November 27, 2009

Two-Bite Pure Chocolate Bliss

If you love chocolate then I predict you will love these Double-Shot Mocha Chunk cookies.  They are little bites of pure chocolate bliss.  I receive email updates from the Baker's Banter blog at the King Arthur Flour website. This recipe appeared not too long ago and I knew as soon as I saw it that I would have to try it soon.  These cookies are like little baked truffles.  I did not have the chocolate chunks so I used semi-sweet chips and cappuccino chips.


Double-Shot Mocha Chunks

1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa
1 3/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
1 cup chocolate chunks: semisweet, white, or espresso

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease or line with parchment two cookie sheets.
  2. In a medium bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, baking powder, espresso powder, and salt.
  3. Add the eggs and vanilla, beating until smooth.
  4. Stir in the cocoa powder and flour; the dough will be stiff.
  5. Mix in the chocolate chips and chunks.
  6. Drop the cookies by tablespoonfuls (about 1 1/2" balls) onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 1 1/2" between them. A tablespoon cookie scoop works well here.
  7. Bake the cookies for 10 minutes. Remove them from the oven, and allow them to cool on the pan.

Yield: 3 dozen cookies

November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year.  I love both the food and the idea of it.  It does not involve trying to find the perfect present, religion, celebrating a famous dead person's birthday, or anything remotely similar.  According to Wikipedia Thanksgiving Day "is a harvest festival celebrated primarily in the United States and Canada. Traditionally, it is a time to give thanks for the harvest and express gratitude in general".  For me it is a day to be grateful for a wonderful family, friends, and good food.

A lot of preparation goes into getting ready for the day but I love the end result (and the leftovers for the next few days).  I decided to stick with a lot of tried and trues this year.  Everyone in my family seems to have their favorites so I try to accommodate them.  Some of the recipes have been making an appearance at the table for years now, and there is no way I would want to change them, as it just would not be Thanksgiving without them.

The November food magazines are usually a source of inspiration for something new to try.  However, this year I really didn't see anything that caught my attention.  It wasn't until I watched Alex Guarneschelli's new show Alex's Day Off that I saw something new to try.  I love butternut squash and she made a recipe for Roasted Squash with Brown Butter and Orange that looked and sounded amazing.  I guess something was left out of the recipe when they transferred it to the Food Network's website because the orange disappeared from the recipe.  Not that it mattered much, as we did not care for this dish at all.  I tasted it when I pulled it out of the oven and decided not to even bother serving it.  I think it is either one of those love it or hate it kind of recipes because it got very mixed reviews on the Food Network's website.

My youngest daughter was my sous chef for the day and chief table decorator and, as you can see, she did a wonderful job.

And now for the recipes........

Cranberry Cumberland Sauce

2 cups cranberries
3/4 cup Tawny Port
1/4 cup Grand Marnier
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons orange juice
3/4 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
pinch ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup golden raisins
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel

  1. Combine berries and port in heavy saucepan over medium heat. Cook until berries burst, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. 
  2. Add both sugars and salt, stir 1 minute. 
  3. Combine orange juice, cornstarch, dry mustard, lemon juice and spices in small bowl, whisk to combine. Stir into berry mixture. 
  4. Add raisins, Grand Marnier, orange peel, lemon peel, simmer until thickened stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. 
  5. Pour into serving dish and let cool.  May be made three days in advance.

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Apple Pecan Corn Bread Stuffing

(8x8 inch) pan corn bread, cooled and crumbled
1 (8 ounce) container herb-seasoned dry bread stuffing mix
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 cup butter
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped onion
2 cups apple cider
2 cups chopped apples
3 eggs
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup dried cranberries

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Butter one 3 quart casserole dish. 
  2. In a large bowl combine the corn bread, stuffing mix, parsley, salt and ginger.  
  3. In a heavy saucepan melt the butter and sauté the celery and onion for 8 to 10 minutes or until tender. Add this to the cornbread mixture and mix well. Stir in the chopped apple, chopped pecans, apple juice, dried cranberries, and beaten eggs. Toss lightly. Spoon dressing into the prepared casserole dish.  
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30 to 35 minutes.
Adapted from Allrecipes

Potatoes Dauphinoise

4 large potatoes
approx 3 cups cheese (I use a mix of pre-shredded cheese from Costco), separated
approx. 4 teaspoons ground nutmeg, separated
2 eggs
2 cups cream
cooking spray

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Peel and cut potatoes into thin slices.
  3. Coat a casserole dish with cooking spray.
  4. Place 1 layer of potatoes in casserole dish, top with a sprinkle of cheese, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.
  5. Repeat layering another three times.
  6. Beat eggs and cream together and pour over potatoes.
  7. Top with a sprinkle of cheese, nutmeg, salt, and pepper and place in oven for about 1 1/2 hours.  Test with a knife to check that potatoes are fully cooked. May be made in advance and reheated.
This recipe was adapted many years ago from a recipe I found in an Australian Woman's Day magazine.

