Sunday, December 17, 2017

A Thyme to Discover. Early American Recipes for the Modern Table, Reviewed

I don't think I have ever been as captivated by a cookbook as I was by this one. From its clever title to its charming illustrations, wonderful recipes, interesting history, and snippets of facts peppered throughout, A Thyme to Discover. Early American Recipes for the Modern Table by Tricia Cohen and Lisa Graves has a little bit of everything. It makes as appropriate addition to your coffee table as it does your kitchen counter because of its wide appeal. Children will enjoy the whimsical illustrations, adults with no interest in cooking will find the history fascinating, and the cook, well, the cook is just going to fall in love.

Everything about this book is unique and clever, even the Table of Contents, that is divided into sections of time rather than by cuisine, as shown in the picture below.
The recipes are adapted with the modern day cook in mind, and all tastes are considered. No one, from the very young to the elderly, is going to be left behind. From the 1620s to the 1650s you will find Maple and Herbs Acorn Squash; from the 1650s to the 1680s you will find Veal with Madeira Sauce; the late 60s offer Baked Virginia Ham with Bourbon Orange Glaze; 1700s to 1790s, Braised Short Ribs, Boston Brown Bread and Baked Beans. There are plenty of desserts to be had as well, think Decadent White Chocolate Rice Pudding, Applejack Crisp Pie, and Bourbon Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. Is your mouth watering yet? Mine is. To be truly authentic, you can precede your meal with a colonial cocktail -- Spruce Beer, Quince Wine, Rattle-Skull, and Flip, just to name a few.
This is a hard book to put down, once you start paging through you won't want to stop. It will also send you immediately into the kitchen to whip up something tasty.
We all know that hard to buy for person whose name we happen to draw for Secret Santa. That person who has a variety of oddball interests, few of which replicate our own, and we often find ourselves scratching our heads trying to figure out what to get him or her. This book is your answer. It is a book for foodies, history buffs, and red-blooded Americans in general. It will charm and delight both young and old, you don't have to be a cook to enjoy it, and it would be suitable for older children as well as adults, and a welcome gift for a grandparent who may remember being taught about the Mayflower, American Revolution, and the Early American Settlers who struggled to survive in the New World. You will delight your recipient with this book. 

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Brazilian-Style Pound Cake

Normally, and you're just going to have to take my word for it, I don't moan when I eat pound cake. Moans are generally reserved for things in the steak and seafood categories. And, truth be told, I'm not a huge fan of pound cake. I make pound cake, because it's easy, and can be dressed up in a variety of ways. I also appreciate that it can be enjoyed as easily for breakfast as it can be for dinner. Essentially, it's versatile, but that's hardly high praise.

All of this changed when I tried this recipe for Brazilian-Style Pound Cake that I found on the Eagle Brand website. Whether you are a fan of pound cake, or not. Whether you make a lot of pound cake, or not. This is different from anything that you have ever made or consumed in the past, I guarantee it. I don't know about you, but I have never used a can of sweetened condensed milk in a pound cake before, and, oh boy, what a difference that makes. This also calls for an entire pound of butter, so you know that it is going to be rich, and dense, and good. It is all of these things. It also has a wonderfully crispy exterior, and rich, almost chewy interior, with that pound cake denseness that you love, a delicate sweetness, and wonderful flavor. This is the absolute apex of pound cakes, and I insist that you try it!
Brazilian-Style Pound Cake

1 pound (4 sticks) butter
2-1/4 cups granulated sugar
6 large eggs, room temperature
1 can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
Powdered sugar, for garnish

Preheat oven to 325° F. Grease and flour (or thoroughly coat with Baker's Joy) a 10-cup Bundt pan; set aside.

In the work bowl of a stand mixer beat butter on high speed until light and fluffy. Blend in sugar and eggs. Beat on high-speed for three minutes. Blend in sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract, and lemon peel. In a medium bowl whisk together flour and salt until blended. With mixer on low slowly add the flour mixture to egg mixture, beating until blended. Pour mixture into prepared pan.

