Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Lemon Sour Cream Cookies

If you like applesauce cookies and pumpkin cookies, you HAVE to try these cookies—especially if you also happen to like lemon! These cookies have a soft, cake-like texture. The lemony flavor is incredible. Bart and Joshua made these together (Bart made the dough and Joshua scooped the dough onto the cookie sheets.) These are now one of our all-time favorite cookies!

Makes 3 1/2 dozen cookies

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter , softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

1. Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in large bowl.

2. With electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until incorporated. Reduce speed to low and beat in sour cream and lemon zest. Add flour mixture and mix until combined.

3. Refrigerate dough until slightly firm, about 1 hour. Drop rounded tablespoons of batter onto prepared baking sheets, spacing cookies 2 inches apart. Bake until just golden around edges, about 15 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking. Cool on baking sheets. Repeat with remaining dough. (Cookies can be stored in airtight container for 3 days.) Frost with no-fuss icing, if desired.

No-Fuss Icing
Makes enough to glaze several dozen cookies. (Personally, I never measure anything when I make a simple glaze like this—I just dump and whisk until it looks right.)

1 - 2 tablespoons milk
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 - 3 drops flavored extract (optional—I used some vanilla)

With small whisk or fork, combine 1 tablespoon milk and confectioners' sugar in small bowl to make soft, smooth icing. Stir in optional flavored extracts. If mixture is too stiff, add milk in very tiny increments until desired consistency is reached.

Pennsylvania Dutch Corn and Chicken Soup

Today we actually had to turn on our heater—the perfect weather for soup! Bart made this for us. He says it was very fast to make. And we all loved how deliciously comforting the meal was!

Pennsylvania Dutch Corn and Chicken Soup
Serves 4 to 6

1 (16-ounce) bag frozen corn , thawed
8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 onion , chopped
1 celery rib , sliced thin
Salt and pepper
3 cups egg noodles
2 chicken breasts, roasted and cubed (or use the meat from a rotissierie chicken)

1. Combine 2 cups corn and 2 cups broth in blender and puree until smooth. Melt butter in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook onion, celery, remaining corn, and ½ teaspoon salt until softened, 5 to 7 minutes.

2. Stir in remaining broth, noodles, and pureed corn mixture. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer until noodles are tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in chicken and heat through. Season with salt and pepper. Serve.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Big Cinnamon Rolls

For a fundraiser for cub scouts, we have been selling homemade cinnamon rolls. I have been using Kendra's recipe, and the cinnamon rolls have been well-received by all who ordered them. I have increased the amount of filling and cinnamon for my personal preference. The original recipe calls for 1/2 cup granulated sugar wih 2 teaspoons cinnamon along with the 1/2 cup softened butter for the filling.

3 tablespoons yeast
3/4 cup sugar (divided)
3/4 cup warm water (110-120 degrees)
3 eggs, beaten lightly
3 cups warm water (110-120 degrees)
4 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
11 - 12 cups flour

1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon

3 ounces canned (evaporated) milk
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3 3/4 cups powdered sugar

Dissolve all yeast in 3/4 cup water with two teaspoons of the 3/4 cup sugar. Then add the beaten eggs, 3 cups water and remaining sugar. Mix. Add salt, oil, and half of the flour. Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Add enough remaining flour to make a soft dough. Knead for 5 minutes or until dough is the right texture. Place dough in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise for one hour.

Divide dough in half. Roll each half of dough out into a rectangle as big as your cookie sheet (18 x 13-inch). Spread 1/4 cup of softened butter on each rectangle of dough. Mix sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle half of it on each rectangle. Roll as for jelly roll, starting with the long edge; then seal. Cut each rectangle into 12 rolls. (To cut rolls: Place piece of thread or unflavored dental floss under rolled dough and pull up around sides. Crisscross thread at top, then pull quickly.) Place on greased, large cookie sheet with 1-inch sides. Let rise in warm place till double, 30 to 45 minutes.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Rolls should be golden brown and when thumped with fingertip they will have a hollow sound, indicating rolls are done. Mix frosting and put 1/2 on each pan of rolls.

Baked Potato Soup with Cheddar and Bacon

If you’re baking potatoes to go with a meal, bake a few extra so you have them on hand to make this soup (see my previous post for Baked Potatoes with Chipotle Butter). Although we enjoy soup year-round, it is exciting that fall is here and we have had some really good “soup” days (stormy, cooler days). This soup is very fast to put together and we all loved it.

