All onions are not created equal so using the best onion for the job can really add a depth of flavor to your meals.
Onions are the workhorses of the kitchen and the foundation of so many billions of dishes across the globe that we forget how lovely and delicious they are all by themselves.
For most of the year, you’ll find red storage onions at the supermarket, which are pungent and spicy. In the summer months, you’ll often find fresh red onions, which are much milder, and lack a bit of the ‘onion-y’ flavor you’ll find in their yellow and white cousins.
The main difference between red onion and white onion is that red onions are a little spicy in taste while the white are comparatively sweeter and less mild.
It is a well-known fact that almost all dishes feel and taste incomplete without the presence of onion in them. Stuffed onions are an impressive side dish and a perfect complement to any main dish.
Creamy Roasted Red Onions
Peel onions, trim the root ends so they will sit upright & cut about 1/2-inch from tops. Rub onions with olive oil & season with salt. Bake for 50 minutes. Remove from oven & allow to cool slightly.
Gently remove the centers leaving a shell of about 2-3 layers. Return a slice of the center to form a bottom. Coarsely chop onion centers.
In a bowl, combine cream cheese, sour cream, salt, herbs de Provence, garlic powder, minced garlic & chopped onions. Spoon filling into onion shells.
In a small bowl, combine Panko, butter, cooked bacon & parsley. Spoon carefully over onions.
Bake for 30 minutes or until filling is heated through & bread crumbs start to brown. Serve immediately.
There are certain plants that play important and often mysterious roles in holiday traditions and celebrations all over the world. From the Egyptians who decorated trees during the winter solstice, to the Pagans and Druids who used mistletoe in their winter customs, stories of ritualized plant use span continents and history and have become infused into the mythologies that span generations. I’ve always wondered how poinsettias and Christmas became intertwined. After a bit of research this is what I found.
It seems the story behind poinsettias is rich in history and lore. The vibrant plants are native to the rocky canyons of Guatemala and Mexico. Poinsettias were cultivated by the Mayans and Aztecs, who valued the red bracts as a colorful, reddish-purple fabric dye, and the sap for its many medicinal qualities. The poinsettia was first associated with Christmas in southern Mexico in the 1600s, when Franciscan priests used the colorful leaves and bracts to adorn extravagant nativity scenes.
There is an old Mexican legend about how Poinsettias and Christmas come together, it goes like this:
There was once a poor Mexican girl called Pepita who had no present to give the baby Jesus at the Christmas Eve services. As Pepita walked to the chapel, sadly, her cousin Pedro tried to cheer her up.
‘Pepita’, he said, ‘I’m sure that even the smallest gift, given by someone who loves him will make Jesus happy.’
Pepita didn’t know what she could give, so she picked a small handful of weeds from the roadside and made them into a small bouquet. She felt embarrassed because she could only give this small present to Jesus. As she walked through the chapel to the altar, she remembered what Pedro had said. She began to feel better, knelt down and put the bouquet at the bottom of the nativity scene. Suddenly, the bouquet of weeds burst into bright red flowers, and everyone who saw them were sure they had seen a miracle. From that day on, the bright red flowers were known as the ‘Flores de Noche Buena’, or ‘Flowers of the Holy Night’.
The shape of the poinsettia flower and leaves are sometimes thought as a symbol of the Star of Bethlehem which led the Wise Men to Jesus. The red colored leaves symbolize the blood of Christ. The white leaves represent his purity.
Although it doesn’t pre-date Christianity like its Christmas counterparts, the holiday season wouldn’t be the same without the reds and greens of the poinsettia.
Poinsettia Cookie Wreath
Using a bit of gel paste from a purchased tube, anchor each cookie in place on top of wreath base to form 'poinsettia wreath'. Finish with adding a ribbon or some holly leaves & pinecones or personalize to your own taste.
- I like to save the heavy plastic wrap from frozen puff pastry for recipes like this. When you roll the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap as opposed to using flour on your board, it really keeps the dough from becoming so dry.
- I found if I took the poinsettia cookies out of the oven about 5 minutes before they were finished baking & pressed the candy center in then returned them to the oven, the candies stuck to the cookies better.
