Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Versatile Blogger Award!

Wow! My first award! What a great pick me up. Yes, I have known about this for some time, but really needed to think about who I wanted to pass it on to. It's really nice to know that people (other than family and tortured friends) read my blog and enjoy the contents! Thank you Lollcakes!

I am honored to receive this, and thank lollcakes again for this award! According to the rules, I need to Thank the person that gave me the award, tell you 7 things about myself, and pass this on to 15 other bloggers...First one check! Here go the other two:

7 things about me:

1. I have been baking since I was 4.
2. I have been talking about writing a food blog for over 2 years.
3. I am normally a very shy person who hates to talk about herself.
4. Although I was born and raised in Washington State, a state known for its apples, I hate cooked apples.
5. I am very high strung and have to resist the urge to not alphabetize my entire kitchen.
6. When my cat was little, I tried to cook for her since her breeder said she only ate human food, and she wouldn't eat my cooking.
7. I am incredibly clumsy and have managed to break every single one of my mom's glass baking dishes, including one that literally exploded.

15 nominations:

1. - she's awesome, and since she lives in Australia, I can totally steal her winter recipes to cook 6 months later...
2. - they have some nice sounding vegetarian recipes.
3. - I wish I was this creative!
4. - creative and funny - and I'm envious of her fingernails!
5. - I consider her one of the backbones of daring bakers and daring cooks
6. - her pictures make me hungry!
7. - I love this blog - super healthy recipes and tons of information
8. - I wish my pictures looked like hers!
9. - I must admit, I'm following her blog just so I can see how awesome she gets at cake decorating.
10. - Once again, lovely pics!
11. - this satisfies my inner food geek!
12. - I love this web design!
13. - I love keeping up with great healthy recipes, and she has some good ones!
14. - I really like her writing style!
15. - Once again, amazing pics!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

July Daring Bakers Challenge - Swiss Swirl Ice Cream Cake!

I don't know why sometimes strange and unusual things pop into my head. This was one of them. When I first read about the July Daring Bakers Challenge Sunita hosted, immediately, I wanted to do it inside out. I couldn't get that out of my head.

I thought a lot about why you don't see more home cooks mixing ice cream flavors -even if you buy the different ice creams - now I know. It's not as easy as it sounds. As it turns out, rolling ice cream is actually pretty difficult. But, it is worth the effort.

The July 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Sunita of Sunita’s world – life and food. Sunita challenged everyone to make an ice-cream filled Swiss roll that’s then used to make a bombe with hot fudge. Her recipe is based on an ice cream cake recipe from Taste of Home. Thank you again, Sunita, for such an awesome challenge.

I didn't make Sunita's recipe, even though it looked tasty. AND, you didn't need an ice cream maker to make the ice cream. So, if you are looking for some wonderful variations on this theme, check out some of the folks over on the daring bakers blogroll for some highly creative ideas!

I rolled Almond custard ice cream in Raspberry Sorbet, and the middle is an Almond Ginger pound cake. Then I plated it all in a puddle of Hot Chocolate Ginger sauce. I chose a perfect time to make this - right before our first hot summer day here. So we had some ice cream to eat while it got up to 90 - yea, then it went back down to 70's and cloudy.

I was a little worried about the chocolate sauce, but it was great. I simply added ginger while I was heating the cream and I got a nice smooth ginger flavor infused with the chocolate.

I am not wishing I had taken pictures of the process of how I rolled the ice cream. But, I hope you can picture it. I guess I need to learn to "cook clean" (i.e. not get what I'm cooking over every surface of the kitchen while cooking) so I can start taking pictures of the process and not have them look messy.

What I did is, while I was making the sorbet in my ice cream maker, I lined a 9" square pan with saran wrap (aka cling film). After freezing that solid (and refreezing my ice cream maker), I made the almond ice cream, and placed that on top of the raspberry sorbet, and once again, froze it solid.

After that, I removed it from the pan, and began rolling, taking the wrap off as I rolled so I wouldn't roll the plastic wrap into the ice cream. It wasn't easy to roll it while it was frozen, but I didn't want the colors to bleed together. I froze it again until very solid. When I was ready, I lined a loaf pan with plastic wrap, then removed cut into 1/2" slices and lined the pan with the slices. Then, I sliced the pound cake to fit in the middle and refroze.

If I were to do this over, I would make both ice cream layers much smaller by placing the ice cream in a larger pan - maybe a 9x13 oblong pan. And, I would make sure to keep the middle ice cream layer rather thin.

Finally, I made a cake roll. My initial idea behind this was I was going to make another very small ice cream cake, but this was so good, we just ate it as is. This is my first experience with Pandan, and wow, is it tasty. It took me almost 2 weeks to even open the pandan preserves jar - mainly because of the color. Now, I'm frantically looking for pandan essence around here (without success) so I can try to make different things with it.

For this roll, I used my standard vanilla roll cake recipe, which I got from King Arthur Flour website. Then, I simply spread a very light layer of already prepared pandan preserves on it.

