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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Goodbye 2013

It's been a good yet tough year. In so many ways I'm happy to see it just about over. This was a year filled with challenges, new endeavors, health concerns and the loss of a dear loved one.  I haven't been posting much this month as I've been laid up recovering from surgery. I had to have a hysterectomy - not a surprise to me but certainly a shock to my body and well being. I've also been plagued with a back injury since the summer, curtailing all of my bicycle excursions.  These past two weeks I've been too tired to do much other than fiddle with my iPhone and/or post medicine induced stories and rants in Facebook!  
As I've been almost unable to walkabout or go out, due to being physically incapable and so tired, my photo taking has been drastically reduced. However only one day out this week, on a trip to my doctors, I spotted this funny sign in a deli window. Seems as though I can always spot something fun!  

Christmas Day the troops came to our house, friends and family all rallied at our place, with bags of gifts and platters of delicious foods. So blessed!  
While I should have a New Year card, our Merry Christmas card will have to suffice for my end of the year greeting. May you all be blessed with happier times, an interesting life and a great deal of health!  

Monday, December 9, 2013

Double Chocolate and Cherry Biscotti

Biscotti are an easier to make cookie than I remembered - and surprisingly low fat.  No butter or oil in these so no need to "swap-out" anything fattening for something less-so.  They are quick to make the batter and even though it takes a double baking, they cook up quickly.  So quick that you can make a few batches for your Holiday Cookie Swap.  They store well and long and freeze well too.  Great with coffee, tea, wine, and infinitely adaptable.  All the things that The Bicycle-Chef loves in a recipe!


Miniature Chocolate Cherry Biscotti:

  • 2 Cups All-Purpose Unbleached Flour
  • 1/4 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 3/4 Cups Granulated White Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1/3 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate - Chips or Roughly Chopped Chunks
  • 1/2 Cup Dried Cherries - Chopped
  • 3 Large Eggs - Beaten
  • 2 Teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract

Directions:

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 Degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.  Set aside.
  3. Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl -flour through the dried cherries. Stir well to combine.
  4. Whisk the eggs and vanilla together in a small bowl, then pour into the flour mixture.  The dough will seem dry at this point but it will come together as it is kneaded.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly  floured work surface and knead, folding the dough over onto itself until it is smooth - about 3 minutes.  Divide the dough into 2 or 3 pieces & shape each portion into a 10-12 inch long log.  Gently press down on the logs to flatten them until they are about 2 inches wide and 1 inch high.  Transfer the biscotti dough to the prepared baking tray.
  6. FIRST BAKING:  Bake the logs for about 30 minutes or until they are slightly risen and firm to the touch.  Slide the logs, parchment paper and all, off the baking sheet and onto a cooling rack.  The logs must be completely cooled before you can continue on with the recipe.  It will take about 30 minutes to cool.  You can either turn the oven off or leave it on for the next step.  You can bake the biscotti up this point and then do the 2nd bake several days later.  If finishing the baking later, wrap the logs in plastic wrap, refrigerate and continue when it’s convenient.
  7. SECOND BAKING: When the logs have cooled completely, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (if necessary).  Line baking sheet(s) with parchment paper or Silpats.
  8. Working with a sharp serrated knife, cut the cooled logs diagonally into 1/4-inch thick slices.  Place the sliced cookies cut side down onto the baking sheets and bake for 10-15 minutes or until the biscotti are crisp and golden.  Cool on the pans.
  9. STORING: These biscotti will keep for up to a month in an air-tight tin or plastic container.  Makes about 4 dozen mini Biscotti.

