Wednesday, July 27, 2011

We've Moved!

 I have been thinking/dreaming/imagining a move for this blog for almost 3 years now.  I lost my domain name for two years, but now it's back! And I've moved the site over to Wordpress.  I'm still learning the ropes and the design is pretty basic right now, but it doesn't make sense to keep posting HERE when eventually I want everything to be THERE.  This site will be left up as is, but I won't be posting anymore. If you are reading in a reader, the RSS feed is set up and should work, but if it isn't please let me know!

So as of today you can find us over here at Growing Up Gabel (version 2.0)! On to bigger and better things!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Babysteps to Homeschooling

Just after we were married my husband and I met a family who helped us navigate our first year of marriage (and a new job and a move 2,000 miles way from our families!).  We were surprised to discover that the children in this family were homeschooled. We were blessed to spend a year being a part of their lives and we both came away fairly convinced that if and when the time came, we'd want to homeschool, too.

Well, the time has come! Ella turned five this month and she is officially old enough for school.  We decided not to start her with a formal Kindergarten program just yet.  The goal is to have her graduating high school at 18, not 17, so we'll wait one more year to make it "official".   But I thought we'd take this year and ease our way in to things.

I'm finding the whole idea of homeschooling overwhelming. I figure if I start homeschooling when it doesn't really "count", I won't be quite so panicked!  My goal for this school year is pretty simple: learn our letters (and maybe the sounds) and numbers and have some fun. That's it!  I'm not even pushing for reading (GASP!).

As we make our way along this journey, I'm planning to share what I'm finding and doing. There are tons of free resources available thanks to the internet and even if you're not homeschooling, a lot of what is available is just plain fun!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Homemade Pudding Pops

These went over like CRAZY around here! My kids loved, my husband raved over them and I didn't think they were too bad, either.  I used a popsicle mold I bought at IKEA about 8 years ago (and this is the first time I've used it!), but you could also use paper cups and popsicle sticks. 

I do brush her hair every morning....

Homemade Pudding Pops
1 batch of homemade chocolate pudding
Popsicle mold or paper cups/sticks

Use a spoon to fill mold or cups. If using cups, cover with plastic wrap and then insert sticks.  Freeze for about 4-5 hours. Unmold and enjoy!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Homemade Chocolate Pudding

Like most kids of the 70's and 80's, I grew up eating Jell-O pudding from the box. I do believe my mom had to actually cook it, though.  We loved chocolate pudding and I still remember the little Tupperware bowls with lids that she'd put the pudding in for dessert later.

While I haven't actually looked at the ingredient list of a Jell-O pudding box in ages, I'm fairly certain it's not a whole foods, whole living kind of list.  I was also pretty certain that homemade pudding could not be that hard to make.

With the idea of making our own "pudding pops", the newly turned 5 year old donned her brand-new Star Wars apron from Aunt Mimi and we set to work.  The texture of this pudding is a bit different from the boxed stuff, but my kids don't seem to care (probably because I've never made the boxed stuff for them).

I don't know where she gets these poses from!

(Arrowroot powder is a substitution for corn starch. You could probably use corn starch, but I haven't tried it. I do, however, substitute arrowroot for corn starch all the time.)

Homemade Chocolate Pudding
2 1/2 cups whole milk
2/3 cup sucanat
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup arrowroot powder
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 Tablespoons butter

In a medium saucepan whisk together milk, sucanat, egg yolks, arrowroot and cocoa powders and salt.  STIRRING CONSTANTLY, heat over medium heat just until the mixture begins to thicken. Remove from heat and continue to stir until smooth and creamy (mine had some texture at first, but keep stirring and they'll go away!). Add butter and vanilla and mix.  Serve warm, chilled, or frozen.

Recipe from Heavenly Homemakers.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Balloon Wreath

This is a super fun, cute and easy craft to liven up your front door for a birthday or celebration.  You could buy specific colors of balloons to match an occasion or theme. I did a multi colored wreath because I want to use the wreath for everyone's birthday each year.  The wreath cost me about $6 total to make (thanks to coupons!).

1 straw wreath (keep plastic on)
1 pack of floral pins
4 packs of balloons

Start pinning balloons to the wreath... and keep pinning and pinning and pinning until it is as full as you'd like it to be! The balloons are only on the front of the wreath so if you want to cover the sides and back, you'll need more balloons.

The Birthday Girl

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How To Bake Bread on the Grill

I'm not sure this really counts as a "how to" post, since I've only baked bread on the grill once and I just threw it together.  But it worked so I thought I'd share.

My go to bread baking technique is the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes A Day method. I baked and froze a ton of this bread in May, but we just recently ran out. With cooler temps this past week, I decided to re-stock the freezer.  On the same evening that I planned to bake bread, we made pizza on our grill so I decided to try and bake a loaf of bread as long as the grill was hot.

I put a sheet of parchment paper in a disposable pie tin. I tore off a chunk of bread dough from my batch, tucked it under (as directed for the "gluten coat") and tossed it in the pie tin.  I did not let the bread rest (AB5 bread usually rests for 40 minutes before baking) -- I just slashed the top.  I baked the bread on the "warming rack" of our grill.  The grill was on high for a good 30 minutes and the top was open and closed as we baked our pizzas.  I kept an eye on the bread as we cooked.  The crust got a bit toasty, but the crust was nice and hard once it was done. It tasted great!

