Mango Dessert Risotto

Mango RisottoThis rice dessert is great served warm or cooled, and can be made with flavours other than mango. Just swap out the diced mango and juice and substitute with peaches, or cherries or raspberries. The possibilities are endless and will most definitely impress! If you find that your fruit is not sweet enough, you can always add a bit a sugar. If it’s too sweet, you can cut it with a dash of lemon juice. This recipe will serve 6 for dessert.

Ingredients:

1 cup Arborio rice
3 cups water
3 cups mango nectar or juice
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups of fresh mango, diced
optional garnishes: toasted coconut, dried fruit, nuts or mint

Directions:

Heat water, mango nectar, nutmeg and cinnamon in a sauce pan to simmer. In another large saucepan, set on medium/high heat, measure out 1 cup Arborio rice and add one cup of the hot water/mango mixture, stirring constantly until all the liquid is absorbed. Continue adding the water/mango mixture one cup at a time until all the liquid is used and rice is tender. (If texture is too firm, add ½ cup additional water.) The rice should take about 25 minutes to cook, and still have some sauce left. Fold in the diced mango. Garnish with toasted coconut, nuts, dried fruit or mint.

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Carrot, Sweet Potato, Apple Kugel

Carrot, Sweet Potato, Apple KugelThis recipe was passed around the office as a “keeper” on a scrap of yellowed newsprint. Wanting to track down the original source, (thank you Google!) I was able to find that the recipe was first published in the Baltimore Sun back in December of 1991*. It was part of an article written by Colleen Pierre, R.D. entitled “Veggies Don’t Have to be Bland, Boring”. While yes it is a bit old (23 years!) the article, and the recipe, still hold true. If you would like to read the original article, please click here.  This recipe will serve 8.

Ingredients:

¼ cup margarine
1 cup grated, peeled sweet potatoes (1 medium/large sweet potato)
1 cup grated, peeled carrots (2 medium/large carrots)
1 cup grated, peeled apples (1 large apple)
½ cup matzo meal
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup white sugar
½ cup water
2 tablespoons sweet wine
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon oil (to grease pan)

Directions:

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with about 1 teaspoon of cooking oil. In a medium sized bowl, mix together the ingredients, and then pour into your prepared pan. Bake for 45 minutes, until golden brown on top.

* According to the article, the actual recipe comes from “Life After Schmaltz,” a book for heart-healthy Jewish holiday cooking by Rosalind Trieber, M.S., Ann Sussman and Janet Brigham, Ph.D., published in Baltimore by Trieber Associates.

Matzo Baklava

Matzo BaklavaThis dessert just gets better with time. I would always plan on serving it the next day, or even the day after that, as the longer it sits, the longer the matzo has a chance to soak up the sweet lemony syrup. This recipe will make 9 to 16 squares (depends how small you slice it).

Ingredients:

6 sheets matzo

For syrup:
1 cup water
2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey

For assembly:
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 cup shelled raw unsalted natural pistachios, chopped
1 cup packed brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted margarine or butter, melted

Directions:

Briefly pass each sheet of matzo under cold running water until wet on all sides. Layer sheets between damp paper towels and let stand until somewhat pliable but not soggy or falling apart, about 2 hours. While matzo is softening, make syrup.

In small saucepan over moderately high heat, stir together the water and sugar. Bring to boil, then lower heat to moderate and cook, uncovered, until syrupy and thick, about 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and honey and simmer 1 minute. Remove from heat and let cool, then chill until ready to use.

To Assemble the Dessert:

Preheat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, stir together walnuts, pistachios, brown sugar, cinnamon, and cardamom. Separate out ⅙ of nut mixture and reserve for topping cooked baklava.

Transfer 1 sheet of the prepared matzo to the counter. Press a rolling pin once over the sheet from one end to other to flatten. Rotate 90 degrees and repeat. Using a pastry brush, grease the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square pan with the melted butter/margarine. Lay one sheet of flattened matzo on the bottom of the pan, and then spread with more melted butter/margarine. Sprinkle the matzo with ⅕ of unreserved nut mixture. Roll out second sheet of matzo and transfer to pan. Brush with margarine and sprinkle with nut mixture. Repeat with remaining matzo sheets and remaining nut mixture, ending with matzo sheet brushed with margarine on top.

