S'mores in a Pan (So Easy Even Grandpa Can Make This One!)

This is such a simple treat that you might wonder why I’ve bothered to “write it up,” but it never occurred to me spontaneously, so maybe you haven’t thought of it either! It’s a great way to enjoy s’mores in the winter, passed along to me by my daughter.

Toasting marshmallows over coals on a warm, sunny day

Traditionally, (at least in our home) making s’mores has been a summer treat reserved for camping trips or backyard picnics after the fires have burned low. Outdoors! Where the kids can run around accidentally dropping burned marshmallows off the ends of their roasting sticks and smearing gooey fingerprints everywhere without making too much of a mess. It’s just too risky trying to make s’mores inside, even if you do have a fireplace. However, somebody thought of this:

S’mores in a Pan

Preheat oven to 400°F.
In the bottom of a cast iron griddle, spread:
2-4 oz. of chocolate chips per person
Cover with miniature marshmallows
Heat on top rack of oven for 3-5 minutes, or until chocolate is melted and marshmallows are starting to turn golden. (If the marshmallows haven’t browned, you can turn on the broiler, but then you really have to watch it carefully; I almost burned this batch, as you can see!) **Obviously, your cast iron pan will be burning hot, so make sure everyone knows NOT to touch the sides of the pan!

Serve immediately with graham crackers. Each person can dip in his own crackers and make his own s’more as he pleases. If kids stay at the table, it’s possible to eat the s’mores in a semi-reputable fashion, although the crackers will break apart (as always), so plates are good!

For chocolate lovers, chocolate graham crackers are a bonus, but they’re really yummy either way!

If you have little ones at home, or your grands come over unexpectedly, this is the perfect way to make a guaranteed-to-please treat in about 5 minutes!

Maybe not quite as thrilling as burning your own marshmallows over an open fire, but definitely great fun in winter! 🙂

The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel, and I will bless them” (Numbers 6:24-27).

Avocado Toast

Ever looking for something fairly light, healthy, and low(er) in calories for breakfast? OR, ever trying to save money at an expensive restaurant? The first time I had “avocado toast” was at a ritzy ocean-view hotel in coastal Florida, where everything on the menu was at least twice as pricey as I was used to, and avocado toast ranked with oatmeal at the bottom of the price barrel. Since I love avocados and had never seen this item on a menu, I tried it. The taste was much more palatable than the price! 🙂

Sooner or later, all these “new” ideas creep from the coasts inland and find their way onto Michigan menus, and recently when I was having breakfast out with a friend, trying the new Morning Belle Restaurant, I noticed avocado toast on their menu. Amidst the potpourri of extravagant (and certainly highly fattening) delectable dishes, this seemed like a very humble, relatively healthy option, and so I ordered it. It is tasty, pretty, and light, but paying $9 for one slice of toast with an egg and some veggies somehow hurts my Scottish heart, and so I decided to make up my own version. For any of you who wish to be avant-garde in your hospitality without costing an arm and a leg, try this!

Avocado Toast at the Morning Belle Restaurant in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Avocado Toast
Makes one

Prepare your veggies:
2 sliced grape tomatoes (or chop up a Roma tomato)
Wash and chop a few spinach leaves
Peel and slice an avocado in half, and then slice in thin pieces to make a fan

Fry one egg in butter ((or poach in water). I happened to fry up a little ham too . . .

While your egg is poaching, toast your toast (whatever kind you like) and butter it well. I spread mine with a thin layer of mayonnaise for added zest, but that would be unnecessary.

Assemble:
Toast (the more classic is white or wheat, but raisin adds an extra touch of interest)


Avocado, spread out like a fan to cover most of the toast: drizzle with lemon juice and salt lightly
Add spinach and cherry tomatoes
Top with egg
Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste
Drizzle with balsamic vinegar

P.S.—This is a pretty mild dish, so if you want the flavors to pop a little more, add a touch of tabasco sauce! Also, it’s a very light dish, so if you want a little more substance, you can add some breakfast meat and fresh fruit (such as I did).

Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counselors” (Psalm 119:24).

Chicken Curry Lettuce Wraps

Alan and I have an annual “high tea” with two other couples to break up our winter, and because one of the gals is “gluten free,” we’re always trying to find a few alternatives to the traditional tea sandwiches. Cindi got this recipe for lettuce wraps from her mother, who says she got it 40 years ago from a missionary in Taiwan. We all loved it, and I think it might be a bit lower in calories (for those of us who are always counting . . . or thinking we should 🙂 )! If you try it, I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. I think it would also be great on a hot summer day when you want something light and cold for lunch.

P.S.—Cindi served hers with a little garnish of pea shoots from their farm share, but I’m sure they would be excellent just as written up above, or with chopped chives or green onions.

