In My Kitchen ~ Spring 2019

In My Kitchen… this salad was SO tasty I want to eat it again soon. A new restaurant opened nearby and everybody raved about their food. Of course I had to go see for myself to “read their menu” (aka: I was hungry and ready for someone else to cook for me) but lately my dining out adventures have been limited by my food allergies. (Hold the croutons and cheese, please!)

Imagine my surprise and delight to find a perfectly grilled salmon filet atop a bed of crisp greens, red pepper strips, grape tomatoes, and black beans accompanied by a wonderful lime vinaigrette. The first thing I said after I got home was: “They sure know how to make a vinaigrette!” (So does Chef Mimi — more below.)

In the meantime I was thrilled to find a local eatery that respects my limitations. (More on that below, too.)

In My Kitchen… I’m ready to dive into Spring and yet another salad: Chef Mimi’s “favorite.” Yes, I realize that favorite recipes are subjective and oft relegated to the dubious best-ever category, but her sense of flavor and texture are spot on in my experience. Her recipe also included ingredients I had on hand, except for the red cabbage. I sorted that out of a “coleslaw kit” before I served it to The Man Of Few Words for supper. (Call it hands-on cooking — I’ve resorted to it more times than I can count when our local grocery store was out of a particular ingredient — and two meals out of one ain’t bad.)

FYI, I also substituted brown rice for the barley. Mimi said that was okay — use whatever combination works for you. DO try her vinaigrette though. It was tantalizing! Still enjoying the rest on spinach salads and such.

Click on the link above for her recipe.

In My Kitchen… my cousin Jeanne and her husband Ken (who’ve hosted me on my many treks to Minnesota) arrived for an overnight stay. She presented me with some “bowl cozies” to keep our soup and cereal  warm (or cold) courtesy of her quilting scraps, and a crocheted potholder, too. What a treat to be the recipient of such handmade love! We enjoyed catching up on the deck and munching on appetizers in front of the lake before I served supper. Thank you, xo!

In My Kitchen… is an Irish Apple Cake I’ve made many times. NOTE: the original recipe may have included a lil’ Irish (whisky instead of vanilla) but it’s just as good without the “heritage.” The crunchy top layer is a lovely prelude to the moist, spice-laden cake below and it keeps well and freezes well, too.

Irish Apple Cake (recipe courtesy of my friend, Denise W.)

1/4 c. butter, softened

1 c. sugar

1 egg, beaten

1 tsp. vanilla (or whisky…)

2 c. diced peeled Granny Smith apples

1/4 c. chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg (I used less because mine was freshly grated)

1 c. flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease an 8″ square baking pan. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; beat again. Add apples and nuts.

Combine dry ingredients; mix in with a wooden spoon. Mixture will be thick. Spread evenly into prepared pan and bake 45 minutes or until a pick comes out clean.

Remove from oven, cool on a wire rack, and cut into squares.

Serve with whipped cream or ice cream. (TMOFW says it’s “just right” plain. :)

Sherry MacKay of Sherry’s Pickings has more In My Kitchen adventures to connect your global hearts and kitchens ever since she took over from her predecessors — Celia, Maureen, and Liz. I’m grateful to all of them for the FUN and friendship — not to mention helping re-establish my kitchen four years ago — but, having said that…

I’ve finally decided that IMK fits best into my life quarterly rather than monthly. Welcome to the Spring edition! For now I have everything I need. It’s also Autumn “Down Under” (where Sherry hails from, as do many of the participants), but Spring has sprung here — and in my heart. I’ve put off too many writing deadlines during the past five years and hopefully you can see how colorful my life has become now. It’s time to make that leap of faith…

Whether you’re looking for food, flavor inspirations, or the latest kitchen gadgets, IMK is a reliable source. Thank you all! As for me, I’ll be back with more thoughts soon. Maybe in a letter? Meanwhile enjoy this glimpse of my surroundings, xo.

Enjoying salads, writing, and possibilities,

~ Kim

In My Kitchen ~ November 2017

Painted kitchen

In My Kitchen… a long-awaited project is almost finished. I’ve been wanting to paint our humble abode for three years, but “life” happened and I had to put my dreams on hold. (That, and I couldn’t decide on a color.)

Actually, the hue didn’t concern me as much as the “mood”. Considering that I spend the  majority of my waking hours In My Kitchen, I put lot of thought into how I wanted to “feel” in that space. Calm was the consensus.

Depending on the light at various times of day, the “Autumn Fog” shade of grey I got undulates between soft grey and blue-ish, similar to the expanse of water out yonder. Yeehaw, I have a “lake kitchen” at last!

