Sunday, April 27, 2008

April Pops

For my 201st post, return with me now to the Land of St. Honore':

This recipe is an adaptation of one from Jill O’Connors wonderful book called ”Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey.” It is a super pretty book as well as having recipes that are pure indulgence.
My co-hostess Deborah of Taste and Tell owns the book, too and we both wanted to make them, so thought they might make a good Daring Baker challenge for April. I hope you enjoy these confections. Deborah has been such a fantastic hostess on this challenge, plus she is a great blogger and a very supportive one for other bloggers. Do visit her site first.

You can find the recipe at Taste and Tell or you can go to the bottom of this post to the recipe. Be sure to use the Daring Baker’s Blogroll to check out as many as possible of the hundreds of wonderful renditions of these darling Cheesecake Pops.

As the Daring Bakers have grown, the talent and creativity of the group has grown, too. There are some truly amazing bakers who are Daring Bakers, too. It’s been a privilege to be a co-hostess this month for such a group.

Cheesecake Pops
Makes 30 – 40 Pops

5 8-oz. packages cream cheese at room temperature
2 cups sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
5 large eggs
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¼ cup heavy cream
Boiling water as needed
Thirty to forty 8-inch lollipop sticks
1 pound chocolate, finely chopped – you can use all one kind or half and half of dark, milk, or white (Alternately, you can use 1 pound of flavored coatings, also known as summer coating, confectionary coating or wafer chocolate – candy supply stores carry colors, as well as the three kinds of chocolate.)
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
(Note: White chocolate is harder to use this way, but not impossible)

Assorted decorations such as chopped nuts, colored jimmies, crushed peppermints, mini chocolate chips, sanding sugars, dragees) - Optional

Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F.

In a large bowl, with an electric mixer set at low speed, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt until smooth. Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (but still at lwo speed) after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and cream.

Lightly grease a 10-inch cake pan (not a springform pan). Pour the cheesecake batter into the cake pan and place in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly goldenon top, 35 to 45 minutes.

Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

When cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2-ounce balls and place on a parchemtn paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 – 2 hours.

When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate. In the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat half the chocolate and half the shortening, stirring often, until chocolate is melted and chocolate and shortening are combined. Stir until completely smooth. Save the rest of the chocolate and shortening for later dipping, or use another type of chocolate for variety.

Alternately, you can microwave the same amount of chocolate coating pieces on high at 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth.

Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate. If you like, you can now roll the pops quickly in optional decorations. You can also drizzle them with a contrasting color of melted chocolate (dark chocolate drizzled over milk chocolate or white chocolate over dark chocolate, etc.) Place the pop on a clean parchment paper-lined baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate and shortening (or confectionary chocolate pieces) as needed.

Refrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.
Introduction from Deborah & Elle

These cute little bites of cheesecake, held on a stick and dipped in chocolate and, if you like, decorations, are sure to make you smile. The cheesecake is New York style, the pops can be jazzed up with different toppings, and they are FUN…just right for a party. They are from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Connor. Isn’t that an alluring title for a cookbook?

We wanted to pick something that had potential for putting your personal stamp on. We like them for a challenge because the recipe for the cheesecake part makes use of the concept of a water bath, an essential tool for bakers, plus there are many ways to personalize them. And they are cheesecake!! The photo in the book showed the lollipop sticks twined with pretty ribbons and bows, too.

It is unclear if this recipe can be halved. A key thing is that the cheesecake be in a pan where it bakes deep enough to scoop out the balls.

Allowed Variations. Yes you can make some changes to this cheesecake as long as you promise to use the basic cheesecake recipe (although you can add a flavor to it if you like) and do keep it white (sorry, no chocolate or coffee or mocha), and keep the pops to the 2 ounce size.
The dipping flavors and colors are completely up to you.
If you want to use decorations, go for it. Same with drizzles and ribbons on the sticks. Or leave them plain after dipping them.
You can cut the cheesecake into geometric shapes instead of making balls…triangles or squares or diamonds…just keep them about 2 ounces each. We can't wait to see what combinations our Daring Baker come up with…just make sure to use the basic cheesecake recipe, to make the pops 2 ounces or close to that in size, and to dip each pop in chocolate or confectionary coating and have it on a lollipop stick.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Buh Bye - For Now

Dear friends, family and fellow bloggers. It has been a roller coaster since January. Sweetie and I will be gone for a few days. Back Sunday afternoon to post the April Challenge for the Daring Bakers...another tale from the Land of St. Honore'

See 'ya then.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Amazing Breakfast Waffles

One of the things that often keeps me from making anything more complicated for breakfast than a bowl of oatmeal is the time it takes to put together a batter and then cook it and then clean up from it.

