Christmas Baking ~ Gingerbread Cupcakes

Gingerbread CupcakesI baked a batch of gingerbread cupcakes to go with my gingerbread caramels. (Sensing a gingerbread theme this month?? I figured Santa might like choices! ;-) )

I based the recipe on Martha Stewart’s Gingerbread Snacking Cake. It is such a flavorful recipe with the addition of fresh ginger, but I wanted individual cupcakes instead of one big sheet cake. I replaced the butter with light olive oil, and I replaced the all-purpose flour with whole-wheat pastry flour. The bold flavors of the cake stand up the whole grains beautifully. I hope you’ll give this recipe a try! I will definitely keep these cupcakes in my holiday recipe collection. :) Yum!

Gingerbread Cupcakes

Based on a recipe from MarthaStewart.com

½ cup light olive oil

2 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour

1 cup boiling water

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Pinch of salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

2/3 cup packed dark-brown sugar

1 cup unsulfured molasses

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

2 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, combine boiling water and baking soda; set aside. In a large bowl, sift together flour, ground spices, salt, and baking powder; set aside.

In an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, mix oil and brown sugar. Beat in molasses and grated ginger, baking-soda mixture, and flour mixture. Beat in eggs.

Pour batter into a muffin pan lined with paper liners, filling each about ½ full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack. Dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Merry Christmas!!

Gingerbread Cupcakes

A Decadent Holiday Treat ~ Gingerbread Caramels

Gingerbread CaramelsI typically don’t make treats quite as rich as these, but a small bite is all you need to feel like you’ve had a decadent treat. Share them with friends and family since they travel well, or leave them by the tree for Santa. He might like them even better than cookies. ;-)

I have never made caramels from scratch on my own before, so I followed the recipe from Martha Stewart to the letter. Candy making is really a science, and a few degrees can be the difference between a success and a dud. I learned two important lessons through this experience. The first is to make sure your thermometer is calibrated. I learned this the hard way, as my first attempt was a mess that did not set since it did not boil to the proper temperature. The second lesson I learned is that you can rescue your caramel if it doesn’t set by re-boiling it! On my second boil, I used a different thermometer, and the temperature reached the accurate level. Ta da! Success! :)

Gingerbread Caramels

From MarthaStewart.com

4 cups (2 pints) heavy cream

2 cups light corn syrup

4 cups granulated sugar

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1/2 cup unsulfured molasses

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Vegetable-oil cooking spray

Lightly coat a 12-by-17-inch rimmed baking
sheet with cooking spray. Line with parchment
paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on short
sides; spray paper.

In a large pot over high heat, bring cream,
corn syrup, sugar, butter, and molasses to a boil,
stirring until sugar has dissolved. Continue to
cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently,
until mixture reaches 248 degrees (firm-ball stage)
on a candy thermometer, about 20 minutes.

Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla, salt, and spices. Immediately pour onto prepared sheet, without scraping pot. Let stand, uncovered, 24 hours at room temperature (do not move pan).

Generously coat a large cutting board with cooking spray. Lifting it by the parchment overhang, invert caramel onto the cutting board; use a sharp knife to loosen parchment, and remove. Cut into 1-by-1 1/4-inch pieces. Wrap each in cellophane or waxed paper. Caramels can be stored up to 1 month in airtight containers.

Gingerbread Caramels

Happy Thanksgiving ~ Wild Rice and Goat Cheese Stuffing with Chorizo

Wild Rice and Goat Cheese Stuffing with ChorizoHappy Thanksgiving!

This stuffing recipe has become a Thanksgiving standard in my family. :) It adds a little spice and a little Southwestern touch to the dinner! I wrote about this recipe in Noon Café’s first year, and I thought I would repost it this year since it still holds up as a delicious addition to my Thanksgiving table. :)

Wild Rice and Goat Cheese Stuffing with ChorizoWild Rice and Goat Cheese Stuffing with Chorizo

Based on a recipe from Chef Bobby Flay

1 1/2 cups wild rice

5 cups water

Salt to taste

1/2 cup finely ground chorizo (Mexican)

1 finely diced large onion

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 finely chopped carrots

3 finely chopped celery stalks

3/4 pound cubed stale hearty white bread

6 ounces goat cheese

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

1 1/2 cups low sodium free-range chicken stock

Boil the rice, water, and a little salt to taste in a medium saucepan until the grains open and the rice is tender. Drain. (This can be done a day ahead if you desire.)  Cook the chorizo in a large saucepan over medium heat. Pour the chorizo over a bowl lined with a paper towel to drain the excess fat. In the same pan, add the onion, garlic, carrots, and celery and cook until the onion is tender but not browned. Add the rice, chorizo, bread, cheese, parsley, thyme, and stock and combine it all together. Season to taste with a little salt and pepper. Transfer to a baking dish and bake at 350, uncovered, until golden brown on top, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Wild Rice and Goat Cheese Stuffing with Chorizo

