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Kung Pao Chicken

Kung Pao Chicken

Always a family favorite, this stir-fry comes together quickly for a last minute dinner.

Because the dried peppers are left whole in this recipe, it is not spicy. If you like a little more heat, simply cut up the peppers on your plate and eat them along with the stir-fry.

Szechuan peppercorns and Chinese black vinegar can be found in Asian markets or online. The peppercorns usually come whole. You can use any pepper mill/grinder to crush them. You can also use a small coffee grinder to grind the peppercorns.

RECIPE:

Kung Pao Chicken

Kung Pao Chicken

3 chicken breasts, diced
2 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs sherry
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tsp ground Szechuan peppercorns

2 Tbs oil
8-10 dried small red chilis (Arbols)
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
2-3 stalks celery, diced
1 small onion, diced
½ cup roasted peanuts
1 bunch green onions, sliced diagonally into 1 ½” pieces

Sauce:
1/3 cup chicken broth
3 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs sherry
1 Tbs Chinese black vinegar or rice vinegar
1 ½ Tbs cornstarch
1 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs sesame oil

Combine chicken with 2 Tbs soy sauce, 1 Tbs sherry, ginger, garlic, and ground peppercorns. Marinate 1 hour.

Combine sauce ingredients and set aside.

Heat 1 Tbs oil in large skillet or wok over high heat. Add whole dried chilis to hot oil and cook until they just begin to blacken. Remove chilis from oil and place in serving dish. Add vegetables to the hot oil in pan and cook over high heat until crisp-tender. Remove from pan and place in serving dish. Add additional 1 Tbs oil to pan. Add chicken to pan and cook over high heat until chicken is cooked through. Reduce heat to medium, add sauce to pan, and cook until thickened (2-3 mins). Stir in peanuts, green onions, vegetables and chilis. Heat for 1 minute.

Serve over rice.

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Ratatouille

Ratatouille 1

The transition from fall to summer is my very favorite time of the year. I love the cool mornings and sunny (but not humid) days. It is the perfect time for making my favorite comfort food: Ratatouille. Like all good comfort foods, it is warm and filling and permeates your house with delicious smells as it cooks low and slow on the stove. And during this change of seasons, I love that I can still get great fresh garden vegetables and herbs to use in this recipe.

Ratatouille is not always the most visually appealing dish, but is bursting with flavor. It is full of hearty vegetables: eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, red peppers, onions, garlic, tomatoes, and lots of fresh herbs Then cooked down on the stove until the flavors blend and meld into the most delicious vegetable stew. Eating healthy has never tasted better!

Ratatouille 2

This is Little A’s very favorite side dish. His face just lights up when he smells it as he comes into the house. All of the kids love it except for Little J (but she hardly counts as she turns her nose up to EVERY vegetable in this dish).

Ratatouille makes a perfect side dish to grilled or roasted meats. I love to serve it this time of year, when we still like to grill chicken, pork, or other things outside. Grilled meat is wonderful, but also begs for something juicy to eat with it. Ratatouille fits that bill perfectly. It is also great later in the winter with a roasted pork tenderloin, roast chicken, or beef roast.

This recipe makes a good-sized pot of ratatouille. You could always scale it back if you don’t want to make that much, but I love to have leftovers of this dish. It makes a perfect lunch all on its own the next day. Or as a sauce for pasta for an easy meal later in the week.

I never measure things when I make this recipe. It is very flexible based on your personal tastes. Below is a good approximation of the amounts that I use.

RECIPE:

Ratatouille 2

Ratatouille

½ cup olive oil
1 large eggplant, skin on, diced
2 onions, chopped
1 red/orange/yellow pepper, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 zucchini and/or yellow squash, sliced and quartered
1 tsp salt
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
3 cups chopped tomatoes
½ tsp Tabasco sauce (adjust to taste)
3 Tbs chopped fresh basil*
2 Tbs chopped fresh parsley*
1 Tbs chopped fresh thyme*
1 Tbs chopped fresh oregano*

Heat olive oil in a large saucepot. Add eggplant to the hot oil and cook until eggplant begins to soften. Add onions, red pepper and garlic and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add zucchini, salt, pepper, and dried herbs; cook for 5 minutes over medium-high heat. Add chopped tomatoes and Tabasco sauce and cook over medium-low heat, uncovered, until mixture is cooked down and thickened (30-40 minutes). Stir in fresh herbs during the last 10 minutes of cooking. Taste and add additional salt, if necessary.

