Baked Cauliflower Bites with Caper-Truffle Aioli

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This appetizer was the surprise hit of our Super Bowl spread. There are a lot of recipes out there using cauliflower as a healthy alternative and I wanted to give it a try. Using what I had on hand I came up with this recipe that keeps them lower in fat by baking instead of frying. I said lower in fat, not fat free – Let’s not get crazy! You could use low fat cheese and skip or adjust the aioli, but I thought it paired nicely with the cauliflower. And speaking of cauliflower; most people would never guess that it’s the main ingredient. This would also make a nice side dish and I could see it pairing nicely with fish. Here’s the recipe:

Baked Cauliflower Bites with Caper-Truffle Aioli

• 1 Head cauliflower, cleaned and broken into florets
• 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
• ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
• 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
• 2 eggs
• ¼ cup Italian flavored bread crumbs
• ¼ tsp oregano
• ¼ tsp garlic powder
• salt and pepper to taste

For the Aioli
• 1/3 cup mayonnaise
• 1 tablespoon lemon juice
• 1 tablespoon capers finely chopped
• 2-3 drops of truffle oil
• Salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 375F. Prepare a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
Steam Cauliflower until tender (either on the stove top or in the microwave for about 8 minutes). Allow to cool and drain well.
Place steamed cauliflower in a food processor and pulse for just a few seconds or until the cauliflower resembles rice. Remove from food processor, and put into a large bowl.

Add eggs, all the cheese, herbs, spices and bread crumbs and mix well. Using an ice cream scoop, portion out the mixture onto your prepared sheet pan. Using your hand or a fork, flatten out the patties.

Bake for 15 minutes. Flip the patties over and continue baking for another 15 minutes or until the patties are golden brown and the middle is no longer soft. Let them cool slightly before serving.

For the Aioli: Whisk all the Aioli ingredients together until smooth.


Super Bowl Cake

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Disclaimer: I am NOT a cake decorator – this is NOT my forte! That said, my son gave me the new #Wilton Dessert Decorator Pro for Christmas, and I decided to crack it open and try it out on this cake. It’s not bad and I think with a bit of practice I may conquer my cake decorating fear. Now onto the cake!

I did not have a football shaped cake pan so I improvised and used an Easter Egg cake pan that I did have. I used a standard yellow cake recipe (you could use a box mix for convenience and any flavor you like) and baked the 2 cake halves for about 40 minutes, turned them out and let them cool.

Next I evened out the tops of the cakes so they would fit together evenly. I then had to sculpt the fat ends of each cake so that they would look like a football and not an Easter Egg, this was easier than it sounds (use a serrated knife for this). I also cut a thin piece off the half that would be the bottom so it would sit flat on my serving plate.

I removed a little bit of the cake from the top of the bottom half and made a well so I could fill the cake. I filled the cake with a little bit of lemon curd that I had leftover from last weekend’s limoncello cupcakes (you can search for the recipe), added some sliced strawberries and a layer of whipped cream and put the top on the cake.

I made a standard chocolate buttercream frosting (tinted with a little red paste food coloring to get that “football” look) and did a crumb coat on the cake and used my thin spatula to mark off the football design on the cake then I refrigerated the cake for about 30 minutes.

Time to decorate this bad boy: I used a small star tip and followed the lines I made to fill in all the brown parts of the cake.

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I made a simple white buttercream and piped on the white using a decorating ruffle tip and the small star tip for the “laces”. That’s all there is to it – If I can do it so can you!

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Salt Preserved Meyer Lemons & Parsley

Food in Jars February Challenge: Salt Preserving

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Salt preserving is one of the oldest (ancient) methods of food preservation; think bacon, gravlax (salmon), cod (bacala). You can also salt preserve herbs, vegetables and citrus.
For my first salt preserving challenge I decided to combine citrus and herbs, as I wanted a finished product that I would want to use as an ingredient in cooking. To keep it simple and use flavors my family enjoys I chose Meyer Lemons and Parsley. So, what to do with these salt preserved lemons when the brining time is up? I’m thinking this flavor combo will go wonderfully with seafood, chicken and veggie dishes. Diced up they would add a bright note to roasted brussels sprouts or tiny new potatoes – Ground in a mortar and pestle to coat fish ready to be grilled – Processed fine and added to a pan sauce to coat chicken – Yum. I’m a lemon freak anyway, so I know I will find many uses for this challenge. Here’s how I dealt with those Lemons:

  •   5-10 Meyer lemons – depending on the size of the jar you are using (I used 10)
  • 2 bunches of parsley, rinsed, drained and rough chopped
  • Coarse Sea Salt (I used about 1 ½ pounds to 10 lemons

Cut the ends of each lemon and then cut each of the lemons in half and juice them into a bowl. Then cut each lemon half in half again so you have quarter wedges of lemons.

