Thursday, December 29, 2011

Recovering

As if having the holidays isn't chaotic enough, let's throw in emergency surgery.  The Thursday before Christmas I had to have my appendix removed...ugh.  We caught it soon enough that there were no complications, but as one ages recovery goes a lot slower!  Just another perk of living longer :-)  I hope to be back in the kitchen and blogging again very soon.  In the meantime, have a safe and blessed New Year!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Four Cheese Cornmeal Stix


Monday was the perfect day to make a hearty soup and what's better to go with soup than crackers? Or in this case, "Stix." Rolled out thin and cut into squares these would be ideal for crackers but I was looking more towards cheese straws.  Easy to make and quite yummy.  These would be a lovely gift to make and give along with with some home made soup.

Four Cheese Cornmeal Stix
adapted from BHG Cheddar Cornmeal Sticks

                                                           (or just use plain sharp cheddar)
1/2 cup butter
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Directions: 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  
Lightly grease two baking sheets; set aside.
In a bowl, combine cheese and butter and allow to stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
  Beat with an electric mixer until well mixed.  
Stir in flour, cornmeal, salt, cayenne and nutmeg.  
Divide dough in half.

On a lightly floured surface, roll each dough half into 
about 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch thickness, cut into strips, and gently twist.
Or,roll small amounts of dough into a long tube 
about the width of a straw and cut in desired lengths.

Arrange the strips on prepared baking sheets.  
Bake about fifteen minutes or until bottoms are light brown.
Keep stored in airtight container for up to 3 days
or freeze up to 3 months.
Yields about 24 of the 12 -inch stix

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Blue Ribbon Almond Roca Cookies


Hands down Almond Roca Candies are my all time favorite.  I don't buy it any more since I tend to eat most of it.  But when I saw this cookie recipe, in  my Food Network Magazine, I knew that I just had to make it. Its got all the flavors of the candy.  A definite winner recipe!
Blue Ribbon Almond Roca Cookies

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup butter, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 package toffee bits
1 cup coarsely ground almonds
4 ounces milk chocolate
1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil

Directions
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. 
In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend sugars together on medium speed. 
Add butter and mix to form a grainy paste. 
Add eggs and vanilla and mix at medium speed until light and fluffy. 
At low speed, slowly add the flour mixture and then the toffee bits. 
Mix until just blended; do not over-mix.

Place ground nuts in a small bowl. 
Using hands, roll balls of dough into 1 to 1 1/2-inch balls,
 then roll in the ground nuts. 
Place on cookie sheets several inches apart.
 Bake approximately 22 minutes and then transfer cookies to a cooling rack.

Melt the chocolate with the vegetable oil in a double boiler
or in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. 
Drizzle melted chocolate over cooled cookies. 
Place cookies on a cookie sheet and place in freezer 
or refrigerator until chocolate is firmly set.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Easy Chocolate Turtles


Nothing new really. This candy has been seen on the Internet for several years now, 
but that doesn't stop me from sharing these highly addictive treats!  

You just take these ingredients:
1 bag of Rolo candy 
1 bag of M&M’s or pecan halves 
1 bag of pretzels (knots, squares or rounds)

Place the pretzels on a foil lined baking sheet. Unwrap the Rolos and set one on top of each pretzel. 
 Pop it into the oven at 250 degrees for about 4 minutes. 
 The Rolos will look about the same, but that’s long enough to make them soft. 
 Gently place and M&M or pecan on top of each Rolo and press down a bit. 
 Let them cool completely.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Cooky - Candies


My mom loves Christmas and she loved baking Christmas goodies. Standing for long periods of time no longer works for her, so I carry on the baking tradition for her (oh darn, eh!!!!) I have great memories of her and I being in the kitchen.  Of course, being a sprinkle addict you can imagine how happy I was helping her out with holiday cookies!  I'm sure I got more sprinkles on the floor than I did on the cookies (I know my kids did!) but what great memories.
This recipe is from my all time favorite cookie book, "Betty Crocker's Cooky Book".  Though the pictures are a bit dated, the recipes remain down right delicious!
Cooky - Candies
Betty Crocker's Cooky Book

1 cup butter or margarine
3/4 cup sifted confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup rolled oats

Frosting
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate pieces 
1/4 cup milk 
     OR
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon almond extract or vanilla, if desired
Food color, if desired


Directions:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Mix butter, sifted sugar, and vanilla well.
Add sifted flour,  salt and rolled oats into butter mixture.
Shape teaspoonfuls of dough into rounds, balls, crescents, triangles and bars. 
Bake on ungreased baking sheet 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden around edges.
Let cool or wire rack.

