Just about everyone that I know can use a little sunshine in their lives right now. This is the time of year when the winter blues start to set in and the pristine white snow has lost its luster and appeal. We are all yearning for a peak of green grass and the first tiny crocuses to sprout from the frozen ground. While we are waiting anxiously for this to happen, why not bring a little warmth and sunshine into your cold winter day with a beautiful blood orange. Blood oranges look similar to any other citrus on the market; bright orange with a tinge of red on the skin. The red blush on the skin of the blood orange reveals only a glimpse of the beautiful bright red interior. Truly a stunning fruit...
From time to time, even professional Pastry Chef’s utilize store bought cake mixes! I have a recipe from my childhood that is the perfect example of this. The recipe is already multi-stepped without the addition of making a homemade batter; just like my mother used to make.
The first boxed cake mixes graced the store shelves in the early 1930’s by the Duff Company who even offered gingerbread and molasses cake mixes. The mixes required only water and were not as big of a success as the company had hope for…
As the 1940’s and 1950’s approached, Pillsbury and Duncan Hines emerged with mixes that required the addition of eggs. Eggs not only made the cake moist and rich but gave the average housewife (of the time) more of a feeling that they made the cake from scratch. Cake mixes are now on every shelf and I can guarantee from time to time we will all utilize this time saver in our recipes!
The origin of the crisp is decidedly an American invention. When it came to recipes, early settlers were often forced to use what was readily available and on hand. Early American settlers often improvised; they had limited access to ingredients or the ability to run to the store when needed. Quite often, each creation varied from the last; oats may not have been available so ground nuts were often substituted, or flour was used in its place. There are many variations of the crisp and many have different and interesting names given to them such as: grunt, cobbler, buckle, slump, pandowdy or even a sonker. Each recipe varies from region to region. The crisp or the cobbler is what many of us in the United States are familiar with. The cobbler has more of a biscuit or cake like crust while the crisp is traditionally made with oatmeal and ground nuts as a base.
Berry Chocolate crisp adds one more layer of flavor to a very simple and comforting dessert. Chocolate and Ugandan Vanilla beans! The addition of dark cocoa powder to the crisp topping adds a depth of flavor not often found in traditional crisps. Have you ever had chocolate covered strawberries? This dessert will satisfy your desire for chocolate, berries and a crisp topping all in one delicious bite!
Persimmons are in season! This sweet and creamy fruit is very versatile, but can be a little intimidating a first glance. You may ask, "What is a persimmon, and how can I eat this beautiful, bright orange fruit?!"
Trying to get yourself ready for the day amongst the chatter of young children, the moodiness of a teenager and a spouse that can't seem to find the car keys is enough to make you want to pull your hair out! Getting any number of children, backpacks, lunches and maybe a spouse out the door is no easy task. Wouldn't it be nice to take a few minutes, grab a cup of coffee (or tea) and enjoy a slice of homemade sweet bread? A cup of caffeine and a slice of chocolate cappuccino bread can bring a much need energy boost to start your day off right.
I grew up enjoying classic dense cheesecakes complete with graham cracker crust and a slightly sweet sour cream topping. On special occasions, sweet cherry pie filling would cascade over the side adding to the decadence of the cake. My mother was an accomplished cook and there was always some sort of pastry or dessert in the house. On holidays and special occasions we could count on her creating the most delicious and decadent treats. She made everything from homemade pies to crème filled chocolate cupcakes. The most memorable and often most requested was her sour cream cheesecake.
The kids are back to school, the leaves are starting to turn and the Christmas decorations are beginning to show up in the big box stores..... What???? Christmas decorations already?! I don't know about you, but I am not quite ready to let go of the last bit of summer we have left! I stepped outside this morning and was hit with a wall of hot, humid air and thought to myself, "I am oddly okay with this." I know that in a few short weeks we will be bundled up in sweaters and blankets to watch Friday night football games and sipping on hot apple cider. So..... for now I'm savoring the hot sticky weather by making a very summery treat! Lemons are often associated with memories of warm sunny days, the smell of freshly mowed grass and a cold glass of refreshing lemonade savored on a hot sticky day. Throw in a few ripe red raspberries and you have the perfect summertime drink! Raspberry lemonade bars are that cool, refreshing glass of lemonade in a handy and very portable dessert. As many of you have already packed up for a last summer weekend at the beach, or your last weekend up north at the cottage, why not savor the last warm days of summer? I encourage you to make a batch of raspberry lemonade bars to enjoy it just a little bit more.
My husband loves avocados, which was great when we lived in San Diego where fresh avocados were available year round. Finding the perfect ripe avocado that doesn't cost $3.00 proved to be a bit of a challenge here in West Michigan this winter. When the season began again, and the prices dropped to a more reasonable $1.50, I began to think once again about this luscious little fruit. Fresh guacamole is delicious, sliced avocado is lovely and salads of avocado are amazing, but after awhile it becomes a little monotonous. In my quest to discover new ways to use this creamy, delicious fruit, I have found and created a couple new desserts. I know it's hard to grasp, but avocados are delicious in dessert applications! The texture of the fruit makes it easy to blend them into ice cream and whipped creams. My favorite way to use them is in a delicious avocado cream. A simple combination of heavy cream and sugar beaten together with half of an avocado can create a heavenly dessert. Kick it up a notch with a crispy cinnamon sugar tortilla and a delicious currant sauce.
If you have never experienced the taste of a fresh fig now is the time to try one! Green Kadota figs have a very short growing season, typically late July to early September. The small green fruit produces a bright green exterior and a beautiful pink interior. The fruit is less sweet than its black counterpart, the mission fig. Green figs are the perfect accompaniment to a crisp glass of white wine or a delicious variety of gourmet cheeses. One of my favorite ways to serve this small fruit is dipped in rich dark chocolate sauce and rolled in chopped hazelnuts. Simple and elegant, this dessert is the perfect way to satisfy those sweet cravings without feeling too guilty.
Raspberry picking season is finally upon us! Sweet, juicy, ripe red raspberries that beg to be eaten right from the plant. Those berries that do make it home usually are eaten by the handful or frozen on sheet trays, bagged and labeled for the long winter months ahead. But..... what do you do when your plants gave you more than you can handle, or when that 5 pound box called out to you at the farmers market? Make jam of course!