Category: cheese

It’s fairytale time.

Grilled Fairytale eggplant with San Marzano tomato, garlic olive oil, rosemary & parsley. Topped with some fresh ricotta cheese.

Last summer I briefly spoke about Fairytale eggplant when I made the Food in Jars’ recipe for it, pickled. However, at the time I couldn’t find Fairytale eggplant so I had to use Sicilian eggplant. Before that, I had only made melanzane sott’olio using regular large white eggplant (and I made it with a Black Beauty eggplant once as well, albeit with more salting & draining, since darker eggplants are more bitter).

It wasn’t until this year when I started to grow my own that I realized how tiny Fairytale eggplant is! They’re only a few inches long fully grown. However, there are benefits to them other than their container-friendly growth & tiny cuteness; they’re inherently less bitter, don’t need to be peeled before eating, have less seeds inside and have a creamier, sweeter flavor than their giant counterparts. Sold me!

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Grilled peaches with ricotta cream & honey.

Grilled peaches with sweet ricotta cream and honey.

Well, that’s a mouthful, eh? Or it sounds like a mouthful. But it really is a mouthful: a mouthful of delicious.

Remember when I told you about those peaches I received from the Washington State Stone Fruit Commission? Well, obviously I couldn’t possibly get to canning every single one. Not only did I not have the time, but they began to get too soft/ripe for canning pretty quickly. But just in case you, too, have an overload of stone fruit… here’s a little secret: it’s excellent grilled.

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Recipe redux: three cheese stovetop mac!

Easy three cheese stovetop mac!

It’s warm, it’s sticky, and you don’t want to cook. It’s that time of year when you just don’t feel like it. You’re not in the mood to turn on the stove- nor are you prepared to grill anything & it’s far too hot to have the oven on. We’ve  spent all freakin’ winter cooking! ENOUGH! Or maybe it’s late; no time to defrost anything or go to the store. But you’ve still got mouths to feed (or you’re starving yourself!) & they won’t take no for an answer.

Well I have the solution: three cheese stovetop macaroni.

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Cherry “surprise” coffee cake (the surprise is cream cheese!).

Cherry cream cheese surprise coffee cake.

Indy and I are best buds. When Jay leaves for work at night, it’s just us. We watch TV, cook (okay, I cook), read, or cuddle in bed, sometimes blogging. He usually naps during those activities. However when I get up he follows me around relentlessly. Even waiting outside the bathroom for me. I call him my shadow. My 100-lb. shadow… & bodyguard.

Consequently, Indy is also my baking buddy.

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Snack time with Milton’s! A delicious ricotta dip… and a giveaway!

*****COMMENTS CLOSED! 1/25/13*****

*The winner is… EILEEN! Comment #21*

Eileen- Milton's Cracker winner!

 -Thanks to everyone who entered! -

***********************

Yep. Today I’m going to be giving away a TON of crackers from Milton’s Craft Bakers, but first, I’m going to give you an easy recipe idea. A really, really easy dip recipe for any party, football game- or even just for movie night!

Baked ricotta dip with mozzarella, garlic, olive oil & basil. Goes great with Milton's Craft Bakers gourmet crackers!

I love dip. I love any kind of dip; hot, cold, room temperature, cheese, onion, vegetable, sweet, salty, creamy, tangy, savory, etc. And I love any kind of vehicle to eat aforementioned dip. I’m a snack person. I can make a meal out of snack foods. But crackers? I looooove crackers. I love crackers with 5 o’s, that’s how much I love them. I eat crackers plain. I eat ‘em with cheese. I eat ‘em with dip… and this hot baked ricotta dip is just the thing.

It’s easy to make, bakes up quick and you can make it in as large or small a batch as you need!

Baked ricotta dip & Milton's gourmet crackers. (click for recipe)

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I am the Pumpkin King! Er, Queen.

Well, it’s October. Time really flew by, didn’t it? This means it’s time for my Annual Autumnal baking frenzy.

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In my house, there never really needs to be a reason for a baking frenzy. With me, you never hear anyone say “You baked? What’s the occasion?” As a matter of fact, it’s more like, “You didn’t bake this week?! Why? WHAT HAPPENED!?”

And I’m actually pretty proud of that. I’m proud of being the kitchen witch I am. But over the summer, it’s rare that I bake every week. Usually in the summer it’s ice cream, frozen yogurt, and jams/jellies/pickles. When the mercury goes up, the baking is reserved for cooler days, late nights, special fresh fruits that beg to be incorporated into something other than jam, and summer birthdays. That’s not to say it never happens. It just has to happen when my kitchen (the hottest room in the house) isn’t rivaling a Russian banya for the hottest place in the world award. But that’s why I welcome fall. Even though the temperatures take a while to catch up, and it stays pretty warm until Halloween most years (except last year when we had snow before Halloween), it’s still much less humid and much more comfortable once mid-September hits. And then by the time it’s October? Forget it. Because of that, fall in my house is usually a cavalcade, or cornucopia if you will, of delicious baked goods. Hey- I’ve been saving it up practically all summer! And what a great time it is for baking.

