A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over....

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Oh, La, La, Lavender

Years ago when I came across the following recipe in the August/Sept 2008 Taste of Home magazine, I was intrigued about the prospect of cooking with lavender. My daughter's first baby shower was coming up and this recipe sounded perfect. After checking locally for edible grade lavender and finding none, I tried the vendor suggested in the recipe, Penzeys Spices, which turned out to be another exciting find!

Penzeys Spices has a wide selection of top grade spices and once on their mailing list, send a colorful catalog which not only displays and educates about their spices but also includes delicious recipes from their readers. When I called to place the order, the rep was very pleasant and helpful and a very reasonable $4.95 later brought a 4oz bag of edible grade lavender right to my door! Four ounces may not sound like a lot, but trust me, it is a lot of lavender but keeping it double-bagged in a cool, dry place, it is as fragrant and fresh as when purchased over two years ago.

We tried this delicious moist and flavorful cake again recently and with holiday gift giving in mind, I decided to try baking it in miniature loaf pans. It is just as delicious made in the bread pans and well worth the effort to locate the lavender.

Almond Lavender Cake
Lillian Julow, Gainesville, FL Taste of Home Magazine Aug/Sept 2008

2 cups sugar, divided
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 TBLS plus 1 teas dried lavender flowers, divided
1 cup butter, softened
4 eggs
2 teas vanilla extract
1 8oz cup sour cream
1/4 cup half and half cream
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teas baking soda
1/2 teas salt
4 teas boiling water
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
Additional dried lavender flowers, optional

Grease a 10-inch fluted tube pan and sprinkle with sugar, set aside. Place 1/2 cup sugar, the almonds and 1 TBLS lavender in a food processor, cover and process until finely ground.
In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and remaining sugar until light and fluffy; beat in almond mixture until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.
In a small bowl, combine sour cream and half and half. (In another bowl) Combine flour, baking soda and salt, add to the creamed mixture alternately with sour cream mixture, beating well after each addition.

Pour into prepared pan. Bake at 350 for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool 10 mins before removing from pan to wire rack to cool completely.
For drizzle, combine boiling water and remaining lavender in a small bowl. Steep for 5 mins. Strain, discarding lavender. In another small bowl, combine confectioners' sugar and enough infused water to achieve desired consistency; drizzle over cake. Garnish with additional lavender, if desired. 12 servings.

Almond Lavender Mini Cakes

Follow the basic recipe above except grease and sugar 4 mini bread pans and one full size bread pan (or 6 mini pans). Divide the batter among pans, filling small pans first, about 3/4's full and spoon remaining batter into large pan. Bake at 350 for 30 to 40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 mins, remove to wire rack and cool completely before adding glaze. Garnish with additional lavender, if desired, but do so quickly and press down gently. Glaze dries very fast! If not eating or giving away immediately, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, then foil and store in freezer. Let thaw and come to room temperature before serving.

Now, what to do with all that left over lavender.....how about some

Lavender Shortbread Cookies
adapted from Martha Stewart Living

1 cup unsalted butter,* room temperature
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teas salt
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teas almond extract

Almond Crunch Topping
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup sugar
2 teas lavender

Lavender Glaze
1/3 cup boiling water
1 cup confectioner's
2 teas lavender
*If using salted butter, lower salt to 1/2 teas.

Preheat oven to 325. Butter or lightly spray (wipe off excess) 2 cookies or baking pans.
In a food processor, combine almonds, sugar and lavender and process until finely ground. Transfer to small bowl and set aside.

Sift together flour and salt in a small bowl, set aside. In large bowl, cream butter until fluffy, about 4 mins. Add sugar and continue to beat, 2 to 3 mins, until fluffy and light in color, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Beat in almond extract. Add flour mixture and beat on low until flour is incorporated and dough sticks together. Roll into 1-inch balls, then roll in almond mixture. Set aside remaining almond mixture. Refrigerate 20 mins. Bake until cookies are firm and just beginning to brown. Cool on pan 5 mins, then remove to wire rack to cool completely.

To prepare glaze, add lavender to a tea strainer and set inside small bowl, pour boiling water over, cover tightly and steep for 5-8 minutes (water should be light lavender in color and fragrant). Add by teaspoons to sugar (about 3 to 4) and mix until smooth. Dip tops of cookies in glaze and then in remaining almond crunch mixture. Set aside to dry. Store covered at room temperature. Makes approximately 40 cookies.

These cookies are very flaky and melt-in-your-mouth. If you prefer a crunchy shortbread, substitute granulated sugar for the confectioners'.

So have any of you tried cooking/baking with anything unusual and out of the norm? Would love to hear about anything new and different!

Happy Baking!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Snack Mix, Anyone?

Amazing that it has been almost a year since my last post! Life has a way of doing that, though, doesn't it, changing things when you least expect it, turning itself upside down. It all comes out in the wash, as they say, just gotta roll with it and trust God to see you through. Sometimes the most heart-breaking events take you just where you need to be.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and now ready to jump into the Christmas season. This one will be extra special for me since I will spend it with my maaavelous daughter and son-in-law and that ever-incredible full-speed-ahead 2-year-old granddaughter, Toot.

As you may have noticed from previous recipe blogs, I am a big snack mix fan and love coming up with new flavor combinations. I would like to make a confession to any who may think this is such a feat: with the basic syrup recipe, you are only limited by the flavors of cereal and Jell-O you can find, available dried fruit and your own imagination. The real fun is coming up with your own favorites. I would love to hear of any concoctions you've come up with....
Here's the latest for your consideration:


9 Cups* Chex Cereal, corn or rice or combination
2 cups Frosted Cheerios

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

3 TBLS corn syrup

6 TBLS butter, cubed

1 bag dried cranberries or Cranraisins
1 cup dried banana chips
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup whole cashews (optional)

2 3oz boxes Cranberry Jell-O

1 large roasting bag

Combine cereals (and nuts) in a large microwavable bowl and set aside. Combine cubed butter, brown sugar and corn syrup in microwavable measuring cup or small bowl. Microwave on high for 1 minute, stir well and microwave at 30 second intervals until melted. Mix well. Pour approximately one-half of syrup over cereal and fold gently to coat. Microwave 2 minutes, folding well after each minute.

Add banana chips, fruit and remaining syrup. Fold well to coat and return to microwave for one to two minutes, folding well after each minute. Set aside to cool briefly while you pour one box of Jell-O into the roasting bag. Add cereal mixture and pour second box of Jell-O onto top. Close securely and shake well to coat all pieces. Spread on waxed paper to cool. Store airtight.

*9 cups is one box of cereal*

This one has moved to the top of the favorite stack.

Island Pineapple Melody

9 cups Chex cereal
2 cups Frosted Cheerios
1 7oz bag Sunmaid Tropical Trio (pineapple, mango, papaya)
1 cup banana chips
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup whole cashews (optional)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 TBLS corn syrup
6 TBLS butter, cubed
2 3oz boxes Island Pineapple Jello
1 large roasting bag

Follow directions for cranberry crunch above and enjoy!

Happy Snacking!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Flu Fighter/Good for You Cookies

I promised this recipe - one correction, it came from The Food Network Magazine, not Taste of Home (both are excellent sources for recipes and ideas). The first recipe is the original from the October issue and the second (Good for You Cookies) is an adjustment I made, substituting special dark chocolate (also a good antioxidant) for the walnuts. Full of natural antioxidants, these cookies are seriously yummy and - you guessed it, Good for you!!!

FLU FIGHTER COOKIES from the Food Network Magazine

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp (teaspoon) baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch ground cloves =
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup low-fat Greek yogurt
1 TBLS (tablespoon) freshly grated ginger
2 tsp finely grated lemon zest (about one lemon)
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1 1/4 cups golden raisins
1 1/4 cups dried cranberries
1 1/4 cups roughly chopped walnuts, toasted

1. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

2. Beat the butter and brown sugar in a large bowl with a mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Add the molasses, yogurt, ginger and lemon zest and beat until smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Reduce mixer speed to low and beat in flour mixture to make a sticky batter (do not overmix). Fold in the oats, and half the cranberries, raisins and walnuts. Mix the remaining dried fruit and nuts in a small bowl and set aside.

3. Drop heaping tablespoons of batter onto prepared baking sheets. Top each with some of the reserved fruit/nut mixture and chill for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 d.

4. Bake cookies until dark golden but still soft, 10 to 12 minutes; cool on rack. Store in airtight container for up to 1 week. Makes about 30 cookies.

Using the recipe above, substitute Special dark chocolate chips (different from semi-sweet) for the walnuts, adding approximately 3/4 cup to the batter and the balance of chips mixed with the cranberries and raisins to top the cookies.

Our Cat, Pat?

A couple of months ago, a pretty little black and white kitten came to our house via the motor of my car. We found her when we stopped the car to find out what "that noise" was. The kitten was unhurt and looked young, female and full of the nastiest smelling gas ever to come out of a living being. I took it to the vet who could not determine an age and did an ultrasound to make sure the kitten was not pregnant since female cats apparently go into spontaneous ovulation by just being around a male cat (hey, that's what the professionals said). Too full of poop, literally, to tell. Sold me some medicine to give the kitten over the next four months. So pretty, sweet and cuddly. We put a red rhinestone collar on "her" and named her Bella.

Time passes and the children come to visit for New Year's. My daughter, ever the diplomat, is watching the kitten crawl around the couch which prompted her to ask: "Mom, what did you name the cat?" "Bella," I answer, "why?" "Because," she answered, stifling a giggle, "Bella is a boy." NO WAY!!! I don't want a boy cat (they spray to mark their territory - the worst - cause their territory is wherever there's room to back up and shimmy). "No, no, no," I cried, "I refuse to accept Bella as a boy!!!"

My daughter, knowing I believe in the power of prayer, solemnly advised, "Mom, praying to Jesus is not going to change the sex of this cat!!" So Bella has become Bela, like Lugosi, with the added moniker of "Pat." SNL fans of Julia Sweeney may remember her character, Pat, the androgynous character no one could determine if male or female for sure. So, I accept that Bela is a one-L, two T feline, for now. He better watch his "pees" and "poops", though - I understand there is an old tyme method of removal involving rubber bands - Ouch!