Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Gourmet Spiced Ketchup - it dances on your tongue

One of the things my Mom experimented with when I was a child was canning ketchup.  We liked it okay but it was a tad on the clove-y side.  She didn't make it again.  Was not impressed- too much work and it didn't have a wow factor.  I wish she did try it again with some different spice combinations.  Well, I picked up the torch, despite my past mediocre experience, I made ketchup.  I am glad I did- this stuff rocks.  It makes regular ketchup seem so ubiquitous.  This ketchup has spices that get up and dance on your tongue and party in your mouth.  I can't wait to try it with a burger.

I didn't can/process this.  I gave away some, froze some and refrigerated some. 

Gourmet Spiced Ketchup

4 quarts peeled and chopped tomatoes
1 cup white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon canola oil or other flavorless oil
2 cups chopped onions
1 teaspoon cayenne*
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes*
1 teaspoon allspice, ground
1 teaspoon coriander, ground
1 teaspoon cardamom, ground

1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons paprika

Spice Bundle Contents
You can use a coffee filter or cheesecloth to make your bundle, tie up with string and drop in to the tomatoes.

4 cloves
2 tablespoons celery seeds
3 tablespoons mustard seeds
1 cinnamon stick
3 garlic cloves, halved

In boiling water drop tomatoes and let boil for one minute.  Set on a cookie sheet and when cool enough to handle, core and peel tomatoes, cutting off any bad spots. Cut into quarters. 

In a large soup pot heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil and saute onions until translucent.  Add tomatoes and the remainder of ingredients.  Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and let the mixture simmer uncovered for a couple hours.  Stir occassionally, especially toward the end of the cooking process when mixture has reduced considerably.  You want the mixture to plop of the spoon rather than pour.

Remove spice bundle and blend mixture in batches, pouring into decorative jars for gift giving.

*This stuff has some serious kick, if you do not like hot spice in your food I recommend reducing it or omitting it all together.  I would put in some peppercorns (about a teaspoon) to the spice bundle if you omit the heat.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Daring Bakers: Cut Out Cookies

The Daring Bakers challenge for this month was sugar cut out cookies.  We had to make the recipe given and then decorate it.  This is one of my all time favorite cookies. I gladly made them. Decorating is always fun.  Something I enjoy doing at Christmas time with my children.  I think it is a great recipe to make with a bunch of people- different ideas and so much fun. 

I couldn't resist making my lips here for Lipsmacking Goodness.  I think they are my favorite of all the ones I did. 
These are with my new stamp from Williams Sonoma (no, they are not paying me to say that- nor did they give me the stamp).  I remember seeing a stamp with letters on Tartelette's site a couple years ago.  I wanted it but could not find it locally.  I looked and looked.  I searched on the internet.  I found one on EBay but I could not justify the price.  Then I saw these new ones on Williams Sonoma's website and I totally broke down and bought it.  I will have making cookies for the kids with this tool.

Pictured borrowed from William Sonoma.

I had to do a bit of a Halloween theme as it is coming up and really I do nothing for Halloween because I do not like the 'holiday' too much.  I do make costumes and that is about the extent of it. For my kids I made a few jack o lanterns.  These are the Mr. and Mrs.

The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.

Basic Sugar Cookies:
Makes Approximately 36x 10cm / 4" Cookies
200g / 7oz / ½ cup + 6 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
400g / 14oz / 3 cups + 3 Tbsp All Purpose / Plain Flour
200g / 7oz / 1 cup Caster Sugar / Superfine Sugar
1 Large Egg, lightly beaten
5ml / 1 tsp Vanilla Extract / Or seeds from 1 vanilla bean
• Cream together the butter, sugar and any flavourings you’re using. Beat until just becoming
creamy in texture.
Tip: Don’t over mix otherwise you’ll incorporate too much air and the cookies will spread during
baking, losing their shape.

• Beat in the egg until well combined, make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Add the sifted flour and mix on low until a non sticky dough forms.
Tip: I don’t have a stand mixer so I find it easier to switch to dough hooks at this stage to avoid
flour flying everywhere.

