Thursday, December 31, 2009

New York Style Cheesecake



Cheesecake is one of those desserts that most people really enjoy but don't make themselves. It is also really nice to have a solid recipe in your repertoire. This cheesecake has been a hit every time I have made it. It rivals any cheesecake that I have had in a restaurant.

 I make it in a square springform pan because it is a 9-inch pan. My round springform pans are 8 1/2-inch, 9 1/2-inch and 10 inch. I prefer my cheesecake to be thick so the first time I made this, I made it in the 8 1/2-inch pan and didn't use all the filling. I also cooked it a bit longer than stated in this recipe. If you make it in a bigger pan, you should start checking the cheesecake a little earlier.

Some things that have helped me along the way.

Cream cheese should be at room temperture when you make the filling. Let it sit out about 1 1/2 hours prior to mixing.

Use a water bath to prevent cracking. The filling is can get overcooked and a water bath will protect it from the direct heat.

To avoid condensation on the surface of the cheesecake, let it cool completely, then cover the pan (not the cake) with a paper towel and an inverted plate.

To slice the cheesecake neatly, dip a knife in hot water and wipe dry before cutting.







New York Style Cheesecake
Adapted from Everyday Food

Crust
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (if using salted, omit salt below)
14 graham crackers ( 3-by-5 inch)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

Filling
2 1/2 pounds cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
4 large eggs
1 cup sour cream


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 9-by-3-inch springform pan. In a food processor, pulse graham crackers until fine crumbs form; add melted butter, sugar, and salt, and pulse to combine. Press crumb mixture into bottom and about 1-inch up the side of the pan. Bake until set, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool. Reduce oven to 325 degrees.

Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese on medium until fluffy, scraping down the side of the bowl. Gradually add sugar, beating until fluffy. Beat in lemon juice, and salt. Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down side of bowl after eacj addition. Bean in sour cream.

Wrap bottom half of the pan in foil. Pour in filling; place in roasting pan. Pour in boiling water to come halfway up to side of springform. Bake until just set in center, about 1 1/2 hours. Remove pan from water; let cool 20 minutes. Run a pairing knife around edge; let cool completely. Cover; chill overnight before serving.





Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Split Pea Soup

There is something about homemade Split Pea Soup. It just tastes so good. The critical ingredient is a ham bone when making the soup. It is the benefit of hosting and having ham for dinner. This soup has few ingredients but is full of flavor. I did remove most of the ham from the bone before adding it to the soup. I set it aside to add back to the soup for the final stage. I also blended the soup with my stick blender as I wanted it on the thicker side.

This soup tastes great the next day. It is a little thicker, but that is to be expected.






Split Pea Soup

16 oz dried split peas
8 cups water
1 ham bone
1 cup finely diced celery
1 onion, diced ( I used a large onion)
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1 1/2 cup diced carrots
salt and pepper to taste

Combine peas through pepper in a large dutch oven. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Remove ham bone from soup, remove any meat and dice. Add ham and carrots to soup. If you have any additional ham add that too. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally. Remove lid and simmer until thickened to your liking. Salt and pepper to taste.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Jam Thumbprints

There are some sources for recipes that I trust. Ina Garten, or the Barefoot Contessa, is one of them. She is like my mom, in that I know if she gives me the recipe, it will be good. These Jam Thumbprint cookies are SO easy and SO good. I love the short ingredient list, the chewy cookie and the taste. My sister tried one for the first time this year and she had to restrain herself.

The cookie itself is a shortbread. The dough is rolled into balls, then rolled in an egg wash, then coconut. I have tried the cookies with and without the coconut and they are just not as good without the coconut. When comparing the with versus without, the cookie with the coconut had a better texture.The coconut isn't a big flavor in the end cookie. Even if you are not a coconut fan, you have to try these.  Ray is not the biggest fan of coconut but he goes crazy for them.

I have tried apricot, raspberry and a mixed berry jam and prefer the berry flavor. I also make my cookies a little smaller than the orginal recipe. Again, just my preference.

The dough can be doubled easily, which is nice if you are in need of a lot of cookies. If you have the dough made and chilled, you can really crank these out. I made a double batch and had them finished in a little over 2 hours.




Jam Thumbprints
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa


3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
7 ounces sweetened flaked coconut
Raspberry and/or apricot jam

 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.


In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until they are just combined and then add the vanilla. Separately, sift together the flour and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar. Mix until the dough starts to come together. Dump on a floured board and roll together into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.


Roll the dough into 1-inch balls. (If you have a scale they should each weigh .7 ounce.) Dip each ball into the egg wash and then roll it in coconut. Place the balls on an ungreased cookie sheet and press a light indentation into the top of each with your finger. Drop 1/4 teaspoon of jam into each indentation. Bake for 18 minutes, until the coconut is a golden brown. Cool and serve.


 




 

Monday, December 28, 2009

Peanut Butter Blossoms

As I have said before, I seem to only make some foods around certain holidays. Peanut Butter Blossoms are another one that I only make around Christmas. I don't know why. There isn't anything Christmas-y about them and they are super easy. If I see these on cookie trays, I gravitate to them. I am a fan of the peanut butter and chocolate combination.

 My two helpers had a ball making these with me. They helped count out the kisses and unwrap them. They may have eaten a couple in the process too! They also liked rolling the peanut butter balls in sugar before baking. My favorite time to eat these is after the cookie itself has cooled and the Hershey Kiss is set yet still melty on the inside.




