Saturday, July 31, 2010

Apricots, apricots, apricots . . . Riesling Jam

Playing with apricots is so easy because . . . and this is the exciting part . . .there is no peeling of fruit skin. Pull apart the fruit and remove pit. Cut off any parts not acceptable and WA LAH~ ready to start Whipping into a delicious concoction. I LOVE the color of apricots. The jars are full of a bright, cheery and chunky jam to be used as glazes, cookie and bar filling, cake filling and glaze or just on little tea sandwiches. Slightly tart; slightly sweet (according to how much sugar you want to add).

The apricots are fresh off the trees, bought right on an apricot farm in Eastern Washington. 22 pounds for $23.95. Apricots are ripe just before cling-free peaches and pears and I always missed the opportunity to get a box. This year, going blueberry picking coincided with the apricot season sooo I am ecstatic; it is always those little things that tickle me the most!

I have made chunky apricot preserves and apricot Riesling jam. The recipe below is for the Apricot Riesling Jam; adapted from a recipe I found at

Apricots naturally break down when cooked. Adding about 1/3 box of pectin powder to my sugar and stirring before adding to the apricots allows me to not cook the mixture as long; meaning chunky preserves and NOT apricot puree.

(The majority of the wine cooks out and leaves a wonderful flavor to the preserves. If you do not want to use wine; leave it out. The apricots provide enough natural juices so you do not have to worry about replacing with another type of liquid.)

Apricot Riesling Jam
6 cups of apricots pulled into two pieces and pits discarded
2 cups of sugar
1/3 box of Sure Jell Fruit Pectin powder; stir into the sugar
1/3 cup of Late Harvest Riesling
5 tablespoons of lemon juice

Place the apricots, sugar, pectin, wine, and lemon juice in a large (at least 4-qt), thick-bottomed, stainless steel pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Place a couple small plates in the freezer, these will be used to test the jam later.

The mixture will boil and rise in volume. Skim off the pale yellow foam that forms at the top and discard. The boil will subside to larger bubbles, but still bubble vigorously. Be sure to begin gently stirring the jam frequently to prevent it from sticking to the bottom.

After about 12 to 15 minutes begin testing the jam by placing a small amount on a cold plate. Allow 30 seconds to pass and then run your finger through it to see what the cooled consistency will be. Boil for a few minutes longer if desired for a thicker jam.

Ladle into hot, sterilized canning jars (I sterilize by washing the jars and rings in the dishwasher) and seal leaving 1/4 inch of head space. Before applying the lids, sterilize the lids by placing them in a bowl and pouring boiling water over them. Wipe the rims of the jars clean before applying the lids.

I also put the jars in a hot water bath. Use a canning kettle and fill with enough water to submerge jars with at least 1" of water over the tops of jars. Bring water to a boil. Put jars in the metal jar holder and lower into the water. Bring water back to boiling and boil for 10 minutes. Remove jars and let sit until you hear the cute little popping noise notifying you the jars are sealed.

The next day, you can remove your rings for repeat canning use and display your bright colored, freshly canned apricots for all to see ~ especially you!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bisque with Shrimp over Pan-Seared Gouda Grits

3 pounds of shrimp are luxuriously swimming in a pool of rich and creamy soup ladled over pan-seared Gouda grits. The dish takes a few steps to complete but a little prep work ahead of time goes a LONG ways. Peel the shrimp and make the stock the day before. The shrimp stock simmers for 20 minutes, cools, strain and reserve in refrigerator. The Gouda grits need to chill for at least 4 hours before cutting into triangles.

This one dish dinner is hearty, filled with layers of flavor and fun to present. The recipe was adapted from Will Hughes of Catering & Market.

Shrimp with Pan-Seared Gouda Grits
(Makes 6 servings)

3 pounds unpeeled large fresh shrimp
1/2 c. plus 2 T. butter, divided
1 T. bacon drippings (I always have a jar used for collecting bacon grease in the refrigerator)
3 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
3 green onions, coarsely chopped
1 small red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 small green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 small yellow bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1/2 c. fresh parsley
2 t. dried thyme
2 t. Old Bay Seasoning or seafood seasoning of your choice
2 t. hot chili sauce (I used Sriracha hot chili sauce)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
6 cups Shrimp stock (recipe follows)
2 c. whipping cream
1 T. fresh lemon juice
2 T. vegetable oil, divided
1 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. ground black pepper
Pan-seared Gouda Grits (recipe follows)

Peel and devein shrimp, reserving shells and tails for Shrimp Stock.