*Or substitute an additional 2-3 tsp dried Italian seasoning for the fresh herbs

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Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes

(and a gender reveal–NO, not mine)

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 13

I first made these chocolate butterfly cupcakes for my sweet Little J’s 6th birthday. I was feeling very nostalgic about having my last baby in kindergarten and we had a super fun cooking party with a few of her friends. It is (by far) my favorite kids’ birthday party that I’ve hosted. I still get a little bit weepy just thinking about it. If you like a good sentimental cry, you can read about it HERE.

Then last month, a friend asked if I could make some gender reveal cupcakes to announce the sex of their upcoming new baby to their other four children. While I am perfectly content with the 5 children I already have and have no desire to start again with another one (5 years and counting until we are empty nesters!), celebrating with other new moms always makes me reflect on my own babies that are not babies any more.

So I happily agreed, and immediately knew that I wanted to make these butterflies again, for my friend and her family who are welcoming a new life into their family, and for me to reminisce about my own little ones and the joy it has been parenting them. And having my Little J (who isn’t so little anymore) help me make the butterflies and cupcakes was a really great experience.

And because writing this is making me feel nostalgic all over again (and this is my blog so I get to indulge my wistful feelings as much as I want), here is my Little J, then and now:

Little J 2010 2017-09-13 15.54.09

Enough about me and my maudlin ramblings; you really just want to hear about the cupcakes. For my friend, I made my favorite dark chocolate cupcakes. They are tender and moist and absolutely delicious. It also doesn’t hurt that they are easy to make. They start with a cake mix, but the addition of pudding and sour cream takes them well beyond your average chocolate cupcake.

For the “gender reveal”, I cut out a section of the top of each cupcake and filled it with a blue filling (It’s a Boy!!). For the filling, I mixed the white frosting with some of the leftover blue candy melts from the butterflies and piped it into the cut-out centers.

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 9

The frosting I used is a cooked vanilla frosting. It is not as sweet as a traditional buttercream, but is light and fluffy and delicious. I tinted the frosting with pink and blue food coloring to make a striped frosting.

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 10

To create the two-toned look, use a paintbrush and food coloring to paint stripes onto the inside of a pastry bag. (Credit to my hand model Little J!) Carefully spoon white frosting into the bag. Before frosting the cupcakes, squeeze out a small amount of frosting until the color begins to show in the frosting. I used a 1M tip to pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes.

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 11

Now on to the butterflies. Full disclosure: these are time consuming. But they are not particularly difficult. Just be prepared to spend several hours making them if you plan to make a lot.

Items needed:
chocolate and colored candy melts, stencil printed on paper, waxed paper, toothpicks, foil, pastry bags (one for each color), one writing piping tip, small round sprinkles. Optional: heating pad

Draw your desired butterfly wing shape onto a sheet of white paper using a permanent marker. Cut pieces of waxed paper (one for each set of wings you are making) large enough to cover the stencil. You can also draw a set of antennae if desired (see example HERE).

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 1

Place a small amount of colored and chocolate melting disks into separate pastry bags or Ziploc bags. Melt in microwave—Start with 30 seconds, squish bags, then add an additional 10 seconds if not completely melted.

To keep the chocolate melted while making dozens of wings, I placed a piece of plastic wrap over a heating pad and set the bags on the heating pad while they weren’t being used.

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 4

I used a writing tip to pipe the chocolate, but I just cut off a small end of the bag to squeeze out the melted colored candy.

Place a small square of waxed paper over your stencil paper. Use the melted chocolate to trace around the edge of one wing at a time.

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 2

While the chocolate outline is still wet, squeeze a small amount of colored chocolate into the center of each wing section. I used pink in the top section and blue in the bottom section. Use a toothpick to spread colored chocolate to fill the wing. Use a toothpick to gently swirl chocolate edges and colored chocolate. Sprinkle edges of wings with round sprinkles, if desired.

Work with just one wing at a time. The chocolate hardens quickly!

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 3

Let the wings harden completely before assembling butterflies.

