Thursday, December 24, 2009

Hard Candy

This was ALL my husband! After a peanut brittle fiasco, he decided I would do well to have a candy thermometer. (He was right. I thrive on accuracy.) With our new instrument came watermelon flavor oil. He instantly wanted to make hard candy. We brought home our findings and he set to work. The result was perfection! Way to go, Babe! (ps. we halved the recipe and it made about 2-3 cups of broken candy.)

3-1/2 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup water
1/4 to 1/2 tsp cinnamon or peppermint or other flavor oil
1 tsp red or green (or desired) food coloring

Prepare a cookie sheet with a coating of oil and a dusting of powdered sugar.
In a large heavy saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup and water. Cook on medium high heat until candy thermometer reads 300 degrees (hard crack stage), stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in oil and food coloring, keeping face away from mixture as odor is very strong. Immediately pour onto an oiled cookie sheet. Cool; break into pieces. Store in airtight containers.

Yields: about 2 pounds

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Pumpkin Nut Bread

In preparation of our 2nd annual Pastors' Christmas Open House party at our home I have been baking up a storm. Lots and lots and millions of cookies. I figured some people might appreciate a loaf of deliciousness. A change from the cookies. I found this recipe from Good Things Catered and new I had to try it. Katie's recipes have been very big successes for me in the past and this just sounded too delicious.

It is.
You will love it.
Perfectly moist.
Perfectly spiced.

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/3 c. milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
4 Tbsp oil
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 c. granulated sugar
1/3 c. packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 c. pumpkin puree
1 c. chopped walnuts, plus more for topping

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare loaf pan (or mini loaf pans)
-In medium bowl, combine flour, soda, powder, salt, spices and whisk to combine.
-In large bowl of mixer beat oil, butter and sugars until creamy until lightened in color and texture, about 3 minutes.
-Beat in eggs one at a time.
-Add pumpkin puree and beat until combined; scrape down sides of bowl.
-Add milk and vanilla and beat until combined; scrape down sides of bowl.
-With mixer on lowest setting, add flour mixture just until barely combined.
-Remove bowl from mixer and fold in 1 c. walnuts.
-Scrape batter into pan(s) and spread evenly.
-Top with extra chopped walnuts and place into oven.
-Bake about until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 hour for regular loaf and 35-40 minutes for mini loaf.
-Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 20 minutes.
-Turn out onto wire rack and let cool completely.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Unstuffed Green Pepper Soup

My mom passed this recipe along to me from an awesome soups cookbook. (I'll let you know the title as soon as I can remember it.) It sounds (and tastes) a lot like a hearty chili and my dad told me it was "awesome." (Which is a really high compliment from him!) Kevin and I were both big fans!

The "hardest" part of this soup is probably preparing all 3 green peppers or opening all the cans. :)
Also, I might recommend leaving the rice out of the pot of soup and adding to to individual bowls at the time of serving. Otherwise most of the liquids are absorbed into the rice (meaning you might have to add some extra liquids to eat this as leftovers...which there are a LOT of when you're serving 2. I would say this could serve 5-10 people depending on serving sizes.)

3 green peppers, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 pound ground beef (I used only 1 lb--half lean ground beef, half lean ground turkey), browned
1 (4oz) can mushrooms, drained
2 (14oz) cans tomato soup
2 (14.5 oz) cans beef broth (I used 3 beef bouillon cubes dissolved in 3 cups water)
1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
crushed red pepper flakes (Optional)
chili powder (optional, I used 1-2 Tbsp)
1-1/2 cup uncooked rice (cooked separately to yield 3 cups)

In a large dutch oven heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook onions and garlic until beginning to soften (5 minutes). Add green peppers, stir occasionally and keep covered until softened.

In the meantime using a separate skillet brown ground meat.

Add salt and pepper to the onions and peppers in the dutch oven as desired. Stir in mushrooms. Stir in ground meat. Add in crushed tomatoes, tomato soup, beef broth. Stir to incorporate. Heat to a low bubble, stirring frequently. Add in crushed red pepper and chili powder as desired (or leave out altogether.) Add the rice when ready to serve (or leave out of the large pot and add desired amount to each individual serving.)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Swirled Cinnamon-Apple Bread

If you have a bread machine, this recipe is a must! It's perfectly delicious and (I believe) tastes just like the cinnamon swirl bread you can buy in the store. It's amazing as toast, but if you like apples and you like cinnamon than you should like this bread any old way. Kevin was a huge was I!

