Heather’s Favorite Posts

Today it’s time for me to share some of my favorite posts from the past year. To me, favorite post means beautiful and delicious. Here the ones I chose:

Giant Strawberry Shortcake: I love this fresh turn on an old favorite that makes for an easy, elegant dessert.

Farmer’s Market: Pictures from the farmer’s market always inspire me. This post was full of such pictures.

Good to the Grain Strawberry Jam Scones: I was surprise at how delicious these barley scones were. They instantly became a favorite.

Sweet and Spicy Citrus Tilapia: This was an easy but sensational way  to cook fish.

Potato Salad: I had so much fun reviewing the potato salad cookbook that I couldn’t stop making various kinds.

King’s Cake: I had never heard of King’s Cake until this year. It was surprisingly easy and so delicious. We enjoyed it several times.

By far, the recipe that I use the most from this past year is Alaina’s Green Beans and Walnuts with Lemon Vinaigrette. I use the sauce (minus the shallots and walnuts) almost every week. I put it on green beans most frequently, but it is also good on broccoli. Everyone who tastes it loves it!

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Off The Shelf: Milk

In keeping with our dairy theme this week, I have a wonderful book on milk to suggest to you.

Milk: The Surprising Story of Milk Through the Ages with 120 Adventurous Recipes that Explore the Riches of Our First Food by Anne Mendelson is an enjoyable and educational read about one of the most basic building blocks of our modern, western diet.

Mendelson begins the book with a short history of how and when animals began to be milked for human consumption, culminating in a chapter on “modern milk” and how we have arrived at the milk we buy at the average grocery store today.

Included in the first part of the book are some helpful exercises to perform with milk to begin to get a handle on what Mendelson calls “milk chemistry.” She explains how milk is an aqueous (water-based) solution, a suspension, and also an emulsion. She discusses pasteurization, homogenization, and fermentation.

Once the history and chemistry of milk is on the table, Mendelson turns to recipes, conveniently categorized under Fresh Milk and Cream, Yogurt, Cultured Milk and Cream, Butter and True Buttermilk, and Fresh Cheeses. Each recipe chapter begins with a discussion and definition of each of these “milk products.” The recipes that follow also contain detailed introductions and histories, adding to your knowledge of this food with every paragraph.

I would highly recommend this book for any who are interested in doing more with milk (yogurt, cheese, etc.) or for those who are curious about something that may make up a large part of their diet. The suggested recipes will open your eyes to the wide variety of possibilities contained in milk, many of which are little known in the United States.

I decided to try a simple Panna Cotta for our Sunday dessert. I was surprised at how easy it was to mix up and how delightful a dessert it made with its silky texture and hint of lemon. It’s definitely something I will be making again.

PANNA COTTA
(from Milk)
Print this recipe

1 envelope (2 1/4 tsp.) unflavored granulated gelatin
1 cup milk
2 cups heavy cream (or half heavy, half light cream)
1/2 cup sugar (3/4 cup if you like it sweet)
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest (optional)
1 to 2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice (optional) — I skipped this

Put the gelatin in a small saucepan with the milk and cream. Add the sugar, salt, and optional lemon zest and juice; heat gently, stirring to dissolve the gelatin and sugar thoroughly. If using ultrapasteurized cream, do not quite let it boil. Otherwise, bring just to a boil and remove from the heat. (Make sure the gelatin is dissolved; if necessary, reheat briefly.) If you wish, pour through a fine-mesh strainer to remove the shreds of lemon zest. Let the mixture cool slightly.

Have ready six lightly oiled 6-ounce or 4-ounce heatproof glass custard cups. Pour in the mixture and refrigerate until set, 3 to 4 hours. (If keeping longer, cover with plastic wrap; it’s best eaten within a day.) Unmold by briefly dipping the bottom of each cup in hot water, then inverting onto a serving plate. Serve with lightly sweetened fresh fruit or a pureed fruit sauce like raspberry coulis.

(Note: I thawed about two cups of raspberries and added a few spoons of sugar before spooning this impromptu sauce over the unmolded panna cotta.)

Serves 6.

