Thursday, December 29, 2011

Candy Cane Cookies

Christmas is a time when we celebrate the birth of Jesus.  Candy canes are a traditional candy that you find at this time.  I've heard people say that the shape of the candy is a shepherd's staff because Jesus is the good Shepherd and that the red color is used to symbolize the blood he shed as the sacrifice to pay the debt for our sins.  Whether or not that is really why they are red and white or shaped in a crook, I don't know.  But it's a neat reminder of Jesus' sacrifice for us! 
Right after I made those molasses cookies I made these peppermint butter cookies.  I had planned to make them before our holiday schedule started, but I seemed to run out of time.  These do require a brief, 30-minute chill time (or could be made the night before and pulled out when you want to use them...that's what I did) but they are fun and worth it.

  My dad liked them but, I think, prefers the traditional nut butter cookie.  The peppermint adds a fun, holiday spin on it, though.  Joanie, Mama's best friend, thought they were SO cute!  Such fun to tell her they were from the cookbook she gave me for my birthday last year.  :-)  Try them out sometime...I think they're still appropriate for a New Year's party!

Peppermint Crescents from Southern Living Incredible Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup powdered sugar (you'll use a TOTAL of 2 2/3 cups)
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup powdered sugar, for dipping
1 cup powdered sugar, for icing
2 1/2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
coarsely crushed peppermints

Cream butter in electric mixer until smooth.  Add 2/3 cup powdered sugar and extract.  Gradually add flour to the butter mixture.  Place dough in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes (or overnight).  When ready, preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Pull off about a walnut sized piece of dough and roll into a 2-inch roll.  Shape it into a crescent and place on a baking stone.  Keep shaping until pan is full.  Bake for 18 minutes. 

Remove from oven and allow to cool for one minute.  Then roll warm cookies in powdered sugar.  Repeat above process until all the dough is used.  You will have about 36 cookies. 
In a small bowl, combine remaining 1 cup powdered sugar, milk, and extract to make a glaze.  Drizzle this over the cooled cookies.  Then sprinkle the peppermint bits over the icing and press gently to settle the candy.  Allow icing to set.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Slow as Molasses

So, I'm on the last day of six WONDERFUL days off.  They have actually gone by fairly SUCH a good way!  The strange thing about being a resident is that when I have more than 2 days off in a row, I feel like I've been away from the hospital for AGES; sometimes this even happens when I have only one day off.  You just get used to working every single day.  Is that bad?!  ;-)  Anyway, I've had a great bread but wish that it could be just a few days longer.  Alas, it cannot! 

While my parents were here, I decided to try a new recipe from my Southern Living Cookie cookbook.  My dad loves molasses cookies and there was one in here I needed to try.  I almost made it completely wrong but actually read the directions before I got started!  Good thing!  This recipe works a bit differently than normal but I think it gives great results.  First, you melt the shortening and then stir in all the wet ingredients.  Then you mix the dry ingredients together in the mixer and pour the WET ingredients into the dry rather than the usual other way around. 
It led to a nice dough that was very easy to work with; not wet like the other molasses cookie recipe I have. Another plus to this chill time!  Just be sure to set your'll have molasses-snaps if you don't! 

Molasses-Sugar Cookies from Southern Living Incredible Cookies
3/4 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
2 1/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/4 cup sugar, for rolling

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Melt shortening in a saucepan over low heat.  Remove from heat and cool.  Stir in the sugar, molasses and egg.  In a mixer bowl, combine dry ingredients through cloves.  Gradually add the sugar mixture, beating on medium speed until blended.  Make 1-inch balls with the dough and roll each ball in the 1/4 cup sugar.  Place balls on baking sheet or stone.  Place in oven and bake for 8-10 minutes (nine was best for me).  Remove from oven and then to cooling rack to cool.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

French Country Loaf....Failure!

I started reading Julie and Julia last night.  Now, I've only gotten about a half chapter in, but I seem to remember that Julie had several failures during her cook-through of Julia's cookbook.  Now, I am not cooking through that book but this was one of the few times I have tried something French...and it was a failure!   
Our Daring Bakers Host for December 2011 was Jessica of My Recipe Project and she showed us how fun it is to create Sour Dough bread in our own kitchens! She provided us with Sour Dough recipes from Bread Matters by AndrewWhitley as well as delicious recipes to use our Sour Dough bread in from Tonia George’s Things on Toast and Canteen’s Great British Food!  Now, I am by no means a bread baking expert.  However, several years ago I would make bread weekly!  I used a starter and the bread was yummy!  It did, though, use yeast...which is quite different from this sourdough bread.  I process of making the bread was actually fairly simple.  The timing of it, though, didn't fit my schedule.  I think that may be part of the problem.  I had to let the dough sit a lot more than called for.

