Sweet, Sweet Sunday

The Spice Is Right

Now that you have created or chosen your base liquid…and sliced and diced and maybe even roasted your veggies…it’s time to add any spices and other seasonings that you might like.
The seasonings that you add to your soup at this point will honestly be a matter of personal preference, Feel free to add only one seasoning, but also experiment to find a spice combination that you and your family all enjoy.
Seasonings also can be based on what you are cooking. Good choices would be…

  • Beef soups…marjoram, rosemary, thyme
  • Chicken soups…celery seed, marjoram, thyme, parsley, and sage
  • Chilis…chili powder, cumin
  • Cream soups…parsley, thyme.
  • Meaty, hearty soups…cumin
  • Tomato-based soups…basil, oregano or fennel

Regardless what you are making or what seasonings you are adding, never use so much seasoning that it is overpowering.

 

Here are a few of the most commonly used seasonings…

 

1. Fresh herbs…You can add only one fresh herb or a combination of herbs to your soup, based on what your family likes best.

You can add the fresh herbs either with the woody stems still attached or not. It really doesn’t matter because the stems and leaves will drop off as they cook, Once your soup is finished, simply remove these can be removed with tongs or a slotted spoon before serving.

Fresh herbs will have a more intense flavor if added near the end of the cooking time.

 

 

2. Garlic…Garlic is a flavor enhance rhat brings out the flavors of the other ingredients in the soup. Garlic…Garlic is a flavor enhancer that brings out the flavors of the other ingredients in the soup. Even if a soup recipe doesn’t call for garlic, you can always add two or three cloves of garlic without worrying that your soup will have a garlicky taste.

 

.3. Ginger...Ginger is another flavor enhancer. Adding ginger to vegetable and chicken soups adds a slightly sweet taste and aromaFresh herbs…Fresh herbs provide an intense and complex flavor. Use three or four tablespoons of chopped, fresh herbs for ten to twelve cups of soup.

4. Spice Cabinet Spices…Use 1 to 2 teaspoons of ground spices per ten to twelve cups liquid.

Some of the most commonly used spices include…

  • allspice
  • cinnamon
  • clove
  • coriander
  • cumin
  • fennel
  • turmeric
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Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Roast for the Most

As far as prepping your vegetables to go into your soup there are at least four trains of thought…

You can either add them without cooking them first, boil or steam them, saute them, or roast them.

Roasting is perhaps your best opption because roasting caramelizes the vegetables’ natural sugars to bring out a delicious natural sweetness and helps emphasize the unique flavor of each vegetable.

Roasted vegetables can also be used as a flavorful side dish or meatless entree.

So which vegetables can you roast? And how do you do it?

Pretty much any and all vegetables can be roasted. There are no set rules as to which vegetables to roast. It’s more a matter of what you have on hand and what you discover that you like or don’t like.

Here are some of the most commonly roasted vegetables, as well as how to get the vegetables ready to be roasted and the time that you should roast them.

Always choose the best veggies for roasting that you can. The best raw veggies will obviously give you the best cooked veggies also.

Keep in mind that these may vary about five or ten minutes, depending on how small you cut your vegetables before roasting them.

Also keep in mind that green beans, broccoli, and other green-hued vegetables will turn an ugly olive green, and green beans tend to shrivel before becoming tender.

Flip the veggies half-way through baking time: Around the 20 minute mark of roasting these veggies, make sure to flip and stir the vegetables around a bit. This ensures an even roasting on ALL sides of ALL the veggies.

 

Prep

Preheat the oven to 450°F.  Roasting vegetables at such a high temperature helps caramelize on the outside. If the oven temperature is too low, the vegetables will overcook before achieving the desired browning.

Wash your vegetables and pat them as dry as possible. The drier the vegetable, the better it will roast…

Slice and dice your veggies into bite-sized pieces.

More on this later, but for now two things to keep in mind..

  1. Uniform pieces cook more evenly.
  2. Smaller pieces cook more quickly.
  • Asparagus:…Wash and break off woody bases where spears snap easily. Leave spears whole or cut into 1-inch pieces.
  • Baby leeks:…Trim and halve lengthwise. Rinse well and pat dry with paper towels. Roast at 450°F for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Beets, baby or regular:…Scrub and peel beets. Trim off stem and root ends. If desired, halve or quarter them.
  • Bell peppers:…For regular-size peppers, wash, seed, and cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips. For small peppers, if desired, roast whole, then remove stems and seeds.
  • Brussels Sprouts…Trim stems and remove any wilted outer leaves; wash. Cut any large sprouts in half lengthwise.
  • Carrots…Trim and peel or scrub baby carrots or regular carrots. Cut regular carrots into bite-size pieces or thin strips
  • Cauliflower:…Wash and remove leaves and woody stem. Break into florets
  • Eggplant:…Peel if desired. Quarter lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices.
  • Fennel:…Trim stalks and cut a thin slice from the bottom of the bulb. Cut the bulb into thin wedges.
  • Onions:…Remove papery outer layer. Cut into thin wedges.
  • Parsnips:…Trim and peel parsnips. Cut into bite-size pieces or thin strips.
  • Potatoes…Whole tiny potatoes, quartered, work especially well for roasting. For larger potatoes, cut them into bite-size pieces. Peeling is not necessary, but scrub well before using.
  • Squash:…Baby zucchini can be roasted whole. Larger zucchini should be cut into bite-size pieces or slices.
  • Sweet potatoes:,..Scrub and peel. Cut into bite-size pieces.
  • Tomatoes:…Wash and halve lengthwise.
  • Zucchini…Baby zucchini can be roasted whole. Larger zucchini should be cut into bite-size pieces or slices

Once you’ve cut your vegetables down into bite-sized pieces, toss them a tablespoon or two of oil—such as olive oil, coconut oil, or avocado oil. I normally do this in a huge Ziploc bag.