Chocolate Glaze:
Melt chocolate; add milk; blend until smooth.  
Dip cookie tops in chocolate; then dip into desired toppings.

Powdered Sugar Glaze
Combine powdered sugar, water, butter, corn syrup and vanilla in small bowl;
 mix until powdered sugar is moistened. 
Beat at medium speed until smooth, adding additional water, if necessary,
 to reach desired spreading consistency. Tint with food color, if desired.

Glaze cooled cookies. Let stand until hardened (6 hours or overnight).

Monday, December 12, 2011

SRC: Asian Steak and Noodle Salad

Guess what! Today is my Secret Recipe Club reveal day!  I love being part of the this group.  My biggest struggle is picking what I want to make.  So far, all the blogs I've been secretly admiring have had amazing recipe choices.  
This month my new found love was The Chefanies. A blog from a combination of two Stephanies.  Not only is their blog name clever, but their use of trying to incorporate only seasonal ingredients is fantastic.  I wish I lived in a warmer climate and had access to fresh grown produce... but, that is not the case here in Northern Idaho.  
I was craving salad something fierce and instantly was drawn to their recipe for Asian Steak and Noodle Salad.  Hubby said this marinade is "Amazing."  I have to agree with him.  I made a few minor adjustments; no cucumber and I had to make my own substitute for fish sauce.  I love this book I have, its called; 
Substituting Ingredients, 4E: The A to Z Kitchen Reference. It is my go to book for whenever I lack a certain ingredient. Those who are familiar to my blog know that this happens to me quite frequently!
Secret Recipe Club is the brain child of Amanda, of Amanda's Cooking blog. Check out the web site... it has grown to four reveal days now!

Asian Steak & Noodle Salad
Serves 2
Adapted from Epicurious
INGREDIENTS

For steak marinade
1/4 cup Asian fish sauce (see note)
2 tablespoons finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped ( I just crushed with the palm of my hand. It was just for flavor anyway!)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 lb flank steak

For salad
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
1 Tbs Olive Oil
1 1/2 teaspoons dried hot red-pepper flakes
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots (2 medium)
1/2 cucumber, chopped (I omitted)
Handfull of cherry tomatoes (I used tomato I had on hand)
1 pack Ramen Noodles (instructions didn't state, but I just used noodles and not seasoning package)
1 medium Granny Smith apples
2 cup Mixed Greens

DIRECTIONS
Mix ingredients of Marinade. Marinate the steak for an hour.
Grill Steak until cooked through. About 3-4 minutes on each side. Set aside.
Cook Ramen Noodles until tender and set aside.
Combine lime juice, water, sugar, fish sauce, red pepper flakes and olive oil to make a dressing.
Mix Salad Ingredients together and add dressing.
Layer ingredients with Ramen on the bottom, then the salad mixture followed by the steak.
Notes: To make your own Asian Fish Sauce substitute, 1 part Anchovy to 4 parts soy sauce.






Sunday, December 11, 2011

Chocolate Gingerbread men and women


This months "Have the Cake" challenge was to make gingerbread men.  While I love ginger cookies, I'm really not a big fan or rolled out gingerbread cookies... they are too dry and hard.  Still, this recipe was rather decent (still not a fan, but almost!) and it had chocolate.  Come on, you know anything with chocolate just has to taste better!  Frost with royal icing, if desired.

