Jun 29, 2008

Best Brownies


These brownies are absolutely divine when they're fresh and warm, but the best part about them is that they are almost better the next day. I say almost because it's pretty hard to beat warm gooey brownies, but these don't get dry and hard the next day, like most baked goods. We love them served over homemade ice cream, so I will add that recipe at the end.

Best Brownies

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
powder
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

3 tablespoons butter, softened
3 tablespoons unsweetened
cocoa powder
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners' sugar

DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour an 8 inch square pan.
2. In a large saucepan, melt 1/2 cup butter. Remove from heat, and stir in sugar, eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat in 1/3 cup cocoa, 1/2 cup flour, salt, and baking powder. Spread batter into prepared pan.
3. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Do not overcook.
4. To Make Frosting: Combine 3 tablespoons butter, 3 tablespoons cocoa, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 cup confectioners' sugar. Frost brownies while they are still warm.
Vanilla Ice Cream
This recipes uses the Cuisinart Automatic Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker, which we absolutely love!
INGREDIENTS
1 c whole milk, well chilled
3/4 c granulated sugar
2 c heavy cream
1-2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, to taste
In a medium bowl, use a hand mixer or a whisk to combine the milk and sugar until the sugar is dissolved, about 1-2 minutes on low speed. Stir in the heavy cream and vanilla to taste. Turn machine on, pour mixture into freezer bowl through ingredient spout and let mix until thickened, about 25-30 minutes.

Jun 28, 2008

Chicken Parmigiana w/ Chunky Marinara Sauce



My husband made this for me on Mothers' Day. It was perfectly crispy outside and nice and moist inside. I tend to overcook my chicken because I have a raw-chicken-phobia(anyone else?) but Ian is very good at cooking chicken just right. He matched this dish perfectly with the Chunky Marinara Sauce recipe below.

Chicken Parmigiana

INGREDIENTS:
4 (4 ounce) boneless, skinless
chicken breast halves
1/2 cup seasoned bread
crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 egg
1 tablespoon butter or
margarine
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

DIRECTIONS:
Flatten chicken to 1/4-in. thickness. In a shallow bowl, combine bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and basil. In another bowl, beat the egg. Dip chicken into egg, then coat with crumb mixture. In a large skillet, brown chicken in butter and oil over medium heat for 3-5 minutes on each side or until juices run clear.

Chunky Marinara Sauce

INGREDIENTS:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 (14.5 ounce) can peeled and
diced tomatoes
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon white sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt

DIRECTIONS:
1. Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook 2 to 4 minutes until crisp-tender, stirring frequently.
2. Mix in diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, sugar, oregano and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 15 to 20 minutes or until flavors are blended, stirring frequently.


Jun 25, 2008

Cream Puffs


OK I have to appologive for the crummy picture. It was taken the day after I made them and they'd been sitting in the fridge overnight. The powdered sugar that I dusted them with the previous night had been absorbed or something, so you can't see it. But, don't let the ugly pic fool you - these were super stellar.
This recipe was much easier that I thought it would be.
INGREDIENTS:
2 (3.5 ounce) packages instant
vanilla pudding mix
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk

1/2 cup butter
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
3-4 eggs (you need to experiment and see how you like it. I did 4 eggs and found it a bit too eggy when I tried a puff without the filling. But with the filling I couldn't tell)

DIRECTIONS:
1.Whisk together vanilla instant pudding mix, cream and milk. Cover and refrigerate to set.

2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).

3. In a large pot, bring water and butter to a rolling boil*. Stir in flour and salt until the mixture forms a ball. Transfer the dough to a large mixing bowl. Using a wooden spoon or stand mixer, beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet.

4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, until golden brown. Centers should be dry. When you remove the puffs from the oven, they will be very large and full. As they cool, they will shrink. To prevent them from shrinking too much, prick each with a toothpick while hot to let some of the steam escape.

