Monday, July 14, 2014

Happy Bastille Day!

Well I couldn't let Bastille Day go by unheralded, could I? 
Here is my (somewhat feeble) attempt at an appropriately French,  celebratory dish.
Crème Anglaise.  Also known as custard sauce.  Which, despite the fact that mine failed to live up to the "smooth velvety" texture the recipe promised, I still think will taste mighty good tonight after dinner with some home-grown peaches.

Bastille Day, anyone? 

Any yummy French recipes to share?


Friday, June 20, 2014

Lavender Sugar

Experimenting here at the castle.  I read about making lavender sugar in the most recent issue of Keepers at Home magazine.  And since this lovely, lovely plant resides in our backyard,
I thought I would give it a try.  You take 2 c. sugar, combine with 2 T. lavender blossoms, and let sit for a couple of weeks.  Then you can either strain out the lavender, or put both the sugar and the blossoms in the blender to combine. 

Article author Eileen D. Allen recommends using this in baked goods, notably sugar cookies.

Has anyone else ever used lavender in their cooking?  Please share.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Orange Souffles with Orange Sauce

These are amazing.
You simply must make these individual orange soufflés with orange sauce (recipe makes two), next time you get your hands on a few of these.
With all these oranges, I have been making jars and jars of freezer jam,  lots of juice to freeze, this chocolate-marmalade-gingerbread,
some orange poppyseed cookies, and now, these soufflés.
No kidding, my keyboard and mouse are sticky because of my zest (ha!) to share this with you. 
Seriously.  Mark this one down.  You have got to make these someday.
Recipe from a long ago-clipped magazine article --  if I had to guess, I'd say Bon Appetit.

NOCKERLN (Individual Souffles with Orange Sauce)

(makes 2)
1 T. butter
3 T. sugar
1 t. cornstarch
1/4 c. fresh  orange juice
1 T. grated orange peel
1 t. fresh lemon juice

2 eggs, separated
pinch of cream of tartar
pinch of salt
3 T. sugar
1 T. flour
1 t. grated orange peel
powdered sugar (to garnish)

Make sauce:  In small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  In small bowl, mix together sugar and cornstarch.  Stir sugar/cornstarch mixture into butter.  Slowly whisk in orange juice and lemon juice and orange peel, and cook, stirring, over medium-ish heat until thickened, about five minutes.  Divide sauce evenly into two 4 x 6-inch oven-proof gratin dishes.

Make soufflés:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Separate eggs, putting whites in medium bowl and yolks in small bowl.  Get our your electric mixer and beat whites until foamy.  Add the cream of tartar and salt and beat a bit more, until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar and keep beating until "stiff and glossy."  Set aside. Stir yolks with a fork "until lemon colored" (I just did this for 30 seconds or so).  Stir in the flour and peel until mixed (should be thick).    Gently fold the yolk mixture into the whites (use a spatula or large spoon; you don't want to beat this down, you are just trying to mix and add a little air in there with big swooping motions).  Spoon in mounds over sauce and bake until golden, about 14 minutes.  Sift powdered sugar over the top.

These are AMAZING.  Please do try them.  You will not be sorry.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Green Tea Banana Split Smoothie

A really good blogger, I think, would not spend her time pondering why
the lemon, on the left, is bigger than the orange, on the right.
She would probably type in the recipe for the wonderful orange freezer jam
instead of just leaving it on the kitchen counter and hoping it would type itself in.
She would instruct you on how to make your own bragging food labels from leftover scrapbooking stickers that, alas, never made it into the scrapbooks.
Likewise, she'd instruct on making orange sugar with the leftover orange rind.
She would probably regale you with stories of the open road

and inspire you with decorating tips like this antler chandelier
spotted at an Elko, Nevada hotel.
But alas, if you've spent any time at all on this blog, you will realize I am not a really good blogger.  I often go weeks between posts.  My pictures are uninspired.  The careful viewer will notice paper towels in the background or eyeglasses or a pile of mail that has been stealthily pushed to the side, only not far enough.
Aaaah, well.
What can I offer you?  How about this:  Green Tea Banana Split Smoothie.
A yummy snack, made with green tea, which is supposed to be good for you.  (A really good blogger would provide links here.)

Recipe from this book:  Green Tea:  50 Hot Drinks, Cool Quenchers, and Sweet and Savory Treats, by Mary Lou Heiss.
And shared with joy, from one imperfect blogger to . . . well, you.


1/2 c. chilled green tea
1 c. low-fat vanilla yogurt (I used plain yogurt, added about 1/2 t. vanilla and about 1 t. maple syrup)
1 small ripe banana
1/4 c. chocolate syrup
4 ice cubes

Put everything but the ice cubes in the blender and mix.  Then add the ice cubes and whirl away.  This serves 2, by the way, so cut in half if it's just for you.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Parmesan-Roasted Acorn Squash

We've been trying to eat more vegetables around here.
Don't tell our mothers, they'd never believe it.
Not to worry, we are still sneaking in other nummy foods -- like these maple oatmeal scones (bake 30 minutes, not 40), from the book Flour by Joanne Chang.
And these pancakes made with leftover Panettone crumbs.   See sad panettone story here.
But, really, and truly, we are aiming for more fruits and vegetables.
Here is exhibit A. 
Too bad I didn't take a picture of the asparagus salad, that would have been Exhibit B.
But back to acorn squash.  I was talking about acorn squash.
This fine recipe, from Real Simple magazine, really is simple.  And really is tasty.  You just chunk slices of the squash, 3/4-inch thick, toss with a bit of olive oil, thyme, salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese, and put 'er in the oven.  Snapperooni.
Parmesan-Roasted Acorn Squash.  Give it a try, even if you're not big on vegetables.  You just might like it.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Make your own almond paste

Making your own almond paste -- how cool is that?  Go check out Juliana's post at Color Your Recipes blog, if you haven't seen it yet.

