Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas Caramel Cake

Usually, the first thing that I decide on for a special occasion is dessert. For some reason, a dessert for Christmas was just not coming to me. Sure, I had LOTS of ideas of snacky type desserts but I wanted a REAL dessert. I contemplated several different things (which I will still make) but finally landed on caramel cake after talking to my mom.

Caramel cake, I would have to say, is my family's favorite dessert. My brother had caramel cake as his groom's cake. It is just GOOD! I was really excited to finally get to make it. Enter! Over Christmas, I was on call every other night. That did not leave much time for cooking; but, I didn't think it would be a problem. Normally, call over Christmas isn't that bad...different story this year! So, when I got home, I just wanted to sleep...not make a caramel cake. My mom, thankfully, offerred to make the actual cake part. The scratch recipe she used didn't turn out (apparently, other people had trouble with it as well) so we used a cake mix. The icing, however, was fantastic!!!!

Oh my! The caramel cake we tasted originally is more of a fondant icing, but this one was perfect...even Daddy agreed after trying it. The recipe I used made 5 cups, so I halved the recipe and it turned out to be the perfect amount for a two layer round cake. I also used buttermilk instead of heavy cream. No problem...tasted great! It was even better after a couple of days because the icing had a chance to seep into the cake and created almost a simple syrup effect. So good! Somehow, I don't think anyone would complain if this became a Christmas tradition...and I would go in search of a good cake recipe!

Quick Caramel Icing - adapted from Southern Living December 2010

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Bring first 3 ingredients to a rolling boil in a 3 1/2-qt. saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly (about 7 minutes).
2. Stir in buttermilk and bring to a boil; remove from heat. Pour into bowl of a heavy-duty electric stand mixer. Gradually beat in powdered sugar and vanilla at medium speed; beat 8 to 12 minutes or until thickened. Spread over cooled cake immediately. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas Plov

When we were discussing what to make for Christmas Eve dinner, I decided that it would be fun to do something different.  My mom suggested chicken dumpling, but we've done that before and I just didn't really enjoy it.  I suggested that we do pelmeini ( a Russian meat ravioli type dish).  At first, I thought that's what we were going to do, but then Mama and Daddy decided we'd do plov.  Since they would be the ones making it, I relented!  ;-) 

Plov is a traditional Russian dish of rice, carrots, and meat.  In Bishkek, they used mutton but we used a mix of beef and lamb.  You have to have patience and a thick walled pot to make this...a perfect use for my LeCreuset pot! 

The recipe we have called for 1.5 cups of oil (as "plov requires much oil"); however, my dad reduced it to 1 cup.  We all decided that it was still oily and probably could be reduced even more.  One of the MUSTS for plov, it putting a head of garlic in the pot when you make it.  This cooks the garlic and makes it soft and "sweet."  Oh, it's so good...just hope that your other friends like garlic, too!  It was a great meal! 


4 cups rice
1 mid size onion (slice)
½ kg carrots (cut into tiny sticks/shreds)
1 cup oil (you might could try a little less)
~1 kg meat (lamb and/or beef)
1 head garlic (whole)

Put oil into the pot with thick walls. When oil is hot enough put onions and fry till they have a golden color. Put meat and and fry until the juice is clear. Add carrots and fry. Put rice in and add 5 cups of water. Bury a head of garlic in rice and season with salt and pepper. Do NOT stir the rice and meat together, wait for the end to do that.  Wait until it boils all around, turn to simmer, cover, cook for 15 minutes. If the rice does not seem done, add a bit more water and cook for longer.

Mix when ready to eat then pour onto a large platter.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Pumpkin Balls

When looking for tasty treats to make for Christmas, I found these yummy looking pumpkin balls at Annie's Eats

When I took them to work (yes, I worked over Christmas.  In fact, I was on call every other night for six days), one of our hospitalists tried one just moaned.  When he found out that I had made them, he told me he hated me...that's a good thing in this case!  :-)  My dad, for some reason, thought there was coconut in them. Hmmm...they were very pleasant and a different twist on truffles. 

