Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Best Chocolate Cake. EVER.

So, funny story. A few weeks ago was my daughter Rebecca's third birthday. All along we'd talked about the kind of cupcakes she wanted for various birthday functions that week and we'd agreed on Oreo cupcakes for The Big Day. Then, just before naptime- when I was going to be baking said cupcakes- she announced that she doesn't want cupcakes. She wants a big cake. A "real" cake. Well, ok, it's her birthday and baking is baking in my opinion, so she went to sleep and I set out to find a chocolate cake recipe. I came across this. This is one of the first recipes I ever saved in my quest to start making food that didn't, you know, suck.

However, I noticed in reading through the recipe that it's intended to be made as a sheet cake. I don't have a sheet cake pan. I did, however, just receive 2 brand spanking new layer cake pans that were begging to be used. I read through some of the comments on the original post from The Pioneer Woman (By the way. I totally want to be Ree's internet Best Friend. In a completely elementary school note-passing kind of way.  "Dear Ree, do you want to be my friend. Please check yes or no. Signed, the geek in the back of the class, Laura") that said that this could be made into a layer cake. So off I went.

The cake came together very quickly. Simple and easy. I like that. I popped it into the oven, let it cool slightly while making the frosting, then read the directions again. It says to pour the warm frosting over the warm cake to let it kind of spread itself. Less work for me. Bonus.

However. I made this into a layer cake. Not thinking about the fact that a sheet cake pan would have sides to it (duh) I poured a tiny bit of the frosting onto the first cake layer, spread it around a bit then set the second layer on top. Then the fun began. I poured, nay, DUMPED, the majority of the frosting over the cake. Then I watched it trickle down the sides of the cake and a little bit onto the wax-paper-edged plate I'd set it on. (Wax paper to make cleaning up the edges of the cake a touch easier so it would look prettier when serving. Ha. Right.) Then I watched as chocolatey goodness ran, not just down the cake, not just down the plate, but all over my counter. It was a frosting flood.

So this:



actually looked more like this:

Do you see the frosting bits running down the wax paper, thus dripping onto my floor? What you can't see is the other side where it ran all over my counter.

which then, I'm afraid, turned into a bit huge kitchen mess that I left, in frustration, for my husband to clean up. (Thanks babe!) Before sighing and stalking out of the kitchen in a huff, I did lick the counter top. I admit it. Hi, I'm Laura, and I have a cake/chocolate problem.

Thankfully, this cake was worth the whole big mess. X 100 million. Brian's already asking when I'll be making it again. I will, as soon as I stop finding bits of chocolate frosting in the nooks of kitchen cabinet doors.

The Best Chocolate Cake in the Entire World
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Ingredients:

for the cake:2 cups Flour
2 cups Sugar
¼ teaspoons Salt
4 Tablespoons (heaping) Cocoa
2 sticks Butter
1 cup Boiling Water
½ cups Buttermilk
2 whole Beaten Eggs
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Vanilla

for the frosting:½ cups Finely Chopped Pecans
1-¾ stick Butter
4 Tablespoons (heaping) Cocoa
6 Tablespoons Milk
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1 pound (minus 1/2 Cup) Powdered Sugar

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°.

In the bowl of an electric mixer add together the flour, sugar and salt.

In a medium sauce pan melt the butter, then add in the cocoa powder. Mix together well. Pour in the boiling water, stirring together and let it simmer for about 30 seconds. Pour the cocoa mixture over the flour mixture and beat together.

In a small bowl whisk together the buttermilk, beaten eggs, vanilla and baking soda. Pour this into the mixing bowl and blend until just combined.

Pour the batter into prepared cake pan(s) and bake about 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and set on a wire cooling rack to cool.

To make the frosting, melt the butter in a medium sauce pan, add in the cocoa, milk and vanilla and stir until smooth. Mix in the pecans and powdered sugar.

If using a sheet cake pan, pour the frosting over the top of the cake while it is still warm. If using layer cake pans, remove from the pans and once cooled, spread the frosting over the cake.

Source: The Pioneer Woman

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Coffee cake muffins

The finale in my series of muffins made for our local homeless shelter organization. I love muffins but I've got to tell you, I'm ready for some VARIETY around here! Unfortunately I haven't been home much in the last few weeks so I haven't gotten to make anything fantastic in a while. But soon, friends. Soon and very soon!

These muffins were, as you can expect, amazing. Unfortunately (for me) I didn't have the time to make the icing that is supposed to go on the tops of these heaven-sent little morsels but you can find the icing recipe here with the original recipe source, Brown Eyed Baker. I'm anxious to make these again, and this time do them right: with icing!



Muffin Pan on Foodista

Coffee Cake Muffins
print this recipe
yields 12 muffins


Ingredients:
For the muffins
½ cup pecans
¼ cup  dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces and softened
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ cup sour cream
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


for the glaze
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons water


Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350°. Prepare a 12 cup muffin pan by lightly oiling and set aside.


Place the nuts, brown sugar and cinnamon in a food processor. Pulse until the nuts are the size of sesame seeds. Scoop the mixture into a bowl and set aside.

Place the flour, granulated sugar and salt in the food processor and again pulse until combined. Sprinkle the butter into the food processor, on top of the flour mix, and puree again for about 8-10 seconds, or until the butter is the size of oats. Remove ½ cup of this mix and blend it with the brown sugar & nuts with a fork to make the streusel.

Separate ¾ cup of the streusel mixture and set aside to add to the muffin batter later.

Add in baking powder and baking soda to the flour mixture in the food process or and pulse until combined, about 5 seconds.

In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, egg and vanilla. Gradually mix in with the flour ingredients until just blended.  Add in the remaining ¾ cup of the streusel mixture until combined and the batter is slightly crumbly.

Scoop the batter evenly between the 12 muffin cups. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with struesel topping and press down lightly so that the streusel sticks.

Bake for about 18 minutes, rotating the pan half way through. They are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from muffin pan.

Serve warm.

Source: Brown Eyed Baker

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins

The latest in my homeless shelter baking shebang and oh so tasty. This muffin looked and smelled very peanut buttery but the taste was more subtle than I was expecting. The texture was perfect, dense, but fluffy. Just like I think a muffin should be.



Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins
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Ingredients:
2 ¼ cups All-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ salt
2/3 cup brown sugar
6 Tbls. butter, melted and cooled
½ peanut butter
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
¾ cup chocolate chips

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 375°. Prepare a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners and set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, salt and brown sugar. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together the butter, peanut butter, eggs and milk.

Gradually mix in the dry ingredients with the peanut butter mix until just combine. Gently fold in the chocolate chips.

Scoop the batter into the 12 muffin cups. Bake for 17-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Let cool on a wire rack, or serve warm.

Source: Annie's Eats

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pumpkin Pie with Candied Pecans

Do you know how difficult it is to find a great recipe for pie to make for someone who hates pie? That was my job this Thanksgiving. My mom doesn't like pie most of the time, and really doesn't like crust. So what did she ask me to make this year? PIE!

I went on a search for a pie that was a little different than the traditional crust & filling and came across this lovely version. It was really good, although I had a bit of an oven snafu with the pecans and had to re-do them twice. We'll just say to watch them very carefully because they don't need longer than the recipe says to cook. Burnt pecans are so gross! (not that I would know this.....honest)

I really loved this, and I would easily make it again. The only major change I would make is it was a bit too nutmeg & clove-y for my taste. So next time I'll be a bit more easy-handed with those two. Otherwise, it was perfect. The cinnamon graham cracker crust was perfect!



Pumpkin Pie with Candied Pecans
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Ingredients:
For the candied pecans:
1/3 cup superfine sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
2 cups pecan halves

For the crust:
1 cup candied pecans
1 cup fine cinnamon graham
cracker crumbs
8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin puree
3 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 Tbs. cornstarch
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Sweetened whipped cream for serving

Directions:
Pre-heat oven to 350°. Prepare a sided baking pan with oil and set aside.


