Thursday, December 18, 2008

We are the World....

So anyone that knows me well knows that I have a small obsession with food. Especially baking (hello! I have a FOOD blog). I like to make, eat, and talk about food, a lot. So naturally when friends come over for dinner and I have a bag of undecorated sugar cookies on the counter, it's bound to come up. This time I roped Michelle and Shane into doing some decorating. One thing led to another and the next thing we know we've got the line up for "We are the World" Really, this post has no new recipe or purpose except to show off the adorable cookies we made and the fun we had. And in case you're wondering, yes, they do taste as good as they look.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

8 hours in the kitchen....

1 batch of cinnamon rolls, 1 batch of homemade marshmallows and 4 kinds of cookies. That's how I spent my day today. I have been planning this day of baking for weeks and it definitely did not disappoint. I am so happy with how all my cookies came out! Rather than bore you with a play by play of my day I 'll just jump right into the recipes and pictures. (OK so really it might be because I'm exhausted and can't think of anything else to say!)

The spread:
Chocolate chip peanut butter cookies, Yule log cookies, thumbprint cookies, sugar cookies and not pictured, marshmallows.

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies
(Source Smitten Kitchen)

I've made this before, find the recipe here.

Yule Log Cookies
(Source: The Cookie Bible)

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup sprinkles

Combine flour, sugar, cocoa and salt, set aside.
Beat butter and vanilla in large bowl with electric mixer until fluffy. Gradually beat in flour mixture until well blended. Cover and chill dough at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Form dough into 1 inch balls. Shape balls into 2 inch logs about 1/2 inch thickn. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 12 minutes or until set. Let stand on cookies sheets 2 minutes; transfer to wire racks; cool completely.
Melt chocolate chips (in microwave or double boiler) Dip each end of the cookies into the white chocolate then into sprinkles. Return to wire racks and let stand until chocolate is set.

Thumbprint Cookies

(Source: Vintage Victuals)

1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour

Seedless Raspberry Preserves (I used seedless Blackberry preserves)

Cream butter and sugar. Add egg yolks and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Stir in flour and, if necessary, chill until firm enough to handle. With floured hands, roll in 1” balls. Put 1 and ½ inches apart on cookie sheets. Lightly flour your thumb, and make a small indentation in center of each cookie. Fill with raspberry preserves. Bake in preheated 325 degreeoven about 15-20 minutes. Cool on racks. Makes about 4 dozen.

Sugar Cookies
(Source: My Blog :))

Recipe here

Homemade Marshmallows

(Source:Good Things Catered Blog)

4 envelopes unflavored gelatin
3 c. granulated sugar
1 1/4 c. light corn syrup
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp vanilla extract

powdered sugar for slicing

-In large saucepan over medium high heat, combine 3/4 c. water, sugar and corn syrup.
-Meanwhile, in bowl of stand mixer place 3/4 c. water and sprinkle gelatin on top, let plump.
-Bringing sugar mixture to boil, place candy thermometer in middle of mixture, making sure not to touch the side or bottom of the pan and let keep a rolling boil until mixture passes 235 degrees, about 3-5 minutes.
-With mixer on low, carefully pour sugar mixture into mixer bowl and slowly raise beater to high speed.
-Beat sugar mixture on high for five minutes and then add vanilla. (If you'd like to add other flavors here like peppermint, color, or cocoa powder for chocolate, add now).
-Continue beating mixture for an additional 5 minutes.
-Meanwhile, oil a 9x13 pan for large marshmallows or two 10x10 pans for small marshmallows.
-When done beating, pour sugar mixture into pan(s), smooth top and tap to release extra air.
-Leave on counter overnight to form.
-Generously sprinkle working surface with powdered sugar, turn out marshmallow mixture, generously sprinkle with powdered sugar, and cut as desired, lightly coating marshmallow shapes with powdered sugar to avoid sticking.

9x13 pan makes about 96 large marshmallows that can be stored in a container for about a week.

Pioneer Woman Cinnamon Rolls

(Source: The Pioneer Woman Cooks)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Caramel Popcorn Mix

This post has moved to the Sunny Side :) Click the link for the recipe, I promise it's worth it!!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Another cake for work...

We had another birthday at work! this means another opportunity for me to make a cake. This time the request for a simple white cake with raspberry filling. I'm sure you remember the Daring Baker's challenge when I made Dorie's perfect party cake, which was also a raspberry filled white cake, but I wanted to try a new recipe. The recipe I choose is another great find from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody. The cake turned out light and airy, yet moist and still flavorful. I just used the Wilton recipe for butter cream frosting. To make the raspberry filling I mixed equal parts raspberry preserves and butter cream frosting. The filling looked a little less red and a little more brownish (probably due to my all natural preserves) so I added 2 drops of red food coloring. Sadly I did not get a picture of the inside of the cake. Maybe next time!

Classic White Cake
(Source: Culinary Concoctions by Peabody)

White Cake
1 cup whole milk, room temperature
6 egg whites
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter (6 oz), softened

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Grease two 9 inch cake pans with vegetable shortening, line the bottom with parchment paper, grease the parchment paper and flour the pans.
Combine milk, eggs whites and extract in a small bowl with a fork. Set aside.
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in an electric mixer and mix at slow speed with a paddle attachment. Add butter. Continue beating at slow speed until mixture looks like wet sand (If you’re doing this by hand, sift the dry ingredients together and rub in butter).
Add all but 1/2 cup of milk mixture and beat at medium speed for 1 1/2 minutes. Add remaining milk mixture and beat for an additional 30 seconds, scraping the sides of the bowl if necessary. Do not overmix.
Divide batter evenly between prepared pans and gently shake to smooth batter. Bake 30-35 minutes, until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Let cakes cool in the pans for 15 minutes then invert onto racks to cool completely before frosting. Unfrosted cakes can be frozen for 1-2 weeks.
Serves 12-16.

