Friday, December 23, 2011

English Trifle has been our Christmas Eve dessert for many years. When the whole family is gathered, I prepare it in a clear glass trifle bowl and line the inside of the bowl with sliced strawberries. This Christmas it will be a table for two so I've adapted my recipe and added it here. Because this makes enough for two meals, Christmas dinner is easy.



Christmas Trifle

            You can use leftover pound cake or purchase one frozen and save the remaining for another use. Instead of Pastry Cream, you can also use Bird's Custard Powder  to make the pudding. Lots of sherry is important, too!

Serves 2 to 4

            4 slices (3/8 inch thick) pound cake

1 tablespoon seedless raspberry jam

2 to 3 tablespoons cream sherry

Pastry Cream (see recipe below)

1/3 cup whipping cream

1 tablespoon powdered sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla

½ pint fresh raspberries



For trifle, spread the jam on each slice of cake. Arrange the cake in a small glass bowl, breaking to fit, and drizzle with the sherry. Spoon the warm pastry cream into the bowl. Refrigerate until cool.

Whip the cream in a medium bowl until soft peaks form. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla continue beating until thick. Spoon onto the trifle and garnish with raspberries. Refrigerate until serving, at least 4 hours.

Pastry Cream 

Makes 1 cup

¾ cup half-and-half

¼ cup sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla

 Heat the half-and-half in a small saucepan until it almost comes to a boil.

 Mix the sugar with the cornstarch in a small bowl. Whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl, slowly add the sugar mixture and continue whisking until the mixture lightens.

Slowly stir in the hot half-and-half beating constantly with a whisk. Pour the sauce back into the saucepan and cook over low heat until the custard thickens. Do not let the custard boil. (I use an instant read thermometer and cook to 160 degrees F.)

Remove from heat and add the vanilla. Stir until it cools slightly and cover with plastic wrap until needed.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Feast of Santa Lucia

December 13, the day the feast of Santa Lucia, is celebrated in all of the Scandinavian countries but especially in Sweden and Norway on December 13. This day was thought to be the shortest day of the year as late as the 19th century. The lighted candles symbolize the fire that refused to take the life of Santa Lucia when she was condemned to death. In Sweden, one girl is selected to be Santa Lucia and she wears a crown of candles on her hear. Star Boys also participate in the celebration. Lucia Buns flavored with saffron and cookies are usually served on this day.

Yesterday, my husband and I drove to Central MN to the Valley Troll for a book signing of Scandinavian Classic Baking. The shop owners has invited friends to a feast of cookies, rice pudding and fruit soup. We were fortunate to have "Santa Lucia and Star Boy" join the fun. Santa Lucia shared ginger cookies and after they were tapped by Star Boy with his wand, we made a wish and pressed to break the cookie. If the cookie broke into 3 pieces, wishes will come true.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Scottish Shortbread- Classic and Easy!

The holiday season is my favorite time of year. Although, the days are very short, the lights on Christmas trees and fronts of houses brighten the darkness. There are many times that I'm standing in a hot kitchen in the summer, alone, while other are out enjoying the day. But this time of year, almost everyone does some baking. Do you try to add one new cookie every year or go back to all your tried and true recipes.

Here's a recipe for Scottish Shortbread from Baking Basics and Beyond that is very quick and easy. You can dress it up by drizzling it with melted chocolate or dipping the ends in chocolate. It's a great cookie to include in a package that is being mailed because it is sturdy and the rich butter keeps the flavor fresh.

Scottish Shortbread

 Shortbread is the most basic cookie—made only of flour, sugar, and butter. Traditionally, the dough was pressed into a circle and cut into wedges before baking, but I like to cut it into bars because they are smaller and easier to eat.

Makes 3 1/2 to 4 dozen bars

                         4 cups all-purpose flour

                        1 cup powdered sugar

                        2 cups unsalted butter

 Garnish, if desired

                        2  ounces bittersweet or semisweet, chocolate

                        1 teaspoon solid vegetable shortening

Heat oven to 350°F with oven rack in middle.

Beat flour, sugar, and butter in bowl of a heavy-duty mixer on Medium speed until crumbly and evenly mixed, scraping down sides of bowl once or twice.

Press dough, about 3/8 inch thick, into an ungreased 15 x 10 x 1-inch baking pan. The dough will not fill the whole pan. I usually press to fill the width and about 3/4 of the length. Cut into 3 x 1-inch bars, using a pizza wheel. Prick well with a fork.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until edges are just beginning to brown. Classic shortbread is very pale. While bars are still warm, cut again. After cutting, the bars can cool in pan on wire cooling rack.

 Garnish

Melt butter and chocolate in a medium bowl set over, not in, simmering water, or use a double boiler. Using a fork, drizzle chocolate over shortbread. When chocolate is set, remove the shortbread from pan.

Store loosely covered at room temperature. Do not refrigerate or the chocolate will loose its gloss.

Baking Basics and Beyond is now available in a second edition that includes color photos. It's a great gift for novice and experienced bakers.




Wednesday, November 16, 2011

If you Make the Gravy, You're Always Welcome

Thanksgiving is a holiday about sharing food and fun, whether with family or friends. Many families have traditional gatherings that have been ongoing for years and years. And many hosts include friends who are far from family. If you want to be a guest who is always welcome, volunteer to make the gravy!

Many years ago I learned about making smooth gravy in my college foods classes. Of course, the method concentrated on the science involved but the result was smooth gravy.

Here's my "recipe" for turkey gravy. After the turkey is roasted, remove it from the roasting pan and tent it with aluminum foil to keep it warm. It's easier to carve after resting about 15 minutes. Pour all of the drippings into a measuring cup and allow to settle, the fat will rise to the top. The secret is mixing the flour with fat but not liquid. I have a plastic measuring cup with a spout that pours out the liquid or you can carefully spoon the fat off the top.

For 4 cups gravy, use 1/2 cup drippings (fat only), 1/2 cup all-purpose flour and 4 cups broth or water.

Use equal amounts of fat and flour, allowing 2 tablespoons for each cup of gravy. For liquid, use broth or water or a combination. My mom always used the water drained from the potatoes. I cook the gravy in a 3 quart saucepan. Combine the fat and flour in the saucepan and cook until well mixed and bubbly. Add 2 cups of the liquid and whisk constantly until the gravy thickens. (I find it hard to add the liquid gradually without having lumps form  so I add it all at once.) Once it's thickened, add more liquid to the right consistency and season with salt and pepper. After pouring the drippings out of the roasting pan, scrape the browned bits to add after the gravy it's cooked. These bits are bursting with flavor. Preheat your gravy boat and serve velvety smooth gravy with the meal. (If you find lumps in the gravy, just strain it before serving!)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Green Herbs and Blue Grass




The Desert Botanical Garden located in north Phoenix highlights cactus families and desert plants and something is always blooming. In November they are hosting special events and diverse music groups. The extraordinary glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly glow as you approach the entrance in the darkness.

Last week my husband and I attended and evening of blue grass music and a cooking class featuring fresh herbs from the garden.  We purchased dinner featuring the foods prepared by Chef Greg Reynolds during his cooking demonstration. The menu: Herb Rubbed Grilled Chicken Breast, Dry Monterey Jack Risotto and Heirloom Tomato Chopped Salad with Artichokes and Avocados. Herbs were the star of each dish.

