<![CDATA[Red Rocks The Kitchen - Recipes]]>Sat, 21 Apr 2018 03:37:28 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[Blood Orange Angel Pie]]>Tue, 10 Apr 2018 12:28:45 GMThttp://redrocksthekitchen.com/recipes/blood-orange-angel-pie
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I don't think Spring is ever coming to the U.P. of MI....winter wants to just keep hangin' on!!  However, I need to stay positive, so I'm trying to make things that are bright, fresh, and "spring" like.  This pie is a bit of a twist on the standard "meringue" pie, and may even be a bit similar to the Russian dessert Pavlova.  Instead of your basic pastry crust, I used a baked meringue base instead- which makes this incredibly light and airy!  Don't be fooled though, the filling is light and creamy, (blood orange curd combined with fresh whipped cream), but oh-so- decadent at the same time.  Each bite is truly heavenly......the crisp, but chewy meringue crust, topped with a fresh orange filling that is creamy, thick, and luscious- finished with a sweet, crisp candied orange wheel.  A dessert that is gluten free, easy to make, (no rolling out of pastry involved!), and very classy, yet simple.
You can sprinkle on ground nuts or coconut to the meringue before baking to add extra flavor and eye appeal.  Or, you could even add some finely chopped mint to the meringue as well for an extra burst of flavor.  ****Mint always pairs amazingly well with citrus. 

Yield:  1- 9 inch deep pie

Prep time:  Total of 30-40 min


Blood Orange Curd:
6 T. unsalted butter (room temp.)
3/4 c. sugar
8 egg yolks
1/8 t. salt
zest of 4 Blood oranges
juice of 4 Blood oranges (about 3/4 cup) **strain the juice prior to adding to the butter and egg mixture.

1)  Make this the night before, or 4-6 hours before assembling the pie.

In a saucepan, add the butter, zest, salt, and sugar, and whisk together well- until nice and creamy smooth.  Add the egg yolks a couple at a time, whisking together well.  Lastly, whisk in the juice.

2)  Place the saucepan on a medium heat, and whisk almost constantly- as you don't want to scramble the eggs, or scald the bottom of the pan!  When the mixture begins to bubble vigorously, turn the heat down a bit, and set a timer for 4-5 minutes.  Continue whisking the mixture until your timer goes off.  The curd should be slightly thicker than prior to cooking- but may not be as thick as a pudding.  Remove from the heat, and pour into a glass pyrex bowl, and cover the top with plastic wrap.  Using a sharp knife, make several slits in the plastic wrap to allow the mixture to cool efficiently.    Place in the refrigerator overnight, or for 4-6 hours.  (This will thicken as it cools!) 

Meringue Crust:
8 egg whites
1/4 t. cream of tartar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 t. pure vanilla extract
***Optional:  Sprinkle of ground nuts, or shredded coconut

1)  Preheat oven to 275F.  Liberally spray a 9in. deep ceramic or glass pie dish with coconut oil or cooking spray.

2)  In a medium mixing bowl, (or standing mixer), beat egg whites on medium speed until foamy.  Add the cream of tartar and increase speed to high.  Begin to add the sugar a couple tablespoons at a time.  Beat on high speed until stiff peaks form, (about 2-3 minutes.)  Meringue should be a brilliant white, and have a shine to it.
Using a rubber spatula, spoon the the meringue into the prepared pie dish, and spread as evenly as possible- leaving a bit of a "well" in the center of the pie.  (Refer to the pic below, but note that the well should be a bit more shallow than mine was.  You don't want the meringue layer to be too thin on the bottom, because it will make serving the pie more messy and difficult!) 

3)  If you wish to have nuts or coconut on your meringue, sprinkle over at this time.  Bake meringue for about
1 hour
at 275F.  (Meringue should be very puffy, and a toasted color.  The cracking is completely normal!)  Remove from oven, and allow to cool completely.

Filling/ Topping:
1 pint of heavy whipping cream
3 T. of granulated sugar
***Optional:  about 1 t. finely chopped fresh mint.

Garnish:  Fresh mint leaves, ground nuts, coconut, fresh segmented blood oranges, zest or rind

1)  In a cold mixing bowl, beat the heavy cream on medium speed until frothy, then slowly begin adding the sugar in stages, and increase speed to high.  Beat the cream until medium peaks form.
Gently fold in the chilled blood orange curd to half of the whipped cream by hand.  (Do not do this with a mixer!  You don't want to lose the air in the cream, so it must be done carefully and slowly by hand- using a rubber spatula.)

2)  Transfer the filling into the baked meringue, and spread evenly.  Using the remaining whipped cream, spread over top of the filling.  Garnish the pie at this time with fresh mint leaves, more ground nuts, coconut, orange segments, etc.   Chill the pie for 2-3 hours prior to serving.  When ready to serve, make sure to use a knife dipped in hot water (cleaned) prior to each cut for perfect clean slices.
Best consumed within 2-3 days of making, and keep refrigerated.

