Monday, January 27, 2014

Apple Slice Fritters

CAUTION: THE URGE for just one more is overwhelming. These simple apple slices, lightly battered and quickly fried will make you weak in the knees.

Pritchard Parker came home from work to find me still in the act; munching and grinning all the while. I invited him to join me and he too was quickly hooked.

Along with apple fritter making I was also preparing dinner. Once it was ready, however, we barely had an appetite for it. So what? We ate dessert first, and I had leftovers for another meal. We were happy with that.

Apple Slice Fritters

2 eggs
2 cups buttermilk
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 t. baking powder
2 cups flour

1/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp. cinnamon

5 medium tart apples, cored, peeled, and sliced

Oil for frying (I used peanut oil)

In a medium mixing bowl, beat eggs lightly. Whisk in buttermilk until blended. Stir in sugar, salt, and baking powder. Add flour and whisk until well blended.

In a small bowl, stir together cinnamon and sugar. Set aside.

In a heavy skillet, heat 2 cups oil until shimmering (375 degrees). Test oil by dropping in a bit of batter. In batches, coat apple slices in batter and drop into hot oil. Fry until golden brown, about 4 minutes, flipping halfway through.

Remove to a paper towel lined baking sheet to drain. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar while still hot.

Serve immediately.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Lemon Raspberry Bars

CITRUS FRUITS ARE SUCH A BLESSING during the long weeks of winter. I have especially enjoyed lemons lately. Their pretty yellow color adds cheer to the fruit bowl, their fragrance is very uplifting, and the tart puckery taste wakes the palate like nothing else. After all the nuts and chocolate and richness of the holidays, a lemon dessert seems so refreshing.

These delicious bars start with a buttery shortbread base which is lightly baked then covered with raspberry jam. The simple-to-make topping separates as it bakes into an oozy lemon curd with a crunchy, zesty crust.  Sprinkling  the cooled bars with powdered sugar gives a snowy winter appearance.

Lemon Raspberry Bars
(The English Kitchen)

2 cups flour
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup cold butter

Lemon Topping:
2 1/4 cups sugar
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp. baking powder
3 T. flour
3 eggs
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Raspberry Jam - about 3/4 cup or to taste

Powdered Sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour an 11x7 inch baking pan.

Whisk together the flour, powdered sugar, and salt. Cut the butter into small cubes and add it to the flour. Cut into the flour with a pastry blender, 2 knives, or your fingers until you have coarse crumbs. Press the mixture into the prepared baking pan. Bake for 15 minutes, until firm. Remove from oven.

In a small bowl, stir the jam with a fork to loosen it up then spread over the warm base.

Whisk together the sugar, zest, baking powder, flour, eggs, and lemon juice until well combined. Spread over the jam.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until set and lightly browned. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Dust the top generously with powdered sugar and cut into squares.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Meyer Lemon and Ginger Honey

TUMMIES LOVE GINGER AND LEMON. Honey makes hearts happy. The healing powers of these three foods have been known for centuries and are too numerous to name. The taste of each element of this mixture is lovely; combined: beautiful.

Feeling under the weather? Try a warm cup of tea with a spoonful or two of this infused honey. Stomach upset, mix with cold sparkling water. Cough? Try a spoonful straight from the jar. Some will tell you to combine an ounce with a shot of spirits. Drink hot, dress warmly, and go to bed.

Aside from the healing qualities, this flavored honey is a culinary powerhouse. Try some mixed with soy sauce and olive oil for a delicious salad dressing. Invigorating when added to a blueberry smoothie.  My husband suggested I use the lemons and ginger to roast a chicken, once the honey is gone.

What ideas can you think of for this lovely mixture?

Meyer Lemon and Ginger Honey
1 clean, pint jar with tight-fitting lid
3 Meyer lemons (or regular lemons)
2 - 3 inch piece of ginger, scrubbed very well to remove any sand or grit
Honey (preferably your local honey)

Slice lemons and ginger, thinly and pack into jar. Pour over honey and let sit for 48 hours before using.

For best results, store in refrigerator.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Stuffed Dates with Pears

FOR A SIMPLE DESSERT OR LIGHT MEAL, split open plump moist dates and remove seeds. Stuff with salty blue cheese. Toast a few pecans and press into cheese. Slice a fresh, ripe pear and sprinkle with a squeeze of lemon juice. Arrange everything to your liking on a pretty plate. Savor. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Banana Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

WHEN MY HUSBAND COMES HOME WITH A BAG FULL of ripe bananas, I know it is time for baking banana bread. Though he swears he is not hinting but merely in the mood to eat some bananas, I see how many he eats.

I am always happy to make him some of the banana bread he loves but this time, since I seem to be turning into a cake lady, I made a banana cake instead.  It turned out delicious.  Moist and tender with a lovely banana sweetness, topped with the piquant flavor of cream cheese and unsweetened dark cocoa,  it also had an additional toasty crunch from the walnuts.

Enjoy! We loved this cake.

Banana Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
1 1/2 cups ripe bananas, mashed
2 tsp. lemon juice
3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
2 1/8 cups sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Toasted walnuts
Banana slices, optional

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Grease and flour 2 (9-inch) cake pans.

