HOMEmade Spaghetti Sauce

There are some things that are “HOME.” You see them, smell them, hear them, and suddenly all the stresses whirling about in your head are not as big as they were a moment ago. Now you feel safer, a little more cheerful, maybe even loved. Uncertainties are a little less scary and impossibilities are surmountable.

I have lots of “home things”: red wing blackbirds, drives through the forest, the animated Beauty and the Beast movie, colorful strings of lights, the Johnny Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet song…but most of my “home things” have to do with food. There is a certain kind of old cookie cutter that you can find in antique stores, the smell of corn on the cob, fresh sprigs of basil, and of course…all of those dishes that conjure up that nostalgic dreamy sense of HOME. My papa’s macaroni and cheese, grandma’s gingerbread cookies, tomatoes warm from hanging on the vine in a caprese salad, my mom’s delicious broccoli cheese soup, sometimes even a bowl of lucky charms will do the trick.

 

This tomato sauce=home. It is written on an index card in my mom’s recipe box; she copied it down as an old friend explained exactly how his Italian family makes spaghetti sauce and recently she and I spent an entire afternoon in a labor of love making a batch.

Friends, this spaghetti sauce is a hug in a spoon, because honestly? The best way to eat this stuff is by the spoonful. When we make a big bubbling pot of this stuff we have bread and bowls of spaghetti sauce for dinner. That’s it. Just bread dipped into the world’s greatest form of tomato love.

I admit, I might love this sauce so much because it is a “home thing” and so for me it is the ultimate form of comfort. Maybe for you it will just be a really really tasty red sauce for your pasta. Either way, it’s worth it.

First you start by blanching the tomatoes in boiling water until their skins split. Then you shock them in an ice bath so that they stop cooking. From there the messiest part begins, which is peeling the skins and roughly chopping the tomatoes. It might seem intimidating but if you have a buddy it goes super quickly.

After that you essentially throw all the ingredients in the biggest pot you have and let it bubble away. Don’t forget to stir! You don’t want to get burnt bits on the bottom.

After a few hours you will notice that it getting thicker and starting to smell delicious. After 2 hours take a taste test and add any extra herbs or spices you’d like. Enjoy your phenomenal sauce over pasta, with a slice of bread or in a lasagna!

 

HOMEmade Spaghetti Sauce
 
Ingredients
  • 12 - 14 lbs tomatoes
  • 2 red or green peppers
  • 2 white or yellow onions
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 head garlic (12 cloves or more)
  • 1 TB of dried oregano
  • ⅓ cup fresh basil
  • ¼ cup parsley
  • 1 TB salt
  • 2 TB sugar
  • 14 oz tomato paste
  • ½ bottle red wine
  • red pepper flakes to taste
  • 3 Bay leaves
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • 1 container of Parmesan cheese (optional)
  • 1 pork steak (optional)
Instructions
  1. Blanch all the tomatoes in boiling water and then shock them in ice water to cause the skins to split and easy to remove. Roughly chop and add to a deep stock pot.
  2. If using a pork chop brown on medium heat in a skillet and then add to the tomatoes.
  3. Add carrot, bay leave, wine, sugar, salt, oregano, basil, parsley, and crushed garlic cloves to tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low.
  4. In the skillet you used to brown the pork, add a little olive oil and saute the onion and peppers until soft. Add to the tomatoes.
  5. Grate the carrot and add to tomatoes with the tomato paste.
  6. Simmer on low heat for 2-4 hours stirring every ten to twenty minutes to prevent scorching on the bottom. When the sauce is thick, chunky and fragrant, you're done! You want the pork steak to be tender enough to pull apart with a fork.
  7. Shred the pork steak, add container of Parmesan cheese. Taste and add additional herbs and spices if desired. Serve hot over pasta or with fresh bread.
Notes
In order to can this recipe you will need to omit the cheese and pork. Ladle into hot sterilized jars and process in hot water canner for 10 minutes.

 

Mocha Mint Ice Cream (Dairy Free!)

I know, I’ve already posted an ice cream recipe. But I need you to understand a few things for me.