Baker’s Delight: Citrus Desserts

I LOVE citrus desserts. I grew up enjoying lemon glaze cake, lemon meringue pie and more. The combination of sweet and tart is delightful.

These orange brownies were unbelievable!There is no chocolate in them – they are simply a dessert bar. We will definitely make them again for a wonderful treat!

ORANGE BROWNIES
(slighly adapted from Paula Deen)

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 c. (2 sticks) butter, softened
4 eggs
2 tsp. pure orange extract (I didn’t have this so I used 2 tsp. orange juice and 1 tsp. of a citrus extract)
Zest of one orange
1 recipe Orange Cream Cheese Frosting, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9×13 pan.

Stir together flour, granulated sugar, and salt in a bowl. Add butter, eggs, orange extract, and orange zest. Using a handheld electric mixer, beat until well blended. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until light golden brown and set. Remove from oven, allow to cool and pierce entire cake with a fork. Spread the Orange Cream Cheese Frosting over completely cooled brownies. Cut into squares. Store in the refrigerator.

ORANGE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
4 Tb. butter, softened 
1 (1-lb.) box confectioners’ sugar (3-4 c.) 
 zest of one orange 
2 Tb. fresh squeezed orange juice

In a large mixing bowl, whip the butter and cream cheese together with a hand-held electric mixer. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until it is all combined and smooth. Beat in the orange zest and juice. Spread over brownies.

I’ve not been a huge fan of key lime desserts until the last few years. This key lime cheesecake is delicious. It’s light and creamy and the fresh squeezed limes make it so fresh. I like to garnish this with fresh whipped cream, fresh lime slices, and white chocolate curls.


KEY LIME CHEESECAKE

CRUST:
1 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs
6 Tb. butter, melted

FILLING:
24 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 c. white sugar
1 Tb. cornstarch
3 eggs
1 Tb. grated lime zest
2/3 c. key lime juice

Combine cookie or graham cracker crumbs with butter or margarine. Press into bottom and partially up sides of 9 inch springform pan. Refrigerate.

In a large bowl, beat with an electric mixer the cream cheese, sugar, lime peel, and cornstarch until smooth and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, blending just until smooth. Add key lime juice with mixer on low. Finish mixing by hand. Do not overbeat, or cake will crack during baking. Pour batter into prepared crust.

Bake at 300 degrees for 55 to 65 min., or until set. To minimize cracking, place a shallow pan half full of hot water on lower rack during baking.

Turn oven off, and let cheesecake stand in oven 30 min. with the door open at least 4 in. Remove from oven. Refrigerate cake overnight, and up to three days.

This cake is so lemon-y! We all loved it! I served it topped with blueberry sauce but it’s great by itself, too. It’s like a pound cake.

LEMON CAKE
(Ina Garten)

1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 c. granulated sugar, divided
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 c. grated lemon zest (6 to 8 large lemons)
3 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
3/4 c. buttermilk, at room temperature
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

GLAZE:
2 c. powdered sugar, sifted
3 1/2 Tb. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 2 (8 1/2 x 4 1/4 x 2 1/2-in.) loaf pans. You may also line the bottom with parchment paper, if desired.

Cream the butter and 2 cups granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy, about 5 min. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, and the lemon zest.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine 1/4 c. lemon juice, the buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide the batter evenly between the pans, smooth the tops, and bake for 45 min. to 1 hr., until a cake tester comes out clean.

Combine 1/2 c. granulated sugar with 1/2 c. lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. When the cakes are done, allow to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans and set them on a rack set over a tray or sheet pan; spoon the lemon syrup over them. Allow the cakes to cool completely.

For the glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar and the lemon juice in a bowl, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth. Pour over the tops of the cakes and allow the glaze to drizzle down the sides.

BLUEBERRY SAUCE
3 c. fresh or frozen blueberries
1/4 c. sugar
juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 tsp. cornstarch

Combine all ingredients and cook over medium heat until bubbly and thickened.

Gourmet Gifts & Giveaway

**UPDATED: Black Friday Winners! The winner of the notecards is Ruth & the winner of the cookbook is Elizabeth! I will be contacting you via e-mail. Congrats! We hope you enjoy!**

We decided that for the month of December we would use Fridays to focus on gourmet gift mixes and then to add to the holiday cheer, we would also include a giveaway!