In a small bowl, mix mashed bananas with lemon juice.

In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt.

In a mixing bowl, cream 3/4 cup butter and the 2 1/8 cups sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then stir in 2 tsp. vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk. Stir in the banana mixture.

Pour batter in prepared pan and bake in preheated oven for 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Remove from oven and place directly into the freezer for 45 minutes. This will make the cake very moist.

For the frosting, beat together the cream cheese, 3 tablespoons milk, powdered sugar, 1/4 cup butter, vanilla, cocoa, and cinnamon to a spreadable consistency. Beat in additional milk if necessary. For a darker frosting add more cocoa. Spread onto cooled cake.

Top with toasted walnuts and decorate with additional banana slices, if desired.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Indian Lentil Soup

I USED TO STIR THIS SOUP with a wooden paddle in a giant soup pot when I worked as a cook in a Natural Foods Cafe. I measured lentils, onions, and tomatoes not by cups but quarts. I measured cups rather than spoonfuls of hot peppers, fresh ginger, garlic, and spices. I chopped and grated everything by hand. And I had about 2 1/2 hours from start to people arriving for lunch,  in addition to the other things I was cooking.

Whew! I sure don't have the nerve for that now.

I just made this soup again all these years later. It really is quite manageable at home and comes together surprisingly quickly. Get your lentils going, then do all your chopping and measuring of everything else. Once you have all the ingredients prepped, it is quite fun to cook. The aroma is divine. The spices are so warming. It is really sublime in taste.

I remember why people used to line up out the door on the days I cooked this.

Serve with bread and a dollop of yogurt.

Cabbagetown Cafe Cookbook by Julie Jordan, 1986

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


BORSCHT IS NOTHING MORE than a vegetable soup. If you add beef, like I did here, you have a Vegetable Beef Soup. Leave the beef out, use a flavorful vegetable stock, and have a delicious vegetarian soup and I have made it that way many times.

The problem for some is that one of the vegetables is beets which turn this soup into what I think is a melodramatic and lovely hue. I am very attracted to the color and have been since the magenta crayon which was my favorite one in the box when I was a child.

Some family members find Borscht to be alarming; lurid even. Which surprises me because some of the same ones will happily devour a slice of red velvet cake which gets its color from chemical food dye; personally, I find that to be garish.

But that's OK, I just won't make Borscht when they come for dinner. (Or a Red Velvet Cake).

1 lb. beef roast or steak, cut into bite sized pieces
1 large onion, chopped
2 - 3 plump garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 quarts beef broth
2 stalks celery, sliced
3 - 4 carrots, sliced
4 large beets, peeled and sliced
1 russet potato, peeled and cubed
1 small head cabbage, shredded
16 oz. can tomatoes with juice
3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 cup chopped, fresh dill
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Olive oil for cooking
Sour cream for garnish

Salt and pepper the beef pieces and brown in a little oil.  Push beef aside, add more oil if needed, and cook the onions until beginning to brown. Add the garlic and stir for a couple of seconds. Add the beef stock and bring to a boil; lower heat, cover and simmer for about an hour until beef is tender and broth is very flavorful.

Add the celery, carrots, beets, potato, cabbage, and tomatoes along with some salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until vegetables are tender.

Just before serving, add the red wine and dill and let simmer for a couple of minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt and pepper is needed.

Serve with sour cream.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup for the Crock Pot

WHEN WE WERE FIRST MARRIED, my husband and I faithfully sought opportunities for a quickie. Wink wink. This would often be outdoors and we would joke, "It sure is going to be cold in January". It became one of those lines couples share forevermore.  When we heard about the present big chill heading our way, of course we looked at one another, smiled, and said . . .

And because we all know the joys of a hot bowl of soup on a blustery day, I have made a few lately. In spite of the cold, I had to be away from home yesterday--and no it was nothing as fun as a woodsy tryst. I started this delicious chicken and wild rice soup in the crock pot before I left and was greeted by a very welcoming aroma at day's end.

This soup is scrumptious with its creaminess, tender chicken, and chewy wild rice. The recipe makes a big pot of soup, so plan for leftovers. It reheats beautifully with a little extra milk or broth added, if needed.

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup for the Crock Pot
1 pound chicken, deboned and skin removed
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tsp. poultry seasoning
1 large carrot, sliced
1 stalk celery, sliced
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 ounces wild rice
1 bay leaf
6 cups chicken broth
4 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk or 1 1/2 cups milk

Place the chicken in the crock pot and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and the poultry seasoning. Top with carrot, celery, onion, and garlic. Add wild rice and bay leaf. Pour in the chicken broth. Cover and cook on low all day until rice is done and chicken shreds easily.

In a sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour making a paste, season with salt and pepper to taste and continue cooking for a minute or two. Slowly, stir in the milk until completely blended and smooth. Continue cooking and stirring, over medium heat, until the sauce comes to a gentle simmer and begins to thicken.

Stir the sauce into the cooked soup and blend well. Cover and heat through. Taste and adjust seasonings and serve piping hot.