Friday, December 28, 2012

Jalapeno Cheese Crackers

I contemplated writing a non food post. 

I'm kind of fooded out. 

Christmas was a whirlwind of baking, cooking, driving, ribbons, wrapping, eating, kids running around, unwrapping, laughing, a wee bit of sleeping, more baking, more cooking, more ribbons and wrapping, eating, more kids, more unwrapping, eating again, and maybe just a little more eating.   

I may have eaten more than my share of cookies.  I'm certain I've gained some holiday poundage.  I want to know.  Yet I don't.

The scale can wait a few days.

I'm sure it's no surprise I love baking.  December is by far my biggest baking month of the year.  This year was even a little bigger than usual.  It started with a baking frenzy for December Baking GALS.  The following weekend was dedicated to baking for friends and co-workers (pictures below).  And this past weekend was the final push to bake for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with family. 

Every year I pick several cookies to make.

Clockwise starting in the upper left: Ginger Snaps, Snowball cookies are buried in those bags of powdered sugar in the middle, Red Velvet Crinkles, Jalapeno Cheese Crackers, Linzers and Peppermint Brownies

I have a couple of regulars that make an appearance every year....

Ginger snaps...

And raspberry and lemon linzers... 

Then I try out some new recipes. 

This brownie recipe (double the recipe and bake in a sheet pan) received a holiday twist by spreading melted milk chocolate on top and finishing with crushed candy canes to make a peppermint brownie. 

I made traditional snowballs this year.  If you've ever had trouble getting powdered sugar to stay on these types of cookies, I have tip for you.  This tip comes from my Aunt who is a master cookie maker.  Store the cookies overnight in a bag full of powdered sugar.  The cookie soaks in the powdered sugar and you will not have the problem of disappearing powdered sugar ever again!  It's kind of genius.

Red velvet crinkles were a new addition as well.  They turned out nice and chewy and were easy to make as they started with a boxed cake mix.  I just love that dusting of powdered sugar on top with the deep red cookie peeking through.  But next time I want to take it up level and try Two Peas and Their Pod's red velvet cheesecake cookies.  Check them out.  They look seriously sinful.

And lastly, to mix things up, for the first time, I threw in a savory "cookie" of sorts.  Jalapeno cheese crackers.  These are easy to make slice and bake crackers.

Of the new additions to the holiday baking roster this year, the jalapeno crackers were pretty popular.  I received a few comments from girlfriends, saying their male counterparts really enjoyed them.  A salty spicy treat is a nice departure from the sea of sweetness that takes over the holidays.  Don't get me wrong, I love the sea of sweetness.  But these spiced crackers will be a very strong contender for next year's holiday round up. 

The recipe comes from Ina Garten's latest cookbook, Foolproof.  Or perhaps I should clarify that the base for this recipe comes from Ina's new book.  I adapted it a bit.  Initially I followed the recipe pretty darn closely.  The only change was using regular chili powder in place of chipotle chili powder.  The first go round I found the jalapeno and spice to be on the light side.  I made a couple more batches and tweaked it along the way.  The version I settled on has double the jalapeno, double the chili powder and the addition of cayenne for an extra kick.  Oh, and I decided a little extra cheese couldn't hurt either. 

These cheesy spicy crackers would make a perfect snack for your New Year's menu.  Any fun plans to ring in the new year?  Hubby and I will be enjoying a quiet New Year's Eve at home.  Mostly because Hubby is under the weather and on antibiotics so that means no drinking.  For him anyway! 

If we don't talk before the year closes, I hope you have a very HAPPY NEW YEAR!


Jalapeno Cheese Crackers
Adapted from Ina Garten's Foolproof Jalapeno Cheddar Crackers

I added additional cheese, jalapeno, chili powder and cayenne to Ina's original recipe.

2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
4 ounces extra sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
2 ounces gruyere cheese, grated
2 heaping tablespoons finely minced seeded jalapenos
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons ice water

For topping:
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk
Fleur de sel

In a food processor pulse flour, kosher salt and baking powder.  Add butter pieces and pulse again until the mixture is a coarse meal.  Add cheese, jalapeno, chili powder and cayenne and pulse again until just combined.  With food processor on, add ice water all at once and continue to process until the dough forms a ball. 

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Roll into a log about 14 inches long.  Wrap tightly in parchment or plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Slice the log into 1/4 to 3/8 inch discs and place on parchment leaving about 1/4 - 1/2 inch space between crackers.  Brush crackers with egg wash and sprinkle with fleur de sel to taste.

Bake for about 12-15 minutes until golden brown.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Gingerbread White Chocolate Blondies and an Operation Baking GALS Christmas

The countdown is on!  Christmas is exactly one week away.  And I am definitely not ready.  I've done about 70% of my shopping and hoping to finish the rest up during the week nights...cause I have a feeling the malls and stores are going to be insane next weekend for that final Christmas push.

Things have been a bit insane around here.  The last two weekends have been completely dedicated to non stop baking (more on the last weekend's baking extravaganza in a future post).  The baking marathon started on Friday, December 7th with dough preparation.  Followed by baking all day December 8th and half day December 9th.  On the 9th, fifteen family and friends came over to our house in the afternoon with their own baked goodies so we could pack up boxes for the two recipients I signed up to bake for for this month's Operation Baking GALS

If you haven't heard of the Baking GALS, it's a group of volunteer bakers who bake and ship goodies to military deployed overseas once a month.  I've been participating since May of this year and I absolutely love it.  I typically sign up to send to one recipient each month and usually send one large flat rate priority mail box from the post office... 

But since December is Christmastime I figured I would up my game and recruit my friends and family to help bake for the two troops I signed up for.  It must be especially hard to be away from home during the holidays so it was our goal to bring them some home baked goodness and holiday cheer. 

