Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Turkey Shepherd's Pie

1 ½ lbs. of ground turkey (traditional beef may be substituted)
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Small bag of frozen vegetable mix (corn, carrots, & peas)
½ head of cauliflower
3 Yukon gold potatoes (or any kind will work)
2 cups of chicken stock/broth
2 tbsp. butter or margarine
1 heaping tbsp. of light sour cream
½ cup of fat-free Half & Half (or use the real thing)
Pinch cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
2 sprigs each of fresh thyme and oregano (or use 1/4 tsp. each of dried seasonings)
Few shots of Worcestershire Sauce
1 tablespoon of flour
Paprika, optional

In a large pot, boil cauliflower and potatoes until tender in salted water.

While the cauliflower and potatoes cook, take a frying pan, and heat olive oil. Add ground turkey and cook until browned and done. Season the meat with the spices (cayenne, salt, pepper, thyme, and oregano) while it’s browning. Next, add the onion and garlic. Sprinkle flour over all and give a good stir to combine. Cook for another minute or two. Pour in the 2 cups of stock, then, add the frozen vegetables along with the Worcestershire Sauce. Let mixture simmer for about 15 minutes over low heat, until it’s thickened, and the flavors have “married” nicely.

Drain potatoes and cauliflower and mash with a potato masher. Add butter, sour cream and Half & Half. Mix until combined.

In a large casserole dish lightly pre-coated with non stick cooking spray, add turkey mixture. Add potato mixture as top layer.

Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until bubbly, if you bake it while still hot.If you preparing ahead of time, bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

Southern Ambrosia Snowballs

I have had this recipe for over a year now. In fact, I had thought about making these for the cookie exchange last year but didn’t get around to it. They seemed like they would be simple and fairly light compared to the more chocolate heavy cookies.

The food processor made the crumbs quickly and easily. I mixed the other ingredients and added the crumbs and mixed away. Everything seemed to come together, but not so much that I could knead it like the recipe suggests. I tried to add one mini marshmallow in each cookie, but it was so difficult to close the cookie around it that I quickly gave up on that. Also, when I tried to roll the cookies in the coconut, no where near as much stuck to my cookies as in the pictures. Maybe I handled the rounded cookies too much and lost some of the ‘stickiness.’

Even though the cookies didn’t quite come out like expected, they still tasted good. The flavor of the Nilla wafers with orange was a good combination. I was ok with less coconut flavor-wise, but the picture of the cookies on the website definitely look prettier. In the end it was a good recipe to try out, but I do not think they will be a part of my normal rotation.

From Good Housekeeping Yields: 24 snowballs

• 5 tablespoon(s) light corn syrup
• 3 tablespoon(s) orange marmalade
• 2 tablespoon(s) orange liqueur or orange juice concentrate
• 1 box(es) (12-ounce) Nilla Wafers, finely crushed
• 48 mini marshmallows
• 1 3/4 cup(s) sweetened coconut flakes
1. In a bowl, combine the corn syrup, orange marmalade, and orange liqueur. Stir in the crushed vanilla wafers until moistened and knead together until well mixed.
2. Use your hands to shape the mixture into 1-inch balls, filling each with 2 mini marshmallows. Roll each ball in the coconut to coat and store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Cookie Exchange

I had a few friends over last weekend for a lunch and cookie exchange to celebrate the holidays. Of course I couldn’t make just one kind of cookie. I made Southern Ambrosia cookies, Irish potatoes, Irish creme delights and peanut butter cake truffles. Along with some red velvet cake truffles that I still had.

For lunch, I made the sweet potato pasta I bought from the Lilburn Farmers market at the end of the summer with a garlic walnut mascarpone sauce. And a turkey shepherd’s pie; I got the recipe from the Cuisinart website. They are having a photo contest at the moment where you pick a recipe on their website, make it and photograph it and submit it. That fit my lunch perfectly. It was not made with beef (a request of one of my guests), was a part of the contest, and was ‘healthified’ by adding cauliflower to the mashed potatoes. I also made the cheese burger buns from a few weeks ago, except that I made them into 16 smaller rolls rather than the 8 larger burger buns.

Irish Creme Delights

I believe that I got this recipe from the Better Homes and Garden website. If I find out otherwise, I will be sure to update that information. Just be careful to read the directions thoroughly. When I first started making this recipe, I accidentally added 1 tablespoon of instant coffee rather than 1 teaspoon. Needless to say, there was no saving that batter and I had to start again. Here is the recipe:

• 1/4 cup butter, softened
• 1/4 cup shortening
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 tablespoon coffee liqueur or 1 teaspoon instant espresso coffee powder
• 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1 egg, lightly beaten
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
• Irish Creme Frosting
• Ground cinnamon (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine butter and shortening. Beat with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the 1 cup sugar, the coffee liqueur, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping side of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour.
2. In a small bowl, combine the 1/4 cup sugar and the 2 teaspoons cinnamon. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll balls in cinnamon-sugar to coat. Place balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
3. Bake in the preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Transfer cookies to a wire rack; let cool.
4. Spread Irish Creme Frosting over cookies. If desired, sprinkle with additional cinnamon.
5. Irish Creme Frosting: In a medium bowl, combine 3 tablespoons softened butter and 1 tablespoon coffee liqueur. Beat with an electric mixer on medium to high speed until combined. Gradually beat in 3 cups powdered sugar. Beat in enough half-and-half or whipping cream (1 to 3 tablespoons) to make a frosting of spreading consistency.
6. To Store: Layer cookies between waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

My Culinary Christmas!!!!!

