Friday, 4 November 2011

Cowboy Stew

Who doesn't think of beef stew as a comforting meal on a cold, crisp evening? I was really looking forward to coming home from a long day of work and sitting down to a steaming bowl of stew with a big hunk of french bread slathered in butter. To say I was disappointed was an understatement. One look at my face and the lack of chewing anything more than a couple of bites told my husband all he needed to know; his lunch for the next three days would be beef stew leftovers as he was the only one who was going to be eating it.

I'm not sure if it was because the beef was very sweet on account of the baked beans, or if the lack of carrots which are typically a part of my stew had me out of sorts. Or maybe it was the fact that my husband forgot that I can't stand big hunks of meat in my stew, or really anything for that matter, and didn't cut them small enough. The fact that you could make it in a crockpot was a plus, and if you enjoy your stew on the sweet side then I would suggest you try this recipe out. I think I'll be sticking with my traditional beef stew recipe for now. Enjoy!

Cowboy Stew
Source: What's For Dinner?

1 pound lean beef stew meat
4 potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 4" pieces
1/2 cup onion, chopped
salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 (28 oz.) can Bush's Vegetarian Baked Beans 

Mix beef, potatoes, onion, salt and pepper in a slow cooker. Spread beans over beef mixture. Cover and cook on low 8-10 hours or until beef is tender.

Makes 6 servings

Monday, 31 October 2011

Pumpkin Sugar Cookies

These pumpkins were so much fun to make! Way better than carving a real pumpkin and having to grab out ooey, gooey pumpkin guts. Wait, I still get to do that too so I guess I get the best of both worlds.

I actually worked on these cookies over about a week's time which was a nice experience. I'm usually of the mind frame of waiting until the last minute because I want them to be the freshest possible. However with these particular cookies that just wasn't going to work. Well, I shouldn't say that. It worked for about half of them.

I made two batches, one for my son's preschool class treats on his "star" day and one for my class at school a week later. His cookies for preschool were baked on Sunday, iced on Monday, and eaten on Tuesday. It was a long night on Monday after working a full day, coming home and making dinner, putting him to bed and then getting started on decorating. Let's just say the picture I had in my mind wasn't what came out on the cookies. The only saving grace I had that night was the reassuring thought that they were going to be eaten by preschoolers who hopefully had not yet developed into sugar cookie snobs.

Looking back on it they really didn't turn out too bad. The other batch was also baked on Sunday night, a few were iced on Monday. Most were then put into the fridge where I took them out every few days to add the icing. One day I iced all the stems. Another day I got almost all of the orange finished. The last day I finished the orange and did the green leaves and curling stems. It was so much fun on that last day to be able to add detail and not feel rushed.

I'm really happy with how they turned out. My husband ended up buying me a decorating tip and smaller disposable bag because the squirt bottles I typically use were just not small enough to get the leaf and curly stem detail. More practice needed, but not too bad at the end of the day. Enjoy!

You can find my favorite recipe for sugar cookies and royal icing here.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Daring Bakers - Povitica

 The Daring Baker�s October 2011 challenge was Povitica, hosted by Jenni of The Gingered Whisk. Povitica is a traditional Eastern European Dessert Bread that is as lovely to look at as it is to eat!

I have seen Povitica in mail-order specialty food catalogs and have always been intrigued by it. I love specialty foods, especially if they come in the form of sweet breads! I rarely purchase any of these foods, a little too rich for my wallet, but I definitely drool over the photos. You can imagine then that I really looked forward to baking this months challenge.

Povitica (pronounced poh-vee-teet-sa) is also called potica depending on what Eastern European country you come from. It is always fun completing challenges that are based in cultures different from mine.

I thought that the best part of this challenge was cutting into the bread! It was almost like opening a present on Christmas morning and not knowing what you were going to get. The outside packaging was so unassuming so I was on pins and needles waiting to see how the swirls turned out. You can see from the photos at the top that the two loaves of bread turned out quite different. But even within the same loaf the swirling was varied. The photo on the top left is the same loaf as the photo below, but one cut was made in the middle where the two ends met and there was less filling and the other cut was toward the end of the bread in the heart of the filling.

I did have some issues with the dough which I guess can be expected when you have to roll it out until it is almost transparent. Let's just say I didn't get it quite that thin. I know I complained last month about having to roll dough out to a certain size or shape but this month it was almost the other extreme. I wasn't sure how big I was supposed to roll it out nor what shape it was supposed to be in. At one point the directions said a 10-12 inch diameter which suggests a circle, but the rolling up process suggests a rectangle. I'm still not 100% sure and I think I got a cross between the two shapes. Mine looked a bit more like a wrinkly elephant ear.

I also ran into trouble with trying to figure out what type of filling to use. I decided to bake only two loaves instead of a full batch of 4 and I knew I wanted to use the traditional walnut for one of the fillings. At first I thought I would use a sweet pecan filling for the other but then I realized it would be too close to the walnut. Then I thought I'd use a cream cheese chocolate chip filling but I realized I didn't have cream cheese and I forgot to stop by the store twice when I had the opportunity so that was a no go. I finally scrounged in my fridge and realized I had a jar of apple butter which I could top with raisins and a few chopped walnuts. I think I liked the walnut filling better since it was a bit more mild when paired with the bread, but there were sometimes that I did like the tartness of the apple butter.

I enjoyed making this bread and now that I know a few tricks on how to and not to roll it out I think I will be making this around the holidays for some special gifts.

Makes 4 loaves

Activate Yeast:
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup warm water
2 tablespoons dry yeast

2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
3 teaspoons table salt
4 large eggs
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
8 cups all-purpose flour, sifted then divided

Walnut Filling:
7 cups ground walnuts
1 cup whole milk
1 cup unsalted butter
2 whole eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup cold strong coffee
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
melted butter

To Make the Dough and Activate Yeast:
In a medium saucepan, heat the milk up to just below boiling (about 180 degrees F), stirring constantly so that a film does not form on the top of the milk. Allow to cool slightly until it is about 110 degrees F.

In a small bowl, stir 2 teaspoons sugar, 1 teaspoon flour, and the yeast into 1/2 cup warm water and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to stand 5 minutes.

Once milk is cooled to 110 degrees F, mix the scalded milk, 3/4 cup sugar, and the salt until combined. Add the beaten eggs, yeast mixture, melted butter, and 2 cups of flour. Blend thoroughly; slowly add remaining flour, mixing well until the dough starts to clean the bowl.

Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead, gradually adding flour a little at a time, until smooth and does not stick. (You may not use all your flour.) Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces (they will weigh about 1.25 pounds each). Place dough in 4 lightly oiled bowls, cover loosely with a layer of plastic wrap and then a kitchen towel and let rise an hour and a half in a warm place.

To Make the Filling:
In a large bowl, mix together the ground walnuts, sugar, cinnamon and cocoa. Heat the milk and butter to boiling. Pour the liquid over the nut/sugar mixture. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix thoroughly. Allow to stand at room temperature until ready to be spread on the dough. (If the mixture thickens, add a small amount of warm milk.)