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 6

To make the body and assemble the butterflies, fold a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil in half and then into a v-shape with a flat bottom (about 1/2” wide).

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 16

Using the melted chocolate (remove the writing tip), pipe a body onto a separate piece of waxed paper (or directly onto the bottom section of the folded foil). Make little dollops of chocolate, being sure that they touch.

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 15

Place segmented body (before it hardens) into the folded foil and place the wings at an angle into the still soft chocolate body. Prop them up underneath if the foil doesn’t hold them. (Sorry, I didn’t get a photo of this step)

Don’t use your fingers to support the wings while the body dries: the chocolate will melt in your fingers and ruin the wings.

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 7

 

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 8

Gently press a butterfly onto the top of each frosted cupcake.

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 13

Did you know that a group of butterflies is called a “Kaleidoscope.” What a perfect description of these butterflies! Whatever they are officially called, your family will call them beautiful and delicious!

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 14

 

RECIPES:

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 11  Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 12

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

1 box dark chocolate fudge cake mix
1 small box (3.9 oz) instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
½ cup warm water

Preheat oven to 350°F . Place cupcake liners in muffin tins.

In a large bowl, mix together all of the ingredients and beat with a mixer for 2 minutes.

Fill cupcake liners just over halfway. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

Makes 30-36 cupcakes.

 

Cooked Vanilla Frosting

2 cups whole milk
10 Tbs flour
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups butter
2 cups granulated sugar (do not use powdered sugar)
Optional: gel food coloring

In a small saucepan, mix the flour and milk until no lumps remain. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk, until mixture thickens (and is just about to boil). Remove from heat and let it cool completely to room temperature.  Stir in vanilla.

In a large mixing bowl (a stand mixer works best for this) cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the cooled milk mixture and beat for 5-7 minutes, until frosting is light, fluffy and completely uniform throughout. Beat in food coloring, if desired.

This frosting looks best when piped with a large decorating tip, but can also be spread with a spatula.

Yield: frosting for 24-36 cupcakes

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Mango Sticky Rice

Mango Sticky Rice 1

Mango Sticky Rice may be the primary reason my kids love eating at Thai restaurants. They also love the curries, stir-fries and satays, but this simple dessert definitely tops the list.

Making this at home may not be as much fun as a night out for dinner, but it sure saves the pocketbook! And with this recipe, there is always lots to go around, so there is no fighting for the last bite.

The two main types of mangoes you find here in the US are Haden and Ataulfo. The orange/red/green Haden mangoes are the most common, but the smaller yellow Ataulfo mangoes are my favorite. They are very sweet and have fewer strings than the larger Hadens.

Haden Mango     Ataulfo Mango

For a complete Thai dinner experience, try one of these curries as an entrée before your Mango Sticky Rice:

Thai Green CurryThai Green Curry

Thai Pumpkin Curry
Thai Pumpkin Curry

Thai Red Curry
Thai Red Curry

 

Mango Sticky Rice 2

RECIPE:

Mango Sticky Rice 1

Mango Sticky Rice

1 cup short grain white rice
1 ½ cups unsweetened refrigerated coconut milk (or use water)
1 can coconut milk (do not use lite; do not shake can)
6 Tbs sugar, divided
1 tsp salt, divided
3 ripe mangoes, chilled

Combine rice and 1 ½ cups refrigerated coconut milk or water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a low boil, then reduce heat to low and cover. Cook for 20 minutes, or until rice is cooked.  Alternately, cook rice with coconut milk in a rice cooker.

Carefully open the can of coconut milk and scoop out the thick coconut cream from the top of the can. Set cream aside in a small bowl. Pour the thinner coconut milk from the bottom of the can into a small saucepan. Stir in 4 Tbs sugar and ¾ tsp salt. Heat over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves, but do not boil. Remove from heat and slowly stir the hot sweetened coconut sauce into the rice in the pan. Cover and let sit for an additional 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Place the thick coconut cream in a small saucepan. Stir in 2 Tbs sugar and ¼ tsp salt. Cook over low heat until cream melts and sugar dissolves. Do not boil.

Slice chilled mangoes.