Chef Reynolds prepared an herb oil by first blanching fresh herbs-Italian parsley, chives, basil and Greek oregano- in boiling water about 1 minute to set the colors. After cooling in an ice bath, he gently squeezed out moisture and added the herbs to olive oil. After a brief "chop" in an electric blender, he has a fragrant and flavorful oil in a brilliant greeen.

After the class and dinner we sat under the stars and clapped along to lively blue grass music.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Meatless Monday- A Healthy Choice




The “Meatless Monday” campaign has received a lot of recognition lately and it’s a great way to make changes slowly to your diet: start by planning a meatless meal once a week.

The 2011 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that everyone increase the amounts of fruits and vegetables in their diets and move toward a plant-based diet. Although some people have always avoided animal products, the many benefits of a vegetarian diet have become more apparent in recent years as studies have shown that diets high in total fat and saturated fat increase the risk of heart attacks, high blood pressure and diabetes. Many Americans are beginning to follow a “flexitarian diet” based on plant foods, but also including meat, dairy, poultry, eggs and fish. 

Here's an easy recipe that is one of my favorites for "Meatless Mondays".

Vegetarian Black Bean Soup 


Rinsing the beans thoroughly removes a significant amount of sodium. Using low sodium chicken broth instead of the vegetable broth also reduces sodium. For a second meal, I like to serve the soup over rice instead of adding the sherry but I still garnish with sour cream and cilantro. This soup also freezes well but the spiciness intensifies. Chile peppers en adobo keep well in the refrigerator and can be added to meats and stews for a smoky heat.


Makes 4 servings


2 teaspoons canola or vegetable oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped carrot

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 (15 3/4 ounces) cans vegetable broth

2 (15 ounces) cans black beans, drained and rinsed

1 (14 ounces) can diced tomatoes

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1 chipotle pepper en adobo, chopped

1 bay leaf

1/4 cup dry sherry, if desired

1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

 Heat the oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Add the onion and carrot and cook until softened, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds stirring constantly.


Stir in the broth, beans, tomatoes, chili powder, sugar, salt, cinnamon, chile and bay leaf. Bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer 20 minutes. Remove bay leaf.

Remove about 2 cups of the soup. Using an immersion blender or blender puree the remaining soup. Add the reserved soup to the puree. Stir in a little water if the soup is too thick.

Stir 1 tablespoon sherry into each serving. Garnish each with sour cream and cilantro.

 Tip: Remove the seeds from the chipotle chile to reduce the heat if desired.  Or add another pepper if you like it smokin’ hot.  

Friday, October 14, 2011

Apples and Pears- a perfect autumn pair!




There's a good reason apples and pears ripen together in the fall. Both are sturdy fruits that suit the season of crisps and cobblers. Crisps, cobblers and crumbles belong in a category called American fruit desserts. This designation evolved from colonial days where the housewife created desserts from what was available at the time- she "cobbled" fruits and toppings as seasonal treats.

Choose apples that are good for baking such as honeycrisp (the new national favorite developed at the University of MN)), gala, harelson or braeburn. Granny Smith is a tart apple that holds its shape well when baked, but is very juicy so it is better in crisps than in cakes.

My favorite pear is the Anjou which arrives late in October or early November. Bartletts are the first available but I find their texture too soft. Allow pears to ripen at room temperature for a few days. I place them in a paper bag and check each day for ripeness. Press gently on the stem end. It should yield a little. Because pears ripen from the inside out, soft sides often indicate mushy insides. Bosc pears are also good for cooking.

Combine apples and pears in a cinnamony crisp or try different varieties. It's time for fall baking!

Apple Crisp


Makes 8 servings


                        6     cups peeled sliced apples (6 to 8 medium)

                      1/2 cup firmly packed dark or light brown sugar

                      1/4 cup all-purpose flour

                      1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg or pinch of ground nutmeg

                        1 tablespoon lemon juice

                      1/2     cup caramel sauce


Topping

                      1/2           cup old-fashioned oats

                      1/2 cup all-purpose flour

                      1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

                      1/4 cup cold butter, cut-up

                          Vanilla ice cream, if desired



Heat oven to 375°F with oven rack in middle.

Combine apples, dark brown sugar, flour, nutmeg, and lemon juice in large bowl. Stir until fruit is well coated.

Spoon apple mixture into 2-quart casserole or 11 x 7-inch baking dish. Heat caramel sauce slightly and drizzle it over the fruit.



Topping

Combine oats, flour, and light brown sugar in medium bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some pea-sized pieces. Crumble over the fruit.

Bake 55 to 60 minutes or until bubbling all over and apples are fork-tender. Cool slightly and serve with ice cream.




Friday, October 7, 2011

Fall Fruits on KARE 11 Today

I appeared on KARE 11 Today on Monday
morning to promote Scandinavian Classic Baking. Since they had already has some guests doing apple desserts I added the Apple Pear Chutney. It great to have in the fridge! Both recipes are posted with the link below.

http://www.kare11.com/news/entertainment/article/941139/449/Sweet--seasonal-Pat-Sinclairs-Swedish-apple-pie

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fall Food and Football

Cool crisp mornings and colorful foliage, especially on the maples, make fall my favorite time of year. In addition to pulling out sweaters from the back of  the closet, I pull out recipes for my favorite pot roasts, soups and chilis. Most of these foods are easily to serve at a Tailgate Party.

When tailgating with friends, I prefer to bring food that is already cooked. Pack hot foods in insulated carriers or plan to reheat in a slow cooker. Have lots of beverages, both hot and cold, depending on the weather. Some great foods for tailgating are Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Italian Beef Sandwiches and Sloppy Joes. A bowl of chili with assorted toppings is always a hit. Sandwiches are a favorite because they are easy to eat and filling.

Before the main course, try serving some chips and dip. The recipe below is one of my favorites. Heat it in a heavy pottery pie plate that will retain the heat until you get to the game. I keep a well-stocked pantry and usually can pull most of these ingredients together at the last minute.


Espinacha Dip             


Makes 6 cups (12 servings)

 1 (14 oz.) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

1 (10 oz.) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

1 (10 oz.) can chopped tomatoes and green chiles, drained

1 (8 oz.) package light cream cheese, softened

1 (4 oz.) can sliced ripe olives, drained

1 cup light sour cream

1 cup shredded cojack cheese

1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

Hot pepper sauce, to taste

Corn chips, tortilla chips or toasted baguette slices



Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix until well blended. Spray a shallow baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Spoon the dip into the dish. Bake 30 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted.



Serve warm with corn chips. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Urban Experience: Chicago for a Week

My husband and I drove to Chicago last week to visit my daughter and her husband. They live in the city and work in the Loop. For us, it was a week of urban living. There are many great restaurants near their home so it was an easy walk to dinner. When Michelin published their guide for Chicago, they published a list of Bib Gourmand restaurants, similar to honorable mentions. Both of the restaurants below were on the list.

