Blood Orange Pie

fresh cut blood oranges and juicer

The first time I made this pie, I followed the original instructions which included the pith and the skin of the oranges and the lemon.  And it was oh, so bitter.  But in spite of the fact that I do not like bitter orange flavors like marmalade and such, I persisted and ate all of the pie, a small slice per day, until it was gone.  Not because I am stubborn, prideful and refuse to let my hard work go to waste (all these points are true), but because of the real reason: the crust was exquisite and shame on anyone who wastes a crisp, flaky homemade pie crust.  Shame on them. Continue reading “Blood Orange Pie”

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Sprinkle Cake

Chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream covered in rainbow sprinkles on a pedestal plate

Is it a special occasion? Or just an occasion that would be made that much better with cake? Does it matter? I think not! Especially when this cake is so easy to make and requires little more than some basic pantry supplies and a large container of rainbow sprinkles. And, it definitely brings out the joy in everyone. People get really excited when they see that I’ve used a ton of sprinkles. It’s like I’m throwing around dollar bills when I walk into the room with this cake. Money is great but, a slice of cake tastes way better.

Continue reading “Sprinkle Cake”

Fruity Cereal Cookies

 

Whenever I go to Starbucks for my grande latte, which isn’t very often but as often as I can, I like to check out the case of sweet stuff just to the right of the cash register.  I love the lemon cake with the layer of sweet frosting that you can peel off in one piece, the mini vanilla scones and the thick slices of marble cake, bitter chocolate and warm vanilla, the best of both worlds in one dessert.  But recently, I spied a large, round cookie, half frosted and decorated with rainbow colored sugar.  Not the usual type of choice for me but something made me ask for it.  Continue reading “Fruity Cereal Cookies”

Focaccia Bread

focaccia bread sprinkled with rosemary and sea salt

 

Yesterday, I was craving fresh, hot pizza.  But we had a lot of leftovers to eat for dinner.  Since I never like to let anything go to waste, the pizza would have to wait.  But I still did not want to let that thought go.  So, I compromised. We needed a little bread to go with dinner, anyway.  At least that is how I justified making this easy focaccia to jazz up our plates.  And, today, there is barely any left.  So, I guess I didn’t need to make any justifications, anyway.

Continue reading “Focaccia Bread”

Four Snacks for Super Bowl Fans

Most of my friends who are football fans know that I have never followed a team and usually have no idea what is happening during a game. I am to busy socializing and eating snacks, which suites me just fine. It’s only in recent years, now that my son has become such a die hard Patriots fan that I began paying attention especially if New England is going to be in the Super Bowl. My eleven year old is fully invested. He sheds tears when things look bleak like in that last playoff game when it looked like the Pats didn’t have enough time for a win. I can’t bear it. Not the loss, it’s the sad child. So, like any loving mother, I lectured him, “Tom Brady hasn’t given up yet! Why are you giving up on Tom Brady!” Sometimes I really cannot believe the words that come out of my mouth.

Whatever team you root for this Sunday, snacks will be needed. Here are four recipes that are all made with puff pastry and can be made in about an hour. They satisfy just about everyone. If you happen to have any leftovers just heat them up on low heat in the oven to recrisp the puff pastry. Enjoy and Go Pats!!

Everything” Mini Pigs in a Blanket

1 sheet puff pastry

flour for rolling

1 package hot dogs

1 egg

Everything Spice Mix (see following paragraph for recipe)

optional: mustard, relish and catsup for serving

Preheat oven to 430 degrees. Roll out puff pastry sheet on a lightly floured board to slightly increase surface area. Using a pizza cutter or a sharp knife, cut puff pastry sheet into 24 small rectangles/squares. Cut each hotdog into 3 even pieces. Mix egg with a tablespoon of water. Roll up each hotdog piece in a portion of puff pastry and seal the edge with some of the egg wash (you can use your finger or a brush). Lay each puff pastry enrobed hotdog on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Once all of the hotdogs are rolled in puff pastry, brush all of the tops of the pigs in blankets with the remaining egg wash and quickly sprinkle them with Everything Spice Mix (so that the spice mix will stick). Place pigs in blankets in oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until pastry is golden and puffed. Remove from oven and allow to cook for at least 5 minutes before serving and people tend to shove these into their mouths and they are very hot!! Serve with mustard, relish and catsup.