This will help the vegetables cook more evenly, make them crispier, and add a rich flavor.

Feel free to add whatever you want to your vegetables before you roast them. This is not necessary, but a few of the things that can be added to your veggies are…

  • balsamic vinegar
  • brown sugar
  • honey
  • maple syrup
  • pomegranate syrup
  • spices—such as ginger, nutmeg, rosemary or sage

Rub the oil into the vegetables with your hands to make sure they’re evenly coated.

Spread the vegetables out on a foil-lined and sprayed rimmed baking sheet, in an oven-proof skillet, or in a baking dish. Make sure they are in a single layer with a little space in between. If they are too crowded, the vegetables will steam instead of roast.

Add more oil if the vegetables still look dry or don’t seem evenly coated.

 

 

 

Oven

Cooking times will vary depending on which vegetable or vegetables you are roasting. It is possible to roast different vegetables together, but you want to wait to add those that will require the least amount of cooking time so they won’t burn.

  • Stir the vegetables occasionally while they are cooking.
  • Cook until the vegetables are tender and brown on the edges.

10 to 15 minutes

  • asparagus
  • baby leeks
  • bell peppers
  • Brussels sprouts):
  • cabbage
  • cauliflower
  • eggplant
  • green beans
  • summer squash
  • tomatoes
  • zucchini

30 to 40 minutes

  • acorn squash
  • beets
  • butternut squash
  • carrots
  • fennel
  • garlic
  • leeks
  • mushrooms
  • onions
  • parsnips
  • potatoes
  • shallots
  • sweet potatoes
  • turnips

Roast until the vegetables are tender enough to pierce with a fork and you see some charred bits on the edges. Those charred bits are what make roasted vegetables so good, so even if the vegetables are already tender and cooked through, keep roasting until you see the vegetables start to turn toasty around the tips and edges.

Once the vegetables have finished roasting, scrae them onto wire cooling racks to…what else, cool…

Once they have cooled, store them in airtight containers in your fridge. They will stay good for about five days.

Check and stir the vegetables every 10 to 15 minutes. Continue roasting until the vegetables are easily pierced with a fork or knife and they are showing crispy, charred bits at the tips and edges.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

 

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Soup’s On

Now that the Christmas ornaments are all being taken off the tree and the lights are…or not…being taken off the house…it’s time to get back to the real world.

And the real-world responsibility of having to plan and prepare decent meals for our families almost every night of the week.

Having these nightly meals requires planning and thinking ahead…more so when you find our that your significant other has type 2 diabetes…the main thing I have learned this last year.

Fortunately this is also the time of year for one of my favorite things…

SOUP…

Soup is definitely the ultimate comfort food—both nourishing and warming to the body as well as the soul.

And soup can be made so many different ways—such as chicken noodle soup, vegetable beef stew, clam chowder—to name a few.

Regardless the type of being made, there are certain things to keep in mind as you add soup to your menu plan this winter…certain things that will always remain the same regardless the type of soup being made.

Soup is great this time of year also because as a chef, or at least as a cook, you can easily transform practically any ingredient into a delicious, satisfying meal that will allow to use  whatever ingredients you already have on hand and not have to get back in the cold now that the holidays are over.

In this next series of posts, we’ll look at the ingredients and method used to make a great pot of soup…much better soup than anything you could ever get out of a can or a box…

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Kimchi—What Else—Sichuan Pepper

Another item to look for when surfing Asian websites or walking through your nearest Asian market is Sichuan pepper.

Let’s start off by talking about what Sichuan pepper is not…

Sichuan pepper is NOT…

  • a chile pepper at all
  • actually from a pepper plant
  • closely related to either black pepper or the chili pepper
  • hot or pungent like black, white, or chili peppers
  • really a pepper at all
  • related to chili pepper
  • spicy hot like a chile pepper

So now that I’ve confused everybody by saying what Sichuan pepper is not, let’s find out what Sichuan pepper IS…

Sichuan pepper is perhaps the most important ingredient in Sichuan cuisine and is also commonly used in all sorts of Chinese cooking.

The spice actually comes from the prickly ash shrub, a member of the citrus family.

The seeds of the shrub have pinkish-red outer husks which can be dried and then either be used whole or ground into powder.

Sichuan pepper has an aroma that has been likened to lavender

As far as taste, Sichuan pepper has slightly lemony overtones and create a powerful mouth-numbing sensation similar to carbonated drinks.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Kimchi—The What Else—Five Spice Powder

 

One of the other spices, or spice blends, that you should also grab when you’re ordering from the Asian market is five spice powder.

Five-spice powder or Wuxiang powder is a very powerful spice blend of cinnamon, cloves, fennel, star anise, and Szechwan peppercorns—that is a very common ingredient in Chinese and Taiwanese cuisine.

