Archive for ◊ January, 2010 ◊

31 Jan 2010 Lemon-Poppy Seed Bread

“Bread” isn’t quite the right word for this. Yes, the batter is baked in loaf pans, but it has a finer texture than a quick bread, it’s really more of a cake, a cake that doesn’t need frosting. I like the strong lemon flavor of this bread and the slight crunch and the appealing look of the poppy seeds. I served cubes of this bread to dip in the chocolate fondue, but was also very pleased to have it on hand to serve to a friend who stopped by for a cup of tea and some girl-talk. The rest of the bread was devoured for breakfast. The loaves stayed moist for as long as it took us to eat (about 4 days). If you have a lemon tree, or a neighbor with a lemon tree, you’ll be pleased to know this bread is made with three large lemons. I usually bake 4 mini loaves (because I have a wonderful 4 loaf pan), but the original recipe specified baking in 2 9 x 5 loaf pans (one for you and one for the neighbor with the lemon tree). If desired extra loaves can be wrapped in foil and frozen for up to a month.

Lemon Poppy Seed Bread

3 large lemons (you’ll need the zest and the juice)
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
2 1/2 cups sugar (divided use)
4 eggs at room temperature
3 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup milk (or buttermilk or sour milk)
1/4 cup sour cream (can substitute yogurt)
3 T. poppy seeds

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare two 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pans, or 4 mini loaf pans by buttering and flouring or by spraying with Pam for Baking. Finely grate the zest from the lemons. You’ll need 3 T. Squeeze the lemons for their juice. You’ll need 1/2 cup plus 1T. Set the lemon juice aside. With an electric mixer cream the butter with 2 cups of the sugar and all the lemon zest until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, mix flour, salt and baking powder together in another bowl, and the milk and the sour cream or yogurt in a third bowl. Add the eggs into the butter-sugar mixture, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Reduce mixer speed to low. Beat in one-third of flour mixture, then one-half of milk mixture, then one-third of flour, then one-half of milk mixture, then one-third of flour mixture, beating until just combined after each addition. Gently stir in poppy seeds and one tablespoon of the freshly squeezed lemon juice. Evenly divide batter between prepared loaf pans. Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for about 60 minutes (45 minutes for mini-loaves). While loaves are baking, combine reserved 1/2 cup lemon juice with remaining 1/2 cup sugar, stirring until combined. Remove pan from oven and immediately brush top with lemon mixture. Let loaves cool in rack in pans for 15 minutes, then removed from pans. Pierce loaves all over one side with long skewer, brush with lemon mixture. Repeat on all sides, and top and bottom, until all lemon mixture has been used. Cool loaves completely. Wrap in waxed paper and store in airtight container at room temperature.

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31 Jan 2010 Peanut Butter Cookies
 |  Category: Cookies & Bars, Sweets  | Tags: ,  | One Comment

This recipe has been around for ages, I’m sure you’ve heard of it. It’s been billed as “World’s Best Peanut Butter Cookie”. The ingredients are: peanut butter, egg, sugar, no flour. The cookies taste to me, and although the texture is much crisper, sort of like the inside of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. I really want to dunk the bottoms in chocolate, and if I had any left, I would. This recipe is from the cookbook I’ve started cooking my way through, “The 150 Best American Recipes”. The original recipe did not call for salt, but I added 1/2 tsp. as suggested by the note in the cookbook. I made mini-versions of these last night to dunk in the chocolate fondue. Delicious. My friend made four large cookies from this dough and used it as a base for killer “Tin Roof Sundaes”–Peanut butter cookie, vanilla ice-cream, hot fudge sauce, salted peanuts, whipped cream. Delicious. You don’t need to do anything special with them though, these cookies are delicious, just as they are.

Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two cookie sheets or line with parchment paper. With an electric mixer beat peanut butter and sugar until well combined. Lightly beat the egg and then add into peanut butter-sugar mixture along with the baking soda and optional salt. Roll approximate teaspoonsful of dough into balls and place on prepared cookie sheet 1 inch apart. Flatten the balls with two presses of a fork, making the traditional peanut butter cookie crosshatch pattern (See the first picture) or flatten the balls with the heel of your hand and press a whole roasted salted peanut in the middle-in the style of a Chinese Almond Cookie (see the second picture). Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, until puffed and a pale golden color, about 10 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes and then remove to wire rack to cool completely. Store in airtight container for up to 5 days. Makes about 4 dozen smallish cookies.

The perils of food photography!

31 Jan 2010 Chocolate Fondue

Chocolate! Valentine’s Day is only two weeks away. Here’s a fabulous dessert suggestion. Start now collecting fondue pots, dippers, and toppers so you don’t get stressed out at the last minute.

This fondue is rich, dark, silky smooth, and delicious. I WISH I knew how to take better pictures (I should also try to remember to take a picture before eating the  food…) This is NOT melted chocolate chips with a bit of shortening fondue, no, no, no, no, no! It’s high quality chopped chocolate and cocoa powder, whipping cream, and sugar.   Would you expect anything less?  You’ll need a candy thermometer to make this-don’t stress-the candy thermometer is a helpful tool for getting the texture right.

For me, the hardest part of this recipe was figuring out how to get ten individual fondue pots for my dinner guests last night. I thought I would use individual butter warmers, but after countless shopping trips I couldn’t find any (I’ve seen lots of them in the stores previously, but of course I didn’t need them then)…but even if I did find some, I probably wouldn’t have been able to afford ten of them, sooooo I ended up crafting my own pots out of small glass candle holders, tea lights, metal triangles, and ramekins…but they were a bit precarious (if you have any ideas to better my design, please let me know). With it getting closer to Valentine’s Day perhaps butter warmers or individual fondue pots will be easier to find BUT, if you don’t have a fondue pot-individual or otherwise-make the fondue anyway, the sauce can be kept warm in a crockpot, and your guest can put little puddles of chocolate sauce on their plate to dip their goodies in.

See the end of the recipe for great ideas for dippers and toppers.  This was such a success at my annual Book Lovers Dinner, that I am thinking of putting it permanently on the menu, and just changing the main dish and side dishes each year.

I wish I could remember where I found this recipe.  I tried about 5 different recipes before knowing this was “the ONE!” .  If I remember or find out where I found this recipe, I will post the information ASAP.

Chocolate Fondue

1 cup Scharffen Berger or Valrohna cocoa powder
1 1/4 cup bottled water
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup plus 5 T. heavy cream
5 oz. Scharffen Berger 62% semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

Place the water, sugar, and corn syrup in a saucepan and bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer, and clip a candy thermometer on the side of the pan.. Allow to mixture to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until it reaches 220 degrees on the candy thermometer. Remove pan from heat. Whisk in cocoa powder, and keep whisking until mixture is smooth. Return pan to medium heat and bring back to 215-220 degrees. Remove candy thermometer-be careful, it’s hot-and then add heavy cream. Bring mixture to a boil and then simmer for 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in chopped chocolate, keep stirring until mixture is smooth. Pour into fondue pots or crockpot to keep warm and serve.

These are the dippers I used: cubes of Lemon-Poppyseed Tea Cake, Mini Peanut Butter Cookies, Mini Rice Krispy Treats, homemade vanilla and peppermint marshmallows, cubed Croissant; dried apricots, plums, and pineapple wedges: fresh strawberres, banana and pear slices; and mini scoops of Vietnamese Coffee Ice-cream. (Not all are pictured, I had to recreate this morning from leftovers!)

These are the toppers I used: toasted coconut, crushed pretzels, chopped peanuts, rainbow sprinkles (would have liked to have had grated white chocolate and chopped mint chocolate, too).