Here are the recipes:

Raspberry Sorbet
2 pints raspberries
2 T. lemon juice
1 cup cold simple syrup (made by heating equal parts sugar and water to boil, then cooling)
1 T. raspberry liquer (optional)

Puree raspberries in a food processor. Strain through a strainer fine enough to get the seeds out of the raspberries.

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Place in a prepared ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacture directions.

Almond Custard Ice Cream (adapted from Ina Garten)

4 egg yolks
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. cream
1 c. milk
2 T. almond liquer
1/2 c. toasted almonds

Beat the egg yolks and sugar until pale, about 3 minutes. Place the mixture in a sauce pan and heat on low to medium heat until mixture will coat the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes. Be very careful to not overcook the eggs. Slowly add the cream and milk. Strain mixture, then cool in refrigerator. When ready to add to your ice cream maker, add almond liquer and process according to manufacturers directions. Add toasted almonds immediately before freezing.

Almond Ginger Pound Cake

3/4 c. butter, softened
1 1/2 c. sugar
3 eggs
1 2/3 c. flour
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 t. almond extract
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/2 c. milk

Preheat oven to 350. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs, salt, almond extract, baking powder, and ginger. Slowly add milk, then gently stir in flour just until batter comes together.

Bake in a loaf pan 45 minutes to 1 hour, until golden brown, and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool on cooling rack until room temperature.

Dark Chocolate Ginger Sauce

2 oz. dark chocolate
3 T. cream
1/3 c. boiling water
1 c. sugar
1 t vanilla
3-5 ginger slices

Heat water to boiling and add ginger slices. Remove from heat and add sugar. Stir until all sugar is dissolved. Add chocolate and cream, and stir until chocolate is melted. Add vanilla. Remove ginger slices, and refrigerate until ready to serve. This is best served warm.

Vanilla Roll cake with Pandan Filling
adapted from King Arthur Flour

6 eggs
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. water
1/2 t. sugar
2 t. vanilla
1 c. unbleached all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 375. Line a 18x13 jelly roll pan with parchment, and lightly grease or spray parchment.

In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs and salt until light and foamy. Gradually add sugar while continuing to beat and beat for 3 minutes until very light and fluffy. Gently mix in water and vanilla. Gently fold in flour, making sure mixture is well combined.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 13-16 minutes, until cake is golden brown and edges are just beginning to brown. Remove from oven. Let cool 2 minutes, then carefully roll in a prepared towel ( is the best tutorial I could find).

How I do it is like this: Place another piece of parchment over the cake in the pan. Place a towel over that parchment. Invert onto a table, and gently get the cake out of the pan. Now, take the parchment that was in the pan off the cake, and invert onto the cake, and roll in the towel. Let cool.

Once cool, unroll and fill with your favorite preserves. Reroll and serve.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

An experiement in berry butters.

Well, this is one way to have fruit butters. But, not part of my experiment. I really wondered why people don't talk about blueberry or raspberry butter the way they talk about pear and apple butter.

Let me tell you about fruit butter, and my interpretation of what it is. The best thing I can think of to say is imagine applesauce, and how it's made - apples cooked down until they are turn into applesauce. Well, you get apple butter if you add some sugar and continue to cook it until it's a thick but spreadable consistency. You let enough water evaporate from your fruit during the cooking process to get a spreadable consistency of concentrated fruit. When I think fruit butter, that is what I'm thinking.

When I make fruit butters (not very often), I like to make my own, since I don't put a lot of sugar in it. Same as jams and jellies. When I make them, I put much much less sugar than what is recommended. I like to taste the fruit, not the sugar! I've made apricot butter before, but I have never even seen any kind of butters made with berries.

You're probably wondering why the pic if the fruit butter I'm talking about doesn't actually have any butter in it. Well, that's a bit hard to explain. For some reason, when I thought of fruit butter, I imagined different berries perched on top a stick of butter. So, of course, I had to try to photograph it. You could call it artistic license, or photography practice, whichever you prefer... I think I need to work on a new background instead of the stark black one I have now.

So I decided on an experiment - the experiment of berry butter. Since it is blueberry and raspberry season here, I decided to test these out, and see if they were good. I threw in mango butter at the last minute, because they looked good in the store. I wanted to both see if they could be made (and if they would be any good), and if they could be made with less sugar required than most recipes use for pear and apple butter.

Those are the finished products. They are blueberry on the left, mango in the middle, and raspberry on the right. Yes, the raspberry really is that dark. Since there isn't really much of a recipe as much as a process, let me tell you what I did.

My mom has a little dipper crock pot. It was perfect for my experiment. If you don't have one and want to test this out on your own, you can use a crock pot, or use a saucepan on the lowest heat on your stove. Crock pots are ideal for this, though, since you can basically turn it on the lowest setting and just remember to stir it every few hours. I used the little dipper because I didn't want to make very much, and crock pots are perfect, because your chances of burning are lower (at least I think they are).

First up - blueberry butter. My overall goal for this experiment was to see if it would taste any good once I had a butter consistency as well as reduce the amount of sugar required for each recipe. I learned a few things about blueberries - mainly that they have a TON of seeds, and the ones I bought weren't very sweet.

