Browned Butter Pears with Crunchy Almond Crumble

During the current pandemic, like many others, I find myself purchasing more of an item than I usually would. I guess internally I’m worried that one day we won’t be allowed to go into the grocery stores at all so I’m even buying larger quantities of fruits and veggies  when I see them, afraid it will be the last time.

Last week I bought a bag full of pears. I don’t know why. Nobody else in my house will eat a pear besides me. Fruit does not last long in the heat either.  After a couple of days in this Mexican humidity at best, fruit has brown spots and is softer than it should be (why do you think we make banana bread so often?) and needs to be used right away or gets wasted. And I hate wasting food.

So the other day when I opened up the fridge and saw this bag of pears (that I promised myself I would eat all by myself), starting to rot, I knew I had to use them for something.

Something simple like pears cooked slightly in butter and sugar and topped with a crunchy almond crumble so crunchy it’s almost like granola?  Should we just call it cranola? Sounds like a plan.

This is a very simple dish. The crumble makes more than you need. Store the rest and keep it in the fridge or freezer and top your morning yogurt with it.  I could NOT stop eating it after I made it. Crunchy and salty and sweet all at the same time, it’s just about the perfect crumble. Granola. Whatever.

Use a different fruit if you choose, and put some ice cream on the side next time (if I had some I would have) and you have a beautiful dessert. Frankly, I would eat this for breakfast too. Fruit, granola, what’s not breakfast about that!

Oh, and currently, as I type this, I am snacking on said crumble with perhaps a few chocolate chips added. Happiness.

INGREDIENTS:

ALMOND CRUMBLE

  • 1 cup almonds, divided
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup oats
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 5 TAB cold butter, diced
  • 1 TAB honey

BROWN BUTTER PEARS

  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 TAB brown sugar
  • 6 pears, peeled if you choose (the skin can come off when cooking), sliced
  • 1 TAB cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger

DIRECTIONS:

For the crumble: In a large saucepan, toast the almonds for about 4 or 5 minutes until the aroma releases and they soften. Let cool a few minutes. Set aside 2/3 cup almonds. Take the rest and transfer to food processor. Pulse until finely ground. Transfer ground almonds to a medium size bowl. Add flour, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, oats, and salt. Stir well to combine. Add butter and with your fingers, work butter in with your fingers until well incorporated (mixture should form clumps). Coarsely chop the reserved 2/3 cup almonds and add to mixture. Add honey and stir to combine.

Turn mixture onto a large parchment lined baking sheet. Break large clumps apart and spread evenly, don’t crowd. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden and crisp. Set aside to cool.

For the pears: combine butter and sugar in a small bowl. Transfer to saucepan and turn on heat to medium. When butter is melted and slightly bubbly, add pears without crowding, then add cinnamon and ginger. Cook pears for about 5 minutes or until they are the consistency that you like (normally I like a little bite to mine, but because the granola is so crunchy, I made mine softer).

Transfer pears to plate. Drizzle some of the butter mixture over the pears. Add crumble and serve.

Serves 4.

 

Lime Cupcakes

I’ve loved this recipe for many years, but I thought I would never share it.  I’m soooooo not good at frosting cupcakes.  It’s actually been something that makes me a little crazy.  And a pretty cupcake is, lets face it, all about that swirl.  But, I figured that if I keep telling people to learn and grow and challenge themselves in the kitchen, then I should do the same. It’s only fair.

I am not a great baker, I don’t have a lot of patience or an eye for detail.  I do like making cookies, brownies, crumble …. messy stuff.  Cupcakes and cakes don’t bake well in my overly hot and unevenly regulated oven.  I don’t enjoy frosting cakes, and it doesn’t help that it’s so hot here that if I don’t get it frosted during a 15 minute time period, everything starts to melt.

Wow, this is turning into a very negative post.  I’ll turn it around.

