Archive for the Category ◊ Fruits ◊

18 Jan 2014 Russian Tea

Russian-Tea-1a

Are you old enough to remember the “Russian Tea” phase back in the 70’s?  I was a teenager then, a very young teenager, and our Moms and Grandmas were mixing up batches of Russian Tea like crazy and giving everyone little jars of the stuff.  I think the mix had instant tea, Tang (remember Tang? Astronauts drank it!), powdered lemonade, and some spices.  You opened up your gift jar, spooned some mix into a cup, added hot water, stirred it up and  you were drinking Russian Tea!  I liked it. It was a different hot drink.  I wasn’t into coffee yet, Hot Chocolate was too childish, English tea with milk was OK, but boring. Russian Tea was fun and different–and a bit exotic.

Fast forward to February 7th, 2014, Opening Ceremonies for The XXII Winter Olympics will be held in Sochi, Russia and I will be hosting a Russian Themed Winter Olympic Dinner.  What to have to drink after dinner? My daughter suggested Vodka shots off the tip of a sword.  Umm, no.  A citrus-y, sweet, slightly spicy version of Russian Tea is more up my alley — but not made of Tang, Country Time Lemonade and Nestea. So I hit the Internet.  First spoiler, the so-called “Russian Tea” of the 70’s isn’t Russian at all. It’s an American concoction! The only thing Russian about it is it’s name.  Shhhhhhhhhh! Don’t tell anyone!  Real Russian tea is “Russian Caravan” tea, because tea used to be imported to Russia from China, via a 16-18 month caravan, and it acquired a smokey flavor from all of the caravan campfires, according to Wikipedia.  So, I went to my local Russian grocery store, yes, we have one in San Jose, and I couldn’t find “Russian Caravan” tea anywhere (nor anyone to help me), but lots of Earl Grey.  I am not serving Earl Grey tea at my Russian Dinner.  Early Gray Tea is English and I don’t like it, it’s too smokey!

So now I am back to my original “Russian” Tea quest.  I found some recipes on the Internet, checked out their star ratings, and tried a few.  One was truly horrid; it involved extracting the juice from oranges and lemons, then boiling the  rinds in sugar and water then adding  the liquid to cold tea. I was skeptical, but the very attractive, very sincere lady on the YouTube video seemed nice, and she was raving over her tea! So I tried it.  She was not honest. Her tea was bitter and horrid.  Of COURSE it was.  Boiling all that pith then adding it to the tea? I should have known better. Why do people post bad recipes?

Eventually, I came up with this version for fresh Russian Tea.  I like it.  I really like it. I served it to five friends and two relatives, and they all said they liked it.  Then I served it to another relative, the daughter who suggested I serve vodka shots off the end of a sword, and she hated it.  I was SHOCKED.  I tied her down and make her try it again.  She STILL didn’t like it.  Harrumph.  She’s no longer my favorite child.  My son loved the tea.  He said, “That’s good.  That’s really, really good.”  He’s a good boy. He’s my favorite child now.

This “Russian” tea is in the same family as hot tea with lemon and honey, but with orange added, and some cinnamon, and a few cloves, it’s a bit more complex (there’s no honey in this tea though).  I’m going to serve it at my Russian themed Winter Olympic dinner, but I’ll brew a pot of Earl Grey, too… for the weirdos.

You all know I am not a photographer, right?  I thought I was being deliciously creative setting up a picture to look like hot, citrus-y, Russian tea in cold, stark, white snow.  Epic fail.  What I got looks like tea in bubbles, oh, not even that, it looks like tea in pillow stuffing, which it is.  Can you overlook that?  Can you just try this hot, citrus-y, slightly spiced, American-Russian tea?  I think you will be glad you did.  Just make the tea once, and put it in the refrigerator to reheat as needed. Ponyat’? Da?

I am really getting into the Olympic/Russian thing now. I made Pierogi for dinner last night, and I ordered a Pierogi press and a Pierogi cookbook written by a real babuska from Amazon.  I am trying to find a Russian outfit to wear. It seems I should go as a babushka.  I already have all the right clothes in my closet…and you know, Vodka shots from the end of a sword might not be too far fetched!

