Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Cinnamon Ice Cream

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 The late Mr. O-P did not like cinnamon. Can you imagine? I, on the other hand, love cinnamon, but, as spouses and partners often do, they give things up, or least put them on the back burner, in favor of something mutually agreeable. The other day while shopping I spotted a Dutch apple pie at a favorite local Italian market that somehow ended up in my cart. On the drive home I couldn’t help but think how wonderful a slice of that pie would be topped with a scoop of cinnamon ice cream.
Having never made cinnamon ice cream before, but also having an ice cream maker perpetually at the ready, I decided to give it a try. It is both easy, and delicious, although in my case not without incident. I may have mentioned that while number two son (and his wife and two cats) await the completion of their new home, they are living with me. While I was making the ice cream, the younger, more curious of their two cats, decided to knock down a picture. It startled me, I turned, mid-whisk, splashing some of the custard on the floor, stepped in it with my barefoot, slid, splashed my face and glasses with the custard that remained on the whisk, while not even breaking stride in the stirring process. Fortunately, no harm, no foul, both picture and I remain intact, and that calls for a scoop!
Cinnamon Ice Cream

2 large eggs
1 c. granulated sugar
¾ c. whole milk
1¾ c. heavy whipping cream, divided
2½ t.
ground cinnamon 
1 t. vanilla

Crack eggs into a medium/small bowl; set aside. Whisk together sugar, milk, and 3/4 cup of the heavy cream in a medium saucepan, and place over medium-low heat. When the mixture begins to simmer, remove from heat, temper eggs,* and s-l-o-w-l-y add the whisk-warmed beaten eggs in a stream, whisking quickly so that the eggs do not curdle; stir in the remaining 1 cup heavy cream. Continue cooking over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. Remove from heat, and whisk in vanilla and cinnamon. Set aside to cool for 35-40 minutes. Refrigerate 6-8 hours, or overnight.

Pour chilled mixture into an ice cream maker (I use
this one), and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions.

* The trickiest part about making ice cream is preventing the eggs from curdling. To do this you need to temper the eggs, which means to warm them up a bit so that the cold egg mixture is not shocked when it hits the warm custard mixture. I have found the best way to do this is to beat the eggs with the warm whisk from the custard mixture. Pull the whisk out of the custard, quickly beat the eggs in a separate bowl, put the whisk back into the custard, give it a couple of stirs, remove it and beat the eggs again. Repeat this back-and-forth process 3 to 4 times. At this point, the eggs have warmed up significantly enough to be added in a slow stream to the custard.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Rum Raisin Sweet Potato Bread

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Perhaps undeservedly, I consider sweet potatoes to be a seasonal food and, as such, only work with them once a year. I am not one for sweet potato fries or baked sweet potatoes, but because I understand their value and nutrition, decided to try something new. This is the time of the month when I experiment with possible Thanksgiving dishes, so thought that perhaps working yams into a bread, rather than the usual side dish, might be a welcome change. This flavorful, mildly sweet quick bread with rum-soaked raisins will be most appreciated by your guests, young and old. Serve it warm with cinnamon butter at brunch or dinner. Delish! 
Rum Raisin Sweet Potato Bread

11-lb. pkg. Melissa’s Baby Garnet Yams
2 T. dark rum
½ c. golden raisins
1 ½ c. flour
2 t. baking powder
¼ t. salt
1 T.
pumpkin pie spice
1 c. granulated sugar
2 large eggs
½ c. vegetable oil
1 c. chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 400°F. Bake baby garnet yams for 45 minutes or until they test done with a fork; remove and cool slightly before mashing and measuring out one cup.

While yams are baking, soak raisins in rum -- the longer the better, seriously, go read a book.

Decrease heat on oven to 325° F. Spray a 9” x 4” loaf pan with Baker’s Joy.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt, pumpkin pie spice, and sugar. Beat in eggs and oil until well blended. Stir in the mashed yams, pecans, and golden raisin/rum mixture. Pour batter into prepared pan. (I sprinkled a little bit of cinnamon sugar on top to give it a hint of sparkle.) Bake for 70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow bread to cool in the pan at least 15 minutes before removing.

