Friday, May 25, 2012

Picnic and Grilling Recipes

Memorial weekend is the official start of the summer season! That means outdoor living--and eating with friends and family. Below are a few ideas of my favorites from KB!

Kitchen Bounty: Grilled Chicken Tenders with Rosemary/Garlic/Lemon Marinade
I could eat a plateful!

Kitchen Bounty: Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Rosemary and Garlic
This is great for special get-togethers with friends. Easy to prepare and always elegant when cut and plated.

Kitchen Bounty: Marinated Chicken on the Grill
Simple. Sticky. Messy. Summer-eating at its finest!

Kitchen Bounty: Grilled Hamburgers with Blue Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
When a regular hamburger just won't do!

Kitchen Bounty: Grilled Fajitas
Who doesn't love fajitas? Personally, I just love the meat, never mind the fixins!

Kitchen Bounty: Coleslaw
No picnic is complete without this summer staple.

Kitchen Bounty: Potato Salad with Basil, Dill, and Lemon
Fresh. Clean. Summery. One of the BEST!

Kitchen Bounty: Sweet and Hot Garlic Pickles
Make a batch of these babies and watch them disappear!

Kitchen Bounty: A Simple Lemon Cake
Lemon is great for summer! A perfect cake to a salmon dinner.

Kitchen Bounty: Fresh Raspberry Cake
It doesn't get much easier, or fresher, than this cake!

Kitchen Bounty: Olive Oil Cake with Citrus and Amaretto
Hmmmm . . . . I think I need to make this for the weekend.

Kitchen Bounty: My Favorite Chocolate Cake
Cake and ice cream. What more can I say?

Kitchen Bounty: No-Bake Cheesecake
Who doesn't like a cheesecake? Served with summer berries, this is always popular!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Orange, Almond, White-Chocolate Muffins with Cream Cheese/Grand Marnier Filling

My comrades at work are still talking about these muffins that I brought in last week. I'm always a bit nervous when I make up a new recipe, so I certainly appreciated nods of approval as they gobbled them up.

Earlier, I had seen a recipe for scallion muffins with a goat cheese interior. I made one-half batch and they were just so-so. But I loved the texture of the muffin and what the cheese did for the interior of the muffin--keeping it moist. So many muffins are dry, crumbly affairs.

That's when I'd thought I'd try a sweet muffin with a cream cheese filling. I had all the ingredients on hand, and couldn't get the idea out of my head. Since I planned to use orange and almond, several shots of Grand Marnier seemed a logical choice to include.

Grand Marnier is an intense orange liqueur distilled in France. A tiny bottle (about 1/4 cup) will set you back several bucks, but it's worth having on hand for recipes. I do the same for rum, Amaretto, whiskey. Since I really don't drink hard liquor, these small bottles are a great price alternative and perfect for one who cooks.

These muffins go together fairly easily. I kept the sugar to a minimum since they already had white chocolate. I wanted something a bit "grown-up" and not overly sweet. 

A while back I finally broke down and threw away all my old muffin tins which I had for years. I invested in some that were twice as heavy. My choice was Circulon. I liked the hefty weight and the beefy handles on either end. Clean-up is a snap and muffins and cupcakes cook evenly.

I'm not an advocate of paper liners from muffins. I like the outside a bit crisp. Be sure to use a fresh orange since the rind of older ones is bitter. And, yes, rinse your orange first and then dry it. A micro-plane makes for the best and easiest zesting.

  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 heaping cup granulated, white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 heaping cup white chocolate morsels
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 225 ml. whole milk (one cup minus two tablespoons)
  • 1 large orange, zest only
  • Almond slivers
  • Filling:
  • 6 tablespoon cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier

Lightly spray/grease 12 muffin cups. Set oven to 400 F degrees.

In a small bowl, mix the filling ingredients. Set aside.

Sift the flour into a large bowl. Add sugar, baking powder, salt and white chocolate morsels.

In a medium bowl, blend the melted butter, milk, egg, almond extract and orange zest.

Add wet ingredients to the dry and stir just until incorporated without over-stirring. 

Fill each muffin cup a little less than halfway. Evenly divide the cheese mixture to each cup. Now distribute remaining batter to each cup to fill. Top with slivered almonds.

Bake for 20 minutes. Allow to cool about ten minutes. Remove to a wire rack.

I think these are best warm when the outside is still a bit crunchy/chewy. But I had one the next day and gobbled it up!

