Thursday, December 29, 2011

Top Ten of 2011

Another year is behind us and a new one is about to begin.  Each year, as it draws to a close I find myself going through posts reminding myself what I had made, what I loved, what photos pulled through, etc.  I've put together a list of 2011's most visited recipes.  The biggest surprises....Cream Cheese Breakfast Buns made the list and my favorite salmon recipe tops the list at #1.  I hope you enjoyed this year's recipes and hope to see you pass through in 2012.
10.  Brownie Bites

 9.  White Chocolate Thin Mint Cookie Ice Cream

 8.  Banana Oatmeal Cookies

7.  Cream Cheese Breakfast Buns

6.  Outrageous Brownies

5.  Pesto Cream Cheese Spread

 4. Crawfish Gumbo

photo courtesy of foodnetwork.com
3.  Ham & Cheese in Puff Pastry

 2.  Lemon Sandwich Cookies

 1.  Smoky Maple Glazed Salmon

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Coconut Swirls

Did you know Santa was a coconut lover?
Merry Christmas everyone.  I wish you all a wonderful day filled with family, joy, and laughter.  This draws our Christmas Breakfast Series to a close.  You always end it on a sweet note.  Am I right?


Merry Little Christmas Breakfast Menu
Eggnog French Toast
Maple Glazed Sausage
Holiday Fruit Salad
Grapefruit in Wine Syrup
Mocha Chocolate
Coconut Swirls

Coconut Swirls
1/3 cup butter
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
½ cup instant nonfat dry milk powder
3 cups flaked coconut
1 cup semisweet chocolate morsels

1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat and stir in 3 tablespoons water and vanilla.
2. Combine powdered sugar and milk powder; stir ½ cup at a time into butter mixture until smooth. Stir in coconut. Shape into 1-inch balls, and place on baking sheets lined with wax paper.
3. Chill 20 minutes
4. Place chocolate morels in a small heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag; seal. Submerge in hot water until chocolate melts. Snip a tiny hole in 1 corner of bag, and drizzle chocolate over coconut balls. Store in refrigerator.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Grapefruit Cups In Wine Syrup


This is a very festive way to serve grapefruit during Christmas breakfast.  Segmented grapefruit are placed in hollowed out grapefruit halves and drizzled with a sweet red wine syrup.  There is always a grapefruit lover sitting at the breakfast table and this recipe just makes it a little more special.  The syrup and grapefruit segments can be prepared a day before and stored in the refrigerator and the cup can be assembled before service.  It is a great dish for our Christmas Breakfast Menu!

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas Breakfast
Eggnog French Toast
Maple Glazed Sausage
Holiday Fruit Salad
Grapefruit Cups in Wine Syrup
Mocha Chocolate
Coconut Swirls

Grapefruit Cups in Red Wine Syrup
serves: 8
Bon Appetit, December 2001
  • 10 red grapefruit
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine, such as Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 3/4 cup sugar 
  1. Cut peel and white pith from 6 grapefruit. Working over bowl, cut between membranes to release segments. Cover and chill segments at least 30 minutes and up to 1 day.
  2. Cut remaining 4 grapefruit in half. Using juicer, juice grapefruit. Pour 3/4 cup juice into heavy medium saucepan. (Reserve any remaining juice for another use.) 
  3. Using spoon, scoop out membranes from grapefruit halves and discard, reserving grapefruit cups. 
  4. Add wine and sugar to juice in saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Simmer until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Cool wine syrup to room temperature. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover grapefruit halves and wine syrup separately and refrigerate. Bring wine syrup to room temperature before using.)
  5. Arrange grapefruit cups on large platter. Divide segments among cups. Drizzle each grapefruit cup with wine syrup and serve.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The reindeer need to eat too! (Recipe: Magic Reindeer Food)

Then one foggy Christmas Eve....
I normally do not like my house dark and you will hardly ever find me sitting in a dimmed lit room.  Tonight, however is different.  I sit curled up on my couch as the soft glow of my netbook highlights my face.  Overhead a string of white pearl lights are twisted throughout a glowing strand of holly and draped over the loft balcony.  The silver beads hung on the Christmas tree act like little mirrors against the blue lights twirled up the tree.  That is what Christmas does to me.  For that small amount of time at the end of the year, you will find me in the darkness, enjoying the small, twinkling lights, sipping chamomile and feeling like a kid again.

