Translate

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Mardi Gras and King Cakes



King Cake and Mardi Gras Mask
Mardi Gras celebrations have been in progress in New Orleans for some time already. The culmination is on Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, which this year is on February 12th. In my family, my Mom and Grandma of Slovakian origin celebrated this last day of revelry before fasting with a tradition they called Doughnut Day. Each year on the last day before lent began, mom made us doughnuts. This was a real highlight for us, and I made doughnuts for my children a few times over the years, also.

The tradition of King Cakes in New Orleans was originally brought to North America from France, where the cakes began appearing near the Christmas celebration of Twelfth Night, when the three Wise Men came to pay homage to the birth of Christ. This was a time of special King gifts for children, and the cakes continued to be made up to Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras.


The King Cake in olden times would contain one coin or a bean, and in modern times, a tiny plastic baby, representing the Christ child. The one person who got the slice of cake that contained the prize is meant to host the next Mardi Gras party, or at some parties, is crowned King or Queen of that party. It is supposed to bring good luck to find the baby.

The King Cake itself is generally a yeast coffeecake with various possible fillings. It may be rolled up or braided and formed into a ring, The cakes are decorated with a thin white icing with sugar sprinkles in green, gold and purple strewn over, or the icing made be tinted into the three colors and drizzled on. These colors are the traditional Mardi Gras colors with green for faith, gold for power and purple for justice. Here is my recipe for a King Cake, using a rich yeast dough and a praline type filling.

King Cake


King Cake
CAKE:
3½ - 4 cups all purpose flour
1 packet yeast
¾ cup milk, lukewarm
12 tablespoons unsalted butter 6 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs
½ teaspoon salt

FILLING:
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup pecans, chopped
½ cup flour
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


ICING:
1½ cups confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
Icing color and/ or colored sprinkles in gold, green and purple


Mix together ½ cup of the flour and yeast in a small bowl. Pour in the lukewarm milk, not too hot or it will kill the yeast. Whisk to combine and set aside. In either a heavy duty stand mixer, or by hand, cream the butter and sugar. When fluffy and light, add eggs, one at a time until combined. Add in salt. Pour in the yeast sponge and combine, adding in more flour, a cup at a time, until the dough is smooth. Knead for about 7 to 10 minutes until nice and elastic. Cover and set aside to rise until doubled in size, one or two hours.

Once the dough has risen, make the filling. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well, then set aside. Flour a surface and turn out dough. Fold over on itself a few times, creating a rough rectangle. Roll out the dough to an approximate 12 x 20 inch rectangle. Sprinkle on the filling. It will not be a thick layer. Roll up from the long edge, dampening the farthest edge with water to help the ends adhere. Grease a baking sheet. Form the long roll into a ring on the baking sheet. Slash through the top layer all around, if desired. Cover and allow to rise for an hour or more. Preheat oven to 350. Bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until golden brown.

Make icing by combining all the icing ingredients except the colorings. The icing is usually left white and after icing the cake, sugar sprinkles in gold, green and purple are strewn over at intervals. For this cake I separated the icing into three small bowls and tinted each to the appropriate color. Allow the cake to cool for about a half hour before drizzling on the icing. If the cake is too hot, the icing will completely run off the cake.



My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Indian Foods, What Delicious Flavors and Aromas

Keema Matar
I made another Indian dish the other night. It is one I have made before, but I tweaked it a fair bit, and we loved it so much, I turned around and made another batch last night! It is a ground meat dish called Keema Matar. It can be made with either ground beef or lamb, as desired. I had ground beef, so that was my choice. This is one of few Indian dishes I have seen that use ground meat, outside of making lamb meatballs on skewers. It is a little bit saucy and is marvelous served over basmati rice. I had brown basmati rice on hand, which takes an hour to cook, but so nice and chewy and delicious.

The word "Matar" (or sometimes spelled "Mattar")in the name means peas, and they are one of the ingredients. "Keema" means minced, I believe, as in a minced sort of meat, like the hamburger. This is one Indian dish that is actually really quick to make. The one item that is not found on just any grocery shelf is black cardamom. Black cardamom does not resemble green cardamom at all, in flavor, having a smoky and heavier note. Leave it out, if you do not have it or cannot find it.


