Monday, December 28, 2009

Roasted Green Beans with Bacon and Brown Sugar

This isn't a recipe as much as it is a method.  I ended up with a huge amount of fresh green beans after a Costco shopping trip before Christmas.  (Somehow I always get carried away in that store.)  A coworker mentioned that her family loves when she wraps green beans in bacon, tops them with brown sugar, and roasts them.  Bacon?!  Sounded good to me!

I took a handful (about 10) of fresh green beans (I'm sure you can use frozen), wrapped them with one slice of bacon and carefully sat them in a baking dish.  I continued until I filled the dish (I estimated about 2 green bean bunches per person), then topped the entire casserole with brown sugar and a little bit of fresh cracked pepper.  I baked it at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes, then turned the broiler on high for 2 minutes to get a nice, crispy crust.

This recipe is best with regular bacon.  I used thick sliced bacon and it took forever to get crispy.  Even without a perfectly crispy crust, this was really tasty.  It has that sweet-salty thing going on and the green beans are still pretty firm after roasting.  The bacon drippings and brown sugar create this syrupy glaze... so good.  Plus, it's easy.  Try it.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Apple Coffee Cake

We entertained 15 guests on Christmas and I have plenty of stories to tell, but for right now I'm keeping it simple with a post about our very simple Christmas Eve brunch.  (Very simple = coffee and coffee cake)

I saw this recipe on Savory Sweet Life and decided to give it a try.  I'll give it a 4/5.  It was pretty easy to whip up in the morning, and it smelled great, but next time I plan to replace the vegetable oil with melted butter because I feel this cake would be much improved with a buttery flavor.  In case you didn't know, I love butter.  The recipe is satisfactory as-is, but I believe the melted butter would take it over the top. 

The original recipe called for Granny Smith Apples.   I love Granny Smiths, but I had a fridge drawer full of Cortland and Jonagold apples, so that's what I used.  I'm sure the Grannys would have tasted better (I love their tart flavor), but I used what I had.

I added a few extra spices to the batter (nutmeg and ginger) and at the last minute I decided to add chopped walnuts and almonds to the top.  I bet it would have been even better if I created a crumble topping with nuts, butter, flour, and brown sugar for the topping.  Next time.

So, as you can see, this recipe makes a huge cake.  I live in a household of two, so I ended up serving some of this as a dessert on Christmas (I baked it for brunch on Christmas Eve).  Next time, I would halve this recipe and bake it in a smaller dish. 

Overall, it's much better than any coffee cake you could purchase at a convenience or grocery store and perhaps better than those sold at some coffee shops (although I'm still trying to figure out that sticky cinnamon swirl in the Reduced Fat Coffee Cake at Starbucks... yum!). 

Apple Coffee Cake
recipe from Savory Sweet Life

3 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. granulated sugar
3 t. baking powder
2 t. of vanilla
4 eggs
1/4 t. of salt
1/2 c. orange juice
1/2 c. of apple sauce I used unsweetened
1/2 c. vegetable oil

for the apple filling:
5 Granny smith apples, peeled and sliced
1/3 c. of granulated sugar
1 T. of cinnamon I added 1/2 t. ginger and 1/2 t. nutmeg

Preheat oven at 350°F and grease a 9×13 baking dish.  In a medium bowl, toss sliced apples, 1/3 cup of sugar, and cinnamon in a bowl and set aside.

In a mixing bowl combine flour, 2 cups sugar, baking powder,vanilla, eggs, salt, oj, apple sauce, and vegetable oil until well mixed. Approx. 5 minutes in a mixer. Pour half the batter into baking dish and arrange apple slices on top. Pour and spread the rest of the batter on top of the apples. I topped it with 1 c. toasted nuts.  Bake for 60 minutes or until done. My cake took nearly 90 minutes.  Cut coffee cake into squares and serve warm. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc

I "discovered" this wine while waiting in line at the Costco liquor store about a year ago.  I perfer dry whites and I love citrus flavors and a gentleman in the store told me that he buys this wine by the case because he loves its grapefruit flavor.  Grapefruit!  In wine?  Oh yes, I had to have some.  I love citrus scents and tastes.

Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc did not disappoint. It's light and refreshing and it definitely has a nice citrus flavor.  Bonus:  It doesn't have a cork (I understand that unoaked wines don't need one), so I can travel with the bottle and open it anywhere (think really casual BYOB spots, hotel rooms, my cabin on a cruise ship...). 

Around my way this wine retails for between $13-15 per bottle.  I find that pretty reasonable.  If you live near one, I recommend purchasing it at Total Wine.  The store is large, has an extensive selection of alcoholic beverages, and really helpful staff.  Our location even does tastings on weekends.  Good times!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Date Nut Spice Bread

After I blogged about Ina Garten's latest cookbook, Back to Basics, I decided to flip through it and try another recipe.  It was Sunday morning (okay, more like Sunday afternoon) and I didn't want to do our traditional bacon and pancakes or waffles weekend brunch, so I opted for Ina's Date Nut Spice Bread

Believe it or not, I had never eaten dates, but I like to try new stuff, so I picked up a box a few weeks ago.  I had been considering using them to make sticky toffee pudding or wrapping them in proscuitto or doing something fancy, but then I saw this recipe and figured that this was just a good a time as any to bust out the exotic dried fruits. 

