Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Lemon Mushroom Caper Sauce

Still cooking a lot with lemons. Sometimes you need a nice sauce to boost the flavor of your entree, especially if you just picked up a rotisserie chicken on your way home. Make sure the chicken is hot, spoon some of this sauce over each portion and you will impress your family and friends. They'll never know that it's easy.

I posted this recipe soon after I started blogging, a good long time ago, and it's still a great sauce to put over chicken, fish, or just a plate of cauliflower rice. Do use a fresh lemon so that the zest has lots of lemon oil. I ran through the rain and grabbed one from my Meyer Lemon shrub, but one recently  purchased from the market or farmer's market - Eureka or Meyer are both great - is fine.

The key thing to remember is to add the liquid all at once, then stir vigorously until it thickens, which doesn't take long. You might think that this way there will be lots of lumps, but if you cook the flour mixture a minute and then stir, stir, stir once the liquid goes in, the flour will mix with the liquid and you'll get a great sauce. If you have more lemon zest than called for, just throw it in...just gets you a more lemony flavor which is delicious. You can skip the capers if you don't care for capers, but I think they add more zing. I used brown mushrooms because they have more flavor, but regular white mushrooms are fine. Fresh parsley is a very good idea.

Lemon Mushroom Caper Sauce
an Elle crafted recipe

2 tablespoon olive or grapeseed oil
1 cup prepared mushrooms (wiped clean, sliced)
1 clove minced garlic
2 tablespoons wheat flour or potato flour
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
juice of one lemon (zest the lemon first)
Pepper to taste
zest of one lemon
1 tablespoon capers, drained
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley

In a medium saucepan heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the prepared mushrooms, stir to coat with the oil, and saute' 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the garlic, stir, and saute' 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add the wheat flour or potato flour, stir to combine with mushrooms and garlic, and continue to cook for another minute, stirring frequently.

In a measuring cup mix together the broth and lemon juice. Add to the mushroom mixture all at once, stirring constantly, and continue to stir until mixture thickens. You can save about 2 tablespoons of the broth mixture and add some at the end to adjust the thickness to what you prefer. Add pepper to taste.

Add the lemon zest, capers, and Italian parsley. Stir to combine. Taste and add salt and/or pepper if needed. (I avoid adding salt and often by now you will see that it isn't needed, but now is the time to add it if you find you do need to.)

If holding the sauce while you cook what it will garnish, cover sauce with plastic wrap laid right on top of and touching the sauce. Cover the pot. Re-heat (removing the plastic wrap first), if needed, using low heat.

Makes enough to sauce 4 servings.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Shadow Cake Baking

I've loved being a part of the Cake Slice Bakers for the last few years. We've baked from some great cookbooks and I could always find something to bake that was fairly easily convertible to dairy-free. Our latest cookbook, The European Cake Cookbook, is much more difficult because it uses quite a lot of whipping cream, cream cheese and mascarpone, none of which I've yet to find a good substitute for.

It isn't quite within the rules of the group, but hopefully within the spirit, for me to bake similar recipes and post them around the 20th on the month. For February there was a cake that looked pretty good, the Lemon Meringue Cake. Because I had to bake a birthday sheet cake ahead of time for my scholarship group (served on Feb. 20th), I did part of it, but baked it as a sheet cake and finished it with canned frosting instead of meringue. Meringue just wouldn't hold up for the two to three hours that the cake sat there waiting for its turn.

The cake was lovely and delicious and lemon curd is always delicious. This is the perfect time of year to make it, too. The recipe we were given is very close to the one I always use, but since I had already made lemon curd for my birthday and still had some, I used that.