Some other spices that are often used to make five spice powder include ginger, nutmeg, licorice, turmeric, cardamom, Mandarin orange peel, and galangal.

Sure, you can buy this five spice seasoning online or at the Asian market…

But some cooks claim that making five spice powder in your own kitchen creates a more fragrant spice mix, allows you to flavor exactly how you want it, and makes the flavor more intense.

Making five spice powder as you need it, will also keep the flavors as rich and fresh as possible.

 

To make your own five spice powder, 

  • Toast 2tsp Szechuan peppercorns in a dry skillet or wok over medium heat, about three minutes.
  • Grind any whole spices—such as whole cloves, fennel seed, Szechwan peppercorns, or star anise—in a coffee grinder or with a mortar and pestle. To make sure that you have the quantity of powder once you finish grinding these, start with about 1.5 times the quantity of the whole spice as you need powder—such as 2Tbsp of star anise seeds to make 1Tbsp powder.
  • Mix in 1Tbsp each of the following—ground cloves, cinnamon, star anise, and fennel seed. You could also consider adding a teaspoon or so of black pepper, ginger, nutmeg, or any of the other spices mentioned above.
  • Grind them together in your coffee grinder until the powder is an even consistency.
  • Store in an airtight container in a cool dark place until ready to use.

 

Tips on Using Five Spice Powder.

  1. Add five spice powder to your skillet at the start of cooking so that the spices will permeate the whole dish.
  2. Add small amounts of the spice mixture to your dish while you are cooking. The flavor can be quite intense, and it is easy to ruin a dish by adding too much.
  3. Taste your food frequently until you find the amount of sice that you want.
  4. Use five-spice powder sparingly. A tiny amount goes a long way.

Princess Chicken

One of the most common dishes that contains five-spice seasoning is Princess Chicken…

 

  • 1 1/2Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1Tbsp dry sherry
  • 1/2tsp five-spice powder
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3Tbsp cooking oil
  • 2 thin slices ginger
  • 1/2 onion (peeled and chopped)
  • 1/2tsp paprika (or to taste)
  • 4oz sliced mushrooms
  • 2Tbsp water or chicken broth
  • 3/4C cashews
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 2tsp soy sauce
  • 1/2tsp sugar
  • 1/2tsp sesame oil

Marinade your chicken..Combine soy sauce, sherry, five-spice powder, and cornstarch. Add the chicken, coating thoroughly in the marinade. Let marinade in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Cook your chicken…Heat 2Tbsp oil in a wok. Once the oil is hot, add one slice of ginger. Let brown for 2 or 3 minutes. Remove the ginger from the oil. Add the chicken. Cook 5 minutes, until the chicken is nearly cooked.

Cook your veggies…Remove and wipe the wok clean. Add Tbsp oil to the pan. Once the oil is hot, add the remaining slice of ginger. Brown the ginger. Remove from the pan. Add the onion and paprika. Cook 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, cashews, red red bell peppers. Add more oil if you need to.Cook another minute.

Finish making the dish..Add the chicken back into the pan. Stir in dark soy sauce and sugar. Cook for another minute. Remove from heat. Stir in the sesame oil.

Satisfying the Sweet Tooth

Holiday Baking—Candy

Before the Industrial Revolution in the late 1800s making candy was only done at home during the holidays or by professional candy makers in small specialized shops. Candy was very expensive and considered quite a luxury.

During and after the Industrial Revolution, candy became affordable and more readily available.

Competition became fierce, and large advertising campaigns were started. candy was often named after people such as…

  • Baby Ruth—Supposedly this candy bar was not named after the legendary baseball player after all….but for Ruth Cleveland, President Cleveland’s daughter.
  • Oh Henry!—The “Oh Henry! Bar” was originally named for Tom Henry, the owner of a candy factory in Kansas. He created this candy bar in 1919 and named it after himself…obviously…In 1920 the rights to the Tom Henry bar were bought, and the bar was renamed it the “Oh Henry!” for publicity purposes….O. Henry…
  • Tootsie Roll and Tootsie Pop—Leo Hirshfield named the product after his daughter, Clara, whom he called Tootsie.

Making candy involves boiling sugar with water or milk until the sugar dissolves and the sugar concentration of the mixture reaches the temperature needed for the type of candy that you are making.

The texture and type of candy depends on the ingredients and sugar concentration..lin other words, how long the mixture is boiled.

There are several stages or temperature ranges that determine the type of candy made, including…

  •  1. Thread or syrup stage
  • 2. Soft ball or fudge stage
  • 3. Firm ball or soft caramel candy stage
  • 4. Hard ball or nougat stage
  • 5. Soft crack or salt water taffy stage
  • 6. Hard crack or toffee stage
  • 7. Clear liquid stage
  • 8. Brown liquid or liquid caramel stage
  • 9. Burnt sugar stage

 

 

1. Thread Stage—The thread or syrup stage is met when the candy thermometer reads 230°F.

Chocolate Caramels

Line 8″ square pan with foil. Grease the foil with butter.  In a large saucepan, bring the following ingredients to a boil…

  • 1C sugar
  • 3/4C light corn syrup
  • 2oz unsweetened chocolate chips

Stir until smooth. Add 1/2C heavy cream. Stir constantly until candy thermometer reads 234 degrees. Add another 1/2C cream. Return mixture to 234 degrees, stirring constantly. Add the remaining 1/2c cream. Cook until temperature reaches 248 degrees. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Let sit overnight. Lift candy out of the pan, using foil to lift. Remove foil. Cut into 1″ squares. Wrap individual pieces in waxed paper, twisting the ends.

