jo skates

Skating in the key of life


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Roasted ratatouille

Today I found myself with a fridge full of vegetables that need to be used, and a hankering to bake something. I looked at a number of recipes online and decided to make ratatouille. Lots of chopping, and takes a while. But it’s well worth it!

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes. I left the skin on. I also tossed the cubes with some salt and left it in a colander in the sink for 15 minutes before roasting. I’m not sure this did anything (but they were nice and salty).
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 large onions, quartered and sliced into 1/4-inch slices
  • 4 medium zucchini in 1/2-inch rounds
  • 3 colored bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch strips. I used red, yellow, and orange ones
  • several tablespoons olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • 3 large tomatoes, chopped. I did the “boiling water for ten seconds and ice bath” to peel them first, but next time I may skip that step.
  • springs of fresh herbs. I used rosemary and oregano (not yet killed by the frost).
  • bay leaves. I used dried ones.

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread each set of vegetables in a single layer on large, lightly-oiled sheet pans. I used two large roasting pans. Sprinkle some oil olive on top (or you can toss each set with a bit of olive oil before putting them in the pan). Then roast them in this order:

Roast the onions and 3 cloves of the minced garlic first for 10 minutes. Then stir the onions, push them to the side, and spread the zucchini next to the onions. Put the pan with the onions and zucchini back in the oven. Add a second pan with the eggplant. Roast both pans for 15 minutes.

Stir the onions and flip the zucchini. Stir the eggplant and place to one side. Add the peppers alongside the eggplant. Roast everything on the pans for 15 minutes. Stir each set of vegetables and put some salt on top.

Finish roasting (maybe 15-30 minutes more.) Everything should be nicely roasted and just a little bit brown (my eggplant/pepper pan wasn’t quite done, so I broiled it for a few minutes at the end).

While the other vegetables are roasting, chop the tomatoes and the last clove of minced garlic. Sprinkle with some salt and bay leaves.

Place all the roasted vegetables together in one pan along with the tomatoes. Stir until mixed evenly and spread out in the pan. Roast for another 45 minutes. Lots of recipes recommend adding chopped fresh basil or parsley at the very end, but I didn’t have any. It was delicious anyway!

Unfortunately I was so busy chowing down that I didn’t take a picture. I may just have to add one on the next go around, or you can use your imagination. It doesn’t look as pretty as the carefully layered versions, but it’s sure a lot easier to make (and I think it tastes better).

I also made some oven sweet potato fries (peel, chop, toss with olive oil, and bake) at the same time. This was quite the post-skating feast–and balanced out the leftover Halloween candy nicely.


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Oatmeal cookies (gluten-free)

IMG_8684This recipe is adapted from an oatmeal lace cookie recipe at SimplyRecipes for oatmeal lace cookies. You can use regular all-purpose flour if there is not a need for the gluten-free version.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons gluten-free flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine the butter and sugar. Stir in vanilla, salt, and gluten-free flour. Allow the mixture to stand for about 10 minutes. Add the egg and mix well. Stir in the oats.

Use about a tablespoon of dough for each cookie. Spread the dough into thin circles so that the oats are even distributed. The cookies will spread, so leave at least an inch of space between them. Bake for about 8 – 10 minutes until the edges are dark golden brown (these burn easily, so keep an eye on them). Allow to cool completely on the parchment paper before removing.

Presumably these will store in an airtight container for up to 3 days as separated by sheets of parchment paper. However,  I found that they got soft one day later, and had to be rebaked for a couple of minutes before serving.

 


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Carrot cake recipe

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Well, it’s just crazy out there. It has been snowing all day, and the wind has been blowing snow everywhere so that shoveling is futile. It was pretty clear from the time I got up that it would be a good day to do some baking.

I took a visiting speaker out for brunch yesterday, and saw a gorgeous carrot cake in the bakery case of the restaurant. I didn’t get to have a slice then, but have been having visions of carrot cake ever since.

I thought I would do carrot cupcakes and share some with friends (well, whenever we dig out). I realized I didn’t have all of the ingredients for my favorite carrot cake recipe, so would have to brave the elements.

I stepped outside into snow up to my knees! Luckily, it was the soft and fluffy stuff, easy to kick through (and sort of fun to kick around). I walked over to the grocery store and picked up a few items, including a can of crushed pineapple and some cream cheese.

The cupcakes baked up nicely, though I think I had the top rack ones in just a few minutes too long. I brushed the tops with simple syrup just to get a little extra moisture in those (dry cupcakes are the worst).

We had tickets to go see a dance/music performance this evening. I kept waiting for the notification that the performance would be cancelled, but as of 6 p.m. I still hadn’t gotten any notification. My husband wisely suggested that we take the bus instead of trying to drive. After waiting for the bus a while, I checked email and was relieved that the event had indeed been cancelled–about time!

So after trudging home from the bus stop, I made some frosting for a few of the cupcakes. The rest will wait until we dig out. It may take a while, but at least if we are snowed in there are plenty of carrot cupcakes to eat!

Carrot cake

Makes a three-layer cake or around 30 cupcakes.

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1-1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-3/4 cups grated carrot
  • 1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1 1/2-cups shredded coconut
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 3 (9-inch) round cakepans with parchment paper; lightly grease and flour. Alternatively, prepare cupcake pans.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

Beat together sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla until smooth. Add flour mixture. When this is beginning to come together, fold in carrots, pineapple, coconut, and nuts if desired. Blend until just combined–do not overmix. Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool and remove from pans.

Frost with cream cheese frosting or whipped cream/cream cheese frosting.

Cream cheese frosting

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 – 2 cups confectioner’s sugar (I usually use just over 1 cup)

Blend butter, cream cheese, and vanilla in a food processor; add sugar until desired level of sweetness.

