Hye Thyme Cafe: March 2012

Welcome to the Hy
e Thyme Cafe. Although not all of my recipes are Armenian, the name is a little nod to my Armenian grandmother who is no longer with us. The Hye refers to all things related to her homeland, and she represents all things food-related to me, so the two just seemed to go together. I can't even claim that my Armenian recipes are truly Armenian, since Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Lebanon, Syria, and even Egypt share so many foods that they've all sort of morphed into one over thousands of years.

Whether you like to cook, bake, have never done either, or just like to play with your food...come on in and join me! :)


Saturday, March 31, 2012

Mexican Stuffed Peppers

Mexican Stuffed Peppers : Hye Thyme Cafe

I had a severe case of Foodie Block tonight, and this was what I finally came up with for dinner, so it worked out great. You know how at Thanksgiving, everyone looks forward to those uber-delicious leftover Thanksgiving Sandwiches? Well, I recently had that in mind and had wanted to turn it into a meatloaf version, with a layer of stuffing, gravy, ground turkey, cranberry sauce, etc. It sounded like a good idea at first, but the more I thought about it, the more repulsive it became. I mean really, the sandwich includes cool, crisp lettuce, your favorite sandwich bread, mayo, and whatever else you include in yours - not exactly the makings of a meatloaf

OK, not every idea is a winner. That left me wondering what to make instead. That's when the Foodie Block kicked in. I have also been wanting to make Cashew Chicken, but we just had Chicken Crepes, so that will have to wait. All of a sudden, I went completely blank. Hmmm? What should I make?? It was too late in the day to pick up a roast and get that started, we weren't in the mood for steaks, and some are on low carb. Quinoa Stuffed Peppers came to mind, but I knew that wouldn't satisfy all of us - had to include some sort of meat. I finally settled on this, and they were very good. I was pleasantly surprised, but I will kick up the heat a little next time. I had thought that one jar of hot salsa would provide enough heat and flavor, but I did have to pop open a second jar after tasting. Also, I stuffed six peppers but was left with a good amount of filling, so I bagged the rest and threw it in the freezer to make burritos down the road at bit. Just wanted to warn you - you can either halve the filling, stuff more peppers, or do what I did and re-purpose the extra.

INGREDIENTS :
6 bell peppers (I used red/yellow/orange)
1 med red onion
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t cumin
2 lb lean ground beef
1c cooked rice
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
frozen baby corn (I used the bean can to measure)
2-3 T fresh chopped cilantro
16 oz jar hot salsa (needs to be increased)
Shredded Mexican blend cheese

Optional for Garnish:
Sliced Avocado
Sour Cream
Cilantro

Start by washing your peppers, then cutting off their tops and pulling out the seeds and pith.

Bring a pot of water to a boil and submerge the peppers, letting them boil for about 4" to soften up a bit. When you take them out of the boiling water, run them under cold water until they are cool, to stop the cooking process, and arrange them in whatever pan you will be baking them in. I had a casserole dish that was the perfect size for the six peppers I was using, but if your pan is too big, you can wad up a ball of foil to fill the empty space, or fill it in with a ramekin filled with a little water. That's just if your peppers are tipsy. If they stand up on their own, there's no need. Set the peppers aside for now.

So you don't waste the tops you sliced off earlier, go ahead and dice those along with your onion to go in the filling. They'll add nice flavor and color contrast.

Using a little olive or canola oil, saute the garlic, diced peppers, and onion until they start to soften, then stir in the cumin.






Add the ground beef and cook until just a little pink remains (It will finish cooking in the oven). Then stir in the rice, black beans, and corn. I didn't bother measuring the corn - just poured it into the empty black bean can to make sure I got roughly the same amount. Toss in a good handful of the shredded cheese, then add the salsa (may want to add more at this point), finishing off with the cilantro. You want to add the cilantro at the end to maintain it's flavor.




Now that the filling is cooked and has just the right amount of gooeyness from the cheese, go ahead and stuff your peppers.

