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Recipe: Blueberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

28 Feb

Last night, we ended up with an abundance of blueberries, due to my lack of attention to the contents of our refrigerator. I stopped at the grocery store to pick up some items for dinner and of course bought a number of other things not on my shopping list, including fresh blueberries. I was pleased with this impulse purchase since the blueberries were for my husband, who likes to sprinkle them on top of his yogurt in the morning. I was sure he would be happy to have them, and he was indeed quite happy to have blueberries–the blueberries he himself had bought the day before. Argh. How had I not noticed them? All I can say is, it was the end of a long work week and my powers of observation were obviously not  very powerful. There was only one way out of this dire situation: we would have to make blueberry coffee cake. The best thing was that my husband made the cake, which was so good I may “accidentally” buy extra blueberries more often.

BCCC3

Blueberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake
9  servings

Cake
1/4 c. butter, softened
2/3 c. sugar
1 egg
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. milk

1 c. fresh  blueberries
2 tbsp. flour
3 oz. cream cheese, softened , and cubed

Topping
4 tbsp. all-purpose flour
4 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. cold butter

Preparation
1.Preheat oven to 375°. Grease an 8×8 baking pan.
2. Cake: In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg. In a medium bowl, combine the all-purpose and whole wheat flours, baking powder, and salt. Add half the flour mixture to the butter/sugar mixture; stir to combine. Add half the milk to the butter/sugar mixture; stir to combine. Repeat with remaining flour mixture and milk.
3. Toss blueberries with the 2 tbsp. flour. Stir the blueberries and cream cheese cubes into the batter (batter will be thick). Pour into the prepared baking dish.
4. Topping: In a small bowl, combine the flour and sugar. Cut in the butter until crumbly. Sprinkle the topping over the batter.
5. Bake the cake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Recipe based on a Taste of Home recipe.

Recipe: Roasted Tomatoes, Onions, and Garlic with Basil

28 Jun

This year, I planted three tomato plants, which are beginning to completely take over the vegetable garden. If that weren’t enough, a fourth rogue plant sprung from the seeds of  last year’s tomatoes is giving them a run for their money. Which means I’m soon going to be faced with a bumper crop of tomatoes and the challenge of figuring out what to do with the ones I keep. This recipe is one of my all-time favorites for tomatoes, and I often serve it at brunches as an accompaniment to cold roasted meats. It is a very flexible recipe: it can be made ahead, served warm or at room temperature–and you can play around with the ingredients depending on what you have on hand. However you tweak it, it’s hard to go wrong with tomatoes, red onions, garlic, basil, and pine nuts.


Roasted Tomatoes, Onions, and Garlic with Basil
12 servings

3 lb. roma tomatoes (other smaller types work well, too)
2 large red onions, cut in half, each half cut into eight wedges
30 cloves garlic /2 bulbs, peeled (slice large cloves in half)
2/3 c. olive oil
2 tsp. sambal oelek (or sweet chilli sauce)
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. bottled pesto (or fresh, if you have it)
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 c. shredded fresh basil
2 tbsp. chopped fresh oregano
1/2 c. pine nuts, toasted

Preparation

1. Heat oven to 400º.
2. Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise. Place tomatoes, cut side up, in large baking dish, then nestle the onions and garlic around the tomatoes.
3. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, sambal oelek, sugar, pesto, and salt. Pour over the vegetables.
4. Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes or until tomatoes, onions, and garlic are soft.
5. Meanwhile, dry toast the pine nuts in a small skillet over medium-high heat (watching carefully), until they start to turn golden. Remove them from the skillet and reserve.
6. Once the tomatoes come out of the oven, add the vinegar, herbs, and pine nuts, and mix gently. Serve warm or cold.

