Monday, August 30, 2010

Apple Dapple Wacky Cake

Recently (and I use that term as loosely as the Seven Dwarfs did when Snow White asked them when they had last washed...) I entered a giveaway over at the blog of Chef Dennis - More Than a Mount  Full: a Culinary Journey.  I was one of the winners chosen.  He and Girard's Salad Dressings gave me a variety of four bottles of those pretty gold labeled salad dressings.  The stipulation in winning, however, was that I create a recipe using one of the dressings.  When I read about Girard's Apple Poppy Seed Salad Dressing, I immediately knew I wanted to make a dessert with it.  Apple Cake.  A Frugal Apple Cake.  A Delicious Frugal Apple Cake.

Apple Dapple Wacky Cake
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 heaping tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp poppy seeds
1 apple, peeled, cored, chopped fine
apple juice
1/3 cup Girard's Apple Poppy Seed Salad Dressing
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla
Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl.  Put the apple in a one cup measure and fill in the nooks and crannies with apple juice.  Add the salad dressing, lemon juice and vanilla to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.  Add the apple/juice combo and stir until well combined.  Pour batter into a greased 7 X 11 pan.  Bake 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until done.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Homemade Oreos: Make Your Own Monday #34

I have had so called "homemade Oreo" cookies before.  Usually they resemble a Whoopie Pie more than an actual Oreo.  The cookies are soft, the middle is marshmallow-like.  So, when I decided to recreate an Oreo at home, I went after a crunchy cookie first and a sadly Crisco like filling next, because that's what the quintessential Oreo is.  My first batch didn't bake long enough and was too soft.  The reviews from my family ranged from, "Tastes like a brownie," "It's good, but it's definitely not an Oreo," and my personal favorite, "Are you sure this isn't gingerbread?"  Yeah, that taster's credibility went in the toilet with that remark.

With the second and third batches, however, all of my kids finally got on board and declared these cookies as good or better than the store variety.  My husband, the die-hard Oreo eater, was never convinced.  Having given you the honest opinions of my family, I give you my version of Oreo cookies: 

The Cookies:

2 1/4 cups flour, all-purpose
1/4 cup cornstarch
6 tablespoons cocoa powder, unsweetened
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar, white
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup milk, any kind
1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix the dry ingredients in a small bowl.  In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar.  Combine the milk and vanilla and add alternately with the dry ingredients.  Mix until well blended.  On plastic wrap (you may want to divide the dough into parts) roll the dough into a 1 1/2 inch diameter log.  Wrap with plastic and freeze an hour or until really firm.  Cut ¼ inch thick circles and place on cookie sheet.  Return unused dough to the freezer until the next batch.  Bake  at a preheated 375 for 13-15 minutes or until crispy.  Cool on a wire rack until completely cooled.

For the Filling:

1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
3 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat butter and shortening with powdered sugar.  Add the vanilla a teaspoon at a time until desired consistency is reached.  Place in a small Ziploc bag and cut off the corner.  Piping the filling onto the cookies made it really easy!

Make It from Scratch Thursday

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Peach Pancake Syrup

We have a few fruit trees in our yard.  This year, the birds ate all 8 of the apricots on that tree.  The apple trees have grown so tall that, even on a really tall ladder, we cannot reach many of them before the birds eat them.  The peach tree, however, produced plentifully and we reaped a great harvest.  

I always put some peaches in the freezer and can a few, too,  but I thought this year we could use an alternative to maple syrup for the tons of pancakes, waffles and French toast that we eat throughout the year. This peach syrup was super easy to make and tasted fantastic as it was cooking.

Peach Pancake Syrup
15 cups peaches
6 cups sugar
6 Tbsp lemon juice
3 tsp vanilla, coconut, or brandy extract
Peel and cut the peaches and place into a food processor to puree.  (It took me 4 batches to puree all 15 cups).  In a large stockpot, combine the puree, sugar and lemon juice.  Bring the mixture to a boil and then simmer for 5 minutes more.  At this point, you can add the flavoring of your choice.  I chose to leave it out until I open the individual jars, so each jar can have a different flavor if I choose. Fill sterilized pint jars and then process for 20 minutes in a water bath.  Makes 8 pints.

