Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Gingerbread Spiced Caramel Popcorn

Shake up your holiday cookie exchange
By not baking cookies at all.

Be a rebel without a cookie.

This recipe begins with local popping corn from Trauger's Farm Market in Kintnersville.  Unlike its name, this mushroom variety of popcorn does not taste fungal at all.  The popped kernels resemble a mushroom, hence its name.  The popcorn is round and sturdy and really holds up to hot, gooey caramel.
A brown paper bag and a microwave = popcorn in two minutes. 
No oil.  No mess.  No patience required. 
Place the popcorn in the biggest bowl you have.
Pick out any unpopped kernels so as not to break your teeth.  This message was brought to you by the American Dental Association.
Now let's make some caramel sauce. You will need a medium saucepan.  With tall sides.  And a lid.
Place brown sugar, hot water, butter, molasses, and local honey in the pan.  This tasty local honey is courtesy Ken Erdman of Quakertown.  I purchased it at Bobwhite Acres in Coopersburg. 
Cook and stir until the butter is melted, the sugar is dissolved, and the caramel sauce is bubbly. Stir in some holiday spices like ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.  Take a good whiff.  It's beginning to smell a lot like Christmas.
Baking soda at the end will thicken the caramel sauce.   

Pour the caramel over the popcorn and stir to coat.  Place the sticky popcorn on cookie sheets and bake for 30 minutes in a 250 degree oven.
Sprinkle sea salt over the hot caramel popcorn.  Separate any clusters and let it cool. This recipe makes 12 cups of caramel coated popcorn or enough to feed a crowd of hungry carolers.

Gingerbread Spiced Caramel Popcorn
Print This Recipe!
½ cup popcorn kernels
1 ½ cups light brown sugar
2 Tablespoons hot water
¾ cup unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons molasses
¼ cup honey
1 teaspoon each ground ginger, and cinnamon
¼ teaspoon each ground cloves, and nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla
coarse sea salt to taste
  • To pop popcorn: place ¼ cup of kernels in a brown lunch back. Fold the top of the bag down 1 inch and crease. Fold the top of the bag again and crease as you would a lunch bag. Place bag, folded-side down in a microwave and cook until kernels are popped, about 2 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or silpat liners.
  • Place brown sugar and water in a medium (3 quart) deep saucepan. Stir. Add butter, molasses, and honey. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved.  Continue to cook for 5 minutes longer, covering the pot with a lid during the last 2 minutes.
  • Add the ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Stir.
  • Add baking soda and stir until no lumps remain.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
  • Place popcorn in a very large bowl. Pour caramel over the popcorn and stir to coat.
  • Spread caramel coated popcorn on cookie sheets. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with sea salt. Break up any popcorn clusters with a spoon. Let cool and dry for at least 30 minutes.

Makes 12 cups.


Friday, November 23, 2012

Cranberry Orange Soda

Think outside the box

When it comes to Thanksgiving leftovers,

And give the much overlooked cranberry sauce

An effervescent makeover

Cranberry Orange Soda
1 cup hot water
1 cup sugar
1 orange
½ cup cranberry sauce (whole berry or gelled)
1 chilled bottle of mineral water, club soda, seltzer, or sparkling cider
Make a simple syrup by cooking the water, sugar, and peel of half an orange in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes.  Let cool.  Discard the orange peel.   
Dig out the cranberry sauce from the back of the refrigerator.  You will need 1/2 cup of either the whole berry cranberry sauce or the gelled variety.
Place the cranberry sauce in a blender or food processor, along with the juice of one orange and the simple syrup.
Puree until smooth, then strain.
Unless, of course, cranberry pulp does not bother you;
Or you are the lucky owner of a Vitamix blender.
If either if these apply to you, there is no need to strain the pulp.

Add 3 tablespoons of the cranberry sauce puree to an 8 ounce glass. 

Top it off with chilled mineral water, or seltzer, or club soda.  Stir.  Sit back and enjoy your light and refreshing homemade soda.

Which is also delicious with sparkling cider. If using cider, reduce the cranberry sauce puree to 2 tablespoons.

You can also make things interesting and add some vodka to your cranberry orange soda;

But if you are like me
On the day after Thanksgiving, and

Ye recycle bin overfloweth with cork

Then best keep it rated G for everyone.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Mini Maple Pumpkin Pie With Maple Rum Whipped Cream

Mini desserts are perfect
After an over indulgent holiday meal.

