Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Quick and Easy Pizza Sauce

This is another winner from Cooks Illustrated. Talk about a quick pizza sauce, I can see a weekly pizza night with this fresh easy sauce. I found this recipe on  What Megan's Making, an awesome blog you really should check out. 

Quick and Easy Pizza Sauce
1 (28 oz)  can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and liquid discarded
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
2 medium garlic cloves, pressed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Place ingredients in food processor and process until smooth, about 30 seconds. I think an Immersion Blender would also do the job. Refrigerate until ready to use. I used a heaping half cup of sauce on a 9x13 inch pizza. There is plenty for another pizza or maybe a dipping sauce for bread sticks or maybe to drizzle on some pasta. So many possibilities.

Linked to Everyday Sisters, Sharing Sundays

Monday, May 30, 2011

Cheesy Broccoli Soup

I realize it is Memorial Day--I did have a picnic type recipe planned. But we were greeted this morning with more snow and cold weather. Perfect day to share this yummy soup!

I think I just had a life changing experience! I was looking for a tasty Broccoli Soup that used sharp cheddar cheese and a light but creamy sauce. I found this yummy recipe on Mel's Kitchen Cafe, one of my favorite blogs. In addition to the sharp cheddar cheese it also called for 1/2 cup swiss cheese. I substituted gruyere cheese for the swiss. Talk about an amazing flavor! I have never used gruyere cheese, it is a bit pricey.  I found some on sale and had to see if it really was that good. It is. I will be saving my pennies for this special cheese. I used the leftover gruyere cheese on a grilled cheese, tomato and basil sandwich. No photo I was too anxious to eat it! Delicious!

 Cheesy Broccoli Soup
1 can chicken broth
1 small onion diced
Broccoli, stems, peeled and diced
1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cups milk--I used 1%
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp or extra sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup swiss cheese, or gruyere
3 cups chopped, lightly steamed or blanched broccoli (put chopped broccoli in a large glass bowl, cover with saran wrap and microwave 3-4 minutes.)
Simmer chicken broth, chopped onion and broccoli stems for 15 minutes in covered small saucepan. Heat milk in microwave for a minute or two. In medium size saucepan melt butter, add flour and pepper. Cook for a couple of minutes then whisk in warm milk. Stir and heat together on medium-high heat until soup starts to thicken. Add chicken broth, stir and heat. Add cheeses and steamed broccoli.
I think this soup would be yummy with any kind of steamed veggies. Cauliflower, carrots, peas, potatoes etc.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Thick and Chewy Cookie Bars

Chocolate Nut Bars, Congo Squares, Cookie Bars this particular type bar cookie has given me heartburn for years. Simple to mix up, this should really be a no brainer. So why have I struggled for years? As a child my Mom had a recipe called Chocolate Nut Bars, when they worked nothing could beat their chewy, brown sugar, nutty flavor. But too often they were hard as a rock or they baked up beautiful only to fall in the middle and be raw and sugary. I finally just avoided them.

Years passed and my desire to conquer this treat returned. I knew part of my failure was altitude, I made a few adjustments that helped. I e-mailed Dorie and she kindly responded with a few ideas. I was getting closer but something was still not working.
I was lucky enough to win a scale on Mel's Kitchen Cafe. She has a recipe on her blog called Thick and Chewy Cookie Bars. It gives measurements in both cups and ounces. I was interested to see how well I 'measured up'! I was spot on with the flour, but my brown sugar measurement was way off. I was taught that brown sugar was packed into the measuring cup. I guess I packed too tight! I was over an ounce off. This was the missing puzzle piece.
The Thick and Chewy Cookie Bars were perfect. I felt like I have conquered my Everest!
Here is Mels recipe!

