Happy New Year – MEYER Lemons!

New year, new chance, new things to conquer. Life never ceases to bring us opportunities to grow or change. I don’t do resolutions but I am considering how I approach day to day life. My goal for my spiritual life is to be more mindful of managing my emotions. Menopause is trying to rear its ugly head and I would like to be “on top” of its side-effects, namely moodiness and hot flashes. Ha! That sounds like a lofty goal!

My goal this month was to eat clean. You know, no sugar, no booze, no “fun foods”. I have gained some weight back since my surgery and I need to get back to the WW program. I was doing fine until I found Meyer lemons at the market and of course I had to buy them which, in turn, meant I had to make something tasty.

Meyer Lemon Tart

Oh, so very good. I used a modified recipe from ATK, of course!

Yup, a Meyer lemon tart. It was a bit time consuming but so worth the effort. If you have a loved one who lives for lemon treats, this tart is a no-brainer. You will be their favorite for time – immemorial. So, get this. I had to juice and zest nine lemons (they’re smaller than their more traditional cousins). The recipe calls for a whopping QUARTER cup of zest. I had to add zest from two regular lemons to get that much.

I also discovered another little treasure called “Fiori di Sicilia” extract. I warn you it’s a bit expensive but a little goes a very long way. I found it on Amazon but it’s a product of King Arthur Flour. The recipe I used for the Lavender/Hazelnut Shortbread called for it. I just improvised my own version for that recipe since I didn’t have the extract on hand.

Once I received it I had to find a way to use it, hence the Lemon Tart. I used it in the crust instead of the vanilla the recipe called for. WOWeee! What a beautiful and subtle flavor it adds. I am telling you, if you want to take your baking up a notch, add a scosche of this and you will become so popular with all who eat your delights.

vanilla citrus essence

The tart I baked for my husband and my dear friend Christa who are both lovers of all things lemon. The consensus is … AMAZING!

Here’s my version of the recipe:

Sweet Tart Crust
Ingredients:
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon heavy cream (I used Pea Milk)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract (OR Fiori di Sicilia)
1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
⅔ cup confectioners’ sugar
¼ teaspoon table salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
(1 stick, very cold), cut into
twenty-four 3/4-inch cubes
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour for dusting

Instructions for Tart Shell

If the dough feels too form when you’re ready to roll it out, let it stand at room temperature for a few minutes. If, on the other hand, the dough becomes soft and sticky while rolling, don’t hesitate to rechill it until it becomes easier to work with. Better to rechill than to add too much flour, which will damage the delicate, crisp texture of the dough. We found a French rolling pin (as pictured in illustrations) to be the most precise instrument for rolling tart pastry. Bake the tart shell in a 9- to 9 ½-inch tart pan with a removable bottom and fluted sides about 1 to 1 1/8 inches high. This recipe is formally known as Pâte Sucrée.

1. Whisk together yolk, cream, and vanilla (or Fiori di Sicilia)  in small bowl; set aside. Pulse to combine 1 1/4 cups flour, sugar, and salt in bowl of food processor fitted with
steel blade. Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture; pulse to cut butter into flour until mixture resembles coarse meal, about fifteen 1-second pulses. With machine running, add egg mixture and process until dough just comes together, about 25 seconds. Turn dough onto sheet of plastic wrap and press into 6-inch disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Instructions for Rolling out dough:

To facilitate rolling, flatten the dough with a rolling pin by rapping it smartly with one hand and spinning the dough with the other.
Roll the dough upward from the center and downward from the center with even pressure.
Spin the dough one quarter turn, repeating step 2 until dough is 13 inches in diameter (15 inches for an 11-inch tart pan) and 1/8 inch thick. Loosen the dough from the plastic and flour again.
Ease the dough over the rolling pin and roll it up loosely. Unroll the dough on top of the tart pan.
Lift the edge of the dough with one hand and ease it into the corners of the pan with the other.

