Thursday, November 23, 2023

Happy Thanksgiving!

 Wishing you, dear reader, a magnificent turkey day...and lots of turkey with all the trimmings.

One of the trimmings is often cranberry sauce. The tart and sweet condiment offsets the mild comfort food flavors of turkey, dressing, mashed and/or sweet potatoes and even the creaminess of the green bean casserole...all fairly traditional Thanksgiving foods.

I grew up with the jellied kind in the can and I still love that version, but this year I had a bag of fresh cranberries, an orange, a cinnamon stick and enough time to make my own sauce.

Because cranberries carry a lot of natural pectin, making a sauce that thickens up without additional gelatin is easy and fairly quick...about 15-20 minutes total. I looked at a number of recipes online, then crafted this one to suit myself. Besides the fresh cranberries and the orange, I used water, brown sugar, and bourbon. It's a great mixture!

Fresh Cranberry Sauce with Cinnamon, Brown Sugar and Bourbon
Serves 4-6

1 12-oz bag fresh cranberries, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 cinnamon stick
zest of about 1/4 of an orange, zest cut into long strips
additional water as needed

In a saucepan, place the cranberries, brown sugar, water, bourbon, cinnamon stick, and orange zest strips. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, then reduce heat so that mixture simmers. Continue to cook, stirring every minute or so, until the berries begin to pop. Use a wooden spoon or similar tool to both stir the mixture and to push the berries up against the side of the pan to mash them a bit. Continue until most of the berries are mashed, stirring all the while. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting and continue to stir and let the berries cook for about 8-10 minutes, until the mixture starts to get thick. Remove the cinnamon stick and the orange zest strips and discard them. Remove the sauce from the heat and let sit for 10 minutes. If the sauce is too thick, add water, a tablespoon at a time until desired thickness. Put into a bowl or storage container, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Below is a photo of the sauce with our Thanksgiving meal. Not the best photo because it was taken with an overhead light, not sunlight, but it gives a sense of the meal...which was delicious!

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Babes Bake Shio Pan - Japanese Salt Bread

This month our wonderful Kitchen of the Month, Karen of Karen's Kitchen Stories, treated us to a great recipe for beautiful rolls with a topping of sea salt or seeds. I really like this recipe because it only makes 6 rolls, although I suspect that you could easily double it to make 12. There are only two of us, so small quantity recipes work well.

The dough comes together easily, with cold water and cold milk making it easy even if you have forgotten to think about the dough until it's time to make it...oops. There is a small quantity of soft butter, too, but we had a butter dish on the counter, so there was enough soft butter there. You do need bread flour, but I always have some of that on hand.

One of the fun things about these rolls is that a matchstick of butter is rolled up in the fat end. Use the best butter you can find. I used some European butter I bought just for this recipe. It really makes the finished rolls luxurious. I didn't curve them much since I was trying to fit all of them on a 12-inch pizza pan.

The dough is easy to work with. I found that stretching the dough into a thin triangle for the shaping worked well if I grasped the tip and let the heavy part of the dough (the part that would be wide) hand down and let gravity do some of the stretching. When it was long enough, I put it on the floured work surface and stretched the bottom dough wide enough for the butter stick, plus a bit for sealing. Here the rolls are after being shaped, all ready for their rise before baking.

Because I wanted to bake these for the morning, I did everything up to and including the rise after shaping, then put the rolls in the fridge overnight. In the morning I let them warm up while the oven preheated. After they had warmed a puffed a tiny bit more, I brushed the tops with egg wash and added the sea salt topping. In my experience a water spray just doesn't hold the topping, plus the egg wash gives the rolls a nice shine and helps with browning. The bake itself is quick. By the way, I skipped the parchment paper, putting the rolls directly on the baking sheet. They did leak a bit of butter during the bake. It helped crisp up the bottoms of the rolls and soaked into the middle, plus it left a tunnel to be filled with jam, if desired. In this photo you can see the tunnel the melted butter left.

 If I were worried about that, I could let them rise a bit more before putting in the fridge, then bake them cold from the fridge.

