Tuesday, December 29, 2009

TWD - Low and Lush Chocolate Cheesecake

This week's TWD selection was made by The Tea Lady of Tea and Scones. I had intentions of making this one. However, despite trekking to two grocery stores with two kids in tow yesterday, I somehow managed to make it home without any cream cheese. There was no way I was going back yesterday, nor was I getting back out today in the cold and snow (yes, more snow -- what is up with that??), so no cheesecake for me this week.

Be sure to check out what the other TWD bakers did with this recipe, however. For the recipe click here. And cross your fingers that I'll actually make it home with all the ingredients for next week's recipe!! ;)


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Peanut Brittle Two Ways

I have a confession to make. I've never made peanut brittle the traditional way. For the last few years, I've made it in the microwave. There. I'm a slacker candy maker. :)

Anyway, I managed to buy more peanuts than I really needed at the store yesterday, so after making a batch of microwave brittle, I thought why not try something new and make a batch on the stove. I wanted to see if I could actually pull it off, and I thought it would be fun to have a little taste test! We are iced and snowed in today (nothing like the blizzard some people are expecting, but bad weather for us!!), so I figured why not spend the day cooking (and blogging!).

I can remember being at my grandmother's house and "helping" her make the peanut brittle every year. She may have had a recipe, but I'm not entirely sure about that. I do know that she never used a candy thermometer. She tried to teach me how to tell what stage it was at, but I didn't trust myself, so I pulled out my thermometer (that admittedly I haven't even used before!). She hasn't been able to make any candy in several years, so that was one reason I searched out the microwave recipe in the first place. It's not Christmas without peanut brittle (or pecan pralines, but I haven't mastered that one...yet).

I will definitely say that the microwave recipe is the way to go if you're pressed for time. Quick and easy would be the words to describe that one. However, it was fun and satisfying to make it the traditional way, even if it did take a lot longer.

How did the taste test go? Sprout liked both versions (he ate some of the tiny pieces of candy without nuts in them). Munchkin refused to participate in the test. D and I both agreed that while the microwave brittle was good, the traditional brittle won hands down. I have to admit, I'm proud of myself!!

Microwave Peanut Brittle

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup raw peanuts
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
In a large microwave safe bowl add sugar, peanuts and corn syrup. Microwave on high for 4 minutes. Remove and stir. Microwave an additional 3 minutes. Remove, add butter and stir. Microwave 2 minutes longer. Remove, add vanilla and baking soda and stir. Pour onto a greased cookie sheet and spread with a spoon until thin. Let peanut brittle cool completely and break into pieces.

Note: cooking times will vary depending on your microwave. Mine is pretty powerful and I have to decrease the cooking time or it will overcook. Watch the color of the sugar mixture and how it smells, and you will learn exactly how long to cook it in your microwave.

Traditional Peanut Brittle

2 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup water
2 cups raw peanuts
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda

Heat and stir sugar, syrup and water in a heavy 3-quart saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Cook over medium heat the soft ball stage (234'F). Add nuts and salt. Cook to hard crack stage (305'F), stirring often. Remove from heat.

Quickly stir in butter, vanilla and baking soda. Pour at once onto a well-greased sheet pan (or two, depending on the size of your pans), spreading with a spatula. Let cool and break into pieces.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

TWD - Dorie's Favorite Pecan Pie

I had originally planned on ending my TWD break in January, but when I saw that a pecan pie had been chosen...well the break had to end early! I'm always on the lookout for a new pecan pie recipe. I've been baking pecan pies for years, and once I decided that I wasn't satisfied with the recipe on the back on the Karo syrup bottle...well, it's been a neverending quest ever since.

Beth of Someone's in the Kitchen with Brina made the selection for this week, chosing a pie that Dorie lists as her favorite pecan pie. After reading the recipe, I decided that there was no way that my family would actually go for this pie -- it contains espresso powder, cinnamon and chocolate in it!! I thought about making it without those ingredients, but then decided just to go for it! It sounded intriguing and I really wanted to try it. I figure I can always make the "plain" version for Christmas if I need to.

The only change I made in the ingredients was the addition of a tablespoon of flour before adding the pecans and chocolate. Also, I did not partially bake the crust before filling. I knew that I would be increasing the cooking time (I wound up cooking it an additional 10 minutes at the lower temperature). This seems to be a constant issue that I have with pecan pie recipes. I don't know if it's my oven, the weather, the altitude, or if I just don't hold my tongue right when placing it in the oven, but it never sets up correctly if I don't bake it long enough. The tricky part is not overbaking it in the process...which I have done before!!

To be quite honest, I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about this pecan pie. However, after taking my first bite, I immediately uttered "ohmygoodness." This may be my new favorite pecan pie. Now I'm anxious to try the plain recipe as well. If it turns out anything like this one, I think my family will be pleased! I'm just going to tell D that this one is a chocolate-pecan pie, carefully omitting the fact that it has espresso powder in it. If I divulge that secret beforehand, I am quite certain he won't even try it!

