Sunday, November 23, 2014

Caramelized Candied Oranges and Cranberries are Simple and Good!


If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you will know that I am a big fan of St- Germain. It was served to me in a cocktail, a good four years ago, and I haven't stopped drinking it since. I love this blended with wine, champagne or prosecco and of course, in cocktails. St-Germain has a lovely, fragrant, floral taste and unlike many liquors, I think it is of the subtle variety. I often mix  cocktails with it and friends that haven't tasted it before always ask what the secret ingredient is. Yes, you can see what drew me to this recipe.

No, it wasn't the cute, brightly colored mandarins. And it wasn't the red cranberries. It was the three tablespoons of St Germain, that attracted my attention. I liked the simplicity of this recipe and I do love mandarins. My mother never bought them for us, though I do remember seeing them in the countless jello molds that graced every holiday table. My sport of the day was fishing out those tiny slices from the jello and disposing of them quickly in my mouth! For dessert, I surreptitiously took out the bottoms of the Fannie May chocolates to discover which one of those would be my prize.


My kids loved mandarin oranges. I remember dumping them on to their high chair trays and watching them gorge themselves. It wasn't the most appetizing way to serve them, but plastic plates always ended up on the floor! (I am sure new mothers cringe at this thought.) I surmised that since those little slices were in a low sugar syrup, that they must be OK. And as they grew they discovered new ways of eating mandarins. Besides the bags and bags of them that were at every sporting event, they were also found in spinach salads with almonds and goat cheese, and Asian chicken salads and various other concotions. Yes, mandarins were always a part of our life in their own understated way.




Well, this year finds us alone at Thanksgiving. Well, not alone as we've had three requests for our presence at the big meal, and let me tell you this was no easy choice to make! However, we are without the presence of kids so I will have to eat these oranges. Their loss!  Right now Manservant is in Sweden and won't be back until Wednesday night, and so I am cooking. I will get to the cleaning, but right now, I'm having fun catching up on blogging and experimenting with new recipes.


Which leads me to this one. I really liked these jewels! They are glorious and will brighten any table and save the kids from fishing out orange slices from jello molds. I don't know. Do people still make jello molds? These keep in the fridge awhile and are also great over ice cream or in yogurt, or even on pound cake. Or you could do what I did. You could mix them into your favorite gin drink and feel great satisfaction that this simple little recipe also makes a great cocktail! So remember, don't throw away any of this very simple syrup! If you eat all the oranges, strain the syrup and keep it for a rainy day when you need a special drink to see the sun. 




Caramelized Candied Oranges with Cranberries (Bon Appetit, 2011)

Time to make: As long as it takes to peel the oranges
Serves: 10 adults or 5 hungry kids (I halved this recipe without a problem)

Ingredients:

10 large or 20 small mandarin oranges
3 c sugar
3 T St-Germain or Gran Marnier 
1 c fresh cranberries

Directions:

Peel oranges and cut off all the white pith. Bring sugar and 3 c water to boil over medium high heat to dissolve the sugar. Stir in St-Germain and oranges. Remove from heat and cover. Leave overnight. (I actually left these for 24 hours.)

Preheat broiler. Line a rimmed baking pan with foil. Using a slotted spoon transfer oranges to pan.(Keep syrup in pot.) Broil until oranges are browned in spots. (I do believe you could skip this step as I think the wee little oranges would still taste good without broiling.) If you want to broil them, broil them about 3-4 minutes on each side, until browned in spots. Transfer to platter or bowl.


Place cranberries in the pot with the syrup. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the berries are soft and begin to pop. Spoon cranberries over mandarins and admire their beauty! I chilled this mixture in the syrup in the refrigerator which is where they've been until I spooned them over my yogurt this morning! It is also OK to serve them right away or leave them at room temperature for a few hours and then serve.




Other November Dishes:
Pumpkin Brown Sugar Muffins
Mushroom Lover's Pastry
Smoky Pumpkin Hummus
Hot Brown Sandwich
Tamale Stuffing with Chorizo
Frozen Cranberry Salad
Fresh Cranberry and Apple Salad
Tequila Cranberry Sauce
Waldorf Salad
Brown Sugar Spice Cake with Caramel Glaze
Gingerbread Pear Upside Down Skillet Cake
Whipped Cream Biscuits
Maple Glazed Challah Rolls






Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Truffled Scalloped Potatoes - A celebration!

"Truffled Scalloped Potatoes are perfect for celebrations!"


