Coconut Panna Cotta with Fresh Figs

Everyone I know adores panna cottas. For all their simplicity, I think they're an elegant finale to any meal. And there are so many flavors you can incorporate in both the panna cotta and the fruit. Coconut anything is a family favorite, so it's a natural for me to use as a flavor base here; combined with finding fresh figs in my market, what could be a better combo?

Panna cottas are a cinch to make and they only take a few hours to set in the fridge. This one is so feminine and delicate looking, isn't it? It's got "ladies who lunch" written all over it. 

Coconut Panna Cotta with Fresh Figs
From Inspiring the Everyday

1-15 ounce can coconut milk
¼ cup granular sugar
2 inch piece of vanilla bean, scraped or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 ¾ teaspoons powdered gelatin
2 tablespoons cold water

 Vanilla Fig Syrup [see recipe below]

Fresh Ripe Figs (retain some for garnishing)

In a small bowl sprinkle gelatin over the water and stir. Set aside to bloom. Heat the coconut milk, sugar and vanilla bean just to a boil. Strain. Add 1/4 cup of the hot milk to the gelatin and stir to dissolve. Then add all the gelatin to the remaining coconut milk.

Fill your dishes and refrigerate for 4 hours.

Vanilla Fig Syrup Recipe

¼ cup granular sugar
4 large ripe figs, halved
2 Tablespoons Grand Marnier liqueur 
1 Tablespoon water
1 inch piece vanilla bean, chopped, or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

Bring all ingredients to a gentle simmer in a small sauce pan. Simmer until figs have released their flavor and color. Strain and cool.


Curried Lentil and Rice Loaves

Whoa! Brace yourselves....a healthy recipe coming your way today! I saw this in Martha Stewart Living magazine and tore it out. It's a nice side dish, good flavor, nicely flavored with curry and the only complaint I had was it was just a little bit dry. Have you made it? Would love to hear about your results. Perhaps I was just expecting this to be more like a moist meatloaf and it's supposed to be on the dry side. What do you think?

Curried Lentil and Rice Loaves
Martha Stewart Living, September 2013

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for loaf pans 
2/3 cup white rice, preferably short-grain 
2/3 cup green lentils, picked over and rinsed 
1 sweet onion, such as Vidalia, finely chopped (about 2 cups) 
2 1/2 teaspoons curry powder 
2 cups water 
1 can (15.5 ounces) black beans, drained, rinsed, and mashed 
2 medium carrots, grated (about 1 cup lightly packed) 
3/4 cup tomato puree 
1 cup lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped 
2 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt 
2 large eggs, lightly beaten 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 3 mini loaf pans or 1 standard loaf pan with parchment, leaving a 2-inch overhang; brush with oil. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add rice, lentils, onion, and curry powder. Cook, stirring, until fragrant and toasted, about 3 minutes. Add water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until water is absorbed and lentils and rice are al dente, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat.

Stir in remaining ingredients. Transfer to pans; bake until tops are golden brown and firm, about 1 hour. Let cool at least 10 minutes.


Lemon Angel Muffins

These have been my daughter's favorite muffins since she was a child. Tart and lemony, they nearly float away they are so light. Serve them warm....they don't even need butter. The beaten egg whites are the trick to these light-as-air muffins; you'll find the batter somewhat stiff before folding in the whites, so fold carefully and with patience. It will take a bit longer than you're accustomed to, but oh the results! I found the recipe back in the 60's in a Junior League cookbook. Which one, I've long forgotten. I've made them many times in mini muffin form as well, very successfully.

Lemon Angel Muffins

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar
4 eggs, separated, room temperature
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons grated lemon peel


Cream butter and sugar until smooth and add egg yolks. Beat until light. Sift flour with baking powder and salt. Add alternately with the lemon juice. Fold in grated peel. Fold in beaten egg whites. (do not beat them to stiff peaks) Fill greased and floured muffin tins. Bake 375 for 20 minutes.


Elle's Woodchuck Draft Cider Sorbet

In the event you weren't aware, I'm sorry to tell you our talented blogging friend Elle from Fresh New England is gone from our lives; she's sure left a big hole in our hearts. We'll all miss her, her posts, her wonderful recipes and her sense of humor.

