Thursday, September 17, 2009

Banana Cream Pie

Today is our Pastor's birthday so I got some great dessert ideas from his wife. Banana cream pie made the list and since this is another dessert I hadn't tried my hand at before (and I had a crust in the freezer) I figured "why not"? I used Betty Crocker's recipe for the filling and had my Never Fail Pie crust ready to bake. This pie is not difficult but it is a bit time consuming--stirring and stirring and waiting for the milk mixture to boil but not burn. It's similar to a lemon meringue pie only much simpler without the meringue. I tasted the filling prior to pouring it in the crust and it was delicious. I can't wait to hear how the Pastor and his family like it.

Pastry for One-Crust "Never Fail Pie Crust"
4 large egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups milk
2 Tbsp butter or margarine, softened
2 tsp vanilla
2 large bananas
1 cup whipped cream, optional

Pierce sides and bottom of the unbaked crust. Bake pastry crust at 475 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until lightly golden brown.

In medium bowl, beat egg yolks with fork; set aside. In 2 quart saucepan, mix sugar, cornstarch and salt. Gradually stir in milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir for 1 minute.

Immediately stir at least half of the hot mixture gradually into the egg yolks (called "tempering"--so as to not scramble the eggs), then stir back into hot mixture in saucepan. Boil and stir 1 minute; remove from heat. Stir in butter and vanilla (be sure butter melts).

Cool filling slightly. Slice banans into pie crust; pour warm filling over bananas. Press plastic wrap on filling to prevent a tough layer from forming on top. (this is why my pie filling has creases in try to put it on "perfectly.") Refrigerate at least 2 hours until set.

Remove plastic wrap and garnish with additional banana slices and/or whipped cream.
Cover and refrigerate cooled pie until serving. Store covered in fridge.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Polenta Pizza

This specific recipe was found on another favorite foodie site: BrownEyedBaker. I fell in love with the idea of a (simple!) gluten free alternative to a Friday night favorite. And knowing Kevin has a bit of an obsession with cornmeal (which is the base for polenta), I figured there was nothing to lose. As predicted, this was leagues simpler to prepare than a traditional homemade pizza. And the beauty of this recipe is you can top it with anything and everything you choose! This recipe is topped with spinach, mushroom, bacon and tomatoes, but Kevin and I topped our with chopped peppers (green & jalapeno & banana) and onion and garlic and pepperoni and tomato. We dipped the slices into a side of marinara (as I wasn't sure how the crust would hold up to the sauce.)

Be sure to refridgerate the crust for at least an hour. I think my could have use even longer to firm up and dry out a bit. Bu it was quite tasty. And someone thinks we should have this every week. :)

Polenta Pizza with Spinach, Mushrooms, Bacon & Tomatoes
Makes 4 generous portions (or 2 if you're big into pizza like we are. lol)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, more for pan
1/2 cup whole milk
2 1/2 cups water
1 cup coarse cornmeal
Freshly ground black pepper
5 strips of bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
10 ounces cremini mushrooms, chopped
2 cups baby spinach
1 roma tomato, sliced
1 cup shredded fontina cheese

1. Brush a layer of olive oil on a pizza pan or cookie sheet. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine milk, water and a large pinch of salt. Bring just about to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and add cornmeal in a steady stream, whisking all the while to prevent lumps from forming. Turn heat to low and simmer, whisking frequently, until thick, 10 or 15 minutes. If mixture becomes too thick, whisk in a bit more water; you want a consistency approaching thick oatmeal.

2. Stir 1 tablespoon oil into cooked cornmeal (polenta). Spoon it onto prepared pan, working quickly so polenta does not stiffen; spread it evenly to a thickness of about 1/2 inch all over. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, cover baking sheet with plastic wrap and put it in refrigerator until it is firm, an hour or more (you can refrigerate polenta overnight if you prefer).

3. Heat oven to 450 degrees F. Put polenta in oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until it begins to brown and crisp on edges. Meanwhile, put one tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they have released all of their moisture, about 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to take the mushrooms out of pan; set aside. Add spinach to skillet and sauté until it releases its water and pan becomes dry; sprinkle with salt and pepper.
4. Take polenta out of oven, sprinkle with fontina cheese, then spread spinach evenly on top of cheese and top with mushrooms, bacon and sliced tomato. Put pizza back in oven for two minutes, or until cheese begins to melt and the toppings are warmed through. Cut into slices and serve hot or at room temperature. Top with grated Parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper flakes, if desired.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

HERSHEY'S "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake

They are NOT kidding. This cake is perfect. Perfectly chocolately. Amazingly moist. Chocolately. Not too dense not to light. Perfectly frosted. With perfectly chocolately frosting. The frosting was so good, in fact, that I might just admit to licking the bowl clean. *sigh* Amazing. I'm not sure I'll try another chocolate cake recipe. Ever. And that's kind of a big deal. I demand you try this recipe the next time you're baking a chocolate cake.

It didn't take much more effort than your average cake-in-a-box--just a few more ingredients which you probably already have on hand. It's quick and easy and delicious. This recipe lists 4 variations for baking so be sure to check that out! I went with a bundt cake this time--since I had never used my garage sale find bundt pan and since I just thought it sounded fun (and different!) I think I might use this super-sized-donut pan more often! It has the elegance and height of a two layer cake but is way way easier.

HERSHEY'S "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake
Prep Time: 15 min | Cook Time: 30 min

2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water
1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.