• Knead into a ball and divide into 2 or 3 pieces.
• Roll out each portion between parchment paper to a thickness of about 5mm/1/5 inch (0.2 inch)
• Refrigerate for a minimum of 30mins.
Tip: Recipes commonly just wrap the whole ball of dough in clingwrap and then refrigerate it for an
hour or overnight, but by rolling the dough between parchment, this shortens the chilling time and
then it’s also been rolled out while still soft making it easier and quicker.

• Once chilled, peel off parchment and place dough on a lightly floured surface.
• Cut out shapes with cookie cutters or a sharp knife.
• Arrange shapes on parchment lined baking sheets and refrigerate for another 30mins to an hour.
Tip: It’s very important you chill them again otherwise they’ll spread while baking.
• Re-roll scraps and follow the above process until all scraps are used up.
• Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C Fan Assisted) / 350°F / Gas Mark 4.
• Bake until golden around the edges, about 8-15mins depending on the size of the cookies.
Tip: Bake same sized cookies together otherwise mixing smaller with larger cookies could result in
some cookies being baked before others are done.

Tip: Rotate baking sheets half way through baking if your oven bakes unevenly.
• Leave to cool on cooling racks.
• Once completely cooled, decorate as desired.
Tip: If wrapped in tinfoil/cling wrap or kept in airtight containers in a cool place, un-decorated
cookies can last up to a month.

I used a different recipe for the frosting and wish I had used this one instead as mine was kind of stiff to work with.

Royal Icing:

315g – 375g / 11oz – 13oz / 2½ - 3 cups Icing / Confectioner’s / Powdered Sugar, unsifted

2 Large Egg Whites

10ml / 2 tsp Lemon Juice

5ml / 1 tsp Almond Extract, optional


• Beat egg whites with lemon juice until combined.

• Tip: It’s important that the bowls/spoons/spatulas and beaters you use are thoroughly cleaned and grease free.

• Sift the icing sugar to remove lumps and add it to the egg whites.

• Tip: I’ve listed 2 amounts of icing sugar, the lesser amount is good for a flooding consistency, and the larger amount is for outlining, but you can add even more for a much thicker consistency good for writing. If you add too much icing sugar or would like to make a thinner consistency, add very small amounts of water, a few drops at a time, until you reach the consistency you need.

• Beat on low until combined and smooth.

• Use immediately or keep in an airtight container.

• Tip: Royal Icing starts to harden as soon as it’s in contact with air so make sure to cover containers with plastic wrap while not in use.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Yellow Cake- my new go to recipe

I REALLY loved this cake.  It was by far the most fabulous yellow cake I have ever made.  It was sturdy but didnt dry out the next day either.  In two days it was completely gone- and it wasnt all me.  I dont think I will ever try another yellow cake recipe again.  This is my go to yellow cake, my "box cake mix" ( minus the box).

My birthday was crazy.  It was one of those days...  I messed up the filling that I was going to use for the cake, a bird pooped on my windshield right in my line of vision on the way to go pick up my husband who I had previously missed at another bus stop.  By the end of the day I was in tears, which was shortly followed by contagious, hilarious laughter.  Because it was so darn ironic!  But my husband made up for it on the week end following.  He took me out to dinner at an Indian restaurant.  They specialize in North Indian cuisine.  I ordered beef biryani and it was SO GOOD!  I really enjoyed it.  A wonderful date night. 

Yellow Cake

3 cups cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup  or 6 ounces unsalted butter, room temp
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs room temp
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350F.  Butter two nine inch rounds.

In a small bowl commbine dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking salt and salt.  In a large bowl combine butter and sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about five minutes. Add eggs one at a time.  Fully incorporate the egg before adding the next one.  Scrape down sides periodically to make sure everything gets fully mixed.  Add flour and add buttermilk alternately- ending with the dry ingredients.

Pour into prepared pans and bake for 30 to 40 minutes in a 9 x 13.

