Red, White, and Blue Mojito

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This is a fruity, summery cocktail, not too sweet and just in time for election fever!

INGREDIENTS
  • 2 oz white rum
  • 1 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1 oz simple syrup
  • handful mint leaves
  • handful strawberries
  • handful blueberries
  • 1/2 can soda
  • ice
DIRECTIONS
  1. In a glass muddle lime, simple syrup, mint, strawberries and blueberries.
  2. Add rum and stir. Fill glass with ice and top off with soda.
  3. Garnish with a skewer of strawberries and blueberries.

<<<<Watch the video instructions>>>>

Mojito Video

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Chag Hamantashen Same’ach – Happy Purim!

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I’ll go-ahead and admit it: before I moved to NYC, the only Jewish holiday I could name was Hanukkah.

As an attempt at some justification of this inexcusable ignorance, .03% of the population of North Carolina (where I spent a decade of my formative years) is Jewish.

Side effect: I lived a Hamantaschen-deprived life.

Hamantachen are cakey sugar dough cookies with a filling, most traditionally poppy seeds or prune butter made & eaten to celebrate Purim. Purim is a holiday similar to Mardi Gras in that it is celebrated with lots of heavy drinking and masquerading. It celebrates the story of Esther, whose bravery saved the Persian Jews 2,500 years ago.

The hamantaschen recipe below is my friend Jill’s, by way of her Jewish boyfriend’s grandmother. Those are her hands in the photos, too!

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Dough

  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour

Filling (see recipes below) + Finishing

  • Choice of filling: poppy seed filling (most traditional), prune butter, apricot butter, apricot jam, strawberry jam or even chocolate chips
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • cinnamon/sugar mix
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cover 2 baking sheets w/parchment or foil.
  3. Either by hand or with a mixer, combine the oil, eggs, vanilla, water, sugar, baking powder and flour and knead until a soft dough forms. Roll the dough out into a very thin layer. Dip the rim of a 3 or 4 inch cup or glass in flour and use like a cookie cutter to cut the circles. Re-roll the scraps of dough and reuse.
  4. In the center of each circle drop a teaspoon of your filling.  Shape into a triangle by folding 2 sides of the circle to the center, and pinch together at the corners. Make sure corners are tightly pinched so they don’t open during baking.
  5. Place hamantaschen 1 inch apart on the baking sheets.  Brush with beaten egg.  Sprinkle with the cinnamon/sugar.
  6. Bake 20 minutes.

Makes 4 dozen. Hamantaschen freeze well.

How to Fold Hamantaschen
How to Fold Hamantaschen

Poppy Filling

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 lb. poppy seeds
  1. Pour boiling water on poppy seeds and drain.
  2. After poppy seeds have settled to bottom, chop up fine.
  3. Add egg and sugar, stirring well.

Prune Filling (Lekvar)

  • 2 cups dried prunes
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 dash clove
  • 1 dash cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  1. Combine everything into a saucepan (except brown sugar) and cook on low heat, stirring every few minutes. Heat to boiling.
  2. Lower heat to simmer, cover pan and cook for 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
  3. Mix in the brown sugar. Cook, reducing the liquid and stirring every few minutes being careful not to scorch the mixture. Mash with a wooden spoon until the prunes are soft and broken up and mixture is about the consistency of oatmeal (about 20 more minutes). It will thicken more when cooled.

Keeps in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks and also freezes well.

Brenna’s Banana Bread Cinnamon Rolls

Thanks to Brenna Ozment, guest baker, photographer,
and author of this post!

I am not an experienced baker, but I have done holiday baking as assistant to my lovely sister Jessica. Here documents the most elaborate baking endeavor I’ve attempted on my own.

I saw three bananas in the fruit bowl slowly turning black and decided to make something for the family. We all love cinnamon rolls yet they have had a sporadic appearance on the table. I settled on Banana Bread Cinnamon Rolls from the Cooking Classy.

I definitely didn’t learn from that silly project in elementary school, where they give you a whole list of directions like “write your name on the chalkboard” and then at the end it says to not do any of it, and I definitely didn’t read the recipe directions in their entirety before I started baking. This recipe is intense! The dough needs to be left to rise twice, exact temperatures for the milk and butter mixture when you add the yeast. Anyway, I decided to wing it.