Be sure to check out what the other TWD bakers did with this week's choice, and for the full recipe, click here!

Enjoy! :)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Butterscotch Pecan Cookies

By now, I think that we all now that while I like to cook, I love to bake. So, when the folks at C&H Sugar offered me a chance to bake a recipe from their site, blog about it, and they'd even throw in a $20 gift card to cover my expenses, of course I was going to jump at the opportunity!!

What to choose, what to choose...it was hard picking! I finally decided on Butterscotch Pecan Cookies, which is actually a recipe to make a mix in a jar for gift giving. But who wants to give a mix for a recipe they haven't made? That's what I thought. I decided to pick something just a little bit different, and the butterscotch sounded like a nice change from all the chocolate you get this time of year (not that I'm hating on chocolate, by any means, lol!!).

I must have made them bigger than I was actually supposed to, because I didn't get the three dozen the recipes states it will make. No matter though! They smelled very yummy while baking, and tasted even better! The plan was to send them with D to work tomorrow...not sure they'll last that long.

I'm providing the recipe if you just want to bake them for yourself. The C&H Sugar website has the instructions listed for making it in a jar to give, and they even have handy little labels you can print off!! Perfect for those last minute gifts you forgot you needed...not that something like that would ever happen to me. Ha!! :)

Butterscotch Pecan Cookies
from C&H Sugar

2/3 cup softened butter
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup firmly packed golden brown sugar
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butterscotch chips
3/4 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375'F.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter, egg and vanilla until combined. Add brown sugar and mix well. Add flour, baking soda and salt and stir until thoroughly moistened. Stir in butterscotch chips and pecans.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake 9-11 minutes or until lightly browned.

Yield: 3 dozen cookies

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Zucchini Parmesan Crisps

I first saw these Zucchini Parmesan Crisps posted by Pamela of Cookies with Boys. They looked so good, that I had to print the recipe to try. I made these tonight while my one-pot spaghetti was cooking. Sean wouldn't try them (shocker) but Kade did, and D and I decided this is the only way to cook zucchini from now on...they're that good!! Really, you should try them. They are not that hard to fix, and quite tasty. I loved the crispiness that they got. I've tried doing something similar before, and they just got mushy, not crispy, so this recipe is definitely a keeper in my house!


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Chicken Soft Tacos

Lately, I have had a craving for chicken soft tacos from a certain chain restaurant that shall remain nameless, but they do have a giant red pepper on their buildings... Anyway, I almost considered ordering some to-go the other night, so I looked up their menu online. Now, it hasn't been that long since I've eaten there, but I could not find those chicken soft tacos on the menu!! If it's true, I'm disappointed because that was my favorite dish from there.

However, that also set me on a quest to find a recipe to make my own, which admittedly is not only likely better for my waistline, but is definitely better for my bank account! I printed a recipe I found online (but forgot to bookmark the source...oops) and modified it. While I won't say it tastes exactly like the restaurant version, it was quite good and definitely satisfied my craving!! This will most certainly be going in my recipe file. :)

On a side note, I'm getting better about blogging again, but not doing so well at taking pictures...baby steps, right??

Chicken Soft Tacos

2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced finely
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 cup chicken broth
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp ground paprika
1/4 tsp Mexican oregano
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp honey
1 Tbsp lime juice
1-1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast
small flour tortillas
choice of toppings (cheese, lettuce, sour cream, pico de gallo, etc)

In a large skillet with a lid (or a dutch oven) heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook until they begin to turn translucent. Add the garlic and cook 2-3 minutes, being careful not to let the garlic burn. Add tomato sauce, chicken broth, spices, honey and lime juice, stirring to combine. Add chicken, cover and cook on medium heat for 20-25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken and shred with a fork. Return chicken to sauce and cook an additional 5-10 minutes. Serve with tortillas and toppings!

Enjoy! :)

Spiced Tea Mix

This is something that I've been drinking forever. My grandmother has made this hot tea mix for as long as I can remember. I've seen recipes calling it Russian Friendship Tea, but I always just called it Spiced Tea. This is great for gift-giving, or just for keeping in the cabinet to drink on cold days!!

Spiced Tea Mix

1-1/2 cups sugar
2 cups instant orange drink mix (Tang)
3/4 cup unsweetened instant tea powder
1 envelope unsweetened lemonade mix
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground cloves

Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container.

To use, fill a mug with boiling water and stire in 2-3 tsp of mix, to taste.

Enjoy!! :)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Buttermilk Waffles

As you know, most Sundays I can be found making either pancakes or waffles. This week, I had some buttermilk to use up, and realized that I didn't have a recipe for buttermilk waffles that didn't require the eggs to be separated and the eggs to be whipped, like this recipe that I've reviewed before. Sure, I could have just used the exact same recipe and just not separated the eggs, but it was early, I wasn't thinking straight, and I hadn't had any caffeine (still haven't for that matter!). So I went on a search.

