Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mac n Cheese

I needed to throw together a quick side dish for a impromptu dinner. So I went to the pantry to take inventory. I found a half box of store brand elbow macaroni with a recipe on the back for macaroni and cheese. I adapted it to use what I had on hand. The recipe below is how it is written on the box. My changes are in italics. The main thing I added was Penzey's Brady Street Cheese Sprinkle. I love this stuff. I use it on salad, pasta, bread, veggies and who knows what else. You can obviously leave it out, since the original recipe doesn't call for it, but if you have it on hand or have a Penzey's nearby, I highly recommend giving it a shot.

Macaroni and Cheese
From: Schnuck's Pasta Box

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
3 cups milk
2 cups grated cheddar (I used 2 cups cheddar and 1 cup mozzarella)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dry mustard (I did not have any)
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 cups elbow macaroni (I used a whole box of rotini pasta)
1 heaping tablespoon Penzey's Brady Street Cheese Sprinkle

Melt butter in saucepan. Stir in flour to create a roux. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly. Add seasonings. Cook until sauce is thickened then add 1 cup grated cheddar (I added 1 cup cheddar and 1 cup mozzarella) and stir until melted.

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Add to cheese sauce and mix well. Turn mixture into 8 inch baking dish or pan. Sprinkle top with remaining 1 cup cheddar cheese.

Bake at 375 for about 15 minutes. If you want to make the top crispy, broil for a few additional minutes.

Oatmeal, Cranberry, White Chocolate Chip Cookies

I was looking for recipes to use up a giant bag of Craisins I bought and found this one in my recipe box. I have no idea where it came from (if you recognize it, please let me know so I can give credit). I do know that these cookies are moist, chewy and delicious. I love the pairing of white chocolate chips with cranberries, and the oats add great texture.

1 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In your stand mixer or with a handheld mixer, cream butter and sugars until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, then vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients. Slowly add to butter mixture. Add cranberries and chocolate chips and stir until well combined.
Roll dough into balls slightly larger than a golf ball and place on parchment lined baking sheet. Bake about 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly golden. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet before transferring to a cooling rack.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Jalapeno Popper Dip

This dip is the new 'crack' dip. It's delicious and addictive. You can make it as mild or as spicy as you want. To make it mild, scrape out all of the seeds and ribs (white parts) from the jalapenos and throw em out. To make it spicier, add more of the seeds and ribs from the jalapenos.

This dip is great for making ahead of time and warming it up when you're ready to eat. Make this for your next party and people will beg for the recipe.

I apologize in advance for this picture. It does not do the dip justice at all.

Jalapeno Popper Dip
Adapted from: Big Red Kitchen

2- 8 ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese
1- 4 ounce can chopped green chilies
2 jalapenos, diced

1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

In a food processor or stand mixer add cream cheese, mayo, cheese, peppers and chilies and process until smooth. You do not need to drain the peppers. Spread the dip into a greased 2 quart casserole. In a zip top plastic bag mix bread crumbs and the other 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle crumb mixture evenly over the dip and bake in a 375° oven for about 20 minutes.

Serve with tortilla chips, celery sticks, carrots or crackers.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

I found this recipe a while back and it has been one of our family favorites. I get requests for it pretty often. I have done a few variations including using cinnamon chips instead of ground cinamon.

These cookies are thick, chewy and delicious.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
From: Baking Blonde

2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups Quaker® Oats
1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350.

Soak raisins in a bowl of warm water with a dash of vanilla. Let sit while you mix other ingredients. Strain before using.

In large bowl or mixer, beat butter and sugars until creamy. Add eggs one at a time, then vanilla. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well. Add oats and raisins, stir until well distributed.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to wire rack.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Foil Pack Potatoes

This is a super simple side dish that goes perfectly with bbq and grilled meals. You can easily add different spices and veggies to make it go with your meal.

1 medium potato per person
onion to taste
Penzey's Mural of Flavor

Cut potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes. Dice onion.