These really are pretty simple little breads and worth the time it takes for the various steps. They are soft and very buttery! Thank you Karen for a recipe that will likely be used again over and over. 

Want to be a Buddy? Bake the bread, post about it, and send a photo, the URL and a short description of your bake to Karen by 11/29 to get a Buddy Badge and to be included in the round-up.

Do visit the other Babes sites to see their take on this lovely bread roll.

Shio Pan, Japanese Salt Bread
yield: 6 rolls


210 grams bread flour

10 grams granulated sugar

3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/2 teaspoon instant yeast

70 grams cold milk

70 grams cold water

7 grams softened unsalted butter

15 grams butter, melted, for brushing

7 grams softened unsalted butter

15 grams butter, melted, for brushing

60 grams butter, cut into 6 x 10 gram strips as pictured. 

Flaked sea salt for topping



Whisk together the bread flour, sugar, sea salt, and yeast in a medium bowl. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the milk and water.  With a wooden spoon or dough whisk stir in half the flour mixture until just combined. Add the softened butter in tiny bits and half the remaining flour. Use the dough hook to knead it or knead it in by hand. Add the remaining flour.

Knead the dough by hand (using pressing, stretching, and folding constantly) or by stand mixer for about five minutes, until smooth. The dough will be fairly sticky but don't add more flour unless your kitchen is super humid or the dough is too soft to handle. If adding additional flour, do so sparingly. 

Let the dough rise until doubled in bulk, 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending on your room temperature. 

Turn the dough out onto your floured work surface and form it into an 1/2 inch thick round disk. 

Cut the dough into 6 equal pieces with a bench scraper. If possible use a scale to make them close to the same number of grams.

Roll each piece of dough into a cone, pinching the seam, and let rest, covered with a tea towel, for 10 minutes. 

With your hands, press each to de-gas. Shape each into a very long, thin triangle using gravity or a rolling pin, or a combination. Lightly brush each triangle with melted butter. Place a 10 gram butter stick on the wide end and roll up the dough and form it into a crescent. Place it on a parchment lined baking sheet. Here is what the butter sticks look like. Each is pretty close to 10 grams. Your scale will get a workout with this recipe!

Repeat with the remaining dough. You will have six rolls. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rise until puffy, about 45 minutes to an hour, in a warm spot. 

Heat your oven to 400 degrees F. 

Here are my rolls after being given an egg wash and sea salt on top after they rolls had warmed up after being removed from the fridge:

When ready to bake, spray the shaped rolls with water until they are shiny (or with egg wash as I did). Sprinkle each with a pinch or so of flaked sea salt or some seeds like sesame or poppy seeds. 

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until lightly golden on top and crispy and browned on the bottom. 

Transfer to a wire rack. 

These are best warm from the oven or within two hours. You can rewarm leftovers the same day to refresh them. Wrap and freeze additional leftovers for reheating in the oven the next day. 


Monday, November 13, 2023

Tea Bread To Share...Again

My last post was for a spicy, moist, delicious gingerbread that you can bake in smaller pans, which make it easy to share. As we start gearing up for the holidays, I hope to post some more sharable baked goods so that you can choose to bake a small goodie as a gift for friends, family and neighbors instead of spending money buying them something. People truly appreciate gifts that are long as they are also tasty.

This time the gift is for family members, but it works just as well for friends and neighbors. The batter for this yummy pumpkin chocolate chip bread was baked in four small loaf pans. Each little loaf will yield slices to go with a hot beverage like coffee, tea, or cocoa. Since the family members who will be receiving theses little pumpkin delights have a tradition of afternoon coffee with a little something sweet, I suspect the little loaves will be gone in no time!

This recipe goes together quickly. Be sure to divide the batter evenly between the pans and don't over-bake. I would suggest checking them at least 5 minutes before they are supposed to be done. Have some foil handy to cover them if the tops seem to be browning too quickly. 

