Sweet Traditions in the Making

Sweet Traditions in the Making

This was so going to be a post about Thanksgiving side dishes…. And then… I had the blessing of having both granddaughters join me on what happened to be National Bread Day this Sunday.

Mallory, 13 and Bookie, 2 have a huge age difference between them, but share a common love for me – reminds me of Sally Field in Soapdish and that line, “they really, really love me!…”

Here’s how making our precious memories together went down. I was looking for something to write about for Monday’s blog, and Mallory inspired me by her quest to bake something. She was looking for edible cookie dough or at the very least, a chocolate cookie skillet.

But Jorj.com just posted a bunch of cookie stuff….soooo, we decided on baking bread instead. Thanks to just placing an order with Carolina Ground, and having a lot of flour on hand, we had an absolute blast.

We baked my recipe, A Tale of Two Loves from Canvas and Cuisine and swirled the bread with a layer of my last jar of highly coveted apple butter.

Totally worth it!

Sweet Mallory spent hours with Brooke in between dough rises, and sweet Brooke abandoned her nap to rise to the grown-girl challenge. Does it get any better than this? I’m not sure. Coming into Thanksgiving, this is what I give thanks for. And I hope you cherish your family moments too.

Oh, and P.S. When you bake this bread, feel free to add a tablespoon of your favorite spice mix to the flour, like apple pie spice, gingerbread spice, or pumpkin pie spice!

A Tale of Two Loaves

makes 2 yummy loaves

20 minute cuisine, plus 2 hours to rise and 30 minutes to bake

2 cups milk, warmed on the stove top

1 large egg, beaten

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon natural cane sugar

2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast, 1 package

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 ½ cups white or whole-wheat bread flour

2 ½ to 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Stir the beaten egg into the warm milk. Stir in the sugars. Sprinkle the yeast over the top and stir.  Let sit for 5 minutes.

Place the melted butter, salt and whole-wheat flour into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Pour in the wet ingredients. Stir, on slow to medium speed, until the flour and milk are combined. Add the all-purpose flour, about ½ cup at a time gradually increasing the speed of the mixer to form a soft, wet dough. This process will take you about 5 minutes. Once the dough wraps around the hook, continue mixing until you have a smooth, shiny ball of dough wrapped around the dough hook, about 6 to 8 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a large bowl that has been coated with vegetable oil spray. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm place for 1 ½ hours to rise. I use my warming drawer set on the proof setting for this.

Coat 2 (8 ½ x 4 ½ x 2 ½-inch) loaf pans with vegetable oil. THIS IS IMPORTANT! If the pans are larger, your dough may not rise. If your pans are smaller, the dough may not cook properly.

Turn the dough out onto a floured board. Punch the dough down and shape into two round loaves. Place each loaf into a pan. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 30 to 45 minutes. If you are adding mix-ins into your loaf, now is the time. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured board. Fold in your favorite items. (Mine is a brushing of melted butter with cinnamon and brown sugar.) Shape the dough into a loaf and continue with the recipe.

Preheat the oven to 375°. Bake the bread until the tops are golden and the bread sounds hollow when you tap it, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks.

 

‘Just a little something’ Cookies Inspired by my BFF Doreen

‘Just a little something’ Cookies Inspired by my BFF Doreen

 

My late best friend, Doreen was known for sporting an evil grin when, after almost every restaurant meal we had together, she’d look at the waiter and slyly ask for just a little something… perhaps a cookie for dessert? This was her way of taking a pass on that big bowl of Carolina fruit crumble, or New York style cheesecake – even if we were in the Deep South or the Big Apple at the time. She must have known there was a law and she was breaking it!

Her favorite just a little something cookies, were biscotti dipped in her cappuccino. Second favorite, were shortbread cookies.

SAMSUNG

She may be gone, but her habits live on in my world and make me miss her every day. I find myself craving just a little something after most meals too, and love that I can have a cookie, with my espresso late in the afternoon. I JUST LIKE COOKIES!

These days, I bake my own cookies rather than enjoy them dining out. I like having cookies in the cookie jar. I like sharing them with people that come around the house. I especially like taking home-baked cookies as a hostess gift when asked to dinner. My grandkids look forward to Nana’s cookies when they come over.

It’s all good, but it can always get better!

During a recent trip to the Spice and Tea Exchange, I sniffed one of their specialty sugars and got a wild idea. The sugar is wild berry and it really smelled like berries. A quick sample and yah… there is a distinctive berry taste! It was then I got the idea…. Berries and chocolate…. Chocolate and berries…. a chocolate cookie topped with wild berry sugar.

Next, I took things to a deep, dark place. A deep, dark chocolate place, I mean. I ordered black cocoa from King Arthur’s to make these the most chocolatey cookies I could bake!