I frosted it with the same kind of frosting at the lemon drop cookies, minus the lemon, adding vanilla instead.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Lemon Luscious Drops

I told my husband I would make something for his company lunch/picnic.  Of course you know I love to bake and this is great because I get to bake and then it goes out of the house so I don't eat it all.  Then I make it and I immediately worry, "is it okay?"  "will other people like it?". So off these little lemon drops went to his picnic shindig.  You know its always a good sign when someone wants the recipe.  And someone does.  Now I will share them with all of you as well. 

And, uh, hold onto your seat, because, I, yes I, used a box cake mix.  Shiver me timbers!  I know, I am gettin' wild on yah.

Lemon Luscious Drops

¼ cup (1/2 stick or 2 ounces) melted butter (I browned it for a little more flavor)
1 cup ricotta (not non-fat)or cottage cheese (full fat)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon lemon extract
Zest of 1 lemon
1 (18.25 ounce) package lemon cake mix

When you mix this up it may seem a little dry- just keep going it all come together eventually.

Cream the butter and ricotta together until fluffy. Add egg and beat until combined. Mix in extract and lemon zest. Finally, add in cake mix.

Scoop up and shape into balls and place on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350F for ten to twelve minutes depending on your oven.

The frosting really makes these cookies I think.

Lemony Butter Frosting

lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juce
1/2 cup (4 ounces) butter
pinch of salt
2 cups (plus) confectioners sugar to get the consistency you desire
2 tablespoons heavy cream (Not necessary but I did beat it in to lighten the frosting a little) Lighten as in lift not calories.

Beat butter and add in remainder of ingredients beating slowly until confectioners is incorporated (less you take a bath in confectioners).  Once it is all in go ahead and whip it a good five minutes.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Eggplant Parmesan

This here is eggplant parmesan.  While I love it- it sure is a pain in the neck to make. It's so worth it though. Always when I make it, I make three batches.  One big one and two smaller ones for the freezer.  We get our fill while eggplant is in season and stock up for a day when I have other things to do and need some "fast food".  My husband always says when I make these big batches, lets eat it all now.  You can tell he does not do the cooking. If he did he would understand that the foods I freeze come in handy at a later date when I am either too busy or bored with cooking.
I do peel my eggplant because I hate dealing with the skin if it is not tender enough.  I want to eat my eggplant parm unencumbered by pieces I have to get rid of while eating.

Eggplant Parmesan

For a modest 1- 9x13, you will need:

6-8 eggs, beat in a bowl
3-4 cups seasoned bread crumbs
approximately 4- 10 inch eggplants
8- 10 cups marinara sauce
1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
2 cups, plus canola oil for frying

Peel and slice in 1/2 inch slices. This was my sous chef- oh, the abuse he takes for this crazy baker/cook.

I will not hide the fact that eggplant parmesan is a messy endeavor because it is one of the messiest. Dip the slices in egg and then in the breadcrumbs. I use seasoned.  A lot of people salt their eggplant after slicing.  One of these days I will try it that way, it's just that this is the way I was taught.

Now, it is time for frying those beauties. Really, they are pretty darn good eating at this stage too.  (I have been known to eat one or two like this, shhhhh).

Layer them in a 9x13 baking dish. Layers like this: sauce, eggplant, overlapping a bit, more sauce and a sprinkling of parmesan or pecorino romano or asiago... When putting on the sauce make sure to put it in thin layers. I do about a cup and half between the layers.

Bake in a 375F oven for about 45 minutes, covered with foil. The last fifteen minutes remove foil.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Raspberries and Cream Tart... Farewell Fair Summer

While I am very happy to welcome autumn (my favorite season)- I am bit sad to see some of the summer fruits and vegetables disappearing from the farmers market.  This is my goodbye to summer tart.

Raspberries and Cream Tart

For the tart:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
pinch of salt
1 egg
4 1/2 ounces butter (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon)

In a processor combine flour, sugar and salt. While processor is running drop butter by small pieces and finally the egg. Once a dough ball is formed remove from processor. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour and up to overnight.