Peanut Butter Blossoms
Hershey

48 Hershey's Kisses 

1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Granulated sugar
 
Heat oven to 375°F. Remove wrappers from chocolates.


Beat shortening and peanut butter in large bowl until well blended. Add 1/3 cup granulated sugar and brown sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into peanut butter mixture.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar; place on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately press a chocolate into center of each cookie; cookie will crack around edges. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.

About 4 dozen cookies.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Buckeyes

Buckeyes are another candy that I associate with the holidays. It was such a big production. Then again, my mom did most of her holiday baking in one day. I remember sneaking down to the basement to snitch one (or two!) from the freezer. I wasn't the only one. One year my sister made them mid-year just make them and we thought it was such a big treat. Growing up, we all loved them, and now Ray and the boys love them too.  Like fudge, I started making these when I was in college. They were a big production then too. Now, not so much. 


I cranked these out like it was nothing. I always, always, always use my stand mixer. The bowl has a 6 quart capacity and just barely holds everything in when it is mixing it up. Yes, I could halve the batch, but really, you may as well go for broke when making these. Everybody loves them. I think it helped that I used a cookie scoop that holds about a tablespoon. I just had to give the balls a light roll. I put the balls on a waxed paper lined baking sheet and popped them in the fridge to chill. After I finished all the peanut butter balls, I started dipping. I put the chocolate covered peanut butter balls back on the waxed paper lined baking sheet. C even helped me dip some.


Since it is cool outside, I set these on a shelf in the garage while I finished the rest of the batch. When the chocolate was set, I put them in an airtight container, with wax paper between the rows. I store these either in the refrigerator or freezer. I was done in less than 2 hours!


Using my tablespoon sized scoop, I got 181 Buckeyes. I probably would have had a few more but for the sake of quality control, we had to try the peanut butter mixture before we dipped it in chocolate.


My product testers said they aren't good, they're awesome! Santa loves to stop by our house, because these are always out for him on Christmas Eve.











Buckeyes


1 pound butter (must use butter), room temperature
3 pounds powdered sugar
2 pounds peanut butter
3 tablespoons vanilla
21- 24 ounces milk chocolate
1 bar Gulf wax


Mix butter, powdered sugar, peanut butter and vanilla. Stir until well combined. Roll into balls. 


Melt chocolate and wax over double boiler. 


Dip peanut butter balls into chocolate, leaving a bald spot of peanut butter to resemble a buckeye. Set on wax paper until chocolate is set.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Broccoli and Wonderful Peanut Sauce

For whatever reason, my boys have always loved broccoli. When C was little he used to pretend he was a lemur when he was eating his broccoli. The boys especially love broccoli when it is served with this peanut sauce. It is a fight over who gets the last piece! This sauce is that good. It is quick to whip up - literally 2 minutes if you have the hot water ready. I usually steam the broccoli and serve the peanut sauce warm or room temperature. We will set some aside for the boys before adding the cayenne. It adds a nice heat layer. I also use less water so the sauce is a little thicker. It is my preference. I also will make the sauce to serve or chicken or pork tenderloin. It is also good with pasta, chicken, sugar snap peas(or peas), and a little red bell pepper.






Broccoli and Wonderful Peanut Sauce
Mollie Katzen- The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without

1 1/2 pounds broccoli -- 1 large bunch
1 cup good peanut butter (I use Jif)
1 cup hot water
2 to 3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 to 4 tablespoons light colored honey
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
3 to 4 tablespoons finely minced cilantro (optional) (I don't use)
cayenne to taste
salt to taste if peanut butter is unsalted

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, trim and discard the tough stem of the broccoli and slice the rest lengthwise into 6 to 8 spears.

Simmer the broccoli for 2 minutes, if you like your vegetables tender-crisp, and 3 minutes of you prefer them more tender. Drain in a colander, then run the broccoli under cold running water to cool. Drain thoroughly, then dry the broccoli, first by shaking it emphatically, then by patting it with paper towels. The broccoli will keep, stored in a zip-style plastic bag, for several days.

Place peanut butter in a bowl, add hot water and stir patiently with a fork or whisk until smooth.

Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover tightly and chill.

Bring to room temperature before serving with lightly steamed broccoli or other vegetables as a dip.

Makes 2 cups sauce; serves 8 generously.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Four Step Chicken

I loved watching this past season of Next Food Network Star. After the first episode, I knew I wanted Melissa D'Arabian to win. She was the person I could relate to the most and I liked her personality. On the finale, she demonstrated this chicken. Watching her, I thought, I could do that, and I did. I can whip this up on a weeknight and it is so good. A bonus is that EVERYONE likes it. This recipe is based on what Melissa presented on the finale, close to what is on Food Network.




Four Step Chicken
Adapted from Melissa D'Arabian Next Food Network Star

1 pound chicken breasts, you can use more
heaping 1/4 cup of flour
salt
pepper
1 onion - sliced
olive oil
1 cup total of (chicken broth and/or white wine and/or lemon juice) -- I use all 3 (1/2 c broth, 1/4 c. white wine, 1/4 c. lemon juice)
1 tablespoon butter


1. Put flour, salt and pepper in a Ziploc bag. Shake to mix. Pound chicken breast to an equal thickness and add to bag. Shake to mix. I have 2 little helpers for this.

