Monday, December 20, 2010

Happy Birthday, A.J.

My youngest just celebrated his nineteenth birthday. Wow... where have the years gone?

In our family, the birthday honoree picks what home cooked dinner and homemade dessert they would like to have. The menu for our Sunday dinner to celebrate our family being blessed with such a wonderful young man was delicious!

Southern Fried Chicken, Smothered Cabbage, Yellow Rice and Cornbread. Dessert: Dark Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting.

Yup, soul food... for the soul!

I love you, Aaron.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Wine, Coffee, Dessert and Conversation

Well hello there! I'm glad that you are still here... lots of long breaks posting this past year, and for that I apologize. But 2011 is on the horizon, and that means another chance to get back on the regular posting schedule.

This year has been a rocking and rolling one. Ups and downs, highs and lows. But always, ALWAYS blessed.

Today was especially wonderful because my cousin from Boston came to visit us here in Florida! After a day of local sightseeing, a great burger lunch at a diner and a trip to the beach, we came home ready to start a great home cooked dinner.

We had the familiar baked chicken, jasmine rice and steamed broccoli dinner. My sister's homemade gravy transported all of us to a gastronomic Nirvana! It's funny how simple wholesome foods feed our appetites as well as our souls.

While I most often make dessert from scratch, I wanted more than ever to spend time talking and catching up with my cousin. So, I created a colorful spread of sweet nibbles and fresh and ripe fruits to enjoy around the table as conversation, coffee and wine flowed.

Great, simple food. Beautiful arrangement. Loving and funny conversation. Just perfect!

Here's to 2011 and to you!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Summer Peach and Blueberry Cream Tart

It has been an action packed and AWESOME summer. My eldest son married and I now have a wonderful new daughter. AND: My first grandchild was born. So much love and blessings and joy!

This has also been a great summer for fresh peaches. So, our family continues to enjoy them while they are at their peak flavor. I didn't really have a recipe,so with a "wing and a prayer" I combined flavors that I thought married well. It turned out really great and was quite easy to assemble. I hope you will try it.

Summer Peach and Blueberry Cream Tart

Heat oven to 350 degrees.


2 cups AP Flour
1/4 c. Powdered Sugar
1 tsp. Kosher Salt
1 Stick Cold Butter
3 to 5 Tbsp. Ice Water

Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl. Using a box grater, grate the cold butter into the flour mixture. With a fork, coat all of the flour shards well. Slowly add ice water one tablespoon at a time. Stir with fork between addings. When dough begins to hold together when light squeezed in your palm: you are done. Gather mass together, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.

Cream filling:

1 block of room temperature cream cheese
zest of one lime
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. AP flour

Mix all ingredients with a hand mixer until smooth and creamy. Set aside.


Press dough into tart pan. Aim for a uniform thickness on the bottom and ridged sides. Spread cream cheese mixture evenly over dough. Refrigerate while you prep the fruit.

Slice fresh peaches into uniform slices.

Remove tart from refrigerator and arrange peach slices on the surface of the filling. Add blueberries. Top with 2 Tbsp. sugar.

Bake 60 to 75 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and beginning to pull from tart pan sides.

***Allow to cool to room temperature before serving***
***Refrigerate all left overs**** (This tart is FABULOUS cold from the refrigerator, too!

Think that looks sweet? Here's my little grandson:

He was quite comfortable in my arms. Love!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Fresh Peach Pie

Homemade peach pie practically screams summertime! Here's the pie I made for Sunday dinner.

Yup, there was some prep work involved. Some things are a labor of love, you know. A little boiling water, and some paring and we were ready to start cutting peach wedges.

Okay, with that done... I cooked the peaches in sugar, spices, butter and my secret ingredient: Goya Peach Nectar. Holy yum!!! I mean, you COULD just cook the peaches in water... but why would ya?

Filling: done.

Okay, let's put this bad boy together. Shall we?

In case you were wondering: That is a little extra love on top of the filling. There's a sprinkling of brown sugar and spices. I took the picture before I dotted it with butter. I thought that beautiful sight would cause you to weep. Heh, heh.

With that all finished, I laid on the top crust and put the baby in the oven to bake. Let's just say the house smelled over the top delicious!

Okay, it wasn't the most beautiful pie. But it definitely was tasty. *note the past tense reference*

So, what does summer taste like in your kitchen?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

While I was away...

I have been lax in updating here the last few weeks. I have a good excuse, though. I was on VACATION! Actually, it was a "stay"cation, as I stayed close to home and loved ones. Outside of a brief time in Orlando... I was home with my family.

I cooked, I rested, I laughed and I loved.

In other words: I had a ball!

Here are a few things on our plates while I was away:

Teriyaki Wings

Cinnamon Muffins

Oh yeah.... there was little accident, too.

