Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Are you ready for Thanksgiving yet? Got the menu all planned out, groceries purchased, and just counting down the minutes till you can stick that turkey in the oven???
I'm still trying to plan the last kiddo birthday party of the year, which takes place this weekend. On Monday, I'll start planning Thanksgiving stuff.
Okay, maybe I'll start planning a little earlier. I still have to coordinate with my mom and other family members on who is making what, though.....so I can't really do too much planning yet. I CAN tell you that I'm pretty darn sure I'll be making a Pumpkin Cheesecake for dessert - and maybe a Pumpkin Roll Cake for good measure.
Because you can never have too much pumpkin and cream cheese.
Oh, and I can't forget, no Thanksgiving would be complete without some variation on pecan pie - I like this Caramel Pecan pie , but the traditional version works too. Just as long as there's plenty of homemade sweetened whipped cream. Mmmmm. Can you tell my favorite part of the Thanksgiving feast is dessert?
You can't tell me you're surprised.
In the mean time, there's a few meals between now and then, and one of my favorite breakfasts is granola.
I've been making this version for several months now and just can't seem to get tired of it. I know there are lots fancier granolas out there, but this is simple and consistently good. So good that my 2 year old is known to sneak the container out of the pantry and hide under the dining table, stuffing it into her face (and scattering it on the floor) as fast as she can before she gets caught.
But what's not to like? There's coconut, chopped almonds, cinnamon, and vanilla accompanying the oats.
You can always add raisins or craisins or other goodies at the table if you like. I usually just eat mine as is, with whole milk, of course.
Major bonus - it smells incredible while it's baking.
8 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup chopped almonds
1/2 cup coconut oil (I use expeller pressed, organic virgin would be great too)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup honey
1 T. cinnamon
2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 tsp. salt
Preheat oven to 300°.
Combine oats, coconut, and almonds in a large bowl.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine coconut oil, brown sugar, water, honey, and cinnamon and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add vanilla and salt. Pour over oat mixture and stir well to evenly coat.
Spread on 2 large rimmed baking sheets and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and stir, and rotate pans so the one from the bottom shelf is on the top and vice versa. Bake for 10 more minutes, or until desired crispiness.
Monday, November 11, 2013
If you're looking for a special potato dish for Thanksgiving, Christmas, your birthday, or next Thursday, I've got a winner for you.
Although they take awhile to bake, these potatoes are simple to put together and are definitely worth planning ahead for. They're tender and hearty, enhanced with thinly sliced onions, and drenched with creamy cheese sauce. A potato-lover's dream come true.
Although my mom would occasionally make a similar dish called scalloped potatoes when I was growing up, I can't remember ever making them myself. But when I saw these on my Secret Recipe Club assignment for the month, Cheese Curd in Paradise, I knew I had to make them. I need more scrumptious side dishes in my repertoire.
Ashley blogs from Wisconsin (hence the "cheese curd" in her blog title), a state that I have never visited but would love to see someday (in the summer, thank you very much). Any place known for their cheese has to be amazing, right? I can't imagine my life without cheese.
She has lots of great recipes, from Pizza Muffins to Pumpkin Truffles, that I'm looking forward to trying - but I am beyond happy to have these potatoes in my life. While they are a bit on the decadent side, I'll definitely bring out this recipe for special occasions and dinners. Everyone in my family absolutely loved them.
Creamy Au Gratin Potatoes
Source: Adapted slightly from Cheese Curd In Paradise
6 large russet potatoes, sliced into very thin slices
1/2 large onion, sliced into rings
4 Tbsp. butter
4 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups milk
2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (best if you grate your own!)
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400°.
Layer half of the potatoes into bottom of a buttered 13 x 9" pan. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.Top with onion slices, and add the remaining potatoes. Sprinkle again lightly with salt and pepper. (I like to use Kosher salt.)
In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Mix in the flour and stir constantly with a whisk for one minute. Slowly stir in milk. Cook until the mixture has thickened. Stir in cheddar cheese and continue stirring until melted. Season cheese sauce with salt and pepper to taste, and add a dash of paprika if desired. Pour over potatoes and cover the dish with foil.
Bake for 1 1/2 hours. Remove foil and cook for a few more minutes to slightly brown the top if desired.
Friday, October 18, 2013
Everywhere in the blog world, all I see is pumpkin and apple, pumpkin and apple, with a little more pumpkin added in for good measure.
Not trying to complain or anything - I adore pumpkin in so many things and appreciate new ideas in the fall.
It just kind of strikes me as funny, since most of these recipes use canned pumpkin, which is available year-round, so you really don't have to make pumpkin stuff only in the fall. Really. I like pumpkin in May. Don't you?