Black Cardamom - Amomum subulatum

Black Cardamom Pods and Seeds
Black Cardamom Pods and Seeds
Black Cardamom or Hill Cardamom is related to green cardamom and are both from the ginger family, but there the comparison stops. The flavors of black cardamom are far different and do not lend to use in sweet dishes. The seed pods are larger and coarser (2 - 3 times the size of green cardamom pods) and have a camphor like flavor and a smoky character from the method of drying over fires. It is commonly used in savory dhal or rice mixtures, and in some northern Indian garam masalas.


Keema Matar

Serves 4
Keema Matar with Lamb


1 pound ground beef or lamb
2 tablespoons oil or ghee
2 onions, chopped fine
2 fresh green chillies, such as Serrano, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 piece fresh ginger about the size of a walnut, chopped finely

FULL MASALA:
1 (3-inch) piece of true cinnamon
2 black cardamom pods, crushed
2 green cardamom pods, crushed
4 whole cloves
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 tej patta leaf
2 dried chilli pods, crushed, optional

1 - 1½ teaspoons salt, or to taste
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes, or 1 (15-oz.) can petite diced tomatoes, with juice
1½ cup frozen peas

chopped cilantro, for garnish



In a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil or ghee and saute the onions over medium-high heat, stirring regularly, until they begin to caramelize, about 8 to 10 minutes. The onions should be a deep golden brown. Add the green chilies, garlic and ginger and cook for two more minutes, until aromatic. Add in the ground meat, mixing well until it completely loses its pink color. Sprinkle on the Full Masala (left whole and just crushed, to be authentic, or grind all the spices together) and cook for about 3 minutes more.

Sprinkle on the salt and turmeric and add the tomatoes. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 20 - 3 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Add in the peas, cover and continue to simmer just until peas are tender and heated through. The dish should be moist, but not soupy. To serve, sprinkle with the cilantro.



NOTES: I like to grind the Full Masala Spices, including the tej patta leaf, though you still may need to fish out any stems or veins that stay whole.



My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Caramelized Sugar Cake, Regular or Gluten Free

The other day I was making cupcakes to decorate with Super Bowl contestant logos. I wanted to make a cake I hadn't made in ages, called Caramelized Sugar Cake. It is a scrumptious recipe, for sure. I made part of the recipe into cupcakes, and the rest I poured into an 8-inch cake pan and made one layer. I cut the layer in half and iced it prettily. It was as delicious as I remembered. The cake requires first taking the time to caramelize the sugar, then add boiling water and cook it down to a syrup. A little tedious, but no big deal really. 

Caramelized Sugar Cake

Caramelized Sugar Cake
Caramelized Sugar Cake
Makes one (2-layer) cake, or one (13 x 9) pan

½ cup shortening
1½ cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
2½ cups cake flour, sifted
3 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup water
3 tablespoons Caramelized Sugar Syrup (recipe below)


Cream shortening and sugar till light. Add vanilla, then eggs, one at a time, beating 1 minute after each. Sift together the dry ingredients and add to the creamed mixture alternatively with the water, beating smooth after each addition. Add the sugar syrup and beat thoroughly for 4 minutes at medium speed with an electric mixer.

Bake in 2 greased and floured 8-inch round cake pans at 350 degrees for about 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely before frosting.

CARAMELIZED SUGAR SYRUP
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup boiling water

Melt (caramelize) the sugar in a heavy saucepan, stirring constantly. When a deep golden brown, remove from heat and SLOWLY add the boiling water. It will splutter alarmingly - keep your distance. Back on heat, stir constantly until all dissolved. Recuce to about ½ cup. Cool. This is enough syrup for both this cake and some left to make a caramel flavored frosting.

NOTES: This recipe can be made substituting your favorite gluten-free flour mixture for the wheat flour. Add 1 teaspoon Xanthan gum and one extra egg yolk to the recipe.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

These days though, most times I make a cake I am also curious how it would turn out if gluten-free? I am not gluten-intolerant (that I know of), but have friends who are, and I am always on the lookout for recipes that turn out well if made with gluten-free flours. I do use xanthan gum in the recipes, though I am now hearing that some have difficulty with that ingredient, also. If so, I will say this cake comes out great with the xanthan gum added, so if you have a substitute that has worked for you, go for it and make that substitution.

