Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas 2011

Christmas always seems to arrive so quickly and this year was no exception.  I felt very unorganized and didn't get as much baking done as I would have liked but when all is said and done, life was good.  My brother Jared, his wife Coralee and their three boys were visiting and it was so wonderful to see them and spend a little time with them.  I love spending time with my family and enjoy their company.  We are a loud group but full of love and fun.

I was able to get some of the baking done and put together some lemon loaves (recipe coming soon)
persimmon bread 
and fig jam (thankfully I actually got the jam done in November) 
for my friends at the office.  Unfortunately I didn't get the oreo balls done in time to share them with me but I hope they don't mind not getting them this year. 
I did get some wonderful peppermint marshmallows (I never got around to making the marshmallows this year) and hot chocolate mix made by Carol and some yummy sugar cookies made by Barbara.  Can never have to much good stuff.

The Elders came over a two days before Christmas and helped make some pita bread.  Nothing like putting two young men to work in the kitchen.

On Christmas eve we all gathered and Adam, Marie and Lisha's home.  We had dinner, socialized and exchanged gifts. Dad brought some old mementos for us all to choose from which included music he had written, photos, programs from when he played in the Tel Aviv orchestra and much more.  He gave Nathan a copy of the a hymn that he has written.  We were all able to choose something to keep and Adam scanned some of the things that we all wanted a copy of.  
(Picture of me with my mother, father and two brothers just before my baptism in the Jordan River)

Dad decided it would be a great idea to make marshmallow launchers for all the kids under 18, personally it makes me worry about his sanity.  They all LOVED them of course!  And picking up stray marshmallows.  

Christmas morning we had breakfast first (red velvet pancakes this year, recipe below), as always, just the four of us spending time together, well five if you count the cat.  

Knowing that my kids are good balls I gave them each some "drinking glass straws" as a stocking stuffer.

The kids enjoyed exchanging gifts with each other.  Tara wrote a series of clues for Nathan and sent him on a scavenger hunt for his gift.  All the clues where written in "pirate speak" and Nathan read them aloud in his best pirate accent. Ryan sent Tara on a much shorter hunt for her gift.  As you can see they take great pleasure from torturing each other.   The kids all seemed pleased with their gifts and they were so sweet and gave me the Apothecary jar I liked at Williams Sonoma.

Later in the day their father, Alma and the girls came over and we had a meal provided by Jason's (Tara's boyfriend) family restaurant.  Great Taiwanese food.  We exchanged gifts and spent time socializing and relaxing.  Nathan and Kristina ran upstairs as soon as they could sneak away and immediately started playing his new video games.  Some things never change.

Spending time with my family one of the greatest parts of life.  I am so lucky to be surrounded by so many wonderful people.  Hope you all had a great Christmas too.

Red Velvet Pancakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 large eggs
1-1/2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons red food coloring
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk, sour cream, food coloring and vanilla.  Add wet ingredients to dry, and mix just until combined, do not over mix.  Add chocolate chips and fold in batter.

Pour about 1/4 cup onto medium low griddle and lightly brown on both sides.  These pancakes darken quicker than regular buttermilk pancakes and need to be flipped sooner than you may think.  I found that the edges just started to look dry when they were ready to be flipped.   When the pancakes are cooked through they spring back with you touch them with your finger like a cake would.

Serve with butter and powdered sugar or maple syrup if you like.  Enjoy!

Adapted from that's so yummy

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Baked French Toast Casserole

This time of year many of us have family gatherings and often have family and friends who come from out of town and stay with us.  Times like this you want to have a nice meal without spending hours in the kitchen.  Breakfast can sometimes be hectic, everyone wanting something different and working around each other.  It can be difficult to find something that makes everyone happy. 

My family actually agree that this baked french toast is a crowd pleaser.  It is quick and easy to put together the night before, the children can help tear up the bread and whisk the egg mixture, and the adults are able to socialize and get back to other activities quickly.  In the morning it is quickly put in the oven and easily served with fruit, bacon (which can also be cooked in the oven to eliminate all the time and splatter) or anything else that your family would like.

