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brie with toasted nuts and balsamic honey glaze

November 7th, 2011 | 3 Comments »

 

That’s a pretty way to end a long day, isn’t it?

I gave in yesterday to some unhealthy eating, including things fried, and eating meat. While the meat isn’t exactly unhealthy, it did it’s usual number on me with stomach upset and I found once again that after a few bites of it, I wasn’t enjoying it. Still, I ate what was remaining on my plate to be polite because my staff bought me that lunch, and they were thrilled to share with me.

Then for dinner, I was unmotivated, not to mention alone, as Mike and Griffin were at their Sunday night youth group gathering and dinner ideas just slipped in and out of my mind as the dark afternoon gathered in the quiet house. I was feeling off from the afternoon fare, and a few perusals of the refrigerator didn’t reveal anything exciting. Except a small wheel of Brie.

Soon enough, this delightfully warm and enchanting snack lay on the table in front of me. A variety of nuts, chopped and toasted, were spread over the top of the heated cheese, then drizzled with a fragrant balsamic-honey glaze. A sturdy knife, some multi-grain crackers and Etta James crooning over iTunes radio to me, and an unsettled day, busy with work and people, gave way to a calmer and more focused evening.

This creation would make a delicious and unique appetizer for a holiday party. It’s so simple to make too; I used pistachios, almonds and pecans for my nut topping. You could use whatever nuts appeal to you. My wheel of Brie was fairly small, and I used a cup of assorted nuts. I chopped them coarsely, and toasted them in a pan until golden and fragrant. Just before I removed them, I made space in the center and dropped in about a half tablespoon of butter. When it melted and the foam disappeared, I stirred it into the nuts, then scraped them in to a bowl.

Placing the same pan back on the burner, I poured about a half cup of balsamic vinegar in the pan and warmed it to steaming. The Brie was in a 375° oven on a small stoneware pan while I worked on the topping. When the balsamic was warm, I drizzled about 2 tablespoons of honey in to the pan and just let it melt and mix with the vinegar until the Brie was warmed through. Removing the Brie from the oven, I topped it with the nuts, then poured the warmed glaze over it, scraping the pan with a rubber spatula. The Brie wheel was in the oven for maybe 10 minutes, but I could have gone longer as the rind seemed a bit thick and the cheese was still firm in some spots. Time will depend on how warm and melty you want your cheese, and the thickness of the rind.

 

What’s on YOUR plate this month?

 

 

supremely good hot fudge

November 8th, 2010 | 3 Comments »

From scratch. Yes. Crank up your exercise resolve if you make it.

The Teen and I were searching for some hot fudge to put into a batch of Rice Krispie Bars, and…..

What? Of course, you heard me right!! Silly- I wouldn’t fib about this. Most people just go ahead and use Cocoa Krispies to make a rich chocolate-y version of Rice Krispie Bars, but that’s just SO not me. I go all out people. In the race to decadence, I am the one at the end stretching herself out to knock everyone else out of the running.

But yeah, back to that Hot Fudge. All we found in the store were jars with high fructose corn syrup. I relented and got one that had less of the evil ingredients over the others; still, it wasn’t my first choice. Because you see, I’d forgotten that I had this recipe.

And with thousands of recipes under my belt, do you blame me?

Decadent Hot Fudge Sauce
(from The Silver Palate Cookbook, with adaptations)

4  1-oz squares unsweetened Bakers Chocolate
3 T. unsalted butter (NO substitutions- be WILD people!)
2/3 c. water
1/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. light corn syrup
Pinch sea salt
1 T. pure vanilla extract (or get even more crazy and add real rum, cognac, amaretto……you get the idea)

In a small saucepan over very low heat, melt the chocolate and butter together. Do not stir, but occasionally agitate the pan to distribute the heat. Alternately, you can use a double boiler. In another small pan, bring the water to a boil.

When the chocolate is fully melted, pour the boiling water into it, then stir in the sugar and corn syrup. Stir to combine and bring back to a boil. Reduce the heat so that it simmers gently, but not violently, and allow to boil for about 10 minutes. You can stir it occasionally, but it’s really not necessary. After 10 minutes, remove it from the heat and stir in the flavoring. Allow to cool for 20 minutes or so, then spoon it over ice cream.