Pumpkin Spice Truffles adapted from Annie's Eats

Yield: about 30 truffles
1 cup white chocolate, coarsely chopped (about 5 oz)
½ cup pumpkin puree
1.5 cup graham cracker crumbs
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
4 oz. cream cheese, softened

For dipping:
about 16 oz. chopped white chocolate, melted (or white candy melts)

To make the truffle filling, melt the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over simmering water just until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly. Add the pumpkin, gingersnap and graham cracker crumbs, cinnamon, and cream cheese. Mix well until completely blended and smooth. Transfer the miture to the refrigerator or freezer until it has thickened up enough to scoop and roll into balls (about 1 hour).

Scoop the filling mixture and roll into balls, about 1 inch in diameter. Transfer to a parchment- or foil-lined baking sheet. Transfer the baking sheet to the freezer and let chill until firm, about 2 hours.

When you are ready to dip the truffles, melt the white chocolate or candy melts for coating in a heatproof bowl set over simmering water. Once completely melted and smooth, carefully dip one of the balls of filling into the chocolate. Turn quickly to coat and balance on the tines of a fork to shake off the excess. Transfer to a lined baking sheet and sprinkle with additional gingersnap crumbs, if desired. Repeat with the remaining filling balls. Transfer the baking sheet to the refrigerator and chill until the coating is set. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Quick and Easy

(This is the THIRD time I've tried to get this to post!)  During the holidays, I think we find that we get very busy.  So, when it was getting close to Thanksgiving I decided that it would be the best use of my time NOT to go to the grocery store.  I have things in the my cabinets, though my refrigerator was getting empty.  What to make, what to make!  If you're looking for something simple, this is it. 

Given, it is meat free (actually vegan though I wasn't trying for that), this is a satisfying dinner.  I just pulled out a can of chickpeas, green beans, and rotel tomatoes.  Combine, heat and eat!  Yum.  I served this alongside couscous.  I think that maybe next time I'd jsut use diced tomatoes and flavor on my own.  It was just a tad too overpowering and I couldn't taste the green beans as much as I would have liked.

Green beans, chicpea, and tomato "goulash"
1 can french style green beans
1 can chickpeas, drained
1 can diced tomatoes or rotel tomatoes
2 handfuls of spinach (this was last had to be used!)

Open cans, put contents in a microwave safe bowl OR sauce pan.  Heat until hot.  Add spinach, if using, and heat for a minute longer. Put on plate and eat!!!  It went GREAT with couscous.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Help! Someone has Stollen My Bread!

Ok...that was cheesy, but I couldn't help it.  The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book.........and Martha Stewart’s demonstration. 

When I read the description of stollen I was a bit's described as a "bread-like fruitcake."  Fruitcake????!!  Ehhhh....okay, I guess I'll make it.  However, after making this, I don't know that I would call it a fruitcake in the way that we (or at least I) think of it.  I think of fruitcake as a thick, syrupy yet dried (almost) pound cake with those candied cherries (you know...the ones that have been dyed green and bright red!) and other dried, sweetened fruits.  This really is a bread that you put some dried fruits in and coat with butter and powdered sugar.  It apparently keeps for a fairly long time if stored properly. 

I made this one Saturday for my Sunday School class.  Turns out, one of my friends loves Stollen but hasn't had it in a while.  She spent several years of her childhood in Germany and really enjoyed stollen but hasn't had any recently because the one her mom buys has raisins, and she doesn't like them.  Thankfully, I had used pomegranite infused craisins (TOTALLY different from raisins) and pecans.

 She said that it was great...and everyone else seemed to like it, too.  I had only 1/3 of the entire thing left after class!  Of note, I only had 2 eggs and 1 stick of butter but the bread still turned out well. Thanks, Penny, for a great, seasonal, and international challenge!

