March 29, 2013

Dressed-up Coconut Macaroons



I know what you're thinking.  OK, actually I have no idea what you're thinking.  Why dress up a perfectly delicious macaroon? Because I can. Because it's pretty. Because it's perfect for Easter!

I'm a big fan of coconut and I know that some people don't like it at all, if you're one of those people then you won't like this recipe. 

If you're still with me then you're in for a very big sugar high to start out long sugar filled weekend. Macaroons are already pretty darn sweet, dip them in white chocolate and add sugary sprinkles and you've got yourself a jolt for sure. I think a nice dark chocolate would work very well here if you want to tone it down a bit. 


I love seasonal sprinkles, such an easy and cute way to decorate.


I love the macaroons all by themselves, I sampled a small piece before dipping them and they are golden and crunchy on the outside but chewy and moist on the inside.  Definitely a keeper even if you don't want to "dress them up".

Happy Easter everyone!

Coconut Macaroons
Recipe from Ina Garten


Ingredients
  • 14 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
  • 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large egg whites at room temperature
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or other non-stick liner.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the coconut, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla. Mix thoroughly.
  4. In the bowl of your stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites and salt until stiff peaks form.
  5. Carefully add the egg white mixture into the coconut mixture and fold together.
  6. Use a 1 and 3/4 inch cookie scoop to place the mixture on the prepared cookie sheet.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown, cool and serve.
Additional Items needed to "Dress-up" your macaroons: 

  • 2 - 4 oz white chocolate bars, melted over a double boiler
  • sprinkles, candies, nuts or whatever.
  1. Take each cooled cookie and dip half way into the melted chocolate and all the way on the bottoms.  
  2. Place on a sheet of wax paper and then garnish with whatever topping you're using. 
  3. Let dry completely. 

March 27, 2013

Toasted Coconut Smore Bark



I created this little bark recipe because apparently there aren't already enough ways to eat a smore.  I admit that I love smores very much, and I've passed this similarity down to my daughter.  I'm lucky that I have a gas stove so that I can pacify my daughters whim's when they roll around.  I of course have one too just so she isn't eating alone. It wouldn't be nice to let her eat by herself after all.  I'm a good mom like that.


The chocolate layer is first on the jelly roll pan, make sure to cover the pan with wax paper.  I only used one bag of chocolate above which is why it doesn't go to the edges of the pan. 


Once you've poured the marshmallow on top of the chocolate, sprinkle it with the graham cracker and coconut right away while it's still warm so it'll cling to the warm marshmallow. The heat from the marshmallow will also adhere to the chocolate. 



I decided to create my own version of a smore by changing it up a little and make it a bark and then fancied it up with some toasted coconut.  It's a winner for sure.  I find it best to serve the bark pieces on top of a graham cracker and then microwave it for about 8 seconds.  Now you have an ooey gooey marshmallow and it's easier to hold.

If you're not a fan of coconut feel free to leave it off or replace it with something else yummy that you enjoy.  I'm betting your favorite nuts or candies would be delicious.  If for some reason you feel like making the marshmallow from scratch isn't really your thing, I bet you could pour a bag of mini marshmallows over the top of the chocolate and toast it with a kitchen torch or maybe very quickly under a broiler (be careful with this option as you might get a melted chocolate mess).

I hope you enjoy it as much as my family has.  This would be a great little dessert to bring to a party, just sayin.

Toasted Coconut Smore Bark


Ingredients
  • 2 (12 oz) packages milk or dark chocolate chips
  • 1 recipe marshmallow (below)
  • 2 cups sweetened coconut (toasted)
  • 2 cups graham cracker pieces
Cooking Directions
  1. Line an 11 1/2 x 17 inch jelly roll pan with wax paper, set aside.
  2. Use a double boiler to melt the chocolate over a simmer. Immediately pour the chocolate into the prepared pan and spread around so you have an even layer of chocolate.
  3. Refrigerate the chocolate for about 30 minutes.
  4. In a large fry pan, toast the coconut over medium heat until golden brown, stirring constantly. Be careful as it can quickly burn.
  5. Remove from the heat and put into another dish to stop the cooking process.
  6. Use your hands to break up the graham crackers to desired size. Place in the same dish as the toasted coconut.
  7. Pour the marshmallow (below) over the cooled chocolate and immediately top with the crushed graham cracker and toasted coconut.
  8. Let sit for several hours or overnight to harden.
  9. Use a sharp knife to cut squares.


