Soda Bread With a Little Extra

Whole Wheat Rosemary Irish Soda Bread

Whole Wheat Rosemary Irish Soda Bread

I’m not sure why we love St. Patrick’s Day so much, because it certainly isn’t because we like to drink ourselves silly, or party on a weeknight. So, it must have something to do with the food. Monty adores corned beef and cabbage.

This year, it’s going to be celebrated a day early, just because Monty has surgery today. So, I made a point of making him a special meal, before he had to fast, and also before I ran out of time. I’ll be pretty busy playing nurse, for the next couple of weeks.

Last year, I made my great-grandmother’s soda bread. This year, I’m going to make some more, but I’m going to deviate from her recipe, just a little bit. First of all, I’m going to make it a little bit healthier by adding in some whole wheat flour. Secondly, I’m going to make it a bit more savory by adding in some dried rosemary.

I’ll keep this simple, mainly because it really is! It doesn’t take a lot of ingredients, and it comes together very quickly.

2½ cups whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour + more for dusting
1¾ teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons sugar (I used tubinado)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried rosemary + more to sprinkle on top
1 egg
½ cube butter, (¼ cup) melted and cooled
1¾ cups buttermilk

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Preheat oven to 400º F.

Prepare a baking sheet by covering with parchment paper and sprinkle the paper with flour.

In a large bowl, whisk together the first 6 ingredients. Make a well in the center.

In a large measuring cup, beat an egg with a fork. Add in the cooled, melted butter and continue to beat them together. Then pour in the buttermilk and beat until blended.

Pour the wet ingredients into the well of the flour mixture and blend with a spatula. It will be sticky, but it will eventually come together, after about a minute and a half.

Put the dough on to the prepared sheet, and gently pat the dough into a round with floured hands. It will look rough and raggedy.

Cut a giant "X"...

Cut a giant “X”…

Cut an “X” into the bread with a wet knife, then sprinkle with a dusting of flour and a bit more dried rosemary.

Bake for 40 minutes, testing with a toothpick for doneness.

Fresh from the oven!

Fresh from the oven!

Allow to cool on a rack

Allow to cool on a rack

Remove from oven, then place on a rack to cool.

Whole Wheat Rosemary Irish Soda Bread

Whole Wheat Rosemary Irish Soda Bread

Once cooled, this can be served, as you please.

Good with a little butter

Good with a little butter

 

Don't think this doesn't taste good with some berry jam…

Don’t think this doesn’t taste good with some butter and berry jam…

Made to be served with Irish Stew

Made to be served with your corned beef or Irish stew

Have a wonderful St. Patrick's Day!

Have a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day!

Blood Orange Gelato with Chocolate Scribbles ~ Making the Best of Citrus Season

Blood oranges, available December through May

Blood oranges, available December through May

I woke up from a great dream, the other day. It was the kind that made me sit bolt upright in bed, from its inspiration. I think this whole thing got stirred by talking with a friend about gelato. She found out that her favorite gelato shop was closing, and she was really sad about it. That’s when I told her that I love making gelato. We talked about the many different, though odd flavor combinations that would be so much fun to experiment with.

I guess that conversation got me thinking, because I was all of a sudden dreaming of making blood orange gelato. Now, I realize that this has been done before, and that that flavor really wasn’t so oddball, but that’s okay, too. I started thinking of all the things that go well with blood oranges, or any orange, for that matter. Chocolate kept coming up, and that’s when I thought I should try the scribbles, like I did with the mint flavor, last year. I’ve always loved chocolate and orange together, remembering those big, chocolate oranges divided up into segments, that are mostly available around Christmas. Yum!

Then, I thought, “Candy!” I could also candy the blood orange peels for garnish! So, at that point, I was off and running.

The blood oranges are in season from December until about May, so to me, it really was a matter of doing this now, while I was so excited. I didn’t realize that there were so many varieties of these babies, which explains their inner and outer appearances. I will say that they are gorgeous~ and if my English friends will forgive me for saying so, they are bloody gorgeous!

They're bloody gorgeous!

They’re bloody gorgeous!

 

I usually make gelato over the course of two days, with it being served on the third day. It needs time to chill during its various phases, so the best thing to do is just relax, be patient and enjoy the process!

Here’s what I did~~

For the gelato:

2 cups whole milk
½ cup white sugar
4 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
pinch of salt
grated zest of one blood orange
1 cup strained blood orange juice (you will need about 6 small oranges)

For the chocolate “scribbles”:

1 3-oz. dark chocolate bar, melted

For the candied orange peel:

2 small blood oranges
¾ cup sugar + extra for rolling, if desired
½ cup water

Special equipment:

You’ll need an ice cream freezer, for this

—————————————————————–

Eggs & sugar

Eggs & sugar

First whisk together the egg yolks and sugar.

 

Whisk!

Whisk!

Add milk and whisk some more

Add milk and whisk some more

Add the milk in and whisk some more.

