Category Archives: dried cherries

Brown Sugar Sweet Potato Cake

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Here is an easy cake from The Washington Post that makes use of any left over sweet potatoes you may have lying around. (Of course it is so good that I intentionally bake extra potatoes just for this purpose). To me this cake combines the best flavors of the season–sweet potatoes, dried fruits and nuts, and lots of spices–and packs them into a tasty bundt cake. This cake is wonderfully versatile and can easily be altered to fit your liking. You can substitute pumpkin if you don’t have sweet potatoes. I added dried cherries, toasted pecans and candied ginger pieces to my batter but you can use whatever nuts and fruits you have on hand or omit them entirely.

The cake is dense and just slightly sweet; dust it with a bit of confectioners sugar to dress it up for a dessert or serve it as is for an afternoon snack with a cup of tea. Glenn brought slices of this cake in to work for their morning coffee break and returned home with an empty container and just a few crumbs.

 

BROWN SUGAR SWEET POTATO CAKE

3 cups flour

1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons ground ginger

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

16 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar

1/3 cup granulated sugar

4 eggs, at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 tablespoons molasses

2 cups sweet potato puree

1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped

1/2 cup toasted pecans, chopped

1/4 cup candied ginger pieces, chopped

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat the inside of a 10-inch Bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves into a medium sized bowl. Set aside.
  • Using a hand held mixer and a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed for 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
  • Add the dark brown sugar in three additions, beating for 1 minute after each one.
  • Add the granulated sugar and beat for 1 minute longer.
  • Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing for 30 seconds after each addition, to blend.
  • Blend in the molasses and vanilla extract on low speed.
  • Add the sweet potato puree; beat on low speed to incorporate. The mixture might look slightly curdled at this point, but it will smooth out once the sifted mixture is introduced.
  • Continuing on low speed, add the sifted mixture in three additions, stopping to scrape down the bowl after each one and mixing just until absorbed.
  • Fold in the cherries, nuts and candied ginger pieces.
  • Spoon the batter into the prepared baking pan. Use a rubber spatula to smooth the top.
  • Bake for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in the cake emerges clean.
  • Transfer (in the pan) to a wire cooling rack to cool for 10 minutes, then invert the cake onto a separate cooling rack and remove the pan.

Serves 16

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Morning Glory Muffins

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Morning Glory muffins will always take me back to my childhood.  Growing up, the local bakery produced these giant muffins filled with lots of flavors and textures–from carrots and coconut to raisins and nuts or even fresh fruit, these were my favorite bakery treat.  In hindsight they were probably a lot less healthy than I thought they were at the time.  Somewhere along the line these muffins seemed to drop off of bakery menus in favor of new trends but I still love them.

This recipe is an adaptation of one from King Arthur Flour and is a formula rather than an exact recipe.  If you don’t like dried cranberries you can substitute whatever dried fruits you prefer.  The pecans can be omitted entirely or switched with almonds, walnuts, or additional sunflower seeds.  Be creative; you won’t be disappointed with the results.  As my son says, these muffins are yummy in the tummy!

MORNING GLORY MUFFINS

1/2 cup dried cranberries

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups peeled and grated carrots

1 pear, peeled, cored, and grated

1/2 cup sweetened coconut

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/3 cup sunflower seeds

1/3 cup wheat germ

3 large eggs

2/3 cup vegetable oil

1/4 orange juice

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • Preheat the oven to 375.  Line a muffin tine with papers and coat the papers with non-stick spray.  Set aside.
  • Place the dried cranberries in a small bowl and cover them with hot water; set aside to soak.
  • Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, spices, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  • Stir in the carrots, pear, coconut, nuts, sunflower seeds, and wheat germ.
  • In a separate bowl beat together the eggs, oil, orange juice, and vanilla.
  • Add the wet mixture into the flour mixture and stir until evenly moistened.
  • Drain the cranberries and fold into the batter.
  • Scoop the batter evenly into the prepared muffin tin.  The cups will be very full.
  • Bake for 25-28 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.  Remove the muffins from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes.  Turn them out onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Yields:  1 dozen muffins

Grilled Duck Breast w/ Zinfandel – Dried Cherry Sauce

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I absolutely love duck and feel lucky that it is so readily available in Belgian markets. It doesn’t matter how it is cooked, I enjoy it all. Because duck is such a rich meat, it is perfect to pair with bold and hearty flavors. This recipe, adapted from Williams Sonoma, pairs spices with sweet cherries to create the ultimate early fall dinner. When paired with a starch, I like Israeli couscous, and a green vegetable, this dish can be either a casual weeknight meal or a more formal dinner.

The duck breasts are massaged with a spice rub of ginger, cinnamon, cloves before being grilled and covered in a cherry wine sauce. I used some of my own dried cherries and dipped into my stash of imported California red wine for my sauce. (Yes, when you live in Europe, wine from California is considered to be an import). As Glenn said, just the smell of the smoke coming off of the grill is good enough to eat. But wait to eat the duck; it is truly delicious.

