Purple Kitchen Treats

Over the past few years, I have been working on a cookbook. During this time, I took time off to finish my Master's Degree. Now that I have accomplished that, I am working again on my cookbook, slowly but surely.

However, over the past few months, something interesting has happened...I have received multiple requests for baked goods, particularly my cookies. I am also receiving multiple requests for granola. So, with all these requests in mind, I have started to make my cookies for sale, along with my granola.

My official web site is available, but will be undergoing a significant redesign. Be sure to visit my "official" web site at: http://www.susanshonk.com and watch for some exciting changes.

From the heart of my purple kitchen to you,

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Colorful and up-scale snack and a $$ saving tip

I was messin' around in the kitchen this afternoon looking for a snack for my husband.  I opened my pantry door and saw a few kinds of dried fruits, and a bag of larger size chocolate chips and knew that I always have a stash of nuts in the freezer.

So....I took the following nuts, toasted them and let cool:
1 cup pine nuts
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup pistachios
2 cups whole cashews

Added dried fruit:
2 cups dried cranberries
2 cups diced dried apricots
1/2 cup currants

Then to satisfy any chocolate lover:
2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips

And, just for fun cuz I LOVE candied ginger
1/2 cup of finely diced candied ginger

Mix it all together and enjoy.  The colors are simply beautiful.  The dried cranberries and apricots look like little jewels, the dark chocolate bits are sultry and reel you in and the crunch and flavor of the nuts followed by the sweet and hot, but subtle bite of the ginger is very seductive....is it getting warm in here or is it me???

The big surprise in this mix is the sweet heat of the candied ginger.  There is not much of it, so it is rather subtle.  Ginger and peaches or ginger and apricots is a classic combination.

$$ Saving Tip - make our own flavored simple syrup or sugars:
My favorite tea for iced tea is Ginger peach.  This typically can run about $18.00 per pound, or more depending on which brand and where I buy it.  To avoid the expense of purchasing the ready-made version of dried ginger peach tea, I purchase either peach or apricot tea for about $7.00 per pound and make a ginger simple syrup to sweeten the tea.

Please be VERY CAREFUL when making simple syrup.  Boiling sugar and water can cause a very bad burn.  Please wear closed toe shoes that cover the entire top of your foot/feet and be sure to turn the handle of the pan to the back of the stove.  Keep children and pets out of the kitchen and keep an eye on the syrup as it boils.  And, very importantly....please don't be tempted to taste the syrup until it cools.

To make simple syrup:
Add 2 cups of water and 2 cups of sugar to a heavy bottom pan, stir and bring to a simmer.  Let the syrup simmer until reduced by about 1/3 and turn of the heat and let cool.  This will keep about a week in the fridge.

If you would like, you can add any of the following ingredients to the pan when you turn on the heat:
- Cinnamon stick and 6 cloves
- Four 1/2 inch slices of ginger, cut in half...no need to peel the fresh ginger
- 1 vanilla bean, split
- the peel of a lemon, orange, lime or all three for a citrus flavored simple syrup

For additional flavors, you can add extracts to the simple syrup once it has cooled.  I like almond extract for use in cherry tea.  I also add maple syrup to the vanilla simple syrup to make maple vanilla tea.

These simple syrups make great gifts too.  Just find some great bottles or jars, fill them up, label them and voila!  Handy dandy trick to fill jars or bottles with narrow openings: shape some tin foil into a cone, insert the narrow end into the opening of the container and pour the simple syrup thru that into a jar or bottle.

And yet another, simpler gift idea.....to 4 cups of granulated sugar, add:
- a vanilla bean, split
- the peel of 1 lemon, 1/2 orange or 1 lime
- cinnamon stick and 4 cloves
And give as a gift of flavored sugar.

I hope you enjoy these recipes and tips.

Have a great day!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Anticipating Monday

Well dear friends, the first DRAFT of the cookbook has been printed out for review.

I still have one recipe to write out...turkey, cranberry and chipotle tamales with a tomato and cranberry salsa to go with.  Very interesting combination, but oh so amazingly delicious.  I will be making these for a party that I am throwing for my husband's birthday.  I was going to do a variety of tapas, but decided to have the tamales instead.  Appetizers will be stuffed dried apricots, chips and salsa, candied jalapenos with mini roasted corn muffins.  Desserts will be pumpkin empanadas, Mexican cinnamon sugar cookies and Mexican wedding cakes.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Musings on a Saturday afternoon....

So, by now, y'all are getting a taste of some of the recipes in my book.  There are so many more that are already typed up and so many more being worked on, tested and invented.  The creative process is really beginning to fuel me even further than I had expected.

I just got home from my last class of the semester...yes, I am taking classes on Saturday mornings for a while.  The next class doesn't begin until January, so I have plenty of time to work on the cookbook...YAY!!!!

But for right now, I am heading back to my mom's shoe box for more of her recipes.  In my earlier days, I had not thought to keep the hand written recipes in plastic wrap, gallon size plastic bags or in sheet protectors.  Because of this, most of the recipes that were in her own penmanship have been typed because the originals were so stained and worn that they were almost to the point of being unable to be read, but I do have a few left and will include copies of those in in the book as well.

