Monday, July 30, 2012

Sweet Bing Cherry Chipotle Preserves

oh... how much do i love cherries?!...
i'll buy a pound or 2 with a recipe in mind and end up eating 1/2 the bag before i get it home.
DANG...i'll have to go buy more.

now that they are in season and on sale everywhere i can't help but find new ways to use them.  so far i've made Cherry Balsamic Jam, Cherry Clafouti, Sweet Spicy Pickled Cherries, this Sweet Bing Cherry Chipotle Preserves and i've got 3 pounds of plump Bing in the fridge waiting to be made into Sweet Cherry Balsamic Preserves.  i know i haven't posted about most of them yet, but i will get to it soon as possible...
so you too can get  going on the cherry train.

these little jars of sweet spicy smoky cherry preserves turned out absolutely fabulous...almost a mistake, but a blessing in disguise.  by that i mean...i was looking for more of a spreadable jam, kinda like my raspberry chipotle jam, but this just didn't want to pass the wrinkle test from the frozen plate.  it was thick, but not as thick as usual.  i didn't want it to go too far because i wanted to maintain the integrity of the cherries so i decided to pull the pot off the stove and "let it ride".  at first i was a little mad that it looked too runny after the 24 hour waiting period.  when i opened the first jar i was pleasantly surprised with not only the big chunky cherries, but the syrupy sauce is to die for.  not too thin at all...just thick enough to hold it's own.  the flavor has just the right amount pop from the lemon, heat from the chipotle and all the smoky adobo flavors.

the syrupy sauce glistens and runs all over the bread...i guarantee you will want to drink this stuff or at least lick the bottom of the jar...yum!


3 1/2 lbs fresh bing cherries...will probably equal 6 cups of pitted slightly chopped (*see notes) cherries
1 lemon zest
and juice from that lemon
NOTE...David calls for 2 lemons, but i think 1 will do because of the pectin in the granny smith apple slices and the acid in the adobo and balsamic.
4 slices of granny smith apple
4 1/4 cup sugar
2 chipotle peppers from can, minced
NOTE...remove seeds and mince peppers.  add seeds back in with peppers if using...the seeds are visible in the preserves and make it MUEY CALIENTE!
2 Tbsp adobo from can of chipotles
1 Tbsp aged balsamic vinegar

per David as many cherries as you feel like pitting ( i say no more than 3 - 4 lbs.).  after washing, stemming and pitting you are going to cook (soften) the cherries with the lemon zest, juice and measure the volume you have...then add 3/4 of that volume in sugar.
*NOTE...after doing this and it being kind of a hassle, i would just measure my prepared cherries (diced, halved and whole) and add the sugar accordingly, ie. 3/4 of that volume.  i found that the sweet red cherries probably did not need a pre-cooking.

i mostly followed David's recipe and did this...

don't forget to put a small plate in the fridge for plate test and start your huge pot of water for your canning if doing so.

use a large pot...the mixture will double in size and foam up.  you do NOT want cherry juice overflowing all over the stove top!
cook cherries, lemon zest and juice (i added the 4 slices of granny smith apples in at this time) stirring once in a while until they are wilted and soft...maybe 20 minutes.
measure volume, cherries and liquid, and use 3/4 of that volume in sugar.  i had 6 cups so i put a little less than 4 1/2 cups of sugar.

stir the sugar into the cherry mixture and cook over moderate to high heat.  per David, the best jam is cooked quickly.  watch and stir fruit often so as not to burn the bottom.

once the liquid begins to slightly thicken add the minced chipotle, adobo and balsamic.  stir and continue cooking.  when mixture reaches 220 F degrees do a plate test. last cherry jam was a little too thick so i over compensated because i wanted to retain the look of the cherries.  i did not reduce my liquid as much as usual...i reached 220 F degrees a few times, but did not get the wrinkle on the plate test...
the end result did not thicken to a spreadable jam consistency, but it IS a nice thick syrupy base with big chunks of delicious spicy, smoky sweet cherries.
if you want a thicker base i think you could add more sugar at the beginning and or just cook it down a little more, but you might lose the look of the cherries.
i will experiment some more and give a report, but i think the next cherry concoction will be Pickled Balsamic Cherries...

