Regardless of The Heat and Humidity

Growing up, my family and I resided on the second floor of a three-story apartment building without benefit of a fan or air-conditioning.

Sleep was challenging, to say the least.

“My Childhood Home”

As a child, in what seemed like many hours of trying to fall asleep in a puddle of my own sweat, I finally fell into a sweltering, unsettled sleep.

During those times, in my young life, I didn’t think about how people in the past lived or survived the summer months.

However, as time progresses and we get a little older, we start to wonder about things. I wondered about people throughout history and how they were able to sleep or cook their meals during the stifling heat of summer.

“Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.” ― Socrates

Regardless of the heat and humidity, they still had to sleep and eat.  For sustenance, they cooked stews, roasted meat, and baked bread, etc.

So how did they endure cooking and baking in the extreme heat of summer?

I learned that meals were cooked and baking was done outdoors until the introduction of the wood-burning cook stove which took preparing meals indoors. Great during the colder months, but in the summer-NOT SO MUCH!

To beat the nagging heat already in the house, some erected “Summer Kitchens”. These structures were detached buildings from the main house where all the baking and cooking took place.

1820 summer kitchenBuilt about 1820-Summer kitchen at the Mordecai Lincoln Farm in Berks County, Pennsylvania. 

Which brings me to yesterday’s supper. We cooked and ate fried ravioli, mini Italian meatballs, a quick-pan marinara and we even baked an Olive & Thyme focaccia.

saturday's supper

While I still reflect upon the distant and not so distant past, I gratefully acknowledged that today we can bake bread and cook meals in air-conditioned comfort or outside on our modern grills, spits, or pits.

When You’re Up Against Your Memories

When you’re up against your memories, remember: You’re simplifying your life, not erasing your past.

We are still decluttering and purging our needless things. It’s taking longer than I had anticipated, but we are slowly proceeding. In our garage, we have amassed a large pile of accumulated possessions that we need to get rid of before we continue. We are donating these things to a worthy cause. I am going to place it all, neatly, into empty bins before I call them. I am delighted to say, we only have the kitchen left to do.

decluttering purging happy

In the meantime, I have deleted and cleaned up computer files. I have saved a few pictures that I had taken of (you guessed it) our meals. To keep a visual record and for future reference, I am posting them here then deleting them from my files.

meals
Pork Cutlet & Scalloped Potatoes – Chicken & Sundried Tomatoes  
Steak & Cheese Subs/Cottage Fries – Homemade Sub Rolls
lemon curd and cream pastry
Lemon Curd & (stabilized) Whipped Cream Pastries
meatloaf
Meatloaf
tagliatelle_salad
Iceburg Mixed Salad – Tagliatelle with Prosciutto & Peas
keylime cond milk
Homemade Condensed Milk – Keylime Pie
soups
Cream of Potato Soup – Italian Sausage & Vegetable Soup

Tomorrow, it’s back to the task of organizing and purging.

Good bye, clutter!

Maple Almond Butter Cookies

It’s doubtful that one could improve on the delectable, simple, well-known Peanut Butter Cookie. To some, a homemade peanut butter cookie can bring back childhood memories.

As the old cliché proclaims, memories from “simpler times”.

Not having enough peanut butter and a jar of maple-almond butter on hand, I adapted the well-known Peanut Butter Cookie and baked “Maple Almond Butter Cookies.”

maple almond butter cookies

*Maple Almond Butter Cookies
Yield: about 30 cookies
Ingredients:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup maple almond butter
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:
• Mix sugars, almond butter, butter, almond extract, vanilla extract and egg in large bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate about 2 hours or until firm.
• Heat oven to 375ºF.
• Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place about 2 inches apart on ungreased or parchment lined cookie sheet. (Do not flatten as you would with peanut butter cookies).
• Bake 8 to 9 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 5 minutes; remove from cookie sheet. Cool on wire rack.

maple almond butter

*Adapted from this recipe: “Peanut Butter Cookie

These cookies were delicious.  They have a taste of their own and cannot be compared to a peanut butter cookie.  Both are equally tasty.

So, I will sit back and take in the day over a cup of espresso and a few of these cookies.

Dolce far Niente.”

Sunday Supper For Two

Saturday, I was thinking about what to have for supper on Sunday with what I have on hand around the kitchen.

As they say, “willful waste makes woeful want.”

What to do with 2 potatoes, garlic, a shallot, a carrot, a stalk of celery, ground coriander, nutmeg, a small bay leaf, some pistachios, olive oil, unsalted butter and a can of chicken broth?

veggies & pistachios

I thought, “soup!”

First, I blanched the pistachios to loosen up the brown skins. Then rubbed the pistachio in a paper towel to remove the brown skins. Next, I softened the sliced shallot in a small amount of olive oil and a bit of unsalted butter, cut up the veggies and threw them into the pot along with pistachios and all of the other ingredients omitting the coriander and nutmeg. The addition for those spices were added in the next step.

pistachios and soup

When the veggies were cooked and cooled down for about 10 minutes, I put this all into a blender (along with the coriander, nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste) and pureed it into a potage.

After reheating the soup, about a couple tablespoon of heavy cream was stirred into the soup.

For service, a dollop of homemade crème fraîche (made the day before) and crushed pistachios were added to the center of the potage.

crème fraîche

I am calling this, “Creamy Pistachio & Potato Potage”.