 

 

2. Soft Ball—The soft ball or fudge stage is reached when the candy thermometer reads 235°F.

Pumpkin Seed Brittle

Bring the following to a boil…

  • 1C sugar
  • 1/2C water
  • Pinch fine sea salt

Cook until thermometer reads 238ºF.Remove from heat. Stir in 3/4C green pumpkin seeds with a wooden spoon. Stir 5min. Return pan to medium heat. Cook stirring constantly, 5 minutes. Pour hot mixture onto parchment paper covered surface. Cover with a second sheet of parchment paper. Roll mixture between two sheets as thinly as possible with rolling pin.  Let cool until firm. Break into pieces. Cool brittle completely Melt 3/4C bittersweet chocolate chips in microwave. Dip cooled brittle in chocolate. Sprinkle with 1/4C chopped pumpkin seeds and large-flake sea salt. Let cool until chocolate is firm.

 

 

3. Firm Ball—The firm ball or soft caramel candy stage is met when the candy thermometer reads 245 °F.

Caramels

Prepare 9×13. In a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat, combine…

  • 1C butter
  • 1# light brown sugar
  • 114oz sweetened condensed milk
  • 1C light corn syrup
  • 1 pinch salt

Cook until thermometer reads 245 degrees. Remove from heat. Add 1 1/2tsp vanilla. Pour mixture into the buttered pan. Let cool overnight. Remove from pan. Cut into squares. Wrap pieces in waxed paper.

 

 

4. Hard Ball-–The hard ball or nougat stage is reached when the candy thermometer reads 250 °F.

Coffee Caramels

Lightly grease and line bottom and sides of 9 x 13. In a large heavy saucepan, combine…

  •   2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely ground espresso powder
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups light corn syrup

Cook until mixture has reached a temperature of 250. Remove from heat. Stir in 1tsp vanilla and 1/2tsp sea salt. Pour mixture into prepared tray. Let sit overnight. Slice into 1 1/4″ squares. Wrap each piece in waxed paper.

Satisfying the Sweet Tooth

Holiday Desserts—Cakes

When I was growing up, my Mom made wedding cakes for almost every wedding in Notth Mississippi…our house constantly smelled like powdered sugar…the whirr of a KitchenAid mixer could be heard constantly…and there were always cake….My Dad and I used to race for the layer of cake that she levelled off the top of the cake before she began decorating her latest masterpiece…

CAKE POPS

Wish that I had known back then that mixing leftover crumbs with icing or chocolate and forming them into small spheres and sticking the balls onto lollipop sticks and coating them with icing or chocolate would become a multi-million dollar business and a true art form…Cake pops have become so popular because they are portable, easy to eat, and can be made in in all sorts of flavors and shapes…even Starbucks sells them…(for how much per cake pop(?!))…The cake pop craze began in 2008 when Angie Dudley posted a photo of  cupcake pops on her blog, Bakerella.Since that infamous blog post, she has written ten books—including Cake Pops: Tips, Tricks, and Recipes for More Than 40 Irresistible Mini Treats and Cake Pops Kit: New Projects and Old Favorites.You may also see video tutorials with Angie Dudley on her sister website, cake pop.com.Cake Pops: Tips, Tricks, and Recipes for More Than 40 Irresistible Mini Treats has become a New York Times best-selling book and has been printed in four languages. She has also worked with international corporations, including Target and Disney, and appeared on the Martha Stewart television show.

  1.  Another chef who has written a book about cake pops is Kris Galicia Brown…and Goods by K Creative website…
  2. Kris Galicia Brown is featured on this Crafty “Party Perfect Cake Pops” class…
  3. This Craftsy class is also featured on the Wilton website as part of an “educational” program that will teach you how to…
  4. Lesson 1: Learn how to access your FREE Craftsy mini-class.
  5. Lesson 2: Learn how to make, form and chill your cake pop base to create perfect spheres, and get inside tips.
  6. Lesson 3: Learn the trick to getting a smooth, even coating and the proper technique for dipping and decorating with sprinkles or sparkling sugar. Plus, learn to make multi-color pops with marbled, with a drizzled finish.
  7. Lesson 4: Learn to embellish cake pops with brush embroidery, hand painting, piping, and metallics. Create piped grass, leaves and stems, topped with premade 3-D flowers. Pipe scrolls and textured animal prints.
  8. Lesson 5: Learn to how to thin, shape and apply candy clay, aka modeling chocolate, petals around a pop to create beautiful, show-stopping blooms, flowers and ombré ruffles.

A third source is Crazy for Cake Pops: 50 All-New Delicious and Adorable Creations by Molly Bakes…(see her website here…Molly Bakes)…

How to Make Cake Cups—Any Flavor…Prepare and bake one package cake mix according to package directions, using greased 9×13. Cool completely on a wire rack.Remove the crusts of the cake with a sharp kitchen knife. Crumble the cake with your hands, as finely as possible, into a large mixing bowlMix 3/4C frosting into cake crumbs, one tablespoon at a time until you have a fudge-like texture.The mixture is ready whenever you squeeze a little of the mixture in your palm and it doesn’t crumble when squeezed in the palm of your hand.Adding too much frosting will make the cake balls simply fall off the stick when you dip them.

