Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tropical Cream Cheese Spread

I made this Tropical Cream Cheese Spread for the last Wining Women event of the season.  The theme of the event was supposed to be Tropical Island Wines but the hostess found out that no Tropical Island wines are available for sale in the United States.  At least not in our area.  The hostess decided to switch the country of origin to Argentina because those wines are readily available.  I was once again extremely brave (or stupid) about taking a brand new untried recipe with me to an event and I would say that I was also extremely lucky.  The Tropical Cream Cheese Spread turned out to be very tasty.  The strawberries I served with it were fragrant and delicious. The coconut cookies I bought were also a big hit.  I wish I had kept the wrapper of those cookies so I could give them a plug here.    This is a nice (easy) summery appetizer that I will make again to bring to a summer event.  If you use neufchatel or light cream cheese it will be just as yummy but about 1/3 the calories.   I found the recipe on http://www.worldfamousrecipes.org/.


Yield: About 1 & 1/2 cups.

8 ounces cream cheese or light cream cheese, at room temperature
3 tablespoons peach preserves or orange marmalade
1/4 cup crushed pineapple packed in juice or syrup, drained
1/3 cup sweetened flaked coconut (I used unsweetened coconut)
2 teaspoons honey

Combine all ingredients in the work bowl of a food processor;

Process until well blended and smooth.

Transfer the spread to a serving or storage container and cover.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Can be kept up to 1 week in refrigerator.

Serve with fresh fruit (strawberries, banana slices, pineapple spears) or with crackers and toasted bread rounds. 


The Creative Cook

Monday, May 24, 2010

Herbes de Provence Redux

I definitely did not try hard enough to find Herbes de Provence in my local grocery stores.  No sooner did I publish the post on Herbes de Provence, when I found a bottle at a grocery store in Westminster.  I bought that bottle although I am  not sure why.  I guess I felt that I should explore all possibilities.  I kept looking and found it again at another local chain.   Shame on me!  I had no idea how many places I could find Herbes de Provence but now I know.  I am feeling obligated to try as many recipes that call for Herbes de Provence as possible.  I found several so don't worry about that.  I also did some reading of reviews on the recipes.  I am pretty sure that there must be many versions of Herbes de Provence available in various parts of this country.  Some of the recipe reviews mentioned that the lavender was overwhelming.  I think these people must have used an imported version of the Herbes.  The McCormick Spice people did a nice job of blending the Herbes de Provence to our pedestrian American taste buds.  They bottle the Herbes de Provence under their Gourmet Collection Blends label.  I had no issues with lavender when I tried these Herbes.  In fact, there may not be any lavender in the McCormick blend.  I imagined that I tasted it in there very very slightly but when I read the ingredients I did not see lavender listed.  The list of ingredients goes something like this:  Spices (including rosemary, marjoram, thyme, and savory).  Yes, they actually use a parenthesis in the list of ingredients.  Isn't that interesting.  Of course, the McCormick Spice people know that here in the United States, we use lavender more in soap or candles than in foods.  The recipe for Herbes de Provence mentions lavender as optional but traditional.  Most the recipes I have reviewed and tried call for at least a tablespoon of Herbes de Provence so I wouldn't want to use the imported version and get a mouthful of soap with my chicken or potatoes or whatever.  Thank you McCormick Spice Company!! 

I am including two of the recipes that I found on the web for Herbes de Provence Chicken and Herbes de Provence Potatoes.  I don't necessarily recommend you try them together like I did.  It was pretty good but could be overwhelming if you don't care for the Herbes.  Both recipes are very easy to make.  Why not bring a little bit of the South of France into your kitchen when you get the chance?

Chicken Herbs De Provence

1 tablespoon Herbs de Provence seasoning

• 4 teaspoons champagne vinegar (I used white wine vinegar)

• 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

• 1 teaspoon sea salt

• 4 chicken breasts


Combine all ingredients and marinade chicken for at least two hours.
Grill until tender basting frequently with marinade or bake 30 minutes at 400.

(I had to roast the chicken about 45 minutes to get it to its proper doneness so be careful here.)

Roasted Baby Potatoes with Herbs

Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis


4 to 6 servings


• 1/2 pound small red-skinned potatoes (about 1 3/4-inch diameter), scrubbed

• 1/2 pound small white-skinned potatoes (about 1 3/4-inch diameter), scrubbed

• 1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence, plus extra for garnish

• 3 cloves garlic, minced

• 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Put the potatoes into a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk the herbs, garlic, and oil together until blended, and then pour over the potatoes. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Transfer the potatoes to a heavy large baking dish, spacing them evenly apart.

Roast the potatoes until they are tender and golden, turning them occasionally with tongs, about 1 hour. Transfer the roasted potatoes to a decorative platter and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and Herbes de Provence, if desired. Serve hot or warm.


The Creative Cook

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Lemon Pound Cake

I found this pound cake recipe posted on an answer-type website.   It was the answer to someones question of whether anyone had the recipe for Starbuck's Lemon Loaf cake.  I have a feeling that the recipe came from another website because there is a request to look at "Illustrations below" but there are no illustrations anywhere on that site.  Sadly, I can't give the original owner of this recipe the proper adulation.  This is a really great cake.  I am not a lemon cake person.  Neither is my husband.  I made this cake specially for D.  He always orders the lemon pound cake when we go to Starbucks so I thought it would be fun to try to replicate that cake.  I did not think that the glaze was right.  It should have a cream cheese or at least some type of thicker frosting made with powdered sugar.  Not that the glaze isn't totally yummy but it is not authentic.  Try this cake. You will love it.