5. When the shells are cool, either split and fill them with the pudding mixture, or use a pastry bag to pipe the pudding into the shells. I used my frosting tool(no idea what to call it) and made a bit of a spiral in the puff before replacing the tops of the puffs.
I then melted some chocolate chips with a little bit of corn syrup, put it into a plastic bag and cut the tip off to drizzle the hot chocolate over the tops. When that had cooled and hardened, I sprinkled the tops with powdered sugar.
*a rolling boil is a boil that doesn't lessen when stirred.

Spice Cake Oreos


We have used this recipe on just about every kind of cake mix and it has worked perfectly every time. It's SO simple and SO delicious. If you want a more traditional Oreo flavor cookie, try this recipe.

INGREDIENTS
1(18.25 oz) cake mix
2 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil - or 1/2 cup shortening
1 can cream cheese frosting(or any flavor)

DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Combine all 3 ingredients(I use my stand mixer).
3. Roll into 1-2 inch balls and place on baking sheet, flattening slightly.
4. Bake for about 10 minutes until just cooked.
5. Let cool on wire rack. Match cookies into pairs of similarly sized cookies. Spread one with frosting and top with second cookie.

Lemon Cake with Lemon Filling and Lemon Butter Frosting


This is an Easter Sunday favorite for our family. It takes a lot of time, but it is so worth it. It's actually a bit deceiving, though. It's not actually a lemon cake. It's just a very dense yellow cake with lemon filling and lemon frosting. I've tried using the cake for other recipes(specifically, my daughter's birthday cake) but it isn't as good without all of the lemony layers.
INGREDIENTS:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1 1/4 cups white sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon cornstarch
6 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup white sugar
4 egg yolks, beaten

4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 tablespoons fresh lemon
juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons milk
DIRECTIONS:
1.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour two 8 inch round pans. Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
2.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the milk, mixing just until incorporated.
3.
Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Then invert onto wire racks to cool completely.
4.
To make filling: In medium saucepan, mix together 1 tablespoon lemon zest, 1/2 cup lemon juice and 1 tablespoon cornstarch until smooth. Mix in 6 tablespoons butter and 3/4 cup sugar, and bring mixture to boil over medium heat. Boil for one minute, stirring constantly. In small bowl, with a wire whisk, beat egg yolks until smooth. Whisk in a small amount of the hot lemon mixture. Pour the egg mixture into the sauce pan, beating the hot lemon mixture rapidly. Reduce heat to low; cook, stirring constantly, 5 minutes, or until thick (not to boil).
5.
Pour mixture into medium bowl. Press plastic wrap onto surface to keep skin from forming as it cools. Cool to room temperature. Refrigerate 3 hours.
6.
To make frosting: In large bowl, beat confectioners' sugar, 1/2 cup butter, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 teaspoon lemon zest until smooth. Beat in milk, and increase speed and continue to beat until light and fluffy.
7.
To assemble: With long serrated knife, split each cake layer in half horizontally, making 4 layers. Place 1 layer, cut side up, on a serving plate. Spread with half of the lemon filling. Top with another layer, and spread with 1/2 cup frosting. Add third layer, and spread with remaining half of the lemon filling. Press on final cake layer, and frost top and sides of cake with remaining frosting. Refrigerate cake until serving time.

PB&J for the Masses

When I was pregnant with my 3rd, I had no energy to feed anybody. My sweet husband ended up working his tail off just to keep my family fed and my house liveable. One idea we had was to make a bunch of sandwiches and freeze them so that all I had to do was take some out, let them defrost, and serve them with yogurt and a fruit. I know making PB&J is one of the easiest things on earth, but when you're carrying a 9lb kick boxer, every little time saver becomes a life saver. So here's what we do every other month or so:

I start with 2 loaves of bread, spread them out all over the counter. I then spread half of them with Peanut butter and the other half with Jelly, working row by row. Then I combine them into sandwiches and use my nifty Krustbuster. We used to use the Pampered Chef Cut 'n Seal but my hands got sore after a while. The Krustbuster is much easier.
Depending on what I'm using them for, I'll either seal them in individual plastic bags(to put in my older daughter's lunch box) or 9 in gallon Ziplocs to use at home. Then I just stick them in the freezer and save for busy days!

