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orange-vanilla meringue swirls

A little sweet, a little crispy and a little chewy. These Orange-Vanilla Meringue Swirls are a perfect little treat. It’s amazing what a few great ingredients can become when combined with simple techniques.They taste almost like one of those delightful orange creamsicles.

Featured in the May issue of Martha Stewart Living, I’ve been looking forward to making these meringues for weeks. But first, I needed to find a half-inch plain pastry tip. After searching many stores, I had to settle for a half-inch star tip. And to be honest, I kind of prefer the look of the meringues with the decorative ridges.

The recipe calls for half of a vanilla bean’s seeds. I threw the other half and the seeded bean into the jar where I’m making homemade vanilla extract. I’m still about a month or so away from it being ready. More on that in another post, on another day.

Finally, I love the design left on the parchment paper after I removed the baked meringues. I’m thinking about framing the design. You can see a portion of the meringue imprint in the lower left image of the collage below.

Orange-Vanilla Meringue SwirlsMartha Stewart Living, May 2012

  • 3 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • Large pinch of salt
  • Large pinch of cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • Gel-paste food color, orange

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Place egg whites in a heatproof mixing bowl. Add vanilla seeds and sugar, and whisk by hand to combine. Set bowl over a pot of simmering water, and whisk constantly until sugar dissolves and mixture is warm, about 3 minutes. Add salt and cream of tartar.

Beat with a mixer on medium-high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form and meringue is mostly cooled, about 7 minutes. Beat in orange zest.

Using a small paintbrush, paint 3 vertical stripes of food coloring inside the pastry bag fitted with a half-inch tip. Fill bag with meringue, and pipe 1 3/4-inch circular shapes 2 inches apart on 2 parchment-lined baking sheets.

Bake meringues until crisp on the outside but still soft on the inside, about 75 minutes. (I baked mine an additional 15 minutes.) Let cool completely on a wire rack.

glazed citrus doodles

The weather has turned a bit cold, wet and gray, as of late. But who am I to complain after such an amazingly mild winter? To counter the gray, I turned to these bright and cheerful cookies from the May issue of Everyday Food magazine.  It’s their riff on the cookie-favorite, snickerdoodle.  Here, they’ve swapped out the traditional cinnamon for the zest of lemons and oranges. And they’ve gilded-the-cookie with a tart and delicious citrus glaze.

While at the grocer on Sunday, picking up my citrus, I came across a pile of Meyer lemons. I’ve always wanted to incorporate these citrus jewels into a recipe, but have rarely seen them at the store. I decided this would finally be my opportunity.

The cookie batter comes together very quickly. Most of the prep time revolves around zesting the lemons and oranges. If you find ostrich egg-sized navel oranges, like I did, you’ll only need one. Seriously, they were huge. I ended up adding about another 1/2 cup of confectioner’s sugar to the glaze recipe to stiffen it up a bit. Start with amount listed in the recipe and add by a few tablespoons until you reach the consistency that you are looking for. Also, I baked my cookies for the full 15 minutes. Check yours at 12 minutes, you’ll just want them to brown a bit at the edges.

Glazed Citrus Doodlesadapted slightly from Everyday Food – May 2012

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons grated orange zest
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice (from 2 oranges)
  • 4 teaspoons Meyer lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice (from 2 Meyer lemons)
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar, 1 tablespoon of orange zest, and 2 teaspoons of Meyer lemon zest on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and add the eggs one at a time. Add the flour mixture and beat until combined. Do not over mix the dough.

Roll the dough into 1-inch balls. A 1 1/2 tablespoon ice cream scoop makes quick and perfect portioned work of this. Placed rolled balls of dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake until the edges are lightly golden, 12-15 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire rack for 5 minutes, then transfer to cookie racks to cool completely.

For the glaze, whisk together 1 tablespoon orange zest, 2 teaspoons Meyer lemon zest, both citrus juices and confectioner’s sugar until smooth.  Add additional confectioner’s sugar by tablespoon until the glaze is a spreadable consistency. With a small spoon, spread glaze over each cooled cookie. Let set 1 hour.

*A special thank you to Greg for capturing the photo of me glazing the cookies. He was compensated in freshly baked cookies.

crustless broccoli-cheddar quiches

Sometimes you just a crave a quick and easy meatless meal. This is one of my favorites, Crustless Broccoli-Cheddar Quiches from Everyday Food Magazine. Paired with a salad and a piece of crusty bread, you’ve got a nice balanced meal.