To make the candied pecans
Sift together the superfine sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg over a bowl. Rinse the pecans in a colander under cold water and shake them to remove excess water.


Toss the nuts in the sifted sugar mixture to coat, then place evenly on the baking sheet. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the nuts are dry and the sugar has crystallized. Let cool completely before using.

To make the crust
Pre-heat oven to 325°.


Place 1 cup of the candied pecans in a food processor and puree until finely ground. Pour them into a bowl and mix with the graham cracker crumbs and butter until well mixed. Press the mixture into a 9" pie pan making sure the bottom and sides of the pan are covered. Set aside.

To make the filling
In the bowl of an electric mixer beat together all of the filling ingredients until well combined. Pour the filling on top of the crust.


Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the pie comes out clean. Let cool completely.

Prior to serving garnish the pie with a few of the remaining candied pecans. You may also garnish with cool whip and sprinkled nutmeg.

Source: Williams-Sonoma

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Snickerdoodle Scones



I can count on one hand the number of times in my life that I have eaten scones. The first time is a food memory that will forever be burned in my mind- it was awful! I mean really and truly horrible. So for years afterwards I assumed that scones were always supposed to be rock hard, dry and flavorless. Makes you want one, right? Then, about eight months ago I was at work and a co-worker brought in mini scones for us. I decided to suck it up and give them a try again and Oh! Not bad! Then a few weeks later I was at my favorite coffee shop and they had chocolate chunk scones. Oh yes. I need to make these. So when I was sifting through muffin recipes  and came across a few scone recipes, too, I thought "hey. Let's give it a whirl."

This scone was nothing like the dry, horrible one that scarred me for life. This was light and fluffy, and flavorful and perfect. Not to mention, it tasted like cookie. And as we learned from Gingerbread Muffins, I'm a big fan of cookie for breakfast. I'm already starting to concoct my own scone recipes in my head.

Snickerdoodle Sconesmakes 6-8 scones
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Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cream of tartar
¼ tsp. salt
6 Tbls. cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
½ cup whole milk or heavy cream
1 ½ tsp. vanilla

For the topping:
¼ cup sugar
1 ½ tsp. ground cinnamon

Directions:
Preheat oven too 400°. Prepare a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper and set aside.

Mix together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt in a large bowl. Using a pastry cutter mix in the cold butter the mixture is crumbly and butter pieces are about pea-sized.

Add together the milk and vanilla in a liquid measuring cup and pour over the dry ingredients. Blend with a fork just until forms into a sticky dough ball. Knead by hand a few if needed.

Place the dough on the baking sheet and press into a disc 8-9 inches in diameter.

In a small bowl stir together the sugar and cinnamon to make the topping. Generously sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar over the top of the dough.

Bake for 15-18 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the dough comes out clean. Let cool, then slice into 6-8 wedges.

Source: Annie's Eats

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Banana Nut Muffins

When my mom offered to let me pick our muffin options for an afternoon of baking together the first thing I thought was "I've never made a banana nut muffin". I love, LOVE bananas. I have a slight addiction. Adding sugar, flour and butter just makes them all that much better, don't you think? :)

I kind of fudged this recipe a bit (as my mom would say) since I didn't realize until part way through mixing the dry ingredients that we didn't have quite enough banana. Instead of doing banana mush and banana chunks I just mashed everything. It was really good. They were very moist and delicious, however they would have just been that much better had I done it the way it was written. Next time. Very soon.



Banana Nut Muffins
print this recipe
yields 24 muffins


Ingredients:

2 C. all-purpose flour
1 ½ t. baking soda
½ t. salt
4 overripe bananas
1 C brown sugar
¾ C (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs
1 t. pure vanilla extract
½ C pecans, chopped

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°. Line 24 muffin pan cups with paper liners and set aside.

Mix together the flour, baking soda and salt in a large bowl and set aside.

In a small bowl, take 2 of the bananas and mash them into softened chunks.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip together the remaining 2 bananas and sugar at a medium-high speed for about 3 minutes. Add in the melted butter, eggs and vanilla and blend together.

Add in the dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in the nuts and remaining mashed banana.

Scoop the batter into the muffin tins, filling about halfway.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool some, then remove from muffin tins and either serve warm, or let cool completely on a wire rack.

Source: I had this recipe saved twice, one under the original Tyler Florence link and also found at The Novice Chef

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Gingerbread Muffins

Yesterday my mom and I spent the afternoon making muffins for a local homelessness organization. Safe Harbor is a local program put together by the churches in the area. During the cold winter months the churches band together and each take a week to provide shelter and food for the homeless. They're served breakfast and dinner and a place to stay. The food is provided by volunteers and that's where I come in!

My mom volunteered to make breakfast this week since her church was the one providing and she asked if I would be interested in helping bake! Like I'm going to turn that down! We went through a good 20 recipes for muffins that I'd picked out and selected a few that looked the best. These little beauties were one of the first up!

They turned out amazing (we had one of each batch to sample. We couldn't send awful stuff to these people, after all :)) I filled the muffin tins much too full and all of them ended up flat and enormous and the tops smushed a little bit. But otherwise, gingerbread perfection! I kept thinking while doing the sampling that they'd be really good with just a light smidge of icing on them. Perhaps next time! The original recipe called for a peach glaze which we ended up leaving off. I can only imagine that'd be really good too.



Gingerbread Muffins
makes 18 muffins
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Ingredients:
½ C sugar
½ C butter
1 egg
1 C molasses
2 C flour
2 ½ t. baking powder
1 t. salt
2 ½ t. ginger
½ t. cinnamon
½ C buttermilk
½ C coca cola, apple cider or apple juice (I used coca cola)
1 t. brandy flavoring or vanilla extract (I used vanilla)

Directions:
Pre-heat oven to 350°. Prepare 18 muffin pan cups with paper liners or grease well with oil. Set aside the pan.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until it is fluffy. Beat in the egg and molasses until blended.

Sift together the dry ingredients into a medium bowl. Set aside

In another bowl, mix together the buttermilk, cocoa cola (or juice) and vanilla.

Gradually add the flour mixture into the mixing bowl, alternating with the buttermilk mixture, ending with the flour. Mix until combined.

Fill each muffin  cup only ¾ of the way full. Don't overfill! Trust me!

Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack.

Source: Vintage Victuals

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Chicken Marsala with Marsala Risotto

Chicken Marsala is one of my favorite dinners. I have two other Marsala recipes on my blog which I liked quite a lot, but every time I make Marsala I've thought to myself that something seemed to be missing. I finally decided to throw together something of my own and wow, this did the trick! It's exactly what I was looking for. Normally I serve chicken Marsala over some type of pasta, but I decided this time I wanted to try something a little different. I had some arborio rice in the cupboard that caught my eye and I thought to myself "I wonder what would happen if I used Marsala wine instead of white wine?" Ta-da! Marsala risotto.

Oh, and I realize it might be a tad redundant to have both onion and shalot in the chicken. That was actually done by accident, but this turned out so well that I included the recipe exactly as I made it.



Chicken Marsala
serves 4
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Ingredients:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to ¼ inch thickness
½ C flour
salt and pepper
6 T butter
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 shalots, diced
¾ C Marsala wine
¼ C diced green onions
2 T chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1/3 C heavy cream
½ C grated Parmesan cheese
½ C chicken stock
1/2 C chopped mushrooms (I used baby Bellas since it's what I had)
1 small yellow onion

Directions:
Pound the chicken until it is about ¼ inch thick. Set aside.

Heat oven to 200°, then turn to warm.

Chop the garlic, shalots and onion, set aside. Chop the green onion and mushrooms, set aside in a small bowl.

Melt 2 T of the butter in a large skillet, then saute the onions, garlic and shalots until they are soft. Remove from pan using a slotted spoon and set aside. Add more butter if necessary, then cook the chicken, about 3 minutes per side, until it is cooked through and no longer pink in the center. Once the chicken is cooked, place it on an oven-safe plate or pan and set it in the oven to stay warm.