Creamy Mashed Potatoes

8 medium potatoes
8 tablespoons cream cheese
8 tablespoons butter
1/2 - 1 cup cream or 1/2 and 1/2

  1. Peel potatoes and cook till tender.
  2. Mash potatoes (I use a ricer) and add cream cheese and butter, allow these to melt.
  3. Add salt and pepper.
  4. Add cream (or 1/2 and 1/2) and mix until well combined.
  5. Can be made ahead and reheated.

    November 17, 2009

    The Joy of Honey Joys

    I have not made honey joys in probably five years or more.  I don't know why it has been such a dry spell in the honey joy department in our house.  It is probably because there are so many recipes out there to try and so little time to try them all.  It is good, though, to go back to a tried and true favorite.  Especially one this easy.

    Honey Joys are one of those things that we always had at a kids birthday party in Australia.  They were just a given that had a spot on the table along with the chocolate crackles, fairy bread, butterfly cakes, sausage rolls, and little boys. 

    Not only are they yummy but they are so easy to make as there are only four ingredients.  It can be made in a large saucepan and spooned into the foil baking cases, so it is an easy cleanup too.  Honey Joys are also a great recipe for those times when you have a young sous chef wanting to help.  This recipe is from the Kellogg's (Australia) website.

    Honey Joys

    90g butter or margarine
    1/3 cup sugar
    1 tablespoon honey
    4 cups of cornflakes

    Melt butter, sugar, and honey together in a saucepan until frothy. Add cornflakes and mix well. Spoon into baking cases. Bake in a slow oven 300°F for 10 minutes.

    Makes about 15

    November 15, 2009

    Chai Spiced Pumpkin Bread

    I was in Williams-Sonoma a couple of days ago to see what is new for the holiday season.  I love this store, especially at this time of the year.  It just smells so good the moment you walk in the door.  They were handing out samples of their Pumpkin Spice Quick Bread and Five Apple Cider Concentrate.  The bread was extremely moist and flavorful and the cider had just the right amount of sweetness and spice.  I knew that I would be making some pumpkin bread this weekend.  Even though I live in a tropical climate I like to pretend that it is fall and make the appropriate recipes.

    After doing a quick search I came across a recipe for Chai Spiced Pumpkin Bread that was posted by 28 Cooks back in December of 2006.  I love Chai and I love pumpkin bread so this seemed to be a match made in heaven, and I already had all of the ingredients in my cupboard.  In fact, I was so eager to make this bread that I ended up making two loaves - one for us and one to share. 

    With my trusty little sous chef helping to measure and mix, everything came together very quickly and before I knew it, they were in the oven.  The kitchen was soon smelling of warm and wonderful spices.  It was hard to wait the twenty minutes required cooling time before we cut into it.  I suspect that it won't be around for long and I might have to make a few more loaves to enjoy during the week. 

    I only made two changes to this recipe.  One was to drop the salt from 1 1/2 teaspoons to 1 teaspoon.  After tasting the loaves I think that I will drop it even more next time to 1/2 a teaspoon.  It did taste a little salty and I don't know if this was because the salt was boosted by all of the other spices or not. The other was to sprinkle some demarera sugar on the top of the loaves before they baked because I like a crunch topping. All in all I really like the chai taste with the pumpkin and think I might try it in another few recipes as well.

    Chai Pumpkin Bread

    1/2 c sugar
    1/2 c butter, at room temperature
    1 c canned pumpkin
    2 large eggs
    2 chai tea bags, steeped in 1/2 c boiling water
    1 tsp vanilla
    1 1/3 c all-purpose flour
    2/3 c whole-wheet flour
    2 tsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp baking soda
    1 1/2 tsp salt
    2 tsp cinnamon
    1/2 tsp each cardamom, ginger, and black pepper
    1/4 tsp each cloves, nutmeg, and allspice

    Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, use a mixer to beat together sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add pumpkin, eggs, chai tea liquid, and vanilla and stir until well combined. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices and stir just until evenly moistened. Pour into prepared 8" loaf pan. Bake 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool at least 20 minutes before serving. 