Ina Garten Homemade Vanilla Marshmallows
Recipe from Ina Garten


Ingredients
  • 3 packages unflavored gelatin
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
Cooking Directions
  1. In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine 1/2 cup of cold water and the gelatin. Let sit while you make the syrup.
  2. In a medium sauce pan combine 1/2 water with the sugar, salt and corn syrup.
  3. Over medium heat dissolve the sugar, then turn the heat up and cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees.
  4. Slowly pour the hot syrup down the sides of the mixing bowl into the gelatin mixture.
  5. Start the mixer on slow and slowly increase the speed until it is on high. Mix until the marshmallow has tripled in size and is very thick, about 10-15 minutes.
  6. Generously dust a 9x12 inch non-metal baking dish with confectioners sugar.
  7. Pour the marshmallow into the prepared dish and dust with additional confectioners sugar.  
  8. Let sit overnight to harden. 
  9. Turn the marshmallows out onto a board and cut into squares. 

March 25, 2013

Easter Sunrise Bread



Easter is one of my favorite times of the year.  Bring on the nice weather, by now we're all ready for it right? I know some of you might still be buried under snow but rest assured it's coming to an end. I think. 

This Easter bread is perfect for Easter morning. I could be rising while the kids are doing their Easter egg hunt!


Fresh out of the oven!


 This glaze really puts the bread over the top.


The outside has a nice crust and the inside is soft and lovely. I think this bread sort of reminds me of a cross between Panettone bread and a cinnamon roll. Sweet bread accented by the raisins and candied orange peel.  I can see why it's called "Easter Sunrise Bread" because it's perfect for breakfast.  You could toast it up, make a french toast or just eat it plain. It's delicious.

Oh, I forgot to mention that it's approved by my daughter, seems silly but it's a big deal in this house.  Yet another thing I can get her to eat!


I've had this cookbook for YEARS!  I can't even remember how long I've had it but I'm pretty sure I've had it for longer than I've known my husband which has been 17 years!

I hope you're all gearing up for a Hoppy Easter....see what I did there? Hoppy? Yeah I'm very clever on Mondays especially. 

Easter Sunrise Bread
Recipe from Great American Home Baking


Ingredients
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup warm water (105 - 115 degrees F)
  • 1 1/4 cups lukewarm milk (95 - 105 degrees F)
  • 6 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup dark raisins or currants
  • 1/2 cup candied orange peel (I used slightly more because I didn't have candied lemon peel)
  • 1/2 cup candied lemon peel (I didn't have any)
  • 1/2 tsp orange or lemon extract
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 Tbsp orange juice
Cooking Directions
  1. Grease a 2 quart round or square baking dish, set aside.
  2. In the bowl of your stand mixer, add the yeast, 2 Tbsp of the sugar, and the warm water. Let stand for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Using the paddle attachment, stir in the lukewarm milk, remaining sugar, 1/4 cup melted butter, egg, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, and ginger. Mix well.
  4. Add the raisins, peels, and extract and mix well.
  5. on low speed begin adding the flour 1/2 cup at a time. At still dough should form.
  6. Remove the dough from the mixing bowl and put onto a well floured surface. Knead for 5-10 minutes, adding flour as needed to keep the dough from becoming sticky until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  7. Place the dough in a ball in the prepared baking dish and rub with 1 Tbsp of melted butter, cover loosely with a damp towel and place in a warm area. Leave for 1 1/2 hours until dough has doubled in size.
  8. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  9. Brush the remaining butter on the top of the dough and bake for 50 - 60 minutes.
  10. Dough will be golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on the top when it is done.
  11. Let sit for 5 minutes, after that time run a knife around the edges of the loaf to loosen it from the baking dish. Now turn the dough upside-down to remove from the dish and place on a cooling rack. Cool completely.
  12. When cool, mix the confectioners sugar and orange juice together until smooth and drizzle over the bread. Let the glaze set up for a few minutes before cutting.

March 22, 2013

Black-Eyed Pea Salad



Every once in a while I make something that forces me to eat healthy.  This salad is one of those times.  It makes quite a bit of salad and therefore it's in the refrigerator staring at me every time I open it, reminding me to eat something good for myself.  Luckily it tastes really good and I don't mind.

I left out the red peppers that were in the original recipe because I didn't have any but that would have added a nice pop of color. I wouldn't leave out the red onion because it gives the black-eyed peas a nice  tang and a great texture.