Recipe adapted from a Julia Child recipe book: Baking with Julia - contributing author, Nick Malgieri
  • According to the recipe, these biscotti are actually called CANTUCCINI.  They are in the vein of the classic biscotti recipe - using no butter or added fat, except what is contained in the eggs.  They bake up exceptionally light and crunchy. 
  • You may be used to the crunchy texture of most biscotti, which is attained by baking the cookies twice.  What you might be expecting is what isn’t there - the anise.  With so many interpretations of biscotti, and the influence of other culinary flavors and trends, biscotti can be flavored endlessly.  Add nuts, bits of dried fruit, extracts, liqueurs.  
  • The original version of this recipe called for whole unblanched almonds.  Since the clementine cake is nearly all almonds, I omitted them and added in the chocolate and cherries.  
  • To make these biscotti even more enticing, dip the finished biscotti in melted chocolate and then dust with sanding sugars; sprinkles, or chopped nuts.
  • Who says Holiday Desserts have to be fattening or bad for you? NOT ME! Our cake was gluten-free and the only added fat was from the nuts and eggs.  These cookies are lower-fat and lower in sugar.  Yet both desserts are rich, luxurious and wholly satisfying.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Clementine Cake

December 4, 2013: A super update here.  I had a Holiday Baking Class last night at The American Table.  I pulled out soem of my favorite recipes and this was my #1 favorite.  I've been making and blogging this recipe for well-over a decade.  The original post appeard in 2007 on my old blog, then again in 2009 here.   

From December 2007: I've been thinking about how lax I was in November, for not posting any recipes. I went Pumpkin Crazy in October and then, nothing. Today I was thinking about clementines, oh my darling, oh my darling, oh my darling clementine...And that they are in season now. Which made me think about how cute and tasty they are, good for you and that they make a great snack. Then the next thing, I remembered a great recipe for Clementine Cake that I learned from watching Nigella Lawson, on Nigella Bites. She's the Goddess of TV Chef's. Have you ever seen her? She's incredibly beautiful, fun and her recipes ain't half bad either. Once I get over swooning, I've actually found her books and television show to be amazingly inspiring. She's a woman who doesn't profess to be a trained chef or tv marketing brain-child of the food network. She looks like a real woman who enjoys her food and drink, making no apologies about it. Take that Lollipop head, I mean, Giadia...

This recipe is an old Italian Recipe, found in many good authentic Italian cookbooks. I came across it in other sources once I began to research it's origins. It's flourless and uses no butter. It's good for anyone prone to wheat or gluten allergies. I'm not sure about the fat content - as you use ground almonds and eggs, but, considering how dense, moist and sweet it is, you only need a small piece to satisfy. I recommend baking the cake in miniature or small spring form pans. A whole 9" cake is daunting to finish, unless you have a large crowd to serve.


