Friday, April 30, 2010

Modern Baker: Whole Wheat Currant Bread

The next bread in my Modern Baker Challenge was the whole wheat currant bread. I thought I'd give this whole "fruit in bread" concept one more try and I liked that this recipe used whole wheat flour.
Again, the bread was simple to make. I'm really enjoying the quick breads for this reason. They're so simple they could be baked for dinner and served warm (if you had 45-60 minutes for prep and baking).
I've known I don't like raisins in things, including bread. And, after doing the Fennel Fig, and Almond Bread I learned I don't like figs in bread (even though I thoroughly enjoyed snacking on the figs as prepped them). I think I'm someone who just doesn't like fruit in my bread. I love nuts in bread, but not fruit.
The bread was okay, but I'm now pretty convinced I'm a non-fruit bread kind of person. I had one slice and passed the rest along to my in-laws who I knew would enjoy it. They thought it was delicious as did my husband.

Are cranberries a fruit? Probably a berry with the word "berry" being part of the word and all. I think cranberries are the closest thing to raisins, figs, or currants that I could really see myself liking in bread.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Modern Baker: Spicy Jalapeno Cornbread

The Modern Baker Spicy Jalapeno Cornbread was next on my list. I was a little nervous because I wasn't sure how I'd like the jalapenos. Before my pregnancy with Penelope, I liked spicy things. But during pregnancy #2, I started avoiding spicy things and I've sort of lost my palate for it. I now buy mild salsa. I'm working my way back up the spicy meter, and this cornbread helped me along the way.

This was the first time I have handled jalapenos. I wish I would have read the directions a bit more carefully as the author recommended using gloves. Luckily, I didn't touch my eye, but the juice did irritate me a bit and it took a good washing to cleanse everything.
The peppers I selected where not super hot so they blended into the cornbread very nicely. This was not only my first homemade cornbread, it was my first cornbread with extra stuff in it. First of all, homemade cornbread is hands down the best. The recipe states that you can use buttermilk, half and half, or milk. I wonder if one reason cornbread gets a bad rap is that people are used to cooking it with half and half and it's not the same to them doing it with just milk. Luckily, I didn't have that issue as I've never made it before. I just used milk, although it is whole milk as I have a young kid in the house.

After this experience though, I can't imagine not adding stuff to my cornbread. The peppers, onions, and cilantro were delicious. I'm a huge cilantro fan so next time I think I'll add a lot more. I wasn't sure if the cornbread would go over with the two year old. She nibbled on it a little and seemed to like it, but she didn't eat much for dinner at all tonight so it's hard to gauge. The adults gobbled it up and went back for thirds. It was a fantastic dish that I can't wait to do again. It would be perfect for a potluck!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Peanut Butter Blossoms

This cookie recipe was found in my mom's recipe box and credited to my dad's mom. Austin loves peanut butter cookies so I gave them a try. I liked them a lot because they were more of a chocolate chip cookie texture than a classic peanut butter cookie texture. I find peanut butter cookies too dry and brittle for my taste often. Rolling the cookies in sugar pre-baking gives the cookie a great sweet crust.

I didn't have any chocolate pieces as I didn't notice that detail in the recipe until after I was making them, so I made do with some milk chocolate chips I had leftover.

Peanut Butter Blossoms
From: Grandma Blackburn
Printable Recipe
Sift together:
1 3/4 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Cream together:
1/2 c butter
1/2 c peanut butter
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c brown sugar

Add 1 beaten egg
2 Tbs milk
1 tsp vanilla

Blend in dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Shape into balls. Roll in sugar. Place on baking sheets and bake at 350 for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and place a solid chocolate candy (stars are fun) on top of each cookie pressing down so that the cookie cracks around the edge. Return to oven and bake 2-5 minutes longer.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

350 is not 350

I've had a sneaky suspicion that my oven was off. It always seems like I have to add time to my baking for my goodies to be fully baked. I finally bought an oven thermometer and yep- it's off. When I set it to 350, the oven thermometer only registered 325. I had to set the oven to 375 to get my oven thermometer to read 350. My cakes sure cooked quicker at 350!