The advantage of this recipe is that you start the batter the night before and only need to add the egg and melted butter in the morning. Now, it's true, there is still some cleaning up to do and waffles do take a while to bake in the waffle iron, but the amazing ease of putting the batter together, plus the fact that they taste great, makes it worthwhile. An added bonus is that the house smells like freshly baked bread...hard to beat on a chilly spring morning. This is what the bowl of batter looked like first thing in the morning...all the yeasties had been having a party overnight, so it's all foamy.

We added fresh strawberries on topof the finished waffles, too. A sure sign of spring, these came from Watsonville, just south of San Francisco. No butter was needed. Pure maple syrup filled up some of those depressions very nicely.

The ingredients for this are so simple that most people will have them handy in the pantry. That makes it so easy to whisk the first part together one evening, cover it, let the little yeasties do their thing overnight, then finish it off and enjoy the next morning. We had a couple of cooked waffles left over (I know, hard to believe, but we did try our best to demolish them all...and failed) and they went into the freezer and then a couple of days later the toaster oven...and were still delish.

Amazing Overnight Waffles
from Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Cafe' Cookbook

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg (I used ¼ cup egg substitute)
Nonstick spray
Butter for the waffle iron
Sliced strawberries – optionsl, but nice
Pure maple syrup – hard to resist on waffles

Combine the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl Add the milk and whisk until blende. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let stand overnight at room temperature (or put in the fridge if room temp. is over 70 degrees F.)

The next morning, preheat the waffle iron. Melt the 6 tablespoons butter and let cool a bit. Beat the egg is a small bowl (unnecessary if using egg substitute) then beat it into the batter along with the melted butter. The batter may be a bit thin.

Lightly spray the hot waffle iron with non stick spray, top and bottom plates, and then butter a piece of bread and use that to rub some butter on top and bottom plates.

Add just enough batter to cover the cooking surface…this varies by waffle iron…about 2/3 cup. Lower the top and cook until golden brown…it’s OK to check now and then. It takes about 2-3 minutes. You want it golden brown, but not dark brown.
Serve hot, right away, with strawberries and maple syrup, or toppings of your choice.

Note; If you have too many waffles for the number of people you are feeding, bake the leftover batter a little less than the ones you are eating, let cool on a baking rack, then freeze and store in the freezer tightly wrapped. Re-heat in the toaster.

If you get a chance to check out this cookbook, do. It has wonderful recipes for anything you might want to eat for breakfast...and a few surprises, too.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Soft and Strong and Yellow

It's almost the end of the time to post for the LiveSTRONG Day event, A Taste of Yellow, Hosted by Barb at Winos & Foodies. It has also almost been long enough from the event for me to write a bit about Nora Warwick, who lost her battle with cancer on Easter Sunday, just a few weeks ago.

Nora was married to Sweetie's cousin and for many years we saw very little of each other. By the time I met Sweetie, they were in the happy position of seeing their daughters married. Funds were scarce for travel at the time, so it wasn't until the celebration of Tom and Nora's 50th anniversary that I met any of their family.

What a delightful group they are! Tom gives Nora a lot of the credit because she was truly the one in charge of the house and did a wonderful job of keeping all those balls up in the air, working as clerk for the local town for many years, directing an art gallery, serving as a Girl Scout leader, forging and maintaining a large group of close friends, and making time to have fun together as a family, too. She had a ready smile, a wonderful sense of humor and a true interest in new things, people and places. She knew how to have a good time. She has left a huge hole in her families lives and in her community.