To Roll and Assemble the Dough:
Spread a clean sheet or cloth over your entire table so that it is covered. (I had to clip mine down so the cloth didn't move.) Sprinkle with a couple of tablespoons to a handful of flour (use flour sparingly).

Place the dough on the sheet and roll the dough out with a rolling pin, starting in the middle and working your way out, until it measures roughly 10-12 inches in diameter. Spoon 1 to 1.5 teaspoons for melted butter on top and work into dough. (This part made my edges stick to my sheet.)

Continue to roll out your dough until it is thin enough to see the print of the sheet through it. Spoon filling evenly over dough until covered. Lift the edge of the dough and gently roll it jelly roll style. (You can also roll both edges in toward center until they meet - it will look like to long rolls sitting next to each other.)

Once the dough is rolled up into a rope, gently lift the end and fold it back to the halfway point. Then lift the other end and fold it back to the halfway point. Flip it upside down (seam side down) and set in greased loaf pan.

Brush the top with the coffee topping mixture or if you prefer, you can also used egg whites in place of coffee mixture. Cover pans lightly with plastic wrap and allow to rest for approximately 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove plastic wrap from dough and place in preheated oven and bake for approximately 15 minutes. Turn the oven temperature down to 300 degrees F and bake for an additional 45 minutes. (Check bread every 30 minutes - if it is browning too fast cover loosely with aluminum foil.)

Remove bread from oven and brush with melted butter. Allow to cool in loaf pan until completely cool. It is recommended to slice it by turning it upside dough and slicing with a serrated knife.

Half Batch Ingredients:
Makes 2 loaves

Activate Yeast:
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoon dry yeast

1 cup whole milk
6 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
2 large eggs
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted then divided

Walnut Topping:
3 1/2 cups ground walnuts
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 whole egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup cold strong coffee
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
melted butter

Quarter Batch Ingredients:
Makes 1 loaf

Activate Yeast:
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons warm water
1 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast

1/2 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoons table salt
1 large egg
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted then divided

Walnut Topping:
1 3/4 cups ground walnuts
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 egg yolk from a large egg, beaten
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons cold strong coffee
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
melted butter

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Almond Joy Banana Bread

Highlights magazine  . . . who would have thought that a kids magazine could lead to a batch of banana bread. My son was reading his magazine with dad and they came across a story of some kids baking up a batch of banana bread. He, of course, immediately wanted to bake up a batch but instead of it being a traditional banana bread he wanted it to have almonds. We ended up making one loaf with just almonds and the other loaf with coconut, almonds, and chocolate chips. Yummy! Enjoy!  

Almond Joy Banana Bread
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup margarine or butter, softened
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (3 to 4 medium)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup almonds, chopped
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Place oven rack in lowest position. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottoms only of loaf pans.

Mix sugar and margarine in large bowl. Stir in eggs until well blended. Add bananas, buttermilk, and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Stir in flour, baking soda, and salt just until moistened. Stir in coconut, almonds, and chocolate chips.

Pour into pans. Bake about 60 to 75 minutes (about 25 minutes for mini loaves) or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool 5 minutes. Loosen sides of loaves from pans; remove from pans. Cool completely before slicing.

Makes 2 loaves

Monday, 17 October 2011

Cranberry Zucchini Muffins

More zucchini bread experimentation as we harvest the plethora of plants that are taking over our garden. Dense would be a great adjective to describe this muffin. Heavy and chock full of cranberries and chopped walnuts. Filling the tin to the top is definitely the way to go. I love how the muffin tops are like large crowns popping up over where the muffin would normally end. I would recommend these as a great hearty muffin. Enjoy!    

Cranberry Zucchini Muffins
Source: Simply Recipes

1-1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla

3 cups zucchini, grated
2/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons baking soda
pinch of salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350�F. In a large bowl combine the sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Stir in the grated zucchini and then the melted butter. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the zucchini mixture and mix in. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir these dry ingredients into the zucchini mixture. Stir in walnuts and dried cranberries.

Coat each muffin cup in your muffin pan with a little butter or vegetable oil spray. Use a spoon to distribute the muffin batter equally among the cups, filling the cups up completely. Bake on the middle rack until muffins are golden brown, and the top of the muffins bounce back when you press on them, about 25 to 30 minutes. Test with a long toothpick or a thin bamboo skewer to make sure the center of the muffins are done. Set on wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Remove muffins from the pan, let cool another 20 minutes.

Makes 12 to 14 muffins

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Raspberry Cheesecake


Chocolate crust, creamy cheesecake, sweet yet tangy raspberry sauce . . . yum! These flavors and textures match together perfectly. This cheesecake recipe holds a special place in my life because it was the very first cheesecake that I ever made 15 years ago. Holy cow, 15 years ago! Has it really been that long? My very first Taste of Home magazine (mailed to me 15 years ago) introduced me to this delicious dessert and while I have made other cheesecakes since then it is definitely one of my favorites. Enjoy!

Raspberry Cheesecake
2 cups chocolate wafer crumbs, crushed
1/3 cup butter, melted
3 tablespoons sugar

Raspberry Sauce:
1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen unsweetened raspberries, thawed
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons lemon juice

3 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 egg whites
1 cup whipping cream
2 to 3 tablespoons orange juice
1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen unsweetened raspberries, thawed

Combine the three ingredients for the crust; press into bottom and 1-1/2 inches up sides of a greased 9-inch springform pan. Chill one hour or until firm.

Puree raspberries in blender. Press through a sieve; discard seeds. Add water if necessary to measure 1 cup. In a saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch. Stir in raspberry juice; bring to a boil. Boil 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in lemon juice and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, flour, and vanilla until fluffy. Add egg whites; beat on low just until fluffy. Add egg whites; beat on low just until blended. Stir in cream. Pour half of filling into crust. Top with 3/4 cup raspberry sauce (cover and refrigerate remaining sauce). Carefully spoon remaining filling over sauce.

Bake at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until center is nearly set. Remove from oven; immediately run a knife around pan to loosen crust. Cool on wire rack 1 hour. Refrigerate overnight. Add orange juice to chilled raspberry sauce; gently fold in raspberries. Spoon over cheesecake.

Makes 12-16 servings

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Apple Pie Bread

Another recipe I found while flipping through a magazine at the pediatrician's office. I think I saw 4 or 5 recipes in that particular magazine that interested me enough to come home and look their recipes up online. As I said before, I must have been hungry because it seemed like I wanted to make just about every food item I saw!

This bread comes together pretty easily and is super moist. There are two downfalls however; one is that the streusel-nut topping doesn't get baked in. It just sits on top of the bread so that when you take it out of the loaf pan half of the topping falls off the bread and onto the counter. You can still eat it with a spoon and it is yummy but the point is to have it on the bread. The other downfall is that it falls apart super easy when you cut it. Again, you can use a fork or spoon to eat it but it is frustrating to have it fall into a bunch of little pieces when slicing it. I thought maybe after sitting in the fridge it would slice easier, but not so much. It was tasty, but good luck with getting it to not fall apart on you. Enjoy!