Now, I just have to figure out how to recalibrate the oven. I think I have the manual for the oven..... somehwere.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Modern Baker: Cocoa Banana Muffins

My next Modern Baker Challenge is Cocoa Banana Muffins. I'm not a huge fan of bananas. In fact, for the last 3 years I have loathed bananas. The status upped to loathing during my pregnancies. When I got pregnant with my first daughter bananas were one of my few food aversions. I still remember sitting in a graduate class in the very early stages of pregnancy (i.e. when you're not telling people) and spending the entire lecture sending death glares to another student who had the audacity to sit and eat a banana a row ahead of me and then leave the peel sitting on her desk for the remainder of the class. I'm not sure I've ever wished someone so much bodily harm. My relationship with bananas did not improve with the pureed banana baby food stage. Yuck. The smell is almost worse than a real banana.

You may now be wondering why on earth I chose to do this recipe. Well, as odd as it sounds, I actually like banana bread, or at least, I have in the past. And, given that this recipe also included chocolate, I figured it wouldn't hurt to give it a try.
I hated having the bananas ripen in the house. They smelled! When I did eat bananas I always liked them quite young. But, the author did state that if you don't let the bananas ripen enough, "these will taste no better than cocoa potato muffins".
My muffins did not rise and I'm not sure why. I checked the expiration date on my soda and it says it's still good for 2 more years. I remember buying a new box awhile ago. I'll have to keep an eye on this though, maybe my soda has lost it's punch.

The muffins were good. Yes, I know it's odd I'd even touch them. I still don't like bananas, but the muffins were moist and sweet and I liked them. I think next time I'll just work on mashing up the banana a bit more. Every once and awhile there was a bit of a banana chunk in a muffin that I ate around.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Leek, Cabbage, and Sausage Soup

The perfect soup for a rainy day! It's simple, yummy, and quick. The only downside is that it's easy to make too much, but if you find yourself in that situation just invite some family over to help you finish it. They'll be thankful for the warm yummy meal too.

This meal is very mom friendly because the ingredients can be chopped ahead of time and then it's basically just throwing it all in the pot and letting it simmer. It's also a super easy soup to alter. Add whatever you'd like!

I have never frozen this soup, but while googling I discovered that cabbage soups can be frozen, and it is recommended that it be eaten within a few weeks.

Leek, Cabbage, and Sausage Soup
Printable Recipe

8 can (or 2 32oz boxes) chicken broth
3/4 of a head of cabbage
2 cans diced tomatoes
2 large leeks, chopped
6 stalks of celery, chopped
1 small bag of carrots, chopped
1 turkey kielbasa, sliced
salt and pepper

1. Add all ingredients, except Parmesan, to a pot. Simmer until celery and carrots are tender. Top with Parmesan as you serve each bowl.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Blue Cheese Scallion Biscuits

I love serendipitous moments and I had one just today. While catching up on some of my favorite food bloggers, I came across a recipe for Blue Cheese Scallion Drop Biscuits from Smitten Kitchen. At that moment I had leftover scallions and blue cheese sitting in my fridge. It was a simple- I know what we're having with dinner tonight- moment!
I ate two right out of the oven and had to hold back from finishing them off right there. As Austin bit into one he said, "what is this goodness?" Even Charlotte liked them.
There were super simple to make and I can imagine them just as good with a sharp cheddar, white cheddar, or even Parmesan cheese.

Blue Cheese Scallion Biscuits
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Printable Recipe
1 1/4  c flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
4 Tbs cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3/4 c blue cheese
3 scallions, finely chopped
1/2 c buttermilk (or, 1/2 c milk and 1 1/2 tsp vinegar or lemon juice, let it 10 min to curdle)

1. Preheat oven to 450.

2. Combine flour, baking powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Blend in butter with your hands until the mixture is a fine crumble. Stir in blue cheese and scallions and add the buttermilk. Stir until dough is just combined.

3. Drop 6 equal mounds on a cookie sheet lined with parchment. Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Note: Biscuit mix can be prepared ahead of time and dough drops can be frozen on a baking sheet and then put in a freezer bag for usage at a later time. Simply add additional time to the baking time and put the frozen biscuits in the oven.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Red Devil's Food Cake with Seven Minute Frosting

This devil's food cake is my grandma's recipe and the seven minute frosting is my mom's recipe. It's quite possible my mom got the frosting recipe from my grandma, but I always remember my mom making this frosting, so I'll credit her with it.
I'm starting to understand why people make their own cakes instead of doing store bough mixes. The cake is delicious, even if the red food coloring is only a token amount- 2 drops.
The frosting is one I remember my mom making often as a kid. I really need to get myself a double boiler, although my improvising has worked well so far, but I keep finding recipes that require one. My only question at the end of this cake making, is how long does it take this frosting to dry? It was still pretty tacky a few hours later when I dove into the cake. I love the creamy lightness of this frosting and it's perfect paired with chocolate cake.