Pour the mixture into a heavy sauce pan, and cook over medium high heat, stirring constantly. When the mixture starts to get very hot and thick, add in the vanilla, orange juice, salt and zest. Bring it back up to a boil, again, stirring all the while.

 

The cooked mixture should coat a spoon

The cooked mixture should coat a spoon

When it coats the back of a spoon, remove from heat and allow to cool. Pour into a container and chill for at least 8 hours or overnight.

 

Once the mixture is fully chilled, get the chocolate ready. You’ll want to melt this over indirect heat, either in a double boiler or in a bowl set over a pan of boiling water. You can see how I did this by checking out my mint chip gelato, that I made last year. Just make sure not to get any water into the chocolate.

Churn the chilled gelato mixture according to manufacturer’s directions in your ice cream freezer. When it is ready, you’ll be scribbling the melted chocolate in, then breaking it up with a spoon.

Once all the gelato is in the container, freeze for 24 hours.

—————————

You can make the candied orange peel at any point in the process. Just keep in mind that they will take about 4 hours to dry.

Peel from top to bottom

Peel from top to bottom

With a veggie peeler, peel the skin off the orange from top to bottom.

 

Cut them into to thinner strips, if desired

Cut them into to thinner strips, if desired

I wanted thinner strips, so I sliced them to about ¼-inch wide.

Getting the bitter taste out of the orange peel is a process of boiling it out. This step is really important, and even more so that it be repeated 3 times. The repeated boiling also make the peels more porous, so they will absorb the sugar more easily.

Place the strips into a heavy sauce pan and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil and allow the strips to cook for 3 minutes. Drain the strips into a sieve and rinse with cold water. Repeat two more times.

After the third boil, keep the strips draining in the sieve, while you wash out the saucepan. Then measure the sugar and water into it and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring the ingredients together.

Once it’s boiling, add in the orange peel strips and turn the heat down to a low simmer. This should simmer for about 30 minutes, and you want to avoid stirring during that process, to keep sugar crystals from forming.

 

Roll in sugar, if desired

Roll in sugar, if desired

Once done, remove the strips with tongs onto a piece of parchment paper. If you like, you can pour a bit of sugar onto the paper to roll the strips into.

 

Dry strips on a rack

Dry strips on a rack

Lay the strips onto a rack to cool and dry—this will take about 4 hours.

 

Store the candied peel in an airtight jar

Store the candied peel in an airtight jar

Once dried, store in a jar with the remaining sugar. Candied orange peel makes wonderful gifts, too. You can add a little tag with the multitude of uses for them, such as adding to garnishing desserts and drinks, and adding to cookies, breads and muffins.

 

Dip some of the candied peel into chocolate for an incredible garnish

Dip some of the candied peel into chocolate for an incredible garnish

If you really want to get fancy, and believe me, I did with at least a few of them, dip one end of the candied peel into the melted “scribble” chocolate, once you’re done scribbling the gelato. That’s a garnish that won’t soon be forgotten. Just be sure to store them separately in the refrigerator, once the chocolate firms up.

Once the gelato freezes overnight, you can serve it in a multitude of ways.

Starting with a plain, old dish…

In a dish is good

In a dish is good

Looking good, just like that

Looking good, just like that

 

Or, serve it in half of a blood orange skin…

You can serve it in its own "shell"

You can serve it in its own “shell”

So delicious!

So delicious!

 

Or, serve it with the special, chocolate-dipped, candied orange peel…

Delectable with that choco-dipped, candied orange peel

Delectable with that choco-dipped, candied orange peel

So elegant!

So elegant!

 

Now, at least I can say, that I made one of my dreams come true!

 

 

 

 

An Omelette to Love, Even When Watching Calories

Bacon.

150208_6263_fb.jpg

Okay, now that I have your attention, (unless your vegan, keeping Kosher, or on a fat-free diet) here’s one you’re really gonna love. For me, this is a recipe reminiscent of a place and time in San Francisco, at a place where I frequently had brunch with friends. I had this omelette there one time, and it was all over~ I never ordered anything else there, again.  Even now, anytime I make an omelette, this is how it’s done, in my humble opinion.

Now, it’s true that this could be made to be a lot more fattening than it is here, and I’m pretty sure that whatever the name of that restaurant was that made the original, probably did just that. But I’ve found that making this as simple as I’m doing here, delivers so much flavor, that adding more is almost overkill. I’m talking about the bacon… I’m only using one piece for each omelette. You make cry, kick and scream, but I’m telling you~ that’s all that’s needed. This is a great thing, since it can be a Sunday treat, even when watching fat or caloric intake.

Bacon, spinach, cheddar & mushrooms make the best omelette

Bacon, spinach, cheddar & mushrooms make the best omelette

 

What makes this even better is the addition of steamed spinach and mushrooms~ we adding vital nutrients early in the morning, which makes it even easier to get your 5-a-day bodily requirement of veggies.

Never make an omelette before? Don’t be intimidated~ it’s actually quite easy!

