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,

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Party Planning

I'm thinking about having a "girls nite" that involves cooking......home-made tamales, home-made salsa, salad, tres leches cake / sopapillas OR chicken mole`, with roasted corn on the cob and a sweet dessert empanada with tequila dipping sauce OR cream of poblano soup, lime marinated pork quesadillas, grilled veggies and flan OR any combination that might be tantilizing all served up with some really great Mexican music - ole`!

Or.....an Italian or Greek inspired evening.  This might mean watching Under the Tuscan Sun or My Big Fat Greek Wedding or having great culturally matched music to go with the meal......OOOOOO - now I'm cooking!!!!

Who wants to join me for a Spring Fling??

Have a great nite,

Saturday, March 26, 2011

365 in 365 - # 44 & #45- Baked Salmon with Sweet Shallot Israeli Couscous

One of the best cuts of fish is wild, Alaskan salmon.  The color can't be beat....it is a deep pink with incredible flavor and a soft texture.

In my kitchen, the absolute worst thing that anyone can do is overcook anything, especially a gorgeous piece of salmon.  When I cook salmon, I do not cook it until it is "cooked" all the way through.  I like it on the "under done" side so it stays soft and completely lovely.  Now, how well done you cook meat or fish is entirely a personal matter.  For me, scallops should be seared on the outside only...never cooked until well done.  I also like my steaks rare...basically a brief introduction to the grill is all any good steak needs.  If it is mooing when I stick my fork in it, that wouldn't bother me at all.  However, I like my burgers medium well.

For the best baked salmon on the planet, pre-heat your over to 350` and use the middle rack.
Place your salmon skin side down in the pan and brush with melted butter, sprinkle on some salt and pepper and bake until your desired doneness. You can also add some fresh or dried dill to the butter before you baste and that works great.  Now, the small amount of butter on this fish will not hurt a thing, but you can do without it, if you prefer.

I serve salmon frequently with Sweet Shallot Israeli Couscous

4 cups of cooked Israeli couscous (large beads of pasta)
10 shallots, peeled, sliced very thin and sauteed in 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil until golden and sweet
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Serve with a salad or grilled veggie of your choice.


365 in 365 - #43 - New - Vanilla Scented Ricotta with Fresh Fruit

One of the best foods ever invented is cheese....cheese of any kind.  I love cottage cheese, ricotta, fresh mozzarella, parmesan, gorgonzola......you name it, I like it.  Well, maybe not all....I am not a fan of Limburger cheese.  Limburger is a cheese that is best not experienced.  However, if you must try it, keep it out side of any home or enclosed space.  If you have never experienced this cheese, I dare you, I double dog dare you!!!  My father and brother used to eat this on Black Forest bread with German mustard and onions....I can still smell it......BLECK!!!!!

Anywho, I love to mix soft cheeses with sweet or savory flavors and create texture with nuts or other ingredients.

This recipe calls for 1 pint of ricotta, 1 teaspoon of vanilla and sweetener of your choice, all to taste.  I like Equal for this recipe, though granulated sugar will work just fine.  Stir the 3 ingredients together and serve with fresh strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries or other favorite fruit(s) or fruit salad.  This is a great dessert served in a martini glass or in a parfait glass lightly sprinkled with chopped nuts.

Flavored ricotta also works well with pancakes and fresh fruit.

Other variations - you can always try your favorite jam mixed with ricotta or cream cheese.

Just a hint about using cream cheese.  Make sure it is at room temperature and NOT fat free.  If you are watching calories, use low fat cream cheese as it will blend much better than the non-fat version when mixed.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I do,

Sunday, March 20, 2011

365 in 365 - # 43 - Red Pepper, Scallion and Sweet Pickle Relish

I just realized that I posted this recipe back on January 3rd.....silly me!!!  I am keeping a list of the recipes and missed this on the list.  If it is not an exact match to the amounts in the previous post, it doesn't have to be, this is the beauty of cooking, you can adjust the flavors to how you feel and what you are cooking as you go.  I'll post a new #43 in the next few days.

Last nite, we had company over for dinner and I made Cuban Sandwiches and fried plantains.  I also served my lime mayo (recipe #4 posted on January 4th). They were a huge hit.  One of the best things about the sandwich is the relish that I make to put in the sandwich.

