Friday, June 28, 2013

Easy Apricot Freezer Jam

            I have awesome neighbors.  Honestly, I plunked down into an entire neighborhood of fantastic people who watch your pets while you're away, mow your lawn if you're sick, and share the bounties of their gardens.  Two days ago one of them came by (THANK YOU, MEL!) with a bag of luscious apricots, freshly picked from her tree.  Such a gift cannot be purchased at any price, because it also comes with her two smiling children, brimming with the wonderful lesson of generosity she is teaching them.
            So, as I always do, I whipped up a batch of jam, setting aside a jar for Mel.  Now, I know countless people who are afraid to make jam.  The idea of "putting up" anything in glass jars sounds too daunting, so they miss out on the glorious flavor of homemade jam for the rest of their lives.  Well, wait no more!  It's summertime and you can EASILY make a row of gleaming jams from the bountiful fruit we all enjoy this time of year.  Here's some apricot jam I made just yesterday:
            You'll notice it's in a large Mason jar, and that by the time I got around to taking a photo, Bob and I had already devoured a ridiculous amount on homemade biscuits and ice cream (what a great topping!).  If you follow these easy steps, you will have jam all year, even in the winter.  You will also have lovely hostess gifts at the ready.  And you will experience delicious living right away.  Choose fruit that's heavy for its size (thus juicy), and ripe as opposed to overly firm.
            Unlike general jams and jellies, freezer jam is super easy to make-- you need no special equipment, and nothing has to boil or pressure cook.  This recipe is for apricots, but you can substitute (or mix) berries or plums as well (peaches you have to peel; apricots and plums you do not).  I doubled this recipe.  Here we go:

3 cups fruit pulp (mash the pitted apricots, plums, or berries by hand, or in a processor)
1/2 Cup lemon juice
1 pkg. pectin
1 Cup light corn syrup
4 & 1/2 Cups sugar (I know!  More sugar than fruit-- what?  But this is jam, folks, so yes)
7 (8 oz.) jars with lids, sterilized

1. Pour the pulp into a large sauce pan (no heat.)  Stir in the lemon juice.  Now stir in the pectin and set a timer so you can stir it every 5 minutes, for half an hour.  Should be easy; you can get your jars ready during this time.
2. Now stir in the corn syrup thoroughly.  Stir in the sugar next.  Heat the mixture over very low heat, as you stir. You don't want it to get hot, just warm enough to dissolve the sugar.  Now pour into jars, screw on lids, and you're done!  Makes 7 (8 oz.) jars.  This jam will keep in the freezer for a year, or in the fridge for 3-4 weeks. 



Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Strawberry Cream Cheese Cookies

Okay, no photo this time, but possibly your future favorite cookie recipe.  Not only do these pale pink confections maintain a wonderful fluffy shape, but they deliver wonderful flavor everyone will love.  Perfect for summertime, baby showers, bridal showers, or just anytime you want to celebrate the incredible flavor  combination of strawberry and white chocolate.  Try it with other cake mix flavors, too!

1 (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter, softened
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 box strawberry cake mix
1-2 Cups white chocolate chips (or dark chocolate)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Beat cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Add egg and vanilla. Add cake mix a little at a time. Stir in chips. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake for about 10 minutes.  Cookies will maintain puffy shape.  About 3 dozen.

(If you love nuts, stir in a cup of crushed pecans as well)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Easy Salted Caramel Pecan Rolls

Sometimes when a recipe says "easy" it means "not very good."  The flavor has been sacrificed for the ease of whipping up a dish in a hurry.  But I am happy to report that this recipe is phenomenal.  Your biggest problem will be resisting the urge to eat too many of them.

