The flavor of lime has not always been one that I have enjoyed. It always seemed to have an overall harsh characteristic about it. After we spent a few holidays in the Yucatan, Brion started using lime juice in his chicken soup and really enjoyed it. From there I swapped out the lemon juice for lime in our guacamole. Now here I am putting it in cheesecake. Who knew it could be that good!
A squeeze of lime juice is vital to many classic dishes. It’s the kick in a margarita, the spark that ignites many curries and the tart foil to sweetness in a host of desserts. Conveniently, for such an indispensable ingredient, limes are available year round.
Lime pairs well with apple, berries, cherry, ginger, papaya, plum and strawberry to name a few. Today, I’m using it in a cheesecake filling. It seems like a nice little dessert to start off the month of June.
Strawberry Lime Cheesecake Cups
In a bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar & lime juice & beat well. When cookie cups have completely cooled, pipe the filling in them & top with a fresh strawberry. Refrigerate until served.
When I think about Easter, one of the first foods that comes to mind are hot cross buns. I’m sure you think I’m going to have a nostalgic memory of my mother’s hot cross buns, but strangely enough, I don’t. The memory I do have from that time in my life is of some very yellow, cylinder shaped loaves. They were soft, sweet and yellow from the many eggs used in the dough. My mother just called it ‘Easter Bread’. It didn’t have icing, candied fruit and nuts or extra spices, it was just plain and gloriously good.
Each year, at Easter time, I really enjoy to make some version of Easter bread or buns (of course, trying to make it just a bit better than the year past). This year I’m going to make a hot cross bun ‘loaf’.
While hot cross buns are now sold and enjoyed throughout the year, they were once reserved for Good Friday alone. There is no one clear explanation … some theories rest in Christian symbolism while there are also more than a few stories that indicate hot cross buns were baked on Good Friday for superstitious reasons.
No matter what the reason, Brion & I have always loved these soft, spicy little buns. No doubt, this ‘loaf’ will probably make some good french toast for an Easter brunch.
Hot Cross Bun Loaf
In a large bowl, whisk together milk, oil, eggs & sugar. Sprinkle yeast over mixture. Allow to sit for 10 minutes.
In a bowl, combine 4 cups flour with 3/4 tsp cinnamon. Add to yeast mixture & combine. Mixture will be very sticky. Cover bowl with a tea towel & let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.
In a small dish, combine 1/4 cup sugar with cardamom & ginger; set aside. In another small dish, combine paste ingredients for crosses, stirring until smooth. Transfer to a piping bag with a small opening; set aside.
In a small bowl, combine remaining 1/2 cup flour with baking powder, baking soda & salt. When dough has risen, add this mixture & combine. Move dough to a lightly floured surface. Press to slightly flatten dough.
Sprinkle 2 Tbsp spiced sugar & a third of the fruit mixture over the dough. Fold dough over on itself & flatten again. Repeat the process two more times, ending by folding the dough in on itself. Divide the dough into 12 pieces. With floured hands, quickly roll the pieces into balls.
In a buttered, OVERSIZE loaf pan, place 6 rolls then top with remaining 6 rolls. Pipe whatever cross design you prefer on loaf. Cover & allow to rise for about 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake for 30-40 minutes. If the loaf is browning too fast, place a sheet of foil over it to prevent this.
Combine sugar & lemon juice. When loaf is baked, warm glaze for a few seconds in microwave then brush over loaf.
- If you do not have an oversized loaf pan, a bundt pan will work just fine.
Homemade ice cream …the ultimate old fashioned treat has a very worldly history that stretches around the globe.
When I was growing up on the farm, we had one of those ice cream makers with a hand crank that featured an inner canister and churn. The canister and churn held the ice cream custard, which was placed in a bucket that salt and ice or snow could be added to. My siblings and I would take turns churning until the custard magically transformed into the heavenly frozen dessert.
Ice cream is the perfect treat for any season. In the summer you can cool off by enjoying a scoop of ice cream and in the winter you can pair it with a warm dessert. Let’s face it, if you are an ice cream lover, the possibilities are endless.
The first ice cream sandwich was basic: cold, creamy with a little crunch on either side. The purpose was to make the ice cream better than if it stood alone. My original idea for today’s blog dessert was to replicate the flavors of the classic ‘Bananas Foster’ dessert of the 50’s. The ingredients in it were very simple, such as butter, cinnamon, brown sugar, vanilla & rum. The end result today became a combo of caramelized bananas & banana cake turned ice cream sandwich!
My inherited love for ice cream has never left me to this day and I might add, Brion has the same ‘affliction’ (which doesn’t help).