2. Heat olive oil in pan. Saute chicken until golden brown on each side. Remove chicken and let rest on plate.

3. Add onion and saute in pan until translucent. Add more oil if necessary. Add liquid, scraping bottom of the pan to pick up any of the fond. Bring to a boil and reduce liquid to about half.

4. Remove from heat and stir in the butter. Pour over chicken and serve.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Pancakes!

My boys LOVE pancakes, especially when I add m&m's. I use the mini of course. In the past, I used Bisquick or other mix, as a helper in getting my pancakes on the table fast. Not anymore.  This tastes better and I like knowing the ingredients in the food I make for my family. These pancakes are so light and fluffy too!

This mix is a cinch. I did it in batches in the food processor then put everything in the food processor for one final mix. I store this in the refrigertor to help it last longer. If you want, you can substitute half of the all-purpose flour for whole wheat or white whole wheat. The mix will need to be stored in the refrigerator or freezer though. This mix can be stored about 1 month at room temperature, 3 months in the refrigerator or 6 months in the freezer.




Quick Mix Pancake Mix
King Arthur Flour Bakers Companion

9 cups (2 pounds, 6 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
5 tablespoons  (2 3/8 ounces) baking powder
5 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup dried buttermilk powder
3/4 cup dry milk
1/3 cup (2 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1 1/2 (9 3/4 ounces) vegetable shortening

Measure all dry ingredients into a large bowl, whisking them together to blend. An easy way to do this is put a third of the flour mixture in the food processor with a third of the shortening.  Pulse to blend. It should look like fine crumbs. Store mixture in an airtight container. Shake mix well to fluff up before using it. It will compact as it sits.




Quick Mix Pancakes
One dozen 3-inch pancakes

1 - 11/4 cups ( 8 to 10 ounces) water or milk, depending on how thick you like your pancakes
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups (9 ounces) Quick Mix

In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the water or milk, egg, and vanilla.  Mix the liquid into the Quick Mix and stir gently until just a few small lumps remain. The lumps will disappear as the pancakes cook. Heat a griddle over medium high. Using a 1/4 cup measure, scoop batter onto griddle. Turn pancakes when the bubbles on the surface remain open. Continue to cook until pancakes are done, depending on thickness, 30 to 60 seconds

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Layered Bean Dip

Tis the season for appetizers, fa la la la la, la la la la. This recipe is one of those that you look at the ingredients and it doesn't look like anything special,  but once it is all together, is great. This recipe is another easy and flexible recipe. You can modify it for your tastes. I have been using Pepperjack cheese and refried beans with diced green chiles to add some extra kick. I prefer this closer to room temperature vs. hot out of the oven.

This bean dip also travels well. It can be made ahead and either heated at your destination or heated in your oven and toted in a pyrex portable type thing.




Layered Bean Dip

Adapted from Cooking Light - 9/2001

1 (16-ounce) can fat-free refried beans
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1 cup bottled salsa
1 cup (4 ounces) preshredded Mexican blend or cheddar cheese


Preheat oven to 375°.
Combine beans; spread in an 8-inch square baking dish. Spread sour cream over beans; top with salsa and cheese. Cover; bake at 375° for 20 minutes. Uncover; bake 10 minutes or until bubbly. Serve warm.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Baked Ziti

As you have probably guessed, I like recipes that are easy. This one is just that - and flexible to boot! Even better. I have been making this baked ziti recipe for a long time now. When it was just Ray and me, I would make this in two 8x8 pans and pop one in the freezer for later. I usually have the ingredients on hand or can make do with what is in the house without sacrificing the taste. I don't always make it with the sausage. Sometimes I use all ground beef. I have also used diced, leftover beef roast in the place of the ground beef and sausage.  If I don't have provolone, I will use Italian blend and/or mozzarella.




Baked Ziti

Epicurious

1 pound uncooked ziti
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground sweet Italian sausage
2 26-oz jars pasta sauce
6 ounces provolone cheese -- sliced
1 1/2 cups light sour cream
6 ounces mozzarella cheese -- shredded
1/2 cup parmesan cheese -- grated

Preheat oven to 350.
Cook pasta until barely al dente (will cook further in oven).
Combine the beef and sausage and brown in a skillet. Add the sauce and simmer until pasta is finished.
In a 9x13 pan coated with cooking spray, spread half of the ziti.
Layer the provolone cheese on the ziti, then spread the sour cream over the cheese.
Ladle half of the sauce mixture over the sour cream.
Spread the remaining half of the ziti in the pan.
Cover with remaiining sauce, top with the mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
Bake, covered, for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for 5 more minutes. Let the pan sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mint Chocolate Delights


I saw these baking chips when I was tooling through the holiday candies and food gifts at Target. Mint and dark chocolate, can't go wrong. The recipe on the back of the bag looked good too.




I whipped these cookies up in a few minutes. The cookie is chocolate and complements the chips nicely. It is a really good chocolately base. The dark chocolate chips get very melty while the mint chips mostly retain their shape. These were good warm from the oven and cool. Even Ray, who isn't much of a mint/ chocolate combo person liked these.

These aren't the most beautiful cookies. If I were putting these on a cookie platter, or taking them somewhere, I would hold back some of the mint chips to top the cookies with so people would have a visual of what the cookies will taste like.