Chocolate Gingerbread Men (and women!)
adapted by Vivian 
original By Sydney Mike

Ingredients
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus
2/3 cup cocoa powder, sifted 
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2/3 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 large egg, room temperature
3/4 cup unsulphured molasses

Directions:
Position racks in the top & bottom thirds of the oven, then preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Grease several large baking sheets, then set aside (or cheat like I do and use a Silpat!).
In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and baking powder until spices & coca are evenly distributed, then set aside.
In a 2nd large bowl, & using an electric mixer on medium speed, cream shortening & brown sugar until smooth & airy, about 1 minute. Beat in egg & then the molasses.
Turn off mixer & add prepared flour mixture, then AT VERY LOW SPEED beat just until crumbly bits of dough form, but not until the mass begins to cohere into a ball.
With flour lightly dust a clean, dry work surface as well as your hands. Turn dough out & knead just until it forms a smooth mass, about 30 seconds.Divide into thirds & cover them with a clean kitchen towel.
With flour lightly dust the work surface again & roll one of the thirds to a rectangle about 1/4 inch thick. Flour the dough & a rolling pin only as necessary (I like to use a piece of  Cling wrap on top of the dough to prevent sticking).
Use a large gingerbread-man cookie cutter to cut the dough into the desired shapes, then use a metal spatula to transfer them carefully to the prepared baking sheet(s). Gather any scraps, lightly dust again with flour & roll out a 2nd time, creating additional gingerbread men.
Bake for 4 minutes, then rotate sheets top to bottom & front to back; Bake another 4 minutes, or until cookies feel dry but still are a little soft.
Remove from oven & cool on the baking sheets for 2 minutes before transferring the cookies to wire racks to cool completely.
Keep no longer than 2 days at room temperature, several more days in the refrigerator, OR up to a month in the freezer.
Original recipe: http://www.food.com/recipe/chocolate-gingerbread-men-334306#ixzz1fjGb4r8u

Friday, December 9, 2011

Buttered popcorn ice cream with caramel sauce


In a recent issue of Bon Appetit magazine there was a recipe for "Buttered Popcorn Ice Cream Sunday."  Intrigued?  So was I! I've been on a sweet and salty kick lately and this recipe just screamed "MAKE ME!" Who was I to disagree with a poor innocent dessert.  It was everything I hoped for and then some.  I made some changes based on the ingredients I had on hand, but kept as close to the recipe as possible.  It really does taste like buttered popcorn and the caramel sauce just takes it over the top!

Buttered-Popcorn Ice Cream Sundae
8 Servings
adapted from a Recipe by Elizabeth Falkner
Ingredients

Caramel Sauce
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Buttered-Popcorn Ice Cream
2 cups popped popcorn  (I don't recommend using microwave popcorn!) I air popped mine.
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 1/2 cups 2% milk  (using 2 cups whole milk would have produced a creamier texture but I added another     1/2 cup of cream to compensate for the lower percentage milk)
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup light corn syrup
5 tablespoons sugar, divided
8 large egg yolks

Directions:
Caramel Sauce

Combine sugar, corn syrup, cream of tartar, and 1/4 cup water in a medium saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and cook without stirring, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush, until dark amber in color, about 7 minutes.

Remove from heat; immediately add butter and stir until melted. Slowly add cream (mixture will bubble vigorously). Add vanilla and salt; whisk until smooth. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 month ahead. Let cool completely. Cover sauce and chill. Rewarm slightly before using.

Buttered-Popcorn Ice Cream
Set a strainer over a large bowl; set aside. Place popcorn in another large bowl. Drizzle butter over and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. salt; toss to coat. Add milk and cream; cover and let steep for 10 minutes. Stir in corn syrup and 1 Tbsp. sugar.  Purée popcorn mixture in a blender until smooth. Transfer to a large saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.

Using an electric mixer, beat yolks, remaining 4 Tbsp. sugar, and remaining 1/2 tsp. salt in a large bowl until thick ribbons form. Gradually whisk hot popcorn mixture into yolk mixture. Return to saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until custard is slightly thickened and an instant-read thermometer registers 175°.  Pour through strainer (important step, don't skip!) Cover and chill overnight.
Process in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. Transfer to a container, cover, and freeze. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep frozen.

