SHF: Comfort Food in Shades of Orange

It’s truly fall now. Tartlet 1 says it’s Autumn when the leaves are changing color, but once they fall off and have to be raked up — it’s Fall. Autumn is prettier, a little warmer, a nice relief from the humidity of summer, but Fall wags her bony twiggy fingers at us, emptied of leaves, and reminds us of the harsh reality of Winter coming. Now is the time to retreat to the kitchen and make the foods of fall and winter, warming the house from the heart and the oven.

Leslie picked a perfect theme for the latest Sugar High Friday — Beta Carotene Harvest. It’s the perfect time for praline sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, butternut squash, and carrot cake. Tartlet 2 particularly likes carrots and loves the opportunity to peel one and eat it fresh in all its crunchy goodness. I decided I’d make a carrot cake recipe for this SHF, but I wanted something a little different.

I modified a few recipes and came up with this one. Some of the modifications were necessary because I ran out of white sugar — while baking for a SHF event? I probably get demerits for that, or something. I would have used half whole wheat flour, if I would have had more than a scraping of that around too. It must be time to go to The Grocery again! I also added a little orange zest, just because I wanted to, and I thought it would taste great with the pineapple and carrot. I baked these as cupcakes rather than a large cake, to make it easier to share.

Carrot Cake

2 c. finely shredded carrots (4 carrots)
3/4 of a 20 oz can of crushed pineapple, well drained
1 t. orange zest
1/2 c. applesauce
1/4 c. canola oil
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
3 eggs
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
1 1/2 c. flour
2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt

Preheat oven to 375 F. Spray muffin tin and set aside.

Combine flour, soda, and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine carrots, pineapple, orange zest, applesauce, oil, and sugars. Add eggs, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add flour mixture and mix well. If desired, stir in 1/2 c. chopped pecans or raisins.

Pour into muffin tins. Bake 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool then frost with cream cheese frosting.

** These would make great breakfast muffins without the frosting.

A is for Apples and Alcohol

I think I’ve mentioned here at an earlier time that in grad school one of my guilty pleasures was a glass of Camas Winery Palouse Gold Mead and a sliced apple. It was a perfect dessert, so I completely understand why our wonderful host for Sugar High Friday, Andrew of Spittoon Extra, chose a theme of apples and alcohol. I was fairly certain, however, that I wasn’t going to get by with a simple fresh apple and mead pairing! ;-)

A week or so ago I was making cider slushes for the kids — just drop some ice cubes in the blender with some apple cider and zap it until it’s thick and smooth. As I was serving the drinks, it occurred to me that a little cointreau added would make a tasty drink. Not for the 3 – 10 yr old crowd I was serving, of course, but something to make later for The Husband and I.

It does, in fact, make a tasty drink. I added 2 oz of Cointreau to ice and cider to make about 3 cups of drink. Of course, the alcohol doesn’t freeze like the rest so you taste Cointreau right away, but it’s a nice drink.

Still, I was fairly certain our host was looking more for something to be baked. Since I was out of town and without a car this weekend, I ended up making my concoction at the last minute but I’ve been planning it for some time.

I only wanted a small dessert, so I made it in a disposable 4″ pie shell.

Apple Mead Pie

pastry:
scant 1/2 c. flour
2 1/2 Tbsp. butter
1 + Tbsp. half and half

Cut butter into flour. Add just enough half and half to form a ball. Divide into two slightly uneven balls. Roll out, using the larger one for the base.

filling:
1 Honeycrisp apple, sliced
1 scant Tbsp. flour
1/4 t. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. mead
1/2 t. brown sugar

Stir together apple, flour, cinnamon, and mead. Layer neatly in the pastry lined pan. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Cover with top layer of pastry.

Bake at 375 F about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

PS. Andrew has the roundup posted. The variety in desserts and alcohols is amazing! Go check it out.

Here Figgy, Figgy!

I first had fresh figs about 10 years ago on the pecan farm of friends in New Mexico and haven’t had them since. A couple of weeks ago I found some lovely fresh figs in the Grocery, but I passed them up not wanting to buy a treat that might only be enjoyed by me. However, everyone’s favorite Cream Puff (Ivonne) announced the next Sugar High Friday event featuring, you guessed it, figs! So I went back to the Grocery to fetch some, visions of a fresh fig tart recipe from a French cookbook dancing in my head. But, alas, the shelves were bereft of fresh figs. And again none this week. Bah.

By this time, I had developed an obsession with making something figgy. When I turned to the dried figs and picked a package of Calimyrna figs, which I’d never tried before, I also became fixated on having them with orange and coconut.

I made some adjustments to a favorite orange scone recipe of mine to make these, adding an orange frosting to make them more suitable for a ‘sugar high’ event:

Obsession Scones (aka Orange, Coconut & Fig Scones)

1 ¾ c. flour
3 Tbsp. sugar
2 ½ t. baking powder
¼ t. salt
6 Tbsp. butter
6-8 dried figs, chopped
½ c. coconut
1 Tbsp. grated orange peel
1 egg, beaten
4-6 Tbsp. half-and-half
1 egg white, beaten

Heat oven to 400F. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Cut in butter. Stir in figs, coconut, orange peel, egg and just enough half-and-half so dough leaves the sides of the bowl.