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Parmesan Vanilla Bean Pound Cake

i love pound cakes...

i think i'll be on a never ending search for the perfect pound cake...
never ending because there is not ONE perfect pound cake.
there are too many perfect pound cakes.

perfect in it's own way.

a whole cup of Parmesan cheese sets this one apart from the norm.  the parmesan hits your senses first with the fabulous aroma, then the vanilla sets in with a bit of warmth and familiar flavor...the texture is not like your basic pound cake.  at first it is just a tad "cakie"...on the verge of crumbly, but not crumbly like cornbread...hard to describe, but holds together nicely.  as you'll see in the ingredients is 1 cup of corn starch.  i might think about changing this next time.  maybe more flour less cornstarch might make a difference.  if you let it rest for a day it seems to gather it's senses and acts more like a pound cake.
 results ?...rave reviews from all of my foodie friends and guinea pigs.  at first they thought it sounded odd, but after the first bite one remark was..."this might be the best thing you've ever given me."
i served it like little sandwiches shown in last photo...sandwiched with some Cherry Balsamic Jam...i will post the jam recipe soon.

i love pound cake for breakfast.  one of my favorite ways to eat pound cake is to give it a light saute in a hot skillet.  this one lends itself to this method because it wakes up the parmesan flavors.
warm toasty cake and cold smooth ice cream  (or vanilla greek yogurt in my case) is never turned down in this house.  throw on a few fresh seasonal cherries and you have quite the dessert.

slightly adapted from Food Samba

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1/4 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar...i used 3/4 cups regular sugar and 3/4 cup Z sweet sugar sub.
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 1/2 cups AP flour
1 cup corn starch
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 cup good parmesan, grated fine
1/2 cup milk

preheat oven to 350 F degrees
butter and flour a tube pan...i used an angle food cake pan

cream together the butter and shortening in a mixer.
add sugar and mix until light and fluffy.
add eggs one at a time...beating after each one.  add vanilla.  mix well.
stir together dry ingredients in another bowl.
add dry to wet alternating with the milk.  mix until just incorporated.
pour into prepared pan and bake for 30-40 minutes...until golden on top and toothpick inserted comes out clean...mine took 47 minutes.
you do not want this to overcook...i think it could tend to dry out very easily, so keep a close eye towards the end and use your toothpick or long skewer as i did.

NOTE...i like to let my pound cakes rest for a day.  they tend to develop flavors and less "cakie"texture when they sit.  go ahead and try it the first day out of the oven,  but save some wrapped in saran and try it 2-3 days later and see if you can tell the difference.

below is a fun way to serve a jam sandwich when you're faced with a pound cake cooked in a tube or bundt pan.  i usually like to cook in loaf pans for easy storage, but the tube or bundt pan makes a better presentation as a whole.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Pineapple Coconut Vanilla Bean Jam

pineapple coconut citrus and vanilla bean...

one bite and you'll be transported to a sunny lanai on the north shore.

when we go to Hawaii we stay at this fabulous resort with one of those memorable breakfast spreads...  pastries, omelets, bacon, waffles, pancakes, jams, jellies, marmalade, bacon, oats, granola, bacon, bagels, smoked salmon, fruit, BACON, sausage. i think i over do it a bit...i mean REALLY over do it.
room service?...faget about it!  delicious.

and...shhhhhh...i always pocket the cute little jars of pineapple jam...just the pineapple.

i missed my Hawaiian vacation this year so i thought maybe i could bottle it up in a tiny little jar.  i'll make my own pineapple jam.
the result ?...pretty darn FABULOUS !
if i close my eyes i can hear the waves crashing and feel the sun shining.
i keep telling myself...soon...i'll get there soon,

but for now...
i have Hawaii in my little jar of jam.


