Mom’s Sweet Potato Biscuit … Re-engineered…Gluten free, Soy free & Yummy!

Food is memories.  That’s what my sister wrote in an email to me this morning after she watched the movie, 100 – Foot Journey, last night – Her email comments inspired me to write today.  Thanks sister 🙂

I just love food and learning anything about food, but have been a bit frustrated and stymied because some of our old food memory recipes don’t work for the whole family anymore.  Stubbornly, I don’t want to give up on these food memory foods; therefore, I decided to figure out how to re-engineer our most favorite family recipes… with a little re-work, re-invention, and responsible food sourcing…I’m inspired again and coming up with products that work for our dietary needs today…it’s turned out to be a feel-good journey too.

The first recipe I’ve re-done is Mom’s yam (or sweet potato) biscuit recipe.  For over 30 years, Thanksgiving at our family’s homes have included a petite yam biscuit served with her homemade pumpkin butter.  In the late 1970’s, Mom, (Betty), had taken cooking classes where she came away with petite bite recipes for her catering business.  Many of those stuck with the family as favorites for holiday dinners, happy events (cocktail parties or showers), and offered at tea time.  These yam biscuits hit a chord with all of us as a must have served with the Italian chicken soup course on Thanksgiving day.

Our niece has taken over the helm as the yam biscuit and pumpkin butter maker for our holiday dinner (often for over 25 guests).  With a new baby in tow, we shared duties this year…her pumpkin butter was the best I ever remember consuming.  For the yam biscuits (we often substitute with organic sweet potatoes as they are delicious and easier to source), I substituted the flour and fat historically called for to ensure everyone at the table could comfortably consume the biscuits, slathered with her stunning pumpkin butter.  We have gluten-fee, soy free, sodium reduced diet needs to accommodate.  The old recipe called for all purpose flour (wheat) and Crisco (soybean oil) … I substituted with William Sonoma’s Cup for Cup Gluten-free (wheat free) flour and chilled Kerrygold Grass-fed Unsalted Butter (soy free).  While a bit of a sticky, challenging dough resulted…the biscuits were just fabulous…and everyone could eat them.  We cut them small (1 1/2″ round) so they instigate your appetite and don’t fill you up.  Although my nephews can eat a dozen at a sitting 🙂

Below is the new recipe…gluten free, soy free and even me…the diabetic… can happily fit one into my meal plan.

Organic sweet potato biscuit prepared with gluten free flour and grass-fed butter

Organic sweet potato biscuit prepared with gluten free flour and grass-fed butter

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Sweet Potato Biscuit

I suggest baking them just prior to serving as they are sooo good served hot (or you can bake them ahead and heat them for a few minutes on a low temperature just prior to serving).

The first time we learned of these biscuits was at a Southern foods cooking class. They were served with a slice of country ham and honey mustard—a savory little “slider” that’s perfect for tea time.
Makes approximately 24 ( 1 1/2”) biscuits.
PREP TIME: 10 minutes TOTAL TIME: 50 minutes (including prepping yam and baking time)
Preheat oven to 400° F.

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (substitute with Cup 4 Cup gluten-free flour).
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup Crisco® shortening (substitute cold butter – I used Kerrygold unsalted)
3 to 4 tablespoons heavy cream
Approximately ¾ cup mashed yam, boiled or baked, then mashed and cooled (substitute with sweet potatoes – use organic if available).

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
Cut in shortening (or cold butter) until mixture resembles coarse meal.
Add yam/sweet potato and cut in with a pastry cutter or two knives.
Add cream to form a soft dough that holds.
Lightly knead and pat down onto a floured surface to ¾” thick, cut into rounds using 1 ½” to 2” cutter. Do not use a rolling pin…use our hands to lightly pat down. Rustic looking biscuits are cute :-).
Bake in a buttered pan or sheet pan lined with parchment or Silpat® at 400° F for 18 to 20 minutes.
Serve hot with butter and sliced country or baked ham or with pumpkin butter.