I don't particularly like nuts in my baked goods, but I don't hate nuts, so I went ahead and kept them in the recipe.  I just opted to chop them up really small with my mini food processor.

I like that this bread isn't loaded with fat (only 1/2 stick butter).  It also isn't super sugary, so it can be eaten alone or with a topping.  Ina's recipe included a cream cheese spread, but I kept it real and topped my warm bread with real butter.  Why go through the hassle of making specialty cream cheese when good ol' butter will do?

This bread makes me think of weekend brunch.  It would be great for company, or you can be like me and enjoy it at the dashboard diner on the way to work the next day.  With my coffee in my cup holder and this bread balanced on my console I'm ready for my one hour commute!  Enjoy!

Date Nut Spice Bread
from Back to Basics by Ina Garten

2 cups coarsely chopped dates (10 ounces pitted)  mine came in an 8 oz. box and that was plenty
1/3 cup orange liqueur (recommended: Cointreau or Triple Sec)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 extra-large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon grated orange zest (2 oranges) I zested 4 clementines
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves I didn't have any cloves, so I replaced them with cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (3 oranges) I cheated and used Tropicana
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans (3 ounces) I used walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottom of an 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pan.

Combine the dates and orange liqueur in a small bowl and set aside for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar together on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl. With the mixer on low, add the egg, vanilla, and orange zest. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. With the mixer still on low, add the flour mixture alternately with the orange juice to the creamed mixture, beating only until combined. By hand, stir in the dates with their liquid, and the pecans.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Spritz Cookies

Butter.  Sugar.  Flour.  Classic.  Most people really like spritz cookies.  They are basic, but you can spruce them up by adding sprinkles or flavorings or even dipping them in chocolate.  I like them because they are (almost) as pretty as (much more tedious) cut-out cookies, but they taste just as good and are much easier to make.

My husband (then-boyfriend) bought me a cookie gun (I know it's called a cookie press, but I renamed mine) about ten years ago as a Christmas gift.  I still have it, but it's battery operated and I haven't removed the batteries in years, so I snagged an new (still in the box) Pampered Chef cookie gun at a neighborhood yard sale last year (no batteries required). 

Every cookie gun works differently but I've learned a few basics through experience:
  • The dough will only work if it's freshly made (soft).  Don't try to refrigerate the dough and make the cookies later.  It will be way too thick for shooting.
  • I let my freshly baked cookies cool completely before eating them.  This is one cookie that tastes better and holds up better when it's cool.  I also let them sit out for several hours (or overnight) before packing them up to travel.
  • Use an ungreased baking sheet.  Don't line it with Silpat or parchment paper.  The cookies are full of butter and they will not stick.  Pan liners just make it more difficult to release the cookie dough for the gun.
  • These cookies do not expand much during baking, so you can press them pretty close on the baking sheet.
Classic Spritz Cookies
from Pampered Chef

1 1/2 cups butter (3 sticks), softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Colored sugar or sprinkles (optional)

Preheat oven to 375°F.  In large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar on medium speed of electric mixer about 3 minutes or until creamy, scraping down sides as necessary. Add egg and vanilla; beat well. Add flour; mix on low speed just until blended, scraping down sides as necessary. (Dough will be soft; do not refrigerate.)
Fit Cookie Press with desired disk; fill with dough. Press dough onto Cookie Sheet 1 in. (2.5 cm) apart. Decorate cookies with colored sugar or sprinkles, if desired. Bake 10-12 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool cookies 2 minutes on Cookie Sheet; remove to cooling rack. Repeat with remaining dough.

Yield: 6-7 dozen cookies

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Carne Adovada

I found this versitile recipe for slow roasted pork seasoned with New Mexican chiles on use real butter.  I like Tex-Mex, I love Mexican food, I like burritos, tacos, and chimichangas and carne advada is a multi-purpose filling for almost any Tex-Mex recipe.  I think it came out pretty well.

When I read "carne" I assumed this was made with beef (which I don't prefer), but when I found out the recipe actually called for pork I got really happy.  My husband makes fun of me because I am always trying to find new recipes for my beloved pork loin and pork tenderloin.  I agree with the recipe creator that this recipe would be better with pork butt or pork shoulder, but I had a pork loin with a considerable layer of fat in my deep freeze, so I opted to use what I had for this experiment.

The marinade is made from dried chiles (easy to find at my Shop Rite, but depending on where you live, you may need to hit up a Latin American market).  It also has garlic (yum!), oregano, and I added coriander seed. 

The chiles are roasted, soaked, then pureed with oregano, garlic, coriander, and salt to create a marinade for the pork.  I let the pork chill in the fridge for a day before I roasted it for four hours.

