Friday, July 27, 2012

Cracker Time

The Daring Baker's challenge this month was to make crackers.  Now, this would have been a good challenge to make early in the month and take for K...she's a fan of crackers!  However, I got really busy this month and wasn't able to make the challenge until this week...while she's out of town at her grandparents' house.  Oh well!

 Our July 2012 Daring Bakers’ Host was Dana McFarland and she challenged us to make homemade crackers! Dana showed us some techniques for making crackers and encouraged to use our creativity to make each cracker our own by using ingredients we love.  I decided to make the "health crackers" and some cheese crackers.  The health crackers are pretty much like wheat thins but not quite as thin.  I really enjoyed the taste of these.

 I tried flavoring them with Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb but it didn't stick.  Oh well!  These would be really good for a dip or cream cheese and jelly appetizer.  The other cracker was made for D and K...cheese crackers.  They really remind me of cheese straws but thinner.  I enjoyed them but took the rest to D.  These were both actually really easy to make and didn't take a lot of time.  Another great challenge.

Health Crackers
3 cups (720 ml) (240 gm)(8½ oz) rolled oats
2 cups (480 ml) (280 gm/10 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
1 cup (240 ml) (80 gm) (2¾ oz) wheat germ
3 tablespoons (45 ml) (40 gm)(1½ oz) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 gm) salt
¾ cup (180 ml) vegetable oil
1 cup (240 ml) water
1 large egg white
Cracker topping:
Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, nigella (onion) seeds, salt
Salt sprinkling 

Mix the oats, flour, wheat germ sugar and salt together in a large bowl or bowl for the standup mixer. Combine the water and oil and stir into the oat mixture until it comes together and a dough forms.  Form dough into a disk and allow to rest in the fridge for about 20 minutes but up to a day if you are making the ahead.  Preheat the oven to moderate 325°F/160°C/gas mark 3.  Divide the dough into quarters and work with one piece at a time, allowing the remaining pieces to stay in the fridge as you proceed with rolling out the crackers.  On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to about 1/16 inch (1½ mm) thick and transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet by carefully wrapping the dough around the rolling pin.  Brush the dough with the egg white mixed briefly with a tablespoon of water and sprinkle with seeds and salt of your choice.
Cut the dough with a pizza wheel and bake for 25-30 minutes until browned. Crackers that are not crispy once cooled may be returned to the oven.  Store in an airtight container and eat within two weeks.

Cheese Crackers
½ cup (120 ml) (1 stick) (115 gm/4 oz) butter, well softened
2¼ cups (540 ml) (225 gm/8 oz) grated aged cheddar cheese (the better the cheese, the better the cracker), firmly packed
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons (285 ml) (190 gm/6oz) all-purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 gm) salt

Combine butter, rosemary and cheese in a stand mixer and beat well (can also be done by hand)  Add the flour, salt and nuts and stir to combine.  Form the dough into two tight logs and wrap with cling film. Chill for at least an hour and up to several days. The log can be frozen at this point for several months. Heat the oven to moderate 325°F/160°C/gas mark 3.  Slice a log into 5mm (1/5 inch) coins and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake about 10 minutes until golden brown. Store in an airtight container and eat within three days

Monday, July 23, 2012

French Braid and Chocolate Muffins

A couple of weekends ago I kept K while D was on call for the weekend.  Friday night we made cookies.  Then Saturday K got up early, ate some cereal while I made pancakes for the next morning (a great idea if you have hungry kids who want to eat IMMEDIATELY and can't wait on you to make something), then we got dressed.  I asked K how she wanted me to do her hair and she said "a braid!"  So, I tried a French braid.  The first time it was too loose and crooked.  For some reason I couldn't get the braid I did a side French braid! 

