Hey everybody!  Check out the Matters and Musings page for an awesome recipe for homemade hand cream!
 

Welcome to the Circle B Kitchen!  We love that you're here and hope you'll browse the site and grab some recipes.  The Circle B Kitchen has been blogging since September, 2009.  We have loads of recipes and thoughts on food to share in the coming weeks and months, so come back and check in often!  We love hearing from you and hope you'll leave a comment or shoot an email our way.  Whether you have questions about a recipe or the site in general, please let us know...
                                                                                 Contact me at
     pberry@circle-B-kitchen.com

Find a Circle B Kitchen Recipe 

Some of Our Favorite Things For The Holidays...

         Homemade Eggnog

Apple Butter Spice Cake with Rum
                       Icing 

Old Fashioned Persimmon Cookies

   Cranberry Upside-Down Cake!

         Apple Cinnamon Dutch Baby

Chocolate Bark with Granola and
                     Sea Salt

                     Cioppino 

Cinnamon Swirl Quick Bread with
                  Crumb Topping

        Hot Toddy Pudding Cake

                Christmas Pasta 

              Chocolate Truffles  

        Persimmon Pudding Cake

       Homemade Apple Butter

      Nutella Thumbprint Cookies  

  Lemon-Blueberry Scones in a Jar  

    Apple Ginger Pudding Cake         

   New England Clam Chowder

Spiced Molasses Pumpkin Bread

                 Apple Tart Tatin        

            Brown Sugar Pie   
       

    Pumpkin Apple Stresel Muffins

Apple Molasses Gingerbread Cake

... and just in case you were wondering...

       

 

Our oldest daughter, Erin, has been riding, training and showing horses since she was a teenager.  She graduated from Colorado St. University with a degree in Equine Science and is now Financial and Administrative Manager for HETRA (Heartland Equine Therapeutic Riding Association), which provides therapy through horseback riding for children and adults with disabilities such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis, brain tumors, head injuries, blindness, autism, and strokes.  For more information or to donate to this amazing cause, please visit http://www.hetra.org/ .

 

 

Saturday
Dec132014

Old Fashioned Gingerbread with Whipped Coconut Cream

 

A cursory search in that little box over there to the right for “gingerbread” would produce five different recipes for gingerbread-like cakes.  And when I say gingerbread-like, I mostly mean they’re dark with molasses and spiked with ginger, cinnamon and allspice and are variations on this lovely theme of homey gingerbread deliciousness.  And now it’s time to add another to that list.   Only this one isn’t a gingerbread-type cake, this is like the real deal.  This is a simple, old fashioned, nothing fancy, straightforward, dark as sin gingerbread. 

I guess it’s safe to say that I’m fairly partial to this particular dessert genre.  Well, it would be safe to say that, but it would also be a freakin understatement.  My love for molasses and gingerbread-type cakes goes way back to my childhood, but took full flight when in my 20’s I had my own kitchen and could make them whenever I pleased.  And that was fairly often. 

The first cookbook I received when I married in 1971 was a Betty Crocker volume, and I made her Old Fashioned Gingerbread recipe every Christmas for many years.  Actually, there were several recipes that I continued to make from that cookbook through the years.  As the kids came along and even after my cooking skills began to ever so slowly improve and other cookbooks grabbed my attention, I kept my old Betty Crocker close.  My kids still talk about the corn fritters and popovers that were an integral part of their childhood, courtesy of Ms. Crocker. 

But as they do, the kids grew up and I gravitated to more sophisticated recipes and cookbooks, and like a sad moment from a Toy Story movie, Ms. Crocker was relegated to an obscure shelf and rarely, if ever, thought of.  Then, in our move from California to the Midwest a few years ago, Betty saw her chance and took off to more appreciative environs, never to be seen again.  I really did mourn the loss when I discovered her absence; more from nostalgia than anything else, but still, Betty played a significant role in my culinary childhood and she would be missed. 

Fast forward several years and my birthday, 2014, when I opened a gift from my dear Cousin Katie only to find Betty, in all her vintage splendor, replete with recipes and memories that I thought were gone forever. 

Thank you, Katie.  Thank you.  I’ve had so much fun thumbing through the old cookbook, remembering how clever I felt making chicken a la king and veal cordon bleu, and reminded of Sunday evening popovers made for the kids while they watched Pippi Longstockings.

