Are you afraid of the pomegranate?
Uh huh, that’s what I thought…
I was too until I found out they are really not that intimidating once you learn how to open one without having seeds fly all over your kitchen or getting hit by red juice. Just in case; maybe wear a red shirt. I came across a good tutorial on this website on how to open a pomegranate. You can “juice” a pomegranate if you like for its fresh juice or buy it in a jar. *See below on how to juice a pomegranate. I came across cherry pomegranate juice and decided to use that. Happy Holidays…
*How to juice a pomegranate (by Rachel Ray)
Roll the pomegranate on the counter applying firm pressure for about 1 minute. Roll it around so all sides get contact. Have a small pot or deep vessel available; insert a sharp paring knife about 1 inch deep into the side of the fruit. Holding the fruit over the vessel squeeze firmly with both hands using the heels of your hands to extract the juice into the pot.
Sparkling Holiday Pom Pom
recipe: food network magazine
yield: one cocktail
2 Tbsp. Lillet Liquor
2 Tbsp. pomegranate Juice or cherry pomegranate Juice
1 Tbsp. fresh pomegranate seeds
Sparkling rosé wine
Directions: (If you like your glass with a sugared rim-pour a small amount of juice on a plate and another plate place a small amount of sugar. Dip the glass into the juice then dip glass into sugar). Combine 2 tablespoons each Lillet and pomegranate juice and 1 tablespoon pomegranate seeds in a champagne flute or martini glass. Top with sparkling rose. Top with fresh mint leaf if desired.
Dreary rainy weather, check. Urge to make bread, check. Soft cozy blanket, check. Kettle of tea, check. Time to make bread. This is the kind of bread that will have your neighbors stopping by for no good reason; like they got your junk mail and thought they should bring it by. Uh huh. Trying to sell your house? Make this bread right before your showing or open house-the house smells divine while it’s baking. With apples being abundant right now it sounded like the perfect type of thing to be baking in the oven with the rain falling outside. Cuddled on the couch with your favorite soft cozy blankey, rain falling, sipping a cup of hot tea. What could be more perfect. You might even have all the ingredients on hand. I tweaked the original recipe a bit and added apple pie spice to the batter and a little cinnamon to the streusel topping. Enjoy~
Apple Pie-Spice Bread
recipe: adapted from Better Homes and Garden “Baking” cookbook
yield: one standard loaf (9x5x3- inch) pan
1/2 Cup butter, softened
1 Cup sugar
1/4 Cup buttermilk or “sour milk”
1 tsp. vanilla
2 Cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. apple pie spice (such as McCormick)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 Cup raisins (I used golden)
1 Cup chopped walnuts or pecans, lightly toasted
2 Cups shredded, peeled apples (about 3-4 medium-I used a mixture of not too tart and not too sweet)
1 recipe streusel-nut topping* (see below)
1. Preheat the oven to 350° F or (180° C). Grease the bottom and sides of a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan. In a small bowl combine the flour, baking soda, salt and apple pie spice mix with a fork and set aside.
2. In a stand mixer or large bowl cream together the 1/2 Cup butter and 1 Cup sugar until fluffy; about 1 minute. In a glass measuring cup combine the buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla with a fork. Add the milk mixture gradually to the mixer with the running on low and beat on medium speed until combined. Add the flour mixture all at once and beat on medium low (careful if using a hand mixer) until combined, being careful not to overbeat. Stir in the raisins and walnuts. With a rubber spatula fold in the shredded apple along with any juice that collected. Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Prepare the streusel topping and sprinkle over the top of the bread.
3. Bake at 350° F for about 60-65 minutes or until a wooden skewer comes out clean when inserted in the middle. Let the bread cool in the pan over a wire rack for 10 minutes, then carefully remove the bread from the pan and continue to cool completely over the wire rack. Note; this streusel falls apart easily when cutting; to help prevent this, wrap the loaf in plastic wrap first and cut it the next day. If you can wait that long!!
