Sunday, July 31, 2011

Cheesy Bacon Muffins

When a craving hits me and it's not for chocolate, chances are it's a craving for bacon.  Throw in some cheese and count me in.

I found these muffins easy to make and quite good.  They would be perfect for breakfast paired with scrambled eggs or with a bowl of soup for dinner.  Of course, it's too hot around here for soup right now but keep these in mind when the cooler days come creeping along.

2 cups self-rising flour
3/4 cups shredded cheddar cheese 
2 tablespoons sugar
6 strips crispy bacon, crumbled
1 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs

Combine the first three ingredients in a large bowl; stir in crumbled bacon.  Whisk together milk, oil (I substituted 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce) and eggs, add to flour mixture and stir just until moistened.

Spoon batter into lightly greased muffin pans, filling about 2/3 full.  Bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes until golden brown.  I had to bake these about 5 minutes longer to get enough goldenness.

I sometimes substitute applesauce for oil in a recipe to cut down on the calorie count and by using the unsweetened kind it doesn't change the sugar measurement.  If it calls for much more oil than the 1/4 cup here, I might do a half oil, half applesauce combination.  The results might be a little spongier, but usually lighter and very moist.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Let's Finish this Bread!

The dough has risen ...
Time to punch it down and turn out onto a floured surface.

My surface is my great-grandmother's handmade biscuit board.  Mary Catherine or "Caddy" was born in 1871, married in 1889 and lived to the age of 91 years.  As a small child I remember visiting my great aunt and uncle's house where Caddy lived.  And I also remember the spittoon that always sat next to her chair ... hmmm ... but I would love to know how many biscuits have been cut out on this board.

Knead the dough a few times then divide into three pieces.  Knead each piece 8 or 10 times and place in a greased loaf pan.  Brush tops with oil.

Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled - 4 to 5 hours or all day, if needed, since the dough can rise very slowly.

Uncover dough and bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown and tests done.

Remove from pan and cool on wire rack.  Brush tops with melted butter.  Wrap well and store.  Can refrigerate.  The loaves also freeze well.  It's obvious I need to work on dividing the dough into more even sections, but they're still pretty and do they ever smell wonderful!

So now, you're supposed to let them cool but since someone couldn't wait, one loaf has already been sliced for a sandwich.  The excuse was that a warm slice of bread would help the cheese melt better .... makes sense to me.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Back to the Sourdough

If your starter has been well fed and has lingered on the kitchen counter at least 8 hours, then you can either pour one cup down the drain or decide to make some bread.  If bread making is the choice then pour the one cup of starter into a large mixing bowl and add the following:

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup corn oil
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 cups warm water
6 cups white bread flour
(for a wheat bread, substitute 2 cups of whole wheat flour for 2 cups of the bread flour)

This makes a very stiff batter.  You might need to chuck the spoon at this point and get into it with your hands to be sure the dough is well blended.  After thoroughly mixing, gather the dough into a ball.  Pour oil into the bowl and place dough back in, turning until well-coated all over.  Cover with plastic wrap or foil and let sit on the counter overnight or until about doubled in size.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bread

I haven't forgotten about the sourdough bread, but while I'm in a bread state of mind I thought I'd give this one a try.  Everyone has their favorite version of a peanut butter sandwich.  My favorite used to be crunchy peanut butter with sliced dill pickles (yum!) but the classic Peanut Butter and Jelly is hard to beat.  There have probably been a blue million PBJ's made at our house over the past 15 years.  Our youngest child was one of the pickiest eaters ever born and if it hadn't been for PBJ's there were many times I'm not sure what he would have eaten.  This is the same child who at about five years old was sitting at a restaurant eating a kid's meal of chicken strips and suddenly stopped, thoughtfully examined the chicken, then asked, "Did this come from inside a dead chicken?"  So, how do you answer that in an appetizing kind of way?  I don't know and apparently didn't know then either because several years went by before he would touch chicken again.