In a large Dutch oven, add 1/2 cup butter and bacon drippings; place Dutch oven over medium-high heat until butter melts and mixture is hot. Stir in celery, green onion, bell peppers,parsley, thyme, seafood seasoning, hot chili sauce, and garlic; reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring constantly, for 8 minutes or until onions are tender.

Add flour, stirring until smooth and blended; cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add stock, cream, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes or until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat and cool.

In the container of a blender, process cream mixture, in batches, until smooth. Return cream mixture to Dutch oven.

In a large skillet, add 1 Tablespoon butter and 1 Tablespoon oil; place skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add half of peeled shrimp and cook, stirring frequently, until pink and firm. Repeat procedure with remaining 1 Tablespoon butter and oil and remaining shrimp.

Add shrimp to cream mixture; cook over medium-high heat for 3 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Remove from heat, and stir in Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Serve immediately with Pan-Roasted Gouda Grit wedges.

Shrimp Stock
Reserved shrimp shells and tails from previous recipe
8 cups water

In a large pot, combine shrimp shells, tails and water; bring just to a simmer. Cook uncovered for 20 minutes. Cool. Strain mixture through a fine wire-mesh sieve, discarding shells and tails.

Pan-Seared Gouda Grits
(Makes about 30 grits triangles)
4 cups water
1/4 c. plus 2 T. butter, divided
1/4 t. salt
1 1/2 c. quick-cooking grits
1/2 c. whipping cream
1 c. shredded Gouda cheese
2 T. vegetable oil, divided

In a medium pot, combine water, 1/4 cup butter, and salt; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Slowly whisk in grits. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, for 25 minutes or until thickened. Add cream and Gouda cheese; cook, stirring frequently, until cheese melts and mixture is blended.

Pour grits mixture into an 11x7-inch baking dish. Cover and chill at least 4 hours or until firm.

Cut grits into 15 rectangles. Cut each rectangle into triangles.

In a large skillet, add 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon oil; place skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add grits triangles, in batches; cook for 2 minutes per side or until golden brown. Repeat procedure with remaining triangles, and remaining 1 tablespoon butter and oil.

Monday, July 26, 2010

TWD Blond Brownies and a Fresh Strawberry Pie

My vegetable garden is moving right along. I re-planted greenbeans because, EVEN WITH MAJOR SLUG BAIT caked into huge circles, the slugs wiped out all my first greenbean plants so now I am cajoling these new plants into mad growing. I have no idea if I will even get a single green bean.

Tuesdays with Dorie is finally here and posted! I baked these late yesterday afternoon and feel completely behind BUT here we are: Ta DAHHHH!

I am grateful the recipe went together quickly and "loved" the bittersweet chocolate chunks, crushed toffee bits (mine were (4) food processor chopped Heath bars) and a "full" cup of pecan chunks. I know, the recipe asked for walnut but pecans is what I was in the mood for =). I also omitted the sweetened coconut. No reasoning behind it, just what I was in the mood for too.

The brownies are delicious, crunchy, chewy with a slight toffee taste. I loved the flavor but had issues with baking time. Mine did not pull away from the sides of the pan nor did the inserted toothpick come out clean . . . ever. Even after baking for an additional 15 minutes. The sides were a little dried out.

I shared some with company, sent a few with Larry for work and the rest went into the freezer so that I could have them on reserve for additional company.

Thank you Nicole of Cookies on Friday (recipe on her site) for hosting this week's Tuesdays with Dorie and choosing the Chewy, Chunky Blondies! Super choice!

As promised, I am adding a family favorite pie crust recipe and fresh strawberry pie recipe!

