Sunday, October 21, 2012

Almond Graham Squares

Do you remember "Magic Cookie Bars"? If not, it's a ridiculously easy recipe from about 30 years ago that is simply layering several things in a pan, including chocolate chips, graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and sweetened condensed milk. It bakes together and forms a delicious cookie (I would scrape off the coconut because I don't like coconut.....which is why you won't find recipes featuring said  fruit* here). 

   * Some say coconut is not a fruit, but a nut. Either way, I don't like it.

Once again, I didn't take pictures of the process because I wasn't sure of how these would turn out. Lee devoured them, as well as a couple of my friends. So....I'd say the recipe is a success. 

I know you can buy a box of graham cracker crumbs - and feel free to do that if you are reeeeeeally in a hurry. But frankly, my dear, I think they don't taste as good as when you make them from scratch. They are SO easy to make. Just put graham crackers into a food processor and whirl away. I mean.....come on. OR....if you don't have a fancy processor,  put them in a baggie and whack away with a rolling pin.    DO IT.

These are truly easy to make - there are only 4 ingredients ~  It's like MAGIC!!

1 1/2 C graham cracker crumbs
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
2 C raw, sliced almonds


1. Preheat oven to 350. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square pan with foil, then spray with cooking spray (such as Pam).

2. In a medium bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sweetened condensed milk, and salt; stir until moistened. Stir in 1 1/2 C of the almonds and spread the mixture in the prepared pan. If it seems very sticky and won't spread, use moistened fingers to gently pat into place.

3. Top with the reserved 1/2 C sliced almonds and pat them gently into the mixture.

4. Bake until golden and a toothpick comes out clean, about 35-40 minutes. Cool completely in pan. Remove form pan, peel off the foil and cut into 16 squares with a serrated knife.

Store in an airtight container.  YUM!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Rustic Fresh Peach Tart with Cornmeal Crust

Lee had a gig the other day at a "fall festival" called the Pumpkin Extravaganza, where they had a petting zoo, a few carnival rides (a blues band...natch!  ~Teresa James and the Rhythm Tramps Click here for more info on this fabulous blues band!~ ) and lots of fresh produce. Lee loves peaches and brought home a bag full. So, you know what you do when you have peaches? You make a tart! 

I felt a little adventurous so I decided to make a crust with a bit of cornmeal and added some fresh lemon zest and a tiny bit of vanilla extract to the peach mixture. The total combination was divine.

Ingredients for crust~
1 C flour (plus a little more for work surface)
1/4 C fine yellow cornmeal
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 TBL ice water (or up to 4, depending on humidity)

Ingredients for filling~
5-6 ripe peaches, pitted and cut into thick slices
1/2 C sugar
1 TBL flour
zest of 1/2 lemon
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg mixed with 1 tsp water (for egg wash)


1. In a food processor, pulse the flour, cornmeal, sugar and salt several times to mix.  Take off the lid and throw in the butter. Pulse until the mixture becomes like coarse meal with tiny lumps of butter in it, the size of peas. 

2. Add 2 TBL of ice water and then pulse again, just a few times. The mixture should look crumbly, but holds together when you squeeze it. It may take up to 2 more TBL of water, depending on the humidity, but start with two.

3. Lay a large piece of plastic wrap on your work surface, then gently dump the mixture onto the plastic. Push the dough together, and knead it GENTLY, only a few times. Then form it into a disc and wrap it up with the plastic. Put the dough in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

  Cook's note: you have two choices when baking this tart:

  a). Line a baking sheet with foil and roll the dough on parchment paper with flour. Transfer the parchment to the foil lined sheet. I've used this method many times and it works just fine.


  b). Get a SILPAT. These mats were developed in France and can take super-high temps and NOTHING sticks to them!  Here's a link:

The juices from the tart may ooze out and if your baking sheet isn't lined with something, get ready to throw it away because the juices will become melded to the sheet. Trust me on this one. 

4. Take the dough out of the fridge and let it warm slightly for about 5 minutes before rolling. Flour the parchment or silpat mat. Lightly flour the top of the dough and roll out by rolling and turning, rolling and turning (1/4 turn every time) to a 14 inch circle. Transfer the dough to the baking sheet (still on the parchment or silpat).

I took this picture before I had completely rolled out the dough. It needs to be a 14 inch circle.