Don't forget that there is no mayonnaise in this recipe, so it would be perfect for a picnic or road trip!

Black-Eyed Pea Salad
Recipe from GoodHousekeeping Family Vegetarian Cooking


Ingredients
  • 1 small red onion
  • 4 cans black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 packages (10 ounces each) frozen green beans
  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes (optional)
Cooking Directions
  1. Cut the onion into small dices and place in a large bowl.
  2. Add all of the remaining ingredients except the tomatoes to the bowl with the onions and mix well.
  3. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours but overnight is best to blend flavors.
  4. To serve, cut the tomatoes into 1/4 inch slices and arrange on top of the salad.

March 20, 2013

Triple Chocolate Donuts



I think that some of you might have guessed that one of my weaknesses is donuts (I have many).  I didn't grow up eating lots of donuts, they were a special treat we had every so often. In fact most of my life hasn't consisted of many donuts either, but then my husband bought me two donut pans for Christmas and I've been trying out new recipes ever since.

This recipe was specifically for my daughter because she loves all things chocolate. It's the one thing I don't every have to wonder if she'll eat or not. Sadly, she gets that from me.






Triple Chocolate Donuts
Recipe modified slightly from Mama's Gotta Bake


Ingredients
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cups milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp vinegar (white or cider)
  • 1/2 cup melted butter or 1/3 cup shortening
  • 2 - 4 oz bars of good white chocolate
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Lightly grease two donut pans.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and white chocolate chips.
  4. In a small bowl mix together the eggs, milk vanilla and vinegar.
  5. Slowly combine the melted butter and the rest of the wet ingredients to the dry mixture.
  6. Spoon the batter in the donut pan filling each 3/4 full.
  7. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  8. After you remove the donuts from the oven, wait about 30 seconds and then run a knife around the edges of each donut and softly turn the pan over to drop the donuts onto a wire cooling rack.
  9. For sugar coated donuts, coat them immediately.
  10. For the white chocolate frosting, use a double boiler with water simmering beneath. Break the chocolate bar into small pieces and melt slowly stirring constantly.
  11. Grab one cooled donut and turn it upside down, dip in the melted chocolate and let cool on a wire rack.

March 18, 2013

Chicken Pot Pie




We're quickly approaching spring, I can see it in the distance.  Actually yesterday and the day before we were running around in shorts and t-shirts but the rest of this week is supposed to be cooler.  It was nice while it lasted.

I have a handful of cool weather type recipes that I better hurry up and get posted.

For me, Chicken Pot Pie falls squarely in the comfort food category. Every time I take a bite it brings me back to my childhood.  Creamy sauce with veggies and chunks of chicken with a flaky crust all around.  This does take a little time to make if you're making your crust from scratch but there is no reason you can't use a store bought crust to speed things up.


You start things off with a creamy sauce, the base of the recipe, the one thing you can't do without in a good chicken pot pie.


Give your veggies a head start in a hot tub.


Line a casserole dish with the pie crust.


Fill with veggies and chicken.


Add the cream sauce, I'm drooling right now. 


Get your top crust ready...


Add to the top and then trim and flute the edges.


Ventilate the top crust with some slits for steam to escape. 


Bake up until nice and golden, the insides are already cooked remember.


Dig in, literally.  You're going to want to practice some self control here, but you probably won't be able to. Good luck with that. 
Chicken Pot Pie
Recipe from Allrecipes.com


Ingredients
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless, chicken breast halves, cubed
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 1/2 cup sliced celery
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup onion, diced
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp celery seed
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken broth
  • 2/3 cups milk
  • 2 (9-inch) unbaked pie crusts
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In a large saucepan combine the chicken, carrots, celery and peas. Cover with water and boil for 15 minutes. Drain and let sit.
  3. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan melt the butter and add the onions. Cook until they have softened and become translucent.
  4. Add the flour into the onion and butter and whisk so it is smooth and thick. Cook for 1 minute. Add the salt, pepper and celery seed. Slowly whisk in the chicken broth and milk over low heat until the mixture becomes thick. Turn off the heat.
  5. Line a small casserole dish with one of the unbaked pie crusts and then pour the vegetable and chicken mixture into the pie crust and then pour the thickened milk mixture over the top.
  6. Finish by placing the other pie crust over the top of the dish and sealing the edges, cut off the crust that isn't needed.
  7. Cut some small slits into the top of the crust so the steam can escape.
  8. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.