This recipe is from Better Homes and Gardens: Bread Machine Bounty.

1/3 cup milk
1 egg
2 Tbsp butter or margarine
2 cups flour or bread flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp active dry or bread machine yeast
1/2 cup peeled, shredded apple (about 1 apple)
3/4 cup peeled, finely chopped apple
1/4 cup toasted chopped walnuts or pecans (this would be amazing, but we had none and it was fine without!)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp butter or margarine
Powdered sugar

Add first 8 ingredients to machine according to manufacturer's directions. (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.) Select dough cycle.
When cycle is complete, remove dough from machine. Cover and let rest 10 minutes. Meanwhile, for filling, in a medium mixing bowl stir together the chopped apple, walnuts, brown sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.

On lightly floured surface roll dough into a 14x9 inch rectangle. Spread with 1 Tbsp margarine or butter and filling. Beginning at both short ends, roll each end up jelly roll style to the center (I totally missed this and rolled it all one worked just fine). Place loaf, rolled side up (or down if rolled in one direction like I did), in a greased 9x5x3 inch loaf pan. Cover and let rise till almost double (about 30 minutes).

Bake in a 350 oven for 30 minutes or till bread sounds hollow when top is tapped with your fingers. If necessary loosely cover with foil the last 10 minutes to prevent overbrowning. (I ended up baking it for almost 20 extra minutes and it still wasn't sounding hollow as most loaves do, but it looked done so I called it done and it was fine.) Remove from pan. Cool on wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.

Homemade Pasta

This is something I never thought I'd try but it's SO incredibly easy I can't imagine not! I am Italian after all, so I can't shame my ancestors. :) Don't be afraid. You can do this. It's 50 times easier than bread making and even cookie making. Try it! I think you'll love it! (This recipe is from the Betty Crockpot Cookbook)

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1/4 cups water
1 Tbsp olive or vegetable oil
Italian seasoning or other herbs, if desired

In a medium bowl, mix flour and salt. Make a well in center of flour mixture. Add eggs, water and oil to well; mix thoroughly. (If dough is too sticky gradually add more flour while kneading. If dough is too dry, mix in enough water to make dough easy to handle.)

Gather dough into a ball. On lightly floured surface, knead 5 to 10 minutes or until smooth and springy. Place in large bowl and cover with plastic wrap to stand for 15 minutes.

Divide dough into 4 equal parts. On lightly floured surface roll one fourth of the dough at a time into a rectangle, 1/16 to 1/8 inch thick ( keep remaining dough covered while working). Loosely fold rectangle lengthwise into thirds. (I didn't fold into thirds as my pasta kept sticking together. A little too wet still I guess.) Cut (with a large knife or pizza cutter) crosswise into 2 inch strips for lasagna, 1/4 inch strips for fettuccine or 1/8 inch strips for linguine. Unfold and gently shake out strips. (The cutting "rules" are completely fluid. Do whatever the heck you want.) Hang on pasta drying rack or arrange in a single layer on a lightly floured towel.

Let stand 30+ minutes or until dry. (If using a pasta machine, pass dough through machine until 1/16 inch thick.)

In 6-8 qt saucepan, heat 4 quarts water (salted, to flavor the pasta...ALWAYS salt pasta water!) to boiling. Add pasta. Boil uncovered 2 to 5 minutes stirring occasionally until firm but tender. Begin testing for doneness when pasta rises to the surface of the water. Drain pasta.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Cheesy Potatoes and Broccoli

This dish could easily serve four people as a side dish or overly fill two people's plates for a main course. Kevin requested some sort of cheese and potatoes combination for dinner. I decided to get creative. The results were perfect. Exactly what I was tasting in my head.

1-2 Tbsp butter or margarine
1-2 Tbsp flour
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 to 1-1/2 c milk (skim works fine)
1/2 cup cheese (I used velveeta)
2 medium or large potatoes, sliced thinly
1 cup broccoli florets (frozen)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Heat a small sauce pan to medium. Add the butter and melt. Whisk in flour to create the roux (thickening agent useful in many soups and gravies). Add minced garlic. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until garlic is fragrant and softened. Whisk in milk. Stir until thickened. (You have just created a bechamel or white sauce.) Add more milk if mixture is too thick. Stir in grated or cubed cheese. Cook until cheese is melted and mixture is a desired consistency.
Coat an 8x8 cooking pan with nonstick spray. Place potatoes and broccoli in pan. Pour sauce over top. Bake for 20 minutes. Stir. Bake another 10 minutes or until potatoes are cooked through.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Simple Fantasy Fudge

This recipe is adapted from a Better Homes and Gardens posting given to me by Mrs. Shaner, a fellow church member. I had 1/2 cup of evaporated milk leftover from the pumpkin cake my mom made for Thanksgiving and so I ignored the indicated amount of evaporated milk (2/3 cup) and hoped it would work. I was fairly certain it would be fine having compared it to another recipe.