2 1/8 cups (10 1/2 ounces) all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons butter (1 1/2 sticks), melted and cooled slightly
1 cup (7 ounces) light brown sugar
1/2 (3 1/2 ounces) cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups chocolate chips (use your preference of semisweet, bittersweet, milk, white, peanut butter…the options are endless!)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Adjust the oven rack to lower-middle position. Line a 9X13-inch baking pan with foil, letting the excess hang over the edges of the pan by about 1 inch so you can grab those edges and pull the brownies from the pan after they have baked. Spray the foil-lined pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Mix the flour, salt, and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside. Whisk the melted butter and sugars in a large bowl until combined. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and mix well. Using a rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture until just combined; do not overmix. Fold in the chocolate chips and turn the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with the spatula.
Bake until the top of the bars is light golden brown, slightly firm to the touch, and edges start pulling away from sides of pan, 24-28 minutes. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature. Remove the bars from the pan by lifting the foil overhang and transfer them to a cutting board. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve.
Recipe Source: adapted slightly from Cook’s Illustrated
Linked to A Well Seasoned Life

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Party Chicken Salad Sandwiches

Here is my favorite chicken salad recipe. I have used it for bridal showers, baby showers and spring luncheons. I like chicken salad with several crunchy components. Held together with a yummy light sauce. For the best results use fresh crunchy celery, toasted pecans and crisp cooked bacon. I cook chicken tenders from Costco and dice them. Don't overcook the tenders. I use the cooking instructions on the back of the package. I assume they know what they are doing!
Components of the salad can be made ahead but add the dressing just before serving. Chicken salad can be served on a bed of greens, in a tomato cup or my favorite on a mini croissant with spinach leaves. My girls and I have developed this recipe thru trial and error but we think this is THE Chicken Salad Recipe:

Party Chicken Salad
2 cups diced celery
1/2 cups toasted pecans--bake 15 minutes in a shallow pan at 350
5 cups diced chicken
6 slices crisp crumbled bacon
1/2 cup dried chopped cherries
Blend together
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon salt
2 green onions finely chopped
Combine both mixtures. Chill for 30 minutes. Makes about 6 cups, use 1/4 cup on each small croissant.

Monday, May 23, 2011

TWD Oatmeal Nutmeg Scones

It's official, I love scones! Plain, with spices, fruit or nuts: I don't think I have tasted a scone I did not like. Scones are quick to make, easy to modify and are on the table in less than 30 minutes. I always have the ingredients for some type of scone in my pantry or freezer. Scones freeze well, I flash freeze the uncooked dough, put it in a ziplock freezer bag and label and date the contents. The frozen scones are placed on a cookie sheet and baked just a few minutes longer than the recipe states.

This weeks TWD recipe is Oatmeal Nutmeg Scones. What a great combo. I feel healthy when I eat oatmeal and nutmeg is always a welcome addition. I made the full recipe, added 1/2 cup chopped dates and brushed the tops with cream and coarse sugar. They were delicious. Dorie suggested serving them with jam, I like to do as Dorie suggests because she is the Queen! I had a jar of homemade apricot jam tucked in the back of my pantry. This tasty jam must be rationed because all of the blossoms on our apricot tree froze this year! It has been a cold spring in Utah. The jam was perfect.
 Patricia is our hostess this week. She will have the complete recipe on her blog Life With a Whisk. There are always some fun adaptations to the recipe. The TWD blogroll has some wonderful bakers. See what they did!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Let's Dance

Greg and I took a little road trip today. A drive to Idaho seemed a small price to pay to see EJ dance in her very first dance recital. What a program, an hour of non-stop dancing. EJ was the youngest dancer the oldest was over 60. Tap, clogging, ballet, what an enjoyable evening.

