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by Danica Waters / photo courtesy of www.cmroman.com
Here is a toast to replacing the everyday with the truly extraordinary – especially when the extraordinary is exceedingly simple to create. Take these hash browns, for example. Paired with Sunday morning omlettes (try them stuffed with spinach, scallions, fresh tomatoes, cilantro, and some spicy pepper jack), this preparation is a surprisingly simple, altogether incredible addition to the breakfast table.
Light some white candles and serve with a pot of hot tea. (Even if you’re still in your jammies.)
Hash-Browned Sweet Potatoes with Garam Masala and Turmeric
2 med. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut to ¼”dice
2 small russet potatoes, cut to ¼” dice
1 onion, cut to ½” dice
5 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
¼ C olive oil
3 tsp garam masala or to taste
1 tsp turmeric, or to taste
In large heavy pan with a good lid, heat pan over medium heat. Add oil until hot but not smoking. When oil is ready, add potatoes, onion, garlic, and spices. Combine and cover – cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally. When potatoes are golden brown and lightly caramelized on the base of the pan, remove lid and allow some of the moisture to dissipate. Keep warm until ready to serve.
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 / 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 / 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
by Danica Waters
Bread with soup, soup with bread – to serve one without the other seems almost an act against NATURE. (Ok. That’s totally too dramatic. But in any case, soup without some sort of bread – even a cracker, for heaven’s sake – seems just plain wrong.)
In contemplating the virtues of soup’s trusty, crusty counterpart, I wondered: “Is it truly possible to improve upon a savory “crusty loaf”? Really?”
Yes, it is. And this is it.
Irish Soda Bread is incredibly easy to make, with almost guaranteed no-fail results every time. Don’t let the golden raisins fool you: this version of Irish Soda Bread is definitely a savory. But the golden raisins stand out on the palate like little glimmers of sunshine on an otherwise gloomy day.
This is the perfect accompaniment to Parsnip and Leek Soup.
Golden Raisin Irish Soda Bread
2 C unbleached all-purpose flour plus additional for sprinkling
¼ C wheat bran or toasted wheat germ (not bran cereal)(optional – it gives a lovely texture but don’t panic if you don’t have it!)
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ stick (1/4 C) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 C golden raisins
1 C buttermilk or plain yogurt
Preheat oven to 400? and sprinkle a baking sheet lightly with flour.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, bran or wheat germ, baking soda, and salt. Add butter and toss to coat with flour. With fingertips rub in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add raisins and toss until coated. Add buttermilk or yogurt and stir until dough is moistened evenly.
On a floured surface, knead the dough 1 minute, sprinkling lightly with additional flour to prevent sticking (dough should remain soft). Shape dough into a ball.
On a prepared baking sheet, pat dough out into a 6-inch round. Sprinkle round with additional flour and with fingertips spread lightly over round. With a sharp knife cut a shallow X in top of round.
Bake bread in middle of oven 35 – 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Wrap bread in a kitchen towel and colon a rack 1 hour. Unwrap bread and cool 1 hour more.
by Danica Waters (image courtesy of www.allrecipes.com)
Several years ago, a coworker of mine introduced me to the best banana bread I have ever, ever tasted. She said the secret ingredient was sour cream. While my mom’s recipe for zucchini bread was already fantastic, I decided to try my hand at adding a bit of sour cream to the recipe. The results were even more fantastic.
Preparing for a school bake sale, I decided to make this sweetbread truly decadent, so I added chocolate chips and dried cranberries and made mini-loaves. I ended up having to make a second batch, as two of the mini loaves “mysteriously” disappeared when the kids came home from school. The loaves sold out fast; they look beautiful studded with ruby-colored cranberries and chocolate chunks, and they taste even better!
Note: if you’re making zucchini bread for a bake sale, be sure to leave out the nuts from half of the recipe and label accordingly! There’s lots of folks with allergies and aversions to nuts out there…
The Ultimate Sour Cream- Zucchini Bread
3 large eggs, beaten
2 C sugar
1 C vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 C grated zucchini
3 C flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 C dairy sour cream
1 C chocolate chips
1 C dried cranberries
1 C chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans work well)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9 x 3 x 5 loaf pans, mini loaf pans, or line muffin tins with paper liners, set aside.
In medium bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, salt, soda, and baking powder; mix well using wire whisk and set aside.
In large mixing bowl, combine sugar, eggs, oil, and vanilla. Add grated zucchini and stir well. Add dry ingredients a bit at a time, alternating with the sour cream; add desired nuts, cranberries and chocolate chips.