Add the onions and garlic back into the pan, then add a touch more butter, the mushrooms and the green onions. Cook until tender.

Pour the wine into the pan and stir to deglaze, then simmer until reduced by about half.  Add in the chicken stock and heavy cream and mix. Mix in the Parmesan and stir until melted. Pour the sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with the parsley, serve.

Marsala Risotto
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Ingredients:
1 C arborio rice
2 shalots, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 T butter
5 C chicken broth
1/4 C Marsala wine
1/3 C grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 C chopped mushrooms (I used baby bellas)

Directions:
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, then add the shalots, mushrooms and garlic and saute until they are tender. Add in the rice and toss to coat.

Pour the wine into the pan and stir constantly until the liquid is absorbed.

Add in the broth, 1 C at a time, waiting for the liquid to fully absorb before adding more. Stir pretty constantly.

With the last cup of broth, absorb the liquid half-way, then add in the cheese. Stir until the cheese is melted. Serve!

Source: an original Laura recipe

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

A few weeks ago I asked my almost-3 year old, Rebecca, what kind of cupcakes she wanted for her birthday party. She looked thoughtful for a moment then said "Keira [her friend at daycare] had white cake at her birthday party. I think I want chocolate peanut butter cupcakes". I love this child. I'm raising a foodie.

I decided that before I made a huge batch of these for a birthday party I should probably give them a test run. Oh darn. I'll have to eat a cupcake for no reason. Woe is me.

I must say, Rebecca has excellent taste! I realized a few hours after I finished frosting every cupcake that I'd left out the cool whip in the frosting. And it was still delicious. I might have even squirted some of the frosting into my mouth. Maybe. But I'll never confess.



Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcake with Peanut Butter Frosting
makes 24 cupcakes
print this recipe


Ingredients:
For the filling:
2/3 C confectioners' sugar
1/2 C creamy peanut butter
2 T. butter, softened
1/4 t. vanilla extract
For the cake:
1 2/3 C all-purpose flour
3/4 C unsweetened cocoa
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 C sour cream
2 T. milk
1 t. vanilla
1 1/2 C granulated sugar
8 T. butter
2 large eggs
For the frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
4 T. butter, softened
1/2 C peanut butter
3 1/4 C powdered sugar
1 C cool whip


Directions:
To make the filling
In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the confectioners sugar, peanut butter, 1/4 t. of vanilla and 2 T. butter until combined.
Shape them into 24 equal sized balls. They will be very sticky. Place the balls onto wax paper on a cookie sheet and set aside.
To make the cupcakes


Pre-heat the oven to 350. Prepare 2 muffin pans with paper cupcake liners and set pans aside.
Place a sheet of wax paper on a work surface. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and 1/2 t of salt on the wax paper.
In a small bowl mix together the sour cream, milk and 1t. vanilla, then set aside.
Fit the electric mixer with the paddle attachment. In the mixing bowl beat the granulated sugar and 8 T. butter together on low speed. Increase the speed to high and beat for 1 minute.
Reduce the mixer speed back to low and beat for an additional 1-2 minutes, or until the mixture is fluffy. Add in the eggs and mix until combined.

Start adding in a bit of the flour mixture to the butter/sugar bowl, then add in the sour cream mix. Alternate back and forth, ending with the flour mixture, until the ingredients are just blended.
Occasionally scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Do not over-mix.
Scoop 1 spoonful of batter into each pan cup. Place 1 peanut butter ball into each of the muffin pan cups, then top with another spoonful of batter.
Bake for 25-28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. (Check them at 20 minutes to make sure they don't over-bake)

Remove the cupcakes from the pan immediately and transfer to a wire cooling rack. Let cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, cream cheese and peanut butter together until mixture is smooth and well combined.
Mix in the powdered sugar gradually, mixing fully before adding in more.
Add in the cool whip and mix until smooth and well combined.
Frost the cupcakes and garnish with chocolate shavings, if desired.


Source: Proceed With Caution

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Chili

109.5

As much as I love to cook, its sometimes nice when Brian takes over the cooking for the evening. Even better, when he makes some as fantastic as this chili! I love finding great crockpot and freezer-friendly recipes. This is also one of those foods that gets even better after freezing- something about all those peppers and spices sitting mixed with everything else. It's so flavorful! Because this freezes so well we make a huge double batch of this every time.  The recipe below reflects the double batch.

Chili
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Ingredients:
2 lbs ground beef or venison
2 red peppers, diced into larger chunks
2 yellow peppers, diced into larger chunks
2 1/2 C frozen corn
1 28 oz. can tomato sauce
1 30 oz. can chili beans
1 medium onion, chopped
2 C canned black beans
3 T. chili powder
Tabasco  to taste
sour cream and cheese to top, if desired

Directions:
In a large skillet, brown and drain the beef. Chop the peppers and onion. Add these into the crockpot. Add in the rest of the ingredients, aside from the sour cream and cheese, and mix well.

Simmer for 8-10 hours on low. Garnish with sour cream and cheese, serve.

Source: A Brian original

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sloppy joes

086

Brian and I are often in need of fast but tasty dinner options. What with 2 kids, jobs, and long commutes each day we unfortunately don't often have time in the evenings to make the time-consuming but awesome dinners I'd like to prepare. Thankfully these sloppy joes are both delicious and quick and easy. It's a standard dinner option in our house.

The recipe below is for a double batch. We always make a double, if not triple, batch of this since the sloppy joe beef freezes and re-heats so well. The measurements for the ingredients are an approximation since we tend to add them to-taste instead of by measurements.

Sloppy Joes
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Ingredients:
2 lbs ground beef
2 1/2 c catsup
2 T brown sugar
1/4 C vinegar
1 medium onion, diced
olive oil or butter for sauteing

Directions:
In a large skillet, saute the onion in a bit of olive oil or butter until softened. Add in the ground beef to the pan and brown the beef, then drain any excess grease.

Add in the catsup, vinegar, and brown sugar. Simmer until completely heated. Serve on a bun.

Source: a Laura original

Mocha sherbert

070.5

I have fond sherbert memories from childhood. What? Most people don't have food memories? Oh honey, I do. I've always loved food (perhaps a bit too much? Hello, gym membership!) But the sherbert from my childhood was always that stuff that came for $2 in the little plastic container and was so orange in color that it most certainly did not come that way in nature. Granted, this fantastically fake orange sherbert made one of my still-all-time-favorite things, sherbert punch. Every year on New Years Eve my mom would make a batch of this sherbert punch. It's still one of my favorite New Years Eve rituals.

This sherbert is more like Sherbert for grown-ups. Espresso and chocolate! Heck yeah! Not to mention, it's milk instead of heavy cream so you can eat half the batch without feeling guilty. Or at least I did. Perhaps that gym membership is coming just in time....

Mocha Sherbert
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Ingredients:
2 1/4 C brewed espresso or coffee (I did espresso beans in the coffee maker for a really strong coffee)
3/4 C sugar
6 T. dutch-process cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Special Dark)
pinch of salt
3/4 C whole milk

Directions:

Combine the coffee, sugar, cocoa and salt in a large sauce pan. Bring the mixture to a boil. Whisk constantly while the mixture boils for 3o seconds.

Remove the pan from heat and stir in the milk. Let the mixture cool, then chill completely in the refrigerator. Once cooled, freeze in your ice cream maker according to manufacture directions, then place in the freezer. Or eat half of the batch. Whichever works for you.

Source: The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

Friday, November 6, 2009

Taco seasoning

094

Tacos are one of the few things our family could eat once a week, every single week and never get tired of. In fact, we do eat them pretty much every week. All this time I've been buying those little seasoning packets, and using double the seasoning amounts because they were good, but just not spicy or flavorful enough for us.

