Root vegetable desserts aren’t exactly a new concept. Incorporating vegetables such as beets, asparagus, mushrooms and sweet potatoes can lend themselves to new creative dessert ideas if you start thinking ‘out of the box’.
Parsnips, traditionally used in savory dishes, can bring a subtle sweet tenderness to your baked goods. When roasted or sauteed, their sugars caramelize richly and are well complemented by a variety of seasonings such as orange or lemon zest, ginger and cardamom.
As the autumn weather turns cooler, root vegetables like carrots and parsnips convert their starch to sugar. After a few fall frosts, parsnips develop a higher sugar content than those harvested before the freeze.
My original idea was to make a loaf cake with shredded raw parsnips as you do with carrots when making a carrot cake. Knowing how sweet they become when roasted, I decided to do that first. If you have any roasted parsnips leftover from a previous meal they would work just great.
I realize parsnips are not for everyone. It probably seems a bit odd to make them the ‘star’ in dessert but I have to say we both loved this cake. The tart sticky lemon frosting was truly the ‘icing on the cake’.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Peel parsnips & quarter lengthwise; remove core. Chop into medium size pieces & place in a plastic bag. Add a little veg oil & shake to distribute evenly. Line a baking sheet with foil; place parsnips on it & sprinkle with salt & pepper. Bake until soft, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven & allow to cool, then puree in food processor.
Line a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper.
In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder & salt. Using a mixer, beat eggs & sugar together. Add parsnip puree, oil, sour cream, vanilla & spices. Fold in flour mixture, combining gently until well incorporated. Fold in walnuts & chocolate, creating a marble appearance ONLY.
Pour batter into loaf pan & bake for about 40 - 45 minutes or until it tests done. Remove from oven & cool slightly before topping with frosting.
While cake is baking, combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, lemon zest & extract in a small bowl. With hand mixer, beat until smooth. Frosting will be thick & sticky. Top loaf cake while it is still slightly warm. Slice when cool & serve.
I had personalized the spices in this cake but if my combination doesn't appeal to you, simply use 1/2 tsp each nutmeg & cloves with a teaspoon of cinnamon instead.
When purchasing parsnips, look for the small to medium size. Large parsnips are often bitter & have an undesirable woody quality.
Italian prune plums or sometimes called Empress plums, are different from the traditional round red and black skinned plums we see in the grocery stores. Sporting a dusky purple skin and a tart, lemony green flesh, these European fruits are ripe for harvest by the end of August to the beginning of September. This particular plum is prized throughout Germany and plays a big role in the German kitchen. Although it has a bit of a sour taste, it is very versatile in making juice, jam, cakes, dumplings as well as Slivovitz — a famous Schnapps.
I remember my mother making these plums as a stewed fruit to be served with yeast dumplings ( see my blog on German Hefekloesse from Nov. 6/2016).
Now that the Italian plums have come into season, I’m taking this opportunity to bake some for our dessert today. Top them with a nice simple crumble mixture, bake and serve hot. Of course, what would they be without ice cream!
Place plum halves, cut-side up, in a baking dish & drizzle with lemon juice. In a small bowl, combine topping ingredients, working with fingers until crumbly. Pile topping mixture into 'pit' holes. Bake about 20-30 minutes until topping is golden brown & bubbling. Serve hot with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Today, July 25th, is my sister Loretta’s birthday. I am truly grateful for having the privilege of Loretta in my life. More than family, she has always been a friend. Her support, encouragement and selfless love have always been a constant throughout my life. Loretta and her precious little Dachshund ‘Amigo’, have spent a lot of time over the years ‘house sitting’ for Brion and I so we could enjoy some holiday time. Her own ‘personalized’ bedroom at our house is there any time they can come to visit.
Loretta shares our love of seafood, so I’m making a shrimp etouffee for supper. This year, we have the pleasure of Loretta & Amigo being here with us on this date, making the meal extra special.
The word etouffee means ‘smothered or braised’. Classic seafood etouffee consists of butter, flour for a roux, onion, celery, green pepper, garlic & salt. One constant always remains in any etouffee and that is that it served over a plate of hot rice. Etouffee starts with roux, the color tends to be warm brown and most often butter is used rather than oil. The sauce will benefit greatly from using a shrimp stock.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, LORETTA!