 

 

Providence L.A. – Sublime Modern American Seafood…Beautiful Food, Sustainably Sourced

 

Providence sashimi...first dish...fluke, cucumber yuzu ...Normally I don't eat raw fish...this was just stunning with flavor, freshness, and the best of the ocean

Providence sashimi…first dish…fluke, cucumber, yuzu …Normally I don’t eat raw fish…this was just stunning with bursts of flavor, freshness, and the ocean

Well, happy birthday to me! My dear husband surprised me with what he knows to be my favorite gift…awesome foods, prepared with finesse, leaning towards  healthy, made with the  best  quality ingredients – which are  creatively manipulated into flavorful, beautiful,  bites…thus was our experience at Providence Restaurant in Los Angeles the other night…and it came with gracious, comfortable, un-austentatious service.  Enjoy the photos of our  courses…each were just a few bites…making you want more, and then the next stunning dish came…and mmmmmm….we were awed again and again.

Uni egg...Santa Barbar sea urchin hiding beneath soft scramble eggs...ok...I almost asked for a substitution dish here...but I am a sucker for anything custard-like...so I went for it..I am now an uni fan as long as it is covered with custard :-)  This dish reminded me of my 7 year old experience eating 3 minute soft boiled eggs out of the shell in my Italian grandmother's kitchen  ..just soft and comfortingly delicious

Uni egg…Santa Barbara sea urchin hiding beneath soft scramble eggs…ok…I almost asked for a substitution dish here…but I am a sucker for anything custard-like…so I went for it..I am now an uni fan as long as it is covered with custard 🙂 This dish reminded me of my 7 year old experience eating 3 minute soft boiled eggs out of the shell in my Italian grandmother’s kitchen ..just soft and comfortingly delicious

Maine Lobster with matsutake mushrooms...in season now...porcini like and stunning...can't believe this is the 2nd time this week I was graced with the pleasure of these mushrooms...our Chef friends served them to us Saturday night...they are  just wonderful..

Maine Lobster with matsutake mushrooms…in season now…porcini-like and stunning…can’t believe this is the 2nd time this week I was graced with the pleasure of these mushrooms…our Chef friends served them to us Saturday night…they are just wonderful..

 

Possibly THE most beautiful course of the night...scallop with curry, makrut lime, mint

Possibly THE most beautiful course of the night…scallop with curry, makrut lime, mint

 

This was my favorite course of the night...striped bass, turnip, brown butter, smoked sesame ... just incredible textures and bursts of flavor...you taste buds tingled mmmmm

This was my favorite course of the night…striped bass, turnip, brown butter, smoked sesame … just incredible textures and bursts of flavor…made one’s taste buds tingle and come alive… mmmmm

…we  chose the main course …I opted  for John Dory – a white fish…David chose the Liberty Farms Duck…then…since we had eaten so “light” … the artisanal cheese cart came, just perfect for sharing…and finally elderflower sorbet and then my chocolate dessert (with a discreet birthday candle 🙂 …this was just possibly the best meal of my life – certainly a perfect one at this point in my life  …

Duck, John Dory, Cheese plate for two...green tea now...petite perfect desserts...sorbet and chocolate torte

Duck, John Dory, Cheese plate for two…green tea now…petite perfect desserts…sorbet and chocolate torte

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So, who are these guys 🙂 ?  Their website states:

“For a decade, Providence has elevated the standard of modern American seafood restaurants. We invite you to experience Chef Michael Cimarusti’s award-winning cuisine in the heart of Los Angeles, welcomed by one of LA’s legendary hosts, co-owner Donato Poto.
Chef Cimarusti is completely dedicated to procuring the finest sustainable seafood—from regional coasts and international waters—and treats those ingredients with uncompromising respect and sophisticated technique. “First and foremost, what guides us here is sustainability,” Cimarusti says. “We use only wild-caught, sustainable products, mostly from American waters, and look to highlight their finest qualities.”
The accolades for Providence include multiple James Beard Award nominations; “Top 50 Restaurants in the United States” by Gourmet magazine; “Best Seafood Restaurant” by Los Angeles magazine; the #1 ranking in “Jonathan Gold’s 101 Best Restaurants” in the Los Angeles Times; and two highly coveted Michelin stars.

I actually signed up to vote for them for the 2015 James Beard awards, something I’ve not been motivated to do before…

Of course, I finished with a lovely cup of green tea…beautifully vegetal and light, expertly served in an iron tetsubin pot. Just lovely!