Unfortunately, Nora is but one of a huge number of people whose lives have been blighted or ended by various kinds of cancer. I rejoice daily that my own mother is a survivor of lung cancer. It still hurts that a loved niece was taken by ovarian cancer while still young. Treasure your relationships because we never know when cancer will claim someone we love.

So my Taste of Yellow is a variant of a recipe I found in Mollie Katzen's book Sunlight Cafe'. It is full of delightful recipes for all sorts of breakfast foods. Even though I just posted a muffin recipe, as I was looking through this cookbook, this muffin grabbed me. I like the fact that I had most of the ingredients (all except the crystallized ginger, so I substituted a healthy dose of orange zest), that it sounded like something that Nora would enjoy with tea, and that it was yellow. Nora and Tom lived since the late 1950s in Florida, so the addition of orange flavor seemed perfect.

These muffins are on the soft side. Apparently Sweetie likes his muffins this was impossible to stop him from eating one for 1/2 hour after they came out of the oven, and it was tricky taking photographs because he wanted to eat them all. We had a few with dinner and they went very well with leftover pork roast and some green beans that I dolled up with mushrooms and a little bacon.

Pineapple Coconut Orange Muffins
Adapted from a recipe in Mollie Katzen’s Sunlight CafĂ© cookbook

2 tablespoons sugar
1 ½ cup shredded coconut
2 tablespoons grated orange zest – colored part only
2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon powdered ginger
2/3 cup coconut milk (I used lowfat from Trader Joes)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons canned crushed pineapple in juice, undrained
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a 12 cup muffin tin with nonstick baking spray. Set aside.

Combine the coconut, sugar, and orange zest in a large bowl. Rub the mixture together with your fingers to distribute the orange oils. Add to that the flour, salt, baking powder and ginger. Combine to mix thoroughly.

Measure the 2/3 cup coconut milk into a 4-cup liquid measure, then add the pineapple with its juice and the egg and vanilla. Beat gently with a fork or a small whisk to combine.

Slowly pour this mixture, along with the melted butter, into the dry ingredients. Using a spoon or a rubber spatula, stir from the bottom of the bowl until the dry ingredients are all moistened. Don’t overmix; a few lumps are okay and some might be pineapple pieces.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups. If you like really big muffins, only use 10 of the cups and fill them to the top. I prefer to have smaller muffins and a couple more of them.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 – 25 minutes, or until lightly browned on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the pan from the oven, then remove the muffins from the pan and place them on a rack to cool. Wait (if you can) at least 30 minutes before serving.

Yields 10-12 muffins

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Warm Dates for Breakfast

I'm a big fan of dates as a snack food and added to all sorts of dishes, but my very favorite way to enjoy dates is warm for breakfast in Date Nut Muffins. On Saturday I decided to make some to go with the fresh fruit and coffee that Sweetie had made. Since I usually eat a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, I decided to add some rolled oats to one of my favorite muffin recipes, along with the dates and some pecans. They were delicious!

The basic recipe for Muffins in Joy of Cooking was the starting place for this recipe, but, as usual, I made some changes. Fresh from the oven these smelled wonderful and the dates were soft and warm, the oatmeal gave the muffins character, and three of us managed to polish off nine muffins in hardly any time at all. Don't be surprised if there are none left to photograph or to enjoy with afternoon tea.

A few days ago, when I was completely exhausted from by far the busiest week that has ever happened at work, I found that sweet Mrs. W of Mrs. W's Kitchen had awarded me the 'E for Excellent Award'. Awww, that is so special. I enjoy writing this blog and know that there are folks who enjoy reading it, but had never thought that it was actually excellent. Thank you Mrs. W!

Part of getting the Award is then passing it along. I took some time with that, so here are the Awardees, followed by directions of what they are supposed to do once they get the Award, followed the by Date Nut Oatmeal Muffin recipe.

