Category Archives: Dessert

Sweet Potato Bread

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASweet Potato Bread

Some people like to collect stamps, some people like to collect trading cards.  Me?  I like to collect different types of pantry ingredients.  For example, I don’t have just one or two bottles of vinegar in my cupboard, I have well over a dozen different varieties of vinegar.   When it comes to throwing together a quick or an exotic meal, I have all my bases covered.  My pantry is chock full of wide range of ingredients that would make most discerning home cook squeal with delight.  However, I make it a point to avoid purchasing pre-made mixes or boxed dinners.  Finding a box of “Hamburger Helper” sitting in my cupboard is as likely as me becoming the next new swimsuit model for Sports Illustrated.  Just not happening…

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One of the random ingredients sitting on the pantry shelf was a little can of organic sweet potato puree.  I have to tell you that when I bought it puree, I had no idea what I was going to do with it.  I’ve never used canned sweet potato puree before, so I simply wanted to taste it and see how it compared to sweet potato puree made from scratch.

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I was surprised to find that the canned sweet potato puree tasted really good.  The sweet potato puree was creamy, sweet and is reminiscent of cooked pumpkin.  It also made a decent substitute for canned pumpkin and it saved me about an hours worth of time if I decided to prepare it myself.  With all that said, I still stand behind my opinion that fresh ingredients always tastes better than canned.  However, there is no shame in using a good quality canned ingredients.  I just did, and I was pleased with the results.

My easy to make Sweet Potato Bread is light, moist and has the wonderful flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger.  It’s great sliced for a quick breakfast on the go or as a snack with a warm cup of tea.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1 – 15 ounce can sweet potato puree
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 2/3 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cloves

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Lightly grease two 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch baking pans.  In a medium sized mixing bowl add the sweet potato puree, canola oil, eggs, water and vanilla.  Mix well.  In a separate large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves.  Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients.  Mix well.  Divide mixture between the two baking pans.  Bake in oven for about 60 to 70 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool on wire racks, slice and serve.  Makes two loaves.

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Triple Chocolate Banana Bread

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATriple Chocolate Banana Bread

I don’t know about you, but whenever I have any overripe bananas that need to be saved, I just toss them in the freezer to be used at a later date.  Once frozen, bananas are perfect for making banana bread.  Until yesterday, I had no idea how many bananas that I had stashed in my freezer.  This morning, I counted at least 2 dozen stray frozen bananas.  It’s no wonder stuff keeps dropping out of the freezer every time I open the freezer door…

It’s been quite a while since I baked anything and I had a bunch of bananas that needed to be used up.  Baking loaves of triple chocolate banana bread was the just the ticket to using up that freezer full of bananas. The chocolatey aroma that emitted from my kitchen was nothing short of heavenly.  It reminded me of rich chocolate brownies…  My triple chocolate banana bread is a riff on my chocolate banana bread recipe with the addition of miniature dark chocolate chips.  Seriously, how can anyone go wrong with three different chocolate ingredients in a banana bread recipe?  You can’t.

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Triple Chocolate Banana Bread cooling on a rack…  Looks like cake.  Tastes like cake.  Technically, it’s a quick bread.  It’s moist and dense.

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Do you see hints of mini dark chocolate chips throughout the bread?  Using miniature chocolate chips provides an even distribution of dark chocolatey goodness throughout the loaf.  Got bananas?  Love chocolate?  Make some Triple Chocolate Banana Bread.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 3 – 4 RIPE bananas (peeled and mashed well)
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 1 tsp chocolate extract (essence)
  • big pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup extra dark cocoa powder
  • 4 oz miniature dark chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Grab a 4 X 8 loaf pan and spray it with non stick cooking spray.  In a medium sized mixing bowl mix the mashed bananas, butter, sugar, egg, and chocolate extract.  In a small bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, extra dark cocoa powder and miniature dark chocolate chips.   Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well.  Spoon the mixture into the baking pan and bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool on a wire rack.  Slice and serve.

*** If using frozen bananas be sure to thaw them first and to peel them well.  Frozen bananas once thawed are mushier than fresh.  That’s why they work well in banana bread.