Then one day a few weeks ago I was looking at the packet and the ingredients list had only 3-4 ingredients. One of the ingredients was "spices". Um, a bit ambiguous, don't you think? I for one like to know what is in my food. Along came this fabulous recipe. I'd made taco seasoning from home once before and it was good, but missing a little something. This was perfect. I added in a bit of red pepper flakes to give it a bit more oomph and I was pleased with the results. This taco seasoned beef made the absolute best taco salads the next day that I've ever had. It would make an absolute killer batch of wet burritos or cheesy taco pasta bake, too. I am never going back to those little packets again!

Taco Seasoning
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Ingredients:
for the seasoning mix
1 T. chili powder
½ t. paprika
¼ t.cayenne pepper
2 t. dried ground cumin
½ t. oregano
¼ t. garlic powder
¼ t. onion powder
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper
¼-½ t. red pepper flakes


to make taco seasoned beef (or chicken-  I use this for both)

1 t. corn starch

1 C. water


Directions:

Mix together the seasonings. Brown the beef (or saute the chicken) and drain any grease


Mix together the seasoning and corn starch, then add to the pan with the water and stir together. Simmer until the liquid is reduced and the sauce is thickened.  Serve!


Source: seen on Closet Cooking here and here

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Green Monster Smoothie

088

Every morning I wake up thinking "Boy, do I need my coffee and spinach". What? You don't? That's ok, neither do I. You don't normally equate spinach with breakfast, right? Well NOW I do! I've been reading about these "Green Monster" smoothies for a few months now and my reaction was, well, probably what a lot of you are thinking now too: GROSS!

Then, slowly but surely, I started seeing them more and more of them around the blogiverse. Finally I decided to be all bold and daring and courageous and just try it. I couldn't believe it! It was great! Ok, I'll take my Green Monster with a side of crow, please.

The first time making this I didn't have the equation quite right. I left out the ice and used only frozen banana which left the consistency a bit weird- and the smoothie a bit warm. Bleh.

There are multiple variations you could make including adding berries or any kind of fruit, adding vegetable juices, add nut butters (which I have done and it's YUM). Make it your own. The best part is that the banana kind of overrides the spinach flavor so you're not left feeling like you're eating frozen spinach.

Green Monster Smoothie
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made one gigantic smoothie- the glass shown above is a pint sized glass and I still had about 1/2 C left in the blender

Ingredients:
2 C spinach
1 banana
1/2 C milk (or almond milk, or soy milk, or yogurt or whatever else you can come up with. make it your own)
1/2 tray of ice cubes
1/2 C raw rolled oats

Directions:
Place the spinach in a blender- it's important to put the spinach first so that it's closest to the blades. The banana and ice will hold it down and make sure the spinach gets finely chopped so you're not drinking leaves of spinach.

Pour in the milk and add banana to the blender and puree until smooth and leaf-chunk-free. Add the ice and any other add-ins you'd like. Puree again until the ice is crushed and everything is blended together. Enjoy!

Source: Seen all over the blog world, but the Original Green Monster is from Angela from Oh She Glows  and the Green Monster Movement

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Garlic Parmesan Risotto

Hi there, friends! Just a quite note for you. You might notice if you are coming here via http://laurasrecipecollection.wordpress that I've been redirected! I'm officially on my own domain: www.laurasrecipecollection.com! You should still be able to reach me via the old address, but just in case, you can update your google readers/rss feeds to show the new domain. Thanks for reading, and onto this fabulous recipe!

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I've been a bit hesitant to try risotto for a while. Partly because I've been told that it's complicated, that you have to watch it constantly or it will ruin. Partially because Brian, with his food-texture issues, swears he doesn't like it.  Finally, when we made venison filet with gorgonzola sauce I decided to try it. I figured that if he liked it, great. But if he didn't he could eat all the venison he could ever want and not miss having a side dish. After smelling the garlic simmering with the wine and butter, he agreed to at least taste it. Then he took another taste. Then another. Then a heaping spoonful on his plate. Finally, he agreed that not only was it good, it was fantastic! I knew he would! I so love when I'm right :)

I really enjoyed the flavor of this risotto. It paired really nicely with the venison, too. The flavor combination was quite similar to this creamy parmesan orzo recipe, but the texture was, obviously, that of risotto rather than a pasta. I am already starting to come up with risotto variations that I can try. Especially now that The Husband will eat it :)

Risotto is a bit time-consuming since you have to watch it pretty carefully, so it worked well with the venison, since the venison was maintenance free after it was placed in the oven. I'm really glad I didn't let the "Risotto is complicated" warnings I'd heard deter me from making this!

Garlic Parmesan Risottoprint this recipe

Ingredients:
1 shallot, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 T. of butter or 2 tbsp olive oil or 1 tbsp each
4-5 C of chicken or vegetable broth (I used the whole 5)
¼ cup dry white wine
1 C arborio rice
¼ C freshly grated parmesan cheese (estimated amount. I didn't measure, I just threw some in)
3 T. freshly chopped parsley

Directions:
In a medium saucepan, heat the chicken broth and continue on low heat to keep it warm.

Chop the shallot and garlic. Melt the butter in a large pan over medium heat, then add the shallot and garlic. Saute until softened. Add the rice and toss to coat.

Pour the wine into the pan and simmer, stirring continuously until the liquid is absorbed.

Add in one cup of chicken broth and stir until the liquid is absorbed. Continue this process until all but 1 C of the broth has been used. This took me about 20 minutes.

With the last cup of broth also mix in the parsley. Simmer until about half of the broth has been absorbed, then add in the cheese and stir until melted and combined.

Serve!

Source: adapted from Mary Ellen's Cooking Creations

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Filet of Venison (or Beef) with Gorgonzola Sauce

While flipping through yet another of my library copies of Ina Garten's cookbooks, I came across this recipe for beef filet and gorgonzola sauce and thought "wow, that looks good". But we very rarely buy beef steaks. Rarely as in never. I don't think I've ever once made a steak at home that wasn't venison.

Then it occured to me! Make it with venison! Oh my word. I'm so glad we did. The way we prepared the meat left it so unbelievably tender and juicy. You could, quite literally, cut it with a fork or butter knife.

The gorgonzola sauce just was the icing on the cake. What a perfect combination! Better still, it was AMAZING left over the next day.

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Venison Filet
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Ingredients:
4-5 lbs beef or venison filet (we used 1.5 lb back strap filets of venison)
2 T. unsalted butter at room temperature
1 T. kosher salt
1 T. coarsely ground black pepper

Directions:
Pre-heat the oven to 500° (since we were using smaller, thinner steaks, and a lesser amount we only did 450°).

Pat the meat dry with a paper towel, then spread the butter onto the meat with your hands. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Roast for 22 minutes (or in our case 20 minutes). We used a meat thermometer and roasted until it reached medium-well temps, about 160° in the center.

Remove from the oven and cover with aluminum foil and set aside to rest for about 20 minutes.

Gorgonzola Sauce
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Ingredients:
4 C heavy cream
3-4 oz crumbly Gorgonzola
3 T. freshly grated parmesan cheese (I was a bit more heavy-handed and didn't measure it out perfectly)
¾ t. kosher salt
¾ t. freshly ground black pepper
3 T. minced fresh parsley

Directions:
In a medium sauce pan, bring the heavy cream to a boil over medium heat. Watch it carefully as it tends to want to boil over and go everywhere. Trust me on this. Keep at a rapid boil for 45-50 minutes until it's thickened considerably. It should be similar to the consistency of alfredo sauce.

Remove the cream from the heat and mix in the remaining ingredients, whisking everything together until the cheese has melted.

Slice the meat and spoon the sauce over the meat. Serve.

Both recipe sources: Barefoot Contessa Parties! by Ina Garten

Monday, November 2, 2009

Creamy potato soup

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Ingredients:
9 medium potatoes, cut into chunks
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
4 stalks of celery, diced
1 t. salt
½ C (1 stick) butter
milk, to taste (for thickness)
pepper, to taste
sour cream and cheese for garnish, if desired

Directions:
Cut the potato into chunks, dice the celery and the onion. Place everything in a large stock pot and cover with water. Boil until the potatoes are tender, then drain the water.