Our first night there we went to Glenn's Diner, one of the restaurants featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Glenn's Diner features fresh seafood and many dishes recall Glenn's favorites from New Orleans. Fresh seafood specials are posted daily on blackboard. We started with smoked trout dip served with crackers and New England Clam Chowder, heaped with clams and potatoes and surrounded with a thin but rich and creamy broth. I enjoyed lake trout lightly sauteed and served topped with a pecan butter for my entree. We were tempted by the fresh pies listed on the board but instead walked across the street to Marie's for ice cream. And Glenn's serves breakfast all day long, another favorite of the owner!

A few nights later we met friends for dinner at Ceres' Table, another short walk away. Wednesday night was Prix Fixe night at the resturant and we had 3 courses and a glass of wine for $40. The best part was that our choices were straight from the menu and everyone agreed that the food was delectable. I started with an heirloom tomato salad with basil and balsamic that captured the unique flavors of several locally grown tomatoes. We were so busy talking that I didn't notice what everyone was eating until dessert.

This was a meal that justifies "eat dessert first" but we managed to enjoy it at the end. I had a carrot cake with a light creamy cream cheese frosting, a velvety caramel sauce and topped with fried carrots strips. I've added the photos because the carrots were unique but didn't have much flavor.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Local, Seasonal and Memorable




I had dinner out last week, at a restaurant that features local, sustainable foods. Dinner was excellent and captured the essence of the seasonal foods that will soon be gone and unfortunatley the fleeing summer.

My girlfriends treated me for my birthday at In Season in South Minneapolis. It was a warm, not humid, breezy evening and the reason many of us put up with winter in MN! We sat outside to savor the evening. When we first saw the limited menu, I was concerned that the entrees were different than what we normally see and our choices were limited. We all started with "Fried Squash Blossom", filled with ricotta and mint, lightly battered and served with tomato aioli. The delicate squash blossom contrasted nicely with the spicy garlicky aioli.

For a main course I opted to have "Braised Pork Crepinette with Tomato, Creamy Polenta and Swiss Chard". A mound of shredded pork was wrapped in Swiss chard and baked, and served on top of polenta with a San Marzano tomato sauce. I noticed that all plates were clean when clean when the server removed them!

The chef sent out a salad course "he's perfecting" and we thought he had it right. It was heirloom tomatoes and tender kernels of sweet corn in a mild balsamic vinaigrette topped with cucumber sorbet. What a treat.

We ended the evening with two unconstructed desserts, Peach and Berry Napoleon and Carrot Cake. Both were almost too pretty to eat but once again, clean plates!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Les Dames in Duluth- Edible Gardens




Last weekend my husband and I joined several members (and husbands) of the Twin Cities Les Dames d'Escoffier on an outing to Duluth. We were hosted by the Duluth Dames and they treated us to a delightful weekend! We had a catered dinner along the shore of Lake Superior including a visit from the local fox, who looks well nourished! and then live music by the campfire. The second night our hosts prepared pizza on their a wood-fired outdoor oven and from the top of the hill, we gazed at the Port of Duluth and the reflection of the sunset as we devoured the pizza. Briefly we rushed indoors as the rain fell and the sky lit up with double rainbows! Besides great food and lots of fun we also toured several edible gardens.

The Duluth Grill (featured on Diners, Drive-in and Dives on the Food Network) has an urban garden where they are also building a koi pond. There has been a lot of discussion about the kind of fish to stock and if the fish will eventually be added to the menu. Francois, the farm manager, said that carp is a good choice for the pond but Americans need to be educated to eat it- it is a very popular fish in Europe and has high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Plants will grow in buckets suspended above the pond. They also grow edible flowers and herbs and seasonal vegetables in large planters outside the restaurant. We enjoyed a amazing lunch at Lake Superior Brewing, catered by the Duluth Grill featuring local foods. The photos are from the catered luncheon. It was almost too pretty to eat! But there was little left when we departed.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Scandinavian Classic Baking Book Signings

I'll be doing two book signings in Duluth this weekend. Today is the Point Park Food Festival, a benefit for the Lafayette Community Garden. I'll have Spritz and Desert Sand Cookies and lot so books, Scandinavian Classic Baking and Baking Basics and Beyond. Either book is a thoughtful gift.

Sunday I'll be at the Blue Heron Trading Company in the DeWitt Seitz Marketplace in Canal Park from 11:30 to 1:30. More cookies and lots of books. Join me.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Can-it-Forward Day. Really?


Can-It-Forward Day was supposedly August 13. Of course, I've never heard of it before today but it spotlights an important trend. With the current interest in buying local sustainable produce it naturally follows that consumers want to take advantage and capture the peak of freshness. Often local produce is also organic so that another important consideration. However, unless you grow your own produce, it's probably not economical but you will certainly enjoy the results of your labor in January.

I used to do a lot of canning in the summer but only of acidic fruits and vegetables. The reason for concentrating on these foods was my concern about food safety for my family. With all the current interest in food preservation by canning, I am concerned that novices aren't taking the time to follow the proper procedures. Acidic fruits and vegetables packed in vinegar can be safely canned using a boiling water bath but most vegetables require processing in a pressure food canner. Botulism can be the result of improperly processed vegetables.

Get directions from a reliable source before taking on a canning project. The USDA, state extension services and manufacturers such as Ball Jars are good resources. Preserving tomatoes as a sauce, sweet and sour or dill pickles or dilly green beans are all ways to capture the freshness of summer so you can enjoy it in winter.

Use recipes that have been developed in the last 15 years, don't take a chance with Grandma's recipes.

Here's a good resource.
www.freshpreserving.com/home.aspx

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Baking Together


This week I baked as a part of #baketogether on Abby Dodge's blog. The recipe selected for this week was a Summer Fruit Cake. Abby encourages bakers to try variations which I think is fun!
I substituted peaches for the berries and flavored the cake with cardamom. I also baked the cake in a springform pan because I don't have a 9 inch cake pan that is 2 inches deep. The cake was tender and buttery, an easy summer dessert. Topped with whipped cream it highlighted the ripe summer peaches.
Here's the address for the recipe and comments! www.AbbyDodge.com
Summer Fruit Cake Your Way #baketogether
The cake was better than the photo but I still wanted you to see it.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

KARE11 Today

Yesterday I appeared on KARE 11 Today in Minneapolis. Peaches are my favorite summer fruit so I decided to do two desserts with fresh ripe peaches. When ripe, a peach should yield to gentle pressure. I almost always allow fresh peaches to sit in a paper bag (not plastic) for a day or two to fully ripen. The best peaches we get in Minneapolis come from Colorado and are expected to arrive in the stores this week. I can't wait!

Here's the link and the recipe:

http://www.kare11.com/today/article/932753/449/Summer-fruit-cobbler

Summer Fruit Cobbler


MAKES 6 TO 8 SERVINGS

1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups sliced fresh peaches (about 3 medium)
2 plums, sliced
1 cup blueberries
2 tablespoons Amaretto liqueur or 1 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Topping
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 large egg, beaten

Heat oven to 375°F with oven rack in middle.
Mix sugar and 2 tablespoons flour in large bowl. Add fruit and toss gently to coat. Add Amaretto and lemon juice. Spoon mixture into a 9 x 9-inch baking dish or 1 1/2 quart casserole.

Topping
Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl.
Beat whipping cream and egg in small bowl. Add mixture to the flour mixture and stir until a soft, sticky dough forms.
Drop dough over the fruit along edges of pan, leaving the center open.
Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until topping is golden brown and juices are bubbling. Serve warm with ice cream. Store any remaining in refrigerator.