Truffled scalloped potatoes are good. I know because I just had some for breakfast. And I had some for dinner last night. And some for dinner three nights before that. With all that time with scalloped potatoes you would think I could get a good photo of them, but the light of winter just doesn't want to cooperate.

I made these good scalloped potatoes to serve to friends who had lots to celebrate. One daughter just became engaged, the other just got into college and my friend was having a birthday. But we are saving the birthday for another day; after all, kids come first! I didn't want to be in the kitchen and missing out on the celebration so a simple,do ahead meal was on my agenda. And that meal included scalloped potatoes. (But you knew that didn't you?)

And wine. Lots of good wine that kept us busy from 7 until midnight. I love nights like that. Which, of course, is another reason to make scalloped potatoes. Since you make them ahead, you don't have to worry about leaving out an ingredient, which is something to consider when you plan on drinking a lot of wine. All you have to do is cut these into squares and no one minds if the squares are crooked. Ahem!


I don't make scalloped potatoes very often but there are times they come in quite handy. They can be made ahead and reheated, but they stay warm for a long time if you cover them with foil. Which makes these scalloped and truffled potatoes a perfect dish for your Thanksgiving table. I know one has to contend with those who want the mashed variety. And the sweet variety; but honestly make this easy for yourself. Make these so you can drink the wine. AND smell the roses.

Lots of scalloped potato recipes call for heating milk. Some skinny recipes call for using chicken broth. Some call for parboiling the potatoes. Mine calls for none of this. Other than peeling and slicing the potatoes, this one is pretty easy. I use a mandoline of the cheap variety. I love it and it works well. Mine is made by Kyocera and is plastic with a ceramic blade that is easily changed to four different thicknesses with no need to set up.

So let's get to it, shall we? This recipe does call for creme fraiche which is generally found at Trader Joe's and other groceries unless a restaurant comes and buys out their stock. Don't ask me how I know. In which case creme fraiche is really easy to make. Just take 2 cups of heavy cream and stir in 2 T buttermilk. Let sit overnight covered. In the morning you should have a delightfully thick mixture that tastes better than sour cream.

Oh. Lots of little notes for this recipe. You can leave out all the truffle stuff, but since this was a celebration, I went for it. Now that didn't include buying a truffle, which would be lots of fun, but I did use truffle oil, truffle cheese and truffle salt. If I'd wanted I could have also placed a layer of sauteed mushrooms in the middle, but I don't believe in overload. Now who am I kidding?! And last but not least, this is where I buy my truffle salt.


Truffled Scalloped Potatoes (adapted from What's Cooking America?)
8-10 servings
Prep time: about 20-30 minutes
Ingredients:
8 oz English cheddar Italian truffle cheese, grated
2 1/2 lbs peeled, Yellow Finn potatoes, sliced into 1/8" slices
1 onion, sliced as above
Truffle salt and pepper
1 1/2 c creme fraiche
3 T truffle oil
1 T fresh thyme
Directions:
Grease a 10 x 7 or a 13 x 9 baking dish with oil or butter. Preheat oven to 400. 
Peel and slice potatoes and onion. Take 1/2 of potatoes and place evenly into bottom of pan. Sprinkle with truffle salt and pepper and some fresh thyme. Top with 1/2 of the creme fraiche. Spread it on. Top with 1/2 of the truffle cheese. Drizzle with 1 T of truffle oil. Top with sliced onion. 

Now take the rest of the potatoes and place evenly on top of the onion. Sprinkle with truffle salt and pepper and thyme. Top with the rest of the creme fraiche. Top with the rest of the truffle cheese. Drizzle with 1 T of truffle oil.

Place pan in oven for 30 minutes uncovered. Then reduce temperature to 350 for 30 more minutes. If potatoes start to brown too much, cover with foil. Check potatoes for doneness by sticking a knife into them. If knife inserts easily then potatoes should be cooked through. Drizzle with last tablespoon of truffle oil before serving and a little more truffle salt. If you keep this covered and are worried that the mixture needs more moisture, pour on a little extra heavy cream. It will easily be absorbed by the potatoes.

Now have a glass of wine and celebrate!

Don't forget to enter the Whole Foods Giveaway!