I kept the bread off heat because I didn't want the bottom to char and it was still a bit darker than normal. This is a pretty unscientific method, but worth a shot if you need bread and don't want to heat up your house.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Lemon Scones

Scones always make me think of Pooh... and I forgot to take a picture!

If you read this blog at all, you know that I love scones! They are so easy and quick to make.  This is a nice sweet scone with just a hint of lemon and is perfect for a nice summer breakfast.

Lemon Scones
2 cups flour
1/4 cup sucanat (or sugar)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, cut in to small pieces
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
Turbinado or Raw sugar

In the bowl of a food processor (or a large mixing bowl) combine flour, sucanat, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Pulse (or whisk) together. Add in butter and pulse (or cut in) until mixture is in small cornmeal type pieces. Pulse (or stir) in buttermilk and lemon zest just until a dough forms.

Dump dough out on to counter and knead a few times.  Gently pat down dough in to a round disk, about 8 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick. Using a pizza cutter (or a knife) cut disk into 8 wedges. Separate wedges and spread out on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Sprinkle tops of scones with Turbinado/raw sugar.  Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until edges and tops are just lightly browned.

Adapted from Pennies on a Platter

Image courtesy of Google Images

Monday, July 18, 2011

Happy 5th Birthday!

Today is this beautiful girl's 5th birthday. FIFTH! She requested chocolate for dinner and I'm doing my best to make that wish come true.  This one is a handful, but she also is full of the most delightful surprises. Like telling me that something is "just a splendid idea!"  Or spending hours playing with a twig that she named Sparkles. And loving all things princess, rainbow, unicorn, Star Wars and Godzilla!  Even though she's old enough for school this year, we've decided to wait another year. No use in hurrying things along. She'll have lots of time to grow up, but only a few short years to be a kid.

Happy Birthday, Sweet Girl!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Beer Can Chicken on the Grill

My husband and I first made beer can chicken shortly after we were married.  For whatever reason, we weren't impressed. We had bought one of those metal devices you can use to put the beer can in and balance the chicken.  Fast forward seven years and we're spending a summer night cleaning out our garage (and making two trips with a packed mini-van to Goodwill!) and I find the beer can chicken gadget. I decided that we should give beer can chicken another go.

This time we make the chicken, we live in the desert and it's hot, hot, hot outside. I love using the grill every chance we can get and roasting a chicken outside is perfect for our current lifestyle.  This time, I fall in love with the chicken. The skin is perfectly crisp and the meat is perfectly moist inside.  Our family inhaled a 4 pound bird. We grilled our chicken on a round baking sheet, just for ease of moving the bird in and out of the house.

I saw a website call this "Coq Au Can" - and that's my new name for it!

Beer Can Chicken on the Grill (or Grilled Coq Au Can)
1 3-4 pound chicken
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper
Italian Spices
Seasoned Salt
1 can of beer, root beer, soda, whatever you want

Remove innards and neck from chicken.  Pat dry.

Prepare rub (this is my husband's "home rub"): mix together salt, pepper, paprika, Italian spice mix, and seasoned salt in a small bowl. Use as much as you like for each flavor, about equal amounts, but watch the salt!

Pour out half the liquid from your can.  Set can inside metal holder, if you have one.  Otherwise, put chicken over can and place on a baking sheet.  Rub chicken all over with olive oil, then rub on the spice mixture.

Turn on the heat on only one side of your grill and allow grill to warm up.  Place chicken on the OTHER SIDE of the grill (cook it off heat). Close the top and walk away.  Half-way through your cooking time (around 30 minutes) rotate the chicken 180 degrees so that the sides of chicken are evenly crisped.

We cooked our chicken with the grill on high heat and it was done in under an hour. I would suggest using a lower cooking temp, but it's not necessary. Just rotate the chicken so all sides are evenly browned. Use a meat thermometer to determine doneness by inserting the thermometer in to the thigh area. Chicken is done at 180 degrees.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Homemade Hot Fudge Sauce

We take our ice cream very seriously around here. We even have personalized ice cream bowls:

This is some of the best hot fudge sauce I've ever had.  And it took about 10 minutes to make. I used high quality, 70% cacao Sharfen Berger dark chocolate and I'm pretty sure that's what took this sauce over the top. But I think you could use semi-sweet chocolate chips and get a very good sauce.

Homemade Hot Fudge Sauce
4-5 squares dark chocolate (or 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips)
2 Tablespoons corn syrup
2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup sucanat (or brown sugar)
A pinch of salt
A small dash of vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Put all ingredients in a heavy bottom sauce pan and heat over medium-low until melted together. Serve hot or warm. Store in refrigerator.

Adapted from Soda Fountain Classics: Ice Cream, Sundaes, Milkshakes, and More

(This is an affiliate link. Thank you!)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Chinese Chicken Salad

Salads are perfect summer meals.  I try to make one "main course" salad a week. I like to make sure to include some form of protein in a main course salad in order to make it feel more like a meal.  The best part is that main course salads are one dish meals. Make the salad and you are done!