This month isn’t *all* about turkey ~ Moroccan Chicken Tagine

Chicken TagineTurkey doesn’t need to get all of the attention this month. ;-) I thought I would write about one of my favorite chicken dishes, as well. It is so flavorful and moist that it literally falls apart with a fork. This recipe works for a special occasion, but it is easy enough for a weeknight. That’s the kind of recipe I am most thankful for in this busy month of Thanksgiving. :)

Moroccan Chicken Tagine

Based on a recipe from Sur La Table’s cooking classes

Marinade:

1 medium onion, cut into ½ inch dice

1 medium garlic clove, minced

2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced

1 tablespoon cilantro, minced

Pinch of saffron threads

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

 

10 (4 ounce) chicken thighs, boneless and skinless

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup water

2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced

In a medium bowl, mix all of the ingredients for the marinade together. Arrange the chicken in a shallow baking dish, and pour the marinade over the top, mixing so all of the chicken is covered on all sides. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.

Preheat a large heavy Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add remaining oil. Remove chicken from marinade (reserving the remaining marinade) and sear. Pour the remaining marinade onto the seared chicken, and add the water. Cook until the liquid boils, reduce heat, and simmer about 40 minutes, until the chicken is tender and nearly falling apart. Add the thyme.

Serve with couscous.

Chicken TagineMake this dish and be virtually transported to a far off land in the desert. :) Ahh…Sunshine and palm trees.

Desert Palms

Happy Birthday! ~ Beef Wellington, one more time around

Beef WellingtonWe celebrated a special birthday at our house this week – Happy birthday to my hubby!

We enjoyed Beef Wellington with good friends to mark the special occasion. :) I made the dish last year for his birthday, and it was such a favorite, that I made it again this year. It may become a birthday tradition from now on!

Beef WellingtonI tried something a little fancier to finish the dish this time around. I cut thin strips of puff pastry, and placed them in a cross pattern over the top. I think it really added an extra “wow factor” to the presentation, and it was so easy to do. :)

Beef WellingtonHere is the recipe I used once again:

Beef Wellington

Based on a recipe from BBC Good Food

2 lbs beef tenderloin

Olive oil

10 oz crimini mushrooms

1 large sprig fresh thyme

Splash dry white wine

12 pieces thinly sliced prosciutto

1 pack frozen puff pastry, thawed

Flour for dusting

3 egg yolks beaten with 2 tsp water

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Drizzle olive oil in pan until it is hot, but not smoking. Season beef with salt and pepper. Sear on all sides until golden. Then place beef on a roasting rack and cook in oven for about 20 minutes. (It will not be cooked through.) Remove from the oven to cool, and then chill in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes.

2. While beef is cooling, place the cleaned mushrooms in a food processor and pulse until fine. It should be the texture of course bread crumbs.

3. Preheat a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the mushrooms with the sprig of thyme in a dry pan with no oil, stirring often, about 10 minutes. When the liquid has cooked out of the mushrooms, pour a splash of white wine into the pan. Cook until dry once more. Remove thyme and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

4. Overlap 2 pieces of cling film (otherwise known as Saran wrap for us American cooks :)) over a large chopping board. Lay the prosciutto onto the cling film, slightly overlapping one another, in a double row. Spread the cooled mushrooms over the prosciutto evenly. Remove the beef from the refrigerator, and pat dry with a paper towel. Place it in the middle of the cling film with the prosciutto and mushrooms. Use the cling film’s edges to draw the prosciutto around the fillet tightly, and then roll it into a sausage shape, twisting the ends of the cling film to tighten. Chill the fillet once again.

5. Dust your clean work surface with a little flour. Roll out one piece of puff pastry until it is large enough to wrap around the fillet. Unravel the fillet from the cling film and set it in the center of the pastry. Beat the egg yolks and water together for an egg wash. Brush the pastry edges and the top and sides of the fillet with the egg wash. Wrap the pastry around the beef as tightly as you can, overlapping slightly to cover the whole fillet. Tuck the sides in as you would a package, so the beef is completely wrapped. Use the egg wash as a “glue” to make sure it stays together. Trim with kitchen shears if need be. Glaze the entire package with the egg wash. Using the back of a knife, mark the beef Wellington with long diagonal lines taking care not to cut through the pastry. (Or, as an alternative to scoring the pastry with a knife, cut thin strips of a second rolled puff pastry sheet with a pizza cutter. Lay the strips over the top of the Wellington in a crosshatch pattern. Tuck under, so there are no loose ends on the bottom. Then coat the entire package with egg wash.) Chill for at least 30 minutes.

6. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Brush the Wellington with a little more egg wash and cook on a rack until golden and crisp, about 30 minutes, or until it is done to your liking. (Ours was still pink, but cooked through.) Allow to rest for about 20 minutes once it comes out of the oven. Serve in thick slices.

Beef Wellington

Happy Halloween! ~ Pork Tenderloin and Squash with Pumpkin Seed Vinaigrette

Halloween DinnerHappy Halloween!