Unwrap dough; lightly flour large sheet of parchment paper or plastic wrap and place dough in center. Follow these instructions.

rolling dough instructions

Place crust in freezer for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, adjust one oven rack to upper-middle position and other rack to lower-middle position; heat oven to 375 degrees. Place chilled tart shell on cookie sheet; press 12-inch square of foil inside tart shell and fill with metal or ceramic pie weights. Bake on lower rack 30 minutes, rotating halfway through baking time. Carefully remove foil and weights by gathering edges of foil and pulling up and out. Transfer cookie sheet with tart shell to upper rack and continue to bake until shell is golden brown, about 5 minutes longer.

Lemon Curd Filling SERVES 8
The filling is a lemon curd adapted for this tart. Once the lemon curd ingredients have been combined, cook the curd immediately; otherwise it will have a grainy finished texture. To prevent the curd from acquiring a metallic taste, make absolutely sure that all utensils coming into contact with it–bowls, whisk, saucepan, and strainer—are made of non-reactive stainless steel or glass. Since the tart pan has a removable bottom, it is more easily maneuvered when set on a cookie sheet. If your pre-baked tart shell has already cooled, place it in the oven just before you start the curd and heat it until warm, about 5 minutes. Serve the tart with lightly whipped cream, the perfect accompaniment to the rich, intensely lemon filling.

Ingredients:

7 large egg yolks plus 2 large whole eggs
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2/3 cup lemon juice from 4 to 5 medium lemons
¼ cup grated lemon zest
pinch table salt
4 tablespoons unsalted
butter, cut into 4 pieces
3 tablespoons heavy cream

Instructions:
Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Place tart pan with shell on cookie sheet. In medium non-reactive bowl, whisk together yolks and whole eggs until combined, about 5 seconds. Add sugar and whisk until just combined, about 5 seconds. Add lemon juice, zest, and salt; whisk until combined, about 5 seconds. Transfer mixture to medium non-reactive saucepan, add butter pieces, and cook over medium low heat, stirring constantly with wooden spoon, until curd thickens to thin sauce-like consistency and registers 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 5 minutes. Immediately pour curd through single-mesh stainless steel strainer set over clean nonreactive bowl. Stir in heavy cream; pour curd into warm tart shell immediately.

NOTES:

1. At first, the curd will appear thin and soupy.
2. When the spatula leaves a clear trail in the bottom of the saucepan (which quickly disappears), the curd is ready to come off heat.
3. Bake until filling is shiny and opaque and until the center 3 inches jiggle slightly when shaken, 10 to 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 45 minutes. Remove outer metal ring, slide thin metal spatula between bottom crust and tart pan bottom to release,then slip tart onto cardboard round or serving plate. Cut into wedges and serve.

meyerlemons

Lavender/Hazelnut Shortbread

I may have out done myself.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_66b2.jpgIf you have followed me for any length of time you know I love lavender. I will put it in nearly anything. So, I was considering what to serve my guests tomorrow for NYE. Since it’s a late night of adult beverages and snacking I didn’t want anything too sweet or heavy. Add to that my recent successful first try at shortbread in making the Millionaires Shortbread and so decided to whip these up.

Hazelnuts.png

Also, I bought a bag of hazelnuts in the shell before Christmas and cracked them all open myself. This was tedious but a nostalgic turn for me. When I was a girl my grandmother always had nuts you had to crack open yourself at the holidays. It felt nice to sit and crack. I just popped on some cheerful music and cracked away. I just wish I had bought two bags.

Lavender-Hazelnut Shortbread.

They are so fragrant and amazingly tender. Wow. Combine these with the Speculooos (Belgian Spice Cookies) and I’m almost certain no other cookie will ever be necessary. Anyone can make chocolate chip cookies. Why not ramp things up with these? They are more than exceptional. Seriously.

LavenderHazelnutShortbread.jpeg

Okay, so I let these get just a tad too brown but that just made the butter have a more caramel flavor. These are amazing! The problem is not eating them before the party even begins. I was considering dipping these in chocolate but I’m afraid that will take away from the simplicity of their delicate flavor. Maybe the next batch.

Happy New Year to you all. May blessings and lavender abound!