    November 09, 2009

    Comfort Food - Braised Short Ribs

    I always seem to have more food in my freezer than I need.  Even with a large family it is getting a little ridiculous and, with Thanksgiving just around the corner, I am trying to clean it out just a bit.  It is a battle and at the moment the freezer is winning.  In my valiant effort I did find a packet of short ribs that I had purchased a couple of months ago when a yummy-sounding recipe caught my attention.  Of course I have no idea where this rib recipe is now.

    I went online and saw that there are thousands of similar-sounding recipes but I found one on the Food Network by Anne Burrell for Braised Short Ribs that sounded amazing and had received excellent reviews. I have seen her show Secrets of a Restaurant Chef a few times but had not gotten hooked on watching it on a regular basis. I can tell you right now that if this recipe tastes half as good as it smells cooking I am going to have to re-visit this show.  Not only does it smell heavenly but it came together so easily.  The only change I made to the recipe was to use boneless short ribs and add about 2 teaspoons of cinnamon to the pot.  I did this because I love the Cinnamon-Braised Short Ribs at Chef Kevin Hanney’s 12th Avenue Grill, which is one of my favorite restaurants in Honolulu.  Unfortunately it is not available at the moment but I hope that it will return to the menu soon.  So until then I am trying to replicate it at home and if this fails I will have to turn to begging them for the recipe.  Fingers crossed it will not come to that.  I served it with Creamy Mashed Potatoes and some butter-garlic sauteed spinach.

    Braised Short Ribs 

  1. Prep Time: 25 min
  2. Cook Time: 3 hr 30 min
  3. Level: Easy
  4. Serves: 8 servings
  5. Ingredients

    • 6 bone-in short ribs (about 5 3/4 pounds)
    • Kosher salt
    • Extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1 large Spanish onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
    • 2 ribs celery, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
    • 2 carrots, peeled, cut in 1/2 lengthwise, then cut into 1/2-inch pieces
    • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
    • 1 1/2 cups tomato paste
    • 2 to 3 cups hearty red wine
    • 2 cups water
    • 1 bunch fresh thyme, tied with kitchen string
    • 2 bay leaves


    1. Season each short rib generously with salt. Coat a pot large enough to accommodate all the meat and vegetables with olive oil and bring to a high heat. Add the short ribs to the pan and brown very well, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Do not overcrowd pan. Cook in batches, if necessary.
    2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
    3. While the short ribs are browning, puree all the vegetables and garlic in the food processor until it forms a coarse paste.
    4. When the short ribs are very brown on all sides, remove them from the pan. 5. Drain the fat, coat the bottom of same pan with fresh oil and add the pureed vegetables. Season the vegetables generously with salt and brown until they are very dark and a crud has formed on the bottom of the pan, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Scrape the crud and let it reform. Scrape the crud again and add the tomato paste. Brown the tomato paste for 4 to 5 minutes.
    6. Add the wine and scrape the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat if things start to burn. Reduce the mixture by half.
    7. Return the short ribs to the pan and add 2 cups water or until the water has just about covered the meat.
    8. Add the thyme bundle and bay leaves. Cover the pan and place in the preheated oven for 3 hours. Check periodically during the cooking process and add more water, if needed. Turn the ribs over halfway through the cooking time. 9. Remove the lid during the last 20 minutes of cooking to let things get nice and brown and to let the sauce reduce. When done the meat should be very tender but not falling apart. Serve with the braising liquid.

    November 04, 2009

    Creamy Thai Pumpkin Soup

    We are finally experiencing some rain here after a couple of months of hot, humid weather. The months of September and October are always this way as we lose our trade winds and the humidity sets in.  There were some days that I thought I would melt in a puddle on the floor.  This is the only time when I wish that we had air conditioning rather than island air-conditioning, which involves opening a window or a door.  I don't know about you but when it is so hot it is hard for me to summon any enthusiasm to turn on the oven, so we usually BBQ.