1 medium pineapple...about 5 cups after peeling, coring, cleaning and slicing
cut into 1/4's and cut off core.  cut 1/4's into 3 wedges.  slice wedges very thin.
1 1/2 cup fresh grated coconut from white meat (no brown skin) of a brown coconut (see note)...use a cheese grater
3 1/2 cup white sugar
1 vanilla bean.  cut open and scraped
zest from 2 limes, 1 lemon and 1 small bright orange orange...peel citrus with a potato peeler and cut strips of zest into very fine slivers
juice from 1/2 lime, 1/2 lemon
1 heaping Tbsp fresh grated ginger.  again i used the cheese grater...not a microplane
1 1/2 tsp coconut extract...i only had cheap McCormick's coconut flavoring....  i thought i had the real extract in the pantry.

NOTE...since making this jam i have learned a trick to help low pectin fruits set better...throw in a few (3) wedges of granny smith apple while cooking and remove before putting in jars.
NOTE about coconut meat...refer to answer #1 on this site to remove coconut meat from shell if doing yourself

get all your stuff out and ready...
sterilize jars.  i wash them and dry them in a 210 F oven for 20 minutes, then turn the oven off and keep them in there until ready to fill.  HOT JAM MUST GO IN WARM JARS.  also bring a small sauce pan of water to a boil, then turn off.  put lids in the hot water until ready to use.
put 2-3 small plates in the freezer for plate test.

put all ingredients except extract and vanilla bean scrapings in a large pot.  i use a tall stock pot to keep splatter from happening.
cook on low heat until sugar dissolves and pineapple releases juices.  turn the heat up so it is a mild to medium boil.  carefully stir to keep an even heating and no burning on the bottom.  around 210- 215 F degrees add your extract and vanilla scrapings.  stir to inappropriate.  do a TASTE test.  BE VERY CAREFUL OF MOLTEN JAM when tasting.  at 220 F do a plate test.
NOTE...pineapple jam is hard to get a good i've heard.  i did not have any problem.  i just kept it going (turning it down to low while waiting for the test in the freezer) until i had a good wrinkle on the plate test.  i might have done at least 5 tests before i was satisfied.  don't worry, it will turn out delicious as a sauce/jam if it doesn't set all the way.
skim off any surface foam if possible.
when plate test is satisfactory, turn off heat and ladle into warm jars.
process in water bath for 10 minutes (sea level)

NOTE...i am not a professional canner, by any means.  please refer to the National Center for Home Food Preservation...or google your questions.  there is a wealth of information out there, but don't get too technical about it..

don't forget to HAVE FUN !!!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Cherry Clafoutis


i have to make use of those beautiful cherries.

cherry clafoutis is a great easy way to get those cherries in use.  the recipe calls for 1 pound, but i ate too many right out of the bag so i only had about 1/2 worries, i cut them in half to cover the dish.  this treat whips up in a flash and bakes for about 45 minutes so give yourself about an hour and you'll have something delicious for Sunday brunch or a light dessert. if you have any left over it keeps well in the fridge and is quite tasty the next day...beyond a day or two it gets a bit weepy, still edible, but i doubt you'll have it for that long.
i've included the nutritional facts and as you can see it's pretty healthy and low carb and no sugar if you use the Z Sweet like i do.  check the link if you have questions about this sugar substitute.  i used to use Splenda, but this is far far better.  it acts more like real sugar with no after taste that i am aware of.

please pardon the photo above.   as a whole,  it's rather plain looking...not a spectacular showing, but if you dress the servings up a bit like the first photo or a little powdered sugar and a few stray cherries...then you have a nice presentation.  i served mine with a little vanilla greek yogurt and some Homemade Cherry Chipotle Preserves...delish.  i'll post about the preserves very soon.
oh, by the way...if you don't have a cherry pitter by now, i suggest you go out and get one.  i have the one by OXO.
i know a true Clafoutis has the whole cherry, pit and all, but who wants to deal with running into a pit when eating something custardy and delicious?