This is not a contest winner, but it definitely won the heart of my Louisiana-born, crazy-for-pecans husband, when I gave him a box of them for Father's Day. Many similar recipes call for pecans, but they don't tell you to roast them  Chefs, however, will tell you ALWAYS to roast nuts before you cook with them, to bring out their flavor.  I also added salt to the caramel, which makes these swoon-worthy babies a notch better.  Here you go:

1 (7 oz.) jar marshmallow creme
1 lb. powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. almond extract
1 lb. Kraft caramels, unwrapped
2 Tbsp. cream
3 Cups pecans, roasted* (use crushed or halved, your preference)
2 tsp. sea salt

1. In a large mixing bowl, stir marshmallow creme, sifted sugar, vanilla, and almond extract.  Stir (or knead) until it forms a clay-like texture.  Shape it into 8 rolls, about an inch wide.  Wrap each one in waxed paper and freeze overnight.
2. Unwrap caramels and stir with cream in the top of a double boiler until melted and well mixed.  Turn off heat but keep on stove.  Place nuts on a sheet of foil.  Dip marshmallow rolls into caramel, then place on nuts. (I use two forks to keep my hands clean.) Sprinkle with salt, then roll in nuts, pressing the nuts into the salted caramel.  Wrap again with waxed paper and hide them--- I mean store them-- in a cool, dry place.
* To roast nuts of any kind, just stir them in a dry pan over medium heat until nuts begin to brown and become fragrant.  You can also bake them on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 5-10 minutes, depending on size of nuts.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Jamaican Saltfish with Coconut Lime Drizzle

It's always fun to win a thousand dollars.  This is the Grand Prize Winner in the 2012 contest sponsored by Canadian Fish Exporters International.  You already know I love fish-- but this super easy recipe of mine also adapts well to chicken and pork, so give it a try.  And I guarantee you will love the 2-ingredient sauce!  It's killer delicious and works well on dozens of other foods (spring rolls, crab cakes, spicy wontons, you-name-it).  The photo doesn't show the sauce very well-- so pile it on, folks!

Jamaican Saltfish

1 lb. Cristobal Alaskan Salt Fish Fillets (prepared)
½ Cup butter
3 Tbsp. cooking oil
¾ Cup flour
1 Tbsp. Jamaican Jerk Seasoning
2 eggs scrambled
1 Cup Cream of Coconut
3 limes -zest

1. Heat butter and oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  In a small bowl, stir flour with jerk seasoning.  Place scrambled eggs in another small bowl.  
2. Dip fillets into flour mixture, then into eggs, to coat. Cook fillets about 5 minutes per side, or until flaky and opaque.
3. While fish cooks, heat cream of coconut* in a small sauce pan over low heat.  Stir in lime zest.  Serve finished fillets drizzled with Coconut-Lime sauce.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Caramel Budino with Sea Salt

Hang onto your calorie-counters, folks.  Better yet, hide them, because this is a take-no-prisoners decadent dessert worth blowing any diet for.  I just got back from a week with friends in Balboa that included a killer dinner at Mozza, an amazing restaurant in Newport (a month's notice for reservations at the one in L.A.).  This is the creamy wonder that capped off an already delicious evening.  I came home and couldn't wait to make it the very next day.  Perfect for company, too.
What's a Budino?  It's a creamy confection that will remind you of Flan, Creme Brulee, or maybe Panna Cotta.  Only softer, richer.  They served it in a clear tumbler; I made mine in ramekins from my Swedish friend, Marianne.  A goblet would be a great choice, too. 
The original recipe makes 10-- I cut it in half, and it would serve 5-6.  It also calls for rum, but I'm Mormon so I left it out (and it's still amazing).  All but your Sweet-Tooth friends will proclaim it too rich, but doesn't that define a fabulous dessert?  Here we go with my own variation on their Butterscotch version:

1 & 12 Cups heavy cream
3/4 Cup milk (not skim-- I used 2%)
1/2 Cup plus 1 Tablespoon dark brown sugar (I used golden brown)
1/4 Cup water
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 egg (yep, read on)
1 & 1/2 egg yolks (here you're laughing, deservedly so.  But the way to do this is to stir two, then divide accordingly)
1 & 1/2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 & 1/2 Tablespoons butter

1. In a small bowl, combine the cream and milk and set aside.
2. In a large heavy-bottomed pot, combine the brown sugar, 1/4 cup water and salt over medium-high heat. Cook to a smoking, dark caramel, about 6-8 minutes. Sugar will smell caramelized and nutty and turn a deep brown. Here it's not quite dark enough:

3. Immediately whisk the cream mixture carefully into the caramel to stop the cooking (the mixture will steam and the sugar will seize).
Bring to boiling, then reduce heat to medium.  It will look lumpy-- that's the sugar seizing.