In a glass jar, with a lid, add a heavy layer of salt. Next add a layer of lemons to fill the bottom. Add another layer of salt and then add a handful of the chopped parsley followed by another layer of salt. Continue until the jar is almost filled, ending with another heavy layer of salt.

Next pour the reserved lemon juice into the jar until the contents are covered by the juice. You may need to press down on the contents to get good coverage.

Secure the lid on the jar and store in a cool, dark place for 3 weeks (be sure to date and label the jar).

After 3 weeks the herb/lemons should be done pickling and should be moved to the refrigerator. They will last about a year. To use the lemons alone, remove from the jar and rinse off the extra salt and dice or puree and add to your recipe. You can also mash up or process some lemons with the parsley to use in recipes, remembering to adjust the salt in your recipe.

Next up Citrus Salt…


GIANT Chocolate Donut

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The Back-Up Donut: GIANT Chocolate Fudge Donut with Bitter-Sweet Chocolate Ganache Glaze

This is the back-up donut I made in case the fried yeast donut (post below) was a dud – Ok, maybe I made it for me, because… chocolate! It’s dense, it’s fudgy, it’s rich and the ganache makes it crazy good!

Enough said, Here’s the recipe:

2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 3/4 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon espresso powder (this is optional, but I LOVE it – it really intensifies the chocolate flavor in baked goods)
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons vinegar, white or cider
2 tablespoons Kahlua or coffee liqueur (optional)
8 tablespoons melted butter

CHOCOLATE GANACHE TOPPING
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
½ cup heavy cream heated to just boiling

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease the wells of a GIANT baked donut pan or the wells of two standard doughnut pans, if making normal sized donuts.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cocoa, flour, sugar, baking powder, espresso powder, baking soda, salt, and chocolate chips. Set aside.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, kahlua and vinegar. The mixture may curdle from the vinegar, don’t worry about it, it’s normal.

Add the wet ingredients, along with the melted butter to the dry ingredients, stirring well to blend, making sure everything is well-combined, but not overmixing or beating.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan(s), filling them 3/4 full. For the GIANT donut, divide the batter between the 2 pans.

For the Giant Donut, bake for about 45 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean or for normal sized donuts bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean.

Remove the doughnuts from the oven, and after 30 seconds or so, loosen their edges, turn the pan over onto a rack to release the donuts. Let cool completely

For the ganache. Put the chips into a small bowl. Pour the hot cream over and let sit for about 5 minutes. Whisk the chocolate until smooth and creamy. If the ganache is too runny let it sit for a couple of minutes to thicken up. Pour or drizzle the ganache over the donuts.

For the GIANT donut: After the 2 sides cool, use a serrated knife to even up the roundness so that the 2 halves will sit together evenly. Spread about 2 tablespoons of the ganache on one donut half. Put the 2nd half on top and then drizzle or spoon the ganache over the top, allowing some to drip down the sides. Adds some sprinkles if you are so inclined! Enjoy

Makes 12 normal donuts, or one GIANT donut


My GIANT Donut Challenge

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We celebrated my Son’s Birthday this weekend and as I have stated earlier, he challenged me to create a GIANT fried yeast donut Birthday Cake. I did a test run Saturday afternoon to “get to know the dough”, see how much it would rise, etc., as I was afraid it would be too big for my biggest cast iron frying pan (fire extinguisher was handy). I also wanted to be sure I rolled the dough out thick enough; I learned that ¼ inch is good for a standard sized donut, but I should roll the GIANT out to at least ½ an inch to get a good rise out of it, pun intended. I admit I had a “backup plan” just in case; I baked a GIANT chocolate cake donut and I’ll share that recipe next as it was quite yummy for a back up

Here’s the recipe for the yeast donut:

3 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast or active dry yeast
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 large egg
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 cups peanut oil (approximate)

