Change is good…

But confusing sometimes.

We’re workin’ out the kinks in the transfer over to a new host, but not disappearing.

Just saying.

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Cinnamon Raisin Bread

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I’m not sorry about this y’all.

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My hips may be…but I’m not.

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There is nothing that feels more domestic goddess-y than baking bread.

There.

I’ve said it.

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As breads go, this one’s easy peasy.

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Warm some milk to just before scalded and let it cool.

Super secret? This sauce pan thing is a fluke-I usually just nuke it.

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This is a straight mix dough though-all in the ubiquitous Kitchen Aid.

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Flour.

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And yeast.

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In ya go…no pre-proofing bubbles.

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Sugar…even though you’re sweet enough…still-the yeasty demons like it.

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Salt. Because it somehow makes things sweeter.

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And zeee huevos. Because they make things…eggy-er.

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Get that Kitchen Aid to do your work for you as you add your milk.

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And your butter…Kitchen Aids will never unionize. Thank goodness for that.

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And knead away…the lazy way.

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And since this is in the name, let me just say that I never never NEVER un uh buy any raisins but these golden beauties. Technically sultanas, I think.

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Technically delicious.

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Some cimmaninnammminnnaminnn…

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Just barely allowed to swirl.

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And tipped into a lightly oiled bowl.

Don’t freak out about your super soft dough…it’s how this dough was meant to be.

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Cover with plastic wrap spritzed with a touch of cooking spray (trust me-you’ll thank me later) and leave it alone for about an hour.

It’s had a long day.

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Let it have a few moments to collect itself-we all need that sometimes.

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Give it a good poke and see if it holds up to the challenge.

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I’m not going to say we all need a good poke sometimes.

But maybe my inner adolescent is thinking it.

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Punch down the dough.

No violence here. No actual fists are necessary.

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Just a gentle fold and press to release the gas bubbles.

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Snicker…gas bubbles…

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Sometimes my inner adolescent takes full control.

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Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead about a minute.

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Round it out and cut it with a large sharp knife exactly in half.

No stretching, just a nice slice.

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Then gently shape each half into a nice round by stretching it over and around itself.

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Was that specific enough? Tough to do while taking pictures…just saying.

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Then let these babies have a wee nap to relax again…like hitting the snooze.

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Meanwhile get your cinnamon sugar on deck.

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And your egg wash…

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Warm it up for the game.

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It’s ready to play. Today.

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Gently roll out your balls of dough to a square about the length of your bread pan.

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Pat it into shape if necessary. Pat pat. Pat. What a good little dough you are!

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Brush gently with your egg wash.

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And then sprinkle about 1/2 the cinnamon sugar on each rolled out egg washed portion of dough.

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Ever so gently, roll it up into a long roll.

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Gently…

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There! Kind of looks like the monster from Tremors, huh?

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Tuck the ends under.

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Is it bad that I think of that as Kevin Bacon’s greatest role?

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Of course, Footloose was fabulous too.

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Never mind. Don’t trust my taste in movies, or lack thereof.

Just butter your pans.

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Tuck your loaves in for yet another nap.

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I like to turn the oven on to 200 for 60 seconds, then turn it off and let my loaves rise in the oven with the light on (I like to think it adds just enough extra heat)

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These could’ve gone an extra inch up, but I am more impatient than I am a perfectionist.

Don’t be upset if this is a really slow rising dough, by the way-because of the eggs, milk, and butter its a heavy dough to get off the ground. Have more patience than I do.

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Another gentle bath in egg wash…

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Gentle!

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The longer and higher they rise however (preferably to breach their pan prison by about an inch) the fluffier your finished product will be.

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Absolutely astoundingly delicious no matter what.

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But french toasting it never hurts.

I think we all owe France an apology… and a thank you! Right now, guys.

Enjoy!

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Adapted from CIA’s Baking at Home (the culinary institute, not the spies)

You will need about 1 hour active time, 25 minutes baking time, plus rising time and:

4 1/2 cups bread flour + more for dusting

2 tbsp active dry yeast

2 cups low fat milk

1 stick butter, at soft room temperature

1/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 tbsp kosher salt

1 cup golden raisins

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

canola oil and/or butter for greasing

1 egg + 1 tbsp milk, lightly beaten with a fork, for egg wash

1 tsp ground cinnamon and 1/3 cup sugar combined for filling

Heat the milk until almost scalded and allow to cool, or microwave until warm.