Baked French Toast Casserole

1 Loaf french bread
6 eggs
3/4 Cup heavy cream
1 Cup + 2 T. milk
3/4 Cup sugar
2 T. vanilla extract


1/2 Cup flour
1/2 Cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick cold butter, cut into cubes

Spray 9x13 pan with non-stick spray. Tear bread into large chunks into greased pan.

In a mixing bowl beat eggs with a whisk until slightly frothy. Add heavy cream, milk, sugar and vanilla. Whisk until completely combined. Pour egg mixture over bread, toss bread slightly to distribute evenly, cover pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (or at least 4 hours).

In a bowl combine the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Add in the cold butter. Using a pastry cutter or forks cut the butter into the mixture until it resembles sand with some larger pieces. Cover or put topping in a zip lock bag and refrigerate until you are ready to bake the casserole.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the casserole. Bake 45-55 minutes until it is golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool 5 minutes before cutting. Serve warm, top with your choice of butter, syrup, powdered sugar or fruit if desired but it is REALLY GOOD on it’s own.

Adapted from Pioneer Woman (love her!)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

REALLY Tired of Chicken Soup but Still Recovering from the Stomach Flu Ginger Chicken and Quinoa

The stomach flu has reared it's ugly ahead. It is making it's rounds and insuring we all know it is back in town. I think we can all agree that this is NOT A GOOD THING. Just in case you couldn't tell I have had a visit from this nasty bug and at this point am really beginning to miss real food but my stomach was not quite ready for much. What my family needed was a meal that would satisfy those that have been lucky enough not to have been ill (I want their secret!) and nurture those of us who were not so lucky. But the meal needed to be quick and easy so boneless chicken and quinoa it is. And the ginger.....good for you and tasty.

Ginger has long been known to help an upset stomach and nausea. Chicken is naturally mild and nutritious as is quinoa. The nice thing about quinoa is it can absorb most flavors so it works well in many meals. This meal can be done beginning to end in just under 30 minutes and I get to use the Roasted Ground Ginger from McCormick that I really love. Salad is great with this but some of us where just not ready to digest it, for those of you that are, enjoy!

Ginger Chicken Quinoa

2 cups chicken broth or stock
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon roasted ground ginger
1 cup quinoa
Sea salt to taste
Shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)
Grape tomatoes, cut in half (optional)

In a sauce pan combine the chicken broth, garlic and ginger to a low boil over medium high heat. Add the quinoa, lower heat to medium low and cover. Cook about 15 minutes until quinoa is tender but a bit chewy adding a little water (if needed) and continuing to to cook a few minutes until it is absorbed (tips on cooking quinoa here). Fluff with a fork season with salt to taste. Serve topped with cut tomatoes and freshly shredded Parmesan cheese (for those whose tummy is ready for it).

Ginger Chicken

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Sea salt
Roasted ground ginger
3-4 Tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion

Lay chicken breasts on plastic cutting board or on plastic wrap. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap and, using the flat side of a mallet, pound each breast until it is half an inch thick. Begin by pounding in the middle, the thickest part of the breast and work your way out. By pounding the chicken it cooks more evenly and more quickly. The thinner you pound it the quicker it will cook but be careful you don't over cook it and dry it out.

Uncover the chicken and sprinkle with sea salt and ginger.

Heat skillet over medium heat, add olive oil. Add garlic and onions and cook while stirring one minute. Add the chicken on top of the onion/garlic mixture in the skillet. Cook on first side about 7 minutes, watching that it doesn't get too dark.

If it is cooking too quickly lower the heat slightly. Turn Chicken over and cook the other side about 7 more minutes, just until done. Remove from the skillet and allow the chicken to set for 5 minutes before cutting it to allow the juices to settle, keeping your meat juicier. Remove the onion slices if you like (I only remove the darkest ones). Slice each breast in half and serve.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pumpkin Pull Apart Bread

I love pumpkin year round and am often disappointed when it is no longer on the shelves in the stores. I have been known to stock the pantry with several cans of pumpkin puree so that I will have available until at least spring. Adding pumpkin to a cinnamon pull apart bread just seems natural and something that HAD to be done.

My family came for dinner along with a few other people and I decided this would be perfect to have for dessert. Before dinner was served my family dug right in and were thrilled, well everyone but the few crazy people who don't like pumpkin. They were limited to the other option, chocolate chip cookies.