Stollen Wreath
Makes one large wreath or two traditional shaped Stollen loaves. Serves 10-12 people

¼ cup (60ml) lukewarm water (110º F / 43º C)
2 packages (4 1/2 taspoons) (22 ml) (14 grams) (1/2 oz) active dry yeast
1 cup (240 ml) milk
10 tablespoons (150 ml) (140 grams) unsalted butter (can use salted butter)
5½ cups (1320 ml) (27 ozs) (770 grams) all-purpose (plain) flour (Measure flour first - then sift- plus extra for dusting)
½ cup (120 ml) (115 gms) sugar
¾ teaspoon (3 ¾ ml) (4 ½ grams) salt (if using salted butter there is no need to alter this salt measurement)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 grams) cinnamon
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (very good) vanilla extract
1 teaspoon (5 ml) lemon extract or orange extract
¾ cup (180 ml) (4 ¾ ozs) (135 grams) mixed peel (I didn't use)

1 cup (240 ml) (6 ozs) (170 gms) firmly packed raisins/craisins
1 cup (240 ml) (3 ½ ozs) (100 grams) flaked almonds
Melted unsalted butter for coating the wreath
Confectioners’ (icing) (powdered) sugar for dusting wreath

Soak the raisins. In a small bowl, soak the raisins in the rum (or in the orange juice from the zested orange) and set aside. See Note under raisins.  (I did not soak my craisins in anything)

To make the dough:
Pour ¼ cup (60 ml) warm water into a small bowl, sprinkle with yeast and let stand 5 minutes. Stir to dissolve yeast completely.

In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup (240 ml) milk and 10 tablespoons (150 ml) butter over medium - low heat until butter is melted. Let stand until lukewarm, about 5 minutes.

Lightly beat eggs in a small bowl and add lemon and vanilla extracts.

In a large mixing bowl (4 qt) (4 liters) (or in the bowl of an electric mixer with paddle attachment), stir together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, orange and lemon zests.

Then stir in (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment) the yeast/water mixture, eggs and the lukewarm milk/butter mixture. This should take about 2 minutes. It should be a soft, but not sticky ball. When the dough comes together, cover the bowl with either plastic or a tea cloth and let rest for 10 minutes.

Add in the mixed peel, soaked fruit and almonds and mix with your hands or on low speed to incorporate. Here is where you can add the cherries if you would like. Be delicate with the cherries or all your dough will turn red!

Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mixing with the dough hook) to distribute the fruit evenly, adding additional flour if needed. The dough should be soft and satiny, tacky but not sticky. Knead for approximately 8 minutes (6 minutes by machine). The full six minutes of kneading is needed to distribute the dried fruit and other ingredients and to make the dough have a reasonable bread-dough consistency. You can tell when the dough is kneaded enough – a few raisins will start to fall off the dough onto the counter because at the beginning of the kneading process the dough is very sticky and the raisins will be held into the dough but when the dough is done it is tacky which isn't enough to bind the outside raisins onto the dough ball. 

Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling around to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Put it in the fridge overnight. The dough becomes very firm in the fridge (since the butter goes firm) but it does rise slowly… the raw dough can be kept in the refrigerator up to a week and then baked on the day you want.

Shaping the Dough and Baking the Wreath

Let the dough rest for 2 hours after taking out of the fridge in order to warm slightly.

Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 with the oven rack on the middle shelf.  Punch dough down, roll into a rectangle about 16 x 24 inches (40 x 61 cms) and ¼ inch (6 mm) thick. 
Starting with a long side, roll up tightly, forming a long, thin cylinder. 

Transfer the cylinder roll to the sheet pan. Join the ends together, trying to overlap the layers to make the seam stronger and pinch with your fingers to make it stick, forming a large circle. You can form it around a bowl to keep the shape. Using kitchen scissors (or a knife!), make cuts along outside of circle, in 2-inch (5 cm) intervals, cutting 2/3 of the way through the dough.  Twist each segment outward, forming a wreath shape. Mist the dough with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap.  Proof for approximately 2 hours at room temperature, or until about 1½ times its original size.

Bake the stollen for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan 180 degrees for even baking and continue to bake for 20 to 30 minutes. The bread will bake to a dark mahogany color, should register 190°F/88°C in the center of the loaf, and should sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.