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See October isn’t just when kids start wishing school was ending already and the stores begin putting out Christmas decorations or when the weather cools down enough so I get to scratch that baking itch (that I suppress all summer). It’s pumpkins. It’s apples. It’s fall leaves. It’s harvest moons. It’s Halloween. Ohh man. I’m bananas for Halloween. It’s my favorite holiday, and I go all out. I decorate like crazy, I carve pumpkins, and I bake Halloween-themed things the entire month! Yeah, I know, I kinda do that stuff for every holiday, though this time of year is my definite favorite. I get a feeling in the pit of my stomach as soon as the wind changes and the air gets crisper. I can’t even describe to you how excited I get for Halloween. And for the past few years I’ve done a sort of compilation post for each season/holiday, including Halloween. I usually keep it at cupcakes, but I add in some candies or cookies, maybe throw in a muffin or two. However I thought maybe this year I’d forgo that, seeing as how there’s the new Recipe Index that lists basically every single recipe (almost) that I’ve ever posted. But you can also always check back to see last year’s Halloween Compilation post, and the one from the year before. You can also just see last year’s Halloween tricks & treats: here, here, here, here, here & finally here. Although you’d be missing out on some great stuff from previous years!

This year I decided to just start right in with the baking, ’cause honestly I got a little tired of all the compiling. I never was very good at filing & collating, I’d make a shitty secretary.

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So instead of spending my time doing all that work, I just made these pumpkin cheesecake cupcakes instead. Mmm hmm. You’re welcome. For the people out there wondering what exactly they are… it’s a pumpkin cupcake, topped with some “cheesecake filling” and then some cinnamon crumb.

PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE CUPCAKES

Makes about 2 dozen

Ingredients:

Cupcakes:
  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground all-spice
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling!)
Cheesecake filling:
  • 1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese, (softened)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
Crumb topping:
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour (sift before measuring)
  • 1/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F degrees. Line a 24-cup cupcake pan with paper liners. In a small mixing bowl, combine topping ingredients. Blend with fork until crumbly. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and all-spice; set aside- that’s your crumb topping. In another larger bowl, whisk together granulated sugar, butter, and eggs. Add dry ingredients, and whisk until smooth. Whisk in pumpkin puree.
  3. In another medium bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar and egg until smooth. That’s your cheesecake filling. Set it aside.
  4. Divide the pumpkin batter evenly among liners, filling each about halfway. Top each with around 1/2 tablespoon to one full tablespoon of the cheesecake filling, then sprinkle with some crumb topping.
  5. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake part (not the cheesecake part) comes out clean, 20-25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.

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For me, now, it’s officially fall. And more important… it’s officially Halloween-time. The first pumpkin recipe of the year! And not just pumpkin but cream cheese too? So much better than a pumpkin pie. So much better than a regular pumpkin cupcake. So much better than your average pumpkin muffin. You can’t take a pie with you to work- but these you can. And pumpkin cupcakes & muffins don’t have this special added cream cheesy fun on top (unless… unless it’s these pumpkin muffins, then yes, they do). They’re moist, pumpkin-y, cheesecake-y, cinnamon-y, spicy, warming and filling, too. One cupcake is more than enough at once. It’s definitely not the kind you can just inhale one after another. And just so you know, I made 18 cupcakes and one 8″ cake layer with this recipe. The cake had to bake longer, but came out delicious, and it would probably make a great layer cake. Also, it would be excellent baked in a 9″ loaf pan, too. Or maybe two loaf pans if you’re using the entire recipe & not just half.

Also, the pumpkin recipe itself, without the cheesecake filling & crumb topping, makes a spectacular cupcake. Just frost it with whatever frosting you want.

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But a deep burnt orange colored pumpkin cupcake with a creamy cheesecake filling slash topping & some semi-crunchy brown sugar crumb on top? Sign. Me. The hell. Up.

Happy Samhain.