I wound up adapting a recipe I found on Recipezaar. The kiddos kept asking for more, so I took that as a good sign. When I finally got to taste, I thought they were pretty good. My waffle iron makes quite thin waffles. If it ever bites the dust, I think I'll get one that makes thicker waffles. I think that would be an improvement, but of course the kids would probably want the thin ones!! Acutally, I think the problem is that the wells for the butter and syrup aren't deep enough. :)

Buttermilk Waffles

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup vegetable oil or melted butter, cooled

In a mixing bowl, add add flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Stir to mix.

In a separate bowl, mix together remaining ingredients. Add to dry ingredients and mix well, but take care not to overbeat.

Pour batter into a preheated waffle iron and cook until the steaming stops and the waffles are crisp and golden.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!!

I hope you are all having a wonderful Thanksgiving Day. Ours has been nice. I perhaps overdid it a bit, but that's no big surprise. :)
I thought I would share the menu I served today.
Lasagna (yes, frozen; sue me - I'm pregnant and exhausted!)

Pioneer Woman's Sweet Potatoes - made this last year; I love it! The only thing is I add cinnamon to both the sweet potato mixture and the topping. (Sorry Christi -- forgot to tell you I did that!)

Browned Butter Pecan Pie - hmmm...new recipe for me. Smelled delish. Tasted good. But it didn't set up well at all. Not sure what the deal was.
And my mom brought:

Spicy Brown Sugar Carrots - I'll be honest. I didn't like this one. I don't really like my carrots sweetened and spiced in this way. Just my preference!

And of course, there were other things served, but nothing I can link to. :)

In other news, the Sprout decided that my grandmother is not so bad after all!!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Pumpkin Bread with Cream Cheese Filling

I wouldn't go so far as to say "I'm back!" but I'm getting close. :) It's been a rough few weeks...okay months, and it's just taken the wind out of my sails. But I love baking, especially during the holidays, so I just couldn't stay away.

I stumbled upon a recipe for pumpkin bread on Joy of Baking that I just had to try, and yesterday was the day. Man, it took more energy than I thought it would!! I thought it turned out very well. It was quite moist and had a good taste to it. Toasting the pecans added an extra flavor that I think was worth it. I only added nuts to one of the loaves so the other would be toddler-friendly, and I tasted that one as well -- if you don't like/can't have nuts, you won't miss them if you leave them out!

As I was mixing it, the cream cheese filling was thinner than I expected it to be. I'm not sure if that was due to user error, or if that's just how it is! I did mix it in my mixer instead of a food processor, so that may have had something to do with it. Honestly, I'd like to try the bread without the cream cheese layer and see if it makes a difference in the flavor.

I sent some of the bread to work with D this morning. I received several text messages back that people were requesting the recipe, so I take that as a good sign!!

The original recipe can be found here.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Share Our Strength

Share Our Strength is a national organization that is fighting to end childhood hunger in America. I have recently discovered that Domino/C&H Sugar has launched a fundraiser on Twitter. For each time that #NoKidHungry is mentioned in a tweet, Domino/C&H Sugar will donate $1 to the Share Our Strength organization, up to a $10,000 donation.

Even if you don't use Twitter (um, like me!) I wanted to pass this along. This is a worthy cause, so go online, get a Twitter account if you don't have one, and help out!!

Confession time: I do actually have a Twitter account, I just don't use it -- I can't keep up!! :)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Banana Buttermilk Pancakes

This morning, while trying to decide what to fix for breakfast (ie deciding between waffles and pancakes) I noticed one lonely ripe banana sitting on the counter. Banana pancakes! That was the answer. I knew that somewhere in my files I had a recipe for banana pancakes. Indeed I did, although it had been several years since I'd made them. The recipe actually called for two bananas, but in my notes at the bottom I had made a notation to cut the recipe in half. Perfect!!

I tried passing these pancakes off as "normal" to the oldest, but he noticed something was off. Never mind that in the aforementioned notes I had written down that he loved them, but he didn't like them this time around. Oh well. Lucky for him there was something else he could have! Anyway, the rest of us enjoyed them, and I was able to make use of that last banana. :)

Banana Buttermilk Pancakes

1 egg
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup buttermilk*
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg**
1 ripe banana, mashed

Heat a skillet or griddle, lightly grease with oil or butter. In a medium bowl, stir together the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, mix together the banana, egg, buttermilk and oil. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until mixed (don't overmix!). Cook on griddle and eat! ;)

*I actually used dry buttermilk powder for this today and it worked just fine. I love having some of that on hand for when I'm out of the real stuff!

**Instead of nutmeg, I used 1/4 tsp of a baking spice that I have.

***This makes a thin batter. If you prefer thicker pancakes, slightly decrease the amount of buttermilk.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Turkey Day is on its way!!

It's hard for me to even believe it's November. But it is, and that means that Thanksgiving will be here before we know it.

I have absolutely no idea what our plans are for this year because 1) I have no energy, 2) eating good food sounds wonderful, but it doesn't always work well for me right now, and 3) for some unknown reason my 19-month old is currently terrified of my grandmother, and she usually comes over for Thanksgiving.