Transfer to a cooling rack and brush the top with melted butter while still hot. Immediately tap a layer of powdered sugar over the top through a sieve or sifter. (I stopped here, it was towering with sugar!) Wait for 1 minute, then tap another layer over the first. The bread should be coated generously with the powdered sugar.
Let cool at least an hour before serving. Coat the stollen in butter and icing sugar three times (I only did this once!), since this many coatings helps keeps the stollen fresh - especially if you intend on sending it in the mail as Christmas presents!  When completely cool, store in a plastic bag. Or leave it out uncovered overnight to dry out slightly, German style.  Enjoy!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Tradition Resumes

For the longest time, it seems that whenever I went home I'd make banana muffins.  For some reason, the past few times I've gone, that hasn't happened.  Well, I made it a point to make some over Thanksgiving.  The recipe I used is from an old cookbook...I think Better Homes and Gardens Breads...but don't hold me to it!  The recipe is for Best Muffins and is just a basic muffin recipe.  However, the cookbook gives options of different types of muffins by modifying the batter.  I added bananas to make it banana muffins.  These turned out really good, though Mama didn't think it was banana enough.  I had only used two small bananas, so you could easily remedy that by adding an extra banana.  These baked up, if only I can get banana bread to do the same!

Banana Muffins
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 well beaten egg
3/4 milk
1/3 cooking oil
1 cup mashed ripe banana (2-3 bananas)
1/4 cups chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Mash banana is a bowl.  Add in all wet ingredients.  Then stir in all dry ingredients.  Spray muffin tins and pour batter into molds.  Bake in muffin pans for 25 -30 minutes at 400 degrees.  Makes ~12 muffins.  Enjoy!

Makes 12 muffins

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fresh is BEST!

Over Thanksgiving, my brother really wanted to go to the Russian restaurant we found.  However, his wife and I both didn't feel like driving the hour and 20 minutes to get are not our friends!  Anyway, Philip decided that he wanted ribs.  So, after shopping, we went and got some ribs at a local restaurant.  When we got home, he said he wanted fries to go with them.....ooops, no fries!  So, he and Kenna made some.

  After he made them and I tasted them, I had memories of Daddy making them when I was little.  Let me just tell you...homemade fries are SO much better than the frozen variety...and they are really simple.  You just cut your potatoes into the size and shape that you want, season them, and fry them.  Not sure what oil we used, but I know that peanut oil is a good frying oil because of the high smoke point. 

You can flick some water or flour into the oil to check it for being ready to fry.  If it sizzles they it's ready.  Check out these beauties! 

Homemade Fries
potatoes, cut into size and shape you want
oil, for frying

Heat oil in a large, thick pot or frying pan.  Meanwhile, cut potatoes into wedges.  Season with whatever seasonings you like.  You can even use some flour.  To test oil, flick some flour into it.  If it sizzles and bubbles you're ready to fry.  Place the potatoes into the hot oil.  Allow to cook until golden brown.  Pull out with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to drain.  You might want to add extra seasoning when you do this.  Enjoy!

Friday, December 10, 2010

My Favorite Candy

If you're looking for an easy and delicious treat to make for the holidays, this is one.  My favorite candy is Reese's...anything!  This is very similar to Reese's peanut butter but except in bar form.  I got it on a receipt from Kroger.  I guess it's because I bought Nestle's morsels.  When I made this, I misread the directions and didn't split the peanut butter, I put it all in the mixture.  This worked and I can't really see it being done another way.  Since I didn't have any peanut butter to put in the topping, I just used peanut butter and chocolate swirled morsels.  Worked well!  Once again, I took this to a shower, but this was a wedding shower.  I sent the rest home with my friend for her husband...he really enjoyed them, too!

No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars from Nestle
2 cups peanut butter, divided (or not!)
3/4 cups butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar, divided
3 cups graham cracker crumbs (you can get these already crushed at the store!)
2 cups chocolate chips

Prepare a 13X9 pan with cooking spray.  Bean 1 1/4 cups peanut butter (or all of it like I did!) and beat until creamy.  Slowly beat in 1 cup sugar.  Then stir in remaining sugar, graham cracker crumbs, and 1/2 cup of chocolate chips.  Press this into the prepared pan.

Melt 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips over low heat with 3/4 cup peanut butter (or add some peanut butter chips like I did!).  Spread over peanut butter mixture an refrigerate for at least 1 hour.  Cut into bars and enjoy!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Take Me to a Party!

With Christmas parties coming up, we will all be baraged with lots of unhealthy (but YUMMY!) food.  I'm sure there are plenty of opportunities you will have to take a dish to one of these parties.  Why not take something that is at least half-way beneficial for you.  I took this grape salad to one of our many baby showers this year and everyone really enjoyed it. 

