Sour Cream Chocolate Cake with Whipped Cream and Strawberries

Valentine’s Day is a great reason to pull out a recipe for a spectacular dessert. This one has it all: chocolate, whipped cream and strawberries. The bonus is that it goes together in minutes once the cake is baked.

On the farm, cream fresh from the barn was always available to bake with. I can still see my mom using an old-fashioned separator which sat out on our back porch.  The cream was thick and rich and had a wonderful flavor. My mom would turn the cream into scalloped potatoes, creamed peas or on special occasions,  whipped cream for desserts or ice cream. When the cream was not used fast enough, wild yeasts would culture it naturally to make sour cream which made the best sour cream chocolate cakes.

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The cream rises to the top of fresh milk from the farm. Skim just the top cream off to make whipped cream. Sour cream can be made from a mixture of the top cream and the lighter cream. For a low-fat sour cream-type product, allow the milk (with cream removed) to culture).

Dairy products will culture naturally from wild yeasts in the air in a day on the counter or in about 1 1/2 weeks in the refrigerator. You can also add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice to fresh milk or cream. It only needs to sit for a few minutes before it is ready to add to the batter.  Commercial sour cream is a different type of product than naturally soured cream and can not be substituted.  Commercial buttermilk found in the dairy case at the grocery store would be a good substitution.  It is also cultured and the acid from the cultured products react with the chocolate during baking to create an exceptionally delicious chocolate cake.SONY DSC

 

Layers of decadent chocolate cake, fresh strawberries and real whipped cream makes this a cake that all the trappings expected of a Valentine Dessert.  It goes together easy because whipped cream makes up both the filling between the layers and the frosting.

SONY DSCStrawberry between the layers (especially when they are sliced) means the cake is best served the same day it is served.  To make the cake ahead, omit the strawberries from the cake layers and just layer a butter cream frosting between the layers. My favorite type of filling and frosting is whipped cream. On the farm, we never had to worry about the cake being highly perishable. With 9 in our family, we rarely knew what leftovers were.

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I like the open layers showing the fruit, with an obvious “made with love” look.  The photo below looks beautiful but the I think the cake above says “I love you” in all the luscious layers and imperfections.

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Professional cakes often have the sides covered with pipped frosting. Whipped cream spooned into a decorators bag can be piped onto the sides of the cake. For this technique, the whipped cream needs to be slightly stiffer than usual. Just beat the cream about 30 seconds longer (and add a bit of softened, unflavored gelatin) and it will hold its shape when pipped. Take care not to over-beat the cream or it will curdle.

Sour Cream Chocolate Cake With Whipped Cream Filling and Frosting

2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups whole milk or cream soured naturally or with 1 tsp lemon
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups  sugar
2 large eggs

Filling:

1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups sliced strawberries

Sift dry ingredients together and set aside. Beat butter,vanilla and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time.  Alternately, beat in dry ingredients and cream. Beating well after each addition. Pour batter into two 9-inch round baking pans that have been sprayed with non-stick spray with flour (or grease and flour pans). Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes and turn out of cake pans to finish cooling.

In a bowl with an electric mixer beat cream until light and fluffy. Add sugar and vanilla and beat just a second longer to combine.

Assemble cake:
Arrange 1 cake layer on a large cake plate and carefully slice it in half. Set the top half aside. Spread the first cake layer with about 3/4 cup whipped cream. Top cream with strawberry slices and then repeat with remaining cake layers and whipped cream, garnishing the top with additional strawberries.

 

Superbowl Food Everyone Can Get Into

This focaccia bread is so good, Carson had to make sure he got every last crumb from the counter.  No, he was not food deprived and yes, his mom does feed him…it’s just that good and he didn’t want to miss a bit. It a recipe Superbowl fans will get into also. A superbowl party is a fun excuse to pull out my family’s all-time favorite recipes.  Many  are from Dave’s mom who would serve a wonderful appetizer buffet every January.  Her recipe box is full of great ones like artichoke dip and spinach-cheese squares.  She was the inspiration for our tradition of appetizers for Superbowl Sunday. My spread has evolved to include focaccia bread.

