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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Grown-Up Tater-Tots





These tots aren’t just good for when it’s cold and gross. They are a great, easy-to-portion side for entertaining and make a formulaic weeknight protein-carb-veg dinner a little bit more special.

Cold Weather Recipe: Grown-Up Tater-Tots

Serves 2 to 3

Ingredients:
  • 1 pound small potatoes, like baby Yukon Golds or fingerlings
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Italian parsley, finely chopped

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Thoroughly scrub the potatoes and arrange them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until they are tender enough to pierce with a fork, but not browned. Let the potatoes rest for 10 minutes or until they are cool enough to handle.

Turn the oven up to 450°F. Using the bottom of a plate, a sturdy rocks glass, or measuring cup, smash the potatoes with firm, downward pressure. Squish each potato to about 3/4-inch thick. They will crack and split, but they should, for the most part, stay in one piece.

Brush or drizzle generously with olive oil, sprinkle with minced garlic, and place back in the oven. Bake until crispy and golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and parsley, and try not to eat the whole pan by yourself.
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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Hot Buttered Soft Pretzels





Pretzels are available crisp and hard from your grocery or, if you're lucky and in the right place, soft and chewy from street vendors. My recipe is for the soft, chewy kind. The melted butter brushed over the crust is a bonus street vendors don't offer! :)

Hot Buttered Soft Pretzels

Yield:     8 large pretzels

Ingredients:

Dough:
  • 2 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 7/8 to 1 cup warm water*

*Use the greater amount in the winter, the lesser amount in the summer, and somewhere in between in the spring and fall. Your goal is a soft dough.

Topping:
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • coarse, kosher or pretzel salt, optional
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Instructions:

1) To make dough by hand, or with a mixer: Place all of the dough ingredients into a bowl, and beat until well-combined. Knead the dough, by hand or machine, for about 5 minutes, until it's soft, smooth, and quite slack. Flour the dough and place it in a bag, and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.

2) To make dough with a bread machine: Place all of the dough ingredients into the pan of your bread machine, program the machine for dough or manual, and press Start. Allow the dough to proceed through its kneading cycle (no need to let it rise), then cancel the machine, flour the dough, and give it a rest in a plastic bag, as instructed above.

3) To make dough with a food processor: Place the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in the work bowl of a food processor equipped with the steel blade. Process for 5 seconds. Add the water, and process for 7 to 10 seconds, until the dough starts to clear the sides of the bowl. Process a further 45 seconds. Place a handful of flour in a bowl, scoop the slack dough into the bowl, and shape the dough into a ball, coating it with the flour. Transfer the dough to a plastic bag, close the bag loosely, leaving room for the dough to expand, and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

4) While the dough is resting, prepare the topping: Combine the boiling water and baking soda, stirring until the soda is totally (or almost totally) dissolved. Set the mixture aside to cool to lukewarm (or cooler).

5) Preheat your oven to 475°F. Prepare a baking sheet by spraying it with vegetable oil spray, or lining it with parchment paper.

6) Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it into eight equal pieces (about 70g, or 2 1/2 ounces, each).

7) Allow the pieces to rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Pour the baking soda/water into a 9" square pan.

8) Roll each piece of dough into a long, thin rope (about 28" to 30" long), and twist each rope into a pretzel. Working with 4 pretzels at a time, place them in the pan with the baking soda/water, spooning the water over their tops; leave them in the water for 2 minutes before placing them on the baking sheet. This baking soda "bath" will give the pretzels a nice, golden-brown color.

9) Transfer the pretzels to the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle them lightly with coarse, kosher, or pretzel salt, if desired. Allow them to rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

10) Bake the pretzels for 8 to 9 minutes, or until they're golden brown.

11) Remove the pretzels from the oven, and brush them thoroughly with the melted butter. Keep brushing the butter on until you've used it all up; it may seem like a lot, but that's what gives these pretzels their ethereal taste. Eat the pretzels warm, or reheat them in an oven or microwave.



Tips:

To make savory pretzel bites: Roll the six pieces of dough into 10" ropes. Cut each rope crosswise into 6 to 10 equal pieces. Dip the pieces into the baking soda solution, place on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, and top with pretzel salt or sea salt. Bake in a 400°F oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven, and roll the bites in melted butter; about 6 tablespoons should do it.

To make sweet pretzel bites: Roll the six pieces of dough into 10" ropes. Cut each rope crosswise into 6 to 10 equal pieces. Dip the pieces into the baking soda solution, place on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, and top with pearl sugar, if desired. Bake in a 400°F oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden brown. Remove them from the oven; if they haven't been topped with pearl sugar, roll the bites in melted butter (about 6 tablespoons should do it). Then shake in a paper bag with 6 tablespoons cinnamon-sugar.

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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Fluffy Pancakes





Tall and fluffy. These pancakes are just right. Topped with strawberries and whipped cream, they are impossible to resist..