Its a wonderful way to unwind, don't you think?  Today was an amazing day filled with Christmas songs, the unveiling of my girlie white feather tree, some holiday house cleaning, a Christmas pageant, and the making of Magic Reindeer Food. 

We woke up to heavy fog which didn't burn off well until eleven o'clock this morning.  As the verse "...then one foggy Christmas Eve..." from Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer kept repeating in my head,  I knew we had to make Reindeer Food.  We made a big batch to share with the Baking Tot's classmates. It is very easy to make, fun for the kids, and safe for the wildlife once it is scattered.  One SUPER plus for me was the exclusion of glitter and substitution of sanding sugar (you could easily use edible glitter-but sanding sugar is what I had on hand.)  We placed them in bags and included this little poem I found on the web:
Sprinkle on the lawn at night
The moon will make it sparkle bright
As Santa's reindeer fly and roam
This will guide them to your home.

Magic Reindeer Food

2 cups Sunflower Bird Seed
2 cups rolled oats
2 T. red sanding sugar
2 T. green sanding sugar
  1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and bag them for gifts.
  2. Sprinkle on the lawn Christmas Eve night!


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Merry Little Christmas Breakfast: The Beverage (two ways)

Mocha Chocolate
This recipe is one of my first recipe clippings from Seventeen Magazine.  I was most likely 12 or 13 years old when I cut it out of the recipe section found in the very back of the publication and I still make it every winter.  I would stand and stir this drink over the stove top every rare, chilly, Texas winter's night.  Stirring the drink was somewhat cathartic and soothing and just knowing that I'd be rewarded with a cup of chocolatey goodness made me even more so happy.  Now the adult version...that is one I concocted on my own-so don't think Seventeen Magazine published alcoholic beverages back then!  

Merry Little Christmas Breakfast Menu
Eggnog French Toast
Maple Glazed Sausage
Holiday Fruit Salad
Grapefruit Cups in Wine Syrup
Mocha Chocolate
Coconut Swirl 

Mocha Chocolate
makes 1 serving

1 cup milk
1 teaspoon instant decaffeinated coffee
2 teaspoons chocolate syrup
Whipped Cream
Chocolate Shavings
  1. Heat milk, coffee, and syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat until mixture starts to bubble.  
  2. Pour into glass, and top with whipped cream and chocolate shavings
To make chocolate shavings:  Use a vegetable peeler to shave a room temperature Hershey's bar.  For sprinkles, use a cheese grater the same way.

Mocha Chocolate (the adult version)
makes 1 serving

1 cup milk
1 teaspoon instant decaffeinated coffee
2 teaspoons chocolate syrup
1 tablespoon Kahlua or other coffee liqueur 
Spiked Whipped Cream (recipe below)
Chocolate Shavings
  1. Heat milk, coffee, and syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat until mixture starts to bubble. Remove from heat and add Kahlua
  2. Pour into glass, and top with spiked whipped cream and chocolate shavings
Spiked Whipped Cream
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 Tablespoon confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon Kahlua
  1. Whip ingredients until soft peaks are formed.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Merry Little Christmas Breakfast: Maple Glazed Sausage Links



My husband loves these Maple Glazed Sausages.  They are so easy to make!  The maple glaze pairs well with the hint of spice from the sausage links.  I hope you are enjoying this holiday series.

