Thursday, December 29, 2011

I'm in a nutty mood

What a fun and hectic holiday it was!  Much too hectic for me to take pictures or blog...sorry bout that! 

Today I find myself craving nuts. Almonds specifically, and thanks to my Neighbor (2lbs of natural almonds) I can do something about it!  I'm not big on sweet nuts, maybe when I was younger...I digress.  Finding a recipe that was savory vs sweet was a bit of a trial, but I think I found one.  True to how I cook, I altered the recipe to include my favorite spices from The Spice Agent.  If you go and visit them, and buy, make sure you tell them I sent you!

Crisp Spiced Almonds
    1 large egg white
    3/4 teaspoons extra bold smoked salt
    3/8 cup sugar
    1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
    1/2 tablespoon smoked sweet paprika
    1/2 tablespoon smoked hot paprika
    3/4 teaspoons cayenne pepper
    4 cups Natural Almonds
    3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

1.       Preheat oven to 330F.
2.       Beat white with salt until foamy and gradually beat in sugar, Worcestershire Sauce, paprika and cayenne.
3.       Stir in nuts and butter, combining well, and spread in a large, shallow roasting pan.

4.       Bake in middle of oven, stirring every 10 minutes, until crisp and golden, about 30-40 minutes.
5.       Spread on foil (or a silicone mat) and cool.

6.       Break up nut clusters. Eat, and enjoy!

May be made 1 week ahead and kept in an airtight container at room temperature.

Friday, December 23, 2011

I know what you're getting for Christmas

Only two more days!  I’m not quite sure how to feel about that.  I’m moving along quite nicely, the brownies from last night taste delicious!  The sugar cookies rolled out  
and baked quickly, and apparently a little too quickly.  As I had the same problem with them as I did the brownies…that I did not discover until the last batch with my round chunk of leftover dough came out…totally raw in the middle…ugh, so they are all getting another two minutes in the oven…please oh please…success!   Puffy, fluffy, and cooked sugar cookies!!!

I also mixed up Lambert’s Rolls.  I’ve made these and put the recipe in an earlier post.

The next item on my list, and I need to check it twice, is Pecan Pie.  An actual request by my boyfriend!  This is a rare instance.  He usually just says, “Whatever” cause he’s not picky.  But he asked for a pecan pie…I’ve never made one before.  Not a problem, I’m Batman.

At least I hope it tastes as good as it looks...

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Oh I wish I had a camera!

After my last post, my boyfriend and I laughed a lot while wrapping Christmas presents.  Once that was accomplished I decided to pre-mix the sugar cookies for tomorrow so they could refrigerate overnight even though the recipe doesn't say to.  Wow, that is some AWESOME cookie dough!

After that was mixed up i thought, hey, why not go ahead and make the Hallelujah Brownies too! Except this time I was going to have my boyfriend help me...which is why I wish I had a camera!  I mixed up the chocolate chip cookies, and prepped the brownies for him, all he had to do was crack the egg, and mix them up for me.  But the faces he was making were priceless!  Let's just say that my boyfriend has been banned from the kitchen up till this point, he can tell me almost anything I would ever need to know about fixing cars and trucks, but is not the best in the kitchen.  I love to cook for him anyway.

Mixing complete, and the layers done they are fortunately in the oven, and there is chocolate all over the kitchen.  Well maybe not ALL over the kitchen, but it's a close thing.  I didn't have this much clean-up when I cooked a full meal!  But it was sooo worth it!  It is always more fun having a second person in the kitchen with you, even if they don't know what they are doing or feel comfortable doing it.

Hallelujah, the brownies are done!
Now to let them cool, then I can cut them and have a bite.

12:20 am...After posting this, I let the brownies cool for 10 minutes, and when I started to transfer them to a cutting board I realized they were still completely back in the oven for 20 mintues, still raw, so baking for 20 more minutes...

