Month: June 2012

Rhubarb Pearl Empanadas

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So this is another one of those clean-out-the-pantry kind of recipes.  I had some fresh rhubarb to use up so I thought to myself, “Waterlily, how should we handle this?”  So looking around, I found some shredded coconut left over from some German Chocolate Cakes and I had some Tapioca pearls that I had no idea that I had.  Let’s throw this all together and make some empanadas!  But somewhere along the line, I lost track of how big things should be and ended up making a half-pie or a calzone kind of thing.  Just think of it as a “family sized” empanada!

Yay! Empanadas! And there’s some peonies in the background!

And I was surprised with how they turned out and how the flavors worked together.  You get some tartness from the rhubarb, some sweetness from the coconut, some chewiness from the tapioca, and the crispy, flaky crust.

Again, since the recipe falls under the category of clean-out-the-pantry, it’s a rough approximation, at least for the filling.  The crust does have exact measurements, but like with any pie crust, it will vary depending on the humidity in your kitchen.  Here’s what you need.

Now that’s a “family sized” empanada!

For the crust:

  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 sticks cold butter, cubed
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, cubed
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/4 c. cold water, at most

1.  In a food processor, pulse the flour and salt together to combine.

2.  Add the cubed butter and cream cheese.  Pulse until the mixture becomes coarse, maybe 15 seconds or so.  With the processor on, gradually stream the water through the feed tube until the crust starts to form a ball.

3.  Turn the crust out onto a work surface and form into a ball.  Divide the ball in half and form both halves into discs.  Refrigerate for at least an hour.

4.  Roll out the dough into a rough circle about 1/16″ thick.  Return to the refrigerator to chill whilst you make the filling.

For the filling:

  • 2 c. chopped rhubarb
  • 1 c. shredded coconut
  • 1 c. unprepared tapioca pearls.
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. flour

1.  Prepare the tapioca according to package directions (although I think I made up my own directions).  Set aside.

2.  In a large bowl, place the rhubarb, coconut, and tapioca.  Sprinkle flour and sugar on top and toss to combine.

So there might be a little bit more coconut than I thought

Make your empanadas:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In your prepared crust, spread about half the filling onto on half of the dough.  Lightly brush some water onto the edge of the crust.  Gently fold over the other half of the dough onto filling and crimp the edges or roll them over.

2.  Brush the empanada with milk or cream and sprinkle with sugar.  Cut some vents in the top to release some steam.  Bake in the middle of the oven for about 35 minutes, until golden.  Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Notes — I didn’t add a lot of flour because, in theory, the tapioca should help absorb the liquid released by the rhubarb. . . I thought that this would be good with just the coconut and the tapioca. . . Still working on taking nice pictures, but I was excited to include my peonies.  They didn’t bloom last year. . .

Summer Crumble with Rhubarb, Raspberries, Dried Figs, and Pecans

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We just had our first official day of summer and it was ridiculously hot here in Michigan — 97 degrees F around these parts.  Now I’m not 100% sure if figs are a summer fruit, but rhubarb and raspberries always make me think of the season.  And when it’s summer, you don’t want to be in a hot kitchen all day, so this is ideal!  What’s special about this recipe are the dried figs.  They can help absorb some of the liquid that is released by the rhubarb and they add some sweetness, texture, and color.  Sure, I was just trying to clean out my pantry but this combination really goes well together.

Just throw all the topping ingredients in a bowl and mix it up, and get another bowl to toss the filling with some sugar and flour and you are all set.  You can even make the topping the night before and put it in the fridge for when you’re ready!  Easy-peasy!  Here’s what you need:

Rhubarb and Figs actually look nice together. I toss in the raspberries later.

For the topping:

  • 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/2 c. rolled oats
  • 1/2 c. chopped pecans
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-in. cubes

1.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, stir together the flour, sugar, and salt.  Add the butter and mix on low speed until the topping resembles loose crumbs.

2.  Stir in the oats and pecans.  Set aside.

I really struggled with taking a picture that did this crumble some justice. Again, I’m still trying to figure out photography and composition.

For the filling:

  • 1/2 c. vanilla sugar
  • 1/4 c. flour
  • 1/4 t. nutmeg
  • 1 lb. rhubarb, chopped into 1/2-in pieces
  • 12 – 15 dried figs, cut into quarters
  • 8 oz. raspberries
  • juice of 1/2 lemon

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, and nutmeg.  Set aside.

2.  Place the lemon juice, rhubarb, figs, and raspberries in your baking dish.  Gently toss.  Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the top and let sit for about 5 minutes.

3.  Sprinkle the topping over the top of the fruit in an even layer.  Bake for about 45 minutes, until the mixture is bubbling and the topping is golden.  Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before serving so the filling can set up just a tiny bit.