The result was soft, well-seasoned (but not spicy hot), moist (but not greasy) pork.  We rolled ours in soft flour tortillas.  I ate some of the leftovers mixed in with beans and rice.  The only bad thing is that we live in a household of two, so we got sick of eating it after two or three days and ended up wasting some (I suppose we could have frozen it). 

Carne Adovada
from use real butter

16 dried, red chile pods  I used Guajillo chiles
3 tsp salt  I added a little extra salt
4 cloves garlic
2 tsp oregano
1 t. ground coriander (my addition)
5 pounds pork (any tender cut) (*jen’s note, use pork shoulder)  I used pork loin, but a shoulder would be better

Preheat oven to 325F. Remove stems from the chile pods. Place pods in a pan and bake for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until chiles are lightly roasted. Leave oven door open (I didn’t do this). Don’t breathe the fumes! I shook the seeds out of the pods and discarded them. Place pods in a medium bowl and cover them with boiling water. Let them sit for 30 minutes.

 Drain the water from the chile pods, but reserve about 2 cups for the purée. Place pods in a food processor or blender. Add the salt, garlic, and oregano. Cover the mixture with the chile water. Blend well for 2 minutes or until the skins disappear.

Cut the pork into 2×4 inch strips. Place the pork in a ziploc bag and add the sauce. Thoroughly coat the pork. Refrigerate for 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 325F. Place pork and sauce in a baking dish. Cover and bake for 4 hours or until meat is tender. Shred or chop meat.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Food & Wine

I don't consider myself to be a gourmet cook, but I do enjoy well prepared and beautifully presented meals with high quality ingrdients.  I subscribed to Food & Wine for the first time in 2009 and although I've attempted few recipes from this magazine, I'll be renewing my subscription in 2010.

As much as I love to cook (and eat), I don't have time for elaborate meals on weekdays.  Almost everything in this magazine is elaborate.  But, OMG, it's just so... beautiful.  The wines, the cookware, the fine cheeses, the advertisements for luxury cruises.  Reading this magazine is like a fantasy.  I love recipes that challenge me and Food & Wine is full of them.  I think I'll "grow into" this magazine.

As I've mentioned before, I have a huge collection of recipes clipped from various magazines that just sit in a disorganized pile on our file cabinet waiting to be scanned.  Fortunately, Food & Wine has a website where I can locate recipes from previous issues, so I can just have an electronic recipe file and recycle or share my old issues of the magazine.  That's always a bonus and I wish every magazine would do this.

I did attempt the Pull-Apart Cheesy Onion Bread and I really enjoyed it.  The recipe is a bit confusing, so I improvised.  The result was a buttery, cheesy, savory biscuit-like loaf of bread.  One slice was more than enough!  The leftovers were great reheated.  My hubby didn't enjoy it because he's anti-onion and a bit picky about cheese. 

If you are broadening your cooking horizons, I recommend Food & Wine.  If I had more time (and money) I'd attempt more recipes from this magazine.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Hot Chocolate

This is not a Keeley original recipe, but I found it on Short Stop a few weeks ago and loved it so much I just had to share.  I like hot chocolate.  A lot.  Before I got into coffee, hot chocolate was the only warm beverage I would consume.  I used to think that the best hot chocolate was made from a premium mix from Williams-Sonoma.  Now, that mix is good, but this homemade mix is cheaper and just as tasty (dare I say, better).

The best part?  If you don't drink it all, just pour it in a container, refrigerate it, and reheat it in a mug later and it tastes just as good... maybe even better.

I prefer my hot chocolate a little less sweet, but still rich and chocolatey, so I made some modifications to the original recipe.  I also love to top mine with a fluffy cloud of whipped cream.  Here's my modified version:

Hot Chocolate


8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate (I use mini-chocolate chips)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)

Store mix in an airtight container.

For 4 servings:

2/3 cup cocoa mix
1/4 cup water
4 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a large pan on low heat, stir cocoa mix and water until melted. Add milk and beat with whisk until smooth. Heat on low until hot. Add vanilla. Serve.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Back to Basics

I love the Food Network and Ina Garten is one of my favorite Food Network personalities.  She's written several cookbooks and I love them all.  Her latest book is Back to Basics and it's well worth the purchase price and a great gift idea for Christmas.  A great cookbook costs less than a decent restaurant meal, but can inspire you to cook foods that will bring you and your family great meals for years.  That's what I call a good investment.

I "discovered" Ina when I worked at Williams-Sonoma in college.  The Food Network was just getting hugely popular and I was really getting into cooking with good tools and good ingredients.  All of Ina's books were on display at the store and I would watch her show at home and see her impressive collection of kitchen tools (all sold at Williams-Sonoma, of course).  She made me want to be a great cook and hostess.

Her books are all full of huge, full color photos and detailed instructions.  She also includes interesting stories about the creation of the recipes and fun entertaining ideas.  I enjoy the casual and relaxed mood of her cooking shows and how she uses a few good ingredients to create very impressive meals.  I've loved almost everything I've chosen to cook from her books. 

My favorite recipes (so far) from Back to Basics are Baked Shrimp Scampi and Homemade Granola Bars.  There are so many other recipes that I can't wait to try and I'm sure I'll be blogging about them soon. 

