Thursday, October 31, 2019

On Rice and Peaches

Last month I had made a dinner for my son's birthday, that consisted of Chicken Madeira and a Roasted Garlic and Parmesan Risotto. Both were exceptionally great, flavors sublime, and I learned just how very important it is to not cook the risotto too quickly. With that in mind, I wanted to try again, and this time I was working on other flavors totally, so instead of using vermouth or Sherry in the mixture, I went with Tequila. I also used Romano Cheese rather than Parmesan, and the Romano gave a really great tang to the finished dish. As it happened, the flavors were so amazing that I think it is my new favorite rice dish. There are not huge changes in this dish from the last one, but this one came out perfectly cooked, just a bit al dente, and very creamy. I have learned to slow down the cooking time!

Roasted Garlic Tequila Risotto

Serves about 6
Roasted Garlic Tequila Risotto
Roasted Garlic Tequila Risotto

1 head garlic
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 large shallots, chopped finely
1½ cups arborio rice
½ cup Tequila (or just use dry white wine or omit)
4 - 5 cups hot beef, chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
¼ cup cilantro, finely minced

Earlier in the day (or up to three days in advance), preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Clean a head of garlic, slicing a bit of the root end off if needed, so it will set straight. Cut off about a quarter-inch from the top of the head. Any little tips of the garlic that were cut off, remove from their papery skin and set atop the cut top of the head. Place the head of garlic onto a piece of aluminum foil and wrap foil up around the head, leaving the top open. Pour the teaspoon of olive oil, then pinch the top closed. Set the garlic in its little packet into an oven-safe ramekin and bake for about 45 minutes. Once done, cool, then press out all the garlic into a small bowl and mash lightly. Cover and refrigerate if not using that day.

To Make Risotto: Heat a saucepan with the 4 - 5 cups of stock and have nearby. Heat a 4 - 6 quart saucepan and add in the tablespoon of oil and butter. Saute the chopped shallots until very soft. Add in the roasted garlic, and stir well, then add in the Tequila and cook quickly to evaporate most of the liquid. What remains should be very thick. Pour in the rice and stir well to coat all the rice grains with the thick mixture. Over medium to medium low heat (you do not want to cook the mixture too quickly, or the rice will still be hard at the end) begin adding in the hot stock, one ladle full at a time, stirring the rice until each ladle of stock is absorbed. To use all the stock should take about 20 to 25 minutes. Be sure to leave a little bit of the liquid in the rice after the last ladle full of stock has been added, so the mixture remains soupy. More liquid will absorb even after off the heat, so remain vigilant.

When ready to serve, stir in the Parmesan cheese and the cilantro, reserving a bit of cilantro as garnish on top.


Recently, I had opened up my last jars of Spiced Pickled Peaches, with the intention of making an upside down cake with them. Which I did, and then ended up with some of the peaches leftover. I went on to make a dessert loaf I called Just Peachy Loaf, and while making the batter, I utterly forgot about adding in the eggs. The loaf tasted amazing, but was hugely sunken in the center. Obviously, as I had used the last of my Spiced Pickled Peaches, that wasn't going to be an exact repeat any time soon, so I used canned peaches instead, and that time WITH eggs in the batter, it came out great! 

But then I realized I never put my upside down cake recipe here! So I am rectifying that now!
Spiced Peach Upside Down Cake
Spiced Peach Upside Down Cake

Spiced Peach Upside-Down Cake

Spiced Peach Upside Down Cake
Spiced Peach Upside Down Cake
Serves  8 to 10

1 cup sugar
¼ cup water
- Spiced Pickled Peaches, or canned peaches in syrup
pistachios or other nuts, or cherries

½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
    (or ½ teaspoon vanilla extract + 1 teaspoon peach flavoring)
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice
1 cup sour cream

Make the Caramel: In a saucepan over medium heat, melt together the first cup of sugar and the ¼-cup of water. Stir until sugar is melted and bring to boil. Cover the pan tightly and cook for 4 minutes, to ensure all sugar crystals have been melted down. Uncover and continue to cook until the syrup turns to a light amber in color, 8 to 12 minutes. Meanwhile, grease an 8- or 9-inch cake pan, or an 8 to 9-inch square oven safe pan with butter or spray with nonstick spray. Once the syrup becomes amber colored, set the prepared pan onto an unlit burner or other surface that will tolerate high heat. Pour the syrup into the pan and using hot pads, swirl the pan to allow the syrup to reach all the edges. Set aside for about 5 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the peaches by cutting them into narrow wedges. Set the peaches into the pan in a pleasing pattern, such as lining them along the outer edges first, then filling the center with more peach wedges. Use nuts of choice, or maraschino cherry halves to fill in open spaces. Remember that the pattern created by the fruits and nuts will be reversed when the finished cake is turned out. Set the pan aside, then make the cake:

In a mixer bowl, cream together the butter and ¾-cup of sugar. Once very creamy, add in eggs, one at a time, mixing until completely incorporated before adding in the next. Add in the vanilla and or peach flavoring. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and soda, salt, cinnamon and allspice and whisk to combine. Slowly, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture until completely incorporated. Stir in the sour cream until combined. Gently, plop small mounds of batter all over the peaches in the prepared pan. Once all the batter is in the pan, ease the batter together to fill any gaps, making sure it reaches the edges of the pan.