Trials and the Errors of My Ways

Creating any new dish or desert is definitely Trial and Error.  I found a yummy looking recipe for my Christmas treats on a blog with a similar title.  Cream Mints, the kind you find at weddings, baby showers, etc.  I really LOVE those things.  So of course I had to add them to my list of “to-do.”  Today was that day.  I read the recipe three times, went back to the blog, and read through the comments.  Their recipe calls for 3 Tablespoons of Cream cheese, mint extract, food coloring (optional) and 4 - 4½ CUPS of Powdered Sugar.  After just one and half cups my mixture was more of a powder…ugh, and no I didn’t take a picture of that particular disaster.  One of the comments on the blog said the commenter added a total of 3 ounces instead of Tablespoons.  So I promptly dropped the remainder of my cream cheese in my mixer, and another cup and a half of powdered sugar.  This is the consistency I was thinking when I read the blog,

I also didn’t have any superfine sugar, but being soooo ingenious I remembered that you can put regular sugar in a coffee grinder or food processor and make your own.  I also added some colored sugar so it  was pretty like the mints!

And then finally, once I QUIT eating the dough, they were done!

After taking some mints to my neighbor for testing I decided to make popcorn, using a new method, brown bag in the microwave! Sounds great right? EPIC Failure, I had a major blowout in the microwave! 

I left it in and waited for the popping to slow, bad idea, the middle somehow burned and filled my kitchen with smoke.  And to top it off I had company witness the disaster.  I will try this again, but with 1/4 cup...but I need to go get more popcorn.

After a “quick” trip to the store, and let’s face it, no trip to the store is EVER fast…I am back home, and popping popcorn in the microwave once again!  Using just a 1/4 cup this time!  And in true male fashion, my boyfriend comes in and asks “So, what’s for dinner?  Do you have a plan?” Oh yeah…dinner…um…and in a flash of brilliance I remember that pound of hamburger I have in the fridge…the mushrooms we just bought at the store.  So we are having what I’m going to call “Not a Shepherd’s Pie”. 
You will need:
Tater tots (oven bake these, don’t fry)
1 lb hamburger
8oz fresh sliced mushrooms
12 oz jar savory Beef Gravy
Minced Garlic to taste
Onion powder (or fresh chopped onions) to taste
Cheese, whatever flavor, whatever quantity makes you happy

Put Tots in the oven to bake.  In the meantime, combine mushrooms, hamburger, garlic and onion in an microwave safe dish and cook until hamburger is brown.  Drain. Add beef gravy and microwave for another 2 minutes or until gravy is hot.  

Once tots are done, put on plate or in a bowl

layer beef and mushroom mixture, 

top with cheese and enjoy!   

Hooray!  FTW!

Back to the popcorn, surprise mom!  I’m making some Cinnamon popcorn for you!!!  3/4 cups of kernels later I had enough popcorn (with un-popped kernels removed) to move on to the next step.  Mixing the ingredients, being VERY careful with the Cinnamon Oil, yes oil, you have to go to the Pharmacy and request this, it is not on the shelf.  It’s between $10-15 depending on where you get it and the quality.  It goes a long way, we have had ours just over two years, and still have PLENTY!  Click here for the recipe.
And on that note, I’m going to eat some popcorn, and get off my feet.  Tomorrow expect more wonderful desserts, and hopefully no disasters!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Guess It's NOT going to be a white Christmas

Christmas is right around the corner.  The weather is more like fall, rain, and no snow in sight.  The last few times we have been told we were getting snow, it never happened...bummer.  Guess with just 4 days to go I should start the holiday baking.  For those that know me, I am the type of person to “schedule” everything.  I originally gave myself two days to do all of the holiday baking for both sides of the family (Thursday and Friday), however today I find myself bored, and craving something sweet!  So here I go, adding Spice Cookies to my list.  My neighbor sent some home with me, and I promptly at ALL of them (over two days) leaving none for my boyfriend…tee hee…so I’m going to make more, they were that good!

I am trying something a bit different, my posts have gotten long, not just because I love to blog, but because the recipes are long.  So I’m going to try to simply link to them via Google Documents. So here is the recipe for Spice Cookies.