Samhain (play /ˈsɑːwɪn/, /ˈs.ɪn/, or /ˈsn/)[1] derived from the Old Irish Samuin meaning “summer’s end”,[11] was the first and the most important of the four quarter days in the medieval Irish and Scottish[12] calendar[13][14] and, falling on the last day of autumn, it was a time for stock-taking and preparation for the cold winter months ahead.[11] It’s better known as a Gaelic harvest festival, which is held on October 31–November 1. It was linked to festivals held around the same time in other Celtic cultures, and was popularised as the “Celtic New Year” from the late 19th century, following Sir John Rhys and Sir James Frazer.[2] The date of Samhain was associated with the Catholic All Saints’ Day (and later All Souls’ Day) from at least the 8th century, and both the secular Gaelic and the Catholic liturgical festival have influenced the secular customs now connected with Halloween.[3]

The medieval Goidelic festival of Samhain marked the end of the harvest, the end of the “lighter half” of the year and beginning of the “darker half”. It was celebrated over the course of several days and had some elements of a Festival of the Dead. Bonfires played a large part in the festivities. People and their livestock would often walk between two bonfires as a cleansing ritual, and the bones of slaughtered livestock were cast into its flames.[4]

There was also a sense that this was the time of year when the physical and supernatural worlds were closest and magical things could happen.[13][14] To ward off these spirits, the Gaels built huge, symbolically regenerative bonfires and invoked the help of the gods through animal and perhaps even human sacrifice.[11] In the Western Isles of Scotland the Sluagh, or fairy host was regarded as composed of the souls of the dead flying through the air, and the feast of the dead at Hallowe’en was likewise the festival of the fairies.[15]

Samhain is celebrated as a religious festival by some neopagans.[5]

 

- Wikipedia

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To Autumn.

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Autumn hasn’t always been my favorite time of year. When I was a child, I didn’t like it because it meant summer was over and school was starting. No more sleeping late and floating in the pool all day, no more beach days, no more “fun.” As I got older, fall started to be my favorite season. I started to appreciate more the absolute beauty of it; the changing leaves, the pretty colored skies. I love sweaters and boots and knubby socks. I still despise the winter though, and all it’s grey-ness, snow and ice. That won’t ever change. If I could live somewhere that gave me the definite changing of the seasons but just skipped over the snow & -12°F temperatures we tend to get in the deep winter? Hell, I’d move there today. However the beauty of fall? That’s something I can’t deny. Summer is lovely.. slow, warm, soft and hazy. Summer is fans, porch swings and lemonade. Fall is crisp, golden, hurried. Fall is apple cider, pumpkins, the crunch of leaves under your feet and scarves. And most of all, fall is Halloween, which is my most favoritest holiday ever. So that means I’ve grown to love fall, and the clothing that comes with it. So I’m really, really, really going to miss summer, especially this year, for a lot of reasons. Most of which are sentimental and personal, which I’m not going to get in to here. And despite the weather, as of 6 days ago it’s official: summer is over & it’s completely autumn.

So in honor of that, today I present you with a delicious pound cake, loaded with flavor, moist and delicious, with a lovely sugary “crust” on top, and of course, served with whipped cream and some halved plums I canned in syrup.

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Plums are around from May through October, the peak time for them being August. But to me, they’re strictly a late-summer fruit.

A few days ago, I posted the spiked chocolate plum jam, with beautiful photos of the jewel-like deep purple plums in a bowl and the resulting beautiful, purply-red jam. But I didn’t tell you that I only used half of the plums in that jam. The other half? Well three were eaten right off the bat, and the rest were halved and canned in syrup. In terms of “whole fruits”, not jams or preserves, I had only ever canned peach slices, clementine slices & whole strawberries in syrup before, so I thought it was time I did something bigger. Canning whole fruit kinda scares me- I mean, how the hell do you fit a ton of whole nectarines into a JAR? Weird. It can only be explained by magic.

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Anyway, I halved the plums so I could fit more into one pint jar. If you want to make more than one jar, or you’re using quart jars, then double/triple/quadruple/etc, the following recipe to suit you.

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1 PINT of PLUMS IN SYRUP

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 – 1 lb. plums (purple or prune plums, Damson plums or Greengage plums work best)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Directions:

  1. Sterilize your jar, and pop the lid into a bowl of hot water. Keep the jar hot. Combine the water & sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
  2. Wash the fruit. If you’re halving the plums like I did, cut them in half and remove the pits. If you’re canning them whole, poke 3-4 holes in the skin of each plum to avoid “bursting” in the jar.
  3. Pack the plums tightly in your jar. Squeeze them in as best as you can without bruising or squashing them, they shrink up once they “cook” in the syrup.
  4. Pour the hot syrup over the plums, leaving 1/2″ headspace. Gently remove air bubbles with a knife or thin spatula. Adjust headspace if needed by adding more syrup.
  5. Wipe rim, place lid and screw band on to fingertip tight. Process in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes.

