RECIPE: Homemade Galliano-ish Liquor Infusion

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I am turning out to be quite the "kitchen witch" of late. I just love watching things infuse after time into something lovely and aromatic in lovely mason jars. Then I love people sipping what I concoct with "Oooos" and "Ahhhs!" The whole process of creation; from seed, to harvest, to infusion, to bottling and labeling is just so much fun.


And this latest experiment did not disappoint. Galliano is a favorite liquor of mine (hello? 1st generation Italian?) Now, the true Galliano recipe is as tightly held as Mr. Krab's crabby patty formula. But after much research, I felt I had enough to go on to take a good crack at it. What ensued was me gleefully cutting flowers around my yard, and sprinkling my own dried florals and herbs into mason jars. The jars looked like they were growing a summer garden, and smelled that way, too. The final liquor has the same subtle experience, like a summer garden on your taste buds. It makes for a great digestive..and addition into a summer cocktail.


Homemade Galliano-ish Liquor Infusion

Ingredients:

1 wide mouth 24 oz (pint and a half) mason jar
1 star anise
1/2 tsp. dried anise seed
1" chunk of peeled ginger, cut in half
1 Tbsp. dried chamomile flowers
6 juniper seeds
1/2 cup yellow yarrow blossoms
1 tsp. dried lavender
1 cinnamon stick
3 whole cloves
Rind of half a lemon
Rind of 1/4 of an orange

Decent quality vodka, like Svedka or Soboleski (but not too good...save the Grey Goose for a martini!)
Directions:



 
Steep all ingredients for 2-3 weeks in decent quality vodka in one clean, dry mason jar. Shake it once in a while.




Strain through a fine sieve, than again through a cheesecloth lined fine sieve. 

Clean mason jar and dry, and pour steeped vodka back into the jar. Add a 1-2 " vanilla bean. Steep for two more weeks.

Strain one more time through a cheesecloth lined sieve. Add 3 cups simple syrup to taste and bottle in a sterilized, labeled bottle for storage.

Simple syrup

3 cups water, 3 cups sugar, heated, dissolved and cooled.

RECIPE: Peach Bread with Raspberry Filling and Graham Almond Crumble

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It's truly peach season, so if you are noticing a wave of peach recipes on the blog, it's because we are in peach heaven in our kitchen. We bought quite a few in Michigan, and I plan on freezing a bunch today for my sunburst peach pie recipe to make next weekend. I have had pretty good luck preserving farm fresh, ripe peaches this way. I lay the sliced, peeled peaches in a layer on a foil lined baking sheet, and I just throw it in the freezer. Then I take the baking sheet out, pull them off and put them in a freezer bag, and put them back in the freezer. To use them, I pull the peaches out for an hour or two and then continue with my recipe.

But back to my recipe here, this was something I made one sunny morning in Michigan. I had left over graham crackers from s'mores the night before, and some left over almonds from a salad, so VOILA. I made mini breads so I could give one to our lake house landlords for a gift, one for a gift for my coworkers, one for us to eat at breakfast, and one to nibble on the rest of the vacation week. I think you can make two large breads from this same recipe if you don't have mini pans. Don't buy more kitchen gadgets if you don't have to! We don't need more clutter, right?


Peach Bread with Raspberry Filling and Graham Almond Crumble

Ingredients
1 cup regular flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup regular sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup milk
3 Tbsp. canola oil
1/2 tsp. vanilla

1 1/2 cup chopped ripe peaches, skinned and pitted
1 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. lemon juice

Crumble
1/4 cup crumbled graham crackers
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. chilled butter, chopped
3 Tbsp. sliced almonds
1 Tbsp. flour

Directions:

Butter 4 small mini bread pans. Preheat oven to 350˚. In a small bowl, macerate the peaches with almond extract and lemon juice. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the flours, salt, cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.

