September 29, 2010

Montana Vacation 2010

I just got back from my Montana vacation!  We went there to surprise my grandmother for her 90th birthday.  This view is from her yard.  Isn't it beautiful?

We visited my three friends from high school who all live very different lives from one another.  It was so nice to catch up with everyone.  It was even better to see the look on my grandma's face when she saw all the family members that were there for her!

My dad called these cattle to the fence.  No, they aren't our cattle.  How did he call? I don't think I can even describe how he called them.  It could have been that they were all just standing around that tree to get out of the sun.  But they totally stood up when he called them.  Then they all started mooing.  It was a sight to see.

There they are, mooing.

There's a woodpecker.  This is the closest I've ever seen one!

This is my friends husband; not the dog - the guy driving the tractor.  :)

It was just my daughter and I on this trip and it was very memorable.  We flew to Denver where we met my dad.  Then we drove from Denver to Casper, WY where we spent the night before heading to Livingston the next day.  We had to hide out a little so my grandmother wouldn't see us in town.  I love small towns.  Actually, the entire town knew about the party and nobody told her!!  Can you believe it?
Anyway, my daughter and I got to see a lot of good friends and neighbors I haven't seen in years!  I so miss it there.  We stayed for 6 days and then flew home yesterday.  I think my daughter got some very good quality family time; I know I did!  I hope you enjoyed this small recap.  I'll be back to cooking and baking very soon!

September 17, 2010

Fancy Potatoes

Cheese/Potato/Casserole - quite possibly three of my favorite words in cooking.  As a side note, I think using half Yukon Gold and half Russet potato's make some of the BEST mashed potatoes.  Do that here if you can.  I only had Russets on hand bad.  The recipe says to cook the potatoes and then let them cool and then chop them up.  I just chopped them up to begin with and saved myself a couple extra steps.

In a mixing bowl put two 8 ounce packages of cream cheese - softened.

To this add some sour cream.

After the potatoes have cooked and are fork tender, drain them and then add them to the cream cheese/sour cream mixture. Add a dash of garlic sale and then mix together on medium speed until smooth.

Place this mixture into a 9x13 inch dish.

Top with cheddar cheese.  My mouth is watering.

Bake at 350 degrees until the cheese is melted and the potato's are starting to brown.  Serve hot!  Wasn't that easy? 

The original recipe can be found here: Fancy Potatoes

What you'll need:

5 large potatoes
2 - 8 ounce cream cheese, softened
1 Cup sour cream
1 pinch of garlic salt
2 Cups shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cube the potatoes and cook in salted water until tender.  Once cooked, put on a cookie sheet until they've cooled a bit.

In a mixing bowl add the softened cream cheese, sour cream and garlic salt.  Add the cooled potatoes and mix until smooth.  Transfer the mixture to a 9x13 inch baking dish and top with the cheddar cheese.
Bake for about 20 minutes.

September 16, 2010

Angel Food Cake

I finally did it!!  I finally made a really good Angel Food Cake!  Some of you out there might be thinking, "I've been making them for years, what's the big deal?"  I've never been successful at making one.  They always turn out too hard, to sticky, not flavorful, etc. etc.  I recently had a lot of eggs I needed to use up and I knew I would need a lot for this cake; so I searched for every other kind of recipe I could think of to use up these eggs in hopes that I wouldn't have to resort to Angel Food Cake; but alas it was meant to be.  Some of the steps seem silly but who cares! It works!

I hope you have a lot of eggs on hand.  This recipe calls for 12 egg whites but then says that it needs to equal 1 1/2 cups - which 11 eggs did for me.

Pour the eggs into your mixing bowl and let sit for about 30 minutes so they can come up to room temperature.

Sift the flour and the confectioner sugar together THREE times.  Why three? I have no idea but that's what the directions said to do and that's what I did!

Add some Cream of Tarter

Then add some vanilla

Now some Almond Extract

A tiny bit of salt

Beat the egg white mixture on high speed and then gradually add the sugar.

Beat this until stiff peaks form. This is so glossy and beautiful. Egg whites and I haven't been very good friends in the past.  I see a future for us now.