Turned out pretty cute if you ask me!  Sunday after church and a nap (for K...just as I was falling asleep she got up..."Good morning!!!") we went back to D's house and made...gasp!...
 chocolate muffins for him.  It was a recipe that I found when searching for "chocolate chunk muffins."  Now, this is a healthy recipe...but D did eat them. There was something a little missing in them; the bites with the chocolate chunks in them were really good...without, not QUITE enough flavor.  Not really sure what I'd add.  I'd probably play around with these again...unless D doesn't want it again.  He's the chocolate fan!  :-)

Triple Chocolate Chunk Muffins
1 3/4 cupOats
3Egg whites
3/4 cupUnsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup Unsweetened applesauce
1 tspVanilla extract
1/2 cupvanilla greek yogurt
1/2 tsp Cream of tartar (or 2 tsp. vinegar) - didn't have this, may have made a difference
1 1/2 tsp Baking powder
1 1/2 tsp Baking soda
1/4 tspSalt
1 cupHot water
1 cupsplenda
1/2 cupChocolate chunks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with foil cupcake liners, or spray muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

In a small food processor, blend oats until they are ground.  Then mix all ingredients together in a bowl on a mixer.

Gently stir in 1/2 of the chocolate chips (set the rest aside). Scoop mixture into prepared muffin pans.
Place muffins tins in the oven for 15-20 minutes.Cool muffins before removing from pan. ENJOY!!!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Happy birthday, K!

I wanted to post this yesterday...but I came home to a house without power (it had been out for almost 5 hours) and didn't get it back until noon today.  Great fun!  Anyway, this past Wednesday, K turned 3!  She's quite into princesses right now, so last Saturday we had a princess party.
The plan was to have it at the park; but upon arriving, the wind began to whip, even making the pink paper lanterns roll away across the park, and dark clouds rolled in.  We packed everything up just in time because by the time I got back in the car after strapping K into her car seat, it was pouring cats and dogs.  K was NOT a happy princess!  She was screaming "My paaar-tyyyyy!  The paa-aaark!"  Forget that you couldn't see two feet in front of you...she wanted to stay.  Finally we reassured her that we were still having her party and would come to the park later.

Thankfully, Anna offered her house for the party.  When we arrived, we quickly hung the lanterns and balloon wreath.  It was a party set for a princess!

There was pizza, grapes, strawberries...and cheese puffs.  Apparently, those are necessary for a birthday party.  Go figure!

Then K opened presents.  She got lots of fun things and seemed to enjoy herself.  After that was cake time.  I decided to make a castle cake...and then, under inspiration from Sweetnicks, decided to make it a RAINBOW castle!
Much to my delight, the inside turned out great!  I got a bit frustrated when I was making the castle.  The cake itself was made in one of those large cupcake pans.  Then I covered sugar ice cream cones with white chocolate almond bark and put them on top of the cake for turrets.

The frustration came at this point...the smaller turrets kept kicking out...they wouldn't sit flat.  K even came up to me and said "What you need, Claire?"  So sweet!  At that point, I took a deep breath and thought...hello!  Cut out some cake so that it can sit flat!  Perfect!  K loved the cake.  She asked if a princess was inside.  :-)  I did make the cake from scratch and felt that it turned out perfectly.  A little bit denser than your typical cake mix...but it was fresh and nicely flavored.

White Cake from King Arthur
2 3/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached Cake Flour Blend
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
3 large eggs whites plus 1 whole large egg
1 cup fat free vanilla yogurt or milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare pan with Baking spray (contains flour...this stuff is GREAT!) (two 8" x 2" or 9" x 2" round pans; a 9" x 13" pan; or 2 standard cupcake pans (20 to 24 cupcakes) - I used a large silicone cupcake pan putting half the batter in the bottom and half the batter in the top.).

Mix all of the dry ingredients on slow speed to blend. Add the soft butter and mix until evenly crumbly, like fine damp sand. It may form a paste, depending on the temperature of the butter and how much it's mixed.  Add the egg whites one at a time, then the whole egg, beating well after each addition to begin building the structure of the cake. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl after each addition. 