We all loved this salad. In fact, we ran out before everyone got their fill (oops!). My uber picky 4 year old did not eat salads so I put aside some of the chicken for her . If your child likes honey mustard for dipping, you could give them some chicken and dressing. I used leftover grilled chicken breasts on the bone when I made this. But you could cook your own, use a store bought rotisserie chicken, use canned chicken - whatever would work.

Chinese Chicken Salad
1 large head of lettuce, torn or chopped in to bite size pieces
2 chicken breasts, cooked and diced
5-6 green onions, diced
Shredded cheese
Chow mein noodles
Honey Mustard Dijon dressing

Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl. You can pour the dressing on the salad and toss, or add to individual bowls.

Adapted from Tammy's Kitchen Recipes.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Honey Mustard Dijon Dressing

There used to be a restaurant chain I loved called Bennigans. They served a chicken salad with a honey mustard dressing and I loved that salad!  They are no longer in business, but this salad dressing is just like the one they served. It would be great on sandwiches or to be used for dipping.

Honey Mustard Dijon Dressing
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons honey
1 Tablespoon white vinegar
2 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons mayo
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon olive oil

Whisk all ingredients together.

Recipe from Tammy's Kitchen Recipes

Monday, July 11, 2011

How To Make Homemade Frozen Home Fries

Cooking on the griddle

I love to make home fries! I actually had no idea that fried, diced potatoes were called "home fries" until after I graduated from college. I'm not sure what  I called them before that! But I love home fries with breakfast and especially with a good tuna melt.

I found a bag of potatoes on clearance at the grocery store for  $.75. I just could not pass it up. I know there are "suggestions" out there as to what kind of potato works best for certain recipes. I can never keep track of that so I just use whatever it is I have on hand to make whatever it is I need.  I don't really care if the potatoes I have aren't "waxy" enough. I'll get over it. So use whatever you want and if you don't like it, just use a different kind the next time.

How to Make Homemade Home Fries (To Eat or Freeze)

1. Cook your potatoes. I fill up my Crock Pot to 2/3 full and turn it on high. It usually takes about 2 hours to cook the potatoes (poke holes in them). But you could bake or boil yours. Just don't let them get too soft. You still want some firmness.

2. Dice up the potatoes. Any which way, any size, will do!

3. To freeze: spread potatoes out on a cookie sheet in a single layer and freeze. Once frozen, put them in a freezer bag or container.

Frozen Home Fries ready to be fried!

How to Cook Home Fries

1. If your potatoes are not frozen, simply fry in a pan or on a skillet with a good amount of fat (butter or bacon grease is super yummy!). Allow them to cook for 5 minutes without stirring to get a nice brown crust. Stir and cook so that all sides brown.

2. If your potatoes are frozen: Heat pan or skillet. Melt butter or bacon grease on pan/skillet. Put frozen potatoes on/in pan/skillet and allow to cook for a good 10-15 minutes WITHOUT STIRRING! Then check a few underneath to see if they are turning a nice brown. If they are, stir and cook until all sides are brown. If they are not yet brown, allow to cook until they are brown and then stir. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Macaroni Salad

I am not much of a macaroni salad (or any pasta salad) eater. I prefer potato salad or coleslaw. But my husband loves potato salad so it's a good recipe to have in my repertoire. Plus, I always have some pasta in the house, which makes this a quick and easy side dish to whip up.

I almost didn't make this recipe because it called for roasted red pepper and I didn't have any peppers in the house. Then I realized it meant the peppers in the JAR! I had an open jar in the fridge so that was that!

This was good! Even I liked it!

Macaroni Salad 
2 cups macaroni pasta
1 roasted red pepper, diced
1/4 cup diced green onions
1/3 to 1/2 (or more) cup mayo
1 teaspoon vinegar or lemon juice
Paprika, salt, pepper to taste

Cook pasta in salted water until al dente (there should still be a "bite" in the pasta). Drain pasta and run cool water over until it is room temperature.  Add rest of ingredients and stir to mix. Chill.

Adapted (slightly) from Simply Recipes.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Horiatiki Salad (Greek Salad)

During law school, I spent a summer abroad studying law in Athens, Greece.  Having spent a lot of time traveling all over the Middle East prior to starting law school, Athens was a real shock.  But after the summer was over, I had come to really love Athens and Greece.

One of the biggest surprises in Athens was the food.  The food I ate in Greece was very different that the American-Greek food I'd had in the United States.  For example, what we call a "gyro", the Greeks call souvlaki and it's either pork or chicken -- not lamb. In fact, I ate more pork in Greece than I have ever eaten!

Likewise, a salad in Greece does not have any lettuce in it. I can remember dying to get back to the States to have some lettuce! Greece, like most of the Mediterranean, has incredibly delicious produce. I am not a fan of tomatoes, but I couldn't get enough in Greece. Now that summer is upon us and we can get decent produce, Greek salads are a great addition to any meal. Add some tzatiki with french fries and a frappe, and you'll really feel Greek!