Adapted from—Nigella Lawson How to Eat: The Pleasure and Principals of Good Food
Clementine Cake Ingredients:
  • 5 small Clementine oranges –(about 1 pound total weight; you want to yield 2 cups of puree)
  • 6 eggs – beaten
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated white table sugar
  • 2 and 1/3 cup finely ground, unblanched unsalted raw almonds – (If using whole almonds and grinding yourself, measure out 2 cups whole almonds, then grind in a food processor. If using pre-ground almonds or almond meal, use the exact measurement given)
  • 1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
Step 1: Processing the Clementines:
  1. Cover clementines in a pot with cold water and bring to boil. Don't peel or cut them. Put them in the pot whole! Cover the pot and simmer for 2 hours; then drain and cool. When the clementines have cooled enough to handle, cut each in half and remove the seeds (if there are any). Some clementines are seedless, so this step may not be necessary.
  2. Chop the clementines in a food processor or blender – skin, pith, fruit, the whole shebang – until smooth. The mixture won’t be perfectly smooth, but you don’t want big chunks of orange either. This can be done by hand though it will take longer. If you want to make the cake at another time, measure 2 cups of pureed orange for each cake to bake and freeze. When you are ready to make the cake, take the puree out of the freezer and defrost.
Step 2: Preparing the Mixture and Baking:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Butter and line four miniature spring form pans. You can use an 8-inch size spring form pan, but you will need to adjust the baking time to 40-45 minutes of baking, uncovered, and then cook the cake another 15-20 minutes covered with foil to stop the top of cake from turning too brown. Actual baking time will vary, depending on the oven temperature and type of oven. 
  3. Beat the eggs; add the sugar, ground almonds and baking powder. Mix well and add the pureed clementines.
  4. Put the mini spring form pans onto a baking tray, to keep them stable. Pour the cake mixture into each spring form pan and bake for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, check to see if the top of the cake is becoming too brown, if so, cover with lightly sprayed aluminum foil (prevents sticking) to prevent further browning. Continue to bake the cakes another 10-15 minutes. If you are using a large size spring form pan, or if you are unsure of your oven’s actual temperature, you may want to check to see if the cake is done. When a skewer will come out clean, the cake is finished. Also, when the cake springs back when you touch it (and your finger indentation doesn't sink into the cake) it's done!
  5. Remove cake from the oven and leave to cool, on a rack, but in the pan. When the cake is cold, you can take it out of the pan. The cake is actually better a day or so after it is made – the flavors bloom and develop more.  Refrigerate, but serve at room temperature, not ice cold.
  • Notes – Serve as is, at room temperature, with a dollop of freshly whipped cream, or as a special treat, with a drizzle of warm, bittersweet chocolate sauce.
  • I use whole, raw, unblanched unsalted almonds that I grind myself in the food processor. The extra crunch and coarser texture of the whole almond with its skin yields a nuttier and more interesting texture to the cake.
  • I’ve made this cake every Christmas for over a decade, and have even given copies of the recipe along with the cakes as gifts. Baking the cakes in the smaller spring form pans allows me to bake many at one time, freezing some for later, or for baking in advance. The cake will hold for about 5 days, but it is best to refrigerate it after one day. Bring the cake to room temperature before serving.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Cider Brined Stuffed Turkey Breast with Pan Gravy: 3 Recipes!

Turkey Breast in  Apple Cider Brine

  • Stock Pot
  • 1 Cup Kosher Salt per 8-12 pounds of turkey
  • 1/2 Gallon Apple Cider
  • Turkey Breast - 8-12 pounds, boned if preferred, though a bone-in turkey breast is even tastier!
  • Cold Water
Directions:
  1. Rinse the turkey thoroughly.  If using a whole turkey, remove the giblets, nick and all excess skin/fat.  Remove any pin feathers, blood and vessels, liver and gizzards from the inside of the turkey cavity.  Remove the plastic thermometer if one has been inserted by the poultry manufacturer & throw it away!
  2. Place the cleaned & rinsed turkey in a stock pot or large CLEAN container.  Add in the Kosher Salt, 1/2 Gallon of Apple Cider and cover the turkey with cold water to cover it completely.  Stir the water to dissolve the kosher salt.
  3. Cover or close the container and refrigerate the turkey minimum 8 hours to 24 hours.  
  4. If your refrigerator is not big enough to hold turkey & brining solution, use a cooler.  Place the brined turkey in its salt-cider-solution container/pot/brining bag into a large cooler.  Surround the container/pot/bag with ice - enough to completely surround the turkey.  Close.  Use a thermometer to check the ambient temperature of the cooler.  It should be under 40 degrees, ideally in the 32-38 degree temperature zone.
  5. After the turkey has brined between 8-24 hours, remove from brining solution.  Discard the solution. Rinse turkey and allow to drain for 15-30 minutes on rack over a sheet tray.  If not roasting the turkey within 30 minutes, cover & refrigerate until ready to cook.
  6. It is not necessary to add any additional salt to the turkey once it’s been brined.  Your turkey will be salted and seasoned perfectly thought each bite.

For best results, brine the turkey a day ahead of the Thanksgiving Meal.  You can brine it two days ahead.  Brine it for 8 to 24 hours, then rinse and drain it.  Put the brined turkey into container and back into the refrigerator.  When ready to stuff and roast, take the turkey out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before ready to use.  