Slowly fold the flour/confectioners sugar mixture to the egg whites. Be very gentle.  The eggs whites are sensitive.  

Spoonful by spoonful; put the mixture into a bundt pan.

Take a knife and run it through the mixture to release any air bubbles.

Isn't it purdy.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40 - 45 minutes.  Geez, it's a work of art I tell ya.

Straight from the oven, invert the bundt pan on a cooling rack and leave there to cool completely.

This isn't quite as pretty, I needed to use a butter knife to get the cake to release from the pan.

Anything can be beautified with whipped cream and strawberries on top, don't you agree?  I got thumbs up reviews from my husband and my toddler.  I would have to say, this is just like the one's I usually buy from the supermarket.  Very moist inside, flavorful, perfect. 

Here's where you can find the recipe: Heavenly Angel Food Cake

September 14, 2010

Ranch Dressing

I have to admit that I've been making this ranch dressing for quite a while now; and until recently it hadn't occurred to me to actually blog about it.  I have no idea why.  Everyone who tries it loves it.  So, my reason for telling you all this is because the pictures you are going to see (see example above) suck.  I'm just trying not to sugar coat it.  Don't expect anything fantastic here.  In fact, I won't be offended if you just skip down to the recipe below.  Oh, and I should also mention that this recipe is made to my liking but feel free to add more, less or none at all of what you like/don't like.

OK, lets begin:

You'll need 1 cup of mayo.  NOT Miracle Whip!

Add to that, 1/2 a cup of Sour Cream.

You'll need all of these spices, or you can use fresh but keep in mind that you'll need more fresh spices to achieve the same taste as dried.  I recommend dried here.  It'll stay looking much prettier in the refrigerator than fresh.

It's all about looking pretty after all.

Buttermilk to thin it out.  This recipe is a dip or a dressing.  If you are using it as a dip you don't need the buttermilk, or at least not as much of it.  As a dressing however you TOTALLY need it.

That's all the pictures I took.  See? Sucky.

Here's the recipe:

1 Cup Mayonnaise
1/2 Cup Sour Cream
2 Tbsp Dried Chives
1 tsp Dried Parsley
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp Onion Powder
1/2 tsp Dried Dill
1 Cup (or more) of Buttermilk

Put ingredients into a bowl (a mason jar works fantastic here) and stir/shake until mixed well. Enjoy.

September 9, 2010

Chicken and Noodles

I recently found this recipe on one of my favorite websites and knew I'd be trying it immediately.  I found I had to make some slight adjustments to her recipe but overall it turned out so wonderfully that I'll be making it several times this fall/winter.  She has this in her "comfort food" category and I would completely agree.  It makes me warm and sleepy just thinking about it.

As you can see, I did skip a couple of pictures but I'm assuming you already know how to cut up carrots and celery.  If I'm wrong - please visit the link above for the original recipe because she very thoroughly explains how to do it.
First things first - you'll need a big stock pot filled with water.  The original recipe called for 4 quarts of water which is what I used, but next time I'm going to decrease this to 3 quarts.
Place a whole cut-up fryer chicken in the water and boil for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes remove the chicken from the pot and begin to debone it. Shred the meat as you go along and place the meat on a plate for use a little later.

Now, put the bones back into the pot and bring to a boil, then turn to low and simmer for 45 minutes.
While the bones are cooking, you will want to cut up your carrots and celery.  Onion is optional but I didn't add it.  Also, I recommend you leave the lid off the pot while the bones are cooking because you need some of the water to evaporate.  This might have been my mistake, I left it on and had to use a lot more thickener at the end. 

I found it very helpful to pre-measure the spices while the bones were cooking also.  On this plate you've got Salt, Turmeric, White Pepper, Parsley Flakes, and Ground Thyme.  FYI - at the end I ended up adding a lot more salt but I suggest you start with this and keep checking it as you go.

After 45 minutes remove the bones and discard.

Now add in your carrots and celery. Pour in the herbs and spices and let simmer for about 10 minutes.

Turn the heat up and add the frozen egg noodles....