Of interest, perhaps, is part of the decoration I did on the top. The writing of Happy Birthday AJ and the piping around the edges of the star was done with plain Royal Icing, but the fun, and new for me part, was that I wrote on a gold toned Wilton Sugar Sheet star shaped cutout and then removed the backing and put that on the cake. The moisture in the canned vanilla icing (could have done "Buttercream" like I did on my birthday cake, but ran out of time) held down the sugar sheet star and moistened it enough that when the cake was cut it cut easily and since it's edible I could serve bits and pieces of it with the center servings and it was fine. I recommend it - easy to use and you can cut any shape or even make ribbons or layered flowers, etc.

Didn't get good photos once the cake was cut because I was doing the cutting and got distracted.

Hope that is is OK for me to sort of do the recipes like this.

Each month The Cake Slice Bakers are offered a selection of cakes from the current book we are baking through. This year it is The European Cake Cookbook by Tatyana Nesteruk. We each choose one cake to bake, and then on the 20th - never before - we all post about our cake on our blogs. There are a few rules that we follow, but the most important ones are to have fun and enjoy baking & eating cakes!

Follow our FacebookInstagram, and Pinterest pages where you can find all of our cakes, as well as inspiration for many other cakes. You can visit our blog where the links are updated each month. If you are interested in joining The Cake Slice Bakers and baking along with us, please send an email to thecakeslicebakers at gmail dot com for more details. The Cake Slice Bakers also have a new Facebook group called The Cake Slice Bakers and Friends. This group is perfect for those who do not have a blog but want to join in the fun and bake through this book.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Bread Baking Babes Go Hollywood - Paul, that is

Having obsessed over the Great British Baking Show for took me months to watch all the many episodes and then all the Master Class episodes I could find on Netflix (or was it Amazon Prime??)... it was wonderful to find that our Kitchen of the Month maven, Tanna of My Kitchen in Half Cups, chose a recipe from Paul Hollywood from one of those episodes for our monthly bake and for our Anniversary month. I didn't make too many changes to the dough, but changed the filling quite a bit.

This one was originally themed for Christmas, with Chelsea buns shaped into a Christmas Tree shape and then decorated, once baked, with swags of icing and candied fruit and pistachios for color. Since it was Valentine's day when I baked mine, I went with a free-form heart, but you really have to use your imagination to see the heart shape - see photo above. For a filling I combined diced Granny Smith apple with chopped dates, dried cranberries, and chopped walnuts, plus non-dairy margarine and some brown sugar. The filling also had some apple-pear juice, some cinnamon, and some orange peel. Once baked, I glazed the buns with melted marmalade. They were much less showy than the Christmas tree, but delicious and just right for dessert on Valentine's day after our very healthy and veggie rich dinner. My Sweetie managed to consume three of the buns, so I know they were appreciated.

So you might be saying, "What are Chelsea Buns?" Really they are rolled buns like traditional cinnamon buns. This dough doesn't have sugar, but you could add some if you like. The filling I made didn't have sugar either, but the fruits are sweet-tart and the brown sugar I scattered over the fruits once they were spread on the rolled out dough did the rest of the sweetening. Even the marmalade was a low sugar type, because that's what I had. The dough is rich with eggs and 'butter' and I used some white whole wheat flour for part of the flour, too.

Do try these. They are fun to make and fun to eat. Your kitchen will also smell wonderful!

Be sure to visit the other Bread Baking Babes to see their versions.

If you would like to be a Buddy, make your version of the buns, take a photo, and e-mail Tanna with a short description of your baking experience, the photo, and a link to your own post. Do it by Feb. 28th and she will e-mail you our Buddy Badge to post, too.

