7/29/10

Cherry and Blue Cheese Salad

This recipe has been in my files for quite some time but I've meant to post it much earlier than I am. Cherries in the grocery store are abundant for only a few weeks but when they are it's so wonderful to buy some and then find new and fun recipes to try them in.

While gathering recipes that used fresh cherries and looked promising, I saw this one and my mouth watered. I could just taste it already! Unfortunately life got so busy that I was working overtime, constantly on the go with the kids schedules, the house and a few unexpected things that popped up that my cherries didn't get made into 'new' recipes but instead were typical recipes and of course eaten fresh from the refrigerator (which isn't a bad thing at all! Ha ha).

So I'm putting this one into my online files to keep as I still think it looks wonderful and I'm excited to make it... if only life would slow down a moment and give me time to take a breath!


Cherry and Blue Cheese Salad


3/4 cup thinly-sliced mild red onion
2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
2 cups cold water
3 quarts bite-size mixed salad greens
1 pound fresh dark sweet pitted cherries
3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese

Place onions and lemon juice in a bowl with the 2 cups cold water; refrigerate 15 to 30 minutes. When done, pour off liquid and drain well.

In a large bowl, combine drained onions, salad greens, cherries, and enough Raspberry-Wine Dressing to lightly coat the greens.

Sprinkle top of salad with blue cheese and serve.




Raspberry-Wine Dressing:
1/4 cup raspberry vinegar
1/4 cup red wine
1/4 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

In a blender or food processor, combine raspberry vinegar, red wine, raspberries, honey, and basil; whirl 1 minutes or until well blended. With the motor on, add olive oil in a slow steady stream, whirling until dressing is smooth. Store, covered, in the refrigerator. Serve at room temperature.

Yields 1 cup.
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7/26/10

Lithuanian Napoleonas

Regular visitors know that my current "track down the recipe...." is for a Lithuanian style Napoleon dessert similar to one I had at a wedding rehearsal dinner. The hostess did not make it, she bought it from a bakery. Being a fan of 'not too sweet' desserts, I tend to like things that are a bland, flaky pastry with a vanilla cream or filling and this was absolutely wonderful except I did not care for the apricot filling layer.

I was determined to find many recipes and versions and then use them to concoct my own Napoleon Tort from the three or versions in front of me.

I'm still on that quest. Unfortunately I've been working overtime at work, overtime at home and now, planning a camping trip for 6 teenagers this weekend followed closely by getting the kids registered for school, doing a college visit for one, and moving another child 'back' to college across the state. It's a busy, busy time and although I haven't been able to 'play with the recipes' yet, I haven't forgotten about them!

This is my 2nd recipe I thought had potential.


LITHUANIAN NAPOLEONAS

FOR THE DOUGH:
4 cups flour
1 lb lightly salted butter
1 pint sour cream

FOR THE FILLING:
1 1/2 lb unsalted butter, softened
8 egg yolks
2 cups powdered sugar
1 package cook-and-serve vanilla pudding mix
2 cups milk
1/2 cup half and half or Carnation Milk
2 tsp vanilla
juice of one lemon

TO PREPARE THE DOUGH:
Sift flour onto pastry board. With pastry blender or two knives, gradually cut softened butter into flour until crumbly. Blend in sour cream. Form dough into 11 or 12 egg-sized round balls. Refrigerate overnight in covered bowl.

TO BAKE:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Before baking, let dough stand at room temperature about 15 minutes.

Roll each ball almost wafer-thin on a very lightly floured board. Roughly fit (one layer) into a 12 inch ungreased pie pan. Prick all over with a fork.

Bake each layer at 350 degrees 4 to 5 minutes. Cool.

Stack cooled layers atop each other. With a very sharp knife, even the sides, saving trimmings for crumbs.

Put layers together with filling.

TO PREPARE THE FILLING:
Cream butter, yolks, and sugar.

Stir pudding mix into 1 cup cold milk. Bring to boil, stirring constantly. Gradually pour and stir pudding into butter and yolks.

Scald first, then slowly pour in the 1 cup milk, cream and vanilla. Slowly add heated lemon juice. Cool.

TO ASSEMBLE THE TORTE:
Spread about 1 tablespoon of the cooled filling mixture between each layer. Frost sides and top with same filling, sprinkle with finely crumbed layer trimmings.

VARIATION:
One or two layers may be spread with stewed apricot or apple puree. Berry preserves may also be used.

