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Roasted Tropical Fruit Tarts

If you can’t have a tropical vacation at this time, why not enjoy some of the tropics in the form of dessert!

You may never have thought fruits were destined for you’re roasting pan. Although it does demand a bit of time and work, the return is worth it. Try it once and you will do it over and over again.

Fruit is a highly versatile item and its uses go far beyond a mere snack. During the summer months, grilled fruit is often a tasty end to a barbeque. Grilling caramelizes the fruits natural sugars and brings out the sweetness. During winter or colder months, continue the same process indoors by roasting and broiling fruit in the oven.

For the tarts on this blog, I roasted the fruit in the oven with a bit of extra butter and brown sugar as well as some spices to enhance the flavor. Another idea would be to arrange fruit slices on the filled tarts and sprinkle them with a bit of sugar. Then place tarts under the broiler until sugar bubbles and browns …. your choice!

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Roasted Tropical Fruit Tarts
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Shortbread Pastry
Vanilla Cream Custard
Roasted Tropical Fruit
Servings
Ingredients
Shortbread Pastry
Vanilla Cream Custard
Roasted Tropical Fruit
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Instructions
Shortbread Pastry
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a bowl combine butter & sugar, beat until light & fluffy. In another bowl whisk together flour & baking powder & add to butter/sugar mixture. Blend together.
  3. Divide pastry between 6 individual tart pans. Using your fingertips, evenly press the dough into pans. Place on a baking sheet & blind bake for 10 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven & prepare custard & fruit.
Vanilla Cream Custard
  1. In a small saucepan, bring milk to a simmer. In a bowl, whisk together sugar, cornstarch & salt. Add egg; whisk until blended.
  2. Gradually whisk hot milk mixture into egg mixture. Return to same saucepan; whisk over medium heat until sauce thickens & boils, about 5 minutes. Whisk in vanilla & remove from heat to cool.
Roasted Tropical Fruit
  1. Preheat oven to 450 F. Peel & thinly slice fruit.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt butter & add brown sugar, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom & vanilla; mix well.
  3. Line a baking sheet with foil paper. Place sliced fruit on it & pour butter/sugar mixture over it. Gently turn fruit over to make sure all is evenly coated.
  4. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, flipping over about half way through. The fruit is done when it turns a rich golden & begins to brown BEFORE it starts to blacken.
Assembly
  1. Place pastry shells on a serving platter. Divide vanilla custard between tart shells. Top with roasted tropical fruit & serve. Any extra fruit can be enjoyed just as a dish of fruit or with yogurt.

Russian Pelmeni

My love for noodles, dumplings, etc. probably could be accredited to my German heritage. This recipe for Russian pelmeni has been hovering in my ‘must try’ file for quite some time, so today’s the day.

It seems most food historians agree that these Russian dumplings originated in Siberia. Although pelmeni forms the heart of Russian cuisine and culture, it does have numerous look-a-likes in particular the Ukrainian vareniki and the Polish pierogi. The easiest way to spot the difference is to look at the shape and size; a typical pelmeni is almost circular and about two inches in diameter. The other forms are usually more elongated and larger in size.  Also, the fillings in pelmeni are usually raw, while the fillings of vareniki and pierogi are typically precooked. Pelmeni will never have a sweet filling , unlike its Ukrainian counterpart. The recipe may actually be an adaptation of Chinese pot stickers.

Fillings differ but essentially they are ground meat (pork, beef or sometimes lamb), fish or mushrooms as well as being quite spicy.

The word pelmeni comes from ‘pelnyan’ which means ‘bread ear’, a reference to the food’s ear-like shape.

Although this meal was favored by hunters who were looking for light, easy to prepare, nourishing food to take with them on long trips in the winter, its also seen as Russian fast food among students or bachelors.

This recipe gives you the option of making traditional pelmeni or using an alternate method called ‘lazy’ pelmeni. Both equally as good.

