Thursday, May 31, 2012

Quick bread....

When I get bored I either go online and hoard more recipes or I bake.  The other night I chose to bake.  I had some carrots that needed to get used up so off I went in search of a recipe for "carrot something".  I found the recipe for Pineapple Carrot bread in "The Taste of Home Baking Book".

Here is the recipe:

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp salt
3 eggs
2 cups shredded carrots

Yup, shredded 'em myself!  Had orange fingers for a few days.

1 cup vegetable oil
1 can (8 ounces) crushed pineapple, drained
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
3/4 cup confectioner's sugar, optional
1 to 1 1/2 tsp milk, optional

 In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.

In another bowl, beat the eggs; add carrots, oil, pineapple and vanilla.

Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.  Fold in nuts. (I haven't fully stocked my pantry yet so I had to leave out the nuts. Next time.)

Spoon into two greased 8 in x 4 in x 2 in loaf pans. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 65-75 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.  If glaze is desired, combine confectioner's sugar and milk; drizzle over loaves.

Since I had the streusel left over from the banana muffins I decided to put that on the top of the bread.

When prepping to make this I discovered that I only have one loaf pan.  I can't figure out how that happened but I plan to rectify it very soon.  This beautiful blue one was a gift from my dear aunt Alicia.  It came with a matching 8 in x 8 in square pan.  I love them, Thanks Alicia!  So, in lieu of the other loaf pan I made muffins with the remaining batter. 

This tasted 1000 times better than I thought it would.  I heated up a piece with a little butter just the next day and it was still good.  Don't you hate when you make or buy something and then the next day it doesn't taste the same or goes stale too fast?  It makes me crazy!!!

See all that carrot in there?  That makes it healthy, right?

Next up I am making oatmeal cookies WITHOUT raisins for a friend we're going to see over the weekend.

Talk to you soon!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Employee appreciation....

Mr. Lucky is the supervisor of a group that has some weekend employees.  Awful, huh?  He feels bad too so he asked me to make them some treats to drop off to them.  I, of course, said YES!  I had been dying to make a peanut butter frosting so now I had my chance.

I had been running a peanut butter frosting recipe through my head for a few weeks.  How would I make it? Would I use real peanut butter or a flavoring? Use the peanut butter in addition to the butter and shortening in the recipe or as a replacement or in combination?  This is just a glimpse into how my crazy brain works.  I get a recipe idea and it rattles around in there until I have a chance to make it. 

Here is the recipe:

1/2  cup sold white vegetable shortening
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter (I used Jif but any kind will do)
1 Tbsp Vanilla extract (more or less depending on taste)
1/4 cup milk or water  (more or less depending on desired consistency, I use Milk)
1 1/2 lbs. confectioner's sugar (approx. 6 cups)
A pinch of salt (optional)
Cream together shortening, flavoring and milk.  

Add dry ingredients and mix on medium speed until all ingredients have been thoroughly mixed together. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Blend an additional minute or so, until creamy.

Doesn't that look yummy?  It was!

I suppose you want to know what I put this yummy frosting on?  What goes best with peanut butter? Chocolate, of course!

To frost these I used a Wilton 1A tip.  This is probably the easiest way I have found to frost cupcakes.

I had the hardest time getting a picture of this!

Now, I'd love to explain how to frost a cupcake but I am not that good at explaining things and it would be much easier to show you.  Maybe next time I make cupcakes I will have Mr. Lucky take some video of my technique, such as it is.

I finished the cupcakes off with some Reese's Pieces for a little fun and extra color.  I think they looked cute.

I hope that Mr. Lucky's people liked them.  I know that he loved the few that I kept here.  I taste tested too much of the frosting to eat any cupcakes.  Total sugar overload!

I have to say again that I am so happy to be on a roll in the kitchen again.  Next up some pineapple carrot bread.

Talk to you soon!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Freedom isn't free....

Today is Memorial Day, a day to remember all those who have lost their lives serving this country.  The men and women that serve in our nation's military are true heroes that risk their lives for people that they don't even know.  Say thank you and never forget that you are free because of their sacrifice.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Mr. Lucky loves bananas, banana bread, banana muffins etc.  Me, not so much, I just don't like 'em.  But tonight I decided to indulge him and make some banana muffins.  I kinda cheated though, I used a box of Jiffy banana muffin mix and doctored it up with some real banana, vanilla and a streusel topping.

Here is the recipe:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray muffin cups or use paper liners.

The muffin mix calls for 1/3 cup milk and one egg.  To this I added half a banana that I mashed up with a fork and a teaspoon of vanilla.