1/4 cup sugar or sugar Z Sweet (Erythritol)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup AP flour
3 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla...
OR...1 tsp vanilla and 1/2 tsp of almond extract is nice as well
1 lb pitted cherries...i only had about 1/2 lb.  shown here... pitted and halved

preheat oven to 375 F degrees
butter a 9" pie plate
whisk together flour, sugar and salt
whisk in eggs, one at a time
whisk in milk and vanilla until incorporated.
arrange cherries in buttered pie dish.  pour batter over the cherries.
bake for about 45 minutes or until clafouti is puffed, lightly browned and middle looks set.
allow to cool a bit before serving.  sift powdered sugar over the top.

serve as is or with whipped cream for a dessert or vanilla greek yogurt for a delicious breakfast

6 servings using Z Sweet, sugar substitute...whole milk and real eggs are necessary.

plain clafoutis

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Homemade Creamy Goat Ricotta

i must admit i have never had much interest in ricotta cheese...until NOW!  i don't cook lasagna, cannoli, ravioli, blinis, blintzes, or too many cheesy things.  i'd rather partake in cheeses with a bit more flavor, like Saint Agur or Saint Andre, Cambazola...or a Triple Cream Goat Brie...just to name a few.  BUT i was watching Alex Guarneschelli's show about one of her favorite decadent breakfast ideas.  the show about homemade sausage, warm pop-overs, fresh peach preserves AND this homemade fresh ricotta.  she made it all look sooooo good and soooo easy i had to give it a try.

you know me...always with a twist....

i love making cheese and yogurts...
 there's something so fabulous about a fresh cheese hanging in the kitchen.
even when the day isn't going as planned i know i'm doing something right when cheese is hanging or yogurt is in the corner nestling under a bundle of towels.

i've made quite a few dairy products in my day...  goat cheese and Skyr (Icelandic yogurt) are my favorites... mozzarella is my downfall...just can't get it right,
BUT i have redeemed my Italian cheese making with this ricotta.  it is so easy and it's really soooo creamy and delicious.  it goes with just about any breakfast bread you can think of...muffins, pancakes, waffles, bagels, etc.... now i'll put ricotta on anything.   i DO, however,  have the slightest feeling it IS quite fattening, but i give myself a hall pass when it comes to calcium and protein rich foods...
who am i kidding...? 


i'm not the slightest bit ashamed to admit i went out and bought these carrot muffins at my favorite Mexican bakery just to slather this dreamy creamy goat ricotta on each bite.
i might not have baked the muffins, but i sure did make the ricotta and proud of will be to.

adapted from Alex Guarnaschelli.  i changed it slightly because i had 4 cups of goat milk.  check original for comments from other happy ricotta makers.

1 cup heavy cream
4 cups goat milk
2 cups buttermilk
1/2 tsp your taste

in a sauce pan, bring cream, milk, buttermilk to a simmer over medium heat.  start slow so as not to scald the milk on the bottom.  stir lightly.  when it starts to reach 175 F try not to stir.   as it heats to a full simmer you will see solids start to rise and the top begin to form a "raft".  do not stir in.  the "raft" happened at 210 F degrees for me.  turn off the heat and allow to sit for 20 minutes.

line a strainer with 4-5 layers of cheese cloth.  use a large spoon to scoop the solids from the surface into the strainer.  slowly pour the remainder, very gently, over the solids in the strainer, allowing the liquid to flow through  the strainer.   if the strainer gets too full, just wait for a few minutes to finish pouring.  if it doesn't seem to be draining very much at all, carefully run a spoon along the bottom of the cheese cloth to allow liquid to drain.  when all is in the strainer, let sit this way for 30-45 minutes or until you think you can pick up the corners and tie up as shown in photos.  i let mine drain in tied up pouch for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  my end result is so delicious and creamy kind of like a whipped cream cheese.  you can let it hang for as long as you want to get the consistency you are looking for.  remember it will thicken in the cold fridge and it's better to err on the side of moist rather than dry and stiff.  you can always strain it more later by setting it in a bowl with paper towels and more moisture will be drawn out.  i don't cook lasagna, but i think you might want it a little on the thicker side for that and other recipes.
when done, transfer to a clean bowl and stir in some salt.  i usually get about 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 cups creamy moist ricotta and i use about 1/2 tsp salt.  taste test before putting the whole 1/2 tsp in.