Pour the contents of the pan into a blender or large food processor and puree until smooth. (I had to do this in batches). Pour the potato mix back into the pan and add in a bit of milk very gradually, stirring, until you get your desired soup thickness. Add in the butter and heat until melted in and the soup is fully heated.

Add some additional salt and pepper, to taste, garnish with sour cream and cheese, and serve.

Source: My mother in law. Original recipe source unknown.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Smoked Mozzarella Fondue

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When we go to Olive Garden (never. Brian hates it. HATES it. He's so picky.) I always drool over the smoked mozzarella fonduta appetizer. Then one day, back in the I Suck At This Cooking Stuff days, I wandered online to search for a recipe. It's melted cheese. It couldn't be that complicated to make, right?

Right! This is such a fast recipe to throw together. The most time-consuming part is grating the cheese.

Sidebar: I have a confession. I loathe grating cheese. For some reason, I'm very, very slow at it and it takes me half the time of preparing and cooking a dish to grate the dang cheese.

Just a suggestion- if at all possible, purchase slightly more of the smoked cheese than you need. If you're anything like us, you'll end up eating half of it while it's being grated, then you'll need to go buy more for the actual fondue. Not that I've ever done that....

Smoked Mozzarella Fondue
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Ingredients:
3 C shredded smoked mozzarella cheese*
3 C shredded provolone cheese*
1 C sour cream
1 t. dried thyme
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
3 T. grated romano cheese
3 T. grated parmesan cheese
diced roma tomatoes and chopped fresh parsley for garnishing, if desired. I leave these out
1 loaf Italian or French bread, sliced into pieces. I prefer them a bit thicker- 1/2 inch or so

* Note: You can use either smoked mozzarella or smoked provolone, but just use one of the cheese smoked. Otherwise the flavor gets a bit overwhelming.

Directions:
Pre-heat the oven to 450°.

Grate the cheese and set in a large bowl. Mix together the mozzarella, provolone, sour cream and spices until well combined.

Lightly oil a 9x9 glass pan. Pour the cheese mixture into the pan and bake for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, slice the bread into 1/4 inch thick slices (or however thick you'd prefer). Set them on a lightly greased cookie sheet.

Add the bread into the oven and bake both the fondue and bread for another 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and slightly bubbly on the edges and the bread is toasted.

Garnish with tomato & parsley and serve. (I skip the garnish)

Source: Unsure. I believe I got the recipe straight from Olive Garden's website a few years ago.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Chicken noodle soup

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It's that time of year again. The leaves are changing colors, the temperatures are dropping. And the cold and flu season is upon us. Just ask my 4 month old, Madeline. Thankfully, just in time for this nasty illness season, I discovered this recipe for chicken noodle soup- the age old Mom Cure for ailments :)

I found this actually freezes nicely, but you wouldn't want the noodles to be too squashy when you freeze them. The first time around the noodles were a bit more al dente than I would have prefered but after freezing and reheating they were perfect!

Ingredients:
2 split chicken breasts, bone in, skin on (I used leftovers from whole roasting chickens)
olive oil
kosher salt
ground black pepper
2 quarts chicken stock
1 C medium-diced celery
1 C medium-diced carrots
2 C wide egg noodles
1/4 C chopped fresh parsley

Directions:
Pre-heat the oven to 350°. Coat the chicken with olive oil, then season generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35-40 minutes or until no longer pink in the center. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Once the chicken is cooled enough to handle, remove the bones and skin and cut up or shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces (or whatever size you desire in your soup).

In a large soup pot, simmer the chicken stock, adding the carrots, celery and noodles. Simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the noodles are completely cooked. Add in the chicken and parsley and simmer until fully heated. Serve.

Source: Barefoot Contessa Family Style by Ina Garten

Monday, October 26, 2009

Chicken Piccata

This recipe comes from another of my ridiculous library book stack. I'd been going through the cookbooks and marking pages with sticky notes and I actually bypassed this one. Brian's always telling me that he doesn't like lemon, so a chicken flavored with lemon would be something he'd NEVER want to try. Just like he hates baked eggs. No frittatas or Quiche for us!

Then a few days later I was watching clips of Food Network shows online (oh, if I only had cable and watch the whole thing!) and a clip of Ina making this recipe came on. Brian walked by and said "Wow, what is THAT?!" I slyly said "Chicken piccata" and left it at that. He sat for a moment and said "you should try it". OK! Bwah ha ha.

I did end up telling him ahead of time that there was lemon in this chicken, and he agreed to at least try it. After his first tentative bite, he loved it. In fact, he ended up taking the leftovers cold the next day for lunch (and said it was even better than the night before. We're such leftovers people). So, the lemon recipe was a success. Now if I could only get the man to try a frittata.

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Chicken Piccataprint this recipe

Ingredients:
2 split (1 whole) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 extra-large egg
1/2 tablespoon water
3/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
Good olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons), lemon halves reserved
1/2 cup dry white wine
Sliced lemon, for serving
Chopped fresh parsley leaves, for serving

Directions:
Pre-heat the oven to 400°.

Pound the chicken breasts to about ¼ inch thickness. Coat lightly with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl mix together the flour, ½ t. salt and ¼ t. of pepper.

In another small bowl beat the egg with ½ T. of water.

Pour the breadcrumbs into a 3rd small bowl.

Dip the chicken into the flour and coat, dip into the egg mixture, then coat with the breadcrumbs.

Heat the 1 T. olive oil in a pan over medium heat and cook the chicken until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan in the oven for about 10 minutes to continue to warm/cook while preparing the sauce.

Wipe the pan clean, then melt the butter. Add in the wine, lemon juice, lemon halves, ½ t. of salt and ¼ t. of pepper. Bring this to a boil, then lower to a simmer for about 2 minutes, until the sauce is thick and reduced to about half. Add in the last 2 T. of butter and mix until it's melted and blended in. Discard the lemon halves.

Remove the chicken from the oven pans, drizzle with the sauce and sprinkle with the parsley and serve. Garnish with additional lemon slices if desired.

Source: Barefoot Contessa at Home, by Ina Garten

Friday, October 23, 2009

Bacon-Wrapped Herbed Venison

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At the rate we're going, Brian's venison is going to be gone before bow season even ends! This was our 2nd attempt at a new venison recipe and, sadly, I can take very little credit for this. The entire concept was Brian's (which I believe he adapted from his brother). Kudos, men. It was fabulous. The only change I made to Brian's concoction was to add the thyme and pepper. And, in case you were wondering, this was even better cold the next day!

Ingredients:
1 ½ venison backstrap (or any kind of steak)
½ lb bacon
kosher salt
pepper
thyme

Directions:
Pre-heat the oven to 350°.

Lightly salt and pepper the venison. Wrap the bacon strips around each piece of venison steak and secure with a toothpick. Sprinkle with a touch more ground pepper and a dash of thyme.

Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until just slightly pink in the middle (or longer for a more well-done steak).

Source: Original Brian recipe, adapted from a concept by my brother-in-law.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sweet Potato Leek Soup with Turkey Kielbasa

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Colored for Halloween, flavored for fall! I loved this soup (especially the kielbasa & sweet potato flavor combined). Next time around I'm going to make a few tweeks- I think I might actually do less of the leeks since they overpowered the sweet potato flavor I love so much- but overall this was a perfect fall soup. Thick and hearty!

 Ingredients:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) 1 pound turkey kielbasa, chopped into medium dice
4 medium leeks, roots removed, white and light green parts roughly chopped and thoroughly cleaned of all grit (dark green parts discarded)
6 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
A couple dashes hot sauce
A pinch nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups chicken stock, divided
5 leftover sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
Sour cream, low-fat or regular, for garnish (optional)

Directions:
Pour olive oil into a soup pot. Heat over medium-heat, then brown the chopped kielbasa until it is slightly browned. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel and set aside.

