Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sesame Candy

Were not huge candy fans, so a little of this goes a long way, but it makes a pleasant change from the chocolate overload that is so commonplace at this time of year.  

Sesame Candy:

1 c. sesame seeds, toasted

3 tbsp. light brown sugar
3 tbsp. liquid honey

To toast seeds, see: 

While seeds toast, place a sheet of waxed paper (about the size of a baking sheet) on a heat-proof work surface. Have a second, similarly sized sheet at the ready. Set both sheets aside. 

In a small pan, combine sugar and honey. Stirring constantly, cook over low heat until thickened, about 5 min. Add sesame seeds, combining well. 

Immediately pour seed mixture onto first sheet of waxed paper, covering with second sheet. Using a rolling pin, roll mixture to about 1/4-in. thickness. Carefully peel paper from both sides of warm candy. Cut candy into rectangular shapes or squares. When candy has completely cooled, store at room temperature in airtight container with layers separated by waxed paper.

Tomorrow: Broken Glass Dessert.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Easter Marshmallow Treats

Marshmallows! How can anyone resist? A recent visit to a chocolate shop prompted me to make this treat, but blee-ah! This is far, far too much sweetness for me! Try it with two marshmallows rather than three and it should be exactly right. 

A lollipop stick is a wiser, safer choice than the bamboo skewer I used. You’ll find lollipop sticks in craft and cooking stores.

You can also dip a single marshmallow in chocolate, and shake on the sprinkles rather than coat the chocolate with them. 

(My grandiose plan to serve Easter Marshmallow Treats is getting smaller all the time! I cant imagine why that chocolate shop sold three decorated marshmallows on a stick, but when it comes to chocolate, some people lose all reason.) 

Marshmallows! How can anyone resist? I guess I can.

Note: If you like the idea of this treat, but not its overwhelming sweetness, try my tiny, chocolate-based Seed Candy Delights:

Melt milk chocolate in small batches.

Dip skewered marshmallows to coat ...

... On all sides.

Allow excess chocolate to drip off.

Coat warm chocolate in sprinkles of your choice.

Although this is a huge sugar hit, marshmallows can 
be eased from skewer and served individually.

Tomorrow: Sesame Candy.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cheddar-Poppy Seed Breadsticks

These excellent breadsticks are very easy to make!  

Cheddar-Poppy Seed Breadsticks:

1 c. hot milk (about 120 deg. F or 50 deg. C)

1/4 c. vegetable shortening, room temperature
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. salt (do not reduce)
2-1/2 c. all-purpose flour (see Note)
One 0.2-oz. (8 g) pkg active, granular quick-rise yeast (pkg equals 1 scant tbsp.)
1/2 c. grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp. water
1-1/2 tbsp. poppy or sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 300 deg. F. In a medium bowl, combine heated milk, shortening, sugar, and salt. Set bowl aside (Mixture will cool slightly as you combine dry ingredients; most of shortening will remain unmelted). In a large bowl, combine flour, yeast, and cheddar. Add milk mixture all at once, stirring with hands until well combined. 

Knead 2-to-3 min. in lightly floured work bowl until mixture forms a smooth, shiny, elastic ball. Allow dough to rest 10 min., lightly covered with a piece of parchment (Allow yourself to rest, too. Entre vous et moi, I knocked back a beer).

Slice dough into four equal portions with a lightly floured knife. Roll each portion out to roughly 9-x-9 in. Slice each portion into 9 equal pieces (see Obsessive-Compulsive Note). Leave them flat or give them a little roll or twist. Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets (see Wow, You’re Smart! Note).

In a small bowl, whisk together egg and water. Using a pastry brush, dab each breadstick lightly and quickly with egg mixture. Using a shaker bottle, sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds. Lightly cover unbaked breadsticks with parchment paper. Allow to rest 30 min. 
Bake 40 min. or until golden. Immediately transfer to wire racks so sticks will not soften. Makes approximately 3 dozen. 

Note: I use unbleached flour because I prefer its taste for bread-making, but bleached flour is also fine.

Obsessive-Compulsive NoteRon poked his nose into the kitchen  as I carefully measured and squared up the dough. “Too bad you don’t have a micrometer,” he said. “Then you could measure its thickness! You won’t worry so much about the length of those breadsticks after you’ve had a couple of bites!” 

This immediately made me laugh. All my careful measuring was ridiculous. Slice the dough approximately 1 in. (2.54 cm) wide and what you feel is just long enough, but dont fuss. Once I stopped measuring, I realized how beautiful my “artisan-style” breadsticks really were. Perfection is not always a desired quality in baking. Celebrate that you made these breadsticks yourself! They shouldnt look like they came from a factory.

