Strawberry Pop Tarts

by Caroline

The cooking division of labor in our household, as I have mentioned before, is basically Tony: stove; Caroline: oven. Or to put it another way, Tony: dinner; Caroline: dessert. It’s never more obvious than at our New Year’s Day party, for which I produce a line-up of cookies, muffins, coffee cakes and the like:

While this year, for example, Tony made a massaman curry, several batches of veggie spring rolls, a green papaya salad, plus a variety of fabulous chutneys and dipping sauces. He did suggest one thing for me to make, though: home made pop tarts. And I couldn’t resist. I found a recipe from Bon Appetit and it’s a great party snack since you prep them in advance and stick them into the freezer until you want them. Eli helped me with the assembly (and took to heart my caution to keep his warm hands off the pastry!):

They were gone so fast I couldn’t take a picture, but you know what a pop tart looks like. These are too good not to make again.

Here’s the recipe, with my notes in brackets:

* 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour plus additional for shaping and rolling
* 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
* 1 teaspoon sugar
* 1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
* 4 tablespoons ice water
* 12 tablespoons strawberry preserves

* Powdered sugar and fresh strawberries, for garnish [I skipped this step, given the dearth of fresh berries in January]


Whisk 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour, coarse salt, and sugar in large bowl. Add butter. Using fingertips or back of fork, blend in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add ice water by tablespoonfuls, tossing until moist clumps form. [You can do all this in the food processor: whisk together the dry ingredients, then add the chunks of butter and pulse until the mixture is coarse and grainy. Then add the water by spoonfuls and pulse until the dough starts to form clumps.] Gather dough into ball. Divide in half; shape each half into disk [or, shape into a rectangle to make your life easier when you roll it out]. Wrap in plastic. Chill at least 1 hour.

Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Working with 1 disk at a time, roll out dough on floured surface to about 13×11 inches. Trim to 12×10-inch rectangle, then cut into eight 5×3-inch rectangles.

Arrange 4 rectangles, spaced apart, on each sheet. Spoon 1 1/2 tablespoons preserves in row down center of each rectangle. Top preserves with second dough rectangle. Using fingertips, gently press all edges of each tart to seal; press all edges with tines of fork to double-seal. Using toothpick, poke a few holes in center of top dough rectangle. Cover; freeze tarts on sheets at least 2 hours and up to 1 week.

Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 375°F. Bake frozen tarts uncovered until golden, reversing sheets after 15 minutes, 25 to 30 minutes total (some preserves may leak out). Immediately transfer tarts to rack. Sift powdered sugar lightly over. Serve warm or at room temperature [if they last that long] with fresh berries [in season].

A Sparkling New Year

by Caroline

Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks is one of the few food blogs I read regularly: the writing is wonderful, the recipes are terrific, the photography is gorgeous. Even better, my sister and several friends read the blog, too; they often try out the recipes before I can get to them and report back with their results.

So it was with Swanson’s recipe for sugared cranberries, which my friend Julie made at Thanksgiving and let me taste; they hit just the right balance of sweet and tart, crunchy and soft. Ben and I both love cranberries, and we do eat cranberry sauce by the spoonful, but it’s nice to find another way to eat them. I made them for our New Year’s Day party, and served some on a cheese plate, while putting others with the cookies.

We have just enough left over to toss a couple into a glass of champagne, and then to top tomorrow’s oatmeal — they are a very multipurpose snack!

I used frozen berries, thawed briefly at room temperature on a jelly roll pan. I was short on time so I skipped the second tumble in sugar, and then used that leftover sugar (what didn’t stick on the cranberries) to make lemonade. The leftover simple syrup is in the fridge, awaiting the next round of cocktails.

Here’s the recipe, straight from 101 Cookbooks:

For the simple syrup, raw cane sugar or real brown sugar lends a nice molasses flavor to the cranberries, but regular granulated sugar (or a blend of brown/white) will work.

2 cups cranberries, picked over
2 cups water
2 cups sugar (see head notes)

More sugar for coating: I do a mix of medium-grained organic sugar for the first coating, and then a second toss with regular granulated white sugar. You don’t want a huge grain for that first toss, just something larger than standard sugar, smaller than most turbinado sugars.

Place the cranberries in a medium glass bowl and set aside.

Make a simple syrup by bringing the water and sugar just to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Let the syrup cool for a couple minutes and then pour it over the cranberries. If the syrup is too hot the cranberries will burst, so be careful. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, drain the cranberries and toss them with larger grained sugar until they are well coated. I only use a scoop of sugar at a time, and small batches of cranberries, so the sugar doesn’t get too damp. Place the coated cranberries on a baking sheet to dry for a few hours.

Do a second toss with the regular granulated sugar, this typically takes care of any sticky spots on the cranberries. Let dry another hour.

Makes 2 cups of sparkling cranberries.

Snack Pancakes

by Caroline

Using up leftovers is a rarely an issue in my house, and yet sometimes a recipe looks so good that — even if it’s billed as a way to use up leftovers — I try it out. That’s how I discovered our new favorite winter holiday cookie (the cranberry thumbprint), for which I made an extra batch of cranberry sauce, and now so it is with my new favorite snack pancake.

I don’t know about you, but in our house, pancakes are definitely not just for breakfast. In fact, we frequently rely on extra (or leftover) pancakes as a quick after school snack. This recipe is perfect for that, since it makes a sturdy little pancake that holds up well to snack bags and backpacks, plain or layered with peanut butter and apple slices.

