Archive for the ‘Desserts’ Category

That Was A Nice Weekend

Monday, December 5th, 2016

… a very nice weekend indeed. I got to spend time with old friends and new. A little foodie retail therapy. A little cycling. Lunch and some chocolate cake at Konditorei Austrian Pastry Cafe. A stroll through the UC Davis Arboretum with some nice company.

Chocolate cake ...

Chocolate cake …

A view from the Arboretum ...

A view from the Arboretum …

My first Christmas tree in my first house.

My first Christmas tree in my first house.

I have a busy day ahead of me tomorrow at work, so I really should be finishing up my chores and heading to bed soon.

A Little Rain … A Little Party …

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

Sunday we had quite the little storm. I grabbed a quick ride in the morning and then came home to cook for a housewarming party (finally!)

Sunday morning, October 30th, near Pena Adobe Park.

Sunday morning, October 30th, near Pena Adobe Park.

A few friends came over on Sunday for a housewarming party. We had a fabulous meal.

Lynda brought some yummy mushroom brie and crackers.

Lynda brought some yummy mushroom brie and crackers.

Herbed Chevre and Smoked Gouda.

Herbed Chevre and Smoked Gouda.

The Herbed Chevre is a quick and relatively inexpensive way to “dress up” a plain Chevre. Simply take your favorite plain Chevre cheese, let it come to room temperature. Mix in some chopped fresh herbs (dried will do in a pinch), a couple of splashes of good extra virgin olive oil, and mix until smooth.

Stuffed Mushrooms

Stuffed Crimini Mushrooms

The Stuffed Mushrooms are quick and easy, too. Here’s the recipe. I modified the filling a little bit – the filling was simply light cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, and a few grinds of Trader Joe’s South African Smoke Seasoning Blend (paprika flakes, sea salt, garlic, basil).

One friend brought a beautiful Corn & Shrimp Chowder, which I heard was fabulous. It had bell peppers in it, so I couldn’t eat it. What’s funny is that the soup that I made had peas in it, so he couldn’t eat my chicken soup!

Marsh's Corn & Shrimp Chowder

Marsh’s Corn & Shrimp Chowder

Chicken & Vegetable Soup

Chicken & Vegetable Soup

Another friend made Pork Tenderloins with a Bourbon-Maple-Molasses glaze that was fantastic.

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Rick’s Pork Tenderloin with Bourbon-Maple-Molasses glaze.

Of course there was salad …

Mixed Greens with Fresh Fuyu Persimmons, Pomegranate, Feta Cheese, and a light and refreshing Citrus Vinaigrette.

Mixed Greens with Fresh Fuyu Persimmons, Pomegranate, Feta Cheese, and a light and refreshing Citrus Vinaigrette.

… and what is a party without dessert?

Tartlets: Fresh Lemon Curd and Caramel, Macadamia & Chocolate Tartlets.

Tartlets: Fresh Lemon Curd and Caramel, Macadamia & Chocolate.

The Lemon Curd recipe can be found here. I used pre-made tartlet shells … a little “semi-homemade” time-saving trick. I also cheated a bit with the caramel. I used Trader Joe’s Flue de Sel Caramel Sauce. This is my go-to caramel sauce.

Here’s wishing you a wonderful day. If you get the chance, would you please ride a few miles for me today? I’ve got to run to work now.

Spicy Caramel Popcorn

Thursday, December 17th, 2015

This slightly spicy, delightfully sweet, salty, and crunchy caramel popcorn will make a wonderful Christmas gift or snack. I shared a bit yesterday with some friends and colleagues. It was unanimously approved by friends and colleagues alike. It’s based on this recipe from Martha Stewart. I just used mixed nuts instead of peanuts and added just a touch more cayenne. Be sure to watch Martha’s video for the technique.

Spicy Caramel Popcorn with mixed nuts

Spicy, sweet, salty, crunchy … what’s not to love?

Spicy Caramel Popcorn with Mixed Nuts

4 quarts popped popcorn (about 1/2 cup unpopped kernels)
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon (slightly  heaping) cayenne pepper
1 cup salted mixed nuts (almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, walnuts, … your favorite mix)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pop the popcorn – use your favorite method. Spread out evenly on two half-sheet pans lined with silicone baking mats. Set aside.