Merry Little Christmas Breakfast Menu
Eggnog French Toast with Cranberry Compote
Maple Glaze Sausage Links
Holiday Fruit Salad
Grapefruit Cups with Wine Syrup
Mocha Chocolate (two ways)
Sweet Treat: Coconut Swirls

Maple Glazed Sausages
from:  Taste of Home

  • 1 package (8 ounces) brown-and-serve sausage links
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  1. In a large skillet, cook sausage links until browned; set sausages aside to drain.
  2. Combine syrup, brown sugar and cinnamon; stir into skillet.  Bring to a boil; cook, swirling the pan to reduce to a glaze.  Add sausage and stir, coating each one in the glaze.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas Breakfast (Eggnog French Toast w/ Cranberry Apple Compote)

Egg Nog French Toast with Cranberry Apple Compote and Sausage Links
Christmas morning in my childhood home was not a time for sleeping in.  Rummaging through our stockings happened well before dawn and the anticipation of opening gifts wore off at least by six o' clock, as we were already playing with our new toys.  I am sure it will be that way with The Baking Toddler as he grows older...he wakes up between six and six-thirty anyway, so it looks like my Christmas mornings have already been set.

Three years ago was the first time my husband and I woke up in our beds, under our own roof on Christmas morning.  A few days before, I had planned a Christmas brunch which I hope to carry on as a morning tradition for our family.

Holiday Fruit Salad is a family favorite
The menu is as cozy and comfortable as your new Christmas slippers: a make-ahead french toast, maple glazed sausage, a bright salad and a wine soaked citrus fruit.  With seasonal ingredients such as cranberries, grapefruit, and eggnog, Christmas Day is assured to begin sweetly!

I'll be posting recipes from our family's breakfast tradition to share!  So come back for more-it will surely get you in the spirit!

Merry Little Christmas Breakfast Menu
Eggnog French Toast with Cranberry Compote
Maple Glaze Sausage Links
Holiday Fruit Salad
Grapefruit Cups with Wine Syrup
Mocha Chocolate (two ways)
Sweet Treat: Coconut Swirls


Eggnog French Toast with Cranberry Compote
Bon Appetit Magazine December 2001

8 servings
2 cups purchased eggnog
2 large eggs
½ t. ground nutmeg
½ t. ground cinnamon
1-7 ounce country white bread loaf, halved horizontally, each half cut crosswise into 8 slices (do not use ends)
¼ stick unsalted butter, melted
Powdered sugar
Cranberry-Apple Compote (recipe below)

1. Whisk first 4 ingredients in large bowl. Place bread slices in single layer in a 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Pour custard over bread, cover dish and refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight.
2. Preheat oven to 450F. Butter one large rimmed baking sheet with some melted butter. Using spatula, transfer bread slices to prepared baking sheets. Brush bread with remaining melted butter.
3. Bake 10 minutes. Turn over bread slices and bake until golden brown and crisp on the outside but soft on the inside, about 6 minutes longer.
4. Place 2 French toast slices on a plate. Dust generously with powdered sugar; serve with Cranberry Apple Compote.

***Custard can be made 1-2 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

Cranberry Apple Compote
Makes about 3 cups
1 cup apple cider
3 T. light corn syrup
1 T. packed golden brown sugar
4 T. unsalted butter

1 large Golden Delicious Apple, peeled, cored , cut into ½ inch pieces
1 cup cranberries (fresh or frozen)
¼ cup plus 1/ 2 T. sugar

1. Whisk apple cider, corn syrup and brown sugar in heavy large saucepan. Boil over high heat until reduced to ½ c., about 15 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons butter, whisk until melted. Remove from heat.
2. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add apple pieces; saute 2 minutes. Add cranberries and ¼ cup sugar.
3. Stir until cranberries begin to pop, about a minute. Stir in reduced cider mixture. Boil until reduced to syrup consistency, about 3-6 minutes. Stir in more sugar if desired.

***can be made 2- 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Stir over medium heat until heated through.

Monday, November 28, 2011

the best pumpkin chocolate chip bread ever!!!