Brining will work for a whole turkey, a turkey that is broken down into its parts (Wings; Breast; Thighs; Legs; Back), or just the turkey breast - bone-in or boneless.  NEVER BRINE A KOSHER Turkey - it’s already been salted.

When stuffing or filling the cavity or meat of a brined turkey, don’t add too much salt to the mixture, as the salt in the brined turkey will have more than enough it it already!


Stuffed Turkey Breast

  • Brined Turkey Breast - per recipe
  • 2 Small-Medium Carrots - small dice
  • 2 Small-Medium Celery Stalks - small dice
  • 1 Medium Onion - small Dice
  • 2 Garlic Cloves - minced
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons Salt-Free Poultry Seasoning (such as Bell’s)
  • 2 Tablespoons Fresh Parsley - rough chop
  • 1 16-24 ounce bag of Spinach Leaves- cleaned & stemmed
  • 1/2 Cup Craisins
  • 1/4 Cup Pine Nuts
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper - to taste
  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil - divided
  • Kitchen String or Aluminum Foil
  • Roasting Pan
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 425 Degrees Fahrenheit. 
  2. Prepared Brined Turkey as per recipe.
  3. Prepare vegetable stuffing - dice the carrots, celery and onions and mince the garlic.  Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers.  Sauté the aromatic vegetables until the onions and celery turn translucent and the carrots begin to soften - about 5 minutes.  Add in the garlic and sauté another 1 minute.  Add in the poultry seasoning, stir to incorporate.
  4. Add in the spinach leaves, sautéing them until they wilt.
  5. Remove the mixture from heat and stir in the chopped parsley, the craisin and pine nuts.  Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper and a smidgen of salt.  Set aside and allow the mixture to cool while you prepare the turkey breast.
  6. Bone and filet open the turkey breast - opening it like a book.  Cut down the center of the turkey breast, from the inside and then cut a slit into each side of the breast, not cutting all the way through the breast.  Open the turkey as though you were opening the pages of a book, making a center incision and folding/peeling back the turkey breast layers.
  7. Season the turkey breast with freshly ground black pepper, then spread the cooled sautéed vegetable mixture into the center of the filleted turkey breast.  Close or roll up the turkey breast.  If using kitchen string, tie together and truss into a neat and somewhat even roast.  Rub the turkey breast with remaining tablespoon of olive oil to coat it and season with addition ground black pepper and if desired, Bells Salt-Free Poultry Seasoning.  Place the stuffed & trussed turkey breast in a roasting pan.  
  8. If using aluminum foil to wrap and roast the turkey, coat the turkey with olive oil, season with pepper and/or Bells Salt-Free Poultry Seasoning.  Roll the stuffed turkey breast in foil to form a roast. Wrap the ends of the foil to create a sealed package.  The ends can be twisted to resemble a giant “Tootsie Roll” ends
  9. Roast the turkey at 425 degrees for 1 1/2 hours.  If the turkey has been trussed, check the pan and add in apple cider and/or water if the pan dries out, a 1/2 cup at a time.  If the turkey is in aluminum foil, remove the foil the last 1/2 hour so the at the turkey can brown. Check the temperature of the turkey to check for doneness.  A throughly cooked turkey breast should register 165 degrees on an instant read thermometer.  The juices will run clear, there will be no traces of pink in the center and the meat will be be completely white/opaque throughout.
  10. Allow roasted turkey to rest, loosely covered for about 20 minutes before slicing.  The accumulated pan juices can and should be used to make your gravy.  
  11. The cider brined turkey will release juices that have a sweet and salty flavor making the pan drippings savory and flavorful.  
  12. Skim away any fat that has accumulated in the pan.  If the pan juices are too watery, reduce them on the stovetop until the liquid has reduced by half.  If the pan juices are too dry, add in addition water, chicken or turkey stock to reconstitute the dried bits from the bottom of the pan.  The pan juices will not need any additional salt or pepper - it may be already seasoned perfectly from the turkey.