One of the gifts of age is the ability to look back and see what we might have done differently and take those observations and apply them to our current circumstances.  We cannot change yesterday, but we can change the remainder of today and move forward into all of our tomorrows with great purpose and vision.

So, I'll be going through mom's recipes to see what great goodies are still to be rediscovered and will post a recipe or 2 later in the week.

If y'all have any questions or need ideas, let me know and I'll be happy to help.

In the mean time, enjoy your day, your weekend and especially enjoy your family and friends!

Cream of Poblano Soup....this one is spicy, so be prepared...

My mother-in-law discovered this soup in a restaurant and tried to make it.  Hers was very good, but I decided to give it a try and came up with this version.  Everyone agreed that this was the better of the two.  

This is a very rich and decadent soup and is not for everyday.  It is a wonderful “special occasion” soup for a holiday or birthday.  It is a beautiful soft green color and is on the spicy side.  It can also be used as a sauce for chicken or pork tenderloin.  Just substitute 1 quart of the half-n-half with heavy cream so you will have a thicker base.

8 poblano peppers, charred, peeled, deveined and seeded
1 large bunch cilantro, chopped
1 medium onion, sautéed in 2 tsp olive oil
2 tsps chopped garlic
2 quarts half-n-half at room temperature
1 pint heavy cream at room temperature
¾ tsp kosher Salt 
¾ tsp fresh ground / cracked Pepper

½ small bag of frozen corn, thawed and sautéed with a bit of olive oil until lightly brown 
4 chicken breasts, diced and poached in chicken stock
4 ripe roma tomatoes, cored, seeded and diced
2 ripe avocados diced and spritzed with lime juice to prevent oxidation

In a blender, combine the onion, cilantro, garlic, enough of the half-n-half to cover and process until very smooth and pour into a 4 quart soup pot.  Process the poblanos and enough half-n-half to cover in the blender and add to the soup pot.  Add the remaining half-n-half, the cream, salt, pepper and stir.  If you like your soup more spicy, add the remaining 2 poblanos after processing them in the blender with some of the soup.  If you like even more spice, you can roast a few Jalapeno or Serrano peppers in the oven with a bit of olive oil to soften them.  Place them in a blender with a bit of the soup to process and add to the pot of soup. If needed, add more salt and pepper taste.

When reheating this soup, please be careful to do so on a very low heat stirring frequently or it will scald.  Also, because of the cream base, do not leave this unattended while reheating as it may boil over.  

Serve with your choice of garnishes and enjoy!

Mexican Lasagna - ole`

One of Jason's favorites...and soooo very easy.

Susan's Sensational Mexican Lasagna

Preheat oven to 350’
13 X 9 inch pan
Lg jar of picante sauce
1 - 15 ounce can of tomato sauce
1 can of chopped green chiles
15 lasagna noodles (3 extra, just in case), cooked until al dente
2 rotisserie chickens, meat taken off the bones and shredded
1 - 15 ounce can of black olives, sliced
1 large onion, sliced very thin with rings separated
1 large green pepper, julienned
5 cups mixed cheese, shredded (2 cups Cheddar, 2 cups Monterrey Jack, 1 cup Mozzarella)

Mix the picante sauce, the tomato sauce and the chiles
Place enough sauce in the bottom of the baking dish to moisten it (about ½ cup)
Line the dish with 3 – 4 lasagna noodles, 
spread with 1/3 of the shredded chicken,
1/3 of the onions, 
1/3 of the green peppers
1/4 of the cheese
1/4 of the remaining sauce
Repeat layers, ending with noodles and cover with remaining sauce
Cover with tin foil and place on a baking sheet to catch any liquid that may bubble out
Bake for 1 hour, uncover and turn the broiler on
Spread the remaining cheese over the top and place back in the oven until the cheese is melted and bubbling

Let stand for 15 minutes before cutting.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cheese and Tomato tid bits...

There is a Mexican melting cheese called queso quesadilla.  It is a bit difficult to find, so I decided to try and come up with something that is similar.  I discovered that if you take a large package of shredded Colby Jack and Cheddar and mix in a small package of shredded mozzarella, it works great.

If you use 1 small package of shredded pepper jack, 1 small package of shredded cheddar and 1 small package of shredded mozzarella, you get the same great texture with a little kick to it.

For a great Caprese salad, take a package of red and a package of yellow grape tomatoes, cut the tomatoes in half, add 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp cracked pepper, 4 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar and 6 basil leaves finely chopped, stir and taste for seasoning.  I serve this on Ciabatta bread that has been browned in olive oil in a non-stick skillet and then I rub the bread with a garlic clove (or 2)......OH MY GOODNESS....my husband loves this as a snack.  If you like, you can also add the mini mozzarella cheese bits just before serving.

Have a great evening!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Candied jalapenos

Typically, candied jalapenos are made from pickled jalapenos.  But that just takes too long for me.  Who wants to get a 5 lb jar of pickled jalapenos, try to fit a bag of sugar in the jar and then wait days for them to be ready.