Copyright Pat Sinclair for Baking Basics and Beyond (Surrey Books, 2006)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Beginning of Summer's Bounty


Last week I spent time with my daughter in upstate New York and we enjoyed the produce she received from her CSA even though there was lots of lettuce and small portions of other vegetables this early in the season. Thursday afternoon she went to pick up her vegetables and returned with the produce in the photo above. This early in the season, the box contained red leaf lettuce, bibb lettuce, red cabbage, onions, carrots, beets, summer squash and a cucumber.

Every week she and her husband enjoy trying new recipes using the produce of the week. They rely on Melissa's Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce by Cathy Thomas (Wiley, 2010). This cookbook list fruits and vegetable alphabetically with detailed descriptions, suggestions for using and cooking and recipes. It also has beautiful photos.

Cathy Thomas has a great newsletter. Go to CathyThomasCooks.com for info.



This week we chose Tunisian Carrots. The tender Sweet carrots were cooked with an onion and tossed with a vinaigrette made of olive oil, orange juice, ground cumin, red pepper flakes, honey and finished with chopped fresh cilantro (also in the box!).

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

It's Too Hot to Cook


When the heat index in Minneapolis is about the same as the temp in Phoenix, it's too hot to cook. One of my stand-by dinners is a roasted chicken from the supermarket. Or sometimes we cook marinated chicken breast on the grill but today it's too hot for grilling, too.

This side salad is a summertime staple here. It's low calorie, high fiber and bursting with flavor. Another plus- it keeps several days in the refrigerator.

Black Bean and Corn Salad

6 servings

1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups sweet corn (an 11 ounce can or corn kernels from two ears of local sweet corn)
1 red pepper, diced
1/4 cup chopped green onion
3 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Combine the black beans, corn, red pepper and green onion in a medium bowl. Whisk the lime juice, soy sauce, olive oil and cumin in a small bowl. Pour dressing over vegetables and toss. Cover and refrigerate several hours before serving. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with cilantro before serving.

Note: At the peak of summer, I prefer to use local sweet corn. From late July to early September, we eat corn-on-the-cob almost every day. For the recie, I cook two extra ears and cut the kernels from the cobs. I've also used frozen corn and canned. I prefer the crunch that canned corn provides over the frozen.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Nicoise Salad for Bastille Day

Nicoise Salad is one of my summer favorites. The first time I prepared it I had gotten the recipe from a friend at work when I worked at the USDA and prepared it as a picnic for a day trip to Harper's Ferry. I still remember the view of the historic town from the hillside where we had our picnic. I use canned tuna although I know this recipe is often served with Ahi tuna today, I stay with the classic.


Nicoise Salad
Makes 2 servings

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon country-style Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 medium red potatoes, (about 8 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 pound green fresh, cooked
1 tablespoon chopped red onion

Salad
2 hard cooked eggs, cut into wedges
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 can (6 1/2 ounces) tuna packed in oil, drained and flaked

Combine the vinegar, Dijon mustard, sugar and salt in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake
until sugar is dissolved. Add olive oil and shake to blend.

Scrub the potatoes and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices. Place the slices in a small saucepan and cover with water and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer potatoes 6 to 8 minutes or until fork tender. Drain well.

Place the potatoes, green beans and onion in a medium bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of dressing and toss to mix. Serve warm or refrigerate until serving.

For Nicoise Salad: Arrange 2 hard-cooked eggs, cherry tomatoes, tuna and potatoes on a serving dish. Garnish with lemon slices and serve with remaining dressing. Kalamata olives are also a colorful garnish.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Food's the Target- At Target Field



Since the All-Star Game is Thursday night in Phoenix, it seems like a good time to talk about baseball and food, of course. When my daughter and her family visited us recently we took a tour of Target Field, Home of the Minnesota Twins. Target Field received an award in 2010 as the best sports experience in America.

During the tour we saw suites, several foods venues and sat in the seats behind home plate. (Nice view!) Since there was a game that night we didn't get into the teams' locker rooms but saw Menus posted in several lounges. Very interesting food for a ball field- a new trend across the country.

Here's a glimpse of two of the menus.

The Metropolitan Club

Main Courses: Traditional Chiliquiles, Classic Eggs Benedict, House Smoked Salmon with White Polenta and Apple Fennel Slaw

Also available are Danish Pastries, Cured Meats, Imported Cheese and Artisan Breads.

The Champions Club

Field of Greens: Classic Nicoise Salad, Greek Chop Salad, Baby Spinach and Orange Segments, Creamy Red Skin Potato Salad

Chef's Station: Mini Ball Park Brats with Parmesan Fries, Pan Seared Red Snapper Veracruz Style, Pan Seared Veal Provencal with Broccolini and Artichokes, Sauteed Chicken Fusilli and Fresh Waffles and Berries.

There are also many other choices available in the concourses surrounding the stadium. There must be classic ball park franks with yellow mustard and brilliant green relish somewhere!!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Father's Day Favorites


Because Father's Day occurs in the middle of June, we always have a celebratory dinner cooked on the grill. This year in addition to my husband, we will be celebrating with my son-in-law. Since my 2-year old grandson will be around I'm keeping dinner simple.

One of my summer's favorites is a grilled flank steak. After marinating a few hours it will be grilled to medium-rare and sliced on the grain. Baked potatoes finished on the grill so that they have a crisp and chewy skin and tossed salad make a complete meal.

Actually, Pecan Pie Bars, are the ultimate ending. My husband's favorite dessert is Pecan Pie but in the summer, I like to bake bars and not heat up the kitchen. Here's the recipe from Baking Baking and Beyond (Surrey Books, 2006).

Pecan Pie Bars


If pecan pie is one of your favorites, you’ll love these easy-to-make bars. For a fast, fabulous dessert, cut the bars into 2- or 3-inch squares, heat them slightly in the microwave, and top the warm squares with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a spoonful of caramel sauce.

MAKES 48 BARS

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup butter, cut-up

Filling
2 1/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar
3 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans, toasted

Heat oven to 350°F with oven rack in middle.
Combine flour and brown sugar in bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Add butter and beat on Medium speed until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Press the crust into bottom and slightly up sides of a 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Bake 12 minutes. The crust will be lightly browned.

Filling
Beat brown sugar, eggs, butter, and vanilla in same mixer bowl on Low speed until smooth. Stir in pecans. Pour into crust.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until set in center. A knife inserted in center will come out clean but wet. Cool on wire cooling rack before cutting. Refrigerate bars.

BAKER’S NOTE: Toasting the pecans concentrates their flavor. Bake on a small baking pan at 350°F about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool before using.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Texas Adventure


Last week I attended the IACP Annual Conference (International Association of Culinary Professionals) in Austin, Texas. After the conference my husband and I headed to the Texas Hill Country and then to San Antonio. Every day we were in Texas it was in the mid-90s to 100 degrees. Hot, hot, hot!

Around Fredericksburg, an historic German settlement, there are almost 30 wineries. We didn't have much time but we were able to visit two of them and sampled six wines at each.