This focaccia recipe is really one I designed long before I knew what focaccia bread was. I would make huge pans of it for the football team, wresting team, track team and any other occasion when my kids friends would magically appear whenever they heard there would be food at the Nyenhuis house. The first I remember serving it for a group was when my daughter Ashley had her 8th grade volleyball team over for a post-season celebration of pasta and bread.  I used my favorite bread dough and spread it out in pans. Rubbed it with garlic, butter and a hard cheese like Asiago, slipped the trays in the oven for 15 minutes and cut it into squares. The team loved it and it became a signature bread in our family.

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Ashley is stretching the dough with a gentle hand.  The dough has great aeration from the first rising period. A rolling pin used to flatten out the dough removes too much air. For a light, airy bread we use the Italian method of handling the dough with our bare hands.  Gently turning the dough over on itself after it comes out of the  food processor helps aerate the dough, replacing the air that the yeast consumes during fermentation and it stretches and redistributes the air bubbles.

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Gently stretching the dough to fit a baking pan after the first rising makes shaping the Focaccia Bread easy.

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A special cheese I got at the Gibbsville Cheese Store is Sap Sago. It is a delicious hard cheese that comes in a container that is designed to turn upside down and grate. Other cheeses like Asiago or Parmigiana-Romano  can be used also.

SONY DSCAshley is using parchment paper to line the baking pan.  It makes clean-up a snap but a preheated baking stone or an greased cookie sheet would work too. Insulated baking pans prevent the bottom of the bread dough from browning and crisping so choose a plain baking pan instead.

Focaccia Bread

2 tablespoons warm water
1 teaspoon dry yeast
3 cups flour
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, optional
1/4 cup grated hard cheese
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 sprigs fresh rosemary leaves

Combine yeast in 2 tablespoons warm water to proof yeast.  Combine flour, salt, sugar, water and proofed yeast  in a food processor. Add yeast and salt. Process for 90 seconds or until well mixed. Remove dough and fold over on itself several times. Place in a greased bowl, turning greased side up. Cover with a wet towel or plastic wrap and allow to stand until double, about 1 1/2 hours.  Spread half of olive oil over a 11 x 14 baking pan.  With hands stretch dough to fit a greased baking pan.  Spread with remaining olive oil and minced garlic. Top with cheese, salt and rosemary leaves. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

Gibbsville Cheese Crostini

It was late. We were all tired. But as we walked through the cheese show room, Mallory could not help but adjust the cheeses as she went by, making sure they were all faced just so.  It came from habit, she said.  After all, making cheese has been a part of the Van Tatenhove family way before she was born. When her Great Grandparents started making cheese, they would preserve their own special cheese culture in  mason jars that they had to keep at the perfect temperature.  It was an arduous process, but one that allowed them to build their cheese business  to one of the best known cheeses around.

Photos of the cheese factory in 1933 through today. I think in those early years the cheese culture was “wild” meaning it was not prepackaged. It was probably handed down from one cheese maker to another.  If I remember the story right, Mallory’s Grandmother said they would have several mason jars of the cheese culture sitting on the counter. Every time they used some they would make more of the culture so they would have enough for the next batch of cheese.

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Pictured here are some of my favorite Gibbsville cheese products. The culture for these products today are purchased to assure the same quality every time and the equipment is state of the art, but it is still the Van Tatenhove family who devote their time and talents to making a cheese with a smooth, complex flavor that has made Gibbsville Cheese famous.

cheese vatThe whey and curds are starting to separate in this vat. Cheese cultures provide different flavors, textures, and forms by coagulation of the milk protein casein. The cheese from Gibbsville is made from milk delivered by neighboring dairy farmers. I love the idea of the surrounding farmers bringing their fresh milk to the Van Tatenhoves to make incredibly delicious cheese. In other parts of the country that might be called a “Boutique”, or “Artisianal” cheese but for Gibbsville cheese, that’s just the way they have always made it.

