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

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

Tiramisu with Bailey’s Irish Cream

I have to hand it to the gift-givers in my life — they sure know how to make me ooh and aah.  Take this gorgeous set of plates from my sister…

The only way to describe their color is Northern Lights.  (A befitting gift from my Minnesota sis, eh?)  With their deep amber/reddish center surrounded by luxurious rays of gold/green/brown (depending on the light), I needed to make a dessert befitting of their wonder.

Leave it to my friend, Shirley (Welcome To Shirley’s Luxury Haven) to supply just the thing.  Tiramisu with Bailey’s Irish Cream.  Ooh!  Aah!

While Tiramisu is traditionally made by dipping lady fingers in espresso or coffee-flavored liqueur, the good folks at Bailey’s now make a “a hint of coffee” version, too — the best of both worlds.

Thus, a befitting dessert was born.  Or rather, re-created.  I made this dessert to participate in Shirley’s “DIY This Christmas with 12 Lovely Recipes” challenge and I’m so-o-o glad I did.

Which just goes to prove that good things happen when you leave milk and cookies out for Santa.

Enjoying the wonder of it all,

~ Kim

An Alternative To Pumpkin Pie…

I love the spices that emerge this time of year to warm our hearts, homes and palates, and some desserts just have “holiday” written all over them.  Take this Chocolate Cinnamon Walnut Ricotta Torte with Spiced Poached Pears and Plums… a mouthful to say, but worth every bite!

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I was thinking about “desserts” (not that it takes a major holiday to evoke such thoughts…) and immediately asked myself, “Does it necessarily have to be pumpkin pie?”

For the Man Of Few Words, yes — that’s his perennial favorite, holiday or not.  But for me, hmmm…

Why not make two desserts?!  (Three actually, counting the aforementioned pie and this delectable combination.)

I have Sue Ann Gleason of Chocolate For Breakfast to thank for the torte recipe.  (Thanks, Sue Ann!)  Filled with toasted walnuts, cinnamon, and Ricotta, it’s a small slice of heaven on a plate and perfectly capable of standing on it’s own.

(Must do research for accurate reporting…)

But when I decided to pair it recently with fruit poached in a spicy wine sauce, it gave me even more reasons to be thankful!

Chocolate Cinnamon Walnut Ricotta Torte with Spiced Poached Pears & Plums

Chocolate Cinnamon Walnut Ricotta Torte* (preferrably still warm)

1 + 1/2 cups white wine (I used Chardonnay)

1 + 1/2 cups water

3/4 to 1 c. Turbinado sugar

1/2 lemon rind, julienned

1 whole cinnamon stick

1/2 tsp. whole cloves

1/2 tsp. whole allspice

3 black peppercorns

1 tsp. vanilla (I was out of vanilla beans…)

4 pears, peeled, cored and halved

4 plums, pitted and halved (I didn’t peel them)

Combine wine, water and sugar in a large saucepan or stockpot over medium heat.  (I used 1 cup of sugar for this recipe since the torte isn’t overly sweet, but if you’re making the poached fruit to serve “on it’s own,” reduce sugar to 3/4 cup.)  Stir until sugar is dissolved.

Add lemon rind, spices and vanilla; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and carefully slip the pears and plums into the poaching liquid.  Simmer gently for 20 to 30 minutes, pressing fruit down with the back of a wooden spoon now and then to keep it submerged.

When fruit is fork tender, remove pan from heat, cover, and allow to cool to room temperature.  Using a slotted spoon, remove fruit to a bowl.  If desired, return sauce to heat and reduce to desired consistency.  (I did!)  Strain the poaching liquid over the fruit; discard spices.

Serve each slice of torte with a poached pear and a plum; drizzle with sauce.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Enjoying the warmth of the pending holidays,

~ Kim

* ©2011 Sue Ann Gleason ~ Radiant Life Expert, Conscious Bites Nutrition ~ Visit her at http://consciousbitesnutrition.com/ to grab her free report: 7 Secrets to a Fit, Radiant, & Rockin’ New You or to subscribe to her ezine.

Everything’s Just Peachy (Or, The Pie Lady Speaks)

In a previous post, I promised to show you how to turn this…

Into this.

But first, a story…

Back in the trucking days, we didn’t get much “home time.”  The hubby and I were on the road together for weeks, or he’d have to head out for deliveries in one direction while I headed the opposite way.

Don’t get me wrong.  I relished the thrill of driving a big rig into the unknown, meeting interesting people and eating great food.  But, I missed my comfort zone — my kitchen — and the longing for “homemade” wouldn’t let up until I stood in front of my stove.

Everyone has their own idea of the ultimate “homemade” treat.  For me, it’s pie.  Maybe I watched one too many episodes of “Bonanza.”  The way Hoss’s eyes lit up when he spied a pie cooling on a window sill made me want to feed that man.  Or at least make him a pie.

