilled to find all three flavors combined together in one little package.  i have to admit i was a bit dubious about the toffee and the mocha, especially when i saw that it was a cake mix that bound it all together.  i’m not one for cake mix cookies.  i feel like they are cheating.  and then, i am a total snob when it comes to ingredients.  sodium stearoyl lactylate anyone? however, i was needing to get these in the mail, time was running short, so i decided to just give it a whirl.  i am so glad that i did.  these were wonderful!  they came together very quickly, had a yummy, gooey texture, a great flavor, and, as far as i know, traveled very well.  i was unable to find instant espresso powder so i just used instant coffee granules instead.  it is possible they lacked a little bit of kick for that reason, but the mocha flavor still came through just fine.  if i were to do these again, and i plan to, i would probably substitute my own chocolate cookie dough recipe for the cake mix just to be able to avoid all the artificial what-have-you and feel a little better about eating them.    they don’t last long and would be great with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  made from scratch, of course.

you can find the recipe here.

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