Monday, February 27, 2017

Maple-Roasted Carrot Salad

When I first saw it, there was something about this recipe that called my name.  I am not certain if it is because I am a lover of carrots or that they were maple-roasted and in a salad.  Or maybe it was because, when I was little, my uncle told me if I ate my carrots my eyes would turn blue.  I have eaten an awful lot of carrots since then and I am still waiting for the color of my eyes to change... Whatever the attraction, this Maple-Roasted Carrot Salad worked.  I served it at a dinner with friends and everybody gave it a thumbs up.

I first saw the recipe on the Barefoot Contessa blog.  It came from Ina's new cookbook, Cooking for Jeffery:  A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.  And yes, I had to add another cookbook to my collection! In the last month, I have made three or four of the recipes and found each one to be a keeper.  This cookbook would be a super addition to any cookbook library.

Maple-Roasted Carrot Salad

Yield:  4 luncheon servings, 6 dinner servings

2 pounds carrots, with leafy tops 
Good extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt 
Fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup pure Maple syrup
2/3 cup dried cranberries
2 cups fresh squeezed orange juice, about 2 large oranges
3 Tablespoons sherry wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 ounces baby arugula
6 ounces Montrachet goat cheese, diced 
2 cups, roasted and salted Marcona almonds 

Preheat oven 425° F.

Prepare the carrots by trimming and scrubbing.  Large carrots, those over 1 inch in diameter, should be cut in half lengthwise.  On the diagonal, cut carrots into 2-inch chunks.  Place the carrots into a large bowl.  Toss the carrots to coat with 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon Kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper.   Spread the carrots between two baking sheets (Using two sheets avoids crowding and enables the carrots to roast as opposed to steam.)  Roast the carrots for 20 minutes toss/stir the carrots once during the roasting.  When the carrots are tender, transfer them all to one baking sheet.  Pour the maple syrup over the carrots and toss to coat.  Continue roasting until the edges of the carrots caramelize, about another 10 to 15 minutes.  Keep an eye on them so they do not burn.  Remove from the oven, toss and set the carrots aside.

In a small saucepan, combine the cranberries and orange juice.  Bring the mixture to a simmer and set aside for 10 minutes.

To make the vinaigrette, combine the sherry wine vinegar, garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt. Add 3 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and whisk to mix.

In a large salad bowl, place the arugula, carrots, the cranberries and liquid, goat cheese, almonds, and the vinaigrette.  Toss together.  Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.

Serve the salad at room temperature.


Everything about this salad works!
I am sharing at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Spaghetti and Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

I used to think that I had a great meatball recipe, but I don't think that any longer.  After making these meatballs, I can honestly say that I won't be making any others.  These were so easy and flavorful. they held their form in the sauce and that also met the "kid" test.  My granddaughter has asked her mom to make spaghetti and meatballs like grandma's.  So now, when she and I are together we make spaghetti and meatballs.  She isn't too keen on forming the meatballs, though.  She likes the dump ingredients and stir part!  

This is another New York Times recipe.  I tell you, their collection of recipes rocks.  

Spaghetti and Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Yield:  4 Servings

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
12 ounces ground beef
6 ounces Parmesan, about 1 1/2 cups
1/2 cup parsley leaves, chopped, reserve 2 Tablespoons for garnish
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 egg
Fresh ground black pepper
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
6 cups canned crushed tomatoes (a little less than two 28-oz cans)
3 bay leaves
1 tsp basil

1 pound spaghetti

Brings a stockpot of water to a boil and salt it.  Put the olive oil in a large skillet over medium low heat.

Put the ground beef in a medium bowl.  Grate the cheese, put 1 cup over the meat.  Reserve the rest of the cheese, about 1/2 cup.  Chop 1/2 cup of parsley and add all but 2 Tablespoons to the meat mixture.  Save the rest of the parsley for another use.  Add the bread crumbs and the egg to the mixture.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Gently mix until everything is just combined.

Raise the meat to medium high.  Using a scoop or 2 teaspoons, drop rounds of the meatball mixture into the skillet without touching one another.  Adjust the heat so the meatballs sizzle but do not burn. Cook the meatballs undisturbed until they are lightly browned on the bottom, 5-6 minutes. Turn and continue browning.

While the meatballs are browning, trim, peel and chop the onion.  Scatter the diced onion around the meatballs.  Peel and mince or crush the garlic.  Put it on top of the onions.