Notes — My pecans got a little bit toasty, but tasted fine.  If burning them is a concern, you could add the pecans to the filling instead of in the topping. . . Store this in the refrigerator. . . You can reheat this in the oven at 350 degrees F for about 15 – 20 minutes.

Red, White, and Blue Velvet Cupcakes (with a White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting)

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I was hoping to have this posted before Flag Day, but it turns out that Flag Day was yesterday (and apparently National Bourbon Day was yesterday, too).   At least this is something that you can make for the upcoming 4th of July holiday.  I made these a little bit ago for a Memorial Day / Birthday celebration.  They’re fun and festive, especially if you put metallic star picks in them!  Very patriotic, and not just here in The States, but everywhere else that has those same colors in their national flag.  Like France, the UK, Puerto Rico, Slovakia — in Canada, you can just make the Red Velvet cupcakes — in Greece just make the blue ones! — and so on.  Maybe you could make some for a UEFA Championship Party (can’t believe the Dutch are almost eliminated).

Red, White, and Blue!

As for the recipe, Red velvet is what people typically think of, but why not Blue velvet cupcakes?  It’s the same principle, just with blue coloring.  Plus, there’s that song about them.  Well, not the cupcakes, but about blue velvet.  Or was it Blue Moon?  But I digress. . . if you were ever wondering about some of the background of the Red Velvet cake, you can find some fascinating information here at Gilt Taste.

I do love a big box of cupcakes

As you can see from one of the pictures, I tried to use one of those cupcake stands made out of cardboard (There was a sale at Jo-Ann’s, so I thought why not?  I can never resist a sale!).  I just could not get that thing together right, AND there were three of us working on it.  Sure I had a couple margaritas, some sangria, and a beer in me by then, but I’m pretty sure my two “assistants” were fairly sober.  That thing was such a hassle it had me sweating like a wh@%& in church, pardon my language.  And of course the first cupcake we put on made the top tier topple over and fall onto several of the other cupcakes.  Alas, if I was only recording the whole ordeal.  Such is life.  Maybe I should just invest in something more sturdy, but then again, I wouldn’t have any interesting stories to tell!

Not a bad stand in a pinch, but i really should invest in something that’s sturdier and better looking.

There’s a small part of me that is always hesitant about using dyes, particularly in cakes.  With frostings and buttercreams, I’m okay with using tints, but I always balk at cakes.  So I probably didn’t use as much color as I could have.  I’ve seen some recipes that called for a whole bottle of coloring, which I did not do, so the color is not as pronounced.  But no worries — if you want more intensity in the colors just use more.  You can get away with using less red since the chemical reaction between the acids (buttermilk and vinegar) and the cocoa are supposed to produce the red color you get in Red Velvet cakes, although it’s very faint.  But I did use more of the blue to make sure it would come out.  And the amount of dye you use may depend on what products you have.  The blue that I used for this is AmeriColor Royal Blue; the red is Wilton’s Red-Red.  Gel pastes are usually what I prefer because it will not affect the recipe ratios as much.  Here’s what you need:

for the cupcakes (one batch makes about 2 dozen; the red batch used 1/2 t. of coloring and the blue used 1 t.):

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1/2 c. corn starch
  • 2 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 c. buttermilk
  • 2 t. white vinegar
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 c. vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • gel paste coloring (see above)

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line your muffin pan with cupcake papers and set aside.

2.  Sift together the flour, corn starch, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.  In a large measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, white vinegar, and vanilla.  Set aside as well.

3.  In the bowl of a mixer, whisk the oil and sugars until combined on medium speed.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix well.  Whisk in the gel paste, scraping down the sides as needed.

4.  Add the flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with 2 additions of the buttermilk mixture.  Scrape down the sides after each addition and whisk well.

5.  Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake liners, filling to about 3/4 full.  Bake for about 20 minutes, rotating once halfway through baking.  Cool cupcakes in the pans set on wire racks.  Frost with the White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting.

Red velvet

for the frosting (this was enough for 4 dozen cupcakes):

  • 3 8-oz. packages of cream cheese
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter
  • 3 c. confectioners sugar
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 8 oz. white chocolate, chopped.

1.  In the bowl of a mixer using the paddle attachment, beat together the cream cheese and butter on medium for a couple of minutes, until well combined.  Place the white chocolate in a microwave proof bowl.  Microwave in 15 second bunches until melted, stirring after each time.  Allow to cool for about 5 minutes, making sure to keep in a liquid state.

2.  With the mixer on low, gradually add the confectioners sugar and salt.  Mix until smooth.  Add the vanilla and white chocolate and mix for about 1 minute, scraping down the sides.  Use either a small spatula knife or a piping bag to frost the cupcakes.