Horiatiki Salad (Greek Salad)
1 cucumber, seeded and diced in to cubes
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
Black or Kalamata olives
Feta cheese
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Mix all the vegetables in a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle olive oil over the salad and stir gently.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"Grilled" Brownie Cupcakes

I had intended to make these for Father's Day, but ran out of eggs and time.  We did manage to get them made for the 4th of July, though.  These are really, really easy and super cute. As an added bonus, if you like cinnamon candy (I do!) those Hot Tamales candies are awesome!

These would be cute at any summer get together!

"Grilled" Brownie Cupcakes
1 batch of your favorite brownie mix (I used this one)
1 tube black gel frosting 
1 box of Hot Tamale candy
Orange colored sugar

Bake brownie mix in a muffin pan (using paper liners is your choice!). Allow brownies to cool.

Use black gel to line each brownie cupcake.  Allow gel to set (about 15 minutes). Sprinkle orange colored sugar over brownie tops.  Using a toothpick, draw grill marks on the Hot Tamale candies. Place candies on brownies.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Full Sour Pickles: The Begining

Aren't they GORGEOUS?!?!

The story of pickles in our home is very complex.  You see, I grew up in a small (small, small) farming town on the mid-western side of Michigan.  My family was Catholic turned non-denominational. Walmart built a store when I was in high school and it was BIG NEWS and the nearest mall was 2 hours away.  I grew up eating Vlasic dill pickles out of the jar. It was a major revelation when I discovered bread and butter pickles at a friend's house. I really never gave pickles much thought.

My husband was raised on Long Island in New York.  His family is Jewish. He had malls within minutes of his house and Walmart was (is!) two stories high (it has this cool escalator that you can take your cart on!)! He grew up eating half-sour and full sour pickles (I didn't know what that was until about 8 years ago, either!) at the corner Kosher deli (probably made at that deli).

When we got married our pickle histories collided.  Seriously. Pickles (or the lack of) are a BIG DEAL around here! I refer to my husband as a "pickle snob" because he will not anything other than a full sour pickle.  Full sours are hard to come by in the grocery store and if you find them, they are expensive.

Of course, I had to figure them out and make themself. How hard can it be? It's a cucumber put in something, right?

It turns out that his half and full sour pickles are actually fermented pickles whereas my Vlasic dills are seasoned pickles.  It also turns out that in order to make half or full sour (half vs. full is just a taste preference based on how long the pickle ferments) you put the cukes in a brine with spices and let it sit on your counter.

Yup, it's that easy! Now, mine just started a few days ago and it will take a week or two to get to full sour. I really have no idea if this recipe is working or not. 

But I am so proud of this huge jar of pickley goodness sitting on my counter, that I just had to share!

Results forthcoming.... (keep your fingers crossed for me!)

And just because you were kind enough to read to the end -- a picture of our cats enjoying the open door a few days ago when the whether cooled off (to 100!).  BJ is the orange kitty and Felix is gray.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Homemade Hoisin Sauce

We eat quite a bit of homemade Chinese food. My pantry is stocked with sweet chili sauce, soy sauce, rice vinegar, yadda yadda.  It can get pricey, however, if you need to buy ALL those ingredients all at once.  So when I needed hoisin sauce for Chicken Lettuce Wraps, I wanted to see if I could make it myself.

You can!  Hoisin is basically a Chinese barbecue sauce. I have no idea how it compares to the bottled stuff in the store, but it was really good!

Homemade Hoisin Sauce
4 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons peanut butter
1 Tablespoon molasses or honey
2 teaspoons seasoned rice vinegar
1 garlic clove, finely minced
2 teaspoons sesame seed oil
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1/8 teaspoon black papper

Combine all ingredients and mix!

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Hmmm... doesn't LOOK so appetizing, but they are really good!

It's kind of funny how you get something stuck in your head for no apparent reason and it won't go away until you do something about it! Or maybe that's just me (and it explains a closet FULL of various arts and crafts projects that never happened).  I got it in my head that Chicken Lettuce Wraps sounded like the perfect summertime meal.  The idea of nice fresh lettuce wrapped around a light delicious protein mixture just struck a chord with me. So of course, I had to make them.

I haven't had them at a restaurant in close to ten years so I can't  vouch for whether or not these taste like Pei Wei or P.F. Changs, but they were very tasty! My husband loved them.  I thought the kids would really dig them, but not so much (except our 2 year old son who just pretty much digs FOOD!).

This is a mix of two different recipes -- one from Food Network Magazine and the other from I used ground chicken because I had it, but feel free to dice up boneless breasts or thighs.  I doubled this recipe using 2 pounds of ground chicken and 1 box of firm tofu.  I keep a lot of these Chinese ingredients on hand because we like to cook our own Chinese food.  Most of it will last you a good year or so. I did however, make my own hoison sauce (which I will post).  Be careful of the oyster sauce -- some brands contain MSG, but others don't. Just read the label carefully.

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

2 Tablespoons oyster sauce
1 Tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 Tablespoon dry white wine
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons Arrowroot powder (or corn starch)
1/3 cup water

Whisk all ingredients together and set aside.