Chelsea Bun Heart

Based on recipe By:

Serving Size: 15



800 g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting (I used 400 g bread flour and 200 g white whole wheat flour)
1 tablespoon salt
15 g sachet fast-acting yeast (about two packets of American dry yeast)
400 ml milk (I used same amount of soy creamer)
60 g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing (I used same amount of non-dairy margarine)
2 free-range eggs

For the filling
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled , cored, and finely diced
100 g pitted dried dates, chopped
50 g dried cranberries
1/4 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
200 ml apple-pear juice
85 g  walnuts, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
40 g non-dairy margarine, softened
120 g brown sugar

To finish
3 tablespoons orange low-sugar marmalade


1. Place the flour into a large mixing bowl, add the salt to one side and the yeast to the other side. 

2. Warm the milk and butter in a small saucepan until the butter is melted and the mixture is lukewarm. 

3. Pour into the flour mixture, add the eggs and stir thoroughly until the contents of the bowl come together as a soft dough. The dough will be sticky. 

4. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead well for 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Alternatively this can be done in a stand mixer using a dough hook. 

5. Place the dough into an oiled bowl and leave to rise, covered with a damp tea towel, for one hour or until doubled in size. 

6. For the filling, mix the diced apple, dates, dried cranberries, orange zest, 
 cinnamon, apple-pear juice, and walnuts in a small saucepan. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until filling is cooked and most of juice has evaporated. Let cool.

7. Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll out dough into a rectangle about 20 in x 14 in. 

8. Tack down the long side of the dough rectangle nearest to you by pressing it down onto the work surface with your thumb. Use a small offset spatula to make a thin layer all over with the non-dairy 'butter', leaving a 1" uncovered edge along the long edge. When you roll up the dough, roll from the opposite long edge. Then spread the cooled filling mixture over the dough leaving a 1" border. Roll the opposite long side of the dough towards you quite tightly, until the roll is complete and tight. Trim the ends to neaten. 

9. With a sharp knife, or crossed dental floss, cut into 15 thick rounds - about 1.5in. 

10. Line a very large baking tray (or use the grill tray from your oven) with baking parchment. 

11. Arrange rolls on the prepared tray, cut side up, in heart shape: You want them to be close enough so that when they rise further and then bake; they will bake with their sides touching. They can then be pulled apart and you get a lovely soft edge. (I used the cut off ends at the top outside of the heart for fun. Not much filling, but still tasty.)

12. Cover loosely and let rise for 30 - 45 minutes. 

13. Preheat oven to 350 F. 

14. When the buns are ready, put them in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden-brown. 

15. Check after 15 minutes or so and cover the buns with foil if they are getting too brown. 

16. Remove the buns from the oven and let them cool slightly before transferring them from the tin to a cooling rack. 

17. Melt the marmalade in a small saucepan with a splash of water until melted. Brush the jam over the buns to glaze and allow to cool. It's OK if some pieced of candied peel are on the buns, too. Serve warm or cooled.


Note: This recipe contains U.K. measurements and may require conversions to U.S. measurements. 
For best results, use a kitchen scale with a TARE feature to weigh your ingredients. The recipe has also not been professionally tested. 

HAHA! see that last note ... sort of makes you feel free doesn't it. Mess with it, create your own filling....go wild!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Perfect Party

I am a most fortunate woman! My loving and lovely daughter just planned and pulled off a magnificent birthday party for me at a local restaurant with 21 guests, a delicious lunch with choices of entree and side dish and salad, a champagne toast, coffee service and a beautiful themed decor. She did have help from Sweetie, of course, and a little help from me with ironing the linens (labeled cotton but clearly poly!), but most of it was her doing. A surprise guest, NoHandle, was the best part of all, especially because he is doing well after some major health issues.

My part in the event, other than compiling a guest list and showing up ready to party, was to create a two tiered birthday cake. Truly, I did try to find one that I could purchase, but most places don't do fully dairy-free cakes that taste good and the one I did find wanted $100. It helps that I love baking and took it as a challenge to create a major-event worthy cake with no dairy.

First I baked a 'practice' 9" cake because I had combined a few recipes to make the chocolate cake and I wanted to make sure that it would work. The cake needed to be firm enough that I could put two layers on top but still moist and delicious. For the filling I wanted to use raspberry jam and vanilla 'buttercream' because I love chocolate and raspberry together and the vanilla 'buttercream' would be a nice contrast to the intense chocolate. I use the marks around 'buttercream' because no actual butter was used. Instead I used a non-dairy margarine.

