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by Danica Waters
Danish Pastry With Lemon and Cream Cheese remains one of my family’s Christmas morning standards, just as it has been for the last ten years. It is not only a recipe that is deceptively easy to make, it also happens to be one that is easy to make ahead of the big day, which is very, very mportant.
Indeed, I have far better things to do with my time and energy on Christmas Eve than worry about what I’m going to feed everybody the next morning.
Like figuring out where I put all the gifts I’d tucked out of sight (and mind) during the previous year. And then gift wrapping them all. Every last one.
So here it is, folks. The most dee-licious cheese-filled danish, with a crisp-tender, yeast-based crust and a yummy lemony-cream cheese center.
Make it now. Freeze it for Christmas. Love your inner procrastinator.
Danish Pastry With Lemon and Cream Cheese
(Colorado Cache Cookbook)
1 package dry yeast
1/4 C lukewarm water
1 tsp sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 C all-purpose flour, sifted
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 C butter
2 – 8 oz pkgs cream cheese, softened
1 C sugar
1 tsp fresh lemon juice + 1/2 tsp zest of lemon
Powdered sugar, to dust danishes
Mix yeast, water, and sugar. Let stand for 10 minutes. Add egg. Cut butter into flour and salt and mix well. Add yeast mixture. Divide into two balls and roll each out into 8×10 inch rectangles.
Make filling by combining cream cheese, sugar, and lemon juice and zest.
Spread 1/2 of the filling on each rectangle in the center, and fold each long side in towards the middle, trying to make sure the sides overlap a little bit at first (they will spread).
Fold the short ends up about 1-1/2 inches.
Bake immediately at 375 degrees F for 25 minutes.
Cool danishes on racks and dust with powdered sugar.
To serve, cut lengthwise in half, then crosswise into wedges.
Posted November 30th, 2011. Add a comment
by Danica Waters
There’s just some days when you need a good old dish of piping hot, creamy macaroni and cheese. Not the day-glo-orange kind. I’m talkin’ REAL homestyle mac and cheese with rich chunks of cheddar and a creamy, dreamy, tangy-deelish sauce.
Here it is, folks. The perfect cure to the Tuesday Blues.
The Ultimate Country-Style Macaroni and Cheese
7 oz uncooked elbow macaroni
1/4 C butter
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 C milk
8-oz pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp. country-style dijon mustard
2 C cubed 1/2″ Cheddar Cheese
2 C steamed fresh broccoli florets, chopped
Potato chips, crumbled fine or 1 C fresh bread crumbs mixed with 2 Tbsp melted butter and 2 Tbsp. fresh minced parsley, for topping
Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
Cook macaroni according to package directions; drain. Meanwhile, in 3-quart saucepan, melt 1/4 C butter, stir in flour. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth and bubbly (about a minute).
Stir in milk, cream cheese, salt, pepper, and mustard. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened (3-4 minutes).
Stir in cooked macaroni and Cheddar cheese cubes, fold in cooked broccoli.; pour into 2-quart casserole or individual oven-safe ramekins.
In small bowl, crush potato chips, or stir together ingredients for bread crumb topping; sprinkle over macaroni and cheese.
Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until heated through and bubbly.
Posted November 29th, 2011. Add a comment
by Danica Waters
Tomorrow brings the United States of America’s cherished annual Thanksgiving celebration. A kickoff to our winter holiday season, Thanksgiving is a special day hopefully spent with family and close friends in shared celebration of each other and with a grateful spirit for all that we have. In an ideal world, Thanksgiving inspires warm and beautiful visions of bounty and togetherness, laughter and shared memories, hopes and dreams for the future, and lots and lots of “Kodak Moments”. And food. Lots of food.
Indeed, across Facebook, American friends of the Allspice Chronicles are conversing about how their kettles are steaming, their pie crusts are filled with lovely, tempting deliciousness, their tables are set and ready for wonderful celebrations nationwide. As most cooks will confess: on this holiday, there is no place we’d rather be than creating art in the kitchen by stirring spices, magic and love into a feast for those we love the most, for new friends and old.