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Russian Pelmeni
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Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine European
Keyword Russian pelmeni
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Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine European
Keyword Russian pelmeni
Servings
Ingredients
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Instructions
Dough
  1. In a bowl, combine all dough ingredients & knead until a smooth dough ball forms, about 10 minutes. Cover, set aside & allow dough to rest until your filling is prepared.
Filling
  1. In a bowl, combine ground meats, onion, garlic, salt & pepper. Mix well.
Assembly
  1. FOR THE TRADITIONAL PELMENI: Divide the dough in half & roll each portion out into 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut into 2-inch diameter circles & place about a teaspoon of the filling on each circle. Fold the circle in half & crimp edges well, then bring the ends together & crimp. Repeat to use remaining dough & filling. It is best to refrigerate or freeze finished pelmeni before you are ready to boil them.
  2. To cook, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Place pelmeni in the boiling water & cook until they float to the top then cook for about 5 minutes more. Remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl. Add butter & mix to coat. Serve with sour cream & fresh parsley.
  3. FOR 'LAZY' PELMENI VERSION: Once dough has rested, transfer to a floured surface. Roll out the dough into a large thin rectangle. Spread meat filling over the dough, leaving a 1/4-inch at the far side of the dough.
  4. Tightly roll the dough up, starting from the wider side, forming a log. Put seam side down to seal the edges. Seal ends of the dough as well. Using a very sharp knife, cut the dough log into 2-inch sections.
  5. In a large skillet that will accommodate all pelmeni, heat oil & cook onion until translucent. Add garlic & continue cooking until fragrant. Add carrot & 1 bay leaf; cook until the carrot is tender, about 1-2 minutes.
  6. Place pelmeni rolls into the skillet with veggies, add the vegetable broth, salt, pepper & the other bay leaf. Cover with the lid & cook for 30 minutes on low heat. Check pelmeni from time to time, to make sure there is liquid in the skillet. Add more if it evaporates too fast. Garnish with fresh parsley. Serve immediately with sour cream if you wish.

Mushroom Beef Roll

When you cook meatloaf/roll were connected to something bigger …. a tradition and a time line. A comfort food that has been enduring not only an answer to hunger but is served without undue fuss or expensive implements. It reigns supreme.

The reason meatloaf has stayed with us through so many generations is because it is a master of evolution. It can be personalized and adapted any number of ways, all the while requiring only basic skills.

In the 1955 edition of the Good Housekeeping Cookbook, a recipe for ‘mushroom-stuffed meatloaves’ was featured. To enliven a simpler offering, there was an inexhaustible trend for garnishing, glazing, saucing and decorating.

Then in 1966, the Campbell’s Soup Company featured a recipe for a ‘rolled, stuffed meatloaf’ to promote their tomato soup (in place of traditional tomato sauce). The idea was that by rolling a vegetable into the meatloaf, you could save the work of creating a separate side dish. A new one dish meat and vegetable dinner …. and soup makes it great!

The fact that meatloaf takes on variations so easily shows how it dresses up just as well as it dresses down. This meal definitely does not lack in flavor.

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Mushroom Beef Roll
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
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Ingredients
Beef
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Beef
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Instructions
Filling
  1. In a saucepan, saute onion in butter until translucent. Add mushrooms, garlic, soy sauce, salt & thyme. Cover & simmer on low for 10 minutes. Remove from heat; add heavy cream & cheese. Allow to cool.
Beef
  1. In a bowl, combine beef with kalbi sauce; mix well.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. On a piece of plastic wrap, press out meat in a rectangle about a 1/4-inch thickness. Sprinkle meat with green onions. Top with mushroom filling. Using the plastic wrap, roll from the short end in a jelly-roll style.
  3. On a piece of parchment paper, spread crushed french onions in a rectangle shape. Place meat roll on top & roll to cover it with the crushed french fried onions.
  4. Place parchment paper with meat roll on a baking sheet & bake for about 50 minutes.