When the meatballs are browned on the bottom and the aromatics begin to soften, add the tomatoes, basil, and bay leaves to the skillet.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Adjust the heat to medium low so that the mixture bubbles gently but steadily.  Cover the skillet and cook until the meat cooks through, about 8 minutes.  Remove the lid and let the sauce bubble vigorously to thicken, about another 5 to 10 minutes.  Stir carefully, but only as needed.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and stir.  After five minutes check the pasta.  When it is tender, not mushy, drain it.  Reserve some of the cooking water.  Return the pasta to the pot.

Move the meatballs to one side of the skillet and stir the sauce.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Discard the bay leaves and spoon about half the sauce into the pasta pot.  Toss the pasta over low heat.  Add a splash of cooking water to the pasta to make it saucier, if you like.

To serve, divide the pasta among 4 plates or bowls; top with meatballs and additional sauce.  Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan and parsley over the top.


This went on the rotation after the first time I made it.  I love, love the meatballs!!

I am sharing at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Rustic Italian Sausage and Tortellini Soup - #soupswappers

Welcome!  I am hosting the Saturday Soup Swappers and this month, we have gone International. We are preparing and posting soups that have an International flare!  Going International is actually pretty easy as far as soup goes.   There are so many soups in our world that all one has to do is decide what ingredients sound good and go from there.  As I think about it, most of the soups that I prepare have an International flavor to them.

The Saturday Soup Swappers is a group of bloggers brought together by Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm.  The group gets together on the third Saturday of the month to share soups or stews based on a theme selected by one of the members.  If you are interested in joining in on the fun, follow the link above for more information.  All are welcome!

So, let's go International!  For me, selecting the ingredients was pretty easy.  It was to be sausage and pasta.  I selected sausage, as Miss Sabine's new favorite food is sausage and since pasta is another hit in her book, the ingredients were determined. (Sabine is my four year old granddaughter.)  After that, selecting the country was a no-brainer...On to Italy!

I settled on a Rustic Sausage and Tortellini Soup!  It is not a brothy soup.  It is a hearty soup and quite filling.  The broth, though, is so packed with flavor....(Hint:  Do not omit the Parmesan rind or small hunk of Parmesan cheese.) This is a keeper recipe and worthy of going on the rotation!

Rustic Italian Sausage and Tortellini Soup
adapted from the Kitchn

Yield:  2-4 servings

Neutral flavor cooking oil, such as Canola
1 pound bulk mild Italian sausage
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced into coins
1/2 cup dry red wine (Chicken stock may be substituted.)
1 28-ounce can whole, peeled tomatoes, San Marzano if available
2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon brown sugar
Parmesan rind or a small hunk of Parmesan cheese
1 package fresh or frozen tortellini, 9 or 12 ounces (I used cheese filled.)
2 cups roughly chopped fresh spinach
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
Red pepper flakes

Shaved Parmesan and extra virgin olive oil, for serving

Drizzle 2 tablespoons of oil into a large Dutch oven.  Heat over medium-high until shimmery.  Add the Italian sausage but do not break it up.  Sear each side until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes on each side.  Once both sides are golden brown, break the sausage into smaller bite size pieces.  Cook allowing a nice layer of caramelization to form on the bottom of the pan.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer the sausage from the pan to a bowl.  Set aside.  Leave the fat in the pan.

Reduce the heat to medium.  Add the chopped onions and carrot coins, then sprinkle with salt.  Cook the onions and carrots until they have softened, about 8-9 minutes.  Add the minced garlic and cook until the aroma is releases, about 15 seconds.  Add the red wine and bring to a boil allowing the wine to cook out.  While the mixture boils, stir to release the brown bits on the bottom of the pan.

Add the canned tomatoes and juices to the pot.  Cut the tomatoes into bite-sized pieces using your kitchen shears.  Add the chicken stock, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, parmesan rind, and cooked sausage.  Season with salt, fresh ground pepper and a pinch or two of red pepper flakes.  Bring the mixture to a boil.  Add the tortellini.  Reduce the heat and simmer until the tortellini is heated through, about 10-15 minutes.

Add the spinach to the pot and stir until wilted.  Taste and adjust the seasonings.  Remove the Parmesan rind before serving.  Ladle the soup into bowls.  Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and a few shavings of Parmesan.

Note:  Serve with some crusty garlic bread.
When reheating the leftover soup, add some additional chicken stock.


I enjoyed this month's theme which led to exploring so many different ideas.  It was really challenging for me to focus and settle in on a particular cuisine!  I forgot something...did Miss Sabine like the soup?  Well, she opted to have pizza.  So, I guess that answers the question.  Next time...maybe.