A few weeks ago, I was roaming around in Half Price Books (one of my absolute favorite stores) and found a CD of some very old Cuban jazz from the 1920's - 30's.  What a great CD!!  I love to have music reminiscent of the food and culture that I serve.  I also like to buy wine from the same culture to go with the food.  For a possible match to Cuban wine, I tried to purchase something from the Dominican Republic (same part of the globe), but was unable to find anything.  So, I settled for a very slightly sweet red wine to go with the meal.  I didn't want anything too dry, just crisp and clean.

Great company, great food, fabulous music and a touch of wine....such a wonderful evening!!

Sweet Sue's Sweet Relish
Take 1 small jar of sweet relish (the work is already done)
1 cup of roasted, peeled and diced red peppers
8 scallions, sliced very thin

Mix it all together and there you have it.....a great relish for pressed Cuban sandwiches, for burgers, hot dogs, chicken or turkey.  It is slightly sweet, but not cloyingly so, like plain sweet relish can be.  It is crisp and bright and packs tons of flavor.

I hope y'all enjoy!!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

365 in 365 #43 - Mojo de Ajo

Ok, girls and boys.....you will be feasting after you make this sauce and the use it on so many really great foods.

This recipe has been adapted from Rick Bayless, who happens to be my Mexican Cooking hero.  Y'all should check out his web site some time...it is great, as is his show on PBS.

So, back to cooking - take....oh, lets say 20 heads of garlic and peel the cloves.  Save this for a day when you just want to "bash" something or someone.  Then place the cleaned cloves in a Dutch oven, cover with olive oil, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper and a healthy pinch of red pepper flakes.  Place the cover on the pan and cook on low for about 30 minutes or until the garlic cloves are soft.  Turn off the heat and let the garlic cloves sit in the oil till about room temp.  Mash them with a potato masher and add the juice of 1 to 2 limes and stir, check for seasoning.

OH MY FLIPPIN STARS........!!!!!!

Completely amazing.  I use this as a base for salad dressings, to pour over chicken, in omelets, spread on bread, in a pasta dish with shrimp or chicken with this poured all over, a gorgeous steak, a roasted turkey breast....just think of this in your next batch of stuffing.....and HOLY CANOLI.....in tamales, on pizza, to ward off evil spirits, to have the best attended lunch meeting in the company, to give as a holiday gift with some great dipping bread, the uses are endless.......and the compliments will be extraordinary.

This one, I have got to hear about.

Go forth and enjoy...!

From my purple kitchen to you,

Monday, March 14, 2011

365 in 365 - New ideas are in the works...

I have been thinking about several new dishes to prepare....think mojo de ajo, pasta, shrimp and a few other ingredients to make a great spicy Mexican inspired pasta dish.

Also think pesto, but like no pesto that you have ever tried.....sweet, spicy, bright and bold.

New version of salsa.....it won't be red.

Beggars purses packed with goodies....mushrooms, onions, garlic and the rest is secret.

Salad Dressing....but with a grilled, spicy and sweet twist.

Corn chowder with a great big twist........

Well, I think that is all for tonite....see you in a day or 2.

Have a great nite y'all,

Friday, March 11, 2011

365 in 365 - #42 - Hermits

This recipe is being posted because I don't think anyone else in my family has it.  My mom made these bar cookies a lot.  She made these for bake sales, as gifts, for us and for just about everyone.  Up until a few years ago, I even had the pan that she used to make them in.  Unfortunately, the pan finally gave in from all the years of cooking and it actually sprung a little leak.  We gave it a proper funeral and it is now memorialized in our hearts.  

This is very old recipe and well worth the effort.  These hermits were the most requested bar cookie of all the cookies that my mother made.  I have no idea where the recipe came from.  I only know that this recipe was in my mother’s shoebox and was in her handwriting.  This is also my father’s favorite bar cookie.

Ruthie’s Famous Hermits

1 cup sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
3 cups sifted flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp cinnamon
½ cup milk
½ cup molasses
1 cup raisins or currants

Preheat the oven to 350` and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Cream the sugar and oil together.  
Stir all the dry ingredients together and then sift.
Combine the milk and molasses.  Alternately add this and the dry ingredients to the sugar and oil.  Mix well.  Fold in the raisins or currants.  Spread the batter onto the jelly roll pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.  

Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and cut into 2 inch squares.  These will disappear from your kitchen.

Grandmothers everywhere are probably sighing over this traditional bar cookie.

