Zucchini Flowers are All the Buzz at My House

Cooking, gardening

Of course I had heard of people eating zucchini flowers. I had just never tried them myself. Since we have an abundance of zucchini in the garden right now, I thought we could spare a few of the flowers. So I searched for a recipe and went out to the garden to collect the flowers.

I collected four large zucchini flowers, placed them in my bowl and headed back inside. I decided not to wash them right away in hopes they would stay fresher until I was ready to use them. It would not be long anyway. So I set about making the rest of the dinner. We were having chicken with sundried tomatoes and olives baked in foil packets (to lock in the moisture), orzo, blanched and sauted fresh green beans with garlic (from green beans picked earlier in the day), and of course the zucchini flowers which would be lightly breaded and fried.

It was finally time for me to prepare the zucchini flowers. I washed and removed the stamen from one and set it on a towel, then another. As I was washing the third flower, I heard a buzzing sound. What! Oh no! A bee was inside the flower. I hurried the bowl outside to get rid of the bee before it escaped inside our house. When outside I pried the flower open a bit with a knife hoping the bee would exit without attacking me. Success! As I started to head back inside I again heard buzzing. What! Oh yes, another bee was inside the flower! I again coaxed this bee out of the flower. Was this it? No more buzzing. It was safe to go back inside and finish making dinner.

So, I think I will add a little note to the recipe for fried zucchini flowers. It will say, “Check for bees before taking zucchini flowers inside house”. How could the author of this recipe leave off such an important piece of information? Maybe this has only happened to me?

Regardless of the excitement in the kitchen, the meal turned out fine. The zucchini flowers did receive quite the buzz around the table. My family enjoyed them and we had a story to share as well. The recipe can be found at: https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/fried-zucchini-blossoms. Just remember to check for bees! As always, Happy Gardening/ Happy Cooking!

Dinner is Served

Using a Pastry Cloth

Cooking

Until recently, I had never used a pastry cloth before. I had used plastic pastry mats before but never a pastry cloth. But I was curious.

Years ago, I had a very large Tupperware brand plastic pastry mat. It had circles printed on it for guidence in making the correct size of pie crusts. There were several problems with this mat. The mat had to be rolled to store, hence making it curl up when trying to use it. It needed to be weighed down or it would move around. It was a handful to turn when flipping the rolled dough into the tin as it was so big and awkward. To make things more frustrating, if I did not flour the mat enough, the dough would stick to it.

Vintage Tupperware Pastry Dough Tart Pie Sizing Mat Sheet 1965 Dart Ind. Red
Image of Tupperware Pastry Mat from collectiblesonlinedaily.com

I have a similar sort of mat now but it lies flat. It is too small to roll out a regular pie crust on. Same problem with moving around the counter and dough sticking to it as the larger version. This mat does work well for stamping out biscuits though.

Small mat

Tired of my too small mat, I decided to research my options. From reviews, it looked like the old fashioned pastry cloth was the tried and true choice. Let’s face it, sometimes things can not be improved on too much. After looking around for a pastry cloth, I decided I did not have anything to lose as the pastry cloths were cheaper than the mats. I would not be out much if I did not like it.

Upon reading the reviews, I took the advice of hand washing my cloth in cold water and line drying. This is to avoid an shrinkage that may occur. My pastry cloth came out just fine by following these guidelines.

I have used my pastry cloth several times now. All times were successful. I really like the pastry cloth. In my oppinion it is a much better tool than the plastic mats. I used much less flour on the surface of the cloth than I had on the mats which is supposed to result in a more tender crust and the dough DID NOT STICK! Being a cloth, it was very flexible and easy to turn onto my pie tin. The clean-up was easy. I just shook out the excess flour over the trash and hand washed it in cold water and hung it to dry. I store it folded in a bag to keep it clean and ready to use. It hardly takes up any space. The only negative being that it still does move on the counter, but not too much. Apparently, it can be wrapped around a bread board or a non-stick mat can be placed under it. I am still working on that. However, I LOVE the pastry cloth and would not go back to the other version.

As always, Happy Baking!

Homemade Granola

Cooking

Granola can be a difficult item to shop for if needing to avoid nut allergies. It can also be on the expensive side and sometimes the flavors are not exactly what one prefers. Why not make it yourself!

Granola is not hard to make. Having said that, one does need to be careful not to over-bake the granola. It can over-cook and burn easily, so attention is needed.