That's why I either buy a few pumpkins when they're cheap and cook them, puree, and freeze in 2 cup portions or buy a bunch of cans on clearance after Thanksgiving. I do the same with sweet potatoes. I had such a great stash last year.....but ended up eating it in a huge rush and giving away quite a bit when we moved. My freezer has been bare of sweet potatoes and pumpkin this entire year. Gonna have to remedy that soon.
All that to say, I have YET to make anything with pumpkin or sweet potato this fall.
It's heresy for a food blogger, I know. But it is what it is.
(I have made apple butter and apple sauce, for the record).
Maybe you'll enjoy seeing something else anyways. :)
How about a vegetarian pasta meal???
Most of the vegetarian meals I make revolve around beans or lentils. For the protein, ya know.
But when I saw this dish from the Girl Who Ate Everything, I couldn't resist giving it a try.
Now, I think it would be totally awesome with some crumbled cooked sausage, or sliced smoked sausage, or even diced, cooked chicken breast. I may try one of those sometime.
But I have to say - it was totally awesome as is.
The pasta cooks right in the tomato sauce and water, along with some spices and sauteed garlic - then you add some heavy cream and Parmesan cheese - oh, and can't forget the basil! I wish I had had some fresh on hand....but even the dried worked well. Then you top the whole thing with dollops of ricotta cheese and sprinkle mozzarella over all that. And into the oven it goes, to get all nice and golden and toasty.
Come on, now....tell me your mouth isn't watering.
A little indulgent?
Okay, maybe a little.
But completely worth it.
And I didn't miss the meat at all.
Skillet Baked Pasta
6 garlic cloves, minced
4 tsp. olive oil, divided use
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
3 cups water
12 oz. ziti pasta (3 3/4 cups)
4 oz (1/2 cup) whole-milk ricotta
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (or 1 Tbsp. dried)
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
- Preheat oven to 475°.
- Combine 1 Tbsp. oil, garlic, pepper flakes, and 1/2 tsp. salt in a 12 inch oven safe skillet and saute over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add crushed tomatoes, water, ziti, and 1/2 tsp. salt.
- Cover and cook, stirring often and adjusting heat as needed to maintain a vigorous simmer, until ziti is almost tender, 15-18 minutes. Make sure you don't overcook - it will continue to cook in the oven.
- Meanwhile, combine ricotta, remaining 1 tsp. oil, 1/8 tsp salt, and 1/8 tsp pepper in a bowl. Set aside.
- Stir cream, Parmesan, and basil into the skillet and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- At this point, if your skillet isn't oven safe, transfer pasta into a shallow 2 quart casserole dish before sprinkling with the ricotta and cheese and baking.
- Add dollops of the ricotta mixture with a spoon and sprinkle mozzarella evenly over ziti.
- Transfer skillet to oven and bake until cheese has melted and browned, about 10 minutes. Let cook slightly and sprinkle with additional basil. Serve.
Source: The Girl Who Ate Everything, , originally from America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
Monday, October 14, 2013
We are in the throes of birthday season at my house.
Meaning, three of my five children have October birthdays.
Which translates into a LOT of butter, powdered sugar, and heavy cream, with all the cake and homemade ice cream flying out of my kitchen.
You'd almost think I'd veer away from sweets for my Secret Recipe Club assignment this month. And I honestly tried. I was assigned to Group B's fearless leader Suzanne's blog, Thru the Bugs on My Windshield. Suzanne has a great sense of humor and some really great recipes that I wanted to try, like Salsa Verde , Chicken Asparagus Penne Pasta Salad, and Blueberry Delight Coffee Cake (which is in the breakfast category, so it doesn't count as sweets.)
In the end, I was fascinated by the idea of Apricot Empanadas and despite my tumultuous relationship with pie crust, selected them as my new recipe to try.
Unfortunately, I forgot to add apricots to my shopping list and when it came time to make them, I realized my distressing mistake. I didn't have time this week to return to the store.....so I picked something I already had ingredients for in the pantry. Peanut Butter Cookies.
I know, I know, everyone knows how to make peanut butter cookies. But seriously, sometimes I get so distracted by the oreo-stuffed, salted caramel drenched, swiss meringue buttercream covered delicacies that I forget the tried and true, simple recipes.
These were awesome.
My husband loved them.
My kids gobbled them up with gusto.
And I relished the soft, slightly chewy cookies with just one prominent flavor, peanut butter. And the little crunch of sugar on the outside sealed the deal.
Peanut butter cookies should never be forgotten.