Extra-Flaky Pie Crust
(recipe for crust originally from STL Working Mom blog)

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup cake flour

1 tsp. salt
1 stick of unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup plus two Tbsp. cold shortening
1/2 cup of ice water
1 egg white, slightly beaten

Add all dry ingredients to a food processor. Pulse till combined. Scatter the butter and shortening to the dry ingredients. Pulse till the mixture is crumbly and contains pea-sized clumps. Slowly add the ice water till the mixture clumps, running the processor for a few seconds at a time. Remove the dough from the processor and knead in a flour-coated bowl a few times. Put pastry in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for an hour before rolling.

Preheat the oven to 450° and let sit at that temperature for another 20-30 minutes.
Roll out the pie dough into a 13" circle and place into the pie pan. Shape the top as you like. Freeze for at least 20 minutes.

Poke the sides and bottom of the dough with fork tines. Crumple a piece of parchment paper, unroll it, and place over the pie, fitting it down close to the dough. Put in your dried beans, rice, or pie weights. Bake for 20 minutes. Carefully remove the weighted parchment paper, cover the top edge of the crust with aluminum foil, and bake for another 5-10 minutes, until the inside of the crust has a light golden tinge and feels more like crust than dough. Let cool for 3 minutes, then brush on the egg white to the sides and bottom. Let cool completely.

The strawberry pie was made using a conversion scale for grams. Weighing ingredients is "always" much more accurate then cup measurements.

Double-Strawberry Open-Faced Pie

(recipe originally found at The Food Geek blog for a pie contest)

The Base Layer
85g Lindt White Chocolate (all but one column of a 3.5oz bar)
4oz Cream Cheese
2 T. sour cream

The Cooked Layer
1 cup fresh strawberries (after rinsing, drying, hulling, and halving)
2 T. Cornstarch
118g Water
67g Sugar
1 t. Fresh Lemon Juice
1 pinch Salt

The Fresh Layer
Enough whole strawberries, to cover a 9" circle when stood point up, hulled, dried, and rinsed.
1/4 c. Currant Jelly
1 T. St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur


The Bottom Layer
Put the white chocolate into a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 20 seconds at a time. At the end of each, stir. Repeat until there's more melted bits than solid bits, then keep stirring until all of the solid bits turn into melted bits. Let cool to room temperature.
In a small mixing bowl, mix the cream cheese with an electric mixer until it's somewhat fluffy and whipped. Add in the cooled white chocolate and mix. Add in the sour cream and mix until combined. Cover the bottom of the pie with this mixture.

The Cooked Layer
Lightly crush the strawberries with a fork in a small saucepan. Add the sugar, water, salt, lemon juice, and cornstarch. Bring to a boil. Simmer for 1 minute. Pour into a bowl and let cool to room temperature. Stir occasionally during the cooling process. Once cooled, pour over the bottom later of the pie.

The Fresh Layer
Your strawberries should have the tops cut off so that they could stand up on the a flat surface. Place these point side up on top of the pie.
In the small saucepan which has been washed and dried, melt the currant jelly until it is melted. It will bubble. Strain into a glass, which will involve a lot of pressing with a spatula. Stir in the St. Germain. Brush this mixture onto the fresh strawberries.

The Pie
Cool in a refrigerator for an hour or two or overnight.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

SMS Sunny Lemon Bars

Sweet Melissa Sundays could not be any sunnier with this cheerful Toasted Almond Lemon Bar recipe chosen for this week by Rebecca of Indecisive Baker.

I love all things almond so getting to toast almond slices, blend them with the flour in a food processor and add almond extract in the recipe was a winner combo. Sweet, tart and tasty!

I read comments before baking the bars and already knew the crust would be a bugger to work with. I had a plate of flour sitting next to my work station, ready for some serious hand-dousing while patting the dough into place. Good thing! Really sticky "and" I used frozen butter to keep the dough well chilled. The comments stated the filling would be "soupy" and it was but no one was alarmed. The bars set up perfectly and we have eaten three; meaning we LOVE them and thank you Rebecca for hosting and picking out a beautiful, cheery dessert! Check out Rebecca's site for the recipe and do not forget to go to Sweet Melissa Sundays blog roll to see the rest of the lemon bar bakers! Happy Sunday everyone!