This can be chilled too, and reheated in the microwave. Stir to combine before serving. Enjoy it immensely.

A Note From Kate: I do realize this has corn syrup in it. BUT…. it also has ZERO unpronounceable ingredients. I’ll take that over a jar any day.

apple time of year

October 18th, 2010 | 7 Comments »

Apples are on everyone’s mind right about now.

In the oven, on the stove, in the crisper drawer, in hand and crunching away….. it’s mid-October and it’s Apple time and it’s a beautiful thing.

There’s a gorgeous apple orchard near our lake home- Baker Orchard in Centuria, WI-  that we visit several times a year, the owners being good friends of ours. It’s a simple place, has a century-old barn that was renovated a few years back and a lovely art gallery on the property. The orchard hosts community events each year; an art festival, a cyclocross race and the occasional wedding inside the lovely old barn. There’s hiking trails through gorgeous woods, and a huge gentle team of horses that will languidly pull you through the laden trees, branches close enough for you to reach out and snatch a ripe apple for snacking. They make their own fresh-pressed apple cider, an incredible treat. John is exceptionally friendly and knowledgeable about apples, even taking the time to assess a mystery apple brought in by a visitor to determine what exactly it was.

He’s always ready to do his apple-juggling act, complete with biting the apples as he tosses them through the air.

He encourages treks through the orchard and doesn’t mind a sampling here and there of the fruit. It’s a simple, family-owned business. Last year, Mike and I re-designed their website into a blog format, and the reward for our work was complimentary apples. Payment in food for a job well-done is my kind of reward. So if I’m talking about apples here, it’s fairly certain they came from Baker Orchard.

The orchard sustained hail damage this past summer, and the last time we visited, John gave me a sack of hail-damaged Haralson apples to take home, making me promise I wouldn’t photograph them. I agreed, and unfortunately, once broken and damaged by hail, the apples don’t last that long. I barely managed to salvage enough of them (my fault, really- I left them too long once they came home) to make a few delectable options with them, namely an Apple Cheddar and Almond muffin, and a pan of Apple Streusel Bars. Try as I might, I simply could not photograph those muffins and make them look even close to having the exceptional flavor they did. But those bars?

Oh dear.

These bars are something else. It’s like a pie that you can eat with your hands. It’s like Apple Crisp in your fingertips. It’s heaven in apple and butter and crumbs. It’s simple and sweet and easy to make and tastes like Autumn. You don’t need a thing out of the ordinary pantry supplies and as good as they are simply out of the pan, they are another bit of heaven altogether when you warm them slightly and crumble them over a bowl of yogurt, or even ice cream. And did I mention that they were simple?

Apple Streusel Bars

Pastry:

2 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. real butter, softened
1 egg, beaten

Apple Filling:

1/2 c. white sugar
1/4 c. flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
4 c. (about 3 medium) sliced, peeled baking apples

To prepare crust, mix flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or two knives until you have pea-sized crumbles. Gently mix in beaten egg.

Spray a 9×13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Gently pat about 2/3 of the crumb mixture onto the bottom of the dish. Preheat oven to 350° and set aside.

To prepare apple filling, combine sugar, flour, and cinnamon and toss with apples.

Spread apples out on prepared crust. Sprinkle reserved crust mixture over apples evenly and bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes. Allow to cool completely before slicing.

And for good measure, even though there is no photo- here is the Apple Cheddar and Almond Muffin recipe. Because it’s just THAT good.

Apple Cheddar Muffins with Almonds
from Real Food magazine, Lunds/Byerlys

1/2 (1 stick) c. unsalted butter (room temperature)
1/2 c. sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 c. whole milk
2-1/2 c. flour
2-1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. sea salt
2 large apples, cored, peeled and diced small
1/2 c. grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 c. chopped almonds (can sub in any nut, really; pecans or walnuts would also be wonderful)

Heat oven to 350°. Prepare muffins tins with cooking spray or paper liners (I got 18 muffins from this recipe). Combine milk and eggs in large measuring cup and whisk lightly to blend. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a second bowl. Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then whisk in milk/egg mixture. Add flour, apples, cheese and nuts and gently fold together until just combined. Scoop into muffin tins and bake 20-30 minutes or until lightly browned. Allow to cool 10-15 minutes, then remove from pans.