Adapted from: The Melting Pot, An Ethnic Cookbook, an Omaha cookbook, published in 1975, that solicited recipes from the different ethnic communities that make up Omaha.
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7/25/10

Veggie Pizza Squares - (Cold Vegetable Pizza Appetizer)


Thank You reader 'Ellie' for kicking my sleepy butt this morning and making me post this recipe. GREAT for hot summer days as it's cool and delicious and light. I can eat a third of a pan all myself (but I try not to!).

I've been making this recipe since the summer before I was a Sophomore in High School - over two decades now. I've made these in a jelly roll pan the last few times I've made them. I don't think the pan really matters a bit.


Vegetable Pizza Squares(Vegetable Pizza - an Appetizer)


2 - 8oz. cans refrigerated crescent rolls
2 - 8 oz. packages cream cheese (*I don't care for the taste of fat free, but you can use it. I love the 1/3 fat though as it tastes great.)
1 c mayonnaise
1 (1 ounce) package dry Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix
Assorted Vegetables: about 1 cup chopped; broccoli, cauliflower, carrots (shredded) green and red bell peppers... whatever you like/have on hand.


Roll out the crescent roll dough onto a 9x13 inch baking sheet. Seal the edges with your fingers to form the crust. Bake crust for 12 minutes at 375 degrees. Remove and let cool.

In a bowl, mix with electric mixer until smooth; cream cheese, mayonnaise and dry Ranch dressing mix. Spread the mixture over the cooled crust.

Sprinkle broccoli,green and red bell pepper, cauliflower, shredded carrots, and other veggies over the cream cheese layer. Chill, slice with a pizza cutter, and serve.

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7/22/10

Excitement over Vanilla!

I'm so excited! Last year some of my readers may remember when I was contacted by Singing Dog Vanilla's people to do a product review of their vanilla and Red Ape Cinnamon - only to receive a package of Vanilla flavored coffee in its place. Unfortunately we have a Keurig coffee brewer and don't usually use regular coffee but I do have a "My K-cup" for ground coffee so I was able to taste and review it.

I was surprised last week to get a follow up by someone else in their company asking me about my use of their products. When he heard I never did receive the vanilla paste I was so excited to try, he made sure I would be sent a package ASAP. And? I did!

Kudos to "Jason" for getting the product to me and I cannot wait to use it in my cooking. I opened it to smell and taste it and I'm 100% impressed with the flavor and smell; nothing chemical. Just pure 'real' vanilla scent and flavor.

Singing Dog Vanilla: Use our vanilla bean paste for the authentic flavor of real vanilla beans in a convenient paste form. Just one tablespoon is the equivalent flavor of one whole vanilla bean. Our paste is gluten free, and made with all natural pure-cane sugar. Our vanilla paste can be found in the top kitchens in the country such as Bouchon Bakery, The Ritz Carlton, and The Little Nell.

Ingredients: Sugar, Pure Vanilla Extract, Vanilla Bean Powder, Gum Tragacanth


And I want to give a thumbs up to their packaging. I was not happy to see the package full of little 'styrofoam' pellets when I opened it. I know they end up in landfills and I am always disheartened with companies that use them. As the empty box sat on my counter top I happened to glance over and read the sticker on the side of the box; THE PACKING MATERIAL INSIDE THIS BOX IS MADE FROM CORNSTARCH. IT WILL DISSOLVE IN WATER.

Of course I had to put it to the test. IT DISSOLVED IN WATER! GENIUS! Kudos and Thumbs Up to Kestrel Growth Brands for using biodegradable packing materials!!!!!
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Napoleon Tort - 1

A mystery pastry.
That's what it was.
Last week I walked into the kitchenette at my workplace and saw an empty aluminum pan on the counter top.
Well, not completely empty. There was a half a pastry left from someone who had used a knife to cut it. It looked all forlorn and not really appetizing. It was a flaky pastry with a bit of icing of some style smeared on top.

Being that I was hungry and I had fresh, hot coffee sitting at my desk, I decided to lift the pastry and check it out.

It smelled delicious. More importantly it didn't smell like it had a 'fruity' layer of all and the layers looked like a cross between an eclair or cream puff and a pie crust.

I took a bite.

Wow.

It was very, very similar to a Lithuanian Tort but without the apricot layer that I hate so much!

It was delicious. Not very sweet, the only sweetness came from a layer of butter cream or something similar.

I had only 2 tiny bites more to figure out what it was and what the ingredients might be. This led me to the conclusion that it *might* be a Napoleon Tort made into individual pastries by a local bakery. (The coworker that brought them in had no idea where they came from as she had visited a business that morning and one of the employees there gave her some pastries as they had too many for their office. We have no idea where they came from or what they were.)