But, back to the bread at hand.  This recipe is super easy - one bowl and one spoon, pour in your loaf pan and bake.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup creamy or crunchy peanut butter
1 large egg
1 cup milk
1/3 cup jelly

Stir together first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl.  Add peanut butter and cut into flour mixture with a fork or pastry blender until crumbly.  Mix together egg and milk; stir into dry ingredients just until moist.  Microwave jelly in a small bowl (oops, there is another bowl required) about 35-40 seconds until melted, stopping about every 15 seconds to stir.

Spoon half of batter into a greased, 9- x 5-inch loaf pan.  Pour melted jelly over batter, top with remaining batter.  You could bake as is or could use a knife and swirl the batter and jelly together.

Bake at 350 degrees 45-50 minutes or until tester comes out clean.  Cool in pan a few minutes before removing.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A lovely summer sight

is a windowsill full of ripening tomatoes.  Chris planted five tomato plants this summer and they are now loaded with future summer bounty.  I'm glad someone in the family has a green thumb and Jonathan (gardener in training) seems to be following in his footsteps.  I, on the other hand, can water and feed and pet a plant silly and it will thumb it's leafy nose at me and shrivel up and die.  We are now frantically gathering all the tomato recipe ideas we can find in order not to waste a single one ... tomato tarts, tomato marmalade, tomato relish, Texas Hot, fresh salsa, or just sliced with mozzarella and fresh basil (which is also growing like crazy) sounds good to me.  I foresee a lot of tomato chopping and dicing going on around here the next few days.

We got a good chuckle out of one of the first tomatoes plucked today.  Not sure who it reminds me of, but I think it may just be too cute to eat.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Starting the Starter, phase 2

My starter is now at the end of day five and time for the next step.

Place the starter in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days.  Take out and feed with the following:

1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons instant potato flakes
1 cup warm water

Mix well and add to the starter.  Let sit on the counter all day (8-12 hours) or until bubbly.  Remove one cup to make bread and return the rest to the refrigerator for another 3 to 5 days and feed again.  If not making bread, throw away the one cup that is removed.  And the cycle begins...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Starting the Starter

Many years ago, my sister brought me a cup of sourdough bread starter with instructions for its care and feeding.  For the next three or four years I churned out countless loaves of sourdough and nary a loaf of the store-bought variety darkened my door.  What I didn't eat (I was single at the time, living alone with my cat) went to my parents, to work, became a gift, or occasionally I had to pour out the required cup due to lack of time or just too many loaves already in the freezer.  Eventually, the starter gave up the ghost and I was back to buying my weekly supply.

Although I still have the original instructions they don't tell how to make the starter, so while prowling through my clipping stash the other day I found a recipe for the actual sourdough starter.

One of my all time favorite smells is the smell of freshly baked bread so I've decided to give this starter a whirl and see where it takes me.  We don't eat a great deal of bread anymore and I may be pouring out the weekly cup more often than before, but I think my kitchen is going to smell really good in about 10 or 12 days ...

1 pkg dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups warm water
2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Mix yeast with 1/2 cup lukewarm water.  Place sugar in a glass jar, pour in 2 cups warm water and mix well.  Add flour and the yeast mixture, stirring together until well blended.  Cover jar with a cloth and let stand for 5 days.

End of day one ...

the waiting continues.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The one that almost took down the kitchen

I'm finishing up my weekend cooking report with the one, as I said above, that almost took down the kitchen.  Unfortunately I'm getting a reputation around the house for creating fire hazards.  It started a month or so ago while trying to exercise good visual hygiene.  I dropped my contact lens case into a pan of boiling water.  The intention was to leave it for just a minute or two then remove and let dry ... voila! ... a perfectly sanitized case.  The plan went awry when I promptly became engrossed in a box of photographs.  25, 30, maybe 35 minutes later we noticed a strange smell kind of like burnt plastic.  Yes, not only was my lens case perfectly sanitized it was a melted lump in the bottom of a now ruined saucepan.

