MN Masala: Nell’s Finnish Fruit Pudding (Velia)

By Jane and Chux: A few years ago, Chux planted black raspberries in our backyard.  These plants have flourished, and last summer we had a bumper crop of berries.  We had so many, we were able to freeze some of them.

Given our cold and snowy “spring” this April, we wanted to make something with these berries.  A reminder of the summer to come.  These black raspberries taste like sunshine.  They are also extremely complex in flavor with sweet and sour notes.  Since these berries taste good on their own, we decided to make my grandmother Nell’s Finnish berry pudding.

As a kid, I would spend time with my grandparents at their cabin in Michigan.  We would go wild blueberry picking at their top secret place with coffee-can pails in hand, handles made with bent coat hangers.

We would make this fruit pudding as well as pie with these fresh blueberries.  This pudding can be made with any fresh or frozen berry including blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries.

Today, I’m copying my grandmother’s recipe as she sent it to me in a letter over 30 years ago. 

For our black raspberry pudding, we used four cups of frozen berries, added ¾ cup of sugar, 3 tablespoons of tapioca, and ¼ cup of water.  You can adjust the sugar and thickener in your fruit pudding depending on how many berries you are using and how sweet you like it.  The pudding is delicious on its own, or over pancakes for brunch, or with ice cream for dessert. Continue reading

Will you marry me?

By Cindy Moy: I’ve heard many proposal stories. Some are elaborate (to the point of being obnoxious,) and some are heartfelt and sweet. The Husband proposed to me by giving me a jigsaw puzzle for Christmas. When I put the puzzle together, it was a photo of a sign that read, “Will you marry me?”

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’m sharing a cookie recipe titled “I Want to Marry You” Cookies. One woman claimed this recipe is so good that you need to be careful who you bake them for, because after one bite the recipient will declare that s/he wants to marry you.

For the record, no one declared their undying love for me after I made these cookies, but it did bring everyone from their respective corners of the house to the kitchen to see what was baking.

So here is the recipe (make at your own matrimonial risk): Continue reading

Nell’s Christmas Prune Tarts

By Jane and Chux: My brothers and I would look out the front window of our house anxiously waiting for our Grandparent’s to arrive for Christmas.

“Are they here yet?  When are they coming?”  We would excitedly ask our parents.

They would say, “Soon, soon they will be here.”

When they finally did arrive, my grandmother would be holding her round clear container with perfectly shaped little pinwheels. After hugs, she would show us these prized cookies.  They were like little jewels.  This was the one treat we all looked forward to every Christmas.

Grandma Nell’s Finnish prune tarts, perfectly shaped pinwheels of slightly sweet buttery pastry with a prune/date filling.

Our tradition was to have them at breakfast on Christmas morning with grapefruit and scrambled eggs.  My Grandmother Nell was a wonderful cook, and she taught me how to bake.  I continue the tradition she started and make these tarts for Christmas every year.

Now it’s Chux who anxiously waits for me to make these delicious little jewels.  “Are they ready yet?  Why do they take so long?  Is the oven on?”  Merry Christmas! Continue reading

MN Masala: Miso Luvs Apple Cobbler!

Jane and Chux

By Jane and Chux: Being home to the famous Honeycrisp apple, we are able to buy a number of delicious varieties of apples in the Twin Cities area.  Every fall, we make a trip or two to the Minnesota Arboretum’s Apple House, which sells apples developed by the University of Minnesota’s Horticultural Research Center.

At the Apple House, you’ll often find varieties that have not yet been named; they just have a number.  These are the new apples in the search for the next best sellers such as Honeycrisp or SweetTango.

On a recent visit to the Apple House, I purchased a mixture of Haralson, McIntosh, and LaCrescent apples. Now I just needed to decide what I was going to make with these apples!  We like applesauce, crisps, cobblers, and pies.  I decided to try a new recipe for apple cobbler with a secret ingredient in the biscuit topping.

What secret ingredient you ask? It’s Miso!

Mild miso paste provides some saltiness and makes the biscuit crumb a little dense.  I adapted this recipe from an article I found a few years ago.  When making this cobbler, use unsalted butter and do not add additional salt. I cut the sugar in half, and it tasted great!

The addition of Haralson apples added a nice countering tartness to the dish (Granny Smith apples would also work).  If these apple varieties are not in your area, use whatever is available (if the apples are sweet, add extra lemon juice).

When mixing the biscuit topping, it should come together like cookie dough and not like a batter.  The topping bakes to a beautiful caramel color.

Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and you have a perfect fall dessert! Continue reading

MN Masala: Baking with Veggies and Chocolate, Part 2

Jane and Chux

By Jane and Chux: Earlier, I shared our chocolate vegan beet muffin recipe.  This week we are baking with vegetables and chocolate again!

Because, what do you do with all that extra zucchini coming out of your garden?  Well, you make chocolate zucchini cake of course!

This recipe makes a great snack cake that is very moist, rich and chocolaty.  A piece of this cake would be a nice addition to school (or work) lunches.  Makes for a satisfying afternoon snack.

