Tag Archives: recipe

About Onions, Folklore, Facts, and French

26 Jan

Onions

It is a rainy day in sunny Southern California and that makes me think about warm and comfy food. Amazingly, French Onion Soup keeps popping up into
my mind. The funny thing about French onion soup is that I haven’t always had such warm a fuzzy thoughts regarding it. As a matter of fact, my 8 yr old self didn’t want any part of it. I can remember having a terrible cold and my father, (who of course I idolized, I was daddy’s little girl), who I would make
great efforts to please, announced that onion had medicinal qualities and that some onion soup would be just the thing.

I decided that this was the time to draw a line in the sand and not one drop of the magic elixir passed my lips. However, my mumble, mumble, let’s just say older self does not agree. I guess that I am not alone in this change of heart toward the onion as I remember reading once, on the magazine they give you in the pocket of the seat in front of you on the plane, that in the US we consume approx 20 lbs of onions a year per person! That translates into 450 semi- truckloads of onions, at least that is what the National Onion Association says on their website http://onions-usa.org/all-about-onions/consumption.

The reason that this little-known fact stuck with me is because I read this while on my way home from visiting my mother for Mother’s Day where we had prepared a surprise brunch for the entire family that included, you guessed it, French Onion Soup along with Tortilla Soup, Waldorf Salad, and Caesar Salad.

All this came to mind recently as I read a post that talks about the folklore or maybe even an urban legend, surrounding onions and their medicinal properties. It is an interesting read especially since it is flu season. You can check it out here http://markraysolar.wordpress.com/ and decide how much is true and how much is wishful thinking.

For those of you who would like to try a little French Onion Soup right now, either because you love it or because you want to test my father’s theory, I have included this recipe that I found at http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/french_onion_soup/.

It is easy and well worth the time that it takes to create this golden brown treat and is much more cost-effective than ordering it in a restaurant. The secret here is to cook the onions to a golden brown, slowly, to help them release their sweetness. If you or those you are preparing this soup for have gluten-intolerance I suggest that you substitute Glutino Bagel Chips for the cruton of French bread , baguette, traditionally used to help support the melted golden cheese that rests on top. Or, you can do without it if you do not mind the possibility that the cheese might sink a bit.

Ingredients:

6 large red or yellow onions (I prefer yellow)

Olive oil

1/4 teaspoon pf sugar

2 cloves garlic, minced

8 cups of beef stock or chicken stock (I prefer beef), or a combination of the two (traditioanlly the soup is made with beef stock)

1/2 cup of dry vermouth or dry white wine (I prefer white wine)

1 bay leaf

1/4 teaspoon of dry thyme

salt and pepper

8 slices of toasted French bread (I prefer Glutino gluten-free bagel chips, no need to toast, for me, baguette for others)

1  1/2 cups of grated swiss Gruyere with a little grated Parmesan cheese ) I prefer very thin slices and sometimes use Muenster cheese)

Method

In a large saucepan, saute the onions in the olive oil on mendium high heat until well-browned, but not burned, about 30-40 minutes )or longer).  Add the sugar about 10 minutes into the process to help with the caramelization.

Onions cooking

Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute.  Add the stock, vermouth or wine, bay leaf, and thyme.  Cover partially and simmer until the flavors are well blended, about 30 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Discard the bay leaf.

onion soup pot

To serve you can either use individual oven-proof soup bowls of one large casserole dish (I prefer paper cups if the meal is informal and finish in the microwave making clean up easy).  Ladle the soup into the bowls of casserole dish.  Put in the broiler for 10 minutes at 350 degrees F, or until the cheese bubbles and is slightly browned (if you use the microwave removes when cheese melts, it will not brown).  Serve immediately.

onion soup cup

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Cheesecake, Gluten-Free, Woo-Hoo!

7 Aug

Gluten-Free Cheesecake

 

About a year ago I discovered that I have a sensitivity to gluten.  That day my world changed.  At first it seemed that it had changed for the worse.  I could not imagine not enjoying a crusty piece of french bread, buttery pasta, or even a simple peanut butter and honey sandwich.  These were among the things I counted as real pleasures in my life.