Mint Chocolate Delights
Nestle

2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 2/3 cups (10-oz. pkg.) Nestle Toll House Dark Chocolate and Mint Morsels


Preheat oven to 325° F.

Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels. Drop by well-rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake  for 11 to 13 minutes or until cookies are puffed and centers are set. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Bourbon Glazed Salmon

We try to have fish at least once a week - namely salmon. It is what we all prefer when it comes to fish. This is a recipe from Cooking Light. It was first published in September 2001. Ray and I loved it then and we still love it now. It is easy to prepare and tastes great.  I do marinate it longer than the recommended 30 minutes, about an hour. I usually cut the marinade in half and do four fillets. Or, you can make the full batch and set some aside before adding the meat. Boil down the reserved marinade, and spoon over the fish before serving. I usually put aluminum foil in between the top and bottom pieces of my broiler pan. It makes clean up much easier.


The marinade is also great on pork tenderloin.When I use it with pork, I marinate 6-8 hours.


I served the salmon with some sauteed spinach with garlic and garlic roasted red skin potatoes.




Bourbon-Glazed Salmon
Cooking Light


1 cup packed brown sugar
6 tablespoons bourbon
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, crushed
8 (6-ounce) salmon fillets (about 1 inch thick)
Cooking spray




Combine the first 8 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag; add salmon fillets. Seal bag, and marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes, turning bag once. Remove fillets from bag; discard marinade.


Preheat broiler.


Place fillets on broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Broil 11 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Boy oh Boy!

Like most kids, my boys LOVE to decorate cookies. They also have a ball decorating gingerbread houses. We started the tradition 4 years ago when C was just 18 months old. I have always bought the kits, trains or houses, and we decorate. The upside is that it is very easy to assemble and the only prep work is getting the candies into bowls for easy access. The downside, well, the gingerbread is not exactly tasty. The boys asked for a house to decorate and Ray and I thought of something better. We'd make our own cookies for the boys to decorate.

This is my favorite recipe for gingerbread cut-outs. The dough is easy to work with and most importantly, tastes good. What is interesting to me is that Martha Stewart has changed her recipe online. This recipe is from The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook. She changed it a bit in Martha Stewart's Cookies - a tweak in the flour. The recipe online has baking powder and black pepper added. There is also less molasses. I haven't tried the online recipe and probably never will. I love this one too much.

I made the dough the night before we made the cookies. It makes things easier with the boys to have one less step to wait. This recipe also is short a little flour knowing it will pick up some when rolling out the dough. I used a 5-inch cutter and got about 2 dozen cookies. We decorated with a simple royal icing.





I poked a hole with a skewer in some so we can hang them on the tree. For the sake of science, we will try a cookie after we take the tree down to see how they taste. They can't be any worse than the kits!






Gingerbread Boys
Adapted from Martha Stewar

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoons ground cloves
1 large egg
3/4 cup unsulfured molasses


Sift together flour, baking soda, and baking powder into a large bowl. Set aside.

Put butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until fluffy. Mix in spices and salt, then eggs and molasses. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Divide dough into thirds; wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough on a lightly floured work surface to a 1/4-inch thick. Cut into shapes with a cookie cutter. Space 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, and refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.

Bake cookies until crisp but not dark, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Christmas Tree Martini

Ahh, the holidays. With all the fun, there is stress, or is it the other way around? Either way, I have a tasty drink to share.


Since my siblings and I all have children and we are settled in our houses, we've decided to take turns hosting the extended family  ( 10 adults, 9 kids) for Christmas.This year, it is my turn. When I was thinking about food and drinks,  I realized it would be easier to have one "signature" cocktail and  beer and wine. I started trying out different drink recipes and I think I have found it. It isn't too strong yet has oomph enough to it. It isn't too sweet either. I think it will go over quite well. I know my dad will try it, and probably not like it, but we are buying beer for him. I am sure my mom, sisters and sister in law will love it. 


I plan to make a pitcher of these, then all the adults will need to do is shake in the cocktail shaker and add a drop of grenadine.








Christmas Tree Martini

serves 2

2 oz 
melon liqueur
2 oz 
coconut rum
2 oz 
pineapple juice
2 oz 
sweet and sour mix
4 drops 
grenadine syrup



Shake all the incredients but the grenadine over ice in a cocktail shaker; strain into a glass; then add a drop of cherry grenadine to the bottom; and serve! It should be green on top and red on the bottom

Friday, December 4, 2009

Oh Fudge!

As long as I can remember, there has been fudge around Christmastime. My mom always made it and once I got old enough I helped, then started making it. I made it for Ray the first Valentine's Day we were together - February 1999. They say a way to a man's heart is his stomach and well, here we are 8+ years and 2 kids later. Just saying.

This fudge is a Fantasy Fudge - made with marshmallow cream. The folklore (there are very few reliable historical references for fudge) goes something like this... "A candy company named "See's Candy" made a fortune selling a wonderfully rich and fluffy fudge. It contained a "secret" ingredient known only by those who made it. The secret ingredient turned out to be marshmallows or what is now used called Marshmallow Creme available in the grocery store."