Adapted from Baking

Beef Tips and Mushrooms

Usually when I ask Jesse what he wants for dinner he says "I don't care" or "Whatever" and occasionally "Hamburger Helper" (Did you hear foodie hearts stop all over the world?) So when I ask him what he wants and he makes an actual suggestion - I run with it. That's what happened last week. He said he wanted beef tips and mashed potatoes. OK. I can do this. I mean I know I've had them before. But where to find a recipe... And that's where the trouble started. I couldn't find one that I liked. So I made one up. The sauce and the mushrooms were soooo good. The beef was tough. Really tough. If anyone has any suggestions on how to create tender beef tips, please leave me a comment. I'm not sure if it's the cut of meat I bought or my cooking technique. Oh well. The beef was edible and the rest was awesome. Maybe next time I'll skip the meat and just have mushrooms, gravy and potatoes for dinner!

Beef Tips and Mushrooms

1 lb beef (I used a sirloin beef tip type cut, obviously not the right choice)
3 tbsp olive oil plus enough to coat grill pan
2 tbsp butter
1 shallot finely chopped
1 package baby bella mushrooms
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp dry thyme
Black pepper to taste
1/2 cup red wine
3/4 cup low sodium beef broth
Splash of heavy cream

Start by seasoning beef with kosher salt and black pepper. Then heat the grill pan and coat with a little olive oil to keep meat from sticking.

Over medium heat melt butter and mix with olive oil. When the pan is hot add the shallots and cook for a few minutes. When the shallots start to turn a golden color add the baby bella mushrooms and seasonings. While the mushrooms are cooking put the beef on the grill pan.

After letting the mushrooms cook for 5 minutes (keep an eye on them) add the red wine to the pan and let it reduce by half(also scrape the bottom of the pan to get any brown bits that are sticking). Then add the beef broth and let simmer. Keep an eye on the beef and flip when ready.

When the beef is cooked to about medium remove from the grill pan and let sit for a few minutes. Then slice the beef on the diagonal and add the slices to the sauce pan. Let the beef simmer for a few minutes then add the heavy cream. Serve over mashed potatoes or egg noddles.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Italian Potato and Sausage Soup

OK, I'll admit it. I totally stole this idea from my friend Amber today. We were chatting and I asked her what was for dinner and she said Zuppa Tuscano. So I asked her to show me the recipe and then I ran with it :) I'm sure she won't mind. The recipe she showed me looked good, but I didn't print it out so I just sort of had to wing it. Below is the combination of what I remembered from her recipe and what I just made up. Thanks Amber it was great! Perfect for a cold winter day.

Italian Potato and Sausage Soup

1 lb mild Italian sausage
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2-3 strips bacon
1 shallot finely chopped
1 quart chicken stock
2-3 russet potatoes cut into bite size chunks
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk (or just use half and half instead of heavy cream and milk that would be the smart thing to do)
1 cup chopped Kale
Salt and pepper to taste

In a dutch oven or stock pot heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil is hot add the sausage and brown. Once brown remove the sausage from the pot and set aside on a paper towel to drain. Now to the pot add the bacon and shallots. When the bacon is ready remove it from the pot and crumble it over the sausage, leave the shallots in the pot. To the shallots add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Then add the potatoes and let cook for 15 minutes or until fork tender. Next return the sausage and bacon to the pot and add the heavy cream and kale. Season to taste with salt and pepper and let cook for another 2-3 minutes. Serve hot with fresh grated Parmesan cheese.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Political Cookies

I have been debating whether on not I would put these on my blog. Politics can be a pretty sensitive subject with a lot of people and I don't really want to start any debates. But, after careful thought, I decided I would share these cookies with my readers (all 2 of you :)) Not just because these cookies are adorable (which they are) but also because I am proud of my candidate and I think it's OK for people to know that. The last presidential election was my first time voting for the President. At that time I felt like I was voting for the "lesser of two evils". I really wasn't excited about either candidate but I voted anyway. This time around I am actually EXCITED about someone. On that note, if you agree with me, then go Barack the vote! If you don't agree with me, then go out and vote! Sure I wish you would vote for my candidate but this America and everyone deserves to have their voice be heard!

Obama Sugar Cookies

I used this sugar cookie recipe. Then I made a big batch of Wilton's buttercream icing. I split it into three and colored one batch blue, one batch red and left one batch white.

To create the Logo design:

Step 1
Pipe a white circle around the edge of the cookie

Step 2
Pipe one half circle with white icing in the middle of the cookie

Steo 3
Pipe 3 diagonal white lines under the half circle.

Step 4
Using Red icing, fill in between the white lines

Step 5
Using blue icing and a zig zag motion fill in the space between the outer white circle and the inner half circle.

Step 6
Step back and admire you work then take a batch to your local campaign office. Then go VOTE!

Reese Peanut Butter Cake

Jesse's favorite candy has always been Reese Peanut Butter Cups. I swear he could eat an entire bag of them in a day. So when I saw this recipe on Annie's blog I knew I would have to make it for Jesse's birthday. This recipe is wonderful but can be sort of time consuming. If you ever have a day with nothing to do and feel like unwrapping a million Reese cups, make this!

Reese Cup Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake
(Source: Annie's Eats)

For the cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ½ cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled (optional)

For decorating:
1 ½ - 2 batches peanut butter frosting
miniature Reese’s cups, halved and/or chopped

For the cake, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°. Butter two 9×2” round cake pans, dust the insides with flour, tap out the excess and line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper. Place the pans on a baking sheet.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugar and beat for about 2 minutes, until thoroughly blended into the butter. Add the eggs and yolks one at a time, beating for one minute after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk; add the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the buttermilk in 2 (beginning and ending with the dry ingredients). Mix each addition only until it is blended into the batter. Scrape down the bowl and add the melted chocolate, if using, folding it in with a spatula. Divide the batter between the prepared cake pans.

Bake for 26-30 minutes or until the cakes feel springy to the touch and start to pull away from the sides of the pans. Transfer to wire racks to cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold them and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up.

To assemble the cake, place one cake layer on a cardboard circle covered in foil. Spread peanut butter frosting on top of the cake layer. (If desired, sprinkle with chopped Reese’s cups.) Place the second cake layer on top of the frosting. Frost the top and outside of the cake with remaining peanut butter frosting. Decorate with halved and chopped Reese’s cups as desired.

Guts Everywhere!

Pumpkin guts that is. My latest self assigned project was to make my own pumpkin puree. Using the detailed instructions from Pioneer Woman I was able to successfully make 6 cups of pumpkin puree! With this pumpkin puree I decided to make a pumpkin pie. Below I have the instructions for the pumpkin puree, a crust recipe and the pie filling recipe. Also, if anyone has any pie crust tips for me, I would be extremely grateful! I'm crust challenge. It tasted great but looked AWFUL!