Now, if you ask my husband he would probably just say to "skip it" this year. Except for the pumpkin pie. He loves pumpkin pie. In case I haven't mentioned it before, I'm not really a pumpkin pie kind of girl...give me sweet potato instead any day! Anyway, skipping it just isn't going to happen, but I'm not sure what will happen. I guess we shall see...

So, what are your plans for turkey day this year??

I'll leave you with this, just because it made me LOL today...

Monday, September 14, 2009

Yes, I really can count!

I know in my last post I said I was going to take a week off, and well it's been...much longer than a week!! It's just that I've been dealing with some things that I've kept me from baking and blogging, and probably will for a while longer. I promise I haven't forgotten about or abandoned my blog!!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Taking a short break...

Just letting everyone know that I'm taking a break from the blog for a week or so. I have several recipes that I'm behind on posting about, but Sean starts school next week and well, it's just crazy around here! :) Hopefully after things calm down some I'll have lots of yummy things to post about!!

Enjoy the rest of the summer everyone!!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

TWD - Brownie Buttons

"Awesomely delicious!" That's how Sean described this week's Tuesdays with Dorie selection, Brownie Buttons, chosen by Jayma of Two Scientists Experimenting in the Kitchen.

And I couldn't keep him out of them! Well, we all thought they were great. My parents were over for supper again (a Tuesday thing at our house) and my dad and I agreed that I should have put a pecan half on top of each brownie before baking. I'll try that next time.

It was a bit chaotic in my kitchen tonight, so I didn't get any pics of the process, but I will say that these brownies were simple and quick to make. The only thing I did differently than the recipe was that instead of melting the butter, chocolate and brown sugar on the stove, I did it in the microwave! It seemed to work just fine.
My only complaint about this recipe (and the only complaint I heard from anyone else) was that it didn't make nearly enough. Sixteen mini brownies just isn't going to cut it at my house!! :)

Be sure to check out what everyone else did with this week's recipe!


Monday, August 3, 2009

TWD - Classic Banana Bundt Cake

Welcome, welcome! Look at me. Actually baking and blogging about a Tuesdays with Dorie recipe. :) You can all quit staring in shock and disbelief now. This week's recipe, Classic Banana Bundt Cake, was chosen by Mary of The Food Librarian.

Now, let me start by saying that not only did I actually make this recipe, but I made it yesterday even. That's right. I didn't wait until the last minute. Good thing too. So yesterday I drop Sean off at chess camp (yes, chess camp) and then run to the grocery store for a few items that I know I need for the recipe. Namely bananas and sour cream. I'm just hoping that the grocery store has relatively ripe bananas (they did!). Kade crashes on the way home, so I take the s-l-o-w route there to give him a little longer to sleep (he is the anti-nap child).

I don't usually take the time to take a picture with all of the ingredients lined up beforehand. I'm glad I decided to this time. Look at the picture below. Do you see anything missing?

No? Let me help you, then.

That's right. No sugar. How could I have run out of sugar? I was sure there was plenty in the cabinet. But no. Sigh. I could have run back to the store right then, but probably wouldn't have had time to get the cake baked before I had to leave to pick Sean up from camp. So I waited. And waited, until Sean was in Tae Kwon Do class. Lesson learned - double check the pantry for ingredients! I finally got the cake in the oven about 7pm. Ah well...it sure smelled heavenly while baking!!

Since I was ahead of the game, at least a little, I was able to let it set overnight to let the flavors develop, as Dorie suggests in her book. I reluctantly wrapped it in plastic wrap once it cooled (reluctantly because I really wanted to dig in!). Kade and I split a piece this morning. And I realized my lifelong search was over! See, when I was little my grandmother had a friend that would visit a few times a year. She would always bring this delicious banana bread with her. I've always wanted to replicate that bread -- it's been like the holy grail of baking for me -- but I've never found a recipe that was close...until now. If I'd added some pecans to it, and baked it in loaf pans, this would be perfect. So apparently, I've been looking for the wrong thing. I needed to be looking for banana cake, not banana bread. Who knew? Well...now I do!! As you can imagine, this recipe is definitely a keeper for me. :)

You can check out Mary's post, with the recipe, here and be sure to check out what all the other

TWD bakers did with this week's recipe!


Sunday, August 2, 2009

My Learn to do List

Okay, so I completely stole this idea from Megan of My Baking Adventures (which, unfortunately her blog doesn't seem to be there anymore, Aug 2011). But it was such a fun idea, I couldn't help myself! So, here goes, but I'm sure this list will morph over time, as all of my lists have a tendency to do!!

1. Bagels
2. Challah February, 2011
3. Brioche
4. Fresh Pasta
5. Tiramisu
6. Cheesecake
7. Fresh Mozzarella
8. Pickles*
9. Red Velvet Cake
10. German Chocolate Cake
11. Tamales
12. Pecan Pralines
13. Divinity

*Technically speaking, I have made pickles before, but not as an "adult". I helped my mom and grandmother make them when I was little.

And now, a question for you: what are some things that you would put on your own "learn to do" list??