Bake the cake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, or with only a crumb or two. Remove the cake to a rack to cool for about 10 minutes, then run a knife around the outer edges to loosen. Set a plate upside-down over top of the cake pan, then quickly invert the cake plate. Set it down and gently lift the pan 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.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Elegant Wellingtons for Anyone

Most people have at least heard of Beef Wellington. Or maybe not; one never knows. Long ago I was able to partake of individual Beef Wellingtons at a restaurant my husband and I frequented, and later on, I created my own version of what I felt they must have done. I have not ever been disappointed with my recipe.

While I know my version is not necessarily a mini replica of a true Beef Wellington, not using foie gras or chicken liver pate, nor do I make the mushroom/onion mixture called duxelles. Still, it comes out most marvelously flavored and I have always had raves when I make it. 

And then there is the cost of using filet mignons. If the cost of filet mignons is an issue, then why not try making Chicken Wellingtons? All that is really needed is skinless, boneless chicken breasts, mushrooms, onions and cream cheese. And of course, the puff pastry to wrap them.

I use Puff Pastry for many applications, such as these shown below.  In the first of the pictures, I had some leftover dough, brushed it with butter and sprinkled with some grated cheese, black pepper and pine nuts. I rolled this up into a log, sliced and set the slices on a baking sheet. The oven was already heated for whatever else I was making with the Puff Pastry, and baked these until golden. They are delightful. In the second picture are Mock Wellington Bites, created for a wine tasting, and they are insanely delicious. A little finicky to make, but well worth it, as like with many of my appetizers, they can be made ahead and frozen until needed. And the third? Smokies in Puff Pastry - probably my husband's most preferred appetizer. I know a lot of people who grab pre-made crescent roll or other dough that comes in a tube and use it to wrap little Smokies. I prefer to use Puff Pastry dough, and I can say with some certainty that there is no going back!
Palmiers with leftover dough, Mock Wellington Bites, Smokies in Puff Pastry
Palmiers with leftover dough, Mock Wellington Bites, Smokies in Puff Pastry

Are you Afraid of Puff Pastry?

If you are, then don't be. Puff pastry, even store bought (and the only brand I have ever found in any supermarket I have frequented is Pepperidge Farms), can make anything it is made with come out extra special. Puff pastry is made to puff up by repeated rolling and folding the dough with butter inside, creating layer upon layer of butter filled goodness. The butter trapped lovingly in between the pastry layers creates steam when baked, causing the layers to puff. The lovely layers come out lightly crisped and shatteringly good in taste and texture. Pre-made dough, with all the work taken out of it (even without butter, but some other fat), makes it so very easy to use, with only a couple of very simple rules to keep in mind:
Unfolded dough with edges trimmed
Unfolded dough with edges trimmed

  • Allow the pastry to thaw sufficiently before trying to roll it out. The pastry is folded in three and frozen, right out of the box. Trying to open the tri-fold without being thawed means you will have three small panels, rather than one full sheet.
  • As the dough is formed from layers and layers of dough and butter, this "lamination" must be kept in place or the dough will not puff. Remember that rolling out and cutting the dough is perfectly fine, but do not re-roll the scraps. They won't puff when baking, or at least not enough to make them worth your while.
  • Once you roll out the dough, for whatever application, trim a very narrow rim from the outermost edges, as these may have compressed and cause the dough to rise unevenly. This is only for the outer edges of the sheet of dough as it comes from the package. Once those edges are trimmed,
    proceed to cut the remainder as needed for your application.
Even if you are one of those people who buy their pie dough, this is not much different. Puff Pastry is a pre-made dough. Period. Thaw, roll, cut and shape or wrap. 

Beef Wellingtons

Now that my little lesson is over, I would like to share my recipes. I will start with Individual Beef Wellingtons, as that is where I started.
Individual Beef Wellington
Individual Beef Wellington

To make these, rather than create a mushroom and onion mixture called duxelles, I used one large Portobella mushroom cap, approximately the same diameter as the filet mignon it will set upon. Under the mushroom cap I apply a butter mixture with fresh herbs. The filet itself can be 8 ounces, though these get quite large with other things on a plate, but 6 or 8 ounces will work. I use partially fried bacon (to release much of the bacon grease before wrapping inside the puff pastry) to wrap around the meat, which is also seared briefly until brown before wrapping. I grant that it is a bit of a juggling act to assemble all this, but it is so delicious, guests will forgive if it doesn't look like a chef prepared them.

Individual Beef Wellingtons

Makes 4 servings

1 sheet from a box Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets
Individual Beef Wellington
Individual Beef Wellington

4 (6 ounce) filet mignons
4 portobello mushrooms, cap only, each about the diameter of the filet mignons
4 (or up to 8) strips of bacon, depending on length needed
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons each of minced fresh parsley, thyme, chives & tarragon
1 teaspoon Beef & Pork Seasoning
1 egg, for egg wash

Thaw the Puff Pastry sheet for about 30 minutes or until pliable. Soften the butter, then mix in the fresh herbs and the Beef & Pork Seasoning until completely blended; set aside. Salt and pepper the filets and sear them on high heat - both sides, just till nicely browned; set aside to cool slightly. Partially cook the bacon. It should almost be cooked, but still soft (it will cook more when in the oven, also - this first fry is more to release excess grease).