For the frosting I used a ganache that was nothing more than high-quality semi-sweet chocolate and Silk brand soy creamer. The key thing with ganache is to make it many hours ahead of using it because you want it to cool. Once it's cool it is spreadable and doesn't run off the cake. Too warm and it just blobs or runs, as I found out the hard way.

The practice cake was a big hit, probably because I split both 9" layers and so there were three ribbons of jam and vanilla 'buttercream' instead of one. The later, larger cake would have been better that way, too, but cutting and moving thin layers of split 12' diameter cake was more than I could manage. Remember, I've never made a 12" cake before, much less a tiered cake!

I baked all the cake layers the day before the party. Then I tried to make the 'buttercream'. It failed. It never was anything more solid than soup. Discouraging. Then I made the ganache so that it could cool overnight.

The next morning I tried again with the 'buttercream' and this time it worked! Everything went together really well, but by the time I had finished frosting the top tier, I was out of buttercream and ganache. I tried making a small batch of ganache to see if I could use it for decorating the area where the two tiers join, but it never thickened up enough. I added confectioners sugar and it seemed to be O.K., but when I piped some on, it started to run. We had some gorgeous magenta roses, still closed in buds, to use as cake toppers, so I used them to hide the blobby ganache instead. It looked like I had meant to do that...really made the cake look spectacular!

At the top is the photo of the decorated table, with the finished cake as the centerpiece. It did taste great and there was plenty left over to give to our local firemen, neighbors and family after the party.

Although it was a bit stressful here and there, I'm glad I made the cake and now know that I can create a tiered cake that is delicious, pretty, and dairy-free so that I can eat it. Give this a try yourself if you want a challenge and a great cake at the end of it!

Thank you Sweetie and Kate! Well done.

Special Chocolate Party Cake - Non-Dairy
my recipe
14 servings (For 42 servings [or more] if you make this amount as two 9" cakes and then make the recipe twice to fill a 12" diameter cake pan twice, then tier it. Will go into making it tiered this way at the end.)

Please use a kitchen scale for the chocolate and cocoa powder
1 oz. unsweetened or semisweet chocolate, chopped finely
1/4 teaspoon espresso powder
2.2 oz. unsweetened (alkalized) cocoa powder - I used Hershey's
1 cup boiling water
1 cup cake flour
1 1/4 cup bleached all-purpose flour (bleached gives more stability to the structure if making tiered cake, but you can use unbleached if only making the 9" cake)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 oz - 1/4 cup - soy milk or almond milk yogurt
2 large egg
2 egg yolks from large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) butter at room temperature (70 degrees F)

Prepare two 9" x 2" cake pans: grease the bottom and sides with shortening, then line bottom with parchment paper and grease the bottom again. Set aside.

In a medium bowl whisk the chocolate, espresso and cocoa powder. Add the boiling water and whisk until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and cool to room temperature. (About 1 hour.)

When chocolate mixture is cool, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, yolks, yogurt and vanilla until just combined. Set aside.

In a stand mixer bowl use a flat beater to cake flour, bleached all-purpose flour, sugars, salt, baking powder and baking soda of low speed 30 seconds.

Add the butter, cut into roughly one-tablespoon pieces. Mix on low until dry ingredients are crumbly.

Add egg mixture and beat on medium speed for 1 1/2 minutes until light and well incorporated. Scrape the bowl and beater.

On low speed gradually add the cool chocolate mixture. Scrape any left in chocolate bowl into batter. Mix a few seconds, then scrape bowl and beater well. Beat at medium speed for 30 seconds. Batter will be slightly fluffy.

Divide batter between the pans. Smooth the top. Pans will be about half full.

Bake in preheated oven for 25 - 30 minutes. Toothpick inserted in center will come out clean.

