Thursday, December 26, 2013

Snowflake Sugar Cookies

Well, here I finally am again- after a rather long extended break (again) from blogging.  What can I say?  My life gets pretty hectic around this time of year, and then on December 26th everything seems to almost rush to a stop.  Almost.  At least it seems to calm down.  
Anyway, so amid all the hustle and bustle and last minute baking, I made snowflake sugar cookies.  And they were just so cute, and I was so disappointed that I really didn't have any time to take pictures of them before they were all gone.... so you can only imagine how happy and excited I was when Kathryn, an amazing photographer and a wonderful friend, told me that she was going to take pictures of the cookies I gave her!  And of course I knew that they would turn out amazing and professional looking because it was KATHRYN taking the pictures!!!  (I shall now think of retiring my poor camera that has to endure me and simply give all my food to Kathryn to take pictures of, because she is just a much, much, much more amazing photographer than I am- I've even asked her several times if she could come live it my house, sadly though, she hasn't been convinced yet).
Enough of my talking though... enjoy the pictures!!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Double Chocolate Banana Muffins

I guess you could kinda say these muffins are what we were raised on, in a way.  I remember eating them growing up- we were always thrilled to eat them- they're really stuff of childhood dreams- gooey, chocolatey, and just downright yummy.  You'd stuff as many of them as you could without people looking.... and could almost get away with it.  

And honestly, there's not much you can do to make them any better.  Except for the fact that I always add way more chocolate chips in it.  But hey, where would any cook be without an inner child busting at the seams?  (oh, and the espresso powder. but that's our little secret.)

(this is my little secret.  that I put in EVERYTHING with chocolate.  EVERYTHING.)

Double Chocolate Banana Muffins

1 ½ cups flour
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup dutch cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. baking powder
1 teaspoon espresso powder

Stir together dry ingredients in medium bowl.

In a 4 cup measuring cup, thinly slice 3 large bananas.  Mash.  You should have at least 1 and 1/3 cups of bananas.  Stir in 1 egg and 1/3 cup veg. oil til combined.  Stir into dry ingredients just till moistened.  Stir in ½ cup chocolate chips and ½ cup white chocolate chips.  Do not overmix.  Sprinkle tops of batter with sugar.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or till muffins test done in center.  Make 1 to 1 ½ dozen muffins.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Chocolate Shadow Cake

I, quite honestly, had never ever even ate 7 minute frosting before.  Or made it for that matter.  And just to clear any poor confused soul (like me) who is deranged enough to think that 7 minute frosting actually takes 7 minutes to make, let me clear that little bit of information up for you.  

It takes 16 minutes.  Exactly.  So now you know.

And I felt so lied to as I made it.... I mean, who names a frosting after an amount of time if it doesn't take that long to make it????  *sigh*  Ah well.

That point aside, I have to say, this is one of my new favorite cakes.  I now know that I loooooove 7 minute first frosting- it tastes almost exactly like marshmallow fluff.  Which is one of the best things in the whole wide world.  Right next to cookie butter. 

But back to the cake...... It's really good.  Like, really really good.  And I think it's because it really is a simple enough idea, and the frosting and cake really just belong together.  So here you go.  You can make it too.    

Chocolate Shadow Cake

From Cooks Country
Serves 12

To make this cake, you will need:
4 large egg whites
3 tablespoons water
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
Pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 (8-inch) chocolate cake rounds (I use Cook's Illustrated Chocolate Cake recipe- it really is the best recipe out there for chocolate cake)
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup

For the icing: Whisk egg whites, water, sugar, cream of tartar, and salt in large heat-resistant bowl set over medium saucepan filled with ½ inch of barely simmering water (don’t let bowl touch water). With hand-held mixer on medium-high speed, carefully beat egg white mixture to stiff peaks, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove bowl from heat, add vanilla, and continue to beat until icing is very thick and stiff and cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes.

To assemble: Spread 1 cup icing on bottom cake layer. Repeat with second cake layer and additional 1 cup icing. Top with final cake layer and spread top and sides with remaining icing.