Our first stop was Becker Vineyards based on the recommendation of my husband's cousin who had grown up with the owners. On the wall of the tasting room (above), they had framed several menus from the White House featuring Becker wines served by George and Laura Bush.

We tasted a pinot grigio, voignier, fume blanc, claret, malbec and sweet dessert wine made from viognier grapes. The malbec and dessert wines were our favorites.

The photo hanging at Singing Waters Vineyards shows a sparkling creek flowing over a small drop and droplets of water sparkling in the sun. Unfortunately the creek bed is now completely dry as Texas swelters through a drought.

We tasted all the wines they are producing today. My favorite was a crisp, dry sauvignon blanc, perfect for summer sipping. Their blend of merlot grapes, named Sweet Lupe, is medium dry and perfect for sangria.

For summer sipping, I like fruity wines, some with a little carbonation, served well chilled. try prosecco, vinho verde, pinot grigio and soave. Sangria is also a great choice. When I make white sangria, I add a cinnamon stick to the sugar syrup before simmering and allow it to cool with the cinnamon. Remove the cinnamon stick before serving.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Rhubarb- Finally

Here's the link to my recent appearance:

http://www.kare11.com/today/article/924701/449/Scandinavian-summer-treats

I appeared on KARE11 Today on Friday and we talked about rhubarb. It's late this year in Minnesota but is now arriving at the farmer's markets. In Scandinavian Classic Baking iI've included three recipes with rhubarb.


Scandinavian Classic Baking includes three rhubarb recipes

Blueberry Rhubarb Muffins

Rhubarb Cake with Lemon Butter Sauce

Rhubarb Tarts


Here's the recipe I demonstrated on TV.

Rhubarb Cake with Lemon Butter Sauce

Tender bright red stalks of rhubarb are available in the spring and early summer. During the rest of the year, you can purchase frozen rhubarb but the stalks are usually thick. Chop frozen stalks so the sharp tangy fruit flavor is evenly distributed. For a rich buttery sauce like this, use freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Makes 9 servings

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar +1 tablespoon, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup 2% milk
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup chopped rhubarb
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Sauce
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 lemon)

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9x9 inch baking dish or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Combine flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Add milk and butter and whisk until smooth. Stir in the rhubarb. Pour into the prepared pan.

Combine the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar and the cinnamon in a small dish. Sprinkle over the batter.

Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool slightly on a wire cooling rack.

Make the sauce. Combine the sugar, butter and whipping cream in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low and simmer 5 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Stir in the lemon juice. Serve the sauce warm or refrigerate until needed.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Typical Tuscan Dinner





Our first night in "our" Tuscan villa near San Casciano in Val de Pesa, Judy Witts Francini catered our dinner. We started with cheese, crackers, a plate of salami and marinated olives out on the terrace. The view was just what you think Tuscan looks like, vineyards running across the hill, San Casciano perched on top of the closest ridge and an ancient tower highlighted in the setting sun. We had all spent a few days in different parts of Italy before meeting at the villa so we had lots of catching up to do.

The dinner exceeded our expectations. Our first course was Crespelle filled with spinach and ricotta. Crespelle are crepes that are traditionally served around Easter. Bright red cherry tomatoes, wild arugula and shave Parmesan was the perfect salad that followed. Judy drizzled local olive oil and balsamic vinegar (the thick syrupy kind) for a dressing.

We liked the balsamic, Judy suggested we go to the CO-OP where it is sold. We emptied the shelves- it was such a good buy.

By the time for the secondi, we decide to keep it for another meal and skipped to dessert. The panna cotta was made with heavy cream and served with fresh local berries. The berries everywhere in Italy tasted like the local berries that appear so briefly in Minnesota.

The perfect start to an extraordinary week.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Italian Adventure




I've just returned home from 2 weeks in Italy, having eaten pasta at almost every dinner. Of course it was freshly made and cooked perfectly.

Our first stop was Venice and after arriving overnight from the U.S. we we're looking for much dinner, but wanted to reset our internal time clocks so a light meal seemed in order.

After walking along the calles and canals, we stopped at a Venician osteria or wine bar. Because it was a sunny and warm day we decided to eat canal side. Venetian wine bars serve wine by the glass and small appetizers called cichetti. Our plastic glasses of house wines were 2 Euros each (less than $ 3.) Cicchetti were 1 Euro each.

We selected cicchetti by pointing to what we wanted in a bakery case. Our favorite was the smoked salmon with horseradish cream and fresh dill. We also tried a baccala puree (salt cod), sily gorgonzola with a walnut garnish, a slice of cheese and liver pate. All of the choices were served on crostini. We set our plate on the wall along the canal and sipped our wine watching the busy osteria and finding in hard to believe we were in Venice.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Leftovers

The centerpiece of many Easter dinners is a whole or half ham glistening with a brown sugar glaze and studded with cloves. But after dinner when everyone has gone home, you will still have a lot of ham.

Here are a few suggestions of ways to use the remaining ham.I have ground ham in my food processor and frozen it. After thawing, it can be used in a quiche or casserole. I often make a quiche with Cheddar or Swiss cheese and ground ham. Ground or cubed ham adds lots of flavor to a breakfast casserole strata. The recipe below is one I've just been using a few years. Fresh asparagus and ham tossed with a tangy sauce containing goat cheese and al dente pasta is an easy dinner.

Ham and Asparagus Linguini

The fresh bright flavors of spring pop from this quick and easy entrĂ©e. Crisp pale green stalks of asparagus are appearing in the supermarket, a sure sign of spring. For this dish, I select thinner stalks because I find it easier to cook them quickly. Use ham leftover or omit it and try cooked shrimp or chicken instead. Goat cheese forms the basis for the sauce but doesn’t use a whole package. Crumble any remaining cheese over a salad.

Makes 4 servings

8 ounces linguini
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped shallot (1 medium)
2 cups asparagus cuts (about 1/2 pound asparagus, cut into 2 inch pieces)
4 ounces cubed ham (about 1 cup)
6 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Cook the linguini is salted boiling water as directed on the package. Before draining, reserve 1 cup of the cooking water.

Heat the olive oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium high heat and add the asparagus and shallot. Cook, stirring often, until the asparagus is tender but still crisp, about 4 to 6 minutes. Add the ham and cook about 1 minute or until heated through.

Stir in 1/2 cup pasta water and the goat cheese and continue stirring until the cheese melts. Add the cooked linguini and lemon rind. Taste and add salt if needed. If the sauce is too thick, stir in the remaining pasta water, 1/4 cup at a time.

Divide the pasta into four servings and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese and fresh cracked pepper.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Dessert for Two- Lime Panna Cotta

Whether you are planning an Easter brunch or dinner for two, this light dessert is tangy finale. Panna cotta is Italian for “cooked cream” and light and refreshing. I like to serve it in wine glasses or small dessert dishes topped with fresh berries. You can also make it in lightly greased ramekins or custard cups and unmold it. Unfortunately locally grown fresh berries won't be available for a while but the strawberries in the supermarkets have been sweet. When I unmold it, I serve it on a pretty dessert plate in a puddle of raspberry sauce (see below).


