Sneak zucchini onto your neighbors porch

Today is my birthday and a National Holiday:  Sneak zucchini onto your neighbor’s porch day!

I have my share of zucchini in the garden and with vacation coming, my neighbors may be the recipient of some of these squash babies.

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If you gifted with a few zucchini – here are some new recipes I have tried this season.

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Chocolate Zucchini cake

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Crust-less Summer Zucchini Pie

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Zucchini Fritters

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Quinoa-Rice salad with cherries and feta adapted from the Weight Watchers July/August 2016 edition.

Patty’s Points

1. The all recipes! website is a great resource to look for recipes for the home cook. AND always read the reviews by the readers to see the pitfalls and triumphs of the recipe.

2. Here are a few cookbooks to sample:

The Inspired by Zucchini Cookbook

Chocolate & Zucchini: Le Livre

The Classic Zucchini Cookbook

3.The Chocolate Zucchini Cake is a winner! It is a great cake to make and store in the freezer and pull out for a potluck or picnic. Chocolate Cheese Frosting is an awesome addition to this cake. Super!

4.Zucchini can be used to substitute for pickles in relishes – made sweet or dill – and canned. I tried a recipe through the Ball Canning Cookbook summer and they were awesome as hot dog condiments.

5. Invest in a food processor with a shredder. Place the zucchini in a colander/strainer to get the water content out before cooking with it.

Get on with it now. It’s Zucchini Day!

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Peppermint Patty Ice Cream

At 6:34 pm on 6/20/2016, the Summer Solstice officially begins.

Oh boy has it been hot the past two weekends!  So happy we made the investment in that swamp cooler six years ago. We’ve already had two porch parties since Memorial Day, but now we are just kicking back and enjoying the cool house and the fruits of our garden.

We’ve had a mint plant for a few years. I mostly used the leaves for garnish, to steep in hot water or in cold water. But I have discovered a few more recipes here and there to make the mint the star of the recipe.

mint plant

This is one of our mint plants. It has behaved itself and not spread out like crazy as mint can do. We have another mint plant that did go wild last year. My husband ripped it out but the little bug-gar keeps sprouting little offspring. They are similar plants but the leaves are distinctly different.  I am wondering if this well-behaved mint plant is spearmint flavored and the wild mint plant, peppermint in flavor. Hmmmm?

I was dreaming of ice cream in this heat so I perused my recipe books. After looking them over and reading reviews about type of ice cream, I decided to combine two recipes into one from the Cuisinart recipe booklet and from Alton Brown’s Good Eats 2: The Middle Years cookbook.

cream and mint

Ingredients:

3 cups half and half

1 cup heavy cream

8 large egg yolks

9 oz sugar

large bunch of mint leaves

3-6 oz of peppermint patties candy coarsely chopped

1 tsp vanilla

Directions:

Combine the half and half and cream in a saucepan and bring to simmer over medium heat stirring occasionally. Then remove from heat and add the mint leaves allowing them to steep for 20-30 minutes.

steeping the leaves

Whisk the egg yolks in a large mixing bowl until they lighten in color, then add in the sugar and mix until smooth.

Remove or strain the cream and mint mixture. Then temper the egg yolk and sugar mixture by ladling 1/3 of the cream mixture into the bowl whisking constantly. Then place the tempered cream and egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently until the custard thickens to coat the back of a spoon or a temp of 170-175 degrees F.

heating the mixture to 170 degrees F

Transfer the custard into a new bowl or wash out the egg yolk bowl and then add the vanilla and cool at room temperature for 30 minutes. Cover and refrigerate for 8-10 hours (or overnight)

fresh from the churn

Pour the mixture into the prepped ice cream maker then add the candy and process for 20 minutes.

creamy mint chip ice-cream

Serve as soft serve and place into a container to freeze and hard for 3-4 hours.

Patty’s Points:

1.I like the frozen custard or French-style type of ice cream which must contain 1.4 percent egg yolk solids to meet that definition.