My, oh my, oh my!!! I had a great Christmas, especially for my kitchen. Though I think my kitchen cabinets and bookshelves are groaning at the fact that I need to find places for all my new 'toys.' Here is a run down of all the wonderfulness!

- Breville Pie maker: see my previous post on this one. I couldn't be more excited!! Well, actually I could be if it was actually here and not on back order until February.
- Pullman bread loaf: for making sandwich bread
- America the Edible by Adam Richman
- A Silpat: this is actually my first Silpat, I can't wait to actually try it out. I've just been using parchment paper all the time.
- A set of 11 biscuit cutters from the Culinary Institute of America: I can finally make my crab turnovers using a real cookie cutter rather than a drinking glass.
- The Pastry Chefs Companion by Glenn Rinsky
- Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll
- More Best Recipes from America's Test Kitchen
- Baking Illustrated from America's Test Kitchen
- 8 piece garnishing tool set in folding bag by Berghoff: includes a lemon zester, three sizes of melon ballers, channel knife, butter curler, peeler and apple corer
- a table scraper: like the ones they use at fancy restaurants

And the piece de resistance...(imagine trumpet flourishes)

**** A Kitchen Aid 6 quart Professional stand mixer. This was an unintended gift for myself this year. I saw this at my sister in law's house the day before Christmas when we went to go visit. It was something she had been looking at for many years and finally the stars aligned and the price was just right. She got a 30% off coupon for her Kohl's charge card for all purchases through Christmas eve in the mail. Plus a $10 off coupon. The $499 mixer was on sale for $399. Then there was the $10 and 30% off. And there is a mail in rebate for $50. And they were doing Kohl's cash where you got $10 in Kohl's cash for every $50 you spent, good for the weed after Christmas. So in the end, it was $290 after taxes. Plus I will send in the rebate for $50 back and I got $50 of free money to spend at Kohl's. It was a deal that I just couldn't pass up. My mixer has been struggling with bread dough since it just didn't have the horse power to knead it as well as I would like.

I know I keep justifying my purchase over and over, but its a big purchase for me. I am looking forward to making wonderful recipes with this new mixer, which will get lots and lots of use, without a single doubt in my mind.

Good Ol' Fried Chicken

I know that the week before Christmas probably isn't the ideal time to pull the deep fryer back out, but that didn't stop me! My husband loves a buffalo chicken sandwich he gets at Publix and wanted to recreate it at home. Instead of sub rolls, we made these sandwiches on wraps.

So starting with a Sam's sized package of boneless skinless chicken tenders, I went to town with a traditional breading set up. We seasoned the flour with salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder. Then on to the egg wash and then plain bread crumbs. After what seemed like an eternity, I finally got through the entire package.

A quick glance in my Professional Cooking textbook suggested a cooking temperature for 325-350F, until the chicken was done. Our first batch of 4 chicken strips went into the fryer preheated to 350F. Without knowing exactly how long the chicken would need to cook, we left them in for about 10 minutes. The breading was quite dark at this point, but we didn't want to remove the chicken before it was ready. A quick cut revealed that we had cooked the chicken thoroughly.

We lowered the cooking temperature of the second batch to 325 and increased the cook time to 12-15 minutes, depending on the size and number of strips in the basket. This turned out to be the ideal setup. Luckily we were able to get it right by the second batch and we didn't need to over or under cook several batches before getting it right.

Buffalo Chicken Wraps:
Boneless, skinless chicken tenderloins
onion powder
garlic powder
eggs, lightly beaten
plain bread crumbs
oil, for frying
whole wheat wraps
cheddar cheese, sliced or shredded
yellow mustard, if desired
Texas Pete hot sauce
dill pickle chips

1. Prepare the chicken: Trim chicken as needed. Combine the flour, salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder in a dish. Place the beaten eggs in a second dish and the bread crumbs in the third. Dredge the chicken tenders in the flour mixture, removing any excess before coating in the egg wash. Cover the chicken with bread crumbs.

2. Fry the breaded chicken strips in small batches (the amount per batch will be determined by the size of your fryer) in a deep fryer preheated to 325F. Fry for 12-15 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Check to make sure the cooked through.

3. Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces and transfer to a large (or lidded) bowl. Pour on the desired amount of Texas Pete hot sauce and toss to combine.

4. Prepare the wraps with the desired ingredients. Enjoy!!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Red Velvet Cake Truffles

I have had requests that I expand my cake truffle inventory and one of the ideas that came up was red velvet. The cake itself was easy enough, there are countless recipes out there for this classic cake. I went back and forth as to whether I would include some chopped pecans in the cake or frosting, but in the end time constraints won out this time. I was super busy on Sunday and wanted to get the cake in the oven so I didn't spend the time chopping up the pecan halves I had in the pantry.

I paired up the rich chocolately bright red cake with a vanilla buttercream. I didn't want anything too strong, the vanilla was a good complement. And white chocolate was the natural choice to dip the truffles in.

All of that was easy, then comes the decorating part of things. I am trying to improve my presentation skills, since eating is just as much about seeing as it is tasting. For a little bit of drama, I melted some red chocolate and thinned it with some canola oil. I put that into a pastry bag and created red zig zags against the stark white truffles. The red was perfect for the red velvet cake and these look gorgeous!

I don't think I need to change the cake recipe at all, nor the vanilla butter cream or white chocolate to dip in. I would say the only thing I may change (or even just have as an option) is the addition of chopped pecans. I also see that some people garnish with coconut, which would be another option to create a more complex flavor profile.