Went blueberry picking at Blueberry Hills Farm by Lake Chelan over the weekend and I am running behind this weekend for finishing up Melissa's lemon bars. Here are a few pictures of my blueberry picking fun with hubby.

We left Friday afternoon for the 4 1/2 hour drive. Blueberry fields open up for u-pick at 8 a.m. and picking in 80 degree weather at 9 a.m. sounded so much better then 95+ by noon, into the evening.

45 minutes later, we had a little over 14 pounds of blueberries ready to be weighed and paid for.

The farm still had a few strawberry plants producing and the raspberries were no where near being ready to pick. We did pick up amazingly sweet Bing cherries and 23 pounds of fresh off the trees apricots. I plan on making apricot preserves in a few days along with blueberry jams.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Summertime Simple

~Lemonade Tea with Mint
~Artichoke and Tomato Salad
~Chicken and Shrimp Clemeneau
Dinner in the summertime. How does summertime affect choices in your kitchen? We eat fresh and simple; many of us are in the middle of heat waves but where does your taste buds drift?
Heirloom tomatoes, fresh figs, local new varieties of cheese, different cuts and a wider variety of meats (such as bison, salt cod, kobe beef) have been a new for several years in the NorthWest. We have local coffee made with personal touches (one local coffee farm succeeds by incorporating enthusiastic volunteers; Vashon Island's homegrown and roasted variety of coffee and tea comes to mind . . . LOVE the chocolate tea!), local cheese stores where the cheese is made on site, an amazing Russian sausage house only open Thursdays thru Saturday in Shoreline (the rest of the week you can see the smoke emitting from the small store, readying stock for the weekend), wonderful local butcher stores keeping costs down and variety up (the Swinery in Seattle and DD Meats in Mountlake Terrace are two of my favorites), and the many local fruit, berry and nut farms open to the public to pick for a cheaper price along with bringing the produce to local stands. Friday and Saturday Farmer's Markets are wonderful for a wider variety of selection then just your local fruits and vegetables. Kind of like a homemade metropolis for most every part of a home. Woodworking, plants, quilts, canned goods, fresh seafood, fresh-cut flowers, and the list goes on (I love each of the Farmer's Markets in Port Orchard, Gig Harbor and Olympia along with the ever popular Pike's Place Market in Seattle, open 7 days a week).
Tonight's dinner incorporates local prawns, poultry, and vegetables accompanied with an inner feeling of warmth because I have helped support my local business community.
Lemonade Tea with Mint
12 cups boiling water
12 single-size tea bags
3 fresh mint springs
1 (12-ounce) can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
In a large pot, combine water, tea bags, and mint. Let stand for 15 minutes. Remove tea bags. Stir in lemonade concentrate.
Pour some of the tea into an ice cube tray for serving time. Freeze.
Refrigerate the rest of the tea for approximately 1 hour, or until ready to serve. When serving, use tea ice cubes in freezer.
Artichoke and Tomato Salad
1/2 cup baby spinach
1 1/2 pounds heirloom tomatoes, or different colored tomatoes (yellows, oranges, and reds), diced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
8 artichoke hearts, cut in half
Remove stems from baby spinach, clean and pat dry.

In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, basil, oil, and vinegar. Arrange baby spinach on plates and top with tomato-basil mixture. Lightly cover salads with Parmesan. Arrange artichoke halves around salad.

Chicken and Shrimp Clemenceau
(adapted from Dooky Chase Restaurant)
1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 1/2 c. peeled and diced Idaho or Yukon potatoes (approximately 3 medium potatoes)
3/4 c. butter, divided
3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into strips
1 1/2 c. sliced mushrooms
2 pounds medium fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined (tails left on)
1 t. minced garlic
1 1/2 c. green peas (fresh, frozen, or canned)
1 T. chopped fresh flat leaf parsley (out of my garden)
1 t. hot sauce, such as Tabasco
1/2 t. ground paprika
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper
Garnish: sliced green onions
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil, and heat. Fry potatoes until browned, 7 to 9 minutes. (Or you may blanch potatoes in water, drain, and then brown in butter.) Transfer potatoes to a dish with a slotted spoon. Set aside.
Wipe out skillet, and add 1/2 cup butter. When butter melts, add chicken strips, and brown lightly, in batches if necessary, approximately 5 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer chicken to a dish. Set aside.
Melt remaining 1/4 cup butter (if needed) in the same pan. Add mushrooms, and cook until they release juices. Add shrimp, and cook until pink and firm, 2 to 3 minutes.
Return chicken to pan, then add potatoes and peas; heat thoroughly. Top with parsley, hot sauce, paprika, salt and pepper. Garnish with green onion, if desired.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Triple Chocolate Redemption

Chocolate Heaven; melting bliss; creamy perfection.