2.You can substitute 1 teaspoon of peppermint oil instead of mint leaves but you would add it after the tempering of the egg yolks and cream mixture and omit the vanilla.

3.You can substitute the peppermint patties with mint chocolate chips or with good shaved dark chocolate and white chocolate.

4.I LOVE my new find the Tovolo Glide-a-scoop Ice cream container

Tevolo

It has two layers, Inner for the ice cream and Outer to insulate it from over-freezing and protecting it from forming ice crystals
Two parts of Tevolo

It also is easy to store, taking up less space than traditional ice cream containers. It cost about $15.00 and I had a 10% off coupon which was nice.

storing the ice-cream

5. The mint had more of a spearmint taste to it and it gave the cream a slight green color. I like it but I like peppermint better. I’ll have to try the wild mints leaves to see if it has more of a peppermint flavor. You could add a few drops of green food coloring to get the full color experience of mint.

6.Some of the recipes called for more cream (3 cups) and whole milk        (1 1/2 cups) or varying amounts of cream 2 cups half and half to 1 cup cream. Use whatever combo you wish for your taste.

7. Another option would be to use the peppermint oil 1 tsp and add crushed peppermint candies or candy canes and make it festive for the Christmas holidays.

Welcome Summer – We’re so glad you are here!

I’m going to stay inside where it is cool.

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Springing Forward

Spring is time for growth and renewal. But the world and the weather have been volatile this past week as we moved into this new season.

Growth is painful. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’ve been in a funk for the last year. I left one job and took another, my father died, our daughter married, our son moved home to the US, and my house is a complete mess. BUT through all of this turmoil and upheavel, I have continued to cook.

I may print some of my cooking adventures out to cleanse myself, but not all at once. You as the reader won’t appreciate my purging, only I would.

So here’s to spring, new growth, moving on and putting away the Christmas decorations this Easter weekend.

Syrian Semolina and Nut Cake

I am a big fan of The Splendid Table. It is an American Public Media radio broadcast that can also be found on most podcast libraries. Lynn Rosetto Kasper has the best radio voice ever! I could listen to her all day. She is charming to her guests and to us, her listeners. Syrian Semolina and Nut Cake from the author Anissa Helou from her cookbook Sweet Middle East was featured last month. She describes it as a “delectable syrupy sponge cake topped with mixed nuts.”

I was drawn to the nuts as ingredients in the recipe. I have a stash of nuts in the freezer and my husband has been noshing on them lately.  The rest of the ingredients I did not have in my pantry: semolina, baker’s sugar, orange blossom water and rose water. I was not in a mood to go out searching store to store for these ingredients, so I went online.  King Arthur Flour had everything I needed in one location. What a wonderful website and a great reference for baking.

Go to The Splendid Table website for the recipe  and you will see that it is a pretty easy cake to put together. Flour, butter, sugar, yogurt, baking soda and of course NUTS.

The fragrant sugar syrup on the other hand was challenging. The orange blossom and rose water were extremely fragrant and seemed to be competing with each other as flavors. Once they settled down it was better.

Patty’s Points:

1.Timing. The cake has to set for 3 hours before baking, so plan accordingly.

2.Syrup. Even though the author recommends putting the syrup on the cake for it to soak in, I do not recommend doing that. The syrup was overpoweringly sweet and fragrant, just as the author stated. It was so sweet that it took away from the flavor of the cake and the nuts.

It is also quite possible that I overcooked the syrup and it wasn’t the proper consistency to soak into the cake. My husband and I liked the cake, but the syrup made the cake too sweet. I would recommend serving the cake, plain, with the syrup on the side and maybe with some plain or vanilla yogurt as a dollop.

3.Ingredients. Simple to make with complex ingredients. I had never purchased these ingredients before, ever. Semolina flour is used with breads or dough, like pizza, to give them extra crunch. Baker’s sugar is very fine. I used to shrug it off when I saw it in recipes and made my own by processing regular sugar. But this had such a lovely quality of fineness that I’ll think differently about it in the future.

