Fit for a Queen!

Put some pizzazz into your next fundraiser (or book club gathering, or baby shower) by hosting a classy, authentic English High Tea. Picture a table set with fine linen, beautiful antique cups and saucers, and a spread fit for a Queen! Your guests will enjoy locally sourced blends of teas, a variety of finger sandwiches (on organic bread from a local bakery); miniature scones paired with delicious jams, clotted cream and lemon curd; little lettuce cups with curried chicken salad; and a beautiful spread of buttery short breads and little tea cakes. Add some bubbly to that, and your guests will gladly whip out the checkbook . . . now doesn’t that sound better than the proverbial rubber chicken?

Apple Rösti–a Swiss Comfort Food

Like many comfort foods, this simple dessert does not require a trip to a fancy store but makes use of what is on hand: day-old bread, apples and butter. Cut bread into fine slices and brown in butter. Remove from pan and add sliced apples, a little sugar, lemon zest and cinnamon. Cook until apples are softened, then add toasted bread to soak up the liquids. Serve with a dollop of cream.

Biscotti–Make Your Own!

Afternoon project: chocolate hazelnut biscotti . . . thank you, Martha Stewart, you’re the best! Biscotti are “twice cooked”: the dough is initially formed into long flat sausages and baked until firm. Once the mass has cooled, the loaves are then sliced into quarter inch slices and baked again, which gives them the crunch. You’ll find many different recipes for biscotti. They’re easy and inexpensive to make, and your friends will be wowed. This recipe came from Martha Stewart’s “Baking Handbook”. I love her recipes – they’re easy to follow and always turn out well. Stay tuned for a fabulous gluten-free version . . .

YUMMY COOKINESS . . .

Whatever you call them, Mexican Wedding Cookies, Russian Tea Cookies, or your own pet designation — they’re easy to make and always a hit. Here’s the trick.

Mixing the cookies with soft butter is most efficient, but the dough will be sticky. Some recipes suggest refrigerating the dough and then forming the cookies into 1” balls . . . but that’s a pain in the you-know-what.

Do this – form the cookies into 1” balls while the dough is soft, and then place them into the fridge (or freezer) until they’re hard. Place the hard cookies into the pre-heated oven, and the cookies will stay round. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Gluten-free vegan desserts, oh my!

Sugar-laden holidays right around the corner appear to be inspiring my obsession with desserts at the moment! Here is another fab vegan treat, this one made from rice. You may be familiar with kheer, a popular Indian rice pudding, made with milk and flavored with cardamom, saffron and raisins. My favorite rice dessert is Burma Superstar’s fabulous black rice and coconut pudding, which I’ve been able to approximate in my own kitchen. Here’s how:

Start out with sticky Thai black rice, e.g. Lundberg Black Pearl Rice. I usually soak the rice in salted water for a few hours, before draining and cooking according to package directions – but you’ll need to reduce cooking time and cooking liquid. Rice should be soft but not mushy. Drain and place in a heavy bottom pan with coconut milk and simmer until rice is creamy; sweeten, to taste, with organic sugar (try Billington’s dark Muscovado sugar). Toast some unsweetened coconut flakes in a dry pan, until toasty brown and fold into the rice; save a few sprinkles for the top. Serve warm, with fresh raspberries or slices of mango, and a scoop of Coconut Bliss vegan ice cream . . . heavenly!

Chocolate!

If you had grown up in Switzerland like I did, you would know that chocolate is one of the four food groups. When I first moved to this country, good dark chocolates were hard to find but, thankfully, that is no longer the case. You’ll even find a great selection of chocolates at your local drugstore . . . who knew? If you open the chocolate drawer in my kitchen, you’ll see a selection of some of my favorites, like the many flavored dark chocolate varieties now available from Lindt.
For chocolate desserts – e.g. mousse, flourless chocolate torte, triple-chocolate fudge brownies – I use dark chocolate with a high percentage of cacao. Great selections are available at Caillebaut, which you can purchase online, or at your friendly local Trader Joe’s market.

Apple Rösti – a Swiss Comfort Food

roestiLike many comfort foods, this simple dessert doesn’t require a trip to a fancy store but makes use of what is on hand: day-old bread, apples and butter. Cut bread into fine slices and brown in butter. Remove from pan and add sliced apples, a little sugar, lemon zest and cinnamon. Cook until apples are softened, then add toasted bread to soak up the liquids. Serve with a dollop of cream.