The Lane

In My Kitchen… is a range hood that finally matches my stove. The old, white one — a vintage behemoth with a lopsided light bulb and fan that sounded like a semi idling above the stove (nostalgic, but noisy!) gave up the ghost. This is so much better.

New stove vent

It took some cobbling to install (the duct sizes didn’t match!), but with The Man Of Few Words’ tenacious ingenuity, I think the results speak for themselves, and highly of him.

Is it just me, or does that triangular shelf behind the stove need a back splash? (I was thinking “multi-colored tiny tiles in some sort of a pattern… somehow I think that will be my future project instead o’ my man’s. :)

Speaking of which, I’ll be off the grid briefly to celebrate our upcoming anniversary. Nothin’ fancy planned, just fishing together and steaks on the grill. That, and a drive through Autumn’s finery. Ahhhh…

Fall foliage

What a JOY to celebrate the start of another era in a kitchen that mirrors my spirit — and TMOFW’s — with a surprising splash of color right in our own back yard. xo

Backyard color 1

Be sure to visit Sherry (at Sherry’s Pickings) for more IMK posts, including great ideas for holiday gift-giving! My world-wide friends are gracious about linking their “finds” — plus I learn SO much every month and it’s entertaining to boot. Love y’all!

Enjoying my “lake kitchen”,

~ Kim

Miniature Dole Pineapple Upside Down Cakes

Find Your Adventure

The theme for the upcoming 2016 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, CA (January 1st, 8:00 a.m.) is “Find Your Adventure.” As you know, this past year has been one — and then some — especially with the torrential rains in Oklahoma. I’d planned to photograph these mini-yellow & red beauties with a yellow & red rose bouquet in the background (a gift from my hubby for Christmas and perfect for the Rose Parade) but the light was fading fast. Always an adventure!

However, the Miniature Dole Pineapple Upside Down Cakes turned out grand! Who doesn’t love a parade — and Pineapple Upside Down Cake in ‘mini’ form?

Enter Ally Phillips (http://allyskitchen.com/), winner of the 2013 Dole California Cook-Off and Dole Packaged Food’s first-ever Social Media Ambassador (and instigator of “individual sized” Pineapple Upside Down Cakes!) I’ve made many a Pineapple Upside Down Cake in my day, but never “miniaturized.” It was SO fun, I even made “Mini Mini’s!”

Not only will Ally be supplying her colorful “live” observations (on Social Media) during the Tournament of Roses Parade, she’ll also be cooking up a creative storm at DPF’s “Live on Green” prior to the much-anticipated annual festivity. Tune in as Ally prepares these and other DPF inspired recipes, including refreshing smoothies, a zesty hummus dip, Ricotta Dumplings with Dole Raspberry Sauce, and even an inspired Bellini recipe! (Hey, it’s New Year’s after all.) All of ’em were tested, ENJOYED, and received rave reviews by some of food blog world’s finest cooks. (There’ll be links!)

Dole Packaged Foods graciously expanded their annual presence in this year’s 127th Tournament of Roses Parade by including a FREE three-day family friendly event at the Pasadena Convention Center to promote good eatin’… aptly demonstrated by Ally and more. “Live on Green” will take place on December 29th & 30th (9 a.m. to 8 p.m.), and December 31 (9:00 a.m. to 3 p.m.) with activities centered around the National Park Service’s Centennial Celebration. (100 years, woohoo — way to go!) There’ll be places where children can romp and play at the Scholarshare Toddler Play Area, a Family Fun Zone, and live performances throughout the event, including singalongs. (Y’all know music is a balm to my soul.)

PLEASE be sure to watch for DPF’s float during the Tournament of Roses parade on January 1st, too… an incredible construction entitled “Soaring Over Paradise” complete with a zip-line, waterfalls, and gorgeous fresh flowers! Dole does its best to bring you their BEST, and I’m so honored to participate in this “virtually” with my fellow foodies. Good will and GOOD FOOD abounds at the 2016 Tournament of Roses Parade.

Quick update:

Here are my roses minus the mini’s… my hubby took ’em to work to share!

Tournament of Roses bouquet

Pineapple Upside Down Cake Minis (and “Mini” Mini’s!)

2 (20 oz.) cans DOLE pineapple slices, well drained

1/3 cup butter, melted

2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 pkg. yellow cake mix

Maraschino cherries, drained and halved

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (or 325 degrees F if using dark or non-stick muffin tins.)

Prepare cake mix as directed, substituting drained pineapple juice for the water.

Mix together melted butter and brown sugar until combined.