Red Devil's Food Cake
From: Grandma Goodwin
Printable Recipe
1 1/2 c flour, plus 2 Tbs
1 1/2 c sugar
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 c cocoa
1/2 c butter, softened
1 c milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2 drops of red food coloring

1. Heat oven to 350.

2. Sift dry ingredients into mixer bowl. Add butter, milk and vanilla. Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Add each egg and beat after each addition. Add food coloring.

3. Bake 30-45 minutes (depending on pan used).

Seven Minute Frosting
From: Anne McRae
2 egg whites
1 1/2 c sugar
2 tsp light corn syrup
1/3 c water
1 tsp vanilla

1. Beat eggs through syrup in the top of a double boiler. Place over boiling water. Add sugar and water and continue beating with a rotary beater for 7 minutes. Frosting should be thick and hold shape well.

2. Remove from boiling water. Add vanilla and continue beating until stiff.

Notes: Covers 2 layers of cake or 2 doz cupcakes

Monday, April 19, 2010

Modern Baker: Chocolate Spice Bread

My second bread for the Modern Baker Challenge is Chocolate Spice Bread. As far as I'm concerned, chocolate is one of the great joys and pleasures of life. If I were to bake the breads for this challenge in at a slow pace, I would have waited a week to bake the next bread, however, seeing that it was a chocolate recipe, I made it the very next day.

Did you know there are two different kinds of cocoa powder? Alkalized (Dutch processed) cocoa and natural cocoa.  I learned all about it since I had the wrong kind in my cupboard and had to go out and buy alkalized cocoa powder for this recipe. At first I thought of just substituting, but after researching the differences I realized they are very different cocoas.

The directions again were simple and I ,of course, had to throw in a bit of scatter brained-ness to make things interesting. I was quickly trying to complete this recipe while the girls napped and I read the directions very quickly. I totally forgot the spices (ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg)! Luckily, the bread had only been in the oven for about 3 minutes when I realized my mistake. I scooped the batter back into the Kitchenaid and added the spices.
The bread smelled fantastic and tasted wonderful. I loved the flavor the spices gave it, in particular the cinnamon and ginger. I think next time I'd even add a bit more spice because I liked the combination so much. It felt very decadent for a dinner bread, but we all happily ate it. My two year old asked for "more cake, please" after finishing her piece. It's a definite do over.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Modern Baker: Fennel Fig & Almond Bread

This was my first Modern Baker Challenge recipe!  It was very exciting. I was so excited to break out my brand new loaf pans too. The author stated clearly that we should really use the appropriate pan for each bread. Honestly, I didn't think there's much difference between a 9x5 pan and a 8 1/2x4 1/2 pan, but since I'm new to this I decided to follow the rules and got one of each. I also found about 100 other things I want at the kitchen store too. I used to be able to walk right by all that stuff and now I'm a total kitchen gadget person.
I have not made a lot of bread in my life, so I was very excited to give this recipe a try. In the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge I will tackle yeast breads, but these quick breads do not use yeast and are pretty basic and simple to make- even more a novice like me.
 The first task was grinding the fennel seeds. I do not own a mortar and pestle- yet- so I borrowed one. I ground for awhile, but that's hard work! About half way through I broke out my Pampered Chef chopper and really went at them with it. The author suggests using a heavy saucepan on a baking sheet to crush them. That still sounds like a lot of work to me. I loved how the whole house smelled like licorice!
I really like figs. I've always been a huge fan of fig newtons (the cookie). I like their flavor and that they're not as sweet as raisins. I am a fan of raisins, but I don't like raisins in anything. I hate raisins in bread and cookies. I think now I have to add figs to that list too. I nibbled on them as I chopped and loved them. The minute I tasted them in the bread, I didn't like them in it. I know it's odd, but that's me.
I did like the flavor of the bread as I ate around the figs. I could see doing the bread sans the figs. The bread was a big hit in the house. I do like cranberries in things, maybe I could try those in the bread. What else could I substitute? I'll have to give that some thought.
This was a fantastic first challenge experience and I can't wait to tackle more. I know there are others that call for raisins, so I'll have to figure out a substitution, or just make the bread for my father in law who I know likes raisins in things.

