Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Merry Christmas to One and All

Our schedules for the month of December are always packed with concerts, rehearsals and church activities which means there is little time for baking until the last few days before Christmas.  As soon as school lets out for the holidays, Chris, Sarah and Jonathan usually begin their culinary treats.  This year Chris made his mother's fudge and tried a new white chocolate bark with cranberries and pecans (one of my new favorites).  The kids continued the family tradition by making their grandmother's chocolate-covered peanut butter balls (one of my old favorites).

Christmas Eve morning we hit the ground running.  On the agenda were pies, dips, cheese balls and a congealed salad my mother always made at Christmas.  A ham needed to bake and some other prep work to do ... plus, 6:00pm and 10:30pm Christmas Eve services to attend and sing for which meant some practice time should also fit into the day somewhere.

And you know what?  Although the day could have been a frantic mess, everything was done and with time to spare.  Both Christmas Eve services were packed, we sang and visited with dear friends, heard a wonderful message, made a 1:00am stop at the local Waffle House (a new tradition), and arrived back home so Santa could do his thing.  Bedtime didn't happen until about 2:30am but we were able to catch up on the shut eye last night.

Christmas night was just us ... children played with their new "toys", we watched a favorite show rerun on PBS and all of us were picking and nibbling at the leftovers.  Today brought a girl's day out at the movies and a quiet dinner at home followed by a couple of rousing games of "Scene It" and "Buzzword".  A fun evening hanging out with my three favorite people.  Loved it ... wish there were a lot more evenings like this.

Unfortunately for my bathroom scales there are still a few too many leftovers on the premises for me to be picking and nibbling on but that's why they created New Year's resolutions, right?

One nice discovery from the holidays ... boiled custard makes the BEST coffee creamer!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Italian Cheese Ball

There is NO time to bake!  At least not until all the Christmas concerts are over.  We have one more on the schedule, then Christmas shopping to finish, and then maybe some kitchen time.  Daughter Sarah is home from college (yay!) and has been doing some baking of her own.  If she will give me the information and send me the pictures (hint, hint) I will share her version of Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cupcakes because they are quite good. 
But in the meantime here is an appetizer that is delicious any time of year but especially good to put together during busy times like this.  It's a quick fix and it makes two - a now and later kind of deal. 
Italian Cheese Ball

1 - 8oz pkg cream cheese, softened
1 - 8oz pkg shredded cheddar cheese
1 package dry Italian salad dressing mix
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes, crushed
chopped pecans

In mixing bowl combine everything except the pecans and mix at medium speed until creamy and thoroughly blended.  Divide mixture in half and shape each into a ball.  Cover and chill at least one hour.

Before serving, roll each ball in chopped pecans until well coated.  Serve with your favorite crackers or chips or some of each.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Red Velvet Birthday

Birthday #17 was the day after Thanksgiving and a Red Velvet Cake was requested.  Since we would be spending Thanksgiving week (and thus, the birthday) in the mountains I opted for a sheet cake so it would transport easier.  That turned out to be a good idea as we found we had more food packed than clothing, toiletries and all that other stuff you have to take with you out of town.  I found this one online at Food Network and I ended up with one VERY red cake ...

Red Velvet Cake

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cocoa powder (next time, more cocoa)
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 ounce red food coloring
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 9- x 13-inch cake pan.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder.  In a large mixer bowl whisk together buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar and vanilla.  Add the dry ingredients gradually to the buttermilk mixture while mixing at a low speed, just until combined and a smooth batter is formed.

Pour the batter into prepared cake pan; tap on counter to remove air bubbles.  Bake about 40-45 minutes or until center tests done.  Let cool completely.  Note:  If doing the layer cake version, this is enough batter for a 3-layer cake and layers would need to bake only about 30 minutes. 
Cream Cheese Frosting

1 pound cream cheese, softened
4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix cream cheese, sugar and butter on low speed until blended.  Increase to high speed and mix until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Add vanilla and continue to mix until incorporated.  Store in the refrigerator until somewhat stiff before frosting the cake.

This cake transports well (:-p) both to and from, but as you can see we put away almost half of this cake in one sitting so by the end of the week there wasn't much left to transport ... and we had one very happy birthday boy.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pa's Pepper Cheddar Cheese Bread

I love handwritten recipes ... this one is by my Daddy's hand.
He was actually a pretty decent cook although I don't remember him in the kitchen very much until he was on his own.  There would occasionally be a potluck lunch or snack day at his work and he would bring home a recipe for something he had sampled that day.  He would get the ingredients together and give it a try.  He made the first sausage balls and the first almond bark candy in our house and continued to make both every Christmas season as long as he could.  After Mother died, every other week or so he would cook and invite us over for a big lunch. 