Friday, July 31, 2009

TFF - Country Meatloaf with Tomato Relish

For this week's Tyler Florence Fridays recipe, I chose meatloaf. While searching for the recipe online, I discovered that there are two nearly identical meatloaf recipes of Tyler's floating on the Food Network's site: Dad's Meatloaf with Tomato Relish and Country Meatloaf with Tomato Relish. The recipe that I've had for years is actually the latter. The main differences seem to be the inclusion of torn bread, milk and bacon in Dad's but not Country.

I mentioned that I've had this recipe for years, and it's true. What's fun about this one is that I have it handwritten on a recipe card, not printed out like many of my more recent recipes, and that it's actually in D's handwriting (which admittedly, makes it a little (lot) harder to read...). He was the one that saw the episode of Food 911 that it was featured on and wrote it down. He's quite fond of this recipe actually!

The recipe involves a little bit of work, but really the end result is worth it. You start by making the tomato relish, cooking onions, garlic and bay leaves until the onions start to carmelize. Next you add in some bell peppers. The recipe calls for red bell peppers, but the grocery store had none, so I substituted orange and yellow ones. Instead of using fresh tomatoes, I actually chose to use canned diced tomatoes this time.

After letting the vegetables soften, you add ketchup and let it heat through. You could certainly make some substitutions here if you have an aversion to ketchup. Now, this is where I deviate from the recipe somewhat. At this point, I actually puree the relish, making it more of a sauce (be sure to remove the bay leaves first!!). See, if I left the vegetables all chunky in there, Sean wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole. But by pureeing it first I can tell him I made my own "ketchup" for it, and all is (relatively) well in the world of picky eaters.

This is prior to pureeing -- see the lovely chunks of veggies?

And after pureeing. It's more orange than usual because of the bell pepper choice this time (orange and yellow instead of red).

When making the meatloaf, I also deviate slightly from the recipe. I add some fresh bread crumbs to the party (I just take two slices of bread, crusts removed and whir them up in the mini food processor or the blender). I also only used two eggs instead of three. Everything else was the same, except that once again I had no fresh thyme so substitued dried instead.

We were so excited (and hungry) by the time it was ready that I didn't have a chance to make a nicely styled plate for pictures. Oh well, this picture is more "keeping it real" with the overflow onto the baking sheet and everything!! We like this recipe because the meatloaf stays moist and has a lot of flavor. Even Kade ate some of this, and he's not a big meat eater.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Operation Baking GALS Anniversary!

As you may recall, I recently posted about participating in Operation Baking GALS for the first time. Well, OBG is celebrating their first anniversary! They are trying to promote the group, as well as celebrating with giveaways and such. Start by checking out the OBG website here.

Now, like I said, the last round was the first time I had participated. I had seen it mentioned on various other blogs, and had even bookmarked the website, thinking to myself "that sounds neat...I should sign up some time." Well, for some reason I was moved to sign up last month, and am very glad that I did.

I'm not sure why I feel so motivated to participate, to be honest. I didn't grow up in a military household. Well, my dad was a Marine (okay, okay, once a Marine, always a Marine!) but he was discharged before he and my mom even met. I don't have any close friends or family that are in the military. But...it just seems like a great thing to do (participating in OBG, that is). I love to bake, and I really like baking for other people, so why not send those baked goods to our troops? Having actually done that now, it gives you a good feeling knowing that you've (hopefully!) brightened a complete strangers day!! You don't have to agree with why the soldiers are there to agree that they could all use some support until they are all safe and sound at home!!!

So...if you haven't already done so, I encourage you to check out the Operation Baking GALS website, and think about joining in. It's really not that hard, and it's a great cause!! You don't even have to bake -- they are tips for what you can send even if you can't send baked goods. The ship dates for the current round will be 8/3-8/12.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Lemon Ricotta Cookies with Lemon Glaze

This month's cookie for the Cookie Carnival was Lemon Ricotta Cookies with Lemon Glaze, a recipe from Giada De Laurentiis (who is just too darn pretty -- it's not fair! LOL).

I don't believe I've ever made a cookie with ricotta in it before, but it was good! The texture was almost like a dense cake, and it reminded me a lot of my Nanny's Pineapple Cookies (I'll have to post about those some day!!). My parents were over for supper, so I whipped these up for them to taste-test for me. My dad tends to like lemon-flavored things, so I figured he would be a good test subject.

I will admit that I didn't make the glaze for it -- I took a poll and everyone agreed I should just skip the glaze (I think they just didn't want to wait that long to try one!). I would deem this recipe a success. The lemon was pleasant, but not overpowering. Instead of the two tablespoons per cookie, I just did a heaping tablespoon of dough per cookie (so just slightly smaller).
I sent ALL of the cookies with my mom; I think she took most of them to work with her this morning. From what I understand, they have been getting good reviews!
You can check out the June round-up for the Cookie Carnival here. You're right, you never did see that cookie pop up here on my blog; unfortunately, I never made it! But you should see everyone else's! :)

TWD - Vanilla Ice Cream

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie selection was Vanilla Ice Cream by Lynne of Cafe Lynnylu. You would have thought I could actually get this one made, right? And I intended to. I even went to the grocery store this afternoon and bought the ingredients to make it. Then we got home. And I had to get supper going. And then I re-read the recipe. And realized it would be ready to eat about, oh...say, midnight. So, my apologies to all those to came looking for yummy pictures and rave reviews. I'm sure it's a great recipe (although I may decrease the number of egg yolks, as suggested by some) and I hope to try it soon. In the meantime, be sure to check out what the other TWD Bakers did with the recipe!!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Best. Breadsticks. Ever.