As I waded into this new gluten-free world I began to discover that gluten is hidden in the most unlikely places.  Just about any processed food can contain gluten and it is not as simple as finding what type of food is likely to contain gluten, you must also check each brand.  I found this out one night after we had just finished eating.  My husband had done the grocery shopping and fixed dinner, I really am lucky in that way.  Then came the headache and soon after the other discomforts that I have now learned to recognize as my body’s reaction to gluten.

I couldn’t figure it out.  We had eaten nothing that had caused a reaction before.  Later that night, I was taking out the trash and noticed that the empty can of green enchilada sauce used in our chicken dish was a different brand than what I usually buy.  I pulled it out to take a look at the list of ingredients and there it was, gluten.  Oops.

However, I must say that this story demonstrates just how much my world has actually improved even without my favorite breads, pastas, and my this and thats.  I feel so much better now, most days I don’t miss them, at least not too much.

Having said that, you can just imagine that having a baked dessert can present a challenge.  So a year later, I am so thrilled to discover a recipe for cheesecake that has a gluten-free crust and does not use flour as a thickener in the filling.  I share it here for all of you who have gluten-sensitivity or children who benefit from eliminating gluten from their diets.  This is so good that everyone in the family can enjoy it, even those who do not need to restrict gluten.
One word of caution.  When using oats, some people with gluten sensitivities can have a reaction if the oats are processed in a facility that also processes  wheat.  There are gluten-free oats (labeled) available or you may want to just use the almonds and some almond meal in place of the oats.

Just a heads up, there were two things that I did not have handy that you will need for this recipe, cheesecloth and the wider heavy weight sheet of foil wrap.

Also, flavor and texture is best if cheesecake is refrigerated overnight.

Crust:

1 1/2 cup    Oats (gluten-free oats)

1/2 cup       Chopped almonds

1/3 cup       Brown sugar

1/3 cup       Butter – melted (5 1/2 Tbls)

Heat oven to 350°.

Grease 9″ spring form pan.

Combine all ingredients, mix well.  press firmly on bottom and 1 1/2 inches on the sides.  Bake 18 minutes.  Cool in refrigerator.

While crust is cooling make the filling.

Filling:

20 ozs.    Whole milk ricotta cheese, drained (2 1/2 cup)

1 – 8 oz    Cream cheese (at room temperature)

1 cup       Sugar

1 Tbls     Cornstarch

4               Large eggs, at room temperature

Zest of 1 Lemon

1 1/2 tsp Pure vanilla extract

To drain ricotta cheese:

Place ricotta cheese in strainer lined with cheesecloth and suspend over a bowl.  Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

To make filling:

In large bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth, add ricotta cheese and sugar, beat until smooth.  Beat in cornstarch, add eggs one at a time beating about 30 seconds after each egg is added. Beat in lemon zest and vanilla.
Pour filling into cooled crust.  Use large sheet of foil wrap to wrap the outside of the spring form pan to protect the cheesecake in the water bath.
Place spring form pan in large roasting pan and pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come about half way up the side of the spring form pan.

Bake for about an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes or until the top of the cheesecake is nicely browned and the center of cake moves slightly when the pan is gently giggled.

Remove from water bath and cool on a wire rack.  After cooling about an hour remove from spring form pan.  Cool in refrigerator 6-8 hours or overnight.

Enjoy!

Intensely Blueberry, Blueberry Sorbet

28 Jul

This post is for my youngest kidlet, the granddaughter of  The Queen of Everything Money (my sister).  My sister just discovered that the baby LOVES blueberries.  She can not be trusted near a container of blueberries, so they must be hidden and doled out to her in less than lumberjack-sized portions.

(If anyone knows what that you call the granddaughter of your sister, great niece?, grand niece? Please let me know.)