Fluffy Pancakes

makes 8 pancakes

Ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • cooking spray

Instructions:
  1. Combine milk with vinegar in a medium bowl and set aside for 5 minutes to "sour".
  2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk egg and butter into "soured" milk. Pour the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and whisk until lumps are gone.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and coat with cooking spray. Pour 1/4 cupfuls of batter onto the skillet, and cook until bubbles appear on the surface. Flip with a spatula, and cook until browned on the other side.

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Monday, January 20, 2014

Banana Bread Bars with Brown Butter Frosting





They are ridiculously moist and rich.  And the banana flavour is satisfyingly prominent but absolutely wonderful.  But what takes these bars to the next level and beyond is the Brown buttercream icing. The flavour combo is out of this world....no word of a lie

Banana is a great ingredient to use in baking. Not only because its super yummy but because they are a good source of vitamin C, potassium and dietary fibre. They also have no fat, cholesterol or sodium.






Banana Bread Bars with Brown Butter Frosting

Ingredients:

Banana Bread Bars:
  • 1-1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 c. sour cream
  • 1/2 c. butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1-3/4 (3 or 4) ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 c. all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. chopped walnuts (optional)

Brown Butter Frosting:
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 4 c. powdered sugar
  • 1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp. milk


Instructions:

Heat oven to 375F.  Grease and flour 15x10-inch jelly roll pan.  For the bars, in a large bowl, beat together sugar, sour cream, butter, and eggs until creamy.  Blend in bananas and vanilla extract.  Add flour, baking soda, salt, and blend for 1 minute.  Stir in walnuts.

Spread batter evenly into pan.  Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Meanwhile, for frosting, heat butter in a large saucepan over medium heat until boiling.  Let the butter turn a delicate brown and remove from heat immediately.







Please note the butter can burn really easily and spoil the taste DO NOT over cook for the sake of your baking guys... it will taste like burnt hair... haha slight exaggeration but you catch my drift...

Add powdered sugar, vanilla extract and milk.  Whisk together until smooth (it should be thicker than a glaze but thinner than frosting).  Using a spatula, spread the brown butter frosting over the warm bars (the frosting will be easier to spread while the bars are still warm).

Yield: 2 dozen large bars
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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Cheesy Butternut Squash Pasta





There's nothing my daughter loves more than pasta with cheese sauce but  I like to try to make her favorite foods more healthy and nutritious. This pasta sauce is so creamy and delicious it will become a family favorite fast!

Cheesy Butternut Squash Pasta

serves 4 to 6
Variations: Serve with grilled or sauteed chicken for a complete meal.


Ingredients:
  • 1/2 pound uncooked pasta or 4 cups cooked pasta
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup butternut squash puree
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Instructions:

Cook uncooked pasta according to package directions. Strain.

In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour until smooth, about 1 minute. Slowly add milk while whisking and bring to a simmer. Simmer while stirring occasionally until the milk has thickened, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add butternut squash puree, cheese, salt, and pepper. Stir and simmer until mixture is smooth and thick, about 3 more minutes.

In a bowl, pour the sauce over the cooked pasta and stir until pasta is covered with the sauce. Taste and add any additional salt and pepper, if needed.  Serve.




Tips:

Butternut squash puree can be found at most major grocery stores. You can also make it home by simply roasting a butternut squash that has been cut in half and seeds discarded. Place the squash face down in a baking dish and roast for 45 minutes until tender in 425°F oven. Remove the squash by scooping it out of the skin with a spoon and place it in a food processor or blender to puree or place in a bowl and mash with a fork until smooth.




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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Slow-Cooker Lasagna with Tomato Cream Sauce




Who doesn't LOVE lasagna? It's a family favorite around here anytime of year. During the summer or even on a winter's day, this slow cooker lasagna hits the spot every time. No messing up your oven or heating up your kitchen. This is easy to make and yummy to eat! I love how fast it is to put together -- then, just a few hours later, we've got dinner waiting! We add a salad and garlic bread.  This recipe has saved the day more than once with our busy school and sports schedule.

You'll love the rich taste from the mixture of marinara and alfredo sauces. I've heard this type of blend can be called pink sauce, or tomato cream sauce. I just call it my secret!

Slow-Cooker Lasagna with Tomato Cream Sauce

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 pound ground turkey
  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped or crushed
  • 1/2 jar (25 oz) pasta sauce (marinara)
  • 1/2 jar pasta sauce (alfredo)
  • 10 lasagna pasta noodles (approx)
  • 1 tub (15 oz.) cottage cheese
  • 1 pound sliced porcini mushrooms
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 2 cups Italian blend shredded cheese
  • 1/4 cup water

Variations:
You can use one full jar of either sauce if you'd rather not mix.

Instructions:

Use a 6- quart slow cooker. Brown the ground turkey and sausage in a skillet, adding the garlic and oregano. When the meat is browned, add pasta sauce. Save the jar, you're going to need it later.

Spoon some of the meat mixture into the bottom of your slow cooker. cover with a layer of uncooked lasagna noodles. Smear some of the cottage cheese on the noodles, and add some mushrooms, a handful of cheese. Starting with the meat sauce, repeat the layers until your slow cooker is full.