But Thanksgiving can quickly turn into a daunting and disheartening experience for those who have fallen on hard times, and in our great country and around the world, that number is rising. I am reminded of a young mother of two whose husband had lost his job last year when his company closed its doors. She was one of the best employees at this place of work- always on time, always one to give 110 percent. Although she never complained about her situation, just before Thanksgiving she became rather withdrawn. We all vaguely knew she must have been under some serious financial stress, given that there were medical problems within the family and she had no medical benefits, but no one knew the extent of it, and everyone felt uncomfortable about inquiring into the particulars.
In a moment of work stress and desperation, she finally confided in one of her peers about her financial situation, about how she didn’t know how she was even going to afford groceries, let alone a celebratory dinner for her husband and her precious little girls.
(Now here, folks, is where the human spirit shines.)
The news went around the workplace like wildfire, and within 24 hours a plan was developed to provide her family all the ingredients for a generous Thanksgiving dinner. Employees who really didn’t have the extra cash to give found a way to pitch in, and what started as a Thanksgiving rescue plan morphed into an offering of food and enough cash and grocery gift cards to take care of the distressed employee and her family for a good while.
This Thanksgiving, the Allspice Chronicles would like to offer its first toast to the human spirit. May we always remain aware of and sensitive to the plight of others, and may we diligently work together to alleviate suffering in our own backyard, if not worldwide.
It is, after all, a very small world.
To that point, after posting Camille Glenn’s recipe for Alabama Yams with Oranges, one of our readers from Africa submitted a request for the Allspice Chronicles to expand on the traditional American preparation for Sweet Potatoes/Yams with Toasted Marshmallows. Given that the sweet potato is a staple of the African diet, and given the horrible state of drought and famine that certain portions of Africa are experiencing, it was humbling, endearing and enlightening to receive such a request.
We at the Allspice Chronicles hope more than anything to see the eradication of world hunger, poverty, suffering. It is the least we can do to provide a recipe, extracted from the sentimental foundation of our cherished common American experiences, and we look forward to the day when our little blog will feature personal stories and heirloom recipes from around the world. Diversity makes us rich, stories show us how much we are the same.
After all, food, like music, is an international language. We all may express it differently, but in the end it contains the same basic ingredients which serve to nourish and inspire, comfort and console our weary spirits. And for this, may we all be thankful.
Here’s the recipe for Thanksgiving-Style Sweet Potatoes With Marshmallows.
Thanksgiving-Style Sweet Potatoes With Marshmallows
4-5 medium sweet potatoes
1/4 C butter
1/4 C milk
2-3 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
Bake sweet potatoes until soft. Scoop out the soft flesh from the skins into a large bowl; discard the skins. Add butter, milk, salt, and brown sugar; mix with hand mixer or potato masher until light and fluffy. Taste mixture and adjust seasonings to suit your preference; mix thoroughly.
Spoon sweet potato mixture into buttered 9 x 9″ baking dish.
Top with miniature marshmallows, or with whole marshmallows cut in half.
Bake at 350 degrees F for approximately 20 minutes; switch heat to “Broil – High Heat” and allow to cook until marshmallows bubble and turn dark brown on top. (This will give it the perfect flavor)
Allow to rest 5 minutes prior to serving.
Serves 4 – 6
Posted November 23rd, 2011. Add a comment
by Danica Waters
I have sadly forgotten who Mrs. F.E. Smith was, as well as what relation she had to my family; whatever relation it happened to be happened a long, long time ago. What I can tell you is that this recipe has been passed down through my family for at least three generations, and it came from this particular someone named Mrs. F.E. Smith.
During one of the last visits I had with my Nana, we got to “talking shop” (which, in this case, means recipes) and ended up going through her antique, foot-long metal recipe file.
(Yes, it was a metal box that was approximately twelve inches long. And it was full.)