Everything Spice Mix

1 teaspoon driend minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 1/2 teaspoons poppy seeds

2 teaspoon sesame seeds

1 teaspoon dried, minced onion.

Mix all ingredients together and sprinkle on everything. Especially good on toast with butter or cream cheese. Store in an airtight container.

 

Pinwheels 2 ways: Sausage and Cheese or Spinach and Cheese

1 sheet of puff pastry

flour for rolling

5-6 chicken or turkey sausages, casings removed

1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 430 degrees. Roll out puff pastry sheet on a lightly floured board to increase surface area. Use your hands to press sausage onto puff pastry, spread it to 3 edges leaving one long edge 1/8″ free of sausage. Cover sausage with grated cheese. Roll up puff pastry beginning from the long edge opposite the edge free of sausage. Wet your fingers with water and run it along the free edge of puff pastry then press lightly to seal. Using a sharp knife, cut 1/2″ pinwheels from sausage and puff pastry roll. Lay them on thier sides on a parchment lined, rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes until sausage is cooked through and pastry is golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cook for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Alternately, use frozen spinach and spreadable garlic and herb cheese along with the sharp cheddar instead of sausage in these Spinach Pinwheels:

1 sheet puff pastry

flour for rolling

6 oz. garlic and herb flavored spreadable cheese

frozen chopped spinach, thawed and rung out

1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 430 degrees. Roll out puff pastry sheet on a lightly floured board to increase surface area. Using a butter knife, spread garlic and herb flavored cheese to all edges of puff pastry. Cover spreadable cheese with spinach leaving one long edge of puff pastry 1/8″ free of spinach. Sprinkle sharp cheddar over spinach. Roll up puff pastry beginning from the long edge opposite the edge free of spinach. Press lightly to seal. Using a sharp knife, cut 1/2″ pinwheels from spinach and puff pastry roll. Lay them on thier sides on a parchment lined, rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes until pastry is golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cook for 5-10 minutes before serving.

 

spinach, sharp cheddar cheese, garlic pub cheese rolled up and baked in puff pastry

 

Oh, what to do with the last lonely sheet of puff pastry? Here is an easy idea that always gets gobbled up:

Preheat oven to 430 degrees. Using a small amount of flour, roll out pastry sheet to increase surface area. Cut pastry into 12 square/rectangles. Spread raspberry or any flavor jam over each square. Roll up each square beginning with a corner . Place each rolled piece of pastry and jam on parchment lined baking sheets sprayed with a little cooking spray. Brush the tops of the pastry rolls with egg wash and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake for 15-20 minutes until pastry is golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving as jam gets very hot!!

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Meringues

recipe for chocolate meringues

I often search for gluten free dessert options with my sister, Karyn in mind.  Whenever there is a gathering, I would rather make a dessert that is naturally gluten free so that she can enjoy it, too.  Although she insists that she doesn’t want anyone to go to any trouble, it is troublesome to me that someone may have to skip dessert because of an allergy or intolerance of some kind.

On one occasion, it was a birthday party, if I recall correctly, I was making my mother’s favorite dessert, a specific, gluten filled cake that would not work with my sister’s dietery restrictions.  But happily, I came across this recipe for Chocolate Chip Espresso Meringues that sounded absolutely delicious.  I knew that she would love the flavors and the fact that there would be no need to make any special substitutions that may or may not work out as intended, was icing on the cake.  So I made these confections just for her and packaged the rest up for her take home and enjoy later.

When Karyn arrived early to help with my mother’s birthday dinner, I happily informed her that I made something special, just for her.

“I made you some chocolate espresso meringues!!” I blurted out.  Eager to have her try one.

“I hate meringues!” she said with such emphasis, that I dared not mention them again.

But as the evening went on and everyone sang happy birthday, I got madder and madder about her comment.  I knew she would like them and how rude was her response to a gift that I made for her?  I was determined that she would at least try them. she didn’t even know what she was missing, damn it!

