Sweet Potato and Pea Fritters

Donna Hay magazine is such a pleasure to read, I finally gave in and took out a subscription. The photographs, layout and design and, of course, the recipes all please the eye and palate. I don't know about you, but many pages of my cooking magazines have bent over corners inside. I stash Donna Hay issues in a big wicker basket and every once in a while, when I am searching for something I recalled seeing in one of them, I take them all out and go through the magazines flipping open the pages with bent corners. 
And that's how I re-discovered this recipe. What a lovely little fritter....perfect for a light supper. DH suggest a minted pea salad to go with it, but a dollop of sour cream on top would be good too. Or both.

Sweet Potato and Pea Fritters
From Donna Hay Magazine, Issue 65

2 cups self rising flour
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups thawed frozen peas
2 cups grated sweet potatoes
1/2 cup chopped mint
1/2 cup chopped basil
olive oil for frying

Mix flour, eggs, buttermilk, salt and pepper. Add the peas, sweet potatoes, mint and basil.
Heat the olive oil and fry the fritters using 1/4 cup batter for each one. Fry 2-3 minutes each side or until cooked through. (I treated them like pancakes: when I saw the bubbles come up in the center of the fritter, I flipped it.) 
Serve with a pea and mint salad.


Risotto Pudding Cake

Do you have any of  Sophie Dahl's cookbooks? You really should. They are treasure troves and what's best is they're easy, casual recipes, not complicated for the most part, and the flavors are wonderful. As I get older, I want less complicated. I don't mind fussing once in a while, especially for good friends and family visits, but I DO have a life outside the kitchen and blogging (and Pinterest). Don't we all?

Sophie's cookbooks are rather cozy, much like a family cookbook and with each recipe, she briefly connects them to warm memories of family, travels and friends.
This risotto cake is a great example. Comforting, and yes, very much like rice pudding, but it's the Italian version. Sophie said she learned the recipe watching a mother in Sorrento making it for her family. Love the orange zest and almonds and really, it would be a treat to serve to company. Looks elegant and doesn't everyone love rice pudding? You've got to have those amaretti cookies though, they make the dish.

Sophie Dahl's Risotto Pudding Cake

From Very Fond of Food by Sophie Dahl

4 cups milk
3/4 cup Arborio rice
Grated zest of one orange, plus extra to decorate
1/2 cup superfine sugar
3 eggs
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup tablespoons amaretti biscuits, crushed

Preheat oven to 325
Mix the milk, rice and orange zest in a pan. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until the rice has absorbed the milk. It took me about 1/2 hour.
Cool the rice mixture.
When cool, beat the eggs and sugar and add to the rice.
Butter a 9 inch springform pan and cover the bottom with crushed amaretti biscuits. Pour the rice mixture in and bake for about 45 minutes or until the top is golden. Let cool for one hour. Serve with crushed amaretto biscuits and orange zest. Tastes even better after it's refrigerated.


Artisan Bacon and Cheese Bread

Trolling through Noble Pig the other day (something I do every few weeks or so, playing catch-up), I came upon several recipes I really wanted to try. Cathy is so talented and I love her re-inventions. She discovered this bread recipe in Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.  After reading how much she loves this book, I put it on my Amazon wish list. Cathy took the original version and added cheese and bacon....and then used bread flour to make it strong enough to hold those extras. It turned out perfectly. Loved it with tomato soup I posted recently!

Easy Artisan Bacon and Cheese Bread
Inspired by Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, via Cathy at Noble Pig

10 slices thick cut bacon, diced
8 ounces shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese (shred yourself, not packaged)
2 Tablespoons granulated yeast
3 cups lukewarm water (body temperature is perfect and will not damage yeast)
5-1/2 cups (29.30 ounces) bread flour, more for dusting
1-1/2 Tablespoons kosher salt
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon yellow cornmeal

Cook bacon over medium heat until brown and crunchy. Drain on paper towels.
Put yeast in a large bowl, pour in warm water and give the yeast a little stir with a wooden spoon. Add flour and salt. Start mixing with a wooden spoon, use your hands as necessary to fully wet the flour and salt. Add the cheese and bacon into the dough until fully combined. Cover dough with a tea towel or plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for at least 3 hours. After 3 hours place dough in the refrigerator overnight.
When ready to bake, place a metal baking pan (not glass) on the bottom rack of the oven. Fill it with water, which will help steam the bread and makes it crusty.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees (the water will heat up during this time). Meanwhile, butter the bottom of an 11 x 17 baking tray and sprinkle cornmeal over the butter.
Sprinkle the dough with flour and flour your hands as well. Divide the dough into two even loaves, shaping each into a ball. Place on the baking tray, several inches apart. Sprinkle generously with flour. (I halved the recipe but you could make the entire recipe and save the dough in the refrigerator for another day.) Let rest on the baking tray for 30 minutes. Right before placing in the oven, score top of bread with an "x" or other decorative mark, cutting right through the dough.
Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool 15 minutes before slicing. 


Valentine's Day Bark

A Valentine for you: 
The recipe for a very sweet and simple treat to make for your Valentine loves!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Confetti Bark
From Leenee's Sweetest Delights

1 package (16.5 oz.) Nestle Tollhouse Refrigerated Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough 
1 (16 oz.) bag white chocolate chips 
Valentine sprinkles
1 cup frosted animal crackers
1/2 cup Valentine's M&M's
(found the last three ingredients at Target)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 13x9-inch baking pan with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray.