Russian Tea

  • 4 strong black tea bags
  • 1 quart (4 cups boiling water)
  • Zest of 1 1/2 oranges
  • Juice of 1 1/2 oranges (about 2/3 cup)
  • Zest of 1 large lemon
  • Juice of 1 large lemon (about 1/4 cup)
  • 6 cloves (0k to double for spicier drink)
  • 1 cinnamon stick (ok to use 2 for spicier drink)
  • 1 cup sugar (might be ok to reduce to 3/4 cup for a less sweet drink)
  • 2 cups cold water 
  1. Make 1 quart of tea by pouring 1 quart of boiling water over 4 teabags and seep for 5 minutes.  Remove tea bags from hot tea and set tea aside.
  2. Zest the oranges and lemon. Put the zest in a small saucepan.
  3. Add 1 cup sugar and 2 cups cold water to the zest in the small saucepan.
  4. Bring water, sugar, and zest to a boil and boil for 5 minutes.
  5. Juice the oranges and lemon. Pour the juice into the brewed tea.
  6. Strain the  boiled water, sugar, spices and zest mixture the add to tea and juice mixture.
  7. Stir well and serve or refrigerate mixture until ready to use. Reheat in the microwave or on the stove top.
  8. Enjoy the Olympics!

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today.  BTW, I tried one more drink in my quest for my Olympic dinner, but I think that one qualifies as a dessert (and a gold medal)!  White Hot Chocolate.  Too, too, too decadent to post…I must keep my fans from sinning…I must…I must…OK, OK, I’ll post it soon!

31 Jul 2013 Blueberry Heaven

 

Do you ever go into a bakery?  Of COURSE you do!  Do you ever buy a pastry that looks delicious, but then are seriously disappointed in the taste…? And then, to top it off, are you overwhelmed by the amount of  fat you’ve just consumed for something that really wasn’t that all that great?  Me, too 🙁 Do you ever wish, on a weekend morning with your second cup of coffee, for that imagined deliciousness, without all greasy pastry and sugary icing?  Me, too 🙂 Pssssst…  Come here! No, come closer! I am going to tell you how to make a breakfast pastry as delicious as the one you are dreaming of…, and without the load upon load of grease and sugar!

Now. Seriously…, am I your best friend, or what?!

It’s so simple!  You need 2 slices of bread, a bit of cream cheese, and a handful of blueberries. It helps if you have a sandwich maker or a panini press, but if you don’t, use a frying pan and make this Blueberry Heaven just like you would a grilled cheese sandwich.

I found the original recipe here: http://www.fitfromconception.com/2012/06/blueberry-breakfast-grilled-cheese.html  No, I am not pregnant, roflmao.  Neither are any of my children.  I have no idea how I ended up at that website, but I am glad I did.

Blueberry Heaven

[a Stand-in for Fat and Sugar Laden Blueberry Pastries]

For each serving:

  • 2 slices of bread, any kind.  Make it whole wheat if that’s the way you roll.  I use Orrowheat Country Buttermilk Bread.  Cinnamon bread would probably be delicious, as would almost any kind of homemade bread (don’t use homemade rye bread or anything like that!).
  • Plain cream cheese, enough to spread on two slices of bread.
  • a sprinkling of sugar, less than 1/4 tsp, optional
  • a handful of fresh blueberries, about 24 (jam can be substituted)
  • Butter, optional, unless you are using a frying pan

 

  1. Preheat sandwich maker, panini press, or frying pan.
  2. Spread each slice of bread with cream cheese, no measurements here, just coat the slices of bread to your preference. (If you are using a frying pan, spread the other side of the bread with butter)
  3. Sprinkle a bit, and I do mean a bit, less than 1/4 tsp of sugar over the cream cheese, just to sweeten up the cream cheese a little bit. (I’ve made this without the sugar, and it’s just not the same.)
  4. Arrange blueberries on one slice of the cream cheese covered bread.  Use as many as you want, but I think 24 is about perfect.  I like to evenly space the blueberries on the bread so I get an equal number of  blueberries in every bite.
  5. Put the other slice of cream cheese covered bread onto of the blueberries, cream cheese to cream cheese.
  6. Put the sandwich in the press, latch close, and cook for 2 minutes. (If using a frying pan, put the sandwich, butter side down on the preheated frying pan.  When the first side is golden brown, flip, and cook the second side until it is golden brown too.)
  7. Remove sandwich from the press or the pan and let cool a bit, the filing will be mad hot right out of the press. Be careful.
  8. Enjoy! It’s a little slice of heaven, isn’t it?
  9. Repeat.  You’ll want to make one for someone else… 🙂

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today! Aren’t you glad you don’t have to drive over to the Olde Time Bakery for a pastry that will only make you feel badly about yourself? Hooray!!

