Thursday, October 1, 2015

Wild Cherry Hibiscus Soda

I've wanted to try this recipe for several months, and last week I finally assembled all the ingredients and made it!  (would you believe I had to go out of town for plain sparkling water??)

I ordered the exotic ingredients such as wild cherry bark and hibiscus flowers from a wholesale company, where I also got this recipe.  Let me know if you need help finding them and I'll see what I can do. 

I have been wondering about using frozen or even fresh cherries (thawed, then dried?) instead of the expensive dried cherries.  I was also wishing that the leftover solids could be used somehow, but not with bark in the mix...

I am not sure how many drinks this will end up making, I got almost a quart of concentrated extract, and have been using about one shot (just under 1 ounce) per drink.  They are refreshing and delicious and I'm so glad I have that extract in the fridge!

**They call it ale, I call it soda.**

Wild Cherry Hibiscus Soda
Recipe from Frontier Co-op

4 cups water
1 cup dried cherries, chopped into ¼ inch pieces (do not use vegetable oil treated cherries!)
1 tablespoon Frontier Wild Cherry Bark
1/4 cup Frontier Hibiscus Flowers
2 cups Frontier Organic Cane Sugar

Place water in pan and add dried cherries and wild cherry bark.
Bring pot to boil, reduce to simmer, cover and let simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.  Turn off heat, add hibiscus flowers and sugar and stir until dissolved. Cover and let steep until cool, about 1 1/2 hours.
Strain liquid through a fine mesh sieve, then through one or more coffee filters into a clean, sterile jar. Store concentrated extract in refrigerator for up to three months.

To mix: Use a 1:6 ratio of concentrate to sparkling water. Adjust the ratio for more or less sweetness 
 according to your personal dietary preferences and desired taste.

Serve over ice.  Garnish the drink with whole frozen, pitted cherries.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Wendy's Almond-Banana-Coconut Muffins

This recipe includes some of my favorite ingredients. It makes heavy muffins but ones that are delicious warm or at room temperature. I suspect the muffins would freeze well. I imagine adding chopped almonds or even another nut would make a delicious variation to this version, or one could try simply sticking a whole almond in each muffin top before baking.

Wendy’s  Almond-Banana-Coconut  Muffins
Makes 12

½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup whole-wheat flour
½ cup almond meal
½ cup coconut flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup grated coconut
2 eggs
2 very ripe large bananas, mashed
¼ cup coconut oil
¼ cup pure maple syrup
¼ cup almond milk, soy milk, or cow’s milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon almond extract

1. Combine all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, almond meal, coconut flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in large bowl.
2. Stir in grated coconut.
3. In medium-sized bowl, beat eggs.
4. Stir in mashed bananas, coconut oil, maple syrup, milk, vanilla extract, and almond extract, mixing well.
5. Add wet ingredients to well made in dry ingredients.
6. Divide batter among 12 full-sized muffin pans, filling about three-fourths full.
7. Bake in 350°F. oven for about 20 minutes.

8. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Dark Chocolate Brownies With White Chocolate Chunks

If you're like me, you already have plenty of tried-and-true brownie recipes. Still, I was happy to have success with this recipe. For one thing, it allowed me to use a bar of Ghiradelli white chocolate in my pantry that was begging to be used.

Dark  Chocolate  Brownies  With

White Chocolate  Chunks

Makes 16

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 ounces good-quality white chocolate, such as Lindt or 
Ghiradelli, cut into ½-inch pieces
Fresh large strawberries, washed and dried—if desired

1.   In a medium-sized, microwave-safe mixing bowl, melt unsweetened chocolate and butter. Alternatively, melt in heavy medium-sized saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth. Cool to room temperature.
2.   In the meantime, whisk sugar and eggs together. Continue whisking until mixture is very thick, about 3 minutes.
3.   Whisk in chocolate mixture.
4.   Stir in baking powder, salt, and vanilla.
5.   Add flour and fold in gently.
6.   Stir in white chocolate chunks.
7.   Transfer batter into buttered 8-inch square baking pan and bake in 325°F. oven for about 25 minutes or until tester inserted centers comes out with moist crumbs attached..
8.   Transfer brownies in pan to rack; cool completely.
9.   Cut brownies into 16 squares and transfer to serving tray. If desired, garnish tray with strawberries.

NOTE: Brownies can be prepared one day ahead if stored airtight.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Lemon Cream Salad Dressing

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 3 small lemons)
2 tablespoons diced shallots
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream

1. Whisk together lemon juice, shallots, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Let mixture sit 5 minutes.
2. After 5 minutes, whisk in olive oil.
3. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt along with pepper and whipping cream.
4. Whisk in more salt or pepper to taste.
5. Toss with salad greens, drizzle over sliced tomatoes or cucumbers, or refrigerate until ready to use.