In her honor, Dawn from Vanilla Sugar has asked Elle's friends and followers to join her in ElleAPalooza to make one of Elle's dishes. I chose one that, according to Elle, was THE most popular post in 2010. Yes, I'm aware sorbet is an unusual post for winter, but as you know, I live in Florida and sorbets and ice creams are good year round. Elle suggested this was a super dessert after a cookout, so if you're intrigued, you can save the recipe for summer.

Her sorbet is made with an ingredient I certainly didn't know anything about: Woodchuck hard cider. (
Another blogger made her hard cider jelly using the same ingredient.....and as you'll have some bottles left over {It's sold here in a six pack} you might want to try this recipe as well; click HERE.) I'm not really a hard cider fan, but this product was easy enough to find in my market and after making it I have to agree with Elle....hard cider sorbet is a refreshing, albeit unusual, finale to a summer meal.

At the end of the post Elle typically added: 

But please do keep in mind that it has alcohol in it.  So be aware and remember the saying:  friends don’t let friends have too much sorbet and drive. ;)

Woodchuck Draft Cider Sorbet

2 (12 oz) bottles of ice cold Woodchuck Cider 
2 tbsp sugar (If you've got superfine or castor sugar, it's especially good here for dissolving quickly. I used 3 tablespoons.)
1 tbsp lemon juice


In a medium bowl, whisk the cider, sugar and lemon juice. It will foam up a bit. Whisk completely dissolved.  Here's where you taste to see if you want more sugar, which I did. 
Make sure it's still cold (if not, refrigerate) and then freeze according to manufacturers instructions for your ice cream maker. Took me about 1/2 an hour in mine.

Spoon into a container and freeze to firm up. (Mine never got really hard. It was easy to scoop.)

If you don’t have an ice cream maker, just whisk it all together, pour it into a shallow container and freeze.  After it’s frozen, break it up into chunks and toss them into the food processor or blender till it’s smooth-but work quickly to prevent too much melting. 

Store any leftovers in a container in the freezer. 


Red Velvet Brownies

                   Happy Valentine's Day!

Can anyone resist a brownie like this? But here's the thing....it's all about the frosting! Condensed milk and white chocolate. Wow.
Make these for your favorite Valentine!

Red Velvet Brownies
From Gina at Kleinworth & Co.

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter - diced
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp red liquid food color OR 1 tbsp red gel food color
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder

For the frosting:

1- 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups white chocolate chips
Sprinkle with 1/2 cup Valentine M&M's & 1/8 cup Heart Shaped Sprinkles

Preheat oven to 325 degrees
Use either non-stick foil or just use regular foil & then spray with non-stick spray & line a metal 9"x9" baking pan.
Stir butter & chocolate in a heavy large saucepan over low heat until all is melted.
Remove from heat.Whisk in sugar & then eggs- one at a time.Stir in vanilla, salt & food coloring.Sift flour & baking powder & stir in & blend well.
Transfer batter to prepared pan.

Bake until puffed & dry looking- or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with some moist batter attached. (about 35-45 minutes).

Cool completely in pan on a rack.

Method for the frosting:
In small saucepan combine sweetened condensed milk & white chocolate chips.
Heat until completely melted & combined.
Pour immediately onto brownies while they are still in the pan.
Top with your M&M's & sprinkles


Banana and Chocolate Bread

Here's the second of the banana recipes I tagged from Donna Hay. Frankly, I tried it because I wanted to see how chocolate and bananas turned out in a bread. And it works. Beautifully. It makes a lovely loaf with just the right amount of chocolate to tempt you chocoholics.

Banana and Chocolate Bread
From Donna Hay magazine, Issue 67

125 g unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder, sifted
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon mixed spice (I used pumpkin pie spice)
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (about 3 or 4)
1/4 cup golden syrup (I used Lyle's)
100 g dark chocolate, melted

cocoa for garnishing


Preheat oven to 325.
Grease and line a 3 by 12 by 3 loaf pan with parchment paper.

Place butter and sugar in an electric mixer bowl and beat 10 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and then the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Mix only until combined.
By hand, add the spice and the golden syrup. Mix well.
Divide the dough in half and add the chocolate to one half.
Place alternating spoonfuls of each mixture and swirl with a knife. Not too much or you won't be able to see the swirls.

Bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Cool completely in the tin. Dust with cocoa to serve. (I didn't have any unfortunately, because I think it would be the perfect finishing touch.)


Ina First Fridays: Chive Risotto Cakes with Scallops

Welcome again to an Ina First Friday! 
My son requested risotto cakes when he was visiting a while back and it rather took me by surprise as I rarely make risotto to begin with. (And you don't have to with this recipe either, merely cook the rice.) Fortunately, I had seen Ina make these risotto cakes so had the perfect recipe for him. 

When I was a child, my mother used to take leftover rice, form it into patties and fry them simply in butter with salt and pepper. Nice and crunchy and buttery. They were good, but really, the flavor combo in Ina's recipe can't help but be way tastier. (Sorry, Mom.)   The chives, fontina and yogurt make for a delicious risotto cake; I served it with scallops, but it's perfect as a supper all on its own with just a veggie on the side. Fontina is such a lovely cheese and melts beautifully.

(Chef's note: mixture requires refrigeration for 2 hours or overnight.)

Ina's Chive Risotto Cakes
2008, Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics

Kosher salt
1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
2 extra-large eggs
3 tablespoons minced fresh chives
1 1/2 cups grated Italian fontina cheese (5 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup panko
Good olive oil

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 1/2 tablespoon salt and the Arborio rice. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. The grains of rice will be quite soft. Drain the rice in a sieve and run under cold water until cool. Drain well.

Whisk together the yogurt, eggs, chives, fontina, salt to taste and the pepper in a medium bowl. Add the cooled rice and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight, until firm.

Spread the panko in a shallow dish. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Form balls of the rice mixture using a standard ice-cream scoop or a large spoon. Pat the balls into patties 3 inches in diameter and 3/4-inch thick. Place 4 to 6 patties in the panko, turning once to coat. Place the patties in the hot oil and cook, turning once, for about 3 minutes on each side until the risotto cakes are crisp and nicely browned. Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and keep warm in a 250 degree oven for up to 30 minutes. Continue cooking in batches, adding oil as necessary, until all the cakes are fried. Arrange on a serving platter and serve hot.


Ina Fridays participants:
Chaya @  Bizzy Bakes
Linda,  @ Tumbleweed Contessa
Mary @ The Egg Farm
Minnie @ The Lady 8 Home
Patti @ Comfy Cuisine
Rocky Mountain Woman @ Rocky Mountain Woman


Cathy's Sausage Tortellini Soup

This recipe has made the rounds recently and I've been saving the recipe for some cold weather. And yes, we've had some down here, but while things have warmed up nicely in S. Florida, my kids in Michigan are having the coldest, snowiest winter in years.
I was born and raised there and in those days of yore, winters were always cold and loaded with snow and ice; what's changed is the Weather Channel (they weren't around then so I guess it didn't count) is now naming the storms, in the manner of hurricanes. We used to call them cold snaps and blizzards. LOL.

Anyway....good stuff in this soup...hearty, warming and filling. Cathy said she preferred that particular brand sausage and fortunately, I had half a package in my freezer. I substituted kale for spinach but it's up to you..in fact, with soups like this, you can add and substitute, depending on what you want to use up. Best with homemade stock, of course.

Sausage Tortellini Soup
Adapted from Cathy at Noble Pig

1 (16 oz) Jimmy Dean All Natural Regular Pork Sausage
1-1/2 cups chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, pressed
4 cups (32 oz) chicken stock (not broth, homemade if possible)
2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes
1 (5 oz) can tomato paste
1 Tablespoon dried oregano leaves
1 Tablespoon dried basil leaves
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried red chili peppers
1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
10 oz cheese tortellini
3 oz fresh baby spinach leaves (I used kale)

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Make little balls of sausage by rolling them between your hands and then drop them into a hot pan. Brown all sides and completely cook them through. Remove onto a paper-towel lined plate.
Saute onions in the fat leftover from the pork until soft; about 8 minutes. Add pressed garlic and saute for 30 seconds more.

In a soup pot, mix chicken stock, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, basil, sugar, chili peppers, pepper and salt. Bring to a boil. Add onion-garlic mixture and simmer for 10 minutes, uncovered. 
Add tortellini and cook according to package directions, usually about 7-9 minutes. Add in cooked sausage and stir in kale or spinach until just wilted.
Serve immediately.


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