Preheat oven to 375. Roll out the Puff Pastry sheet to a 14" square. Cut in 4 equal squares of 7 x 7". Divide the herbed butter mixture between the four mushroom caps, spreading into the under side of the cap. Set one of the filets onto each of the Puff Psatry squares, setting one of the mushroom caps, dome side up, onto each filet. Wrap bacon around each of the seared filets. This gets tricky! You'll need to hold onto the bacon to keep it in place while wrapping the puff pastry around it! Have a small bowl of water nearby. With one hand, secure the bacon, using one or two slices that will fit all around the perimeter of the meat. With the other, bring one corner of pastry up to the top of the filet. Dab this corner with a bit of water, so the next corner will stick to it. Repeat with the next corners, bringing to the top (as with apple dumplings), affixing each corner with a little dab of water to help adhere and press to keep in place. Place packet onto a rimmed baking sheet and repeat this process with the other three filets.

Brush the Puff Pastry packets with an egg wash (1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 - 2 tablespoons water). Do not allow the egg to drip down the sides or it will glue the pastry to the pan. Bake for about 25 minutes, or till golden.

This timing will give you a filet that is nicely pink in the center. If other stages of doneness are preferred, adjust timing accordingly.

NOTES: When herbs are abundant, I like to make up butter pats with herbs and keep in freezer. I take a goodly amount of an herb (such as chives, tarragon, parsley, thyme, rosemary), chop it very fine and add the most I can get into a stick of softened unsalted butter, so that it is only the butter that holds it together. Cut little pieces of aluminum foil and drop 1 tsp on a bit of foil (about 3 x 3") and fold it to make a little tiny packet. I keep these in the freezer, so that any time I need a little added "flavor burst" it is there, handy. If this is the case, thaw one tiny packet of each of the herbs per filet, plus the Beef and Pork Seasoning to proceed.


Chicken Wellingtons

Individual Chicken Wellington
Individual Chicken Wellington
My Chicken Wellingtons are made a little differently. For these, I do cook the duxelles mixture of mushrooms and onion, this then gets mixed into cream cheese. The chicken, as chicken breasts are not already shaped like nice little round cylinders, has to have its size and shape taken into account. Here are some ideas. 

If you are looking at using either a 6 or 8-ounce piece of chicken, one of two things can be done. 
  • If the skinless, boneless chicken breasts are quite small, simply tuck the long "tail" of the meat underneath, skewering it with a toothpick to make an approximation of a rounded, somewhat rectangular shape. Then proceed to salt and pepper and saute as stated in the recipe. Before wrapping the chicken into the Puff Pastry, remove the toothpick - it will retain its shape nicely.
  • If the skinless, boneless chicken breasts are very large, just cut off the "tail" ends, leaving approximately 6 - 8 ounces worth of the meat, and save the little leftover bits of chicken for another use. Salt and pepper the larger piece of meat and saute as stated. 

Individual Chicken Wellingtons

Individual Chicken Wellington
Individual Chicken Wellington
Makes 4 servings

1 pastry sheet from a package frozen Puff Pastry sheets
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (see above)
Salt & pepper, to taste
2½ tablespoons unsalted butter

½ pound mushrooms, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped finely
½ cup dry Sherry or dry white wine, optional2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
1 tablespoons parsley, chopped
4 ounces cream cheese
1 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 egg, for egg wash

Thaw pastry 30 minutes, or until pliable. Read section above about prepping chicken. Sprinkle prepped chicken with salt and pepper. In medium skillet, brown the chicken in 1½ tablespoons butter; set aside.

Add remaining tablespoon of butter to the same skillet. Add mushrooms and saute until all liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms begin to brown in spots. Add in the onions and continue to cook until the onions and mushrooms are golden. Stir in the Sherry or white wine with the fresh thyme and parsley, turn heat to high, cook until all the liquid has evaporated. Set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll the square of thawed puff pastry to a 14" square; cut into four - 7" squares.

In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese with the mustard and the cooled onion/mushroom mixture. Spread each pastry square with 2 tablespoons of this mixture, leaving at least one inch of the edges bare; top each square with a cooled chicken cutlet. Have a small bowl with water nearby. Bring up one corner of one pastry to the top of the chicken, dab the corner of the pastry with water. Bring up the next corner, dabbing with water, and repeat with remaining two corners. Press to seal. Place packet seam side down on a baking sheet. Repeat with all other cutlets. Brush tops with egg wash (1 egg, lightly beaten with a tablespoon of water), but do not drip the egg down to the baking sheet or it will glue itself in place. Bake 25 minutes or until puffed and brown. Serve immediately.

Individual Vegetarian Wellington

Yes, I did create a vegetarian version, Individual Tempeh Wellingtons, once, using tempeh, a fermented soybean product. To give the tempeh some flavor (similarly to tofu, it picks up flavors from other things with it), I first cut one rectangle piece into two pieces, then immersed them into a very richly seasoned vegetable stock and cooked them for a few minutes. When ready to use, I fried the two pieces until crisp, then stacked them atop the mixture for the Chicken Wellingtons, above , then wrapped as for the Chicken and baked. Truly, this version was so stellar I was hard pressed to say which I liked better. 