Pour into prepared baking pans. Larger loaf pans should take approximately 60-65 minutes to bake at 350 degrees F, while baking time for mini loaves and muffins should be scaled down. Bread is done when a pick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Note: Use up that zucchini! This sweetbread freezes exceptionally well, and is great to share with neighbors, teachers, and friends!
Posted September 2nd, 2011. Add a comment
by Danica Waters
I used to regard crepes as delicious somethings reserved for fancy-schmancy breakfasts on special occasions. But then out of sheer crazy coincidence, on one of those mornings when alarm clocks don’t sound and shoes go missing and homework is seemingly scattered to the four winds, I discovered that leftover crepes are actually very practical, transportable friends to frantic moms. They can be filled with whatever you happen to have around: fresh fruit and cottage cheese, a smear of cream cheese with a bit of jam, or rolled up with a slice of turkey ham and a bit of cheese… Rolled up burrito-style, crepes can be easily eaten in the car with minimal mess, which makes them an even more attractive early morning solution.
When you take the time to make them (and they do take time), make a triple batch. They freeze beautifully; just be sure to wrap each batch well in waxed paper and foil.
The Basic Crepe
¾ C all-purpose flour, sifted
½ tsp salt
1 tsp double-acting baking powder
2 Tbsp confectioner’s sugar
Sift all dry ingredients together. In separate bowl, combine:
2 beaten eggs
2/3 C milk
1/3 C water
¼ tsp vanilla
Zest of ½ lemon
Add moist ingredients to dry ingredients, and with a few strokes, mix the ingredients together. Do not overbeat the batter – lumps will take care of themselves. Optimally, allow the batter to rest overnight in the refrigerator.
Heat a small frying pan or crepe pan over medium heat; the pan will be ready when a drop of water sizzles and dances on the surface of the pan.
Dip a section of paper towel in cooking oil and quickly sweep it over the hot pan. Using a small measuring cup (about 1/3 C or ¼ C will usually turn out the perfect crepe), measure batter into the center of the pan; swirl batter until it coats the bottom of the pan evenly. Cook until crepe starts to pull away or can be released from the sides of the pan. Flip crepe and cook for a few seconds to set any uncooked batter; remove from pan and keep warm.
by Danica Waters
About a year ago, during a Christmas visit to Seattle’s Pike Place Market, I sampled a bit of a Raspberry Chipotle Barbeque Sauce that was to die for. I mean, it was sooooooo good, I envisioned slathering it on everything from fish and chicken to tofu and grilled veggies. But as much as I wanted to buy it, I just couldn’t justify the purchase; a wee little bottle was priced at just around $13.00 US.
Now, I truly appreciate and try to support the work of artisans as much as I can, but honestly, I’d have to own the Taj Mahal and have eradicated world hunger before I would consider spending $13.00 on a bottle of barbeque sauce. It’s just who I am.
By chance, a few months ago I happened across a recipe for a Strawberry Chipotle Jam on one of my favorite blogs (Ree Drummond’s www.pioneerwoman.com.) Remembering the fantastic combination of fruit with the smoky heat of chipotle peppers, I decided there was no time like the present to try my hand at whipping up a batch.
Having never made jam before, I figured the process would take me an entire afternoon. I was wrong. It took 1-1/2 hours to make three jars (I could have made more, but figured it best to start small) of the most delicious, fruity-smoky-tingly jam ever. The process was so enjoyable, my daughter and I were ready to keep going! And the cost? Each jar cost about $3.00 to make – ingredients, jars, everything. Seriously.
Strawberry Chipotle Jam is delicious on toast and English muffins; I think it would also be fantastic paired with Ritz-style snack crackers and some cream cheese for a quick but elegant hors d’ oeuvre, as well. Here’s the recipe:
Prepare your tools:
Wash 3-4 6-ounce jelly jars, along with the accompanying lids and rings, in hot soapy water. Rinse well. Set rings aside.
To a large, deep stock pot or water bath canner with a jar rack, add water until it completely covers the tops of your jars by at least 1”. Place jars in water, and turn up the heat until water boils. Reduce heat and keep the jars in the hot water until ready to fill.
In separate pan, heat water until hot but not boiling; add lids and keep warm until ready to use.
Line one portion of your counter space with clean dish towels. Set out your jar lifter or tongs, a small non-metallic spatula, a wide-mouth funnel, and a ladle.
Place two small glass or ceramic salad plates into your freezer (you’ll use these for a consistency check later on!).