I have to say my friends and family rock!  They amazed me with everything they contributed.  I wasn't sure how many boxes we could fill, but I was hoping for 6 (3 for each recipient).  If you're wondering what one person would do with that many treats...don't worry, they don't have to eat them all by themselves.  Each recipient shares the goodies with all the troops in their units (our recipients have 50-100 people in each of their units). 

Apparently I completely under estimated my crew because we filled more than twice as many boxes as I hoped....we did a total of 14 boxes!  Wow!  It was beyond awesome!

Since I've never done this on a mass scale, I wasn't sure how it was all going to come together.  Especially since we have a fairly small home and not a lot of space.  There was a little chaos trying to get our assembly line organized, but we made it work and everything came together in just a couple of hours. 

Each person brought their goodies, already baked, along with some non baked items, like individual snack size bags of nuts to help fill spaces in the boxes.  The shipping is a flat rate, so we pack in as much as possible.

Here's a re-cap of the baked goodies everyone contributed:

Walnut Fudge
Peanut Butter Cookies (two kinds)
Raisin Walnut Spice Cookies
Chewy Chocolate Cookies with Peanut Butter Chips
Peppermint Brownies
Molasses and Ginger Cookies (several types)
Nieman Marcus Cookies
Pumpkin Bread
Zucchini Bread
Chocolate Zucchini Bread
Cookie Dough Fudge
Oatmeal Cookies
Gingerbread White Chocolate Blondies 

People also donated plenty of non baked items to help fill the boxes....such as pistachios, beef jerky, mixed nuts, pretzels, coffee, cup of noodles, card games, magazines, See's peanut brittle and 150 See's candy suckers.  My mom, niece and nephew and a few others, tied red, white and blue curling ribbon on each and every sucker.  We used them to fill up nooks and crannies and it really brought a festive touch to the boxes.

Here are pictures from Operation Baking GALS Christmas.
Friends and family packing up cookies

Mom and my niece and nephew tying red, white and blue ribbons on 150 See's suckers
(notice the guys supervising while watching football)

The goodies are stacking up!

My Grandma!  She made these adorable (and delicious) little strawberry santas for us to snack on.
Check out the goodies!  We included some cards and notes for the troops.
All the boxes around the Christmas tree ready to be taped up!

See.  My friends and family rock!  I've already gotten a few requests to make this an annual tradition.  I'm totally in!

Thank you to everyone who helped with the
Operation Baking GALS Christmas edition. 

Oh, and I suppose I should tell you a little about the blondies. 

I've sent these to the troops in the past and they maintain freshness for the week plus traveling time it takes for a box to arrive overseas.  The molasses is what keeps them so moist.  They remind me of a chewy ginger snap dotted with sweet white chocolate.  They bake in large sheet pan.  I turned the giant blondie out on to the bottom of another sheet placed on top and then inverted and inverted again onto a large cutting board.  Once it's out I cut individual squares using a square cookie cutter.  I find that my knife skills trying to maintain even straight lines are pretty horrible.  Luckily the cookie cutter ensures a perfect size every time.

These are easy to make and have that spiced flavor I'm looking for around the holidays.  Definitely a keeper.


Gingerbread White Chocolate Blondies
from Martha Stewart Cookies

2 3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup unsulfured molasses
1 3/4 cup coarsely chopped white chocolate (10 ounces) - I used 12 ounces white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350.  Spray a 12x17 rimmed baking sheet with non stick cooking spray.  Line bottom of the pan with parchment paper and spray the parchment with non stick cooking spray (to make a sling for easy removal, allow parchment to hang over the ends of the pan). 

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves together until evenly distributed. 

In the bowl of an electric mixture fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter and both sugars on medium-high speed until creamy and pale (about 3 minutes).  Turn mixer to low and add eggs and yolk one at a time until fully combined, scraping down bowl as needed.  Add vanilla and molasses until combined.  With mixer on low add the flour mixture in 3 batches until combined.   Stir in white chocolate.

Pour batter into the baking sheet and spread evenly using an offset spatula.  Bake for 25 minutes until golden brown on the edges. Cool fully in the baking sheet. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Cranberry Orange Almond Biscotti

The cranberry craze continues here.  First it was cranberry preserves, then salad with cranberry and other delicious ingredients, and now biscotti.

What are your thoughts on biscotti?  Love it?  Hate it?  Never thought much about it? 

Historically I've turned my nose up to biscotti.  I always viewed them as boring...and a little too crunchy for my taste.  I tried my first homemade biscotti a couple of years ago as part of the Sweet Melissa Baking group.  I was pleasantly surprised that I did in fact like these little cookies.  For the record, I prefer my biscotti to be a little on the soft side.  Meaning, not super crunchy/hard.  It's all about the second bake time.  I under bake mine a bit to avoid an uber hard biscotti. 

Now don't go comparing biscotti to a piece of cake or your favorite fudgy brownie.  To fully appreciate biscotti you have to put them in their own category.  It's a great snack or light breakfast.  What I like is that it's not overly sweet, but is still enough to satisfy my sweet tooth.  And no, you don't have to be a coffee drinker to like biscotti.  Though I will say it's really perfect with a hot cup of tea if you're into that.

I made this batch of biscotti to send off for November's Operation Baking GALS (where volunteer bakers send home baked goodies to military stationed overseas).  And I'm gearing up to make it again this weekend for December's OBG since it travels so well.  I'm pretty jazzed about this round of OBG because it's Christmas.  On Sunday a few friends and family are gathering at my house with their baked goods and we are going to pack up boxes to send two recipients stationed in Afghanistan.  I'm really excited to see how many boxes we can put together to bring a little Christmas cheer to the military personnel who sacrifice so much for us all.  I'll be posting more on our baking party next week. :)

In the meantime, if you haven't tried biscotti you might want to give them a shot.  And biscotti makes a nice homemade holiday gift if you're looking for ideas.  