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U-pick Apricots at D & L Acres and an Apricot Smoothie

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Apricot Smoothie

I must be on a roll… I can’t believe that I just enjoyed two consecutive days off.  On my first day off, I did pretty much nothing.  Two afternoon naps, dinner out at one of our favorite restaurants and then I went to bed early and slept for another twelve hours.  I never sleep that much.  8 hours max.  There was no doubt, I really needed the sleep.

Today I woke up cheery and refreshed.  I felt like my normal self again.  What was even better is that today was U-Pick apricot day at D & L Acres.   D & L Acres is one of the only U-Pick apricot orchards here in Southern Oregon.  D & L is open for business from mid July to early August and I have to tell you, their apricots are absolutely fantastic!  I was so excited as I grabbed my camera, my bucket, and headed out to the orchard.  I knew that I was in for a real treat!

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A view of the front orchard.  This orchard has been picked through…  In the back orchard, that was another story.

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In the back orchard, the trees were totally loaded with apricots.  So loaded, that some of the branches were broken on the trees because of the heavy fruit.  This year was a good year.  Tons of bright orange apricots, sweet and juicy!

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These apricots were so ripe that if you just touched them, they would fall off the tree.  I knew that once I got these apricots home, they would not last long.  I had to process them immediately.

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A bucketful of fresh picked apricots.

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And a handful of apricots!  Orange color with a pink blush.  These are called Tilton apricots.  They are perfect for canning, freezing or drying.  They also have a heart like shape similar to a peach.  They’re also great blended up in a smoothie.

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As soon as I got home, I whipped out my new blender.  I knew exactly what I was going to do with them.  Sweet creamy smoothies for Bruce and I.  Oh, and I have to tell you that they sure were delicious!

Thank you Janie and Brian for the apricots!  If you are looking for apricots in the Southern Oregon area, be sure to look up D & L Acres.  D & L Acres is located at 5225 Fern Valley Road in Medford, Oregon.  Call for apricot availability before heading out.  The apricot season is short, and in my opinion, the apricots at D & L acres are awesome.  Their phone number is (541) 535 – 2901.  Be sure to tell them that I sent you!  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 3 – 4 large pitted apricots
  • 3/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup apple juice
  • 1 tsp honey or sugar
  • 1 or 2 ice cubes

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend on high speed until smooth.  Serve immediately.  Makes one serving.

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Blueberry Bread

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABlueberry Bread

Yesterday morning while Bruce was opening the mail he noticed that our natural gas bill was unusually low as compared to years past.  He was concerned, shouted out to me and asked me what I thought of it.  Well, the answer was easy.  Our kitchen stove uses natural gas and I have hardly cooked anything for the family over the course of the past month or two.  If it was not for fast food, roast Costco chicken, or frozen dinners the members of my family would have starved to death…

I’ve been working long hours lately and I’ve rarely spent time in my kitchen.  My refrigerator, coffee maker and microwave have been the only appliances that have been put to use.  My stove, ovens and stand mixer have been idle and collecting dust.  My camera has remained in the closet and has not been touched.  By the time I get home in the evenings all I want to do is sit on my couch in complete peace and quiet.  I stopped reading my magazines, books and favorite food blogs.  I’ve hardly checked Facebook and ignored my personal emails.  Feral Kitchen has been mothballed and a good home cooked meal has been nonexistent in our home.  On the bright side, I know that these long hours are temporary and life will be back to normal before I know it.  I look forward to getting back into the kitchen.  Cooking makes me happy.

Well, all things considered, today is a brand new day.  Today is different.  Today, I have a day off!

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This morning while out shopping for groceries for the week, I spied two pounds of fresh picked blueberries.  They were just gorgeous!  Bright blue, fat and juicy.  Without hesitation, they went straight into my shopping basket.  I knew what I wanted to do with them.  I wanted to make some blueberry bread for breakfast and maybe even share some with coworkers during the busy work week.  The rest will be packed in my lunch and the others will be made into a tangy blueberry ginger vinaigrette.  If the vinaigrette turns out the way I want it to taste, I will be sure to share the recipe with you sometime soon.