To start, gather all the ingredients, cause you don’t want to forget anything! I want to mention here that I LOVE molasses, I really need to use it more often. 

These are quite simple to mix up, and they need to chill for 2-3 hours, so now that they are mixed it’s on to the next cooking adventure!

I recently made Copycat Pretzels, they didn’t last too long…very tasty…so this time I’m going to use a different recipe, and make Soft Pretzel Bites cause it’s all about the adventure!  Once again, gather all of the ingredients! The only change I made from the recipe was to substitute one cup of all-purpose flour with one cup bread flour.  These mix up almost the same as the other pretzels, so I’m not taking pictures, yet.

The Pretzels will finish rising (1 hour) before the cookies have completed 2 hours of chilling so those will get cooked first!  While I wait for the dough to double, I’m going to get out the fixings for some hot chocolate.  I’ll wait to spike it until after I’ve finished my baking for the evening, seems the safest! I use dark chocolate, and a lot of it!  That way it’s not overly sweet.  Of course you can do this with any chocolate (white, semi, milk, salted) you want, and add all sorts of “num” to it, vanilla, caramel syrup.

When it came time to roll out the pretzels and proceed with the recipe I was wishing for a second set of hands.  There is a lot to do, and do quickly.  However I now have them all rolled, cut, boiled, placed, painted and salted.  Time for baking!!!

After they are done baking you have to put it on a cooling rack and wait 5 minutes. Oh that is soooo hard…just look at them!

Now that the pretzels are done, it’s time to finish the spice cookies!!!
Thankfully the pretzels were baked on parchment paper…which means cleaning my only two cookie sheets will be easy!  I really do need more than two cookie sheets….

They get to bake...

Then again the waiting for 5 minutes, I think recipe writers are just trying to make us go crazy…
Cool fully on a wire rack and ENJOY!  I know I will!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Friends and Food

There is an old saying, "Good friends are like stars. You don't always see them, but you know they are there!"  Last night one of our friends is came to dinner, and to hang out.  Of course I’m sure it helps that I’m cooking.  Long before I decided to cook more, and do more creative cooking (including this blog) I’ve been regarded among our friends to be a good cook. 

On this fun occasion I decided to make pot roast, cause it’s a classic, and perfect for the weather (currently 42° F, low tonight is 31° F) is perfect for crock pot cooking and fresh rolls.

I have been craving what my extended family call’s “Peggy Rolls”.  These have been a “must have” for holiday gatherings for as long as I can remember.  And a “must have” for any other dinner type gathering that is fancier than a standard dinner.  

This morning I got up and started the pot roast, in the crock pot of course, as we still have some Christmas shopping to do.  My recipe is simple, roast, carrots, little red potatoes, onion, Montreal Steak seasoning, beef soup base, my Spice Agent Extra Bold Smoked Salt, and the Applewood Smoke Powder.  Place carrots in the bottom of the crock pot, put roast on top of that, surround with potatoes and onions, crumble soup base with the potatoes and onions, sprinkle the rest of the seasonings over the meat and veggies, add water but don’t quite cover the beef.  Cook for 6-8 hours. EASY!

I also prepped the stuffed Mushrooms.  They were also quite simple, 3 ½ to 4 ounces Cream Cheese, bacon syrup, onion powder and garlic powder, shredded cheddar cheese, and hot smoked paprika.  

Pull out the stems,mix cream cheese bacon syrup, onion and garlic powders together until combined, fill the mushroom caps, generously sprinkle cheese over them then sprinkle the paprika over everything.  

 This can be microwaved, but be careful to not overcook, try 3 minutes at half power but watch to make sure the filling doesn’t bubble over and out of the caps.
After I was done we decided to do more Christmas shopping, knowing that we needed to be home around 4 so I could get the rolls made and cooked, and the rest of the dinner put together.  After braving several shopping centers and getting coffee to bolster our nerves further we headed for home, two stops later we were running behind schedule…because of this I do not have any pictures of food from this point…I was a bit frazzled.