Make the crumble by mixing the crumbled graham crackers with the cinnamon, brown sugar and flour. Mash in the butter with a fork or your fingers until you have a crumbly mixture and the butter is evenly distributed. Mix in the almonds and set aside.



 In a smaller bowl, whisk the oil with the sugars until smooth, then whisk in the yogurt and milk. Whisk until creamy. Add the vanilla and eggs, and whisk until thick. Pour slowly into the dried ingredients and whisk until just combined. Fold in all the peaches with their juices.






Pour the batter into each pan until each is 2/3 full. With a teaspoon, ladle 2-3 teaspoons of raspberry jam along the middle of the batter in each pan. Then pour the rest of the batter over the filling, evenly distributing it among all 4 pans. 

Bake on the middle upper rack for about 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, take a butter knife and gently slice a line along the middle, not going to deep, but just so that the center gets deflated a little. This helps to prevent doming that happens a lot with sweet breads. After doing this, crumble the topping over each bread, distributing evenly. Bake for another 20-30 minutes, rotating pans midway. Let cool in pans for 15 minutes, then run a butter knife along the edge and pull them out to cool completely.

RECIPE: Upside Down Cobbler Peach and Blueberry Cake

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Farm fresh fruit. It's everywhere. And I keep buying it. I can't help myself.

I have issues.

This little recipe was a great find while flipping through an old BHG magazine. I was looking for a family treat idea to use up some really ripe blueberries and peaches (you know the summer drill.) I changed it up a bit, to use more farm fresh fruit and create a better sauce to get baked into the cake. 

This really is an upside down cobbler-so to speak. The cake batter is on the bottom versus the top. It is super easy and makes TWO-yes, TWO cakes for ONE effort! If you are doing some entertaining, keep one for guests and keep one for you later (or freeze it.) It comes with an easy, fluffy cream sauce to serve with it, using marshmallow fluff. 

 We liked the cake served warm, then with a dollop of the cream. It melts just enough on top of the gooey fruit juice to create a wonderful summer party in your mouth. I would imagine you can use a variety of different fruit, so mix it up!


Upside Down Cobbler Peach and Blueberry Cake
with Cream Cheese Marshmallow Cream

 

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
Dash of salt
1 cup milk
1/4 cup softened butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla

1 1/2 cups blueberries
1 1/2 cups peeled and chopped peaches
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2/3 cup water
1 Tbsp. corn starch

2 Tbsp. butter, chopped

Cream cheese marshmallow cream
8 oz. whipped cream cheese
3.5-4 oz. marshmallow fluff
1 Tbsp. milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

Spray 2 8" cake pans with nonstick cooking spray. Preheat oven to 350˚. 

In a saucepan, mix blueberries and chopped peaches with their juices. Add the 1/3 cup of sugar, lemon juice and water. Heat on low, and once the berries begin to release their juices, add the cornstarch and mix. Heat up for 4 more minutes, until fruit is softened and juices begin to thicken. Take off the heat, and let cool down slightly.

In a small bowl, mix the flour with salt and baking powder. 


In a large bowl, whip the butter and sugar together. Then whip in the milk and flour mixture, alternately. Whip in the sour cream and vanilla. Whip until light and fluffy. Divide the batter and pour batter into the pans evenly. 

 

Then ladle the fruit and juice over the batter in each pan. Dot the top of the fruit with chopped butter. Bake on the middle rack for 45-55 minutes, or until lightly golden and puffy. 

While the cake is baking, whip the cream cheese, marshmallow, milk and vanilla until light and creamy. Store in the the refrigerator until ready to serve. Spoon the cake warm into bowls with a dollop of the cream.

COOKING: 10 Ingredients you should Always Have on Hand for Cooking

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We recently came back from our annual vacation where we rent a lake house on a small lake in Michigan. This recent stay was at a house we had never stayed at before. It was a cute A-frame with a small galley kitchen. Unlike other houses we've stayed at, this kitchen was not equipped with much. It was really the bare basics. And there was little room for storage-and honestly, we didn't want to buy seconds of everything just to pack it all up and bring it all back, too.