March 14, 2013

Dinner Club: Theme - Soup

Thank you Shannon for hosting February's Dinner Club!  I loved the theme this month because I'm a huge soup lover and I like to see what other people have in their arsenal of recipes.  Shannon is always a great host because she makes everyone feel very comfortable and her house is warm and inviting. And last but not least, she's an incredible cook!


Shannon made a wonderful black and white soup.  Half of it was black bean soup and the other was cheese soup and you pour them into the bowl at the same time which makes this nifty black and white look.  


Cheddar Cheese Soup


Ingredients
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 large red bell pepper, cut into matchstick sized pieces
  • 1/2 large yellow bell pepper, cut into matchstick sized pieces
  • 1/2 large green bell pepper, cut into matchstick sized pieces
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 8 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
Cooking Directions
  1. In a large pot over medium heat add the butter and then the peppers, onion, and garlic. Sauté for about 6 minutes until the vegetables are tender.
  2. Add the flour and stir for two minutes.
  3. Whisk in the stock, then the milk and cream and cook at a simmer for three minutes.
  4. Stir in the cheese 1/2 cup at a time and whisk until smooth.
  5. Salt and pepper to taste.


  6. Black Bean Soup


    Ingredients
    • 1 1/2 cups dried black beans
    • 4 1/2 cups water
    • 1 medium onion, chopped
    • 1 large carrot, chopped
    • 3 slices bacon, chopped
    • 5 large fresh thyme sprigs
    • 3 garlic cloves
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 2 1/4 tsp ground cumin
    • 2 cups chicken stock or low sodium chicken broth
    • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

    Cooking Directions

    1. Place the beans in a large pot and cover with cold water by 3 inches. Soak overnight.
    2. Drain the beans and transfer to a large heavy pot.
    3. Add 4 1/2 cups of water and the next 7 ingredients.
    4. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer until the beans are tender (about 1 hour and 10 minutes).
    5. Working in batches blend the black bean soup with the 2 cups of chicken stock.
    6. Return the soup to the pot and add the chopped cilantro.
    7. Add more stock if needed to thin it out.
    8. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
To serve, pour 1/2 cup of each the cheddar soup and the black bean soup together at the same time. Top with sour cream if desired. 



TiNeill wins the cook of the night award for bringing FOUR items!  This girl loves to cook and it's so obvious because her dishes are incredible.  I'm a dessert hound as you may have guessed and I fell in love with these brownies.  Mixing an Oreo with a brownie, good heavens!


Cookies 'n Cream Fudge Brownies


Ingredients
  • 1 box fudge brownie mix
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped chocolate sandwich cookies
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 to 4 tsp milk
Directions

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease bottom only of 13x9-inch pan with shortening or cooking spray. In large bowl, stir brownie mix, oil, water and eggs until well blended. Spread in pan. Sprinkle cookies over batter.
  2. Bake 24 to 26 minutes or until toothpick inserted 2 inches from side of pan comes out almost clean. Cool completely, about 1 hour 30 minutes.
  3. In small bowl, stir together powdered sugar and milk until smooth and thin enough to drizzle. Drizzle over brownies. For brownies, cut into 5 rows by 4 rows. Store covered at room temperature.
Makes 20 brownies



Everyone loved these breadsticks, very soft and light in texture and the seasoning on top really added a nice saltiness and spice. 

Bread Sticks


Ingredients
  • 1 package yeast
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour plus more for rolling
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • McCormick Salad Supreme seasoning
Cooking Directions
  1. Dissolve the yeast into 1 1/2 cups of warm water.
  2. Add the sugar and salt and stir until it dissolves.
  3. Add the flour and stir in with a fork until the dough isn't sticky anymore and you can roll it into a ball. Add more flour if needed.
  4. Put the dough into a greased bowl and cover with cheesecloth (or plastic wrap) in a warm spot. Watch for it to begin to rise, about 15-20 minutes.
  5. Sprinkle some flour on a clean surface and roll and shape into an oval, use a pizza cutter to cut breadsticks.
  6. Melt the butter in a dish and dip the breadsticks into the butter and then place them on a cookie sheet.
  7. Sprinkle with McCormick Salad Supreme seasoning.
  8. Let the breadsticks rise in a warm place for another 10-15 minutes or until they are fluffy.
  9. Cook at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. The breadsticks will probably not look golden and you might not think they are done. When they are fluffy and dry they are done.



The name of this recipe says it all.  Creamy deliciousness is how I would describe it. 