Read More http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2011/10/buttered-popcorn-ice-cream-sundae#ixzz1fjBxsCVy


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Crazy Cooking Challenge:Dark chocolate Kahlua Mudslide Fudge


Once again Tina, from the Crazy Cooking Challenge, has given us a task: find a blog that has fudge and recreate it.  Oh my but there are so many wonderful sounding fudge recipes out there!  I wanted to try them all, but my thighs stopped me.  On Pinterest I had pinned a recipe for Kahlua fudge.  This recipe had been pinned many times. I don't expect that I am the only one that will make this recipe, but I did make some adjustments that may separate me from the others.

 Before I get to those changes, please give a big thanks to La Phemme Phoodie.  She has a wonderful blog that just so happened to feature these delectable bits of fudge-y happiness! Click on the above link and give her some blogger love!
This fudge is fantastic.  Its creamy, and not overly sweet.  Even my mom, who dislikes dark chocolate, gives it two thumbs up!  I added a teaspoon of espresso powder right before I added the chocolate.  The original recipe calls for 3 cups total of chocolate but I only did 2 cups and I omitted the nuts (yes dear, I did that for you sweet husband of mine!)  be sure to click on her link to see the original recipe!




Kahlua Creamy Fudge (Adapted from La Phemme Phoodie)
INGREDIENTS:
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 (7 0z) jar marshmallow creme*
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup salted butter
1/3 cup Kahlua Mudslide
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon espresso powder
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla

DIRECTIONS:
Line an 8 inch square pan with baking foil.or parchment paper.
In a 3 1/2 quart saucepan combine sugar, marshmallow, milk, butter, Kahlua and salt. Bring to a rapid boil, stirring constantly for 5 minutes. Remove from heat; add the espresso powder and chocolate. Stir until melted. Add vanilla. Turn into prepared pan.
Cool on wire rack for 30 minutes and then refrigerate until firm. To serve cut into squares.
Serving: Approximately 2 1/2 pounds

 Here's a tip; make the length of the foil, or parchment, a bit longer  This way all you need to do is cut around the pan and pull out the fudge!.












Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Make it yourself candy: Butterfingers


I try to be good with my eating during most of the year. Yes, I have a sweet tooth, but I really do try to limit myself.  Come Christmas time, though, I go full out in the candy mode.  I love making candies! There is just something so lovely about seeing a plate of glossy chocolates.  
Lately, however, I have been experiencing signs of aging (I guess that's what happens when you are in your 40's) and standing at a stove plays havoc with my fibromyalgia. So when I see a recipe for candy that uses minimal ingredients and is quick to make, I am all over it! 

Candy Corn Butterfingers
adapted from Taste of Home forums
1 lb. candy corn
16oz jar peanut butter (I used a generic brand of  peanut butter)
16oz good quality chocolate, tempered  ( I cannot stand the stores chocolate coatings but they will work if you want to go that route) 

Melt candy corn in microwave on high 1 minute. Stir and continue cooking in 15-second intervals til melted, stirring after each interval. Stir in peanut butter. Spread mixture in an 8x8 pan lined with parchment. Cool completely. Cut into squares. Dip in melted chocolate candy coating. Lay on waxed paper to set.
Note: I made mine using the stove top with a double boiler.  It worked great!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Chocolate Chiffon Pie


Since darling hubby dislikes fruit (I know!!! How unfair is that!!!) I make him a chocolate pie during the holidays.  He will eat pumpkin pie and lemon meringue pie as well, but chocolate is his favorite.  I've got a recipe I've always used for chocolate cream pie (courtesy of Betty Crocker) that I've always made in the past but this year I wanted to try a different recipe.  I thought I would give the Chocolate Chiffon Pie a try that is in my Fannie Farmer Cookbook.  While chocolate cream pie uses cornstarch as a thickener, the chiffon pie relies on plain gelatin.  The pie was rather luscious.  I used a simple graham cracker crust, but it would work in a precooked pastry crust, cookie crust, or whatever other crust you crave.

Chocolate Chiffon Pie      
adapted from Fannie Farmer Cookbook
Graham Cracker Crust
 1 1/2 cups fine graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup melted butter.