Well, at least the best breadsticks I've ever made! Simple, easy, delicious. You can't go wrong with that! I found this recipe over at Our Best Bites, a blog I've recently discovered. The original recipe can be found here, and has been used for all sorts of things, including breadsticks, pizza, pizza rolls, and more.

I love making yeast breads, and these were a definite hit in our house. The recipe calls for you to start by proofing your yeast, or adding your yeast to a mixture of sugar and water. I skipped this step, because I use instant yeast, which does not need to be proofed first. Instead, I mixed the yeast with 1-1/2 cups of the flour, the sugar and the salt, then added the warm water. I highly recommend checking the temperature of your water/liquid in yeast bread recipes with a digital thermometer if you have one. Having your liquid at the proper temperature is key to achieving a good result with your yeast bread recipe.

After mixing all that together, I added additional flour (I used bread flour for this recipe, since I actually had some handy) and used my beloved Kitchen Aid mixer to mix and knead it. Even with that, I still prefer to finish kneading it by hand. Something about kneading bread dough is soothing, comforting, calming. I just love it!

Next, I let the dough rise until doubled, as instructed. After that, I was supposed to roll the dough out until a rectangle, but mine was more of an ellipse...oh well! Using a pizza cutter, I divided the dough into 12 not-quite-equal pieces, then shaped them into the twisted breadsticks.

After letting them rise again, you can see how evenly shaped and evenly spaced they were (not).

Then, bake them in the oven, slather generously with butter, and sprinkle with garlic bread seasoning (also from Our Best Bites). Try not the eat the whole pan by yourself...unless of course that's what you had planned on making them for anyway, LOL!!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Tyler Florence Fridays - Chicken Noodle Soup

I know what you're thinking. Chicken noodle soup, in July, in Texas. You're thinking I've lost my mind. Well, that is debatable, especially if you ask D... But no, it was chilly and rainy on Wednesday, and chicken noodle soup just plain sounded good!

To top it off, I recently found out about a group called Tyler Florence Fridays. Everyone makes different recipes, either from one of Tyler's books or from his recipes available on the web, posts about it, and a roundup of the week's posts are then made. So, deciding to join in on the fun, I searched for a recipe for chicken noodle soup, and found one on the Food Network's website. The original recipe can be found here. It was actually from an episode of Food 911...I miss that show! :)

Let me also remind you that nothing is ever easy at my house. What should have taken only a few hours (we were making our own stock, you know) in reality took all day. Why, you may ask. Well, I didn't even start making the stock until noon. Got that on the way, well mostly (minus a few ingredients I didn't have, more to come on that shortly) and then I realized it was time to pick Sean up from science camp. I got everything chilled down and into the fridge. Once the kids and I got back home, my mom came over to help deliver D's car to his office (long, long story). Made it back home again, and then I could resume making the soup. By this time it's about 5:00 p.m. and the kids are hungry. We didn't actually eat until close to 7:00 p.m. Seriously. This is what I mean by nothing's ever easy around here.

Now, let's talk more about the recipe itself. It starts out simply - rinse and de-gibletize your (preferably free-range) chicken and place it in a pot with water, vegetables and herbs. When I got the notion to make soup, I did a quick survey of the fridge and pantry to see what items I had on hand. I did indeed have a whole chicken thawed in the fridge, which was a miracle because I don't usually buy whole chickens. However, I'd been planning to butterfly and grill it, but that would just have to wait. Soup was calling. I have no idea if it was free-range or not, but I do know that it was a Texas chicken. The label said so. It was also already giblet-free. Kudos for that one, to whoever helped me out there. :)

I was missing the turnip and fresh thyme called for in the stock (imagine that...being out of thyme...bwahahaha...okay, so you can now agree with D that I am *not* a comedian, nor do I even come close). I did have some dried thyme on hand so I went with that. I also didn't have any celery. But I can indeed tell you that the stock smelled quite wonderful while cooking.

By the time I got started on the soup itself, I had stopped on the way home to grab some celery. Wish I'd thought to grab some fresh thyme, but oh well. Such is life. I got the fresh veggies prepared and cooked until softened, then added the stock from earlier. I had initially planned on making homemade egg noodles, but quickly regained my sanity and used the dried pasta noodles that I had in the pantry. I added those and the shredded chicken and let it simmer away.

I thought it was very good. Although I wish I'd had the fresh thyme. I think it would have punched up the flavor a bit. Sean did actually try it (well, technically he ate the chicken, some broth and some noodles...the veggies were carefully avoided). On the other hand, Kade mostly ate carrots. I didn't expect anything different.