Lavender Shortbread
Ingredients
8 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
5 ounces powdered sugar
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon freshly dried lavender buds
1/2 teaspoon each of orange and lemon extract
8 ounces all-purpose unbleached flour
4 ounces finely chopped hazelnuts

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line sheet pan with parchment paper.
2. Cream butter, sugar, salt, lavender buds, and extract for 3 minutes on high speed.
3. Combine flour and nuts then add flour to butter mixture and mix until just incorporated. Do not over mix.
4. Make into a round and cover in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at lease 30 minutes.
5. Roll out onto floured surface. Using a rolling pin, roll to desired thickness and cut with a small circle cutter (or shape of choice). Place on baking sheet and bake for 5-10 minutes, depending on your oven. Let cool before serving.

PS: Sadly my party had to be cancelled due to my friends family emergency. The delicious cookies will not be enjoyed by those they were intended for. On a positive note … my cat Joe loves them and wonders why he can’t have them all.

Best Damn Chili, Ever. Seriously, So Good You’ll Make More!

As anyone who knows me will tell you I hate Fall. The reasons are obvious: leaves fall off trees, the world turns brown, I have to start wearing socks and sweatshirts, and the world is inundated with all things brown, gold, orange and PUMPKIN. Yes, cinnamon is awesome but come on people, do we have to put it in EVERYTHING? I’m a black coffee drinker, the thought of bastardizing my coffee with sugar, cinnamon and pumpkin is ludicrous. This year has been especially bad for me and I’m uncertain why that is the case. I get mad every time I see a pumpkin, jack-o-lantern or anything slightly “fall-like”. I may need professional assistance.

Anywho … there are a few good things about this time of year. One, my daisies bloom and since they are the happiest of flowers I get a few moments of pure joy just seeing them. Two: Honeycrisp apples are in season and they are like candy so I eat as many as freaking possible. And three: Soup is on the menu regularly. My husband is not a huge fan of soup unless it’s mostly meat. I prefer mine with little or no meat but I cater to his palate because, well, I love him and want to make him happy. Geezsh, what’s the world coming to?

FallDaisyRMJW

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HoneyCrisp Apples

Chili

Random photo of chili. I did not make this bowl. Mine was prettier and tastier … I just didn’t take a picture of it because it tasted too good to stop and take a pic.

So soup. I make a few and usually I’m not a huge fan of chili. It’s usually too meaty or beanie or chili-y. A few bites do and then I’m done. But last weekend I made some so good we couldn’t stop eating it and I’ve decided to make another batch this weekend and post the recipe here to share the love. I blame it on the beer and chocolate. RIGHT?

If you make this chili the way I have, you will be amazed. I could win a contest with this stuff I’m sure! So, here goes: write this down, print this out and do it. You won’t be sorry.

Chili a’laRachel – aka Chocolate Bourbon Chili

Ingredients:

1 lb. – lean ground beef
1 lb. – ground pork
1 – medium onion, chopped
3 – small to medium sized garlic cloves, minced
2-4  cups – beef broth
1 cup – dark beer I used this stuff and WOW it’s good!

So good!

So good!

2 – fresh chili peppers (I used jalapeño peppers grown on my patio), minced
2 cans – diced tomatoes
2 cans – kidney beans
1 tsp – ground cumin
1 tsp – grown coriander
2 tbs – cocoa powder
2 tbs – paprika
2 tbs – chili powder (I used 2-Alarm)
1 tbs – masa powder (from 2-Alarm box)*
1 tsp – ancho chili powder
salt and pepper to taste

How to do this:

Get out your big dutch oven or soup cooking pan. Brown the pork then drain off the fat. Brown onions, peppers and ground beef in a bit of the remaining pork fat, throwing in the garlic at the end of browning process so it doesn’t get bitter. Add the dry spices and let it all kind of cook together so the aromas start to come out. Clear a space in the dutch oven and pour in the beer, letting it bubble off the alcohol a bit, then add the tomatoes, beans, and beef broth (as much as you like depending upon how soupy you want it). Let this stuff cook for NO LESS than an hour.

