Thursday, September 27, 2018

Roasted Pear Cheesecake



This cheesecake ticks a lot of boxes - easy to make, looks great, and tastes delicious. It's adapted from a couple of recipes I found in a number of places. 

Roasted Pear Cheesecake

Crust:
There's a cookie available in stores here called Anna's Ginger Cookies. They are thin, spicy, and crisp and shaped like flowers. I used one package of them for this recipe. 

I saved enough whole cookies to go around the edge of a 9 inch springform pan. The remainder of the cookies I crushed and added some melted butter to help them hold together. Then I placed the whole cookies around the edge of the pan, sinking the bottoms into the crumb crust to help them stay in place.

A graham cracker crust would be just fine, but the gingersnaps added a welcome bit of spice.

Filling:
2 - 8 oz packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup real maple syrup
1 cup whipping cream, whipped with 3 Tablespoons of icing sugar

Beat together the cream cheese and maple syrup until creamy. Fold in 1/4 of the whipped cream, then gently fold in the remainder. 
Pour onto the crumb crust. Refrigerate.

Pear Topping:
Choose 2-3 pears that are firm, but ripe. Quarter each pear lengthwise and gently remove the core. Try to make the pieces as uniform as possible. Cut each quarter into half, creating eighths. 

Place pear slices on a parchment lined baking sheet and brush with real maple syrup. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, or until pears are almost tender. Turn over and brush with more maple syrup. Bake another 5-10 minutes until golden and tender. Let cool on parchment. 

Place pears on chilled cheesecake to serve. 

Two Soups



I do love soup and know of few people who don't! Yes, soup dislik-ers actually exist! I've been roasting vegetables for soups this month - it's an easy way to add flavour. 

The first soup is a Roasted Cauliflower Pear Soup. Making soup is an easy-going method of cooking and I never measure or follow recipes exactingly. Hence the rather loose recipe. 


To make Roasted Cauliflower Pear Soup, I cut up about 1/2 to 3/4 of a head of cauliflower, chopped an onion, peeled a couple of garlic cloves and tossed everything together on a baking sheet. Drizzle some olive oil over top - a tablespoon or two and mix with your hands. 

The pear was a last minute addition - a couple of Bartletts were ripening fast on the counter top and so I quartered and cored them (the peel remained), and threw them onto the baking sheet. Add a good sprinkle of salt. Roast at 420 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and beginning to caramelize. 

Place all the vegetables into a suitably sized pot and add 3-4 cups of chicken stock. Bring to a boil and simmer for a few minutes, then use an immersion blender to create a smooth texture. Taste, add seasonings as desired, and perhaps a couple of tablespoons of cream to smooth out the flavour. 

This soup is delicious with a hint of sweetness from the pears. I served the soup with a bit of crumbled blue cheese on top. Creamy. 



The second soup is a Roasted Tomato Soup. It's best made with sweet home-grown tomatoes of any size - as you can see there are tiny cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes and full-size tomatoes on the baking sheet. 

Cut the tomatoes in half - a baking sheet covered with tomato halves makes enough soup for 4-6 servings. Chop an onion and sprinkle it over top, and some garlic, too. Oregano is still doing well in the garden, so I added some fresh leaves, but dried works just as well. 

Drizzle a generous amount of olive oil over top - 3-4 tablespoons, and season the tomatoes with salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast at 350 degrees for 1-2 hours. As you can see from the photo, the edges are quite caramelized. The house will fill with wonderful fragrance, and you'll be tempted to eat those caramelized tomatoes straight from the pan. Resist.


Once the vegetables are roasted, put them into a pot and add 3-4 cups of chicken stock. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes or so, then use an immersion blender to smooth it all out. This is a rustic soup, with lots of texture. If you want a really smooth soup, you'll have to strain it.

Taste for seasoning. If the soup is too thick, add some water or broth and simmer for a bit longer. A bit of cream added at the end finishes this soup well, as does a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. 