Here’s a recipe for 2, so if you need more or less, simply multiply or subtract~

4 Eggs
2 strips bacon
1 bunch spinach, thoroughly rinsed and stems removed
8 ounces mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
2 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
salt & pepper
minced parsley for garnish (optional)

————————————————————–

Steam the veggies together

Steam the veggies together

First thing, prepare the veggies. I usually steam the spinach and mushrooms together, until they are just cooked. Once done, drain. You’ll want to squeeze the water out of the spinach, once it’s cooled a bit. Set aside.

 

Bacon!

Bacon!

Cook the bacon until it’s just crisp. Drain on paper towels.

Drain the bacon

Drain the bacon

 

Now you’re ready to cook the eggs. In a large frying pan, melt about two teaspoons of butter until it’s just starting to bubble, swirling the pan so that the butter covers the bottom. Crack two eggs into a small bowl with some salt and pepper and add about a tablespoon of water. Whisk for about 30 seconds, then pour into the hot pan, again swirling so that the egg covers the bottom. Allow to cook, turning the pan if need be so that it cooks evenly. (I have a very uneven stove, so this is a necessity for me)

Cook the omelette

Cook the eggs evenly, if possible

 

When it looks like it’s almost done, pile on the goodies~ divide the spinach, mushrooms and put on one side of the omelette. Sprinkle on some cheese and crumble the bacon on top.

Load the goodies on

Load the goodies on

Allow them to sit there, until you can see that it’s done.

 

Fold the top over

Fold the top over

Flip the empty side of the omelette over, and slide it carefully onto a plate.

 

Serve with some fruit

Serve with some fruit

Serve. Sprinkle minced parsley, if desired. Add some fruit and maybe a piece of toast!

 

One slice of bacon brings LOTS of flavor

One slice of bacon brings LOTS of flavor

 

One slice is all that's needed!

One slice makes it quite delectable

 

Lots of veggies make it healthy

Lots of veggies make it healthy

Enjoy your Sunday!

My Big Macaron Challenge, Just in Time for Valentine’s Day

I know, I know… I posted some lovely, flowery, heart-shaped cookies recently, but I also know that Valentine’s Day is really about chocolate. So, I’m going to put myself to the macaron test, since I’ve always wanted to try making these. This blog is coming up on a year, and I think it’s time to celebrate!

Gotta have chocolate

Gotta have chocolate

I’ve always heard that macarons are a real challenge to make, and of course, there are lots of little tricky things to watch for, like making sure there are no bits of egg yolk in the egg whites, or any drips of water there, either. My dear friend Shirley in the U.K. tried this recipe a while back, and she said it was relatively easy, and they were totally delicious, too. So who am I not to try? Besides, it indulges the French woman in me.

Just so you know, I made these twice. I over-beat the egg whites with the first batch, and I had a feeling something was wrong, when I piped them onto the baking sheet. I hated those turd-y, funny-looking ones so much, that I actually made a second batch the next day. I figured that they were easy enough to make, and I could always give them away as little Valentine gifts to my neighbors. That’s the spirit of the holiday, anyway. Besides, I really didn’t want all that extra ganache to go to waste!

 

All I wanted for Christmas was...

All I wanted for Christmas was…

I also will admit that we had a rather meager Christmas this year, and when Monty asked me what I wanted, I told him that all I really wanted was a pastry bag and a tart pan. He indulged me, thankfully. The pastry bag was of course for this project. The tart pan will likely make a showing in the summer.

Now, if you know me at all, you know I have a passion for passionfruit, or lilikoi, as it’s known here in Hawai‘i. So my thought was making the macarons chocolate, and then filling them with white chocolate lilikoi ganache, just to make things interesting. I collect the passionfruit juice all summer long, just so I can try little projects such as this. Besides, the chocolate-lilikoi combo sounds amazing!

Here’s that near-foolproof recipe:

For the macarons:

1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 cup almond flour
2 medium, free-range egg whites
Small pinch salt
¼ cup caster sugar (super fine or baker’s sugar)

For the ganache:

10 ounces white chocolate (or white chocolate chips, if they are of high quality)
½ cup passion fruit puree (or juice, or nectar, depending on what’s available
½ teaspoon Meyer lemon zest (organic is best)
¼ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

Special equipment:

You will need a pastry bag for this.

————————————————–

You’ll be baking these at 365º, but you might want to wait to pre-heat the oven until the macarons are resting. Why waste energy, is how I think.

You might also want to prep your baking sheets at this time, just so they’re ready. If you don’t have a silicone mat, (I don’t) you can use parchment paper. Some people draw little 1½” circles on the paper, just to have a guideline. If you don’t do that, just remember that the macaron mixture will likely settle and spread a bit as it’s baking, (it didn’t for me the with the first batch, but it might for you) so you’ll probably want to keep them small.

Sift with a sieve

Sift with a sieve

Sift the confectioner’s sugar and cocoa powder with a large sieve into a medium-sized mixing bowl.