Mix everything together until just combined and fill the muffin cups about halfway full.  I ended up with 6 muffins and I was finally able to use these adorable liners that I got on clearance last year after Valentine's day.

So cute, right?

I got the streusel recipe from (what else) Joy of Cooking.  Here is the recipe:

2/3 cup almonds, walnuts or pecans, chopped (I skipped these because I didn't have any!)
2/3 cup flour
2/3 cup sugar (I used half white sugar and half brown sugar for some added flavor)
5 Tbsp butter, melted (I did not melt it.  I made sure it was very cold to cut it into the other ingredients)
1 tsp cinnamon
I also added about a 1/4 cup of oats and a teaspoon of vanilla

Use a fork or a pastry blender to combine until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  

This made way more streusel than I needed.  I added about a tablespoon to the top of the batter on each muffin. So, I guess I will have to make something with the left over sometime this week.

Bake the muffins on the middle rack in the preheated oven for 13-15 minutes.

How yummy do these look?
Mr. Lucky was overjoyed that I made these.  He said they were delicious.  I didn't try them because, like I said, I don't like bananas.  They smelled out of this world though.

Can I just say that I am so glad to be back in the kitchen and cooking?  It makes me happy! I am happy! Things are finally back to normal and it feels great. With all the craziness with our move and getting settled in a new state I was feeling a bit lost. Ok, that's all for now.

Talk to you soon!

Monday, May 21, 2012

When life gives you lemons....

I love all (most) things lemon.  I have a ridiculous collection of lemon recipes. I love lemon bars, lemon chicken, lemon pasta, the lemon cookies I made last night.  I even tried to make my own lemon curd once but it was a bit of a failure so, when I recently saw a jar of lemon curd in the store and grabbed it.  When I saw this recipe for lemon shortcakes with lemon curd I knew I found a use for that jarred lemon curd.  I found the recipe at Tracey's Culinary Adventures.  I tweaked it a bit to what I had on hand. 

Here is the recipe:

For the shortcakes:

1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons  lemon zest
1 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons chilled heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar

For assembling the shortcakes:

lemon curd
raspberries (or whatever fruit you prefer)
whipped cream

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. (I used my silicone mat for this)

Add the sugar and lemon zest to a medium bowl. Use your fingertips to rub the zest into the sugar until fragrant.
Lemon zest and sugar
  Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and whisk to combine.

Add the butter, then use a pastry cutter (or your fingertips) to work the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Can't really see too well, butter all cut it
 Stir in 1 cup of the cream, just until the dough begins to clump together.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and gather together.

Press into a 7-inch round (about 1-inch thick) and use a 2-inch cutter to cut rounds (or press into a rectangle 1-inch high and just cut into squares, like I did). Gather the scraps (if you cut rounds) and cut additional rounds. Transfer to prepared baking sheet.

Brush the tops of the biscuits with the remaining 2 tablespoons of cream and sprinkle them with the turbinado sugar.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the tops of the biscuits are golden brown, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the biscuits to a wire rack to cool completely.

To assemble: Cut one of the biscuits in half. Spread the bottom with a layer of lemon curd, then a dollop of whipped cream and a few raspberries. Place the top half of the biscuit on top and finish with additional whipped cream, and raspberries for garnish.

 These  tasted so, so good!  The shortcakes did not "puff" as much as I would have liked.  I think it was because it got really warm in the house today and the butter melted some.  It was either that or I have to do some more research on high altitude baking.  Cut me some slack I moved to Salt Lake City from Boston, it's gonna take some adjusting. 

Try these, you will LOVE them.

Talk to you soon!


Sunday, May 20, 2012

In the mood to bake...

At about 9:30pm tonight I decided I wanted to bake something.  I had really been thinking about it all day but didn't have the motivation until then.  I wanted something easy because it was, after all, 9:30pm.  I have been holding on to this recipe for lemon cake mix cookies because I never have lemon cake mix in the house.  Well, tonight I had some.  Yay!  These are the easiest cookies you will ever make. 

Here is the recipe:
Yup, just 4 ingredients. Well, maybe 5...
1 (18.25 ounce) package lemon cake mix
2 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon lemon extract ( I did not have this so I used a couple drops of lemon oil)
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar for decoration

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). 
Pour cake mix into a large bowl. Stir in eggs, oil, and lemon extract until well blended. 