Cappuccino Steamer Debackle

While perusing the King Arthur Flour catalog the other night, I came across something called cappuccino steamers. The concept was new to me, but I found it quite intriguing. You place 2-3 of these fudge-like candies on a stick and swirl them into a mug of hot milk. Or just eat them right as they are. There is also a version for hot chocolate, but since I made the powdered mix, I went for the cappuccino flavored ones.

This is actually the second time this week I have made this recipe. The first was this past Sunday. And I totally messed them up!!!! I was trying to make a few different things at once and did something completely and utterly stupid. I didn't have espresso powder, so I figured that I could use coffee instead. My intent was good, but I was in such a rush I grabbed the wrong coffee...the real ground coffee, not the instant coffee. I was wondering why the coffee didn't dissolve in the sugar mixture, but didn't think it through at the time.

Then on Monday, I pulled the blocks out of the fridge and it hit me what I had done. As much as I hate throwing anything away, I knew there was no salvaging this one. What was I thinking?!? I wasted all that time and the ingredients, but I try not to beat myself up about it. There are always mishaps in the kitchen and I just need to move on from them. On the plus side, I can guarantee that I won't make that mistake again!!!!

Cappuccino Blocks
* 1 cup heavy cream, divided
* 1 tablespoon espresso powder
* 2 tablespoons corn syrup
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1 cup sugar
* 1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) vanilla bean crush or vanilla extract
* 2 cups chopped white chocolate
* 1 tablespoon cocoa, natural or Dutch-process
* 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
* wooden sticks or stir sticks


1) Line an 8x8 pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil, and spray lightly with non-stick baking spray.
2) Place 1/2 cup cream in a medium saucepan. Add the espresso powder, corn syrup, salt, and sugar. Stir over medium heat until the espresso powder and sugar are dissolved and the mixture begins to boil.
3) Cover the pan and let boil for 3 minutes. Uncover the pan, and check the temperature; it should be 235°F to 240°F (soft ball stage). If it is, remove from the heat; otherwise let it boil for a minute or two more.
4) Once the mixture reaches 235°F to 240°F, add the vanilla. Be careful; it will splash and splutter when it hits the hot liquid. Set the mixture aside for about 10 minutes to cool.
5) Meanwhile, place the remaining 1/2 cup cream into a saucepan. Heat until it?s just beginning to steam.
6) Remove from the heat, and add the white chocolate. Let sit for about 5 minutes to melt. Then whisk vigorously until the mixture is shiny and smooth.
7) Add the sugar mixture to the chocolate mixture; stir to combine.
8) Combine the cocoa and ½ teaspoon espresso, and sprinkle the chocolate with some of the mixture.
9) Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, to set.
10) Turn the chocolate out of the pan and flip it over; sprinkle with the remaining cocoa/espresso powder blend.
11) Cut into 1" cubes. Stack two or three on a wooden stick. Roll in cocoa, or whatever you sprinkled on the top and bottom. Wrap in waxed paper, parchment or plastic wrap to store.

Yield about 64 blocks, 21 servings.

Making Marshmallows

For a cute addition to the hot chocolate mix, I made homemade marshmallows. I have read that homemade taste better than those from the bag so I wanted to give it a try. I went to the old standby: the King Arthur Flour website (

I made homemade marshmallows for the first time and it really wasn't all that difficult. The directions were clear and easy to follow. I allowed the marshmallow to set up overnight in the glass dish. I wanted to cut it into cute holiday themed shapes and found a few small cookie cutters that I thought would work. I chose a christmas tree, santa head, stocking and a snowman. After trying some of them out, I found that the stocking was the only one that really came out looking like it was supposed to. I greased each cookie cutter and also tried dipping them in confectioner's sugar, but the best still seemed to be the stocking since there were no hard edges.

I was worried that none of the cookie cutters would work, but I am happy with the stockings. A few didn't turn out quite as pretty, but once I regreased the cutter they looked better. I placed the stockings into a container and sprinkled with more confectioners' sugar to keep them from sticking. Then I put on an air tight lid. I plan on placing a bunch in small bags for each Christmas gift bag. They should be perfect with the hot chocolate.

Of course I had to taste my creations. These marshmallows are light and fluffy and tasted amazing! I just ate a few small pieces as I was cutting them out (hey, there are scraps when using a cookie cutter, I couldn't just let them all pass by!). I haven't tried the marshmallows in hot chocolate yet, but that is certainly on the agenda!

Hot Chocolate Mix

I got the recipe from a 'gifts in a jar' book. Combine the following in a large bowl and then transfer to a wide mouth mason jar:

3 1/2 cups non fat dried milk
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup coffee creamer
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
pinch of salt

To make one serving of hot chocolate: place 5 tablespoons of hot chocolate mix and add boiling water. Serve with marshmallows, if desired.

Christmas gifts

The last few years I have given homemade gifts for a few friends and coworkers. Last year, I made a cinnamon pancake mix and some muffins and cookies. I also added in a spatula. That seemed to go over well. I have also made a bunch of types of cookies and given people cookie tins.

This year I decided to do something similar. I went for an 'evening in' theme. I made hot chocolate mix in a large mason jar as the main part of the gift. I also have homemade marshmallows in the shape of a stocking and cappuccino steamers. And thats not all! Since they seem to go over so well, I dipped more pretzel rods in either milk or dark chocolate. I don't think I will have the time, but if so I hope to add some caramel corn to the gift bags.

So hopefully these will combine to make a great movie night package!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cheese Burger Buns

Yes, you read that right. Cheese Burger Buns, not cheeseburger buns. These delightful rolls (from the King Arthur Flour website: resulted in a recipe that I will be sure to make over and over again.

