Panna Cotta

We had quite a treat the other night.  A restaurant we especially love here on the Island has pick up dinners two nights a week.  The Snohomish kids ordered dinner for us and G went and picked it up.  We had wonderful halibut, clams and mussels; an onion tart; and something I had never had before:  panna cotta.  There was no plate licking, but that was only because we showed amazing restrain.

I’m going to attempt Panna Cotta.  How hard can it be?  Wow, I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve said that in the past.  I’ve been researching recipes and I’m ready to give it a go.  Since I can’t go to the grocery store right now, I had to wait and order gelatin from Amazon.  Thank God for Amazon.  I’ve not really used gelatin before either.

  • 1/4 cup cold water or milk
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons (7 g/0.25 oz.) unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeded, or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Place water or the milk in a small bowl and sprinkle gelatin over the surface in a single layer. Be sure not to pile it as that will prevent the crystals from dissolving properly. Let stand for 5-10 minutes to soften.  Why yes, it does look like a bowl of brains.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat cream, sugar, vanilla pod, and vanilla seeds on medium heat and bring just to a boil until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and discard vanilla bean. Stir in gelatin and immediately whisk until smooth and dissolved. If the gelatin hasn’t fully dissolved, return the saucepan to the stove and heat gently over low heat. Stir constantly and don’t let the mixture boil.
  3. Pour cream into 4 individual serving dishes. Refrigerate for at least 2-4 hours, or until completely set.

 * From the Recipe Box:

This is very similar to custard, but much silkier.  We loved it.  The top picture looks like brains to me, but it’s the gelatin softening in the milk.

I went with this recipe because I did not have any half and half.  Remember, no extra store trips.  I may try the other one at a future date.

and remember this Chinese Proverb:  If you don’t want anyone to find out, don’t do it.    Big kiss, Lynn

Banana Pecan Muffins

I had a request for banana pecan muffins the other day, not the yucky gluten free ones I made gluten-free girl, but real muffins like you could buy at Costco.  They are no longer selling the banana ones here in Washington, so my peeps who love them are having to scramble.  These are dense with mashed bananas and lots of chopped pecans.  It’s rather odd to me that you can like pecans and not walnuts, but I guess I am odd.  Don’t say anything.

This is Tyler Florence’s recipe.  His food is usually pretty solid so I started with his.  Since I’m not a banana person, I brought in others to help with the taste test.  My initial thought was a bit more salt.  No one else agreed with me.  Hosers.  The recipe says 12 muffins, I got a solid 18.  I baked them for 20 minutes, but 23 might be better.

These weren’t bad.  G ate 2.  I’m going to try another recipe or 2.  Combining the brown sugar and bananas for your moisture was a new step for me and I may incorporate it in other recipes.  Clever.

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 overripe bananas

1 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup pecans, chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and lightly butter 2 muffin tins.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside. Mash 2 of the bananas with a fork in a small bowl so they still have a bit of texture. With an electric mixer fitted with a wire whisk, whip the remaining bananas and sugar together like you mean it, for a good 3 minutes. Add the melted butter, eggs, and vanilla and beat well, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice. Mix in the dry ingredients just until incorporated. Fold in the nuts and the mashed bananas with a rubber spatula. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins to fill them about halfway. Give them a rap on the counter to get any air bubbles out.
  3. Bake until a toothpick stuck in the muffins comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes before turning the muffins out.   Serve warm or at room temperature.

 * From the Recipe Box:

Bananas are not my favorite fruit, but these were pretty good.

Yes, we do love our butter.

I do wish recipes were more specific.  4 bananas:  big bananas, little bananas, I need details.

and remember:   A better world is possible, don’t settle.   Big kiss, Lynn

Lemon Tart 2.0

Yes, I know.  You’ve had it up to the gills with lemon tarts.  I don’t care; it was my birthday and that’s what I wanted for my birthday cake.  My able bodied sous chef was here on the Island with me so we decided to get fancy with Grandma O’s meringue recipe.  There was even a bit of a styling competition between my sous chef and the big G.

Normally, the meringue would be much taller, but I wanted to put a thin layer on each.  We made the meringue and scooped it onto each tart.  I think it ended up being about 1/2 inch deep.  Meringue isn’t my drug of choice, so I was quite happy with that amount.

My sous chef made the swirls and twirls.  I like the way the points get extra dark.  G got all fancy and and made the long swirls.  You choose; I think they both look good.  Don’t let anyone tell you meringue is tricky; it couldn’t be easier.  I read now where you have to have special equipment and super greaseless bowls.  Grandma O made hers with a hand beater.  You can do it!