The great advantage to making granola is that it tastes fresher and almost anything can be added to it. It lasts a long time on the counter in a sealed container, so it does not have to be made all that often. Granola can be eaten on it’s own, sprinkled on top of yogurt, ice cream, oatmeal, fruit, etc…

Let’s get started!

Step 1: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. (A baking sheet with edges is prefered.)

Step 2: Get the ingredients together…

1/4 cup olive oil (or oil of preference)

1 Tbsp butter

2 Tbsp honey

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 c brown sugar

2 1/4 c old fashioned oats

3/4 – 1 c dark chocolate chopped into small pieces

Dark chocolate squares
Chopped

1/4 – 1/2 c unsweetened coconut flakes

If chocolate and coconut are not desired, dried fruits could be added instead.

Step 3: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Step 4: In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients EXCEPT oats, chocolate, and coconut.

Step 5: Turn the burner to medium-low and stir ingredients until butter melts and mixture is smooth. Take off heat.

Step 6: Add oats to pan and stir together.

Step 7: Dump the mixture unto the baking sheet and spread out evenly.

Step 8: Pop in oven and set the timer for 30 minutes.

Step 9: Take the granola out of oven and stir the granola every 10 minutes. At 30 minutes, remove granola from oven. The granola will harden and become crisp after it leaves the oven so do not bake it until it is hard. It should still be golden in color not darkened or it will taste burnt.

Step 10: Slide the parchment paper with granola onto a wire rack to cool.

Step 11: If coconut is desired…place a new sheet of parchment paper on baking sheet and spread the coconut out onto the sheet. Pop in the oven (same temperature) for about 5 minutes. Watch this like a hawk! Coconut can cook quite fast as well. I like to stir this half-way through cook time. It should turn pale golden but not dark in color or it will be burnt.

Step 12: Remove the coconut from oven and slide the parchment paper with coconut directly onto a wire rack to cool.

Step 13: Once all are cool, mix together in a bowl and store in an air-tight container. Note: The granola will need to be broken up when removing from parchment. Just break into pieces with hands.

Ready to eat

I hope I did not scare anyone with 13 steps! It really is not hard. I just stretched the instructions out. If anyone makes this recipe let me know how it was.

As always Happy Baking!

Paczki – Baked Polish Filled Donuts

Cooking

I am back to baking donuts again. This time it is Paczki, a baked Polish donut. But instead of filling this donut with jelly, I chose to fill it with custard.

These donuts rose and puffed up very nicely. I brushed them with melted butter and rolled them in sugar and they looked so yummy and I had not even filled them yet. I chose to fill them right before eating them. I made the custard ahead of time and kept it in a container in the fridge to chill.

Not even filled and see how yummy they look!
Custard filling

I poked a hole in the side of the donut with a wooden skewer and then inserted the tip of a decorating tube into the side of the donut and gave it a good squeeze. Custard donuts are a favorite of mine at the local donut shop. Now I can make them at home myself. They are very easy to make. They just take a bit of time for the rising.

Poking hole in side with skewer.
Filling with custard. This little pastry filler would not be my choice…hard to see when enough filling is inserted.
The standard pastry bag and tube worked well at filling the donuts.
Voila! The finished Paczki. Ready to eat.

For the recipe: https://www.jennycancook.com/recipes/custard-filled-paczki/ There is even a video to watch.

Quick version of the recipe with a few minor changes…

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet = 7 grams) yeast (instant or regular)

Mix dry ingredients in stand mixer then add:

  • 2/3 cup 2% milk – warmed to 120°F for instant/110°F for regular yeast
  • 3 Tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Mix and beat for about 2 minutes then add

  • about 1/2 cup extra flour

Beat until thick and kneadable. Transfer to a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 10 minutes.

Roll dough to 1/2″ thick and cut into circles using a 2 1/2″ round biscuit cutter. Lift the cut doughnuts onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Cover with a tea towel and place in a warm spot to rise for 45 minutes.

(While this is rising make the custard filling.)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Pop the doughnuts into the oven for 10 minutes. Remove and cool on rack.

Brush cool donuts with:

  • 1 Tablespoon melted butter

Then roll in:

  • 1/3 cup sugar for coating

Fill with custard. Make a small hole in side of donut. Using a pastry bag, squeeze custard into the side of donut.

Recipe for custard:

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup milk, low fat or whole
  • one egg yolk

Instructions:

  1. In a small saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch.
  2. Slowly stir in milk and egg yolk. Bring to a boil at medium high heat. Cook & stir about a minute on low heat. (it thickens more as it cools)
  3. Spread onto a dinner plate and let it stand, undisturbed, to cool thoroughly before using or refrigerate to cool.