The recipe calls for Vermont cheese powder, which I do not have. I used grated parmesan instead. My original intention was to use freshly grated parmesan cheese, but I didn't have time to go by the store to pick up a block, so I went for the old Kraft standard. The dough formula and make up are straight forward. If you want more details, be sure to visit the recipe above.

We used these buns for cheeseburgers and it worked out great. It was a nice change from the usual store bought bun and I hope to keep making my own in the future. The texture was nice and the parmesan and onion flavors complemented the burgers.

Since the recipe makes 8 and we only used a few for dinner that night, I made both of our lunch sandwiches on these buns. My sandwich consisted of Laughing Cow light swiss cheese (only 35 calories...yay!), ham, one slice of salami, romaine lettuce and mustard. I put it in the toaster at work, which was a great idea. The bun was nice and warm and all the flavors came together.

My husband had cheddar, salami and mustard on his roll. He didn't like it quite as much, thinking that the parmesan and onion actually overpowered the flavor of the cheddar and salami. After last night, there was only one roll left when I went to make his sandwich for today's lunch. I can't say that I am not happy that he wanted regular sandwich bread for today. I would have shared the last roll with him, but I was not about to argue when he offered to save the last one for my lunch tomorrow. Yippee!!!

It is now noon as I write this and I am getting hungrier by the second. I have been thinking about my sandwich all morning! I can't wait to hit the toaster and enjoy my lunch. And the best part is, I will still have one roll left for tomorrow!

Cheese Burger Buns
* 3/4 cup lukewarm water
* 4 tablespoons butter
* 1 large egg
* 3 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
* 2 tablespoons sugar
* 1/3 cup Vermont cheese powder OR 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese or the finely grated cheese of your choice
* 3/4 to 1 1/4 teaspoons salt*
* 1 teaspoon onion powder, optional but good
* 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
* butter for brushing on top
* *Use 3/4 teaspoon salt if you use cheese powder, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt if you use grated fresh cheese


1) To make the dough: Combine all of the dough ingredients, and mix and knead them — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — to make a soft, somewhat tacky dough.
2) Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or other container large enough to allow it to at least double in bulk, cover, and let it rise for about 60 to 70 minutes, till it's just about doubled.
3) Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it into 8 pieces.
4) Round each piece into a smooth ball, and place on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Gently flatten the balls to about 3" diameter.
5) Cover the buns and let them rise till they've expanded nicely, about 1 hour. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.
6) Brush each bun with melted butter.
7) Bake the buns till they're a light, golden brown, about 18 minutes.
8) Remove the buns from the oven, and brush them with butter again. Place them on a rack to cool.
Yield: 8 big buns.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Speaking of more pie adventures...

I got an email for this last week and it really took all my will power not to just buy one on the spot. There are a lot of kitchen related items that I find interesting and want to have, but it is unusual for me to have the initial 'I want it NOW'-Veruca Salt-esque reaction. But I held off...and put it on my wish list (its so cool that you can add items from other websites to your list!). And then sent that list to my family for Christmas ideas. Hey, they were asking for ideas, all I did was add an expensive thing I really wanted in hopes that my wish would come true. That is the definition of a wish list, is it not?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Thanksgiving Feast

A bountiful Thanksgiving day:
- crab Real Women of Philadelphia winning entry
- cheddar and veggie spread
- deviled eggs

- roast turkey with garlic butter under the skin
- stuffing (my husband's family specialty, done by my husband and his mother)
- gravy (by my mother in law)
- garlic mashed potatoes
- salad and fixins: romaine lettuce, spring mix, mushrooms, carrots, grape tomatoes, cucumbers and various dressings
- candied yams
- homemade cranberry sauce
- homemade white and honey wheat rolls

- pumpkin pie
- apple pie
- vanilla ice cream
- chocolate cookies and cream frozen yogurt
- cool whip
- sweetened whipped cream from my new cream whipper
- leftover Black Forest Brownies, peanut butter fudge, cake truffles (carrot cake, apple spice cake and chocolate mocha)

Thanksgiving Pies

Pie, pie, who doesn't love pie?!? For Thanksgiving this year, my husband's family requested two classics: pumpkin pie and apple pie. And of course I obliged!

Executing the pies was made easier by the fact that I still had 3 pieces of pie dough left in the freezer, just perfect for the single pumpkin pie crust and the double apple pie crust. I just took them out of the freezer on Tuesday night and let them thaw in the fridge. On Wednesday, I rolled out the bottom crusts and placed them in the pie tins (I love my Williams-Sonoma pie tins, by the way...they work perfectly for me). After covering them in plastic, back in the fridge they went. Normally, a pie crust only needs about 30 minutes to relax in the fridge, but I knew I would be pressed for time on Wednesday so I opted to roll out the dough and let it rest over night.

I came home after noon on Wednesday to really get into the thick of my Thanksgiving cooking. These two pies were high on my priority list. The pumpkin pie couldn't be simpler...just some pumpkin, eggs, spices and condensed milk and voila! Into the oven it went without an issue. I placed the pie on a cookie sheet since the tins have holes to allow for air circulation so that I wouldn't end up with some drippings in the bottom of my oven. Oven cleaning is never a fun job!

I went to work with the apples. I did 50:50 of Braeburn and Granny Smith apples, a combination that complemented each other in the final pie. Using my handy dandy vegetable peeler and one of those 8 section apple slicers, I got through all the apples in no time. I just sliced all the apples sections into two more slices so they wouldn't be too thick. I always worry that the apples will be all brown before I finish, but that wasn't the case at all.