I have a lot of friends and family who love their cupcakes and I can’t bear how much they pay for one cupcake.  I have quite a few cupcake recipes that I really like and knew eventually I needed to start sharing.  I also like bringing cupcakes to a party over a cake because it saves the cutting of a cake (which I absolutely hate) and of course the “hey! her piece is bigger than my piece” comments that inevitably come out (only when children are around, of course).  Cupcakes are cute, easy, and also save on plates!  I knew I had to work on my frosting.

I watched a few videos and practiced a few times before I felt comfortable with the perfect buttercream recipe.  It’s not hard to make, I had just never realized the importance of beating the butter for a good five minutes until it was night and light.  The first time I did it, my butter was at Mexican room temperature, which meant it was too soft and didn’t hold up.  What’s room temperature to most people is not even close to my room temperature.  Lesson learned.

With a little practice piping, I figured out how to make it look pretty decent.  I think I need a lot more practice to do anything fancier, and maybe once ‘winter’ hits, I will do that.  But for now, I’m proud of what I accomplished.

In the meantime, I’m sharing this recipe with you.  It’s a great cupcake recipe using limes which are very cheap and prevalent here.  The color is cute too, you can adjust it or not put any coloring in it at all.  I have made these very green but prefer them a pale green myself.  I have made these with a blackberry frosting, but frankly, I prefer the pure taste of limes so for this I left the frosting a pure buttercream with a little lime zest on top.  I have added a little juice to the frosting also if you want to really be limey.

I’ll be eating mine under a palm tree.

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 TAB lime zest
  • 2 1/2 TAB fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • green food coloring (optional)

FROSTING:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 cups sifted icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1-2 TAB cream or milk

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350°.  Line muffin tin with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.  In a large bowl, beat butter until smooth, about two minutes.  Add sugar, beat another minute.   Beat in eggs one at a time, making sure they are well combined.  Add lime zest and juice and mix to combine.  Beat in flour mixture in three additions alternatively with buttermilk.  Add a touch of food coloring if you so desire and combine well to get the true color.

Spoon a scant 1/3 cup of batter into each liner.  Bake cupcakes until toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 12-15 minutes.  Cool in pan five minutes, then remove and cool on rack.

In the meantime, beat butter for frosting for 5 minutes or until light and fluffy.  Slowly add sifted icing sugar a little at a time, beating each time to ensure icing sugar is incorporated.  Add vanilla and cream or milk.

Transfer mixture to a piping bag.  Frost cupcakes using preferred method.

Makes 12 cupcakes

 

Creamsicles

We all have childhood memories:  memories that can be brought back unexpectedly by the simplest things: a picture, a smell, a song, a word.  When we realize we can’t go back to these simpler times, sometimes we want to re-create them.

That doesn’t always work though.  Have you ever gone back to a restaurant that you’ve dreamed about re-visiting after you ate an ever-so-memorable meal there, only to be disappointed at the reality? Or for you movie lovers, watched a movie that you used to love, only to find out it wasn’t as funny as you remembered?

I have.  It’s depressing.

Sometimes it makes me scared to re-create things, or to return to certain places.  Should I just keep my happy memory safe and sound? Or should I take the chance and see if it brings joy into my much older adult life?

My husband was obsessed with this seafood soup that he had last year in Venice.   Once I realized we were returning to Venice this year, I knew he had to go back and enjoy it again.  After hours of searching, I found our credit card bill from last year with the name of the restaurant, found it’s location, and back we went this year.  I was so worried it wasn’t going to live up to his expectations.

It did.  Or at least I think it did.  I don’t think he would have the heart to sadden me by saying it didn’t.  He ate in almost silence, slurping up the beautiful Venetian seafood that he enjoyed, probably wondering if THIS was the last time he would do so.

That doesn’t always happen.  I’ve gone home to Toronto and visited many a restaurant that we used to, only to find that it just wasn’t like I remembered.  Maybe it was the same, maybe it was ME that changed.  Whatever the case, it wasn’t the same.