As always, Happy Baking!

Using a Frother for Fancy Drinks

Cooking
Tea with frothed coconut milk

I recently purchased a hand-held frother after reading about a drink called London Fog. I had never heard of froth on tea before. On coffee yes, but never on tea. This sounded like something I had to try. The order was placed. When the frother arrived, I cleaned it and prepared to froth my first beverage.

One point I will make, always use the frother in a slightly larger glass than assumed will be needed. The milk does expand when frothed and can make a mess if the glass is not large enough. That was my first experience with the frother.

Having said that, the frother is very easy to use and takes hardly any time at all. Fifteen to twenty seconds is really all that is needed to make the froth for one drink. Who does not have time for that!

For my version of the London Fog, I made half a cup of tea and frothed one fourth cup of rice milk and poured it into the tea. I found this to be quite soothing. A bit of a change from a plain cup of tea. The traditional London Fog has added sweetners/syrups which I did not use.

I also tried the same thing with coffee. I found that I like the tea version better. I also tried both versions with regular milk and with rice milk. I preferred the taste of the rice milk. The rice milk takes just a bit longer to froth than the milk but had more flavor. I also tried it with coconut milk. The coconut milk should not be too thick or the frother will not work as well. Add a bit of water to the coconut milk, if it is on the thick side, to be the consistency of milk. I also preferred the coconut milk to the regular cow’s milk.

So, in my experimentations, the frother works quite well and is very quick and easy to use. It adds a soothing eliment to the regular beverage and can give the spirit a bit of a lift. Why not give it a try!

Cheers!

Another Day With Julie… The Donut Maker

Cooking

I have been trying my hand at doughnuts lately. I’m not really into the fried kind right now. Although I do like the fried kind, I find them time consuming and sometimes difficult to fry perfectly. So the baked doughnut is what I have been exploring.

Un-baked jam donuts
Glazed jam filled donuts ready to eat

These jam filled baked donuts were easy enough to put together although they did take a bit of time for rising. They were yummy. The recipe can be found in the cookbook: English Tea & Cakes (ISBN: 978-1-4351-4632-7). This cookbook has a lot of other yummy recipes as well.

Carrot Cake Donuts

These Carrot Cake Donuts were super easy to make and tasty as well. The recipe can be found at: https://www.piesandtacos.com/carrot-cake-donuts/ . I only have a mini doughnut pan. This recipe called for a regular size donut pan. I googled for some advise and found that one can crumple parchment paper into a ball and put in the center of a muffin tin to make a faux doughnut pan. Well….it kinda worked. However, getting the parchment balls out were another matter. I ended up cutting a slit in the doughnuts to get the parchment balls out. So, in the end, I do not recommend this method. I also found another bit of advice when googling. This is to put the doughnut batter in a cake decorating bag and squeeze it into the molds. Perfect! Much less mess than any other way I have tried.

Both recipes were keepers! But I’m not done yet. A custard filled donut has my mouth watering. I hope to have a post for that soon. Until then, Happy Baking!

Cornmeal Waffles with Chili

Cooking

As I had a few ‘meal coupons’ from my son, I decided to have him make a new dish, Cornbread Waffles with Chili. The chili is super simple to make and he already knew how to make waffles so it was an easy meal for him to make. The combo, while questionable to some, was delicious.

To make this recipe for Cornmeal Waffles with Chili, head back over to barefeetinthekitchen.com. This is the same sight I got the recipe for Hawaiian Oatmeal from. A new fav recipe sight for me.

https://barefeetinthekitchen.com/cornbread-waffles-recipe/

https://barefeetinthekitchen.com/easy-chili-recipe/

My son made the waffle recipe as it reads. The chili recipe was tweaked a bit. Here are the changes:

The Easiest Chili Recipe Ever…

First off, cut the recipe in half. Next, cut the white beans and fire-roasted tomatoes from the recipe.

Here is the ingredient list that was used:

  • 1 pd Italian Sausage
  • 1 14-oz can pinto beans (drained and washed)
  • 1 14-oz can black beans (drained and washed)
  • 1 8-oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 4-oz can mild chopped green chiles
  • 1 7-oz can yellow corn (drained)
  • 1 TBSP Chili Powder
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • Toppings: Shredded mexican or cheddar cheese

The chili was made using the stove-top directions. Basically cook the meat, dump everything in a pot, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer covered for 15 minutes. While the chili is simmering make the waffles. When the waffles are finished top with a cup of chili and sprinkle with cheese.

