Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Smoothies


Still loving the Blendtec we got for Christmas. V made smoothies for breakfast. I've been doing these for dinner a few nights a week too when I'm feeling particularly pregnant and exhausted. Our standard version uses frozen mixed tropical fruit with strawberries (Costco bag), plain organic yogurt, orange juice, and a frozen banana. Blend well and drink it with a straw. It's more fun that way.

Bruschetta


This is not your normal bruschetta. In Mario Batali's Molto Gusto, he has a whole chapter for bruschetta recipes. This is not one of them. This is my crap-I need dinner-what's in the fridge version. But I have read and re-read that chapter on bruschetta because it kind of blew my mind that there were so many delicious sounding versions of it. And the idea of something as simple as toast with toppings on it qualifying as fancy dinner is right up my alley. Also, it's quick.

For the above pictured version, I sauted some sliced mushrooms with butter and a very little bit of bacon. I toasted the bread until well-browned, rubbed a clove of garlic around the rim of the crust (a la Batali), then topped with gruyere and the mushroom saute. It would have been lovely served with a simple salad or some sauteed greens, but I was feeling lousy and not up for anything more than minimal. So we had toast for dinner. I mean, bruschetta.

Blendtec Ice Cream


This Christmas we got a Blendtec blender! I am so excited about it! I'd had a VitaMix on my wishlist for next Christmas but after a generous gift from my in-laws, V researched it out and we decided the Blendtec did all the same stuff for a better price. We broke it in Christmas evening with some guiltless strawberry ice cream.

3 cups frozen strawberries
1 cup organic half and half
1/4 cup rapadura (opt.)
1/2 tsp vanilla (opt.)

Blend until smooth. Eat immediately as soft serve or freeze for later.

Cinnamon Rolls



These are the other half of my Christmas brunch tradition. Breakfast casserole and cinnamon rolls with OJ and fruit spells Merry Christmas. Yum, yum, yum.

Dough:
2 ¼ tsp yeast
1 cup warm milk (105’)
½ cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
4 to 4 ½ cups flour
Filling:
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 ½ TB cinnamon
1/3 cup butter, softened
Icing:
½ cup butter, softened
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
2 oz (¼ cup) cream cheese
½ tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt

Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk in a large bowl. Add the sugar, butter, salt, eggs and flour. Mix well. Knead the dough into a large ball, using hands dusted lightly with flour. Put in a bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place about one hour, or until dough has doubled in size. Roll the dough out onto a lightly floured surface until it is approximately 21 inches long and 16 inches wide. It should be about ¼ inch thick. Make the filling by combining the brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl (this is important!). Spread the butter evenly over the surface of the dough, and then spread the sugar mixture evenly over the surface. Working carefully from the 21-inch side, roll the dough to the bottom edge. Cut the rolled dough into 12-14 rolls and place in a greased 9x13 pan, evenly spaced. May refrigerate rolls overnight at this point, if desired.



If refrigerated, bring to room temperature before baking. Bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees, or until light brown on top edges (watch them). While the rolls bake, combine the icing ingredients.  Beat well with an electric mixer until fluffy. Cool the baked rolls slightly before coating them generously with icing. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Breakfast Casserole



I couldn't wait for Christmas so I made one last night. I had some baguette that was getting pretty stale so it was a good excuse. The original recipe comes from my neighbor growing up - Audria. She'd bring us over a hot casserole on Christmas morning every year. It's one of my favorite traditions now.


16 slices white bread, crusted and buttered
1 lb cheddar cheese, shredded
1 lb bacon, ham, or breakfast sausage, cooked and diced
5 eggs
3 cups milk


Arrange 8 slices of bread in a 9x13 pan with the buttered side down. Spread cheese and ham over bread. Arrange remaining 8 slices of bread, buttered side up on top of bacon and cheese. 




Whip eggs and milk together well. Pour over top and let sit overnight in fridge. In the morning, bake at 350’ for 1 hour. Let rest 15 minutes before serving to continue to firm up.




My adjustments: I always use bacon but generally reduce it to half a pound. I also reduce the cheese to about 1/3-1/2 a lb or just as much as it takes to make a non-skimpy layer in the pan. And I increase the eggs to 6 usually but I don't really know why I do that. Maybe I just like the number 6.






Using a crusty artisan-type bread worked just great for me this morning. I'm planning on finding a nice sourdough to use this Christmas. And it was no big deal to not crust the bread either. It's a little more like toast on the top but inside it's still casserole-like. I think using the stale bread with crusts soaked up more liquid than normal so adding more milk and egg mixture would help it be more uniform. But I kind of liked the little toasts on top so I'll leave it as-is. I'm very interested in whether or not wheat bread would work for this but I'm going to stick to sourdough for my Christmas tradition and maybe experiment more with making it 'real' later.