To celebrate, I made a festive autumn dinner tonight of pork tenderloin and squash with a pumpkin seed vinaigrette. I based the recipe on one I found from Bon Appétit. I substituted pork tenderloin for pork chops to make the dish a little leaner. (More room for chocolate Halloween candy later, I figure! ;-) ) I also added more pumpkin seeds than called for, since they are one of the stars of the dish. (And you may have read about my feelings about pumpkin in the last post. :-) It’s one of my favorite things!)

Halloween DinnerPork Tenderloin and Squash with Pumpkin Seed Vinaigrette

Based on a recipe from Bon Appétit

3 tablespoons shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas), plus more for garnish

3 pounds winter squash (such as acorn, kabocha, delicata, or butternut), halved, seeded, cut into 1″ wedges

5 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

1 pork tenderloin, silver skin removed

1/2 small garlic clove, crushed into a paste

3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Preheat oven to 425°F. Spread out pumpkin seeds on a large rimmed baking sheet. Toast, tossing once, until just beginning to darken, about 4 minutes. Let cool. Coarsely chop; set aside.

Toss squash with 1 tablespoon oil on a large rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Roast squash, turning occasionally, until golden brown and tender, about 25 minutes.

When squash has been roasting for about 20 minutes, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large heavy oven proof skillet over medium-high heat. Season pork with salt and pepper and sear until brown on all sides. Finish in the oven until the internal temperature registers 145 degrees. Let rest before slicing.

Whisk garlic, 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro, 2 tablespoons lime juice, 3 tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds, and remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a small bowl to combine. Season vinaigrette with salt and pepper to taste.

Divide squash and pork among plates; spoon vinaigrette over. Top with cilantro leaves and pumpkin seeds.

Halloween DinnerFor dessert, I served pumpkin custard that I dressed up for the holiday. I piped a whipped cream ghost on top and added two mini chocolate chips for his eyes. PS. I wouldn’t recommend eating all the whipped cream, since I made him big and plump! But I love how he looks…He makes me smile. :)

I hope you have a safe and happy Halloween!

Whipped Cream Ghost

Pumpkin Season! ~ Pumpkin Custard

Pumpkin PieAt this time of the year, I love to cook with pumpkins. Sweet or savory, I love everything pumpkin. :) (Almost as much as this little guy! Ha!) And right up there with pumpkin, as one of my favorite all time ingredients, is coconut. So this month I tried a new twist on pumpkin pie custard – I replaced the classic evaporated milk with coconut milk, and it worked beautifully! The texture and flavor are almost identical to the classic, but it has a very mild coconut taste, which I love! I have never been able to find an all-natural version of evaporated milk, so I feel a lot better about this recipe that is natural through and through. :) You can use a natural frozen crust, but if you are like me, you just eat the custard part of the pie and leave the crust behind. Is it just me? OK, maybe I’m a little off the beaten path with this. ;-) But I would much rather have more filling than any crust! Because of that, I made these individual sized pumpkin custards. Basically they are small crust-less pumpkin pies. :)

Pumpkin Custard

Based on a recipe from Cooking Light magazine

3/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar

1 3/4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

Pinch of salt

8-ounces whole coconut milk

2 large egg whites

1 large egg

1 (15-ounce) can unsweetened pumpkin

Natural frozen pie crust (if you must!)

Whipped cream for serving

Preheat oven to 425°.

To prepare custard, combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add pumpkin, and stir with a whisk until smooth.

Pour pumpkin mixture into either a crust, an empty pie plate, or individual ramekins. Place on a baking sheet. Bake at 425° for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350° (do not remove pie from oven); bake an additional 50 minutes for a large pie, or about 25 minutes for individual ramekins. Cool completely on wire rack.

Serve with whipped cream.

Pumpkin Pie

Halloween Treats ~ Devil’s Food Cupcakes, Updated

Devil's Food CupcakesHalloween is right around the corner!

For the past few years, I have made devil’s food cupcakes to celebrate the season. This year I tried them with whole-wheat pastry flour, and it worked out beautifully! The hearty chocolate flavor stands up to the whole grain, and they are still moist and delicious. I think this will be my new and improved recipe from now on!

Devil’s Food Cupcakes

Based on a recipe from Bon Appétit magazine

1 1/4 cups sugar

1 cup buttermilk

2/3 cup light olive oil

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking pan with 14 cupcake papers. Whisk first 5 ingredients in large bowl to blend. Sift in cocoa and baking soda. Stir to combine. Add flour, and mix until just combined. (Be careful not to mix too much at this point.) Fill each cupcake about ¾ full with batter. Bake until toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Turn cakes out onto racks and cool completely.

Devil's Food CupcakesI found the little Halloween printables at CatchMyParty.com. They are super cute, and free!