1 1/2 pounds diced or ground chicken
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon peeled ginger, minced (you can use powdered, but it's not as flavorful)
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (WEAR GLOVES!)
4 scallions, chopped in to 1/4 inch pieces
1/2 pound mushrooms, stemmed and diced
3/4 cup water chestnuts, diced (I did not use these)
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 head of iceberg, Boston bibb or butter lettuce, cut in to quarters

In a large skillet, heat 2 Tablespoons of oil (peanut is great!) over medium high heat. Cook chicken until cooked through. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon.

Add 2 Tablespoons oil to pan and heat until almost smoking. Add ginger, jalapeno, garlic, scallions, salt and sugar to pan. Cook for 30 seconds. Add mushrooms and water chestnuts and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add sauce and chicken and cook for 1 minute. (Optional: stir in peanuts)

Serve mixture in lettuce leaves and eat like a taco!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Poppy Seed Dressing

Our 11 year old daughter requested poppy seed dressing for her salads.  She's always been a great salad eater -- even at the age 4 and 5! Her dressing choice then was balsamic vinaigrette. When I asked her what kind of poppy seed dressing (just to make sure we were on the same page), she responded, "Um, in a bottle?"  Not in the house! I found this recipe and it is delicious. I put some on my chicken salad sandwich and we dipped cucumbers and even peaches in it.

We're thinking this would be super yummy on grilled chicken!

Poppy Seed Dressing
3/4 cup mayo
1/3 cup sucanat (or sugar)
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon poppy seeds

Mix all ingredients together (or shake in a jar). Serve!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Southern Fried Chicken

I can't believe that it has taken me this long to get around to making fried chicken.  I was afraid that it would be too much work with poor results. WRONG! Aside from having to plan ahead, this recipe was easy and mouth watering delicious. Move over, Colonel!

In order to move things along, I fried the chicken in two cast iron pans (one small and one large) at the same time.  The chicken really needs to sit in the oil and cook so you can easily manage two pans at once.  I also ran out of buttermilk so I marinated the chicken in 1 cup buttermilk and 3 cups half and half.

Southern Fried Chicken
3 pound chicken cut in to pieces or 10 chicken pieces
1 1/4 cups flour
2/3 cups corn starch
4 cups buttermilk
3 cups oil (I used coconut oil)

Combine flour, corn starch, salt and pepper. Set aside 1 1/4 cup of the mixture.  In a large bowl combine buttermilk, salt, and pepper.  Dredge each piece of chicken in the remaining flour mixture and then put in the buttermilk mixture.  Marinate chicken in the refrigerator for 3 hours (or overnight).

Heat oil in a frying pan.  Transfer reserved flour mixture to a pie pan.  Remove chicken pieces from buttermilk and dredge in the flour mixture. Fry chicken until golden brown and cooked through, about 16-20 minutes per batch.  Transfer chicken to a cooling rack.

Adapted from the July/August 2011 Everyday Food Magazine.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Basic Scones

We love scones, but I've never made plain, basic scones.  These were delicious -- just slightly sweet with a nice tender crumb.  I served these with soup, but they would be great for breakfast or with a cup of coffee or tea.

Basic Scones
2 cups flour
2 Tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
6 Tablespoons butter, cubed
1 egg
1/2 cup buttermilk

In  alarge bowl, or in the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda.  Cut in butter.  Whisk together egg and buttermilk in a small bowl. Add to dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Knead dough about 10 times. Pat down in to an 8 inch circle. Cut in to 8 wedges. Separate edges and bake on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Potato and Leek Soup

I have been wanting to try Julia Child's potato and leek soup recipe  Even though it was over 100 degrees today, I couldn't turn down the opportunity to make the recipe with potatoes and leeks we picked ourselves. We picked the produce in the morning and made soup in the evening.

Our 11 year old is responsible for cooking dinner once a week so she actually made the soup.She was very proud of her dinner and was begging our picky 4 year old to just try a little bit!

It's amazing that water, potatoes, leeks, salt, and pepper make such a delicious meal. We figured out that it cost about $.75 to make a gigantic pot of soup. We added in a scoop of sour cream and served the soup with shredded cheddar cheese on top.

Potato and Leek Soup (Julia Child)
4 cups sliced leeks
4 cups diced potatoes
7 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
Pepper to taste
Optional: sour cream to taste

In  a heavy 3 quart pot, bring the leeks, potatoes and water to a boil.  Add salt to taste, partially cover, and allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.  Puree soup with an immersion blender. Add in salt and pepper to taste, sour cream, butter, cheese, etc.

Serves 6-8.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Blueberry Pie

I have a few bags of frozen blueberries left in the freezer from last summer's season.  I want to use them up so I can freeze a new batch later this summer. As it turns out, blueberry pie is my husband's favorite pie (how can you know someone for years and still learn new things about them?!).

I was prepared to tell you to ignore the terrible pictures because in general, my pies don't win any beauty contests, but they always taste wonderful.. I have the worst time getting the crust rolled out correctly.  I just finally figured out how to crimp the edges! But this pie turned out beautifully! I still can't believe how nice it looks.

Blueberry Pie
Pate Brisee recipe, doubled
6 cups fresh or frozen bluberries (allow frozen berries to thaw and drain)
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 Tablespoons butter, cut in to small pieces

Egg wash: 1 egg and 1 Tablespoon milk

Prepare the crust. Roll out half the dough to about 13" in diameter. Fit the dough over a 9" pie pan. Trim edges to about 1/2". Put pie pan with dough in to refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes.