Black cocoa powder is made through a process called Dutching – when the cocoa beans are washed with a potassium solution, which neutralizes the acidity of the beans. Natural cocoa powder is made from beans that are roasted and then pulverized into cocoa powder. Most supermarket brands of cocoa powder, like Hershey’s and Nestle are natural cocoa powders.

Dutching cocoa powder makes it darker and can help mellow the flavor of the beans. Therefore, extra Dutching creates black cocoa powder. Think about those dark chocolate wafer cookies that you find in ice box cake recipes or the outside of an Oreo cookie. These contain black cocoa. Most recipes suggest that you blend in black cocoa powder instead of totally swapping it out.

Long story short, these cookies are perfect with an afternoon latte, spot-on to offer to the delivery guy when he brings you your second Amazon box of the day, special to pass around to friends and as Doreen would say, it’s perfect when you’re looking for just a little something.

Dark Chocolate Cookies

With Wild Blueberry Sugar

Makes about 3 dozen

About 1 ½ hours until you are chomping on a cookie!

 

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup unsalted butter, 2 sticks, room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

½ cup dark brown sugar

⅓ cup cocoa powder

⅓ cup black cocoa powder

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 tablespoons wild blueberry sugar (substitute with granulated sugar)

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Use an electric mixer to combine the butter and sugars until soft and fluffy. Stir in the cocoa powders, eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flours in three additions until well combined (no white flour showing). Stir in the mini chips.

Divide the dough in half. Roll each piece into a log and wrap in plastic wrap. Place in the fridge to chill for at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Remove one log from the fridge and slice into ¼-inch rounds. Place each slice onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle each round with sugar. Bake until the cookies are just firm to the touch, about 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool.

 

 

 

Apple Butter Time!

Apple Butter Time!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again! I just can’t get enough of Fall Festival time in the mountains. There is a festival weekend for October Fest (with sausages and kraut), one for Wooley Worms (these furry insects race UP a tight rope!), one for pumpkin patches and corn mazes, one whole month dedicated to the Wizard of Oz and my personal favorite, a festival dedicated to apples!

The Valle Country Fair in Banner Elk is such a place. I visited on a cool, crisp autumn day where my breath blew out steam, and my hands were shoved into my pockets. I didn’t shiver long.

As soon as my gal pals and I walked into the fair, we beelined for the home made apple cider station and helped ourselves to a heaping cup of warm cider. It’s produced the old-fashioned way using a wooden press and aluminum wash bowls to collect the juice.

After that we wandered through the rows of craft booths spying everything from hand carved wooden bowls and cutting boards, to personalized nursery rhyme music CD’s, to gourds turned into Santa faces, to ceramic treasures like those of Triple C Pottery where I bought a set of the cutest bowls…

But, the absolute best, longest wait in line, and most expensive item at the fair is a fresh, warm jar of apple butter, lovingly prepared by the members of the church in huge, steaming pots over wood fires.

The cinnamon-gingery aroma lures you to the booth, where you queue up to spend $8 a jar. Along the way, you make new friends, exchange recipes and meet a guy with a chicken hat on his head (the legs move up and down!) You are only allowed several jars of the golden apple butter, and I usually max out the limit.

Apple butter is terrific on a warm biscuit, sensational on banana bread, exceptional as a condiment alongside roasted pork and delicioso in my apple butter cake that I dedicate to the hard-working church members and schoolteachers of Holy Cross Episcopal Church.

Apple Butter Cake

With Cream Cheese Frosting

Serves a crowd

60 Minute Cuisine

For Cake:

1 ½ cups pastry flour

1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 ½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature, 2 sticks

1 cup brown sugar

¾ cup natural cane sugar

3 large eggs

1 ½ cups apple butter

For Frosting:

2 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 cups cream cheese, room temperature, 2 8-ounces packages

½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature, 1 stick

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 to 2 tablespoons milk (as needed to thin frosting)

1 cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350°. Coat two 9 x 9-inch (you can certainly change the size of the pan if you choose) cake pans with vegetable oil spray. Place a layer of parchment paper in the bottom of each pan and coat the paper.

Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a small bowl.

Use an electric mixer to combine 1 cup butter with both sugars until fluffy. Mix in the eggs. Pour in ⅓ of the flour mixture followed by ½ cup of the apple butter. Mix well and continue alternating ingredients until all the flour and apple butter are mixed into the batter. Spread the batter into the two pans. Bake until a tester inserted into the cake comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool the cakes in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully invert the cakes onto a rack. Remove the parchment paper and cool the cakes completely.