Toss in some maple sugar and rum,
And simple humble pie
Transforms into a holiday-worthy dessert.

Mini Maple Pumpkin Pie With Maple Rum Whipped Cream

This is my mini cheesecake pan.  It was an impulse buy.  Surprisingly, I use it more than I thought I would. 
The cups are deeper than a mini muffin pan. Your dessert will be tall and sleek, like me in a former life, before children.  Feel free to substitute a mini muffin pan.
The holidays come with enough stress without having to roll out pie dough.  This is an easy crumb crust.  It has buttery shortbread cookies, pecans, and maple sugar.

Maple sugar is evaporated maple sap.  It looks a lot like granulated sugar after a jaunt to a tropical island.  It is delicious and maple-y, and twice as sweet as regular sugar with a slightly higher price tag.  A little goes a long way.  Use half as much maple sugar as you would granulated sugar.  A fair substitute would be light brown sugar, although you will miss out on the maple flavor.
Melted butter seals the deal.  Stir.  Press crumbs into the bottom of your pan of choice.
The pumpkin filling gets a maple boost from  Pennsylvania made Rocky Ridge Maple Syrup. This family farm also makes maple sugar, available through their online store.  You can also get both locally at The Larder in Doylestown.
The filling is a cinch.  One bowl.  One whisk.  And a quick pour into the pan:
Bake.  Cool.  Refrigerate.  Time for whipped cream.  I have been raving about the heavy whipping cream available at None Such Farm Market.  It is a luxuriously rich and thick cream with 40% milkfat.  Maple sugar and dark rum add to the illusion of sophistication.  It whips up in a quick minute.
 Enjoy!  Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Mini Maple Pumpkin Pie
With Maple Rum Whipped Cream
Print This Recipe!
For Crust
1 1/4 cups shortbread cookie crumbs
1/4 cup finely minced pecans, plus extra for garnish
2 Tablespoons maple sugar
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
For Filling
2 large eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 Tablespoons maple sugar
½ cup heavy whipping cream
½ cup maple syrup
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
For Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
4 Tablespoons maple sugar
1 Tablespoon dark rum
½ teaspoon vanilla 
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray a 12 cavity mini cheesecake pan with non-stick baking spray or use a 24 cup mini muffin pan).* 
  • Place cookies, pecans, and maple sugar in a medium bowl.  Stir.  Add melted butter and stir until crumbs are coated.  Press 1 Tablespoon cookie crumbs in the bottom of each cup.  Set aside. 
  • In a medium bowl, whisk eggs until frothy, about 30 seconds.  Add pumpkin puree, and maple sugar.  Whisk until combined.  Add whipping cream and maple syrup.  Whisk until combined.  Whisk in the cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt until incorporated.
  • Pour filling to the top of each cup. Bake for 20-22 minutes.  The top of the pies will be puffed and the middle will jiggle slightly.  Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. 
  • For whipped cream:  Chill a medium mixing bowl and beater attachments in the freezer for 20 minutes.  Place cream, sugar, rum, and vanilla in the chilled bowl. Whip until thickened.  
  • Divide the whipped cream evenly among the pumpkin pies.  Garnish with minced pecans.   
Makes 12 servings 

*If using mini muffin pans, reduce baking time to 14 minutes.  This will yield 24 mini pumpkin pies as opposed to 12.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Mulled Wine Cranberry Sauce

Thanksgiving is my holiday
As designated by the mixed bag of nuts I lovingly call family.
Not because I like to cook;
We all cook.
Or that my dining room is big enough to accommodate a crowd.
It's not.
It is because I am willing to prepare everyone's favorite dish,
No matter how diverse their tastes.
I am a food enabler.

Our Thanksgiving is not unlike a restaurant menu with three types of stuffing, whipped potatoes and baked sweet potatoes, an obscenely large roasted turkey, a pasta dish for the vegetarian entree, a Vegas style dessert buffet, a vegetable du jour, and

Two cranberry sauces.  One, a gelatinous blob from a can, for those relatives who shall remain unnamed in order to preserve their dignity;

And the other is my personal favorite:  Mulled Wine Cranberry Sauce.

It begins locally with Diego Red wine from Buckingham Valley Vineyards.  This is a light bodied, semi-sweet wine that is perfect for cranberries and just as delicious to drink.  And what would mulled wine be without fragrant spices?  The cinnamon, nutmeg, whole allspice, and cloves are from The Larder in Doylestown. 