They are snap to put together once you’ve briefly cooked the broccoli and preheated the oven. The ingredients are mostly basic staples that you might just have in the house at this very moment.

So let’s get cracking…some eggs, that is.

Crustless Broccoli-Cheddar QuichesEveryday Food Magazine, December 2004

  • butter, for ramekins
  • kosher salt
  • 10 ounces frozen broccoli
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • ground pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter four 8-ounce ramekins; set aside.

Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add broccoli; cook 1 minute. Drain the broccoli well; transfer to a cutting board, and blot with paper towels. Chop coarsely.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper, and nutmeg. Stir in chopped broccoli and shredded cheddar cheese.

Place ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet. Ladle the egg-broccoli mixture into the ramekins, dividing evenly. Bake until golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes. You can serve these right from the oven or at room temperature.

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cherry striped icebox cookies

Have you ever been working through a recipe and about half-way through the longer-than-expected process, you wondered if the result would really be worth all the time and trouble? That’s exactly how I was feeling about these Striped Icebox Cookies from Martha Stewart. You see, I have a very bad habit of not completely reading through a recipe before I begin. And when you do that, you don’t realize little things like the dough needing to chill not once, but twice during the assembly process. With blondies, it’s always mix, dump and bake. Not with these cookies.

But let me tell you, I’m glad that I soldiered through with these cookies.  They taste wonderful.  The three tart and chewy cherry stripes counter well with the crisp sweetness of the corn meal cookie layers. A word of advice, don’t cheap-out on the cherry preserves.  Those flavorful stripes are the stars of this cookie. On my father’s recommendation, I picked up a jar of Bonne Maman Cherry Preserves. They are from France and well worth the nearly $5 a jar price tag.

Here’s the link to Martha’s recipe. The only change I made was to sprinkle a little sanding sugar on each cookie slice before baking. And remember, these are not a quick cookie, put aside an entire morning or afternoon to make them. It’s worth it, trust me.

Finally, a word of thanks. You may have noticed that the blog looks a bit different. My very good friend, and talented designer, Jason Gibson created a new logo and look for me.  I couldn’t be more happy. If you are looking for someone to hire for a design project, I couldn’t recommend him more highly. He also designs and sells some pretty cool t-shirts.

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smoked gouda and pecan mini cheese balls

I’m back. And with a recipe, too. Thanks for your patience. Some of you know that we added a very cute new member to the family last December. It was unexpected, and pretty much love at first sight. You’ll meet Ted at the end of the post. (OK, scroll down. I’ll wait.) Pretty cute, huh? Ted’s still very much a puppy with a great deal of energy.  In the past, I would come home from work in the afternoon and get right down to the business of making food and writing this blog.  Not anymore.  Ted requires a 30-45 minute hike at the park across the street every afternoon. Oddly enough, I’ve come to really enjoy that time. As a result, less blog time. By the time we get home, it’s nearly dark and I prefer the beautiful natural light in the kitchen for my food photography.

The good news, it’s staying lighter longer into the evening. So fear not, new posts should be appearing more regularly as we approach Spring.

Today, I’d love to tell you about the most delicious little cheese balls. And who doesn’t love a good a cheese ball?  We had them around the holidays quite a bit when I was a kid. Those were mainly the cheddar and cream cheese variety.  Nothing wrong with that.  When you add smoked Gouda in place of the cheddar, well you’ve got something special.  Also, I’ve always kind of hated how a half-eaten cheese ball looked on a party buffet.  These mini cheese balls are the perfect pop in your mouth or spread on a cracker treat.

Smoked Gouda and Pecan Mini Cheese Ballsadapted from Martha Stewart

  • 1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 8 ounces smoked Gouda cheese
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 2 cups finely chopped pecans, divided

In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, mix the cream cheese, Gouda, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, and 1/4 cup pecans until well combined.

Cover cheese mixture with plastic wrap, and chill for at least 2 hours.

With a small scoop, scoop out equal portions of the cheese mixture.  With clean hands, roll each scoop of cheese mixture into a ball and roll in bowl of pecans until evenly coated. Pierce each ball with a pick and serve on a platter with your favorite cracker.