Chewy Raspberry Apple Granola Bars

When I think of granola bars, the thin slabs of oats and honey of the 1970’s come to mind. What began as a ‘hippie’ craze gradually morphed into decadence with bars including chocolate chips, macadamia nuts, corn syrup and marshmallows. Great tasting but hardly healthy would you say!

The basic recipe often starts with old-fashioned rolled oats and a sweetener that acts as a binder. Honey seems to be a popular choice but other options include brown rice or maple syrup.

Flaked coconut is popular but not being a coconut lover, I opt for coconut oil instead. When it comes to nuts, along with nutrition they provide crunch. If you notice this recipe does not include them, its not for any other reason except that a nut allergy plaques me. Definitely add them if you can.

Customization comes to the forefront in your choice of dried or frozen fruit. Some choices might be dried dates, apricots, cranberries, pineapple or mango.

These bars make a nice breakfast treat or snack option, not to mention the word ‘healthy’.

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Chewy Raspberry Apple Granola Bars
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BARS
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BARS
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly coat an 8-inch square baking pan with a nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the oil & applesauce until smooth. Mix in milk, honey & cinnamon until thoroughly combined. Stir in the oats until evenly coated with the applesauce mixture. Gently fold in the raspberries.
  3. Press the oat mixture into the prepared pan & bake for 16-19 minutes. Cool completely to room temperature in the pan before slicing into 10 bars.

Scalloped Potato Turkey Rolls

The wonderful thing about potato casseroles is that you can dictate the flavor by the types of cheese used as well as the added ingredients and flavor aids like herbs, garlic and spices.

There are many versions and variations of potato ‘bakes’. It comes down to little more than a free form of how the potatoes are cut and layered. Other ingredients such as herbs and cured meats like ham or bacon as well as smoked fish and other vegetables can be added.

With this recipe you are combining the best of all variations; scalloped, au gratin and dauphinoise. Béchamel sauce, a variety of cheeses and the flavor of garlic result in an amazing taste as well as the dish makes for some interesting eye appeal.

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Scalloped Potato Turkey Rolls
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Zucchini
Bechamel Sauce
Turkey Sausage
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Zucchini
Bechamel Sauce
Turkey Sausage
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Instructions
Zucchini
  1. Place the shredded zucchini on paper towel & sprinkle lightly with salt. Cover & blot with another piece of paper towel. Allow to sit for about an hour or until moisture is absorbed. Place zucchini in a bowl & combine with panko, cheese, egg & spices. Set aside in refrigerator.
Bechamel Sauce
  1. In a saucepan, melt butter, whisk in flour. Cook for about 2 minutes then turn off heat & slowly begin to add milk. Continue whisking until all milk has been added then turn on heat & bring sauce to a boil. Whisk constantly until thickened then add 3/4 of the Gruyere cheese & stir until cheese is melted. Spread the bechamel sauce evenly in a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.
Turkey Sausage
  1. In a saucepan, saute bacon, leeks & garlic until cooked & tender. Remove from heat & place in a bowl; allow to cool then add turkey & spices. Mix well.
Potatoes
  1. Slice potatoes into about 30 thin slices, keeping them in their original potato shape. Wrap each sliced potato in plastic wrap & bake in the microwave until almost cooked.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Lay the potato slices on your work surface, spread a small amount of the zucchini mixture on each one. Top with a layer of the turkey mixture. Roll each potato slice in a spiral shape then place in rows over the bechamel sauce.
  2. Cover pan with foil & bake for 45 minutes then remove the foil & sprinkle the remaining Gruyere cheese on top. Bake uncovered for another 15 minutes until top is golden.

Baked Apricot Rice Pudding

Chances are good, you’ve tried rice pudding at least once. That’s because humans have been eating the dish for thousands of years across the world.

