Latest Recipes

Bittersweet Chocolate with Benefits

I’ve been buying Trader Joe’s bittersweet chocolate bars for some time (the giant, pound-plus bar), and they do satisfy my chocolate cravings. But… I also bought a giant bag of unsweetened cocoa powder at Costco earlier this year. You know how Costco purchases go- sometimes you see something for a really great deal, and feel compelled to buy it, even if it could take two years to go through it…

So. I also had some of this Ceylon cinnamon in the freezer. (Since I’d also bought a big bag of that, because it’s just. So. Good for you!)(And economical- see Costco note…)

Now I needed a way to use up that cocoa powder, and incorporate the cinnamon as well, into a daily routine. I also thought it would be cool to include honey in the mix, since the synergistic benefits of cinnamon and honey are impressive (more info here too).

I figured it’d be pretty easy to accomplish my goals if I made something that could substitute for that TJ’s chocolate I kept buying (and eating every day). And thus the following recipe was born. I made it with just coconut oil the first time, which works fine. This time, I included some of this cocoa butter, which gave it more firmness and flavor. Whoa- I can sub this for the TJ stuff any day, and now my cocoa powder stores will begin to finally get used up. Mission accomplished!

Homemade Bittersweet, Honey-Sweetened Chocolate BarI actually like this better than brownies. And of course it’s gluten-free! Best kept in the refrigerator; makes one big pound-plus bar.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2/3 c. coconut oil
  • 1/4 c. cocoa butter
  • 4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 rounded c. cocoa powder
  • 1/3 c. honey
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2/3 c. raisins
  • 1/3 c. macadamias

Warm on lowest setting in pan on stove: > 2/3 c. coconut oil > 1/4 c. cocoa butter

Stir in dry ingredients in: > 4 tsp. cinnamon > 1/4 tsp. salt > 1 rounded c. cocoa powder

Then blend in the rest: > 1 tsp. vanilla > 2/3 c. raisins > 1/3 c. macadamias

Pour into lined 8×8″ square dish (use wax paper, parchment, or aluminum foil); refrigerate. Cut into pieces as needed, as keep chilled for more firmness.

 

Sourdough Bread, Artisan Style

I’d been making this sourdough whole wheat bread for some time, if only for the health benefits. The sourdough process helps reduce phytic acid (a plus), and makes for a lower-glycemic bread. Also, some of the gluten gets broken down in the long, slow fermenting process. And it has more naturally-occuring B vitamins too, thanks to the wild yeast at work. (The blog Cheeseslave goes into more detail here.)

But my bread didn’t have the greatest texture. I needed to figure out how to make artisan bread. Which wasn’t easy. I kept saying, “Artesian”, like the well… My daughter-in-law said, maybe that’s why it wasn’t turning out. I needed to clarify. Artisan, not Artesian… Ha.

I finally had success. This new bread had layers of complex flavors, with a great crust, and custardy inside. Yum.

Artisan Bread w/Sourdough StarterIt starts with a lively starter (details on that starter here.). I usually feed my baby starter twice a day (removing half of it each time). The extra feedings make for a pretty rambunctious starter. It builds its character. The flavors get more complex, texture more interesting, yada yada. The way I used to do it still works, for busier times when I can’t mess with bi-daily feedings. (With that old method, I feed a refrigerated starter every 3-7 days, which is enough to keep it pretty lively.)

I didn’t like the idea of removing some of that starter, adding it to a discard pile in the fridge. But I’ve changed the name of the discard pile to “Future Cracker Dough”. I don’t feel as bad now. (Or it can become pancakes or waffles with the addition of an egg or two.) Another new discovery: I can add the starter discard to my next batch of dough, as long as it’s not too big a quantity, without affecting the flavor adversely. (Excess starter can also be frozen, for two months or so.)

In the old days, I accumulated large starter quantities, as I would feed the thing every few days, never taking any out. And I only made bread with it once a week or so. The bread turned out well enough using the large quantity of starter, but not quite as exciting as I’d hoped. With this new method, I’m feeding a smaller quantity of very active starter, and it’s not getting ginormous, since I “discard” some of it before a new feeding.

Below is my latest fave bread recipe, “Sourdough Artisan Bread”. Makes one loaf, about 2 1/2 lb.