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<![CDATA[Quick Hummus]]>Mon, 22 Jan 2018 20:44:37 GMThttp://redrocksthekitchen.com/recipes/quick-hummus
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Hummus....what's not to love??  It's incredibly healthy, versatile, easy to make, and it's just simply yumlicious!
But, what exactly is hummus?  Well, it is a traditional Middle Eastern dip, composed of cooked garbanzo beans (chickpeas), tahini (sesame seed paste), lemon, olive oil, and salt.  The very word "hummus" is Arabic for "chickpea", and is an ancient legume that originates from India and the Middle East.  It is also known to be one of the first ancient crops of Mesopotamia, and in Ancient Rome, hummus was a common street food.  Today, hummus is a common food in vegetarian, vegan, keto, high protein, and many other types of diets.    As with most, (if not all legumes), chickpeas are very high in protein, fiber, Vitamin C, iron, folate, and B6, so it makes for an excellent meal or snack!
This hummus recipe was made without tahini, but I have added the amount if you choose to make it the traditional way.  I love tahini paste, but it is a bit on the pricey side, and not always easy to find.  So, a great substitute is sesame oil!  Since sesame oil can be bitter, you don't need alot.  Also, you can do without the sesame altogether!  There are many variations with hummus, but this one is a very basic, and an easy one to make.   Feel free to experiment!  I topped mine with some crumbled feta cheese and kalamata olives, but you could add or blend in:  roasted red pepper, fire roasted tomatoes, pimentos, jalapenos,  avocado, cilantro, black beans, artichokes, spinach or kale, beets, and much more!!  
Hummus is excellent with veggies, pita bread (chips), as a spread on sandwiches, (much healthier than mayo!), base for a pasta or creamy chicken salad, pizza, mixed in with deviled eggs, or even thinned out into a sauce or soup!  So many ideas......

Yield:  About a quart

Prep time:  5-10min.


Ingredients:
2- 15oz cans of garbanzo or "chickpeas"
2-3 cloves of garlic
juice of 1 lemon
salt
1/2 cup + of Grapeseed or EV Olive oil
****Optional-  2 T. of either Sesame Oil or Tahini Paste
1/2 t. ground cumin

1)  Place all ingredients, (except the Grapeseed oil), in a food processor, and blend on low.  While the machine is going, begin to stream oil in until the mixture has a smooth and creamy texture. 
Remove hummus from food processor, and place in a serving dish or a container with a sealable lid.  (Preferably glass- since lemon juice is acidic and can pull the toxins out of plastic vessels.)  Store in the refrigerator.
Consume within 5 days

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<![CDATA[Mole Spice Blend]]>Tue, 09 Jan 2018 13:36:45 GMThttp://redrocksthekitchen.com/recipes/mole-spice-blendPicture
I'm one of those people that rarely ever measure spices or anything when I cook, so it's been challenging for me the past few years writing recipes because it forces me to do so!  However, I recently put together some of my own "spice blends" to have on hand, and this Mole Blend was one of them.  (It really makes for some quick meals!)
"Mole" is rather complex, and can vary among the  regions of Mexico.  There are many types, or styles of this sauce!
Traditionally, it supposedly hails from the state of Puebla in Mexico, in the Convent of Santa Rosa.  There is a legend of some very poor convent nuns panicking about what to make for the Archbishop that was to visit them.  So they prayed, and literally started throwing together everything they could find to make a sauce, butchered and cooked a turkey, and served the turkey with the sauce they created to the Archbishop.  He absolutely loved it, and asked one of the nun's what the dish was, and she replied, "I made a mole."  (Mole was the ancient term for "mix"." )  The sauce they made was comprised of:  spices, bread, chocolate, chili peppers, and nuts. 
Although there are similar versions of this story, it appears that they all seem to include an Archbishop, turkey, and the same spices/ ingredients for the sauce.  Some people believe that this sauce could have originated with the natives much farther back in history, but there is not enough evidence to support that theory.  The first recipes for Mole didn't emerge until after the end of the Mexican War of Independence in 1810.   Chiles are the key ingredient to the sauce, and the Mole Poblano is the most classic version, (dark red or brown in color), and is served over meat.    Other items that are variants to the sauce include:  nuts, seeds, dried fruit, cilantro or oregano, onions, garlic, chocolate, and cinnamon.
For this blend that I have created, I've opted to also include a bit of espresso powder- which deepens and intensifies the bold flavor.  The chocolate is subtle, and not overwhelming.  It is meant to add color, and balance the heat of the chiles.  I would like to add that even though there are a few different types of chilis in this blend, the mole is not meant to be "hot" in spice.  The chili powders chosen were all mild- according to the heat scale.
So if you are not one for really spicy dishes, fear not!  (Trust me, I am not one for eating super spicy foods.)
One of my favorite, (and more recent), products on the market is the "PB2 Powder", (powdered peanuts), which is excellent for adding thickness, flavor, and smoothness to the sauce as well.  
Making this spice blend ahead of time makes for a quick and easy sauce!  (Literally 5min. or less!)
I absolutely love Moles, and it really adds amazing flavor to almost any kind of meat; chicken, turkey, beef, pork, fish, etc.  (My dad really likes to add a mole flavor to his refried beans as well!)
The sauce is excellent for most any traditional Mexican dish, or simply served over most any kind of meat, but can also be used as a rub for meat, or added to soups, chilis, or even brownies!  (Think outside the box!)
*****For nut allergies, simply omit the nuts altogether! 