While she pulled out various recipes she thought I’d enjoy, I recognized this recipe from my mother’s own recipe box. My Nana waved her hand and told me matter-of-factly in her sweet Southern drawl to “not even bother with any other peanut butter cookie recipe, because this one was the best there was.”
This recipe produces a perfect peanut butter cookie. Not too sweet, just salty enough, and equally delicious with a glass of cold milk as with a cup of hot cocoa…
Mrs. F.E. Smith’s Peanut Butter Cookies
½ C white sugar
½ C brown sugar
½ C butter
½ C chunky peanut butter
1 egg slightly beaten
1-1/4 C flour
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp baking soda
In large bowl, combine sugars, butter, and peanut butter. Add egg and mix thoroughly. Sift together dry ingredients and combine with the peanut butter mixture.
Mold dough into a long, even roll and wrap in waxed paper. Refrigerate 1 hour or until dough is firm.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Slice to approximately 3/8 of an inch thickness, and place cookies on ungreased cookie sheet. Using the tines of a fork, create a grid-shaped decoration, if desired.
Bake at 375 degrees F for approximately 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Posted November 18th, 2011. Add a comment
by Danica Waters / butternut squash image courtesy of www.cookinglight.com
This, dear readers, is a recipe for Butternut Squash soup excellence. Clipped from an issue of the Rocky Mountain News years ago, this recipe qualifies as one of my personal all-time favorites for the following reasons:
It is definitely “comforting”, which makes it a great bet for weekend soup-and-sandwich fare (think grilled Havarti cheese with caramelized onions on French – or better yet, homemade – bread);
It is also extremely sophisticated, which makes it an outstanding choice for a formal, multiple-course meal;
But the best part of all is that this is not your ordinary comforting cream soup. It is far more exciting; the addition of cayenne pepper creates a sensory surprise and leaves a delicious tingle on your tongue; go sparingly at first and add to suit your preference.
Creamy Squash Soup
(as seen in the Rocky Mountain News)
1/3 C diced white onion (don’t substitute – the white onion is more delicate than its yellow cousins!)
3 Tbsp dry white wine
1/8 tsp marjoram
2 lb butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks*
4 C rich chicken stock
1-1/2 C heavy cream or half and half
4 Tbsp butter, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
¼ tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
Garnish: sour cream, freshly snipped chives or fresh rosemary sprig; toasted pumpkin seeds or toasted chopped walnuts
Saute the onion in one tablespoon of the butter until soft and transparent. Add the wine, marjoram, squash and stock and bring to a boil over high heat.
Reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 30 minutes or so, or until the squash is very tender.
Carefully puree the mixture in a blender, a little at a time. Pour it back into the pan over medium heat and add cream and butter. Add salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste. Heat the soup, stirring constantly, until heated through (do not allow to boil). Taste and add more seasonings, if desired. If the soup is too thick, thin it with more stock or cream.
Keep the soup warm over low heat or over a double-boiler. Be careful not to scorch it. Serve the soup in mugs or wide, flat bowls with your choice of garnishes.
*Note from author: Figuring out how to cut and peel a butternut squash safely and efficiently is a bit of a challenge due to their hard, thick skins. Here’s some tips:
1) Use a large, very sharp Chef’s knife or Santoku.
2) Use a thick cutting board with a non-skid bottom. Wood is great!
3) Turn the squash on its side, and, cutting from the widest end first, cut the squash into rings approximately 1-1/2” thick.
4) Remove the seeds and fibers from the inside of the rings and discard.
5) Cut the rings into quarters.
6) Using a paring knife, peel the hard skins off the squash and discard.
7) Cut the squash into smaller pieces if desired.
Voila! You have conquered a butternut squash! (And you get to keep your fingers!)
Posted November 17th, 2011. Add a comment
by Danica Waters / photo credits at bottom of post
I will never forget the day I first tried my hand at making cranberry bread. I’d discovered this fantastic heirloom recipe in a fall issue of Taste of Home Magazine, and I was particularly excited because I happened to be experiencing one of those rare, breathtaking moments when the house was gleaming, the laundry was done, the kids were clean and contentedly immersed in their paper dolls upstairs, and the groceries were in-house – all before it started to snow.