Lay out a piece of foil for each potato. Top each piece of foil with potato, onion, spices and a pat of butter. Gather up the 4 corners together at the top. Do not seal - the steam needs a place to escape.

Place on grill on indirect heat for 30 minutes. You can also bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Be careful when you open the pack because some steam will still be trapped in there.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Stuffed Pretzels

A few weeks ago we had a lazy Saturday and spent most of the day home, working around the house. I decided to make some pretzels and make them more of a meal than a snack. I had seen a lot of people making ham and cheese pretzels, but we only had salami so that's what we used. these were super good and just a weeee bit more work than plain pretzels

To make them follow this recipe up until the point of shaping the pretzels. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece out into a rectangle - about 4in x 8 in. Lay some salami or other meat on the dough and top with shredded cheese of your choice. Starting with the edge closest to you, roll the pretzel until you have created a pretzel stick. Pinch seam and ends to seal.

Boil the pretzels in the water/baking soda for 1 minute each. Place on baking sheet and brush with egg wash and then salt. Bake at 450 for 13-17 minutes.

Cajun Chicken Pasta

Two years ago on Valentine's day I was pregnant, tired and uncomfortable. My husband told me he'd take care of dinner and when I got home he was hard at work cooking dinner for me. I was so thankful for the dinner. He chose the recipe, shopped for the ingredients, and cooked the whole thing all on his own. I got to relax my pregnant self. When we sat down for dinner we both fell in love with this pasta. It is creamy, spicy, and delicious.

We make it pretty much according to the website he found it on with a few exceptions. We leave out the mushrooms, and instead of using all heavy cream, we use half heavy cream and half half and half. Wow - that was a lot of halfs.

This pasta also reheats really well. Sometimes I think it's better the second day.

Cajun Chicken Pasta


1/2 pound linguine pasta
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
butter or olive oil
2 red bell pepper, sliced
2 green bell pepper, sliced
8 fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 green onion, chopped
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese


Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.

Place the chicken and the Cajun seasoning in a plastic bag. Shake to coat. In a large skillet over medium heat, saute the chicken in butter or olive oil until almost tender (5 to 7 minutes).

Add the red bell pepper, green bell pepper, mushrooms and green onion. Saute and stir for 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce heat.

Add the cream, basil, lemon pepper, salt, garlic powder and ground black pepper. Heat through. Add the cooked linguine, toss and heat through. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and serve.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Yellow Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting

For our little one's second 2nd birthday party - he had two parties, one for family and one for friends (we have a small house) - I wanted to make simple but delicious cupcakes. I saw these on Leslie's blog and thought they sounded perfect. They came together really easily. The cake part was good. Not super, duper knock you down delicious, but good. The frosting however... the frosting was amazing. I could have eaten the whole bowl with a spoon.
I thought I would include a blooper picture in this one. It is hard to photograph sweets when there's a toddler in the room.

Yellow Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

From: Leslie Sarna

2 3/4 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 3/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
12 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup milk, room temperature
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 eggs, room temperature

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
2/3 cup Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Fill the cupcake pans with cupcake liners or grease cake pans (2 9x2 inch round or whatever shape you feel like) with cooking spray and line the bottoms with parchment paper or waxed paper. Sift the cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large bowl, or kitchen aid mixer bowl. Cut the butter into 1/2 inch cubes and mix them into the flour mixture on low speed. The mix should be lumpy. Add the milk and the vanilla extract. Mix on medium for another minute. Add the eggs one at a time and mixing in between each addition. Pour the batter into the cupcake pan or the two pans equally. Bake 15-20 minutes for cupcakes and about 30-35 minutes for the cakes. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla.

Carrot Cake

So our house has two birthdays back-to-back. Last week was my husband's birthday. He requested a carrot cake for his party. I had never made one before - and actually don't like them much - so again, I had to ask around on the cooking forums for the 'best' recipe. I kept finding the same one - from Cooks Illustrated. I figured I couldn't go wrong with it so I tried it out.

