Wednesday, December 21, 2011

And now it's time for...a little Christmas quiz.

I saw this quiz on a few random blogs and thought, ahh why not?!  So here goes...

1. Egg nog or hot chocolate? Probably neither...Chai is where it's at.
2. Wrap presents or leave them alone? Most definitely wrap.
 3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? Colored.
4. Do you hang mistletoe? Nope.
5. When do you put your decorations up? As soon after Thanksgiving as I can.
6. What is your favorite holiday dish? My 91 year old Grandma's Candied Yams...or her Sugar cookie cut outs.
7. Favorite holiday memory as a child? Being at my Grandma's house.
8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? I don't remember exactly, I feel like it just happened gradually.  I was not shocked, scarred, or imbittered by it.
9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? We always open gifts on Christmas Eve with my dad's family.
10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree? Multi-colored lights with new and old ornaments.
11. Snow! Love it or dread it? Both.  I like the snow right away, but living in Minnesota, the snow that falls in December will still be on the ground in March.  It doesn't get warm enough to melt here! 
12. Can you ice skate? ha! That's a big fat no!
13. Do you remember your favorite gift? Gosh, maybe the stereo I got when I was 16.
14. What’s the most important thing about the holidays for you? Being with family.
15. What is your favorite holiday dessert? Nantucket Cranberry Pie.
16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Making lots of cookies.
17. What tops your tree? An angel.
18. Which do you prefer: giving or receiving? Both.
19. Candy canes: yuck or yummy? Yuck.  I get canker sores anytime I eat hard candy.  :(
20. Favorite Christmas show? Tied between National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and Love Actually. 
21. Saddest Christmas song? Ave Maria.
22. What is your favorite Christmas song? Sacred: O Come, O Come Emmanuel.  Secular: (It must have been Ol') Santa Claus by Harry Connick Jr.

Merry Christmas All!!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Chewy Molasses Christmas Cookies

You know what I just got?  An early Christmas/late birthday gift. It's this beauty.  I've wanted a stand mixer for a very long time and I finally got it.  (insert Hallelujah chorus).  Thank heavens for Cyber Monday. 
Well, the first thing I decided to make with this beloved machine was my Grandma Bea's (my middle name is after her) Chewy Molasses Christmas cookies.  This recipe is particularly special to me because it is written in her handwriting on a 3x5 card and the recipe card is stained, with molasses no doubt.  I LOVE that it's stained.  It makes me feel like she's with me in the kitchen. 

I must say that these cookies live up to their name, chewy.  These were just as chewy and flavorful on day 4 as they were the day I baked them.  The flavor of molasses, ginger, and cinnamon is heavenly and in perfect harmony with the rest of the cookie.  Oh and the glaze...the glaze, the glaze the glaze. It's truly amazing. Now, I know that it calls for heavy cream. And, I know that cream can be a bad word, but I implore you to use it.  It makes an incredibly rich glaze that perfectly accompanies these cookies.
You know what else, these would be perfect cookies to set out for Santa. 

Grandma Bea's Chewy Molasses Christmas Cookies
yield: about 4 dozen 2 inch cookies

Cookies
2 cups sugar
1 cup molasses
1 cup shortening
2 eggs

2 tsp. baking soda
4 cups flour
2 tsp. ginger
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Glaze
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
4-6 Tblsp. heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix the first 4 ingredients by hand or with a mixer on low speed.  Add the remaining 5 ingredients and mix until well combined.  Roll into balls the size of a walnut.  Bake at 350 degrees until they puff up and have firm bottoms.  About 7-9 minutes.  The cookies will look not quite done.  In a small bowl, combine the powdered sugar and cream.  Mix thoroughly. Glaze cookies, while they are still warm.

Enjoy and Merry Christmas!!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Fresh Cranberries, the other red berry. A last minute Thanksgiving recipe.


Isn't that the most amazing shade of red?  It's my favorite.
Ok, can you make me a promise?  Would you please consider making fresh, homemade cranberry sauce this year? It is incredibly easy to make and tastes infinitely better than that canned stuff, it's almost criminal.  I realize the canned sauce may be tradition for some folks, but maybe this year you could do both canned and fresh. 
I think cranberries have a reputation of being too tart for consumption. Truly, if you were to eat one plain, holy smokes, you would pucker up like Nemo, but add a little sugar and water and simmer them for 10 minutes and you have pure perfection.  The sugar adds enough sweetness to make it palatable, but the tartness of the cranberries still comes through.  A little bite here and there during your Thanksgiving meal will break up all that rich food with a bright and tart flavor. You know what that means, you have an excuse to eat more turkey and mashed potatoes. 


Beautiful Brandy Spiced Cranberry Sauce
 So, this year, I leave you with two amazing cranberry sauce recipes.  The first is the original Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce and the second is a spiced version with a kick of brandy.  (don't worry the alcohol cooks off).
You will find the original cranberry sauce recipe on the back of every bag of cranberries.  But, here it is for you now.

Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce
(recipe from back of Ocean Spray bag)

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 (12 oz) package fresh cranberries

Bring water and sugar to a boil in a meium saucepan.  Add cranberries and return to a boil.  Reduce heat and boil gently for 10 minutes, stirring gently.  Some cranberries will burst during the cooking process. Pour sauce into a heatproof bowl, cover and cool completely at room temperature.  Refrigerate until serving time.  Makes 2 1/4 cups.