Thats a lot a cheese curds.!!

Here come the curds!!! You can get fresh cheese curds every  Tuesday after 2 pm. I will personally guarantee that the cheese curds will squeak. Believe me I tried them last summer when I was there. I even tasted cheese curds before they got the final salt added. Very interesting!!!  I forgot to ask  how long before cheese curds loose their “squeak”. Guess that means I will just have to show up on a Tuesday and test it out myself.

boxed cheese curds

Or if you can’t make it to the shop,  mail order a variety of cheese by calling Gibbsville Cheese at 920-564-3242 and online at gibbsvillecheese.com.

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Here is Mallory with Coulter and nephew Carson.  Coulter’s smile says it all. I never see that big of a smile from him except when he is around Mallory. We have an unwritten rule that Coulter has to bring Mallory wherever he goes….OK so the Marines do not listen to our rules but anyway we think he is so much better because of her.

But back to cheese. Mallory’s grandparents told me that when they started in the cheese business the whole family was involved. It is still that way today, their family making cheese for your family.

Gibbsville Cheese Crostini

4 ozs. Gibbsville Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded
1/4 cup crumbled bacon
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1 small baguette, thinly sliced and each slice rubbed with fresh garlic

Combine cheese, bacon, mayonnaise, sun dried tomatoes and almonds in a small mixing bowl. Spoon a tablespoon on each slice of bread that has been rubbed with garlic. Place slices on a baking tray and place about 3 inches under the broiler. Broil for 1 to 2 minutes or until lightly browned.

Cracked Pink Peppercorn and Sage Crackers

Peppercorns come in all colors and I just happen to have some pink ones. Their flavor blends perfect with my not so perfect sage that has been waiting to go into some spectacular creation. Pink Peppercorns and sage saved from my garden. Someone asked me yesterday how I come up with recipe ideas. Well the truth is, I just take all my favorite foods and combine them…..OK, maybe a little consideration for flavors and the science of the ingredients but basically I think of what I love or what I think my readers, friends or family will love. When I was at the Gibbsville Cheese showroom, Mallory’s mom gave me a container of an Aged Asiago  cheese spread by Pine River that she said is one of her favorites.  It is one of my favorites now too. So good in fact,  that it is worthy of a homemade cracker to make it shine just a little more. The combination of the pink peppercorns, sage and the aged Asiago is so good. The cheese can be mail ordered from Gibbsville Cheese at 920-564-3242 and online at gibbsvillecheese.com. What does cracker pastry dough and bone china have in common?  They both have a translucent quality and when bone china is held up to the light you can see your hand through it.  Light, crisp crackers start with dough that when held up to the light, shows that same transparency. Below is a photo of the grains and other ingredients ready to be mixed in the food processor. The second photo shows a strip of dough in front of a window to show how thin the dough should be rolled. (Yes that is snow in the background, we have snow about 10 months of the year and the other months just  flakes, not enough to call real ‘snow’.)

The maillard reaction is responsible for the browning that takes place while the crackers bake. The browning reaction between the amino acids  and reducing sugars in the grains give the crackers a deep, earthy flavor. Research has shown that breads with dark brown crusts gain a wonderful flavor even deep in the center of the loaf. Each cracker gains more flavor as they brown. SONY DSCThe crackers on the left were baked just a few minutes longer than the crackers on the right but have a stronger wheat flavor and a strong toasted texture. SONY DSC These crackers are best when served the day they are made or within a few days.