There were are few minor mishaps with the cake. I sliced my finger open on the grater when I tried to clean up. I was not feeling well, so my husband tried to help out by making the cream cheese frosting - well I walked in just in time to stop him from adding 2 1/2 cups of flour to the bowl (he was reading the cake recipe). Then last, but not least, I do not have a cake carrier so he offered to 'fashion a carrying device.' I said yes -please do! Well he made a wonderful creation of bowl, plate and a lot of tape. It even had a handle. The handle however could not stand up to the weight of the cake. It broke as we were walking in the door to the party and the cake landed on its side and rolled over. This is the finished product after re-frosting it. Sad, but delicious.

If you are looking for a basic carrot cake recipe this one was perfect. Dense, moist and the icing was just right. I will definitely make it again!

I made a few changes/adjustments to the original recipe.
-The recipe as I found it was for cupcakes, but I used two 8 inch square pans and baked them for 40 minutes.
-I did not have enough oil, so I only used a little over 1 cup of oil instead of 1 1/2 cups and it turned out just fine.
-I doubled the frosting recipe and had a little left over.
-I left out the cloves because I don't like cloves.

Simple Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing
From: Cooks Illustrated

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12 1/2 ounces)
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp table salt
1 lb. medium carrots (6 to 7 carrots), peeled
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (10 1/2 ounces)
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cup vegetable oil , safflower oil, or canola oil

8 oz cream cheese, softened but still cool
5 Tbsp unsalted butter softened, but still cool
1 Tbsp sour cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar (4 1/2 ounces)
Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray your pan(s) with nonstick baking spray with flour.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt in large bowl; set aside.

In food processor fitted with large shredding disk, shred carrots (you should have about 3 cups); set aside.

In bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment (or in large bowl and using hand-held mixer), beat granulated and brown sugars and eggs on medium-high until thoroughly combined, about 45 seconds.

Reduce speed to medium; with mixer running, add oil in slow, steady stream, being careful to pour oil against inside of bowl (if oil begins to splatter, reduce speed to low until oil is incorporated, then resume adding oil). Increase speed to high and mix until mixture is light in color and well emulsified, about 45 seconds to 1 minute longer.

Turn off mixer and stir in carrots and dry ingredients by hand until incorporated and no streaks of flour remain.

Pour into prepared pan and bake until toothpick or skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 40 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking time. Cool cake to room temperature in pan on wire rack, about 2 hours.
Mix cream cheese, butter, sour cream, and vanilla at medium high speed in clean bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment (or in large bowl using handheld mixer) until well combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula as needed. Add confectioners’ sugar and mix until very fluffy, about 1 minute.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Bread and Butter

I wanted to make a fresh loaf of bread to go with my homemade butter, but didn't want to wait for it to rise overnight. I asked around on a cooking message board and Bridget from The Way the Cookie Crumbles recommended this recipe. Boy am I glad I asked. This recipe was easy to follow and from start to finish it took about 5 hours, which was much better than the 2 day recipes I was finding. The result was an awesome, crusty white bread. I think I baked it a little too long, but it was still very good. Also, I did not use a stone, I just baked it on a cookie sheet.

Bread and butter anyone?

Pain Ordinaire
(adapted from Ultimate Bread, by Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno)

3½ cups (17½ ounces) bread flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1⅓ cup water, room temperature
1½ teaspoon salt

Stir the yeast into 1¾ cup (8¾ ounces) of the flour in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add all of the water, stirring until it forms a smooth, sticky batter (like pancake batter). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for approximately 20 minutes, or until the mixture becomes frothy, loose, and slightly expanded.

Add the remaining flour and the salt to the mixture. Stir (or mix on medium-low speed with the hook attachment) for 1 minute, or until the ingredients form a ball.

Lightly dust the counter with flour, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mix on medium speed with the dough hook). Knead for about 10 minutes (6 minutes by machine), adding flour, if needed, to make a dough that is smooth, shiny, and elastic.

Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it to coat with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in size, about 1½ to 2 hours. Press to deflate, then let rest for 10 minutes.