Apple Pie Bread
Source: Better Homes and Gardens

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups peeled apple, shredded (about 4 medium)
1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
1/2 cup raisins

Streusel-Nut Topping:
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/3 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Beat in sugar until combined. Add buttermilk and baking powder; beat until combined. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until combined. Add flour and salt; beat until combined. Stir in apple, nuts, and raisins.

Spoon batter into prepared pan; spread evenly. Make Streusel-Nut Topping; sprinkle over batter. Bake for 60 to 65 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack. Wrap and store overnight before slicing.

Makes 1 loaf

Friday, 7 October 2011

Chicken Meatloaf

My original menu plan and recipe called for a turkey meatloaf. I thought, "Great, now I can use that ground turkey meat that has been in my freezer for months." Not until I pulled it out to thaw did I realize that it was actually ground chicken and not ground turkey. Oops.

I don't think the taste (what there was of it) was altered much. It wasn't a great recipe, in fact I will probably use a different meatloaf recipe I have for future meatloaf meals, but at least I branched out and tried something new. I guess that's all I have to say about it which is pretty sad in and of itself. Enjoy, should you decide to try it!

Chicken Meatloaf
1 pound ground chicken
1 egg
1/2 cup Italian-style bread crumbs
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup mustard

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray loaf pan with non-stick spray.

Combine all ingredients mixing by hand. Press into prepared loaf pan and cook for 45 minutes or until cooked through.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Leaf Sugar Cookies

All last year I wanted to make leaf shaped sugar cookies but I couldn't find any leaf cookie cutters locally. I didn't want to buy online, and I couldn't get down to the big city to check out the cookie cutter store. A whole year has gone by and I finally made not one, but two trips to the big city just to get a leaf shaped cookie cutter!

I guess technically it was three times that I made the trip. The first time we were just passing through and we got there about an hour after the store closed. No big deal, we'll just stop by on way back through tomorrow. Um, nope. Didn't happen to notice the sign on the door when stopping by the first time that stated that the business would be closed on the next business day. Oops, a bit out of the way so hubby was not a happy camper. A week later, a special trip, and voila, leaf shaped cookie cutter in my possession! (I'll also have you know that I purchased a few Christmas ones and another apple because who knows when I will be getting down there again.)

Was it worth it? Absolutely! One happy boy who got to take cookies for his preschool star day, one happy mama who now has a leaf cookie cutter, and one happy hubby who gets to eat the spoils.

I used my tried and true sugar cookie recipe that you can find here.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Pineapple Zucchini Muffins

My neighbor gave me this recipe a few years ago when we had an overabundance of zucchini from our garden. I tried many different zucchini recipes but for some reason I never got around to this one. Well . . . I guess I can't say "for some reason" because I know the reason. She titled her recipe Spicy Pineapple Zucchini Muffins and when I think of spicy I think of chilis and jalapenos and spicy things like that which just don't go with zucchini bread in my mind. Once I actually looked at the ingredients and realized that the spicy was just cinnamon and nutmeg I realized that it wasn't much different from any other zucchini bread recipe. You might be saying, why didn't you just look at the ingredients two years ago when you got the recipe to see that there weren't jalapenos or anything like that in it. That's because my neighbor wrote the ingredients and amounts within the recipe and I guess I was in too big of a hurry to decipher her cursive handwriting.

What's funny is that when I mentioned to her a few weeks ago that I finally used the recipe to make some zucchini pineapple muffins she couldn't even remember having the recipe at all. She had no idea what I was talking about. Go figure. Enjoy!

Pineapple Zucchini Muffins
3 eggs
1 cup oil
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups shredded zucchini
8 oz. can of crushed pineapple, drained
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 loaf pans.

Beat eggs, oil, sugar, and vanilla until thick and foamy. Stir in zucchini and pineapple.

Combine flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir into mixture. Stir in walnuts and raisins.

Divide batter evenly between 2 loaf pans. Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes; turn onto a wire rack to cool thoroughly.

Makes 2 loaves

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Daring Bakers - Croissants

 The Daring Bakers go retro this month! Thanks to one of our very talented non-blogging members, Sarah, the Daring Bakers were challenged to make Croissants using a recipe from the Queen of French Cooking, none other than Julia Child!

Another Daring Bakers challenge where I am coming in just under the wire! It seems to be a busy time of year for me and I ended up putting my challenge off until the last weekend of the month, not knowing that I would be attending my grandfather's funeral this weekend nor that my son would be hosting preschool snacks on Monday and would want to take homemade sugar cookies. Baking did end up being a bit cathartic for me, but it also meant that it didn't get all of my attention.

Here I am, two and a half hours before the challenge deadline starting my write up while my croissants are in their last few minutes of proofing as the oven preheats to it's scorching temperature of 475 degrees F. I will admit right up front that I did get a bit frustrated with this experience toward the end. I have no idea what my croissants are going to look like in 7 minutes when they come out of the oven. There is definitely a smell of cooked egg wafting through the air right now as the countdown continues on.

I would consider myself an experienced bread and pastry maker, but I really bristle when a recipe tells me to roll an item out to a certain shape or size. Really, how many people can get it to the size the recipe calls for let alone the shape? I don't know about you, but my dough seems to have a mind of its own when it is sitting on my counter resisting my methods of carefully shaping and measuring. That being said, a few of my croissants are less like croissants and more like little puff pastry footballs and crescent moons and dolphins jumping out of the water.

Can I get a drumroll, please, as these come out of the oven? The bottoms smell a bit toasty. Burned or is it just the egg wash around the edges and on the pan? They are a little dark but the burnt taste is not there so that's a sigh of relief. And to the most important question: how do they taste? Great! They are light and flaky with just a hint of buttery flavor. I think I can count this challenge as a success, even though the dough rolling had me glaring at my rulers and uncooperative dough. Enjoy!

Source: Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume Two by Julia Child and Simone Beck

1� teaspoon dry-active yeast
3 tablespoons warm water (less than 100�F)
1 teaspoon sugar
� cup milk
1� teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 3/4 cups bread flour
2 tablespoons tasteless oil
� cup chilled, unsalted butter
1 egg, for egg wash

Mix the yeast, warm water, and one teaspoon of sugar in a small bowl. Set aside for the yeast and sugar to dissolve and the yeast to foam up a little.

Heat the milk until tepid (either in the microwave or a saucepan), and dissolve in the salt and 2 teaspoons sugar.

Place the flour in a large bowl. Add the oil, yeast mixture, and milk mixture to the flour. Mix all the ingredients together using the rubber spatula, just until all the flour is incorporated

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and let it rest a minute. Knead the dough eight to ten times only by smacking the dough on the counter and removing it from the counter using the pastry scraper. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a towl. Leave the bowl at approximately 75�F for three hours, or until the dough has tripled in size.

After the dough has tripled in size, remove it gently from the bowl, pulling it away from the sides of the bowl with your fingertips. Place the dough on a lightly floured board or countertop and use your hands to press it out into a rectangle about 8 by 12 inches. Fold the dough rectangle in thirds, like a letter (fold the top third down, and then the bottom third up). Place the dough letter back in the bowl, cover with the plastic wrap and towel. Leave the dough to rise for another 1.5 hours, or until it has doubled in size. (This second rise can be done overnight in the fridge.)

