Posted on 1 Comment

Simple Strawberries and Cream Layer Cake

Are you in charge of dessert for a Memorial Day barbeque? This cake is made with a box cake mix, strawberries and a secret whipped cream to hold it all together. This cake is fast, delicious, and for the beginner baker. Visually stunning and soft as a pillow, this cake will have your friends and family begging for more.

The secret is in the whipped cream. You need to use “stabilized” whipped cream so that it doesn’t lose its shape and volume over time. I have previously used gelatin to stabilize my whipped cream, but I recently discovered a secret that is much easier. Just add a little cream cheese (no, you can’t taste it) to your whipped cream and it will hold its shape for a week. Yes, a WEEK!

I developed this cake for the beginner baker or those too busy to spend much time on making a dessert. It does, however, look and taste like you spent all day on it. I used a Betty Crocker White Cake box mix, but any white cake mix will do. I made the cake in two 8 inch circular cake pans. I prepared the pans by spraying them with cooking spray and then dusting with a coating of flour. To achieve this, after applying the cooking spray, place a small amount of flour into the pan. Tap the flour around until the bottom and sides are covered. Then tap out any excess flour.

IMG_6787.jpg

IMG_6789.JPG

The box cake mix makes about 4 cups batter, so pour 2 cups into each pan (or make one cake after the other if you only have one pan). Cool the cakes completely on a wire cooling rack.

Slice the bottoms off of about 2 lbs of strawberries. Set aside.

IMG_6793.JPG

Now to make the stabilized whipped cream. In a small bowl, beat together the cream cheese, vanilla and powdered sugar with a handheld mixer.

In a second bowl, beat the heavy cream until it starts to form soft peaks. Add the cream cheese mixture and continue to beat with the handheld mixer until stiff peaks form. You can lightly fold in 3-4 tbsp of strawberry jam to create a “streaked” look or simply leave the whipped cream plain.

Scoop the whipped cream into a Ziploc bag and cut off the corner to create a piping bag.

IMG_6797.jpg

IMG_6798

Now assemble the cake. Carefully cut the domes off the tops of the cakes so that they are level.

IMG_6791.jpg

Put the first cake, cut side up, onto your cake stand. Top with a thin layer of whipped cream and then apply a layer of whole strawberries, cut side down.

IMG_6794.jpg

IMG_6796.jpg

Pipe a generous amount of whipped cream between the strawberries, including the ones on the outermost layer.

IMG_6800

Put the second cake on top, cut side down and press lightly to level.

IMG_6802.jpg

Put a light layer of whipped cream on top and decorate with the piped whipped cream and remaining strawberries. I did little pillows around the edge, then an inner ring of strawberries and a large pillow of whipped cream in the center. But be creative with your design!

IMG_6811

Chill until ready to serve. Enjoy!

IMG_6855

Simple Strawberries and Cream Layer Cake
Ingredients
  • 1 box white cake mix I used Betty Crocker and used egg whites only
  • 2 lb whole fresh strawberries
  • 8 oz soft cream cheese room temp is best
  • 3 tsp vanilla
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3-4 tbsp strawberry jam optional
Instructions
  1. Make the white cake mix according to box directions in two 8 inch circular cake pans. If you only have one pan, make one cake after the other. (You should have about 2 cups batter per pan) Prepare the cake pans by spraying with cooking spray and dusting with flour. Cool on wire cooling rack.

  2. Once cooled, cut the tops off the cakes to make them level.

  3. Cut the bottoms off the strawberries and set aside.

  4. In a small bowl, whip together the cream cheese, vanilla and powdered sugar with a handheld mixer.

  5. In a second bowl, whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form.

  6. Add the cream cheese mixture to the heavy cream and beat until stiff peaks form.

  7. Optional: lightly fold in 3-4 tbsp of strawberry jam to form pretty streaks (don't mix in too much or the streaks with disappear).
  8. Scoop the whipped cream into a ziplock bag and cut off a bottom corner to create a piping bag.

  9. Assemble your cake: Put the first cake, cut side up, onto your cake stand.

  10. Apply a thin layer of whipped cream onto the cake.

  11. Place the strawberries, cut side down, onto the cake. Make an outer ring first and then fill in the rest of the space as tightly as you can.

  12. Pipe the whipped cream in between the strawberries, including the outer ring.

  13. Put the second cake on top of the strawberries, cut side down, and press lightly to level.

  14. Apply a thin layer of whipped cream to the top of the cake.

  15. Decorate with piped cream and strawberries to your taste. I did an outer ring of small cream pillows, then an inner ring of strawberries and a center pillow of whipped cream.

Posted on Leave a comment

The Moroccan Bowl. Luncheon Bowl Series Part III.

Those of you who follow my blog regularly will have noticed that I enjoy spices. Particularly, the spices used in Indian, Moroccan and Persian cooking. Since I have already given you an Indian bowl, here’s a Moroccan one! (I promise the next bowl will have more of a salad vibe).

I recently saw an episode of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, (yes, I’m addicted), where one of the housewives served a Moroccan stew for dinner. It looked delicious. I searched the internet for a similar recipe and found something that looked close on Pinterest. I have changed it up to add a bit of spice and heat. I’ve also put in the option of adding chicken as it is a very light lunch bowl. Finally, I added some raisins and a pecan garnish for some texture variety. I hope you like it as much as I do!

This recipe uses onions, garlic, ginger, garbanzo beans, tomato sauce, butternut squash, red lentils and bell pepper with an abundance of yummy spices. It is paired up with quinoa (I like tri color quinoa because it’s pretty), wild arugula and greek yogurt.

It’s ridiculously easy to make. If you’re adding chicken, I recommend cooking it first in a skillet with a little olive oil, sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Use bite size pieces to make it easier to eat.

Dice a yellow onion and mince three garlic cloves. Add these with a little olive oil to a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the onions are translucent. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer, covered, for 60-90 minutes (or until squash is fork tender and lentils soft).

Using a deep bowl, fill 1/3 with the cooked quinoa, 1/3 with the stew, and 1/3 with wild arugula. Top with a dollop of greek yogurt and sprinkle on some chopped pecans. Serve with a piece of naan (optional).