Recipe: Pavlova

27 Apr

We lived in Australia for four years and loved every minute of it, leaving behind dear friends and wonderful memories. One of those memories was of Pavlova, a beautifully light and sweet dessert named after the Russian prima ballerina Anna Pavlova, who toured Australia and New Zealand in the 1920s. There has been a long-standing debate based on primary and secondary sources and lots of national pride, as to whether the dessert was first created  in New Zealand or Australia. Though the scales may have now tipped toward New Zealand (with the Oxford English Dictionary crediting the first written record of the recipe to New Zealand), it is a question that may never be satisfactorily answered; in an elegant diplomatic maneuver, the OED also lists the origin of pavlova as “Austral. and N.Z.”

For our family, the answer is simple: since we first encountered Pavlova in Australia, it will for us forever remain as one of our favorite Australian desserts.

The version in the photo below is a double recipe, prepared in a rimmed 18 x 12-inch jelly roll pan–which was a mistake. There was no easy way to get the meringue out and onto a serving platter without shattering it into pieces–so we served the Pavlova straight from the pan, lifting each piece off the baking/parchment paper with a thin spatula. It was a bit messier than usual, but due to the amazing decorating job by three enthusiastic teenagers, and to the fantastic blend of flavors that has made this such a beloved recipe, no one minded. In the future, though, I’ll remember to use an unrimmed baking sheet….

pavlova

Pavlova
8 servings

6 large egg whites
pinch salt
1 1/2 c. + 1/8 c. sugar
2 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. white vinegar

1 1/2 c. cream
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

1 large punnet strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 small punnet blackberries
1 small punnet raspberries
2 kiwis, peeled and sliced

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Draw a 9″ circle on baking/parchment paper and place it on a baking sheet. Spray the paper with baking spray.
3. Combine egg whites and the pinch of salt in a very clean and completely dry large bowl, and beat until stiff peaks form (you can also use a stand mixer). Gradually add sugar, a tablespoon or two at a time, beating constantly, until the mixture is very glossy and the bowl can be held upside down without the meringue falling out. Gently whisk in the cornstarch and vinegar.
4. Using a spatula, spread the mixture onto the paper circle on the baking sheet; smooth the top with the spatula.
5. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake the meringue for 5 minutes, then turn the heat down to 270 degrees and bake another 75 minutes, or until the outside of the meringue is crisp, but the inside is soft and chewy. Turn the oven off and leave the meringue in the oven, with the door ajar, for 15 minutes.
6. Slide the meringue, still on the baking paper, onto a rack and allow to cool completely. It will crack a bit when cooling; this is normal. Using two spatulas or a pizza peel, carefully lift the meringue off the baking paper and place on a serving platter.
7. Whip the cream with the sugar and vanilla until stiff peaks form. Try to use as little sugar in the whipped cream as your palate will allow, to offset the very sweet meringue.
8. Spread the whipped cream on the meringue and add the fruit in a decorative pattern. (The great thing about pavlovas is you can decorate them any way you like, with whatever fruit you prefer.)

Recipe adapted from Australian Table magazine.

Recipe: Nutella Hazelnut Palmiers

19 Apr

By family decree, certain elements of our Easter Brunch can never be altered: the Breakfast Pizzas; the Pesto-Roasted Tomatoes, Red Onion, and Garlic with Pine Nuts; and the Fruit Salad with Honey Lime Dressing. The ham comes and goes and the potatoes occasionally vary (Hashbrown Casserole has been a favorite for many years, but to the dismay of one of our sons, is being edged out this year by Country-Fried Potatoes with Bacon and Green Onions). Other dishes enter and exit as the urge strikes: this year, one of those “other” items will be Stuffed Mushrooms with Merguez Sausage and Spinach, which I realized I hadn’t made in a while.

The one area of Easter Brunch where more experimentation is allowed is the sweet section, which consists of 2-3 items chosen at whim. Today, I made these Nutella Hazelnut Palmiers while everyone was out hiking; I’ll need to hide them pretty soon, lest the returning teenagers and 20-somethings demolish them before tomorrow’s brunch. And before I “taste test” any more of them myself….