Anna, over at Cookie Madness, did some back-to-back fudge making. I wanted to make Alton Brown's recipe but we didn't have any half and half in the house. I tried a traditional fudge but it just wasn't very good. Cloyingly sweet and it did not have a rich chocolate taste. This recipe makes a fudge that is what you expect from fudge.

I use salted butter, because I don't know where my mom got the recipe from and she always made it with salted butter. I am a firm believer in adding a little salt to sweets, it helps to enhance the flavor.

I also used a candy thermometer when I made this. The recipe has vague instructions, and I know from experience that a roiling boil to one person is not the same as a rolling boil to someone else. Back in college, my friend and I learned the hard way. This time, it took me about 15 minutes to get to soft ball stage 235º - 240º degrees. It is easier with the thermometer, but if you don't have one, a roiling boil is when the mixture is bubbling like crazy and sputtering across the whole pan.




Tub of Fudge

1/2 cup salted butter (1 stick)
1 Large can Evaporated Milk ( 12 oz)
4 1/2 cup sugar

Over low heat, combine and then bring to a boil over medium heat. Bring to soft ball stage or let boil for about 15 minutes. Volume of liquid will decrease.

While the above is boiling, combine in a large bowl:

12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
7 oz marshmallow cream
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

After sugar mixture has reached soft ball, pour over chips and marshmallow cream. Stir until chips have melted and the mixture has blended and began to cool. The recipe from my mom says stir until fudge has lost its sheen.

Pour into an 8x8 pan lined with waxed paper. I also give it a light spray with non-stick spray. Let cool completely and cut.

This can be stored at room temperture but I usually freeze it so there is some left to give away.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Seared Steak with Brussels Sprouts and Almonds

Dinner is a success at our house when everyone eats what is on their plate and doesn't complain. With this meal, we were *this close*. The boys are pretty good about trying new things but they have their moments. They like brussels sprouts roasted and sautéed with pancetta or bacon so I thought this was a no-brainer. They ate a couple bites. There was a small snafu with the steak, so the sprouts weren't hot when we sat down at the table. I think they would have liked them if they were warm. Ray and I both loved them and we'll cook them this way again. The second time is usually the charm for the boys.

Funny thing - I could not even look at brussels sprouts when I was pregnant with both of the boys. I remember when I was about 6 weeks along with C, I made Ray take them out of the crisper because just seeing them in there made me sick. I knew better to not even buy them when I was pregnant with H.

The steak was simply seared. We like Montreal Steak Seasoning, so I used that in place of salt and pepper. It was simple and good. It is also nice because it only needs one pan for both parts of the recipe. I did the majority of the slicing while the steak was cooking. I toasted the almonds before I started, a couple of minutes in a saute pan over medium heat until golden. I sadly know from experience the toasting can go very quickly to a burn.

This will be on our rotation for fast, easy and good.



Seared Steak with Brussels Sprouts and Almonds
Adapted from Everyday Food 


1 flank steak (1 1/2 pounds) cut into 4 pieces - I used one piece less than a pound
1 -2 tablespoons butter - I used 1
1 pound brussels sprouts, trimmed and thinly sliced
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Season steak. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Add steak and cook until medium rare, 3-5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate to rest.

Reduce heat to medium and melt butter. Add brussels sprouts and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in almonds and lemon juice. Serve steak with brussels sprouts.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Applesauce Spice Bars

I was making this for company, and Ray was a little hesitant that I make a new recipe for his brother and wife! This cake just isn't photogenic, so I searched online. There are a lot reviews online. This was a recipe chosen among a large group of bloggers who all make a recipe every Tuesday (Tuesdays with Dorie) from the cookbook, Baking: From My Home to Yours.


These bars are cake-like. They are so easy to make and very good. It isn't the most beautiful dessert but it is something you keep nipping bites from. This is a nice recipe when you need a quick, tasty dessert. The bars/ cake come together in one pan. The only hard work of the recipe is chopping the apple. I did a small dice and wouldn't change that. 


I did follow the suggestions of the other bloggers, and just kept my bars in the pan, instead of turning them out. I also waited about an hour to let the cake cool before making and pouring the glaze. Some folks doubled the glaze but I think that would have been overkill.









Applesauce Spice Bars
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan Baking: From my House to Yours



For the Bars
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon applejack, brandy or dark rum (optional)
1 baking apple, such as Rome or Cortland, peeled, cored and finely diced or chopped
1/2 cup plump, moist raisins (dark and/or golden) I used both and soaked in some rum while I was preparing the bars. I drained the raisins before adding them to the cake batter.


For the Glaze
2-1/2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 350º F. Butter a 9-x-13 inch baking pan, and dust the inside of the pan with flour.  Tap out the excess. I used Crisco for baking.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt.
In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the brown sugar and stir with a whisk until it is melted and the mixture is smooth, about 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat.
Still working in the saucepan, whisk in the eggs one at a time, mixing until they are well blended. Add the applesauce, vanilla and applejack, if you are using it, and whisk until the ingredients are incorporated and the mixture is once again smooth. Switch to a rubber spatula and gently stir in the dry ingredients, mixing only until they disappear, then mix in the apple and raisins. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.
Bake for 23 to 25 minutes, or until the cake just starts to pull away from the sides of the pan and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer the baking pan to a rack and let the cake cool.
In a small saucepan, whisk together the cream, sugar, butter and corn syrup. Put the pan over medium heat and bring the mixture to the boil, whisking frequently. Adjust the heat so that the glaze simmers, and cook, whisking frequently, for 5 minutes. Using a long metal icing spatula and pour the hot glaze over the cake, using the spatula to spread it evenly over the cooled cake. Let the cake cool to room temperature before you cut it.
Kept in a covered container, the bars will be fine for about 3 days at room temperature. Because of the glaze, they cannot be frozen.
Cut the cake into 32 bars, each about 2-1/4 x 1-1/2 inches.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