Orange blossom water and rose water.  I’d heard of rose water but never orange blossom water. I actually saw an episode of Good Eats with Alton Brown where he made rose water from chemical-free roses at home. This web post from Pam in the Garden follows the Alton Brown step-by-step process of making rose water. Orange blossom water and rose water I have seen as ingredients for baklava, but I’ve never had them on hand before. The uses for the fragrant waters go beyond food and are beneficial to skin and health enhancers.

4.Nuts. Despite the recipe directions to add the nuts prior to baking, they run the risk of burning. I would recommend adding them halfway through the baking time to prevent the char.

We had a blizzard hit here two days ago and I’ve been sick in bed all week so writing this blog helped me leap out of the doldrums. Thanks for reading. Be fearless and keep cooking.

 

25th Anniversary Hoyt Street Cookie Exchange

InvitationMy invitation to “cookie bomb” the Annual Hoyt Street Cookie Exchange was taped to my front door. Isn’t it precious? This is a special year because it is the 25th Anniversary. I don’t live in the neighborhood but I get an invite from my friend Joy every year. She hosted it this year and did a bang up job.

I started a new job six weeks ago and my life has been crazy. Check out my other blog, the patty beat, to see the details of that. As I was reflecting just yesterday, that when life is crazy anyway, throw a major holiday and family wedding in the mix and *%#@!*#@!

I planned in advance knowing I would have little time this week get it altogether.

the recipe

I chose the recipe from Cook’s Country December/January 2015 and it was the Grand Prize Winner of the Christmas Cookie Contest entitled Chocolate Croissant Cookies by Karen Cope of Minneapolis, MN. The requirement for the cookie exchange is to make 5 dozen cookies to share among a group of people and take home a smorgasbord of cookies to share for the holidays I made the dough in advance and popped it in the freezer for the past two weeks. I put it in the refrigerator 24 hours before assembly for it to thaw.

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The dough is a mini version of the croissant. The chocolate bars are placed in the center, fold over the dough and pop it in the oven.

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Rolling out and cutting the dough into twenty 4 x 2 inch pieces was the challenging part of the construction.

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I was pretty amazed that I rolled out and assembled the cookies in 2 hours. The last batch was warm from the oven and placed separately from the first two batches. Didn’t want the chocolate to schmush.

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Lucky for me Joy had two lovely plates for me to put my cookies on to display.

Chocolate Croissant Cookies

Every year the cookies become more creative.

St Nick cookies

 St Nick Cookies

 

Almond Coconut Cookies

 Almond Coconut cookies

reindeer cookies

 Reindeer Cookies

Heath bar cookies

Pecan Pie Bars

snowman cookies

 Snowman Cookies

Joy displayed a poster of all the pictures from all the past years and it was a nice to reflect on the past and look to the future.

Hoyt Street Cookie Exchange

 The 25th Annual Hoyt Street Cookie Exchange 2014

My favorite things Australia

Water served in wine bottlesMy husband and I returned from Australia about 100 days ago. We jumped back into the stress of work upon our return. Lucky for us, the house was clean and work tasks were addressed so the re-entry shock was minimal. After the lovely sunshine of Australia we returned to a Mother’s Day snowstorm and a rainy spring. I’ve now come out of my shell, we’re in the dog days of summer and it’s nearly Labor Day. It’s time to wrap up all things I loved about the Land Down Under.

1. Bottles of water served in wine bottles.

bottles of water

2. Cooking and eating with old friends

anne and me

 Anne and her husband Jerry, have been friends with Bob since for 30+ years. They moved to Melbourne from the US a year ago and we learned about living the Australian way. Anne loves the plentiful number of Chinese markets, restaurants, and community they are living in. She said she wished she could be in our cooking club and I wished she could be also. She is an experimental cook, trying new techniques and ingredients to make the dish interesting.

egg drop frothing

egg drop soup

stir fried veggies

steamed chicken

Chinese chicken soup

 This is Lai-fu. His name means good luck comes in Chinese.

