Sunday, September 25, 2016

Limoncello Bread Pudding

Universal hit.  Not a sad face in the crowd when I unveiled it last night at an evening of wine and cheese or with the samples left at home.

What to do when you have an abundance of lemons has been addressed before, make limoncello.  Then what do with all the limoncello you have floating around is the next question, why make stuff with it.

This recipe is a conglomeration of several I found on the web.   I used more common ingredients to ensure ease of duplication.

For the bread I grabbed a simple rustic white bread, but really texas toast or an Italian loaf will work just fine.  Don't make yourself crazy trying to find things like Challah or Brioche loaves.  The key to the bread absorbing all of the egg mixture is to buy it a few days prior to making your bread pudding and leave it on the counter so it dries out some.  Stale bread absorbs custards better, remember that factoid for all bread puddings.

Limoncello Bread Pudding
Bread Pudding

  • 1 1/2 c Half and Half
  • 7 eggs
  • 1 t vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/4 c limoncello
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 quarts bread cubes.


  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1-2T limoncello

Cube bread into 1/2 inch cubes.  Keep crust as that adds color and texture to your bread pudding.
Combine eggs, half and half, vanilla, salt, sugar, limoncello, and zest.  Whisk well until combined.  Pour over bread cubes. Toss lightly to coat all cubes.

Let set on counter 20 minutes.  Toss occasionally to keep bread completely covered in custard mixture.

Preheat oven to 325.
Generously butter the bottoms and sides of 5-6 small ramekins.  Spoon in bread mixture until within a half inch of the top of ramekin.

Place filled ramekins on baking sheet.  Spritz aluminum foil with non-stick cooking spray and cover with foil sprayed side down on the ramekins.  Bake 20 minutes.  Remove foil.  Bake additional 20-25 minutes until puffed and golden and tests clean with a tooth pick.


Prepare glaze by combining powdered sugar, zest, and juice of lemon.  Add limoncello as needed to thin to consistency of heavy cream.  Spoon glaze over the bread pudding just prior to serving.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Watermelon Rind Pickles

Nostalgia alert.  One of the treats I remember on my Grandma Jasovec's farm in Ely Minnesota growing up was her watermelon pickles.  Being a depression era housewife she was particularly thrifty and nothing went to waste.  That includes the bitter watermelon rind.  Think of sweet and sour with the warming spice of cinnamon, clove and allspice on the back note.  Really a tasty treat and a childhood favorite.

Flash forward a few more decades and I've been craving these for a while. I have my grandmother's canning book and recipe so that's a big leap forward.  The hold up in making them however was finding one of the key ingredients...pickling lime.  You'd think in a city the size of Los Angeles it could be found, but you'd be wrong.  Google searches didn't turn up the ingredient either.  The purpose of the lime is to keep the rind green and soften it. the the google board I went.  I found several recipes that called for soaking the cut rind in salt, kosher salt to be specific to soften and keep the color.  It is important to use kosher salt as the iodized crap will discolor the pickles.

That seemed easy enough to sub out and try.  The rest of the recipe is from my Grandmother's canning book ca 1930??? from when she was a young housewife.

FYI...a 9.5 lb watermelon yielded the needed rind for the recipe.  The edible flesh...cube and toss into a feta salad or similar.  Maybe watermelon sorbet or sherbet?

Watermelon Rind Pickles

  • 2 quarts hot water
  • 1/2 c kosher salt


  • 4 lbs watermelon rind cut into 1/2'X1" cubes
  • 4 c water
  • 4 c white vinegar
  • 4 c sugar
  • 3 cinnamon sticks cut in half
  • 1 T whole allspice
  • 1 t whole cloves
  • 5-6 sterilized pint jars, lids and rings

Day 1.  Cut watermelon into 1 inch slices.  Cut the slices at 1/2 inch leaving roughly 1/2" by 1" cubes.  Place rinds into a large non-reactive pan (stainless steel).  Dissolve kosher salt in the hot water and pour over the watermelon rinds. Keep covered at room temp for 18-24 hours.  Stir occasionally to ensure all rinds get a good soak in the brine.
cubed and ready for brining

Day 2.  Drain Rinds.  Fill pot with cold water and let stand 15 minutes.  Drain and rinse in colander.

In large non-reactive pot add water, vinegar, sugar and spices.  Bring to boil and stir until sugar is dissolved.  Add watermelon rind.  Bring to hard boil and then reduce heat to soft boil.  Cook until translucent about 1-1 1/2 hours.
simmering rinds not quite got their pickle on
When pickle is translucent pack pickles into sterilized hot canning jars.  Top with pickling liquid to within 1/4 inch of top of jar.  Add Lids and tightly fasten rings.  Let set 1 week to cure before eating.
I put a  half cinnamon stick and try to get some of the allspice and cloves in each jar so you see what the flavors are as well as taste them.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Blueberry Streusel Coffee Cake

Few things are universal hits in my house of picky eaters.  This one was a home run with all involved.  Whats not to like...oodles of wild blueberry suspended in a light cake with a cinnamon streusel topping.  Lifes good and its a frequent request that disappears in one day.