To decorate: Place chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in large heat-resistant bowl set over medium saucepan filled with ½ inch of barely simmering water (don’t let bowl touch water). Stir until melted and smooth, then remove bowl from heat and let cool 5 minutes. Spoon ¼ cup chocolate mixture over top of cake and then drizzle remaining glaze along top edge of cake, allowing it to drip about halfway down the sides.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Brown Butter Toasted Pecan Ice Cream

Unfortunately, I don't have many pictures of this one.... mainly because I was too busy stuffing my face with it.  It's really that amazing.  I was searching through my FAVORITE ice cream cookbook, Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones, wanting to find new recipes (now, this was actually fall that this happened, but same dif), and I came across this one, but I ended up making another one from the cookbook, a Maple Ice Cream one.  And then this fall rolls around.... and I''m craving fall ice cream again.  I remembered that I had seen another fall-sounding ice cream in the cookbook, so I looked again for it.  And there the recipe stared up at me, begging me to make it.  The thought of rich and creamy ice cream, stuffed with toasted pecans, and with a hint of browned butter just made my mouth water.  So, I rushed into the kitchen, and read the whole recipe, to make sure we had everything.  Aaaaand then I noticed a little sidebar comment.  Saying what to serve it with.

And I was dead gone.  


It said to serve it with homemade Caramel Sauce and Spiced Pecans.  

And even though I was already in the middle of making regular ice cream and the new one, I had to make the extra toppings now to....  And they were really quite simple.  Which was a lifesaver, because when I'm in my cooking mood and want to make certain things, it really doesn't matter to me if it takes 15 minutes or two and a half hours.  And I had other mundane boring things to do aorund then house that day too.... Anyhow, they were so simple..... and they tasted spectacular.  I'm already in love with toasted pecans, so Spiced Pecans were just my old favorite dressed up a little.  And the caramel sauce.... *sigh*  Let's just say my sister and I were standing around eating all the extra off the pan and spatula for like 5 minutes to get all that precious liquid gold that was left.

And then I had to wait all of 4 days to eat it all, because we had a busy weekend.... and the wait was worth it.  Let's just say I now have a new favorite ice cream, to put it lightly.  But I'll just let the pictures speak for themselves....   And then you can rush off to the kitchen to make it too.  

You'll be hooked. 

Brown Butter Pecan Ice Cream
From Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones
Makes about 1 quart

5 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1 3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup (2 ounces) unsalted butter
3/4 cup 1% or 2% milk
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup chopped toasted pecans

Make the base:
In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk the yolks just to break them up, then whisk in half of the sugar (6 tablespoons).  Set aside.  Set the cream by the stove.
But the butter in a heavy, nonreactive saucepan and put over medium heat.  The butter will melt and bubble, and after a few minutes it will start to turn brown.  Continue to cook until it has a rich, nutty smell and the butter solids (the little specks floating around in the liquid) have turned a dark brown, 6 to 8 minutes total.
Add the cream to the pan and stir until blended (it's important to mix in the cream before adding the milk to prevent the mixture from breaking).  Add the milk, salt, and the remaining sugar (6 tablespoons) and increase the heat to medium-high.  When the mixture approaches a bare simmer, reduce heat to medium.  
Carefully scoop out about 1/2 cup of the hot cream mixture and, whisking the eggs constantly, add the cream to the bowl with the egg yolks.  Repeat, adding another 1/2 cup of the hot cream to the bowl with the yolks.  Using a heatproof rubber spatula, stir the cream in the saucepan as you slowly pour the egg-and-cream mixture from the bowl into the pan.  
Cook the mixture carefully over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it is thickened, coats the back of a spatula, and holds a clear path when you run your finger across the spatula, 1 to 2 minutes longer.  
Strain the base through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean container.  Set the container into and ice-water bath, wash your spatula, and use it to stir the base occasionally until it is cool.  Remove the container from the ice-water bath, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate the base for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Freeze the ice cream:
Add the vanilla to the chilled base and stir until blended.  
Freeze in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions.  While the ice cream is churning, place the container you'll use to store the ice cream into the freezer.  Add the pecans in the last minute or so of churning, or fold them in by hand after transferring the ice cream to the chilled container.  Enjoy right away or, for a firmer ice cream, freeze for at least 4 hours.  

Spiced Pecans
From Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones
Makes 2 cups

1/4 cup (2 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup light or dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 cups pecan pieces

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  
In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients except the pecans and mix well.  Add the nuts and toss until they are thoroughly coated in the butter mixture.  Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and spread in a single layer.  
Bake for 6 minutes, stir, and bake for another 6 to 9 minutes, or until fragrant and the nuts are golden brown. 
Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet, stirring occasionally to break up the clumps (they tend to stick together as the cool).  It is nice, however, to have some clumps, as they are super tasty to toss in your mouth!
Store in an airtight container.