The recipe I have for the rolls says 5 ½ cups (plus ½ more maybe) yeah, I should have used more.  I also attempted to make Hollandaise sauce, from scratch, epic fail, and something to put on my “will conquer” list.  Fortunately the rolls turned out, the pot roast was great, the mushrooms disappeared and there were enough leftovers for Monday’s lunch.  All in all we had a great evening.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Are you mimicing me?

I learned something new this week.  There is in fact a difference between all-purpose flour, and bread flour.  Bread flour contains more gluten, which is good for bread, bad for pastry…so I did buy bread flour, with the intent to make a copycat recipe of Aunty Anne’s Pretzels.  So tonight, I’m hungry, and craving pretzels!

I am also adult enough to realize that pretzels are not to be considered a meal, so I’m also going to make another copycat recipe, Bourbon chicken.  Bring on the yum!

The pretzel recipe is fairly simple, no eggs, so you can taste the dough without fear, as if that has ever stopped me from eating dough!  Mix it up and let it rise!

I decided to spare everyone the raw chicken pieces, but I’m sure everyone reading this knows how to cut chicken breasts into bite size pieces.

I did not have the apple juice I needed for this recipe, which is why you should always double check that you have everything you need BEFORE starting to cook, in my case I had already started the pretzels and didn’t have enough time to run to the store and back before it was time for step two on that.

I substituted maple whiskey, watered down of course. 
Making a pretzel shape is quite simple.
Pinch off dough

Roll into a rope

Twist once

Twist twice

Flip twists down to form the pretzel shape

Dip in soda water

Place on greased cookie sheet


While the pretzels were baking the bourbon chicken was almost done, so I thickened the sauce, nuked some instant rice, and dished up a bowl of yum.

When they come out of the oven you slather them in melted butter and sprinkle on the coarse salt.
My lesson tonight, roll those ropes a lot thinner!!!  And when it says to grease the cookie sheet, use real grease, not pam.  Now to find the marinara dip and have a second serving of home cooking!

Bourbon Street Chicken
2 pounds boneless chicken breasts; cut into bite-size pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil; (1-2)
1 garlic clove; crushed
1/4 teaspoon ginger
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup apple juice
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch; (if thick sauce desired)
1.       Heat oil in a large skillet.
2.       Add chicken pieces and cook until lightly browned.
3.       Remove chicken.
4.       Add remaining ingredients, heating over medium Heat until well mixed and dissolved.
5.       Add chicken and bring to a hard boil.
6.       Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Serve over hot rice and enjoy!

Auntie Anne’s Copycat Pretzels
    1 1/2 cups water
    1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 pkg.)
    2 tablespoons brown sugar
    1 1/4 teaspoons salt
    1 cup bread flour
    3 cups flour
    2 cups water
    2 tablespoons baking soda
    coarse salt
    2 -4 tablespoons butter (melted)

1.       Sprinkle yeast on lukewarm water in mixing bowl; stir to dissolve.
2.       Add sugar, salt and stir to dissolve; add flour and knead dough until smooth and elastic.
3.       Let rise at least 1/2 hour.
4.       While dough is rising, prepare a baking soda water bath with 2 cups warm water and 2 tbsp baking soda.
5.       Be certain to stir often.
6.       After dough has risen, pinch off bits of dough and roll into a long rope (about 1/2 inch or less thick) and shape.
7.       Dip pretzel in soda solution and place on greased baking sheet.
8.       Allow pretzels to rise again.
9.       Bake in oven at 450 for about 10 minutes or until golden.
10.   Brush with melted butter.
Toppings: After you brush with butter try sprinkling with coarse salt.
Or for Auntie Anne's famous Cinnamon Sugar, try melting a stick of butter in a shallow bowl (big enough to fit the entire pretzel) and in another shallow bowl make a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. Dip the pretzel into the butter, coating both sides generously.  Then dip  into the cinnamon mixture.
Notes: The longer and thinner you can make the dough rope, the more like Auntie Anne's they will be.