Good Things Come In Small Packages

Today I was delighted to participate in a baby shower for the lovely Mrs. French and the, as yet, unknown Baby French to come. The hostesses chose a French theme for the party and I was asked to bring one savory and one desserty item. Oh, the things that came to mind. But, wanting to keep it to finger foods, I knew early on that this was going to be the perfect time to finally try out the pastry dough recipe that Gattina first posted and then Helen the Tartelette adapted (not to be confused with my four Tartlets/Things).

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I won’t copy the recipe here since I used Tartelette’s version, but I will say that 14 g yeast equals two envelopes or 4 1/2 teaspoons and I used three full sticks of butter rather than leaving out roughly 10 g — I don’t use a kitchen scale so it’s purely laziness on my part to keep it simple and put in three full sticks. My other modification was simply in the sizing and fillings.

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I wanted them small and dainty for the baby shower so my squares were about 1 1/2 to 2 inches and then I folded in the corners as the recipe directs. I used three different fillings: marionberry preserves, orange marmalade, and cream cheese. I also made a glaze from milk, confectioner’s sugar, and vanilla, although I didn’t take any pictures after I added the glazing.

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You’ll notice in the tag cloud that ‘yeast breads’ isn’t a common category here because I don’t like my foods to be needy.

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Chocolate is one thing — it’s just persnickety. It likes the right temperature and it doesn’t like water and it’s just a tad particular about it’s company. I understand these things. Ask The Husband about the house temperature some day or how likely I am to go sailing even though I love to be at the beach. But generally I find kneady foods to be a pain. Roll, fold, rest. Knead, knead. But this recipe, despite it’s kneading and rolling and resting, will be used again. The Husband liked the cream cheese filling best. I’d like to try a few other things with it also. When I had made all the dough into danish I sighed and said, “I wish I had some more of that dough but I’m not going to start mixing a new batch now” and Thing 1 said, “Oh, you must be having fun! You want to play with it more!” πŸ˜‰

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My Hero!

Thursday was a friend’s birthday and she had a very simple request: would I please make her a birthday cake. No problem! Surely we can bake a birthday cake with no wheat, no dairy, no egg, no almond. We’ve done wacky cake/crazy cake/depression cake/war cake ad nauseum so I tried some new recipes.

First was a chocolate cake that used maple syrup for the sweetening. I’m going to give that it’s own post later. Second came an orange cake that is essentially the wacky cake made w/o cocoa but with orange juice in place of water. Meh. It was moist and tasty but not quite the texture for a layered cake, especially when made with barley and whole grain spelt flour (coarse and grainy).

Finally I found a recipe for a ‘white cake’ and the birthday girl asked for a lightly spiced cake so I decided to play with that and added a little cinnamon and nutmeg. It stuck to the pan. It has great texture and taste, but it wouldn’t release from the pan.

In order to salvage the third cake, I resorted to an old standby: trifle. The birthday girl asked for cherry or orange flavors so I went looking at the store. I was thinking of possibly layering some cherry pie filling with Cool Whip but that seemed so pedestrian. Then I found Hero Black Cherry Preserves, which particularly caught my eye because they don’t list high fructose corn syrup as an ingredient. It says, “black cherries, sugar, glucose syrup, citric acid, fruit pectin. All natural ingredients. No preservatives. No artificial flavors or colors.” Doesn’t that sound like something you could eat? Into the basket it went.

Once at home, I stirred the contents of jar into the largest container of Cool Whip Light I could find and alternated the cherry preserves/Cool Whip mixture with crumbled cake.

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It’s not a proper birthday cake, but I think it will convert a failed baking effort into a tasty dessert. Stay tuned for more birthday cake drama! πŸ˜‰

You Are My Sunshine

A few weeks ago, for the last Student Lunch of the year, someone brought some cookies from Sam’s Club but, because she couldn’t eat them herself, she left the extras here. Actually, there were several kinds — we had a boatload of desserts that day and somehow all the extras got left with us. One of the cookies, a coconut and pecan cookie, was particularly good, especially for a Sam’s Club cookie. It was at the beginning of my recent coconut and lime obsession and after eating one of those cookies I thought, you know what? This would make a great base for a key lime tart.

