Monday, November 25, 2013

Arlene’s Dark Date Nut Bread

My friend Arlene’s Dark Date Nut Bread….delicious!
It’s that time of year again!  The time of year when we take out those old trusted family recipes. The recipes steeped with family tradition. The same recipes that sat on your mother’s Thanksgiving table and your grandmothers! You know the dishes I mean.  That sweet potato casserole that has been on the menu since you were a child…with marshmallows on top, of course!  One year I decided to add chopped pecans, to the dismay of my family!  I still haven’t heard the end of that.  The broccoli casserole that really isn’t all that healthy, but so well loved.  And let’s not forget the cranberry sauce!  I always make a homemade version, yet that canned jellied stuff has to be there too!

A perfect bread for Thanksgiving
Still, there is one recipe that is most important to me. It just wouldn’t feel like Thanksgiving if it wasn’t on my breakfast table, smeared with cream cheese.  It’s my Aunt Emma’s Dark Date Nut bread.  I posted it here a few years ago. Then last year, one of my dear friends brought me a loaf of her date nut bread, and it was delicious!  Her recipe includes instant coffee in the list of ingredients, and is moist with a lovely texture.
I enjoy my date nut bread served cold from the fridge, with all the flavors melded together, tasting so much better the second day!  I will always make my Aunt Emma’s date nut bread! It’s tradition! However, this year I made two date nut breads!  I did a taste test and loved them both! Perfect with a cup of tea, coffee, or even a big glass of milk!  I hope you’ll give them a try. They are both quite wonderful, and you can be the judge!
Wishing you all a Blessed and Happy Thanksgiving!!

Just out of the oven…cooling
Moist, lovely texture and oh so delicious
Perfect with a cup of tea, coffee or a big glass of milk
I like mine for breakfast…with a schmear of cream cheese…yum!

Arlene’s Dark Date-Nut Bread
Adapted slightly from original 

1 lb. dates
2 ½  tsp. baking soda
1 tablespoon of instant coffee (I used Medaglia D’oro)
2 cups boiling water
Chop dates, sprinkle with baking soda and instant coffee, then pour the boiling water over the date mixture and let set for at least 1 hour.

2 sticks of butter
1 ¾ cups sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups flour
1 ½ cups of chopped nuts

Beat butter and sugar together till light and fluffy, then add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.  Add vanilla.  Then mix in the flour and date mixture. Fold in the nuts.
Divide the mixture between two 9x5 loaf pans that have been greased and floured.  Bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes or until done and a toothpick comes out clean.

Friday, November 22, 2013

FFWD ~ Rice Pudding and Caramel Apples (a make up post)

FFWD ~ Rice Pudding and Caramel Apples

This week consisted of shopping, baking and plenty of cleaning. It’s the week before Thanksgiving and, it's been crazy busy around here!  My family will be converging on my house for a few days.  In addition to planning our Thanksgiving dinner, I will also be planning a few easy weeknight meals and breakfast for the crew.  So, when “Salty-Sweet Potato Far” was picked for this friday,  I just couldn’t bring myself to take the time to make something that I knew Bill wasn’t going to eat.  Frankly, it just didn’t appeal to me either!  Maybe after the reviews are in, I will give it a try.  In the mean time, I decided to post a make up, that I missed while I was on vacation.  For me, this week's French Friday is all about Rice Pudding and Caramel Apples.

Join me on the porch…won’t you?
Rice pudding is something I grew up on, evoking many wonderful memories!  As a child, I loved it more than cake! It has always topped my list of ultimate “comfort foods”.  My mom made a version that was made with evaporated milk, and baked in the oven. It would develop this most wonderful crust on top.  My brother and I would fight over it!
In later years, my rice pudding of choice, was a simpler version that I received from my cousin Jayne.  It’s made with milk, on top of the stove, with a beaten egg and vanilla added at the end.  Wonderfully creamy and oh so good!  I’ve never met a rice pudding I didn’t like, so I was really excited to make Dorie’s version!  Her recipe calls for Arborio rice, cooked partially in water. Then, the prepared rice is cooked in milk, along with some sugar until the rice is very tender and most of the milk is absorbed.  Dorie adds, "It is important not to let all the milk be absorbed, or the pudding will be stiff". I think I worried about this too much, because I don’t think I let mine absorb enough milk. It tended to be a bit watery, but still creamy and delicious!