The Brandy Spiced Cranberry Sauce I found on the blog The Galley Gourmet.  I gave it the name, but it's Nicole's creation. I will send you there for the recipe.  Brandy Spiced Cranberry Sauce recipe.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pumpkin Gingerbread

Okay, I admit, I have a deep affection for molasses.  I don't know what it is, but I love the depth of flavor and tangy-ness that it brings to baked goods.  In fact, these are some of my favorite candies.  Call me crazy, I love the molasses.
Well, when I ran across this recipe and saw that it called for a 1/2 cup of molasses, I knew I would love it.  The fact that it has pumpkin in it makes it a perfect Thanksgiving day recipe.  Imagine how great it would be to have this sliced and ready for snacking before the big meal.  I don't know about you, but whenever I set a time for the Thanksgiving meal, I'm never ready on time.  So, this is a great appetizer for all those hungry guests.  Well, and it distracts them and buys you some time.  Win-Win!
My husband tried it and said, 'it has a good aftertaste'.  That guy and his good aftertaste.  I don't know about him.  Truly, it does have an excellent aftertaste, so you're tastebuds are in for a treat.
I found this recipe on Simply Recipes so, I will send you there for the recipe.  I didn't have the fresh/crystalized ginger, so I left it out and I added fresh cranberries in place of the raisins.  It was amazing with the cranberries.  Added a little punch of tartness.  Here's a link to the recipe!
Pumpkin Gingerbread

Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Triple Berry Applesauce



What?!  A non-cupcake post...Shocking!  Well, it's about time I posted this amazing Triple Berry applesauce recipe. I made it using locally grown apples from Applewood Orchard.  Applewood had a smaller harvest this year because those pesky little bees didn't pollinate like they should have in the Spring.  Apparantly, it was too cold and those little stinkers didn't want to do their thing.  Oh well, I did get some of the infamous Honeycrisp apples as well as several Fireside apples.  I wanted to reserve the Honeycrisps for eating, because they're just too good to mix with anything else.  Plus, the Firesides turned out to be the perfect blend of tart and sweet for this applesauce. 
I did add some sugar to this recipe, but you certainly wouldn't have to.  It's weird, because when I buy applesauce at the store, I always get the natural/no sugar stuff, but when I make it, I feel like I can be a rebel or something.
Making your own applesauce may seem daunting, but in all honesty, it's really, really easy.  All you need are apples, frozen berries, sugar, water, and a little lemon juice.  The hardest part is peeling, coring, and chopping the apples, the rest of it is easy peasy.

Triple Berry Applesauce
by me and only me.  :)

8 apples, peeled, cored and chopped
2 cups frozen mixed berries (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries)
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tblsp. lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a large pot.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat to low/medium low and let the mixture simmer until the apples and berries are soft, about 30-40 minutes.  Stir occasionally.  Once the apple/berry mixture is soft, remove pot from heat and mash with a potato masher.  Let cool. Then, process in a food processor/blender until desired consistency is reached, about 30 seconds. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Cupcakes Part 3-Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Beautiful twirl of frosting
Wow, I'm really getting serious.  A third post on cupcakes.  Unbelievable.  I wasn't kidding when I said I loved making them.  Well, this cupcake is just begging to be made during the Fall season.  It's down on it's hands and knees...begging.  You can't say no, it wouldn't be nice.
The cake recipe is from another vintage cookbook, All About Home Baking.  I will say, these turned out a bit dry, but it's because I was naughty and didn't sift the flour and then measure it.  I hastly dunked my measuring cup in the cake flour box.  Not.a.good.idea.  Please be sure to sift the flour, then scoop the flour with a spoon into your measuring cup and then level with a knife.  That should take care it. 

The blend of spices gives the cake several layers of flavor and an amazing aftertaste.  Strange, but true.  I  added about a 1/2 tsp of ginger for a bit of a punch.  And, the molasses gives depth and richness to the flavor of the cake.  Oh, and I added some walnuts...just for the Self-Professed Nerd.

Yumminess on the inside

Spice Cake
Adapted from All About Home Baking 1933
Yield: 24-30 cupcakes

4 1/2 cups cake flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup butter, softened, or shortening
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, well beaten
1 1/2 cups milk (or even better, buttermilk)
3 Tbsp. molasses
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat ove to 375 degrees.  Grease muffin pans or line with paper liners.
Sift flour, then measure and pour into a medium bowl.  Add baking powder and salt to flour.  Stir to combine.  Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream butter thouroughly, add sugar gradually and cream together until light and fluffy.  Then add eggs and mix well.  Add flour mixture, alternately with the milk, a small amount at a time.  Beat after each addition until smooth.  Add vanilla, molasses, spices, and walnuts.  Mix until incorporated.  Pour batter into prepared cupcake pans, fill about 2/3rds full.  Bake at 375 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or unitl a toothpick comes out clean.

I must love Martha's Vanilla Frosting recipe, because I've used it several times.  I'd say it's more of a cream cheese frosting than vanilla, but so what, who cares (in my best Joy Behar voice). 