Today I got up with the intent of trying this recipe with a gluten free flour mix. I have used Namaste Flour blend for other cakes before, with perfect results. Today I had my own mix on hand: 

GF All-Purpose Flour
Caramelized Sugar Cake, gluten-free flour


6 cups of brown rice flour
2 cups potato starch
1 cup tapioca starch

Combine thoroughly in a tightly sealed container.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I felt the batter seemed just a little bit too loose, so I added in an extra egg yolk. The cake came out great. More fluffy of texture than the one made with all purpose flour a few days ago, but equally delicious. I don't believe anyone who didn't know, would ever guess this cake was gluten free.

I made a coconut pecan filling to put between the layers, and used up the rest of the icing from the other day as the topping. This is incredibly good cake made either way, so I really encourage you all to give it a try.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Coconut Pecan Filling
Coconut Pecan Filling

Coconut Pecan Filling


Makes about 2 cups

¾ cup evaporated milk
¾ cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter
2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup shredded coconut
¾ cup chopped pecans, or nuts of choice

Combine milk, sugar and egg yolks in a medium saucepan. Cook on medium heat, stirring, for about 12 minutes, or until thickened and golden brown. Remove from heat and stir in the coconut, pecans and vanilla. Cool until of spreading consistency.


I used this both between layers and on top, in this photo.
 


My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Super Bowl, Cupcakes and Cake

I have been writing articles and lately, with the Super Bowl coming up, they have been all about appetizers, recipes and goodies to serve for the millions of parties that will take place on that day. Chili alone or in bread bowls, Cheese Balls and variations. Of course, appetizers that are great for any party will also be great for Super Bowl parties. 

Yesterday I was thinking of making little roll-ups with large flour tortillas. These have been around a long time now and can be served in longer logs or small single-bite pieces. I haven't made any of these for quite some time, but thinking about it, it occurred to me that most things that would constitute a good cheese ball would also be good as fillers for a roll up. Combinations like a pound of cream cheese, half pound of goat cheese, chopped smoked salmon, chopped capers and scallions would make a great filling for a tortilla roll-up. Or how about a pound of cream cheese, a half pound of white cheddar, chopped scallions and chopped dried beef?  Using rotisserie chickens gives another way to combine flavors.

Curried Chicken Roll-Ups

Then, these could also be made as dessert roll-ups. Try combining a pound of cream cheese, a half cup of honey, a tablespoon of cinnamon and some chopped walnuts. Or maybe cream cheese with some Nutella, chocolate chips and chopped hazelnuts. 

So, on the subject of desserts, my husband was gung-ho for me to try out some cupcakes. And if I was going to make them, could I decorate them for the teams? We waited until Sunday night when the two last teams were known. And yesterday I finally made the cupcakes. I made a super mess in my kitchen, with all the food colors out and little bowls of icings in various colors, all the icing bags and tips. It never takes long to clean; it's just hard to work when there is a mess. I got myself organized and got the icings colored properly, or at least approximately and I was ready. 

Super Bowl Cupcakes
I wanted to make little footballs to set on top of some of the cupcakes, but all I had was a mold for little Easter eggs. I used that mold, stuck the halves together and with white icing, made the laces. I used icing tip #233 to make green grass on some cupcakes and set the little egg shaped football with the rounded ends down. You would never know!  

With the two teams being the Ravens with purple, black and gold, and the 49ERS with red, gold and white, I set to work approximating a logo of sorts on other cupcakes. Granted I do have some artistic ability, and maybe this is not for everyone, but it was fun to see what I could do. Here is the picture to show the finished products. I hope your Super Bowl parties are a hit with all your guests!


My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest.  

Monday, January 21, 2013

On a Pomegranate Kick

I have been on a pomegranate kick. I had never even bought one in my life until last week. I tasted some once a few years ago, but somehow it just never happened - that taking the plunge and getting one of my own. And this despite the fact I lived in Guatemala and had a tree in my yard. The tree didn't do well, as we were just a bit too cool where I lived, but still!