The first bite of any dish will always be the star bite. Taste buds come alive to surround each segment of the bite and send signals to our brain, telling us whether to melt into submission or to eat for sustenance. The crater between the two can keep many of us in the kitchen for hours; honing, tweaking, tasting, creating the perfect dish . . . always hoping to reach the pinaccle of bliss.

My culinary experience comes from wonderful, homemade dishes my Grandmother and Mother created along with an inner desire and passion to learn through reading and continual practice. I still use recipes tested by others as a base instead of venturing out, completely on my own, a point I hope to pass in the near future.

Every once in a while, I want to follow in the footsteps of a chef who feels he or she has perfected a dish and wants the kitchen cook to not deviate one iota. This is such a recipe. From Cook's Illustrated, posted on their website, in their November/December 2009 Magazine and taped for public viewing on PBS Channel 9 station.

When we post a recipe, do we care if the recipe is changed along the way or do we want others to see and experience the same finished dish we have elaborately written about and laid out?

I am reposting the recipe because I want to come back and re-create the dish without hunting for hours. I will later forget where this recipe is when I know this recipe is needed to finish the "right" dinner for entertaining.

Important Note: The recipe specifies Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate and Guittard Choc-Au-Lait White Chips. Different types and brands of chocolate were tested and these two stood out as creating distinctive layers of chocolate flavor. The end result is a melt-in-your mouth chocolate heaven with an eye-catching plate appearance.

Triple-Chocolate Mousse Cake
(as per Cooks Illustrated website)
Bottom Layer
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces, plus extra for greasing pan
7 ounces, chopped fine bittersweet chocoalte (Ghirardelli Bittersweet)
3/4 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs , separated
Pinch table salt
1/3 cup packed (about 2 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar, crumbled with fingers to remove lumps
Middle Layer
2 tablespoons cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-processed
5 tablespoons hot water
7 ounces, chopped fine bittersweet chocolate (Ghirardelli Bittersweet)
1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon table salt
Top Layer
3/4 teaspoon powdered gelatin
1 tablespoon water
6 ounces white chocolate chips (Guittard Choc-Au-Lait)
1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
Shaved chocolate or cocoa powder for serving, optional

FOR THE BOTTOM LAYER: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Butter bottom and sides of 91/2-inch springform pan. Melt butter, chocolate, and espresso powder in large heatproof bowl set over saucepan filled with 1 inch of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat and cool mixture slightly, about 5 minutes. Whisk in vanilla and egg yolks; set aside.

In stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat egg whites and salt at medium speed until frothy, about 30 seconds. Add half of brown sugar and beat until combined, about 15 seconds. Add remaining brown sugar and beat at high speed until soft peaks form when whisk is lifted, about 1 minute longer, scraping down sides halfway through. Using whisk, fold one-third of beaten egg whites into chocolate mixture to lighten. Using rubber spatula, fold in remaining egg whites until no white streaks remain. Carefully transfer batter to prepared springform pan, gently smoothing top with offset spatula.

Bake until cake has risen, is firm around edges, and center has just set but is still soft (center of cake will spring back after pressing gently with finger), 13 to 18 minutes. Transfer cake to wire rack to cool completely, about 1 hour. (Cake will collapse as it cools.) Do not remove cake from pan.

FOR THE MIDDLE LAYER: Combine cocoa powder and hot water in small bowl; set aside. Melt chocolate in large heatproof bowl set over saucepan filled with 1 inch of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat and cool slightly, 2 to 5 minutes.