Cracked Pink Peppercorn and Sage Crackers
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup ground flax
2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cracked pink peppercorns
1/4 cup butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup water Sage leaves
2 tablespoons flax seeds
1 teaspoon sea salt

Combine flour, ground flax, sugar, baking powder, salt, pepper and butter in food processor. Mix 10 seconds or until mixture resembles coarse meal. With unit running, add water. Mix until dry ingredients are moistened. Form into a ball.  Roll out on parchment paper and cut into desired shapes. Top with sage, flax seeds and additional salt. Bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 6 minutes or until lightly browned. Can be stored up to 1 week in a tightly covered container. Cracked Black Peppercorn and Sage crackers are great served with Asiago Cheese Spread that I got at Gibbsville cheese. Order online at gibbsvillecheese.com

Christmas Gingerbread Country Church

SONY DSCGingerbread houses can be as simple as a few graham crackers propped up with frosting and candy or as elaborate as little church with stained glass windows.  Our family tradition of making a gingerbread house gets bigger and bigger with every new family member.  Many years when the kids were young, they were more mess than beauty.

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Start with a gingerbread dough

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and a pattern.

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Cutting out the pieces from gingerbread dough. We cut out the pieces and left them on the parchment paper to bake. SONY DSC

This year we had 2 mechanical engineers, a civil engineer, a food scientist, a senior actuarial analyst,  and an 18 month old working on this project.

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The structural components were designed by the civil engineer,  and one mechanical engineer was the consultant (who did lots of consulting with very little pay…. a gum drop or two).

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Andria our mechanical engineer came up with the plan to cover ice cream cones with frosting to make trees.

A little hockey player on the pond.

A gingerbread hockey player on the pond. We made the pond by microwaving sugar and water until it makes a hard candy. At the last minute we added food coloring.

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We also used hard candy with food coloring to make stained glass windows for the church.

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Some of these details required multiple talents. Royal icing in a plastic bag with the corner cut off or a cake decorating bag is used to add special touches.

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In the end, it was our replica of the church Ashley was married in. It was a weathered little church on the shores of Lake Michigan.

Gingerbread House Dough

9 cups flour
2 cups corn syrup
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 1/4 cup margarine

Put flour in mixing bowl. Heat corn syrup, brown sugar and margarine in microwave on high for 2 to 3 minutes or until heated through. Add to flour and mix until it forms a ball. Roll out 1/4-inch thick and cut to make walls, roof, sides and other desired pieces.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool and dry before putting house together with frosting or hot glue.

Royal Icing

3 egg whites
1 pound powdered sugar

Beat egg whites until foamy, add powdered sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks, about 5 to 6 minutes.  Keep covered until ready to use. Frosting will firm up quickly.

Hard Candy

1/3 cup water
1/3 cup corn syrup
2 cups sugar
Food coloring

Butter a large piece of foil.

Combine water, corn syrup and sugar in a 2-quart measure. Microwave on high for 5 to 6 minutes or until mixture reaches hard crack stage (300 degrees) stirring several times. Use a candy thermometer or drop a spoonful into ice water. If syrup makes a cracking sound and forms a brittle string, it has reached 300 degrees. The microwave cooking time is approximate, cook syrup to hard crack stage, stirring several times.

Quickly stir in food coloring and pour out onto buttered foil.  Allow to cool just a few minutes and score to desired window size. When completely cool, break candy along scored lines. An alternate method is to make a foil mold of the desired shape and size. Butter foil mold. Make sure mold has secured foil sides so hot syrup can not spill out. Pour hot syrup into the foil mold and allow to cool completely.

Blueberry Pomegranate Dressing over Salad Greens, Dried Cranberries and Candied Pecans

 

Toss pecans with a touch of brown sugar, a sprinkling of cinnamon, an infusion of vanilla and a few zests of orange for a indescribable candied pecans for this   salad. The dressing features blueberry pomegranate dressing. Salad greens can be baby field greens, spinach or a mixture of lettuces.SONY DSC

It takes only 1 1/2 to 3 minutes in the microwave for the nuts to caramelize and become toasted.