Wow, You’re Smart! Note: The very best tool for picking up cut lengths of breadstick dough is a long, thin frosting spreader. Slip it barely under one end of the cut dough so you can pick it up with 

your fingers and transfer it to a baking sheet without stretching it. The very best tool for flouring work surfaces and utensils is a small plastic squeeze bottle. One ph-h-h-t! and you’re finished. Now don’t go taking that the wrong way, Dollinks, or I’ll wash your mouths out with soap.

Knead dough in lightly floured bowl until smooth and elastic.

Cover and let rise in a warm place, away from drafts.

Cut risen dough into 4 same-sized sections.

Measuring? Review Obsessive-Compulsive Note.

Roll out and approximate, Dollinks!

Slice into more-or-less breadstick size.

Wash with diluted egg; sprinkle with seeds.

Baked and ready for taste-testing! Thumbs up!

Tomorrow: Easter Marshmallow Treats.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Cranberry Orange Loaf

As you know, a deep freeze can be a source of many wonders and surprises. Until recently, our freezer held a bag of cranberries that was so big we charged it rent. 

An emotionally confused member of our Anonymous Taste Testing Panel tried to date it, but the relationship soon soured. Her loss was our gain, because the frozen berries went directly into this moist and delicious loaf - a great way to use them up. For best results, slice the loaf one day after baking it - if youre strong enough to wait!

Cranberry Orange Loaf:

1 beaten egg, at room temperature
1/4 c. canola oil
Grated peel and juice of 1 orange
Skim milk, as needed
2 c. all-purpose flour
1-1/4 c. granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 c. finely chopped pecans
1 c. fresh or frozen whole cranberries (do not thaw)

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. In a medium bowl, combine egg, oil, and grated orange peel. Set aside. Add juice to measuring cup, topping with milk until level of liquid reaches a scant 1 c. Whisk into egg mixture. Set aside. 

In a large bowl, thoroughly combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and pecans. Add whole cranberries, stirring just until evenly distributed. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add liquid ingredients all at once, combining just until dry ingredients are moist. Do not over-mix.

Spoon batter into lightly greased and floured 9 x 5 in. loaf pan. Bake 55-to-60 min., or until skewer inserted at center of loaf comes out clean. Cool loaf in pan on wire rack 10 min. Loosen edges with knife and turn from pan to continue cooling. When fully cooled, store in airtight container.

Remove zest from 1 orange. Juice it, baby!

Measure juice, topping with skim milk to make 1 scant cup.

Add frozen or fresh cranberries to flour mixture.

Flouring fruit prevents it from sinking to bottom of loaf. 

Add combined liquid ingredients: Don’t over-mix.

Your finished loaf: Great for breakfast or afternoon tea!

Tomorrow: Cheddar-Poppy Seed Breadsticks.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sex in a Pan

This is easy to make and flat-out delicious! Repeat after me: This is not junk food! Not junk food! Not junk food! It is food you can take to the gym. Yeah, that’s what it is ... Food you can take to the gym. 

If you can’t see this YouTube video, go to:
As for the title of this recipe ... Let’s just say it tastes the way it sounds.

Sex in a Pan:

To Prepare the Base: 

1/2 c. butter or margarine 
1 c. all-purpose flour 
1/4 c. granulated sugar 

Preheat oven to 325 deg. F. Using a pastry blender, cut butter or margarine into combined flour and sugar. Mixture will resemble fine crumbs. Press into 10-in. (25-cm.) circular springform pan. Bake 25 min. Set aside to cool. 

To Prepare the First Layer: 

One 16-oz. (500 g) pkg cream cheese, room temperature 
1/2 c. icing sugar (“confectioners” sugar or “powdered” sugar) 
One 16-oz. (500 g) pkg sweetened topping such as “Cool Whip” (do not use real whipped cream for this layer) 

Beat cream cheese and icing sugar together until smooth. Stir in imitation whipped-cream topping. Spread over base. Chill. 

To Prepare the Second Layer: 

3 c. milk 
One 5.9-oz. (167 g) pkg chocolate instant pudding mix (6 serving size) 
One 5.1-oz. (144 g) pkg vanilla instant pudding mix (6 serving size) 

Pour milk into large mixing bowl. Add pudding mixes. Beat 2 min. or until well blended. Let sit 2 or 3 min. Spread over First Layer, smoothing with a spatula. Chill.