Now, I don’t know if this pudding was so luscious because of the creamy texture, or the amazing caramel apples.  The apples were easy to make.  Begin by moistening sugar with lemon juice in a skillet, then letting it bubble away until a caramel is produced.  Then remove the pan from the heat, and add the butter, swirling the pan to mix. Place the pan back on the heat and add apple cider. Once it comes to a boil, add the apples and cook until tender.  Pour in the heavy cream, boil for one minute and let cool.  You now have the most wonderful caramel apples you will ever taste!  Just this girls humble opinion. This was a truly a delectable dessert!  The rice pudding, although a little too moist, tasted creamy and rich! The caramel apples took it over the top! My husband and I decided "it’s a keeper"!  Happy Friday everyone!

This recipe can be found in Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook, “Around My French Table”, or
here at Epicurious.

Starting the caramel, with the sugar and lemon juice
Apples sliced and ready to be used 
Apples cooking in the caramelized sugar and cider
After the heavy cream was poured in
The caramelized apples….amazing!
This was so good…creamy, rich and delectable!

Friday, November 15, 2013

FFWD ~ Chestnut-Pear Soup

FFWD ~ Velvety Chestnut-Pear Soup
Chestnuts have always been a sign of Fall, and the approaching holidays. They bring back wonderful memories of my grandfather, holding a big bag of chestnuts ready to roast. He would cut an X into each one of them with his pocket knife. If I remember correctly, he would then place them on the outside grill. I always loved the sweet, nutty aromas and flavor when done. I also remember my mom and I cutting X's into them, and placing them into the oven to roast. We would be full of anticipation, while we waited for them to be ready to eat. As soon as the skins would start to spread, we would try to grab a few. We would then toss them around like hot potatoes…or hot chestnuts. They were such a treat.  If you wander the streets of NYC in the fall and winter, you will see venders roasting and selling hot roasted chestnuts from their carts. The air around them filled with the heavy, earthy scent of the roasting nuts.  Bringing back memories of holidays past. 

                                      Chestnuts roasting on a street venders cart…                               stock photo    

This week our recipe for French Fridays is Pear and Chestnut soup.  A great pick for this time of year. The allure of a bowl of velvety chestnut soup, topped with some heavy cream, is hard to resist.  I’m sure not everyone met this challenge with the same anticipation, i.e. my husband who asked, what I was making?  Then gave me his look.  You must know the look, every husband has one! The look that said “I don’t think so”.  I knew right away that this was going to be my soup!

This was a great lunch treat…I think I will freeze the rest for Thanksgiving
I could not find whole canned chestnuts in my area. However, I did have a can of unsweetened chestnut puree in my pantry.  I purchased it on my last trip to Eataly. So, we were on! According to Dorie, Pierre Herme doesn’t think that chestnuts stand alone very well.  He finds them bland. I happen to love their nutty, earthy taste. But what do I know?.  He thought they needed something to give them “sex appeal”, hence the pear.  The remaining ingredients for this soup are pretty simple.  Melt butter in a dutch oven and add the chopped onion, celery and leeks.  Cook over low heat till softened.  Then toss in the two chopped pears, thyme or rosemary sprigs. Pour in the broth, add the chestnuts and cook for about forty five minutes. Puree the soup in a blender or food processor, and pour back into the pot to reheat.  Serve with some Crème fraîche or heavy cream.  I added some shredded pear and sunflower seeds to garnish. The chestnut puree worked well.  I really enjoyed this soup, although I’ve been eating it alone for my last three meals.  I guess I could say, “more for me”!  Happy Friday everyone!  