It smells like the holidays in my house at this very moment.  The scent of cinnamon, pumpkin, a hint of ginger and chocolate wafts through the air as Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread cools on the counter.

I would like to think that Christmas has a scent.  It just doesn't smell like the holidays until I smell pumpkin, cinnamon or ginger.  When I was younger, the subtle burning smell of the heater lit for the first time was a gentle warning that Christmas would be near.  My mother's stove top potpourri, scented with citrus, cinnamon and clove was a warm welcome when returning home from school.  And long before my dad banned live Christmas trees from the house, the piney scent of our tree would launch excitement of presents to come and evenings with dimmed house lights and a magical, twinkling tree.  I love the smell of Christmas!

I wish everyone out there a wonderful and happy holiday season.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread
yield:  3-9x5 loaves

This bread is amazing.  It makes 2-3 loaves.  I have a larger loaf pan so I yield two.  This bread is moist and flavorful and so good that my husband basically ate a whole loaf in one day!  When I asked what he'd like for dinner this week, he replied, "(Pumpkin) Chocolate Chip Bread."  Freezer friendly too!

3 cups white sugar
1 can (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
1 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup water
4 eggs
3 1/2 cups AP flour
1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground all spice
1 teaspoon ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup chocolate chips (I use a mix of milk & semi sweet)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease & flour three 9x5 loaf pans.
  2. In a large bowl, combine sugar, pumpkin, oil, water, and eggs.  Beat until smooth.  In a separate bowl, sift together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice, ginger, baking soda & salt.  Add dry ingredients to the sugar/pumpkin mixture.  Fold in chocolate chips.  Fill pans 3/4 full.
  3. Bake for 60-70 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean.  Cool on wire racks before removing from pans.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Thanksgiving Recipe: Sweet Potato Casserole

I always find myself going for a stroll after Thanksgiving dinner.  How about you?
I think I may have been the only person in America who just realized that Thanksgiving is just days away.   Even after I had enjoyed a Thanksgiving feast at The Baking Tot's day school, I was surprised at how fast it crept up on me.

I began to panic slightly.  A few days.  Which in my world means, working Black Friday, decking the halls and begin to buy/make Christmas gifts-and I am not yet mentally prepared.  I'm not looking forward to Black Friday at all.  People become a different animal (a not so nice one at that) during the holiday shopping season.  Last year it put me in a bummer of a mood.
In my case, substitute "high end handbags" for coffee.  From:  PostSecret.com
And then there is the Baking Tot.  He is so excited for Christmas, he asked to have it two Sundays ago.  I love that he is now old enough to really enjoy it and experience the anticipation and excitement the season brings.  At least he will make my season brighter.

Baking Tot's school caters a big Thanksgiving feast for the church every year.  This was our first year to attend and it was pretty good.  His class was assigned corn & sweet potato casserole.  I volunteered to make sweet potato casserole and used my Nanny's recipe.  It didn't last long and I noticed it was the first to be eaten off of alot of people's plates.  With one bite, it sent me back to the children's table at my grandparents house for what seems like ages ago.

Nanny's Sweet Potato Casserole
4 cups cooked & mashed sweet potatoes
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
dash of ground all spice
dash of ground ginger
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 eggs beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup evaporated milk
Topping
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter, chilled & cubed
1 cup chopped pecans
  1. Mix sweet potatoes, granulated sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla and evaporated milk.  Place in a buttered 10" square casserole.
  2. Mix topping ingredients (brown sugar, cubed butter, chopped pecans) until crumbly.  Sprinkle over top of sweet potato mixture.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Then place under broiler for 3-4 minutes to caramelize the topping.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Must Share Recipe: Quick Beer Pizza Crust


I've come across many wonderful recipes from the blogging world.  I have my favorites, but this pizza is by far the current favorite and has been since August.  When Amber, from Bluebonnets & Brownies, posted this recipe I knew I had to try it.  She acquired it from the King Arthur Flour Co.'s blog and I'm so glad she shared it!