So, I got the first one and made that awesome grapefruit and pomegranate aril breakfast. And, I have had the same thing nearly every day since! Yum. That's all I can say about that. I have been eating pomegranate as a snack, too, in between. So, I was watching The Chew one day recently and I know they made a salad of fennel, supreme of oranges and pomegranate arils. It is so colorful and I just had to try something like it. I used one fennel bulb, shaved really thinly, 2 supremed oranges and a half cup of pomegranate arils.

Tossed those together and then  made a Pomegranate Orange Vinaigrette dressing:


Pomegranate Orange Vinaigrette


Fennel, Orange and Pomegranate Salad
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons pomegranate juice concentrate
a pinch each of salt and pepper
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Mixed them into a jar and shook until blended, then drizzled just a little over the salad, and passed the rest at the table. Just the prettiest salad,crunchy with those little bits of sweet. Delightful.

I am going to have to really be on the lookout for things to do with pomegranates. They are not so expensive just now, here where I live, and I am taking advantage while I can.


My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Bread Bowls as Party Appetizers - Super Bowl or Other

My Kitchen Aid Mixer Bread, just baked
While Super Bowl is coming soon, there are always parties, get-togethers and celebrations to plan for. The other day, my husband was talking about bread bowls as a concept. I have eaten at places that use bread bowls for a soup or stew, but have never made them. I had just made some really delicious Guinness Chili con Carne a couple of days prior, and that recipe uses 3 pounds of meat, so there was plenty left. I figured I would make some bread bowls and see how they worked. 

My Kitchen Aid Mixer Bread Bowl, Chili inside
I make all our bread here at home. Once in a while I do buy buns for burgers or Sloppy Joes, but often I make buns, also. We were out of bread and it was time to make a batch, so I started as usual, with what I call My Kitchen Aid Mixer Bread. Not an advertisement for a Kitchen Aid, per se, though I love mine, but since that is what I use nowadays to make my bread, that is what I called it. The recipe is an adaptation of a lovely, rich egg bread that came from my Mom and Grandma. It is so great for everything, like sliced bread for sandwiches or toast, cloverleaf or other roll shapes, doughnuts, buns. This time I was going to try the bread bowls. 


As it turned out, for a single serving, one loaf of bread will make 4 bread bowls. I used a little more flour than usual, to make them a bit more hearty, the better to withstand hot chili inside. These turned out wonderfully, and with the chili inside they were, well, pretty as a picture. This was wonderful and heartening, so I decided to try this out with my Tuscan Italian Bread recipe, below.  
Tuscan Italian Bread
I love this recipe for Tuscan Italian Bread, because it is just slightly soured. A simple starter can be made 1 to 3 days in advance, giving it just enough time to make the flavor interesting. It is wonderful with an Italian or other flavorful meal. I made it, allowing a two day start this time. I used one half of the dough, since this recipe makes 2 loaves. I divided it into two sections, but they seemed so very small, so I thought instead I would just make 2 bread bowls out of that one loaf. 


Well! These grew a lot. More than I thought they might. Maybe I was just not thinking clearly, because I know for a fact this bread makes two very nice sized loaves. Surely, dividing the one loaf into 4 pieces should have been fine. It will be, in the future. In the meantime, these half-loaf sized bowls are nicer as a serving type bread bowl. Today I made my husband's favorite dip, with process cheese and a can of chili. I put it into the remaining Italian Bread bowl and yum. While I am not over fond of process cheese and cans of chili, it was sure good with this bread.

Tuscan Italian Bread 


Makes 2 loaves
Tuscan Italian Bread
Tuscan Italian Bread


1 cup water, warm
1 tablespoon yeast
1 cup all-purpose flour
1¼ teaspoons yeast
¼ cup water, warm
1 cup water, warm
3½ cups unbleached flour
1¼ teaspoons salt

Make Starter: Mix 1 cup warm water with yeast and let proof for 5 to 10 minutes. Add 1 cup flour and mix well, about 5 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm place on the counter to rise from 1 to 3 days.