This post participates with French Fridays with Dorie. To see what other Doristas are doing check it out here. The recipe can be found in Dorie’s cookbook, “Around My French Table”.  I could’nt find this exact recipe on-line, however Dorie posted another Chestnut soup on her blog. There is also a half a recipe of the Chestnut-Pear soup here.

Onions, celery, leeks and pears with a few sprigs of rosemary…the beginning of a luscious soup

Garnished with heavy cream, and sunflower seeds 

Friday, November 8, 2013

FFWD ~ Compote de Pommes-Two Ways (French Applesauce)

FFWD  Compote de Pommes ~ French Applesauce
Have you ever noticed how lovely everything sounds in French?  I always thought of French as an elegant, graceful language.  Romantic!  Everything you say sounds so special!  This is especially true when it comes to food.  Our recipe this week for French Fridays is Compote de Pommes.  Applesauce!  Now you have to admit, it sounds so much more special when you say Compote de Pommes.  It makes me want to serve it in pretty crystal bowls, but alas, it is still applesauce.  I’ve made applesauce before, adding cinnamon and other accoutrements, but Dories applesauce is really just about the apple. Perfectly delectable!  
The addition of the vanilla made this applesauce a touch above the rest
I went to a local farm stand the other day, and bought some beautiful Jersey Fresh Jonagold apples. Autumn is a great time of the year, apples are plentiful, fresh from the trees and bursting with flavor!  The Jonagolds were so crisp and fresh looking, and I thought they would be perfect for the Compote de Pommes.  This was truly a simple recipe.  I had gone out for a ladies lunch yesterday, and never got home in time to make my applesauce. So this morning, at 6:30 A.M., I was busy making my Compote de Pommes.  I washed the apples and cut them into chunks.  Dorie suggests, if you have a food mill, leaving the peel on and not coring the apple. However, it wasn’t registering with my brain. I had to core those apples!  Next, place them in a pan with a small amount of water, to prevent scorching, and add a tablespoon of brown sugar.  Let them simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, on medium-low heat, or until they have softened.  Put them through a food mill and add some vanilla.  At this point you could add a touch more sugar, if you like. Mine was perfect just the way it was.  Most of the sweetness came from the apples.  The flavor of vanilla was a wonderful touch and, took this applesauce from just plain applesauce to Compote de Pommes!  That’s it!  A perfect treat to enjoy after our morning walk!  Happy Friday everyone!

This post participates with French Friday’s with Dorie.  To see what the other Doristas have done check it out here.  The recipe can be found here.

Chunks of apples with added water and brown sugar
Cook on medium-low until softened
Put through a food mill
Perfectly delectable! 
I have to get back to the farm for more of those luscious apples!  I see Compote de Pommes on my Thanksgiving Day table

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Oeufs en Cocotte…a fancy French name for Baked Eggs

Beautiful Oeufs en Cocotte~~or Baked Eggs
I’ve been making a lot of eggs lately.  My husband has been on a “No/Low Carb” diet.  How many ways can you make eggs? Let me count the ways! I’ve done all the standards…fried, scrambled, soft and hard boiled, and omelets.  This week I found a new way…well, a “new” way for me. As I was browsing for a new way to make my eggs,  I found a few recipes for Baked Eggs.  I’ve heard of Baked Eggs, but never considered making them.  Actually, I've never even eaten them. Now I wonder, "why not?”  
Baked eggs, also known as “Eggs en Cocotte”, are an amazing way to cook and eat your eggs. Everyone gets their own dish. They are surprisingly simple, yet elegant enough for a fancy brunch!  Did I mention delicious as well? Because they’re baked, once you mix the ingredients and pop them into the oven, they are hands off.  I’ve already made them three times this week. Toast some bread, make a fruit salad and enjoy!  These are going to be my holiday “go to” egg dish for Thanksgiving and Christmas!  