Chocolate Chiffon
4 eggs, separated
1 and 1/2 cups milk
1 envelope PLAIN gelatin (Knox brand is what I used)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa, sifted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Mix the crumbs, sugar and butter together in a bow.  Press the crumb mixture into a 9 inch pan, including up the sides.  Bake 8-10 minutes; or until lightly toasted.
Using a heavy 2 quart pan, pour in the milk and sprinkle gelatin over it; let soften for about 3 minutes.  Add the sugar, salt, and egg yolks to the milk mixture and beat with beater to blend thoroughly. Cook and stir over low heat until slightly thickened (do not boil); add the cocoa and mix completely.
Remove from heat. Chill until thickened slightly further.

Meanwhile, beat the egg whites until they stand in soft peaks–like you would for a meringue. GENTLY fold beaten whites into the chocolate mixture–you want there to be plenty of air bubbles, and yes, it will look a little strange.  Spoon into prepared crust and chill until ready to serve

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Easy Sausage Stuffing


What I like best about stuffing is the top part that gets all crunchy!  Don't get me wrong, I eat all of the stuffing. Its just that the crispy topping is just so yummy!  For the past nine years I have been making a variation of this stuffing recipe.  Not much really changes, sometimes I use fresh herbs and other times I use dried.  If my kids are going to eat it then I leave out mushrooms and  I will cook the onions and celery in a bit of butter before adding to the stuffing. Sometimes I add dried cranberries, too.  The bread is pretty much whatever I find I have on hand.  This time I used a whole grain bread but it works great with sour dough, rye, whole wheat or even the cheapie white bread you get at the grocery store. I have used this inside a turkey but mostly I make it on the side because I like to stuff my turkey with fresh herbs and lemon.  Besides, I get more of the crunchy topping when its cooked separately!
Sausage Stuffing
2 pounds bread, cut into chunks
1 package Jimmy Dean Sage Sausage
1 medium onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
8 ounces fresh mushrooms
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 stems of fresh thyme, leaves removed
1 sprig of rosemary, chopped
1 can (14 1/2 ounce) Swanson Chicken broth  ( or use your own homemade broth)

Directions:
Cook and drain sausage, crumble.  In large pot add sausage, cubed bread, onions, celery and seasonings; stir until evenly moistened.
Bake at 325 degrees F or 30 minutes covered.  Uncover and bake 15 minutes more

Monday, November 28, 2011

Cheddar Yeast Rolls


They say that you are never supposed to try out new recipes on special occasions or for guests... I think that's half the fun!  I get Paula Deen's weekly e-mail newsletter and this week was a recipe for Smoked Cheddar Rolls.  I was intrigued enough to give the recipe a try for Thanksgiving, although I couldn't get my hands on any smoked cheddar.  I substituted sharp cheddar for the smoked cheddar and it was pretty.  I went for the clover look and won't likely do that again- bah, too much work!  I would make them into my basic roll shape( Round balls nestled together in a 9x13-inch pan) so that it would have more soft areas and not so much crust.


Cheddar Yeast Rolls
Makes 18 rolls
recipe from Paula Deen

2 (1/4-ounce) packages active dry yeast
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup warm water (105° to 115°)
2 cups whole buttermilk
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 large egg
2 teaspoons salt
6 to 7 cups bread flour, divided
2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
Melted butter (optional)

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in 1/2 cup warm water; let stand for 5 minutes. In a large bowl, beat buttermilk, melted butter, egg, and salt at medium-low speed with a mixer until combined. Add yeast mixture, beating until combined. Gradually add 4 cups bread flour and shredded cheese, beating until smooth. Beat in enough remaining bread flour to make a soft dough.

On a lightly floured surface, turn out dough. Knead dough for 6 to 8 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover, and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, for 1 hour or until dough is doubled in size.


Spray 18 muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray.
Shape dough into 54 (1 1/2-inch) balls. Place 3 balls in each muffin cup. Cover, and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 350°.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Brush hot rolls with melted butter, if desired. Let cool in pans for 5 minutes. Serve warm.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Daring Bakers Challenge: Sans Rival


One thing I like about being a daring baker is that I'm introduced to recipes from other countries. Doesn't hurt that those recipes are desserts either :-)  I love meringue and this recipe uses that and a french butter-cream.   And yes, you are quite correct in thinking that this produces a very rich dessert!