INGREDIENTS

  • About 2 TBS. stiff sourdough starter*
  • 1/3 c warm water (.16)
  • 2/3 c. whole wheat/rye flour (optional- use half malted flour)
  • Approx. 3 c. malted flour (.88 lb.)**
  • Approx.. 1 1/2c. water, divided
  • 1 TBS. salt***

In a smaller bowl, mix together: > about 2 TBS. starter (un-refreshed) > 1/3 c. warm water > 2/3 c. whole grain flour (optional: use half malted or all-purpose flour)

Let this stiff mixture rest in a warm place for 4-5 hours. Marurizio from “The Perfect Loaf” suggests an oven with the light left on. It works! (My Bay Area kitchen is always pretty cool.)

About an hour before time’s-up for that starter, add most of the remaining water to the flour in a larger bowl, mixing with hands or a spatula until flour’s distributed. Adding water to flour starts an enzyme process whereby the starches begin converting to sugars, etc. This leads to more flavor! (Called an “autolyse”, in scientific terms). Use: > 3 c. malted flour > most of 1 1/2 c. warm water (reserve about 2 TBS. to add with salt at next mixing, an hour later)

Cover the flour/water mixture and let it rest one hour or so in that warm place (next to the bowl of stiff starter mix).

After the big bowl of flour/water mix has rested an hour or so, and the stiff starter (“levain”) has gone four or five hours (and has maybe caved in a bit), mix the two together, breaking up the stiff starter so it’ll mix in better.

‘”Fold” and stretch the dough, as in, pull a chunk of the dough from the edge, into the center. And repeat. Fold about ten times; it will become smoother and not too sticky. It won’t have to be thoroughly mixed at this point, as there’s more folding to come.

Before leaving it to rest, take your fingers and poke a few holes in the dough, adding a mixture of salt and water on top. Don’t mix it in yet; just pour it over the dough. Use: > the extra 2 TBS. warm water > 1 TBS. salt

Let the dough rest 20 minutes or so. It’s good to leave it be for a bit, to do its own thing. At this point, gluten molecules are aligning themselves and doing the work of kneading, all on their own. All they need is time. To themselves. You can’t rush this process by man-handling the dough!

After 20 or so minutes of resting, fold the dough again, mixing in the salt water that’s started to absorb. Fold up to thirty folds if necessary, until the dough gains “strength”. It should feel elastic and smooth. Practice will help you to know when enough’s enough. Less handling is usually better.

Let the dough rest for 30 minutes. Every 30 minutes, for the next hour or two, stretch and fold the dough a bit. Eventually, the dough should bundle up and pull easily from the sides, indicating that it’s ready to be left alone to finish fermenting.

We’re now to the “bulk-ferment” phase. Leave this folded dough alone now for another 4 hours, then gently form into a round. (Again, pulling from the outside to the middle will help shape it.) Do this process in the bowl with a scraper or spatula, or on a lightly floured cloth. (I really like this dough couche.) Let the pre-shaped dough rest another 20 minutes.

After resting a bit (again with the resting!), shape into preferred shape. Set into a lightly-dusted, cloth-lined basket or bowl, with the dough bottom side up. (I like this bread-proofing basket.) It will hold the shaped dough for the final proofing, and make a nice, round, rustic loaf.) Put the bowl/basket into a plastic bag (or cover with oiled plastic wrap), and let rest 2 more hours.

Note: I typically go for a pretty wet dough. It can seem difficult to call the dough to attention for the final shaping; it may want to flounder around a bit like it’s drunk… And yet, even my wettest dough has made a good loaf. The only mistake I’ve made with it has been to add too much flour to the basket/bowl in the final proofing stage. Even though you want a gluten “cloak”, if there’s too much flour on the outside, it seems to prevent the dough from busting forth at the score points while it’s baking. Too much of a good thing (like a gluten-straight jacket). So, like I said, “lightly dusted” works.

Finally (almost done), after the dough has proofed at room-temp for a couple hours, place the covered, shaped dough in the fridge overnight (or up to 24 hours, although 18 hours is probably ideal). This slows down fermentation, which insures more flavor.

Preheat oven, and a Dutch oven and/or a baking stone, to 500 degrees (this usually takes 40 minutes or so). Gently invert refrigerated dough onto parchment paper; score top. (I’ve used a serrated knife, then tried a box-cutter, then finally got this “bread-scoring lame“, which is my fave cutting tool for this purpose.) Lift the parchment and bread into a Dutch oven, covering it for the first 20 minutes. (Or make some other configuration, to create a steamy environment for baking, like a baking stone with a pot/pan on top of it.) (Or bake the bread on a baking stone with a tray filled with hot water on a shelf below it.)

Reduce heat to 450 degrees and bake the bread covered for 20 minutes. Remove cover, lower heat to 400 degrees, and bake 20 more minutes, or to desired doneness.