In clean bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whip cream, granulated sugar, and salt at medium speed until mixture begins to thicken, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to high and whip until soft peaks form when whisk is lifted, 15 to 60 seconds.

Whisk cocoa powder mixture into melted chocolate until smooth. Using whisk, fold one-third of whipped cream into chocolate mixture to lighten. Using rubber spatula, fold in remaining whipped cream until no white streaks remain. Spoon mousse into springform pan over cooled cake and gently tap pan on counter 3 times to remove any large air bubbles; gently smooth top with offset spatula. Wipe inside edge of pan with damp cloth to remove any drips. Refrigerate cake at least 15 minutes while preparing top layer.

FOR THE TOP LAYER: In small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over water; let stand at least 5 minutes. Place white chocolate in medium bowl. Bring ½ cup cream to simmer in small saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove from heat; add gelatin mixture and stir until fully dissolved. Pour cream mixture over white chocolate and whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth, about 30 seconds. Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally, 5 to 8 minutes (mixture will thicken slightly).

In clean bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whip remaining cup cream at medium speed until it begins to thicken, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to high and whip until soft peaks form when whisk is lifted, 15 to 60 seconds. Using whisk, fold one-third of whipped cream into white chocolate mixture to lighten. Using rubber spatula, fold remaining whipped cream into white chocolate mixture until no white streaks remain. Spoon white chocolate mousse into pan over middle layer. Smooth top with offset spatula. Return cake to refrigerator and chill until set, at least 2½ hours.

TO SERVE: If using, garnish top of cake with chocolate curls or dust with cocoa. Run thin knife between cake and side of springform pan; remove side of pan. Run cleaned knife along outside of cake to smooth sides. Cut into slices and serve.

I had a sliver last night but another for breakfast (The rest of the day is for burning the calories back off)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Banana Cake, Malibu Rum Glaze and Marshmellow Frosting

Kimberly of Only Creative Opportunities decided on Lot’s of Ways of Banana Cake for this week's Tuesday with Dorie baking event and I threw caution to the wind and just played. Dorie said "versatility" so I tested the meaning of the word.

Dried fruit with banana cake is a hard concept for me. Larry just went to the dentist so adding flaked coconut did not seem like a good idea. Malibu Rum, yes! Malibu Rum in the banana cake AND Malibu Rum for the glazing sugar syrup, double check!

So, what all did I try? First, I used 1 3/4 c. mashed, very ripe bananas (the max for the recipe), 1 cup dried blueberries (I was very sketchy on adding these), and the pre-mentioned Malibu Rum in the banana cake and in the glaze, baked into two 8" cake pans.

Using a skewer to poke holes, the layers are doused until the syrup was used up.
Dorie's marshmallow frosting sounded like a great addition and thick slices of banana were added with the marshmallow frosting as a filling between layers. (Chocolate frosting or ganache did NOT speak to me in this triage of goodness.)

I was surprised to find out the dried blueberries complimented the banana cake, adding another layer of flavor. The sliced bananas in the filling was killer BUT the marshmallow frosting felt like a little TOO much sugar overkill. Dorie's banana cake recipe is definitely worth a return visit; loved the moisture and flavor. Overall, playing mad scientist was a nice release from stress in the kitchen plus Larry has a fun dessert to take in his lunches for the rest of the week. I forgot to mention, I have A LOT of cake left. Maybe I can share with the people at the new produce stand.

Thank you Kimberly for hosting this week's Tuesdays with Dorie. For the recipe (if you do not have Dorie's fab baking cookbook), go see Kimberly at her Only Creative Opportunities blog. Also, don't forget to check out the rest of our TWD baker blogs for their fun twists with this great recipe!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sweet Melissa Sunday Chocolate!!!! plus The Magnolia Hotel's Puffy Pancakes

I'm in love! Belonging to several baking groups and my own quest for the "best" recipe for brownies, "two" have come to the surface simultaneously. Dorie Greenspan's Peppermint Patty Brownies and now Sweet Melissa's Chocolate Walnut Brownies. Are we really surprised? The chewy, chocolaty brownies with a nutty crunch is a twist on Julia Child's brownie recipe and one of the best Melissa herself has ever tried. Is there a recipe Julia Child created that is not wonderful?