Let me again extol the virtues of fresh frozen wild blueberries.  Get them, they have intense real flavor packed into those tiny nuggets.  None of that gritty flavorless qualities of the commercially grown grape sized monstrosities.  To quote my friend Mary Fox, "don't make me hurt you..."  Get the real thing a delightful frozen wild blueberry.'

Another ingredient is not a staple but worth the couple of bucks to get is real buttermilk.  It brings a righteous tang to the cake and the perfect crumb.  Yes I know you can fake buttermilk with whole milk and vinegar or lemon juice, but the flavor is off and affects the crumb quality as well.  What you don't use in the coffee cake...use it in batch of pancakes.

Blueberry Streusel Coffee Cake
  • 1/4 c flour
  • 1/4 c brown sugar
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 2 T soft butter
  • pinch kosher salt

  • 2 c flour
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 3/4 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t kosher salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c butter milk
  • 1/4 c melted butter
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 c frozen blueberries thawed

Preheat oven to 350F.

Butter bottom and sides of an 8X8 glass baking dish.

Combine topping ingredients.  Cut in butter with fork until soft crumbs form and butter is incorporated.  Set aside.

Melt butter and cool until no longer hot to the touch. Combine dry ingredients and whisk together to combine. Combine buttermilk, eggs , vanilla and stir to combine.  Add cooled melted butter to the buttemilk mixture.  Slowly add dry mixture to buttermilk in small batches stirring to just absorbed.  Over stirring will toughen the final product so stir lightly and only until combined

Gently fold in the frozen blueberries.  Pur batter into prepared pan.  Bake in preheated oven 40-45 months until cake tests clean with a tooth pick and is golden brown.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Pear Honey Preserves - perfect addition to a cheese board

The picture tells the whole story in 4 frames.  From white mass of sugar and pears to a honey colored thick preserve.  What it can't give you is the wonderful taste of this preserve especially when mated to a fatty cheese like a triple creme brie or even better a tart stinky cheese like Stilton.  Heaven.  Sheer unadulterated pleasure on the palate.

Difficult?  Hardly.  Time consuming yes, but isn't anything worthwhile take a bit of time out of the day. If you can stir and watch a pot simmer you have the needed skill set.

The only special equipment you need is one of those canning car thingy's for lifting sterilized jars from their boiling water bath. 

Pears are bountiful and cheap this time of year and it doesn't matter what variety you use. I had a plethora to chose from and went with the more common and easy to find Bartlett's.
Pear Honey Preserves
  • 8 cups chopped pears (about 15)
  • 8 cups sugar
  • 1 c lemon juice

Peel, core and quarter pears.  Slice pears into 1/2" slices.

Add pears to heavy bottom pan.  I used a non-stick Calphalon pot for ease of clean up, a friend duplicating the recipe used a heavy stainless steel pan and the cooking time was considerably shorter than a non-stick pan. 

Add sugar and toss to coat.  Add lemon juice.  Stir softly to dissolve sugar.  Bring heat to medium high and stir until it comes to a boil.  Once at a boil reduce heat to low and simmer 2-3 hours until syrupy and deep honey colored.  Stir occasionally while simmering to keep from sticking to pan.  Stir gently so as not to break up fruit chunks.

Once mixture has reached desired color and consistency ladle into sterilized jars and cap tightly with canning lids and rings.

Serve with cheese board or spoon into your morning oatmeal for a sweet treat.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake

My oldest child had her birthday yesterday.  She detests cake, she really does.  No biggy she loves cheesecake and that's a pretty easy one to pull off.  Her order this year was "candy cheese cake".  TH is that?  We talked a bit and came up with peanut butter cheese cake with mini peanut butter cup candies baked into it and as garnish.  WINNER.  Even the cheesecake hater in the house loved this one.

The interwebs were filled with recipes for peanut butter cheese cake, but the crusts were just wrong for what we wanted.  This recipe is a combo of several plus my favorite stand by crust.  Tasty for sure.

Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake

  • 3 c Oreo or similar chocolate creme cookie crumbles
  • 1 stick butter
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 lb cream cheese
  • 1 c peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 c sugar
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 2 T corn starch
  • 4 eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 8 oz bags of mini peanut butter candies
  • chocolate syrup

Preheat oven to 350F

Put cookie crumbles and salt in food processor.  Pulse until fine crumbs are created. Drizzle butter over the running processor until all butter incorporated.   Pat into bottom and up 1 inch on the side of a 9" X 3" tall spring form pan.  Bake 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool.