Melt the butter over medium heat. Add the sugar and stir until well blended then add the corn syrup and stir to blend well. Cook on medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture turns golden brown. Stir in the salt and cayenne pepper. Add the nuts and stir to coat evenly. Pour this mixture over the popcorn and use a heat proof plastic spatula that’s been sprayed with a bit of non-stick spray to gently toss the popcorn with the syrup mixture.

The caramel mixture will be very hot – please be careful!

Bake for about 30 minutes, carefully turning and mixing with the spatula about halfway through. You want a nice, even coating of caramel on the popcorn and nuts.

Allow to cool, then gently break apart into bite sized pieces.

This recipe has officially become part of my Christmas recipe repertoire. I’ll be making this again … probably at least once before Christmas because I know a few on my gift list will want some of this!

It Balances Out

Monday, December 7th, 2015

If you eat like this most of the time …

Fresh Wild Rock Cod with stir-steamed veggies.

Fresh Wild Pacific Rockfish with stir-steamed veggies.

Veggies! Lots and lots of veggies!

… and just a little bit of this … 

Holiday Treats

Holiday Treats – homemade, of course!

Then it all balances out in the end.

Just remember … if you’re going to treat yourself and splurge on goodies, splurge well. Enjoy homemade, real treats. Use real ingredients. And be sure to enjoy every delicious morsel to the fullest. That is how you can splurge and be satisfied with just a bit and survive the holiday season without gaining a bunch of weight.

Oh, and cycling lots helps!

For recipes to these yummy treats, see my previous blog post.

A Little Holiday Baking

Monday, December 7th, 2015

So, these happened today. Let the holiday gift prep begin. Have you been naughty, or nice?

Rosemary Roasted Cashews

Rosemary Roasted Cashews

Spiced Nuts

Sweet, Salty, Spicy Nuts

Peppermint Biscotti

Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Cookies & Peppermint Biscotti

Classic Shortbread

Classic Shortbread

For the recipes, see:

Rosemary Roasted Cashews

Sweet, Salty, Spicy Party Nuts

Peppermint Biscotti

Shortbread Cookies

The Butterscotch Chocolate Chip cookie recipe is still in testing and I’m not quite ready to share it.

Challenge: Day 17

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Today was a different kind of challenge because I was cooking for family and wanted to make a meal they’d all like, but would also fit within my Challenge. Well, for the most part fit the Challenge.

The menu:

Stuffed Mushrooms
Chicken Provencal
Shrimp with Spinach and Mushrooms
Stir-Steamed Vegetables
Pasta with just a drizzle of olive oil
Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Cookies

The stuffed mushrooms weren’t really on the Challenge, because they were made with full fat cheese, but I figure they didn’t have that much filling, so two small ones would be sort of OK. Next time I make them I will try a reduced fat cream cheese and I think add some sun dried tomatoes for color.

Stuffed Mushrooms

They’re easy to make. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Clean 12 large crimini mushrooms. Simply pop the stems out of the caps and trim and discard the cut end. Chop the stems finely, then saute in a little olive oil with some fresh garlic. Cook until the excess liquid has evaporated. Set aside to cool. Blend about 4 ounces of cream cheese (preferably light), about 2 tablespoons of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, about 1/4 teaspoon each paprika, black pepper, and onion powder. When the mushroom and garlic mixture has cooled, mix this in to the cheese mixture. Make a little well in the mushroom cap, scooping out the soft, fleshy center. Just barely scrape – you want to maintain the integrity of the mushroom cap. Evenly divide the cheese mixture into the mushroom caps and gently press down to fill the cap and even out the top. Bake about 20 minutes, remove from oven, and top with just a touch more Parmesan cheese. Increase heat to broil, then return the mushrooms to the oven for a few minutes just to brown the tops a bit. Be careful – these can quickly go from perfect to burnt!