Vanilla Frosting (Martha Stewart)

This is the original recipe, doubled:

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
8 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

Place all ingredients in large mixing bowl; beat until well combined.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Peach Crumb Bars


For as along as I can remember my mom has gotten a large box of peaches every September.  While I was growing up, she would spend an entire day (or more) peeling, slicing, and canning these peaches.   I didn't help a lot with this process (I was too busy being an angsty teenager), but I'm amazed at some of the things I still remember from her process.

The most memorable thing I learned was the easy way to peel a peach.  Here goes:  First, bring a large pot of water to a boil.  While the water is coming to a boil, fill the kitchen sink or large bowl with very cold water and add a bunch of ice to it.  Once the pot of water is boiling drop in your peaches (carefully) and boil them for just a minute.  Then immediately transfer the peaches to the ice water.  Once they are cool, take a knife and make a small X on the non-stem end of the peach.  Now, you can take the knife and start peeling the skin starting at the X.  Holding the skin between your thumb and the knife pull the skin slowly down.  It should peel off in large strips.  It's very gratifying.

P.S. Be careful not to the leave the peaches in the boiling water for too long.  They will start to cook and get very slimy, which will make them more difficult to peel. 

My mom gave me some of her peaches this year and I decided I wanted to bake with them.  I ran across these amazing Peach Crumb Bars and just had to make them.  I added some ground ginger to the peach filling to give it a bit more zing!


Peach Crumb Bars
Minimally adapted from Brown Eyed Baker, but it's mostly all her. 

For the Dough/Crumb:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cool
1 egg, lightly beaten

For the Peach Filling:
5 cups diced peaches (about 7 peaches, peeled)
2 Tblsp. lemon juice
1/2  cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp.  salt
1/2 tsp.  ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp.  ground ginger
1/4  tsp. ground nutmeg

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9×13-inch pan.

2. For the Dough/Crumb: In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Use a pastry blender or food processor to cut in the butter, and then the egg. The dough will be crumbly. Pat half of the dough into the prepared pan. Place the pan and the remainder of the dough in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

3. For the Filling: Place the diced peaches in a large bowl and sprinkle with lemon juice. Mix gently. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Pour over the peaches and mix gently.

4. Spread the peach mixture evenly over the chilled crust. Crumble the remaining dough over the peach layer.

5. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Notes: You could also subsitute apples or pears.  You don't want the crust/crumb to be raw or burnt, so you're looking for that ever popular golden brown.  You may want to start looking at these after about 40 minutes of bake time and then every couple of minutes after to ensure that you achieve the optimal golden brown-ness.  :)

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Great Minnesota Get Together!!!

The Minnesota State Fair is the best part of my summer.  It makes life feel simple.  Here's what I love about the Fair: the 4H-ers that have spent months taking care of animals, the Fine Art Building, the Creative Arts building (which of course includes the baked goods), the winning ribbons, and even walking around the sprawling grounds with hundreds of thousands of people.  There's nothing like it, really.  It's a magical experience.


Of course, The Fair would not be complete without all that amazing food!  My all time favorite is the Corn Roast! They roast whole ears of corn in the husks, then shuck them, and dip the enitire cob in a vat of melted butter!  It does not get any better.  So amazingly simple and good.  Unfortunatley, I was a bad food blogger and didn't get a picture of it. Shame on me.  :)
Never fear, I did get pictures of lots of other fair food.  I even stepped out of my introverted self and asked a couple of people to take pictures of their food. Shocking, I know. 
So without further adieu...Fair Food Fesitvus 2011.  Festivus? I don't think I used that word correctly, is it even a word?!

Big Ol' Bucket of Sweet Martha's Cookies-Warm from the Oven!
Deep Fried Oreos-the BEST (second only to the Corn Roast)!

Deep Fried Reese's PB Cup


Fresh Cut French Fries
Pina Colada-in a pineapple, Genius!

This year there was a group of us, normally it's just me and the Self-Professed Nerd, so we got to try a lot more food!  In addition to the food above, I ate/tried a gyro, Minne-apple pie (deep fried pies), pizza, hamburgers, and cheese curds.  Ok, that sounds like a ton of food.  But, we were there for 2 days and there were 6 adults and 2 kids.  Whew, at least I have an excuse.  

 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Minnesota Installment #2-Accent and MN Companies/Inventions

Since Fall and the apple season are right around the corner here in Minnesota, I thought I would include some pictures from one of our trips to the Applewood Orchard in Lakeville, MN

One defining characteristic of Minnesotan speech is, obviously, the long and strong vowel sounds.  For instance, the long 'o'.  This is not to be confused with holding the vowel sound longer than normal, no, this involves the shape of your mouth and how that affects the sound of the vowel itself.  For example: it's not--Minnesoooota, it's--Minnesohta.
Another characteristic is ending a sentence with a preposition. For example: "Is the store open yet?" What may seem a like a question about whether the store has opened for the start of the day, is actually quite the opposite. We Minnesotans mean: "Is the store still open or has it closed for the night?" 


Something you may not know about Minnesota is that we are known for entrepeneurship. Several amazing products have been invented in MN and we have several Fortune 500 companies headquartered here. I have listed a few of the most recognizeable inventions/companies in each category below.
(Disclaimer: I have done research to find these, but like all things in life, there's a chance I'm wrong).

