Sunday, November 29, 2009

Split Pea Soup

Before Thanksgiving we needed to clean out our fridge. We decided to use our remaining ham (and the bone) to make this soup. It has been a very long time since we've had split pea soup--Alyssa and Joshua didn't remember having it before. We all loved this soup! And, like most soups, it is even better the next day.

2 1/4 cups dried split peas
2 quarts cold water
1 1/2 pounds ham bone
2 onions, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pinch dried marjoram
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1 potato, diced


1.In a large stock pot, cover peas with 2 quarts cold water and soak overnight. If you need a faster method, simmer the peas gently for 2 minutes, and then soak for l hour.
2.Once peas are soaked, add ham bone, onion, salt, pepper and marjoram. Cover, bring to boil and then simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
3.Remove bone; cut off meat, dice and return meat to soup. Add celery, carrots and potatoes. Cook slowly, uncovered for 30 to 40 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Butternut Squash Mac-n-Cheese

Macaroni and cheese has to be one of the most comforting and satisfying meals. Sometimes, however, by the time you get the macaroni and cheese creamy and saucy enough, the overall effect can be too “cheesy”. Enter this recipe—one of my all-time favorite macaroni and cheese recipes. The butternut squash provides a smooth, rich presence that enriches the dish without overwhelming it. Mom and Dad brought us some winter squash (sweet meat), so that is what we used this time instead of butternut squash. It worked just as well. If you’re preparing your own squash, be sure to puree it very well (we use a food processor and sometimes a blender as well if necessary) to ensure the squash is very smooth without any distracting fibers.

Bart made this for us for dinner tonight—and we all loved it. This is a recipe we look forward to every year when we get winter squash. We freeze the extra squash so we can enjoy it throughout the year. Luckily, the thyme from our garden was still good, so we didn’t have to buy the fresh thyme.

Recipe from Rachael Ray 365: No Repeats.

1 pound macaroni with ridges, such as tubettini or mini penne rigate (we used regular penne rigate)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme, plus a few sprigs for garnish
½ medium onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken stock or broth
1 (10-ounce) box frozen cooked butternut squash, defrosted
1 cup cream or half-and-half (we use cream)
2 cups (8 ounces) grated sharp Cheddar cheese
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
¼ teaspoon nutmeg (eyeball it—we use freshly ground)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat a pot of water to boil for the pasta. Salt the water, then add the pasta and cool al dente, or with a bite to it.

While the pasta cooks, heat a medium heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil and butter. When the butter melts into the oil, add the thyme and onion. Cook the onions for a minute or two, then add the flour and cook together for a minute or two more. Whisk in the stock, then add the butternut squash and cook until warmed through and smooth. Stir in the cream and bring the sauce to a bubble. Stir in the cheeses in a figure-eight motion and season the completed sauce with salt, nutmeg, and pepper. Taste to adjust seasonings.

Drain the cooked pasta well and combine with the sauce. Serve with a green salad. Garnish with thyme leaves.

Double Chocolate Granola

Sometimes I think my family considers chocolate it's own food group. If you're that way too, here's a way to make sure you get your daily chocolate intake at breakfast. Actually, this granola is also fabulous as a snack or dessert. You can eat it plain, with milk, or sprinkle it over yogurt or ice cream. I prefer to make the granola a day before you plan to serve it--that gives it more time to crisp up.

4 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup wheat germ
¼ cup dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup coconut
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
½ cup honey
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons water
1/3 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips

Mix together oats, wheat germ, brown sugar, salt, coconut, pecans, and almonds in large bowl. In small saucepan, combine honey, oil, water and cocoa and bring to a simmer over low heat. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Drizzle liquid mixture over oat mixture and stir to combine. Pour mixture onto greased baking sheet (I use a half-sheet pan) and working a handful at a time squeeze cereal to form small clumps. (We make the clumps as we put the mixture onto the pan.) Bake at 275 for 30 minutes. Sprinkle chocolate chips on granola. Continue to bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes longer. Carefully stir in melted chocolate chips. Leave in pan to let cool completely.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

White Chocolate Whisper Cake

Last summer Bart's mom was extremely disappointed that she didn't get a taste of the cake I made for Nicki's wedding. Therefore, she placed an order with me at that time (she made sure she placed her order early) for me to make a birthday cake for her. She chose a white cake with lemon filling, but left the decorating up to me. Because she has a huge family and gatherings can be quite large, I made a relatively large birthday cake for her. Her birthday is today--hopefully we can get her cake there in one piece!

