Macerated Fresh Berry Parfaits

maceratedberries

It’s been a month since I’ve posted anything, and for those of you that follow my blog I apologize. Most of you know I’m executive chef for a liberal arts university and we’ve been doing a lot of catering work leading up to summer graduation, which was yesterday, so my time has been short the past month.

As is customary for every graduation on campus, I create/prepare an upscale dinner for the board of directors and the guest speaker from graduation. Last night’s meal was a filling one, beef tenderloin with portobello-Madeira sauce, roasted purple and pink potatoes and sauteed broccolini, so for dessert I needed something light. Since fresh berries are plentiful right now, I made a simple fresh berry parfait. The guests were really impressed with the flavors and wanted to know just what I did. They were shocked when I told them, because this is so simple to do. It’s a way to heighten the flavors of the fresh fruit without covering it up, so while berries are everywhere you should pick some up and give this a try!

  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, halved or quartered depending on their size
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup fresh blackberries
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp Grand Marnier or similar orange liqueur

and for the simple creme anglaise:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1/3 cup sugar

To prepare the fruit, simply put all washed and cut fruit in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the sugar, lemon juice and liqueur. Let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

To make creme anglaise:

  1. In a small, heavy saucepan, heat the cream and vanilla until bubbles start to form around the edges of the pan.
  2. While the cream is heating, whisk together the eggs and sugar until smooth. Slowly pour 1/2 the hot cream mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly. Gradually add the egg yolk mixture back to the pot of remaining cream, whisking constantly, and cook until it thickens and will coat the back of a spoon.
  3. Remove from the heat and chill.

To assemble the parfaits:

Spoon fruit mixture in a parfait glass, alternating between layers of the macerated fruit and the chilled cream anglaise. Serve cold.

 

Grapefruit Jam

jambottle

 

Lately I’ve been on a preserving kick, making jams and jellies, putting vegetables in the freezer and at the moment, gathering everything up for some homemade pickles. Everything I’ve done this year was to preserve something I had around the house, or was given, or had too much and needed to save some. Yesterday I saved 7 over ripe ruby red grapefruit from the trash can by making grapefruit jam. I love a good grapefruit and I figured people make jams, jellies and marmalades out of everything else, so why not try it. Turns out it is delicious! You could make this recipe with any citrus fruit, or a combination of several different ones. Like everything else I do, this was easy and well worth the try.

First you need to section the grapefruit. To do that, cut the ends off so your grapefruit will have a flat area to sit on. With a sharp knife, go all around the grapefruit removing the skin. This is also how I peel cantaloupe, watermelon, oranges, honeydew melons.. anything with a round shape you’d like to peel easily.

sectioning

After you’ve removed all of the skin, using a sharp knife, work in between the membranes to remove the segments from the pith. Work over a heavy bottom sauce pan so that all of the juice and fruit pieces fall into the pan. Then squeeze the juice from the membranes before discarding them. Be sure to remove any seeds that may have fallen into the pot.

sectioning2

Measure out the amount of fruit/juice you have before cooking (my 7 grapefruit yielded 4 cups of fruit and juice). Bring the fruit mixture to a boil over medium high heat. Once boiling, add half as much sugar as you had fruit (for my 4 cups, I used 2 cups of sugar). Continue to boil until sugar is dissolved. Next add 1 pack of liquid fruit pectin. They say you don’t need it with grapefruit, but you do. Then add 1 tbsp butter (this keeps foam from forming on the fruit mixture while it’s boiling. Continue to boil at a rapid boil (one you can’t stir down) for at least 10 minutes. As the grapefruit get hot, they change in color to a beautiful golden orange mandarin color.

jam1

This is what your mixture should start to look like. To test, put a saucer in the freezer to chill, then take a spoonful of the jam mixture and spread on the plate. If it sets up and doesn’t run you’re ready to can. If it runs, continue cooking longer.