I put some CD’s on shuffle, pulled out all the ingredients, and prepared for a fun afternoon of baking. All was going swimmingly well until I actually pondered the recipe.
It said to put the fresh cranberries with the sugar and orange peel in a pot, and bring it to a boil.
Just cranberries, orange peel, and sugar.
Something had to be wrong.
Call me crazy, but fresh cranberries look like little red leather balls. They don’t squirt when you pinch them. Having never worked with fresh cranberries before, I cut one open just to see if I was missing something.
It was still the equivalent of a little red leather ball.
I’ll admit I am a person who tends to over-think things. I also will reluctantly admit to having a few trust issues, which I personally prefer to label “Critical Thinking”. And my Critical Thinking Cap was spinning with visions of little red leather balls coated in a goopy sugar-brittle mess that would take weeks to clean. Heaven knows there was nothing to keep the mixture from sticking to the pan!
I called my mom to see if she had any insight into the world of cranberries, certain that the recipe was missing a step or some ingredients or something. Mom told me I had trust issues, and I should just do what the recipe said to do.
I told her I would enlist her assistance in cleaning up the mess if it didn’t work.
She said to bring her a loaf when it did.
The insides of those little red leather balls melted like butter once I turned on the heat; the internal pressure made the skins “pop”, and my terror visions of singed sugar-brittle turned into a ruby-colored mash that made the whole house smell like Christmas. I was ecstatic.
So now we know. And I have pictures to prove it.
This recipe is an annual favorite. It is a rich, moist, dark bread with the perfect balance of sweet-tart and savory, and it is equally delicious with a smear of cream cheese on top as it is served all by itself. Best of all, it takes mere minutes to make, and it freezes ahead like a charm.
Cranberry Nut Bread
(Taste of Home Magazine, December/January 1995 issue)
2-1/2 C halved fresh or frozen cranberries, divided (note: over the years, I’ve taken to leaving my cranberries whole – it gives a chunkier, jewel-studded texture to the bread)
2/3 C sugar
2 tsp grated orange peel
2-1/4 C all-purpose flour
¾ C light brown sugar
1 Tbsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
2 eggs, lightly beaten
¾ C sour cream
¼ C butter or margarine, melted
1 C chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans preferred)
In a saucepan, combine 1-1/2 cups cranberries, sugar, and orange peel. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and cook for 6-8 minutes or until the cranberries are soft. Remove from the heat; stir in the remaining berries and set aside.
In a bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cloves. Combine eggs, sour cream and melted butter; stir into dry ingredients until blended. Fold in cranberries and pecans. Pour into two greased 8-1/2 in x 4-1/2 in x 2-1/2 in loaf pans (mini loaf pans and muffin tins work, too – just adjust your baking time accordingly!).
Bake at 350 degrees F for 55-60 minutes or until the bread tests done.
Cranberry photo courtesy www.vegetarian-nutrition.info via Google images
All other graphics by the Allspice Chronicles
Posted November 16th, 2011. Add a comment
by Danica Waters
It is cold and wet today, just like the weathermen promised. The rain is coming down in big, splashy drops and I must confess: .I absolutely love days like today. Ella Fitzgerald is simmering on my speakers, a pot of dee-lish Lentil Soup simmering on the stove, and this spicy little number will be the perfect accompaniment to all of it.
You can make this cornbread with any type of salsa; it’s milder and more innocent with a good green chile salsa or even a basic tomato-jalapeno salsa. But there’s something wicked and deliberate about the smoky nature of chipotles. Be careful – the heat will sneak up on you, so if you’re serving kids or a crowd, either use the salsa sparingly or only marble half the batch.
1 cup Yellow Corn Meal (I use Alber’s)
1 C all-purpose flour
1/4 C granulated sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 C milk
1/3 C vegetable oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 – 3 Tbsp chipotle salsa, or to taste
Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease 8-inch square baking pan.
Combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. Combine milk, oil and egg in small bowl; mix well. Add milk mixture to flour mixture; stir just until blended. Pour into prepared pan.
Spoon chipotle salsa in small mounds onto the cornbread surface; using a knife, swirl salsa through batter to create marbled effect.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Serve warm with butter.
NOTE Recipe may be doubled. Use greased 13×9-inch baking pan; bake as above.
SPOON batter into 10 to 12 greased or paper-lined muffin cups, filling 2/3 full. Bake in preheated 400°F oven for 15 minutes.
Posted November 11th, 2011. Add a comment
by Danica Waters / image courtesy of www.unwinnable.com
Traditionally, any yam served in my childhood home during the month of November was baked, mashed with butter, cream, a wee bit of salt and brown sugar, and covered with mounds of fluffy marshmallows that were subsequently broiled until nearly black and gooey on top. Come to think of it, the only time we actually ate yams back then was during the month of November.
Upon having children of my own and deciding early on there was no way I was going to feed my babies processed baby nasty-food, I did some research into the nutritional merits of these terrific tubers. It seems they have a far lower glycemic index than regular potatoes. They also happen to be packed with potassium, manganese, vitamin C and vitamin B3 while registering low on the sodium counter. Best of all, kids actually like to eat them with little or no negotiation, marshmallows or no marshmallows. I started serving them regularly to the whole family as a tasty side that could double as homemade baby food. Two birds with one stone? That’s how I roll! Baked in their skins with a dash of butter, seasoned with salt and pepper, or cut up and oven-roasted, yams are delicious and appear on my household menus at least once a week.
However tasty the good old fashioned yam might happen to be all by itself, the holidays call for something a bit more elegant, more celebratory. This is it. From the Heritage of Southern Cooking, author (and southern cooking guru) Camille Glenn has this to say:
” This is the Deep South way with yams or sweet potatoes. It seems to always show up with the Thanksgiving turkey, but it is just as compatible with a good ham or chicken. Do not peel either the potatoes or the orange. If you don’t have a luscious rich sauce, you have been too cautious with the butter.”
Amen. Be sure to slice the oranges as thin as possible – if you have a mandoline slicer, use it, but if not, just be sure to cut the slices super-thin. Use real butter, and for heaven’s sake, listen to Ms. Glenn! Don’t be shy! It’s the holidays, after all. This dish is excellent served with Green Beans Sauteed With Olive Oil; the citrus overtones keep the palate fresh and thoroughly entertained.
Alabama Yams With Oranges
(Heritage of Southern Cooking, by Camille Glenn)
6 yams or sweet potatoes, fully cooked and cooled (I bake mine for approximately 30 minutes at 400 degrees – the yam shouldn’t be too mushy, but it should be cooked to the point that it can be easily sliced)
3 navel oranges, thinly sliced
1/2 to 3/4 C (1 to –1/2 sticks) butter
3/4 C sugar
1 C fresh orange juice
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Peel and slice the cooked sweet potatoes very thin and place one layer in a shallow buttered baking dish. Top with a layer of orange slices. Dot generously with butter and sprinkle with sugar. Continue layering. You should have 3 layers, ending with a layer of potatoes, butter, and topping it off with sugar.
Mix the orange juice with the lemon juice and pour it over the potatoes.
Bake until a pleasant syrup has formed and the top is tinged with brown.
Serves 6 – 8
Posted November 9th, 2011. Add a comment
by Danica Waters / photo courtesy of wowhowsnacktastic.wordpress.com
While on the subject of tea and scones, this is an awesome little recipe you’ll want to have in your teatime repertoire. These scones are easy to make and fill the house with a delightful smell; they’re just the thing for those stay-in-your-jammies, wintery weekend mornings when you want to treat the family (and yourself!) to something special.
They look as divine as they taste; the little wedges with their jewel-toned centers add visual richness and texture to serving platters at teatime.
