Strawberry Summer Cake

My colleague told me about this fantastic recipe. I was looking to make something special for my son and his girlfriend. I didn’t want to make a double layer cake, or the usual chocolate chip cookies. I wanted something summery, so this seemed perfect. Here’s the original recipe from Smitten Kitchen. I opted to use only all-purpose flour, instead of the suggested barley flour. I don’t like buying ingredients I won’t use again. The cake is a wonderful texture and has a lovely flavor. More importantly, it’s delicious. You can use any berry of your liking. While the cake is baking, the berries get a jammy texture from the sugar topping. I reduced it to just what covers the berries. The amount varies deciding on the size of the berries. If they are smaller, I use more strawberries, and more sugar to cover them.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter/prepare the springform, cake pan, or whatever you chose to use. I have an Emile Henri pie plate that is deep and it works perfectly. Smitten Kitchen discusses what to use in detail. You have to remember that the cake rises a lot.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon table salt

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 large egg

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter or spray with Pam in a 9 inch spring form pan or a deep pie plate. I use an Emil Henri deep pie plate and it fits perfectly in it. You have to remember to cake rises a lot and you don’t want the batter to overflow. Smitten Kitchen discuss pan size at length on her blog.

Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl. In a larger bowl, beat butter and 1 cup sugar until pale and fluffy, with an electric mixer. This should take about 3 minutes and is an important step in any cake recipe. Mix in egg, milk and vanilla until just combined in a large measuring cup or bowl. I added this step. I like to mix the wet ingredients together to avoid over mixing the batter. Blend in the egg mixture until just combined with the sugar/butter mixture. Add dry mixture gradually, mixing until just smooth. The batter will be thick.

Pour into prepared pie plate. Arrange strawberry slices, cut side down, on top of batter, as closely as possible in a single layer. Sometimes you don’t always use all the strawberries. I found it depends on the size of the strawberries. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar (or less) over berries.

Bake cake 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake cake until golden brown and a tester comes out free of wet batter, about 50-60 minutes. My deep pie plate takes about 50 minutes. If it’s not quite done, it will continue to cook in the ceramic pie plate. I suggest start checking a little before 50 minutes. The strawberries will bubble and get gooey. Let cool in pan on rack. Cut into wedges. You can serve with whipped cream. I like it plain. I found this cake is better the second day. The cake can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days, loosely covered, and longer in the refrigerator, if there’s any left over.

Enjoy! Happy Summer!

                    InstaPot Rice Pudding

You’re probably asking yourself, “Do I really need to make rice pudding?” The answer is a firm yes. It’s perfect anytime of the year. Topping off a bowl of rice pudding with whipped cream will save your soul. The secret is to find the right recipe. I’ve done the research, so you don’t have to. This recipe has a nice consistency and a blended vanilla/cinnamon flavor. It also is quick, and you don’t have to stand by the stove and stir. Your only concern is giving it enough time to cool and thicken. I like to add plump golden raisins, but you don’t have to. I use vanilla beans, but vanilla extract works too. If you don’t have a cinnamon stick, you may add ground cinnamon to your taste. The recipe calls for a strip of orange or lemon zest. I prefer to keep it simple and use only the cinnamon and vanilla for flavorings.  Melissa Clark from the NYTs created this recipe and if you have a subscription, it can be found on the NYT recipe app. I love to read the comments. You can walk away with some additional ideas for most recipes.

Ingredients

¾ cup arborio or other short-grain rice

2 ½ cups whole milk

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 (2-inch) cinnamon stick

½ vanilla bean, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped with the tip of a paring knife, or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Large pinch of fine sea salt

½ cup heavy cream

2 egg yolks

½ cup golden raisins (optional)

Ground cinnamon or cardamon, for serving (optional)

Whipped cream, for serving (optional)

Preparation

Step 1

Stir into the Instant Pot inner pot, the rice, milk, sugar, cinnamon stick, vanilla bean, seeds, and salt.