To can the jam, get whatever size jars you’d like to use (I used 8- 1/2 pint jelly jars because that’s a good size to give out to friends). In another stock pot, bring water to a boil. Boil the jars, rings and lids to sanitize them. To can the jam, get a jar from the hot water and set it on a plate. Spoon the jam into the jar, leaving 1/4″-1/2″ head space at the top. Place a top on it and crank on a ring. Once you’ve filled all of your jars, drop them back into your pot of boiling water, ensuring the tops of the jars are covered, and process for 5-6 minutes. Remove from the hot water and let the jars cool on a towel or in a box. As they cool, you’ll hear them seal. They will “pop” all night. Now you’re ready to share or enjoy. Once you’ve opened a jar and broken the seal, be sure to refrigerate it.

Easy Southern Peach Cobbler

peachcobbler

As usual, we headed down to Pepper Place market this morning for some locally grown produce and I just couldn’t resist some freshly picked Chilton County peaches. I did my part to help the local economy and bought a big basket full. Chilton County peaches are some of the best peaches you can buy and some think they are more tasty than their counterparts across the border in the peach state.

Although I definitely don’t need the added sugar in my diet, I’ve got a peach cobbler in the oven as I type this. My recipe was handed down from my grandmother and it’s easy and foolproof. So go pick up some delicious ripe peaches and give this one a try. You’ve probably got all the ingredients in your pantry or frig!

  • 4 cups peeled, chopped peaches
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup milk (we only buy half and half because we use it in our coffee and it works just fine but will produce a richer crust, but what’s wrong with that???)
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 stick melted butter

Preheat the oven to 350F. Pour the melted butter into a 13″x9″ Pyrex dish. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and milk. Mix well to combine and remove lumps. Pour the batter over the melted butter but do not stir. Next top the butter with the peaches, again do not stir (as the cobbler bakes, the crust rises and the peaches fall). Sprinkle top with lemon juice, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Bake for 35-45 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown. Serve with a scoop of some rich vanilla ice cream. Cobbler can be stored at room temperature, covered with plastic wrap.

Frozen Strawberry Margarita Shots

strawberrymargarita

Happy Easter everyone! Ok, so maybe this isn’t a proper Easter recipe, but for some families it may be just the right thing. While my family is great, many friends dread family encounters. I know it’s alcohol and it’s Easter, but that combination isn’t so strange in my family. See one side of my family was a strong Catholic family from New Orleans, and every family gathering (regardless the reason we gathered) involved a half-gallon of bourbon and some 3 liter Cokes. So for me, having a highball was common place. It didn’t matter what day of the week it was or what day of the year it was. I’d walk into my grandparent’s house and the first thing they would tell me was to make myself a drink. I miss my grandparents 😦

Today we spent the morning repairing the seawall at the lake, which got me thinking about pier parties and this recipe will be a must for the next one we have, so get ready ladies, because I’ll be the one passing out the Patron strawberries!

  • 1# box of strawberries
  • 1 cup plus 1/2 cup (divided) of your favorite Margarita mix
  • 1/2 cup tequila
  • 2 tsp triple sec or orange juice
  • 1 box strawberry JELL-O
  • Limes and sugar for garnish

Wash the strawberries and cut a flat spot on the bottom of each so they will sit flat. Remove the stem and hollow out the core (best done with a melon baller).

In a sauce pan, bring 1 cup of Margarita lime mix to a boil. Add the strawberry JELL-O and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat, then add the tequila and triple sec/orange juice. If you add it to the boiling liquid, all your alcohol will boil off.

Spoon the mixture into your strawberry cups and place cups on a platter or tray. Freeze until set/solid.

Before enjoying, let them thaw slightly. Dip each strawberry top in Margarita mix and then dredge in sugar. Garnish with a lime.