Other November Dishes:
Pumpkin Brown Sugar Muffins
Mushroom Lover's Pastry
Smoky Pumpkin Hummus
Hot Brown Sandwich
Tamale Stuffing with Chorizo
Frozen Cranberry Salad
Fresh Cranberry and Apple Salad
Tequila Cranberry Sauce
Waldorf Salad
Brown Sugar Spice Cake with Caramel Glaze
Gingerbread Pear Upside Down Skillet Cake
Whipped Cream Biscuits
Maple Glazed Challah Rolls



Monday, November 17, 2014

Maple Pecan Cream Cheese Pound Cake

"A perfect dessert for Thanksgiving...Maple Pecan Cream Cheese Pound Cake"


I made Manservant very happy. Not that I don't make him happy often, and maybe it was the fact that I'd been gone so long; in any case... he loved this cake. It's a splurgie kind of cake in the sense that I use real maple syrup on it and in it. Real maple syrup is a treat and so much better than the corn syrup variety. Besides it makes me believe that maybe for one minute I might be from Vermont. Yeah, I know you know I'm not, but I admit to having a romanticized notion of what Vermont just might be like. A girl can dream, right?

In any case, Whole Foods asked me to write about splurges. And ways to save. Yeah, it's that time of year when we want to spend, spend, spend, but at the same time we look for ways to save, save, save. If you are looking to save time-and so many of us are- than just looking through the prepared foods and choosing something that fits your dinner is a great way to save time. And sometimes that also means saving money, too!




When I think of splurges, at least in the way of food, I think of maple syrup. And truffles. And caviar. Great olive oils. Special farm raised turkeys from Diestel instead of those supermarket pumped up kinds, and a special cheese to put on a cheese plate. One thing I've always wanted is a bar of Mast chocolate. Now that would be a splurge for me, but I haven't done it yet. Fresh flowers are a luxury for many, but they make me so happy that I consider them almost a necessity! 


Whole Foods 365 products are great ways to save and their coffee is just one example. I'm not a huge coffee drinker but Manservant more than makes up for me. Here's a link to some things that my local Whole Foods has available. And here's another link to their cost savings booklet that helps with meal planning and also contains recipes. I love recipes!


But about this cake, huh? It is a jazzed up version one of my favorite pound cake recipes. This one is quite popular judging from the views it has had. I must admit that it is sublime, but this maple one is also. I added some allspice just to give it some extra joy, but if you aren't a fan, feel free to skip it. And play with the sugars. Feel free to make it brown or a combo of white and brown, if you like that  caramelly flavor. This version is not too sweet and though I didn't get a chance to toast it, I think that would be a great taste sensation! If you want it a tad sweeter feel free to dump a bit more sweetness in. I love it with a scoop of pumpkin ice cream, but most any flavor would work. Drizzling a bit more maple syrup on top is truly spurge worthy! Catch the drift? Well, you won't until you make it, silly!


In the meantime go splurge or save at Whole Foods. Either way is fun! And if you want a little extra to splurge with, enter this drawing for a $25 gift card. That would get me about 3 chocolate bars! It might get you a jug of maple syrup, plus some coffee! But a total splurge would require me to buy this 3 lb chocolate molded turkey! In which case, I might not even need this cake!









Maple Pecan Cream Cheese Pound Cake
Serves: 8-16 people Makes one 12" Bundt cake or 2 8" loaf cakes (I usually freeze one loaf!)
Time to Make: Active Time about 30 minutes
Ingredients:
2 1/2 sticks butter
1 1/4 c sugar
1 8 oz package softened cream cheese
1/2 c maple syrup (Grade B has great flavor)
2 t maple extract
1/2 t vanilla extract
5 eggs
6 oz or about 1 3/4 c finely chopped toasted pecans
2 1/4 c flour
1/2 t salt
1 t allspice

Glaze:

1/4 c unsalted butter
2 T maple syrup
1 t maple extract
2 T whipping cream
6 T powdered sugar, sifted
Pecans for garnish


Preheat oven to 325. Grease and flour well 2 8" loaf pans or 1 12" Bundt pan. Beat butter, sugar and cream cheese in mixer until light and fluffy. Add maple syrup, maple extract and vanilla extract. Add eggs one at a time, mixing each egg until well incorporated. Mix together nuts, flour and salt and allspice, if using. With mixer on low speed, stir in flour mixture. Pour into greased pans and bake 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until a knife inserted into middle of cake comes out clean. You may have to cover the top with foil to prevent over browning. Let cool while preparing glaze.This is perfect with ice cream and an additional drizzle of maple syrup.


Glaze:

Melt butter with maple syrup, maple extract and cream. Add powdered sugar and whisk until smooth. Cool until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Drizzle over cooled cake.

Give Away Closed!


More to Try:
Maple Glazed Walnut Scones
Blueberry Nut Bread
Maple Salted Macadamia Ice Cream
Cream Cheese Pound Cake

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Pumpkin Chipotle Soup and I'm Glad to Be Back!