P.S. Yes, I've tried the popular 3 ingredient peanut butter cookies - 1 cup pb, 1 cup sugar, 1 egg.
They're good. Great if you're in a pinch and out of flour or need to bake gluten free. But these are better. And don't take much longer. Really.
P.P.S. Her recipe said to roll the dough in 1 inch balls and that you'd get 4 dozen cookies. Apparently I'm incapable of rolling balls that size.....I ended up with just 31 cookies. And they weren't huge, either.
Classic Peanut Butter Cookies
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter (I used smooth, but crunchy would work also)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups flour (I used part whole wheat, part all-purpose)
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
Granulated sugar, for rolling
Preheat oven to 375°.
Thoroughly cream butter, sugars, peanut butter, egg, and vanilla. Sift together dry ingredients; blend into creamed mixture. Shape into small balls; roll in granulated sugar. Place 2" apart on ungreased baking sheet. Press tops gently with a fork or meat mallet. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until set. Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet.
Makes 30-40 cookies.
Source: Thru the Bugs on my Windshield, originally from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
My baby turned 2 today!
Guess she's not so much a baby anymore.
Not in her mind, anyways.
'Course, that's been the case for several months now. She thinks she can do whatever the big kids do.
And mostly....she does.
She's even partially potty-trained - we just need to work on the peeing business.
And to be quite honest, while I know she's totally ready and would probably have it down in a day or two of wearing big girl panties, I haven't tried because we're going on a road trip in a few weeks.
Frequent gas station bathroom breaks with a 2 year old?
She can wear diapers for a couple more weeks.
So what on earth does that have to do with this cake?
Birthday breakfast, that's what!
It's tradition in our family for the birthday boy/girl to pick their favorite breakfast and dinner on their special day.....and since Miranda is a bit too young to really tell me what her favorite is, I picked this.
I made it a couple of months ago and we absolutely loved it.....so I figured it would be a good choice for her. It's a lovely tender cake with lots of cinnamon flavor, dotted with cinnamon chips (I know, unhealthy...but really really yummy) and a luscious crumb topping.
To say that this is well-received is a huge understatement.
I seriously think that my 5 kids (10 and under) could eat nearly this entire cake in one sitting if I allowed it.
Miranda got candles and a song with hers.....definitely a great start for a happy birthday. :)
Cinnamon Chip Breakfast Cake
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups all-purpose flour (or whole wheat flour)
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup granulated sugar (I use organic evaporated cane juice)
1/3 cup brown sugar
4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick) butter, softened
3/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup cinnamon chips
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
3 Tbsp. cinnamon chips (optional, I didn't use)
- Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly spray a 13 x 9" baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.
- In a large bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together sugars and butter. Add in eggs and beat until creamy. Beat in sour cream or yogurt until combined. Slowly mix in milk until combined.
- Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir just until moistened. Stir in cinnamon chips.
- Spread batter into prepared baking dish.
- Combine topping ingredients (except for cinnamon chips) in a small bowl until thoroughly mixed. Sprinkle over cake batter. Top with cinnamon chips if desired.
- Bake for 24-26 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Cool for 5-10 minutes before cutting.
Source: Adapted from A Kitchen Addiction
Friday, September 27, 2013
There are some things you can just never have too many of.
Checks in the mail.
Because I know we're not the only family who never seems to eat all the bananas while they're in their prime (you know, that 2 day window) and before you know it, there's a pile of squishy, brown bananas languishing on the counter and you know nobody's touching them as is.
So we make banana bread, banana muffins, banana cake, freeze them for smoothies, etc etc etc.
But because it happens every.single.week., there may be certain people in the family who tire of the same recipes. There's even one individual around here who has decided he doesn't even like banana baked goods any more. (ahem. Corban.)
Enter these muffins.
Corban looked at them skeptically and queried, "Do they have bananas in them?" before trying one because he knew that I sneak bananas into lots of breakfast options.
I admitted they did, but convinced him to try one. Admittedly, it didn't take much convincing because they do have peanut butter chips, after all.
He said they were the best banana muffins ever.
You might even say they're similar to cake, but since there's no frosting, I insist that they're muffins and therefore completely suitable for breakfast.
So between my 5 kids and me, we ate 14 of the 20 muffins in one morning. I only ate 2. And truth be told, we probably could have demolished the whole batch if I hadn't made them stop.
Yep, that's a successful muffin.
Chocolate Banana Muffins with Peanut Butter Chips
Slightly adapted from Tracey's Culinary Adventures
Yield: about 20 muffins
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 3-4 medium bananas)
1/2 cup yogurt (vanilla or plain - or use sour cream.)