Bake until golden, about 25 minutes. Keeping the baklava in the pan, place the pan on a cooling rack so that it can cool all around, and immediately pour the chilled syrup over. It may seem like a lot of syrup, but the matzo will absorb it all. Sprinkle with reserved nut mixture. Let cool, then cover and let stand at least 8 hours and up to 3 days. (Do not chill.) Cut into small squares or diamonds and serve.

Candied Espresso Pecans

Coffee NutsI don’t know about you, but I always like to have a crunchy snack on hand… something a little savoury, a little salty and a little sweet. These candied espresso pecans fit the bill! Relatively low in fat and sugar, these caffeine packed nuts will help you power through the afternoon slump. If you don’t have instant espresso powder, you can substitute by using 50% more dark roast instant coffee. Just note that it will have a slightly harsher more acidic taste than the espresso powder, but it might just be okay considering the sugar and cinnamon in the recipe. This recipe will make about 4 cups of candied nuts.

Ingredients:

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
⅔ cup sugar
2 tablespoons finely ground espresso coffee beans
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 large egg white
4 cups pecan halves

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. Whisk the sugar, ground espresso beans, espresso powder, cinnamon and salt together in small bowl. Whisk egg white in large bowl until frothy. Add pecans and toss to coat. Sprinkle the pecans with espresso mixture and toss to coat.

Spread coated pecans on prepared sheet in single layer. Bake 5 minutes. Slide spatula under the nuts to loosen them from baking sheet and stir, rearranging in single layer. Bake until the pecans are dry to touch, about 5 minutes longer. Loosen pecans from the sheet again, and then rest to cool on the sheet.

These candied pecans can be made 2 weeks ahead and stored in airtight container at room temperature.

Hamentashen

HamentashenThere are a million different flavours out there for Hamentashen! You can go old fashioned with prune or poppy seed, traditional with jam, or try some new modern twists! Below you’ll find a basic dough recipe, and then some new fillings to try this year! I hope you like them!

Ingredients:

3 cups flour
2 eggs
½ cup sugar
¾ cup margarine
¼ teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
Filling of choice (See below for some options!)
egg wash (egg + water)

Instructions:

Sift together the baking powder, flour, sugar and salt. Cut in the margarine. Add well beaten eggs and mix together to form a soft dough. Roll out on a floured board to ¼” thickness. Cut with a large, round cookie cutter. Put a spoonful of desired filling in centre, and pinch together to form triangular pocket. Brush with an egg wash, put on a well-greased pan. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes at 400 degrees.

Poppy Seed Filling:

Ingredients:
¾ cup poppy seeds
2 tablespoons margarine
½ cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons honey
6 tablespoons sugar
1 egg

Directions:
Beat the egg in a bowl and set aside. Melt the margarine in a small saucepan. Whisk in the coconut milk, sugar and honey and simmer over a low flame until the sugar is melted. Pour half the hot mixture into a cup. Very slowly drizzle the hot mixture into the beaten egg, whisking constantly. Slowly pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan, whisking constantly. Simmer the mixture for 3-4 minutes until it thickens. Remove from fire. Whisk in the poppy seeds and refrigerate until fully cooled before using.

Fresh Cranberry Filling:

Ingredients:
1 (12 oz.) package fresh cranberries
1 ¾ cup white granulated sugar
1 ¼ water
Zest of one orange

Directions:
Bring water, sugar, and orange zest to a boil and continue to boil for about 10 minutes, until mixture is syrup–like. Add cranberries and cook for an additional 5 minutes, or until berries pop. Remove from heat. Pour into bowl and refrigerate overnight or until chilled.

Apple Pie Filling:

Ingredients:
2 apples, very finely diced
6 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions:
Peel and dice the apples very finely. Mix in the sugar, flour, lemon juice, cinnamon and nutmeg. Toss until apples are fully coated.

Coffee Cake Filling:

Ingredients:
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup finely chopped walnuts, pecans or cashews
2 tablespoons melted margarine
1 to 2 tablespoons apple butter

Directions:
Mix the sugar, cinnamon and nuts together. Slowly drizzle in the margarine in, and then toss to mix with the apple butter. You may find it easier to blend in the butter if you microwave it first for about 15 seconds.