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Ginger Snaps



These are one of my favourite cookies. I like them crisp and snappy, with a good ginger flavour. These meet my criteria. They last well in an airtight container on the counter, and they also freeze well. 

I used to make these before going on vacation. The ginger seemed to help with motion sickness, something all 3 of our children suffered from on the winding, twisty roads we used to drive. I still like to make them for traveling, even though it's just the two of us now. 

Ginger Snaps

2 cups flour
1 Tablespoon ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
sugar for rolling the cookies

Mix the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar, then add the egg and molasses. Add the dry ingredients and mix well.

Form into small balls and roll in sugar. Bake on a lined baking sheet for 12 to 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool on rack.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Baked Eggs with Proscuitto, Brie and Truffle Oil



Sleep in. Take it easy. Make a special breakfast. Ah, so lovely Saturday mornings.

I found this recipe in the newspaper (Times Colonist) and adapted it a little. It's easy to put together and while it bakes, cut up some fruit, make coffee or tea, and set the table properly.


Here's the recipe:

Baked Eggs with Prosciutto, Brie and Truffle oil (for 2)

4 slices prosciutto
4 slices Brie cheese (cut from a 4 oz wheel)
4 large eggs (I used 3, because I only wanted 1 egg)
1/4 cup shredded white Cheddar or Gouda cheese
4 Tablespoons cream
1 teaspoon white truffle oil

Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
Line 2 ramekins or individual oven-proof dishes with prosciutto.
Place Brie on top of prosciutto. Crack eggs and nestle alongside the Brie. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the eggs. Whisk together the cream and truffle oil and pour gently over the eggs, ensuring that the yolks are coated. 

Put the baking dishes into a larger pan and pour about 1/4-1/2 inch of boiling water around the dishes. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until eggs are done to your liking.

Sprinkle with parsley, and/or a good twist of freshly ground black pepper.

Enjoy with toast, croissants, and fruit. 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Chinese Meatballs




My mother loves trying out new recipes. This is one that she first made when I was about 13. I can envision the kitchen it was prepared in. We were living in a rented duplex, shortly after moving to Prince George, before purchasing a home. The meatballs and vegetables, with a hint of sweetness, were served over rice. It was a big hit with the whole family, and became a tried and true dish. 

There's a bit of a joke with this recipe now. My mom used get us children to help roll the meatballs, as she often made more than one recipe. She liked the meatballs to be small, and would check on the progress my sister and I were making. "Too big," she would say, and we would pinch off little bits and make them smaller. I think of those days every time I make the recipe. So I was shocked when I was at my parents' house a couple of years ago and Mom had made meatballs that were NOT as small as they used to be! Whatever size, they are delicious.

I don't know that there's much Chinese about this recipe, except that it seems any recipe with soy sauce is labeled as such. This is not a sweet and sour recipe, but rather a meat and vegetable dish with a hint of sweetness and oriental flavour. 

Chinese Meatballs (and Vegetables), slightly adapted from the original

Meatballs

1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork (or use all beef)
5 medium-sized white mushrooms, cleaned and finely chopped - I'm going to guess about 1/2-3/4 cup
1/4 cup finely minced onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 Tablespoons soy sauce
1/4-1/2 teaspoon sesame oil (optional)
2 Tablespoons cornstarch

Mix the ingredients thoroughly. Form into small balls (less than 1 inch) and fry until cooked through. Remove from pan.

Vegetables and Sauce

1-2 sweet red bell peppers, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 cups thinly sliced carrots
1 tin pineapple chunks, drained, save the juice
1 or 2 chopped fresh tomatoes
1 Tablespoon oil

2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup cold water
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup reserved pineapple juice

Heat the oil in a skillet. Use the same pan that was used for the meatballs, providing there are no burned bits. Add the peppers and carrots, stir fry for 5-8 minutes or until tender crisp. Add the pineapple, and meatballs.

Stir together the cornstarch, water, soy sauce and pineapple juice. Add to skillet and stir until slightly thickened. Stir in tomatoes and cook about 10 minutes. 

Serve over rice.  



