Turned Over

Fig Turnovers with a lemony glaze drizzled over the top

We’ve known for a few weeks that we were going to hit a mother-load of figs from the two fig trees out back. Well this week it happened. So we’re going to make fig and plum turnovers and then figure out some other stuff to do with all of figs ( fig jam and fig bars probably).

To keep things simple, I’m going to use store bought puff pastry to make the turnovers. Perhaps someday I’ll show you how to make puff pastry by hand, but its one of those things that’s extremely time consuming and takes a couple of days. I’m not a professional pastry chef and I actually have a 40 hour a week job that has nothing to do with cooking and baking so I know I don’t have that kinda time and I don’t know too many people that do. Store bought puff pastry will be just fine.

The store bought stuff is easy to find, you can find it in the freezer section in the grocery store. It’s usually next to things like frozen cream puffs, pound cake, pie shells and phyllo dough (all great things for quick easy desserts). To use, you just need to let the puff pastry thaw for 30-45 minutes at room temperature.  I rolled it out until it was about a ¼ thick then cut it into squares.

Squares of puff pastry with a tablespoon of fig and plum filling and egg wash on the edges

Then I brushed adjacent edges with egg wash, folded over corner to corner so non egg washed edge is touching the egg washed edge. To seal the edges, work the tines of a fork along the entire length of the two short edges.

You should have something that looks like this:

Turnovers with edges crimped and vented for baking

I brushed the turnovers with milk then I baked the turnovers in an oven pre-heated to 400F for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

Turnovers backed to a golden brown and cooling on a wire rack.

Plum and Fig Filling

1 cup each of diced figs and plums

¼ cup sugar

½ tsp pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp lemon zest

Juice of ½ lemon

pinch of salt

¼ corn starch sifted

Place all the ingredients except the corn starch into a medium sized bowl and let sit for an hour or in the fridge overnight. You should see a pretty decent amount of liquid has come out of the fruit. Sift in the corn starch and stir slowly until the clumps work themselves out. It should look like this:

figs and plums with corn starch to form a slurry.

Let stand for 15 minutes. Cook on low in a heavy bottomed pan until mixture comes to a boil. Let boil for 3-5 minutes while continuously stirring.

Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. To cool mixture to workable temperature more quickly, put the fig mixture into a clean heat safe bowl and then place that bowl into larger bowl that’s been filled with ice. Once the mixture cools down its ready to use or you can store it in the fridge for later use.

filling cooking on stove top on low.

This same process works for making all kinds of pie fillings but will work best with fruits that are high in pectin like stone fruits and apples.

Lemoney Glaze

1 cup powdered sugar

1 TBS lemon juice

zest of 1 lemon finely chopped

2 – 4 TBS whole milk

In a small bowl combine powdered sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest. Gradually add the milk and mix with a fork or whisk. You’re looking for a texture that allows the glaze to easily run down the tines of a fork.

Plum tart… or pie or whatever you wanna call it.

Tarts and pies are a nice way to enjoy seasonal fruits. Since plum season is winding to a close, what better way to enjoy them, than a plum tart? I’ve used this crust recipe with pretty good success, but use whatever crust recipe works for you or store bought. Yes, I did just suggest store bought pie crust. Commercial crust is usually pretty thick and tough, so you’ll need to roll it out so its thinner and more pliable.

You’ll need a smallish tart pan 8 or 9 inches in diameter. If you don’t have a tart pan, you can use a pie plate you’ll just need more fruit to fill the plate and the “pie” will take longer to bake.

Plum Tart Filling
6-8 plums cut into 1/2 inch wedges
dash of salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp corn starch
2 TBS lemon juice
Zest of half a lemon
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line the bottom of the tart pan with the crust. Dock the crust and line with foil and then uncooked dry beans (don’t try to re-cook the beans they will never soften and be edible, but they’ll be great for blind baking crusts). Bake the crust ‘n beans in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and remove the foil with the beans and let the crust.

In a large mixing bowl, combine plums, salt, brown sugar, lemon zest and the ground cinnamon. Put the corn starch into a small cup and add the lemon juice, stir with a fork until the corn starch is broken up. You may have a few lumps but thats okay. Pour the corn starch mixture in with the plums and stir until the plums are well coated. Let the mixture set for about 30 minutes, so that the natural juices start to come out of the fruit.

Pour the filling mixture into the shell and bake fo 40 minutes at 350ºF.