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So tonight when we had a guest for dinner, I gave life to the mental experiment. For the crust, I used, approximately:

1 c. flour

1/3-1/2 c. coconut

1/3-1/2 c. brown sugar

2/3 c. margarine

1/2-3/4 c. coarsely chopped pecans

Mix butter/margarine into the dry ingredients to resemble a coarse meal. Stir in pecans. Press into the base of a greased and floured tart pan. Bake at 400 F for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown. Cool completely.

I used the same filling I mentioned before. This time I made a little sauce from some seedless blackberry jam and spread it on top of the tart and garnished with Cool Whip (again, due to lactose intolerance issues) and fresh blackberries. I think it’s better than the original recipe due to the dynamic depth of flavors. The only thing better would be to have huckleberries instead!

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I’m so glad Coconut and Lime’s birthday celebration spurred this recent coconut and lime interest!

Happy Heart Scones

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I will admit to being something of a scone snob. The correct way to pronounce it is /skawn/, of course, not with a long o, or worse, as I once overheard someone at Panera call it, /skoooon/. πŸ˜›

This recipe, adapted from a Betty Crocker recipe called I-Love-You Scones, is NOT a typical scone recipe. It doesn’t have lots of cold butter or nice heavy cream or even half-and-half. This is a scone that even a dieter could enjoy, yet it isn’t missing the nice dense texture that a good scone should have. It also has that bit of jam in the middle but it’s a pleasant result.

1 egg
1/3 c. milk
1/4 c. applesauce
2 T. melted margarine or butter
1 t. almond extract
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
Β½ c. sliced almonds
1/3 c. granulated sugar
3 t. baking powder
Β½ t. salt
raspberry or strawberry preserves
powdered sugar

Heat oven to 400 F. Grease cookie sheet.

Beat egg slightly in medium bowl. Stir in milk, applesauce, margarine and almond extract. Stir in remaining ingredients, except preserves and powdered sugar, until just moistened.

Drop dough by 1/4 cupfuls about 3 inches apart on cookie sheet. Pat into heart shapes about 3 inches wide and Β½ inch high, using fingers dusted with flour. Make shallow well in center of each heart, using back of spoon dipped in flour (I use my fingers). Place Β½ t. preserves in each well. Bake 12-15 min or until golden brown. Sprinkle with powdered sugar while warm. Serve warm.

Also good with lemon extract and/or lemon zest in place of almond extract.

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The original recipe calls for making 9 scones. I often make 12 so they are a bit more dainty. Today I made 6 — big, happy hearts! πŸ˜€ I used more of the marionberry jam that I used in the crab cakes last week.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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This is what I made the family for breakfast today — heart shaped pancakes (no form, just spooning the batter on the griddle in the heart shape) with strawberry jam/syrup. Each year when strawberry season comes around, I buy a couple flats of strawberries and make freezer jam. It tastes like fresh strawberries, and what could be better when there’s a foot of snow outside? This is how my Grandmother made it, but I think it may also be the same as the recipe inside the Fruit Jell box.
Strawberry Freezer Jam
1 quart strawberries
2 cups crushed berries
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
4 cups sugar
3/4 cups water
1 pouch Fruit Jell pectin

Wash and prepare fruit. Combine fruit, lemon juice and sugar; let stand 10 minutes.
Combine water and pectin in small sauce pan. Boil one minute, stirring constantly.
Add cooked pectin to fruit mixture and stir for 3 minutes.
Ladle into 8 oz jars, leaving Β½ inch head space. Screw caps on finger tight. Let jam set 12 hours and put in freezer. Will keep in refrigerator up to 3 weeks.
If you double the recipe it will not set firmly and you will have syrup rather than jam, it’s great with pancakes, waffles and french toast!

It makes plain old pancakes:

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look and taste much better:

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A Tale of Two Loins

Saturday night is when our small group meets and we share a meal. This week my assignment was ‘main dish’. After being plagued by indecision, I looked through the Meijer ads and decided on pork loin. There are so many things you can do with one of those . . . oh, the choices. Because we number 14 adults and 6 kids, I bought 2 half loins and decided to do them differently.