Step 2

Lock the lid into place and cook on high pressure for 10 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes, then manually release the remaining pressure.

Step 3

Open the lid and discard the cinnamon stick, and vanilla bean. 

Step 4

In a small bowl, whisk together the cream and egg yolks. Whisk into the rice and continue to stir until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. It will still look soupy. The residual heat of the rice will cook the yolks, and chilling will thicken the pudding. Stir in the raisins, if using. 

Step 5

You can spoon the pudding into individual bowls or leave in one bowl.  I like to let the pudding cool for about 20 minutes, then I cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least two hours.

Serve with a sprinkle of ground cinnamon or cardamon and whipped cream, if you’d like.

Note

What do you do with the remaining egg whites? You can make meringue cookies or refrigerate them to be used in an omelet. No need to waste them!

Breakfast Pizza

Pizza for breakfast! I have found a way to make two meals about cheese and bread! This pizza includes TWO cheeses, soft-scrambled eggs in a creamy béchamel sauce with sausage, sautéed red pepper and onion. All of my favorite foods. I made it for dinner, because I don’t have the patience to do all the parts in the early morning. It’s delicious for brunch or lunch. The leftovers were even fantastic.

As usual, I increased most ingredients. How can you have too much of a good thing? You cannot! I was sure that I had made too much of the veggie/sausage topping. I convinced myself that I would use it in an omelet later in the week. Nah…I made it all fit.They key was to stretch the dough close to the edge, and make a little ridge, so the béchamel doesn’t leak out. Mine did a little and it was ok. I made my own pizza dough, because I could. It’s really simple. Store bought pizza dough is also great. I used it to make pizza on the grill recently.

I love slathering on pizza sauce on a regular pizza. Surprise surprise, this pizza has no tomato based sauce, but uses a béchamel sauce that is easy and brings it to another level of pizza love. The original recipe calls for 4-6 large farm fresh eggs. I used 5 large grocery store eggs and no one complained. I was nervous about adding the eggs to the sauce and wondered, what is soft-scrambled? Well, mine was a little too-soft-scrambled and it worked. I whisked the mixture until it was getting thicker and had some soft chunks, because I didn’t want to over cook it. The oven finished it off perfectly.

I tend to increase the bests ingredients in recipes. I used 12 ounces, instead of the recommended 8 ounces of breakfast sausage. I used a whole red pepper instead of measuring out a 1/2 cup. My rationale is, when will I use the rest of the sausage or pepper, if I follow the original recipe? Never. My onion addiction had me use two medium onions instead of 1/2 cup. I don’t like measuring some things. I grated my own mozzarella and cheddar cheese. I measured THOSE, but added extra for “good luck.” I mean, CHEESE!

Let’s make some pizza!

one pound of pizza dough

12 ounces of bulk breakfast sausage

two medium onions, diced

1 large red pepper, diced ( a mix of red and yellow peppers is purdy)

3 tablespoons of butter

3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour

1 cup of whole milk

5 large eggs

1+ cup of shredded mozzarella

1+ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Instructions

Pat out your pizza dough onto a baking/cookie sheet. I lightly coated the pan with olive oil and a dusting of cornmeal. Let it rise while you prepare the topping. I stretched the dough from the middle in an outwards motion. Gently. Let it rest a few minutes and continue to stretch a few more times. Pizza dough is funny like that. I like to form a ridge at the edge so the egg mixture doesn’t drip onto the pan.

In a large saute pan, cook the onions and peppers in a touch of butter or a glug of olive oil, until they begin to soften. You don’t want them to brown. If the pan gets too hot, take it off the burner and add a splash of olive oil to help cool it down. Add the sausage, breaking it up with your hands as you put it in the pan. Cook until the sausage is cooked through but not browned. If there is excess fat, drain it off. Let the mixture cool slightly.

In a medium saucepan, cook the 3 tablespoons of butter and 3 tablespoons of flour for a few minutes. Whisk it so it all cooks. You do not want it to brown, but to cook off the flour taste. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the milk. Return the pan to the heat and cook and whisk until the sauce begins to thicken.