Pecan Pie Filling:

Ingredients:
¼ cup pure maple syrup
¼ cup almond milk
Pinch salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch
¾ cup pecan pieces
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:
Whisk together the maple syrup, almond milk, salt, and cornstarch in a medium-sized saucepan over medium-low heat. Keep stirring continuously with a whisk until the mixture boils and thickens. Once boiling, turn off the heat and stir-in pecan pieces and vanilla. Allow to fully cool.

Lemon Bar Filling:

Ingredients:
½ cup arrowroot or tapioca starch
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
4 lemons, juiced (just under 1 cup juice)
zest of 1 lemon
4 eggs
¾ cup honey
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup maple syrup
Powdered sugar for dusting

Directions:
Combine arrowroot or tapioca, baking powder and baking soda in a medium bowl. In another bowl, combine eggs, lemon juice, lemon zest, honey, palm sugar, and maple syrup. Whisk wet ingredients into dry until dry ingredients are completely dissolved. Pour mixture into a medium saucepan on low-medium heat, and whisk continuously for 8-10 minutes until a thick custard forms. Be very careful to continue whisking on a lower flame or the eggs might scramble. Allow to completely cool.

Hello Dollies Bars

Hello DolliesIngredients:

¾ cup butter (or 1 ½ sticks)
1 cup crushed saltine crackers
⅛ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup coconut
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts (I like my walnuts toasted first)
1 can sweetened condensed milk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in 9”x13” baking pan. Mix together in a bowl the cracker crumbs, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Pour the crumb mixture evenly over melted butter, and push down so that the mixture becomes the crust. Pour the condensed milk over the crust, and then spread the coconut evenly over the milk. Scatter chocolate chips evenly over coconut. Spread walnuts over chocolate chips. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes*. Cool completely and cut into bars.

*If using a dark coated pan lower temperature to 325 degrees, as the edges tend to get dark.

Twisted Chocolate Babka – Шоколад Бабка

Chocolate BabkaThis recipe will make 2 loaf-sized chocolate babkas

Ingredients:

Dough:
4 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
½ cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons instant yeast
Grated zest of half an orange
3 large eggs
½ cup water (warm, between 100 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit) and 1 to 2 tablespoons extra, if needed
¾ teaspoon salt
⅔ cup unsalted butter or margarine at room temperature
oil, for greasing

Filling:
4 ½ ounces dark chocolate (or approximately ¾ cup chocolate chips)
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or margarine, cold is fine
Scant ½ cup powdered sugar
⅓ cup cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon cinnamon

Syrup:
⅓ cup water
⅓ cup plus 2 teaspoons granulated sugar

Make the dough:

In a small bowl mix together the warm water and the yeast, with about 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Let this stand aside and foam up. This should happen within 10 minutes.

Combine the flour, remaining sugar and zest in the bottom of the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low to combine. Add the foamy yeast water, and the eggs (one at a time), while the mixer is on low with the dough hook. Keep the machine mixing, increasing the speed as the ingredients come together to form a dough.

It’s okay if the dough is on the dry side, but if it doesn’t come together at all, add extra water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough forms a mass. With the mixer on low, add the salt, then the butter, a spoonful at a time, mixing until it’s incorporated into the dough. Then, mix on medium speed for 10 minutes until dough is completely smooth; you’ll need to scrape the bowl down a few times. I usually found that after 10 minutes, the dough began to pull away from the sides of the bowl. If it doesn’t, you can add 1 tablespoon extra flour to help this along.

Coat a large bowl with oil (or scrape the dough out onto a counter and oil this one) and place dough inside, cover with plastic place in a warm area to rise, about 2-3 hours. Once the dough has doubled (or close to it), stick it in the fridge to cool. This will help with the rolling out of the dough in the next segment.

Make filling:

In a small pot on med-low heat, melt the butter and chocolate together until smooth. Stir in powdered sugar, cocoa and cinnamon; mixture should form a spreadable paste. Remove from the heat and set it aside.

Assemble loaves:

Coat two 9-by-4-inch loaf pans with oil or butter, and line the bottom of each with a rectangle of parchment paper. Take half of dough from fridge (leave the other half chilled). Roll out on a well-floured counter to about a 10-inch width (the side closest to you) and as long in length (away from you) as you can when rolling it thin, likely 10 to 12 inches.