Caramel Sauce
From Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones
Makes 1 1/4 cups

3/4 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Set cream by the stove so it's at hand when you need it.  Put 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a heavy nonreactive saucepan over medium-high heat.  When the sugar is melted around the edges and starts to turn amber in places (about 2 minutes), stir the mixture gently and add another 2 tablespoons sugar to the pan.
Continue to add the remaining sugar 2 tablespoons at a time, stirring as needed and allowing most of the sugar to melt before you add more.  Watch carefully as the sugar darkens, stirring gently to help it melt evenly.
When the caramel becomes a dark mahogany color, remove the pan from the heat and immediately but slowly pour the cream into the pan.  (The mixture will steam and bubble up, so wear oven mitts and be very careful to avoid splatters and steam burns.)  When the bubbling subsides, gently stir to completely blend the cream into the caramel.  If you have lumps of hardened caramel in your pan, simply put the pan over low heat and stir until the caramel is melted.
Stir in the salt and let cool until just warm.  (The sauce will stay rippin' hot for quite a while, so resist the urge to lick the spoon.)  If not using within a few hours, transfer to a container and refrigerate.  Rewarm before using.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Chicken Florentine

This is just one of the dishes that you eat when you feel like stuffing your face with comfort food.  And garlic.  Lots of garlic.  And eating greens.... cooked greens are still good for you, right?  Anyhow, they taste amazing.  I kind of have this thing for spinach.... but usually not cooked, because it turns out blah and bland.  But in this, it tastes amazing- more than I would have thought.  Oh, and sauteed  mushrooms.  And bacon.  So basically this dish is just amazing, between the thick rich sauce and bacon.  Did I mention bacon?  

Yes, yes... I know- you're wondering how anything made with canned soup could be good.  Honestly, I usually agree- but this time, just trust me.

You want to make sure to saute the spinach just until it wilts- you don't want to overdo it.

And then roughly chop it- if you don't, people will be seriously considering letting you off kitchen duties.  I mean, this long wet green thing that's flopping off your fork really isn't too appetizing. 

And the sauce.... *sigh*  It's just amazing.  So amazing, that we have to make extra for those who like to drench everything in it. 

Chicken Florentine

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
4 tablespoons butter, divided
2 bags fresh spinach
1 lb baby Bella mushrooms, sliced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup half and half
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 (10.75 oz.) can cream of mushroom soup
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
2/3 cup chopped bacon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Place the chicken breast halves on a baking sheet; bake 20 to 30 minutes, until no longer pink and juices run clear. Remove from heat, and set aside.
Decrease the oven temperature to 300.
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet, add the spinach, cook over medium heat till wilted.  Arrange the spinach over the bottom of a 9x13 glass pan.
In the same skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter, saute the mushrooms till lightly browned.  Arrange over spinach. 
Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the minced garlic, saute till fragrant.  Immediately add the half and half, lemon juice, cream of mushroom soup, and Italian seasoning, stir till mixture simmers, remove from heat. Spread half of sauce over mushrooms.
Slice the chicken breasts widthwise into 1/4 inch slices, keeping the slices together.  Arrange in the pan over the sauce, then spread remaining sauce on top of chicken breast slices.  Top with chopped bacon, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Bake 15-20 minutes till heated.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Pumpkin Cake with a Maple Buttermilk Glaze and Toasted Pecans

Well, here I am again.  Long story short, I wanted to make this cake because some dear friends of mine visited over the weekend, and left yesterday.... and this was my way of rebounding.  You know, the kind of cake that's warm and comforting for those dreary days that you need comfort food.  

Cinnamon is always such a comfort.... warm and inviting, and always able to make you happy inside.

Pumpkin just because it's fall and that's how we roll.

And cake because what is more comforting that cake right out of the oven?

Of course, there's always the dirty dishes.... But as long as you have the music cranked up, even those aren't too bad.

Cue your favorite dishes....

And here comes happiness.  :)

Pumpkin  Cake with Maple Buttermilk Icing and Toasted Pecans
Adapted from Dinner With Kirsten

For cake:
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus additional for greasing bundt pan
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour plus additional for dusting pan
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin – you’ll need a 15-ounce can
3/4 cup buttermilk, well-shaken
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs

For glaze:
2 tablespoons well-shaken buttermilk
2 tablespoons maple sirup 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar

For topping:
1 1/2 cups toasted pecans

For cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F, lowering the rack to the second to lowest position. Spray a 9x13" pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and salt in a bowl. Whisk together pumpkin, 3/4 cup buttermilk, and vanilla in another bowl.

Beat 1 1/2 sticks butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Then add eggs and beat 1 minute. Reduce speed to low and add flour and pumpkin mixtures alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture and mixing until batter is just smooth.

Spoon batter into pan and smooth top. Then bake  about 20 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out with a few moist crumbs.  Let cake cool for about 5 minutes, then dig in.  During the 5 minutes, whisk together the glaze ingredients and chop the pecans- then drizzle the glaze on and sprinkle with toasted pecans.