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Peanut Butter Pie for Mikey

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This recipe has been making the rounds on the food blogs so I thought I’d give it a try.  For those who don’t know the story, a fellow food blogger (In Jennie’s Kitchen) experienced a recent tragedy with the unexpected death of her husband Mikey.  The two of them have two young girls, ages 8 and 3.  This recipe was one of his favorites and she had been meaning to make it for him, but sadly she never got the chance.

In his honor, I made this.  But I didn’t make it just for him, but for the folks that I love too.  So the next chance that you get, tell those special people in your life that you love them.  As Jennie writes in her blog, “. . . hug them like there’s no tomorrow because today is the only guarantee we can count on.

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Creamy Peanut Butter Pie

Serves 10 to 12

8 ounces chocolate cookies
4 tablespoons butter, melted
4 ounces finely chopped chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped peanuts
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces cream cheese
1 cup creamy-style peanut butter
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 – 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Add the cookies to the bowl of a food processor and pulse into fine crumbs.  Combine melted butter and cookie crumbs in a small bowl, and stir with a fork to mix well.  Press mixture into the bottom and 1-inch up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave.  Pour over bottom of cookie crust and spread to the edges using an off-set spatula.  Sprinkle chopped peanuts over the melted chocolate. Place pan in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

Pour the heavy cream into a bowl and beat using a stand mixer or hand mixer until stiff peaks form.  Transfer to a small bowl and store in refrigerator until ready to use.  Place the cream cheese and peanut butter in a deep bowl.  Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Reduce speed to low and gradually beat in the confectioner’s sugar.  Add the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract and lemon juice. Increase speed to medium and beat until all the ingredients are combined and filling is smooth.

Stir in 1/3 of the whipped cream into the filling mixture (helps lighten the batter, making it easier to fold in the remaining whipped cream).  Fold in the remaining whipped cream.  Pour the filling into the prepared springform pan.  Drizzle the melted chocolate on top, if using, and refrigerate for three hours or overnight before serving.

Notes — I did follow an adaptation of this recipe that makes a 10″ pie.  I got that recipe from the blog The Shiksa in the Kitchen.

Peach Rhubarb Crostata

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So I just found out that this month is also National Peach Month or Peach Appreciation Month.  And there’s nothing wrong with enjoying some peaches in the summer (or any time of year for that matter).  Now this recipe is the most thrown-together one that I’ve done recently.  No real exact measurements, just some rhubarb, some peaches, sugar, cinnamon, and flour.  But it’s a crostata so it’s supposed to be all rustic and wholesome and quaint.  So this fits the bill.  But I did add some crystallized ginger to this one to give it some added bite.

But then I started wondering, “Waterlily, what’s the difference between a galette and a crostata?”  Honestly, I have no clue.  From what I can gather, one is French and the other one is Italian.  Both are rustic and free-form.  Both involve a pie crust with some type of filling.  Both are types of pie.  Both can be savory.  I guess, given the regional differences, the filling would give you the clue as to what term to use.  For example, something with apples and figs would probably be a crostata (boy, does that sound good — new recipe ideas!) and something with cherries and frangipane (that sounds good too!) would probably be a galette.  I guess that could count as our cultural nugget for the day!  Here’s what you need:

  • 1/2 pâte brisée recipe
  • 2 rhubarb stalks (mine were kinda small so I used three), cut into 1/2 in. pieces
  • 2 peaches, cut into slices (I cut them into quarters and then cut those pieces into thirds)
  • 2 T. crystallized ginger, chopped
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 3 T. sugar
  • 2 T. cornstarch
  • pinch of salt
  • egg wash
  • sanding sugar

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Roll your dough out into a round about 1/4 in. thick.  Pile the peaches and rhubarb in the middle, leaving a couple of inches around the edge for the crust.  Spread the ginger across the top.

2.  In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon, sugar, cornstarch, and salt.  Sprinkle mixture over the top of the fruit.  Fold over and pleat the edges of the crust, pressing to seal.  Brush the crust with the egg wash and sprinkle with the sanding sugar.

3.  Bake in the oven for about 30-45 minutes, until nicely browned and the fruit has softened.  Let cool for about 5-10 minutes, and serve.