Cranberry Orange Almond Biscotti
Adapted from Sweet Melissa Baking Book

1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
Zest of 2 oranges
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup whole blanched almonds, roughly chopped

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or foil.  In a small saucepan, heat the orange juice and cranberries and bring to a simmer.  Cover and remove heat, allowing the cranberries to reconstitute in the orange juice.

In a medium bowl whisk flour and baking powder and set aside. 

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, zest, and salt until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing fully after each addition.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add the vanilla, almond and orange extracts and mix until combined.

Add flour mixture to wet mixture in 3 additions, with the mixer on low speed.  Drain the cranberries and discard the juice.  Stir the cranberries and almonds into the dough.  Turn dough out onto plastic wrap and flatten.  Refrigerate until firm, about an hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface and divide in half.  Roll each half into a log, patting and shaping it until you reach 14 inches.  Place the logs on the prepared baking sheet, about 4 inches apart. 

Bake for 30 minutes, until lightly golden and slightly firm.  Remove from oven and place the baking sheet on a wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 275 degrees.  Transfer the logs to cutting board and cut the logs into 3/4 inch sticks at 45 degree angle.  Transfer the cookies to a freshly lined cookie sheet, cut side up.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Turn cookies over, exposing the other cut side and return to oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes.  If you want a really crunchy cookie, bake for a total of 60 minutes.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Apple, Cranberry, Feta Salad with Candied Pecans

We put up our Christmas tree this weekend.  It's a fake tree.  My first fake tree.  Turns out Hubby is allergic to real trees and was pretty much miserable last year.  I was kind of bummed that we had to go the artificial route.  I've had real trees my whole life.

But you know what? 

Our fake tree is AWESOME. 

It's easy to assemble.
It's pre-lit with 500 lights so no need for me to spend hours stringing lights.
It fits perfectly into the small space we have to put a tree. 
It doesn't make a mess leaving dead needles everywhere. 
It doesn't need to be watered.
The branches bend so you can arrange your ornaments to hang just how you like them.
And, it looks real!

Now all I have to do is get a Christmas tree scented candle and I'll have my tree smell too.  A small trade off.

Even though we already have our tree up, I'm a bit discombobulated with the timing of the holidays this year.  Thanksgiving felt like it came early which has subsequently thrown everything else off.  This is definitely the earliest we've had a tree up and running.  And I felt a totally panicked last week that we hadn't even thought about holiday shopping, even though it's completely normal for us to wait until early December to start.  But it's all good and I'm going with the flow and enjoying the season. 

In the spirit of the holidays, I've embraced an ingredient somewhat new to me this year.  The cranberry.  Cranberries have an extreme tartness that has turned me off in the past.  The turning point started with the Can It Up challenge for November--where I had the task to can something using cranberries.  It was my first time using fresh cranberries and I made these cranberry orange preserves.  It was a big success.  And it seems like it's been a flurry of cranberry ever since. 

Starting with this salad.  I'm loving this salad.  Normally when I make salad at home, 99% of the time it's the basic garden variety type--lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onion, peppers, maybe a mushroom or two.  But when I go to a restaurant, I always order the non garden variety type.   Like salad with fruit, nuts, beets, a little goat cheese or blue cheese.  I'm not really sure why I rarely make this type of salad at home.  No need to dwell in the past though.  I've made this salad no less than 3 times in a week.  Even Hubby is eating it (a modified version anyway).  It's sweet, it's tart, it's crunchy, it's salty.  It's yummy.  It's fall on a plate.

This salad would be a great side dish to a holiday meal, or to savor any day of the week as your lunch.  This is more of an ingredient list than a recipe.  Tweak it and make it your own. 

Happy holidays!


Apple, Cranberry, Feta Salad with Candied Pecans

Lettuce (such as spring mix, butter lettuce or romaine)
Apples, thinly sliced (I used honey crisp)
Dried cranberries
Feta cheese
Green onions, thinly sliced
Salted candied pecans
Your favorite vinaigrette (such as balsamic)

Put it all together and voila!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Cranberry Orange Preserves

Thanksgiving went by way too fast....Hubby and I arrived at Grandma's house on Tuesday night, with our cat Oliver in tow, ready to get up first thing on Wednesday morning for a full day of preparation to begin.  My cousin was also there to help so it was all hands on deck.  We...
  • made 6 pies--1 apple, 1 pecan and 4 pumpkin
  • made 3 salads--blueberry jello salad, 7 layer salad and prepped fruit salad with whipped cream and marshmallows to be put together the next day
  • made the base and topping for sweet potato casserole and traditional sweet potatoes with marshmallows, also ready for assembly the next day
  • peeled potatoes for mashed potatoes (and vacuum sealed them in a little water so they would be ready to go the next day--I love the idea of vacuum sealing them so you can avoid all that potato prep on Thanksgiving day when you are busy with a 1000 other things)
  • made 2 big pans of cinnamon rolls to be baked early Thanksgiving morning (looks like this one might be a new tradition)

Grandma had also done some serious prep before we got there...she made all the pie crusts and froze them (including making crust for turkey pot pies to be made from leftovers) and chopping all the veggies for the stuffing and the relish/veggie tray.  Not to mention all the shopping of course.  Grandma's been hosting Thanksgiving for a while now and has it all down to a science.  She makes it look so easy to pull together all these dishes, along with a traditional turkey (and a ham), for 20 people all by 1pm!  We eat early which means we have room for "second dinner" in the early evening where everyone is already anxious to break out the leftovers.  Yum.   

One of the treats that graced the Thanksgiving table this year were these cranberry orange preserves.  It was my first time working with fresh cranberries and I wasn't sure how the preserves would come out.  I'm happy to say my fears were unfounded and it was a big hit at the Thanksgiving table.  Even my 10 year old nephew couldn't stop talking about how much he liked the preserves.  It was really a nice accompaniment to the turkey and has officially turned me into a cranberry believer.  I gave away 6 of 7 jars to family members (had to keep one for myself so I could share it with you all!).

