Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Dear Santa,

Dear Santa,

I know it isn't even Halloween yet, but I thought I'd give you plenty of time...

Remember my old Kitchen Aid mixer? It's time to move on to something bigger and better. I've done a TON of research, and decided that this is what I need. The Cuisinart SM-55 5 1/2 quart stand mixer.

Or, perhaps if you are feeling really generous, I'm not opposed to the Cuisinart SM-70 7 quart mixer.

Either or, really. I'm not overly picky. [Other than, please bring it in chrome, and I'd love some of the fancy attachments. Like the meat grinder, juicer, pasta maker, food processor, blender...]

Hey...a girl can dream right? It'll most likely be handmixers and wooden spoons for me for a long time. Unless, of course, you know someone that is willing to pay my husband closer to what he's worth?


Okay then, I'll keep dreaming.

[P.S. This mixer is highly suggested by ATK & Cooks Illustrated. Need I say more?!]

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ghoulish Goodies

Little Cam-a-roni [Cammo, Cammers, Cam-a-rama-ding-dong, or Camden] had to take snacks to preschool today!

I'm pretty sure he goes to the only school in the country that still allows homemade snacks. [Good and bad, for sure!] Thankfully I'm the only mom that ever makes anything, which is great! That means my kid isn't eating who knows what from random people, but their kids get to eat super awesome stuff made by me! [Oh so humble, I know!]

They were learning about "Monster Math" today, so we tried to do some creepy themed snacks.
These ideas were found at Family Fun. I altered things slightly, but for the most part love their ideas!

Mummy Bones
Made with typical roll/bread/breadstick dough. Roll the dough into long rectangles, and using kitchen shears, cut about 1 1/2" in on each side. Twist and turn to make "balls". Sprinkle with kosher salt and bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes.
I love how these turned out! Gnarly and twisted looking!

Witches fingers
I used string cheese, with I cut in half. Cut out a small section for the "nailbed", and carve out knuckle creases. Fill the nailbed with soft cream cheese and make a "nail" from any type of veggie. [I used black olives, but you could use red or green peppers, carrots, tomatoes, etc.]

Monster Eye balls
Not the healthiest, but we decided to do one treat because it's a holiday!
Make basic cake balls, or buy store bought donut holes. Spear each ball with a plastic fork [I used coffee stirrers, because I didn't have any plastic forks], and dip in melted white chocolate. Before the chocolate hardens, place a chocolate chip, point side in, for the cornea. [You could also use mini m&ms]. Put in the fridge to harden.

Using red decorating icing, or tinted white chocolate, squiggly on the red slimey bits. This was Cammo's favorite part!

Technically not recipes, but something fun for the kids! The dudes LOVED these! I think we'll remake the fingers and breadsticks for halloween lunch or dinner!!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pumpkin Muffins

It's pretty much the pumpkin time of year. We've made pumpkin dip [for apples, cinnamon pita chips and gingersnaps], pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin bars, pumpkin bread... I even made pumpkin pasta!

The littles love these muffins! They are great for snacks, breakfast, and even in the lunch box! They are pretty versatile, ie: nearly anything can be added/taken away. You can add raisins & nuts, or do like I did and just do chocolate chips.

Pumpkin Muffins
  • 2 1/3 c. and 1 T. flour
  • 2 c. white sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 3/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 3 eggs
  • 15 oz. can pumpkin [or 1/2 of the big can]
  • 1/2 c. applesauce
  • 1/2 c. chopped nuts [optional]
  • 3/4 c. raisins, chocolate chips, etc.
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin pans, or line with paper muffin liners. If using raisins, soak in hot water for 10 minutes to plump, then drain.
  2. In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ground cloves. In a mixing bowl, mix the eggs, pumpkin and applesauce, until smooth. Add the dry ingredients and mix until smooth.
  3. Stir in the raisins and nuts [or chocolate chips if you are a rebel like me]. Spoon the batter into the prepared tins.
  4. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. [Watch them closely, I think mine took a bit less than I expected!]

This should make close to 2 dozen muffins. They freeze great, if you're into that!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Beef Stew & Butter Dip Breadsticks

The first time I ever thought about making, or learning to make, beef stew, was about 7 years ago! Chris and I were living in an apartment, and we had just had our first baby. We were invited to dinner at an older couples house [they were probably older than our parents, at the time]. They were teachers of one of our classes in church, and just all around amazing people.

They invited us to a "home cooked" dinner. She served beef stew, and probably rolls and maybe a salad. I just remember that Chris kept commenting on how good beef stew was, and that he really liked it.

Thus, it became my task to learn how to make it. By this point in time, I was no longer working, and was trying to sharpen my cooking skillz.

