Saturday, February 28, 2015

Old Fashioned Hermits

I made Hermits over the summer last year.  They were delicious.  I saw these old fashioned Hermits made without molasses. I decided to give them a try.  Mind you this recipe is suppose to have nuts and raisins in it but I knew if I included these, the kids would not have eaten them. They were good but I think I like the molasses ones a little better.  If you are not big on molasses though then these are the cookie for you.  This is an old fashioned recipe from Betty Crocker.

"So what is a Hermit? Hermits originally were a plain cookie with spices and raisins or currants added. They started out with brown sugar in the Champlain Valley of New York which is across Lake Champlain from New England’s Vermont. In New England Hermits started out with white sugar which continued up until the 1930’s. A decade or two later white sugar and molasses came into use by New Englanders which has become the modern day standard. No matter what the sugar type a combination of spices and dried fruit either raisin or currants was the early standard. By the mid-1900s nuts were being added to Hermits and a variety of dried fruits like dates, figs, apricots and citrons. This last development took ingredients associated with Boston Cookies and integrated into the Hermits. Homemade versions call for dropped or rolled & cut cookies. The commercial bakery version is different it was and still is baked in long wide lengths and cut into squares. This shape is what most people associate with Hermits. Cookies in general keep a long time like the Centennial Cookies, as they dry out over time. However, for the best taste cookies are best eaten fresh.

It is likely Hermits developed in the Lake Champlain region. Whether it first occurred in Vermont or New York may never be known.  New England cook books show Hermits recipes no matter what the name they were published under early on were well liked and spread throughout the region." (New England Recipes).

Old Fashioned Hermits
1 cup shortening
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
3½ cups flour
½ cup cold coffee
1 teaspoon cinnamon 
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
Cream sugar and shortening.  Add in eggs, then coffee. Mix dry ingredients separately.  Add in to wet ingredients until just combined.  Chill for two hours. Bake at 400F for 8 to 10 minutes.
Original Hermits
Recipe from Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book (1880), page 330
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 cup raisins, chopped
3 eggs
½ teaspoon baking soda dissolved in
3 tablespoons milk
1 nutmeg, grated [or 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg]
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
6 cups flour

Mix and roll out ¼” thick, cut with a round cake cutter.
Bake in a quick oven [350 degrees] for 12 minutes

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Apple Cinnamon Sauce

This morning I was helping my daughter pack her lunch to expedite the process.  She is a tweener.  That really should be all I need to say for you Mothers out there that understand the life of living with a tween. Sometimes she is my best friend and sometimes her evil twin takes over and she is anything but a friend.  She is a vegetarian and now and her BFF is allergic to peanut butter.  That makes finding healthy, satisfying food difficult to find.  So I said that to her this morning as I told her what else could we find for her lunch that would hold her over her whole day plus play practice after school or even a snack that she could have to tide her over until dinner.  So she lays this comment on me, curt and sarcastic.  I look at her with shock.  I said I was trying to help you understand what it is like for me in trying to come up with things for you to eat. Then I lost it. Not as in yelling but rather crying because no matter how hard I try to help them, sometimes it feels like it is never enough.  No it most often feels like it is never enough. I think that is one of the hardest things for me as a Mom. I left the room and calmly said, "you can finish packing your lunch then." No apologies for her curt comments and lately there have been a lot of them directed at all of us, really.  She left the house never even saying goodbye. Sigh.

I think I meant to tell you about these months ago.  They just got buried in the pool of stuff to do.  In any case you can book mark it for next apple season.  Or if apples are still around you can make some of these nice little treats for yourself now.

Maybe she could pack these in her lunch...  She, of course, not me.

Makes 7 pints

3 1/2 cups sugar
5 cups water
Cinnamon red hot candies
8 to 10 large apples, peeled and cored apples and sliced into thick wedges

Bring the sugar and water to a boil. Cover and set aside.

Fill canner with water and begin to heat.

In 7 wide mouth pint jars, add cinnamon red hot candies – use according to your liking. A couple tablespoons- more or less. Then pack apple wedges into jars, as many as you can fit in a jar.  Leave 1/2 inch at top of jars empty. Fill jars with simple syrup up to within a quarter inch of top of jar. Place lids and rings on.

Place jars in a hot water bath. Bring to a boil. Start timing for 20 minutes once the boil begins. Turn off heat and let sit for 10 minutes uncovered. Remove jars and place on towel on top of counter. Make sure each jar has sealed. This can take up to two hours.  If there is no seal, keep unsealed jars in fridge for up to two weeks before using.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Potatoes and Lentils

I boiled some red potatoes as they were starting to sprout.  I put them in the fridge as I had no use for them at that particular time.  But next day when I was pondering what vegetarian meal I could make for my daughter I decided to use them. I pan fried them and added some Vegetarian "meat".  At the last minute I stirred in a tablespoon of sour cream, garlic powder and salt and pepper.  I place a few slices of Jack cheese over top and then turned off the heat and put on the lid. I loved it.  I made it again with lentils.  Equally yummy in my opinion.
I found this video pretty hysterical. I love the comments they make!