On the day you are ready to work with the bread, mix the 1¼ teaspoon dry yeast and the ¼ cup warm water. Let proof about 5 minutes, then add the extra 1 cup warm water. Add to the starter and mix well. (At this point, the mixture can be placed in the bowl of a heavy duty stand mixer with dough hook to proceed. Add in the flour and salt and set at speed 2 for 10 minutes.) Add the flour and when it holds together, knead on a floured surface for 5 to 10 minutes. Return to bowl and coat with olive oil. Let rise about 2 hours or until doubled in bulk.


Prepare pans by greasing and sprinkling with cornmeal. Punch down dough and shape into two loaves. The loaves can be placed onto a metal former as pictured above, or onto a baking sheet, lengthwise and well separated, or if the taste and flavor of this bread is preferred, but a more structured loaf is desired, use two loaf pans. Let rise. Sprinkle a heated stone or a baking sheet with cornmeal and bake loaf at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.

NOTES: I have also used this bread to make Bread Bowls. One loaf will make 4 individual bread bowls, or 2 larger bowls that can be used to hold things like dip at a party.
 




Making a big batch of chili for a party or other get together is an easy thing to do, especially if you have a large crock pot to keep it warm while the party progresses. These bread bowls are pretty and functional. They can be made well ahead and frozen, to be thawed when needed. If you like to make bread, give these a try, even if you only make 4 out of one loaf worth of bread the first time. Obviously, these are great to use for a family meal also, at any time.





My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest.  

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Dreaming Indian, again

I just love Indian foods. All the flavors that go together so wonderfully. The aromas that waft through the house. Many of the spices are also really good for you. Turmeric, in particular, being a great anti-inflammatory, anti-flatulent and anti-microbial, and a host of other things. Even if you have to get your clothes all yellow stained from the turmeric, use it in your foods. It has little flavor, but great color and side benefits.

Got sidetracked there. I was in the mood for something Indian, or at least a take on Indian. The recipe I make now and then is called Pepper Curried Chicken. It is highly adjustable, so you can really make it suit your tastes. I like using a pound of skinless, boneless chicken breasts, but if you prefer skinless, boneless thigh meat that is great, too. I make the recipe stretch so the amount of meat is less than we might normally eat, which is a good thing. I like black pepper, so I use 2 teaspoons. I would use more, but my husband can't take the heat. You may use more, or less, as desired. I used no green chiles in the recipe. Serrano chilies are great in this, and give that bright chile flavor and heat. Use them or not. I also like a lot of fresh ginger. Ginger is another root with similar properties to turmeric. As they are related, it is not surprising. Ginger is such a nice warm spice, and it is wonderful for upset stomachs. Very calming and soothing. However, some do not care that much for fresh ginger as we do, so use it at your own level. Same with garlic. 

So, now that I have given you all these things to adjust to your liking, there is certainly no reason not to try this recipe out. Play with it and make it your own. Add in some Garam Masala, if you like. I love that combination of spices. 

Pepper Curried Chicken


Pepper Curried Chicken
2 teaspoons ground coriander seed
2 teaspoons ground cumin seed
2 teaspoons coarsely ground, good quality black pepper
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, or equivalent

2 tablespoons coconut oil, or olive oil, if preferred
2 large onions,
thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 or 2 Serrano chilies, minced, optional
1 can coconut milk
2 cups frozen peas
½ cup raw cashews, roasted in a dry pan
 


Mix together the first 5 ingredients and set aside. Cut the chicken into 1½-inch pieces and place in a bowl. Pour spices over and toss to combine. Set aside while sauteing the onions.

In a large skillet, heat the coconut oil and saute the onions until they are a nice golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add in the ginger and garlic (and chiles, if using) and continue to saute for about 30 seconds, or until very fragrant. Add in the chicken and toss to coat. Saute on medium high until the chicken pieces are all beginning to turn brown. Add in the coconut milk and stir. Bring to boil, lower heat to medium low and allow to cook for about 10 minutes. Add in the frozen peas and continue to cook for another 10 to 15 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.