That was then, this is now.  On the schedule ... Lemon Tart.  But first, let me offer an important tip - whenever baking in a tart pan with a removable bottom, it would be wise to place it on a baking sheet.  Otherwise, things may drip out of that removable bottom onto the bottom of the oven and soon you will have smoke billowing out of the oven.  Not that this actually happened, mind you, I'm just saying it could.

Back to my Lemon Tart.  This is a nice and easy dessert that is perfect for a hot summer day, and it can also be made a little lighter which is what I did.

For the crust:
1 1/2 cups crushed gingersnap cookies
5 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine and press evenly into a 9-inch tart pan with, you guessed it, a removable bottom.  Gingersnap cookies seem to be a bit hard, so it would be best to use a food processor to crush.  Since it was getting late and I didn't want to clean up the food processor I chose to flail the daylights out of the cookies using my weapon of choice as shown.  It didn't work out exactly as I had hoped but again, since it was getting late I settled for a crust of less than perfectly crushed cookies.  (It still tasted wonderful.)

For the filling:
11 oz fat-free sweetened condensed milk
2 large eggs
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (or a mixture of fresh lemon and lime juice)
1 tablespoon lemon zest

In a medium bowl, combine milk and eggs, mixing until smooth.  Stir in juice and zest.  Pour into prepared crust and place in a 350 degree oven.

No pan and no comment.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until filling is set.  Cool completely.  This is best served chilled and you could add a topping of whipped cream. 

The finished tart .... after the smoke settled.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Key Lime Cupcakes

4th of July holiday means a cookout somewhere, which means a little bit of baking is in order.  The cover of a recent Southern Lady caught my eye with it's gorgeous cupcake wrappers.  Although the wrappers were nixed due to time constraints (this time) the cupcakes within became the first baking project of the day ... but note, I doubled the recipe which explains the 5 sticks of butter, so not as bad as it might appear.

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon key lime zest
3 eggs
Combine butter, sugar and zest in a large bowl and beat at high speed until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Whisk together in a separate bowl.

1/4 cup half-and-half
2 tablespoons key lime juice
Whisk together in a small bowl.

Beginning and ending with flour mixture, add flour and half-and-half mixtures alternately, blending well after each addition.  Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups lined with paper liners, filling about 2/3 full.  Bake at 350 degrees for 16-20 minutes or until the centers test done.  Cool in pan for 5 minutes; remove and cool on wire rack.

When completely cool, carefully scoop out the center of each cupcake with a melon baller or teaspoon, and fill with the following:
1 - 3 oz package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1 - 10 oz jar lime curd
Beat cream cheese on medium speed until creamy.  Add sugar and curd, mixing well.

Key Lime Buttercream Frosting:
(I used this version instead of the one in the recipe)
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I used clear extract to keep the frosting white)
2 lbs. confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons key lime zest
Mix at low speed until thoroughly combined, adding more sugar if needed for stiffer consistency.  Frost as generously as desired!

Next time the wrappers.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Brett's Cheese Dip

Chris says this is his new best friend.

It's this quick new dish that didn't require any baking at all.  I don't know the name of it so I'll just call it "Brett's Cheese Dip" since it came from my friend Brett:

1 bag of 3-flavor cheese crumbles
1 bag of peppered bacon bits (I used Hormel)
2 bunches green onions, chopped ... but wait,
I planned to double the recipe which means 4 bunches of green onions ... now that's a whale of a lot of green onions.  I couldn't imagine adding all 4 bunches of onions so even with doubling the recipe, 2 bunches seemed to be plenty.

Mix all that together then stir in ranch dressing, just enough to moisten it all, not to the drippy stage. 

Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight before serving.

Serve with corn chips, tortilla chips, or crackers.

Thank you Brett for sharing this one, but I do think you got your onions wrong ... or else your constitution is a whole lot stronger than mine. 

Linked to the 5-ingredient or less Recipe Roundup at


and at the Weekend Potluck #15!!