Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Minty Marshmallows

Well, now that Thanksgiving is over it is time to start the Christmas baking.  I totally enjoy this part of the holidays. Decorating..somewhat fun..shopping...not fun…being in the kitchen making wonderful treats…the most fun! Don't snicker. I know I'm a little crazy when it comes to holiday baking. My mother-in-law use to laugh at the fact that I would make a cookie a night for the 2 weeks before Christmas. So today my project was marshmallows….chocolate, mint or just plain! I decided on mint. You see, years ago when I first made these delectable treats, I was browsing through a Williams-Sonoma's Catalog and saw that they were selling homemade marshmallows. They touted the fact that these were like little puffs of heaven, and no store bought  marshmallow will ever compare. The price was way more than I would pay for marshmallows. Ok, so now they sucked me in! I'm always up for a challenge. I thought if someone is making marshmallows to sell at Williams-Sonoma, then why can't I make them.  That's when I took out my trusty Martha Stewart Holiday Cookbook.  If anyone knows how to make marshmallows it would be Martha! I was right. Since then they have been a tradition in our house. My grandkids love them. They are so yummy topping a cup of hot chocolate or just eating. I really love the mint. They compliment the hot chocolate nicely.  I have to say that no store bought bag of marshmallows will ever compare….Williams-Sonoma was right!!

Foil lined oiled dish


Water in mixer bowl with gelatin sprinkled on top.

All  ingredients, in pot, coming to a boil. 

Thermometer and peppermint oil

Boiling till thermometer reads 234 to 240⁰

Beating mixture till thick and stiff

Ready to go!

Mixture poured into dish

Powdered sugar on cutting surface 

The set mixture ready to be cut

Cutting the marshmallows

These are on their way to my grandsons.

Martha's Marshmallows

4 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1½ cups water (divided)
3 cups sugar
1¼ cups light corn syrup
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or you could use peppermint  oil...just 2 or 3 drops 
the first time…this could be quite potent)
Confectioners sugar for finishing

Oil a 3 qt. Pyrex baking dish with vegetable oil. Line the dish with foil, and lightly
coat the foil with more oil.
In the bowl of the electric mixer soften the gelatin with ¾ cup water.
Place the sugar , corn syrup, ¾ cup water and the salt in a heavy saucepan.
Bring to a boil and cook over high heat until the syrup reaches 234⁰ to 240⁰ F.
Add the extract or oil.
With the whisk attachment  of the mixer at full speed, beat the hot syrup slowly
into the gelatin until mixture is very stiff. About 15 minutes. Pour the mixture into the
foil lined dish and smooth the top with on oiled spatula. Allow the mixture to rest, 
uncovered, at room temperature 10 to 12 hours.
Using a fine sieve, sprinkle the confectioners sugar onto a cutting board. Turn the 
stiffened marshmallow mixture out onto the sugar, and using a lightly oiled knife 
cut into squares or use cookie cutters and cut out in shapes. Be sure to dip the cut 
edges of the marshmallows into the confectioners sugar to prevent sticking.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The After Thanksgiving Soup

Well, hopefully everyone has had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. I had a house full of company. Children, grandchildren, brothers, in-laws, nieces and nephews. We had a ton of food and I did not take one picture of my food prep.  I just couldn't spare the time. Things were pretty crazy around here. I made all the usual sides…Sweet Potato Casserole, home made Cranberry Sauce, and a wonderful Broccoli Casserole. My sister-in-law brought the Apple and Pumpkin Pies. Delicious! I made a family favorite, Kahlua Cheesecake, and also a Dark Date Nut Bread that we enjoyed for breakfast with cream cheese. Two days of eating the leftovers and today a great big pot of turkey soup. This is a bonus  gift of the Thanksgiving turkey. After everyone has feasted on the bird…it is time to take the carcass and make a lovely pot of soup.  I put the carcass in a large pot of water with lots of carrots, onions, parsnips, parsley and celery. I also had a head of garlic that was roasted in the cavity of the turkey that I added to the pot. Salt and pepper to taste and simmer for several hours. If you're lucky to have some leftover gravy, you can also throw that into the pot. Let it all cool down and refrigerate, (mine sat on my back porch overnight) pour into another pot through a mesh strainer.  Then I add about 1/2 cup of barley to the soup, along with sliced carrots, celery and peas. Serve over fine soup noodles. It's a great way to use up every part of the Thanksgiving turkey and happens to be so satisfying on the cold days of November.

