Friday, July 25, 2014

Cakes

This seems to be a week of cakes, with two more still to go!

This one was done as a white and chocolate checkerboard with a german chocolate filling, a ganache crumb coat, frosted with a chocolate buttercream frosting.
I experimented with a fondant trim on the bottom, lined with edible pearls, which I also used for my drop string intersections.
My greatest discovery was that my pasta maker is perfect for rolling out fondant, and my pizza slicer is great for cutting it into the thin strips I needed.
A pasta maker - who knew? 
(said in a Flynn Rider from Disney's "Tangled" accent...as in, "Frying pans, who knew?")


This rainbow cake was made for a "Colors" party.  We loved how the cake looked very elegantly done up on the outside, yet was bursting with a party on the inside.  The colored sparkler candles were a hit too.
I used 2 yellow cake mixes (yellow made the colors a little brighter) and scooped 1 & 1/3 cups of batter into small bowls and colored them, then baked them individually - watching them carefully (smaller amounts=less time).

I assembled them with a buttercream frosting, using strawberry jam for filling in between a couple of the layers,to assist the flavor. Little Debbie's strawberry shortcake rolls aren't very tasty to eat, but were fun to border this cake with.


Finally - I've made this cake for the past two years in a row!  A decadent chocolate cake, filled with , coconut and toffee cake.
Thanks to my friend Rose Williams helped me figure this recipe out - she's a very talented chef and food stylist.
This is made as a decadent chocolate cake, with a coconut/toffee filling, crumb coated with a chocolate ganache, and a white chocolate buttercream frosting - decorated with Heath Toffee Bits.  





Toffee and Coconut Filled Chocolate Cake

Chocolate, Toffee and Coconut Filled Cake – with Rose Williams


Thanks to my friend Rose - a great chef and food stylist who helped me come up with this recipe to satisfy a sweet tooth for a birthday!  

I was thrilled to find that Rose's preferred chocolate cake recipe is the same one I use - straight from Hershey.  

Chocolate - Toffee filling:
1 1/3 whipping cream
7 T unsalted butter, diced
2 T. sour cream
2 T vanilla extract
1 1/3 c. English Toffee bits
1 2/3 c. melted milk chocolate chips

Stir cream and butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until butter melts and mixture comes to a boil. 
Remove from heat.
Add melted chocolate chips and whisk until smooth.  Whisk in sour cream and vanilla. Fold in toffee bits.  Let stand at room temperature until cool and slightly thick but still pourable, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.

Coconut filling:
In a medium saucepan, mix 2 cups of dried unsweetened coconut with 1 can sweetened condensed milk, and the same amount of milk.  Bring to a boil, and cook until thickened and reduced.  Allow to cool.

Ganache: Scald 1.5 - 2 cups of Whipping Cream. 
Slowly pour whipping cream over 2 cups of semi sweet chocolate chips and mix to a spreading consistency.  Allow to cool and thicken.  

Italian Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting

Melt 8 oz of milk chocolate, using double boiler.  Set aside to cool. 

In a mixing bowl, add 9 egg whites, and 1.5 cups of sugar.  Place the bowl over a pan with water, and turn the stove on.  Mix the eggs with the whip attachment - mixing until the eggs are warm, but be careful not to cook the eggs.  

Place contents in a mixer and whip at high speed until soft peaks are formed.  Reduce speed, and add 6 tablespoons of room temperature butter, a small bit at a time - allowing it to become incorporated.  
Add the melted milk chocolate.  

If the butter doesn't melt well, place the bowl over the boiling double boiler for a few seconds, then remove and whip again. 


Directions:
Cut 9x2 cake into 3 layers.
Freeze cake for easier handling.
Pipe each layer (on the inside edge) with ½” seam of chocolate ganache to contain and seal fillings. 

Fill alternating layers with chocolate toffee filling, and coconut filling.  Use thin dowels if necessary to keep cake from sliding.  Freeze.

Apply thin layer of ganache for crumb coat.  Immediately refrigerate. Once set, apply 2nd thicker coat of ganache OR frosting. 
Garnish with coconut or toffee bars/bits.
 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Rainbow Jello, Layered Jello Jigglers, Jello Ribbons

My friend saw these and said, 'those are the kind of treats you always see and pin, but never actually make'.
These are jigglers, so they are perfect finger food for appetizers, hors d'oeuvres, parties etc. as they hold their shape and don't need utensils.  
Be warned - they take a long time.  Plan between 2.5 - 3 hours.  
I multi tasked cleaning my kitchen, made a batch of cookies for tomorrow's dinner, and listened to a book on tape while I made these, waiting for them to set. 