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Knead lightly 10 times. Divide dough in half. Pat each half into a 6-inch circle. Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Brush with egg white. Cut each circle into 6 wedges, but do not separate.

Bake 10-12 minutes or until brown. Immediately remove from baking sheet; carefully separate wedges. Frost if desired.

Frosting:

juice of one-half of an orange
1/2 t. grated orange peel
1/2 t. vanilla
2 Tbsp. melted butter
2 c. powdered sugar

Combine all frosting ingredients and stir until smooth.

And then when I was trying to post this, wordpress crashed during saving and ‘server maintenance’ issues ate it. I doubt it was as tasty as the real thing, though! ;-) Thank you, Ivonne, for hosting such an inspiring event!

SHF #33 — Tropical Paradise

I almost missed another Sugar High Friday b/c I didn’t see the post until this afternoon! Whew! Thank you, Tartelette, for keeping a list of sweet food events on your blog or I would have missed it. :-)

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(Illinois. Not tropical. Not paradise.)

When you think of Illinois, a number of things may come to mind . . . corn, soybeans, flat, flooding, tornadoes, etc. . . . but no matter how optimistic or magnanimous you are, ‘tropical paradise’ just does not come to mind. I’ve never lived in a tropical place. PA, MD, WA (east side, not even the coast), NM, and now IL, none of them could be considered tropical. I have had the opportunity to visit two tropical places while on vacation, however — St. John, USVI and Hawaii.

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(Kaena Point State Park, Oahu)

For Christmas 2001, The Husband’s Parents very kindly gave us the gift of watching Thing 1 and Thing 2 so we could get away for a week’s ‘honeymoon’ for our 10th anniversary (Sept 11, 2002, in the days before we had a digital camera, so no pictures). After much debating, we settled on the Caribbean and went to Caneel Bay for eight lovely days. It was actually hurricane season and it was the one year anniversary of the notorious 9/11 terrorist attacks so there weren’t many other people there with us. It was delicious. When I think of St. John, aside from the great time I had making out with The Husband and swimming with sea turtles, the *next* thing that comes to mind is the mangoes. I know I’ve said a million times before and I’ll say it again — I LOVE MANGO.

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My next tropical experience was Hawaii. The Husband had a microscopy conference in Honolulu — how the man suffers for his work! Once again, I was able to join him, sans Tartlets, for a few days of beach fun. We had a great time walking along the beach, snorkeling in Shark’s Cove, and driving around the island. During the conference we stayed in the Renaissance Ilikai which was featured in a Hawaii Five-O story and a shot of Jack Lord standing on the balcony of the penthouse suite is in the opening credits of the series. After the conference we spent the last two nights in a much cheaper place, Makaha Resort. It was near the end of the road going to the northwest of the island and was a golfing destination (neither of us golf) and the quality wasn’t like Ilikai but neither was the price AND when I got home and realized I had left my dress hanging in the closet and called them, they shipped it home to me without charging me a cent. When I think of Hawaii, I remember the wonderful smell as we drove through the pineapple plantations during the harvest. That and going to a cheesy place for dinner where we met all the people there — the bartender from IL, the girl from PA, the guy who sang karaoke and could perfectly sing every old country and western song they had — and drinking Lava Flows. It was fun.

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(harvesting pineapples in Hawaii)

So, when I read that Mary at Alpineberry had selected ‘Tropical Paradise’ as the theme for Sugar High Friday 33, I was flooded with thoughts of mango and pineapple and that was swiftly followed by coconut, macadamia, lime, and a few other things that all jumbled together in my head to produce, what else? A fruit tart. I ended up not using lime and picked orange instead. The crust has coconut and macadamia nuts, the filling has orange and pineapple, and the top has mango, kiwi, mango, and while blueberries aren’t tropical, they are in season and go beautifully with mango and more mango! ;-)

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Tropical Paradise Tart

Crust:
1 c. flour
1/3 c. finely ground macadamia nuts
1/3 c. brown sugar
10 Tbsp. cold butter
1/3 c. coconut

Mix flour, nuts, and sugar. Cut in butter. Add coconut. Press into the bottom of a greased and floured tart pan. Bake at 400 F for 10-15 min or until golden brown. Cool completely.

Filling:
4 oz. Neufchatel cheese
1/2 c. pureed pineapple
2 Tbsp. frozen orange juice concentrate
1 t. vanilla
1/2 – 3/4 c. powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. custard powder
1 c. whipped cream or Cool Whip

Beat cheese until smooth. Add pineapple, orange juice concentrate, and vanilla and beat until smooth and creamy. Add powdered sugar and custard powder; mix well. Stir in whipped cream. Spread into cool crust.