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Stir the pecans often and watch them carefully. If a smell is wafting from the microwave, chances are the pecans are  burning in the center.  Salvage them by quickly turning them out onto a foil-lined baking sheet. Spray the foil with butter to help the candied pecans to release easily. SONY DSC

Once the pecans are toasted, just add crumble blue cheese, dried cranberries and sliced green onion.  The dressing is blended in the blender and is a great contrast with the salty, tangy cheese.SONY DSC

Above,  the dressing is drizzled over each salad but it can be tossed with the entire salad to coat everything well. SONY DSC

Blueberry Pomegranate Dressing over Salad Greens, Dried Cranberries and Candied Pecans

8 ozs washed salad greens
3 green onions, sliced
1/2 cup candied pecans (recipe follows)
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 cup shredded red cabbage
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/3  cup Blueberry Pomegranate Dressing (recipe follows)

Toss dressing with all the ingredients just before serving.

Candied Pecans

1 cup pecans
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Combine all ingredients in a small glass bowl. Microwave on high for 1 1/2 to 3 minutes or until pecans are toasted and syrup hardens when tested in cold water. Spoon out onto a foil lined tray that has been coated with cooking spray. When cool, break into pieces and sprinkle over salad.

Blueberry Pomegranate Dressing

3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup blueberry pomegranate infused red wine vinegar
1-inch piece of onion
1 cup salad oil
2 tablespoons poppy seeds

Combine all ingredients in blender and process until blended, making sure onion is completely pureed.  Toss with salad just before serving.

Macaron Recipe for Andria

My daughter Andria called in a state of confusion and said, “These macaron recipes make them sound like they are so hard. Is that true?”

“Not at all. They are actually really simple.”

“They have all kinds of rules!!! Which ones do I have to follow?”

“Only a few of those rules are really important.” All of those other rules make even a seasoned food scientist question this simple combination of egg whites, sugar and almonds. Here is a recipe that gives perfect results every time. You will also find a run down of some of those rules and which ones made a difference in my experiments.

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A rubber spautla is the best tool and this is the correct motion for folding the dry ingredients into the egg whites. Some recipes say to add the beaten egg whites to the dry ingredients so the egg whites a are on top and are not deflated. I gently added the dry ingredients to the side of  the egg whites so I would not dirty another bowl and did not see any difference. I also dumped them on top without adverse results, but I don’t really recommend the dump method.SONY DSC

 

A wire wisk can be used for beating egg whites but it is not the best tool for folding in egg whites. It smashes through the batter, deflating the air that was so carefully beaten into the egg whites.SONY DSC

A pastry bag or a baggie with the corner cut off works great for forming macarons.SONY DSC

Here is the test comparing parchment paper, plain baking sheet and a silipat mat. I baked them in the oven just like you see in the picture so the cooking time, temperature etc. would not vary. All worked, but I like the parchment paper for easiest removal.SONY DSC

After I piped the white macarons, I added red food coloring to the rest of the batter and gently folded it in.SONY DSC

The red macaron batter was the same batter as the white but the red food coloring and extra manipulation made the batter slightly thinner. The thinner batter actually made a more perfect macron. I tried paste food coloring but it was difficult to stir into the batter without deflating the egg whites. I made liquid food coloring out of paste by adding a little of paste to 1 teaspoon of boiling water. SONY DSC

A look at the bottom of the macarons baked on the different surfaces. Not much difference. Notice the air bubble in the macaron on the left. The air bubbles stayed in the thicker batter even after I tapped the baking sheet on the counter. The viscosity would not allow the air bubble to rise to the surface and dissipate. I did not have a problem with air bubbles in the pink batter which was thinner.SONY DSC

The height of the macarons is noticeably different. The pink macarons had food coloring and increased stirring to make them uniform in color which made the batter thinner and they spread more when pipped.SONY DSC For the Chocolate Ganache, use a yummy tasting chocolate. Sometimes I add a  flavoring which can be stirred in at the end. SONY DSC

I heat 2 tablespoons of whipping cream in the microwave for 20 seconds or until steaming hot.  It will heat faster in a small dish than if you use a big bowl.  2 tablespoons of cream in a big bowl might take twice as long. If using light cream or milk, decrease the amount since they will thin the chocolate more.SONY DSC

The chocolate pieces are melting from just sitting in the hot cream. Stir until completely melted.SONY DSC

Smooth as silk chocolate ganache.SONY DSC

It is quick and easy to spread the ganache on the shells. Other popular fillings are jam, buttercream, salted caramel or flavored frostings.