The last time I made lentils I boiled them with Montreal Steak Seasoning in the water. About a tablespoon for a cup of lentils.  My Mom had handed the spice down to me.  Goodness knows how old it is.  If you like the idea I recommend that you use a  little less if your spice is newer and more pungent.  I really liked how it flavored the lentils and plan to do it again real soon.  It was nice to have that jar of lentils to pull from to make her something quick or even to make myself something quick and nutritious.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Best Fudgy Brownies Ever

I think this is the BEST brownie I have ever made! These brownies are fudgy, rich and chocolaty.  They are not overly sweet- just right! They were our Valentine's treat. They disappeared like, poof!

Best Fudgy Brownies

Makes 16 brownies

3/4 cup or 6 ounces unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup unbleached flour

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease an 9-inch square pan. Line the pan with parchment paper so that a couple inches hang over the edge. 
Place the butter in a medium saucepan and melt over medium-high heat. Allow the butter to cook until the milk solids bubble up and then settle into the pan and caramelize. Swirl the butter in the pan in order to see the color of the little bits on the bottom. As soon as the milk solids are golden and the butter smells nutty, about 3 to 5 minutes, remove the pan from the heat.
Add the chopped chocolate to the browned butter and let stand for 1 minute to melt and then whisk together. Pour it into the sugar and and vanilla while the butter mixture is still warm. Whisk in the eggs, salt, and espresso powder until completely incorporated. 
Directly over the bowl with the chocolate mixture, sift in the cocoa powder and flour. Fold the ingredients together until just combined using a spatula.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  

Monday, February 16, 2015

Pork Braciole with Ragu

Tomorrow is Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday.  The craziness in New Orleans begins.  But this post is not about some New Orleans food.  It's about the Italian Carnivale.  It's about Red Pack Tomatoes celebration of Carnivale with a giveaway for you!  Yes, you!
I wanted to make something special for the occassion so I went for the Braciole.  I have never made it before.  I had most of the things on hand to make the recipe.  Along with a couple cans of Red Pack crushed tomatoes that Red Pack shared with me.  It came together way easier than I had ever imagined it would.  Pounding the meat was the hardest part.  The rest, just throwing things into the pan, per the usual.

So what does ragu mean?  It means "(in Italian cooking) a sauce typically made with ground meat, onions, tomato puree, and red wine, and served with pasta".  So technically I made ragu but it did not include pasta

Pork Braciole with Ragu

1 cup panko
1/4 cup parsley
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 tablespoons golden raisins, soaked in warm water for 15 min.and drained

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
One 2-1/2 lb. boneless pork loin roast, cut into 16 slices and pounded 1/8" thick
1/4 pound bacon

1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup red wine
Two 28-oz. cans Red Pack crushed tomatoes, juice included
1 tablespoon basil, dried
1 teaspoon oregano, dried

1. Slice your meat into, roughly four inch by four inch pieces, about an inch thick. Set aside in a cool place.

2. Make the stuffing.
Cook 1/2 pound of bacon in large skillet.  Once it is browned, add in the onion, Cook until it is translucent.  

Combine panko crumbs, 3 tablespoons parsley, the cheese, garlic, toasted pine nuts, plumped up raisins (soak them in hot water for 15 minutes) and the onion/bacon mixture. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Spoon the filling into the meat and roll it up tight, pinching at the end and inserting a few toothpicks into it to keep it closed up.

4. In that same skillet with the onion and bacon, brown the rolled up meat.  Turning to meat with tongs and browning as many sides as you can.

5. Pour in the wine and cook until more than half is evaporated, about 5 minutes.

6. Reduce the heat to low, add the tomatoes, oregano, basil, remaining parsely, salt, and pepper, and simmer until the meat is tender, around 30 minutes. Remove the rolls, turn the heat to high, and reduce the sauce until thickened, about 7 minutes. Then turn the heat off and return the rolls to the sauce.

Approximately 420 calories per serving.

Do you want to enter for the giveaway?  It's Simple. Leave a comment below saying what your favorite Italian dish is or what is the most unique Italian dish you ever ate was.

One entry per person. Enter by March 3rd at midnight.

One winner will be drawn at random.

Winner will be announced on March 4th.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Socca with Mediterranean Seasonings

If you have made crepes before then you can make socca.  Socca is a crepe made of chick pea flour. Socca hails from Nice, France.  Naturally gluten free as it is made from garbanzo beans.  Lower in carbs and actually pretty high in protein with all the eggs and beans.

This recipe can be halved. I make a lot because I like it toasted and trying to find something gluten free in the morning to go with my eggs can often turn up nothing.  I like to reheat it in the toaster oven.  If you don't have za'tar (a Mediterranean spice), you can easily replace it with Herbs de Provence or Italian seasonings.