Place the mixture in a huge ziploc bag.Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Break off a ping pong ball-sized piece of the mixture.Roll into a ball with your palms. Place each ball on a tray lined with waxed paper. Refrigerate twenty minutes.

Insert a lollipop stick in each cake ball.Melt candy melts in microwaveDip each cake ball fully into the melted candy, allowing excess to drip off. Gently tap the cake pop over the bowl to remove any excess candy. Insert cake pops into a styrofoam block to stand until set.

Caramel Cake

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Prepare three 8″ round cake pans.

Cream together…

  • 1C butter
  • 2½C sugar
  • Add…
  • 2tsp vanilla
  • 4 eggs

Sift together…

  • 3¼C flour
  • 1Tbsp baking powder
  • ½tsp salt

Alternate between adding the flour mixture and 1¼C milk to batter.Divide batter between prepared pans.Bake 30 minutes.Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes.Invert cakes onto a cooling rack. Let cool completely while preparing frosting…

To make the frosting……Caramel Frosting—Microwave the following ingredients in microwave-safe bowl four minutes, stopping to stir at one-minute intervals….

  •  ½C butter
  • 2C dark brown sugar
  • 1/2C evaporated milk

Let mixture cool 15 minutes. Place in mixer. Add…

  • 6C powdered sugar
  • ½C softened butter

Mix until light and fluffy.

To frost the cake…Brush off crumb layer from sides and top of cake. Place one cake layer on a plate or cake stand. Spread 1 1/2 cups frosting over. Top with second layer. Spread frosting over top and sides. Chill at least 1 hour.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peppermint Buttercream Frosting

Prep…Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 muffin tins with cupcake liners.

Make the cupcakes…2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar, 3/4 cup cocoa powder, 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt, 3/4 cup buttermilk, 3/4 cup vegetable oil, 2 egg, 1 tsp vanilla, 3/4 cup hot coffee…Combine dry ingredients…flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Combine “wet” ingredients… buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Slowly pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Pour the hot coffee into the batter. Mix until just combined. Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 of the way full. Bake for about 18 minutes. Remove cupcakes from oven. Let cool completely before frosting.

Make the Peppermint Buttercream frosting… 1C butter, 4C powdered sugar, 1 tsp vanilla , 3/4tsp peppermint extract, 10 peppermint candies, crushed, pinch salt…Cream butter. Add powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, until thoroughly combined. Add vanilla, peppermint extract, and a pinch of salt. Sprinkle cupcakes with crushed peppermint candies just before serving.

 

COCONUT CAKE

Coconut is one of those foods that people either love or hate…yet most Southern chefs consider coconut cake as a necessity at every single holiday…especially the two holidays when people are most likely to attend church—Easter and Christmas.

The word “coconut” means “head” or “skull” in the 16th-century Portuguese and Spanish. The coconut fruit is named this because of the three indentations on the coconut shell that resemble facial features.Coconuts are kind of like shrimp….there can be a thousand and one ways to use them…making a list of different ways coconut can be used would be like the uses for shrimp named in the movie Forest Gump.

  •  Coconut butter refers to solidified coconut or certain specialty products, such as lotions and creams, made of coconut milk solids or puréed coconut meat and oil.
  •  Coconut chips are often sold in the tourist regions of Hawaii and the Caribbean.
  • Coconut flour has been developed for use in baking.
  • Coconut meat, the white, fleshy part of the seed is often used fresh or dried in cooking, especially in confections and desserts such as macaroons. Dried coconut is often used as the filling for chocolate bars such as Mounds and Almond Joy.
  • Coconut milk is made by by pressing grated coconut or passing hot water or milk through grated coconut in order to extract the juice. Coconut milk is frequently added to curries and other savory dishes.
  • Coconut oil is commonly used in cooking.can be found in liquid form and used like you would use any other type of vegetable oil… or in solid form and used like you would use butter or lard.
  • Coconut seed provide oil for frying, cooking, and making margarine.
  • Coconut vinegar can be made by allowing coconut water to ferment.
  • Coconut water is a common beverage in the tropics that consists of water and developing coconut meat. Coconut water contains 19 calories per 100-gram serving and contains no significant amounts of essentials nutrients…even though marketed as a sports drink.

Coconuts can be found growing in the states of Hawaii and Florida…as well as Texas and California even though trees often are killed or fail to produce edible fruit because of extended periods of time in the winter when temperatures stay below 50 °F.

  1. Coconut Cake

Preheat oven to 350. Pull out a 10″ tube pan with removable bottom. Original recipe said not to grease your pan, but I am in the habit of always greasing the pan whenever I am baking.

In the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed, beat together…

  • 14 large eggs
  • 1/2C warm water

Beat until foamy. Then add…

  • 1/2tsp salt
  • 1 1/2tsp cream of tartar
  • 2tsp vanilla

Beat until soft peaks form. Increase speed to medium-high. Slowly add 1 1/2C superfine sugar. Beat until stiff but not dry.

Sift together…

  • 1C flour
  • 3/4C sugar

Gradually add dry ingredients to mixing bowl. Pour batter into pan. Smooth top with an offset spatula. Run a knife through batter to release air bubbles. Bake for 40min. Let cake cool for about an hour before frosting. Frost cake with Seven-Minute Frosting. (Recipe below).  Top with 4C shredded coconut.