The Moroccan Bowl
Ingredients
The Stew:
  • 1 medium yellow onion diced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper diced
  • 3/4 cup red lentils
  • 1 14 oz can garbanzo beans
  • 1 14 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp grated ginger (fresh)
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp red chili flakes
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 4 medium breasts chicken cut into bite sized pieces (optional)
Serve with:
  • 1 cup quinoa (I like tri-color) prepared according to package directions
  • 4 cups wild arugula
  • greek yogurt
  • chopped pecans for garnish
  • small piece of naan optional
Instructions
  1. If using chicken, precook in a medium skillet with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.

  2. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan (or soup pot). Add the onion and garlic. Cook over medium heat until the onions are translucent.

  3. Add remaining stew ingredients. Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered for 60-90 minutes or until squash fork tender and lentils soft.
  4. Fill bowl 1/3 with cooked quinoa, 1/3 wild arugula and 1/3 stew.

  5. Top with a dollop of greek yogurt and garnish with chopped pecans.

Posted on Leave a comment

Crispy Brussel Sprouts Bowl. Luncheon Bowl Series Part II

I recently took a trip to sunny Arizona. There, I enjoyed some real, authentic Mexican food. I also enjoyed some fusion Mexican food – or Mexican with a TWIST. One such dish was Brussel sprout nachos. I NEVER would have put those two things together. It was served with a bright pink beet crema and a fried egg. The colors definitely popped. I liked the nachos, but it got me thinking about a healthier version of the dish. This bowl is inspired by these strange, yet delicious, nachos from Diego Pops.

To be honest, I can’t recall all the ingredients on the Brussel sprout nachos. However, I think there may have been some picked onions on them. Pickled onions and cabbage are very popular in tacos right now. So I’ve added some picked red onions into my bowl. These need to be made at least an hour in advance, but will keep in the fridge for several days.

To make the onions, mix together the apple cider, sugar, salt, and water. Add one sliced red onion and cover. Chill.

IMG_6658

Take one pound of Brussel sprouts and cut the bottoms off and remove any dead outer leaves. Slice them lengthwise. Toss with 2 tbsp of olive oil in a bowl. Add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Transfer to a baking tray.

 

IMG_6659.jpg

Peel one small beet (or 1/2 of a large beet) and cut into chunks. Add the cut beet and two garlic cloves to the leftover olive oil/salt/pepper mixture in the bowl you removed the Brussel sprouts from. Toss to coat. Wrap up in aluminum foil and place on the baking tray.

IMG_6664

IMG_6665.jpg

Bake for about 25 minutes at 400 degrees. Shake the tray a couple of times to prevent the sprouts from burning. They should be dark brown and blackened in areas when done.

IMG_6666

While the Brussel sprouts are roasting, prepare your wheat bulgur. Alternatively, this bowl could be made with quinoa or brown rice.

Once cooked, mash together the garlic and beets with a fork. Mix with 1 cup of your favorite ranch dressing a puree together in a blender. Run the blender until you can no longer see bits of beets in the dressing (about 3 minutes).

Quickly fry up an egg for each bowl you are making.

Assemble the bowls. Use the bulgur as a base and gently place the egg on top. Using a fork remove a few rings of onion from the vinegar solution and place on top of the egg. Add the roasted Brussel sprouts and drizzle the dressing on top.

Crispy Brussel Sprout Bowl
Ingredients
  • 1 red onion sliced thinly
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 lb brussel sprouts
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • sea salt to taste
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 small beet
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup wheat bulgur prepared according to package directions. May sub quinoa or brown rice
  • 1 egg per bowl
  • 1 cup ranch dressing
Instructions
  1. You need to make the pickled onions at least one hour in advance. Mix together the apple cider vinegar, sugar, salt and water. Add the sliced red onion. Cover and chill. (These will stay good for several days in the fridge).
  2. Wash the Brussel sprouts. Remove any dead outer leaves and cut the bottoms off. Slice lengthwise.

  3. Place Brussel sprouts in a bowl. Drizzle 2 tbsp olive oil over top. Season with salt and pepper. Toss to coast. Remove sprout to a baking tray.

  4. Peel and chop beet into chunks. Place chopped beet and garlic cloves in the bowl with the olive oil/salt/pepper. Toss to coat. Wrap in aluminum foil and place on the baking sheet with the sprouts

  5. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes or until Brussel sprouts brown and blackened in areas. Shake the tray a couple of times while baking to prevent burning. (Now is a good time to make your bulgur).

  6. Mash the beet and garlic cloves together. Place in a blender with ranch dressing and blend using highest setting until no beet pieces are visible (about 3 minutes).

  7. Fry one egg per bowl.

  8. To assemble the bowls: Place a large scoop of bulgur in the bottom of the bowl. Gently add the egg on top. Remove with a fork several slices of pickled onion and place on top of egg. Add Brussel sprouts and drizzle dressing on top. Enjoy!

Posted on Leave a comment

The Butter Chicken Bowl. Luncheon Bowl Series Part I.

This blog is the first in a series of scrumptious lunch bowls that are both visually stunning and tasty. “Bowls” have become popular of late, but they are usually made with Acai and other berries. Presentation is a key ingredient when making a bowl and I’ll show you how simple this is.

I haven’t posted a blog in awhile. Life just got…busy. So to make it up to you I’m including three recipes in this post. They all go together or can be used separately. I’m going to show you how to make butter chicken, Indian rice, and a mango chutney (Indian style). Of course, this bowl can be made with plain rice and without the chutney. It will still taste delicious.

Butter chicken was the first Indian dish I tasted. It has no heat so it tends to be liked by everyone. (Of course, you can add a little chili pepper if you want). After my first taste of Indian food I was in love and it continues to be my favorite kind of ethnic food today.

The Butter Chicken:

Melt the butter in a deep skillet and saute the onions until translucent. Add the ginger and garlic and saute for an additional minute. Add the turmeric, chili powder, coriander, cumin and garam masala and fry the spices for another minute to release their flavors.

Add the chicken to the skillet and brown. Then add the diced tomatoes, sauce and almond meal. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20-30 minutes. (This is when you should start making the rice).

IMG_6568.jpg

IMG_6569.jpg

Remove from heat and stir in the yogurt. Serve with the rice and garnish with chopped cilantro and mango chutney.

The Indian Rice:

This is so easy and enhances the flavor of the dish.

Rinse the rice three times to reduce the amount of starch.