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I love blueberries!  I love the flavor and color.  What’s funny about blueberries is that I refused to eat them as a child.  How weird is that?  I find it so interesting how my palate has changed as I’ve aged.  I’m curious, has that happened to you too?

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My blueberry bread is packed with fresh plump blueberries and is not too sweet.  A slice or two is great with a cup of coffee or tea.  Any leftover loaves are perfect for sharing with friends and family or as a hostess gift.  Makes 3 delicious loaves.  It’s good to be back.  See you again soon!  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbs baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 tsp lemon extract
  • 3 cups fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large mixing bowl mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, canola oil, and lemon extract.  Add blueberries to the wet ingredients.  Now add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.  Mix until moist and lumpy.  Don’t over mix.  Add mixture to 3 greased 4 x 8 loaf pans.  Bake for 1 hour or until golden brown and toothpick comes out clean.  Cool on wire racks before slicing.  Makes 3 fabulous loaves!

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Sweet Puff Pastry Twists and the view out my kitchen window…

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Sweet Puff Pastry Twists

I love living in Southern Oregon but sometimes the weather can be cold and drab at times…  Rain, fog and snow are not uncommon during the cold winter months.  Many of the wild birds that chose to spend their winters here in the Rogue Valley rely on backyard bird feeders for their food sources.  That’s precisely why I always make sure that my bird feeders are stocked with thistle seed, suet and sunflower seeds and that my hummingbird feeder is filled with sweet nectar.

While preparing my Sweet Puff Pastry Twists this morning, I noticed a flurry of activity outside my kitchen window.  Several species of birds were visiting the feeders that I have placed out in our backyard.  The usual visitors that show up every winter are dark-eyed juncos, house finches, scrub jays, black capped chickadees, lesser goldfinches and spotted towhees.  Sometimes I am treated to less common birds to my feeder such as California quail, red breasted nuthatches, and evening grosbeaks.  Then there are birds that I would rather not have visit at all…  Sharp shinned hawks, great blue herons and great egrets.  Sharp shinned hawks hunt the little birds that frequent my feeders.  The herons and egrets try to make a fish dinner of my koi in my pond…  Don’t get me wrong, I think that they are all beautiful but I’d rather not observe their eating habits in my yard.

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A female dark eyed junco.  The males have darker heads and rusty backs.

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A female lesser goldfinch.  The males are bright yellow and have a black cap on the tops of their heads.

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A ruby crowned kinglet zipping through the air towards the suet feeder.  This bird constantly is moving back and forth so it was hard to snap a picture of him.  It seemed that every time I would focus, he would pop out of the frame. His face looks so intent as he bounced his way to the feeder.  I see this bird nearly every winter.  Whenever he would get excited, he would display a large red crown of feathers on his head.  What a cool little bird!

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A female house finch.  The males are brightly colored with a purplish red breast.  Do you see the sunflower seed in her bill?

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A sharp shinned hawk in the tree above my feeders.  When he is around, all the little birds quickly fly away and hide…  When there is no activity at my bird feeders, you can bet he is the reason why. This little hawk is lightning fast and even tries to take down birds his own size!  He is such a beautiful and skillful hunter.  I like him better when he stays away from my hawk bird feeders :).

Back to the cookies… My Sweet Puff Pastry Twists are reminiscent of a cookie that I used to purchase years ago at the old Harry and David country store here in Southern Oregon.  They called their cookies “Croustilles”.  Unfortunately, they don’t sell them anymore but I think my cookies are a pretty good “knock off”.  They’re easy to make, light and airy, crispy and delicious.  They taste wonderful with a hot cup of coffee or your favorite tea.  Makes about 5 dozen cookies.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1 sheet puff pastry (thawed)
  • 1/4 cup turbinado sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg (beaten)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees farenheit. Begin by rolling out the puff pastry into a 12″ square.  Combine both sugars in a small bowl.  Sprinkle half of the sugar on the puff pastry dough.  Be sure to cover it evenly with the sugar.  Take a rolling pin and lightly press the sugar into the dough.  Gently, flip the dough and repeat on the other side.  On one side of the dough, lightly brush with the egg.

Take a pizza cutter or knife and slice the puff pastry down the middle.  Do the same for the remaining two halves.  You should have four rectangles…  Each 12″ by 3″.

