Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Baked Potato Soup

It looks prettier with the garnishes, but tastes just as delicious without them if you don't want to bother. This is basically a thick, creamy white sauce with chunks of baked potato added, along with a bit of sour cream. I looked at recipes similar to this and this, and then created my own. Definitely worth making again, but not when you're counting calories.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Baked Spaghetti

We like lasagna, but for some reason I don't really like making it. I think the put off is slimy, squirmy lasagna noodles. So, when I saw this recipe I decided it was worth trying. Of course I had to put my own spin on it, but this is what we tried.

Baked Spaghetti

8 oz spaghetti noodles
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup cottage cheese
1 egg
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
3 cups Spaghetti Sauce (see below)
2 cups Mozarella cheese

Cook spaghetti, then drain and toss with butter. Combine cottage cheese, egg and Parmesan cheese. In a 9x9" pan, layer half the noodles, half the cottage cheese mix, half the sauce, and half the Mozarella cheese. Repeat layers. Cover and bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes. Let rest for a few minutes before serving.

Note: Next time I'll probably combine the pasta with the cottage cheese mixture before layering so that it's more evenly distributed. And I'll try not to forget the Mozarella in the layering process as well!

Spaghetti Sauce
1 packet spaghetti seasoning mix (my recipe is here)
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes with liquid
1-2 cans (8 oz) tomato sauce
1/2 pound ground beef, cooked (or wheat/meat)
1 cup chopped mushrooms

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Marshmallow Eggs

Earlier this month Wayne mentioned it  had been a while since we'd had marshmallow bunnies for Easter, and that reminded me that many years ago (at least 30!) I attended a Relief Society class where we learned how to make homemade marshmallow eggs. I figured it was time to try again. I couldn't find my old recipe, but Google came to the rescue. Since I usually have success with recipes from Taste of Home, I tried a version I found there first.

However, I should have followed the instructions to double-check my candy thermometer with some boiling water before starting. When the recommended temperature produced burnt sugar caramel, I decided to do so and discovered my thermometer was 40 degrees off. I considered rescuing the result, but in the end just threw it out. I couldn't think of anything that would successfully disguise the taste of burned food, not even chocolate.

Next I tried a version found here. It had the same ingredients, but put them together a bit differently, and didn't require a candy thermometer!

Homemade Marshmallow Eggs

1 tablespoon (1 packet) unflavored gelatin
1/3 cup cold water
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla

Make a mold by filling a couple of 9x13" pans with flour, then pressing an egg into the flour. I got 11 out of each pan.

In a small pan, sprinkle the gelatin over cold water and let soften. Turn on the burner, stir in the sugar and bring to a boil stirring constantly. Cook until sugar has dissolved, about 3-4 minutes.

Place corn syrup in a large bowl, start beating, and stir in sugar syrup. Keep beating until mixture is stiff, about 10 minutes. Stir in vanilla. Spoon lukewarm gelatin mixture into egg depressions; dust with flour. Let stand for 3-4 hours or until set.

Brush excess flour off marshmallow eggs. Dip each in melted chocolate. Place flat side down on waxed paper. Decorate as desired. Let stand until set.
This is just really cool - and would make a great science experiment.
Note: Sprinkling with colored sugar or candy sprinkles is easy, but we didn't particularly care for the "crunch" so preferred those drizzled with another color of chocolate. Wayne would have even liked double-dipping in the chocolate to get a higher chocolate to marshmallow ratio, but I thought it was perfect as is. In addition, placing the covered eggs on a wire rack is not a good idea; use the waxed paper.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Italian Easter Bread

While pondering a gift to take to the neighbors for Easter, the thought of bread came to mind, and I figured since we're celebrating the Bread of Life that would be quite appropriate. However, I wanted something festive and springtime-y, so I went to Google and discovered many, many people celebrate Easter with a special Italian bread. It looks delicious, so here's my adaptation.

Festive Easter Orange Bread

3/4 cup milk, heated to 110 degrees
zest of one orange (about 1 tablespoon)
1/3 cup sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
5 cups flour
1 tablespoon gluten
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter, melted
juice of one orange (about 1/4 cup)
egg wash or milk
dyed raw eggs, optional (They will cook while the bread cooks.)
Orange Glaze (powdered sugar and orange juice), if desired

Heat the milk and while it's cooling a bit combine the sugar and orange zest. Add to the milk and stir to dissolve the sugar, then add the yeast and let sit for 10 minutes. Combine 4 cups of flour with the gluten. In another bowl beat the eggs with the salt. Stir the yeast mixture into the flour, then add the butter, orange juice and egg mixture. Add the remaining cup of flour if necessary. Once it's formed a ball, knead on the counter, adding more flour as needed, until it's nice and smooth. Place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise for 1 1/2 hours.
Before rising - after rising - forming the rings
Divide dough into 12 pieces and roll each into a log. Twist 2 together, form a circle, pinch the ends together, and place them on a greased baking sheet. Let rise until double.
Carefully brush with egg wash, put on the sprinkles, and gently place an egg in the center if desired. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Drizzle with glaze if desired.
Before and after baking - with and without the egg.
Note: Here are just a few of the sites that I looked at for ideas: Laura in the Kitchen, Brown-Eyed Baker, and The Italian Dish Blog.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Lemon Chiffon Cake

I was looking for something for our Easter dinner dessert that was festive, springtime-y, and dairy-free, and this recipe fit the requirements. Preparing it resulted in a mountain of dishes to wash, but the effort was worth it, and maybe we'll have it again for some future celebration.
A lot of dirty dishes!