Monday, November 20, 2017

Stuffed Mushrooms



There is no end to what might be used to stuff a mushroom. These are simple: onions, garlic, cheese, mushroom stems, and seasonings. No bread crumbs are used, making them great for low-carb or gluten-free diets. 

They are delicious as a side dish and also as appetizers. They can be frozen and reheated, making them great for doing ahead. Since everything is cooked before assembling, they can sit in the fridge for a day before baking, if you don't want to freeze them. 

The recipe is very forgiving on amounts; use your judgement. 

Stuffed Mushrooms

12 medium-sized white mushrooms, cleaned
1 small white onion, finely minced
1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 cup finely shredded cheese - I like Swiss or Gouda
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 tsp dried)
1 teaspoon minced parsley
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil 

1. Remove the stems from the mushroom caps. Reserve. Lightly oil the tops of the caps. Place top-side down in a baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. 

2. Meanwhile, mince the mushroom stems. Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a skillet and saute the mushroom stems, onion and garlic until tender and fragrant, about 5-10 minutes. Turn up the heat towards the end to brown a little.

3. The mushroom caps will have collected some water in them as they cool. Gently pour the mushroom liquid into the onion mixture and stir. Add thyme, salt and pepper. Let cool.

4. Add the finely grated cheese to the cooled onion mixture. Fill the caps. Press the mixture in. There may be some stuffing remaining. 

5. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until hot. Serve immediately or freeze for later. 

Empanadas (Beef Turnovers)




Empanadas are popular throughout Latin and South America. When we lived in Ecuador, a favourite treat was a crisply fried fresh cheese empanada purchased from a woman creating them on the street. Because they were fried in hot oil, they were safe to eat. 

There are many varieties of empanadas, which literally means "wrapped or coated in bread." Cheese, onions, fruit, meat - almost anything can be used. 

These particular empanadas give a nod to Argentina with their beef filling. They are small, and baked, not fried. I use a cream cheese pastry that is easy to handle, but any pastry will work. 

Pastry:

8 oz (250 g) cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (125 ml) butter, softened
1 1/2 cups (375 ml) all-purpose flour

1. Beat together cream cheese and butter.
2. Mix in flour until dough forms. 
3. Form into 2 flat disks, wrap well (I use waxed paper and then slip them into a plastic bag), and chill for 1 hour. 

Note: I use my food processor for this recipe and it comes together in a flash. 

Filling:

1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 Tablespoons minced onion
1/2 pound ground beef

1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes, well drained
2 Tablespoons chopped raisins
2 Tablespoons chopped green olives
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 hard-boiled egg, chopped

1 egg, slightly beaten
2 Tablespoons (or so) sesame seeds

1. Heat oil in skillet (medium high heat), add ground beef and onion. Scramble fry until browned. It's important to break apart any clumps - the mixture should be quite fine.

2. Stir in the tomatoes, raisins, olives, Worcestershire sauce, salt and oregano. Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring often. Taste a bit and adjust seasonings. I like to add a bit of pepper, and usually, more salt and oregano. There should be a lot of flavour. Cool to room temperature.

3. Stir in chopped egg. 

4. Remove pastry from fridge. I usually have to let it warm up a bit - 30 minutes or so, before rolling. Roll pastry to about 1/8 inch thickness (fairly thin) on a lightly floured surface. Cut into 3 inch rounds. 

5. To fill, I find it easiest to pick up a round in my hand, moisten one half of the edge with the beaten egg, then add 1 teaspoon or so of the filling. Fold in half, press with fingers to seal well. For an extra firm seal, you can press the edges with a fork tine. 

6. Place on parchment lined baking sheet. Cut small slits in the top - I poke twice with a fork. Brush with beaten egg; sprinkle with sesame seeds.

7. Bake at 400 degrees F for 12-15 minutes or until browned. Serve hot. Makes 3 1/2 to 4 dozen pastries. 

8. These can be frozen either before or after baking. I usually freeze them after, then heat them up in the oven just before serving. They're good served with a bit of salsa.