Ray and the boys LOVE cinnamon rolls for breakfast. These rolls are great because you make them the night before, so all you have to do is bake them the morning of. The recipe, from Alton Brown, is fussy, but worth every step. If I am rushed for time or a little busy, I will throw all the ingredients in my bread machine and make the dough in there. They turn out fine either way. The rolls are rich and the icing is just that, not a frosting. The two are a perfect compliment.




Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

Recipe courtesy Alton Brown, 2006
Ingredients
Dough:
4 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 large whole egg, room temperature
2 ounces sugar, approximately 1/4 cup
3 ounces unsalted butter, melted, approximately 6 tablespoons
6 ounces buttermilk, room temperature
20 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 cups, plus additional for dusting
1 package instant dry yeast, approximately 2 1/4 teaspoons
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
Vegetable oil or cooking spray

Filling:
8 ounces light brown sugar, approximately 1 cup packed
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
Pinch salt
3/4-ounce unsalted butter, melted, approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons, cooled

Icing:
2 1/2 ounces cream cheese, softened, approximately 1/4 cup
3 tablespoons milk
5 1/2 ounces powdered sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups

Directions

For the dough: in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg yolks, whole egg, sugar, butter, and buttermilk. Add approximately 2 cups of the flour along with the yeast and salt; whisk until moistened and combined. Remove the whisk attachment and replace with a dough hook. Add all but 3/4 cup of the remaining flour and knead on low speed for 5 minutes. Check the consistency of the dough, add more flour if necessary; the dough should feel soft and moist but not sticky. Knead on low speed 5 minutes more or until the dough clears the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface; knead by hand about 30 seconds. Lightly oil a large bowl. Transfer the dough to the bowl, lightly oil the top of the dough, cover and let double in volume, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. Mix until well incorporated. Set aside until ready to use.

Butter a 9 by 13-inch glass baking dish. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently shape the dough into a rectangle with the long side nearest you. Roll into an 18 by 12-inch rectangle. Brush the dough with the 3/4-ounce of melted butter, leaving 1/2-inch border along the top edge. Sprinkle the filling mixture over the dough, leaving a 3/4-inch border along the top edge; gently press the filling into the dough. Beginning with the long edge nearest you, roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Firmly pinch the seam to seal and roll the cylinder seam side down. Very gently squeeze the cylinder to create even thickness. Using a serrated knife, slice the cylinder into 1 1/2-inch rolls; yielding 12 rolls. Arrange rolls cut side down in the baking dish; cover tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight or up to 16 hours.

Remove the rolls from the refrigerator and place in an oven that is turned off. Fill a shallow pan 2/3-full of boiling water and set on the rack below the rolls. Close the oven door and let the rolls rise until they look slightly puffy; approximately 30 minutes. Remove the rolls and the shallow pan of water from the oven.

Preheat the oven to 350º F.

When the oven is ready, place the rolls on the middle rack and bake until golden brown, or until the internal temperature reaches 190º F on an instant-read thermometer, approximately 30 minutes.

While the rolls are cooling slightly, make the icing by whisking the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer until creamy. Add the milk and whisk until combined. Sift in the powdered sugar, and whisk until smooth. Spread over the rolls and serve immediately.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Sweet Potato Casserole

I love sweet potatoes. It is one of those things that has to be at my holiday table. I have a tried and true but it has a streusel topping that has nuts. C has a sensitivity to tree nuts and I wanted him to eat it and not worry about the nuts this recipe just has nuts in the topping with can be put on part. This recipe made a self-proclaimed sweet potato hater ask for seconds - yay!




Sweet Potato Casserole

Potatoes:
4 pounds sweet potatoes
1 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
Cooking spray

Topping:
3/4 cup miniature marshmallows
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon chilled butter, cut into pieces
1/4 - 1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Preheat oven to 425º. Wash sweet potatoes and pierce with a fork  On a foil lined baking sheet, bake sweet potatoes for about an hour. Turn once while baking. Depending on the size of your potatoes, start checking about 45 minutes. They are done when a fork or knife is inserted easily.

Let cool.

Peel potaotes, and place into a large bowl. You should be able to do this with your hands. Add evaporated milk, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon salt and vanilla. Beat with a mixer until smooth. Add eggs; beat well. Scrape mixture into an 11x7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Sprinkle marshmallows over top of casserole. Combine topping ingredients, flour through salt, in a small bowl. Cut butter in with a pastry blender or fork until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in pecans and sprinkle over potato mixture and marshmallows. Bake at 375º for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

I sprinkled the pecans on half the casserole, then sprinkle the remaining topping over the whole casserole.

You can also bake this in a 13x9-inch casserole and double the topping ingredients.