Streusel Nut Topping:
1/4 Cup brown sugar
3 Tbsp. flour
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
3 Tbsp. slightly soft butter
I assume sometimes that everyone knows how to toast nuts, but you know what happens when you ass-u-me, right? Well, I came across a short blip in a cookbook and it had a blurb about toasting nuts and since I make a lot of my recipes with toasted nuts I thought I would write a short piece about it. I actually learned something new myself. I did not know that you can actually toast nuts in a microwave. Say what?! I know, right? Purists will scoff a bit with this one. I mean, “serious cooks aren’t supposed to be using a microwave”. Yeah-whatever…Well it made me think about the time I was in pastry school. The school didn’t even have a microwave on the premises. I thought it was kind of overboard; especially since we were fed by the remains of the day students from the culinary school. We always had to warm up our food by using the oven only. Anyway…I digress. My point is why should it be a crime to use the microwave if you want. This might be esp. handy since we are coming up on Thanksgiving and a lot of times there is NO oven room or stove top room left.
How To Toast Nuts 3 ways
Oven: Spread the nuts in a shallow baking pan (pie plate, 1/4 sheet pan, tart pan etc.) and bake in a 350° F (180° C) oven for 5-10 minutes. Open the oven and shake the nuts gently once or twice and WATCH them as this is not an exact science. Check often to make sure they don’t over brown.
Stove Top: (This is best for small nuts or those that are chopped). Toast chopped or ground nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat. Stir often so they don’t burn. Remove from the skillet immediately to stop the cooking process. Note; this is usually how I toast pine nuts if you have a recipe that calls for toasted pine nuts as they tend to go really fast and the stove top method you can watch them more closely.
Microwave: Spread a single layer of nuts on a microwave safe plate. Cook on 100 % power (high) at 1 minute intervals until nuts have a crisp crunch, toasted flavor and become fragrant. The amount of time varies, so watch and check closely.
When I was a little girl we had a cookbook with really easy recipes for kids. I used to haul out that thing just about every Saturday when I was about 12 years old and bake. The book had a recipe in there for blueberry muffins and I made those muffins so many times I think I must have had the recipe burned on my brain. This recipe is super easy as it does not require a stand mixer. Just a couple of bowls. Like a good mid-western family we had a huge freezer full of fruit for the cold winter months and we always had frozen blueberries. If you are like me and love to squirrel away fruit; now is the time to stock up on cranberries while they are in season and load up the freezer. Although I love a good blueberry muffin I like different flavors now and several years ago I used to get a cranberry muffin from a local bakery. It had whole tart berries in it and I loved the punchy burst of tart flavor. The muffin had a sweet glaze on top to balance out the sharp contrast of the berries inside. I had that muffin in mind when I came up with this recipe. I like to keep the cranberries whole so you get a real sense of the flavor. It’s a nice surprising fresh pop of tart when you bite into them. The berries do turn out soft in the muffin so don’t worry–no chopping needed.
(yield: 12 standard size muffins)
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 C sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 Cup + 2 Tbsp. milk
1/4 Cup melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla
zest of one large orange
2 Cups whole fresh cranberries
1 1/2 Cups confectioners sugar
3-4 Tbsp. milk
1. Preheat the oven to 400° degrees F. Spray a 12 cup muffin tin with baking spray or grease. In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients with a whisk or fork. In a small bowl whisk together the milk, butter, eggs, vanilla and zest. Make a well in the bowl of dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients and stir until combined. Stir in the cranberries.
2. Fill each muffin tin equally with the batter. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then decrease the temperature to 350° degrees and continue to bake for about another 10-12 minutes or until a tooth pick comes out almost clean with a few moist crumbs. Cool the muffins in the tin for 7 minutes then remove them to cool completely over a wire rack. Dip the top of each muffin into the glaze and let sit over wire rack with piece of parchment or wax paper underneath to catch any drips.
Calling all pumpkin spice fans. How many of you have already made it into Starbucks for your pumpkin spice latte? Uh huh. That’s what I thought. Quite a few of you…Can we get enough of fall time pumpkin treats. I think not. Here’s something you can whip up on your own–no coffee house trip needed. Pumpkin Cheesecake bars. After I made these, I thought they looked a little plain so I added a recipe for a cream cheese frosting to spread on top if you like. Cheers~
Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
1 1/2 Cup crisp gingersnap cookie crumbs
3 Tbsp sugar
6 Tbsp. unsalted melted butter
1. Line a 9×9 inch square pan with tinfoil. Preheat the oven to 350° F (180° C). Lightly grease the tinfoil. In a small bowl combine the ingredients well with a fork. Press into the bottom of the pan and bake at 350 for about 14-15 minutes until crust looks set around edges. (crust may look a bit wet–that’s okay). Let crust layer cool completely. Make the cheesecake layer while crust is cooling.
