Mixed Berry Crumble Dessert

Once a fixture on kitchen counters everywhere (at least where I grew up) cannisters stored the “basics.” Flour, sugar, coffee, and tea. What do you store in yours?

These days mine house rice in alphabetical order: Arborio, Basmati, Jasmine, and White or Wild. FYI, I eat a lot of rice. Which made me think. Sometimes life can become so compartmentalized that you risk missing the big picture. Reality isn’t organized. Life either. Do NOT attempt this thought process at home.

A few mornings ago my day started out with a shimmering falling star streaking across the sky, accompanied by a stellar cup o’ Joe — followed by a spectacular sunset that evening — followed by a glass of Cabernet. Some events are meant to be random. Unexpected. Divine. Like this dessert. (Even though I had to dig out the “basics” from another set of cannisters in the recesses of my pantry.)

Mixed Berry Crumble

(adapted from Yummly who adapted it from Cooking Classy, with a few adaptations by moi)

1-1/2 cups all purpose flour

3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided (plus a lil’ extra)

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/8 tsp. salt

1 tsp. lemon zest

1 large egg yolk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup salted butter, chilled and cut into cubes

2 tsp. cornstarch

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

2 cups fresh berries or frozen mixed berries, thawed (I used a combo of frozen blueberries & sliced strawberries w/a sprinkle of sugar so they’d macerate…)

1 Tbsp. raw turbinado sugar (I used granulated sugar; fresh out of turbinado)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and generously butter an 8 x 8-inch baking dish; set aside.

Whisk flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, salt, and lemon peel in a large bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and vanilla.

Cut egg yolk mixture and chilled butter cubes into the flour mixture with a pastry blender, fork, or your fingers until it resembles coarse crumbs. (I tried all three options just for fun.)

Gently press a little over half of the mixture into the prepared pan to form a crust.

Combine cornstarch and remaining sugar in a separate bowl. ( More dishes, but prevail.)

Combine cornstarch mixture with fruit (fresh or frozen) until thoroughly coated.

Pour berry mixture over crust and top with remaining flour mixture.

Sprinkle turbinado sugar (or plain ol’ granulated) over the top.

Bake in preheated oven 35-38 minutes until top is golden brown. (Personally, I was more concerned with the bottom crust over-baking so I adjusted the oven rack to the upper 1/3 of my oven midway through and watched and “smelled ” until it was deemed done.)

Remove from oven, cool completely on a wire rack, and serve as is or with ice cream.

Refrigerate leftovers (if any) in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

SOOOO good! Or at least I’m told.

By the way, here’s that sunset.

Talk about just desserts.

Enjoying pondering cannisters and living an “uncompartmentalized” life,

~ Kim

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

Chocolate Musings

Emergency Chocolate

Writing is chocolate for the soul.

I penned those words nearly ten years ago and I still abide by them.

(Hope you can zoom in on the instructions on my Emergency stash — now an empty box — but hey, some things are worth keeping, including decade old words.)

Lakegirl mug

Now that I’m officially a Lakegirl (woohoo!) I’ve had time to reflect on life and how I’m living it.

Make every day count. Do what makes you happy!

But, serve others with JOY — even if it’s via a random post — or chocolate. ;)

Enjoying LIFE at the lake,

~ 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

A Trifling Matter

Blackberry Cabernet Trifle

I see things in a different light.  Life.  Art.  Food.

Sometimes I take things seriously.  (Maybe too seriously?)

Other times humor prevails.  (Okay, most of the time.)

For some reason, this trifle reminded me of Prom.  Remember those bouffant nylon net “floral arrangements” pinned to your shoulder (or strapped to your wrist) while you danced under a disco ball?  (Anybody?)

Prom Corsage with Disco Ball

Prom Corsage with Disco Ball

My first Prom date was a polite (and cute) young man who showed up at the appointed hour with corsage in hand.  He’d obviously put a lot of thought into it — it matched my dress perfectly.

Being new to all-things-prom, I didn’t realize I was supposed to reciprocate with a boutonniere.  His tuxedo lapel sadly went without.  To his credit, he didn’t say a word about the oversight and treated me to the night of my life — or as much of a “night of my life” as you’re allowed at age sixteen with chaperoned supervision.  All I remember is that we swirled around the dance floor to the strains of “Summer Breeze.”

Under a disco ball.