Cool 10 minutes in the pans on a wire rack, then run a thin knife around the sides of the pans and turn each cake out and cool on wire racks sprayed with cooking spray (which will help cakes release from the wire racks). In general, cool with bottoms up. Remove parchment paper if it sticks to the bottoms. Once cool, trim tops, if necessary, using a serrated knife longer than the width of the cake. Layered cakes do best if the top and bottom both are flat. If you used cake strips on the outsides of the pans you may already have tops that are flat enough.

If only making a 9" layer cake, split each layer in half using that serrated knife. Place the first layer over a dab of icing/ganache/buttercream that you have put on the cake plate or cake cardboard. This little dab hold it in place. Use a fork to stir appropriate jam to break it up. Apply thin layer of raspberry, strawberry, or apricot jam, if desired, then a layer of buttercream. (I piped mine, then spread it together using a small offset spatula.) Place cut side down of next layer and repeat jam and buttercream. Place bottom of next layer, more jam and buttercream, then cut side down of final layer. Frost sides and top with buttercream or ganache. Decorate as desired. Chill at least an hour before serving. If chilled longer than an hour, let sit at room temperature for at least an hour before serving.

For a two tiered cake, make the 9" layers as described above. If you like, skip the splitting of the cakes, just doing the jam and buttercream between the two 9" cakes, then frosting them with buttercream or ganache. Then prepare a 12" pan with the shortening, parchment paper and shortening over the bottom as described for the 9" pan. Set aside. Have another parchment circle ready for the final layer.

Make a full batch of the batter used for the 9" cake. That is just the right amount for one 12" layer. If at all possible, use cake strips around the outside of the 12" helps the outer part from becoming dry and helps the top be mostly level. Bake for 45-55 minutes in 350 degree F preheated oven. Use same test for doneness as above.

While the first 12" pan is baking, prepare the batter for the second 12" layer, but wait to mix the egg mixture and chocolate mixture into the dry ingredients until you remove the first 12" layer from the oven. Once the cake has cooled 20 minutes, carefully remove it from the pan to a wire rack coated with cooking spray and remove the used parchment paper from the bottom.

Clean the 12" pan, dry, and prepare it as you did the first time. Now continue with the batter, adding the egg mixture, scraping, adding the chocolate mixture, scraping, and incorporating the scraped portions for the final batter. Place in 12" pan, (make sure cake strips are moist and attached) and smooth top. Bake for 45-55 minutes and treat baked second layer as you did the first layer.

Place the bottom of one 12" layer on a dab of frosting or ganache on a cake cardboard. Apply jam and buttercream (recipe below) to the top (trimming to make the top of the layer flat first if necessary) then put on the second layer, top side down (again trimming first if top isn't flat). Frost with buttercream or ganache (ganache recipe below - if using buttercream, you will need to make more than one batch of the recipe below).

Use the 9" cake pan to use a toothpick to draw a thin circle in the frosting or ganache where the outside edges of the 9" layer will be placed on top of the 12" layer.

Get 9 plastic straws. Push one down in the middle of that circle and mark where the top of the cake is on the straw. Remove the straw and trim it to that mark, then use that as a template to mark the other 8 straws. Replace the center straw, then space the other eight roughly equally far apart around the drawn circle, but in about an inch. This will be the way the top layer is stabilized.

With your hand under the edges of the cake cardboard holding the 9" layer, carefully place the layer and cardboard on the 12" cake where the circle is drawn. Use extra buttercream or ganache to pipe stars all around where the cardboard meets the lower layer (or use any other decorative piping you choose as long as it covers any cardboard showing.

Decorate cake as desired.

Cake can sit at cool room temperature up to 24 hours. Once it is cut, refrigerate any leftovers.