Note: As a courtesy to the author our group has agreed not to produce the recipes for this challenge. If you like the results and want the recipes please buy the book and feel free to join us in baking!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Another evening of needing a treat and cookies are just too easy to make. As I bake more complicated recipes, cookies have become almost as easy as toasting a piece of bread, so why not  make cookies! Austin loves peanut butter cookies, so these were for him. The addition of chocolate chips was for me.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Printable Recipe

1/2 c butter, softened
1/2 c chunky or smooth peanut butter
1/2 c granulated sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 c flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 c semisweet chocolate chips

1. Cream peanut butter, butter, and sugars. Add egg.

2. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Fold in chocolate chips.

3. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Needing a Challenge or Two.

Are you a baker or a cook? I am a baker. Or, I should say I'm a repressed baker because I have never really allowed myself the freedom to bake in my life. The by-product of baking is goodies and I am unashamed to say that I have absolutely no will power.  I've realized that I really want to nurture my inner baker.

A few weeks ago I came across The Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge (BBA) and knew immediately I wanted to join. The BBA is committed to baking every bread in The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart. I have always wanted to learn how to bake bread but didn't know where even to begin.  What better way than to join a group already baking!
Then, through the blog-vine I found The Modern Baker Challenge. It was a new group started by Phyl and others who had finished the BBA Challenge. They were looking for a new challenge and chose to bake their way through The Modern Baker by Nick Maligeri. The challenge began in April and had a caveat that made it quite intriguing. We each "claim" a recipe and are responsible for blogging that one recipe and all other recipes within the section (April-June is Quick Breads) are optional. So, as a group we will bake all 150, but individually there is less pressure and we can simply bake the recipes that look interesting to us. I was intrigued with the Modern Baker Challenge because I'd be joining on the ground floor and I'd get to experience more that just bread.

Wow, two great groups. What should I do? The solution to my over-committing personality- join them both! Yes, it is insane. Why both? Well, because I'm just as scattered and insane as you think I am. I've only had this blog three short months and I've joined three challenges (don't forget about The Daring Kitchen). I'm just going to take it one recipe at a time and if it ever stops being fun I'll reevaluate my commitments. So, I'm going into this accepting I might be a quitter. And, really, whose going to know? Who even reads this blog? (Besides my mom.)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Passions Punch

Every party needs a punch! This punch recipe has been in my recipe box for almost 10 years. I'm almost ashamed to admit where I got it from. I used to semi-watch a short lived soap opera called Passions. I'm not sure how, but somehow this punch recipe came from the show.

Passions Punch
Printable Recipe

3 12oz cans lemonade, thawed
1 cup frozen orange juice
1 bottle Gingerale
1 qt cranberry juice

Garnish with orange and/or lemon slices.

Pasta with Cauliflower and Sausage

Kielbasa sausage and I are starting to become more friendly. I've never been a huge fan of sausage, but I've used it in a few recipes and enjoyed it. I'm not really sure why, but the kielbasa sausage just seems less fatty or something. It's more like a fancy hot dog. Well, that could be disturbing in it's own right.

This was a simple fun dinner to make and very yummy. I made it early for myself and the girls and as I was cleaning up and setting the rest aside for Austin, I found myself going back for seconds with a fork right into the skillet pan.

Pasta with Cauliflower and Sausage  
From: Katharine Gallagher 
1 head of cauliflower, trimmed into florets
1/4 c olive oil
1 or 2 T minced garlic
1/2 lb kielbasa sausage
hot pepper (optional)
1 lb pasta of choice
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese to taste
Minced parsley for garnish

1. Bring pot of water to a boil. Add cauliflower florets. Cook until cauliflower is tender but not soft.

2. In a deep skillet heat oil, garlic, hot pepper (if using), and sausage. Cook until garlic is golden.

3. Add cauliflower to skillet and heat on medium. Stir and mash the cauliflower until it is hot and very soft.

4. Cook the pasta. When draining the pasta, reserve 1 cup of cooking water. Add the pasta to the skillet and toss. Add salt, pepper, and Parmesan, along with some of the pasta cooking liquid to keep the dish from drying out. Garnish and serve.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Daring Cooks: Brunswick Stew

The 2010 April Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Wolf of Wolf’s Den. She chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make Brunswick Stew. Wolf chose recipes for her challenge from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook by Matt Lee and Ted Lee, and from the Callaway, Virginia Ruritan Club.
Here is my first Daring Kitchen Daring Cooks meal! Brunswick Stew. I like stew and was excited by this challenge. I was also happy that the host for this month was so lenient on substitutions. She offered two recipes and I opted for the shorter one. The original recipe calls for rabbit. I was not going to do that. Not only do I not have a clue where I'd get it, I have no interest in trying it.

