Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year 2014

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Happy New Year

Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man.  ~Benjamin Franklin

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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Coffee Bavarian Cream

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Our journey of Abbecedario Culinario-the culinary ABC's of the European Community continues as we visit Germany. Simona is our host and has prepared Quarkkeulchen for the letter "Q". With homemade quark, a soft, unripened cow's milk cheese common in Germany, Simona has prepared  delicious potato and raisin breakfast pancakes

While stationed in England more than a few years ago, we had the opportunity to visit Germany several times, but vacationing in Berchtesgaden for a week was the most memorable. From there, we took days trips all around Bavaria and into Austria. However, all the photos we have were taken with slide film and are packed up in a box somewhere in our closet and would take hours upon hours to sort out and scan to my computer. Lately, the only time I have been back to Germany was to fly into Frankfurt and from there to Rome. I hope to visit again one day.

With only 176 calories per serving, this Kahlua flavored coffee dessert is not only quick and  easy to make in a blender, but also easy on your waistline. In about 35 minutes, start to finish, dessert is ready.  If feeling flush, serve a Choco Leibniz cookie with the cream.

Coffee Bavarian Cream
From Eating Well


1-1/2 tablespoons instant espresso
1 tablespoon Kahlua or other coffee liqueur 
1 tablespoon warm water
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
4 ounces reduced fat cream cheese
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup non-fat dry milk
1/2 cup ice water
4-5 large ice cubes
ground cinnamon and chocolate pearls for garnish

In a small  heatproof bowl, stir together the instant espresso, coffee liqueur and water. Sprinkle gelatin over the mixture and let stand 5 minutes to soften. Meanwhile, combine cream cheese, confectioners' sugar, non fat dry milk and ice water in a blender container. Blend on low speed until smooth.

Set the bowl containing the espresso mixture in a skillet of simmering water. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Pour into blender containing the cream cheese mixture. Mix briefly to combine.

Add 4 ice cubes and blend on high until mixture begins to thicken. If necessary, add the 5 ice cube to thicken. Pour into 4 dessert dishes and refrigerate for about 15 minutes to set. Sprinkle cinnamon over the top and add a few chocolate pearls to garnish.

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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Apple Butterscotch Oat Cookies

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Finally, our weather is cooling down-it seems to take forever for Fall to arrive in coastal Georgia. As these apple oatmeal cookies bake, a comforting feeling comes over me. It is time for sitting by the outdoor fire pit sipping a cup of hot cider enjoying the cool evenings outdoors without the oppressive heat of summer. A crisp light brown cookie chocked full of diced fresh apples, oats and butterscotch bits, perfect for a lunchbox cookie or as an ice cream sandwich. 

Apple Butterscotch Oat Cookies
Makes about 2 dozen cookies
  • 2/3 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1-3/4 cups dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1-1/2 cups peeled, cored and chopped cooking apple
  • 1/2 cup butterscotch morsels
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, beat together shortening, butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add the egg, beating until incorporated, then add the vinegar and baking soda. Gradually add flour and salt until blended.  Stir in the oats, apple and butterscotch  morsels. Dough will be thick.
  2. Using a  2-inch spring loaded ice cream scoop, scoop dough onto the prepared pans, spacing two inches apart as the cookies will spread during baking.
  3. Bake in batches until edges are browned and center is almost set, 17-20 minutes. Remove from oven; let cool on baking sheet  until cookies can be easily removed with a spatula, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.

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The black and white image above is my contribution to 100 weeks of Black and White Wednesday , a special edition hosted by lovely Cinzia, admin for Black and White Wednesday, having taken over for equally lovely Susan, who created BWW back in July, 2011. If you read my blog regularly, you will find that most of my post revolve around black and white culinary images. Along with the images, I try to prepare a dish with the item that I have photographed. Both photos were shot with an iPhone 5, the top with the Camera+ app and the second one with the Hipstamatic app-Helga Viking Lens an D-Type Plate film.