Place the double-risen dough onto a plate and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place the plate in the fridge while you prepare the butter. Place the block of chilled butter on a chopping board. Using the rolling pin, beat the butter down a little until it is quite flat. Use the heel of your hand to continue to spread the butter until it is smooth. You want the butter to stay cool, but spread easily.

Remove the dough from the fridge and place it on a lightly floured board or counter. Let it rest for a minute or two. Spread the dough using your hands into a rectangle about 14 by 8 inches. Remove the butter from the board and place it on the dough rectangle, spreading the butter across two-thirds of the rectangle but keeping it a � inch from all the edges.

Fold the top third of the dough down, and the bottom third of the dough up. Turn the dough 90 degrees so that the top flap is to your right (like a book). Roll out the dough (gently, so you don�t push the butter out of the dough) until it is again about 14 by 8 inches. Again, fold the top third down and the bottom third up. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place it in the fridge for 2 hours.

After two hours have passed, take the dough out of the fridge, unwrap it, and place it again on the lightly floured board or counter. Tap the dough with the rolling pin to deflate it a little. Let the dough rest for 8 to 10 minutes. Roll the dough out until it is 14 by 8 inches. Fold in three, as before. Turn 90 degrees and roll out again to 14 by 8 inches. Fold in three for the last time, wrap in plastic, and return the dough to the fridge for two more hours (or overnight, with something heavy on top to stop it from rising).

Lightly butter your baking sheet so that it is ready. Take the dough out of the fridge and let it rest for ten minutes on a lightly floured board or counter. Roll the dough out to a 20 by 5 inch rectangle. Cut the dough into half which will yield two rectangles (each 10 by 5 inches ). Place one of the rectangles in the fridge to keep the butter cold.

Roll the rectangle to a 15 by 5 inch rectangle. Cut the dough into three squares (each 5 by 5 inches). Place two of the squares in the fridge. The remaining square may have shrunk up a little bit in the meantime so roll it out again until it is nearly square. Cut the square diagonally into two triangles. Stretch the triangle out a little, so it is not a right-angle triangle, but more of an isosceles. Starting at the wide end, roll the triangle up towards the point, and curve into a crescent shape. Place on the baking sheet. Repeat the process with the remaining squares of dough, creating 12 croissants in all. Leave the tray of croissants on the counter, covered lightly with plastic wrap, to rise for 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 475�F. Mix the egg with a teaspoon of water. Spread the egg wash across the tops of the croissants. Put the croissants in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until the tops are browned nicely. Take the croissants out of the oven and place them on a rack to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Chocolate Walnut Pie Bars

Super sweet! That is an appropriate description for this tasty treat.We started out with bars cut to the size you see, but after our first round of dessert we cut them in fourths. Yep, they were that sweet. They sure were yummy though. Enjoy!  

Chocolate Walnut Pie Bars
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar

3 eggs
3/4 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.

Beat flour, butter, and brown sugar in small mixer bowl until crumbly. Press onto bottom of prepared pan. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

Beat together eggs, corn syrup, granulated sugar, butter and vanilla in large mixer bowl. Stir in morsels and walnuts; pour over hot crust.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until center is set. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars.

Makes 3 dozen bars

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Zucchini Bread Galore

Doesn't this picture look great! This is one day's worth of baking, minus a dozen muffins that were eaten before this photo was taken. Not only that but all of those delectable baked goods came from one squash and one zucchini (similar in size to the two in the picture). I love monster squash and zucchini from my garden!

I used my basic zucchini bread recipe and just added different extras to the mix. Some of the batches have just raisins, some just nuts, some raisins and nuts. All but the dozen muffins went into the freezer so we are ready to go with zucchini bread for the next few months! So much easier to freeze the baked bread than to freeze the shredded zucchini.

Zucchini Bread 3 cups shredded zucchini (about 3 medium)
1 2/3 cups sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup coarsely chopped nuts
1/2 cup raisins

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottoms only of loaf pans. Mix zucchini, sugar, oil, vanilla, and eggs in large bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients. Pour into pans. Bake 50-60 minutes (25-30 minutes for mini loaves, 20-25 minutes for muffins) or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Loosen sides of loaves; remove from pans. Cool completely before slicing. Wrap tightly and store at room temperature up to 4 days or refrigerate up to 10 days.

Makes 2 loaves

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Bacon Cheddar Potato Soup

Besides baking the potato this soup was a pretty quick fix. Somewhat bland, but it works for a quick meal. Not a whole lot to say about it. Enjoy!

Bacon Cheddar Potato Soup
2 cups skim milk
2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, baked
1/3 cup cheddar cheese, shredded + some for garnish
1/4 small onion, sliced, sauteed
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 ounces turkey bacon, cooked, crumbled

Place milk, potatoes, cheese, onion, dill, rosemary, and salt in a stockpot. Heat thoroughly and break up potatoes. Add crumbled turkey bacon. Serve with shredded cheese garnish.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Birthday Bones

Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Najia, happy birthday to you! Our beloved puppy dog turned 7 years old today. In her honor I baked my very first batch of dog bones. Call me lazy because these were some of the easiest things out there and I have been putting it off for years.

I can't really give you a thumbs up or down because, well, my dog doesn't have thumbs and she also doesn't have a very discerning palate. While she doesn't eat "people food" she does hoover up anything she can find on the ground when we are camping, out walking, or just about anywhere. I think she is pretty willing to eat just about anything.

These bones are great in that they only require 4 ingredients and there is a lot of flexibility even within that. If you go to the source website you can see that there are many variations that people have made and they have all turned out well. Again, what dog is going to turn up their nose at food being offered to them, definitely not mine.

I used whole wheat pastry flour (because that's what I had in the cupboard), crunchy peanut butter (maybe you can see the peanuts in the bone), and almond milk (because that's all the milk I had in my fridge). At first I was a bit worried as I was scooping the peanut butter into the measuring cup. As my peanut butter jar became more empty I started to wonder if this really was a cheaper way of doing things. I finally convinced myself that our dog would take the place of our son as the fourth peanut butter consumer in our family since our son does not like peanut butter and it would work itself out. After cutting out 84 little dog bones and one bigger bone I decided that the one cup of peanut butter is definitely worth the sacrifice.

From our dog to yours, enjoy!

Birthday Bones
Source: All Recipes

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup unsalted natural peanut butter
1 cup skim milk

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper. 

Stir together the flour and baking powder; set aside. In a medium bowl, mix together the peanut butter and milk. Stir in the flour mixture until well blended. 

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Roll out to 1/4 inch thickness and cut into shapes using cookie cutters. Place 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets. 

Bake for 8 minutes in the preheated oven, or until lightly brown. Remove from cookie sheets to cool on wire racks. 

Note: Baking time is dependent on size and thickness of dog bones. 

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Bushels of Apples Sugar Cookies

What better way to mark the start of the school year than with a bushel of apples. Or maybe I should say a batch of apples . . . sugar cookies that is. These cookies were made in honor of me going back into the classroom after an almost 5 year break and my son starting preschool.