Palmiers

Nutella Hazelnut Palmiers
Makes about 30

1 (17.65 oz. ) pkg. puff pastry dough sheets, thawed
2 tbsp. raw sugar, divided in half
1 c. Nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread), divided in half*
1/2 c. chopped hazelnuts, divided in half

Preparation

1. Lightly flour a clean, 12 x 12-inch spot on your counter. Sprinkle the spot with 1 tbsp. raw sugar.
2. The puff pastry dough package should contain two sheets. Unfold one of the sheets and place it on top of the  flour/sugar. Gently roll out the dough to the left and to the right until it is about 15-inches long (don’t worry about the width); you mostly want to embed the sugar into the underside of the dough.
3. Spread 1/2 c. Nutella onto the puff pastry sheet; sprinkle 1/4 c. chopped hazelnuts over the top.
4. Starting at the top long end, roll the dough toward you until you get to the middle of the pastry sheet. Now roll from the bottom end up to the middle. Bring the two rolls together, and place the log of dough seam-side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
5. Repeat with the second puff pastry sheet. Sprinkle the counter with more flour and the remaining tbsp. of sugar, top with the second pastry sheet, and gently roll the dough out. Spread with the remaining Nutella and sprinkle the remaining hazelnuts on top; roll up as indicated in Step 4. Place the second log of dough on the baking sheet, too, and then put the baking sheet in the freezer for about 10 minutes to firm up the dough.
6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
7. Working with one  log of dough at a time, place on a cutting board and slice into 3/4-inch thick slices (or as close as you can get) with a serrated knife. Lay the palmiers flat side down on the parchment paper-lined baking sheet, with ample room between palmiers since they will expand.  You will need multiple baking sheets, or will need to bake in batches.
8. Bake for 30 minutes or so, until the palmiers are golden. (Keep an eye on them; baking time will depend on the thickness of the palmiers.)
9. Let them cool on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes, then remove to a rack to cool completely.
10. Enjoy!

* Can add up to 1/2 c. more Nutella ( 1/4 c. on each sheet) for sweeter but slightly messier palmiers.

Recipe: Chocolate Waffles

11 May

Because I’m leaving on a work trip tomorrow, I was treated to an early Mother’s Day breakfast of my choosing. But really, I didn’t have to think about it at all — I asked for the same thing I  always ask for: Chocolate Waffles. My 16-year-old daughter made them this year, and they looked absolutely gorgeous:


They tasted fantastic, too, with some whipped cream, maple syrup, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. A heavenly combination. And long after breakfast or brunch, you can grab a plain waffle and break off pieces to eat along with a nice cup of coffee or tea.

Chocolate Waffles
Makes 8-12 waffles
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1 1/2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. canola oil
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. milk

Preparation

1. Melt chocolate, let cool.
2. Preheat waffle iron.
3. Sift dry ingredients together over medium bowl.
4. Mix oil and sugar together, then beat in eggs until well blended. Add vanilla and melted chocolate.
5. Add sifted ingredients to wet ingredients in three batches, alternating with milk.
6. Spray waffle iron with cooking spray. Pour batter onto iron and cook according to manufacturer’s directions. (Our waffle iron makes 4 waffles–we pour about 1 c. batter into the center of the iron, close, and wait for the waffle iron to beep.)
7. For these waffles, it’s important to spray the waffle iron each time you make a set of waffles.
8. Serve with whipped cream and maple syrup.

Adapted from Joy of Cooking.

Recipe: Scrambled Eggs with Spinach and Feta

22 Jan

Eggs are a miracle food in many ways, but what I most appreciate about them is that they make for a quick, nutritious meal any time of the day. These scrambled eggs are great for breakfast, brunch,  lunch, and even as an after-school snack for ravenous teenagers. And if I am ever on my own for dinner, these scrambled eggs often make an appearance.