Pumpkin Nut Bread…with Chocolate
Makes 1 loaf

                                                        Large Loaf

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup canned solid pack pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 cup brown sugar, packed
½ cup milk
2 eggs
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x5x3 loaf pan or four small loaf pans. (I used a baking spray that includes flour.)

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl (both flours, soda and powder, spices).

Put the pumpkin, brown sugar, milk and eggs in a mixing bowl and mix until well blended.

Add the dry ingredients and begin to combine. Add the nuts and chocolate chips and mix just until all are well blended.

Pour into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in preheated oven 45 to 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

If baking the four small loaf pans, divide the batter evenly between the pans and smooth the top. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool in pan(s) five minutes, then turn out of pan(s) and cool top side up on a cooling rack.

Friday, November 03, 2023

Spicy Medicine Cake

I love the idea of food as medicine. Since I personally found that more turmeric, ginger, cinnamon and garlic, among other anti-inflammatory substances, helped tremendously in healing my gut, I know that those spices and allium can really help.

A dear neighbor of mine shattered her wrist on the soccer field, so when she had surgery to fix it, I made this dark, moist, spicy gingerbread to take to her that evening, to help with the healing process. She loved it so much that another small cake went to her the next day to keep those anti-inflammatories strong! We laughed about it being medicine, but there is an element of reality to that claim.

Even if you just want to enjoy this gingerbread as a simple dessert, it is worth making. There are three kinds of ginger in it; powdered ginger, fresh ginger, and candied ginger. The ginger is aided by cinnamon and the spiciness is enhanced with the addition of cloves, nutmeg and cardamom, all tied together with molasses and dark brown sugar. The secret ingredient?...stout. It adds a depth of flavor and slight bitterness so you know that this isn't any old's good for what ails you...or at least for zinging your taste buds. 

The recipe calls for baking this in a Bundt pan, but I have a pan that has four smaller Bundt cake wells and it takes just the same amount of batter. The advantage is that you end up with sharable cute cakes. The disadvantage is that all the tiny indentations that make up the patterns of those little cakes are the devil to wash completely clean! Use whatever pan you have that will hold the batter. The smaller cakes took less than 30 minutes to bake. The regular Bundt pan takes close to an hour, or maybe a little more, depending on the accuracy of your oven.

Triple Ginger Gingerbread
Adapted from
Gramercy Tavern Gingerbread
from Epicurious

1 Cup stout (like Guinness which is what I used)
1 Cup dark molasses
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 Cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 Tablespoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
pinch ground cardamom
1 Tablespoon freshly grated fresh, peeled ginger root
1 Tablespoon finely diced moist candied ginger
3 large eggs
1 Cup packed dark brown sugar
1 Cup granulated sugar
3/4 Cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter a 10-inch (10-12 cups) Bundt pan and dust with flour, knocking out excess.

Bring stout and molasses to a boil in a large saucepan and remove from heat. Whisk in baking soda, then cool to room temperature.

Sift together flour, baking powder, and spices in a large bowl. Whisk together eggs and sugars and fresh ginger. Whisk in oil, then molasses mixture. Add to flour mixture and whisk until just combined.

Pour batter into Bundt pan and rap pan sharply on counter to eliminate air bubbles. Bake in the middle of the oven until a tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs adhering, about 50 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack 5 minutes. Turn out onto rack and cool completely.

Serve cake, dusted with confectioners' sugar, or serve with whipped cream.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Another Blog Birthday

2006 seems like a really, really long time ago. That was the October when I began posting on this blog. If you had asked me at the time, I'm sure I wouldn't have expected to still be posting. 

Still, it has become over time what a blog is sort of expected to be, a place not only for writing and posting recipes and joining groups with similar interests, but a place that tracks the seasons, that records life events and, perhaps most unexpectedly from my perspective, a place that allows me to revisit the past and re-experience what I was feeling then as I read the older posts. 

 You, dear reader, have been the reason that it stays interesting and meaningful to me. You comment or at least stop by. Sometimes you don't comment but I hear from you other ways and I know that, for whatever reason, this blog is a place where you see what I am up to. 