Now, slice each rectangle into 3″ by 3/4″ strips.  You should now have about 64 puff pastry strips.

On a silpat or silicone lined baking sheet place each strip about 1 1/4″ apart.  Twist each strip 360 degrees in the middle, making sure the egg brushed side is up.  They should all look like little bow ties.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until a golden brown.  Remove from oven and immediately place the twists on a wire rack to cool.  Makes about 5 dozen Sweet Puff Pastry Twists.

*** Note: This recipe is not rocket science.  Not all brands of puff pastry are the same size when you unroll it out of the package.  Some puff pastries are larger that what I described.  The key to this recipe is even coverage of sugar and uniformity in size and twists of the dough strips.  And of course, keeping an eye on the twists while baking is also important.  They do brown quickly!

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Caramel Apples

 

Caramel Apples

Do you ever get so busy with your life that you can’t seem to finish all that you set out to accomplish?  That’s where I’ve been for the past couple of weeks…  And I don’t like it one bit.  It’s not like me.  For example, a couple of days ago we had a Halloween potluck at my work and I planned to bring a veggie tray and a bunch of hand dipped caramel apples.  The only thing that I was able to complete was the veggie tray.  The apples sat in a large bowl on our kitchen counter until this morning.  Seriously?  Nobody knew that I missed the mark except me.  Oh, and of course Bruce noticed too.  Poor man.  He made the mistake of asking me why I bought so many apples :D.

What a lovely bowl of fresh picked Red Delicious Apples!  Bright red, sweet and crisp.  Aptly named.

Well, there is good news.  I am slowly but surely catching up.  Three days later and I finally tackled that bowl of apples.  I know that it is not good to always place high expectations on myself but in reality that is how I operate.  The bottom line is that my self imposed expectations is what motivates me to get things done.

These Caramel Apples turned out so delicious and without a doubt I will be making them again.  They’re so easy!  Enjoy!  Tessa

Slightly adapted from Land O’ Lakes.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups brown sugar (packed)
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 ounce)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 12 – 14 small apples (washed and dried)
  • 12 – 14 Popsicle sticks

Begin by adding brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, sweetened condensed milk to a large saucepan.  Constantly stir over low heat for about 30 minutes or until the temperature of the mixture reaches 248 degrees Fahrenheit or hard ball stage. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract.  Place a Popsicle stick in each apple and swirl in the caramel mixture.  Place each coated apple on lightly greased wax paper.  Let caramel harden on the apples and serve.  And with the leftover caramel, I placed in a lightly greased pan, covered and refrigerated for later use.

***Please be careful when dipping the apples.  The caramel is really hot.***

Note: Using a candy thermometer is crucial with this recipe.  Over cooking or under cooking your caramel may yield disastrous results.  Trust me on this one… Go out and get a candy thermometer.

 

 

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Peach Pie

Peach Pie

As I was poking around the produce section of my favorite cooperative, I spied some gorgeous local peaches.  Not only were they pretty, they gave off an amazingly wonderful sweet peachy aroma…  I could not pass them up and so I gently place 3 pounds in my grocery basket.  I knew exactly what I was going to do with them when I got home.  I was going to make a Peach Pie!

See?  These peaches were gorgeous!  Makes one 9″ pie.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds peaches (peeled, pitted and sliced)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 Tbs lemon juice
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • milk
  • 2 – 9″ unbaked pie crust pastries (I used store bought)

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  Roll out your pastry and line the bottom of a pie plate.  In a large bowl toss together the peaches, sugar, flour, lemon juice, zest and cinnamon.  Add peach mixture to pie crust.  Add top crust.  You can get all fancy and make a lattice crust like I did or just add a top crust with slits in it so the pie can vent while cooking.  Crimp edges of the pie.  (I used the backside of a fork to crimp the edges of the pie)

To make a lattice crust see this tutorial.  I must point out that my pie crust did not turn out as pretty as the tutorial.  Meh…  Maybe next time…

Brush the top of pie crust with a bit of milk and bake 45-50 minutes or until the pie is golden brown.  Remove pie from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.  Serve Peach Pie warm or cold.  A scoop of vanilla ice cream is a perfect addition to a slice of this pie!

