Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Cooking is Cheaper than Therapy: Clotted Cream

In August I wrote about my favorite scone recipe. I suggested to adorn these light crumbly little beauties with choices of "strawberry preserves, even raspberry or blackberry, unsalted butter or clotted cream (with recipe to come).I am keeping my promise, but first of all, what is "clotted cream?"

Obviously we don't see clotted cream at our local supermarket, and to our American ears the word "clotted" associated with cream, definitely sounds like "cream gone wrong." However, in England clotted cream is a wonderful thick buttery cream that is often used for dessert toppings, and especially for scones. It is typically produced with 55% milk fat, and often referred to as Devon or Devonshire cream, as it was originally from the Devonshire County in England. 

Since we cannot just run to our local market to pick up a container, here is an easy recipe to make our own version of "Clotted Cream." You may find you will be making a lot of it because it is so easy and so tasty. 

Clotted Cream (Mock Version)

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup light sour cream
2 tablespoons powdered (confectioners’) sugar, sifted

Using an electric mixer or a hand whisk, whip the cream until stiff peaks form. With a spoon or spatula, gently fold in the sour cream and powdered sugar until combined well. Refrigerate and cover the clotted cream until it is ready to serve. Makes approximately 2 cups.

Also, there has been a long running feud between two villages in England, which comes first on the biscuit, the cream or the jam? The village of Cornwall claims it is jam first and clotted cream on top. The village of Devon claims the opposite - clotted cream on the bottom and jam on top.  You decide for yourself, as I happen to think, it's all good. 

Clotted cream on top or bottom? 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Pin it! Pinterest

It's fun!

Some evenings, while I still want to be entertained, but don't want to watch TV or read, Pinterest is the answer. 

What is Pinterest, you ask? Think of it as a bulletin board, scrapbook, or file folder, and you are going to save your "clippings" and tag them on your board, scrapbook, or in your folder. Like any free social media tool, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, first you are going to create your profile and then you will want to collect some "friends."
Decorating Ideas
As a user of Pinterest, you can upload, save, sort, and manage special images or any media content (aka "Pins"), such as recipes, DIY projects, collectibles, travel, cars, media tips, and anything else that may be of interest to you. 
I Need
It is especially a great source for recipes. If I try out a recipe and if it's a keeper, I will always have a safe place to store them. If the recipe ends up it isn't quite to my "taste," then I can delete. One tip I have found, is in the case of recipes and instructions, I always follow through to find the list of ingredients and read, as sometimes they may take you to a site for the ingredients, and the site may be dead. 
Butter Me Up
There are many applications to use depending on your device, but I always recommend to first sign up using a browser, such as Google, Firefox, or Safari; and then go from there. Once you set your profile and get a few "boards," started, then it is easy to work the apps on your pad or phone. 
Delish Drinks
Take a "stroll" on the main page and you will see many ideas that may be of interest to you. Go to "search" and click the tab to look for certain collections, or type in your interest. Once you get a few boards going, then Pinterest will pop up new "Pins" that will be of interest to you based on what you have previously pinned. 
Delish Desserts
Now follow the instructions and create a couple of boards. Here are some examples and titles of my boards: Chocolate, Delish Dish, Delish Drinks, Delish Desserts, Winter, How My Garden Grows, No Reason, and many others. 
Comforting Quote
Another way to gather "Pins" for your boards, is to add the "Pin It" button to your favorite web browser, such as Google, Firefox, or Safari.  It's a handy pin if you see a recipe or instructions from a different web page, other than the Pinterest page, that you would like to save on your Pinterest board. 
No Reason
Pinterest can be another form of being social, such as you can follow old friends and new, and see what their interests are, which also allows you a new venue of possible "Pins" to be added to your boards, as well as new idea for boards.  You may also create "shared" boards inviting friends with shared interests. There are "secret" boards that are not shared with the Pinterest population - - but that's no fun, unless you are keeping a surprise. 
Tea Cup Garden
"Pins" will often have a detailed comment from the previous pinner, but you can change the comment and make it your own before and after you "Pin It."  
I Need - Paris Apartment
Hopefully, this describes Pinterest and will encourage you to use this fun social media tool, as I often see many friends and familiar names who have created profiles, but they have not yet created any boards.
Delish Dishes (So he ain't food, but he is delicious!)
Now go and find your "Pinspiration" and "Pin It!"