 At the moment, we are not doing any projects, nor contemplating any, which is the first time since Sweetie retired. I'm still enjoying my watercolor and acrylic pieces, still having fun with friends and with my P.E.O. work, and still, most of the time, finding pleasure in cooking and baking new-to-me things. 

 Let's enjoy the coming year together! 

 P.S. You get extra points if you know what the photo means.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Muffins with Quince and Pecans

When I realized that I still had poached quince in the fridge and that it needed to be used, I went to various cookbooks and then to the index for this blog. It's easy to access the Index...just click on the photo of the table set with a rust tablecloth. It's on the right in the web view of the blog.

In the section with the oldest recipes I found Playful Banana Muffins and, after reading the recipe, I decided that this recipe, which had already had a big makeover, would get another makeover...this time with quince!

This is a lovely muffin. It's moist from the fruit, laced with chopped pecans and small pieces of quince, fragrant with the quince and orange zest and vanilla, and it has a nice crumb. I'm so glad that I made this recipe. It makes a full 12 muffins, plus a small loaf pan's worth of deliciousness. One of these muffins and a cup of tea go really well together.

No quince? You can substitute ripe pear and it will work just fine. Peel and core the pear, making sure to also remove the stem parts. Dice the fruit and make sure you have 2 cups worth. Pears range in size so much that you will probably need about 6. The same is true for the quince...about 5-6 will work. I boiled mine for about 10 minutes to soften the skin, peeled and cored them, then poached at a simmer in water which also had 1/2 cup sugar, 1 cinnamon stick and two whole cloves. Be sure to drain and then chill the poached quince.

I do hope you make these muffins with either quince or pears for a celebration of fall bounty!

Quince Pecan Muffins
Based very loosely on Raisin Bran muffins in the King Arthur Flour Bakers Companion

2 cups poached quince, diced small (about 1/2-inch)
1 cup buttermilk at room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup roughly chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Prepare a 12-cup muffin tin and a mini-loaf pan by spraying with baking spray or by greasing and flouring them. Set aside.

Check the quince for liquid. If necessary, dry with paper towels. Set aside.

In a large mixing owl, whisk together the buttermilk, oil, eggs, brown sugar, molasses, vanilla and orange zest. Add the quince and pecans and stir to combine.

In another bowl, mix together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and oats.

Quickly, with as few strokes as possible, us a large spoon, wooden spoon, or large flexible spatula to mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, just until combined.

Fill prepared muffin cups with the mixture, filling each cup almost to the top. Pour the rest of the batter into the prepared mini-loaf pan, using a spatula to clean the bowl of batter.

Bake in preheated oven for 14-18 minutes for the muffins, or until they spring back when pressed lightly in the middle, and for about 25 minutes for the mini-loaf pan quince bread, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove when ready from the oven. Cool on a wire rack 5 minutes, then turn out of the pans and let cool until ready to serve, or serve at once. If desired, serve with butter, cream cheese, or apricot jam.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Pumpkin Swirl Cake Decadence

Do you ever see a new recipe that you just know you have to try, as soon as possible? I do more often than you might think. A short while ago I saw this recipe from King Arthur Baking and knew that I had to make it soon, while pumpkin season is here. 

This is a lovely, moist, fragrant marble cake. The original recipe was for a cake made in a loaf pan, even a decorative loaf pan with pumpkins design on top. I needed a sheet cake for a luncheon I was going to, so I tripled the recipe and made it in two 9x13-inch pans. Then I truly made it decadent by topping the cakes with Lori's Cream Cheese Icing, which is the best cream cheese frosting you ever had.

The cake is a vanilla cake, but partway through the making of the batter, you divide the batter into two, then add pumpkin and pumpkin spice to one half and sour cream to the other half. Batter is dolloped into the pans alternately, then you swirl it with a skewer or chopstick. That way each piece has some dreamy vanilla-sour cream cake and some fragrant pumpkin cake. It is impressive looking and made quite a hit with the women who were at the luncheon. Of course I decorated the cakes with seasonal sprinkles and candy corn, but you can use whatever decorations you like.