3 tablespoons butter (I used 4 tablespoons)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (I used 4 tablespoons)
5 cups milk, heated (I heated mine in the microwave)
3 reserved baked potatoes, peeled and cubed (about 3 cups)
4 scallions, chopped (green and white parts)
¾ cup shredded cheddar cheese
½ cup sour cream
4 slices bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk in the flour, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture is blended and smooth. Whisk in the milk until blended. Stir in the potatoes and scallions and bring to a simmer, stirring frequently. Simmer for 5 minutes (soup should thicken).

Reduce the heat to low (or remove from the heat) and add the cheese, sour cream, and bacon. Simmer for 1 to 2 minutes, until the cheese melts. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.

Nutty Asian Chicken Over Noodles

This dish is VERY fast to put together if you have cooked chicken on hand (see my previous post for Plum-Marinated Chicken). This is the first time I have had cellophane noodles, and they have a quite different texture from angel-hair pasta. I’m sure angel-hair pasta would be a fine substitute if you prefer a “normal” pasta texture. We really enjoyed this dish!

8 ounces cellophane noodles (also called bean thread or glass noodles)
1 cup frozen green peas
1 ½ cups chicken broth
1/3 cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons ponzu sauce (a citrus-soy sauce blend) or soy sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
4 reserved cooked chicken breast halves, cut into thin strips (or 4 cups cooked chicken pieces or strips)
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup roasted cashews, whole or chopped
1/3 cup roasted macadamia nuts, chopped

Soak the cellophane noodles and green peas in enough hot water to cover for 10 minutes, until the noodles soften and become transparent and the peas have thawed. Drain, transfer both to a large bowl, and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, whisk together the chicken broth, peanut butter, ponzu sauce, and sesame oil. Set the pan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Add the chicken and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes to heat through.

Remove from the heat, pour the mixture over the noodles and peas and toss to combine. Top the noodles with the cilantro, cashews, and macadamia nuts just before serving.

Serves 4.

Plum-Marinated Chicken with Balsamic Roasted Carrots and Baked Potatoes with Chipotle Butter

After checking out the cookbook “Robin Rescues Dinner” from the library, Bart hinted that he would like to receive a copy of the book for his birthday. Who am I to turn down a request for a cookbook? So, of course, he received it. We started our way cooking through it from the very beginning. Although we don’t tend to eat many “meat and potato” type of meals, this meal was very satisfying. We love how the recipe includes planned leftovers that give you a jump start on two other meals, which I will also post.

7 large baking potatoes
8 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 5 ounces each)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup plum preserves, blueberry preserves, or seedless blackberry preserves
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons finely minced peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
3 cups (1-8 ounce bag) baby carrots (we used a 1 lb. bag instead)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, softened
1 teaspoon minced chipotle chiles in adobo sauce

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Prick the potatoes all over with a fork and place directly on the oven baking rack. Bake for 45 minutes to 1hour, until fork tender.

Meanwhile, coat a shallow roasting pan with cooking spray (I covered the pan with aluminum foil first). Arrange the chicken in the pan and season with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, whisk together the plum preserves, soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger, and garlic. Brush the mixture all over the chicken in the pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar and honey until blended. Add the carrots and toss to coat. Arrange the carrots alongside the chicken in the pan.

Roast the chicken and carrots for 25 to 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and no longer pink on the inside and the carrots are tender. (I had to use a higher rack in the oven to get room for both the potatoes and chicken to roast at the same time).

In a small bowl, combine the butter and chipotle chiles. Mix until blended.

Serve 4 of the chicken breast halves with all of the carrots and 4 of the potatoes. Top the potatoes with the chipotle butter. (Reserve the remaining 4 chicken breast halves for the Asian chicken dish and the remaining 3 potatoes for the soup.)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Applesauce Doughnuts

These are so fun to make and eat! When you add the baking soda to the applesauce, you get to see chemistry in action. Then, when you cook the doughnuts they flip themselves over. According to King Arthur Flour, the reason for this is: “As the bottom of each sphere cooks and heats, the tops stay colder and more dense, and once the bottoms are cooked through, the doughnuts turn themselves over.” You can definitely taste the apple flavor in the finished doughnuts. I used my smallest cookie scoop (the #100—or a little tiny one that makes mini-cookies) for this. So I got a few more doughnuts than the recipe indicates, but we thought they were the perfect size.