This week, I wanted to give you a couple of mix recipes for baked goods. Be creative with your packaging and to give the gifts an extra touch, consider adding a wooden spoon, a new cookie sheet, cookies cutters, a baking pan, or even a box of tea or some coffee. Tie them with a nice ribbon and include a tag that gives the instructions for using the mix.

DOUBLE-FUDGE BROWNIE MIX
(The Perfect Mix, by: Diane Phillips)

2 c. sugar
1 c. cocoa
1 c. flour
1 c. chopped pecans
1 c. chocolate chips

Mix all the ingredients together and store in an airtight container.

To Make:
1 c. butter
4 eggs
1 package of the Double-Fudge Brownie Mix

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9×13 pan. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the Double-Fudge Brownie Mix, and continue to beat the mixture until it is smooth. Spread the mixture into the greased pan, and bake for 40-50 minutes.

SCOTTISH SHORTBREAD MIX
(The Perfect Mix, by: Diane Phillips)

1 1/2 c. flour
3/4 c. powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. salt

Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container

To Make:
1 c. butter, softened
1 package Scottish Shortbread Mix

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Knead the butter into the shortbread mix and press the mixture firmly into an 8-inch pie plate, or shortbread mold. Bake for 1 hour. The shortbread should be pale in color, not browned. Cut into wedges while still warm.

Now for today’s giveaway! I’m a bit sorry to be passing this one on! I’ve made a couple of recipes that have been delicious. The first was the Pumpkin Bars last month and the second was the Brown Sugar Almond Cookies yesterday. Cookies Year-Round is divided by season. It is a flip book which is very handy. It includes 50 recipes with pictures and great information. The winner of this giveaway will receive the book and a set of 6 Wilton Christmas cookie cutters.

To enter: Please leave 1 comment telling us your favorite thing to make at the holidays or a recipe that you would like to see featured! That’s it! 1 entry per person. We will leave it open through Monday and hopefully I will be on it enough to post a winner on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Baker’s Delight: Cookies!

‘Tis the season of cookies and candy and such, so I’m sharing several cookies recipes that use a variety of techniques!

LEMON BUTTER SPRITZ
(Taste of Home)

2 cups butter, softened
1-1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
Grated peel of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Colored sugar

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, lemon peel, lemon juice and vanilla. Combine flour and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well.

Using a cookie press fitted with the disk of your choice (I really like my Pampered Chef one!), press dough 1 in. apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Sprinkle with colored sugar.

Bake at 400° for 8-10 minutes or until lightly brown around the edges. Yield: about 12 dozen.

MEXICAN WEDDING CAKES
(This dough is a bit crumbly – press together to form cookies.)

1/4 lb. butter
1/3 c. powdered sugar
1 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. vanilla
powdered sugar for rolling

Cream together butter and sugar. Add flour and vanilla. Roll small balls of dough and place on cookie sheet to b ake. Bake about 10 min. just before turning brown. Roll immediately into powdered sugar.

Make 1 1/2 – 2 dozen.

BROWN SUGAR ALMOND COOKIES
(Cookies Year-Round)

1/2 c. unblanched almonds
1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. shortening
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. light brown sugar, packed
1 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/4 c. flour

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Arrange the almonds on a baking sheet in a single layer and toast for 10 minutes or until they are colored. Remove the almonds from the oven and turnoff the oven. Cool the almonds slightly, then process in a food processor until very finely chopped.

In the bowl, of an electric mixer set on medium speed, beat the butter, shortening, and both sugars until creamy. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, baking soda, egg, and vanilla and beat until combined. Beat in the flour. Stir in the chopped almonds.

Shape the dough into two 6-7 inch-long rolls. Refrigerate, wrapped in plastic, for at least 6 hours or preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove the rolls from the refrigerator and unwrap them. With a sharp knife, cute each roll into 30 slices. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the cookies are golden brown on the bottom. Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheets for 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 2 months.

Makes 5 dozen cookies.