Pumpkin Pull Apart Bread
Adapted from:  Willow Bird Baking

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup half and half
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1-1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste / 1/2 vanilla bean split and scraped / 1-1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
2-1/4 teaspoon instant yeast

1 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

Vanilla Bean Glaze:
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1-2 Tablespoons half and half
1/2 cup powdered sugar, shifted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

To make the dough:
Melt the butter in a small sauce pan over low heat, swirling pan occasionally, until it becomes light brown and smells nutty. Pour butter into the mixing bowl. Pour half and half into sauce pan and heat until warm, this will only take two or three minutes.  Pour half and half into mixing bowl.  Add the pumpkin, sugar, salt, pumpkin pie spice and vanilla paste to the butter and half and half, stir to combine.  Add the all purpose and white whole wheat flours as well as the yeast to the mixture in the mixing bowl.  Mix using a dough hook until you have a soft, but tacky, dough adding more all purpose flour as needed.  Dough should pull away from the sides of the mixing bowl but feel sticky when you touch it with your finger.  Place dough in a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap, place bowl in a warm place and allow dough to rise until double.

While dough is rising mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice in a bowl and set aside.

When dough has doubled spray your counter with oil and spread it around so there is a light coating on the counter.  By using oil on the counter you avoid adding any further flour when you are rolling it up.  This helps keep the dough nice and soft, more flour makes for a denser stiffer bread.  Gently deflate the dough in the bowl and pour it onto the counter, gently shape it into a small rectangle, cover it with the plastic wrap and allow it to rest for about 5 minutes.  This allows the gluten to rest and makes it easier to roll the dough out without it bouncing back to a smaller size.  Uncover the dough and roll it out using a rolling pin, lightly covered with oil, into a rectangle measuring 20 inches by 12 inches.  Spray a medium loaf pan with non-stick oil spray.

Melt the butter in a mug or small microwave safe bowl in the microwave.  Pour the melted butter onto the rolled out dough and brush out the butter until all the dough is coated with butter (all the way to the edges of the dough).  Spread the sugar/cinnamon mixture over the melted butter and gently press it onto to dough to help it stick.

 Starting on the long side, cut the dough into two even halves (you will have two 10 inch by 12 inch squares)  then cut each half into three even strips.  You will have 6 strips of dough about the same size.

Carefully stack all the strips of dough on top of each other.

Cut the stack of dough strips into six even pieces.

 Pick up each stack (all six layers at once) and stand them in the loaf pan, placing each stack in front of the other, pressing the stacks together a little to make room if needed.

Cover the loaf pan with a clean damp kitchen towel and place in a warm place to rise until double in size.  Preheat the over to 350 degrees.

When dough has doubled in size, place it in the center of your preheated oven and bake for 30-35 minuted until the top is dark golden brown.  You may want to put a layer of foil on a rack just below your loaf as it bakes in case the buttery/sugary yumminess bubbles up and over the rim of the pan (mine did). Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack.  Allow to cool for 20 - 30 minutes.

While bread is cooling melt the butter for the glaze. Combine the melted butter, half and half and powdered sugar, stir until smooth. Add vanilla paste and vanilla extract, stir until combined.

When loaf is still warm but just cool enough to touch, run a butter knife around the edges to loosen the loaf from the pan and turn the loaf over onto a plate to remove from the pan.

Turn loaf right side up on serving dish. Drizzle glaze over the loaf while still slightly warm. Serve.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Helpful Hints

With the Holidays upon us I thought it would be good to have some helpful hints for your cooking and baking.  I find that sometimes it is the little things that make the most difference when trying to get everything done. 

* I love to use lemons and limes in my cooking and lemon bars are one of our favorite treats.  I always feel like I am not getting all the juice from the fruit. I was thrilled to find this video from Gourmet!  ....and it works really well.

* Spraying your counter with non-stick spray instead of sprinkling with flour when working with most yeast doughs prevents the dough from sticking to the counter and not picking up any more flour. The more flour the dough picks up the denser it will be. The key to light and fluffy breads is using as little flour as possible allowing the dough to expand and stay soft.

* When making cuts on the top of your loaf use a very sharp knife and lightly spray the blade help prevent it from dragging across the loaf.