Devil's Food CupcakesCatchMyParty.com also has many other choices for Halloween if you’d rather have a different design. I had a hard time choosing my favorite. :)

Devil's Food Cupcakes

Spooky Dinner ~ Chicken Bog

Chicken BogI love to read a good cozy mystery around Halloween. :) Right now, I am enjoying one that takes place in October entitled The Jasmine Moon Murder by Laura Childs. It is another in a series I started this summer, set in a South Carolina tea shop. In the back of the book are recipes that compliment the storyline, including a recipe for a dish called Chicken Bog. Doesn’t that sound spooky and Halloweeny? I learned that the dish is a classic in the Lowcountry, and it is called “bog” because it isn’t a soup, but it is very moist. I thought it would be perfect to make to celebrate the Halloween season!

Chicken BogI based my dish on the recipe provided by Laura Childs, but I made a few tweaks of my own. One of the nice things about this recipe is that you also end up with a few cups of chicken stock to freeze for a future dish. It’s always nice to have homemade chicken stock in the freezer, especially now that the season for soups is right around the corner.

Chicken BogChicken Bog

Based on a recipe from The Jasmine Moon Murder

About 6 servings

6 cups water

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

Salt to taste

3 to 4 pound whole chicken (I used one that my butcher cut up already for ease)

5 carrots, sliced

5 celery stalks, sliced

1 tablespoon whole peppercorns

1 cup brown long grain rice

½ lb smoked chicken sausage, sliced

1 tablespoon poultry seasoning

1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes

Place the water, onion, salt, chicken, 3 carrots, 3 celery stalks, and peppercorns in a large pot, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until chicken is tender, about 1 hour. Remove chicken and let cool, reserving the cooking liquid. Let the liquid cool, strain, and skim the fat from the top. Measure 3 ½ cups of the liquid, and pour into a fresh pot. (The remaining liquid can be put into the refrigerator or freezer for a future use.) Remove skin and bones from chicken, and chop into bite sized pieces. Add chicken pieces, remaining 2 carrots, remaining 2 celery stalks, rice, sausage, poultry seasoning, and parsley flakes to the stock. Make sure it is seasoned with enough salt to your liking. Add more if needed. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about 30 minutes, or until the rice is tender.

The Jasmine Moon Murder

Welcome Fall ~ Delancey ~ Apple Crisp

Apple CrispI really enjoyed a memoir that I read last month entitled Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage. A local restaurant owner and food blogger named Molly Wizenberg wrote the book. She and her husband own the pizza place, Delancey, the bar next door, Essex, and she also writes the blog, Orangette. The book is about their adventures in the restaurant business, and it includes a few recipes. I saved this particular recipe to make once it started to feel like autumn in Seattle. :)

I replaced the butter with half the amount of Earth Balance, but other than that, I followed the recipe pretty closely. It was a sweet way to kick off the fall season. :)

Apple CrispApple Crisp

Based on a recipe from the book Delancey

Makes 8 servings

For the apples:

8 medium Granny Smith apples

3 to 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

4 to 6 tablespoons granulated sugar

For the topping:

1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

¾ stick Earth Balance (85 g)

½ cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

For serving:

Vanilla ice cream or frozen custard

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Peel, core, and slice each apple into 8 to 10 wedges. In a bowl, toss the apples with 3 tablespoons lemon juice and 4 tablespoons sugar. Taste. They should be bright with lemon but lightly sweet. Adjust lemon and sugar if desired. Scrape the apples and any juices into a 2-quart soufflé dish, an 8 by 8-inch baking dish, or individual ramekins.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Add the Earth Balance, and use your fingers to rub and pinch it into the dry ingredients until there are no large lumps and the mixture is evenly crumbly. Add the walnuts and stir to combine.

Sprinkle the topping evenly over the apples. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned and the apples are bubbling. (The time does not differ if you decide to make individual servings in ramekins.) Serve warm with ice cream or frozen custard.

I hope you have a sweet and happy fall!

Delancey

One More Small Anniversary Celebration ~ Lemongrass-Crusted Salmon with a Watercress Coconut Sauce and 2000 Columbia Winery Peninsula

Spicy Salmon with Coconut Watercress SauceRob and I had our big wedding anniversary dinner celebration on Saturday of Labor Day weekend, which is the day of the week we got married. Our actual anniversary date fell in the middle of the week this year, but we couldn’t resist having a small, pared down celebration on the real date as well. We had lemongrass-crusted salmon with a watercress coconut sauce for dinner. Even though this salmon dish really was easy enough to make on a regular Tuesday, it was very delicious, and it felt like a dish fit for a special occasion. (Good thing, since I think this qualifies as a special occasion! :) )

I was inspired once again by a recipe from Roy’s Fish and Seafood: Recipes from the Pacific Rim. I followed his recipe for the salmon crust, but I completely changed the sauce to make it my own. The original recipe used a cup of beurre blanc, but I replaced it with coconut milk. (It was a good use for the leftover milk from the cheesecake!) I don’t use a lot of butter in my cooking, and the coconut added an additional tropical element. It also mellowed the bitterness of the watercress nicely.