Crack the eggs into a bowl, and then whisk them into the mixture. Continue to cook and whisk the eggs until soft set. Avoid overcooking or the eggs can become rubbery.

Spread the egg mixture over the crust, and top with the sausage mixture, spreading evenly. If you have more sausage mixture than pizza, save them for an omelet later in the week. If you have more eggs than you need, save if for scrambled eggs. I got mine to fit!!! Top with both cheeses. Stand back in awe. How beautiful is THAT?

Bake the pizza in a preheated 400 degree oven for 15-18 minutes, until well-browned and bubbly. I like to slip a metal spatula under the crust to see if it’s browning.

Enjoy!

The original recipe, from the good people at King Arthur Flour, is in the hyperlink above.

Instant Pot Egg Bites

Breakfast doldrums got you down? Months and months of boring breakfasts, during the pandemic make you dread the question “What’s for breakfast?” I have a solution for you. Egg bites!

Even the pickiest eaters will enjoy breakfast. This will make Easter morning more festive. You can add whatever you want to them. The recipe makes 7 bites, and you do have to follow the ingredient quantities so the egg molds don’t overflow. You can double the recipe and cook them both at the same time in the Instant Pot. If you like something more than another, add it! I prefer to use ricotta over cottage cheese. Ricotta isn’t watery like cottage cheese and I think it adds a richness to the bites! I mix my cheeses so the total is still 1/2 cup. Tonight I had some smoked gouda and cheddar that I shredded. I had some leftover bacon and some deli ham. I filled a 1/2 cup measure with the meats. I didn’t have fresh parsley so I added approximately a 1/4 tsp of dried parsley. The original recipe gives you more mix in ideas!

Ingredients

1 cup of water for the Instant Pot

4 large eggs

1/2 cup chopped bacon or preferred meat(s)

1/2 cup of shredded gruyere cheese or your favorite cheese(s)

1/4 cup cottage cheese or ricotta cheese

1/2 tablespoon of chopped parsley or 1/4 tsp of dried parsley

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1/4 tsp garlic powder

Spray the silicone egg molds with nonstick cooking spray.

Pour the water into the pressure cooker pot and place a steam rack trivet in the bottom.

In a medium bowl whisk the eggs. Stir in the bacon, cheese, cottage cheese/ricotta cheese, parsley, salt, pepper and garlic powder until well mixed.

Pour the mixture evenly into the seven egg bite mold cups. Place the egg bite mold on top to the trivet, uncovered.

Close and lock the Instant Pot. Make sure the pressure/steam release switch is set to sealing and use the manual button to set the cooking time to 11 minutes at high/normal pressure. It will take a few minutes for the Instant Pot to get to pressure.

After the cooking time ends, allow the pressure to release from the pot naturally for 5 minutes before releasing the remaining pressure with a quick release. The egg bites will rise up and then fall down, so don’t be concerned. You just flip them on a plate to have the rounded part on top, and the flat on the plate.

I like to let the egg bites cool in the mold on a wire rack. They are very hot to handle. The directions say to remove them from the mold and cool on a wire rack. Whichever is best for you. Sometimes you need a spoon to remove the bites from the mold.

Have fun with them. If you have children, let them pick what their favorite mix ins.

Super Easy Chocolate Fudge

I have never made fudge before and I don’t know why. It’s fantastic. You can gift it in a box, or put it in a clear food bag with a bow. Better yet, keep it in the fridge for yourself. I was inspired to make fudge on the pretense it would give me some Christmas spirit. It failed at that, but the fudge was delicious. I found a recipe that used both semi-sweet and milk chocolate chips. We loved it. As much as I love semi-sweet chocolate chips in cookies, milk chocolate chips add the sweetness fudge needs. I love marshmallows, so I added one cup of mini-marshmallows to the fudge. It made me smile.

