Monday, November 30, 2009

Sweet Melissa Sunday: Should be called Moist Almond Bread Drizzled in Brandy

Golden Almond Fruitcake picked by Karin of Sugar and Spice & Everything Nice shocked the stuffings out of me! I have only tried fruitcake once in my life and this beautiful, moist bread was not anything like the small boulder of hard, dry cake with candied whatever in it. I wanted to support Karin, albeit I am late once again, and what a treat! Karin picked this recipe because of the memories associated, which always brings a tear to my eye and warms my heart during this holiday season. My grandpa was my best friend in life and I miss him so much right now, which makes me think who doesn't have loved ones to whom warm, loving feelings sneak up on during the holidays (even from our childhood)?The ingredients took a little bit of time to assemble before starting. I love the idea of using marzipan in the recipe and freezing until time to mix the ingredient in batter.

My choice of dried fruit: Apples and Cherries.
Brandy: Yes; I used apple brandy.

Sifting onto a small piece of wax paper makes easy work out of adding the dry ingredients slowly and one less dish to clean. I am a huge fan of dirtying as few dishes as possible.

The batter came together nicely, loaded with delicious chunks of dried, moist fruit, frozen marzipan and chopped almonds.
Golden loaf of bread dotted throughout with wonderful, homey flavors. I ground fresh nutmeg and using cardamon is always a great choice.
Melissa was so right about calling this recipe something, anything other then fruitcake. So many people, including myself, are pre-set as to what all fruitcake tastes like . . . something we wouldn't wish on anyone (especially friends and family). I would happily share this recipe with anyone willing to be pleasantly surprised.
Karin, thank you for choosing this recipe. I absolutely LOVE the almond cake/bread/fruitcake. Delicious! For the recipe, please go to Karin's blog or, better yet, buy Sweet Melissa's baking book and enjoy pleasant surprises throughout all her recipes.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Late Sweet Melissa Sunday - Raised Waffles with Warm Brown Sugar Bananas plus Entertaining Crostini Caponata

Sweet Melissa Sunday was a decadent, sweet, and filling breakfast selection. Sauteed bananas dripping with a golden caramel sauce, served over Belgian waffles with a crispy exterior and light inner perfection. Lauren of Fried Pickles and Ice Cream chose Raised Waffles with Warm Brown Sugar Bananas (found on Lauren's blog or purchase the SMS baking book) and I could not be happier.
Banana pancakes are a favorite personal treat and yet rarely made. The pancake generally lacks in flavor and character. The SMS recipe using a heavy fruit, oily by nature (usually causing a heavy and oily end product) were nothing but perfection for an abundance of banana flavor, texture, and lightness. Making the batter the night before created a morning of ease and the kitchen promptly filled with the aroma of waffles baking and fresh coffee brewing. What a great Sunday breakfast!
Grating nutmeg could not be easier, adding wonderful flavor unmatched with store purchased, grated nutmeg.
I was curious if the yeast dough prepared and set out overnight would taste anything like sourdough. The end flavor did not hold a strong yeast taste nor were the waffles dense. Light and fluffy with a mild flavor (great as a base for any topping) is the best description I can give at this moment.
Caramel sauces are generally a breeze to make but adding rum can give any cook a "start" in the kitchen. Nothing like a lot of action and flames to replace the need of caffeine in the morning.
The caramel sauce clung nicely to banana slices, creating a decadent and mouth-watering topping.
While the sauce cooled, waffle batter was completed. The Belgian waffle baker will bake a waffle golden brown in about 2 minutes.
Thank you Lauren and Melissa ~ a perfect breakfast treat. I felt spoiled sitting down with a warm cup of coffee flavored with a little hazelnut cream and these delicious waffles with the perfect banana topping my taste buds have been looking for.

Added to this recipe is another recipe for entertaining or a light dinner treat: Crostini Caponata. I have been in the process of making 2 Thanksgiving dinners. The first is an all Italian Thanksgiving, prepared and served yesterday. I will list the whole meal in the blog because every aspect of the Italian meal was a first. The dinner consisted of courses served individually before sitting down to a full turkey with side dishes. Wines were selected for each course and the extra preparation added to an excitement of anticipation well worth the effort.
One of the best Thanksgiving dinners I have ever been part of ~ offering an air of competition and comparison for a more traditional Thanksgiving dinner to be served on Thanksgiving.
The recipe is quite simple. You will need:
2 Medium zucchini cut into 1/4" slices.
3 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped.
5 Tablespoons Olive Oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 Tablespoon dried Oregano (or more to taste)
To taste: Salt and Freshly ground black Pepper
1 Loaf of Italian Bread, 3/4" thick slices
1 1/2 cups grated Mozzarella cheese (I use fresh Mozzi but the cheese is harder to grate)
Directions:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. or 220 degrees C.
In a skillet, brown zucchini in oil. Add garlic, stir, and cook 15 seconds. Add tomatoes and seasonings. Cook 5 minutes over medium heat, or until juice from tomatoes has evaporated. Cool caponata before using.
Brush bread with a little olive oil on both sides. Place on middle oven rack, turning once to toast both sides.
Spread with caponata and top with grated Mozzarella. Return to oven until cheese is melted and a light golden brown. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

TWD: Sugar-Topped Molasses Spice Cookies and Mexican Veggie Casserole

Pamela of Cookies with Boys decided on Sugar-Topped Molasses Spice Cookies for the November 17th TWD but this is a special month for us. The TWD baker's have a choice of how the recipe rotation will go for the month and this week I made Pamela's cookies. The allspice (I freshly ground some whole allspice), cinnamon, dash of white pepper, and the sugar coating were so perfect together. What a great recipe to share with family. I know we all love to share our baked goodies but, especially during the holidays, sharing the recipe as a Christmas cookie addition to be baked by our Moms, sisters, best friends (works great for best baking buds living in other states or countries) can be just as fun. Having the phone on speaker while baking (I have gotten cookie dough all over the phone before and learned from experience) is the way to go.
Thank you Pamela for such a wonderful choice. Dorie has a vast array of delicious recipes and I am always surprised by some aspect in the ingredients, directions, or ways to alter the recipe that Dorie has in her side notes.
The cookie dough being put into the freezer for 30 minutes works great when behind in my baking events and trying to get the cookies done so I can participate with our team of great TWD bakers.