Scrambled Eggs with Spinach and Feta
Serves 2

4 eggs
pinch salt, freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 onion, diced
1/2 c. chopped fresh spinach
1/4 c. crumbled feta

Preparation
1. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs with a fork. Add a pinch of salt, and freshly ground pepper.
2. In a small skillet, heat the olive oil, add the onions, and cook over high heat until soft and beginning to turn golden at the edges.
3. Reduce heat to medium and layer the spinach on top of the onions. Pour in the eggs, top with the crumbled feta, and gently scramble until set.
4. Serve immediately.

Recipe: Cinnamon Chip Scones

11 Nov

One of our sons works at an eatery near his university that is known for its cinnamon chip scones.  Those scones are fantastic, but deadly; I looked up the nutritional content once and had to repress the memory (and steer clear of the scones). But then, when I was in the grocery store recently, I spotted a bag of cinnamon baking chips and succumbed to the temptation–though I vowed to make a batch of scones I would feel slightly better about eating and serving.

These are the result. They are by no means a health food, but since they are made with skim milk and a bit of whole wheat flour, perhaps they are just a tiny, tiny bit better for you than the ones found in certain well-known eateries and cafes. Nutritional content aside, these scones were gone in a flash–consumed by taste testers eager to have one (or two) with coffee and tea.

If you can’t find cinnamon baking chips, these would still be nice with white chocolate chips  (or a mix of white and dark chocolate chips) as a substitute.

Cinnamon Chip Scones

1 tbsp. white vinegar
almost 1 c. skim milk
2-1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1/3 c. dark brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
2-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 c. cold butter, cubed
1 (10-oz.) pkg. cinnamon baking chips
2 tbsp. white sugar
2 tbsp. butter, melted

Preparation

1. Spray a large baking sheet (or 2 smaller ones) with baking spray — or lightly grease and flour the sheet(s).

2. Put the tablespoon of vinegar into a 2-cup measuring cup, then add enough skim milk to the vinegar to yield 1 cup total. Set the mixture aside. This is the equivalent of do-it-yourself buttermilk. (If you have buttermilk at hand, however, feel free to use 1 c. buttermilk instead.)

3. In a large bowl, combine the flours, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the butter and cut in with a knife or pastry blender (or, with very clean hands, pinch the cubes of butter/margarine quickly between your fingers, incorporating into flour mixture until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs). Stir in vinegar/milk mixture just until moistened. Fold in chips.

4. Knead the dough gently in the bowl until it is no longer sticky. Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a ball. On a lightly floured surface, gently pat each ball into a 1.5 or 2-inch-thick circle. Cut each circle into 6 wedges, separate the wedges, and place them on the baking sheet(s), with sufficient space between them for expansion. Brush the wedges with melted butter and sprinkle with the 2 tbsp. white sugar.

5. Bake at 425° for 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned. The scones are great warm, but I love them at room temperature, when the cinnamon chips regain their texture.

Adapted from a Taste of Home recipe.

Recipe: Cinnamon Hazelnut Biscotti with Chocolate

29 Oct

So, what do you do when 1) a hurricane is approaching, 2) you are as prepared as you can possibly be (if that’s possible), 3) you still have power but probably won’t have it for long, and 4) family members are getting a bit restless from the enforced confinement? I bake.

In my mind, biscotti are a food that will keep well and provide comfort under any circumstances. And, I happened to have all ingredients on hand, though our supply of dark chocolate chips was suspiciously low and I had to make do with a few sprinkled in mostly for effect. Had I had more, I might have considered melting some and dipping one end of each baked biscotti in chocolate, to get us through the next few days. However, my husband is happy to have a small reprieve from the chocolaty baked goods produced at our house, and is delighted with this pared-down version. Note: I baked these twice, as is traditional for crisp biscotti (biscotti means “twice cooked/baked” in Italian), but these are also lovely soft–just omit the second baking.