Inventions:   Honeycrisp apples, Post-It notes, Scotch tape, Roller Blades, indoor shopping malls, Tonka trucks, snowmobiles, Spam, Bundt pans, puffed cereals.   Fortune 500 Companies:  Best Buy, General Mills, Target Corp., 3M (Post-it notes, Scotch tape), Hormel (Spam), Medtronic (medical devices, such as pacemakers), USBank, SuperValu.   Other Companies:   Aveda, Regis, Polaris (snowmobiles), Caribou Coffee, Valspar, Dairy Queen, Famous Dave's BBQ, NordicWare (Bundt pan), and the famed Mayo Clinic and Hospital.


It's that time again...MN Stereotype #2: All people in Minnesota sound like the actors in the movie Fargo.
That movie, along with others, were made using a gross hyperbole of the true Minnesota accent.  There are very few people in this state that actually sound like that.  Now, I'm not denying that we have a unique accent, but if you want to hear a true-to-life Minnesotan accent, I suggest watching the movie A Prairie Home Companion.  Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin do a superb job with the accent.  It's darn near perfect!  One of these days, I may muster up some bravery and do a vlog, so you can hear my accent.  Minnesota Stereotype #2=Debunked!

P.S.  Stay tuned for a re-cap of our trip to The Great Minnesota Get Together!!!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Homemade Chocolate Chip Granola Bars


I've done a few "hippie-ish" things lately.  Made my own laundry soap, made bread and cakes from scratch (well, may that's not as much hippie as it is smart, because they're delicious), and now I've made my own granola bars.  Hippie...Granola...Is there a little similarity there?  I've also entertained the thought of making homemade cheese crackers, maybe in the shape of fish.  You know, for the kids.  Yep, the kids, that's right.  *wink*

This recipe is a mish mash of a recipe from Allrecipes.com and my own concoction.  I admit, these taste a bit more like dessert than a granola bar.  In fact, the honey carmalizes a bit and gives these a much richer flavor.  Leaps and bounds above those store bought granola bars made by the company that rhymes with Squaker.

Notes: It's crucial that you use the mini-chocolate chips for these bars. The regular size chips are too big and bulky for this recipe. Believe me, I tried. They fell apart instantly.
The recipe says to use a 9x13 pan, but I usually use a large cookie sheet with sides. It makes the bars thinner, but I think they're better that way.

Homemade Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars
(adapted from Allrecipes.com)

3 c. rolled oats
1 1/2 c. crisp rice cereal (aka Rice Krispies)
1 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2/3 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. honey
1/3 c. packed brown sugar
3/4 c. mini-chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9x13 pan (or larger, if you want them thin).  In a large bowl, combine the oats, cereal, flour, baking soda, vanilla, softened butter, honey, and brown sugar.    Add chocolate chips and stir until incorporated throughout dough.  Lightly press mixture into prepared pan.  Bake for 18-22 minutes or until golden brown.  Let cool about 15 minutes, then cut into bars.  Let cool, in pan, completely before eating. 

*Extra points to whoever caught the Uncle Buck reference.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

French Breakfast Puffs


Around the internet these little gems are being called Doughnut Muffins.  It's a dirty rotten shame.  Wanna know why, because I've always known them as French Breakfast Puffs.  Isn't that better?  Paints a picture doesn't it?  Doughnut muffins...pshh, boring. 


I had my first taste of these muffins when I was in college.  I worked at the most amazing salon in Minneapolis.  Down the hall from the salon, a little coffee shop sold these amazing muffins called French Puffs.  I had never heard of them before, but I love to try new baked goods and these looked simple and delicious.  I was right.  Very straightforward in flavor, unlike any muffin I had ever eaten.


The nutmeg is light, as it should be, but rolling the hot muffin in melted butter and then in a cinnamon/sugar mixture make these pure heaven. You must make these. Chances are you already have all of the ingredients in your pantry and fridge, so no excuses.


I used a recipe from my 1956 Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook, just like the chocolate cupcake recipe.  Something that I adore about vintage cookbooks is that most recipes have a little introduction beneath the title. It can be as simple as a short description of the recipe to a personal account from the person that created the recipe.  This one is no exception. 

French Breakfast Puffs  (as written in the cookbook)
Like delicate, glorified doughnuts.  Miss Esoline Beauregard of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, said, "Please try my mother's recipe."

Mix thoroughly. . .
     1/3 cup soft shortening
     1/2 cup sugar
     1 egg
Sift together. . .
     1 1/2 cups sifted flour
     1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
     1/2 tsp. salt
     1/4 tsp. nutmeg
Stir in alternately with. . .
     1/2 cup milk
Fill greased muffin cups 2/3 full.  Bake unitl golden brown.  Immediately roll in. . .
     6 Tbsp. butter, melted
Then in a mixture of. . .
     1/2 cup sugar
     1 tsp. cinnamon
Serve hot.

TEMPERATURE: 350 degrees
TIME: 20 to 25 min.
AMOUNT: 12 med. muffins

Note from me: When rolling the hot muffin in the butter and then cinnamon sugar, roll the enitre muffin in both mixtures.  It creates a wonderuful flavor and an amazing 'crust' on the muffin.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Cupcakes Part 2-Vintage Cake recipe

Remember the post, where I declared my love of cupcakes?  Well, here's the sequel ladies and gentlemen.  What's special about this recipe is that it's a vintage recipe. This lovely chocolate cake recipe came from my 1956 Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook.  There's something quite unique about baking from vintage cookbooks, you're transported to another era.  You know, where you dress like the ladies from Mad Men  and your house is as well kept as June Cleaver's. Only in my dreams.