Lemongrass-Crusted Salmon with a Watercress Coconut Sauce

Based on a recipe from Roy’s Fish and Seafood cookbook

Serves 2, with leftover sauce

Salmon and Lemongrass Crust:

2 salmon fillets, about 6 oz each

1 tablespoon minced lemongrass (white part only)

½ tablespoon minced garlic

½ tablespoon grated fresh ginger

½ tablespoon minced shallot

½ tablespoon shichimi

Watercress Coconut Sauce:

1 bunch watercress, stemmed (reserve 4 sprigs for garnish)

½ tablespoon ginger juice (fresh ginger squeezed through a garlic press)

½ cup coconut milk

Safflower, sunflower, or peanut oil for cooking

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Combine lemongrass, garlic, ginger, shallot, and shichimi in a bowl, and stir to blend. Set aside.

Bring a saucepan of water to a bowl. Place the watercress into a strainer, and when the water is bowling, pour over the watercress to wilt. Warm coconut milk. Combine watercress, milk and ginger juice in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse until it is to your desired texture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Preheat a medium non-stick saucepan over medium high heat. Evenly coat one side of the salmon fillets with the crust mixture. Drizzle the fillets with a high heat cooking oil, such as safflower, sunflower, or peanut oil. Carefully transfer the salmon to the hot pan, crust side down. Sear until the crust is a little browned. Turn, and finish in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until baked to desired doneness.

To serve, plate the salmon crust side up. Spoon the sauce on the top or side of the salmon fillets. Garnish with reserved watercress leaves.

We paired our dinner with a bottle of 2000 Columbia Winery Peninsula red wine. We got married in 2000, and we had our wedding reception at Columbia Winery, so we bought a case of this wine several years ago.  We like to open a bottle on our anniversary every year. It is aging nicely, which I’ll take as a good sign for us! ;-)

Funny note: It began to absolutely pour down rain by the end of our dinner. Luckily, we decided to eat inside with the French doors open once again, so we could enjoy the thunder and showers instead of scrambling inside for cover. ;-) This bottom photo was taken in the middle of the downpour. It was actually kind of fun! It was definitely an anniversary to remember!

2000 Peninsula Red Wine

Wedding Anniversary, Part 3 ~ Japanese-Style Coconut Cheesecake and 14 Hands Winery Reserve Red Blend

Japanese-Style Coconut CheesecakeThe grand finale of our wedding anniversary dinner celebration was a Japanese-style coconut cheesecake. It was light and fluffy, almost soufflé-like, compared to a typical American cheesecake. The coconut flavor was very subtle, but I served it with passion fruit (called lilikoi in Hawaii) for an added tropical taste.

Japanese-Style Coconut Cheesecake

This recipe was from a website called Cooking Hawaiian Style. I omitted the butter completely, and I used reduced fat cream cheese, but otherwise followed the recipe pretty closely.

Japanese-Style Coconut Cheesecake

Based on a recipe from Cooking Hawaiian Style

Yield: One 8″ cheesecake

Note: Do not substitute homemade cake flour (regular flour mixed with cornstarch) for this recipe. Use a store-bought cake flour.

9 oz. reduced fat cream cheese (one 8 oz. brick plus 1 oz. of another brick)

1/3 cup coconut milk

6 eggs, room temperature – whites and yolks separated

1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

1/2 cup plus

1/8 cup extra fine granulated sugar

1/3 cup plus 1 tsp. cake flour

3 tbsp. corn starch

1. Melt cream cheese and coconut milk in a heat-proof bowl over a pot of simmering water. Stir occasionally to break up cream cheese and combine the ingredients. Remove bowl from heat and allow to cool. Mixture will be thick. If lumpy, use a whisk to vigorously beat the mixture until smooth. Set aside.

2. When mixture has cooled, fold in the egg yolks, flour and corn starch. Fold until thoroughly incorporated.

3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

4. In a large bowl, whisk egg whites with an electric mixer until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and mix again, gradually adding the extra-fine sugar a little at a time until soft peaks form. Note: Soft peaks: mixture should be white and opaque, and meringue will fall onto itself when the beaters are lifted from the bowl.

5. Add the cheese mixture to the egg white mixture and fold together until well incorporated.

6. Pour into an 8-inch round spring-form pan that has been lightly greased and lined (sides and bottom) with parchment paper. Place a piece of aluminum foil over the top of the cake so it does not brown.

7. Bake in a water bath for 1 hour 10 minutes. When timer sounds, bake for an additional 10-15 minutes with the oven door cracked.

8. Carefully remove pan from water bath and let stand until cake pulls away from the sides of the pan. Remove spring-form ring and serve.

Notes:

•Substitutions are not recommended for this recipe. Be sure to use whole milk, cake flour and extra-fine sugar. If you can’t find extra-fine sugar, grind regular sugar finer in a food processor.