The carcass and everything good added to the pot.

The finished soup…Oh so good!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

FFWD ~ Pumpkin Flans No Gorgonzola

Ok. Call me a coward, but I just could not put gorgonzola cheese in my pumpkin flans. When I first saw this recipe, it kind of turned me off. I guess I just can't think of pumpkin flan being savory. I decided to change this recipe a bit. I added a little brown sugar and nutmeg to the pumpkin mixture. I still put the walnuts on top with a sprinkle of nutmeg. I did not make these sweet…only 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg. I also used fresh pumpkin that I had cooked down. I think that may be the reason for them not having a very strong pumpkin flavor. My flans looked great but tasted..eeh!  My husband ate one but, did not ask for seconds.  Me, I thought they were ok. They tasted a bit eggy and didn't have the flavor I expected. I will probably eat the rest for breakfast.  I wish now that I had been true to the recipe.  But honestly…..I would not like them here or there, I would not like them anywhere, not in a house, not with a mouse…... 

This Recipe is in Dorie Greenspans new book Around My French Table
And so are many more that are absolutely fabulous!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mom's Spinach Pies ~ Fatayer Sabanegh

Fatayer Sabanegh….Spinach pies
Today I was in the kitchen making "Fatayer Sabanegh"….Spinach pies. As I've mentioned before, I am of Lebanese descent. Spinach pies are one of the recipes my grandmother passed down to her daughters. My mother was the best at making anything with yeast in it. As the holidays approach I become a little nostalgic, thinking of Christmases past. I have a blessed life, and certainly am not melancholy. Even so, my thoughts keep going to my mom, who passed away 2 1/2 years ago.  There are days I miss her terribly!  
Today is one of those days because; I was making her favorite recipe. My mom died at 89 years old. The last few years she struggled with dementia. She lived with me and it was a very hard time for both of us. She was an excellent baker. When she would make her spinach pies I would stand-by and watch, but never really helped. This was her thing! Yeast baking was her specialty. Even though I was quite proficient in the kitchen, I never attempted making my mom's spinach pies.  
That changed when she was 87, she could no longer remember many of her recipes. She would say to me, "I want to make spinach pies but, I get mixed up and can't remember anymore".  “ No worries mom", I would say, “We could do them together”! That's when I started baking Spinach pies with my mom.  I then gave her the written recipe (which she never needed before). The first time we did this, she followed the recipe, and my directions. Then we rolled the dough and filled it with the spinach mixture. The next time we planned on making them, she needed help making the dough. That’s when I really started to make her spinach pies. That time I made the dough with her direction.  Because of the time we spent together, yeast dough is now one of my specialties. I am forever grateful we had this time together, while she was still able to participate. And so glad she was able to pass on her knowledge of baking to me. All her little secrets that still help me to this day!

dough ingredients 
kneading till smooth
place in oiled bowl to rise
5 pkg. frozen spinach, squeezed dry
Add all ingredients then add oil and mix, let stand to meld flavors.
risen dough
add toasted pine nuts (or toasted chopped walnuts)
dough ready to be filled
Make triangular shape 
Ready for the oven
YUM!!  Enjoy!!

Fatayer Sabanegh

Pie Dough

8 cups of flour
1 pkg. yeast
1/2 cup olive oil
1 Tablespoon salt
about 3 cups lukewarm water
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon Mahleb (This is a mediterranean spice that can be purchased at Penzeys on-line. It is made from the cherry pit.)

