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Homemade Caramels

Homemade Caramels

Can you make homemade candy for Holiday gifts easily in a Small Kitchen or RV Galley and get Big Flavors! The answer is YES.  This recipe relies on the use of a microwave oven, a 2 quart microwave safe glass measuring cup and a heat tolerant spatula.

Makes about 180 individual caramels

Ingredients

1 cup or (2cubes)   unsalted butter

1 tsp                       unsalted butter (1/2 tsp to coat each of the baking parchment sheets of paper)

1 cup                     dark brown sugar

1 1/2 cups             light brown sugar

14 oz                     sweetened condensed milk

1 cup                     Karo light corn syrup

1 tsp                      pure vanilla extract

t/2 tsp                    coarse sea salt

 

Directions

  1.  Place a sheet of baking parchment paper on each of 2 –  9″ x 11″ baking pans.
  2.  Lightly coat the top of each parchment paper with 1/2 tsp of softened butter, set aside.
  3.  Place the butter in the 2 quart glass measuring cup, melt on HIGH for 1 minute.
  4.  Add sweetened condensed milk, brown sugars and karo syrup, stir.
  5.  Heat in microwave on HIGH for 5 minutes, stir.
  6.  Heat in microwave on HIGH for another 5 minutes, stir.
  7.  Heat in microwave on HIGH for 4 minutes, then stir and do a sample test to check the consistency of the candy to see  if it forms a ‘soft ball’  when a half a teaspoon of the boiling syrup is added to a cup that is 2/3 full with cold water. Gentley move the caramel blob at the bottom of the cup to see if it holds a soft squishy like ball shape or close to it!
  8.  Heat the caramel again in the microwave as needed using 1 minute intervals, checking the candy consistency as noted in #5.  I did this for a total of 3 times which made step #5 a total of 4 minutes plus, 1 min. plus 1 min., plus 1 minutes…4 plus 1 minute bursts of microwaving and stirring which made this step 7 minutes.
  9.  Add the vanilla, stir and pour the caramel (semi-liquid onto the buttered parchment paper on 2   9″ x 11″ baking pans.
  10.  Lightly sprinkle coarse sea salt.
  11.  Let the candy cool.  I placed the baking pans on hot pads in the fridge for an hour.
  12.  Lift the parchment filled candy out of the baking dish, cut the caramels into about 3/4″ x 3/4″ pieces.
  13.  Roll the individual caramels in wax paper and twist the ends to seal each caramel.  Use wax paper squares that are almost 3″ x 3″ in size for wrapping the candies.

Note:  My total microwave times were 5 minutes, plus 5 minutes plus 4 minutes, plus 3 bursts of 1 minute – for a grand total of 17 minutes.

My cookbook Small Kitchen Big Flavors! is available at a great Introductory Price on Ebay and my blog site at : http:/smallkitchenbigflavorsblog.wordpress.com

Chef MJ

Homemade Limoncello

 

Having made Limoncello using the 3 – 5 week method which infuses the lemon peel with the alcohol over a long period of time, I was interested in trying a Sous Vide water bath method to see if the results were – worse, the same or better!

With the holidays approaching a small homemade bottle of limoncello can make a nice gift.

We have enjoyed homemade limoncello when getting together with friends and family and a good friend of ours has a super recipe in my cookbook for the longer method… which does not require a Sous Vide.

My findings on comparing the traditional 3-5 week method of making this liqueur vs. the ‘sous vide’ method, surprised me.  The quality and flavor of either method are the same in fact we thoroughly enjoyed the Dous Vide Limoncello so I’m sharing the steps I took to make this liqueur in the post below.

If you make this liqueur be certain to use organic lemons…. and remember the alcohol content of liqueurs isabout 30% so 1 30 oz. serving is plenty!

Ingredients
10 organic lemons, scrubbed
750 ml Everclear 121
Simple Syrup
3 cup sugar
3 cups water
Instructions
For the Lemon infused Everclear
  1. Preheat a water bath to 141°F.
  2. Lightly scrub the outside of the organic lemons; next zest the yellow portion of the peel into a quart sized Ball or Mason jar.
  3.  Add the bottle of Everclear to the quart sized jar with the lemon peel. Place the lid on the jar and tighten before processing in the water bath.  Set a steam rack in a large stock pot, place the sealed jar of Everclear with the lemon zest directly onto the steam rack.  Add enough water to reach the top of the quart jar lid. Infuse for 2 1/2 hrs. at 141 F setting on the Sous Vide.
  4. When the time is complete, carefully lift the jar from the Sous Vide with canning jar tongs and rest the jar on the stove or on a pot holder placed on a flat surface.