I've gotta try this.

Friday, February 28, 2014

It's a sloppy and droopy, orange marmalade kind of day.
If you have one orange, a food chopper of some kind, a microwave, and a few minutes, whip up some of the quickest, easiest orange marmalade around.
It's good :). 


Saturday, February 22, 2014


Sadly, I must report this lovely, lovely loaf as a fail.
The pinches of dough I snuck before baking were fantastic.  It contains two sticks of butter -- I KNOW! -- why wouldn't it be fantastic?
But the finished product, I am sorry to have to report, did this when sliced:
I think that's at least four crumbles it broke into.
And it kind of tasted like pie crust.
Turns out there is such a thing as too much butter.
Making this Italian Christmas bread was an excuse, truth be told, to play with this:

Which just looked so intriguing at the grocery store.  And which I still have a vat of.
But not to worry. 
The quest for delectable panettone carries forth.  I shall not give up the fight.  Soldier on.

Anyone out there ever made panettone?  Results?  Please share.

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Valentine's Day Dessert Soup

If you had foresight enough back in November to stash away a bag or two of cranberries in your freezer, you have most of what you need to make this light Valentine's Day dessert.  Called kissel, this tart and tasty Russian fruit soup is the loveliest shade of red.
Along with the cranberries, it also helps if you have one of these:
Not sure what the official name of this is.  A food mill?  It's the same perforated cone-like thing I use when making tomato juice from fresh tomatoes, or grape juice from grapes.  Very low-tech, it whooshes out the unwanted skins as you circle the wooden mallet round and round.  Great fun.  Kahuna's grandma gave me this one years ago, after teaching me to make tomato juice.

If you've got your cranberries and your perforated upside down dunce cap, proceed.  And if you don't?  Type "kissel dessert" into your handy dandy search engine and I'm pretty sure you'll find instructions for making this from other kinds of fruit. 

The recipe, by the way, comes from A Christmas Companion by Maria Robbins and Jim Charlton, who suggest its red color makes it "particularly appealing at Christmastime."  And also for Valentine's Day, I might add.

1 lb. cranberries
2 c. water
1 c. sugar
2 T. cornstarch
2 T. orange juice
Heavy cream for swirling, if desired

In large saucepan, heat the cranberries, water, and sugar.  Bring to a gentle boil and, stirring occasionally, cook for about 15 minutes, until cranberries pop.  Puree through a food mill.  Return puree to the pan.  In small bowl, mix together cornstarch and orange juice; add to puree and cook over low heat, stirring, for about five minutes, until it gets thick.  Serve chilled with heavy cream swirled throughout.  Serves 6 - 8.

What are you serving for Valentine's Day?


Monday, February 3, 2014

Best Biscuits Ever

Serious yumminess has been coming out of my oven lately.
Yes, that would be my new oven.  (Protagonist sighs happily here.)
These may be the finest biscuits I've ever made.  And no wonder -- they contain cream.  HEAVY cream.  (Protagonist adjusts her slightly ill-fitting waistband here.)
This recipe came from a Martha Stewart magazine.  I was going to just link to it from here, but the various instructions I found online were slightly different from the directions in the printed magazine, and I have a few changes/comments of my own.  So I think for clarity's sake I shall just type it in here, adding my own comments as we go.
Ready?  Begin.
(By the way, I divided this recipe in half.  Using my 2 1/4-inch cookie cutter, it still made 11 biscuits)
4 c. flour, plus more for work surface
2 T. baking powder
2 t. sugar (next time I will double this amount)
1 t. coarse salt
1 c. (2 sticks) cold butter, cut into pieces (Martha uses unsalted; I like salted)
2 c. heavy cream (the reason I cut the recipe in half -- I had just a small carton of cream)

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  In large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.  Cut the butter into small pieces and drop into flour mixture.  Using tips of fingers, rub butter into flour mixture until butter is dispersed and texture resembles large breadcrumbs. 

Add the cream and stir until dough just comes together.  (Martha says dough will be sticky but mine was quite dry.  I kneaded it in the bowl just a bit to get it to come to a ball.  I suppose another option would be to add a tad more cream [or milk, if you're out of cream] but what I did worked fine.) 

Transfer to a lightly floured surface (I use my large cutting board), pat to 1-inch thickness, and use a round cookie cutter to cut out your happy little biscuits.  Place an inch or two apart on cookie sheet that's covered with parchment paper and bake about 20 minutes, until lightly browned.
Yeah.  Like the "light butter" is really gonna help.
NOTE: I baked these on the second to highest rack, but after consulting my wonderful baking reference book Baking Illustrated by the editors of Cook's Illustrated, next time I would bake these on the middle rack instead.