Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!



I believe whole-heartedly in the over indulgence that is Halloween (or over indulging on any holiday for that matter).   I love the idea of dressing up as someone else, begging for candy and scaring the crap out of your friends and neighbors.  Don't get me wrong, I adore the Christmas season too, but since transplanting myself to Florida, it just doesn't feel the same.  So I have made Halloween my "it" holiday, when I expend the most amount of energy making in fun. 
It started with "Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" over my super pancakes (recipe at another time), and will end sometime much later (wayyyyyy past bedtime) with sugar crashes after truckloads of candy. 
I am wishing everyone a safe and spooky Halloween!
(I'm sure I will be back later posting about our chocolate pumpkin cake and with pictures of the things all decked out in their Halloween garb.)


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Spooky Pies!

My filling is yellow, I didn't prep correctly and didn't have red food coloring!


See what I did there, I made Whoopie Pies in to Spooky Pies!  I'm clever, that's why you read my crap (or not, no one probably reads this!) 
I'm a New England Girl, and these whoopie pies make me wax nostalgic of summers on the lake in Maine.  I figured they would be a fun Halloween treat if I colored the creamy centers orange and gave them a Halloween-ish moniker.  They are pretty simple to make, messy- fun to eat and made my neighbors happy when they got the bags full of old fashioned goodness. 


What you need:

Cookies:
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour milk (I used heavy cream, you can make sour milk by adding 1 tsp white vinegar to 1 cup milk)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened coco powder
  • 1 tsp salt

Filling:
  • 1 1/2 cups shortening (I know, TONS of shortening, but your gonna eat TONS of your kids candy in a few days anyway)
  • 4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 2 egg whites, beaten

What you do:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Grease cookie sheets.
In a large bowl, cream together 1 cup of shortening and white sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time then stir in the vanilla and sour milk. Combine the flour, cocoa and salt, stir into the creamed mixture. Stir together the baking soda and hot water then mix them into the batter last. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto the prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 8 minutes in the preheated oven, until firm but not overbaked. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely.
To make the filling: In a medium bowl, cream together the 1 1/2 cups shortening with the confectioners' sugar and 1/4 cup of flour until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the milk and vanilla until well mixed, then fold in the egg whites. Sandwich at least 1 tablespoon of filling between the flat sides of two cookies.




Taste tested by Thing 2.

Pie production overseen by "Jack Skellington"


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Honey Bees, Chocolate and Smiles.



I have made this cake so many times, but it still makes people smile to see the shiny chocolate glaze and the happy marzipan bees.  My kids really get into helping with this one (note: I say helping, but I really mean eating the marzipan dipped in the glaze).  The method seems intricate, but in all honesty, I just cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs one at a time, than throw the rest in and mix.  It's a recipe from one of my faves Nigella Lawson.  Don't be scared off by the bee business, you can leave them out.  It will still be sticky sweet and gone in 60 seconds!


What you need:

Cake:
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 1 1/3 cups soft light brown sugar
  • 2 sticks soft butter
  • 1/2 cup honey (I use orange blossom honey, the slight citrus with the chocolate is a knock out!)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp cocoa
  • 1 cup boiling water

Sticky honey glaze:
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
Bees:
  • 1 ounce yellow marzipan
  • 12 flaked almonds


What you do:

Take whatever you need out of the refrigerator so that all ingredients can come to room temperature, and while that's happening, melt the chocolate from the cake part of the ingredients list in a good-sized bowl, either in the microwave or suspended over a pan of simmering water. Set aside to cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and butter and line a 9-inch springform pan ( you can use a regular cake pan, just butter and flour it really well).

Beat together the sugar and soft butter until airy and creamy, and then add the honey.
Add 1 of the eggs, beating it in with a tablespoon of the flour, and then the other egg with another tablespoon of flour. Fold in the melted chocolate, and then the rest of the flour and baking soda. Add the cocoa pushed through a tea strainer to ensure you have no lumps, and last of all, beat in the boiling water. Mix everything well to make a smooth batter and pour into the prepared tin. Cook for up to 1 1/2 hours, though check the cake after 45 minutes and if it is getting too dark, cover the top lightly with aluminium foil and keep checking every 15 minutes.

Let the cake cool completely in the tin on a rack.

To make the glaze, bring the water and honey to a boil in a saucepan, then turn off the heat and add the finely chopped chocolate, swirling it around to melt in the hot liquid. Leave it for a few minutes, then whisk together. Add the sugar through a sieve and whisk again until smooth.