•Sprinkle matcha green tea on finished cake, or top with fresh fruit for serving.

14 Hands Reserve WineWe also paired our meal with a bottle of 14 Hands Winery Reserve Red Blend. We discovered 14 Hands around the 14th anniversary of our first date, so it seemed fitting to close the loop by having a bottle to celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary!

14 Hands Reserve Wine

Wedding Anniversary, Part 2 ~ Macadamia Nut and Panko Crusted Ono with Happy Rice

Macadamia and Panko Crusted OnoThe main course of our anniversary dinner was another recipe inspired by Roy’s Fish and Seafood: Recipes from the Pacific Rim. We had a macadamia nut and panko crusted ono fish, otherwise known as wahoo. (Wahoo! Sorry, couldn’t resist. ;-) ) It’s a Hawaiian fish with a dense but flaky texture, and a mild flavor. We also had a side dish of rice to accompany the fish. The cookbook calls this recipe Happy Rice. :) So all in all, I’d say this is one of the happiest dishes I have ever made. ;-) Wahoo and Happy Rice!

We are lucky enough to have a Hawaiian fishmonger around Seattle called Tim’s Seafood in Kirkland. In addition to a wide selection of Northwest fish, he also gets fresh Hawaiian seafood. I had my choice of some beautiful fish for our dinner! He even makes his own poke.

I used coconut oil on the fish, and it gave it a subtle coconut flavor that was a nice compliment to the macadamia nuts. The original recipe used quite a bit of butter, but the coconut oil was a really nice alternative. This crust would work well with any firm white fish I think. The original recipe was for opakapaka, which I couldn’t find at the fish store that day, so I think any mild fish with a fairly firm texture would be lovely.

Macadamia Nut and Panko Crusted Ono with Happy Rice

Based on a recipe from Roy’s Fish and Seafood

Serves 2, with leftover rice for later

Happy Rice:

1 cup Japanese short-grain rice

1 cup water

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1 tablespoon furikake, plus more for top

Macadamia and Panko Crusted Ono:

4 tablespoons macadamia nut halves

4 tablespoons coconut oil

½ cup panko breadcrumbs

Salt and pepper to taste

2 6 oz fillets of ono

Preheat oven to 350 F.

To prepare rice:

Put the rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water, until the water runs clear. Drain the rice and transfer to a bowl. Cover with fresh cold water, and let soak for 1 hour.

To cook the rice on the stovetop, place the drained rice in a saucepan and add 1 cup fresh water. Bring to boil, decrease heat, cover, and cook until the rice is soft and sticky and the water has just evaporated, about 15 minutes.

Combine the rice with ginger and furikake. Use small cookie cutters to form rice into compact shapes. Alternatively, dip your fingers in a bowl of slightly salted water to prevent the rice from sticking and mold 1 to 2 tablespoons of rice into triangles, cubes, or balls. Set aside and keep warm. Sprinkle the tops with more furikake.

To prepare fish:

In a food processor, pulse the nuts until they are cut into course pieces. Add the panko and oil, and pulse it all together until it is a thick paste, but still has some texture.

Coat one side of the ono with the paste. Preheat an oven-safe sauté pan over medium high heat, and when hot, place the ono in the pan, paste side down. Cook until golden, and then flip. Finish the fish in the oven. Cook until flaky, about 7 to 10 minutes.

Taste and say “Wahoo!!” OK, I have that out of my system now. ;-)

Stay tuned for our Hawaiian dessert in the next entry!

Anniversary Dinner

Wedding Anniversary, Part 1 ~ Martini of Spicy Tuna Poke and Dragon Fruit Lychee Sparkling Wine Cocktails

Ahi Poke Martini

We celebrated our wedding anniversary this year with a special Hawaiian-style dinner. We love to explore foods from all around the world. For Valentine’s Day (also our engagement anniversary), we made a sushi dinner, so we decided to go with a twist on that theme for our wedding anniversary by making a few Japanese-influenced dishes from Hawaii. It was a summery meal from the land of endless summers!

The weather was not very Hawaiian-like for our celebration, though. Ha! (But it was very Seattle-like!) It was a little drizzly, and cooler than it usually is around our anniversary. We decided to use that opportunity to set the dinner table in a new place…We kicked open the French doors in the guest room, and ate inside overlooking a sea of candles and tiki torches. :) Luckily it wasn’t too rainy, so the candles stayed lit. It was really beautiful!

I also found some sweet little printable paper orchids on Elli.com. They were free, very easy to assemble, and I think they added a fun tropical touch to our table.