For best flavor, store overnight before serving. This is delicious served with
cinnamon butter or pumpkin cream cheese.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

The Great GINGER Harvest

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If you don’t follow me on Instagram, then you may not be aware that the Great Ginger Harvest took place last weekend. I probably could have let it go a little longer -- ginger is to be harvested when the leaves turn yellow -- but cold weather was moving in, and I still wanted to be able to work the soil.
I had plenty of roots, and, as you can see, they grow laterally, each section sending up its own shoot. Had I started it earlier, the tubers would have been much bigger. Considering that I only planted one little sprout, I was plenty pleased with the outcome.
I didn’t get a lot of them, but what I did get was incredibly juicy and flavorful. If you have ever worked with ginger, then you know it can be woody, stringy, and difficult to cut; this was not. It chopped up beautifully, juices ran, and the fragrance was positively intoxicating – a difficult to describe combination of citrus and spice that was nearly addictive.
This is on my list to grow next year, and if you like using fresh ginger in dishes as much as I do, give it a try. The plant is not unattractive, and takes well to growing in a large container.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Missouri Pot Roast

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I’m sure that most, if not all of you, have heard of the slow cooker recipe for Mississippi Pot Roast. Here is my version, named for my state that we all found to be absolutely delicious. I went for low sodium -- not that you would notice -- lighter on the butter, as well as fewer peppers, to give it flavor, without heat, because not everyone (perhaps your grandmother) likes their Sunday roast spicy. Hearty, warming, and intensely flavorful, this is a keeper.
Missouri Pot Roast

1 3-4 lb. chuck roast, trimmed
1 packet (3 T.)
Ranch Dressing Mix
1 T. Better Than Bouillon Reduced Sodium Beef Base
2 whole Melissa’s Pickled Jalapeños
6 T. unsalted butter

Place all ingredients, in the order given, into a crockpot. Cook on high for 5-6 hours, or low for 8 hours. Serve on a mound of whipped potatoes.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Homemade Vegetable Stock

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Yesterday I told you about not just pearl onions, but Cipollini and red boiler onions as well. Today I am going to advise you to buy a few extra containers of these specialty onions, because they add so much more flavor and color to homemade vegetable stock than white or yellow onions tend to do. If you haven’t made vegetable stock in the past, let me tell you it is incredibly easy, extremely inexpensive, and not only adds depth to vegetarian dishes calling for stock, but soups and stews as well. It is also a great sipping broth, and who couldn't use a nice, warm, cup of broth on bitingly cold winter days? What a delicious way to add flavor to any dish while fend off colds and flu.

Homemade Vegetable Stock
1 7-oz. pkg.
Melissa's Cipollini onions, washed but not peeled
1 7-oz. pkg. Melissa's Red boiler onions, washed but not peeled
1 leek, cleaned and cut into chunks
3 large carrots, cleaned and cut into chunks
4 celery stalks, cleaned and cut into chunks
½ c. more or less, cleaned mushroom stems
1 Bay leaf
1 small bunch of fresh parsley
1 teaspoon
rainbow peppercorns
1 teaspoon kosher salt
8 cups water

Put all ingredients into a stock pot, bring to a boil, and simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally. Allow to cool, stream through a fine mesh sieve, and then store in the refrigerator for up to one week, or freezer for up to four months.

Feel free to experiment with onions, choosing scallions, shallots, or leeks, as well as using various herbs and seasonings of your choice.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Peeling Small Onions

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 I already have my eye on Thanksgiving, and what that means is Creamed Onions. It’s always a favorite dish, so I tend to serve it often on holidays that fall in the autumn and winter months. It can be work if you don’t plan ahead, but I always do by peeling the onions, labeling, bagging, and putting them in the freezer. I love having them on hand for anything I might need.

If you have only tried using pearl onions in recipes that call for them, you are missing a lot of flavor by ignoring
Cipollini and Red Boiler Onions. In the past, I have provided you with a tutorial on how to easily peel pearl onions; you can find that post here. You can treat cipollini onions and red boiler onions in the same manner, just extend the boiling time to 4 minutes and 30 seconds. They come out beautifully, and are going to add more depth to your casserole.

That’s your tip for today.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Black and White and Red-Eye Chili

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When the temperatures dip into the 40s, and I find myself stacking logs in the fireplace, I know that chili season is upon us. Every year, I try to come up with something new, and this year, feeling a bit of whimsy, I came up with a title before I came up with the recipe. Everything, in my opinion, can be improved with the addition of coffee, hence the red-eye reference in the name, and this version of chili uses both black beans and white kidney beans (cannellini). I doubled up on the amount​​ of meat that I generally use, and this was a real winner. I served it with my favorite cornbread, and we all thoroughly enjoyed the meal. 
Black & White & Red-Eye Chili

2 lb. ground chuck
1 3-oz. pkg. Melissa’s shallots, chopped
1 15-oz. can tomato sauce
1 15-oz. can black beans, drained
1 15-oz. can cannellini beans, drained
1½ c. strong, brewed coffee
1 tsp. beef soup base
1 T. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. smoked salt
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp. adobo

Place the beef in a skillet and cook over medium heat evenly brown. Drain on paper towel-lined plate.
Place the beef in a slow cooker along with the rest of the ingredients. Give it a good stir and cook on low for 7-8 hours, or high 5-6.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Chocolate Toffee Bars

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 Had I not been so keenly interested in covering this cookie with toffee bits, I may have considered some of the darling Halloween sprinkles that are available in the shops today. But, what can I say? I didn't. No matter, the toffee bit topping was a huge hit with the masses that I am trying to feed these days. Consider this bar cookie when a dessert is in order, time is short, and you’re looking for something easy — perhaps portable — that everyone will love.
Chocolate Toffee Bars

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1½ cups flour

Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a 9” x 13” pan with foil, allowing a 2-inch overhang on either end. This facilitates easy removal.