Banana Bonanza

August 31st, 2009 | 4 Comments »

Banana bread? Oh yawwwwwnnn……seriously?

banana bonanza collage

Oh my yes! Seriously!

If you are at all a fan of a good banana bread, one that smells perfectly banana-y, is superbly moist and tender, with the added attraction of caramelized banana pieces on top- yes! on top!- of the bread, then you really, I mean, really need to give this recipe a whirl. I love a good banana bread. I mean, since I was a kid I have loved banana bread and I have always been a stalwart for my Mom’s tried and true recipe that I’ve rarely ever strayed away from, but oh do times change, and tastes mature and now, with this recipe and it’s 8 bananas….yes, no typo there folks…. I’m pretty sure that even my Mom would be nodding in approval. And snatching another piece, maybe feigning indignant hurt that I’ve strayed, with her mouth full.

This recipe comes from the Huckleberry Bakery and Cafe in Santa Monica CA. No, I haven’t been jet-setting across the country to bring you a new and agonizingly delicious banana bread recipe, I just happened to be browsing the LA Times food section and came across this. One glance and I was sold. Eight bananas, people. Eight. And poppyseeds. And dates. And did I mention the eight bananas?

banana bonanza bread 004

So besides the abundance of fruit, the sugar sprinkle across the top that melts and gets gooey brown and fabulous in the oven and the pockets of tender dates baked into the loaf, just what makes it so good? For one thing, you whip the butter and sugar until it’s barely recognizable as such, creating a base layer that just shouts out it’s fluff and tender personality. It’s loaded with vanilla. There’s sour cream and some poppy seeds. It’s like a whole adventure in texture, taste and crumb, and a day or two on the counter only intensifies it’s beauty. I’m a goner. Better crank up the cardio if this one sticks around, because I foresee it sticking to many spots I may wish to ignore before too long. Restraint, where art thou???

Banana Poppyseed Loaf-
From The Huckleberry Bakery and Cafe, Santa Monica CA (and the LA Times newspaper)

3/4 c. butter, softened
3/4 c. sugar
1-1/2 c. AP flour
1-1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1-1/2 t. baking powder
1-1/2 t. baking soda
3 T. poppyseeds
1 t. salt
5 ripe bananas, plus 2 fresh bananas (divided)
3 eggs
1 T. vanilla extract
1 c. plain or vanilla yogurt
6-8 oz. chopped dates (most pkgs are 8 oz; I used the whole pkg)

Heat oven to 375°. Spray two loaf pans with baking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flours, leaveners, salt and poppyseeds together. In your stand mixer or with a hand mixer, cream butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Don’t skimp here. Make it really airy and light. Add eggs, one at a time, and blend each one well. In a separate bowl, mash the 5 ripe bananas well and stir in the vanilla. Spoon into the butter mixture and blend well. It will look kind of curdled but don’t fret. It all comes together. Mix in the yogurt until incorporated then gradually stir in the dry ingredients. Fold the dates in gently.

Divide the batter between the two loaf pans and smooth the top. Slice the other bananas into 1/2″ slices and line the top of the batter with them, pressing them down slightly. Sprinkle the bananas with sugar of choice. A good raw sugar would be nice, or a flavored version if you have one. I used a pistachio sugar.

banana bonanza bread 001

Bake the loaves for about an hour, rotating them halfway through. Check at around the 50 minute mark for doneness. Use a wooden skewer if necessary. Cool loaves for about 20-30 minutes in pan, then run a knife around the edges and unmold the loaves onto a cooling rack. You may have a banana piece drop off in the process. Bummer. Better eat it.

Sift powdered sugar over the top if you wish, but I didn’t. It doesn’t need it. Indulge. Enjoy. Live the banana joie de vivre!