It turned out beautifully and OH so delicious! I hope to try the Peanut Butter-Chocolate Fudge variation sometime soon!

1-1/2 cups sugar
1- 5oz can (2/3 cup) evaporated milk (I used 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup butter (or margarine)
2 cups tiny marshmallows (or 20 large)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips or chopped bittersweet chocolate
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional

Line an 8x8x2 inch baking pan with foil, extending the foil over the edges of the pan. Spray the foil with non-stick spray; set pan aside.
Butter (or spray) the sides of a 2 quart heavy saucepan (to keep the fudge from sticking too much.) In saucepan melt butter. Add in sugar and evaporated milk. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until mixture boils (about 10 minutes). Reduce heat to medium; continue cooking, stirring constantly, for 6 minutes.

Remove saucepan from heat. Add marshmallows, chocolate pieces, vanilla and walnuts. Stir until marshmallows and chocolate melt (may need to set over still-warm burner to melt the larger marshmallows, if using) and mixture is combine. Beat by hand for 1 minute.

Spread fudge evenly in the prepared pan. Score into squares while warm. Cover and chill for 2 to 3 hours or until firm. When fudge is firm, use foil to lift it out of the pan. Cut fudge into squares. Store tightly covered in the fridge for up to one month.

Makes about 2 pounds (64 pieces; I cut mine in 36)

Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge:
Prepared as directed above except substitute 1/2 cup peanut butter for the butter and, if desired, peanuts for the walnuts.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Cinnamon Snaps

When I saw this recipe on Pam's wonderful food blog, I couldn't help but try them. I love cinnamon! When I compared this recipe to Pioneer Woman's Spicy Molasses Cookie I realized they're almost identical--which the exception of the spices and the butter. Kevin loved these much more than the Spicy Molasses Cookies as they don't have the "bite" that comes with the addition of cloves & ginger. I love both of them.

3/4 cup of butter, softened (I used shortening and it was great!)
1 cup of brown sugar (could substitute white sugar)
1 egg
1/4 cup of molasses
2 1/4 cups of flour
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
Raw sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat the softened butter and brown sugar with a mixer until creamy; add the egg and molasses and mix well. Combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt and gently mix together. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixer until well combined.
Roll dough into 1 inch balls and dip into the raw sugar; place the balls on an ungreased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake for 9-10 minutes; cool on wire racks. Enjoy.

Yields: 2-1/2 dozen

Oatmeal and Pie Spice Cookies

I've been receiving the Real Simple "cookie of the day" email and these looked perfect. (Especially since I so rarely use my pumpkin pie spice.) Though the dough was thick and a little dry, they turned out deliciously. Soft and thick and hearty! Delicious!

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon apple pie or pumpkin pie spice (or substitute 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, and 1 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg)
2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal

Heat oven to 375° F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
With an electric mixer on medium-high, beat the butter, brown and granulated sugars, corn syrup, and vanilla for 3 minutes. Add the egg and beat until combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and pie spice. Reduce mixer speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture to the egg mixture. Stir in the oatmeal.
Form the dough into tablespoon-size mounds. Place on the prepared baking sheets, 2 inches apart. Bake until lightly browned at the edges, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes. Transfer the cookies to wire racks. Cool completely.

Eggs in a Basket

I can't remember where the idea for this breakfast came from. I'd heard of "eggs in a basket" before, but I didn't exactly know what I was doing. The first time around was tasty but not exactly the way the baskets were meant to be. :) This breakfast isn't really any different then toast and eggs but Hey! it's fun! And Kevin's loves it!

2 pieces large bread
2 large eggs

Butter one side of each slice of bread. Use a knife or a biscuit cutter to cut a circle out of the center of each slice. Place the slices butter-side down in a skillet or griddle preheated to medium-high. Crack one of the eggs into a small dish. Pour slowing into the cut out center of the bread. Repeat with the second egg. (Feel free to grill the cut out circles as well!) Spray the uncooked baskets with cooking spray. Cook until bread is nicely browned (about 5 minutes). Flip over and cook for just a minute or two (too much longer and the yolks will set.)