Gently mix berries, lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Pour mixture in to chilled crust in pie pan. Dot with butter pieces. Roll out the other half of the dough the same as the first half.  Place dough on top of pie plate. Tuck and pinch seam together. Cut off extra dough and crimp edges.  Put pie back in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Whisk egg and milk together and then brush top of chilled pie with the wash. Score the top of the crust with 4 cuts for steam to escape.  Bake pie on middle rack of oven (with a jelly roll pan underneath to catch any drippings) at 425 degrees for 20 minutes. Turn temperature down to 350 degrees and continue to bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool completely before serving.

This post has been linked to Sweets for a Saturday.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Pate Brisee (Pie Crust)

Pate Brisee is simply an all butter, super flaky pie crust.  You can use this for both sweet and savory recipes (just use less sugar if using it for something like chicken pot pie). Even though the French term sounds fancy, make the crust is actually very easy.

There are two important components to a light, flaky crust (or biscuit or anything else "flaky") -- super cold butter and very little processing.  If you want flaky, your butter must be COLD.  When the little bits of cold butter hit the hot oven, they melt thus creating small air pockets which results in flaky layers.  While it  may be more work to cut butter in (unless you use a food processor), it is worth effort in the long run. Overworking the dough results in the butter warming up (from the heat of your hands) or just getting too small to create effective air pockets.

Pate Brisee (Butter Pie Crust)
This recipe makes enough for 1 pie crust. If you need a crust for the top of the pie, double the recipe

1 stick butter, cut in to Tablespoons and then cut those in half
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon sugar (1/2 teaspoon for savory recipe)
4-6 Tablespoons of cold water

Place cut up butter in the freezer for at least 15 minutes, but preferably for an hour.

In a food processor, pulse together flour, sugar and salt. Add butter and pulse until mixture is coarse with pea sized pieces. Add water, 1 Tablespoon at a time. The mixture will be very crumbly, but only mix until you can pinch the pieces together and they stick.

Remove dough on to a clean, lightly floured surface. Gently press the dough into a disc. Wrap disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

When ready to use the dough, remove from fridge and allow to sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes. Roll dough out to 1/8" thickness and about 12" in diameter.

Adapted from Simply Recipes.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Milk Chocolate Mocha Frosting

On a whim I decided to take cupcakes to my sister's house for our Memorial Day grill out. I needed something to do with my 4 year old daughter during her brother's nap anyway and the girl just loves to "help" me cook!

 The original recipe says this makes 18 cupcakes if you fill the muffin cups 2/3 full. I only got 12 cupcakes, but they rose quite a bit above the top of the cups. I think you could easily fill the cups 1/2 full and get 18 cupcakes. If you really want moist cupcakes, put the cupcakes in a container that has a lid and allow them to cool with the lid ON. It will take a while, but you will have some super moist cupcakes.

Peanut Butter Cupcakes
1 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon butter at room temperature
1 Tablespoon coconut oil
1 egg
1/3 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Pulse for a few seconds to mix. Scrape sides of bowl and pulse until smooth.  Line muffin pans with paper liners. Fill muffin cups 1/2 to 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcakes comes out clean. Allow cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.

Milk Chocolate Mocha Frosting
9 ounces of milk chocolate, finely chopped
2/3 cup half and half (or heavy cream)
1 Tablespoon light corn syrup
1 Tablespoon instant coffee
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

Put chocolate in a medium bowl.  Combine rest of ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Pour mixture over chocolate and mix until all chocolate has melted.  Allow frosting to cool to room temperature. Frost cupcakes.

Adapted from The Joy of Cooking.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Dates

My first experience with dates was in Palmyra, Syria.  I was there during date season and I could buy them freshly picked off the tree. Oh my! It's hard to compare any dates I get in the grocery store with that!  But when my younger sister was telling me about a stuffed date appetizer she recently ate I put aside my date snobbery. I'd never eaten stuffed dates before I made these, but I am so glad my sister told me about them! I'm planning to take these to any and all pot lucks from now on.

Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Dates
Feta Cheese
Barbecue Sauce

Carefully slice open each date and remove the pit.  Fill date with about 1 teaspoon of feta cheese. Cut each slice of bacon into thirds. Wrap bacon around date and secure with a toothpick (if needed).  Once all dates are stuffed and wrapped, brush with barbecue sauce.  Cook dates on grill or under a broiler until bacon is cooked. These can be served hot or at room temperature.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Fingerling Potato Kebabs

I picked up a small bag of fingerling potatoes at the Farmer's Market.  When it came time to make the potatoes, I had no idea what to do with them except roast or boil them.  Then it occurred to me that they were small enough to be skewered for kebabs.  There were so cute and fun to eat!