Ingredients:

1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (12 ounces)

1 cup milk chocolate chips (6 ounces)

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Optional: 1 cup of chopped nuts or mini-marshmallows

Lightly grease an 8 inch square pan. Line it with plastic wrap leaving the ends out over the edge, to cover the finished fudge. The ends will also serve as “handles” to lift out the fudge from the pan.

In a double boiler or a bowl over simmering water, combine the sweetened condensed milk, chocolate chips, butter and vanilla. Stir until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Be patient. It takes a little while and it gets very thick. Stir in nuts or marshmallows before pouring into the pan.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Spread gently, then cover light with the ends of the plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator until the fudge is firm. Lift the chilled fudge out of the pan and cut into small squares. I use a long serrated knife to cut the fudge.

Serve and enjoy.

Recipe variations:

Gently press in 1/2 cup of toffee bits into the top of fudge once it’s in the pan.

Stir in 1 tablespoon of bourbon or rum into the fudge along with the vanilla.

Add 1/2 to 1 cup of dried cranberries, raisins or chopped dried cherries.

Here’s the original recipe.

https://www.thespruceeats.com/super-easy-chocolate-fudge-3057014

Roberta’s Pizza Dough

I have posted this pizza dough recipe before, Where many of us are working from home, or avoiding dining out, it’s a good time to try making your own pizza.

I used to buy grocery store pizza dough for the convenience. I still love a hot Domino’s pizza showing up at my front door. Over the years I have discovered, how easy it is to make pizza dough. Making pizza dough requires few ingredients and, time and planning. I found this recipe in the NYT. There are many many many pizza dough recipes in the universe. They all require, flour, yeast, water, olive oil and salt. What differs is the ratios of these ingredients and the process of making the dough. Roberta’s recipe calls for 00 pizza flour. I have bought the Antimo Caputo Chef’s Flour on Amazon. I made last nights pizza with King Arthur Flour’s 00 pizza flour. Both brands worked well. You can also use only all-purpose flour in this recipe. The dough is a little stiffer, but it still works well. The key to making your own pizza dough is giving the dough time to develop flavor. Make it, at least, the night before you plan on using it. It will last in the refrigerator for several days. You can also freeze the dough after the first rise for future use, or gift it.

The process of making this dough is quick and easy. You either measure the ingredients or weigh them on a kitchen scale. The dough only needs a few turns in the bowl, in two steps. No messy kneading on a flour splattered counter. The first kneading creates a sticky dough. A few minutes later, you knead a relaxed, firmer dough. It’s amazing. Pizza dough is a science experiment that ends up edible. And, you CAN do it!

153 grams 00 flour ( 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon)

153 grams all-purpose flour ( 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons )

8 grams fine sea salt (1 tsp.)

2 grams Rapid Rise yeast (3/4 tsp.)

4 grams extra-virgin olive oil (1 tsp. )

1 cup lukewarm water (approximately)

In a large mixing bowl, combine fours, yeast and salt. Stir to combine dry ingredients.

You will need a little less than 1 cup of warm water. It should be under 110 degrees or it will kill the yeast. If you’re not sure, let the warm water sit for a few minutes. Cool water won’t hurt the yeast, it will just take a little longer to start working. The amount of water can depend on temperature and humidity in your kitchen. Winters are drier and may require a little more water. Summers are more humid and require less water. If after you mix the ingredients you find there is some flour in the bottom of the bowl, add a few sprinkles of water at a time. You want just enough water for the ingredients to hold together.

Add the olive oil and lukewarm water to the flour mixture. Set a kitchen timer for 3 minutes. With your impeccably clean hands, mix the dry and liquid ingredients together. When it comes together, flour the dough over itself, and push down with the heel of you hand. Turn the bowl, and repeat. I don’t even do this for the whole three minutes. The dough will be sticky and your fingers with be doughy. It’s okay. Pull off what you can from your fingers. Let the mixture rest for 15 minutes. When you wash your hands, use cool water. It seems counterintuitive, but it works better than warm water. You will use cool water in your bowl when you’re done making the dough. Trust me.