GRILLED DUCK BREAST w/ ZINFANDEL – DRIED CHERRY SAUCE

For the spice rub:

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1 tablespoon ground white pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

4 skin-on boneless duck breasts

For the sauce:

1 cup chicken stock

1/4 cup Zinfandel or other full bodied dry red wine

1/2 cup dried sweet cherries

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon dark corn syrup

1 tablespoon cornstarch disolved in 2 tablespoons wine

  • Preheat a grill for direct grilling over medium heat.
  • To make the spice rub, mix together the ginger, white pepper, salt, cinnamon, and cloves in a small bowl.
  • Sprinkle the spice rub onto both sides of the duck breasts then using your fingers, massage it into the meat.
  • To make the sauce, combine the stock, wine, cherries, soy sauce and corn syrup in a small saucepan.
  • Bring to a simmer and cook over high heat for 7 to 10 minutes or until the sauce is reduced by half.
  • Combine the cornstarch and wine in a small bowl.
  • Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Return the pan to the heat and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  • Set the sauce aside and keep warm until ready to serve.
  • Place the duck breasts, skin side down on the center of the grill. Cover and cook until the duck is well browned on the bottom, about 7 to 10 minutes. Check the grill occasionally for flare ups and move the duck to a cooler part of the grill if necessary.
  • Turn the duck and cook an additional 5 minutes or until the internal temperature of the meat is 135 to 140 degrees, or medium-rare to medium. (Cook longer if you prefer your meat more well done).
  • Remove the duck from the grill, transfer to a platter and let rest, tented with foil, for 5 minutes.
  • Slice on the diagonal and top with the cherry sauce.

Serves 4

Morning Glory Muffins

DSC_0035

Morning Glory muffins will always take me back to my childhood.  Growing up, the local bakery produced these giant muffins filled with lots of flavors and textures–from carrots and coconut to raisins and nuts or even fresh fruit, these were my favorite bakery treat.  In hindsight they were probably a lot less healthy than I thought they were at the time.  Somewhere along the line these muffins seemed to drop off of bakery menus in favor of new trends but I still love them.

This recipe is an adaptation of one from King Arthur Flour and is a formula rather than an exact recipe.  If you don’t like dried cranberries you can substitute whatever dried fruits you prefer.  The pecans can be omitted entirely or switched with almonds, walnuts, or additional sunflower seeds.  Be creative; you won’t be disappointed with the results.  As my son says, these muffins are yummy in the tummy!

MORNING GLORY MUFFINS

1/2 cup dried cranberries

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups peeled and grated carrots

1 pear, peeled, cored, and grated

1/2 cup sweetened coconut

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/3 cup sunflower seeds

1/3 cup wheat germ

3 large eggs

2/3 cup vegetable oil

1/4 orange juice

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • Preheat the oven to 375.  Line a muffin tine with papers and coat the papers with non-stick spray.  Set aside.
  • Place the dried cranberries in a small bowl and cover them with hot water; set aside to soak.
  • Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, spices, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  • Stir in the carrots, pear, coconut, nuts, sunflower seeds, and wheat germ.
  • In a separate bowl beat together the eggs, oil, orange juice, and vanilla.
  • Add the wet mixture into the flour mixture and stir until evenly moistened.
  • Drain the cranberries and fold into the batter.
  • Scoop the batter evenly into the prepared muffin tin.  The cups will be very full.
  • Bake for 25-28 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.  Remove the muffins from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes.  Turn them out onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Yields:  1 dozen muffins

Chestnut, Pear, Cherry and Sage Dressing

For some Thanksgiving is all about the turkey; for me, it is all about the side dishes.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love a nice juicy slice of turkey but it is everything that gets piled on the plate along with the meat that gets me the most excited.  The hardest part about living in Albania is my inability to access some of my traditional Thanksgiving (and Christmas) standbys- fresh cranberries and sweet potatoes are not available here and due to their perishability, it is not possible to get them shipped in through the pouch.  (I’m sure at some point someone has tried this but I haven’t done it yet. Maybe next year……..).

There are still plenty of delicious side dishes that I can make and this recipe for Chestnut, Pear, and Sage Dressing based on a recipe from Williams-Sonoma is just the first of several that I will highlight over the coming weeks.  Not only does this dish bring together some of the tasty and plentiful ingredients that are found here in Albania but it also makes good use of the roasted chestnuts I prepared earlier this week.  The original recipe calls for the inclusion of breakfast sausage.  I omit this since many of our guests do not eat pork.  I also double the recipe since leftover dressing is a vital part of any post-Thanksgiving Day turkey sandwich.

CHESTNUT, PEAR, CHERRY, AND SAGE DRESSING
 
1-pound loaf of rustic bread, torn into 1/2 inch pieces
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 large carrot, cut into 1/2 inch dice
3 celery stalks, cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 small pears, cored and cut int 1/2 inch dice
1 cup peeled and chopped roasted chestnuts
1 cup dried sour cherries, chopped
1/3 cup finely chapped fresh sage
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 cups turkey or chicken stock
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1)  Spread the bread out on a baking sheet and let dry overnight.  Alternatively, toast in a 300 degree F
oven for 30 minutes making sure the cubes do not burn.
2)  Preheat an oven to 375 degrees.  Butter a large, shallow baking dish.
3)  In a large saute pan over medium heat, melt 1 Tablespoon butter and add the onion, carrot, celery
and pear.
Ready for the pan

4)  Saute, stirring occasionally, until tender, 7 to 8 minutes.  Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

Melding flavors
Yummy additions

5)   Add the chestnuts, dried cherries, sage, melted butter, stock and salt and pepper and stir to mix.
Add the bread and stir to combine.

Before the addition of the bread
4)  Transfer the dressing to the prepared baking dish and dot with butter.  Bake until golden and crispy,
about 1 hour.
Into the oven it goes
Serves 10-12 people.

Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of the finished dressing in all of its golden goodness.  Our guests dug into the dish immediately and there weren’t any leftovers. I guess this is a sign of a good dish.  I’ll have to make it again and remember to get a picture next time.

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