Sunday, December 21, 2008

This is not your grandmother's fake fruit fruitcake.

This is not your grandmother's fruitcake that was dry and filled with all sorts of chemical tasting fake fruit in neon colors. Instead this is a moist cake filled with sun dried fruit that even people who hate fruitcake will love.

* 1 cup sun dried tart cherries
* 3/4 cup sun dried cranberries
* 3/4 cup golden raisins
* 1/2 cup dried diced pineapple
* 1/2 cup currants
* 1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
* Zest of one lemon, chopped coarsely
* Zest of one orange, chopped coarsely
* 1/4 cup candied ginger, chopped
* 1 cup spiced rum or apple juice
* 1 cup sugar
* 1 1/4 sticks of unsalted butter
* 1 cup apple juice or apple cider
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
* 1/2 tsp of ground all spice
* 1/4 tsp ground cloves
* 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
* 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 2 eggs beaten well
* 1 cup toasted pecan or walnuts or combination of the two broken or chopped very slightly
* Brandy for basting and/or spritzing (optional)


Combine all of the dried fruits, candied ginger and both zests. Add rum or apple juice and let sit on the counter covered overnight. This is called macerating.

If you are in a hurry, microwave for 5 minutes to re-hydrate fruit.

Place fruit and liquid in a non-reactive pot with the sugar, butter, apple juice and spices. Heat over medium heat until it comes to a boil. You need to stir it often so that it does not scorch. Once it comes to a full boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 to 10

minutes. Remove from heat and cool for at least 15 minutes. You can make it to this point and then store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days before completing the recipe. If you refrigerate it then please bring to room temperature before mixing dry ingredients into it.

Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Once the fruit has reached room temperature, add the 2 well beaten eggs and stir until the eggs are mixed into the fruit. In a separate bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients with a spoon or sift to combine.
Pour the dry ingredients over the fruit mixture and stir just until the flour is mixed in. Fold in the toasted nuts.
Immediately put the batter into a 10-inch non-stick loaf pan that has been greased or lined with parchment and bake for 1 hour. Check for doneness by inserting toothpick into the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean, it's done. If not, bake another 10 minutes, and check again.

Remove cake from oven and place on cooling rack or trivet. If you would like, baste or spritz top with brandy and allow to cool completely before turning out from pan. I use a clean spray bottle to spritz the cakes with.

When cake is completely cooled, seal in a tight sealing container or a zip lock bag. Every 2 to 3 days, feel the cake and if dry, spritz with brandy or a bit of apple juice. The cake's flavor will enhance considerably over the next one to two weeks but you can eat it hot out of the oven if you wish.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Oatmeal Candy Cane Cookies!

During World War II flour was very scarce and heavily rationed. It was during this time that the Quaker Oats company began developing recipes that used oatmeal to replace portions of flour, especially for baking. This is one of their best recipes.

It is the one cookie that all my kids adore and everyone asks for the recipe once they taste them.

Candy Cane Cookies

1 cup Butter softened
2 tsp vanilla
½ cup powdered sugar
3 Tbs Water
2 ½ cups sifted flour
¼ tsp salt
1 ½ cups oatmeal

Preheat oven to 325 degrees
Cream butter, sugar and vanilla together.
In a seperate bowl mix together the flour and salt

Once the butter, sugar and vanilla are light a fluffy, add half the flour mixture and half of the water and mix until just combined. Add the remaining flour and water and mix again just until combined then mix in the oatmeal.
The dough should not be crumbly. If it is add more water one tablespoon at a time.

I like to roll my logs out on a silicone mat so that I don't have to use extra flour but a floured counter will work

just as well.

Take a ball of dough the size of and egg and pinch it into a log shape. Then with both hands roll into a snake about 1/2 inch wide and 7 inches long

Place the log onto a baking sheet, either un-greased or with parchment on it, and form into a cane shape. You can also roll the dough into a ball and flatten with a cookie stamp or the bottom of a glass or measuring cup to make a disk.

Bake at 325 degree s until they are just slightly golden brown on the bottom, about 20 minutes.

Lay out on waxed paper to cool completely.

Make your glaze by combining 2 cups of sugar and 4 TBS of milk. The glaze should be thick enough to coat the cookies without running off.

Place the glaze in a wide bowl so that you can dip the cookies into glaze without hitting the sides of the bowl.

Dip the cooled cookies into glaze and lay out on waxed paper until the glaze is set.

Take the remaining white glaze and add a few drops of red food coloring to it. Spoon the red glaze into a quart size feeezer zip lock bag and cut a small bit off of one corner to make a piping bag to make the stripes.

I lay out all the cookies and make large sweeping stripes over all the rows at once.

You can also stripe them one at a time.

These freeze beautifully so make a double batch and stash some away .

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Kids poking, prodding, snooping and shaking their gifts under the tree?

I got so tired of my kids all pulling their presents out from under the tree and trying to figure out what was in each one that I decided a few years ago to stump them by not using gift tags to clue them into which packages were theirs. I now use a different wrapping paper for each of my kids.
Without names on the packages, the kids don't know which ones are theirs and they don't snoop as much. I think it is because their name is not right there teasing and tempting them.

