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Saffroned Parsnips

OK, this photo does not do these justice. They were beautiful. And delicious. New easy vegetable dish.

Saffroned Parsnips

4 good sized, firm parsnips (not too huge or they get woody)

peel, dice in 3/4 ” size, and cover with water. Bring to boil, cover and simmer until tender. while these are cooking,

Bloom 1 pinch saffron threads in 2 tsp. lemon juice

warm up about a half cup of milk, or less depending on the size of your parsnips

2-3 Tb. butter.

When parsnips are tender, drain well, put back in the hot saucepan you cooked them in, add half the milk, lemon/saffron mix and a couple shakes of salt. Beat with a hand mixer til smooth, adding more milk as needed to get desired consistency.

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Caramel Cake

Again with the no picture.  Nothing more to say.

I have to borrow a stainless steel pan from my sister Jo-Ellen to make the caramel for this cake. It’s not as deep as I would like so, for safety reasons, I make a “lid” of aluminum foil (heavy if you have it) to fit the pan, loosely crimping around the edge to try to let it hold on while the steam and popping caramel try to blow it off the pan. Then make a hole the size of  a walnut in the top and thru this hole I slowly pour the water in to stop the browning of the sugar. It only spits and steams for 30 seconds or so. Then carefully remove foil and stir. This makes enough caramel syrup for 2 cakes with enough left over for using a Tbsp. of it in coffee once in awhile. Make the syrup first–it’ an ingredient in both cake and frosting.

Caramel Cake
from Shuna Fish Lydon
10 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 Cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 Cup Caramel Syrup (see recipe below)
2 each eggs, at room temperature
splash vanilla extract
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk, at room temperature
Preheat oven to 350F
Butter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.
Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.
Sift flour and baking powder.
Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients. {This is called the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method in cake making. It is often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter.}
Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan.
Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it.
Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.
CARAMEL SYRUP
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water (for “stopping” the caramelization process)
In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.
When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back.
Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}
Note: For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.
CARAMELIZED BUTTER FROSTING
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted( I use less of this-too much and you loose the browned butter taste)
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup
Kosher or sea salt to taste
Cook butter until brown and nutty. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.
Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.
In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner’s sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner’s sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.

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Hollywood Squares

I have no picture of these–just imagine a peanut butter bar topped with a chocolate layer. Story has it that cafeteria workers sometimes made these to give/sell to the students. I had no such cafeteria worker at my school, sad to say. People love these and they are so easy–other than melting the chocolate and butter for the topping-No cooking involved!

Hollywood Squares
Ingredients:
2 cups peanut butter (1 jar-by the time you take out the Tbsps. needed for topping, it’s just right)
2-1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup butter, melted
Topping:
4 squares semi-sweet baking chocolate(I used 1/2 sack of chips)
2 tbsp. peanut butter
Directions:
Combine all ingredients except topping ingredients.
Mix well and press into a buttered 9-inch pan.
Melt the topping ingredients together (the microwave works well for this) and spread over the top of the peanut butter mixture.
Chill until topping is firm…doesn’t take long.
Cut into squares. Store, covered, at room temp.
Enjoy!!

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Too many tomatoes!!

2009_08010004These are a row of  5 cherry tomato plants-well over 6 feet tall and churning out tomatoes like nobodys business. We are giving them away at work and stopping people on the street to offer them. Cucumbers are plentiful, too. We use them in salads, of course but also to make “Spa Mix” which is a concoction to mix with gin (or vodka) for an evening libation. It sounded weird when sister Terri told me about it and mixed up her first batch but we love it and so did Sebastian, visiting from DC. You know how a Mojito tastes very light and summery? This is along those lines.

Spa Mix

This is a half batch.

3 cucumbers, sliced thin

11 ozs. Agave sweetener-1 bottle

4-5 ozs. fresh lemon juice

10 juniper berries (+ or-)

10 cardamon pods (+ or-)

1T. coriander seeds

2 bay leaves

Put all in a glass jar and mix well. Cover and chill at least overnight. Strain. Put a few spoonfuls (to taste) into a tall glass, add gin and soda water. Stir. Add ice cubes. YUM!

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Garden is growin’

DSCF0678

Sorry I’ve been gone so long but the pooter crashed and I had to wait for a trip south to get it fixed. For free. In 3 hours. YAY! Too good to be true, no? I love warranty’s.

As you can see, our tomatoes are up to my sisters boobies. The one she is standing in front of is called a chocolate cherry tomato, but she assures me it’s just describing the color, not the taste. We’ll see. We ate chard from the garden tonight but I didn’t get a picture of the dish before we demolished it. It was chard sauteed with bacon and onion, served over pasta with a butternut squash/cream sauce. Yum. The spinach is just about big enough to harvest and her first fava beans are forming. I have no idea what to do with a fava bean but she says she does. One cucumber harvested so far and lots of radishes.  Lettuce is in full swing.  Salads fresh from the garden are divine and we like to throw in a handful of fresh herbs diced up small to add a fresh zing to them. Thyme, oregano and mint so far. My tarragon went straight to flower and for some reason we can’t get a flat leafed parsley to survive this year. Lemon balm and dill are struggling to grow but will make it. The dirt is not that great here. And that reminds me, I completely forgot about the Vietnamese cilantro in the corner, will have to try that tomorrow.

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