2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin--that's no lie! I was a bit concerned with how runny it was, but don't fear. It's supposed to be that way). Pour batter into prepared pans.

3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with "PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE" CHOCOLATE FROSTING. 10 to 12 servings.

ONE-PAN CAKE: Grease and flour 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Heat oven to 350° F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely. Frost.

THREE LAYER CAKE: Grease and flour three 8-inch round baking pans. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost.

BUNDT CAKE: Grease and flour 12-cup Bundt pan. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 50 to 55 minutes. Cool 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely. Frost.

CUPCAKES: Line muffin cups (2-1/2 inches in diameter) with paper bake cups. Heat oven to 350°F. Fill cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely. Frost. About 30 cupcakes.

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
2/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. (Use a whisk throughout.) Turn heat down to low. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups frosting.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Onion Pepper Bread

This was the softest loaf of bread I have ever made. And it was absolutely scrumptious--assuming you like the spicy bite of onion, garlic and pepper. Kevin and Ben really loved this intense white bread--it disappeared quite quickly.

Ingredients for 1 pound loaf
1 cup chopped onion (I used more like 1/4 to 1/2 cup as the onions were extremely potent.)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp butter or margarine
3/4 cup milk
2 cups flour
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 to 1/2 tsp coarsely ground pepper
dash crushed red pepper
1 tsp active dry yeast

In a medium skillet cook onion and garlic in hot margarine or butter till onion is tender but not brown, stirring occasionally. (I actually forgot this step and it still turned out it's your call!) Cool slightly. Using a bread machine to do the "hard" work of mixing and kneading and rising, add ingredients to machine (use non-stick spray to coat the sides) according to manufacturer's directions, adding the onion mixture with the milk. (Always add liquid ingredients first, then dry ingredients (should be floating on top of liquids), then make a small well in the dry ingredients and add yeast LAST--being sure the yeast never comes in contact with the liquids or it will be activated too soon.) Spread the dough out onto a floured surface and roll into a 9x18" rectangle. Roll the dough, pinching each roll tightly and place in a greased 9x5" loaf pan. Bake at 425 degrees for 25 minutes, or until golden brown and loaf sounds hollow when tapped.

Sweet & Spicy Vegetable Chili

This fantastic recipe was found on Simply Recipes. I wanted a way to use all the fresh eggplant and zucchini and tomatoes in my fridge and I wasn't looking for an "eggplant showcase" recipe. This was perfect. It was just spicy enough. Suprisingly sweet. Healthy. Perfect. Might be one of my favorite new meals. :D I cut this recipe in half and have noted specific changes in parantheses. Also, I cooked this in a crockpot therefore I did not follow the methods...aside from the roasting of the eggplant. Super easy!

1 1-pound eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
Olive oil
2 yellow onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium zucchini, diced
2 large red bell peppers, cored, seeded, diced
1 to 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded, finely minced (Taste and check the heat of the jalapeños. If very hot only use one, if mildly hot, use two. Wash hands with soap and water after handling. Do not rub eyes.)
1 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes (or 5-6 chopped fresh tomatoes)
1/2 cup red wine (or 1 cup water and 1 can tomato paste)
1-2 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp fresh chopped oregano or 2 teaspoons dried
1 teaspoon fennel seeds (omitted)
1 1/2 cup cooked white beans (1 15-ounce can, drained and rinsed) (omitted when recipe halved)
1 1/2 cup cooked kidney beans (1 15-ounce can, drained and rinsed)
Zest of one lemon
3 Tbsp lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place cubed eggplant into small, shallow roasting pan. Toss with 2 Tbsp olive oil. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes, stirring once. Remove from oven, set aside.
2. Heat 3 Tbsp olive oil on medium heat in a 5-6 quart Dutch oven. Add onions, cook for 4 minutes. Add garlic, cook for a minute more. Add zucchini, red bell peppers, and jalapeños. Cook 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Coarsely chop the canned tomatoes, add to pot with their liquid. Add wine, cumin oregano, and fennel seeds. Add chili powder to desired heat. Gently stir in reserved eggplant, simmer for 20 minutes over low heat.
4. Add beans, lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, and cilantro. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Simmer for 5 minutes.
Serve with sour cream, grated cheddar cheese, and chopped green onions.
Serves 8-10.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Nestle's Choc-Oat-Chip Cookies

This cookie has been requested a few times by the "customers" at church every Sunday. (Where I sell a few dozen cookies to make money for a youth group fund.) I finally got around to using the recipe on the back of my 72oz bag of chocolate chips (also known as "morsels"). The cookies are tasty though I had a bit of a problem with their baking. This could have something to do with the fact I'm using a new oven or that I didn't realize about 1/4 cup of flour didn't make it into the mixture. The dough was super goopy and by the time the cookie centers were baked the edges were a bit crisp. I'll have to work on perfecting this. But, as I said, that didn't deter me from trying one (or a few...) They are yum!

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup margarine or butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 Tbsp milk
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups quick or old fashioned oats
2 cups (12 oz) semi sweet chocolate chips
1 cup coarsely chopped nuts (optional)

preheat oven to 375.
Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat brown sugar, butter and white sugar in large mixer bowl until creamy. Beat in eggs, milk and vanilla. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in oats, morsels and nuts; mix well. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 9-10 minutes for chewy cookies or 12 to 13 minutes for crispy cookies. Cool on baking sheets for 1 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Yields about 4 dozen cookies.