If you'd like the recipe for just the loaf pan size cake, you can find it HERE on the King Arthur Baking site. The recipe below is for two 9x13-inch cakes plus enough Cream Cheese Icing to frost each of those cakes, plus a bit more for decoration if you like...or for putting between pumpkin cookies or between graham get the idea!

Pumpkin Swirl Cake
Makes two 9x13-inch cakes
Recipe from King Arthur Baking

6 eggs
3 cups sugar
2 1/4 cups vegetable oil
3 tablespoons vanilla
6 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
6 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
6 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (See Note at bottom)
1 1/2 cups sour cream

Grease and flour two 9x13-inch baking pans...with at least 2-inch sides. Set aside

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Beat eggs and sugar until smooth. Add oil gradually, beating continuously. Stir in the vanilla, baking powder and salt. Gently mix in the flour, scraping sides and beaters as needed, until completely mixed. Batter will be stiff.

Transfer half of the batter  to another bowl...about 3 cups...and mix in the pumpkin puree and the pumpkin spice. Set aside.

To the vanilla batter, add the sour cream and beat to incorporate. Scrape down sides and beaters if needed and mix a bit more.

In the prepared pans, dollop about 1/4 cup one batter, then 1/4 cup the other batter and continue doing that to create a checkerboard effect in the pan. Repeat with the other pan. Once all of the batter is in the pans, use a skewer or chopstick to swirl figure eights across the checkerboard pattern. Only a few are needed...resist doing too many or you will lose the separation of the batters that makes the cake so lovely.

Bake for 20-30 minutes, until cake springs back when center is pushed gently. Tester inserted will come out clean. Cool on wire racks 5 minutes, then turn out of the pans, or, if preferred, leave in the pan and serve from the pan once frosted and decorated.

Note: No pumpkin pie spice? Make your own:
5 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 

Let cool completely before icing. Use your favorite buttercream or the following Cream Cheese Icing.

Lori's Cream Cheese Icing
Makes enough for two 9x13-inch cakes, plus extra for decoration or another use

2 sticks butter, softened
24 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
4-6 cups powdered sugar

Cream butter, cream cheese, sour cream and vanilla together until fluffy. Gradually mix in powder sugar. Towards the end, add 1/4 cup at a time until you reach you desired texture and taste.

Monday, October 16, 2023

Rolling with the Babes


Now that it's fall, the menu changes around here. There is less grilled food and more meals that are comfort foods, like stews and braises and soups. A great accompaniment to those kinds of dishes are bread rolls. Especially with stews and braises, the roll can be torn into pieces and those pieces used to capture the delicious stew gravy and braise juices at the bottom of the bowl or the edges of the plate.

The Bread Baking Babes are right in line with that seasonal change. This month our Kitchen of the Month is Cathy of Bread Experience and our challenge is to bake Sigteboller, Danish Salty Rye Rolls.

As usual, I’m making  changes to the recipe. Turns out that I don’t have any rye flour, although I really thought that I did. Instead I’m using barley flour, plus a small amount of Irish whole meal wheat flour, and a couple teaspoons of ground flax seed.

It’s seems odd to dip the bottoms of the rolls in rolled oats when there aren’t any in the rolls themselves, but I did follow that part. I used some French fleur de sel for the salt part on top, which I applied after scoring the tops.

I added a couple of tablespoons of water to the polish since I used yeast, not sourdough starter. I bake bread so rarely that it doesn’t make sense to have a starter going.

If you decide to bake these lovely rolls, and want to be a Buddy, e-mail Cathy and include a photo, your URL, and a short description of your bake experience. She needs that by Oct 30 to include it in the roundup.

Be sure to visit the other Babes websites to see their fun with Sigteboller!

These rolls are delicious- especially the tops with the extra salt. I like the chewy texture. Next time will probably skip the rolled oats - they didn’t seem to add much.