The inspiration for these preserves was Hima's Can It Up project over at All Four Burners.  Each month Hima announces an ingredient and all who are interested make a recipe featuring that ingredient that can be water bath canned.  Without Hima's pick of cranberries for November, I'm not so sure I would have taken the cranberry plunge.  Cranberries in the raw are extremely tart and somewhat bitter so I've always been hesitant to use them.  But I'm so glad I looked past that.  A little sugar (okay, a lot of sugar) and some other fruit transform these tart rubies into something really special.  So if you have a cranberry phobia, I encourage you to give these little beauties a try.  It would make a nice addition to your Christmas menu. 

I have a sneaking feeling these preserves will become another new Thanksgiving tradition right alongside those cinnamon rolls.


Cranberry Orange Preserves
from The Ginger Snap Girl

6 cups whole fresh cranberries
4 cups apples, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces (I used honeycrisp, but you could use any combination)
2/3 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
2/3 cup water
4 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Zest of 2 oranges (about 1 packed full tablespoon)

Add all ingredients to a large pot and cook on medium, stirring frequently, until the mixture simmers.  Turn the heat to medium low and continue cooking until fruit is very soft and slightly thickened (this took about 20-30 minutes for me).  I like my preserves to have a smooth texture, so I used an immersion blender to puree the mixture prior to canning.  To check if your preserves have reached the right consistency, spoon a dollop onto a small plate and place the plate in the freezer for a couple of minutes.  Remove the plate from the freezer and turn it on its side.  If the preserves slide right down and look runny, you probably want to continue cooking.  If they hold their shape and only slide a little, you're good to go. 

To can your preserves, prepare jars, lids and rings by washing them with hot soapy water and rinse thoroughly.  Once you start cooking your preserves, fill a pot with enough water to fully submerge all the jars and turn heat to high (note I use the same pot for preheating the jars as I do for the actual water bath).  Heating the jars allows you to ladle in the hot preserves without cracking the jars.  In small pan also heat your lids.  Have a clean ladle and tongs ready.  Once your preserves are done cooking, remove a jar from the hot water with your tongs and drain excess water.  Hold the jar with a kitchen towel while you ladle in the preserves.  Fill jars leaving a 1/4 inch of head space.  Use your tongs to carefully lift a lid out of the hot water and place it on top of the jar.  Screw on the outer ring until firmly snug, but not too tight.  Set aside on a clean kitchen towel and repeat the process, filling all your jars.  Bring your canning pot of water up to a boil and submerge each jar in the water using tongs.  Make sure jars are covered by at least 2 inches of water.  Boil for 10 minutes.  Remove jars from water and set on a kitchen towel to rest, undisturbed for 24 hours. 

Makes 7 half pint jars

Monday, November 19, 2012

Salted Candied Pecans

Are you ready for Thanksgiving?  I can't believe it's just a few days away.  This year Hubby and I are going to my Grandparents house for the big feast, as we do most years.  And like last year, we are going up a day and half early to help Grandma prepare the big meal.  I'm super excited as there are few things I'd rather do than spend the entire day cooking and baking with my Grandma.  I'm already getting hungry thinking about some of my favorite dishes. 

While I have to wait a few more days for Turkey Day, I'm enjoying the flavors of the holiday now with these salted candied pecans.  I found this recipe on Desiree's blog, Steak N Potatoes Kinda Gurl--my blog assignment for this month's installment of Secret Recipe Club.  I always look forward to Secret Recipe Club so I can get to know a new blog.  I enjoyed scouring Desiree's blog and of course found several things that sounded really good.  Including a cranberry gorgonzola salad and lemon sour cream pie.  Then I came across the pecans and thought they would be delicious in a variation on Desiree's cranberry gorgonzola salad (more on this below).  And for the record, they were delicious in that salad.  But you'll have to wait a few days for the post.  Today it's all about the pecans.

I have made one other candied pecan recipe which calls for baking the pecans...resulting in a stick in your teeth kind of candied nut.  This recipe prepares the pecans on the stove top and the outcome is really more like a piece of candy vs a nut.  It's really crunchy with sweet warm flavors.  The lightly crystallized sugar coating (without being sticky) makes these so amazingly delicious.  I couldn't keep my hands off them...they just kept popping in my mouth.  Hubby likes them too.  Good thing I doubled the recipe.  I definitely prefer the stovetop method and will be adding this recipe to the keeper list. 

There's a hint of cinnamon, which gives them a little extra something special.  They pair beautifully with that variation on Desiree's salad I mentioned.  I'm calling it a harvest salad--romaine lettuce, honey crisp apple slices, dried cranberries, sliced green onions, feta crumbles and crunchy salted candied pecans finished with a balsamic vinaigrette. Or these sweet beauties could easily top a number of fall inspired desserts or sit out in a bowl for your Thanksgiving day guests to munch on.  But be warned, they are addictive so I'm pretty sure the bowl wouldn't be full for long.


Salted Candied Pecans
from Steak N Potatoes Kinda Gurl

1 cup whole unsalted raw pecan halves
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Add pecans, sugar and water to a medium to large heavy bottomed bottom pan over medium heat.  When sugar dissolves, begin stirring.  Continue cooking, stirring often, until sugar becomes crystallized (looks like raw brown sugar). 

Turn heat to medium low and allow the crystallized sugar to melt and lightly brown on the bottom of the pan.  Use a heat proof rubber spatula to spoon the liquid over the pecans to coat them.  Once pecans are coated (quite a bit of crystallized sugar will remain), sprinkle on salt and cinnamon and stir a few times to evenly distribute. 

Transfer nuts in a single layer to a silpat (or parchment paper) lined baking sheet and allow to completely cool. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Turkey and Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie

So the dieting isn't going so well.  Remember my simple calorie counting strategy?  Apparently it would actually help if I was actually counting (and logging) my calories.  Like everyday.  Turns out estimating calories in my head is probably not very accurate.  Since October 1st I've lost 3 pounds and gained back 2.  Not quite the results I hoped for.  Time to refocus. 

