One woman's foray into cooking for herself, for her family, and for her friends. It's not always picture-perfect, sometimes a little messy,
but it's always delicious. Join me in exploring new recipes, savoring the "résultats" and learning from the "erreurs".

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cara Cara Orange Tart

While in the grocery store the other day, I came across a bag of Cara Cara oranges.  I had just seen a segment on this type of orange on Martha Stewart's show a few weeks ago and was anxious to try them.  At first glance, they looked like a typical, albeit smaller version, of a regular navel orange, but the scent was definitely stronger and sweeter.  When I cut into one, I couldn't believe the amazing color - a rich, red-orange flesh.  The taste was indeed sweeter than a traditional orange.  What a find!

Now that I was in possession of several of these beauties, how to use them to their best advantage?  Of course, eating them out of hand was definitely a front-runner, but a quick scan of divulged a Blood Orange Tart with a Blood Orange Caramel Sauce.  The Cara Cara oranges would sub beautifully in this tart, I was sure.  And I was not disappointed!

If you come across Cara Cara oranges, also known as the Power Oranges, I highly recommend giving them a try.  Their season is short, so look for them soon!

Cara Cara Orange Tart with Cara Cara Orange Caramel Sauce
If you can't find Cara Cara oranges in your supermarket, you can substitute blood oranges or regular navel oranges in both the tart and the Orange Caramel Sauce.

Yield: Makes 10 to 12 servings

Orange curd
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup fresh Cara Cara orange juice
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
6 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon grated Cara Cara orange peel
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces, room temperature

1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
2 tablespoons whipping cream
1 large egg yolk

5 Cara Cara oranges
Cara Cara Orange Caramel Sauce (recipe follows)

For orange curd: Whisk sugar, orange juice, lemon juice, eggs, egg yolks, and orange peel in medium metal bowl to blend. Add butter; set bowl over saucepan of simmering water and whisk constantly until curd thickens and instant-read thermometer inserted into curd registers 175°F, about 12 minutes (do not boil). Remove bowl from over water. Press plastic wrap directly onto surface of curd; chill at least 1 day and up to 3 days.

For crust: Blend flour, sugar, and salt in processor. Add butter and cut in, using on/off turns, until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add cream and egg yolk and process until dough clumps together. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Roll out dough on floured surface to 13-inch round. Transfer to 10-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Fold dough overhang in and press onto pan sides, forming double-thick sides. Pierce crust all over with fork; freeze 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake crust until cooked through, about 30 minutes. Cool crust completely in pan on rack. Spread curd evenly in cooled crust. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill.)

Cut peel and white pith from oranges. Using small sharp knife, cut between membranes to release orange segments. Transfer segments to paper towels and pat dry. Arrange orange segments in concentric circles atop orange curd. Chill tart up to 1 hour.

Remove pan sides. Cut tart into wedges. Drizzle lightly with Orange Caramel Sauce and serve.

Cara Cara Orange Caramel Sauce
Yield: Makes about 2/3 cup
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup fresh Cara Cara orange juice
1/2 teaspoon grated Cara Cara orange peel

Combine sugar and 1/4 cup water in heavy small saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil without stirring until deep amber color, occasionally brushing down pan sides with wet pastry brush and swirling pan, about 8 minutes.

Carefully add orange juice and orange peel (mixture will bubble vigorously). Stir over low heat until smooth and any caramel bits dissolve. Cool completely. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and let stand at room temperature.)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Stuffed Baby Back Ribs

My family went home yesterday.  It was a wonderful visit!  It's difficult living so far apart from each other, especially now that I have grandbabies.  They change so much from one visit to the next.  And my son-in-law is truly like a son to me.  My beautiful daughter has done well for herself!

Now that they have gone home, it's too quiet around here.  And, quite frankly, I needed a little comfort food.  Not sweets, not snacks... something nourishing to my soul as well as my body.  I started the day with a fruit smoothie and ended it with a truly comforting meal:  stuffed baby back ribs.  Ann (of Thibeault's Table) has made these several times, and her photos of this dish are really mouthwatering.  This is a new dish to me, but it tasted like "home"!  It was warm and comforting and delicious.  Thanks, Ann - this was exactly what I needed!

Stuffed Baby Back Ribs

Traditional bread stuffing (Onions, celery, sage, parsley, chicken broth, salt, pepper...Good with a cornbread stuffing too.)
2 racks of ribs or one cut in half
1 garlic clove
olive oil
extra garlic cloves

Rub ribs with garlic and season with salt and pepper.

Spread stuffing over one of the racks and top with the second one.  Tie together using butcher twine or silicone ties.   Place in shallow roasting pan, rub or drizzle with a little olive oil, toss in a few peeled and cracked garlic cloves, cover and roast in a 375°F oven until tender.  Remove cover for the last 30 minutes to allow the meat to brown.

Use the pan drippings to make a light sauce/gravy.