Tuna Ceviche with Avocado and Watermelon

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It’s still summer (although the weather up here the past couple of days would make you think otherwise) and one of the things that I love on a hot summer’s day / night/ or whatever is Ceviche.  This is a different take than my usual recipe in that it’s a more on the sweet side of things.  I had some nice watermelon in the fridge so I thought it might be nice to incorporate everything together.  And I use some orange juice in the marinade in addition to the lime.  Plus there’s a new take on a traditional ceviche because I hate cilantro.  So I thought that I could maybe get around this by using some whole coriander seed.  Two completely different tastes, but at least they come from the same plant (in case you didn’t know that).  So I can kinda say that there’s cilantro in it, it just hasn’t grown yet.

You can use other kinds of seafood in this one.  Scallops work nice, squid is good too, haven’t used octopus though.  Since it is National Catfish Month, you could totally use that!  Here’s what you need:

  • 1 lb. Ahi Tuna, cut into 1/2 in. pieces
  • 1/2 t. whole coriander
  • 1/4 t. whole fennel
  • 6-8 limes, juiced & zested 4 of them
  • 1 1/2 c. orange juice
  • pepper
  • 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 2 avocados, diced
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 -2 c. diced watermelon
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 T. sambal oelek (chili paste), or add however much you like
  • 1 T. toasted coconut
  • salt & pepper, to taste

1.  In a container, combine the tuna, coriander, fennel, zest, lime juice, orange juice, and pepper.  Marinate the mixture for about 2-3 hours, turning every half hour with a wooden spoon.

2.  Strain out the fish and transfer to a large serving dish.  Add the tomato, avocado, onion, garlic and olive oil.  Toss to combine and let sit for another 30 minutes.

3.  Spoon out a serving into a dish or martini glass.  Sprinkle with some of the toasted coconut and you’re ready to serve!

Notes — I’d probably replace all the tomato with watermelon next time, but I had to use up those romas quick. . . If you wanted to add some finely diced jalapeno instead of the sambal that would be fine.  You could just omit it completely. . . One thing to try is maybe toasting the coriander and fennel before adding to the marinade. . .  You can chop everything finer if you want to maybe serve this with some tortilla chips.  This recipe is more of a salad.

Champagne Cocktails, part 1 — a Classic and Nelson’s Blood

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I hosted a wine tasting recently with a focus on whites and sparkling wines.  So I thought it might be nice to see what recipes are out there for drinks that use sparkling wines (champagne, cava, prosecco, spumante, etc. . . ) as a base.  Probably most everyone knows about mimosas and bellinis.  But I am looking for something a little bit different from even a sparkling sangria (which will probably be my fall back).

Now my booze cabinet isn’t the most well-stocked, but I do have a couple of mixers that I could use, plus there are some things that I have already stocked in the refrigerator.  So here’s what I have:

Mixers, liqueurs, syrups, etc:  Midori, raspberry liqueur, cranberry mix, sour apple mix, Angostura bitters, rhubarb syrup, mint syrup, Apple Pie liqueur (luv this stuff.  it really does taste like boozy apple pie!), and sugar cubes.

Booze:  Appleton VX, Appleton 12-year-old, Pisco, Cachaca (actually two types), Bison Grass vodka, Apple Jack, Yukon Jack, Bulleit Rye, and Woodford’s Reserve.

I am not using my good Appleton rum (If you are ever lucky enough to try some 30-year-old Appleton, by all means get it.  Exquisite stuff!  Too bad the oldest available in Michigan is the 12-year-old.), the vodka, or my bourbon.  No sense in wasting those on something that may or may not work.  Plus, no sense in using a bottle of Krug in making champagne cocktails.  I am using prosecco from Cupcake Vineyards.  Not a bad wine, especially for the price — about $8!

So for this first post I did find some recipes for a couple of traditional cocktails.  I apologize for the picture; the cocktails looked a little ominous for some reason.  One of them is just a Classic Champagne Cocktail.  I guess it’s been around forever.  The other one is called Nelson’s Blood.  Now if you don’t know the story behind the name, it’s not a pretty one, but more on that later. . .

For the Classic Cocktail:

  • 1 sugar cube
  • bitters
  • 5 oz. champagne

On a plate, place the sugar cube and splash on a couple of dashes of the bitters in order to soak the cube.  Now transfer the cube to a champagne flute and top off with the champagne or sparkling wine.  The sugar cube has lots of nucleation points for the sparkling so this will be extra bubbly (think about sodas and Mentos, but not as violent. . . if you don’t know what I’m taking about, click on this).