Because I knew I'd be making many layers - I used my largest pan.  My trusty 10x15 inch cake pan.  Whatever mold you use, it just needs to be able to hold a large volume. (I did see something similar done in a bundtcake pan with frilly edges) 

You can layer the jello colors anyway that you'd like - I followed the ROYGBIV rainbow pattern.  Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo (skipped that one), Violet. 
I originally saw a version of this on the Pioneer Woman, and added the rainbow twist.  

Here's what's needed.  
12 packets of unflavored gelatin
6 small boxes of jello - colors and flavors of your choice
3 cans of sweetened condensed milk
Boiling water (an electric tea kettle is a dream)

Prepare 10x15" pan by lightly spraying with cooking spray, then gently wiping off to remove excess residue.

If you are going in rainbow order, do ROYGBIV backwards so that the violet (purple) will be on the bottom.  Start with grape jello for the first layer.  
Here is the order: Purple, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange, Red

Layer #1
In a small bowl,  mix 1 packet of unflavored gelatin with 1/4 cup of water.  
Add 1 cup of boiling water and mix.
Add 1 box of jello.  Gently stir until dissolved. 
Pour into pan, and place in fridge to cool - until set.  Approximately 15 minutes.  

While it cools, make the filling layer. 

Filling
Mix 2 unflavored gelatin packets with 1/2 cup cold water in a small bowl. 
Mix one can of sweetened condensed milk with 1 cup boiling water. 
Add gelatin mixture to the milk and water, then add another 1/2 cup of boiling water. 
(Depending on how thick you want your filling, you can use this for two or three layers.  Don't make it all at the same time though, as it may begin to set as it cools on the counter)

One the jello has set, remove from refrigerator, and pour 1/3 to 1/2 of the filling mixture over the first layer. Return to the fridge to cool and set.  

Repeat layering jello and filling as desired.   

Cover with plastic wrap, and place in fridge for several hours or overnight.  

Cut into 1"x 2" cubes, or cookie cutters, and keep refrigerated unless serving.  








Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Suckers and Lollies

As a child, we used to make a lot of suckers. They were so good that my sister started selling them to raise money for a summer camp she wanted to attend.
Our favorites were always a toss up between root beer, and cinnamon.




I didn't have my mom's recipe handy, so I searched the web and found numerous recipes which all pretty much looked like this:

2 cup granulated sugar

1 cup water
2 cup corn syrup
food coloring and flavoring

Additional supplies: sucker sticks, molds, candy oils or flavoring extracts.



Place the sugar, corn syrup and water into a heavy bottomed pot and stirring constantly, over medium heat, bring to a boil.  (Coat measuring cup with cooking spray for easier pouring if desired).



Once the mixture begins to boil, place a candy thermometer in pan, and cook without stirring until it reaches the hard crack stage or 310* F.  



Add the flavoring and stir quickly, then pour into prepared molds, onto a Silpat or parchment paper (lightly sprayed with cooking oil), or a granite or marble countertop (which I'd never tried before, but was a dream).  



Quickly, before it can cool, place a sucker stick into each sucker, and twist the stick to coat (the buddy system is great here).  



Allow to cool, for approximately 10-20 minutes.  

Wrap each individual sucker in plastic wrap.  When prying off counters/pans/molds, be careful not to pull from the stick as it will break the sucker.  



Friday, April 25, 2014

Kale and Quinoa Asian Style Soup

Here's my twist on an Asian style soup I tried yesterday. I loved the use of kale and quinoa, and especially my kid's reactions - they LOVED it (and they don't like kale or quinoa)! Even my pickiest had seconds, and asked that I make it again, and my youngest requested this broth next time she is sick. 
This soup was incredibly filling.  Halfway through the bowl we were all surprisingly full.   
The original recipe called for tofu - yet, no matter how it is served, I just can't love tofu (or eggplant, but that's another story).  As such, I've adapted this recipe to fit my family's tastes - and it definitely isn't vegetarian.  Healthy, filling, simple. Family friendly. Check!