She had me at "quick."  The recipe had me at "freezer friendly."  These are the buzz words I search for nowadays.  I am always looking for something quick to make and is able to satisfy two thirty-somethings and a three years old.  The Baking Tot even helps out shaping the dough.

The recipe makes two pizzas, but I freeze half of the dough for a future dinner.  Unfortunately, we don't venture out into anything other than a good slice of cheese pizza (because of said Tot) but I have at least found some great products that make a darn good cheese pizza.

Now remember, the key for me here is *quick*.  So, I use Mario Batali Neapolitan Pizza Sauce.  This is my favorite store bought sauce thus far (liked it better than my homemade) and therefore I don't feel the need to make any and thus saving TIME!!!!

According to Cook's Illustrated, Kraft Low Moisture Mozzarella (Block) was amongst their top choices in grocery store cheeses a few months ago and it does a great job.  As for the beer, we use Shiner...because we are from Texas and that is just the law.
Please Note:  We normally don't cook in our underwear.  Baking Tot was in the middle of Potty Training Boot Camp, in which he hung around the house in undies for three days straight and was placed on the potty E-V-E-R-Y hour.  By the way, it was a BEAMING SUCCESS!!!!
Quick Beer Pizza Crust
yield:  2-10" pizzas
tweaked a slight smidgen by yours truly from Bluebonnets & Brownies

4 cups AP flour
A pinch of each, dried oregano & dried thyme
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bottle Shiner Bock Beer, room temperature
  1. Combine flour, herbs, yeast, baking powder, and salt into a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook.  Mix until combined.
  2. Add the beer and olive oil to the dry ingredients and mix on slow speed for 1 or 2 minutes until ingredients combine.  Increase the speed to medium and mix for 7 minutes or until dough is smooth and doesn't stick to the bowl.
  3. Place dough in a lightly greased mixing bowl and let it rise for 30 minutes to 2 hours.
  4. Deflate dough and divide in half (one half for now, the other half for freezer in my household).  Shape dough onto a pizza stone or lightly spray baking sheet and let it rest for 5-10 minutes.  Shape once more to desired size.
  5. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Place pizza dough into the oven and par-bake for 5 minutes.
  6. Remove your crust from the oven and top with desired toppings.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes, until bottom is nice and crisp and top is beginning to brown.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Giddiness Snow Brings (Recipe: Oatmeal Cake)

I've noticed a lot of talk about snow.  Whether it be on the television, or my cousin posting first snow pics from Colorado on Face Book, or me checking in on the weather in Idaho, I've noticed the wintry weather trying to sneak in.  It is no secret that I miss snow and the giddy feeling one gets with its arrival.

I am younger each year at the first snow.
When I see it, suddenly, in the air, all little and white and moving; then I am
in love again and very young and I believe everything. 


-Anne Sexton

Oatmeal Cake
This recipe is from my college room mate, Jessica.  She had rummaged through her mom's recipe box and had quite a collection.  Scented with cinnamon and studded with pecans, this cake is a delicious autumn treat! 
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups hot water
  • 1 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and pan spray a 9 x 13 cake pan.
  2. Sift flour, baking soda, cinnamon & salt together
  3. In a small bowl, pour the hot water over the quick cooking oats, set aside.  Meanwhile, cream shortening, sugar, and brown sugar in the bowl of a mixer.  Add the sifted dry ingredients to the sugar mixture.  Mix in the oats and vanilla and mix until combined.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes.
TOPPING
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 cup coconut
  • 1 cup pecans
  1. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute
  2. Spread topping over hot cake and place under a broiler for 1 minute or until brown.

Monday, October 31, 2011

C'est si bon! (Red Beans & Rice)

photo credit:  gardner48197 wunderground.com
October had not been kind to me this year.  On the first day of this month I found myself at the graveside of my Papa, saying goodbye.  As I walked through the cemetery my feet became wet from the morning dew and a sadness hung over me as bag pipes were playing in the distance.  I hate those bag pipes, I thought to myself, they add even more sorrow.

