Saturday, January 23, 2010

Need Your Help!

This coming week is Jacob's (my oldest son) 4th birthday. I need your help with a couple of things I need to make. One being cupcakes I want to bring into school for his class and the second being how to pull of my idea for the family gathering.

1) The only requirement for the cupcakes is that they have to be chocolate because as Heidi can tell you that is all he ask for when you ask him. My first idea was to make the ice cream cone cupcakes but my only problem is how to bring them into school without a total mess in a box. My next idea is to make chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting and load the frosting with a ton of sprinkles (he LOVES sprinkles as much as he loves chocolate).

2) For the small family gathering this year we are going bowling! This is because Jacob loves to play Wii bowling and I figured it would be a nice thing to take him to a real bowling alley. My idea is to make a sort of fajita/taco bar for dinner afterward. I have a bunch of people who are trying to watch their weight and figured this gave you the best option to have a much or as little as you want. I am going to make chicken, shrimp, maybe ground taco turkey, green salad, cut up veggies, a black bean salad, salsa, guacamole, and get some I missing something. I just wonder how much of this I can do ahead of time...

Monday, January 18, 2010

Chicken and Dumplings the Semi-Homemade Way

We are big soup eater to begin with but once the temperature drops well we eat a lot more soup for dinner. Something just so comforting about a nice bowl of yummy goodness to make you warm and fuzzy inside. I realized I had a problem last week when I think most of the meals I planned or had in mind was soup/stew type recipes. So this week I have to try and not do that again...

The reason I decided to make this recipe below was because Mike came home from work one day and told me that the guys said this was a pretty good recipe. I just think it is kind of funny that a bunch of engineer/tech guys were talking about a soup like that...and well I had to see what they were talking about for myself.

Chicken & Dumblings
Sandra Lee,

1 whole store-bought roast chicken (about 2 pounds)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 container (7 ounces) chopped onions

6 cans (14 ounces) low-sodium chicken broth

1 teaspoon poultry seasoning

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 container (14 ounces) pre-cut carrot sticks, chopped

1 container (14 ounces) pre-cut celery sticks, chopped

1 roll (16.3 ounces) golden buttermilk biscuit

1 can (10.5 ounces) condensed chicken gravy


Remove skin from chicken and shred meat into large pieces. Set aside.

In a small frying pan, add vegetable oil and heat over medium heat. When oil is hot, add chopped onions and saute until soft.

In a large pot or Dutch oven, add broth, poultry seasoning, salt, pepper, carrots, celery, and sauteed onions. Bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer for about 10 minutes to soften vegetables, and then add shredded chicken. Continue to simmer while making dumplings.

While stew is simmering, prepare dumplings. Open can and remove biscuits. On a lightly floured surface, roll each biscuit to 1/4-inch thick. With a knife, cut each biscuit into 4 pie-pieces. Set aside.

Skim surface for any scum that has risen to top. Stir in chicken gravy.

With the stew still simmering over low heat, stir in dumplings a few at a time. Once all dumplings are in to pot, cover with a tight fitting lid and cook for 10 minutes.

Ladle into bowls and serve piping hot.

Review: Overall this is a good recipe and I actually felt like I was eating some homemade chicken soup with all the stuff that was in it. I don't know why this bothers me but when a recipe calls for you to buy already cut up stuff. Just from a budget standpoint it just cost more then me buying a whole bag of carrots and doing it myself. It does save you a little bit of time and I will buy the already cut up mushrooms because those are a pain to cut up. When I cut up the biscuit dough at first I thought I did not have enough of them but as you can see in the pictures above the puff up a lot. Not sure I will make it again but Mike did take it to work the next day for I know he liked it.

Friday, January 15, 2010

100% Whole Wheat Bread

When I made the Easy Cinnamon Bread I got the recipe out of my KAF All-Purpose Baking Cookbook which is an awesome cookbook. On the very next page is the recipe for their 100% Whole Wheat bread recipe. Mike requested that the next bread I try making was that one.

100% Whole Wheat Bread
King Arthur Flour

1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) lukewarm water
3 tablespoons olive oil
5 tablespoons honey, molasses or maple syrup
3 1/2 cups King Arthur Organic Whole Wheat Flour
1 tablespoon King Arthur Whole-Grain Bread Improver, optional
1/4 cup sunflower seeds, chopped*
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped*
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast

*A quick whirl in the food processor does the job nicely.

To prepare the dough: Combine all of the ingredients, and mix them till you have a shaggy dough. Let the dough rest, covered, for 20 minutes, then knead till fairly smooth. Allow the dough to rise, covered, for 1 to 2 hours, or until it's puffy and nearly doubled in bulk.