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, October 25, 2019

Weather is Cooling and Time for Soups

Having allowed my website to lapse, due to many complaints and difficulties, I am using solely my blog for publishing recipes these days. Also, without all those recipes on my website available anymore, I have been trying to get them published here in my blog, so they continue to be available. 
Beef with Sweet Cabbage
Add Beef with Sweet Cabbagecaption

What with all the website recipes not there anymore, the other problem is that I have a whole lot of places where there are links to a recipe on the website - and the website is not there any longer, and this is not good in any way, so I have been going over my blogs, starting from the very first post, correcting link errors wherever I can find them. There were and still are, lots of posts that are missing photos - only heaven knows what happens "out there" online! All I can say is that it is a very slow and tedious process, going through all my posts, updating, updating. And something else - I realize that there are some glaring lack of certain recipes. Even when I though I had all my lists made, something else comes up. One is one of my Mom's recipes. In flavor, it was one of my favorites. However, she made it with beef short ribs, notorious for a lot of fat and bone, with a little meat that you really have to fight for. That made the recipe one I didn't try to make for a long time. Then one day I thought, "Hey, what if I used a different meat?" 

Living in Guatemala at the time, I used what I later found was brisket. I find brisket, especially when cooked in a soup, gives really great flavor. I happened on it by chance in Guatemala, as I was young and with little cooking experience, but I stuck with that meat ever since, because it turns out so delicious. Mom called the recipe "Beef with Sweet Cabbage."

Beef with Sweet Cabbage

Serves 8 - 10

1 (2 – 3 pound) brisket
Beef with Sweet Cabbage
Beef with Sweet Cabbage

1 large onion, diced
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
¾ cup ketchup, or as needed
¼ cup of sugar
2 – 4 tablespoons vinegar
A few grinds of pepper
2 - 3 large potatoes, peeled, cut in 1-inch dice
1 small head of cabbage, in cubes

Place the brisket, onion, bay leaves and salt into a large soup pot with a tight fitting lid. Add water to just cover. Bring to a boil on high heat, then lower heat to a simmer, cover and cook for at least 2 hours, or until the meat is tender. Remove the meat and bay leaves from the pot. Set the meat on a platter until cool enough to handle.

Slice the meat across the grain into 2 – 3-inch sections. Break the sections into smaller pieces and pull the meat apart into strips. Return the meat to the pot.

Add in the ketchup. The soup should be nicely reddish. If it is not, add more. Add in the sugar and some of the vinegar. The goal in this dish is a nice sweet/sour balance between sugar, salt and vinegar. If the dish needs more vinegar, add a little at a time. Conversely, if it needs more sugar, add more. Remember it is easier to add more, but it cannot be taken back out. Start small and build the flavor. Grind in some fresh black pepper. Add in the cabbage and potatoes, stir, bring pot back to boiling, lower to a simmer, cover and cook for at least another half hour, or until the cabbage and potatoes are very tender.

NOTE: If you can only find a large cabbage, use only half, or as much cabbage as preferred.

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, October 17, 2019

Dessert Loaves Old and New

Dessert loaves - heavier than a cake, though sweet enough to be one - are always a nice treat. They can have a glaze or be iced, though they do not need it. They are nice sliced and served with some fruit alongside. They can even be used as a sort of shortcake (think strawberry shortcake), depending on the fruit involved. From apples to zucchini, there are all kinds. I am setting three more out here for your perusal.

One of these is an older recipe. Date Loaf, came from my mother-in-law's cookbook. Her cookbook wasn't used as a cookbook for the recipes it came with, but instead was used for all of her recipes scribbled in any margin, inside covers, and any open spot. Other recipes, clipped from newspapers or magazines, were stapled in. But nowhere could I see that an actual recipe from the book itself was used, altered or notated in any way. Her Date Loaf, or Date Nut Loaf (just add nuts!) was one of these, noted in a margin somewhere. 

Date Loaf

Makes two 4 x 8 or 5 x 9-inch loaves
Date Loaf
Date Loaf

1¼ cups chopped, pitted dates
1½ cups water
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1½ cups sugar
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt

In medium saucepan, place dates, water and butter and bring to a boil. Allow to simmer for about 5 minutes, until dates are softened. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla, set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Once date mixture has cooled, add in the egg and sugar and stir well to combine. In a mixing bowl, sift or whisk together dry ingredients and then stir into the date mixture until well combined. Do not over beat. Pour into 2 greased and floured loaf pans and bake for approximately 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Allow to rest in pans for about 7 - 10 minutes before turning out on racks to cool completely.

NOTE: To add nuts, fold in 1 cup of nuts after combining wet and dry ingredients together. 


The Apple Butter Quick Bread came about as I had made Apple Butter, and then wondered if there was another way to use it. I came up with this recipe and it was truly wonderful. If you end up with a glut of apple butter, here is one way to put some to very good use.

Apple Butter Quick Bread

Makes 1 loaf (about 5 x 9-inches)
Apple Butter Quick Bread
Apple Butter Quick Bread

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup apple butter
2 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon cloves
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup raisins, optional
1 cup broken walnuts or pecans, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a loaf pan with 2 pieces of parchment paper, crossing them so the paper comes up the sides. Spray the parchment with cooking spray; set aside.