Hope you will visit the Awarded sites to see why I think that they are Excellent blogs and bloggers. There are at least 10 more I could name, but I'll save that for another time. If I have given an Award to a blogger who has already gotten one, well, guess they are super Excellent! , Culinary Concoctions by Peabody, this is the blog I check out when I only have time to visit one (a too frequent event these past weeks) because the posts are personal and thoughtful and the recipes are sweet, delish, and the photos usually make me want to lick the screen., Taste and Tell, Deborah’s posts are engaging, her photos are great and she gives excellent information for the recipes…plus it’s fun to read her blog. La Mia Cucina, Lis is a totally funny blogger and cracks me up with her posts…plus she is den mother to the Daring Bakers along with the next nominee. Cream Puffs In Venice, Ivonne’s blog is elegant and inspiring with truly lovely photography. She and Lis (above) began the creation of a wonderful baking community, too. Jumbo Empanadas, Brilynn is unfailingly interesting, totally herself and her blog is delightful to read. Her enthusiasm for baking is inspiring, plus she is funny. Chez Us, Denise writes a thoughtful blog…check out the Ape Diet…also clean and appealing photos., Cooking the Books, Kelly-Jane blogs about baked goods (my favorite) and main dishes with equal appeal. We often get multiple recipes in one post…and they are all good., Tastes Like Home, Cynthia could be my next door neighbor, even though she likes hot & spicy foods and I don’t. Her passion for ingredients is awesome and her photos really capture the beauty of those ingredients. Finding La Dolce Vita, Maryann writes so well, it is always fun to see what she is sharing with us. Great recipes and fine photos, too. Technicolor Kitchen, Patricia has such great recipes…pasta, cookies, truffles, ravioli, pinwheel scones, and more. Very inspiring.

There are rules relating to the E for Excellent award*. Here they are:
- Find at least 10 more blogs of any kind which you deem to be excellent;
- Post about which blogs you picked, linking to me and to them;
- Once you've posted, return here to let me know your post is up, and of course let your 10 award winners know, too.
*If you've already received this award in the past, I won't hold you to selecting 10 more.

And now for the Date Nut Oatmeal Muffin recipe:

Date Nut Oatmeal Muffins
Makes 12

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup sugar
1 cup quick cooking oatmeal, uncooked
¾ cup chopped dates
½ cup chopped pecans
2 eggs or ½ cup egg substitute
2 tablespoons melted butter
¾ cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Spray the cups of a 12 cup muffin tin (or 2 6 cup muffins tins) with baking spray (or grease with butter or shortening)

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Mix in the sugar and oatmeal. Gently mix in the chopped dates, coating them with the flour mixture. Mix in the pecans.

In a smaller bowl, mix together the eggs or egg substitute, melted butter and buttermilk until well combined.

Pour the liquid mixture into the dry mixture and quickly, with a few strokes, stir to just mix. Fill each muffin cup about ¾ full. Place the muffin tin(s) into the preheated oven and bake for 15 – 20 minutes until golden brown.

Serve hot. These are delicious eaten plain, but very good, too with some butter.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Only 6 Words?

Katie, of Apple and Spice, a delicious blog, has tagged me for a different kind of meme. Using only six words, describe yourself. Not an easy proposition. Over the years I've worn so many hats, done so many kinds of work and had fun at so many different kinds of play that it is nearly impossible to distill it into six words. So this is more of a snapshot of who/how I am right now. Tomorrow I might even do a different set of six. Life changes so fast.....

I'm going to hold off tagging anyone for this because I have another one to respond to that will take a little more time and thought. Later today or tomorrow I'll include tags for both in one post. Keep It Simple is my new mantra.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Best Chicken with Lemon

Each month when the clinic session is over where I work, we have a celebratory dinner with the participants and their partners or spouses and the clinic personnel...about 20-30 people. Our chef, a talented young man who makes the best salad dressings, among other things, has a lemon chicken recipe that he makes for the entree'. The chicken is moist, tender, with a very flavorful sauce and crumb topping. It makes a sauce as it cooks whose dominant flavors are lemon and garlic.

For months I tried to figure out the recipe, but he always made the marinade, which is key, while I was in the office and away from the kitchen. He kept saying he would tell me the recipe, but never got around to it. Maybe that is because it is just the best lemon chicken? This month he went on vacation, so I was in charge of the dinner. I was expecting the recipe to be complicated and was a little anxious about making it. What if I blew it? Imaging my surprise when I found out that the recipe is very simple, but bold. Everyone seemed pleased with my effort, but the genius is G and his recipe.