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Cottage Pie Revisited

Print Friendly and PDF I love all things English and was excited to be assigned to Sarah's Brit American Kitchen for this month's Secret Recipe Club. It didn't take me long to choose the Cottage Pie as it is one of my all time favorite pub dishes. Cottage pie ingredients vary in many homes and pubs, but basically, it's a seasoned ground beef dish topped with mashed potatoes.

"Meat pies in England date back to the Middle Ages. The pies consisted of meat, either lamb or beef, but also game was used. Cooked for hours over a slow fire, the pies were seasoned with spices and served in pastry. The Elizabethans favored pies made of mince meat, spices, raisins and prunes, hence "mincemeat".

Shepherd's pie made with cold lamb or mutton and topped with mashed potatoes didn't appear in England until the acceptance of potatoes in that country. Potatoes were introduced to Europe in the early 1500's by the Spanish, but didn't appeal to the English palate until the 18th century. A frugal dish designed to use up leftover meat, Shepherd's Pie originated in the north of England and Scotland where there were large numbers of sheep.

Cottage Pie and Shepherd's Pie are synonymously used to describe a dish made with minced meat and mashed potato topping, but to clarify the difference, Cottage Pie, the much older term for the pie, is made with minced beef and Shepherd's Pie with minced lamb. Today, it doesn't matter whether you call the pie Shepherd's or Cottage. The most important thing is the pie tastes wonderful and is a hearty and satisfying dish for winter meals. A veritable blank canvas, what goes into the meat mixture for Cottage or Shepherd's is up to the imagination and fancy of the cook."

 photo CottagePie_zpsf1f0a72d.jpg
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Cottage Pie

3 tablespoons olive
2 pounds ground beef
2 onions, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped 
2 cloves garlic,minced
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup red wine
3 cups beef stock
4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Fresh thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves

Mashed potato topping

2 pounds potatoes, peeled and diced large
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
Freshly grated nutmeg, optional

Brown ground beef in batches, drain off fat and set aside. Heat the oil in the pan and add the vegetables. Cook on medium-low  heat until softened, about 20 minutes. Add the garlic, flour and tomato paste, increase the heat and cook for a few minutes. Return the browned beef to the pan. Pour in the red wine, boil slightly to reduce the wine, then add the stock, Worcestershire sauce, thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer; cook uncovered for 45 minutes. Discard bay leaves and thyme sticks.

To make the mashed potato topping. In a large saucepan, cover the potatoes in salted cold water, bring to a boil and simmer until tender. Drain well, mash with the butter, milk and three fourths of the cheddar cheese. Season with salt and pepper. If using the nutmeg, add a light sprinkle.

Preheat oven to 350° F. Place the beef mixture in a large oven proof casserole or 8 small casserole dishes. Spoon the mashed potato topping over and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly and mashed potatoes are lightly browned. 

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Pistachio Date Muffins

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Exotic flavors of cardamom, one of the world's very  ancient spices, along with the piquant spicy flavor of ginger, moist dates and ground pistachios put these muffins in the festive category. Perfect for the holidays, the muffins remind me of fruitcake but without all the candied fruit. Inspiration for these muffins came from having a bag of unshelled pistachios used in a still life photography project. I certainly didn't want to waste them, but shelling any nut is a boring process. Mine was easier by watching a riveting episode of Justified on television-can't wait for Season 5! 

When choosing dates for these muffins, dried ones that are still moist and syrupy work best and are available year round. Buy the unsalted pale green pistachios, never the dyed red ones, popular in the 1940's when pistachios were imported from the Middle East and dyed red to camouflage archaic methods of harvesting. California, Arizona and New Mexico are leading growers of pistachios, so they also are readily available year round.