  1. Ice cream is life. Seriously, it is in my top five favorite foods. I eat it at least once a week. (In the summer it’s three times a week. Seven. I eat it almost every day, ok!?)
  2. There is a short period of time in the year when posting ice cream on a food blog makes sense. Realistically I have about three months when I can inundate Nifty Spoon with all the frozen delights my little heart desires.
  3. This ice cream recipe deserves the world. I’m 100% serious when I tell you that it rocked several people’s world. It’s amazing AND all your friends can eat it because it’s dairy free.

Yes, it’s almost impossible to believe, but this dreamy creamy super smooth ice cream doesn’t have any milk in it. A lot of dairy free ice creams are lack luster, I admit. Most of the time the texture is lacking and the flavor doesn’t help. It’s too hard to scoop, it forms ice crystals too easily, it’s too gummy…take your pick of problems. But! This mocha mint chip ice cream is none of those things. It is just as creamy and smooth as any ice cream made with dairy. It’s soft, but not too soft, easy to scoop and tastes UH-MAY-ZING.

The ice cream base is made with fresh mint leaves and just a little bit of instant coffee and the two flavors really complement each other well. Sometimes when you buy ice cream with a lot of flavor profiles it can get bogged down and heavy. Or worse, it tastes like chemicals! This recipe has just 6 ingredients (unless you add chocolate chips, then it becomes 7) and every single one adds a wholesome taste and creamy texture. My mom was visiting me for the week and since she has a dairy allergy I was determined to make her a delicious ice cream she could enjoy.

I can’t imagine going through life without cheese or ice cream. So a lot of the time when I’m in the kitchen I’m thinking of how I could make something dairy free so she doesn’t have to miss out. We hit the jackpot with this mocha mint ice cream. She said it was better than any other dairy free ice cream she’s tried, and most dairy full ones too. My mom has an all natural farm and is pretty selective when it comes to food so she knows what a good fresh ice cream should taste like. She’s a pro, you can trust her on this.  So get down with summer and break out your ice cream maker! This stuff is worth it.

 

Homemade Strawberry Peach Ice Cream

Summer is in full swing.

Today was filled with swimming, pizza with friends, sitting on the balcony with the warm weather herbs all around, and eating this creamy homemade ice cream. In fact, almost everyday has included a bowl of Strawberry Peach Ice cream. It has a unique fresh fruit taste that you could never get in a carton of store bought ice cream.

The secret ingredient is a packet of instant pudding mix. Because adding fresh pureed fruit to an ice cream base can make it too watery and result in icy hard ice cream, adding that packet of pudding keeps it creamy and easy to scoop. So happy summer times to you and yours! What are some of your warm weather plans? We are looking at a weekend at the water park, a trip to Yosemite National Park, and a big batch of spaghetti sauce in our future. 😉

Homemade Strawberry Peach Ice Cream
 
Serves: 4 quarts
Ingredients
  • 2 cups chopped strawberries, fresh
  • 2 cups chopped peaches, fresh
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 cups half n' half
  • 1 package vanilla instant pudding
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
Instructions
  1. In a blender or food processor, puree the strawberries, peaches, and sugar together.
  2. In a large bowl or pitcher whisk together the evaporated milk and pudding mix until combined.
  3. Add the pureed fruit, sweetened condensed milk, half and half, lemon juice, and mix well.
  4. Pour the ice cream base into the chilled bin of your ice cream maker.
  5. Freeze according to instructions in your ice cream maker manual.
  6. Serve with fresh berries or peaches if desired.

 

Almond Apricot Olive Oil Cakes

It’s hot out.

I know I just posted my “It’s finally Spring!” blog post, but it’s 92 degrees now sooooo. That happened.

I’m not too worried, it will be back to 60s and raining by the weekend. But I am definitely dreaming of poolside recipes now. I’m thinking lots of frosty drinks, fruity pies, and summer flavored cupcakes.

For now, I stuck to this mostly spring themed cupcake.

(Confession Time: I actually have methodically imagined about 100 different cupcake flavors down to the minute detail and ordered them according to season. Example:

Spring- Almond Apricot: Almond flavored olive oil cake filled with apricot preserves frosted with almond apricot buttercream and topped with slivered almonds)

Yeah. I have cupcake obsession. Except I did the same thing with macarons too. Anyway, lets forget about the weirdo who makes obsessive lists and focus on the current creation her brain just came up with. These pretty cupcakes are a wonderful springtime treat.