Choose your plate or stand, and cut out 4 strips of baking paper and form a square outline on the plate. This is so that when you sit the cake on and ice it, the icing will not run out all over the plate. Unclip the tin and set the thoroughly cooled cake on the prepared plate. Pour the glaze over the cold honey bee cake; it might dribble a bit down the edges, but don't worry too much about that.  Keep the pan of glaze, as you will need it to make the stripes on the bees.

Divide the marzipan into 6 even pieces and shape them into fat, sausage-like bees' bodies, slightly tapered at the ends.

Using a wooden skewer, paint stripes with the sticky honey glaze left in the pan from icing the cake. About 3 stripes look best, and then very carefully attach the flaked almonds at an angle to make the bees' wings, 2 on each one.

Friday, October 22, 2010

An apron a day, keeps the rest of my housework away (for now)

Wow, no posts for days, now two in the same one!  Don't get spoiled, this won't happen often.  So I mentioned some apron sewing projects.  Here is the first!  I started small scale, using thing one as my guinea pig.  She loves frills and girly things, so I churned out this little pink number just for her. 




Its a basic bib apron, with a gathered skirt (Simplicity pattern # 2319) . The fabric was a steal, I even got enough to make a mommy version down the line.  
I think next is a long number it some beautiful toile.  Almost turn of the century-ish.  Reminiscent of this




For now its time for some tea, and my comfy couch, its been a long few hours in front of the sewing machine!

Sew Easy

Bless me Blogger, for I have sinned.  Its been something days since my last post.  So I will have 2 bloody Mary's and all will be forgiven right? 

So, I have taken a break from baking for a millisecond.  My hips and my children's teeth are thanking me.  But I have gotten a chance to catch up on some crafting projects that have been left alone and abandoned in the closet.  Unfortunately, the baby blankets I started ages ago will now be going to preschoolers and my sewing machine needed a jolt from a defibrillator to start. 
I have missed sewing, the mindless hum of the machine, the beautiful things that come out of a few yards of fabric.  I have a hankering for all things vintage, so my project for the next few weeks is going to be to turn out some 1940's style aprons.  They are dress like and feminine.  And make me feel like a WWII bride when I am hanging out my laundry on the line.  




Check out Etsy or Stitch Thru Time for some patterns and ideas. 
If you need me, ill be sewing to my hearts content surrounded by frills, patterns and straight pins.

P.S- Yes, I will include pictures of finished products!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sunday Anecdote

This is a totally non food related post and  I can do that because this is my space so there!  Ok, now on to the mature part of the post.  So I was sitting with thing one the other day.  She crawled onto my lap and was looking at me funny.  (She's 4, and has yet to acquire that self censoring thing that stops us when we are going to say something offensive or insulting, so you know when she is looking at you a certain way, to brace yourself for some brutal honesty.)  Then she says, "Mom, you have a little hair on your lip, are you growing a moosestache?" I explained to her that no, in fact I was not growing a moustache, and tried to explain about hormones, pregnancy ,age blah blah blah..ultimately that sometimes hair grows where we don't want it so we shave or wax it away.  Her response was "You should go shave it off, it's creepy ".  Of course I promptly went and remedied the problem.  I agree though moustaches are kind of creepy ...unless your Burt Reynolds or Tom Sellek.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Martian-Mallows

As you can see, the blog has gotten a new name, and a new look.  The editors and I (and by editors, I mean the things, who are always more than willing to add their input) have decided that since its more fun to bake sweets than actual food, that the blog should be focused on baking...with a few non baked recipes thrown in. 





Anywho, in the Halloween spirit, we made some marshmallows and turned them green...the birth of a martian-mallow.  Super yummy, covered in powdered sugar, they make the ones in the bag look like lumps of coal.  They are minorly labor intensive, but worth it.  I did my best to get the plate of ours out of little arms reach, but every time I look over, there is another one missing.  I can see some sugar rushes followed my major crashes in my future.