 

 

Whisk the dry ingredients together

Whisk the dry ingredients together

Add in the almond flour, sifting in the same way. Gently whisk together.

 

Whisk egg whites into soft peaks

Whisk egg whites into soft peaks… this may have been overdone

In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites and salt together until soft peaks form. Just don’t beat those buggers into a real frenzy, or they might look like the photo below. Don’t overbeat!  Add in the caster sugar and keep whisking until the whites are thick and glossy. Then, gently fold in the almond flour mixture.

Here’s where the pastry bag comes in. Fill it up with the macaron mixture and pipe small amounts with a 1/3″ nozzle, onto the parchment paper, or your macaron mat, if you happen to have one.

The piped macarons may look a bit.. umm.. odd

The piped macarons may look a bit.. umm.. odd, if you over-beat

 

Once finished, tap the baking sheet a couple of times to help settle the mixture and to release any air bubbles. This is where I pre-heat the oven to 365º. Allow the macarons to air dry for at least 20 minutes.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the macarons feel firm, and easily pull away from the parchment. It’s also suggested that you open the oven door once or twice during baking to release any steam. Macarons need to be dry.

We got "feet!"

We got “feet!”

Once done, cool completely on the baking sheet. Thankfully, the second batch turned out much better.

 

Lovely lilikoi

Lovely lilikoi

Now, we make the ganache. I adapted this from stickygooeycreamychewy.com, though I’m admitting I’m using beautiful, organic, white chocolate chips, which they advised not to do. I couldn’t resist, because they were on sale. I also added about a half teaspoon of Meyer lemon zest, just because I know that passion and citrus set each other off beautifully. I’ll let you know if I have regrets.

Put the white chocolate chips  into a medium sized bowl and set aside.

Put the lilikoi purée into a small sauce pan and bring to a boil.

In a heavy saucepan, bring the cream to a boil. (You don’t want to boil the cream and lilikoi together, because the acid in the fruit could cause the cream to curdle). While waiting for the cream and lilikoi purée to heat, work the butter with a spatula or a knife, so that it becomes really soft and creamy. Set it aside.

Combine the hot cream with the white chocolate

Combine the hot cream with the white chocolate

Once the cream is boiling, remove from heat and pour it into the white chocolate bowl. The heat should make the chocolate melt, of course. Let it sit for a minute, then whisk or beat to combine.

 

 

Next, add hot lilikoi

Next, add hot lilikoi

Then pour the hot lilikoi juice in and combine again. The chocolate should fully melt with this last addition.

 

Lastly, add the butter

Lastly, add the butter

Lastly, blend in the butter, beating with a rubber spatula. Once the butter is fully incorporated, the ganache should be very glossy and smooth. It will also taste totally divine! The white chocolate chips worked fine, by the way… just make sure you use high quality, if you choose to use them~ none of that cheap, waxy stuff.

Chill the ganache, until it’s a good spreading consistency.

 

A nice dab of ganache will fill

A nice dab of ganache will fill

Put the lid on it

Put the lid on it

Spread or pipe it between the macarons, then chill for 24 hours, for best results. If you can resist.

 

Lovely by the plateful

Lovely by the plateful

This makes 10-15 macarons, depending upon size, or in my case, even more. Be prepared and have more than one cookie sheet at the ready.

A tropical treat

A tropical treat

Chocolate Macarons with Passionfruit Ganache

Chocolate Macarons with Passionfruit Ganache

 

Just so you know, they didn’t come out perfect. They are lumpy, because the flour needed more grinding, and my ganache is a bit goopy. I know I will be trying again, and I’m sure they will come out even better. All that aside,  they are absolutely delicious! 

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

A Taste of India for Meatless Monday

Dal for "Meatless Monday"

Dal for “Meatless Monday”

I’d been thinking pretty strongly of going back to doing “Meatless Mondays,’ mainly because I’m up for another knee surgery. I figure since I have the time to do it, why not get as healthy as possible? Yes, I will have my transgressions, but I am already upping my veggie intake, and plan on finding healthier options for other foods, between now and the next couple of months.

One of the things that I tried a couple of months ago, that I really wanted to try again is red dal. Dal is a split lentil, and a stew is usually made with them, seasoned accordingly to whatever South Asian country they are made in. The last time I made it, I used yellow split peas, and since then, I’ve heard that the flavor is much better using the real thing.

One of the really good things about this recipe is that it’s easy enough for a week night. It comes together very easily, and cooks quickly. It is also very high in nutrients and fiber.

Red dal lentils, turmeric and Bengali Five Spice

Red dal lentils, turmeric and Bengali Five Spice

I really feel like I’ve scored, since I live very close to a store that sells Indian goods and groceries. I had the pleasure of walking in there recently and finding an incredible array of foods I’d never seen before, especially since they also sell a lot of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean foods. I took a good walk around the shop, nonchalantly looking for the Bengali Five Spice that I was seeking, and realized that I would just have to ask for it. Well of course, it’s known by another name: Paunchpuran. The owner led me to its spot on the shelf.