Lemon Chiffon Cake
from Williams-Sonoma

2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup canola oil
6 eggs, separated
1/2 cup lemon juice (from 2 lemons)
2 teaspoons lemon peel
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat an oven to 325° and have ready an ungreased 10-inch tube pan with a removable bottom.
Although not used frequently in our kitchen, a zester is a wonderful tool to have on hand when you do need it.
Sift the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder and salt together. In a bowl, combine the oil, egg yolks, lemon zest and lemon juice. Add the water and whisk until well mixed. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the flour mixture until the batter is smooth.

Egg yolks - Flour mixture - Egg whites - Flour to egg yolks - Combined - Add the whites
In a bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Using the rubber spatula, gently fold half of the whites into the batter until almost fully incorporated. Add the remaining whites and gently fold in just until combined. The batter should be smooth but foamy. Pour the batter evenly into the tube pan.

Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and invert the pan onto a wire rack. Let the cake cool completely, upside down, about 45 minutes.
Before baking - After baking - While cooling - Finished product
Rotate and tap the pan against the countertop until the cake disengages. Using the center tube, pull the cake out of the pan. Invert the cake onto the rack and disengage it gently from the pan bottom. Pull the pan bottom and tube from the cake.

The original recipe said to top with a lemon glaze, but we chose fresh raspberries and lemon whipped cream instead. (Whip 1/2 cup cream with 1 1/2 tablespoons powdered sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice and 1 teaspoon lemon peel, and double if you want.)

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Chicken L'Orange

I love having others give me suggestions on what to cook. Cooking is fun; deciding what to do not so much. So, today Wayne requested Chicken L'Orange with wild rice.

We've tried the boxed wild rice before, but I prefer creating our own combination. We like the ratio of one part wild rice to four parts white rice. That goes with eleven parts water and some salt and a bit of butter. Boil the water with the salt and butter, add the wild rice and simmer, 15-20 minutes later add the white rice, and then cook until it's done, about 25 more minutes. So for about four normal servings that would be 1/4 cups wild rice, 1 cup white rice, and 2 3/4 cup water with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon butter. (If it's easier to figure 12 parts and increase the water to 3 cups, that would probably work as well.)

Most Orange Chicken recipes that I looked at used small chunks of chicken and had an Oriental flair. Wayne was thinking more French style, similar to his dinner choice a couple of months ago at The Cheesecake Factory, with a large, pounded chicken breast. I knew he would want a breading/coating on the chicken, and I didn't have any orange marmalade in the pantry. So, this is what we came up with, using Pioneer Woman's recipe as the inspiration.

Chicken L'Orange

4 large chicken breasts
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons flour
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
Dash salt
Dash crushed red pepper
1 clove garlic, pressed
A little grated or minced ginger
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons water

Pound chicken breasts until about 1/4" and cut in half if desired. Combine egg and water in one bowl and 3 tablespoons cornstarch, flour and salt and pepper in another. Dip the chicken in the egg mixture and coat with the cornstarch mixture and set aside. In a saucepan, combine the orange juice with the soy sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, sesame oil, salt, red pepper, garlic and ginger. Bring to a boil. Combine the 1 tablespoon cornstarch and water, add to the sauce, and cook until thickened. Set aside.

Heat some vegetable oil in a frying pan and cook the chicken on both sides until done. Serve with the sauce and rice.

Note: It wasn't quite as "orange-y" tasting as I hope it would be, but it was still delicious. And the sauce worked quite well with simple sauted salmon filets as well.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Brad's Birthday Cake

This year Brad requested a Heath Bar Cake for his birthday, and when he described it I decided he's a pretty smart young man. It sounded delicious! It also seemed like the perfect way to use an opened can of sweetened condensed milk sitting in the refrigerator. (I only used half when making these caramels.) I followed this recipe, scaling it in half, and instead of using a cake mix, used our favorite cake recipe, also scaling it in half. If you want the two-layer cake recipe, you can find it here.

Feathery Fudge Cake

1/2 cup butter or margarine
7/8 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
5/8 cup cold water

Cream butter and sugar together. Beat in vanilla and eggs. Combine dry ingredients and mix in with water. Pour into a lightly greased 8" square cake pan. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes.

Chocolate Caramel Poke Cake

1 layer chocolate cake, freshly baked
1/2 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
about 1/2 cup caramel sauce
4 ounces Cool Whip
1/2 cup chocolate toffee bits

As soon as cake comes out of the oven, poke holes in the top with a skewer. Pour sweetened condensed milk and then caramel sauce all over so it can seep down. When cool, spread Cool Whip on top and then sprinkle with chocolate toffee bits. Store in the refrigerator.