What this trip did was force us to not only shop for what was in season day by day, but simplify our approach to cooking overall. But being foodies, we still aimed pretty high for our meals. The fortunate thing was we were in the heart of farm country in the Midwest. And farm fresh fruit and vegetables don't need much to be delicious. But it made me realize that the basics we did have or purchased helped us make amazing things. Here is a list of 10 ingredients that you should always have in your kitchen (or in a small lake house kitchen) so you can make the most out of seasonal produce. Or at least make a well balanced, delicious meal for you and your family no matter what you have on hand. I am assuming that this would supplement the absolute basics of salt, pepper, sugar and flour-just to be clear.

1: Granulated garlic
Fresh is always best, but if you just want something shelf stable and versatile, dried is good to have on hand. It can season a basic pasta dish, vegetables, marinades and dressings. It's use is limitless and indispensable.
 
2: Chicken Bouillon
Chicken bouillon can be the base of a basic soup, but it can also flavor grains as they cook or be the base of a sauce pretty easily. Having stock in a condensed and shelf stable form allows it to be on hand no matter what you decide to whip up. We prefer the "Better Than Bouillon" brand flavors that we have on hand in the fridge. But we also have simple cubes, too, in case we are out of the good stuff.

3: Brown rice
A good basic grain is always good to have on hand to round out a protein or add to some seasonal vegetables as a pilaf or stir fry. We prefer brown rice for the fiber and nutrition. But you can keep quinoa, couscous or white rice in the pantry.
 
4: Pasta
Similar to having a grain on hand, a pasta on hand is also helpful to keep in the pantry. Pasta can become a main dish with whatever you bring from the farmer's market, perfect with some garlic and olive oil, or as a side to your protein.


5: Lemons
These guys are a must to keep around. Squeeze some on fish, to a marinade, to a salad dressing, as a sauce, as a garnish for a drink, as a base for syrup, as a flavor to some fresh fruit, or baked in any kind of basic dessert. Lemons can be used for and in just about anything, simply and elegantly.

6: Olive Oil
Olive oil is not only used as a basic way to saute just about anything, but can be used in a lot of baked items, or as a base for marinades and sauces for pasta.

7: Parmesan Cheese Wedge
It's good to have one cheese on hand. We prefer Parmesan. It's salty punch adds a nice layer of flavor to just about anything like salads, pilafs, pastas, omelets, savory tarts, or as simple as cheese and crackers.

8: Eggs
Eggs can be a main dish, as crepes or omelets, but can also be a binder in casseroles, stuffing, meatballs, meatloaf and the like. They can help coat a protein for a crust, or as a sauce. And of course, a binder in pancakes and baked goods are table stakes.

9: Sour Cream/Greek Yogurt
This ingredient is a great garnish for fritters, pancakes and potatoes. But we use this as a rich ingredient in pancakes, breads, cakes, sauces, casseroles, fritters, eggs, puddings, etc.

10: Butter 
Butter is the basis of all good things. Yes, you can saute anything in some melted butter, or even a brown butter. But butter can richen up a light sauce for pasta, and a base to almost every baked good imaginable.
 
 





RECIPE: Creamy Corn and Spinach Casserole

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Corn corn corn.

It's everywhere at the farmer's markets. It's delicious, but when you have too many left over ears, don't feel guilty! You can make this lovely casserole with spinach and it makes a great side or light lunch the next day.

I'm just trying to help with all that "farm produce guilt" at this time of year, when you throw away farm fresh yummies because they get too ripe or just plain have too much to eat.

I'm a helper. I help.

Enjoy!


Creamy Corn and Spinach Casserole

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups corn (2-3 ears of cooked corn, with kernels cut off)
2 Tbsp. butter
1 1/2 cups torn up baby spinach leaves
11/2 Tbsp. diced onion
1/2 tsp. granulated garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbsp. flour
4 oz. cream cheese
1 cup milk
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/8-1/4 grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs

Topping:
1 cup crumbled day old bread
2 Tbsp. melted butter
1 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

Directions
Preheat oven to 350˚. Butter a casserole or baking dish.

