Fig Preserves

The beginning of my yummy Fig Preserves.
The beginning of my yummy Fig Preserves.

 

This batch is made from whole figs. Beautiful and jewel-like when they cook down and get transparent.
This batch is made from whole figs. Beautiful and jewel-like when they cook down and get transparent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fig Preserves

Yield: about 10 cups preserves

8 cups chopped figs

8 cups sugar

½ cup water or fresh lemon juice

half a lemon, thinly sliced

 

  1. Place figs, sugar, water, and lemon slices in a Dutch oven or other large pot and stir to combine. Place over medium heat and cook carefully until mixture begins to simmer, stirring every so often. Turn heat to low and cook, stirring very often, until figs are translucent, and syrup is thick. This will take 2 – 6 hours.* As mixture thickens, be sure to stir and scrape down the sides of the pan often to keep mixture from settling to the bottom and burning.
  2. Fill hot, sterilized jars with boiling figs and syrup to within ½ inch of the top. Wipe sealing edge clean and put on lids and rings. Tighten rings just to “finger tight” or just to snug. Process in boiling water bath for 12 minutes.

 

*I like to cook my fig preserves until they are very thick, up to 6 hours. You might like yours thinner. Sometimes I pick the figs, cut them up, and start the cooking process – maybe an hour or more of cooking. Then if I get busy, I take them off the fire, cover the pot, and just leave it on the counter overnight. The next morning I continue the cooking process, until they are really good and thick.

I also like to make some of my preserves “caramelized.” For this, I simply cook the fig mixture until it is dark and almost gooey. Just be very careful not to burn them – keep the fire very low and stir often.

Fig Preserves, sitting in my kitchen window.
Fig Preserves, sitting in my kitchen window.

Curried Chicken and Rice Salad

CurriedChickenandRiceSalad_aug08Curried Chicken and Rice Salad

Yield: 6 servings

Salad:

3 cups cooked rice, chilled (1 cup rice cooked in 2 cups water)

4 chicken breasts, poached, chilled and diced

1 green bell pepper, slivered

1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled and chopped or

1, 2-ounce jar chopped pimentos

3 – 4 green onions, finely sliced

¼  cup minced fresh parsley

¼ cup golden raisins

Curried Dressing:

½ cup red wine vinegar

Juice of 1 large lemon, about ¼ cup

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

1 tablespoon sugar

½ teaspoon curry powder

1 teaspoon salt or to taste

½ teaspoon pepper or to taste

¾ cup olive oil

1. In a large bowl, toss together cooked rice, chicken, green bell pepper, red bell pepper, green onions, parsley and raisins. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, ginger, sugar, curry powder, salt and pepper. While whisking, slowly add olive oil. Pour dressing over salad ingredients and toss well. Serve room temperature or refrigerate until cold.

Log Cake (Bûche de Nőel)

Log cake 2

Log Cake (Bûche de Nőel)

Yield: serves up to 15 guests

Children will love decorating this festive log cake. It’s sure to become a cherished tradition in your home.

4 whole eggs

1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup water or coffee

1 small package instant chocolate pudding mix

1 boxed chocolate cake mix

2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, melted

1 recipe Chocolate Frosting (recipe follows)

Candies or rolled fondant (available at craft stores) for decorating

Powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour 3, 1-pound coffee cans.

2. In a mixer bowl, beat together eggs, sour cream, vegetable oil, and water. Add pudding mix and cake mix and beat 1 minute, scraping the bowl as needed. With mixer running, slowly pour in melted chocolate; beat 1 minute longer.

3. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans and bake 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center.

4. Let cakes cool 30 minutes in the pans. To loosen cakes from cans, run a long thin knife between the cake and the can. Then carefully dump out the cakes. Cool cakes completely before decorating.

5. Place two of the cakes together on a platter, “glueing” the ends together with a little frosting to form a log. Cut remaining cake in half diagonally. Use frosting to “glue” each half to the sides of the log. Frost the entire cake, including the round ends. Use the tines of a fork to make bark-like markings on the sides and ends of the cake, giving it the look of a wooden log. Decorate with candies or fondant and dust with powdered sugar.

 

Spanish Rice

Spanish Rice

Yield: 8 servings

This is just how authentic Spanish Rice should taste! The recipe is from my friend, Chef Duane Thompson.

