Monday, October 28, 2013

Oh for the love of doughnuts!

Hello, are there any doughnut lovers out there?  For myself, a more accurate label might be recovering doughnut addict.  A while ago I decided that the best way to deal with this problem was just to avoid these delectable treats altogether.  I could never (and I mean NEVER) just have 2 doughnuts.  In fact, I break out in a light sweat whenever someone brings them to work.  It ruins my day because these treats have little voices that call out to me no matter where I am in the building.  It takes all of my concentration to assist patrons while I’m fighting the urge to run blindly into the lunch room and inhale two or three of the remaining doughnuts. 

And then some brilliant person created a doughnut pan for bakers.  For a year I resisted buying one, but as of last weekend I am now the proud owner a doughnut pan.  I just had to know if they created doughnuts that are as good as fried doughnuts.   I will be honest with you, fellow doughnut lovers and addicts. They are not the same, but to compare them is not fair.  It is like comparing sorbet to gelato.  But I will tell you they are very, very good and photogenic too!  I always like my baked goods to look like they come from a bakery.  After all we do eat with our eyes too.

So here are my reasons for encouraging you all to consider making your own baked doughnuts:
-The pan is not a huge investment. I bought mine for $9.00.
-Baked doughnuts are easy to make -- no special techniques or ingredients.  It took just 15 minutes to make the batter.
- The recipes are very versatile.  You can get creative with your flavors and toppings.
-Your house doesn't smell like a fast food fry joint.
-They look professionally made and you will impress your family and friends.
-They only take about 15 minutes to bake.
-This one is my favorite.  They freeze really well and then you can reheat them in the mornings and have warm doughnuts to start your days!

Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts

This recipe is my favorite one so far.   Yes, you can use it to make muffins instead, but for some magical reason they are much more satisfying to eat as doughnuts.  Recipe adapted from

Makes approximately 18-20 doughnuts

½ cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
1 ½ cups pumpkin puree (plain canned pumpkin)
zest of 1 orange
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 ½  teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
1 ¾ cups all purpose flour (if you have almond meal try substituting ¼ cup of the flour)
¼ cup granulated sugar mixed with 1-2 teaspoons cinnamon

1   Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease your doughnut pan.
2   In a large mixing bowl beat together the- oil, eggs, sugar, pumpkin, and orange zest. (I substituted 1/4 cup of the toasted pumpkin seed oil for some of the vegetable oil)
3  In a separate bowl mix together the cinnamon, salt, baking powder, and flour.
4  Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture, stirring just until smooth.
5   Fill the wells of the doughnut pans just ¾ full.  You can use a spoon for this, but for the best results use a plastic ziplock bag-  Fill bag with batter, seal bag and then snip off one corner of the bag.  Then pipe the batter into the pan.
6   Bake the doughnuts for 15-18 minutes.  If you’re making muffins, bake for 23-25 minutes.
7   Remove the doughnut pan from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes.  Then invert the pan onto a tray or carefully remove them with the tip of a butter knife.
Let the doughnuts cool for few minutes and then gently shake them in a bag with the cinnamon-sugar mixture.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Wet Your Feet With Vinaigrette

No I don't really mean stick your feet into vinaigrette.  I'm just encouraging you to try making a vinaigrette.  It's easy and if you like being creative in the kitchen, vinaigrettes are a very accommodating sauce to make.  If you need or want more specifics than a recipe provides then come to my program "Dress Up Your Salads."  I'm going to share all that I know and love about making this tasty concoction.  
Dates and times are listed at the end of this posting
Here is our haul from the local farmer’s market while on vacation and we decided it would make a great salad.  
Before we left for our trip I was looking over this great cookbook-  Salad For Dinner: Complete Meals For All Seasons by Jeanne Kelley.   I found this unusual vinaigrette recipe that I thought would be fun to try.  If you enjoy cooking (and even if you don’t) vinaigrettes are worth learning how to make.  They are easy to do and can make a boring run of the mill salad turn into fabulous dish with out a lot of effort.  Almost like an edible pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.

So get your feet wet and try making a vinagrette

Lime – Ancho Vinaigrette
Surprisingly the earthy quality of the ancho and cumin seasonings worked well with the sweetness of the beets and the lime was a nice counterpoint to the olive oil.