His recipe for Pepper Cheddar Cheese Bread became one of my favorites.

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper (I think Daddy may have increased this some)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup melted butter
2 eggs (would probably mix better if beaten first, but then it wouldn't make such a cute face)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Whisk together all dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Stir in remaining ingredients until well blended and begins to form a ball.  Press dough into a greased and floured 9- x 5-inch loaf pan.  Bake for 35 minutes.  Let cool in pan a few minutes; remove and let cool completely or serve warm if you prefer.     

This makes such a pretty loaf of bread and slices like a dream.  It's also delicious with the Turnip Green Stew.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A whole lot of chopping going on

but only because I took the longer way around to get to the finished product.  This recipe for Turnip Green Stew (adapted a bit from Southern Living) calls for the frozen mix of diced onions, celery, red and green peppers but I had a crisper full of all of the above that were crying to be used. 

Plus, I added in some diced orange bell pepper ... I like a splash of orange every now and then (Go Vols!)  

This recipe for Turnip Green Stew is a quick, one-dish meal in a bowl ... delicious and comforting!

Turnip Green Stew

2 cups chopped cooked ham
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 (16 ounce) packages frozen chopped turnip greens
2 (15.5 ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups (1 cup each) of diced onion, celery, red and green peppers
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon seasoned pepper

Saute chopped ham in olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat about 5 minutes until lightly browned.  Add diced onions, celery and peppers and cook a few minutes more until almost tender.  Add broth and remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to low.  Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 35-40 minutes. 

And yes, it makes a pot full.

Linked to Weekend Potluck!!
Weekend Potluck Featured

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

More Juicing and Zesting

While I'm in a lemon frame of mind I chose a Lemon Lime Cake from an old Cooking Light magazine.  This cake hits the favorite list!  It is delicious and although "lightened" I couldn't tell any difference taste-wise from a cake with un-light ingredients ... although I think you could use the regular version of the lighter ingredients if you wanted.  It's also nice that once you get the lemons and limes juiced and zested, the rest goes together fairly quickly.

So, now there's a good quantity of bald citrus objects rolling around in the refrigerator.

For the Cake:

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup egg substitute
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon grated lime rind
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups low-fat buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray; line bottoms with wax or parchment paper.  Coat paper with cooking spray.

Place sugar and butter in large bowl and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes).  Add egg substitute, lime and lemon zest, and lime juice; beat well.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Add to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture.  Spoon batter into prepared pans, tapping on countertop to remove air bubbles.  Bake 30-35 minutes until centers test done.  Cool in pans for 10 minutes on a wire rack.  Remove from pans, peel off wax paper, and cool completely on rack.    
It's cooling.

For the Icing:

1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lime rind
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
12 ounces 1/3-less fat cream cheese, softened
3 3/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Place lemon and lime zest, lime juice and cream cheese in a medium bowl and beat at medium speed until well blended.  Reduce speed to low; gradually add powdered sugar and beat until blended.  Cover and chill for 30 minutes.

Place one layer on cake plate and cover with icing.
Top with second layer.

Cover cake with a thin layer of icing to crumb coat. 
Chill in refrigerator for a few minutes.

Spread remaining icing over top and sides of cake.

Frosting is complete.  Chill one hour before serving.
Cover loosely and store in refrigerator.

A little bit of frosting left over ... just enough for a midnight snack attack!
Funny how that worked out ...

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Glazed Lemon Bread


But here we are, mid-November, marching fast and furiously toward the depths of winter.  The crisp scent of lemon however, reminds me of warmer days, so when I came across this clipping for a glazed lemon bread I couldn't resist.  Plus, once the oven heats I can open the door and stand next to it and stay toasty warm while all the measuring and mixing takes place.  The downside?  This bread is a fairly quick fix and I had to close the oven door way too soon.

Glazed Lemon Bread

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons lemon zest, divided
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon sparkling sugar

Beat softened butter at medium speed until creamy.  Gradually add 1 cup sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each until blended.

Stir together flour, baking powder, and salt; add to butter mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture.  Add vanilla.  Stir in one tablespoon of lemon zest.  Spoon batter into a greased and floured 8- x 4-inch loaf pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for one hour or until center tests done.  Let bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes.  Remove from pan and let cool completely on a wire rack.

Stir together powdered sugar and lemon juice and spoon evenly over top of bread, letting the excess drip off the sides.  Mix remaining one tablespoon of lemon zest with sparkling sugar.  Sprinkle over glaze to garnish.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Cheesy Puffs (pate a choux)

The corner of this clipping is marked "Family Circle 12/11/84".  Goodness, a mere child and I was already clipping recipes!  Well, maybe not quite a child.  Actually, not quite a teenager even.  Ahem ... but enough of that.

