Tag Archives: color

More Baking Therapy

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My friends are part of my family. They mean the world to me and I have endless love for them. So when they are hurting and heartbroken because life can be cruel sometimes, I take it personally. I want to sit on the couch and hold their hand and just be with them, so they don’t have to be in that scary and dark place alone. Except for those pesky hundreds of miles that separate us.

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I have a friend suffering a devastating loss and it upsets me. Because of the pain that I cannot take away and because there is so little I can do, amplified because I am not there during this difficult time. I have ceased to be amazed at how adult my life as become, which I suppose is a perfect example of my adultness. The problems that you fret over – they are the big ones, the ones with no good solutions and they weigh heavily upon me.

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So I bake. It is my therapy. Or perhaps, more realistically, my escape. To have a goal, a blueprint that you can see through to the end. Having complete control. Knowing the variables. My mother thinks that I am some frou-frou cook, making everything from scratch, taking the hard (and time-consuming) way to do things. I think she may have a point. Sure, I could make something easier, with fewer steps or more store-bought ingredients, but that’s not me. I like that I can choose the hard route. I like the process, the transformation of whole foods into something else. Cracking the eggs, straining the puree, using any and all of my extensive collection of measuring spoons. Lugging my gorgeous green stand mixer from the dining room to the kitchen counter. Dirtying every pot, mixing bowl and mesh strainer. Pouring a glass bourbon, and then a another one to help dull the edge of life. Because some nights you just need to bake until 1:30 in the morning. Even if it is a Tuesday night.

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I’ve had my eye on this recipe for these Pomegranate Clove Thumbprint Cookies every since I got my hands on Ripe by Cheryl Sternman Rule over the past summer. Then I spied a quirky Cranberry Curd recipe in a recent issue of Cooking Light and my gut told me they had to go together. My gut doesn’t usually steer me wrong and this is no exception. Don’t forget the pomegranate arils – they make the cookies unexpected and delightful. And the color? It simply speaks for itself.

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If you are lucky enough to have your friends nearby, invite them over and share an afternoon, some hugs and these cookies. Be warned however – they don’t travel well (I suspect gushy nature of the curd is at fault), which is why dear friend, I didn’t send them your way. Please forgive me.

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Pomegranate Clove Thumbprint Cookies with Cranberry Curd

The recipe for the cranberry curd makes about 3 cups of curd – way, way more than you need for these cookies. Seal it up in a jar and enjoy the seasonal treat on crackers, biscuits or buttermilk pancakes. It has a nice mouth-puckering quality to it, as all curds (and anything cranberries) should. This curd is slightly different than the curds I’ve made in the past (lemon curd I and II, rhubarb curd, blackberry curd – it’s possible I have an obsession…) as it calls for the butter and sugar to be beaten together before incorporating the eggs or adding any heat. I was a little apprehensive about the technique, but was satisfied with the result.

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Cranberry Curd
from Cooking Light, December 2012
 
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 (12-ounce) package fresh cranberries
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 large egg yolks
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
 
Pomegranate Clove Thumbprint Cookies
from Ripe, by Cheryl Sternman Rule
makes ~20 cookies
 
1 cup (120 g) flour
1/2 cup (80 g) almond meal
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon (85 g) granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
~1/4 cup cranberry curd
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For the cranberry curd:

Combine water, lemon juice and cranberries in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes or until cranberries pop. Using an immersion blender, process until smooth (can also use a blender or food processor). Strain cranberry mixture through a fine meshed sieve over a bowl; discard solids.

Combine sugars and butter in a bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well combined. Add egg yolks and egg, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in cranberry mixture, cornstarch, and salt. Place mixture in the top of a double boiler. Cook over simmering water until a thermometer registers 160° and mixture thickens (about 10 minutes), stirring frequently. Remove from heat; let stand 5 minutes. Stir in liqueur. Strain through a fine meshed sieve once more. If using later, cover and refrigerate.