Yield:  1 cup

Prep time:  About 15 min.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 T. of  Ancho Chili powder
1 1/4 T. of  Green chili powder
3 1/4 T. of La Mesa Dark chili powder
2 T. of  New Mexican Red chili powder
2 T. ground cumin
1/2 T. Garlic powder
1/2 T. ground cinnamon
1/2 T. espresso powder
1 T. toasted sesame seeds
1/2 T. of dried Mexican Oregano or dried Cilantro
1/8 cup of Dark Cocoa powder
1/8 cup of PB2 powder   (found near the peanut butter in most stores)

****The dried chili powders can be found at most Spice stores, Import Markets, or Food Co-Ops

1)  Toast your sesame seeds:  Simply add the sesame seeds to a small saute pan on medium heat, ( NO OIL!), and stir the seeds, (or gently shake the pan a bit), until they begin to turn golden brown.  Remove from heat, and allow to cool to room temp.

2)  In a bowl, simply add all of the spices/ ingredients, blend well by lightly whisking or stirring, and spoon into a mason jar, seal, and be sure to label.  Keep the spice blend in a cool and dry place. 
******To make a sauce:  Simply add about 1/2 cup of spice blend for every 1/4 cup of broth, whisk together in a sauce pan on medium, and cook until sauce is thickened.   You can adjust thickness to your liking by add more or less of either spice blend or broth.
****Make sure to add salt to taste, as there is no salt added to this blend!  You can add more of the spices to adjust sauce to your liking.

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<![CDATA[Caramel Fudge Swirl Cheesecake Bars]]>Thu, 04 Jan 2018 14:15:12 GMThttp://redrocksthekitchen.com/recipes/caramel-fudge-swirl-cheesecake-barsPicture
I don't care if it's in cake form, bar form, bite- size, etc., cheesecake is one of my ultimate dessert weaknesses.  It also happens to be my daughter's as well!  She requested I make these for her recently, and how could I say "no"??!!  I have to say that making cheesecake "bars" is more sensible from the stand point that you can control the portions.  One little bar is better than consuming a full "slice" of dense cheese cake! 
Graham cracker crust is the most common choice for many, but I like a sugar dough crust better.  It adds a bit more richness, flavor, texture, and makes for a more solid base.  (Easier to slice through- won't crumble.)  No need to go through the work of making it from scratch- just simply purchase a roll of sugar dough at the store!  Any extra dough can be rolled out into your shape of choice for cookies!  (Or, maybe you could find some other creative uses for it.)
The cheesecake itself, is a traditional vanilla, with an added decadent swirl of caramel and fudge on top.  Not only do these look gorgeous and interesting, but they are fabulously "yumlicious"!!  Super easy to make, and they're great for parties, potlucks, etc.

Yield:  16 bars

Prep time:  30min.


Ingredients:
   
1 roll of refrigerated sugar dough

2- 8oz. pkg. Cream cheese (softened to room temp.)
1/2 cup sugar
2 t. cornstarch
2 eggs
1/4 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream
1 t. pure vanilla extract

Caramel sauce
Fudge sauce

Preheat oven to 350F
1)  Prep your 8x8 or 8x9 baking pan by lining it with foil.  Lightly spray the foil with oil.

2)  On a lightly floured surface, roll the sugar dough out about 1/8 in thick.  Use your prepped pan as a guide to cut out the dough for the crust.  Carefully roll the dough on your rolling pin, and transfer to the prepped baking pan.  Refrigerate the crust for about 10min. prior to baking.  After 10min., bake the crust in a 350F oven for 12-15min., or until slightly golden on edges.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.

