Friday, June 8, 2012

155. Mulberry Syrup

Last month I was asked to participate along with a group of other bloggers in a Berrylicious blog link up.  This was such perfect timing considering I was dealing with a berry tree of my own.  Read below to learn more about my berry experience.  Thank you Hani, from Haniela's for organizing such a fun linky party!  At the end of this post you will find a banner along with the links to all those that participated.  ENJOY.

When I think of berries I have very fond memories of my youth.  I grew up in California and we always had an abundant supply of strawberries.  As a teenager we moved to Oregon and there I was introduced to the wild Blackberry.

It seemed in Utah, we ate a lot of blueberries.  

Last June we moved to our home in Maryland and to our pleasant surprise we had a berry tree.  This huge tree made an even bigger mess. What in the world was this tree that dumped a ton of berries all over most of our yard?
My neighbors  had an aversion to the tree…LOL It was a constant source of agitation because your shoes were covered in berry juice. This meant that carpets and floors were constantly stained with little purple dots.

The birds were another concern.  They love the berries and when birds eat berries they have a very healthy digestive track if you know what I mean…it's gross…but it's true and they make a mess.

Well, I was just too busy last year unpacking and getting settled to pay any attention to this big messy berry tree.

After all, do berries really grow on a tree that is 25 feet tall?  If you're a Mulberry tree you do.

This year I promised myself that I would use these berries and learn about them.  I discovered that they are Mulberries.  They are shaped like a black berry, but smaller and have a very similar taste.

I was happy.  We used to live in Oregon and they have wild black berries everywhere.  I missed them.

On this sunny day, my daughters and I set out to forage for the berries.  We were not brave enough to climb up the tree and shimmy out on the limbs.

With our bowl in hand, we gently stepped around the blades of grass and found what we were looking for.  You could tell the ones that had fallen recently, they were still shiny and plump.

It was a great mother/daughter activity.

I chose to make a syrup because we love our pancakes soaked in the flavor of berries.  With a little bit of butter added too.  Recipe for a light and fluffy pancake can be found here,  and for a mutli-grain pancake look here. They are both delicious.  

Making syrup is easy and you will find all types of recipes out in the cyber world to follow.  Mine is simple and straight forward.  It usually takes an hour for the sugar and juice to thicken enough to make it sticky and thick.  I will admit that on some occasions I have been impatient and the syrup was thinner…everyone still used it.

Recipe:  Mulberry Syrup

I picked 3 cups of Mulberries
3 cups of water

Wash and sift through berries to make sure that you don't have any extra and unwanted ingredients…leaves and bugs.  Don't worry about the stems because they are a pain to take off and you will be straining everything anyways.

In a pot large enough to hold 6 cups, bring berries to a boil. Reduce heat to medium high. Using a potato smasher, smash the berries.

Let the juice, pulp and water cook for 20 minutes.

You can use any type of cheescloth/cloth straining set-up want or have access to.  I kept mine pretty easy.  I used a dish cloth made out of light weight flour sack fabric and hung it from my cupboard while the juice drained into a bowl.

You can let this drain overnight or if you are like me, let it cool, and then start wringing out the juice.  You should get about 3 cups of juice.

The pulp will look like this.

Return the 3 cups of juice to a pot and add 2-3 cups of sugar.  The more you add the sweeter the syrup will be.

Bring syrup to a boil and turn heat to medium low.  It takes about an hour for the syrup to thicken.  Stir it occasionally so that it doesn't stick or burn on the bottom.

You can test the thickness of the syrup by dipping a spoon, if the syrup is runny it will slide right off.  If it is thick, it should coat your spoon and slowly slip out. 