In a small bowl, whisk the yogurt (or milk) with the vanilla extract. Add this mixture, 1/3 at a time, to the batter. Beat 1 to 2 minutes after each addition, until fluffy. Be sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.  Pour the batter into the prepared pans. For cupcake pan, bake 45 minutes - check 35 minutes in.  (Bake for 25 to 35 minutes for 8" or 9" rounds; 36 to 42 minutes for a 9" x 13" x 2" sheet cake; or 18 to 20 minutes for cupcakes. A toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center will come out clean when done.) Remove from the oven, and allow to cool.  Remove to cooling rack to cool completely.

*For rainbow cake, divide the batter into equal portions (six for full rainbow) and make desired colors.  If using a cupcake pan, put red, orange, yellow batters into bottom pan (from bottom up) and purple, blue, green in top pan (from tip (small end) up).  To get vibrant colors you will need to use a lot of food coloring.

12 tablespoons butter
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2-3 tablespoons milk

Cream butter in a mixer.  Add in 4 cups powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time.  Add salt.  Then add milk.  The icing was perfect at this point for me.  If you desire it to be thicker, add more sugar.

Castle Cake
Bake cake in a large cupcake pan and allow to cool completely.
Trim cake so that it fits together well.  Apply icing between layers to keep it steady.
Now ice the entire cake.  For turrets, cover sugar ice cream cones with white chocolate candy coating.  Once set, place one cone on the top center of the cake.  Wherever you desire the next turret to be placed, make a small cut into the top of the cake.  You can make the imprint of the cone into the cake so you know exactly how much to cut out.  Place the cone in this cut-out.  To make a small turret, simply cut the tip of a cone off with a sharp knife.  Decorate in your desired colors and with your desired decor!  I did a door, window, and some defensive windows (where you can shoot arrows but not be injured...this was D's suggestion and I liked it!).

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Slip and Slide and Rolo Bars

At the end of June, one of my fellow residents (now not!  Boo and Yay!) had some of us over for a slip and slide party.  He makes a HUGE slip and slide and we just have fun.  He also grills burgers.  I took a dessert, of course,  and a salad.  I decided to try a new recipe that I saw on Peabody's blog.  She always has great desserts, so I knew this would be a hit. 
I couldn't find the mini rolos (which I just saw the other day...sigh!) so I just got regular sized rolos and cut them in half.  I think I cooked the base a little too much and it didn't quite "hold" together...the bottom kept coming off like a granola bar...a good granola bar, mind you!!!
 Everyone at the party liked them.  I sent the left overs with D to his parents house when we took K for Vacation Bible School.  They enjoyed them as well.  Strangely enough, the other day, D said something about never having eaten a, yes, yes you have!
 He admitted that he guesses he did since he had eaten one of these bars.  :-)  Try these out...they're great for a grilling get together or pot luck.

Rolo Bars adapted from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 package mini Rolos or regular sized cut in half or quarters

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9-by-13- inch baking pan with cooking spray.
Stir together oats, flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and the salt in a large bowl. Blend in butter with a fork or your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal; press half of mixture onto bottom of lined pan.
Bake until just set and starting to color around edges, about 20 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack 5 minutes.
Sprinkle crust with chocolate chips, caramel bits, and mini Rolos.
Top with remaining crumb mixture.
Bake until pale golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely in pan before cutting into squares.