 

 

 

Spice Merchants, Laguna Beach…Go for the Spices & Join us for Tea 101

Have you ever come across a recipe you want to try which calls for one teaspoon of a spice you don’t have in your pantry?  You vacillate about preparing it as you realize to purchase the required ingredients at the traditional grocery store demands an investment of dollars beyond your liking, and… you already have a cupboard full of aging spices from other recipes that asked for a teeny bit of this and that spice.  What to do?  Go to Spice Merchants in Laguna Beach, Ca….they have an enormous selection of spices… and, with their expert assistance, they will dole out the amount you need.  They also have a wide selection of whole leaf teas and herbal infusions, as well as, beautiful tea ware, gift packaging and air tight tins of various sizes for storing your purchases.  You can create unique, custom gifts of spices or teas with their skilled guidance too.

Spice Merchants on Ocean Ave. in Laguna Beach...offering a wide array of spices and teas with beautiful gift packaging and tea ware

Spice Merchants on Ocean Ave. in Laguna Beach…offering a wide array of spices and teas with beautiful gift packaging and tea ware

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We will be holding an intimate, first time, Tea 101 class at Spice Merchants this coming Tuesday, October 14 at 7 p.m….

Come learn a bit of history about tea, how to prepare a great cup of tea, and taste a variety of types of teas.

We will taste tea in their “tea room” towards the back of the shop pictured below  (center display will be moved out for our tasting experience).  Check out details on our “events” page and call Spice Merchants to hold your spot.  Their contact information is phone: 949 715-9600 and are located at 311 Ocean Avenue, Laguna Beach, Ca 92651

The tea room at Spice Merchants -- a wide variety of teas and tea ware from various purveyors are available.

The tea room at Spice Merchants — a wide variety of teas and tea ware from various purveyors are available.

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Spice Merchants offers  teas from quality purveyors…

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Quality teas from Spice Merchants...in tins or you choose how much you want to try...

Quality teas from Spice Merchants…in tins or you choose how much you want to try…

It’s also just a great location to come to and wander around town before or after class.

Welcoming, Dutch door at Spice Merchants...come on in...

Welcoming, Dutch door at Spice Merchants…come on in…

In visiting the shop this morning, I saw they just got in beautiful soup fixings too…they are ready for fall … as most of us in Southern California are…hoping the heat stops soon.  I’m ready for soup and hot tea!

 

 

Our Prolific Pomegranates…Fall is here!!!

Pomegranates are good for you!  The juice from the seeds have high levels of powerful antioxidants (similar to what you get from a whole leaf tea)!  I didn’t enjoy them much as a child, as they were usually too tart for my delicate palate; however, they’ve grown on me since using them as an ingredient versus eating them straight.  The tree is a beautiful sight.  We planted one about 20 years ago.   This year we have an incredibly large harvest of huge fruit.

 

Our prolific pomegranate tree...this year we have giant fruit and plenty of it...

Our prolific pomegranate tree…this year we have giant fruit and plenty of it…

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Our tree was planted more for it's ornamental value as a centerpiece for our other fruit trees...we have come to love the fruit for more than just harvest table decorations...

Our tree was planted more for it’s ornamental value as a centerpiece for our other fruit trees…we have come to love the fruit for more than just harvest table decorations…

We picked a basketful of poms. last week, along with some of my husband’s favorite Fuji apples (which he will not share with anyone), and a couple Fuyu persimmons, most are not quite ripe yet.

The morning harvest...plenty of giant pomegranates, some fuji apples and a couple fuyu persimmons...then the last remnants of our summer garden cucumbers and jalapeños

The morning harvest…plenty of giant pomegranates, some fuji apples and a couple fuyu persimmons…then the last remnants of our summer garden cucumbers and jalapeños

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Pomegranates are excellent as toppings for salads…adding a nice crunch and acidic flavor.  They also make an excellent juice … straight … or with a bit of sugar.  My husband has figured out an excellent way to get the seeds from the fruit without turning everything pink…he breaks open the fruit in a deep bowl of water, pull the seeds out by knocking the back of the opened fruit with a spoon (or with your hands).  It works well.  Remove the seeds from the water and juice them or use whole seeds.IMG_4105 IMG_4020

 

My favorite is sprinkled into a super chilled glass of bubbly.  Pomegranate infused teas are also available from many quality purveyors.  Harney and Sons has a delightful pomegranate oolong.  Peet’s teas has a pomegranate cooler.