For the cookies:

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, cloves, cinnamon and salt. Set aside. In another large bowl, beat the butter until light and fluffy, ~2 minutes. Stream in the sugar and beat 2 minutes longer. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract. With the machine OFF, dump in the flour mixture. Turn on the mixer and stir at the lowest speed for 30 seconds and then increase speed to medium and beat just until the flour mixture in completely incorporated. Refrigerate the dough for at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 375º and line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Scoop ~1 1/2 tablespoons dough and portion into mounds. Using the end of a wooden spoon (or your thumb), form a depression in the middle of the cookie. Bake until the cookies are set and golden brown around the edges, 15 – 18 minutes. Cool completely. Fill each thumbprint with cranberry curd (the recipe suggests 1/4 teaspoon, I sort of just heaped it on…) and top with 4-5 pomegranate arils.

Beet, Orange and Goat Cheese Salad

I made this salad tonight and within one bite I knew I wanted to share. It’s not fancy or fussy, but is brilliantly hued and surprisingly sweet. I don’t have much to say – no deep thoughts about life, just a nod to how much I enjoy food. This salad is a shining example of why I love my CSA. The salad greens were amazingly robust and flavorful. And the beets … oh my, this season’s beets have been wonderfully balanced between earthy and sweet.

This is a breeze to put together … I had a conference call to Singapore this evening (I am still in hard-core work mode) and managed to throw this together in a matter of minutes. Of course, I had the foresight to roast the beets earlier this week (and in the morning no less, while my apartment is still blessedly cool).  Pairing the beets with citrus was amazing. I had bookmarked this recipe some time ago, as I am always looking for inventive uses for rhubarb. And I attempted to cook the rhubarb as described – but just wasn’t feeling it for a salad (stay tuned for how I re-invented it …), so I ended up omitting it. I swapped goat cheese for feta, simply because I had some in my refrigerator, and these days I just don’t have time for extra trips to the grocery store.

I am smitten with this salad. For the colors and the flavors. My only hope that there are more beets in this week’s CSA…

Beet, Orange and Goat Cheese Salad
modified from Bon Appetit, April 2010
1 generous entrée-size salad
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1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1 tablespoon orange juice 
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
 
mixed salad greens
1 medium beet, roasted and thinly sliced
1 orange, peeled and segmented
1 1/2 ounce goat cheese, crumbled
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Whisk orange peel, orange juice, lemon juice, vinegar, honey, and olive oil together. Season dressing with coarse salt and pepper. Toss with salad greens, sliced beets, orange segments and goat cheese.

Cranberry-Pomegranate Curd with Pecan Shortbread

Do you remember my serious love affair with rhubarb over the past summer? It took some time, but I think I am ready to move on. This season, my heart stolen has been stolen by cranberries. And by pomegranates. Some people will have you choose between cranberries and pomegranates. But I would never ask you to choose. It’s like playing favorites with your cats.

Cranberries are serious. Dignified, rich with a tangy twist, you need to coax them to come and play. An intellectual fruit in my mind. Pomegranates, on the other hand, are silly. Bright and bursting with juiciness. Full of secrets that beckon you to dig deeper.

And like my cats, they play wonderfully well together. Especially in this little treat that’s a riff on a lemon bar. A cranberry and pomegranate curd that’s just barely sweetened, to cut some of the tartness topped on a rich, buttery pecan shortbread crust.

I brought them into the lunchroom on this dreary snow-sodden Monday and I think it brightened people’s day. How could it not with it’s brilliant color? A perfect pre-Thanksgiving taste. (As for the recipe request … this one’s for you, Kelaine).

Cranberry-Pomegranate Curd with Pecan Shortbread

adapted from The Kitchn

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For the Crust:
1 cup pecan pieces
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces
For the Cranberry-Pomegranate Curd:
12 ounces cranberries
1/2 cup pomegranate juice
2/3 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces
Powdered sugar for dusting
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Prepare the crust:

Line a 9×13 baking pan with parchment.

Coarsely grind the pecans in a food processor. Add the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt, and pulse until finely ground (~10 additional one-second pulses). Sprinkle the chunks of butter over the top of the flour-nut mix and pulse until the mixture holds together when compressed in your palm (although it will be crumbly).