Add the chopped leeks, thyme and garlic, hot sauce, nutmeg, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook for 10 minutes or until the leeks are tender.

Transfer the leek mixture to a food processor and blend with 2 cups of chicken broth and blend until smooth. Add in the sweet potatoes and more chicken broth and continue to puree, adding more broth as needed. You may need to do this in batches (I had to and my processor is huge). Transfer everything back into the stock pot, bring to a boil, then lower to simmer for a few minutes.

Transfer to bowls, top with kielbasa and sour cream.

Source: Rachel Ray

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cranberry Turkey Ring

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Thanksgiving. A time of year to celebrate and be grateful for the family and loved ones you hold dear. A time to reflect on all of the things you're thankful for. A time to buy the biggest, fattest turkey you can find, as to feed the army of people coming through your front door!

But what happens when everyone's left, the Thanksgiving dust has cleared and you're left with, oh, 12 lbs of turkey still waiting to be eaten? You make Turkey Ring of course!

I love this recipe since it's so easy and it uses up that leftover turkey everyone's looking to be rid of. This time around I just baked turkey breast filets since they're what I had, but it works equally well with thawed out, frozen turkey leftovers. I think I'll also add some dried cherries to the mix next time to add a smidge of sweetness.

Cranberry Turkey Ring
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Ingredients:
2 packages (8 oz) refrigerated crescent rolls
½ Cup Mayo
2 T. honey Dijon mustard
½ tsp coarsely ground pepper
2 Cup (12 oz) Chopped turkey
½ Cup sliced celery
3 T. fresh parsley
½ Cup sweetened dried cranberries (and a smidge of dried cherries)
1 Cup (4 oz) Swiss cheese
¼ Cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 egg

Directions:
Pre-heat oven to 375°

Unroll the crescent roll container and separate the rolls. Place 8 of the triangles in a ring, wide edge of the triangle facing inward, around a circular baking stone with the corners touching. The points of the triangle will hang off the edge of the stone a bit.

Arrange the additional 8 triangles in the center of the ring, seaming wide and to wide end, points inward. Do not seam the sides of the inside triangles, only the wide ends.

In a medium sized bowl mix together the mustard, mayo and pepper. Chop the turkey, celery & parsley and blend in with the mayo-mixture. Grate the cheese and mix in as well.

The original recipe calls to add the walnuts after the mixture is on top of the crescent rolls but I prefer to add it right into the mix.

Scoop the turkey mix onto the center of the wide-end seams. Fold the tips of the crescent roll triangles over each other to make a wreath and seal together. When you're done the crescent rolls should cover the turkey mix completely. Seam together the edges.

In a small bowl, separate the egg white and discard the egg yolk. Beat the egg while, then brush on to the top of the ring.

Bake for 25- 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Source: Pampered Chef via my mother-in-law

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Coffee Ice cream

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A few miles from my house we have an amazing ice cream shop. But not just any ice cream shop. It's the ice cream shop that won Best Ice Cream Shop on Good Morning, America last year. So, as you can imagine, it's got some daaang good ice cream. Being that it's only a few minutes from our house we go there pretty often during the summer.
Then, about a year ago, Brian bought me the kitchenaid ice cream maker attachment and I could make that delectable ice cream at home! I had some success last year with cinnamon ice cream and chocolate ice cream. Then over the summer I bought The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz and discovered that the ice cream recipes in this book- and this coffee ice cream in particular- were as good if not better than the ice cream shop options!

This coffee ice cream is my absolute favorite ice cream I've ever had. It helps that I use a local grass-fed, organic dairy's cream. It's fresh and not homogenized, and ultra creamy. it makes the best ice cream (I've done extensive studies. :) ) and I like that I can make it decaf since I am sensitive to caffeine. This is one ice cream that I pretty much always have in the freezer.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups whole coffee or espresso beans (I use Starbucks decaf espresso beans)
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon finely ground coffee

Directions:
In a medium sauce pan heat the milk, whole coffee beans, salt and ½C of the cream until warmed (but not boiling), then cover and set aside to steep at room temperature for 1 hour.

Pour the rest of the cream into a bowl and set a fine mesh strainer over the top of the bowl.

Re-heat the coffee bean/milk mixture until warm again. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl beat the egg yolks. Pour the coffee bean mix into the egg bowl. Stir constantly or you'll end up with scrambled eggs. Scrape everything back into the sauce pan and continue to heat, stirring constantly until the cream coats your spatula well.

Pour custard through the strainer into the cream, then press the coffee beans well to extract all of the coffee flavor possible. Discard the beans and mix the vanilla and ground coffee into the custard.

Place the mixture in an ice bath until cooled, then refrigerate until chilled completely. Transfer to your ice cream maker and freeze according to the ice cream maker instructions.

I personally prefer to eat the ice cream directly out of the maker- it's like a slushy coffee milk shake (as shown above in the photo) but this does harden up to a thick, creamy solid ice cream after just a few short hours. Enjoy!

Source: The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

Friday, October 16, 2009

Cinnamon Rolls

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Ahhh, the cinnamon roll. I actually made these little babies back in May, but have taken my sweet old time to add them to the blog. I don't think I need to tell you that they were amazing. However, the icing recipe that was listed in the original was not my favorite. It tasted, to me, like eating straight powdered sugar. Bleh. So, if you have a great icing recipe, please share!


My instructions are for the cinnamon rolls, but the recipe in the book also includes sticky buns with a caramel glaze that I'll be making very soon.


To make the rolls


Ingredients:



6 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
5 1/2 tablespoons shortening or unsalted butter or margarine (I prefer shortening)
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon lemon extract OR 1 teaspoon grated zest of 1 lemon
3 1/2 cups unbleached bread or all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast (the original recipe doesn't recommend using active dry yeast since it doesn't have as many living cells)
1 1/8 to 1 1/4 cups whole milk or buttermilk, at room temperature OR 3 tablespoons powdered milk and 1 cup water (I did whole milk but next time I'm going with buttermilk for sure)


For the filling
6 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar plus 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
walnuts, pecans, raisins or any other filler you'd like- I left these out this time

Directions:

In the bowl of an electric mixer set on medium speed, cream together the shortening, salt and sugar using the paddle attachment. Mix in the egg and lemon extract/zest until well blended and smooth.

Add in the yeast, flour and milk to the bowl and mix until well combined. Switch to the dough hook and knead until smooth and tacky. Add more flour if the dough is still sticky.

Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough ball in and roll it around to coat lightly with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rise for about 2 hours. The dough will roughly double in volume.

Transfer the dough to an oiled countertop and roll out with a rolling pin, lightly dusted with flour until it is a 12x14 inch rectangle, about 2/3 inch thick.

Sprinkle the cinnamon & sugar, along with any fillings you'd like, on the dough (make sure comes all the way to the ends. A few of mine were blah because there was almost no filling on the ends! also, next time I'll make sure to use ALL the cinnamon/sugar mix. It looked like a lot when I was doing it so I left some out. Don't do that. Trust me on this. Now's not the time to diet)

Roll up the dough into a spiral log, then with the seam side down, slice the log into 8-12 rolls, about 1 3/4 inches thick, then place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Place the buns about 1/2 an inch apart and make sure they aren't touching.

Proof the buns at room temperature for 75-90 minutes or until the rolls have doubled in size. You can also put them in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Just pull them out of the fridge 3-4 hours prior to baking so they can warm and proof.

Pre-heat the oven to 350° with the oven rack set to the middle level. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the buns are golden brown. Cool on the pan for about 10 minutes before glazing with the icing.  Remove from the pan and place on a wire rack to cool for at least 20 minutes.