And of course, there was my old friend, gingerbread, waiting to be made again.  I really didn’t expect much as I figured my tastes had maybe “matured” and the recipe did seem rather simple.  But one bite instantly reminded me just how delicious and heartwarming some of the old recipes are, perhaps because of their simplicity, not in spite of. 

I have to confess to one teeny update to our old friend, and that was to replace the shortening with coconut oil; very much better for us without altering flavor or texture.  This is a wonderfully moist, vintage gingerbread that requires an affinity for molasses that I possess in spades.  I could drink it straight from the bottle.  So needless to say, this is my kind of gingerbread. 

And because I have discovered the joyful deliciousness of whipped coconut cream, this is how we topped our gingerbread.  If you’ve never tried it, I really do recommend you give it a try, especially if you or someone you love is lactose intolerant.  We think it actually tastes better than whipped cream, although you can barely tell the difference.  

The actual whipping of the cream is a cinch.  The trick seems to be in finding just the right product, as most full fat cans of coconut milk contain guar gum which inhibits the cream from whipping properly (you can only use full fat coconut milk for whipping).  I’ve solved this problem by using Trader Joe’s Coconut Cream which works beautifully.  I’ve also found that Natural Value, which many health food stores carry, whips up like a dream (no guar gum).

But here’s another thing about that…I tried to whip the cream from a can of coconut milk that contained guar gum, and while it didn’t whip up into peaks as I had hoped, it did sort of thicken into a soft, silken cream that could be used as a creamy addition to recipes in place of cream, or a wonderful addition to your coffee.  So if you end up with a failed whip, don’t throw it away! 

For a complete tutorial on the whipping of coconut cream, here’s a link that you might find really helpful.  And as if whipped coconut cream weren’t just the bomb itself, you can whip it up a full day or two before you need it.  I’ve kept some in a jar in the fridge for a week now and it’s still perfect.

So if you’re feeling a bit nostalgic for a slice of old time gingerbread, you might want to make up a batch for yourself.  Betty would be ever so pleased.  Too bad she didn’t know about whipped coconut cream; I think she would have been all over it.  Here’s the recipe…

Old Fashioned Gingerbread with Whipped Coconut Cream

Recipe adapted from Betty Crocker' Cookbook (1969)

Click here for a printable recipe

2  1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup dark molasses
3/4 cup hot water
1/2 cup shortening (I used coconut oil)
1 egg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease a square pan (9x9 or 8x8 inches).  Line the pan with parchment paper, leaving an inch or two overhang.

Measure all ingredients into a large mixer bowl and blend 1/2 minute on low speed, scraping the bowl constantly.  Beat 3 minutes on medium speed, scraping the bowl occasionally.  Pour into prepared pan.

Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.  (do not overbake!)  Serve warm with whipped cream or whipped coconut cream. 

Click here to ask a question or leave a comment

Saturday
Dec062014

Chocolate Candy Cane Buttons

Every year about this time, the family gets together for our big holiday cookie party.  We've been doing this for several years now and it's become one of our favorite holiday traditions.  Between my two daughters, my Mom and my daughter-in-law we have some excellent bakers in this family so the cookies are always fun and super delicious.  Everyone brings their recipes and cookie ingredients and we spend the day baking, decorating and of course, eating.   My daughter always makes sugar cookies for the kids to decorate and my Dad can always be found at the kids table "decorating" cookies, but mostly snacking on frosting and such.  At the end, the cookies are all spread out on the counter and we fill our tins with as much as they can hold and we leave with more cookies than we should even contemplate eating and so the holiday season begins.

For the month before the party, I start collecting potential candidate recipes for my cookie submission, and the minute I saw this one from Tasting Table, the search was over.  It’s just about everything I dream of in a holiday cookie…festive, pretty, and oh so delicious. 

As cookies go, this one may be just a bit more work than the usual mix, mix, scoop and bake kind, but none of the steps are hard, and I thought they were sort of fun to put together.  And besides, I'm just saying that no amount of work will be regretted when you take that first bite.  Lordy.