The frosting recipe is from Miss Martha and is simply titled Vanilla frosting.  The light cream cheese flavor goes well with the chocolate cake.  I dare you to not dip your finger into that big bowl of goodness while frosting these puppies.  I doubled the recipe and I had plenty of frosting to cover more than two dozen cupcakes. 


Ok, let's face it, this recipe isn't earth-shatteringly unique, but all of us need a good chocolate cake recipe.  I know that there are tons of chocolate cake mixes on the shelves of every grocery store, but homemade cake is so much better.  In fact, it's infinitely better than any box cake.  Plus, it doesn't have all those crazy preservatives. 

Here's the recipe, as written in the cookbook:

Popular Chocolate Cake (Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook, 1956)

Grease and flour.................................2  9" layer pans or 13x9" oblong pan

Cream together until fluffy................2/3 c.   shortening
(Beat 5 min. high speed                     1 1/2 c. sugar
  on mixer or by hand)                        3 eggs                      
                                                    
Blend in............................................2 1/2 sq. unsweetened chocolate, melted

Sift together......................................2 1/4 c. flour
                                                            1 tsp baking Soda
                                                            1 tsp. salt

Mix in alternately with.....................1 1/4 c. buttermilk
(Use low speed on mixer)

Temperature: 350 degrees (mod. oven)
Time: Bake layers 30 to 35 min, oblong 40 to 45 min.

Pour into prepared pans. Bake unitl cake tests done.  Cool.  Finish with icing.

Vanilla Frosting (Martha Stewart)

This is the original recipe, doubled:

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
8 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

Place all ingredients in large mixing bowl; beat until well combined.



Friday, June 17, 2011

Oh, my sweet Nigella Lawson

Photo by James Merrell from NPR website

Seriously I'm obsessed, it'a condition really.  I cannot get enough of Nigella Lawson.  Ever since I made her Chocolate Guinness cake, I have been scouring the interwebs for her recipes, cookbooks, and food ideas.  Her food just exudes love and comfort.  Both of which, I would like more of in my life and food.  I also love that she is British and has a different way of talking about food and it's preparation.  I mean, she makes food sound so delicious and wonderful that I am compelled to cook her recipes.  I plan to scoop up one of her cookbooks ASAP!!!  The first one on the list: How to Be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking.  After that, maybe Feast or Nigella Bites.  Oh man, there are just too many to choose from!

See, I got on a Nigella tangent and almost forgot about this amazing cake.  Rich, chocolately and moist, with a slight hint of beer.  In fact, I couldn't really taste the Guinness, but some of the other cake-partakers could taste it.  Guinness has a bit a of a molasses flavor, so it gives the cake a lot of depth and enhances the chocolatey goodness of this cake.  Well, and who doesn't love cream cheese frosting? It goes so well with this cake, but it can definitely stand alone, sans frosting.

(Note: A friend of mine said to chill the Guinness before trying to open the bottle or it will spray all over you, your guests, and your kitchen. What? You think it was me?  What makes you say that?)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Good Eats from Trader Joe's


Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy.  A few weeks ago, I picked up a bag of Gnocchi al Gorgonzola at Trader Joe's and just got around to  making it.  The consensus: It is Delicious!!!  My sweet little peanut loved it, which is unusual (she kept calling it Pin-gnocchi-o).  I have never had Gnocchi before and the texture was different from regular pasta, a little more like a potato dumpling.  But, the gorogonzola sauce...amazing.  Gorgonzola (said in my best Wallace voice) is a stronger tasting cheese with a bit of a zing.  Gotta love the stinky cheese!  So, if you're ever in need of an easy side dish, this is the ticket.  It takes only 7 minutes to make.  The only complaint, there's not much in the bag, enough for maybe 2 or 3 adults.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Cupcakes

(You can find this print on Etsy)

So, I've decided that I love to make cupcakes.  There are two problems with this:  1)  If I make them too much, I will then weigh 547.5 pounds.  Not good.  2)  They have been the 'it' baking item for a while now and I don't really like copying people or going with trends too much. 

But, they're so pretty, so very, very pretty, and fun to decorate, and fun to eat, and...did I say, pretty?  So, to heck with the problems.  I'm going to make cupcakes until my fingers fall off.  I will need help with #1, however, so if you ever want a cupcake, I'm more than willing to share with you.  :)

First up, Raspberry Lemon Cupcakes.  Um, I died and went to baking heaven after I ate one of these.  Seriously, it's the best cupcake I've ever had, period.  The recipe calls for Raspberry Extract and I couldn't find it, so the raspberry flavor in the frosting was very faint.  But, they were still the most delicious cupcake ever and the frosting was creamy and yummy and tasted like a professional made it. (was that a run on sentence?)   Next time, I will be scouring the Twin Cities to find that extract, come heck or high water.   Ahhhh, life is good. 


My Raspberry Lemon cupcake, all decorated for Easter

This is a Dorie Greenspan recipe, but I found it on the blog My Baking Addiction.  Seriously, I will never make a cake from a box again.  Well, that might not be totally true...I'm weak, what can I say.  :)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Minnesota Installment #1: Food Vocabulary and a Stereotype Debunked

  (Image from Voyageur Park Lodge)

Ahhhh, now THAT'S Minnesota, I feel the stress melting away.