Lime Panna Cotta with Raspberries


Makes 4 servings

1/4 cup cold water
1 package (1/4 ounce) unflavored gelatin
1 cup vanilla-flavored or plain Greek-style yogurt
3/4 cup whole or 2% milk
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon grated lime rind
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

2 cups fresh raspberries

Place the water in a small microwavable dish. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand about 5 minutes or until the gelatin is softened. Microwave on High 30 seconds or until the liquid is clear. (You can also place it in a small saucepan and cook it over low heat.)

Combine the yogurt, milk and sugar in a medium bowl. Add the hot gelatin mixture and stir until smooth. Add the lime rind and juice.

Pour into 4 wine glasses or lightly oiled ramekins. Chill at least 4 hours. Unmold, if desired, and serve with fresh raspberries.

This recipe can easily be doubled to serve eight.


SIDEBAR: It’s easy to make a simple sauce with fresh berries. For raspberries, puree 2 cups raspberries, 2 tablespoons orange juice and 1/4 cup sugar in a blender container or food processor. Strain out the seeds, if desired. For a special treat, stir in 1 tablespoon Chambord liqueur.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Coffee Cakes for Spring Celebrations.

Coffee Cakes at spring brunches are one of my favorite signs of spring. Wednesday I was on KARE 11 today and demonstrated how to make a Raspberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake. I also like the quick bread with cherry jam and other flavors.

Here's the link to the video and recipe.

http://www.kare11.com/today/article/918064/449/Raspberry-cream-cheese-coffee-cake


Tomorrow I'm signing copies of Scandinavian Classic Baking at Byerly's in Ridgedale from 2 to 4. Stop by for a cookie.

Sunday is a special event at the American Swedish Institute. I'll be signing copies of my new cookbook at a Swedish fika, or coffee table, and recipes form the book will be served. This event is at 2 to 4 at the Institute on Park Av.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Spring in the East Valley- In the 80's


Heading home from a visit with my son and his family in Phoenix. We've had some great dinners at local restaurants and grilled at home. Hate to head back to "wintry mix".

By June it's too hot for Farmer's Markets around here but in spring they are overflowing with fresh vegetables. Saturday morning I went to the Gilbert Farmer's Market and sampled some cheese and flavored salts. We made BLT's with some golden orange heirloom tomatoes purchased there. The salty bacon highlighted the sweet tomato flavor. I'm taking the smokehouse salts home for summer grilling.

In season now, asparagus, beets, carrots, cauliflower, eggplant, fava beans, fennel, grapefruit, leeks, lemons, lettuce and more.

Some of my favorites have been grilled asparagus, yellow and red beet salad with feta and nuts. A friend picked some lemons from the trees in her yard and suggested we make limoncello. We also have a couple of grapefruits that should be ripe in a day or two. Everything is flavored with chiles adding zest to any food.

Friday, March 25, 2011

AZ Midday KPNX Phoenix


This photo was taken just after my appearance on AZ Midday. The host, Destry Jetton, zipped from one segment to another. I'm usually worry that I won't have enough to say but always have extra thoughts. AZ Midday was different from other shows in that it was scripted and I was asked to review my segment and initial it. I had less time to set up in the kitchen and really had to rush.

Since rhubarb in in the supermarkets now in Phoenix, the Blueberry Rhubarb Muffins seemed like a good choice for TV. The stalks I purchased were a jewel-toned red, thin and tender. Rhubarb can be frozen without fuss- just place the stalks, cut up if you prefer, in an air-tight package and freeze.

Here's the recipe.

Blueberry Rhubarb Muffins

Sweet blueberries and tart chunks of rhubarb baked into tender muffins fragrant with the scent of cinnamon trumpet the arrival of spring. Because it grows in cooler climates, rhubarb is a popular fruit in Scandinavia. When fresh rhubarb is out of season, you can use frozen rhubarb in this recipe. Don’t thaw it before adding it but increase baking time slightly.

Makes 12 muffins

Topping
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly-packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup 2% milk
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 large egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup chopped rhubarb

Heat oven to 400°F. Lightly spray a standard 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray or line with paper liners.
Combine the sugar, flour and cinnamon for the topping in a small bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender until coarse crumbs form and set aside.

Mix the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl.
Combine the milk, butter, egg, and vanilla in a small bowl and add to the flour mixture. Stir only until the flour is moistened. Stir in the blueberries and rhubarb. The batter doesn’t need to be smooth.
Divide the batter into the prepared muffin cups, using about 1/4 cup in each. Sprinkle some topping over each muffin.
Bake 18 to 23 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of a couple of muffins comes out clean. Cool slightly on wire cooling rack. Run a thin spatula around the edge of each muffin and remove from pan. Serve warm.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Promoting Scandinavian Classic Baking

Yesterday I had a new experience- I participated for about 30 minutes on a nationally syndicated radio show. Pierre Wolfe's America's Dining and Travel Guide is broadcast live on Sundays from 3-5 Eastern time and has been on the air for 20 years.

Here's the link: http://archives.warpradio.com/btr/AmericasDining/032015.mp3 My segment begins about halfway across.

I was concerned about calling in at the right time because of the change to daylight savings time and being in Phoenix (where the time didn't change) but I was right on schedule. A friend met me at her office so I could use a land line.

Before the interview, I made a list of talking points and was glad I did. It refreshed my memory of the recipes in the book and the research I had done. One of the first questions Pierre asked me was about baking at high altitude. Fortunately I didn't need to give specifics, just agree that it is an issue. But because I had done some prep I felt confident I could answer questions. It's scary being on the air live!
Pierre's show is live and divided into 15 minute segments. If you click on the link, I begin after the first half hour. Rick Steves was the guest scheduled after me and I am impressed.

Later this week, on Thursday, I'm appearing on AZ Midday on KPNX Phoenix NBC 12 at 1 p.m. so I'm busy baking this week.

Monday, March 14, 2011

It's National Pi Day- 3.14...


Do you remember pi from math class? 3.14 is as much as I remember since it's not something I use..ever.

But pie is another subject. Here are some tips if you want to learn to bake pies from scratch and have tender flaky crusts. I not opposed to refrigerated pie crust when time is short but a crust from scratch always gets rave reviews.

My best advice to baking novices is to try several methods for rolling out your crust and find what works best for you. I like to use a pastry cloth and sleeve on Grandma's wooden rolling pin but you can roll between two pieces of waxed paper or on a cold work surface such as marble or granite. I also make my crusts in the food processor because I think it is the easiest way to add the water when forming the dough.

Use a light touch and roll away from your self in 8 directions to form a round.

Chill the dough at least an hour before rolling to relax the gluten and give the fat time to chill. the dough will be easier to roll.

Flour your work surface lightly and lift the dough as you are rolling it so it doesn't become stuck.

It takes practice to bake pies with tender crusts but you'll be delighted with the results and shine in the light of compliments.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mardi Gras=Party Time

In the US we refer to the day before Ash Wednesday as Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday. Although it has become a huge event in New Orleans, this tradition appears in many cultures with different names such as Semlor (Sweden), Fastelavn (Denmark) and Paczki. The common theme is using up eggs, butter and milk that traditionally were forbidden during Lent.

Eastern European countries and the U.K serve pancakes on this day. Swedish Semlor and Danish Fastelavn, baked for Shrove Tuesday,are rich yeast buns with sweet fillings. Semlor are filled with almond paste and whipped cream and fastelavn contain custard cream. Polish Paczki are baked with various fruit fillings and fried.