Turkey Pan Gravy

  • Drippings and bits from roasted turkey pan
  • 1/2 Cup Dry White Wine or Dry Vermouth
  • 2 Cups Chicken or Turkey Stock
  • 1/4 Cup Apple Cider - optional
  • 1/4 Cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 3-5 Tablespoons Cold Water
  • 2 Tablespoons Fresh Parsley - Rough Chop
  • Salt, Pepper & Poultry Seasoning to taste if needed
Directions:
  1. Set the roasting pan with turkey drippings over two burners set on medium-high heat.  If using wine or vermouth, add in along with 1/2 cup of stock; cook, stirring  with a spoon to loosen up the browned bits in the pan and allow the liquid to come to a simmer - about 5 minutes.
  2. Add in the remaining stock & apple cider (if using) and parsley and bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat;  reduce the heat and let simmer for about 5 minutes.
  3. Make a slurry with the flour and about 3 tablespoons of cold water.  Mix well to incorporate the flour into the water.  Gradually whisk in the flour slurry into the roasting pan.  Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, the reduce to low and gently simmer to thicken the gravy and cook out the raw flour taste - about 10 minutes total.  Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.  Keep hot and serve hot.


Make a slurry and you’ll have no lumps in your gravy!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Apple Layer Cake

Sharing my recipe for apple layer cake, which I made for a cooking class this fall.  Time gets away me - I wanted to post this a month ago.  Go! Grab some apples while the farmers' markets are still running for another week.  I like to use 2 kinds of apples, a sweet apple and a tart apple.  The batter will look like there's not enough; this recipe is all about the apples.  As they cook the batter acts like a glue holding everything together.  The apples shrink and condense.  This is a cake that's like a kuegel, brown betty or a crumble. Whatever you call it call it delicious!

Apple Spice Layer Cake Ingredients:

  • 1/2 Lemon - cut into wedges
  • 5 Large Apples - peeled, cored and sliced thin (about 1/8-inch thick) Use a variety of eating and cooking apples such as Granny Smith and Golden Delicious
  • 1 Stick of Unsalted Butter - melted & cooled
  • Butter or Cooking Spray for baking pan
  • 1 Cup All-Purpose or White Whole Wheat Flour - plus 2 tablespoons for baking pan
  • Pinch Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Apple Pie Spice or Cinnamon (or a blend of 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon ground All-Spice & 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamon)
  • 3/4 Cup Sugar 
  • 2 Eggs - Lightly Beaten
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Streusel Topping:
  • 1/2 Cup All-Purpose or White Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1/4 Cup Light Brown Sugar - Packed
  • Pinch Salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Apple Pie Spice or Cinnamon
  • 3 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter

Directions:

  1. Make the Streusel Topping: In a small bowl, mix the flour, brown sugar, salt and spices together, whisking to combine. 
  2. Add in the butter. Combine with your fingers or use 2 forks or a pastry cutter to “cut in” the butter into the flour mixture until clumps form.  The mixture should resemble coarse meal or small pea-sized lumps.  Set aside.
  3. Prepare a cake pan - 8 x 8 or 9 x 13 by spraying it with cooking spray or coating it with butter. Lightly flour the pan with 2 tablespoons of flour, shaking to coat the pan and shake out excess.  Set aside.
  4. Make the Cake filling:  Prepare the apples - wash, peel and core them and then slice into thin slices - about 1/8 inch thick.  Squeeze the juice from half of a lemon over the apple slices to keep them from browning - tossing to coat with the lemon juice.
  5. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, apple pie spices and pinch of salt.  
  6. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla extract and the melted & cooled unsalted butter.  Combine the egg/butter mixture to the four mixture, stirring to combine; then add in the sliced apples.  Thoroughly fold all the ingredients to incorporated and coat the apple slices with the batter.
  7. Spread the batter into the prepared baking pan in an even layer.  Scrape all the batter out of the bowl and into the pan.  Sprinkle the streusel mixture over the batter.  Bake for 50 minutes or until a knife inserted in the cake meets no resistance and comes out clean.
  8. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes before serving.
  9. Apple Cake is best served warm, but it will hold for up to 3 days, covered and refrigerated.  Warm before serving.