I'll be getting some healthy inspiration from my best friend Crystal's new blog, Both HalvesCrystal and I go way back.  We have been BFF's since our sophomore year in high school.  Back in the day we both used massive quantities of hairspray and may have been known to coordinate outfits on occasion.  Though we've pretty much abandoned hairspray and no longer wear matching outfits, we do have a common love of food, and more specifically, baking.

Crystal has been baking and blogging with me for the past year and half with Club:Baked.  She recently gave her blog a complete makeover and really focused her point of view.  Both Halves is about embracing and balancing a love of traditional desserts with a love of healthy clean eating.  The mast head on her blog says it all...3 beautifully stacked blocks of butter on the left and a bundle of fresh mint on the right.  She's posting raw (vegan) desserts that definitely intrigue me (an area I have a lot to learn in).  Like this totally unbaked Raspberry Ganache Fudge Cake.  Hello chocolate.  Desserts aren't the only thing on the blog menu.  I also have my eye on this healthy Italian Rabe recipe and I'm looking forward to more inspiration from my girl! 

Believe it or not today's recipe is pretty healthy, despite the fact it comes from Paula Deen (no offense Paula).  It's a Thanksgiving take on Shepherd's Pie.  The bottom layer is ground turkey, carrots, parsnips, celery and onion surrounded by a sauce of chicken stock, tomato paste and a bit of flour to thicken it.  The top is a light fluffy sweet potato mash.  It's a nice pre-cursor for the flavors to come in just a week and half when Thanksgiving arrives.  Which I can't wait for by the way.

This dish can be made ahead and baked when you are ready to eat.  It serves 8 so there are plenty for leftovers for us.


Turkey and Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie
adapted from Paula Deen

Serves 8

3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 1/2 pounds of sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed (1-1 1/2 inches)
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
1 parsnip, peeled and diced
1 large onion, diced
2 tablespoons of freshly chopped thyme
2 tablespoons of freshly chopped rosemary
1 pound of ground turkey (Paula uses 2 lbs)
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons of flour
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
4 ounces of softened cream cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 10 ounce bag of frozen peas

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.

Place cut sweet potatoes in a medium sauce pan and cover with cold water and add salt to taste.  Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer for 15-20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of butter and olive oil.  Add carrots, celery, parsnips and onions and cook for about 8 minutes or until vegetables are tender.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add ground turkey and cook until lightly browned and cooked through.  Season generously with salt and pepper.  Stir in tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, flour and chicken broth and cook for 5 minutes or until sauce thickens.  Add frozen peas and stir.

Meanwhile, drain the water from the potatoes and add to a large bowl.  Add in cream cheese and remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and use a hand mixer to turn the sweet potatoes into a mash.  Add some of the hot potato mixture into the eggs, to temper the eggs so the hot mixture doesn't scramble them.  Season with salt and pepper.

Place meat mixture in the bottom of your prepared baking dish.  Evenly spread sweet potatoes over the meat mixture.  Place the dish on a baking sheet and bake for 35-45 minutes or until shepherds pie is bubbling and top is lightly golden.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Oreo Caramel Apple

Dang, I'm kind of on a roll.  Posting four times in two weeks.  Gettin all crazy. 

I hope that I haven't just jinxed myself. 


I know lots of you are saying the same thing.  Where did October go?  How can Halloween be a few days away?  It never ceases to amaze me how fast it all goes.  Even though I'm not quite sure how October snuck up on me, I'm happy for the change of weather.  Though again, it's in the 80's much of this week here in my corner of So Cal.  But at least our nights get cool enough to snuggle under our down comforter.

I was browsing through my food photos and realized I had a perfect October treat to post.  I actually made this caramel apple several months ago and then of course forgot all about it.  If you're looking for a fun goodie to make for Halloween or just to enjoy any day of the week, you can get very creative with caramel apples. 

Have you ever been to Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory?  They are famous for their vast selection of dressed up caramel apples.  They have creations such as apple pie caramel apples, to Oreo caramel apples and peanut butter cup caramel apples, to name a few.  I haven't met an apple from Rocky Mountain I didn't like.  

Making your own caramel apple at home is easy to do.  Because you have to melt a fair amount of caramel and candy coating, I recommend making several apples at one time.  I only made two, which meant some of my ingredients went to waste. 

You can also give a fancy-fied caramel apple as a gift.  Place a fully set apple in a clear treat bag (from Michaels) and tie off with a festive ribbon.  But save one for yourself.  Because they are delcious!  And look at it this way.  Indulging in a cookie coated, caramel apple is better than eating a plain old cookie or candy bar.  The apple part makes this totally okay to eat...practically a healthy dessert. 


No, really. 

Maybe.  :)


Oreo Caramel Apple
This is more of an ingredient list than an exact recipe. 

Granny Smith apples
Caramel candies (or make your own caramel)
Vanilla candy coating (or melted white chocolate)
Crushed Oreo cookies
Lollilop sticks

Crush Oreos in a sealed zip top bag using a mallet or rolling pin and place crushed cookies in a pie plate and set aside.  Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.  Remove stem from apple and insert lollipop stick 1/3 of way into apple.  Melt caramel candies (or make your own).  Dip apple in caramel and twirl around until evenly coated, leaving some green apple showing.  Allow excess to drip off and then place on prepared baking sheet and allow to set about 20-30 minutes. 

