Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Asparagus Leek Quiche

Mr. T went camping...too cold for me but he keeps telling me that he is tough.  After listening to his description of the three days, I know that I made the right decision:  stay home, work on genealogy and cook!

A quiche is not on Mr. T's told ten when it comes to dinner but I do enjoy a nice slice of quiche for dinner or breakfast...or whenever.  So, dinner for me, quiche!  This quiche did not disappoint.  It was a great combination...asparagus, leeks, bacon and Swiss cheese...plus, it was easy as pie, using a frozen deep-dish pie shell.

Asparagus Leek Quiche

Serves 6 to 8

1 (9-inch) frozen deep-dish pie shell, unbaked
6 slices bacon, chopped
1 large leek, sliced
1 pound asparagus, rough ends removed
2 cups grated aged Swiss cheese
3 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups half and half
Salt and white pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425° F.

Fill a large pot with water, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat.

Fill the pie shell with pie weights or dried beans  (I line the pie shell with parchment so the weights or beans are easy to remove) and bake about 7 minutes.  Remove the weights and bake another 4 to 5 minutes until light brown.  Remove the pie shell from the oven and set aside.  Reduce the oven temperature to 325° F.

In a large skillet cook the bacon until crisp.  Remove the bacon from the pan and set aside.  Cook the leek in the pan drippings until tender.

Cook the asparagus in simmering water until  tender crisp.  Immediately plunge into a bowl of ice water to hold the color and stop the cooking.  Drain and cut into one-inch  pieces.

Place half of the bacon in the pie crust.  Top with the leeks, asparagus, and cheese.  Sprinkle the remaining bacon on top.

In a small bowl mix the eggs, half and half, salt, and pepper and pour over the pie.  Bake 40 to 45 minutes until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool a few minutes before serving.


Mr. T did have to admit to having a slice or two when he got home from his trip...and, he did agree, the quiche was tasty!!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Rhubarb Muffins with Almond Streusel Topping

Springtime just means "rhubarb" to me.  It brings back memories of visiting my grandparents during my childhood. Grandma made the absolute best rhubarb pie!  My mom makes a mean rhubarb pie, also, but there are stories attached to Grandma's that make me smile.  I was the official "pie watcher".  I was given the job of sitting on the porch swing and watching the pies, that were sitting on the railing, cool.  I thought it was a very important job....it was only recently,  that I figured out that I must have done something to "get that job".  That must have been when my love affair with rhubarb began!

My love of rhubarb has never weakened...in fact, today, I had wonderful Challah French Toast with a fresh fruit compote...and what was the fruit?  Rhubarb!!  I was a happy girl.

Naturally, when I saw the recipe for Rhubarb Muffins with Almond Streusel Topping posted by Val at More Than Burnt Toast, I knew I would be making them.  That post was followed by one from Monique at La Table De Nana who made the muffins with strawberries and suggested that the chef should add just a bit of almond extract to the batter....and, I did.

We enjoyed the muffins.  They were the perfect sweetness...subtly sweet and just right to enjoy with a cup of tea.

Rhubarb Muffins with Almond Streusel Topping
slightly adapted from Saveur and More Than Burnt Toast


½ cup flour
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
½ teaspoon lemon zest
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon almond extract
4 tablespoon unsalted butter, grated
½ cup chopped almonds


Unsalted butter, for greasing
3 cups flour, plus more for pan
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sour cream
1 cup sugar
½ cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup canola oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped and reserved
½ teaspoon almond extract
12 oz. rhubarb (about 2 medium stalks), cut into quarter inch pieces

Make the streusel: Whisk together flour, both sugars, zest, salt, and extract in a small bowl. Grate butter into mixture using large box grater. With your fingers, rub into almond mixture until smooth and large clumps form. Stir in almonds and transfer to refrigerator; chill until ready to use.

Make the muffins: Heat oven to 350°. Grease and flour muffin pans or use muffin liners; set aside. Whisk together 2 ¾ cups flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl; set aside. In another bowl, whisk together sour cream, both sugars, oil, eggs, almond extract and vanilla seeds; pour mixture over dry ingredients and whisk until just combined.

In a small bowl, toss remaining flour with rhubarb until evenly coated, and then stir into batter. Working in batches, place  cup batter in muffin cups, break streusel up into medium-sized clumps, and sprinkle evenly over muffins. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle of each muffin comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.


Mmmmm...warm muffins for breakfast!

I am sharing at On the Menu Monday hosted by Yvonne at Stone Gable.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Benedictine - It isn't just a French Liqueur!