For a 9 inch pie:

3 egg whites

1/2 teaspoon cream of tarter

6 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Beat the egg whites with the cream of tarter until frothy.  Gradually beat in the sugar a little at a time.  Continue beating until stiff and glossy.  Pile the meringue onto the pie filling, being careful to seal the meringue onto the edge of the crust to prevent shrinking.  If the filling is exposed to the heat, (not entirely covered) it may “weep”.  Swirl or pull up points to decorate the top.  Bake until delicately browned, usually 8 to 10 minutes works.  Cool gradually in a slightly warm place, away from drafts.  A chill may make the meringue fall.

*  From the Recipe Box:

I like a graham cracker crust.  Use any recipe you like best, or refer to the one I included a while back.

and remember what MLK Jr said:  History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the “good” people.  Big kiss, Lynn

Peppers and Goat Cheese

We love stuffed peppers.  We’re especially fond of jalapenos stuffed with sausage, but this recipe really caught my eye.  Anything we can use as a nibble is a good thing.  And since the 4th of July is coming, I need some new nibbles to serve my people.

G is the goat cheese fan in the family, but I think everyone would find these appealing.  The tang of the goat cheese will really add a zing to the peppers.  Sometimes you need to keep quiet about the goat cheese though; people get weird about new ingredients.

  • 8-12 mini sweet peppers
  • 1/2 cup goat cheese, softened at room temp – unflavored chevre is best
  • herbs and spices of your choice
  • black pepper
  • salt
  • olive oil

If you can’t find mini peppers, you can always cut a bell pepper into wedges, too.  I’m also wanting to try these with jalapenos.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut the peppers in half and pull out the membranes and the seeds. They won’t add any spice – they’ll just taste bitter.

Place them on a baking sheet and drizzle them with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mix them so every single pepper is nice and coated.

I used several pinches of dried pepper flakes and a couple pinches dill. And then I added a little extra black pepper, because G and I have a black pepper problem.  Use more then you think you need; the flavors can disappear.

Mix it until well combined.

Add a small amount of cheese to each pepper – press it down with your fingers as you fill them so it gets in all the nooks and crannies. It’s best to use one hand to fill them and one hand to hold them – otherwise you’ll end up with cheese everywhere.

Put them in a 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the peppers start to soften and wrinkle. The cheese should be beginning to brown as well as the bottom of the peppers.

They were good hot and at room temperature.

*  From the Recipe Box:

These aren’t the spicy peppers, so you won’t have to worry about the pain.

We love the oozing cheese and plan on making cheese crisps that way.

and remember what Khalid Hossani said:  And that’s the thing about people who mean everything they say.  They think everyone else does too.  Big kiss, Lynn

Peanut Butter Pie

This entry is brought to you by the dashingly debonair G.  We were watching a cooking show the other night and he saw a peanut butter pie.  Was it this pie?  Hell, no.  G cannot leave well enough alone; he must change it to be his own creation.  There was no recipe provided, but that has never stopped G.

So, the pie we saw was made with a graham cracker crust, crunchy peanut butter and cream cheese.  G wanted his to have a chocolate graham cracker crust  and creamy peanut butter, because that’s what we have.

This is a really good example of trying something new.  G didn’t have the pie baking skills necessary to make a pie, but he did have the desire to have a piece of peanut butter pie.  Sometimes that’s all it takes.  Don’t let fear stop you from trying something new.

Graham cracker crust

1 sleeve graham crackers, regular or chocolate, crushed

1/4 cup butter, melted

2 tablespoons sugar

Combine all, press firmly in pie pan and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.  Cool before adding filling.

Peanut butter filling

1 cup peanut butter, creamy or crunchy (G used creamy peanut butter and added 1/2 cup chopped peanuts)

1 cup cream cheese, room temperature

1 cup whip cream, whipped

1 teaspoon vanilla

Using a hand mixer, whip peanut butter and cream cheese.  Set aside.  Whip cream and slowly incorporate it into peanut butter mixture.  Add vanilla.  Once it’s the desired consistency, pour into your prepared pie shell.

G drizzled chocolate syrup over the slices when serving.  Next time he said he’ll put a plop of whip cream on as well.  He says for the visual appeal, but we all know he’s lying.  He loves whip cream!

*  From the Recipe Box:

Be careful with the chopped peanuts.  G used salted peanuts and he had to scramble a bit to lessen the salt flavor in the pie.