Vanilla Swiss Buttercream
4 lg. egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly firm (I used the same amount of non-dairy margarine)
1 tsp. vanilla

Place the egg whites in a large bowl of a electric mixer and beat with the whisk attachment until the whites are foamy and they begin to thicken (just before the soft peak stage). Set the bowl over a saucepan filled with about 2 inches of simmering water, making sure the bowl is not touching the water. Then, whisk in the sugar by adding 1-2 tablespoon of sugar at a time over a minutes time. Continue beating 2-3 minutes or until the whites are warm (about 120 degrees) and the sugar is dissolved. The mixture should look thick and like whipped marshmallows.
Remove from pan and with either the paddle or whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and sugar on med-high until its a thick, cool meringue – about 5-7 minutes. *Do not overbeat*. Set aside.

Place the butter in a separate clean mixing bowl and, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter at medium speed for 40-60 seconds, or until smooth and creamy. *Do not overbeat or the butter will become toooooo soft.*

On med-low speed, blend the meringue into the butter, about 1-2 Tbsp. at a time, over 1 minute. Add the liqueur and vanilla and mix for 30-45 seconds longer, until thick and creamy.

Refrigerate 10-15 minutes before using.

Wait! My buttercream won’t come together!  Reheat the buttercream briefly over simmering water for about 5 seconds, stirring with a wooden spoon. Be careful and do not overbeat. The mixture will look broken with some liquid at the bottom of the bowl. Return the bowl to the mixer and whip on medium speed just until the cream comes back together.

Wait! My buttercream is too soft! Chill the buttercream in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes and rewhip. If that doesn’t work, cream an additional 2-4 Tbsp. of butter in a small bowl– making sure the butter is not as soft as the original amount, so make sure is cool and smooth. On low speed, quickly add the creamed butter to the buttercream, 1 Tbsp. at a time.

Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days, or can be frozen for up to 6 months. If freezing, store in 2 16-oz. plastic containers and thaw in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for several hours.


8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped fine (which you can do easily in a food processor, breaking into chunks before putting the chocolate into the processor)
8 oz. (1 cup) soy creamer (not soy milk - the creamer is thicker) plus 1 tablespoon

Put the chopped chocolate in a heat-proof bowl. Heat the soy creamer in a small pot until almost to a boil...there will be tiny bubbles just at the sides of the pot. Remove from the heat and pour over the chopped chocolate. Let sit one minute. Stir gently with a silicone spatula until smooth. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the chocolate mixture and then let sit until cool, about 4-5 hours. If necessary, use the spatula to stir the ganache a bit just before using it to frost the cakes. 

You will need a double recipe of this to do the two tiered cake. Do each recipe by itself and then let cool. Use one recipe for the bottom, one for the top and decorations.

Special thanks to Rose Levy Bernanbaum, author of Rose's Heavenly Cakes and the Cake Bible which were both helpful in this enterprise, and to Dorie Greenspan, author of Baking:from my home to yours which was also helpful.

Friday, February 08, 2019

Almonds and Lemon and Raspberries

My daughter has a new food processor. It was a birthday present and will help her with her new eating regimen but it can be fun, too. It comes with an attachment to make fresh zoodles - veggie noodles - something that she eats a lot, but it can also do smoothies and sauces and she can made ground almonds for the little snack balls that help her stick to the program. She looks awesome so I think it's working.

Since she hadn't tried it out when I arrived last week, we decided to start with grinding almonds to a fine flour. Once we had that done it was a short hop to making dacquoise, a meringue with ground nuts folded in that you make into discs and bake. They are used instead of cake to make a layered dessert.

Fortunately she had an electric mixer with beaters...not a stand mixer, which would have been easier, but for someone who has been trying to simplify her life, it's better that way except for when her baking fool of a Mom shows up. It took a while to beat the egg whites to stiff peaks, but eventually they were beaten and the sugar was added and beaten in gradually. Then she carefully folded in the ground almonds and spread the mixture onto parchment paper. Once baked they cooled on the parchment since we didn't have cooling racks, so I think they stayed a bit floppier than if they had air dried, so to speak.