Bake for 90 to 95 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 30 minutes. Remove from pan to wire rack to cool completely. Generously dust with powdered sugar prior to serving.
You can also make small cakes, as I did, using this adorable snowflake silicone mold pan. I baked these for 27 minutes, allowed them to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, and then turned them out onto a wire rack.



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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Holiday Hot Cocoa Mix

Generally speaking, I am not a fan of hot cocoa mix. My experience is limited, so perhaps there is one commercial brand out there that is absolutely delicious and one I must try, but why bother when it is just so darned easy to make your own?  This recipe was inspired by Jamie Oliver from his new Christmas cookbook (A fantastic tome that you simply must own, and can do so by clicking here), but I think mine is better than Oliver's, and one heck of a lot easier because, instead of having you grate the chocolate (a messy job at best), I use dark chocolate chips that are pulverized in the food processor.

You can double or triple this recipe if you plan to give it this season as gifts (something I strongly encourage). It looks adorable when poured into a small milk bottle, or other spring-top jar or container. Include a tag with instructions, and consider tying a small bottle of liquor (such as Kahlúa, Crème de Menthe, or Cointreau) as a nice adult addition to this decadent treat.
Holiday Hot Cocoa Mix
Makes one big jar (24 servings)

7 ounces dark chocolate chips
10 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
5 tablespoons vanilla malt powder
5 tablespoons cornstarch
5 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon
espresso powder
A pinch of ground cinnamon

Measure out 7 ounces of dark chocolate chips. Put them into a food processor, and pulverize. This is going to take a little while, so be patient. You can pulse until the desired consistency is reached, or you can just turn it on and let it rattle like a bunch of pea gravel in a mixing bowl, until it's powdery. Put the rest of the ingredients into the food processor with the pulverized chocolate, and pulse until combined. Decant into jars or other festive containers. Attach a label with instructions:

Place two tablespoons of mixture into a cup of simmering whole milk. Pour into mug and enjoy.


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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Salted Whiskey Caramel Sauce


Making homemade caramel sauce can put you on a bit of a slippery slope. If you're making it from scratch using butter, sugar, and heavy cream, you may find, as I do, that there is a fine line between a nice, beautiful, amber caramel sauce, and a bitter mess. If you don't cook it long enough, it's not going to be caramel; if you cook it too long, it's going to taste bitter. That's why, particularly during the busy holiday season, when I find myself pressed for time, the best way that I know of to make caramel sauce is simply using one can of Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk.

Continuing my week of partnering with Eagle, today's recipe couldn't be simpler, and is going to yield a lot of rewards. It's a Salted Whiskey Caramel Sauce, and it cooks while you get on with your day. It makes an excellent ice cream topping to be sure, but it also adds a lot to plain pound cake, makes a wonderful drizzle atop chocolate brownies, and is an excellent gift for a friend or hostess. If you want to make anything more festive this holiday season, cover it in caramel!
Salted Whiskey Caramel Sauce

1 (14 ounce) can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
1-1/2 tablespoons whiskey* (I used Jameson)
Pinch of sea salt

Preheat oven to 425° F. Poor sweetened condensed milk into a 9-inch glass pie plate. Cover tightly with foil. Please pie plate into a larger pan (I used a 10" x 10" square cake pan), and fill pan with a half an inch of water. Carefully place it into the oven, and bake for two hours. Remove from oven, carefully lift the foil-covered pie plate out of the pan, remove foil, and whisk in sea salt and whiskey, continuing to whisk until smooth and creamy. Allow to cool before serving. Store, covered, in the refrigerator.

*If you prefer a non-alcoholic version, you can use a teaspoon of whiskey liqueur essence.



Disclaimer: I received compensation from Eagle Brand Milk to create this post.

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Monday, December 11, 2017

Excruciatingly Easy Peppermint Patties



Number one son came by today to help me with a few things, and he was immediately drawn to the cute container full of chocolate candies, and, let's face it, who wouldn't be? He popped one into his mouth and exclaimed that they were really good. I thanked him, and told him that I had made them. His eyes widened; he couldn't believe that I had made something that looked so professional, and was so delicious. Your friends and family are going to feel the same. Make these. And then give them away as quickly as you can before you eat them all yourself. Yep, they are that good.