Memory shattered.

When I was dripping in 85% humidity the other day I thought of creamsicles.  They were my popsicle of choice during my childhood.  I’ve always loved orange anything (hence the name of my blog).  Once I remembered them, I chastised myself for not thinking of them earlier!  What is wrong with me?!  I’ve been making ice-cream for years now and I didn’t think of creamsicles?

Shame on me.

Then I wondered …. will it taste the same, or will I ruin my childhood memory of my favorite summer-time treat?

I was willing to take the risk.

I’m glad I did.

This recipe is super easy and while it does not look like the bright orange creamsicle of my childhood, it could, but I decided to leave out the orange food coloring.  It certainly doesn’t look like it, but it tastes like it, maybe even better.

I’m glad I took the risk.  Try it, you’ll be glad too.

 

CREAMSICLES

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2-3 oranges, peeled, make sure there are no seeds
  • 4 TAB sugar
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

DIRECTIONS:

Add oranges, orange juice, and sugar to a blender.  Liquefy for about 30 seconds. Add vanilla and whipping cream and process for a minute.  You want the mixture to be thick but not stiff.  If it’s still runny, process for another minute.  (I have a semi-broken, one-speed only blender at ultra-high speed so I only had to do this once).  Spoon the mixture into your popsicle molds.  Put in freezer.  After about an hour, insert popsicle sticks, the mixture should now be solid enough so the sticks won’t move around.  Freeze 4-6 hours or overnight.

Makes 8 creamsicles

*I used 3 large oranges when I made it as the more orange flavor I could get, the better.  If you use smaller oranges like mandarins, use 6.  

Doubled Salted Caramel Ice-Cream

I used to get sad when my family didn’t like something that I made.  The first time I made this ice-cream my husband didn’t like it.  He said it tasted ‘burnt’.   At first I was kind of sad.  Then I realized that this meant there would be more for me

I got over my sadness.

Is it wrong that I now secretly rejoice when someone in my family doesn’t like a flavor that I do?

This ice-cream can taste burnt to be honest, you have to be careful when you are making the caramel.  Have you ever made caramel before?  You may have to try a few times before you get it right.  Or, if you are the kind of person who is meticulous and pays attention the first time, you’ll probably be fine.  I’m always distracted by 3,468 things and so I’ve burnt a few batches.  Just follow the instructions below carefully and you should be fine.  Even if you do lose a few, it’s just sugar, not an expensive ingredient.

The first time I had a home-made version of this we were visiting our friends in Canada a few summers ago.  We headed down to a little town in the middle of Alberta to stay overnight with our friends who we met in Mexico.  They come to visit every two years and we had become friends.  There are four children at home and they live on a beautiful, serene property.

Our two days there were fantastic: mojitios and tuna steaks with a view (after the children were fed burgers and we sent them out to play).  It was peaceful too, especially because they have such a large property that all the children were off doing what children should, enjoying the great outdoors.  Nobody had to tell them to quiet down because they had enough land to yell at the top of their lungs and we still couldn’t hear them.  Did I mention that my son drove one of their quads into their pond?  Ah yes, put a city boy in the country and something is bound to go wrong.

We were also served this ice-cream.  It was perfect.  I still remember my friend serving it to us and wondering how I had not made this flavor yet.  I love pretty much anything with a sprinkle of salt in or on it, and this creamy caramel flavor was no different.

It may take a few tries to get the caramel right, but it’s worth it.  Try not to eat all the caramel chunks before you toss them in, they’re addictive.  I’m sad you can’t really see them in the picture: oh well, I guess I’ll have to make this again so you can see.

 

INGREDIENTS:

Caramel Praline:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon good quality sea salt

Ice-Cream:

  • 2 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 4 TAB butter, cubed
  • 1/2 teaspoon good quality sea salt
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

For the caramel praline:

Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray or unflavored oil.