Mexican Stuffed Peppers : Hye Thyme Cafe

Mexican Stuffed Peppers : Hye Thyme CafeWhen I tasted the filling and realized it was milder than anticipated, I popped open another jar of salsa and added a spoonful on the top of each. If you added more salsa to your filling, you don't need to bother, but that's up to you. You might want even more salsa flavor or just like the look of it ...


Mexican Stuffed Peppers : Hye Thyme Cafe 

Bake at 350 for about 20", then top each pepper with a sprinkling of cheese and return them to the oven for another 10" or so until the cheese is nicely melted.





To serve, I plated up the peppers with a dollop of sour cream, a slice or two of avocado, and an additional sprinkling of fresh chopped cilantro. Oh, there was also sangria involved, but that's up to you too.  ;)


Mexican Stuffed Peppers : Hye Thyme Cafe
Mexican Stuffed Peppers : Hye Thyme Cafe
Mexican Stuffed Peppers : Hye Thyme Cafe

I sliced mine open so we could take a peek inside.

Mexican Stuffed Peppers : Hye Thyme Cafe

Nice! Didn't dry out in the oven, just enough cheese to hold things together...grab a fork and dig in!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Ocean Spray® Fruit Flavored Snacks






I have been out of town for the past two weeks, so I got waaaaaaay behind on blogging, not to mention my e-mails, etc.  I was just scrolling through some of what I missed and realized that a new Ocean Spray product has hit the markets - fruit snacks.

Armenians have been making fruit leather for a bazillion years, and some of you know I made one miserably failed attempt at making my grandmother's version last year, but I haven't gotten around to trying it again yet.  Partially because there is a plethora of options at the grocery store.  If I had my own fruit trees, I would probably be more inclined to make my own, but until now, I had been partial to Welch's.  As much as I love their fruit snacks, I'm definitely an Ocean Spray drinker (I wish they still made their Mauna Loa juice and juice concentrates), so these have been added to my new shopping list.



I'll let you know what I think when I try them.  In the meantime, here's the info I came home to ...




Want a snack your kids will love and that you can feel good about? Check out NEW Ocean Spray® Fruit Flavored Snacks available in two delicious flavors, Berries & Cherries and Assorted Fruit!

With 80 calories per pouch, Ocean Spray Fruit Flavored Snacks contain 100% Daily Value of Vitamin C and are gluten free. Plus, they're made with real fruit juice with natural colors and flavors* so you can feel good about sharing with your family.

These treats also feature two Box Tops for Education® to make it even easier to support your local schools.

Share the news with your friends and look for Ocean Spray Fruit Flavored Snacks in your local supermarket. Visit OceanSpray.com for more information!
These Fruit Flavored Snacks are made with apple, pear, and cranberry juice concentrate. See package for a list of complete ingredients. They are not intended to replace fruit in the diet.
*colors from natural sources



How about you guys, has anyone tried these yet?  Do you make your own?  If so, what flavors?







Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Pseudo Chicken Florentine Penne

Pseudo Chicken Florentine Penne : Hye Thyme Cafe

It's not exactly a traditional Florentine, but it's the same general principle - spinach, white wine, cheese, etc. It's a great way to use up leftover chicken. I was trying to accommodate an illness by including the pasta for one condition and the spinach for another. I was also introducing someone else to the line of Philadelphia Cooking Cremes, so I went with that rather than a traditional Mornay sauce. I will increase the cooking creme next time and/or saute some garlic with the onions, but I was trying to accommodate a sensitive stomach, so I kept it on the mild side this time.

INGREDIENTS :
1/2 lb mezze (small) penne pasta
32 oz chicken broth
1 med onion, diced
1 T butter
1 box thawed chopped spinach
1/3-1/2 c dry white wine
Cooked chicken, in bite-sized pieces
Salt and Pepper
Philadelphia Savory Garlic Cooking Creme

Cook the pasta in the chicken broth. If your pasta is finished cooking before your other ingredients, pour out most of the broth. If it finishes up at the same time as your spinach, etc., you can just use a slotted spoon to combine them so you're getting some of the pasta broth in your sauce.