It is next to impossible to get a decent bottle of wine for less than $10 unless you're wiling to forgo the decent part and you are okay with the words mad or dog on the label.

And the spices cost less than $1.50! These are high quality ingredients that are easy on the wallet.
Simmer the wine and spices with sugar in a saucepan until syrupy and fragrant.  This recipe also doubles as a holiday air freshener.  The aroma is lovely.
Strain the spices and orange peel.  Add the wine back to the pan with the cranberries. 
After 5 minutes or so, the cranberries will begin to pop and your cranberry sauce is done.

Place in a holiday serving bowl.  Display it proudly alongside the other 'cranberry sauce'.

Mulled Wine Cranberry Sauce
(adapted from Bon Appetit/November 2001)
Print This Recipe
1 cup light bodied red wine
1 ½ cups sugar
1 ½ cups light brown sugar
6 whole cloves
8 whole allspice
2 cinnamon sticks
1/8 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
One whole orange peel
5 cups cranberries, rinsed 
  • Place all ingredients, except cranberries,  in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil and cook over medium/high heat until sugar dissolves. 
  • Reduce heat to a simmer.  Cook for about 25 minutes until syrupy.   
  • Strain wine into a bowl.  Discard spices and orange peel. 
  • Return wine to saucepan.  Add cranberries.  Cook over medium/low heat until cranberries start to pop, about 7-10 minutes.  Let cool. 
  • Cover and refrigerate.  Can be made up to 5 days in advance. 
Bring to room temperature before serving. 
Makes 4 ½ cups cranberry sauce.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Homemade Whipped Cream

I remember it like it was yesterday.

The day I drew the line in the sand

And declared that I would never eat whipped cream from a can again.

Five children and two adults,

Gathered in the kitchen,

The refrigerator door ajar,

As each took a turn spraying billowy clouds into their mouths;

The youngest not knowing whipped cream protocol,

Using the nozzle as a straw.

Would you like a side of cold and flu with your slice of pie?

But it's okay.  I am a survivor. They could not break this dessert loving germaphobe.

It's easy enough to make your own whipped cream thanks to None Such Farm Market. 

They carry a hard-to-find heavy cream with 40% milkfat.  This is the type of cream that many scratch bakeries and restaurants use.  Most heavy cream available to the home cook has only 36% milkfat as required by the USDA. 
A higher milkfat means that your whipped cream will have more staying power.  It won't deflate or get watery like the lower milkfat cream.  This homemade whipped cream will last a good 24 hours in the refrigerator. 

The quickest way to make whipped cream is to start out with a chilled mixing bowl and whip attachment.
Pour the cream, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl and whip.  Within a minute, you will have a dreamy dessert or hot cocoa topping.
If you walk away and whip too long, you will have a delicious butter for your morning toast.  Either way, it's a win-win.

None Such Farm Market is located on York Road in Buckingham Township. The family owned market sells fresh produce from their farm and other local farms.  They have a a meat shop, bakery, and nursery with flowers and bedding plants.  They also have a variety of local products including wine from Buckingham Valley Vineyards.  

Homemade Whipped Cream
Print This Recipe
1 cup heavy cream (preferably 40 % butterfat)
2-4 Tablespoons sugar (depending on desired sweetness)
1 teaspoon vanilla  

Place cream, sugar, and vanilla in a chilled mixing bowl.  Whip until cream thickens.
Makes 2 cups.
This is the base recipe.  Go crazy with flavor ideas like:
  • Replace the sugar with maple sugar for a nice complement to pumpkin or pecan pie.
  • Add a ½ teaspoon espresso powder for a coffee inspired whipped cream.
  • Get footloose and fancy free and add 1 Tablespoon of booze such as rum or bourbon.
  • Add 1 Tablespoon of cocoa powder for chocolate whipped cream.
  • Replace the vanilla extract with orange, lemon, or almond extract
  • Add one tablespoon of flavored liqueur, like raspberry or orange.
  • 2 Tablespoons of lemon curd add flavor and texture to whipped cream.
  • Add ½ cup sour cream to one cup cream and whip up some crème fraiche

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Polenta Breakfast Cake with Bacon and Maple Syrup

What do you call a moist and tender cake,
Made with locally milled polenta,
Drizzled with pure Pennsylvania maple syrup,
And topped with crispy bacon?