I started off with 2 lbs of blueberries that I pureed in a food processor. If you want to make blueberry butter, strain your berries after you process will thank me later, trust me. Also, that amount of blueberries require at least 1/2 cup of sugar - if not 1 cup. Yea, my blueberries were not sweet at all. But, I did add 1 T. lemon juice and a little bit of lemon zest to accent the blueberries.

Cook the blueberries on very low heat until they are very thick. In the mini crock pot, this took about 14 hours.

The result? Well, it wasn't very good. I can see adding it to something you wanted an intense blueberry flavor to, but I tried it plain and on a cracker, and didn't like it very much. I didn't strain mine, and the seeds were distracting, so if you want something intensely blueberry, strain it first. This is not something I would do again, though. I froze my results, and may add it into blueberry muffins the next time I make them with frozen blueberries.

Next up - raspberry butter. I used 2 pints of raspberries. I strained these, since I knew seeds would be an issue if I didn't. However, I only strained 1/2 of them to maintain more pulp in the final product. I only used 1/2 cup sugar for this, and let it cook for about 12 hours, stirring every few hours. While it tasted like highly concentrated raspberry jam, it's probably something else I wouldn't do again. I would use this in a cake filling though. I think it would be perfect to add to whipped cream of frosting to give a nice raspberry taste to your baked goods. Or to enhance the flavor of fresh raspberries in fillings.

Finally Mango butter. Since mangoes have a lot less water content than blueberries and raspberries, it needs a lot less cooking time, and a lot less sugar. I pureed 2 1/2 mangoes and added 1 T. lemon juice and 1/3 c. sugar. I let it cook about 8 hours, and it was very thick. The result? I actually really liked this. It tastes good on toast, and is something I would make again. It's really good, and the yummy mango flavor was preserved and enhanced.

So, for all of you that think this is too long...bottom line - blueberry butter NO, raspberry butter MAYBE, mango butter YES...

Next time I try this, I'm going to start with fresh fruit and butter...I actually have a few ideas that should work!

Friday, July 23, 2010

How to...roast garlic

Yum! I love garlic - in all forms...roast garlic is one of my favorite though. Just wanted to give a quick tip on exactly how to roast and keep roast garlic since it's great to have around the house.

Here's how I roast garlic. In a 350 degree oven...well, it can be 375 or 400. I usually put garlic in when I'm doing something else - like a casserole or baked potatoes.

They are easy to prepare for the oven. As you can see in the photo, you want to slice off the tops of the garlic bulbs, so all the cloves are exposed. I place mine in an aluminum foil "boat" of sorts - just a bunch of foil that is gathered into a lip around the sides so it won't spill in the oven.

Drizzle with some oil - not too much, just about 1/2 T. per bulb of garlic, and place in the oven for up to 1 hour. Take them out when they look like the picture. Let cool.

Now, what can you do with it?

Well, I like to use it in salad dressings, risotto, chicken. Anything really. It also makes a great dip for veggies or chips - mixed with some cream cheese and a few other things, of course...

It stores well. I like to store mine by the tablespoon full in the freezer. Once the cloves have cooled, I like to grab a bulb and squeeze all the cloves out - they come out in a paste consistency. Then, I place them on some waxed paper in tablespoonfuls and freeze. To use, I just pop one of those in the microwave and defrost, then use when I want to.

You can also make roast garlic oil. I like to add a bulb of roast garlic to 1/2 cup oil, and then heat the oil for about 5 minutes on medium heat. Store in the refrigerator and use it as you would use oil.

If you like garlic at all, this is a great thing to add to your pantry staples!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

2 different vinaigrettes and how to use one of them

Why, oh why, is vinaigrette so difficult for me to spell? Maybe for the same, yet unknown reason that salads have been difficult for me to eat?

I used to love salads - I would go to the farmers market on Thursdays, get fresh greens, fresh produce, go home and make a great salad. Maybe that's why - fresh produce is harder to find here than it was in So Cal. I don't know. I do know I have been in an I hate lettuce mode for well over a year now. So, yes, most of my salads have not had lettuce in them.

That doesn't mean I don't love vinaigrette. Homemade, it's the best. Now, I will admit, I like different tasting vinaigrettes - with nice asian flavors, or a bright lemony note. I have yet to find a bottled version that I like, and after researching around on salad dressings, I finally figured out why. It was something Ina Garten said - about proportions. The ones I like are all out of whack - not enough oil by far. But, I love it.

The first recipe I used over an orzo salad I took to my brothers house. It was one of only 4 days we have had over 80 degrees this year. The dressing was nice and light and complimented the tomatoes, basil, cucumber, and orzo perfectly. It was light and lemony and I loved it.

The next dressing was a bit different. Well, more than a bit different. I have been experimenting with some dressing that tasted unlike anything I had tasted to date. I think this one accomplished that. It has quite a bit of Asian flavorings, and sricha compliments that very well.

Lemony Vinaigrette

juice of 1 lemon (about 3 T.)
1 t. lemon zest
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1 T. rice wine vinegar
2 clove roast garlic, mashed
1/2 t. smoked paprika
2 t. dijon mustard

In a small bowl, whisk all ingredients. Taste with lettuce or cucumber and adjust flavorings to your taste buds.