This resulted in a fairly flat loaf.  It does TASTE like a typical french bread and I guess that a country bread is more dense and tough than usual...but I felt like it just didn't turn out like it should have!  It did make me want to pull out my sourdough recipe...hmmm!  There may be a bread revival soon!  Oh...and the cookies in the background?  Be watching for the recipe!

French Country Bread
Servings: 1 large loaf plus extra wheat starter for further baking
Wheat Starter - Day 1:
4 1/2 tablespoons (70 ml) (40 gm/1 ½ oz) stoneground breadmaking whole-wheat or graham flour
3 tablespoons (45 ml) water
Total scant ½ cup (115 ml) (3 oz/85 gm)
1. In a Tupperware or plastic container, mix the flour and water into a paste.
2. Set the lid on top gently, cover with a plastic bag, to prevent messes in case it grows more than expected!
3. Set somewhere warm (around 86 F if possible). I sometimes put mine on a windowsill near a radiator, but even if it’s not that warm, you’ll still get a starter going – it might just take longer.

Wheat Starter - Day 2:

4 1/2 tablespoons (70 ml) (40 gm/1 ½ oz) stoneground breadmaking whole-wheat or graham flour
3 tablespoons (45 ml) water
scant 1/2 cup (115 ml) (3 oz/85 gm) starter from Day 1
Total scant cup (230 ml) (6 oz/170 gm)
1. Stir the flour and water into the mixture from Day 1, cover, and return to its warm place.
Wheat Starter - Day 3:
4 1/2 tablespoons (70 ml) (40 gm/1 ½ oz) stoneground breadmaking whole-wheat or graham flour
4 teaspoons (20 ml) water
scant 1 cup (230 ml) (6 oz/170 gm) starter from Day 2
Total 1⅓ cup (320 ml) (230 gm/8-1/10 oz)
1. Stir the flour and water into the mixture from Day 2, cover, and return to its warm place.
Wheat Starter - Day 4:
3/4 cup plus 1½ tablespoons (205 ml) (120 gm/4 ¼ oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup less 4 teaspoons (100 ml) water
1⅓ cup (320 ml) (230 gm/8 oz) starter from Day 3
Total scant 2⅔ cup (625 ml) (440 gm/15½ oz)
1. Stir the flour and water into the mixture from Day 3, cover, and return to its warm place. At this point it should be bubbling and smell yeasty. If not, repeat this process for a further day or so until it is!
French Country Bread
Stage 1: Refreshing the leaven
1 cup less 1 tablespoon (225 ml) (160 gm/5 ⅔ oz) wheat Leaven Starter
6 tablespoons less 1 teaspoon (85 ml) (50 gm/1¾ oz) stoneground bread making whole-wheat or graham flour
1 cup plus 2 teaspoons (250 ml) (150 gm/5 ⅓ oz) unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup (120 ml) water
Production Leaven Total 2¾ cups plus 4 teaspoons (680 ml) (480 gm /1 lb 1 oz)
1. Mix everything into a sloppy dough. It may be fairly stiff at this stage. Cover and set aside for 4 hours, until bubbling and expanded slightly.
French Country Bread
Stage 2: Making the final dough
3/4 cup less 1 teaspoon (175 ml) (100 gm/3 ½ oz) stoneground breadmaking whole-wheat or graham flour, plus more for dusting
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (510 ml) (300gm/10 ½ oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
1¼ teaspoons (7½ ml) (7 gm/¼ oz) sea salt or ⅔ teaspoon (3⅓ ml) (3 gm/⅛ oz) table salt
1 ¼ cups (300 ml) water
1 ¾ cups (425 ml) (300 gm/10 ½ oz) production leaven – this should leave some (1 cup) for your next loaf.
Total 6 cups less 2 tablespoons 1415 ml (1007 gm/35 ½ oz/2 lb 3½ oz)
1. Mix the dough with all the ingredients except the production leaven. It will be a soft dough.
2. Knead on an UNFLOURED surface for about 8-10 minutes, getting the tips of your fingers wet if you need to. You can use dough scrapers to stretch and fold the dough at this stage, or air knead if you prefer. Basically, you want to stretch the dough and fold it over itself repeatedly until you have a smoother, more elastic dough.
See my demonstration here:
3. Smooth your dough into a circle, then scoop your production leaven into the centre. You want to fold the edges of the dough up to incorporate the leaven, but this might be a messy process. Knead for a couple minutes until the leaven is fully incorporated in the dough. See my demonstration here:
4. Spread some water on a clean bit of your work surface and lay the dough on top. Cover with an upturned bowl, lining the rim of the bowl with a bit of water. Leave for an hour, so that the gluten can develop and the yeasts can begin to aerate the dough.
5. Once your dough has rested, you can begin to stretch and fold it. Using wet hands and a dough scraper, stretch the dough away from you as far as you can without breaking it and fold it back in on itself. Repeat this in each direction, to the right, towards you, and to the left. This will help create a more ‘vertical’ dough, ready for proofing. See my demonstration here:
6. Heavily flour a banneton/proofing basket with whole wheat flour and rest your dough, seam side up, in the basket. Put the basket in a large plastic bag, inflate it, and seal it. Set aside somewhere warm for 3-5 hours, or until it has expanded a fair bit. It is ready to bake when the dough responds to a gently poke by slowly pressing back to shape.
7. Preheat the oven to hot 425°F/220°C/gas mark 7. Line a baking sheet with parchment, then carefully invert the dough onto the sheet. I like to put the baking sheet on top of the basket, then gently flip it over so as to disturb the dough as little as possible. Make 2-3 cuts on top of the loaf and bake for 40-50 minutes, reducing the temperature to moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6 after 10 minutes.
8. Cool on a cooling rack.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Crunch...or New Years!