Roll out to a 1/4 inch thick and place into 10 inch round tart pan or individual tarts work marvelously too. Repair any bare spots or holes with pieces of the access that you cut off rfom around the sides.  (Does that make sense?)Fork it a little here and there so it does not bubble. Bake at 375F until lightly golden- about 17 to 22 minutes.

For the filling: 

8 ounces cream cheese
6 ounces heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Whip cream cheese until light add in sugar and vanilla and apinch of salt.  In a seperate bowl whip cold cream until stiff peaks form.  Take a heaping spoon full and mix it in to the cream cheese mixture to lighten it a little.  Fold in the remainder of the whipped cream into the cream cheese.  Smooth into tart and decorate with fruit.  In this case luscious raspberries.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Pasta e Fagoli and Tuscan Seasoning Mix

You know when I go out for dinner the last place I want to go is to an Italian place. That's not to say that I wouldn't be totally happy eating my way across Italy. I am talking about Americanized Italian food for the most part. You see my Mom was not Italian but she made great Italian food for my father all the time. We had it on a regular basis when I was growing up. Most restaurants can not compare to hers or now mine (because of her and what she taught me). When I go out I want something I can not easily do at home. This is one dish you can do easily at home and it would beat the pants off anything you could find at an American Italian eatery (well most anyway).

This here recipe was especially good because it was made with fresh summer tomatoes. You can easily subsitute the canned variety. I broke up some low carb spaghetti for this recipe but certainly put any kind pasta you have on hand for yours. Bon Apetito!

Pasta e Fagoli

5 whole tomatoes
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup basil
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
2 teaspoons Tuscan Italian seasoning (recipe to follow)
2 sage leaves, minced or 1/2 teaspoon dried
4 cups vegetable broth 
1/4 to a 1/2 pound spaghetti
1 can or 2 cups soaked beans, I used garbanzo but canneloni work well here
2 large potatoes (about 2 cups)

Combine olive oil and butter in a soup pot and saute onions and then garlic.  The onions should be slightly golden.  Add tomatoes, broth and all the herbs and seasonings.   Chop potatoes into cubes and add to the pot.  Add the beans.  Cover and let cook until the potatoes are practically falling apart (20 minutes to a half of an hour). Add pasta and let cook until tender.

Serve with fresh basil and parmesan or asiago.  I also like to sprinkle some red pepper flakes in as well.  Dah-licious!

Tuscan Italian Seasoning Mix

1/4 cup oregano
1/4 cup dried basil
2 tablespoons ground fennel
1 tablespoon garlic
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon black pepper
*and if you have dried red pepper, grind that into a powder and add about a tablespoon.

Combine all the ingredients for a knock out seasoning!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Peachy Peach Bars

Loaded with lots of crumb topping! Oh delicious, and lets pretend that they are also nutritious. While I may not have ended up with the most perfect of squares, I think these bars were really good. They tasted great with a dollop of vanilla ice cream as well.

I could not use my usual 9 x 13 as it is in the freezer with eggplant parmesan in it. One of these days I will bring it out. In the mean time I made due with this pan. While it was tad smaller it did work. I think it would be more set and more easy to cut into bars if I had made it in a true 9x13. I saw the recipe at Avril Millers site, Baking and Creating with Avril. I dont know you remember but I made these blueberry bars that I saw on Smitten Kitchen.  We loved them.  Well I guess the Brown Eyed Baker took that recipe and dreamed up this one.  It was delicious.

Peach Crumb Bars
Yield: 24 bars
adapted from Brown Eyed Bakers recipe
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold
1 egg, lightly beaten

5 cups diced or sliced peaches (about 7 scalded, and skinned pitted)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ginger

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan.
For the Dough: In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Use a pastry blender to cut in the butter, and then the egg. The dough will be crumbly. You can also place the ingredients in a food processor.  Let the dry ingredients run in there for a few moments and then add the butter a tablespoon at a time. Pat half of the dough into the prepared pan. Place the pan and the remainder of the dough in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

For the Filling: Place the diced (or sliced) peaches in a large bowl and sprinkle with lemon juice. Mix gently. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Pour over the peaches and mix gently.