Place ½ cup of the warm cooked, sweetened rice onto each serving plate. Top with about ½ of a chilled, sliced mango. Drizzle with sweetened coconut cream. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings

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Homemade Marshmallow Fluff

Strawberries and Toasted Marshmallow Fluff

When you have a  kid that hates chocolate, you have to get creative with your campfire treats.

Dipping fresh strawberries in homemade marshmallow fluff and toasting them over the fire on a roasting stick sure makes up for not liking the s’mores that everyone else is eating.

In fact, you may have to guard your fruit ‘n fluff from the s’mores eaters who think they are the ones getting the short end of the roasting stick!

Marshmallow Fluff

Marshmallow fluff is easy to make yourself, but does require a candy thermometer. It is so much better than the stuff you buy in a jar! And toasting it makes it even more delicious. You can coat most fruits with the fluff for toasting. Try things like strawberries, fresh pineapple, mangos, bananas, mandarin orange segments, kiwi fruit. Or even chunks of pound cake.

Another benefit: you can swap out the vanilla extract with something more exotic, like lemon, coconut, orange, or almond extract to give your fluff a fun new flavor. Mango chunks dipped in coconut flavored fluff = YUM!

We may have even been known to make this in the winter, toasting our fluff-coated-fruit over sterno cans.

RECIPE:

Strawberries and Toasted Marshmallow Fluff

Homemade Marshmallow Fluff

3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup (9 oz) light corn syrup
1/3 cup water
Pinch of salt
3 egg whites
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
2 Tbs sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract (or other flavored extract: lemon, orange, almond, coconut)

Mix 3/4 cup sugar, corn syrup, water, and salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Use a spatula to scrape edges of pan as it cooks. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and continue to cook until mixture registers 240°F on the thermometer. Remove from heat.

While sugar mixture is cooking, place egg whites and cream of tartar in a large mixing bowl (a stand mixer works best). Beat until egg whites are foamy. Slowly add 2 Tbs sugar and continue to beat until soft peaks form.

Turn mixer onto low speed and slowly pour the hot syrup into the mixing bowl. Once all of the syrup has been mixed in, increase mixer speed and beat for 3-5 minutes, or until mixture forms stiff peaks. Add vanilla (or other flavored extract) and beat for an additional minute.

Store marshmallow fluff in the refrigerator.

FOR TOASTED FLUFF-COVERED FRUIT:

Dip fruit (strawberries, fresh pineapple, mangos, bananas, mandarin orange segments, kiwi fruit, etc) in the marshmallow fluff. Place on a roasting stick and cook over an open flame until lightly toasted.

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Blackened Cod with Creamy Cilantro Dressing

Blackened Cod 2

Looking for something to serve with your Creamy Cilantro Coleslaw? This blackened cod is perfect. And quick and easy on a warm summer night when you don’t want to heat up your kitchen.

If you are making the coleslaw as well, there will probably be enough extra dressing from that recipe to use for drizzling onto the cooked fish. Recipe for Creamy Cilantro Coleslaw:

Creamy Cilantro Coleslaw 1

I like to serve this meal with Cotija cheese. Cotija is a firm mild cheese with a texture similar to feta, but without the saltiness. It crumbles easily with your fingers.

Blackened Cod 1

This recipe also makes great Fish Tacos.

RECIPE:

Blackened Cod 2

Blackened Cod with Creamy Cilantro Dressing

4 cod fish fillets (you could also use halibut or snapper)
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp Ancho chili powder
1/8 tsp chipotle chili powder
2 Tbs oil

Creamy Cilantro Dressing (recipe below)
Cotija cheese, crumbled
1 can black beans, drained and mixed with 1 Tbs lime juice
Creamy Cilantro Coleslaw

Prepare Creamy Cilantro Dressing and refrigerate for one hour before serving.

Remove fish from refrigerator about 30 minutes before cooking. Mix dry spices in a small bowl. Pat fish fillets dry and rub spices onto both sides of fish fillets.

Heat oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Place fish fillets in the hot skillet and sear until cooked through (do not crowd pan; cook in 2 batches if necessary). Depending on the thickness and variety of fish, it should take about 3 minutes per side. Check for doneness with a fork: fish should flake easily, but not fall apart. Remove from pan and let fish rest for 2-3 minutes.

Drizzle fish with some of the Creamy Cilantro Dressing and top with crumbled cotija cheese. Serve fish with coleslaw, black beans, and additional cilantro dressing.