Because my pint jar is the Collection Elite jar, it’s a different size and shape than the conventional pint jars. If you use a regular one, you might need a little extra fruit to fill yours (or maybe less, depending on the size of the plums you’re using).

And when you’ve got such a beautiful looking jar of plums, you need something to serve them with. And for that reason, there’s pound cake.

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Last summer I made a pound cake that was so incredibly delicious, so amazing, so perfect… that it was world-renowned. Maybe not world-renowned, but at the very least it was the talk of the family. It was almost obnoxious how “adults” almost killed one another to grab a slice. But I understood, because it was that good. I served it with a rhubarb-ginger jam the first night, after that it was eaten a variety of ways: with ice cream, plain, with fresh fruit, etc. Basically I’m using a lot of words to say this: it was amazing. I didn’t really think that any other pound cake could top it, actually, until I found one at the King Arthur Flour website that sounded equally delicious, but was slightly smaller in a lot of ways (except that whole five eggs thing). I didn’t want to make the other one again, because I was just making it to serve with the plums for a simple little dessert, and that’s quite a large cake. So I made this one.

And I figured best case scenario, I get rave reviews about the plums, the whipped cream and the cake itself. And on the other hand, at the very least it would just be the vehicle that transported the plum halves and piles of homemade whipped cream into people’s mouths.

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But I needn’t have worried. Jesus Christ on a cracker, this was some good shit. Was it as good as that other pound cake? Yes, however if I’m being honest, the other one was just a smiiiidge better. But more importantly- this makes a smaller cake. So if you have no use for a massive 10″ bundt-shaped pound cake but you still want a moist & delicious one, this one’s for you. If you’re feeding a lot of people, or you’re making it for a party or a bake sale, and you want a top-notch pound cake, then by all means make this one.

GOLDEN VANILLA POUND CAKE (taken & adapted extremely minimally from the King Arthur Flour website)

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt (1/2 teaspoon if you use salted butter)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Topping:

  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon water

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9″ x 5″ x 2 3/4″ loaf pan, or a 12″ x 4″ x 4″ tea loaf pan. To avoid overflow, be SURE to use the correct size pan!
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat together the butter, cream cheese, salt, sugar, baking powder & vanilla extract until well combined.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; the mixture may look slightly curdled/grainy. After you’ve added the final egg, beat at high speed for 3 minutes. Once all the eggs are added, stir in the milk.
  4. Sprinkle in the flour gradually, with the mixer going at low speed. Mix just until combined. The batter will be smooth and thick, but still pourable. Pour and scrape the batter into the prepared pan.
  5. To make the topping, combine the sugar, vanilla, and water. Stir until the mixture is syrupy. At first it’ll seem very stiff, but will become “drizzle-able” as you stir. Set the topping aside.
  6. Set the cake on a baking sheet, for easiest handling and as a precaution against potential overflow (which shouldn’t happen if you use the correct size pan). Bake it for 55 minutes (for either size pan).
  7. Remove the cake from the oven, and brush/drizzle with the sugar mixture. Return the cake to the oven for an additional 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven, and set it on a rack. Insert a toothpick into the center; it should come out clean. If you use an instant-read thermometer, the center should register about 200°F to 205°F. The very top, right under the crust, will still be kind of soggy; don’t worry about it.
  8. After 5 minutes loosen the cake’s edges and turn it out of the pan to cool completely on a rack.

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I was shocked when this cake came out so perfect. Usually I have a terrible time with loaf cakes; for some reason almost every time they overflow like crazy. I have no idea why. It’s as if all my loaf pans are magically from another planet. I measure them every time to make sure they’re the right size, yet almost every time I get overflow. But not this time! It just came out like… well… a piece of cake. The whipped cream is the always intriguing “whipped cream in a jar.” It’s very simply made by combining heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar & pure vanilla extract in a jar. Then you just shake it! For people like me who never have whipped cream in the house, but who usually have heavy cream, it’s an easy and fun way of making your own without whipping (no pun intended) your mixer out.

WHIPPED CREAM IN A JAR (adapted a bit from The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons confectioner’s sugar
  • 2-4 drops vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Put all three ingredients in an 8-ounce jar. Close lid.
  2. Shake jar vigorously for about 3-5 minutes or until it becomes whipped cream (you’ll be able to feel when it no longer “sloshes” and it gets thick). Eat!
  3. Store in the fridge for a day or two tops, but best when eaten as soon as it’s made.

Who can turn down pound cake & homemade whipped cream? And the plums were the highlight, for sure. Who knew such a simple pairing, the components of which are all so incredibly easy, could make such an impressive dessert when put together?

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What a lovely way to welcome fall. See you all in October.

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Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.
Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,-
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

“To Autumn”, John Keats (1795 – 1821)