You can top the tart with a crumb topping or use another crust and make lattice top. I brush the lattice crust with cream or milk and dust it with a little sugar before baking. If you notice the crust or crumb topping is browning too much, cover it with foil.

Crumb (Struesel) Topping
1/2 AP Flour
1/4 Brown Sugar
1/2 stick unsweetened butter (softened)

Combine in a small bowl and blend with a fork until its crumbly…

Bananas Foster

I prefer my bananas to be on the greener firmer side, so when they start to get too ripe, I’m not likely to eat one as a snack or a quick grab and go breakfast. The overly ripe bananas are ideal for banana bread, which I’ll cover in a future post, or caramelizing and using for topping on pancakes, ice cream or yogurt, or as an alternative to jelly on peanut butter sandwiches. If you add rum its bananas foster, if you leave out the rum its caramelized bananas.

Caramelized Bananas
1/2 a stick of butter
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
a dash of cinnamon
a dash of salt
1 oz. of dark rum or spiced rum (for Bananas Foster)
2 to 4 ripe bananas, cut in half lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1/2″ pieces

In a non-stick skillet over medium high heat, melt the butter until it begins to bubble, add the salt, cinnamon and bananas. Cook the bananas for about 1 minute until they are heated through, stirring constantly. Add the brown sugar and cook until the sugar is melted. Again stirring constantly.

To make bananas foster, remove the skillet from the heat, and pour in the rum. CAUTION! NEVER, ever, ever add alcohol to pan that is directly on a burner or flame. Always move the pan off the heat. Your eyebrows will thank you.. Return the pan to the heat, and cook for another minute or two until the alcohol burns off. Don’t forget to stir….

Pumpkin bread pudding with a twist…

I was talking with some collegues over the weekend while we were enjoying some pumpkin flavored donut holes, it occured to me that leftover donut holes would make an awesome bread pudding. Bread pudding is a really easy to make, particularly for folks that find baking and all its precise measuring and special equipment too much of a bother.

Another great thing about bread pudding is that you can flavor it with a variety of different spices depending on the season or your mood. If you want chocolate bread pudding, substitute some chocolate milk for some of the half & half, or add in chocolate syrup and chocolate chips.

There’s 2 parts to bread pudding, the bread and then the custard that binds it all together. Day old bread works best because it tends to absorb more of the custard than fresher bread. For a decadently rich custard I usually use evaporated milk, half & half, sweetened condensed milk as the sugar, and whole eggs. The donuts are quite rich on their own so I’m using evaporated milk only. The glaze on the donuts and the sweetness of the dough itself, will make the pudding plenty sweet. The sweetened condensed milk might be a bit much here. So I suggest using 1/4 cup of brown sugar instead.

Pumpkin Donut (Bread) Pudding…
serves 4 to 8
2 Dozen day old assorted glazed and pumpkin do(ugh)nut holes, timbits, munchkins
whichever they’re called in your geographic area, cut in half
1 12 oz. can evaporated milk or equivilent in 1/2 & 1/2
2 whole eggs
1/4 brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. each ground nutmeg, ground ginger and ground mace
1/2 cup pumpkin purée (preferably NOT pumpkin pie filling)

Preheat the oven to 350º F, rub the sides and bottom of a deep sided casserole dish with butter (this will make cleanup and serving a little bit easier) and set aside. Cut the donut holes in half, and place in the casserole dish. In a large mixing bowl, mix the eggs, brown sugar, spices, pumpkin purée, and evaporated milk until well incorporated. Pour the custard over the donut holes and let set until most of the custard has been absorbed into the donut holes.

Place the casserole dish into a roasting pan, make sure there’s at least an inch of space gap between the sides of the roasting pan and the casserole dish. Place the roasting pan on the top oven rack, then pour water into the roasting pan until it comes half way up the sides of the casserole. Bake in the oven for 60 minutes. Cover with aluminum foil if the top starts to brown too much.

CAUTION!!! Be very careful when moving the pan out of the oven. The water will literally be boiling hot. Make sure that pets and little people aren’t under foot.

If you cook the puddings in individual ramekins, you can cut the cooking time in half.

For a more traditional bread pudding
8 cups of cubed stale bread
4 whole eggs
1 12 oz. can of evaporated milk
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla
a dash of salt
2 cups of half & half

Mix the custard ingredients together and pour over the cubed bread. Allow the custard to soak into the bread and bake as directed above.