Looks like we have one exhausted dancer!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

TWD Maple-Cornmeal Drop Biscuits

This weeks TWD treat is simple, a simple drop biscuit with the addition of cornmeal and Maple Syrup. Simply delicious. Hubby said this was his new favorite 'cornbread'. We ate it with dinner, it would be great for breakfast with fruit jam. It also makes a wonderful 'afternoon snack', I know as I just had one.
Check Lindsay's blog for the complete recipe, or just purchase Baking From My Home To Yours by Dorie Greenspan. Its recipes are basic enough for a beginner cook but interesting enough for any cook.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Banana Nutella Swirl Bread

I'll begin my dialogue today by saying that thanks to my daughter Amber we have the perfect banana muffin recipe. It is made with whole wheat flour, mini chocolate chips and it is delicious. It is a great way to use those leftover bananas. It is made in mini muffin tins so it also cooks quickly. I should just be happy.
 But..I'm still on a quest--to make a loaf of banana bread that doesn't fall in the center. I want a slight rise and I want to serve nice slices that don't fall apart. I want the loaves to slide out of the pans and I want it to taste good. I've blamed my failures on high altitude, old bent pans, too many add-ins etc.
Today I made progress! I found a recipe that looked promising, it was on Barbara Bakes, one of my favorite blogs. It was a recipe originally from Cooking Light--when I saw the addition of Nutella swirls I had to try it. Here is the recipe from Barbara Bakes:

Banana Nutella Bread

1 cup mashed very ripe banana (about 3 small)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup low fat sour cream I used Non-Fat Greek Yogurt
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 eggs I used 1 whole egg and 2 egg whites
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1/2 cup Nutella
Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; beat at medium speed of an electric mixer until well blended. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients; Add flour mixture to banana mixture, stirring just until moistened.
Spoon 1/2 batter into an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 3-inch loaf pan coated with baking spray with flour. Add 1/4 cup Nutella in dollops. Swirl a bit then top again with remaining batter. Add another 1/4 cup Nutella in dollops on top. Swirl again.
Bake at 350ยบ for 1 hour and 5 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pan, and cool completely on a wire rack. Bake mini loaves for 35 minutes or muffins for 18 minutes. I made 3 mini loaves in a Pampered Chef Stoneware pan. They cooked about 32 minutes. I seem to have better luck when I use mini loaf pans. They are easier to share and very cute!

No Calorie Creating

Sometimes one just has to create, but without the calories!

Inside--If the shoe fits, buy one in every color!

Linked to:
Craft Envy Saturday Spotlight

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies--The Best Ever.

I had plans to make something with fresh blueberries. I looked at several recipes and found a cake by a well know baker that looked easy and delicious. With 1/2 pound of butter and 3 cups of fresh blueberries I just knew it would be yummy. The comments said it was better the 2nd day so I thought it would be perfect for Mothers Day Brunch. Made the cake--it was a 9x13 with a yummy streusel topping. I tasted it warm, was not impressed. It was dry and boring. I gave it the benefit of the doubt and let it sit over night. Still boring, hubby said it might be good with ice cream. One does not usually serve ice cream with brunch!
I can admit defeat. It just didn't work, I could take a photo and it would look yummy but I won't!
But the point of this rambling is that it was now 10 PM and we wanted something delicious (do other bakers make treats at crazy hours?). So I found a recipe for a peanut butter swirl brownie, it was traced to a Martha Stewart Living Magazine February 2004. The brownie was delicious warm and by morning it was superb! I think I have a new favorite brownie recipe.
Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies
Chocolate Batter
8 tablespoons butter, cut in small pieces
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
Peanut Butter Filling
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray an 8-inch square baking pan and line with parchment, spray again.
 For Chocolate Batter: Melt butter and chocolate in microwave--my microwave has a chocolate melting setting. I love it. Heat chocolate gently, it burns easily. Let cool slightly. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl, set aside. Whisk granulated sugar into chocolate mixture. Add eggs, and whisk until mixture is smooth. Stir in vanilla. Add flour mixture; stir until well incorporated.
 Peanut Butter Filling: Stir together butter, confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, salt, and vanilla in a bowl until smooth.
 Spread one-third of chocolate batter into prepared pan; a small offset spreader works well. Using 1/2 of the peanut butter filling  drop dollops of filling (about 1 tablespoon each) on top of batter, spacing about 1 inch apart. Spread  remaining chocolate batter on top, and gently spread to fill pan. Drop dollops of remaining peanut butter filling on top. Gently swirl peanut butter filling into batter with a butter knife, running it through the layers three times lengthwise and three times crosswise.
 Bake until a cake tester inserted into brownies (avoid center and edges) comes out with a few crumbs but is not wet, about 40 minutes. Let cool slightly in pan, about 15 minutes. Lift out; let cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into squares. Brownies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days. Mine were gone within 24 hours.
I usually like nuts in my brownies but the peanut butter was such a fun addition I didn't miss the nuts. This recipe is not chewy nor is it to 'cakey'. It has a melt in your mouth goodness. I will make it again soon!
I found this recipe on Ezra Pound Cake.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Baked Creamy Pork Taquitos