This is great served with a salad of 3 cups orzo cooked in chicken broth, 2 small tomatoes (cut in small pieces), 1/2 english cucumber (seeded, peeled, and cut in small pieces), and 5-7 basil leaves chopped finely.

Sricha Vinaigrette

a few drops sricha, to taste
1/4 c. rice wine vinegar
1/3 c. vegetable oil
2 T. soy sauce
3 cloves roast garlic, mashed
1/2 t. pepper
pinch brown sugar
1/2 t. smoked paprika

Whisk all ingredients together and adjust to your tastes. Serve over fresh vegetables.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Husky Buns

What the heck is that? I thought that's what a lot of people would be asking right about now. But, bear with me while I explain...basically it's a whole bunch of deliciousness wrapped in a yeasty dough.

The huskies are the local (well, sort of) PAC 10 football team. If you want to call within 100 miles local, that is. How these buns got the name from the local team, I have no idea. Maybe husky dogs like taco meat, I don't know. Maybe this would be good tailgate food - I'm sure it would be, really. But, that is just speculation on my part. And, of course, if you know what husky buns are, these are a little bit different.

My brothers fiance, Fawn, first introduced me to husky buns. While I can not remember how the topic came up, I wanted to try to make them. The way these were explained to me is a filling of taco flavored beef and cheddar cheese, wrapped in a biscuit and baked. While that didn't sound hugely exciting, or even a lot appetizing, I was intrigued.

I made them once or twice, and they were ok, but they were kind of missing something. Maybe I had put too much taco spice in the beef, maybe I didn't put enough filling in the dough. I don't know, but they were definitely missing something. They were good, don't get me wrong. But, they weren't as good as char siu bao, or even the beef and mushroom buns I make during the winter. Then, I played around and found the answer - cream cheese. Adding cream cheese to the filling made a HUGE difference.

While these are the best just out of the oven, and just cool enough so you don't burn your mouth, you can also eat them at room temperature, so they are great to take in your lunch, or on a picnic. They also freeze very well, and can be reheated in a microwave at 75% power, wrapped in a damp paper towel.

Husky Buns

For the filling:

1 1/2 lb ground beef (I use 90/10, but 85/15 is fine as well)
1 package taco seasoning mix
2/3 c. shredded cheddar cheese
8 oz. cream cheese

In a medium saucepan, cook ground beef thoroughly. Add taco seasoning 1 cup water, and reduce to simmer until almost dry. Cool thoroughly. Combine with cheeses.

For the dough:

1 T. yeast (1 package)
1 cup warm milk
1/2 c. butter
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. warm water (should be slightly warm to touch)
4-6 cups flour
1/2 t. salt

In a large bowl, combine water, sugar, and yeast. Let rest until bubbly. If yeast doesn't bubble, your yeast is bad and you need to start over with new ingredients. Add milk, butter, and 2 cups flour. Stir until well mixed. Add salt, and flour, 1/2 cup at a time, while you mix. Stop adding flour when dough is no longer very sticky. Knead in a mixer or by hand for 5-10 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic.

Place kneaded dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turning to lightly oil top of dough. Cover with a towel and place in a warm, draft free place and let rise until double, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured board. Gently press air out of dough. Divide dough into 12 pieces. For each piece, roll into a large oval, making sure the edges of the dough is thinner than the middle. This will assure that when you pinch the filling inside the dough, the bottom of your dough won't be much thicker than the top.

Place 1/4 cup filling in the center of each oval. Pinch the inside the dough, and place on a cookie sheet pinched side down. Repeat until all your dough is filled. Let rise until doubled in volume. Brush with a mixture of 1 T. honey and 2 T. very hot water. Bake in a preheated 375 oven for 20-25 minutes until very golden. Cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

July Daring Cooks Challenge - Nut butters!

Doesn't that sound intriguing? I thought so. It could be due to my life long love of Peanut Butter, but I was really excited about this challenge.

The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.

The challenge was to create a nut butter of your choice and use it in a savory (not sweet) dish. Commonly found in a number of Asian and African countries, different nut butters provide another complex note in sauces, add protein and flavor, and can be used to replace dairy and other fats in dishes.

When I was a vegan for a few years, nut butters was one of my main protein sources. However, I had never made my own. Wow, was that an oversight. I loved these, and couldn't keep my spoon out of the almond butter. I used it on toast with cinnamon for quite a few breakfasts. I chose to make 4 nut butters - all from toasted nuts - cashew, almond, hazelnut, and peanut. Those are from the left in the picture.

Did I mention I can't tell my left from my right? Yes, I double checked the picture and asked a friend about the direction, so that's right (I think).
I was surprised to taste the cashew butter in an Chicken Noodle sauce (pictured above). After making the butters, this was the first thing I made. It had a smooth, rich taste that was surprising to me. Combined with other flavors in the sauce, I could barely tell it was cashew.

My sauce is a little different colored because I added a bit too much carrot, smoked paprika, and sricha. All in all, this was a great meal. The cashew sauce was filling, but didn't feel as heavy as my tradional peanut spaghetti. And, it was full of vegetables, which I loved.