Use an electric mixer to combine confectioners’ sugar with the cream cheese, ½ cup butter and the vanilla until smooth and creamy. You can mix in a teaspoon or two of milk to get the consistency that you prefer for frosting. Place one cake onto your serving platter. Slather the cake with frosting. Top with the remaining cake. Cover the sides and top of the cake with the remaining frosting. Sprinkle the top of the cake with chopped walnuts.

*Recipe from Canvas and Cuisine, The Art of the Fresh Market by Jorj Morgan

 

 

The Children’s Book that Inspired Me to Create this Risotto

The Children’s Book that Inspired Me to Create this Risotto

Occasionally, you stumble across a treasure your busy life would have you overlook. This happened to me last week when hubby forced me into the doctor’s office to get my flu shot. Whaaat… a treasure in a doctor’s office? Yup. As I was waited to get jabbed, I glanced toward the counter and saw a display of books – something to distract from the fact of my being here.

Here’s the backstory. The only reason I had time to get that flu shot was I was supposed to take grandson, Sammy for his birthday shopping trip. But, he got the flu … kinda karma isn’t it? So there I was, sleeve rolled up and nothing to do but page through the literature in an antiseptic lobby.

I spied this book.  Its animated cover drew me in, as did its title, Puppydog Blues. I picked it up, flipped through the pages, and discovered the cutest collection of childhood poems

I have read in a very long time. Nostalgia and irreverent joy overcame me. The story was so very similar to books I’d read to Sammy when he was a baby, and felt blessed to still be reading my newest grandchild, baby Josh.

Take a gander at this sweet, impertinent and intelligently clever writing from Puppydog Blues, and read it to your little ones if you still have them.  This stanza is a particularly fun one for you foodies to nosh on. It inspired the butternut squash risotto I went home and made after my doc appointment.

Eat Your Vegetables

 

The broccoli

Is stalking me.

It’s nothing I can prove.

I’m sure those

Aren’t “sweet” potatoes

That eye my every move.

That cabbage

Is a savage.

I think it wants my head.

The lettuce

Vowed to get us

When I’m sleeping in my bed.

The corn has ears,

It snoops and hears

It’s gone starch-raving mad.

The succotash

Is talking trash-

It’s mixed up really bad.,

This smorgasbord

Is off its gourd!

So what’s a kid to do?

The message here

Is loud and clear

Eat your veggies or, I fear,

They’ll end up eating you!

 

The book is written by Marshall Silverman. For more information contact info@BookBaby.com. There are both a paperback and hardback edition of the book. I bought them both!

Now, for a weekly recipe. Keeping up with the theme of eating your veggies, here is my recipe for a tummy-filling risotto sweetened with chunks of butternut squash. Enjoy!

Risotto with Butternut Squash

serves 2 as a main and 6 as a side dish

20 minute cuisine

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ half red onion, peeled and diced, about ½ cup

½ medium butternut squash, peeled and diced into small chunks, about 2 cups

1 teaspoon Tuscan Spice blend*, optional 

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

1 cup arborio rice

¼ cup dry sherry

3 to 4 cups chicken broth

¼ cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon butter

2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the butternut squash. Sprinkle with Tuscan seasoning, salt and pepper and cook for 3 minutes more. Add the rice and cook for 1 more minute to toast. Pour in the sherry and cook until the liquid disappears, about 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Pour in about 1 cup of the chicken broth. Bring to a simmer and cook until the liquid disappears, about 5 minutes. Add 1 more cup chicken broth. Continue until all the stock had been absorbed into the rice. The rice should be creamy with just a bit of a bite. You don’t want it to be mushy! Stir in the cream, butter and Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle with parsley.

* I am a big fan of The Spice and Tea Exchange stores. I seriously could spend a whole afternoon sniffing and smiling in their Blowing Rock store. The great news is that you can find some of the blends on-line. If you don’t have the time to find Tuscan spice, substitute with a bit of paprika, onion powder, garlic powder and cumin. Or…. choose any of your other favorite blends. It all works!

Scrumptious Brown Bag Lunch: Mediterranean Tuna Salad

Scrumptious Brown Bag Lunch: Mediterranean Tuna Salad

Did you know National School Lunch week starts on October 14th? While it may seem like there’s a holiday for everything nowadays, NSLW started in 1962 when President John F. Kennedy decided to promote the importance of a healthy school lunch. JFK believed good food has a positive impact, both inside and outside the classroom. I couldn’t agree more!

I know entire households affected by what’s on the school lunch menu.

Don’t make pizza tonight, Mom. We had that at school today.

Or the more expected, “Uh, Mom…could you pack my lunch? I really don’t like what they’re serving today.