    Tonight it is just that little bit cooler and the first thing I wanted to cook was soup. I looked in the fridge and I decided on pumpkin soup.  I have made pumpkin soup before but this time I wanted a twist.  I remembered seeing a recipe for a Thai-inspired pumpkin soup and knew that I wanted to try something like this and experiment with the ingredients a little. The original recipe can be found here and was posted by Kuvy on the Cooking Light Community Bulletin Board way back in 2003.

    The original recipe called for cilantro, which I love, but it is not a favorite in my family, so I knew straight away that it had to go.  To boost the flavor that was lost from omitting this ingredient I decided to add some lemongrass and, for a little heat, I added red curry paste. After tasting the soup I felt it was missing a sweet note so I included some brown sugar.  I thought all of the changes were successful and added a different dimension to the soup. The finishing touch was a dollop of sour cream on the top.  As I was adding the sour cream I had the idea that next time I would do a cilantro-sour cream topping for those who do want a taste of cilantro in the soup.

    Felice's Creamy Thai Pumpkin Soup

    1/2 medium onion, chopped
    5 cups butternut squash pumpkin, chopped
    1 13.5 fl oz can coconut milk
    2 cups vegetable broth
    1 tablespoon brown sugar
    1 tablespoon fish sauce
    2 teaspoons lemongrass
    1/2 teaspoon red curry paste (or more if you like more fire)
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon pepper
    sour cream for topping

    1. In a large pot saute onion until it is translucent.
    2. Add broth, coconut milk, pumpkin, lemongrass, and brown sugar and bring to a boil.  Add salt and pepper and simmer over medium heat until pumpkin is tender.
    3. Stir in fish sauce and red curry paste and cook for another few minutes. Taste soup and adjust seasonings accordingly.
    4. Let cool for approximately 10 minutes and then puree batches in a blender or use an immersion blender directly in the pot being extremely careful of the hot soup.  Garnish each serving with a dollop of sour cream.

    October 23, 2009

    Everybody Needs A Little Peabody

    There are so many great blogs out there to read but my absolute favorite is Culinary Concoctions by Peabody. This blog is written by the immensely talented and world famous Peabody Rudd - well, she is famous in the blog world - and her blog never disappoints.  Not only is her photography outstanding but her posts are witty and the recipes are to-die-for.    Her blog is the one that I turn to for inspiration and what I want my blog to be like when it grows up.

    I have been gathering a list of must-try recipes from Peabody's blog for a while and decided that now is as good a time as any to give one of them a try.  They all look so good that it was hard to chose the first one.  Since I had all the ingredients on hand I decided on the Vanilla Yogurt Cake with Orange Glaze. I went with her suggestion and made these in mini loaf pans.  I made seven mini loaves from this recipe which meant that everyone in the family got their own loaf and I had one to spare. I don't know how we will decide who gets that last one.  Maybe we will have to try and cut the mini loaf into six slices.

    The aroma from the vanilla as they were baking was wonderful. I think everyone had their eye on the timer to see how soon they would be ready. I was really happy with the golden color and how well the cakes rose in their tins.  As soon as the timer went off everyone was anxious to try one.  I had to quickly explain that they needed to cool a little bit and that I had to glaze them before they were eaten or I am sure they would have been gone in the blink of an eye.   I decided to glaze them with lemon rather than orange, so the only changes I made to this recipe was to omit the orange juice and substitute lemon juice in both the cake and the glaze. I am going to attach some photos but, as you can see, I need a bit more practice in this department.  They really don't do the cakes justice at all.  As much as I would love to blame the lighting, or lack of, in my kitchen I know it is more the person pushing the button.

    It was thrilling to know that the first recipe I tried from Peabody's site was a success.  Not that I had any doubts at all with regards to her recipe.  If there had been any problems it was more likely to be user-error than anything else.  I hope that you head over to her site and take a look for yourself.  I am sure that you will enjoy it and quickly become a regular visitor.