Notes: If too little batter is placed on top of the cheese mixture, the cheese will leak out during baking:

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Peach Jello Mold

My first Jell-O mold!

Oh, we're all "acquainted" with Jell-O. Notice I didn't say we're all on friendly terms. Or even best friends. Jell-O is something that has quite literally "slipped" into our lives and down our childhood mouths. And memory.

Mothers use it as a medicine.

Grandmothers and aunts arrived at holidays burdened and armed with "the mold" precariously but sacredly balanced. Everyone gathered around for the "unmolding" holding their breath and hoping it didn't stick.

My family still serves green pear mold every Thanksgiving. And somewhere in my 1960's mind, I remember chopped carrots and pineapple suspended in a green gel. I actually liked it.

To a child's fancy, Jell-O is magical. Layered with rainbow colors, it's like eating crayons. It moves and jiggles like a toy. It plays with light, like glass marbles. It's cold and melts in your mouth (kind of) like ice cream. You can suspend just about it anything in it, including olives which I always kind of found fascinating, like Martian eyeballs or something.

Vintage Jell-O ads are wonderful. It's always portrayed as elegant, nutritional fare. Glamorous and "hostess worthy."

But we all grow up. Unlike peanut-butter-and jelly or grilled cheese, Jell-O is that kind of fond food we quietly leave behind, like training wheels. Away we go never to look back.

But Jell-O has a zombie life. It never dies. Never. Instead, it re-invents itself constantly. Like that pear mold. And I had many a Jell-O cake in the teacher's lounge when I taught school. I enjoyed them all. It's even become an art form. I've seen creations with Barbie-doll heads suspended in it all fetus-like. Yuck!

But I think Jell-O's biggest reinvention was simply to grow up. Go to college. Where it was introduced to booze. The friend of fraternity and sorority alike. Jell-O shots were born and the rest is history.

Jell-O was suddenly re-discovered. Blogs were written. Books published. It was no longer your mother's or grandmother's Jell-O. It was back.

Armed with my flea-market, one-dollar, vintage "copper" molds, I embarked on the Jell-O journey. The recipe below was cut in half to fit my 3.5-cup mold. The original recipe can be found here: Peaches & Cream Jello.

The following recipe called for peach schnapps. I didn't have any so I simply flavored the  milk layer with a bit of almond extract and fresh-grated nutmeg. Rum would have been a nice addition. Following recipes will most likely have the booze. Stay tuned. In the meantime, give this a try. It really wasn't difficult and will take the angst out of making a Jell-O mold if you've never tried.

I unmolded this on a hot day (Jell-O is tough to photograph). I found it refreshing and cool. The almond layer gave it a grown-up taste. Will I make it again. You betcha. With the booze!

  • 1, 14-oz peach slices, drained, syrup reserved
  • 1, 3-oz. package peach-flavored Jell-O
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • 1 pkg. Knox Gelatin
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 7 oz. sweetened condensed milk (1/2 can)
  • 6 tablespoons peach schnapps
  • 1/2 the drained peach syrup (if not using liquor, add all the syrup)
  • 1/8 teaspoon almond extract (omit if using liquor)
  • Several grates fresh nutmeg (omit if using liquor)
  • 1, 3.5-cup mold

Drain peaches and reserve the juice.

In a small bowl, dissolve the Jell-O in the 1 cup of boiling water. When fully dissolved, add the cold water. Stir and place in refrigerator until custardy thick. If you leave it in too long, nuke a bit in microwave. 

Place about six sliced peaces in the bottom of your mold. Spoon the thickened gelatin over the peaches. Refrigerate until set but not firm (your finger should leave an imprint when you touch the gelatin). If you allow it to set too much, the next layer may slide off when unmolded.

Dissolve the unflavored gelatin in 1/4 cup cold water. Then add the 3/4 cup boiling water. Continue to stir until powder is fully dissolved. Add the 7 ounces sweetened condensed milk, peach syrup and/or liquor and, if using, almond extract and nutmeg. Stir. Taste. Adjust flavorings as needed. 

Refrigerate until a bit thick. It will kind of resemble cooked egg whites. Spoon over the peach layer. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

To unmold, place mold in warm water for a few seconds (don't overdo it). Wet a plate and put plate on top of mold. Flip. The mold should slide out easily. If not, repeat the process.

Slice and serve.