OUR FAMILY CELEBRATES YOU WITH LOVE ON YOUR SPECIAL DAY
Remove shrimp shells (heads & tails) & devein. Rinse shrimp & lay on paper towels & refrigerate. In a saucepan, pour chicken stock over shrimp shells & bring to a boil. Allow to a simmer & cook for 10-20 minutes; remove from heat. Pour stock through a wire-mesh strainer over a measuring cup. Add a little water if needed to equal 1 1/2 cups.
In a small bowl, whisk together SPICE BLEND mixture
In a heavy skillet, melt butter; sprinkle with flour & stir quickly to combine butter & flour evenly into a thick, smooth roux. Continue cooking, stirring often, as the roux turns from white to golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add spice blend, onion, green pepper, celery & garlic & stir quickly, mixing the vegetables into the roux. Cook until everything is fragrant & softened, 1-2 minutes more.
Slowly add the stock, stirring & scraping to mix it in evenly. When the sauce is bubbling & boiling gently, lower the heat. Cook, stirring now & then, until sauce is thickened & smooth, about 15 minutes.
Scatter in the shrimp & allow them to cook undisturbed until the sides are turning visibly orange to pink, about 1 minutes. Toss well & continue cooking, stirring often, until the shrimp are pink, firm & cooked through & nicely flavored by the sauce. Add green onions & parsley; stir well. Transfer the etouffee to a serving dish. Serve hot over rice.
As a rule, when a person thinks of a ‘cobbler’ dessert, it means warm comfort food on a cool winter evening. But summer is here with all its fresh produce. There are dozens of simple variations on cobblers, and they are all based on fruits and berries, whatever is in season. The nice thing is, a cobbler relies more on the taste than fancy pastry preparation.
While they are not as show-stopping as a fresh fruit pizza, these easy desserts are perfect for summer barbecues. You can mix everything up, then pop it in the oven while everyone is eating barbecue outdoors. Dessert will be baked and ready for a big dollop of ice cream by the time everyone is finished eating. Fresh Pineapple Cobbler is the perfect ending to any spring-summer meal. Quick, easy and good!
In an 8 x 8 x 2-inch GLASS baking dish, melt butter, tilting dish to coat bottom. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon & salt. Add milk & extracts folding until smooth batter forms. Pour batter into baking dish over melted butter. DO NOT STIR BATTER INTO BUTTER. Distribute pineapple chunks evenly over the batter & sprinkle with brown sugar.
Bake for about 40-45 minutes in which time the fruit will sink to the bottom of the baking dish & the batter will bubble & bake up to the surface in random spots. When baked, the cobbler will be golden & will spring back slightly when touched in center. Serve warm with a dollop of ice cream!
Stromboli has been around for over six decades. It all started with an ancient volcano that sits on the island of Stromboli off the coast of Sicily. Legend has it, during the filming of the movie ‘Stromboli’ in 1950, the director and a famous film star had an affair, etc. One Italian restaurant owner in Pennsylvania, USA claims to be the inventor of this much loved sandwich. But some feel that the Hollywood scandal that inspired it is much more interesting than truth.
There are many reasons why this under appreciated ‘sandwich’ is worth trying. It can be stuffed with practically anything, made to go and you can have as much variety in it as you choose. Most of the classic stromboli have either ham, turkey, chicken or steak with pepperoni, mozzerella & parmesan cheeses.
In my stromboli, I’m using bacon instead of pepperoni but use whatever combination works for you. Roll it up, bake it and you are ready to picnic!
In a bowl, place lukewarm water; sprinkle with yeast & allow to sit for 5 minutes. Add flour & salt to yeast/water mixture; stir together & knead on a floured work surface for about 5 minutes. Wipe bowl with a bit of oil; place dough in it & turn to coat. Cover with a tea towel & place in a warm area. Allow to rise for about 30-45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 425 F. On a floured surface or a large piece of parchment paper, roll pizza dough into a 10-12-inch long rectangle. Sprinkle with crumbled bacon then shingle turkey, ham & cheese slices onto pizza dough. Roll the pizza dough up into a tight cylinder & seal the ends. Place on a baking sheet; brush with egg wash & bake about 10-15 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from oven & allow to stand about 5 minutes before cutting into slices. Serve with mustard of choice.
If your are short on time or maybe don't really want to go through the trouble of making pizza crust just use a purchased one. It will work just fine & give you more time in the sun!
As usual, I can’t get enough of using rhubarb throughout its growing season. This year we started three new plants as our older ones are producing less and less. I think they are probably just becoming to shaded so we put the new ones in a great little spot on the south side of the garage.
Rhubarb’s awkward positioning between fruit and vegetable, sweet and tart, is a topic that’s constantly debated. It resembles sticks of celery dressed in their best pink Sunday attire, blushing from the first few washes of early sun peaking through its dense foliage after winter hibernation underground.