First purée the bananas with lemon juice. I just put them in a standup mixer and squeezed some fresh lemon juice in. I really hope no one finds a stray lemon seed… oops. Meanwhile, I heated the milk and diced butter mixture on the stove. Then I removed the banana bowl and put a new bowl where you add the oil and the milk/butter and let it cool (no thermometer so I just guesstimated) and add the yeast then let it stand for 5 minutes. Thank god for timers on stoves. Next you add the sugar, salt, egg yolk, and 2 cups of BREAD flour and bananas. The directions say to use a paddle attachment; I just used the whisk ones and kept stopping it to fold the dough around. Also, I just used bleached white flour. Then add more flour and corn-starch with a different attachment (I used the same one again) and let it rise for an hour and half.

When I came back I had forgotten where I was in the directions and so I re-read it like 5 times skipping around trying to find my place. Not very time efficient, but that’s the way I roll! In a small bowl I added a bunch of light brown sugar, and dumped in some cinnamon and nutmeg. Measure, you ask, I answer: why?!

Separately, add more flour and baking powder to the now risen dough. I kneaded it with my hands, not the mixer, despite it covering my hands as it is very very very sticky by this point. Next lay it out on a surface that is very floured and roll out with a rolling-pin. Keep a little cup of flour next to you so you can re-flour your hands and the roller constantly. Next, spread melted butter with a spoon, spreading it around with the back of the spoon, on the now flattened dough. Pour the awesome cinnamon roll filling on the dough. The more square you make the dough when you roll it out, the less likely you will have two oblong rolls when you cut. Once it is rolled up (be careful about the dough sticking underneath!! Pull lightly!!) use a large non-serrated knife to cut it into 12 rolls. They will flatten: when you pick them up and put them on a buttered cooking pan, reshape them circular. Then cover AGAIN and let rise for 45 minutes. Bake and then put some awesome stuff on top like cream cheese frosting and nuts.

They are in the oven now… I am very curious if my “winging it” will work. Baking is not always forgiving to this approach.

They look okay, but they are came out looking very powdery from the flour on the outside of the rolls. So, perhaps butter the outside of the rolls so the flour looks like its gone after putting them on the pan.

*A few hours later*

Now that I have awaken from a very pleasant sugar coma, I must say, those rolls are awesome. They may have been better had I followed the directions precisely, but I can’t imagine by much. Cooking is an experiment! And although I thoroughly enjoyed mine, when I am make challah bread tomorrow, I will follow those directions as close as possible and read ALL the directions diligently before I begin.

Summer in the City: Fresh Blueberry Pie

A teacher friend of mine, using her summer vacation to cross things off her bucket list, revealed to me her intention to lose her pastry-making virginity. She consented to have the occasion documented. Here is the result.

I’ve made a pie crust or two in the past, but with highly inconsistent results. Apparently, the keys to success are SPEED & TEMPERATURE.

As with all flour related cooking experiments, the gluten development (or rather the lack of it in this case) is the important factor in a delicate, flaky pastry. Gluten is the protein structure that forms when gas is released as bread rises; a high protein flour will allow the stretchy, chewy, workable dough ideal for say, pizza crust. So alternatively, using a low protein flour and discouraging gluten formation will result in a more delicate pastry.

Keep the dough ingredients chilled and work the dough as little as possible. Chill both the fat and the water. As for the type of fat used, butter is great for flavor, and shortening for texture- a combination works especially well.

Recipe adapted from Betty Crocker and Joy of Cooking

Pastry

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup shortening
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons cold water

Filling

  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 6 cups blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon butter

In medium bowl, mix 2 cups flour and the salt. Cut in the shortening and butter using a pastry blender. Sprinkle with cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing with fork until all flour is moistened and pastry almost cleans side of bowl, adding 1-2 teaspoons more water if necessary. It should still look dry. Pinch some of the dough to see if it clumps together: if it does, it’s ready.

Gather pastry into a ball. Divide in half; shape into 2 discs and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for about 45 minutes.