My next dish was another savory dish - my peanut spaghetti recipe. This is one of my go to meals. It's quick, it's filling, and most of the time, I just eat that and a salad for dinner. This time, I sauteed some shrimp and placed them on top of the dish, and it was a great addition.

I like to stir some of the sauce throughout the spaghetti, then place some on top for a finishing touch. It's a great filling meal when you are in a hurry. The sauce keeps well in the refrigerator for a few weeks, up to a month.

This is my final recipe for this month, and boy, was it a good one. I wanted to make some cookies, and thought that hazelnut would taste the best. However, the hazelnuts I used I couldn't get all the skins off, and they didn't process as completely smooth as the other nut butters. I was a bit worried about the texture when I put it in a cookie.

The answer - oatmeal! These cookies are rich, yet delicate, and practically disappeared from my house. Yes, they were that good. They tasted like hazelnuts, but in a very good way. They weren't too sweet, and just melted in my mouth. I loved did my family.

So how do you make nut butter? Simple. Just toss some nuts in a food processor, and process until smooth. You can add salt to taste if you want. And, if you want a smoother butter, you can add some oil. I added about 1 T. oil per cup of nuts. You should keep in mind that your nut butter yield is about 1/2 of the amount of nuts. For example, if I use 2 cups of peanuts, it should yield 1 cup of peanut butter.

I also chose to toast all the nuts I used. I feel it gives a richer flavor. Simply spread them out to a single layer on a cookie sheet, place in a 350 oven, and roast for about 10 minutes, or until you can smell the nuts. Remove, cool, and make your nut butter.

Chicken Cashew Noodles

1 cup, or 2 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
1/2 lb. mushrooms
1/2 c. carrots, chopped into 1/2" pieces
1/2 c. celery, chopped into 1/2" pieces
4 scallions, chopped
1/2 c. snow peas, chopped
1/2 lb. fettucinni, cooked according to package directions

Cashew sauce:
½ inch (1 cm) slice of fresh ginger, chopped
8 cloves garlic, more or less to taste, chopped
½ cup (120 ml) cashew butter
¼ cup (60 ml) soy sauce
3 Tablespoons (45 ml) brown sugar
3 Tablespoons (45 ml) vinegar
2 Tablespoons (30 ml) toasted sesame oil
1 t. smoked paprika
¼ cup plus 1 Tablespoon (75 ml) water
Hot sauce to taste (optional)

For the cashew sauce: Combine all ingredients except water into a food processor and process until very smooth, adding the water as needed for consistency. Can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days until ready to serve.

For the noodles: In a saute pan, heat 1 T. oil, and fry each vegetable (except scallions) separately until lightly cooked. Combine all ingredients in a pan and toss. Add sauce as needed until evenly coated everything. I used almost 1/2 of the sauce for this, and added 2 T. water.

Serve with scallions.

Peanut Spaghetti (serves 4)

For the sauce:
1 can coconut milk
2 T. thai red curry paste
1/2 T. soy sauce or fish sauce
2 T. cider vinegar
3/4 c. peanut butter
1/2 c. water
1 t. sricha, optional

For the shrimp:

1 lb. 21-30 shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 T. vegetable oil
2 T. lime juice
1 t. old bay seasoning

1 lb. cooked spaghetti, prepared according to package directions, reserving up to 1/2 c. pasta water
2 scallions, chopped

For the sauce - combine all ingredients for the sauce in a saucepan and heat for 3-5minutes until almost boiling. Can be stored in refrigerator up to 1 month.

For the shrimp: Heat the oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Cook shrimp until just pink. Remove to a bowl and lightly coat with lime juice and seasoning.

For the spaghetti: Coat the spaghetti in 1/4 of the sauce mixture until well combined, adding pasta water if needed for the right consistency. Serve with shrimp and scallions.

Oatmeal Hazelnut Cookies

1/2 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. roasted hazelnut butter
2/3 c. oatmeal
2 t. hazelnut liquer
1 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
1 egg
1/2 t. salt
2/3 c. brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350. In a mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add egg and hazelnut butter. Mix until very well combined. Add remaining ingredients and stir until just combined. Each cookie should be approximately 1 tablespoon of dough, and flattened slightly on baking sheet. Don't worry, these won't spread. Bake for 10-12 minutes until very light brown. Let cool on cookie sheet.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Cinnamon Rolls

Or if you prefer with some icing:

Imagine waking up to the smell of fresh cinnamon - there's really not much better than that. While I like to make these and reheat them in the morning, you can easily proof them in the refrigerator and bake them in the morning. They are just as good...well, maybe better because, after all, they are the ultimate breakfast.

These were soooo good! Sometimes I feel like I have been making cinnamon rolls my entire life. It's one of the first things I made when I started playing with yeast when I was in junior high school, and I still make them for my mom on occasion today.

These are great - they are soft and sweet and cinnamony - Just the way I like them. While Mom eats them plain, for me, I love them with tons of Cream Cheese Frosting.