I had planned to post this a few days before Christmas and make a play of the title of this fun snack.  But, alas, I got busy and did not post.  This is one of my favorite snacks at Christmas and it is so easy with few ingredients.  It's pretty much a sweet Chex mix but uses Crispix.  The brown sugar and butter give this a toffee taste.  At first, I was worried about the texture because it was initially pretty soft; but after it cools (BTW, remove it from the pans to cool some other will stick to the pans!) everything has a great crunchy texture!  Try it out on your friends at New Years.

Christmas Crunch
1 box Crispix cereal
1 can mixed nuts
1 stick butter
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 325.  In a large bowl mix the cereal and nuts together.  In a separate bowl, melt butter and sugar together.  Stir in corn syrup. Pour this mixture over the cereal and stir until well coated.  Pour cereal onto 1-2 cookie sheets.  Place in oven and bake for an hour, stirring every 15 minutes.  After the fourth 15-minute interval (one hour total time) remove from oven and pour cereal onto waxed paper to cool.  Enjoy!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

"For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of peace." Isaiah 9:6

So thankful for the gift of Jesus, sent to Earth to be the final sacrifice for all.  Glory to God!  Hope you have a wonderful day!  Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Wisemen and Chocolate Cake

My church had its Christmas music last weekend.  It was a great time of worship and giving glory to God!  So thankful that in Jesus, He gave us everything we need to satisfy our hearts!  Follow the example of the wisemen.  They "had it all," wealth, wisdom, prestige...and they gave it all to worship Jesus, the One who could satisfy their souls, forgive sins, and redeem them!
After the music, my Sunday School class had a Christmas party.  Mr. Randy made eye round, and no, I'm not joshin' you (sorry, inside joke!); and we put together a potato and salad bar.  Everyone brought something for the salad/potato bar and/or dessert.  Being typical Claire, I went in search of a new recipe to try!  I didn't have to go far, though.  I actually used one of the recipes that I had saved in my e-mail.  It's for a triple chocolate cake, and, unbeknownst to me, was from Cooking Light.  It was fairly simple to put together, though I think I did rush it some.  I should have let the filling chill overnight before putting the cake together.  When I got up on Sunday morning the top layer had slid off the bottom one.  Sigh!  Thankfully, it went back fairly easily.  I think that topping it with a ganache gives the cake an elegant appearance, enabling you to see the filling as well.  The cake was pretty good but I thought it was a tad dry...though that could be because I chose the longer cooking time, afraid it wasn't done at first check.  The filling, however, added moisture to the overall cake.  So, if you're looking for a good option for a lower guilt dessert, try this one.  I think everyone enjoyed it!  I mean, I sent several people home with leftovers. :-)

Triple Chocolate Cake from Cooking Light
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 3/4 cups sugar
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 egg whites
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream (or Greek yogurt)
8 ounces cake flour (it says about 2 cups...sure looked like more than that to me!)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine boiling water and cocoa.  Add 2 oz. bittersweet chocolate and stir until mixture becomes smooth.  Cool to room temperature.  In a large mixing bowl, put the sugar, butter, and vanilla and beat for 1 minute.  Add egg whites, one at a time, beating between each addition. Add sour cream/yogurt, then beat for 2 minutes more.  Combine the flour, baking powder, soda and salt.  Add the flour mixture and cocoa mixture alternating - being and end with the flour mixture.