For the Nelson’s Blood:

  • 1 oz. Tawny Port
  • 5 oz. champagne

In a champagne flute, pour in your Port.  Now top it off with the champagne.  I do confess though — the pic does not have port in it, but some of the Appleton VX instead.  Although most recipes I found just have the port and sparkling in it, there are some which have rum.  These are more complex and have better ties to the provenance of the drink.  So here’s a cultural nugget and a little bit of history. . .

Picture it — Trafalgar, 1805. . . The British fleet has just scored another victory against the rival French, but the victory would cost Admiral Horatio Nelson his life.  Admiral Nelson was a war hero beloved all over England and a burial at sea would just not sit well with folks back at home.  The problem was that getting him home could take possibly months.  So to keep his body, er. . . fresh. . . it was preserved in a casket of brandy where it was essentially pickled.

It has been reported that since he was so beloved by the people and admired by his crew, some of the sailors aboard Nelson’s ship secretly stole a sip of the pickling brandy to hopefully take in some of his qualities.  So this has given life to numerous concoctions paying homage to him.  Check out this one which has brandy (to symbolize his “preserves”), tawny port (to symbolize his spilt blood), rum (because he was a sailor), and blood orange juice (since he died just off the coast of Spain).  Tasty!

Fresh Raspberry Cupcakes

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So I had to make some cupcakes for a birthday party and I thought to myself, “Waterlily, what’s fresh today?”  I don’t refer to myself as “Waterlily” like Blanche Devereaux; I just wanted to see if you were paying attention.  Raspberries was the answer!  Seemed like a nice safe thing to do since my “weirder” concoctions don’t always go over so well (but I still love my Lavender Cupcakes with a Honey Buttercream which really isn’t too weird. . . not like some of my other ones).  Plus the colors of the party are supposed to be pink and purple (at least, that’s what I was told but wasn’t exactly true) and raspberries fit the bill nicely!

I do have a confession though — the raspberries weren’t quite freshalicious.  They were bought the week before I needed them (at the local farmers market) and I wasn’t quite sure that they would make it.  So I froze them!  Which was fine since they were being baked in the oven anyway.  They would have been freshalicious if I had a chance to go to the mid-week farmers market.  The ones on top were very fresh, of course.

The inspiration for this is from Martha of course and her strawberry cupcakes.  It seems if you ever need some gold standard for something, it never hurts to turn to Martha.  I did change some stuff around though.

This recipe makes about 2 1/2 dozen.  Here’s what you need:

For the cupcakes:

  • 2 1/2 c. flour
  • 1/2 c. cornstarch
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 1 t. salt
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 c. raspberries, coarsely chopped

1.  Preheat the oven to 350.  Line cupcake / muffin tin with paper liners and set aside.

2.  In the bowl of a mixer, beat the butter until fluffy and gradually add your sugar.  Mix well for about 5 minutes.  Now add your eggs one at a time, mixing to combine after each addition.  Then, mix in the vanilla.

3.  Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking powder.  Now add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with 1/2 of the milk.  Mix until just combined.  With a spatula or wooden spoon, fold in the raspberries.

4.  Fill cups about 2/3 full with the batter.  Bake for about 20 minutes until nicely golden.  Cool on racks.

For the buttercream:

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1/4 t. cream of tartar
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 sticks of butter, softened and cut into small pieces
  • 1 c. raspberry preserves

1.  Over a water bath, mix the egg whites and sugar until warm (about 140 degrees F) and the sugar has dissolved.

2.  Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a mixer and whip on high until it reaches soft peaks.  Add the cream of tartar and salt and mix on high for about 5 minutes until you get stiff peaks and the meringue has a nice sheen.

3.  Reduce the speed of the mixer and add the butter one piece at a time, making sure to combine well.  The buttercream will probably lose a little bit of its volume.

4.  With the mixer on low, add your preserves and whisk to combine.

Notes — I had put in some fresh raspberries into the buttercream at first, but it did cause some problems.  They separated too easily and may have had something to do with the buttercream breaking a little bit.  But with a little extra whisking, everything came together.  Thankfully I don’t have to whisk everything by hand anymore (which I still highly recommend to any aspiring baker). . . It’s best to use the buttercream immediately but it can be refrigerated.  Just let it come to room temp before you use it.

Happy Mustard Day!