                                                           Follow me on Pinterest

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Cooking is Cheaper than Therapy: The Infallible Brownie Mix

Did you think I left? Stuff  happens and before I knew it, it was Labor Day weekend! I am back with ideas to share.

A box of brownie mix should always in be in your pantry. Now, if you can whip up your own brownies without a mix, well aren't you just a little show off - - but seriously - - a brownie mix has always been my little secret.  

While I enjoy my time in the kitchen, especially for loved ones, I don't enjoy baking as much as I enjoy cooking. I think it is the perfect measuring I don't care for, as with the majority of cooking, it is a "pinch of this ... a pinch of that ..."

Now, even though baking isn't my favorite thing to do, I stand rather proud, that when it comes to cookie, cakes, and pies, I always bake those from scratch. Cookie mixes and pre-made cookie dough are a bit too sweet for me, and if I am going to eat cake - - give me the real thing. When raising kids, I made cakes from scratch, especially Red Velvet and Carrot cakes. I probably made more pies than cakes, because once again, you don't have to be so precise in measuring like you do with cakes. 

I once asked a pastry chef about her brownie recipe, and I was pleasantly surprised when she told me she used a mix. GASP! However, she was quick to point out the brownie mix was her base for her creativity. She confirmed everything I was already doing - - I felt righteous! 

One early morning, I was headed out of town for the night, but wanted to bring a baked good with me for my hosts. I grabbed a brownie mix from the cupboard figuring I could toss it in the oven, while I finished packing. Grabbing the mix from the cupboard, I happened to glance at the coffee pot and thought, instead of dumping the left over coffee since I would be gone, why not use it in the brownie mix instead of water the directions asked for? And I did. Even my hosts commented and asked, "What did you put in these? They taste really good." It was indeed the coffee, and I happened to add a few sprinkles of cinnamon.  

I started looking at other ways to doctor up a brownie mix and make it "my own" recipe. No leftover coffee available? Add instant coffee or instant espresso powder, to your liking, to the water that the mix asks for. If you're a beer drinker, instead of water as per the box directions,  switch it up for a dark creamy stout, or even a chocolate-flavored beer. 

Add a couple of teaspoons of good Mexican vanilla and/or cocoa powder to "freshen" it up. A few sprinkles of cinnamon or even chili powder in the batter gives the brownies a "Tex-Mex" flavor. I have even used a few touches of grape seed oil infused with chipotle peppers to give the brownies an interesting kick. If the mix calls for oil, I have used a light olive oil, and sometimes added apple sauce, instead of oil. 

Of course, add your favorite nuts or seeds, but also experiment with dried cranberries, raisins, or chopped dried apricots. Add pieces of cookies, such as Oreos or Nutterbutters, or even pretzels. Sprinkle a little sea salt on top of the frosted brownie. Place in the batter, unwrapped caramel bites and place them strategically in rows, so once they are baked and cut, each brownie will have a bite of caramel. 

Before you are ready to bake, sprinkle nuts and fresh raspberries on top. The raspberries remain pretty and colorful sprinkled on top, but they also make themselves at home in the batter. Marshmallows can be piled on top or in the batter. Or simply sift powdered sugar or cocoa powder over each brownie can make a difference. 

I have tossed a cup chocolate, white chocolate, or peanut butter chips in the batter and even sprinkled a bag of chocolate chips on top of the brownies as soon as they have come out of the oven - as they melted, spread the melty-goodness about - -  Voila! Frosting!  

Last year for our holiday baking, we added just a hint of mint extract to the brownie mix, frosted them with a chocolate butter cream, and sprinkled crushed candy canes on top. Festive! We received a lot of compliments about our "mint" brownies. 

Where will a "Box o' Brownie" mix take you? It's a tasty experiment! 

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