Spray two round cake pans with cooking spray.  I used Pam with flour (for the first's pretty cool!).  Divide the batter between the two pans.  Drop each pan on the countertop to allow air bubbles to rise to the top.  Bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and allow to completely cool on cooling racks.

1/3 cup skim milk (I used almond milk)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablesoon cornstarch
4 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup cool whip, thawed

Combine milk, sugar, cornstarch together in a saucepan over medium heat.  Stir constantly until mixture comes to a boil.  Remove from heat and add the chocolate.  Stir until mixture becomes smooth.  Cover and chill.  When cooled, uncover and fold in the cool whip.

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
3 tablespoons milk (I used almond)
2 teaspoons butter
1/8 teaspoon instant espresso granules
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used semi-sweet)

Combine powdered sugar and remaining ingredients in a saucepan over low heat.  Cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. 

To assemble cake, place one layer of cake on cake plate.  Spread filling on top of this layer with 1/4 inch border.  Place second layer on top.  Then pour glaze on top, spreading it so that it covers the top of the cake and drizzles down the sides.  Enjoy!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Halloween (?) Squares

I'm making a list, checking it grocery list that is!  I think that I shall do some baking this weekend.  I haven't done much recently and my friends at work have noticed...but I've been busy!  These are some quick, easy chocolate treats that I made in October for the ER. 

They are called Rocky Road Halloween Squares, so I figured that they would be perfect for an October treat.  However, they would also be a perfect Christmas tray treat!  So, easy to make!  Just melt, pour, stir, pour, and cut...then enjoy!  All of the ER nurses, doctors, residents, and respiratory therapists enjoyed them.  I think they liked the combination of the sweet and salty...which I'm a bit partial to as well.  So, if you need a quick and easy treat, try these out!

Rocky Road Halloween Squares from my mom
1 12ox. package chocolate chips
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
2 Tablespoons butter
2 cups dry roasted peanuts
10.5 oz. bag mini-marshmallows

Melt chocolate chips and butter (you can do this in the microwave slowly, or over a double boiler). Combine nuts and marshmallows.  Pour the chocolate over this mixture and stir until all is coated well.  Place waxed paper in a 13X9 pan then spread the nut/marshmallow mixture into the pan.  Chill 2 hours or until firm.  Remove from pan and cut into squares.  Enjoy!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Pancakes with a Sous Chef and Photographer

When discussing what we liked at a local restaurant that serves brunch on Saturday and Sunday, D revealed that he likes chocolate chip pancakes.  So, last week, I went to his house and made breakfast for dinner.  Little did I know that I would have a sous chef in Miss K.  And even more to my surprise was that I suddenly had a photographer!

First off, this is the best pancake recipe's Daddy's.  Secondly, pancakes really ended up being a good toddler sous chef dish...until it came time to cook them on the hot griddle...had a few squeals until Miss Sous Chef was distracted enough not to care!

  I put raspberries in mine and D had chocolate chips in his.  So, confession time...I've never really eaten chocolate chip pancakes!  Strawberry, blueberry...yes. 

And I've MADE chocolate chip pancakes but never eaten them.  Per D, no syrup needed.  So, I tried!  He's right! No syrup needed.  It was pretty good.  Not saying I'm going to convert my fruit to chocolate...but still good.  As to Miss K, she was a fan of the chocolate chips and the syrup...with a few bites on pancake thrown in.  :-) Now, heat up your griddle, grab your favorite sous chef, and cook something yummy!  Here's the recipe if you're in the mood for pancakes!
Daddy's Pancakes
1+ cups flour
1 T baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 T sugar
1 egg
2 T oil
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup milk - I added more...probably about 2-3 tablespoons
splash of vanilla, I don't know how much, just put some in
Add ins - fruit, chocolate chips, etc.

Sift together flour, baking powder, sugar, salt.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, oil and milks.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir with a fork. 