Pumpkin Puree
(source; Pioneer Woman Cooks rewritten in my own words)

Cut the tops of 3-4 small pie pumpkins (can be found in most grocery stores). Next scoop out all of the seeds. Then cut the pumpkin into 4 wedges. Bake the wedges at 350 for 45-50 minutes until they are fork tender. Let the pumpkin wedges cool then remove the skin. Drop chunks of the pumpkin into food processor and process until smooth. Store in 1 cup increments in ziploc bags in the freezer.

Pie Crust
(Same recipe as this DB challenge)

¾ cup (180 mL) cold butter; cut into ½-inch (1.2 cm) pieces

2 cups (475 mL) all-purpose flour

¼ cup (60 mL) granulated sugar

¼ tsp (1.2 mL) salt

⅓ cup (80 mL) ice water

Make sure all ingredients are as cold as possible. Using a food processor or pastry cutter and a large bowl, combine the butter, flour, sugar and salt. Process or cut in until the mixture resembles coarse meal and begins to clump together. Sprinkle with water, let rest 30 seconds and then either process very briefly or cut in with about 15 strokes of the pastry cutter, just until the dough begins to stick together and come away from the sides of the bowl. Turn onto a lightly floured work surface and press together to form a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 20 minutes.

Allow the dough to warm slightly to room temperature if it is too hard to roll. On a lightly floured board (or countertop) roll the disk to a thickness of ⅛ inch (.3 cm). Cut a circle about 2 inches (5 cm) larger than the pie plate and transfer the pastry into the plate by folding it in half or by rolling it onto the rolling pin. Turn the pastry under, leaving an edge that hangs over the plate about ½ inch (1.2 cm). Flute decoratively. Chill for 30 minutes.

Pumpkin Pie Filling
(source: Joy of Baking)

3 large eggs

2 cups fresh pumpkin puree or 1 - 15 ounce can (425 grams) pure pumpkin

1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup (110 grams) light brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl lightly whisk the eggs. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared pie shell and place on a large baking pan to catch any spills. Bake the pie for about 45 to 55 minutes or until the filling is set and the crust has browned (the center will still look wet). (A knife inserted about 1 inch (2.54 cm) from side of pan will come out almost clean.)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Copy Cat P.F. Chang's

This is actually another dinner inspired by my friend Christy. She made it a few nights ago and I just knew that Jesse would love it. He is a big fan of Chinese food. The recipe turned out pretty good. My only issue with it was my own fault. Out of habit I seasoned the beef while cooking so the end result was pretty salty. I plan on trying this again, but with chicken and WITHOUT the additional salt. I think I'll be retaining water for a month! Ha!

P.F. Chang's Mongolian Beef
(Source: recipezaar, directions re-written by me)

* 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
* 1/2 teaspoon ginger, minced
* 1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
* 1/2 cup soy sauce
* 1/2 cup water
* 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
* vegetable oil, for frying (about 1 cup)
* 1 lb flank steak
* 1/4 cup cornstarch
* 2 large green onions

Heat 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil in a small sauce pan. Add the garlic and ginger and saute on medium heat for about 2 minutes (careful not to burn your garlic!). After 2 minutes add the soy sauce and water and bring to a boil. Once boiling add the brown sugar and reduce heat. Let simmer and thicken while you prepare the beef.

Heat vegetable oil in a wok until it is hot but not smoking. While the oil is heating cut the flank steak into 1/4-1/1 inch strips, against the grain. Coat the the strips in cornstarch and let sit for a few minutes. Next carefully drop the beef strips into the hot oil and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally to cook evenly. After 2 minutes remove the beef with a slotted a spoon and place on paper towels while you drain the oil from the wok. Put the now empty wok back on the burner add return the beef to the pan. Cook over medium heat. After 2 or 3 minutes add the sauce to the wok and simmer for 10 minutes. Then add the chopped green onions. Serve the beef over rice.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

This post has moved to the Sunny Side :) Click the link for the recipe, I promise it's worth it!!

5 Cheese Spread

This just could be one of the most adaptable appetizers in history. Really. I made this up last Christmas and I'm not sure I've ever made it exactly the same since, but every time I get a ton of compliments. It works with pretty much any cheese you have on hand. You could even add lump crab meat or shredded chicken to it to create a more substantial spread. Basically what I'm saying is, if you're looking for a great go-to appetizer recipe this is it. Keep in mind that most of the measurements are approximates seeing as I never really make it the exact same way twice. You should use this recipe as a guide and let the cooking God's inspire to make this dish your own.

5 (or 4 or 3 or 6) Cheese Spread
My own recipe

1/3 cup light mayonnaise
1/3 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup Neufatchel cheese (light cream cheese)
3/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dry onion flakes or onion powder
Sprinkle to taste paprika, cayenne pepper, salt and fresh ground pepper
1/2-3/4 cup cheese (This time I used a 5 cheese blend that had mozzarella, provolone, Parmesan, asiago and Romano. Sometimes I use just Parmesan, asiago and Romano. It all depends on what I have or what's on sale or which way the wind the is blowing)

Combine the mayonnaise, sour cream and cream cheese in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse for 30 seconds.
Add the seasonings and cheese and pulse until well blended. (I like to do taste tests while adding the seasonings to be sure I don't over season. Just add a little, pulse, taste and repeat)
Spoon into your prettiest dip dish and bake at 375 until golden brown on the edges and bubbly in the middle.
Serve with triscuits, carrots, beer bread cubes, celery, tortilla chips, sliced crusty bread, you name it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Fall favorite

It's finally my favorite season again! Some of my favorite things are at their peak in the fall, such as: cool mornings, pumpkins, leaves, candles, haunted houses, and sweatshirts. Fall is also the season for some of my favorite foods! Warm, filling, comfort foods.

My friend Christy mentioned that she had made chicken and dumplings on Monday and I couldn't stop thinking about it. So on Wednesday I took it upon myself to make some of my own. Warning, this meal is super starchy!