11 Fabulous Bloggers are sharing their Berrylicious Recipes.  Go check them out.

1. Joan, Chocolate Chocolate and More - Lemon Blueberry Pound cake
2. Charity, FoodletsStrawberry - Banana Popsicles
3. Jamie, Green Beans & Grapefruit - Mixed Berry & Cookie Butter Clafouti
4. Hani, Haniela’s – Red Currant Meringue Cake
5. Katrina, In Katrina’s Kitchen - Frozen Blueberry Basil Lemonade Pies
6. Sue, Munchkin Munchies - English Matrimonials
7. Bia, Rich and Sweet - Blueberry Blackberry Orange Streusel Scones
8. Sam, Sams Kitchen - Eton Mess Mini Cheesecakes
9.  Sherron, Simply Gourmet  - Mulberry Syrup
10. Ann, Sumptuous Spoonfuls  -  Strawberry Chia Jam
11. Karen, Trilogy Edibles - Meringue Nest with a Bumbleberry Compote

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Sauteed Squash, Leeks and Artichokes

My first memory of having squash was when we lived at the "lake".  This is what we called our small community of Woffard Heights in the mountains of California.  The "lake" was actually named Lake Isabella and we spent every summer fishing, swimming, rock climbing and bridge jumping.

When we were not at the lake we were riding horses, hiking, playing with our cousins or working.  Our grandparents had a rock bed for a yard and we spent several summers making these huge rock walls.

This was a lot of work!  It was also my introduction to physical labor.  My grandfather, who we called, "pop" was a military man.  He was a caring man but very stern and felt that the only way for anyone to learn discipline was to rise early, work through out the day and then work some more.  LOL

I gained a lot from these hours spent with him.  I admired him.  I wanted his approval.  I would often spend extra time loading and unloading boulders so that he would think I was a hard worker.  I wanted his approval.  I was a girl and felt as though I had a lot to prove.  (Those were the days)

He passed away while I was a teenager and I do believe he felt I was a hard worker.  I wasn't mature enough at the time to have "that" conversation with him and really share my feelings of how much I admired and looked up to his example of work.

I wish that I could go back for one day and really have a good chat.

So what does squash have to do with this? My grandfather was from Texas.  I grew up on chicken fried steak,  gravy, meat and potatoes and a lot of fried food.

My grandmother would make summer squash for us a lot.  It was the "alien ship" squash.  That is what we called it, because they looked like little UFO's.

She would dredge it in flour, salt and pepper and milk.  Fry them in a pan and serve them with ranch.

Oh it was so good!

This was the start of my love affair with squash and zucchini. I try not to eat my squash fried anymore and that is how this dish came about.  I threw this dish together the first few times with leeks, yellow squash and artichokes.  The second time I made it with zucchini, red onion and artichokes.

It is one of the best side dishes I have made in a long, long time.  The flavors just explode in your mouth.  Adding the red tomatoes at the end add that bit of sweet flavor that only a good tomato can do.

Recipe:  Sauteed Squash, Leeks and Artichokes

Olive oil, add to pan as needed
3 yellow squash (or zucchini), sliced
1 cup of leeks, sliced in rings.  Use the white part.  You can use red onion too.
2 teaspoons of minced garlic
1 cup of un-marinated artichokes, halved
handful of fresh herbs:  cilantro, Oregano and Basil (do not use dried herbs, it's not the same in this dish)
7 Campari tomatoes, quartered
salt and pepper to taste

In a large saute pan, add enough olive oil to saute your first batch of ingredients.  I sauteed the leeks, garlic and artichokes together first.  5 minutes or until the leeks are clear and cooked.

Remove this mixture to a large bowl.  You can steam your squash in the microwave by adding a small amount of water to a microwave safe bowl along with the sliced squash and cook until just tender.  I prefer to cook the squash in my pan so that I get the added flavor of the olive oil and the flavor of sauteing them this way.  It took me 3 batches.

When each batch is finished add it to the large bowl with your artichoke and leeks.  Chop your herbs and toss them into the last batch of squash.  Cook for 2 minutes.

Throw in the tomatoes and cook for another 2 minutes.

 Add the contents of the large bowl back into your saute pan and combine.  Season with salt and pepper.

 This is an excellent main dish, side or left over.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

158. Tamales-Pork

Traveling around the United States has allowed me to meet new people, learn new traditions, see and explore new territory and try so many new foods.

I feel that these experiences have shaped who I am and how I cook.  I have friends from all over the world that are first or second generations living in the US.