Spread 1/2 cup sugar in an even layer in a large, light colored base saucepan.  Heat the sugar over medium heat until edges begin to melt.  Gently stir the sugar at bottom and edges towards the middle.  Continue to cook, stirring infrequently, just until caramel starts smoking but before it smells like it is burning.  Quickly sprinkle in 3/4 teaspoon salt without stirring, then pour caramel onto prepared baking sheet.  Tilt the pan so caramel can spread.  Set aside to harden.

For the ice-cream:

Warm whipping cream in a small pot. Take off heat.

In a medium sized bowl, pour milk and set a thin mesh strainer over top.

Spread 1 1/4 cups sugar in a deep, light bottomed saucepan.  Same as the method above, melt sugar.

Once caramelized, remove from heat and quickly stir in butter and salt (be careful, mixture will bubble up furiously).  Stir until butter is melted, then gradually whisk in the warm cream, a little at a time.

Whisk egg yolks in a separate bowl.  Gradually pour some of the warm caramel mixture over the yolks, stirring constantly.  Pour warmed yolks back into the sauce and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens enough to coat a wooden spoon so that when you run a finger through it, the line remains.  Turn off heat.

Pour the mixture through a strainer into the milk, add vanilla, and then stir to combine.  Cool mixture.  Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.

While ice-cream is churning, crumble hardened praline into small pieces.  I like crushing mine in a sturdy freezer bag with a rolling pin.  During last five minutes of churning, add crushed praline.

Transfer to freezer safe container.

Makes about 2 pints.

Double Crumble Strawberry Bars

I often end up baking or cooking things because of what is lying around that needs to be used, and fast.  You see, here in Mexico, because of the heat and humidity, (and I truly believe because our food is a little less processed also), food seems to waste faster.  When I buy bananas for my daughter, there’s about a two-day window where they are edible, and then, inevitably, they end up in the freezer ready for the next batch of banana bread.

Last week this Costco size container of strawberries looked extra pretty and was cheaper than normal, so I bought them.  For some reason, as pretty as they were, they didn’t get eaten as fast as they should have, (must have been the pretty blueberries that got in the way) and I noticed that they were starting to wane.  I couldn’t have that, so thought I would make something sweet with them.

If I had to choose between pie crust or crumble on top of a pie, I’d always choose the crumble.  I prefer apple crumble any day over the pie.  What is it about butter and sugar and flour mixed together that makes the crumble so desirable?  So flaky? So …. crumbly?

I don’t know.  But I thought why not use the same crumble on the bottom that I so love on the top?

And so these double crumble strawberry bars were born.

One bowl for the crumble and one for the strawberries, easy peasy.  They are fresh and fast and the perfect bar for this time of year when you should have strawberries cheap, fresh, and abundant.

Make sure you let them cool completely; because they are so moist and ‘crumbly’, if you cut into them when they are still warm, you might get a few too many ‘crumbles’.

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cold butter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, washed, hulled, and chopped
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375°.  Line an 8×8 pan with foil or parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, stir together 1/2 cup white sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add beaten egg and vanilla with a fork.  Cut the butter into the flour mixture with two knives or a pastry cutter until the pieces are more or less pea-size.  Set aside.  (Keep refrigerated while preparing strawberries).

In a separate bowl, stir together 1/3 cup sugar and cornstarch.  Add strawberries and toss to combine.

In the prepared pan, put down half the dough, pressing evenly with hands to flatten.  Spoon strawberry mixture on top.  Crumble remaining dough over the strawberry layer.

Bake in preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, or until top is slightly golden brown.  Remove from oven and cool completely before cutting.  (I refrigerated mine to help them cool faster).

 

 

Sticky Toffee Pudding

I would have never made this recipe if I was flipping through a cookbook or the internet.  Dates?  Not a fan.  In a dessert?  Weird.