Paunchpuran is a mix of nigella sativa, cumin, fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds and fennel seeds. I have no idea what the ratios are of any of these ingredients to make up this spice mix, so I was quite happy to be able to find it. He also had to lead me to the red dal, and I was also thrilled that he had it available.

While I was in the store, there was a couple shopping, and as I got in line, the man asked me what I was making with the Bengali Five Spice. I told him I was going to attempt making red dal. He smiled and told me that he was from Bengal, and that I would love it. So nice to have such encouragement!

Getting home, I opened the bags of my new goodies. The dal has an aroma like no lentil I’ve even come upon, and the Panchpuran has a delightfully pungent smell.

If you’d like to try this, this is what you’ll need:

1 cup red lentils
3 cups water
3 plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 medium white onion, (yellow will do) finely chopped
1/2 cup carrots, finely diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 teaspoons Bengali Five Spice mix
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
juice of 1 lime
cilantro, stemmed and chopped for garnish

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Drain the dal, after rinsing

Drain the dal, after rinsing

Rinse the dal in a sieve and rinse thoroughly with water. Set aside.

In a lage pan, sauté the chopped onion in the coconut oil, until it’s tender and translucent. Add in the chopped carrot and cook for about 5 minutes. Next, add pressed garlic and cook for another minute. Add the Bengali Five Spice, stirring to combine and cook that addition, for about 5 minutes.

Add the water, the dal and the bay leaf and bring to a boil. Allow to gently simmer for at least 30 minutes.

Score the tomatoes

Score the tomatoes

While the dal is simmering, prepare the tomatoes by peeling them. This keeps people from getting those obnoxious little bits of rolled up tomato skin in their teeth. There is an easy method of doing this. Put a small pan of water on to boil. Cut off the core end of the tomato, score the skin in a couple of places, then plunge the tomatoes (I do them one by one) into the boiling water for about a minute. Then pull them out and allow them to cool slightly.

The skins will peel right off

The skins will peel right off

Voilà! The skin comes off super easily.

 

Add the tomatoes, turmeric and lime at the end

Add the tomatoes, turmeric and lime at the end

Maybe 15 minutes before it’s ready to serve, add in the turmeric, lime juice and tomatoes. Salt to taste.

 

Serve, and get your India on!

Serve, and get your India on!

This goes well served with naan bread or jasmine rice.

 

We like this with naan bread

We like this with naan bread

 

Garnish with a sprinkling of cilantro

Garnish with a sprinkling of cilantro

This recipe is also easily doubled, and I did just that, because I know there is a real lentil lover in the house. It makes great leftovers for lunch, too!

 

Bring on the marigolds!

Bring on the marigolds!

 

Getting Fancy with Buddha’s Hand Lavender Shortbread

Okay, this one is special.

I have a love of shortbread, mainly because you can make the dough ahead, and then let it sit in the fridge to chill, pretty much until you’re ready to use it. It can also be flavored anyway you like, too. A while back, I made lavender lemon shortbread cookies, and they were quite amazing. So since I still have some culinary lavender left, I decided to make them with the Buddha’s hand zest, that I just happened to have available.

 

Fully ripened Buddha's hand fruit

Fully ripened Buddha’s hand fruit

I consider myself very lucky that Monty works at a nursery. In the nursery, there is a Buddha’s hand fruit tree, and not long ago, one of the workers gave me one of the fruits. If you’ve never seen a Buddha hand fruit, it’s sure to make you wonder what it is. It looks much like a hand, and smells a lot like a lemon. Yes, it is a citrus fruit, but there is no juice or seeds insides, and it’s used strictly for the zest. The fragrance of the zest is quite wonderful because it has a citrus-y, flowery smell. So if you think in terms of any recipe that uses lemon zest, you are on the right track.

Buddha’s hand fruit is interesting to observe as it grows. The flowers are sweet-smelling, like any citrus flower.

Buddha's hand buds

Buddha’s hand buds

When the petals fall, you can see the beginning of the fruit. See the “fingers?”

 

Fruit forming

Fruit forming

Then the fruit grows and turns green for quite a long time.

 

Almost ripe, here

Almost ripe, here

When it turns yellow, you know it is ripe. You can often find them in Asian markets, too, just in case you don’t have access to a nursery that grows them.

I was in a bit of a panic at Christmas time, since I had a friend visiting from the mainland, and being long on time and short on money, I wanted to give her something special. She had admired the shortbread cookies that I posted on Facebook, when I made them several years ago. I just thought I’d adapt the original recipe (which I found is no longer available) and make it really unique.

This is grown on Maui

This is grown on Maui

I could once find the lavender at our local farmers’ market, though they haven’t been there for a year or so. If you don’t have any available near you, you can order it here. I have an burning desire to go visit that farm in the Summertime. Here’s hoping I’ll see that this year.

 

dried, edible violas

To take it all just one step further, I thought it would be fun to decorate them with edible flowers… violas, specifically. I found some on Etsy several months ago, with the intention of using them to decorate something sweet, and this idea just came together. It seemed like the perfection solution.