I decided to try a new recipe for the cake and filling. I got the cake recipe from The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. This cake smells incredible while it is baking, and it baked very evenly. The cake has a very fine, delicate crumb. As the title implies, the white chocolate just supplies a subtle "whisper" in the background. According to Rose, the "white chocolate offers the double advantage of velvety, melt-in-the-moouth texture and, because of white cake's gentle flavor, a definite whisper of cocoa butter. This special flavor blends well with a lemon buttercream or, of course, a white chocolate buttercream or glaze."

I filled the cake with homemade lemon curd (recipe from Cook's Illustrated). The lemon curd is nice and tart and offsets the sweetness of the cake.

I frosted the cake with lemon buttercream (made with butter and cream cheese), and applied homemade lemon-flavored fondant. The decorations are made with a mixture of homemade gumpaste and white chocolate clay. I had fun making the cake, and I hope she enjoys it!

P.S. While making the cake, I had trouble getting the 6-inch cakes to turn out--so I frosted the ruined cake. The pictures of the cut cake are the pictures of my failures.

White Chocolate Whisper Cake

6 ounces white chocolate
4.75 ounces egg whites
8.5 ounces milk
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
10.5 ounces sifted cake flour
8.5 ounces sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
4.5 ounces (9 T.) unsalted butter, softened

Preheat the oven 350°F. Prepare two 9-inch x 1-1/2-inch cake pans by greasing them, lining bottoms with parchment paper, then grease and flour again. (I use Baker's Joy instead of grease and flour, but I still use the parchment circle.)

In a double boiler melt the chocolate over hot (not simmering) water, stirring frequently. Remove from the water.

In a medium bowl lightly combine the egg whites, ¼ cup milk, and vanilla.

In a large mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients and mix on low speed for 30 seconds to blend. Add the butter and remaining ¾ cup milk. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed (high speed if using a hand mixer) and beat for 1 ½ minutes to aerate and develop the cake’s structure. Scrape down the sides. Gradually add the egg mixture in 3 batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the sides. Add the melted chocolate and beat to incorporate.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the surface with a spatula. The pans will be about ½ full. Bake 25 to 35 minutes for 6-inch pan (30-40 minutes for 9-inch) or until a tester inserted near the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center. The cakes should start to shrink from the sides of the pans only after removal from the oven.

Let the cakes cool in the pans on racks for 10 minutes. Loosen the sides with a small metal spatula and invert onto greased wire racks. To prevent splitting, reinvert so that the tops are up and cool completely before wrapping airtight.

Lemon Curd Filling

1 cup fresh lemon juice from about 6 lemons
1 teaspoon gelatin (powdered)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (10 1/2 ounces)
1/8 teaspoon table salt
4 large eggs
6 large egg yolks (reserve egg whites for cake)
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into 1/2-inch cubes and frozen

FOR THE FILLING: Measure 1 tablespoon lemon juice into small bowl; sprinkle gelatin over top. Heat remaining lemon juice, sugar, and salt in medium nonreactive saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves and mixture is hot but not boiling. Whisk eggs and yolks in large nonreactive bowl. Whisking constantly, slowly pour hot lemon-sugar mixture into eggs, then return mixture to saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with heatproof spatula, until mixture registers 170 degrees on instant-read thermometer and is thick enough to leave trail when spatula is scraped along pan bottom, 4 to 6 minutes. Immediately remove pan from heat and stir in gelatin mixture until dissolved. Stir in frozen butter until incorporated. Pour filling through fine-mesh strainer into nonreactive bowl (you should have 3 cups). Cover surface directly with plastic wrap; refrigerate until firm enough to spread, at least 4 hours.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Homemade Samoa Bars