Boil the water with the cumin seeds and whole green cardamom pods. Once boiling, add the basmati rice, stir and return to a boil. Cover, then reduce heat to low for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes the water will be completely absorbed and the cardamoms will be on top of the rice. Remove them with a spoon.

IMG_6570

Fluff the rice with a fork.

The Mango Chutney:

This can be made up to a week in advance. It’s also great with samosas.

In a saucepan mix together the vinegar, golden raisins, sugar, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric, coriander, cumin, salt and onion. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes.

IMG_6559.jpg

Add the mango and water and simmer for an additional 10 minutes. I then mash the mango a bit with a potato masher to get the desired consistency.

IMG_6563.JPG

Remove from heat and stir in the lime juice. Refrigerate until ready to use.

The Presentation:

In a deep bowl spoon the rice into one side and pat down.

IMG_6572.jpg

Into the other side of the bowl spoon in the butter chicken.

Add a dollop of mango chutney on top of the rice.

Garnish with the cilantro.

IMG_6573.jpg

Butter Chicken
Ingredients
  • 4 chicken breasts cut into bite sized pieces
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 inch fresh ginger grated
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 3 tbsp almond meal/ground almonds
  • 1 cup diced canned tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup full fat greek yogurt
  • 1 small bunch fresh cilantro
Instructions
  1. In a large skillet, over medium heat melt the butter.

  2. Add the onion to the skillet and saute until translucent.

  3. Add the garlic and ginger to the skillet and saute for one minute.

  4. Add the tumeric, chili powder, ground coriander, ground cumin, and garam masala to the skillet and fry for 1 minute to release the flavors.

  5. Add the chicken and brown.

  6. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and ground almond meal.

  7. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Simmer covered for 20-30 minutes.

  8. Remove from heat and stir in Greek yogurt.

  9. Serve with basmati rice (see Indian Rice recipe) and garnish with cilantro and mango chutney.

Indian Rice
Ingredients
  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tsp whole green cardamom
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
Instructions
  1. Rinse the rice three times to remove the excess starch.

  2. In a medium saucepan, boil the water with the cardamom and cumin seeds.

  3. Add the rinsed rice and stir. Return to a boil.

  4. Reduce heat to low and cover for 20 minutes.

  5. Remove the cardamom pods from the top of the rice.

  6. Fluff with fork and serve.

Mango Chutney (Indian Style)
Ingredients
  • 1 small onion chopped fine
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp tumeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 cups mango fresh or frozen. Cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan mix together the onion, brown sugar, raisins, vinegar, cloves, cardamom, turmeric, coriander, cumin and salt.

  2. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent burning.

  3. Add the mango and water. Continue to simmer and stir for an additional 10 minutes.

  4. Mash the mango with a fork or potato masher to your desired consistency.

  5. Remove from heat and stir in lime juice.

  6. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Posted on 1 Comment

Sky High Buttermilk Biscuits

These biscuits taste like soft and buttery clouds. This post will explain all the tips, tricks and techniques to get that “perfectly” fluffy, sky high, buttermilk biscuit.

The first key to making biscuits is to have the right flour. Believe it or not, flour differs greatly from region to region. Ever try to follow a baking recipe and have it come out crumbly or tough? This is often the reason why. So do yourself a favor and order a flour from the south where biscuits are the main reason for buying it. It is much softer than the flour sold in the Northeast. I use “White Lily self rising flour” and I bought it for a reasonable price on amazon. (If you substitute in another flour, make sure it says “self rising”.)

IMG_6207.jpg

Now get a good quality buttermilk. Yes, you can add lemon juice or vinegar to your milk to make your own. Just remember that the quality of your ingredients affects the quality of the biscuit.

On that note, butter is not all the same either. Try to find a European style butter like Plugra or Kerry Gold. They are sold at most grocery stores. Trust me, you’ll never go back to baking with anything else.

Okay, now that we have discussed the ingredients, let’s talk technique.

You want your biscuit dough to remain as cold as possible. Freeze your butter and then grate it. This will prevent it from fully incorporating into your dough and give you layers.

IMG_6211

Now you’re ready to start. Mix together the flour and butter. Add the buttermilk in four stages and mix in with a fork being careful not to overwork the dough (you are trying to keep the butter from melting into the dough).

IMG_6215.jpg

Form the dough into a ball, turn out onto a floured surface and roll out to 1/2 inch thickness. Now you are going to fold it a few time to help create more layers.

Fold over the top 1/3 of the dough into the center.

IMG_6218.jpg

Fold the bottom of the dough completely over the first fold.

IMG_6219.jpg

Fold over 1/3 of the dough from the left.

IMG_6220.jpg

Fold the right side completely over the left fold.

IMG_6222.jpg

Roll out again and repeat the folds. Roll out to 1/2 inch thickness. Make sure the dough is not thinner than 1/2 inch or you won’t get “sky high” biscuits.

Using a sharp edged cookie cutter or jar lid, cut the biscuits without twisting the cutter. Twisting seals the edges of the biscuit shut, preventing rising. Alternatively, cut into squares with a sharp knife.

Place the biscuits on a non greased baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes at 475 degrees. Some experts say to have the biscuits touching each other so that each biscuit can climb up the sides of the adjacent one as they rise.  I haven’t found that this makes a significant difference, but go ahead and try it.

Now for the final tip that will have your family begging for more! Melt together 1 tbsp. of honey with 1 tbsp. of butter. Brush this mixture onto the top of the biscuits when you remove them from the oven. Your family will think you are a biscuit magician. Enjoy!

Sky high Buttermilk Biscuits
Ingredients
  • 3 cups White Lily self rising flour
  • 3/4 cup butter (European style) frozen and grated
  • 1 cup buttermilk
For brushing on top of baked biscuits:
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp butter
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees.
  2. Freeze and grate your butter.

  3. Mix butter together with flour in a large bowl.

  4. Add buttermilk in four stages. Lightly mix in with a fork, being careful not to overwork the dough.

  5. Form into a ball and roll out to 1/2 inch thickness on a floured surface.

  6. Fold top 1/3 of dough down to center.

  7. Fold bottom of dough overtop of the first fold.

  8. Fold 1/3 of dough on the left side into the center.

  9. Fold right side of dough completely overtop of the left fold.


  10. Roll out and repeat folds.


  11. Roll out to 1/2 inch thickness - NO thinner or your biscuits will come out flat.

  12. Using a sharp cookie cutter or jar lid cut the biscuits without twisting the cutter (twisting would seal down the edges of the biscuit, preventing rising).