Gently pat the dough into a rough rectangle. Fold the bottom third of dough, letter style, up to the center and press to seal, creasing surface tension on the outer edge. Fold the remaining dough over the top and use the edge of your hand to seal the seam closed and to increase the surface tension all over. Press evenly with the palms of both hands and roll the dough backward and forward until it is 14 inches in length. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment. Place the loaf on the pan and lightly dust with flour. Cover loosely with plastic wrap.

Proof at room temperature for about 1 hour, or until the loaves have grown to about twice their original size.

About half an hour into the second rise, place a baking stone* on the bottom rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Using a very sharp knife or a serrated bread knife, cut 5 diagonal slashes, each about ¼ to ½-inch deep, across the top of the loaf. (Alternatively, cut one long slash that extends for the length of the loaf.)

Transfer the dough on the parchment paper to a peel or the back of a sheet pan. Transfer the dough to the baking stone. Close the oven and reduce the temperature to 450 degrees. Bake until golden brown and the temperature is at least 200 degrees** at the center.

Transfer the loaves to a cooling rack and cool for at least 1 hour before slicing and serving.

*If you don’t have a baking stone, simply bake the loaf on a baking sheet at 425 degrees for 45 minutes.

**If you don’t have an instant-read thermometer, tap the bottom of the hot baked loaf. It should sound hollow when the bread is done baking.

Homemade Butter

So I saw this on Leslie's blog and thought - hey, why not!? It sounded like something fun and different. I had a little less than a pint of heavy whipping cream that I had no plans for, so I got to shaking. I made it during the USA vs Canada gold medal game which was perfect timing because that was a nerve wracking game!
Making butter really is easy and would be a fun project to do with kids. Just make sure you have an airtight container!
So go get some heavy cream, and get to shaking!

Homemade Butter
Heavy cream at room temperature
Big pinch of salt if desired

Pour heavy cream into an airtight container and shake, shake, shake!
After about 10 minutes of shaking, you will have whipped cream.
It takes about 20 minutes of shaking for the butter to form. Once the solids pull away from the liquid, strain through a cheesecloth or mesh strainer.

Store in airtight container in the fridge.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Birthday Cake

I made a separate cake for the adults at our son's birthday party last week. I searched around for a simple, delicious cake recipe and kept coming back to Dorie's Perfect Party Cake. Dorie Greenspan is well known for her amazing baking.

My next feat, was to find a frosting that would compliment the cake, and not include raw eggs since I'm allergic to them. I found a blog where she made Dorie's cake with a raspberry buttercream and was sold.

I don't have a great picture of it because it was gone so fast, but let me tell you it was delicious. I am still not a great decorator, so it wasn't much to look at, but the taste made up for it. The only change I made to the recipe below is I was out of lemon extract, so I added an extra tsp of lemon zest.

Dorie's Perfect Party Cake
From: Apple a Day

2¼ c. (9 oz.) cake flour
1 TBSP baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1¼ c. whole milk or buttermilk
4 large egg whites
1½ c. (10½ oz.) sugar
2 tsp. grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 TBSP or 4 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ tsp. pure lemon extract

20 TBSP (2 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 ½ c. confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/8 tsp. salt
1 TBSP raspberry liquor or 1 1/2 tsp. raspberry extract
2 TBSP heavy cream gel food coloring, if desired

Raspberry preserves

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.

Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.

Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.

Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean.

Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes. Run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up (the cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to two months).

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds.

Add confectioners' sugar and salt. Beat at medium-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened, about 45 seconds. Scrape down the bowl and beat at medium speed until the mixture is fully combined, about 15 seconds.

Scrape bowl, add liquor or extract, and beat at medium speed until incorporated, about ten seconds. If using gel food color, add at this time.

Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about four minutes, scraping down bowl once or twice.

Place strips of wax paper on a cake stand forming a square the size of the round cake. Place bottom cake on way papers. With a serrated knife, shave off top layer of cake so that it is flat. Spread about 2/3 of a cup of preserves on top. Place second layer of cake on top of the preserves. Frost with room temperature butter cream. Remove wax paper before serving.