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peanut butter and cinnamon cookies

Truth be told, and why shouldn’t it be, I’m not such a fan of peanut butter. Maybe it’s a texture thing, I don’t know. It’s crazy, because I love peanuts. I could polish off one of those huge jars of Planter’s Roasted Peanuts during a single episode of Raising Hope.  And that’s giving me plenty of time to chuckle my way though the show. An aside, anyone else think that Cloris Leachman isn’t acting?

The person I love most in life, occasionally eats peanut butter by the spoonful. My lovely sister sits down to a daily lunch centered around a classic pb&j sandwich. Not me. And don’t even get me started on my dislike of the famed Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.

All that said, I was intrigued by this recipe for Peanut Butter and Cinnamon Cookies. And I’m very glad that I gave it a try.  The combination of peanut butter and cinnamon may sound strange, but the cinnamon really took the edge off the peanut butter for me. The two contrasting flavors make for a very subtle peanut butter cookie. I really couldn’t be more pleased. I think that even the peanut butter fanatics among us will approve.  Give them a try. They would be great for a holiday cookie exchange.

Peanut Butter & Cinnamon Cookiesadapted from Martha Stewart’s Cookies App.

  •  1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Mix flour, 1 tablespoon of cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

With a mixer, beat butter, 1/2 cup sugar, the brown sugar, peanut butter, egg and vanilla on medium speed until well blended. Gradually beat in the dry ingredients on low-speed until well mixed. Refrigerate dough for 2 hours or until firm.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix remaining 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon in a small bowl. Using a 1.5″ ice cream scoop, shape dough into balls. Roll in cinnamon-sugar mixture to coat. Place about 3 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Gently flatten each ball with a fork, pressing a crisscross pattern on the tops of the cookies.

Bake until lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Cool on baking sheet for 1 minute, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

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pumpkin and chocolate chip squares

I’ve been going through cans of pure pumpkin puree like it’s water. I’ve made these cupcakes more times than I care to count. They are amazing, you should make them. Your friends and family will be very happy campers. Even if they don’t particularly care for camping. I can relate.

Today, I cracked open another can and made these terrific Pumpkin & Chocolate-Chip Squares. They are a breeze to make. Everything was mixed and spread in the baking pan in less than 15 minutes.  The longest chunk of time was the baking process, 35-40 minutes.  That gave me plenty of time to clean up the kitchen.  A few weeks ago I really “Cammed the kitchen” (Modern Family reference). I’ve pledged to never let that happen again. We’re still finding mounds of flying frosting scattered around the kitchen.

These fall-flavored squares are very moist. They may have needed a few more moments in the oven, but they were still a great treat. I shared them at a meeting and they were received quite well. You can find the recipe over here at Martha’s place. It’s also available on the Martha Stewart Cookies app. A great place for finding amazing cookie recipes. Enjoy.

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strawberry freezer jam

If you follow my adventures on the made by mike facebook page, you’ll know that I was on a bit of a jam making kick over the past weekend. If you don’t follow my adventures on the made by mike facebook page, then you are completely in the dark, and you clearly don’t love me as much as I thought you did. And frankly, that just breaks my heart. Ok, perhaps that was a bit melodramatic. But you should join all the fun on the made by mike facebook page. See how I made it all easy for you to just click one of those three links to get there?

Back to the jam.

A few weeks back, a friend at work asked if I’d make her some freezer jam. I’d never heard of it, but was intrigued. Coincidentally, not long after that, I received the September issue of Everyday Food magazine with an article about making freezer jam from the bounty of summer fruits available this time of year. It’s a great “how-to” article, and if you download the digital issue on an iPad, there’s a terrific instructional video about the jam making process.

Over a long three-day weekend, I made three different flavors of freezer jam. There was peach (with fresh peaches from my hometown), cherry, and of course strawberry. Best of all there’s only four ingredients in the jam. My favorite part of the process was listening to the metal lids “pop” as the jam was cooling on the counter. Each little “pop” got me more excited about slathering a piece of toast or english muffin with the sweet and fruity spread.

Strawberry Freezer Jam - adapted from Everyday Food, September 2011

  • 3 pounds strawberries, rinsed, hulled and crushed with a potato masher (about 5 cups when crushed)
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice, from 2 lemons
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup (1.75 ounces) powdered, no-sugar-needed pectin

Thoroughly wash, rinse and dry seven 8-ounce glass jars with tight-fitting lids.