Lemon Pound Cake

Published: March 1, 2002

Makes one 9 by 5-inch cake, serving 8

You can use a blender instead of a food processor to mix the batter. To add the butter, remove the center cap of the lid so it can be drizzled into the whirling blender with minimal splattering. This batter looks almost like a thick pancake batter and is very fluid.


16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), plus 1 tablespoon, softened, for greasing pan

1 1/2 cups cake flour (6 ounces), plus 1 tablespoon for dusting pan

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon table salt

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar (8 3/4 ounces)

2 tablespoons grated lemon zest plus 2 teaspoons juice from 2 medium lemons

4 large eggs

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Lemon Glaze (Optional)

1/2 cup granulated sugar (3-1/2 ounces)

1/4 cup lemon juice , from 1 or 2 medium lemons

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9 by 5-inch loaf pan with 1 tablespoon softened butter; dust with 1 tablespoon cake flour, tapping out excess. In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

2. In glass measuring cup or microwave-safe bowl, microwave butter, covered with plastic wrap, at full power until melted, 1 to 2 minutes. (Alternatively, melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat.) Whisk melted butter thoroughly to reincorporate any separated milk solids.

3. In food processor, process sugar and zest until combined, about five 1-second pulses. Add lemon juice, eggs, and vanilla; process until combined, about 5 seconds. With machine running, add melted butter through feed tube in steady stream (this should take about 20 seconds). Transfer mixture to large bowl. Sift flour mixture over eggs in three steps, whisking gently after each addition until just combined.

4. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees and continue to bake until deep golden brown and skewer inserted in center comes out clean, about 35-45 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking time. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn onto wire rack.

5. If using lemon glaze, while cake is cooling in pan, bring sugar and lemon juice to boil in small nonreactive saucepan, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat to low and simmer until thickened slightly, about 2 minutes.

6. After turning cake onto wire rack, poke the cake's top and sides with a toothpick and brush on Lemon Glaze. Cool to room temperature, at least 1 hour. (Cooled cake can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 5 days.)


The Creative Cook

Monday, May 17, 2010

Sauteed Baby Artichokes

I had a craving for artichokes and we stopped at Wegmans on the way home from my in-laws this weekend.  We were wandering around the store looking at the Asian Wockery when, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a gorgeous 2 lb. box of baby artichokes!  I had to have them.  They were only $4.00 so I figured it wasn't a big deal.  I had no idea what to do with these babies so I did some research on google.  I found a recipe on simplyrecipes.com.  It looked great and gave me a chance to remove all the leaves and gunk because when I opened the plastic box I found out that some of the baby artichokes were moldy and black.  The recipe calls for Herbes de Provence.  I have heard of Herbes de Provence but I have never used them nor have I tried to find them in my local grocery store.  Naturally, the grocery stores in my podunk little town do not carry Herbes de Provence even though it says online that Herbes de Provence are "widely available."   I found a recipe to make your own Herbes de Provence but even that proved to be impossible.  I couldn't find a few of the ingredients.  I just made my own combination of the herbs that I had in my cabinet. Good luck finding it or lavender, chervil and powdered bay leaves in your grocery store.  Anyway, the artichokes turned out great.  I will try a little harder next time to find all the ingredients even if I have to drive all the way to the closest Wegmans in Timonium.

Sauteed Baby Artichokes Recipe


2 pounds baby artichokes

Bowl of water with 3 cups of water and juice from 2 fresh lemons (about 3 Tbsp) or equivalent amount of vinegar

1 cup of water

1/2 cup olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbsp lemon juice or balsamic vinegar

1 pinch of Herbes de Provence

1/2 teaspoon salt

Dash pepper

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (1/4 to 1/2 cup to taste)

1. Rinse the baby artichokes. Set out a bowl with 3 cups of ice-cold water; add the fresh squeezed juice from 2 lemons (about 3 Tbsp of lemon juice) or vinegar. Working on the artichokes one by one, cut off the stem to 1/4-inch from the base; peel back and remove the petals until only the top third of the cone tip is pale green green. Cut off the pale green tips. Trim off any remaining green from base of artichoke. Halve or quarter the artichokes, depending on their size and drop in the bowl of acidified water (to prevent discoloration).

2. Drain artichokes. In a large skillet, heat the artichokes and 1 cup of water to boiling. Cover and simmer 3-5 minutes , depending on the size of the artichokes. Drain well.

3. Using the same skillet, heat to medium high and add the olive oil. Add the artichokes, onions, garlic, and Herbes de Provence. Cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle on 1 Tbsp lemon juice or vinegar, salt and pepper. Put in serving bowl, sprinkle freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top.

Serves 4

Herbes de Provence

Prep Time: 5 minutes


• 1 tsp dried thyme

• 1 tsp ground rosemary

• 1 tsp summer savory

• 1/2 tsp lavender (optional but traditional)

• 1 tsp marjoram

• 1 tsp dried basil

• 1/2 tsp dried sage

• 1/2 tsp dried oregano


Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Crush slightly with a pestle or the back of a spoon. Store in an airtight container. Rub into meat,chicken or fish for a dry rub or combine with olive oil for a marinade.


The Creative Cook