I don’t remember the first time I had this, but it was made by my talented dessert making friend that has passed a lot of fantastic dessert recipes on to me.  The kind of person who works full time and still comes home and has real meals more regularly than most of us, some sort of dessert either on the counter or the freezer, and is playing words with friends with me at 12:30 a.m. because she’s still folding laundry.

I do remember sitting at her table, wondering why it was so moist and finally asking what it was.  When she told me, I was shocked.  I was supposed to dislike it, but I didn’t.  In fact, I loved it.

So much for hating dates.

Once again, I learned a lesson.  Don’t prejudge things.  Wait, isn’t that what I tell my kids?

This is an easy and moist cake with a beautiful sweet topping.  It’s worth a try, whether you like dates or not.

Now I need to find more recipes with dates ……

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup pitted dates
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350°.  Grease an 8×8 square baking dish.

Bring dates to boil in a small pot of water.  Strain, and return to pot with 1 cup of water and vanilla.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for 3 minutes.  Cool.

Meanwhile, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, cream butter.  Take cooled date mixture and coarsely chop in a food processor.  You don’t want to puree it, but you don’t want large chunks of dates either.  Add dates to creamed butter, then eggs and stir well.

Add dry ingredients until just combined.  Transfer into prepared pan.  Bake approximately 25-30 minutes, test with toothpick or by gently pressing top of cake.

Remove from oven and let cool.

 

TOFFEE SAUCE

**This sauce makes A LOT more than you need.  Save it for ice cream or other sweet treats.

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups whipping cream
  • 1 3/4 cups dark brown sugar

DIRECTIONS:

Combine ingredients in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes.  Serve warm.

Chocolate Hokey Pokey (aka Sponge Candy)

About two and a half years ago, a family of eight moved to our neighborhood from New Zealand.  Their children spanned about 15 years, three boys and three girls.  I fell in love with their accents and expressions such as “togs” instead of bathing suit, “jandals” instead of sandals, and probably my favorite, “sweet as”, which is basically the same as awesome.

The dad is Mr. Helpful.  He bought a pick-up truck to use as their vehicle.  Because of that, combined with the fact that he is easy-going and a helpful kind of guy, he probably ended up moving every person we know here at one point or another.

When we moved into our house, we were fixing up our little yard.  It had some not very attractive grass back there.  We poured some concrete for a sitting area and left a little area to plant.  I am not sure if you are aware of this, but this area in the Yucatan of Mexico is all limestone.  If you want to dig down, you’ll mostly find limestone.  Hard, stubborn, heavy limestone.

Even though my husband left a thin area for us to plant, the digging through limestone to leave just enough room for plants to grow was an almost impossible task.  It was tiring and hard work under this coastal Mexican sun.  (Well it looked tiring for my husband and son).  And then, when that part of the job was done, we were left of piles and piles and piles of brutally heavy limestone.  What to do?

Call the nice man with the pick-up and his 3 sons.

Of course he came.  It took them hours and hours to haul it out to the jungle.  I felt so bad watching them.  When I feel bad, I need to feed.   I had prepared a meal for them that night, but I asked if there was a treat from home that they missed.  Dad replied ‘hokey pokey ice-cream”.

Oh great.  Something I’ve never heard of.

Thank goodness for google.

What they call Hokey Pokey is what many of us in this hemisphere call sponge candy.  It’s actually not hard to make.  Unfortunately, I actually can’t get one of the 3 ingredients here, which is corn syrup.  (Kind of strange for a country full of corn).  They do have some clear syrup they call corn syrup with a baby’s face on it ….. but uh, not quite the same.  So, I put it on my list for my next friend to bring down.  And now I have a stash.

I made it a few times.  It didn’t seem that great to me.  And then I put it in vanilla ice-cream.  Our family instantly loved it.  That crunch in the middle of smooth vanilla ice-cream.  Yummmm.  It instantly became a family favorite.