Peel & Cut Apples in half, then core and slice into thin slices.

Put the thin slices of apples into water that has some lemon juice added to it. The lemon juice will help keep the apples from turning brown (oxidizing) and the lemon juice flavor adds a bit of tartness to counter balance the sweet. 

Melt some butter - and then allow to cool.

Whisk together the dry ingredients and then fold in the wet - butter/eggs
Fold into the apples - the batter will seem like there's not enough, just stir to coat all the apples thoroughly then add them to an 8 x 8 baking pan.  Press the apples down to fit.

Top the apple batter with the struessel crumb topping and bake
The topping will get golden brown and as the apples cook, they shrink down and form a layer cake.








Friday, November 15, 2013

Follow Friday - Tinsel and Tine

One of my best blogging friends is also one of my longest friendships.  My friend, LeAnne, and I met back in late 1995 at a theater company in Philadelphia.  We were young, eager, impressionable and into all sorts of artistic, musical and theatrical things.  The mid to late 1990's in Philadelphia was an amazing time to work in theater due to the surge in small theater companies forming, mid-sized companies growing and in general, the economy allowing the arts to flourish.  LeAnne and I worked in the office, at the theater, doing any and everything that needed to be done.  I was hired as a bookkeeper/office manager; Leanne was the Artistic Assistant.  In addition, we were box office staff, house managers, prop assistants, cabaret staff, artistic liaisons. concessions staff, script readers, workshop proctors…you get the picture.  We probably weren't paid top dollar but we were happy and having fun!  18 years later, we are still happy and having fun but we're doing radically different things in our lives.  Well, sort of.  I'm still doing bookkeeping as my day job gig and Leanne is doing office work for hers, but in-between, we blog, a lot.
Halloween at The AMTF Cabaret at The Bellevue Hotel circa 1996
LeAnne started blogging for a class assignment a few years back.  In her funny, irreverent style, she was challenged to think of a pithy blog name and she blurted out, Suck My Pretty Toes!  For a year or two, she blogged under this moniker, writing about her favorite pastimes, eating and seeing movies.  As her audience grew and her hobby became a bigger passion, she changed the name over to Tinsel and Tine Reel and Dine, to reflect her blog's mission.  Tinsel being Hollywood, aka, Tinsel Town.  And Tine for the tines of a fork.  Making it a bit more clever, she rates her food and restaurant reviews on a scale of fork tines; none, one, two, three, four, as a restaurant or the meal deserves.


LeAnne's blog is fun, insightful, honest and REAL!  Unlike other movie review sites, LeAnne injects a lot of her quirky personality into her reviews.  She's not afraid to say what she really things and she's not so star-struck that her enthusiasm gets in the way of giving an honest review of movies.  She asks unique questions and tries to go out of her way to be original when interviewing actors, directors, chefs or restaurateurs.  The same love of the live arts that she had 18 years ago when we were shuttling around semi-famous Cabaret Music Stars is still alive in her today.

Given that my love of food has taken me from all sorts of restaurant and catering work, to culinary school and into writing and teaching, food is a real connection between LeAnne and I.  We've dined at many places and have shared a few co-reviews together - The Dandy Lion; Diner en Blanc; Collingswood Pop UP Gala in White, to name a few.  We've shared many a meal together in my home and LeAnne was also the "blogger-in-residence" at my house (The Top Gun Abode) this past summer.  Ours is a friendship formed over cocktails, cigars, great food, musical theater and many many laughs.  When I heard that she was blogging, I invited her to join up with an inaugural luncheon meeting of a group of other women bloggers, spearheaded by my friend, Barbara.  I've written about the group on numerous other posts - The Bloggstress Network.  LeAnne fit right into the group, seeming to have more in common with this group of ladies than I, the odd gay duck in the crowd!