 

One of my favorite ways to use pomegranate seeds...with the bubbly

One of my favorite ways to use pomegranate seeds…with the bubbly

Hello Friands…

No…this is not a typo.  But I thought it was when I saw “Friands” as the chapter heading in a sweet little tea book I found at the Huntington Gardens and Library this week.  As you can imagine, I have many books about tea and tea time experiences.  The photos in this one are strikingly clean and beautiful.  I picked it up to purchase, flipped to the table of contents, and was taken aback by the apparent misspelling of their chapter titled Friands.  My mind’s paradigm immediately assumed that tea with friends was a fitting chapter for an afternoon tea book. I even read a blog titled Tea With Friends.  Wondering how an editor missed this blatant typo, I flipped to page 32 and saw it again….but this time, realized there was no error…I learned something new…about a baked good called Friands.

Table of Contents from the book The Afternoon Tea Collection by Sterling publishing

Table of Contents from the book The Afternoon Tea Collection by Sterling publishing

Friands is the real name for a growing food trend in pastry for afternoon tea partakers and  petite pastry fans. It’s also simple to prepare as a gluten free product as less than 6% of the ingredients is flour.

Friands...featured in The Afternoon Tea Collection...by Sterling A tiny cake primarily made from almond flour, egg whites and sugar...easy to adapt for a gluten free treat

Friands…featured in The Afternoon Tea Collection…by Sterling
A tiny cake primarily made from almond flour, egg whites and sugar…easy to adapt for a gluten free treat

Friands originated in France (no surprise  🙂 )  May also be called a financier.  It is popular in Australia and New Zealand.

The main ingredients include egg whites, almond flour (or ground almonds), sugar, butter and flavoring of your choice and is baked in small molds, often oval in shape.

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Lemon Friand...dainty little cake - from Friand

Lemon Friand…dainty little cake – from Karen Kennedy of The Friand Cake Company, U.K.

From Karen Kennedy of The Friand Cake Company in Scotland...”Having icing sugar and egg whites instead of whole eggs and very little flour, makes them dreamily light, while the ground almonds keep them beautifully chewy and moist. Moreover, my Friands are all made using gluten and wheat free flour. To this basic recipe, I add an elaborate range of fillings, drizzles and toppings to produce a delicious and delicate tea or dessert cake in the true patisserie genre.
The French word friand broadly translated means “dainty or a gourmet who delights in delicate tastes” Literally it is translated as “partial to or fond of “ which is very appropriate for a Friand because most people are! ” Pictured here are a few photos of The Friand Cake Company’s gorgeous delicate little cakes.

Enjoy with a lovely cup of tea 🙂

 

Friands from Karen Kennedy, The Friand Cake Company

Friands from Karen Kennedy, The Friand Cake Company

The Best Ever Giant Birthday Cake & The Best Mayo Cake Ever!

When our dear friend Pat passed away four years ago, it was a tremendous loss to our family for many reasons; including the fact that she was an AWESOME cake maker.  If she heard someone had something, anything, to celebrate…she volunteered to make the cake.  I used to think she was crazy for doing this as her efforts often resulted in she and her incredibly supportive husband nerve-wrackingly and carefully hauling multi-tiered wedding cakes hundreds of miles to their joyful destination.   She found great joy in providing this service and her loving husband would do anything for Pat.

The void she left forced me to step up to take on baking our grandson’s birthday cakes.  They were used to her spectacular offerings, but were young enough to appreciate my initial, somewhat pitiful, efforts.  I figured if they were colorful, topped with lots of their favorite characters (knights, pirates etc.), we’d be o.k…however, they are getting a bit more savvy in their requests and discerning in their tastes, so this year, I recruited expert help…Grandpa.  While I am good at the cake baking…I am deficient in the design and decorating department…this is where the meticulous skill of Grandpa (who has an award winning history in cake making) stepped in as creative designer and decorator.  The result was the best looking cake ever…a Pirate Lego Cake, with a mini M&M’s Chocolate Candies river.  Everyone who tasted the cake “just loved it.”  My daughter told me it was the best cake I ever made (the cake part)…it was Mom’s Mayo Cake recipe.  It is foolproof.  Use this.  You can’t go wrong. Below is the recipe.  Two notes:  use Best Foods/Hellman’s regular mayonnaise (really, don’t fool around with anything else) and don’t over bake your cake…really…Pat always told me this…don’t over bake your cake!  Nothing is worse in baking than a dry cake 🙂 Words according to Pat.