Put the water into the empty pasta sauce jar and shake. Pour the contents over your assembled ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, or on high for 3 to 4 hours. Check about an hour before serving, and push down the top noodles into the liquid. When the cheeses are completely melted on the top and begun to brown on the edges, your meal is ready!






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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Fried Ice Cream Cupcakes



There are a few components to these cupcakes, but all of them are simple and easy to make so it didn’t take me long to whip these up.  I made a brown sugar cupcake sprinkled with a sugary cornflake concoction and topped it with caramel swirl ice cream and a dollop of cinnamon whip cream.  Cinnamon tortilla crisps garnished my little creations.

These turned out better than I thought they would.  I, of course, tried a quickie version where I just plopped a small scoop of ice cream on top of a cupcake before I put them away.  Just to make sure they were edible.  I loved the crunchiness of the cornflake layer and the yummy brown sugar cake.  The flavors all melded together nicely.  One word of caution- I made the cupcakes the day before I served them (to other people) and stored them in a tupperware.  Unfortunately, the moisture from the cupcakes softened the cornflake layer so if you decide you want to make these and you like crunchy, I would suggest baking and assembling the same day.  No one complained about the softer cornflake layer.  It kind of reminded me of the texture of coconut actually.

I’m looking forward to the round-up and seeing everyone’s creations! :D

Fried Ice Cream Cupcakes

makes approximately 2 dozen ice cream cupcakes

For the cornflake topping:
  • 1/2 c cornflakes, crushed
  • 1 1/2  T sugar
  • 1  t cinnamon
  • 1/2 T butter, melted

For the cupcakes:

recipe courtesy of My Sweet & Saucy (I halved her recipe)
  • 1 1/2 c + 2 T flour
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t kosher salt
  • 1/2 c unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 c brown sugar
  • 1/4 + 1 T sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 t vanilla
  • 3/4 c milk

For the cinnamon whipped cream:
  • 1 c whipping cream
  • 1 – 2 T powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2  t cinnamon

For the cinnamon tortilla crisps:
  • 1 tortilla, cut into 16 triangles
  • 3 T sugar
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1 T butter, melted

you will also need softened caramel swirl ice cream…I used this kind

Instructions:

1. To make the cornflake topping, combine the cornflakes, sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Mix really well to evenly distribute the cinnamon and sugar. Drizzle with the melted butter and stir to mix the butter in. Set aside.

2. To make the cupcakes, line 2 muffin tins with cupcake liners.  Set aside.  Preheat the oven to 325.  Sift the flour and baking powder together into a medium sized bowl.  Whisk in the salt.  In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 – 4 minutes.  Add the eggs one a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in the vanilla.  Reduce the speed to low and alternately add the flour in 3 additions and the milk in 2 additions, starting and ending with the flour.  Beat in each addition until it’s incorporated into the batter.  Fill the cupcake liners about 1/3 full.  Sprinkle the tops generously with the cornflake mixture.  Bake for 15 – 18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in the pans for 5 minutes.  Then remove the cupcakes to a  rack to finish cooling completely.  Once they’re completely cool, put them back into the muffin tins.

3. While the cupcakes are cooling, make the whipped cream and cinnamon crisps. For the whipped cream, pour the whipping cream into a chilled bowl. Sprinkle the powdered sugar and cinnamon over the whipping cream. Whip on high speed with an electric mixer until peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to use.

4. To make the cinnamon crisps, preheat the oven to 375. Lay the tortilla triangles on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Stir the sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Brush the tortilla triangles with the melted butter and lightly sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar. Bake for about 6 – 8 minutes or until lightly browned.

5. To assemble the cupcakes, scoop ice cream onto the cupcakes until the liner is full (the cupcakes should be back in the tins at this step). If you’re weird like me, you can dip a butter knife into hot water, wipe it dry and then run the knife over the ice cream to smooth it out. Or if you don’t care, just leave it as is. Put the cupcakes in the freezer for at least 2 hours to harden the ice cream. Pipe the cinnamon whipped cream onto the ice cream cupcakes and stick a cinnamon crisp into the cupcake before serving.


Topping the cupcakes with the ice cream. The one on the left is what the cornflake topping looks like. Yummy, crunchy goodness.



Assembled with the whipped cream and cinnamon crisps.






The guts

I also served these the quick way which some might say is technically not an ice cream cupcake. Just a cupcake with ice cream on top. For those, you just place a small scoop of ice cream on top of the cupcake, spoon a dollop of whipped cream on top of the ice cream and then stick a cinnamon crisp into the ice cream. Either way, they’re just as tasty.

I intended on making a chocolate sauce to drizzle over the cupcake, but this week was so crazy that I was lucky I got the cupcakes done in time. I was also hoping to have a second version of the fried ice cream cupcake where I place a cupcake in the middle of an ice cream ball, roll it in the above cornflake mixture and then actually deep fry it like real fried ice cream, but I’ve run out of time. I am still hoping to try it and get it posted up in the next few days. So if you’re curious to see how that turns out, check back sometime soon.




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