¼ cup lime juice
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup olive oil
You can put all of your ingredients in a jar with a lid and give it a really good shake (which is my preferred way to make this) or in a bowl dissolve your honey, salt, and seasonings in the lime juice.  Then slowly whisk in your olive oil.
For dessert we took the bananas we bought and stuck a fork into them.  Then we dipped them into some melted chocolate chips. Sprinkled the tops some broken up granola bars and froze them.  Simple and satisfying.

Dress Up Your Salads - Program
Wednesday July 17 at 7pm at Fairfax Library 415-453-8151
Wednesday July 24 at 7pm at Corte Madera Library 415-924-3515
Wednesday July 31 at 12pm at Civic Center Library 415-473-6057

Monday, June 10, 2013

Simple & Super Walnut Squares


Our family has been making and consuming these delicious bar cookies for decades.  When we bring them to parties we always get requests for the recipe.  They are very easy and quick to make.  As children we called them Noel Bars and we only made them during Christmas.  One of my brothers adores these cookies and starting asking for them year-round.  So now we called them Walnut Bars.  It is likely you already have these ingredients on hand in your kitchen.  Whip up a batch and I dare you to try eating only one. 
Walnut Bars
1 cup walnuts
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup flour
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
confectioners' sugar 

1) Use a 9x9 inch baking pan. Put the butter in the pan and place it into a 350 degree oven while you mix the rest of the ingredients.
2) If you are using whole walnuts, chop or break them up into smaller pieces.
3) Mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Then stir in the sugar, eggs, and vanilla.
4) Mix the walnuts into the batter.
5) Pull out the pan and gently swirl the browned butter around in the pan, making sure it is evenly spread out.
6) Carefully drop the batter into the melted butter in the pan.  Do not stir the batter in the pan.
7) Bake for 20-25 minutes. 
8) When the bars have cooled cut them into squares, turn them over and dust with a little confectioners' sugar.
This recipe can be baked in a smaller 8x8 in pan for thicker bars.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

I'm strong to the finich cause I eats me spinach!

Bring your family and friends to the table with this lovely spinach risotto that would make Popeye proud.  Yes, I know another recipe from Jamie Oliver, but trust me -- you will be so glad I've given it the spotlight it deserves.  Hey, look at these guys- Popeye, he's winking at you, he knows you want a bowl of this creamy goodness and well -- Jamie with his sly smile knows he has hit a home run with this dish. 
My husband and I have Italian mothers who are great cooks.  As a result we both learned how to cook many of the traditional dishes, and I guess you could say we're a little on the cocky side when it comes to cooking and evaluating this cuisine.  I have my dishes that I do well, as does my husband.  For instance, I can make a mean gnocchi while my husband excels at risotto.  I had never had risotto until I met my husband and wondered how my mother could have overlooked this wonderful dish during my childhood.  After a few years of enjoying my husband's risotto, I got it into my head that I could do it too.  But this was his dish and so he has always put me off when I asked him to show me how to make it.  Well not a problem, I thought. That’s what cookbooks are for, right? 
I decided to try the one from Fanny at Chez Panisse by Alice Waters.  It is a children's book so I figured if a child could make it, I could too.  It's a basic straightforward recipe and a great one to start with if you have never made the dish.   But there are many other cookbooks with great instructions for making this dish.  You could also try- Lidia's Italian Table by Lidia Bastianich (page 153) or Make It Italian by Nancy Verde Barr (page 196).
I've been making this dish for a while now, and I think it tastes as good as my husband's. But I could never get him to admit this until I made Jamie Oliver's version from, Cook With Jamie, My Guide to Making You a Better Cook.  I will never forget the day and time he agreed that my risotto is as good as his. So I plan to make this version repeatedly so my husband knows he is living with a risotto master. 
Spinach and Goat's Cheese Risotto
Start by first making the spinach part of the recipe and then hold it off to the side while you make the risotto.  Then add the chopped spinach after you finish cooking the risotto.  
 Spinach part of recipe
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove of garlic, peeled and chopped
nutmeg, for grating
5 oz of spinach, washed and dried (You can use more if like, I tend to use 10 oz since the spinach cooks way down, just saute with a little more oil.)
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 handful of grated parmesan cheese
1/2 lemon
4 oz of soft goat's cheese crumbled

1) In a saucepan heat 1 tablespoon of butter,  2 tablespoons olive oil, the garlic and a good grating of nutmeg. When the butter is melted add the spinach.
2) Cook for 5 minutes, moving it around in the pan until it's wilted down. 
3) Finely chop or whiz the spinach in a food processor and season with salt and pepper.  Now start the "basic risotto recipe" found below.