3)  In a mixing bowl fitted with a paddle, cream your sugar and cream cheese until very smooth.  Scrape the bowl, and beat on high for 30 sec to 1 min.  Beat in the eggs one at a time until well combined.  Add the cornstarch and yogurt or sour cream.  Add vanilla at the end.  As evenly as possible, pour and spread cheesecake batter over the sugar dough crust, and use a rubber spatula to smooth and level the surface.  Using 2 ziploc bags, spoon about a 1/4 cup of caramel into one bag, and 1/4 cup of fudge sauce into the other bag, (or purchasing the squeeze top bottles would be easier!).  Snip a small hole in the end of each bag, and carefully pipe a line of sauce from end to end- alternating each sauce.  ****Refer to pic below.
Make sure the pan is turned so that the sauce lines run horizontal.  Using a bamboo skewer or tooth pic, begin swirling in a clockwise rotation from top to bottom.  Reverse the direction when going down the next line, and repeat until all lines are swirled.

4)  Bake at 300F for 40-45min., (or until batter is set, and doesn't "jiggle" in center.) 
***Note:  I baked mine in a water bath to prevent cracking.  Simply take a larger cake or roasting pan, place the cheesecake pan inside, and fill the outer pan about half way up the side with hot water before placing in oven.
Shut off oven, and leave in for an additional 30min.  Remove pan, and allow to cool.  Place in the refrigerator to completely chill and set up for about 4-6 hours.  When ready to serve, lift the foil to remove bars from pan, use a plate to invert so you can remove the foil from sides and bottom, and then flip back over onto a cutting board.  Using a very hot knife, (dipping in hot water to rinse between each slice for clean cuts), cut bars 4x4, or larger if you wish.
Store the bars in a sealed container in the refrigerator for 5-7 days.

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<![CDATA[Basic Gingerbread]]>Thu, 21 Dec 2017 14:45:32 GMThttp://redrocksthekitchen.com/recipes/basic-gingerbreadPicture
I'm not sure if the Christmas baking season is complete until you have made some gingerbread people or houses!  For many years now, (since my very first gingerbread house competition in high school), I've been making this dough every year, and having fun decorating the cut outs, and/or houses, etc.  This recipe is actually a basic one that came from my Culinary School days.  The recipe calls for "Bread flour", (which is a high protein flour- perfect for high gluten items such as breads). Bread flour would make the dough more durable for constructing gingerbread houses.  But, I have used regular AP flour for years, (which is the next best substitute among the types of flours), and it works just fine.  Baking these cookies makes your house smell like Christmas heaven!  I absolutely love the smell of gingerbread, and they taste like they smell- simply divine!  Molasses is such a unique flavor, and it's what gives this recipe the color and dominate flavor.  If you have never tried your hand at making gingerbread, I highly recommend you try this recipe!  Even if the flavor isn't your favorite, it's fun to just get creative and decorate a gingerbread house with your friends, kids, or family, and there are so many great house cutters/ forms that have come out in recent years making it that much easier to create your own.  Does this have to be limited to just Christmas?  Of course not!  I'm sure you've seen the "haunted house" kits in stores around Halloween, and really any holiday or event  would be a good reason  to get creative and let your imagination run wild!  Plus, you can eat it, and it's so spicy and delicious!

Yield:  4-6 dozen cookies (depending on size)
1 Gingerbread house  (depending on size)

Prep time:  45 min for making dough/ rolling out shapes


Ingredients:
8 oz (1 stick) shortening
3/4 cup Packed brown sugar
16 oz Molasses (2 cups)
3 eggs
1 T. ground cinnamon
1 T. ground ginger
1 t. cloves
1 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. cardamom
About 5+ cups of AP or Bread flour

cookie cutters/ gingerbread house cutters or molds
hard candies for windows
additional flour for rolling

1)  Cream your sugar and shortening.  Add the molasses, and mix until well combined.  (Scrape the bowl down.)
Add the eggs one at a time until well mixed.  Add the spices, and then add the flour on low speed, (or stir by hand), 1 cup at a time.   Add more flour if dough still seems too sticky.

2)  Divide dough in half, flatten into a disc, and wrap well with plastic wrap.  Store in the refrigerator for about 2-4 hours to firm up.

3)  When ready to roll out, place dough on a well-floured and clean flat surface.  Sprinkle some extra flour over dough, and roll out to about 1/4in thickness, and cut into desired shapes.  Place shapes on a silpat or parchment lined baking sheet.  Transfer sheets to the refrigerator for about 10-15min. prior to baking to allow dough to firm up.  Bake at 350F for 10-15min. 
*******If making "stained glass window effect" for houses or cookies, simply cut out the "window" or shape into the cookie, and place a couple hard candies in the space.

To finish cookies/ house, use royal icing for the "glue" as well as decoration, and you can use virtually any kind of confection, cracker, cookie, etc. to finish your house with.  (Leftover Halloween candy is a great way to get rid of that stuff for this project!)
Have fun creating!