My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Superbowl is Coming Again - More Party Food Ideas

Superbowl time is just around the corner again. Meaning of course, more parties. Appetizers are available in stores all over, from chips and dip to frozen "gourmet" items. Too many pre-made items out there are loaded with things that are unpronounceable and probably not very good for you.  So, why not make your own appetizers?

Cheese Ball and Cheese Ball Pops

I have been thinking up some interesting things lately. I made a Beet and Apple Relish recently, which is just a little sweet and a whole lot good. I made a Green Pea, Feta and Mint Spread, great on crusty bread. Today I made some little Antipasti Skewers and then a Cheese Ball, along with some Cheese Ball Pops. Cheese Ball Pops, you ask?

I figure that sometimes it is good to have individual things. You know how the Cake Pops have become the rage all over? Well, this is my savory version. One or two bites (depending on who is eating them) and no trying to cut into a cheese ball and leaving a trail behind. The cheese ball recipe is very flexible with ingredients. It is a real mix and match to your taste. Depending on how many additions go in, it could be a 5 or 6 inch cheese ball. If you want to make little Cheese Ball Pops, just take small portions and form them about an inch or more in size, then roll the individual balls into one of the toppings and skewer with a toothpick. Easy. Quick. Delicious.

Cheese Ball or Cheese Ball Pops

Makes two 4-inch cheese balls or one larger
Cheese Ball and Cheese Ball Pops


BASE CHEESES:
16 ounces cream cheese
8 ounces other cheese:
Bleu, Parmesan, Cheddar, Romano


FLAVORING INGREDIENTS, any single category or one of each:
½ cup of:
scallions, craisins, raisins, mango chutney, pistachios, pecans, walnuts,
almonds, chopped
½ cup of meat, if desired:
fried bacon, smoked salmon, prosciutto, dried beef - chopped
1 - 3 teaspoons of:
dried onion soup mix, dijon mustard, curry powder, Worcestershire,
fresh herb of choice, fresh ground pepper


COATINGS:
½ cup of:
Chopped nuts of choice, chopped herbs of choice
One possible mixture of ingredients is the pound of cream cheese, softened, half pound of shredded sharp cheddar, half cup scallions, 6 slices fried crumble bacon, 1 clove minced garlic. Using a hand mixer makes quick work. Combine the ingredients. For normal cheese ball size, make into one large or two smaller balls and roll into nuts or chopped parsley. If making the Cheese Ball Pops, make one inch balls, roll into the coating of choice and skewer with a toothpick.

Another variation on flavors would be the pound of cream cheese, half pound of shredded white cheddar, 1 tablespoon minced fresh dill and a half cup of chopped smoked salmon. Roll the large or small balls into shredded Parmesan cheese or chopped pistachios.

Start with the pound of cream cheese and add a half pound of blue cheese of choice, 1 to 3 teaspoons of coarse black pepper, a half cup chopped craisins, half cup chopped scallions, then roll the finished ball or balls in chopped walnuts.

The variations are endless. Experiment using flavors that are ones you love. This takes an exceedingly short time to put together and can be made in advance.


Antipasti Skewers
The Antipasti Skewers I hesitate to call a recipe, really. We all know (to some extent) what an antipasto platter is. Lots of deli meats, cheese, condiments like marinated artichoke hearts, olives, pickles. Other things can be used like pieces of roasted red peppers, anchovies, fresh vegetables like cherry tomatoes, chunks of bell pepper, broccoli or cauliflower florets. 

What I did today was only what I had on hand, so I could demonstrate with a photo. For a Party I would use more variety. You will want larger skewers, like the 6 inch bamboo skewers for grilling. Another place to get really cool bamboo skewers is a website called "Pick on Us". I get all sorts of pretty picks with little colored balls on top, and they have them with little footballs or baseballs, too.

Make plans for some new appetizers for your Superbowl Party or to bring along, if you are a guest. You will be the MVP Guest!


My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Green Peas and Pomegranate Arils

I mentioned the other day that I made a green pea appetizer spread. Oh man, it is so good. I baked a new batch of No-Knead bread just for that. The recipe came from Michael Symon, on The Chew, but I changed it a bit. The ingredients are there, but the amounts are different. As with most recipes, you try something and add a little of this or that. Whatever tastes good. This is the recipe as I made it. It's naturally gluten-free, too.