2 ¾ cups (11 5/8 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (8 ounces) applesauce
2 large eggs
½ cup (3 ½ ounces) granulated sugar, plus more for dredging
½ cup (3 ¼ ounces) brown sugar
1 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup (2 ounces) boiled cider OR apple juice concentrate
¼ cup (2 ounces) milk

Stir the baking soda into the applesauce. Beat together the eggs, sugars, and oil. Whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the applesauce and vanilla to the egg mixture. In a glass measuring cup or small bowl, mix together the boiled cider and milk. Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture alternately with the boiled cider and milk.

In a deep skillet or electric frying pan, heat 2 inches of oil to 350°F. Drop the dough by tablespoons into the oil and fry until golden brown all over. If you use a tablespoon scoop, the doughnuts will turn themselves over in the hot oil; all together the doughnuts will need about 3 minutes of cooking time. Start with 1 doughnut; start a timer after you put it in the oil. Remove the doughnut with a slotted spoon when it is golden brown all over and drain on absorbent paper. Use 2 forks to break the doughnut open and see if it’s cooked all the way through the center. If not, do another trial doughnut for 30 seconds longer. Once you have your time right, you can fry 6 to 8 doughnuts at a time in batches. After draining, roll in sugar while still warm. Yield: 40 doughnuts.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Spiced Nuts

I made these to take to a potluck several months ago. Bart has been craving them since then, so he finally made them himself. These are crunchy, spicy, and addicting!

1 egg white
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound pecans, cashews, walnuts, or whole unblanched almonds
2/3 cup superfine sugar (or process granulated sugar in a food processor for 1 minute to make the superfine sugar)
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon paprika

Adjust two oven racks to the upper- and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 275°F. Whisk the egg white, water, and salt together in a medium bowl. Add the nuts and toss to coat. Drain in a colander for 5 minutes.

Mix the sugar, cumin, cayenne, and paprika together. Toss the spices with the drained nuts. Spread the nuts evenly on two parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until the nuts are dry and crisp, about 50 minutes, stirring occasionally and rotating the baking sheets halfway through. Remove from the oven and let the nuts cool completely on the baking sheet, about 30 minutes. Break the nuts apart and serve.


Curry-Spiced Nuts: Reduce the cumin to 1 teaspoon and substitute 1 teaspoon curry powder for the cayenne pepper.

Cinnamon-Spiced Nuts: Omit the cumin, cayenne, and paprika and add 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ginger, and 1 teaspoon coriander with the sugar.

Creamy Mushroom Soup

Who knew that Cream of Mushroom Soup could be so delicious and filling? Bart made this for us recently. We sprinkled it with garlic croutons. It’s definitely worth the time it takes to make it! A note from Cook’s Country: “Since this soup is pureed, don’t waste time slicing mushrooms. Just break them into rough pieces with your hands. Use the blender, not the food processor, for the smoothest possible soup.”

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 pounds white or cremini mushrooms , broken into rough pieces
2 leeks , white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise and chopped
Salt and pepper
4 garlic cloves , minced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
5 cups low-sodium beef broth
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons lemon juice (plus extra if needed/desired)

1. COOK MUSHROOMS Melt butter in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until butter is golden brown and has a nutty aroma, about 3 minutes. Add mushrooms, leeks, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook, covered, until mushrooms release their liquid, about 5 minutes. Remove lid and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated, about 15 minutes. Remove 2/3 cup mushroom mixture, chop fine, and reserve.

2. SIMMER SOUP Add garlic and thyme to pot with remaining mushroom mixture and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in broth and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, until mushrooms and leeks are completely tender, about 20 minutes.

3. FINISH SOUP Puree soup in blender in batches until smooth. Return pureed soup to pot, stir in cream, lemon juice, and chopped mushrooms and return to simmer. Season with salt and pepper and additional lemon juice. Serve.

Serves 6 to 8.