After 15 minutes, you are going to set the kitchen timer for 3 minutes, and repeat the quick kneading process. Fold and turn the bowl. Nice and easy. It’s not a race. The dough should not be sticky. The yeast has started to work with the gluten in the flour. It will be easier to knead this time. After the three minutes, coat the same bowl with a little olive oil. I form a dough ball, and either lift it out of the bowl, or push it to the side. Put a little olive oil in the bowl and use the dough to coast the sides and bottom of the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. I usually use a glass or ceramic bowl. You can cut it into 2 equal pieces and shape each into a ball. It depends on what pan you will be using and how many people you are feeding . I use a cookie sheet for my and do not divide the dough. You can still use 1/2 the recipe on a cookie sheet, for a smaller pizza. This dough also freezes well. This is the perfect time to put in a ziplock back and pop into the freeze. When you use the frozen dough, let it rise in an oil coated bowl. Don’t defrost it in the ziplock bag. Rookie mistake.

If you are using the dough the same day, let it rise for 3 to 4 hours at room temperature. If you using it a different day, and/or want the dough to develop more flavor, place the covered dough in the refrigerator. It will continue to rise, slowly in the refrigerator. The day you want to use it, let it sit at room temperature for about 3 hours. It will rise a little more. After reading the comments, I let it sit for a 1/2 hour on the counter just to make sure it the dough will rise. The plastic wrap will get cloudy and the dough will spread out. I won’t lie, it kinda excites me to see that and to know I made dough! Even after years of making yeast breads, the rise is exciting. As the dough rises, it will bubble. Bubbles are good, it means the yeast is working and developing flavor.

I like to use a cookie sheet for my pizza in my oven heated to 425 degrees. I use a little olive oil to coat the pan and sprinkle a little corn meal. The dough usually stretches to almost the edge of the pan. I don’t use corn meal near the edges as it will burn if there is no dough over it.

I put the dough in the center of the pan and gently stretch it out. Here is where you will need some patience. This dough stretches beautifully, you just have to take your time and work with it. I put a little olive oil from the pan on my finger tips. I gently push the dough from the center, towards the pan edge. Don’t get ambitious and use the palm of your hand. It will break the dough and the dough will stick to your hand. Let it rest for a minute and push it outward a little more. You may have some patches that look thin. It’s ok. The dough will rise more when it cooks.

Once you stretch it out, you can add your pizza sauce. I like to make mine. I use a small can of tomato paste, one small grated onion, water and oregano. I heat the grated onion in olive oil until it starts to become translucent on medium heat. I sprinkle a little salt over the onions. Then I add the can of tomato paste and stir it into the onions. I use the tomato paste can to add water. I start with half a can of water, and stir. If you want more sauce, add another 1/2 can. This makes enough for two pizzas. You can even water it down a little more. I add some oregano and let it simmer for a couple of minutes. Sauce done! You can make it ahead of time and store in the refrigerator until you need it.

Add your toppings and bake. I like my cheese to really melt and the bottom of the crust to start to brown. I slip a spatula under the pizza to peek at the bottom of the crust. Enjoy your hot pizza!

Here is the original recipe. I like to read the comments to get ideas.

Tortellini Sausage Soup

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In 2014 I posted this recipe, but foolishly buried it with a recipe for breadsticks. Those breadsticks are delicious, but the soup is the real rock star. Luckily no one saw it. I forgot an ingredient and have, since 2014, made some intentional changes.