Notes — I have read that you can use beet juice instead of the red coloring, but I have no idea how much you need and how to adjust the recipes for the change in the amount of liquid. . . I’m not sure about an alternative for the blue, but I do have some ideas if you needed something green 🙂  . . .You should be able to store these in the freezer for a few weeks.  Thaw the frozen cakes in the refrigerator overnight. . . As always when making cakes, make sure your ingredients are at room temperature. . . I’m still bummed I missed National Bourbon Day; been wanting to add some Four Roses bourbon to my collection.  I really need to revisit my Foodie Holiday postings. . . And don’t forget to visit Daisy Cakes and Jereme’s Kitchen on Facebook. . .

Cranberry Peanut Granola

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So I’m planning on doing some hiking soon and I was thinking to myself, “Waterlily, what would be something tasty that you can take on your expeditions?”  And that’s when granola popped into my head.  It’s something that’s good to eat when you’re on the go, plus you can eat it on its own or on top of stuff like yogurt, ice cream, cobblers, and the like.

I use a simple formula here:  4 cups of stuff + 1/4 cup of vegetable oil + 1/4 cup of honey.  That’s just for the mixture that goes into the oven.  You can add as much fruit as you like afterwards, like raisins (yuk!), or dried hibiscus flowers, or dried apricots, etc.  Just don’t bake the fruit in the oven because it will burn.  This recipe is very simple, and I love it when things are simple!  Here’s what you need:

  • 2 c. old-fashioned oatmeal
  • 1 c.  peanuts
  • 1 c. shredded coconut (I used the unsweetened big shavings)
  • 1/4 c. vegetable oil
  • 1/4 c. honey
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 c. dried cranberries

1.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with a Silpat or foil.  Set aside.

2.  In a large bowl, toss the oatmeal, peanuts, coconut, oil, honey, and salt to combine.  Pour onto the pan into a single layer and bake in the oven.

3.  Bake for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally while in the oven, until the granola is golden.

4.  When done, scrape the pan to loosen the granola and allow to cool in the pan.  After it has cooled, mix in the cranberries and store in an air-tight container at room temperature.  Should last a month, but I have no clue — a batch usually lasts me a couple of days before it gets eaten up.

Notes — You can mix things up by changing the ingredients.  Try different nuts, different fruits, add spices.  The possibilities are endless. . . If you are still getting some moisture left over from the oil and honey, try baking at 325 degrees F for about 30 minutes

Taste of Ann Arbor and Ya’ssoo!

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Happy June and Happy Hazelnut Cake Day!  Alright this may be more appropriate for locals, but some of y’all might be visiting.  Plus it might give some of y’all some incentive to visit us here in SE Michigan (if you need more incentive, Frommer’s just named us as one of the top 20 Best Vacation Destinations!).  But we have a couple of our annual summer events coming up this weekend.  First of all there’s Ya’ssoo — the Greek Festival of Ann Arbor.  It starts today and runs through Sunday so there are lots of chances to head on over.  Here’s a link to the event flyer and here’s the website.  Of course, there’ll be specialty foods (here’s the menu!), concerts, raffles, and tours.  Lot’s of fun and I’ve been craving Saganaki and some Paximathakia (if you don’t know, look it up!).  Ooo, I should post my baklava recipe sometime.

This painting is from the Greek Festival’s website. It depicts an actual scene from the festival with the church in the background.

There is also the 17th Annual Ann Arbor African-American Festival, Saturday, June 2, 9am – 9 pm.  This festival pays tribute to the historic black business district of Ann Arbor.  Now I couldn’t find a website, but I did find an email where you can get more information — clpfestival@gmail.com.  There’ll be music, food, dances, and theatrical performances.  The cost is free and this will take place downtown.

Also this Sunday (June 3) is the Taste of Ann Arbor.  I’m excited and hope to attend this year!  Tasting tickets are $0.50 and it runs from 11am – 5pm.  Games and music will be a part of the festivities, but the food is the main draw!  A lot of my favorites will be there and some places that I’ve been dying to try.  And it’s great that a sample will just cost me 50 cents!  And if you’re interested there’s the Dexter Ann Arbor Run on Sunday; registration ends tonight.  They schedule concurrently with Taste of Ann Arbor; all that food at the finish line is motivation enough for me.  I wonder if runners get some free tasting tickets 🙂  There’s a half marathon, 10k, 5k, and kids’ run.  If the races are still open, you can register online here.

I got this image from “Living in Ann Arbor” on Facebook who, in turn, got this from wherelightstandsstill.blogspot.com

Sure this is short notice, but these are just some of the fun things going on around town this weekend.  They involve eating food, which is something I do everyday!  And they also give you a chance to learn, and play, and maybe run a half marathon.