They olive oil cake is light and not too sweet, which is great since they are filled with sweet apricot preserves and frosted with creamy fluffy buttercream. It’s a subtle flavor and probably not the first thing to come to mind when you think “Cupcake.” But it’s an unexpected favorite.

It makes you think of fresh things and warm sunshine. Happy baking, friends!

Almond Apricot Olive Oil Cakes
 
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • 1¼ cup cake flour
  • 1¼ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup almond milk
  • apricot preserves for filling
  • slivered almonds for topping
  • ---
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • ½ cup butter, soft
  • ½ cup shortening, soft
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp almond
  • 2 TB apricot preserves
  • 2 TB whipping cream or milk
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a cupcake pan with cupcake liners.
  2. In a medium bowl whisk together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the eggs with sugar until combined. Add the vanilla, almond, and oil. Whisk on medium speed until all mixed.
  4. Reduce the speed of the mixer to low and slowly add half of the flour mixture with half of the almond milk. Repeat with remaining half. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed until combined.
  5. The batter will be thin so use a ¼ measuring cup to measure batter into cupcake liners. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. Let cool slightly and then remove from pan to cool completely.
  7. When completely cool, cut out the centers of the cupcakes and fill with teaspoon of apricot preserves.
  8. To make frosting, whip butter and shortening in elective mixer until fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and mix. Add extracts and milk while whisking on high for 5 minutes until fluffy.
  9. Mix in apricot preserves. Frost cooled cupcakes and top with slivered almonds.

 

 

Savory Garden Creme Puffs

IMG_20170429_185918942 Spring is finally here! Goodness, it took a long time coming. This time last year, in our tiny un-insulated apartment, we were fighting the urge to turn on the ridiculous portable air conditioner. We were definitely opening all the windows and avoiding the oven already.

This year, in our new apartment that never gets hot (Yes!), it seems like winter has hung around way too long. We have only had a few days in the 70s, and the nights are always chilly. Maybe that’s normal springtime weather for most of the world, but here in California it seems strange. I can’t wait til the days are super warm and we can all frolic outside in shorts and tank tops, pack picnics, and spend the long evenings with cool drinks in our hands…mmmmm.

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These little savory puffs are my favorite spring time recipe. The first time I made these was for a church women’s Spring brunch event. They were served on little pretty plates in a garden surrounded by flowers, music, and sunshine. They are perfect tiny bites with pops of savory flavor and fresh cream cheese and veggies on the inside.

IMG_20170429_185929030

I was reminded of them when I was scrolling through my very old food blog, The Purple Door Kitchen, which is an embarrassment to the internet and all blogs everywhere. But it’s a wonderful way to reminisce. It throws me back to the ‘good ole days’ where I would make food for days at a time and then crash in an exhausted stupor. Garden Cream Puffs were one of those recipes that I made several times because they were a great event appetizer.

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I also think they are a great choice for either a Memorial day picnic or Mother’s day brunch. It’s a springtime staple! Plus it’s just so fun to watch them majestically puff up in the oven. It’s one of those kitchen magic moments that brings that baker’s joy to my little aproned heart. Never gets old. <3

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Savory Garden Creme Puffs
 
Serves: 24
Ingredients
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ½ cup flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 TB sun-dried tomatoes, diced finely
  • ¼ tsp dried basil
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ⅛ tsp cayenne
  • 6 oz cream cheese (chive and onion or garden veggie flavored)
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large saucepan over medium heat heat the water and butter until boiling.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in flour, tomatoes, basil, salt, and cayenne until a dough is formed and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Add in the eggs, one at a time, stirring with a whisk after each egg until the dough is glossy.
  4. Scoop the dough onto the parchment paper using a spoon, or pipe from a pastry bag forming small bite sized puffs spaced evenly apart.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Remove from the oven and immediately cut small vents into each puff to let steam escape. When cooled completely fill with cream cheese and serve.