Scandinavian Classic Baking has a recipe for Semlor that has been successfully taste-tested by my family.

In the spirit of Mardi Gras here is a recipe similar to Bananas Foster not quite as rich, and difinitely healthier!

Banana Burrito

Do you eat a banana everyday because it is high in potassium? Even if you don’t, try this easy dessert. Nutella is a rich and creamy combination of chocolate and hazelnuts. The brown sugar melts during baking forming a caramel sauce that is perfect with frozen yogurt or ice cream. Use bananas that are just ripe, as very ripe bananas will turn brown.

Makes 2 servings

2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 (8 inch) flour tortilla
1 tablespoon nutella
1 banana, peeled and sliced lengthwise
2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
¼ tsp. cinnamon
1 tablespoon whipping cream
Vanilla frozen yogurt or ice cream

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Pour butter into a 9-inch pie plate. Dip the tortilla into the butter and turn the buttered side to top. Spread nutella down center of tortilla. Arrange banana over the nutella and sprinkle with the brown sugar, cinnamon and whipping cream. Fold tortilla to cover the banana.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until the tortilla is heated through. Cut the burrito in half and serve with ice cream.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Scandinavian Classic Baking is Here!


It's official. Scandinavian Classic Baking (Pelican Books) is now available. Photos of every recipe and scenic shots of Scandinavia appear on every page. The recipes are a mix of easy and complex. Although I realize few cooks are going to try making Danish Pastries,I didn't want to exclude the recipe. I was pleased with my results and encourage serious bakers to try.

There's a great assortment of breads that are popular at "fika" or social gatherings centered on coffee. Also a variety of classic cookies. The Finnish Teaspoon Cookies (recipe follows) are easily shaped in the bowl of a teaspoon.


Finnish Browned Butter Teaspoon Cookies

Buttery and tangy, these cookies always popular on buffets or cookie trays during the holidays. Experiment on the easiest way to press out the cookies using the bowl of a teaspoon and forming the delicate oval shape. The dough is easy to shape because it’s slightly dry.

Makes 24 sandwich cookies

1 cup butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/3 cup raspberry or strawberry jam
Confectioners’ sugar

Brown the butter by melting in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally. When butter begins to foam up, stir constantly until it turns a deep golden brown. You must watch this carefully because at this point the color changes quickly. It takes about 7 minutes to brown the butter. Cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Mix the flour and baking soda together.

Combine the cooled butter, sugar and vanilla in a medium bowl and stir until evenly mixed. Add the flour and mix to form a dough.

Shape cookies by placing about 1 teaspoon dough into the bowl of a teaspoon and pressing against the side of the bowl, leveling the top. Press out cookie, flat side down, onto an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake 10 to 13 minutes or until lightly browned and set. Let cool on baking sheet 2 minutes and remove to a wire cooling rack. When cookies are cool, spread a scant 1/2 teaspoon jam on the flat side of one cookie. Make a sandwich by pressing the flat side of a second cookie to the jam. Sprinkle sandwiches with confectioners’ sugar.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Easy Valentine's Dinner for Two


I've been developing recipes for Dinner for Two, what I hope will be my third cookbook. Although much of my time is spent baking, each night there are two here for dinner and I have adapted many of my favorite recipes. Here is an easy menu for a cozy evening in front of the fire.

I like to serve the shrimp on top of the cous cous so all the juices are absorbed. Add a salad and dessert. The year we are having a Tirimisu from a local grocery store that is being sold as a fundraiser for Children's Heartlink- delicious, easy and for a great cause.

Baked Shrimp Scampi

Easily prepared ahead, shrimp scampi is perfect for a special meal for two. Watch for specials on shrimp, especially on wild American shrimp. You’ll only need about 1/2 pound. For this classic Italian dish, I’ve used a shallot but for a garlicky kick, add one or two minced garlic cloves. Panko are dried Japanese breadcrumbs that are light and delicate and make a tasty topping but you can omit them and have a buttery sauce instead.

Makes 2 servings

6-8 jumbo shrimp (12-15 per pound), peeled, deveined and butterflied
2 tablespoons white wine
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon coarse salt
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 shallot, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
Lemon wedges

Combine the shrimp, wine, olive oil and salt in a food storage bag. Massage the shrimp to distribute the marinade. Chill until needed.

Mix the butter, shallot, parsley, rosemary and lemon juice until blended. Stir in the panko crumbs.

Heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Arrange the shrimp cut side down with tails standing up in a 1-quart baking dish. Pour the marinade over the shrimp. Crumble the topping over the shrimp.

Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until shrimp are bright pink and crumbs are lightly browned. Serve with lemon wedges.

Cous Cous
1 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup whole wheat cous cous
1/4 cup frozen peas
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Heat the chicken broth to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the cous cous, peas and salt. Let stand about 5 minutes or until the broth is absorbed. Add parsley and fluff with a fork.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Lots Happening in February

I shouldn't have any trouble posting in February as it's a busy month. First there's the Super Bowl. If you are planning a party or going to one, here is an appetizer, that's almost an entree and a family favorite. This recipes is from Baking Baking and Beyond (click on the link if you don't have a copy yet) and easy to do.

Refer to my previous post is you aren't used to working with yeast. By the way, I grew up in Pittsburgh and have lived in MN for 30 years, but I won't tell my pick!

Stromboli
I don’t put pizza sauce inside so the meat and cheese flavors will predominate. I’ve served this for dinner, but it makes a popular snack when everyone is gathered for the big game. You can use various deli meats and cheeses and add olives or hot peppers—just don’t fill the stromboli too full. Provolone, a mild Italian cheese with a smoky flavor, is perfect here.

MAKES 12 TO 15 SERVINGS

Basic pizza crust (see below or use any pizza dough)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 pound sliced pepperoni
1/4 pound sliced hard salami
4 ounces Provolone cheese, sliced or shredded
1 egg, beaten
Grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 400°F with rack in lower third. Lightly grease a cookie sheet.
Place dough on lightly floured surface and roll out to a 15 x 12-inch rectangle. If dough becomes difficult to roll, let is rest briefly.
Brush dough with olive oil. Arrange pepperoni, salami, and Provolone cheese down center of dough. Fold both sides toward the center and pinch together to seal. Brush egg over top of dough. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and place on prepared cookie sheet. The easiest way to lift the dough is with large metal spatulas at each end. Cut several slits into dough.
Beat 30 to 35 minutes or until stromboli are well browned. Cool slightly before slicing. Serve with pizza or marinara sauce for dipping.

BAKER’S NOTE: Cover the baking sheet with a silicone baking mat for easy clean-up since leaks do occur.

basic pizza Crust
1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (105–115°F)
3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil


Sprinkle yeast over warm water in small bowl and let stand about 5 minutes. Combine 2 1/2 cups flour, sugar, and salt in large bowl. Stir in yeast mixture and olive oil. Continue stirring until flour is absorbed. Stir in remaining flour until a soft dough is formed. Dough will be sticky to start with, but after kneading it becomes easier to handle.
Place dough on well-floured surface and shape it into a ball. Place your fingers on top of dough ball, curled slightly, and pull dough toward you; then push it away, using palms of your hands. Turn dough 1/4 turn and repeat. Knead dough 6 to 8 minutes or until it is smooth and elastic.
To judge whether dough has been sufficiently kneaded, place it on work surface, pull both ends gently, and release. Dough should be elastic and spring back. Little blisters of air should be visible just under the surface.
If dough is sticky, gradually add flour while kneading. Do not use more than 3 cups flour, total. Shape dough into a ball by pulling sides underneath forming a smooth top. Cover dough and let it rest while you prepare toppings. I just invert a bowl over the dough for this short rest. The crust is ready to use for the Stromboli.