The recipe I used called for caramelizing the apple juice after they had macerated in the lemon juice and sugar. This was to be done in the microwave. Even though I followed the directions, the caramel did not seem appetizing so I didn't bother with it. I would rather not ruin all the beautiful apple slices that I already had.

The monstrous mound of apples went into the bottom crust. I carefully rolled out and added the top crust. The mound had to have been more than 6 inches above the rim of the pie! All the apples cooked down just as they should and this was the best tasting apple pie I have made so far. The looks of the crust are getting better each time; it always feels good to feel that sort of progress and pride in my work!

Even though both pies looked delicious, I had to wait until Thursday to cut into them. All the reviews were highly positive and I look forward to more pie adventures in the future!

My first sales!!!

It finally happened!!

My husband's boss and one of his coworkers gave me my first orders: two dozen carrot cake truffles and one dozen apple spice cake truffles. I can't tell you how excited I am, I love sharing my creations with people and love it when I can do something to make other people happy.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Display

Each Thanksgiving, the people on my floor come together to have a pot luck lunch to celebrate the holiday. With the ethnic diversity we have here, the choices span the globe a few times over.

With me being me, I couldn't decide on what I wanted to bring. I wanted to make something with chocolate, as a test run for the Godiva contest I mentioned earlier. I have been thinking in the back of my head about Black Forest Brownies...making a dark chocolate fudgy brownie with chunks of cherries and chocolate with a cherry fudge icing. The recipe got rave reviews so I think this will be my submission. Wish me luck!

I knew I would make more than one thing since there are so many sweet things to choose from out there! My second selection was a result of my husband's Thanksgiving party. I had made apple spice cake truffles and mocha chocolate truffles for his get together. His boss asked if I also make carrot cake truffles. I haven't made those yet, but I figured this would be a great time to test them out. I had to shred the carrots with a box grater, so the pieces were larger than I would have liked. It will be a food processor in the future! I mixed the cake with vanilla buttercream icing, then dipped that in white chocolate. I know that cream cheese frosting is typical of a carrot cake, but since the truffles are kept at room temperature, I didn't feel comfortable making something with cream cheese, even if it was encased in chocolate. I kept the buttercream light and vanilla to complement the carrot cake without distracting from all the wonderful spices in the cake.

So I had something dark brown and something white. I decided to add something tan colored for a pretty color palate. It came down to peanut butter fudge or rum raisin fudge. The cherry fudge icing for the brownies has Kirsch in it, so I opted for something without alcohol...the peanut butter fudge.

I had fun all weekend getting all of these made. I started thinking of the presentation. With the round cake balls, I cut the brownies into triangles and the fudge into small squares. All of it looked so pretty and I couldn't have been prouder! I put a three tier cake stand in the car and was all set for my party.

I had great complements about the brownies. I think I like the recipe the way that it is, but I have until Dec 31st to change it up if I come up with something I want to do a bit differently. People must have enjoyed the carrot cake truffles and the fudge since almost all of them were gone by the middle of the afternoon. There was another carrot cake at the party that I really liked. I asked for the recipe and hopefully she will remember to bring it in for me. Then I will have the two recipes to choose from in the future and see which one works better for cake truffles.

In the end, I had a great time creating, loved the way the display turned out and I had some yummy sweets for me!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Calzones...and the last of the mozzarella

This dough recipe is adapted from the King Arthur Flour website ( The dough formula was used, but the procedure for making the dough and other things were altered. Here is what I did:

1 packet active dry yeast
2 cups lukewarm water
1 tablespoon sugar
6 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt

Filling options: homemade mozzarella, ricotta cheese, pizza sauce, sauteed mushrooms and broccoli with garlic

1. Dissolve the yeast in some of the water and the sugar. Let proof for 5-10 minutes.
2. Combine the rest of the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir to combine. Use the dough hook on the mixer to knead the dough on medium speed for 5-7 minutes.
3. Place dough in a large bowl coated in cooking spray. Cover and rise until double in bulk.
4. Divide the dough into 4 equal portions and roll out to as large a rectangle as possible.
5. Fill one half with the desired toppings. Fold over the other half of the dough. Press the dough together and tuck under. Transfer to a large baking sheet.
6. Allow the dough to rise for about 30 minutes. Cut two small slits in the top of each calzone to allow steam to escape.
7. Preheat oven to 375F. Bake 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool slightly before serving.

Inside out mozzarella burgers

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Orange Chiffon Cake

A friend of mine at work is leaving this week and I didn't want the event to go unnoticed. I have been super busy this week at work, but I knew I wanted to do something. It just couldn't be some complicated torte or anything. I also wanted to keep her tastes in mind. She likes lighter desserts rather than something super chocolaty. With all that in mind, I decided to make an orange chiffon cake.

Chiffon cakes are much like angel food cakes in that they are light and fluffy and baked in a tube pan. The big difference is that chiffon cakes have egg yolks in the batter, which results in a richer cake than an angel food cake. The batter is still leavened with egg whites to produce a tall airy cake. Usually chiffon cakes are citrus flavored. I didn't have to decide what kind to make considering the only citrus I had in the house was orange! And like angel food cakes, a heavy frosting is undesirable. This cake will be topped with an orange flavored glaze. The result is a pretty, fluffy, light cake that does not take lots of extra effort to look and taste great!

Cheesy Pizza

My husband's mother makes homemade pizza fairly often. In order to avoid lots of mixing and kneading of the dough, she uses Pillsbury Hot Roll mix as the base. Then adds sauce and the cheese. And voila, a tasty homemade pizza made before you know it.