Seven-Minute Frosting

In the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer set over a saucepan of simmering water, combine…

  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1 1/4C sugar
  • 5Tbsp cold water
  • 1/4tsp cream of tartar

Cook over medium heat, whisking frequently, for 5 minutes. Attach the bowl to a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the mixture on high speed for 7 minutes. Add 1tsp vanilla

Devil’s Food Cake

Devil’s Food Cake…a symbol of the decadence of sin in which evil, fallen angels may tempt people to indulge…or simply eat five pieces of cake at one sitting.

One famous Devil’s Food Cake recipe is the Wellesley Fudge Cake, named after Wellesley College, the very prim-and-proper college featured in the movie Mona Lisa Smile.

In 1876, Wellesley College sent out a circular telling parents that a proper diet was crucial for proper learning…and Wellesley College would no longer accept students who “are broken down in health”… and did not pledge to neither buy or receive “any confectionery or eatables of any kind not provided for them by the College.”

The pamphlet clearly stated that…“Pies, Lies, and Doughnuts should never have a place in Wellesley College”.Yet candy-making was an acceptable activity at the college, and the girls often stayed up late making candy—such as Wellesley Fudge—and talking about boys and other tabboo subjects.

In 1909, Baker’s Chocolates published a cookbook containing three different fudge recipes— named after Vassar, Smith, and Wellesley colleges…this publication eventually led to the creation of the Wellesley Fudge Cake—a deeply decadent chocolate cake topped with a slab of fudge frosting that was commonly served in tearooms surrounding the college.

What a temptating and delightfully sinful, delicious, moist, airy, rich chocolate layer cake… different from ordinary chocolate cakes because the cake traditionally uses…

  • –baking soda…to make the cake a deeper, darker mahogany color
  • –coffee…to enhance the chocolate flavor
  • –less egg than other chocolate cakes
  • –more chocolate than a regular chocolate cake
  • –unsweetened chocolate baking squares instead of cocoa powder

Wellesley Fudge Cake

Cake Ingredients…

    • 2 sticks butter
    • 2C sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 2 1/2C flour
    • 2tsp baking soda
    • 1tsp baking powder
    • 1/2tsp salt
    • 1C room-temp buttermilk
    •  1/2C cocoa powder
    • 3/4C hot water
    • 2tsp vanilla

Frosting Ingredients…

    • 1-1/2C brown sugar
    • 1/2C evaporated milk
    • 4Tbsp butter
    • 1/2tsp salt
    • 1/2C evaporated milk
    • 4Tbsp butter
    • 8oz. bittersweet chocolate chips
    • 1tsp vanilla
    • 3C powdered sugar

1. Prep…Preheat oven to 350. Prep two 8″ square baking pans. Line with parchment paper.

2. Make the cake…Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add flour mixture, alternating with buttermilk. Dissolve cocoa powder in hot water. Add cocoa mixture and 2tsp vanilla to batter.

3. Bake the cake…Pour batter into the prepared pans. Bake 30 minutes. Let cool completely.

4. Make the frosting…Stir together brown sugar, evaporated milk, butter, and salt. Cook in saucepan over medium heat for 5min. Reduce the heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in evaporated milk and butter. Let mixture cool slightly. Stir in chocolate chips and vanilla. Whisk in powdered sugar.

5. Assemble and serve…Let both the cake and the frosting cool to room temperature. Stack cake layers with frosting between the layers. Spread remaining frosting evenly over the top and sides of the cake. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Lemon Cake

Preparing to Bake…Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 2 9″ round cake pans. Line bottoms with parchment paper. Butter the paper.

Making the Batter…Cream together…4 eggs…1tsp vanilla… 2tsp lemon zest…1Tbsp lemon juice…1 1/2C sugar. Sift together 2 1/4C flour…1Tbsp baking powder…1tsp salt. Add to batter.

Baking the Cake…Divide batter evenly between prepared pans. Bake 30min. Cool cakes in the pans for 10 minutes. Then invert the cakes onto a wire rack to cool completely. Place one cooled cake layer on a cake plate. Generously spread 1/3C lemon curd over the top. Add next layer of cake.

Make the Frosting: Whip 1 1/2C heavy whipping cream…3Tbsp sugar. Gently fold in 3Tbsp lemon curd. Frost the top and sides with the whipped lemon cream frosting. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Thanksgiving Day means so much more than watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and football games and eating like the true Southerners many of us are.But so often we as parents and grandparents fail to teach our kids the true importance and symbolism of the Thanksgiving holiday.Perhaps the best way to remind our kids, as well as ourselves, of what Thanksgiving is really about this year would be to start new traditions that place the emphasis back on what Thanksgiving really means—things such as faith, family, and community—in fun, creative ways.One tradition that our family is going to start this year is our own “Sacher Tablecloth”

 The Sacher Tablecloth is a part of the legacy of the Sacher hotel in Vienna, birth place of “The Original Sacher-Torte.”

The story behind the Sachertorte…In 1832, Franz Sacher, had been working as the sixteen-year-old apprentice of the personal chef of Prince Wenzel von Metternich.

 A recipe for Sachertorte and more information about the cake can be found here on the website of the King Arthur Flour Company.