Make sure your crushed Oreos are handy.  Then melt vanilla candy coating (or white chocolate) and dip apple while still allowing caramel layer to show.  Place apple in the cookie filled pie plate and using your hands pat a generous amount crushed Oreos into the vanilla layer while still allowing vanilla layer to still show.  Some of the cookies will fall off but just keep packing them back on and patting them into the coating.  Return to parchment paper and allow to set.  You can place in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to set quicker.  Don't refrigerate for too long or the apple will sweat.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Chai Tea

I'm loving the flavors of fall.  I can't seem to get enough pumpkin and apple at the moment.  I just had the best dessert tonight (ya, ya, I know I'm supposed to be dieting....I will gladly save calories for this anytime!).  What was so yummy?  Hubs and I went to Yogurtland and they had pumpkin pie and cinnamon graham cracker frozen yogurt flavors.  Together these two are absolutely heavenly.  A Yogurtland first for us...Hubby and I actually got the same flavors of yogurt.  This has never ever happened before.  Our tastes are typically on opposite sides of the dessert spectrum.  But I guess pumpkin is our meet in the middle treat. 

Now I'm in the mood for a real pumpkin pie with perhaps a cinnamon graham cracker crust?  I'll have to work on that.

In the meantime, this chai tea is satisfying my fall cravings.

It's Secret Recipe Club time!  For those of you haven't heard about Secret Recipe Club, it's a great group of bloggers who get assigned another person's blog each month and it's a "secret".  You stalk the person's blog you were assigned in search of recipe to make and post about.  All the participants "reveal" their secret blog on the same day and time.  It's a lot of fun and is a great way to get know new blogs and find some pretty amazing recipes.  If you're interested in joining, check out the SRC site.

This month I was assigned Aimee's blog, from Chapel Hill to Chickenville.  Aimee's a wife and busy mom to four little ones.  She graduated college from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and after a few years in the hotel business and sojourn to Australia, she met her hubby and settled down in what she likes to call Chickenville.  She really does have a brood of hens in Chickenville!  Which is pretty cool.  When Aimee's not homeschooling or tending to chickens she loves to make magic in her kitchen.  Her blog is filled with a variety of delicious looking recipes and it was difficult to choose just one.  I had my sites on a scrumptious pecan pie, a light, airy pavlova and spiced pumpkin soup

Sticking with the fall flavors I finally decided on chai tea.  Chai tea lattes are one of the few drinks I order on the rare occasions I end up at a Starbucks.  And I love it.  Chai is all about the spices.  The spices seem to vary by recipe, but common flavors you will see are cinnamon, cloves, ginger, cardamom and peppercorns.  Mix in a little tea, sugar and milk and you have a hot spiced drink that gives you a big warm hug when you sip it.  I made a feeble attempt at making chai tea at home once a while back.  I bought chai tea bags and followed the directions on the package, which includes adding milk.  The final product was really not even drinkable.   So when I saw a chai recipe on Aimee's blog I knew I wanted to give this spiced beverage another shot.

Thankfully this go round was a huge success! 

It's creamy, it's sweet and perfectly spiced.  The recipe is a chai concentrate that you store in the fridge and then add milk and heat when you want to enjoy a cup.  I halved the recipe below (since Hubby won't help me drink it)...and made a few modifications.  I added in a vanilla bean.  This could easily be omitted.  Aimee's recipe called for star anise and instead I added a new ingredient which I just ordered online, called pumpkin powder.  The pumpkin flavor is very mild and very much in the background.  You could easily omit this as well or add in any of your own favorite spices.  The last change I made was to use ground cardamom instead of cardamom pods since that's what I had on hand.  I was very happy with the final spice blend.

The coolest part about Aimee's recipe is she also makes this to give as gifts.  Simply package up all the dry ingredients in a mason jar, write up instructions on how to make the tea and finish by dressing it up with a little fabric or ribbon (head to Chickenville for Aimee's packaging tips).  Such a great idea!  Thanks Aimee.


Chai Tea
Adapted from Chapel Hill to Chickenville

1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cardamom (or two teaspoons of green cardamom pods)
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon pumpkin powder (optional--not in the original recipe)
1 vanilla bean (not in the original recipe)
6 cups water
10 black tea bags
1 cup sugar
2 additional cups water
Milk (I used skim)

Split vanilla bean down the middle with a sharp knife and scrape out seeds.  Combine all ingredients (including vanilla bean pod and seeds) up through 6 cups of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil,, stirring occasionally.  Turn heat to low and add the tea bags.  Steep tea bags for 10-15 minutes.  Remove the tea bags and add sugar, stirring until dissolved, about 2-3 minutes.  Add remaining two cups of water and stir.  Pour chai concentrate through a fine mesh sieve and discard spice residue and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  Note you can save the vanilla bean for use in vanilla sugar.

To make tea, add the concentrate to your cup or mug, filling until halfway full.  Fill remainder of the cup with milk and microwave until hot.  Or place a 50/50 mixture of milk and chai concentrate in a small saucepan and heat on stove. 

Note: To make chai mix as a gift head over to Aimee's blog and get her tips to package this up for giving.  Note, if you want to use a vanilla bean in a chai mix gift, just split the bean down the middle and nestle it into the sugar, fully covered.  The vanilla flavor will permeate the sugar.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Caramel Apple Jam

Do you follow Sugar Crafter's blog?  If you don't, you should.  Tracy has all kinds of great recipes, including a number of homemade jams and preserves.  In fact, she has turned her love of canning into a business and sells her unique jams and preserves at local farmer's markets.  That's pretty cool! 

I was browsing Tracy's blog recently and came across these stunning Brandied Apple Preserves.  Apple pie filling anyone?  Yes, please.  When I read through her post, I found her delicious looking preserves were inspired by a new monthly canning project that kicks off this month called Can It Up, founded by Hima at All Four Burners.  I'm totally in! 

I became enamored of canning after my first go at it.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again...It's so completely satisfying to not only make your own homemade jam, but to preserve it to give as gifts or just always have on hand.  I LOVE it. 

The first time I canned preserves I was nervous as heck.  I downloaded the Ball guide to canning from the web and read it through about 10 times.  It seemed like a lot of steps and a bit overwhelming.  The hardest part that first time around was timing everything and juggling multiple pots on my stove top.  But after one go round, it wasn't so intimidating anymore. 

Here's the gist...