For the Simple Syrup
  1. Combine the water and sugar in a pot and heat over medium-high heat, stirring for a minute until the sugar dissolves completely. Take saucepan off heat and bring the mixture to room temperature.
To Assemble
  1. Stir the lemon Everclear and simple syrup together.  Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer, then pour into clean bottles place the lid on and store for 1 month in the fridge.
  2. Best served chilled.  Serve small 1 oz. portion as the alcohol content of liqueurs is potent.

     

A Cocktail recipe

1 oz Limoncello

4 oz Prosecco

2 – 3 mint fresh leaves

2 – 3 fresh basil leaves

Ice

Garnish with a thinly sliced wheel of lemon

Refreshing Salad with fruit and berries

Fruit and berries are plentiful right now at both the Farmers Markets and grocery stores.

I created this flavor combination for a main meal to enjoy on a day trip in our RV yesterday.  Our destination, the beach at Mugu Rock near Malibu, CA.

The ingredients listed are for an individual salad main meal offering for 1.  Increase the quantities as needed to serve the number of people you will be serving.

balsamic tomato saute

Ingredients

5         rinsed and dried butter lettuce leaves

1/2      peeled, sliced peach

5         fresh raspberries

4         cherry tomatoes, rinsed, cut lengthwise

1/2      slice sour dough bread, cut in cubes

2 – 3    tbsp. butter

balsamic glaze

fresh ground pepper

dressing of choice (for a homemade blue cheese dressing see below).

Directions: Stir dressing in a small bowl to combine ingredients.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

1/4 cup each   blue cheese crumbles, mayonnaise, cream cheese

1 tsp                 Worcestershire sauce

dash or 2         hot sauce

squeeze           of lemon juice

balsamic tomato and fruit salad

Directions (for the salad)

  1. Rinse lettuce leaves, pat dry and place 5 leaves on each plate.
  2.  Top each plate with sliced peaches and fresh raspberries.
  3.  Saute’ bread cubes in 1 – 2 tbsp butter in a saucepan over medium heat until bread cubes are golden brown.  Remove sauteed bread from pan, set aside.
  4. Add 1 – 2 tbsp butter to the pan and saute the cherry tomatoes over medium heat for a few minutes, turning them once.
  5.  Drizzle balsamic glaze over the tomatoes in the pan, saute on low for a minutes.
  6.  Add the sauteed tomatoes and freshly made croutons to the salad.
  7.  Serve the salad with a favorite salad dressing.

 

 

 

 

RV Enthusiasts are Awesome!

