Winter narcissus flowers

Winter narcissus flowers
Merry Christmas!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Cooking Classes to Benefit the Dog Refuge

Since moving to Cuenca, Ecuador, I have been so busy cooking and baking! It seems that I have become semi-famous for my homemade Rye Bread, Cinnamon Rolls, Chex Mix, Bean dip, and many other foods that are just not made here. Actually, making your own recipes means eating healthier and I'm having much fun trying new dishes that I never had time to make before.

Our monthly fundraising cooking/baking classes to benefit the local privately owned Dog Refuge (Refugio del Mejor Amigo) have also been a huge success. Guests have learned how to make Potato Leek Soup, Onion Mushroom Foccacia, Sausage Lentil Soup, Bean Dip, Chex Mix, Rye Bread, Tiramisu, Cinnamon spice Nuts, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, & Christmas Tree Bread.

Here's pictures of some of the volunteers at the Dog Refuge getting the pooches ready for their pictures:

Here's my recipe for Rye Bread, just like New York Style Deli Rye:

Deli Rye Caraway seed bread
Makes one 1 3/4-pound round loaf
3/4 cup (4 ounces, 117 grams) bread flour
3/4 cup (3.3 ounces, 95 grams) rye flour
1/2 teaspoon (1.6 grams) instant yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons (0.6 ounces, 18.7 grams) sugar
1/2 tablespoon (4.6 grams) malt powder (or barley malt syrup or honey (10.5 grams), or sugar (6.2 grams))
1 1/2 cups (12.5 ounces, 354 grams) water, at room temperature
Flour Mixture
2 1/4 cups (12.5 ounces, 351 grams) bread flour
1/2 plus 1/8 teaspoon (2 grams) instant yeast
2 tablespoons (0.5 ounces, 14 grams) caraway seeds (you can grind these if you want to avoid the crunch)
1/2 tablespoon (0.3 ounces, 10.5 grams) coarse salt
Dough and Baking
1/2 tablespoon (0.25 ounces, 6.7 grams) vegetable oil
about 2 teaspoons (about 0.5 ounces, 16 grams) cornmeal for sprinkling

--Make the sponge: Combine sponge ingredients in a large or mixer bowl and whisk until very smooth, to intentionally incorporate air — this will yield a thick batter. Set it aside.
--Make the flour mixture and cover the sponge: In a separate large bowl, whisk together the flour mixture and gently scoop it over the sponge to cover it completely. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and allow it to ferment for 1 to 4 hours at room temperature. (The sponge will bubble through the flour mixture in places.)
--Mix the dough [Either with a mixer] Add the oil and mix with the dough hook on low speed for about 1 minute, until the flour is moistened enough to form a rough dough. then raise the speed to medium and mix it for 10 minutes. The dough should be very smooth and elastic, and it should jump back when pressed with a fingertip; if it is sticky, turn it out on a counter and knead in a little extra flour.
--Let the dough rise: Place the dough in a large container or bowl, lightly oiled. Oil the top of the dough as well. Allow the dough to rise until doubled, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Flip the bowl over and let the dough fall out on to a lightly floured counter, press it down gently, fold or form it back into a square-ish ball and allow it to rise a second time, back in the (re-oiled) bowl covered with plastic wrap for about 45 minutes.
--Shape it and wait out the final rise: Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and gently press it down again. Round it into a ball and set it on a cornmeal sprinkled baking sheet. Cover it with oiled plastic wrap and let it rise until almost doubled, about 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes. [Skim ahead to preheating your oven, which you should do soon.] When it is gently press with a fingertip, the depression will very slowly fill in.
--Preheat the oven: Preheat the oven to 450°F as early as you can tolerate. (Beranbaum suggests an hour, I do 30 minutes but I know others don’t like to feel like they’re wasting heat. But, you want your oven blazing hot to get the best crust.) On a shelf at the lowest level, place a baking sheet or bread stone. [If you want to get fancy and bread-oven like: Place a cast-iron skillet or sheet pan on the floor of the oven to preheat.]
--Slash and bake the bread: With a sharp knife or singled-edged razor blade, make 1/4- to 1/2-inch-deep slashes in the top of the dough. Mist the dough with water and quickly but gently set the baking sheet on the hot stone or hot baking sheet. [If you’ve decided to get fancy and bread oven-like: Toss 1/2 cup of ice cubes into the pan beneath and immediately shut the door.] Bake for 15 minutes, lower the temperature to 400°F and continue baking for 30 to 40 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean (or a thermometer inserted into the center reads 190°F; I prefer this method because you’ve done much too much work to possibly end up with an under- or over-baked loaf of bread).