The breakfast of champions.

Castle Valley Mill in Doylestown produces flour and grains that are all natural with no preservatives. They use antique buhr mills and a slow and cool process that preserves the nutrients.  

Their polenta is amazing.  It has an even and medium consistency.  While polenta is usually overlooked in baking for the finer ground cornmeal, I really like the nutty, sweet texture it gives this cake.
The cake batter takes just 10 minutes to prepare.  While polenta is the star of this cake, there are other local ingredients that also make this cake extra special like:

Daisy Organic All-Purpose Flour 

Milk House Farm Market eggs

Rocky Ridge Maple Syrup
Polenta Breakfast Cake With Bacon and  Maple Syrup
Print This Recipe
non-stick baking spray
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup stone ground polenta (medium grind)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
1/4 cup maple syrup
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Spray a 9-inch baking pan with non-stick baking spray.
  • Place flour, polenta, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir with a spoon to combine.
  • Place eggs in a large bowl and mix until frothy, about 20 seconds. Add sugar and oil. Mix until combined. Add yogurt and vanilla. Mix until combined.
  • Add dry ingredients to batter. Mix until just combined. Pour batter into cake pan.
  • Bake for 30 minutes or until top of cake springs back to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
  • Let cake cool 20 minutes then remove from cake pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.
  • Slice cake into 8 slices. Crumble bacon evenly over each cake slice. Drizzle maple syrup over cake slices just before serving. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Oven Baked Omelet

Wolfgang Puck demonstrated the proper way to make an omelet on Top Chef this week.

Within minutes, he plated a perfectly cooked, expertly rolled omelet.

I, too, make omelets.

Harried mom style.

With one bowl.  One fork.  8 eggs.  And a week's worth of leftovers.

It is the frugal magic I sometimes call dinner.

My omelet begins with a preheated oven and local brown eggs from Milk House Farm Market.
I whisk the eggs with whole milk from Penn View Farm in Perkasie.  Fresh milk in glass bottles is old school delicious. 
I buy Penn View Farm milk from Maximuck's Farm Market in Doylestown.  The farm sells a variety of produce and local products.  It is eco friendly, relying entirely on solar energy. 
Time to raid the fridge for leftovers. 

This week I have prosciutto ham, Parmesan cheese and a few green onions that lost their purpose.  The beauty of this recipe is that you can add whatever leftovers you have.  The variations are endless.   Adding up to two cups of extra ingredients is a good rule of thumb.   
Pour the eggs/milk into a casserole dish.  Sprinkle the ham, cheese, and onions over the top and bake for 35 minutes.

Oven Baked Omelet
Print This Recipe!
8 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
salt and pepper
4 slices prosciutto ham, chopped
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons green onion, chopped
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Spray a 2 quart casserole dish or 8-inch pan with non-stick cooking spray. 
  • Whisk together the eggs, milk, and salt and pepper.  Pour into casserole dish. 
  • Sprinkle remaining ingredients over the top.   
  • Bake for 35 minutes or until the edges are puffed and the center is just set.
Serves 4

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Peanut Butter Maple Buttercream

I am obsessed with Grade B maple syrup.
While a 'B' may be a letdown for academic overachievers,
It is top of the class when it comes to maple syrup.

Darker and thicker with a full maple flavor, Grade B is delicious in the traditional pancake/waffle sort of way.

It is also pretty awesome as a glaze for center cut pork chops,
But my favorite way to use maple syrup is in buttercream.

It is my secret ingredient,
But now you know.
I was never really good at keeping secrets.

This is Rocky Ridge Maple Syrup. 
It is made in Middlebury Center, Pennsylvania on a 206 acre family owned farm. It is organic and natural, which is a good thing, because nothing ruins a good stack of pancakes more than high fructose corn syrup and artificial food coloring.
Peanut Butter Maple Buttercream
Print This Recipe!
1 cup room temperature unsalted butter
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup Grade B maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream butter and peanut butter in a medium bowl.  Add powdered sugar and mix until combined.  Add maple syrup and vanilla.  Mix until creamy. (Makes 4 cups)

Rocky Ridge Maple Syrup is available online through their website.  Other products include maple sugar, maple cream, and maple candy.  All products are certified organic, 100% natural, gluten free, and dairy free.
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