I just can’t resist fitting a bit of fruit mincemeat into my Christmas baking, so this year it comes in a quick bread. Quick breads cover a wide range, from biscuits and scones, which are made from a dough, to muffins and loaves that are made from a batter. They can be large or small, savory or sweet. The major thing that identifies them is the fact that they are, as their name implies, quick to make.
Quick breads have evolved as a distinctly different tradition after the introduction of baking powder in 1850. Before that, breads and cakes were leavened with yeast.
These breads come in all shapes and sizes. Even though they are called breads, lets be clear, they are a cake of sorts. Some breads are light and airy, others are hearty and dense. The ingredients used will greatly affect the final volume and texture. Oats gives breads a somewhat dense and chewy texture. Sugar helps to keep breads tender and without salt will taste flat.
The basic way to prepare a quick bread is the two-bowl method. This entails mixing all dry ingredients separately from the liquid and sugar, then quickly combining the two with only a few strokes. The idea is to not overmix or overbake.
If you like mincemeat, this loaf is so nice to have on hand during the Christmas season.
Mincemeat Quick Bread w/ Orange Spread
Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 4 1/2-cup ring mold pan or bottom only of a 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan.
In a large bowl, beat eggs; stir in mincemeat, brown sugar, milk & butter.
In another bowl, whisk together flour baking powder & salt. Add to wet mixture, combining ONLY until flour mixture is moistened. Pour into chosen baking pan
Bake about 45-50 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven & cool 10 minutes before removing from pan.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar if you wish. Serve warm or cool with Orange Butter.
In a small bowl, beat marmalade with butter until softened & blended.
Sauerkraut strudel is a popular savory strudel version in beer gardens and during Oktoberfest which is the German fall folk fest celebrated during and after the harvest season.
A tradition dates back to 1810 in Munich, Germany. Originally a celebration of the marriage of the King of Bavaria and Princess Therese. Everybody had so much fun that it was resolved to repeat the celebration, which has been done, every year since. In 2022 it runs from September 17-October 3.
Oktoberfest is not only about the beer, singing, dancing and fair attractions. Many of the best known and most loved Bavarian specialties are enjoyed during the festival.
German strudels are not limited to the classic fruit fillings for the pastry. Savory examples are very common and this simplified sauerkraut strudel with soft sautéed strands of cabbage, the smoky flavor of bacon, and a savory crunch of caraway seeds; all wrapped in a delicate, flaky crust is a good representative.
German Krautstrudel w/ Bacon
Dice the bacon & cook in a pan over medium heat until it renders the fat but is not yet crispy. Drain on paper towel & sauté the diced onion in the rendered bacon fat. Cool down.
In a bowl combine the drained sauerkraut, bacon, onion, egg, bread crumbs & seasonings. Mix well together.
Roll out the puff pastry sheets, brush with half the melted butter. Reserve the rest.
Spread half of the sauerkraut mixture over each sheet, roll & pinch to tuck in the ends. Place each strudel seam side down onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet & brush with melted butter.
Bake for 35 minutes or until nicely golden brown. Allow to cool slightly before slicing with a serrated knife.
Serve with sour cream, sliced green onions or mustard as a dip.
- To make a STRUDEL DOUGH from scratch:
- Sift 2 cups of all-purpose flour into a bowl. Mix with 1 tsp of salt. Add a beaten egg, 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and 2/3 cup lukewarm water.
- Mix well together and knead into a dough. Cover with plastic and let rest 30 minutes.
- Flour work surface and knead dough for a few minutes. Roll it out very thin.
- Flour one side of a large, kitchen towel, spread it out. Place the rolled out dough on top and using your hands stretch it out, aim for a rectangle shape, roughly 16 by 24 inches.
- Proceed as above and use the towel to help you roll the dough over the sauerkraut filling.
I enjoy to make miniature versions of food whether its sweet or savory. I’m not sure where that ‘obsession’ came from. It could be that having worked in the commercial food industry for many years, you always prepared food in large quantities or maybe because now its just for the two of us. Whatever the reason …. its fun! I’m sure you are probably quite familiar with the Dutch Baby or German pancake. I have featured them on the blog numerous times over the years.