Now my peppers were pretty spicy. Depending upon your tastes, adjust accordingly. I like to sweat a little bit when I eat chili. Garnish with your favorites. I like cilantro and lime chili tortilla chips with a HUGE helping of pepper/jack cheese and sour cream. Do what you like and please let me know if you make this chili and what you think of it.

Note: I like the 2-Alarm Chili mix because it has no artificial ingredients or chemicals to keep it from clumping together. Real food is good food!

Hmmm … musings of a newly wed. Oh, and Eggplant Experiments.

I was single until the age 43. Most of my adult life I lived alone or with female roommates. It has been 20 plus years since I lived with a man and even though I dated a lot, as anyone will tell you, it’s not the same as living with a man 24/7. D and I have lived together for nearly two years now and I still find myself amazed by the differences between us and more specifically I’m mesmerized by the male anatomy. Now I have to be delicate in my discussing “male anatomy” because even though D doesn’t read my blog he would not be thrilled to know that I am discussing his body in a public forum. That being said, I love my husband and everything that entails. It’s just that I marvel at his body and the fact that I live with a man. Sometimes when I see him in all his nakedness I am transfixed. I find myself staring which he thinks is funny and weird. I just love having a beautiful man at my disposal, all the time. Simply put, it’s fun and I find myself giggling just thinking about it. We live in our bodies without really giving them much thought. I am a woman and it’s just who I am. The fact that I live with a man now is amazing to me.

Aw ... love!

Aw … love!

Okay, okay … enough already, I’m supposed to be writing about food and teaching people how to cook not bragging about my handsome hubby.

I don’t watch a lot of Food Network but one show I do enjoy is “Chopped”. I love to see what the chefs will do with the crazy ingredients they are given. It inspires me to try new things, to stretch my palate and to take chances. Yesterday I got my cook on. It’s been a long time since I felt inspired enough to actually experiment in the kitchen. I suppose I’m not much of a planner which would explain why this blog is so sporadic. In my defense, having only half a kitchen does make it challenging to come up with inspired food and then take pictures of it.

Anyway … last night I made Spicy Pork Loin with Mushroomy Rice Pilaf and broiled Sun-dried Tomato and Balsamic Eggplant and I took a fuzzy picture of it, Yay!

Spicy Pork, Mushroomy Rice Pilaf, Sun-Dried Tomato & Balsamic Eggplant

Spicy Pork, Mushroomy Rice Pilaf, Sun-Dried Tomato & Balsamic Eggplant

As you may recall, I love to prepare meats with rubs. I find they infuse flavor much better than a marinade in much less time. I have also learned to let meat rest before serving. Two simple things that will make your cooking life so much easier and rewarding. With this in mind I figured why wouldn’t it work with Eggplant? I don’t have a lot of experience cooking Aubergine. ( Which is also my favorite color)

My favorite color!

My favorite color!

So I dusted the slices with a mixture of onion flakes, powdered sun-dried tomato, garlic powder, salt, red & black pepper and just a tiny pinch of sugar; then I threw them under the broiler for 10 minutes. After they were finished I drizzled balsamic vinegar and a pinch of parmesan cheese. Yummy! D didn’t even hate it.

Rice Pilaf is my go to starch. It’s easy with Jasmine rice, onions and baby portabellas. I used the same spices as the eggplant to tie the two dishes together. For the pork loin I used a combination of chili powder, red pepper flakes, garlic, salt and onion flakes with dried cheddar powder. I pan seared them on each side for about four minutes then finished them in the warm oven for another five minutes.

Dinner was a success! D ate two servings and I vowed to actually blog about it. Woo hoo!

Monday Meatloaf – the Recipe.

I’ve had a few requests for the recipe so here goes. Sadly, I just winged it when putting this together so … I hope I remember what I did.

1 lb ground beef (I used 80/20)

1 lb ground veal

1/2 medium onion, minced

1 large clove of garlic, minced.

1 tbsp sun-dried tomato paste

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp worcestershire sauce

1 tsp pepper

1 tbsp (Aldi country herbs)

2 eggs

1 cup quick oats

Mix all of the ingredients together as gently as possible (over mixing will make it tough). Bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let set for 10 or 15 minutes before cutting. About 40 minutes before it’s done drain off the grease if you’re not using a pan that does it for you.