After coveted weekends at home, we couldn’t possibly eat all of the goodies I made, so we’d bring them OTR (over the road) to share with our customers.  Enroute, I felt like a pirate with a booty of oven-lovin’ tucked under the sleeper bed. :)

Soon, our favorite customers became accustomed to receiving a homemade pie (or two) along with 50,000 pounds of steel, and it wasn’t long before they dubbed me The Pie Lady.

On trips when I was dispatched elsewhere, I’d send pies along with the hubby to drop off with the following instructions:  “Please put them in the break room so everybody gets a slice.”  (The fellow at the front desk had a real hankerin’ for pie.)

After one such delivery, my hubby returned to the steel yard to pick up a second load.  When he walked into the office, he caught the yard manager with a fork in hand, sneaking “bites” from his desk drawer.  He’d stashed a whole blueberry pie in his desk!  Another Hoss.

(Such is the power of pie.)

Ladies and gentlemen, start your ovens.  But first, start your stove.

Back in the early pie-making days, I never knew when fruit pies were “done enough.”  Was the filling set — or soup?  Was it cooked — or crunchy?  Plus, I got tired of boil-overs, burnt crusts and fricassee’d fingers.  Ouch.

Then I came up with an idea:  “Why not cook the filling on top of the stove first?”  Not only did it take the mystery out of “doneness,” it ultimately cut down on baking time.  (Less time in the kitchen meant more time to play!)

I’ll interject “the recipe” here so it’s easier to follow along…

Homemade Peach Pie

5 c. sliced fresh peaches

2 Tbsp. water

2 Tbsp. butter

3/4 c. sugar, divided

3 Tbsp. flour

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Pinch of nutmeg (freshly grated)

Pinch of salt

Pastry for a 9″ double-crust pie

Extra sugar for “dusting”

First, peel yourself a mess of peaches. (For an easy “how to,” click here.  Thanks, Dara!)  Next, cut them in half, remove the pits, and slice them into 1/4″ slices.

Place the sliced peaches in a large non-stick skillet over low heat.  Sprinkle with water and half the sugar.  Dot with butter.  Cover and cook, stirring occasionally.  (I use a wide spatula to “lift” the peaches from the bottom and gently mix them to retain their “sliced” shape.)

Meanwhile, combine the remaining sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt; set aside.

This is generally when I make my crusts (while the peaches cook.)  Since everyone has their own “secret” pie crust recipe and some recipes require chilling, I won’t tell you how and when to make it.  But I will share my secret weapon.  Waxed paper.

I ran across this crust-making method many (many, many…) years ago and it was SO easy and SO non-messy, it made perfect sense.  Roll it out between waxed paper.  (I know, I know — it’s not “old school,” but it beats prying crust off of the counter or extricating it from your rolling pin.)  It also allows you to use less liquid — be it water, milk or cream.  Less liquid = flakier crust.

While you might have to experiment to get the proportions right, pie crust has never been easier, or as fast.  (Dare I say “It’s easy as pie?”)

Be sure to keep an eye on your peaches during this time!

Another crust-making tip:  You don’t need as much liquid as you think you do.  (If you overdo it, it’ll stick to the waxed paper.)  But, pie crust is forgiving and I’ve made many a “patched pie” that’s turned out just fine.  Take it a tablespoon at a time and trust that it’ll hold together once you start rolling.

Also, pie crust ala waxed paper makes it easier to transfer it to the pie plate — just peel off one side, “flip it,” center it and peel off the other side.  (Sorry, no photos to go with that tutorial.)

Now, preheat your oven to 400° F.

After the peaches have begun to soften, sprinkle the flour/sugar mixture over the top.  Stir gently to distribute and keep stirring!   (It thickens fairly quickly.)  When the filling becomes clear and bubbly, remove from heat and cool slightly.  Have your pie crusts at the ready and don’t overcook the filling; the fruit will cook down “just right” during the remaining time in the oven.

Carefully fill the bottom crust, then add the top crust.  (Don’t worry if the top crust looks like it’s “melting” — it’ll all work out, trust me.)  Trim the edges, crimp them, cut slits for steam, and sprinkle with with sugar.  Bake 20 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the filling starts bubbling through the vents.  Remove pie from oven and cool on a wire rack.

This method works equally well for apple and berry pies, bearing in mind that fruit differs in the amount of time needed to cook, depending on the variety you use.  (Sigh… so much information, so little time.)  It’s difficult to condense 35 years (ahem) of experience into one post.

If only I could make you a pie instead… 

What’s your favorite?

Last but not least, since this post is about sharing (or at least I hope y’all took it that way), please click on this link for ways to show the world it’s more blessed to give than receive.  Not everyone has it “peachy.”  I highly encourage you to read it — or better yet, link with a post of your own.