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<![CDATA[Pumpkin Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies]]>Sat, 18 Nov 2017 18:13:31 GMThttp://redrocksthekitchen.com/recipes/pumpkin-cranberry-oatmeal-cookiesPicture
It's holiday cookie season, and I am knee deep in baking!  My oldest son actually requested that I make  these recently, and I'm glad I did- they are soooo good!
Oatmeal cookies are a basic/ traditional cookie, but one that you can change up and add different things to.  These cookies are a bit spicy, buttery, soft, and yet filled with the tart cranberries and yummy pumpkin flavor- combined with the texture of those whole grain oats!   They're warm and comforting- an excellent treat on a cold Fall/ Winter day!  Dried cherries, raisins, chocolate chips, or other dried fruits would be great in these as well.  Nuts?  Of course!  (I chose to omit these because of my daughter's nut allergy.)  Super easy to make, and they will still taste just as good a week later if stored in a cool and dry place!  (If they last that long!)






Yield:  About 3 dozen cookies

Prep time:  20-30 min.


Ingredients:
1 cup (2 sticks) of butter, softened
1 1/4 c. packed brown sugar
3/4 c. sugar
1 egg
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 t. pure Vanilla extract
1/2 t. ground ginger
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. ground cloves
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1 1/2 c. flour
3 c. Old Fashioned Oats
1- 1 1/2 c. dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350F
1)  Cream the butter and sugars together on medium speed using an electric hand or stand mixer with paddle attachment.  (Or, simply make it the "old school" way and stir by hand!)  When nice and fluffy, add the egg and beat well, then the pumpkin.  Next add in the spices, vanilla, salt, baking powder and soda.

2)  On low speed, (in stages), begin to add the flour, oats, and dried cranberries just until combined!  ***You never want to over-mix cookie dough! 

3)  On parchment or silpat lined baking sheets, begin to scoop cookie dough out- heaping Tablespoon, (about 2in. apart), on sheet trays.   Bake at 350F for 12-18 min. until the edges are golden brown, and centers are still soft.
Remove from oven and cool for a couple minutes, then transfer cookies to a wire rack.

4)  Cookies should be stored in an air tight container for 5-7 days in a cool, dry place.

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<![CDATA[Flavored Sugar Cubes]]>Thu, 26 Oct 2017 13:34:32 GMThttp://redrocksthekitchen.com/recipes/flavored-sugar-cubes
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Tea has become kind of a big deal in my home.  I'm a die hard coffee drinker, but on occasion, I do enjoy a good cup of tea.  My eldest son has become quite the tea aficionado in the last year or so, and is very enthralled with all things British, so he has sugar cubes with his tea daily.  It may also be interesting to note that brown sugar cubes are a common European staple for tea time, and add a beautiful caramel flavor to the tea.
As a bartender, I use these sweet cubes in some of the cocktails I make at work.  So, sugar cubes aren't just for tea!
Flavored cubes can be an excellent way to add that next level of unique flavor to any alcoholic beverage you may want to concoct- from classics like Old Fashioned, Hot Toddies, Mojitos, or Mules- to a fancy Champagne spritzer.
Since I am also an advocate of the holistic uses of essential oils, I wanted to include the fact that they can be used in this recipe as well, for flavor, health, or even medicinal purposes.  (Try Thieves, Lemon, and honey!)
***Just beware of your "hot" oils- such as:  peppermint, mint, cinnamon, cloves, etc.!  These are more powerful, and less drops are recommended if using.
But why limit these to only hot beverages or cocktails?  The brown sugar cubes would be excellent in your favorite bowl of oatmeal or hot cereal as well, and popping a sugar cube in your container of bread, cheese, or baked goods actually helps them stay fresher longer!
I can't say I've ever even seen flavored sugar cubes on the shelves of any store, but that's not to say that they're not out there in specialty shops!  But seriously, how fun is this??  It's so easy, (perhaps a bit time consuming depending on which type you're concocting), but the flavors/ shapes are seriously endless!  With the holidays coming fast, these also make AMAZING and unique gifts!  Yes, you may have noticed the creepy "skull" sugar cubes- I made these for Halloween!  (They are lemon flavored.)   You can use any plastic candy molds for any holiday/ occasion.  I recommend using small- "sugar cube sized" shapes of "plastic" candy molds.  Silicone could be used, but the molds are more flexible, which may make it more difficult to work with, and/or dry properly.   If this is your first time trying this, I recommend either using the molds, or the "scoop" method to make it easier.  Forming the sugar into the block and slicing can be a lot trickier!  Either way, these are easy to make, and the possibilities are endless for shapes and flavors!

***Pictured Above:  Brown Sugar Cinnamon & Orange buttons, Matcha Citrus cubes, and Lemon sugar "skulls".

Here are the Two Basic recipes for both white and brown sugar cubes:

Basic White:

1 1/2 cups of Sugar (Superfine is recommended, but granulated will work as well.)
1 t. flavored extract or  ****1 t. Rosewater or ***6-10 drops of Essential Oil (citrus, lavender, Thieves, etc.) or ***1-2 t. of powdered matcha, cinnamon, etc.
2 t. water (Vodka, Whiskey, Bourbon, etc. can be used in place of water.)
****Very important:  This is a pretty exact recipe for water: sugar.  If you use essential oils, spices, etc., then you must add 3 t. water or liquid to sugar. 

