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,

Friday, December 31, 2010

Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Years Eve

My husband and I have made a tradition of staying at home.  We have found the potential danger from drunk drivers is not anything that we want to expose ourselves to.  We wear our best pajamas, have dinner by candle light, play great music (mostly jazz - Jane Monheit, Michael Buble`, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra...you get the point) and spend a wonderful evening together.  We have even been known to dance in the living room.

I make dinner, serve wine, have a spectacular dessert and we open champagne or sparkling wine for our toast at midnight.

For dinner this year, I will be making "surf-n-turf" with filet mignon, a mushroom wine sauce and crumbled Maytag bleu cheese and fresh Maine lobster with clarified butter, and roasted garlic bruschetta.

I fully intend to boil a pot of water and plunge the creatures in head first.  If you try to put them into boiling water tail first, they have a tendency to "flip" their tails and can splash you (or someone nearby) with boiling water......not a good thing.  Being from New England, cooking lobsters is something that we grew up doing.   My husband, on the other hand, grew up on a farm in Indiana where they still work the land growing corn and soy beans.  He is having some difficulty with the "cooking a live lobster" thing and has asked about having just the tails.  I have reassured him that the lobster will be fine and if he is that uncomfortable with how I plan to cook the critter, I will be happy to use my knife to "do the deed".  Ultimately, he will be fine and really I do not want him to miss out on the claws.

The veggie will be a grilled asparagus salad with caramelized shallots, toasted pine nuts and a light balsamic vinaigrette served in a slightly sweet yellow bell pepper.  I will also roast the tops of the peppers, peel and dice them to add to the salad.

For dessert, I am making a silken vanilla bean flan with fresh strawberries and a very lightly scented spearmint whipped cream.

For breakfast on New Year's day, chocolate Belgian waffles with strawberry sauce and vanilla whipped cream and coffee made in my brand new French press.  My last French press met an untimely and sudden demise.

Making coffee in a french press renders a completely divine cup of dark, rich coffee.  No coffee maker that I know of can produce this kind of drink.  It is simply wonderful.

I think that should about do it for us.

I would love to know how you celebrate New Year's Eve...

I wish y'all a very happy and safe New Year celebration.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Appreciating your someone special

I wanted to take a moment to thank my husband Jason for all that he does to support me in my life, my passion for cooking and in my full time job.  He is my safe place, my refuge when I have an off day.  He keeps me sane when I work a 14 hour day at my full time job.  I know that I have talked about him before, but he really is a very special man.

I would like to urge everyone to think about taking time every day to tell your someone special how much you love them, how much you care about them and how much you appreciate them.  I suggest doing this every day.  Find something special each day that you can compliment them for.  Nurture your relationship with your special someone.  Please don't let a day go by without expressing your love and appreciation.  Please don't assume that they know how you feel....draw them into your heart and hold them there.  Give yourself and your special someone the gift of unbridled love.  Open your heart, your soul, your arms, and your eyes.  Listen not just with your ears, but with your heart.

When you are angry or upset, hold back...please don't say something that you may have to apologize for later.  Just because we can say something, does not always mean that we should.  A great example of this is one day, several years ago, I had grown some prize African Violets.  They were simply gorgeous, huge and full of flowers.  My husband put them out on the patio to water them for me one evening.  The next morning, he forgot to bring them in and they sat in the Texas sun on a summer day, all day.  When I came home from work, my husband was visibly upset and I didn't know why.  He told me what happened and waited tentatively for my reaction.  I immediately reached for him, put my arms around him and held him.  I took his face into my hands and looked into his eyes and told him it was OK, I told him that I could replace the violets and that I could not break his heart by getting upset over a few plants.  I told him that he was more important to me than any thing else.  I will never forget this moment....I know that he has not forgotten.  This moment created a level of trust and care that could have been forever lost.

Jason is my best friend, my playmate, my lover and my husband.  My favorite place in this world is in his arms.  I will love him forever.  And yes, I do tell him this.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Kitchen Tools

I would like to take a moment and thank everyone who has visited my blog.  I appreciate each and every visitor and am happy to receive any feed-back.

