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.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Off My Needles: Lemon Cupcake Hat

This is a terrible photo of another in the long line of cupcake hats I've knit. This time, instead of a pom pom for the top, I knit a little cherry and I love it!

Buttermilk Doughnuts

I've only attempted doughnuts once and they were just O.K. Definitely not quick enough or good enough to justify the time and energy spent when we have an awesome doughnut shop just down the street! But this morning my son got up super early and my husband cleaned up the kitchen before going to work so I had some extra time to make breakfast. I decided to try a different doughnut recipe.

These doughnuts took me 30 minutes from opening the recipe book to frying the last doughnut hole. I couldn't believe I was done! I used a round biscuit cutter (at least that's what I think it is -- I picked it up at a garage sale) and a corer to cut the center holes. I only rolled and cut the dough twice and then I just rolled it in to doughnut holes.

The only ingredient you may not have on hand is buttermilk, but I find that yogurt usually works as a great substitute for buttermilk. I have started keeping buttermilk in my fridge as a staple because I have so many great recipes that call for it. I thought the original recipe called for 3 cups of flour, but there is no way I could roll the dough with 3 cups so I just kept throwing in handfuls of flour until it wasn't so wet. Very scientific! Turns out the original recipe actually calls for 3 1/2 cups of flour. Ooops. Just add more flour if you need it.

The only directions for frying were to fry in oil. So I used about 3-4 inches grapeseed oil in an enameled cast iron pot.

Buttermilk doughnuts remind me of the doughnuts I used to get at a cider mill in the Fall (I hail from Michigan). But these would be a nice treat for MOM this weekend!

Buttermilk Doughnuts
1/4 shortening (I use palm shortening found in the natural/organic aisle)
1 cup sucanat or sugar
2 eggs
2/4 cup buttermilk
3 1/2 cups (plus a few handfuls) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Oil for frying

Put oil in pot and heat to 365-375 degrees.

Beat shortening and sugar to blend. Add eggs and beat well. Add buttermilk and blend.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Add to wet ingredients all at once. Mix just to combine.

Lightly flour a flat surface and roll dough 1/2" thick. Cut doughnuts with a 2-3 inch round cookie or biscuit cutter. Re-roll and cut as needed. Place on wax paper.

Once oil is hot, drop 3-4 doughnuts in to oil. Fry each side for 1-2 minutes. Remove from oil. Dust with sugar, cinnamon sugar, or powdered sugar.

Adapted from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Flour Tortillas

I've had a recipe for flour tortillas clipped since last June. I was waiting to use up the frozen store bought tortillas that were in my freezer. I finally used them up and made homemade tortillas this past week. As is usually the case, store bought tortillas don't even come close to the quality and deliciousness of homemade tortillas!

The tortillas are basically pitas, but without the yeast. These were super quick and easy to make. They do take some time because you have to roll them out and then put them on the griddle, take them off, and repeat, but it really couldn't be easier!

I am TERRIBLE at rolling out anything in to a circle. I just can't get it. So my tortillas are not exactly circular. Oh well, they still tasted good!

I have read that these freeze very well. I would wrap them in plastic wrap, separated by wax paper and then freeze for up to a month.

Flour Tortillas
3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups water
5 Tablespoons olive oil

In a large bowl combine flour and salt. Stir in water and oil. Turn out on to a floured surface and kneed 5-6 times.

Divide dough in to 12 portions. On a lightly floured surface, roll each portion in to a 7 inch circle.

In a large skillet or on a a griddle (coated lightly with oil if needed), cook tortillas over medium heat for 1 minute on each side or until lightly browned. To keep warm and soft, remove tortillas to a plate and keep covered with a towel.

Classic Banana Bread

My friend, Kim, always brings mini-loaves of the best banana bread to our annual Christmas cookie exchange. Our loaf never lasts more than a day. This is hands down the best banana bread I've ever eaten or made.

The original recipe calls for buttermilk (as written below), but you can substitute plain milk or I've even made it with plain yogurt as a substitute. This week I made this recipe with 1 3/4 cups of all purpose flour and 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour and I couldn't tell a difference (I ran out of all purpose!).

Classic Banana Bread
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

Mix sugar and butter in large bowl or in bowl of stand mixer. Stir in eggs until well blended. Add bananas, buttermilk, and vanilla and beat until smooth. Stir in remaining ingredients.

Pour in to 2, 8 x4; 1, 9 x5; or 4 mini-loaf pans that have been greased on the bottom. Bake at 350 degrees for around 1 hour --- more for the larger loaf and less for the mini-loaves -- or until toothpick comes out clean.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Molasses Cookies

Last weekend my sister and I went "yard saling". We have a policy to always stop at the kid run lemonade stand and make a purchase. This week's purchase was over the top good. I bought a molasses cookie that was out of this world. I should've bought all of them, they were so good. The cookie reminded me of this recipe, which is from a college roommate. My roommate's mom sent them to her and I fell in love. Thankfully, she shared the recipe with me (on a postcard, which is tucked in my recipe binder and has my address from my freshman year in college!).

Molasses Cookies
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda

Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs and molasses and blend. Mix in flour, cinnamon, and baking soda. Chill dough. Roll in to one inch balls and then roll balls in sugar (I use Turbinado or Raw Sugar). Bake for 8-10 minutes at 375 degrees. Bake only until cookies raise and just start to go back down. Do not over bake.

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

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