No one was hurt, thankfully. (Inspect your Pyrex containers for chips... I'm not sure why mine shattered when I took it out of the oven...)

I really needed time away to rest and reconnect with loved ones. I was restored, loved and rejuvenated.

I'll be back with a more traditional entry soon! Thanks for hanging in there with me.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Garden Fresh Fruit and Veggie Sunday Dinner

Okay, so I may have stretched the truth just a bit with the title of this entry. I confess, I didn't grow or harvest a single one of the fresh ingredients that were the stars of our Sunday dinner today.

Our family tries to eat seasonally. There are good reasons for it. First, by eating seasonally, the fresh foods are much more affordable. Secondly, and most important: foods eaten in season are at their peak flavor.

Today our dinner table was graced with a simple Shrimp and Crab Sautee, Asian Noodle Salad and Steamed Brocoli. For dessert, we enjoyed a refreshing Mango/Berry Sorbet. My sister made the seafood and brocoli.

This Asian Noodle Salad has become a family favorite. I discovered this recipe on another blog a little over a year ago. We have not made it more than a few months without succumbing to the craving for the vegetable-laden and delicious salad. Watch out for the tastebud sensation of the spicy pepper. Our family enjoys spice, but you might want to halve the amount if heat ruins your eating experience.

The only changes that I make to the recipe are: halving the cilantro, adding fresh parsley, and using pre-shredded cabbage found in the salads refrigerated section of my grocery store. Well... again that isn't quite true. I also use Dreamfield's Pasta instead of regular pasta. I feel good about eating this product in moderation, as a diabetic. Truthfully, I never tell anyone this little secret. Most importantly, they never notice. Honest.

When I woke up this morning,I had no idea what to make for dessert. As I was drinking my coffee and reading my subbed blogs, I noticed quite a few were featuring icecreams and sorbets. So, with fresh mangoes, strawberries and raspberries in the refrigerator it became obvious: sorbet. I was convinced to try this recipe I read today at King Arthur Flour.

I followed the easy directions exactly, weighing out the fresh, ripe fruits. The simple syrup was: simple. It came together so easily, I was afraid to hope that it would be good. But it WAS!

*Lynn's Hi Five*

I plan to make another sorbet soon using fresh pineapple, coconut milk and rum. I'll let you know how it goes!

Dinner was very healthy and very flavorful. And the family was none the wiser.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Rainy Weekend, Sunny Family Life

This past weekend, I was blessed to be able to create delicious foods for my family. I say it often, but I do count it a blessing to be able to serve homemade, nutritious and pleasing foods to those that I love.

One morning (I forget which...long weekends are sometimes a lovely blur) I served a huge breakfast of thick cut hickory bacon, cheesy potato patties, fruit and toasted homemade Cinnamon Date Raisin bread. I thought about making scrambled eggs, but Young Man doesn't eat them and Young Sir wasn't awake yet.

The bread was made with the same dough recipe that I used for the dinner rolls. I simply kneaded in some pecans and then rolled the dough into a rectangle. I liberally sprinkled the dough with cinnamon, drizzled with a good amount of orange blossom honey and then laid on plumped raisins and chopped dates. Lastly, I rolled it up jelly-roll style, tucked the ends under and left it to rest in the baking pan for 40 minutes before baking at 350 degrees for thirty minutes.

I always bake my bacon for a resulting crispy, flat and evenly cooked result. The cheesy potato patties were made by dredging palmfuls of leftover potato casserole in flour and slowly frying in bacon drippings.

We had planned to barbecue on Memorial Day, but the thunderstorms changed our plans. However, I'm always up to a challenge! We wanted ribs! So... I improvised. We had "oven barbecued" ribs. They were better than I hoped!

I cut the rib slabs into portions of four to five ribs with my sturdy kitchen shears. Then I heavily seasoned them with onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper, kosher salt and Mrs. Dash. Then, I put in the oven uncovered to brown quickly at 450 degrees. (I watched them carefully and turned them as needed to brown all sides)

Once they were browned, I added half a cup of water to the pan and coated the ribs with BBQ sauce. I covered them tightly with foil and returned to the oven, lowering the temperature to 300 degrees.

An hour later, I turned the ribs over and added more sauce. Once recovered tightly, they went back in the oven.

After another hour, I again turned and re-sauced the ribs.

Finally, at the end of the second hour I removed the foil and added sauce again. I turned the oven up to 375 until the ribs looked caramelized.

There were none left! And I made TWO slabs.

I hope you try these methods. If you do, please let me know how you liked the results.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Dinner Rolls

1 cup warm water
2 tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. granulated yeast

2 eggs
5 oz. can of Carnation Evaporated Milk
1 1/2 tbsp. Kosher salt

1 warm water (not a typo... for a different step)
1/2 cup melted butter or shortening

6 1/2 cups AP flour (measured with scoop and sweep method)

Step one:

In a small bowl, combine one cup warm water, sugar and yeast. Stir to dissolve yeast and sugar. Set aside to proof. (When the yeast is foamy... it is ready!)