My readers know I never, ever follow "ONE" recipe. I find many versions, I study them and then I play with my food and make it my own. Because of this I've been looking for recipes that I think should work for my 'test' and here is the first to keep in my files my my near-future attempt.



Napoleon Tort

Pastry Layers
4 tbsp butter.
1 tbsp sugar.
2 egg whites stiffly beaten.
1 cup sour cream.
1 tbsp vodka.
pinch of salt.
2 cups flour (approximately).

Custard Filling
10 egg yolks.
1 egg white.
2 1/2 cups sugar.
6 tbsp flour.
6 cups milk.
1 tbsp vanilla essence.
250gm butter.


Pastry Layers
Beat butter and sugar together until creamy. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites, sour cream and vodka. Add salt and fold in flour a spoonful at a time until the dough is soft and pliable. Chill for an hour or two to make it easier to roll out.

Butter an baking tray and dust with flour. Divide the cake dough into 12. Set the oven to heat to 190 degrees C.

Roll or press out each portion to an 8 inch circle on the baking form making each circle is of even thickness as thin areas will cook quicker and may stick to the tray before the rest of the dough is cooked.

Bake each layer until golden brown, approximately 6-10 minutes. If dough blisters as it cooks, puncture blisters with a fork. As each layer is cooked, remove from the tray and set aside to cool.

Custard Filling
Pour the milk into a large saucepan and heat on the stove without boiling.

Beating the egg yolks, egg white and sugar until creamy. Mix well with the flour. Pour this mixture into the saucepan of milk and continue stirring until thick and creamy. Add the vanilla and butter and stir until smooth. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Stir frequently as the mixture cools.

Place one layer of the cooked dough in the bottom of an 8 inch spring form cake tin and cover evenly with a layer of filling. Continue to build up the cake in this way, layering the custard on top of the pastry, finishing with the 11th pastry layer. Crumble the remaining pastry layer on the top.

Refrigerate for 5-6 hours. The flavour improves after 12 hours of refrigeration when the custard takes on a stronger caramel flavour.

When ready to serve, carefully remove the cake from the tin. Decorate with chocolate shaving and walnuts or slivered almonds and whipped cream.

The best way to cut the cake and retain the layered shape is to use an electric knife.
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7/18/10

Homemade Seasoned Japanese Rice Vinegar


On one of my other websites that focuses on cooking I was providing some great recipes for herbal vinegars to use some of the harvest of our gardens as well as providing a delicious addition to our meals and a great (frugal) gift; when it hit me - I needed to get a recipe on this site as well!

The one I'm picking tonight is a spiced Japanese Rice Vinegar - which I love! I always have a well known Japanese Rice Vinegar on hand in our house for our dressings as it's gentle and smooth and makes the most fabulous dressings.


1 small peeled shallot or 1 garlic clove
10 black peppercorns
1 quarter sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled
2 c Japanese white or red rice vinegar

Put the garlic or shallot into a pint sized bottle along with the peppercorns and ginger. (You can cut the ginger to fit in the bottle neck if you have to). Add the rice vinegar and seal. Store for 2 weeks before using.
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7/15/10

Simply Delicious Sugar Cookies





Vanilla Sugar Cookies. One of the very few 'sweet' treats I sometimes crave. While I'm usually all for the vegetables over sweets, I've had my mind on little simple sugar cookies this week and tonight my plans changed from what I thought I would be doing, so instead, I whipped up a batch. They are so incredibly easy and delicious I had to share. This recipe is an oldie that your Great-Great Grandmothers probably made... but it's goodness is timeless.

Sugar Cookies

2 c flour
1 t baking power
1/4 t salt
1/4 t fresh grated nutmeg
3/4 c butter (softened)
3/4 c sugar
1 egg
1 T milk
1 t vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Beat the butter and sugar by hand with a wooden spoon or rubber scraper until blended and light. Beat in the egg, milk and vanilla. Mix the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg and add to the butter/sugar mixture. Drop by tablespoons onto lightly greased cookie sheets. Flatten slightly with a fork. Sprinkle with sugar or sprinkles. Bake 12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool on wire rack. Freeze well in a tight container. (Makes about 3 dozen).


Ready to go into the oven!



Fresh from the oven!


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7/13/10

Cherries are In Season! What to Make? Cherry Clafouti

How can you not give into temptation while walking through the grocery store this time of year?

