Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tee Time, I mean Tea Time.

One of the many beautiful qualities that my husband, Joe, possesses is that he loves to take tea like a real gentleman.  He happened to be home all day today and the weather is really taking a turn for the worse.  It is supposed to snow tonight.  Bummer.  So anyway it was quite a chilly day.  Around 2pm I told him to come downstairs for a little surprise.  Nothing cheers me up more than afternoon tea!  I have all of the flowers in the house that were left in the garden.  It seemed like a day to set the table with Herend china and dahlias.  Brewed a little Earl Gray tea and set out some fresh baked quadruple lemon cupcakes.  We had our little tea party for an hour and reminisced about all the great hotels around the world where we have enjoyed this guilty pleasure.  London, Paris, California Ritz Carlton and the best……drum roll please…..The Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong.  Wow, is that ever an experience!

Lemon Buttermilk Poppy Seed Cupcakes
Makes 30-32 depending on much you put in each cupcake holder

1 package (18.25 ounces) Super Moist White cake mix
1 package (3.4 ounces) lemon Jello
1/3 cup poppy seeds
1 cup low fat Greek yogurt
1 Tablespoon Vanilla paste or seeds from one vanilla pod (optional)
½ cup canola oil
½ cup buttermilk (or substitute ½ cup milk with 1 Tablespoon vinegar)
4 large eggs
the zest from one lemon and then
juice from one lemon
2 teaspoons lemon extract

One can of cream cheese frosting
Sprinkles or jimmies

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line muffin tins with paper cupcake liners.  Set pans aside.  Place the cake mix and jello mix in a bowl, mix together while dry.  Form a well in the center of dry ingredients and pour all the other ingredients into the well.  Blend with an electric mixer for about 1 minute on low speed.   Scrap down the sides with a rubber spatula.  Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for 2 more minutes.  The batter should look thick but not lumpy.  Load each paper liner with about two thirds full.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.  Top each cupcake with frosting and jimmies if desired.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Candied Walnuts!

Crunchy Candied Walnut Snack

Snack attack!  These candied walnuts are wonderful sprinkled on a salad with goat cheese or blue cheese.  They also are delicious all by themselves and really easy to make.  Store them in a jar with a tight fitting lid or in a zip bag for up to 2 weeks.  (They won’t last that long believe me.)

½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
½ cup water
1 pound walnut halves
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.  In a large skillet combine the sugar and water over medium-high heat and cook, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon until the sugar dissolves and the syrupy mixture comes to a boil.  Add the walnuts, butter, and the salt and turn the walnuts continuously with the spoon until the syrup thickens.  When almost all the liquid is gone and the walnuts are goopy and well coated, spread them out on a parchment lined cookie sheet in a single layer.  Place in the oven and roast for 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let the walnuts cool completely on the cookie sheet on a wire rack.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Caramel Corn Weather!


This is an easy treat that is reminiscent of a night at the movies or an afternoon at the Fair.  Only it is cheaper, no admission fee!  It is based on Paula Deen’s recipe called:  Grandma Paul’s Caramel Corn and it is delicious.  You can use either microwave popcorn or pop your own.  Just be careful to screen out or pick out any un-popped kernels.  Use a large turkey roaster pan to pour all of the popped corn into and then pour the caramel mixture over it.  You can keep it simple or add vanilla paste and other goodies to make it fancy.  Your only limitation is your own imagination.  Try making your own mix with M&M’s, mini-pretzels, raisins, salted nuts, etc, added to the finished and cooled caramel corn. You could give this away to co-workers or friends in cute cellophane bags sealed with a metallic twist tie for an afternoon treat.

1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups of packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt (you may not want to add this if you are using micro waved popcorn that is pre-salted)
½ cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 vanilla pod, cut open and seeds scraped out or 2 Tablespoons vanilla paste (optional)

8 quarts of popped corn

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.
Over medium heat, combine the first four ingredients in a medium sized saucepan and boil for 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda.  This will foam up, keep stirring for a few minutes, then add the vanilla seeds or paste, stir.  The popcorn should already be popped and in the roasting pan waiting to be anointed with this golden deliciousness.  Pour the hot mixture over 8 quarts (four bags of micro waved popcorn or pop your own) of popped corn.  Stir to coat well.  Bake in large roaster for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.  Spread on parchment paper or waxed paper to dry.  Add any other ingredients to the mix after it is cooled and dry.  Pack into bags if desired.
Makes 8 quarts or more if you add additional ingredients.  Store in an airtight container.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bolton Common Article

Time for my monthly article!  The weather is getting chilly.   How about a 20 minute soup dish.

The Mixing Bowl
by Renee Zarate

This quick Taco Soup is easy enough for a weeknight supper.  With the combination of chicken, veggies, cheese and cilantro it is satisfying enough to be a whole meal unto itself.  The tortilla chips remind me of the only thing that is missing, a crisp taco shell.  Best of all, the entire pot of soup can be ready in about 20 minutes.

Taco Soup
Makes about 2 ½ quarts

One pound of cooked, boneless, skinless and chopped chicken
1 (32 oz) box of chicken stock
1 (10 ¾ oz) can of Campbell’s Cheddar Cheese Soup
1   (8 oz.) package of shredded Sergeant 4 Cheese Mexican
1 (15.5 oz) can of black beans, well drained and rinsed
1   (15.5 oz) can of dark kidney beans, well drained and rinsed
1 cup of salsa
1 (7 oz) can of Old El Paso chopped green chiles
2 Tablespoons of McCormick brand Taco Seasoning Mix (you can add more or less, to taste)
1 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Garnish with:
Tortilla chips, crushed
Fresh chopped cilantro (to taste)
1 Tablespoon sour cream

Pour the chicken stock in a large soup pot and heat to simmering.  Mix in the canned soup, the shredded cheese, rinsed canned beans, salsa, and  green chiles.  Then add the spices and the chopped chicken.  Bring the soup up to a slow simmer.  When serving just crush some tortilla chips in each serving bowl and ladle the soup over it.  Top with a tablespoon of chopped cilantro and sour cream if desired.

Serves 8