In a large saute pan, melt 2 Tbsp. butter over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, and cook until onion is translucent. Add the spinach, and cook until beginning to wilt. Add the flour, and whisk until the flour is combined and begins to brown. Next add the milk as you whisk. Your sauce will begin to thicken. Lower your heat, and cook. Add the cream cheese, and whisk until cheese is melted and combined. Whisk in the Dijon mustard, and stir in the corn. Season with salt and pepper, and mix well. Take off the heat, and let the mixture cool down slightly.

Meanwhile, in another dish, whisk the eggs. Slowly add a little bit of the corn mixture, and whisk. Add the corn mixture a few more times, whisking it in as you go. You are basically tempering the eggs. When you feel the eggs have sufficiently warmed up, add the eggs to the corn mixture and whisk it all in completely. Pour the corn mixture into the buttered dish. 

In a small bowl, add the melted butter to the crumbled bread mixed with the Tbsp. of grated Parmesan cheese. Crumble it generously over the top of the casserole. Bake on the lower half of your oven, for about 20-25 minutes. Move the casserole to the top half for another 5 minutes until casserole is golden on top and is puffy and sizzling. Serve warm.

RECIPE: Homemade Bing Cherry Extract

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My neighbors gave us luscious farm raised Michigan cherries as a thank you for watering their yard while away. My husband excitedly rinsed them and put them in a bowl for noshing.

He put the bowl in the dining room. (?)

Well, they were ripe, as farm cherries should be.

And we didn't go into the dining room that often this week, except to dump off library books and mail.

You know how that goes.

Anyhoo. Low and behold, where are the fruit flies coming from?! I get asked.

Yeah.
So, rather than committing the horrible crime of throwing away these over ripe cherries, I picked through the ones that had turned (creating the fruit flies) and kept the rest to pit, mash up and throw in some vodka. I can have ripe cherry flavor all winter for cocktails, cookies and whatnot.

Here's how you can do the same, and not have what I call, "farm fruit guilt".

You're welcome.

Bing Cherry Extract
 
Ingredients:
2 cups uber-ripe cherries, pitted and mashed up well with a pastry cutter or potato masher
350 ml. of decent vodka (we used Svedka, it's good for the price. You don't need Grey Goose or anything like that. Save that for the martinis, people.)
A clean and sterilized mason jar
A clean and sterilized bottle for storing, with a label
Cheesecloth and fine sieve


Directions:
 
 
 

 
Throw your mashed up cherries in a mason jar. Fill with vodka. Seal and store in indirect sunlight for two weeks.
Give it a shake once in a while.
 
 

After 2 weeks, drain through a fine sieve, then a second straining with cheesecloth lining your fine sieve to get out the finer particulates is best.

Use a funnel to pour the red liquid gold into your labelled bottle for storage.

RECIPE: Gluten Free Baked Mac & Cheese with Roasted Chicken

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I know I've written before about my daughter's obsession with roasted chicken. We get bone- in chicken in some shape or form once a week. It leaves me with a lot of chicken to get creative with. The other twist to my story, is that we've recently discovered my daughter has a gluten sensitivity. So as we tweak some of our eating habits to accommodate this restriction, I am also getting creative with her staple favorites. Thus, my mac and cheese with chicken concoction here.

Daughter gives it 2 thumbs, way up!

And she's tough.

The key here is a good gluten free flour or potato starch for thickening. Bob's Red Mill has a great flour we've discovered, and Trader Joe's has their own as well. If you have found some good brands, please share. Some blends have white rice starch as a base, while others have more nutritious blends like brown rice and Amaranth. I prefer more nutrition, personally, for my growing girl.