  13. Place on an ungreased baking tray and bake for 10-15 minutes. Some say that having the biscuits touching aids rising.

  14. Melt together 1 tbsp honey with 1 tbsp. butter. Brush on top of biscuits after removing them from the oven.

Posted on Leave a comment

Irish Soda Bread with Raisins and Orange

This is not technically a true Irish Soda Bread. Soda bread is traditionally made with only four ingredients: flour, salt, baking soda and sour milk (buttermilk). Baking Soda was introduced to Ireland in the 1840’s as a means to make bread, but soda was actually first used to leaven bread in America by the American Indians. However, the nature of poverty in Ireland made this bread popular and cheap and it became historically associated with that country. The practice of cutting a cross into the top of the bread was believed to ward off evil.

While traditional Irish bread is flavorful and still made and eaten today, I wanted a sweet breakfast bread to eat with my morning coffee so I added a few twists.

This bread is easy and fast to make, unlike yeast breads. No expertise is required!

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Next whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder.

IMG_6304.jpg

Cut in the butter (make sure it’s cold) with a pastry cutter until crumbly. Stir in the raisins.

IMG_6306

In a separate bowl, combine the buttermilk, egg, baking soda and orange zest.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix together with a fork. Mix until just moistened.

IMG_6309.jpg

Form a ball with the dough, using your hands and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Form an 8-10 inch dome.

IMG_6310.jpg

Brush egg whites on top, then generously sprinkle with sugar.

Cut a 1/4 inch deep cross into the bread.

IMG_6312.jpg

Bake for 75 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack.

Slice or pull apart. Serve with butter and jams.

Enjoy!

Orange-Raisin Irish Soda Bread
Ingredients
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 4 tbsp cold butter
  • 1 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp orange zest
  • 1 egg white for brushing on top
  • 2 tbsp sugar for sprinkling on top
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and baking soda.

  3. Cut in the cold butter using a pastry blender until it becomes crumbly.

  4. Stir in raisins.

  5. In a separate bowl, combine the whole egg, buttermilk, baking soda and orange zest.

  6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix with a fork until moistened.

  7. Using your hands form the dough into a ball and transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet.

  8. Form an 8-10 inch dome and brush the top with the egg white. Generously sprinkle sugar on top.

  9. Cut a 1/4 inch deep cross into the top of the dough.

  10. Bake for 75 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the bread comes out clean.

Posted on Leave a comment

Butternut Squash Gnocchi with a Brown Butter Sage Sauce

As I travel along on my Italian cooking journey I decided to try and make gnocchi. It’s actually pretty easy. It does make a sticky dough that can test your nerves at times, but the result is a tender, fluffy gnocchi with a delicate flavor.

The first time I made gnocchi I made it with spinach and a lemon oil sauce that I had adapted from a cookbook. While I loved it, my kids don’t like anything green so I decided to try and see if I could create a butternut squash gnocchi instead. (Orange is a more acceptable color to eat according to both my toddlers and teenagers.)

First you need to roast the squash in the oven. I cheated and bought pre-cut cubes, but if you want to save money buy a small butternut squash, slice it in half and scoop out the seeds. Coat either the pre cut cubes or squash halves with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees until fork tender. (Cubes take about 25 minutes, halves about 1 hr).

Shred the roasted squash with a fork. Weigh out 250 grams and place in a large bowl. Add ricotta cheese, grated parmesan cheese, eggs, salt and flour. Mix well. A sticky dough will form.

IMG_5893.jpg

Heavily flour your counter and turn out the dough. Divide the dough into four sections. Take one section and form a ball. Coat the ball with a light layer of flour and roll into a 1 inch log.

IMG_5896

Slice the log into 1/4 inch pieces. Then, using a floured fork, press the tines into one side of the gnocchi to form grooves.

IMG_5900.jpg

IMG_5903.jpg

IMG_5906.jpg

Repeat with the remaining 3 sections.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil the gnocchi in two batches. The gnocchi will float to the surface when done. Remove with a slotted spoon and place into a colander to completely drain.

IMG_5908.jpg

In a large frying pan melt 1/2 cup of butter and cook until it starts to turn a golden color. Add the chopped sage and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add the gnocchi into the pan and toss to coat. Cook until the gnocchi is hot again. Serve and enjoy!

Butternut Squash with a Brown Butter Sage Sauce
Ingredients
  • 1 lb butternut squash cubed or whole
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
Sauce:
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 4-6 leaves sage chopped
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees

  2. If using a whole squash, cut in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds.

  3. Place squash on a greased baking sheet, brush on olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

  4. Cook until fork tender (approx. 25 minutes for cubes, 1 hr for halves)

  5. Mash and shred squash with a fork. Weigh out 250 grams and place in a large mixing bowl.

  6. Add remaining ingredients and mix well to form a sticky dough.

  7. Turn dough out onto a heavily floured surface. Divide dough into four equal sections.

  8. Take one dough section and form a ball. Coat ball with a light layer of flour.

  9. Roll ball into a 1 inch rope. Slice into 1/4 inch rounds.

  10. Using a floured fork, press the tines into one side of each gnocchi to form grooves.

  11. Repeat with the remaining 3 sections.

  12. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook gnocchi in two batches. They will float to the surface when done.

  13. Remove gnocchi with a slotted spoon and place in a colander to completely drain.

Sauce:
  1. In a large skillet, melt the butter and cook until it turns a golden color. 

  2. Add the sage and cook for another 2  minutes.

  3. Add the gnocchi into the skillet. Toss to coat. Cook till hot and serve.

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Step by Step Crispy Rice

 

Crispy rice is becoming increasingly popular in fancy restaurants. It’s actually pretty easy to make at home and the crispy bits are delicious. It’s so good, in fact, that my family will no longer eat rice prepared the “North American” way. So be forewarned – kids and adults love this rice A LOT and it may cost you your “easy meal”.

This is a completely different method to prepare rice and it’s a lot of fun to make. First, you want to rinse your basmati rice 2-3 times and then soak it in water (one inch covering) for 2-3 hours. You can soak it for longer if you like, even overnight.