Blog-checking lines: Catherine of Munchie Musings was our November Daring Bakers’ host and she challenged us to make a traditional Filipino dessert – the delicious Sans Rival cake! And for those of us who wanted to try an additional Filipino dessert, Catherine also gave us a bonus recipe for Bibingka which comes from her friend Jun of Jun-blog.


Sans Rival
Servings: 12
10 large egg whites, room temp
1 cup (240 ml) (225 gm) (8 oz) white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (3 gm) cream of tartar
2 cups (480 ml) (240 gm) (8½ oz) chopped, toasted cashews, divided  
I used toasted almonds instead of  cashews

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to moderate 325°F/160°C/gas mark 3.
2. Line cake pan bottoms with parchment paper and butter and flour the sides really well.
3. In a large clean, dry glass or metal mixing bowl, beat egg whites on medium until foamy (2 mins.). Sprinkle with cream of tartar. Gradually add sugar, a couple of tablespoons at a time, continuing to beat now at high speed until stiff shiny peaks form. (about 7-10 mins.)
4. Fold in nuts 1 cup finely chopped nuts
(Note the more finely ground for folding into meringue. The coarsely ground for is decoration of finished cake.)
5. I traced circles to make smaller individual servings rather than 4 large cakes.  Using a pastry bag, I filled in the 32 circles.  Be sure to flip the paper over and not bake on the side with the pencil!
6. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the meringue from the baking pans while still hot; allow to cool slightly. Peel off the parchment paper while it is still warm, it is difficult to remove sometimes when they have completely cooled.
7. When cool, trim edges so that all 4 meringue layers are uniformly shaped. Set aside.

French Butter-cream:
5 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 cup (240 ml) (225 gm) (8 oz) white granulated sugar
1/4 cup (60 ml) water
1¼ cup (300 ml) (2½ sticks) (285 gm) (10 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature
Optional Flavorings: 2 oz (55 gm) unsweetened chocolate, melted, or 1½ teaspoon (7 ½ ml) almond extract, or 1½ teaspoon (7 ½ ml) vanilla extract, or any flavor you like

Directions:
1. Put the egg yolks in a mixing bowl. Beat at high speed until the yolks have doubled in volume 
and are a lemon yellow.
2. Put the sugar and water in a heavy pan and cook over medium heat, stirring the sides down only until all the sugar is dissolved and the syrup reaches 235°F/112°C (or thread stage).
3. With the mixer on high, very slowly pour the syrup down the sides of the bowl, until all has been added. Be careful as the very hot syrup could burn you if it splashes from the beaters. Continue beating on high until the mixture is ROOM TEMPERATURE (about 15 mins). Still on high, beat in the soft, room temperature butter a tablespoon at a time. Add flavoring after you beat in the butter. Refrigerate the buttercream for at least an hour, and whip it smooth just before you use it.
Assembly:
Set bottom meringue on cake board with a dab of butter cream to hold it in place. Spread a thin layer of buttercream and then place another meringue on top. Repeat with a thin layer of buttercream, meringue, thin layer of buttercream, meringue, and finally buttercream the top and sides. Decorate with reserved nuts.

Refrigerate until ready to serve. It is easier to cut cold. May freeze.


Friday, November 25, 2011

Caramels


Next to baking, making candies is an all time favorite thing to do.  However, I have a confession to make... I absolutely hate having to wrap candies!  BORING!  The sad fact is, if you don't wrap some candies, caramels for instance, you have nothing but one big sticky mess.
This recipe has been in my family for years and is from an old candy making book (How to Make Candy; Culinary Arts Institute 1983). If you like soft chewy caramels then this is the recipe to try.
Caramels
2 cups sugar
1 1/2cups light corn syrup
2 cups evaporated milk (I use the skim evaporated milk and works just fine)
1/2 cup margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine sugar and corn syrup in heavy saucepan.  Stir occasionally and heat to 300 degrees F.  Add evaporated milk and margarine.  Stirring continuously, cook to 250 degrees F.  Remove from heat and add vanilla.  Pour onto a lightly buttered baking sheet.  Cut and wrap individually in wax paper.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thyme Gougères