1.5 c. cubed or shredded cooked chicken 
1 T. olive oil
1 large onion - chopped
4 carrots - chopped
4 large garlic cloves - minced
1 T. turmeric (I used fresh, and grated it - careful, it stains)
1/4 c. dried mushrooms, broken into bite size pieces (optional)
1/2 c. dry quinoa
2 c. chicken broth or vegetable broth
4 c. boiling water
(OR 1 quart boiling water, and 3 T. Knorr chicken soup bouillon instead of the broth and water
1 bunch kale, leaves only, chopped)
2.5 T. miso
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 chopped scallions - green and white
Chopped avocado - optional 

Heat olive oil in heavy bottomed sauce pan.  Add carrots and onion, and saute until tender.  Add garlic and turmeric and stir to combine, then add quinoa and bouillon (if using), and mushrooms, and cook for three minutes, stirring constantly.  Add chicken, and boiling water, and cover with a lid and allow to cook on medium heat for 15 minutes.  Stir occasionally.

Add kale.  Cook until tender - approximately 3 minutes, then remove from heat and mix in miso.  Mix well so that miso disolves properly. 

Garnish with red peppers, avocado, and scallions and serve immediately.    


  





Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Strawberry Lemonade Cake, OR Pink and White Checkerboard Cake with Lemon Curd Filling


This cake is made using strawberry and white or  lemon cake mixes, and is filled with lemon curd, with buttercream frosting.  Checkerboard cakes are very simple to make, and I love to hear the gasps when the cake is sliced and served.   


1 Box Strawberry Cake mix
1 Box White or Lemon Cake mix

Prepare and bake cakes as directed, using two 9 inch rounds for each mix. Remove cakes from pans, and allow to cool.  Wrap with plastic wrap, and freeze for 1-3 hours for easier handling. 
Use household items to cut cocentric rings in each cake (ie the lid to a sour cream carton, 
a small bowl for the next ring, and a tablespoon turned upside down for the final inner ring).  
Carefully take each layer apart and re-assemble cake rounds, alternating rings. 
Layer rounds, and fill each layer with lemon curd.  Crumb coat with curd and freeze prior to decorating if desired. 
 I used Ina Garten's Lemon Curd recipe - as follows: 
3 lemons
1.5 c. sugar
1 stick butter - room temperature
4 large eggs
1/2 c. lemon juice (3-4 lemons)
1/8 t. kosher salt

Using a carrot peeler, remove the zest of 3 lemons, avoid the white pith. Place in a food processor, along with sugar, and pulse until the zest is very finely minced into the sugar. 
Cream the butter, and beat in the sugar and lemon mixture. Add the eggs, one at a time, and then add the lemon juice and salt.  Mix until combined. 

Pour the mixture into a saucepan and cook over low heat until thickened (about 10 minutes), stirring constantly. The lemon curd will thicken just below a simmer.  Remove from heat and cool or refrigerate.
 
Frost and decorate with Decorator's Buttercream Frosting

1/2 c. vegetable shortening
1/2 c. butter (1 stick)
4 c. powdered (confectioner's) sugar
2 T. milk
1 t. vanilla
Assorted food colors

Cream shortening and butter together.  Mix in vanilla.  Slowly add in powdered sugar, then add milk or additional powdered sugar as needed. Mix colors as needed. 
 





Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Fools - Repost

Since it has been 4  years since I originally posted this - I'm reposting - since it is a much loved tradition in our home...one that our kids talk about, and wait for all year long. 

Here's our traditional April Fool's Day dinner.
Much to my children's delight, our "spaghetti and meatballs" are the main entree, and our "cupcakes" are our dinner entree.


Our spaghetti is made from a slice of cake (anything BUT angel food cake will do) centered on a plate, then covered with small strands of frosting piped from a frosting bag (or a very stiff sweetened whipping cream if angel food cake is used). The entire concoction is then covered with a sauce made of blended fresh strawberries and a touch of sugar.
Our meatballs are 'chocolate no bake cookies' - rolled into balls before they completely cool.


For Dessert, I use the meatloaf recipe from Feet of Meat for our 'cupcakes' and cook it in muffin tins, and frost the (meatloaf) cupcakes with mashed potatoes, and sprinkle with chives. 


 Once a year folks!



Thursday, February 13, 2014

Double cut cookies - how to get perfectly uniform sugar cookies

Sometimes I'm a day late and a dollar short. 
This particular day turned into two days, but everyone is still sleeping, so I'm safe for a few more hours.  