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Pistachio Date Muffins
Makes 10-12 Muffins
Recipe Adapted From Flavored Breads-Recipes From Mark Miller's Coyote Cafe

Dry Ingredients
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup shelled pistachios, lightly toasted
1/3 cup oatmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

2 cups pitted, chopped dates

1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup, firmly packed brown sugar, dark or light
2 tablespoons honey
1 cup milk
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup grated carrot

Preheat oven to 375°F. Place the flour, oatmeal and pistachios in a food processor and pulse until nuts are finely ground. Transfer to a mixing bowl.

Combine the remaining dry ingredients and add to the bowl of flour pistachio mixture. Stir in the chopped dates and set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk the butter, brown sugar, honey, milk, eggs and carrot. With a spoon, stir in the dry ingredients until just combined. Do not over mix-some flour should still be visible.

Either lightly grease a muffin pan or place cupcake papers in the tin. Spoon the batter into the tin, filling each to the top. The muffins will not rise much. Bake 25-30  minutes or until a testing pick comes out clean when inserted in the middle of one of the muffins. Let cool for 5 minutes, then turn muffins out on a cooling rack. Serve warm or cool completely. Can be frozen, wrapped in foil or a freezer proof container, for about 2 months.

This is my contribution to WHB #414 hosted by Haalo of Cook Almost Anything Once. Created by Kalyn, Weekend Herb Blogging now has Haalo at the helm.

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Slovenian Christmas Cake -Black and White Wednesday #110-The Christmas Edition

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Popular at Christmastime, this Slovenian yeast bread is filled with swirls of ground nuts folded in a sweetened meringue mixture. Hopefully, the recipe will be coming soon! This is my contribution to Christmas Edition-Black and White Wednesday #110 hosted and managed by lovely and talented Cinzia. The equally lovely and talented Susan created this very popular event back in 2011 and it's still going strong.  Black and White Wednesday will be taking a Christmas break and return on January 8, 2014 with yours truly as host. Looking forward to your contributions!

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Make Ahead Cream Scones with Pistachios

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England is my second home and due to my love for that country and her people, I never miss an opportunity to make the food I enjoyed while living there and when visiting. So there was not a doubt in my mind as to what recipe I would make from Maria's blog, Close to Home. It's reveal day for the Secret Recipe Club. There are many reason why we all blog-Maria was inspired by her grandmother who entertained family and friends often and with style. Before small space gardening was in vogue, her grandmother made use of her small patio and balcony by growing tomatoes, basil and even a canopy of grape vines.

I tweaked her Make Ahead Cranberry Scones somewhat by adding chopped toasted pistachios, omitting the egg which tends to make a cakey type scone, and increasing the baking powder to 1 tablespoon. Instead of putting the cranberries in the scones, I used a chunky cranberry sauce I froze from this past Thanksgiving to fill the split scones. I can't help fiddling with recipes, but I think I stayed relatively true to her original recipe. However, I didn't freeze the scones, but I'm pretty sure they could be frozen if desired.
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2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup pistachios, chopped and toasted
1 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 425°F. Place the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt  and ginger in a large bowl of a food processor. Process to mix, about 3 seconds. Remove cover and distribute the butter evenly over the dry ingredients. Cover and process with twelve 1-second pulses. Add the nuts and pulse one more time to mix. Transfer the dough to a large bowl.

Stir in the heavy cream with a rubber spatula or fork until the dough begins to come together. Transfer the dough and all the flour bits to a lightly floured surface and knead by  hand just until it all comes together into a rough,slightly sticky ball. Flatten into a ball.

Place the dough in an 8-inch cake pan and press to fill the pan. Turn out on a floured surface and cut into 8 pieces. Place the wedges on an ungreased baking sheet and bake until scone tops are light brown, 12-15 minutes. Alternatively, cover baking sheet in plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 2 hours. Makes 8. Serve with favorite jam and whipped cream.