As the bagpipes faded to taps gently playing in the background, I couldn't help but to wonder if the trumpet was a silver Stradivarius.  I listened to my cousin softly cry behind me.  I wondered why I couldn't focus, why were my senses heightened, why was I not paying attention.  So I made myself listen, cleared my head and watched as our nation's flag was presented to my Nanny.

As the sermon came to a close, a gust of wind lifted and golden leaves caught the morning light and drifted to the ground.  He had said goodbye.

Upon my return home, I showed my husband a tattered, worn cookbook held together by a band.  My Papa had offered it to me when I visited them in June, but my mom told him to keep it.  He may have moved back to Nebraska after his retirement, but his love for Southern Cuisine (Cajun cuisine in particular) remained.

Tucked inside the book, C'est Si Bon!, were even more recipes torn from magazines, newspapers and printed from websites.  We counted a dozen different gumbo recipes filled with notes, several different meatball recipes, and a myriad of other Cajun delights.  I found this ironic as I featured Cajun Chicken Pasta the day of his passing.  I almost took it down from the site, but it seemed fitting as an homage to him.

C'est Si Bon translates to it is so good! I believe that is what he strived for in the kitchen, in his life, in his family and hope that I can carry his love of the kitchen with me.  I wish I had told him that his passion for food had been an influence to me back in June, but now I can only hope he just knew.

Papa's Red Bean & Rice

1/2 lb. andoille sausage, diced and sauteed and set aside to drain
1 lb. dried red beans (soaked overnight)
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 1/2 stalks celery, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
3/4 cup olive oil
3-4 cups water
2 tablespoons ham broth (I browned my sausage in a pan, set the sausage on a plate to drain &    deglazed the pan to create a "sausage broth")
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
2-3 cups cooked rice
  1. Drain beans, discarding water, and set them aside in a pot.
  2. Place onion, celery, garlic, sausage and bay leaves in a medium mixing bowl.  Drizzle the olive oil over them and let the mixture sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Pour olive oil/vegetable mixture over the beans and let sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes.
  4. Add enough of the water to cover the beans and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat to a simmer, add the salt, pepper and all of the flavorings to the pot and cook until the beans are tender, about 3-4 hours.  Remove the bay leaves and serve the hot beans over the rice.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Beer & Onion Braised Chicken Carbonnade

I miss this view around this time of year.  One day I'll be back, one day...
My poor baby is sick again.  This year seems to be a cake walk compared to last years bi-monthly doctor visits.  The poor little guy is missing his school's book fair today and most likely will miss his Halloween costume parade and party tomorrow.  It breaks my heart, mainly because I lived for those days as a kid and want him to experience and enjoy them as much as I did.

As rumor has it, tomorrow is supposed to bring us a cool front with promises of rain.  I hope it is not an empty promise.  Our trees surely need it.  Our neighborhood is such a sad sight, with what little vegetation our climate grants us, those few trees and bushes are struggling.

On our evening walk yesterday, I noticed what had been the changing of the leaves in the past is now a sad, drooping, green leaf with burnt, browned edges.  Poor leaves.  At least the green gives me hope.

I hope for the wind to pick up and for it to be a drizzly, grey day.  Perfect comfort food weather.  Perfect braising weather.  Perfect stew weather.  We shall see.