This week I am partnering with Eagle, making great use of one of my favorite products, Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk, wherein I hope to provide you, each day, with enough ideas to allow you to create a lavish and delicious dessert buffet for your holiday gathering, whatever that might be.

We're going to start off with a guaranteed crowd-pleaser, peppermint patties. I first made peppermint patties years ago. It was a huge pain. I used a recipe from a high-end gourmet magazine, and it was one heck of a lot of work. It was frantic, trying to keep the filling from drying out, having to keep it covered with a damp cloth, spray it periodically with a mist of water, and knead it off and on. I vowed right then and there that I would never make them again. Thanks to the people at Borden, there is a much easier way to do it. Thanks to my adaptation of their recipe, it is child’s play!
Excruciatingly Easy Peppermint Patties
Adapted from a recipe on eaglebrand.com

1 (14-ounce) can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon peppermint extract
6 cups confectioners’ sugar, plus additional for kneading
Green or red food coloring, if desired
 1 (12-ounce) package semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon Crisco or coconut oil

In the work bowl of a stand mixer combine sweetened condensed milk, peppermint extract, and food coloring (if desired). Add 6 cups of confectioners' sugar, and beat on low speed until smooth and well blended. Turn mixture out onto a work surface dusted with powdered sugar.

Knead to lightly form a smooth ball. Roll out dough on a confectioners’ sugar-dusted work surface to 1/4-inch thickness. Using a 1½-inch round cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out as many rounds as you can from the dough; discard scraps.

Allow medallions to dry for one and a half hours, turn over and let dry an additional hour.

In a double boiler over simmering water, melt together chocolate chips and Crisco or coconut oil, stirring until smooth. Dip each pattie into the chocolate mixture, turning to coat, and place onto a parchment-lined baking sheet to dry. At this point you can either sprinkle the tops with crushed peppermint candy, or allow them to dry to later be decorated with green or red candy melts as I have done here.

These taste like the real thing, everyone will love them. This recipe makes approximately 60.


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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Cheesy Broccoli Bites


Every December, a group of neighborhood ladies gather for a Christmas lunch at a local restaurant, a cozy, family-owned Italian place. I love their Chicken Parmesan and that's what I ordered for lunch when we were there last Wednesday. It wasn’t until my food was delivered that I realized that, instead of ordering the sandwich, I ordered the dinner. So, not only did I get a big piece of Chicken Parmesan, but I also got a sizable salad, and an even more sizable side dish of broccoli. I ended up bringing half of the salad and all of the broccoli home with me. The salad I enjoyed the next day with a sandwich, the broccoli I turned into wonderful little cheesy broccoli bites that work equally well as an appetizer or vegetarian meal.

The idea struck me as I was paying my bill, looking at that big pile of broccoli that I was carefully dumping into one of those polystyrene containers. It just sounded so appealing to have broccoli, a couple of cheeses, hint of nutmeg, and some sort of filler, all rolled together and baked in the oven. As it turned out, I was right! These are delicious. They are also easy to make. I put everything together earlier in the day, and kept it in the fridge until I was ready to roll them into balls. I enjoyed them for dinner with a glass of wine. It probably wasn't the most balanced meal, but it sure was a tasty one.

If you have any difficulties at all getting members of your family to eat vegetables, this would be a very easy way to get them to do just that.
Cheesy Broccoli Bites
(A Doggy Bag Dinner Recipe)

1 cup (packed) cooked broccoli, rough chopped
½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 egg
½ cup grated Parmesan
1/3 cup shredded mozzarella
1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 hefty tablespoon mayonnaise
Olive oil spray

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Blend all of the ingredients together (except olive oil spray) until well combined. Using a cookie scoop, scoop up quantities of the mixture and press them into tight balls. Place them onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet, spray with the olive oil spray, and bake for 22-25 minutes. Serve warm with your favorite dipping sauce.
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Friday, December 8, 2017