Enjoy these with tea or coffee any time–not just when a Frankenstorm is on its way.

Cinnamon Hazelnut Biscotti
Makes about 32 biscotti

1 c. sugar
1 c. packed dark brown sugar
¼ c. toasted hazelnuts (I used chopped; whole would be nice, too)
¼ c. toasted almonds (I used sliced; whole or slivered would be fine)
¼ c. dark chocolate chips
1/3 c. canola oil
2 tsp. cinnamon (3 tsp. if you really like cinnamon; we do)
2 tsp. water
2 tsp. vanilla
2 large eggs, beaten
2 1/2 c. all-purpose (or unbleached) flour
2  tsp.  baking powder
cooking spray

Preparation
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray two large baking sheets with cooking spray.
2. Combine first 10 ingredients in a large bowl; mix well. In a small bowl, stir flour and baking powder together; add to sugar mixture, stirring until well combined and a soft dough forms. Divide dough into four pieces.
3. Using clean hands, shape each piece of dough into a 3/4″ -thick rectangle. Place two rectangles of dough on each baking sheet, pressing into shape as needed.  Bake 20 minutes. Remove from oven, but do not turn oven off.
4. Cut each rectangle diagonally into 3/4″ slices (cut straight on the baking sheet). Spread the slices out a bit on the baking sheet, and bake again for about 10 minutes, or until golden.
5. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

Recipe: Papaya with Lime

14 Oct

The first time I had papaya was as a teenager while visiting South America, and I was blown away by the simple presentation: ripe papaya, a sprinkle of sugar, and a squeeze of lime. I’ve been eating it ever since. Soft, slightly sweet, and packed with Vitamin C, papaya is also known for its soothing digestive properties. So if you ever need a boost, papaya is your fruit. I serve this dish as an accompaniment to Latin American meals (or whenever the urge strikes). Ripe papaya is also very nice in fruit salads.

Papaya with Lime
1 papaya (look for papaya that gives a little when you press it–a mottled green/yellow coloration is normal)
1-1.5 tbsp. sugar
juice of 1 small lime

To prepare, cut fruit in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon:

Cut each half into strips with a sharp knife:

Peel each strip, cut into cubes, place in a serving bowl. Sprinkle with sugar and lime juice. Toss gently and serve (or refrigerate until ready to serve).

Recipe: Banana Chocolate Chip Muffiins

24 Jun

Prerequisites: lazy Sunday morning, very ripe bananas, recipe requiring minimal prep time, final product not requiring a fork or plate, and tea/coffee and newspaper at hand.

As an added bonus, this recipe is vegan, which not only produces deliciously moist muffins, but also means kids (and adults) can lick the bowl.  The vegan recipes our non-vegan family likes best are those made with every-day, non-perishable ingredients we always have at hand (vanilla soy milk has become one of those ingredients; I keep some in the cupboard for just this purpose, though it goes into the fridge afterward).

During WWII, when butter and eggs were rationed, many cooks in the United States and elsewhere turned to vegan baking out of necessity–hence a whole generation of “crazy cakes” and other confections. If you have not tried anything vegan, try these. They are scrumptious. But if you prefer, you can always substitute regular milk for the soy milk.

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
Makes 16+ muffins

1 1/4 c. unbleached white flour
1/4 c. whole wheat flour
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. sugar (I like to use 1/2 c. white sugar, 1/2 c. brown, or whatever I have on hand)
1 c. chocolate chips
1/2 c. chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
4 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 c. canola oil
1/4 c. vanilla soy milk
2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Spray muffin tins with baking spray or use liners.

In a medium bowl, mix dry ingredients, including chocolate chips and nuts (if using). In a large bowl, mix wet ingredients. Gently fold dry ingredients into wet. Spoon batter into muffin tins, filling about 3/4 full. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until toothpick (or knife or fork) inserted into the muffins comes out clean.