Cherry and Almond Loaf

January 28, 2013

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Cherry and Almond Loaf

This was a spur-of-the-moment quick bread made with leftover frozen cherries and toasted almonds.  It turned out so moist and flavorful with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg along with the crunch of the almonds and sweetness of the cherries.  This recipe is adapted from a Hawaiian Mango Bread recipe I picked up a zillion years ago while traveling through Honolulu.  Just add chopped mango, coconut and macadamia nuts in place of the cherries and almonds and you’ll have Hawaiian Mango Bread.  Actually, you can use any fruit and nut you desire and come up with your own version.  Be sure to use the yogurt as it activates the baking soda and baking powder giving you a super light crumb instead of a dense and heavy mass.

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Homemade Dijon Mustard

January 20, 2013

Snapshot_20130118_1After much research I found a recipe for homemade German mustard and just had to tweak it for my version of a Dijon mustard. Dijon is the mustard most often used in gourmet recipes and making it at home will save money and guarantee quality plus you’ll always know what is in it. Making your own condiments just couldn’t be easier when you start with a tried and true recipe. There’s lots of room to adapt this recipe to your particular tastes, so play around with it and make it your own. You might like to try tarragon vinegar or regular granulated white sugar, maybe some onion juice or garlic powder. I like to use this mustard in my homemade mayonnaise for some real zip.

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How to Make Sauerkraut in a Jar

January 18, 2013

SauerKrautI have a new batch of sauerkraut that will be ready next week, probably Thursday.  Easy Peasy method:  just shred cabbage on a mandolin, add salt (3 Tbsp per 5 pounds of cabbage), bruise the salted cabbage with your hands and pack it really, really tight into a jar. You want the juice to float above the cabbage at least 1 inch.   Place another jar inside to hold the cabbage under the juice…or use giant glass marbles (sterilized of-course).  Set it on your counter on a plate with a tea-towel covering.  Wait 10 or 12 days and voila, old world “sauerkraut”!  Refrigerate to stop fermenting.  Will keep in frig up to a month or longer.

 You can add Juniper berries to the fermenting cabbage for a real old-world flavor. Once the sauerkraut is ready, cook up some sauerbraten and add to a pot of hot sauerkraut cooked with chunks of apple and a teaspoon of caraway or fennel seeds.  Serve with mashed potatoes and homemade Dijon mustard.
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Homemade Papaya Jam Over Fluffy Pancakes

January 10, 2013

ImagePapaya is available nearly year round here in Puerto Rico.  Unlike Hawaiian varieties, Caribbean papaya tend to be large…2 pounds or more is not uncommon. It’s a versatile fruit that can be used in all its stages of ripeness.

Drizzle lime juice over slices of fresh ripe papaya for a cool and refreshing breakfast…so good and loaded with vitamins and minerals.  Over fluffy pancakes papaya jam is to die for.  Green papaya makes a terrific chutney as piquant as you dare and even a pickled salad Filipino style.  A popular dish in the Polynesian South Pacific is lo’i lesi.  Its a papaya filled with coconut milk, a little cinnamon and raw sugar. Then it is wrapped in banana leaves and baked in an umu (underground oven). What a treat! Like pudding.  Polynesians also use shredded green papaya to tenderize lamb, beef, giant clams, octopus and conch.

This jam is even better with a few of the seeds thrown in.  The seeds become tender and have a slight peppery flavor when cooked.  They add a little more character to the jam, at least in appearance.

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Gingerbread Men Cookies without Molasses

December 14, 2012

Gingerbread cookies are a tradition at Christmas time.  They make terrific gifts for school parties, hostess gifts and neighbors.  So cute all dressed up in royal icing and candy hearts.  Molasses is typically used to make the dough but here in Puerto Rico its next to impossible to find Gramma’s Molasses and the Blackstrap Molasses available here in health food stores yields nearly a black cookie rather than a golden brown cookie.  Honey makes a terrific substitute as long as you use dark brown sugar which has a higher molasses content than light brown sugar.  After making a couple sample batches of dough I’m really pleased with the flavor and color achieved with honey and dark brown sugar…these cookies are just like Mom made way back when.

The El Coqui Rincon magazine was kind enough to advertise my cookies for sale in the November issue (check out http://elcoquirincon.com).  Each cookie is 4-inches tall, wrapped in a cellophane bag and tied with a red ribbon.  Orders are pouring in this week and I expect they’ll continue to come up until Christmas week.

The dough is quite soft so to roll it out I use parchment paper dusted very lightly with flour, then dust the top of the dough with a bit more flour and place plastic wrap on top.  Once the dough is rolled to about 1/8-inch I remove the plastic wrap, cut the cookies with a floured cutter, remove the excess dough and place the parchment with the cut-out cookies on a cookie sheet.  Pop the whole baking sheet of cut-out cookies into the freezer until they are firm.  This will prevent the cookies from spreading too much.  I got this idea from Laura Vitali’s video and I thought it was so clever.  When the oven is up to temperture 350° F. (180° C.) I bake the cookies for 18-20 minutes.