Heat oven to 450°F. For crispest crust, place rack toward bottom of oven.
Grease two 12-inch pizza pans. Leave about 1 inch around edge of each pan ungreased so dough has something to cling to as it is stretched to fill pan. Place half of dough in center of each pan, and push it out to pan edges, rotating pan as you go. Form a raised edge around the crust’s perimeter.
Bake crusts 7 to 10 minutes or until they are just beginning to brown. Remove from oven. (The crusts can be frozen at this point. Cool to room temperature and wrap tightly before freezing.)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Baking with Yeast

This morning I appeared on KARE 11 Today and talked about Herb Dinner Rolls and Italian Wedding Soup. In a previous post I posted the soup recipe (see Recipes for Favorites)and will post the Herb Dinner Rolls today (from Baking Basics and Beyond.) These rolls use fast-rising yeast which is processed so that it only requires one rise. After kneading the dough let it rest for 10 minutes to relax the gluten and then shape into rolls.

As I was leaving the studio I had a question about baking with yeast and decided to post some information here. Two of the most important steps in making bread depend on temperature. The yeast must be softened in warm water, and temperature is the best way to measure doneness in a large loaf. An instant-read thermometer accurately measures both.


Dissolving the Yeast
Yeast requires liquid, food (sugar and flour), and warmth to grow. Dissolving the yeast in warm water is called “proofing” because you are actually proving that the yeast is alive. The yeast can also be combined with the flour and the warm water added to both; using this method, the water can be warmer, and the dough will start rising a little faster. Always use yeast before the expiration date on the package.


Easy Herb Dinner Rolls

Fast-rising yeast makes these rolls easy enough to make any time. I actually purchased herbes de Provence at a market in the South of France. It usually includes basil, marjoram, sage, thyme, rosemary, and lavender. You can use any combination of herbs you like. Ive also used an Italian herb blend.

MAKES 12 ROLLS

1 (1/4-ounce) package fast-rising yeast
1 cup warm water (105–115°F)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon solid vegetable shortening
2 1/2–3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
1 tablespoon butter, melted

Sprinkle yeast into warm water in bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Add sugar and shortening and stir. Let stand 5 minutes. Add 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and herbes de Provence and beat until well mixed. Stir in enough remaining flour to make a soft dough. Save at least 1/4 cup of flour to add while kneading the dough.
Place dough on well-floured surface and shape it into a ball. Place your fingers on top of dough ball, curled slightly, and pull dough toward you; then push it away, using palms of your hands. Turn dough 1/4 turn and repeat. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 to 8 minutes.
To judge whether dough has been sufficiently kneaded, place it on work surface, pull both ends gently, and release. Dough should be elastic and spring back. Little blisters of air should be visible just under the surface.
Cover and let dough rest 10 minutes. I just invert a bowl over the dough.
Lightly grease a 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Punch dough down and divide it into 12 pieces. Shape dough into balls by pulling the sides underneath forming a smooth top. Place in prepared pan.
Cover pan and let dough rise in a warm place about 30 minutes or until rolls have doubled in volume. Test by pressing dough lightly. If your finger leaves only a slight imprint the dough is ready.
Heat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Bake rolls 15 to 20 minutes or until they are golden brown. After rolls are removed from oven, brush them with melted butter.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Add Some Healthy Spice to Your Life

Many spices and herbs add zest to foods but recently the focus has shifted to their ability to fight disease. One teaspoon cinnamon has as many antioxidants as 1/2 cup blueberries. Ginger appears to decrease inflammation and aid digestion. Oregano, rosemary and thyme also have antioxidants in significant amounts. Add these spices and herbs to foods seems to boost antioxidant power of foods.

Snickerdoodles

Fragrant cinnamon scents the kitchen when these cookies are in the oven. Due to their unknown origin, possibly from the Pennsylvania Dutch or originally from New England, no one can explain their delightful name. Rolling the dough in cinnamon sugar gives the cookies a crinkly appearance and crunchy sugar coating.

MAKES 4 TO 5 DOZEN

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

Coating
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Heat oven to 375°F with oven rack in middle. Lightly grease cookie sheets.
Combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt in medium bowl.
Beat butter and sugar in bowl of a heavy-duty mixer on Medium-High speed until creamy, scraping down sides of bowl once or twice. Add vanilla and eggs and mix well.
Reduce mixer speed to Low and add the flour mixture. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat until dough forms.

Coating
Mix sugar and cinnamon in shallow dish. I use a custard cup but a saucer also works. Using about 1 tablespoon dough, roll into a ball and roll the ball in the cinnamon sugar. Place on cookie sheets.
Bake 10 to 14 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on wire cooling racks.

BAKER’S NOTES: Cream of tartar and baking soda are the basic components of baking powder, and they are used here in its place. I think it makes a difference— see if you agree.
I usually place my oven racks on the second and fourth levels and bake two cookie sheets at once. If the heat in your oven is uneven, rotate the sheets halfway through baking.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Year's Resolutions to Keep

Everyone talks about resolutions for the new year and how long good intentions last. This year I only have only one resolution and that is to eat healthfully. I've given myself a lot of flexibility and think I will actually be able to accomplish this!

Mark Bittman wrote an article for Bon Appetit (January 2011) about how he changed his eating habits for the sake of his health. He has reduced the amount of meat in his diet and often eats vegan. But the rule I like the most is "cut yourself some slack". One "bad" meal doesn't matter, or even several. Move toward fewer animal products, increase fruits and vegetable and limit processed foods. I can do this, can you?

Here's a healthy soup recipe for a cold winter night.

Italian Wedding Soup

Serves 4 to 6

3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrots
6 cups chicken broth
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes
½ cup orzo pasta
2 cups fresh spinach leaves, torn
1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
Grated Parmesan cheese

Meatballs
10 oz. ground turkey
1/3 cup milk
1 egg
¼ cup dried breadcrumbs
2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
½ tsp. kosher salt

Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a Dutch oven or large saucepan. Add the onion and carrots and cook until softened and tender, about 5 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, broth and water, cover and simmer 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and orzo and cook until the pasta is tender, about 8-9 minutes.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Drizzle remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in the bottom of a 15x10 inch jellyroll pan. Make the meatballs. Combine all the ingredients for the meatballs in a medium bowl and mix until well combined. Shape into small meatballs, about ¾ inch across. Place on baking pan.

Bake 8 to 12 minutes or until meatballs begin to brown. Using a large spatula turn the meatballs over. Continue cooking 5 minutes until browned and no longer pink in the center. Drain on paper towels.

Add the meatballs and the spinach to the soup and simmer 5 minutes. Just before serving stir in the basil. Sprinkle each serving with grated Parmesan cheese.