Creamy Cilantro Dressing

½ cup Greek yogurt or sour cream
¼ cup mayonnaise
3 green onions
1 fresh jalapeno
¼ cup fresh cilantro
2 Tbs diced mild green chilies (about ½ of a 4 oz can)
2 Tbs fresh squeezed lime juice
½ – 1 tsp Sriracha chili sauce (adjust to taste)
½ tsp kosher salt

Place all dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Refrigerate for one hour before serving

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Creamy Cilantro Coleslaw

Creamy Cilantro Coleslaw 1

A light and creamy summer salad perfect for serving with grilled or barbecued meats. Flavored with lime juice and fresh jalapenos, the dressing on this coleslaw is tangy and slightly spicy, not sweet like a traditional coleslaw.

And if you have some dressing left over, it is great as a sauce for grilled meat, or refrigerated and used later as a salad dressing.

RECIPE:

Creamy Cilantro Coleslaw 1

Creamy Cilantro Coleslaw

3-4 cups shredded cabbage
4 green onions, sliced
½ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

Dressing:
½ cup Greek yogurt or sour cream
¼ cup mayonnaise
3 green onions
1 fresh jalapeno
¼ cup fresh cilantro
2 Tbs diced mild green chilies (about ½ of a 4 oz can)
2 Tbs fresh squeezed lime juice
½ – 1 tsp Sriracha chili sauce (adjust to taste)
½ tsp kosher salt

Prepare dressing: Place all dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.

Place cabbage, green onions, and chopped cilantro in a large bowl. Add the dressing a little at a time, stirring until cabbage is coated, but not drowning in dressing.** Refrigerate coleslaw for about one hour before serving.

**Any extra dressing can be served as a sauce for grilled meat, or refrigerated and used later as a salad dressing.

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White Chocolate Raspberry Swirled Cheesecake

White-Chocolate-Raspberry-Cheesecake[10]

A delicious white chocolate cheesecake swirled with a sweetened raspberry puree is made even more decadent with a stabilized whipped cream and some toasted almonds. The crust is an Almond Coconut Crust that is easy to make gluten free.

Perfect for a summer dessert, or for raising money at a Boy Scout fundraising auction.

Cheesecakes should always be baked in a water bath. This helps them cook evenly, without becoming grainy. For a more in-depth look at cooking a cheesecake in a water bath, click HERE.

When the cheesecake has chilled for several hours (or overnight), remove it from the springform pan and prepare to transform the slightly boring cheesecake into something beautiful and mouth-watering.

White-Chocolate-Raspberry-Cheesecake[12]

Spread the outside edge of the cheesecake with chilled raspberry puree and place toasted almonds around the outside edge. The puree will “glue” the almonds to the cheesecake. Try to use unbroken almonds that are similar in size.

White-Chocolate-Raspberry-Cheesecake[14]

The whipped cream topping used to garnish the cake is a stabilized whipped cream. The addition of cream cheese to the whipped cream keeps the whipped cream from breaking down. It will keep for at least 4-5 days in the refrigerator without separating and breaking down.

Use a pastry bag and piping tips to decorate the top edge of the cheesecake. I piped large and small stars around the outside top edge and garnished the top with fresh raspberries. I piped small stars around the bottom edge of the cheesecake.

White-Chocolate-Raspberry-Cheesecake

RECIPE:

White-Chocolate-Raspberry-Cheesecake[5]

White Chocolate Raspberry Swirled Cheesecake

Almond Coconut Crust (recipe below)

½ cup heavy cream
6 oz (about 1 cup) white chocolate chips
3 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
½ cup sour cream
½ cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
¼ tsp salt
3 eggs

1 cup Raspberry Puree (recipe below)
about 1 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
Whipped Cream Topping (recipe below)
Fresh raspberries for garnish

Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare and bake Almond Coconut Crust in a 9” springform pan. Cool completely. Wrap springform pan in a double layer of foil, or one layer of foil and then place in an oven bag (like the kind used for turkeys) or a crock-pot liner. Place wrapped springform pan in a larger roasting pan.

Place ½ cup heavy cream in a Pyrex measuring cup and heat for 1 minute in the microwave. Stir in white chocolate chips until smooth. Cool slightly while preparing rest of cheesecake batter.