To Prepare the Third Layer: 

1 c. whipping cream (heavy cream), whipped (see Note) 
12 chocolate wafers, finely crushed (about 3 tbsp.), or chocolate shavings 

Spread whipped cream over Second Layer, smoothing with a spatula. Sprinkle evenly with chocolate wafer crumbs or chocolate shavings. Cover lightly with waxed paper. Chill at least 2 hr. or until completely set. Serves 16. 

Tomorrow: Cranberry Orange Loaf.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Cucumber and Pepper Thai Salad

Spring in the Northern Hemisphere and Fall in the Southern Hemisphere generally mean warm weather (One of the few exceptions is Melbourne, in which almost any weather system can happen almost any day. But thats the cross Melbournians must bear for living in one of the worlds most beautiful cities). Warm weather signals a welcome return to salads: As a refreshing compliment to seafood and grilled meats, this Asian-inspired salad fills the bill!  

Cucumber and Pepper Thai Salad:
This recipe requires extra time for marination

To Prepare the Salad:

2 long English cucumbers, unpeeled
1 each orange, red, and yellow bell pepper (capsicum)
jalapeño peppers

To Prepare the Dressing:

1 tbsp. sesame oil
3 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
2 tsp. granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
2-1/2 tbsp. fresh mint, chopped
3 tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
1/4 tsp. dried chili flakes

Slice cucumbers into paper-thin rounds. Seed bell peppers, slicing into julienne strips and halving each strip crosswise. Seed jalapeño peppers, chopping finely. Combine cucumbers and peppers in large bowl. Combine remaining ingredients in small bowl. Pour over salad, tossing well. Refrigerate 1 hr. before serving. Serves 8-to-10.

Slice cucumber paper-thin.

Prepare orange bell peppers ...

And red ones ... And yellow ...

You may even choose to add a couple of strips
of green pepper for an extra burst of color! 

Two jalapeño peppers is plenty!

Seed and chop only what you need.


Take some fresh basil ...

And mint ...

Chop both fine. 

Squeeze a fresh lime for the dressing. Combine dressing
ingredients in small bowl ...

Pour over salad. Toss. Marinate. And serve!

Tomorrow: Sex in a Pan. You read it right, Dollinks! Sex in a Pan.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Zucchini Frittata

This makes a quick and simple brunch! It’s also a light but satisfying dinner when lunch is larger than usual.
Zucchini Frittata:

1-1/2 c. unpeeled zucchini, sliced into 1/2-in. (1.2 cm) rounds
1/3 c. finely chopped onion, minced
1 tbsp. butter or margarine
1 tsp. olive or canola oil
4 eggs, well beaten
1-to-2 tbsp. milk
1 tbsp. finely chopped parsley
1 tsp. dried or 1/2 tsp. fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 c. shredded white cheese mixture including such cheeses as Mozzarella, Parmesan, Emmental, and Provolone
In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, gently sauté zucchini and onion in butter and oil, turning once, 5 minutes or until tender. Transfer to lightly greased 1 qt. (1 L) oven-proof casserole (see Note).
Preheat oven to 325 deg. F. In small bowl, combine eggs, milk, parsley, rosemary, salt and pepper.  Pour over zucchini and onion. Bake, uncovered, 18-to-20 min. until mixture is set but center remains soft. Remove from oven and sprinkle top of frittata with cheese. Return frittata to oven, broiling 3 min. or until cheese melts and top is golden. Serves 2. 
Note: I used a 3 c. (750 mL) casserole. Because our household has grown smaller over the years, many of my casseroles have, too. I also use my oven less and my toaster oven more.

Take one small zucchini ...

And a little onion ...

And a cappuccino ... Wha-??? No, no, no! Omit that!

Gently sauté zucchini and onion.

Whisk a few eggs ...

And bathe the cooked zucchini and onion it it.

Bake until almost - but not quite - done.

Top with cheese! Broil! Eat! Easy, wot?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Dinner Party: Movie Night

We recently asked three friends to join us for dinner and a Movie Night. Knowing I wanted to do the barest minimum amount of work when our guests arrived, I sought make-aheads that allowed plenty of time with our guests. Dishes? They werent going to run away, so I left them in the sink until every guest was gone. 

I hope this occasional series indexed as Dinner Party will encourage you to slam something into the oven and invite a friend, neighbor or relative to break bread with you. This series has a secondary purpose, too. Behind the scenes, I can see from my readership numbers that you usually read the most recent recipes - missing the huge number of posts dating to 2011. 

I love to try new recipes, but routinely turn to what’s tried-and-true when time is tight. This Dinner Party series allows me to remind you of some of those recipes. 