When the husband is away …

… I eat soup. He doesn’t understand soup. To him it’s just broth with too many vegetables and not enough meat. For me, soup is warmth, comfort and a healthy way to eat. Oh sure, there are unhealthy soups but I tend to make broth-based soups not creamy ones. Yesterday it was raining and cold so I broke out the stock left over from the baked chicken from last week. It took all day to make, which wasn’t exactly necessary but I wasn’t in a hurry and it seemed the prudent way to do it. The end result was a spicy Chicken Chili. Mmmm.

Spicy Chicken Chili

I’m excited about this particular batch of soup because I grew the tomatoes that went into it and I finally figured out how to use dried beans instead of canned. In fact, all of the ingredients were fresh in this and it is so very good!  The other tasty treat I made yesterday was a cheese crisp. I have been searching for a cracker recipe and finally found a cheesy recipe that sounded good. I used whole wheat flour and two different cheeses for a salty and crunchy cracker. Yum!

Here’s how I did the soup. First the ingredients:

2 tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper (roasted and diced)
2 carrots, chopped
14 oz diced tomatoes
2 medium jalapeño peppers, minced
2 large stalks of celery, chopped
6 cups chicken stock
1 cup dried white beans
1 bone in chicken breast
4-5 bone in chicken drumsticks (legs)
2 tbsp taco seasoning
2 tsp chipotle chili pepper
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp paprika
salt and pepper to taste

First things first: get your beans soaking. (see instructions above or read package instructions) OR use canned, there’s no rule here. Except remember the best rule of cooking: FRESH IS BEST!

1. In a large dutch oven (or soup pot) heat olive oil on medium.
2. Add chopped onions, carrots, celery, jalapeño peppers and cook until translucent.(apps. 10 min)
3. Add minced garlic and roasted bell pepper, cook until fragrant (appx. 30 seconds)
4. Add tomatoes, spices (cumin, chili, taco seasoning, paprika) and chicken stock stirring until spices are well mixed.
5. Add chicken pieces, cover and cook for 30-40 minutes. Remove chicken and set aside to cool.
6. By now your beans should be par-cooked so throw them into the soup and cover. Let cook at a rolling simmer for another hour. Taste to see if you need salt and the “doneness” of the beans.
7. Once the beans are done, shred your chicken and add back to the soup and let simmer on low for another 30 minutes to hour.
8. Taste. Season accordingly.

Serve with Avocado, fresh cilantro and a dollop of sour cream.

Being spoiled is nice …

. . . and I am very good at spoiling, especially when it comes to food. I have been feeding my husband all his favorites this weekend, not because I want anything but because I have a strong need to be pleasing.

This morning we had biscuits and gravy. Turkey-sausage gravy that is, made with skim milk. It was tasty. I have to say, I make some mean biscuits. Buttermilk biscuits. Yum.

Perfect every time!

Here are the keys to making perfect biscuits every time. You’ll need:

2 cups of unbleached white flour.
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
4 tbsp extremely cold butter
2 tbsp cold Crisco
1 cup buttermilk

Have your oven very hot. 425 is ideal.

First: mix all your dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

Second: Grate your butter into the flour using a large cheese grater and add in the Crisco in little bits. Mix GENTLY with your fingertips until it’s coarsely blended. Grab a rubber spatula and mix in the buttermilk. The dough will be slightly sticky but one cohesive ball.

Third: Flour the countertop and place the dough in the flour and gently knead into a flat disc. Press the dough flat and fold repeat this process no less than four times. Using an empty can (I used a tuna can) cut your biscuits out and bake in a greased (dark metal) baking pan.

Fourth: Bake for 15 – 20 minutes. Check them at 15 for brownness.

Fifth: Eat with gravy
or peanut butter and honey
or honey-butter
or lemon curd
or homemade preserves.
or just a shmeer of butter
or what ever trips your trigger.

The real challenge is not eating them all and this is NOT a low calorie biscuit.