Press the crust mix into the baking dish, making it as even as possible. Freeze for 30 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 350°F. Remove the crust from the freezer and bake for 20-25 minutes, until beginning to color around the edges.

While the crust is baking, prepare the cranberry curd:

Place the cranberries and pomegranate juice in a medium-sized pot and cook over medium-high heat and stir. Continue cooking and stirring occasionally until all the cranberries have popped and become mushy, about 5 minutes. Pour them into a fine-meshed strainer set over a medium-sized mixing bowl and press the cranberry-pomegranate puree through using a spatula (this make take a little elbow grease). Allow the puree to cool to room temperature.

Add the sugar, eggs and egg yolks to the bowl with the cranberry-pomegranate puree. Whisk thoroughly until the mixture is even.

Return the mixture to the saucepan and set the burner to medium. Stir the curd continuously, making sure to scrape the bottom and corners of the pan. Cook until the curd starts to thicken, coats the back of a spoon, and registers about 150° on an instant-read thermometer. This should take 10-12 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter all at once. Stir until the butter has completely melted, then pour the curd through the strainer into a clean bowl.

 Pour the warm cranberry-pomegranate curd onto the pecan crust. Bake at 350° for 10-15 minutes, until the curd has set but still jiggles slightly in the center. Cool completely and refrigerate before cutting.

To cut the squares, lift them from the pan using the parchment paper as handles. Dust the tops of the bars with powdered sugar just before serving and use a sharp knife to cut them into squares. The powdered sugar will melt into the cranberry curd, making sweet glaze.

Keep refrigerated.

Parental Visitation

I am going on record with this:

The recent weather in Minneapolis has been spectacular.

Which perfectly coincided with my parents’ visit.

I think we crammed in every possible touristy, autumn activity in three short days.

The farmers market.

The mill ruins.

Minnehaha falls.

Apple picking.

Chasing the fall colors and accidentally stumbling upon a ski “mountain.”

Walking around Lake of the Isles and finding Minnie.

And enjoying food, drink and coffee.

It was a great visit. Probably because I have great parents.

 

*I think I stole all of these photos from my mother …

Laboring over Labor Day Weekend…kind of

I have a confession to make.

I have developed a serious addiction to Dr. Who. Don’t worry, I’m not going to geek out on you. I just thought you deserved some context for the rest of the post. I blame Scott  for introducing me to the Doctor and his companion and their quest to save the earth (and Netflix instant streaming for being an enabler). The problem is once you start – you can’t stop. I’ve made it through 4 seasons in a matter of weeks.

It started innocently enough. An episode or two right before I would go to sleep (by the way – the iPad is awesome for watching shows in bed – in case you were interested.) It was entertaining and novel and a welcome break from the 3rd of 4th iteration of Mad Men. And then, without even realizing it, I was hooked. Mostly I think it’s because David Tennant is just so damn cute and cheeky. So, by the time this weekend rolled in – well, I just couldn’t help myself. I am not even going to say how many episodes I flew through.

Normally, this sort of behavior makes me feel terrible about myself. Lazing about watching one episode and not even pausing before starting the next one. Hours just disappear before you and soon the weekend is over. Pathetic, I know. In order to avoid this kind of self-loathing and justify my latest addiction, I started sewing again.

Bobbins, pleats, zippers and buttons, oh my!

And made four, count them, FOUR, skirts. What can I say? Apparently, I am the type of person who, once she starts something, gets a little obsessive about it. There is just something so innately satisfying about creating something out of nothing (and unlike my kitchen creations, having it last for more than 15 minutes). Plus I have the ability to pick and choose the colors and patterns that appeal to me and can add something one-of-a-kind to my wardrobe.

Unsurprisingly, I had some “help.”

Some was relatively benign.

And some was not.

But I managed somehow. Not quite ready for Project Runway, but slowly remembering all the tricks – at least for a simple knee-length A-line skirt.

Each skirt posed a new challenge for my less-than-talented hands.

Stripes on one skirt and pleats on another.

Decorative ribbons and buttons. (Decorative in the truest sense – the buttons aren’t actually functional but are stylishly hiding snaps.)

I have to say, I am quite pleased with my handiwork…