I've tried many things with this recipe, but the one that made the most difference was using brown sugar in the filling rather than white sugar. That, and finding some great cinnamon. I can't stress enough to, at the very least, use fresher cinnamon - not the stuff that you stole from your Mom's pantry that she got for her wedding - find the good stuff. If you want to stick to the Supermarket brands, Spice Islands is pretty good. I use Cassia Cinnamon I buy from Penzey's. I've never been disappointed by spices I buy from Penzey's - whether by catalog or store.

Cinnamon Rolls

1 T. yeast (1 package)
1 cup warm milk
1/2 c. butter
1 t. salt
1/2 c. sugar
1 egg
4-5 c. flour


1 cup brown sugar
1/4 t. nutmeg
3 T. cinnamon
1/3 to 1/2 c. butter, softened


1/2 lb. powdered sugar
4 oz. cream cheese
1/4 c. butter
pinch salt
1 t. vanilla
up to 1/4 c. cream

For the rolls

In a large bowl, combine 2 cups flour, sugar, egg, butter, yeast, salt, and milk. Mix until all ingredients are well combined. Continue adding up to 1/2 c. flour at a time until dough is workable, but still a bit sticky. Knead until smooth and elastic either with a dough hook or on a floured board. Put dough in another bowl, and cover. Let rise until double in volume.

After rising, turn onto lightly floured board and gently deflate. Roll into a 20 inch by 16 inch rectangle. Spread softened butter along dough in a thin layer, sprinkle brown sugar over butter, and cinnamon over brown sugar. Roll filling lightly into dough. Starting with the 20" side, roll dough, and gently pinch dough shut. Cut with a sharp knife into 10 equal rolls.

Place parchment paper or generously butter a 13x9x2 baking pan. Place cinnamon rolls in the pan, not touching one another. Cover and let rise until double.

Preheat oven to 375. Bake cinnamon rolls in the middle of the oven for aproximately 25-30 minutes, until golden brown. Remove and cool until just warm. Frost with cream cheese frosting.

For frosting:

Combine cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and salt. Beat until combined. Add cream, 1 T. at a time and whip until desired consistency. When adding the cream, it's best to beat for one full minute with each tablespoon addition to let the sugar absorb the cream, and whip some air into the frosting.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Weeknight Mustard Chicken

We are all looking for quick and easy weeknight recipes, right? Well, this is one of them. This chicken recipe can be made in 20 minutes flat, from basic pantry ingredients. The side dish of roast broccoli takes a bit longer in the oven, but not much - which is great, considering you can use fresh or frozen broccoli for it.

I really like dijon mustard with chicken. It's a great flavor combination. For the chicken, I coat it in a dijon sauce, then with flour and fry in a non-stick pan. You can use chicken breasts or chicken tenders. If you use chicken breasts, you will want to cut them in about 3 pieces each so they will cook faster. I usually have some chicken breasts in the freezer for a quick dinner, and because I use them a lot. I keep an eye on grocery store sales, and buy either breasts or tenders, whichever is cheaper at the time.

When I'm frying things, I like to put my seasonings in the liquid part of the breading. This sort of protects the spices, allowing them to season the dish without burning.

The sauce is a very basic mustard sauce, made with pantry staples. I realize I've shown a meal for 2 with only one fork, but I think you get the idea of what the finished dish looks like.

The broccoli is even easier, Just coat in some vegetable or olive oil and put in a hot oven until the edges start to brown. Serve with some parmesan, and that's all you need.

Quick Mustard Chicken

2 chicken breasts, cut into thirds, or 4-6 chicken tenders
3 T. dijon mustard
2 T. milk
1/2 t. pepper
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 T. vegetable oil

Heat vegetable oil on a medium to medium high burner. Combine mustard, milk, salt, pepper, and garlic powder in one bowl. Put flour in another bowl. Coat each chicken piece with the mustard mixture, followed by flour. Put oil in pan and then place the chicken in the pan, turning after 3 minutes. Cook until chicken is completely cooked.

Mayonnaise Mustard Sauce

3 T. dijon mustard
2 T. sour cream
1 t. lemon juice
1/2 t. salt
2 T. mayonnaise
1 t. honey

Combine all ingredients and serve. Can be stored chilled for a few weeks.

Oven Roasted Broccoli

1 lb fresh broccoli, or 1 package frozen
2 T. olive oil
3/4 t. salt
1/4 c. shaved parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 450. Toss together broccoli and oil in a baking pan, sprinkle with salt. Bake at 450 for 10-25 minutes, until edges of broccoli start to turn brown or black. Sprinkle with shaved parmesan and serve

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Angel Food Cake - or wrestling with silicone

Just in time for the warmer weather and an extended strawberry/raspberry season!

Yes, this doesn't look perfect, and yes it was frustrating to make, but it was so good! Perfect with some sliced strawberries.

I did make a few mistakes with this recipe, however. I bought an individual angel food cake form a while ago. This was the first time I used it. It's silicone, and holds 6 mini cakes, which is perfect, since the recipe I found on perfectly fits into these tins.