Cherries sit on the tables, gleaming their red, burgundy and yellow goodness and just saying "Buy me! Take me home! See how pretty I am?"

And I did.

Armed with two pounds of delicious and gorgeous cherries, I was then in a predicament. What do I do with them? I ate some but with every bite I reminded myself that I had less to work with by doing so! I put them in the refrigerator and went on a quest to find a recipe that said "This is it!" Whether it was jelly, jam, a fresh cherry pie, clafouti, bread, cake, ice cream... I didn't know and didn't care - I just wanted to find great recipes for my beautiful cherries!

And so my friends, if you also have a gorgeous pile of gleaming cherries, how about a clafouti? Some people leave the pits in the cherries because cherry seeds add an almond flavor to the dish when baked. While I can see doing this years ago when this recipe was first being made, we now have almond extract, almond syrups and amaretto readily available to flavor our dish so we can pit the cherries first and eat it easier. (Especially for the eldery and young children! You don't have to worry about the pits or chipping a tooth.)

While it calls for almond extract, feel free to add amaretto or what I like to use - almond coffee syrup flavoring. You'll have to use a little bit more (about 2 teaspoons for the 3/4 t it calls for of extract) but the flavor is delicious.



Cherry Clafouti


2 cups of fresh sweet cherries, pitted
2 T of sliced or slivered almonds - toasted
3 eggs
1 c of sugar
1 T of brown sugar
1/2 c flour
1/8 t salt
1 c milk
3/4 t almond extract
1 1/2 t of vanilla
Powdered sugar


Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter and lightly flour a 9X9 or 10X7 baking dish. Toss in the cherries and slivered almonds. Whisk the eggs, white sugar, brown sugar, salt, and flour together. Add the milk, almond extract, and vanilla. Whisk until smooth. Pour into the baking dish.

Bake for 40-50 minutes or until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Place on a wire rack to cool. It will be puffy out of the oven but fall while cooling. When cool, dust with powdered sugar and serve.
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7/7/10

Homemade Chocolate Strawberries - Made by my Daughter

Yesterday my 14 year old daughter announced she was craving chocolate covered strawberries. While I don't understand craving chocolate nor craving anything mixed with, on or covering my fruit (I like my fruit naked... no whipped cream, sugar, chocolate nor anything else) I DO however understand cravings so I said; "Well, I just bought a large container or strawberries and we have chocolate almond bark."

She almost ran to the kitchen!

I snapped a couple photos as she made a dozen chocolate covered strawberries and then used the remaining chocolate in the bowl to cover pretzels.


Chocolate Covered Strawberries


Chocolate Almond Bark (or chocolate chips)
Strawberries



Wash your berries and dry them completely. Air dry or pat with a paper towel if you are in a hurry like my daughter is! Melt the almond bark in the microwave for a minute or two, stirring every 30-40 seconds as it starts to melt quickly and will melt completely smooth as you stir. Use a toothpick or your fingers or even a skewer to dip each strawberry 3/4 of the way into the chocolate. Place on parchment paper or foil to let it set. Almond bark will set up quickly and smoothly. If you use melted chocolate chips it will take a little longer to set up. When set, you can melt white chocolate and drizzle on top to make them beautiful. My daughter didn't want to wait!


Dry the berries completely


Dip 3/4 of the way into melted chocolate almond bark or chocolate chips



Let set at room temperature to 'set up' and become hard.
Decorate if you wish!


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7/6/10

Homemade Chocolate Sandwich Cookies with Filling

I think originally this may have been a "martha" recipe - and I say that only because in my files I see that the background color to the photo is baby blue (she uses that a lot) and the little cookies have an oval tag with cute packaging and again, she uses that a lot! But it's from one of my files and although it was obviously used as a Christmas cookie at the time... that is not my plan!

This is a chocolate wafer sandwich cookie with a simple icing filling inside and I pictured using a peppermint flavored filling or a vanilla filling. Tinting the peppermint a light green and leaving the icing untinted for the vanilla to show it's white.

Now, if I had decided to make these last weekend I would have used red, white and blue fillings - all flavored with vanilla! As it is I think a fabulous idea is to tuck this away in your files and in October, use ORANGE colored icing filling for Halloween! How fun is that!?



oil cooking spray
3/4 c flour, plus more for dusting
1/3 c unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 t salt
6 T (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 c confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 large egg
1/2 t vanilla extract

Cookie Filling

Makes 1 cup (enough for 15 sandwich cookies)

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups confectioners' sugar (sifted)
peppermint or vanilla extract

With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter until smooth. Add confectioners' sugar, and beat until light and fluffy. Stir in one of the flavorings.