Spread the peach mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble the remaining dough over the peach layer.

Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until the top is slightly brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Daring Cooks: Canning

I almost forgot... what a dork.  I have my Daring Cook challenge to post.  Good gats!  I have been away from the computer a lot.  A very good thing but a bad thing for my blog because it needs attention.  I am taking a quilting class and it is taking a great deal of time.  You know, things like picking fabrics (love that part and I really need to stop that now), sewing, reading, and piecing.  Fun! I hope to post my progress on my other blog Craftication.

Back to Daring Cooks and the task at hand.  As you know I am the canner.  I just so happened to have made the bruschetta already, last year in fact.  I don't really like it to be honest.  I really need to doctor it up a bit. The apple butter, which I also can is just amazing.  We love apple butter. My Aunt's fiance loves bologna and apple butter sandwiches.  Weird? Nah, pork and apples are a natural together.  I havent tried it yet though as we don't eat much bologna.  Just for kicks I will share when we finally do try it.

The September 2010 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by John of Eat4Fun. John chose to challenge The Daring Cooks to learn about food preservation, mainly in the form of canning and freezing. He challenged everyone to make a recipe and preserve it. John’s source for food preservation information was from The National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Bruschetta In a Jar

9 cups (2250 ml) chopped plum tomatoes, about 3 1/2 lb (1.6 kg), 20 medium
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup (250 ml) dry white wine
1 cup (250 ml) white wine vinegar
2 tbsp (30 ml) balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup (125 ml) water
2 tbsp (25 ml) granulated sugar
2 tbsp (25 ml) dried basil
2 tbsp (25 ml) dried oregano

1) Place 7 clean half-pint (250 ml) mason jars on a rack in a boiling water canner; cover jars with water and heat to a simmer (180°F/82°C). Set screw bands aside. Heat lids in hot water, not boiling (180°F/82°C). Keep jars and sealing discs hot until ready to use.
2) Wash, seed and chop tomatoes into 1/2 inch (1cm) pieces; measure 9 cups (2250 ml), set aside.
3) Combine garlic, white wine, wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, water, sugar, basil and oregano in a deep stainless steel saucepan. Bring to a full boil; reduce heat. Stirring occasionally, boil gently, covered, 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
4) Pack tomatoes into a hot jar to within 3/4 inch (2 cm) of top rim. Add hot liquid to cover tomatoes to within 1/2 inch (1 cm) of top rim (headspace). Using nonmetallic utensil, remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if required, by adding more tomatoes and hot liquid. Wipe jar rim removing any food residue. Centre hot sealing disc on clean jar rim. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip tight. Return filled jar to rack in canner. Repeat for remaining tomatoes and hot liquid.
5) When canner is filled, ensure that all jars are covered by at least one inch (2.5 cm) of water. Cover canner and bring water to full rolling boil before starting to count processing time. At altitudes up to 1000 ft (305 m), process –boil filled jars – 20 minutes.
6) When processing time is complete, remove canner lid, wait 5 minutes, then remove jars without tilting and place them upright on a protected work surface. Cool upright, undisturbed 24 hours; DO NOT RETIGHTEN screw bands.
7) After cooling check jar seals. Sealed discs curve downward and do not move when pressed. Remove screw bands; wipe and dry bands and jars. Store screw bands separately or replace loosely on jars, as desired. Label and store jars in a cool, dark place. For best quality, use home canned foods within one year.
Serving Suggestions:
With boiling water canning, very little oil is used since the oils can weaken the seals on the jar.
For the Bruschetta, olive oil and fresh herbs can be added before serving on top of toasted bread or as a condiment to a dish.