               
                                                                Marshmallows


What you need:

  • 1 cup cold water, 1/2  for mixer bowl, 1/2 for saucepan
  • 3 - 1/4 ounce envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup  light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • A few drops of green food color

What you do:


Lightly butter, or spray with a non stick vegetable spray, the bottom of a 13x9 baking pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. Then sift about 3 tablespoons of powdered  sugar onto the bottom of the pan (this will help release the set marshmallow from the paper).
Place 1/2 cup cold water into the bowl of your electric mixer that is fitted with a whisk attachment. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand until gelatin softens, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a heavy two quart saucepan, place the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup  cold water. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves and the mixture comes to a boil. Cover the saucepan with a lid and let boil for about three minutes to allow any sugar crystals to dissolve from the sides of the saucepan. Remove the lid and attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Increase heat to high and boil, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 240 degrees  (about 6-8 minutes.)  Remove from heat.
With mixer running at low speed, slowly pour the hot syrup into the gelatin mixture in a thin stream down the side of the bowl. Gradually increase the speed to high and beat until mixture has tripled in volume and is very thick and stiff, about 10 minutes.  Add vanilla extract and food color and beat to combine.
Scrape marshmallow mixture into the prepared pan and spread with a damp rubber spatula ( I found that if I wet my fingers and pushed the mixture into the sides of the pan, it worked better) The mixture is very sticky so just smooth it out as best as you can. Dust the top of the marshmallow with another 3 tablespoons of confectioners' sugar and let stand, uncovered, at room temperature until set, about 12 hours.
Remove the marshmallow from the pan by first running a small sharp knife around the edge of the marshmallow to loosen it from the pan. Turn them out onto a surface that had been dusted with powdered sugar.You might have to use your fingers to help loosen the marshmallow from the pan. Peel off the parchment paper (the marshmallow will be sticky) and dust the top of the marshmallow with confectioners' sugar. Cut the marshmallow into squares using a sharp knife ( kept dipping my knife in HOT water, it worked like a charm) . Dip the cut sides of the marshmallows in additional powdered sugar. Shake off excess sugar and store the marshmallows in an airtight container, at room temperature, for up to two weeks.
I think we may use some to try this.

Friday, October 15, 2010

One lump, or two?



So the things and I are developing our own family traditions.  We walk around the block every evening and eat cumquats from the neighbors tree, we have spaghetti every Sunday, and now we are getting into having afternoon tea.  The evolution of a tradition in my house is very simple, I do it, the kids like it, and then they remind me to do it daily or weekly.  The tea thing is really more for me.  By 3 o'clock, all the naps are over, most of my "chores" are done and its nice to have a moment to sit and breath.  Its been very unofficial, until now.  More like a snack break for the kids and a second for me to have a cup of tea before the dinner/bedtime madness commences.  But I have upped significance of afternoon tea, making it an hour designated to sophistication (which I lack in my daily life) and feminism (also lacking!).  The kids get milk in a fancy tea cup, and I serve scones and cucumber finger sandwiches.  Its all very posh, until Nick yells "Poop!" and Lexy laughs milk out of her nose. 


Cream Scones

What you need:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour (plus a little extra for surface and hands)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces ( I put mine in the frezzer for a few minutes)
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten


What you do:

Preheat oven to 400.

In a food processor add flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter.  Pulse in 3-4 second increments until the mixture looks like course meal.  ( you can also do this by hand, with a pastry cutter or with 2 butter knives)


Transfer mix to a large bowl and add cream, eggs and vanilla and mix until just combined, the key is not to over mix these.




Turn mixture out onto a well floured surface, flour your hands and the top of the dough (this is some sticky stuff) and pat/press out to a 4x8 rectangle, trying to keep dough about 3/4 inch thick throughout.  Using a 2" round cutter (I use a mason jar, because I am cool like that) cut out 8 to 10 scones.  Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Brush the tops with a little cream and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake for 15-20 minutes.  Serve with fruit preserves and lightly beaten cream!


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Butternut Heaven

I promised a butternut squash soup recipe, so I must deliver. There are SOOOOO many versions of this soup.  Some have apples, some add curry, some even have potato.  I make mine in much the same fashion as I would if I was making roasted squash for the holidays.  It warms me from the inside out with cinnamon, allspice and a touch of nutmeg.  Add, subtract, substitute as you like. Enjoy!



I add a dash of cream and allspice for serving.
 What you need:

  • 1 large Butternut Squash ( I don't bother to weigh, I go by size)
  • Olive oil
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • salt  and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon butter

What you do:

Preheat your oven to 400.  Cut squash in half lengthwise.  Scoop out seeds and stringy pulp.  Lightly brush the cut sides with the olive oil (this will help them stay moist and not dry out)  Place on a baking sheet cut sides up and roast from 45-60 minutes depending on size of squash.  You can tell if its done if you can easily stab it with your fork. 