Chicken and Dumplings
(My own recipe)

3 chicken breast, roasted and shredded
1/4 cup shredded carrots
1 celery stalk, finely diced ~1/4 cup
1/2 of a small onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
2 tbsp butter
2 cans low sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup Bisquick
1/4 cup of milk

In a large stock pot melt the butter. Then add the vegetables and garlic and cook for 5 minutes to soften, add salt and pepper to season. Next add the chicken broth and water and bring to a boil. While the broth is coming to a boil, in a small bowl, stir together the Bisquick and milk. Drop the dough one spoonful at a time into the bowling water. Cook for 5-10 minutes then add the shredded chicken and stir. By this time the broth should have thickened but if it hasn't a little trick I use is to add a 1/4 cup of potato flakes (like instant mashed potatoes)

Since I loooooooove starch, I serve with mashed potatoes :)

Monday, September 1, 2008

I'm still daring!!

Last month I was not able to complete the challenge so I knew that come hell or high water I was going to make this months. I was super excited when I found out that this months task was to make chocolate eclairs. Eclairs have been on my mind for quite some time now. I watched Alton Brown make them about 9 months ago and I have been looking for an excuse to make them ever since. Of course I waited until the actual posting day to make my eclairs. I thought about doing a "baking live" post yesterday, but then decided against. Who really wants a play by play of me dripping chocolate on my kitchen flour, then stepping in it and making chocolate foot prints all over my house? So I decided to just wait and post today.

For the most part I would call this challenge a success. I honestly didn't really have any trouble pulling the elements together. I was worried about the Pate a Choux because I have never made it before and I always worry about "scrambling" my eggs when I add them to hot things. But the dough was perfectly silky and smooth. Unfortunately I didn't have the right size tip for my pastry bag so I wound up just using a disposable bag and piping from the cut end sans tip. It worked out great.

If I were to do the challenge over again today I would skip the wooden spoon in the door thing or bake for longer because I think mine were undercooked. I also had hoped to not have to slice them in half, instead I was going to poke a hole in the side and fill it that way. That didn't work at all. I wound up making a pretty big mess of myself and the kitchen floor. I'm not sure if it didn't work because the inside was undercooked and there for not as puffy in the middle? I'm not sure. In the end it didn't matter because they were delicious and my husband told me no less than 5 times "These things are amazing".

I would like thank our hosts this month, Tony Tahhan and MeetaK. This was an awesome challenge.

Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs

Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

* Cream Puff Dough (see below for recipe), fresh and still warm

1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Divide the oven into thirds by positioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with waxed or parchment paper.

2. Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2cm) plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough.

Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 41/2 inches (about 11 cm) chubby fingers. Leave about 2 inches (5 cm) space in between each dough strip to allow them room to puff. The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs.

3. Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 7 minutes. After the 7 minutes, slip the handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar. When the éclairs have been in the oven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking time should be approximately 20 minutes.


1. The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.

Assembling the éclairs:

* Chocolate glaze (see below for recipe)
* Chocolate pastry cream (see below for recipe)

1. Slice the éclairs horizontally, using a serrated knife and a gently sawing motion. Set aside the bottoms and place the tops on a rack over a piece of parchment paper.

2. The glaze should be barely warm to the touch (between 95 – 104 degrees F or 35 – 40 degrees C, as measured on an instant read thermometer). Spread the glaze over the tops of the éclairs using a metal icing spatula. Allow the tops to set and in the meantime fill the bottoms with the pastry cream.

3. Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the éclairs. Make sure you fill the bottoms with enough cream to mound above the pastry. Place the glazed tops onto the pastry cream and wriggle gently to settle them.


1. If you have chilled your chocolate glaze, reheat by placing it in a bowl over simmering water, stirring it gently with a wooden spoon. Do not stir too vigorously as you do not want to create bubbles.
2. The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.

Cream Puff Dough
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

* ½ cup (125g) whole milk
* ½ cup (125g) water
* 1 stick (4 ounces; 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
* ¼ teaspoon sugar
* ¼ teaspoon salt
* 1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
* 5 large eggs, at room temperature

1. In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the boil.

2. Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together very quickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. You need to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough will be very soft and smooth.

3. Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your handmixer or if you still have the energy, continue by hand. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough.

You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again do not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time you have added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.

4. The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.


1. Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately.
2. You can pipe the dough and the freeze it. Simply pipe the dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets and slide the sheets into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer the piped shapes into freezer bags. They can be kept in the freezer for up to a month.

Chocolate Pastry Cream

* 2 cups (500g) whole milk
* 4 large egg yolks
* 6 tbsp (75g) sugar
* 3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
* 7 oz (200g) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Valrhona Guanaja, melted
* 2½ tbsp (1¼ oz: 40g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1. In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heavy‐bottomed saucepan.

2. Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture.Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.

3. Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat).Stir in the melted chocolate and then remove the pan from the heat.

4. Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in an ice‐water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it remains smooth.

5. Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140 F remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments. Return the cream to the ice‐water bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is now ready to use or store in the fridge.


1. The pastry cream can be made 2‐3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.
2. In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.
3. Tempering the eggs raises the temperature of the eggs slowly so that they do not scramble.

Chocolate Glaze
(makes 1 cup or 300g)

* 1/3 cup (80g) heavy cream
* 3½ oz (100g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
* 4 tsp (20 g) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
* 7 tbsp (110 g) Chocolate Sauce (recipe below), warm or at room temperature

1. In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly begin to add the chocolate, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.

2. Stirring gently, stir in the butter, piece by piece followed by the chocolate sauce.


1. If the chocolate glaze is too cool (i.e. not liquid enough) you may heat it briefly in the microwave or over a double boiler. A double boiler is basically a bowl sitting over (not touching) simmering water.
2. It is best to glaze the eclairs after the glaze is made, but if you are pressed for time, you can make the glaze a couple days ahead of time, store it in the fridge and bring it up to the proper temperature (95 to 104 F) when ready to glaze.

Chocolate Sauce
(makes 1½ cups or 525 g)

* 4½ oz (130 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
* 1 cup (250 g) water
* ½ cup (125 g) crème fraîche, or heavy cream
* 1/3 cup (70 g) sugar

1. Place all the ingredients into a heavy‐bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure to stir constantly. Then reduce the heat to low and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens.
2. It may take 10‐15 minutes for the sauce to thicken, but you will know when it is done when it coats the back of your spoon.


