not too long ago...

beautiful butter-pecan pumpkin tart

a beautiful butter-pecan pumpkin tart on a sunny fall day

It's dark. It's cold. It's winter. I came across this sunny fall photo of the butter-pecan pumpkin tart I made this past Thanksgiving and it cheered me up :-)

Crispy Beer Flat Bread...

Here's a great-sounding recipe for Crispy Beer Flat Bread (from recipezaar) that I'll try soon. One thing I will change is the 2 c all-purpose flour for something a little healthier like fine whole spelt flour, or whole wheat flour... or maybe 1/2 wheat flour and 1/2 corn flour (orgainc of course!) with chilli and Corona or any good Mexican cerveza... mmm...

Super pancakes (for one or more)

"Super" because they're packed with nutritious filling whole grains and
are awesome tasting. Have a couple of these and a fruit smoothie and
you're set for the day!

Recipe: Super Pancakes

Goats! (great cheese)

Carmelis Cheeses
Carmelis organic goat cheeses and wonderful breads: mmm...

Early last summer, I visited Carmelis Organic Goat Cheese Farm with Manny and Crystal from Arrowleaf Cellars for a farm tour and fantastic feast.

Vanilla Walnut Shortbread Cookies...

I made somewhat traditional shortbread cookies over the holidays that went over very well. They were actually more like Mexican Wedding Cakes as they included a generous amount of ground nuts. The thing that made the cookies extra special was the large proportion of walnuts, the sweet cultured butter (butter made from fermented cream - popular in Europe), and the exquisite Mexican vanilla. The texture of these was beautiful as well: they literally melted-in-your-mouth.

Healthy?

Well, not exactly. These have a lot of butter, sugar, and refined wheat flour - though I'm sure they would taste great made with a fine whole spelt or wheat flour - or even possibly a gluten-free flour mix...

Cultured butter may be healthier than regular butter since it has lactic acid bacteria (from the fermentation), and almost no lactose. Cultured butter is also slightly higher in fat. I love the flavour of this type of "sweet" butter :-)

Walnuts are definitely healthy: very high in omega-3 fatty acids, high in Magnesium, and they help lower "bad" cholesterol.

Recipe: Walnut Shortbread Cookies

007

Whoa - it's already 2007.

Happy New Year!
Bonne Année!
¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

Panforte

Panforte cross-section
a chocolate version of the famous Italian fruitcake: Panforte

Yes - it's the holiday season. I've been busy making super-rich frighteningly tasty treats including my own version of the amazing sweet/spicy/chewy/bitter/nutty Italian cake/confection panforte (aka Sienna cake).

Some inspiring recipes for panforte:

I've read slightly different historical accounts of panforte - here's the Wikipedia's most recent write-up:

"Panforte is a traditional Italian dessert containing fruits and nuts, and resembling fruitcake or Lebkuchen. It may date back to 13th century Siena, in Italy's Tuscany region. Documents from 1205 show that Panforte was paid to the monks and nuns of a local monastery as a tax or tithe which was due on the seventh of February that year. Literally, Panforte means "strong bread" which refers to the spicy flavour. The original name of Panforte was "panpepato" (pepper bread), due to the strong pepper used in the cake. There are references to the Crusaders carrying Panforte, a durable confection, with them on their quests."

Currently there are many shops in Italy producing Panforte, each recipe being their jealously guarded interpretation of the original confection and packaged in distinctive wrapping. Usually a small wedge is served with coffee or a dessert wine after a meal, though some enjoy it with their coffee at breakfast."

(more history here)

ps - panforte is really really sweet so consume in moderation ;-)

Panforte discovery

In my search for an amazing fruitcake recipe, I came across panforte. Panforte, or "strong bread" is like the Italian version of fruitcake: very rich and full of nuts, honey, spices, citrus peel - more like a confection than cake.

lovely little poppy-seeds

Poppy-Seed
lovely little poppyseeds

I definitely have a thing for poppy-seeds. They taste great, look cool, and seem help me relax when I eat a lot of them... not sure why ;-)

These famous/infamous little seeds seem to pop up around the winter season in traditional Eastern European foods. One dish that I've had the pleasure of eating is Kutya (also Kutia): a traditional sweet Ukrainian (and Russian, Eastern Orthodox) dish eaten on Christmas Eve for good luck and fertility. It's basically cooked wheat with honey, ground poppy-seeds, nuts, and sometimes dried fruit. It's so tasty and satisfying that I crave it year-round!

Recipes: KUTYA, Ukrainian Christmas Kutya ( Kutia)
And here's a Lithuanian recipe for Poppy-Seed Milk (dairy-free!)

poppy