--Cool the bread on a wire rack.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas 2012!

Oh my goodness. It's been over a year since I posted anything and that must mean that I have been much too busy. This will be the last Christmas in this house with my most wonderful kitchen!

I've had a request for my wonderful famous fudge recipe. The secret is to use extremely good chocolate and dark brown sugar. Valrhona is one of the better ones. This is not a fat free or low calorie Christmas goodie, but a really rich, sweet fudge.  This recipe makes a big hunk of fudge and a small bite is all you really want. ..or need. I made this a few days ago and am now eating a bite here and there while I cut the slices of fudge to put in my Christmas goodie tins.

Today I'm planning on making Media Lunas, Argentinian chocolate filled croissants. I'll be sure to take pictures and post the process.

Sarah's Famous Brown Sugar Chocolate Fudge


12 ounces bittersweet (not semi- or unsweetened) coarsely chopped
1  7-ounce jar marshmallow cream
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (not imitation)

2 cups packed Dark brown sugar (not light)
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk (not fat free)
3/4 cup whipping cream
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick)
1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts

To make:

1) Line an 11x7 inch metal baking pan with either foil or parchment paper, overlapping the sides by a few inches.
2) Combine the first 3 listed ingredients (chocolates, marshmallow) in a heat proof bowl or large saucepan. Just dump them in.
3) In a heavy medium saucepan, combine the next 5 ingredients (sugar, milk, cream, butter and salt) over medium low heat until sugar dissolves, about 10 minutes. (if you rub a bit of the mixture between your fingers it should be smooth, no granules. Scrape the sides of the pan as you are stirring with a heat proof spatula. Attach a clip on candy thermometer to pan and increase the heat to medium high and bring to a boil, stirring constantly but slowly with a wooden spatula (preferable flat edged on the bottom to keep the mix moving on the bottom of the pan) until thermometer reaches 230 degrees F, about 10 to 15 minutes.
4) immediately pour hot mixture over the chocolates and marshmallow and stir vigorously to melt chocolates. Just before completely mixed, add vanilla (and nuts, if desired, I prefer without nuts, but that's just me!) and continue stirring vigorously with wooden spoon until fudge thickens slightly, about 1 minute. Pour into prepared pan and smooth with a rubber spatula. At this point, either sprinkle nuts or the chocolate chips onto top of the fudge, or both if you wish! and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

My favorite part of Thanksgiving is eating the pumpkin pie. I like turkey, ham, stuffing and potatoes, but it's all just "filler" until we get to the pumpkin pie - straight up, no ice cream or whipped cream. I let others have their pie with all that creamy accouterments, but I like mine neat, all by itself. I love the spicy flavor - it doesn't need anything else for me.

My recipe for pumpkin pie starts with the instructions on the can of Libby's pumpkin - that requires 2 eggs, a can of canned milk, a small amount of salt ....but then I add more. Much more. About three times the cinnamon (or more if I'm feeling cinnamony), at least 2 times the recommended amounts for ginger and cloves, and then I add a half teaspoon of allspice and a hefty grind from my nutmeg grinder. A spoonful of good vanilla gives the pie a nice aroma.

I substitute brown sugar for the white sugar (and if I'm dieting, I use half brown sugar and half splenda) and then I add another egg (using 3 in all) and about a 1/4 cup of half n half (if dieting, omit the cream and use fat free canned milk and 4 egg whites) .

I also like to gussy up the crust - using festive autumn pie crust cutters. Because I use more egg and more liquid, the pie pan I use is a bit larger than the usual smallish metal pie pan. I think it's supposed to be used for an apple pie but I rarely make that...I'm a pumpkin pie person. This is not a pie for those people faint of tongue...don't try this unless you like spicy sweet things.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Final delivery! lots of okra...which I still haven't come to "love" yet.

I may try roasted okra slices. Tossed in olive oil, salt, pepper, then roasted til crunchy. OR batter fried.

I'm told that okra is very healthy for you..but I miss the lovely burpless cukes, the crunchy yardlong beans, the honeydew, cantelopes and tomatoes that were part of the delivery during the early summer season.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Tomorrow will be my last "summer" organic vegetable delivery. I have not yet decided if I will sign up for the winter deliveries as the vegetable list includes a lot of things that I am not really fond of. Or as my mother would say "I'm not fussy about those". Okra, Kale, turnip greens, to name a few.