Spray muffin tins with non-stick cooking spray.

Equally divide butter/brown sugar mixture between muffin tins — 18 total. (See below for additional measurements and/or adaptations.)

Press 1 pineapple slice into brown sugar mixture in each muffin cup.

Add 1 cherry-half in the center of the pineapple ring (sliced side up.)

Pour in about 1/3 cup prepared cake batter.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of muffins comes out ‘clean.’

Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes.

Loosen edges of muffins (use a  butter knife or similar) and invert onto a cooling rack over a half-sheet baking pan, then cool completely.

NOTE: Use at least a 2/3 cup size each muffin tin or it won’t be large enough to hold pineapple slice and batter.

FYI, I used a “jumbo” (popover-sized) muffin tin to make these. (I also experimented with larger ramekins, but they were almost too big!) As for the mini-Mini’s… I put 1/2 tsp. brown sugar/butter mixture into each “mini-muffin-cup”, added a maraschino cherry half first, then topped it with 1/2 tsp. of well-drained DOLE crushed pineapple, and approximately 1/2 Tbsp. cake batter on top. (Eyeball ’em til they’re 2/3 full.)

Bake as directed, adjusting the time to accommodate more or less cake batter. For me, the mini-mini’s baked up “just right” in about 11 minutes… test with a toothpick to be sure. (And don’t neglect that 5-minute cooling-time advice — worked slick in every size.)

A hearty thank you to Dole Packaged Foods for sponsoring this post. All opinions are my own, but I simply have to add that my hubby just ate two of those “mini’s” and asked if he could have more. YOU BETCHA! Happy, HAPPY New Year everybody — go, have FUN — and “Find Your Adventure!

Enjoying being adventurous,

~ Kim

“Easy” Gluten Free Pumpkin Bread

Gluten Free Pumpkin Bread

I love baking from scratch (really I do), but sometimes a lil’ “punting” is called for — especially when my pantry is low on ingredients and I’m hungry for fresh-from-the-oven goodness — now.

All I had on hand was King Arthur Flour’s gluten free “baking mix” and some previously frozen pumpkin to make a “pumpkin bread” (of sorts.) That, and years… and years… and years of baking experience.

After a somewhat desperate (allow me re-phrase that motivated!) online search, I discovered this recipe. Sadly I was missing a couple of ingredients — but, where there’s a will there’s a way.

“Easy” Gluten-Free Pumpkin Bread

(flagrantly adapted from King Arthur Flour’s recipe)

1/2 c. vegetable oil (I used canola)

1 c. sugar (I used 3/4 cup because The Man Of Few Words doesn’t like things “sweet” — except me. :)

1 large egg (the original recipe called for 3; I wanted pumpkin “bread” not pumpkin cake — plus I only had 1 egg!)

2 c. pumpkin puree (I made up for the lack of “egg moisture” with more pumpkin, which is why my bread is “orange-r”)

3 T. honey (another punt… fresh out of molasses, per the original recipe)

1 tsp. vanilla (truthfully I was out of vanilla, too, so I used 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar cuz… a girl’s gotta do!)

Sigh… I was also out of “pumpkin pie spice” (their recipe called for 1 tsp. of it)… so I used:

1-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground coriander

1/2 tsp. apple pie spice

(Whatever works!!!)

2 c. King Arthur Gluten-Free Baking Mix (not GF Flour)

Sparkle sugar to sprinkle on top

Preheat oven to 350º F and lightly grease a loaf pan with shortening. (NOTE: I used a round casserole cuz I haven’t been able to replace my bread pans yet.) Adjust baking time as needed.

Mix together oil, sugar, egg, pumpkin, honey, vanilla (or apple cider vinegar) and spices in a large bowl with an electric mixer.

Add baking mix and beat until combined. Let the batter rest 10 minutes. (I forgot to do this… see “hungry” ¶ 1.)

Spread batter in prepared pan and sprinkle top with sparkle sugar.

Bake 30 minutes, then tent with foil and continue baking 20 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the “loaf” comes out clean. (Might take a lil’ longer than that… use your nose!) I can “smell” when things are done.

Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then turn “loaf” out onto the rack to cool completely.

(And, if in doubt about “my rendition”… make the original recipe!)

Pumpkin Bread 2

I think the results speak for themselves, don’t you?

(By the way, it made fabulous “French Toast” the next day.)

Wishing you a spontaneous weekend!

Enjoying freedom of expression (plus a few decades of ‘know how’) in the kitchen,

~ Kim

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Pomegranate Sauce

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Pomegranate Sauce

After driving 3,000 miles a week during the trucking years, driving 3 miles to the grocery store is a delight.  Plus, the merits of shopping local cannot be overstated.