I have made pizza this way many times over the last two years. I decided to make it special with my homemade mozzarella. I drained the cheese about an hour before using it, but it was still a bit soft in a few places when I went to shred the cheese on my box grater. It still worked, but it got a bit messy. Ah well...I can't be in the kitchen without making a mess of some sort!

Here's how I did it:

1 box Hot roll mix
15 ounce can tomato paste
salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and oregano
homemade mozzarella, shredded

1. Prepare the mix using the pizza dough directions found on the side of the box (note that this preparation is slightly different from the roll directions found on the back). Knead slightly to make sure the dough comes together.
2. Preheat the oven to 400F. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray.
3. Rub butter on your hands and transfer the dough to the cookie sheet. Carefully spread the dough to the edges, making sure to press the dough up the sides of the cookie sheet to form a crust. Be patient, it may not seem like it will ever cover the cookie sheet, but trust me, it will. Periodically add more butter to your hands to keep the dough from sticking. Let the dough rise undisturbed for about 10-15 minutes.
4. Prepare the sauce: Combine the tomato sauce and seasonings to taste. I'll be honest, my husband mixes the sauce, so I am unsure as to the exact proportions of all the seasonings. You could also use the pre-seasoned cans of tomato sauce, if desired.
5. Pour some of the sauce over the pizza dough, spreading to the edges. Not all of the sauce will be needed. If you prefer less sauce, an 8 ounce can may be sufficient.
6. Sprinkle on the mozzarella. Not every spot needs to be covered, the cheese will spread to cover the entire pizza.
7. Bake in the oven until the edges are lightly golden brown and the cheese has melted, about 12-15 minutes.
8. Remove the pizza from the oven and allow it to cool slightly so that the cheese sets up enough for the pizza to be cut. Cut the pizza into 12 equal slices.

Tuna Mozzarella Melts

For dinner this week, I made myself a tuna mozzarella melt. Here is what I did:

3 halves of white rolls (made earlier in the week)
grainy mustard
1 can of tuna packed in water, drained
salt and pepper to taste
homemade mozzarella

1. Spread a layer of mustard on each of the roll halves.
2. Season the tuna with the salt and pepper. If desired, add chopped pickles. Divide amongst the rolls.
3. Slice the mozzarella and place one piece on each sandwich.
4. Toast in a toaster oven until the roll is toasted and the mozzarella is melted. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Another test run of rolls for Thanksgiving dinner

I wasn't completely happy with the whole wheat rolls I made the other week, so I wanted to try a different recipe before the big day. I opted for white rolls, rather than whole wheat since achieving a good flavor balance and roll density is a bit trickier in a whole wheat product versus one made with white flour. I am much happier with these rolls and unless I get time to try out yet another recipe before next week, this is what I'll be serving on Thanksgiving day:

Soft white dinner rolls from the King Arthur Flour website:

While perusing the website I got distracted by the following. Could this be my next bread to try? Maybe I can make these buns to use for leftover turkey sandwiches. Cheese Burger Buns...sounds yummy!!

Caramel Corn...yummy!

My future sister-in-law's birthday is this week so I sent her a birthday gift in the mail. Rather than use lots of packing peanuts, I decided to make a bunch of caramel popcorn in sandwich bags as filler. So it is greener since I avoided buying and using more plastic and it just happens to be quite yummy!

From the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook:
7-8 cups popped popcorn
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
6 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

1. Remove all unpopped kernels from popped popcorn. Put popcorn into 17x12x12 inch baking or roasting pan. Keep popcorn warm in a 300F oven while making caramel mixture.
2. For caramel mixture, in a medium saucepan combined brown sugar, butter and corn syrup. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture boils. Continue boiling at a moderate, steady rate, without stirring, for 5 minutes more.
3. Remove saucepan from heat. Stir in baking soda and vanilla. Pour caramel micture over popcorn; stir gently to coat. Bake in a 300F oven for 15 minutes. Stir mixture; bake 5 minutes more. Spread caramel corn on a large piece of buttered foil to cool. Store tightly covered for 1 week.

Mighty Mozzarella

I think I finally figured out the tricks to making mozzarella. First, I used the instructions found on (;results_list). There are some slight differences between this method and the method I had tried before.

The second change I made was to use a whole milk that is pasteurized but not homogenized. Raw milk seems to be the preference for making cheese, but that is something that I would have to get directly from a farm. And then there are always the safety concerns involved with nonpasteurized milk. I bought milk from a farmers' market that came from Johnston Family farms. The market was a bit far away, but I happened to be going for another reason. It is also a bit expensive, at $6 per gallon. I bought two gallons for this attempt at cheese making. The dairy website says it is sold at a market about 10 minutes from where I work, but I haven't called to make sure it is there. I also saw somewhere that it can be found at whole foods, which is less than 5 minutes from work.

I am not sure if the different milk or the change of recipes or a combination of both is what did the trick. But whatever it is, I found my first success in making homemade mozzarella. One gallon of milk produced about 6-7 balls of cheese a bit smaller than a baseball.

I debated about making homemade ricotta with the second gallon of milk, but I have been working late a bunch this week, so I opted to make a second batch of mozzarella so I wouldn't have to think about another recipe. I have used the mozzarella in a variety of ways this week, all of which will be discussed soon!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Jamaican Coconut Pie

A friend at work lent me 'Home Baking' by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duduid, an interesting cookbook with recipes from around the world combined with tidbits about various regions and their cooking.