Gently deflate the dough, shape it into a log, and place it in a lightly greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch bread pan. Cover the pan with a proof cover or lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow it to rise for about 1 hour, till it's crowned about 1 inch over the rim of the pan.

Bake the bread in a preheated 350°F oven for 45 minutes, tenting it lightly with aluminum foil for the final 20 minutes of baking. Yield: 1 loaf.

Review: In the book's recipe it mentions something about using a bread machine...the one above which is from the website does not. I asked the baker's hot-line about it and they said it was ok to use the bread machine which is what I did. So from that sense it is a very easy bread to make because you just put all the ingredients into the machine and let it do it's work on the dough cycle. I used molasses this time because I knew out of the three choices that is what Mike would want but next time I might use honey instead. It was a great tasting bread and very yummy when I made a tuna sandwich with it but I felt it needs a tiny bit of sweetness which I think the honey might give it. I think this one is a keeper and I would love to see if I could make it into mini loafs because it reminds me of something you can get at restaurant that brings mini loafs to the table.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Zuppa Toscana Soup

Soon at Mike's office they will be having their annual Souper Bowl which is the Friday before the actually Super Bowl. What they do is have people bring in soups/stews and then the office votes on the best one. Every since Mike has told me about this I am in search of a recipe that would do well if I ever made something for it.

Another one of my goals for this year is to try some of those recipes I have put aside that I want to try. So I have a bunch of soup/stew recipes on the list that I thought could be Souper Bowl worthy...this was the first one I decided to try out this year.

Zuppa Toscana

1 pound bulk mild Italian sausage
1 1/4 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
4 slices bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 large onion, diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
5 (13.75 ounce) cans chicken broth
6 potato, thinly sliced
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 bunch fresh spinach, tough stems

1.Cook the Italian sausage and red pepper flakes in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until crumbly, browned, and no longer pink, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

2.Cook the bacon in the same Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp, about 10 minutes. Drain, leaving a few tablespoons of drippings with the bacon in the bottom of the Dutch oven. Stir in the onions and garlic; cook until onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.

3.Pour the chicken broth into the Dutch oven with the bacon and onion mixture; bring to a boil over high heat. Add the potatoes, and boil until fork tender, about 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the heavy cream and the cooked sausage; heat through. Mix the spinach into the soup just before serving.

Review: I figured this would do well for an office full of men since it had sausage and bacon in it. Also another thing that i have heard that does well in this contest is something spicy which this recipe had with the red pepper flakes. I bought regular sweet Italian sausage and took them out of their casings because I could not find bulk sausage. I also only added about 1 tsp of red pepper flakes which was hot hot that Mike who adds red pepper flakes to everything did not add any to this soup. I also used regular milk instead of heavy cream because I did not have the cream in the house. All in all this was a tasty soup but did not get the nod for the contest...Mike said he needs to have it again. It really isn't something I would make often because for health reasons but I liked the taste of it and with a little bit of tweaking I can make it better...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Baby Food!

Haha, so I totally different kind of food that we haven't posted about on the blog before. Drew, who I don't think I properly introduced on this website before (blogging has fallen down the priority list since becoming a mommy! :). My baby boy, Drew, was born on August 18th and is the absolute sunshine in my day (I didn't used to think it could get any brighter!).

He is now 4.5 months and started solids on his 4 month birthday (after we had our pediatrician appointment :). We have moved on from rice cereal (although he has that for breakfast every day after his bottle) and have started to try single veggies and fruits.

At first I really wanted to make my own baby foods I thought baby food would have too many additives. I am happy to say (at least per the packaging) that baby food is straight veggies or fruit with water or acidic acid and no additional unnecessary sugars, etc. At any rate, I still wanted to make my own baby food and had a box of sweet potatoes that I wanted to start with.
It really isn't all that difficult. I started my peeling and dicing the sweet potatoes. I then steamed them for 15-20 minutes over boiling water. Once soft, I put in the food processor and thinned with formula (you can also use some of the cooking water). Simple!

I think I made 2.5 lbs. of potatoes, so there was wayyyyy more than Drew would eat (at least in a sitting ;). So, I decided to freeze some. In this day and age, it is not typical to have ice cube trays anymore, which is the recommended way to freeze and then you store the cubes in a freezer bag. Recently I had read an article on KAF's website on freezing cookie dough. I thought this would be a great way to freeze Drew's sweet potatoes! They are perfect portions for him as well. I love this idea and thought I would share!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Butter Braid

Every family has that one or couple of things that just make the holiday meal. That if they weren't on the table it would not be a completed holiday meal. One of those things for my husband's family is his Mom's bread (the other I have learned it my sugar cookies). She makes it for Thanksgiving and for Christmas dinners and that is it. So for me at least I look forward to those meals just for this bread.