The “secret” ingredient is the tomato-flavored chicken bouillon. It gives the correct color and consistency to the rice. Rinsing the rice before cooking removes the sticky starch covering and keeps the rice fluffy, not gummy.

 

2 cups white rice

3 cups chicken stock

1 tomato-flavored bouillon cube (or you can use the granulated variety)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 cup chopped onion

2 – 3 teaspoons minced garlic

1 teaspoon cumin

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 tablespoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

 

  1. Place rice in sieve and rinse well with cold water. Set aside to drain.
  2. Heat chicken stock and bouillon cube, stirring until cube is dissolved.
  3. In a large skillet with lid, heat vegetable oil; sauté onion and garlic until tender. Add rice to pan and sauté until translucent. Stir in cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, and prepared chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer gently 20 minutes or until rice is tender. Uncover rice and fluff with a fork.

Apple Dumplings with Cinnamon Sauce

Apple Dumplings with Cinnamon Sauce

Yield: 6 servings

Golden, syrupy crust covers tender, cinnamony apples. More comfort food!

Filling

6 tablespoons butter, softened

2 cups white or brown sugar, divided use

½ cup chopped pecans

½ cup raisins

3 tablespoons cinnamon, divided use

Pie Crust

2 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup butter, chilled

6 tablespoons ice water

Apples:

6 medium baking apples, cored but not peeled

1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water to form an egg glaze

½ cup water

Directions

  1. Spray 2-quart baking dish with nonstick coating. In mixing bowl, stir together butter, 1 cup of the sugar, pecans, raisins and 2 tablespoons of the cinnamon. Set aside.
  2. Make pastry: Whisk flour and salt together in a medium bowl. Use a pastry blender to cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle 2 to 3 tablespoons water over mixture, toss with a fork to moisten, adding more water, a few drops at a time, until dough comes together. Gather dough together and press into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill at least 30 minutes.*
  3. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Divide dough into 6 pieces. Roll out one piece, large enough to cover one apple. Place apple in center of pastry and fill center of apple with one-sixth of the butter-sugar mixture. Fold up pastry to cover apple and pinch edges together to seal. Repeat with remaining pastry, apples and sugar mixture. Place apples in prepared baking dish and brush with egg glaze. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.
  4. While apples bake, make the sauce: Place remaining 1 cup sugar, remaining 1 tablespoon cinnamon and the ½ cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer 5 minutes. Pour sauce over baked apples just before serving.

*Freeze ahead: Form apple dumplings and place in baking dish. Wrap with 2 layers plastic wrap and one layer foil. Freeze up to 1 month. Defrost, preheat oven to 350°F. Bake as above and continue with step #3. 

Bread Pudding

317266582a889ef789257c038c572541c1437a51Bread Pudding

Yield: 6 servings

8 cups stale French bread, broken into small pieces

2 cups milk

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

5 tablespoons butter, melted

3 eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup shredded coconut

1. Preheat oven to 350º. Spray a 2-quart baking dish with vegetable oil.

2. Place bread in a large bowl and pour milk over it. Stir several minutes until all bread is soaked. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.

3. Pour into prepared baking dish and bake 1 hour or until middle is set and top is golden brown. Serve with Butter Sauce.

Butter Sauce:

1/4 cup butter

3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted

1 egg yolk

1/4 cup cream

1. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add sugar and whisk until all butter is absorbed; remove from heat. Beat egg yolk into cream. Whisk egg yolk mixture into butter mixture, beating until smooth.

2. Heat and stir over low heat until hot. Pour over individual servings of warm bread pudding.

Warm Cherry Tomato Salad

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Warm Cherry Tomato Salad

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Wonderful served warm or cold.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
2 pints cherry tomatoes, rinsed and stems removed
6 green onions, sliced on an angle, or ½ cup finely chopped onion
2s red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper
½ cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

  1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and garlic and cook 2 minutes.
  2. Add tomatoes and green onions; cook until tomato skins begin to burst. Add vinegar, salt, and pepper; stir a few times and remove from heat.
  3. Add parsley and toss to mix well.