This recipe will be going in my keeper file, though it probably won't see the light of day again until the middle of winter. :)


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Isn't it cute?

The new blog design, I mean. :) As you may know, I've been playing around with the design myself. However, I recently stumbled upon Scrap-e-Blog and thought her backgrounds were just the cutest, so I grabbed one and even had her make me a custom header to go along with it!! Thanks Cori!!!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Chip Chick

First, a little randomness before I get to the topic of the day. Tonight my parents were over celebrating my dad's birthday. He mentioned that the cafe that he has coffee at every morning charges 89 cents for a "little ol' chocolate chip cookie". Now, he doesn't realize that I've paid much more than that for a cookie, nor does he really need to. But anyway, I laughed and said "I'm in the wrong business." I look over, and my husband has his fingers stuck in his ears, saying "I can't hear you!" It was just amusing. Maybe you had to be there.

Now, onto this "Chip Chick". It's my version of chicken strips/nuggets. I actually made this Tuesday night. Sorry...no pictures this time. My original recipe was handwritten on a piece of notebook paper, so I'm not entirely sure where this one came from. My apologies if I'm not giving credit where it is due.

Also, I was once told that "how can you use potato chips? They are so high in fat!" Yes, yes they are. But they are also high in flavor. And it's not like I'm eating the entire bag at once (um, wouldn't know anything about doing something like that...) and I'm not serving an entire bag to each member of my family. I feel like paired with healthier sides, it's really not a bad way to serve chicken. My two cents right there. :)

Chip Chick

1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into strips or nuggets
1/2 -3/4 cup milk
1 egg
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 (11 oz) bag potato chips**

Preheat oven to 400'F. Grease a large baking sheet (or I prefer to line it with parchment paper).

In a large bowl, mix together the milk, egg, pepper and garlic powder. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Set aside.

Cut a small slit near the top of the potato chip bag to let the air out. Place the bag on the counter, and releasing all of your frustrations from the day, smash up the potato chips. I prefer to use a rolling pin and just let them have it!

Place about half of the crushed chips in a pie plate. Taking one or two pieces of chicken at a time, coat them well with the potato chips and place on the prepared baking sheet. You can add more chips as you run out. If you have a husband handy, they are (fairly) good at adding the chips for you. Medium or large children can also be useful here (small children can be helpful, but they can also be messy, just beware). Or do as I do, and keep one hand clean for pouring the chips onto the pie plate.

Bake the chicken for 15-25 minutes or until done, depending on the size of your strips/nuggets.

**I use the original Lay's potato chips, but I've always wanted to try it with the BBQ or sour cream & onion chips. I'm not sure how a thicker chip would work, but feel free to try it and let me know. :)


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Operation Baking GALS

Several times over the last few months I've run across posts mentioning Operation Baking GALS. I'd even bookmarked the website. Well, a few weeks ago I stumbled onto this post from April at Wine Lover's Cooking Diary asking for people to join her team. I don't know April, or her brother, but something told me to sign up. I just had to.

Here is a little excerpt talking about what Operating Baking GALS is:

Baking GALS (GALS stands for Give A Little Support) is a group of volunteer bakers who bake and ship homemade goodies to our heroic troops that
are currently deployed. Each soldier is “Hosted” by a blogger, and potential bakers are “recruited” from the bloggers own site as well as the GALS site. Each Host recruits between 20-25 bakers, meaning LOTS of goodies get delivered to our soldier…so many, in fact that he or she has plenty to share with their fellow troops!

Why do we do it this way? Why not just ship to “Any Soldier”? Well, we don’t know “any soldier” – and “any soldier” doesn’t know us. And receiving baked goods from a stranger, while probably safe, is frowned upon and in many cases, those Any Soldier gifts could be thrown out. Baking GALS will introduce you to a soldier. You will know his name, a little bit about him, maybe even his favorite cookie…and he will know in advance that he will be on the receiving end of a cookie bombardment – so everyone is prepared. It is a safer way to treat our troops, and it helps them to know when to expect a barrage of goodies.

I was supposed to have everything mailed out yesterday, the 11th. Well, unforeseen circumstances preventing me from baking on Friday like I had planned, so I'm baking today -- chocolate chip cookies ramped up with pecans and coconut. Yum. I don't know if it was the outside temp (97'F) or my oven, but they didn't bake up quite has pretty as I was hoping for. Kade, my taste-tester approved though. (Hey! I have to make sure they are acceptable to send to our troops, right??)
My taste-tester. :)

Packed up in the containers...

Taped up and ready to go except for labels and forms! Hopefully they will arrive relatively unharmed. ;)


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Blueberry Cornmeal Pancakes

Just so you know, I blog all the time. In my head anyway. I'm always thinking to myself "I could write about this, and that..." I do this while shopping, driving, attempting to sleep. Sometimes while actually cooking. And yet, many of these thoughts never make it to the computer. Such is life, I guess.