This recipe was the perfect amount to cover the 7 waffles with 1 cup of chili each.

A big THANKS to my son for a wonderful meal! It was yummy and something I will have him make again! (hee hee)

So, kick off your shoes and head on over to barefeetinthekitchen.com for the recipe (And a big Thanks to barefeetinthekitchen.com as well!). As always, Happy cooking!

Hawaiian Oatmeal Review

Cooking

I was searching recipes and I came across a tropical delight. Hawaiian Oatmeal found at: https://barefeetinthekitchen.com/hawaiian-oatmeal-recipe/ Sounds tropical…I was hooked on the word Hawaiian.

I have made this recipe three times already. It is a keeper. A nice twist from plain outmeal. A bit of crunch, flavor in every bite, and the fruit is a sweet and nutritional bonus packing in an extra food group.

The only thing I changed on this recipe was the quantity. I cut the recipe down to one serving size which is a half cup of oats. This recipe is for four servings and since I was not making breakfast for all I just cooked enough for me.

Since our orange tree is loaded with oranges right now, I decided to give the recipe another go around with oranges instead of pineapple. This version was also very good and as we have oranges in the back yard, very practical as well. I’ll name this version Californian Oatmeal.

Californian Oatmeal

Ok, so I’m really hooked on oatmeal… Here is another of my creations. I call it Going Bananas! Oatmeal. I used the same recipe idea but used bananas instead. I did not add any bananas to the pot when cooking the oatmeal. I just topped it with half of a banana cut into slices. Sprinkled with the brown sugar, chopped almonds, and coconut as with the other recipes. I liked this version. Which did I like best… depends on my mood.

Going Bananas! Oatmeal

Oh, I couldn’t help myself….introducing Mad About Mangoes Oatmeal.

Mad About Mangoes Oatmeal

So kick-off your shoes, go to barefeetinthekitchen.com and give this recipe a try. The website also has a ton of other yummy looking dishes that are now on my to try list. As always, Happy Cooking!

DIY Pot Lid Pot-Holders

Cooking

While I love my pots, I do not like the fact that the lid handles get hot. I have felt the heat more times than I care to remember. A potholder seems a bit big. I just want to grab the lid and carry on. What to do?

I did not see any patterns for pot lid protectors so I made my own to custom fit my lid handles. I cut-out one long rectangle of fabric and folded it right sides together and one piece Insul-Bright insulation and placed it on top of the fabric. I sewed it together leaving space to turn. Then I turned the fabric and top-stitched all around.

Cut 1 piece of material on fold
cut 1 piece of Insul-Bright and place on top of folded fabric (right sides of fabric together)
Sew from folded edge down and across bottom stop to leave opening start across bottom and back up to fold (sewing on 3 sides only). Cut corners.
Turn and pin opening shut.
topstitch around all four sides.
Fit around pan lid to find where to place snaps. Sew on Snaps. I used 2 snaps per pot holder.

At first, I thought I would use a velcro closure, however, I did not have velcro on hand. Also, washing things with velcro can be a pain. I rummaged through my sewing box and found some tiny sew-on snaps. Bingo! This was just the ticket. I then fitted the pot-holders to the handle to see where the snaps should be sewn. Voila! My pot lid pot-holders were complete.

Do I like these? YES! Do they work? YES! Are they washable? Yes! How I like to use them is to snap them on the handle of the lid and then cook. I can grab the lid at any time without getting burned. After I am finished I have the choice of either storing them in the pot holder drawer or snapping them back on the clean lid so it is ready to go for next time.

So, the moral of my story…if you can not find what you want…MAKE IT. As always…Happy crafting!

Gluten-Free Carrot Zucchini Muffins

Cooking

Another gluten-free recipe review. This recipe for Carrot Zucchini muffins from flippindelicious.com was a keeper. I like this recipe because it was very moist (not dry or crumbly) and did not need to be washed down with a beverage like some gluten-free recipes I have tried. The zucchini is obviously the source of moisture in this muffin. They also had a good flavor.

Getting started
Mixing together ingredients.
Ready to eat.

I followed this recipe per the ingredients. However, since these are muffins, I did not use the whipped cream chesse on top. In my opinion, they did not need a topping, so I just left it off. Do be careful of the cook time. The recipe calls for 30-35 minutes. This (at least for my oven) would be too long. I would check these muffins at 20 minutes.

To find the recipe, visit: https://flippindelicious.com/wp-json/mv-create/v1/creations/57/print?ajax=true