Cream together butter, brown sugar, and flour, until well blended. Press into prepared pan. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, or until lightly golden. Remove from oven and cool while preparing the topping.

1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
¼ cup butter

In a medium pan over medium heat, heat sweetened condensed milk and butter together, stirring constantly for 8-10 minutes until thickened. Spread over cooled base. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven.

1½ cups chocolate chips
¾ cup
Heath toffee bits

Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over the top. Bake a final two minutes until chocolate is shiny and soft. Remove from oven. Spread chocolate evenly with a small
offset spatula; sprinkle toffee bits generously over the top. Cool and cut into bars.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Cajun Chicken Pasta Florentine

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There’s good news and bad news. The good news is, number two son and his wife put their house up for sale and sold it the first day. The bad news is that the house they’re building won’t be ready until November 19. So… enter good old, mom. You guessed it, my son, daughter-in-law, and their two cats descended upon my home ten days ago, moving into the lower level. Thank goodness they have enough space to spread out, enjoy their alone time as much as I do, and are adventurous eaters. It was a bit of an adjustment for all of us initially, but, once again, I have someone to cook for, so was eager to try a Cajun chicken pasta recipe on them. This goes together fairly easily, and if you start your pasta water when cutting your chicken, this meal can be on the table in 30 minutes time. Thumbs up all around.
Cajun Chicken Pasta Florentine

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts,* cut into thin strips
8 oz. rigatoni (or pasta of choice), cooked al dente,
reserving ½ c. pasta water
1 T. Cajun Seasoning
2 T. butter
2 scallions, sliced
1 c. heavy cream
¼ c. chopped
Melissa’s sun-dried tomatoes
Pinch salt, or to taste
½ t. dried basil
¼ t. garlic powder
¼ t. freshly ground black pepper
1-2 handfuls fresh baby spinach

Place chicken strips and Cajun seasoning into a large bowl; toss to coat.

In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté chicken in butter or until tender, 6-8 minutes. Reduce heat and add scallions, tomatoes, basil, salt, garlic powder, pepper, and heat through. Add spinach and allow to wilt. Stir in heavy cream, bring to a simmer, and continue cooking until mixture thickens slightly. If mixture becomes too thick, thin with reserved pasta water. Toss with hot pasta and serve immediately.

*Can substitute shrimp for chicken

Friday, October 18, 2019

A.M. Delight Muffins

When I was going through my mother’s recipe box a while ago (in search of the elusive chili sauce recipe), I stumbled upon this one, cut from a magazine (from appearances, my guess would be Taste of Home), and stapled together. I don’t recall her ever making these muffins, so, muffin person that I am, thought it my duty to give them a try. I liked them!
I am not a person who enjoys sugary sweetness in the morning. While I do love a good donut — the bigger the better — along with the rest of you, I want mine in the evening, after dinner, with a cup of coffee. In which case, I found these to be the perfect breakfast muffin for me. They have a lot of flavor, thanks to the apples, carrots, coconut, and raisins, a bit of a crunch thanks to the nuts (I swapped walnuts for the called for almonds), and, despite the three-quarter cup of sugar, only have a delicate sweetness, nothing heavy or cloying. A slathering of pumpkin cream cheese on top of a warm muffin was the perfect fall breakfast.
A.M. Delight Muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons
ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon allspice
Pinch of cloves
½ teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
½ cup of vegetable oil
½ cup whole milk
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups chopped, peeled,
Organic Melissa’s Granny Smith Apples
2 cups freshly grated carrots
½ cup sweetened flaked coconut
½ cup golden raisins
½  cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 375° F. Grease or paper-line
muffin cups; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, spices, and salt. In another bowl, beat eggs, oil, milk, and vanilla. Mix well; stir in dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in the remaining ingredients. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until muffins test done.