The grated zucchini makes this cake very moist and adds some nutritional value.  The key is to mix the grated zucchini very well into the cake batter.  As it bakes, the zucchini almost melts into the crumb.  In fact, if you didn’t tell anyone, they would not know there was any vegetable in this cake! Continue reading

MN Masala: Karla’s Cheesecake

Jane and Chux

By Jane and Chux: Growing up in Jackson, Michigan, each summer my family would make the long drive to East Palestine, Ohio, for a family reunion.  I loved this annual road trip and the chance to be with loving relatives.

We always stayed with my Aunt Nell and Uncle Ernie in East Palestine.  I have very fond memories of Nell and Ernie.  He was very handsome with his slicked back hair and horn-rimmed glasses.  He always had a cigar in his mouth and loved to joke with everyone.

Nell was a beautiful woman, always stylishly dressed, her hair coiffed in a high bouffant, and in full make-up (she owned and managed a local Merle Norman cosmetics store).  In the mornings, I watched the dew rise into a mist and then dissipate over the rolling hills around their house.  In the evening, my brothers and I would catch fire flies in the back of their house.  We would delight in watching the fire flies light up the room with their blinking lights.

We played games, went swimming, and had long conversations over the kitchen table.  And there was the great home cooked food: my grandmother’s coleslaw and ambrosia salad, Cousin Karla’s hamburger rolls, wild blackberry pies with lard crusts, and potica made with crushed walnuts in between many rolled layers of rich buttery pasty.

Each year, I would cook with my cousin Karla and learn something new.  One year I learned how to make Karla’s famous hamburger rolls.  I used this recipe to make prize winning cloverleaf rolls at the Jackson County fair as a teen.  When I went to college, Karla and I would exchange recipes by mail.

One year, I received a recipe for Karla’s Cheesecake.  This 3×5 inch card is now yellow with age and has stains on it from over 30 years of use!

When I make this cheesecake, I’m always transported back to those wonderful, simple times of our family reunion.  This recipe always pleases.  It’s easy to make because it has no crust.  It’s a wonderful dessert for dinner parties.

It’s also the first thing I baked for Chux when we were dating at Michigan Tech.  It went straight to his heart and never left. Continue reading

MN Masala: It All Started with African Avocado

Jane and Chux

By Jane and Chux: In 2002, Chux entered Izzy’s ice cream contest, the People’s Flavor Awards, with the idea African Avocado.  His idea was based on the avocado ice cream his mother used to make when he was a kid growing up in Lusaka, Zambia.

The fat in avocado lends itself well to ice cream. There was a mixed response at the contest that year.  Some people loved it; others didn’t like it at all.  Even though African Avocado didn’t win that year, it was the beginning of many different ice cream idea entries from us over the years, including Chocolate Rose, Blueberry Buttermilk, Korova (dark chocolate ice cream with sea salt), Chocolate Pate, and Miso Luvs Chocolate. Continue reading

MN Masala: Stuffed Apricots Deconstructed

Jane and Chux

By Jane and Chux: While in London, I was reminded of a dessert we had at the restaurant Sofra a few years ago – large dried apricots stuffed with rich whole milk yogurt and topped with toasted pistachios.

We liked the dessert so much, Chux and I recreated it at home.  We originally tried to make this dessert exactly as it was served to us, but we struggled to stuff the apricots nicely. It didn’t look pretty. We didn’t have the pastry bag needed for this delicate task.

We eventually improvised and deconstructed the elements of this dessert with excellent results and a much easier preparation.  It does take some time to make the yogurt cheese.  It’s best to drain the yogurt overnight.

I like to sweeten the yogurt cheese with maple syrup.  We cook the dried apricots in a little water and sugar to plump them up and give them a little glaze.  After assembling the individual servings, you have a simple delicious dessert that your dinner guests will love. Continue reading

MN Masala: Eat Your Chocolate Cake and Beets Too!

Jane and Chux

By Jane and Chux: A few years ago, I started to make vegan baked goods.  I was especially intrigued with recipes for brownies and chocolate cake made with beets.

Combining these ideas, I came up with a recipe for vegan chocolate beet muffins.  They really should be called cupcakes because they taste like rich, moist, dense chocolate cake.  However, I call them muffins.

There is no butter, oil, or eggs in this recipe.  The trick is to make a very smooth puree of beets, which makes these muffins moist.  The sweet beets also compliment the cocoa power.  Cider vinegar and baking soda are added to provide the rise to these addictive bombs of chocolate! Continue reading

MN Masala: Orange, Date, Mint Salad

By Jane and Chux: This is Jane’s favorite salad that we often mix in as a side dish or as a dessert.  According to Jane, one can even have this for breakfast! 

It is always a hit when we take it to potlucks; it’s easy to make, looks beautiful, and it tastes awesome!  It is preferable to use naval, cara cara or other sweet oranges.  If you use a very tart orange, just sprinkle on some sugar to balance the flavors. Continue reading