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the dry ingredients. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, melted butter, and vanilla. Add all at once to the dry ingredients. Mix and knead with the dough hook attachment to make a soft dough, about 1-2 minutes on medium. Cover with a clean dish towel and let the dough rest for 5 minutes.
After the dough has rested, knead it for about 7 minutes on medium in stand mixer with the dough hook. until it’s smooth and soft. Place the dough in a greased bowl, turn it over to coat the top, cover, and let it rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until doubled.
To shape the doughnuts: Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Gently roll it 1/4″ thick for regular sized donuts, and cut out doughnuts with a 2 1/2″ to 3″ round cutter. For the GIANT donut, cut a 8 inch circle and use a 1 inch round cutter to cut out the hole. Cover loosely with greased plastic wrap and let the doughnuts rise for 30 minutes to an hour, until doubled.

To fry: Heat the oil in a heavy frying pan, I prefer my large cast iron pan for this, to 350°F. Carefully place the doughnuts in the oil, 2 or 3 at a time for regular sized donuts, one at a time for the GIANT, and fry until golden brown. Turn over (chopsticks are perfect for flipping) and cook the second side; each side should take no more than a minute for the regular donut, the GIANT will need about 30 seconds more per side to make sure it’s cooked all the way through. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on a rack set over a sheet pan with absorbent paper toweling on it. Fill or frost doughnuts as desired, using your choice of sugar topping or glaze. I just sprinkled the GIANT with powdered sugar, as requested by the birthday boy. For the donut holes, I used 2 brown lunch bags and put powdered sugar in one and cinnamon sugar in the other. After the holes drained for about a minute I put them in the bags and tossed them around to coat.


Strawberry Meyer Lemon Marmalade

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#FIJChallenge  Although I completed my January Marmalade Challenge for the Food In Jars year-long challenge with my meyer lemon and tomato marmalade (recipe is a couple of posts down or just search for “marmalade”) – seeing all the beautiful jars of strawberry meyer-lemon marmalade made by other participants… well, I just had to make it too!

The recipe is in Marisa McClellan’s book “Preserving by the Pint”; I recommend this book and her first book “Food In Jars” very strongly; they really got me fired up to plunge head first into preserving.

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Winter Preserving: Marmellata di Limone e Pomodori (Lemon & Tomato Marmalade)

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As I mentioned a few days ago, I am doing the Food In Jars Year-long Mastery Challenge #FIJchallenge. This month’s challenge was Marmalade which I have never made before, so I was excited to try it. I thought about doing good ole’ orange marmalade, so I could use it in next years “cuccidati” Christmas cookies, but that didn’t really excite me. I turned to my new fav canning book Preserving Italy by Domenica Marchetti and found a recipe for a Tomato Marmalade that I wanted to try (this recipe is on her website, noted below). There wasn’t that much lemon in the recipe and it didn’t use the whole fruit, just the zest, so I felt like I wouldn’t be getting the true Marmalade experience; I revised the recipe to incorporate all of the lemon, so my version has a more dominate lemon flavor than tomato. I also found some nice organic Meyer lemons at Trader Joes, so that was my main citrus for the marmalade. This recipe didn’t follow the true marmalade formula; 1 part fruit, 1 part sugar, 1 part liquid/water, actually it didn’t have any water at all. Because of this I was concerned about the acid content, especially when canning tomatoes. What I did was, probably over-kill, added the juice of 2 regular lemons. It took about an hour and a half of gentle, yet lively boiling for the marmalade to set, which is what I expected, but set it did; I like the consistency.

I’m pleased with my first venture into marmalade making; this marmalade is sweet but also savory. It goes very nice with cheese and I could also see it pairing wonderfully as a condiment or a glaze for seafood or chicken. Here’s how I made it:

Lemon & Tomato Marmalade or Marmellata di Limone e Pomodori Adapted from Domenica Marchetti’s “Marmellata di Pomodori” (www.DomenicaCooks.com).

• 4 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, washed
• 2 cups sugar
• 1 pound Meyer Lemons – zest peeled into strips, white pith removed and then segmented and seeded
• Juice of 2 large regular lemons
• 2 tablespoons good balsamic vinegar
• 2 teaspoon sea salt
• 8 whole cloves
• 2 bay leaves
• 2 jalapeno or chile peppers, seeded and minced

Cut the stem end from the tomatoes. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the skin from the tomatoes. Cut the tomatoes in half and remove the seeds. Cut the tomatoes into chunks and add to a heavy non-reactive pot.