I decided to make the Jamaican Coconut pie for the following reasons: 1, I wanted to make something from this book to bring to work; 2, I already had some pie crusts frozen; 3, I had coconut in the pantry, which my husband will have nothing to do with; 4, it did not require a large amount of effort for the final product so I could make it on a random Thursday night. So combining all reasons, this was the perfect thing to make.

I thawed my pie crust all day in the fridge and rolled it out when I got home. I placed the 9 inch pie plate in the fridge to rest during dinner. So ignoring the pie crust parts of the recipe, here is the filling and make up of the pie, copied or paraphrased directly from the book,:

Coconut Filling:
1 1/4 cups dried unsweeteneed shredded coconut or sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup boiling water (if using dried coconut)
1 cup packed light or dark brown sugar (I used light)
1/4 cup cornstarch
2-3 tablespoons butter

1. If using dried coconut, place 1 cup of it in a bowl and pour over the boiling water. Let stand for 10-15 minutes.
2. In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and cornstarch, then stir in to the coconut mixture. Or mix the sugar and cornstarch in a medium bowl and stir in 1 cup of the sweetened shredded coconut.
3. Melt the butter in a small pot over medium-low heat. Add the coconut-sugar mixture and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionaly to prevent burning or sticking, until the mixture thickens.
4. Transfer to a bowl to cool to room temperature. Stir in the remaining 1/4 cup coconut and spread the filling in the pie shell, mounding in the center and then spreading it outward.
5. Preheat the oven to 375F with the rack on the upper third of the oven. Bake the pie until lightly touched with brown, about 35 minutes. Let stand for at least 10 minutes to firm up and serve warm or at room temperature.

My impressions:
I mixed the coconut, cornstarch and sugar together and added to the melted butter. I didn't think it was right to not add any water, but I started off following the recipe. A few minutes in, I give in and follow my gut...I added about 1/2 cup water. I just couldn't see how the mixture would thicken without it. Cornstarch needs water to act and I was afraid that the sugar would caramelize or even worse, burn. Once I added the water, the mixture boiled easily and finally started to thicken.

Since I am impatient, I placed the pot in the fridge to cool faster. That and I didn't want to clean another bowl. I got even more impatient after 15 minutes and put it in the freezer for 10. That did the trick. I pulled out my prepared pie crust and poured the filling in...well, what filling I had any way.

This was another moment where I debated just giving up on the recipe, but since I had gotten so far, I just followed through. The filling only seemed to occupy 1/4 of the pie. This was looking like a very sad pie so far, but into the oven it went.

I kept an eye on it, thinking I may need a pie shield to protect the crust, but it didn't happen. I am very glad I put the pie plate on a baking sheet because some of the filling seeped out through the bottom. One major mess averted!!!

Once the time was up, the pie looked light brown, so I took it out to cook. I was pleasantly surprised that the pie did not look as sad as it did when it went in the oven! Between the crust shrinking some and the filling thickening even more, it looked proportional. I cooled the pie and put it in a container to take to work.

This morning, I brought the pie to work to share. I hadn't thought of tasting it, so I figured I would have a small piece before I let everyone else try it out. Nothing like a little quality control, huh? I was very surprised in how the pie turned out. The crust was nice and flaky, which is something I always worry about. The filling was very sweet, chewy and candy-like. It is not something I would want all the time, but is good on occasion.

I made a few copies of the recipe and put them out by the pie. And by 10AM, all the copies and the pie were gone. I think I can take that as a good sign!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Whole wheat dinner rolls

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I have started to formulate a menu in my head. Since I have my baking textbook now, I want to make my own dinner rolls and decided to try out a recipe this weekend.

I took a recipe for white sandwich bread and followed the suggestion to include white whole wheat. This was done by substituting 3/4 of the flour with white whole wheat and using bread flour for the remainder. In my recent experience, white whole wheat has had a good flavor and hasn't had as strong a flavor as traditional whole wheat. So I was thinking I could get away with a whole wheat roll that didn't taste too strong.

I combined the ingredients and kneaded the dough in my stand mixer and let it rise. I had to let the dough ferment for several hours since my house was only about 65 degrees. Once it had finally doubled, I portioned the dough into 1 ounce pieces and rolled them into balls. I placed three into each cooking spray- coated muffin well for cloverleaf rolls. I didn't have the correct amount for all the rolls, so I ended up making two that only contained two pieces of dough. I wanted to try the cloverleaf set up for something a little fancy looking without too much extra effort.

I let the dough proof and used an egg wash consisting of an egg yolk and milk, which is supposed to make for a softer crust. A harder crust can be made using a whole egg and water. I baked the rolls until they were a beautiful golden brown. After removing from the oven, I added some butter to the tops to make sure the crusts really were soft. Are you seeing a pattern here? My husband can't stand very crunchy crust, so I do what I can to make sure it stays soft so the bread will actually get eaten!

The rolls looked perfect, but did they taste good? Now that is the important part. The crumb was fine and consistent, no tunneling or other sign of incorrectly mixed bread. The whole wheat taste did come through a bit more than I expected and I do not think it is what I am looking for for Thanksgiving dinner.

Also, the three one ounce balls of dough per roll made for very large rolls. I think I will go for three 1/2 ounce balls instead. I think I will test out another recipe before Thanksgiving. My book also has ones for soft dinner rolls and milk bread, which sounds lovely. Hopefully I will have time to test out at least one of those before Thanksgiving, otherwise I may just fly blind and hope that it works out!!!!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Getting back into the habit

I've been quite busy the last few weeks. Work kicked in to overtime just before and immediately after I went on vacation for a week. Its almost like I never left! Well, after I spent an entire day fixing all the things people messed up while I was gone...