Whipped cream/cream cheese frosting

  • 1-1/2 cups whipping cream
  • 1 cup sugar (or less)
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Whip cream separately until stiff peaks form. Beat together cream cheese, vanilla, and desired amount of sugar until smooth. Fold the cream cheese mixture into the whipped cream.

 


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Chocolate shortbread

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This chocolate shortbread recipe is easy and deliciously chocolatey. The only tip is to make sure the shortbread mold (if you are using one) is well-oiled (I use cooking spray). The last few times I’ve made this chocolate shortbread recipe, it was a miserable fail getting it out of the pan.

But today I made sure the sides as well as the bottom were generously oiled, and it came out great!

Crisp Chocolate Shortbread (adapted from Mrs. Witty’s Monster Cookies)

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened (but not melted)
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon (or big pinch or a few shakes of) salt

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F with rack in middle.
  2. Cream butter with sugar and cocoa, then add vanilla.
  3. Sift together flour, cornstarch, and salt. Combine all ingredients until dough comes together (it will be crumbly but should stick to together when squeezed).
  4. With plastic wrap or bare hands, press into well-oiled shortbread mold. You can also use an ungreased 9-inch pie plate, smoothing it into a round that stops just short of the sides. If you are using a pan, you should cut it into 12 wedges, cutting only halfway through the dough, and use a fork to make decorative sides and put several holes into each wedge.
  5. Bake at 325 for 30 minutes, checking about 20 minutes (dough should be “delicately springy” in the center). If using a pie plate, cool the entire pan on wire rack; cut before it has cooled completely. If using a mold, cool partially before unmolding (I run a sharp knife around the edges first); cut while it is still warm.
  6. Alternatively, you can make wafers. Roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thick between two sheets of plastic wrap, then cut with a pastry cutter or sharp  into 1-1/2 x 2 inch oblongs and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Use a fork to put 2 – 3 sets of holes in each, pricking all the way through.
  7. If making wafers, bake at 325 for fifteen minutes or until just firm. Cool on wire rack. Sprinkle with sugar if desired.

Store in plastic wrap or foil at room temperature for up to several days, or refrigerate for several weeks, or freeze for longer. If it has been refrigerated or frozen, you can warm it up in a 300 degree oven for 10 minutes before serving at room temperature.


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Peach pie

Instant gratification? Almost (especially with a food processor) but not quite. But however long the wait, the result is worth the waiting for!

Crust (one 9-inch crust; I make two of these unless I want an open-faced pie)

1 cup flour
1/3 cold butter, cut into small cubes
1 T sugar
pinch salt
3-4 T ice water

Put flour, butter cubes, sugar and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Add ice water a tablespoon at a time, and pulse until the dough comes together in a ball. Place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes or more.

Filling

5-6 large ripe peaches
2 T cornstarch
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 T lemon juice
pinch salt
sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg (optional)

Blanch peaches to remove skin (make an “x” in the skin, 40-120 seconds in boiling water, depending on ripeness, then put into ice water) or peel with a peeler. Slice and mix with cornstarch, sugar, lemon juice, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Pie assembly

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Roll out bottom crust and place in 9-inch pie pan. (I usually use the “quadrant” technique, folding the rolled-out dough gently twice, then transferring and unfolding.) Fill with peach mixture and top with second crust. Make appropriate slits and seal around rim.

Bake for about 20 minutes at 425 degrees, then lower temperature to 375 and bake for about 20 minutes more until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling. (I use an adjustable silicone pie crust shield that I just put on at the start of baking, which works well to protect the rim. If you don’t have one, you should check it about halfway through and cover the rim or crust as needed with foil if it is getting too brown.)

My son and husband just got back from an exciting youth orchestra tour to Cuba, so the palm trees are in honor of their trip!

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Pannekoeken!

Clearly I am behind the times! I was telling skating friends about the Dutch pancake I made the other day for the first time, and I was immediately told that this is called a pannekoeken.

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Pannekoeken!

Not only that, but there is an actual restaurant chain called Pannekoeken Huis where they serve these. Kari tells me that they cry out “Pannekoeken!” when they bring out your order, but I have yet to believe this. She identified one of these restaurants that is in a shopping center nearby. I drive by there all the time and have never noticed it.

Anyway, mine was delicious.  Here’s the recipe, from Florence Fabricant for the N.Y. Times: 

Pannekoeken

INGREDIENTS

3 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon sugar
pinch of nutmeg
4 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Combine eggs, flour, milk, sugar and nutmeg in a blender jar and blend until smooth. Batter may also be mixed by hand.

Place butter in a heavy 10-inch skillet or baking dish and place in the oven. As soon as the butter has melted (watch it so it does not burn) add the batter to the pan, return pan to the oven and bake for 20 minutes, until the pancake is puffed and golden. Lower oven temperature to 300 degrees and bake five minutes longer.

Remove pancake from oven, cut into wedges and serve at once topped with syrup, preserves, confectioners’ sugar or cinnamon sugar.

Yelling “Pannenkoeken!” is optional.


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Almond flour shortbread

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Gluten-free, practically sugar-free, and quite tasty!

2-1/2 c blanched almond flour (not almond meal)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
10 Tablespoons melted and cooled butter (I prefer unsalted.)
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1-2 Tablespoons maple syrup or honey (you can leave this out entirely if you prefer a more savory treat.)
1 c chocolate chunks (I use bittersweet)

Stir dry ingredients together. Add butter, vanilla and syrup if desired. Add chocolate chunks. Form into balls and press onto a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for around 10-12 minutes or until very slightly crisp (these will not rise). Allow to cool before removing from sheet.