I Want S'more Muffins

Joshua just received the new Taste of Home Cookbook. This is the first recipe he and I made together from it. It was lots of fun to make together—and the muffins turned out great! Bart, Alyssa, and I all loved how the marshmallow crème rose from the center of the muffins and toasted—it really tasted like a toasted marshmallow. Joshua loved the texture and flavor of the muffin itself.


6 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons sugar
2 eggs
2/3 cup sour cream
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons 2% milk (we used buttermilk instead)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
12 tablespoons marshmallow crème


In a small bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in egg. Stir in sour cream. Combine the flour, graham cracker crumbs, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and baking soda; add to creamed mixture alternately with milk just until moistened. Fold in chocolate chips.
Coat twelve muffin cups with cooking spray; fill one-fourth full with batter. Spoon 1 tablespoon marshmallow crème into each muffin cup. Top with remaining batter.
Bake at 400° for 14-16 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack. Serve warm. Yield: 12 muffins.

Simple Stovetop Rice Pudding

This is one of Bart’s specialty desserts. He has always loved rice pudding. He used to buy boxed mixes for it. Then he discovered how simple (and how much better) it is to make it from scratch. Bart made and garnished the rice pudding pictured. He likes to try the variations as well.

2 cups water
1 cup long-grain rice (don’t use an aromatic rice like basmati or jasmine)
¼ teaspoon salt
4 cups whole milk (lowfat milk can be substituted)
2/3 cup sugar
1 ¼ teaspoons vanilla extract

Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan. Stir in the rice and salt. Cover, turn the heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the water is almost fully absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes.

Microwave the milk until steaming, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir the hot milk and sugar into the rice and bring to a slow simmer. Cook, uncovered and stirring often, until the mixture is thick and a spoon is just able to stand up in the pudding, about 45 minutes.

Off the heat, stir in the vanilla. Let the mixture cool slightly before serving or refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours, and serve cold. (We like to eat it warm, too.)

Rice Pudding with Cinnamon and Dried Fruit: Stir ½ cup dried fruit (such as raisins, cranberries, cherries, or chopped prunes or apricots) and 1 teaspoon cinnamon into the pudding with the vanilla extract.
Rice Pudding with Cardamom and Pistachios: Stir ½ teaspoon cardamom into the pudding with the vanilla extract and sprinkle with 1/3 cup toasted chopped pistachios just before serving.
Rice Pudding with Orange and Toasted Almonds: Stir 2 teaspoons grated orange zest into the pudding with the vanilla extract and sprinkle with 1/3 cup toasted slivered almonds just before serving.

Friday, September 11, 2009

White Chicken Chili with Hominy

We had this for dinner last night—and LOVED it! The recipe makes a LOT, so this would be a great recipe to make if you have company. If desired, you can add canned white beans, such as great northern or cannellini (or substitute them for the hominy).

2 store-bought rotisserie chickens, meat picked from the bones and pulled into bite-size pieces, bones and skin reserved
2 quarts chicken broth
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
¼ cup ground cumin
4 teaspoons dried oregano
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 large onions, cut into medium dice
2 jars or cans (4.5 ounces each) diced mild green chiles
2 cans (20 ounces each) hominy, rinsed (about 6 cups)
6 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 cups frozen corn, preferably white shoepeg

Accompaniments as desired:
1 bag each tortilla and corn chips
Two 12-oz. bags shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 jar (12 ounces) sliced jalapenos
1 bottle each red and green hot pepper sauce
1 container (24 ounces) sour cream
2 cans (2.25 ounces each) sliced black olives
1 jar (8 ounces) red or green salsa (improve the flavor by stirring in 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro and squeezing in a little fresh lime juice)
1 lime, cut into wedges
Guacamole (peel & seed 4 avocados, mash with a fork, then season generously with a couple pinches each salt and pepper and ¼ cup fresh lime juice)

Combine chicken bones and skin, chicken broth, and 4 cups water in a large pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until bones release their flavor, about 30 minutes. Strain broth into a large bowl; discard bones and skin.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large roasting pan set over two burners (or a large pot) on medium-low heat. Add cumin, oregano, and cayenne and cook; stirring, until spices sizzle and are fragrant, about 1 minute. Add chicken and chiles and stir to coat. Add 4 cups hominy and all but 1 cup broth and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, to blend flavors, 25 to 30 minutes.