Instead of using 2 cans of chicken broth, I now buy a 32 ounce carton of broth. Sometimes I use vegetable stock. Whichever you have. I sometimes use apple juice instead of apple cider. Apple cider is somewhat seasonal. I have even used other fruit juices. It’s a small amount, and I think it just acts against the acid in the tomatoes. Sometimes people add sugar to tomato sauce. That’s my theory and I’m sticking with it. I used frozen tortellinis. Well, hello 2020! I now prefer Barilla’s Three Cheese Tortellini. They are found with all the other pastas in a 12 ounce bag. I like them, because they don’t take freezer space, and the dried tortellinis are much smaller. They fit on a soup spoon better! Sometimes I forget, and use the whole 12 ounce package. Oops. Nothing a little more water or chicken broth can’t fix. What do you do with 2 ounces of tortellinis? They just get pushed to the back of a shelf. I still stand by my decision to use petite diced tomatoes and a parmesan rind. I use a whole pound of sausage instead of three links. What do you do with the rest of the sausage in the package? It’s just heartier. I also switched from a can of plain tomato sauce, to 1/2 a jar of Raos Homemade Pizza sauce. It was purely accidental. I didn’t have plain sauce one night and I used what I had. Pizza sauce. The family asked if I did something different to the soup. I hesitated to answer, thinking they were going to complain. They thought the soup tasted better! The pizza sauce is full of flavor! You can freeze the rest of the pizza sauce. No waste!

Let’s make some soup. ‘Tis soup season in New England…

1 lb. Italian chicken sausage, removed from casings

1 large onion, diced

1/2 cup water

32 ounce chicken broth

1/2 cup apple cider

1 16 ounce can petite diced tomatoes

8 oz can of tomatoes sauce or 1/2 jar (6.5 ounces) Raos Homemade Pizza Sauce

1 cup of diced carrots

1 tsp. dried basil

1 tsp. dried oregano

2 tbsp. dried parsley

2 medium zucchini, grated

8-10 ounces of uncooked tortellinis

1 tbsp. tomato paste (optional)

1 small Parmesan rind (optional)

1 or 2 cloves garlic

Before you start cooking, grate your zucchini. Chop your onions and place them in a bowl. Do the same with the carrots. Mince the garlic and put it in a small bowl. Pull out the herbs from your cabinet. It makes cooking less stressful if you have everything ready before you start cooking. Trust me.

Heat a large pan on medium heat and add enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. Add the onions and begin to sauté them, until soft. You can add more olive oil if they start to brown. You don’t want browning. Add the sausage to the pan and break it into large pieces with a spoon. The soup may or may not taste better if you use an old wooden spoon. Let the sausage cook and brown slightly. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.

Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce (or pizza sauce), juice, water, broth, carrots, oregano and basil to the pan. Cover and simmer for 1/2 hour. I usually add some tomato paste, after I add the garlic and let it cook up. If you’re using the pizza sauce, you don’t need to do this. The tomato paste is completely optional whether you use tomato sauce or pizza sauce. I just like tomato paste. Add the Parmesan rind to pot. It may stick to the bottom of the pan, so give the soup an occasional stir. The Parmesan adds a creaminess. Again, completely optional.

Add the parsley and zucchini (including the juice) and simmer for about 15 minutes. Give it a stir. The zucchini melts in the soup. I use a box grater with my zucchini. You can also use a food processor.

Add the uncooked tortellini and simmer the soup for about 10-12 minutes. Give it a stir or two. If you have time, let the soup sit for about 20 minutes before you eat it. The tortellini will continue to cook and the soup thickens. Serve this with bread or breadsticks. I like to add some fresh grated Parmesan on top.

This should feed your family and your soul. This soup makes a great work lunch. It also freezes very nicely. I freeze it in meal-sized containers. You may need to add some water when you reheat it.

Enjoy!

Cinnamon-Apple Cake

I stumbled upon this rich apple cake recipe. I’m always on the search for new recipes. This time of year I am looking for apple recipes. I found another apple cake recipe that was similar but the cake tended to brown too much on its sides and it made a lot of cake. Too much cake, actually. Nothing says Fall like the scent of cinnamon and apples. No candle can replicate this scent. It brings me joy when someone walks into the kitchen, and smiles when they smell the cinnamon and apples baking in the oven. Sheer bliss!