As you may know, I was born and raised in Minnesota and still live here. And not only that, but I was born and raised in a small town. You know what that means...I have a strong Minnesotan accent. I have to admit, I'm a little sensitive about it and get a little upset if people mimick my accent.  However, I realize that it's unique and I want to embrace it, along with the unique Minnesota vocabulary, especially surrounding food. So here's a short list:

Hot Dish: Many of you may know this food group as casserole, but we here in MN like to make things more direct and simple. Any small town Minnesotan can tell you about the quintessential church pot luck hot dish.  It always has hamburger (aka groud beef), some sort of starch (rice, noodles, or potatoes), and cream of mushroom soup.  Other ingredients are added as well, but may vary depending on whose making it.  Probably the most recognizable hot dish is Tater Tot Hot Dish

(Picture by Minnesota Visitor)

Bars: This is any dessert, besides cake, that is cut into squares. They are almost always served straight from the pan. The most obvious example is brownies, but can also include desserts like these or these. Again, no church pot luck is complete with out some bars. "Hey Joyce, I'll bring some bars if you bring a hot dish".

(Image from Getty Images)

A Little Lunch: Now this may be a little lesser known, but when a Minnesotan says "Hey, how about a little lunch", it usually means "Hey, I know we weren't planning to eat, but I invited you over and now I want to offer you large amounts of food".  I found an explanation by Ms. BrownieLocks that perfectly describes 'a little lunch'.  "There are four meals in the Northland: breakfast, dinner, supper, and a little lunch".  "A little lunch is a stealth meal served to unsuspecting coffee guests from out of town".  "You will be lavished with lemon bars, chocolate chip cookies, cakes, sandwhiches, and a dab of everything single thing in your host's refrigerator". 

Supper:  The previous phrase, led me to this next Minnesota-esque word, supper.  This is the evening meal, which many people refer to as dinner.  I recently switched over to calling this meal dinner, the Self-Professed Nerd is originally from Colorado, and my dad still corrects me whenever it say it. :)

I could on and on, so maybe this will have to be a recurring topic.  I have several cookbooks from MN churches, which really give you a glimpse of small town food culture in Minnesota. 

MN Stereotype #1: Minnesotans eat Lutefisk on a regular basis.  I have never eaten Lutefisk in my life.  In fact, I've never even seen it with my own eyes.  I'm pretty sure noone in my family has ever made it or eaten it either.  There ya go, MN stereotype #1=Debunked!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Popcorn


So, this may not be a mind-blowing recipe like these or these, but it will change the way you eat a favorite movie-watching snack.  I'm talkin' popcorn people!  I have loved homemade, popped on the stove, popcorn with real butter and salt for a long time.  In fact, I remember going to the drive-in (yes, you heard me) with my mom and dad and a brown paper bag full of the stuff.  It was amazing!  I'd wear my pj's and eat popcorn to my heart's content and then fall asleep before the second feature even started.


You can imagine my delight when I found popcorn kernals even more fantastic than Mr. Redenbacher's.  I found them at the Mennonite market near my home town and let me tell you, there is no going back.  They are much more fresh and tender than any other popcorn. The Market had a few different types (along with the most amazing whoopie pie): yellow, white, tiny, and lady finger.  I bought the white and the tiny.  The white, pops up just like any other popcorn, but it has a white hull and the tiny is just as it says, smaller than a normal kernal.


Let's not forget the most important tool when making popcorn...the Whirley Pop popcorn maker.  I'm pretty sure I love my Whirley Pop more than any other kitchen tool in my cupboards.  It makes delicious popcorn in about 3 minutes flat, no longer than that microwave stuff.  I've had mine for 10+ years now and it's still going strong.  So, if you love popcorn, run as fast as you can to get one.  Oh, and you MUST use real butter and popcorn salt.  There is just no other acceptable way.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

M.I.A

Wow, I've been gone a long time.  At least I have a few good reasons.  First, I got sick, my kids got sick, my husband got sick, all.at.the.same.time.  Not fun.  Then, our car died and we had to quickly find a replacement (thank you Honda sign and drive). After all that fun, my kids turned 4.  Four!  I've told them they are not supposed to get older, sheesh.  All I can say is, it really is true, time flies when you have kids.  There are still days when I look at my kids and can't believe I have twins.  The first year was incredibly challenging and I have very few memories of the first 4 months.  But, I love it and to be honest, I wouldn't want it any other way.  All that to say, I have new posts swirling in my head and I hope to get them up very soon.  What have you been up to?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Happy Paczki Day

(Image from Emily's Bakery)

So, have you heard of Paczkis? I had never heard of them until a couple of my friends talked about them on Facebook. Well, today is the day, kids. It's Paczki Day! I ate my first Paczki at Emily's Bakery in Hastings, MN. Here's a bit of the history of Paczkis straight from Emily's website:

"These round, sugar-coated, fruit-filled Polish pastries were served up annually on the day before Lent, a period of abstinence observed by Roman Catholics."

"The New World version, like the old, begins as an extra large doughball, rich in egg yolks and deep fried, just like a donut. Each is then overfilled with raspberry, strawberry, custard, lemon, peach, creamcheese or the traditional filling of prune. Then they are topped with a smooth sugar glaze or rolled in fine granulated sugar."