I hope you enjoy these as much as we do,

Sunday, March 6, 2011

365 in 365 - #40 & #41 - Applesauce Cake & Quick Fix Applesauce

Back on January 22nd, I posted my family's recipe for applesauce.  Each fall, when we would make home-made applesauce by the gallons, my mom would bake this cake.  We did not use "mass produced" applesauce because it just didn't have the flavor and color of our home-made.  The only time that my mom would make this cake was in the fall, when MacIntosh apples were plentiful.  

This cake is moist, spicy and simply scrumpdillyicious.  The house smells of cinnamon and warm apples when it is cooking.  I do make a light icing with milk, powdered sugar, more cinnamon and a little vanilla to drizzle over the cake.  

Applesauce Cake

For the best results, use the home-made applesauce that I posted back in January.  

1 cup of butter
2 cups of sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cloves
3 tbsp cocoa powder (yes, cocoa powder)
2 cups of applesauce

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy
Beat in the eggs and vanilla
Sift together the flour, baking powder, soda, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and cocoa

Add the dry ingredients alternating with the applesauce beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.

Grease and flour a 9” tube pan, pour the batter in and bake at 350’ for 1 hour and 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean.

Cool for 1 hour before removing from the pan.

Quick Fix Applesauce
After all of the expounding that I have done over home-made applesauce, I am going to give you a trick to make "brand-name" applesauce into something delicious.  Take any 12 - 15 ounce jar or (heaven forbid) can of applesauce and place into a small pan.  Heat it very gently and add 1 tablespoon of butter, 1 tablespoon of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg and 1/8 teaspoon of cloves, stir and serve warm.  

I know you will enjoy this cake.

Have a great evening!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

365 in 365 - #39 - Roasted Carrots

I just love carrots, especially when they are really sweet.  This is a very simple and straight-forward method for cooking carrots that does not require any water, slicing and draining.  This cooking method concentrates the flavor of the carrot, brings out all the natural sweetness and is a great presentation.

Roasted Carrots

8 large carrots, peeled, not cut
½ cup olive oil
Salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 350’
Use the middle rack and place the carrots in a single layer in a jelly roll pan 
Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper
Turn about every 15 minutes until they are browned and tender, approx. 30 to 45 minutes.
Serves 4

I hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

365 in 365 - #37 & 38 - And....she's back!!!

Oh My Goodness.....it has been quite a long time since I posted and I have missed y'all so much.  I had not realized just how therapeutic cooking and blogging can be.  Work got CRAZY BUSY, but things are beginning to settle down now.  Back to cooking, feeding my family and friends and enjoying greater balance in my life.

I just love croutons.  I love the whole crunchy, very well seasoned bread thing.  I find it is very soothing to me for some very odd reason.  I used to buy croutons that came in those indestructible bags from the produce selection...admit it...y'all know the ones that I am talking about.  Cardboard made to look like toasted bread, all the same size and shape and most likely the same number of them in each bag....YUCK!!  

I was watching the cooking channel and someone was making Panzanella, which is an Italian bread salad with day old bread.  As they were cubing the bread, all I could think of was how nicely those would be toasted in that salad.  All the croutons that I have seen made have been fried in butter and a little oil.  Since I love the taste of olive oil, I decided to try making them in another way.  I cubed a loaf of bread, drizzled on some extra virgin olive oil, sprinkled with a rosemary seasoning mix, baked and there they were.... crunchy, golden brown cubes of various size croutons.  The house smelled amazing while these were cooking.  

When I pulled them out of  the oven, some had holes, some had sides with the crust still on them and all of them were perfectly imperfect.  One bite, and I was hooked.  the minute my husband tried them he was hooked.  When I make them, I have to make extra because Jason will invariably snack on them until they are gone.  

I hope you give these a try with various seasoning on them and maybe even a little dried chili for a great spicy kick.

Heat over to 350`
1 loaf of ciabatta bread, cut into approx. ¾ inch cubes, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle on a generous amount of rosemary seasoning*.  
Bake in a single layer in a jelly roll pan, turning every 5 - 10 minutes until toasted.  
* Rosemary seasoning comes premixed in the spice aisle of the grocery store.

Orange and Almond Salad
Orange and almond salad happened when I didn't have pears and pecan pralines for the original version of this salad.  

4 cups assorted baby lettuce leaves
½ cup canned mandarin oranges, drained
2 tbsps sliced almonds, toasted
2 ounces crumbled gorgonzola cheese
Raspberry vinaigrette

Serves 2 as a great side dish with scallops or fish.

I hope y'all enjoy these 2 new recipes.  I would love to hear any feed-back.

Have a great evening!