*This stiff starter gets fed about twice daily. For each feeding, remove some old starter, leaving a tablespoon (or less) in jar. Add about 2 tsp. water, and 1 Tablespoon whole-grain flour. (A mix of wheat and rye flour is great)

**AKA Organic Artisan Bakers Craft Flour (malted) is primo, although all-purpose, unbleached flour can substitute. (I buy mine here. It costs about $1.14/lb. for me, including shipping. Worth it, since I can’t find this stuff anywhere else around here.)

***Use about 1 tsp. salt per pound of dough

Sourdough Starter Maintenance & Use & Other Details

There’s lots of info out there on how to baby our starter. Well… I’ve been conducting experiments to figure out how littleI can baby my starter (and still have it turn out amazing bread).

In the process, I determined that my husband and I do not want to have to make pancakes every few days with the starter discard. And, making crackers with the discard seemed like too much work (to eat and to make…).

Now you might be fine with either of those solutions, to use up the starter discard that accumulates. If not, you might appreciate some of my discoveries. On just how little time we have to spend taking care of these starters…

Stiff Starter: 1/4 c. starter, 1/3 c. water, 1/2 c. wheat/rye flour blendI already had my starter. But early on, I’d heard that it’s so resilient, you could ignore it for months, and it would probably still come back to life. One blogger reported that she had some years-old starter in the fridge, and it was still good. I guess it’s true that it might still be “good” enough to revive, but not necessarily to use to leaven a loaf of bread on the spot.

So in the old days, I was pretty casual about feeding my starter, feeding a refrigerated starter once a week. But my overly-sour bread was starting to make me sad. I really wanted to make some artisan-style bread- the kind with incredible flavor, custardy, open crumb inside, and chewy, crusty crust.

So I read up on bread and changed my method. I left my starter out in a warm place, and fed it twice daily. This new, lively started made some really good breads, even if I was to refine the method a bit more as time went on.

Now here are some scientific facts to chew on, and maybe inspire you too:

  • Starter gets a more acidic, sour flavor when it grows slowly under refrigeration, since the cold encourages the production of acetic acid. Some folks may prefer this, so keep that in mind.
  • Besides temperature, frequency of feedings also affects flavor, by changing the balance of yeast and bacteria in the starter. Fed less often, bacteria will proliferate, eventually making for a very sour bread. Fed more often, in a warm environment (like in an oven with the light left on, if necessary), and yeast takes the lead. I suppose that’s why my recent breads received rave reviews. I babied the starter for weeks, feeding it every night and morning after discarding half, while it multiplied happily in a warm spot. My one son said of one recent loaf, “I think this is the best bread you’ve ever made. I mean, wait- I think it’s the best bread I’ve ever had. In my life.” Wow, that’s high praise.
  • Another thing to consider: Moisture. The almost-buttery flavor of lactic acid likes a moist environment. A more-liquid starter might help promote this, although I’ve still had excellent flavor using a stiff starter with a moist dough. Still, something to keep in mind.
  • Use unchlorinated water. (I have a Berkey, which gives me wonderful water for all my fermentation needs- kombucha, kefir, and sourdough.) The chlorine in a lot of tap water will kill some of the starter critters you’re trying to encourage.
  • Whole-grain flour will encourage more of the good yeasts and bacterias. (Unbleached, all-purpose flour can also work, if necessary.) “Hard red winter wheat”, “hard white wheat” and “hard red spring wheat” are all options. (I use these red wheat berries for my starter.) Soft winter wheat, either red or white, is better for pastries and cake-making, so skip those.
  • Rye has amazing qualities of its own, making it particularly good to include in starter-feedings. I use a blend of half wheat and half rye berries, grinding those into a flour for starter feedings, keeping the extra in the freezer for future feedings.
  • About stiff and liquid starters: Many folks say an artisan bread is best made with a stiff starter, so I turned my liquid starter into a stiff starter, which has about three parts flour to a two parts water by weight, or almost double the volume of flour to water by the cup. (Maurizio from “The Perfect Loaf” goes into detail here and has a helpful, in-depth post on starter maintainace, here.) Liquid starter, on the other hand, has a ratio of about two parts flour to 3 parts water by weight, or equal parts flour to water by volume.

Sourdough Starter Maintenance

Remove some starter at each feeding, so that the starter being fed, which might be left outon the counter, continues to be very active. This makes for good bread!

Refrigerate the excess starter that’s removed before each feeding. Let it accumulate in a container, to use for crackers or pancakes. OR, as I’ve recently discovered, add it to the next loaf of artisan bread, along with some of the active starter. It shouldn’t compromise the flavor, if there isn’t too much of the stuff.