In a mixing bowl pour in the melted butter and apple butter, stirring to combine. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated.

In a separate bowl whisk together the brown sugar and spices. Whisk this mixture into the apple butter mixture. In the same bowl (now empty) from the brown sugar, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Stir into the apple butter mixture until almost completely incorporated. Add the raisins and nuts if using and finish mixing in the flour mixture. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 55 - 65 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to finish cooling.

NOTES: Due to recent difficulties with getting my dessert loaves to come out of the loaf pans whole (as with the Lavender Nut Tea Bread, or the Zucchini Tea Bread, both below), I am now using parchment lined pans. This loaf came out cleanly and perfectly. 


This last quick dessert loaf is sweet - sweeter than normal. It is a riff on my Apple Fritter Loaf, but done with peaches. I tried this first with my Spiced Pickled Peaches, but forgot to add the eggs to the recipe. 😒  While it tasted great, it sunk in the center and was anything but pretty as a picture. So, I made it once more, this time using peaches in heavy syrup from a can, being more readily accessible to most people.

Just Peachy Loaf

Just Peachy Loaf
Just Peachy Loaf

Makes one 4 x 8 or 5 x 9-inch loaf

1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup pecans, chopped
1½ cups peaches in heavy syrup, drained, chopped

¼ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice

½ cup confectioner's sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
water, to make glaze consistency

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a loaf pan, or line it with parchment and spray the parchment. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine the Sugar Topping ingredients and set aside.

Make the Cake: In a bowl, whisk together the first 6 ingredients and set aside. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and ¾ cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating until thoroughly combined before adding the next. Stir together the sour cream and vanilla, then fold in, alternating with the reserved dry ingredients. Once completely combined, pour half the mixture into the prepared loaf pan. Top with half the peaches and nuts, then sprinkle on half the Sugar Topping. Carefully place the remainder of the batter over top, then repeat the topping with remaining nuts and peaches, then the Sugar Topping. Using a knife, run a figure -8 pattern through the loaf, but do not over mix.

While loaf is baking, make the glaze. Combine the confectioner's sugar and vanilla, then drizzle in milk or water to make a medium pouring consistency.

Bake the loaf for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the loaf tests clean when inserting a toothpick down the center. Set the pan to cool on a rack. Pour over top half of the Glaze. Set the loaf aside to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and continue to cool on the rack. Once cooled, drizzle on the remaining Glaze and allow to dry.

NOTES: If perchance you have in your kitchen some peach flavoring and / or caramel flavorings, these can be substituted for the vanilla, or use each of the three in equal amounts.

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, October 13, 2019

Who Loves Breakfast

I love breakfast. The first meal of the day. Most days I eat oatmeal, just because I love it. Weekends, we have eggs. But sometimes, you know, I just have to make other things. One weekend favorite is scones. My husband has come to love scones, where once he wouldn't touch them. So now, he looks forward to them, whenever I do make them. Another thing I sometimes make of a weekend is a sauce I use to go over our eggs. It is something I came up with long ago, while living in Guatemala, though it is not a Guatemalan recipe at all. Biscuits used to be my favorite of breakfast breads, but now the scones have supplanted them as "favorite." I do still make them, on occasion. 

I have written about the grain mill my husband got for me. I use it so often, it takes no thought at all to come up with new grain mixtures for breads of any kind, including scones or muffins. Recently, I have made a recipe three times, altering it slightly each time, but I believe the third time was the charm. All of the tests were great. However, the first time, I used maple flavoring plus some leftover "Maple Flav'r'Bites that once upon a time King Arthur Flour carried. Sadly, those and the Cinnamon Flav'r'Bites have been discontinued, though they were some of my most favorite things to put in my scones. So, now that they don't exist anymore, obviously I couldn't put a recipe out that calls for them, so I went on to round two. This time, I made a mistake in which seed I was grinding for the flour, so while they were great, I had really wanted to have teff and amaranth, some of the tiniest seeds available. So, on to round three, and this time, I used some tried and true additions to the scones (white chocolate chips and craisins) and they were perfect. 

I did use rye as part of the mixture. Teff and amaranth are certainly not on everyone's pantry shelves either, I realize. This recipe is going to appeal only to those ad diversified in their tastes as I am. So, if rye flour is not in your pantry either, well..... 

Teff Amaranth Scones 

Teff Amaranth Scones
Teff Amaranth Scones

Makes 8 scones

  • 2 tablespoons whole teff, ground (or ¼ cup ground teff / 0.9 oz / 24 grams)
  • 2 tablespoons whole amaranth, ground (or ¼ cup ground teff / 0.9 oz / 24 grams) 
  • 2 tablespoons whole rye grains, ground (or ¼ cup ground teff / 0.9 oz / 24 grams)
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour (6.2 ounces / 175 grams)
  • ¼ cup brown sugar (1.45 ounces / 42 grams)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder (0.4 ounces / 11 grams)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (0.2 ounces / 6 grams)
  • 5 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter (2.1 ounces / 60 grams)
  • ½ cup white baking chips
  • ½ cup dried cranberries/craisins
  • ¾ cup heavy cream (6 ounces / 180 ml)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment, set aside.