More good news…1). this sauce can be made ahead and reheated either on top of the stove or in the microwave. 2). I successfully doubled this recipe (for 10) and have plenty of leftovers. 3). Leftover sauce freezes well!

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today,


27 Jan 2010 Vanilla & Peppermint Marshmallows
 |  Category: Sweets  | Tags:  | Leave a Comment

Today I was transported back to my childhood when it was just fun to play in the kitchen. The mess was fun. The creation was fun. If the product was edible, it was magic! I made magic today (along with a big mess). I made marshmallows! It wasn’t hard, just different. And the product, magic! NOW I know why marshmallows are put on top of a cup of hot chocolate. REAL marshmallows transform hot chocolate into a creamy cup of heaven. Dump the processed imitators, what are they doing on a cup of hot chocolate anyway?

You will need a heavy duty stand mixer and a candy thermometer to make this recipe successfully. Also not that marshmallows need to cure overnight before using. You’re going to love these! Honest. Have fun in your kitchen today. Make magic!

The original recipe was based on one from Ina Garten, but was modified using the input from many other food blogs. This is the exact recipe and exact method I used.

Vanilla or Mint Marshmallows

3 pkgs. unflavored gelatin
1 cup cold water, divided use
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 tsp. Kosher salt
1 T. vanilla OR peppermint extract (I assume any other extract would be OK too…lemon, raspberry?!)
red or green food coloring (optional, but good to use if you are making mint marshmallows…use yellow for lemon marshmallows, etc)
Lots of powdered sugar (a pound box or so…this does NOT get beaten into the marshmallows…it keeps the marshmallows from sticking to the pan, and then from sticking to each other)

Cover the bottom of a 13 x 9 x 2 inch pan with a layer of powdered sugar. You should not be able to see the bottom of the pan. Using your fingers, also dust the side of the pan with the powdered sugar. Combine gelatin and 1/2 cup of the water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Let this sit, at least 15 minutes, while until the next step is completed. Combine sugar, corn syrup, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves, stirring gently. Take the spoon away from the pan, raise the heat to high and boil, without stirring, until syrup reaches 244 degrees (soft ball stage). Remove syrup from heat. Be careful. Put the mixer on low speed (gelatin is still in the bowl), and slowly pour the sugar syrup over the gelatin. When the mix is cool enough and thick enough not to splatter, turn the speed up to high and whip on the highest speed for 15 minutes. Add the chosen extract, beat well to combine. Add the food coloring, if using, and beat just to swirl. Here comes the hard part. With a sturdy spatula or spoon that has been dredged in powdered sugar, scoop all the marshmallow batter into the prepared pan. Wet your hands. With wet hands, press and smooth the batter to fill the pan. Smooth the top of the batter with your wet hands, and then pour a generous layer of powdered sugar over the marshmallow batter. Allow batter to dry and cure, sitting on the counter, uncovered, overnight. Run a spatula along the sides of the pan. Remove the marshmallow slab to a cutting board. Dip knife in powdered sugar in the bottom of the pan. Cut marshmallows into squares of desired size, recoating knife with powdered sugar as needed. Roll each cut side of marshmallow in the powdered sugar. Store marshmallows covered at room temperature. Marshmallows for plain eating are good for at least a week. Marshmallows for hot chocolate last far longer (since a bit of drying out is hardly noticeable).