    Vanilla Yogurt Cake with Orange Glaze


    • 1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
    • ½ tsp baking powder
    • ¼ tsp baking soda
    • ½ tsp salt
    • 1 egg
    • 1 egg yolk
    • 1 cup granulated sugar
    • 1 vanilla bean, seed scraped out, pod discarded
    • 1 ½ TBSP vanilla extract
    • 7 oz Greek Yogurt
    • ½ cup vegetable oil
    • 4 TBSP orange juice, divided


    1. Spray two 6 x 3.2 x 3.4 inch loaf pans with baking spray. Or coat with butter and flour.
    2. Preheat oven to 350F.
    3. Using a stand mixer (or a large bowl and and electric hand mixer), beat together the egg, egg yolk, and sugar on medium-high speed, until it turns pale yellow, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla beans, vanilla extract, and oil, beat another minute, until fully incorporated.
    4. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
    5. With the mixer on low speed, add half the amount of dry ingredients. Then add half the amount of Greek yogurt, and 2 TBSP of the orange juice. Add remaining dry ingredients and followed by the remaining yogurt. Remove from mixer and finish mixing by hand using a spatula until all of the ingredients are fully incorporated.
    6. Pour into prepared pans and bake for 35-40 minutes.
    7. Remove from oven. Using a toothpick or large wooden skewer poke holes into the cake. Using a pastry brush, brush orange juice over hot loaves.
    8. Let cool for 10 minutes and remove from pan. Place on wire rack to finish cooling. When cool, glaze cakes.
    Orange Glaze
    2 cups sifted powdered sugar
    6 TBSP orange juice
    Combine the two ingredients together with a whisk. Pour over cakes.

    Recipe courtesy of : Culinary Concoctions by Peabody

    October 19, 2009

    I am back with a Best-Ever Apple Cake

    Wow, that was a longer break than I intended to take.  It has been a crazy few weeks with my DH away doing a job and then we went to watch him compete in his 5th Kona Ironman on the Big Island of Hawaii.  We were all very proud of him even if he didn't have the race of his dreams due to injury.  Seriously, anyone who competes in an Ironman deserves a lot of respect.  It is a grueling race, and for those unfamiliar with it, consists of a 2.4 miles (3.86 km) swim, a 112 miles (180.25 km) bike and a marathon (26 miles 385 yards, 42.195 km) run, raced in that order and without a break.  He competes next weekend in the Xterra World Championship next weekend in Makena, Maui. No rest for the wicked :)

    Whilst I was away I was flicking thought the latest issue of Redbook and there were a couple of apple recipes that looked interesting.  I decided to start with the Best-Ever Apple Cake.  I have to say that once everything was measured out and chopped this cake came together very quickly. I decided to try a new flour that I had purchased from Costco. It is an all-purpose unbleached flour that is a mix of white and ultragrain. The package states that it has double the fiber of other all-purpose flours.  I like the idea of adding something healthy to my baking.  Now I just have to use of the rest of the flour.   Since it came in two ten-pound bags, I predict a lot of baking in my future.

    So, did the cake live up to its lofty title?  Was it the Best-Ever Apple Cake?  Hmmmm....I am not so sure about that.  Since the nuts were on the bottom of the pan they received the most heat and I detected a slightly bitter/burnt taste from the outside of the cake.  It might have been a better idea to layer the pecans with the apple mixture inside the cake.  Also, to give this cake a little more flavor and color, next time I will add some chopped cranberries to the apple mixture.  It did smell good coming out of the oven and everyone was eager to have a warm slice.  My youngest decided that a little whipped cream would go nicely with this cake and I have to say that she was right.

     Best-Ever Apple Cake

    Yields: 12 slices
    Prep Time: 30 min
    Cook Time: 1 hr 20 min
    Oven Temp: 350F

    • 3/4 cup(s) chopped pecans
    • 2 cup(s) all-purpose flour
    • 2 cup(s) sugar
    • 2 teaspoon(s) ground cinnamon
    • 4  large baking apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
    • 1 tablespoon(s) baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon(s) salt
    • 4  large eggs
    • 1/2 cup(s) vegetable oil
    • 1/2 cup(s) (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
    • 1/4 cup(s) orange juice
    • 2 teaspoon(s) vanilla extract

    1. Heat oven to 350°F. Spray a 10-inch removable-bottom tube pan with nonstick spray. Sprinkle pecans evenly on bottom of pan.
    2. In a large bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of the flour, 1/4 cup of the sugar, and cinnamon. Add apples and toss to combine.
    3. In another large bowl, mix remaining flour, remaining sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add eggs, oil, butter, orange juice, and vanilla extract. Beat until batter is smooth.
    4. Pour half of the batter (about 2 cups) into prepared pan. Top with half of apple mixture. Spoon remaining batter over apples and top with remaining apples, placing them 1/4 inch in from the tube and the border of the cake.
    5. Bake 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cake cool in pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Run a paring knife around the sides and center of cake and turn cake out onto wire rack. Invert cake onto another rack to cool, apple side up. 