What their families have brought to those of us who have been raised here, in the US, is greater than what one could read in a book or see in a picture.  They are living accounts of how they lived, their families lived, the foods they ate/eat, the ingredients that shaped and molded their dishes and why they are here in the US.  

They brought a wealth of information that could easily be found in a book, but it's not the same as talking with them, cooking in their kitchens or listening to their stories.  Feeling and experiencing the emotion behind what they cook is a powerful experience.

I have never been to Mexico, I lived close as a child in LA.  I don't have any ancestry that is from Mexican/Spanish descent.  Yet, I find myself wanting to eat and learn to cook food from this region of the world.

This can be said for so many of the dishes that I make.  I love flavor, exotic spices and ingredients, new techniques, a challenge in the kitchen…I just love ALL facets of cooking, baking and eating it all. The fact that the world cooks so differently creates a challenge for me to learn.  

I never want to stop learning.  EVER!

In Denver, we had friends that would make tamales like they would never have them again.  When you make tamales for a huge family event, we are talking hundreds of handmade tamales.  Our friends would often invite us to such events and my mouth would drop when I saw the amount of food they would prepare.  Their food is a part of who they are.  It made a statement of where they came from.

I learned to make tamales from a lady that my husband worked with.  In their culture it would usually involve several women from different families.  The recipe I share today was made by me, single handily done.  I do believe that cooking in a kitchen filled with women and laughter would be a happier experience. 

 Invite your friends and family to help you make these tasty tamales.  Tell stories, laugh and share in the joy of working together in the kitchen.  It is a bit of work, but so worth it!

Recipe: Pork Tamales

4 thick boneless pork chops
1/2 red onion, sliced
2 tablespoons of garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups of water
1 tablespoon of Cumin
dash of salt

Preheat oven to 375.

I use a cast iron pan.  Lay the pork chops on the bottom and add the other ingredients (see picture below)

Cover pan with foil.  Bake for 1 hour at 375 and reduce temperature to 325 and cook for another hour.

When you unwrap the foil, using two forks, pull the meat apart.  You will notice that some of the water is still in the pan. Do not  pour this out.  The meat will absorb the liquid and make it very tender and moist.  At this point, you can set it aside until the tamales are ready to be made or you can recover and put in the fridge for a 1-2 days.

Recipe: Tamale Batter
Recipe adapted from The Dumpling, a Seasonal Guide by Wai Chu and Connie Lovatt

I doubled the below recipe and had a little bit left over for the meat recipe above.

1/3 cup of Crisco or lard at room temperature
1 cup  masa harina
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 chicken broth, lukewarm

In a medium size bowl, add your Crisco.  With a hand mixer, beat the Crisco until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

After being whipped.

Add the masa harina, baking powder and salt into to a large bowl.  Add the broth and mix until all of the liquid is gone.  Add lard a tablespoon at a time.

After the last bit of Crisco is added, beat on high for 10 minutes. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes before using.  This will last for one day in the fridge.

Time to pull it all together.  You will need the corn husk.  I like to go through the pile and pull out the best ones. I start with 20-24 and add them to a bowl with warm water.  This short bath makes the husk easier to bend and fold.  You will need some cooking twine to close the ends  I usually cut these about 6 inches in length.  You can use pieces of the husk, but for the sake of time…the string is easier.

This process does not need to be perfect.  You basically are wrapping the tamale batter around the pork.  SIMPLE.

Select a piece of corn husk and spread a golf ball size of batter in the middle of the husk…estimate about a 4X6 size.

Add the pork.  I usually estimate a 1/4 cup or less.

This picture below is showing you that the idea is to have the tamale batter go all around the pork.  So you can fold the corn husk in half so the sides can meet and then continue wrapping the corn husk to create a tube.  See picture below.  Use twine to secure the ends.

 Tada…you have a tamale.

I layer mine on a cookie sheet until I am ready to add them to the pot to be steamed.
I use a large stock pot with this steamer basket in the bottom.  I layer my tamales up to the top.  Make sure you add water to the bottom of the pan frequently.  You want the steam to cook your tamales.  I would suggest adding 1/2-1 cup of water every 20 minutes.  The tamales will take about 90 minutes.