Well, of course the answer to that question is ALWAYS yes. No mom wants to hear the dreaded shouts of I’m not eating that!  No Mom wants to envision their starving child failing the math quiz because of malnourishment. Even the idea of your kids sleeping through recess because they’re too hungry to move is terrible.

I don’t know about you, but for me that kind of situation makes the June Cleaver in me kick in and I think:

What could I make to rival what the cool girls are eating?

I’ve seen some pretty nifty snacks packed in Oprah’s favorite insulated sack, leaving my grandkids’ school. There are real perils here! There are simply those days when buying school lunch is just not an option, and it’s my job to arm parents with something worthy of packing into one of those Oprah parvel fold-up bags.

Behold, Jorj’s fresh, scrumptious and healthy Mediterranean Tuna salad. The recipe yields enough to divvy up into brown bag lunches for a family of 4!

Mediterranean Tuna Salad

serves 4

15 minute cuisine  

2 (5-ounce) cans tuna packed in oil, drained

3 tablespoons capers, drained

3 tablespoons julienned sun-dried tomatoes, drained

½ fennel bulb, diced, about 3 tablespoons

1 small orange (green or yellow) bell pepper, diced, about 3 tablespoons

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

½ cup mayonnaise

Juice of 1 lemon, about ¼ cup

2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

Place the tuna into a bowl. Add the capers, sun-dried tomatoes, fennel, bell pepper and dill. In another bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise with lemon juice and balsamic vinegar. Pour the dressing into the bowl with the tuna. Fold everything together. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.

Serve tuna in a sandwich between two slices of bread, or pack it up in an airtight container to spread on crackers.

 

Huevos Rancheros…Southern Style!

Huevos Rancheros…Southern Style!

My chef “friend”, Grant Allen, from New Zealand had a post on his Facebook page last week. He showed off his evening supper, a classic combination of beans and eggs with sides of hash browns and bacon. It looked pretty darn good! This traditional breakfast food (we all love breakfast for dinner, don’t we?) reminded me of the Full English breakfast we enjoyed in London several years ago. This one includes bacon, sausage, eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms and black pudding which is a combination of…. well, let’s just call it another type of sausage.

Then, I got to thinking about the combination of eggs and beans, and my hungry brain went straight to Huevos Rancheros. If you are unfamiliar, this is a dish that tops a lightly fried tortilla with black beans, cheese, and a fried egg, sloshed with a spicy red sauce and garnished with salsa, sour cream and avocado.  It’s a spicy bite of South in your mouth. A yum, yumm of a dish!

As you might expect, with my brain on an egg and bean train, my trip to the market this past Saturday got my (pepper) juices flowing. I mean, the peppers and tomatoes were just gorgeous, see?!

And the inspiration came. Why not create a dish inspired by the others with a truly unique Southern flare? And here you have it.

Baked beans spiced with onions and peppers, topped with hand-grated cheddar cheese, sautéed ham in mustard-maple butter, fried eggs and garnished with diced avocado and (farm fresh, of course) chopped tomatoes. This is a great dish to share with friends, especially when most (if not all) of the ingredients are probably sitting in your pantry and fridge. But, it’s also a great binge-watching dish, as it will take you some time to eat your way through a large portion!

 

Southern Style Huevos Rancheros

serves 2 large or 4 small portions

30 minute cuisine

For baked beans:

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 slices bacon, diced

1 bunch green onions, tough tops removed, cut into thin slices, about 1 cup

1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded, deveined and finely diced

1 (16-ounce) can baked beans, drained

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

For the tortilla:

1 teaspoon olive oil

2 (10-inch) spinach tortillas

3 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard

2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

8 slices deli ham

4 ounces shredded cheddar cheese, about 1 cup

4 large eggs

1 avocado, pitted, peeled and diced

1 small tomato, diced

Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon, jalapeno pepper and onions and cook until the bacon begins to crisp, and the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Drain as much liquid as you can from the baked beans and pour them into the skillet. Season with some of the salt and pepper, stir and reduce the heat to low. Simmer the beans while you cook the ham.

Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, carefully lay one tortilla into the oil. Cook for a few seconds. Use tongs to turn the tortilla to the other side. Cook for a couple seconds more and transfer to a large platter. Repeat with the second tortilla and transfer to a second platter. Add the butter, mustard and maple syrup to the same skillet. Stir together to melt the butter. Add the ham slices to the pan (you can do this in batches). Cook until the ham begins to brown and crisp on the edges, turning several times, about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat.

Spoon half of the beans onto one tortilla. Top the beans with half of the shredded cheese. Arrange four slices of ham on top of the cheese and beans. Repeat with the second tortilla. Crack the eggs into the same skillet. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook until the whites of the eggs are set, and the yolks remain runny, about 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer two eggs onto each tortilla. Top with diced tomatoes and avocado.