                            "Pumpkin Chipotle Soup is perfect for Thanksgiving!"


It has been a long time since I opened this blog. Opened is the correct word here; as all I've been doing is opening boxes since I last wrote. After visiting Zoe, I recovered at home for a day, before heading to Phoenix to help my parents move. I left on short notice; thought I would be there no more than a week, and ended up being there a full 14 days. It took 10 days just to find the silverware.

Phoenix had delightful temperatures of 90 degrees, (though it is a dry heat) while I was there opening 280 boxes, some stacked in rows 5 boxes high; enough to fill a 2 car garage. 



Add to that more stuff stored in three different storage areas and wine in its own special locker. Yes, now my parents have a new place to call home. It isn't 6000 square feet, but somehow it has managed to hold many of their prized possessions in just 2200. Square feet, that is. Yes friends, that is called downsizing. I must admit that after this I am ready to clean out ever nook and cranny, just so my kids won't have to do it when I'm 80.

I am still missing their old house as monstrous as it was, but this is a safer place with lots of amenities to see them through those golden years. I know they will be happy and well taken care of, and that they will still find many parties to be the life of. Hopefully, the smaller kitchen will make it easier for my mom to cook in and now my dad won't have to sweep the garage and patios. He never liked blowing because he always wondered where the dirt went, if it wasn't picked up! He does make a good point! 


We had lots of decisions to make. Like which wine glasses to save out of the 15 boxes that I had to open. And I've never seen so many varieties of Pam and Better than Bouillon in one place.




 I think she must have shopped at a lot of stores to find all of these varieties. There were countless bottles of rice vinegar and my mom must also have cornered the market on dish towels. There were some strange boxes to open...




 And an awful lot to give away. I think Salvation Army did well. Someone is now the proud possessor of numerous whisks, knives, cheese graters, wine openers, potato peelers, cheese slicers, two toasters, lots of wine glasses and a ton of dish towels, in addition to at least 4 sets of dishware. I hope never to see them again!


I know they are still working hard at it. I know they must be exhausted, because I sure was. Manservant said I came home and went to bed and slept for 12 hours straight. I thought I'd be able to blog a bit while I was there, but I was truly out of my element. I couldn't even read any blogs to comment. I was just too wiped out. You'll have to forgive me! I did manage to reread 2 of the Outlander novels and fall in love with Jamie all over again. There was no thought required about this. We went out to eat for breakfast and lunch for 14 days straight, and found one good Chinese restaurant. That is it!


So now I'm home, until we rent a truck in December to bring a few things back. Trust me though-nothing is coming in to this house without something going out! In the meantime, I plan on cleaning and cooking. And cooking and cleaning. And eating soup. Soup is good. Soup is relaxing. And soup is good for cold weather, of which it is supposed to be -11 degrees tonight. Makes 90 sound like a piece of cake!




Pumpkin Chipotle Soup

(from the San Francisco Chronicle book)
Serves: 6
Ingredients: 1 T butter
1  large chopped onion
1 1/2 t minced thyme
1 large can of pumpkin
Salt to taste
1-2 chipotles from the can, chopped
2 c chicken broth
1/2 c finely ground toasted almonds
1/2 c milk
1/2 c heavy cream 

Garnishes:

Salted Pumpkin Seeds
Sour Cream thinned with a bit of milk
6 strips of crisp bacon

Directions:

Melt butter in a large soup pot. Stir in chopped onion and saute over medium heat about 10 minutes or until translucent. Remove from heat and add pumpkin, thyme and chipotles to pot. Stir well. Now using a hand immersion blender, puree mixture until smooth. Add chicken broth and simmer for about 20 minutes on low heat. Add almonds, milk and cream and heat for about two minutes or until hot. You can make this ahead and reheat. If it thickens, which it will probably do, add more broth, milk or cream to liquify mixture to soup consistency. Garnish with your favorite garnishes. This soup is not too rich, nor too heavy or spicy. It makes a great starter!

Other November Dishes:
Pumpkin Brown Sugar Muffins
Mushroom Lover's Pastry
Smoky Pumpkin Hummus
Hot Brown Sandwich
Tamale Stuffing with Chorizo
Frozen Cranberry Salad
Fresh Cranberry and Apple Salad
Tequila Cranberry Sauce
Waldorf Salad
Brown Sugar Spice Cake with Caramel Glaze
Gingerbread Pear Upside Down Skillet Cake
Whipped Cream Biscuits