It’s not hard to make but it is candy so you have to be precise with your measurements, candy thermometer, and timing.  Always sift your baking soda, otherwise you’ll get clumps and it’ll taste awful.  Use a square 8×8 or round baking pan to pour into, because if you use a baking sheet, it will just go flat and you won’t have those pretty bubbles that you see in the picture.  I personally like it better coated with chocolate as opposed to plain, but when I made it for the NZ friends, they just cracked it and ate it plain.

Try it plain, coated in chocolate, or tossed in some ice-cream.   I won’t even judge you if you don’t make the ice-cream.    Just try it.

INGREDIENTS:

*special equipment: candy thermometer

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup golden corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 TAB white vinegar
  • 1 TAB baking soda, sifted

DIRECTIONS:

Grease an 8×8 square pan. (You can use foil in the pan also).   In a medium size sauce-pan, combine sugar, corn syrup, honey, and vinegar.  Stir over medium-low head until sugar is dissolved.  Turn heat up to medium and attach candy thermometer to pot.  Continue cooking WITHOUT STIRRING, swirling pan occasionally, until mixture reaches 300°F.  Remove from heat.  Immediately add baking soda and whisk well for five seconds (mixture will foam up quickly).  Immediately pour into prepared pan.  Cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Remove candy from pan with a metal flipper.  Cut or break into pieces.

Store airtight at room temperature.  Or first dip into melted chocolate, let chill completely, and store in fridge.

Strawberry Pie

I miss strawberry picking.  Every June in Ontario I used to take my children.  I’m sure we brought more home in our stomachs and on our shirts, but we did end up with a few that we could eat and make desserts with.  I love having so much of a food item laying around that you just HAVE to do something with it.

This is another recipe from my friend in Italy.  I actually made it quite a few times before it got photographed as it was quite a hit and disappeared quickly.  I really only blog for fun, I really don’t have the time to devote the time it seems to take to go far and get attention.  I really just want to blog what I like and actually make and enjoy serving.  Honestly, that doesn’t happen every day.  I have teenagers and take care of my parents and do volunteer work and that takes up a lot of my time.

My Croatian friend who’s been living in Italy wouldn’t steer me wrong food-wise.  It’s funny how we all are drawn to people for different reasons.  Even though I was closer to  her younger sisters growing up in age, I was always drawn to her for her love of food, hospitality, and ability to make things look beautiful on a budget.

When we visited them last June, I loved seeing the home she shares with her husband, chickens, and neighboring cats just outside of Florence.  I love how they’ve settled into the way of life there, the way they eat, rest, and cook.   I love how Italians respect the land and use the local ingredients around them.   Local cooking customs are shaped by geography and climate differences.  Some regions are landlocked and mountainous; others touch the sea, while others have cold winters.  This leads to great variety in cuisines from region to region.  I learned last year that pizza isn’t the best in Venice because they can’t have the same kind of wood burning ovens that they do in Naples and other parts of the country due to fires. I loved that we had new food to look forward to even traveling from town to town.

I also loved that I got a good cappuccino everywhere I went.  I need some stability after all.

This pie is by no means an “Italian” dessert, but who cares?  It’s surprisingly good for something so simple.  I love the sweet cheese base and those fresh glazed strawberries are gorgeous.  You can leave the strawberries whole if you like, but I enjoy them sliced myself.

And if you make this after you’ve gone strawberry picking, don’t tell me, I’ll be jealous.

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 2 TAB sugar
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 lbs strawberries
  • 2 TAB cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cold water
  • pinch salt
  • 1 TAB lemon juice
  • 1 TAB icing sugar

DIRECTIONS:

Combine graham crumbs, butter, and sugar and combine until well combined.  Press down in glass pie pan.  Bake in a 350° over for about 10 minutes or until golden.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

Beat 1/2 cup of whipping cream until stiff.  Beat cream cheese until smooth then beat in the 1/3 cup sugar and vanilla.  Fold in whipped cream. Spread over bottom of baked crust. Chill well.