Source:  Thibeault's Table

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Making Cupcakes with Noni

I am definitely cake-challenged - at least cupcake-challenged.  I have a difficult time knowing how much cake batter should go into each cupcake tin.  It's either not enough, or, more often than not, overfilled.  I end up with flanged sides to the tops of my cupcakes.  Oh well.  I've accepted my limitations and figure I can cover up most of those errors in "batter judgement" with frosting.  Frosting covers a multitude of sins, yes?  And, to make the cupcakes even more acceptable, I had my two-year-old grand-munchkin in the kitchen helping.  His job was to decorate the frosted cupcakes with sprinkles.  And oh what a wonderful job he did.  Especially on the little cupcake he decided was his.  I frosted, he sprinkled.  And ate.  And licked the frosting off of anything that was within arm's reach.  :-D  Noni was accommodating.  I even frosted his little finger a couple of times.  His little works of art will be served tonight after dinner.  And I will treasure these moments always...

Magnolia's Vanilla Cupcakes

1-1/2 cups self-rising flour
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Vanilla Buttercream Icing (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Line two 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake papers.

In a small bowl, combine the flours.  Set aside.
In a large bowl, on medium speed of an electric mixer, cream butter until smooth.  Add sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the dry ingredients in three parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla extract.  With each addition, beat until the ingredients are just incorporated, but do not overbeat.  Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well-blended.  Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about three-quarters full.  Bake for 20 - 25 minutes, or until cake tester inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean.

Cool the cupcakes in the tins for 15 minutes.  Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before icing.

Makes 24 standard-sized cupcakes or 48 mini-cupcakes

Vanilla Buttercream Icing
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
6 to 8 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a large mixing bowl, place the butter, 4 cups of the confectioners' sugar, then the milk and the vanilla extract.  On medium speed of an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency.  You may not need to add all of the sugar.  If desired, add a few drops of food coloring and mix thoroughly.  Use and store the icing at room temperature because icing will set if chilled.  Icing can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Yield:  enough icing to generously frost 24 standard cupcakes or 48 mini-cupcakes

Source:   More From Magnolia, copyright 2004

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Party Mix

With my daughter in town with her family this week, I am happily up to my eyeballs in cooking and baking!  I think I've made 3 batches of bread since they've been here, a big lasagna dinner, as well as a tea ring (which was almost completely eaten up before I even got the camera out), cookies, artichoke spread, and this, one of their favorites:  party mix.  I've had this particular recipe for about 25 years.  It's addictive!  The aroma of the seasoning is potent and mouth-watering.  The mix takes a little 'tending to' while it's baking, but it's well worth it!  It makes quite a bit, but we've been known to make 2 or 3 batches in one week!  The recipe is very forgiving... if you don't have one or two of the cereals, just make up the difference with what you have on hand.  If you don't have mixed nuts (the recipe calls for a small can), substitute 1 cup of another kind of nut.  Add what you like, leave out what you don't!  This is a great nibble while watching the big game on tv or just sitting around and chatting with each other.

Party Mix
Makes about 12 cups

1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup butter or margerine
1 tablespoon hot sauce (i.e., Red Devil, Tabasco, etc.) (optional - but I recommend it!)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1-1/2 teaspoons garlic salt
2 teaspoons seasoning salt (i.e., Lawry's or Penzey's has a nice one!)

2 cups rice Chex cereal
2 cups corn Chex cereal
2 cups wheat Chex cereal
2 cups Cheerios cereal
2 cups pretzel sticks or small pretzels
a small can of mixed nuts or peanuts
1 cup pecans

Preheat oven to 200 F.

Heat first six ingredients to simmering.  Put cereal, pretzels and nuts in a large roasting pan.  Pour seasoning liquid over ingredients in roasting pan, and mix until well-coated.

Bake for 1 hour and 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.

Cool completely and store in air-tight container.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tablescape Thursday - Dark & White Chocolate

This week, I needed some chocolate.  A little added stress - a little more than usual.  So, I needed chocolate.  Chocolate heals all wounds, right?  Or a lot of them, anyway... Which inspired my tablescape this week.  I love the warmth of chocolate brown.  And I love the contrast of the deep brown with the pristine white.

The centerpiece consists of an aging pair of bookends (I love the pineapples on top of them, a symbol of welcoming) and a pair of candlesticks.  The votives inside are surrounded by coffee beans.  The aroma is amazing as they light the table.

No deep brown plates, so I put a chocolate-y round placemat under each placesetting, mimicking a charger.

This tablesetting also gave me another opportunity to bring out some more afghans (the white one is a rerun - I used it in my last Tablescape).

And to evoke even more coziness, I made some orange & clove pomanders.  It's the first time I've ever made them, but I fell in love with this little craft.  The scent is amazing.  (Can you figure out what the one on the bottom left says?)