Monday, December 7, 2009

Cooking Light

I love magazines, especially food magazines.  I have a piles of magazine articles, newspaper clippings, and handwritten recipes in my home office just waiting to be scanned.  (Yet another item on my to-do list.)  I find food magazines to be a great value because it's like getting a mini cookbook every month.  Cooking Light is especially convenient because they publish a hardback book that contains every single recipe from their magazine each year, so I can recycle or share my old magazines without worrying about clipping my favorite recipes.

I enjoy making healthier versions of traditional foods, but I also expect full flavor and I do not like artificial ingredients.  I do not eat margarine or artificial sweeteners.  I'd rather drink water than diet soft drinks and I'd rather have a small quantity of real butter than settle for an oily spread.  I was skeptical when I first picked up an issue of Cooking Light because I assumed it was a diet magazine.  I was completely wrong.  Cooking Light uses real ingredients (even bacon!) to make healthy dishes.  I've made recipes from Cooking Light and no one has even realized that they are light versions. 

If you are trying to cut calories and you love to enjoy good food, I suggest a subscription to Cooking Light.  This magazine has helped me make healthy substitutions for our meals without resorting to bland processed diet foods. 

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Coconut Pound Cake

My family loves this cake.  People who don't like coconut love this cake.  People who love coconut beg for this cake.  I can't show up for certain family functions without this cake. 

Before you go crazy about the ingredient list, I'll just put it out there:  this cake is a fat and cholesterol explosion.  It has Crisco and butter and sugar.  If that's not enough, it's made with a half dozen eggs than topped with a sugary glaze.  Don't even think about using margarine or Splenda or any of that other fake mess.  Yes, I know.  But, that's why people love it.  It's a special occasion cake.

This cake travels and ships well.  It actually tastes better after you let it sit for a few days.  I make this cake at least two days before the occasion.  Also you must use a serrated knife to slice this cake.  Otherwise,  you'll have a crumbly mess on your hands. 

This is one of the desserts that made my husband fall in love with me.  Please make this cake for someone you love (or even someone you like).

Coconut Pound Cake

for the cake
1/2 c. solid vegetable shortening (Crisco)
1 c. (2 sticks) butter
3 c. sugar
6 eggs
3 c. flour, sifted
1 c. milk
1 t. almond extract
1 t. coconut flavoring
1 c. dry flaked coconut

for the glaze and topping

1 c. water
1 c. sugar
1 t. coconut flavoring
1/3 c. dry flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Generously grease and flour a 12 c. bundt pan.  

Cream together butter and Crisco with an electric mixer (I use my Kitchen Aid).  Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each egg.

Gradually alternate adding flour and milk.  Make sure you start with flour and end with flour.

Add the coconut and almond extracts.  Stir in the coconut by hand.

Pour the batter into the bundt pan.  Wrap the pan on the counter a few times to even out the batter.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean.  Poke holes all over the cake using a toothpick or skewer.  Pour the hot glaze over the hot cake and sprinkle with dry coconut.  Let cake cool completely before removing from pan.


Bring water and sugar to a boil.  Cook for 5 minutes or until slightly thickened.  Remove from heat and add coconut extract.  Pour immediately over hot cake.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sweet Potato Pie

It's almost Thanksgiving!  In my family this means that we must have sweet potato pie.  My mother never liked pumpkin pie, but we always had it's close relative:  sweet potato pie.

There are many different schools of thought on sweet potato pie.  Some people like their pie spicy (with lots of cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg).  Others, like my grandmother, can't stand nutmeg.  Some people add lots of ingredients to create a custard-like pie.  Some people add a layer of cream cheese to put a surprise in the middle of their pie.  My mom says my grandfather used to stretch five sweet potatoes into 20 pies because they couldn't afford to have a thick, hearty pie.  Well, here's my take on sweet potato pie:  I like mine full of potato (and little else), thick, very lightly spiced, smooth-textured, and with a hint of lemon.  I never make less than four pies at a time.  Tonight I made five:  one for mom's house, one for grandmom, two for my in-laws (we'll be with them on Thanksgiving), and one for my hubby and I to enjoy at home.  We've already cut ours, even though it was too hot to eat and completely fell apart.  It was still good.

One bite of that pie and we both knew:  time to break out the Christmas decorations, the holidays are here!

Sweet Potato Pie
(2 pies)

4 lbs. sweet potatoes (about 8 large)
1 c. evaporated milk
1/3 c. butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 c. sugar
1 t. lemon flavoring
1 t. vanilla flavoring
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
1 egg, beaten
2 frozen deep dish pie crusts.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare the sweet potatoes:  Scrub potatoes and poke each potato several times with a fork.  Place on microwave safe plate and cook on high for 12-14 minutes.  (I can fit 5 potatoes at a time in my microwave.)  Potatoes are done when they smell sweet and are soft to the touch.  Let potatoes cool for at least 30 minutes.  When potatoes are cool enough to handle, split them open and scoop out the cooked flesh.  Set flesh aside.