Saturday, July 07, 2012


A few weeks ago, I kept K because D had to be at work early Saturday and Sunday.  We had a med-peds party Friday night and she was passed out by the time we got to my apartment, so just put her in "her" bed.  The next day we went to the Farmer's Market.  She was so cute helping me pick out the veggies. 
We got purple snap beans and she just got so excited when they turned green while cooking.  That night we had Sarah, Jason, and Luke over for lasagna and blueberry pie.  It was a complete hit.  Apparently, Jason really likes lasagna and blueberries.  I knew D would like lasagna as that is one of his "go to" foods when eating out but I was really hoping mine would be satisfactory.  He seemed to enjoy it.  The blueberry pie was also a "yes" food.  I think D was surprised that he liked it!  YAY!  The lasagna recipe is one that my mom has been making for is my dad's FAVORITE! 
The recipe calls for a pound of Italian sausage, but mama uses half beef half Italian sausage because the sausage just has such a strong flavor.  We also use cottage cheese instead of ricotta, mostly (I think) because it costs MUCH less.  The cottage cheese part is my favorite.  I'm not sure why, but I enjoyed the lasagna more than I usually do.  D even had left-overs to take to work for lunch.  Try this out for some people you love...they'll like it!

Lasagna from With Special Distinction (Mississippi College cookbook)
1/2 pound ground beef (I used 92/8)
1/2 pound Italian sausage
1 clove minced garlic, (I used 1 tsp pre-minced)
1 Tablespoon fresh basil, cut
1 tsp salt
1 (16oz) can tomatoes (I used 24 oz. chopped tomatoes...liked the extra)
2 (6oz) cans tomato paste
6 lasagna noodles
3 cups low-fat cottage cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (Fresh is SOOO much better)
2 Tablespoons parsley flakes
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Mozzarella cheese (recipe says 1 pound but I think I used 12 deli slices b/c it's what I had...not sure how much that is, it was less cheese but not really detrimental)

Brown meat.  Drain excess fat and blot with paper towel.  Return to pan and add garlic, basil, salt, tomatoes, and tomato paste.  Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Meanwhile, cook noodles as instructed, drain and rinse.  Combine cottage cheese, parmesan cheese, parsley flakes, eggs, salt, and pepper. 

Preheat oven to 375.  In a 13X9 dish, place half the noodles. 
Spread half the cheese mixture over the noodles and top that with half mozzarella cheese then half the meat sauce.
 Repeat layers once more ending with meat mixture.  Place dish in over and bake for 30 minutes. 
Remove from oven and allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving.  Enjoy!

Friday, July 06, 2012

Ask and You Shall Receive...Cherry Cobbler

My best friend from residency is working in a clinic that isn't associated with the I don't get to see her at work anymore.  I think we're going to try to get together a couple of times a month for sure to visit and let K and Lukie play together.  We decided that we should cook out for July 4th.  So, after we came up with the big plan (hamburgers and hotdogs with fruit salad) I asked D what he wanted for dessert.  "Cherry or apple pie."  Hmmm...we had just had blueberry pie a week or so ago but he says "I like pie."
 Then he said cobbler would work.  Okay....then I see that cherries are on sale for $1.99.  WOW!  That's huge...they're usually $4/pound.  So, I bought a bag...but forgot to get a cherry pitter.  So, I sat on my floor and pitted 3 pounds of cherries with a knife. 
My hands were stained after...but it was worth it!  :-)  The recipe for cobbler I found was pretty simple.  Just put the fruit on the bottom and top with a batter.  It was a bit difficult to spread. 
You do pour a simple syrup/corn starch mixture on top...I might try to use less sugar next time and let the fruit do its own sweetening.  Jason, Sarah's husband, really enjoyed it as well.  You could use any fruit you wanted to with this.  A great year-round dessert. 

Cherry Cobbler
4 cups fruit, prepared as appropriate
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1/2 cup butter/margarine
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup self rising flour (original recipe said 1 cup flour and 1 tsp baking powder)
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup boiling water
1 tsp corn starch (ooops...I used 1 tbsp!)

Preheat oven to 375.  Spray 13X9 pan with cooking spray.  Pour prepared fruit in bottom of pan.  In a mixer, cream butter and 3/4 cup sugar.  Stir in flour.  Then add milk and vanilla.  Spread this over the fruit.  Heat water to boiling and dissolve remaining 3/4 cup sugar and corn starch.  Pour over top of batter.  Place in preheated oven and bake for 35-40 minutes or until browned.  Enjoy topped with ice cream and in the presence of friends and family!