Sigteboller, Danish Salty Rye Rolls

Makes 8-9 rolls (70grams each)


24 grams rye flour

40 grams all-purpose flour 

64 ml water

10 grams (1 teaspoon) sourdough starter or a pinch of yeast

Final dough. 

96 grams rye flour

160 grams all-purpose flour 

175-200 ml lukewarm water

3 grams instant yeast

6 grams sea salt

12 grams dark molasses 

Topping: Rolled oats, sea salt 

Mix the polish

The evening before you plan to bake the rolls, combine the flours, water, and yeast in a medium mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly to combine and allow to restart warm room temperature for 14-16 hours, or overnight. It should expand and have bubbles.

Mix the dough 

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or a large mixing bowl, add the rye flour, all-purpose flour, water, and poolish to the bowl.Mix on low until there are no dry bits of flour. Allow the dough to rest for 45 minutes (autolyse). Note: Start with 150 ml of water and add in additional water gradually, as needed.

Add the yeast, salt, and molasses. Mix until thoroughly incorporated. Sprinkle in additional water if necessary to distribute evenly.

Cover the bowl, and let dough rise in a warm place for 45 minutes. Gently punch the dough down to release the air. Form into a round and place back in the bowl. Let the dough rest an additional 45 minutes.

After the dough has risen during the 45 minutes, punch it down to release the air.Divide the dough into 8-9 equal portions, about 70 grams each. Shape each portion into a ball

Press the bottom (seam side) into a plate of rolled oats, then place on a baking sheet lined with parchment.

Cover the baking sheet with a kitchen towel and let the rolls rise another 40-50 minutes, or until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Just before baking use a sharp knife to cut an x-shape, about 1/4 to 1/2-inch deep on top of each roll. Sprinkle coarse Kosher salt over the rope, for flavor and to be decorative. You can also use caraway seeds or sunflower seeds 

Bake the rolls in the preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes, or until they are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Once the rolls are baked, allow them to cool on the baking sheet. Enjoy warm with butter.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Using Fall Fruits and Nuts

 After our recent days of Indian Summer - three days in a row of temperatures in the mid to upper 90s!...we dropped 30 degrees day before yesterday and also had rain...and then more rain yesterday afternoon. Not a downpour, but soaking mist with short runs of medium raindrops. The good news is that it should be enough to keep autumn forest fires at bay for another week or two. The bad news is that it isn't enough to help the water table. The other good news is that it cooled things down enough for baking!

Fall fruits are some of my favorites. Pears are mellow and juicy, the fragrant quince at the foot of the driveway turn from fuzzy to golden and shiny, and the persimmons are just beginning to turn colors on their way to a deep orange. Walnuts and pecans also are harvested in the fall. This year the squirrels and crows have gotten almost all of the walnuts, but I haven't had time to shell them anyway, so that's fine. The walnuts and pecans in this recipe are from Costco. The pears are from in town, carefully ripened in a brown paper bag. I still have some of all of them, so who knows what recipes will show up her in the next little while?

The honey is a very special harvest. It came from the hives of some friends of Sweeties...he went to middle school and high school with one of the friends and they hadn't seen each other in a very long time, but we had a great lunch with them. The honey is full flavored and so delicious! I'm sure that this tart would not have been nearly as wonderful without this special honey.

I started with a recipe from almost the beginning of my blogging time, way back in February of 2007. The recipe for a Nut Mosaic Tart comes from Sunset magazine from 1983. I even got a comment at some point from someone who had lost the recipe and had been delighted to find it again.

As you know if you have been following this blog, I often take a recipe and play with it. This time I took the tart recipe and reduced the nuts but added poached and peeled Bosc pear and poached and peeled pineapple quince. I used a pre-made refrigerated pie crust in the tart pan, tucking the excess into the tart and pushing the doubled sides into the tart pan curves. Then I ran a rolling pin over the top to cut off any excess dough and neaten the top. That's all it took to have a tart shell ready to fill.