Pie remains the most common use for rhubarb, so much that older cookbooks called it the ‘pie plant’. While it generally is treated as a fruit, it has also been used as a savory ingredient, frequently paired with meats, cheese, stuffings, sauces and much more.
This is one of my favorite ‘sweet’ recipes from quite a few years ago. It has it all — rhubarb, cream cheese & streusal!
In a small saucepan, combine rhubarb, sugar & lemon slice. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar melts. Reduce heat & simmer about 10-12 minutes or until thickened & reduced to about 1/2 cup. Allow to cool.
In a large bowl, combine flour & sugar. with a pastry blender, cut in butter to resemble coarse crumbs. In a small dish, measure 1 cup of the flour mixture & add walnuts & cinnamon. Set aside. To remaining flour mixture add baking powder, baking soda & salt. Set aside. In a third bowl, combine sour cream, vanilla & beaten egg.
Cream Cheese Filling
In a small bowl, beat together cream cheese, 1/4 sugar, egg & lemon zest. Fold in stewed rhubarb.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper cups. Stir SOUR CREAM mixture into FLOUR/BAKING POWDER mixture until just blended. Do not over mix! Spread this batter evenly over bottom & up the sides of each paper cup. Place a spoonful of FILLING MIXTURE in center of each, then top with WALNUT MIXTURE & bake 12-15 minutes or until muffins test done when a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
The pairing of chocolate and strawberries is hands down one of the best combos in dessert history. Both have long and rich histories. Strawberries were found growing wild in Italy centuries ago. The name itself has some myth around it stemming from the idea people put ‘straw’ around the base of the plant for both nutrients and protection.
Chocolate was enjoyed by Aztec and Mayan civilizations as a beverage and even used cocoa beans as a currency. As cocoa spread around the world, different ideas for its use emerged. Candy makers added milk & sugar or nuts and caramel to their chocolate confections.
In the 1960’s, Lorraine Lorusso created a decadent chocolate covered strawberry. As the story goes, she worked at a small gourmet shop called the Stop N’ Shop in Chicago, USA. She took a tempered version of the gourmet chocolate that was sold in the store and dipped some fresh strawberries into the mixture. She allowed the chocolate to harden and served these strawberries to their paying customers. The treat was an instant success.
I’ve done my own pairing of strawberries and chocolate in this cake roll with a cream cheese filling. Hope you get a chance to enjoy one through the summer as well.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 10 x 15-inch jelly roll pan with parchment paper. In a small bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking powder & salt. Set aside.
In another bowl, whip egg whites until foamy, gradually adding HALF of the sugar. Beat until stiff peaks form. In a third large bowl, beat egg yolks until thick. Add remaining sugar, vanilla & water; beat until very thick. Gradually fold in flour mixture then egg whites.
Spread batter evenly into jelly roll pan. Bake for 14-16 minutes or until it tests done with a toothpick. Loosen edges & immediately turn cake onto a tea towel dusted with powdered sugar & remove parchment paper. Starting with narrower end, roll up cake in towel; cool completely.
In a small bowl, using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, powdered sugar & lime juice. Fold in diced, fresh strawberries.
Unroll cooled cake; remove towel. Spread cake with filling; roll up loosely to accommodate filling. Cover & refrigerate until ready to slice & serve.
The caramelized, citrus kumquat flavor puts a unique twist on the traditional upside down cake. This is an old technique that started centuries ago when cakes were cooked in cast iron skillets. It was easy to place the fruit and sugar in the bottom of the pan with a simple cake batter on top and place it over the fire to ‘bake’. The fruit stays juicy and caramelized when cooked being protected by the sponge of the cake.
Probably, this is where the idea for the classic ‘Pineapple Upside Down Cake’ from the 1920’s stems from. I had some extra kumquats I needed to use so they were perfect in these little desserts. Of course, any fruit of choice will work I’m sure.
In a saucepan, combine water & sugar & heat until sugar dissolves. Leave a few kumquats whole for garnish & slice the rest. Add all of the kumquats to the pan & bring to a gentle simmer. Cook them for about 10-15 minutes until they are tender; drain & return the syrup to the pan. Bring syrup to a boil until it thickens slightly; remove from heat. Reserve whole kumquats; dividing the slices between 4 custard cups.