Here's the pickled peaches I made next:

Here is the sugarless (peaches, apple juice, lemon juice & pectin) jam I made after that:

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Newman's Recipes Part Two: the Salads

I realize you could just hop over to the Foodbuzz site to see all of these recipes, but like any proud parent, I am posting the recipes here, too.  Notice that all three salads are in the same bowl.  I am not sure what I was thinking, except that it's a pretty color.  It didn't occur to me that I was being redundant.

This salad was truly inspired.  It is amazing.

Fiesta Pasta Salad 

12 ounce package farfalle or rigatoni pasta
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 jar Newman's Own medium salsa
1 small can sliced black olives
3 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup mayonnaise
½ tsp salt

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain.

  2. In a large bowl, combine the pasta, cheese, Newman's Own salsa, black olives, cilantro, mayonnaise and salt.

  3. Refrigerate until cold. Note: the flavor gets better the longer you wait until serving.

    Warm Honey Mustard Potato Salad

    4 14 ounce cans sliced potatoes, drained and rinsed
    ¼ cup chopped green onion
    ¾ cup pre-cooked bacon, crumbled
    1 cup Newman's Own Light Honey Mustard Vinaigrette
    ½ tsp salt
    ¼ tsp garlic powder
    1 Tbsp dried parsley

    1. In a microwave safe bowl, combine the potatoes, green onion and bacon.

    2. In a small bowl, combine the Newman's Own Light Honey Mustard Vinaigrette , garlic powder and the salt.

    3. Pour the dressing mixture over the potatoes and microwave for 4 minutes or until warmed through, but not hot. Serve.

      Black Bean Salad 

      2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
      1 can diced tomatoes, drained
      1 16 ounce package frozen corn, rinsed with warm water to clear any ice
      1 orange bell pepper, diced
      4 green onions, chopped
      3 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
      ½ tsp salt
      2/3 cup Newman's Own Olive Oil and Vinegar Dressing
      2 small limes
      ½ tsp cumin

      1. In a large bowl, combine beans, tomatoes, corn, bell pepper, green onions and cilantro.

      2. In a smaller bowl, combine salt, dressing, juice of 2 limes and cumin.

      3. Pour dressing mixture over bean mixture. Toss and serve.
      Note: flavors will get better if left in the fridge for half an hour before serving.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Homemade Pizza Rolls: Make Your Own Monday #33

My kids used to be so excited when they'd go play at a friend's house and they'd be served Totino's or Jeno's pizza rolls for snack or dinner.  They aren't something that I buy very often (unless the sale is so good I can't resist, of course) let alone make at home.  We love homemade pizza, but to make those little processed rolls, that seemed a bit crazy.  One day, however, I found an obscure recipe in an obscure cookbook that promised a clone of those processed little bites.  With a bit of tweaking to suit our tastes, this is what I made:
And let me just tell you, these were WAY better than anything you can get in your freezer section.  They were very labor intensive, but they were completely worth the work for a special treat, a New Year's appetizer, a Super Bowl snack or just a meal that doesn't involve a lot of factory made food.

Homemade Pizza Rolls (like Totino's):
1 package won ton wrappers (48 count)
1 1/2 cups spaghetti sauce
1 pound Italian sausage (I used homemade)
1/2 onion, minced fine
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped fine
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
oil for frying (about 3 cups)
Cook the sausage.  Remove from pan and saute onion and pepper in the drippings. Drain if necessary.  Return the sausage to the pan and add the spaghetti sauce.  Heat through and turn off heat.  Spread out your wrappers on the counter or cutting board.  Get a little bowl of water for your finger and a cooling rack on which to place the assembled pizza rolls.  Put about a teaspoon of filling onto the middle of each wrapper.  Sprinkle a bit of cheese on top.  With your finger wet the left and right edges of the wrappers.  Bring the bottom half up over the filling and seal the edges.  Wet the top edge of the wrapper and bring that half down over the filling and seal the edges and the center seam.  Place on the cooling rack.  When all of the wrappers are filled, heat the oil.  Place a kernel of popcorn into the oil and when it pops, it's ready.  Fry the pizza rolls until golden brown on each side.  Drain, cool and eat.

Note: I had quite a bit of filling left over.  It means I will either be buying more wrappers this week, or I am going to put it on a bun for a great sandwich.