This is a recipe for blueberry sorbet that has an intense blueberry flavor.  It does not take a lot of this to satisfy a craving for blueberries and it is, of course, naturally gluten-free with relatively low amount of added white sugar (more about that to come in a later post).

I found the recipe on Simply Recipes, here is the link to original recipe,  how I made it follows:

Ingredients:

5 cups fresh (or frozen) blueberries, rinsed, stems removed

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup honey

1 Tbsp (fluffy) lemon zest

2 teaspoons lemon juice (less than original recipe)

pinch of salt

Directions:

1.  Place the blueberries, sugar, honey, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt in a large bowl.  Stir to coat blueberries with the sugar.  Mash with a potato masher.

(I actually combine step 1 and 2 by using an immersion blender, much easier.)

2.  Put the mashed blueberries into a blender and blend for a couple of minutes until smooth.

(Be careful while processing the blueberries unless you just love the color purple.  They will stain your clothes, your countertop, your floor, or just about anything you allow them to stay in contact with for any length of time.)

3.   Place a sieve over a large bowl and working in batches, press the mixture through the sieve using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. This will catch the tougher and larger pieces fo lemon and blueberry peel.

Pour into sieve

$.  Chill the mixture for at least an hour in the fridge.  Then process following the directions of your ice cream maker.

(The colder the mixture is when putting it in the ice cream maker, the smoother the texture of the  sorbet.)

You can eat right away of put in freezer for a few hours to further firm the texture.

Makes a little less than a quart.

Another tip that came with this recipe was to add a tablespoon of two of corn syrup to the mix to prevent it from becoming too hard if stored in the freezer.  The longer its is in the freezer the harder it becomes.  Most others recommend the addition of a similar amount of alcohol maybe vodka or a complimentary liqueur, but because this is for family consumption, corn syrup, while not my favorite thing, sounds like a better choice.  I do not add either because it never hangs around long enough to need it.  (Here is where you will have to use your imagination because I was not fast enough to get a picture of the finished sorbet before it disappeared.)

For those of you who do not have an ice cream maker, good news, you can still make sorbet!  It involves freezing the mixture in a shallow baking dish in the freezer, then blending in a food processor or blender.  For the step- by-step process as well as more recipes and great tips click here to visit Busy in Brooklyn.

Happy 4th of July!

3 Jul

Happy 4th of July!

Photo credit: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/Eating_Drinking_g369-Child_Eating_Ice_Cream_p10052.html

I wish everyone a happy 4th of July.  I hope that you all have the opportunity to spend time with friends and family and enjoy the freedoms that we have been given as citizens of the good old United States of America.

When I think of the 4th of July there are a few things that always come to mind.  Fireworks, food on the grill, watermelon, and ice cream.  Because I am now the proud new owner of an ice cream freezer it seems that nothing is safe from becoming a frozen treat but for this holiday I thought I would share about the all-American favorite, vanilla ice cream.  This post will have something for everyone to enjoy as it includes a fun kids hands-on (or impatient adults) 10 minute version of the treat as well as a great grown-up 2 day custard-based version for more discerning palates.

First the fun. No ice cream maker required!

This was found on allrecipes.com.  Check it out to read the comments as many questions you may have will be answered there.

http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Speedy-Ice-Cream/Detail.aspx?prop31=3

                   Ingredients 

  •                     1 cup half-and-half cream
  •                     1/4 cup sugar
  •                     1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  •                     4 cups coarsely crushed ice cubes
  •                     3/4 cup salt

            Directions

In a small resealable plastic bag, combine the cream, sugar and vanilla.  Press out air and seal.  In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the ice and salt; add the sealed small bag.  Seal the large bag; place in another large resealable plastic bag and seal.  Shake and knead for 5-7 minutes or until cream mixture is thickened.  Serve immediately or freeze.

Note: many comments suggest that you rinse of the salt from the outside of the bag before opening and serving.

This is a perfect activity if you have a few kids at your holiday gathering.  It is something of a group activity, as everyone is making ice cream, but each can individualize their ice cream with a flavor addition like fruit, or chocolate chips, chopped candy or anything your imagination can create.