Add caption
I was up late, making cookies for neighbors and friends for Valentine's Day tonight, and I crossed into the next day.
Why am I blogging this at 1:00 am?
Because I had a sugar cookie epiphany.  I finally had a few free moments of quiet to myself and was amazed what my mind came up with - several epiphanies, but only one regarding cookies.
So here it is:
I took my favorite standby sugar cookie recipe, HERE  and just made normal cookies.
(I did substitute the vegetable shortening with coconut oil.  All of it, and liked how they turned out, but that's another story).

As the cookies baked and I saw the cute hearts begin to lose their cute shapes and tight lines, the epiphany struck.

After cooling the cookies, but before they were too cool, I took my trusty cookie cutter (the one I had just cut them with), and I cut them again.  I don't know why I didn't think of it before, but suddenly, I have a ton of UNIFORM cookies!  Which look great.  And will be easier to frost.

I like the crisp lines, and am thrilled with the results.


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Quinoa Granola Bars

I stumbled across this recipe this morning, and LOVE how these granola bars turn out (after a few tweaks)
The perk is that these tasty granola bars are made with all natural products - quinoa, oats, peanut butter, honey, coconut, coconut oil, and nuts and fruits of one's choosing.  Nothing that I can't pronounce, and no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.
I don't feel guilty giving them to my kids to snack on, and know they'll get lots of energy from these yummy bars. 


1 C. uncooked quinoa
1 C. uncooked oats
1/2 C. coconut
1 C. combination of your favorite dried fruits & nuts
(think dates, raisins, blueberries, cranberries, walnuts, peanuts, pecans, peanuts etc)
1/4 t. salt
2 T. chia seeds
3/4 C. honey
1/2 C. peanut butter
3 T. brown sugar
1.5 T. coconut oil

Preheat oven to 350, and spread uncooked quinoa and oats on a cookie sheet.  Toast for 8-10 minutes. 
Place in a large bowl, and add coconut, 1 cup of any combination of chopped dates/craisins/raisins/walnuts/almonds/pecans etc. of your preference (I used walnuts, craisins, and raisins), and chia.


In a small saucepan, combine salt, honey, peanut butter, coconut oil, and brown sugar. 
Bring to a boil. Immediately remove from heat as it begins to boil.

Pour over oats mixture and mix until dry ingredients are completely coated.  
Press into greased 9x13 pan, and bake for 20 minutes.
Let cool for up to 2 hours, then cut for serving. 

If desired, mix 1 cup melted semi sweet chocolate chips with 1 Tablespoon coconut oil.
Dip cut granola bars into chocolate mixture, then place on parchment paper until hardened. 
Wrap individually, and store in cool, dry place. 


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Sauerkraut

Yes, I did say Sauerkraut. 
Who knew you could make this stuff? 
We've been on a bit of a pro-biotic kick lately, and honestly I was scared to make this, but it was one of the easiest recipes ever.  Really.  Three ingredients and 15 minutes (and 3-10 days).


1 head cabbage (about 3 pounds).  Wash & trim it.  Then cut into wedges, and then cut into very thin ribbon like slices.
Place in a large bowl. 
Cabbage at beginning of kneading process
note the liquid in bottom of bowl
Sprinkle 1.5 Tablespoons of coarse sea salt over cabbage.

Begin to knead the cabbage, squeezing any juice from it.  This will take approximately 5-10 minutes. Add 1/2 t. caraway seeds for flavor if desired (I loved the caraway).

The cabbage will change and begin to appear wilted. It will also become rather juicy.  At this point, pack it into a clean quart jar (or two).  Pour any juice into jar and tamp down to remove any air pockets.
Cover with a thin piece of material and a rubber band, and place in a dish, in a cool, dark area and wait for the fermentation to begin.
Check it in 3 days, and depending on strength and preference, between 3-10 days remove it, place a jar lid on it, and refrigerate it.  
I forgot to add my caraway earlier - don't do that!
Ready to begin fermenting...
We ate it on hot dogs tonight. I'm not a fan of those things, but tonight - I was pretty darn impressed with my hot dog...the sauerkraut was pretty amazing!

Kale Chips

I really love kale - I used to buy it and use it in crudites baskets, just for it's fluffy and frilly texture.  What was I thinking?  
I guess I've officially joined the kale craze.  While I can't substantiate it, the recipe show I was watching while at the dentist's waiting room the other day stated that it has the most calcium of any of the vegetables.  
Really, I don't care. 
I just love it. 
So, my kids decided to they wanted to make kale chips. 
Then they ate them all. 
After they oohhed and aaahhhhed about the water reduction that takes place during this process. 