In a food processor, process remaining 2 cups hominy and reserved 1 cup broth until silky smooth. Stir into simmering soup. Stir in minced garlic and corn and simmer to blend flavors, about 5 minutes. Turn off heat, cover, and let stand for 5 minutes.

Ladle into bowls and serve with accompaniments of your choice.

Makes 12 servings.

Whole Wheat Banana Walnut Pancakes with Vanilla-Brown Sugar Syrup

This is what we had for breakfast this morning. These rated as one of my favorite pancake recipes ever--incredible texture, fabulous flavor, and a crunch from the nuts! The Vanilla-Brown Sugar Syrup is the perfect complement--the squeeze of fresh lemon added gives the syrup just the right zing.

1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour)
1/3 cup cornmeal
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, separated
1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus additional for brushing the skillet
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, plus additional if needed
1 ripe banana, diced or mashed
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped

Whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl Whisk together yolks, oil and 1 1/2 cups milk in another bowl and add to the flour mixture, whisking until smooth. Let batter stand for 5 minutes to allow flour to absorb liquid (batter will thicken).
If batter is too thick to fall easily from a spoon, stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons additional milk.

Fold in banana and walnuts.

Beat egg whites in a large bowl with an electric mixer at moderately high speed until they just hold stiff peaks. With a whisk, gently but thoroughly fold into batter.

Brush a griddle or 12-inch nonstick skillet with oil and heat over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Reduce heat to moderate. Working in batches of 4, spoon 2 tablespoons batter per pancake into a hot skillet, spreading it if necessary to form 3- 3 1/2 inch rounds. Cook pancakes until bubbles appear on surface, edges are set and undersides are golden, 45 seconds to 1 minute. Flip pancakes with a metal spatula and cook until undersides are golden and pancakes are cooked through. Lower heat if pancakes brown too quickly and insides aren’t set. Transfer pancakes to plate and serve with Vanilla- Brown Sugar Syrup. Brush griddle with more oil between batches.

Vanilla-Brown Sugar Syrup

1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups water
3 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine brown sugar, water, butter, and salt in a 2-quart heavy saucepan and bring to a oil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil until syrupy and reduced to about 1 1/2 cups, about 12-15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and vanilla, then let cool to warm or room temperature.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Red Velvet Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

This is a fun cake to serve, because it looks like a “normal” cake from the outside, but when you cut it, you see the brilliant red color. The cake itself is very tender due to the buttermilk. I made this cake as a surprise casual wedding cake for a friend who is getting married 9/9/09 at 9:00 a.m. at the courthouse (she is not a member of the church). She is planning on having a reception next month where I will make her a “real” wedding cake, but I thought it would be fun for her to have a special cake on her actual wedding day as well. Her husband's favorite cake is Red Velvet, so that's why I chose this flavor. I will make her favorite flavor (white cake with raspberry filling) for the reception. She isn’t planning on many people coming to the actual wedding, so I just made her a two-tier cake (10-inch and 6-inch layers).

2 ¼ cups (11 ¼ ounces) all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
Pinch salt
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons natural cocoa powder (do NOT substitute Dutch-processed cocoa)
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) red food coloring (buy it in a 1-ounce bottle)
12 tablespoons (1 -1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and softened
1 ½ cups (10 ½ ounces) sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease two 9-inch cake pans, then dust with cocoa powder and line the bottoms with parchment paper. (Or use Baker’s Joy and parchment paper—spraying the pans before and after lining with parchment. This cake is very tender so please do use parchment paper.)

Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl. In another medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk, eggs, vinegar, and vanilla together. In a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of the cocoa and red food coloring together to a smooth paste.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 6 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in one-third of the flour mixture, followed by half of the buttermilk mixture. Repeat with half of the remaining flour mixture and the remaining buttermilk mixture. Beat in the remaining flour mixture until just combined. Beat in the cocoa mixture until the batter is uniform.

Give the batter a final stir with a rubber spatula to make sure it is thoroughly combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared pans, smooth the tops, and gently tap the pans on the counter to settle the batter. Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs attached, about 25 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking.

Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Run a small knife around the edge of the cakes, then flip them out onto a wire rack. Peel off the parchment paper, flip the cakes right side up, and let cool completely before frosting, about 2 hours.