The idea of pomegranate sauce began teasing my foodie imagination when I saw a lovely display of crown-topped orbs in the produce section. I’d never eaten one before (better late than never), so I brought one home and munched on a few arils while I sieved, pressed, and extracted. I soon discovered that one pomegranate doesn’t yield much juice. Back to the store for another one.

But, those intriguing ruby-like gems had worked their magic on me and I found myself eating more than I was extracting. After a third trip to the store, I came home with a bottle of Pom Wonderful. (Those folks do a marvelous job of getting juice out of those lil’ buggers!) Homemade is my preference, but I come from the “whatever works” camp, too.

Then I simmered and savored until success (and sauce) was achieved. The cake is a good ol’ standby from 30+ years ago — source unknown and recipe considerably tweaked since then. And, trips down memory lane don’t require any driving either.

Flourless Chocolate Cake 3

Flourless Chocolate Cake

1 c. baking cocoa (I used Nestle’s Toll House Cocoa)

6 Tbsp. butter, softened

1/2 c. sugar

1/2 Tbsp. vanilla extract

1/2 Tbsp. whiskey (*see note below)

2 Tbsp. strong coffee, cooled

3/4 c. heavy cream

2 extra large eggs

Pomegranate arils for garnish (if there are any left)

(*May omit whiskey and increase vanilla to 1 tablespoon.)

Preheat oven to 325° F. Butter the bottom of a 9″ cake pan. Have a baking sheet with 1″ sides and a kettle of boiling water at the ready.

In a heavy saucepan, combine cocoa, butter, sugar, vanilla, whiskey (if using), and coffee. Whisk over medium heat until sugar  dissolves; remove from heat. Gradually whisk in cream until blended; set aside to cool.

In a medium-sized bowl, beat eggs with an electric mixer for 4 to 5 minutes or until color is pale yellow and volume is tripled. Gradually whisk eggs into cooled chocolate mixture.

With a spatula, scrape batter into prepared cake pan. Set cake pan on the baking sheet, place in the oven, and pour boiling water onto the baking sheet to a depth of one-half inch. Bake 25 to 30 minutes until cake is set.

Remove cake pan to a cooling rack (I leave the baking pan/water in the oven); cool completely. Refrigerate cake (covered) for 4 hours or overnight. Slice into wedges and drizzle with Pomegranate Sauce.

Garnish with pomegranate seeds, if desired.

Flourless Chocolate Cake 1

Pomegranate Sauce

(adapted from this recipe)

1/2 c. pomegranate juice

1/2 c. red wine (I used Briar Patch Black Cherry Wine; see below)

1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice

1 Tbsp. honey

3″ stick cinnamon

Combine ingredients in a small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until mixture boils; reduce heat to low.  Simmer 25 to 30 minutes or until sauce is reduced by half and is thickened and syrupy. Cool to room temperature before serving.

About the Black Cherry wine…

We’re fortunate to have a small local winery with a huge sense of humor nearby. (Click on the photo below or like their FB page here.) Stop by the Briar Patch and say hi to Jim and Linda. Good folks, good fun, good wine!

Black Cherry Wine

Well it’s time to enjoy a slice of cake, so I’ll leave you with two words:

Shop local!

Enjoying pomegranate success (at last),

~ Kimby

Sharing Is Caring (Blueberry Cinnamon Rolls)

Blueberry Cinnamon Rolls

Every once in awhile an idea comes along that’s so astoundingly simple, I whack myself on the forehead and exclaim, “Now why didn’t I think of that?!”  Blog world’s many creative cooks have made my kitchen (and neighborhood) a much tastier place.

A few years back I started a new tradition, baking homemade cinnamon rolls for our neighbors on Labor Day Monday.  I believe each one of us is blessed with talents, tools, and time to bless others — plus, it makes me happy sending my delivery boy (The Man Of Few Words) to their door with a plateful of oven lovin’.

Who doesn’t like warm cinnamon rolls accompanied by a friendly grin?

If there’s one thing food bloggers exemplify, it’s the spirit of sharing — lives, hearts, homes, and recipes — and it’s a delight to pass on what I’ve learned.

Sharing is caring.

A few weeks prior to this years’ tradition, I discovered Closet Cooking’s Blueberry Maple Pecan Cinnamon Buns (thanks, Kevin!) and “knew” they were the ones I wanted to share.  Not only did the blueberries add an enticing  fruit “pop,” the dough was one of the loveliest I’ve ever worked with — soft & silky — and it baked up beautifully.