Mix yeast in one cup of lukewarm water and add 1 teaspoon sugar. Let stand.
Mix all dry ingredients make well in center, add water and oil. Mix well.
Knead until you form a smooth dough. I usually add only 7 cups of flour at the
beginning and then add the rest as I am kneading the dough.  Put into an oiled
bowl, cover loosely and let rise in a warm place. After this has risen, punch
down and break off small pieces and make small balls and let rest. I usually
roll them with a rolling pin but you can flatten with your hand.

Spinach filling

5- 11 oz. pkg. frozen spinach (defrosted and squeezed dry)
2 onions (chopped fine)
Juice of 3 lemons
3/4 cup toasted pine nuts
Salt, pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup of olive oil

Mix all ingredients and let the flavors meld while you wait for the dough to rise.
Place spinach mixture on rolled dough and and close into triangular shape.
Brush oil onto baking sheet and arrange pies in rows. Bake at 350 degrees for
about 20 minutes, until bottoms are lightly browned. Then place under broiler
until pies are lightly browned. Serve hot or cold. Makes about 3 dozen

Thursday, November 11, 2010

FFWD ~ Caramel-Topped Semolina Cake

So here we are again…It's French Fridays with Dorie! I have to admit I am having a lot of fun with this! Making recipes that I might have flagged to make but, never actually getting around to doing. I chose to make the Semolina cake this week. I am of Lebanese decent and grew up with many baked goods made with semolina. I really love the grainy texture. I have been intrigued with this recipe since it was selected as one of the November picks.  So today, after I got home from my volunteer job at the hospital, I went right to work on this cake. Truthfully it was not difficult to make but, needed complete attention while putting it together. So much so, that I was not able to take process photos.  First you are bringing the milk to just a boil. You have to continually stir so it will not scorch! Then you add the cream of wheat, slowly and stirring constantly. Let that cool. While it's cooling, you have to start the Caramel, which can scorch very quickly, so you want to watch it carefully.  Heating the pan in the oven was a good tip. It made the caramel easy to manipulate when poured into the pan. Add the beaten eggs and vanilla to the cream of wheat and scrape into the baking pan over the caramel.  After you take this out of the oven, place cake plate over pan and invert. I slid a knife around the edge of pan before I did this. I really loved this recipe but, would not have classified it as a cake. It is more like a flan or pudding. I had my chief taster give me his review! We will definitely be making this again.

The finished cake

 My piece

This Recipe comes from Dorie Greenspan's new book 'Around My French Table'.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Dark Date-Nut Bread

Let's get one thing straight….I absolutely love and enjoy the holidays! That said, I do have moments that make people around me think otherwise. My husband thinks that once the holidays begin, I turn into the kitchen nazi! I'll admit I could be a bit of a shrew when it comes to controlling my kitchen. I have so many things going on and I feel like I'm always racing the clock. Very often, I'm baking late into the night.  So, with Thanksgiving only a few weeks away, the baking marathon begins.  Whether it's Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years, I so enjoy entertaining. It's my opportunity to get into the kitchen and experiment with new desserts and cookies. I try to add at least one new cookie every year. I also try to have something ready for drop in company or something special for a quick breakfast treat. A staple in my house during the holidays is my Aunt Emma's Dark Date Nut Bread. This bread  has been made during the holidays since I was a small child. When I was a new bride my aunt gave me her recipe. I tried it several times but, it never turned out as moist and luscious as hers.  So, very early on, I tweaked it.  Even though I changed the recipe, I still consider it to be my aunts Dark Date Nut Bread.  This bread looks, smells and tastes the way hers did. We love to have it for breakfast with cream cheese spread over the top. I love it right out of the fridge. Sooo yummy!!  It will stay fresh in the refrigerator for at least a week to 10 days. Hope you'll give it a try.