Were you supposed to bring an appetizer for Thanksgiving and forgot about it?  Have no fear!  This is a quick and easy recipe that is sure to impress.
I found the original recipe on Bon Appetit and made some adjustment using what I had on hand.  My daughter and son in law loved them! 
Thyme Gougères
adapted from bon appetit
Ingredients
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
Large pinch of cayenne pepper
Large pinch of kosher salt
1 cup grated sharp cheddar
1/2 plus 3 tablespoons cup grated  Parmesan regiano cheese
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves plus more for garnish
5 large eggs

Preparation
Preheat oven to 400°. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Bring butter and 1 cup water to a boil in a large heavy saucepan. Remove from heat.
 
 Add flour, cayenne, and salt; stir vigorously to blend. Return to heat; stir vigorously over medium heat until mixture forms a ball and a thin, dry film forms on bottom and sides of pan, about 1 minute.
Transfer mixture to a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add 4 eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each egg between additions, and scraping down sides of bowl as needed.Add 1 cup sharp cheddar and 1/2 cup parmesan regiano cheese, and 2 tsp. thyme; beat on low speed to blend. 
Spoon dough into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2" tip or a plastic bag with 1/2" cut diagonally from 1 corner. Pipe dough onto prepared baking sheets in 1"–1 1/4" rounds, spacing 1" apart. For the record, I am quite lazy and just spooned out the dough using my tablespoon cookie scoop! 
Whisk remaining egg with 1 Tbsp. water in a small bowl. Brush egg wash lightly over rounds, patting down to form rounded tops. Sprinkle with remaining 3 Tbsp.Parmesan. Garnish each with a few thyme leaves.
Bake gougères until puffed and golden brown and centers are cooked through but still moist, 20–25 minutes. Let cool slightly and serve. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 month ahead. Let cool completely. Store airtight in freezer. Rewarm in 325° oven until hot, 10–15 minutes.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Easy Chicken Parmesan



Lately I have been obsessed with Pinterest.  I know, just what I need... another obsession.  I could stock pile recipes and ideas all day long. Sure, 90% of them will never get done.  Never mind the harsh reality that if I stopped following everyone's blogs and pins there would be actual time to do those things!

My daughter and son-in-love (law just seems so rigid, we have chosen to love this dear man!) were coming over for dinner and I wanted to have a meal that would be fairly easy to manage.  Although there are some things I would change next time I make it, over all it got high flavor scores.
I found this recipe off of Pinterest.  It was originally pinned from Food Wishes  which gives a great video of how to make this easy meal. In fact, this is what he does; Video Recipes.  There are tons of things I want to try out on his blog.. If you do try this recipe please visit Chef John's blog and thank him!
 Notes:  My topping looks burned.  It didn't bother the flavor a bit but does make the picture a bit icky looking.  I would cover this dish with tinfoil for about half the cooking time to prevent this from happening again. Everyone would have like a bit more sauce, so I would actually increase the marinara by another cup.  I encourage you to try the recipe first as is.  It was absolutely delicious!

Easy Chicken Parmesan
Recipe from Foodwishes.com
Ingredients: 
2 tbsp olive oil 
2 cloves garlic, crushed 
hot red pepper flakes, to taste 
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts (I used 5, but they were huge!) 
2 cups marinara sauce 
1/4 cup chopped basil 
8 oz mozzarella, shredded 
4 oz Parmesan, grated 
1 (5-oz) package garlic croutons

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Place the olive oil in the bottom of a 9-in x-13-inch pan.  Sprinkle garlic and red pepper flakes 
over the olive oil. 
Place chicken onto the olive oil. I cut my chicken breasts in half because they were quite big.  
Pour Marinara sauce over all the chicken pieces
Place chopped basil over chicken. (I had to use dried)
Sprinkle 2 ounces of Parmesan cheese over the top.
Sprinkle 4 ounces of shredded mozzarella.
Cover with the garlic croutons.
Finish off the topping by covering with the remainder of the Parmesan and Mozzarella cheese.
Bake for 30-40 minutes.  It is important to use your meat thermometer to make sure that your thickest piece of breast meat reaches 165 Degrees F.