The ingredients listed are for the amount of one person so be sure to have enough on hand to make one for each kid.  3 kids = 3 times the ingredients list.

Now for the long version.

The basic recipe for this also came from allrecipes.com.  You can check it and all the comments out here http://allrecipes.com/recipe/creamy-vanilla-ice-cream/detail.aspx but I will share my version with you below.

            Ingredients

      •                     2 eggs + 1 egg yolk
      •                     1 cup sugar
      •                     1/4 teaspoon salt
      •                     2 1/2 cups whipping cream
      •                     2 cups half-and-half cream
      •                     1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract

                    Directions

In a heavy saucepan, combine the first five ingredients. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat a metal spoon and reaches at least 178 degrees F.  Heat slowly being careful not to scorch.  Remove from the heat; cool quickly by setting pan in ice and stirring the mixture. Cover and refrigerate overnight. When ready to freeze, pour custard and vanilla into the cylinder of an ice cream freezer. Freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions.

    Note: I have a 1 1/2 quart Cuisinart  ice cream freezer and although it looks like this amount will fit comfortably in the machine it does expand and will eventually overflow as it freezes.  Best to separate into two batches and freeze first one half, then the other to save yourself a mess.

Sorry, no pictures, but you can imagine the good parts and save yourself from the rest.

If you try either one of these please let me know how it went.

Happy 4th to all!

Gifts for Mom that She’ll Love and You Will Love to Make

8 May

Make Fabulous Gifts for Family and Friends (this includes you)!

In honor of Mother’s Day I am revisiting a post from the past.  It offers a wonderful opportunity to share fun family time with your kids while creating a gift that any Mom would  love. You can substitute your favorite essential oils for the ones used below.   Have fun, and Happy Mother’s Day in advance.

What is better than a gift that you enjoy giving as much as others love receiving it?  Well, if you love the feeling of accomplishment that comes with making something that is just as wonderful as what you might buy at an expensive spa then read on.  This is a project that also creates a great opportunity to share a magical “quality time” experience with your kids or grand kids.

There are many spa recipes available for things such as foaming bath salts, sugar scrubs, salt scrubs, even lip gloss, made with easily found ingredients.  What makes these projects so special?  Well, they create an affordable luxury that is a very personal gift that can be tailored to the preferences of the receiver.  It is an experience that children, especially teenaged girls,  love to take part in and best of all you have control of what goes into it. If  you have you ever tried to  read the label on bath products out loud you know what I mean.

I would like to share a very simple recipe that I made recently for a friend who was suffering from a cold.  I modified a recipe found in First for Women Magazine  February 21, 2011 issue  inspired by a product offered by the famous Bliss Spa called Bliss Spa’s self-warming Hot Salt Scrub.   They chose ingredients for this based on their restorative properties.   Eucalyptus essential  oil, which contains cineol and camphor, and rosemary essential oil, which also contains camphor, are selected to help clear mucus.  These essential oils also have antiseptic properties helpful in killing bacteria.  In addition, they have the properties of increasing circulation and creating warmth.  This opens the pores allowing antioxidants in the  grape seed oil to be absorbed easily by the skin.  This scrub is great for use in the shower however, I try not to use it near my feet as the oil can make the shower a bit slippery.

The recipe calls for 1 cup of  coarse kosher salt, 1 cup grape seed oil, and 10 drops each of rosemary essential oil and eucalyptus essential oil.  Mix together and place in a resealable jar.  Personally, I use less oil about a 1/2 cup oil rather than a full cup.  To create a luxurious gift package  finish  the jar with a whimsical or elegant ribbon.

As always, take precautions when working with essential oils and closely supervise children to prevent accidental injuries.

To use, rub the scrub on chest area  and arms (on dry skin).  Breathe in the vapors.  When the shower is steamy, get in and rinse off.  Carefully, step out and dry skin briskly with a soft towel.