12 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 Cup confectioners sugar
1/2 Cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 Cup pumpkin puree* (note: pumpkin puree usually comes as a 15 oz. can–which gives you exactly 1 3/4 Cups puree; you will have exactly 1 Cup leftover puree after this recipe. Freeze the remainder in a ziplock baggie for another recipe that calls for pumpkin).
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (note: if you can’t find pumpkin pie spice, use 3/4 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. ground ginger, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg)
1. With an electric mixer cream together the cheese and confectioners sugar until combined; about 3 minutes. Hint: to avoid excess air bubbles don’t go past speed 4 (or medium) on your mixer. Stop occasionally to scrape down bottom and sides of bowl. Add the brown sugar and mix (same speed) until combined. Add eggs one at a time until smooth; scraping down sides and bottom occasionally until smooth. Add in vanilla. Add the pumpkin puree and beat (same speed) until combined. Add in the flour, salt and spices and continue to beat until combined. Pour the mixture onto the cooled crust and rap the pan on the counter several times (about 20 times) until you no longer see any air bubbles rise to the surface (This helps prevent getting those nasty air bubbles you sometimes see on top of the cheesecake). TURN THE OVEN DOWN TO 300 DEGREES F TO BAKE.
2. Bake at 300°F for about 30-35 minutes or until just set. The middle portion of the pan should look JUST slightly jiggly when you gently shake the pan. Turn off the oven and prop open the door and let pan sit in the oven for about 15 minutes. Remove pan from oven and let cool completely over a wire rack.
Spread with cream cheese frosting if desired. To store: cover pan with tinfoil and chill in the fridge until firm enough to cut.
Cream Cheese Frosting (optional)
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 Tbsp. soft butter
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 Cup confectioners sugar, measured then sifted
In a small bowl combine the cream cheese and butter with a rubber spatula until smooth. Add the vanilla and stir in the sugar and combine until smooth. Spread over cooled cheesecake.
This is a post I am dedicating to all the men who read my blog. First of all, sorry for such a lapse in blogging–I have been having major trouble with my computer so I am a bit behind. Onto business… I’m getting more of you sweet males who are stopping by so I wanted to give a shout out to you with a recipe I think you will enjoy. Of course all my ladies will equally enjoy them as well. These blondies are what I call my “big blondes”. They are a taller thicker blondie with a lot of sass. A lot of chips and nuts in the mix. They are quite simple to make and you don’t need to haul out a stand mixer to make them. If you like your blondies a bit thinner then simply bake them in a 9×13 pan and bake them for about 20 minutes. Enjoy~
2 Cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 sticks (1 Cup) unsalted butter (reserve the wrappers for greasing the pan)
1 Cup light brown sugar + 1 Cup dark brown sugar (OR> 2 Cups light brown sugar + 1 Tbsp. molasses)
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided (reserve a small handful for top)
1 Cup rough chopped nuts (cut on the larger size)
1. Preheat the oven to 350° F or (180° C). Prepare a 9 inch square baking pan by greasing the pan with one of the butter wrappers. Line the pan with a tinfoil sling and then also grease the tinfoil with the wrapper you reserved from the butter.
2. Make “brown butter” using the 2 sticks of butter. Place the butter in a skillet and over medium high heat melt the butter until fully melted. Once melted; turn the heat down to medium low and swirl and watch the butter until it turns a golden brown color and smells nutty. Immediately remove from the heat and let it sit for about a minute.
3. In a large bowl place the brown sugar(s) and molasses if you are using. Pour over the warm browned butter and with a whisk combine vigorously for one minute. Add the eggs one at a time and whisk after each one until batter looks combined. Whisk in vanilla. Add in the flour mixture all at once and switching to a spoon or spatula combine until smooth. Stir in the nuts and all the chips except about a small handful of the chips. Spread the batter (it will be thick) into the prepared pan and level out evenly. Sprinkle the reserved chips over the batter.
4. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes, then cover with tinfoil and turn down the heat to 325 and continue to bake until a tooth pick inserted comes out with moist crumbs; about another 20 minutes.
5. Cool the pan over a wire rack. Once cool, lift out the entire slab, peel back the foil, and cut into small squares or rectangles.