The shorter recipe called for four kinds of meat- chicken, turkey, ham, and bacon. I opted to just do chicken and bacon. I'm sure the other meats would be great in it, but that was just a bit too much for me. I got a cut up chicken and cooked it in the oven like I've learned to do. Question: Am I supposed to cook chicken in it's skin? I have been, but I've noticed that the drippings are kind of greasy. Is that the skin? Should I take it off before I cook it or after?

It was bit unclear if I was supposed to make my own chicken stock, so I used store bought. It was actually a bit unclear if I should use chicken stock at all since it only called for tomato juice as a liquid, but I wanted a more broth flavor, so I put in about 2 cups of stock to my recipe.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Broccoli Sauteed in Wine and Garlic over Bulgur

I had huge trepidations about this recipe while making it. Partway through cooking I started planning what kind of pizza I'd be ordering out. I chose this recipe because I had a lot of leftover bulgur after trying tabbouleh. I also like broccoli and had never cooked in wine before so I thought it sounded like an adventure.

The bulgur was very easy to make and absolutely delicious. It was better than rice and the almond slivers were a fantastic addition. The bulgar will be a do over meal.

The broccoli is basically cooked and steamed in wine. It wasn't until I was making the recipe that the whole, "how much alcohol is really cooked off" thought hit me as I had been planning to feed this meal to a two year old. I did a little googling and found a site that made me feel okay about the alcohol situation, but I was really second guessing tackling this meal. In addition, the smell of the broccoli cooking in the wine was not very appealing to me. It's hard to describe, it just smelled off. I chose to cook in a Chardonnay. I am more a red wine drinker and usually we have a white wine bottle laying around.

The results were a bit surprising to me. It was delicious. The flavor the wine gave the broccoli was sweet and unexpected. In addition, the lemon zest on top of it all really gave a wonderful finish. The recipe called for the zest of one orange too, but earlier this week when Charlotte pointed at our last orange and said, "I want d'at", I totally forgot I needed it for cooking. I'm not sure I'll cook quite like this in wine again for awhile, but I was pleased my first experience with wine turned out well.

Broccoli Sauteed in Wine and Garlic over Bulgur
Adapted from RecipeZaar
Printable Recipe
1/2 c onion, finely chopped
2 Tbs olive oil
1 c bulgur
1 c boiling water
1/3 c slivered almonds
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

1. In a saucepan, saute onion. Add bulgur and saute for 2 minutes.

2. Pour boiling water over bulgur, remove from heat, and let sit for 25 minutes.

3. Fluff with a fork and add the almonds, salt, and pepper. Serve with broccoli.

6 Tbs olive oil
4 garlic cloves
3 lbs broccoli, cut into stalks
1 c dry white wine
1 Tbs hot red pepper flakes
1 lemon, zested
1 orange, zested

1. In a large skillet, heat olive oil and garlic over medium meat.

2. Add the broccoli and toss in garlic mixture until coated. Add the wine gradually and cook until broccoli is tender (10 minutes).

3. Add the red pepper and zests and serve immediately.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Fudge Bar Cake

I love some of these recipes from my grandma that have minimal information. This recipe is from a friend of hers.  This one simply states "mix and bake" at the end. No other information. It sure makes the kitchen an adventurous place!!

The cake part of this is great. It makes me excited to learn other cakes from scratch. It is certainly far superior to boxed cake mix. I had some chocolate squares left over from another dessert and used those. They were semi-sweet squares not bittersweet. The recipe didn't specify, but I assume it was supposed to be bittersweet because there is a lot of sugar added to the recipe and that's what my mom always used when I was a kid.

I did not like the frosting. I'm not sure if it was baker error or just not to my liking. I'm thinking it was partly baker error as I doubt you are supposed to feel the sugar granules in the frosting. I think that perhaps I brought it to a boil too quickly and thus didn't give the sugar long enough to dissolve. Maybe instructions about waiting for the sugar dissolved were just assumed.