Creamy Slow-Cooker Tortellini Soup


Ingredients
  • 6 cups favorite homemade meaty spaghetti sauce (recipe to follow) or 24 oz jarred sauce with 1/2 lb hamburger and 1/2 lb ground sausage
  • 4.5 oz fresh spinach leaves
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 8 oz sliced mushrooms
  • 16 oz frozen cheese tortellini
Cooking Directions
  1. Combine spaghetti sauce (and meat if adding it in separately), spinach, cream cheese, chicken broth, and mushrooms in a slow-cooker. Cook on low for 6 hours, on high for 2-3.
  2. 20 minutes before serving, turn heat to high if it isn't already an stir in frozen tortellini. Cover and cook for 15 minutes or until tender and hot.
  3. Serve topped with Parmesan cheese.


  4. Sort of Homemade Spaghetti Sauce


    Ingredients
    • 1/2 lb ground beef (browned) do not drain
    • 1/2 lb ground sausage (browned) do not drain
    • 6 oz tomato paste
    • 15 oz tomato sauce
    • 1 small tomato puree
    • 1 package Mild McCormick Spaghetti Sauce Seasoning
    • salt, pepper, minced garlic, oregano, basil - to taste

    Cooking Directions

    1. Simmer all ingredients together for 1 hour with lid on lowest heat, stir occasionally


Lisa F. brought this yummy salad which was perfect with the soup. TiNeill brought the salad dressing.


Poppyseed Salad Dressing


Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp yellow mustard
  • 1 Tbsp poppy seeds
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
Cooking Directions
  1. Blend all the ingredients in a blender and refrigerate.


Lynn brought this fantastic hot artichoke dip.  Everyone dove in and came up smiling.  Seriously good dip that I cannot wait to add to my party recipes!


Three Cheese Hot Artichoke Dip


Ingredients
  • 1 (8 ounce) cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 2 green onions, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 1 cup shredded mozerella
  • dash hot sauce
  • dash Worcestershire
  • salt and pepper to taste
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the cream cheese.
  3. Add the mayonnaise and beat until smooth.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients and mix to combine.
  5. Transfer to a pie plate or shallow oven proof dish and bake for 30-40 minutes. The top will be golden brown and bubbly.
Lynn also made an incredible Lemon Pound Cake (which I failed to take a picture of).  Just trust me, it was goooooood.


Starbucks' Lemon Pound Cake w/Icing


Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp lemon extract
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
  3. In the bowl of your stand mixer, add the eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla, lemon extract and lemon juice.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture. Mix until smooth.
  5. Add the oil and mix well.
  6. Pour the mixture into a well greased 9x5 inch loaf pan.
  7. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick stuck into the center coms out clean.
  8. Let cool in the pan.
Lemon Icing
    • 1 Cup plus 1 Tbsp powdered sugar
    • 2 Tbsp whole milk
    • 1/2 tsp lemon extract
  1. Mix all the ingredients together until smooth. 
  2. Remove the cooled cake from the loaf pan and frost with the icing.  Wait for the icing to set before slicing. 



Melissa Y. brought a cheese and cracker plate with two flavors of preserves.  We sandwiched the cheese in-between two crackers slathered in preserves, talk about good!  Glad she taught me this little trick so I can use it in the future.

On this try was Sharp Cheddar, Brie, Goat Cheese, Muenster and an Artisan marinara and pepperoni cheese (delish).
Strawberry and Raspberry Preserves.
Assorted Crackers.


My contribution for the evenings soup dishes was this Butternut Squash and Apple Soup.  I have the full post here.

As always, I'm super excited for the next gathering.  I think every time we get together we learn more about one another. Great excuse for us to EAT!

Cuisinart Cook Central Multi-Cooker, 7-Quart - 7 quart (Google Affiliate Ad)

March 13, 2013

Bailey's Cream Filled Sweet Rolls



Saint Patrick's Day is just around the corner.  I remember way back when....my husband and I and our friends would meet in Boston at the Black Rose and we'd be there all day long.  Jeez I sound like I'm 80 years old or something! HA!

These day's I put my daughter in a green t-shirt and if I'm lucky I wear something green too and we don't do anything out of the ordinary all day. :)

I did remember far enough in advance to post something I created for St. Patrick's Day and these days that's a big accomplishment for me.  I'm pretty pleased with these sweet rolls.  I didn't really know what to call these because they are 50% sweet roll and 50% donut.  The thing I liked most about this recipe was that it was baked not fried.  I don't have anything against fried donuts I just don't like the smell and mess it makes.  