The tamales will soften and cook down a bit.  The masa may appear soft, but once it is exposed to the air and has a chance to sit for 5 -8 minutes it firms right up.

We eat our tamales with ketchup but by all means use what dipping sauce you like or none at all.

Chicken and Dumplings

Our weather this year in Maryland has been a sprinkle of this and a dash of that.  We have had high temperatures in March and low temperatures today, which today we are in the month of June.

It is no secret that my family enjoys a lovely bowl of soup all year round.

This is a basic recipe, that I am sure most of you make and probably use a little of this and a little of that to add flavor, texture and deliciousness to satisfy your families taste buds.

I usually make this right after I have bought a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store.  It's true, I cannot resist the aroma of the chickens cooking in our local grocery store.  

Sometimes I have a lot of meat still left on the bones and other times it's slim pickings.  If you don't have the amount of meat that you would like, then you can add a can of cubed chicken, cook up a couple of chicken breast or add a few thighs to the stock pot. 

I like to combine the dark and white meats in my chicken soup.

When I was a kid our chicken and dumplings were prepared with diced potatoes in the soup, served with mashed potatoes on the side and of course, they had dumplings.  That is a lot of starch.  We have learned a little bit since I was a kid of what might be considered too much.LOL  Oh,  but it did taste good!

This is a lighter version of what I grew up with: no mashed potatoes and the diced potatoes are an option.  

Recipe:  Chicken and Dumplings

1 rotisserie chicken, with meat still on bones or 6-8 thighs
10 cups of water (you need extra broth for cooking the dumplings or you won't have much liquid left)
1 teaspoon pepper
4-6 cubes of chicken bouillon,  add more if you want a stronger flavor
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 cups of sliced carrots
1 cup of diced celery
1 cup of sliced onion
2 potatoes, diced (optional, not pictured above)
3 cups of chicken meat (picked off of carcass after it has simmered with the broth)

Dumpling recipe below

In a large stock pot, add the chicken carcass (or thighs), water, bouillon, garlic and pepper.  Let simmer for 60 minutes.

Taste the broth and see if it is to your liking.  Add salt or more bouillon to match your taste buds.

Remove the whole chicken or thighs.  Scrape the bottom to try and get any bones that may have slipped to the bottom. This can be a hot process.  Let the chicken cool or use two forks to remove the meat.  Remove all of the meat from the bones.  You can add as much meat as you would like.  I always start with three cups and go from there.

While you are removing the meat from the chicken you can let the veggies cook. Add the carrots, celery and onion.  Let cook until carrots are tender, about 15 minutes.  If you choose to add potatoes, this cook time may be increase based on their doneness.

Add chicken and let soup simmer while you are making the dumplings. When ready to add the dumplings, I like my soup to be boiling.


2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoons sugar (optional)
2 tablespoons cold butter
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon of thyme. I like to add some dried herbs to make the dumplings look pretty.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder, dried herb and baking soda, mixing well. Cut in cold butter using a pastry blender or you can grate your butter, instead of using a pastry blender and toss together with your hands.

Add cold buttermilk, a few spoons at a time, mixing the dough from the outside in with fork until a soft dough forms (do not overmix - about 2 minutes total).  Based on where you live you may need to add a bit more flour or buttermilk, do so sparingly.  The dough should not be too wet or too dry.

You have two options to adding your dumplings to the chicken soup. You can roll out the dough to 1/4 inch on a lightly floured surface and cut them into strips or use a round cookie cutter OR you can drop by spoonfuls.  This is the method I have always used.  I try to make sure that when I place the dumpling in the soup that I spread it out a bit so that it's not too thick and they cook through.

Add dumplings to boiling soup and cover. Let cook for 15 minutes on medium heat. Try not to remove the lid before the time is up.  The steam is what will cook the top of the dumplings and when you crack the lid it releases the steam.