I looked up about 1.2 million beef stew recipes. I combined some, tweaked some, and eventually perfected [in our opinion], the recipe.

We are a soup loving family. [Okay, Chris and I are...the littles will get there eventually!] Now that it is October, soup is on!

I served this stew with butter dip breadsticks. Admittedly not the most healthy side in the world, but they remind me of growing up. We had these all the time with soups and stews when I was a kid. They are very quick to make, and seem to go great with a warm fall/wintery dish.

Beef Stew
  • 2 T. oil [veg oil]
  • 1/4 c. flour
  • 1/2 T. garlic powder
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper [more or less depending on the kick you want your stew to have]
  • 1 lb. stew meat [Honestly, I usually buy about .80 of a pound! I go for cheap, and stretch the meal. ]
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • bay leaf [optional]
  • 3 large potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 3 carrots, sliced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 3 (10.5 oz) cans of beef stock [you can easily sub Shirley J beef bouillon here]
  • 3 T. reserved flour
  • 3 T. [+/-] cold water
  1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. In a Ziploc bag, mix together the flour, garlic powder, salt, pepper and red pepper. Add a small handful of meat at a time, and shake until well coated. Continue until all meat is coated. In batches, brown in hot oil, about one minute per side. Remove the browned meat, and continue until all of the meat is browned.
  2. Lower the heat to medium, and add the chopped onions to the pan. [With meat removed!] You should have enough fat left in the pan, but if you don't, add a tiny bit more oil, so the onions don't burn. Brown onions about 4-6 minutes, or until they are tender and brown. If there is any fat in the pot, remove onions and drain fat. [I never have any left in the pot!]
  3. Add browned beef into the pot with the onions; pour in beef broth. Stir all together and bring to a boil. You can add a bay leaf [or 2] here if you'd like. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't! Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours.
  4. Bring stew back to a boil and add vegetables. [potatoes, carrots, celery] Use 3 T. of the reserved seasonsed flour mixture [the flour you coated the beef with ] and combine it with 3 T. [more or less] of cold water. Whisk it together really well, so no lumps remain. Slowly drizzle into the stew [as it is boiling], and stir. This will thicken your stew a bit, but also give it great flavor.
  5. Reduce heat to love, cover and cook for 40 additional minutes, or until the veggies are done.
  6. Season with salt & pepper to taste.

Butter Dip Breadsticks

  • 1/3 c. [+/-] melted butter
  • 2 1/4 c. flour
  • 3 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3 tsp. sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. milk
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt; mix well. Stir in the milk, just until moistened. Turn onto a floured surface; knead 10-15 times until well combined.
  3. Roll into a 12x9" rectangle, and cut into small strips. [I use a pizza cutter, and cut the rectangle in 1/2 or 1/3 depending on how big it is, and the cut it across to make strips.]
  4. Dip each side of the strip in melted butter and then place on a cookie sheet.
  5. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Rustic Apple Tart

If I use a word like "rustic" in the title when I name something, it totally gives it the MS [Martha Stewart] factor. It sounds homey, homemade, fresh, simple, and clean. It makes you want to make it. Trust me. If I would have called it Apple Tart, it wouldn't have the same appeal. It's the same reason they give paint colors fancy names. Instead of "brown", which sounds unappealling and blah, they name it "Rich chocolately mocha" and suddenly you can't figure out why every room in your house is painted brown.

I don't make the rules, I just live by them.

In all seriousness, this just screams fall! I absolutely LOVE apples. In fact, so much so, that in the past 2 weeks, I've bought 4 different kinds of apples, and I'd guess that we had over 10-15 lbs. of apples in our house! No worries on wasting, however. The kiddos love them [as do Chris & I], and I LOVE to bake with them. And if all else fails, I can make easy applesauce or apple butter.

I may or may not have tried to make Mason [my oldest] bite really hard into his apple, in hopes that his front tooth would get stuck in the apple. I really think that's an old wives tale. [Are there old wives tale about teeth?] If his tooth doesn't fall out soon, I might just go crazy. He looks like hillbilly, and it's a wee bit creepy when his tooth is pointing right at you when you try to talk to him. He won't let us pull it. [Trust me, we've tried everything! And, we may or may not have pinned him down and told him, "this won't hurt!" while he screamed and thrashed like a 4 year old girl. I'm not above that.] Instead, I end up slicing his apples for him, and secretly cursing his tooth.

But I digress. I made this to take to my inlaws house for dinner on Sunday. It was a big hit, and seriously awesome served warm with vanilla ice cream. I'm not a sucker for sweets, but it was so good!