In a bowl, combine the first 7 ingredients. Cut in the butter as for pie dough, or (if your hands are cool, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until no large pieces remain. Add in the white baking chips and stir. Pour in the cream and with a fork, quickly toss the wet into the dry until it begins to come together. With hands, bring the mixture to a ball. If too dry, add a little more cream, one tablespoon at a time, until all the dry ingredients come together. If it is too wet, add 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour at a time, until the mixture will hold together.

Turn the dough out onto a clean surface (no more flour should be needed) and pat into an 8-inch diameter round. Cut across the dough 4 times, to make 8 wedge-shaped scones. Set them, at least an inch apart, on the parchment lined sheet. Bake the scones for approximately 16 minutes, or until they are golden and spring back when lightly pressed. 

NOTES: The photo shows my second attempt, where I used caramel bits in the scones. I do not advise this, unless you have strong teeth! Caramel chips, would be better, if going for that flavor. The white baking chips and craisins can be substituted with nuts of your choice and whatever you like in your scones. Just keep the amounts of flavor additions to a cup, or less.


That sauce to go over eggs that I mentioned. While I haven't made it in a while, when I do, we both love it so much. I have been making this for going on 50 years now. It is a tomato and bacon mixture, and goes together fairly quickly - while getting other things ready for breakfast, I let it simmer. The photo I am showing here shows my omelet. I happen to be one of those people who love cilantro. I generally make my omelet with as much cilantro chopped into the eggs as the eggs can hold! One might say that I use the eggs as a binder to my cilantro. So, don't be shocked at my omelet, okay?

Tomato Bacon Salsa for Eggs

Makes enough for 4  servings
Tomato Bacon Salsa for Eggs
Tomato Bacon Salsa for Eggs
  • 2 slices thick-sliced bacon (or 3 - 4 slices of thin sliced), cut into ¼-inch wide strips
  • 1 small white onion, finely chopped
  • 1 - 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced finely
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 Roma tomatoes, cut into small bits
  • ½ cup tomato ketchup
  • a few grinds of fresh black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste

Place the bacon into a cold skillet and turn heat to medium. Cook the bacon to your taste, then drain on paper toweling and set aside. Drain off all but 1 - 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat in the pan, then add in the onion, sauteeing until tender and light golden. Add in the garlic and green pepper and cook about 10 minutes more, until soft. Add in the tomatoes and simmer until the tomatoes have broken down. Return the bacon to the skillet with the ketchup, salt and pepper and simmer just meld flavors. Serve over eggs, any style.


Biscuits are so good. I have always loved biscuits. My husband is not so keen on them though, so I do not make them so often.  These are made based similarly to the basic recipe for scones, and they come out just beautifully. They can be made either cut out or patted into a rectangle and cut into squares.

Perfect Biscuits

Makes about twelve 2½-inch diameter biscuits
Perfect Biscuits
Perfect Biscuits

  • 2¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold, unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup (6-ounces) heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Have ready a baking sheet. Line with parchment for easy cleanup, though this is not necessary.

In a mixing bowl, combine the first 5 ingredients and stir. Cut in the butter, as for pie dough, until only very small bits can be seen. In a small bowl, stir together the cream and sour cream, then pour into the mixing bowl and with a fork, toss the mixture until it comes together. Turn out onto a clean surface and pat out to about ½ - ⅝-inch thickness. If cutting with a biscuit cutter, cut out as many as possible, setting them onto the baking sheet, at least ½-inch apart. Gather the scraps without working them and pat out once more, cutting more biscuits as possible. Bake the biscuits for about 15 minutes, or until puffed and beautifully golden.


Okay, as I love my scones, I am going to put one more recipe here! These are some oldies. I haven't made these for years now, but they were certainly delicious, and worthy of a place on the breakfast table!

Brown Sugar & Oat Bran Scones

Brown Sugar & Oat Bran Scones
Brown Sugar & Oat Bran Scones

Makes 8 scones

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup cake flour
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons oat bran
  • 2½ teaspoons baking powder 
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground mahlab, optional
  • 1 stick cold unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup chopped walnuts
  • ¾ cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment, to save on cleanup afterwards.

Place the first 8 ingredients into a mixing bowl and stir. Add in the butter and cut in with a pastry cutter or hands, if they are cool. Once butter is incorporated, stir in the walnuts, then add the buttermilk and stir with a fork until the mixture begins to come together in a single mass.

Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and pat together into an 8-inch diameter round. With a long knife, slice the dough across four separate times, to form 8 scone wedges. Set the wedges onto the lined baking sheet at least one-inch apart, then bake on a middle rack for about 16 minutes. Watch carefully; ovens vary.