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Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Rustic Crostada with Apples and Dried Fruit Baked in a Wood-Fired Oven

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Ten smoky crisp pizzas, perfectly wood-smoked rib eyes and salt baked potatoes later, it was time to bake a dessert in the fully seasoned wood-fired oven. What's more fitting than a rustic free form apple and dried fruit crostada? A premiere Italian pastry, the crostada can be made with just about any fruit filling, fresh, canned or even with fruit preserves, making it a perfect dessert to make in any season. Traditionally, the dough of choice is a pasta frolla, but I've used a pate brisee for this crostada, both are considered a short crust pastry, but the pasta frolla has eggs or egg yolks in the dough.

When baking the crostada in my wood-fired oven, I noticed the high moist heat of the oven intensified the caramelization of the sugars in the fruit with the wood adding a subtle smoky taste. No wood-fired oven-no problem, the crostada can be baked in a conventional oven. If you are new to wood-fired ovens, there are many resources on the Internet on purchasing or building your own wood-fired oven, plus how to effectively fire a wood-burning oven and how to manage the fire when cooking pizzas, roasting meats, vegetables and baking breads and desserts. I have three books on wood-fired oven cooking that I would recommend-Wood-Fired Oven Cookbook-Holly and David Jones,  The Art of Wood-Fired Cooking- Andrea Mugnaini and Cooking with Fire-Maurice Sabbagh Yotnegparian. Both Mugnaini and Yotnegparian have a line of wood-burning ovens as well. My oven is a Casa2G from Forno Bravo who not only sells residential and commercial ovens, but has oven supplies for sale as well as videos on cooking in a wood-fired oven as well as a community forum where many questions about wood-fired cooking can be answered. In the photo below, my wood-fired oven is enclosed in brick with wood storage underneath, a granite counter to the right of the oven and a stainless steel cabinet below for storage.
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Rustic Crostada with Apples and Dried Fruit

Bake Oven Environment or Conventional Oven at 375°F. If baking in a conventional oven, place a pizza stone in the oven while preheating. You can then slide the crostada from the wooden peel to the stone for baking. 
Prepare the pastry dough at least 2 hours before making the crostada.

4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin
1/2 cup dried sour cherries
3/4 cup chopped dried apricots
3 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger
1 tablespoon orange zest, plus 2 tablespoons juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Pate Brisee (recipe  below)
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon Turbinado sugar or regular sugar

Pate Brisee
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/4 sticks unsalted butter, cut into pieces and chilled
2 tablespoons shortening, cut into pieces and chilled
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

In large bowl, combine the apples, dried fruits, crystallized ginger, zest, juice, sugar and cinnamon. Toss to coat. Set aside while rolling out the pate brisee.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 14-inch circle, adding more flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking. Carefully transfer dough to a floured wooden peel. Place the fruit in the middle of the dough, leaving 3-4 inches around the edge. Fold the dough up over the filling pleating as  you go. There will be a 4-5-inch of exposed filling when you are finished. Brush the pastry with cream and sprinkle with the Turbinado sugar. Dot the exposed filling with the pieces of butter.

If baking in a wood-fired oven, slide crostada onto an inverted pan in the oven. Close the door and bake for 15 minutes. Open the door and using a metal peel, remove the crostada from the pan and set it directly on the oven floor. Close the oven door and cook for about 15-20 minutes, or until apples are soft and the pastry is browned and cooked through. Remove to cooling rack.

If baking in a conventional oven, slide crostada onto pizza stone. Bake 30-40 minutes at 375°F until apples are tender and crust is golden brown. Remove to cooling rack.

Serve warm with your favorite ice cream or whipped cream. Serves 8-12

Pate Brisee

Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor; pulse to mix. Add the butter and shortening and pulse until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Pour in the ice water, a tablespoon at a time and pulse for a few seconds, until dough roughly comes together. Remove the dough, place on a work surface and gather into a ball. Press into a thick disc about 4-5 inches in diameter. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.
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The image above is my contribution to BWW #108, this week hosted by Priya of The Humpty Dumpty Kitchen. Black and White Wednesday is the brainchild of Susan and is now managed by Cinzia. The image above was converted to black and white in CS6 and a texture from Rad Lab's Dirty Pictures used to add a grainy, sepia-like look.

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