For the filling, I made my favorite lemon curd (see, still on a lemon jag) and put it in the fridge to chill, which helps thicken it up. Could have used a bit more cooling time, but we were expected for dinner. Each layer got some lemon curd and a sprinkle of fresh raspberries, with the top layer having the berries in a decorative ring and centered. The birthday girl even got a slice with a lit candle so that she can wish for her heart's desire for this year.

We tried to make whipped coconut cream to offset the tartness of the lemon curd, but it didn't whip up at all...probably poor technique and being rushed. Still, this is a fun, fairly simple dessert if you enjoy lemon and raspberries and almonds.

Dacquoise Layers

8 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups whole almonds, unsalted

Prepare sheets of parchment paper - trace 8" circles onto each sheet. This will make 8 circles.

In a stand mixer, whisk the egg white until moist peaks form. Add the almond extract. Slowly add the sugar and beat until stiff peaks form, about 5-6 minutes for all the beating.

Place flour and almonds in a food processor. Pulse until ground into fine crumbs, almost a flour. Gently fold this mixture into the beaten egg whites, keeping as much air as possible in the meringue mixture you are forming.

Using a one cup measure, transfer a cup of the mixture to each circle. Spread out with the back of a spoon to the edges of each circle you drew on the parchment, creating a thin and even layer. (see photo above)

Transfer the parchments to large, flat baking sheets. Bake them, one pan at a time in a preheated 375 degree F oven for 10-12 minutes. Layers will be light golden brown and slightly darker at the edges.

Cool the layers for a few minutes, then peel off the parchment and cool completely on a wire rack.

Use the layers to make a dessert. We used six of the layers for our dessert and froze the other two for later use.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Best Brussel Sprouts and Ribs and Zoodles and Applesauce...

Sometimes you find friends at unexpected times and in places that are unusual. Think about it. Most of your friends are probably ones you met at school or work, through your hobbies or children, or they are neighbors or friends of friends. Still, most of us have at least one friend that we made friends with outside of the usual because we recognized something in them that spoke to us of friendship, even beyond the ordinary busyness of our lives.

One such occasion for me happened serendipitously last fall when I rented a B&B and was lucky enough to befriend the owner and his partner. They live a short distance from my daughter so when I visited her last week, they invited us over to their gorgeous house (not the B&B although the B&B is also beautiful) for a wonderful dinner.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I don't share a kitchen very well when I'm cooking. Randy wanted us to all cook together and we did. To my surprise and delight I really enjoyed knocking around the kitchen together as we each made a part of the feast. My part was applesauce and my daughter made some amazing brussel sprouts (even more amazing when you consider that she didn't have the actual seasoning mix she usually used, but figured it out using the spice components). Nathan made delicious zoodles from two kinds of zucchini and Randy made the highlight of the dinner, ribs that were started in the oven but finished outside over a large wood fire (see first photo). Awesome to see it done and even more awesome to eat it! It felt like being with family and the food was good enough to think of as a family feast!

I'll have to get the recipe for the zoodles and the ribs, but I can tell you what went into the sprouts and applesauce.

Kate's Tsardusted Sprouts

For the brussel sprouts, cut each in half and remove any outer leaves that are tough. There should be enough to cover a sheet pan in one layer. Put into a covered container or gallon ziploc bag, then add olive oil (2-3 tablespoons), salt and pepper to taste and Penzey's Tsardust Memories seasoning - start with 1/4 teaspoon and then next time adjust up or down to your taste. Shake to get an even coating on all the sprouts, then spread in a single layer on a sheet pan. (I like to cover the pan with heavy duty foil first for easy clean up.)  Roast in a very hot oven (425 degrees F) , turning once, until tender, about 20 minutes total. Serve while hot.