Top with mango, kiwi and blueberries.

Craving Chocolate — SHF #32

Domestic Goddess is again hosting Sugar High Friday and this time the theme is the dessert you crave. I was beginning to think I was going to miss out on Sugar High Friday this time due to the oven failure, but when you crave chocolate there’s always a way — even if you just eat the chocolate chips straight from the bag! :-D

I don’t have *THE* dessert that I love most; I like almost anything with chocolate, apple pie, cakes, my MIL’s gingersnap cookies, bakalava, and pretty soon the list gets so long you start to think that as long as it has sugar in it, Fruittart probably likes it! ;-) The Husband, on the other hand, used to be the sort of person that if you offered him a banana or chocolate cake, he would take the banana. I’ve corrupted him. He quite happily eats pretty much anything I make and sometimes he claims that whatever dessert I’ve made is ‘his favorite’. But when it comes down to it, there are only a few desserts he will ever request — fruit tarts and truffle tarts, strawberry rhubarb pie, chocolate flowers, and Nanaimo bars.

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The person who gave me the original recipe says that Nanaimo bars are a strictly Canadian treat and named for Nanaimo, British Columbia and there are even Nanaimo Bar contests in Canada, which also would have made this the perfect entry if the SHF theme had been all-Canadian as I believe was the initial plan. Perhaps one of the Canadian readers will chime in on this. In the 1963 Betty Crocker Cooky Book, there is a recipe nearly identical to this called a ‘Fudge Meltaway’ but it doesn’t have the custard powder in the middle layer. You can make it w/o the custard powder, and even make a cream cheese sort of filling, but I’m going to tell you that it is absolutely THE BEST *with* the custard powder. Locally, in IL, we used not to be able to get this stuff and I would ‘import’ it from WA when we would visit, but now it can be found at both World Market and Meijer. I almost always make these at Christmas and because they are no-bake bars, they are nice for summer desserts if refrigeration won’t be a problem.

Sometimes when I score the chocolate before cutting through I can get most of the tops to be in one piece, but often the tops look like ‘earthquake bars’. I added a little too much milk to the middle layer today so it is a little too runny in the picture. There are several versions of my own making listed below. I was told that the only ‘official’ ones are plain and mint but that many families make their own versions. My favorites are the original/plain and orange. The ones pictured are orange.

I took some to the Husband’s office and took a few to the NAPA store today when I went to pick up the trailer hitch. Joe at NAPA particularly liked them and was quite appreciative of the gift. He was pretty funny eating them — Man, those are so good, I think I’m going to have to have another one! :-D

Nanaimo Bars
1st Layer:
½ c. butter, melted
1/4 c. granulated sugar
5 Tbsp. cocoa
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg

1 3/4 c. graham cracker crumbs (one packet of crackers)
1 c. dessicated coconut
1 c. chopped walnuts (I prefer pecans, almonds or hazelnuts)

Combine first 5 ingredients in a double boiler and cook until like custard. Remove from heat and add next 3 ingredients; mix well. Pa ck HARD (like cement) into buttered 9-inch square pan.

2nd Layer:
1/4 c. butter, softened
3 Tbsp. milk or cream
3 Tbsp. Harry Horner’s custard powder (or Bird’s brand, one packet)
2 c. powdered sugar

Cream first 3 ingredients. Blend in sugar. Spread on 1st layer. Put in fridge to chill (not necessary but makes the next step a little easier).

3rd Layer:
3 squares unsweetened chocolate (I prefer 4 squares and sometimes use semi-sweet but bitter is best!)
1 tsp. butter

Melt together in double boiler. Pour over 2nd layer and spread quickly. Store in fridge to chill before cutting into squares. Best kept refrigerated.

Tip: Line a 9-inch pan with foil and butter the foil, then you can lift it out of the pan and cut the bars on a cutting board. If you do not like coconut, just add more nuts and vice versa.
Variations:
Mint Nanaimos: Add a teaspoon of mint extract to the middle layer and, if desired, a few drops of green food coloring.

Mint Nanaimos II: Make middle layer as for plain version; melt Andes candies bits for the top layer and sprinkle with additional Andes candies bits. See below.

Orange or Raspberry Nanaimos: Add a teaspoon of orange or raspberry extract to the middle layer. This is particularly good with hazelnuts in the bottom layer. You can also add orange or raspberry liqueur to the bottom layer after it has been removed from the heat.

Cherry Nanaimos: Add a teaspoon of cherry extract to the middle layer and, if desired, a few drops of red food coloring. This is particularly good with almonds in the bottom layer and you can replace the vanilla extract with almond.

Peanut Butter Nanaimos: For the bottom layer, use peanuts and do not add coconut. Replace the middle layer with the following:
1 Tbsp. butter
3-4 Tbsp. peanut butter
1 pkg Bird’s custard powder
2-4 Tbsp. milk
2 c. powdered sugar

Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars

Sorry, I had to close the comments on this post because of the spam I was getting. :-P