Line baking sheets with parchment paper; lightly coat with cooking spray. Whisk together flour, cocoa, and salt. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and confectioners' sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture, beating to combine. Divide dough in half; form into disks, and wrap in plastic. Chill until firm, at least 2 hours, or up to 2 days. (Dough can be frozen up to 2 months; thaw in the refrigerator before using.)

Working with one disk at a time, roll out dough to a 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Using a 1 1/2-inch square biscuit or cookie cutter, cut out shapes, transferring to prepared sheets (1 inch apart) as you work. Chill in freezer until firm, about 15 minutes. Brush off excess flour. Gather together scraps; roll, chill, and cut out more shapes.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until edges are firm, 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer cookies, on parchment, to a wire rack to cool completely.

Spread a small amount of filling on the bottom of half the cookies. Top with remaining cookies; gently press to adhere. Assembled cookies can be refrigerated up to 2 days in an airtight container.
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7/3/10

Beanless Chili Without Browing the Beef First

Even though we usually think of chili as a cold weather food, it's an incredible summer meal as well for back yard BBQ's. It is so easy to serve a crowd and everyone seems to enjoy it. More importantly, I should let you know that I eat cold chili straight from the refrigerator on the second day. A bowl of ice cold chili is quite delicious and with a couple saltine crackers on the side to dip in it, it's perfect as a hot weather soup!

This recipe intrigued me because you don't brown the meat first. Not a big deal but since I always brown my ground beef with onions and green peppers and garlic, it caught me by surprise and therefore, I added it to my collection. More interestingly for this girl that believes chili always needs beans... it has none! It's a bean-less chili. I'm glad I have it in my collection - I hope you do too.

CHILI - No Beans


2 pounds lean ground beef
1 onion, peeled and grated
1 12-ounce can tomato paste
1 16-ounce can tomato sauce
2 cups water
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, combine the beef (do not brown first), grated onion, tomato paste, tomato sauce, water, sugar, chili powder, garlic salt, salt, and pepper. Mix until combined. Add bay leaves. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat for approximately 2 hours. Stir in white vinegar and simmer another 30 minutes.
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An Update to the Terrible 2007 Review I had to Give La Terra Fina Dips

Back in September of 2007 I tried and then posted my review of the Costco item Chunky Artichoke & Jalapeno Dip. I was so excited to try it but when I got home I almost gagged at the overwhelmingly horrible, strong, onion flavor. It overwhelmed everything in the dip. You didn't taste anything but onion and it tasted as though the onions were rotten at that.

At the time I opened myself up to the possibility that I just got a 'bad one'. I love this style of dip, I love these foods... but more importantly I love ONIONS.

I don't think people realize how much I love onions. I would and could and do eat a plate full of sauteed onions and call it dinner. I eat them raw, cooked, steamed, fried and baked. I will devour an entire container of onion dip. Onion rings, bloomin' onion and onion casseroles? All good.

So when I say this was a horrible, overwhelming pure rotten onion taste... I wasn't making that up and I was not exaggerating. Still, after that review I had people take the time to write me to tell me I was wrong. It was great. It was awesome. They love it.

Ok. I get that. But I'm tellling you it was so bad that even trying to doctor it up with sour cream, cream cheese and parmesan it was still unfit to eat. Not one person in my family could do it.

You know when you have a bad experience with a food and for the next couple years you can't think about it, see it or walk by it without getting sick? Well, this food did that to me. I couldn't walk past it in Costco without my stomach lurching into my throat. YES IT WAS THAT BAD.

But I've always suspected I had a bad batch, or more likely, I think that the container I bought had been left out and had gotten hot and then put back in the refrigerator section after bacteria had begun to break it down.

Today I was finally able to walk by and not get sick. It's been almost 3 years. And because I was craving pita chips with hummus and spinach artichoke dip and because I didn't want to have to buy all the ingredients and make it myself on top of the other foods I'm making this weekend and this week, I bought it! (Ok I bought two styles of their dips AND the hummus!)

I finally was able to give it another chance.

The end result?

Yum! Very tasty. Sure it has onion in it, and you can taste it, but it's no where NEAR the horrible rotten onion flavor of the one I bought previously. I enjoyed a nice lunch today of pita chips, La Terra Fina Dip and a Grapefruit IzzE beverage.

Thumbs..... UP!!!!!
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