Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Happy Fasnacht Day!

In good Pennsylvania Dutch fashion, my mom made doughnuts today. A tradition rooted in my Pennsylvania Dutch heritage. For those of you not familiar with this tradition, fasnacht's day is observed the day before Ash Wednesday marking the beginning of Lent. This day goes by many monikers. New Orleans has Mardi Gras and today is Fat Tuesday. While living in Germany, we celebrated Fasching and Karneval and there are several other names as well.
Unlike many other pre-lent celebrations, Fasnachts day is limited to a single day and literally means "eve of the fast". The potato based doughnuts that were made are also known as fasnachts. The fasnachts were made to use up fat, lard, and sugars before the Lent fasting period when no sweets were eaten.
My dad is from a Mennonite family. I remember as a small child watching my grandmother make fasnachts. By the time she finished, her whole large kitchen table was covered with doughnuts. Then we all ate as many fasnachts as we could hold. As a child it was a day that I looked forward to only second to Christmas.
My mother has carried on this tradition. Yeah! I ate three, today!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Honey Shortbread

I love shortbread cookies. All that flaky buttery goodness. What could be better? Well how about shortbread with a toffee-like layer on top and just a hint of saltiness? Oh yeah it's really good and super easy to make as well. The honey melts into the top of the shortbread and kind of caramelizes on the top. Paired with the salt and the buttery shortbread...in short (pun intended) yum!
Honey Shortbread
Nonstick cooking spray
7-1/2 oz. (1-2/3 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
6 oz. (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 Tbs. honey
1 tsp. kosher salt (I used gray sea-salt)

Spray a 9-1/2-inch tart pan with removable bottom with cooking spray.

In a food processor, briefly pulse the flour and sugar. Add the butter and pulse until incorporated and the mixture is sandy and uniform. Press the dough evenly into the prepared pan with your fingers. There will be some loose crumbs around the edges, but most of the dough should be solid and compact. Refrigerate until chilled, least 30 minutes.
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Using the tines of a fork, dock the dough evenly all over. Bake the shortbread until golden in the center, 40 to 45 minutes.

Heat the honey in the microwave until warm and liquid but not boiling, about 10 seconds. Pour the honey over the shortbread and spread with a pastry brush over the entire surface. Sprinkle the salt evenly over the honey. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 3 minutes more.
Transfer the pan to a rack and let the shortbread cool slightly, about 15 minutes. While still warm, remove the tart pan ring and cut the shortbread into 12 wedges with a sharp knife. Cool completely before serving or storing. The cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 week.
Source: Fine Cooking
October 23, 2008

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Happy Valentines Day

I just wanted to say Happy Valentines Day to everyone and say thank-you for all the nice comments you all have left me. I'm still blown away that so many people drop in and read my blog. You all are great and I'm sorry I've been so neglectful! I've just been really swamped for a couple of weeks. So I thought I'd post a few pictures showing you all a little of what I've been up to over the last week or so. This is just a bit of what I've been baking:

Heart shaped sugar cookies in various shades of pink
White chocolate dipped strawberries

Baby shower cupcakes

More Valentines Day cuppies!
Have a Happy Valentines Day!! Normal life should resume soon( I hope!!) and I promise I'll drop by and "visit" you all soon! Thanks for all the blog love you've given me:)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Pomegranate gelato

The folks at POM Wonderful recently contacted me and asked if I'd like a free sample of their pomegranate juice. Umm... let me see...Yes!!! You don't have to ask me twice! I love the stuff and you want to give me some, FREE! Okay, I'll take off your hands;)
We almost always have a bottle of juice in the fridge. It's not only delicious but incredibly good for you as well. It's an antioxidant superpower and has been shown to improve heart health as well. Check out all of the amazing health benefits of pomegranate juice here.
Yesterday I opened my door and found a FedEx package sitting there. I couldn't recall ordering anything, but the box had my name on it. Then I saw the POM label! Inside the box was and entire case of pomegranate juice!! I was so excited, like I'd won some kind of food lottery. I guess I'm easily thrilled, but really how cool is this:

Thanks POM Wonderful!! Now to figure out what to make with all that delicious juice.

Way back sometime near the beginning of December, I sent hubs to the grocery store to pick up something I needed for dinner. I know that in doing this that I'll end up with not only what I sent him to get, but more than likely, several kinds of mustard and at least one bottle of hot sauce. He claims we can't have enough mustard and there's always some new variety he wants to try. Same thing with the hot sauce. On this particular occasion he mentioned on the way out the door that he was going to get some Haagen Daz Fleur de Sel caramel ice cream. I introduced him to this amazing ice cream shortly after he'd returned from Iraq and it was love at first bite. When He got home from the store and began putting away the various mustards and hot sauces he'd purchased, explaining the need for each one. He told me that unfortunately the store didn't have the Fleur de sel ice cream so he gotten the Haagen Daz Pomegranate Chip instead. After tasting it we were not disappointed at all in the substitution. It was just as delicious. Anyway when I got the case of juice from the POM people, I knew right away I knew I wanted to try to recreate that pomegranate ice cream.

1 1/4 cup POM Wonderful pomegranate juice
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
3 ounces of dark chocolate, roughly chopped
Combine the juice and sugar in a small, non-reactive pot and bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes. It will become slightly syrupy. Set aside to cool completely. When the resulting pomegranate and sugar syrup has cooled, whisk in the heavy cream and refrigerate until very cold about 2 hours. Churn according to ice cream machine's instructions. Add the chocolate pieces in the last five minutes of churning. The gelato will still be very soft at this point. Put ice cream into a freezer container and freeze for another several hours or overnight to get the perfect texture.

Okay so maybe this recipe defeats the heart healthy part, but it's so good! Stay tuned for more recipes/ideas for pomegranate juice. Coming soon pomegranate vinaigrette...