To avoid an overabundance of the “starter discard”, reduce the amount of starter left in the jar before each feeding. Leave a tablespoon or less of starter in the jar, adding just a tablespoon or so of flour, plus a half tablespoon of water. This should keep the starter-discard pile from getting too ginormous.

Another management tip: Refrigerate that small jar of starter for a half day or more here and there, to no ill effect. The wonderful flavors found in the perfect starter don’t seem to suffer from some refrigeration; just bring the jar back out for daily feedings for a few days before making that next loaf of bread.

A larger amount of starter below is a good amount for those making bread almost daily. Figure about 1 or 2 parts starter to 2 parts flour to 1 1/2 parts water, or something close to that. (Use less starter in warmer weather, since it’ll “eat” more in the heat.)

Make adjustments to suit conditions, so that the starter doubles and just starts to cave in a bit, before the next feeding. This might mean leaving the starter in an oven with the light on in colder climates. With our cool, Bay area weather, that has worked out well for me.

If overwhelmed with starter discard, slow the starter-feeding process down by refrigerating it. It won’t double as fast, so feedings should be less often. It can be brought back to warm room temperature for a few days, to be built back up with twice-daily feedings, for bread-making, as needed.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/4 c. starter*
  • 1/3 c. water*
  • 1/2 c. flour*

In small jar, remove enough starter to leave about 1/4 c. To that, add: > 1/3 c. water > 1/2 c. flour

Mix well. Set lid on loosely. Leave in a warm spot for 12 hours or so, until doubled. When it just begins to cave in, feed again.

Refrigerate as needed to slow the process down if it proves to be too much bother, although the flavor will change a bit.

Refrigerated starter can be revived by leaving the starter out for its feedings for a day or two, to get it back in good standing for excellent bread-making.

* Or use a smaller amount, to keep the discard pile down. For that, use about .02 lb. starter to .02 lb. whole-grain flour to .016 water. Those quantities are just soup spoonful-sized amounts, which can be perfect for those of us only making bread once or twice a week.

Top Ten Spices & Herbs (+ 5 or 10 More…)

I brought my Betty Crocker cookbook on my honeymoon (over forty years ago), and studied the spices and herbs list, and the best seasonings to use for various foods. Forty two years later- guess what? Betty proved right! But I’ve added a few favorite applications for various herbs and spices myself, and have listed it all below. Enjoy exploring the exciting world of spices and herbs.

18-Bottle Spice HolderOf course, a garden of fresh herbs can’t be beat. A list of favorite fresh garden herbs is at the bottom of the page.

I keep my spices in a cupboard, where they stay fresher, not being exposed to light. This is my fave spice holder of all times (and I’ve tried quite a few.)

Top Ten Herbs/Spices (I mean, 13… oops)

  • Basil- So good with tomatoes. You knew that, right? It can give dishes a little Italian flavor. Good with meats too.
  • Bay Leaf- Throw it into the pot when making soups. Adds an extra flavor. Keeps things exciting.
  • Cayenne- Even just a touch of heat can enhance a dish. (Well, not according to my husband. So I keep a shaker of this on my dinner table, and spice up my own dish.)
  • Cinnamon- Get Ceylon cinnamon (It’s the best. And good for you.) Great in baked goods, or in a hot drink, like this Golden Milk.
  • Cumin- Make it Mexican-style. Add to beans, meats, chili, whatever.
  • Curry- Easy way to go Asian. Add to veggies, meats, rice, etc. Oh, and gets a bit of turmeric into the diet (and that’s so healthy…)
  • Dill Weed- This is one of the distinctive flavors in our ever-popular, MSG-free New Deli Ranch dressing. It’s also good in tomato soups, with cucumbers, in bread.
  • Nutmeg- A warm flavor, somehow. Makes my tummy happy. Especially in this Rice Pudding. Or add it to other warm drinks, or creamy sauces. We put it in our Chicken Alfredo at The New Deli.
  • Oregano- Spells Pizza. Yum. Or add it to other tomato dishes, or fresh salads. Or meats. Ya know, just about anything! I love the 1000 Island Dressing we make, that we put this in.
  • Paprika- I love how it brightens up so many dishes, giving them extra color. And flavor, of course. But also- it’s a way to get some extra antioxidants in. Paprika’s loaded with ’em. But it comes from red peppers, which are on the dirty dozen list. Which is why I get this organic paprika. I also have this organic smoked paprika on hand. And it is DEFinitely smoky!
  • Sage- Seems like a “deep” herb that warms my tummy. Good with chicken, of course, or in soups, and other meats. We put it in our Meatloaf Mix.
  • Tarragon- This is good in the usual (meats, poultry, soups, salads), but it’s good in fish too. We put it in our Italian dressing at the deli.
  • Turmeric- The darling of the “Golden Milk” craze; it adds color to dishes, and extra health too. Not a lot of flavor, although it is rather distinct…