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Add the rest of the ingredients to the pot with the tomatoes, give it a stir. Over medium heat, bring the pot to a simmer.

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Cook at a lively simmer for about 1 ½ hours until the marmalade is thick and glossy and set, stirring often to prevent the marmalade from burning, this is most important towards the end of the cooking time, as the marmalade can go from perfectly set to a burnt mess pretty quickly.

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Carefully fish out the bay leaves and cloves, discard. Spoon the marmalade into sterilized jars and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. If you don’t want to process the jars you can refrigerate for at least a month.

This will make a small batch of 3 8-ounce or 6 4-ounce jars.

 

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Winter Preserving: Marmellata di Limone e Pomodori (Lemon & Tomato Marmalade)

• 4 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, washed
• 2 cups sugar
• 1 pound Meyer Lemons – zest peeled into strips, white pith removed and then segmented and seeded
• Juice of 2 large regular lemons
• 2 tablespoons good balsamic vinegar
• 2 teaspoon sea salt
• 8 whole cloves
• 2 bay leaves
• 2 jalapeno or chile peppers, seeded and minced

Cut the stem end from the tomatoes. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the skin from the tomatoes. Cut the tomatoes in half and remove the seeds. Cut the tomatoes into chunks and add to a heavy non-reactive pot. Add the rest of the ingredients to the pot with the tomatoes, give it a stir. Over medium heat, bring the pot to a simmer. Cook at a lively simmer for about 1 ½ hours until the marmalade is thick and glossy and set, stirring often to prevent the marmalade from burning, this is most important towards the end of the cooking time, as the marmalade can go from perfectly set to a burnt mess pretty quickly.

Carefully fish out the bay leaves and cloves, discard. Spoon the marmalade into sterilized jars and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. If you don’t want to process the jars you can refrigerate for at least a month.

This will make a small batch of 3 8-ounce or 6 4-ounce jars.

#FIJChallenge #Preserving #Marmalade

 


Tuscan Butternut Squash Soup

butterut-squash-soupTuscan Butternut Squash Soup: With a little chill in the air our minds turn to comfort foods and a steamy bowl of soup is one of the ultimate comfort foods. This recipe takes butternut squash soup to the next level; combining the autumn flavor of the squash with rustic Tuscan flavors of rosemary, Italian sausage and mushrooms. I can go on singing the virtues of this soup, but will spare you 🙂 just make it! … and add some crusty artisan bread to go with it! Here’s the recipe:

1 sweet onion, diced
Olive oil
2 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1 inch cubes
3 sprigs rosemary
Salt & Pepper to taste
4 cups of chicken stock or broth (low sodium)
16 ounces Mascarpone Cheese
1 lb fresh white mushrooms slived
1 lb your favorite Italian sausage meat (bulk)

Heat a large pot over medium heat and add enough olive oil to cover the surface. Add onions and sauté until translucent, about 4 minutes.

Add squash, rosemary and a teaspoon of salt, stir, then cove tightly. Cook over medium low heat until squash is tender, about 30 to 40 minutes; checking every 10 minutes and stirring.

When the squash is tender, remove rosemary and puree ingredients in blender or with immersion blender until you get a smooth puree. Add the puree back into the pot (if you’ve removed it).Slowly add the chicken stock to the puree, and stir. . You just want to add enough liquid until the desired consistency is reached. Whisk in the Mascarpone Cheese until well incorporated. Add salt and pepper (to taste) and cover the soup and keep warm over a low heat.

Heat a medium sauté pan over medium heat, and add enough olive oil to coat the surface of the pan; Add the mushrooms and saute until tender and slightly browned. Add to the soup.

In the same pan over medium heat, add the sausage, breaking up into smaller pieces and cooking through until browned and fragrant. Add the sausage to the soup and stir well.

Reheat the soup if needed, taste (yum) and adjust seasonings if needed. Serve with some crusty bread and Enjoy!

#recipe #fallcooking #buternutsquash #ItalianCooking #TuscanCooking #HomeMade


Savory Pumpkin Rugelach

As promised a Pumpkin recipe, but I wanted to go out of the box with this one, and not just make a pie or bread or muffins. The results? This oh so savory Pumpkin Rugelach! These are scrumptious; they would be perfect with a bowl of soup, chili, a hearty stew or piled high in a basket on your Thanksgiving table!