Banana Ice Cream Sandwich Cake
In a microwave safe bowl, melt butter then stir in brown sugar. Divide evenly between 6 custard cups; slice the 3 ripe bananas & place over sugar/butter mixture. Set on a baking sheet.
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon & salt. In a separate large bowl, cream together butter & sugar; add eggs, Greek yogurt, mashed bananas & extracts & combine. Slowly add dry ingredient mixture to wet batter & mix only until combined.
Pour the batter over the caramelized bananas in the custard cups. Bake for 30 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Let cakelets cool in custard cups slightly, then invert on a plate. You may have to gently coax the caramelized bananas to loosen with a spatula. Slice each cake half so you can add a layer of vanilla ice cream to the bottom halves. Top each with the other half of the banana cake.
It’s that time of year when in our part of the country we start seeing kumquats in the grocery stores. If you have never tasted them, they are a little deceptive. Like many things in life, its all about expectations. Their diminutive size makes them seem harmless, but they have an intensely tart flavor. Kumquats have a sweet skin with a very tart flesh and are filled with a lot of seeds. The skin is often times more appetizing than the flesh itself making them perfect for candying.
This kumquat tart is such a beautiful presentation at Christmas gatherings. Thick Greek yogurt is an ideal filling to mellow the intensity of the candied citrus.
Yogurt often surpasses whipped cream as a topping for all kinds of sweet and spicy desserts. Greek yogurt has a smooth, rich and thick consistency. Part of what makes it different from regular yogurt is that it is strained to remove the whey. When whey is removed, so is water, which creates a thicker, more substantial yogurt product.
I blame it on inheritance, but I’ve always been one of those people who need something sweet after dinner. Doesn’t need to be fancy, just something to satisfy the craving. Of course, anything that seriously satisfies that craving isn’t going to be the epitome of a ‘healthy meal’. That being said, enjoy the tart.
Spiced Kumquat & Greek Yogurt Tart
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda & salt. With fingertips, cut in cold butter until mixture resembles small peas. In a measuring cup, whisk together water, egg & vinegar. Make a well in dry mixture & pour wet mixture into it all at once. With hands, mix until JUST combined. Roll out pastry to about 1/8-1/4" thickness Cut out 8 - 6-inch circles with a pastry cutter. Press into tart forms. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Pierce the tarts with a fork across the bottom, line with parchment paper (paper should overflow the edges) & fill with pie weights to prevent dough from rising. Bake for 10 minutes, remove weights & paper & bake another 5 minutes more. Cool completely.
Make sure the yogurt has any extra liquid strained from it by using a cheesecloth if necessary Do this before making the candied fruit.
In a small, heavy bottomed pot, place sliced kumquats, Grand Marnier, sugar, honey, water, star anise, cinnamon stick & vanilla extract. Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat slightly & cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring often, until the syrup thickens & the kumquats are very soft. Remove from heat & discard the anise stars & cinnamon stick.
Arrange a sheet of parchment paper over a cooling rack. Using tongs, remove fruit from sugar solution & lay flat on the parchment paper to cool.
When ready to assemble dessert, add a tsp of sugar solution per 1/2 cup of strained yogurt. Divide yogurt between the tart shells, spreading evenly. Arrange the candied kumquats on top & sprinkle with chopped pistachios.
There are so many culinary uses for Medjool dates, in both sweet and savory dishes, whether served hot or cold. Often called the king of dates, not only because they are quite expensive but are highly treasured for their size and rich, intensely sweet flesh.
These special fruits are pricey because their cultivation is incredibly labor-intensive. In order to ensure quality and yield, Medjool date palms need to be hand pollinated, pruned, protected and hand picked. While growing, the date bunches are wrapped in bags to prevent the birds from snacking on them and to keep them from falling on the ground.
Dates are usually left to dry on the tree before being harvested, which accounts for their wrinkly appearance. This places them in a peculiar category of being both dried and fresh. Different types of dates have different textures that fall into three categories: soft (like Medjool); semi-soft, which are chewy and are pitted before packaging to dry a little more; and dry, which are often sun-dried after harvest and sold chopped.
Dates can be paired with lamb or chicken and spiced with Middle Eastern flavors or added to dried apricots, cranberries and toasted walnuts in rice or couscous accompaniments. Their caramel-like flavor adds a hint of the exotic to whatever you choose to use them in.
We had some extra apples I needed to do something with. The thought of pairing them with some Medjool dates and walnuts …. Yum!