The food science of macarons:

1. Egg whites do achieve a better volume if they are at room temperature. Warm the egg in your hand or water if you forgot to take them out a few minutes early.

2. “Do I have to weigh the ingredients? ” Andria asked.  I don’t and have never had a problem. I do use large eggs and measure accruately.  The humidity in the air makes a bigger difference than the precision of the measurements. I always make meringue, macarons or divinity on a dry, sunny day.

3. Egg whites need a mixer with a metal bowl for the best volume. (Andria is an engineer for Whirlpool who makes Kitchenaid Mixers so she will love that one). A bullet, a blender or a food processor won’t work.  Also, the oils left behind on plastic bowls prevent the egg white from beating up to full volume. Beating them by hand takes a lot of muscle, having help is essential to share the beating.

4. Andria asked, “Do I have to sift the powdered sugar and almond flour (almond meal).” I knew she didn’t have a sifter so I tested this one and the macarons came out just as well if I sifted, ran the mixture through the food processor to combine or just stirred the sugar and almond flour well with a spoon before folding into the egg whites.

5. “Do I have to use a silipat mat?” I knew she didn’t have one of these in her kitchen either so I tested it.  My preference is to use parchment paper. Silipat mats work but the sometimes the macarons did not release as well. The old fashioned method of baking right on a baking sheet works too but the hot baking sheet needs to be placed on a wet dish towel to create steam that allows the macrons to lift off the baking sheet. With this last method,  the macarons have to be removed from the baking sheet while still warm but if they are too hot they have a tendency to fall apart.

6. “Do I need to tap the baking sheet against the counter?” It does help burst the air bubbles but the macarons will still taste wonderful.  A thinner batter will not have as much of a problem with the air bubbles and you might not even need to tap the pan.

7. “Do I have to let them sit for an hour before baking?” Technically they will form nice little caps if you let them sit but humidity and the thickness of the batter are even more important. Thin batter needs to dry slightly so the hour of resting before baking improves the macarons.  A thick, drier batter sets up perfectly and really does quite well when the 1 hour resting time is eliminated.

8. Some recipes say macarons taste better the next day and my experiments showed that they definitely are just as good the next day when filled with chocolate ganache.  Some fruit fillings with lots of moisture can change the texture slightly when stored overnight.

 

 

Macrons

2 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup almond meal (also labeled as almond flour)

Beat egg whites and sugar until stiff peaks, add almond extract and beat for about 10 seconds later.  Mix powdered sugar and almond meal together (or sift or mix in food processor to combine well) and gently fold with egg whites until no longer any dry ingredients. Add food coloring if desired.

Pipe onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Let stand about an hour. Bake at 325 degrees for 10 minutes.  Let cool 2 to 3 minutes and remove from pan.  Fill with Chocolate Ganache.

Chcolate Ganache

2 tablespoons cream
1/2 cup (4 ozs) good quality chocolate

Heat cream in a small glass cup in Microwave  for 20 seconds until steaming hot. Pour over chocolate and stir until smooth. Spread between macarons.

 

 

Mini Desserts

20141203_Christmas party 2014_9999_4It was such a fun Christmas party and the Mini Desserts were a hit. We made Carrot Cake, Coconut Cream Pie, Rocky Road Brownies, Cherry Cheesecake and Raspberry Shortcake using cubes of Angel Food Cake.

Here are all the luscious desserts.

20141203_Christmas party 2014_9999_12-002And here is our Mom’s Prayer group at our Progressive Dinner Christmas Party.