In a large mixing bowl, use a mixer to combine cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, vanilla and almond extracts, and salt. Beat until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in cooled chocolate mixture. Add eggs to mixing bowl and beat until just combined.

Pour half of the cheesecake batter over the crust  in the prepared pan. Measure out ½ cup of the Raspberry Puree and use this to place dollops around the top of the cheesecake batter. Use a knife to gently swirl. Top with remaining cheesecake batter and swirl with an additional ½ cup of the raspberry puree.

Fill roasting pan (not springform pan!) with very hot water to about 2-inches deep. Bake the cheesecake in the water bath for about 60-75 minutes at 350°F, or until just the very center of the cheesecake is still jiggly. Remove springform pan from the water bath and run a sharp knife around the sides, but do not remove the ring of the pan.

Let cheesecake cool at room temperature for 1 hour. Cover cheesecake pan (do not remove sides) with plastic wrap, taking care not to touch the surface of the cheesecake. Chill for at least four hours or overnight.

To serve:

Remove plastic wrap and remove the outer edge of the spring form pan. Slide a knife or spatula between the parchment paper lining and the crust, and slide the cheesecake off of the spring form base and onto a cake stand or serving platter. Discard parchment paper round.

Spread about ½ cup of the Raspberry Puree around the outside edge of the chilled cheesecake. Press toasted almond slices around the edge, covering the edge completely.

Prepare Whipped Cream Topping and use a pastry bag to pipe large and small stars or flowers around the top edge of the cheesecake, garnishing with fresh raspberries. Pipe small stars/flowers around bottom edge of cheesecake.

Almond Coconut Crust
¾ cup whole roasted almonds
2 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs flour (omit flour for gluten-free)
¼ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
4 Tbs unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place almonds, sugar, flour, and coconut in a food processor and pulse until it forms coarse crumbs. Add melted butter and pulse until just moistened.

Line a 9″ springform pan with a parchment round. Spray lightly with baking spray. Spread the crust crumbs evenly onto just the bottom of the springform pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool completely before adding filling.

Raspberry Puree
12 oz raspberries, fresh or frozen (about 2 1/2 cups of not crushed fresh berries)
½ cup water
3 Tbs sugar
½ Tbs lemon juice
2 Tbs ClearJel or cornstarch
¼ cup cold water

In a heavy saucepan, combine raspberries, ½ cup water, sugar, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, crushing berries slightly with the back of a spoon. Strain the berries through a fine sieve, pushing the pulp through the sieve with the back of a spoon. Return seedless puree to the saucepan (rinse saucepan first if there are seeds clinging to the sides). Mix the cornstarch and ¼ cup cold water in a small bowl; stir into puree in the saucepan. Return mixture to a boil; lower heat and simmer for 1-2 minutes, or until slightly thickened and no longer cloudy. Cool before using. Store leftover puree in the refrigerator.

Whipped Cream Topping
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tbs cream cheese, very soft
2 Tbs powdered sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp almond extract
Pinch of salt

Combine  heavy cream and softened cream cheese (must be very soft, or your topping will be chunky!) in a large bowl. Beat until soft peaks form. Add powdered sugar, vanilla and almond extracts, and salt; beat until stiff peaks form.  (The cream cheese in this topping will stabilize your whipped cream and help it keep its shape even over several days.)

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Sugar Free Baked Custards and a Magic Fridge

Baked Custards 6

In our laundry room is an old refrigerator. It isn’t fancy, doesn’t dispense water or ice, or sync to your phone to create grocery lists. But it is magic.

2017-04-24 10.15.17

As my husband and children like to observe, whenever someone takes the last custard from this fridge, more magically appear again the very next day. They love this Magic Fridge.

It must be that same Magic that turns full laundry baskets into piles of folded clothes, raw ingredients into hot meals, and grimy bathrooms into sparkling retreats (okay, that might be wishful thinking; I’m still waiting for that kind of magic to appear).

But if you’re looking for a simple egg custard that is easy to make sugar-free, this is definitely the kind of magic I can help you with.

Baked Custards 1

Stevia is my favorite non-sugar sweetener, but it can sometimes be bitter if it is used alone to sweeten desserts. For this recipe, I combine stevia with erythritol. You could also use Splenda (or go for an all-sugar version).