Saute the onion (and garlic if you're adding) in the butter and/or a little olive oil until translucent, then add the spinach. Don't worry about squeezing out the spinach; the liquid will cook down quickly. When it does, add the wine and cook that down.

Stir in the chicken to heat through. When your pasta is ready, add that as well, then season with salt and pepper, and stir in as much of the cooking creme as you like. If you like a thinner sauce, you can add a little more of the pasta broth. If you like it more creamy, use more of the Philly...


Saute Onion

Add spinach, then wine

Stir in chicken to heat through
Add pasta with some broth
S&P and cooking creme to taste
Enjoy with a glass of white wine.  :)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Thumbprint Cookies

Thumbprint Cookies : Hye Thyme Cafe

Having had problems with in the past with bars not baking in the center (pan probably too small), I was concerned that my Apricot Almond Bars wouldn't turn out right the other day. Because I was baking them for someone else, I decided I better have a back-up plan, so I opted for Thumbprint Cookies. I figured with a crowd, that would at least give everyone a flavor option - I used raspberry jam, cherry jam, and lemon curd. Ironically, the bars turned out great, but these cookies were just OK in my book. I remember my Mom baking thumbprints a lot when I was a kid, so I'll have to find out what she uses for a recipe. But hey, I'm judging them based on what I'm used to. You might think they're the cat's meow. ;)

INGREDIENTS :
1/2 c light brown sugar
1 c butter
3 eggs, separated
1/4 c water
2 t vanilla
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t salt
2 c flour
1 c chopped almonds (I crushed some slices)
1 c shredded coconut
jams/jellies/curds of choice for filling

As with any cookie recipe, start by creaming together the butter and sugar until well blended and smooth.

Then add the egg yolks, water, and vanilla, followed by the flour, salt, and cinnamon.

Go ahead and preheat your oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper, then you can set up your assembly line ... whip your whites until frothy, and set out your jams and nuts/coconut.
Pinch off a piece of dough and roll it into a ball, then dip it in the egg white and roll it around in either the coconut or nuts to coat the outside. Set it on the tray and press a small well into the center with your thumb or the end of a wooden spoon.  

The dough is pretty soft, so I wouldn't recommend rolling all of the balls first because they'll stick to whatever you put them down on and you'll have to re-roll some, but you can roll a bunch and drop them in the egg whites together. The only reason I say that is because when I dipped my first cookie and rolled it in the almonds, I then had almonds stuck to my hand when I went back to pinch off more dough. Depending on who you're making them for and what they like, you might not want to "contaminate" your dough with almonds that might migrate into the coconut version.

Thumbprint Cookies : Hye Thyme Cafe

Once all of your cookies are formed, bake them for about 10-12 minutes, until starting to set, then take them out of the oven. You might need to re-press some of the wells. Fill each with about a half teaspoon of filling and return to the oven until bubbly and golden (another 5-7").


Thumbprint Cookies : Hye Thyme Cafe
Thumbprint Cookies : Hye Thyme Cafe 
Thumbprint Cookies : Hye Thyme Cafe


Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Healing Powers of Chocolate


Back in December, I saw on The Foodie Blogroll that they were doing a giveaway for a copy of Cal Orey's The Healing Powers of Chocolate, so I signed up.  There was even some bonus chocolate involved.  As luck had it, I won, but life has been a little wonky lately, so I hadn't gotten around to reading it until now.  If you're a chocoholic, trying to gain an appreciation for darker chocolates, or even just curious about it's history, this book is for you.

I have to admit that my preference had always been milk or white chocolate, but in more recent years, I have started to appreciate dark chocolate.  I'll never forget when I was in college and my roommate's Dad went on a business trip to Switzerland.  He sent us a ginormous box of chocolates, and we were all so excited when it arrived.  I mean seriously, the Swiss are known for clocks and chocolate (and cheese?), so we expected it to be fabulous.  We COULDN'T GIVE IT AWAY.  Just goes to show how programmed for sugar we are here in America.  We were expecting the super sweet stuff we grew up on.  I wonder what we would think trying those same chocolates now, as adults??

