These weeks leading up to the holidays always seem to go by in a blur. Jam packed with volunteer activities, appointments, parties, meetings, work, work, and more work its a wonder how we manage to squeeze in any fun at all. Its the time of year when the most fun you have are those peaceful fleeting minutes out of your hectic day when you can relax. When you slip away and do something just for you. Even if its just those minutes in the car on your commute to enjoy a great coffee, or the few moments you have to watch grown up TV after the kids get tucked in.
I’m especially tired this month. I’d like to blame it on my MS, but I’m pretty sure its the fact that I just got done hosting a VIP party that lasted 4 days. It sounds like a crazy good time, but 4 days spent making sure everything is perfectly perfect for everybody else can drain the life right out of a person. I was definitely looking forward to a day off of doing absolutely nothing. And I mean NOTHING.
So ask me why-when I was reading my twitter feed, and spotted a cooking photo contest, hosted by Giada De Laurentiis, that had a deadline of the next morning, that had already been going on for a month- did I think it was something that I just had to participate in?! Out of the 50 recipes, I chose Tiramisu,
because I wanted to eat it. because I had a good idea of how I wanted to set up the pic. I should have known it was going to be a bigger challenge then whipping up a late night tiramisu ought to be when I couldn’t find an espresso cup for sale with in a 50 mile radius. Damn we Americans like our coffee’s BIG. So I went to my last resort. One of my dearest friends Marina. She collects candles. Like, hundreds of them. Somewhere in the deep recesses of my brain I recall that she has a little baby espresso cup candle on her kitchen counter. I call. “Oh I used that candle all up she says”, my heart races, “but I think I still have that cute little cup around here somewhere. Oh! Here it is!” I’ll be right over to get it. So I got my cup, and its now 10:30 pm the night before the contest deadline of 12 pm the next day.
I steal a moment to relax before I dive into whipping the mascarpone, eggs, and sugar. A precious stolen moment after a 12 hour day. I’m trying to decide if I have time for a tea, when my numero uno kitchen assistant makes a loud and somewhat painful exclamation. Followed by “I don’t want to tell you what I’ve done.” In any circumstance these are never good words to hear, so I brace myself for the dramatic confession. “Well I got everything on the list that you asked for, except the cheese.” When you say cheese I
scream ask, do you mean the mascarpone? The main ingredient that tiramisu’s have been made from since the fall of the holy roman empire? “Yes.” OK, I state calmly, I guess I will have to go find cheese somewhere. Never mind that its clearly 11:30pm on a Sunday and every store that could possible carry mascarpone cheese has long since locked its gourmet door. The tiramisu needs to set for only 8 hours to cut a decent slice out of it, so I calculate that I still have time to get my hands on some cheese.
We get to the first store. Closed 10 minutes ago. Please I’m having a cheese emergency! ” You know,” my assistant states matter of factually, “a normal person would give up on the tiramisu thing at this point, and just make something else, we have spaghetti! I’m sure that’s one of the 50 choices, come on its Giada.” I know one more place I tell him with determination. Lets try it. They were open! Til one am, but they only had one 8 oz package of mascarpone- I need 16oz. I grab a cream cheese and figure I will make it work when I mix them together.
I’m not sure if its the cream cheese, or the up hill battle I faced in its production, but its the best Tiramisu I’ve ever tasted. Because I had to use the ingredients I could find, my finished recipe is adapted from the original recipe in Giada’s book Everyday Italian. For that recipe please visit Giada De Laurentiis and also if you’d please take a moment to vote for my finished photo I would love ya for it.
5 egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar
8 oz mascarpone cheese
8 oz softened cream cheese
2 tbsp sour cream
2 tbsp whipping cream
2 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 ½ cups strong espresso, cooled
2 teaspoons dark rum
24 packaged ladyfingers
1 cup bittersweet chocolate shavings
Beat egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale, about 5 minutes. Longer if by hand. Add mascarpone cheese and beat until smooth. Add vanilla paste, cream cheese, sour cream and whipping cream and beat until mixture is thickening. Add 1 tablespoon of espresso and mix until thoroughly combined.
In a small shallow dish, add remaining espresso and rum. Dip each ladyfinger into espresso mixture very quickly soaking them too long will cause them to fall apart. Place the soaked ladyfinger on the bottom of a 13 by 9 inch baking dish, breaking them, if necessary in order to fit the bottom.