1. You can make this sauce ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for two weeks. Reheat the sauce in a microwave oven or a double boiler before using.
2. This sauce is also great for cakes, ice-cream and tarts.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Garlic Herb Chicken

This post has moved to the Sunny Side :) Click the link for the recipe, I promise it's worth it!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Chicken Bacon Ranch Calzone

Do you ever have trouble coming up with something witty to say? I just feel at a loss for words tonight. Maybe it was the migraine that caused me to leave work early, or the 3 hour nap that finally helped the migraine go away or maybe it's the "Olympic brain" I've come down with or even better, maybe it's the start of Bengals preseason (WHO DEY!), I don't know. I just feel in the clouds. I guess all I can really say is I wanted to make home made pizza for dinner tonight but I didn't want to use red sauce. That idea evolved into the bacon ranch idea and then that idea evolved into a calzone. It turned out great. I was happy with the dough I used (a recipe I haven't used before) and I loved being able to use the fresh tomatoes from my garden.

There, did I say enough? Good. Onto the recipe.

Chicken Bacon Ranch Calzone
My own recipe

1 recipe pizza dough (see recipe below)
2 chicken breasts
3 slices of center cut bacon
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
2 tsp fresh parsley finely chopped
~1/2 cup cheese (I used monterey jack and cheddar)
Salt and pepper to taste
Ranch for dipping

Start by cooking the bacon in a skillet over medium high heat, careful not to burn it! When the bacon is crisp set aside between 2 pieces of paper towel.
Drain all but 1 tbsp bacon grease from skillet (if your super health conscious just drain it all and use cooking spray).
Brown both sides of the chicken breast in the bacon grease then cover the skillet and continue cooking until the chicken is no longer pink. When the chicken is done shred with forks and season with salt and pepper.
Then crumble the bacon and add to the chicken.
Roll out the pizza dough in 2 circles. Fill one side of each circle with chicken and bacon mixture, then diced tomatoes, then chopped parsley, and finally cheese. Fold the other half of the circle over the top of the filling and pinch to seal the edges. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Serve with ranch dipping sauce

**Cooks notes***

- As an after though, I think it would also be good to toss the chicken and bacon in ranch before stuffing the calzone.
- This really should make 3 large calzones. The 2 I made were monster sized. Next time I will cut the dough recipe in half or make 3 calzones.

Pizza Dough:
(Source: King Arthur Flour recipes)

* 2 teaspoons active dry yeast or instant yeast
* 7/8 to 1 1/8 cups lukewarm water*
* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
* 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
* *Use the lesser amount in summer (or in a humid environment), the greater amount in winter (or in a dry climate), and somewhere in between the rest of the year, or if your house is climate controlled.

* 2 teaspoons active dry yeast or instant yeast
* 7 to 9 ounces lukewarm water*
* 7/8 ounce olive oil
* 12 3/4 ounces King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
* 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
* *Use the lesser amount in summer (or in a humid environment), the greater amount in winter (or in a dry climate), and somewhere in between the rest of the year, or if your house is climate controlled.


1) If you're using active dry yeast, dissolve it, with a pinch of sugar, in 2 tablespoons of the lukewarm water. Let the yeast and water sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, until the mixture has bubbled and expanded. If you're using instant yeast, you can skip this step.

2) Combine the dissolved yeast (or the instant yeast) with the remainder of the ingredients. Mix and knead everything together—by hand, mixer or bread machine set on the dough cycle—till you've made a soft, smooth dough. If you're kneading in a stand mixer, it should take 4 to 5 minutes at second speed, and the dough should barely clean the sides of the bowl, perhaps sticking a bit at the bottom. Don't over-knead the dough; it should hold together, but can still look fairly rough on the surface.

3) To make pizza up to 24 hours later, skip to step 5.

4) To make pizza now: Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl, and allow it to rise till it's very puffy. This will take about an hour using instant yeast, or 90 minutes using active dry. If it takes longer, that's OK; just give it some extra time.

5) To make pizza later: Allow the dough to rise, covered, for 45 minutes at room temperature. Refrigerate the dough for 4 hours (or for up to 24 hours); it will rise slowly as it chills. This step allows you more schedule flexibility; it also develops the crust's flavor. About 2 to 3 hours before you want to serve pizza, remove the dough from the refrigerator.

6) Decide what size, shape, and thickness of pizza you want to make. This recipe will make one of the following choices:
Two 1/2"-thick 14" round pizzas (pictured);
Two 3/4"-thick 12" round pizzas;
One 3/4" to 1"-thick 13" x 18" rectangular (Sicilian-style) pizza (pictured);
One 1 1/2"-thick 9" x 13" rectangular pizza;
One 1"-thick 14" round pizza.

7) Divide the dough in half, for two pizzas; or leave it whole for one pizza.

****I did not do the following steps because I can not read directions and I was impatient. After the first I shaped my dough and filled the calzones and immediately baked****

8) If you're making a rectangular pizza, shape the dough into a rough oval. For a round pizza, shape it into a rough circle. In either case, don't pat it flat; just stretch it briefly into shape. Allow the dough to rest, covered with an overturned bowl or lightly greased plastic wrap, for 15 minutes.

9) Use vegetable oil pan spray to lightly grease the pan(s) of your choice. Drizzle olive oil into the bottom of the pan(s). The pan spray keeps the pizza from sticking; the olive oil gives the crust great flavor and crunch.

10) Place the dough in the prepared pan(s). Press it over the bottom of the pan, stretching it towards the edges. You'll probably get about two-thirds of the way there before the dough starts shrinking back; walk away for 15 minutes. Cover the dough while you're away, so it doesn't dry out.

11) When you come back, you should be able to pat the dough closer to the corners of the pan. Repeat the rest and dough-stretch one more time, if necessary; your goal is to get the dough to fill the pan as fully as possible.

12) Allow the dough to rise, covered, till it's noticeably puffy, about 90 minutes (if it hasn't been refrigerated); or 2 to 2 1/2 hours (if it's been refrigerated). Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 450°F.

13) Bake the pizza on the lower oven rack till it looks and feels set on top, and is just beginning to brown around the edge of the crust, but is still pale on top. This will take about 8 minutes for thinner crust pizza; about 10 to 12 minutes for medium thickness; and 12 to 14 minutes for thick-crust pizza. If you're baking two pizzas, reverse them in the oven (top to bottom, bottom to top) midway through the baking period.