Ahi Poke Martini

I based two of our dishes on recipes from a cookbook called Roy’s Fish and Seafood: Recipes from the Pacific Rim. Chef Roy Yamaguchi has several restaurants in Hawaii and the mainland, and this book is a nice collection of a few of his Hawaiian seafood recipes. It was hard to choose what I wanted to make! I may continue to explore the recipes throughout our anniversary month. :)

We started our meal with a classic ahi poke, one of our favorite Hawaiian dishes. :) I loved the cookbook’s idea to serve it in layers in a martini glass, and then garnish with micro-greens, fish eggs, and thin strips of nori seaweed. I dressed the ahi much more lightly than the recipe called for. I used salmon roe instead of tobiko, because it’s local and also natural. I also doubled the avocado, since we love avocado. :)

Martini of Spicy Tuna Poke

Based on a recipe from Roy’s Fish and Seafood cookbook

Serves 2 as an appetizer

6 oz center-cut ahi tuna, cut into ½ inch dice

¼ cup mayonnaise

2 teaspoons sriracha

½ teaspoon fish sauce

A few micro-greens

¼ sheet nori, cut with scissors into thin strips

1 tablespoon salmon roe

1 avocado, cut into ½ inch dice

Juice of ½ lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine mayonnaise, sriracha, and fish sauce. Salt and pepper to taste. Add as much or as little of the mixture to the ahi as you like. Stir to combine, and set aside.

Combine the avocado with the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Chill 2 martini glasses. Layer a few pieces of avocado in the bottom of the glass, then add a layer of ahi, another of avocado, and finish with a layer of ahi. Top with micro-greens, roe, and nori strips.

We also made fun dragon fruit and lychee sparkling wine cocktails to go with our first course. The dragon fruit added pretty little seeds and a very mild flavor, and the lychee gave the cocktail a nice sweetness. In a blender, I added a couple of slices of dragon fruit with about a ½ cup of lychee juice. Then I strained the mix, added a little to each champagne glass, and topped the juice with sparkling wine.

Stay tuned for the main course in my next entry!

Ahi Poke Martini

August 1st Anniversary ~ Peaches with Ricotta Honey Cream and Aged Balsamic Vinegar

I like to celebrate the little anniversaries that mark special events in our lives. On this date 16 years ago, Rob and I moved into our current house. It also marks my 19th anniversary of becoming a Seattleite!

To celebrate, we had a steamed Dungeness crab dinner, which is our favorite Northwest dish. Whenever we have crab, it feels like a special occasion! To cap off dinner, I made this summery dessert. Peaches are ripe in the markets now, so I wanted to highlight their sweet deliciousness with a ricotta honey cream and a little aged balsamic vinegar. You could grill the peaches, but we preferred them natural, just as they come. I did use heavy cream, but I cut it in half with a low fat ricotta. Only a little dollop is needed, so I figured a little cream would be fine. It was a celebration, after all! ;-)

Peaches with Ricotta Honey Cream and Aged Balsamic Vinegar

Based on a recipe from Sur La Table cooking classes

2 ripe peaches

½ cup heavy cream

½ cup low fat ricotta

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

2 teaspoons honey

Aged balsamic vinegar, for drizzling

Mint, optional

In the bowl of a food processor, add the cream and ricotta. Process until thick, about a minute. Add the zest, vanilla, and honey, and pulse until combined.

To serve, cut the peaches in half, and place a dollop of the ricotta cream mixture in the middle of each half. Serve with balsamic vinegar drizzled on the top or on the side, and a sprig of mint if you desire.

It’s Seafair Weekend ~ Beach Party Wine Label

It’s Seafair weekend in Seattle! Our neighborhood is right in the middle of the party, which is very fun. :) I watched the air show featuring the Blue Angels from our little swimming beach on Lake Washington. It was pretty awesome to be in the water, on a sparkling summer day, with Mount Rainier out in all its glory. Every once in a while I would need to cover my ears when the jets passed right overhead. ;-)

To celebrate this special weekend, I put together this festive little beach party wine label. The printable is part of a set of free beach party printables from CatchMyParty.com. They are super cute, and did I mention, free? :-) They would be perfect to make any beach party a little more special.

Happy Seafair!

(There is a Blue Angel jet flying in the bottom left corner of the top photo! I was able to catch one flying by with my camera. :))

Bastille Day Celebration ~ Madeleines

July not only has a big celebration for Canada on the 1st and the USA on the 4th, but France’s Bastille Day falls on the 14th. For a belated celebration, I made French madeleines. They are so elegant, but also very easy to make!

I tried a little experiment with this dish, since it is traditionally made with butter (as most French dishes are…Ha!) I made half the recipe the traditional way, with butter. I figured they are tiny little cakes; so a little butter in moderation is fine. I made the other half of the recipe with Earth Balance. I baked them in the same oven for the same amount of time, and observed the difference. I have to say, they were *both* quite delicious. There was not a bad madeleine in the bunch. ;-) The taste is slightly different, but both lovely. The butter version looked more beautifully golden brown, and spread out in the pan a little more. The Earth Balance cakes were a tad lighter in color, less golden. They also were slightly smaller cakes, since they didn’t spread out in the pan quite as much. The photo at the bottom displays the difference…The ones on the left are made with Earth Balance, and the ones on the right are made with butter. Your choice!