Spread 1/2 of the mascarpone mixture over the ladyfingers. Arrange another layer of soaked ladyfingers and top with remaining mascarpone mixture.
Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. 8 hours will give the best slices.
sprinkle with chocolate shavings and serve. Coco powder works as well.
Sometime in the late 1700’s Miss Amelia Sims made mention of cake to be “baked in small cups” in her book American Cookery and history was made. The cupcake was born! We’ve come a long way from the heavy pottery cups Amelia was baking in. Fancy paper lined muffin tins, silicone cups, sturdy foil–nowadays cupcakes have endless, and many times designer ways to be baked off. These mini mavens even have their own shops popping up all the time. Shops like Sprinkles and Magnolia have made cupcakes gourmet. The latest craze adds the sparkling effervescence of champagne into the mix. With a bit of the bubbly, the texture of these fairy cakes is a tad more delicate, and nothing short of delicious! If only Amelia could see us now!
Pink Champagne Cupcakes
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/3 cups sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup champagne
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
2 large eggs
2 drops red food color(optional)
Combine first four dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Then mix in remaining ingredients till just combined. Divide into paper-lined muffin tins. Bake at 350 for 17-19 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting.
Butter cream Pink Champagne Frosting
4 cups powdered sugar
1 stick butter (room temp)
2 tbsp champagne
1/4 tsp orange extract
1 drop red food color
Beat together all ingredients in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Frost cupcakes and let chill in the fridge to set frosting for 1 hour. Enjoy!
A trifle, as defined, is an article or thing of very little value. Leave it to the Brits to give such a depressing name to something as delicious and brilliant looking as a trifle. This cold dessert of cake, spread with jam, fruit, and covered with cream, was originally invented to make yesterdays stale old sponge taste fresh and delicious again. Traditionally the cake was soaked in liquor to revive its moist texture. Then it was pressed in a bowl to absorb all the yummy delicious flavor from the jam and cream layers. So it was cheap, easy to make, and a great way to use up leftovers. In this marymeals version I’ve taken the trifle out of the bowl and turned it into an elegant layer cake. A trifle indeed!
Raspberry Trifle Cake
For the Sponge:
1½ cups flour
1 cup sugar
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 stick melted butter
½ cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1 tbsp vanilla paste
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350. Whisk together the first four dry ingredients in bowl of standing mixer. Add butter, sour cream, eggs, and vanilla; beat until completely smooth. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula, and divide batter into two greased 9inch round cake pans. Bake about 35 min. Cakes are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool at least 45 min.
For the Cream:
1 cup cold milk
1 cup cold heavy whipping cream
1 package of instant vanilla pudding
Whip together all ingredients in a standing mixer, until it starts to resemble whipped cream, you don’t need to continue whipping past this stage because it will continue to set while chilling in the fridge.
For the Fruit layers:
1 jar good quality raspberry jam
1/4 cup of ginger ale
16 oz of fresh raspberries(any fruit will work-even frozen but make sure it is as drained as possible)
Empty the jam into a small microwave safe bowl and heat for about 30 seconds add in ginger ale and stir to thin the jam.
Place one layer on cake plate and spread with the thinned down jam. Place about half of the cream filling over this layer of jam and spread evenly. Place half of the raspberries on the filling and press them into the cream. Drizzle with a little more jam. Place the second layer over this. Spread another layer of jam followed by the remaining cream. Top with fresh berries. Place in refrigerator to set for at least one hour. After the cake is cut into it will need to be covered at all times to stay moist! But, you might not even have to worry about leftovers!
I grew up believing tea was much more then a mere drink. All of my worldly problems would evaporate into that cup of piping hot tea, fresh out of the kettle. Tea was a part of every morning meal, afternoon snack, and every single family gathering. Black tea, herbal tea, sweet tea, or my daddy’s personal favorite cambric tea was the life-blood of my family. My oldest brother would probably tell you otherwise but he doesn’t like tea and therefore can’t be trusted. A strong brewed Tetley helped us process the unexpected loss of Grandma Nancy. I remember the drive, me and mom, up and down the Pennsylvania countryside in search of the Amish store carrying the only “tea fit to drink” in those parts. This was a testament to the influence of tea in our lives. A good cup of tea can get you through anything.