Big Hint Here-Make sure to to write down which paper is for which kid. One year I had a total brain freeze and forgot which wrapping paper was for which kid. After shaking, poking and prodding, which really was what I was trying to avoid in the first place, I ended up having to unwrap one gift from each paper to figure out who got which gifts. To remind myself of who gets what, I tape a small piece of their assigned wrapping paper next to their name on a piece of notebook paper. Now if I can just remember where I put that piece of paper.....
Try it and see if it works for you!

Is your wrapping paper a bit too small for your package? Try this green tip!

Has this ever happened to you?

Have you ever cut a piece of paper or had a bit left from another package and it is just a little too small? Well here is a handy hint I learned from my daughter Laura.

This method is especially useful for packages that are just a bit too large for a full size roll of paper. Instead of having to patch 2 pieces of paper together to fit around the package, try this method to save yourself some time, tape and paper.

You are going to fold in the corners of the paper instead of the edges so take the item you want to wrap and rotate it on the paper like this.

Next fold 2 opposite corners into the middle

Now fold in the top corner tucking the sides in neatly. Place a piece of tape on each side to hold.

Tuck in the sides.

Then fold the last corner up and over and tape to seal the package.

You just used the piece of paper that was too small to wrap the traditional way
to wrap your package.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Lemon Coconut Bread / Cake that is rich in flavor but lower in fat than many other quick breads.

Lemon Coconut Bread
Try this lemony loaf with a cup of coffee or tea for breakfast or serve it with berries and some whipped cream for an easy dessert. Unlike most quick bread recipes that call for a cup of oil, this recipe calls for half that amount of fat and uses a combination of butter and oil for a rich yet not heavy flavor and texture. It is a cross between a traditional quick bread and a cake. This loaf freezes beautifully so I double or triple the recipe to make sure to always have a loaf on hand.

1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup of lemon juice
3/4 cup of milk
2 large eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup (2 ounces) sweetened flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 350°.
Grease and flour a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan or line with waxed or parchment paper then set it aside.

Whisk the the lemon juice, milk and 2 eggs together in a small bowl.

In another bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt until combined.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, melted butter, oil, lemon zest, lemon extract and vanilla extract.

With a wooden spoon, stir about a third of the flour mixture into the sugar mixture, then alternately add half of the egg and milk mixture and half of the flour mixture, stirring after each addition just enough to blend. Don't overbeat or the cake will be tough. Stir in the coconut.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spoon. Bake on the center oven rack until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean, about 45 to 50 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and let it sit on a cooling rack for 10- 15 minutes.
Remove loaf from the pan and set it on the rack until cooled.
When the loaf is completely cooled glaze with
Lemon Coconut Glaze
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon melted butter
1/3 cup sweetened flaked coconut
Place butter in a microwavable bowl. Microwave for 10-20 seconds until melted. Add powdered sugar, lemon juice and mix until combined. If the glaze is too thin then add a bit more powdered sugar. Stir in coconut and drizzle over the top and sides of the loaf.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Chocolate Peppermint Bars- Like Brownies with a Christmas Twist

Makes one 9x13 pan 
First Layer
2 squares unsweetened chocolate
1 cup sugar
1 stick butter
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sifted flour

Pre-heat oven to 350
Line a 9x13 inch pan with parchment or with foil, making sure that edges of foil or paper extend high enough that you can use it to lift bars from pan, grease well.
Melt chocolate and butter over hot water or microwave 45-60 seconds on high until melted. Blend together.
Combine eggs and sugar and beat at medium speed until sugar is dissolved and mixture is creamy.
Add flour to egg mixture blending just until combined then add chocolate. Mix thoroughly.
Add batter to prepared pan and spread it evenly over bottom.
Bake on bottom shelf of oven for 20 minutes then transfer to center of oven for 5 more minutes or until a toothpick stuck in can be pulled out without batter sticking to it. Just a few crumbs. Cool completely then remove from pan and place on a cookie sheet.

Second Layer
1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar
3 TBS of softened butter
1 1/2 TBS of half and half or milk
1 tsp peppermint extract
2 drops of green or red food coloring if desired I like the red!
Combine sugar and butter mixing until smooth.
Blend in cream and peppermint flavoring mixing again until smooth.
Spread on cooled first layer as smoothly and evenly as possible.
Refrigerate until chilled.

Third Layer
1 1/2 squares of unsweetened chocolate
1 1/2 TBS butter
Melt Chocolate and butter over hot water or in microwave until melted and blend together.
Spread over the second layer as smoothly as possible with a spatula or back of spoon.

Optional- Lightly sprinkle 3 to 4 TBS of finely crushed candy canes or peppermint candies over the top of the Third layer (chocolate) before layer sets up.
Hint- An ice cream scoop makes a great crusher for this job.
Chill well.
Cut onto 1/2 X 2 inch bars. Makes 64 bars
Note: I made a double batch in an 18x13 pan in these photos.