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26 Jan 2010 Tropical Salsa and Baked Cinnamon Chips

I know it’s a strange time of year to be posting this…but this salsa is so good I couldn’t wait to share (plus my friend Julene asked me to). I found this recipe on, where I went to look for recipes to use up the two dozen kiwis I bought on a whim at Costco. This recipe used two of them plus I had to go out and buy a pineapple and a mango BUT, I will go to great lengths if I think I am onto a GREAT recipe. Thank goodness my instincts were right this time! Here’s a GREAT recipe for GREAT salsa! I’m sure I will make this again, and again, and again (after all, I do have enough kiwis to make twelve batches…) The original recipe said to serve with “Cinnamon Chips”, I have posted the recipe for those also (DELISH). Tonight I served the salsa to three nineteen year olds with “Spicy-Sweet Chili” Doritos (they added quite a kick–the chips did, not the kids!) All three kids did give the salsa a “thumbs up”, as did 25 year old in the room. The original recipe (which I adapted) also mentioned spooning this over grilled chicken or fish…mmm, maybe later, right now, I just want to savor “as is”. Later this week…Kiwi-Coconut-Lime muffins…to use up a few more of the Kiwi in the kitchen

Tropical Salsa

1 cup chopped peeled fresh pineapple (in a pinch, could sub orange for pineapple)
1 cup chopped peeled fresh mango
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
2/3 cup chopped peeled fresh kiwi fruit (about 2)
1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
juice of ½ fresh lime

Combine all ingredients in medium bowl. Season with salt, to taste. (Can be made 3 hours ahead–but also tastes and looks fine the next day.)

Baked Cinnamon Chips

1/4 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 flour tortillas
3 tbsp. butter, melted

In a small bowl combine sugar and cinnamon. Brush tortillas with melted butter. Then sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of sugar mixture. Cut each tortilla in 8 triangles. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place tortillas sugar side up on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes or until crisp.

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25 Jan 2010 Fisherman’s Pie
 |  Category: Main Dish, Seafood  | Tags: ,  | Leave a Comment

I’m from England. Shepherd’s pie-a casserole of ground meat, veggies, and mashed potatoes-is my heritage (it was even my last name, Shepherd, not pie(!) for the first 21 years of my life). There’s also Fisherman’s Pie, you know! I’m guessing you’ve never made it, so here’s my basic recipe. Feel free to change it up a bit to match your tastes, just as you would any Shepherd’s Pie recipe. Fisherman’s Pie is a good way to introduce fish to someone who claims to not like it. The bottom layer is a creamy mixture of common veggies and fish or fish and shellfish. All of that is then topped with mashed potatoes and a sprinkle of cheese. The only spices are salt and pepper. What’s not to like? Remember to use a nice white fish, and make sure it’s fresh. Don’t cook with anything smelly. Smelly fish is not good fish.

Fisherman’s Pie

2 1/2 lbs russet potatoes
2 1/2 lbs fish and/or shellfish (I use half cod and half shrimp, or half scallops and half shrimp)
1/4 cup butter
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup flour
2 1/2 cups warm milk
1/4 cup minced parsley
1 cup frozen peas
approx. 2 T. butter
approx. 1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

Peel and cube potatoes. Put into a large saucepan, cover with cold water, add a tsp of salt and bring to a boil. Boil for about 20 minutes or until tender. Meanwhile, cut fish into 1 inch chunks and set aside. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Melt butter in a large frying pan over medium heat on the stovetop. Add chopped onions to pan and saute for 2 minutes. Add in celery and carrots and saute for 3 more minutes. Heat milk in MW for 3 minutes. Stir flour into veggies in pan, stirring constantly over medium heat for 3 minutes (do this while milk is heating in the MW). Remove frying pan from heat and slowly stir in warm milk half a cup at a time. Completely incorporate each addition of milk-no lumps-before adding more milk. When all milk has been incorporated return mixture to burner over medium heat. Stir in 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Taste. Add more salt and pepper if needed. Stir in 1/4 cup diced parsley, fish/shellfish, and frozen peas to veggie mixture then pour the whole thing into the bottom of a 13 x 9 x 2 inch casserole pan. Drain cooked potatoes, stir in butter, milk, salt and pepper to taste and then mash. Pour the mashed potatoes over the fish/veggie mixture in the casserole dish, smooth potatoes with a small spatula. Sprinkle cheese on top of potatoes. Place in a 400 degree oven and bake for 30 minutes.

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