To toast the nuts: put nuts in a small pan over medium heat. Stir frequently, being careful not to let the nuts burn. The nuts will get a nice brown color and smell nutty.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Easy Dinner Rolls

These rolls have become a stand-by for me. They are easy to make and are a favorite with everyone. The dough is sinilar to a brioche with eggs, butter and sugar. The dough is made ahead, which is very convient. There is also no kneading This is a good recipe for someone who is afraid of baking with yeast.




Easy Dinner Rolls

1 cup warm water (105º F to 115º F)
2 packages active dry yeast or 5 teaspoons if using bulk
1/2 cup butter, melted (1 stick)
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
4 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
melted butter (optional)

Combine yeast and warm water in a large bowl. (The water should be warm enough to stick your hand in and be comfortable). Let the mixture stand until yeast is foamy, about 5 minutes.

Stir in sugar, butter, eggs and salt. Beat in flour 1 cup at a time until dough is too stiff to mix. Dough should be pulling from the edge of the bowl. Some flour may not be needed. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or up to 4 days.

Grease a 9x13 pan. Turn the chilled dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough into 24 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a smooth round ball. Place balls in even rows in the prepared pan. Cover and let dough balls rise until double in volume, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375º F. Bake until rolls are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Brush warm rolls with melted butter, if desired. Break rolls apart to serve.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Best Turkey and Turkey Gravy

I will aplogize right now for not having any pictures. We were all ready to eat Thanksgiving dinner and really, sliced turkey with some gravy isn't exactly that exciting. The whole, roasted turkey did look great though.

Anyway, this year I made the best gravy I have ever made in my life. I am so excited as gravy has been a challenge for me - until now. I've tried the make-ahead where you roast turkey wings etc., make stock, the whole nine yards. To me, it was not worth the trouble. I've tried random recipes and methods. This recipe was easy and tasted so good. I am sure it was also because of the juices from the turkey too - which I brine and is the only way I will make turkey. It is the best turkey, period. It is a little extra work but the end result is worth it - moist, juicy, flavorful turkey.

Brined Turkey
Adapted from Alton Brown

1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 gallon chicken broth or stock
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1/2 tablespoon allspice berries
1/2 tablespoon candied ginger
1 gallon ice water
1 turkey - I used a 16 pounder

Combine all brine ingredients, except ice water, in a stock pot, and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve solids, then remove from heat, cool to room temperature, and rerigerate until thoroughly chilled.

Early the on the day of cooking,  (or late the night before) combine the brine and ice water in a clean 5-gallon bucket. Place thawed turkey, breast side down in brine, cover and refrigerate in a cool area (like a garage or basement) overnight (or as little as six hours). Turn turkey over once (I don't always do this).

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Remove bird from the brine and rinse inside and out with cold water Discard brine. Place bird on roasting rack, coated with oil or nonstick spray, inside a low pan and pat dry with paper towels. Tuck back wings and coat liberally with canola oil.

I then roast on the lowest rack of the oven until the thickest part of the breast reaches 161 degrees. At about 2/3 of the way through roasting, lightly shield the breast with aluminum foil. Let turkey rest 30 minutes before carving.


Classic Turkey Gravy

Drippings from 1 roasted turkey
1 to 1 1/2 cups turkey or chicken stock or broth
4 to 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
salt and pepper to taste

Pour turkey drippings into a 2-cup measuring cup or  fat separator. Skim the fat reserving 2 tablespoons. Add enough broth/stock to measure 2 cups.

In the roasting pan, add the reserved fat from drippings and 1/4 cup flour. Stir to combine. You may need to add a couple more flour. Stir until the fat and flour is smooth and most of the fond is combined.

Transfer this to a saucepan. Over medium heat, gradually whisk in the drippings mixture. Bring to a boil and stir until thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Gobble! Gobble! Gobble!


Since it is only a half day for C today, and his day for snack, I wanted to do something fun. I got permission from his teacher to make something sweet. Sweets are only to be brought in for birthdays. I have seen cakeballs all over and wanted to give them a try. They are easy-peasy and yummy too. I used a boxed cake mix and canned frosting - hey I know my audience - kindergarteners! I made them to look like turkeys - well tried. I think they look pretty cute for my first time at something like this. I think the kids will like them. Moms, don't worry, I am sending in some goldfish crackers too.




Cake Balls


1 box cake mix - 18.25 oz
1 can frosting - I used about 3/4 of the can
Candy Melts/ Chocolate Coating


Bake cake as directed on box. Let cool for about 30 minutes. In a large bowl, using two forks, crumble the cake. I did this in large chunks. Stir in about half a can of frosting. I microwaved it about 30 seconds. Stir cake/ frosting until it sticks together, adding more frosting as needed.


After mixed, refrigerate cake/frosting mix for a couple of hours.


Using a cookie scoop/melon baller/ hands, roll into balls. I froze mine overnight, but they really just need to be chilled. 


Dip into melted candy melts. Voila! Cake Balls.


Friends, don't be surprised if you see some variation of these on my cookie platters this year.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Chicken with Artichokes and Spaghetti

I am always on the lookout for a quick, tasty and easy dinner to make on weeknights. This fit the bill. The ingredients are pantry staples, which is nice. From start to finish, it took about 25 minutes to make, which I think is fantastic. Ray and I both liked it, so it will go to the keeper pile.