All but one was either green or yellow, with just one red apple to complete the trio. I had planned to divide the cookies evenly into red, green, and yellow but after adding too much red food coloring for my taste and conscience I decided that all but one would be green or yellow. They turned out quite nicely, beautiful thick icing evenly coating the apple and a bit of glitter dust to finish it off. They were a hit at work and already have me thinking about what other cookies I am going to be baking this school year. Enjoy!

Note: This is the same recipe I have used for all but one of my sugar cookies. It is the best ever. Not overly sweet and the royal icing is a great compliment for decorating but doesn't add to the taste.
Sugar Cookies
Source: Treats

1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla extract and mix until egg is completely incorporated. Add flour, baking powder, and salt; mix until no trace of dry ingredients remain.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to about 1/4" thickness and cut shapes using cookie cutters.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until bottoms are golden brown.

Royal Icing
4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup meringue powder
slightly less than a 1/4 cup of water
food coloring

Mix powdered sugar and meringue powder until well blended. Add water and mix until you get the consistency that you want. Add food coloring to achieve your desired color. Use pastry bags with #1 and #3 tips or plastic squeeze bottles to decorate.

For outlining: consistency should be like glue paste
For flooding: add enough water so that when you lift a spoonful of icing it runs back into the bowl and blends into the other icing in about 2 to 3 seconds

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have to admit that when I was flipping through the Better Home and Garden magazine while waiting for my son's appointment at the pediatrician I was either really  hungry or these cookies looked way better than they came out in my kitchen. Not that they were bad, but I wouldn't say that they were stellar either. Pretty much your average run of the mill chocolate chip cookie with some dried cherries thrown in. (You can see I added a few white chocolate chips as well as semi-sweet but that didn't do much for it.) I do have to say that one of the positives is that they seem to freeze well. We had a few fresh out of the oven and then threw the rest in a bag in the freezer where they still sit today waiting for us to get in the mood for chocolate chip cookies once again. Enjoy!

Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookies
Source: Better Homes and Gardens

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 12 oz package semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup snipped dried cherries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugars, baking soda, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour. Stir in chocolate chips and cherries.

Drop dough by tablespoons 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 9 minutes. Transfer to racks. Cool.

Makes 6 dozen

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Cinnamon-Pecan Bread

I really didn't intend to make another loaf of swirl bread. In fact, until I started making it I didn't even realize that it would be a swirl bread. For some reason I thought when I saw this recipe in a magazine (without the picture, I guess) I was thinking it was going to be a quick bread. Never mind that yeast is listed as an ingredient. I guess I just wasn't paying close attention.

I made three different batches of swirl bread within a pretty short timeframe and this was the one that we liked least. It ended up being pretty dry. The powdered sugar glaze added to the bread but it still couldn't make up for the dryness and lack of flavor. I will pick one of the other two recipes when I make swirl bread again, but if you decide to try it, enjoy!

Cinnamon-Pecan Bread
Source: Better Homes and Gardens

2 cups all-purpose flour or bread flour
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, cut up
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
2 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped pecans
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 to 3 teaspoons milk

In a mixing bowl, combine 1 cup of the flour and the yeast. In a saucepan, heat and stir milk, the 1/4 cup butter, the 2 tablespoons sugar and the salt until warm (120 degree F to 130 degree F) and butter almost melts. Add to flour mixture. Then, add the egg. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds, scraping the sides of the bowl constantly. Beat on high speed for 3 minutes.

Using a wooden spoon, stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead in enough remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough that's smooth and elastic (3 to 5 minutes total). Shape into a smooth ball.

Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning once to grease surface. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled (1 to 1-1/4 hours). Punch dough down.

On a well-floured surface, roll out the dough to form a 12-inch square. Brush the dough with 2 tablespoons melted butter. Combine the 3 tablespoons sugar and the cinnamon; sprinkle over the butter. Sprinkle with pecans.

Roll up, jelly-roll style. Pinch the seams and the ends to seal. Place, seam side down, on a greased baking sheet. Let rise in a warm place until almost doubled (about 30 to 45 minutes).

Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 to 25 minutes or until done. Remove to wire rack to cool. Prepare Powdered Sugar Glaze in a bowl to drizzling consistency. Drizzle over bread. Makes 1 loaf.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Cauliflower Sauteed with Anchovies

I wasn't sure about this recipe when I came across it. I am not a big fan of cauliflower or anchovies, so to say that I was a bit skeptical was an understatement. I'm still a bit skeptical even after eating it. Let's just say that I managed to eat my portion but didn't have seconds. My husband did though so just like with anything it really depends on what your taste buds tell you.

Granted it is probably not the most appealing dish to look at. It almost looks like a mystery food, doesn't it? Hmmm, I can't tell if that is hashbrowns, rubbery scrambled eggs, pieces of browned chicken . . . I was reminded of the fact that you can mash steamed cauliflower as a substitute for mashed potatoes. Maybe the consistency is a bit more like the hashbrowns mentioned above. Either way it was an okay dish. I may make it again as a side dish but definitely not as the main course. Enjoy, if you dare!

Cauliflower Sauteed with Anchovies
1 medium head cauliflower
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 to 6 anchovy fillets, drained
pepper to taste
water, if needed

Wash the cauliflower and break it into small floret; chop the stems. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Saute the oil and anchovies in a skillet, just until you see the anchovies have broken down. Add the cauliflower. Stir to coat and season with pepper.

Cook on high heat for about 20 minutes, adding a little water if needed so it doesn't brown too fast. Turn the heat down to low and cover for about 5 minutes or until cauliflower is tender.

Makes 4 servings

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Daring Bakers - Candylicious!

The August 2011 Daring Bakers� Challenge was hosted by Lisa of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drive and Mandy of What the Fruitcake?!. These two sugar mavens challenged us to make sinfully delicious candies! This was a special challenge for the Daring Bakers because the good folks at offered an amazing prize for the winner of the most creative and delicious candy!

I think this might be the latest that I have ever completed a challenge and blogged about it. It is just under an hour away from the deadline for the reveal (although I guess I do really have tomorrow too to be considered on time on the 27th) and I am just now typing it up. The good thing is that the experience is fresh in my mind, the bad thing is that if there are any typing or grammar errors please chalk it up to the fact that I feel like I need to keep my eyelids open with toothpicks. 

While I enjoy making candy, and have some experience with making it, it is not something that I do very often. I think of making candy as being something more for the holidays to give away as little gifts. Add to that the fact that I am going back to work after taking a break for the last 4 1/2 years to stay at home with my son and you can imagine that I am pretty busy right now. However, that being said I did manage to squeak out this month's challenge.