The crust on this isn't the same as I use for pie dough. I don't make it quite as flaking [no shortening, butter only], but it's still pretty close. It's a touch sweeter than traditional pie crust as well. [I'll be posting my pie crust recipe in the coming weeks/months. I can't wait to start making pies!!] Thank you again ATK!!

Rustic Apple Tart

  • 1 1/4 cups [6.25 ounces] unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 T. sugar
  • 10 T. butter [real butter!], cut into 1/4 inch pieces and chilled
  • 3-4 T. ice water
  1. Pulse flour, salt and sugar in food processor to combine. Add [cold] butter, scattering it around the flour; cut it into flour until mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse crumbs. At this point the butter pieces will be mixed in, but you don't want any pieces bigger than small peas.

  2. Pour mixture into a medium sized mixing bowl. Sprinkle 3-4 Tablespoons of ice cold water [I fill a big measuring cup with ice cubes and water, and then dip my Tablespoon into fill it.] With a rubber spatula, use a folding motion to mix. Press down on dough with the broad side of the spatula until dough sticks together. If it won't come together, add 1-2 T more of ice water. [I never need more than 4 total!]

  3. Press together with hands a bit. [Don't knead!] Don't overwork, because we don't want the butter to melt or soften---cold butter makes the best dough!

  4. Flatten dough into a single disk; wrap with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days before rolling.
  • 1 1/4 lbs Granny Smith apples [about 2 medium or 3 small]
  • 1 1/4 lbs Gala or McIntosh apples [about 2 medium or 3 small]
  • 2 T. juice [about 1/2 of 1 lemon]
  • 1/4 c. sugar [1.75 ounces]
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 large egg whites, beaten lightly
  • 2 T. sugar

  1. Remove dough from fridge and let sit at room temperature until it is malleable. [If it was only in the fridge for an hour, you don't need to do this.]

  2. Roll dough between 2 sheets of lightly floured parchment paper. Roll into a 15 inch disk. Slide dough onto a cookie sheet; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate while working on the apples.

  3. Peel, core and cut apples into 1/4" thick slices and toss with lemon juice, 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon.

  4. Remove dough from refrigerator and arrange apple slices, thick edges out, in a circular mound, leaving about 3 inches for the border. If there are any juices left in the bowl of apples, pour it over the top of the fruit.

  5. Fold dough border up and over filling, pleating dough to fit snugly around apples. With cupped hands, gently press dough toward filling, reinforcing shape and compacting apples. Chill formed tart on pan for 30 minutes.

  6. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes, until pale golden brown. Remove from oven and brush the crust with beaten egg whites and sprinkle apples with remaining 2 T. sugar. [I usually only need about 1 T sugar here.]

  7. Return pan to oven and bake until crust is deep golden brown and apples are tender, about 25 minutes more.

  8. Remove pan from oven and cool tart on pan for 10 minutes. Serve tart warm.

There are a lot of "refrigerate" steps---this is to ensure that the butter in the dough stays cold. This is important to getting a nice tasty, flaky crust.

Also, flour and sugar measurements are shown in measurements and weight. If you have a kitchen scale, it's best to weigh it when making crusts, etc. If not, don't worry about it!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Creamy Orzo with Parmesan, Basil & Tomatoes

I have now seen the inner circles of hell. It involves a road trip [to & from on the same day!], with a 14 month old who is a) getting molars, b) doesn't love riding in the car, and c) very rarely falls asleep in places other than her bed.

In order to wipe the too fresh memory from my brain, I decided to cover it up with cheesey-tomatoey-basily goodness. When all else fails, I'm not against hiding my head in the sand. [And buying stock in tylenol, orajel, teething tablets, and earplugs.]

I love different side dishes. Rice and potatoes can get boring and old really fast! This dish uses orzo, which is one of my favorite ingredients! If you've never used it before, you should totally give it a go. It's a rice shaped pasta, that can be used in so many different ways. I use it in soups, pilaf, side dishes, versatile and quick cooking! Basically, a great way to dress up a boring dinner. [Shown here with grilled chicken. Clearly this dish was made, and picture was taken well before the temperature plunged to a chilly 40 degrees.]

Creamy Orzo with Parm, Basil & Tomatoes
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 T. butter
  • 1 c. uncooked orzo pasta
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp. Shirley J chicken bouillon
  • 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 T. dried basil
  • chopped fresh tomatoes
  1. Melt the butter and oil in a saucepan over med-high heat. Add uncooked orzo. Saute until lightly browned. [Being careful, because orzo can go to golden brown to burned really quickly!] Combine water and bouillon and add to saucepan. Bring to a boil.
  2. Cover pan and turn heat to simmer. Simmer until orzo is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 15-20 minutes.
  3. Mix in parmesan cheese, basil and tomatoes. Serve.