Candlesticks:  Southern Living at Home
Bookends, tablecloth, placemats:  Tuesday Morning
Dinner dishes:  Sur La Table
Bowls:  Macy's
Flatware:  Pottery Barn
Glassware: Williams-Sonoma
Napkins:  Ralph Lauren

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Thank you for sharing another Tablescape Thursday with me!  And thanks again to our wonderful host, Susan, of Between Naps on the Porch.  Please visit her site for more tablescapes to experience wonderful inspiration and awe-inspiring artistic talent!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Russian Teacakes...

... or Mexican Wedding Cookies, the two names that come to mind for the same cookie.  The little bits of shortbread dough mixed with finely chopped nuts, rolled into balls and baked.  Rolling the still warm little cookies into enough powdered sugar so that they're completely covered (and you have to be careful not to breathe in at the wrong moment when you're about to eat them... )  I remember making these little treats in Home Economics class in junior high school.  Because of their simplicity and flavor, they have long since been a favorite of mine.  Getting ready for company, I decided this was a good time to break out the recipe and share these little spheres of buttery sweetness with my guests.  I hope they like them as much as I do!!

Russian Teacakes

2/3 cups toasted nuts (hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts are all good choices - I used walnuts this time)
2 cups of flour, divided
1 cup of unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup confectioners' sugar to roll baked cookies in

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.

Toast the nuts in a dry skillet on top of the stove over low heat, stirring frequently.  (This should take about 5 - 8 minutes.)  Cool.

Place cooled, toasted nuts and 2 tablespoons of the flour in a food processor, and finely chop the nuts, being careful not to over-process the nuts to a paste.  Set aside.

In bowl of mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 1 - 2 minutes.  Beat in vanilla.  Add remaining flour and salt, and beat until well-combined.  Stir in nuts.  Cover and refrigerate dough for about 1 hour or until dough is firm.

Form the dough into walnut-sized balls, and place them 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.Bake 12 - 15 minutes, until the edges of the cookies start to turn golden.  Remove from oven and place on cooling rack for about 3 minutes.

In a large bowl, sift remaining powdered sugar.  Roll warm cookies in powdered sugar until well-covered.

Store in an airtight container.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Russian Teacakes, Mexican Wedding Cake on Foodista

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Coconut Macaroons

I love coconut.  I really do.  I think my favorite candy bar is Almond Joy.  Lots and lots of coconut.  My sister-in-law, Amy, made a wonderful coconut cream pie last week.  And that put me in the mood for coconut macaroons.  It's a relatively easy cookie to make.  And, probably fortunately for my hips and thighs, the recipe makes relatively few cookies!  ;-D

To change it up just a little, I melted some chocolate chips with just a tiny bit of shortening, and dipped the bottom of half of the macaroons in the chocolate, placing them chocolate side down on waxed paper til the chocolate cooled and hardened.  I think those were my favorite!

Don't forget to check out Food With Style for some more inspiration.  Jain compiles a day's worth of great food photos and other stylish food-related vignettes from foodie blogs all over the 'net.  It's a real treat!

Coconut Macaroons

14 ounces sweetened coconut
14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine flaked coconut, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla extract in large bowl. Using electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt in medium bowl to medium-firm peaks. Fold 1/3 of egg whites into coconut mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining egg whites. Drop half of coconut mixture by level tablespoonfuls onto prepared baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. Top each with a second level tablespoonful coconut mixture.  (I used a 2-tablespoon disher, using one scoop per cookie.)

Bake until golden, about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool macaroons on parchment paper. Slide metal spatula under macaroons to remove. (Macaroons can be prepared 1 day ahead. Store in single layer in airtight container at room temperature.)

Yield:  about 22 cookies

Source:  Bon Appetit, August 2000

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tablescape Thursday - Icy Blue & White

Now that the temperatures have started dropping, and some of us have seen snow (!), I was in the mood for an ice blue & white-themed tablescape this week.

The wine glasses are Crystal d'Arques.  My Grandma Jane gave them to me as a wedding gift over 30 years ago.  Grandma J. is 94 years old and just had a stroke that she's actually recovering from!  She always had one of the best senses of humor of anyone I've ever known!  She's strong - the oldest of her 5 other brothers and sisters, and the only surviving sibling.  I wanted to use this beautiful glassware she gave me so many years ago since she's on my mind so much these days as she recovers.

Isn't this the perfect tablecloth for this setting?  I love the silver strands running through it:

Between what I found around the house, Tuesday Morning, and Marshall's, I came up with the following 'centerpiece'.  I love candlelight, even during the day...

When it's chilly, you have to do something to keep warm, right?!  Another opportunity to pull out some of the afghans I've made:

Blue glass plates and bowls:  Tuesday Morning
White salad plates:  Macy's
Flatware:  Pottery Barn
Tablecloth, runners, and napkins:  Tuesday Morning
Silver bowl, glass & silver dome:  Marshall's

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Thank you to Susan of Between Naps on the Porch for hosting another Tablescape Thursday.  Please check out her site to see the many beautiful tablescapes created by all the participants!

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