Wash and hull strawberries. Crush sufficient berries to yield 1 cup.

Combine cornstarch, 3/4 cup of sugar, and salt in a small saucepan, blend in crushed berries and water. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until smooth and thickened.  Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice.  Remove from heat.  Press mixture through a sieve.

Carefully fold remaining sliced berries into strawberry mixture until all are glazed.  Heap strawberries on cheese filling, spoon any remaining glaze on berries. Chill at least 2 hours.

Beat remaining whip cream until stiff, beat in the icing sugar. Serve on top of pie.

Nutella Swirl Brownies

I can’t have Nutella sitting around in my house.  It is one of those items of food that I have no control over.  My daughter is the same.  She will often ask me to buy it for her, claiming we will use it in baking.  But, as inevitably happens, by the time we use it for baking, half of it is gone.  I barely had enough for this recipe.  And no, buying the Costco size won’t help, then I will just eat spoonfuls more.

But I will risk having it in the house for this recipe.  They are so dense and fudgy.  They cool and cut perfectly.  The only thing a little bit different about these is that you should take them out of the oven before the toothpick test.  They are fudgy and if you over-bake them according to the toothpick test, they will be a little drier.  Don’t do it!

Don’t let that scare you.  Make them.  Today.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup Nutella + 1/4 up for swirling

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350°.  Grease a 13×9 baking dish.

Using a mixer, combine sugars, vanilla, and melted butter.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

In a separate bowl, whisk flour, cocoa, and baking powder.  Add flour mixture to the wet, making sure it’s combined well.

Soften 1 cup of Nutella in the microwave for 30-60 seconds.  Add to batter.  Transfer batter into prepared baking dish.   Drop remaining Nutella in spoonfuls over the top of the batter.  Drag a knife through the top of the batter to create a swirl effect.

Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes.  Take out and let cool completely before cutting.

 

Spiced Cranberry Tea Cake

I love showing hospitality.  But I’ve never been great at saving things ‘just in case’ somebody drops by.  My mom has always been good at that.  “Mom, why are you buying so much cheese?”.  “Well, you never know who’s going to stop by and you have to have SOMETHING to feed them”.

Do you?  I guess it is a part of hospitality.  Maybe I’ll never get to that point.  Usually, I eat all the cheese before people ‘drop by’.

My friend Marla is the same.  When we lived nearby and would drop in, inevitably, within a few minutes, the table was full of snacks, and I don’t mean chips, I mean baked goods and other real food.  “Where did this come from?” I would always ask.  “The freezer, I bake and save it for when people drop by”.

Guess mom isn’t the only one.

I used to KINDA do that.  When I made cookie dough, I would save half and freeze it for the next time that I wanted fresh cookies.  But she took it a step further, baked the cookies, then froze them.  That way she wasn’t baking when people came by, the cookies were already ready.

This is another recipe that came from her.  I discovered it’s from an old Walmart flyer.  I kind of miss those little magazines from the grocery store with random recipes promoting certain brands.  Some of the best recipes come from those little flyers.

This cake is pretty fantastic.  The spices, the beautiful cranberries; I fell in love with it the first time I made it.  It’s not too shabby to look at either.  I mean red cranberries and a beautiful glaze?  I wish I could just leave it on the counter to stare at every day.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, thawed
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

GLAZE:

  • 1 cup icing sugar, sifted
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Spray the bottom of an 8×4 inch loaf pan.

Combine flour, baking soda, spices, and salt in a medium bowl.   In a separate bowl, whisk egg with brown sugar, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla.  Stir in flour mixture.  Add cranberries and pecans and stir just until combined.  Transfer batter into loaf pan.

Bake for about one hour, or until toothpick comes out clean.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for about ten minutes.

For glaze, stir icing sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl until thickened and smooth.  Drizzle glaze over warm loaf.  Cool completely in pan.

 

Makes one loaf.