NOTE...i forgot to add that this makes about 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 cup depending on how long you hang the cheese and how thick you like it.

OR...flavor with fresh herbs like chives, dill, rosemary, thyme...
serve with a drizzle of olive oil or i've seen it with honey...
this stuff is fabulous on anything!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Healthy Breakfast Bread Custard

healthy, warm, filling...creamy, sweet, delicious.
protein, calcium and fiber that tastes like 
dessert for breakfast...
or is it breakfast for dessert?...

you can serve this as a guilt-free dessert on a sunday evening.
then..reheat for a quick healthy breakfast treat throughout the week with vanilla greek yogurt and fresh berries.

straight out of the oven, it's soft and custardy. add a few extra mini chips or shave some dark chocolate on before serving to make it look like more of a dessert.  on it's own it's fabulous, but you could  dress it up a bit... top with lite whipped cream, a slight drizzle of chocolate syrup or sugar free maple syrup...add some toasted almonds or pecans for a little texture?...fresh berries and some creme anglais...?

it's also great the next day, slightly warmed  or even right out of the fridge.  for a "get-up-and-go" breakfast i like to cut it into squares and layer it with yogurt and berries... drizzle with a little maple syrup in your favorite sturdy glass and your out the door in minutes with a satisfying meal to start your day.


8 - 10 slices whole wheat bread cut in 1 inch cubes (stale or slightly toasted)
i used Weight Watchers (45 cal.slice)
after the crust was cut off it weighed the same as 8 slices
1 cup whole milk
1 cup non fat milk
4 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp maple extract
1/3 cup granulated Z Sweet, Erythritol or another sugar substitute
1/2 scoop vanilla whey protein powder, optional
i like to use Jay Robb Vanilla Whey Powder
1 tsp cinnamon 
1/4 tsp ground ginger
a dash of cardamom...or more if you like, optional
a few grates of fresh nutmeg
14 grams mini chocolate chips
more chips if you like but i wanted to keep it healthier

preheat oven to 350 F degrees
this cooks in a bain marie (water bath) so heat some water on the stove and put a larger baking dish in the oven to prepare for the bain marie.
dry out your bread on a rack for a few minutes while preheating...not toasted, just a little dried.  then cube bread in approximate 1 inch squares...set aside.
in a large bowl whisk eggs and extracts...then add milks and whisk...just blend, not foamy.
in a small bowl whisk together the dry...protein powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom and sugar substitute.  this will prevent potein powder and spices from clumping.
slowly whisk dry into wet.  incorporate well.
add bread cubes and fold or gently stir so that everything is coated and cubes are absorbing liquid...let sit for a few minutes and stir again...soaking is good if you have the time.

spray an 8 inch baking dish and pour mixture in...evenly distribute cubes in dish.
sprinkle mini chips evenly and poke a few down in mixture.  you'll be surprised how much that measly 14 grams of chips will cover.
bake for 35 - 40 minutes in the bain marie or until a knife is inserted and comes out clean with no moisture or leakage at the cut.

for 8 servings

122 cals
13.5 carbs
10.5 protein
4.5 fats
3.2 fiber
3.6 sugars

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Kalamata Fig and Shallot BACON Jam

BACON JAM...i know you've seen it.  you say, "so what?!"

i'll tell you what...IT'S DELICIOUS.  that's what!

i love it so much that it has become a staple in our house...a guaranteed little jar of sweet bacony goo will be in the fridge at all times.  it goes with just about EVERYTHING!

i have made Spicy Chipotle Bacon Jam a couple of times and the newest combo with dried apricots and Garam Masal...not posted yet...but this version with dried Kalamata (light skin) figs seems to be a crowd favorite.
something about the snappy little fig seeds and the sticky spreadable texture.

serve with a nice tangy goat cheese on a seeded baguette and you've got a fabulous appetizer.
how about a waffle with maple syrup and a fried egg?
a huge spoonful on a grilled burger with Havarti cheese?
peanut butter, bacon jam and a bagel?....

the jars will disappear before you know it and you'll soon make this a staple in your fridge as well.  it's pretty darn easy, it makes the house smell delicious and you'll be a smash at the next dinner party if you bring a jar of this go on...give it a try.