We start by making these incredible chocolate mint cookies.  The cookie dough resembles a genache, so you know they’re gonna be good.  And are they ever.  They're one of the best chocolate cookies I've had the pleasure of eating, and you could make them just to eat naked.  I mean the cookies, although whatever, you know?  Anyway, we're not going to stop there.  We're going to take those incredible cookies and get them all dressed up for the holidays...

by mixing up a little powdered sugar and cream for some icing and then crushing some candy canes in the food processor to finish them with a beautiful dusting that makes them look and taste like Christmas itself. 

If you’re looking for a cookie to get you into the holiday spirit, it is my considered opinion that this one would be it.  It would also make a lovely cookie gift, a wonderful treat to share with the office, or possibly a nice little offering to go with Santa’s glass of milk this year.  Here’s the recipe…

Chocolate Candy Cane Buttons

Click here for a printable recipe

Recipe Courtesy The Tasting Table

I didn't change one little thing to this recipe, except to make them just a bit smaller than called for.  I wanted a smaller, more button-like cookie so used 1 1/2 tablespoons of dough for each instead of the 2 tablespoons.  A minor change, but if you make them smaller, be sure to reduce the cooking time a bit.

Yield:  3 dozen 

Cook Time: 50 minutes (plus 1 hour chilling and 20 minutes for icing to set) 

INGREDIENTS

2 sticks unsalted butter
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (or semisweet chocolate chips)
1¼ cups light brown sugar
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons dark molasses
¼ teaspoon peppermint extract
20 mini candy canes
1 cup plus 1 teaspoon confectioners' sugar, divided
¼ cup heavy cream 

DIRECTIONS

1.  In a large bowl, add the butter, chocolate and brown sugar. Fill a medium saucepan with 1 inch of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and place the bowl on top of the saucepan (make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water).  Stir the mixture often until the butter and chocolate are completely melted and the mixture is smooth, about 2 minutes.  (I used a double boiler for this step and then transferred the chocolate mixture to a clean bowl before refrigerating.  This helped expedite the cooling process.) 

2.  Remove the bowl with the chocolate-butter mixture from the saucepan. 

3.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt until well combined. 

4.  Into the chocolate-sugar mixture whisk in the eggs, followed by the molasses and peppermint extract. Add the flour mixture and use a wooden spoon to stir to combine. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the dough until chilled and malleable, 1 to 2 hours. 

5.  Preheat the oven to 350° and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Shape the dough into small balls, about 2 tablespoons of dough per ball (about the size of a Ping-Pong ball).  Place them 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Bake until the cookies are set around the edges and still soft in the center, 12 to 14 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Repeat with the remaining dough. 

6.  Into the bowl of a food processor, add the candy canes and pulse 3 to 4 times for a coarse grind (it took me several more pulses than 3 or 4).  You can also place the candy canes in a zipper-lock bag and crush them with a rolling pin or using the bottom of a heavy pan or pot). Scrape the candy canes into a medium bowl and stir in 1 teaspoon of confectioners' sugar (to help keep the candy canes from clumping). 

7.  Add the remaining 1 cup confectioners' sugar to a fine-mesh sieve set over a medium bowl and sift the sugar into the bowl.  Whisk in the heavy cream until the mixture is completely smooth.  Once the cookies are cooled, spread a generous spoonful of icing over the top of the cookie, letting the excess drip off the sides.

Click here to ask a question or leave a comment

Sunday
Nov302014

Circle B Stir Fry

 

It’s Thanksgiving leftover season and most of us are scrambling around, looking for new and inventive ways to use them up.  I mostly just love having that glorious meal reheated and eaten in post Thanksgiving peace and quiet when we can really savor each dish and all of those wondrous flavors.  And then we’re done.  No turkey tetrazzini here, but a big pot of turkey stew has been known to happily simmer on the stove during the holidays.  But post leftovers, we’re eating light, and I thought I’d share with you my most very favorite meal to make after the glorious gluttony that is Thanksgiving.  And that would be stir fry. 

Now, you don’t really probably have to have a recipe to make a good stir fry, and lord knows I’ve made it for years without one.  There’s something so nice about just throwing it all in a pan and just adding this and that and what’s on hand and not really having to bother so much about measuring and such.  Just quick and dirty and done.  That works.  And I’ll probably still do that from time to time. 

(Sorry that some of my jars look a bit on the "used" side)

But the last year or two I’ve been wanting to create a recipe that I can rely on to give me that lovely balance of flavors that I want, and just the right amount of sauce with just the right consistency, and I’d really like to be able to have it written down and not have to think too hard about how I did it last time.  The whole reason I created this blog was for just that… time to write down my recipes and bring some consistency to my cooking.  Thus began my stir fry quest and this here recipe is the culmination of those months of testing and trial and error.  