An unusual Christmas present!

An unusual Christmas gift!

I found these quite delicious, with their delicate, flowery, citrusy flavor.  And, as I said above, you can prepare the shortbread dough ahead, wrap it up tightly and chill it, until you’re ready to bake. The recipe makes about three dozen small cookies.

 

Meyer lemon juice works great for this

Meyer lemon juice works great for this

 

Notice there is only rind and no seeds

Notice there is only rind and no seeds

 

Grate the rind

Grated Buddha’s hand zest

 

For the shortbread:

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice
2 tablespoons Buddha’s hand (or lemon~ I recommend Meyer lemon) rind, grated
1/8 tsp salt
1/3 cup cornstarch
2½ cups flour
approx 1 tablespoon dried lavender flowers, chopped or crushed with a mortar & pestle

For the icing:

1 cup confectioner’s sugar
2-3 teaspoons dried lavender flowers, chopped or crushed with a mortar & pestle
1 tablespoon zest of Buddha’s hand fruit (or lemon~ again, I recommend Meyer)
1–2 tbsp Meyer lemon juice

dried violets, violas or pansies for decoration (optional)

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch and salt. Set aside.

To make the shortbread dough, combine the butter and confectioner’s sugar in the bowl with the Buddha’s hand (or lemon) zest with the crushed lavender.  Beat until well blended. Next, blend in the dry ingredients until the dough comes together. You want to try not to over-beat this, or the shortbread may become tough.  Form the dough into a ball, flatten into a disc, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until slightly firm, about 60 minutes. Or, a few days, if you have more time later. That’s one of the nice things about shortbread.

Roll out the dough and cut

Roll out the dough and cut with cookie cutters

 

When the dough has been chilled, and you’re ready to bake,  line your cookie sheets with baker’s parchment and pre-heat the oven to 350º.

Roll it out on a cutting board to about ¼ of an inch thick (I do this a section at a time) then cut with the cookie cutter of your choice. Place them on the parchment-lined sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes, or just until set. You don’t want them to brown too much.

While they’re baking you can make the icing. That’s simply a matter of combining the confectioner’s sugar with the Buddha’s hand zest and crushed lavender flowers, then gradually adding lemon juice, until it’s a nice consistency. You don’t want it too thick, but you do want the flowers sticking to the shortbread.

Cooling

Cooling shortbread

Once baked, cool for a minute on the sheet, then transfer to cooling racks.

 

Dip into icing

Dip into icing

Once the cookies are cooled, you can dip the top side in icing. I highly recommend that you put waxed paper or something under the racks to save yourself a mess!

 

Arrange the flowers

Arrange the flowers while icing is wet

If you’re decorating them with flowers, I suggest doing just a few at a time, and then placing a flower on them while the icing is still wet. Then, put them back on the rack, until the icing is dry.

Set the icing

Drying the icing

This shortbread keeps for a couple of weeks, as long as they are stored in an airtight container. Of course, loving how they came out, I had to play with them a bit!

 

Almost too pretty to eat!

Almost too pretty to eat!

Tea time!

Tea time!

Of course, these are also perfect for Valentine’s Day!

 

I had to make a Butterfly Party with these ones!

I had to make a Butterfly Party with these ones!

Satisfying a Craving for Seafood Cakes

I’m craving seafood cakes! What I mean is not necessarily crab cakes, (they are still too expensive, though they are in season now) but maybe some scallop & shrimp cakes. We managed to find some bay scallops on sale this past weekend, and I’ve decided that I’m ready to try something new. I figure I’ve made crab cakes before with great success, so I will have a good time playing with these. One day, I’ll have my crab again, but these should do fine.

Shrimp & bay scallops

Shrimp & bay scallops

I’m thinking that since I have about a half pound of scallops, I’ll need about a half pound of raw shrimp. Bread crumbs will be in order, as well as an egg to bind everything together. The innovative part comes with the seasoning… You can always add what you like, of course, and maybe that’s one of the best things about making something like this.

Here’s what I used:

1½ cups bread crumbs, divided
1 egg
2 tablespoons of mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1 teaspoon whole grain or Dijon mustard
Sriracha or other hot sauce, at least 1 teaspoon (or more!)
½ pound shrimp, peeled & deveined
½ pound bay scallops, rinsed well
1 rib celery, finely chopped
4 green onions, finely sliced
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons olive oil
Lemon, for squeezing and garnish

———————————————————————–

First, prep your seafood by chopping them together.

Chop them together

Chop them together

 

Prep the veggies

Prep the veggies

Prep the celery, scallions and parsley to have them ready to go by chopping them.

 

Whisk the eggs with seasonings

Whisk the eggs with seasonings

In a large bowl, whisk the egg, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, Old Bay seasoning, and mustard until well blended. Add in the shrimp, scallops, celery, green onions, parsley, and ½ cup of the bread crumbs. Mix together.