Add more milk to get the desired consistency.  You want it easily pourable but not runny.  While you are making the batter, heat a griddle to medium high heat...when you sprinkle drops of water on the griddle, it should sizzle but not immediately evaporate.  Using a 1/4-1/3 cup measure, pour batter on the griddle.  At this time, put your add-ins on if you're using them.  Wait for bubbles to appear on the top and to see the edges of the pancake start to cook.  When you see this, you're ready to flip the pancakes.  Then cook on the second side until the outside has the desired golden color.  Remove to a plate and butter immediately.  Enjoy with whatever topping you want and people you love!  Don't forget to let your sous chef have some! ;-)

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Black Bean Soup

Right after Thanksgiving, we had a few days of cold.  Guess what I made...SOUP!  Today, I'd have to pretend it was cold...yet again (though it is supposed to be COLD on Tuesday!) but this soup was quite good...even enjoyed by a toddler.  Woo Hoo!  I saw the recipe from Jenna several months ago and have had it bookmarked for a while.  When I made the potato soup, I thought about doing this one but realized that I wouldn't have time.  This last week, however, was the perfect time to go for it. I was on my last few days of elective, i.e., getting out early, and it was cold.  So, when D asked what I was doing, I offered to share my soup...aren't I nice?!  ;-) 

First let me say, without realizing it, I modified this recipe A LOT!  I didn't have any onions, so I completely skipped step one.  Then I assumed that it was just a throw it all in kind of recipe.  Basically, it is; but, if you have onions, check out the original recipe here.  At first, I was a little concerned.  It has 2 tablespoons of chili powder in it, and I thought that it tasted a little too acidic. 

I will say, however, that it did mellow and gain quite a good flavor over time. I served mine with cornbread.  When I put it in her bowl, K immediately put her spoon in and ate some.  "Yummy!  Beans!"  Score!  D said he liked it too and saved some leftovers for later.  I did think that it was more of a soup than a chili, so I've changed the title.  If you want a nice warm soup with a little spice, but not too much, try this soup!  Delicious, filling, and healthy!

Spicy Black Bean Soup adapted from Jenna
8 oz dried black beans
2 14.5 oz cans diced fire roasted tomatoes with green chilies
6 cups vegetable stock
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried onion

In a large stock pot, place all ingredients.  Stir well. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 3 hours.  Serve chili with grated cheese and sour cream.
Yield: 4 servings

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Deep Dish Apple Pie

Happy Thanksgiving...a little late!  I hope you all had a wonderful time with those you love.  We had about 20 people at my parents' house.  It was smaller than usual but still very enjoyable.  At the end of the 3 days, we had so much food left we know who REALLY eats the food...all the people who weren't here this year.  ;-) We always have tacos on Wednesday night and then a conglomeration of desserts.

  However, my aunt Jo Ellen decided to make a deep dish apple pie.  Let me tell you, it was beautiful and delicious.  She got the recipe out of a Southern Living magazine.  I would highly recommend it!  She used premade pie crusts, but you could make your own crust if you REALLY wanted to be hard core about it.

Easy Skillet Apple Pie from Southern Living Sept 2011
4 pounds of apples (the recipe suggests 2 eat of granny smith and  braeburn.)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 up butter (1 stick)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 package refrigerated pie crust (has two in the package)
1 egg white (we did not use this)
2 tablespoons sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350.  Peel and cut apples.  We used an apple-peeler-corer-slicer on some; so, we had wedges and thin slices.  I think the combination of sizes was actually a good thing.  Toss apples with cinnamon and the 3/4 cup sugar.  Melt the butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet.  After it is melted, add the brown sugar and stir until sugar is dissolved.  Place one pie crust in the bottom of the pan on top of the sugar mixture.  Pour the apples over the pie crust and top with the remaining crust.  Brush with egg white if desired.  Sprinkle sugar on top.  Cut small slits in the top crust.  Place in over and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes or until golden and bubbly.  Remove from oven and cool for 30 minutes before serving.  Serve with ice cream or cool whip.  Enjoy!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pretending It's Cold - Potato Soup

A few weeks ago, it actually felt like fall around here.  Today, it is 80 degrees...but we'll forget about that for now and pretend.  Just imagine, it's a beautiful fall day...just enough chill in the air.  You've had a long day at work and want something warm and comforting for dinner.  So does your family.  What could you make that is quick but definitely has that homemade feel?  I suggest this potato soup!  It is souper (HA! couldn't resist!) easy and very kid friendly.
I made it for D and K the other day.  She refused to eat anything but bread and banana, but he said it was really good.  Even took some left over home to his mom who promptly asked for the recipe.  I like sharing recipes!  :-)  This really only takes as long as the potatoes take to cook; and since you cut them into cubes, that's not really very long.  It does call for jalapenos, but if you don't want the spice, just leave them out.  So, if you're in the South (or southern hemisphere!)...pretend it's cold and try this.  If you're somewhere that actually feels like fall, just enjoy the weather AND the soup! 