Apple Butter
National Center For Home Food Preservation

4 pounds apples*javascript:void(0)
1 cup apple cider
½ cup granulated sucralose*
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground allspice

1. Wash apples well and remove stems and skin. Cut apples into quarters or eighths and remove cores.
2. Combine unpeeled apples and cider in 8-quart (about 7 ½ litre) saucepan. Cook slowly and stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Cook until apples are very soft (falling apart).
3. Position a food mill or strainer securely over a large bowl. Press cooked apples with cider through the food mill or strainer to make a pulp. Be sure to collect all the pulp that comes through the food mill or strainer; for example, scrape any pulp clinging under the food mill into the bowl.
4. Combine pulp with Sucralose and spices in an 8-quart (about 7 ½ litre) saucepan. Simmer over low heat, stirring frequently.
5. To test for doneness, spoon a small quantity onto a clean plate; when the butter mounds on the plate without liquid separating around the edge of the butter, it is ready for processing. Another way to test for doneness is to remove a spoonful of the cooked butter on a spoon and hold it away from steam for 2 minutes. It is done if the butter remains mounded on the spoon.
6. Pour contents into desired storage container or multiple containers. I stored my apple butter in 1-cup (250ml) plastic containers with screw on tops. Refrigerate up to 2 weeks, freeze up to a year, and home canning is good for a year.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Back To School Treats

Every first day of school we have a celebration.  The first day of a new year of learning.  At this age- they are pretty excited when school starts so it is kind of a big deal.  I wonder at what point they are going to turn to me and say "ahhh, I don't want to go to school".  Then I will give them a whole lecture about how there are many children in the world that would love to go to school to learn but can't. How is that you instill gratitude like that? Like being grateful to have peas and cauliflower on their plates.  It is so frustrating sometimes to listen to a complaining, picky eater.  But I digress... back to school.

During the summer my cousin was here for a visit.  She taught me how to make Mickey Mouse pancakes and most of all she taught me when to flip.  She said she learned at the restaurant you don't flip pancakes until that shininess is gone.  I always flipped them when the bubbles started to form. Since then I have to say my pancakes have improved. 

The girls pretty much love anything with sprinkles.  Even if these cupcakes were terrible they would still go crazy over them.  I have to say the cupcakes were really good.  The frosting, well, it was okay.  I am working on a recipe for frosting.  I will let you know all about it when it is totally perfected.  Until then this is one of the better cupcake recipes I have made. It has a really nice taste and texture.

Vanilla Cupcakes
Adapted from “Black and White Chocolate Cake”
Dorie Greenspan, Baking From My Home To Yours
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¼ sticks (10 Tbs) butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ c whole milk (I used 2%)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 18 muffin cups with liners.

Mix dry ingredients together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Beat the butter until soft and creamy. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about five minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.

With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Spoon batter evenly into prepared muffin cups, filling until about 2/3 full. Bake for about 15-17 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the cupcakes comes clean. Remove from oven, and let cool for 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan and let cool completely before frosting.

Yield: about 18 to 20 cupcakes

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Melanzan Salad

I hesitated to tell you about this one for many reasons.  Mainly because there is no recipe (though I did find this one here).  The second reason is that if you check a few blogs out there they will tell you that canning without a recipe by Ball or one of the like is really taking your health into your own hands.  But then there is this flavor that I just had to share with you. So I am posting it. You can make a small quantity and have it as a side for one of your meals or serve it with pasta (delicious) or simply eat it plain with bread.

This is the first year I used Sicillian eggplant (pictured above) mainly because I have never seen it before.  I find that it is whiter and more absorbent than my usual eggplant (pictured below at the bottom) but it is also a bit flatter in taste.  It truly is perfect for Melanzana marinata.  I love that name.  When I was a kid, it was always referred to as (spelled phonically) "mole-in-john" salad. Now that I know what the word for eggplant is -melanzana- I know I was always interpreting it in my own way.  Nevertheless we still call it that.  Maybe it is a dialect- I dunno.

I am posting it mainly for a reference for myself for next year.  I want to chronicle our family's canned goods, per the instructions of my mother.  This way I always have it and my family can check the recipe if they need it as well.