1 1/2 lbs sliced smoked bacon, cooked NOT CRISPY.
i prefer to do this in the oven on a rimmed cookie sheet lined with tin foil.  reserve 1-2 Tbsp fat for recipe and the rest for something else Bacon Fat cookies perhaps.
1 medium onion, diced
1 large shallot, diced
7 oz. dried Kalamata figs, diced (remove hard stem)
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup brewed coffee, i like strong
1/2 rounded tsp to 1 tsp garam masala(depending on strength)
1/2 tsp Mexican dried chili powder, optional
1/8 - 1/4 tsp smoked salt

cook the bacon in the oven or a saute pan, until it is browned and most of the fat is rendered.  reserve 1-2 Tbsp and try to get some of the yummy scrapings.
cook onions and shallot in a saute pan with bacon fat until translucent.
add vinegar, brown sugar, maple syrup, coffee, garam masala.  bring to a boil and scrape up the bacon bits off the bottom if you have used that pan to cook the bacon.  not too long...just until sugar has dissolved and everything is incorporated.
add bacon (that has been cut or torn into 1 inch pieces) and diced apricots...stir to combine.

transfer this mixture to a 5-6 qt. slow cooker and cook on HIGH, UNCOVERED for about 3 1/2 - 4 hours, until liquid is syrupy.

transfer to a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped...or to desired consistency.  fill sterilized jars, let cool open to room temp, cover jars tight and refrigerate.

this should keep in the fridge for at least 4 weeks.  i have been known to open a fresh jar 5 weeks later and i'm not dead a matter of fact i'm working on one right now.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


YES...hands down


1.  buy some good rib eye.
2.  grind the meat yourself.
3.  don't pack the patty.
4.  cast iron skillet, searing hot
5.  medium rare is the way to go...
6.  remove from skillet before you think it's done.
7.  rest the meat!
8.  top with Saint Agur cheese while resting
9.  keep additions and condiments to a bare minimum.
10.  enjoy!

now go in for another before they're gone.

start with good rib eye.  look for nice marbling.  fat is a must.  you will be slicing the meat in strips, as shown, and feeding it into the hopper so a big huge plump rib eye is not necessary.
sprinkle the strips with a little onion powder and garlic powder (i prefer powder to salt) before feeding into hopper.

make sure all of your utensils and grinder parts are clean...clean...clean

feed the meat strips through the large hole cutter plate once...then change to the smaller holes and send it through again.  make sure you have a "stomper".  do not push through with your fingers.  ya never know...

when the meat has stopped flowing through, send a slice or two of bread through the grinder to help push the last of the meat don't want to waste an me.

handle the ground meat as little as possible.
as mentioned, DO NOT PACK YOUR PATTIES.  with all the trouble you've gone to extruding the meat, you don't want to wad this beautiful tender meat into a hard ball.
i used a biscuit cutter for a mold...lightly filled it and pressed it just enough for it to hold together.
salt and pepper the patties.

i am now a true believer in CAST IRON SKILLETS.
get it searing hot.  do not move the burger.  flip once.
again, as mentioned...remove from skillet before you think it's perfect.  it will cook considerably while resting.

i highly suggest topping with a square of SAINT AGUR CHEESE.  if you're not into bluesy cheeses, then a nice pat of butter will always suffice for that extra little unctuous trick.
let the burger rest at least 5 minutes.

choose your condiments wisely...
you do not want to interfere with the flavor and texture of this burger 
i feel like i created a burger from will too.
i never even made it to the table

now say it with me...
"i will never buy pre-ground meat again !!!

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