Lai-fu good luck comes

Dinner and after dinner with the Willemens and Donovans on The Rocks in the Sydney Harbour!

eating in sydney

 

group picture at The Rocks

3. Touring the Yarra Valley. The lovely countryside north of Melbourne. Rolling hills, vineyards, fruit trees, dairy cows, and sheep.  Vineyards, tasting rooms, wine, cheese, cured meats, and restaurants.

chandon view from Chandon

Yering Station

wine glassess

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yarra Valley Dairy goat cheese

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Comic relief. My dear husband travels all over the world for his job. One would think he had a good sense of direction. But when there are no deadlines to meet, he wanders.  The first night he convinced us to jump on a bus after a rugby game in Brisbane saying it was the way home. It was heading north to the suburbs. I said he could wander but we weren’t going to follow any more.

He drank a lovely glass of wine from Squitchy Lane at lunch. We drove and twisted through the country back roads to discover it was not open during the week.

Squitchy Lane

view from Squitchy Lane

We found a perfect bottle of wine to sum up his trip.

the wanderer wine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. The natural wonders

beach

palm tree

great barrier reef

crocodile

koala

rainforest

sand crabs

12 apostles

6. The Sydney Harbour

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7. Reuniting with family

the mining sculpture

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Cheers Australia! Until we meet again. Let’s hope we don’t wait 27 more years to pass until we meet again.

Spring Green

I spent the past week in the snowy mountains. Upon returning home the trees have burst out with flowers, shoots of grass have sprouted, and the sun has warmed the earth.  I’m feeling green. The color of spring.

Two months ago for the tea party I made goodie bags with Matcha green tea. I started drinking it during menopausal years for an energy boost. According to Wikipedia Matcha green tea is a finely milled or fine powder green tea.  Japanese tea ceremonies focus on the preparation, serving, and drinking of matcha. Matcha is used to flavor and dye foods such as sobi noodles, ice cream, pastries and even a Japanese candy called wagashi.

Matcha is made from shade-grown tea leaves. The preparation of matcha starts several weeks before harvest & can last up to 20 days, when the tea bushes are covered to prevent direct sunlight.This slows down growth, stimulates an increase in chlorophyll levels, turns the leaves a darker shade of green, and causes the production of amino acids in particular L-Theanine. Only the finest tea buds are hand-picked. After harvesting, if the leaves are rolled out before drying, the result will be auokuro tea. If the leaves are laid out flat to dry, they will crumble somewhat and become known as tencha. Tenchacan then be de-veined, de-stemmed, and stone-ground to the fine, bright green, talc-like powder known as matcha.

It can take up to one hour to grind 30 grams of matcha. Now I know why it is so expensive. I purchased 1.5 ounces for $14.

Matcha green tea

My fellow blogger, jothetartqueen has made many recipes with Matcha green tea. She is a trained chef and I appreciate her talents and daring skills.

For my challenge I made macarons and candy laced with matcha.I’ve made macarons before check out this earlier posting.

Match tea macarons from  Mélanger :: to mix

100 g egg whites

35 g egg white powder

125 g almond meal

125 g powdered sugar

2 tsp Matcha green tea powder

Syrup: 150 g sugar and 50 ml water

Directions

Process the almond meal and icing sugar together.  In a mixer, whip half the egg whites to soft peaks.  Meanwhile, in a saucepan bring the water and sugar for the syrup to 117C (or 242F) on a candy thermometer.  Once ready, slowly add the boiling syrup to the egg whites and continue to whip on medium speed until they thick and shiny and are completely cooled (about 10 minutes).  At the final changes of whipping the meringue, and add the matcha tea powder.  Mix the remaining egg whites to the sifted almond mixture and fold into the meringue in four parts.

green tea macarons

Pipe macarons on lined baking sheets. Double up your baking sheets if you do not have professional grade quality.  Let your macarons sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes. Bake at 140C or 280F for 15-18 minutes.  Fill with ganache or filling of your choice.  Refrigerate to set.