The original recipe calls for cooked quinoa; I regularly cook rice and quinoa together for our dinners, so I used that leftover combination. I expect a cup of plain brown rice would work nicely, too. Also, the original recipe calls for an egg + an egg white, but a single egg yolk is not a leftover I generally use efficiently (egg wash, anyone?) so two whole eggs works just fine, too.

Quinoa Pancakes

1 cup cooked quinoa
3/4 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon course salt
1 large egg, plus 1 large egg white (or 2 eggs)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted, plus more for skillet
1/4 cup lowfat milk
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup, plus more for serving
fresh fruit or fruit preserves (optional) for serving


1. In a medium bowl, whisk together quinoa, flour, baking powder, and salt. In another medium bowl, whisk together egg, egg white, butter, milk, and syrup until smooth. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and whisk to combine.
2. Lightly coat a large nonstick skillet or griddle with butter and heat over medium-high. Drop batter by heaping tablespoonfuls into skillet. Cook until bubbles appear on top, 2 minutes. Flip cakes and cook until golden brown on underside, 2 minutes. Wipe skillet clean and repeat with more melted butter and remaining batter (reduce heat to medium if overbrowning). Serve with maple syrup and fresh fruit or preserves if desired.

Doughnut Muffins

by Caroline

This time of year, seasonal eating is often also holiday eating, as we slide from Halloween through Thanksgiving into Christmas and New Year’s. I want to take each of these in turn, give them their due, and then take a breath before the next one is upon us.

Which is why I love Advent. The liturgical calendar I’ve followed my whole life gives us four weeks of contemplative preparation for Christmas, four weeks of lessons and carols and calm. But, sadly, no specific Advent foods. Advent’s a quiet period, not quite as abstemious as Lent, but still not a big feasting time. And this year, when its first week overlaps with Hanukkah and my boys are coming home from school talking about dreidels and menorahs, it’s been a little hard to keep them focused on our traditions. And who wants to compete with latkes, anyway?

But I think I have hit on the perfect Hanukkahvent (or perhaps Adventukkah) snack: the doughnut muffin. A bath in melted butter and cinnamon sugar gives it the fried crispiness of a latke, but it is baked — not fried — to suit the more temperate Christian holiday. Compromise never tasted so good.

Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
3 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 1/4 cups pure pumpkin puree
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs

For the Sugar Coating
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour 12 standard muffin cups, or line them with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and allspice. In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk and pumpkin puree. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down bowl as needed. With mixer on low, add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with two additions pumpkin mixture, and beat to combine.

Spoon 1/3 cup batter into each muffin cup and bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a muffin comes out clean, 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine granulated sugar and cinnamon.

Let muffins cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Working with one at a time, remove muffins from pan, brush all over with butter, then toss to coat in sugar mixture. Let muffins cool completely on a wire rack. (Store in an airtight container, up to 1 day.)

recipe from Martha Stewart, Everyday Food

Buy Me Some Peanuts and…

Caramel Corn!

by Caroline

As I learned this week, thanks to the intrepid research assistance of friends and family, true Cracker Jack — whether you buy it at the ball park or make it at home to eat while cheering for your team — contains molasses. And while I’m always looking for ways to add iron-rich molasses to our vegetarian diet, I don’t love its flavor, which can dominate a dish. Especially a dish consisting primarily of popcorn.

So, we made caramel corn and it was fabulous. I looked at over a dozen recipes and made two different versions, and based on all that, think this recipe from Smitten Kitchen wins. Many recipes call for corn syrup or Lyle’s Golden Syrup, they call for shortening or margarine; while I do tend to stock those ingredients, I always have a much bigger supply of plain old butter and sugar (and butter just tastes better). Other recipes are fussier about the preparation of the caramel, too, but nothing could be easier than letting it bubble, unstirred, for ten minutes.

I love the addition of cayenne pepper in this recipe, which gives the corn a nice warmth without being too spicy, but if you’re sharing this with the kids, just leave the pepper out. Or, be like me and make two batches.

So here it is, straight from Smitten Kitchen:

Nonstick cooking spray or vegetable oil
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
2 cups salted peanuts (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 to 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (see Note)
3 cups sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher or coarse sea salt (see Note)

Lightly coat two large, heatproof rubber spatulas, a very large mixing bowl and two large baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray or a thin slick of oil.

In a large saucepan or pot with a lid, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the popcorn kernels, cover and keep the saucepan moving until all of the kernels have popped, about 5 minutes. Transfer to the prepared bowl, removing any unpopped kernels. Toss with salted peanuts, if using.

In a small bowl, whisk together the baking soda and cayenne pepper (if using).

Have the two large baking sheets ready. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, salt and 1/2 cup water. Cook over high heat, without stirring, until the mixture becomes a light golden-yellow caramel, 10 to 14 minutes. Remove from the heat and carefully whisk in the baking-soda mixture (the mixture will bubble up).

Immediately pour the caramel mixture over the popcorn and don’t fuss if it doesn’t all come out of the pot — you’ll have plenty. Working quickly and carefully, use the prepared spatulas to toss the caramel and popcorn together, as if you were tossing a salad, until the popcorn is well coated.

Spread the popcorn onto the baking sheets and quickly separate them into small pieces while still warm. Cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes. Once cool, store in an airtight container. More