Mini Desserts

Cake
Frosting
Whipped Cream
Pecans
Cheesecake and other favorite fillings

Layer the cake or a crust in the bottom of a small glass. Fill with layers of chocolate, frosting, or cheesecake. Garnish with whipped cream, coconut and pecans.

Turkey and Pie are nice but what I am truely Thankful for are those things that only God can give us.

I think of the homeless, those in poverty and those without family and pray Jesus’ love and hope for them. I remember that feeling from when I was 8.  My mom was a single mom with 6 kids. She worked hard during the day and went to school in hopes of getting a better job. Our house burned in April and we lost just about everything. But then in November when my mom died, my world was turned upside down and I really felt like I had lost everything. It was the day that life changed forever for me. I remember swinging on a playground and wondering where an 8 year old could turn. It was a small, still voice that reminded me that my hope is in Jesus. I needed that reminder that day and many times since. Our circumstances can change for the better or the worse but no one can take away what God has planned for each of us. Everything I am truely thankful for are gifts from God and I try to treasure each blessing he sends our way, no matter how small. Thanksgiving is a time to remind ourselves to be thankful no matter what our circumstances because our hope is in Christ.

My mom was wonderful. She was full of love and fun and lots of crazy ideas. Baking smells would fill our kitchen. We had all kinds of root vegetables from the garden. The recipe is as simple as cubing squash, rutabaga, parsnips and sweet onions. Saute it all in cast iron skillet until lightly browned, tossing with a dash of olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh rosemary and thyme. Serve over pasta, rice or let it stand on its own as a side dish.

SONY DSCDown on the Farm Butternut Squash

1 lb. butternut squash, cubed
1 lb. onions, coarsely chopped
1 lb. rutabaga, cubed
2 tablespoons fresh thyme and rosemary, minced
2 tablespoons walnut oil or other favorite oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Toss squash, onions, rutabaga, herbs, oil, syrup, salt and pepper until vegetables are lightly coated.  Spread over a foil covered pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes or until tender, turning twice during cooking.  Serve warm as a side dish. Macy’s also serves vegetables prepared like this cold on their salad bar, so make enough for your salad tomorrow.

Roasted Root Vegetables with Crystallized Ginger

        I make lots of different combinations of roasted vegetables, but they often follow my golden formula: roasted vegetables = root vegetables + olive oil + herbs + sea salt (usually topped off by a variation of a balsamic vinaigrette, my favorite).  Here I roasted beets, carrots, brussel sprouts and sweet onions  for dinner for a group of guys working on a late night bid at my husband’s office.  The next day I used the left over roasted beets, sliced thin in a salad.  A sprinkle of Raspberry vinaigrette made with walnut oil and a few shavings of hard cheese was perfect.
            Fresh sage goes well with roasted root vegetables such as beets, brussel  sprouts and carrots. Other vegetables like rutebaga, turnips, green beans and butternut squash can be roasted too. Toss vegetables with a sprinkling of olive oil and crystallized ginger.

raw ginger cropped

Peel and slice fresh ginger. Place the slices on a paper towel to remove some of the moisture.

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Ginger takes several hours to dry. A rack with a bowl under it is nice to catch the drips.

Ginger crystalsBeautiful crystals ready to be used as they are or pulverize and sprinkle over the roasted vegetables.

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Sage or ginger are great to season roasted beets. I served these roasted vegetables with grilled chicken breasts and smashed potatoes (watch for my next post for smashed potatoes. They were awesome.)

Roasted Vegetables with Crystallized Ginger

8 cups cut up vegetables
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Sprinkling of sea salt
1 teaspoon crystallized ginger (see recipe on this blog)

Place vegetables on a foil-lined tray. Toss with olive oil and salt. Roast in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 1 hour, turning several times during cooking if vegetables are getting too brown.  Serve with a sprinkling of crystallized ginger or 1 teaspoon of fresh sage.