14) To serve pizza immediately: Remove it from the oven, and arrange your toppings of choice on top. Return to the oven, and bake on the upper oven rack for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until the crust is nicely browned, both top and bottom, and the cheese is melted. Check it midway through, and move it to the bottom rack if the top is browning too much, or the bottom not enough.

15) To serve pizza up to 2 days later: Remove the untopped, partially baked crust from the oven, cool completely on a rack, wrap in plastic, and store at room temperature. When ready to serve, top and bake in a preheated 450°F oven, adding a couple of minutes to the baking times noted above. Your goal is a pizza whose crust is browned, and whose toppings are hot/melted.

16) Remove the pizza from the oven, and transfer it from the pan to a rack to cool slightly before serving. For easiest serving, cut with a pair of scissors.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

German Chocolate Cake

At work when some one has a birthday I make a cake for them. For Linda's birthday she requested a German Chocolate Cake. I took this as a challenge for 2 reasons. First, I've never made it before. Second, I have this huge fear of making really ugly baked goods and it just seems like ALL German Chocolate cakes are ugly. But that was what she requested so off I went. First I had to find a recipe. I picked a recipe that had the prettiest picture (haha) and then set about making the cake. It turned out really well. Everyone loved it. I even got a few "best cake ever" comment. I still think the cake could have been prettier but it was a hit.

Of course, after all of my talk about a "pretty cake" my picture is awful, so please ignore it. It was almost 11 pm when I finished and my natural lighting was shot.

German Chocolate Cake
(source: Cooking at Home with America's Test Kitchen 2006, as seen on Leite's Culinaria)

For the filling

4 large egg yolks
One 12-ounce can evaporated milk
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/3 cups sweetened shredded coconut
1 1/2 cups finely chopped pecans, toasted

For the cake

4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa, sifted
1/2 cup boiling water
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus more for dusting the pans
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon table salt
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup sour cream, at room temperature

Make the filling
1. Whisk the yolks in a medium saucepan; gradually whisk in the evaporated milk. Add the sugars, butter, and salt and cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture is boiling, frothy, and slightly thickened, about 6 minutes.

2. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, whisk in the vanilla, then stir in the coconut. Cool until just warm, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until cool or cold, at least 2 hours or up to 3 days. (The pecans are stirred in just before cake assembly.)

Make the cake
1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position; heat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Combine the chocolate and cocoa in a small bowl; pour the boiling water over and let stand to melt the chocolate, about 2 minutes. Whisk until smooth; set aside until cooled to room temperature.

2. Meanwhile, spray two 9-inch-round by 2-inch-high straight-sided cake pans with nonstick cooking spray; line the bottoms with parchment or waxed paper rounds. Spray the paper rounds, dust the pans with flour, and knock out the excess. Sift the flour and baking soda into a medium bowl or onto a sheet of parchment or waxed paper.

3. In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the butter, sugars, and salt at medium-low speed until the sugar is moistened, about 30 seconds. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula halfway through. With the mixer running at medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the bowl halfway through. Beat in the vanilla; increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 45 seconds. With the mixer running at low speed, add the chocolate, then increase the speed to medium and beat until combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down the bowl once (the batter may appear broken). With the mixer running at low speed, add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with the sour cream (in 2 additions), beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, and beating in each addition until barely combined. After the final flour addition, beat on low until just combined, then stir the batter by hand with a rubber spatula, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl, to ensure that the batter is homogenous (the batter will be thick). Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans; spread the batter to the edges of the pans with the rubber spatula and smooth the surfaces.

4. Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool in the pans 10 minutes, then invert the cakes onto a greased wire rack; peel off and discard the paper rounds. Cool the cakes to room temperature before filling, about 1 hour. (The cooled cakes can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 1 day.)

To Assemble
1. Stir the toasted pecans into the chilled filling. Set one cake on a serving platter or cardboard round cut slightly smaller than the cake, and the second cake on a work surface (or leave it on the wire rack). With a serrated knife held so that the blade is parallel with the work surface, use a sawing motion to cut each cake into two even layers. Starting with the first cake, carefully lift off the top layer and set aside.

2. Using an icing spatula, distribute about 1 cup filling evenly on the cake, spreading the filling to the very edge of the cake and leveling the surface. Carefully place the upper cake layer on top of the filling; repeat using the remaining filling and cake layers. If necessary, dust the crumbs off the platter; serve.

Note: The cake may be refrigerated, covered loosely with foil, up to 4 hours (if refrigerated longer than 2 hours, let the cake stand at room temperature 15 to 20 minutes before serving).

Sugar and Spice Muffins

Once again it has been way to long since I've updated! For the first time in a couple weeks I have no plans for today so I'm going back and adding all of the stuff that I have been compiling over the last few months.

I'll start with these muffins. I actually made these back in JUNE! I haven't made them again yet but I plan to, maybe even today! These had a great texture and wonderful flavor. I was worried that they might be too sweet, but that wasn't the case at all. They almost have the flavor of a cake doughnut, mmmmm.....

Sugar and Spice muffins

* 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
* 1/3 cup vegetable oil
* 3/4 cup white sugar
* 1 egg
* 3/4 cup milk
* 3/4 cup white sugar
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/2 cup butter, melted


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease 12 muffin cups.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, beat together oil, 3/4 cup sugar, egg and milk. Stir egg mixture into flour mixture, just until moistened. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.

Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.

While muffins are baking, mix together 3/4 cup white sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.

While muffins are still hot, dip tops in melted butter and then in cinnamon sugar mixture.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Peanut Butter Marbled Brownies

This post has moved to the Sunny Side :) Click the link for the recipe, I promise it's worth it!!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Better late than never....right?

Well folks, I have obviously been a total blog SLACKER. May and June are extremely busy months for me, and while I still cook and bake, I just haven't had time to keep up the blog. That being said, I completely missed the May Daring Bakers challenge. Shame, shame, I know. I had every intention of completing the June challenge on time, but sadly we had a death in the family. My wonderful, funny, athletic, handsome Uncle Scott passed away suddenly from cardiac arrest. As a child I always looked forward to the times when Scott would come in town because he was such a fun guy. He would lift me high in the air and spin me around and was full of jokes. He will truly be missed. If you're interested here is a link to a wonderful article about him, it was written by the college where he worked as a volleyball coach. Scott Jones of America you will missed.