2nd Top Ten List (I Mean, 16…)More Fave Spices

  • Caraway Seeds- I love to add these to my raisin walnut bread. Good in sauces and sauerkraut. And Chicken Paprikosh!
  • Celery Seed- So flavorful. They pack a punch. Add to Celery Leek soup. (And other stuff.)
  • Coriander- I used to think I didn’t like this stuff. But it adds an almost magical depth to the deli’s Cauliflower Soup. So good!
  • Gumbo File- Made from sassafras leaves. It adds that extra something to Gumbo.
  • Cardamom- Adds a bit of Indian or African flavor to the meal. Add to curries too.
  • Cloves- Spicy goodness to zip up dishes.
  • Cumin Seed- We toast these and add to The New Deli’s Black Bean Chili. Yum.
  • Dill seed- A more intense dill flavor. Doesn’t discolor like dill weed can. But still good added to bread. Like this “Dilly Casserole Bread“.
  • Fennel- Use it in a Chinese 5-spice powder along with cloves, cinnamon, peppercorns, and star anise.
  • Fenugreek Seeds- Make a homemade curry mix with this. Incredible maple smell to this stuff. Wild. Toast gently in a hot pan to bring out the flavor, then grind in a coffee/spice grinder.
  • Garlic- This doesn’t really have to be on the list, since fresh garlic is so so good. But… what if you were out of fresh?!
  • Mustard Powder- Every now and then, this comes in handy. Good in homemade mayo.
  • Onion Flakes- We use this in our meatloaf mix too. The texture’s good- it adds the flavor, without adding an overpowering presence of fresh chopped onions.
  • Red Pepper Flakes- Spice up a sauce. So pretty floating in the sauce for these Vegetarian Spring Rolls.
  • Saffron- You can make an amazing paella with this stuff. Such a unique taste. To maximize flavor, let a few threads soak in boiling water for several hours first.
  • Star Anise- Again, use in 5-spice powder! To season many things! (Use with cloves, cinnamon, fennel and peppercorns for the mix.)

Favorite Garden Herbs

Some of these may grow for you, some may not. The herbs below are worth trying though.

Parsley- I’ve practically got a field of parsley now, after having no luck the first few years. Trick was to let one of those first plants go to seed. Then I lay the seed-laden plant in a little pile (with the decaying plant covering it, to protect it from the birds). Come spring, new little seedlings pop up all over.

Sage- Grows easily enough. Some varieties are quite hardy.

Rosemary- Grows like a weed. If you don’t have a green thumb, plant rosemary and relax. I don’t think you can kill it.

Thyme- This plant grows well enough, but realize that pulling the thyme leaves off the stem can be a bit time consuming. Worth it of course, but… just sayin’…

Oregano- This is a pretty hardy plant. Should grow well!

Basil- Mine never thrives. But then we live very close to the coast, with a constant cool breeze. Basil loves the heat. And water. Don’t forget to water.

Cilantro- You may do well growing cilantro, but it often will not sprout  from the cooking seeds found in the grocery store. I found out they irradiate them (or something…). So get them from a seed packet, or maybe a reputable health food store.

 

Rice Krispie Treats, Fast Recipe

I just made this recipe (well, times four, since it was for all the ladies going to our retreat). And it was easy! I used my scale instead of cup-measurements, since it’s extra fast that way.

Easy- Microwave Ingredients for Large Recipe Rice Krispie Treats!This is a quick, easy recipe for making a treat fast. So… maybe it won’t make “The Most Healthy Desserts” list. But…it’s a real crowd-pleaser.

This makes 12 or so bars, but I quadrupled the recipe for the large crowd we had a retreat.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb. marshmallows
  • 1/2 c. + 1 TBS. butter (.28 lb.)
  • 15 oz. box cereal minus 4 c. (.64 lb., or 6 c.)

In a large, microwaveable bowl, microwave for a minute or two, until butter has melted and marshmallows melt in as the mix is stirred. Use: > 1 lb. marshmallows > 1 stick + 1 TBS. butter

Last, add: > 6 c. Rice Krispie-style cereal

Butter hands, then pat mixture into 15 x 12” buttered dish (or cookie sheet with sides). Let set up for an hour or so, then cut into pieces.