01 Jun 2013 Lemon Ice Cream

lemon ice cream closer

Bet you’ve never had Lemon Ice Cream!  Not lemon sorbet, or lemon sherbet, or lemon granita  or lemon frozen yogurt,  but lemon ice cream–creamy, rich, sweet, intense  lemon ice cream. Intrigued?  Tempted? I hope so, because I have a simple, oh-so-good recipe for you.  You do have an ice cream maker, right?  I use a “frozen bowl” ice cream maker, which seem to be everywhere for $40-$50 now, but sometimes you can get lucky.  This weekend my friend Sharon bought one at a garage sale for $5, and I saw one at  Savers for $12.99.

Homemade ice cream is very, very rich, and Lemon Ice Cream is no exception.  Serve small scoops (with an option for seconds, of course).  This recipe makes a quart of ice cream, richer and more filling than even the most premium commercial ice creams.  One quart of this ice cream will serve as many people as a half gallon of that store bought stuff.

I like to serve this ice cream on fruit pie, crisps and cobblers. My friend Sharon, whom I mentioned above, bought her ice cream maker after I fed her berry crisp with a scoop of this lemon ice cream.  This ice cream is also fantastic as a filling for an ice-cream sandwich.  To make a truly gourmet ice cream sandwich place a small scoop of Lemon Ice Cream between two ginger cookies, squish the sandwich a bit, square the filling up a bit, maybe roll the sides in a bit of chopped chocolate-milk, semi-sweet or white, then put the little bites of heaven in the freezer to firm up.   My pregnant daughter likes to eat  Lemon Ice Cream “as is” straight from a glass bowl with a long spoon.  She downed the sample above in one breath (at 9 o’clock in the morning one week before her due date!).

This recipe was first published in Gourmet magazine in 1999.  I’ve been making it since May 25, 2003.  Yes, I marked the date on my copy of the recipe, with this note, “Delicious and simple!”  “Simple” was written in caps and underlined twice!

Lemon Ice Cream

1 large lemon (zest plus 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice)

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup cold milk (I usually only have 2% at home, so that’s what I use)

1 cup well chilled heavy cream

 

With a vegetable peeler or microplane remove the zest from the lemon, do NOT include any of that bitter white pith in with the zest.  Put the sugar and the lemon peel in a food processor or blender and whirl until the sugar is finely ground and the lemon zest has been incorporated into the sugar. Add in the milk and the cream (On occasion, I have used 2 cups half-and-half instead of the milk and cream mixture).  Blend just to combine.  Stir in 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice.  Process in ice cream maker for about 20 minutes.  Place soft ice cream in a freezer safe bowl, and set in freezer to harden up a bit (a few hours).  Ice Cream will keep at least a week, if not more, in the freezer but I doubt you will have to test the outer limits.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!  Looks like the next few days are going to be scorchers.  Stay cool. Squeeze lemons. Make ice cream. By the way, I think the picture above is one of the best so far for this blog.  My webmaster, Ratty, fixed it up real nice, didn’t she?

27 Nov 2012 Mini Apple Pies

I hear mini pies are all the rage now. Bye-bye cake pops and chocolate with bacon, hellooooooo mini pies!  Here’s a great recipe with which to start.  Having made this recipe a few times, I now know a few things things about mini pies.  1.  The filing needs to be seasoned more than that of a regular pie 2.  The filling needs more “syrup”.

At first, I questioned this recipe; why put that much flour into the filling (I thought would taste, well, flour-y, and, having baked many a pie before, I was sure cornstarch or tapioca would be a better choice) and HOLY MOLY, I like cinnamon but a heaping tablespoon of cinnamon to 8 cups of apples?  In a weak moment, I did something completely out of character,  questioning the recipe all the way to the taste test,  I baked it,  “as is”.   (Did ya faint?!)

The recipe worked beautifully!  The filing is not flour-y nor is it too cinnamon-y. The recipe works because the extra flavor and the extra syrup is needed  in order for the filing to stand up to extra crust of a mini pie!  Well, of course!

I made these Mini Pies for the 22 members of my Dining For Women group who came to my house for a meeting last night.  I lost count of how many people asked me for the recipe, so that has prompted me, at long last, to post another recipe.

I found this recipe at Little Bit Funky.  There are lots of nice, helpful pictures posted there.  The picture showing the size of the cut apples is especially helpful (dice don’t slice!).

Mini pies are great to take to potlucks.  No knife or pie slice needed to serve.  No plate or fork needed to eat (just pick the mini pie out of the cupcake liner and bite! If there are any crumbs, a well placed cupcake liner catches them), and no one seems to even think of wanting whipped cream or ice-cream with mini pie. Whooo HOOOO!