Attach the whisk attachment to a stand mixer.  Whip the sweet potatoes on low speed.  Add white and brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Continue to whip the potatoes for at least 3 minutes.

Place milk and butter in a microwave-safe container.  Microwave until milk is hot and butter is melted (about 2 minutes).  Stir milk mixture and add it to the sweet potato mixture.

Add the vanilla and lemon flavorings to the sweet potato mixture.

Add the egg to the mixture.  Mix for another 3 minutes.

Cover the edges of the pie crust with a thin strip of foil.  Divide the sweet potato mixture between the two pie crusts.

Bake at 350 for 60-75 minutes, or until center of the pie is set.  The top of the pie will be lightly browned.  Let pie cool completely before serving.  Serve at room temperature.  Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Yeast Rolls

My maternal grandfather made legendary yeast rolls.  Legendary.  His rolls are the cause of my love of real butter.  He passed away 20 years ago and even though I was just a little girl when he went to glory, I remember those rolls.  Many family members have tried (and come close), but nothing could match his rolls.

I've always been intimidated by any recipe that uses yeast.  If the water's too hot, the yeast dies.  If the air is too cool, the bread doesn't rise.  Then there's the kneading and judgment of how much flour to add.  Well, technology has made this whole process much easier.  My Kitchen Aid has a dough hook that kneads this batch of rolls in under 5 minutes.  My oven has a proofing setting and a convection bake option that helps me create perfectly golden and fluffy rolls.  I feel much more confident with my new school kitchen tools. 

So, these aren't pop pop's rolls.  These are Kee's rolls.  He made his old school, by hand.  I make mine new school, with a Kitchen Aid mixer equipped with a dough hook.  Special shout out to Monica at Lick the Bowl Good for putting me on to this recipe.  I made these rolls this past Sunday and brought some to my mom.  I know my mom was proud.  My hubby was proud, too.  He told me they looked like they came from a store, but they taste homemade.  I take that as a compliment.  I believe these rolls will be making a surprise appearance for Thanksgiving at my in-law's home next week.

Yeast Rolls

1/2 c. low fat milk
1/4 c. sugar
2 t. salt  I used 3 t.
3 T. butter
3 packages (or 6 3/4 t.) of dry active yeast
1 1/2 c. warm water (105-115 degrees F)
5-6 c. all-purpose flour (I used bread flour)

 In a small saucepan, heat milk, butter, sugar and salt over medium heat until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat and let cool to lukewarm temperature (leave at room temp for 30 minutes, or place in the fridge for a few mins).

Warm your Kitchen Aid mixer bowl by rinsing it with hot water.  Add the warm water and yeast to the bowl.  Mix in the lukewarm milk mixture and stir until dissolved.

Attach the dough hook to the mixer.  Add 4 1/2 c. flour to the liquid mixture and turn mixer on low.  Add flour, 1/2 c. at a time until dough pulls away from sides of bowl and starts to "climb" the hook.  (This took 5 1/2 c. flour for me.)  The dough will be sticky, but it should form a ball around the hook.  Knead the dough for at least 2 minutes.

Spray a large bowl with nonstick spray.  Drop the dough in the bowl and turn the dough to make sure all sides are greased.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft free place for 15-25 minutes (or until dough has at least doubled in size).  (I used the proof setting on my oven for this task.  I hear an empty microwave is also a good place to poof dough.)

Once dough has risen, turn it out onto a floured surface.  Cut the dough into 24 equal pieces.  Place the dough balls into a 9x13 baking pan (sprayed with nonstick spray and lined with parchment paper).  You'll only be able to fit 16 rolls in the pan, so you can put the rest of the rolls into a smaller pan (I used an 8x8).

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  While the oven is heating, cover the rolls with a towel and let them rise a second time (they will double in size).  Bake the rolls for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown.  Immediately remove the rolls from the pan and place on a cooling rack.  Brush tops of rolls with melted butter.  Or, be like me and split them open and slather them with butter.

Do I need to tell you how good these rolls tasted or how good my house smelled?  If you have a Kitchen Aid, you need to make these rolls!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Yummy Pummy Bread

When I was 11 or 12, I received a cookbook as a gift from a family friend.  The book was for some fundraiser I can't remember, but I do remember that the entire book was filled with cookie recipes.  One recipe that I loved was a pumpkin raisin cookie called Pummies.  They were soft and moist and bread-like.  I still have that battered cookbook and for some reason I just couldn't stop thinking about those cookies this fall.  I figured I'd try to make my own version of pumpkin bread inspired by my old school favorite recipe.

This bread is dense and moist and the recipe makes a heavy loaf.  It's not overwhelmingly sweet.  This is a pumpkin bread, not a cake, after all.  I don't care for nuts in my breads, so I opted for raisins.  I guess you could add nuts or omit raisins if you wanted to, but I love it just the way it is.  One bite of this bread reminds me of October and November.  It has a subtle hint of sweet spice and it's great warm or at room temperature.  I especially love this recipe because I can mix it by hand (no electric mixer or Kitchen Aid to clean).