Bring a pot of salted water to a full boil. Drain your rice and add it to the pot. Allow to rice to cook for about 5-7 minutes. You want it to be “mostly done”, but slightly al dente. Drain and run cold water through the rice to stop it from overcooking.

Mix one cup of the cooked rice with an egg yolk.

In a non-stick pot, heat the butter, oil and either turmeric or saffron water. (To make saffron water grind 1 pinch saffron with 1 small pinch sugar and mix in 1/4 cup hot water).

If you want to be fancy, place sliced potato or onion in a single layer on the bottom of the pot.

IMG_4966

Add the egg-rice mixture to the pot and pat down to form a solid layer.

Scoop the remaining rice into a mound on top. If you used saffron water, drizzle some on top of the mound to create some brightly colored rice grains.

IMG_4968

Cover the pot with a double layer of paper towel and cover with a tight sealing lid (careful that the paper towel does not catch fire!)

IMG_4971.jpg

Heat on medium for 3 minutes to help crisp the bottom. Then reduce the heat to medium low and steam the rice for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes check the bottom of the rice to make sure it is golden and crispy. If it’s still soft, replace the paper towel and lid and turn the heat up for 3 minutes and recheck.

Scoop the soft rice out of the pot and place on a serving dish. Either carefully lift off the crispy layer or invert the pot to remove.

Here’s how it looks with the crispy layer intact without potato or onion.

IMG_5268

Here’s how it looks with the crispy bits broken up and potato/onions added.

IMG_4979.jpg

Enjoy!

Crispy Rice
Ingredients
  • 2-3 cups basmati rice
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/4 tsp tumeric may sub 1 tbsp saffron water
  • 1 onion sliced - optional
  • 1 russet potato sliced - optional
Instructions
  1. Rinse the rice 2-3 times and then soak in water for a least 2-3 hours. (may soak longer, even overnight)

  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a full boil.


  3. Drain and add rice to boiling water. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until almost done or al dente.

  4. Drain rice and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.

  5. Mix one cup of the rice with an egg yolk.

  6. In a non-stick pot melt the butter, oil and turmeric (or saffron water) on medium heat. (To create saffron water grind 1 pinch saffron with 1 small pinch sugar and add to 1/4 cup hot water). 

  7. If using potato and/or onion place in pot in a single layer. Add rice/egg mixture and pat down to form a solid layer.

  8. Scoop remaining rice on top into a mound. If using saffron water, drizzle some on top of the mound to create some brightly colored rice grains.

  9. Cover with a doubled over paper towel and secure with a tight fitting lid. Take care that the paper towel does not catch on fire.

  10. Cook on medium for 3 minutes to help crisp the bottom.

  11. Reduce heat to medium-low for 20 minutes. Check rice. If bottom not crisped increase heat for 3 minutes and recheck.

  12. Scoop out the soft rice onto a serving dish.

  13. Either carefully remove crispy layer with a spatula or invert pot over the serving dish to remove. Enjoy!

Posted on Leave a comment

DeMaio Sunday Gravy and the World Beyond Ragu

Anthony DeMaio was a man larger than life. I entered his family in the twilight of his life and was honored to know him. He would regale me with stories of driving Patton around in a tank during the Battle of the Bulge in WWII, lifting a car off of his son single-handedly when a jack collapsed and, of course, how he loved to make meatballs and Sunday gravy.

Now, despite my last name, I am not Italian. The first time I went the DeMaio house it was for a Sunday lunch. The first course was pasta with this famous Sunday gravy. At first I was confused because it looked like pasta sauce, not gravy, but the terminology was quickly explained to me. Everyone was putting some white stuff I thought was called “rigota” on the side. I tried some. It was delicious. I later discovered that this was ricotta cheese. The pasta was served with an assortment of meats including: sausages, meatballs, a piece of beef that looked like pot roast and some pork. I wondered how many days they had cooked for to make this meal. Did they just have pot roast the night before? It was a lot of food. The next course was chicken (seriously, when did they sleep??) and then finally salad. Italians have salad last, not first, like North Americans.

This meal was served to me many times and every time I couldn’t believe the huge assortment of meats on the table. If this was “Sunday” gravy did they always make “Saturday” pot roast and sausages? My father-in-law tried to explain to me how to make the “gravy”, but I misunderstood some of the directions and ended up with a sweet, oily mess. You see, I never understood that the meats were cooked in the sauce. His daughter, Margie, clarified that for me years later. Yes, that’s the secret. While he did get up at 5am to make the sauce in time for lunch, he was not actually making 4 separate dishes.

This meat infused pasta sauce is well worth the time it takes to make. It’s not hard, but it needs to simmer for a good portion of the day to develop it’s flavor.

First, make some meatballs. You can do this the day before. Make sure you use 85% lean ground beef rather than anything leaner. Otherwise, the meatballs will turn out dry. Mix all the meatball ingredients together with clean hands and line a baking tray with parchment paper. Using wet hands roll the meat mixture into 2 inch balls. Keep rolling until the outside of the ball is nice and smooth. Re-wet your hands as necessary. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until done in the center. If your meatballs are placed in the sauce without being thoroughly cooked first, they might fall apart.

IMG_5932.jpg

IMG_5933.jpg

IMG_5936.jpg

When you’re ready to make the sauce find a big soup pot and heat about 2 tbsp. of olive oil in it. Brown the beef, pork and sausages.

IMG_5937.jpg

Remove the meat from the pot and set aside. Cook the onions in the remaining oil (add more if needed) until translucent and then add the minced garlic and cook until fragrant. Take care not to burn the bottom of the pot. Add the paste and brown for approximately 2 minutes. Precooking the paste will reduce its acidity. Then add the crushed tomatoes, meatballs, browned meats and herbs. Season with salt and pepper. Add approximately 1 1/2 cups of water. You may add more water later on if the sauce becomes to thick. Bring the sauce to a boil. Cover and reduce to a simmer for a minimum of 4 hours to allow the flavors to infuse.

 

IMG_5942.jpg

Serve with your favorite pasta, some ricotta cheese and shredded parmesan. Enjoy!

Mr. DeMaio

A big thanks to Anthony DeMaio and his daughter Margie for sharing this recipe.