Valerie Bertinelli's Home Cooking, Reviewed


She had me at Lobster BLT (Can you imagine?), and kept my rapt attention with Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeño Shrimp with Cherry Cola BBQ Sauce, Brown Sugar Sriracha Bacon Bites, Steamed Clams with Spicy Garlic Bread, and Slow-Cooker Pasta Bake. Clearly this is a book offering a wide variety of recipes to satisfy a wide variety of tastes. The book in question is Valerie Bertinelli's Home Cooking, More than 100 Delicious Recipes to Share with Friends and Family.
When I'm asked to review a celebrity cookbook, I often cringe. There are celebrity cookbooks, and there are celebrity cookbooks. Some of them have great value; others are merely marketing tools to promote the celebrity author. I wasn't sure what to expect with Valerie Bertinelli's Home Cooking, but was most pleasantly surprised.

It is divided into six cleverly named sections: Rise and Shine, Getting Through the Day, Happy Hour, Around the Table, A Side Note, and Finishing Sweet. As much as I do love desserts (Don't we all?), Getting Through the Day was my most favorite. I find lunch the most difficult meal of the day and, like Bertinelli, would like to have the same type of lunch that I enjoyed while on vacation. If you feel the same, you will find just what you're looking for here. The Slow Cooker Beef Sandwiches with Giardiniera Aioli, was but one of my many favorites.
I’ve been a fan of Bertinelli for a long time. She may be in her 50s, but she is still as engaging today as she was back in the ‘70s when she played Barbara Cooper in the TV sitcom "One Day at a Time." But our girl is all grown up now, the mother of an adult son, and spending a lot of time doing what she loves to do most, whipping up recipes in her well-stocked kitchen. Here, she invites us in, to sit at the table and chat, and cook, enjoy a cup of tea, and slice of pie (Cherry Cheesecake Pizza Pie, perhaps).
This book is full of charm as well as recipes. There are more than a hundred of them, all easy to prepare, made with simple ingredients, and sure to please every member of your family. The instructions are simple and concise, and every taste is considered. Each recipe is preceded by a personal memory, along with tips, helpful advice, stunning photos; the pictures of her mother's old recipe cards will surely touch your heart as they did mine.
 One of the most beautiful, personal, and thoughtfully written cookbooks that you will find this year. For more information or to buy a copy for yourself or to give as a gift, click here.

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Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Potato Gratin with Gouda and Fennel


It was Ina Garten who first introduced me to the fennel/potato combination. It scared me at first because, well frankly, the thought of fennel with potatoes sounded ghastly. But, when it comes to taste, a fennel bulb is nothing at all like fennel seed. The bulb has a very mild flavor and, when included in any vegetable or potato combination, adds richness and a delicate sweetness that vastly enhances even the simplest of dishes.

This is a very simple potato gratin. You can make it the day ahead, and bake it before you are ready to dine. It's a great dish for a buffet because you can double (or even triple) the recipe, and, after removal from the oven, it improves if the dish sets out for 10 minutes before serving. The recipe below serves 4, or as I like to tell people it serves from 1 to 6, depending upon the zealousness of your potato eater. Me? I could eat the whole bowl, that's how good this is, but I restrain myself so other people can enjoy it as well.
Potato Gratin with Gouda and Fennel

1 extremely large russet potato (1 pound, 

sliced as thinly as you can manage it*)
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 small fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced

(I used Melissa’s)
  1 cup half-and-half
1 cup shredded Gouda cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup Gouda cheese

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of olive oil, sauté onion with fennel until tender. While the vegetables are sautéing, toss the sliced potatoes with the half-and-half, 1 cup of cheese, and salt-and-pepper, in a medium bowl. When vegetables are tender, remove from heat, add to the potato mixture, and toss to coat. Turn out into a 1-1/2 quart casserole dish. Press down on potato mixture to be certain they are covered with the cream. Drizzle the top with heavy cream, and the 1/4 cup Gouda. Bake for one hour, until potatoes are tender. If the top starts to brown excessively, cover with foil. When potatoes are done, remove from oven and allow them to stand for 10 minutes before serving.

 *Use a mandolin if you have one. If you don’t, you can get one here.


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