 

 

White Chocolate Irish Cream Mousse

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I hope everyone remembered to put on something green this morning and are looking forward to a cheerful day of shamrocks and leprechaun shenanigans. As for me, I’m eating the most delicious mousse while catching up on tons of assignments for school.

Sometimes celebration is in the little things, folks. And that’s okay! Especially when one of those little things is White Chocolate Irish Cream Mousse. I’ve made Irish cream mousse with coffee before (see the post here on my old blog, The Purple Door Kitchen.) It was a hit with my family, but I wanted to try something a little different. This mousse is much firmer since it uses gelatin and not egg yolks and it is so much easier to put together! No tempering of eggs, no stove or oven required, and it comes together in ten minutes or 15 minutes. It’s sweet, creamy, and rich from the white chocolate and the Irish cream flavor is not overbearing at all. It’s really just a hint, which I prefer. No one wants to get hit over the head with boozy alcohol after a meal in my opinion. It’s delicious cold and firm from the fridge, but my favorite is to eat the fluffy stuff right off of the beaters from the mixer. 😉

The mousse I didn’t eat straight from the mixing bowl I spooned into three ramekin cups, but it’s so rich and sweet from the white chocolate and cream, I would say that this makes four servings. A dusting of cocoa powder really adds to the mousse by adding just a hint of bitterness to cut the sweetness. Add a bit of extra whipped cream and a drizzle of Irish cream on top and you have not just a delicious St. Patrick’s day treat, you have a pretty one too!

White Chocolate Irish Cream Mousse
 
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup white chocolate
  • 1 Tablespoon whole milk
  • 2 Tablespoons Irish Cream Liquor
  • 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • Unsweetened cocoa (for garnish)
  • Whipped cream (for garnish)
  • Extra Irish Cream Liquor (for garnish)
Instructions
  1. In a small dish, sprinkle the gelatin over the two tablespoons of water and let bloom for about five minutes. Microwave for about 20 seconds to melt the gelatin and set aside.
  2. In another microwave proof bowl combine the milk and white chocolate and melt in the microwave 15 seconds at a time, stirring in between each interval until you get a smooth consistency.
  3. Add the gelatin and Irish cream to the chocolate and stir until combined.
  4. In a stand mixer on medium-high speed whip the heavy whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Stir ⅓ of the whipped cream into the warm chocolate until combined and then fold into the remaining whipped cream carefully.
  5. Serve immediately for a looser fluffy dessert or spoon into cups or containers and chill 4 hours for a firmer mousse.
  6. Before serving, top with whipped cream, a drizzle of Irish Cream and dusting of unsweetened cocoa powder.

 

Taste bud Tales: Paddington Bear’s Spiced Orange Marmalade

“But whatever did you do for food?” asked Mr. Brown. “You must be starving.” Bending down, the bear unlocked the suitcase with a small key, which it also had around its neck, and brought out an almost empty glass jar. “I ate marmalade,” he said, rather proudly. “Bears like marmalade.” 

-A Bear Called Paddington

 Have you been feeling the drag of the world lately, friends? It seems dark and suffocating when you hear the news or see where we are going. There is so much unfairness and hate and it seems to only be growing. It’s easy to want to run back to bed and ignore our conscience until it all blows over and everything is sunny happy-go-lucky.

I usually find that when the world is getting to be an unbearable place and every day seems more hopeless than the one before that BOOKS are often a comfort. You discover that there are characters who are brave, selfless, who change their world, and speak out for good things. Those characters give a little glimmer of hope. Good really does triumph over the bad if we work hard and remember to live in truth and kindness.

There are hundreds of literary heroes, but especially in the books we read as children. The bravest souls are the ones who walk into a wardrobe, long for a bosom friend, or live under the stairs. With all of the crazy news stories and disappointing global situations there is one fictional character that we could look to for encouragement: Paddington Bear. Paddington is the world’s most beloved refugee. And if there is any group of people that needs a friend, it’s refugees.

“I’m not a criminal,” said Paddington, hotly. “I’m a bear!”