I’ve mentioned before one of my favorite ways but I also wanted something more . . . interesting. While wandering the grocery aisles, I picked up a jar of inspiration . . . well, actually it came in a burlap sack. I bought some basmati rice and I cooked that with some onion, garlic, carrots and a splash of olive oil. Then I mixed in some (and then some more) jerk seasoning from mathuaerknedam (who doesn’t post enough πŸ˜‰ ) a good scoop of apricot preserves, lime zest and a little more onion and garlic.

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Then I cut my pork loin in a ‘Z’ cut (cut the top in one direction until 1/2″ from the edge, cut the bottom from the opposite direction until 1/2″ from the edge and lay flat). I spread the rice mixture all over the pork and rolled it up and rubbed pressed garlic over the top. I covered it and baked it in a glass pan at 350F for about 1.5 hr then opened it up, smeared apricot preserves all over the top and baked it uncovered for about 15 minutes. Then I removed it from the oven and let it rest. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pics of the lovely finished product b/c I cut the ends off to keep for us and took the rest to the small group and didn’t stay b/c we had sick kiddos 😦

The other loin I made with garlic rubbed all over and rosemary sprinkled on top (baked similarly w/o the apricot) and I made some chunky applesauce to go with it. The applesauce was made with 5 braeburn apples, 1 golden delicious apple, sugar, a squirt of lemon juice, cinnamon and nutmeg. I cooked it for about an hour but it wasn’t getting very saucy in that time so I added a couple spoons of unsweetened store brand applesauce. It was tasty. We had a discussion about how frequently people combine pork and apple — I actually don’t often, but it makes a tasty combo.

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Hazelnut Encrusted Crab Cakes with Berry Sauce

If you read yesterday’s post on stuffed mushrooms, you may have wondered why I talked about *cans* of crab meat (as in multiple) but used only half a can for the mushrooms. Here is the reason. The rest were used to make crab cakes.

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This is probably one of my top three favorite recipes ever. It came from my Grandmother, who loved to putter in the kitchen and try new things, not Grandma Smith.

I was out of celery and white pepper so they were left out but it’s still good. I wish there were leftovers for lunch today but it only made 14 small ones and people were fighting over the last one at dinner. Also, huckleberries are particularly difficult to get in the Midwest and I used all the huckleberry jam I got for Christmas in 2005 (side note of praise — this company was so great that when I called them to cry that one jar had arrived broken, they sent me another right away, no poking through the glass slivers to salvage the huckleberries!!) πŸ˜› So, I used some seedless Marionberry jam (not to be confused with Marion Barry who was in a jam) πŸ˜‰ I had a bottle of wine that was given to us as a gift and I knew nothing about it but I was a surprised to find it a fizzy sweet wine. Sauce still tasted good.

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Crab Cakes with Huckleberry Sauce

2 cups or 1 lb Dungeness crab, flaked
1 egg
1 Tablespoon mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons finely chopped onion
2 Tablespoons finely chopped celery
4 Tablespoons bread crumbs
1 Β½ teaspoon Old Bay Spice
Β½ teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Β½ cup finely chopped hazelnuts
Huckleberry Sauce (recipe below)

Whip the egg and add all other ingredients, except the nuts. Mix thoroughly and refrigerate for 15 minutes to one hour. Form into 1 inch balls, flatten and roll in hazelnuts. Saute in virgin olive oil about 2 minutes on each side.

Serve with Huckleberry Sauce.

If you wish, you may refrigerate overnight and reheat to eat or serve cold. After sauteeing, drain on paper towels.

Huckleberry Sauce:
Β½ cup huckleberry jam or syrup
Β½ teaspoon lemon juice
2 Tablespoons dry or semi-dry white wine

Heat jam over low heat, add lemon juice and blend. Add wine just before serving.

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I like to use the same basic recipe to make salmon cakes from leftover baked or grilled salmon.