 

Dilly Casserole Bread, Healthy-Style

I have some very fond bread memories from childhood. My sister and I could hardly wait for this bread to be ready to cut. We would immediately hack a chunk off as soon as it came out of the oven, much to mom’s dismay. Well, we couldn’t wait! True, it didn’t cut very easily our way, but taste-testing probably encouraged the two of us to continue our work in the kitchen.

Dilly Casserole Bread, Updated Healthy VersionThe original 60’s version of this seemed more complicated, IMO. The cottage cheese was warmed to that perfect temperature for yeast, then the yeast got proofed, etc.

Now that I’m too into sourdough bread, I wanted to adapt this to use with my starter. It worked!

Makes one loaf, about 2 lb.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 c. cottage cheese
  • 1 c. sourdough starter
  • 1 egg
  • 2 TBS honey
  • 1 TBS. dry onion
  • 1 TBS. butter, soft
  • 2 tsp. dill seed
  • Optional- 2 tsp. dill weed
  • 2 1/4 -3 c. whole wheat flour, divided
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt

In medium large bowl, mix together: > 1 c. sourdough starter > 1 c. cottage cheese > 2 1/4 c. whole wheat flour > 1 egg > 2 TBS. honey > 1 TBS. dry onion > 1 TBS. butter, soft > 2 tsp. dill seed > optional- 2 tsp. dill weed

Let the above ingredients rise in a warm place until double, about 4 hours.

Stir in the following, adding enough flour so dough isn’t too sticky to handle. Dough will still be somewhat moist though. Use: > About 3/4 c. whole wheat flour > 1/4 tsp. baking soda > 1 tsp. salt

Knead dough about three minutes, until mixed well. Put in buttered 1 1/2-2 qt. casserole dish. Let rise until double again (another hour or two), then bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes Brush top w/ butter and salt when done, if desired.

Chocolate Mousse in Meringue Crust (aka Pavlova)

I made this dessert for our granddaughter’s second birthday–it was a hit! I can’t always understand what she’s saying, but “Birthday Cake” came out loud and clear. A festive family gathering it was, complete with a rolling-weasel ball that made her giggle in delight (hey, the label says it’s for pets AND children).

A similar dessert, “Pavlova”, has fresh fruits garnishing a meringue crust, with plenty of whipped cream in between. I wanted to use the egg yolks though, so the chocolate mousse gave me a way to work those in. I guess you could also call  this “Gluten-free Chocolate Dessert”, since that’s the trend lately. Or maybe, “Healthy Chocolate Pie”, since it uses bittersweet chocolate and not very much sugar at all. Oh, who am I kidding?! I just love meringue, and take any excuse to eat it!

Chocolate Mousse in Meringue Crust, Gluten-Free!I feel really good about eating this “gluten-free” dessert. Yes, it has a bit of cream, and some sugar too, but still seems to be a light dessert. My friend has often made the lemon curd version of this for our women’s group celebrations—it’s also quite delicious!

Makes one 12” dessert, serving 12

INGREDIENTS 12

  • 2 1/4 c. sugar, divided
  • Scant 1/2 tsp. salt, divided
  • 3 c. cream, divided
  • 6 eggs, divided
  • 1 1/2 c. bittersweet chocolate pieces (6 ounces)
  • 4 1/2.tsp. vanilla, divided
  • 1 TBS. cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 tsp. white vinegar
  • 1 pint fresh strawberries (or more)

In saucepan, heat sugar, salt, and cream together, stirring for 3-4 minutes until sugar dissolves. (Or, microwave 1-2 minutes): > 1/4 c. sugar > scant 1/4 tsp. salt > 1 c. cream

Beat egg yolks lightly, then stir into hot cream mix. Leave on medium low heat while stirring constantly, until the mix thickens. (Or, microwave in 15-second intervals, stirring after each heating, just until mixure thickens.) Use: > 6 egg yolks

Stir chocolate and vanilla into heated ingredients: > 1 1/3 c. bittersweet chocolate pieces (6 ounces) > 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Refrigerate mixture. Let cool completely (making a day ahead is convenient).

On serving day, prepare meringue crust.

Heat the oven to 250 degrees. Using a 12-inch round cake pan, trace a circle onto a piece of parchment paper with a pencil or marker. Flip the paper over and place it on a baking sheet (the traced circle should be visible); set aside.