DeMaio Sunday Gravy
Ingredients
Meatballs:
  • 2 1/2 lbs 85% lean ground beef
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 cup grated romano cheese
  • 4 tbsp Italian flat leaf parsley chopped fine
  • 1-2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
Sauce:
  • 1 lb chuck steak
  • 1 lb pork loin
  • 6 links Italian sweet sausage
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes san marzano is best
  • 1 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 tbsp oregano
  • 3 tbsp fresh basil chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. The meatballs must be cooked in advance. You can either do this in the morning or the day before.

  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  3. Mix all meatball ingredients together.

  4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

  5. Using wet hands roll the meat mixture into 2 inch balls. Roll between your hands until the outside of the balls is smooth. Re-wet your hands as necessary.

  6. Bake for 20 minutes or until cooked all the way through.

Sauce:
  1. In a large soup pot heat some olive oil and brown the meats. 

  2. Remove the meats from the pot and set aside.

  3. Cook the onion in the pot until translucent. Add more oil as necessary.

  4. Add the minced garlic to the pot and cook until fragrant.

  5. Add the paste to the pot and cook for 1-2 minutes. You want the paste to start to turn brown - this reduces the acidity.

  6. Add the remaining ingredients and the meats back to the pot.

  7. Add the meatballs to the pot.


  8. Add 1 1/2 cups water to the pot and bring to a boil. 

  9. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for a minimum of four hours to allow the flavors to infuse.

  10. If sauce becomes to thick add some water. Alternatively, if the sauce is too thin, remove the lid and allow to reduce until desired consistency.

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Kaluha Chocolate Almond Torte. Gluten Free!

It was my Mom’s birthday and she can’t have gluten. I wondered how to make a gluten free cake that everyone would enjoy? Some of our attempts to make gluten free cakes in the past were less than delicious. We decided to try making this cake as it is “naturally gluten free” meaning you aren’t making any substitutions with the flour. It is made with almond meal and eggs to create a soft, fluffy texture. It was so scrumptious we made it twice. Next time, I’m going to make two and layer them with raspberry cream between the layers.

You do need a spring form pan for this recipe. I wouldn’t try to make it in a regular pan. It would stick.

First, melt your chocolate with the kaluha. (You may substitute water for the kaluha if you like). You can either melt them in a double boiler or a microwave. If using a microwave, stop and stir the mixture every 30 seconds and be careful not to overheat the chips (they will return to a solid state). Once melted, add the brown sugar and melted butter. Finally, add the vanilla extract and stir well.

Remove the double boiler from the heat at this point (if you used one – I didn’t bother) and add the almond meal. Whisk to combine. Add in the egg yolks, one at a time, stir.

Next, beat the egg whites until soft peaks are formed. Gently fold in the chocolate mixture and sliced almonds.

Pour the batter into your spring form pan. Let it settle for a few minutes. You can use a spatula to smooth out the top if needed.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes or until done. (Check doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, it’s done).

Let the cake completely cool.

Melt together 1/3 cup of chocolate chips, 3 tbsp. of butter and 1 tsp of kaluha either in your double boiler or microwave to create a sauce. Drizzle over the cake.

Sprinkle on powdered sugar and garnish with raspberries. Enjoy!

Kaluha Chocolate Almond Torte
Ingredients
Cake batter:
  • 8 oz semi sweet chocolate
  • 2 tbsp kaluha may sub water
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter melted then cooled slightly
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 6 tbsp almond meal
  • 5 large eggs separated
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds
Sauce:
  • 1/3 cup semi sweet chocolate
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp kaluha
Garnish:
  • powdered sugar
  • raspberries
Instructions
Batter:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Grease your spring form pan.

  3. Either in a double boiler or the microwave melt together the chocolate and kaluha. If using a microwave, stir mixture every 30 seconds and take care not to overheat.

  4. Add the butter and vanilla. Mix well.

  5. Remove the double boiler from the heat (if using) and whisk in the almond meal. 

  6. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, stir in between each one.

  7. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.

  8. Fold the chocolate mixture and almond slices into the beaten egg whites.

  9. Pour batter into the greased spring form pan and let it settle. You may use a spatula to flatten the top.

  10. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until done. (Check doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean the cake is done).

  11. Allow cake to cool completely.

Sauce:
  1. Melt together in either a double boiler or the microwave the sauce ingredients. Stir well.

  2. Drizzle sauce over cake.

Garnish:
  1. Sprinkle powdered sugar over the cake.

  2. Garnish with raspberries.

Posted on Leave a comment

One Pot Madras Chicken Curry with Basmati Rice

A while ago, my mom shared with me a one pot chicken shwarma recipe. It was absolutely divine and got me thinking about one pot cooking. It takes the “timing” issue out of cooking, which is especially important when cooking for company. This dish is spicy and flavorful and definitely one of the recipe creations I am proud of. It makes a large amount, but the recipe can easily be cut in half.

First you are going to make a curry paste to rub on your chicken thighs. Combine dry mustard powder with ground coriander, ground cumin, red chili flakes, paprika, minced garlic, minced ginger, malt vinegar and vegetable oil. Stir until a paste is formed and rub it into all sides of the chicken thighs. Cover and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.

IMG_5754.jpg

When you’re ready to start cooking, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large, deep skillet heat about 1 tbsp. of vegetable oil and brown the chicken on both sides. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.

IMG_5757.jpg

Cook the onions in the oil until translucent. Add in the rice and stir to coat the rice grains in the oil.

IMG_5763.jpg

Add in the chicken stock, garbanzo beans, chopped tomatoes, and tomato paste. Stir to combine. Add the chicken back into the pan. Bring to a simmer.

IMG_5766.jpg

Cover and place in the preheated oven. Cooked covered for 35 minutes. Remove the cover and cook for an additional 10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

Garnish with chopped cilantro leaves and enjoy!

One Pot Madras Chicken Curry with Basmati Rice
Ingredients
  • 1 tbsp dry mustard
  • 4 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp red chili flakes
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 inches ginger minced
  • 1 tbsp malt vinegar
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 28 oz can chopped tomatoes
  • 14 oz can garbanzo beans
  • 8 small chicken thighs
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • cilantro leaves chopped for garnish
Instructions
  1. Mix the first 9 ingredients together to form a paste. Rub onto the chicken pieces.  Allow to marinate in the fridge for 2-3 hours.