Paddington is from deepest darkest Peru and he was sent by his Aunt Lucy to England with a worn out hat, a worn down suitcase, and a vague set of instructions tied to his neck: “Please look after this bear. Thank you” He also carries a nearly empty jar of marmalade. It turns out that bears very much like marmalade.

When he meets his new family, the Browns, in the train station not everyone is on board to adopt a foreign bear. He runs into a few plights that our own refugees or immigrants could recognize, for example the cab driver insists that fare for bears is double and dirty sticky bears covered in marmalade are double the price again. Paddington’s neighbor refuses to call him by anything other than “Bear!” and tries to persuade Paddington to run errands for him. The little Peruvian bear doesn’t have it easy for sure. But Paddington proves himself over and over again and builds a family despite his struggles. His is kindhearted, polite, and stands up for the things he knows are important. He isn’t afraid to give someone a “hard stare” (taught to him by his aunt Lucy) if they are being unfair or judgmental. In short, Paddington is the type of person we should all strive to be, even if he isn’t a person at all.

“I’ll never be like other people. But that’s alright, because I’m a bear.” -Paddington

One small thing we can do to be more like Paddington is to eat quite a bit more marmalade. This brown sugar spiced marmalade is the perfect thing for spreading on toast or making marmalade sandwiches out of (marmalade sandwiches are Paddington’s specialty and he tends to keep one in his hat for emergencies.) With a packet of pectin you don’t have to worry about getting it to set up. This recipe guarantees a nice jammy sweet spread to brighten up the dreary world and remind us that we can always be brave and learn new things in the most unexpected places.

Taste bud Tales: Paddington Bear's Spiced Orange Marmalade
 
Ingredients
  • 5 sweet oranges
  • 2 medium lemons
  • 2 cups water
  • ⅛ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 box of powdered fruit pectin
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 4 cups white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
Instructions
  1. In order to make shelf stable marmalade you will need enough jars to hold 4 pints. Sterilize the jars and rings and set on a clean kitchen towel while you prepare the marmalade.
  2. First, prepare your fruit peel for soaking. Thoroughly wash and dry the fruits. Remove the peel from the oranges and lemon with a vegetable peeler and trim off any excess pith or white from the peels. Cut into thin strips. In a large sauce pot combine the peel with 2 cups of water and ⅛ tsp of baking soda. Bring this to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer about 20 minutes.
  3. While the fruit peel is simmering, remove all the pith and white part from the remaining citrus fruit and roughly chop, trying to remove as much of the membrane as possible from the segments. Add the fruit to the sauce pot and simmer another 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in the pectin and bring to a rolling boil. Stir in the sugars, cinnamon, and allspice. Bring to a rolling boil again and boil one minute, stirring continually. Ladle the hot mixture into your sterilized jars leaving ¼ of an inch of head space at the top Wipe the rims of the jars with a damp cloth to remove any possible sticky areas that could prevent the jars from sealing.
  5. Process your jars of marmalade for 10 minutes in a boiling hot water bath. Once the jars seal with a pop they are able to be stored in your pantry for up to a year.
Notes
If your marmalade looks like it is too runny, place in the refrigerator for 8 to 12 hours. The cold will help it to firm up.
Also, any citrus fruit can be used in this recipe. Feel free to replace any of the fruit with 4 cups of prepared citrus fruit such as grapefruit, or lemon.

 

Five Spice Almond Cookies

Happy Chinese New Year everyone!

Now, I never knew that Chinese New Year was even a thing until a year ago. I’m a pretty boring and uncultured white girl who loves Egg Rolls because they are vegetables wrapped in fried crunchy carbs and Orange chicken from Panda Express. The extent of my Asian culture experience is pretty limited. Last year, however, I was working as a receptionist/dental assistant for a dentist who had a large number of Chinese patients and I was able to talk to them about this big holiday. I had no idea that Chinese New Year was such a huge event!

Families get together for the entire day (even several days) and eat food, celebrate, exchange gifts, watch parades, and generally throw a party. It was really wonderful to be able to learn about the holiday from the patients I interacted with. Several of them even snuck me a little red envelope filled with chocolate gold coins or a five dollar bill (which I thought was the sweetest thing in the world) and wished me luck for the new year. I think that’s so generous and neat for a culture to do. We should all bless each other more, don’t you think?