Getting them out, however, proved to be a struggle. As suggested for a full size angel food cake, I let it cook upside down. I put this on a baking rack, and it rested for over an hour. It was rather difficult to get out of the pan. I only ended up sacrificing one, but there were 2 more that were in tact, but a bit squished. Well, they all were a bit squished, but 2 were more than the others. The easiest way I found is to try to turn the mold almost inside out, without squishing the cake. Yea, told you it wasn't easy...

This recipe, however, is great. It's not too sweet, and has just the right amount of every ingredient. I mentioned earlier I got it from - I just slightly modified it by changing the extracts. I don't really care for much almond extract, so I use vanilla only when making this for strawberries.

It's very important you use room temperature egg whites. It makes a HUGE difference. If you fold your ingredients in on the last step and lose a lot of volume, your egg whites were way too cold. Or, you are an overmixer, but that is another story. If I had to list the top two things that contribute to angel food cake failures, I would list not using room temperature egg whites on that list - the other one is making sure your bowl is clean and dry, and there is NO FAT anywhere close to your batter - not on the pan, not on your spatulas, not in your bowl.

Before I give you the recipe, I also want to mention one thing - a great way to make the strawberries to go on the top. I love to slice 2/3 of the strawberries, and mash the rest. It gives you a few textures and maximizes the strawberriness. I add a little sugar - not a lot, but always to taste, a pinch of salt (kosher salt or sea salt), and a few tablespoons of orange liquer or orange juice. I think the orange provides an excellent boost to the strawberries as well. If you are looking for something more savory, you can add cassis or balsamic vinegar.

Angel Food Cake

1 1/2 c. cake flour, sifted
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
12 large egg whites, or about 12 eggs worth, at room temperature
1 t. cream of tarter
1/2 t. kosher salt
1 T. lemon juice (you can use any citrus here, really)
2 t. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350. Have a 10" tube pan or 6-8 individual angel food cake pans ready. You can also bake this in 2 loaf pans if you prefer loaf cake.

In a very clean bowl, begin whipping the egg whites with a whisk attachment to your mixer. Whisk until lightly foamy. While whisking, add cream of tarter, salt, and lemon juice. Continue whipping until soft peaks form. Once soft peaks have been reached, continue whipping and add 3/4 cup sugar, 1 T. at a time, making sure sugar is fully incorporated. Add vanilla.

With a spatula or a balloon whisk, fold sifted flour and remaining sugar gently into the batter. It's best to fold about 1/4 of the dry ingredients into the batter at a time. Be very careful not to deflate your egg whites.

Gently place into pans, and smooth the tops. Place in the oven. Bake individual cakes for about 35 minutes, and large cake for 45 minutes. Cakes are done when the top lightly springs back when touched. Do not overbake. Remove from oven.

It's best to cool the cake upside down - the large cake resting on a bottle, the smaller cakes resting upside down on cooling racks. Don't worry, chances are they won't fall out.

Monday, July 5, 2010


What's more yummy than donuts? Yes, they are a project, but home made donuts are much much better than their grocery store counterparts. These were part of a donut tasting the next day, but believe me, the donuts are much better about 10 minutes after taking them out of the oil.

The one bad thing about donuts is - in order to justify using all that oil to fry donuts, I wanted to make a TON. The good news is they were delicious! I made some for my mom to take to one of her brothers and he loved them too!

What I did required a lot of planning. I made two kinds of donuts - yeast ones, and old fashioned. While I preferred the old fashion ones and the yeasty donut holes, once I got my method down of frying the donuts, the regular ones were just as good.

When frying donuts, it's always good to have a cooling rack on a cookie sheet to place the donuts on when coming out of the oil. Once cooled, you can move them to another rack to cool to room temperature before frosting.

I think it's easiest (and tasty) to use glazes for donuts. That creates that nice thin coating of sugary goodness that you have come to expect from donuts. I have included 3 glazes - chocolate, maple, and vanilla bean. Ideally, you want your glaze to be just the consistency when you dip the donut into the glaze, after taking it out, you are left with a thin coating. The consistency of the glaze takes a bit of practice, but after the 3rd or 4th donut, it's easy to know what you want for consistency.

If you decide to take on this challenge, it's more fun with a friend or two - you can make a donut party! And, don't worry if you don't have a donut cutter. I don't. I used 2 circle cutters I have from a collection of round cutters - that's a great investment, by the way.

A word on oil - I use vegetable oil in a very large heavy pot. The pot I use is about 7" deep, and I think is some sort of painted cast iron. Always leave at least 3" space between the surface of the oil and the top of the pan. The best way to tell the temperature of oil is with a candy or oil thermometer. And finally, the best way to heat oil is to heat to medium, then medium high, then increase the heat slowly to get to the proper temperature.

Once you are ready to fry, make sure your entire workspace is prepared before you put anything in the oil. Have somewhere you can safely put your fried donuts, have the lid to the pot close by, and have your fire extinguisher close just in case. Have tools you feel comfortable with to both flip and remove the donuts from the oil. Be careful when you are putting things in the oil and don't drop them in the oil - gently place them there to avoid splashing.