Basic Risotto Recipe
4-5 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion peeled and finely chopped
optional 2 sticks of celery trimmed and finely chopped
2 cups of Arborio or Carnaroli rice
1 cup vermouth or dry white wine

1) Bring to simmer the stock in a saucepan.
2) In a large pot add olive oil, butter, onion, and if using celery and cook gently for about 15 minutes until onion is soft, but without letting it develop color.
 3) Add rice, it will sizzle.  Turn up the heat and stir until the rice is well coated with the oil, butter & onion.
 4) Pour in the vermouth or wine. Keep stirring all the time until it has evaporated.
 5) Add the stock to the rice.   Only one ladle at a time, stirring frequently and waiting until it has been fully absorbed before adding more stock.  The heat should be at a low simmer so the rice doesn't cook too quickly.  Continue adding ladlefuls of stock until the rice is soft but with a slight bite.  If you run out of stock before the rice is cooked, add some boiling water.   This process will take about 15 minutes.  Be careful not to overcook the rice, it should hold its shape, but be soft, creamy and oozy.
6)  Stir in your chopped spinach into the rice.  Then stir in 2 tablespoons butter and the Parmesan cheese.  Squeeze in the juice from 1/2 of the lemon.  Check the seasoning and add some salt and pepper if needed.  
Put a lid on the pan and let the risotto rest for a minute, before folding in the goat's cheese.  For a nice presentation- add a sprinkle of lemon zest and goat's cheese to the top of each serving.
7) And now as Jamie says, "tuck in" and enjoy!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Create Your Own Lace Fabric!

This is a super easy, inexpensive and quick craft project that can be adapted to a variety of fabric projects.  I found it in a great source called the Crafter's Project Book by Mary Ann Hall & Sandra Salamony.  This book is a wonderful resource for projects that range from simple to involved.  It is divided into four categories: Paper, Fabric, Ceramic/Glass and Metal/Wire/Wood.  The authors offer tips and variations on many of the projects and the instructions are clear and concise, although no extra photos or illustrations are included beyond the final project.
You will need: a spray bottle that produces a fine mist but doesn't drip, chlorine bleach, a large bucket filled with a mixture of cold water and white distilled vinegar (I used about 2 cups of vinegar), dark colored fabric or a garment (made from natural fibers such as cotton, linen or rayon), lace, rubber or latex gloves, glasses or safety goggles, and some type of protective drop cloth or newspaper.
1.  If your fabric or garment is new, wash and dry it to remove sizing and preshrink it.
2.  Work outdoors (but not on a windy day) and put down a drop cloth or newspaper.  Carefully lay out your fabric or garment, smoothing it flat.  If you have a shirt or tee, protect the back by inserting cardboard or foil into the center so the bleach doesn't reach the bottom layer of the garment.  See picture below.

3. Carefully lay down your lace.  Try to select lace that has some weight to it and a bold or distinctive pattern.  I purchased a very small amount (2/3 of a yard) and cut it in half.  Then I carefully placed the pieces side by side to get the width I needed.  You can reuse the lace many times, just make sure you wash out the bleach so it doesn't destroy the fibers.  Alternatively you could use other items for a stencil, such as a fern frond or leaf, a doily or lace tablecloth.
4.  Put on your gloves and glasses to protect yourself. Using your spray bottle lightly mist bleach over the lace and fabric.  If you want the bleach to work more slowly, dilute the bleach with water rather than using it full strength. 
5.  Carefully lift off the lace and place it in the solution of vinegar and water to neutralize the action of the bleach.  Now watch the fabric; when the lace pattern has emerged enough to suit you, place the fabric in the bucket of vinegar and water solution and gently swish it around.   After a minute or so wash out your fabric or garment and lace with soap either by hand or in a washing machine.  For shirts with sleeves- repeat the whole process on the back of the shirt after you have washed and dried the garment. Don't forget to protect the front of the garment from the bleach.
Keep in mind that not all colors bleach the same.  Black can become brown, or gray or a purple pink.  If you have extra fabric you can do a test swatch to see how it will turn out.  Remember the darker the color of the fabric the more dramatic your results will be. 

On this piece you can see my spray bottle started dripping and left splotches on the fabric.

The dark denim bleached to a worn looking lighter blue color and because of the texture of the fabric the lace pattern was less crisp then the smoother fabrics.
Have fun experimenting!