Our recent Movie Night dinner featured two recipes that will be new to you: A great Salmon Mousse appetizer, and a Warm Southern Potato Toss. Both of those recipes appear below this post. One of our guests brought a salad, and another brought armloads of asparagus, almost all of which vanished. For a pleasing color contrast, I served the asparagus with carrots, doing nothing more than giving each a simple brushing with butter.

As for the old favorites on the menu? I served Olive Cheese Balls, which our regular guests have probably come to expect:

I also served Médaillons de Porc à la Crème, one of my all-time go-to favorites: 

Luckily, I had had a few extra Crêpes in the fridge that I’d made a couple of days before. A ribbon of bakery-supplied custard, a few banana slices, and a scattering of blueberries quickly transformed the Crêpes into dessert. The final touch: A dusting of sifted icing sugar. Done! 

As for the table ... Whimsical napkins signaled the casual nature of the meal, but I still added glints of metal, the twinkle of a candle, and the glimmer of pretty glassware. 

We gobbled dinner down, dimmed the lights, and glued our eyes to the screen. A perfect evening!

 Splash on the color with a sense of fun!

Placemats look great on bare wood - but they also 
look great over a tablecloth, tone-on-tone.

The simple pleasure of getting together is often 
more memorable than the meal itself.

Warm Southern Potato Toss

This superb recipe is well worth tucking into your back pocket for special occasions. I’ve learned from experience that this dish is best made just before you sit down to eat. If you must prepare it in advance, wrap it in heavy-duty foil and pop it into a slow cooker set to “low.” If you toss in the remaining halved pecans just before serving, they wont soften up.  

Warm Southern Potato Toss:

2 lb. (1 kg) small nugget potatoes, scrubbed but unpeeled
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
¾ c. pecan halves, toasted (see Index for How to Toast Nuts and Seeds) and divided
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper
½ c. finely chopped parsley, divided
⅓-to-½ c. shaved Parmesan cheese (see Note)

In a large, heavy-based pot, cook potatoes in lightly salted boiling water for 15 min. or until a thin, sharp knife easily pierces their surface. Drain, reserving 1 tbsp. potato water. Return potatoes to hot pot. Cover and briefly set aside. In blender or mini-chopper, combine potato water, oil, vinegar, ¼ c. pecan halves, garlic, and ¼ tsp. each salt and pepper. Add blended pecan dressing, ¼ c. parsley, and remaining pecans to warm potatoes, tossing gently until all potatoes are coated. Transfer to serving bowl or platter, garnishing with cheese and remaining parsley. Serve at once. Serves 8-to-10.

Note: Get the most from a block of good-quality Parmesan by shaving it with a vegetable peeler. To peel the cheese ahead of time, cover and refrigerate the shavings.

Salmon Mousse

This easy and inexpensive recipe is marvellous! I serve it in a 2 c. fish-shaped mold, but any kind of mold will do. If yours is larger, double the size of this recipe. Everyone loves easy make-aheads that free you on the day of a special occasion. You can make this appie a couple of days ahead, covering it in the fridge, and having it ready to serve when you need it. If you enjoy this recipe, you’ll also enjoy Lox Mousse, indexed under Appetizers: Dips and Spreads (Lox Mousse). Each is a simple, quick, crowd-pleaser.

Salmon Mousse:

One 8-oz. (213 g) can sockeye salmon, liquid reserved

¼ c. finely chopped celery
2 tbsp. minced onion
1 tbsp. unflavored gelatin (one 7 g envelope)
¼ c. cold water
¼ c. ketchup
2 tbsp. white vinegar
¼ c. mayonnaise

Drain and flake salmon. Set liquid aside in small, separate bowl. In medium bowl, combine salmon, celery, and onion. Set this aside, too. Soften gelatin in cold water, stirring until smooth. Set aside. 

In small saucepan, combine salmon liquid, ketchup, and vinegar. Bring just to a boil before turning heat to medium-low. Stir in softened gelatin until dissolved. Cool slightly before adding to salmon mixture. Blend in mayonnaise, combining well. Pour into spray-greased mold or individual molds, covering and refrigerating at least 2 hr. or up to 2 days.

Soften unflavored gelatin in cold water.

Combine salmon liquid, ketchup, and vinegar.

Combine all ingredients.

Pour into lightly greased mould. Or not! Instead, I brushed the
inside of the mold with mayonnaise. 
This was a mistake. 

And then the fun began!

Soaking the @#! thing in hot water wouldn’t loosen it.

Nor would the highest setting of a hair dryer.

Or a cloth soaked in boiling water. It was well and truly stuck.
Banging it on the counter did nothing. Yelling was ineffective. 

And so I gave up! So Ron pried the appie from its mold  
with a long, thin knifeIt was worth the effort: Ta-Dah!