Blackberry Cabernet Trifle sunny side

Blackberry Cabernet Trifle

Pound cake, sliced into 1 inch cubes

Blackberry Cabernet Sauce (recipe to follow)

Blackberry Swirl Topping (recipe to follow)

Additional fresh blackberries for garnish

Blackberry Cabernet Sauce

3/4 c. fresh blackberries

1/2 c. Cabernet Sauvignon

1/4 c. freshly squeezed orange juice

2 Tbsp. honey (or to taste)

In a small saucepan, combine blackberries, Cabernet, orange juice, and honey; bring to a boil.  Lower heat; simmer 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half and liquid is syrupy.  Remove from heat; mash berries with a fork.  Set aside to cool.

Blackberry Swirl Topping

(inspired by this recipe from The Orgasmic Chef)

1 c. whipping cream, divided

1/2 c. Ghirardelli white chocolate chips

1 Tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Place 1/2 cup whipping cream in a small saucepan; heat until hot (do not boil.)  Remove from heat; stir in white chocolate.  Allow to soften, then whisk until smooth.  Cool to room temperature, then chill.  Beat with an electric mixer until soft peaks form.

Beat remaining whipping cream in deep bowl until soft peaks form.  Mix in sugar and vanilla; beat again.  Do not overbeat.  (Reserve a small amount for garnish, if desired.)  Fold together whipped cream and white chocolate mixture until combined.  Add half of the sauce and “swirl” it around.  (Reserve remaining sauce.)

To serve:

Place pound cake cubes in the bottom of two individual trifle dishes.  Drizzle with reserved sauce.  Dollop generously with topping.  Garnish with fresh blackberries and whipped cream.

Blackberry Cabernet Trifle

The forgotten boutonniere?  A trifling matter.

These days, I know how to treat my date.

Enjoying just desserts,

~ Kim

Custard’s Last Stand

Custard's Last Stand

Custard is one of the simple joys in life.  A few basic ingredients and a bit of stove-top tending are all that’s required.

By the way, I generally don’t snap fridge photos because:  1)  the lighting isn’t the greatest and 2) it gets a lil’ crowded in there. :)

But, what’s a girl to do with a camera in one hand and a spoon in the other?

I also tend to favor the bain marie method “ala oven” because it never fails; however, my new double boiler was begging to be used.

Custard in progress

Plus, it employs some of my favorite cooking utensils…

Some of my favorite utensils

Grandma M’s measuring cups and spoon.  A microplane from my sister.  An apron made out of fabric that once belonged to my Grandma (sewn by my sister.)  Ramekins from Mom.  Memories of eating custard with Grandma S…

Some may beg to differ re: memories being a ‘utensil,’ but in my kitchen they’re an essential tool.

I love being surrounded by the women in my family while I cook.

Homemade Custard

Recipe credit goes to Christopher Kimball & “The Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook” (another gift from my sister); method adapted by me.

2 c. whole milk

1 c. heavy cream

2 egg yolks

3 whole eggs

1/2 c. sugar

1/8 tsp. salt

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Freshly grated nutmeg

Butter 8 individual ramekins or a 2 quart baking dish; set aside.

Bring water to a boil in the bottom of a double boiler; reduce heat to a simmer.  Keep water at a simmer from here on out and make sure the water level in the bottom pan doesn’t touch the bottom of the top pan.  (I hope that made sense.)

Add milk and cream to the top of the double boiler; heat over simmering water until bubbles form around the edge, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, whisk together the yolks and eggs in a bowl.  Stir in sugar, salt, and vanilla.

Whisk egg mixture into hot milk/cream until combined.

Cook over simmering water, stirring constantly, until custard coats the back of the spoon.  This process requires standing in front of your stove for approximately 20 to 25 minutes and I cannot emphasize the two “s’s” enough — simmer and stir — or you’ll end up with a third “s”… scrambled eggs.

Pour custard into individual ramekins or a 2 quart dish.

Grate nutmeg over the top.

Refrigerate and wait patiently until set.

Alternatively, stir together the hot milk/cream and egg mixture.

Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into buttered ramekins or baking dish and place them in a bain marie (i.e. larger baking dish filled with boiling water half-way up the custard dishes.)

Bake at 325° for 15 to 20 minutes (ramekins) or 40 to 50 minutes (baking dish) until custard is set.  Cool, then refrigerate.

Custard 1

Although I’ll probably revert to the reliable oven-baked method for future custard-making adventures, it felt rather nostalgic doing it the ol’ fashioned way again.

Custard’s Last Stand, so to speak…

Who’s in your kitchen with you while you cook?

Enjoying memories and simple joys,

~ 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.)

.  .  .

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

Enjoying cake walks,

~ Kimby

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