I haven't been in the kitchen much recently, but that is sure to change with Thanksgiving coming up. My husband's family will be visiting, so I will have plenty of opportunity to cook while they are here. His mom offered to help, but I am leaning towards doing most, if not all by myself just because I enjoy it so much.

So far I know I'll be making turkey, stuffing (my husband's special stuffing is a non negotiable aspect of the dinner), gravy, homemade cranberry sauce, homemade yeast rolls, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. I am thinking of also making sweet potatoes, creamed onions (which I have never had, but saw a recipe for and it intrigued me), and some other kind of dessert. The dessert is still very much in the air..could be an apple pie, a chocolate cake, cookies...I haven't decided yet.

I have also been thinking of two more contests I have come across. I have a few recipe ideas in the back of my head, but still need to think them through and test them out.

The first is through Godiva ( and they are looking for a chocolate dessert. I think I can only submit one recipe and of course it must contain at least on Godiva product. I have until the end of the year for that one. I may test out some ideas for Thanksgiving. The grand prize winner gets a trip to SWEET at the Food and Wine Festival in NYC in 2011, round trip airfare and accommodations for 2 nights for the event and the possibility that the recipe will be featured in the Godiva catalog. Sounds like a great time to me!!!

The other is through King Arthur Flour (, which runs through February 7th. You can submit multiple entries for each of the following categories: ethnic breads, rolls, time saving/easy, and whole grain breads. Each recipe must contain Fleischmann's yeast and King Arthur Flour. 8 finalists will get $500 and a trip to Wichita to compete live. The grand prize winner will get a trip to Vermont for one the King Arthur Flour baking education classes, as well as $2000 cash. I need to start thinking through lots of ideas for this one!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

First Deep Fryer Trial

One Sunday, I decided to put two new kitchen gadgets to use at once. That is the multi chopper (see the outlet post for a picture) and the 3.5 liter Bella Cucina Deep Fryer. What better than french fries to christen these two items.

I bought a bag of Idaho potatoes, scrubbed them and put them right into the chopper. I didn't have the best leverage to get the potatoes through the chopper on the counter, so my husband made all the fries as I washed the potatoes. I left the skins on because I prefer it that way and it doesn't hurt that it saves me the time of peeling all those potatoes!

I preheated the fryer to 325 and submerged each batch in the oil for about 10-12 minutes. This step cooks the potatoes all the way through, but does not result in the crunchiness associated with french fries. This is a blanching step, but unlike blanching most other vegetables in boiling water, it is done in oil. I drained the fries and turned the heat up to 375 for the final cooking.

The good thing about the double frying is that the first one can be completed and the fries stored in the fridge or freezer until the next step. This is how it is often done in a restaurant setting, according to my Professional Cooking Textbook.

The second frying is much shorter, just enough to get a pale golden color on the fries. For crunchier fries, they can be left in the oil longer. This took about 5 minutes in my fryer, though the time is slightly variable depending on how full the frying basket is. The more fries in the basket, the longer it takes. The temperature drops further when more fries are present, and it takes a bit longer to cook all the fries through to the desired doneness when there are more in the basket.

After draining and a toss in salt, the first french fry experiment was complete...and tasty! It will take a few tries to get a good feel for the exact times for frying, but keeping an eye on it worked well enough.

Since the bag of potatoes was 5 pounds, there were quite a few fries left over. Most of the leftovers were stored in the fridge after the first frying (possibly to be frozen). The double fried fries were placed in an airtight container overnight. We reheated them in a 425F oven until crispy. I wasn't paying enough attention so they got a little crispier than I wanted, but they were still good.

So the first time for both the fryer and the chopper went really smoothly. I think the only snag left is finding a container to dispose of the used cooking oil. I will see what I can find. But other than that, I think both are great additions to my I just need to find a place to store them both!!!

A belated birthday gift

My mom bought me a cookbook off of QVC (her favorite channel!!) for my birthday and it came in the mail today. I knew something was coming, but I wasn't sure what kind of book it was. It is the 'Taste of Home Cookbook.' It is setup a lot like my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook; a three ring binder set up with a large variety of recipes. Some of the recipes are submitted by the public and others came from their test kitchens. I only glanced through it briefly tonight, but I am really looking forward to spending more time really going into the details of this book. Hopefully it will help me think about flavor combinations and in the long term, help me develop better recipes of my own.

Fun at the Outlets

This past weekend, my husband and I went to the Premium Outlets in Dawsonville, GA. The main reason was to use up the remaining money on a Williams Sonoma gift card we had left over from the wedding and there is an outlet there. Most things are 20-30% off, which was a big draw to make the 45 minute drive up there rather than 20 to the regular store closer by. So between Williams Sonoma, Le Gourmet Chef and Kitchen Connection, I made out like a bandit!

- Wusthof Culinar Santoku knife 4179, pictured above: (|wusthof%204179|101|best|0|1|24||22&cm_src=PRODUCTSEARCH||NoFacet-_-NoFacet-_-NoMerchRules)
- Multi chopper, see picture above
- Medium size cookie scoop, so I don't have to combine two scoops for my cake truffles.
- 18" pastry bag
- silicone pastry brush
- small paring knife with a shield
- stainless steel salt and pepper grinders
- meat mallet/tenderizer
- flat whisk

Interestingly, I was unable to find round biscuit cutters, the only ones there were fluted. I think that a smooth round cutter would be better for my crab turnovers than a fluted one. So I am stuck with using a glass for now. I'm sure I can find some at Walmart or Target, if I remember to look for them the next time I am there.