Medjool Date & Apple Flans
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, & salt. Cut in white & yellow Crisco shortening. In a dish, whisk together water, egg & apple cider vinegar. Make a well in flour mixture & pour all wet ingredients in it. Combine just until pastry pulls away from the bowl.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out pastry; cut out eight 6-inch pastry circles. They should fit nicely into the mini flan pans that measure about 4 1/2-inches in diameter & are 3/4-inch in height. Once you have the pastry you need for the shells, form the remaining pastry in a 'tube' shape. Set the pastry shells in the fridge while you prepare the filling. FREEZE THE TUBE OF PASTRY. This you will use to GRATE on top of the flans for the top crust.
In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Add prepared apples & saute until they start to soften, about 10 minutes. Add spices & honey, combine & cook 1 minute. Take off heat & allow to cool to lukewarm.
Assembly & Baking
Preheat oven to 350 F. Remove mini flan shells from refrigerator & place on a baking sheet. Spoon some apple mixture in the bottom of each shell. Top each with a portion of the dates & walnuts, then evenly divide the remaining apple mixture between them. Remove the frozen 'tube' of pastry from freezer & grate (on a cheese grater). Sprinkle over mini flans.
Bake until nice & golden, about 35 minutes. Cool slightly. Whip cream with sugar, cinnamon & vanilla until stiff & serve on warm flans.
Well here we are, the end of October already, and Halloween has arrived. A number of years ago, Brion and I decided to take a different approach to this occasion. Rather than spending the evening running to the door to hand out treats, I would make some special goodies for our immediate neighbor’s ‘kids’. We have been lucky to have had the same neighbors for many years. Since food is my passion, its always fun to ‘create’ something that I think our four ‘young’ people will enjoy.
My choice of treats this year are brownie ghosts, krispie candy corn and some bite size pizzas. Most kids love chocolate so I think brownies will cover that and I swapped out the ‘waxy’ candy for rice krispies in the candy corn treats. Pizza bites aren’t exactly following the Halloween theme but the kids are getting older and I’m sure they will love them anyway.
Just an interesting little side note on the actual candy corn ‘candy’ since they seem to be synonymous with Halloween. Originally they were never tied to any time of year. Many candies of the day were molded into what was recognizable to regular folks. At the time, that was vegetables, fruits and other simple, earthy things.
When the Goelitz Confectionery Company first produced candy corn, it was called ‘chicken feed’. The boxes were illustrated with a colorful rooster logo and a tag line that read: ‘Something Worth Crowing For’. The multi-colored design was ground-breaking in the candy industry at the time it was invented. One of candy corn’s least favored qualities is that waxy texture. Strangely enough, even after more than 120 years, it still has a huge following as well as many other candy corn related and/or flavored recipes on the market.
ENJOY YOUR HALLOWEEN IN WHATEVER WAY WORKS FOR YOU!
Brownie Ghosts - 'Krispie' Candy Corn - Pizza Pinwheels
Chocolate Dipped Candy Corn Treats
Bottom Layer of Brownies
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 9 X 9-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Combine all bottom layer ingredients until crumbly. Pat into pan & bake for 10 minutes.
Middle Layer of Brownies
In the microwave, very carefully melt chocolate (do NOT overheat) & add butter. Stir until combined & slightly cool; add beaten egg & sugar. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder & salt. Add to chocolate mixture alternately with combined milk & vanilla. Fold in walnuts. Carefully spread batter over bottom layer. Bake for 20-25 minutes; do not OVER BAKE. Remove from oven & cool. Slice into 20 squares.
If you prefer to make your chocolate ghosts BEFORE the frosting, it will give them ample time to set before needed. TO MAKE FROSTING: Carefully melt chocolate & butter in microwave. Cool slightly; stir in powdered sugar & vanilla. Blend in hot water & beat until a smooth consistency. Spread icing evenly over brownies & decorate with a white chocolate ghosts.
White Chocolate Ghosts
Carefully melt white chocolate wafers in microwave. Pour melted chocolate into a piping bag fitted with a small hole tip. Place a large piece of waxed paper on a flat surface with a printout of ghost shapes underneath. Trace outline, then fill in the center. Allow to set completely, then peel ghosts from waxed paper & press lightly on top of brownies.
Chocolate Dipped Candy Corn Treats
Butter 2 round 5-inch baking pans. In a large pot over medium heat, melt butter. Add marshmallows & stir constantly until they are melted. Stir in a few drops of orange coloring & remove the pot from heat. Add rice krispies, being sure to stir until well coated. Press into prepared pans to set. Once treats have set, cut them into triangles & use your hand to gently round the corners for a more realistic look.
Melt candy coatings in separate dishes. Lay out a sheet of parchment paper. Dip the base of each triangle into the yellow chocolate, shaking off excess, then dip the tips into the white chocolate. Place them onto the parchment paper. Once the chocolate has set, you can store the treats at room temperature in an airtight container for up to three days. Yield 30 treats.
Mini Pizza Pinwheels
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. set aside.