I substituted Neufchatel cheese for cream cheese. Who doesn’t love a good recipe adaption? Calories saved! The cream cheese in the batter gives the cake lots of moisture. It’s amazing. I also used butter instead of margarine. I love butter too much to cheat on it. I also increased the amount of apple I used. The recipe calls for 3 cups of chopped and peeled apples, which according to the recipe is 2 large apples. I don’t know how 2 apples makes three cups of chopped apples. I found 4 cups of apples made this cake. Apples come in a variety of sizes. I use Macintosh apples. I like the apples to get soft and form puddles. Sometimes I throw in a honey crisp or two. I would plan on about 4-6 apples. I chop them, add the cinnamon and sugar, and let them sit while I wait for the oven to heat. This draws out the juices. Taste the apples. I like the apples sweet with lots of cinnamon. The batter does not have cinnamon, so I like a little extra with the apples. Cinnamon and sugar top this cake for a little crunch. Its a sweet cake, but isn’t that how it should be? I used a 9 X 9 square pan and not, the suggested springform pan. My cake was done in about 45 minutes. The change is baking pans changed the cooking time.

1 3/4 cups sugar, divided

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 tsp. vanilla extract

6 ounces block style Neufchatel cream cheese

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

3 cups of chopped, peeled Macintosh apples (or any baking apple)

Cooking spray

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees. Spray the bottom and sides of pan with cooking spray.

Peel and chop apples. Combine 1/4 cup of sugar and cinnamon. Taste the apples before adding the sugar/cinnamon mixture. Sometime grocery store apples are not that sweet. The recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of the cinnamon/sugar mixture to be mixed with the apples. The first time I made this cake, I used all of the cinnamon/sugar mixture. Oops! I always have some in a container, for toast of whatever. I used some of that for the cake top. Taste the apples after you add the cinnamon/sugar. You may want to add more than the 2 tablespoons.

Beat 1 1/2 cups sugar, butter, vanilla, and cream cheese at medium speed with a mixer until well-blended. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter/cream cheese mixture, at a low speed until blended. The batter will be thick.

I measure out 3 cups of apples and then stir the apple mixture into the batter. I usually put in about 4 cups, give or take. Anything left in the bowl is a nice snack for the chef. Include the juices in the bowl when you add the apples into the batter. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. Set the timer for 35-40 minutes and test it with a tooth pick, until the tooth pick comes out with some moist crumbs. Try to test where the is more cake, than apple. The cake will pull away from the sides of the pan when it’s done.

Cool the cake completely on a wire rack. This will stay fresh for a couple of days on the counter. If it lasts that long. You can also store it in the refrigerator. This recipe doesn’t make a large cake that never gets finished. It’s the perfect size.

Make yourself a cup of tea. Slice a piece of cake. Sit and enjoy the quiet and the experience. Enjoying the little things in life is important.

French Apple Turnovers

Long ago, in the days when I subscribed to magazines, I found this recipe in Fine Cooking Magazine. The recipe is no longer online since the magazine has been sold. I’m so glad I saved it. This is a classic pastry made with puff pastry and apples. It’s a quick weeknight treat. To get fancy, you can add in chopped raisins with the apples or a splash of brandy with the cinnamon and sugar. I sometimes add boiled cider for a flavor boost.You will impress your family and guests.

In the past I have made turnovers with frozen puff pastry. I found a puff pastry in the refrigerator section of the grocery store. The puff pastry has a long shelf life, and you don’t have to plan on defrosting anything! It works just as well as frozen puff pastry.

2 tbsp. butter

3+ small apples, peeled and diced.

3 tbsp. or more of granulated sugar

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

kosher salt

1 large egg

1 sheet of puff pastry, cut into four rectangles

Heat oven to 420 degrees and place rack in the center of the oven.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the diced apples, sugar, cinnamon, 1/4 tsp salt and cook, stirring often, until the apples are softened. I often us Macintosh apples, since I tend to have them in my kitchen. You can use any baking apple. The original recipe calls for one large sweet apple. I find I need more apple for the filling. I’d rather have too much, than not enough. Taste this mixture. Add more sugar and cinnamon to taste. Not all apples are the same sweetness. Any extra softened apple can be the chef’s snack. You can cook the apples earlier in the day and bring to room temperature when you are ready to use. I don’t like putting hot apples on the puff pastry.