This is a quick little ditty of a recipe and another one of those one pot deals.  Although they're quite tasty as they are I think a bit of bacon and chopped green onions or maybe diced jalapenos would be a nice addition.

The recipe indicates a yield of 8 dozen.  Perhaps in 1984 we ate more petitely, but by scooping out the paste in what I would describe as a heaping teaspoonful yielded me only 4 dozen puffs.

1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
4 eggs
1 cup shredded cheese (I used a colby-jack blend)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line 2 large cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Combine milk, water, butter, salt, pepper and nutmeg in a large saucepan.  Bring to a full rolling boil.  Add flour all at once and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until mixture forms a thick, smooth ball that leaves the side of the pan.  Remove from heat.  Stir in eggs one at a time, blending well after each until paste is shiny and smooth.  Add cheese and stir until melted.

Drop paste by heaping teaspoonfuls onto prepared sheets spacing about 1 inch apart.

Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 10-15 minutes more until golden and puffy.  Turn off oven. 

Prick each puff with a fork and return to warm oven to rest for 5 minutes.

These can be made ahead and refrigerated in a tightly sealed container then reheat later in a 350 degree oven for 5 minutes or until heated through.
I still think one would be hard pressed to get 8 dozen puffs out of this.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Give us this day our daily

While the sourdough was rising, I decided to try a Rustic Bread from a recent issue of Southern Lady.  This one turned out to be an all afternoon affair, definitely a weekend only venture for me.  It has three stages of rising and resting but the result is a nice, crusty loaf, tender on the inside, and would be a great accompaniment to the pot of soup my husband Chris made earlier in the day - that is, if it lasts until soup time tomorrow night.  I halved the recipe due to running low on my supply of bread flour but it still made a nice size loaf.

Mixed and resting

1 3/4 cup bread flour
1/8 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/8 teaspoons kosher salt
2/3 cup cold water

Stir flour, cheese, yeast and salt together in mixer bowl.  Add cold water and mix about 2 minutes on low speed with a dough hook until dough begins to form a ball.  You may need to add extra water to get a good mix - I added about another tablespoon.  Let dough rest for 5 minutes.  Beat an additional one minute.  Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and let rest for 2 minutes.  Knead until smooth.

After the second rising

Place dough in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise to 1 1/2 times its original size.  If in a warm place, this will take about one hour.  Turn out on a lightly floured surface and knead for 90 seconds.  Return to bowl to rise another hour, then knead another 90 seconds.

Flour a baking sheet.  Shape dough into a loaf and place on sheet to rise another hour or until doubled in bulk.

Put a baking stone in a 500 degree oven to preheat.  Sprinkle stone with cornmeal.  Turn dough carefully onto hot stone and bake 10-12 minutes until golden brown.  Reduce temperature to 425 degrees and bake another 10 minutes.  Cool on wire rack. 

The result was a cute little loaf of bread that somehow developed a cowlick during the last rise.  I didn't use the cornmeal but it baked fine without it, although my baking stone may never be the same after sweltering at 500 degrees.

And while the bread was cooling my two guys were standing behind me with a bread knife and the butter tub waiting for a sample.  I don't think it's going to make it to soup time.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

It's been awhile

since I've spent much time in the kitchen.  We're winding down football season and have completed three weekends of marching band competitions.  Their show is fantastic this year due in part to the tall, good-looking guy on the keyboard in the percussion pit, a.k.a., my baby boy.  He hates it when I call him that.  Our school system takes a two-week fall break so we worked in several lovely days in the mountains for relaxation including a visit with my college girl and attending her first choral performance which, of course, was wonderful.  Then, I came back to a desk full and an inbox full - my penance for taking three days off I suppose - and promptly developed a nasty cold.  I think my body is saying it needs to go back to the mountains.

Wouldn't you agree?  The Smoky Mountains were ablaze with the yellows, oranges, and reds of fall ... sunshine and about 70 degrees ... perfect.  One of the best places in the world to hang out.  It was also a productive road trip as I cleared out several magazines and added to my stack of recipe clippings to try one of these days.

A new recipe made the trip with us.  It's called "Wicked Chocolate Caramel Bars", borrowed from Joan's blog "Chocolate, Chocolate and more..." (follow the link to the left).  

Wickedly delicious!  We brought home crumbs only.

I made the weekly sourdough feeding this morning and will hopefully have some bread in the works tomorrow but for now, I just need some chicken soup, hot tea and a little more couch time.