When I was first asked to bring Benedictine to a gathering, my mind went to Benedictine and Brandy...okay, I can do that!  Then, I received the recipe and did some reading about this delightful sandwich spread or dip and realized I wasn't in charge of a drink.   Not being from the South, I had no idea that this was a sandwich spread that is popular in Louisville and often served on toast with bacon or tomato...sounds good!  Benedict's was the home of Benedictine and made famous by caterer and cookbook writer, Jennie Carter Benedict at the end of the nineteenth century.  Louisvillians have created their own versions over the years and it is a mainstay at a Kentucky Derby get-together.

It's quite simple and can be used as a sandwich spread or as a dip, it just has to be green!  For the evening, it was a dip served with an array of fresh vegetables.


Yield:  1 1/2 cups

1 large cucumber
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 Tbsp grated onion (I used a sweet onion.)
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp mayonnaise
2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill (optional)
dash of green food coloring

Pare, grate and drain cucumber in a fine mesh sieve.  Squeeze the juice from the cucumber periodically as it drains.  Combine cucumber with the remaining ingredients in a food processor.

Serve as a sandwich made with white bread, crusts removed and cut into triangles.  Or, thin with sour cream to make a dip and serve with vegetables.  (I felt the consistency was fine and did not add any sour cream.  I used a very large English cucumber which may have had an effect on the dip's consistency.)


I am sharing today at On the Menu Monday hosted by Yvonne at Stone Gable, Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's County Cottage, and Foodie Friday hosted by Michael  at Rattlebridge Farm.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Peanut Butter Blossoms

When I bake I always share with the neighbors.  It is always nice to share and since there are just the two of us, it is a very good thing to do.  This time, however, they were gone before I could put some on a plate to walk next door.  There are four reasons why they disappeared:  1) Mr. T. has a well developed sweet tooth, 2) Mr. T. loves peanut butter cookies, 3) Mr. T. especially loves peanut butter and chocolate, and 4) I couldn't help myself and also ate a few or more than a few!

The recipe for Peanut Butter Blossoms has been around for a very long time so when I saw it on Colleen's blog, Secrets from the Cookie Princess I smiled.  It is Secret Recipe Club reveal day and, yes, I was assigned Collen's blog, Secrets from the Cookie Princess.

I was going to make her Roasted Garlic Flatbread and Red Pepper, Walnut, Tahini Dip but my energy level has been down a bit so I made the cookies as a back-up plan.  It is a good thing that I did....as I am delaying the flatbread and dip and will make it next week!

As I compared my recipe to Colleen's, I noticed two things.  1) Her recipe made 7 1/2 dozen cookies!  That would be enough for our entire neighborhood so I had to reduce it.  And, 2) the recipe used all butter.  I was hesitant to use all butter and thought that I should use half butter and half shortening.  I made that decision because butter melts at a lower temperature than shortening, so it will melt faster.  The faster the melting, the more quickly the cookie will spread in the oven.  Since I didn't want a flat and crispy cookie but one that maintained its shape and raised, using half butter and half shortening was the best option for me.

Who doesn't want to press a Hershey's Kiss into a warm cookie and see the sides of the cookie raise around the chocolate kiss and then watch as the chocolate starts to melt?  Doesn't your mouth just water thinking about it?  Aren't these the cutest little morsels?

My very old recipe yield's half of Colleen's and is almost a match ingredient to ingredient (except for the adjustments previously mentioned) so that is what I have transcribed.

Peanut Butter Blossoms

Yield:  3 dozen

1 3/4 cup flour
1 tsp soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 egg
2 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
36 Hershey's Kisses, unwrapped

Cream together sugars, shortening, butter and peanut butter.  Add other ingredients, except kisses.  Mix until thick  dough forms.  Shape dough into 1-inch balls using a rounded scoop or or teaspoons.  Roll balls in sugar; place on ungreased cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat sheet.  Bake at 375° F. for 8-10 minutes.  Remove the cookies from the oven and immediately top each cookie with a kiss, pressing down to secure the kiss.  Cool the cookies on a cooling rack.  Store the cookies flat after thoroughly cooled.


According to Colleen, she is obsessed with baking and blogging.  After perusing her blog for a few days, I can attest to the fact that she loves to bake!  There were so many dessert recipes on her blog that I was overwhelmed...thus the few days it took to zero in on that one special recipe to share.   Stop by and say hello if you get a chance.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting

I am back to tackle another  Dessert Challenge!  I noticed that last month Mr. T. had no difficulty eating up all of the Sweet Almond Pastry so I am certain he will gobble up these moist and tasty cupcakes!  