The only alteration to this delicious recipe is the nuts; I used pecans and hand broke each half into fourths. The brownies were made several days ago and I still forgot to post until after breakfast this morning! Sigh, when the sun is out, I loose all focus and can not wait to get outside and play with the yard.

Chocolate Walnut Brownies were chosen by Tiffany of A Spoonful & a Heap for our Sweet Melissa Sunday and Tiffany did a wonderful job on her own batch of brownies. If you would like the recipe, visit Tiffany's post.

I am adding a fun little breakfast recipe that is a moist, delicious and easy breakfast recipe with the option for versatility in toppings. Sometimes I slice strawberries with blueberries and drizzle over the top when the puffy pancakes just come out of the oven.

When I mean easy, I mean preheat the oven to 450 degrees F., throw all ingredients in a blender and while blending, throw a Tablespoon of butter into each 1-cup baking dish, put into the oven to melt only then pour the batter from the blender into equal portions among the four baking dishes and bake. That is it PLUS the presentation is adorable!

The recipe originally comes from The Magnolia Hotel and I have had the recipe for over 19 years now. Still a HUGE hit in my home; enjoy.

The Magnolia Hotel's Puffy Pancakes
(courteously of Bon Appetit 1983 (20) volume series; volume Breakfast and Brunches)
6 eggs
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. milk
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. frozen orange juice concentrate
1 T. butter
4 T. (1/2 stick) butter
Powdered sugar (garnish)
Sweetened Fresh Berries (garnish)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Combine eggs, flour, milk, sugar and orange juice in processor or blender and mix well. Add 1 Tablespoon butter and blend in thoroughly.

Put 1 Tablespoon butter to each of four 1-cup oval or round baking dishes. Heat dishes in oven until butter is melted but not browned. Divide batter evenly among dishes. Bake until puffed and golden, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately with fresh berries and powdered sugar.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Hawaiian Lamb Sliders with Hoisin-Soy Glaze . . . So GOOD

Sliders were not in my vocabulary until about 3 months ago when I decided to tackle my own version of White Kastle sliders. The cute little burgers were so much fun, EASY to put together and delicious. Have you ever cooked a slider burger? I am not sure a bun could get prepped as fast as the miniature burger will cook and be done~!

Now the ideas for little burgers sound endless. The Hawaiian lamb sliders are just as fun to make and juicy delicious.

The grilled pineapple wrapped in sticky strips of prosciutto add a wonderful salty sweet flavor to the lamb burgers and hoisin-soy glaze. A really fun dinner to try.

Hawaiian Lamb Sliders W/hoisin-soy Glaze
2 T. hoisin sauce
2 T. soy sauce
1 T. honey
1 T. Sriracha hot sauce
1 (8-ounce) can pineapple rings in juice
Around 1 pound ground lamb
salt and freshly ground pepper
4 slices prosciutto
1/3 cup mayonnaise
wasabi, to taste
Hawaiian sweet rolls, toasted on the grill

Make the hoisin-soy glaze: In a small bowl, combine hoisin sauce, soy sauce, honey, Sriracha and 1 Tablespoon of pineapple juice, reserving pineapple rings for later. Whisk together until combined.
Mix mayonnaise with about 1 1/2 teaspoons of ready-made wasabi and set aside.
Make the burgers: Prepare grill to medium-high heat, or preheat broiler. In a medium bowl, add lamb, salt, pepper and 3 tablespoons of hoisin-soy glaze, reserving remaining glaze. Gently mix to combine, and form into miniature patties for sliders.
Drain pineapple rings and set on a plate, ready for the grill.
Same with Hawaiian sweet rolls. Slice sets of three in half, ready to toast on the grill over indirect heat.
Cook lamb patties on grill or in broiler 2 minutes per side, longer depending on desired doneness. TOP LAMB PATTIES WITH HOISIN-SOY GLAZE 1 MINUTE BEFORE YOU FINISH COOKING. Put pineapple slices on grill during the last 2 minutes of grilling patties along with the buns.