    September 27, 2009

    Monkey-ing Around

    You know the drill.  There is a smell of ripening bananas in the air and every time you pass the fruit basket on the table you think to yourself I must use up those bananas before they go bad’.  That is the situation I was faced with today so I pulled out my recipe for banana bread.  It is a super easy recipe that calls for a boxed cake mix and instant vanilla pudding.  It is one of those no fail recipes.  The original recipe also had a topping included but I usually leave it plain or top it with a lilikoi-flavored cream cheese frosting.  This recipe makes a 9x13 pan but I thought it might be a good idea to make it in mini loaf pans.  I wanted to share some with our neighbor and freeze the rest.  I am not sure that any will actually make it into the freezer because they are going fast.  Not to worry because there always seems to be more bananas that need to be used up.


    1 package white cake mix
    1 (4oz) package of vanilla instant pudding mix
    4 eggs
    1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 4-5)
    1/3 cup vegetable oil

    1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease a 9x13 inch cake pan
    2. In a large mixing bowl combine cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, bananas, and oil.  Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes or until smooth.
    3. Spread batter in prepared pan.  Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool for at least 30 minutes in pan before turning out onto a wire rack.
    4. Top with a dusting of powdered sugar or cream cheese frosting if desired.

    Variation: Try with chocolate, banana, or butterscotch pudding.

    September 26, 2009

    Pizza for you and pizza for me

    It seems like forever but I am finally back to blogging. I have been fighting off a sore throat - it won - and have not been feeling like doing much of anything. In the search for something quick and easy for dinner the decision was made to try our hand at making our own pizzas. We decided on a vegetarian theme with a mixture of bell pepper, onion, pineapple, and lots of cheese (I added mushrooms to mine). I kept it simple by buying the dough from Whole Foods and got an assortment of toppings. On one of the pizzas we caramelized the onions first. It added a great taste and I think next time we will take it a step further and add some balsamic vinegar too. One valuable lesson that we learned is don't forget to put some cornmeal on the pizza stone before placing the dough on them. Our pizzas were good and stuck when we took them out of the oven. It was a little disappointing because they looked and smelled so good but we managed to pry them off and enjoy them anyway. We already have some ideas to try out on our next pizza so this may become a weekly ritual. Of course I would also like to try my hand at making my own dough.

    September 03, 2009

    Mom...please bring cheesecake brownies

    It was my turn to bring "snacks" for my daughter's volleyball game.  I hesitate to even call it a snack because some people go all out and bring a full meal.  I don't know about you but I remember not being very hungry when I finished playing a basketball game, but I guess that was back in the olden days.  Anyway, I decided that I was going to veer away from the normal pizza, hot dogs, etc and bring some bread rolls filled with lots of fresh salad and meat.

    Since we were having something somewhat healthy my daughter asked if I could make cheesecake brownies as dessert.  Ever since I made these for a bake sale at the school last year they have become a favorite.  Using a pre-packaged brownie mix makes them super easy to make, but it doesn't take that much longer to make them from scratch.  The cream cheese mixture for the top is also quick and easy with only three ingredients (four if you include my addition of vanilla extract or vanilla paste).

    I used a great recipe from Lovin' From the Oven.  I did use a boxed mix for the brownies by Ghirardelli this time and made an addition to the cream cheese mixture.

    Cheesecake Brownies


    For the brownie
    1 cup butter
    2 cups sugar (white)
    4 eggs
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    1 cup all purpose flour
    ½ cup cocoa
    ½ teaspoon salt

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 8"x8" pan. Melt butter in saucepan over low heat. Once melted remove from heat and add sugar, vanilla, and eggs. Blend together. In separate bowl, mix together flour, cocoa, and salt. Add dry mixture to the wet and mix well. Pour into greased pan.

    For the cheesecake swirl
    8 oz (1 package) cream cheese, softened
    1/4 cup sugar (you can use 1/3 cup if you want it sweeter)
    1 egg
    2 teaspoons of vanilla extract or 1 teaspoon of vanilla paste

    Beat the cream cheese and sugar mixture together. Add the egg and vanilla and continue beating until creamy. Drop rounded teaspoons on top of the brownie batter and then swirl using a knife. Bake for approximately 50-60 minutes, or until done.