Green Pea, Feta and Mint Spread

Green Pea, Feta and Mint Spread

1 cup frozen sweet green peas, thawed
3/4 cup feta cheese
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons olive oil, or more, as needed
salt and pepper

Thaw the peas under running water. Place them in a food processor with all ingredients except the salt and pepper. Process until well mixed, but still a little chunky. Check to see if salt is needed; the feta cheese might be salty. I put in 1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt without tasting and it was too salty, so check first. Add in pepper as desired and process briefly to combine.

Okay, that said, I didn't have any lemons in the house. I usually keep limes rather than lemons, but I didn't even have any limes. What I used was Boyajian Lemon Oil, about 3 drops, cause that stuff is really strong. Do not try using lemon extract or flavoring or it will be awful. This lemon oil, for anyone who has not tried it, is pure oil of the fruit and looks, smells and tastes just like concentrated essence of the zest of the fruit. Three drops was good. I might have been able to use 4 drops, but I stopped while ahead. Next time I will use real lemon zest because I think it will make a spectacular spread just that much better.

Pomegranate Arils
This morning I decided to open up a pomegranate I had gotten a few days ago. I had it on the counter so I would remember and use it. Today was the day. I have liked pomegranate arils in past, but they were a little distractingly crunchy. I don't know if this pomegranate was more ripe, but these were sweet and only minimally crunchy. They were downright delicious. I got all the little arils out. There were two whole cups of them. That was one large pomegranate.

Supremed Grapefruit and Pomegranate Arils for breakfast
By the way, in case you didn't know, those little things are not seeds. Arils are a covering for the seed of some fruits. The aril itself is attached in some way to the plant and the seed is inside the aril covering. Mace is an aril to the nutmeg. The cotton fibers are the aril to the cotton seed.


So there I stood, tasting how sweet those little arils were and thinking I had planned to have a grapefruit for breakfast. I decided to have both. I supremed the grapefruit segments and put some pomegranate arils on top. It was, I believe, one of the prettiest breakfasts I have had.


My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest

Friday, January 11, 2013

Beets, Beets, They're Good For Your Heart ?

Okay, so maybe I have the wrong ditty for the right vegetable! Beets are truly good for the heart. Very high in anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatory, exceedingly high in folate, and with lots of magnesium and Vitamin C, beets are power packed with nutrients. And on top of all that, they have 15 grams of fiber per cup serving, and that is exceptional good news for the colon, too!

Beets seem to be a "love them or hate them" kind of root vegetable. With their color and earthiness, some people can't cope. Those of us who love beets just enjoy them because we can. I love beets. You may have guessed? I haven't met many beets I haven't liked. My Serbian Grandmother made a condiment for Easter Ham, using canned (or home canned) beets, shredded finely and mixed with prepared horseradish to taste and a little bit of sugar to make it all yummy. This was put on ham slices, or ham sandwiches with equal abandon. To this day I always make this when having ham for any occasion. It's not just for Easter anymore! Not around my house. I will be making it again, soon.

Beet and Apple Relish

Beet and Apple Relish
Meanwhile, craving beets again, I decided to make a recipe for Beet and Apple Relish. I made it last night and allowed it to meld flavors overnight. It is such a beautifully vibrant dish. A simple and healthy recipe, take one pound of beets of similar size (about 3 medium) and clean them, leaving skins and root and stem ends intact. Wrap them in foil and set on a small baking sheet. Bake them for about an hour at 400 degrees, or until they are tender.

While the beets bake, saute a coarsely chopped half onion in some olive oil, or try using coconut oil for a real treat. I did this last night and it is delicious that way. Peel and core 2 Granny Smith apples and dice them. When the onions get to a soft and translucent state, add in the apples and toss until they just begin to soften. You do not want applesauce. Mix together 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar and 3 tablespoons honey. Add to the apple mixture with a little salt and pepper and set aside. When the beets are baked, allow them to cool in the foil packet until they can be handled. Gently rub off the skins and ends and then cut them into small dice. Add them to the apple mixture and combine. Allow to rest and meld flavors at least 2 hours, or overnight. 