Aunt Merle's Potato Soup
5-6 red potatoes (not the tiny ones, the bigger ones)
1 cup chopped onion (about 1 medium onion)
water to cover
2 cans of cream of celery soup (I use 98% fat free)
1 pound Velveeta type cheese (1/2 of the standard block or the whole small block, I used 2% version)
chopped jalapenos to taste
1 oz. jalapeno cheese if you want to add some extra spice

Chop potatoes and onion.  Place in your large stock pot and cover with water.  Bring water to a boil and then cook until potatoes are fork tender.  Meanwhile, cut the cheese into cubes.  When potatoes are ready add the remaining NOT drain the potatoes.  Stir over heat until cheese melts and everything incorporates into a yummy, cheesy, potato soup!  Enjoy!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

T-shirts and Toffee

Last year, I got that wonderful cookies book for my birthday.  My goal is to bake through it...and that's still my goal.  But I took a little break from it. 
Sometimes I just really like to try out things that I see on other blogs.  However, I still have some recipes that I need to share with you from the book.  This cookie is one that I made in August when I went home between ER shifts.  On special thing I want to share with you about that trip before you get this YUMMY cookie is the quilt that my mom made for me. 
Several years ago, she had me choose special t-shirts to use on a T-shirt quilt.  One of them is from my sixth grade year, some from high school, and some from college.  This trip, she gave me the finished quilt.  It's pretty awesome if I do say so myself....and HUGE!  I could fit a couple of people under it.  She suggested using it for "picnics on the floor."  We used to have these every year when it was Miss Mississippi and Miss America time!  Such fun!  Thanks for the great quilt, Mama!  Now, the cookies.  I knew these would be good ones.  I mean, toffee...chocolate...nuts.  YUM!  Tried to be a little creative with the pictures this time...

whatcha think?  ;-)  Daddy enjoyed these per usual.  Don't remember the specific comments...I mean, it has been three months!  However, I do know that I would highly recommend them.

Chocolate-Toffee Cookies from Southern Living Incredible Cookies
1 cup pecans, toasted
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup chopped toffee and chocolate (you can use Bits'O Brickel or just chop Heath bars)
1-1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Toast pecans in toaster oven.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cream butter until creamy, then add sugars and beat well.  Add eggs and vanilla and mix well.  Stir in the dry ingredients and mix until well blended.  Stir in the toffee, chocolate chips, and nuts.

Place on baking stones or sheets in tablespoonfuls.  Place stone in oven and bake for 10 minutes or until slightly browned.  Cool for 1-2 minutes on stones then remove to cooling rack to completely cool. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Forever Lentils

A few weeks ago when the weather was cool (before it got warm again and then cool and then see the cycle), I decided to make some soup.  I had seen this great looking lentil recipe on Brittany's site and knew I had to try it.  So, one Sunday after church, I pulled out the crockpot and started cooking.  I wanted to eat it for supper, so I increased the heat to high, thinking that would help it cook faster. 

Wellllll, all it did was make the crockpot overflow!  Yes, it bubbled over and I ended up having to was the insides of my crockpot.  Maybe I'll try those liners one day.  :-)  Anyway, I turned the heat down to low, like the recipe called for and let it cook for the full time.  Thankfully, I had some distraction and just had a late supper.  It was SO good!  I ate it for days, sent some home with my parents, and have some frozen in the freezer for later when the weather turns cold for good....or not!  Try it out!

Slow Cooker Lentil Chili from A Healthy Slice of Life 

8 cups stock/broth (I used chicken because it cost less but to make this vegan use veggie stock)
1 package dried lentils
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 large red bell pepper, diced
2 cans diced tomatoes
5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped (or cheat and use pre-minced garlic like Brittany and I did)
4 tsp chili powder

Rinse your lentils well, but no need to soak.  Chop the onion, pepper, and tomatoes.  Put these, lentils, and broth along with garlic and chili powder into your slow cooker.  Set on low and go do something fun.  Let it cook for 8 hours.  Serve with yogurt atop.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Only One

 Last week we had a "party" in the ER for Halloween.  Now, a party in the ER means that we all bring food and when the rush of patients slows down (Hopefully!) around 1-2am, we eat.  I'm usually the sweets person...and that was no different this time.  I had seen this recipe from Recipe girl a few weeks earlier and thought it looked pretty good.  At first I was going to change things up and use a peanut butter filling but decided to stick with the recipe. 