Chicken with Artichokes and Spaghetti
Adapted from Everyday Food


Kosher Salt and Ground Pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts, pounded thin and cut into large chunks
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chicken broth
1 can (14 ounces) artichoke hearts, packed in water, rinsed, drained and quartered.
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
8 ounces spaghetti

Place a large pot of salted water to boil.

Put flour, salt and pepper in a ziploc bag. Add chicken. Shake. My boys love to help at this step. Meanwhile, in a large skillet,  heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Shake excess flour off chicken. Cook chicken in batches, adding remaining oil as needed, until golden; 1 to 3 minutes per side; transfer to dish.

Add pasta to boiling water. Cook until al dente; drain.

Add broth to skillet, and bring to a boil; cook until reduced by half. Add artichokes, capers and the chicken with any juices. Gently swirl to combine, and bring just to a boil. Remove skillet from heat.

Serve chicken and sauce over pasta.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sandwich Bread

I got a Zojirushi Bread Machine a little over a year ago and I can count the number of times we have bought a loaf of bread, since then, on one hand. I got the bread machine because I wanted to know the ingredients in our bread. Up until a month ago, or so, we made the bread in the machine. Now I make the dough in the machine and finish it off in a Pain de Mie (Pullman) Pan. It creates a loaf with square corners, and more similar in size to a store-bought loaf. The boys seem to like it better, for whatever reason. As you can see, the loaf turns out beautiful when baked in the pan. I ONLY use King Arthur Flour. I also use their specialty products that improve the loaf and nutrition.







Sandwich Bread


1 1/2 cup water
1/4 cup Hi-maize
1/4 cup potato flour, I use King Arthur
3 3/4 cup bread flour
1/4 cup powdered milk, I use Baker's Special Dry Milk
1 tablespoon Diastatic Malt Powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons yeast


In pan of bread machine, put in water. Mix next seven ingredients, Hi-maize through salt. I use a lidded container and shake it up. Pour flour mixture on top of water. Make a well in the center of the flour and put in yeast. Slice up butter and sprinkle in pan. I put the butter around the edges.
Use dough cycle and complete cycle.


For Pain de Mie


Grease pan, shape loaf into log, place in pan. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until just below lip of pan ~ 45 minutes.


Preheat oven to 350º. Let dough rest with cover of pan on. Bake 25 minutes, remove lid, bake 20 minutes more. Remove from pan and let cool completely.



Sunday, November 22, 2009

Macaroni and Cheese

I have a tried and true Macaroni and Cheese. I don't know why I ever stray. I was flipping through one of my cooking magazines and spotted a new recipe that looked good. My parents had just given us a huge chunk of cheddar, so I thought, why not. 55 minutes and 3/4 pound cheddar hand grated later, it was just MEH. It was at least double the amount of hands-on time. The boys took one bite and were not interested. Definitely not a repeater.

Without further ado, here is my tried and true Macaroni and Cheese. I have some friends who ate this at least once a week while in college, and now make it for their families.





Baked Macaroni and Cheese 


2 teaspoons corn starch
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard (optional, but we always use, and it must be Coleman's)
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 cups (8oz) shredded American or Cheddar cheese, divided
8 oz elbow pasta (about 1 3/4 cup), cooked al dente


In a medium saucepan, combine first 4 ingredients; stir in milk. Add butter; stirring constantly, bring to a boil over medium-high heat and boil 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Stir in 1 3/4 cups cheese until melted. Add elbows. Pour into greased 2-quart casserole. Sprinkle with reserved cheese.  I usually put all the cheese in and skip putting it on top.

Bake uncovered in 375 º oven 25 minutes or until lightly browned.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Swedish Tea Logs




I got this recipe from my mom. She got it from a friend, JoAnn, who is famous for these. The recipe if from 1962  and was a Pillsbury Junior Bake-Off Winner. Ardythe Dey won $1000 for the recipe. 


The recipe was easy to make and is impressive. It is also rich and delicious! I have not seen what a Swedish Tea Log is supposed to look like,  so I winged it. I will put the recipe in its original format.








Swedish Tea Logs

Adapted from Ann Pillsbury


Buttery-rich, no-knead dough wraps around a butter-pecan filling. 
Makes 3 coffee cakes


Mix............... 1 packet of yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons) in 
                     1/4 cup warm water.


Sift Together.  2 1/4 cup flour
                     2 tablespoons sugar
                     1 teaspoon salt
                       into mixing bowl.


Cut in........... 1/2 cup butter until particles are fine.


Add.............. 1/4 cup Evaporated Milk
                    1 unbeaten egg and yeast mixture; mix well. Cover; chill 2 hours               or overnight.


Cream.......... 1/4 cup butter. Add
                    1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar; cream well. Stir in
                    1/2 cup pecans, chopped.


Divide...........dough into thirds. Roll out one part on a floured surface to a 12x6-inch rectangle.
                    Spread with one-third of the filling.


Roll up..........starting with the 12-inch side; seal. Place, crescent shape, on a cookie sheet lined 
                    with aluminum foil. Make cuts along outside edge 1 inch apart to within 1/2 inch of
                    center. Turn cut pieces on sides. Repeat with remaining dough.


Let Rise........in a warm place until light, about 45 minutes.


Bake............at  350º for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown. Frost while warm.          


Vanilla Glaze 
Brown 2 tablespoons butter. Add 1 cup sifted powdered sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons evaporated milk until of spreading consistency.