2 cups chopped dates

dates, raisins, butter and baking soda

add 2 Tablespoons molasses

Add 1 1/4 cups boiling water and let sit at least 1 hour

Mix dry ingredients

Put into a 9x5 loaf pan


Dark Date Nut Bread

2 Tablespoons molasses 
1 1/4 cups boiling water
1 cup raisins
2 cups chopped dates
3 Tablespoons butter
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 3/4 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs 
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Grease and flour 9x5 loaf pan. Pour boiling water over raisins, dates, butter, 
molasses, baking soda. Let stand at least 1 hour. I sometimes leave overnight.
Mix flour, sugar, and salt; beat in the fruit mixture and remaining ingredients. 
Pour batter into pan.  Bake 60 to 70 minutes at 350 degrees.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

FFWD ~ Roast Chicken for les Paresseux

Well, it's time to post my second recipe for FFWD.  This month we got to choose our recipe order. I chose to do 'roast chicken for les paresseux'. As Dorie explains,"for the lazy". That happens to work very well for me today. I was out most of the day with my girlfriend. We went out this morning for pedicures and then for lunch and a little shopping. The day here in NJ was miserable. Cold (44 degrees), and heavy rains all day.  Too cold to be walking around in flip flops…but hey, we just had pedicures done! We happened into a great little store owned by a very artistic lady. She gave us some great advice on where to get some fresh goat chevre. Her shop was filled with a mixture of vintage pieces of jewelry  and some very artistic new pieces made by local artists. Then we had lunch at this very quaint and lovely place in town, where we enjoyed quiche and salad. By the time I got home I was chilled to the bone. So this chicken dish sounded soooo good. It filled my home with the aroma and warmth of wonderful herbs.  I loved this way of roasting a chicken. It was so moist and the bread sitting at the bottom of the chicken, soaking up all the wonderful juices, was delicious.  I added more potatoes  and carrots than called for. I like extra veggies. Oh, and the garlic that was roasted with the chicken, all I can say is yum!  So far I have made 3 recipes from this book and have not been disappointed yet. This is going to be a great year! 
This recipe can be found in Dorie Greenspan's new book "Around my French Table".

veggies cut and ready for the pot

olive oil rubbed dutch oven with bread

My chicken ready for the oven..looking good!

My beautiful roasted chicken. To bad I can't capture the wonderful smell!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

It's Oh So Cold in New Jersey ~ Manhattan Clam Chowder

Well, it looks like the cold weather has finally hit the northeast. I woke up this morning to a very cold 24 degrees. All I wanted to do was get warm…start my pellet stove...make a cup of hot tea…and wrap myself up in my blanket! Ok, I know, I'm a woose. I'm just not a person who likes the cold. I'm very comfortable on 95 degree, hot humid, days. Yes, I even like the humidity! So I thought I'd plan a dinner that would warm us up. A nice big pot of soup would be nice.  As I looked through my pantry to see what I had, I found a large can of clams. Perfect! A pot of Manhattan Clam Chowder. Yum! Lucky for me I had every thing else I needed to start my soup.  Celery, carrots, potatoes, onions, canned tomatoes and of course, the clams. I do my prep in a food processor. Chop the celery, onions, potatoes, and carrots, one at a time. Drain the clam juice into a measuring cup, and add enough water to make 5 cups. I usually double this recipe.  I always serve this with a nice loaf of crusty bread. Enjoy!

This is a doubled recipe.

Manhattan Clam Chowder

3 slices of bacon, finely diced
1 cup finely diced celery
1 cup chopped onion
3- 71/2 oz cans minced clams
1- 1 lb can of crushed tomatoes
2 cups diced potatoes
2 cups finely diced carrots
1/4 to 1/2 cup red wine ( I save my left over wine for cooking)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2  teaspoon thyme
pepper to taste

Partially cook bacon. Add celery and onion and cook till tender but not brown. Drain clams, reserving juice. Add enough water to the juice to make 5 cups; add to bacon mixture. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Then add tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, and seasonings. Cover and simmer about 1 hour.
At this point you can add the wine. Simmer another 25-35 minutes. Add the clams and heat through.
Makes 6 to 8 servings. 

 Dinner anyone?