In a medium pot, combine the crushed strawberries and lemon juice. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

In a bowl, whisk together the sugar and pectin. Add to fruit, stirring until the sugar mixture completely dissolves and fruit returns to a full rolling boil. Boil for 1 minute, then remove from heat.

Transfer fruit mixture to jars, leaving a 1/2-inch of head space on top. Seal and let sit at room temperature until the jam is set, 2 to 3 hours. The jam will last for up to three weeks in the refrigerator, or up to 6 months in the freezer. Allow frozen jam to thaw in the refrigerator.

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homemade dill pickles

A few weeks back we received quite the bounty of pickling cucumbers in our CSA share. About the same time, a co-worker was telling me about how she was making pickles from the cucumbers in her garden. She described a pretty simple method for making pickles that will keep for about a month in the refrigerator.

After doing a bit more research from my friend Martha’s website I came upon the recipe that I’d use for the pickling. The recipe takes about an evening to work through. There’s a bit of waiting between preparation steps. And then, the final great wait. One week in refrigerator before the first taste. I made it five days before I cracked open a jar and tasted the best dill pickle.

I adjusted the original recipe just a bit. An addition of a tablespoon of mustard seed gave the final product just the right look. If you’ve never made you own pickles, I’d strongly recommend that you give these a try. They’re crisp, flavorful and perfect to eat just as a snack on their own or perched on top of a juicy grilled burger.

Dill-Pickle Chips - adapted from Martha Stewart Living, August 2004

  • 2 pounds Kirby (pickling) cucumbers
  • 3 tablespoons coarse salt
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups distilled white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dill seed
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seed
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 bunches fresh dill, coarsely chopped

Cut the cucumbers into 1/2-inch thick rounds, and transfer to a colander set in a bowl. Toss well with salt. Refrigerate cucumber rounds for 1 hour.

Rinse the cucumber rounds well; drain. Pat dry between paper towels. Transfer cucumber slices to a large bowl.

Bring 3 cups water, vinegar, dill seed, mustard seed and garlic to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring. Reduce heat; simmer 4 minutes. Let mixture cool slightly, about 10 minutes.

Add chopped dill to cucumber slices, and toss to combine. Pour in the brine. Let cool completely, about 30 minutes. Transfer mixture to airtight containers, and refrigerate at least 1 week. Pickles will keep for 3 weeks more. They won’t last that long. Ours were all gone in under 2 weeks.

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crisp wontons with strawberries and yogurt – everyday food challenge

Saturday night we were invited by our friend Jim to enjoy an evening of classical music provided by the world-renowned Cleveland Orchestra at the beautiful Blossom Music Center. Unlike every other concert at Blossom, for the Orchestra you are welcome to bring in a picnic dinner and even your own bottles of wine. Earlier in the week, Jim mentioned the direction he was taking for the picnic menu had a bit of Greek lean. Opa! And since I was providing the dessert, perhaps I could also go a little Greek.

The first thing that came to mind was Baklava. But seeing as how the temps have been in the 90′s and a bit on the humid side, I decided to look for a dessert that might be a tad less sticky and a bit more refreshing. Going through my back issues of Everyday Food magazine I came upon the recipe for Crisp Wontons with Strawberries and Yogurt. Now you may ask yourself, Greek cuisine and wontons? Yes, I know. A bit unorthodox. But the yogurt used in the recipe is Greek. There’s a drizzle of honey. And the crispy, sweet, almond covered wontons sort of have a Mediterranean pastry feel. Ok, I admit, it’s a stretch. But the final product was amazing.

The crisp and sweetened wontons can be made ahead, and then everything was quickly assembled at the picnic.

Crisp Wontons with Strawberries and YogurtEveryday Food, May 2010

  • 12 wonton wrappers
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup whole natural almonds, finely chopped
  • 1 cup plain 2% Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons honey (we prefer Kilker North Honey)
  • 1 1/4 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place wonton wrappers on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and brush with melted butter. Sprinkle with sugar and almonds. Bake until golden brown and crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer wontons to a wire rack and let cool.

Dividing evenly, top 6 wontons with yogurt, a drizzle of honey and strawberries, then sandwich with the remaining wontons. Serve immediately.

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