Grab a bunch of kale - frilly leaved is my favorite
Wash and pat it dry
Tear into bite sized pieces discarding  stalks (or save for soup stalk)
Toss in a bowl with just enough olive oil to coat (1 T)
Sprinkle with coarse sea salt (1 t.)
Add garlic powder (1/4 t.) (or minced fresh garlic) (optional if you are a vampire) 
Spread out on cookie sheet (line with parchment paper or use silpat)
Place in preheated oven and bake at 350 for about 10-15 minutes
 
Check it every now and then because it won't look too different when it is done. 

It will look like this when it is done...really, it doesn't reduce THAT much - but my kids couldn't keep their hands off of it before I could get the picture taken. 


Monkey Bread

Grands!® Monkey Bread
Ooohhh la la - this stuff is crazy good. 
Many years ago, my friend made this for me.  Wanting to make them for myself, I found the recipe in an old church cookbook, but it was missing several ingredients, so when I made it, it wasn't very good. 
Fast forward 12 years, on a quest to find a decent recipe for these, I came across one on the Pillsbury website, which we have tweaked a bit... 
We love pecans with these, and didn't like the crunchy sugar on top, and found that combining the sugar and butter prior to adding it to the biscuits, eliminates the crusty sugar chunks.  In my family's review of them - they were a hit! 

Ingredients

1/2
cup granulated sugar
1
teaspoon cinnamon
2
cans (16.3 oz each) refrigerated buttermilk biscuits
1/2
cup chopped toasted walnuts or pecans, if desired

1
cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4
cup butter or margarine, melted

Steps

  • Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease 12-cup fluted tube pan with shortening or cooking spray. In large -storage plastic food bag, mix granulated sugar and cinnamon.

  • In a small pan, mix brown sugar and butter. Bring to a boil, until combined. Set aside to cool.

  • Separate dough into 16 biscuits, then cut each into quarters.  Shake in bag with cinnamon and sugar to coat. Arrange in pan - add toasted walnuts or pecans among biscuit pieces if desired. 

  • Pour cooled brown sugar and butter mixture over biscuit pieces. 

  • Bake for 28-23 minutes, or until golden brown and no longer doughy in center.  Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn upside down on serving platter.  Pull apart to serve; serve warm. 
  •  

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Chicken pasta carbonara over kale

I'm in love.
Really.  I discovered kale a few weeks ago.
I made a kale smoothie, and after my normal 10 mile bike ride, I was feeling so good, I biked another 10.  All because of kale.
I was trying to find something my kids would like tonight and was looking around the Pioneer Woman blog, and saw her recipe for kale.  I hadn't tried it her way (with lots of garlic in the frying pan), and I LOVED it.
The following is a combination of a couple of her recipes, with a few twists of my own.  Yum.  I'll be making this one a lot.



12 ounces, weight
 Bowtie Pasta (farfalle)
4 Tablespoons Butter
4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, chopped
 Salt And Pepper, to taste
5 cloves Garlic, Minced
3/4 cups Low sodium Chicken Broth
1/2 cup Half-and-half
3 Tablespoons Heavy Cream
 Low Sodium Chicken Broth, As Needed For Thinning
3/4 cups Parmesan Shavings Or Grated Parmesan
1 t. nutmeg
3-5 strips cooked Bacon
Olive oil
3 cups kale

Preparation Instructions

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken breasts. Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken breasts and cook until deep golden brown on both sides and done in the middle. Remove from the skillet, and set aside.
Add additional 2 tablespoons of butter to the skillet, followed by 2 minced garlic cloves. Stir the garlic around the pan to avoid burning, and cook for 1 minute. Pour in broth, then let it bubble up and reduce for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Add half-and-half, cream, and extra salt and pepper and nutmeg, whisking constantly until it's all combined. Allow liquid to heat up and thicken for a few minutes. If it gets too thick, you may thin it with a little chicken broth.
When the sauce looks good, remove it from the heat. Add Parmesan to the pan, then throw the hot pasta right on top of it. Toss it a bit. Add the chicken and continue tossing until it's all combined. Again, if it gets too gloppy, splash in a little broth (you may return the pan to low heat if it needs it.)
Meanwhile, In another pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and add remaining 3 minced garlic cloves. Stir until fragrant, then add kale.  Move kale around pan until cooked - this should only take a couple of minutes.  Salt to taste. 
Place kale on plate, and chicken and pasta directly on top of kale.  Crumble bacon over pasta and serve immediately!