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, October 12, 2019

Cauliflower Cabbage and Potatoes Oh My

Unlike some, my husband being one, I love cauliflower and cabbage. Potatoes are really good too, though I try not to eat plain white potatoes too often. I ran across some recipes while researching Indian recipes from different parts of India, and one of them jumped out at me. Whenever I take a recipe, I invariably change it. Either because some Indian recipes call for sometimes up to a half cup of hot chili powder - sorry, no can do - or just that some parts appeal, but I prefer a different amount. I prefer a larger amount of cabbage to potato in a dish, but that is just me and my own preferences.
Kobi Bateta nu Shaak or Cabbage and Potatoes
Kobi Bateta nu Shaak or Cabbage & Potato Dry Curry

One recipe I found intriguing is called Kobi Bateta nu Shaak, and I did look at many different iterations of this recipe for comparison. The recipe is from Gujarat, and all I can say is that I made a version of it yesterday for my lunch, and it is just delicious. If I had thought up this idea on my own, I would have titled it Patta Gobi Aloo Sabzi, as I am more familiar with Hindi words, having cooked a whole lot of Indian so far. And I made it again today, but this time with sweet potato instead of white potato. I think I liked it even more this way.
Cabbage & Sweet Potato Sabzi
Cabbage & Sweet Potato Sabzi

Okay, enough with my rambling on over Indian terms. I guess I was just writing to straighten it all out in my mind. But this dish is amazingly delicious. The best of all is that unlike most Indian dishes that take a whole lot of steps and various and sundry pots and pans and other utensils, this is a one-skillet meal (or side dish, if preferred). 

Kobi Bateta nu Shaak

(Cabbage & Potato Dry Curry)
Kobi Bateta nu Shaak
Kobi Bateta nu Shaak

Serves 2 (as a meal) or 3 (as a side)

1 - 2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
½ teaspoon cumin seeds, whole
½ teaspoon asafetida
1 medium onion or 1 large shallot, chopped
3 - 4 cloves garlic, minced
1 green chili, minced (remove seeds for less heat)

2 medium potatoes, peeled, cubed about ½-inch diameter (for quick cooking)
½ - 1 teaspoon salt
2 cups finely shredded cabbage

2 medium tomatoes
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed
½ teaspoon ground black peppercorns
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
2 - 4 tablespoons cilantro, minced

Heat a large skillet with the oil. Once hot, add in the mustard seeds until they begin to crackle, then quickly add in the cumin and asafetida and stir. Add in the onion, garlic, ginger and green chili and cook until partially softened. Add in the potatoes and salt; toss well, then lower heat and cover to cook the potatoes for about 10 minutes. The potatoes should be mostly tender before adding the cabbage. Add in the cabbage and tomatoes with the crushed coriander seeds, ground peppercorns and turmeric powder. Stir well, cook, tossing often, until the cabbage is tender, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add in the potatoes and cilantro and stir well. Serve this meal with bread of choice, and with rice, kichdi and yogurt.

NOTES: To make with sweet potatoes, simple substitute them for the white potato. Sweet potatoes cook a little more quickly than white potatoes, so the initial cooking will likely be less.


I have in past made Cauliflower with Indian Spices, which I would then term Gobi Masala Sabzi (Gobi = Cauliflower / Masala = Spices / Sabzi = Dry Mixture).

Gobi Masala Sabzi
Gobi Masala Sabzi

Gobi Masala Sabzi

(Dry Spiced Cauliflower)

Serves 3 to 4, as a side dish

1 pound cauliflower, grated / shredded on a larger holed grater
2 tablespoons ghee
2 teaspoons brown mustard seeds
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
1 - 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 teaspoon coriander seed, crushed
½ teaspoon cumin seed, crushed
2 teaspoons chaat masala + ¼ teaspoon salt, OR 1 teaspoon salt + 1 teaspoon garam masala

Heat the ghee in a large nonstick skillet. Add in the mustard seeds and stir until they begin to pop and sputter. Add in the cauliflower and toss occasionally, about 7 to 10 minutes on medium high. Add in the ginger and garlic, coriander and cumin and toss for another 2 minutes. The cauliflower should have started to brown in spots. Add in the chaat masala and salt (or the garam masala and salt) and toss to combine.


Another dish with potatoes was one I created within the last year or so, and it was exceptionally good. Totally my own creation, I put in spices I felt would be good with potatoes and cauliflower. Potatoes and cauliflower, whether separately or together, are a part of a lot of Indian meals, added to wet and dry curries alike. This is just an idea that came out so very good. 

If you like cauliflower, leave the florets a bit larger and visible (in case you look at my photo here and say, "But I don't see any cauliflower!" For this dish, I grated the cauliflower, as I was hiding it in a potato dish so my husband would eat it without knowing 😁

Aloo Gobi Masala

(Indian Spiced Potatoes & Cauliflower)

Serves about 4
Aloo Gobi Masala
Aloo Gobi Masala

1 - 2 tablespoons oil or ghee
1 teaspoons brown mustard seeds
½ teaspoons cumin seeds

½ teaspoon asafetida / hing
1 medium shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced

4 smallish potatoes, peeled, in ½-inch cubes
1 cup cauliflower florets, cut small
½ - 1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Sambar Powder
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon Kalonji/onion seed/nigella
½ teaspoon amchur powder, optional

Heat a skillet and add in the oil or ghee. When hot, add in the mustard and cumin seeds. When they begin to pop, add the asafetida and stir, then add in the potatoes and cauliflower with the salt. Toss to coat in oil and spices and cover, cooking over low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally to cook evenly. 

Add in the Sambar powder, turmeric, nigella seed and amchur powder (dried sour mango powder) and stir well. Cook for a few minutes longer to allow the spices to permeate the vegetables.