My son also enjoyed his very own chocolate cream filled paczki.  Needless to say, the kid loved it. (thankfully he wasn't able to finish it).  :)  I hope to make this an annual tradition.  I hope you will too!  After all, it is Fat Tuesday.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Pasta e Fagioli

Mmmm...warm soup on a cold day, nothin' better.  Ya know what makes it even better, this recipe is easy and fairly good for you.  It doesn't call for meat of any kind, but you could definitely add some pancetta or regular bacon.  A sprinkle of parmesan cheese and you have a wonderful bowl of soup.  And believe it or not, the Self Professed Nerd liked it and asked me to make it again (miracle of all miracles).


This recipe is courtesy of Martha Stewart Everyday Food and as it states in the description, this is more of a stew than a soup.  I adapted it to my taste and for the ingredients I had on hand.  I would recommend using a higher quality pasta, it just tastes better.

Here is the recipe:

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 celery stalks, diced medium
2 carrots, diced medium
1 small yellow onion, diced medium
2 garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt and ground pepper
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes
2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup small pasta, such as Mezzi Tubetti
1 can (15.5 ounces) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
4 strips bacon, fried and crumbled

In a medium heavy pot, heat oil over medium. Add celery, carrots, onion, and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft, 9 minutes. Add oregano, tomatoes, and broth. Increase heat to high and simmer rapidly until liquid thickens slightly, 5 minutes. Add pasta and cook, partially covered, until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Add beans and cook until warmed through, about 3 minutes. To serve, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and bacon.

For the recipe as originally written:
 Pasta e Fagioli - Martha Stewart Recipes


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Gingerbread-Vintage recipe

I've had this old cookbook for a while now, but this is the first recipe I have made from it.  We all know my love for vintage cookbooks and I have amassed quite a collection.  (Thank you: Savers, Goodwill, Ebay, garage sales, and Half Price Books).  This is one of the oldest in my collection.  It was copyrighted in 1933 by the General Foods Corporation, which was started by C.W. Post of Post Toasties and Grape Nuts fame.  Apparently, it later became Kraft General Foods and later became just Kraft!  The title is "All About Home Baking"  and even though it's only 144 pages, it has a ton of great recipes.

 
I absolutely love molasses and the great thing about this recipe is it calls for 2/3 cup of the stuff.  It came together easily and the batter was lighter than I expected.  I used shortening instead of butter because all my butter was frozen.  :)  I also did not have any buttermilk, so I made my own.

This cake has a rich molasses and ginger flavor, like a gingerbread cookie, but more flavorful.  It's good on its own, but it's great served with applesauce or sweetened whipped cream (recipe below).  Or, you could go even more decadent and serve it with cream cheese or buttercream frosting!


I thought it would be fun to post a picture of the actual recipe, rather than type it out myself.  :)


Sweetened Whipped Cream

Beat together: 1 cup chilled Heavy Whipping Cream with 1/2 cup Powdered Sugar, until stiff.

(from Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book, 2nd Ed., 1956)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Toast

Oh my word...this is so stinkin' good.  The sugar mixture actually caramalizes a bit and gives the toast a unique flavor.  It almost tastes like dessert!  In fact, it kind of reminds of a Churro.  I will say that this is definitely not a low-calorie breakfast, but well worth it for the most amazing cinnamon toast you have ever had!
I have made several of The Pioneer Woman's recipes and they are all incredibly good!  One thing I love about The Pioneer Woman is her step-by-step instructions and photos of her process. It makes her recipes pretty much fool proof. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Michael Ruhlman

Somehow, I happened upon Michael Ruhlman's blog/website.  He, of course, writes about food, in fact he's written books about it.  But, the thing I enjoy most about his website, is his video series entitled "Something to Say".  He records short blurbs of himself kind of "ranting" about a particular topic related to food.  What do I love most about it?  Michael tells it like it is, he doesn't mince words.  Here is one of my favorites:
Something To Say: Stupidity, Humans, Food

I really like that he makes it so simple.  I gotta say, I've struggled more with my weight since having kids and aging into my 30's.  It's a challenge to know how to eat, whether it's low-fat or low-carb, but it really does come down to, if I don't overeat, I won't gain weight.  That simple.  Ruhlman goes on to expound on his video in the post that goes along with it.  I'd love to hear any comments from you, if you have any! :) 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Vic Firth...Not just for drumsticks

So, did anyone else realize that Vic Firth (a popular maker of drumsticks and other drumming items) also makes rolling pins, pepper mills, and other kitchen items?  How fun!  I would absolutely love the French Pin, I mean that would have to increase the quality of my baked items by a hundred fold, right?  Being married to a musician, I just feel compelled to buy something in the near future.  Of course, I'll probably be nervous to use it the first few times, wouldn't want to mar the beauty, but I think I can get over it. So, feel free to peruse the Vic Firth Gourmet site, you may find some great items for yourself or for the musician in your life. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Fruit Salsa and Cinnamon/Sugar Baked Tortilla Chips

Sheesh, I took a really long break from blogging.  That's no good.  I'm going to try to get better about this.