Yummy Pummy Bread

2 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
3/4 c. brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin puree
1 T. vanilla flavoring 
3/4 c. raisins tossed in 1 T. flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9x5 inch loaf pan with nonstick spray and line with parchment paper. 

In a large bowl bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar until well mixed.  Stir in eggs and pumpkin puree until well mixed.

Make a well in the dry ingredients (flour mixture) and stir in the wet ingredients (pumpkin mixture).  Do not overmix.  Gently stir in raisins and pour into prepared loaf pan (batter will be thick).  Wrap pan on the counter a few times to even out the mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees for 60 to 75 minutes.  Bread is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove bread from pan immediately after baking and place on a cooling rack.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

El Serrano

We love Latin American food.  A month ago I met a few fellow foodies while waiting for takeout at a Vietnamese restaurant.  They suggested we visit El Serrano, a Peruvian restaurant, in Lancaster, PA.  It immediately went on our list.  We finally made it out there today and we weren't disappointed.

We started with the complimentary chips and salsa.  The salsa was smooth (not chunky) and mild.  The chips were fresh, but  not greasy or soggy.  The hubby enjoyed an Amstel Light and I had a Fuzzy Rita (fuzzy navel mixed with frozen margarita).  My drink was very peachy, fresh, and not sickeningly sweet - just the way I like it!  My next course was a seafood soup with a tomato base.  The soup had calamari, red snapper, mussels, and other unidentifiable (but delicious) seafood.

I ordered the El Gordo Combo because I wanted a bit of everything.  It came with a chicken fajita, a cheese enchilada, a pork chop, rice, and refried beans.  The chicken fajita was huge and stuffed with juicy marinated chicken, sauteed onions and peppers, and even sauteed tomatoes.  The cheese enchilada was had a spicy sweet red sauce.  The pork chop was a bit dry for my taste, but it was well seasoned.

We were almost too full for dessert, but we had to have the full experience.  We were disappointed that they didn't have our beloved tres leches cake (but then again, this wasn't a Mexican restaurant), but we enjoyed the warm rum cake with whipped topping (not freshly whipped cream, to my dismay).

Overall it was a great experience.  The restaurant looks like a South American hacienda and we are looking forward to dining at their two other restaurants on the same premises.  We ate a huge lunch at 3:00 and it kept us full through hours of shopping at the outlet shops in Lancaster.  We'll be back.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Getting Ready for The Holidays!

The most wonderful time of the year is on its way!  This year my husband and I have the honor of hosting his side of the family for Christmas.  I'm already dreaming of the menu!

Thanksgiving is at the in-law's home in Baltimore this year.  I'll be making desserts (my specialty).  Baking is my true culinary love.  I only learned how to cook because I couldn't live off of grilled cheese, cereal, and cookies when I got my first apartment.

I'm looking for great dessert recipes that travel well and some fun ideas for Christmas.  Send suggestions!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween Party

My husband and I are becoming notorious for our parties.  But tonight we opted for a private party for Halloween.  I made our favorite treats:  Rice Krispies Treats, caramel apples, and homemade pizza.  We opened two bottles of wine:  one red (for him) and one white (for me).  Although it's 73 degrees tonight (very warm for October in Delaware) we've had very few trick-or-treaters.  Somebody will have to eat all that leftover candy.  There's nothing like pizza, sweet treats, and a Michael Jackson cd to celebrate a Saturday night Halloween.  Good times.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

La Paloma

My husband is an Esquire subscriber.  A few months ago, the magazine published a recipe for a drink called La Paloma.  We both enjoy a good drink, so my husband tried it out.  It went over very well.  It's now in heavy rotation at our home, especially since we purchased a big bottle of Patron on our last cruise.

The most difficult part of making this drink was finding grapefruit soda.  We ended up finding IZZE pink grapefruit soda at Target.  It's not cheap ($3 for four small cans, on sale), but it's all natural and it makes this drink a pretty shade of pink.

Citrus, especially grapefruit, is one of my favorite flavors.  I prefer my Paloma without salt, but make it both ways and decide for yourself.

La Paloma (recipe from Esquire, with commentary by me)

2 oz. tequila
1/2 oz. lime juice
pinch of salt (optional)
grapefruit soda

Combine the tequila (we like Patron), lime juice, and salt in a tall glass. Add ice, top off with grapefruit soda, and stir. We had a hard time finding grapefruit soda, but ended up using IZZE grapefruit from Target.  As a last resort, lemon-lime soda with a splash of grapefruit juice. My hubby likes to throw in a pinch of salt. Others (like me) omit it entirely. 

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Baked Shrimp Scampi

I love appetizers, tapas, small bites, or whatever you call them at your house.  I enjoy trying new recipes and making a meal out of several appetizers allows me to hit my taste buds in all the right places and to get some great ideas for parties.  Last Sunday was a big game day at our house:  Eagles and Phillies.  That doesn't happen often.  We're getting into the tradition of celebrating football Sundays with a fun meal with the extended family (my mom and brother), but this week we went for a selection of appetizers:  pepperoni bread, potato skins, and baked shrimp scampi.  Maybe that doesn't go together at your house, but nibbled over the afternoon with a nice glass of sangria, it works.