 

Form patties and coat with bread crumbs

Form patties and coat with bread crumbs

With your hands, shape seafood mixture into 8 patties, about ½-inch thick. Spread the remaining cup of bread crumbs onto a plate and dip the cakes into the crumbs, pressing gently to adhere.

 

Ready to chill

Ready to chill

Now, here’s my chance to test a tip I heard about recently. These kind of seafood cakes tend to fall apart in the pan, when you start to cook them, and there is supposedly a way to prevent that. This method means letting the patties sit in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes or so. So, call these cakes ready to chill!

When you’re ready to make them, heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Place cakes in skillet and cook over medium heat for about 7 minutes, or until lightly browned on the bottom. Carefully turn the cakes over with a spatula and cook for another 7 minutes or so, until they are lightly browned on that side.

Golden brown and intact!

Golden brown and intact!

I’m glad to say that the little chill trick worked, by the way. These cakes came out perfect.

 

Don't forget the dry, white wine…

Don’t forget the dry, white wine…

This is a perfect main course that you can serve with a little bread and a salad. Don’t forget a nice Chardonnay or Fumé Blanc… Ferrari-Carano makes a really nice one.

 

Good for dinner...

Good for dinner…

Would make a nice appetizer, too

Would make a nice appetizer, too

 

You can also make a little vinaigrette, if you like, with some olive oil, garlic, rice wine vinegar, mustard, honey, salt, pepper, a little mayo and some fresh dill. The ratio for vinaigrette is 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. I didn’t measure, so you’ll you’ll have to do it by taste.

Try it dressed with vinaigrette

Try it dressed with vinaigrette

 

Makes 7-8 cakes, though you could make them half-sized for appetizers. Got leftovers? Got lunch tomorrow!

Passion for Christmas Cheesecake

Lilikoi a.k.a. passionfruit and limes

Lilikoi a.k.a. passionfruit and limes

Anyone who knows me at least a little bit, knows that I have a passion for that lovely, tropical fruit, lilikoi~ a.k.a. passion fruit. Last Christmas, I made my first lilikoi cheesecake, and it was heavenly. I have a large ziplock bag full of lilikoi juice, and I was fortunate to find fresh lilikoi at the market yesterday. That’s really what inspired me, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to make it again and share it for you all.

Last year's cheesecake

Last year’s cheesecake

I usually make my own graham cracker crust, but my reality this year is that I’ve been very short on time, as of late, so I’m cheating. I found a ready-made organic, graham cracker crumb crust, and that’s what I’m using, at least this time. Feel free to do the same, if you must. One of the nice things about the ready-made one is that you get a cover with it, too. It keeps things nice and neat while you’re keeping it in the refrigerator. You can also pour the batter into an oiled spring-form pan, if you’ve got one and don’t want to bother with a crust. I’m just partial to graham cracker crust, because It’s how I grew up eating cheesecake. I wouldn’t change that, either.

I cheated with an organic, pre-made crust

I cheated with an organic, pre-made crust

 

For the Cheesecake:

One ready-made graham cracker crust (or you can crush graham crackers with butter and sugar and make your own)

1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature (I like using Neufchatel, to save a few calories)
½ cup fresh, passion fruit juice (or, use frozen, if that’s what’s available)
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 large eggs, room temperature
3 large yolks, room temperature
1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

For the Glaze:
1 cup passion fruit juice
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1½ teaspoons powdered unflavored gelatin
2 tablespoons sugar
Pulp and seeds from a fresh passion fruit (or you can use ½ cup frozen nectar, if that’s what you can find available)

Pre-heat oven to 325º.

Combine the cream cheese and passion fruit juice either by beating together with a spoon, food processor or blender, until smooth. Then add the sugar, yogurt, and cornstarch, mixing to combine. Then add the eggs, lime zest and juice and mix to combine. Pour batter into the prepared pan, or purchased crust. You might have leftover batter, if you used the purchased crust. If so, you can pour into oven-proof custard cups or even cupcake papers, for little cheesecake bites.

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

Bake the cheesecake until the outer edges of the cake is set but the center is still a little bit jiggly, about 45 minutes. Turn the oven off and open the door for a few minutes to let out some of the heat. Close the door and continue to cook the cheesecake in the residual heat in the oven for about 20 minutes.

 

Look… no cracks!

Look… no cracks!

This should help to minimizes the risk of the dreaded crack in your cake.

Remove from the oven and cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

 

Next up is fresh lilikoi

Next up is fresh lilikoi glaze

Meanwhile, make the glaze:

Put about half of the passion fruit juice and all the lime juice in a medium bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over the surface.

Gelatin be bloomin'...

Gelatin be bloomin’…

Don’t stir, but rather just let it sit until the gelatin “blooms,” about 1 minute. Boil the remaining passion fruit juice and all of the sugar in a small saucepan until the sugar dissolves.

 

Whisk the hot juice into the gelatin

Whisk the hot juice into the gelatin

Keep whisking

Keep whisking

Whisk the hot juice into the gelatin mixture until smooth. Refrigerate until it just begins to set, about 20 minutes.