I think my 33 year old brain is getting more forgetful, either that or more distracted.  I forgot to take "in procees" shots of this recipe. I could blame it on having a lot on my mind, but I don't think that's the case. Does it make up for it if I say that after you make this recipe your house will smell like a cinnamon roll?  If you have a significant other, this smell is probably better than any perfume or cologne.
So, here's my lone little photo.  But, don't let it discourage you...this is AMAZING!  The lime zest in the salsa brings out the flavor of the fruit and gives it a bright and fresh flavor.  And, man oh man, are those Cinnamon/Sugar Tortilla chips good.  Little wedges from heaven...with all that buttery, sugary,
cinnamon-y goodness.
Mmmm, good!  I chose to use frozen fruit, but fresh would be just as yummy!

Here's the recipe:

Fruit Salsa and Cinnamon and Sugar Tortilla Chips

Fruit Salsa
1- 12 oz bag frozen Strawberries, chopped
1- 10 oz bag frozen mixed berries, chopped
1 can sliced peaches, chopped
1/2 to 1 tsp. lime zest
2 Tblsp. sugar

Mix all ingredients and chill in fridge for about an hour.  Drain excess juice and serve with Cinnamon Sugar Tortilla Chips.

Cinnamon and Sugar Tortilla Chips
1 pkg. soft taco size flour tortillas (about 10in.)
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine sugar and cinnamon in small bowl.  Brush tortilla with butter on one side, then sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar mixture. Repeat on other side.  Using a pizza cutter, cut the tortilla into 8 pieces/wedges.  Continue this process with the rest of the tortillas.  Spread wedges in a single layer on a cookie sheet.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, turning chips halfway through baking time.  Cool.
Serve with chilled Fruit Salsa.

This recipe is a combination from one I found on AllRecipes and a recipe from a friend.  The salsa is best when eaten in the first day to two.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Breakfast

I don't know about you, but I'm not a big breakfast food fan.  Sometimes I like eggs, but most of the time they just don't taste good to me. As for pancakes and waffles, I'll leave that for the Self-Professed Nerd and my son.  But, I decided on a whim to try the Fruit and Maple Oatmeal at McDonald's and it was pretty darn good.  I know, it's not gourmet, but if you're looking for something hearty and a quick for breakfast, this is the ticket.  To my surprise there were lots of apple chunks, raisins, and craisins and the maple flavor was evident, but not overwhelming.  I give it an 8 out of 10 wooden spoons.  :)  I just hope this little gem becomes a permanent part of the Mickey D's menu.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Streusel Topped Pumpkin Bread and an Important Discovery

The Streusel

So, I've been eyeing this Streusel Topped Pumpkin Bread on Tasty Kitchen for a long time.  Today was the day to make it.  My husband, (aka: the Self-Professed Nerd) loves anything with the word Streusel in it.  So, I knew this would be a hit.


The Batter

Unfortunately, I made another important discovery while making the streusel for this bread.  My daughter is allergic to walnuts.  We had suspected she had a mild allergy to peanuts, but hadn't tested our theory on any other nuts.  She was helping me make the topping and decided to take a lick.  Within 2 minutes, her lips were swollen and she was throwing up (or yawning in technicolor, as my 8th grade english teacher called it).  Poor girl!  I'm so glad I know now!


Ready for the oven


After the brief interruption and a Dum Dum sucker for the little peanut, I finished the bread.  It came together really easily.  I didn't have buttermilk so I made my own: a little less then 1/2 cup milk and a couple teaspoons of white vinegar and you're good to go! 



The Finished Product

This is so amazingly good.  In fact, it's my new favorite recipe for Pumpkin Bread.  I absolutely love the streusel topping and well, so does the Self-Professed Nerd (SPN).  I didn't have any cardamom, so I swapped it for cloves.  The flavor was fantastic, all the spices blend well with the pumpkin to give it a great fall/winter flavor.  The streusel really makes this bread.  It reminds me a bit of the topping on apple crisp. 

Streusel Topped Pumpkin Bread

FOR THE BREAD:
¾ cups Butter, Softened
¾ cups Granulated Sugar
¾ cups Dark Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla
4 whole Eggs
2-½ cups Pumpkin Puree
3 cups All-purpose Flour
3 teaspoons Baking Powder
¾ teaspoons Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Salt
1-½ teaspoon Cinnamon
¼ teaspoons Ground Ginger
¼ teaspoons Allspice
¼ teaspoons Grated Nutmeg
⅛ teaspoons Cardamom
½ cups Buttermilk
_____
FOR THE STREUSEL TOPPING:
¼ cups Butter, Softened
½ cups Brown Sugar
¼ cups Oatmeal
¼ cups All-purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
3 Tablespoons Ground Flax Seed
¼ cups Chopped Pecans (optional)
Preheat your oven to 350º F. Grease and flour the bottom of two 8″ loaf pans. To make the topping, mix together all the topping ingredients using a fork or pastry cutter until combined thoroughly.
In a large bowl or mixer, cream together butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar. Add vanilla and eggs and mix until incorporated. Stir in pumpkin puree.
In a separate bowl, add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ground ginger, allspice, nutmeg and cardamom. Whisk together until no lumps remain. Add half of the flour mix to the pumpkin mix, blending well. Beat in buttermilk. Add remaining flour mix and beat lightly until smooth. Pour batter evenly into the two prepared 8″ pans. Cover each with half of the topping mix. Bake at 350º F for 70-80 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.