MAN was it good.  The only thing I did change was cutting some of the semi-sweet chocolate in the actual cookie and substituting some white chocolate.  One of the nurses asked me for the recipe for tailgaiting...I think it would make a fantastic tailgaiting recipe.  On the way home, I went and left a bag of them for D, who was post-call from the ICU.  Later he told me that they were good...but so rich he could "only eat one!"  Well, I think I take that as a compliment.  :-)

Ooey Chocolate Chip Sandwich Bars from Recipe Girl
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1 large egg (ALMOST forgot this!)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup quick-cooking or old-fashioned rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a 9x13-inch pan with parchment paper, allowing enough overhang on the long side to lift the bars from the pan.

For the filling: Place the chocolate chips and condensed milk in a small saucepan over the lowest possible heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the chocolate has melted and the mixture has thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, add vanilla, and stir until smooth. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Dough: Place the butter and sugars in a large bowl and cream with a mixer.  Add the egg and vanilla. Beat well. Whisk together the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl then add to the butter mixture. Beat until everything is well incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Using half of the batch of cookie dough, place dollops into the prepared pan and press down lightly to even it out. Pour the cooled chocolate mixture over the dough and then add small dollops of the remaining dough on top. Don't worry if the dollops don't completely cover the chocolate mixture. Just spread it together as much as you can, and let some chocolate peek through.  This will fill in when it is cooked.  Bake until lightly browned, 20 to 25 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.  Placing it in the refrigerator to chill helps the cutting go more smoothly.  Cut into 32 bars. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Apple a Muffin

So, I have had several requests to post this recipe ever since I made the muffins.  Plus, it's finally cool and fall like, I give you apple pie muffins.  After making a fruit salad for that surprise party a few weeks back, I had LOTS of apples left over.  So, I went in search of a good recipe to use those apples.  I stumbled across this muffin recipe and thought it looked, it had a crumble topping.  I think the top is the best part of the a crumble top is even BETTER!  I ended up using applesauce in replacement of the oil to make these a little bit healthier.

On a side note, I am of the opinion that applesauce does make the "shelf life" of baked goods a lot shorter.  So, if you do use the applesauce, either eat these quickly, or freeze them!

On the other hand, the texture of the muffins was still good.  I didn't think the topping was quite crispy and dry enough.  I still haven't figured out how to make the best topping.  All in all, though, these were really good muffins!  These were great and had a great amount of apple in them.  Check them out!

Apple Pie Muffins adapted from My Baking Addiction

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
2 cups peeled, chopped apples - I used gala but granny smith is the traditional type

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray muffin tin with baking spray.  In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk, applesauce, vanilla and brown sugar. Stir until sugar has dissolved. Pour liquid mixture into the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Gently fold in apples. Use a large scoop to fill each muffin well, filling the cups to the top.

  In a small bowl, stir together 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 1/3 cup flour, rolled oats, and cinnamon. Drizzle in 3 tablespoons of melted butter, mixing until well blended. Sprinkle this over the tops of the muffins. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until the tops of the muffins spring back when lightly pressed.  Cool on wire rack. Store at room temperature or freeze. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 27, 2011


When I saw the name of this month's Daring Baker challenge, I thought for sure that I had probably tasted this bread but didn't realize it.  The name just SOUNDS Russian!  However, I don't think that I have ever had it prior to making it.  The Daring Baker’s October 2011 challenge was Povitica, hosted by Jenni of The Gingered Whisk. Povitica is a traditional Eastern European Dessert Bread that is as lovely to look at as it is to eat! 

I was a little nervous when it came to this challenge.  You see, we've had challenges before that required rolling the dough so thin that you can read something through the dough.  In those challenges, I had such trouble rolling out the dough.  This time, however, was a different story.  (Can you see where I work?!)

I don't know if the difference was the dough or the rolling location.  This was a GREAT dough to work with.  It rolled SO easily and stretched beautifully when I began to "pull" at it.  I used the knuckle strategy when I pulled my down-turned hand out under the dough, which causes the dough to stretch.  Worked wonderfully. 

The other change was using my dining room table to roll it out...MUCH MORE ROOM!  I did have to use a bed sheet as my pastry towel but that worked well, too.  Hmmm...I'll have to remember this in the future.

I was planning on doing maybe two different fillings but didn't have enough nuts.  So, I decided to use the traditional cinnamon nut filling (I used pecans) for one loaf.  This one ended up being the most striking one on the inside and was definitely flaky.  In fact, when I picked it up it flaked away!  This is one that I left at clinic today. 