But look at me go. How many blog posts in a week's time? Let's hope this trend continues.

While flitting about on the internet the other day, I came across a post on Bakerella's site about blueberry cornmeal pancakes. I became intrigued. Mostly because I love blueberry pancakes, and just so happened to have some blueberries in my refrigerator. It was fate, I tell you.

Monday night I whipped up a batch of the orange maple butter. It was not as easy as described. Sort of like mixing oil and water. Oh, wait... Anyway, I got it "mixed" and into the refrigerator.

Tuesday morning - cooking time. Cornmeal in my pancakes was an interesting idea. How would it go over with the family (i.e. Sean). Time would only tell. I'm in the kitchen, gathering equipment, measuring ingredients, and I hear "what are you making?" Pancakes was, of course, my response. His? "I thought so. I saw the griddle. That only means two things it could be. Pancakes or grilled cheese sandwiches." Observant, that one.

Was I going to tell him about the cornmeal? Nooooo. Was I going to get a blueberry near his pancakes? Nooooo.

It's a very simple and straightforward recipe. And quite good. I (finally) tried the trick of keeping the extra pancakes warm in the oven. You know, it actually works! This will be going in my "keeper" file. The non-blueberry pancakes were a hit with Sean. The cornmeal was not overpowering, but gave it a nice taste and texture. I don't know that I would have been able to tell it was cornmeal if I hadn't been the one making them.

Note to self: strip Kade to his diaper before letting him feed himself blueberry pancakes.

My goodness he's cute.

Here's the recipe, but do please check out Bakerella's site (with her awesome pictures!!)

Blueberry Cornmeal Pancakes with Orange Maple Butter

Orange Maple Butter

1 stick butter, softened
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp orange juice

Blueberry Cornmeal Pancakes

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar, plus two tsp for blueberries
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup milk
3 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled
1 egg lightly beaten
2 cups blueberries

Extra butter for coating griddle

Maple Syrup

For the orange maple butter, combine all ingredients in a bowl with a rubber spatula. Scrape the mixture onto a piece of wax paper. Roll up and shape into a small log. Twist the ends of the wax paper to secure and refrigerate.

For the pancakes, heat a griddle over medium heat. Run the extra butter over the surface of the griddle to coat (repeat as necessary).

In a small bowl, toss the blueberries with 2 tsp sugar. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, milk, egg and butter. Add milk mixture to dry ingredients and whisk just until combined.

Pour batter onto prepared griddle 1/4 cup at a time. Add sugared blueberries to each pancake. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Flip and cook the other side for about 2 minutes.

Place the finished pancakes on a cookie sheet in the oven at 200 degrees to keep them warm. Serve with orange maple butter and maple syrup. Makes approx 16 pancakes


Tuesdays with Dorie - Tribute to Katharine Hepburn Brownies

Mmmm...brownies...yum. Brownies with espresso powder, cinnamon, chocolate chunks, and pecans...YUM! This week's Tuesdays with Dorie pick was Tribute to Katharine Hepburn Brownies, chosen by Lisa of Surviving Oz. Lisa is not a regular TWD baker, but she recently won the TWD logo contest so she got the honor of making this week's choice. omg, you should read her blog...she's hilarious! Now, on to the brownies!

I'll admit, mine are still baking away in the oven, but I wanted to get my blog post in while it was still technically Tuesday, and if I don't do it now while I have a chance, well it might never get done!!

According to Dorie, this makes a thin, soft gooey brownie. Doesn't that just sound sinful? :) It's actually made without much flour at all, which sounds intriguing to me. I'm anxious to see how they turn out. Here comes the hard part...the waiting...I have to let them cool for 30 minutes in the pan after baking, then I am instructed to let them cool completely. mmmkay, we'll see how that goes. I'm envisioning a warm, gooey brownie topped with what little remains of the vanilla bean ice cream from Saturday.

I will certainly come back and report how they fare in my house. I have a feeling Sean won't like them because of the nuts, and D may not like them because of the gooey-ness (and the espresso powder that I am not telling him about!). But I can't wait to dig in!

Be sure to check out what all the other TWD Bakers did with this recipe!!



Update: oh my sweet ooey-gooey-chocolatey-nutty-coffeeish heaven! Wowsers. Can you tell I liked them? Okay, well let me 'splain. First off, I'm not entirely sure they were done. I mean, I know they're supposed to be gooey and all, but mine were super gooey. However, I didn't exactly let them cool after I turned them out of the pan. We'll see how they are when they cool. D swears I was eating raw brownie batter. Which of course meant he certainly wasn't going to try it. I didn't care, personally. It was just delish! And with a scoop of homemade ice cream on top...excuse me while I moan with delight!

I might also add that I baked it in an 8x8 glass dish, so I did decrease the temp by 15 degrees and baked it the instructed cooking time. I used espresso powder instead of the instant coffee the recipe called for, but didn't notice an overwhelming coffee flavor, as some others did (but then again, I'm a coffee addict). I did cut the cinnamon by half, just because my cinnamon seems quite strong. I think it probably would have been fine at full strength though.