I started with Almond Roca. This is something that I have made with my mom since I was a little kid. It is a persnickety candy in that you are dealing with heating sugar and butter to the hard crack stage and as I was reminded tonight, it can go from hard crack stage to ruined in the matter of a few seconds. My first batch was going along beautifully. I hadn't made it in a few years so I was trying to recollect if the recipe was correct in telling me to cook it to 350 degrees F since that seemed a bit high. While debating this I decided to go ahead and see where it took me. At about 275 to 280 degrees F the butter and sugar started to separate. I thought that since I hadn't made it in a while and couldn't remember what it transformed into next that maybe this was just a stage it was going through (like one of the many others in this process) and it would eventually get back to where it needed to be. I just needed to be patient and wait. Ummm, no. I was definitely wrong to continue past this point and should have trusted my initial instincts. I was a bit miffed that I wasted an entire pound of butter and two cups of sugar in the process, ending up with burnt sugar sitting underneath a layer of brown, burnt butter. Thankfully I had not tried to pour it on my chocolate and almonds so those were still salvageable.

I decided to give it one more go. After all, the chocolate and almonds needed something to go along with them and now that I knew what the butter and sugar looked like right before it turned I would be able to stop it at the right time. Yes and no. Right about 275 to 280 degrees F the mixture looked like it was starting to separate into two different entities again. So this time I just decided to stop it there before it quite reached the hard crack of 300 degrees F and pour it on the chocolate. I figured that even if it was a bit soft at least it wouldn't be burned. The verdict . . . yes it is softer than it should be (more of a dissolving sugar/butter than a hard toffee) but it still tastes like it should. However, I would still consider this a fail since it didn't turn out how it was supposed to.

Let's move on now to the chocolates. I had a really hard time deciding what type of chocolate to make. I really wanted to make a chocolate that was filled with a raspberry cream but it was so difficult to find a recipe to use. I should probably clarify that statement. There were many recipes out there but because I had never made a cream filled chocolate before I wasn't sure which ones would work and which ones wouldn't. Many of them also called for fondant which seemed a bit strange to me so I shied away from making a cream filled chocolate like I wanted to. Instead I decided to base my chocolate on a turtle with the addition of pretzel pieces.


Tempering the chocolate was an interesting experience. Personally I don't know if I even needed to do this process. I didn't have time to buy couverture chocolate so I went with Lindt chocolate already in bars. As you know, this chocolate is already tempered since they want their product to have a crisp sound and feel when breaking it into pieces and a shine upon unwrapping. I went ahead and chopped it into little pieces, melted it over my double boiler, but then struggled to get it down to the temperature that it needed to be. I kept adding chocolate pieces and chocolate pieces and chocolate pieces. Finally I got it down to a good temperature but not all the pieces melted and weren't going to. I heated it back up just for a second and it skyrocketed up 15 to 20 degrees F. Ugh. Now the process again of waiting for it to cool down. Finally it got down to about 90 degrees and I decided to take a leap of faith in getting the chocolates finished. I used a ladle to spoon the chocolate into the molds, stuck it in the fridge for 5 minutes, put in the caramel, pretzel pieces, and pecans, covered with more chocolate and let it sit in the fridge a bit longer.

Out popped beautiful chocolates! I cracked my cheapy little mold in the process but I was impressed by the shiny look of these guys, even to the point where you could see the reflections of the lights. If only they tasted as good as they looked. I know, I know, another fail, how could that be? The chocolate was way too dark and overpowering. I ended up using 85% cocoa and it was just so, so strong that you couldn't even taste the caramel, pretzel or pecan pieces. I was super disappointed. Did I say super, because I was SUPER disappointed. I hate spending money from our food budget on things that don't quite turn out. It is so disappointing. Did I already mention that I made two candy's tonight and both of them were disappointing. Yep, I thought so.

So, anyway . . . the Almond Roca really is a tasty candy if you can get it to the hard crack stage without burning it. I may try the chocolates again with milk chocolate (or a lower percentage dark chocolate) but right now I am candied out. Enjoy!

Note: Even though my Almond Roca didn't reach hard crack stage it actually stayed hard in the freezer.

Almond Roca
7 ounces milk chocolate bar (freeze ahead)
1 cup chopped almonds
2 cups sugar
1 pound butter

Grate frozen chocolate bar. Chop almonds. Cover a 9x13 cake pan with 1/2 cup almonds. Sprinkle 1/2 grated chocolate bar on top of almonds.

Melt butter over medium heat. Add sugar, stirring constantly until it is 300 degrees F or hard crack stage.

Pour immediately over grated chocolate and almonds. Spread evenly. Cover immediately with other half of chocolate bar and sprinkle with rest of almonds. Let stand to cool. Once cool, turn it out of the pan and break it up.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Basic Potato Salad

Summer isn't summer without at least one helping of potato salad. This batch was made to accompany us on one of our summer camping trips. We wanted something to go along with our brats roasted over the campfire and were tired of a side dish of flavored potato chips. This was definitely a welcome change. This recipe is great because you can add in so many other ingredients depending on which direction you want to go with it. Enjoy!

Basic Potato Salad
Source: Martha Stewart

3 pounds waxy potatoes (such as Yukon gold or new), scrubbed and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1/3 cup white-wine vinegar
4 scallions, white part minced, green part thinly sliced
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
3/4 cup light mayonnaise
cooked bacon, crumbled

Set a steamer basket in a Dutch oven (or large pot with a lid), and add enough salted water to come just below basket; bring to a boil.

Place potatoes in basket, cover pot, and reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Steam potatoes, gently tossing occasionally, until tender, 15 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine vinegar, scallion whites, 1 teaspoon coarse salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Add hot potatoes to vinegar mixture; toss to combine. Cool to room temperature, tossing occasionally, about 1 hour.

Add mayonnaise, scallion greens, and bacon to cooled potatoes; mix gently to combine. Serve, or cover and refrigerate up to 2 days.

Makes 8 servings

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Don't these swirls look incredible? The smell and taste are just as incredible as the neat swirlies throughout the dough! This recipe was chosen on the same day that I chose the recipe for the Cinnamon Raisin Nut Bread. I wanted to compare two cinnamon swirl breads to see if a slight change to ingredients and method would make a big difference in the outcome. I was actually surprised at how different they tasted.

Both recipes have yummy qualities to them. I like the fact that with the other swirl bread I added the raisins and nuts to give it a bit more texture. But while you could smell the cinnamon in the dough while kneading it the finished product didn't have an overly cinnamony (is that even a word?) taste. However this cinnamon swirl bread definitely has a sweeter, cinnamon taste. It is delicious all on it's own merits. It also makes a monster loaf of bread! This thing definitely doubled in size while it was rising at both rise times. I wasn't sure if it was going to take over the oven like the blob but it managed to bake up just fine. The top was a bit lopsided (not sure if you can see it in the picture) and looked a bit like an alien head from the back once you started cutting down the loaf.

Between the two recipes I would say that this is definitely the tastier of the two. I think the extra cinnamon and sweeter flavor make it just a bit more delicious. Not sure if in the future I will try adding raisins and nuts to this recipe or not but that definitely would make it a straight across comparison. We'll just have to wait and see what the next baking kick brings along. Enjoy! 

Cinnamon Swirl Bread
Source: Pioneer Woman

6 tablespoons butter
1 cup milk
2-1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
2 whole eggs

2 tablespoons butter, softened + some for greasing pan
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
egg wash (1 egg + splash of milk beaten together)

Melt 6 tablespoons butter with milk. Heat until very warm, but don't boil. Allow to cool until temperature reaches between 105-115 degrees F. Sprinkle yeast over the top, stir gently, and allow to sit for 10 minutes.