Drop teaspoonfuls of dough into a bowl of confectioners' sugar. Roll them around until they're lightly covered.  I use the small ice cream scoop so that all the cookies are the same size.  You can find these small scoops almost anywhere: Target, Wal-mart, Bed Bath & Beyond.

Once sugared, put them on an ungreased cookie sheet.  I always use my silicone mats when I bake anything on a sheet pan.  It cuts down on clean up and it ensures that nothing sticks.

Bake for 6 to 9 minutes in the preheated oven. The bottoms will be light brown, and the insides chewy. 

 I ended up with a few over 3 dozen cookies total.  We are going to drop most of them off to the weekend staff at Mr. Lucky's work so we don't eat them all.  

I cannot wait to make these again.  I am thinking of trying other cake mix flavors and extracts.  What flavors do you think would work best?  Spice cake with vanilla extract was the first one that came to mind but I think that Devil's Food and peppermint would taste awesome.  Any other ideas?  

Ok, since I baked at 9:30pm I am going to go eat some dinner at 12:30am.  Night owl?  Absolutely!

Talk to you soon!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Presidential Pasta

Tonight I made Ronald Reagan's Macaroni and Cheese. Who knew Ronny was a cook?  I cannot remember where I got the recipe but I am so glad that once upon a time I printed it.  This is not creamy mac and cheese so some may not like it, like Chelle, but it is a keeper.

Here is the recipe:

1/2 lb uncooked macaroni
1 tsp butter
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp salt (I skipped this, the cheese is salty enough)
1 cup warm milk
3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (3/4 lb), reserve 1/4 cup for topping. (I bought a brick of cheese and shredded it myself.  It was on sale)
I love cheese!
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 2 quart casserole with non-stick spray (butter works just fine too). Cook macaroni in a pot of water until tender, drain.  In a large mixing bowl, mix butter, egg, mustard, salt and milk.  Add cooked macaroni to mix and stir to coat.  Add cheese, combine.  Pour into casserole dish and sprinkle with additional shredded cheese. (I think I might add some bread crumbs to the top next time.)
Headed to the oven
Bake 45 minutes or until custard is set and top is crusty.  Makes 4 to 6 servings.
So delicious!

 This is definitely worth a try and if you don't like mac and cheese you should seek counseling.

Talk to you soon!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

My mom & dad at their 35th anniversary party

First and foremost I want to say Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers, mothers in law, step-mothers, grandmothers and any other mother figure.  None of us would be where we are without you.  I am not huge into these greeting card holidays since we should tell the people we love how we feel every day.  I know, a little corny but shouldn't we?  Life is short!  In honor of Mother's Day I thought I would share with you one of the first dinners my mom taught me to make, pot roast. 

I love my mom very much but she's, admittedly, not much of a cook but she does have some go to recipes that she has passed on to me and my brothers.  Her pot roast is one of my favorites.

 Throwing meat in a pan with some veggies and water then boiling them for a couple hours is a time honored New England tradition. Whether it is a ham, a pot roast or corned beef brisket I love boiled dinner.  How can you go wrong with everything in one pot?

Right before we left to go back to Massachusetts I made a delicious pot roast.  I had been feeling a bit homesick and figured some meat and potatoes would be the cure. It kinda was. If you have never made pot roast you should do it, soon. It is one of the easiest meals you will ever make.

For this one I finally broke out my cast iron dutch oven. I freakin love this thing! I do want to get one of those gorgeous enameled ones some day but this baby with survive a nuclear war so it will do for now. Cast iron cookware is another thing you definitely need to check out sooner rather than later. It is durable, nonstick (when properly seasoned) and cooks just about everything beautifully. I will have to remember to do a post on seasoning cast iron one day.

With the black stove it's a bit tough to get a good look

Anyway, back to the original topic, pot roast. This doesn't really require a recipe, it's more about method than quantities.  I have a lot of these recipe-less recipes don't I???  I read somewhere "cooking is an art, baking is a science".  I take this to mean that when you're cooking make the recipe your own.  Add the flavors that you like, try something new, be an artist.  I try to tell Chelle this all the time, she's working on it.  When baking you can't veer too far from a recipe because baking involves chemical reactions but that is a blog for another day.

The most important ingredient is the meat.  You want to get a Chuck roast for this.  Most times the package will also have a sticker on it that says something like "Great for Pot Roast".   It should be nicely marbled with fat but not too fatty.  The size you get will depend on how many people you are planning to feed.  The one I got was about two and a half pounds.