Fingerling Potato Kebabs
12-16 ounces fingerling potatoes
2 Tablespoons salt
Olive oil
Sea salt
Fresh ground pepper
Dried rosemary

Put potatoes in a medium pot. Add water and 2 Tablespoons of salt and bring to a boil. Cook potatoes are tender. Drain.  Thread potatoes on to skewers and lay skewers on a platter. Brush potatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and rosemary.  Cook potatoes on grill for about 5 minutes just until skin is browned.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Argentine Beef Skewers with Chimichurri Sauce

Summer is officially here (supposedly -- it was 70 degrees last weekend!) and with summer comes grilling. Ok, we grill year round, but for anyone who lives where it snows, summer is grilling season!  I have big plans for our grill this summer (including baking bread on it!) and this recipe will definitely be making a regular appearance.

You could definitely serve this with rice or pasta, but I served it with roasted asparagus and fingerling potato skewers. The original recipe calls for tenderloin, but I used sirloin. Use whatever steak you have or find at a great price. In every picture I've ever seen of chimichurri sauce, the sauce is green. This one is not and I forgot to take a photo of it. It's more of a clear sauce like a vinaigrette dressing.

Argentine Beef Skewers with Chimichurri Sauce
3 pounds steak, cut in to 1 inch cubes
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
3/4 cup distilled white vinegar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 Tablespoon ground pepper

Chimichurri Sauce
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup minced onion
1/4 cup minced red bell pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

Whisk all sauce ingredients and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in a medium bowl. Let stand at room temperature for 2 hours.

Whisk all ingredients for the beef, except beef, in a large bowl. Whisk in 1 Tablespoon salt. Add beef and toss to coat. Cover and chill 1 hour, turning occasionally

Heat grill on high heat. Put beef with some marinade still clinging on to skewers.  Grill skewers until beef is charred on all sides and cooked to desired doneness.

Adapted from Bon Appetite March 2011 issue.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Chicken Rollatini

This is a fun take on chicken kiev or cordon blue.  I clipped the recipe out of a magazine years ago and just got around to making it (seriously, you should see my "to make" binder!). You could definitely get creative with the "stuffing" part of this dish. I made some of the chicken rolls with asparagus in the middle.  Whole Foods had the Boursin cheese spread on sale a few months ago so I picked it up to make this dish....eventually!

Chicken Rollatini
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin
Boursin cheese
Roasted red peppers, sliced

Spread 2 Tablespoons of the cheese on to each chicken breast.  Lay the peppers across each breast. Roll chicken from small end to large end. Use a toothpick to keep the chicken rolled. 

Place breasts, seam side down, on a baking sheet.  Bake at 375 degrees until chicken is done, about 20-30 minutes.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Garlic Pull Apart Bread

Ready to eat!
This recipe was an "ah ha" moment for me.  I often want to serve garlic bread with dinner, but my homemade bread is usually round boule type loaves and not the long french loaves garlic bread is made with.  This recipe allows me to use my homemade round loaves and get some super yummy garlic bread!

I used the recipe to make garlic bread, but if you follow the link to the original recipe, you will see that there are many options. I think pesto would be delicious!

Garlic Pull Apart Bread
1 loaf round bread
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2-5 Tablespoons softened butter
Olive oil
Dried oregano and basil
Salt and pepper
2 garlic cloves, finely diced or pressed

Slice bread every 1 1/2" not quite all the way through the loaf. Rotate loaf and slice again every 1 1/2".  Place bread on a foil lined cookie sheet.

In a small bowl, mix together butter, garlic, salt, pepper and spices to taste. Add enough olive oil to make a smooth mixture between a paste and a sauce.  Using an offset spatula, gently spread the mixture in to the cracks of the bread. Then fill cracks with 3/4 cup of the cheese.  Sprinkle remaining cheese on top of loaf.

Bake in a 350 degree oven just until bread is toasty and cheese melted (about 15-20 minutes).

Adapted from Our Best Bites.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Homemade Cream Soda

Last month my parents bought me a SodaStream soda maker. I didn't even ask for it! But somehow my mom knew I needed one.

I absolutely ADORE this machine! Basically, it allows me to make carbonated water.  Then I add flavor to the carbonated water to make a sparkling drink or soda.  SodaStream makes their own syrups to make soda, but they all contain Splenda. Bleh. I love soda, but not all the fake ingredients. So now I'm working on my own homemade flavors.

My first attempt at homemade soda was cream soda, which is basically vanilla flavored soda.  I'm not much of a cream soda drinker, but I had all the ingredients on hand and it looked pretty easy to put together.  It was very easy and it's very good. If you don't have the SodaStream, you can purchase carbonated water and put the syrup in it.

Homemade Cream Soda
2 cups cane sugar (Sugar in the Raw)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 vanilla bean, split and seeded

In a medium pan, heat sugar and 1/4 cup water over medium high heat until carmelized (I had no idea how to tell when brown sugar is caramelized, so I just cooked it until it smelled like caramel).  Remove pan from heat and carefully add 2 cups water and lemon juice. Add vanilla bean and seeds, return pan to heat and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat and allow to stand for 1 hour.

Pour syrup into an airtight container. Add syrup to taste to carbonate water.

Original recipe from Martha Stewart.