Prince Wenzel von Metternich requested that his chef create a special dessert for several important guests, but the head chef got sick and turned the task over to Franz Sacher instead.

The Sachertorte supposedly delighted Prince Metternich’s guests, but the dessert received no immediate further attention.

Eduard Sacher, the son of Franz Sacher, carried on his father’s culinary legacy and completed his own apprenticeship in Vienna with the Royal and Imperial Pastry Chef at the Demel bakery and chocolatier. During this time he perfected his father’s recipe and developed the torte into its current form.   In 1873 Eduard Sacher opened his first restaurant on Kärntner Straße. In 1876 Eduard Sacher established the Hotel Sacher.  In 1880 Eduard Sacher married Anna Fuchs, the daughter of a butcher.

Anna Sacher became known as the “grande dame” of the Vienna hospitality industry. She was well known for her constantly smoking cigars, her hobby of breeding French bulldogs, her commercial skills, and her eccentricity.    Anna Sacher established the Sacher into one of the finest hotels in the world and a favourite meeting place of celebrities, aristocracy, and diplomats. She reigned the roost for nearly forty years…from the year 1880 when she married into the Sacher family…until the year 1930 when she passed away while in her suite at the Sacher Hotel. Anna Sacher knew that the prominent guests that ate and visited the hotel were her best means of advertising for the Sacher Hotel and her own calling card to fame.

Famous guests that have dined or visited the hotel over the decades include Emperor Franz Joseph…King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson…Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip…Prince Rainier III of Monaco and Grace Kelly…President John F. Kennedy…Leonard Bernstein…Plácido Domingo, and John Lennon.

One evening after an evening meal held for a departing archduke, Anna Sacher sent her head waiter to get a fresh tablecloth. Anna Sacher invited her one hundred guests—including Archduke Franz Ferdinand…Crown Prince Rudolf…Archdukes Ferdinand, Karl Wilhelm, Ludwig Viktor, Karl Stephan, Leopold and Franz Salvator…King Milan and his son Alexander of Serbia…and Grand Duke Nikolajewitsch of Russia—to sign their names on the tablecloth. Soon she embroidered the names, washed out the ink, and hung the cloth on the wall of the restaurant for all to admire.

 Your own family also needs at least one such legendary Sacher tablecloth of its own…with the signatures of all the rulers(?!), queens, princes, and princesses in your own royal blood line to enjoy not only this Thanksgiving, but for who-knows-how-many-more Thanksgivings to come…and perhaps even hang on the wall of the dining room for all to admire.

So this year, encourage each of the kids, and the adult kids, at your Thanksgiving dinner to sign and date the tablecloth, using fabric markers…(explaining that this does not mean signing every real tablecloth that they see from that day forward)…

Honestly wish that I had started this thirty years when Kurt and I first got married so that our grandparents’ names and my Dad’s name were embroidered on the tablecloth also…

Sacher Torte

Prep: Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 9″ round cake pan with cooking spray and line with parchment. Spritz the parchment lightly as well.

Make the cake batter…Melt 1C bittersweet chocolate in microwave.Beat 8 eggs yolks.Add melted chocolate, 1/2C melted butter, 1tsp vanilla.Beat 8 egg whites, 1/8tsp salt until they begin to foam.Slowly add 3/4C sugar.Beat on high speed until whites hold a stiff peak but are still glossy.Add 1C King Arthur Unbleached Cake Flour Blend

Bake the cake…Pour the batter into the pan(s). Bake 45 minutes. Remove from oven. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Turn onto wire rack to cool completely. Be sure to peel off the parchment circle while the cake is still warm.

Fill the cake: Split the cake layer horizontally, using a long, sharp serrated knife. Strain 1/2C apricot jam through a fine sieve to remove any bits of fruit and make a smooth filling. Spread onto cake.

Make the glaze..Place the filled cake on a wire rack over a parchment lined baking sheet. Melt 1C bittersweet chocolate in the microwave. Add 1C boiling water. Pour glaze over the cake.

Torta Caprese

Torta caprese is a traditional flourless chocolate and almond or walnut cake that originated and is popular on the Italian island of Capri.

Torta caprese was first created by the hospitality industry of the island of Capri and is commonly served in tea rooms to tourists.Italian desserts are often known for being simple, yet elegant.

The only ingredients in Torta caprese are eggs, butter, chocolate, and almonds caprese actually replaces the ordinary and expected flour with ground almonds…giving the cake a unique taste and making it a great dessert for those who cannot eat gluten.

Torta caprese would make a sweet ending to any otherwise elaborate menu…especially served with a dusting of powdered sugar, whipped cream, and fresh raspberries.

Torta Caprese

1. Prep. Preheat oven to 325ºF. Butter 9″ springform pan. Line bottom of pan with a circle of parchment paper.

2. Make the batter.

—Grind 2c almonds… 6Tbsp sugar in food processor.
—Melt 8oz coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate…2 sticks butter in microwave.
—Beat 6 egg yolks with electric mixer for 5 minutes.
—Add…10Tbsp sugar…chocolate mixture…ground almonds.
—Beat 6 egg whites…1/4C sugar.until they form firm peaks.
—Fold egg whites into the chocolate mixture.