I actually found myself looking around for a highlighter as I was reading, but sadly, I was at a park at the time and didn't have one in my purse (mental note - put highlighter in purse).  I knew that chocolate had antioxidant properties that made it healthy in some respect, but I sort of thought that was just a way of justifying the impulse.  You know, the little angel sitting on one shoulder and the devil on the other; the angel is telling you not to overdo it while the devil is saying oh go on, you know it's good for you!  Turns out it is - in the right blend, and [it should go without saying] in moderation.

"Chocolate, one of the oldest foods, comes from the fruit of the cacao tree -- native to South America and Central America and now mostly grown in West Africa.  Coined theobroma, Greek for "food of the gods" by the Swede Carolus Linneaus, it has been used since Aztec times as a medicinal agent for dozens of ailments."

Things I had no idea about ... chocolate:
  • Is an anti-platelet which, likes aspirin raises HDL cholesterol, lowers LDL, and helps prevent tumors from spreading
  • Controls insulin swings and helps curb hunger between meals
  • Contains poyphenols - you know, the stuff your doctor tells you to drink wine for
  • May help to:
    • Lower your risk of heart disease and cancer
    • enhance your immune system
    • stave off diabetes
    • fight fat
    • slow the aging process
    • add years to your life 
  • Blows blueberries and broccoli away on the antioxidant scale (per 100 grams, unprocessed cocoa powder comes in at 26,000, and dark chocolate at 13,120, where blueberries fall way below that at 2,400, and broccoli just 890)  All the hype lately has been about acai berries - even those fall between the coco powder and dark chocolate
  • Can actually aid in lowering blood pressure (dark)
 
The list goes on and on.  By no means am I trying to imply that chocolate is the beat all end all in healthcare, but once you have read the book and learned the difference between the different grades of chocolate and percentages of cacao involved, you will have a better understanding of how to incorporate chocolate in to a healthy lifestyle.
 
Aside from the health aspects of chocolate, Cal shares what she has learned about the history of chocolate, the who's who in the business, offers up recipes to be savored, opened my eyes to a whole spa niche including such things as a chocolate fondue wrap, includes numerous resources for finding good chocolate, and even touches on pets and chocolate.
 
OK, so my first thought was that I needed a highlighter.  After that, it was hmmm, where/when/how can I hook up with a chocolate tasting in this area, and thinking I'll definitely have to check out her other books ... The Healing Powers of Honey, The Healing Powers of Vinegar, The Healing Powers of Olive Oil, and coming out over the summer - The Healing Powers of Coffee.

A big thanks to The Foodie Blogroll for introducing me to this gem, and to Enjou Chocolat for the treats to read by.
 
 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Apricot Almond Bars

Apricot Almond Bars : Hye Thyme Cafe

I needed to bake something for a friend for a post-funeral gathering, and since I had just bought a huge bag of dried apricots, I decided to put them to use. I basically made a standard Congo Bar batter, but instead of using chocolate chips and walnuts or pecans, I incorporated the apricots and some almond slices. The apricot flavor shone through beautifully, and I couldn't stop myself from sneaking bites of the scrap edge pieces! Although the almonds provided a nice textural contrast, the flavor didn't come through as much as I would have hoped, so next time, I'll either toast the almonds first, or replace some of the vanilla with a little almond extract.


INGREDIENTS:
2/3 c butter
2 1/2 c light brown sugar
2 t vanilla
3 eggs
2 3/4 c flour
2 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 c diced dried apricots
1 c slightly crushed almond slices 


Melt the butter, stir in the brown sugar and let cool for about 10". The apricots were fresh, so they were nice and plump and juicy. If yours are on the dry side, you might want to steep them in a little hot water, or maybe stir them into the melted butter along with the brown sugar to warm up and soak in some of the moisture.

 
Once that has cooled to the point where it won't scramble your eggs, stir in the vanilla and eggs, one at a time, until nicely incorporated. The mixture will be very loose at this point.

 


Whisk together your flour, baking powder, and salt, then stir them into the batter, a little at a time. Finish it off by stirring in the apricots and almonds. [Resist the urge to dip in for a big spoonful.]