In a small bowl, beat the egg with 2 tbsps. of water. Lightly brush the edges of each rectangle with some egg wash. This will help seal the pastries. I often do this on a parchment lined baking sheet. I find it easier to fill the rectangles on the parchment, rather than transferring filled pastry to the baking sheet.

Spread the cooked apples and any juice over half the long side of each rectangle, but not over the egg wash border.

Fold the pastry half without apples over the side with apples. Long side should align with long sides. Press to seal the edges tightly, using the tine of a fork. I like to wipe off any extra filling and egg wash with a paper towel. It could burn while baking.

Brush the tops with the remaining egg wash and sprinkle with sparkling or granulated sugar. I love the crunch the sugar gives.

Bake until puffed and golden, about 15-20 minutes. Serve warm.

Enjoy. A scoop of vanilla ice cream couldn’t hurt!

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White Beans, Shrimp and Andouille

The pandemic has made me think about food. Differently. Shortages of items that are usually in abundance will do that. It’s hard not to plan everything now. You see paper towels, you buy them. Chicken, I grab a couple of packages even though there appears to be plenty. Pancake mix and syrup, yes please! I am always calculating freezer and shelf space. It’s exhausting, but I am fortunate I can worry about how much I can buy and not if I can buy.

I’ve been using beans for a few years in my recipes. You can stack lots of cans in your cabinet. I’ve also read a lot about dry beans. I have found dry beans at the grocery store can be old and take longer to cook. I decided to try to order a brand that had been advertised on social media. They got me. I ordered some Camellia beans. They were more expensive than store dry beans. I hoped they were not old and were easy to cook. I was correct on both counts.They were wonderful! First, I soaked them in cold water for about 6 hours. I used my InstantPot to cook the dry beans. I cooked them in water, with an onion, carrot, garlic and olive oil to stop the frothing. I read it was a good idea to cook them this way, and to season them. I sprinkled a little Creole seasoning in the water. Forty minutes later, I had soft and creamy Northern beans. I used half for this recipe and froze the other half. One pound cooked up to about two pounds.

These creamy beans can be used in salads, soups, or just a simple snack, warmed and drizzled with good olive oil. Use your imagination. I love to canned beans for the convenience, but these cooked dry beans were creamy unlike canned bean.

I found a couple of different recipes online and tweaked them. There are many, many bean recipes. I used some from Camellia beans website. I figured they were the bean experts. They have recipes and how-to’s on the website. Even if you don’t buy their beans, peruse the website for information.

1/2 – 3/4 pounds of cooked Northern beans

1 large onion, diced

1 tbsp. olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup chopped celery (optional)

1/4 cup chopped red or green pepper (optional)

2 tbsp. dried parsley or 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

3/4 tsp. ground thyme

dash of cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp. Creole seasoning

black pepper and salt to taste

1 cup of chicken or vegetable stock and water, enough to cover beans

1 cup raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/2 package of Andouille sausage

3/4-1 cup of heavy cream

Hot white rice

In a large heavy pot, add the olive oil and sauté onions until soft. I sprinkle 1/2 tsp. kosher salt over the onions to help draw out the water and soften them. If you are going to use the celery and peppers, add them now to soften them. I did not have them, but the dish was still very tasty. I would use red peppers for a little sweetness and color. Stir in the thyme and cayenne pepper. Add the minced garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the cooked beans and and stock/water to cover the beans. Add salt, pepper and creole seasoning. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.

While the beans are simmering, brown the Andouille. I heat a non-stick pan and brown, slices of sausage until slightly browned.

Add the cream and raw shrimp to the bean mixture and simmer until the shrimp are pink. Add the sausage to the mixture.

I let the beans, shrimp and andouille simmer for a little longer, thickening the cream sauce. Serve over or under white rice.