Serve in a bowl.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Homemade BBQ Sauce

2020 Update: With the stay-home policy set in place, I am cooking a lot from scratch. I made this today and it is still just as good as when I made it many years ago. I did double my batch and this required me to adjust some of the seasonings, so if you double the batch, you will also want to increase the seasonings to your flavor preferences. 

Memphis, Carolina, Hot, Sweet, Spicy, Mustardy….all words to describe one sauce:  BBQ.

I found this great link to learn more about some of the top flavors of preferred sauces.  LOOK HERE.

Making my own sauces from scratch is something I enjoy doing.  When it comes to salad dressings, marinades and dips, fresh sauces always taste better to me.  If they sit for a few days that flavor gets even better with time.

This bbq recipe I have been making for our favorite BBQ items for a long time now.  I use it on chicken and ribs.

Over the years it has been modified with a few tweaks here and there based on what I have had on hand.   This is the beauty of cooking from scratch, you never get bored because your imagination with flavors are always changing and improving based on what you have at your fingertips.

I play this silly game with myself, I imagine walking into someone's home and being asked to cook dinner with what they have…no grocery runs, borrowing from the neighbors or sneaking into my purse to retrieve something from my home.

Just me and their ingredients.  Oh the fun that I would have and the challenge it could be.

Back to the recipe…LOL  I get easily distracted.  Okay here you go.

This recipe today, I have made several times the exact same way, that last few months.  I really wanted to TEST this recipe so that it was perfect.  My family believes it is.

If I had to label the flavor, I would lean toward a Memphis style.  It has the twang of vinegar and a little bit of a sweet touch.

It works so well with the mild flavor of chicken and pork that I often have to put a small bowl on the table for my family and friends to add more to their plates.  They always want MORE.

With this sauce, more is better.  It cooks nicely to the meat and creates a rich reddish brown coating.   I also love the tips of my meat to get charred…I love that slight touch of a burnt BBQ flavor in some of my bites.

Yes, it's a weird thing but I also grew up with my Mom eating burnt toast….it must be in our DNA.  LOL

Recipe:  Homemade BBQ Sauce

Makes 3 cups of sauce, after simmering for an hour

1.5 cups of ketchup
1 cup of tomato sauce
1/3 cup of red wine vinegar
1/4 cup of Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup of soy sauce
1/4 cup of honey
1/2 cup of packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons mustard powder
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 cloves of minced garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons hot sauce
1/8-1/4 teaspoon of liquid smoke (start with less and add more based on your taste)

Combine all of the above ingredients into a medium size pot.  Turn heat to medium high and bring sauce to almost a boil, bubbles around edges.  Reduce heat to medium low and let simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally.

You will start to notice your sauce getting deeper in color, thicker and reducing.  This is what you want.

 With your meat prepared, add your sauce to coat.  I will use our chicken legs as an example.

Make sure your meat is well coated.

I set my grill at 350 degrees.  I add my coated chicken legs and let each side cook for about 7 minutes.  I add more sauce each time I turn my legs.  This gets the sauce nice and thick on each piece.

TADA…you're done!  Nicely BBQ'd chicken legs or ribs (picture below).

Caramelized Onion and Garlic Focaccia Bread

I am so excited to be sharing my recipe for focaccia bread with Sumptuous Spoonfuls.  Ann is wonderful and she has always been so supportive of my blog and photography.  This is the post that I shared with her last month.  ENJOY!


It will be one year in June when I started my blog, Simply Gourmet Photography.  I have been taking pictures for a long time and just happened to be asked to work with some amazing companies as a food photographer.  I recently moved to MD and was needing a change, so I started the blog with the hope that new opportunities would come my way and they have.  I am now a writer for one of our local magazines and I enjoy it very much.  I still get to take pictures, develop recipes and write. 

One thing that I love about Ann's recipes are they are fresh.  I love her salads the most!  She has inspired me on more than one occasion to create a fun salad and dressing.  What better accompaniment to a salad than a fresh loaf of bread.  