A cross between a pancake and a crepe, a Dutch baby begins with the thin pancake-like batter which is poured into a hot skillet or an oven proof dish. When the edges of the pancake are brown, it is ready to come out of the oven. The center is perfect for adding sweet or savory ingredients.
The recipe is a basic, universal one that can be adapted in a number of different ways:
- Add berries or other fruit to the batter
- Add different spices such as cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, chai spices, or switch up the extract to use almond, lemon or orange.
- Top with whipped cream, mascarpone, whipped maple butter, jam, peanut/almond butter or a fresh fruit compote.
- To make a savory version, omit sugar & vanilla and add veggies & herbs.
Brion & I are having mini rhubarb Dutch baby pancakes today. Should be good!
Mini Rhubarb Dutch Baby Pancakes
In a saucepan, combine rhubarb, brown sugar, flour & spices. Stir until combined. Roast in oven, uncovered, for about 25 minutes or until tender & thickened. Remove from heat & keep warm.
Dutch Baby Batter
In a blender, combine pancake ingredients & blend well until frothy. Leave in blender while you prepare muffin tins.
Preheat oven to 425 F. Place a 12-cup muffin tin in oven.
When the oven is heated, melt the second 2 Tbsp butter. Remove hot muffin tin from oven & quickly brush bottoms & sides of pan with melted butter. Turn blender on for a few seconds to re-mix batter, then quickly pour into hot muffin cups, dividing equally between 12 cups, filling about 1/2-2/3 full.
Place in oven & bake for 15-18 minutes, or until puffy & deep golden color. Remove from oven (pancakes will quickly deflate). Place pancakes on serving plates & spoon warm rhubarb sauce in them. Top with a bit of either whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Strawberry-rhubarb … raspberry-peach … blackberry-plum … the possibilities for combining summer fruit in amazing ways are truly endless. I’ve recently became aware of the apricot, strawberry & rhubarb combination. This combo had never occurred to me, superseded as it is by the mighty strawberry/rhubarb duo.
Fruit tarts are stunning desserts that look like they should be in a French bakery window, but the truth is they can easily made at home. This super simple, mixed fruit tart with an oat pastry really celebrates the flavors of the season.
Apricot Strawberry-Rhubarb Tart
In a bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, spices & salt. Add melted butter & vanilla; stir to combine. Press 2/3 of mixture onto the bottom & up the sides of a 9-inch tart pan; set aside.
Prepare fruit & place in a mixing bowl; add the orange juice, vanilla, sugar & spices. Stir to coat & set aside.
Pour the fruit over crumble mixture; sprinkle the rest of the crumble around the outside of the fruit.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, until crust turns golden brown. Serve warm or cold.
Fresh garden veggies are what summer is made for. Eating fresh and in season not only tastes amazing but is so enjoyable.
I’m sure everyone is well acquainted with the zucchini ‘boat‘ idea. Basically zucchini sliced in half lengthwise, hollowed out and filled with whatever you choose. I think incorporating the zucchini you scoop out into the filling is a good idea. This versatile veggie takes on the flavor of whatever your cooking, so the possibilities are endless.
For this recipe, I’m keeping it simple and filled the zucchini boats with rice and succulent pieces of marinated shrimp then topped them with parmesan cheese. I find the best zucchini to use is a medium size, about 8-10 inches in length. Zucchini that is smaller than that really tastes the best but should be saved for other recipes because their not big or sturdy enough to hold the filling. Those super large zucchinis are best for grating to add to baked goods like bread and muffins.
It seems like just about the time you think you made everything possible with this veggie, one more idea pops up. Yay zucchini!
Shrimp Zucchini Boats
In a container with a lid, place cleaned shrimp & remaining marinade ingredients. Allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes.
Cook rice in chicken broth until tender.
Slice zucchinis in half lengthwise; scoop out centers, leaving 1/8-inch thick shells. Place in a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.
Chop zucchini flesh that was scooped out of centers. In a large skillet, melt butter; add chopped zucchini & sauté until tender crisp. Remove from heat & add cooked rice, garlic powder & some of the parmesan.
