Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Today's Cookbook

This morning I woke up with the need to bake.  I needed something I could bake, from what I had in the house, serious dilemma, because there is NO BUTTER in my house!  I know, Paula Deen would be shocked. Honestly, I'm shocked too.  I've been trying to be better about baking for no one other than my family, we don't need the sweets.  So when I ran out of butter earlier in the week, I thought nothing of it.  But this morning it was a serious impairment to my desires to bake.  After a thorough search of the cupboards and icebox, I found a stash of frozen bananas.  Luckily I had buttermilk hanging out in the fridge, so I had a plan.

Out came one of my favorite baking cookbooks The Grand Central Baking Book.  I got it for myself two years ago for Christmas and have already found some favorites: Bread Pudding Muffins, Classic Buttery Shortbread (this used the remaining cup of butter on Sunday), Mushroom & Root Vegetable Pot Pie, Raspberry Crumble Tart, and of course today's recipe, Banana Bread.

When you decide to make banana bread, or at least this one, you'll need to set aside some time, precisely 2 hours.  It takes 90 minutes to bake and when you add in prep time, 2 hours is a good estimate.  I have also learned through many late nights reading cookbooks, that having buttermilk on hand is a good idea.  There are ways to substitute, however, nothing really compares with the real thing.  Today I added coconut to my bread, and covered the top in chopped walnuts.  As I said, I was searching for ingredients, and this is what I had on hand.

Hopefully my boys will enjoy their after school snack!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Cupcake a month

I am exploring options for keeping me baking, and keeping people buying cupcakes.  Considering I have limited time to invest in my passion right now (darn economics!) I was thinking one speciality cupcake a month might spark some interest.  Last month it was Red Velvet.  This month... Chocolate Mint.  I'm testing out my idea this Friday, all those lucky helpers at church get to sample.

Look for a posting later about the final product.  Let me know if you have any ideas for other months!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Red Velvet Cupcakes ready for Valentine's Day!

No, this is not an illusion, I am actually blogging again!  I said this would be a crazy year, unfortunately, it has been much crazier than I imagined.  I apologize to all my friends who looked forward to reading of my baking pursuits.  I am trying to find the balance between baking, family, school & gym.... needless to say it is tough.

A few weeks ago I put the word out that I was making Red Velvet Cupcakes for Valentine's Day.  This seemed to be a great way to advertise, I got 5 orders!  Today marks the first delivery and also a picture of these delicious creations.  If you missed the announcement, there is still time to order, just let me know!


Saturday, January 1, 2011

Fettucini Alfredo, Caesar Salad & Tiramisu

So what meal did I choose to start of my new year of challenges?  An easy one, that is for sure.  And one AJ has been asking for nearly every week of 2010.

Fettucini Alfredo
Caesar Salad

Ok, well maybe he didn't ask for the Tiramisu, but I was a on a role of Italian food, and couldn't let it stop.

The alfredo is one friends made for us when we visited almost 2 years ago, and AJ loves it.  Super simple.  Here goes.

In a small saucepan melt 1/2 cup of unsalted butter.  When it is all melted, add 8 oz of cream cheese.  Stir with a spatula until the cream cheese has melted into the butter and it combines.  Add 2 tsp of garlic powder and salt & pepper to taste.  Once everything is combined, slowly whisk in 2 cups of milk, then add 2 cups of Parmesan cheese.  Cook over a medium heat stirring constantly until it has reached desired consistency.  Remove from heat and combine with cooked fettucini noodles.

Caesar salad... well, that was a bag from Costco.  I said I was going easy today!  I grabbed a loaf of french bread too. 

Now onto dessert!  Tiramisu is one of my all-time favorite desserts to order at a restaurant.  It is super decadent and full of flavor but somehow not too heavy.  Once I drove over 30 minutes away to get tiramisu with my friend  - the town we lived in did not have the restaurant we wanted!  This was a simple recipe that didn't have to sit, but can be made ahead.  First I dissolved 3 Tbsp instant espresso powder in 3 Tbsp hot water, then added 1 1/2 cups cold water.  Into a mixing bowl went 8 oz softened cream cheese, 3/4 c heavy whipping cream & 1/3 cup sugar.  This got mixed until light and fluffy.  I grabbed my dish and got ready.  A very small amount of the cream cheese mixture was spread on the bottom of the pan, then I dipped lady fingers in the espresso mixture and layered them on the bottom of the dish. Once the bottom was completely covered, I added 1/3 of the cream cheese mixture and spread it out evenly.  I repeated with 2 more layers of ladyfingers and cream cheese, ending with the cream cheese mixture.  I covered it tightly with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for today.  Before serving today I sprinkled with cocoa powder.  Delish!  There are many fancier recipes out there, and certainly those that contain marsala or even coffee liqueur.  I like this one because it is simple, items you tend to have at home - save for the ladyfingers - and certainly child friendly!

I hope you enjoy this weeks dinner.  Stay tuned throughout the year for different and exciting meals coming from our house!

two-thousand eleven

New year. New beginnings. New challenges. New accomplishments.  New goals. New milestones...

How many 'new's can I come up with?  Who knows.  What I do know, is that this year is full of new things for me and my family.  Our eldest is headed off to kindergarten!  Our youngest will be home without his best friend 5 days a week!  Their mom is headed back to school (ack!).  Their dad will be home a lot more (because mom will be in school at night).  All of these will bring great joy and their own share of troubles.  But I am confident that we will succeed, because that is what we do.