On that note, I dedicate my June challenge to my Uncle Scott. Thank you to our wonderful hosts this month, Kellypea and Ben. Please be sure to check out the Daring Baker's blogroll to see what everyone else is up to.

(source: Sherry Yard's from The Secrets of Baking)

Makes enough for 2 large braids ----------> Yeah, I guess I didn't read this and I made one HUGE braid, LOL, no wonder I didn't think there was enough filling!

1 recipe Danish Dough (see below)
2 cups apple filling, jam, or preserves (I used a cream cheese filling)

For the egg wash: 1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk

1. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll the Danish Dough into a 15 x 20-inch rectangle, ¼ inch thick. If the dough seems elastic and shrinks back when rolled, let it rest for a few minutes, then roll again. Place the dough on the baking sheet.
2. Along one long side of the pastry make parallel, 5-inch-long cuts with a knife or rolling pastry wheel, each about 1 inch apart. Repeat on the opposite side, making sure to line up the cuts with those you’ve already made.
3. Spoon the filling you’ve chosen to fill your braid down the center of the rectangle. Starting with the top and bottom “flaps”, fold the top flap down over the filling to cover. Next, fold the bottom “flap” up to cover filling. This helps keep the braid neat and helps to hold in the filling. Now begin folding the cut side strips of dough over the filling, alternating first left, then right, left, right, until finished. Trim any excess dough and tuck in the ends.

Egg Wash
Whisk together the whole egg and yolk in a bowl and with a pastry brush, lightly coat the braid.

Proofing and Baking
1. Spray cooking oil (Pam…) onto a piece of plastic wrap, and place over the braid. Proof at room temperature or, if possible, in a controlled 90 degree F environment for about 2 hours, or until doubled in volume and light to the touch.
2. Near the end of proofing, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Position a rack in the center of the oven.
3. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan so that the side of the braid previously in the back of the oven is now in the front. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and bake about 15-20 minutes more, or until golden brown. Cool and serve the braid either still warm from the oven or at room temperature. The cooled braid can be wrapped airtight and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or freeze for 1 month.


Makes 2-1/2 pounds dough

For the dough (Detrempe)
1 ounce fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
½ cup whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
¾ teaspoon ground cardamom (I did not use this)
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 large eggs, chilled
¼ cup fresh orange juice
3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

For the butter block (Beurrage)
½ pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour

1. Combine butter and flour in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle and then beat for 1 minute more, or until smooth and lump free. Set aside at room temperature.
2. After the detrempe has chilled 30 minutes, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 18 x 13 inches and ¼ inch thick. The dough may be sticky, so keep dusting it lightly with flour. Spread the butter evenly over the center and right thirds of the dough. Fold the left edge of the detrempe to the right, covering half of the butter. Fold the right third of the rectangle over the center third. The first turn has now been completed. Mark the dough by poking it with your finger to keep track of your turns, or use a sticky and keep a tally. Place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3. Place the dough lengthwise on a floured work surface. The open ends should be to your right and left. Roll the dough into another approximately 13 x 18 inch, ¼-inch-thick rectangle. Again, fold the left third of the rectangle over the center third and the right third over the center third. No additional butter will be added as it is already in the dough. The second turn has now been completed. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.
4. Roll out, turn, and refrigerate the dough two more times, for a total of four single turns. Make sure you are keeping track of your turns. Refrigerate the dough after the final turn for at least 5 hours or overnight. The Danish dough is now ready to be used. If you will not be using the dough within 24 hours, freeze it. To do this, roll the dough out to about 1 inch in thickness, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze. Defrost the dough slowly in the refrigerator for easiest handling. Danish dough will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Combine yeast and milk in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed. Slowly add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice. Mix well. Change to the dough hook and add the salt with the flour, 1 cup at a time, increasing speed to medium as the flour is incorporated. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until smooth. You may need to add a little more flour if it is sticky. Transfer dough to a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Cream Cheese Filling
(My recipe)
1 block of cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 cup flour
1 egg

In a mixer or with a hand mixer blend all ingredients. Chill for an hour so it won't be to runny (this is an after thought, mine was definitely runny!).

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The best mac and cheese you'll ever put in your mouth....

This post has moved to the Sunny Side :) Click the link for the recipe, I promise it's worth it!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Penne Ala Vodka


Well, I finally get it. I've tried vodka sauce before and I just didn't quite understand what all the hype was about. I didn't find it much better than regular sauce and I knew it had a ton more calories/fat. Today, however, I stumbled across a super simple vodka sauce recipe and decided to give it a try. Well I guess super simple is my style because I loved it. It was flavorful and creamy and delicious! I had some left over dough so I made some rolls and dipped them in an olive oil, butter, herb mixture. Thanks Foodie Bride for the perfect simple recipe!

Simple Vodka Sauce
(Source: Confections of a Foodie Bride)
2/3 cup Vodka
pinch crushed red pepper
6 Tbsp butter
3/4 cup crushed tomatoes (canned)
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup Parm-reggi, grated

Add the red pepper to the vodka, set aside. Melt the butter, add the vodka, and bring the sauce to a boil. Add tomatoes and cream and return sauce to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Toss cheese and sauce with the pasta. Serve and enjoy!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Cheesecake the daring way....

This months challenge appeared to be really easy. Cheesecake, which I've made before, just with a new twist. Rolled into balls, dipped in chocolate and served like a lollipop. I hate to say it, but I'm really not sure that I can call this a "successful" challenge. This is really the first challenge that I haven't felt very happy with. There were several places where it just seemed to go wrong for me.

First, I under baked my cheesecake. The recipe says to bake for 35-45 minutes. After 60 minutes I finally felt like it was set enough. The center was still a little jiggly, but it usually is with cheesecakes. So I let it cool and then stuck it the fridge to firm up over night. At first touch it seemed firm. But I knew with the very first scoop that something was not right. When I went to try and roll it into a ball it turned to goop in my hand. Only the very outer edges were firm. All I can say is thank goodness for my pampered chef scoop! I used that to form some very sloppy balls.