  2. In a large, deep saucepan heat about 1 tbsp. of vegetable oil. Brown the chicken on both sides. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.

  3. Add the onion to the pan and cook until translucent.

  4. Add the rice to the pan and stir to coat the rice grains with the oil.

  5. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste, chopped tomatoes, and garbanzo beans to the pan. Stir to combine.

  6. Add the chicken back into the pan and bring everything to a simmer.


  7. Cover and place in a 350 degree oven for 35 minutes. Then remove cover and cook for an additional 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

  8. Garnish with cilantro and serve. Enjoy!

Posted on Leave a comment

How to Make Homemade Pasta Without a Pasta Machine or Roller

I have been on a delectable journey of learning to cook from scratch. I just can’t believe how much better everything tastes. Homemade breads, perogies, jams, pickles, doughnuts and cheeses are full of flavors and texture. I wanted to try to make pasta from scratch, but I didn’t have a machine. Then, a couple of days ago, I was watching a reality TV show (yes, I watch the Housewives series on Bravo) and I saw them hand rolling pasta while on a trip to Italy. So, I thought I’d give it a try and I wasn’t disappointed. My Italian husband actually told me this was the BEST pasta he’d ever eaten.

It was a lot easier than I thought, but the rolling takes a little time so be patient. Think of it as “cooking with love”.

First go to the store and buy some semolina flour. You can use regular AP flour if you like, but traditionally pasta is made with semolina.

Mix two cups of semolina flour with a 1/4 tsp of salt. Adding the salt is optional. You can boil the pasta in salted water instead if you prefer (or do both!)

Dump the flour/salt mixture onto your counter in a mound. Create a well in the center.

IMG_5670-2415882737-1515166250836.jpg

Into the center put 3 eggs and 2 tbsp. of water.

IMG_5674.jpg

Using a whisk, beat the eggs and water together and then slowly incorporate the flour from the edges of the well with each whisk. Continue until the dough becomes too thick for the whisk and then use your clean hands to finish mixing the dough together.

IMG_5683.jpg

Now, eggs are all different sizes so you may need to add a little more flour or water as you start to knead.  The dough should hold together, but not be sticky.

Knead the dough for about 10 minutes. It will be quite stiff to start and soften up as you knead. It should become smooth and shiny.

IMG_5694

Once the dough is well kneaded, form it into a ball and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Wait 45 minutes to allow the dough to rest. DO NOT SKIP this step. The dough will be too difficult to roll out.

After 45 minutes the dough should be soft and appear more hydrated. Divide it into 4 sections. Wrap three sections back up in the plastic wrap until ready to roll.

Take the first dough section and flatten it into a disc on a heavily floured surface.

IMG_5696

Roll the dough into a rectangle as thin as you can. This takes some time and a little bit of “elbow grease”.

IMG_5711

Once done, dust the dough lightly with flour and roll from the top like a jelly roll.

IMG_5699

IMG_5703.jpg

Cut the ends off the roll and then slice into rounds to your desired noodle width (I cut them just under 1/4 inch).

IMG_5707

Carefully unroll the rounds into a bowl and sprinkle with flour to prevent the noodles from sticking together.

IMG_5709

Repeat with the remaining 3 sections.

Boil for 2-4 minutes in salted boiling water and serve with your favorite sauce.

The noodles will be so much more tender than store bought ones.

Enjoy!

PS – I made a delicious sauce using a large jar of marinara sauce, 1 chopped onion, sliced black olives, sliced mushrooms, parmesan cheese and sausage meat. Fry the onion and then add the meat. Cook until meat browned all the way through. Add the mushrooms and cook for 1 minute. Add the marinara sauce, olives and cheese and simmer until ready to serve (I also sometimes add 1/2 can of garbanzo beans).

Homemade Pasta
Ingredients
  • 2 cups semolina flour
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt optional
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tbsp water
Instructions
  1. Mix together the flour and salt (salt is optional - traditionally the pasta is not salted and boiled only in salted water).

  2. Pour flour salt mixture onto your counter in a mound

  3. Create a well in the center

  4. Put the eggs and water into the well

  5. Using a whisk, beat the eggs and water together and then slowly incorporate the flour with each turn until the dough becomes too stiff. Then finish incorporating the flour into the dough with your clean hands

  6. Knead for ten minutes. Add a little water or flour as necessary. The dough should hold together, but not be sticky. The dough will start out stiff and soften as you continue kneading. It will become smooth and shiny after 10 minutes of kneading.

  7. Form the dough into a ball and tightly wrap in plastic wrap. Wait 45 minutes to allow the dough to rest and hydrate.

  8. Divide the dough into four sections. Keep three sections in the plastic wrap until ready to use to prevent a crust from forming.

  9. On a floured surface flatten the dough into a disc. Roll out as thin as you can into a rectangle. This takes a bit of time and elbow grease. Be patient.

  10. Dust the dough with flour and roll from the top down like a jelly roll.

  11. Cut the ends off the roll and discard. Slice into rounds to the desired width of your pasta.

  12. Unroll the rounds into strips and dust with flour to prevent the noodles from sticking together.

  13. Repeat with the remaining three sections. 

  14. Boil in salted water for 2-4 minutes. Enjoy!

Posted on Leave a comment

Baked Brie in Puff Pastry. Holiday Appetizer Series Part II

This baked brie is a snap to make and will add color and flavor to any cheese platter. I made it two different ways and both were equally good.

First thaw out your puff pastry as per box instructions. Then, using a rolling pin, roll it flat. Place your brie in the middle of the pastry and mark the edges with a fork. Remove the brie, leaving a marked circle in the middle.

IMG_5375

IMG_5376.jpg

Option One: In the circle place whole pecans, dried cranberries and some apricot jam.

IMG_5380.jpg

Option Two: In the circle place sliced pear and chopped walnuts. Drizzle maple syrup over the top.

IMG_5395.jpg

Place your brie back on top of the circle and fold the pastry over the sides of the brie.

IMG_5387.jpg

Turn brie over so the seam is at the bottom and place on a baking sheet.

Option One: Place some pecans and cranberries on top to decorate.

Option Two: Place some walnuts on top and drizzle with more maple syrup.

Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve and enjoy!