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Just a quick post today about this great national holiday.  A couple of quick things to point out:  1) I don’t make my own mustard.  2) I don’t really have a recipe that uses mustard (although my dry rub recipe does have some dry mustard).  3) I love mustard, as you can tell from the mustards that I have in my refrigerator, not counting the Blue Cheese Mustard from Stonewall Kitchen that was just polished off the other day.  I totally recommend that mustard by the way.  But I digress. . . we all probably have some kind of mustard in our kitchen.  It’s a part of our everyday lives!!!. . . for the most part. . . maybe.

But back to the holiday. . . if you are somewhere near Madison, WI, you should pop on over to the National Mustard Museum in Middleton and celebrate at the festival.  Mustard from everywhere will be there — from Kaua’i, HI to Beaverton, OR to Clearwater, FL.  Unfortunately I can’t make it but I did have to order my very own 20th Annual National Mustard Day (NMD) T-shirt!  It sounds like a fun time and it looks to be a very well attended event.  So go celebrate everything mustard and eat a couple of free hotdogs.  Looks like they have some mustard custard to top everything off!

Does anyone have a recipe out there using mustard?

As a side note — today is also National Root Beer Float Day!  I am working on a cake to celebrate!

Cardamom Scented Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Happy Chocolate Chip Day!!! (or is it on May 15th?)  You should always have a good chocolate chip cookie recipe.  Whether it’s something you that you develop on your own, or find something that you love, keep one in your baking arsenal.  Usually when we think of chocolate chip cookies, many of us think of the good ol’ Toll House cookie.  This recipe came about in 1937 at the Toll House Inn which was owned by Ruth Graves Wakefield and her husband.  She wanted to make some of her favorite cookies for her guests but was missing a key ingredient.  But she did have on hand a semi-sweet chocolate bar (made by Nestlé) which she crumbled up and mixed into the dough.  She thought that the chocolate would melt and spread out into the mixture.  To her surprise, the chocolate held its shape which she thought was weird but decided to serve it anyway.  It was a big hit, and thus the Toll House Chocolate Crunch cookie was born.  Now right on the bag of Toll House chocolate chips, it lists the date of origin at 1939.  That’s when Ruth and Nestlé settled into an agreement where she could get chocolate for life and Nestlé got to print the recipe on some of its packaging.  Here are a couple of links (here and here) that you should check out to find some additional info.  Exciting stuff!!!

On to some recipes.  Now everyone should be familiar with the tried and true Toll House Cookie recipe.  If not, just go check out a bag of Nestlé Toll House Chocolate Chips.  Now I won’t be making those, but I did come up with a couple of recipes — Chocolate Chip Molé cookies  and Cardamom Scented Chocolate Chip Cookies.  Let’s talk about the latter one here.  The recipe isn’t too far from your basic cookie recipe, save for one step where I infuse some melted butter with the cardamom.  Not too complicated, right?.  Here’s what you need:

  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter
  • 12 cardamom pods
  • 2 1/3 c. flour
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 c. chocolate chips

1.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan with the cardamom.  When melted, let simmer on the stove on low (if it is too high the butter will burn!) for about 30 minutes.  The cardamom should swell.  Set aside to cool and re-solidify.

2.  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

3.  Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt into a large mixing bowl.  In the bowl of a mixer, cream together the cardamom butter, sugars, and vanilla.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

4.  Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture.  Mix well until just combined.  Do not over mix!  Gently fold in the chocolate chips.

5.  Drop cookies onto a sheet pan and bake for about 15 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.  Eat up!

Notes — This does have a lower proportion of brown sugar when compared to other recipes.  I did this so that the cardamom could stand out and not be overpowered by the molasses in the brown sugar.  You can change this if you like. . . You may have noticed that the cookies in the pictures are a little bit dark.  There is a good reason for this.  I was out of brown sugar, so I tried to make my own which should just be some regular granulated sugar and some molasses.  Now I don’t know why I didn’t use a measuring cup, but I ended up putting waaaay too much molasses.  But the cookies still tasted great and you could still taste the cardamom throughout, just not as much as it should have.  Hence the previous “note”.  The second batch turned out better. . . You could try this with some other herbs / spices.  I’m sure cinnamon would be great in this or maybe some cloves.  Maybe some peppercorns to make a variation on pfeffernüssen.  Lemon peel and ginger sound good too!