baking sheets of macarons

Chocolate ganache 

120g dark chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup heavy cream

Directions

Heat cream until bubbles form around the edge of the pan.  Pour over the chocolate.  Let sit for 2-3 minutes and then stir.  Let cool then transfer to the refrigerator to thicken.


chocolate ganache

the final product

Matcha White Chocolate Pistachio Cups – The Sweetest Kitchen

Makes about 10-12 mini cups

Ingredients
For the outer shell:
140 grams good quality white chocolate (at least 30% cocoa solids)
About 1/2 teaspoon Matcha – or enough to get a nice pastel green color

For the filling:
1 cup pistachios, shells removed
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon flavorless oil, but you may need less or slightly more (I used canola)
pinch or two of Matcha
25g icing sugar

For the filling, place pistachios and salt in a food processor and blend until it starts coming together in a ball. This could take up to 15 minutes and you’ll have to scrape down the sides of the bowl often. If you’ve ever made your own nut butter, it’s basically the same process. With the motor running, add some oil slowly until the nut butter begins to thin out. Do not use too much though as you don’t want it to be runny. About the consistency of commercially prepared peanut butter is good. Add a pinch (or two if you like) of Matcha to the nut butter and blend again until well combined.  Set aside.

paste

Place 12 mini cupcake wrappers into a mini cupcake baking tray. Note, I only got 11 1/2 cups using this recipe!

For the outer shell, melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, stirring constantly. Do not let the bowl touch the water, and do not get water into the chocolate. When chocolate is melted and smooth, remove from heat, immediately sift over matcha and stir until well combined and matcha is dissolved. Do this in small amounts so you can ensure you get the green color you want. If you put in too much matcha, you might get an unappealing dark green color that no one wants to eat!

When you reach your desired color, place about 1 even teaspoon of melted chocolate into each mini cupcake liner. Using the back of a small spoon, bring the chocolate up the sides of the paper liners and smooth down the bottom to make it flat. Repeat for each liner. Place the tray in the refrigerator for about 15-20 minutes to set.

Measure 96 grams of pistachio butter and transfer this amount to a clean bowl. Sift over the icing sugar and stir (or use your hands) to thoroughly combine. Form 12 balls from the pistachio butter/icing sugar mixture using about 1 teaspoon, just slightly rounded, each. Place on a clean surface. Take out the baking tray from the refrigerator, ensure the chocolate is hardened, then slightly flatten the pistachio balls with the palm of your hand and place 1 ball into each chocolate cup.

candy cups

Pour 1 teaspoon of chocolate (you may need to re-melt it) on top of each pistachio ball, ensuring the filling is completely covered. To get a smooth top, do not use a spoon or knife to flatten or spread it; just pick up the tray and tilt it around (you may need to tap it gently on the countertop) to get the chocolate to cover the filling and you should end up with a completely smooth top. Repeat for each cup. Refrigerate until set, around an hour.

To serve, let the cups come to room temperature and for a more intense matcha flavor, dust some matcha over the top of the cups.

 

tea cup

 

Patty’s Points:

1. Loose green tea that is steeped, cannot be blended into Matcha tea. I tried doing that before reading the Wikipedia article. How silly! A coffee and tea shop owner thought it was a good day also. I was also surprised she had never heard of matcha green tea. Only a few shops carry Matcha green tea. I have found better prices on the internet but haven’t delved into purchasing it as yet. I have purchased “shots” of Match green tea that was added to a smoothie which was yummy.

2. Macarons are fun to make, now that I have mastered them. I whipped out the batches in about 2-3 hours. I sprinkled the Matcha tea atop each cookie for a nice accent.

3. The candies were actually pretty easy to make. Unsalted pistachios can take a while to find, look somewhere where they have bulk items. These candies are so rich, they don’t need any additional salt so try to get the unsalted type.  I had to make adjustments to the amount of powdered (icing) sugar so make sure to taste it as you mix it.

4. These treats are quite rich, so eating one or even half of one was plenty for me to sample.  They made nice treat bags.

What a fun way to use tea! Another culinary adventure!