The baked shrimp scampi recipe is a slight modification of Ina Garten's version in her latest cookbook, Back to Basics.  I love Ina Garten, but that's another post.  Let's just focus on the shrimp.  This recipe has a strong garlic flavor and a generous amount of butter.  That's why I love it.  I consider it restaurant-quality.  It would be great as an entree, or this portion could serve 4-6 people as an appetizer. 

I picked up a pound of shrimp from the seafood counter at Costco.  Our Costco sells "fresh" seafood every weekend.  I'll note that the Costco shrimp are already deveined, which is a great time saver.  I still had to peel the shrimp, but it was very simple. 

After peeling and butterflying the shrimp (and leaving the tails on so they looked pretty), I tossed them with olive oil, white wine, salt, and pepper.

I let the shrimp marinate for a few minutes while I prepared the topping.  I mixed together softened butter, rosemary, lemon zest, garlic, fresh parsley, red pepper flakes, egg yolk, panko bread crumbs, and salt and pepper to create a crumbly topping for the shrimp.

Then, I sprayed a pie pan with Pam and arranged the shrimp in a spiral design around the pan.  I also poured the remaining juices from the marinade over the shrimp.  (You could also arrange the shrimp with the tails up, depending on the size of your pan). 

Top the shrimp with the butter mixture. You're now ready to bake your scampi. The thing I love most about this dish is that you can prepare it up to this point a few hours in advance and have it in the fridge waiting for company to arrive.
Bake at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes (until shrimp are pink and the top is browned) and serve hot. 

Baked Shrimp Scampi

1 pound (12 to 15 per pound) shrimp in the shell

1 1/2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 tablespoon dry white wine
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 extra-large egg yolk
1/3 cup panko (Japanese dried bread flakes)
Lemon wedges, for serving

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Peel, devein, and butterfly the shrimp, leaving the tails on. Place the shrimp in a mixing bowl and toss gently with the olive oil, wine, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Allow to sit at room temperature while you make the butter and garlic mixture.

In a small bowl, mash the softened butter with the garlic, parsley, rosemary, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, lemon juice, egg yolk, panko, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper until combined.

Starting from the outer edge of a pie dish, arrange the shrimp in a single layer cut side down with the tails curling up and towards the center of the dish. Pour the remaining marinade over the shrimp. Spread the butter mixture evenly over the shrimp. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until hot and bubbly. If you like the top browned, place under a broiler for 1 minute. Serve with lemon wedges.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer

Back in 2001 I got a holiday gig wrapping gifts at Williams-Sonoma in the local mall.  I love wrapping gifts and I was a college senior looking for a diversion from the stress of applying to grad school in the post-9/11 era.  I ended up working at the store on and off for three years and during that time I acquired a lot of great kitchen equipment, including my beloved Kitchen Aid Artisan stand mixer. 

I've been baking since I was 8 or 9, but our family never had a "real" mixer.  I either mixed by hand or used a electric hand mixer.  By the time I started working at Williams-Sonoma I had perfected my coconut pound cake recipe and my Christmas cookies were legendary.  This mixer took things to a while new level. 

If you like to bake (or even cook) and you haven't invested in one of these, please add it to your wish list.  This baby can cream together butter and sugar to make perfect pound cakes and great cookies.  It can whip up fluffy mashed potatoes or creamy fillings for sweet potato pies.  It can knead dough for bread or pizza.  It does all of this without any of the optional attachments that can be purchased separately. 

Back in August, my Kitchen Aid had a minor mechanical problem.  After nearly 8 years of use, it failed me.  I had to resort to recipes that utilized hand mixing until I could get my life together to send the mixer to the repair shop.  I finally got it in last weekend and $75 later, it's fixed!  I'm picking up my "baby" tonight after work.  To celebrate, I'm making something tasty this weekend for the family.  I'm searching my favorite food and recipe blogs for ideas.  If you have any suggestions, please feel free to comment!  I'm dreaming of cakes and cookies...

Friday, October 16, 2009

BLT Pasta

Months ago I received a free copy of Cuisine at Home magazine and it ended up buried under a stack of papers in our home office.  I'm a magazine queen and I have a stack of dog eared cooking magazines with recipes waiting to be scanned or filed.  I wasn't interested in another subscription.  When I finally got a chance to flip through it I ended up liking some of the recipes, including the BLT Pasta.  I know, it sounded weird to me too.  I like BLTs (without mayo) and I like pasta, but lettuce with spaghetti?  Fortunately, there is no lettuce in this recipe. 