Frost with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting or frosting of your choice.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
4 cups (16 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
Pinch salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
16 ounces cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces and softened
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

With an electric mixer, beat the butter, confectioners’ sugar, cinnamon and salt on medium-high speed in a large bowl until fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the cream cheese, 1 piece at a time, and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Beat in the vanilla. Refrigerate until ready to use. (Note: I added extra powdered sugar to get the consistency I wanted. I also ran the frosting through the food processor to make sure I didn’t have any cream cheese lumps.)

Peanut Butter Potstickers

Alyssa, Joshua, and I made these together on Sunday. We had tons of fun! It was like playing with playdough, only better because we got to eat the results! The peanut butter flavor is very mild—you probably wouldn’t even recognize it if you didn’t know it was there. The fresh ginger and five spice powder add a perfect seasoning touch.

Recipe from The Ultimate Peanut Butter Book.

3 scallions, thinly sliced
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
2 tablespoons chunky natural peanut butter
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
½ teaspoon five spice powder
½ pound medium shrimp (about 30 per pound), peeled and deveined
24 dumpling wrappers
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 ½ cups water

Place the scallions, garlic, ginger, peanut butter, rice vinegar, and five spice powder in a food processor fitted with the chopping blade; pulse three or four times until well-blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, then add the shrimp and pulse several times to chop and blend, until the mixture resembles a very thick, chunky salsa.

Fill a custard cup or teacup with water and place it near your work surface. Lay a dumpling wrapper on the work surface. Place about 1 rounded teaspoon of filling in the center of a wrapper. Dip your finger in the water, then run it halfway around the rim of the wrapper. Seal the dumpling, pressing the wet rim against the dry. Starting at the right end and working to the left, crimp the edges closed by folding the sealed edge in ¼-inch increments over itself, thereby creating the look of a small leather purse. Set aside and continue making the dumplings. The dumplings can be made in advance—place them on a large baking sheet dusted with cornstarch, seal tightly with plastic wrap, and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 day.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon sesame oil, then place 12 dumplings in the skillet, laying them on their sides. Fry until brown on that side without turning, about 2 minutes. Then pour ¾ cup water into the skillet, cover, raise the heat to high, and cook for 3 minutes. Uncover the skillet, shake it to make sure the dumplings are not stuck, and continue cooking until the water has completely evaporated and the bottoms are crisp, about 1 more minute. Transfer them to a platter, then make a second batch with the remaining dumplings, following the same method described in this step. When done, serve the dumplings with the Dumpling Dipping Sauce (recipe follows) or Peanut Sauce.

Dumpling Dipping Sauce

3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 ½ teaspoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon chili paste

Mix the ingredients in a small bowl until well combined; serve with the dumplings as a dip.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Angel Hair Pasta with a Thai Peanut Sauce

Yummy with just the right amount of heat!

Recipe from The Ultimate Peanut Butter Book.

Olive oil
1 small onion, minced (about 1/3 cup)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 ½ tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
2 teaspoons chili paste
2 teaspoons packed dark brown sugar
¾ cup nonfat evaporated milk or light coconut milk
½ cup chunky peanut butter
Juice of 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
8 ounces dried angel hair pasta or other thin pasta, or 12 ounces fresh pasta, cooked and drained
Reserved pasta cooking water to thin sauce if needed

Heat 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil in nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger; sauté until fragrant and soft, about 1 minute. Stir in the chili paste and brown sugar; cook, stirring constantly, until very aromatic, about 15 seconds. Stir in the evaporated milk, peanut butter, and lime juice. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly until the peanut butter dissolves into the sauce. Simmer for 10 seconds.

Pour the warm sauce over the noodles in a large bowl. Toss well and serve at once. (Note: Add some reserved pasta cooking water if needed to thin the sauce).

If you’d prefer a smoother, silkier texture, puree the sauce in a blender or a food processor before tossing with the pasta. Personally, I really liked the chunky texture.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Peanut Butter Scones

These are so yummy! They're like a cross between scones and peanut butter cookies.

Recipe from The Ultimate Peanut Butter Book.

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cake flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt, optional
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons unsalted butter and 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, both melted and cooled in separate little bowls
1 cup heavy cream

Position the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 425°F.

Whisk both flours, the baking powder, baking soda, and salt, if using, in a medium bowl. Use a pastry cutter or a fork to cut in 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) of the granulated sugar and all the brown sugar until uniform. Set aside.