I'm proud that we've remained steadfast friends over the years.  I'll never forget LeAnne telling me once, way back when we worked together that she didn't think you made real friends after you left school, high school or college.  At that time I was convinced, as I still am, that it wasn't true, that you could make friends at work, in your, ahem, older non-college years.  We were both right.  It is harder to make friends as you get older because you get busier, and your life fills up with career, family, and of course, our blogs, but…we did manage to forge a friendship that passed the test of time!  Now we share not just memories of our lifetime friendship, we share a bond through writing, food and film.  Plus, she is my movie connection, keeping me informed about all sorts of movies.  LeAnne is my own personal Roger Ebert "at the movies" since I never get to see anything in the theaters these days.  Do yourself a favor and like, follow, read and learn all about LeAnne by reading her blog and following her on Facebook - she's the friend you need to have in your life, even if you're just a fan!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Pumpkin Souffles with Gingersnap Dust

Another successful evening at cooking classes - tonight I taught a Thanksgiving Simplified class - although for me, it was anything but simple!  A few days of re-writing and tweaking recipes and a full night of cooking everything for the class so that we had finished products, demonstration products and foodstuff somewhere in between.  The magic word of the night was "rustic" as I made the good food, hearty, simple and let it fall apart as it needed to…or I forgot to do certain things, like, say, make the soufflé first so it would be done in time for the dessert portion of the class! Cest La Vie, line and learn!

In my quest to have more regular posts, recipes, stories, photo walkabouts, I'll start with dessert first this time!  This soufflé is far easier than you realize.  You can make the base ahead of time, get the ramekins prepped and then whisk the egg whites right before you're ready to make the soufflé.  And you'll read it here first - I'm creating a new foodie trend - these soufflés are topped with "Gingersnap Dust", a finely crushed crumble of ginger snap cookies.  Since this soufflé is a lighter, far healthier version of a pumpkin pie, deconstructed, I wanted to add back in an element of a pumpkin pie that you might truly miss.
Pumpkin Souffles with Gingersnap Dust - a deconstructed pumpkin pie, lighter, healthier and very low-fat
Pumpkin Soufflé Ingredients:
  • 2 Tablespoons  Unsalted Butter - melted, for buttering the ramekins
  • 3 egg whites 
  • 2 1/2 Cups Pumpkin Puree (about 1 & 1/2  -  14-15 ounce Cans)
  • 1/3 Cup Sugar plus more for sprinkling
  • 2 Tablespoons Pumpkin Pie Spice or Cinnamon & Nutmeg
  • 2 Tablespoons All-Purpose Flour (optional - it will help the soufflé stay stable)
  • 1 Egg Yolk 
  • 3/4 Cup Milk - Full, Low-Fat or Fat-Free
  • 2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • 5 Ginger Snap Cookies - crushed to a fine crumble or "dust" for garnish
  • Whipped Creme - for garnish (optional, but hey, why not?!)