Place the opened package of cookie dough in the prepared pan and let soften for 5-10 minutes. Then spread the dough gently with your fingertips to evenly cover bottom of pan.

Bake for 11-13 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Sprinkle white chocolate chips over cookie; bake for an additional 1-2 minutes to melt the white chocolate chips. Immediately spread the melted white chocolate chips evenly over top of the cookie. Distribute sprinkles, frosted animal crackers, and M&M's evenly over top; press down lightly. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours or until the chocolate has hardened. Remove the foil from the pan and break into pieces.


Sogetsu Ikebana

Palm Beach County, Florida, where I've lived since 1970, is fortunate to have the The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens. It's been a center for Japanese arts and culture in South Florida since opening in 1977. You can explore a series of six diverse gardens inspired by a different historical period and style of Japanese gardening.  They offer world-class exhibits, varied educational programs, a true Tea Ceremony, seasonal events and a bonsai display. They have a decent little restaurant too.
Chieko and James Mihori have been the heart and soul of this museum since the beginning. I used to do a lot of volunteer work there so am very familiar with the museum and all it offers. Naturally, local clubs take advantage of this museum right in their back yard. Recently, our Garden Club went there for lunch and an hour tour. While there, I recalled that every February, Chieko Mihori gives a floral demonstration of Sogetsu Ikebana. Chieko is the Director of Sogetsu Florida and coordinator of Sogetsu North America east coast. 

Are you familiar with Ikebana? It means "giving life to flowers" or "arranging flowers" and is a very disciplined art form. The history of Ikebana dates back to approximately 500 years ago. We're not talking about merely putting flowers in a vase, but using all parts of the flower.....including the stem, leaves and even the branch.....with emphasis toward shape, line, form. In the beginning, Ikebana was very simple, constructed only with stems of flowers and evergreen branches. Rather a silent and reverential pastime. Completely minimalist.

Of course, like most things, Ikebana has grown with the times and there are now many forms of Ikebana. Sogetsu Ikebana was founded in 1927 and while practicing any Ikebana means following established forms, the Sogetsu School is not as disciplined. You can use any material and display it anyplace that brings pleasure to the eye. Modern contemporary life is reflected in Sogetsu Ikebana with emphasis on individual expressions. Natural and manmade materials are widely used, often in unexpected ways. Some of the pieces can be enormous and used in commercial venues. Students often make their own containers and give special attention to the environment in which the work is placed. Chieko mentioned she had taken a pottery class and in the demonstration, used several containers of her own design.

Last year, Chieko received an award from the Emperor of Japan: she was conferred with The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays in recognition of her long-time dedication as a trustee and board member of the Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens and also in acknowledgement of her commitment to promoting Japanese culture throughout the United States. Here's Chieko with some of her work:

Once I had the date pinned down, I bought tickets and we went to see the demonstration. It lasted an hour and 45 minutes and it was every bit as fabulous and inspiring as I remembered. We loved every minute of it. An added bonus: students of the Sogetsu classes there had their work on exhibit throughout the lobby.
The auditorium was packed to the gills, as it always is when Chieko appears. There was such a crowd surrounding the arrangements after the exhibition, most with professional-type cameras, that I wasn't able to get close enough to take a photo of each one. And then we had to leave for a luncheon engagement. Sadly, I only had my iPhone with me. Sorry about the quality, but you can get the general idea. Chieko made about 12 arrangements and my favorite was the one made in two combined baskets. (lower left) She used two branches of quince along with assorted flowers and it was a miracle of balance. She has a delightful sense of humor and fun, teaching her audience while working. It gives one hope, after watching a master like this change her mind mid-arrangement, or have problems making the flowers and stems do as she wished. 
All in all, a morning filled with flowers and smiles.

For more examples, better photos and some surprises as to size and material, here are some photos of Sogetsu Ikebana from the internet:


Double Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

As you know, I am NOT a chocoholic. But....one of my very good friends is (I mean a truly serious chocoholic), and she's got some major health issues and needed cheering up. So I made these especially for her which I am delivering today, along with some soup. Sue really came up with a winner here, not any surprise as her blog always has great recipes. Love those freeze, slice and bake shortbreads!

These aren't too sweet, are very chocolately and yes, they freeze a dream. I tasted one (there's always one that breaks, right?) and definitely approve.

Double Dark Chocolate Shortbread Cookies
From Sue at The view from the Great Island

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dark cocoa powder
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips 

Preheat oven to 325.
Put the flour, sugar, and cocoa powder in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine well. 
Drop in the butter and vanilla and pulse until the mixture just comes together.  
Stir in the chocolate chips and turn the dough out onto a board and form into an 8" log.  
Wrap it in waxed or parchment paper and twist both ends to secure.  Refrigerate for at least an hour, or overnight.  You can also freeze the dough for later use. 
Slice the log into 1/2" slices with a sharp knife. 
Put on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake in the center of the oven at 325 for 12 to 15 minutes.  They will feel slightly soft, don't over bake them. 
Cool for a few minutes on the pan and then transfer to a rack. 
If you're going to give them away make sure they are completely cool before you package them.    
(makes about 12-14 cookies, double the recipe if you want to) 


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