5. Preheat oven to 400. In a large bowl, toss together the peaches, sugar, flour, zest and vanilla. Mound the fruit mixture in the center of the dough, leaving a 2 inc border all around. Fold the border dough over fruit in a pleated pattern (no need to be exact here!).  Brush the edges lightly, with the egg wash and sprinkle with a little more sugar.

No need to be fancy here...

Then slide the whole dang deal onto the baking sheet.

6. Bake until crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling, about 45 minutes. Transfer baking sheet to a cooling rack; let cool 20 minutes. 

Slice, serve with vanilla ice cream and ENJOY!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Multi Grain Apple Muffin Tops

It was only about a week ago that the temperature here in SoCal was in the 100's...for a couple of weeks straight.  Everyone was crying "Uncle"!  Then, (in the words of Emeril) BAM! Temps dropped, and today it poured rain, along with thunder and lightening (very unusual for us).

Right about now you're probably thinking, "I thought this was a food blog, not a weather report". However, there is a reason for my weather-blathering. When it gets chilly and/or rains, mama has to bake.

I saw this recipe on a container of Multi Grain Hot Cereal (from Trader Joes - natch!) The name of it is "Country Choice Organic Multi Grain Hot Cereal. (I'm sure you could make this with good old fashioned whole oats if you don't want to search for this particular cereal - just don't use the quick cooking kind!).

Truly delicious!

The recipe looked pretty basic and healthy. I decided to add a fresh apple to the party, and instead of regular milk, I used buttermilk. YUM YUM YUM is the result. Lee ate 2 muffin tops, which would be a total of FOUR MUFFINS. may be wondering, "what is a muffin top?". I have a "muffin top" pan, that simply bakes the "top" part of a muffin....that yummy, bake-over, flat part of a muffin that everyone rips off and eats first, when they get a muffin. You know what I'm talking about. However, you can make this recipe in regular muffin tins just as easy. a muffin top pan.

And THESE are muffin tops.

SO....if it's raining where you are and you MUST bake something, try this recipe.

Here's how you do it:

1/3 C uncooked grains or oats
2 TBS brown sugar
1 TBS butter, melted
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 C uncooked grains or oats
1 1/2 C flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 C unsweetened applesauce
1 apple cored, peeled and chopped (small pieces)
1/2 C buttermilk
1/2 C brown sugar
1/4 C vegetable oil
1 egg

1. Preheat the oven to 400. Line muffin tins with paper liners, or spray with Pam.

2. Prepare the topping by mixing the grains/oats, brown sugar and cinnamon. Add the melted butter; mix well.

3. Prepare the muffins by mixing the grains/oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon in a large bowl. Mix well. In a separate bowl, mix the applesauce, buttermilk, brown sugar, oil and egg. Mix well. Add the chopped apple to the mixture.

4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and stir gently until just combined.

5. Use an ice cream scoop for even measuring and bake for 18-20 minutes.

This recipe makes one dozen regular muffins, or 6 muffin tops.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Warm Red Lentils with Vermouth

I got a back of Red Lentils at Trader Joes the other day, and saw a recipe on the bag that was very simple and I thought I'd add my own touch to it by adding some traditional veggies - carrots, celery and onion. I also added some fresh bocconcini and  lemon juice at the end and it was SO delicious. The warmth of the lentils begins to melt the cheese and the vermouth and the lemon add an amazing brightness to the earthy lentils. Delicious!

Here's how to do it:


2 carrots, peeled and cut into small pieces
2 celery stalks, cut into small pieces
1/2 onion, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil
1 C red lentils (other lentils will work just fine too)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 TBL vermouth
1 C chicken broth
1/2 C parsley, minced
Bocconcini, quartered
Lemon (for squeezing at the end)

1. In a large skillet, heat about 3-4 TBL olive oil over medium heat. Add the carrot, celery and onion to the pan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Saute the vegetables until soft, about 8 minutes, stirring often.

2. Add lentils to the pan with the garlic. Saute, stirring, for about 2-3 minutes. Do not burn the garlic!

3. Add the vermouth and stir. Then add the broth, starting with 3/4 C and then the parsley. Stir and reduce to low. Cover and let simmer for 10 - 12 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.
     * How to tell if the lentils need more broth? Try one! If it is still a bit hard inside, add the rest of the broth. But they shouldn't be mushy. It's like pasta - the lentils should be al dente! Firm, not hard....not mushy. Hope that helps!

4. To serve, put a portion in a bowl or plate, and top with 3-4 pieces of bocconcini. Squeeze some lemon, to taste, and a bit more olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.