This makes about 4 or 5 cups of relish. It makes a lovely side dish, with just the right sweetness. It would be good with chicken, turkey, pork. Anything that is good with a slightly sweet accompaniment. 

Beet and Apple Relish

Beet & Apple Relish

Makes about 4 or 5 cups

1 pound beets
2 Granny Smith Apples, or apple of your choice
½ medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil or coconut oil
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Nutmeg - a few grinds, to taste

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Wrap beets, clean but not peeled, in foil. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours, or until very tender. Remove from oven and allow to come down to just warm, still wrapped in the foil.

Combine the honey, vinegar, salt, pepper and nutmeg and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a skillet with the olive oil and add in the onions. Saute until soft and translucent. Peel and core the apples (may be left with skin on, if preferred) and cut them into ¼ inch cubes. Add to the softened onion in the skillet and toss until the apples are just slightly softened. Pour on the dressing to combine and remove from heat. Slip skins off the beets and cut into ¼ inch dice and add to the rest of the mixture and allow to rest for at least 2 hours for flavors to meld. 



If you note the green stuff in the background on the photo at top, I also made a take on Michael Symon's Sweet Pea and Feta Dip. My proportions are different, and I did add just a tad too much salt. I think the Feta was quite salty; I should have tasted that first. But it is so good. It was suggested to serve on toast for appetizers. I had some of my No-Knead Bread that was getting dry. I toasted it and had the dip on the toast slices for lunch.  OMG. That will be discussed in another blog....


My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Mardi Gras is Just Over a Month Away

Time sure flies. We are just barely past all the winter holidays and now we will be into Mardi Gras time in barely over a month. Whether you celebrate Mardi Gras, or Lent or Easter at all, it is difficult to miss all the hullabaloo. For a time, my husband and I lived in Louisiana, and there of course, Mardi Gras is celebrated. I mean really celebrated.

The King Cakes and the Green, Purple and Gold decorations are everywhere. Masks and beads are found in the most unlikely places. At least to an outsider. We never took the time to go down to New Orleans and celebrate. We are just not that type of party animals. On the other hand, I loved all the diversity of the masks. In the time there, I collected quite a few.
 
My collection of masks
This year I am planning to make a King Cake for the first time. I have some ideas for the way I want to make a recipe. I'll get back to it here in the blog once I have tried it out. King Cakes vary all over Louisiana. The only thing that is the same is that they are made from a rich yeast dough and baked in a ring shape. Some are made with dried fruits and nuts incorporated in the dough and baked, some are made similarly to the Slovak Rolls with a filling in the rolled up dough. Some fillings are fruits and nuts and some are of almond filling. The King Cake tradition has a little plastic baby pushed down into the cake just out of the oven. With icing and the green, gold and purple sugars over top, the hole is not visible. Whoever gets the slice with the baby in it is required to make the King Cake the following year.


When I was growing up, my Mom would celebrate the Wednesday before Lent as "Doughnut Day."  In the same spirit as Mardi Gras or "Fat Tuesday", Doughnut Day was a little celebration of the bounty of life, prior to the fasting and sobriety of Lent. It was generally the one time in the year that my Slovakian Mom actually made doughnuts; a wonderful thing for a child to anticipate. I tried to carry that little tradition into my children's lives also, and made doughnuts for them, though I lived in Guatemala at the time. It is interesting to think of the way traditions are carried through lives.

King Cake slice
To make doughnuts, Mom used a yeast dough, possibly her mother's bread dough, which was a rich butter and egg recipe, cut out the doughnuts and deep fried them. In reality I cannot even recall how she finished them off, but probably either glazed or sugar and cinnamon coated. That is the way I made them for my children, so I believe it was because that is what I recalled.

I have been having a round-robin type of email discussion with my sisters lately, trying to see who recalls what about the different holiday traditions in our family. It is funny how one will recall something with perfect clarity, and another has no recollection at all. Between us all, there were quite a few things that stood out. The traditions from my Dad's side of the family seem clearer to me. Whatever food traditions your family hold, I hope you carry them on through life and pass them down. They are so enjoyable to share.


My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook and Pinterest.

Disqus