In  my message from Christmas Eve day, I talked about using an old fashioned food mill to make mashed potatoes with.  Well.....I did.....and I will not be using an electric mixer or a potato masher again.

I first purchased the food mill when making the Barefoot Contessa's roasted tomato basil soup for the first time and have not used it for anything other than that, until now.  The food mill gives the soup the best texture.  The texture cannot be duplicated with a blender, an immersion blender or with a food processor.  So, I would suggest that a food mill (a good one) be a staple in every cook's closet.

For the potatoes (12 large red bliss, peeled & boiled in salted water with 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil until tender), I used the plate with the smallest holes, placed it over a deep container and worked the potatoes thru the mill.  I also processed the roasted garlic (2 heads of garlic covered in olive oil and roasted in the oven for about 45 minutes at 350` or until a gorgeous golden brown), added 1 stick of butter, 1/2 cup heavy cream, salt & pepper to taste and ended up with fluffy, buttery, soft clouds of heavenly potatoes.

These were by far the best mashed (for lack of a better word) potatoes that I have made, to date.

Speaking of kitchen tools, here is a rather random "starter" list of other tools that are very handy in the kitchen:
1.  Dough scraper (for counter tops).  Spatulas are best for bowls, there is a kind of spatula that is made specifically to fit jars...this is very handy, especially for those pesky peanut butter jars that have the left over butter at the top of the jar or along the bottom in that groove.....so annoying to try and get at that last bit.  It's kinda like trying to get the last of the toothpaste out of the neck of the tube.....oops...tangent alert!!
2.  Citrus reamer (for the one or 2 lemons / limes).  For more than a couple of these, I like a press.  Mine is chrome and is the kind that sits on the countertop.
3.  Ginger grater (porcelain)
4.  Chinese "spider"
5.  Micro plane
6.  Corn holders (I have a set from the 1950's).  However, I also have a set that are little piggies.  I even have some utensils that are from the mid century and are in great shape, though I don't use them.  They are simply for decoration.
7.  Nut / claw crackers and picks....I don't actually know the real name for them.  I have the set that I grew up with that was originally my grandmother's.
8.  Candy thermometer, instant read meat thermometer, and one of those thermometers that can be inserted in the meat while it's cooking.
9.  Marble rolling pin with rest, wooden rolling pin and those silicon bands that go on each end of the rolling pin so you can roll out dough to an even thickness.
10.  Wooden clothes pins - great for sealing bags of powdered sugar, brown sugar or any other bag that doesn't re-seal.
11.  Assorted pastry tips.  You can always use a plastic bag instead of purchasing pastry bags.
12.  Powdered egg whites.
13.  Two dutch ovens
14.  Cast iron pans of varying sizes
15.  A cast iron griddle that covers 2 burners.

There are more items that I might suggest, but this is a sound start.  I am working on another list that I will post as soon as it is done...but for now, no peeking, not yet anyway.

Have a great evening!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Turtle Rolls

A childhood friend and I were chatting on Facebook and I mentioned that I was thinking about doing a version of cinnamon buns that were a "take-off" on turtles (cashew, caramel and chocolate candy).  She asked me to send her the recipe when I finished it because her sister has been having a secret love affair with "turtles" for some time.  So Jil-Lyn, this is for you...

I believe in giving credit where credit is due, so to Ree Drummond at www.PioneerWoman.com....thank you for the best cinnamon rolls I have ever had.  Cinnabon needs to watch out for these....I will use Ree's recipe and will not be buying another cinnamon roll.

I made the Turtle Rolls for Christmas morning breakfast and my husband was speechless while he was eating one of them.  One of the best signs of a great meal is when no one is talking and they just keep eating.

I will warn you now...these rolls are very rich and oh so decadent.

What I did to make the Turtle Rolls:

The most important thing is to plan ahead.  Make the dough and the caramel the day before you want to serve the rolls.