Feeling chilly? Warm up with some football and some chili.


I look forward to Fall, not because I’m a big fan of Halloween or the trees changing colors. I like Fall because I feel like I now have the permission of the Weather/Season gods to stop eating salads and light grilled fare and can now eat heartier comfort foods like soups, stews, and roasts.

Chili is hearty, comforting, easy crowd-pleasing dish for entertaining because you can make it ahead or cook it in a slow cooker. It doesn’t require a lot of attention. Also, you can easily extend it to feed a good number of people by adding beans or serving with some kind of bread or chip.

I’ve found that chili is a good gateway to introduce folks to vegetarian food. I will typically use a combination of different beans in my chili as well as TVP (textured vegetable protein). You can buy TVP at health food stores and I know in my area both Wegman’s and Whole Foods have the powdered form in their bulk food section. I prefer to use MorningStar Farms® Meal Starters Grillers® Recipe Crumbles™ . Check for it in your grocery store’s freezer section or in their health food section.

The crumbles look like and are texturally similar to ground beef, this will lend a little familiarity and comfort to folks that are leery of vegetarian and meat-free dishes or have had a bad experience with tofu and tempeh. The crumbles come frozen and don’t require defrosting before cooking. They just need to be heated through. With the relatively short prep and cooking time, you can easily get a hearty meal on the table with minimal planning and effort.

Augment the “meat” with a couple of different types of beans and vegetables. I’m not a big fan of kidney beans so for something like a chili I’ll use a combination of different types like pinto, red beans, black beans or garbanzos. Each bean has its own unique texture and flavor. I like the contrast of texture that each bean lends to the chili. Use what you have on hand and your family likes. In addition to the usual chili ingredients like onions, garlic and peppers, I’ll also add vegetables like corn, red bell peppers, or zucchini, again its whatever you have and like. The version pictured above has corn, garbanzo beans and black beans.

I buy the small cans of beans, even though they are more expensive. I have less waste with a smaller can especially if I’m going to be using more than one kind. Canned beans tend to have quite a bit of sodium, so I’ll pour them into a strainer and rinse them in cold water before using. I also used canned chipotles in adobo sauce. Chipotles are fire roasted jalapeños. The roasted flavor from the chilies as well as the spicy adobo sauce lend a rich smokiness to the chili that typically would come from grilled meat. They can be fairly hot so use in moderation. I haven’t figured out how to make small amounts of chili, so this stores really well in the freezer it also makes for a great topping for nachos.

1 Yellow Onion Diced
1 Bell Pepper Diced
4 Garlic Cloves Crushed
1 Cup Frozen or Fresh Corn Kernals
2 cups of what ever type of beans you like
16 oz of Low Sodium Vegetable Stock/Broth
2 Chipotles chilies and 2 TBS of the Adobo sauce that they are canned with (optional) Add more chipotle if you like things really hot.
2 cups of MorningStar Farms® Meal Starters Grillers® Recipe Crumbles™ (optional)
1 15oz can of tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes
1 TBS Cracked Black Pepper
2 TBS Ground Cumin
2 TBS Chili Powder
Salt to taste
2 TBS Olive Oil

Heat the 2 TBS of oil in a large stock pot or dutch over over medium high heat. Add the onions, bell pepper and garlic and cook until the onions soften. Add the pepper, cumin and chili powder for about a minute then add the tomatoes. Turn the heat down to medium and cover and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the the remainder of the ingredients except the salt and cover and simmer until every thing is heated through.

Garnish with shredded cheese and green onions and serve with corn bread or corn chips.

Next up…a wonton three-way or rather, wontons three different ways.

The real breakfast of champions…after they’ve gone off their training diet

chilaquiles with fried egg, cilantro, scallions, and avocado.

chilaquiles with fried egg, cilantro, scallions, and avocado.

I love Latin American cuisines particularly Mexican food. One of my favorite dishes and one that’s a bit obscure here in the states is called Chilaquiles. Chilaquiles is a perfect dish for using up leftovers like chicken, salsa (I’ve included my green salsa recipe below) and corn tortillas. Its also a great dish for a buffet or brunch and can easily be extended by adding more tortillas and more vegetables.