Spread half of chocolate mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a ½ -inch border all around. Brush the end farthest away from you with water. Roll the dough up with the filling into a long, tight cigar. Seal the dampened end onto the log. I found that transferring the log to a lightly floured baking tray in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes made it much, much easier to cut cleanly in half. Repeat with second dough.

Trim last ½ -inch off each end of log. Gently cut the log in half lengthwise and lay them next to each other on the counter, cut sides up. Pinch the top ends gently together. Lift one side over the next, forming a twist and trying to keep the cut sides facing out (because they’re pretty). Don’t worry if this step makes a mess, just transfer the twist as best as you can into the prepared loaf pan. In one batch, mine was long enough to “S” inside the pan and I nested the trimmed ends of the log in the openings. Even if you don’t (and choose to bake them separately in a little pan, as I did in other batches), the dough will fill in any gaps by the time it’s done rising and baking, so don’t worry.

Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise another 1 to 1 ½ hours at room temperature. Repeat process with second loaf.

Bake and finish cakes:

Heat oven to 375°F. Remove towels, place each loaf on the middle rack of your oven. Bake for 30 minutes, but there’s no harm in checking for doneness at 25 minutes. A skewer inserted into an under baked babka will feel stretchy/rubbery inside and may come back with dough on it. When fully baked, you’ll feel almost no resistance. If you babka needs more time, put it back, 5 minutes at a time then re-test. If it browns too quickly, you can cover it with foil.

While babkas are baking, make syrup:

Bring sugar and water to a simmer until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and set aside to cool somewhat. As soon as the babkas leave the oven, brush the syrup all over each. It will seem like too much, but will taste just right — glossy and moist. Let cool about halfway in pan, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool the rest of the way before eating.

Pere al Vino Rosso (Pears Poached in Red Wine)

Pears poached in wineIngredients:

8 pears, peeled
1 bottle of red wine, or enough to cover the pears
1 cup sugar
2 sticks of cinnamon
3-4 whole cloves
Zest of half a lemon or orange*

Directions:

Peel your pears—one per serving—leaving on the stem if the pear has one. Then place them snugly in a saucepan with just enough room to hold the pears in a single layer.

Pour over the wine over the pears, so that they are at least ¾ of the way covered. Then add sugar, cinnamon, cloves and if you like, some lemon or orange zest.

Allow the pears to simmer for about 20 minutes, turning them if need be so that they cook and colour evenly, until they are quite tender but not falling apart.

Remove the pears onto a shallow serving bowl or plate, and continue to simmer the wine until has reduced into a syrupy consistency, then strain and pour over the pears. Allow the pears and their sauce to cool before serving.

* Click here for my tips on zesting citrus.

Tu B’Shevat Treat – Seven Species Muffins

Seven Species MuffinsThis post is taken from Tori Avey, aka The Shiksa in the Kitchen. She has a great site that I encourage you to visit at www.toriavey.com.

Typical foods served on Tu B’Shevat include fruits, nuts, grains, and vegetables. The almond trees bloom at this time of year, so almond-laden foods often make an appearance on the holiday table. Those who partake in a Tu B’Shevat Seder will eat at least 15 different types of fruits and vegetables. Chocolatey carob pods are sometimes included in the meal. It is also customary to include the Seven Species mentioned in the Torah: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates.

Ingredients:

¾ cup golden raisins
½ cup dried figs*
½ cup dates*
1 ¼ cup unsweetened almond milk
¼ cup applesauce
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice
2 eggs
⅓ cup light olive oil
½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (¾ cup all-purpose + ¾ cup whole wheat flour will work too)
½ cup barley flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup pomegranate seeds
½ cup chopped walnuts
Nonstick cooking spray or paper muffin tin liners

Topping Ingredients (optional)

2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon

* To learn how to properly inspect these fruits, click here.