I love making traditional rugelach – so I took my rugelach recipe and left out the sugar and filled them with a savory “stuffing” of sautéed onions, lots of sage and parsley, a little chili powder and cayenne for tiny kick, and of course pumpkin! The addition of parmesan cheese brings them to the next level.

Funny side note: My daughter stopped by while these were on the cooling rack – she tasted one and said “Mom, what am I eating, it tastes like a chicken pot pie cookie, ridiculously good!” LOL Nope, Pumpkin! But that gave me an idea…….As

Here’s the recipe – try it and let me know how you like it in the comments below!

Savory Pumpkin Rugelach

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup very cold unsalted butter, cut into dice
1 cup cold cream cheese, cut into dice
For the Filling:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, small dice
¼ cup fresh sage, finely chopped
¼ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon chili powder
A pinch of Cayenne Pepper
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup pumpkin puree
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
½ cup finely chopped walnuts
1 large egg, beaten

To make the pastry: In the bowl of a food processor combine the flour and salt, pulse to combine.

Scatter the butter and cream cheese on top of the flour and pulse about 8 times, then process until the mixture just starts to come together into a ball. Remove the dough and pat together.

Form the dough into two disks, wrap them in plastic, and refrigerate for 2 hours.

To make the filling: Heat the olive oil and butter in a pan set over medium heat. Add the onion, sage, parsley cayenne and chili powder.

Cook until the onions are translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the pumpkin, salt, and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes longer, until the purée has become a bit drier. Take off the heat and stir in the nuts and cheese. Cool to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease two baking sheets, or line with parchment paper or silpat.

On a well-floured surface, roll one disk of pastry into a circle the size of a large dinner plate.

Spread half the filling onto the circle.

Cut the dough into wedges, using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter. Roll each wedge tightly, starting at the wide end, and bend into a crescent.

NOTE: Depending on how large you want the pastry, will depend on how many you cut out of each circle. I liked them a little larger so I cut them into 8 large crescents.

Place the crescents on one of the prepared baking sheets.

Repeat with the remaining pastry and filling.

Combine the egg with 1 teaspoon water and brush it onto the rugelach. If you like you can grind a little black pepper on top and sprinkle a bit of course sea salt.

Bake the rugelach for 25 to 27 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven, and transfer to a rack to cool.
Serve warm, or at room temperature. Store at room temperature, tightly wrapped, for several days; freeze for longer storage.

#Pumpkin #savory #thanksgiving #rugelach #recipe


Sicilian Apple Butter

dsc02944Preserving the Season: Sicilian Apple Butter

A little twist on the American Apple Butter; this has the fragrant aromas of Sicily. The addition of Fleur di Sicilia; which translates to “the flowers of Sicily”, combines citrus, vanilla and mild floral notes that pair quite nicely with the apples and hint of cinnamon in this easy Slow Cooker Preserve.

If you don’t have fleur di Sicilia, you can combine orange flavor or zest, vanilla and just a drop of rose water to get close to the true flavor, but I think it’s worth seeking out the real thing; once you try it you will find many recipes that it will enhance.

Here’s the recipe:

Sicilian Apple Butter

10 large apples (I like to use a combination of tart and sweet apples)
8 cups of sugar
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of Fleur di Sicilia

Prepare your boiling water canner. Sterilize your jars, put your lids and rings in a barely simmering pot of water until ready to use.
Peel, core and cut up the apples. In a large pot or saucepan combine the apples with 1 cup of water. Simmer on medium-high heat until the apples are cooked into a sauce, stirring frequently.

Too get a nice smooth butter puree with a stick blender or in batches in a stand blender, making the apple butter as smooth or as chunky as you like.

Combine the cooked, puréed apples, the sugar, cinnamon and the fleur di Sicilia in a slow cooker, stir well. Cook on low heat for 9-10 hours stirring occasionally.

Ladle the hot butter into the hot, sterilized jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Wipe the rims of the jars, center the lid on the jar, apply the band until it is finger-tip tight.

Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes (adjusting for your altitude if necessary). Remove the jars and cool. Check seals after 24 hours.

Makes approximately 6-8 16oz jars