Note: I think you could probably freeze these before you fry them.  However, I have not tried it and make no guarantees.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Homemade Freezer Biscuits: Make Your Own Monday #32

There is a product in the freezer section that comes in a blue bag with a little dough man on the front.  They are ready to bake biscuits.  I have tried them and they are mighty convenient for a quick breakfast or dinner.  A bag of ten biscuits retails for approximately $3.09.  Do you know how much cheaper it is to make your own???  The following recipe made two bags of 13 biscuits each...for a lot less than retail.

Freezer Biscuits
5 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
1 cup shortening, butter or a combo of both
1 envelope yeast
2 Tbsp warm water
2 cups buttermilk
In a large bowl, combine the first five ingredients.  Cut the shortening into the flour with a pastry blender or fork until mixture resembles coarse sand.  Dissolve the yeast in the warm water.  Add both the yeast water and the buttermilk to the flour.   Knead the dough until it is no longer sticky and feels elastic.  Roll out to 1/2 inch thickness.  Cut into circles and lay on a cookie sheet.  

Freeze until hard and then place into a freezer container.   To use: bake at a preheated 425 degrees until tops are light brown...about 15 minutes.  You can bake these either frozen or unfrozen.  If you let them thaw, they will rise a bit because of the yeast.  

Monday, August 9, 2010

Poblano Creamed Corn

I am sure there is a better name for this dish.  My parents went to Mexico and then on a cruise down around the Panama Canal earlier this year, stopping in various places along the way.  Mom came back raving about the food and swearing never to pretend she was a bobsledder  in Jamaica again (long story).  One of the dishes she tried was a pepper dish with a little corn.  After experimenting a bit and changing the ration of peppers to corn to fit our family's tastes, this is what we came up with.

Poblano Corn:
2 poblano peppers, roasted and peeled
1 16 ounce package frozen corn
1 half pint heavy cream
1/4 cup minced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
If you have a gas stove, begin by roasting your peppers over the open flame of a burner.  This is easily done by placing a pepper on a long meat fork.
You want the outer, waxy skin to char completely.  
If you don't have access to an open flame, you can blanch the peppers in boiling water and peel them that way.  
After they are peeled, open them up and remove the seeds and stem.  Slice them into 1/8 to 1/4 inch strips and set aside.  Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil.  When the onion is clear, add the pepper strips and cook while stirring for a minute to guarantee that the pepper is completely cooked and to heat through.  Thaw your corn  in the microwave(fresh works well, too, but canned changes the taste of this dish) and add to the skillet.  When all of the corn is hot, add the cream, salt and pepper, stirring all the while, heat through and serve.  You may want to sprinkle some Mexican cheese, like queso fresco,  over the top.
Note: You may find that any leftovers get a bit hotter in flavor with time.  

Thursday, August 5, 2010

In Search of the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

The problem with searching for the "perfect" chocolate chip cookie, is that opinions are subjective.  What I like in a cookie, maybe you don't.  A recipe that one person raves over may seem blah to the next.  When I saw America's Test Kitchen's video for the "perfect" chocolate chip cookie, I knew I had to try the recipe.  It uses an almost radical technique and boasts caramelized soft, chewy perfection.

As I made the cookies, my olfactory senses were on overdrive.  The aroma of the browned butter and the brown sugar is almost overwhelming in deliciousness.  The resulting cookies are indeed in the top 5 of all chocolate chip cookies ever baked in my home, but are they the ultimate?  I leave it up to you.

America's Test Kitchen Chocolate Chip Cookies (from their website)
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8 3/4 ounces)
1/2 tsp baking soda
14 Tbsp unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar (5 1/4 ounces)
tsp table salt
tsp vanilla extract
large egg
large egg yolk
1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips or chunks 3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted (optional)
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (18- by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

  • Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.
  • Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.
  • Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons (or use #24 cookie scoop). Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet. (Smaller baking sheets can be used, but will require 3 batches.)
  • Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.
I followed their instructions to the letter (I know, weird for me.) I even weighed all of my ingredients.  When I asked if these were the best cookies, The Thinker said he liked chewy, cakier cookies.  The Musician said he'd rather just have peanut butter cookies.  The Comedian said he liked thinner gooey-er cookies.  The Engineer said he liked any kind of cookie.  Someone else mentioned those ground oatmeal with the grated chocolate bar cookies.  Like I said, perfect is subjective.

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