Place the egg whites and salt in the very clean, dry mixer bowl. Use dry whisk attachment. Whisk on medium speed until the whites begin to lighten in color and only small bubbles remain, about 2 minutes. Use: > 6 egg whites with no traces of yolk, at room temperature > scant 1/4 tsp. salt

Increase the speed to high and very slowly add the sugar in a thin, continuous stream. Whisk until firm, shiny peaks form, resembling marshmallow cream, about 3 minutes. Use: > 1 1/2 c. sugar

Remove the bowl from the mixer and sift the cornstarch through a fine-mesh strainer into the meringue. Use: > 1 TBS. cornstarch

Drizzle with the vinegar and vanilla and fold them into the meringue with a rubber spatula until no streaks of vanilla remain, being careful not to deflate the whites. Use: > 1 1/2 tsp. white vinegar > 1 tsp. vanilla

Using the rubber spatula, pile the meringue into the center of the circle drawn on the parchment paper. Smooth it to the edges of the circle to form a rough, even disk about 1 inch tall. (If the parchment shifts while spreading the meringue, weigh down two opposite corners with small, heavy objects like cans; remove them before baking.)

Bake until the meringue is firm to the touch but slightly soft in the middle, about 60-70 minutes. Remove from the oven, place the baking sheet on a wire rack, and let cool completely. Run a thin metal spatula under the meringue to loosen.

Carefully slide it onto a serving platter or cake stand; set aside.

Finish making the mousse (which gets half of the extra whipped cream added to it). Whip cream until stiff peaks form. Use: > 2 c. cream > 1/2 c. sugar

Set whipped cream aside; add cooled chocolate mousse to bowl and whip until light. Fold in half of the whipped cream. Spread the chocolate mousse onto cooled meringue.

Use the other half of the sweetened, whipped cream to spread on top of the chocolate mousse. On top of that, add strawberries, or some shavings of chocolate. Use: > 1 pint (or more) strawberries

Walnut Loaf: Vegetarian Style

I’ll be hosting a shower for a friend’s vegan daughter this spring. I think I’ll add this recipe to the menu! It does contain cheese and egg, so it’s not vegan. But it is vegetarian, and the bride-to-be has been known to splurge on a few non-vegan items. So hopefully she’ll think this recipe’s worth checking out!

Walnuts, Celery, Tomato, Egg, Cheese + Yummy Vegetarian Loaf!I made this dish back in my hippie days (in the seventies). “Diet for a Small Planet” was on the bestseller list, and vegetarianism was gaining popularity; a far cry from the Paleo trend of late. (Does sharing this recipe mean we have now gone full circle?)

This dish is a great change of pace, vegetarian or not. (My husband thinks I need to make it more often.) Serves 6.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 c. whole wheat crumbs
  • 28 oz. can tomatoes, whole
  • 1/2 c. Muenster cheese (or other favorite)
  • 3 TBS. butter
  • 1 1/2 c. chopped walnuts
  • 1 1/2 c. chopped celery
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Ahead of time, toast (overnight in gas oven with pilot light on, or baked at 200 degrees for 15 minutes or so): > 1 1/2 c. whole wheat crumbs

Also ahead of time, drain: > 28 oz. can tomatoes, whole

Grate: > 1/2 c. Muenster cheese

Melt butter on stove or in microwave: > 3 TBS. butter

To butter in bowl, add the following: > 1 1/2 c. chopped walnuts > 1 1/2 c. chopped celery > 1 medium onion, chopped > 2 eggs, beaten > 1/2 tsp. salt > the toasted bread crumbs > the drained tomatoes > the grated cheese

Mix the above and bake in 8” x 5″ buttered loaf pan at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Cool 10 minutes. Unmold.

Serve warm. Or refrigerate. Slices of the nut loaf can be seared in a dash of olive oil or butter; a great way to serve leftovers.

Mashed Potatoes w/ Rosemary

Our church’s annual Women’s Christmas Dinner was a success- beautiful music, good message, great company. And apparently, “the best mashed potatoes ever” Cool, since my team and I did a lot of mashing to feed two-hundred-plus folks that evening!

Grateful_Table_Mashed_Potatoes_RosemaryThis past year, I came up with a new recipe for mashed potatoes, and I’ll do it this way forever now. I cooked the potatoes whole, adding a few inches of boiling water to the pot, essentially steaming them.

Compared to using peeled, cubed potatoes, they took longer to cook this way, but oh. My. They were so good! No flavor lost to a bunch of liquid that usually gets thrown away. Just lots of potato flavor. With some added heavy cream, butter, and seasoning, how could they not be good?!

Serves 12 or so

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 lb. Russet potatoes
  • 1 TBS. fine-chopped rosemary
  • 2 TBS. fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 TBS. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • Pepper to taste
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 2 c. cream

Hours ahead, or day before, let rosemary and parsley steep in the oil with the salt and pepper. This mellows the flavor of the rosemary a bit. Use: > 1 TBS. fine-chopped rosemary > 2 TBS. fresh chopped parsley > 1 TBS. extra virgin olive oil > 2 tsp. salt > Pepper to taste

Steam whole, unpeeled potatoes in a covered pot or pressure cooker, using 2-3 inches boiling water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer. Cook until potatoes are tender. Check that the water doesn’t evaporate, if using a pot instead of a pressure cooker. Use: > 4 lb. potatoes

Spread potatoes out on cookie sheet, peeling off skins when cool enough to touch.