Chicken Provencal

For the Chicken Provencal, marinate a few boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a little white wine, olive oil, and herbs de Provence. Marinate at least a few hours or best if overnight. You will want to slice each breast into two or three thinner pieces before marinating. When you’re ready to cook the chicken, heat a heavy bottomed skillet on high and pour in no more than 1 tablespoon of avocado oil. When the pan is hot, remove the chicken from the marinade and add one piece at a time to the skillet. Reserve the marinade. Brown the chicken a little on each side. Cook a few minutes on medium-high heat, then add about 1 cup of white wine and cook until it’s reduced by about half, then top with chopped fresh tomatoes – I like to use heirloom cherry tomatoes because they’re delicious and easy to work with. Use about 1 cup of the cut tomatoes per breast of chicken. Then add the marinade to the pan, reduce heat to low, cover and cook until the chicken is tender and fully cooked (about 20-30 minutes, depending on how thick you’ve cut your chicken). Season to taste with salt and pepper. We enjoyed this with a little pasta, but it would be equally good with rice, or just on its own.

Shrimp with Heirloom Red Spinach and Crimini Mushrooms

The Shrimp with Spinach and Mushrooms could hardly be any easier. Saute sliced mushrooms until they just begin to soften, then add fresh spinach. Cover and allow to steam until the spinach begins to wilt. Clean and devein the shrimp, saute in a non-stick pan, turning each shrimp just once. Add the cooked spinach and mushrooms to the pan, give a gentle stir to combine well. Cover and allow to cook on low for a few minutes, careful to not overcook the shrimp (they’ll get tough). Season to taste with salt and pepper. I have a feeling that bacon would add great flavor to this, but … not so great for the Challenge!

Stir-Steamed Veggies - asparagus, broccolette, carrots, green beans

The Stir-Steamed Vegetables … see here for the method.

The cookies … clearly are not on the Challenge, but it’s Sunday Dinner with Family, so …

Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is a recipe I have been working on and it’s showing great promise.

I got a quick ride in this morning, and was hoping that I had had time for more, but then it got super windy in the afternoon, so I was thankful that I was not out in that.

Hope you had a great weekend!

Challenge: Day 6

Monday, February 9th, 2015

Today was pretty good, but I was craving carbs, as you can easily see below. It was the sweet potato I had with salmon and vegetables for dinner tonight that put me over, but it was well worth it.

Totals for the day:

* 1 cup vegetables
* 1/2 cup fruit
* 1 cup protein
* 3 1/4 cups carbs
* 2 T healthy cheese (“light”)
* 3 tablespoons healthy oil
* 3 tablespoons nuts

I had about 1 1/2 cups of a ginger miso broth, but I’m not sure where to include this. It was only about 45 calories, so not a big deal in terms of calories.

After dinner, I do like to have a bit of sweet, and I had a few apples that were just a little past eating prime, but perfect for cooking. On this rainy evening, this warm comforting dessert was just right.

Apples Sauteed with Honey and Pure Maple Syrup, served with Non-Fat Greek Yogurt

Apples with Honey & Pure Maple Syrup

2 large green apples, such as Pippins
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Peel, core, and slice apples into about 1/4-inch thick pieces.

Heat honey and maple syrup over medium high in a heavy bottomed non-stick pan. Watch carefully as it could scorch easily.

When the honey and syrup are bubbling, add the apples and stir to coat. Sprinkle with about 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Reduce heat to low and cover. Cook about 15 to 20 minutes until the apples soften. Uncover, increase heat to medium high and cook to thicken the pan juices to make a nice, caramely sauce.

Serve warm, garnished with plain non-fat Greek yogurt for a warm and satisfying, yet healthy, dessert.

Makes 2 servings – this will be a lovely and heart-healthy Valentines’ Day dessert for your sweetheart.

I think next time I make this I will add some lemon zest, and maybe a little lemon juice along with the apples.

Cioppino Party

Sunday, January 4th, 2015

Last night I had some friends over for dinner. After the holidays, we’re all feeling a bit, dare I say, overindulged? However, last night was the final “holiday” party for 2014. It just had to wait until 2015 due to everyone’s schedules. So a light and healthy meal with just a touch of decadence was in order.

We had a few appetizers, the usual fresh vegetable platter, some cheese and crackers, and one experimental recipe – Roasted Crimini Mushrooms with Herbed Goat Cheese and a Balsamic Vinegar Glaze.