It is creamy and calls for cream cheese and sour cream.  However, you can lighten it up by using light (or even fat free) cream cheese (though I'd stick with light) and using Greek yogurt for the sour cream.  It is sweetened with sugar, though I've seen people use splenda.  After you mix up the creaminess, you simply stir in grapes.  There is an option to top it with brown sugar and nuts, but I just used the pecans.  So, you have a delicious salad (this is frequently used for bridal brunches here in the South) that people will enjoy but it's not too much of a splurge!

Grape Salad
4 cups green grapes
4 cups purple grapes
1 package cream cheese
6oz. container Greek yogurt
1/2 cup (I think I reduced it to 1/3 cup)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup brown sugar (optional)

Pull grapes off of stems and wash.  If you want to, cut grapes in half. However, this is not required.  In a bowl, mix cream cheese, yogurt, sugar, and vanilla together.  Stir this mixture and grapes together.  Put in your serving dish and top with pecans and, if using, brown sugar.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

More Candy Treats

Remember when I posted about the candy cookies that I made?  Well, when I bought that candy, I also bought some pretzel M&M's (they are SO good!).  After having those around for a while, I decided that it was time to get them out of the house. 

I remembered that Emily had created a yummy looking brownie using these little treats, so I decided to make those for my Bible studay.  Emily...I had several requests for the recipe!!!  These were great brownies topped off with a nice, dark chocolate glaze and bright pretzel M&M's.  Perfect!!!

M&M Pretzel Brownies from Emily at Sugar Plum

2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large egg yolks
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips
2/3 cup coarsely chopped pretzel M&M's, divided

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup confectioners' sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line an 8x11-inch baking dish foil; coat foil with cooking spray or butter.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Then, in a separate bowl, using a mixer on high speed, beat egg yolks and sugar for 3 minutes, until light yellow and fluffy. Beat in melted butter and vanilla for 1 additional minute. Reduce mixer speed to low and beat in flour mixture until well combined - about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips and 1/3 cup chopped pretzels M&M's until combined. Spread batter evenly into prepared dish.  Bake 15-16 minutes or until well risen and set. Remove dish from oven and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the glaze. In a medium mixing bowl using a mixer on medium speed, beat butter until creamy; beat in confectioners' sugar cocoa powder, milk and vanilla, until well incorporated - about 2 minutes. Spread glaze evenly over warm brownies. Sprinkle remaining 1/3 cup M&M's on top. Cool completely in refrigerator before lifting out foil and slicing into bars.  Enjoy!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Pizza Pie

Well, not exactly, but when I was preparing the crust for this month's Daring Baker's challenge, my little cousin came up to help me and said that's what she was making...a pizza pie! 

The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.  When I first saw the challenge, I started thinking about different options for fillings.  The one I really wanted to do was a cranberry pomegranate jam but I didn't ever get the ingredients and ran out of time once I was home.  After I finally decided to make the crostata for Thanksgiving dessert, I decided to see what other people had brought before I decided on a filling.  Well, we had chocolate cake, chocolate pie, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, chocolate chip cookies, and caramel bars.  I figured that something fruity would be a good option to have.  Unfortunately, after perusing the refrigerator and pantry, I determined that we didn't have any jam.  So, I went in search of a filling recipe and came across this one.  I ended up making one recipe and topping it with fresh fruit. 

Kind of reminded me of a fruit pizza...maybe this was a "pizza pie!"  All in all, I really liked the pasta frolla.  It was very simple to make and to work with.  The edges got a little hard after baking but the crust under the filling was nice and tender.  Everyone else liked it, too.  My cousin even asked me to send her the recipe...can't forget to do that!  Thanks, Simona for the challenge! 

Version 1 of pasta frolla

•1/2 c. minus 1 tablespoon [105 ml, 100 g, 3 ½ oz] superfine sugar (see Note 1) or a scant 3/4 cup [180ml, 90g, 3 oz] of powdered sugar
•1 and 3/4 cup [420 ml, 235 g, 8 1/4 oz.] unbleached all-purpose flour
•a pinch of salt
•1 stick [8 tablespoons / 4 oz. / 115 g] cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
•1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten in a small bowl
Making pasta frolla by hand:
Whisk together sugar, flour and salt in a bowl. Rub or cut the butter into the flour until the mixture has the consistency of coarse crumbs. You can do this in the bowl or on your work surface, using your fingertips or an implement of choice. Make a well in the center of the mounded flour and butter mixture and pour the beaten eggs into it (reserve about a teaspoon of the egg mixture for glazing purposes later on – place in the refrigerator, covered, until ready to use).