....and the chicken.  At this point you have a delicious Chicken Noodles Soup and if that's how you'd like to leave it, feel free.  However, you're missing out on the delicious gravy if you stop here.  Continue on if you dare.

In a separate dish mix the flour and the water until you get a smooth texture.  Pour the mixture into the soup and cook for about 5 minutes.  I ended up having to add this mixture in two additional times to get it thick enough.

One of my favorite soups for sure, the leftovers were amazing.  Definitely a winter time comfort food that I plan to make every year.

PW's Homemade Chicken and Noodles

  • 1 whole cut up fryer chicken
  • 2 whole carrots, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1/2 medium whole onion, diced (optional)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground thyme
  • 2 tsp parsley flakes
  • 16 oz package frozen homestyle egg noodles
  • 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
Cooking Directions
  1. In a large pot, place the chicken and cover with 4 quarts of water. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce the heat to simmer and cook for 30 minutes.
  2. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon (or two) and remove the bones from the meat. Add the bones back to the broth and simmer for 45 minutes.
  3. Slightly shred the meat and set aside.
  4. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bones from the broth, be sure to look for any small bones that might be in there.
  5. Add the vegetables to the broth and the seasonings and simmer for 10 more minutes.
  6. Turn up the heat and add the frozen egg noodles and the chicken, cook for 8-10 more minutes.
  7. Mix the flour with a little water until smooth. Add the mix to the soup and let cook for 5 minutes or until the desired thickness is reached.
  8. Taste and adjust the seasonings and then serve hot.

September 7, 2010

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

Guess what I made for our Memorial Day Party?  Oh, you guessed it, you're so smart.  I'm a fan of Chocolate and Peanut Butter coupled together, are you? OK, well these will make you very happy.  They aren't difficult and oh so yummy.  The frosting texture is different then you'd expect from your everyday average glossy frosting, but it melts in your mouth.  I hope you'll give em a whirl.

Let's start with the cupcakes, this is a very simple Hershey recipe.  The nice thing about this recipe is you can add all the dry ingredients in a bowl, and then just pile the wet ingredients right on top of that.  One bowl, I love it.

Start with the sugar.  2 cups.

Next, add the flour.

Now the star of the show, the chocolate.

You must have baking powder ya know.

Surprisingly you have to have baking soda too.

Now a touch of salt. Salt and chocolate are yummy together. Oh who am I kidding, chocolate and anything are yummy together.

Now frantically stir; like my two year old is demonstrating.  Just kidding, well this is my two year old but she just likes to stir stuff.  Although, you probably should give this a nice gentle stir just to incorporate all the ingredients.

Now add the eggs

and the milk...

...then the oil...

vanilla, and hot water (not pictured).

Begin by turning your mixer on the lowest speed until things start to combine.  This mixture will be runny so don't fret.

I transferred this into a bowl with a pour spout to simplify things.

Hopefully you've got some cupcake cups ready.

Fill the cups 3/4 of the way, then pop them in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

Aren't they lovely?

Now for the frosting.  In this bowl is a stick of butter (that's 1/2 cup) and 1 cup of creamy peanut butter.

Slowly incorporate the powdered sugar...

and the milk until it's creamy.  Then beat for an additional 3 minutes until it's nice and fluffy.

You can see the color has lightened a little and the texture has changed.

Now frost your cooled cupcakes. 

The cupcakes are very moist and chocolaty, and the frosting just melts in your mouth.  Great combination, wish I'd thought of it. The recipes are below.

Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Recipe: Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake

2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.

2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.

3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with "PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE" CHOCOLATE FROSTING. 10 to 12 servings.

Line muffin cups (2-1/2 inches in diameter) with paper bake cups. Heat oven to 350°F. Fill cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely. Frost. About 30 cupcakes.

Fluffy Peanut Butter Frosting: Peanut Butter Frosting

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons milk, or as needed
2 cups confectioners' sugar

Place the butter and peanut butter into a medium bowl, and beat with an electric mixer. Gradually mix in the sugar, and when it starts to get thick, incorporate milk one tablespoon at a time until all of the sugar is mixed in and the frosting is thick and spreadable. Beat for at least 3 minutes for it to get good and fluffy.