I simply cut each bundle of dough into 12 pieces, rolled into a ball, rolled the ball in granulated sugar and baked on parchment. Oh, uhmmm, Dorie didn't say to use parchment. I used the parchment for easy cleaning purposes because I was tired (long day at work).
I loved the sugar coating. Reminds me of an oatmeal cookie recipe my family does (my Dad's favorite!).
The cookies spread out . . . in fact, the cookies are huge! I took some to work and Huge was the word of choice for everyone taking a cookie.
I know the cookies were big but because I loved the flavor and texture so much, there was a small sigh of regret with the recipe only making 24 cookies. What a great recipe addition for the holidays!
Included is a Mexican Veggie Casserole. The recipe is full of great flavors and easy to make for a weeknight dinner. I came across the recipe in one of Paula Deen's magazines. Fun recipes help keep excitement in the kitchen, especially when we are tired and do 'not' feel like making dinner.
Mexican Veggie Casserole
Serves 4
Ingredients:
2 T. vegetable oil
3 cups chopped zucchini
1 cup chopped onion
1 (15-ounce) can corn, drained
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15-ounce) can ranch-style beans
1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chilies, drained
1 (1-ounce) package taco seasoning mix
2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese, divided
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese or Neufchatel softened
1/2 cup light sour cream
12 (5-inch) corn tortillas, divided
Garnish: chopped green onions
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9 x 9-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add zucchini and onion; cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until vegetables are tender and most of liquid is absorbed. Stir in corn, black beans, ranch-style beans, diced tomatoes, and taco seasoning mix.
In a small bowl, combine 1 cup cheese, cream cheese, and sour cream.
Layer 4 tortilla over bottom of prepared pan.
Top tortillas with half of zucchini mixture; top evenly with half of cheese mixture. Place 4 tortillas over cheese mixture; top with remaining zucchini mixture. Top evenly with remaining cheese mixture. Cover top of casserole with remaining 4 tortillas. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 1 cup cheese. Bake for 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Garnish with green onion, if desired. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Oh Know, A late Posting for TWD's Cran Apple Crisp (plus Italian Sausage Lasagna Roll-ups)

Tuesday with Dorie is HERE and Em of The Repressed Pastry Chef selected Cran-Apple Crisps on page 422 of Dorie Greenspan's Baking, From my home to yours cookbook.
What a beautiful holiday choice! LOVED IT!

Even being crazy busy and baking the crisp late Monday night, the reward of a delicious dessert that screams Thanksgiving and Christmas together, with a pretty bow on top, was worth the extra effort.

I was raised in Grayland, with cranberry bogs all around me, as a little girl. I used to help my dad sort cranberries, watch the berries be put into humongous wood bins, see the semi-trucks pull up and load the bins onto flatbeds, then the trucks drove the plump red berries off to an Ocean Spray factory (about 35 minutes from where we lived).

I now live only 2 hours from where I watched the whole process (beginning to end) so imagine my surprise when entering a grocery store for fresh Ocean Spray cranberries to find second or even third rate, shriveled, unequal sized cranberries for the outrageous price of $6.00, for a small bag no less! The shock was an instant wave across my brain. I used to pick the cranberries off the bog and pop them in my mouth (showing off to my little friends, of course, because raw cranberries are extremely 'Sour') and each berry was just as big as the previous one. Irritation sounds like a good word right now. So where are the perfect berries being shipped?

Dorie, your recipe, with or without perfect cranberries, is a hit for flavor. I cut down on the sugar by half, then worried while the crisp baked that I would have a sour/bitter dessert. Instead, the flavors, color, and aroma was magnificent!

My only downfall was rushing the recipe and over~processing the crumble. I had no large chunks. Just pebble-sized pieces. Of course, the flavor was not affected.
To see how wonderful the rest of the TWD bakers did this week, just click here for our list of bakers and links to each blog. Everyone here is so talented! Thank you EM!!!!

I promised Italian Sausage Lasagna Roll-Ups, so here they are. Easy and delicious.
Italian Sausage Lasagna Roll Ups
Ingredients:
8 lasagna noodles
16 container ricotta cheese or cottage cheese
1/2 teaspoon minced chives
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon fresh basil
1 pound sweet Italian Sausage (cooked and drained of grease)
8 slices Swiss cheese, cut in half
1 - jar meatless spaghetti sauce (or fresh homemade)
1 - cup shredded Parmesan or Mozzarella Cheese
Directions:
Cook Italian sausage, drain grease and set aside.
Cook noodles according to package directions; drain.
Combine ricotta or cottage cheese, chives, oregano and basil; spread about 1/4 cup over each noodle to within 1/2 in. Of edges.
Top with Italian sausage and Swiss cheese; carefully roll up. Place seam side down in a greased shallow 1-qt. Baking dish; top with spaghetti sauce.
Cover and bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until bubbly. Uncover; sprinkle with Parmesan or Mozzarella cheese. Bake 5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.
Let stand for 5 minutes top each roll with a little more cheese before serving. Yield: 8 servings