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Superfood summer smoothie

I love smoothies.  And, while I've experimented with smoothies over the years (believe me, I've had to drink a lot of them on my own) - this is the smoothie that my kids get the most excited about.  
I love that it is made from simple ingredients.  Spinach, blueberries, strawberries, bananas and soy milk.  
The blueberries, spinach, and chia lend their "SUPERFOOD" powers to it,  and it is a great way to get some fruits and veggies into my family first thing in the morning.  
  

1.5 cups frozen blueberries
3/4 - 1 cup frozen spinach
6 fresh strawberries (frozen can be used)
 1 frozen banana
3-4 cups soy milk (or any other milk on hand)
1 T. agave nectar or sweetener of your choice
1 TBSP. chia seeds
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg

Combine in blender and blend until smooth.  Add milk or ice as needed to adjust for desired consistency.  

A few tips:   
I love to use fresh spinach, but it always gets too slimy in my fridge.  To alleviate this, I buy large bags of spinach (Costco carries a very large inexpensive one) and sort  it into sandwich baggies and then freeze it. 
Bananas do two things at our house.  Get eaten immediately, or go brown. 
I have started freezing ripe bananas, and just grab one to throw into the smoothie.  
I use a knife to peel it (frozen) and it works great. 

I find that if I use frozen ingredients, I don't need to bother adding any ice to the smoothie.  If I don't use frozen ingredients - it needs approx. 2 cups of ice. 

I add cinnamon and nutmeg because of their amazing health properties - google them, you'll see!


Serves 4, and each serving has approx. 160 calories

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Easiest Corn on the Cob - Ever!

It's summertime, which means corn on the cob time~we love that stuff!
Growing up, I learned to prepare corn on the cob by shucking/husking it and boiling it.
Then - about ten years ago, I learned to shuck it, and then to add corn and 3 T. water to a ziplock, seal it all except for a corner (for steam release) and to cook for 6 minutes.  This is a really great way to cook corn.

However, a couple of years ago I discovered that you can cook an intact ear of corn over fire coals - so I figured it could be done in the microwave too.

Really - the  LAZIEST  EASIEST way to cook corn - and it comes out perfectly!
 

Step by step instructions
1.  Remove corn ears from shopping bag.
2. Place in microwave.
3. Cook for 8-10 minutes (4 ears)

Husk and serve.

The beauty of this is that the corn self insulates and steams itself, and it stays pretty warm until it is husked.  Sometimes I throw the corn into my oven (if the oven is warm already) to wait while I'm finishing everything else so that it is still hot when I serve everything.   

Monday, June 24, 2013

School Lunch Butter Finger Bars

While I posted a variation of this recipe several years ago, the frosting just wasn't quite right.  They were 98% there, and it bugged me.

Today however, I hit the holy grail!!   JUST like the lunch lady.  While the recipe is almost identical to what I'd been doing, the process changed a bit.  


Note the frosting that is fudge like, the light peanut butter layer, and the bar's crisp outer edges with a chewy moist bottom and center.  
Growing up, these bars were a commodity - secrets, and favors were exchanged for these babies.  EVERYONE wanted hot lunch on French Dip and Butter Finger Bars day.  I hope these take you back to second grade too!   

Cream together
3/4 cup butter (softened)
3/4 cup peanut butter (smooth not chunky)
1/2 cup sugar

Mix in
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla

Mix in
1 3/4 cups flour
2 cups oatmeal/quick oats

Spread into greased 11x17 greased jelly roll pan.  Bake at 350* for 22-30 minutes - until light brown and puffy.

Peanut Butter Topping
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
Whip 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter until it becomes light colored and fluffy.
Carefully spread the whipped peanut butter over the hot pan cookie.

Frosting
1/2 cup butter
1 TBSP milk
3 TBSP cocoa baking powder
2 tsp. vanilla
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Melt butter in a small saucepan.  Add milk and cocoa, and cook on medium heat stirring constantly.  Heat just until boiling.  Remove from heat and add vanilla, and gradually add powdered sugar.  Stir until thickened and then pour over the whipped peanut butter and gently spread over entire cookie.

Cool completely, then slice into bar cookies.