3 cups besan/chick pea flour
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/3 olive oil (go with a 1/4 cup if you halve it)
1 cup water
2 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons za'tar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons salt
Measure out the chick pea flour, salt and spices into a mixing bowl.  In a separate bowl combine buttermilk, oil, water and eggs together with a whisk. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Combine thoroughly and then stir in sesame seeds.
Heat up a non stick skillet on to medium heat. You want it to be warm before you begin.  With a 1/2 cup ladle, pour out 2/3rds of it onto pan.  With the back of the ladle or a spoon, smooth out the liquid, extending in circles in an outward motion.  If you run a little thin just go back over that area with a little liquid.  You want it to be as thin as possible but without holes.  Keep in mind that the first crepe rarely comes out right.  For as long as I made crepes- these or the other ones with regular flour, I can never get the first one to come out right.  

Heat the crepe until it has lost its sheen, then flip.  Just cook briefly on the other side.  You can stack them, they won't stick.   They are pretty pliable after the first time you make them. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Pasta e Fagioli

The kind folks at Red Pack offered to give me this lovely tomato package in exchange for a recipe featuring their tomatoes.  Let, me think about that (no time passage)- Yes! I definitely like their product so that was kind of a no brainer.
I used the tomato paste for my sauce.  I use tomato paste all the time for many things. Making dressings for salads, thickening sauce, add to soup, add to bean dishes...  One of my favorite ways that I use paste is to make pizza sauce. To make the pizza sauce, mix tomato paste with an equal 1 -2 cans of water, along with 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, 1 tablespoon of sugar (as my kids and husband like a sweet sauce) and 1 teaspoon oregano. Easy peasy.  The first time I made pizza this way, they said, Wow! Love the sauce. 

Then I made pasta e fagioli- a souped up variety with more veggies that I usually put in.  Amazing! It turned out delicious.

Okay, in my case- just Fagioli.  But for the rest of the clan, they had the combo.

Pasta e Fagioli

1 fennel bulb, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, quartered then halved
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (29 ounce) can Red Pack Crushed Tomatoes
1 (29 ounce) can Red Pack Diced Tomatoes
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons basil
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 (15 ounce) can cannellini beans
1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans
grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese for serving in bowls

1 pound ditalini pasta

Sauté garlic, fennel and onion in olive oil until lightly golden.  Pour into crockpot.  Pour both cans of tomatoes, parsley, basil, oregano, salt, cannelini beans, garbanzo beans.  Heat on low in crockpot for 4 to six hours.  Right before serving cook pasta in water, drain, then combine with pasta.  Serve in bowls and sprinkle with parmesan or asiago.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Fritters

We just made it through many birthday parties around here.  It gets a little busy after Christmas, or rather it just stays busy.  I have none of that Christmas let down.  My daughters always have to have parties with their friends as well as parties with the family.  That usually makes for about four parties.  I am not complaining mind you, its just busy.

I was thinking today about the quick passage of time, the way time speeds up as you get older.  I remember when I saw the American Freedom Train as a little girl.  I thought about how our country was started 200 years ago.  Wow, that sure was a long time ago, I thought.  Now, its not nearly as long as I used to think it was.  If  a person lives to 100 that would be half the time.  Its just really a few generations.  It will be 250 years next year that our country was founded.  How quickly that went.

Now onto fritters!

Cauliflower and Sweet Potato Fritters
Recipe adapted from BHG.  Find the original here.

3 pounds sweet potatoes (about 5 medium), peeled and cut into 1 1/2- to 2-inch chunks
1 small head cauliflower (2 pounds), cored and broken into 1 1/2- to 2-inch florets
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red onion (1 cup), peeled and cut into chunks
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons finely chopped sage
2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 egg
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs

Oil for frying such as vegetable or corn

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Place cut sweet potatoes and cauliflower on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and toss with salt and pepper. Divide them on the baking sheet- cauliflower on one side, sweet potatoes on the other side. Roast, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until browned and just tender, stirring halfway through. Let stand 10 minutes.

In a food processor combine onion and garlic; pulse until finely chopped. Transfer to a very large bowl. Add cauliflower to processor and pulse until chopped; transfer to the bowl with onion. Process sweet potatoes, half at a time, in food processor until coarsely mashed. Add to bowl with cauliflower.
Add sage, rosemary, salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and cayenne pepper to bowl with potato mixture. Stir to combine. Add egg and flour and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate potato mixture for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.

Add 1-inch of oil to a large skillet; heat over medium heat for 10 minutes or until 350 degrees F. Place panko in a shallow dish. Using a 1/3-cup measure, shape the sweet potato mixture into 16 balls and roll in panko to coat. Place a little piece in the oil. If the oil goes to work immediately than your oil is hot enough- if not then it probably isnt and that means taht your fritter is going to absorb a lot of oil. Place fritters in skillet, 5 or 6 at a time, and cook for 6 to 8 minutes or until browned and heated through (160 degrees F), turning to brown evenly. Transfer to a paper towel-lined tray to drain. Serve warm.