Today, research can prove what my family already knows. Tea can be extremely beneficial to your mental and physical well-being. Filled with antioxidants, beneficial phytochemicals, anti-aging and cancer fighting properties, a daily cup of tea can have you looking and feeling better then ever. So put the kettle on, and while your at it, fire up the oven because nothing goes better with your daily dose then a bite sized sweet and airy teacake.
Sweet Orange Teacakes
3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp orange extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 cups flour
Preheat oven to 350. Beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix eggs into the butter and sugar one at a time. Once incorporated add the yogurt, juice, vanilla, and orange extract. Stir in salt, baking soda, and flour until just combined. Lumps are okay and make lighter cakes. Grease a mini muffin pan or tea cake pan with a non stick spray. Spoon batter into each tin and bake for 30 to 40 minutes. A tooth pick will come out clean when they are ready to come out of the oven. You can also make this in a loaf pan that you will slice to serve.
Orange Glaze Frosting
1 cup powdered sugar
4 tbsp milk
1 tsp orange extract
Combine all ingredients and beat together until combined, the texture of the glaze should be similar to a corn syrup. If it is too thick add a bit more milk. Drizzle lightly over the top of the teacakes.
Pastry chefs all over the world use it to cover and fill cakes, or they bake it into the filling of an endless number of treats. Marzipan still tastes the most delicious to me on its own. Well, maybe not entirely on its own, but definitely after it’s dipped in a little Swiss chocolate. With its distinct amaretto flavor and chewy texture you will be sure to impress when you offer your Valentine this divine little truffle shaped treat. Almond flour mixed with sugar seems so simple but it is an amazingly delicious combination. Though I always make my own almond paste, for time’s sake I will post about that later. For now the store bought paste will do and is a bit easier for your first attempt at this decadent dessert. Nothing says “I love You,” more simply then producing a homemade treat for your special someone.
Chocolate Dipped Marzipan Balls
1 cup almond paste
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
1/4 cup rice syrup
Knead almond paste to soften and then pinch into little pieces in a large mixing bowl. Add in 1 cup of sugar and knead together until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add in rice syrup and vanilla. Knead together to form dough and add in the rest of the powdered sugar. Keep kneading until marzipan feels like a heavy pie dough. Wrap in plastic and place in sealed container in the fridge. After dough rests about 1 hour remove and begin rolling 1/2 inch pieces into little balls. Set on parchment paper and begin to melt chocolate for dipping.
Break apart and melt 3 4oz Swiss chocolate bars in a glass bowl in the microwave. I use 30 second intervals and stir in between until the chocolate bars are just melted. You need to be careful that you do not overcook the delicate chocolate and cause them to burn. Place the marzipan balls in the chocolate and roll to cover. Place on a parchment lined drying rack to cool and harden.
Layers of paper thin phyllo dough. Sweetened pistachios. A drizzle of cinnamon honey syrup. It’s baklava, one of the most delicious desserts you’ll ever experience. Baklava scares people. One, because they don’t know what it is half of the time, and two, because those sweet layers of finicky dough seem impossible for the everyday cook to master. Traditionally, layer upon layer of individual phyllo is buttered and placed in the pan to build the base and topping for this flaky treat. It can be extremely tedious. Because of the delicate nature of the dough, it can break apart and be ruined before you can complete your baklava. It’s important to handle the dough correctly and have your melted butter and the nut filling ready in an assembly line set up. Once you experience this delicious baklava, you will want to make it all the time. Make it Mary by rolling the dough to create the many flaky layers you’ll need with far less stress.
Mary’s Rolled Pistachio Baklava
For the syrup:
1 cup sugar
1 cup honey
2 cups water
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 cinnamon stick(or 1 tsp cinnamon)
Can be made a day ahead. Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about an hour. Stirring occasionally. When finished it should be reduced to a maple syrup consistency. Let cool. Place in a liquid measuring cup for easy pouring over the finished baklava.
For the filling:
2 cups of pistachios (any of your favorite nuts can be substituted here)
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Combine all ingredients in food processor and pulse to break down the nuts to a coarse chop. Set aside in a bowl for your assembly.