Cinnamon Roll with Blueberries ready to eat

For the Labor Day version, I omitted the pecans (wasn’t sure if the neighbors had food allergies) and made more of a “frosting” than a glaze, but I highly suggest following Kevin’s recipe to a T.  Simple, scrumptious, spectacular.

The neighbors loved ’em!

Plus, I had leftover blueberries to munch on.  (Win/win.)

Blueberries

Are you a food “sharer?”  What’s your favorite thing to give?

Enjoying the spirit of sharing,

~ Kimby

Cake Walk (Silky Chocolate Cake)

Silky Chocolate Cake

Have you ever played musical chairs?  With cake?

For as long as I can remember, the school I attended as a young’n hosted an event known as The Carnival in mid-March.  While its intent was to raise funds for various projects, its effect was that of an indoor Mardis Gras.  (A welcome break from the snowbanks outside.)

It also happened to coincide with my birthday, which meant that there was a good chance of celebrating with two cakes instead of one.

Classes were dismissed at noon on Friday to decorate the gym with streamers and balloons and glittery posters.  Shop students worked feverishly to pound last-minute nails into makeshift booths.  Faculty members supervised the tumult with lighthearted smiles and the occasional admonition to “stop horsing around!”

Prizes were then unpacked from large cardboard boxes stacked on the stage, yielding plastic trinkets and wholesale teddy bears that somehow transformed themselves into desirable objects simply by merit of being displayed on a shelf.

In short, the hometown basketball court became a thing of beauty.

The next night (Saturday night), the doors leading into the gym were propped open at 7:00 o’clock sharp and folks would file into the bleachers that angled upward from the gym floor — a vantage point to shed winter coats, visit friends and neighbors, and keep an eye on their children scurrying around below.

I still remember the thrill of clutching a fistful of tickets…

Priced at a nickel apiece, families could afford an evening’s worth of entertainment for their progeny, along with a mutual understanding:

“When the tickets run out, it’s time to go home.”

With my personal stash of five-cent-increment happiness in hand, I’d wander wide-eyed past each booth, sizing up the odds of winning and calculating the staying power of my ticket-trove.

The games were as varied as their names.  Ring Toss.  Dip the Duck.  Free Throw Booth.  (It was situated on a basketball court, after all…)

But, my premeditated destination was The Cake Walk.

Tucked in a corner of the gym behind a fence-like barricade, a dozen metal folding chairs encircled long tables on loan from the school cafeteria.  Atop those tables were cakes.  Not just any cakes, mind you… The Carnival was an annual opportunity for the ladies of the community to show off their baking skills — and show off they did!

Sometime between Friday afternoon and Saturday evening, a parade of baked goods made their way into the gymnasium, balanced on matronly laps during the car ride to town, or tucked on the floorboard farthest from the car heater so as not to melt the frosting.

Each carefully constructed creation was delivered to The Cake Walk with its glory intact — towering three-layer beauties, billowy angel food encased in Seven Minute Frosting, light-as-air German chocolate under a thick layer of coconut and walnuts, two-layer cakes artfully appliqued with butter cream…

Basically, the Pillsbury Bake-Off in a booth. ;)

After producing the required tickets to enter The Cake Walk, folks lined up in front of the chairs and the music would begin in typical musical chairs fashion.  But, unlike the traditional game where one chair is removed after each round, The Cake Walk chairs remained in place — randomly numbered to avoid mass hysteria, potential injuries — and toppled cakes.

Round and round we’d shuffle to the Beatles crooning, “She Loves You, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah” or Petula Clark belting out “Downtown.”

(On a record player, ahem.)

When the music stopped, it was our cue to scramble for a seat — and scramble we did.  Then we anxiously awaited for the corresponding “lucky number” to be drawn from a bowl.  Amidst groans and cheers, the winner would stand, select the cake of their choice (which was another reason to get there first), and emerge victorious.

It’s been years since I’ve been back to the The Carnival, primarily because I moved 750 miles away and I can’t do “winter,” but also because the homemade cakes of yore were deemed dangerous by the legislature and eventually replaced by packaged angel food cakes.

Sometimes a memory is better than being there.

I must admit, I don’t covet cake with the same intensity I once did, but if I spy one that elicits that “carnival” craving, I know I’m going to be the lucky winner — without leaving it up to chance.

Many thanks to Maureen from The Orgasmic Chef for this year’s birthday cake.  (Click here for the recipe for Silky Chocolate Cake.)

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I can almost hear the music now… “She Loves You, Yeah, Yeah…”

Enjoying cake walks,

~ Kimby

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