Jam Filled Walnut Scones
2 c all-purpose flour
½ C finely chopped walnuts
¼ C granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, chilled
2/3 C buttermilk (or 2/3 C milk + 1 Tbsp white vinegar)
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ C strawberry or other preserves
Preheat oven to 400? F. Lightly butter a baking sheet.
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, walnuts sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut the butter into ½ inch cubes and distribute them over the flour mixture. With a pastry blender or two knives used scissors fashion cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a small bowl, stir together the buttermilk and vanilla and stir to combine.
With lightly floured hands, divide the dough into two equal-sized pieces and put each portion into a 5-inch circle on a lightly floured cutting board. Cut each circle into 6 wedges. Transfer the 12 pieces to the prepared baking sheet. Dip the point of a sharp knife in flour and make a slit in the top of each scone, dipping the knife in flour as needed. Carefully spoon 1 teaspoon of strawberry preserves into the sit in the top of each scone. Bake for 17 to 19 minutes, or until the tops are lightly browned.
Remove the baking sheet to a wire rack and cool for 5 minutes. Using a spatula, transfer the scones to the wire rack to cool. Serve warm, or cool completely and store in a single layer in an airtight container. These scones freeze well.
Makes 12 scones.
Posted November 4th, 2011. Add a comment
by Danica Waters
Right. I know I’ve already published a really fine recipe for scones. But I’ve gotta’ be honest and recommend that you scratch it, because THIS IS THE BEST RECIPE FOR TRADITIONAL SCONES. Like, EVER.
Surprises like this are what keep me fascinated with cooking: just about the time you think you know what it’s all about, something new comes along that’s even better. Here’s the back story: the day before yesterday, we stopped in to my in-laws’ home for afternoon tea. My mother-in-law, who always sets out a beautiful selection of homemade cakes and sweets to accompany the tea, was particularly excited about a new recipe she’d discovered. Given that my mother-in-law is a fabulous Scottish cook, when she gets excited about a recipe (especially for something like scones), I pay close attention.
It seems that the author of this particular recipe took all the best elements of her Scottish grandmother’s scones and combined them with all the best elements of the official scone recipe of London’s world-renowned Savoy Hotel. She nailed it. These traditional scones are perfect in flavor, body and texture. They are also beautiful to look at.
While you can easily substitute raisins for dried currants, I highly recommend using the latter if you can find them. With the holidays coming, keep in mind that these scones would serve as a welcome accompaniment to a gift box filled with an assortment of fine teas, coffees, or even hot chocolate. They are easily reheated and go equally well served with butter and jam as they do served with a mild cheese (such as Havarti) and a bit of turkey or ham.
The Best Traditional Scones In The World
(by FRIENDLYFOOD, as seen on www.allrecipes.com)
1-1/4 C all purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/4 C white sugar
1/8 tsp salt
5 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 C dried currants or raisins
1/2 C milk
1/4 C sour cream
1 Tbsp milk
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Sift the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt into a large bowl. Cut in butter using a pastry blender or rubbing between your fingers until it is in pea-sized lumps. Stir in the currants. Mix together 1/2 C milk and sour cream in a measuring cup. Pour all at once into the dry ingredients; stir gently until blended. Note: overworking the dough results in terribly tough scones!!!
With floured hands, pat scone dough into balls 2-3 inches across, depending on what size you prefer. Place onto a greased baking sheet, and flatten slightly. Let the scones barely touch each other. Whisk together the egg and 1 Tbsp milk; brush the tops of the scones with the egg wash. Let them rest about 10 minutes.
Bake for 10-15 minutes in the preheated oven, until the tops are golden brown (not deep brown). Break each scone apart, or slice in half. Serve with butter or clotted cream and a selection of jams – or even plain.
Note: Scones can be reheated if not eaten promptly by wrapping in aluminum foil and heated through in the oven, or by simply cutting in half and placing in the toaster.
Posted November 2nd, 2011. Add a comment