I served ours with angel hair pasta that was drizzled that was tossed with fresh minced garlic and olive oil.

Monday, November 14, 2011

November SRC; Chocolate Toffee Cream Scones


Yippee!  Its reveal day for Group B of the Secret Recipe Club!  Now I can tell you who my new found friend is... Fallon, of Fallon's Cucina.   She has this amazing blog inspired by her love of healthy eating and fitness.  I know. I know.  If you are familiar with my blog you know that my inspiration comes from sweets and chocolate, but who says the two worlds can't collide? Although, this time I couldn't help but gravitate towards one of her few recipes that are a bit less healthy.  I can't help it.  Sorry, scones and I are just a match made in heaven! Not that I won't ever try her healthier dishes.  I mean, come on!  Doesn't Cantaloupe Wrapped in Prosciutto sound heavenly?  What about Sweet Potato Oatmeal?  That just has major YUM written all over it!

Secret Recipe Club is the genius idea of Amanda Formaro.  SRC has grown so large that there are now four groups.  Each week one group has a reveal day to which each member, of that group, can announce to the world which blog they have been secretly given to follow and create a recipe from.  There are some amazing blogs out there!  Be sure to check out the links at the bottom and see what everyone else has been cooking up!
Chocolate Toffee Cream Scones
(adapted from Katrina: recipe from Paige Vandegrift)
Ingredients
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8- 1/4 teaspoon salt (I used kosher salt)
1/8 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream (plus a little more for brushing on the tops)
Few drops of pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup toffee Bits (Hershey's Heath)
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips ( Nestle Toll-house Semi Sweet)

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a bowl. Whisk to blend well. Add the heavy cream (no cream? See my tip at the end!) and vanilla. Stir into dry ingredients with a rubber spatula while pouring the cream, continuing to stir until a soft, sticky dough is formed. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly (8-10 times). Pat the dough into a circle 1/2" to 3/4" thick. Cut the circles into 8 wedges and place the wedges an inch or so apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Bake at 425°F until golden brown, about 13 minutes. Remove from oven, cool for a few minutes and then transfer to wire rack and cool... or do like we did and eat them fresh from the oven!

*Tip:  If you do not have any heavy cream on hand, substitute with 3 tablespoons melted butter mixed with 6 tablespoons milk.


The Daring Cooks: Cooking with Tea


This month, for the Daring Cooks Challenge, we are encouraged to experiment with savory dishes using tea.  I've had desserts that used tea - heck, I even made chai tea cupcakes, but never before in a main dish.  This pork dish was amazing!  So very moist and tender with just the subtle taste of peach.  I'm definitely going to try incorporating tea into more dishes!

Blog-checking lines: Sarah from Simply Cooked was our November Daring Cooks’ hostess and she challenged us to create something truly unique in both taste and technique! We learned how to cook using tea with recipes from Tea Cookbook by Tonia George and The New Tea Book by Sara Perry.
Peach tea pork tenderloin
4 Stash Peach tea bags 
Salt & Pepper 
1/3 cup brown sugar 
1/2 cup water
 1 tbsp Dijon Mustard 
1 pork tenderloin, about 2lbs
1/2 cup chicken stock
 1 tbsp olive oil 
4 sprigs fresh thyme

 Directions:
Place 4 Peach tea bags in a tea cup and pour in 1/2 cup of boiling water. Let steep for 4 minutes. Remove tea bags. In a sauce pan combine brown sugar and tea concentrate. Mix well. Add the Dijon mustard, mix and bring the sauce to a boil. Whisk in the stock and let simmer for 1 minute. Set aside.

Salt and pepper the tenderloin. Heat the oil in the skillet on medium-high heat and sear the pork on each side. Add the peach sauce and the sprigs of thyme. Reduce the heat and cover. Cook over low heat until the pork is cooked through, approximately 20-30 minutes. Pork should register at least 150 degrees on a meat thermometer. Remove the pork from the pan, cover and let sit for 5-10 minutes. Keep sauce warm over low heat.

Pour any pork drippings back into the sauce and slice the pork. Serve peach sauce over pork.