So what is my challenge for 2011?  I can promise you this, it is not baking every day of the year.  I am already signed up for a half-marathon on Mother's Day, and there is NO WAY I could complete it if I kept on baking at the same rate as I did in December.  Of course with school 2 nights a week, I won't be able to keep up that baking schedule either.  But not to worry, I have come up with a good challenge, one that will benefit my family, keep my baking, and not be too tough to complete.

Sabbath Dinner

Sabbath Dinner you say?  To some of you this might mean Sunday Dinner, for us it is on Sabbath.  Every week we wake up early on Saturday morning (Sabbath) jump in the shower, eat some breakfast, and get ready for church.  We spend the morning worshiping and come home starving.  Most days I just haul out the regular lunch food and start making sandwiches, boring. Occasionally we have friends over and then I make lunch.  For my husband this is a struggle.  Growing up they always had a big meal after church, sometimes with friends, sometimes just their family.  It has taken me a few years to get into the habit.

So my challenge for 2011 is to make a Sabbath Dinner for my family every week of the year.  Something new. Something special.  Only 52 times.  I just completed 31 in a row, I'm sure I can get 52 done.

Stay tuned.

Friday, December 31, 2010

day 31 - crumb top apple pie

Today is it. The last day of my challenge.  Just 31 days ago I challenged myself to bake and blog every day.  I figured December would be an easy month to do this, with Christmas and parties, and baked gifts for all.  It started out tough, I mean really tough.  Fun to make something new every day, but eye-opening to realize just how much butter I was going to use!

I started out making plans, cookies one day, fudge another, etc.  Unfortunately I am not one who does well with plans.  Some days there was something I just had to make, for myself, for my family and certainly for my friends.  Other days it was what the boys voted for.  Finally, it was what did I have in the house?  I had some high hopes that never materialized, but I certainly feel like the month was a success.

So what did I make for my final day?  My family's favorite, the first thing I made for my husband when we were only dating, and I was trying to woo him... Apple Pie.  Mind you this apple pie has gone through some modifications in the past 10 years, but it remains the all-time favorite desert for my family.

We start off with a fantastic home-made crust.  I have only purchased a crust on very rare occasions, and have been scolded each and every time.  Not to worry, I will include the recipes.  My crust is a shortening crust.  Now I've tried butter crusts, but always go back to the shortening crust I learned when I was a kid.  It is a mixture of flour, salt, vinegar, egg, water and shortening.  It never fails me, and I'm sure that is why I'm so un-willing to try something new.  There is a second crust, not as good as my first, but it is a better stand-in than purchased crust.  It is on the tub of Crisco I buy at costco.  It makes only 2 discs of dough as opposed to 5 like my favorite recipe.  It works.

On to the pie.  I have only one cookbook I use for pies.  Even when I'm looking for a new recipe, I turn to only one.  Farm Journal Complete Pie Cookbook 1965. The very first pie in the book: Old-Fashioned Apple Pie.  This is what I started with. Double crust, traditional pie.  Not much added to the apples other than sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, flour and a dash of salt.  The type of apple used in a pie varies widely, some use a combination of apples, some are just one variety.   I grew up with Granny Smith apples in my pies, and I still love that flavor.  The only modification to this recipe I've made, is the addition of orange zest to the apples.

There are several variations of apple pies.  After much taste testing, we all agree that a crumb top apple pie is our favorite.  Traditional apple pie filling, topped with a combination of brown sugar, flour, butter and a touch of orange zest.  The combination is fantastic and perfect.

You'll notice the pictures are only of a whole pie.  Unfortunately my husband would not let me cut into the pie just for a picture.  You can imagine what it would look like: flaky crust, layers of sweet apples, crumbly topping of sugar and butter topped off with a scoop of Tillamook Vanilla Bean Ice Cream . That is perfection, and the perfect way to end 2010.

Happy New Year!

Stay tuned, there is a new challenge for 2011, and I think you'll like it!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

day 30 - ultimate chocolate chip cookies

So today I finally decided to attempt the chocolate chip cookie.  It is one of those things that when you find the {perfect} recipe, you keep it forever.  Today's was pretty darn good and probably would have been perfect for me with the addition of walnuts, however, I kept my family in mind, and left them out.

The cookies were chewy with a crisp edge.  Full of chocolate chips (and butterscotch chips in this case).  Best of all... they were huge! 

I started off with 1 cup of softened butter - I left mine out last night so I could get an early start today.  I put that in the mixer, and let it get super creamy and fluffy all on it's own.  Once the butter was well creamed, I added 1 cup of white sugar and 1 cup of brown sugar.  The brown sugar helps with the chewy factor of the cookies.  Let that mix for a while, scraping down the sides as needed.  Into a glass measuring cup went 2 eggs, 2 tsp vanilla and a mixture of hot water, baking soda and salt.  By dissolving the baking soda in hot water, it ensured it was evenly distributed throughout the cookies.  This got poured in slowly, allowing all the ingredients to fully combine.  Finally 3 cups of flour were added one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Lastly, 2 cups of chocolate chips, or a combination, were added.  If desired, an additional cup of chopped walnuts can be added.  I scooped these out with a 1/4 cup ice cream scoop to make super big cookies.  On some of the cookies, I put a caramel in the middle, just to add to the decadence.  Bake in a 350* oven for about 15 minutes  - 10 minutes if you make smaller cookies.  Let them cool slightly on the pan, then transfer to a wire cooling rack. 

They are great on their own, with a glass of milk, cup of coffee, whatever you like.  Give them a try!

Jimmy even approves!