NOTE: If one has an up-down whisk, one can make dressing in 2-cup measuring cup, using it to measure liquids roughly, which will be sufficient.

Whipping cream helps create emulsion.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Dutch Oven Cornish Game Hens with Red Potatoes

For Easter this past spring, my husband decided he wanted to cook Cornish Game Hens in the Dutch oven.  I was totally on board, and am I ever glad!  They were sooooo beautiful and delicious!

Here's how we did it.  The amounts below aren't exact; adjust the recipe to suit the size of your Dutch oven and/or how many people you are serving.  We serve 1 whole Cornish game hen per person, the kids just LOVE having their own "little chicken." 

Dutch Oven Cornish Game Hens with Red Potatoes
Serves as many people as there are hens

Red potatoes, scrubbed and whole if small, halved or quartered if bigger, to at least cover bottom of Dutch oven
thinly sliced bacon (2 slices per hen)
2-3 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
Fresh rosemary sprigs
1 Cornish game hen per person

We used a 16" round Dutch oven for 7 Cornish hens.

Layer potatoes on bottom of Dutch oven, scatter shallots and rosemary on top and season with salt & pepper.  Nestle hens on top of potatoes.  Top hens with bacon (my husband liked an "X" of bacon on each hen), more shallots and rosemary, and sprinkle with salt & pepper.

Prepare charcoal for cooking.  My husband says the general Dutch oven rule is "2 under and 2 over" the diameter of your oven, so for a 12" oven you'd start with 10 hot briquettes evenly spaced under the Dutch oven and 14 hot briquettes on top.

That being said, he cooked our hens quite a long time, and used more charcoal to speed things up.  He probably cooked for about 2 hours total, adding more hot coals as needed.  Every half hour, he rotates the pot and the lid (spin without lifting) in opposite directions to eliminate any hot spots.  He says Dutch ovens are very forgiving, so it's hard to go wrong.  More charcoal makes things cook faster, and it's kind of hard to burn them.  You want to cook your hens until they are golden and the joints move freely, and potatoes are tender.

This dish is flavorful and aromatic, and perfect for a special occasion.  The potatoes end up in the savory juices from the bacon and chickens, which makes a fine topping or you could make it into gravy on the stove top.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Chocolate Mint Cupcakes

A friend of mine hired me to make cupcakes for her daughter's 7th birthday party.  Her daughter requested chocolate mint cupcakes, which I'd never made before, so I turned to One Sweet Cupcake.

I pretty much followed the recipe, except I used bittersweet chocolate and didn't measure it, reduced the vanilla, and I had to guess how long to bake them.  For some reason, there aren't a lot of baking times in the recipes.

These turned out so great, I ended up making 2 batches, that's right, 48 freaking cupcakes, because I wanted some for my family too!  I frosted them with Vanilla Mint Buttercream, and garnished with half an Andes Creme de Menthe Thin (my friend's idea) and a sprig of fresh mint (my idea) and they turned out FABULOUS and DELICIOUS.  See for yourself.  And then make some for yourself!

Chocolate Mint Cupcakes
Adapted from One Sweet Cupcake
Makes 24 cupcakes

4 oz. high-quality bittersweet chocolate bar, chopped into small pieces
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla
1 teaspoon peppermint extract

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place chocolate in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Pour boiling water over chocolate and let sit for 1 minute.  Using the whisk attachment, mix until smooth.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add sour cream, applesauce, oil, eggs, vanilla, and peppermint.  Mix well.

In a separate bowl, sift flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder.  Turn the stand mixer on low, add dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated and smooth.

Line two standard muffin tins with paper baking cups.  Fill each cup two-thirds full with batter.  Bake about 20 minutes, until the tops spring back at the touch of your finger and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. 

Remove from tins and cool completely on wire rack before icing.

Frost with Vanilla Mint Buttercream and garnish with halved Andes Creme de Menthe Thins and fresh peppermint leaves, as shown.

Vanilla Mint Buttercream

Inspired by One Sweet Cupcake, I halved the recipe for Vanilla Buttercream and also made it minty to top off some Chocolate Mint Cupcakes.  (I didn't like her recipes for Peppermint Buttercream OR Grasshopper Buttercream for the purposes of this party)  I colored the frosting pale kelly green for a birthday party, but white or any other color would be just as nice. 