    A Blast from the Past

    I knew exactly what I needed to do to relieve my stress.  I had to bake something.  The only problem was that I was short on time so it needed to be a quick and easy recipe.  I  had a couple of recipes in mind but they all seemed to have too many steps. I was ready to give up but I turned to my old faithful recipe binder and flipped straight to the back of it where the good stuff is filed.  You know the ones I mean.  Old faithfuls.  

    Sure enough I came across a recipe that was given to me almost eighteen years ago.  It was one of those recipes that you come across when a group of women get together for coffee and someone brings just the right cake and you just have to have the recipe.  Luckily for me this friend was generous enough to share her recipe.  She seemed almost embarassed because it was such a simple recipe - nothing fancy was what she said.  Sometimes those recipes are the ones that are the best because there are very few steps for a lot of reward.  This is that kind of recipe.

    I don't know why I haven't made this recipe in such a long time.  I guess there are so many recipes to try and so little time. I have discovered that new is not always better and that applies to lots of things in life, not just cooking. Maybe it is time to enjoy old familiar favorites again.  Mix the old with the new and enjoy the best of both worlds.

    Orange Cake
    125g butter
    1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
    2 tablespoons custard powder
    3/4 cup sugar
    2 eggs
    1/2 cup orange juice
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    1 tablespoon orange zest

    Preheat oven to 350F.
    Add butter and sugar to a bowl and use a mixer to cream.
    Add eggs, orange juice, orange zest, and vanilla and mix to thoroughly combine
    Add sifted flour and custard powder.
    Pour into a greased 8-inch cake pan and bake for 40-45 minutes.
    When cool sift icing sugar over top if desired.

    August 31, 2009

    Mmmmm.....something smells good

    This was the comment I kept getting this afternoon as I was preparing a fruit crumble.  I have to say that even in hot weather there is nothing quite like the smell of something baking in the oven.  I had half a Costco-size box of nectarines and some raspberries that were getting to their use-by-date. I decided to head to the computer rather than my cookbooks to look for a recipe because of time constraints.  Wow, there are a lot of recipes out there for nectarine crumble on the internet.  I kept thinking that may have been quicker had I hit the books.  I looked through quite a few before I settled on one from Food Blogga that looked too good not to try.  I did make a few adjustments because I was out of a few ingredients and I decided to substitute some other ingredients so I am going to post my amended version of this recipe, but full credit goes to Food Blogga for developing this recipe.   I served this with some Edy's (Dryer's) Slow-Churned Frozen Tart Honey Yogurt - boy that was a mouthful - but it was the perfect foil for the sweet dessert.

    Nectarine and Raspberry Crumble
    4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
    1/4 cup light brown sugar 
    1/4 cup Maui raw sugar
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    1/2 cup dessicated coconut
    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
    1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
    pinch of salt

    6 nectarines, sliced 
    1/4 cup light brown sugar
    1/4 cup Maui raw sugar
    1/2 cup granulated sugar
    2 cups fresh (or unthawed frozen) raspberries
    2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 3 tablespoons water
    2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

    Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9x13 dish with cooking spray.

    To make the crumble - place the sugar, flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and coconut in a bowl. Add the butter and use your hands to rub it into the flour mixture.

    To make the fruit filling - in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the nectarines and sugars. Cook until slightly tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add the raspberries and dissolved cornstarch. Stir until the mixture begins to thicken and bubble up, about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat, and stir in the vanilla extract.

    Pour the fruit filling into the prepared pie dish, and sprinkle the streusel evenly over the top. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until the topping is golden and fruit filling is bubbling up around the edges. Allow to cool before serving. It's best served at room temperature or just slightly warm.
    (Recipe created by Susan Russo of Food Blogga.

    August 30, 2009

    Friands on Sunday

    It was a gorgeous day here.  Endless blue sky, light trade winds, and temps in the mid-eighties.  I woke up at 4:45 a.m. this morning to go an see my daughter compete in the Na Wahine Sprint Triathlon.  After she had finished we waited for the awards ceremony only to find out that everyone's times were incorrect as they had forgotten to push the start button for the timing chips.  Oh well, it was a great race.  For many people it was their first race so they were just happy to finish. Someone yelled out to me as they were doing the race that it was my turn next year but I think I have decided that I will stick to what I excel at - and that is cheering. My thanks to all the volunteers who make these races such a great success.