Do try this recipe yourself...see if you agree that it is some of the absolutely most mouthwatering lemon chicken ever. Be sure to eat those garlic cloves. After such a nice time in the oven, they are often the consistency of butter. Mmmm. For smaller groups, divide by 1/3. Baking time will remain the same.

G's Lemon Chicken for a Crowd
Serves about 25-30

30 boneless skinless chicken pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil for coating pans
1-2 heads garlic
6 lemons
1 16 oz. jar Dijon mustard
10-12 branches fresh rosemary, each about 5 inches long, divided
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (use the real thing for best flavor)
1 1/2 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs
3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

Arrange the boneless skinless chicken thighs (or substitute some boneless skinless chicken breasts if you wish) in three 11 x 13 baking pans where the bottom of the pan have been lightly oiled with the olive oil, evenly divided. Keep the chicken pieces touching each other. Place whole, unpeeled garlic cloves between some of the pieces, about 5-6 cloves of garlic per pan.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the Dijon mustard, the juice of 6 lemons, and 3-4 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary. Whisk in 1/3 cup olive oil. Pour 1/3 of the mixture over each pan of chicken. Tuck a few sprigs of remaining fresh rosemary between some of the chicken pieces in each pan. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill 3-4 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Uncover the chicken and place the pans in the oven, spacing evenly about the interior if possible. Bake for 40 minutes or until the juice runs clear when a piece of chicken is pierced.

If desired, about 10 minutes before the chicken is done, mix together the Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs and parsley; sprinkle this mixture evenly over the chicken, using about 1/3 for each pan. Return to oven to bake last 10 minutes.

Serve over rice, mashed potatoes, or boiled potatoes, which bread to sop up the sauce. The sauce is mighty good. The chicken is amazing.

You can divide this recipe by 1/3 to make chicken for a family :) Leftovers are delicious, too. You can also freeze this, well wrapped, for a month. Thaw in the refrigerator, then bake in a 350 degree oven until heated through, or in the microwave, reheating at no more than 50% power.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Signs of Spring

Although I sympathize with folks who are still getting fresh snowfall and for whom spring is off in the distance, or even a memory as south of the equator it's looking like fall, around here there are lots of signs of spring.

The wild iris are blooming, so are buttercups in the meadow and pink shooting stars. The ferns have been unfurling for a month and grow taller each day. Best of all, the apple blossoms have begun. Since I live in a traditional apple producing region, there are places where enough apple trees are massed together that you can smell the sweet fragrance when you drive by. The blossoms bloom and finish in a very short time, so I treasure that fragrance while it is here.

Another sign of spring is the appearance of fat green asparagus spears at the market at a reasonable price. A few mornings ago for breakfast I fixed an omelet using an egg substitute, an asparagus spear that I had sliced into coins and steamed quickly in the microwave, some sauteed mushroom slices, some shredded cheddar cheese, salt and pepper. So simple, but so good. Alongside I had some toasted wholegrain bread, full of sunflower seeds. It's baked at the Wild Flour Bread bakery in Freestone in a wood fired brick oven and is amazingly good.

More asparagus recipes will show up very soon. Their season is short, too, for California grown ones. They just are the taste of spring for me.

Spring Asparagus Omlet for One

3-4 slices of mushroom (about 1 large) diced
1 tablespoon butter
1 fat asparagus spear (or 2 thin ones), bottom end snapped off, then washed and sliced in coins
1/2 cup egg substitute or 2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons shredded sharp cheddar cheese

In a small non-stick or seasoned cast iron skillet, sautee' the mushroom a minute or two until the edges are a bit browned.

Meanwhile, put the asparagus coins in a heat proof small cup, add 1 teaspoon of water, cover and microwave 1 minute at half power, then drain.

To the skillet with the mushrooms, add the eggs, sprinkle with the asparagus and cheese. As the egg sets, pull the edges toward the center, letting the uncooked egg seep to the sides of the pan. Turn off the heat and cover with a pot lid. After about a minute check to see if the cheese is melted. Once the cheese is melted, use a spatula to fold the omlet in half and transfer it to a plate. Enjoy while piping hot.