Dragonfly Home Recipes

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Month: December 2016

Chocolate Peppermint Smoothie

Nutritious drink meets delightfully decadent treat in this chocolate peppermint smoothie.  Almond milk, banana, dates, unsweetened dark cocoa, peppermint extract, and maple syrup provide vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, while a handful of crushed peppermint candy adds color and fun.  All of these ingredients combined together make a festive drink that is so tasty, you might forget it is so healthy!

The holidays always make me crave the chocolate-peppermint combination, and this smoothie is one of my favorite ways to enjoy it! Plus, it fills the body with lots of good energy, which we all definitely need at this time of year.  Treat yourself or treat someone you love to this delicious drink! And with the crushed peppermint candy around the edges of the glass, it looks pretty too.

chocolate peppermint smoothiesI am not a huge fan of eating dates, but when they are pureed in a smoothie (or baked in something), they make a really good sweetener, full of minerals natural goodness, and with such a mild flavor that they just kind of blend in, especially with the more powerful flavors of the peppermint extract and dark chocolate.  The banana gives this smoothie a bit of richness, while the maple syrup and vanilla extract fill out the flavor.

chocolate peppermint smoothieI hope that you all are having a happy holiday season! It has been a bit hectic for me lately, but I am hoping the next couple of days will be less about rushing and more about savoring time with family and celebrating this special time.  (Hopefully the man who was tailgating me on the road today will be able to slow down soon too!!) I plan to make my husband and kids a chocolate peppermint smoothie tomorrow morning, and for a change, nobody has to get up early!

chocolate peppermint smoothieOur daily lives are not always peaceful, and the events going on in the world are not always peaceful either.  But in spite of all that, there is a special stillness about this time of year.  I don’t know if it is the muted light or the alignment of the stars or what, but if I stand outside and stay still, I can feel a quiet peace.  My husband and  I were outside with our dog yesterday around sunset, and with the fading light, black tree branches, and white snow all around, I felt a sense of quiet peace.  It has always been that way at this time of year.  There is a hush to the air.  I hope you all have a great weekend! A very festive Fiesta Friday is happening today at Angie’s, and I am sharing this recipe there.chocolate peppermint smoothiechocolate peppermint smoothie

Chocolate Peppermint Smoothie

  • Servings: 2
  • Time: 10 minutes
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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 dates, pitted and chopped
  • 1 banana, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon of peppermint extract
  • 2 tablespoons of dark chocolate unsweetened cocoa
  • 1-2 tablespoons of maple syrup (to taste)
  •    2 ice cubes
  • 2 candy canes (or a handful of crushed peppermint candy)
  • a bit of honey for the rim of the glasses

Directions:

Place all the ingredients in a blender, except the candy canes and honey.  Pour the smoothie into two glasses.  With your finger, line the rims of the glasses with honey.  Sprinkle the crushed candy canes over the rims of the glasses, so it sticks to the honey. Some candy will fall into the glasses, but that is fine! Enjoy!

 

Chocolate Tea Bark

This chocolate tea bark is made with melted semi-sweet chocolate topped with leaves of delicate black tea flavored with bergamot, orange and lemon.  Some fresh orange zest gives it additional color and flavor.  Super-easy to make, this chocolate tea bark makes a subtly elegant and delicious after-dinner treat, snack, or a sweet homemade gift!

chocolate tea barkBark is a festive winter dessert because it is fun to make, and has so many variations.  In this version, I use my favorite tea–called Lady in Waiting–from Wilkinson’s of Norwich, a coffee and tea shop in the village of Norwich, in the east of England.  My cousin moved to the Norwich area a few years ago, and she often brings me a bag of this wonderful tea when she comes back to visit.  It is a version of Earl Grey tea, and it has such a delicate yet powerful flavor. You can use any type of loose leaf tea you wish in this bark, though I am partial to the bergamot/citrus notes in the Earl Grey or Lady Grey types of teas.