One with a handful of fresh spinach on the bottom…the other with chopped tomatoes and ham.  Just scrumptious!

All the recipes I’ve seen are basically the same.  First, butter your baking dish. I used creme brulee dishes.  Crack some eggs into the buttered dish, pour in some cream - about two tablespoons - then season the eggs with salt, pepper and a sprinkling of cheese. There you have it!  Can it get easier then that?  If you like, you can jazz it up by layering the bottom with some chopped ham or bacon, chopped veggies, sautéed mushrooms, or greens.
I did one of mine with sliced cherry tomatoes and ham, and the other with a handful of spinach (uncooked) on the bottom.  I also thought some smoked salmon would be a really nice addition.  

Now they’re ready to bake.  Place the dishes on a baking sheet and bake them in a pre-heated oven set at 375º for 8 to12 minutes, or until set.  I like my whites really done, so I go for the longer baking time.  Just keep an eye on them towards the end of baking.  I have seen some recipes that call for a “bain marie” (water bath), but I didn’t use one.  These wonderful "Eggs en Cocotte" lend themselves to creativity, so go ahead and experiment!   

* If you are just baking the eggs with some cheese and cream the 375º is perfect.  If
    you are adding cold ingredients to the bottom of your dish, the oven temperature should 
    be set at 400º and baked 12 to15 minutes depending on how well you like your eggs

Butter your dish and add the veggies….
Break the eggs over the top and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and cheese
Add 2 tablespoons of cream and bake
Then enjoy!!  Breakfast anyone?

Baked Eggs or Oeufs en Cocotte
Adapted from Food 52, Amanda Hesser
Serves 2
  • Soft butter, for buttering dishes
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons heavy cream
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • grated swiss, cheddar or the cheese of your choice

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. 
Butter 2 shallow baking dishes (6- or 8-ounce). Sprinkle some cheese on the bottom of dish.  Crack 2 eggs into each baking dish. Spoon 2 tablespoon cream over eggs. Season with salt and pepper. Place the dishes on a baking sheet and slide into your hot oven. Bake until just set, 8 to 12 minutes, depending on the size of the dish you are using.

Friday, November 1, 2013

FFWD ~ Hurry-Up-and-Wait Roast Chicken

FFWD Hurry-Up-and-Wait Roast Chicken

I can’t believe I didn’t have to make a trip to the grocery store for this week’s French Friday recipe. Hurry-Up-and-Wait Roast Chicken…the name says it all!  I happened to have a roaster chicken in my freezer.  The rest of the ingredients were just simple everyday additions. I even had herbs still in pots, growing on my deck.  This was basically, a traditional roasted chicken.  However, the process was a bit fussy.  Roasting it on its side for 25 minutes, then turning the chicken twice while it’s cooking.  When you remove it from the oven, it's propped up on a small bowl for a half hour rest.  This allows the juices to run back into the breast. Quite a sight!  

My stubborn bird! 
After I prepped my chicken by rubbing it with salt and pepper, pushing butter under the skin, and filling its cavity with sliced lemons, garlic cloves and herbs, I then placed it on its side in my baking pan. It roasts at a high temperature of 450 degrees.  My chicken would just not lay on its side (it kept rolling onto its back) I finally I gave in, and let it have its own way. A pretty stubborn bird!  Quite honestly, I put my chicken into the oven rather late in the afternoon, because I was busy running errands during the day. So I only let my chicken rest ten minutes.  It was seven o’clock by the time we ate, and we were hungry! It still came out perfect. Tender and succulent! I served it with oven-roasted potatoes, carrots, and butternut squash.  This was a perfect dinner for a rainy, cool fall night.  Happy Friday everyone!

This recipe can be found in Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook, “Around My French Table”.  Or you can find it at  To see what the other Dorista’s are up to, check it out here.

I was hungry and not so concerned with the photos….I should have dressed him a bit for his photo shoot!
A delicious dinner! Gravy was made with some white wine mixed with the pan juices, and cooked on top of the stove.