Pina Colada Ice Box Pie

pina-colada-icebox-pie-sl-x

While reading the latest issue of Southern Living, I ran across this recipe for a Pina Colada Ice Box Pie and decided I’d give it a try. I’m a big lover of ice box pies; I’ve loved them all my life. My great aunt always made a lemon ice box pie for me for my birthday. I use a basic recipe to make mine (1 can Eagle Brand, 1 cup lemon or lime juice depending on what I’m making and 3 egg yolks in a graham cracker crust with the egg whites on top for a meringue), but this recipe was a little more intriguing. No “off the shelf” pre-made crust here! A delicious taste of warm weather to come, even if it doesn’t have any rum in it 😦

  • 2 cups crushed pecan shortbread cookies (about 16 pecan sandies)
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup melted butter (half a stick)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 8oz can crushed pineapple in juice
  • 1 8oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup cream of coconut milk (Coco Lopez)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • fresh pineapple, toasted coconut or thin lime slices for garnish

Combine the crushed cookies, coconut and butter in a bowl and mix well. Pat crumb mixture into a 8″-9″ pie pan, pressing up the sides so it’s even all over. Bake the crust in a 350F oven for 10 minutes, then cool completely on a wire rack.

While the crust is baking, in a heavy bottom saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch and pineapple. Cook over high heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens to the consistency of pineapple jam. Pour from pan into a bowl and let cool completely along with the crust, at least 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add 1 cup of coconut milk (the rest can be kept covered in your fridge for  later use), then add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until combined.

On the cooled crust, spread the pineapple mixture in a single layer, then top with spoonfuls of the cream cheese mixture and spread even. Bake at 350F for approximately 40 minutes, until pie is completely set. Cool on a wire rack for 1 hour, then cover and chill for 4 hours.

Just before serving, beat the chilled whipped cream in a chilled bowl with chilled beaters until stiff peaks form. Swirl in remaining coconut milk. Top the pie with the whipped cream and garnish with toasted coconut, pineapple, etc.

To toast coconut, arrange on a baking sheet in a thin layer and bake at 350F for 4-5 minutes until lightly browned.

Pumpkin Pecan Bread Pudding

One thing my customers are always saying is that I make some of the best bread pudding they’ve ever eaten. I have several variations on bread pudding and try to make a pan about once a week. Blueberry, chocolate, orange-cranberry, traditional… I make whatever based on what I’ve got in the coolers and pantry.

Recently we had some croissants that were turning stale and I needed to use them. Since I’m not a true “baker”, I’ll usually look online for a recipe idea and then take off on it, because I hate following a recipe. This recipe started the same way, but because I’ve had a bumper crop of pecans from the home tree this year, I’m also looking at ways to use them in my fall cooking. This recipe can be made as a dessert or as a breakfast/brunch bread pudding. If you’re making it for the later, simply mix it up and refrigerate overnight, then bake off when you wake up.

 

  • 10 cups cubed, day-old croissants (about 5 large croissants)
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups pure canned pumpkin
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 3 cups half & half
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups toasted pecans

In a large mixing bowl, lightly beat the eggs, sugars, salt and vanilla extract. Fold in the pumpkin, then add the half & half and milk. Add the cubed croissants and toss well to incorporate. The mixture should be slightly soupy and if needed, add a little more milk.

Pour mixture into a greased 9″x13″ glass baking dish. Top with pecan halves. Bake at 350 for approximately an hour, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out with no liquid on it. Cool on a wire rack. Best served warm but not hot! (If the pecans start to get too brown during baking, cover lightly with aluminum foil)

For a breakfast/brunch serving, simply top with pure maple syrup. If you’re serving as a dessert, mix 1 box of powdered sugar with 1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice and top by dipping a wire whisk into the sugar glaze and lightly shaking it over the surface.

Orange Cinnamon Rolls

If you can’t tell from my posts, I’ve been on a sweet kick lately. I guess that happens after you pass 40. This is a really simple recipe for making “almost homemade” cinnamon rolls. I love orange cinnamon rolls so I added orange zest to the rolls and orange juice to the icing, but if you prefer a more traditional cinnamon roll, leave the zest out of the roll and replace the orange juice in the icing with milk. The hardest part of making these is finding the frozen bread dough. You’ll have to check a real grocery store; I don’t think Walmart has frozen bread dough but I could be wrong.