Our cousin LeAnn sent me a bunch of recipes to include in the Yancey Family Reunion Cookbook. This is one of them. Bart needed a treat to bring to a potluck at work, so I made these. They are very yummy--although I like them even better the second day! I suggest cutting them into small pieces, as they are rather rich. I used the Peter's block caramel that I get from Gygi's. It worked perfectly.

Cookie Base:
1/2 c sugar
3/4 c butter, softened
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 c all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking pan, or line with parchment paper. In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter, until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla extract. Working at a low speed, gradually beat in flour and salt until mixture is crumbly, like wet sand. The dough does not need to come together. Pour crumbly dough into prepared pan and press into an even layer. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until base is set and edges are lightly browned. Cool completely on a wire rack before topping.

3 cups shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
12 oz good quality chewy caramels
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp milk
10 oz dark or semisweet chocolate (chocolate chips are ok)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spread coconut evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet (preferably one with sides) and toast 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until coconut is golden. Cool on baking sheet, stirring occasionally. Set aside. Unwrap the caramels and place in a large microwave safe bowl with milk and salt. Cook on high for 3-4 minutes, stopping to stir a few times to help the caramel melt. When smooth, fold in toasted coconut with a spatula. Put dollops of the topping all over the shortbread base. Using the spatula, spread topping into an even layer. Let topping set until cooled.

When cooled, cut into 30 bars with a large knife or a pizza cutter (it’s easy to get it through the topping). Once bars are cut, melt chocolate in a small bowl. Heat on high in the microwave in 45 second intervals; stirring thoroughly to prevent scorching. Dip the base of each bar into the chocolate and place on a clean piece of parchment or wax paper. Transfer all remaining chocolate (or melt a bit of additional chocolate, if necessary) into a piping bag or a ziploc bag with the corner snipped off and drizzle bars with chocolate to finish. Let chocolate set completely before storing in an airtight container.

Makes 30 bar cookies.

French Onion Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Bart and I absolutely love French Onion Soup. We often make it to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Considering that we also love pasta, this recipe was an incredible find for us! Bart is an expert at making French Onion Soup, so he is the one that made this recipe for us. He advises to take your time when browning the onions so you get that yummy caramelized flavor (not a burnt flavor).

Recipe from EveryDay with Rachael Ray Dec/Jan 2010.

4 tablespoons butter
2 large onions, very thinly sliced
1 teaspoon ground thyme
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
1 pound penne rigate (or use whole wheat penne rigate) pasta
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup whole milk
Freshly grated nutmeg
¾ pound gruyere cheese, shredded (can substitute Swiss cheese if desired)

In a skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. Stir in the onions, thyme and bay leaf for 5 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Lower the heat and cook until the onions are browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a plate and discard the bay leaf. Reserve the skillet.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and return to the pot.

In the reserved skillet, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour for 1 minute, then whisk in the chicken stock and milk and bring to a boil (I find it works better to microwave the chicken stock and milk before adding them—it tends to result in a smoother sauce); season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Lower the heat and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cheese until melted.

Combine the onions and sauce with the pasta and toss well.

Serve as a main dish with a mixed greens salad or as a side with sliced London broil.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Corn Pillows

I had to try this recipe because of the unique name. We enjoyed these scones as a side dish/dessert with taco salad. We served them with honey butter or tossed in cinnamon-sugar instead of sprinkling with powdered sugar.

Corn Pillows
Recipe from Taste of Home.