Whisk the peanut butter and the 3 tablespoons melted butter in a large bowl until velvety. Whisk in the cream until smooth. Stir in the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon (or dough whisk) just until a soft dough forms; it will look a little grainy and rough. Knead a few times in the bowl until the dough holds together.

Lightly dust a clean, dry work surface with flour. Divide the dough in half and place each one on the floured surface. Dust the pieces lightly with flour, then press or roll each into a 7-inch circle, about ½ inch thick. Brush each circle with half the 2 tablespoons melted butter; sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the remaining sugar over the top of each. Cut each circle into six, piece-of-pie, triangular wedges; place them all on a large nonstick baking sheet (or baking sheet with parchment or silpat), spacing them about 2 inches apart.

Bake until lightly browned on the top and bottom, about 10-12 minutes. Cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool. If desired, glaze them with a vanilla glaze (whisk together 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, 1 to 2 tablespoons milk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract in a small bowl).

Options: Once the sugars have been added to the flour mixture, you can stir in 2/3 cup of dried fruit or semisweet chocolate chips.

Checca Pasta

Did you make the last pasta recipe I posted—the Penne with Cherry Tomatoes, Basil and Mozzarella? If so, you might have some leftover fresh mozzarella. This is what we made with the mozzarella we had left--our other favorite pasta dish to make with cherry tomatoes from the garden. It is also an uncooked tomato sauce, but with this version you chop everything up in the food processor (except the mozzarella) including the garlic. So this version has a little stronger garlic punch to it than the penne recipe. It is very fast to make, and absolutely delicious!

Recipe from Everyday Italian by Giada de Laurentiis

1 (12-ounce) bag of cherry tomatoes, halved (I didn’t half mine—I figure that’s what the food processor is for)
3 scallions (white and pale green parts only), coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves
1 (1 ounce) piece of Parmesan cheese, coarsely chopped (I grated mine and added some with the food processor and some after I was done processing)
8 fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into ½-inch cubes
½ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the cherry tomatoes, scallions, garlic, Parmesan, basil, and oil just until the tomatoes are coarsely chopped (do not puree). Transfer the sauce to a large bowl. Stir in the mozzarella cheese and ½ teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper to taste. Toss the sauce immediately with your choice of freshly cooked pasta (our favorite is to use 1 pound of angel hair pasta).

Pretzel Jell-O

I've had Pretzel Salad before, but I have to admit this is the best Pretzel Salad I've ever had. I changed up the recipe, and it paid off. Everyone loved the intense fruit flavor in the Jell-O layer, and the kids liked that there were no big chunks of fruit. I think Dad might have even liked this salad (maybe if it had a graham crust, though!). Here's what I did:

Pretzel Jell-O Salad
2 cups crushed pretzels (I did this in the food processor)
3 T. sugar
1/2 cup melted butter (original recipe calls for 3/4 - 1 cup butter, which I felt was unnecessary)
Cream Filling:
8 oz. cream cheese
1 cup sugar
2 pints whipping cream (original recipe called for 12 oz. Cool Whip, which I would have used if I had any in the freezer!)
1 tsp. vanilla
Jell-O Layer:
6 oz. package raspberry Jell-O (original recipe called for Strawberry)
16 oz. frozen blackberries (original recipe called for frozen strawberries, but I had blackberries in the freezer. . . thanks, Marcia!)
6 oz. can pineapple juice (original recipe called for 8 oz. can crushed pineapple, which I didn't have, but I did have the pineapple juice, which helped add liquid to the pureed fruit in the blender so it didn't "freeze" up)

For crust, mix crushed pretzels with sugar and melted butter. Bake at 375 degrees for 7 minutes. Let cool for 1 hour. (I cooled in the fridge for 30 minutes).

For cream filling, beat together cream cheese and sugar. In another bowl, beat whipping cream with vanilla until stiff. Fold cream cheese and whipping cream together, and layer carefully over cooled crust.

For Jell-O layer, dissolve Jell-O in 2 cups boiling water. Puree blackberries with pineapple juice in blender. Whisk pureed mixture into Jell-O, and refrigerate until it begins to gel. Pour slightly gelled mixture carefully over cream filling.