Melanazan Salad aka "Molinjon"

2 Sicilian eggplants
8 regular eggplants
2 heads of garlic
3 cups oil canola
4 cups distilled white vinegar
1/3 cup kosher salt
3 teaspoons red pepper flakes (optional)
12 basil leaves, chiffonade
4 tablespoons oregano

Cube eggplant and boil until just tender.  You want it limp but not mushy. Remove from water and drain immediately.  Run cold water on it to cool.  Squeeze until you have removed as much liquid as possible. Place in large bowl. Add the spices and most of the vinegar and oil.  What you are looking for is a soupy consistency.  The reason why is so that the eggplant, being the sponge that it is, will absorb the marinade. So keep mixing preferably with your hand because it is one of those, "you got to go by what you feel" kind of things. Place in pint sized canning jars and seal.  Process for twenty minutes in canner.

Do not be alarmed if your garlic turns green after a time.  You can read about why that happens here.

A recent market trip. 

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Give Em' Cake- Zucchini Cake

I know you are probably up to your eyeballs in zucchini.  Before we are knee deep in butternut squash I thought I'd pass along this one to you. I saw it in Bon Appetit.  I want to become more diligent about actually carrying out those magazine recipes I clip.  This one shouted, "Make me". I obliged. Made it.  They ate it.  Gone.

Zucchini Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted from this recipe at Bon Appetit.

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup olive oil (not extra-virgin)
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated zucchini

Preheat oven to 350F.  Spray a 9 inch square baking pan with cooking spray.

In a small bowl whisk together dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.

In a larger bowl combine oil, brown sugar, vanilla and eggs. Mix in dry ingredients just until incorporated.  Fold in zucchini.  Pour into 9" square and bake for about 55 to an hour. Let cool, then frost.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1/2 cup butter, room temp
4 ounces cream cheese, room temp
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Beat butter and cream cheese together.  Add confectioners sugar, cinnamon and vanilla and beat until combined.  You can adjust the amount of confectioners sugar to get the thicknes of frosting you desire.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Ispahan Cupcakes and the Erie Canal

Summer is drawing to a close.  I know probably a lot of children have headed back to school already.  Mine start next week.  It is kind of a bittersweet time for me.  I am happy to see them grow and sad at the same time.  I am happy to have had a beautiful, happy summer but am also glad that I will have a wee bit of free time to clean, paint, create, what have you.  I try to hug my children even more than I did before because as time goes by, I realize how fast it truly is going. My oldest daughter is nearly eight.  Yesterday she was a baby.  I don't know how it exactly happened but she grew so fast. Taking a moment now and then is so important to do because they are fleeting.

I have learned to breathe better this summer.  To take a moment now and then through the day and just take a breath, deeply.  Savoring, relaxing, and feeling.  It has been truly eye opening.  So simple and so precious. 

Here is a trip we recently took down the Erie Canal.

Here is a song about the Erie Canal

A bit of summer fruit here. I just had to try Ispahan cupcakes.  The flavor combination of lychee, rose and raspberry piqued my interest.  Rose and lavender are not big attractions for me in flavor because of the "fragrant" taste they leave in your mouth.  Once in a while, however, I like to indulge in something with rose or lavender.  Like these marshmallows or these lemon lavender tarts.

Ispahan Cupcakes

2 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1/4 cup ground almonds or almond meal
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter
 2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temp
3/4 cup milk
1/4 rose water
1 teaspoon vanilla or rose essence

lychees (about 24), I used canned ones that I rinsed and drained

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line a cupcake tin with paper liners and spray with cooking spray.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about five minutes.  Add eggs one at a time and mix in until fully incorporated. Combine flour, ground almonds, salt and baking powder. In a large measuring cup combine milk, rose water and vanilla. Mix in dry ingredients and milk mixture into butter and eggs alternately, ending with the flour.

Spoon in about a tablespoon of batter into each cupcake paper.  Drop a lychee on the batter  and fill up the muffin cups the rest of the way about 2/3 full.  Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Raspberry Cream Frosting

1 stick unsalted butter, room temp a little on the firm side
8 ounces or one package cream cheese, room temp
2 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 cup raspberry puree that has been deseeded

Beat cream cheese and butter together.  Add in sugar until fully incorporated,  Finally, fold in raspberry puree.