Baked Brie

Ingredients
  • 1 pkg puff pastry
  • 2 rounds brie
  • 2 tbsp whole pecans
  • 2 tbsp dried cranberries
  • 3 tbsp apricot jam
  • 1 pear sliced
  • 2 tbsp chopped walnuts
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
Instructions
  1. Thaw out the puff pastry according to package directions

  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees

  3. Using a rolling pin, roll the puff pastry flat

  4. Place the brie in the middle of the pastry and mark edges of brie into the pastry using a fork

  5. Remove the brie, leaving the marked circle.


  6. Option One: place pecans, cranberries and apricot jam in the circle. Replace the brie.

  7. Option Two: place sliced pears, chopped walnuts and drizzle maple syrup over the circle.  Replace the cheese.

  8. Fold puff pastry over the brie

  9. Place brie, seam side down, on a baking sheet

  10. Option One: decorate top with pecans and cranberries

  11. Option Two: decorate the top with walnuts and drizzle with more maple syrup

  12. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden brown and serve warm

Posted on Leave a comment

Fancy Holiday Appetizer Series. Part I. Quince Paste

As some of you may know, I discovered quinces in my local grocery store this year. I love their fragrant fruity flavor that is similar to a pear-apple cross. When I told my mom I had bought some quinces she immediately asked me to make quince paste. I had never heard of quince paste before, but it is quite popular in Australia. It’s traditionally served with Manchego cheese on a cracker.

This blog will be the first in a series on holiday appetizer platters. Quince paste is unique, yet easy to make, and will impress all your guests with it’s autumn texture and flavor combination.

First you fill a large pot with about 5 cups of water. Add in the lemon juice from 1/2 a lemon. Add to the water two slices of the lemon peel, each about 2 inches by 1/2 inch in size.

Peel, core and roughly chop the quinces. Place them immediately in the lemon water to prevent them from turning brown. Save the quince peels and tie them into a bundle using cheesecloth and place it in the pot too.

IMG_5276.jpg

Boil for approximately 30 minutes or until the quinces are fork tender. Drain. Remove the bag of quince peels and discard.

Puree the quinces in a blender or food processor. Measure the puree. Measure out the same amount of sugar (for example, if you have 5 cups of puree, measure out 5 cups of sugar).

Pour the puree back into the pot and place on medium heat. Stir in the sugar slowly. Once the sugar is dissolved, turn the heat down to low-medium. Allow it to cook for approximately 2 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. It should turn a rose-orange color. If the puree is not changing color, turn up the heat slightly.

IMG_5281.jpg

Cook until the color changes and the puree is so thick that it sticks to your wooden spoon.

IMG_5286.jpg

Pour the puree into a parchment lined, 9X13 pan, smooth out the top with a spatula and allow to cool.

IMG_5291.jpg

Preheat your oven to 175 degrees.

Bake the cooled puree for 3 hours. Allow to cool overnight. It should be the consistency of gummy bears. If it is still too soft, return it to the oven for another hour and recheck.

Slices into 1 1/2 inch squares and store in a container in a cool and dry place.

Serve with Manchego cheese and crackers. Enjoy!

Stay tuned for the next post of this holiday platter series.

Quince Paste
Ingredients
  • 4 lbs quinces
  • 1 lemon
  • 5-6 cups sugar
Instructions
  1. In a large pot, pour 4-5 cups of water. Add in the juice from 1/2 lemon and two pieces lemon peel approx. 2 inches by 1/2 inch each.

  2. Peel, core and roughly chop the quinces. Place them immediately into the lemon water to prevent them from turning brown. Save the peels.

  3. Tie the peels in cheesecloth and place in the pot with the chopped quinces.

  4. Boil until fork tender, approx. 30 minutes. Remove the cheesecloth and quince peels. Discard. 

  5. Drain the water from the quinces and puree in either a blender or food processor.

  6. Measure the quince puree. You will need an equal amount of sugar. (If you have 5 cups of puree, you will need 5 cups of sugar).

  7. Pour the puree back into the pot and heat on medium. Add the sugar slowly while stirring.

  8. Once the sugar is dissolved, turn the heat down to low-medium and cook for 2 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. The color should deepen into a rose-orange. If the color doesn't change, turn up the heat slightly.

  9. Once the paste has changed color and thickened to the point that it stick to your wooden spoon, pour it into a parchment lined 9X13 pan. Smooth out the top with a spatula. Allow to cool.

  10. Bake at 175 degrees for three hours and then cool overnight. It should be the consistency of gummy bears. If it is too soft, return it to the oven for another hour.

  11. Cut into 1 1/2 inch squares. Serve with manchego cheese and crackers.

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Easy Spare Ribs

Don’t have 3 hours to spend making your spare ribs? This recipe allows you to make delicious spare ribs in just over an hour. It’s so easy, a middle schooler could make them.

First take your favorite barbeque sauce and pour it into a large skillet. Add half the amount of water to the sauce and stir to mix. (One bottle sauce and half a bottle of water is what I use for one rack of baby back ribs.)

IMG_5315

Add in your individually cut baby back ribs. Place them on their sides in the sauce. Make sure the sauce comes almost to the top of the ribs. Heat to a low simmer and cook until ribs halfway done (about 30 minutes). Then flip them.

IMG_5321.jpg

Continue to cook on a low simmer, allowing the sauce to reduce and caramelize on the bottom side of the ribs. Then flip again to allow the other side to caramelize. The whole process should take about 1 hr 15 mins.

To make it a little more fun, use a plain barbeque sauce and add your own flavor ingredients such as bourbon and maple syrup.

Enjoy!

Easy Spare Ribs
Ingredients
  • 1 19 oz bottle favorite barbeque sauce
  • 1 rack baby back ribs
Instructions
  1. In a large skillet, pour in the bottle of barbeque sauce. Add 1/2 the amount again in water (1 bottle sauce=half bottle of water)

  2. Cut your baby back ribs into individual ribs and place on their sides in the sauce. The sauce should just come up to the top of the ribs.

  3. Cook on a gentle simmer until half way done (about 30 minutes). Turn over the ribs.

  4. Cook until the barbeque sauce reduces and caramelizes on the bottom of the ribs. Flip and caramelize the other side.

  5. The cooking time is approximately 1hr 15mins. Enjoy!