Maybe I should broaden my horizons? Any suggestions?

Here's a link to the winter delivery description:

Scott Arbor Farms

Enjoy the fall weather!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Pear & dried Cherry sweet gallette

One of my favorite fall desserts to make is this recipe for a pear and dried cherry gallette, particularly now when the pears are filling the produce aisles and you can choose from many different types of pears. This pastry recipe works nicely with ripe juicy pears that give off a lot of gooey juice, as the dried cherries soak up quite a bit of the flavorful juice. This gallette recipe is actually quite easy to make. Sometimes, you may thing that it is not forming up exactly as you wish it to do (like it did for me today) but don't be afraid -- it always turns out fine, and you can't mess it up. Even if it looks a bit messy, it always tastes delicious.

Sweet pastry dough:

2 cups flour (use a soft flour, but not cake flour)
1/2 c butter (1 stick), cold but cut into about 8 chunks
1/2 c confectioner's (powdered) sugar
1 egg

To mix: 

Using a Cuisinart with the knife blade attachment, pulse the flour and butter for a minute until the mix resembles coarse crumbs. (Alternately, you can cut in the butter and the flour with either 2 knives or with a pastry cutter).  Add the powdered sugar and pulse once or twice. Add the egg and pulse until just mixed, do not overmix. You will have what looks like crumbs.  Pour the crumbs into a bowl and knead a few times with your hands until you can form a ball. Flatten the ball into a round disc. Today I tried to make 3 smallish gallettes, so I made 3 smaller discs. Hint: it's easier to make this with only 1 disc, 1 pear gallette. I'm not sure why!! Wrap the disc (s) in plastic and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes or so.

Pear & Dried Cherry filling:

4 large firm but ripe pears, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 cup dried cherries
1 Tbls cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Toss the pears and the next 5 ingredients in a bowl until well mixed. Let stand for 1 hour.

Have ready:

3 Tbls butter, softened
1 egg, beaten with:
2 Tbls water

1 Tbls sugar

Preheat the oven to 375F. Roll the pastry into a 12 inch circle on a floured piece of parchment paper. Trim the edges to be smooth and regular. Try to make sure that the disc of dough is of a uniform consistency.  Spread 2 T of the soft butter onto the dough and spread in an 8 inch circle in the center of the disc. Spoon the pears and cherries in the center of the 8 inch circle, reserving the juices. (Or, if you made 3 small ones, roll each dough disc out to be a 6 inch circle, spread the butter on the inner 3 -4 inches, spread 1/3 of the pears/cherries onto each circle.) Fold the edge of the pastry up partially over the edge of the pear filling; pleating the pastry carefully. Try not to crack the pastry, particularly at the bottom of the gallette so that the juices will not leak out. Slide the pastry carefully (which is still on the parchment paper) onto a cookie sheet.  Once you've carefully moved the pastry to the cookie sheet pour the reserved juices in the middle and top with the remaining 1 Tbls of butter.

Whisk the egg and the water in a small bowl. Carefully brush the exposed pastry with the egg wash, and sprinkle the washed pastry with 1 Tbls sugar on the edges.

Bake in the center of the oven for 40 to 50 minutes until pastry is golden brown and juices are bubbly. Don't worry if the juices leak out, I've never been able to make one with no leaked juices, but they still taste great! You can see from my picture that they didn't turn out as pretty as I would have liked, but they tasted great. Next time I make these, if they turn out prettier, I'll upload a better picture. You can see that I also ran out of parchment paper so I had to bake them directly on the jelly roll pan, and they did stick badly. Next time I won't forget!

Let stand to cool for 30 minutes and serve warm or cool. Warm, serve with ice cream, cold, serve with whipped cream.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Butternut Squash & Caramelized Onion Gallette

Butternut squash has been very plentiful lately, but recently I have become very tired of the usual: butternut squash soup, roasted butternut squash, or squash casserole. Yummy, all, but I was bored with the tried and true.

Happily, I found a recipe for a "Butternut Squash & Carmelized Onion Gallette" on a foodie site:

With squash on the counter and few ideas, I decided to try the recipe. The pictures on the site of the dish weren't terribly inspiring but I thought, I'll give it a go.