Gluten Free Baked Mac and Cheese with Roasted Chicken

Ingredients
Topping
1 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 cup gluten free puffed rice cereal, crushed up with a spoon
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan

Pasta
1/8 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup small diced onion
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 cup-1cup roughly shredded, cooked/roasted chicken meat
2 Tbsp. potato starch
2 cups whole milk, warmed
3 cups mixed mild and sharp cheddar, shredded
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
3/4 lb. gluten free pasta (we like brown rice) elbows, shells, and the like, cooked according to package directions and drained

Directions



Preheat oven to 350˚. Spray a 13 x 9 pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat the milk until close to boil, keep warm.

 




In a large saucepan, heat 1 Tbsp. butter over medium heat and add the onions and garlic. Cook until translucent. Add the potato starch and whisk, cooking the starch for one minute. As you whisk, slowly add the milk. Whisk as you add, and the milk will thicken up quickly. Whisking prevent lumps. Cook the milk until thick about 3 minutes.




Remove the milk from heat. Stir in the cheddar and Parmesan until melted and smooth. Add the mustard and chicken and stir until combined. Now add the pasta and stir until it's evenly coated with the cheese sauce. Pour mixture into the waiting pan. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the pasta.
 


Bake for about 15-20 minutes. Dish should be hot and bubbly, and the top golden brown. Serve warm. Take a food coma nap after. Lol.




RECIPE: Gluten Free Almond Polenta Blueberry Cake

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I'm considered a baking genius in my circle of friends. But this gluten free thing for my kid is throwing me for a loop. Baking gluten free is more chemistry experiment than true baking. A lot of what I know doesn't hold true in baking with the absence of wheat flour.

So I am experimenting. This cake I found on sugarloco.com looked good, but as many GF sweets, it looked like it would be dry (even with a stick and a half of butter). So I had some farm fresh blueberries to use up, and thought that would give some much needed moisture to this cake. With the addition of a blueberry layer, I altered the flavor profile a bit, and adjusted the sugar, too.

And it did add that much needed moisture.

It's very European in style and texture. It's a little grainy and peasant/rustic in style on account of the almond meal and polenta. But I dug it. So did my family. My daughter gave me one thumbs up-not 2. But she's tough, and still getting used to GF herself. Hubby and I had seconds on the deck, with some nice iced tea while the sun went down.

Not a bad way to spend a Saturday evening, right?

Gluten Free Almond Polenta Blueberry Cake


Ingredients:

1/2 cup almonds, finely ground up in a processor
1/2 cup polenta
1/2 cup gluten free flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
12 Tbsp. butter, softened
Nonstick cooking spray and parchment paper
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs at room temperature
3 Tbsp. orange juice
1 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Blueberries:
2 cups rinsed blueberries
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. gluten free flour

Directions:



Spray a 9x2 cake pan with cooking spray. Line with parchment paper cut to size along the bottom. Spray again. Sprinkle the bottom with the toasted sliced almonds and set aside.

Move an oven rack to the upper third of your oven. Preheat to 325˚.

In a small bowl, toss the blueberries with flour, lemon juice and sugar. Let sit while you prep the cake.




In another small bowl mix the polenta with baking powder, ground almonds, salt and GF flour. Set aside.




With a mixer, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and whip until fluffy. Add the eggs one a time, beating well between additions. Add the orange juice, lemon zest and vanilla. Mix well. Turn mixer on low, then slowly add the flour mixture until well combined.




Pour blueberries with all their juices into the pan evenly on top of the almonds. Pour the batter gently over the blueberries evenly. Use a spatula to even things out.

Bake for 45 min-1 hour. This cake takes a while. The top will get very brown. But don't worry. It's the middle you need to worry about. The middle should not wobble or be loose. Toothpick will come out clean when done.

When ready (remember, no wobbly middle!) let cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes on a wire rack. This will also help the cake set. Run a knife around the sides gently. Turn the cake upside down onto a cake platter. Peel off the parchment paper and serve warm with some whipping cream if you wanna get fancy.




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