Let it cool slightly, enough so you can easily peel the skin off.  Some people would rather scoop the flesh out with a spoon, but I'm not at all delicate, so I get my hands right in there. 

Break it into pieces and put it in a food processor or blender.  Turn it on and let it rip, you want your soup to be smooth, so it can blend for a while.  Add about a cup of the chicken stock while blending to thin it out.
Once it smooth and lump free, put it in a sauce pan and heat on medium.  Add the rest of the chicken stock, and mix.  Add all of the spices and sugar and mix.  I let mine cook together for while, 20 minutes or so, so that the flavors mix and jive.  Just before serving, add the milk and butter and whisk it all together.  Bowl it up and dig in! I serve mine with a little cream or creme fraiche with a  pinch of allspice on top. Bowl it up and dig in! 


P.S I was asked for a crock pot version.  So here goes:
 All the ingredients are the same, but instead of roasting your own squash use 4 or 5 10 oz packages frozen squash (enough to equal about 3 lbs.) thawed.  Add the squash, stock, and spices to crock pot.  Cook on low for 4-6 hours, making sure to stir occasionally.  Before serving, add the sugar, butter and milk and cook on high for 10-15 minutes.  Serve it up!  It freezes great and can be reheated again in the crock pot or on the stove!

P.S.S- Super picky thing 1 and thing 2 gobble this soup up, and always ask for seconds.

Autumn Flavors

In Florida we don't really have a change of season.  Sure it get slightly cooler, and the humidity drops, but nothing significant enough to make it really feel like fall.  Being a northern girl, I miss all things autumn; hayrides, apple picking, pumpkins, sweaters and the amazing colors.  So I am creating my own "fall" with my cooking.  The kids and I have visited a few pumpkin festivals and pick-your-own farms and have gathered some fresh ingredients.  I have made and canned some applesauce, pickled green beans and sweet potato butter.  Today I made a delicious applesauce cream cheese bread, finished a pumpkin raisin bread I had proofing and experimented with some bagels, my favorites being my pumpkin pie and apple cinnamon versions.  I think tomorrow I'll work on some Butternut Squash soup! We may not be able to experience true fall, but we can eat like it!  I'll post recipes and give more detail tomorrow. 



Amazing applesauce cream cheese bread


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Dinner- check, Dishes- check, Tea on the couch- check check check

I have a very simple approach to my cooking.  Whether its for guests, or just for us...basic is best.  That's not to say that I don't bring out the big guns on Holidays or special occasions.  I just think that if things get to complicated, its not enjoyable... and if it's not enjoyable, whats the point?  I don't, however, have a weekly schedule of dinners.  What I do have, is a few standbys that I go back to time and time again, always with a little tweaking and improvisation.  One of these standbys is chicken cutlets.  Chicken is fundamental, but can be morphed into some incredible dishes.  I use thin sliced chicken cutlets for the majority of my chicken meals, because its quicker cooking, a more appropriate serving for the rugrats, and breaded cutlets can be used in a TON of stuff.  Here is my ranch and Parmesan chicken cutlet recipe.  You can add or subtract spices and flavorings as you see fit.  The outcome will always be delicious and easy. 



What you need:
  • 1 package chicken cutlets (you can buy them that way, or pound chicken breast)
  • 1 package powdered ranch dressing mix (1/3 cup if you buy it in bulk like I do)
  • 1 1/2 cup PLAIN breadcrumbs ( I always have plain and Italian style in my pantry)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese ( I buy a chunk and grate my own, it has soooo much more flavor and pre-grated!!)
  • 2 eggs
  • olive oil (or vegetable oil)



What you do:
Heat on medium, enough oil to thoroughly coat the bottom of your pan ( I always pan fry in cast iron, but that's your choice)




In a shallow dish, I use pie plates, mix the ranch dressing mix, bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese.  In another dish, lightly beat the eggs. 


I make my own breadcrumbs.  Uses old bread and saves me $$$

Dip the cutlets in the egg, then lightly dredge in the bread crumb mixture, cover both sides completely ** if you use one hand only for the egg, and the other only for the dry ingredients, you'll minimize the junk that can build up on your fingers** Then add only a few cutlets at a time to the pan.