Use a fork to incorporate the liquid into the solid ingredients, and then use your fingertips. Knead lightly just until the dough comes together into a ball. Shape the dough into a flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Place the dough in the refrigerator and chill for at least two hours. You can refrigerate the dough overnight.

Assembling and baking the crostata con la crema:

Heat the oven to 350ºF [180ºC/gas mark 4].  Take the pasta frolla out of the fridge, unwrap it and cut away ¼ of the dough. Reserve this dough to make the lattice top of the crostata...or give it to your little cousin to make a "pizza pie." Refrigerate this dough while you work on the tart base.

Lightly dust the top of the dough and your work surface (if you’re rolling directly on a work surface) with flour. Keep some flour handy to dust the dough as you go along. If the dough is very firm, start by pressing the dough with the rolling pin from the middle to each end, moving the rolling pin by a pin's width each time; turn the dough 180 degrees and repeat; when it softens, start rolling. Roll the dough into a circle about 1/8th inch (3 mm) thick.  Lightly fold the dough in half and in half again.  Pick it up an place it in the pan.  Gently unfold the dough and fit it to the pan.  Trim the excess dough hanging over the edges of the pan. Press the remaining dough around the border into the sides of the pan making sure the border is an even thickness all the way around. Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork in several places.

Cover the bottom of the crostata crust evenly with prepared pastry cream.  Put the tart in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, check the tart, and continue baking until the tart is of a nice golden hue. (Note: Every oven is different. In my oven it took 45 minutes to bake the tart until golden.)  When done, remove the tart from the oven and let cool. Top with fruit to garnish.  Place in the refrigerator to cool.  If you have used a tart pan with a removable bottom, then release the tart base from the fluted tart ring. Make sure the tart is completely cool before slicing and serving. 

For Pastry Cream (from CHOW via Pink of Perfection)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 large egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 1/4 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped and reserved)

Combine sugar, flour, and salt in a small mixing bowl. Whisk gently to break up any lumps, and set aside. Prepare an ice water bath in a larger mixing bowl, and set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine buttermilk and egg yolks, whisking until evenly incorporated. Whisk in dry ingredients, and place the pan over medium heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 4 minutes.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Candy, Candy Everywhere!

I think that most parents find themselves drowning in candy following Halloween.  I don't find myself in this predicament.  However, I PUT myself in this predicament...I go buy candy at the clearance following the holiday!  So, I decided to use all of the peanut butter candies I bought for a cookie to share with my co-residents.

The candies I used were Reese's Nutrageous, Reese's Stix, Reese's Peanut butter cups, and Butterfinger.  Told you, peanutty!  The Nutrageous gave a bit of a mushroom like quality to the cookie because of the nugat.  However, I think my favorite part was the butterfinger!  Totally and awesome, flaky peanut butter treat!    For a leavener, I used cream of tartar.  I loved the unique flavor that this leavener actually gives the cookie.

Candy Cookies
11 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
2-2.5 cups flour (Oops!  I can't remember how much I used...start with 2 cups and if the dough seems too thin, add a bit more flour...that's one thing I always do with recipes I'm trying because I do NOT like a thin cookie!)
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
~1 cup of candies cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 350 F.  In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugars.  Add the egg.  Stir in flour, cream of tartar and salt.  Finally, add that yummy candy!  Place onto baking sheets or stones in tablespoon sized scoops.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until slightly browning.  Don't overbake as the cookies will continue to cook on the baking sheet when you remove.  Cool for 3-5 minutes and remove to a cooling rack for the remained of the cooling period.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Banana What?!

I LOVE buying those big bags of bananas that are "ready to eat" (though really overly ripe if you ask me) because they are perfect for baking!  However, sometimes I want to try sometime other than banana bread.  The other day, I wanted something a little fall-like as well.  For some reason, banana cornbread popped into my head. 