1. Clean jars and lids (don't re-use lids...jars and outer bands can be re-used, but buy new lids).
2. Heat jars and lids so the jars don't crack when you ladle in hot jam.
3. Make jam.
4. Fill jars leaving about 1/4 inch space at the top, wipe the tops clean with clean towel or paper towel, put on the lid and screw on the outer band.
5. Repeat step 4 until all jars are filled.
6. Place hot jars in a boiling water bath, fully submerged, and boil for the amount time indicated for the type of product you are canning.  Most fruit jams/preserves take 10 minutes. 
7.  Remove processed jars from water bath and allow to cool on a kitchen towel on your counter for 24 hours, undisturbed.
8. Voila, jam!

I don't own special canning equipment (no canning pot or rack, no wide mouthed funnel, no canning tongs, no magnetic lid lifter).  I use my multi-pot to both heat the jars (step 2) and process the filled jars (step 6).  In my early canning endeavors I used a separate pot for heating the jars and processing the jars, but then figured out it I could do it all in one pot.  I use non stick kitchen tongs to lift the jars out of the hot water and then a doubled up kitchen towel to hold the hot jar while I use a small ladle to fill up the jar with hot jam.  I use my tongs to grab a lid out of the hot water and gently place it on top of the jar and then screw on the outer band.  Once all the jars are filled, I remove the strainer portion of my multi-pot and place the jars in the strainer (using a kitchen towel...since they are hot).  I lower the strainer into the boiling water and process. It really is easy.

October's Can It Up ingredient?  Apples of course! 

Now the big question, what to make?  I made apple butter in my slow cooker last year so I wanted to do something different.  I ran across a few recipes for caramel apple jam and I knew that's the direction I wanted to go.  I saw several recipes that called for a mix of brown sugar and white sugar, reporting that the brown sugar added a caramel taste to the jam.  These recipes also included spices, like cinnamon and nutmeg.  I read some comments that said the caramel flavor was hard to detect and that technically caramel apples don't traditionally have spices in them.  So I continued my search and found this recipe over at Hitchhiking to Heaven (another blogger with a love of canning!).  What drew me in was the recipe called for actually making caramel and then adding in the apple.  It had no spices, unless you count vanilla, and the recipe was pure caramel and apple.

I'm pretty darn happy with the end product.  The one comment/note I will change for next time is to let my caramel become a deeper golden caramel color before removing it from the heat.  I was nervous the caramel would get too dark or burn so I removed it from the heat a touch early.  I feel like the caramel flavor isn't quite as prevalent as I would like, though it's definitely there in the background.  I don't miss the spices and even without them, this jam is reminiscent of apple pie goodness. A wonderful fall dress up your toast, use in a crumble bar or cookie filling or to give as a gift!  I have 5 jars left to share with friends or family.  So if you'd like to drop by and pick one up, it's all yours!

If you want to get in on the apple canning action, you have until October 31st to link up over at Hima's site.  I'm looking forward to seeing what November's ingredient will be.


Caramel Apple Jam
from Hitchhiking to Heaven

5 cups unsweetned applesauce (make your own starting with 3 1/2 pounds of apples and about 1/2 cup water) - I used a mix of granny smith, fuji, pink lady and honeycrisp
3 1/2 cups of sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (I didn't have a vanilla bean so I stirred in 1 tablespoon of pure vanilla extract at the end)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons dark rum (I omitted)

If you are making your own applesauce, start by peeling and coring apples and cut in to slices (about 1/4 - 1/2 inch).  Place apples in a large sauce pan with water (about 1/2 cup) and bring to a simmer with the lid on for about 20 minutes, until apples are tender.  Use an immersion blender (or a food mill) and puree the apples into applesauce.

Prepare your jars and lids.  Start by placing clean jars submerged in a pot of water, and bring to a near boil or until very hot.  Heat clean lids in a small saucepan of water.

Make the caramel.  Take a large clean pot (at least 7 quarts) and evenly scatter 1 1/2 cups of sugar over the bottom of the pan (you want to add it evenly because you will not be stirring the mixture).  Add 1/2 cup of water and lemon juice and bring to a slow boil, adjusting the heat as necessary.  Do not stir.  Keep a close eye on this as it turns from a clear syrup to caramel when you turn your back (the whole process took about 15-20 min for me).   When the syrup turns a golden caramel color, remove the pan from the heat. 

While the sugar is caramelizing, combine remaining 1 1/2 cups of sugar and sea salt in a medium bowl, stirring to combine.  If using a vanilla bean, split the bean lengthwise with a paring knife and scrape out the seeds.  Place the seeds and the pod into the sugar mixture and set the sugar mixture aside.

When the caramel is the color you want it, add in the applesauce, the sugar/salt/vanilla bean mixture (pod and all) and stir to combine over medium/low heat.  Once the sugar is dissolved, bring the jam to a boil and stir continuously for 8-10 minutes, or until jam thickens. This jam sputters and splatters quite a bit, but the continuous stirring prevents it from getting too violent.  Hot jam hurts!  You can test jam by placing a small dollop on a plate and placing it in the freezer for a couple of minutes.  If the jam easily slides off the plate when you tip on it's side, it's not quite ready. 

Once jam is done, turn off the heat and remove vanilla bean.  Stir in rum.  Remove a hot jar from your water bath (I use non stick tongs) and ladle jam into the jar, leaving 1/4 inch of head space at the top.   Using a clean damp paper towel, wipe away any excess from the edge of the jar.  Place a hot lid on top and screw on outer band. 

Process finished jars (completely submerged) in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  Remove from bath and allow jars to cool undisturbed for 24 hours. 

Makes 6 half pint jars.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Benihana Ginger Dressing

It's been a while. 

Let's catch up.

*Disclaimer* This post is lengthy and chalk full of photos.  Proceed with caution.

The weather finally cooled down enough to open the windows and discontinue the non stop AC.  For a week.  The cool spell was short lived and we are anticipating at least 10 days of 90 degree heat.  That's October in Southern California for ya.  So speaking of being able to open our windows...I have a Dear Abby question for you all.