Step two:

In large container, whisk together eggs, evaporated milk and salt. Once thoroughly combined, add remaining water and butter or shortening. Whisk again.

Step three:

Add proofed yeast liquid to the liquid in the large container and mix well.Be sure to scrape the bowl to get all of the dissolved yeast.

Step four:

Add half of the flour and stir well. Then add remaining flour and stir (it will be stiff) until uniformly moistened with no dry spots.

Step five:

Lightly cover and allow to rise for two hours in a warm area. (I heat a cup of water in the corner of the microwave for a little over a minute, then place the dough in the microwave and shut the door. I leave the hood light on to provide a little additional warmth to my over the stove microwave)

Step six:

Punch down dough. Turn out dough onto floured surface. Gently knead in just enough flour to make dough manageable. Shape into desired roll shapes. (I place dough balls in muffin tins. This picture is after the second rise, just before I popped them in the oven.)

Step seven:

Allow rolls to rise at room temperature 40 to 60 minutes.

Step eight:

Bake at 350 until golden brown. (Mine took 18 minutes)

***Recipe makes enough for 24 large rolls. The dough keeps in the fridge for five days covered.***

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Parmesan and Herb Foccaccia

Yesterday on Facebook, I mentioned that I was baking breads for a wine tasting party later in the evening. I was making Parmesan and Herb Foccaccia and a Rustic Artisan Loaf to accompany the food bar.

Loads of my friends asked for pictures. So I obliged. Then they asked for the recipe. Hence, this blog entry. I used the Master Dough Recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

The instructions for foccaccia were straight forward. I oiled my baking pan (I used a quarter sheet) with a good olive oil. Then I cut off a one pound piece of dough from my pre-made master dough. With damp fingers I spread it into the pan. It takes patience working with the dough to get it to extend.

Then I sprinkled the top with Dried Italian Seasoning followed by garlic powder, onion powder, fresh cracked pepper and kosher salt. Finally, I liberally covered it with grated parmesan cheese and shredded mozzarrella.

The last few things to do: I lightly pressed the mixture into the dough, and then DEEPLY dimpled the top. This step is important, as it makes the foccaccia less likely to round up too much in the middle. Also, those dimples catch the gratuitous drizzle of more olive oil on top that is the last step of assembly.

After allowing the foccaccia to rest and rise at room temperature for forty minutes, I baked it in a 425 degree oven for twenty minutes with steam. (Place a shallow pan on any other shelf in the oven while oven pre-heats. Pour one cup of hot water into the pan and quickly close the oven door after putting in foccaccia.)

Cool completely and cut into servings.

The bread was very well received at the party. In fact, my girlfriend has requested birthday foccaccia instead of cake! Imagine that!

Please try this tasty bread, and let me know what you think.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Looking for YOUR Input

I would like to ask for menu suggestions. What would you like to see our family enjoy for a Sunday Dinner?

Here's what I want to know:

1. Optional Salad
2. Main Course
3. Vegetable Side dish
4. Starchy Side dish
5. Optional Bread component
6. Homemade Dessert

Okay, the ball is in your court! I don't have anything to offer to the winning suggestion, except my gratitude and a blog entry devoted to your meal idea.

I probably won't be blogging or cooking this Sunday, as it is Mother's Day... but look for the suggested menu soon!

Thanks, everyone!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

I Did It!

A few months ago, Cookie Baker Lynn posted a blog that I could have written word for word myself. Like her, I love to be in the kitchen creating and trying new things. The problem? Also, like her I cannot always be in the kitchen on a given schedule. Sadly, after joining the Daring Bakers and participating with much fun and successs... I found that my opportunities to bake and cook often did not fit the challenge time tables. I was forced to admit that although the desire was there, often the time was not.

I was psyched when she posted about a new Un-group!

I have always wanted to make a homemade German Chocolate Cake. But for some reason, I've always been intimidated working with baking chocolate, egg whites and homemade fillings. The classic recipe includes all three! Yikes

So... a little egg separating, chocolate melting and creaming of butter and sugar I was on my way!

Methodically, I worked my way through adding the egg yolks, chocolate, and alternating the dry ingredient mixture with buttermilk. I confess, it wasn't hard! I just had to concentrate a bit.

Pans were prepared, then I turned my attention to whipping egg whites and then folding them into the batter. At last: divide the batter into three pans and bake!

All that was left was to make the Pecan Coconut Filling and Frosting.

I did it! I filled and topped the cake with the classic filling. The sides were frosted with my standby chocolate frosting. I did it, and the family cheered!