This is fun to create and fun to give and will definitely help you stretch your gift giving budget.  It is a great idea for a family project.  You could even invite a few of your favorite friends over for an evening of fun.  Have everyone bring a resealable container and a couple of yards of ribbon to mix and match.  You supply the ingredients and the recipe.  At the end of the evening everyone will leave with fun memories and a fabulous spa treatment to enjoy.

A Tale of Two Cookies – Peanut Butter That Is

29 Mar

Old-fashioned or Flour-free. Either way this is a love story.

So what do you do when you have 4 jars of peanut butter in the cupboard waiting to be eaten?  Because of my last blog post, Peanut Butter Throw Down, this is exactly what I am facing today.  The first thing that comes to my mind is to make peanut butter cookies.  I have a recipe that I got years ago, from a wonderful baker.

It really reminds me of simpler times.  So much so that I have never recopied it from its yellowed piece of paper with its instructions typed in that font that all manual typewriters sported in the 70’s.

It makes a sweet, crisp cookie that disappears quickly.  It does make a lot of cookies and they do freeze well but I never seem to be quick enough to sneak any into the freezer.

They are very easy to make, do not require any hard to find ingredients, and make a good old-fashioned kid and husband friendly cookie.

Recipe is for 50 cookies using a #30 dipper

1 ½ c. Shortening

1 ½ c. Peanut Butter

1 ½ c. White Sugar

1 ½ c. Brown Sugar

3 Eggs

3 c. Flour

1 ½ tsp. Baking Powder

1 ½ tsp. Baking Soda

¾ tsp. Salt

  1. Combine shortening, peanut butter, sugars, and eggs.  Mix thoroughly.
  2. Add dry ingredients.
  3. Use a #30 dipper and drop cookies 2″ apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
  4. Flatten with a fork dipped lightly in flour. Make a criss-cross pattern.
  5. Bake at 375° for 10-12 minutes.
  6.  Cool for about 10 minutes on the parchment paper.  Do not move them prior to this because they will crumble if not allowed to set.  You should have a nice crunchy but light cookie to enjoy.

Definitely use parchment paper.

As promised this is a tale of two cookies.  Why?  That is because I recently started eating a gluten-free diet.  As you can imagine, that makes desserts more challenging, and cookies almost non-existent.  Imagine my delight when I found a couple of wheat free-cookie peanut butter cookie recipes as I searched for ways to use up my four jars of peanut butter.

I do not remember the exact moment that recipes became more of a suggestion and less of a blueprint, but because of this I had to read all the recipes, consider the hundreds of comments people had made about them, experiment, and here is the result.

I am going to include a few tips about techniques because when cooking gluten-free, getting good texture can be tricky.

They are also very easy to make, do not require any hard to find ingredients, and make a good old- fashioned kid and husband friendly cookie and your “gluten-free” friends and family will love you.

Recipe is for 25 cookies using a # 30 dipper

(Easily doubled to make the 50 cookies yield as in the first recipe but if you want to experiment start with the smaller batch.)

No flour, no butter, no shortening.

As always check all ingredients yourself for gluten if you have Celiac’s disease as traces of gluten are in many foods.

1 c. Peanut Butter

1/2 c. White Sugar

1/2 c. Brown Sugar

1 Large Egg (room temperature for a fluffier cookie)

Pinch of Salt (I prefer sea salt)

1/2 tsp. Vanilla (omit if you require completely gluten-free for those with Celiac’s)

1 tsp. Baking Soda

1. Combine all ingredients except the peanut butter.  Beat until well mixed.  Add peanut butter slowly.  Mixture becomes thicker as you continue to beat.

2. Chill the firm dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or longer.  (If you are cooking with kids you might want to skip this, as their interest might evaporate, but go ahead and place the dough in the refrigerator while waiting for the first sheet of cookies to bake.)