But I’ve sort of resisted posting it, because like most stir frys (should that be “fries”?), there’s a bit of prep involved.  There will be some slicing, dicing and some chopping to do, and I always feel bad when my recipes require this much knife work, so I’m really sorry.  But I promise, once you have everything prepped and ready, this dish goes together in a flash.  Just minutes.  Promise.  I've even streamlined what is already a quick-cook dish by eliminating a couple of the add-in steps.  I've started just throwing everything into the pan together (after the meat or tofu has had a minute to start cooking), which makes this an even speedier meal, with the wondrous benefit of ensuring that your veggies don't overcook.

So this is how I step off the post-Thanksgiving gluttony train.  When I really want to lighten things up, I increase the veggie quotient and cut back on the proteins, or you can leave out the protein altogether for a vegetarian meal.  These days I’m into serving it over rice, and brown jasmine rice is our favorite.  But it’s also super delicious with Chinese noodles.  Time to pack away the stretchy pants!  Who'm I kidding.  I'll be keeping the stretchy pants out within reach until well after New Years.  Here's the recipe...

Circle B Stir Fry

Click here for a printable recipe

This dish comes together pretty quickly once you have everything chopped and sliced.  If you’re using carrots, broccoli or other veggies that take a while to cook through, steam or boil them briefly before beginning the recipe so they’ll cook quickly in the pan.  If using tofu, I like to press it between paper towels to remove as much liquid as I can before marinating it.  That way it really absorbs lots of flavor.  When making stir fry, I've always sauteed the aromatics (ginger, garlic, green onions) first and then the meat and then the veggies, but lately I've just been giving the meat a good head start in the pan and then adding all of the remaining ingredients to the pan at the same time to cook together.  This is a quicker, simpler way to get everything cooked, it tastes exactly the same and ensures that your veggies don't overcook.

Serves 4 

1 lb shrimp (peeled and deveined) or chicken thighs, sliced, or tofu, cut into 1 inch cubes
Peanut or vegetable oil
3 cups cooked jasmine rice or 4-5 oz  Chinese noodles
3 cups of sliced veggies (any combination of zucchini, mushrooms, red and/or green pepper, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.)
3 teaspoons minced fresh ginger (about a 1 1/2-inch piece)
1 large clove garlic, minced
3 green onions, sliced (white and light green parts only), reserve a handful for finishing
a pinch or two of crushed red pepper  (more or less to your heat preferences)

Sauce and Marinade:
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon ( or more) sriracha sauce
¼ cup hoisin sauce
6 tablespoons soy sauce
¼ cup mirin (rice wine)
¼ cup rice vinegar
2 ½ teaspoons cornstarch 

Mix the sauce ingredients in a jar and shake to combine. 

Place the chicken, shrimp or tofu in a bowl or Ziploc bag with 1/3 cup of the sauce/marinade.  Mix well and then let sit for an hour or so. 

If using Chinese noodles, cook them in boiling water for 3 minutes, rinse and drain.  Return to the pan and drizzle with a tablespoon of toasted sesame oil. 

Heat 2 tablespoons of peanut or vegetable oil in a large wok or sauté pan over medium high heat (high heat if you're using a wok).  Remove the chicken, shrimp or tofu from the marinade (discard the used marinade), and stir fry until slightly cooked through and taking on some color, about 5 minutes.  If using shrimp, just cook them for 2 minutes and then remove them from the pan. 

Add the remaining ingredients (veggies, green onion, garlic, ginger and crushed red pepper) to the pan and stir fry over fairly high heat for another 5 minutes.  

If using shrimp, add it back to the pan at this point and continue cooking for another 2 minutes.  

Add the sauce ingredients and cook until bubbly and thickened, about 2 minutes, and then, if you’re using noodles, add them to the pan and stir until the noodles are heated through and sauced.  

Place into a serving dish and sprinkle with the rest of the green onions.   Serve over jasmine rice if not using Chinese noodles. 

Click here to ask a question or leave a comment

Wednesday
Nov262014

Happy Thanksgiving!