For the white fondant icing

Ingredients:
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. lemon or orange extract
6 tbsp. to ½ cup warm milk

Directions:
Sift the powdered sugar over a bowl. Pour in the lemon/orange extract. Starting with 6 tablespoons, slowly add in the warm milk while mixing, adding up to 1/2 C, making a smooth and thick paste.

Using a fork drizzle the icing over the top of the warm buns.

Source: The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Venison Stew

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Every year when fall rolls around, Brian heads out to his family's cabin for deer hunting. For the last several years when he's shot one we end up cooking the venison in the same way- pan fried in olive oil, covered in saltines and egg. It's amazing, but sometimes a girl needs a little variety in her dinner, right?

This year, I convinced Brian to let me try a few new things with the venison he gets. We'll still make our old, delicious standby, but I had some recipe ideas that were begging to be made. The first one he's agreed to is this venison stew.

The beauty of this recipe is that it was made in the crock pot. I love when I can throw things in a crock pot, work all day and come home to a fully cooked meal. You just can't beat that. Thankfully, Brian loved this and is already agreeing to try some of my other recipes in the coming weeks.

Ingredients:

1.5 lbs venison steaks, cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
3 T. flour
1/4 t. kosher salt
1/4 t. ground black pepper
1 t. basil (NOTE: the seasonings are an estimation as I eyeballed it instead of measuring)
1 t. thyme
1 t. onion powder
1 t. oregano
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
2-3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 C red wine
2 C beef broth
2-3 drops hot sauce (I used Louisiana hot sauce and was a bit heavy handed with it- I did much more than 2-3 drops and it was HOT! but really good)

Directions:

Place the venison in a gallon-sized ziplock bag and cover with flour, salt and pepper. Toss until well coated, then place in the crock pot.

Add in the veggies and the rest of the spices, then the wine and broth. Mix until evenly dispersed.

Cook on low for 8 hours or until meat is cooked through and the vegetables are tender.

Just prior to serving, mix in the hot sauce.

Source: A Laura's Recipe Collection original

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Ina Garten's Perfect Roast Chicken

Ok. I have a bad Foodie confession. Are you ready to mock me? I have a ridiculous fear of raw meat. It's bad. Every time I make something involving a meat product, I have to have Brian clean it and cut it up for me. The only time I can make an exception to this is when handling ground beef. I can make meatballs using ground pork sausage and ground beef, and that's about it. Everything else skeeves me out so much that I go into the other room until Brian's done cutting.

As I'm sure you can imagine, this poses a few problems. For one, my husband is an avid hunter. When he brings home the deer he's shot, he has to cut it up and get rid of the nasty, disgusting parts... I mean the non-meat stuff. This involves him usually throwing a whole deer leg or shoulder on my nice clean kitchen table (he covers it first! and cleans it thoroughly!). And that leads to me wanting to freak out irrationally and faint.

The other problem being, well, the ridiculousness of it. I love to cook. Hello, this should be something I can handle!

Enter: The dreaded chicken! I've only made a whole chicken once before with somewhat disastrous results. It was dry, bland and just  not good.

A few weeks ago I was online late-ish at night and wandered to my local library website. You can search through the books they have and reserve copies. Well, I happened to find that the library carried a whole TON of cookbooks that I've been coveting for a while, so click, click, click- I had cookbooks held for me! The next morning I got up and checked my email and had 14 emails from the library stating my books were ready! Oh my gosh. I'd reserved 14 cookbooks! Ha ha!

So off I went to pick them all up. Turns out each cookbook was a) hardcover and b) heavy and enormous (or I'm a wuss. You be the judge). I walked out with a stack of cookbooks that I couldn't see over and the minute I got home, started marking the pages of recipes that I wanted to try. (In a few of them, I only left 2-3 pages unmarked. I best get cooking!) One of the very first I came across was this recipe for Ina Garten's Perfect Roast Chicken. It looked so good in the cookbook! It looked so tasty! I couldn't wait to make it! Oh Brian! I need your help!

But then, the unthinkable happened. (Dun dun dunnnn) Brian decided that "as a cook, you have to know how to do this stuff, even if it's gross or hard. If you ever want to get better you have to be able to tackle this sort of thing". What does he know, anyway!?

Well, crap. So here I was with a raw chicken, still in the package, sitting on my counter top and the oven heated and waiting to go. I took a deep breath and cut the packing off. Then I gingerly picked out the giblets and reached to pick up the chicken to rinse it. As soon as my hands grasped around the middle, I shreaked and dropped it in the sink. OMG that is GROSS!

I'll spare you the rest of the boring details (having already inundated you with boring details so far) and suffice it to say I powered through (while saying aloud POWER THROUGH, LAURA! POWER THROUGH! despite my husband's teasing) and finished the chickens. Yes chickens. I ended up doing 2 at once (which, sidebar: two chickens at once takes about 20 years to finish cooking. Dinner was at 9pm that night)

I'm happy to say that not only did I POWER THROUGH, LAURA! POWER THROUGH! but that the chicken turned out amazing. So juicy, so flavorful. It was better than I'd even dreamed. This will definitely be a returning meal in our house. Despite the raw-meat handling it requires.

[caption id="attachment_590" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="I'm so sorry for the hideous photograph. Like I said, dinner was at 9pm that night and we were starved!"]012[/caption]

1 (5 to 6 pound) roasting chicken
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch fresh thyme, plus 20 sprigs
1 lemon, halved
1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, melted
1 large yellow onion, thickly sliced
4 carrots cut into 2-inch chunks
1 bulb of fennel, tops removed, and cut into wedges ( I skipped this)
Olive oil

Directions:

Pre-heat the oven to 425°.  Remove the giblets from the chicken and set them aside. Rinse the chicken and remove any feathers, then pat dry with a paper towel.

Salt the inside and outside of the chicken, then stuff the cavity with the lemon, garlic and bunch of thyme. Tie the legs of the chicken together with twine and tuck the wings up underneath the chicken.

Butter the outside of the chicken and again coat with salt and pepper.

Coat the veggies with the olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme, then place the in the bottom of the roasting pan and put the chicken on top.

Cook the chicken for about 1 1/2 hours or until juices run clear. Remove the chicken and veggies and place them on a platter and cover with aluminum foil for 20 minutes. Serve!

Source: The Barefoot Contessa Cookboook, Ina Garten

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Buttery & Delicious Peanut Butter Cookies

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When I was growing up, my mom would often make cookies (She still does, in fact) and I have vivid memories of walking in the front door and smelling peanut butter cookies baking (odd, since she made chocolate chip considerably more often). More often than not, my mom would surprise me with a little dough ball she'd wrapped and put in the fridge. Because, you know, peanut butter cookie dough is one of the best things EVER.

So, these cookies started off on the right foot when I was mid-way through rolling one of the balls and I hear Brian behind me saying class="mceItemHidden"> "Mmmm. Mmmm this dough is amazing. Best peanut butter cookie dough ever." After he proceeded to eat, oh, a million cookies-worth of dough I baked the rest, then burned my mouth eating one of the cookies almost-directly from the oven. Totally worth it, too. :)

Ingredients:
1¾ all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¾ cup creamy peanut butter
½ cup vegetable shortening
1¼ cups packed light brown sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 egg
Granulated sugar, for rolling cookies

Pre-heat the oven to 375° then prepare the baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a small bowl mix together the flour, salt, and baking soda, then set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend together the peanut butter, shortening, brown sugar, milk and vanilla until smooth, then beat in the egg.

With the mixer speed on low, slowly add in the flour mixture until just combined.

Roll each scoop of dough into a ball, then roll around in the granulated sugar in a bowl. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Continue until the cookie sheet is full, then using a fork, make the criss-cross pattern on each cookie.

Bake for 7-8 minutes until the cookies are just starting to brown. Cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheet before removing to a wire cooling rack. Avoid burning mouth by waiting until cookies are more cool before taking a huge bite. Not that I know this from experience or anything... :)

Source: Brown Eyed Baker

Monday, October 12, 2009

Panera's French Onion Soup- revisited



I've had this recipe on my blog since near-inception, however I had just copied and pasted the original recipe. I felt the recipe deserves a re-introduction on here! This soup is remarkably easy to prepare and is relatively quick. It's the ultimate in comfort food! We felt it was a great way to welcome the autumn season.