1 16 oz package of frozen phyllo dough(thaw over night in the fridge)
2 sticks of melted butter
brush for melted butter
two damp towels
several sheets of plastic wrap
8×12 baking pan
a knife to cut the rolls into pieces before baking
Arrange your filling ingredients in an assembly line. Phyllo, butter, and nuts. You will need to protect the dough from drying out after it is opened from the package. Lay a damp towel on the counter and cover with plastic wrap. Open your phyllo, unroll and place on the plastic, cover with another sheet of plastic and then another damp towel. This arrangement will keep the phyllo safe while you are assembling. You will have to cover the dough back up in between layers in order to protect it from drying out. Place one sheet on the counter and brush with melted butter. Fold over top and bottom edges of phyllo to fit the width of your pan. (8in) Take another sheet of phyllo and bunch/scrunch it up to fit onto the first flat sheet. The bunching creates additional layers that you don’t have to work for! The idea is to get the bunching sheet to fit onto the flat sheet. Brush layer with butter. The butter will attach the layers together. Place another bunched layer and also brush with butter. You should have three layers buttered together. Now sprinkle the sheets with about 2 spoons of filling spread evenly over the sheet. Roll the baklava up like a log and brush with butter to seal the end of the roll. Place in the pan and brush with butter. Continue building your baklava logs and place them in the pan right next to each other no space in between. Once your pan in full, using a very sharp knife cut across the logs to get bite size pieces. Bake at 350 for 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool. Once cool, pour the syrup all over the baklava and let sit. The pastries will soak up the syrup in about 15 min. Enjoy!
…to Grandmother’s house we go. There’s nothing more comforting then homemade cookies, warm and fresh, out of grandma’s oven. Memories of cooking beside my own grandma, and the smells coming from her cozy kitchen keep her alive in my mind. I for sure wouldn’t be the cook I am today without those hours of valuable lessons. Today in the marymeals’ kitchen we are honored to share with you a special cookie brought to you by the grandmother of my amazing friends Shane and Joanne. This delicious date filled cookie is courtesy of Evelynne Trick circa 1970. I’ve been hearing about it since we met, and couldn’t wait to try them for myself. Even though dates don’t come from Ohio, Mrs. Trick, you made one mean date filled cookie! Let me tell you these delicious treats do not disappoint, and will be a perfect addition to your holiday table.
Evelynne Trick’s Date Filled Cookies
2 Cups Light Brown Sugar
1 Cup of shortening or margarine
½ tsp Salt
3 eggs well beaten
4 Cups sifted All Purpose Flour
2 tsp Vanilla
1 Cup Light Brown Sugar
1 Tbsp Flour
1 Cup Water
½ Cup chopped walnuts
1 Cup pitted dates
1 tsp Vanilla
Mix dough and refrigerate over night. Boil filling until thick and refrigerate over night.
Roll dough thin and cut in small circles about 1.75” diameter (or form in to a ball and press). Place each circle on a greased cookie sheet. Place a scant teaspoon of filling on each circle (keeping it in the center). Cover with another circle of dough and seal the edges together by pressing with a fork.
Bake at 375° – 400° for 10-12 minutes (or until brown).
Keep in an air tight container with a piece of apple to make soft (a slice of sandwich bread will also work).
Make sure that the dough stays extremely cold during the whole process. I put the cookies back in the fridge be fore pressing with a fork to keep the fork from sticking to the dough. I also decorated the cookies with red and green sprinkles to add a more festive look. Although Shane remembers Grandma Evelynne garnishing them with red and green candied cherries.
On Halloween it is said that the force separating our world from the spirit world becomes weak enough for some other worldly spirits to seep through. The tradition of wearing ghoulish costumes was an attempt to fool any of the bad spirits who made it. They would think we were just another evil soul roaming around, and ensure we would come to no harm. Because of its spooky delights, traditions like hay rides with warm apple cider, and great decorations, Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. Use these ghostly sugar cookies to ward of any evil spirits headed your way.
Buttered Sugar Cookies
1 1/2 sticks butter room temp
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Cream butter and sugar. Beat eggs in one at a time, and add vanilla until smooth. Add flour, baking powder, and salt and stir till combined. Form dough into a disc and cover with plastic wrap. Chill at least 2 hours. Preheat oven to 400. Roll dough on a lightly floured surface until 1/2 inch thick cut into fun shapes with cookie cutters. Place on cookie sheets these cookies will bake in 6 to 7 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting.
For the Frosting:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp milk
2 tsp brown rice syrup(corn syrup works just as well but I love the flavor of rice syrup!)