Regardless of what the weather brings, I do plan on making my Beer & Onion Braised Chicken Carbonnade.  My neighbor had given us a six pack of beer and rather than drinking it, we cooked with it.  This is a rendition of a Belgian beef stew made with onions, brown sugar and beer.  We use Shiner Bock and serve it over egg noodles.
Beer & Onion Braised Chicken Carbonnade
4 servings 
Print Me!
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 4 chicken breasts, boneless, skinless
  • salt & pepper
  • 3/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 Tablespoon flour
  • 3 teaspoons (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 4 small bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup dark beer
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  1. Melt butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Season chicken well with salt, pepper, and allspice. Add chicken to skillet and sauté until brown, about 6 minutes per side; transfer to plate.
  2. Add onions and brown sugar to skillet; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover and sauté until deep golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add in flour, cook for 1 more minute.
  3. Mix in bay leaves, mustard. Add chicken, then beer, broth, and 1 teaspoon vinegar. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium. Simmer, covered, 10 minutes. 
  4. Uncover skillet and simmer until chicken is cooked through and sauce thickens, turning chicken occasionally, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and more vinegar and sugar, if desired. 
***Note:  The sauce is a thinner sauce, which I love, but know some prefer thicker.  The thinner sauce accompanies mashed potatoes really well

Monday, October 24, 2011

Sometimes it just doesn't work out (Chocolate Chip Cookie Tart)

A few Saturdays ago I was so excited to go to our neighborhood festival.  For a neighborhood sponsored event, it is actually very well put on.  I had envisioned us walking to the park, The Baking Tot enjoying the petting zoo, jumping in the bounce houses, and riding the kiddy train made from old oil drums.  I was excited to have the chance to listen to the live bands and watch the silly pet competitions but alas, we were only there for two minutes.  Just two minutes!

I had asked off from work so we could have this glorious day as a family but The Baking Toddler decided to throw a tantrum instead.  Unfortunately the hubs and I had to make the decision to turn around, because that type of behavior was not deserving of a good time.

So reluctantly and sadly we walked home, as our child was screaming in the stroller.  I cried.  Once we arrived home, the hubs put The Baking Tot in his room and we cuddled on the couch and watch one of our recorded sitcoms in peace.

So yes, my day didn't turn out to be the one I had hoped, but it did have a sweet ending.  Much like the photos for this recipe.  The Baking Tot had been stalking the kitchen upon hearing the word "cookie."  As you could see, my photo session with the tart didn't work out as I had planned either.  But I think the photo above captures the anticipation and excitement any chocolate chip cookie (large or small) brings to a child-and I love it.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Tart
yield: Makes one 9-inch tart or pie plus about 1 dozen cookies

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature (plus more for the pan)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (plus more for the pan)
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom and coat it with granulated sugar; set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter with both sugars; beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low; add the salt, vanilla, and eggs. Beat until well mixed, about 1 minute. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  2. Press 3 cups of this dough into prepared pan. Bake until edges are golden and center is almost set, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool at least 20 minutes, and remove from pan. Freeze or bake remaining dough as cookies at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Trying To Make An Entrance (Homemade Granola)

My husband came home a little excited, "It almost feels like fall", he exclaimed as he walked through the door.   The temperature has thankfully (and finally) taken a break from the triple digits.  There is light rain and cooler weather and all I can do is hope for a change in pattern.

It seems as if I've been suffering from SAD (seasonal affective disorder), except there are no grey skies and months worth of snow on the ground, only a bright sun, dried up grass and dead trees.  It has been months of dry, hot weather and I am done with it.
Today though, seemed different.  On my drive to the Baking Tot's school it was still a little dark and the ceiling was low, almost giving the effect of fog.  The sun had not peeked over the horizon but the light available made everything blue.  I could see the layers of the hill country and I kicked myself for not having a camera.

When fall arrives it seems like I crave cinnamon and cranberries.  The Baking Tot and I are both obsessed with Homemade Granola.  Its spiced with cinnamon, sweetened with brown sugar and honey and tossed with almonds.  We usually eat it right out of the jar-plain, but I do enjoy it with milk in the morning-it is so addicting I find myself making at least one batch a week.
Easy Homemade Granola

