Oven Baked Stone Fruit

We have had a Winter warm-up of temperatures in Michigan, which makes me feel like Spring might be on the way. Stone fruit is in the market, with peaches, plums and apricots being my favorites. I decided to bake some peaches and top with some vanilla sugar a few days ago, and they were delicious.

Baked stone fruit is delicious as a warm dessert with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. I sprinkled the sugar, and then added a shave of margarine to the tops of the sliced open fruit.

     

The fruit baked in a pre-heated oven at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. So simple but so tasty. Other options would include adding ground cinnamon or ground nutmeg to taste.

Mocha Chip Meringues

One of my favorite cookies happens to be a meringue.  We loved the taste of these cookies over the Christmas holiday this year.  I used a Martha Stewart recipe and as every one of her recipes, it worked perfectly. These cookies were crispy, but soft inside the center of the cookie.  The chocolate taste was just perfect and not overpowering.  I opted to use mini chocolate chips in the recipe, instead of the full size chips.  I found the substitute to be perfect and a nice improvement to her recommendations.

How to make the mocha chip meringues–gather these ingredients: 3/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 3 egg whites at room temperature, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon espresso powder, 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees with two racks divided within the oven.  Add parchment paper or silpat mats to the cookie sheets.  In a small bowl, mix sugar and cornstarch.

In an electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt until frothy on medium speed.  Then add sugar mixture slowly, 1 tablespoon at a time. Beat about 6-8 minutes until very stiff. I used my stand mixer with the whipping whisk.  Add espresso powder and cocoa next.  Fold in chocolate chips at the end with a spatula.

Drop onto cookie sheets, one tablespoon at a time.  Bake 40 minutes.  Cool for 20 minutes before removing from cookies sheets.  Great recipe and these cookies are light and delicious.

Snow on the rooftops

Well, it is still winter here in Michigan.  So, here is a fun way to keep the children happy on a cold snowy day.  How about an updated Rice Krispies treat recipe to make and share?  I named this one– snow on the rooftops, since I use butterscotch chips and peanut butter for the color of a brown roof and then, add white sprinkles on top to look like snow. I made them this Christmas and featured them on the top of my cookie plate.

I use a familiar recipe of 3 cups Rice Krispies with 6 ounces of butterscotch morsels mixed with 1/2 cup peanut butter. The cereal is placed in the mixing bowl, while I melt the butterscotch chips and peanut butter in a double boiler on the stove top. Stir together with the cereal, and when fully melted– press into a square pan which has been buttered. Top with white sprinkles.

  

 

I chill these for at least one hour until firm before cutting into squares. Very cute and tasty. Store in the refrigerator to keep firm for several days if desired.

 

Chocolate nut candy

After shopping the chocolate shops up North, I decided to try to make my own chocolate candy.  The key to this recipe is buying upscale dark chocolate. I used Ghirardelli chocolate for this recipe.  I used my smaller slow cooker to melt the chocolate, so I would not have to monitor the temperature as closely.  It was a very easy process.

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I used one 16 ounce jar of unsalted dry roasted peanuts, but any type of nut would work with this technique.  I used 24 ounces of Ghirardelli semi sweet chocolate baking chips and mixed both together in the cooker.  The mixture cooked on low for 1 1/2 hours. I turned off the cooker and allowed to cool for 20 minutes.  Drop by spoonful onto waxed paper.

I allowed the candy to harden for several hours, packed in a covered container separated by waxed paper and stored in the refrigerator until serving time.  Perfect.

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Traditional Afternoon Tea

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So I am one of “those” who enjoy a traditional afternoon tea at a lovely hotel.  We visited The Peninsula when we were in Chicago a few weeks ago and had an amazing relaxing two-hour afternoon filled with a charming tea service and string music.

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Yes.  It is “old-fashioned.”  Yes. It is so amazing. Yes. I find it romantic. We were served Mandarin Orange Scones, Almond Financiers, Lemon Meringue macaroons, Raspberry Rose Cream Puffs, Strawberry Shortcakes, Pistachio & Raspberry Sachers, and Chocolate crumble tarts.

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We also sampled cucumber sandwiches, the famous Peninsula Egg Salad, Lobster Salad, and an Asparagus & truffle Quiche. We had sorbet too.

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The afternoon was simply the best. Conversation  occurred without noise, with white glove service, with music, and with a lovely view. My goal is to experience afternoon tea at many of the great hotels in Europe.  We have had tea at several hotels in Canada and in the United States, but being served a traditional tea in Great Britain, France and Italy is a dream of mine.  Someday.  For now, I will continue to enjoy some of the best hotels in America and sit for tea. Yes. Sit and savor. Time is required. The pace is slow.  Yes. I love that so much.

The two seatings were filled with ladies, couples, families and a combination of locals and visitors to the city. I love Chicago.

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Sweet treats at Eataly in Chicago

And now the best part of our visit to Eataly.  In fact, we visited the market twice during our stay in Chicago, as there is just that much to experience.  On the first level of the store, besides the aisles being filled with candies and chocolates, the counters are also filled with delicious freshly made sweet treats.

There is even an Nutella stand where fresh crepes are being prepared and served to customers. A fresh gelato bar offers a large selection of flavors and quite the line to match on a Saturday afternoon. Everything being offered looked amazing and if only we lived in town to really have a chance to truly experience it all.  Here are some photos of the products and the environment:

 

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And even cookbooks to make everything at home!

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Valentine brownie

Chocolate desserts have to be the ultimate choice for Valentine’s Day.  Sometimes making a favorite recipe in a special serving dish can make the dessert seem extra special.

I have found over the years that I prefer to make my own Valentine’s Dinner.  I control the ingredients and the timing of the meal.  I can set the table with special dishes and even save some money.  I love to cook and by taking the time to make a nice meal for my husband, I show him how much I really care about him.

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And, usually if I set the menu with his favorite dishes, I cannot go wrong. This year, I made a couple of different desserts to celebrate the day.  I did not serve this dessert for our special dinner, but had it for him to enjoy at another time.

This brownie recipe was featured on the blog back in 2013, but is one of my all time favorites by Martha Stewart.  If you have not tried it yet, give it a try.  It can be frosted with your favorite chocolate icing, or simply use powdered sugar or whipped cream to accompany.

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Here is the recipe:  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Next, place a double boiler or glass bowl over boiling water and melt one stick of unsalted butter with six ounces of bittersweet chocolate.  Remove the bowl from the heat and gradually beat in 1 1/2 cups of sugar with an electric mixer.  Then, add three large eggs and 1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder.  Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 plus 2 tablespoons of flour and mix well.

Pour the mixture into the selected baking dish.  Bake for 35-40 minutes until firm without crumbs.  Test with a cake tester.  Cool at least 15 minutes before cutting or cool completely before icing with chocolate frosting.