Preheat oven to 375 F. In a bowl, combine all cake ingredients & beat until smooth. Divide mixture over kumquats in custard cups. Place cups on a baking sheet & bake for 15 minutes or until cakes have risen & are firm to the touch in center. Remove from oven & allow them to cool in cups for a few minutes. Carefully turn them out on to serving plates, garnish with whole kumquats & drizzle with warm syrup.
Flax is a flavor that has always appealed to me. I like it both in the ground or seed form. Flax is sown and harvested much like a spring cereal crop and matures at the same time as wheat. Although its place of origin is unknown, it seems likely it it would be southwest Asia. Flax is one of the oldest textile fibers used by humans. Evidence of its use have been found in Switzerland’s prehistoric lake dwellings as well as fine linen fabrics being discovered in ancient Egyptian tombs.
Here in Canada, flax is produced as an oil seed crop. Superior oil quality and higher oil content have long been major features of Canadian flax seed, attributed to Canada’s climate. I remember my father growing flax as a trial crop one year in southern Alberta. The thing that made a lasting memory for me was its pretty azure blue flowers and interesting little seed pods. Thinking about that, it must have been in the late fifties or early sixties.
Today, I’m making some crepe stacks using flax-meal in the crepes. It should give a nice nutty flavor to compliment the chicken-avocado filling.
In a blender, combine crepe ingredients & blend for 1 minute at high speed. Scrape down sides; whirl for another 15 seconds. Cover & refrigerate for at least 1 hour or longer. Heat a non-stick griddle (or use a crepe pan). Using a 1/4 cup measure, pour batter on griddle using a circular motion to create the right size of crepe needed. Cook about 2- 3 minutes on each side. When cooked, cool on a wire rack until needed. This batter makes about 10 crepes.
In a saucepan, melt margarine; add flour to make a roux & cook for a few seconds. Slowly add milk/broth combo, stirring to combine well. Add spices & continue cooking for about 5 minutes or so. Set aside
Mash avocados & add yogurt, spices, lemon juice, onion & sun-dried tomatoes. Set aside. Slice mushrooms & if you prefer, saute for a few minutes otherwise you can leave them raw. Prepare fresh tomatoes, red & green onions. Grate cheese.
On a work surface, lay out 3 crepes per person (for 2 people). Spread all but 2 crepes with avocado mixture, leaving a 1/2-inch border on each. Place two of the avocado 'spread' crepes on serving plates. Top each with some chicken, corn, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, 'sauce' & cheese. Lay another avocado 'spread' crepe on top of each plate & repeat with fillings, sauce & cheese. Now, top each stack with an un-spread crepe. Spread any remaining sauce in a small circle in the center. Top with the remaining filling ingredients & sprinkle with last bit of cheese. When you are ready to serve just give them a few minutes in the microwave & your done! Any remaining crepes can be frozen.
Spring is definitely in the air, so bring on those fresh spring flavors. One that comes to my mind is lemon — zesty and full of some spring ‘zing’. My first thought is to pair lemon with some wild blueberries. I realize we are a long way from blueberry harvest time but the good news is that WILD blueberries are as good frozen as they are fresh. None of the nutritional values or antioxidant goodness is lost by freezing.
Canada is the world’s largest producer of ‘low-bush’ blueberries, which is another name for the wild blueberries native to eastern North America. They grow best on treeless land or on land that has been burned over. Growers do not plant them but instead manage wild stands that spread naturally by means of underground runners. The berries are often not uniform in appearance since managed fields can have several distinct runner systems.
The wild blueberries have a sweeter, tangier more intense flavor than their cultivated cousins. Harvest time comes in late August to early September, generally only lasting a few weeks.
This simple little dessert lets us get into the summer blueberry ‘season’ a little earlier and still has all the flavor.
In a large bowl, combine butter & powdered sugar; cream well then stir in vanilla. In a small bowl, combine dry ingredients, gradually add to creamed mixture; blend well. Line the muffin pan size of your choice with paper cups. Divide dough into balls, placing one into each cup. With your fingers, press dough evenly up sides & on bottom of paper cups. Refrigerate until filling & streusal are made.
In a small dish, combine streusal ingredients until mixture forms coarse crumbs.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Gently rinse & dry blueberries. In a small bowl, combine all other filling ingredients & whisk together until smooth. FOLD in blueberries. Divide filling evenly between pastry shells. Top with streusal & a spoon full of lemon curd. Bake about 25 minutes, (filling will rise slightly when set). Remove from oven. If you prefer, add a bit more lemon curd. Once tarts are cool, remove from pan. The paper cups will come off easily, leaving a pretty little corrugated design.