WALMART VS. BOONDOCKING ON A
STRANGER’S DRIVEWAY? SURPRISE!
Written by Tom Gorham
former Executive editor of the Sun newspaper in Las Vegas, Nevada and reporter/editor for the Los Angeles Times/Tribune.
The RV community is filled with amazing and generous people. And sometimes you encounter them under the most unexpected circumstances.
Take, for instance, our recent research into whether Walmarts in California allow overnight boondocking. We knew that it’s a store-by-store decision — unless local laws prohibit overnight parking. That’s the question we posed to this Facebook group of RV lifestyle enthusiasts, in advance of heading over to Southern California from Las Vegas for a journey up the Pacific Coast into Canada. We already had made reservations at various state beach parks in California and Oregon, but for our first night in SoCal, knowing we’d be arriving hot-and-tired, we would be content with a free piece of Walmart’s asphalt, well positioned to begin our fun travels fresh the next day.
We received all sorts of responses about Walmart from you folks, but only one that went like this: “Hey, how about boondocking in our driveway?” The invitation came from a lovely woman who lives in the rolling hills of Camarillo, along the coast north of Los Angeles. And then she mentioned feeding us, teasing with “some lemon brownies with pistachio brittle crumbs.”
Maybe you already see where this story is going. Her name was Mary Jane Curry. Yeah, her — the chef who creates those terrific recipes especially suited for RVers. So, doh! we accepted!
What fun, meeting Mary Jane and her husband of 40 years, Jeff. They connected when both worked in the Santa Monica Hospital emergency room — she as a charge nurse, he supervising the emergency medical technicians. They started seeing each other after hours, married, and realized each had a desire to explore the West in an RV while raising a son and a daughter who presented them with six grandchildren.
Fast-forward to today: they are retired, with Mary Jane — who has a very readable cook book to her credit — still generating new and amazing recipes while Jeff —whose career had shifted into workplace safety and risk management — now takes to the hills in his electric-power-assisted mountain bike. Oh and yes, he is proud to serve as Mary Jane’s Chief Dishwasher.
I wondered what possessed them to open their driveway — and house — to boondockers they’ve never before met. For starters, they love RVing, having bought early in their marriage a boxy, 20-year-old Pace motorhome. They sold it after a year and transitioned in 2013 to a Roadtrek RS Adventurous with seat belts for seven that they own to this day, safely parked beneath a tall carport in their side yard. It allows them “mini-vacations,” with trips to the beach on a whim. “It’s our instant relaxation,” Jeff says. “The sense of freedom, the chance to exhale, where the journey is the destination.”
Mary Jane and Jeff enjoyed boondocking, joined “Boondockers Welcome” and realized they’d earn a year’s free membership if they offered to host boondockers. Heck yeah! A dozen or so different RVs have cuddled up to the Curry driveway, just as we did the other day. What everyone discovers is that Mary Jane and Jeff are easy-going, warm people who easily cultivate friendships with strangers that are likely to last for many years.
Mary Jane’s interest in food preparation was nurtured at the Westlake Culinary Institute, where she focused on wedding cakes and tea parties. Because of her affinity for RVers, Mary Jane now focuses on two objectives: to prepare delicious food using tasty and seasonal herbs, fruits and vegetables (especially if she can use ingredients hiding out in the fridge), and developing recipes that can be prepared ahead of time, put in a fridge or freezer, and enjoyed on the road. Thus the success of her cookbook, especially among RVers. For Mary Jane, coming up with recipes is not unlike an inspired musician experimenting with different instruments and genres. in other words, she basically jams in the kitchen, uses her ability to profile flavors to mix-and-match, and finds a rift to her liking. Then she’ll reverse-engineer her creation and prepare the recipe’s ingredients and portions. The evening she hosted Jeanne and me, Mary Jane steamed clams to load atop portobello mushroom caps, accented with minced red bell peppers, celery leaves, red onion, garlic, cayenne, salt, butter cream and crushed butter crackers. As Jeff grilled a tri-tip outdoors, Mary Jane popped her creation into the oven for a few minutes. Another side dish: a pasta salad featuring fresh mango salsa and English cucumber.
Man, I love boondocking! And we will never forget this evening filled with laughter and good conversation among instant friends, brought together randomly because of our love of RVing and good food. Mary Jane’s and Jeff’s driveway was the best ever.
P.S. You can follow Mary Jane on her blog: smallkitchenbigflavorsblog.wordpress.com

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Low Calorie Mini Cheesecake Bites

My neighbor introduced me to finger limes the other day and what a treat they are!  The finger lime tree is native to Australia and grows nicely in a few areas of the USA including SoCal.  The lemon lime citrus like fruit within the small oblong fruit is like ‘mini caviar’.  The pleasant citrus tang is within the small vesicle like fruit just under the peel.

The finger lime tree is actually thousands of years old but has become popular in recent years with Chef’s due to the fruits crisp clean tangy taste.  The tiny vesicles creat pops of flavor and can be used in sauces, salads, drinks, desserts and other applications.  The fruit is typically in season in the early fall and can command over $100 a pound when it is available!

Here is a recipe I came up with that is a low calorie creamy delight with a burst of citrus from the finger lime garnish.  You could bake these in a small kitchen in a convection or toaster oven or while camping or make a batch in advance of a camping trip and freeze them in a freezer zip top bag for up to 3 months.  Feel free to enjoy the sweet delights without a garnish or substitute the garnish by topping the individual bites with a blueberry or raspberry.