chocolate and zestI added some orange zest because I cannot resist the flavors of chocolate and orange together, and with the citrus notes already present in this tea, the orange zest goes perfectly.  The quality of the chocolate also makes an impact, I have found.  Spending a bit more on good chocolate is worth it when making bark.  The flavors of the tea leaves and orange zest are subtle, and they look so pretty! It is well-known that both chocolate and tea have lots of health benefits, especially for the health of the soul.  🙂 I find both chocolate and tea especially good for the soul in the winter, when we seem to feel all pleasant things more intensely due to the challenges of the cold weather and long stretches of darkness.

chococlate tea bark and orangesThe winter solstice is tomorrow, and it feels every bit of winter here today.  We have plenty of snow on the ground and a cold wind is blowing.  Our dog has taken to spending time next to the heat vent in the kitchen, and the kids don’t want to get out of their warm beds on these cold, dark mornings.  This year, I am especially enjoying our Christmas tree lights and the colorful lights out on the porch as they cast such a warm and cozy glow.  We are trying to remember to eat dinner by candlelight, even when it is a dinner thrown together at the last minute.

We are entering the peak of the holiday season, such a special and gracious time of year.  Yes, it is a hectic and sometimes stressful time.  But also, I hope we all will have some time not only to reach out to those around us, but to sit quietly and contemplate.  My yoga instructor shared a famous Mother Teresa quote with us in class yesterday:  “Peace begins with a smile.”  This chocolate tea bark definitely makes me smile, and I hope it does you too.  Peace and Happy Holidays!christmas lights at sunset

Chocolate Tea Bark

  • Servings: the equivalent of two large chocolate bars
  • Time: about 15 minutes, plus 1/2 hour for cooling in the freezer, or a couple of hours of cooling time on the counter
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Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces of high quality semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2-3 teaspoons of Earl Grey, Lady Grey, or Lady in Waiting Tea, in leaf form
  • 2 teaspoons of orange zest

Directions:

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Zest your orange peel and measure out your tea leaves.

Break the chocolate into pieces.  Melt the chocolate in a double boiler, or if you don’t have a double boiler, heat a couple of inches of water in a saucepan over low heat.  Place a heat-proof glass bowl over the saucepan (but don’t let the bowl touch the water).  Put the chocolate in the glass bowl and allow it to melt, stirring often.  When the chocolate is melted and shiny, pour it onto the parchment-lined baking sheet and shape it into a rectangle with a spatula, so the chocolate is about 1/4 of an inch thick.  (You may make it thicker or thinner, if you prefer).  Sprinkle the tea leaves and orange zest evenly over the melted chocolate, pressing the leaves into the chocolate a tiny bit.  Let the chocolate cool and harden, about 2 hours, or if you are in a hurry, you can put the baking sheet in the freezer for about a half hour.  When the chocolate is cool and hardened, break it into pieces.  Enjoy!

 

 

Lovely Lemon Cake

This lemon cake is a rich, moist yellow cake infused with the invigorating flavor of lemon, frosted with a luscious, lemony butter frosting.  If you like the flavor of lemon, then this cake is for you!

lemon cakeI love baking with lemons at this time of the year because the smell is so cheerful and uplifting.  If I am feeling worn out from all the holiday running around, a whiff of the scent of lemon wakes me up and pulls me into the present moment.  Grating the lemon peel and squeezing the juice is pleasant work because it smells so good!

lemon cakeThis is the cake my daughter requests every year for her birthday.  The recipe is adapted from one I found in my reliable Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, tenth ring-bound edition. I have been making it for years, and though it tastes just as good as a single layer cake in a 9 x 13 inch pan, it looks so pretty as a double layer cake like in the photos here.

lemon cakeI am always amazed that such basic ingredients can create such a delicious and beautiful treat.  Flour, sugar, butter, eggs, and in this case lemons–that’s all it takes to make something special.  Baking is an act of creation, generosity, and creativity, and with it you can give something special and memorable to someone.  Cake does not last long, and it is definitely not a necessity, but the making of it and the sharing of it will live on for a long time in memories.  Sometimes we need to let the people we see every day know they are special. Everybody needs an extra hug or some encouraging words from time to time–or a lemon cake!