Pirate Lego Cake...two layer half sheet Mayo Cake with creamed cheese frosting...enough cake for 40 guests

Pirate Lego Cake…two layer half sheet Mayo Cake with creamed cheese frosting…enough cake for 40 guests –

The best marble cake ever...the mayo cake, made with Best Foods Mayonnaise ...a 50's recipe that is the #1 requested cake in our family

The best marble cake ever…the mayo cake, made with Best Foods Mayonnaise …a 50’s recipe that is the #1 requested cake in our family – recipe below…we made a triple recipe….two half sheet layers – the first shown here using a bun pan extender (increases the height of our 1/2 sheet bun pan)…it was a BIG cake

 

It was a really big cake...hardly made a "dent" in the cake serving over 30...two layer, (two full cake recipes), Mayo (marble) half sheet cake...dense and delicious with a creamed cheese frosting.

It was a really big cake…hardly made a “dent” in the cake serving over 30…two layer, (two full cake recipes), Mayo (marble) half sheet cake…dense and delicious with a creamed cheese frosting.

I didn’t want to be short on cake…knowing many children would be at the boy’s birthday party, so I made a third batch into mini and regular sized cupcakes…these were back up and easy to grab and go for those not staying for cake.

Back up cupcakes...I went a little crazy with frosting on these...you can tell my cake decorator expert didn't do these :-)  The mini cupcakes are a perfect "one bite" guiltless size.  We had plenty of cake.

Back up cupcakes…I went a little crazy with frosting on these…you can tell my cake decorator expert didn’t do these 🙂 The mini cupcakes are a perfect “one bite” guiltless size. We had plenty of cake!

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We found the Lego shaped candies at Dean & DeLuca in Napa Valley...Pirate decorations were from William Sonoma

We found the Lego shaped candies at Dean & DeLuca in Napa Valley…Pirate decorations were from William Sonoma

The infamous Best Foods Mayonnaise Cake recipe...a classic.  My version has reduced the sugar by 1/4 cup as the  rich chocolate and vanilla flavors pop when not masked by too much sugar. My mother made this recipe for decades…she never frosted it, just dusted it with powdered sugar. It is delicious with a cup of tea.

Makes 24 cupcakes, or one 9” x 13” cake, or one Bundt pan cake, or one 9” two-layer cake, or one layer half-sheet cake

PREP TIME: 20 minutes TOTAL TIME: 1 hour 15 minutes (includes full cake baking time)
Preheat oven to 350° F.
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 ¾ cups sugar
1 ½ cups BestFood’s/Hellmann’s brand mayonnaise
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups fresh water
8 tablespoons best quality unsweetened cocoa; reserve until after batter is prepared (I use Ghiradelli or Dean & Deluca Dutch processed)

Mix dry ingredients together, except for the cocoa.
Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix for about 2 minutes using a hand mixer or with a wooden spoon.
Reserve 2 cups of the batter and add the cocoa to this reserved batter; put aside.
Pour remaining vanilla batter into your baking pan of choice: a 9” by 13” cake pan, large angel food cake pan, Bundt pan, cupcake pan that is lined with paper baking cups, or two 9” cake pans for a two-layer cake. With a spoon, dollop the reserved chocolate batter in various spots onto the vanilla batter.
Using a table knife or skewer, gently swirl this chocolate batter in a circular motion to create a marbling effect with the vanilla batter. Be careful not to touch the sides or bottom of the baking pan while swirling.
Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until tester comes out clean for a full-sized cake. Do not over bake.
Bake 18 to 20 minutes for a regular cupcake size or 8 to 9 minutes for a mini cupcake.

Bake 9 minutes for mini cupcakes

Bake 20 minutes for one layer, half sheet pan sized cake

Here is a photo depicting the swirling in of the chocolate batter into a bundt sized cake…

Swirling in the chocolate batter with a metal skewer to "marbleize" the cake

Swirling in the chocolate batter with a metal skewer to “marbleize” the cake