For the applesauce, peel and dice your favorite apple. Randy loves Honeycrisp, so that's what we used. My daughter peeled them before I got involved, but I leave mine unpeeled...great both ways. Place in a heavy bottomed pot and add cinnamon, ground cloves and nutmeg to taste, plus about 3 tablespoons water. If your apples are tart (or you prefer your applesauce sweet as Randy does), add some sugar, too, to taste. Cover and cook over medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring about every 5 minutes. When apples are very tender, stir and crush with a wooden spoon to desired chunkiness. Serve warm or cold.

Friday, February 01, 2019

Roast Chicken with Lemon

Looks like I'm on a lemon kick. A great time of year to do that, too. Lemons are in season in the northern hemisphere where they grow, so take advantage of their freshness for some cooking fun!

Things have been hectic but fun since I last posted. Sweetie's back is so much better and he is now doing PT. One of my sisters is having surgery today for a condition that manifested in August, so at last she will be able to heal. A brother-in-law avoided surgery this week and another one is healing his heart through diet and a few meds. A good friend is in rehab after open heart surgery...lots of health issues, including a trip over a curb myself that seems OK but I did hit my head on a wall...

On the fun side, I visited my daughter in LA and had a blast with movie watching, great food, dinners with friends, walks on the beach and at a botanical garden and lots and lots of sunshine...hardly seemed like January! Here are the awesome women who dined together on Saturday.

A over a week ago (before I took the trip to LA) I made an awesome roast whole chicken with lemon. It is relatively quick, it is easy and the results are truly mouthwatering. There really are only a few ingredients, too: chicken, olive oil, fresh thyme, garlic cloves and salt and pepper, plus three lemons.

I happen to have a nice oval cast iron baker with lid that works perfectly for this recipe, but a heavy pot with oven-safe lid or even a lid made from doubled heavy duty aluminum foil would work. I was inspired by a recipe that I'd seen in a Dorie Greenspan cookbook with a technique for sealing in the juices when you roast chicken, so I made a paste of flour and water and used it to seal the lid to the pan until 15 minutes before the chicken was done when I removed both 'bread' sealer and lid so that the chicken could brown during the last 15 minutes.

This chicken cooks at a fairly high temperature, but sealing in all the moisture meant that the chicken was very moist and that there was a fair amount of pan juices to enjoy with the chicken once it was served. Be sure to have some good bread handy to sop up the juices. We had it with a nice green salad. That and some bread is all you need for a satisfying meal.

The recipe is from Williams-Sonoma and it's worth bookmarking.

Simple Roast Chicken with Lemons
Serves 4

1 whole chicken, about 4 1/2 lbs (2.25 kg)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 garlic cloves, peeled
3 lemons, halved
1 large fresh thyme sprig (I used lemon thyme from our garden)

Preheat the over to 425 degrees F (220 C)

Rinse the chicken inside and out and pat dry. Rub the chicken all over with the olive oil, and season generously inside and out with salt and pepper.

Put the garlic, 2 lemon halves and the thyme sprig in the cavity. Tuck the wing tips behind the back. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine.

Put the chicken, breast side up, in a 4 1/2 quart (4.5 l) deep baker. Insert a smart thermometer into the chicken breast according to manufacturer's instructions (I skipped that). Place the remaining lemon halves around the chicken. (If wanting to seal as I did, make a paste of flour and water and put a rope of it all around the top of the baker where the lid will go, then cover the baker with the lid to seal.) Cover  the baker with the lid.

Transfer to the oven and roast the chicken until the thermometer registers 160 degrees F (71 C), 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours, removing the lid during the last 10 to 15 minutes of roasting to brown the skin. (I removed the lid permanently and then used an instant read thermometer to check temperature at one hour and then checked it again a short while later.)

Transfer the chicken to a carving board and let rest for 10 minutes. Pour the pan juices into a gravy boat. Carve the chicken and serve the juices alongside. Serves 4

Williams-Sonoma Test Kitchen