Honey Wheat Bread

I have modified this recipe a bit from it's original, and every time I make it I do it different. So what you're getting here is a general idea. What I have found with baking bread is that there are so many different techniques and combinations of ingredients, that each person has to figure out what works best for them. I'll try to give you the simplified version with some substitutions at the end.

I start with ground wheat. We originally bought a manual grinder. After about an hour of my husband, myself, and my two daughters tiring ourselves and only coming up with 1 cup of wheat, we gave up that idea. We then purchased the Kitchenaid Grain Mill Attachment(look around, you can get a better price), which is wonderful! It's fast, not too loud, and works great.



INGREDIENTS:
1 (.25 ounce) package rapid
rise yeast
1 teaspoon white sugar
1/2 cup warm water (110
degrees F/45 degrees C)
1 (12 fluid ounce) can
evaporated milk
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup melted shortening
1/2 cup honey
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups whole wheat flour
3 cups bread flour(I just use regular white)
2 tablespoons butter (optional...I usually do without)

DIRECTIONS:
1. Dissolve yeast and sugar in 1/2 cup warm water. Let sit about 10 minutes - until yeast has become a layer of foam on top of mixture.

2. Combine milk, 1/4 cup water, shortening, honey, salt and wheat flour in mixer or bowl. Mix in yeast mixture, and let rest 15 minutes. Add white flour, and mix with dough hook (or spoon) until dough forms a ball. If you have a mixer, you can turn it to 4 speed and let machine knead for about 7 minutes. If you are doing this by hand, knead about 10 minutes. Place the dough in a bowl sprayed with non-stick spray, and turn to coat.

(this dough is actually a little more moist and sticky than usual, but it still turned out great)Cover the bowl with a warm, damp towel. Let dough rise for 45 minutes, or until almost doubled. If I'm in a hurry I turn the oven to warm, and when it is ready, I put the towel covered bowl in the oven and turn the oven off. This way it only takes about 20 - 25 minutes to rise.

3. Punch down, roll out dough on a lightly floured surface(depending on the dough stickiness - I usually don't flour the counter at all), and pound out the bubbles.

Cut dough in half down the middle and roll each loaf into a long cylinder - about the length of your pan.

When you transfer the dough to your buttered (I spray them with Pam)bread pans (9x5), tuck each end under itself and smush the bread into the loaf to take up the bottom of the pan.

If you wish to butter the tops of the dough, do so now. I usually just sprinkle some oatmeal on top. Cover again with damp towel. Let rise in a warm area(again, to speed things up, pop in the warm oven) until doubled; second rise should take about 30 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until tops are dark golden brown. Butter crusts while warm(if desired). Slice when cool.

Variations: I usually subtract some of the white flour and make up for it by adding a combination of flax seed, wheat germ, and oatmeal. I also like to add a bit more honey. The original recipe called for only 1/4 cup, but I usually add just over 1/2 cup, and sometimes more. I'm sure you could take away more white flour(or even all of it) and add more of the wheat flour, but I prefer my bread to be a bit softer. You'll notice I don't use regular metal pans for my bread. I prefer silicone pans for most of my baking. Bread slides right out of the pan and it doesn't keep cooking hen I remove it from the oven.

Cha Cha's White Chicken Chili

We've made this recipe more times than I can remember. I've taken it camping, made big batches and frozen it for later, and made it in the crock pot. It's super easy. I like to make it early in the day, reheating and letting it simmer until dinnertime. What I have yet to try, but think would be delicious, is serving it in a fresh, warm breadbowl.


INGREDIENTS:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 (4 ounce) can diced jalapeno
peppers
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green
chile peppers
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cayenne
pepper
2 (14.5 ounce) cans chicken
broth
3 cups chopped cooked
chicken breast
3 (15 ounce) cans white beans
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack
cheese
DIRECTIONS:
1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Slowly cook and stir the onion until tender. Mix in the garlic, jalapeno, green chile peppers, cumin, oregano and cayenne. Continue to cook and stir the mixture until tender, about 3 minutes. Mix in the chicken broth, chicken and white beans. Simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Remove the mixture from heat. Slowly stir in the cheese until melted. Serve warm.
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