Cook for about 3-4 minutes, than turn.  The second side should cook 3-4 minutes too.  Since you might have to cook these in batches, your second and subsequent batches may be a little more browned that your first, that's because of the smudge left behind in the oil, so don't fret!  The result is crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside and has a ton of flavor.  They are perfect the next day for sandwiches, and are even good eaten cold!


A plate of goodness!


Saturday, October 9, 2010

If I Could Take a Wife...

I have a serious lady crush on Nigella Lawson.  Not only is she effortlessly beautiful, she has a charismatic and breezy cooking style that makes me green with envy.  Her baked goods are thrown together and blitzed in the food processor, a technique that would make my middle school home economics teacher weep.  There is no real method with her cooking.  Its easy and simple, but still gorgeous and delicious. 
My kids are really elementary in their taste preferences.  It could be Kraft Dinner night every night, and I am sure there would be no squawking.  But I have been able to infuse some Indian, Greek, French and even Asian dinners into my repertoire and they have been more than satisfied.  And thanks to the simplistic nature of her recipes, I'm able to make and ENJOY dinner!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Cinnamon Rolls, Mall not included...

I have had a serious bread making obsession these days.  I have chosen a few basic breads, some savory breads and have had successes studded with the occasional failure.  All in all its been fun, and educational.  Its like chemistry mixed with home ec.  So, this afternoon I had the brilliant idea to make some cinnamon rolls.  Who doesn't love a cinnamon roll? 
I thought it was going to be a tremendous undertaking, but really is an easy process.  It takes a while to make, only due to the few hours needed to let the dough rest between segments.  The end result is well worth the wait, as with most things in life.  They are tender and delicious, cream cheesy and the brown sugar has a warm satisfying sweetness.
Trust me, if I can pull this off, with 2 kids driving race cars around the kitchen and drooling over the smell, anyone can do it! 




Brown Sugar Cinnamon Rolls

What you need:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 5-6 cups all purpose flour

Filling:

  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup raisins (optional)
Topping:
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup soft butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar




What you do:

I find its always easiest to gather and measure out your ingredients first.  Not that you need to be told this, but if your anything like me, I always think I have everything I need, but inevitably am missing one component or another .  Its always easier to find that out before you start rather than at the crucial moment!
Add the brown sugar ( I chose a mix of light and dark, only because that's what I had on hand) and butter to a stand mixer or your mixing bowl.  Beat together until light and fluffy, should look like this:
Yours might be slightly lighter than mine, that's because I added the dark brown sugar.
Add the eggs, one at a time, being sure the completely incorporate each egg before adding the next.  Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally during mixing.
Add the water and milk together in a small sauce pan and just warm thru.  Add it to your batter, along with the cinnamon, salt and yeast.  Mix again on low until everything is well blended.  Start adding your flour in.  Start with 2 cups, and mix well.  Add the flour in little by little until the dough is too tough to mix.  Pour out dough onto well floured surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes.  Add flour as needed, you want the dough to be soft, but not sticky.


If using a mixer, start on low speed, so you don't wear the flour!

Dough should be soft and pliable, but not sticking to your hand.  Don't add too much flour!  Go slow and incorporate flour completely!

Once dough is kneaded, put it in a deep bowl that has a little oil in the bottom.  Flip the dough a few times to completely cover with oil.  Cover with plastic wrap and LEAVE IT ALONE for at least an hour, or until its doubled in size! 

Take this time to make the filling.  I omitted the raisins, as they are not popular with my rugrats.  You could use currants, golden raisins, chopped figs or dates, just about anything that tickles your fancy. 

Dump the dough balloon out on your counter and use your fingers to form into a 12 x 18 inch rectangle.  Brush the top with the melted butter, and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mixture.  Roll up like a jelly roll, making sure to pinch the seam.  Cut the roll into 12 pieces and lay them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Cover with plastic wrap and leave it alone for another hour, to double in size.  Preheat your oven to 350 F.

Dough after its risen

 



Rolled up.  Make sure to seal the seam by pinching it

I didnt use the ends of the roll, thats totally up to you.

Naked...
After an hour or so, unwrap the cinnamony goodness, and bake for 30 min.  I set my timer for 20 minutes, check them and then go from there.  All ovens are different, so just keep an eye on them so they don't burn.  While they are baking, mix the butter, powdered sugar and cream cheese together.  When the rolls come out, smear them with the icing while they are still hot.  Then, jump out of the way, because your whole family and possibly some neighbors are going to be running into your kitchen to gobble them up!





Dressed to impress!





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