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 425 °F.
  2. Prepare the soufflé molds - Generously butter a soufflé mold or deep-dish casserole and dust the bottom and sides with sugar.  Tap out the excess sugar.  Cut a collar out of parchment to extend 3 inches above the rim of the dish.  Tape the collar around the outside of the dish with masking tape; using a pastry brush, butter the inside of the paper collar.  Chill the prepared mold. Alternatively, you can use 6 small, 4 ounce ramekins, buttering, sprinkling with sugar and if desired, creating a paper collar around each one.  Chill and set aside.
  3. Separate the egg whites from the yolks, reserving one of the yolks.  Save the other 2 egg yolks for another use.  The yolks can be frozen.  Put into a zip-lock bag, label quantity, date and freeze.
  4. In one mixing bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, flour, egg yolk, vanilla extract and milk.  Whisk until thoroughly combined.
  5. Beat egg whites in a CLEAN large bowl until stiff peaks form.  Fold 1/3 of egg whites into pumpkin blend. Continue to fold in egg whites 1/3 at a time until egg whites are completely folded into the pumpkin mixture.  Don’t worry if there are some streaks of egg white remaining.
  6. Pour pumpkin/egg mix into the prepared ramekins, leaving 1-inch from the top to allow room for the soufflé to rise.
  7. Place ramekins or soufflé mold on baking tray and put into oven.
  8. Bake a large, single soufflé for 40-50 minutes; small ramekins for 25-30 minutes.
  9. DO NOT OPEN OVEN TO CHECK ON SOUFFLÉS or else they will fall.  If you must look at them, turn on the oven light.
  10. When the soufflés are done, they will be high but will most likely, deflate very quickly.  Remove the parchment paper collars, and serve immediately.  Garnish with a dusting of the ginger snap cookie crumbs and/or dust with powdered sugar or a dollop of whipped cream.
  11. Most of this recipe can be done ahead of time. Prepare the ramekins and chill them. Make the soufflé base - the pumpkin mixture.  When the it’s time to make dessert, whisk the egg whites then continue following the recipe as directed.  A soufflé is best finished/baked and served as close to dessert time as possible.
  12. This soufflé can be sweet or savory - used for dessert or as a side dish.  Without using the flour as a stabilizer, it can also be a gluten free dish.  To make this a savory side, omit the sugar and vanilla extract and add in tablespoon  each  of dried thyme, parsley and a 1/2 cup of finely grated cheese such as a gruyere, fontina, cheddar or even parmesan.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Wednesday Walkabout: Toys

 This week's photo idea started with this little alligator toy that I found on the sidewalk in Collingswood.  I was doing a photo walkabout for World Wide Photo day, and I spied this little critter on the curb.  I laid down on the sidewalk and snapped some shots with my iPhone, ran them through the Instagram app and voila! cool perspective.  From there, I took a few more photos of Wall-E-Gator as well as a few other random toys that were in our house and at my office.
 I took the gator home for Nate. For a day or two, Nate played with the toy, taking it to bed with him and then bringing the plastic ankle biter into our room in the morning.  It made its way onto a table where we have a few elephant knickknacks.
 The gator then inspired us to find the albino alligator toy that we bought Nate a few years ago from the Cape May Zoo when we saw the real-life albino alligator.  Old Whitey happened to be on the counter with Sophie Giraffe, so naturally, the predator in me made the blue-eyed swamp creature attack poor Sophie.
 From my original photo.
 Other fun toys - with guilty faces.  Some Kinder Egg Toys given to me by my friend, Ellen.  The inch-worm rolls and his nose and tail go in and out.  Clever toys.
 At Nate's recent Halloween Birthday Party, Spider Man somehow wound up sitting on the bathroom window sill.  He looked very pensive.  The lighting, the textures, all made for a moody Spidey photo.
 And then there was the combination of Star Wars Figures, Space Ships, The Incredible Hulk and random busy abacus style toys, all formed together by Nate in a still life creation.  It was Nate's castle, being protected by a Storm Trooper or Bobo Fett, with the Hulk standing guard. Menacing and clever at the same time.
Don't take a step closer or else...

Thursday, October 31, 2013

More Sights and Frights of Halloween

My "Sorting" Hat
I propped my Halloween Witch hat up on top of my bookshelf, to get it out of the way. After I saw how cool it looked, I snapped a photo and then ran it through a few photo apps to alter the appearance.  Loving this image!  The other photos are all things I took during the season - out at a class trip with Nate and his school; scenes from the neighborhood, some of my favorite pumpkin beer.  It really is the most beautiful time of year.  The light and the colours are perfect for photos and moods!

Lil Pumpkins


Directions!

Ablaze


The eyes have it!
Flowers in the pumpkin patch

Sweet little dumplings


Green Veins

Orange Perspective




In the Patch
Pumpkin Ale of the Season

Carry on wayward son...