First things first.....get 2 cans of sweetened condensed milk, take the labels off, place them in a heavy bottom pan that is deep enough to be able to cover the cans with approx. 3 - 4 inches of water, place on the stove on low to very low with the cover slightly ajar so that steam will escape.  Let the water come to a light simmer...PLEASE  DO NOT LET THE WATER BOIL...and cook on a low to very low heat for 3 hours.  Please be sure that the cans stay covered with water the entire time that they are simmering.  Yes folks, cook the unopened cans of sweetened condensed milk in this manner.  No, I am not nuts....this is a trick that I learned from a little old Mexican woman.  After the allotted 3 hours, take the cans out of the water and let them cool down to room temperature.  Once they have cooled, you may open them by taking the lid all the way off.  What you will have is the best caramel on the planet.

Make 1/2 of the cinnamon bun dough recipe from Ree Drummond and put it in the fridge after you add the last cup of flour with the baking powder and baking soda.

About 90 minutes before serving the rolls, chop 4 - 6 cups of cashews and toast them lightly.   The amount of cashews used depends upon how many you happen to like in a pastry.

Preheat the oven to 350' and roll the dough out as instructed in the Pioneer Woman's recipe.
Spread the dough with a nice layer of caramel (you will use all the caramel except for what you sample), sprinkle the chopped nuts over the caramel and press lightly into the caramel, roll the dough like you would for the cinnamon buns, slice into 12 pieces and place in a greased 9 x 13 x 2 inch pan.  Bake approx. 30 to 45 minutes until the tops are browned nicely and the caramel is bubbly.  Remove from the oven and let cool.

For the chocolate sauce:
1 cup of milk
1 cup of heavy cream
1 cup chopped dark (or milk) chocolate
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 cup of sugar
1/4 cup strong coffee
2 tablespoons butter at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla

Gently heat the milk, cream, butter, sugar and coffee in a sauce pan.
Add the cocoa powder and stir until dissolved.
Remove from the heat and add the chopped chocolate and vanilla, stir until the chocolate is melted.  If you like a thicker chocolate sauce, add chopped chocolate by the 1/4 cup until you get to the consistency that you like.  This sauce should be the consistency of a nice ganache at room temperature.  Drizzle the chocolate over the rolls and serve.

While I was making the caramel, I came up with the following variation for a chocolate cream pie:
Make a chocolate cream pie (any recipe), but before you pour the chocolate filling into the pie crust, place a layer of the caramel in the bottom of the pie, pour in the chocolate filling, let cool and then cover with a thick layer of meringue, brown the meringue and then drizzle with melted chocolate and some of the caramel.

I will be anxious to hear if anyone tries these and what your thoughts are.

Have a great evening,

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Twas the night before Christmas Eve.....

...and all thru my house, all was quiet, as quiet as a mouse.  There are no stockings hung by the fireplace...there is no place to hang them, but we still hope that St. Nick will be here.  Hmmm....I need to play with that story a bit.

I also have a very irreverent adaptation of "Deck The Halls" that I am toying with....the first line of my re-write of this classic song popped into my little pumpkin head today and I couldn't stop laughing.  I ended up laughing so hard that I had to shut my office door.  I texted it to a friend who really needed the kind of laugh that started at her toes and ended up at her nose.  All has turned out well, but she was dealing with a very serious medical emergency in her family over the last couple of days.  God is good!  

Now that I have relaxed a bit and watched some TV, I realized that Christmas is only a day away and I have lots left to do.  I promised my husband that I would hang up my clean laundry....I am so very good a procrastinating, especially when I don't like the chore at hand.  But...put me in the kitchen, and I will be there for hours, make a huge mess and clean it up when all the cooking is over.....just don't ask me to put up my clean laundry.  There has to be some significance to this weird little aversion.....oh well....back to the topic of food / cooking.