Variations of this recipe have been floating around the web for quite sometime. The fact that this recipe is still surfacing tells me that it is worth trying. This recipe comes from Our Best Bites--a blog I can trust. I made several changes because that is what you do to recipes. I think this is a winner, just in time for Cinco de Mayo!

Baked Creamy Pork Taquitos
3 oz cream cheese
1/4 C green salsa
1T fresh lime juice
1/2 t onion powder 

1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 teaspoon Lawrys Seasoning Salt
2 C shredded cooked pork
1 C grated Mexican Blend cheese
small corn tortillas

Soften cream cheese in microwave for a few seconds, stir. Add green salsa, lime juice, onion powder and seasoning salt. Stir to combine and then add cilantro, cheese and pork. 

You can prepare up to this step ahead of time. Just keep the mixture in the fridge. 
Work with a few tortillas at a time and heat in the microwave until they are soft enough to roll without cracking. It helps to place them between damp paper towels. Usually 20-30 seconds will do it.
Place 2-3 T of pork mixture on the lower third of a tortilla, keeping it about 1/2 inch from the edges. This doesn't look like much filling, resist the urge to add more. Too much filling will cause 'taquito explosion'. You don't want that!

 Roll taquito tightly and place seam side down on a sprayed baking sheet. Make sure taquitos are not touching. Spray tops with cooking spray and sprinkle lightly with kosher salt.
Bake in 425 degree oven for 15-20 minutes until crisp and ends start to get golden brown.
Serve with salsa and sour cream.

This is the week to purchase everything 'Mexican'. I stock up on green chiles, I like whole green chiles because I know exactly what is in the can. Often chopped green chiles have charred skin, stems and other things I can't identify. I also purchase green salsa, enchilada sauce, sliced olives, El Pato, RoTel tomatoes and green chilies, Pace Picante (medium), chips etc. It is easy to make quick meals when the pantry is well stocked.

Monday, May 2, 2011

TWD Basic Marbled Loaf Cake

Well, we made another winner this week--I think I have said that more than once. This basic cake starts out with butter, that's always good. Sugar and eggs are mixed in, the batter looks pretty curdled at this point. But Dorie lets you know that curdled is normal and not to worry. I love this cookbook! The recipes are written as if Dorie is standing by my side cheering me on, giving me little snippets of information to help be have a successful baking experience.

This is a 'basic' recipe with many variations. I went with the Peppermint Marble Loaf (Dories Favorite). Melted white chocolate is mixed into half the batter along with peppermint extract. Semi-sweet chocolate is added to the other half. Now comes the fun part--marbling the two flavors. I used my cookie scoop to randomly drop batter into my pans. I didn't swirl--swirling gets away from me and I end up with batter that is neither dark nor light. I made my loaf cake into mini bundt cakes. This is a great basic recipe with many possibilities. My next cake will be Chocolate and Orange--I may even try to 'marble'!
The complete recipe can be found on Carol's blog The Bake More. I'm sure the creative TWD bakers had fun with this recipe.