NOTE: Other options in this dish are the addition of tomatoes (add after the potatoes and cauliflower are mostly cooked through), the addition of minced ginger (about a teaspoon) along with the garlic, and the option of a squeeze of lemon juice over the whole, instead of the amchur powder, once the dish is done.

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, October 11, 2019

Sweet Things

I want to talk about something sweet today, a thing that come in handy once in a while. It is good to have basic recipes on hand, for when the need arises, and if some little bit of skill in making and using them happens, well, better still. 

I want to share the basics of making Royal Icing. Whether making it from scratch, or making it with meringue powder makes no big difference, but it is something that has very particular applications and without it, becomes difficult to proceed.
Royal Icing Flowers
Royal Icing Flowers

I had tried my hand at making Royal Icing long, LONG ago, from a cookbook I had while living in Guatemala, sometime in the 1970s. I liked decorating cakes. I had no training. And at this remove, I cannot even recall what I was making at that time. Except, that it called for Royal Icing. And in my early 20s, without any pictures to show every single step, and in fact no pictures at all, I made perfect royal icing. You can, too.

What is Royal Icing?

Royal Icing Outlines
Royal Icing Outlines
Royal Icing is made from what is essentially just a meringue, and then adding in confectioner's sugar. So then, why all the fuss? And believe me, there is a fuss. 

If the mixture is not beaten to the proper consistency, it simply will not do what you want it to do. And then, because of its use of egg whites, as with making meringue, without clean bowls and beaters you will have sodden blobs rather than holding shape.

HOWEVER. Please do not let this scare you! Following simple tips, this icing can come out just perfect. Every time.

  1. Absolutely squeaky clean beaters and bowls. Whether using a hand mixer
    Royal Icing Thinner Coating
    Royal Icing Thinner Coating
    or a stand mixer, the beaters and the bowl must be clean. Use plenty of soap and clean meticulously. This is not as hard as it sounds. It just means they should be clean. If a bit of batter from a butter based cake is left in a crevice, this can affect your outcome. 
  2. No plastic! If you use a plastic bowl (which is petroleum based in itself), plastic retains grease. There is no way to ensure a plastic bowl will work for this icing, so just put that aside and instead, find a good glass, stainless steel or ceramic bowl.
  3. Beat the icing sufficiently. If you've taken care to have clean beaters and a proper bowl, then the only other real problem is not beating long enough. It takes a certain amount of time, and there is no getting 'round that.

BENEFITS of Royal Icing

Holding together a Gingerbread House
Holding together a Gingerbread House
The biggest benefit to making Royal Icing is that it is stiff enough to hold a pattern. The next biggest benefit is that it dries quickly. These two things make it possible to make icing flowers or other decorations for fancy cakes. And, the decorations can be made ahead and dried until needed, so not having to do everything last minute. 

The quickness of drying also means even if you thin down the icing to coat something like cookies, they will be ready for further work or even just storing, far more quickly. I have coated gingerbread in Royal Icing, thinned enough to dip the tops of the cookies. They were completely dried in 2 hours, rather than 12 to 24 it can take for other confectioner's sugar glazes.

If you are into Gingerbread Houses, Royal Icing is ideal for "gluing" the house together. It can be used thinly to "paint" the house walls (as I did in the picture above). It makes beautiful drifting snow. Or icicles hanging from eaves, and so many other things.

With the recipe used just as is, I outlined and "drew" on hundreds of little gingerbread men one Christmas.
Royal Icing Flowers
Royal Icing Flowers

On other cookies, I chose to thin the icing to coat the entire surface of the cookies. All that is needed is to make the icing as the recipe states, then divide out a portion and add in water, a little at a time, until it is of a medium pouring consistency, where it will "ribbon" slightly when pouring into the bowl from a spoon or spatula. Approximately a cup of Royal Icing, mixed with up to a tablespoon of water should do this nicely. I just take the cookie and holding by two edges, dip the top in the icing (I use a wide soup bowl with plenty of surface area), drain slightly, then set upright onto waxed paper to dry.

Royal Icing, Two Ways
Royal Icing Proper Consistency
Royal Icing Proper Consistency

From Scratch:
3 egg whites
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
½ teaspoon cream of tartar

Using Meringue Powder:
3 tablespoons Wilton Meringue Powder
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
5 or 6 tablespoons water

For either method, place all the ingredients for the method chosen into a glass or metal bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until combined, and then for 7 to 10 minutes if using a heavy duty stand mixer (such as Kitchen Aid), or 10 to 12 minutes if using a hand held mixer, until very stiff.

Icing may be tinted, as necessary. Liquid food colors may be used, though they are liquid and may thin the icing. Paste coloring may contain glycerin and could deflate the icing. Read labels.

This icing is best used in an icing bag and piped into decorations or flowers. It is not suited for frosting a cake. For small cookies, the icing is thinned to a thin ribbon consistency, the cookie tops dipped into the icing, allowed to drain, then set aside to dry. These were dry enough to stack in two hours. It makes a beautiful satiny smooth finish.

The icing can be stored in a lidded container in the refrigerator or t cool room temperature for up to 3 days. It will need to be re-whipped to proper consistency before using.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, helping 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. 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