Do try this recipe and method.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1-1/2 cups butter (salted) (3 sticks as room temperature)
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 whole egg

Method:

  1. In a medium sized bowl whisk the first 6 ingredients together and reserve.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter with the dark brown sugar until fluffy, add the honey and egg, beat well.  Gradually add the reserved flour mixture to the butter mixture.
  3. Scrape the dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap sprinkled with flour and using the plastic wrap shape the dough into a rectangular package.  Refrigerate for 2 hours or up to one week.  Remove dough from frig when it is quite firm.
  4. Preheat oven 350° F.  Roll dough 1/8″ thick and cut out gingerbread men using parchment paper as detailed in blog post above.  Chill cut-outs 20 minutes before baking.  Bake until golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes for my oven but your’s could be only 10 or 12 minutes.
  5. Remove baking sheets and let set 5 minutes before removing cookies to a cooling rack.
  6. Decorate cookies with royal icing when they are completely cooled.

 

Ginger and Starfruit Jam

November 15, 2012

Starfruit and Ginger Jam

Hurricane Sandy did a number on some of the beaches in Rincon, taking away the sand right down to the bedrock in some areas.  My friend, Judy, lost several beautiful fan-palms on the beach side of her home leaving an eight foot drop off.  Fortunately the rest of the property was intact and the fruit trees were unharmed.  Judy had one starfruit tree loaded with fruit so I brought home about 10 pounds of fruit for chutney and this jam.

Tropical fruits are very sweet when ripe with delicate flavors and its important not to overcook them or add ingredients that will overpower their intrinsic flavors.  A couple tablespoons of fresh grated ginger was all that was needed to turn a batch of starfruit into a jam with just a hint of sparkle.  Starfruit tastes like a strawberry with apple tones and has the texture of watermelon or ripe pear depending upon the ripeness.

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Snowmen with Paper Mache Clay – Weekend project

November 14, 2012

Puerto Ricans are mad about snowmen…who knew!  I suppose its a novelty for those who haven’t seen nor experienced real snow.  I had lots of requests last year for snowmen so I made these little ornaments from 1-1/2 inch and 2 inch styrofoam balls with paper mache clay to form the noses, eyes, buttons and hats.  They’re sitting on cork platforms with paper mache clay filler so they’ll sit by themselves on a mantel.  Red and green pipe cleaners were used for the scarves and ear muffs.  The cap and scarf on the snowman to the far right was made of stretchy T-shirt fabric.

Paper mache clay is one of my favorite mediums for crafting.  Its used in place of paper mache (paper strips and paste) over an armiture.   It’s simply toilet paper soaked in water, squeezed dry then shredded fine in a food processor.  Joint compound, homemade white glue, flour, bleach and gylcerin was whirled with the shredded paper until a smooth dough was achieved.

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Noni Leaf Tea – Detoxes and Boosts Immunity

October 28, 2012

Noni grows throughout the South Pacific and Caribbean islands.  For centuries the natives used the leaves of the noni plant for medicinal purposes.  Today the fruit and its juice are more commonly known, though I can’t understand why that stinky stuff would appeal to anyone.  The leaves, however, are pleasantly fragrant when dried and steeped for an herbal tea.  It really tastes like another green tea.  Noni Leaf Tea is naturally caffeine-free and to quote http://nutritionwithsonia.com :

Studies have shown the leaf to be the most nutrient-rich part of the plant, containing health promoting nutrients including phyto-chemicals, antioxidants and bio-flavonoids. Rich in a number of vitamins and minerals – phosphorus, iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamin E, vitamin K1, niacin and more. Noni leaf is rich in plant sterols, protein, glycosides, and anthraquinones.

The leaf has many benefits when taken regularly – will protect us from toxins and pollutants, encourages the body to detox, helps prevent the premature onset of age-related diseases, boosts our immune defences, reduces our risk of developing cancer, aids in better digestion and assimilation, helps to cleanse our intestinal system in a very mild way, reduces inflammation and eases pain, has mild anti-bacterial properties, and helps to maintain normal blood sugar levels.”

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Chicken and Mushrooms over Sauteed Polenta

October 4, 2012

Living alone and cooking for one it seems there are always leftovers.  This dish was just a spur of the moment concoction thrown together with leftover polenta slices, a paillard of chicken breast, some mushrooms and a handful of baby spinach leaves.   It ended up being a tasty main that I will downsize for a starter dish the next time friends come for dinner.

The polenta was seasoned with Rosemary Salt, butter and grated parmigiano then poured into a mini loaf pan and refrigerated overnight.  The next day it popped right out of the pan and was super easy to slice 1/2-inch thick.   I sauteed the slices in nutty brown butter until they turned golden brown.

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If you’d like a list of ingredients and more specific information leave me a comment below.

 

Lime Pound Cake with Agave Nectar and Agave Marshmallow Fluff

October 3, 2012

Have you heard the saying, “40 is the old side of young and 50 is the young side of old?” Well Martha’s son is visiting from Connecticut and turned 50 on Monday so we all met at the Cofresi Resort to wish him Happy Birthday.  Wendell is also a diabetic and fond of agave for sweetening his drinks and desserts.  We had to have a cake of-course and Martha asked me to do the honors of baking Wendell a cake with agave nectar.

This lime pound cake is made with 1/2 cup agave nectar instead of 1 cup of granulated refined sugar.  Everyone enjoyed the cake which was luscious with the zest and juice of a large lime.  I think the agave allowed the lime to really sparkle.

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