 The rolls are fairly straight forward, you mix the dough and let it rise.  After that you roll it out and cut the round shapes then let it rise again.  Bake, fill, frost, eat.  Repeat.


The cream I used for the filling was thick and not too sweet.  I tried it both with the Bailey's and without and I thought both were fantastic.  The roll is very soft, just as you'd expect a good yeast donut to be.  Since they were baked and not fried, feel free to have two. ;)

Add some little green sprinkles on top and you've got yourself a very festive St. Patrick's Day treat!

Sweet Rolls
Recipe found at FromScratchToPlate


Ingredients
  • 3/4 cup warm milk
  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, whisked
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2-3 cup all-purpose flour
Cooking Directions
  1. In the bowl of your stand mixer, add the warm milk and the yeast and let sit for 5-10 minutes.
  2. Add the butter, sugar and egg and mix to incorporate.
  3. Slowly add the flour 1/2 cup at a time (add the salt with the first addition of flour). Mix on low until the flour is blended and then add another 1/2 cup of flour. Do this until the dough forms into a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Mix on low for 5 minutes, sprinkle with a little more flour if the dough begins sticking to the sides again. The key is not to add too much flour, less is more in this case. I used about 2 cups of flour.
  4. After you've finished mixing for 5 minutes, cover the bowl and place in a warm spot to rise until doubled in size (about an hour but it could be longer).
  5. Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to about 1/2 inch thick.
  6. Cut circles in the dough by using a cookie cutter or a glass. Try to use as much of the dough as possible with this first cut. If necessary you can use the scraps to re-roll and cut more circles, you can even do it a third time but the rolls won't be as light as the first cut.
  7. Place the dough circles on a parchment lined cookie sheet, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about another 1 hour.
  8. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  9. Bake the rolls for 5-7 minutes or until they are light golden brown in color.
  10. Immediately slide the rolls onto a cooling rack.


Pastry Cream and Bailey's Filling
Recipe from Joanne Chang via Martha Stewart


Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cake flour
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp Bailey's Mint Liquor
Cooking Directions
  1. In a medium saucepan add the milk and cook on medium heat until bubbles form around the edges but NOT to a boil. Remove from the heat.
  2. Meanwhile in a small bowl add the sugar, flour and salt.
  3. In another bowl add the egg yolks and whisk. Add the eggs to the bowl with the flour mixture and stir until it is thick and pasty.
  4. When the milk has heated, add a small amount of the hot milk to the egg/flour mixture while whisking until smooth. Add another small amount of hot milk and continue this process until the milk/egg/flour mixture is warm. Now add the warm milk/egg mixture back into the pan with the hot milk and whisk until smooth.
  5. Return the saucepan to a medium heat and whisk until it is thick (about 3 minutes) and then let it bubble for 10 seconds and remove from the heat.
  6. If your mixture isn't too thick you can use a fine mesh sieve to get out any clumps that might be in there. Mine was way to thick and I skipped this step.
  7. Cover the mixture with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to three days.
  8. When you're ready to fill the sweet rolls, add the 2 tsp of Bailey's Mint Liquor and whisk well to incorporate. 
Filling the Sweet Rolls: 

  1. If you have a pastry injector that's wonderful because it's perfect for this recipe. If you don't you can use a pastry bag with a small round tip attached. 
  2. Make a hole in the side of the sweet roll and insert the tip of the pastry device you are using, fill until the cream just starts to reach the surface. 
  3. I made a quick glaze using confectioners sugar and milk until it was a consistency that I liked and then just turn the sweet roll upside down and dip in the mixture.  Let the excess glaze run off and then top with sprinkles. 

March 11, 2013

Butternut Apple Soup



It's still a little chilly out, it hasn't officially turned into spring yet so I'm feeling pretty good about posting this soup recipe. As you know, or maybe you don't, we have a dinner club thing that we do on the street that I live on.  It's just the ladies, no men allowed.  We leave our kids with the hubby's (or a babysitter) and we get away from it all with our neighbors.  We learn about each other and we pick up some great recipes at the same time.  

I first had this soup at some friends house when they invited us to join them on Thanksgiving Day.  Our husbands are both Airline Pilots so it's pretty common typical that we don't have family around us to celebrate this holiday.  That's one thing I love about the people in this industry, they are welcoming and big hearted.  Anyway, I was blown away by this soup.  I even got to take some of it home with me AND she gave me the recipe!  