The most time-consuming part is poaching, peeling, and chilling the fruit. Be sure to pat off excess liquid with a towel or paper towel before chilling. I didn't do that with the pear and so the pear nearly fell apart plus it made the filling just a bit liquid where the pear was.

The taste of this tart is amazing! All of the elements go so well together. It is fragrant with the quince, honey and orange zest, plus the roasting nuts while baking. I does need to chill a bit before serving, but once you do you will be so glad that you made this delicious Harvest Mosaic Fruit and Nut Tart!

Harvest Mosaic Fruit and Nut Tart
Adapted from a Sunset Magazine recipe from around 1983

1  9-inch tart pan lined with pie dough

1 large Bosc pear, ripe, poached until tender, peeled, cored, tossed with lemon juice and chilled in an airtight container for at least 4 hours. 
2-3 large quince, ripe, poached until tender, peeled, cored, tossed with lemon juice and chilled in an airtight container for at least 4 hours

1 cup walnuts, chopped roughly
1/2 cup pecans, whole
3 eggs
1 cup honey
½ teaspoon grated orange peel
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup butter or margarine, melted
Sweetened whipped cream (optional)

Press pie pastry evenly over the bottom and sides of an 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. 

Arrange slices of poached pear and quince, alternating, with small end in the middle and larger end of each slice toward the side. Set aside.

In a bowl, combine eggs, honey, orange peel, vanilla, and melted butter; beat well until blended. Stir in nuts. Pour over fruit into pastry-lined tart pan. If needed, move the nuts around with a fork to scatter them evenly around and over the fruit. 

Bake on the bottom rack of a 350 degree F oven until the top is golden brown all over, about 40 minutes.

Let cool on a wire rack. Remove pan sides. Offer wedges with whipped cream, if desired. Makes 10-12 servings.

Friday, October 06, 2023

Pancakes and Strawberries

You would think that since it is October that the strawberries would not be local, but you would be wrong. Our highway farm stand plants different varieties so that it can sell strawberries from spring through late fall. I like the ones that we are getting now...not too huge, but very flavorful.

It's been ages since I made pancakes, but I decided to make them from scratch, based on a recipe in the classic Joy of Cooking. For a change I have buttermilk in the fridge. I bought it for the cake that I never made due to illness, but it is still delicious and adds a wonderful tang to these pancakes.

You can, obviously, top your pancakes with anything you like, so don't turn away from this recipe if strawberries are out of season where you live. Sautéed apples are a good substitution for this time of year in the northern hemisphere. 


Based on recipe in Joy of Cooking

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour or whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1 3/4 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
2 eggs, room temperature
3 tablespoons butter, melted, room temperature
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1/4 cup milk, room temperature

Sift together the two flours, salt, sugar and baking powder.

In a small bowl, beat the eggs. Add the melted butter, buttermilk and milk and whisk to combine.

Add the buttermilk/egg mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk just to blend.

Heat a skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Grease lightly with butter. Pan is ready when a water drop sizzles when dropped onto the pan. Add batter when pan is ready and let cook undisturbed until small bubbles form around the edges of the pancake. Turn and cook until golden brown. If necessary, adjust heat a bit higher or lower if pancakes are burning before being cooked or are dry in the center.

Serve at once with desired toppings such as butter, maple syrup, and/or fruit. I love mine with sliced strawberries.

Saturday, September 30, 2023

Savory Polenta Squares with Pasta Sauce and Balsamic Mushrooms

 It must be the shorter days, but I'm starting to think about meals that are heartier. A few days ago I made my favorite Pasta Sauce, which uses fresh zucchini as a major ingredient. The recipe, found HERE, makes a lot, so I still had a fair amount to use, but I didn't want to combine it with pasta.

I remembered a dish that I really enjoyed that I had posted a while ago here on the blog. You can find it HERE. It consists of cooked polenta, enriched with a bit of butter and some Parmesan, poured into a buttered 8-inch square baking pan, with a ribbon of shredded mozzarella cheese and some fresh basil leaves sandwiched in the middle. 

top photo: half of polenta goes into the lined pan, then basil leaves are laid down
lower photos: after the basil, an even layer of shredded mozzarella cheese is added
After that the balance of the polenta is added and the layer smoothed to even it, and then the pan is refrigerated for at least 45 minutes.