 Mini Apple Pies

  • 8 cups of chopped fresh apples (I like granny smith or pippin mixed with jonagold or golden delicious…but in a pinch I use whatever I can get my hands on), diced to about ½” by ½” by ½”.
  • ¾ cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups sugar (yes, it’s a lot, but again, the extra syrup is needed)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 4 tablespoons butter, cut into 24 small chunks
  • 2 boxes Pillsbury pie crusts (that’s 4 crusts), or if you are fabulous, 2 recipes of homemade pastry
  • a tiny bit of milk, cream or half-and-half
  • a tiny bit of white or raw sugar
  • decorative cupcake liners to display and serve, if desired

 Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400° F.
  2. Unroll the pie crust and cut to fit into the bottom of 24 cupcake tins (no need to spray or line the tins).  I used a 3 ¼” round cookie cutter, but the ring from a mason jar, and probably a ring made from a well washed tuna can with the top and bottom removed would work too.  Save the pastry scraps to re-roll for the top crust.
  3. Refrigerate the dough in the tins while you prepare the apples.
  4. Peel,  core, and dice the apples.
  5. Pour prepared apples into a large bowl and completely coat with the flour, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  6. Remove the pie crusts from the refrigerator.
  7. Divide the apples between the 24 bottom crusts.  You should have enough apple filling to “mound” into the pie crust.
  8. Top each mound with a piece of butter.
  9. Re-roll the leftover pastry and cut circles (or shapes if you want to get fancy) to form the top crust.
  10. Use you fingers to press the top crust into the bottom crust.
  11. Brush each top crust with a bit of milk, half-and-half, or cream and then sprinkle with sugar.
  12. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes  (check at 20 minutes, then every 2 minutes after that until the pies are perfectly browned).
  13. Cool in pans.  You should have no trouble removing the pies from the cupcake tin.  I like to put each pie into a decorative cupcake liner at this point.

Enjoy!

I have made mini mincemeat pies for years, but now I have another mini pie to add to the platter for all the mincemeat haters of the world! (BTW, in my experience, mincemeat haters are usually people who have never even tried mincemeat).  If there is a loud ruckus from the mincemeat lovers out there I just might share my recipe for mini mincemeat pies (with my personal secret ingredient) in another post!

Happy baking!  Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today (I’ve missed you…)

 

01 Sep 2012 Banana Pancakes with Caramel Syrup

Hmpfff…, just got through looking at the two hundred and seventeen pictures of a recent bride’s Hawaiian honeymoon.  As one of her friends commented, “The envy hurts”!  I went to Hawaii once.  I did.  It was with my kids’ swim team.  I forget exactly how many 8 – 14 year old’s were on that trip, but it was over a hundred. And a handful of chaperones and coaches. I sure know how to vacation in Hawaii.  NOT.

This morning I was inspired, by the aforementioned 217 pictures, to bring a bit of Hawaii to the breakfast table.  One of the few things I remember about my trip to Hawaii, aside from the twelve year old climbing from one balcony to another–yes, balconies on the outside of the building, outside of  the eighth floor no less–were the breakfasts.  Most mornings we had sushi from the ABC store, and I know most of you won’t relish that,  but one morning, I think it was the last one, we had some wonderful coconutty-banana pancakes.  I think by this time we had locked the kids in their rooms, turned on the TV, handed them a box Twinkies, and thrown away the keys. Yes, I am pretty sure it was an adult only breakfast that morning…

Yep…, transported to the tropics with banana pancakes!  If I had sprinkled the top of the pancakes with a bit of toasted coconut or some diced macadamia nuts I could have been transported even closer to the tropics. These pancakes raise high and are wonderfully light.  The syrup is as sweet as maple syrup, but with a lovely caramel flavor that really makes the pancakes shine.  I found this recipe on epicurious.com (love that site).  I shared these pancakes with one of the kids who went on the trip with me.  She’s almost all grown up now, but I will always remember how she loved Hawaii 🙂 Ohhhh, OK, I do have many wonderful memories of a vacation in Hawaii…

A few notes on this recipe.  If you don’t have self-raising flour, add 1 tsp of baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt to each cup of flour and to make your own homemade self-raising flour.  Don’t have buttermilk?  Stir 1 T lemon juice or 1 T. white vinegar into each cup of milk and let sit for 5 minutes; but next time you are at the store, buy two buttermilk cartons, one to use now and one to store in the freezer for next time (never run out of buttermilk).  Buttermilk powder is also a nice ingredient to have on hand (available on the baking aisle of most larger supermarkets), use as directed. The last option is to substitute yogurt (vanilla, plain, greek, banana) mixed with a little milk until the mixture has a thick pouring consistency for the buttermilk.