ASSEMBLE: Cut pineapple slices into 4 sections and wrap each section with a strip of prosciutto. Put mayonnaise mixture on bottom buns, then lamb patty, 2 sections of pineapple wrapped in prosciutto, then top bun.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Tuesday with Dorie is Here! Brrrrrr-ownies!

Dorie Greenspan OUT DID herself with this recipe! Karen of Welcome to Our Crazy Blessed Life picked this week's baking adventure and I would like to say: I have NEVER tasted a brownie like this . . . ever! The peppermint patty chunks come screaming out of the chocolate.

The Peppermint Patty commercials have nothing on this brownie. The mood was set . . . CHOCOLATE. I opened my cupboards and started pulling out the good stuff; bittersweet, unsweetened, and semi-sweet chocolates, half a bag of dark chocolate Dove hearts, a bag of miniature Peppermint Patties and then stopped, rifled through the growing pile and made final decisions. First, 3 ounces bittersweet and 3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate. I know Dorie asks for unsweetened instead of semi-sweet but Dorie promotes alterations. The add-ins? Well of course the Peppermint Patty chunks (maybe my cup was more like 1 1/4 cups) AND Dove dark chocolate hearts chopped into 4Th's (about 1/3 cup worth).

The batter was hardly enough to cover all the candy!

The gooey, decadent brownies came out of the oven, filling the whole kitchen and living room with a delicious chocolaty aroma.
I nibbled on a corner piece while still warm because, of course, the baker "always" makes sure the end product is up to par for everyone else.

Tuesday with Dorie was another sweet success. If you would like the recipe, go to Karen's blog and while you are there, check out how great her brownies turned out. In fact, don't stop there . . . now go to Tuesday with Dorie's baker list and be amazed over how many different ways a single recipe can be made unique.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Blueberries, Blueberries, Blueberries

Western Washington is struggling this year because of rain, rain and more rain. The raspberries are out. The rain disintegrated the beautiful red berries right on the vines. For blueberry u-pick folks, well the issue is not about "if" but "when". All blueberry farms are having a late start for ripening, yet when the juicy blueberries are ripe, pickers have approximately 6 weeks to pick before waiting for the next year. My favorite place? A short drive of 4 hours takes me to the famous Blueberry Hills Farm in Manson, WA. Over 13,000 blueberry plants, raspberry plants, strawberries, thornless blackberry plants, Bing and sweet cherry trees . . . all available for u-pick people . . . like me!

Oh, and the restaurant is renowned for miles around too. People are known to come from over 400 miles away to stab a fork in Blueberry Hill's famous Danish Yeast Waffles (filling a whole plate of course!), Blintzes (recipe is a secret), oh and the triple tiered burger, bet you can not eat the whole thing!

Info: Blueberry Hills Farm: 1315 Washington Street . Manson . WA 98831 509.687.2379

Thought I would share one of my favorite recipes for fresh blueberries:
Blueberry Filled Sweet Buns

1 pkg. active dry yeast
1/4 c. warm water, 105 to 115 F.
1/2 c. milk, scalded and cooled to lukewarm
1/3 c. sugar
1 egg
1/2 t. freshly ground cardamom
1/4 c. golden raisins
1/2 t. salt
1/4 c. softened butter
2 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 pint fresh blueberries
1 1/2 t. cornstarch
1 T. sugar
1 slightly beaten egg
2 T. milk

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water; add the milk. Let stand 5 minutes. Add the sugar, egg cardamom, raisins, and salt. Add the softened butter and 1 cup of the flour; beat until smooth and satiny. Gradually add the remaining flour, mixing until dough is smooth and satiny, not quite stiff enough to knead. Cover and let rise 1 to 2 hours until doubled.
Meanwhile, combine the blueberries, cornstarch, and sugar.
Dust risen dough with flour. Shape into a ball, dusting with flour lightly, if necessary, to prevent stickiness.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide into 12 parts.
Cover a baking sheet with parchment, silicon mat or lightly grease it. Roll dough into smooth balls and place on the baking sheet with the smooth side up. Let rise until puffy, 45 minutes to 1 hour. With a floured glass, press an indentation into the center of each round of dough.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Spoon the filling into the pastries. Beat the egg and milk together to make a glaze and brush edges of the pastries with the mixture. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.