So, I went in search of a recipe and found this one.  The picture on Ashley's blog looked SO good that I decided to try this one.  However, I had a bit of a maple syrup.  No biggie, I decided to use molasses.  So, where I used molasses, the original recipe used maple syrup.  It turned out to have a nice texture and just enough molasses flavor.  The banana wasn't overwhelming and you might not really know it was there if you weren't told.  However, put a little butter on this and it is some FANTASTIC cornbread!  Try it out!  Thanks, for a great recipe Ashley!

Molasses Banana Cornbread
1 cup stone ground cornmeal
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2  teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 medium bananas, mashed
Slightly less than 1/2 cup molasses
1 egg white
1/2 cup skim milk

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spray an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside.  In a large bowl, mix cornmeal, flour, cinnamon, salt and baking soda.  In a separate bowl, mix together bananas, molasses, egg white and skim milk.  Stir the banana mixture into the dry ingredients until just blended. Pour into prepared pan and bake for about 35-40 minutes.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


 Two weeks from now, I will be at my parents' house and we will have celebrated Thanksgiving with my dad's entire family...around 25 people.  One of the most favorite appetizers is cheese.  As soon as the first relative arrives someone pulls out the cheese.

We don't usually MAKE any special appetizers, but if you do like to make a special appetizer and have someone who likes cheese these would fit the bill!  It is a recipe from my mom's family cookbook and is from my Aunt Jean.  My dad's mom, my Granny!, had a similar recipe but for cheese sticks instead of rounds.

  I made these for one of those many baby showers we've been having at work...and everyone loved them.  The expectant mom even went back for more at the end of the shower!  So, pull these out at your Thanksgiving celebration and enjoy!

Cheese Rounds
1 stick butter
2 cups grated sharp cheese (I used cheddar)
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
Tabasco to taste (I think I used Tony's instead)
Pecan halves (optional)

Blend ingredients together in a bowl.  Next shape.  There are two options.  If you have time, divide the dough into two large balls, then work each into a long roll 1 inch thick.  Wrap this in waxed paper or cling wrap and chill.  When ready to use, slice into thin discs.  Place pecan half on top of each disc.

Other shaping option if you don't have much time (this is obviously the one I used!) if to form the dough in to small balls 1/2-1 inch in size depending on how big you want your cheese rounds. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place your discs or rounds onto an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes.  Enjoy!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater

I've been able to go to Sunday School recently.  I typically have to work at least half the Sundays of the month, but was able to go three Sundays in October.  So, I took to making a breakfast treat for everyone.  I took the Daring Baker donuts, then a few weeks ago I took a pumpkin pound cake with buttermilk glaze.

  It was pretty good and was actually a cooking light recipes, so it was less caloric than your typical pound cake.  I found this on  The glaze wasn't exactly what I was expecting, it was a bit more "gel-like" but I kind of liked it. 

The recipe says that it serves 16, but I got more slices out of the recipe than that.  I was even able to share it with my friends who just had a baby and my best friend from med school.  In my opinion, any recipe that lets me share is a good recipe!

Pumpkin Pound Cake with Buttermilk Glaze adapted from Myrecipes
1 can (15 ounce) pumpkin
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup butter, softened
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups AP flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk

1/3 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Mix butter and sugars together for 3 minutes.  Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in pumpkin and vanilla.  Spoon dry ingredients together in a separate bowl.  Add flour to mixture, alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour.  Pour batter into a bundt or tube pan prepared with cooking spray.  Place in oven and bake for 55 minutes or until a wooden skewer comes out clean.  Cool in pan for 10 minutes.  Finish cooling on wire rack.

To prepare the glaze, place all ingredients into a saucepan over medium heat, bring to a boil.  Cook for 1 minute, or until thick, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and drizzle over cake.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Pumpkin Kissed Cookies

When I went home, I had eyes on making some new cookies. 

At first I didn't think I would be able to make dad didn't seem interested in pumpkin.  However, when I showed him the recipe he decided it would be okay.  At first I was worried about the cookies as they felt pretty cakey.  However, that first night they were great.  The perfect cookies to go with milk.  Overnight, however, they became very soft and moist.  The flavor was still good...and every bite that had a kiss in it was DELICIOUS!