Assemble your ingredients:
1 quart Strawberries (1 Quart Should Be About 1 1/2 Pounds) See Note Below For Berry Selection
1 whole Large Juicy Lemon, Zested And Juiced
3 cups Sugar
¼ teaspoons Salt
3 whole Canned Chipotle Peppers, Minced
Make the jam:
Chop half of the berries into small pieces and smash the rest of the berries. You should have approximately 3 cups—a little extra is ok. (Note: we used our metal pastry blender/potato masher to reduce the berries – a food processor set to ‘pulse’ would be quick and easy, too.)
In a saucepan, combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar and salt over medium heat. Stir the mixture occasionally, until the sugar dissolves.
Add all the berries and the minced chipotle peppers to the pan. Bring to a low boil. Then lower heat just a bit and simmer for 10 minutes.
A large amount of foam will rise to the surface; it is best to skim this off for a clearer, prettier jam.
After ten minutes, stir and check the gel consistency by placing a small amount of the mixture on a frozen surface. Run your fingers through it. If it is not runny; remove the jam from heat. If it is still runny, simmer for another 5-10 minutes and check again. The jam could take 10-40 minutes to gel properly.
When jam has reached your desired consistency, remove from heat. Remove hot jars from water bath; set on clean kitchen towels to prevent breakage from coming into contact with a cold surface.
Using your ladle and a wide-mouth funnel, place the hot jam in sterilized jars. Leave1/2” of “head room” in each jar to ensure a proper seal. Wipe mouth of jar with a clean, damp cloth to remove any residue.
Remove lids from hot water bath one at a time, gently place on top of each jar. Screw on rings just until fingertip-tight. Do not over-tighten, as this will cause jars to break. Using jar lifter or tongs, replace jars with jam into water bath and be sure jars are covered with at least 1” of water on top. Bring to a boil, cover, and allow to process for ten minutes.
Remove jars to the clean kitchen towel and allow to cool. During this process, you may hear a “ping” noise; do not panic – this is what is supposed to happen! Do not adjust the rings until jars have completely cooled. Test your seal by pressing down in the center of the jar; if the center stays depressed and solid, your seal is secure.
If the center of the lid springs up and down, your seal is no good. Immediately refrigerate jam, and use within a couple of weeks.
For jars with a good seal, label with contents and date and keep stored in a cool, dark place for up to a year.
Yields 3-4 six ounce jars
*Note about the berries: Try to select 1 cup of slightly-unripe berries for the extra pectin they provide.
Homemade jams make great additions to holiday gift baskets – make extra for friends and family!
Posted August 4th, 2011. 1 comment
by Danica Waters
My grandfather, or “Papa” as we called him, was a very successful, self-made man. In his later years he found himself drawn to the Mexican climate, and he bought a small house in Guadalajara where he lived with my grandmother most of the year. Their back yard was completely filled with tropical flowers and fruit-bearing trees; I remember thinking that the scent of the lime trees was as close to heaven as it comes. It was here that I experienced my first taste of papaya. Even though my Papa smacked his lips with that familiar gleam in his eyes and called it “the fruit of the angels” (a quote which I later learned came from none other than Christopher Columbus), I recall not liking it very much at all.
It wasn’t until about a year ago that I revisited the papaya. A Peruvian girlfriend of mine was extolling its nutritional virtues, and lamenting over how small the papayas sold here in the US were compared to those in South America. When I told her I wasn’t a fan, she vehemently informed me that I was completely crazy and needed to try it again. Immediately.
Intrigued, I did a bit of research into her nutritional claims and found that papayas are truly a “wonder fruit”. They are an outstanding source of Vitamin C, the carotenes, flavanoids, the B vitamins, folate, pantothenic acid, and the minerals potassium and magnesium. Additionally, it contains the enzymes papain and chymopapain, which are not only great helpers in digesting proteins, but also happen to be excellent anti-inflammatory agents. And the fiber in papaya binds to carcinogenic toxins in the colon and keeps them away from healthy colon cells. (http://www.whfoods.com/)
But what about the flavor? Papaya is very mild and somewhat musky. I still have to dress it up with stronger, more acidic flavors. But oddly enough, it’s become such a staple in my house, I am actually growing papaya – from seeds I harvested right from the fruit! The flesh is a beautiful sunset-pink in color, and pairs well with chicken and fish in salads and salsas. And on hot summer days, this little experiment is one of our favorites.
Papaya With Lime, Orange and Mint
1 large ripe papaya, peeled, seeds removed
1 orange, peeled, sectioned, and cut to 1” pieces
Juice of 1 lime
1 Tbsp orange-blossom honey, or more to taste
1 Tbsp fresh mint leaves, cut into 1/16” strips
Cut papaya into 2” chunks. Add orange sections. Mix together honey and lime juice; pour over the top. Gently toss in strips of mint leaves. Chill for a few hours to allow the flavors to mingle.