Yield: 1 1/2 dozen.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Aunt Gladys' Chili Sauce

Today, as promised, is the recipe for my great aunt’s chili sauce, that I have since named after her. If you could read the framed and wall-mounted recipe that I posted yesterday, you may have noticed that it yielded quite a large quantity. I cut this recipe in half, made a few tweaks, and couldn’t be happier. One taste, and it took me back to when I was four years old, and first sampled this toothsome condiment in my great aunt Gladys’s kitchen.
Aunt Gladys' Chili Sauce

12 large homegrown tomatoes
1½ 3-oz. pkgs. Melissa’s shallots, finely diced
3 cups granulated sugar
3 cups cider vinegar
½ t. cinnamon
½ t. ground cloves
½ t. ground ginger
½ t. allspice
2 T. kosher salt
2 jalapenos, finely chopped

Place all above ingredients EXCEPT the apples into a large stockpot on the stove. Bring mixture to a boil. Turn heat down to allow to simmer, and cook for 2 hours. Add apples and cook an additional 30-60 minutes until mixture thickens to your liking. Seal while hot.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Aunt Gladys' Disappearing Chili Sauce

This chili sauce has a unique history. It came from my great aunt Gladys on my father's side (where she got it I do not know). Aunt Gladys passed it to my mother after she had tasted it during a visit to their Oklahoma home. I remember I was about four at the time, and was quite taken with their lovely home that included a vast rose garden and walk-in freezer. You might want to read those last couple of words again. My mother was in absolute heaven at the thought of a walk-in freezer. She was an avid maker of pies, and could envision them all stacked up waiting to be baked at some future point.

After we concluded our visit and returned home, my mother made the chili sauce. She loved it, I loved it, everybody loved it. Next year, following a bumper crop of tomatoes, she decided to make it again, but couldn’t find the recipe. That recipe stayed hidden for the next decade or so. Aunt Gladys had passed away at that point, and no one knew what had become of it.

Fast forward five more years when my mother pulled out an old cookbook to use, and found the chili sauce recipe that she'd apparently used as a bookmark. Immediately, she sat down, wrote out a copy, and gave it to me for safekeeping, just in case she lost it again. After my mother passed away, I had such a taste for that chili sauce that I went in search of my copy, but, alas, couldn’t find it. About a year ago, I did. It was during the winter, so I decided I was going to put it somewhere for safekeeping so as not to have it escape me during the summer. You know what I’m going to say here, right? I did lose it. Then I found it, and then I lost it again.

When I finally found it for the last time I decided that I was going to do something so as to prevent this from ever happening again -- I framed it. It is now hanging on the wall in my kitchen where I see it every day, and am thankful for my mother, my aunt, and a family history that caused such a stir. Because it gives me such a warm feeling every time I see it, I encourage you to consider giving one of your old family recipes this same treatment, and if you do, I would like to hear about it.

Come back tomorrow for the chili sauce recipe in readable form with my delicious adjustments.

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Monday, October 14, 2019

Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Mousse

Number one son and his family came for dinner on Friday night, so I had to make a memorable dessert. My grandkids know me as the grandma with lots of toys who makes great desserts, so I have a bit of a reputation to keep. I had spotted this cake on the I Am Baker blog, and thought I would give it a try. I found this very easy to put together, it can be made in stages and stored overnight, if need be, and it was spectacular!
The following night, I served it to number two son and his wife, and they went crazy as well. This is a cake that has made its way into my permanent repertoire, and I don’t say this lightly. It is one that is going to be made again and again, and, thanks to the change up of decorative sprinkles, can be served any time of the year. This must be experienced to be believed. Make it!
Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Mousse
Slightly adapted (and renamed) from I Am Baker


1¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk room temperature
½ cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, room temperature
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee


½ cup heavy whipping cream
4 oz. cream cheese
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tbsp. whole milk 
2 cups heavy cream, room temperature


Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 8” round cake pans (I use Baker’s Joy.)

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the work bowl of your stand mixer, and mix until combined.

In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla.

To the bowl of the stand mixer, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry, with the mixer on low speed. With mixer still on low, add the coffee, and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

Pour the batter into prepared pans and bake for 30-40 minutes until a cake tester or toothpick comes out mostly clean (not wet).

Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

Pour the cream into a mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until peaks form, about 2-3 minutes. Scoop the whipped cream into a small bowl and place in refrigerator.

In a separate bowl, combine the cream cheese, peanut butter, and vanilla, and beat until smooth, 1-2 minutes.
Add confectioners sugar and beat again for another minute.
Add the milk and beat until smooth, about 20-30 seconds.
Fold the chilled whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture and stir until combined.


 Heat the heavy cream in a quart-sized, microwavable container and microwave for 3 to 4 minutes on high, or until it just begins to simmer. Be careful not to allow the cream to boil over. Pour the cream over the chocolate chips, and let stand for at least 2 minutes so that it can thicken. (Ganache should be cool when pouring over cake.) When ready to pour over chilled cake, whisk the ganache until smooth and then pour.

 When ready to assemble cake, spread peanut butter filling over one layer of chocolate cake, then set the other layer on top. Chill. Cover with prepared ganache. Chill cake until ready to serve.

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