3. Bake the cake.—Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake for 1 1/2 hours. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove sides of the springform pan. Let cool completely before serving.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Senoritas with Pepitas and Margaritas

Fresh pumpkins, like fresh coconuts, can often be a “pain in the butt” and is something that most of us are going to do very rarely…like probably once a year at Halloween.

So the very few times that we do actually chop the head off and then dive into its “skull” with a metal object, let’s be sure to take full advantage of this moment.

By gathering the seeds and roasting them.

(Sure, I know you can buy pumpkin seed all year long, but we are trying to progress into a zero-waste country, so how dare you simply throw them away?)

Those pumpkin seeds that so many of us simply throw away actually make a healthy, delicious snack…not to mention a key ingredient in many gourmet entrees—especially in countries of Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean.

1.Choosing Your Pumpkin…You can roast the seeds of any pumpkin, but if you’re actually going to cook with the pumpkin, be sure to read my previous posts.

2. Finding the Rest of the Stuff That You Will NeedIn addition to the obvious pumpkin, you will need a sharp knife, an ice cream scoop, a colander, and a towel..

3. Prepping the PumpkinHow you get your seeds out of your pumpkin depends on what you are planning to do with the pumpkin itself.

Attack the pumpkin from the top If you’re planning on carving your pumpkin to make a jack o’ lantern. Slice the pumpkin in half if you’re planning on roasting it.

Regardless of how you dive into your pumpkin, now use an ice cream scoop to start scraping out the pumpkin guts. In order to get all of the seeds, you’re probably gonna have to actually get your hands into the gooey mess also.

Collect the seeds in a colander as you get them out.

Once you have collected all, or at least most, of the seeds, rinse your seeds under cold running water to remove any pulp and fiber.

Pat the washed seeds dry with paper towels as you are sreading them out on a ungreased 15 x 10 x 1 inch baking pan.

Toss the seeds with melted butter, Himalayan or other natural salt, and pepper.

If you want youtr pumpkin seeds to have more flavor, you could also sprinkle them with grated Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, brown sugar, cinnamon, Cajun seasoning, and/or whatever else you want.

Stir to coat.

4. Prepping the Oven…Preheat oven to 350°F.

5. Pre-boilingMany people boil their pumpkin seeds before roasting them in order to make them  extra crispy, but this can be skipped if you need to.

6. Baking…Roast the pumpkin seeds at about 200 degrees for about twenty minutes, or until light golden brown and crisp, stirring once. You could also “roast” your pumpkin seeds in the microwave . To do this, place them in a single layer in a glass pie plate. Microwave them for about two or three  minutes, stirring after each minute, until the seeds are dry and crunchy.

7. Cooling…Cool at least ten minutes before serving.

8. Storing…Once you have roasted your pumpkin seeds and allowed them to cool, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The seeds are usually best within the first two months, even though they may stay edible for several months.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

It’s Apple Pickin’ Time

Okay, now that we’ve established the fact that in order to take care of an awesome type 2 diabetic husband, “resident four year old,” and whoever else may be surrounding our tables or grabbing whatever food they can find to eat in surplus===such as my college daughter….

…we’ve also decided that one way that we can start converting all of our collected Southern Living and Paula recipes into healthier alternatives is by baking with applesauce…

And now that another goal of mine is to start slowly weeding out all processed foods from our diet, I’ve also decided to make and can my own applesauce…and apple butter…

Wait, did I say that I was gonna actually “can” something?!

My mom will be so shocked—kinda like the day that I told her that I had bought my very first sewing machine and she thought to herself that I’d never sew a straight stitch in my life…(now quilting is my favorite hobby…more on that later)…

But if I’m ever going to actually make applesauce or apple butter, there’s obviously one very important ingredient that I’m gonna need…

APPLES!!

Big Deal…So go get you some apples…

Wish it were that simple…wish apples came with two options—red or green…

But it isn’t?

If I send my daughter out to get apples, she’d soon be calling me to ask which ones…

If I order apples from Instacart, ,I’ll have to first surf and see which apple variety to order.

So my goal in these three upcoming posts are to show…

  1. How to select apples
  2. How to store apples
  3. Which variety to choose for what

…,and then share a few of my very favorite apple recipes…

Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Baking with Applesauce

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Being the wife of a type 2 diabetic makes you reconsider the old ways that you have learned to cook, not only in WHAT you cook, but also in HOW you cook.

You become more aware of the amount of saturated fats, sugar, and calories contained in your baked goods.

For example, check out these facts about the nutritional value of Paula Deen’s Sour Cream Pound Cake found in my last post. I’ve been making this cake for about thirty-five years my self and eating it for about fifty, but never stopped to really think about the ingredients until here lately.

But still, being from the Deep South, I absolutely love to bake and would gladly put my sour cream pound cake in competition with anyone else’s at any upcoming state fair this fall.

But how do I still manage to make moist, delicious baked goods that will rival any competitors while also keeping my type 2 diabetic husband’s blood sugar and cholesterol levels in line?

One way is by replacing some of the fat called for in cookie and cake recipes with applesauce.

So this holiday baking season, I plan on making at least some of my traditional recipes using applesauce so that at least some of my offerings will contain less sugar and perhaps even healthy(?!)…since apples have been shown to have great health benefits.—such as helping to prevent cancer, reducing your risk of cardiovascular difficulties, acting as an antioxidant, and diminishing the effects of bad cholesterol.