The Dessert Challenge is hosted by Lady Behind the Curtain.  It is a personal challenge and there is an option of playing along or taking a break...I like the flexibility.  I like baking something I have never tried.  I like eating all of it...oops, that is still a no-no, I will not eat all of it...somebody else will.  (If I keep saying it maybe it will happen!)

This month's challenge was to make something that used caramel and pretzels.  With a smile on my face I went on a merry search...I mean what could be better than a pot of caramel  alongside a pretzel unless it is the pot of caramel without the pretzel! 

I searched and searched not quite certain what I wanted to do...I had it down to cupcakes or a marvelous tart recipe that my daughter found.  If I hadn't just finished battling jet lag and  a cold, I would have made the tart but the energy level has been a bit low...so, Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting won.

I must admit to being a bit nervous about the cake.  The recipe suggested adding an instant pudding mix with I know makes the cake super moist...but the amount of liquid seemed a bit out of proportion from what I have done in the past. I usually have more liquid...but, I rolled with it.  I do have to admit to adding some chocolate chips and a splash of  Kahlua...just because.

Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes 

with Salted Caramel Frosting

Yield:  20-22 cupcakes

1 box Devil's Food Cake Mix
1 small box Chocolate Fudge Instant Pudding Mix
4 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk (I didn't have any milk so I used half and half.)
1 cup sour cream
1 cup chocolate chips (dusted with flour)

Salted Caramel Frosting
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp salt
2-3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
20 pretzel twists, whole or crushed

Make the frosting first:  Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat.  Once melte, add brown sugar and heavy cream.  Stir constantly over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.  Add salt.  Allow to bubble for exactly 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Beat in powdered sugar, one cup at a time, until desired consistency is reached.

Make the cupcakes:  Preheat over to 350 degrees F.  Line two 12-cupcake pans with liners.  Set aside.  

Using a mixer beat together the cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, oil, milk, sour cream on medium.speed.  Beat until well combined about 2 minutes.

Stir in the chocolate chips.

Scoop the batter evenly into cupcake liners.  I used 1/4-1/3 cup per liner.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove the cupcakes from the tin to a rack to cool.

Once cool, frost the cupcakes with the salted caramel frosting and garnish with a pretzel twist or crushed pretzels.


I must tell you about my frosting challenge.  While the frosting was cooling, it was also setting up...oh dear...what to do.  I moved faster!   As I beat in the powdered sugar it got very thick.  A little half and half saved the day...and I was able to get it to a consistency that would work. I have made caramel with another recipe that I would try next time. 

All and all, very nice cupcakes.  Mr. T. enjoyed every bite and was going back for more...

I am also sharing at Foodie Friday hosted by Michael at Rattlebridge Farm.   

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Penne alla Vodka

I am back from vacation and anxious to get into the kitchen.  One can get really tired of the buffet table...even if it was only at breakfast and maybe a lunch or two.   The food in both Turkey and Greece was different but it was delicious and I learned to eat a few new things.  It was a great trip to Turkey and Greece and yes, I bought a cookbook or two along the way....

We got home late last night.  Sadly, I managed to bring a really bad cold home with me.  Between jet lag, feeling generally rotten and unpacking, I knew that there was not going to be a trip to the grocery store.  That decision was going to present a challenge at dinner....As I waded through the many emails waiting for me, I saw a recipe for Penne alla Vodka from Saveur that looked really simple and best of all, I knew that I had everything!

I cut the recipe in half since it is just the two of us, so that is what the recipe below reflects.  It made enough for dinner with some leftover for lunch tomorrow.

Penne alla Vodka
Saveur, Sharing the Best of the Web

Serves 2-3

Kosher salt, to taste
1/2 lb penne
!/8 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp crushed red chile flakes
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes (I used fire-roasted tomatoes.)
1/8 cup vodka
3/8 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup parmesan
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Finely chopped parsley, to garnish

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add penne and cook, stirring, until al dente, about 11 minutes.

Heat oil in a 6-quart saucepan over medium heat add chile flakes and garlic, and cook, stirring and lightly browned, about 3 minutes.  Add tomatoes and vodka flakes and cook, stirring until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes.  Stir in cream and cheese, season with salt and pepper, and stir until smooth. Drain pasta, and transfer to pan with sauce; toss pasta with sauce until evenly coated.  Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle with parsley.


I am sharing today with Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage and Foodie Friday hosted by Michael at Rattlebridge Farm.