Gingerbread Cookies and Houses



I started the tradition of decorating my tree with gingerbread men about 5 years ago. I like that I can throw them away every year and don't have to store (and move!) boxes of breakables. I also like that I don't have to worry if the Monkey breaks or eats any of the ornaments. Plus, it's a cheap, homemade project that gets me in the holiday spirit. KC got me started on gingerbread houses when I lived in Portland and this is her recipe - and it's delicious ;)

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 ½ cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup molasses
1/2 cup water
5 cups flour
2 ¼ tsp. baking soda
4 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. salt

Cream butter and sugar until light. Beat in molasses, eggs, & water. Stir dry ingredients together, then add to liquids. Chill 1 hr. If planning to eat them, roll dough to ¼” thick & cut out. Bake at 375ยบ for 10-12 min. If making for decorations, roll them a little thinner and cook a bit longer so they dry out, but don't burn. They will continue to crisp as they cool.




For houses, design on paper roof and walls with doors with windows cut out. Cut out the paper shapes. Press dough into greased cookie pan with sides, ¼” thick or less, and bake 20 minutes. After removing from oven, immediately cut out house shapes: walls, roof, holes for doors & windows, etc. Loosen shapes from pan. Let sit in pan for 5 min. Take out or turn over to dry bottom of shapes. 


Attach with following frosting recipe: 
2 egg whites
2 tsp water
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
3 cups powdered sugar

Beat egg whites, water and cream of tartar until foamy. Gradually add powdered sugar. Mix well until stiff. Use within 1 hour or less as it dries quickly. Best used by squeezing out of a frosting tube (or Ziploc bag with corner cut off).

Update: apparently living so close to the beach, combined with all the rain we've had around here lately, made it too humid for these poor things to survive. They all fell off the tree within a day of putting them up! Next year I can try rolling them thinner and cooking them longer but I'm not sure that will solve it if it rains for a solid week again.



Baked Potato Bar


We had this for lunch the other day and I want to remember it as an easy meal. I baked my potatoes in the toaster oven while we were gone at playgroup (it turns itself off). I topped it with broccoli, bacon, cheese, sour cream, green onions, and leftover cheddar sauce I had in the fridge. Quick, easy, filling.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

French Toast


Not sure this needs a recipe but I need to remember it as a good option for dinner - especially when we have whipping cream and blueberries! I use mostly eggs with a little bit of milk for my batter, dip sliced bread in it and sprinkle cinnamon on one side once they're in the hot, greased pan. Flip in a few minutes to finish cooking and serve with whipped cream, blueberries and a little bit of pure maple syrup. Delicious.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Caramels


2 cups sugar
2 cups light karo syrup
1 dash salt
3 cups whipping cream
½ can eagle brand milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup broken pecans (optional)
Butter

Combine sugar, karo, and salt and bring to a boil, stirring constantly, then stop stirring. Cover with lid for 5 minutes, then remove lid and boil for an additional 5-10 minutes or until the steam stops and it turns a little yellow. While this is cooking, scald the whipping cream and eagle brand milk, stirring continuously. You’ll know it’s scalded when it begins to steam. When the sugar mixture is ready, add scalded cream 1 TB (more as you go) at a time so that the sugar never stops boiling, stirring vigorously and continuously. Continue cooking over med high, stirring constantly, until 228’, then remove from heat. You’ll know it’s close to done when the mixture stops releasing steam.  Add vanilla and nuts (if using nuts), then pour into 9x13 buttered pan, pouring around the edges first. Let set overnight, cut into squares, then wrap in wax paper with ‘bakery wrap’ fold. Store in refrigerator for longer lasting caramels (3 months).


Friday, December 3, 2010

Spaghetti Squash Alfredo


I ordered a TON of spaghetti squash from Azure Standard this month. I had no idea I'd get so many when I placed my order. So we're having spaghetti squash alfredo a lot because I'm nervous about trying it with a red sauce! I found a recipe for this last year here, but have since gotten lazy and just do it in the oven using my standard alfredo recipe.

1 medium spaghetti squash
2 TB butter
1 1/2 cups cream
1 TB flour
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
salt and pepper to taste
cooked spinach, opt.
diced chicken, opt.

Prick a few fork holes in it and put the spaghetti squash in a pan in the oven at 350' for 1 hour or until soft. Slice in half endwise (which is apparently the word for the opposite of lengthwise). Scoop out the squash. It will be super hot. Taste test some of it to make sure it's fully cooked. If not, you can put it back into the oven now, or make it into alfredo and put it back into the oven as a finished dish.

Make the alfredo sauce. Any alfredo sauce will do. I like WM's alfredo or you could do the blender cheese sauce using Parmesan. I don't ever measure alfredo sauces anymore so this recipe is my best guess as to what I did when I made the pictured alfredo sauce. Melt the butter, add the cream, whisk in the flour and bring to a boil to thicken. Remove from heat and add Parmesan and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in spinach and/or chicken, if using. Add cooked squash to sauce - only as much as the volume of the sauce warrants. Serve immediately or bake in the oven at 350' until squash is completely cooked. Cover with tinfoil if it starts to brown.