I had a few topping ideas in my head. I knew I wanted to dip the cheesecake in semi sweet chocolate since I don't really care for milk chocolate. I also planned on rolling them in chocolate sprinkles (or jimmies), drizzling with peanut butter, and I had a grand idea of flavoring the chocolate with raspberry extract. I think the problem was that my cheesecake was very oddly shaped. So it was hard to dip and then roll. Then on the last half of the batch I tried my extract. Big mistake. For some reason my extract turned my perfectly melted smooth chocolate into a stiff, sticky mess. Certainly not suitable for dipping and rolling. So I pitched the chocolate and got lazy on the second half and just drizzled.

The good news is that the cheesecake tasted good, and I managed to take some decent pictures despite their sad sad look. I think I would like to try this recipe again and make sure that my cheesecake is all the way set next time.

There is other good news too! The Daring Baker's have launched a new site that has public forums where non-members can post their baking trials and triumphs! Stop by and check it out. Also check out the blog roll to see what the other DBer's have been up to! Thanks to Elle & Deborah for a very challenging challenge! ;)

Cheesecake Pops

Adapted from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey

Makes 30 – 40 Pops

5 8-oz. packages cream cheese at room temperature
2 cups sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
5 large eggs
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¼ cup heavy cream
Boiling water as needed
Thirty to forty 8-inch lollipop sticks
1 pound chocolate, finely chopped – you can use all one kind or half and half of dark, milk, or white (Alternately, you can use 1 pound of flavored coatings, also known as summer coating, confectionary coating or wafer chocolate – candy supply stores carry colors, as well as the three kinds of chocolate.)
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
(Note: White chocolate is harder to use this way, but not impossible)

Assorted decorations such as chopped nuts, colored jimmies, crushed peppermints, mini chocolate chips, sanding sugars, dragees) - Optional

Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Set some water to boil.

In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt until smooth. If using a mixer, mix on low speed. Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (but still at low speed) after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and cream.

Grease a 10-inch cake pan (not a springform pan), and pour the batter into the cake pan. Place the pan in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with the boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top, 35 to 45 minutes.

Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

When the cheesecake is cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2-ounce balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the cheesecake pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 – 2 hours.

When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate. In the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat half the chocolate and half the shortening, stirring often, until chocolate is melted and chocolate and shortening are combined. Stir until completely smooth. Do not heat the chocolate too much or your chocolate will lose it’s shine after it has dried. Save the rest of the chocolate and shortening for later dipping, or use another type of chocolate for variety.

Alternately, you can microwave the same amount of chocolate coating pieces on high at 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth.

Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate. If you like, you can now roll the pops quickly in optional decorations. You can also drizzle them with a contrasting color of melted chocolate (dark chocolate drizzled over milk chocolate or white chocolate over dark chocolate, etc.) Place the pop on a clean parchment paper-lined baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate and shortening (or confectionary chocolate pieces) as needed.
Refrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas

I knew the moment I saw this recipe that I would love it. I really can't say no to green chilies. I love them. I also have a hard time saying no to chicken enchiladas. I am happy to report that this recipe did not disappoint me! I'm excited because the flavors are similar (but actually much better) to the chicken enchilada's I have made before, but this recipe is from scratch and uses no cream soups. I did use flour tortillas so I'm not sure if the actually "disqualifies" me from using the word enchiladas, butnext time I will try it with corn tortillas. I also think that the filling would make a great base for enchilada soup. So you'll probably see a post about that soon! Enjoy!

Green Chile Enchiladas
(Source: The Way the Cookie Crumbles food blog)

Note: To wet the tortillas before heating and rolling them, I usually hold them under running water for a second. Alternatively, you could brush water on them using a pastry brush.

1 bone-in, skin-on chicken breast (12-16 ounces)
salt and pepper
1 tsp vegetable oil
2 tablespoons water (I used chicken broth)
3 tablespoons butter
½ large onion, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk plus ¼ cup
4 ounces chopped green chiles, undrained
½ cup sour cream plus 2 tablespoons
1 cup (4 ounces) cheddar, shredded, plus ¾ cup (3 ounces)

1. For chicken: Adjust oven racks to the lower-middle and upper-middle positions; heat oven to 450 degrees. Heat oil in heavy-bottomed 9-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat until oil just begins to smoke; swirl skillet to coat evenly with oil. Brown chicken breast skin side down until deep golden, 3 to 4 minutes; turn chicken breast and brown until golden on second side, 3 to 4 minutes longer. Place in oven on lower-middle rack. Roast until thickest part of breast registers about 160 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 18 to 25 minutes. Using potholder or oven mitt, remove skillet from oven. Transfer chicken to platter and set aside until cool enough to handle. Pour water into hot skillet and scrape with a heat-proof spatula or wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. Pour liquid into small bowl. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees.

2. For filling: Melt butter until foaming in medium saucepan over medium heat; add onions and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1½ minutes. Do not brown. Gradually whisk in milk and reserved water from deglazing. Bring mixture to boil over medium-high heat. Stir in green chiles, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of pepper. Remove from heat, and stir in ½ cup sour cream.

3. For sauce: Set aside ¼ cup of filling mixture. Add an additional ¼ cup milk and 2 tablespoons sour cream and stir until blended.

4. Remove and discard chicken skin. Using fingers or fork, pull chicken off bones into 2-inch shreds and 1-inch chunks. Stir shredded chicken and 1 cup shredded cheddar into filling mixture. Spread ¼ of sauce in bottom of 9×13-inch pan.

5. Lightly wet both sides of four tortillas; place on baking sheet in oven for 3-4 minutes, until soft. Spread approximately ¼ cup of filling down center of each tortilla. Fold in sides and place enchilada, seam side down, in prepared pan. Repeat with remaining tortillas until all the filling has been used, wetting and warming tortillas as necessary.

6. Pour remaining sauce over enchiladas and top with remaining ¾ cup cheese. Bake on upper-middle rack until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is melted, 20-25 minutes. Let rest 5-10 minutes and serve.

Black Beans

1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove of garlic crushed
1/4 of an onion diced
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 can Rotel (diced tomatoes and green chiles)
salt and pepper to taste.

Heat the olive oil in a small sauce pan. When the oil is hot add the onions and garlic. Let the onions sweat out but do not let the garlic burn. After a few minutes add the black beans and chicken broth. Then season the beans with chili powder, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Bring the beans to a simmer then add the Rotel tomatoes. Let simmer for about 20 minutes.