Fill hollowed shells with rice mixture. Drain shrimp & place on top of rice mixture. Drizzle marinade over top of shrimp boats. Sprinkle with remaining parmesan.
Bake 20-25 minutes or until shrimp is cooked & zucchini is tender crisp.
Rhubarb is the rebel of the vegetable world. It looks like celery, tastes like sour candy, its leaves are poisonous and unlike most spring and summer produce, its barely edible raw. With such a feisty personality, its no wonder some are intimidated to cook it.
More than any other fruit or vegetable, rhubarb to me is the sign of the changing season. It is the signal that summer is arriving in those ruby red or speckled green & pink stalks. I snap up what I can in the garden and when I see it at the supermarket. I take all I can and more, slicing and freezing the excess for rhubarb cravings that come in winter.
Year-round, I save rhubarb recipe ideas I hope to make once I get my hands on the first stalks of the season. No summer would be complete without cinnamon rhubarb bread …. still warm from the oven and the heavenly smell of cinnamon in the air!
Cinnamon Roll Rhubarb Bread
In a saucepan, combine all ingredients except vanilla & food color. Heat to medium high & stir occasionally until rhubarb begins to break down completely. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla & food coloring; allow to cool to room temperature.
In a small dish, combine yeast with lukewarm water & 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Allow to sit for a few minutes until frothy.
In a large bowl, slightly melt butter; cool a couple of minutes then whisk in egg. In another bowl, whisk together flour, salt & remaining sugar. Add yeast mixture to butter mixture, whisking together. Add flour mixture, combine then turn on a floured work surface & knead for about 5 minutes. Dough will be very soft but not sticky.
Lightly grease bowl, place dough ball in it & cover with a towel. Place in a draft-free place & allow to rise for about 20 minutes. Butter a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan; set aside
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface & press down to deflate it. Fold in the two opposite sides to meet in the middle, then fold in the remaining two sides to meet, so that you've formed the dough into a square. Press down to flatten it slightly, then cover loosely and let stand for 10 minutes
With a floured rolling pin, rolling the dough to form a rectangle that's 12 by 22 inches. Make the corners as square as possible. If you're having trouble with the dough shrinking back, pause briefly before trying again.
Spread rhubarb/cinnamon filling over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border around the edges. Now fold the two long sides of the dough in one at a time, so that the meet each other in the middle. Pinch them together gently to seal the seam. Gently roll over the surface with a rolling pin to flatten the folded dough to about 7 by 25 inches.
Starting at the narrow end, roll up the dough, making a thick spiral. When you get to the end, brush a little egg wash on the loaf at the spot where the end will hit. Pinch the end a bit to seal it.
Carefully & gently place the roll, seam side-down in the buttered pan. The roll of dough should nearly fill it. Cover it loosely with plastic wrap & place in a warm, draft-free place to rise for about 25-30 minutes, until almost doubled & about 2 inches above the top of the pan. Meanwhile, adjust the oven racks so that you have one rack one-third up from the bottom of the oven.
Lightly brush remaining egg wash over loaf & bake for about 20 minutes. You may need to cover the top loosely with aluminum foil towards the end of baking to prevent over-browning. Bake until the loaf, when removed from the pan, sounds hollow when tapped with your fingertips. Cool on a rack.
Make glaze by whisking together 2 Tbsp rhubarb filling, 1 cup powdered sugar, and enough lemon juice to make the glaze pourable (1-2 tbsp should do it). When bread has slightly cooled, drizzle with glaze if desired.
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!
Today as we celebrate Mother’s Day, many special memories come to mind. My mother passed away in 1978 but even after 44 years, time has changed nothing. I still miss the sound of her voice, the wisdom in her advice, the stories of her life and just being in her presence. I miss her today as much as the day she left us. At the time of her passing a friend said to me, ‘your mother is always with you’. At the time, I didn’t quite understand what she had meant but as the years have passed it has come clear to me.
We are fortunate to still have Brion’s mother, Dolores, in reasonable health. It is with loving thoughts we celebrate her today for her loving and kind ways. Even though covid hasn’t allowed us to spend time with Dolores, to still be able to hear her voice on the phone is precious.