Heat oven to 425°F. With floured rolling-pin, roll one disc into a sheet 2 inches larger than upside-down 9-inch glass pie plate. Roll sheet of dough around rolling-pin & transfer to the pie plate. If it tears or cracks, just pinch it together again and use scraps & water to repair any holes.

In a large bowl, mix the sugar, 1/2 cup flour and the cinnamon with the blueberries and spoon into pastry-lined pie plate. Sprinkle with lemon juice and the butter cut into small pieces. Cover with top pastry. Cut slits in it and crimp the edges either with a fork or by pinching around the edge with your fingers. Cover edge with a strip of foil to prevent the rim from getting too brown.

Bake 35-45 minutes or until crust is golden brown and juice begins to bubble through the slits in the crust, removing foil for last 15 minutes of baking. Cool 2+ hours for the increased possibility of intact slices.

End of Season Shortcake

The autumnal equinox officiated the end of summer last week (September 23), and with it comes the end of peach season. To honor both summer and one of its more divine gifts, what could be more appropriate than shortcake?

Biscuits, prepared with Trader Joe’s Multigrain Baking & Pancake Mix, according to recipe on the box:

  • 1 cup of baking mix
  • 1/3 cup milk and
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil

Combine, knead, roll, cut and bake.

Cool Whip topping or, if you’re feeling ambitious, make your own:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
Whip cream until soft peaks begin to form. Beat in vanilla and sugar and continue to beat until peaks form. Do not over-beat, you’ll end up with butter.
  • fresh peaches, sliced  (about 1/2 peach per serving)
  • honey  (to taste, approximately 1 1/2 tsp per serving)*
Halve biscuits. Layer sliced peaches and whipped cream to form a sandwich. Drizzle with honey.

Swanky Summer Soiree

My cousin and I broke out some entertaining show stoppers in honor of some lovely ladies visiting this past weekend. One of these amazing women was passing through on her way back home from Africa after spending a month volunteering with Mothers Without Borders. This organization provides safe shelter, food, and education to orphans, whose abandonment is predominantly due to the death of HIV-infected parents. Ultimate luxury (in this case, fresh peaches!) is most enjoyed in such loving company.

Fruity Cocktails

1 peach
1 lemon
1 pint ginger ale (I suggest a good quality micro-brewed soda)
candied ginger for garnish

In a blender, puree the pitted peach, the juice of the lemon, a bit of finely chopped ginger and enough soda or water to make a syrup. Chill and just before serving, pour into cocktail glasses garnished with a piece of  candied ginger. Alternately, muddle peach slices and lemon juice in a tall glass (with whiskey if you are feeling boozy!). Fill the glass to the top with ice then with ginger ale.
Other fabulous combos I HIGHLY recommend are:
  • cucumber/mint
  • grapefruit/basil
  • and watermelon/cilantro

No Fuss Classy Cheese Plate

1 wedge high quality blue cheese
1 dozen ripe fresh figs, halved
honey

Serve the cheese and figs drizzled with honey.

Rhubarb, pear, & cranberry compote parfait

As the only meal where the entrée very well may have a higher sugar content than even the most indulgent desserts, breakfast is easily my favorite meal.  This deceptively healthy treat passes as breakfast, dessert or an afternoon snack and is one of best efforts to thwart my monstrous sweet tooth. An added bonus, rhubarb is in season for a bit longer and can still be seen at very reasonable prices. Though I doubt I’ve ever seen more than the stalk of the plant available at the grocery store, be aware that the leaves are toxic.

Compote:
1 bunch rhubarb, trimmed, washed, cut into 1 inch lengths
4 ripe pears, peeled, cored, halved, each half cut into large chunks
whole berry cranberry sauce, half a can
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 cup water

Parfait:
compote
1 cup greek yogurt
blueberries, fresh or frozen
chopped walnuts

  1. Place the water and cranberry sauce in a large saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes or until sauce melts.
  2. Add the rhubarb, pears and cinnamon stick. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, for 5 minutes. Uncover and cook for a further 5 minutes or until fruit is tender and liquid thickens slightly. Remove from heat and set aside for 15 minutes to cool.
  3. Layer yogurt, compote, blueberries, and walnuts in a serving dish.