Don’t want to go to Hawaii?  Want to go down South?  Substitute peaches for the bananas, and add bourbon to the sauce, and throw some diced pecans over the tops of the pancakes!

Banana Pancakes with Caramel-Banana Syrup 

3 large bananas, peeled, divided use

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted, divided use
3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar, divided use
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or rum)
2 cups self-rising flour
2 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs
toasted coconut, diced macadamia nuts or pecans, optional

Whisk flour 1/4 cup brown sugar in large bowl. In another bowl mash one banana, then stir in buttermilk , eggs, and 1/4 cup melted butter.  Pour the banana mixture over the dry ingredients (some lumps will remain). Heat griddle over medium heat; brush with melted butter or spray with a cooking spray.  Pour batter by 1/3 cupfuls onto griddle. Cook pancakes until golden, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer pancakes to baking sheet; and place in 200 degree oven to keep warm, if desired.

Combine 1/4 cup melted butter, 1/2 cup light brown sugar, and 1/4 cup water in a saucepan. Bring mixture to boil over medium-high heat, and simmer until mixture thickens slightly, about 2 minutes. Slice 2 bananas into 1/4-inch-thick rounds and add to syrup along with vanilla extract. Remove syrup from heat and let sit while you finish cooking pancakes.

Serve pancakes with caramel-banana syrup, and toasted coconut and/or chopped nuts for sprinkling on top of hot pancakes.

Aloha! Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!

23 Sep 2011 Apple Pie Cake

With a name like “Apple Pie Cake,” how could I not try this recipe?  I saw a picture of this Apple Pie Cake on Pinterest a few days ago.  (OMG have you visited Pinterest?   I happily waste a lot of time on that website.  I love, love, love it!  It’s like I am writing my own magazine.  I choose the subjects, the articles, and the pictures and have the whole thing saved so I can flip through the pages whenever I want…, but I digress 🙂 Onto this fabulous recipe…!

This is a Martha Stewart recipe.  I have never been a big fan of Martha. To be honest, she scares me.  Doesn’t she seem a bit abrupt?  And imperial?  I get the feeling she’s looking  down her nose at me.  I feel frumpy and incompetent when she’s on TV.  It’s a surprise I tried this recipe actually!  I’m so glad I did though.

I love fruit based desserts.  Mix some fruit with flour, butter, sugar, and cinnamon, bake it until it all melts together and I’ll fall all over myself getting to the table. This recipe results in sort of an apple crisp turned pie that looks like a cake!  De-licious! Easier-than-pie and much easier-than-cake. It’s best eaten the day it’s made, the crust softens a bit after a night in the refrigerator, but no one would turn down a leftover slice. No one.

I tried a slice of this with whipped cream, and a slice of it without whipped cream.  I can’t believe I am saying this, but I liked it better without the whipped cream.   I haven’t tried this with a scoop of vanilla ice cream yet.  I guess I should make another,  just to test that out 😉

I found the recipe at MarthaStewart.com.  And I did make a few changes to the recipe…  The original recipe called for 5 lbs of apples (about 12).  I bought that many, but only used about 3 ½ lbs (6 large apples).  I added a bit of sugar, 1/3 cup, to the apples with the cinnamon, but Martha didn’t.  You can leave the extra sugar out if you’d like.

Apple Pie Cake

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon (divided use)
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 3-4 pounds (about 6) tart apples, such as Granny Smith
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • dash of nutmeg (optional, I added this, I love nutmeg…)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine flour, brown sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Using a food processor, electric mixer, or pastry cutter, cut in butter until the mixture forms pea-size pieces.
  3. Press 2/3 of the mixture onto bottom and 1 inch up the side of a 9-inch spring form pan.
  4. Peel apples, cut into thin slices, and place in a bowl. Pour off any accumulated liquid.  (I didn’t have any)
  5. Toss apple slices with remaining teaspoon cinnamon and lemon juice, and optional 1/3 cup granulated sugar.
  6. Place prepared apples over the “crust” in the prepared pan, pressing down gently as you pack them in.
  7. Sprinkle remaining crumb mixture on top of the apples.
  8. Put the pan on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet, and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until golden brown on top.
  9. Run a knife around the edge of the pan, and let the cake cool in the pan to set.
  10. Dust the top of the cake with confectioners’ sugar. Remove the sides of the spring form pan and place on decorative plate to serve.
  11. Serve at room temperature.

I’ll be making this again on Monday night for my Dining For Women meeting.  I know the women will appreciate it.  I also think I will make this for Thanksgiving.  It’s so EASY, and delicious.  I hope  you try this recipe and like it as much as I do.  Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today…, and stop by my Pinterest pages, too!!