* To clean cast iron cookwear do not use detergents it will absorb the detergent and effect the taste of food cooked in it. Scrubb them with salt and a clean paper towel.

* If you are making gravy and accidentally burn it, just pour it into a clean pan and continue cooking it. Add sugar a little at a time, tasting as you go to avoid over-sugaring it. The sugar will cancel out the burned taste.

* If you aren’t sure how fresh your eggs are, place them in about four inches of water. Eggs that stay on the bottom are fresh. If only one end tips up, the egg is less fresh and should be used soon. If it floats, it’s past the fresh stage.

* Before making popcorn on the stove or in an air popper, soak the kernels in water for 10 minutes. Drain the water, then pop as normal. The additional moisture helps the popcorn pop up quicker and fluffier with fewer unpopped kernels.

* Before you chop chili peppers, rub a little vegetable oil into your hands and your skin won’t absorb the spicy chili oil.

* For cleaning smelly hands after chopping onions or garlic, just rub them on a stainless steel spoon. The steel is supposed absorbs the odor.

* If you are making gravy and accidentally burn it, just pour it into a clean pan and continue cooking it. Add sugar a little at a time, tasting as you go to avoid over-sugaring it. The sugar will cancel out the burned taste.

* Cook bacon on a meat rack in a roasting pan for 20 minutes at 350 degrees to allow greases and oils to drip below. The oil will drip to the bottom it provides for perfect bacon and crispness every time. Bonus - no splattering of bacon grease all over your stove top!

* Spray measuring spoons or cups with non-stick vegetable spray before measuring sticky ingredients like honey, molasses and peanut butter so they’ll slide right off.

* Here are some tips from Gourmet on making cupcakes, (YUM! cupcakes!):

and last but not least......

* Common Ingredient Substitutions

Allspice (1 teaspoon) - 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon cloves

Baking powder (1 teaspoon) - 1/4 teaspoon baking soda plus 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar OR 1/4 teaspoon baking soda plus 1/2 cup buttermilk (decrease liquid in recipe by 1/2 cup)

Bread crumbs (1 cup) - 1 cup cracker crumbs OR 1 cup matzo meal OR 1 cup ground oats

Broth: beef or chicken (1 cup) - 1 bouillon cube plus 1 cup boiling water OR 1 tablespoon soy sauce plus enough water to make 1 cup OR 1 cup vegetable broth

Brown sugar (1 cup, packed) - 1 cup white sugar plus 1/4 cup molasses and decrease the liquid in recipe by 1/4 cup OR 1 cup white sugar OR 1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar

Buttermilk (1 cup) - 1 cup yogurt OR 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar plus enough milk to make 1 cup

Corn syrup (1 cup) - 1 1/4 cup white sugar plus 1/3 cup water OR 1 cup honey OR 1 cup light treacle syrup

Half & half (1 cup) - 7/8 cup milk plus 1 tablespoon butter

Heavy Cream (1 cup) - 1 cup evaporated milk OR 3/4 cup milk plus 1/3 cup butter

Cream of tartar (1 teaspoon) - 2 teaspoons lemon juice or vinegar

Crème fraiche (1 cup) - Combine 1 cup of heavy cream and 1 tablespoon of plain yogurt. Let stand for 6 hours at room temperature

Egg - (1 whole)- 1 tablespoon ground flax seed soaked in 3 tablespoons water

Evaporated milk (1 cup) - 1 cup light cream

Bread Flour (1 cup) - 1 cup all-purpose flour plus 1 teaspoon wheat gluten.

Cake Flour (1 cup) - 1 cup all-purpose flour minus 2 tablespoons

Self Rising Flour (1 cup) - 7/8 cup all-purpose flour plus 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt

Honey (1 cup) - 1 1/4 cup white sugar plus 1/3 cup water OR 1 cup corn syrup OR 1 cup light treacle syrup

Mayonnaise (1 cup) - 1 cup sour cream OR 1 cup plain yogurt

Sour cream (1 cup) - 1 cup plain yogurt OR 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar plus enough cream to make 1 cup OR 3/4 cup buttermilk mixed with 1/3 cup butter

Sweetened condensed milk (1 14-ounce can) - 3/4 cup white sugar mixed with 1/2 cup water and 1 1/8 cups dry powdered milk: Bring to a boil and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 20 minutes