When I found out that February's theme for dinner club was soup I knew exactly the one I was going to make. Not only do I love butternut squash but it has lots of underlying flavors that make it irresistible.  I hope I didn't mess up her recipe too much, she told me some of her tips and tricks when she makes it and I tried to remember them all.  Either way it was a success!


Creamy with undertones of the leek and apple.  Smooth and comforting.  I want some, right now.

Butternut Apple Soup
Recipe from Jean Lux

Ingredients


  • 3 cups butternut squash, chopped
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup leek, chopped
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 granny smith apple, chopped
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/3 heavy cream (optional)
  • salt and white pepper to taste
Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
  2. in a large roasting pan toss the peeled and seeded butternut squash cut into large chunks. Add the orange juice, brown sugar and the cinnamon stick.  Toss the butternut squash so that it is coated with the juice and sugar. 
  3. Cover the roasting pan and bake for 1 hour or until the squash is tender. Discard the cinnamon stick. 
  4. Drain the juice. 
  5. In a heavy bottomed stock pot place 1/4 cup butter, leeks (white part only), onion and apple that has been peeled, cored and chopped. 
  6. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until very tender. Do not allow to color. 
  7. Add 4 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock and bring to a boil. 
  8. Add squash but not the juice.  Cook for five minutes and add the cream if desired.  Simmer for about 5 minutes. 
  9. Cool and puree in a blender until very smooth. 

March 8, 2013

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Bread



You've heard me talking about how picky my daughter is right? Guess what, she loved this bread.  In fact she ate practically the whole loaf by herself. Do I sound amazed? Because I am.
It probably had a lot to do with the fact that there were chocolate chips in it.  I'm still counting this as a win because it filled up her little tummy and I didn't have to beg her to eat it.

Is it health food? Nope. But it's not junk food either.  You could certainly make this without the chocolate chips like the original recipe.  In the original recipe it had some yogurt in the ingredient list and I just didn't have any, and I didn't want to run out and buy any so I just left it out.  I'm not sure how much better it could have been with that because it was pretty good this way.  This bread has a lot of flavors going on, you can taste the banana, you can taste the peanut butter and you can certainly taste the chocolate but none of the flavors are so overpowering that you notice.  The bread was nice and moist and it stayed that way for many days after I made it, at which time it was gone anyway.


I hope you all have a fantastic weekend!


Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
Modified slightly from Joy the Baker


Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas
  • 1/3 cup creamy natural peanut butter
  • 3 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup ground flax-seed
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease and flour a 9x5 inch loaf pan, set aside.
  3. In the bowl of your stand mixer, add the bananas, peanut butter, melted butter, eggs, and both sugar's. Mix well.
  4. In a separate bowl add both flours, flax-seed, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and allspice and mix thoroughly.
  5. With the blender on low add the dry mixture into the wet mixture and mix just until all the flour is incorporated.
  6. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the chocolate chips.
  7. Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 55-65 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  8. Let cool in the pan for about 5 to 10 minutes before removing from the dish and placing on a cooling rack.


March 6, 2013

Fig Newtons


What did you all do last night? Oh, you wanna know what I did? I went to a Bon Jovi concert.  I don't care if that ages me I LOVE Bon Jovi!  I have to say that it was one of his best concerts so far.  It was a Tuesday night after all but he didn't have a cover band which was totally awesome.  It was 2 1/2 hours of nothing but Jon.

OK I'll stop now.

Now, on to a very important recipe.  Why so important you ask? Well if your kids love Fig Newtons as much as mine does then this might be life changing for you.

Not only are these little fig bars delicious they are something you can feel good about your kids eating.  Sometimes I have trouble finding figs but I found some dried figs at Trader Joe's and they worked perfectly.

I hope you get a chance to make these sometime soon.