Put sugar, corn starch, room temperature cream cheese, peanut butter and vanilla in the mixing bowl.  Attach whisk and beat until smooth.  Reduce speed and add eggs one at a time, beating until each is just incorporated.

Spray inside of the spring form pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Line outside of pan with aluminum foil.  Place prepared spring form into a large pan or roaster. Sprinkle 1 8oz bag of peanut butter candies over the chocolate cookie crust.  Add cream cheese mixture to the spring form pan.  Place in oven.  Fill roaster with hot water about half way up the side of the spring form pan.

Bake 2 hours at 350f.  This cheesecake's top burns easily so you need to keep watch on it.  AT about 1 hour, 1 hour 20 minutes it will be golden brown.  At that point cover loosely with aluminum foil and continue baking.  At end of baking time, turn off oven and crack open the oven door.  Let sit in cooling oven for an hour.  At end of hour put on cooling rack and cool to room temperature.  When room temperature remove sides of spring form pan and then chill in refrigerator.

To serve, garnish with a drizzle of chocolate syrup and add few mini peanut butter cup candies from the remaining bag.

golden brown top prevented from burning with aluminum foil

Monday, May 30, 2016

Roasted Peach Sherbet

I love Sherbet, its even easier to make than ice cream.  Why?  None of that custard making and worrying about scrambling the egg because your mixture is to hot,

This Sherbet is quite the taste treat.  One can use fresh peaches but we are really a few weeks short of them here so I opted for frozen peaches.  If using fresh you can cut your roasting time by 10-15 minutes.

Using buttermilk and sour cream instead of half and half really works magic in the sherbet.  I adds just the right tang to offset the super sweetness of the roasted peaches.   Yummo.

Roasted Peach Sherbet
  • 4 c frozen peaches
  • 1 c sugar 
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • pinch salt
  • 1 c butter milk
  • 1/3 c sour cream

Preheat oven to 425F

In 8X8 oven safe baking dish add sugar, salt and peaches.  Split vanilla bean lengthwise.  Scrape out seeds and add seeds and pod to the peach mixture.  Toss to combine.  Bake in oven 50-60 minutes until the mixture is bubbling and sugar dissolved.  Remove from oven.  let cool and put into a container and cover.  Refrigerate 2-3 hours until cold.

In a large blender pour in buttermilk and sour cream.  Remove vanilla bean pod from the peach mixure.  Pour peaches and all the liquid into blender.  Blend on high speed uintil smoot.  Add mixture to ice cream maker and follow instructions to churn until smooth.  Enjoy straight from ice cream maker or spoon off to freezer safe container and enjoy later.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Blueberry Rhubarb Pie

Growing up spending summer with my Grandmothers in Ely Minnesota I managed to learn a few things about Blueberries and Rhubarb.  FACT.  They go together great in a pie.  No kidding.

This version is based loosely on my Grandmothers recipes.  I twisted it up with the inclusion of half a vanilla bean split and seeded to up the flavor quotient a bit.  Just remember to fish out the pod before you mix the filling.

I'm also a blueberry SNOB to the nth degree.  Those nasty grape size things sold in the grocery store certainly ARE NOT blueberries.  They are gritty, lack flavor and not worth the hard earned cash you spend on them. What is however worth it is buying frozen wild blueberries from Trader Joe's or similar grocery store. Yes you pay a premium but what you gain in texture and flavor is worth every buck more they cost you over the domesticated stuff.  Take that bit of wisdom to the groc your next trip and get the wild blueberries.

Blueberry Rhubarb Pie

  • 2 sheets pie crust
  • 3 stalks rhubarb
  • 1 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/2 c water
  • 1/2 vanilla bean pod
  • 3 c wild blueberries
  • 3 T corn starch
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T water
  • 2 t coarse raw sugar

Preheat oven to 425F

Trim root end and leaves from rhubarb.  Slice into 1/2" chunks.  In non-reactive pan add sugar and 1/2 cup water. Add rhubarb. Split vanilla bean pod and scrape out seeds, adding seeds and pod to mixture.  Stir to dissolve sugar over medium heat.  When it begins to boil reduce heat and cook 5-8 minutes until rhubarb is just fork tender. 

Remove from heat. Remove vanilla bean pod.  Add frozen blueberries and corn starch. Fold gently to combine. Set aside to cool.

Roll out bottom crust and loosely fit into pie plate.  Add cooled pie filling.  Roll out remaining crust for the top of pie. Gently place top crust onto pie.  Gently fold under into the bottom crust and crimp edges to seal.  Cut steam slits into top crust. 

Combine egg and 1T water, beat to incorporate.  With a pastry brush, lightly coat the top crust with the egg wash.  Sprinkle with coarse raw sugar.  Place pie on a baking sheet to catch spills.  Bake for 1 hour.  At the half hour mark you may need to put foil on the edges of the pie to prevent from burning.
Cool on wire rack to room temp before serving.