Refrigerate for several hours until completely set up.

Barbequed Country Style Pork Ribs

(Apologies again for the food photography; these were the leftovers we'll be eating tomorrow!)

Again, I got this meat on sale at Macey's for $1.49/lb. The ribs were boneless, and they were HUGE! This really isn't a recipe, but rather a method. Here's how you cook a mean, barbequed pork rib:
  1. Place pork ribs in roasting pan and sprinkle with Canadian (or Montreal) Steak Seasoning (I lined my roasting pan with aluminum foil for easy clean up).
  2. Cover ribs in roasting pan with foil or lid and bake in oven at 350 degrees for 2-3 hours, depending on the size of the ribs, until tender.
  3. When ready to eat, brush your favorite barbeque sauce on each rib and place ribs on pre-heated medium-heat grill.
  4. Turn ribs frequently until heated through and barbeque sauce is "baked" on, applying more barbecue sauce as desired.
These got RAVE reviews from everyone in our family and our guests. They turned out great. It was the first time I had ever used the steak seasoning and roasted them (I usually just put them in the crock pot). I think roasting them gave with the seasoning gave them great flavor!

Marinated Flank Steak

(Sorry about the lack of professional food photography. This is the leftover pile of meat that we will be eating tomorrow!)

Macey's recently had a meat sale, and I picked up London Broil for $1.79/lb. to use in this recipe (the Flank Steak was $4.99/lb, and I wasn't about to pay that price!). The marinade tenderized the meat and gave it great flavor. Kaysen gave two big thumbs up to this recipe, and he is an expert steak connoisseur, so he would know!

Marinated Flank Steak
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce (I didn't have any, so I left this out)
1 tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. minced garlic (2 cloves)
3-4 lbs. flank steak

Place ingredients for marinade and steak in Ziplock bag. Marinade steak for 8 hours, or overnight. Barbeque 8-10 minutes per side; or set oven control to broil and/or 550 degrees. Broil steak 6 inches from heat until brown,k turning once, about 6 minutes on one side and 4 minutes on the other. Cut steak across grain at slanted angle into thin slices. Makes 8 servings.

Note: I read a similar recipe on, and many reviewers said they replaced the red wine vinegar with balsamic vinegar and added cumin for delicious fajita meat.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Fruit-Yogurt Salad

My friend showed me this recipe and I just love it. The possibilities are endless. I have used strawberry yogurt with strawberries in it, or raspberry yogurts with frozen raspberries in it, or blackberries with frozen blackberries, or yesterday I made it with peach yogurt and fresh peaches that I just put in the freezer for a little while. All of them are wonderfully delicious!

2 pound container yogurt
3.4 ounce box pudding mix (I usually use cheesecake, but again the possibilities are endless!)
16 ounces Cool Whip
12-16 ounces frozen fruit

Mix the pudding mix into the yogurt. Fold in the cool whip. Stir in the fruit. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Loaded with Chips Chocolate Chip Cookies

Usually I try to just post recipes that received a unanimous vote of approval from my family. This time, however, I had to make an exception. Bart made these cookies today. Alyssa, Joshua, and I all LOVED them, but Bart wasn’t very impressed. These cookies are exactly what they say—they are indeed LOADED with chips. Which is why Bart didn’t really like them but the rest of us did. The cookies don’t spread out very much, so they are fairly small. But talk about intense flavor! The chocolate and nuts really come through. There is just enough cookie dough to keep everything together. If you prefer to have more cookie and less chips (like Bart), use only half the amount of chips.

Recipe from Cookies Unlimited by Nick Malgieri.

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups (one 12-ounce bag) semisweet chocolate chips
3 ounces (about ¾ cup) coarsely chopped walnut or pecan pieces (optional, but delicious)

Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking soda; stir well to mix. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until combined, then beat in the egg and vanilla, beating until smooth. Don’t overbeat.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and with a large rubber spatula stir in the flour mixture. Stir in the chips and nuts.

Drop teaspoonfuls of the dough 2 or 3 inches apart on cookie sheets lined with parchment or foil. Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes, or until they are lightly browned and firm.

Slide the papers off the pans onto racks. After the cookies have cooled, detach them from the paper and store between sheets of parchment or wax paper in a tin or plastic container with a tight-fitting cover.

Makes about 35 cookies.