The pie is really rich, but everyone but me loved it.  It was a bit much for me.

and remember:  I’ve decided to be happy because it’s good for my health.  Big kiss, Lynn

Bark, Bark, Bark

Over the years, G and I have turned into chocolate bark fans.  Today I want to focus on 3 different barks.  And you thought this was going to be about dogs.  Ha-ha.  I think both G and I like the white chocolate, pistachio and cranberry bark the best.  We made this the first time years ago to give as Christmas gifts.  We liked it so much, we kept thinking of other options to try.  We really liked the way it looked.  There’s something classy and sophisticated about bark.

I found these great discs on Amazon.  They melt really well and the chocolate has a decent flavor.  As I’ve mentioned, I’m not a huge chocolate fan and some chocolates really ….. offend me.  That isn’t the right word, but I don’t want to eat a KitKat due to the chocolate and yet it’s one of G’s favorite chocolate bars.  There’s a flavor profile that just offends the old tongue.  So, maybe it is the right word.

Bark # 1 White Chocolate, Pistachio and Craisin Bark

Melt 12 ounces white chocolate discs in the microwave for approximately 1 minute

Keep going in 15 second intervals if it needs more time.

Place parchment on cookie sheet.  Pour white chocolate on parchment.  Sprinkle pistachios and craisins over melted chocolate and cool in refrigerator.  Break into pieces when firm.

Bark # 2 Reese’s Pieces Milk Chocolate Bark

Melt 12 ounces milk chocolate discs in the microwave for approximately 1 minute

Keep going in 15 second intervals if it needs more time.

Place parchment on cookie sheet.  Pour milk chocolate on parchment.  Sprinkle Reese’s Pieces and cut up Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups over melted chocolate and cool in refrigerator.  Break into pieces when firm.

Bark # 3 Dark Chocolate, Pecan and Montmorency Cherries

Melt 12 ounces dark chocolate discs in the microwave for approximately 1 minute

Keep going in 15 second intervals if it needs more time.

Place parchment on cookie sheet.  Pour dark chocolate on parchment.  Place whole pecan halves and chopped Montmorency cherries over melted chocolate and cool in refrigerator.  Break into pieces when firm.

*  From the Recipe Box:

We love bark; it is the perfect Christmas gift basket addition.

These discs melt so easily, a quick stir will usually get all the lumps out.

Try your favorite flavor and let me know.  I’m always looking for new ideas.

We stirred the nuts and fruit into the white chocolate bark, and I will do that with the others next time.  I don’t like the bark chocolate spread too thin.

and remember:  You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy candy and that’s almost the same thing.  Big kiss, Lynn

Strawberry Cake

Strawberries are a little like apricots for me.  When I was a kid and living in Portland, apricots were just about my favorite fruit.  They were rich in flavor and so juicy.  My mom and grandma canned them every summer.  And then, I don’t know what happened, but they lost their flavor.  I don’t even bother to buy apricots anymore.  I still buy strawberries, but only because G loves them.
When I saw this strawberry cake, I thought eureka, I can combine the best of both worlds, strawberries one time and apricots the next.  So, let’s discuss the recipe.  It’s a very moist cake.  The sour cream is a great addition to the cake.  I baked it for an hour, but I don’t think that was nearly enough.  There were quite a few recipes on You Tube.  This one was by The CooknShare.  He has almost a million followers, so I assumed he’s doing something right and picked his cake to try.  He didn’t suggest a pan size.  I used a 9 inch springform, but next time I will use a 10 inch; that will help it cook a little quicker.
Ingredients
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp of baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • ½ cup of vegetable oil
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of sour cream
  • 12 oz of strawberries
  • powdered sugar for dusting
Instructions
  1. Heat your oven to 350 F
  2. Beat the eggs and sugar in bowl until they turn a pale color.
  3. Add the sour cream and oil and beat until well combined.
  4. Sift in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix over low speed until a smooth batter forms.
  5. Grease and line a 9 inch springform pan with parchment paper.
  6. Pour half the batter in and top with diced strawberries.
  7. Add the remaining half of the batter and cover with the remaining diced strawberries.
  8. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes.
  9. Allow to cool completely.
  10. Dust with confectioners sugar and serve.

* From the Recipe Box:

It’s hard to tell when this cake is done.  It’s a nice light color and it springs back even when still very raw in the center.

I’d frozen my berries.  I wouldn’t do it again if fresh was an option.  I didn’t like the way they bled on top of the cake.  I always want perfect.

and remember:  Charles Bukowski said it best:  The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts while the stupid ones are full of confidence.  Big kiss, Lynn