Grate cheeses & combine in a small dish. Remove dough from packaging but DO NOT unroll. Slice each roll into 12 disks & space out on parchment paper. Using a 1/4 cup dry measure, (make sure you lightly butter & flour the bottom of your measure or it will stick to the dough). Press down the little disks to form a cavity. Divide the pizza sauce & grated cheese between the 24 disks.
Bake 10-12 minutes; remove from oven & cool on a wire rack.
Hand pies are just perfect for this time of year. No fork or plate required —a variety of fresh seasonal fruit available — picnics and barbecues happening. Another great thing is that you can make up a big bunch on a cooler day and freeze them. Personally, I would bake them before freezing so they are ready on short notice but nothing says you have to.
Years ago, hand pies were primarily made with reconstituted dried fruit since fresh fruit is often to juicy to encase it with delicate pastry. Now, a blend of dried and fresh fruit with the help of thickeners can yield a balanced mixture of flavors and textures.
There seems to be various successful ways to go with your pastry from the traditional pie crust to a more biscuit-type pastry. One thing I found that helps to avoid having a ‘gummy’ inside is rolling your dough fairly thin.
When it comes to the filling, I always have the urge to overfill pies, be it full or hand size. Getting it right sure helps to keep them from splitting and leaking.
Hand pies have primarily been deep fried in past but my preference is to bake them. I guess I’ll just never be a deep fried lover of anything. These makes such a nice seasonal combo!
Blackberry-Peach Hand Pies
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda & salt. With fingertips, cut in cold butter until mixture resembles small peas. In a measuring cup, whisk together water, egg & vinegar. Make a well in dry mixture & pour wet mixture into it all at once. With hands, mix until JUST combined. Roll out pastry & cut 8 - 6-inch circles with a pastry cutter. Lay pastry circles on parchment paper lined baking sheet. Refrigerate until ready to fill.
In a small saucepan, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon & salt. Stir in blackberries & peaches. Cook over medium heat until mixture has thicken, about 6-8 minutes. Add vanilla & allow to cool COMPLETELY. In a cup, beat egg with water for the egg wash topping. Set aside
Preheat oven to 375 F. When fruit has cooled, remove pastry from fridge & divide filling between pastry circles. Try to keep the filling in the center, away from the outer edges. Brush a line of egg wash over pastry edge then fold hand pie in half. Use a fork to press the pastry layers together forming a seal to keep fruit from leaking. With a sharp knife, cut 3 vents in each pie.
Brush the tops with egg wash & sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden.
- Frozen puff pastry can easily be substituted for regular pastry if you wish.
- If you wish, use a hand pie cutter for easy assembly.
This is a Canadian berry pie, originating from the Maritime provinces that is made up of at least three kinds of berries. Since there is no such thing as a ‘bumble berry’, as the name suggests, its a mixture of berries that are in season (ones that you might bumble upon).
Berries commonly used in this pie may include blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries. Other choices often used are apples, rhubarb, cherries, plums or fresh cranberries.
Most often the pie is made with a top crust of pastry or designs cut out and laid over the fruit. Other ideas would be to use a nice streusal topping or as I have done on mine, grated pastry sprinkled with coarse sugar.
This is such a great summer dessert served, of course, with ice cream!
Bumble Berry Pie
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder & salt. With a pastry blender or finger tips, cut in white & yellow Crisco shortening. In a measuring cup, place the egg & vinegar then add enough COLD water to make 1 cup; whisk together. Make a well in center of flour & pour ALL liquid in. With hands combine quickly but do NOT over mix. This recipe will should give you enough for about 3 - double crust 10-inch pies. Whatever you don't use, freeze for later use. This is so handy when time is short & dessert is needed. At this time, roll out a 10-inch bottom pie shell, place in pie pan & refrigerate until ready to fill. Take the same amount of pastry, form it into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap & place it in the freezer. When you are ready for the top pastry on your bumble berry pie, remove the ball from the freezer & GRATE it over the top of the fruit.
In a large bowl, combine fruit. In another dish, whisk together sugar, flour, cornstarch & cinnamon. Gently toss into fruit mixture along with lemon juice.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Place filling into chilled pie shell, using the large holes on a box grater, grate the ball of pastry (from freezer) directly over the fruit, as you would a block of cheese. Using a fork, gently move the gratings here & there for an even covering. Sprinkle with coarse sugar.
Bake pie on center rack for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 F. rotating pie for even baking. Bake about 25-30 minutes more or until to is golden brown & juices are bubbly & thick around the edge. Remove from oven. Serve warm with ice cream.
- Never hesitate to vary the fruit you choose for this pie. Remember, its whatever you 'bumble' upon!