3/4 cup expeller pressed coconut oil (or room temperature butter)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups peanut butter chips, divided
Preheat oven to 350° F. Line muffin pans with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl or large plate, mash the bananas well and combine with yogurt, stirring until combined.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the oil (or butter) and both sugars on medium speed until well combined, about 1-2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. With the mixer on low, add half of the dry ingredients followed by the banana mixture and then the remaining dry ingredients, beating just until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and give one final stir. Add 1 cup of the peanut butter chips.
Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling each about 3/4-full. Sprinkle the remaining peanut butter chips over the top of the muffins. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and allow the muffins to cool for a few minutes, then removed them to the rack to finish cooling.
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Our middle child, Annika, turned 6 earlier this month.
Yikes! How did that happen?
Although she had given me numerous ideas for what kind of cake she wanted, I knew there was really only one choice. A Pug Cake. Annika has adored pugs ever since she watched "Milo and Otis" a couple of years ago. Her favorite birthday gift last year was a Webkinz pug, whom she named Otis, and he's her most cherished stuffed animals (of many).
So I didn't want to make a fondant covered cake or just draw a picture of a pug, although the latter did cross my mind. Nope, when I saw this cake, I knew it was the one I had to try. I don't think mine turned out as cute, to be quite honest, but it's all good.
So here's the breakdown.
2 9" round cakes
1 8"square cake
*2 cups butter, softened
*8 cups powdered sugar
*1/4-1/2 cup cream or milk
*1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
*1/4 tsp. almond extract
*Cocoa powder and food coloring (I use Wilton)
Beat the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer until smooth. Add powdered sugar gradually. Mix in
1/4 cup cream, vanilla extract, almond extract, and salt. Beat until light and fluffy. Add additional cream
or milk to achieve desired piping consistency.
Separate into bowls and tint as desired.
I tinted most of mine tan with a little bit of sifted cocoa powder. A small part I added a lot more cocoa
powder (plus a little more cream) to make the dark mouth area, and added some black food coloring
to part of that to make the ears, eyes, and nose.
I always freeze my cakes so they're easier to carve without falling apart. I used 1-1/3 of this recipe to make my cakes. It's a delicious and moist cake that is also fairly sturdy and doesn't crumble too easily.
So here's how you cut it.
Take one of the round cakes and carve out sections to shape ears and the face.
From your square cake, carve out a niche for the head to rest into. Cut a little off the corners to make rounded shoulders.
Use the other round cake to carve out the legs and paws. I didn't do perfectly with that and ended up having to stick some scraps to the cake to make the shape I wanted....but when it was frosted, nobody was the wiser.
I just used a basic star tip (Wilton # 17, I think) to pipe all over the cake. I didn't even bother with a crumb coat. I used a small round tip to pipe the outlines of the legs with the dark brown frosting.
For the nose area, I piped lots of extra frosting to mount it up more 3D like - it's kind of hard to tell from the photo.
Sooooo......onto the rest of the party.
I made a double batch of Puppy Chow and saved part for the party, but packaged the rest up in little cellophane bags to put in the goody bags for the guests. Annika cut out some little bones and we stapled them onto the bags. Cute!
In the goody bags, I also included some Sugar Cookie Dog Houses (there were Dog bones as seen above in the cake photo for eating at the party), a ball, and some random candies that Annika picked out.
I dressed up some white paper bags with a little bit of dog paw scrapbook paper before writing their names on them.
Probably the funnest activity of the party was the Treasure Hunt. I wrote little riddle clues and printed them out on dog paw graphics and hid them in their proper places around the yard (under a picnic table, behind the grill, in the playhouse, in the mailbox, etc). Each clue led them to the next one - and the final clue led them back inside to find their goody bags hidden under the dining table. :) The girls LOVED it.
I found this Photo Collage Banner idea from this blog - and absolutely adored it. She gave perfect instructions on how to do it - I'll be making more for my other kids' birthdays. I wish I had taken a picture of Annika's face when she came downstairs and saw this on the wall - she was soooooo delighted.
The cake table - also decorated with dog bones that we used for a "Musical Bones" (instead of musical chairs) game. I taped them on the floor and when the music stopped, the girls had to get on a bone. Nobody got eliminated, but as I removed the bones each time, the girls had to cram onto the remaining bones. It got pretty funny by the end when there was only 1 bone left. :)
Annika got baby pug (Otis Jr) that morning before the party - and she decorated a box for his doghouse and set both of her pups on the table with some of the bone cookies. So cute!
Happy Birthday to our sweet girl!