Today, rice pudding is considered a humble dessert …. a simple mixture of rice with milk, sugar and spices. But for centuries, rice pudding held a place of distinction in the royal courts of Europe. Because rice did not grew well in the European continent, it had to be imported from Asia along the Silk Road or by water. The extensive trade routes made rice an expensive commodity that only the rich could afford. As the world seemingly grew smaller through the effects of globalization, the import of rice became affordable and common.

Many early rice puddings did not resemble the sweet dessert we think of today. This sweetened version didn’t arrive until the 15th century. Usually rice pudding is sweetened with white or brown sugar, honey or dried fruit, but you can also use maple syrup, jam, date sugar or fruit juice concentrate.

Different varieties of rice lend their own tastes and aromas. I opt for Arborio, which makes the pudding creamy even when I use low fat milk or non-fat milk. Fruit, whether fresh, dried or candied is the puddings perfect partner. Today, rice pudding is considered an easy and versatile dessert which many of us associate with our childhood.

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Baked Apricot Rice Pudding
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 F.
  2. In a bowl, combine egg whites, egg, milk, sugar & vanilla. Beat until combined but not foamy. Stir in cooked rice, snipped apricots, cardamom & orange zest.
  3. Place 4 custard cups in a rectangular baking dish. Divide rice mixture among dishes, Place baking dish on an oven rack. Pour boiling water into the baking dish around custard cups to a depth of 1-inch.
  4. Bake, uncovered, for 40 minutes or until just set, stirring after 20 minutes. Serve warm or chilled. Garnish with slivered apricots & pistachios.

Savory Chicken & Onion Dutch Baby Pancakes

Today, February 16th, is officially known as ‘Shrove Tuesday’. This date varies from year to year and falls somewhere between February 3rd & March 9th. This traditional ‘feast’ day marks the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday and is always 47 days before Easter Sunday. The expression Shrove Tuesday derives from the word ‘shrive’, meaning absolve.

This day was observed by many Christians who wanted to make a point of self-examination to consider what wrongs they needed to repent. The ingredients for pancakes can be seen to symbolize four points of significance at this time of year.

EGGS -creation, FLOUR -the staff of life, SALT -wholesomeness, MILK -purity

For something different this year, I’m going the savory route with our Shrove Tuesday pancakes. When it comes to versatility, there aren’t too many dishes that can hold a candle to a Dutch Baby pancake. They easily go savory or sweet. You can go as minimal or maximal as you wish for the toppings or just have them warm from the oven as is.

The Dutch Baby is one of the simplest forms of pancakes to make. Just mix up a few pantry staples, pour the batter into a hot, buttery skillet or oven proof glass bowl and bake it until its puffed and golden.

I’m using a chicken/broccoli filling today. This meal is one of our favorites so we have enjoyed it with a variety of savory fillings.

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Savory Chicken & Onion Dutch Baby Pancakes
Instructions
Filling
  1. In a skillet, heat oil & sauté mushrooms for 5-7 minutes. Mushrooms will expel a lot of moisture. Continue to cook until mushrooms are tender & most of the moisture has cooked off. Season with salt & pepper. Steam broccoli in the microwave for about 30 seconds or until tender-crisp.
  2. Shred cooked chicken with 2 forks. Thinly slice green onions. Keep raw for topping filling with.
  3. Prepare chicken gravy mix. Even though the package suggests using only one cup of water, I like to use 1 1/4 cup so that it is thinner & will cover the filling nicer. If you feel you need to add some red pepper flakes to spice it a bit more.
Dutch Baby Pancakes
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Place (2) 6-inch diameter glass bowls (each with 2 tablespoons of butter in them) in the oven to heat while you are preparing the batter.
  2. In a bowl, whisk eggs & milk. Add flour & whisk until incorporated. Next, whisk in the Parmesan cheese, scallions, parsley, thyme, salt & pepper.
  3. Remove heated bowls; divide batter between them. Return to oven & bake for about 25 minutes. The Dutch baby will puff up during cooking & form 'bowl'. Once its removed from the oven & starts to cool it will deflate slightly.
  4. As soon as you remove it from the glass bowl, place it on a serving plate & fill with the mushrooms, broccoli & chicken. Top with gravy & sprinkle with green onions. Serve immediately. Your filling should be enough for 2 Dutch baby pancakes.