 

Scoop!

Scoop!

Whisk again

Whisk again!

Scoop in the fresh passion fruit pulp and seeds and whisk again. I really like the seeds… they give it a really nice crunch!

 

Pour the glaze

Pour the glaze over the surface of the cake

Do the little guys, too

Do the little guys, too

 

Pour the glaze over the top of the cooled cheesecake. Garnish with lime zest. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.

 

Serve, decorate and make pretty!

Serve, decorate and make pretty!

Serve for dessert and get ready for the compliments!

 

Delicious!

Delicious!

Serves 10.

Good in the Summer, as well as the Winter

Good in the Summer, as well as the Winter

Lilikoi Lime Cheesecake

Lilikoi Lime Cheesecake

Good to the last bite!

Good to the last bite!

Figs & Cheese For an Easy Appetizer

I love figs

I love figs!

Since the holidays are coming, and there is more of a need for a good appetizer, here is one that is good and healthy. This idea came recently, when I ran across a basket of small figs. Since I love them so much, I bought them.

This idea is also so easy to put together, you’ll love it, because of the time you’ll save.

Simply chop

Simply chop

Simply chop up the figs and put them into a bowl. They really don’t need anything else.

 

Goat cheese

Serve with creamy goat cheese

Serve with some nice, creamy goat cheese, good bread or crackers, and a sprinkling of fresh thyme leaves.

 

figs & cheese

Figs & cheese~ an easy appetizer

You will love how easy and delicious this is!

A delicious, healthy bite

A delicious, healthy bite

 

Can’t find figs?

No figs? Try raspberries

No figs? Try raspberries.

Try it with fresh raspberries, for a slightly different treat.

Shepherd’s Pie from Turkey Leftovers

I know that Thanksgiving was a week ago, and it’s likely that your leftovers are already gone. We actually had grilled, whole chicken for Turkey Day, with no regrets, and we ended up buying a turkey roast on sale, after Thanksgiving. We also grilled that, and now I have some leftovers that I’d like to use up.

I really wanted to make a turkey pot pie, but then I thought of all the calories in that wonderful, buttery crust. Ummm, no. That’s just too many calories, especially for someone not abel to get enough exercise. I thought also of making the same with a biscuit crust, and decided against that, too~ especially when I noticed the red potatoes sitting on the counter, waiting to be used. Bingo. That’s when I realized that shepherd’s pie was my answer.

I wanted to make this fairly low calorie, so I’ve made a few tweaks, such as using chicken broth to mash the potatoes. I’ve also added lots of veggies to give us a good dose of vitamins and fiber, to give us some good protection in this very cool autumn, that we seem to be having. Best of all, this is really, very simple to make.

Start with some turkey...

Start with some turkey…

 

Peas, fresh or frozen

Peas, fresh or frozen

 

What you’ll need:

2-5 potatoes, (depending on size) scrubbed and cut into uniformly sized chunks
3-4 cloves garlic, divided use
1/4 cup yogurt
2 teaspoon minced parsley, divided use
salt & pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2-3 carrots, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
1 cup frozen peas, thawed (or fresh, if you can find them)
1 cup cooked turkey, cut into 1-inch dice
2 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon dried or fresh thyme
1 teaspoon sage or poultry seasoning

————————————————————–

Lighten-up mashed potatoes

Lightened-up mashed potatoes

We’ll start with the mashed potatoes…

Smash and peel 2 cloves of garlic and boil along with potatoes and in a pan of salted water, until fork tender. Drain the potatoes and place them back into the pan. Add the yogurt, 1/2 cup broth and 1 teaspoon of parsley (optional) and mash, until smooth and creamy. Set aside.

Add parsley after mashing, if using

Add parsley after mashing, if using

 

This is a good time to preheat the oven to 400º F.

In a large pan over medium heat, add the olive oil, and sauté the onion. Add in the carrots, mushrooms and celery and cook until soft. Mince the remaining garlic and add to the mix, cooking for 1 minute.

 

Add the flour and coat

Add the flour and coat

Add in the turkey and heat until warmed. Salt and pepper to taste, then add in the flour and herbs, stirring to coat.

 

The peas go in last

The peas go in last

Next, pour in the remaining broth, and bring the heat up to a simmer. Allow to cook for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture thickens. It should make a nice gravy. Add in the peas last, so they don’t get mushy.

 

Cover with the mashed potatoes

Cover with the mashed potatoes

Transfer the turkey/vegetable mixture to a greased 9″ x 9″ baking pan or casserole (or similar capacity dish) and spread it evenly. Spread the mashed potatoes over the top, swirling with the back of a spoon.

Swirl!

Swirl!

 

 

Fresh from the oven

Fresh from the oven

Bake for approximately 40-50 minutes, or until the top of the potatoes is golden brown.

 

Looks like comfort food

Looks like comfort food

Serves 6.  Nice with a slice!