Roasted Crimini Mushrooms

Fresh Veggies

For the entree, I made Cioppino, mostly based on this recipe from Giada De Laurentiis. I made just a few modifications, but tried to follow her recipe as closely as possible because I’ve never made Cioppino before.

Cioppino

3 tablespoons avocado oil
1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 onion, chopped
3 large shallots, chopped
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
3/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup tomato paste
28 ounces of chopped fresh Roma tomatoes
1 1/2 cups dry white white
2 cups oyster broth
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth, low sodium
1 1/2 cups water
1 bay leaf
2 1/2 pounds mixed seafood: mussels, shrimp, scallops, calamari
1 1/2 pounds wild caught fresh swordfish, cut into chunks

Mis en place: assemble and prepare all of your ingredients.

In a large pot (at least 5.5 quarts), heat the oil over medium heat. Add the fennel, onion, and shallots; saute about 8-10 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and saute another 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, tomatoes, wine, broths, water, and bay leaf. Stir to combine well. Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and allow to gently simmer for about 30 minutes. This will allow the flavors to blend.

Add the mixed seafood, cover and cook for about 5-10 minutes. Add the fish, stir gently, and cook another 5-10 minutes more. Season to taste with salt and red pepper flakes.

Ladle into bowls and serve with a good, crusty bread. This recipe makes six generous portions.

Cioppino - light, yet rich and satisfying, this Cioppino will make you want to head back for seconds.

We served a 2011 Luna Canto, which paired nicely and stood up to the spicy kick of this Cioppino.

For dessert, I made a “Paleo” Apple Crisp that I know you’ll want to try.

 

 

“Paleo” Apple Crisp

Sunday, January 4th, 2015

I wanted a dessert that would be comforting and delicious, but also on the lighter side. What could I make? There on the kitchen counter sat a bag of Granny Smith apples, staring at me, calling out, “Pick me! Pick meeeeeeeee!” Hmm … I fondly remembered my mother’s apple crisp … warm, sweet, comforting. How could I take this idea and make it a little lighter, a little healthier? I found an intriguing recipe for a Paleo Baked Apple Crisp. I followed this recipe almost exactly, except that I added the zest and juice of one lemon, a sprinkle of ginger, used butter in place of the coconut oil, and sprinkled a little extra pecans on top for extra crunch. I also covered it during part of the baking.

"Paleo" Apple Crisp

 “Paleo” Apple Crisp

6-7 Granny Smith apples
juice and zest of one lemon
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons raw honey, heated a little to melt, if necessary
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
a sprinkle of ground ginger

For the crumble topping:
1 cup almond flour
2 tablespoons finely ground pecans
2 tablespoons raw honey, heated a little to melt, if necessary
2 tablespoons butter, cut into about 1/4-inch chunks
optional: one additional tablespoon of finely ground pecans to sprinkle on top of the crumble

While the apple mixture is baking, prepare your topping. Combine all of the topping ingredients well and set aside.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Peel, core, and slice apples into about 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick slices. Combine apples, lemon zest and juice, orange juice, honey, maple syrup, and spices in a large bowl and gently toss to combine well. Pour into a baking dish. Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes, then cover and cook for another 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and top with crumble topping, and if desired, sprinkle with another tablespoon of finely chopped pecans. Bake another 20 minutes until the juices are nice and bubbly. Allow to cool a bit. Serve warm.

You don’t really need to serve this with whipped cream or ice cream, and that kind of undoes the healthy aspect, but it was still a celebration and everything else was pretty healthy, so we whipped up a little heavy cream with some vanilla sugar and homemade Southern Comfort vanilla extract (“vintage” 2010).

"Paleo" Apple Crisp with Southern Comfort Vanilla Scented Whipped Cream

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Merry Christmas Eve!

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

Just a quick post to wish you all a very Merry Christmas Eve and to share just a few appetizer ideas for the holiday.

Veggies with Homemade Blue Cheese Dip (low fat!)

Smoked Salmon Wraps (low fat!)

Assorted Treats (not low fat!)

Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookies (not low fat, but loaded with dark chocolate & espresso & therefore lots of antioxidants!)