This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches

This is more of recipe idea than a recipe per se. I've had the idea to make homemade ice cream sandwiches since last summer, but never had a cookie good enough.  When I made the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe, though, I knew I had to try them as ice cream sandwiches.  They are pretty sweet, but delicious!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches
1 prepared recipe the perfect chocolate chip cookie
vanilla (or any other flavor) ice cream

Allow ice cream to soften.  Scoop ice cream on to the flat side of a cookie. Use a similar sized cookie and smoosh the ice cream between the two cookies.  Put in the freezer until ice cream is set.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Chocolate Gelato

I'm not very good at making ice cream (yet). I just haven't found a recipe that I love. When I ran across a recipe for gelato in the March 2011 Food Network magazine, I wondered if gelato would be easier.

It was easier! Well, this recipe is, at least. But after a little research on-line, I've discovered that this is not your typical gelato recipe. Aside from the chocolate, this recipe does not have any dairy in it! I was thrown for such a loop trying to figure out when I put the milk in. This would be a great recipe to make when you want homemade ice cream, but don't have any "fancy" dairy products in the house. It is very, very rich so small servings are better.

Chocolate Gelato
8 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 cups water
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Put the milk chocolate and cocoa in a blender or food processor. Bring water and sugar to a simmer in small saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar. Pour the hot syrup in to the blender/processor. Pulse 4-5 times until the mixture is smooth, but not foamy. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and salt and pulse once more to combine. Transfer mixture to a bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until very cold.

Whisk the chocolate mixture, then transfer to an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturers instructions. Pour mixture in to an air tight container and freeze until firm (at least 2 hours).

Friday, May 20, 2011

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day was last week.  I generally avoid making chocolate chip cookies because they never turn out soft and chewy and perfect. Ever. I've tried countless recipes and have never achieved the perfect chocolate chip cookie.

Until now.

You will never need another chocolate chip cookie recipe ever again. Just trust me because I've tried them all. As an added bonus, this one super quick and easy.

(As I was typing this up, I realized that I actually baked my cookies at 400 degrees and I only used a 1/4 cup measure to make the cookies! Ooops! But, they only took about 6 minutes to bake and they still turned out perfectly!)

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 cups plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 Tablespoons melted butter
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Whisk dry ingredients together in a medium bowl.  In bowl of electric mixer, mix butter and sugars until thoroughly combined.  Beat in egg, egg yolk, and vanilla until combined.  Add dry ingredients and beat at low-speed just until combined.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Roll a scant half-cup of dough into a ball.  Holding dough ball in fingertips of both hands, pull apart into two equal halves.  Put each half on parchment lined cookie sheet with jagged surfaces facing up (I put 9 on a sheet).  Bake, until cookies are light golden brown and outer edges start to harden yet centers are still soft and puffy (approximately 11-14 minutes).  Do not overbake. Take them out just after they've risen and when they still look a little gooey in the middle.

Recipe found at Annie's Eats, but originally from Baking Illustrated.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Homemade Protein Bars

I've seen a lot of chatter on whole food blogs recently about homemade Larabars, which are basically protein bars. I've never had a Larabar and I'm not a huge fan of protein bars, but my husband loves them. If they didn't cost so much, we'd have protein bars in the house at all times. When I saw that Larabars are made with five or less ingredients, I was pretty sure that I could find a recipe for a homemade protein bar that would fit the bill of inexpensive and delicious.

You know a recipe is a winner when your uber picky four year old won't stop eating them and sings your praises for the new DELICIOUS snack. Of course, I made these one afternoon when she wasn't around because if she knew what was in them, there is no way she'd touch them! These are a winner with both the four year old and her protein bar loving Daddy.

Homemade Protein Bars
2 cups raw almonds
1/2 cup dates
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
Optional: 1/4 melted chocolate for topping (I used dark)

In a food processor pulse together almonds, dates, coconut, and peanut butter just to soften. Add coconut oil, maple syrup and vanilla to food processor. Pulse into a coarse paste. Press mixture into an 8 x 8 square pan lined with parchment or wax paper, leaving about 2-3 inches over hanging the pan edges. Chill for 1 hour. Melt chocolate and spread on top of bars. Refrigerate until chocolate hardens. Using the overlapping parchment/wax paper gently lift the bars out of the pan and cut in to squares. Store in refrigerator or freezer.

Adapted from Passionate Homemaking.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies

I love "old fashioned" cookie recipes that don't call for modern ingredients like peanut butter chips and the like. And I really like a good sugar cookie. I was intrigued that this sugar cookie recipe called for a cultured milk product (buttermilk, yogurt, or sour cream). These cookies really surprised me when the puffed right up! They have a cake like texture and are just subtly sweet.

I made two sheets of cookies -- one I made with a teaspoon sized cookie scoop and the other with a 2 teaspoon sized cookie scoop. I definitely like the smaller ones better. I didn't have any raisins so I put a pecan on a few of them, but the pecans don't fit well. Next time, I'll try raisins.

Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 sticks (1 cup), butter, softened
2 eggs
1 cup plain yogurt (or sour cream or buttermilk)
3 3/4 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or lemon extract)
Raisins (optional)

Cream sugar and butter until blended and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Add eggs and beat well to combine. Add milk, dry ingredients and vanilla. Mix thoroughly.

Drop by teaspoonsful onto parchment lined baking sheets, If desired, place a raisin in the center of each cookie and press down slightly so the raisin stays in place.

Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

Adapted from The Fix It or Forget It Blog.

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