from: Baked: New Frontiers in Baking
 
Ingredients
2 cups rolled oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
¼  cup honey
¼  cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3  cup whole almonds
1/3 cup whole hazelnuts (in a pinch when hazelnuts are unavailable, I substitute with more almonds)
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup dried cherries
1.     Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2.     In a large bowl, toss the oats with the cinnamon and salt.
3.     In a medium bowl, stir together the oil, honey, brown sugar, and vanilla. Whisk until completely combined.  Pour the honey mixture over the oats mixture and use your hands to combine them: Gather up some of the mixture in each hand and make a fist. Repeat until all of the oats are coated with the honey mixture.
4.     Pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. Spread it out evenly, but leave a few clumps here and there for texture.
5.     Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and use a metal spatula to lift and flip the granola. Sprinkle the almonds over the granola and return the baking sheet to the oven.
6.     Bake for 5 minutes, then remove from the oven and use a metal spatula to lift and flip the granola. Sprinkle the hazelnuts over the granola and return the baking sheet to the oven.
7.     Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven. Let cool completely. Sprinkle the raisins and cherries over the granola and toss with hands
8.     Store in an airtight container, granola will keep for 1 week…if it even sticks around that long! :)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I have been quiet....(Recipe: Cajun Chicken Pasta)

I have been quiet during the month of September-not posting as much as I had been in the past few months.  There was a change that stirred inside of me.  A change in interests perhaps...I have always enjoyed cooking and baking but there are other things that hold my attention as well.

Now, with Baking Tot growing older, I find myself eyeing crafts we can do together.  And as the season changes (elsewhere-I might add) I have found myself curled up on the couch clinking knitting needles together as a pale pink skein of alpaca yarn transforms into a hat.  I long for the change in season, I long for mountains and snow.  It seems like I can't get my mind off of it.
A toddler hat
I even find myself venturing off to new blogs.  Blogs that reflect a lifestyle amongst nature, displaying the most beautiful scenery and I want to be there.

But have no worries, I will still be here my friends.  And there will always be a recipe.  But my posts may not be solely focused on food itself, as there are other things in life to discover.

Cajun Chicken Pasta
This was a recipe I clipped when I was a teenager.  It has been around for a long time and is a family favorite.  For some reason my mom calls it Garlic Chicken-even though it only has an 1/8 teaspoon of garlic powder in it.  It drives me nuts when she calls it that! :)
serves four
2 chicken breasts, cut into thin strips and seasoned with salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter
8 slices each, red and yellow bell peppers
1/4 of an onion, sliced
1 cup half-n-half
3/4-1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon pepper
4 ounces linguine or spaghetti, cooked and drained
Parmesan to garnish
  1. Over medium heat, saute chicken in butter until golden brown, 5-7 minutes.  Remove chicken from pan and set aside.
  2. Add peppers and onion to pan; cook and stir until vegetables are softened.
  3. Reduce heat.  Add half-n-half, and dry spices and bring to a soft boil to reduce sauce, stirring or swirling pan constantly, about 3-4 minutes.  Add pasta and toss; heat through.  Top with grated cheese.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Welcoming the rain (Freezer Friendly Crisp Topping)

As I walked out from under our porch, I felt tiny drops of rain fall onto my shoulders.  Could it be?  Oh, my long lost friend how I've missed you!  Even if you are here for a little while, I will welcome you with open arms!  I paused for a moment listening to church bells in the distance.  Could their sweet song be a hymn of rejoice solely because of the rain?  I'd like to think so.

During the transition from summer to the much anticipated autumn I find myself longing to bake with apples, pears and warm spices and prematurely pushing summer out the door with a peach-berry crisp.

 

I make crisp topping and store it in the freezer to ease my cravings for last minute desserts.  I toss fruit with a sprinkling of flour, sugar, cinnamon and let it sit for 30 minutes to macerate.  Then top the fruit with the crisp mixture and bake.  The house smells so delicious!

 

Crisp Topping

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced
  1. Combine the flour, sugars, salt, oatmeal, and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed for 1 minute, until the mixture is in large crumbles. Store in the freezer for up to one month or sprinkle evenly over the fruit, covering the fruit completely.  
  2. Bake 350 for 45 minutes to an hour, or when fruit juices are bubbly and topping is golden brown.