Five Cup Fruit Salad

4c391cc83fafcb1d6a3a6e1e9470feac3fada179Five Cup Fruit Salad

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

So easy. Keep this ingredient list in your head so you can grab the items quickly in the grocery store.

 

1 cup shredded coconut

1 cup mini marshmallows

1, 8-ounce can pineapple tidbits, drained

1, 8-ounce can mandarin oranges, drained

1 cup sour cream

  1. In a large bowl, combine coconut, marshmallows, pineapple tidbits, and mandarin oranges. Gently stir in sour cream.
  2. Refrigerate several hours.

Pull Apart Cinnamon Monkey Bread

Pull Apart Cinnamon Monkey Bread
Pull Apart Cinnamon Monkey Bread

Gooey Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread

Yield: 12 to 16 servings

3, 10-ounce cans flaky refrigerated biscuits (such as Hungry Jack)

2 sticks butter

1 ½ cups brown sugar

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 cup chopped pecan

1-Preheat oven to 300º.

2-Remove biscuits from cans and cut into quarters.* In a saucepan, heat butter, brown sugar and cinnamon until  butter is melted. Place half the biscuits in the bottom of a tube pan or bundt pan. Top with half the melted butter mixture. Repeat layers.

3-Bake 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit 5 minutes before turning out onto a serving plate.

*Cutting the biscuits into quarters is easy if you take a third of the roll at a time, lay it on its side and use a serrated knife to slice first in half and then slice each half in half.

One secret of having a very moist and gooey cake is to not over bake. Be sure to take this cake out of the oven after just 45 minutes!

 

Basket Weave Cake

Basket Weave Cake
Basket Weave Cake

Basket Cakes are a fun mix of delicious cake and colorful centerpiece. The top of the cake can be “filled” with chocolate bunnies and Easter candies, or fresh flowers. The cake shown here is a 10-inch round, baked in two Wilton cake pans that measure 1 ½ inches high. Each pan holds one whole cake recipe or one whole cake mix.  This gives a nice, high cake so the basket weave has room to show and the cake doesn’t look “squatty.” Basket weave can also be done on a square cake.

Remember that your basket weave doesn’t need to be perfect. We’re after a hand-made, artistic look – not a plastic, machine-made look. Your basket cake is an expression of your love and joy and your family and friends will get a kick out of it even if it’s lopsided or the weaving isn’t connected. Besides, you can always say you are “just learning!”

Here are the instructions.

Bake a two-layer cake. Level the top of each layer by using a long serrated knife to cut off the rounded top of the layers. This will give your finished cake a neat, flat top.

Frost the top of one layer and top with the second layer. Frost the cake completely. This layer of frosting doesn’t need to be thick or perfect. The weaving will cover this layer.

You’ll need a pastry bag and a basket weave tip. I like to use a 10” or 12” bag. The basket weave tip comes in several sizes. One is Wilton’s #45. This tip fits inside a standard coupler. I like to use the Wilton #2B, which is much wider. It is too large for a coupler, so I place it directly into the bag without using a coupler.

Fill the pastry bag with frosting and follow the illustration at the right.

 Closeup of basket weave technique
Closeup of basket weave technique

Starting at the top of the cake, make one vertical line (keep the serrated side of the tip facing up) down the side of the cake. Then pipe several horizontal lines across the vertical line (extending about 1 inch past the vertical line), leaving space between each line the same width as the tip you are using.

Pipe a second vertical line, just covering the ends of the horizontal lines. Again, pipe horizontal lines, crossing over the vertical line and extending about 1 inch past it. This is the beginning of the basket weave look.

Continue the vertical and horizontal lines around the sides of the cake. When you get completely around the cake, it may not finish up evenly to make the one last proper weave. Don’t worry about this. You can cover up this imperfection with ivy leaves – it will be the back or side of your cake. Here is a photo of the back of my cake where it didn’t end up evenly. It’s disguised with ivy.

If there are other uneven line connections around the cake, you can cover them with ivy leaves, flowers, or candy – if you desire. But remember that this is a hand-crafted basket.

Use a wire hanger to make a handle. Cut off the hook and bend the remaining wire into a handle shape. Cover with florist tape (available at craft stores). Cover the handle with long pieces of fresh ivy or other non-poisonous vines. If you use something that can’t be wound around the wire, you can use florist wire to wire it in place.