Follow the Linkz below to visit all of the bloggers who have prepared great soups with an International flare!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Ghost Chili Honey Cake - #ImprovCooking

While this sounds like a crazy combination, chocolate and chiles actually work well together.  In fact, this duo has been around since about the 16th century and may have originated in Mexico when convent nuns were trying to prepare a meal for their guest, the archbishop.  They started mixing a little of this and that and created a mix or "mole" which is well known in Mexican cuisine. The chocolate and chili duo is the theme for this month's Improv Cooking Challenge.  It is fun to be challenged to find or create a recipe following a designated theme.

I was originally going to make a chicken mole.  I have never made a mole and it sounded great but I got lost along the way....  As I was searching for the chiles that I needed to make mole, I came across a recipe for Ghost Chile Honey Cake that was really intriguing.  I was familiar with the ghost chili as I had eaten a burger with ghost pepper cheese.  It was super delicious and quite memorable!

The Bhut Jolokia, the ghost chili, is from India and holds the Guinness Book of World Records as the hottest chili pepper in the world! While the pepper has a very nice smoky flavor, it is the heat that really gets ya!  A little of this pepper certainly does go a long way.  India's Bhut Jolokia is 10 times hotter than a habañero!

You may be asking how in the world this can work in a cake.  It works because the chili peppers are infused in honey.  The fire is mellowed and the flavor is what shines through.

The cake isn't as scary as it sounds.  I think I detected more of the chili heat when the frosting was warm.  The slice I ate had a very nice flavor but there wasn't any heat!

Ghost Chili Honey Cake
adapted from Silk Road Diary

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup ghost chili infused honey (instructions below)
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1 cup Seville orange marmalade

10 oz chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup ghost chili infused honey

Ghost Chili Infused Honey
Heat one cup of honey in a small pan over a low heat.  Make a small slit in three ghost chili pods. Submerge them in the honey.

Steep the chiles for 30 minutes.  Cool to room temperature.  Pour the honey and chiles into a container and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Prepare a 9-inch cake pan by spraying or greasing.  Cut a piece of parchment to cover the bottom of the pan.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder in a small bowl and set aside.  In the bowl of your mixer, mix together the sugar, infused honey, eggs and vanilla, until blended.  Add the vegetable oil, then half of the flour mixture.  Mix until blended.  Add all of the buttermilk and mix until just blended.  Add the remaining flour mixture and mix until incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan.  Bake the cake about 55 minutes or until your cake tester comes out clean.  The cake will have a slight "dome".  Let the cake cool in the pan for about 10 minutes.  Then, invert onto a cooling rack to finish cooling.  Remove the parchment.

Fill a double boiler halfway up with water and heat on medium high.  (Or, use a saucepan and put a glass bowl on it to make a double boiler.)

Put the chocolate in the top of the double boiler or in the bowl.  Stir until almost melted.  Set the bowl aside.  Empty the bottom/saucepan.  Pour in the remaining half cup of infused honey and the cream. Bring to a boil, then pout over the melting chocolate and stir until smooth.  Let it cool.

When the cake has cooled, carefully cut it in half horizontally.  Place the bottom of the cake onto a cake dish.  Spread the marmalade over the cake bottom, being careful not to spread it all the way to the edge.  Place the other half of the cake on top of the filling and gently press down.

Frost the cake using an offset spatula.  After putting the frosting on the cake, it may be smoothed out using a clean knife that has been dipped into hot water.  The warm knife will smooth out the frosting.

NOTE:  If you desire a spicier cake, 1/4 teaspoon of ghost chile flakes may be added to the batter or the frosting.


I would make this cake again but I would probably add the ghost chili flakes just because...I'm curious and want to know what it would be like.

If you are interested in taking part in the Improv Cooking Challenge, hosted by Nichole at Cookaholic Wife, please visit her post for all of the information.  It is great fun!

I am also sharing at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Seattle's Winter Wonderland

Last Saturday I arrived in Seattle to be Grandma.  When my daughter and son-in-law's schedules involve travel, an extra pair of hands and driver, are needed!  I was especially excited because the weather forecast was for snow!  I had not seen snow up close and personal for twenty years.  In the Central Valley of California snow is an unlikely occurrence.  In fact the last time it snowed was 1999!

And yes, I was weird and ran out front every hour on Sunday evening to take a selfie and mark the progress of the snow.  Never, did I believe that in the morning, I would see this:

It was like seeing a Christmas Card but in this case it is early Valentine's!

I was fascinated with everything about the snow:  the quiet beauty, the way it blanketed the area, how it layered on the tree branches, the echo of the children as they ventured out to play....  

Some of the trees couldn't handle the weight of the snow such as the bamboo tree below.

I especially liked the contrast between the tree branches and the snow.

Snow removal seemed to be Sabine's focus.

Kissing the snow was also a highly rated activity.

I am sharing today at Outdoor Wednesday hosted by Susan at A Southern Daydreamer.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Chocolate Coated Beer Marshmallows...for your Valentine!