I wanted to post this article today that I had saved from many years ago. It certainly clarifies the meaning of my friends comment.
Your mother is always with you * She’s the whisper of the leaves as you walk down the street, she’s the smell of certain foods you remember, flowers you pick, the fragrance of life itself * She’s the cool hand on your brow when you’re not feeling well, she’s your breath in the air on a cold winter’s day * She is the sound of the rain that lulls you to sleep, the colors of a rainbow, she is Christmas morning * Your mother lives inside your laughter * She’s the place you came from, your first home, she’s the map you follow with every step you take * She’s your first love, your first friend, even your first enemy, but nothing on earth can separate you * Not time, not space … not even death.
On this Mother’s Day, I would also like to acknowledge my sisters, Loretta, Marilyn & Rita, who give so much of themselves to be the great mom’s they are.
I thought this nice sweet bread would be fitting for a Mother’s Day brunch.
Peach Melba Sweet Bread
In a small dish, place lukewarm milk, 1 Tbsp sugar & yeast. Allow to sit 3-5 minutes until frothy.
In a large bowl, whisk together melted butter, oil, eggs & 2 Tbsp sugar. Add flour & mix until well incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap & a towel. Allow to rise in a draft free place for about an hour.
NOTE: Be sure to roll out and shape the dough on parchment paper for easier transferring. Generously dust parchment paper with flour, add the dough. Add more flour to the top of the dough.
Gently roll out the dough into a rectangle about 16x10” in size, adding more flour as needed so the dough doesn't stick to the rolling pin. The dough will be slightly sticky.
Spread dough with a thin layer of peach preserves. Using a piping bag, pipe seedless raspberry preserves on top. Fold dough over, from the short end, in half.
Starting about an inch down from the fold, make 6 slices. Twist each slice then roll dough into a loaf starting with the uncut folded end, rolling towards you.
Transfer bread with parchment paper to a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Whisk together egg and water, carefully brush top of bread. Allow bread to rise 30 minutes.
Bake for 20 minutes, until the top of the bread is golden.
- You notice this bread does not have a lot of sweetener in the dough because of the fact you are using jam or preserves for the filling. For something special, I used a St Dalfour product that uses only grape, dates & pineapple concentrate to sweeten the jam. It was definitely not oversweet so it comes down to personal taste.
The idea of lightly mingling two different batters in one cake seems to have originated in early 19th century Germany. The earliest version of marble cake consisted of a kugelhopf (sweet yeast bread), one half of which was colored with molasses and spices to achieve a dark colored batter. Bakers next began to do the same thing with sponge cake batter.
The marble cake came to North America with German immigrants. It wasn’t until the late 19th century, when chocolate gained a greater hold on the North American public, that ‘marble cake‘ as we know it today really took shape. The first known recipe to appear in an American cookbook went with the spice and molasses variety, though the base was a butter cake rather than a sponge or yeasted cake. Jewish German bakers eventually introduced the idea of using chocolate to create the darker batter in marble cakes.
Of course, there is no right or wrong way to create the marbling effect. The only thing to know is that you should not overmix the batter. The colors are supposed to mingle but stay separate creating the distinct marbling design.
German Marble Cake
Preheat oven to 325 F. Either butter or line with parchment paper, (2) 5-inch mini springform pans; set aside.
In a bowl, melt butter, in microwave. In a small bowl, sift flour, baking powder & salt; add to butter & combine.
In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolks, milk & vanilla then add to butter mixture. Whisk until combined.
Beat egg whites until foamy then gradually add sugar; beat until stiff peaks form. Fold into batter.
In a small cup with a spout, place about 1/2 cup of the batter & add cocoa powder. Fold in to combine.
Divide white batter between 2 prepared pans. Pour chocolate batter onto each cake forming circles with it. Using a wooden skewer, make lines from the center out making a spider web design.
Bake for 45 minutes on bottom rack of the oven or until cake tests done with a wooden pick. Remove from oven, allow to cool for about 5 minutes on cooling rack. Flip over & cool in pans for at least 30 minutes. We enjoyed a small bit of raspberry puree with the cake.