Fig Newtons
Recipe from Tracey's Culinary Adventures via America's Test Kitchen Holiday Cookies


Ingredients
  • 8 ounces dried Turkish or Calimyrna figs, stemmed and cut into quarters
  • 2 cups apple juice
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour (I used white wheat)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line an 8x8 inch pan with tin foil so that the edges hang out of the pan, so you can use them as handles when the Newton's are done. Spray the foil with non-stick cooking spray.
  3. In a small saucepan add the figs, juice and salt. Cook over medium heat until the figs begin to break down until the mixture is soft and syrupy, stirring occasionally. This takes about 15-20 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool a little before adding them to a food processor with the lemon juice. Pulse several times until the mixture reaches a jam-like consistency.
  4. In a small bowl add both flours and the salt. Set aside.
  5. In the bowl of your stand mixer, add the butter and sugars and beat for 2 minutes until light and fluffy.
  6. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until blended.
  7. Add the flour mixture and mix on low until mixed well.
  8. Measure out 3/4 cup of the dough and set aside. Put the rest of the dough in the prepared pan and smooth out with your hands.
  9. Bake about 20 minutes.
  10. Meanwhile roll the leftover dough out and form into an 8x8 inch square. It will be easier to roll the dough between plastic wrap. Freeze the dough until firm.
  11. When the crust has finished baking, spread the fig "jam" over the cooked crust and top with the frozen dough square.
  12. Bake for another 25-30 minutes until the crust is golden brown.
  13. Transfer the pan to a wire rack until cool, about 2 hours.
  14. Use the tin foil "handles" to lift it from the pan and cut into squares.

March 4, 2013

Vanilla Extract


You are going to kick yourself when you find out how easy it is to make vanilla extract.  I gave some to my family and friends as Christmas gifts and they all loved it. 

I order my vanilla beans off of Amazon in bulk so I always have some on hand. I use them all the time and they last for a while so I'm not desperately trying to use them up. 

You can find these cute little jars at places like Michaels or AC Moore crafts stores, Marshall's or TJMaxx, or I found these at World Market.  They are perfect for gift giving because the are not huge so they will easily fit in someone's spice cabinet but they are just big enough that they will have plenty of vanilla for much of the year. 


Take a sharp knife and cut a vanilla bean from top to bottom.


There are lots of seeds inside, leave them in there.


Clean your bottles. Depending on the size of your bottles you might need to cut the beans in half.


Insert 6 cut pieces (3 whole beans) into the bottle.


Fill the jar to the top with vodka. Leave a little bit of space at the top, about 1/4 of an inch is fine but I don't really think it matters.


Now wrap it up and give it as a gift.  They need to sit for about 3 months before using. Shake every so often, about once a month.

I hope you can make your own vanilla extract soon, it smells SO good!

Vanilla Beans
Vodka
Bottles

March 1, 2013

Sharp Cheddar Cheese Crackers




Isn't it too bad that these days we can't trust what's written on a package from the grocery store.  I don't know if they're hiding ingredients or even what some of those ingredients are.  You almost need a dictionary just to buy something these days.  I find it's easiest to just make certain things myself.  At least I know what's in it. :)

My daughter has been asking for some cheese crackers so I finally had to break down and make some. I was really surprised how easy this recipe was. The longest part of the whole thing was actually cutting out all the tiny little rectangles and putting them onto the cookie sheet. 


You make the dough, cut it in half and refrigerate it for about an hour, then take some out and roll it very thin. Cut shapes and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. 


Bake until golden brown and crispy. 


Don't forget to poke some holes in the tops, otherwise they'll puff up like little balloons. 

I loved the flavor of these crackers.  The sharp cheddar is really noticeable.  If you click on the link below you'll see how Joy the Baker made some chili cheese crackers for the adults.  Actually kids would probably enjoy them also, just not my kid.

Sharp Cheddar Cheese Crackers
Recipe from Joy the Baker


Ingredients
  • 4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper, I used white pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp cold water
Cooking Directions
  1. Combine the butter and cheese in the bowl of your stand mixer and incorporate well. The mix will be very soft at this point but that's OK.
  2. Add the salt and pepper and slowly add the flour. The mixture will look try now, like sand.
  3. Add the water one Tbsp at a time until the dough comes together and pulls away from the bowl. Add up to 1 tsp more water if needed but you want the dough to be moist not wet.
  4. Break the dough in half and put each half in a disk shape and wrap in plastic wrap.
  5. Refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes but 1 hour is best.
  6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  7. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  8. Work with one dough disk at a time. Lightly flour your work surface and roll the dough very thin, about 1/8 of an inch.
  9. Cut the cracker shapes and put them onto your prepared cookie sheet. Poke a hole in the top of each cracker to prevent too much puffing.
  10. Bake for 13-15 minutes until they are crispy and golden brown.
  11. Let the crackers sit on the cookie sheet until they cool before removing them to an airtight container.
  12. **See the original post from Joy the Baker for some other seasoning options**