The frosting recipe stumped me on the "beat until thick" part because it hasn't told me if I was doing this over the heat or away from the heat. I tried over the heat for a bit and nothing seemed to be happening and then it hit me that frosting is runny when hot and creamy when at room temperature. I let the frosting cool and it came to the right consistency.

Update: I'm now convinced the sugar in the frosting recipe should have been confectioner's sugar instead of regular sugar.

I decided to take the photograph outside on our bench. Charlotte was supervising the photo shoot and I had Penelope in the Ergo as she was having a rough afternoon. I left the cake on the bench and ran back inside to put down my camera. I came back out to this and ran back in to get my camera again.
Fudge Bar Cake (as written)
Lois Lee's (friend of Grandma Goodwin)
2 sq chocolate cut in bowl. Pour over 1/2 c boiling water. Cool. Sift 1 c cake flour, 1 c sugar, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp soda. Add it to the choc. Drop in 1/4 c shortening. Beat. Add 1/4 c sour milk or 1/4 c sweet milk plus 1/2 Tbs vinegar. Add 1/2 tsp vanilla. 1 egg. Mix and bake.

Fudge Bar Cake
Printable Recipe

2 squares chocolate
1/2 c boiling water
1 c cake flour
1 c sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp soda
1/4 c shortening
1/4 c sour milk (or 1/4 c milk + 1/2 Tbs vinegar)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg

1. Cut up chocolate square into chunks. Pour water over chocolate. Cool.

2. Sift flour, sugar, salt, and soda. Add it a little at a time to the chocolate and mix well.

3. Add shortening and beat well. Add milk, vanilla, and egg. Mix well.

4. Bake 350 for 25-30 minutes in an 8x8 pan.

Chocolate Frosting
1 square chocolate
1 c sugar (confectioner's)
1/3 c milk
1/4 c shortening
1/4 tsp salt

1. Bring to a boil, stirring. Boil 1 minute and add 1 tsp vanilla. Beat until thick.

Double recipe for a full cake.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Pecan Tassies

Grandma recipe. Oh boy did I mess these up. This picture is the one that came out perfectly, but all others looked a bit like this.
At least I know what I did wrong for next time and we were able to salvage them by just using a spoon and just eating them out of the pan. I didn't mess up the taste aspect, just the de-panning aspect. I didn't anticipate how much the filling could not touch the sides of the pan or be in a position to bubble over the edges of the crust and create a big cooked sugar sticky mess.

These are yummy little treats though. I certainly didn't mind spooning one out eat time I wanted one.

Pecan Tassies
From: Grandma Goodwin
Printable Recipe
1 3oz package cream cheese
1 stick butter, plus 1 Tbs
1 c flour
1 egg
3/4 c brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 c chopped pecans, divided

1. Soften cream cheese and 1 stick of butter to room temperature. Blend. Add flour. Mix.

2.Shape into 24 balls. Chill. Press into small muffin pans to shape covering all sides and bottom well.

3. Filling: Beat together eggs, sugar, 1 Tbs butter, vanilla and salt until smooth. Place 1/2 of the pecans in the bottom of the cups. Divide the filling into the cups. Top with remaining pecans.

4. Bake 30 min at 325. Cool in pan. Freeze well.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

What do you do if you have a chocolate chip cookie craving and write a food blog? Well, find a twist on the chocolate chip cookie so you can blog about them and thus make them guilt free! I searched the cupboards, found coconut and went from there. Looking back now, I could have searched more and perhaps created an even more unique cookie, but that would have slowed the cookie making process and some nights- you just need the cookies made.  (At least the cookie dough made. I love cookie dough!) 

The Cookie Discussion:
Me: I need your help.
Austin: Sure.
Me: I need you to give me a reason not make chocolate chip cookies tonight.
Austin: Do you need anything at the store? Because I'll got get it for you.

Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies
Printable Recipe

1 c butter, softened
3/4 c sugar
3/4 c brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/4 c flour
1 tsp salt
1 c chocolate chips
1 c coconut

1. Cream butter, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla. Add eggs, beat well.
2. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add to creamed mixture.
3. Stir in chocolate chips and coconut. Bake 350 for 8-10 minutes.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Mini Turkey Meatballs in Simple Tomato Sauce

Oh goodness, what a fiasco. I have definitely learned that meatball making is an artform. My poor meatballs. I ended up with more just meat chunks as my meatballs fell apart in the pan. There was only a few surviving meatballs. It was quite a disaster in the fry pan.
I think what I did wrong was not mix the ingredients well enough. My meatballs were sort of falling apart as I placed them in the pan to begin with. I also was paranoid about them being cooked through so I cooked them for a lot longer than the stated directions.
The tomato sauce was simple and yummy. I really want to find a tomato sauce that I can make on my own this year as I'd like to get away from buying the jars. I was able to freeze about half the sauce for another meal- another big plus in my book.

All in all, it was an adventure to make, but I'm not sure I'd do it again for awhile. They took way more hands on time than I expected and lots of hands on time right at dinner time is hard for me right now.

Mini Turkey Meatballs
Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis
Printable Recipe
1 small onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large egg
1/4 c dried bread crumbs
3 Tbs ketchup
1/4 c fresh parsley
1/4 c Parmesan
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 lb ground turkey
3 Tbs olive oil
26 oz Simple Tomato Sauce (recipe follows)

1. Add all ingredients except olive oil and tomato sauce in a bowl. Mix with hands. Shape the mixture into 1 inch diameter meatballs.

2. Heat the oil in a large fry pan. Add the meatballs and saute until browned on all sides. (Original directions say 5 min, I cooked mine closer to 15 min)

3. Remove meatballs. Add Simple Tomato Sauce to pan and heat. Add meatballs back to pan and let flavors blend and simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Serve over pasta or serve meatballs by themselves with toothpicks.

Simple Tomato Sauce
1/2 c olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
Sea salt and pepper
2 (32oz) cans crushed tomatoes
4 to 6 basil leaves
2 dried bay leaves

1. In a large pot, heat oil over high heat. Saute onions and garlic until soft and translucent. Add celery and carrots and saute until vegetables are soft. Add salt and pepper. Add tomatoes, basil, and bay leaves. Simmer for 1 hour, covered.

2. Remove bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the tomato sauce to a food processor and process until smooth.

Notes: Makes 6 cups. Freeze for up to 6 months.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Cheesecake Showdown Winner

(Top left: #2, Top right: #1, Bottom: #3)
It is time to crown a winner to the Cheesecake Showdown! I made three cheesecakes and had three tastings with family and friends. My family tested it over Easter. I made little bite size pieces so people could try each type a couple of times. I also provided some favorite topping choices: cherries, berries, chocolate, and whip cream for those that wanted the full experience before they determined their winning cheesecake.
First, let's review the cheesecakes. Click the link to see the recipe for each specific cheesecake. To help the tasters I made three different royal icing flowers to top each type of cheesecake to help everyone distinguish which one they were eating.

Cheesecake #1: Patty's Aunt's (Apple Blossom Flower)
 #1 was rich, creamy, and classic.

#2 was also classic as well as being flavorful and sweet.

 #3 was a different texture than the other two. It was denser and more cakey.

The family tasting resulted in a clear winner. I was concerned my family was swayed in their opinions by the appearance as one of the cakes is made often by my older sister Angie and most recognized it. However, the other tasting groups also picked it as a favorite. 

And, the winner- by a landslide- is...... Cheesecake #2!
Everyone declared it the most creamy and flavorful. I think it's the combination of lemon juice and almond extract that really made this cheesecake stand out.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Cheesecake Showdown: Cheesecake #3

Cheesecake #3 recipe is my Great Aunt Doris's.

There was one big alteration I had to make to the recipe. I was not able to make her crust because it called for zwieback. Zwieback is now discontinued. I'm sure there are many grandmothers who would be shocked to learn this. Zweiback was a baby teething biscuit staple for years as well as being used for pie crusts. It has now found it's way to the discontinued line. I wasn't up for baking homemade zwieback so I slightly altered the crust recipe based on the other two cheesecake crusts.  Great Aunt Doris's crust called for 1 1/2 cups of zwieback, 2 T of butter, and 2 T of sugar.

From: Great Aunt Doris
Printable Recipe
1 1/2 c graham crackers
1/4 Tbs butter
2 Tbs sugar

1. Combine and press onto bottom of springform pan.

1/2 c sugar
2 Tbs flour
1/4 tsp salt
2- 8oz pkgs cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla
4 egg yolks
1 c light cream
4 stiff egg whites

2. Blend sugar, flour, salt, and cream cheese. Add vanilla. Stir in egg yolks and mix well. Add cream and blend thoroughly.