And while you’re at it, have a piece of pie.  There’s a little bit of Hoss in all of us. :)

Enjoying “home time” at last,

~ Kim

Granita Parfait

Nothing says cool on a hot summer day like a granita parfait.  With icy crystals of canteloupe and watermelon layered in a pretty glass, it’s a delight to behold and as refreshing as it looks.

(Chaise lawn chair and reading material optional.)

Granitas are a perfect way to extend summer’s bounty when you find yourself with more melon than you can consume.  A quick whirl in the food processor and a few hours (or overnight) in the freezer and it’s good to go.  The only utensils required are a fork to scrape the frozen fruit into ice-shaved happiness and a spoon to enjoy the results.

I don’t have an actual recipe (amounts are dependent upon the quantity of fruit you’re using), but here’s a basic “how to”:

Granita Parfait

Cubes of fresh melon (in this case, watermelon and canteloupe)

Sugar to taste, if desired (I didn’t)

Remove seeds and/or rind (if any) from melon cubes.  Pulse small separate batches in a food processor until liquified.  (Note to self:  Liquified fruit really gets to whirlin’ — fairly quickly, I might add!)  Be mindful of your food processor.

Transfer fruit liquid to a shallow glass pan or large plastic bowl; cover and freeze until firm.  When mixture is frozen, “scrape” the top with a fork until it yields an adequate amount of crystals for your serving needs.  (Note to self: Use a large enough bowl so you’ll be able to scrape it without flinging fruit crystals all over your kitchen counter…)

Store the “scraped granita crystals” in the freezer in separate (covered) containers until serving time.  Spoon into champagne flutes (layered as desired) and serve immediately.  And I do mean immediately…

Not only is this a refreshing treat, it’s a means to enjoy every last ounce of summer!

(Note:  When this post originally “aired,” I submitted it to a link-up that challenged folks to invent a summer dessert with 6 ingredients or less.  Here ’tis… Family Fresh Cooking.)

In the meantime, I’ve got to get back to my granita.

Aaahh… 

Enjoying life one frozen delight at a time,

~ Kim

Cow Tipping, Full Moons, and Chocolate Myths

I grew up in the rural Midwest where tales of cow tipping were oft told, but never confirmed.  Is it really possible to tip a cow?  The idea of sneaking up on a sleeping bovine and giving it a shove seems rather shady to me, or at least that’s how I’d feel if someone surreptitiously disturbed my slumber.  (By the way, I snapped this photo at the Iowa Welcome Center, just up the road from the Missouri border on a very windy day.)

Perhaps it was the recent full moon that prompted my musings?  Stranger things have been known to happen when the moon is full.  Or so they say.

Truth be told, it had more to do with homemade evaporated milk than any dark escapade from my youth.  (Waiting for four cups of moo juice to reduce to a cup and a half gives a person plenty of time to think about dairy-related things…  do not attempt this at home.)  Unless, of course, you want to spend two hours stirring and skimming and standing in front of the stove.  I’ll spare you the time — get a can of Carnation; it’s faster.

But, I was in the “moo-d” (sorry…) for German Chocolate Cake and the frosting recipe called for evaporated milk, which I was out of — and which brings me to another myth.

Did you know that German chocolate cake isn’t German?

According to Wikipedia, the inventor of “German chocolate” was a fellow by the name of Samuel German.  In the 1850’s his creation was known as “German’s sweet chocolate,” but like many apt phrases and English words gone by the wayside, the apostrophe and possessive “s” were dropped by the Baker’s Chocolate Company — which ironically doesn’t have anything to do with baking (it was named after it’s co-founder, James Baker) and the product name was shortened to “Baker’s German Sweet Chocolate.”  The rest is sweet history.  Now you know.

To confirm this, I must share a story.  My daughter once asked a foreign exchange student (from Germany) if she liked German Chocolate Cake.  (Blank stare.)  My daughter persisted, describing the cake in detail, after which she asked, “What do you call that in Germany?”  To which her friend replied: “Chocolate cake.”

Mythical or not, it’s one of my favorite desserts.  And this is my never fail, rave review recipe:

German Chocolate Cake Frosting

1 c. chopped walnuts

1 1/3 c. sweetened, flaked coconut

1 c. evaporated milk (trust me, Carnation’s easier)

1 c. granulated sugar

1 stick of butter, cut into chunks

3 egg yolks

1 t. pure vanilla extract

Measure and set aside the walnuts and coconut.  Combine the remaining ingredients in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened and bubbly.  (Watch so it doesn’t scorch!)  Remove from heat; add walnuts and coconut.  Beat with a wooden spoon until thick.  Cool slightly before frosting the cake, “German” chocolate or not.

Enjoying life one dark, delicious bite at a time,

~ Kim

P.S.  No animals were harmed in the production of this post.