Basic Brown:
1 1/2 cups of PACKED Brown sugar ( can be light or dark)
1 t. flavored extract
2 t. water
****Very important:  This is a pretty exact recipe for water: sugar.  If you use essential oils, spices, etc., then you must add 3 t. water or liquid to sugar. 

Additional items you can add depending on flavor: 
crushed rose petals, calendula, dried lavender, very fine dried citrus zest, dried herbs/ mint, honey, pure maple syrup, vanilla bean, ground spices, fruit powders, etc.

1)  Simply place all ingredients in a quart size ziploc.  Seal, and combine ingredients well, until mixture resembles a wet sand that clumps together.  (Mixing in a bowl works fine as well.)
*****If it's too wet, it won't dry, and if it's too dry, it won't stick together!
2)  Pack tight into a clean plastic candy mold, and be sure to level off flat side of mold.  Or, using a small melon baller tool, scoop into "button" size shapes on a parchment or silicone lined sheet tray.   Allow shapes to dry for 2-4 hours, then if using a mold, carefully un-mold cubes to allow the other side to dry out for an additional 2-4 hours, or even overnight in a cool/ dry area. 
****If you live in a humid climate and don't have air conditioning, drying out the sugar may not work for you, as it needs to be moisture free to dry properly.  You may have to use silicone molds instead of plastic, and place in a very low temp oven, (170F), to dry out your sugar.
3) When the cubes feel nice and hard, transfer them to a glass jar or plastic sealed container, and store in a cool and dry place.  These will last for a long time if stored well!

***For making traditional "cubes":  Dump the sugar mixture in the center of a silicone or parchment lined sheet tray.  Using a bench scraper or a long handled flat spatula, begin to shape and flatten the mixture into a large square that is about 1/2in thick.  Once the square is compacted well and even on all sides, use the bench scraper or spatula to cut the lines both down and across the best you can.  carefully pull the lines to separate a bit from one another for drying purposes.  These may need to be flipped after about 4 hours of air drying time. 

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<![CDATA[Butternut Squash, Fennel, & Sausage Penne]]>Tue, 10 Oct 2017 12:33:13 GMThttp://redrocksthekitchen.com/recipes/butternut-squash-fennel-sausage-pennePicture
Fall has to be one of my most favorite times of the the year!  The changing color of the leaves, crisp cool air, apples, pumpkins, squash......I could just keep going!  Well, one thing is for sure, it never gets old coming up with new squash recipes- sweet or savory!
Butternut squash is probably my favorite to use in soups and sauces because the texture, (once pureed), is so silky and velvety smooth, and so versatile.  I like to roast my squash ahead of time, (like before I go to work), because it makes for a pretty quick dish later in the evening on a busy night!  I caramelized  some onions, garlic, and fennel to deepen the flavor, and added some tumeric for a beautiful "earthy" flavor, as well as some added health benefits. 
****Tumeric has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Nutmeg would  be a nice addition, but I chose instead to add some Dark LaMesa chili powder for bolder flavor.  Chicken broth was used for flavor, as well as "thinning" out the sauce.  You could also add some half & half, or heavy cream at the end for added richness.
This is really a simple dish- not complex at all, but so healthy and delicious!  The sausage adds another level of flavor and heartiness to the dish.  I chose  a mild ground sausage, but feel free to add a "spicy/hot" style if you prefer.  This recipe makes about 2 quarts, so you can either freeze the leftover sauce if you'd like, or cut the recipe in half.  Either way, it's absolutely delicious, healthy, and a great use of one of my favorite squashes! 

Yield:  2 Quarts sauce (6-8 servings)

Prep Time:  40min.


Ingredients:
1 small Butternut squash
1/2 onion (sliced)
2 cloves garlic
1 small bulb fennel (sliced)
4+ cups chicken broth or stock
1 t. ground tumeric
1/2 t. chili powder  ***I used Dark LaMesa, but any style is fine!
salt & pepper

1# ground sausage (cooked)
1 box of  whole wheat penne pasta (or regular if you prefer)

Optional items to add:  Sage, basil, roasted red peppers, spinach, Asiago, Parmesan, Pecorino cheese, heavy cream, Prosciutto, Pancetta, etc.

1)  Slice the squash in half, place both halves on a foil lined baking sheet, remove seeds, brush olive oil, (or melted butter), on both squash halves, season with salt & pepper, and bake at 350F for 45-60min.  
Remove from oven, allow to cool, and wrap in foil and refrigerate  until ready to make sauce.