Combine flour and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix sugar and eggs with the paddle attachment until combined. Pour in milk/butter/yeast mixture and stir to combine. Add half the flour and beat on medium speed until combined. Add the other half and beat until combined.

Switch to the dough hook attachment and knead dough on medium speed for ten minutes. If dough is overly sticky, add 1/4 cup flour and knead again for 5 minutes.

Grease a large bowl. Throw dough in and toss to coat. Cover bowl in plastic wrap and set it in a warm, hospitable place for at least 2 hours.

Turn dough out onto the work surface. Roll into a neat rectangle no wider than the loaf pan you are going to use, and about 18 to 24 inches long. Smear with 2 tablespoons softened butter. Mix sugar and cinnamon together, then sprinkle evenly over the butter-smeared dough. Starting at the far end, roll dough toward you, keeping it tight and contained. Pinch seam to seal.

Smear loaf pan with softened butter. Place dough, seam down, in the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix egg with a splash of milk for egg wash and brush over the top. Bake for 40 minutes on a middle/lower rack in the oven. Remove from the pan and allow bread to cool.

Makes one loaf

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Orange Chicken Fajitas

Super easy recipe and pretty tasty too! There isn't a lot to this main dish as you can see in the ingredient list. It was pretty quick work to get the veggies and chicken chopped up and once they were cooked through and simmered for a few minutes in the juice it was time to dish up. Enjoy!

Orange Chicken Fajitas
2 yellow bell peppers
2 orange bell peppers
1 large white onion
1 1/2 to 2 pounds chicken breast tenders
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup orange juice

10-12 tortillas
shredded lettuce (optional)
sour cream (optional)
Mexican cheese (optional)

Wash and cut the peppers and onions into thin strips. Wash chicken tenders and cut them into strips.

Heat olive oil in a skillet and add chicken, peppers, and onions. Cook until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are tender.

Add orange juice and let simmer for 5 minutes. Serve on flour or multigrain tortillas. Top with shredded lettuce, sour cream, and Mexican cheese if desired.

Makes 10-12 fajitas

Friday, 12 August 2011

Mini Lemon Chiffon Cake

Doesn't this cake just scream summer? To me it definitely looks like a dessert that should be eaten in the heat of a July evening. Red, white, and blue . . . fresh, summer fruits . . . light, airy cake . . . fluffy, slightly sweet whipping cream. Yum, yum, yum.

I made a lemon chiffon cake in a mini bundt size for individual portions. Strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries were our fruit of choice this time, but you could easily do another summer fruit and have it taste as equally delicious. The homemade whipped cream is just heavy whipping cream whipped to medium stiff peaks with a bit of powdered sugar and vanilla added in for flavor. Enjoy!

Mini Lemon Chiffon Bundt Cakes
Makes 4 mini bundt cakes

1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 + 1/8 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt, preferably kosher
1/8 cup vegetable oil
2 medium egg yolks
1/8 cup water
1/8 cup lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon lemon zest, grated
3 medium egg whites
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 325�F. Spray bundt pans with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour and baking powder. Add in all but 3 tablespoons of sugar, and all of the salt. Stir to combine.

In a small bowl combine the oil, egg yolks, water, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Whisk thoroughly. Combine with the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly for about one minute, or until very smooth.

Put the egg whites into a stand mixer, and beat on medium speed using a whisk attachment, until frothy. Add cream of tartar and beat on a medium speed until the whites hold soft peaks. Slowly add the remaining sugar and beat on a medium-high speed until the whites hold firm and form shiny peaks.

Using a grease free rubber spatula, scoop about ? of the whites into the yolk mixture and fold in gently. Gently fold in the remaining whites just until combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack.

To unmold, run a knife around the sides to loosen the cake from the pan. Invert the cake on the wire rack and cool completely.

Can be refrigerated for up to 4 days. Serve with whatever accompaniments you wish.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Black Bean Pineapple Enchiladas

I'm not usually one to experiment with new recipes for foods that I've found that work for my family and we have a great chicken enchilada recipe already. However, I did come across this recipe in a book I was reading, the same as the pork chop recipe, so I was thinking that I would give it a try and see if it knocked my socks off like the pork chops.

While it didn't knock my socks of  it is a good enchilada recipe. The enchiladas are very filling and have a nice combination of textures and tastes with the chicken, black beans, and pineapple. I'm sure you could spice it up a bit more because it did seem like it was a little on the bland side. It was nice to get a large amount of enchiladas so that we could freeze some for lunches at a later date. Overall, I think we'll keep it in the books as one to use for variety but it in no way takes over as top dog for my other chicken enchilada recipe.Enjoy!

Note: I went ahead and used a rotisserie chicken, but you could just as easily bake or grill up some chicken breasts and shred them once they've cooled to the touch.

Black Bean Pineapple Enchiladas
1 red bell pepper
1/2 medium white or yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 15 oz. can of black beans, drained
1 20 oz. can of crushed pineapple in pineapple juice
1 rotisserie chicken
1 cup Mexican shredded cheese
1 large can enchilada sauce
10 to 12 medium-size multigrain flour tortillas

Dice the red bell pepper and onion and saute in olive oil over medium heat or until tender. Add drained black beans and pineapple including juice into the skillet. Stir and heat.

Pull apart white meat chicken and shred. Add chicken to the skillet and cook until hot.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two 9x13 glass or casserole dishes. (I used a 9x13 and a 9x9.)

Lay one tortilla in the dish and scoop approximately 1/2 cup filling into tortilla, place filling in the center from end to end. Roll up tortilla, completely enclosing the filling. Place seam side down in dish. Stuff and roll the rest of the tortillas the same way until the dish is full. Pour the enchilada sauce over the top and sprinkle cheese on top.

Bake for 15 minutes or until bubbly hot.

Makes 10 to 12 enchiladas

Thursday, 4 August 2011


Ahhh, breakfast pastries, muffins, rolls . . . what fun to dig through recipes looking for something fun to bake on a lazy, rainy Saturday morning. And I was definitely in a baking mood today. I wanted to bake every bread recipe I looked at. After two loaves of bread and a batch of popovers I called it good otherwise I could have gone on and on with no end in sight.

I think technically these should be called popunders instead of popovers. I'm betting that they didn't "pop" up as much as they should have because I used custard cups instead of popover cups. I just can't see spending that much money on a pan for one purpose, especially a purpose that I don't have very often. They still tasted good, a bit more dense than they were supposed to be, but yummy none the less. You can see in the photo above that one ended up sinking in the middle and the other is upside down so that you can see the popped portion. Slather it with jam and no one will know any better. Oh, and don't mention they are supposed to be popovers either. Enjoy!

2 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat over to 450 degrees. Grease 6-cup popover pan or six 6-ounce custard cups generously. Beat eggs slightly in medium bowl. Beat in remaining ingredients just until smooth (do not overbeat). Fill cups about one-half full. Bake 20 minutes. Decrease oven temperature to 350 degrees. Bake 20 minutes longer or until deep golden brown. Immediately remove from cups and serve hot.