But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.”
(Psalm 13:5)

Death on a Plate

My oldest brother mentioned that his favorite “go to” when it’s his turn to bring a dessert for their bridge club is called “Death on a Plate,” and since anything that sounds so good it’s deadly appeals to me, I asked for the recipe. Rob got it from a buddy from back in the days when they were both working at Lockheed as rocket scientists, but the cake is simple—not rocket science—and pretty much fool-proof, bomb-proof, and a constant crowd pleaser!

It’s also very flexible, because my first run through, I totally missed the “salad oil” and left out the pudding mix, since I didn’t have one on hand. I used sparkling grape juice instead of Kahlua and English walnuts instead of black walnuts (which I couldn’t find in the store) . . . and it still turned out great. (However, I did double the amount of chocolate chips: from 6 oz. to 12 oz.)

Also, I served it with copious amounts of whipped cream to make sure the gooey factor was high enough.

On my second run through, I used a triple-chocolate fudge cake mix with 12-oz. of special dark chocolate chips and espresso instead of Kahlua. I remembered to add 3/4 cup canola oil but somehow managed to forget the vanilla pudding mix, (which I’d bought special for the occasion, since I normally just make it from scratch)— even though it was sitting on the counter right beside the mixes! Duh!! 🙂

Believe it or not, this cake is very forgiving, because it still tasted delicious!

Because this cake was made for a potluck with children present, I left out the nuts entirely (which put off lots of small children) and decided to make the cake more eye-catching by dripping some white chocolate ganache around the edges.

The final touch was spooning some hot chocolate over the top. I think of most cakes as serving 12, but I was able to slice this one into 24 pieces, which worked great for the potluck and gave more people a chance to try it. I can now vouch for my brother’s good taste and understand why it’s his go-to for special events! 🙂

(P.S.—if you need recipes for ganache and hot fudge, they can be found below. For a white ganache, just substitute white-chocolate chips for chocolate. For decorating a cake, you really only need about a quarter as much as the ganache tart calls for and about half the amount in my hot fudge recipe.)

https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2020/01/18/creamy-chocolate-ganache-torte/

https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2015/08/05/recipe-for-the-best-hot-fudge/

He is thy praise, and he is thy God, that hath done for thee these great and terrible things, which thine eyes have seen” (Deuteronomy 10:21).

Lamb and Apricot Tangine

Last Thursday, I shared Brenda’s adventure in learning how to make this delicious stew-like Moroccan meal called “tangine,” and today I want to share Brenda’s recipe, although hers is an adaptation of a recipe (which I’ll include at the end).

Ingredients:

2 lb. -3lb. tender lamb cut into 2- or 3-inch pieces
1  medium onions, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ginger ( I was out of ginger, so I used pumpkin pie spice)
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 or 2 small 3″ pieces of cinnamon stick
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup vegetable oil or butter

Pressure cooker method. Mix all ingredients into Instant Pot.  Set on high pressure for meat/stew setting or approximately 35 minutes.  After the meat has cooked, allow the pressure to release. You may want to simmer it to reduce the amount of liquid.

Clay or ceramic tagine method. Layer the onion rings on the bottom of the tagine. Mix the meat with garlic, oils and spices, and place on the onion rings. Add the water, cover, and place the tagine on a diffuser over medium heat (if using electric heat).

Allow the tagine to reach a simmer (this may take a long time), and then reduce the heat to the lowest temperature necessary to maintain the simmer. Allow the tagine to cook for about three hours, or until the meat is tender and the liquids are reduced. About two hours into the cooking, remove and reserve 1/2 cup of the liquids.

Apricot Mixture-add just before serving:

1 cup dried apricots
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

While the meat is cooking, put the apricots in a small pot and cover with water. Simmer the apricots over medium heat, partially covered, for 10 to 15 minutes, or until tender. Drain the apricots and add the sugar, cinnamon and the 1/2 cup of reserved liquid from the meat. Simmer the apricots for about 5 to 10 minutes, or until they are sitting in a thick syrup.  Spoon onto meat mixture just before serving.

“O taste and see that the Lord is good:
blessed is the man that trusteth in him” (Psalm 34:8).

Original Recipe

Salty Chocolate Ganache Tart

This is the perfect creation if you need an egg-free or gluten-free fabulous dessert and love chocolate! I guarantee that if you try it, you’ll like it!

Salty Chocolate Ganache Tart
(Serves 10-16 . . . very rich!)

Crust:
In a blender, combine:
1.5 cups of your favorite salted nuts (I used almonds, but pecans, walnuts, or whatever you love would work well)
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt

Grind together until the nuts are pulverized.

Pat into the bottom of a buttered, 12″ pie plate.

Bake in the oven at 350°F. for 20 minutes or until the edges start to brown.
Remove from oven and let it cool on the counter.