Coconut Chicken w/ Sweet Spicy Sauce

In late August (2020), I had posted a recipe for coconut shrimp. It has become one of our favorite meals so I thought there was no reason not to try the same recipe using chicken breast.

It uses Panko bread crumbs to give a light crispy texture to the coconut breading. Panko was invented during WWII by the Japanese. The word panko is derived from ‘pan‘, giving us the word for bread in Japanese (derived from the Portuguese word ‘pão’ for bread), and ‘ko’, indicating flour, coating, crumb, or powder.

Panko crumbs are made from grinding yeast-risen bread, which is baked using an electric current, which goes through the dough. This type of bread has no crust, instead, the entire loaf consists of the soft and airy bread center. Panko adds crispiness but being neutral in flavor, it does not over power the item it is coating.

This unique oriental product caught the attention of North America in the 21st century due to its interesting texture, subtle flavor and striking visual appeal.

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Coconut Chicken w/ Sweet Spicy Sauce
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Instructions
Sauce
  1. In a food processor, puree ingredients for sauce & set aside.
Coconut Chicken
  1. Using 3 separate bowls, place flour in the first, egg in the second & panko & coconut in the third.
  2. Slice the chicken breast & dust pieces in the flour then dip in the egg & lastly coat with panko/coconut mixture.
  3. Preheat a skillet over medium heat. Melt butter, then add oil. Once the combo is heated, place the chicken tenders in the skillet & cook 3-4 minutes on each side or until golden & cooked through.
  4. I prefer to place cooked chicken on a plate lined with paper towel to drain any excess oil from it before serving. Serve with spicy sauce on the side. This meal is real good with some steamed rice.

Angel Food ‘Grilled Cheese’

More than ever, our souls need Valentines Day right now. It’s time to embrace the challenge and think outside of the box on how to create something special for the occasion. Since February 14th falls on a Sunday this year and the pandemic keeping many celebrations at home, its the perfect excuse to enjoy a brunch with a grilled cheese …. ‘angel food grilled cheese‘ that is!!

When most people think of grilled cheese they imagine a savory, cheesy sandwich served over lunch, but have you ever tried a sweet grilled cheese? Is it dessert? Is it breakfast? It really doesn’t matter.

Sometimes we get stuck in a rut with that cheddar on white bread thing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just that there’s so much more cheesy goodness out there to be melted. Grilled cheese ideas only continue to evolve.

Obviously, a good cheese is the key to grilled cheese success, but the truth is, you can never really go wrong. Its your personal preference that really matters.

The tone is set for a great grilled cheese with the first slice of bread or in this case, loaf of angel food cake. Lime flavored cream cheese gets melty and gooey spread between the cake slices. Its the perky part of the sandwich that adds something unexpected.

If strawberries aren’t your thing, try raspberries, blueberries, mango or even kiwi and if you prefer a sturdier outside, use a sweetened brioche or challah bread. Whatever works for you!

Brion absolutely L-O-V-E-S angel food so for me the choice was clear. The fact that the ‘grilled cheese’ is not overly sweet made it a real nice brunch item for us.