 

Roll dough:

  • 1 1# loaf frozen bread dough, thawed
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp grated orange zest
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Icing:

  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tbsp butter, softened
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2-3 tbsp fresh squeezed orange juice

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 14-in. square. Spread butter over dough. In a small bowl, combine the pecans, sugar, brown sugar, orange peel and cinnamon. Sprinkle over dough.

Roll up jelly-roll style; pinch seams to seal. Cut into 1/2-in. slices. Place cut side down in two greased 9-in. round baking pans. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 40 minutes.

Bake at 350° for 14-16 minutes or until golden brown. Combine the confectioners’ sugar, butter, vanilla and enough orange juice to achieve desired consistency; drizzle over warm rolls. Yield: about 2 dozen.

Glorious Morning Scratch Muffins

 

For the past few years, we have served a variety of fresh baked muffins at work and my customers have grown accustomed to a nice hot muffin. Like many foodservice establishments, we cheated. Our muffins were fresh baked, but not fresh made. We bought muffin batter that you “scooped and baked” to save time (and labor costs). Customers loved them, so it was a win-win situation.

Things changed when I switched companies recently. I had the same customers looking for their usual breakfast muffins, but our new grocery supplier offered a “less than favorable” alternative for muffin batter. My customers have not been happy, so I promised them I would make some scratch muffin batter this weekend to serve this coming week in the cafe.

Since baking is not my thing (I love to cook but I DESPISE following recipes), I had to scour magazines and internet recipes to try and find something I felt was comparable to what my customers are expecting tomorrow morning. This recipe is a tweak; I started with a basic muffin recipe and made it my own. They turned out delicious, so I thought I’d share with you this extremely easy recipe for making homemade muffins. You can use this recipe for for a variety of muffins by substituting the flavorful ingredients. In fact, I used the basic part of this recipe (as noted below) to create 5 varieties of muffins for breakfast tomorrow (Glorious Morning, Chocolate Chip, Blueberry, Banana Nut and Cranberry-Orange-Almond). I’m sharing the whole recipe for the Glorious Morning muffins which are by far my biggest seller, but noting where you can substitute to make other varieties.

There’s no need to buy muffin mix in a bag or box when most all these ingredients can be found in most of your pantries! Give them a shot! The good thing is, you can mix them up on Friday evening and refrigerate the batter. Then scoop into your muffin tins and bake Saturday morning!

Basic Muffin Batter:

  • 1 8oz container of sour cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

In the bowl of a mixer, combine the sour cream, eggs, sugar and vanilla and mix for 30 seconds. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, soda and cinnamon and mix to incorporate (I use a wire whisk to mix dry ingredients). Add the dry ingredients to the wet in the mixer and run on low just long enough to incorporate into a batter. That’s your basic muffin mix.

For Glorious Morning Muffins:

To the batter add 1 peeled and diced Granny Smith apple, 1/4 cup minced carrots (I use shredded carrots and pulse them in the food processor), 1 tbsp orange marmalade, 1/4 cup shredded coconut, 1/2 cup chopped pecans or almonds, 1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries

If you wanted to make blueberry, to the batter add some fresh or thawed, frozen blueberries and add the orange marmalade.

For cranberry-orange-almond, use dried cranberries, sliced almonds and orange marmalade.

For banana nut, I use crushed pecans and 2 overly ripe bananas, smashed up with your hands or run through the food processor.

For chocolate chip, just add chocolate chip morsels straight from the bag.

Scoop muffin mix into a 12 muffin tin pan or 6 jumbo muffin pan. Bake at 325F for 18-25 minutes (depending on the size, less time for smaller muffins, more for larger) or until brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.