Makes 20 individual mini cheesecakes

75 calories min cheesecake bites

Ingredients

8 oz                 reduced calorie block of cream cheese

1                      egg

1/4 cup            organic or regular sugar

1/2 tsp             vanilla

10                    vanilla wafers or 1 cylinder of Dewey’s Meyer lemon cookie thins (Costco)

2 tbsp.             softened butter

20                    raspberries or blueberries or 2 tsp of finger lime ‘caviar like vesicles’

Directions

  1. Preheat convection oven to 325 degrees F.
  2.  Lightly butter a mini muffin pan that fits in your oven.
  3.  On a flexible cutting board, crush the cookie wafer with a rolling pin or the side of a glass or bottle.
  4.  Add 1 tbsp. of softened butter to the cookie crumbs and combine thoroughly with the crumbs.
  5.  Add a tsp of crust crumble to each muffin mold on the pan; gently press the crumble mixture to form a crust.
  6. In a medium bowl combine the cream cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla using a whisk or hand mixer.  Combine thoroughly.
  7. Add a tsp of cheesecake filling on top of each crust.
  8.  Bake in a preheated oven for 13 – 14 minutes or until the cheesecake filling is set.
  9.  Garnish as desired and serve.  Refrigerate or freeze any leftovers.

Note:  If using a small mini muffin pan, repeat the filling and baking process 1 – 2 times as needed for the 20 servings.  Refrigerate the filling between baking, as needed.

My cookbook Small Kitchen Big Flavors! is available at a great Introductory Price on Ebay and my blog site at : http:/smallkitchenbigflavorsblog.wordpress.com

Cream Cheese Scones

cinna1

Here is a recipe you can make ahead, freeze and bake as desired!

I had some cream cheese that I wanted to use and decided making a batch of scones was a good option that would allow me to bake the scones at my leisure anytime over the next 3 months.

Ingredients

3 1/4 cups          all purpose flour

1/2 cup               sugar

2 1/2 tsp              baking powder

1/2 tsp                 salt

1/4 cup                milk

1 cube                 butter (4 oz.)

8 oz                      cream cheese (regular block style, not whipped)

1 cup                    rinsed berries

1/2 cup                 diced nuts (pecans or walnuts) if desired

1/2                         lemon, zest only

1                            egg

2 tsp                      vanilla

Directions

  1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside.
  3.  Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl (flour, baking powder, sugar, salt)
  4.  Combine milk and eggs in a separate medium bowl, whisk then set aside.
  5.  Soften butter and break into 1″ cubes then add to the flour.
  6.  Soften cream cheese and add 1″ pieces to the flour mixture.
  7.  Add citrus zest, berries or nuts to the flour mixture.
  8.  With clean hands blend the butter and cream cheese with the flour until the mixture comes together into pea sized balls and the flour is thoroughly folded into the dough.  Note:  the dough will be very dry as you start this process, but it will come together into a dough within a few minutes or so.
  9.  Use a flexible plastic cutting mat, pour dough onto the mat and work in any loose flour mixture into the dough.
  10.  Flatten the dough to about 3/4″ height.  If your mat is small, divide the dough into 2 batches prior to flattening.
  11.  Cut each circle of flattened dough into 5 or 6 triangular pieces = forming scones.
  12.  Place the mat with the dough into the freezer until the scones freeze completely then package the scones in freezer ziptop bags, burp the air, date and write the name of the recipe on the freezer bag using a permanent marker.
  13.  Remove scones from the bag as you want to enjoy them… you will preheat the oven to 400 degrees and bake the scones you want on a parchment lined baking sheet placed on the middle rack for 23 minutes or golden brown and cooked through.
  14.  If you want to cook some of the scones prior to freezing, preheat the oven to 400 degrees, place the scones on a parchment lined baking sheet in the oven on the middle rack for 18 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.
  15.  Remove cooked scone to a cooling rack after the scones have completed baking and rested on the baking sheet on the counter for 5 minutes.

Note:  You can apply a light coating of egg white or milk to the top of the scone just prior to baking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating Authors Day April 23, 2019

Follow the link below to review LaMesa RV’s recognition of authors that write while traveling in an RV.  I was one of two authors featured.  In the article I give some pointers on writing while traveling in an RV and some things to consider regarding publishing your works.

La Mesa RV recently invited me to introduce and sell my cookbook Small Kitchen Big Flavors! at the largest Class B show in the United States.  The four day event was held at the State Farm Stadium in Glendale Arizona just one week ago.

https://experiencelife.lamesarv.com/2019/04/world-book-day-these-two-rving-writers-share-their-top-writing-publishing-tips/.

Here is a You tube LaMesa RV produced highlighting my NEW release cookbook.

https://ebay.to/2W54xmN