3. Use a #30 dipper and drop cookies 2″ apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

4.  Flatten with a fork.  If you use a rolling motion rather than pressing down with the fork you can flatten the cookies without the fork sticking.  This does take some practice and this dough tends to be crumbly so if you feel more comfortable you can dip the fork in powdered sugar.

5. Bake at 350° for 8-10 minutes.

6. Remove from oven, sprinkle lightly with sea salt if you like the contrast of salty and sweet.   Cool for about 10 minutes on the parchment paper.  Do not move them prior to this because they will crumble if not allowed to set.  You should have a nice crunchy but light cookie to enjoy.

Wait for it...cookies must cool or you will see how the cookie crumbles.

Two and a half cups of peanut butter down, three and a half cups to go.  Anyone have a favorite peanut butter recipe to share?

Popcorn!

26 Aug
Popcorn NIH

Image via Wikipedia

In the words of James Brown “I don’t want all that mess…just give me some popcorn.” http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4131422760421767776# (for the uninitiated, here is the Godfather of Soul himself singing Popcorn.)  That is what was going through my mind the night  I finally decided to  do some research on popcorn.  I love popcorn. (James Brown is kind of fun too.)  I love to pop a bag of popcorn into the microwave and 2 glorious minutes later start the enjoyment of nibbling one unique kernel of popcorn at a time until they are all gone.  However, I really do not care for the chemical taste that microwave popcorn has ( is it getting worse or is that just me)?  So I had gone back to the “old school” way, getting out a heavy saucepan, pouring in the oil, adding the popcorn, shaking the pan, pouring the popcorn into a bowl, adding he salt, eating the popcorn, cleaning  the greasy pan and dishes. 

 Tastes great, but it brings us back to “I don’t want all that mess…just give me some popcorn”.   I liked the idea of an air popper, but really who needs another giant appliance to move out of the way  each time you need a casserole dish or mixing bowl?  I thought I had heard something about being able to make your own microwave popcorn so I decided to take the time to hop on the internet and google it.  I went to allreceipes.com and what I found made me feel like I was the last person on earth to know about how to make my own microwave popcorn!  But just in case you are one of the few  who have not yet discovered this secret, I will continue.

First of all the recipe is elegant in its simplicity.  Poporn, oil (or no oil, perfect for our recipe for snack mix), small paper lunch bag, and salt,(or no salt) or your favorite seasoning.  Just think of the possibilities!  No fat, no problem. No gluten no problem. No sodium, no problem.  This is endlessly adaptable to almost any dietary restriction.  And the preperation is no problem.  Place all items, except the bag, in the bag, fold the top of the bag down, pop until the pops are 2 seconds apart.  Nothing could be simpler, however it seems that the devil is in the details.

I really love this recipe.  Almost as much as I loved sifting through the 183 comments about this recipe.  You can check this amazing discourse out for yourself here http://allrecipes.com/recipe/microwave-popcorn/detail.aspx but I will give you my take on it here.  Most loved it and shared their special ways to seal the bag, season the popcorn or deal with the unpopped kernels.  However, there were some who complained that they burned the popcorn, some that complained that they filled the house with the smell of burnt popcorn and even someone that complainted that they burned up their microwave!

All I can say is that this recipe is much like raising a child.  If you give it your undivided attention for just a little while, you will soon be rewarded with the ability to relax and completely enjoy it.   Once you have the basic formula down you can add the  details that reflect your personal preferences.

Okay, I will have the last word.  Mix popcorn kernels with  small amount of olive oil,  just to coat,  in a resealable plastic container.  The oil is just to make the salt stick better.  Add salt, to taste (you can always add more after it is popped).   Add three level tablespoons of mixture  into the paper bag and fold the top down 2 times.  Put in microwave fold up, not on side.   Give it your full attention because microwave times vary.  When it starts slowing down to near 2 seconds between pops remove from microwave.  Best to stop before all kernels are popped as you can recycle them back into the plastic container with the remaining  popcorn mixture.  Open the bag, kick back and enjoy!   Place your plastic container with your new popcorn stash in the refrigerator for the next time.