Spray a 9x12 pan with PAM Baking (or grease/flour), and spoon in the mixture. It will be very thick and sticky at this point. I tore off a small piece of waxed paper, lightly sprayed it with PAM and used that to press the batter into the pan.

Bake at 350 for 35-40" until toothpick tests done. Cool completely on rack before cutting into squares.

Apricot Almond Bars : Hye Thyme Cafe

Apricot Almond Bars : Hye Thyme Cafe


 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Swedish Oatmeal Cookies

Swedish Oatmeal Cookies : Hye Thyme Cafe

It occurred to me the other day that I don't think I've had a cookie since Christmas! I decided something needed to be done about that immediately and thought back to one of my old favorites. I started baking these when I was a kid and made them quite frequently, but somewhere along the line, as I started branching out into other varieties, they dropped off my radar. I have no idea where I first got the recipe. I tried looking online for the source but nothing rings a bell. I wasn't one to collect recipes back then, so I'm betting it was one of those ads that would come in the mail -- you'd get a few laminated cards with recipes on them trying to entice you to join a program to buy more recipes. I got an awesome chicken recipe off one of those cards. Anyhow, if I can ever verify where I got this from, I will gladly post that information.

In looking at other recipes online, most seem to call for butter. The one I have uses Crisco. I only had half the amount of Crisco required this time, so I used half and half. I also increased the vanilla and almond extract, added cinnamon, and increased the cooking time at the front end - if you don't cook them well enough at first, when you add the topping, it just falls through because they're too soft.


INGREDIENTS :

TOPPING:
  • 2/3 c sugar
  • 1/2 c margarine
  • 2 T corn syrup
  • 2/3 c chopped almonds
  • 1 t almond extract

COOKIES:
  • 1 1/2 c flour
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 c lt brown sugar
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 c Crisco
  • 1/2 c butter 
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 c old fashioned (not quick) oats

For the topping, bring the sugar, margarine, and corn syrup to a boil. Let that cook (stirring to prevent scorching) for about a minute, then remove from heat and stir in the almonds and extract. I used sliced almonds and just crushed them into smaller pieces. Set the topping aside to cool while you make your cookies.

Beat together everything but the oats for a minute or so until well combined, then stir in the oats.  

Drop by rounded tablespoonful onto parchment-lined trays.  

Bake at 350 for 10", then allow to sit for a minute to cool (set) slightly before dropping 1/2 teaspoon of topping onto the center of each.

Return to the oven for an additional 4-5" until golden and the topping has spread. After the first 2-3", you will see the corn syrup start to foam and bubble, then it will spread over your cookies.  

Allow the cookies to cool right on the tray. If you try to remove them to a cooling rack, because of the heat and the weight of the topping, they'll fall right through.

What is wrong with me? I don't know why I waited so long to make these again. I brought them to work and the vanished pretty quickly. A few of the comments were ...
  1. These are the best oatmeal cookies I have eaten in my e-n-t-i-r-e life!
  2. I went off points for these!  (Apparently she's on Weight Watchers LOL)
  3. What makes them Swedish?  (I wish I knew - I'm guessing the topping)
Aside from just the flavor, they're kinda the best of all worlds when it comes to cookies - crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside with a gooey center.



 

 



Swedish Oatmeal Cookies : Hye Thyme Cafe




Saturday, March 3, 2012

MARSHMALLOW MADNESS! - By Shauna Sever


Have you ever made Marshmallows from scratch?  If not, as soon as you finish reading this post, check your pantry to make sure you have corn syrup and unflavored gelatin, because it won't be long before you are overcome with the compulsion to jump into the puffy abyss!  

I have made Marshmallows a few times now.  I started off with Ina Garten's Toasted Coconut Marshmallows.  Making those a few times gave me the confidence to play around a bit, so I made pomegranate marshmallows (would be great in a tropical Ambrosia).  If you've been following this blog for any length of time now, you are aware of my more recent uber-failed attempt at mallowing.  As part of a Marx Foods challenge, I made homemade puffed brown rice and attempted a cocoa/chile pepper mallow to use with the rice in some krispie treats but managed to just drown the rice in a gooey mess (used waaaaay too much marshmallow for the amount of rice I had puffed).