Baked Custards 5

RECIPE:

Baked Custards 6

Sugar Free Baked Custards

3 eggs
3 egg yolks
¼ tsp liquid stevia
1 ½ tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
4 cups (1 quart) half & half
½ cup erythritol (or Splenda)
Optional: fresh berries for garnish

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Prepare a pan for a water bath: place eight 8-oz ramekins in a larger baking pan. Heat enough water to come halfway up sides of ramekins. (Don’t add hot water to baking pan until after pouring custard into ramekins)

In a mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, egg yolks, stevia, vanilla, and salt.

Heat half & half until very hot, but not quite boiling. (You can do this either in the microwave or on the stovetop). Remove from heat and stir in erythritol.

While whisking constantly, slowly pour the hot milk in a steady stream into the mixing bowl with the eggs. Do this very, very slowly at first, or you will curdle the eggs.

Strain the custard through a mesh sieve to remove any lumps.

Pour custard into small ramekins. Fill bottom of the larger baking pans with hot water to halfway up sides of ramekins.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until set at the edges, and only slightly jiggly in the center. Cool for 15 minutes in the water bath. Remove ramekins from water bath and refrigerate for 2-3 hours before serving. Serve with fresh fruit, if desired

Yield: 8 8-oz custards

**To prepare using sugar: use 2/3 cup sugar in place of stevia and erythritol

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Homemade Crescent Rolls

Crescent Rolls 2

Looking for the perfect rolls to serve with your Easter ham? Or more importantly, to use the next day to make ham sandwiches?

Look no further: these rolls are amazing. They are soft and tender, but also hold up to slicing and using as a sandwich bun.

Leftovers are always the best part of a big holiday dinner. I love cooking once and then repurposing dinner for the next few days. And rolls are the perfect food to make ahead of time, freeze, and then reheat in the oven just before serving.

To help elongate the crescent rolls and keep them from being too thick in the center, I cut a slit in the wide edge, separate the slit slightly, and then roll the dough into a crescent shape.

Crescent Rolls 5  Crescent Rolls 6

This gives longer ends that are easier to curve into a rounded crescent.

Crescent Rolls 4

Happy Easter!

Crescent Rolls 1

RECIPE:

Crescent Rolls 3

Homemade Crescent Rolls
————(adapted from Our Best Bites)

2 cups whole milk
½ cup + 1 Tbs sugar, divided
1/3 cup (5 1/3 Tbs) butter
2 tsp kosher salt
2 pkg active dry yeast (or 4 ½ tsp)
2/3 cup warm water
8-9 cups all-purpose flour
3 beaten eggs
Melted butter (about 4 Tbs)

Combine milk, ½ cup sugar, butter, and salt in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat until butter melts. Remove from heat. Allow to cool to lukewarm.

While the milk mixture is cooling, dissolve the yeast and 1 Tbs sugar in warm water. Let stand about 10 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine 3 cups flour and milk mixture. Beat on low for 30 seconds, scraping sides of bowl constantly. Add yeast mixture and beat on high for 3 minutes. Add beaten eggs.

Stir in as much remaining flour as needed to make a soft dough. This dough should be very soft–it will be coming away from the sides of the bowl, but it will still stick to your finger when you touch it. Place the bowl in a warm place and cover with a clean towel; allow to rise 1 hour.

Grease large baking sheets, or line with parchment paper or silicon mats.

Punch down dough. Lightly flour your work surface and turn dough out onto surface. Divide in half.

Roll each dough half into a circle and cut into 12 wedges. Cut a ½” slit in the wide end of the wedge, separate slightly and roll  into crescent shapes and place on prepared pans.

Cover with a clean cloth and allow to rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes. When dough has about 15-20 minutes to go, preheat oven to 375°F.

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden-brown. When done, remove from oven. Brush lightly with melted butter.

Yield: 24 rolls

**To prebake for serving another day: Bake rolls on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until rolls just barely begin to brown. Remove from oven. Cool. Place in Ziploc freezer bags. Freeze.

On serving day: Place frozen rolls on a baking sheet, bake for about 7-10 minutes, or until hot and golden brown. Brush tops with butter.

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