1 tablespoon active dry yeast
¼ cup warm water
1-3/4 cups milk
½ cup cornmeal
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 can (14.75 ounces) cream-style corn
2 eggs, beaten
6 to 7 cups all-purpose flour
Oil for deep-fat frying
Confectioners’ sugar

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. In a large saucepan, heat the milk, cornmeal, oil, sugar and salt to 110° - 115°F.; add to yeast mixture. Add corn, eggs, and 6 cups flour; beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6 – 8 minutes. (Note: I dissolved instant yeast in 2 cups warm water with about 1 teaspoon of the sugar in bowl of standing mixer. Then I added 2/3 cup dry milk, cornmeal, oil, remaining sugar, salt, corn, eggs and 3 cups flour. Beat vigorously for 2 minutes. Add remaining flour gradually to form a soft dough. Knead in mixer for about 4 minutes.)

Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide in half. Roll each portion into a 15-in. x 12-in. rectangle. Cut into 3-in. x 1-1/2-in. strips.

In a deep-fat fryer, heat oil to 375°F. Drop dough strips in batches into oil; fry for 45 – 75 seconds or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Yield: about 6-1/2 dozen. (I used half the dough to make a loaf of bread.)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Zucchini Brownies (Ethella Yancey)

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups shredded zucchini
2 cups flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup chopped nuts.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl mix together flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, blend sugar, egg, oil, and vanilla together until well mixed. Stir in zucchini. Stir in flour mixture. Add nuts. Bake for 30 minutes in greased 13x9x2-inch baking dish.

Frosting: Melt 1/4 cup butter. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons cocoa and blend well. Beat in 2 or more cups powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon milk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Mix until spreading consistency.

Mrs. Gee's Parmesan-Garlic Sandwich Bread

(recipe from Mrs. Gee's website)
This sandwich bread is especially nice for those liking a lot of crust on their bread. The bread is fabulous served hot, cut into wedges. It also reheats well, wrapped with a paper towel in microwave for a few seconds. And finally, if you have any left, it makes super breadcrumbs for your next batch of meatballs, meatloaf, or breaded cutlets.

1 heaping tablespoon dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil
3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
1/3 cup finely grated fresh parmesan cheese

Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water. Add olive oil, 2 cups flour, crushed garlic cloves, and parmesan cheese. Mix until a smooth batter. Add salt and 1 1/2 cups flour, knead until smooth and elastic. Add enough extra flour, just until the dough is non-sticky.

Place in a greased bowl (or plastic bowl), cover and let rise until doubled in size. Punch down and let rise again.

Lightly grease a large cookie sheet with olive oil. Place the dough gently onto the cookie sheet and press out evenly with hands until the pan is covered. Let rise for about 25 minutes. "Dimple" top with your fingertips (as you would a focaccia loaf). Bake in preheated oven at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until a nice golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Cut in half lengthwise, and then into sandwich-sized pieces. Split open and add sandwich fillings.

Apple Streusel Coffee Cake

Yes, I'm trying to use Mom and Dad's apples. This recipe originally called for blueberries and I put "Yum" by the recipe in the book. So I decided to try it with apples and Bryce, Erica, Logan, and I had some at lunch today. It was very tasty.

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 1/2 cups flour
2 Tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
3 cups peeled, finely diced apples

Streusel Topping:
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup cold butter or margarine

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with milk. Fold in apples. Pour into a greased 13x9" pan. For topping, combine sugar and cinnamon. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over batter. Bake at 375 for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Yield: 12-16 servings. (For the blueberry version: if using frozen blueberries, do not thaw before adding to the batter).

Dutch Apple Loaf

I promised my piano student that I would come up with an apple treat for our refreshments at our recital. I made this bread, which uses quite a few apples for only one loaf. I quadrupled the recipe and put it into 5 loaves (my pans are 8 1/2 x 4 1/2).

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups diced peeled tart apples
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 cup cold butter or margarine

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in buttermilk and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; add to creamed mixture. Fold in apples and walnuts. Pour into a greased 9x5" loaf pan. For topping, combine the sugar, flour and cinnamon in a bowl. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over batter. Bake at 350 for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack. Yield: 1 loaf.