4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolks and cornstarch. Temper the hot caramel cream into the egg mixture by adding a ladle-full of caramel at a time, whisking constantly, until half is incorporated. Pour the egg mixture back into remaining caramel, stirring constantly with a whisk until the custard is very thick and the corn starch is cooked out, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter.
5.  Pour the custard through a fine mesh strainer to remove any lumps.
 Divide among  5 or 6 ramekins leaving one-half inch at the top. Cover with plastic wrap and chill several hours or up to three days.

Caramel sauce (I didn't cut this in half because I like to use LOTS of sauce):
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/8 vanilla bean, scraped (didn't have one, so I used vanilla sugar, which I did have, for the sugar)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons fleur de sel (this is a pricey, gourmet salt from France-- use any sea salt)
1/4 cup whipping cream
3/4 cup creme fraiche (didn't want to fool with making this, so I just whipped up a bunch of cream)

1. In a medium saucepan, heat the cream and vanilla over medium heat, until simmering, about three minutes. Add the butter, turn off the heat and set aside.
2. In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the corn syrup, sugar, and water. Cook over medium-high heat, swirling the pan just slightly to gauge the caramelization, until the sugar becomes a medium amber color, about 10 minutes.

3. Remove the caramel from heat, carefully whisk the cream mixture into the caramel (be very careful -- it will steam and bubble). Whisk to combine. Place the pan in a large bowl of ice water to cool.

4. In a chilled bowl with a wire whisk, beat the whipping cream until it begins to thicken. Add the creme fraiche; whip until thick and fluffy. (I just beat some cream with my electric mixer.)

5. Before serving, warm the sauce over medium heat. Spoon one tablespoon (I used two) on each budino.
Sprinkle with one-eighth teaspoon fleur de sel or sea salt.

Now add a dollop of cream topping.

We couldn't wait to dig in and then realized we don't have a finished one to show you, but you still get the idea from the last photo.  
Oh, Step #6: Graciously accept rave reviews!

Monday, June 3, 2013

BLT Cheesecake

Surprise-- cheesecake can be savory instead of sweet.  You're going to love this!  Taste of Home magazine recently sponsored a cheesecake contest, and this won 1st Place! (See photo below recipe).  I got the idea from all the wonderful, savory cheesecakes out there (crab is my favorite).  Yes, we've all enjoyed cheesecake as a dessert forever, but they can be a savory appetizer as well.  It's like a big, soft, killer-delicious cheese wheel, loaded with yummy herbs and rich creaminess that you slice and spread on a cracker.  This one features bacon, lettuce and tomato-- an American favorite!
Here's what you'll need:

1 & 1/2 Cups bread crumbs (I used Italian flavored)
1 Cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese from a chilled tub
6 Tablespoons melted butter

4 (8 oz.) pkgs. cream cheese softened
4 eggs
1/2 Cup whipping cream
1 & 1/2 Cups cooked crumbled bacon
1 Cup sun dried tomatoes chopped
1 Cup grated Gruyere cheese (or your favorite cheese)
2 green onions minced
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12 Boston lettuce leaves

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix bread crumbs, Parmesan and butter; press onto bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake 15 minutes.

 2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy, then beat in eggs one at a time. Beat in cream, bacon, tomatoes, grated cheese, onions and pepper. Pour over crust and bake on a baking sheet for 90 minutes. Cool, then chill. Run a knife around inside of pan, then remove sides. Place chilled slices on a lettuce leaf to serve. (Or top it with lettuce and tomato, as the photo shows)  Serve with crackers or slices of bruschetta.   Yield: serves 12