In my quest to put together a family cookbook of recipes we can't live without or really don't want to think about living without...I was able to get this recipe. In the process of transferring my documents from the old computer to the new one I came across it and just felt like making it. It was one of those days that I knew I wasn't going any where so it was perfect. A couple of other reason was I have also been itching to make things and so that scratched that itch as well (for now at least) and I had a lot of leftover butter from holiday baking.

After the first rise and formed into it's 3 levels of braids.

Ready for the oven and covered in Sesame seeds
My baked fallen braid :(
Crumb shot

Butter Braid

1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 packages active dry yeast
1/4 cup water (105-115 degrees)
3 egg, beaten
6 cups flour, might need as much as cups
poppy or sesame seeds
1 egg white

Scald milk and pour it over butter, sugar, and salt. Sprinkle yeast into the water. Let stand for a few minutes, then stir until dissolved. Stir into the cooled milk mixture. Add beaten eggs and 3 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in rest of the flour to make a stiff dough. Turn onto a lightly floured board and knead well. Put in a greased bowl cover and let rise until doubled in bulk.

Punch down and turn out onto board. Divide in half. Cut one half dough into 3 equal parts and roll out into strips 18 inches long. Braid. Place on greased cookie sheet. Divide two thirds of the remaining dough into 3 equal pieces and braid. Place over first braid. Form remaining dough into braid and lay over first 2 braids.

Brush all with melted butter and sprinkle with seeds. Let rise until doubled. Brush with a mixture of 1 egg and 1 tbsp water. Bake in a preheated oven (375) for 30 to 35 minutes. Brush twice with egg mixture while baking.

Review: Mike said it was perfect but i thought it was good for my first try. As you can see in the pictures above my braid fell and the worst part it did it in the oven. My mother-in-law usually has the problem during the finally rising part and can fix it a little bit. I think I needed to let it rise a little bit longer before I put it in the oven. I did use instant yeast instead of active dry because I only had one packet of active dry yeast. So maybe that had something to do with it and I will have to try it next time with active dry yeast. Well I don't have to say it but this is a keeper and for now I am going to let my mother-in-law keep making it for the holidays and only make it on request from Mike.

This has also made me want to try and make brioche even more now and I am going to really try and make it this year!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Slow Cooker Beef Stew

Sometimes I just don't know what to make for dinner. I feel like I make the same stuff all the time which isn't a bad thing. It is just sometimes I like to make something different or something I haven't made in a long time. If I ask Mike what he would like to eat it has lately been beef stew every time I ask him. Most of the time he tells me this when I really don't have the time to make it.

He also wants me to make Heidi's Guinness beef stew...which is excellent but I did not feel like buying the beer to make it this time. I found another slow cooker recipe on all recipes that came out great!

Slow Cooker Beef Stew

2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1 inch cubes
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups beef broth
3 potatoes, diced
4 carrots, sliced
1 stalk celery, chopped

Place meat in slow cooker. In a small bowl mix together the flour, salt, and pepper; pour over meat, and stir to coat meat with flour mixture. Stir in the garlic, bay leaf, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, onion, beef broth, potatoes, carrots, and celery.

Cover, and cook on Low setting for 10 to 12 hours, or on High setting for 4 to 6 hours.

Review: Just the type of slow cooker recipe I like...super easy and not much extra work to it. It really is a pet peeve of mine when a slow cooker recipe calls for about an hour of work which I feel I can cook a whole meal in to begin with. I can talk about this pet peeve for a while so I won't start. The only thing I did different was to add some frozen peas to the pot about 45 minutes before it was done just because that was when I remembered to do it. I also cooked it on high for about 4 hours and then cooked it on low for about 2 hours. I know this is a keeper when Mike takes it for lunch the next day.

I have to say beef stew does not take the best looking pictures...

Monday, January 4, 2010

Happy New Year!

I just wanted to wish everyone a very happy new year and I hope it is a good one! I think I am going with the trend of not making a new year resolution because I always break them. One of my goals of this year is to just finish what I have many things unfinished and I am sort of sick of it.

First thing on the list is to finish the hat I am making for Mike because I did not realize how big of a head he has. Right now (hehehe) it looks more like a swimmers cap then a regular hat on his head. Once I am done I will try and get a picture of him...

On a completely different subject we are getting our new computer today! I am excited because it should help me out with everything and I am not stuck in the basement on a slow computer anymore.


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