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Angel Food 'Grilled Cheese'
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Angel Food Cake (Yield = (8) 1-inch thick slices)
Strawberry Sauce
Lime Cream Cheese
Servings
Ingredients
Angel Food Cake (Yield = (8) 1-inch thick slices)
Strawberry Sauce
Lime Cream Cheese
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Instructions
Angel Food Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Have a 9-inch loaf pan available. Do not line or grease the pan in any way.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup sugar, flour & cornstarch. Set aside.
  3. In another bowl, add egg whites, vanilla, cream of tartar & salt. With a hand mixer on medium speed, beat until foamy, about 30 seconds. Slowly stream in the remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Continue to beat on high speed until soft peaks form, about 4 minutes.
  4. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients, gently FOLDING them into the egg whites using a rubber spatula. Repeat with remaining flour mixture in two increments. FOLD EVERYTHING TOGETHER GENTLY so egg whites do not become deflated in the process.
  5. Pour batter into the loaf pan. Place the loaf pan on a baking sheet & bake for 35-40 minutes. When cake is baked it should not be sticky to the touch.
  6. Once the cake comes out of the oven, immediately turn it upside down & invert it over two cans. The cake needs to cool upside down so it doesn't deflate. Allow it to cool for at least an hour.
Strawberry Sauce
  1. In a small saucepan over low heat, add sliced strawberries, sugar, lemon juice & cornstarch. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, & cook for 6-8 minutes or until mixture has thickened. Remove from heat.
Lime Cream Cheese Spread
  1. In a small dish, beat together cream cheese, lime juice & powdered sugar until smooth & creamy.
Grilled Cheese Assembly
  1. Slice angel food loaf into 8-inch slices. In a shallow container, whisk together 2 cups milk or half & half, 2 eggs & 1/4 tsp cinnamon.
  2. Soak cake slices in milk/egg mixture for a couple of minutes, then cook on a griddle (or skillet) like you would with French toast. When the slices are golden on both sides, divide cream cheese spread between four of the slices. When cheese is warm & melted, top each with one of the remaining four slices.
  3. Place on four serving plates & top with strawberry sauce. Serve warm.

Raspberry Souffle

Soufflé is a light, airy cake that originated in France. In the dessert department, they are a hallmark of French culinary tradition.

The word itself comes from ‘souffler’, meaning ‘to breathe’ or ‘to puff’, which is what the egg whites do to the base once they hit the oven’s heat.

A soufflé has two main components, a flavorful base and glossy beaten egg whites that are gently folded together just before baking. It somewhat resembles angel food cake, but even lighter.

This billowy creation can be served as a sweet dessert or a savory meal. Sweet soufflés make spectacular desserts with fruit, chocolate or liquors. Savory soufflés usually incorporate cheese, vegetables, meat or seafood and are appropriate for a light meal or as a first course.

Soufflés are found all over France, with every region applying its own ‘spin’. This raspberry soufflé, with its nice pink color, makes a great Valentine dessert idea for that special meal.

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Raspberry Souffle
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Course dessert
Cuisine American, French
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Course dessert
Cuisine American, French
Servings
Ingredients
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Instructions
Raspberry Puree
  1. In a saucepan, combine raspberries, orange juice & sugar. Cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes or until sugar dissolves & raspberries have released their juices. Remove from heat.
  2. Strain through a fine sieve into a medium bowl & using the back of a wooden spoon, push excess pulp through sieve. Return juice to the saucepan.
  3. Combine cornstarch with water & add it to raspberry mixture. Bring to a boil, allowing puree to thicken to a custard consistency. Remove from heat & allow to cool.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 F. Place an oven tray in the oven to preheat. Brush 4 ramekins with melted butter & dust with sugar. Set aside.
Raspberry Soufflé
  1. Using an electric mixer, whisk egg whites in a medium bowl until soft peaks form adding 1 tablespoon of sugar while mixing to get a glossy texture. Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the raspberry mixture, starting with half of the quantity.
  2. Once the egg whites have been fully incorporated into the raspberry mixture, pour evenly among prepared ramekins & fill them. Run your spatula around the top of each ramekin just above the soufflé mixture to remove the extras & clean the ramekins.
  3. Place soufflés on the preheated hot tray & bake for 15-17 minutes or until puffed & cooked through. Remove from oven & place on serving plates. Dust with powdered sugar & serve immediately.