Chocolate and beer...a nice chocolatey stouty beer!    Doesn't that sound like a nice combination? You are right, it is amazing!  Making marshmallows sounded sticky to me.  I wasn't certain about working with it but on this adventure, I was the, no worries.

My SIL was the chef in charge.  He had been participating in a baking competition at work...yes, there are teams that find time to do something totally different from their jobs!  Anyway, he had won level one and was moving to level two.  These little chocolatey guys were certain to be a Level 2 winner!

Did I mention that there is a garnish?  Yep, a crushed pretzel garnish..and, that was the sidekick's role....crush pretzels.  Sprinkle when requested, and add a sprinkle of sea salt!

This is a recipe that takes time.  The beer should flatten overnight.  The marshmallows must cure in the refrigerator 10 to 12 hours or overnight.  Just a note so that you allow yourself the needed time.

Chocolate Coated Beer Marshmallows with Crushed Pretzels and a Sprinkle of Sea Salt
adapted from Kitchn

Yield: About 24 marshmallows, based on how you cut them

For the Bloom (the process of softening gelatin in cool liquid)
1 1/2 Tbsp unflavored gelatin
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup flat dark beer

For the Sugar Syrup
1/4 cup flat dark beer
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp corn syrup
3/4 cup granulated sugar
pinch salt

Coating and Topping
10-12 oz milk chocolate
2-3 tsp canola oil (for thinning the melted chocolate), optional
1/2 cup pretzels, crushed

The best beginning is starting the night before.  Open the bottle of beer and let it sit overnight.  If you forgot...pour the beer into a bowl.  Whisk to release as much of the CO2 (carbon dioxide) as possible.

Line an 8 X 8 inch baking dish or an 8.5 X 4.5 loaf pan with parchment paper and then spray with nonstick spray.  Tape the edges of the paper to the sides of the pan.  This keeps the paper in place as you spoon in the mixture.  Or, spray your baking pan with nonstick spray.

Preparing the Bloom
Sprinkle the gelatin in the bowl of a stand mixer.   Mix the flattened beer and vanilla together.  Pour the mixture over the gelatin.  Allow the mixture to stand for three to five minutes. Whisk until no lumps remain.

Preparing Sugar Syrup
Combine the flattened beer, corn syrup, sugar, and salt in a 4-quart saucepan or larger. (We opted for the larger pan to avoid the overflow of any unforeseen excessive bubbling!)  Attach a candy thermometer to the side.  Turn the heat to medium high.  Bring the sugar mixture to a boil.  As the syrup heats it will foam up to the top of the pan.  Keep watch!  When the mixture is between 225° F. and 230° F., let it bubble for another 5 minutes and then remove from the heat.  Ideally the syrup should reach 240° - 250° F, but you may have trouble getting an accurate reading due to the foam.  If your syrup starts to climb to 250° F., remove the pan from the heat.

With the mixer on low speed, carefully pour the hot syrup mixture down the side of the bowl into the gelatin bloom.  Turn the mixer to high and whip for 8-10 minutes, until it is very thick and looks like glossy meringue.  Pour the marshmallow into the baking pan or loaf pan.  Let it cure, uncovered, for 10-12 hours or overnight.

Preparing the Coating and Topping
When the marshmallows are cured, rub the top with a little powdered sugar.  Turn the marshmallows onto a cutting board.  Rub additional powdered sugar on the top.  Cut the marshmallows into about 24 squares of equal size.  The number depends on the size of square you desire.

Melt the chocolate over a double-boiler or in 30-second intervals on HIGH in the microwave, stirring between each interval until the chocolate is melted.  Should the chocolate be too thick, whisk in the canola oil a teaspoon at a time until the chocolate is thin enough to coat the marshmallows.

Coat the marshmallows entirely by using a fork to lower the marshmallow into the chocolate and using a chopstick to turn the marshmallows in the chocolate.  Lift the marshmallows out and set them on wax paper.  Quickly sprinkle the tops of the marshmallows with crushed pretzels and a tiny bit of sea salt before they dry.

Marshmallows will keep in a covered container for several weeks.

NOTE:  This is a recipe that takes time.  The beer should flatten overnight.  The marshmallows must cure in the refrigerator 10 to 12 hours or overnight.  Just a note so that you allow yourself the needed time.


You will be happy to know that the marshmallows did win in the second level of competition.  Go Kevin!  In fact, he won level three and the final level, four!  Congratulations!  Sadly, I do not have pictures for the chef's entries in level three or four so I cannot share....

I enjoy cooking with my SIL.  He rocks!

I am sharing today at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage.