Pavlova: A Symphony of Delish!

My sister Elaine makes this dessert all the time. It is a specialty of hers. I think it is her go to company dessert when nothing else comes to mind. When she first described it I was not impressed. I wasn’t even looking forward to it at our family dinner party she throws every summer when I come up to visit. So I was surprised when I bit into my slice of it. Clearly this is a case of the results being far more than a simple sum of the ingredients. It is light, sweet, airy, fruity and basically melted in my mouth. I have had it at her house many times and have made it a few times myself. It is easy to construct and it can be varied in the fruit topping.

The old school classic topping is fresh passion fruit. Elaine mostly serves it with sliced fresh strawberries, perfection! It is decent with blueberries too. I once used a mixture of ripe summer fruits; peach, nectarine, blueberries, mango and kiwi. That was really memorable. Ripe local strawberries would be super tasty too. Go with what is ripe and flavorful when you are shopping for fruit. I used blueberries and raspberries for this latest version but you decide what works for you. No canned fruit though, only fresh will do.

My sister got the recipe from Food network – a 1999 recipe. It is naturally GF so no one will ask where the wheat is! Don’t leave out the red wine vinegar; totally necessary.

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Slice today; sorry it is on a paper plate but it  was luscious!

Pavlova

Ingredients:

1/2 cup egg whites at room temp (about 4-5 eggs)

1/8 tsp. cream of tartar

1/8 tsp. salt

1 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch

1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

2 T light brown sugar packed or white sugar

1 pt. fresh strawberries for top, sliced and 1 cup fresh blueberries

or 3-4 oz fresh raspberries and half a pint of blueberries

or 2 sliced ripe peaches and some raspberries or blueberries

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment whip the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt in a clean, dry bowl until foamy. Add the granulated sugar, cornstarch, vinegar and vanilla and continue whipping until stiff, smooth and glossy, about 7-8 minutes more.

On a sheet of parchment paper cut to fit a sheet pan, use a pencil to draw or trace a 9 inch circle in diameter. Line the sheet pan with the parchment, pencil side down (you should be able to see the circle). Spoon the egg whites in the circle, using the back of the spoon to smooth the top and sides of the disk. Make it high rather than wide; it will settle after baking. Bake in the center of the oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 300 degrees and bake until the meringue has puffed up and slightly cracked on the top and the surface is highly browned to the color of a latte coffee, about 45 minutes more. Turn off the oven, prop open the oven door, and let it cool in the oven at least 30 minutes, to room temperature. This ensures a gradual cooling, which protects the delicate meringue.

Whip the cream and brown sugar (sometimes I use white sugar) until stiff. spoon it in the center of the cooled pavlova and spread out to within 1/2 inch of the edge, arrange the slices of strawberry in the middle. Sprinkle the blueberries around the edge of the strawberries. To serve, slice into wedges with a serrated knife.

So make a pavlova and make everyone happy; it is beautiful to look at and even better to eat. Enjoy!

Originally published July 2014. Recipe slightly changed, minor editing to text.

Lovely Meals in Gorgeous Cape May!

Just back from a fabulous weekend in Cape May, New Jersey with my guy.  Stayed at a cute little B&B about 8 blocks from the beach; The Inn at the Park on Madison St. Our room was on the third floor; a mini suite with a fridge, double shower, huge bed, armoire instead of a closet and a sweet day bed. Plus adorable crystal glasses for late night thirsty moments and the usual amenities like WiFi, a flat screen TV, air conditioning.  They made acceptable accommodations for my gf needs for the two breakfasts; scrambled eggs, smoothies, an omelet, all good and all safe.  inn at the park

mad batter

That corner table is where we sat!

But even better yet were the three meals we had out; our first night we went to the Mad Hatter in downtown CM.We had a little corner table with benches and fluffy cushions: wall carvings of whimsical fish and other old timey decorations: so cute! The menu had several gf choices. I went with some specials which were naturally gf. My waiter said he would alert the kitchen as to careful as to cross contamination. I had a great seafood risotto but my favorite flavors were in my starter: the watermelon, blueberry and strawberry salad with feta cheese. So bright and refreshing. I enjoyed some delish wine, great company; got stuffed to the gills and no glutening! watermelon salad

seafood risotto.jpg

The next night we went to a classic big seafood place right along the bay; Lucky Bones Back Wash. We went a tad early; at 6 pm: no wait for a table.  Place was hopping, ordered drinks and enjoyed the organized chaos. We were near the pizza oven and the bar so it was super busy but fun to watch. We totally enjoyed some shared apps; fire roasted shrimp with lots of fresh garlic and so buttery; they were perfectly cooked; fat and moist. And a large plate of hot steamed mussels in red sauce with lots of fresh basil and gf toasted rolls for mopping up the sauce. Mmmmmmm.  For my entree out came a big platter with two crab cakes on top of herbed polenta and a lemony sauce with tiny green beans: all gluten free and all crazy delish. FYI: polenta is like creamy cornmeal mush made with coarse corn meal. I did have some of his wahoo; firm white fish; tasty. Such a classic place and they do brick oven pizza. Again…too full for dessert…alas as they had gf choices….

                        

 

Our final meal in carefree Cape May was a delightful lunch at a hip eatery in North Cape May; Bella Vida Garden Restaurant on North Broadway. They have a number of gf choices even buttermilk pancakes! So maybe breakfast next time… Anyway,  I choose a fresh salad composed of a healthy layer of tiny greens, grape tomato halves, cucumber slices and half an avocado. On top of that was a big pile of shrimp and crab salad. I chose the ginger sesame salad dressing which give it a quirky but wonderful spin. So fresh, flavorful and tasty. And again…too full for dessert!

So….Cape May is a great place for gf compared to the slim pickings in the Lehigh Valley where I live. Several places had full page gf menus or lots of notations on the regular menu as to safe choices for celiacs like me. So, I found the wait staff to be experienced at gluten free and it was easy to eat safely.   I even had some great coffee ice cream with big chunks of dark chocolate in a cup. Forget where; downtown, tiny shop. So delish! Can’t say enough good things about eating in Cape May, NJ. Enjoy!

Darn Good GF Pizza You can Bake at Home

Sometimes you just need a pizza! And there is time to make a crust or grate cheese or any of that. Just a decent gluten free pizza, that’s all I’m asking…but, not that easy unless you are willing to pay about $13-16 for the same or even a smaller size that is half the price for regular wheat flour-based pizza!  Major bummer. But, fret not, Aldi’s to the rescue; they had some by Mama Cozzie in the refrigerator case. I got a pepperoni and mott pizza to test it; $6…not a bad price!  Baked it two days later; put the cold pie directly on hot oven shelf as requested.  In 11-13 minutes it is done; let it cool 2-3 minutes! Otherwise, it is a wicked way to burn your mouth.

aldi pizza box

I should admit I doctored it up with some dried basil and oregano, garlic powder and store grated parmesan cheese. It was so good; thin crust. Great flavor from the pepperoni and the add-ons I sprinkled over it deepen ed the flavor significantly. So I am definitely getting it next time I see – the package says you can freeze it; so maybe buy a few and freeze all but one.

aldi pizza slice

So that’s a big yes to this Mama Cozzie pizza; about 15 inches in diameter unbaked. It says 4 servings but unless they are small kids it is really more like 3. Great quick lunch or worry-free Friday night meal. Add a salad and you are eating healthyish!

Strawberry Shortcake….the Real Deal!

strawberry shortcake

Strawberry shortcake is a classic and no one turns down a slice of it at at a family gathering. I am not sure where I got the gf shortcake recipe; maybe my old Bette Hagman Gourmet Cookbook. I used to make shortcake a lot when I could still use all purpose flour but my gf biscuit version is pretty tasty. But there is one thing, you gotta make it with the best freaking strawberries you can find.  None of those ultra firm ones with whitish cores that are shipped in from far away.  You need juicy ripe scented red berries that are served over a gluten free short bread.  Yes, my local season is done but it can be done with other than local produce – the riper the better and it will taste great!

My mom always made a gorgeous version of strawberry shortcake. When I was a kid she would serve it as an entire meal.  I have done that and it is kinda cool.  Pre gluten free I generally made a huge oval biscuit with a smaller topping biscuit that I split off and buttered the split area before topping with berries and the smaller biscuit and topped with more ripe berries and a pillow of softly whipped heavy cream.  Oh berry perfection!  Now I bake it in two separate pans but the construction of the final product is the same otherwise. The pictures on construction are a couple of years old but the process is the same; just made some this past weekend; came out perfect.

Mom’s Strawberry Shortcake, GF2.3

Biscuit dough

1 cup white rice flour

2/3 cup potato starch flour

4 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

2 tbsp. sugar

½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. xanthan gum

6 tbsp cold butter

1 medium egg

2/3 cup buttermilk

2-3 tsp. sugar (optional)

2 tsp. soft butter

Other ingredients:

2 quarts ripe strawberries

½ cup sugar

2-3 tbsp. Karo light syrup

1 cup heavy whipping cream

½ tsp. real vanilla

2 tbs. powdered sugar (if you like your cream sweet)

Directions
Heat oven t0 400 degrees. Mix the dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Cut in the cold butter until it is small pebbles.  Add the egg and most of the buttermilk.  Mix with a spoon; add rest of buttermilk if you need it.  It should be a bit sticky, don’t over mix; just until dry is blended in.  Spray the inside of an eight inch cake pan and a 6 inch cake pan with cooking spray.  If you don’t have a small pan just use two 8 inch ones.  Pat ¾ of the dough into the 8 inch; make it about ¾ to 1 inch thick and try to smooth the top and side edges a bit.  Put the rest of the dough in the smaller pan and do the same smoothing.  Make that one ½ to ¾ inch thick.  Optional: take 2-3 tsp. of granulated sugar and sprinkle it over top of them. I think it gives a great finish to the shortcake. Bake them about 20 to 25 min; the smaller one should be done in 20 minutes; a golden light brown. Set on a cooling rack for a few minutes.

While it bakes, get the berries ready.  Hull 2 quarts of fresh ripe berries.  Place them in a glass mixing bowl; chop through them a few strokes with a sharp knife.  Add ½ cup sugar and about 2-3 tbsp. Karo light corn syrup to the berries.  Stir well and refrigerate until the shortcake is baked.  You could do this berry preparation up to two hours in advance.  No more or they will start to disintegrate.

Place the fairly hot bigger layer on a large platter, one big enough to hold the shortbread and still have room for a generous overflow of strawberries. Butter lightly if you wish.  Top with several big spoonfuls of berries.  Don’t worry if there is juice in the berry bowl; there should be; melted down sugar and Karo syrup with berry juice will give you a delish berry liquid.  Top with the second smaller biscuit and then more berries.   Cut into chunks.  Top with freshly whipped cream; beat a cup of heavy whipping cream until it is softly whipped.  Add ½ tsp. vanilla and ¼ cup sugar if you wish it sweet.  Be sure to pour the berry juice over your shortcake; it soaks in and adds to the strawberry experience.

My dad liked to pour unbeaten cream over his shortcake. My mom usually set out the whipped cream, a jug of cream and some whole milk so you could chose how to finish off your personal shortcake.  I might add that I grew up on a farm so this was raw milk from grass pastured cows; fantastic cream equaling a freaking perfect shortcake topper.  We also grew our own berries; no chemical sprayed on them ever.’

Notes: Karo is sugar syrup; I know, I know its not very healthy but it is only a bit and it improves the berries to have some. Just do it. And while I am being bossy: please use real whipped cream. So easy to make and if you are going to the trouble of a scratch shortcake you need the real deal topping. It is hugely worth it.  I actually stored some whipped cream in the fridge overnight and it was still decent the next day although the texture is a bit softer than it originally was. Strawberry shortcake is a decadent treat but honestly no more so than a sundae you get at an ice cream place. SO go ahead and indulge. Enjoy!

shortcake, one serving

If there is any left over it makes a great breakfast the next morning!

Originally published in June 2014. Minor text changes this time.

Bratwursts From Aldi’s are the Best!

This post is an addendum to my buckwheat crepe post of the other day. I neglected to tell you how delish the bratwurst were in my crepe wrap entree. I bought the package of 4 uncured Bavarian bratwurst at Aldi’s. They were kinda pale and unexciting looking in the shrink wrap but when I pan fried them in a bit of olive oil they browned up nicely. Each brat was still juicy and tender with a delicate flavor I was very impressed with. bratwurst

 

I have bought brats before at other grocery stores and found them rather dull and pedestrian. These are thinner, longer and far tastier.  bratwurst packageUncured means they have less junk added in the curing process of many sausages.  Definitely a yummy and healthyish choice for sausage in any recipe. They cook in about ten minutes.  And grilling them is on the package as an alternative to the frying pan. Next time I will try them on my grill. Maybe for camping…

They are imported from Germany so I am guessing they are very authentic compared to stuff made in the USA. I give these an A plus in every category. Enjoy!

Rhubarb Cobbler – Tender and Tasty

My spring mission: to convince you rhubarb haters to try one of these recipes.  This one is delicate in flavor with a fluffy yet satisfying cobbler topping and no sour ickiness as some say rhubarb can be.  It takes a bit less fruit than a pie and goes together in just a few minutes.  And it is gluten free for all of you who must avoid gluten which means wheat, rye or barley flours are a no-no in baking.

This recipe is the same basic one I posted about for peach cobbler in the past; it is modified from a muffin dry mix in Bette Hagman’s book, More from the Gluten-Free Gourmet and uses a flour mix that will give you 4 cups of the dry ingredients.  One cup will make an 8×8 pan of cobbler topping.  I keep the rest of my dry mix in the freezer and a pan of cobbler can be thrown together in less than 10 minutes plus baking time.  What a time saver this mix is! I make all sorts of cobblers with it.

I always get the fruit part cooking before putting the topping together so the fruit is hot and ready for the topping and can go right into the oven.

My mom and I enjoyed this on this past Sunday. She really loved the rhubarb flavor and the cobbler topping.

rhubarb cobbler

Angie’s Rhubarb Cobbler

Dry Cobbler Mix – use one cup for this recipe and freeze the rest

2 ¼ cups white rice flour

½ cup potato starch (not potato flour!)

½ cup tapioca flour

1 tsp. baking soda

4 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 tsp. xanthan gum

1/3 cup sugar

 

 

Fruit Filling

4 cups sliced rhubarb

½ tsp. almond extract

½-2/3 cup sugar –add more or less depending on how sweet you want it

2 tbsp. GF flour

1/4 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

Mix the fruit and almond extract in a sauce pan. Stir together the sugar, cinnamon and flour and mix into the fruit.  Cook on the stove top for 5-10 minutes until it is thickened and hot.  Pour into a buttered 8 inch square pan, top with big blobs of the cobbler topping.

Cobbler Topping

1 cup dry baking mix

2 eggs

2 tbsp melted butter or canola oil (both work fine)

1/3 cup milk/buttermilk (I skimp a tbsp off to keep it from being runny)

½ tsp. vanilla

Mix the wet ingredients and then add to the dry mix in a big bowl.   Mix briefly: do not over-mix for best texture.  Use a big spoon to plop it right away on the hot fruit.  Bake immediately as baking soda and powder can’t stand around waiting or they lose their umph!

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.  The top should be light brown and spring back when you poke it with your finger.  If it looks damp or squishy bake it 5 more minutes.

Let cool 5-7 minutes before serving as it will burn your mouth right out of the oven!  Some people love it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  This tender rhubarb cobbler is perfect just on its own.

Reposted with minor changes from June 2015.

 

 

Instant Pot Advice for My Peeps

If you haven’t heard of an Instant Pot electric pressure cooker, you will now! I got mine almost a year and a half ago.  Bought it on Black Friday for almost half price; great deal! Purchased a cookbook and a glass lid for slow cooking.  I was very excited and not a little bit scared of using the big black device.  Mine is a six quart 7 in one, lots of features, some I still haven’t used. One of my girlfriends had been bugging me to investigate and get one as she knows how much I love to cook. It was slightly daunting to use it at first. But I tried out recipes from the little cookbook it came with and my full sized one I got for ten bucks. Almost everything I have made has been a resounding success.  I have used it infrequently as a slow cooker – I think it runs a bit hotter than my old slow cooker which was only about 2-3 years older and now resides in the basement on a shelf.

instant pot 2

So, let me tell you some of the things I love to make in it. I use it a lot with bone-in chicken thighs; it cooks them in about 16 minutes once it comes to pressure.  That means that when I lock the lid down it takes a bit of time to fully heat up and get pressurized; that time is not counted in the recipe cooking time.  Some people put frozen meat in recipes and so it can add quite a bit of time to the process. Once you lock it and it starts the process you can walk away and do any chore or activity you like. I also often saute things before starting the pressure cooking process. Yes; it sautes! This is a favorite task the IP does for me. I regularly saute onions/celery and such for a bit then add meat to cook for a while before the next step of pressure cooking or I do that in reverse; brown meat; remove it while I cook veggies then I add the meat back in as well as water or broth. Which brings me to one other important fact; it must have a cup of water or broth for it to pressurize.  I generally cook enough for 4-6 meals so I have enough but if you cook small amounts there is a 3 quart model; a friend of mine recently acquired one of those and loves it for her smaller needs. The other day I made rice pilaf in it which it does very well, I forgot a portion of the water and the rice came out a bit crunchy; I added the missing water and pressured it for 5 more minutes and it was fine.  Lesson learned; make sure you put in the right measure of liquid.

sausages in soup

Sausages in a soup base

In the back of my cookbook are charts for how long to cook meats, grains, etc.  They are invaluable. I use them all the time. Now that the IP has been in my kitchen for a while I adapt non-pressure cooker recipes to it. The charts help me judge how long to cook.

gumbo

Sausage gumbo

 

Other things I make in the IP are ribs; I cook them on the trivet that came with it and then lay them on foil on a baking sheet, slather in BBQ sauce and pop them in the oven or broiler for 10-15 minutes, so tender and delish! I have done baby backs, spare ribs and beef short ribs which do not get the oven step.  I have made some yummy stews and soups in there: beef vegetable stew, chicken noodle or rice soup or other soups. It cooks the beef really quickly. I have used it to make bean soups as well. Beans cook pretty quickly under pressure.  You can make a rotisserie style chicken in it; love that one!

There are settings for stewing and rice as well as a few other things. I do love rice made in it; perfect and fluffy, never burnt, never runs out of water.

shrimp-risotto

I’ve made risotto in it a few times and it is great as no stirring needed. If you don’t have the patience for risotto on the stove top this is a super alternative cooking method.

The other food I like to make is yogurt. I started doing that fairly recently, as I realized it would actually save me money and my sister who got one for Christmas says it tastes wonderful. So, with a bit of advice from her I did just that and found out it was indeed creamy and delightful. I get organic milk from Aldi’s to make mine and it makes a big difference. Great flavor and texture and once you’ve done it a couple of times it is quite simple.  I add a spoonful of jam or marmalade and I have a healthy and delish yogurt for lunch or a snack. And I get to use my glass lid for a change, LOL!

I haven’t used it for sweets yet, although I plan to; just ordered a small cheesecake pan; 7 inch size to fit inside the inner pot as my other latch cheesecake pans are too large for it. I plan to use it for several other things that can be steam baked like this recipe for caramel custard I discovered in my new IP Indian cookbook!

Folks in my IP Community fb group say IP cheesecakes are fantastic. Plan to test that and see if it’s true.

So, if you are thinking of buying an electric pressure cooker, I do recommend it for a number of things. It is one more great way to cook. I love that I can set it and go out to the yard and it finishes and keeps warm until I am ready to eat. That is my favorite thing about my IP!