Monday, September 28, 2009

Fig, Pecan and Rosemary Crusted Goat Cheese- and Giveaway to follow!

When I think of Fall and all the holidays that will be here so fast, fresh herbs, specifically rosemary, come to mind. It has such a fragrant, woodsy aroma, I can't help but think of holiday parties and good times with good friends.

I purchased some the other day, and when I opened the package, immediately remembered this fig, pecan, and rosemary crusted goat cheese. Combined, these flavors just beg to be served by a warm fire with your favorite glass of wine.

I first saw this recipe a few years ago in my local market, attached to a jar of fig spread. After placing the jar in my cart, I realized that it came with a pretty hefty price tag for such a small amount. So after thinking about it for a bit, and realizing that I had a package of dried figs in my pantry, I opted to put the jar back, go home and make my own. In my opinion, the taste of homemade is far superior anyway.

Goat cheese is one of my absolute favorites. It's tartness, combined with the sweetness of the figs, aromatic rosemary, and crunch of the toasted pecans just seem to be a match made in Heaven. I also know that anything fig sends my friend Stacey into a state of "figgy bliss", so it is with her in mind that I post this today...

This recipe will be more than enough for 8 ounce log of goat cheese, or two 4 ounce rolls. I like to make one for now and save one for unexpected guests. The remaining spread is fantastic on toast.

Fig Spread

3/4 lb dried figs
1/3 c sugar
1-1/2 c water
1 Tbs lemon juice

Remove stems from figs and chop very coarsely. place into a 2 quart saucepan and cover with water. Add sugar. Bring figs to a boil. Reduce heat, cover pan with lid and then simmer on low for about 30 minutes. Liquid should reduce by about 2/3rds.

Place figs into a food processor and puree until smooth. Add lemon juice, and process to a smooth, sticky, jam like consistency. Set aside to cool. Store in a covered container in refrigerator until ready to use.

Fig, Pecan and Rosemary Crusted Goat Cheese
adapted from Dalmatia Fig Spread

1 cup pecan halves, toasted
4 Tbs fig spread, divided
2 tsp fresh rosemary, finely minced
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1- 8 ounce or 2- 4 ounce logs goat cheese, chilled

In food processor place pecans, 2 Tbs fig spread, rosemary, and kosher salt. Pulse until mixture is the size of small peas. Set aside.

Remove goat cheese from refrigerator and spread with remaining 2 Tbs of fig spread, except for the ends. If it does not seem to coat evenly or enough, feel free to add a bit more until nicely coated.

Place nut mixture on a plate and flatten. Place log of goat cheese on top, and roll to coat, packing and smoothing as necessary.

Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes. Best served with a non-salty cracker such as Table Water or whole grain .

Now for the giveaway! If you are like me, many of you have started thinking of your holiday menu's and table scapes. Some of us are up late into the night or beginning early in the morning. In any case, we usually need a jolt to keep us thinking, and a few ideas to inspire us. So for one lucky person, I have a bag of Peet's French Roast Whole Bean Coffee, and the book Dinner Parties, inspired recipes and party ideas for entertaining, by Williams- Sonoma.

All you have to do is leave me a comment on my blog (if you are reading this via Facebook, please use the link to my blog and leave a comment there) telling me your favorite holiday tip- from wrapping gifts to creating recipes. Entries must be received no later than Thursday October 1st, 2009 at 11:59 p.m. PST, with the winner to be announced sometime Friday morning, October 2nd. Good luck everyone!

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Zebra Birthday Cake for Alex

Remember turning 13? I sure do. Way back when shorts were short, socks were longer than knee high, and "Earth shoes" were all the rage. I had a pair, and I thought I was so cool. Unfortunately, the only real cool thing about me was that my birthday was in December- and it was cool. Well, actually it was freezing. That was the extent of my coolness.

Birthdays back then meant a cake from the local Waldbaums bakery department. A 2 layer round white cake, dry as a bone, with an abundance of shortening based frosting- fluffy pink frosting. Oh, and a big fat pink rose that for some reason everyone would fight over. Ewwwww....

Pink is soooo yesterday these days. Teenage girls of today want a much more modern, hip, and stylish approach to their birthdays. Seems as though the days of pretty in pink are gone and Zebra patterns are in.

My friend Jennifer's daughter, Alex, turned 13 today. Alex is all about zebra patterns and the color red, and really wanted a tiered cake that she could share with 25 of her closest BFF's. So from the inside out, Zebra it was. I alternated white and chocolate cake batter in 1/4 cup increments (beginning with the white batter) directly on top of each other. Working quickly, the batter naturally spreads into a zebra like pattern- no need to shake or tap. Once baked and sliced into, you get a beautiful zebra patterned design.

I wasn't at the soiree that was held this evening so I don't have a photo of the sliced cake. But I think you 'll get the idea from the batter above.

Topped off with homemade vanilla- orange butter cream, embellished with vanilla flavored fondant stripes, piped polka dots, and a shiny red ribbon, this birthday cake made one 13 year old girl pretty happy, according to the text I received from her mom:

"The cake is a HUGE hit- Alex didn't even want me to cut it because she loved it SO much! All her friends and their moms wanted to know what bakery I got it from!"

Happy 13th Birthday, Alex! Thank you for letting me make a very special part of your day!

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Cardamom Meringues

I have always loved meringue cookies. Oh so sweet, melt in your mouth, fat free meringues... a dieters dream for this gal. Until now though, always a store bought indulgence. Light and crisp, they have always satisfied my need for a sweet treat. Available in either vanilla or chocolate star tipped shapes, they've been a perfect size treat for a not so perfectly sized person.

Lately, in an effort to create from availability in my pantry, and to avoid splurging on yet another food magazine in an ever growing stack, I returned to my supply of cookbooks for sweet inspiration.

One that I had purchased awhile ago, yet really never looked through was Swedish Cakes and Cookies , published by Skyhorse Publishing. I've had it for years, and for the life of me can't figure out why I haven't looked through it sooner. It has so many mouth watering cookie, cake, torte, and pastry recipes that I will absolutely be turning to it this holiday season for many of my baked goods.

One that I absolutely loved were the Cardamom Meringues. As I said earlier, I have only had meringues in vanilla and chocolate flavors, so when I saw the cardamom listed as an ingredient, I knew I had to give them a try. I had a great time piping them out with my 3 year old, turning it into somewhat of an "educational" experience as well by creating an alphabet of cookies! However, if you want something with a touch of class, and on a humble budget, create some elegant designs and these may be the sweet you are looking for.

Cardamom Meringues
adapted from Swedish Cakes and Cookies

3 egg whites
1/3 c granulated sugar
1/2 c confectioners sugar
2 Tbs cornstarch
3/4 tsp cardamom

Beat egg whites with half of the granulated sugar until slightly stiff peaks form.

Add the other half of the granulated sugar and beat until shiny and smooth.

In a separate bowl mix together the confectioners sugar, cornstarch, and cardamom, and then carefully fold into the beaten egg whites.

Place mixture into a pastry bag with a size 199 star tip and pipe out desired shapes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake between 50 and 60 minutes at 220 F, or until light in color and dry to the touch.

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