Shauna Sever, who blogs as The Next Door Baker, has transformed mallowing into an extreme sport!  With 90+ pages of crazy good ideas, Marshmallow Madness: Dozens of Puffalicious Recipes offers up something for everyone -- several somethings for everyone actually.

Where to begin???  Okay, okay, at the beginning.  Shauna opens with the basics, an introduction into the history of marshmallows and their primary ingredients, followed by what equipment you will need to have handy and her recipe for Classic Coating ... that stuff that lets you enjoy marshmallows without them getting stuck in your hair, on the sofa, your dog, etc.  After that, she goes Willy Wonka on us!  Heck, even the book itself is soft and squishy like a marshmallow.  Here's a sampling of what I'm talking about:

See how happy she looks. :)
  • Rootbeer Float Marshmallows
  • Spiced-Cherry Marshmallows
  • Maple-Bacon Marshmallows
  • Mango-Chile-Lime Marshmallows
  • Bubble Gum Marshmallows
  • Chocolate-Filled Vanilla Marshmallows
  • Pineapple Rosemary Marshmallows
  • Jam Filled Marshmallows



Are you drooling yet?  That's just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  Shauna has created vegan options, adult (boozey) mallows, drinkable delights, you name it.  She covers everything from mini-marshmallows and braids to homemade graham crackers and everyone's favorite chickadees. 

I wasn't kidding about the Booze - Margaritas anyone?


Not a drinker, what's wrong with you?!  I mean, no problem!  There's always the ....

Sea Salt Caramel Swirl






As soon as I flipped through the book, I knew immediately which recipe I wanted to try first - Shauna's Minty Mallow Cookie Sandwiches.  I was actually planning to make minis, but I couldn't find those little boxes of chocolate cookies Nabisco used to put out.  Do they still make those?  Remember the kid-sized boxes of chocolate cookies like the little boxes of animal crackers with the string handle?  I punted back to their Famous Chocolate Wafers, but I apparently messed something up.  

They were as delicious as I was expecting, and I was certain I had followed the directions exactly, right down to making sure my candy thermometer read 240 degrees, but the mallow was too stiff to pipe.  So stiff as a matter of fact that when I was trying to squeeze it through the icing tip, the seam exploded!  I ended up scooping blobs of the minty confection onto the wafers, so they're not nearly as pretty as Shauna's.  I tried to hide those messy edges with some toasted coconut, mini chocolate chips, etc.  I must have whipped for too long or something. :(

 


Aside from her awesome mallow creations, I also got a kick out of Shauna's bio, which notes:
"When not writing, baking, or taking care of her husband and their little girl, Shauna can be found hunting for great pastries, kitchen gadgetry and cookbooks and running the hills of San Francisco.  She covets bowls that nest, cookbooks old and new, great cofffee and well-chilled moderately priced white wine, as well as laughing so hard that no sound comes out and singing loudly to classic rock."
I love the part about the laughing, but then I once laughed myself unconscious!

Easter is quickly approaching.  Remember the Easter Basket Cheesecakes I made last year?  Thanks to Shauna, if I decide to make them again this year, I can make my own braided marshmallow basket handles.



Truly, if you enjoy marshmallows, you need to pick up a copy of this book!



A big puffy thanks to the folks at Quick Books for providing me with a review copy.   To coincide with the launch date for the book (released 2/28), they also have a Marsh Madness campaign going on...
"Quirk is also excited to announce Marsh Madness, a campaign that has wrangled up sixteen influential food bloggers from all over the country, each in the traditional March Madness brackets; West Coast, Southwest, East Coast, and SOutheast!  Each food blogger will create their own spin on Shauna's Classic Vanilla marshmallow, competing to create the most original mallow.  Major food blog Serious Eats will recap each week and announce Shauna's pick at the end of the bracket.  Follow on Twitter using the hashtag #MarshMadness starting February 20th!"





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