My husband is pretty anti-vegetable.  He doesn't like peppers, onions, carrots, spinach... the list goes on and on.  I've been able to finely chop veggies and sneak them into his food, because I just can't cook without them.  He's been a good sport about eating healthier lately.  He will eat almost anything I cook, as long as the despised veggies are not clearly visible.  He ate this.  Either he was really hungry, or it was good.  I enjoyed the subtle sweetness of the tomatoes with the saltiness of the bacon.  I modified this recipe to work with my weekend leftovers:  a half pound of bacon, a pint of grape tomatoes, and a half bottle of dry Riesling.  I love the challenge of cooking from what is on hand.  The only ingredient I needed to purchase was the spinach.

This recipe is a modification of the original BLT Pasta.  My recipe yields two generous servings, which is perfect for my mini family.

BLT Pasta

1/2 lb. spaghetti
1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 sprigs time
1 t. red wine vinegar
1 t. sugar
1/2 t. crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 c. dry white wine
1/2 c. chicken stock
2 c. raw spinach
8 slices lean bacon

Cut the bacon into small pieces and cook it in a large, wide skillet.

Move cooked bacon to a paper towel to drain.  Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of grease.  Reduce heat to medium and add cherry tomatoes and sugar.  Sautee for five minutes, or until the tomates begin to release their liquid and break down.  Add the thyme leaves and chopped garlic to the tomates.  Add a little salt and pepper (to taste).

Add the white wine to deglaze the pan.  Be sure to scrape up all the yummy bits from the bottom.  Let the wine simmer on medium-low for 3-5 mintutes, until the wine is mostly evaoprated.  Start boiling the pasta.  You'll need to cook the pasta to an al dente texture.

Add the red wine vinegar, chicken broth, and crushed red pepper.  Turn heat to low.  Simmer the sauce until the pasta is ready.

Add the spinach to the pan of simmering sauce.

Use tongs to move the cooked pasta straight from the boiling water to the sauce pan.  Toss the pasta in the sauce, check for salt and pepper and top the completed dish with bacon. 

Sunday, October 11, 2009

White Sangria

On Friday, mom and I enjoyed dinner at Ole Tapas.  I love international cuisine and I studied abroad in Spain 10 years ago, so when I heard that Ole won "Best New Restaurant" in Delaware Today, I knew I had to go.  I'll write more about Ole another day, but I will share one bit of the experience.  The food was excellent.  The drinks were disappointing.  I enjoyed authentic Spanish sangria during my trip to Spain, but I feel that the $7 I spent for a weak 6 oz. drink full of ice was just not working for me.  When I came home I decided to make a batch of my sangria.

I have a popular red sangria recipe, but I was inspired to try a white variety after tasting my friend Karen's wonderful sangria that she so generously brings to my home every time we have a party.  My version of white sangria is very citrusy and a bit tart.  If you prefer a sweeter variety, you could add 1/2 c. sugar or top the drink with Sprite before serving.  I like mine straight up over ice.

White Sangria

1 bottle dry white wine (not chardonnay, try riesling, pinot dris, or chablis)
1/3 c. brandy
1/3 c. triple sec
1/3 c. orange juice
8 oz. (1 c.) pineapple juice
1/4 c. frozen lemonade concentrate
2 citrus fruits, cut into rounds (lemon, lime, orange)
maraschino cherries (for serving)
1.  Mix all ingredients (except maraschino cherries) in a 2 quart pitcher.  Place in refrigerator for at least 24 hours before serving.
2.  Serve over ice topped with maraschino cherries and citrus fruit for garnish.

A few tips on the recipe:

I purchase pineapple juice in 8 oz. cans (normally sold in packs of 8).  It costs a bit more than the large cans, but I don't normally drink pineapple juice and I hate having to store excess juice in my fridge.  With the small cans I always know that I have pineapple juice on hand for mixed drinks.

This recipe calls for a small quantity of frozen lemonade concentrate.  I store the remaining concentrate in a small, resealable container in the freezer.  It never freezes hard, so I just scoop it out as I need it for future batches of sangria.

This recipe gets better as it sits.  Please let it sit for at least 24 hours before serving.

This is a strong drink.  It goes down like citrus punch, but if you're not careful, it could take you out.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Breakfast Quiche

It's the weekend!  At my house weekends equal housework, family time, and elaborate home-cooked meals.  We especially enjoy Sunday brunch and this breakfast quiche is a fun alternative to our usual pancakes, grits, corn fritters, or fried potatoes.  I also love that I can use up whatever is in the fridge in this dish.

Breakfast Quiche

1 frozen deep dish pie crust
6 eggs
2 teaspoons minced fresh herbs (I've used chives, sage, parsley...)
1 1/2 cups grated cheese (I prefer a blend of sharp cheddar and parmesan)
1/2 lb. cooked breakfast meat (I've used sausage, bacon, leftover holiday ham, turkey sausage...)
salt (to taste)
pepper (to taste)

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cover the edges of the pie crust with foil.  Use a fork to poke holes all over the bottom crust.  Bake crust for 6-8 minutes, or until lightly browned.
2.  Wisk together the eggs, a pinch of salt, pepper, herb, breakfast meat, and 1/2 of the cheese.
3.  Pour egg mixture into partially baked pie crust and top with the remaining 1/2 cheese.
4.  Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until center of quiche is set and the eggs are golden brown.  Slice and serve.

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