You will also need:

Blender or food processor, large mixing bowl, medium mixing bowl, standard muffin tin, ice cream scoop or small ladle, cooling rack

Directions:

  • If your raisins are particularly dry, cover them with water and bring to a boil. As soon as the water boils, turn off the heat and let the raisins sit in the water to plump for 10 minutes. Drain and pat dry with a paper towel.
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. If your figs have tough stems on them, remove them and discard.
  3. Roughly chop dates and figs. Set aside.
  4. Use a blender or food processor to blend together the following ingredients until very smooth: dates, figs, almond milk, applesauce, cinnamon and allspice.
  5. It may take a couple of minutes to blend all ingredients to a smooth consistency, depending on the power of your blender. The end result should be similar to the texture of apple butter or smooth fruit preserves. Set mixture aside.
  6. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, light olive oil, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract.
  7. In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, barley flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  8. Gently mix the pomegranate seeds into the dry mixture, making sure the seeds are well coated with flour.
  9. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Pour the fruit mixture from the blender into the well.
    Add the egg mixture to the well.
  10. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until the dry ingredients are just moistened and a lumpy batter forms. Do not over mix – if you do your muffins will turn out heavy and dense.
  11. Fold raisins and chopped walnuts into the muffin batter with a light-handed stir.
  12. Prep your muffin pan by spraying a small amount of non-stick cooking spray into the bottom of each muffin tin (not the sides), or use paper muffin cup liners. Divide batter equally into muffin cups, filling each cup to the top and mounding the surface slightly. I’ve found that it’s easiest to do this using an ice cream scoop.
  13. If you’d like to top the muffins, mix the sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl using a fork. Sprinkle about a ½ tsp of cinnamon sugar mixture evenly across the surface of each muffin.
  14. Place muffins in the oven and immediately turn heat down to 375 degrees F. That extra heat blast at the beginning of the baking cycle will help to activate the baking powder and baking soda. Bake for 25-27 minutes until the tops of the muffins are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Let muffins cool for 10 minutes before removing from the tin and cooling on a rack. Do not let the muffins cool completely in the tin, they are quite moist and may stick to the tin if you leave them there too long. Serve warm.

Linzer Tarts

Linzer CookieThe Linzertorte is one of the oldest known tarts with a recipe discovered in an Austrian abbey from 1653.  Johann Konrad Vogel (1796-1883) is credited with first mass producing it while Franz Holzlhuber, an Austrian émigré who worked as a baker, is recognized for introducing it to America around 1856.  Linzer cookies employ the same recipe as the Linzertorte but instead the dough is cut into cookies and two of them form a sandwich around the preserves.  Moreover, the top cookie has a small cutout in its centre (known as Linzer eyes), thus exposing the underlying jam and adding to the visual appeal.  While the traditional cutout is circular, all sorts of shapes, such as hearts, are also popular. This recipe will make 2 dozen finished tarts/cookies.

Ingredients:

2 ½ cups unsalted butter or margarine, softened
1 ⅓ cups white sugar
4 cups sifted all-purpose flour, divided
3 ½ cups finely ground almonds (or a mixture of your favourite nuts)
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup and 2 tablespoons raspberry jam (or other jam of choice)
⅔ cup confectioners’ sugar for decoration

Directions:

Beat butter and sugar together until the mixture is light and fluffy. Stir in ½ cup flour, the ground almonds, and cinnamon. Mix in remaining flour ½ cup at a time until the mixture becomes a slightly stiff dough.

Shape the dough into a ball; divide it in half. Wrap both halves in wax paper or plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least one hour, even better if you can leave them overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

On a lightly floured surface, or even better, on a piece of wax paper, roll half of the dough into a sheet ⅛ inch thick. With a 2 ½ inch cookie cutter, cut as many circles from the sheet as you can. Before separating the shapes from the remaining dough, stick your whole dough sheet (on the wax paper) in the freezer for 5 minutes. This will make separating the cut cookies from the extra dough easier and there is less of a chance that your cookies will break when you lift them. Knead the leftover scraps of dough into a ball and roll it out again into a ⅛ inch sheet. Cut out more circles. You should now have about 24 circles.

Arrange cookies on prepared baking sheet, leaving about 1 inch of space between them. Refrigerate while working with remaining dough.

Repeat the rolling and cutting process with the other half of the dough, but after placing the second batch on the baking sheet, cut out the centre of each circle with a ½ inch cookie cutter.

Bake cookies in preheated oven until light brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack for 20 minutes.

In a small saucepan or microwavable bowl, gently heat up the jam, so that it can be easily spread. Spread a thin coating of jam on each of the base cookie rounds.

Meanwhile, take the top portion of your cookies (the ones with the cut-out sections) and lightly dust the tops of them with confectioners’ sugar. If you coat them now, you don’t have to worry about getting sugar inside your “jam window” later.

Set a cut-out cookie on top of each base cookie, pressing the two together so they make a sandwich. Serve and enjoy!