    I decided to go ahead and try the recipe I had for Almond Friands but add some raspberries to them.  For those who have not heard of these delicious treats before they are like a muffin but are much lighter due to the fact that they are mostly almond meal, sugar, and egg whites. I used a recipe from the Australian Women's Weekly cookbook called Home Baked.  I picked up this book whilst I was visiting Australia late last year and it has a wonderful selection of recipes for muffins, cakes, etc.

    Thanks to my sous chef Ashleigh I was able to get these made in record time.  We also made Alton Browns' Lemon Curd with the leftover egg yolks.  The hard part was remembering to take photos as I went.  Oh well, I am sure that I will get the hang of this blogging thing.
    Raspberry Almond Friands

    6 egg whites
    185g butter, melted
    125g (1 cup) ground almonds
    240g (1 1/2 cups) powdered sugar
    75g (1/2 cup) plain flour
    approx 30 raspberries, pureed
    extra icing sugar for dusting 

    Preheat oven to 400F.  Grease a 12 x 1/2 cup muffin pan and place on a baking tray.
    Place egg whites in a medium bowl.  Using a mixer on low speed whisk lightly until combined. Add butter, ground almonds, sugar, and flour. Stir with a wooden spoon until just combined.
    Spoon mixture into pans approximately half way in each hole.  Place a tablespoon of raspberry puree on top of each one, and then top with remaining mixture.  Use a skewer to swirl the mixture. 
    Bake for about 25 minutes. Cool the cakes in the pan for 5 minutes. Remove to a plate and dust with powdered sugar.

    Variations: Omit raspberry and -

    Lime Coconut - Stir 2 teaspoons finely grated lime rind, 1 tablespoon lime juice, and 20g (1/4 cup) dessicated coconut into egg-white mixture, sprinkle unbaked friands with 15g (1/3 cup) flaked coconut.

    Passionfruit - Use hazelnut or almond meal.  Drizzle the pulp of 2 medium passionfruit over unbaked friands.

    Berry - Top unbaked friands with 100g fresh or frozen (unthawed to avoid "bleeding") mixed berries.

    Citrus and Poppy Seed - Add 2 teaspoons grated lemon or orange rind and 1 tablespoon poppy seeds to egg-white mixture.

    Chocolate and Hazelnut - Replace almond meal with hazelnut meal.  Stir 100g coursely chopped dark chocolate into egg-white mixture.  Sprinkle unbaked friands with 1/4 cup coarsely chopped hazelnuts.

    August 29, 2009

    My Very First Post

    It seems like everyone is doing it these days. Every time I turn around there is another person who admits to it. Some do it anonymously and others want the whole world to know about their escapades. Some do it every day, whilst others are more likely to try for once a week, or even once a month. For some it is all about the simple pleasures and for a few it is all about outrageous success. Some even go on to write a book or make a movie about it. So who am I to go against the popular trend of food blogging? I guess the easiest thing to do is to jump in test the water.

    So, the easy part is done.  I have chosen the title of my blog and signed up, now what do I write about?  Most people say you should write what you know.  Of course this is easier said than done.  Should it really be this hard to get started?  And if it is, how am I going to get anywhere with this blog?

    I am a mom of four who happens to love to cook.  Well, truthfully, I love to bake, but my family needs to eat every day so I cook.  Baking is what I find relaxing and rewarding.  There is something about seeing the look of bliss on someone's face after they have taken a bite of your banana bread, or scones, or brownies, or cheesecake, or........well you get the idea.  Even when the recipe does not work out exactly as I want I love that I still have a receptive audience in my family and friends who will happily eat my "mistakes".

    I am hoping that this blog will give me a reason to open all of those cookbooks and food magazines that are sitting on my shelves gathering dust. Most have been lovingly read - I am guessing that I am not the only person in the world who reads cookbooks like they are novels - but I just haven't gotten around to actually cooking from many of them.  I also have a huge pile of "to try" recipes that I really should get around to actually trying.  Who knows what gems may be hidden in that pile of paper?

    To be honest I don't really know how often I will be blogging.  Well, I do have an idea in my head but I don't want to jinx myself by saying (or blogging) it out loud and then not living up to my promise.  My hope is that I will blog about each new recipe I try and attach some photos.  I should tell you upfront that photography is not my forte but I will give it my best shot (no pun intended).  Seems easy enough doesn't it?

    I am planning on trying my first new recipe tomorrow.  There is a friand recipe with my name on it.  Comments are welcome - especially encouraging ones.