Grandma Jeri's Sloppy Joe's

The quintessential sloppy Joe, or Barbeque as Grandma calls it

I grew up in a really big family, with lots of uncles & aunts, cousins, and relatives - all usually within a 8 mile radius.  That said, for most of my younger years, my memories of Sunday afternoons all include dinners at grandma's house.  During the hot summer months, grandma would make Sloppy Joe's since they didn't have to be cooked on the stove, but could be cooked in a mammoth electric roaster like this: 

Here's grandma's recipe - approximately 20 servings

3 lbs hamburger (or lean ground turkey, with 3 cubes beef bouillon)
1.5 chopped onions (Grandma uses 3 - that's too much for my family)
1-3 chopped green/red/yellow peppers (optional - to taste)
2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. brown sugar
4 stalks celery, chopped
3 TBS. chili powder
1 T. ground cumin
1 can tomato soup
2 small cans tomato paste (Grandma uses 4 - my family likes 2)
1 can tomato sauce

Brown meat and drain (rinse if desired).  If using turkey, reserve juices for later.
Mix all other ingredients into meat and bring to a boil. Transfer to a crock pot and heat for at least 2 hours on low. Stir occasionally.
Alternately, this may be simmered on the stovetop for 1 hour, but stir often so that it doesn't stick and burn.

Use reserved turkey juices to add moisture and thin slightly if mixture seems too thick.
Serve on buns.



Tuesday, June 4, 2013

For the record

Every now and then (or more often than that), I try a recipe that is awful.
For the record, tonight was the night.  It started with a can of red enchilada sauce.  It had a recipe for Enchilada soup on the back of the can.  We love tortilla soup, so why not try enchilada I thought...besides, if it is on the back of the can, it must be great!
Bleh, horrible.  For the record -stick with the tortilla.  While I love good food, food is food in my reasoning.  Enchilada soup is not food.  It got thrown out.

For the record though - my Pavlova (see previous post) turned out as light and fluffy as a ballerina.  Cosmic balance was made in my kitchen tonight.  

Pavlova, Red, White and Blue

My friend Judy in Colorado made this for our family several years ago.  Her husband's family is from Australia, and it is a traditional Aussie and New Zealander's dessert.  It has a crunchy, meringue like outer shell, and the inside is soft and almost marshmallowishly light.

I was headed to a book club tonight and wanted to take something elegant, yet light - and then I remembered the Pavlova. What could be lighter than meringue, whipping cream and fresh strawberries?
For the record, it disappeared, and several went back for seconds and thirds.


Preheat oven to 275
*Note - this takes an hour to bake, and almost another hour to cool in the oven, and may need to be planned ahead.  

1-1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp white vinegar
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 T. cornstarch
6 large egg whites (room temp - NOT cold)
pinch salt
fresh fruit

Combine dry ingredients - set aside

Beat egg whites for 2-3 minutes
Add wet ingredients and blend (vanilla & white vinegar)

Slowly introduce dry ingredients

Beat for 4-5 minutes

Spread on parchment paper, or pipe from decorators bag for a detailed edge.

Reduce oven to 250 and bake for 50-60 minutes

DO NOT OPEN OVEN.  Allow to cool in oven.  

Serve with whipped cream, and fresh fruit of choice. Strawberries, and Blueberries are perfect for a fourth of July celebration.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The crazy grocery store man's Pork Chops with Scalloped Potatoes

As I mentioned in a previous post, I ran into a stranger today at the grocery store who proceeded to verbally give me 3 of his favorite recipes.
Since I am attending a pot-luck event this evening, I thought I'd try his Pork Chops with Scalloped Potatoes recipe.  I doubled the recipe for my pot-luck.
Granted, I don't know if I've ever made pork chops in the past 8 years, and I've never made scalloped potatoes that weren't from scratch.  I was a little dubious, but it sounded simple and non-labor intensive (great for a busy day - more time to blog).

8-12 pork chops
1 box Betty Crocker scalloped potatoes
1 Tablespoon butter
Betty Crocker seasoning packet
1/2 c. milk
2 cups boiling water

Heat oven to 350*
In a skillet or frying pan with 2 t. oil, brown pork chops, on each side, but don't cook completely.
(If serving a large crowd, cut chops into smaller pieces).

Place in bottom of 9x13 baking dish.

Mix scalloped potatoes, butter, milk, seasoning packet, and boiling water, and pour mixture over pork chops.
Bake at 350* for one hour.