Return the skinned potatoes to the pot and mash well. Add: > 2 sticks butter > 2 c. cream > the steeped rosemary/salt/pepper/oil mix

Add boiling water if necessary, to get potatoes to right consistency. Heat in oven if necessary, before serving.

Mashed Potatoes for 210

OK, so you probably won’t need these quantities! But this is what we used for all those ladies… About 200 servings

INGREDIENTS

  • 72 lb. potatoes
  • 8 lb. butter
  • 16 lb. cream
  • ½ c. + 2 TBS. Salt
  • Pepper
  • Rosemary
  • 1 c. extra virgin olive oil

Steam whole, unpeeled potatoes in large pressure cooker, using 4 inches or so boiling water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer. Cook until potatoes are tender. Peels slip off easily.

Chicken Cacciatore- Hunter’s Stew

This is a simple-enough dish, perfect for those cooler evenings we’ve been having. I was able to multiply this by a lot, to serve fifty or so, for a small wedding the deli catered at one point. Because- it is simple enough, but is also colorful (appetizing) and delicious (so folks eat it up!).

My mom made this a bit when we were kids. I think she might’ve like the fancy name, which put a smile on dad’s face when he asked, “What’s for dinner?” Or maybe she liked that she’d have to open a bottle of wine and have a sip herself. (Not that she was a whino! But a glass of wine’s good for you, right?!)

Mom typically dredged the chicken in flour before cooking, but the method below makes this dish gluten-free (if you skip the optional pasta). But still delicious!

Easy Chicken Stew, Fancy Name, Chicken Cacciatore“Cacciatore” literally means “Hunter”. And while there have been a few hunters in the family, most of my hunting will be in the grocery aisle!

When using boneless, skinless chicken thighs, a brine makes it extra tasty, although the traditional method of using the whole chicken (bones and all) will yield a most flavorful dish. What a comfort food! Serves 6-8.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 lb. chicken thighs, boneless, skinless, or one 4-5 lb. whole fryer, cut up
  • 1 TBS. sugar
  • 1 TBS. salt
  • 1 TBS. Italian Herbs
  • Olive oil (for grilling veggies)
  • 8-12 oz. pasta
  • 1 onion
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 green pepper
  • 8 oz. mushrooms
  • 28 oz. can tomato pieces (large chunks, drained)
  • 1 c. chicken stock (include cooking juices from cooking the chicken, also)
  • 1 c. red wine
  • 1 small jar (2-3 oz. or so) capers
  • 1/2 TBS. minced, fresh garlic
  • Optional: Pasta

A day ahead, prepare brine for the chicken by bringing to a boil: > 2 c. water

Turn off heat, add: > 1 TBS. Italian Herbs > 1 TBS. salt > 1 TBS. sugar

Add to mix, refrigerating until completely cooled: > 2 c. cold water

When brine has cooled, add: > 2 lb. boneless chicken thighs, or one cut-up fryer

Refrigerate chicken in the brine overnight.

To prepare dish, pour off brine and bake chicken in 350 degree oven for 40 minutes, until done.

Meanwhile, boil until liquid is reduced by about half: > 1 c. chicken stock > 1 c. red wine

Also, prepare the vegetables. In iron skillet, cook until tender: > 2 carrots, peeled, sliced into rounds > 1 onion, diced coarse > a splash of olive oil

For tastiest, sweetest veggies, add a few tablespoons of water to the pan while they cook, which will eventually evaporate, but which will help them to cook in the meantime.

When water’s evaporated and carrot/onions are tender, add to the pan and grill: > 1 green pepper, diced coarse

Add the peppers/carrot/onion to a stewing pot; also add: > 28 oz. canned tomato chunks, drained > any chicken broth accumulated from cooking the chicken > reduced broth > 1/2 TBS. minced, fresh garlic

In the skillet, grill the mushrooms (being careful not to crowd them, as then they steam and don’t brown properly). Grill in batches if necessary: > 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced

Bring the vegetables up to a boil, simmering until of a sauce-like consistency. Finally, add: > small jar of capers, drained > fresh herbs, if desired (thyme, rosemary, parsley, and oregano are all good choices) > the chicken pieces

Add salt if necessary. Serve over pasta if desired.