Somehow, I just don't think pumpkin was made to be used in a cookie.  All in all, this has great flavors but the texture is just not my preferred cookie flavor.  If you like softer cookies, though, I highly recommend this recipe from Picky Palate!

"Double Pumpkin Kissed Cookies"
2 sticks softened butter
1 Cup granulated sugar
3/4 Cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs (I think I used 1 egg)
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla
1 Cup pumpkin, from can
3 1/4 Cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
12 oz bag chocolate chips
35 or so unwrapped Pumpkin Spice Kisses, quartered

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs and vanilla until well combined then add pumpkin. Place flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg into large bowl; mix to combine then slowly add to wet ingredients then chocolate and kisses.  Mix only until just combined.  Place dough onto baking pan or stone and bake for 10-12 minutes.  Makes about 4 dozen.

Jenny suggests using a muffin top pan to make larger cookies. She says, "If using muffin top pan, scoop 1/4 Cup dough into each muffin top cup that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  Press to spread to edges.  Bake 10-12 minutes or until edges begin to brown.  Let cool in pan for 5 minutes before transferring to cooling rack. This makes 24 cookies.


Sunday, November 07, 2010

Fiesta for my Tongue

A few weeks ago, one friend who just had a baby was home alone.  Her husband was out of town taking one of the wonderful required tests that all medical students have to take (and pay for!).  This test is only offerred in one of five cities in the US.  Anyway, she was alone with her five week only who had recently decided that sleeping was for the birds.  So before Matt left, I told him I'd check on Kalyn and help her out a bit. So, after I returned from my five year college reunion (CRAZY) I called her to see if she wanted supper and a hand with little man.  She, of course, did!  So, I came home and made a yummy Mexican soup.
  I had planned on putting shredded chicken in it, but my chicken was spoiled...that's where the funny smell in my refrigerator was coming from.  Oops!  Anyway, it turned out great despite the lack of meat.  The only thing I'd do next time would be to decrease the barley and increase some of the veggies.  Otherwise, Delicioso! 

Mexican Bean Soup
1 onion
1 green pepper
1 teaspoon garlic
1 cup uncooked barley prepared by package instructions
4 cups (though I'd probably use closer to 6 cups next time) stock (chicken or veggie)
2 cans black beans
1 can corn
1 can tomatoes with chiles (I'd use more next time!  2 even 3 cans)
garlic powder

Cook barley as instructed on the package.  In stock pot, saute onion, pepper, and garlic.  Season with cumin and garlic powder.  When onions are clear add barley, beans, corn, and tomatoes.  Add enough stock to make it the desired consistency and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.  Taste and reseason as needed.  Top with salsa, cheese, sour cream/Greek yogurt as desired.  I served with a slaw salad.  Enjoy!

Friday, November 05, 2010

Donut or muffin?

My department at work is struggling...we have 5 women who are either pregnant or just had babies!  Three of those are fellow residents, which means that we have a decreased work staff to cover the hospital...but we are making due.  And being pediatricians...we LOVE babies!!!  Needless to say, we also love a good excuse for a party and we have been having quite a few showers lately.  For the first shower, I took a couple of things:  grape salad and donut muffins. 

First let's talk about the donut muffins.  You dip the finished muffins in butter and then drench them in cinnamon sugar.  Tell me, HOW could that not be good!  Everyone loved them.  And if you want to get a great grape salad recipe, come back again soon...this is a GREAT shower snack!

Donut Muffins from lemanda at Tasty Kitchen

1-¾ cup Flour
1-½ teaspoon Baking Powder
½ teaspoons Salt
½ teaspoons Nutmeg
½ teaspoons Cinnamon
⅓ cups Oil
 ¾ cups White Sugar
1 whole Egg
¾ cups Milk

¼ cups Butter
⅓ cups White Sugar
1 Tablespoon Cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon.
Combine oil, sugar, egg and milk. Add dry ingredients and stir only to combine.Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. While muffins are baking, melt the butter in a bowl. Combine the white sugar with the cinnamon in another bowl.
Shake muffins out while still hot. Dip muffins in butter, then into the sugar/cinnamon mix. Let cool.  Enjoy!