I love bread and I make bread a lot for my family.  I have easy one hour recipes and then I have the all day, double rise, let sit over night recipes.  I enjoy them all. I love the way the dough feels in my hands after it has risen, so soft and airy.  I find the process of making bread creative.  There are so many types of bread, toppings, flours and styles.  You could never get bored with making bread.

This recipe for focaccia has been made numerous times for my family.  I especially like to make it for sandwiches and big parties.  It makes two loaves and the options for toppings are endless.  This flavor of the caramelized onion and grilled garlic is my favorite.  I will make this focaccia and use the bread for French Dips.  It holds up great for a sandwich and the onion/garlic combination compliments the beef well.

Recipe:  Caramelized Onion and Garlic Focaccia

Makes 2 loaves

To make the caramelized onions you will need:

1 large red onion, sliced
1 T. of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Splash of red wine

In a large saute pan, add oil.  Add the sliced onion and cook over medium heat.  The onions will start to turn a light brown and then gradually become darker.  If you need to add a bit more oil go ahead.  You don't want them to get dry.  When the onions are dark brown, add your splash of red wine.  This step is optional but it does add a deep rich flavor to the onion.  Continue cooking until the onions are dark, not burnt.  The process takes about 25 minutes depending on how many onions you have.  If you only use half of the onion, the cook time may be shorter.

To make the grilled garlic:

1-2 bulbs of garlic
1/3 cup of olive oil

Cut the ends off of each garlic bulb.  Brush the ends with the olive oil.  On your BBQ, set your grill to 350 and grill the garlic until browned on both sides.  They should be done at around 15 minutes.  I try to do a bunch at this time and then store the extra's in the fridge.  When they are cooked, I remove the cloves and smash into a small bowl with 4 T. of olive oil, this will be used on the focaccia bread.

To make the loaves of focaccia:

2 cups of warm water
1 teaspoon of sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons of yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
4-5 cups of flour, start with the smallest amount and add as needed
5 T. of olive oil

Toppings for focaccia:

coarse salt
fresh herbs or dried (optional)
Parmesan cheese (optional)
olive oil
grilled garlic (recipe above)
caramelized onions (recipe above)

Prepare the yeast by add the water, yeast and sugar to a small bowl.  Set aside for 5 minutes until it starts to bubble.  If your yeast does not create a foam/bubbly top then you may need to start over.

In your Kitchen Aid mixer with the paddle, add the salt, 3 cups of flour and 2 T. of olive oil.  Start to mix together and add yeast mixture.  Mix well.  Let rest 10 minutes.

Change from the paddle to your bread hook.  On medium speed, add a 1/4 cup of flour at a time until the dough forms a ball and no longer sticks to the bottom of the bowl.  Because my humidity is so high I usually end up adding more than 5 cups…just add it in 1/4 cup increments and you won't add too much.

Knead in your mixer for 7 minutes. Move dough to an oiled glass bowl and let rise until double.

When the dough has doubled, turn onto a floured surface and knead for one minute.  Cut dough in half.

Preheat your oven to 400.

Prepare your cookie sheet.  Spray or oil the sheet then sprinkle some cornmeal across the cookie sheet.

The two focaccia loaves should fit side by side on your cookie sheet.  With your hands pull and push the dough into a small rectangle to fit on half of the cookie sheet.  Leave an inch in between the two loaves.  It will be uneven, this is okay.  It should look like little hills and valleys over the top of each loaf.

Take a pastry brush and brush the olive oil and grilled garlic over the top of both loaves.  It will pool and look like a lot, this is okay as it all cooks into the focaccia.  Let sit for 15 minutes.

Next, add the caramelized onions.  

The final step is adding your herbs and coarse salt.  I used dried herbs in this recipe.  I sometimes use fresh and I love that too.  I usually use an Italian spice blend or you can use oregano, rosemary, basil and thyme.

Bake the loaves for 20 minutes.  The focaccia bread should be golden brown.  We slice ours into 1 inch chunks.

I often times serve the focaccia with a dipping mixture of: extra virgin olive oil, parmesan cheese, Italian herbs and salt.  My guest love it!

Donut Breakfast Casserole

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