The concept of chilaquiles is pretty simple, its just designed to be a filling dish to get you through the work day. It starts out with onions, chilies and garlic sautéed in a frying pan. Once the vegetables have softened add fried corn tortillas, they can be in the form of chips or leftover taco shells, whatever you have around. Add meat like shredded chicken or pork and then the salsa of your choice. Cook until the tortillas have softened up and the salsa is heated through.

Popular serving options are to top with cheese like cotija or queso fresco, crumbled feta is a good substitution for both, mexican crema which is similar to sour cream or creme fraiche, diced onions, cilantro, fried or scrambled eggs, and avocado slices.

1 medium onion diced
1 diced jalapeño (optional)
1 small can of diced green chilies (drained)
3 diced cloves of garlic
3/4 cup crushed tortilla chips per person
1/2 cup shredded meat per person
1 egg per person
1/2 cup cheese
3/4 cup salsa per person
salt and pepper to taste

In a large sauté pan over medium high heat, heat 1 TBS of cooking oil add the onions, garlic, jalapeños and green chilies and cook until the onions are soften. Then add the meat, tortillas and cook for 3 minutes until the meat is heated, add the salsa turn down to medium and simmer. In a separate pan, heat up 1 TBS of oil and cook the eggs. If you’re serving this for a lot of folks, I’d suggest scrambling the eggs and having them on the side.

Sam’s Salsa Verde
6 Large Tomatillos, peeled rinsed and cut into quarters
4 Jalapeños stems removed and cut in half
2 Medium onions peeled and cut into quarters
1 head of garlic, with the cloves peeled
2 limes (juiced)
1 bunch of cilantro
1 bunch of scallions greens and whites chopped
2 TBS olive oil
Salt to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 400Fº, place the tomatillos, jalapeños, onions and garlic on a foil lined cookie sheet and drizzle with the olive oil. Roast the veggies in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for an hour. Once the veggies have cooled, blend all the ingredients in a blender until everything is incorporated.

There’s a similar dish called Migas that’s popular in the Southwest, its basically the same ingredients, but they’re all incorporated into scrambled eggs. I’ll cover that at some other time.

Falafel is the Best Street Food Ever: Millions throughout the Middle East Would Agree.

Falafel with tomato cucumber salad

Falafel with tomato cucumber salad

Falafel is a popular street food throughout the Middle East. Its a great meat replacement and its high in protein, flavorful and healthy if fried in a heart healthy oil like grapeseed oil or first press extra virgin olive oil.

Chickpeas (garbanzo beans) or fava beans are the two most common beans used to make falafel. The beans are ground up with onions, herbs and spices then formed into ping-pong sized balls or patties.

Falafel’s eaten as a convenient on the go kind of meal. Its often served in a highly portable warm Pita with a variety of condiments. Popular condiments are shredded lettuce, pickles, onions, hot peppers, radishes hummus, tahini, tomato cucumber salad or yogurt garlic sauce.

The beans have to soak in water overnight so this isn’t something that you can decide to make at the last minute. Once the beans have soaked and have softened its just a matter of putting all the ingredients into a food processor until everything comes together and can be formed into balls or patties. I’ll let the mix chill in the fridge for an hour or so before I form into balls and fry them up.

Falafel Recipe
1 cups dried garbanzo or fava beans
1/2 cup diced onions
1/2 cup roughly chopped parsley
3 cloves of garlic crushed
4 green onions chopped whites and greens
1 jalapeño minced (optional)
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp each, pepper, ground coriander, ground cumin, ground cinnamon and ground cardamom
1/2 tsp flour
1/2 tsp corn starch

Strain the garbanzo beans and put into a food processors with the rest of the ingredients. Pulse the ingredients until everything comes together. It should look like bread crumbs. Don’t over blend or you’ll make humus. Heat fryer to 350 form falafel into balls or patties and fry in batches until golden brown then drain on paper towels. If you find that your falafel isn’t cooked through you can finish them in the 350 oven for about 10 minutes.

Yogurt Sauce
1 TBS Lemon Zest
Juice from 1 Lemon
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup coarsely chopped parsley
16 oz Greek style yogurt
salt and pepper to taste

Toss everything into a food processor and blend until everything is well incorporated.

Tomato Cucumber Salad
2 Medium sized tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/2 medium sized red onion diced
1 English-style cucumber, diced
1 clove garlic crushed
1/4 cup coarsley chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste
Juice from 1/2 Lemon
2 TBS Extra virgin olive oil

Mix all the ingredients together and chill until ready to serve.

Next up…energy drinks