It was delicious and very tasty, but I thought that I could make the recipe simpler and also make the gallette much prettier than the one on the site. See my finished product, above.

NOTES: you can use more or less squash, depending on what you have, but when I made the recipe once with only 1 medium sized squash, it wasn't as good as when I used 2 medium squash. Also, don't forget the sugar, I did, once, and it really made a difference!

Here's  my recipe:

Butternut Squash and Carmelized Onion Gallette:


For crust:
1 1/4 cups flour (I used unbleached whole wheat pastry flour, but any wheat flour will do)
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick (8 Tbs) very cold butter, cut into chunks
1/4 cup ice water (put an ice cube in a 1 cup liquid measuring cup, then fill with cold water up to 1/4/cup)
1/4 cup light sour cream
2 tsp fresh lemon juice (cut a lemon in half, dump the seeds and squeeze a teaspoon from each half)

For Filling:
1 large butternut squash OR 2 small butternut squash, peeled (I used a veggie peeler), seeded and cut into small, 1/2 inch chunks
2 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp salt

One very large white or yellow sweet onion (cut in half, then sliced very thin into half moon slices. The thinner the better)
2 Tbs butter (not margarine)
1/8 tsp sugar

2 tsps fresh sage, chopped fine
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

3/4 cup baby swiss cheese (or fontina, or your favorite melting but strong cheese), cut into very small chunks or grated.

1)  Mix pastry crust:  Mix sour cream and lemon juice into the cold water, stir until no lumps of cream appear. Place flour, salt and butter chunks into a cuisineart with the sharp blade in the bowl. Pulse until the butter is incorporated and the flour is crumbly. (If you don't have a cuisineart, cut the butter into the flour/salt mix with a pastry cutter or 2 knives until crumbly). Pour the liquid into the cuisineart and pulse until all flour is wet, but DO NOT overmix. (By hand, pour liquid into a well in the center of the flour, mix with a fork making sure that all flour is wet, but don't over mix). Place in a plastic bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.

2) a: Make squash filling: Preheat oven to 375F.  Mix squash chunks with the olive oil to coat, sprinkle on the 1 tsp salt. Line a flat pan or sheet with either foil or parchment paper, and layer the chunks in one layer on the pan. Roast in oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until fork tender but not too soft. Roast longer with bigger chunks, less time with smaller chunks.

2) b: Caramelize the Onions: Melt 2 Tbs butter in a medium frying pan, then add the onions. Over medium heat, cook the onions, stirring often, until they are nicely browned and caramelized. Add sugar, cayenne pepper and sage. Leave onions in frying pan but remove from heat.

3) When squash is done, remove from oven and dump the squash into the unheated frying pan with the onions and spices. Stir to mix the onions carefully with the squash. Add the cheese and mix to incorporate all the items evenly. ( I prefer to sprinkle the cheese onto the top of the mound of squash before making the dough border, then the cheese melts down into the squash).

4) Form pastry crust:  Place the cold pastry dough on a well floured very flat surface, turn to coat well with flour, and form with your hands into a round flat disc, about 5 inched wide and 1 inch in depth.  Roll dough into a uniformly flat 12 inch circle. Try to make sure that your edges are not too flat, roll from center out and don't press too hard as your rolling pin gets to the edges. Turn dough over at least once as you roll, and continue dusting with flour so it doesn't stick to the rolling pin or surface.  Dough will snap back a bit, so if you make an edge too thin or raggedy, push the edge in towards the center with your fingers and lightly roll over the edge to make uniform. 

5) Preheat oven to 400F.  Place a piece of parchment paper about 12 inches square on a flat cookie sheet.  Fold dough in half, then in half again (triangle shaped) and carefully place on the parchment paper, placing the point of the folded dough exactly in the center of the paper. Unfold the dough carefully, stretching if needed to make a good circle.

6) Mound the onion/squash mix into the center of the circle of dough, leaving 1 to 2 inches of dough uncovered. Fold the dough up and around the edges of the squash filling, making a border of dough around an open interior of squash. Pleate the dough carefully over the sides of the squash mound to make the dough border. Hint: if you have thin edges, fold the thin edges into a thicker pleat and leave the thicker edges unpleated or loosely pleated.

 Here's what it should look like before baking, below:

7) Bake @ 400F 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from sheet onto a plate. To serve, cut in wedges. Can be either reheated in a hot oven (10 minutes) or microwaved later. Enjoy!