Panera Bread's French Onion Soup
print this recipe


Ingredients:

1/4 cup butter
4 medium yellow onions, sliced
2 cans (14 oz each) beef broth
3/4 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 drops Tabasco sauce
Focaccia (or other bread, for croutons)
shaved Asiago Cheese (We usually just use swiss)

Directions:

Melt the butter in a large sauce pan, then add the onions. Saute over medium heat until the onions are soft and slightly browned.

Pour in the remaining ingredients into the pot and stir. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 20 minutes, uncovered.

To make the croutons, preheat the oven to 425*.
Slice the bread into 3/4 inch slices. Butter each side of the slice, then cut into cubes.

Bake the cubes for 15 minutes or until they are browned and crispy.

Once soup has simmered and croutons are done, top with shaved cheese and serve.

Source: Original source unknown

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Soft Pretzels

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One of my earliest vivid memories is shopping with my mom at our dinky little mall (now a small strip mall) when I was 4 or 5 years old. I loved going to this mall with her- partly because I learned the art of shopping at an early age (something I've already taught to 2-year old Rebecca) and partly because I could beg and plead for her to get me a soft pretzel from the pretzel stand.

It was a kiosk in the middle of the mall that sold gorgeous, saltly, doughy soft pretzels on a stick. And to  make it even more heavenly, they could dunk it completely in that gooey fake, hot soft cheese. I'm making myself hungry now.

These little pretzels (which ended up being MUCH bigger than I expected, by the way) were so close to that pretzel I remember so fondly (minus the disgusting yet delicious cheese). In fact, they were so similar that Brian cracked up as I took a bite and exclaimed "Oh my gosh! They taste just like a soft pretzel!" Sometimes I sound like such a dork.

I was slightly surprised at how easy these work to make. Really, the only "difficult" part was the boiling and that took me a total of maybe 20 minutes, tops. They're best stored at room temp, uncovered. Not that we had to worry about that since the entire batch was eaten within 24 hours. :)

Ingredients:

2 cups warm water (100°F to 110°F)
1 tablespoon + 2 tablespoons sugar
1 packet active dry yeast
5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons canola or other neutral oil
1/4 cup baking soda
1 large egg
Coarse or pretzel salt (I used kosher salt since it was all I  had. It worked just fine!)
vegetable-oil cooking spray

Directions:

Combine the warm water, 1 T of sugar and the yeast into the bowl of an electric mixer and stir together. Let sit for 10 minutes or until the yeast is foamy.

Blend 1 cup of flour into the yeast mix until well combined, then  add the salt and 4 additional cups of flour, mixing until well combined, then beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Now add 1/2 cup more flour and combine until dough is smooth.

Lightly mist a large bowl with oil and roll the dough a few times to coat, then cover with a kitchen towel. Let sit in a warm location for about an hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.

Heat the oven to 450° and prepare 2 baking sheets with either lightly sprayed oil or parchment paper (I went for parchment paper) and set aside.

Punch down the dough to remove any air bubbles (my FAVORITE part of making doughs) and divide into 16 equal pieces for larger pretzels and 32 for minis. *Note: I took the notes on Smitten Kitchen's recipe calling them "miniature" quite literally and also made some larger (like half the batch I made into 4 pretzels rather than 8 for the large size) pretzels. However, during the boiling process they puffed and the large ones got HUGE and the mini ones got to be the size I was expecting. Holycrap huge. I ate them to hide the evidence of my mistake. :D

Take the dough pieces and roll out to 18 inch long strip (or "worms" as Rebecca kept calling them) and twist into pretzel shapes, then place on the prepared baking sheets. Let rest for 15 minutes.

While the pretzels rest, fill a pot with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil. Once boiling add in the baking soda and additional 2 T of sugar. (Careful, it fizzes a lot!) Reduce the water to a simmer and place a few pretzels in the pan (I could only fit 2 at a time. Just make sure you have enough room that they don't stick and you can easily get to them to flip them). Let them cook for 1 minute in the water, flip and cook the other side for 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and set on the baking sheet. Continue until all the pretzels are done.

Beat the egg with 1T of water, then brush the egg over each pretzel and coat with salt.

Bake until the pretzels are golden brown, roughly 12-15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Source: Smitten Kitchen

Monday, September 14, 2009

1 year blogiversary!

Happy birthday to my little blog.

I started this blog 1 year ago today. I started it more as a cookbook for myself, to keep track of recipes I loved, than anything else. A year ago I firmly fell in the Sucky Cooking category. After many, many attempts in the kitchen ended in tears, I decided that I needed to DO SOMETHING about it. I asked for advice and most people told me to just do it! The more you cook, the better you get. Boy was that ever true!

In one year I'm thrilled that I've gone from Sucky, tearful cooking to 100+ recipes (plus more that have yet to be posted) and my favorite culinary compliment so far: "This is the best thing I've ever eaten in my life" (FYI, it was the Chicken Cordon Bleu. Make it. You'll love it.)

Here's to another year of culinary successes!

Pasta ala Pam & Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

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Also known as Sausage, spinach, and roasted cherry tomato pasta. But that's a super-wordy name. A mouthful (get it. food? mouthful? I'm hilarious, I know. I crack me up)

Brian's Aunt Pam is just one of those women- Her home is gorgeous and always immaculately clean, she makes 5 star quality food without a recipe (and thus can't tell you exactly how to recreate it), she's kind, generous and sweet. Hear that? It's envy calling my name.

So when we were at her house a few weeks ago for a huge family gathering and she whipped up a pasta dish so summery and fabulous that I wanted to move into her kitchen to live for ever and always, I knew I had to figure out a way to at least TRY to recreate it.

When I asked her what was in it she replied "Oh. Gosh. I know I put in a basil leaf in the pasta sauce this time...." That's all she could remember. Someone needs to set up a hidden video camera in her kitchen so I can steal her secrets.

This pasta isn't exactly like the one she made (I think that's going to end up as one of those mysteries of the world) but it was close- and exact or not, it is fantastic. Even Brian, who claims he doesn't like tomatoes, eats half the batch of tomatoes with his pasta.

Ingredients:
angel hair pasta (or pasta of your choosing)
1 lb italian sausage
pasta sauce of your choice
4-5 cups raw spinach
parmesan cheese
1 pint cherry tomatoes
4 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil for drizzling

Directions:

Pre-heat the oven to 350°

Cook the pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, place the tomatoes in a 13x9 pan, drizzle with olive oil and add the garlic to the top. Roast for approximately 20 minutes, or until they are slightly shrivelled (lovely, right?).

While tomatoes are cooking, brown the sausage, steam the spinach, and heat the pasta sauce.

Once everything is done cooking and drained, mix together the pasta, sauce, sausage, and spinach. Add tomatoes and top with parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

Source: Original Laura recipe, inspired by Brian's Aunt Pam

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Garlic Knots

I could write an ode to garlic. But I'm not a very ode-writing kind of girl. So making these delightful knots will have to suffice.

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Ingredients:

For the knots:
3 cups bread flour
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1-1/4 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup + 2 tablespoons lukewarm water

For the garlic glaze:
2-4 cloves peeled, garlic
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Combine the dry ingredients for the dough in the bowl of an electric mixer, then add in the olive oil, milk and water. Using the dough hook, knead together the ingredients until it becomes smooth and shiny.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and let rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

Separate the dough into 8 equal balls. Roll each dough ball into a 10 inch long rope, then knot together. Let the knots rise again for about an hour, or until puffy.

Bake the knots for 15 to 18 minutes or until lightly golden browned. Meanwhile mix together the glaze ingredients. Once removed from the oven, drizzle with the butter glaze.

Source: Amber's Delectable Delights