Filling:
In a medium-sized sauce pan, heat:
2 cups heavy cream until it starts to form tiny bubbles along the edges but before it actually boils. Turn off the heat.


Add:
12 ounces special dark chocolate chips (or bittersweet)
6 ounces butter. Let it stand for 3-4 minutes to allow the butter to mostly melt, then whisk the mixture until it’s completely smooth and shiny.

Pour into the cooled (or at least mostly cooled) pie shell.
Cool completely and then chill for 1-2 hours before serving (or overnight). It needs to be completely cold to set properly and can easily be made a day before serving; just cover it loosely when the filling is no longer wet.

This torte can be garnished with more whipped cream and berries or sprinkled with more crushed nuts or powdered sugar, but it also tastes splendid without any additional adornment! I served it plain on the first night, since it was just one of several desserts we enjoyed last weekend!

And their father Israel said unto them, If it must be so now, do this; take of the best fruits in the land in your vessels, and carry down the man a present, a little balm, and a little honey, spices, and myrrh, nuts, and almonds” (Genesis 43:11; nuts have been prized as gifts for more than 4,000 years! They’re full of protein and more nourishing than a traditional crust, so what’s not to love?!)

Cornish Pasties from the U.P.

Don’t you love pasties? Our family fell in love with them thirty years ago when we moved to Marquette, Michigan, although we usually bought ours from Jean Kay’s Pasty Shop rather than making our own. However, here’s an authentic recipe for Cornish Pasties shared by a native “Yooper” (born and reared in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula), my friend Grace Truman.

Cornish Pasties
(Makes 6 large pasties . . . each about a pound!)

For the filling, combine in a large bowl:
2 lbs. cubed raw beef, chicken, pork, or venison
4 pared and cubed medium potatoes
4 pared and sliced carrots, or equivalent rutabaga if you prefer
Sprinkle on salt, pepper, onion, parsley, basil, and oregano to taste. (*See notes below for suggestions.)


Stir well.    

For the crust, mix together:
4 cups flour (Grace uses organic, unbleached King Arthur)
1.5 teaspoons salt
Cut in 1 C soft butter
Stir in 1 C water, more or less, to make a moist, but not sticky, dough.  (Kathi: I found that 1 cup was just about perfect.)

Divide dough into six pieces and form into balls. 

Roll out each ball to dinner plate size. (Kathi: I found it helpful to roll the crusts out on top of saran wrap so that it’s easier to flip over and transfer later. It also helps to flour the surface and make the crust as smoothly circular as possible before rolling.)


Top each crust with 1/6 of the filling.  (Kathi: I found this to be almost exactly 2 cups)
Top with 1/2 tbsp. butter.  (Kathi: Or 1 tablespoon of butter if you can afford the calories)

Moisten dough edges and fold in half, bringing the crust up and over the filling to make a half circle. 

Seal edges. 

Brush on milk and cut slits in the crust. 


Bake 1 hour at 400°F. until brown. 

(Kathi: I noticed that the areas where I’d brushed the pasties with milk turned a more golden brown, so next time I’ll be sure to entirely cover the surfaces with a light brushing of milk.)

Pasties are HUGE. I used to eat a whole one without batting an eye, but I suppose that was back in the day when I was chasing kids around and hiking in the hills! I should have only eaten half of mine! At any rate, it was delicious. They are a “meal in one” although I served ours with some fresh berries for dessert and a glass of (non-alcoholic) wassail punch.

Alan is also a native Yooper and loves pasties, so he told me I should take a picture demonstrating just how yummy they are! He ate every bit of his with delight!

Notes: Leftover pasties may be frozen. After they are baked, let them cool completely, and then wrap them individually in aluminum foil and freeze. When you’re ready to eat them again, pull them out of the freezer and bake them at 350°F. for 1 hour.  Grace mentioned that some people like them with gravy, although Alan and I always use ketchup with ours.

Notes: When I made them, I tried to measure the spices to get a feel for “how much” might be “to taste.” This is what I did, and it turned out well:
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons onion powder (not onion salt)
1 tablespoon dried, crushed parsley
1 tablespoon dried, crushed basil
1 tablespoon dried, crushed oregano
*2 teaspoons garlic powder (not garlic salt; this wasn’t in Grace’s recipe, but we love garlic, and so “to taste” for us needed a little garlic powder)

Also, Grace mentioned later to use parchment paper underneath them, which would be a good idea. I didn’t think of that, so one of mine stuck rather badly to the bottom of the cookie sheet. If you have a cookie sheet that can withstand a metal spatula, then they come off pretty easily, but don’t try too soon, or the crust will crack and break up. I think it’s best to let them rest about 10 minutes before serving them.

And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?” (Luke 12:42; Oh, to be a faithful and wise steward!)