This potage/soup would, also, make a wonderful cold soup for Summer.

potage

Then, with 3 leftover campari tomatoes, a half a sheet of puff pastry, some fig infused balsamic vinegar, small amount of sugar, pepper, oregano, basil and Gruyere cheese…

tomatoes1

…I made two “Tomato Tartlettes”.

tartlettes

Voilà!

A Sunday supper for two.

Orange Hazelnut Cake

I saw a recipe for a walnut cake and thought I could enhance it by adding orange zest, hazelnut liqueur and substituting the ground walnuts with hazelnut flour/meal.

I call mine “Orange Hazelnut Cake”

orange hazelnut cake

With the addition of Hazelnut Liqueur and orange zest, I further enhanced the flavor, by making a syrup of hazelnut liqueur, honey, orange juice, and orange zest then brushed onto the cake.

For decoration, I made candied oranges slices

Delicious!

Orange Hazelnut Cake
Serves: Serves 8-10
Ingredients
⅔ cup granulated sugar
⅓ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 Tablespoons hazelnut liqueur, plus 3 Tablespoons more for syrup
1 Tablespoon honey, plus 1 teaspoon more for syrup
3 eggs
⅓ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
Zest from 1 large orange, save and set aside ¼ teaspoon and the orange for syrup
pinch salt
½ cup hazelnut flour/meal

Orange Hazelnut Syrup
3 Tablespoons Hazelnut Syrup
Juice from 1 orange
1 teaspoon honey
¼ teaspoon orange zest

Directions
⦁ Preheat the oven to 350°F.
⦁ Grease and flour a half-size Bundt pan with a 6-cup capacity. (I used Baker’s Joy Baking Spray)
⦁ With a hand mixer, beat the sugar and butter until light and fluffy.
⦁ Add the vanilla, hazelnut liqueur, and 1 Tablespoon honey and mix well.
⦁ Add the eggs, one at a time mixing well after each addition.
⦁ Add the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt and orange peel (minus the ¼ teaspoon saved) and beat till creamy.
⦁ Without using the mixer, gently fold the hazelnut flour into the batter.
⦁ Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 30-40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
⦁ Leave the cake to rest in the pan for 5 minutes before carefully unmoulding it. Leave the cake to cool completely on a wire rack.
⦁ Meanwhile, to make the syrup, add orange juice, hazelnut liqueur, orange zest and honey to a small saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil, lower heat and gently boil for 2 minutes. Set aside to cool.
⦁ Brush the syrup onto the cooled cake.

Decorate as desired. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Pretzel Buns For Pub-Style Burgers

Making homemade “pretzel sandwich buns” was easy and took little time and effort make.

I made these for cheeseburgers we had for supper last night along with a batch of home fries.

Pretzel Buns

For pub-style burgers (or any type sandwiches) at home without the added expense of eating out, I encourage you to make a batch.

You can find the recipe at King Arthur Flours/Pretzel Buns.

Easter For Two

For us, it was a quiet Easter.  We didn’t cook the traditional ham and sides; we dined (here at home) on pork tenderloin, roasted potatoes and green bean amandine/almondine.

Since it is just the two of us, I had in mind to make a small batch of homemade peanut butter eggs.  Knowing that I would have some chocolate leftover, and since I had a can of sweetened condensed milk sitting in the cupboard, I made dulce de leche (caramel) from the can of milk.

Dulce de leche

The milk caramelizes in the can by simmering the unopened can (label removed) in a pot of water.

You can find the complete instructions at Serious Eats.

After I made the peanut butter eggs,  I made chocolate covered, salted caramel wafers using the homemade caramel and leftover chocolate.

chocolate candy

I just dropped chocolate onto a piece of waxed paper (smoothing the chocolate down with the back of a spoon), chilled and then spread caramel on top of those and dropped and spread melted chocolate onto the caramel (sealing in the caramel) and added a pinch of kosher salt to the tops.

Easter for two!

French Financiers

Have you ever heard of a financier (pronounced fee-nahn-see-AY)?

financiers

It’s a classic French pastry.

According to the New York Time-The Pastry Chef’s Rich Little Secret, “IT’S a simple almond cake, leavened by egg whites, moistened with browned butter and baked into a small mold. It is springy, sweet and nutty with an exterior that’s as crisp as an eggshell.”

The article also goes on to say, “In France, financiers have been a staple of fine pastry shops for more than 100 years.”

In my quest to bake and taste something different,  I happened upon the article and the recipe for financiers.  

“All you need is a whisk, a bowl, a pan and a mere stroke of finesse.”

Yesterday, I baked a half batch.

financiers

“The batter then has to rest before baking. A few hours in the refrigerator, and the flavors will harmonize and the batter will firm up, making it easier to pipe into molds.”

The instructions say to chill the batter in the bowl.  Then, after chilling for the allotted amount of time, spoon the batter into a pastry bag with a 1/4 inch round pastry tip.  For me, I found it much easier to chill the batter in the pastry bag.  I, also, eliminated the round pastry tip and just cut an opening in the tip of the bag, then piped it into the prepared pans/molds.

You can find the recipe here: New York Time-The Pastry Chef’s Rich Little Secret.

Simply delicious!