I hope you all have a great weekend, and take the time to breathe and enjoy this special time of year.  We have fresh snow today, making it look like the trees are all decorated with this lemon frosting! Drive safely and stay warm! I look forward to sharing this cake with Angie and the other bloggers at Fiesta Friday, co-hosted this week by Judi @ cookingwithauntjuju and Sandhya @ Indfused.bowl of lemonslemons squeezedlemon cakeLemon cake

Lovely Lemon Cake

  • Servings: 12
  • Time: about 30 minutes of hands-on time, about 30 minutes of baking time, and a couple hours of cooling time
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Ingredients:

for the cake:

  • 3 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of finely shredded or grated lemon peel
  • 1 and 1/2 cups of milk
  • 1/2 cup of unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs

for the frosting:

  • 1/3 cup of unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 and 1/2 cups of powdered sugar
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cups of fresh squeezed lemon juice (about 2-3 lemons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract (or you can use vanilla extract if you prefer)

Directions:

for the cake:

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease and flour two 9 x 1 and 1/2 inch round baking pans.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and lemon zest.  Add the milk, butter, and vanilla.  Beat with an electric mixer on low speed (carefully, so you don’t spread flour all over your kitchen!) until combined into a batter.  Then beat on high speed for two minutes.  Add the eggs and beat on high for two more minutes.  Pour the batter into your two prepared baking pans, distributing the batter evenly.  Bake in your 375 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool on wire racks for about 10 minutes, then carefully remove the cake from the pans.  Let the cakes cool completely before frosting.

for the frosting:

While the cake is cooling, prepare the frosting.  In a medium or large bowl, beat the butter until soft and fluffy.  Gradually add 2 cups of the powdered sugar, beating carefully to combine.  Slowly beat in the 1/4 cup of lemon juice and the almond extract (or vanilla extract if you prefer).  Gradually and slowly beat in the remaining powdered sugar.  Beat in more lemon juice, a little by little, if needed, until you reach the consistency you want for your frosting.  Once you reach your desired moisture balance, beat the frosting till it is smooth and fluffy.

Place the first layer of cake on a large plate and spread the top evenly with frosting.  Place the second layer on top of the first and then frost the top and sides with frosting, spreading and distributing it as evenly as possible.  Be as fancy or as basic as you want to be with the frosting spreading and design.  Carefully transfer the cake to a cake stand or leave it on the plate.  Slice and serve.  Enjoy!

This recipe is adapted from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, tenth ring-bound edition.

 

Kabocha Squash Galette

This savory galette is full of tender, roasted kabocha squash slices, sautéed spinach, and red onions.  Sage, garlic, and Parmesan cheese add to the flavor.  A tender simple pastry crust serves as the base for all this warm, comforting, and nutrition-packed deliciousness.

kabocha squash slicesKabocha squash (also known as Japanese pumpkin) has become my favorite squash.  Like its inner color, its flavor is very vibrant and deep–kind of a cross between a sweet potato and a pumpkin, and its texture is my favorite part–fluffy but at the same time rich and smooth.  Also, the skin is edible, so if you don’t want to peel it, you don’t need to.

kabocha squash galetteThe nutritional benefits are substantial too.  Kabocha squash is full of beta carotene, vitamins A and C, iron, and calcium.  When paired with spinach, this squash galette delivers some good, positive energy!  The only challenge is that the kabocha squash is a bit tough to slice, so a good knife and careful attention are helpful.  This recipe only uses half of a small to medium sized kabocha squash, so save the other half in the refrigerator,  and then use it for something like squash soup or roast it and fill it with your favorite filling, as I did with an acorn squash a couple weeks ago.

kabocha squash on tray 2My fascination with galettes has not yet diminished.  I love the endless variations and versatility.  They can be sweet or savory, decadent or nutritious (sometimes both at the same time!), simple or more complicated, all depending on what you need or desire.  The pastry crust is like the blank canvas, and the filling can be whatever you want–your favorite flavor combinations or the ingredients you need to use up before they spoil, all spun together with herbs and spices.