Dear Abby,

We live in a townhouse and have shared walls with neighbors on both sides.  Our living room opens up to a small patio area and allows a nice cross breeze of fresh, cool air.  Except when our neighbor smokes on her patio.  Her smoke immediately comes in all open windows on the back side of our townhouse, which also includes 2 upstairs bedroom windows.  The breeze is not so fresh.  She smokes a lot.  I'm enjoying her secondhand smoke right this minute, at 7:57 pm on Sunday.  We usually just shut our door and then get hot because the fresh cool cross breeze is no longer.  Thus far, both Hubby and I have not had the courage to say anything to her.  Like, hey, why don't you smoke in your own house instead of on your patio?  Oh, you don't want your house to smell like smoke?  Interesting. Maybe that's not the best approach.  Is it even reasonable to say something?  It's her place afterall.  How would you handle it?

Sick of second hand smoke

Please feel free to put on your Dear Abby hats and leave any suggestions you might have in the comments. 

Okay, sorry for the advice detour.  Let's get back to catching up.

My two Aunt's on my Dad's side of the family came to visit from Connecticut for a few days in September.  In honor of their visit I made a giant 3 layer apple cake with caramel buttercream frosting and caramel sauce on top (recipe from Baked Explorations). 

It was delicious.

While my aunts were here, my step mom, aunts and I walked in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5K on September 23rd. 

The walk was awesome, with 18,000 plus registered walkers participating.  That's a lot of walkers!  And I raised $1150 for the cause which is near and dear to me.  So THANK YOU to my awesome family and friends for your support!  You guys rock!

At the end of September Hubby and I spent a long weekend in central California to celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary. 

We were married in 2002 in Sedona Arizona, next to Oak Creek.  I love this picture.  It's like an enchanted forest.

Hard to believe 10 years has already passed. 

We stayed at a little hotel in Cambria on Moonstone Beach.  It was gorgeous. 

We drove north up the coast and hiked in Big Sur.  Also gorgeous. 

If you have never driven on Highway 1 through the central coast, immediately add it to your bucket list. 

We ate at our favorite restaurant in Cambria, Indigo Moon for our actual anniversary.  We spent a day at a food and wine festival called Savor the Central Coast and ate and drank some fantastic foods and wines.  So fun.  This was our first food and wine festival, and it will certainly not be our last.  We already talking about going back next year.

I started a diet on October 1st.  I have my sights on losing 11 pounds to be exact.  Because that's what I've gained over the last couple of years.  As of week one, I'm down 1 pound.  We'll see how I do tomorrow for my week 2 weigh in.  My strategy is simple.  Count calories.  I log them on a free website called Fit Day.  This worked well for me 3 1/2 years ago when I lost 30 pounds (I did excercise during this time as well).  I'm thinking about exercising now too, but not fully committed to that just yet. 

Speaking of excercise, remember when I told you all I started running?  And knowing myself like I do, I couldn't say if it was going to be a regular routine.  Well it didn't last long...not because I gave up...because I injured my feet.  Like to the point where I was wondering if I would ever walk normally again.  For real.  Thankfully after 2 full weeks of hobbling, my feet returned to normal.  Then I made a serious investment in new shoes...meaning no more excuses.  I'll report back.
I sent my October box off to the military over seas last week. 

Included in the box was ginger snaps, two types of shortbreads and I did my first fall baking with pumpkin bread.  What I love about Baking GALS is I can bake, ship it off and not have to worry about too many temptations in the house.  Which is key when you are counting calories.

I continued fall baking with an attempt at baked pumpkin oatmeal. 

Unfortunately the result was a bit of a flop, lacking in pumpkin flavor, sweetness and a touch of salt.  But I like the idea, so I'm going to do a little tweaking to the recipe since I still have some pumpkin to use up.  If I can make it work, I'll post the recipe.

I found an online group dedicated to canning called Can It Up!  The group is founded by Hima of All Four Burners.  Hima loves canning and decided to ask others to join her with a monthly canning project centered around one ingredient.  You choose your own recipe and can it anytime during the month.  October's ingredient is apples.  I made Caramel Apple Jam this weekend and can't wait to share it with you later in the week.  It's pretty yummy.

Wow, this really is a long post.  Congrats for sticking it out.  The finish line is in sight.

Now, a little on ginger dressing. 

Do you ever eat at Benihana?  You know the teppan style restaurant where chefs cook the food in front of you and do antics like catching shrimp tails in their hat and making a steaming volcano out of onions?  I've spent a lot of birthdays over the years at Benihana.  They serve salad with fresh ginger dressing alongside all their meals.  I LOVE that dressing.  LOVE. I ask for an extra bowl of just dressing so I can thoroughly douse my salad in it.  Really I do.  It's a bit obscene.

So years ago, I called my local Benihana and asked if they have the recipe for their famous ginger dressing.  I think I gave them a story about food allergies or something.  My memory is fuzzy, it was a while ago.  Anyway, they actually faxed me the recipe. 

The recipe is very faded as it's on that old style fax paper where the print disappears over time.  You can see at the top of the page it's from Benihana in Encino, CA.  So it seems legit.  But I still I find it hard to believe they would just hand out their recipe (already portioned down for a home cook's kitchen).  Who knows?  Well as much as I love the dressing, I have never gotten around to making it at home...until now.

It's not exactly like the restaurant's version.  I used baby ginger root instead of mature ginger, so perhaps that had an impact.

I can't quite say what is off in the recipe, but I'll be playing around with this one.  The most surprising ingredient?  Tomato paste.  That's what gives it that bright orange color.  Would have never guessed that one. 

Even though it's not an exact replica, it's tasty and it's diet friendly.


Ginger Dressing
from Benihana

1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup peanut oil
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger root (peeled and minced)
1 tablespoon chopped celery
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Dash of salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth.

Makes 6 ounces