Makes 6 popovers

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Slow Cooker BBQ Pork Sandwiches

Oh, how I love a pulled pork sandwich! I don't know what it is about shredded pork slathered in barbecue sauce nestled in a chewy roll, but I fall for it every time. My husband can attest to the fact that I am not a big fan of hunks of meat especially on a sandwich, so I think that the fact that these are thinly shredded pieces that are perfectly bite-sized adds to the allure.

Before this meal I had never attempted to make these at home. They were saved for the few times we ventured out to a great barbecue restaurant where I would ponder over and worry about whether their idea of a pulled pork sandwich was the same as mine. Some were and some weren't. Well now I don't have to have all that anxiety added to my life. I can make them at home as often as I want and know that I am getting exactly what I want!

These are so easy to make. Put the meat and sauce in the crockpot and go about the rest of your day. Pull it out about dinner time to shred and re-coat with barbecue sauce and you are set. Just thinking about it while
typing this up is making me hungry for one. Enjoy!

Slow Cooker BBQ Pork Sandwiches
Source: Adapted from Kraft 

2 pound boneless pork shoulder
3 onions, sliced, separated into rings
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
8 kaiser rolls, split
thinly sliced cheddar cheese, optional
Place meat in slow cooker; top with onions and barbecue sauce. Cover with lid. Cook on LOW 8 to 10 hours (or on HIGH 4 to 5 hours).
Remove meat from slow cooker; cut off and discard excess fat. Chop meat into small pieces or shred with fork. Return to slow cooker; stir until evenly coated with sauce.
Fill rolls with meat mixture just before serving. If desired, add a thin slice of cheese before covering meat with top bun. 

Makes 8 servings

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Daring Bakers - Fancy Fraisiers

Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers� host and she challenges us to make Fresh Frasiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook Tartine.
Fresh strawberries, light airy chiffon cake, fluffy pastry cream . . . who could resist this month's Daring Bakers challenge!  When I saw the challenge at the beginning of the month I knew that this would work perfectly for my two 5-inch springform pans. These would yield two small desserts, one for book group and one for my family. Little did I know that one 5-inch springform pan would yield more than enough for both groups combined. Oops, the hazards of trying to make something smaller.
I followed the recipe exactly and it was very straight forward. I baked the cakes the day before I needed the dessert and had them cooling on wire racks while I whipped up the pastry cream. I knew from past experience that this could sit in the fridge overnight along with the simple syrup. Making these ahead of time made for a bit less work on preparation day but there were still a lot of steps to do to get the whole thing together.
I'll spare you all the photos of making the cake, pastry cream, and simple syrup and just show you a quick assembly of the cake. For one of the cakes I did use the almond paste but for the other cake I did not. I liked the taste and look of the one without the almond paste a little better. I didn't think the almond paste added anything extraordinary and was really not a necessary item. The steps look involved but it really is a straight forward, simple recipe. Enjoy!

Chiffon Cake
1 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt, preferably kosher
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 large egg yolks
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon lemon zest, grated
5 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Preheat the oven to moderate 325�F. Line the bottom of an 8-inch spring-form pan with parchment paper. Do not grease the sides of the pan.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour and baking powder. Add in all but 3 tablespoons of sugar, and all of the salt. Stir to combine.
In a small bowl combine the oil, egg yolks, water, vanilla and lemon zest. Whisk thoroughly. Combine with the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly for about one minute, or until very smooth.
Put the egg whites into a stand mixer, and beat on medium speed using a whisk attachment, until frothy. Add cream of tartar and beat on a medium speed until the whites hold soft peaks. Slowly add the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar and beat on a medium-high speed until the whites hold firm and form shiny peaks.
Using a grease free rubber spatula, scoop about ? of the whites into the yolk mixture and fold in gently. Gently fold in the remaining whites just until combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack. To unmold, run a knife around the sides to loosen the cake from the pan and remove the spring form sides. Invert the cake and peel off the parchment paper. Refrigerate for up to four days.

Pastry Cream
1 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt, preferably kosher
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon gelatin
1/2 tablespoon water
1 cup heavy cream
Pour the milk, vanilla, and salt into a heavy sauce pan. Place over medium-high heat and scald, bringing it to a near boiling point. Stir occasionally.
Meanwhile, in a stand mixer add the cornstarch and sugar. Whisk to combine. Add the eggs to the sugar and cornstarch and whisk until smooth.
When the milk is ready, gently and slowly while the stand mixer is whisking, pour the heated milk down the side of the bowl into the egg mixture. Pour the mixture back into the warm pot and continue to cook over a medium heat until the custard is thick, just about to boil and coats the back of a spoon.
Remove from heat and pass through a fine mesh sieve into a large mixing bowl. Allow to cool for ten minutes stirring occasionally.
Cut the butter into four pieces and whisk into the pastry cream a piece at a time until smooth.
Cover the cream with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap onto the top of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Chill in the refrigerator until cool throughout. (Can be refrigerated for up to five days.)
In a small dish, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand for a few minutes to soften. 
Put two inches of water into a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat.
Measure 1/4 cup of the chilled pastry cream into a small stainless steel/glass bowl that will sit across the sauce pan with the simmering water, without touching the water.
Heat the cream until it is 120 F. Add the gelatin and whisk until smooth. Remove from the water bath, and whisk the remaining cold pastry cream in to incorporate in two batches.
In a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream until it holds medium-stiff peaks. Immediately fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream with a rubber spatula.
Vanilla Simple Syrup
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Combine the water, sugar, and vanilla in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil and let the sugar dissolve. Stirring is not necessary, but will not harm the syrup. Remove the syrup from the heat and cool slightly. Transfer syrup to a lidded container or jar that can be stored in the refrigerator. Simple syrup can be stored for up to one month.
Fraisier Assembly
1 baked 8-inch chiffon cake
1 recipe pastry cream filling
1/3 cup simple syrup
2 lbs strawberries
confectioners� sugar for dusting
1/2 cup almond paste, optional 
Line the sides of an 8-inch spring-form pan with plastic wrap. Do not line the bottom of the pan.
Cut the cake in half horizontally to form two layers. Fit the bottom layer into the prepared spring-form pan. Moisten the layer evenly with the simple syrup. When the cake has absorbed enough syrup to resemble a squishy sponge, you have enough.
Hull and slice in half enough strawberries to arrange around the sides of the cake pan. Place the cut side of the strawberry against the sides of the pan, point side up forming a ring.
Pipe cream in-between strawberries and a thin layer across the top of the cake.
Hull and quarter your remaining strawberries and place them in the middle of the cake. Cover the strawberries and entirely with the all but 1 tablespoon of the pastry cream.
Place the second cake layer on top and moisten with the simple syrup. 
Lightly dust a work surface with confectioners' sugar and roll out the almond paste to an 8-inch round 1/16 inch thick. Spread the remaining 1 tablespoon of pastry cream on the top of the cake and cover with the round of almond paste.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. 
To serve release the sides of the spring form pan and peel away the plastic wrap Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.