So even though I am not working for Dr. Tran anymore I thought I would give a little shout out to the Chinese New Year and make some Five Spice Almond Sugar Cookies. Just a humble nod to those little red envelopes and the kind people who hand them out every year. Believe me, kind red envelope deliverers, you are making your dental receptionists, teachers, postal office workers, and friends days so much better by wishing them luck. Keep being you.

These cookies are so delicious, I can’t eat just one. I always end up grabbing another one (or two) after I lick the red sugar sparkles off of my fingers. They have a little crunch on the outside from the decorators sugar, but are chewy and soft like a bakery cookie. When you first take a bite it seems like a pretty typical (albeit tasty) sugar cookie. But after the second bite you can taste the sweet almond flavor and the unique hint of the Chinese Five Spice powder.

Five Spice is such a cool thing to have on hand. I end up tossing it into so many things and it really enhances a lot of dishes. Usually the five spices are Anise, Clove, Cinnamon, Pepper, and Fennel. You can use it as a spice rub for pork or chicken, add it to your stir fry sauce, mix it into your breading for fried foods, or scoop a bit into your cookies. 😉 The colored sugar is optional for these, of course. Also you can substitute regular sugar or take a teaspoonof Five Spice powder mixed into white sugar to give them a spicier oomf if you like.

Happy Chinese New Year! Good Luck and Blessings to you!

Five Spice Almond Sugar Cookies
 
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese five spice powder
  • ¼ cup red decorator sugar (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat softened butter and sugar until fluffy and pale.
  3. Add the egg and almond extract and beat on medium until mixed thoroughly.
  4. Add the flour, baking soda, and five spice powder beat until a dough is formed.
  5. Roll the dough into 1 inch balls and then roll in decorators sugar. Place onto a baking sheet about two inches apart. Squish the cookie balls down slightly with the flat palm of your hand.
  6. Bake on the middle rack of the oven 8 minutes. Do not over bake, they will lose their chewiness.
  7. Remove cookies to a cooling rack. Eat them as soon as you can without burning the roof of your mouth. 😉

 

Mandarin Orange Meringue Pie

For some reason I have always thought meringue pie was fancy, difficult, and a little bit of a risk to attempt. I realized that this is ridiculous. If anything, making this meringue pie was easier than wrangling two different pie crusts that are crumbling everywhere, getting flour all over the counters.

Meringue is fluffy, sweet, and the perfect accompaniment to tangy citrus fruit. Lemon meringue is the most popular option and I LOVE lemon. I might love lemon more than most people. It’s a severe problem and I’m working on that (albeit, halfheartedly)

But since I was lacking enough lemons to make a whole pie and my fruit basket was full of mandarin oranges I decided to go a different route. It was 100% the right choice! Tangy, sweet, and a little different: Mandarin Meringue Pie. Genius. It has whole orange segments stirred into the smooth curd and topped with fluffy marshmallowy meringue that complements a crisp crust very nicely.

I think it’s a great way to usher into the season of more refreshing desserts after all of those heavy holiday dishes. Fruity and clean flavors are my favorite in the new year and since citrus is always growing year round here in California I don’t need to buy produce that is out of season to make a lighter pie. Win-win!