3. In a separate bowl beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold into cream cheese mixture.

4. Pour on top of crumbs. Bake in 350 oven for 1 hour 15 minutes or until set.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Cheesecake Showdown: Cheesecake #2

Cheesecake #2 recipe comes with a bit on intrigue behind it. As rumor has it, this recipe was procured by a family friend by the chef at the Excelsior Inn Ristorante.

My oven seems to need a bit longer when cooking things, so I cooked this cheesecake for closer to an hour.

From: Excelsior Inn chef
Printable Recipe

2 c graham crackers
1/2 c melted butter

2 lbs cream cheese
1 c sugar
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs

2 c sour cream
3/4 c sugar
1/2 lemon juiced (about 1 T)
1/4 tsp almond extract

1. Make crust and press into bottom of pan.

2. Combine filling ingredients and pour into pan. Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes. (Start in cold oven.)

3. Remove cake from oven. Beat topping together and add to cake. Bake 8 minutes. Let cake cool for at least 4 hours.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Cheesecake Showdown: Cheesecake #1

It's time for a Cheesecake Showdown! I have three cheesecake recipes, none of which I've done. In fact, I've never made a cheesecake before. The showdown is simple. I make all three cheesecakes and then invite family and friends over to taste them all. Everyone will vote and at the end, one cheesecake will be named the winner.
Cheesecake #1 recipe is a from the relative of a family friend. I've had this recipe in my recipe box for many years, so someone along the way must told me it was a winner for me to write it down and keep it.

There sure is a lot of cream cheese in cheesecake!
From: Patty's Aunt
Printable Recipe
1 1/2 c graham cracker
1/4 c sugar
1/4 c melted butter

3- 8oz pkgs cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 c sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp lemon juice
4 eggs

1 c sour cream
1/4 c sugar
2 tsp vanilla

1. Make crust and press into bottom of pan.

2. Blend cream cheese, sugar, and salt. Beat until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Mix in vanilla and lemon.

3. Pour into pan. Bake 350 for 1 hour. Let stand 15 minutes and then add topping.

4. Combine sour cream, sugar, and vanilla. Spread on top and bake on 450 for 10 minutes.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Homemade Marshmallow Peeps

Homemade peeps. Yes, I made my own marshmallow! I think this qualifies me for wife of the year. Austin's favorite desserts can be summed up as jelly beans and marshmallows. I like marshmallow, but I'm more of a marshmallow s'mores kind of girl.
Inspired by post on The Kitchn which references Martha Stewart's Recipe for the Peeps. I followed some of the tips from The Kitchn's site. I agree on using a large piping bag and I'd further state that you should be ready to pipe quickly! The marshmallow starts setting up fast.
I did her suggestion of using cocoa and a toothpick for the eyes. I understand why it's easier than making a whole batch of royal icing, but I think next time I'll try the icing.
The difference between homemade peeps and those you buy in the store is amazing. These are so light and fluffy. Even though I'm not a huge marshmallow person, I've found myself circling back for more.

Now that I've made them I'm sure Austin will be tapping me for all kinds of marshmallow treats. Hmm, what's the next holiday? Tax Day Peeps perhaps?

Homemade Marshmallow (for piping)
Printable Recipe

1 packet unflavored gelatin (2 1/2 tsp)
1/3 c water for gelatin, plus 1/4 c water 
1 c sugar

1.  In the bowl you plan to use with the electric whisk, sprinkle the gelatin over 1/3 c of water. Let gelatin soften and sit for 5 min.

2. In a saucepan, heat 1/4 c water and sugar until sugar is dissolved and mixture registers 238 degrees, or soft ball stage, on a candy thermometer.

3. Pour sugar into gelatin mixture. Whisk by hand using the whisk attachment a few times to cool the mixture slightly. Then, attach the whisk and beat on medium high until soft peaks form, about 10 minutes.

4. Transfer marshmallow to pastry bag and begin piping.

For Chicks and Bunnies: Use Tip #11
Pipe chick in two stages. 1- the body ending with tail. 2- the head ending with beak
Pipe bunnies in 5 stages. 1- round mound for body. 2- round in front for head. 3- smaller round in back for tail. 4 and 5 - two ears.
For Stars: Tip 1M
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