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Pear Sauce

Pear Sauce

The Rogue Valley of Southern Oregon is known worldwide for its wonderful pears.  Pear orchards surround our towns and much of our local economy depends on our pear crops.  There are so many varieties grown here such as comice, anjou, seckel, bosc and bartlett.  I must say that my favorite pears are the bartlett variety because they are sweet, juicy and very versatile.  I bought some local bartlett pears the other day to share at a meeting that I had hosted earlier this week.  Luckily for Bruce and I, there were three leftover…  Bruce reminded me this morning as he was heading out the door that we had some pears that were really ripe and needed to be eaten up.

Bartlett Pear

It’s been a while since I made homemade Pear Sauce.  Pear Sauce is similar to apple sauce but you use way less water in the cooking process.  The reason is that ripe pears are really juicy and when you start to cook them, the water is quickly released from the fruit.  As a result, you end may end up with pear soup rather than pear sauce.

If you have any leftover pears or if you want to try something a bit different than applesauce then by all means prepare this dish.  Makes about 2 cups.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 3 ripe pears (I used Bartlett)
  • 1 Tbs water
  • 1 Tbs brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

Begin by washing, peeling, coring and chopping your pears.  Toss all ingredients in a medium sized sauce pan.  Over medium low heat, uncovered, cook for about 15 minutes stirring occasionally.  If the pears look a bit too watery, drain some of the water off.  Remove from heat.  Using a potato masher or stick blender puree the pear mixture.  Let cool. Top with a bit of brown sugar for garnish and serve.  Makes about 2 cups.

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Triple Chocolate Cookies

Triple Chocolate Cookies

It’s time for me to send a care package up to my son who is away at college.  Today, I decided to make a batch of Triple Chocolate Cookies.  I started with my usual cookie dough base of flour, butter, brown sugar, white sugar, eggs and salt.  What makes these cookies “triple chocolate” is the addition of extra dark cocoa powder, chocolate extract and white chocolate chips.  The extra dark cocoa powder is what makes these cookies one of the most chocolatey cookies that I have ever made.  Makes about 4 dozen.  Enjoy!  Tessa

And for my son G…  You’ll get these Friday afternoon.  Be sure to check your front porch.  Love you!  Mom

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 5 Tbs EXTRA DARK cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar (lightly packed)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 sticks or 1 cup  butter (softened)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp chocolate extract
  • 10 oz. package white chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with a silicone liner.  In a medium sized mixing bowl blend together the flour, extra dark cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.  In a large mixing bowl with a mixer, cream the butter, white sugar, brown sugar, eggs and chocolate extract.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and blend well.  Fold in the white chocolate chips.  Drop the dough using a teaspoon or a small cookie scoop onto the cookie sheets.  Bake for about 12 minutes or until done.  Remove from oven and cool on wire racks.  Store in a tightly covered container.   Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

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Chocolate Banana Bread

Chocolate Banana Bread

I know that I am in deep trouble when I see my husband Bruce open a freezer door and something falls out.   Every time that happens I hear him say my name.  Not just Tessa but, a long drawn out Tesssaaa….!  Then I cringe.  I know what he is thinking and what he is going to say next.  I know that it is way past time to use up freezer inventory.

I opened the freezer this morning and out fell a frozen banana.  Fortunately Bruce was at work and didn’t see.  I picked my evidence off of the floor and snagged the remaining bananas from out of the freezer.  It was time for banana bread.

My Chocolate Banana Bread is easy to make and is the perfect use for bananas that need to be eaten up or have been stored in your freezer (like mine!).  It is moist, chocolatey, and has a wonderful banana flavor.  Makes 1 luscious loaf.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 3 – 4 RIPE bananas (peeled and mashed well)
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 1 tsp chocolate extract
  • dash of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup extra dark cocoa powder

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Grab a 4 X 8 loaf pan and spray it with non stick cooking spray.  In a medium sized mixing bowl mix the bananas, butter, sugar, egg, and chocolate extract.  In a small bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and extra dark cocoa powder.   Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well.  Spoon the mixture into the baking pan and bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool on a wire rack.  Slice and serve.

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