Vanilla Mint Buttercream
Adapted from One Sweet Cupcake
Makes enough to frost more than 48 cupcakes in method shown above.  :-)

1 pound butter, softened
pinch of salt
2 pounds powdered sugar
1/8 cup milk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla
1/2 tablespoon peppermint extract

In a stand mixer bowl with the paddle attachment, beat butter and salt until light, completely smooth and fluffy.  Turn the mixer speed to low and add half of the powdered sugar.  Mix until smooth. 

Add vanilla and peppermint to milk. 

Alternately, add remaining powdered sugar and milk extract mixture, beating until smooth and creamy.  Add green food coloring (I use Wilton paste colors) and mix until desired shade is reached.

Frost cupcakes as desired.  I garnished each cupcake with

Andes Creme de Menthe Thins and fresh peppermint leaves/sprigs.

**I will elaborate on my technique above if anyone would like me to!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Pecan Shortbread Cookies

If you don't want to sacrifice a precious vanilla bean, which is added for its essential oils and then removed from the dough, add another half teaspoon or so of vanilla extract to the recipe.

Pecan  Shortbread  Cookies

1 ½ cups pecans, coarsely chopped
1 ¼ cups unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons turbinado or demerara sugar
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten

1. Spread chopped pecans on rimmed baking sheet and toast for about 6 minutes or until lightly browned and fragrant. Let cool.

2. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle, beat butter with confectioners’ sugar on medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes.

3. Add scraped vanilla bean and its seeds, vanilla extract, and salt to bowl. Beat at medium speed about 1 minute.

4. Add flour, 1 cup at a time, beating at low speed just until incorporated.

5. Discard vanilla bean. Stir in toasted pecans.

6. Divide dough into two equal parts. Transfer half the dough at a time to work surface and roll into 1 ½-inch-diameter log. Wrap logs in plastic wrap or parchment paper and refrigerate for about 1 hour.

7. Spread the turbinado sugar on a platter. Brush the logs with beaten egg yolk and roll in turbinado sugar.

8. Slice logs into 3/8-inch thick rounds. Transfer rounds to ungreased baking sheets, spacing about 1 inch apart.

9. Bake in 350°F. oven until cookies’ edges are light brown, about 15 to 18 minutes, rotating baking sheets midway through cooking time.

 10. Transfer cookies to wire rack and let stand until cooled completely, about 30 minutes, before serving.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Orzo Carbonara

Who's watching their fat intake anyway? Go ahead. Live a little.

Orzo  Carbonara

6 ounces bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
5 cups canned low-salt chicken broth, divided
½ cup whipping cream or table cream
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste

1.  Cook bacon in large heavy saucepan over medium heat until crisp, about 8 minutes.
2.  Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towel and drain.
3.  Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of bacon drippings from pan.
4.  Add butter and cook until butter begins to brown, about 2 minutes.
5.  Add orzo and 4 ½ cups chicken broth to pan.
6.  Simmer uncovered until orzo is just tender but still firm to bite and broth is absorbed, stirring often, about 8 minutes.
7.  Mix in Parmesan cheese and fresh thyme. Then stir in bacon.
8.  Season with salt and pepper.
9.  Thin with additional chicken broth if desired.

NOTE: May add one diced shallot or 3 tablespoons diced onion. Chopped mushrooms or chopped fresh asparagus may be added for color, flavor, and interest. <Would these be sautéed in extra bacon grease in separate pan and added at end with cheese?>

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

OMG.  These are seriously soooo delicious.  And super easy!  Trust me, you need to make these ASAP.

I doubled the original recipe and served 4 of us, but we had this as a meal--only had about 1 cup of meat leftover.  So I'm going to post the ingredients for a double recipe and say it serves 4.  If you're serving it as an appetizer, it will probably serve more than 4.  You judge it for your own family, leftovers are terrific!

The original recipe says it's a "copycat" of PF Chang's.  We don't have a PF Chang's around, so I have no way of knowing whether or not this tastes anything like what they serve. 

I decreased a couple of the ingredients, and these were perfect.  Even my picky 8-year-old LOVED them.  I mean it, make these today!

Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Adapted from Damn Delicious
Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pounds ground chicken
4 cloves garlic, minced
about 1/2 large onion, diced
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
2 scant teaspoons Sriracha, or to taste
1 (8-ounce) can whole water chestnuts, drained and finely diced
4 green onions, thinly sliced

1 head butter lettuce

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add ground chicken and cook until browned, about 3-5 minutes, making sure to crumble the chicken as it cooks.

Stir in garlic, onion, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, ginger and Sriracha.  Cook and stir until onions have become translucent, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in chestnuts and green onions until tender, about 1-2 minutes.

To serve, spoon several tablespoons of the chicken mixture into the center of a lettuce leaf, wrap and eat!
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