You chill this 'sandwich' until it's firm, cut it into squares, then pan-fry it to warm the polenta up and crisp it, plus melt the cheese. Once plated, you spoon some of that lovely pasta sauce over the polenta square. Just like that, it's an amazing meal, but to make it even more special, I added some Balsamic Mushrooms. Any of these recipes are wonderful, but combined, it was a feast!

Balsamic Mushrooms
serves 2-4, but can be doubled 

Approximately 16 medium mushrooms, cleaned and quartered (I used brown criminis)
2 tablespoons olive oil 
1 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (I used the Costco Kirkland brand)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley

Clean and quarter the mushrooms. Remove any stems that seem too old to eat. Set aside.

In a skillet, heat the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, dried thyme, dried rosemary. Stir and continue to stir for 1 minute while the garlic not burn. Add the quartered mushrooms and stir to coat with the herbed oil. Cover, lower the heat to medium, and cook for 3 minutes. Uncover the pan, return the heat to original setting, add the balsamic vinegar and stir to coat the mushrooms with the sauce, stirring for at least a minute. Garnish with the parsley and serve at once.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes

When I was growing up back in Virginia, summer was tomato season, usually starting around July. Here in Northern California tomatoes are usually ready for harvest starting in August. Everything is about two weeks late this year, so it's only recently that we really started to get constant ripe ones.

Some years I've grown up to twelve different varieties of tomatoes, but my favorite is the Black Krim, a tomato that is sort of brown when ripe. When you cut into it there are parts that look chartreuse and parts that are bright pink, with the rest the dark red-brown color. The flavor is pure tomato...intense, with both tang and sweetness. The largest ones are a little smaller than a tennis ball and the smallest a bit bigger than a golf ball. This year I grew two from seed. Last year I bought a seedling, but I think the ones I grow from seed do better.

Sweetie and I mostly enjoy them as a side dish/salad, sliced, then anointed with salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar, a drizzle of olive oil and a shower of fresh basil, like in the photo above. I also really like them as part of a sandwich, my two favorites being grilled tomato and cheddar cheese and the classic bacon-lettuce-tomato on toasted sourdough with good a mayo.

This week I baked a new recipe to me, a ham and tomato pie (but forgot to take a photo!). The recipe includes sautéed red onions and zucchini pieces, the sliced tomatoes, ham, cheddar cheese and a milk and egg custard, all baked in a pie shell. Not only does it taste amazing, but it smells heavenly, especially when it is almost fully baked. My only complaint was that it did weep a bit after cooling. I think next time I'll bake it at a high temperature just long enough to firm up the crust, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F for the last 15-20 minutes so that the custard has a chance to firm up without too much heat.

I made the pie long enough ago that I've had to look up the recipe I use. Here's the recipe.

It's a good one.

Ham and Tomato Pie

1 pie crust (I use Pillsbury ReadyCrust) in a shallow pie pan, edges turned under and crimped, unbaked
1 (8-oz.) package diced cooked ham
1/2 yellow onion
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
2-3 medium fresh tomatoes, sliced thinly and drained on paper towels
2 large eggs
2/3 cup half and half (I used Silk creamer)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

In a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, cook the ham and onions until ham has browned and liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes.

Brush the bottom of the pie shell evenly with the Dijon mustard. Sprinkle with half the cheese. Spoon the ham mixture over the cheese. Top with an even layer of tomatoes.

In a medium bowl whisk the egg then add the half and half, basil and pepper. Pour over the top of the tomatoes in the pie. Finish with the second half of the shredded Cheddar cheese.

Bake in the preheated oven for 12 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F and bake an addition 20-30 minutes (or more) until the filling bounces back slightly when you push with an index finger. The crust and places on top of the pie should be browned.

Cool 15 minutes on a rack. Serve warm.