So, tomorrow I will be reluctantly putting up the clean laundry, baking a chiffon pumpkin cake, making Pioneer Woman Cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning (outstanding recipe), and from that recipe, I will use the dough to adapt and make turtle rolls with.  I also have roasted garlic mashed potatoes, roasted brussels sprouts with caramelized shallots and crispy maple bacon, pork tenderloin with a selection of 2 sauces to make.  The sauces are a Dijon mustard, maple syrup and rosemary sauce and the other is a cranberry, tomato and chipotle salsa.

I decided that I am going to use the old fashioned food mill to make the mashed potatoes with.  These will be loaded with butter, a bit of cream and TONS of roasted garlic.

My father and my in-laws will be joining Jason and I for dinner, and I am looking forward to having everyone over.  I am also hoping to make it to the midnight Christmas Service at church, but its not looking so good, especially after a day like I will have tomorrow.  Hopefully, I will be able to stay awake...but this brat turns into a pumpkin at approx. 9:30pm CST.  I just realized that it is 11:00pm here and I am still upright with open eyes.

I'm not sure if I will have an opportunity to do any writing tomorrow, so I am wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas, peace, love and a very safe holiday.

As always,

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Vintage Pumpkin Bread - old family recipe

The following narrative and recipe are an excerpt from my book.  I hope you enjoy!!

Pumpkin Bread

This bread was a staple in my home growing up.  My mother baked this beginning every fall right through the winter.  Since we lived in New England, just north of Boston, fall always came early in September.  The beginning of school marked the official fall season.  Indian Summer also brought warm days, cool nights and the promise of wonderful smells and tastes.

This is a very thick batter and is best mixed with a large spoon and strong arm or with a heavy duty mixer.  

If you make this as a single recipe, it makes 1 ½ loaves of bread in a regular size loaf pan or 6 Texas size muffins.  Please don’t try to fit all the batter into one regular loaf pan, the center will come out gooey and uncooked and the top and edges will be burned.  

If you double this recipe, it makes 3 regular size loaves.  This freezes wonderfully and is delicious served with cream cheese.

Begin by lining the bottom of your baking pans / tins with waxed paper or parchment paper cut to fit.  Spray the baking vessels with cooking spray.  Preheat the oven to 350` and use the center rack.

Now, for the best Pumpkin Bread you will ever taste……

2 ½ cups unbleached all purpose flour     1 – 15 oz can of pumpkin
2 cups of sugar 1 /2 cup vegetable or canola oil
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp nutmeg
1 cup of chopped walnuts (optional)

Mix the dry ingredients together.  

Mix the pumpkin & oil together

Place the dry ingredients on top of the wet ingredients and fold in the dry ingredients.  Divide evenly among the baking vessels.  

Bake the muffins at 350 for approx. 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Bake the breads for approx 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Saturday Night Pozole

It is just starting to get chilly here in North Texas, so it's time to make various soups.  Favorites in our home are Pozole, Sausage Soup, Chicken Tortilla Soup and several others.

Pozole is a very traditional Mexican soup that can be made with chicken, pork, turkey or other meat that you may like.  I happen to LOVE this with pork tenderloin.

The recipe is one that the owner of my favorite jewelry store told me about.  She is an amazing woman who has spent her life traveling all over the world.  One of her greatest loves is Southwestern jewelry.  She is lively, warm, kind, sweet and spicy.

Whenever I make this soup, I always bring some to Maxine.  She loves the soup with pork and likes it spicy.  So, this is for Maxine.

Sweet Sue's Pozole

4 quarts chicken stock
2 lbs pork tenderloin, trimmed and diced into 1/2 inch pieces.
2 cans hominy, drained and rinsed
1 – 15 ounce jar of "medium" or "hot" salsa verde
1 large onion, diced
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
Mexican Crema – this is a softer and smoother version of sour cream

Heat 4 tbsp olive oil in a large pan
Add the onion and sauté until translucent
Add the chicken stock, salsa verde and cumin and bring to a slow simmer, being very careful to not boil
Add the chopped pork and hominy and stir to separate the pork pieces, cook for an additional 15 minutes

Garnish with a drizzle of crema and enjoy.

This will definitely warm you up on a cold day,