See what I mean about the marbling?
Whenever you making a meat dish you want to bring it to room temperature before you start to cook it so that it cooks evenly. You want to season the meat with some salt and pepper.  You could add a little garlic powder too if you like.  I like.  I am a huge fan of garlic.  It's a good thing Mr. Lucky is too or I'd have to buy stock in breath mints.

Once the meat is seasoned you are going to add a a tablespoon or so of oil to the bottom of your pot set to high heat.  You are going to sear all sides of the roast to seal in the flavor and juices.

See the nice caramelization? That means yummy!
Once the meat has been seared turn the heat down to medium and add enough beef broth to cover the meat by about an inch or so.  I ended up using about 4 cups.  You can always use water with some beef bouillon if you don't have broth on hand.  Plain water is ok too, the meat and veggies will flavor it just fine.

I get the store brand.  It's less expensive and tastes just the same.

Once the broth is simmering you are going to add the vegetables. You can add just about any veggies that you like.  This time I added pearl onions, carrots, mushrooms and potatoes.  The potatoes cook fairly quickly so you want to add them closer to the end of the cooking time.

 These onions taste delicious but they were a pain in the butt to peel.  I just used a handful, about 12-14. You could always just quarter a couple whole onions and toss them in instead of these, they just won't hold together as well.

 I like to get whole carrots and peel and chop them myself.  I have heard rumors that those baby carrots that are a lot more convenient are bleached.  I don't know about you but bleach isn't something I want near my food so I am peeling and chopping.  For this I used about four average sized carrots.

 I love mushrooms.  They don't have to be fancy, plain old button mushrooms will do just fine.  I cleaned them with a dry paper towel and quartered them.  They absorb moisture easily so you don't want to clean them with water. 

These were very small new potatoes. I cleaned them and threw them in whole.  I used about 10-12 of them.

Once you have the veggies in, minus the potatoes, cover the pot and cook for about an hour and fifteen minutes.  Now, add in the potatoes and cook for about another 30-45 minutes uncovered.  The meat will be fork tender when it's done.

I take the meat out whole and put it on a platter and surround it with the veggies.  You'll barely need a knife to cut it, it's so tender.

Perfect meat and potatoes dinner.
I didn't this time but you can use some of the cooking liquid to make a gravy.  This time I slacked off and opened a jar.  Shame on me!  You could also strain the broth and use it to make a soup.  Hmmm, that one just came to me.  I'll be doing that next time.  I even surprise myself sometimes.

So, that's it.  Thanks Mom!  Happy Mother's Day again to all the moms and I'll be talking to you soon.

Monday, May 7, 2012

First meal in the new kitchen...

Most of the time I am the nag in our relationship, I can admit it, but once in awhile my darling husband has to nag me about something.  I try to be good about cooking anything that Mr. Lucky requests but sometimes I slack off a bit.  The most recent nag was about soup.

When we first moved into our new place I was very focused on getting the boxes unpacked and out of the way that I didn't start cooking right away.  Mr. Lucky was not so happy about it.  He had to ask me at least 10 times to make him turkey barley soup.  Well,  he actually just asked for "a barley soup" he didn't care what kind of meat I decided to use.  Our new grocery store is awesome and had some great chopped turkey breast.
Roasted chopped turkey breast.
 I just tossed it with some olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted it in a 350 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes.  It was perfect!

The soup itself is super easy.  This is another one that I don't have an exact recipe for but I will try to make it as clear as possible. 

2 lg cans (72 oz) of chicken broth, if you can find turkey, go for it, but chicken will do just fine
1 lg onion, diced
3-4 lg carrots, peeled and sliced into ~1/4" pieces
8 oz sliced mushrooms, I buy mine pre-sliced because it saves time!
1 cup ,give or take depending on taste, pearl barley, you want to make sure you get the pearl barley, it cooks faster
A bag this size will last us forever!
Salt and Pepper to taste, I use Jane's Crazy Mixed-Up Salt.  A very dear friend's mother introduced me to it many years ago.  You can find it at almost any grocery store.

It has salt and a whole bunch of other goodies in it. Hence, the Mixed Up name.
Add some olive oil to a stock pot on medium heat.  Add the onions, carrots and mushrooms and a pinch of salt and pepper and cook until the onions are translucent.  Now, add the turkey and the broth and simmer for about 30 minutes.  Then add the barley and simmer for about an hour.  It will be done when the barley is soft. 

I served the soup with some yummy cornbread.  Nothing fancy, just the boxed kind.  Don't judge, it is tasty! 
Just like my momma used to make :-)
I am going to apologize again for my photography.  It's not the greatest but I am trying to get better. 

Talk to you soon!