I just wanted to take a moment out of all the craziness of shopping, meal prep, cleaning, decorating, etc., etc., to wish you all a very Happy, meaningful and wondrous holiday.  I know this can be a time that's as stressful as it is joyous, but I hope for you more of the joy and less of the stress.

So wash all your hot pads and dish towels tonight (did you think of that?), and think more about the people you are cooking for than the dishes you're making.  You'll be fine and it will all turn out fabulously.  I promise.

I'm very thankful for all of you, my dear readers, who so faithfully tune in each week and offer your comments, critiques and support.  You are why I do this and you are who I think of with each dish I feature.  Have a beautiful and delicious Thanksgiving!  And as always... 

Patrice

 

Friday
Nov212014

Orzo with Butternut Squash, Spinach and Blue Cheese

With all of the talk about Thanksgiving this and turkey that and every new which way to approach the big meal, it’s funny how much we all pretty much agree that the side dishes are the most exciting part of the conversation.   While the turkey might be the centerpiece of the meal, the side dishes are where we get to express ourselves, be creative and have a little fun. 

And this is where I’ll admit to not being all that much fun.  But only when it comes to the Thanksgiving menu, mind you.  In all other respects, fun and I are pretty tight.  But I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to Thanksgiving and don’t really like to mess with what, for me, is and has been the quintessentially traditional Circle B Thanksgiving feast.  So to even entertain the idea of adding or switching out one of my beloved Thanksgiving side dishes for something new is kinda huge.  And that’s how excited I am about this orzo. 

First of all, the colors!  It’s a beautiful dish to add to any festive meal, but mostly it’s just the combination of these flavors that are so astonishingly awesome.  At first I thought it was a little fussy to be cutting up the butternut squash into tiny little cubes like that, but one bite and I totally understood… the sweet little bites of roasted squash play perfectly against the spinach and cheese. 


I was sad and frustrated to not have any blue cheese in the fridge, but what I did have was a creamy Israeli feta cheese (goat cheese would work as well) and I have to say that it totally rocked and I would use it again in a heartbeat.  But I can’t wait to try this with blue cheese.  This is an easy dish to put together and I think it would work really well with brown rice instead of the orzo if you were so inclined.  

I found this recipe on The Kitchn website (where else?) a few weeks ago and was instantly excited as I’d been looking for some new ways to use butternut squash.  We had a pretty good crop from the garden this year and I’d experimented with steaming and freezing it.  I’m happy to report that it worked really, really well, although I’m not sure it’s something you have to do since winter squashes keep so well.  But being able to pull a package of already cut up squash from the freezer made this an even easier dish to throw together.  And if you wanted to make this a one-dish meal, you could easily add some roasted chicken. 

So if you’re one of those wacky, fun people who like to mess with their Thanksgiving menu and mix it up a bit, you might want to consider this delectable candidate for side dish honors.  Otherwise, I can attest to its deliciousness next to a piece of perfectly roasted salmon.  Here’s the recipe…

Orzo With Butternut Squash, Spinach and Blue Cheese

Click here for a printable recipe

Recipe courtesy of TheKitchn

This is an amazing side dish that really packs some big flavors.  We loved the orzo, but you could certainly substitute brown rice.  Feta cheese works in a pinch if you don't have blue cheese on hand, but be sure you use a creamy feta in a block, not the dry crumbles.  I really like the Pastures of Eden feta from Trader Joes, but any French feta would work as well.  Goat cheese would be another worthy substitute.

Serves 4 to 6

2 1/2 cups cubed butternut squash (1/4-inch cubes)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup regular or whole wheat orzo
2 cups shredded spinach
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup blue cheese crumbles

Preheat oven to 425˚F.

Toss butternut squash with the olive oil. Spread into a single layer on a sheet tray. Bake until squash is tender and starting to brown, 35 to 40 minutes. (Squash can be roasted up to 5 days ahead and kept refrigerated. Rewarm before serving.)

Place the spinach in a large bowl and set aside. In a small skillet, heat olive oil until just warm. Stir in garlic, remove from heat and allow to sit until ready to use.

Place the orzo in a pot and cover with at least 2" of water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until tender but not mushy, 8 to 9 minutes. Drain and immediately pour the hot orzo on top of the spinach. Let sit for a few minutes to slightly wilt spinach.

Add butternut squash to the pasta along with the blue cheese and garlic olive oil. Toss until well combined and serve.

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