2)  Before beginning sauce, begin to boil water for cooking pasta, and cook the sausage, and set aside.
In a saute pan on medium heat, place about 2-3 T oil or butter, and after 30sec or so, add the onions, garlic, and fennel.  Saute until it all looks nice and caramelized.   Transfer to a 2 Qt. pot, and add 2 cups chicken broth on medium heat.  Remove the cooked squash from refrigerator, remove peel/ stem, quarter, and add to pot carefully.   After sauce begins to simmer, lower heat and using an immersion blender, puree the sauce at this time.  Cover- as it will begin to bubble & "pop"!  (Add spices, stir, and adjust thickness by adding more broth if necessary.)  Adjust seasoning at this time as well.

3)  Cook the pasta according to directions on package.  Ladle enough sauce over the pasta, and add sausage.  Gently toss together.  Garnish with fennel fronds, shaved parmesan, sage, etc. and serve immediately.
For leftover sauce, simply allow to cool and pour into gallon freezer bags, (or quarts for smaller portions), and freeze for up to 1 month.

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<![CDATA[Moroccan Red Lentil Soup]]>Wed, 06 Sep 2017 12:28:51 GMThttp://redrocksthekitchen.com/recipes/moroccan-red-lentil-soupPicture
Well, the kids are officially back in school, and it appears that Fall has decided to come extra early this year in the U.P. of MI.  Perfect soup weather in my opinion! 
My oldest son spent a week this past summer with his Aunt & Uncle in lower MI, and raved about a lentil soup he tried  at a Middle Eastern restaurant in Hamtramck.  (Yes, Hamtramck!  It appears that although this city used to be the Polish capitol of MI, it has now been taken over by Middle Eastern population/ culture.) 
He did his best to describe to me what was in the soup, so I went about my quest to replicate it- since it sounded absolutely amazing!  Apparently, I did a remarkable job, because it is now one of his favorite soups, and mine as well!  This soup is also entirely vegetarian, and super healthy!  It is rather simple in base ingredients, but very complex in spice and flavor- which makes for a perfect balance.  Lentils are very small, which allows for quick cooking, (especially if soaked ahead of time), add a hearty body to any dish, and are excellent in absorbing flavors.  (Plus, they're inexpensive, and available year round!)
When soaked, they actually have a pink-y or orange-y sort of color, so the addition of the fire roasted tomatoes added depth of color, and a sweet smoky flavor.  The lemon juice at the end adds that fresh tartness, that brings all of those amazing spices together!  Many spices are used in Morocco and other Middle East countries, such as:  coriander, ginger, paprika, cumin, cinnamon, sumac, pepper, allspice, clove, tumeric, paprika, chili, saffron, and cayenne.   The blend of spices I have chosen for this soup are just right.  It is not "hot" at all, but rather intriguing and incredibly flavorful.  If you like your food more on the spicy side, simply add some cayenne to bring on the heat!
This is probably the only "meatless" dish I've ever made that my husband will eat, (which says alot!)  This makes for excellent leftovers, it's quick and easy to make, and if you have a smaller family, feel free to cut this recipe in half.  Some additional items you could add would be:  red peppers, chiles, or carrots.  And this soup would go great with some fresh naan or pita bread, and maybe a sprinkle of feta cheese before serving.  Absolutely delicious!

Yield:  6-8 Servings

Prep-time:  About 20min.


Ingredients:

1 # dried red lentils
water

1/2 onion (chopped)
2 cloves garlic (chopped or minced)
Olive or Grapeseed Oil
6 cups of Chicken or Vegetable Stock or Broth
1- 14.5oz can of Fire Roasted Tomatoes
Salt & pepper
1 t. Paprika
1 t. Cumin
1 t. Chili powder
1/2 t. Tumeric
1/2 t. ground Cinnamon
1/2 t. Sumac  *****If can't find, simply omit     
2 T. of dried Parsley  (or, 1/2 of a bunch of fresh chopped parsley)
Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Garnish:  extra parsley and/or crumbled feta cheese

1)  Soak the lentils:  Place the dried lentils in a bowl, and add water until the lentils are just covered.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight.  Or, you can simply do this 1-2 hours prior to making soup.  Just leave out at room temp. covered.

2)  When ready to make soup, add some olive or grapseed oil to your pot and place on medium/ high heat.  Add the garlic and onion, and saute until translucent.  Lower the heat, and slowly add the stock or broth.  Then, add about 2/3 of the soaked lentils, the can of tomatoes, and all of the spices, (including parsley.) 

3)  Allow to cook for about 10min.  Using a stick/ immersion blender, blend the soup while in the pot until pureed.  Add the lemon juice, and the remaining soaked lentils.  Taste at this time to adjust any seasoning.  Cook for about 5-7min., and serve hot.  Garnish with additional parsley or crumbled feta cheese, along with some naan or pita bread. 