For me, any kind of squash paired with red onions is a great combination, both flavor-wise and visually.  Adding bright green spinach makes it even more colorful and healthy. This kabocha squash galette is on the savory, nutritious side, and it makes a lovely fall or winter lunch, or with a salad or a bowl of soup, can be part of a hearty dinner.  It tastes best warm, fresh from the oven, but can be eaten at room temperature as well.

It is already December(!) and we are in the season when it is dark as we wake up and dark before dinner time.  Lights, coziness, and warm food are more important than ever now.  I took our dog out the other night, and noticed that our neighbors put Christmas lights on a tree way in the back of their property.  (They must have a really long extension cord!)  It looks so pretty to see a tree all lit up out in the middle of the darkness.  And then I looked up at all the stars.  I don’t know why, but stars look brighter to me on cold nights.  It is a truly beautiful time of year.  I hope you all have a great weekend! I am sharing this recipe over at Fiesta Friday, co-hosted this week by Linda @ La Petite Paniere and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.kabocha squashkabocha squash sliced

Kabocha Squash Galette

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: about 25 minutes of preparation time and about 30 minutes of baking time
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Ingredients:

For the pastry crust:

  • 2 cups of all purpose unbleached flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 2/3 cup of unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 6 to 7 tablespoons of cold water

For the filling:

  • 1/2 of a small to medium sized kabocha squash, unpeeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup of red onion, sliced
  • 1 and 1/2 cups of fresh spinach
  • 2 teaspoons of fresh sage, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg (to spread around the edges of the dough, if desired)

Directions:

For the pastry crust:

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour and the salt.  With a pastry cutter or fork, cut in the butter and continue until the mixture resembles pieces about the size of small peas. Gradually add the water, a tablespoon at a time, gently mixing with a fork after each tablespoon.  Add water until the dough is moistened and holds together but is not slimy.  Form the dough into a ball.  If desired, cover the dough with plastic and let it chill in the refrigerator while you are preparing the filling. (This makes it a bit easier to roll out.)

For the filling: 

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Scrub the kabocha squash well, since you will be keeping the skin on. Then cut the squash in half.  Store one half in the refrigerator for future use.  With the other half, scoop out the seeds.  Then very carefully cut it into fourths, and then into thin slices.  It can be a kind of tough squash to cut, so use caution!  Toss the squash slices in a bowl with a tablespoon or two of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt.  Place them in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake in your 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes, or until the squash is tender.  Pull it out of the oven and set it aside.

While the squash is roasting, slice your red onion, wash your spinach and pat it dry, wash and chop your sage, and mince your garlic.  In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion slices and sauté for about 7 minutes, or until tender.  Add the spinach, sage, and garlic, and continue to cook over medium heat until the spinach is just wilted, just about 3 more minutes or so.  Remove from the heat.

Assemble:

Raise your oven temperature to 400 degrees.  Lay a large piece of parchment paper on your counter.  Roll your ball of dough into a circle about 12 inches in diameter.  Keep the dough on the parchment paper.  Carefully transfer the paper with dough on it to a baking sheet. Place the squash slices on the circle of dough, leaving a border of dough an inch or 1 and 1/2 inch around the edges. Spoon the spinach mixture onto the squash pieces, and then sprinkle grated Parmesan over the filling.  Gently fold and pleat the dough over the filling.  It doesn’t have to look perfect–that is the beauty of the galette.  It is elegant in a rustic way.  Crack an egg into a bowl and brush the edges of the dough with the egg with a pastry brush if you want it to look kind of glossy and golden.  Bake in your 400 degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the crust is golden.  Let the galette cool for about 10 minutes, and then slice and serve. Enjoy!