For the next loaf I used some of the remaining nuts, mixed it with orange marmalade and some sugar.  SURPRISE!  When I pulled the loaf out of the pan, it had formed an orange caramel.

Didn't expect that but the caramel did taste GREAT!  I think that I will end up freezing this one and taking it to Thanksgiving.  I hope the caramel doesn't get too hard.

Loaf three was to be a cream cheese chocolate chip loaf.  Well, I think I under did it on both the cream cheese AND the chocolate chips.  The swirl is very unimpressive.  Adding some icing to the top added to the flavor.  This loaf found a home in the ER!
And loaf four is the cheese loaf.  I got some inspiration after D brought my sunglasses back to me.  I knew I was going to give him a loaf and suddenly remembered that I had some cheese in my refrigerator. I knew that he would like a cheese loaf.  So, I sprinkled some Nature's Seasoning on the dough, then put sharp cheddar cheese on that and topped it all with Parmesan cheese. 
Oh my goodness!  The aroma coming out of my kitchen when that one was baking was amazing.  It smelled like a pizza parlor is the best way.  And the loaf was beautiful!  Something about the cheese made the inside more bubbly than swirly but I liked it!
Left that one at clinic, too.

All in all, this was a fantastic challenge!  I actually enjoyed rolling the dough out and trying to stretch it as thin as I could.  Coming up with different fillings and seeing how they came out was fun.  And, as always, giving away what I made always gives me joy!  Thanks for a great challenge.  Try this one out for yourself.
Povitica (makes 4 loaves)

To activate the Yeast:
2 Teaspoons (10 ml/9 gm) Sugar
1 Teaspoon (5 ml/3 gm) All-Purpose (Plain) Flour
½ Cup (120ml) Warm Water
2 Tablespoons (30ml/14 gm/½ oz/2 sachets) Dry Yeast

Place sugar and flour in a small bowl.  Pour water over and stir to dissolve.  Add the yeast and stir.  Cover with plastic wrap (or be brave like I was and don't!) and allow to sit for five minutes.

2 cups (480ml) milk - I used skim
¾ cup (180 ml/170gm/6 oz) Sugar
3 teaspoons (15 ml/18 gm/2/3 oz) Table Salt
4 Eggs
½ cup (120ml/115 gm/one stick/4 oz) Unsalted Butter, melted
8 cups (1.92 l/1.12 kg/39½ oz/2½ lb) All-Purpose Flour, divided

Place the milk in a sauce pan.  Place on medium heat and cook until the milk reaches 180 degrees F.  This scalds the milk.  Remove from heat and allow to cool to 110 degrees F.  Meanwhile, put sugar and salt in a large bowl.  When milk is cooled, stir it into the sugar until dissolved.  Add 2 cups flour, beaten eggs, melted butter, and yeast mixture.  Stir until well combined.  Slowly add flour until the mixture pulls away from the bowl and is not sticky (I ended up using 7.5 cups total, including the original 2 cups).  Divide the dough into four equal portions and place in smaller bowls.  Cover and allow to rise in a warm place for 1.5 hours (mine probably rose about 4 hours!).

Walnut Filling for one loaf:
1.5 cups ground pecans
 1/4 cup almond milk
1/2 stick margarine
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon (5 ml/4 gm) cocoa powder
1 teaspoon (5 ml/3 gm) cinnamon

Melt butter and milk together.  Stir in remaining ingredients.

Place a clean bed sheet on a large table.  Sprinkle flour on the sheet so that there is a thin layer of flour on the sheet.  Place one piece of dough on the sheet.  After lightly flouring the rolling pin and dough, roll out to about 12 X 18 inches.  The dough will still be fairly thick.  At this point, you can continue to roll the dough or you can start stretching by hand.  Slowly roll/stretch until you can see through the dough enough to read something or see patterns. 
Once it is thin enough, place your filling on the dough to cover it.  Then roll up jellyroll style.
  Spray a bread pan with cooking spray and place the dough in the pan in a U-shape.  Do this with all the pieces of dough.
I had to cook three and then prepare my fourth because I only have 3 bread pans.  When your loaves are ready, preheat the oven to 350.  Let the dough rest 15 minutes.  Then place the loaves in the oven and cook for 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes, decrease the oven temperature to 300 F.  Then bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the loaves are golden.  After removing from the oven, allow the loaves to cool for at least 20 minutes before removing from the pan.  If freezing a loaf, wrap well in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil.  Can freeze for 3 months.  Enjoy!