Mandarin Orange Meringue Pie
 
Serves: 8-10
Ingredients
  • 1 unbaked pie crust
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ⅓ cup cornstarch
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup fresh mandarin or orange juice
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • 1 can mandarin orange segments, drained with water reserved
  • ½ teaspoon orange extract, optional
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Line a pie plate with the pie dough and prick all over with a fork. Bake until it is golden brown, about ten minutes.
  3. For the filling, whisk together 2/4 cup of sugar, cornstarch and a pinch of salt in a large saucepan. Add the orange juice, lemon juice, and ¼ cup of the water drained from the can of mandarin segments. Whisk together slowly over medium heat.
  4. Add 4 egg yolks and orange extract and whisk together until frothy. Continuously stir over medium heat until the curd becomes thick and bubbly, about 15 minutes.
  5. Remove from the heat and stir in the 4 tablespoons of butter until melted. Stir in the orange segments from the can of mandarin oranges and pour the curd into the prepared crust. Chill or let cool to room temperature before making the meringue topping.
  6. For the meringue, beat four egg whites until they are foamy. While still whisking on high speed, gradually add ½ cup of sugar and ¼ teaspoon of cream of tartar.
  7. Whisk about 5 to 8 more minutes until the egg whites are shiny and stiff. To test stiffness, pull the beaters or a whisk straight up from the egg white. The peak should stand up tall on it's own and not slump back down into the bowl.
  8. Spoon or pipe the meringue onto the pie. Make sure the meringue touches the crust on all sides, creating a seal in order to prevent it from shrinking as it bakes.
  9. Bake in an oven preheated to 400 degrees F for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the top is golden. Cool completely before serving.
Notes
To adapt this pie to make a version reminiscent of those childhood favorites: Orange Creamsicles, substitute 1 and ½ teaspoons of vanilla for the ½ teaspoon of orange extract.

 

Cranberry Cupcakes with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting.

My fellow elves, carolers, busy shoppers, and gift wrappers! Hello. It is December and now all the baking of all the things has begun. I’ve already hit up two holiday themed get togethers and it’s only the first week!

 

I always love a get together because it usually means I have an excuse to bake something a little more special than usual. Unfortunately, those special baked treats rarely make it to the blog. I can never snap a satisfactory picture before I whisk it off to be devoured.

This time, though, I vowed to set aside a few extra cupcakes to make an appearance here on Nifty Spoon, so I made a few extras just for you! Good thing, too because these delicious-out-of-this-world-amaze-balls Cranberry Cupcakes will not last long. When I tasted these they became my new favorite cupcake.

I think it’s because I wasn’t expecting them to turn out so moist and light. The cranberry flavor is subtle, sweet and tart at the same time. With a dash of nutmeg and a swirl of White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting (hoh yes!) they transformed into a pretty spectacular dessert.

So if you have a Christmas party you need to make a good impression at, I suggest these. I also suggest these if you don’t have a party to go to at all and just plan on binge watching Hallmark Christmas Movies all evening. It’s a good choice either way.

I filled these with extra cranberry sauce because it’s spiced and jammy and want it all over everything anyway, but feel free to keep yours mess-free. There is plenty of cranberry flavor without the extra filling. For a great recipe for homemade cranberry sauce check out this one here. It’s what I used in this recipe and it’s awesome, but you can use whole berry canned sauce, your own homemade version, or a mix of whatever.

Now, it’s hard to choose what is the crowning glory of these cupcakes. There is that White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting, what on this planet could be more delicious?…and then unique fluffy cranberry cake, spiced cranberry and pear filling. I might be a little attached to these cupcakes, they are so good.

(Little shout out to the cute little Santa Village Bakery my little brother got me for Christmas when he was about nine years old. I love it to death. It just reminds me of how thoughtful that little dude was and how well he knows me. :D)

Cranberry Cupcakes with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
 
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup cranberry sauce (homemade or canned whole berry)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1½ cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 4 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 6 oz. white chocolate chips
  • 2 cups confectioners sugar
  • ½ cup cranberry sauce for filling (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and line a cupcake tin with cupcake liners
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, vegetable oil, vanilla extract and cranberry sauce until well combined.
  3. Stir in the flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg to the batter. Using a ¼ cup, scoop the batter into the cupcake liners, filling each about ⅔ of the way to the top.
  4. Bake in preheated oven until the tops have risen, a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, and the cake springs back when lightly touched. About 22-25 minutes. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.
  5. To make frosting, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth. In a microwavable bowl melt the white chocolate in the microwave 20 seconds at a time, stirring in between each interval. Pour into the cream cheese mixture and beat until well combined. Add the powdered sugar and beat until smooth. If the frosting seems too runny to pipe onto the cupcakes, refrigerate for an hour to let the chocolate firm up in the frosting and stiffen it.
  6. To fill and decorate, cut out the middles of the cupcake and then pipe a ring of frosting around the tops of the cupcakes to create a frosting "dam" to hold in the filling. Fill up with cranberry sauce.