I used a tried-and-true recipe from Bon Appétit magazine.

Madeleines

Based on a recipe from Bon Appétit magazine

2 large eggs

2/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel

Pinch of salt

1 cup all purpose flour

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly (or Earth Balance buttery sticks)

Powdered sugar, optional, for serving

Preheat oven to 375°F. Generously butter and flour pan for large madeleines (about 3 x 1 1/4 inches).* Using electric mixer, beat eggs and 2/3 cup sugar in large bowl just to blend. Beat in vanilla, lemon peel and salt. Add flour; beat just until blended. Gradually add cooled melted butter in steady stream, beating just until blended.

Spoon 1 tablespoon batter into each indentation in pan. Bake until puffed and brown, about 16 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Gently remove from pan. Repeat process, buttering and flouring pan before each batch. (Can be made 1 day ahead.)

Dust cookies with powdered sugar if desired.

*A metal mold with scallop-shaped indentations, sold at cookware stores.

South Carolina Kind of Summer ~ Lowcountry Boil

I got hooked on a mystery that was set in South Carolina, and became fascinated with that part of the country. This summer, I continue to read more stories from that region. It’s an interesting and beautiful place that I have not had the pleasure of visiting in person (yet, it’s on my list now!) Reading feels like a kind of virtual vacation, though. :) I am getting to know the place through the stories. I just started a beach read that is set on Sullivan’s Island in the Lowcountry called The Summer Girls. To celebrate that part of the state, I made a Lowcountry Boil, also known as Frogmore Stew. It is a simple one-pot seafood boil, but it feels festive and summery! It would be perfect for a summer party.

I used Trader Joe’s smoked andouille chicken sausage rather than a full-fledged pork sausage. I also used shelled shrimp for ease, but unshelled shrimp would be more authentic. Your choice. :)

Lowcountry Boil AKA Frogmore Stew

Based on a recipe from Southern Living magazine

5 quarts water

1/4 cup Old Bay seasoning

4 pounds small red potatoes

2 pounds chicken kielbasa, chicken andouille, or other hot smoked link chicken sausage, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

6 ears fresh corn, halved

4 pounds unpeeled, large fresh shrimp (or peeled and deveined shrimp for easier eating)

Old Bay seasoning, for serving

Cocktail sauce, for serving

Bring 5 quarts water and 1/4 cup Old Bay seasoning to a rolling boil in a large covered stockpot.

Add potatoes; return to a boil, and cook, uncovered, 10 minutes.

Add sausage and corn, and return to a boil. Cook 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Add shrimp to stockpot; cook 3 to 4 minutes or until shrimp turn pink. Drain. Serve with Old Bay seasoning and cocktail sauce.

Sweet Little Oven Printable

This is a little off the beaten path, but I discovered this super cute little oven printable, and I wanted to share it! I think it would make a sweet little gift box for candies or a cupcake. Or you can just fold it up to put on your desk, as inspiration while you ponder what delicious recipe you would like to cook next!

This printout comes from EatBoutique.com. The creator, Lucy Engelman, was kind enough to offer it as a freebie. (If you plan to print it, I would recommend going to EatBoutique.com rather than printing it from the photo above.)

I hope you enjoy! :)

Happy Fourth of July! ~ Bison Hot Dogs on Homemade Buns; Red, White, and Blue Potato Salad; Blueberry and Raspberry Parfait with Vanilla Yogurt and Whipped Cream

Click photos to expand. :-)

Bison hot dogs on homemade hot dog buns

Red, white and blue potato salad

Sparkling wine with blueberries and raspberries floating in the bubbles…

A red and blue berry parfait (with an equal combination of non-fat Greek vanilla yogurt and whipped cream for a layer of white)…

Fun patriotic decorations

It’s our Fourth of July celebration!

I hope you all have a fun, safe, and happy Independence Day! I’m off to Seattle’s festival on Lake Union! :)

Enjoy it all!

 

Red, White, and Blue Potato Salad

From Cooking Light magazine

2 cups fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise (about 10 ounces)

2 cups small red potatoes, quartered (about 10 ounces)

2 cups small blue potatoes, halved lengthwise (about 10 ounces)

1/4 cup finely chopped red onion

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

3 hard-cooked large eggs, finely chopped

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 garlic clove, minced

Place fingerling and red potatoes in a saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 15 minutes or until tender. Drain; cool slightly. Place potatoes in a large bowl.

Place blue potatoes in a saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 10 minutes or until tender. Drain; cool slightly. Add blue potatoes, onion, parsley, dill, chives, and eggs to bowl; toss gently.

Combine vinegar and remaining ingredients. Pour over potato mixture; toss gently to combine. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.

Note: Blue potatoes are starchier than the others and tend to bleed, so cook them separately. If you need to, prepare this dish a day ahead, but add the blue potatoes just before serving. If your potatoes are larger than the ones we call for, cut them to a uniform size.