I have come up with a great and easy recipe.  Start with 30 peppers, wash and slice into 1/2 inch rings (I keep the seeds and veins).  In a large heavy pan, add 3 cups of sugar, 3 cups of water, 3 tbsp of light corn syrup, 1 cinnamon stick and 4 cloves, bring to a simmer and then add the jalapenos.  Cook for about 30 minutes and let cool.  You can leave the cinnamon stick in, but be sure to fish out the cloves once the peppers are cool.

My husband LOVES these peppers and I make a batch every 2 weeks.

If I'm feeling very ambitious, I will cut the peppers in half, and seed and devein them.  The Christmas gift for our party guests will be a Mason jar filled with red and green candied peppers and a card with serving suggestions on it....think Goat cheese on garlic bruschetta topped with candied jalapenos, chopping the peppers and adding them to cornbread...and maybe a few other ideas.

Other tips: strain some of the spicy sugar syrup for use in Margaritas, Mango iced tea, brownies, home-made chocolate truffles or for any time you feel like adding something sweet and spicy to a drink or dish.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Sunday afternoon in the kitchen

I went to the Farmer's Market in Dallas this afternoon to get some fresh fruit and veggies.  I came home with a pineapple so sweet, it was like eating candy; sweet potatoes so big they could be launched as missiles; tomatoes so ripe that I could smell them as I walked by the vendor's vegetable stand; fresh blueberries that were as big as nickels; sweet onions that I sampled raw and did not shed a tear over; jalapenos that are the deepest shade of green and smell amazing and finally sweet, sweet corn on the cob.

So...the blueberries will become my mom's blueberry coffee cake....tons of blueberries in a slightly sweet and buttery batter and a nutmeg and sugar crust on top that is simply amazing.

Most of the jalapenos will become candied with a few left out for other recipes.

The sweet potatoes will be roasted and at least one of them will be made into match-stick fries for my hubby.  I may even make sweet potato biscuits.

The corn will be grilled, cut off the cob and used in a black bean and grilled corn salsa. Simple to make, but oh so delicious.  Grill your corn until it is browned and has a little bit of char on it and cut the kernels off the cob.  If you use an angel food cake pan, place the small end of the cob in the center tube, you can then cut the corn off the cob without loosing most of it on the floor for the cats to play with.  Rinse a can of plain black beans, drain and place in a mixing bowl.  Add the corn, 1 bunch of chopped cilantro, 2 jalapenos seeded, deveined and minced, 1/2 finely diced purple onion that has been rinsed under cold water and drained (this takes the strong smell and the sharp bite out of the raw onion), the juice of 1 lime, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.  Stir well and taste for seasoning.  I serve this with tortilla chips and it is simply wonderful.

The onions...some will be sliced for salads, some will be used in breakfast burritos, some will be sauteed until browned and used as the bed for baked tortilla crusted chicken breasts.  Tip:  for something different, crush tortilla chips (yellow, red and blue) and use these instead of bread crumbs to coat chicken, fish or pork chops....YUM!!!

The tomatoes have already been cut into chunks with salt and pepper added for flavor and have become one last taste of summer.

The pineapple has been cut into chunks for a quick snack.  The next pineapple will be grilled and served as dessert with home-made vanilla ice cream and bourbon sauce.

I hope you enjoy the salsa and the tip for the tortilla chips.  If y'all try these, I would love to hear from you.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Cool weather, hot drinks

It is finally getting cold in Texas.  This is the perfect November nite....cold, rainy, distant thunder....perfection.  It is also the perfect nite for White Hot Chocolate with Grand Marnier.  This is the perfect drink.  It almost reminds me of a creamsicle.   2 cups of whole milk, 1/2 cup heavy cream, 1/2 cup chopped white chocolate, 1/2 cup Grand Marnier.  Bring the mixture up to the point of where steam rises from the pan and until the chocolate is melted.  Add 1 tsp vanilla. stir, serve and enjoy.  You can substitute chambourd for the grand marnier, you can also substitute with chambourd and lady godiva dark chocolate liquer.....where ever your imagination takes you, you can go.  Bourbon and Peach schnapps would be fabulous....ooooo, now I'm thinkin'.

This hot chocolate also converts beautifully to a rich pudding.....just dissolve 4-5 tablespoons of corn starch in 4 - 5 tbsp of water and add slowly to the hot liquid making sure to wisk constantly....once it bubbles, it is done.  Serve in your favorite pudding vessels with a dollop of whipped cream and enjoy.

Hot tea is a very New England Beverage served with a bit of honey and milk.  I also add a bit of real maple syrup and a smidge of vanilla to get a luscious version of maple vanilla tea.

These are all items that we fixed at home, however the children did not get the liquor in the hot cocoa.  But we enjoyed it just as much.

Type with y'all later....

Oooo....send ideas for Tapas dishes....I'm throwing my husband a birthday party this year with about 20 guests.....the more ideas, the merrier.....

Thanks everyone!