1 tsp vanilla paste
assorted food coloring
Whisk together sugar and milk until smooth, then add vanilla and rice (or corn) syrup beat until icing is shiny and smooth. If you need it thinner you can add more syrup. I then divide the frosting into separate bowls and add assorted colorings. I apply the frosting with a “piping bag” made from a sandwich bag with a corner cut out. You can also dip the cookies or paint them with a pastry brush.
You’re going to eat it anyways. Especially over the upcoming holiday season. So why can’t your next sinful escape into dessert territory be indulging in one that is actually good for you? It’s far from fat and calorie free, and you definitely still need to watch your portion control, but this amazing cheesecake has so many good for you benefits its hard to believe you can still call it a dessert. You’ve all heard about the famous Pomegranate, but how many of you have ever tried one? To list all the health benefits of this beautiful red fruit would be an endless chore so let’s just touch for a moment on the most beneficial. Listen to your heart. Pomegranates contain three times the antioxidants of green tea which among many other things promotes a healthy heart and good blood circulation. Regular consumption of this super fruit has shown to stop hardening of artery walls and the build up of plaque, and keeping our arteries clean helps reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. If that alone isn’t enough for you, studies have also shown that the power of pomegranates can have a role in preventing cancer cells, protecting the brain against Alzheimer’s, and preventing cartilage damage. Its also a great way to clear skin, a natural anti-inflammatory and has many anti-aging properties. Long thought to be the actual apple from the garden of Eden Pomegranates are an ancient and original super-food. A pomegranate a day should keep the Dr at bay! Here’s an extremely delicious way to get started eating this amazing fruit.
Pomegranate Cheese Cake
Preheat oven to 350.
1/4 cup melted butter
1 tbsp granulated sugar
10 oz pkg. of shortbread cookies
Shortbread cookies make a delicious alternative for graham crackers. Simply grind in the food processor add sugar and melted butter and pulse together until just starting to combine. Pour mixture into a spring-form pan and press into a crust. Place in fridge until needed. Mary tip: If you don’t have a food processor, just place cookies in a Ziploc bag and press them to pieces with the bottom of a frying pan until they are crushed
16 oz of neufchatel cheese room temp (found next to cream cheese-but has 30% less fat!)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste
2 tbsp triple sec (or orange juice)
1 tbsp grated orange zest
Cream together cheese, sugar and vanilla. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add remaining ingredients and mix until smooth. Remove crust from fridge and pour cake mixture over crust. Bake at 350 for 1 hour. Let cheesecake cool.
seeds from 2 pomegranates
1 tsp orange zest
1 cup+ 3 tbsp reserved pomegranate juice
1 1/2 tbsp potato or corn starch
Place 1 cup of juice and orange zest in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Combine reserved 3 tbsp of juice with starch in a small bowl and whisk smooth. Once the juice in the pan is boiling slowly whisk in the starch and juice mixture. The juice will thicken. Remove from heat and add in the pomegranate seeds. Stir together a place in a bowl that can go into the fridge to cool. Once the cake and topping are completely cooled you can spoon the topping onto the cheesecake and return it to the fridge until ready to serve.
Mary tip: a simple way to remove the delicious seeds from this complicated looking fruit is to place them in a large bowl of water after you open them. As you scrape out the seeds the white pith will separate and float to the top of the water and the seeds will sink. You can also cheat a little and buy your pomes already seeded. (although it’s a bit pricey)
The Grunt, The Slump, The Buckle, The Betty, and the Sonker. These are all various regional names for the American Fruit Cobbler. One thing I love about American cooking is that we are very good at improvising. When our families first arrived here, they brought their favorite recipes with them, but not finding the traditional ingredients, they used whatever was available. That’s how they all came about such unusual names. These juicy dishes were often served for breakfast, or even as the main meal of the day, and it was not until much later that they became the delicious desserts we know them as today. What qualifies a fruity baked dessert as a cobbler instead of a crisp is all in its top layer. Cobblers can have a biscuit, cake, or pastry like topping, depending on what’s in your pantry, while toppings on a crisp have a crunchy crumbly texture. I’m using ripe in season peaches for this recipe and I happen to have all the ingredients for a light and flaky pastry topping. Should be a perfect compliment to that sweet peach filling. Let’s hope the neighbors think so too, as this is my contribution to their end of summer BBQ.
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
Pinch of cinnamon