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<![CDATA[Creamy Cantaloupe Tart]]>Mon, 21 Aug 2017 14:36:50 GMThttp://redrocksthekitchen.com/recipes/creamy-cantaloupe-tartPicture
Cantaloupes are one of those great summer fruits that you just can't get enough of on a hot and sunny day!  Most people enjoy this melon by itself, in a salad, or as an appetizer with a lovely salty piece of proscuitto wrapped around it.  But, did you ever think to use it in a pie or tart?
My inspiration for this recipe comes from a vintage recipe I came across that originated on the Texas & Pacific Railway, and was once served as a pie in their First class dining car- "Cantaloupe Pie".   (A traditional meringue style pie.)  It seems weird, doesn't it?  I mean, you would never really be able to use a watermelon, (for example), in baking because the water content is way too high.  However, cantaloupes are much denser, and the flavor is very mild- which actually makes for a very lovely pie or tart!   Using a more ripe cantaloupe yields a better result since the fruit will be juicier and sweeter.
This dessert is very easy to make, and absolutely delicious!  I used a sugar cookie dough for my crust- which adds an excellent sturdy base, and amazing flavor.  The cantaloupe filling is essentially a pastry cream- nice, creamy, and thick- not overly sweet, and has all of that yummy cantaloupe flavor.  It's finished with a fabulous creamy vanilla bean and (light) mint fresh whipped cream.  Mint can so easily over power any other flavors you're pairing it with, so I literally added 1 drop of extract to the cream- just enough to add that light, minty freshness!
This is an excellent tart to serve at any summer event, or anytime of the year depending on when cantaloupes are in season in your part of the world!

Yield:  1- Lg. tart (11 in.) or 1- 9in deep pie

Prep time:  Varies (If making own crust, about 1 hour 10min. total, otherwise, about 45min.)


Ingredients:

1- 11in tart pan (removable base) or 9in deep pie pan
**1 disc of sugar dough or your favorite short dough recipe
(Could also purchase 1 roll of premade sugar dough)

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup corn starch
dash of salt
2 cups pureed cantaloupe  (3/4-1 whole cantaloupe/ depending on size)
3/4 cup whole milk
3 yolks
1 T unsalted butter

1 pint heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 t. Vanilla Bean Paste
1 drop of Mint extract
Mint leaves

Preheat oven to 350F
Crust

1)  Remove the chilled dough, and allow to set at room temp for about 10min. prior to rolling.  On a clean and floured surface, roll out your dough about  1/8-1/4in thick.  Carefully roll up on rolling pin, and transfer to your tart pan.  If any cracking occurred, no worries!  Simply piece together the dough into place, and make sure to cut the excess of the edges.  The sugar cookie dough does not shrink much during baking, but if using a short dough, you may need to leave a bit of excess dough over the edges.  ***There is no need to prick the sugar dough prior to baking unless you want to.  
Place the tart in the refrigerator or freezer for at least 10min. prior to baking.  (This helps it to hold it's shape better.)
Remove tart from the refrigerator, and bake for about 15-20min at 350F, or until the edges start to look a light golden brown.    Remove from the oven, and allow to cool. 
Filling
1)  Prep your melon:  remove peel and seeds.  Cut into larger chunks.  Puree in a food processor or blender.  Measure 2 cups and set aside.  (If you have more, use the extra for a Granita or smoothie!)

2)  In a medium size pot, whisk together the sugar, flour, cornstarch, and salt.  Slowly whisk in the pureed cantaloupe- making sure to get those bottom edges of pot.  Whisk in the yolks, milk, and add butter.
Place heat on medium, and switch to a rubber spatula for stirring at this point- being very careful not to scorch the bottom or sides of pan.  *****If it looks like the bottom of the pan is scorching, immediately transfer the cream to another pot of the same size, and return to heat.
Once the mixture comes up to temp and begins to thicken and bubble, lower the heat, and cook for about 10 min. more - making sure to stir.  If you think mixture is too thick, simply add more milk.
Immediately pour the cream into your cooled crust.  Cover loosely with a piece of plastic wrap, and using a sharp knife, cut a few slits into the plastic to allow the cream to vent/ cool.  Place in the refrigerator to chill completely.  (2-4 hours min.) 

Whipped Cream
1)  Using a very cold and clean bowl w/ whip attachment, add the pint of whipping cream, and place on med/ high speed.  When cream begins to froth up, begin to add the sugar in stages.  When cream thickens to soft peaks, add a teaspoon of the Vanilla Bean paste, and 1 drop of mint extract, and turn off machine as soon the cream thickens to stiff peaks.
Using a large star pastry tip, begin to pipe the cream onto the tart in any design you wish!  Or, if you don't have pastry tips, you can always just add the whipped cream on top of the chilled tart in a more rustic style.  Whatever you prefer!  Finish with fresh mint leaves.
Make sure to slice your tart using a very hot knife between cuts, and keep chilled.  Best consumed within 3-5 days.

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