Yeast Donuts

1 cup milk
1 T. yeast
1/2 c. warm water
1/4 c. butter
1/2 c. sugar
1 egg
3 1/2 c. flour
1 t. salt
Oil for frying
Glaze, as desired, or mixture of cinnamon/sugar

Dissolve yeast in warm water with 1 t. of the sugar. Wait 5-10 minutes to see if yeast turns foamy. If it does, you are ready to go. If yeast doesn't foam after 15-20 minutes, you need new yeast.

In a mixing bowl, combine yeast mixture, butter, sugar, egg, milk, salt, and 2 c. flour. Mix until well incorporated. Add remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time until dough starts is no longer sticky. Knead for 5-10 minutes. Place dough in a greased bowl, lightly oiling surface, and let proof in warm place for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until doubled in volume.

Turn dough out onto floured board, and roll to 1/4" thick. Cut into donut shapes, and set aside to rise on a lightly floured surface. Let rise until double. While rising, heat 3" vegetable oil in a heavy deep cooking skillet or heavy stock pot. I have a large glazed pot that is perfect for this.

Fry donuts in 350 degree oil, 2 minutes on each side until lightly golden. Cool to warmer than room temperature before you glaze. If you are coating them in cinnamon sugar mixture, place them in the mixture while still hot.

Old Fashioned Donuts

1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 t. baking soda
2 T. butter
1 t. baking powder
1/2 cup milk
1 t. vanilla
1/4 t. nutmeg
3 cups all purpose flour

In a bowl, combine sugar, eggs, buttermilk, butter, vanilla, milk, and nutmeg. Mix until well combined. Add baking soda and baking powder and 2 cups flour. Continue adding flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until mixture is a stiff dough, and no longer sticky.

Roll out on a floured board to 1/2" thick. Cut into a donut shape, and let rest for 10 minutes. Fry in 350 oil for 3 minutes on each side until golden brown.

Cinnamon Sugar

1/2 c. sugar
2 T. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg

Maple glaze

2 cups powdered sugar
3 T. pure maple syrup

Mix sugar and maple syrup together until glaze consistency, adding more syrup or sugar as needed to achieve the consistency you want

Chocolate glaze

2 cups powdered sugar
1 T. butter
1 t. vanilla
1 t. coffee
1/4 c. cocoa powder
2 T. milk

Combine all ingredients but milk, adding milk a few drops at a time until glaze consistency.

Vanilla Bean glaze

2 cups powdered sugar
1 T. butter
2 t. vanilla paste
2-3 T. milk

Combine all ingredients but milk, adding milk a little at a time until you have reached the right consistency.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Side dish ideas for outdoor entertaining

Looking for something a bit different to serve at your next outdoor gathering? I have 2 side dishes for you to consider. Both very different, but each has fans!

The first is called Texas Caviar. It's traditionally served as a dip with tortilla chips, which my family quickly devoured. I'm showing it without the traditional tortilla chips, because the leftovers make a great cold salad, by themselves, or mixed with some different vegetables - I mixed it with cucumbers, avocado, and mushrooms.

Mine came out a bit soupy as you can see from the picture, but I drained it a little bit before serving and it was great. Mine was soupy because I didn't seed the tomatoes, and used frozen corn, since the fresh didn't look good the day I went shopping.

Now, I love chips and dip as a quick appetizer for when the family comes over. They are fans as well. However, I was looking for a variation that didn't include a lot of cheese, sour cream, or mayo, and didn't have avocados in it. I also wanted something a bit different than traditional salsa's, since I think those were getting a bit boring.

I wanted something a bit different, and remembered a dish I ate once when I lived in So. Cal. After scouring the internet for decent recipes, I came up with my own. I was worried about serving this to my family - I didn't know how well the black eyed peas would be received by my family, but everyone loved it.

This is a quick and easy salad I have been serving for a very long time. It's main component is Chicken Rice a Roni. As you can see, I added a bit too much mayonaise to mine, but the recipe shows a reduction in the amount of mayo. This is surprisingly good, and I've had people eat it that hate rice a roni. It's a nice change of pace from traditional potato or macaroni salad if you are looking for a change of pace. If you like this salad, you can make it quite a few ways, adding different vegetables to suit your taste. You can also add diced chicken or cooked beans to make a complete meal.

Revised Texas Caviar

1 can black eyed peas, drained well (this is just under 1 2/3 cups)
1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1/2 anaheim pepper, diced finely
1 large tomato (about 1 cup), finely diced
2/3 c. zesty italian salad dressing
1/3 c. sweet onion, diced
1/2 t. pepper
small dash sricha hot sauce
1/2 t. garlic powder
2 t. apple cider vinegar
1/2 t. smoked paprika

In a large bowl, mix pepper, hot sauce, italian dressing, vinegar, and smoked paprika. Gently fold in remaining ingredients, being careful to not break up the ingredients too much. Although you can serve immediately, it's better if you let this sit in the refrigerator up to 24 hours before service. Serve with tortilla chips.

Rice a roni Salad

1 package chicken rice a roni, cooked according to package directions and cooled
1/3 to 1/2 c. mayonnaise
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 can medium pitted black olives, sliced
1/4 t. pepper
3 green onions, finely diced
1/2 t. rice vinegar or 1 t. lemon juice

In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients until combined. Refrigerate. Serve cold.