While everyone else was enjoying cake, I pulled Karyn into my office where I was keeping her special stash of Chocolate Meringues.
“Get in here and try these, they are really good.” I said as I pulled her arm.

Karyn looked at the meringues and decided that they were worth at least a bite.  Well, her face told me the rest.  Then she devoured three more in quick succession before heading back into the kitchen to join everyone else.

Later that night, after everyone when home and all the dishes were done, I got a text from her:

“I just ate the last meringue.  They are so good.  Will you make me some more?”

Aaah! Sisters.

meringues made with chocolate chips and espresso

Chocolate Chip Espresso Meringues

(Adapted from Food and Wine Magazine, March 2016)

(Makes about 24 small ones)

3 large egg whites, at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 cup sugar

2  oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

a pinch of salt

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa

2 teaspoons instant coffee

 

    Preheat oven to 225 degrees.  Line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper.

   Place egg whites in a medium bowl with cream of tartar.  Mix with a hand mixer on low speed until mixture becomes frothy.  Increase the mixer speed to medium and begin adding sugar one tablespoon at a time.  Beat until the whites are stiff , about one minute.  Fold in chopped chocolate and salt.  Sprinkle cocoa and instant coffee on top of egg white mixture.  Fold together 2-3 times to lightly incorporate.

Spoon about 24 dollops of meringue onto prepared baking sheet.  (About one heaping tablespoon each)  Using the back of a spoon, gently flatten the tops of the meringues.  Place in oven and bake for one hour until the meringues are firm on the outside and still chewy on the inside.  Let cool completely.

Can be stored in an airtight container for one week, if they last that long!

Gingerbread Men

cookies made out of gingerbread

Aaah, holiday treats!  Candy canes, chocolate Santas and all manner of inventions to be found on Pinterest!  But truly, nothing says Christmas time more to me than the flavor  and scent of gingerbread cookies.  Especially these gingerbread men cookies: my mother Val’s recipe found in her Woman’s Day Encyclopedia of Cookery.  She accumulated each volume by collecting stamps at the supermarket.  Those books served her cooking repertoire well, long before the internet came along.

I can understand now that I have two kids of my own going here and there, them needing rides and chaperoning in every waking moment of the day that Val had to delegate the cookie making to us kids considering she had three children’s activities schedules to juggle.  Sometimes the cookies came out well but many of them were often burnt on the edges or undercooked and the decorating….let’s just say that after the one time my younger brother was allowed to help, his presence was no longer requested in the kitchen.  Gingerbread men covered in red gel frosting for blood and green gel camo outfits were not what my mother had in mind to hand out to her friends as holiday gifts.  We ate a lot of gingerbread men at home that year.

Whatever your decorating style, I am sure that you will find these cookies to be tasty.  They hit all the right notes in flavor and aroma from the molasses and ginger.  Perhaps you will be brave enough to employ some child labor of your own in the decorating.  Or you can drop the kids off to their scheduled activities and keep the fun of adding frosting and sprinkles to yourself.

 

Gingerbread Men

(makes about 3 dozen)

1/2 cup molasses

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup softened butter

2 3/4 cup flour, plus more for rolling out dough

2 teaspoons dried, ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup buttermilk (regular will do, in a pinch)

frosting, sprinkles, candy decorations

Mix molasses, sugar and butter, well.  In another bowl, mix together flour, ginger, salt and baking soda.  Add dry ingredients to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, stirring well until smooth.  Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.  (Overnight is best as this step is CRITICAL.  You will literally pull your hair out if you try to roll out the dough before it is chilled.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Remove about 1/2 cup of dough from the refrigerator (keep the rest chilled while you are working).  Roll out dough on a well floured board to 1/8″-1/4″ thick.  Cut with floured cutters and place cookies on ungreased cookie sheets.  ( I use Silpat liners or parchment paper would work well, too.)  Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until just before cookies brown on edges.  Remove from oven and allow to cook for 5 minutes.  Transfer cookies to wire racks and cool completely before decorating.

If planning to hang cookies on tree, make a hole about double the size you want the end result to be in the cookie BEFORE baking.