Combine the flour and yeast in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook.

On low speed, combine and add the sugar, milk, butter, the eggs one at a time, and then the salt last. Mix on low speed for 4 minutes, then increase speed to medium and let the mixer knead for about 3 more minutes.

Keep the mixer on medium and add the raisins, then the cinnamon all at once for about 1 more minute total.

Tip into a large greased mixing bowl (oil or butter) and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap spritzed with cooking spray and allow to rise for 1 – 1/2 hours, or until doubled in size and ripe (a gentle indentation with your finger will remain)

Gently punch down the dough and let it rest a few minutes, then tip it onto a floured surface and slice in half with a sharp knife. Form each half into a ball and let it rest, gathered seam side down, for 10-15 minutes.

Grease 2 loaf pans with butter or oil, prepare egg wash and cinnamon sugar filling.

Gently roll each half into rough squares with sides the length of the loaf pans. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle each square evenly with 1/2 cinnamon sugar filling.

Roll each square up like a cinnamon roll and tuck the ends under, then place each in a greased pan seam side down. Cover with cooking spray spritzed plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm spot until bursting from the pans, 1 – 5 hours depending on conditions.

Once risen, preheat oven to 425. Brush loaves with egg wash and bake about 25 minutes or until golden and hollow-sounding when gently thumped on top.

Immediately turn out of pans and cool completely on a baking rack.

Makes two incredibly delicious loaves of goodness.

Posted in Baking, Breakfast, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Butternut Squash Soup

Mmmmmm....Fall.

Mmmmmm….Fall.

Yes, here in Arizona there is a chill in the air. Well, comparatively. It hasn’t yet hit those elusive two weeks where we can wear scarves and hats comfortably, but the evenings are crispy.

Mmmmm…crispy.

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Crispyness in the atmosphere = gorgeous butternut squash at the grocery, perfect for splitting lengthwise, drizzling with olive oil, and roasting on their bright orange bellies on a foil lined jelly pan (at 400 for 45 minutes or until tender).

See how I snuck that in for you?

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And while there are so many things to do with that gorgeous, buttery, vibrant goodness, today we give in to the season and make soup.

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A drizzle of olive oil…

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A smooshing of garlic…

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A roughly chopped onion…

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Tip in the squash, pre-roasted in all of its caramelized goodness…

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And a box of stock.

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Nuke a couple taters precious…or just throw them in with the squash when you roast it.

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A quick split. Will you lookie at that there steam?

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Scoop.

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And tippidy tip it in.

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Bubble away to let everything make friends and soften up, and then…

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ATTACK!!! Come at the pot like it’s a group of teens at a lake summer camp and the immersion blender is a knife-weilding, mask wearing, ah…

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Sorry. Halloween’s coming. Just blend.

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Gently. Without the low-budget horror movie soundtrack.

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A sprinkling of cheesy goodness.

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A dollop of cream to add some lusciousness.

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Salt. Duh.

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Pepper. Freshly cracked if you have it, but from the little box is fine too. No one will tattle.

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Stir in the mmmmmmmmm.

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But we’re not done…

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Sprinkle in a touch of nutmeg.

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And here we are. Good place to be.

Mmmmmm....Fall.

Mmmmmm….Fall.

Le sigh. So good I burned my mouth taking too big bites too fast while it was too hot.

So worth it.

Butternut Squash Soup

1 butternut squash, split, scooped, and roasted until tender (or peeled, cubed, and raw if you prefer)

2 medium potatoes, baked with the squash or microwaved until soft

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, peeled and quartered

3-4 cloves garlic

32 oz chicken broth

1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese

1/4 cup cream

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

If you plan to roast the squash, split it in half lengthwise carefully with a solid and sharp knife, scoop out the seeds, and drizzle with olive oil. Roast meat side down on a foil lined rimmed baking sheet for 45 minutes or until tender and caramelized. Scoop out the squash and use right away or store in the fridge for up to a week.

In a large pot, drizzle the olive oil and turn the heat to medium low. Add the garlic and onion and sauté for a few minutes until the garlic becomes aromatic. (i.e. starts to smell dee-licious). Add the squash and the chicken broth. Scoop out the potato and add all but the skin to the pot.

Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until the onions and garlic are soft and everyone has made friends.

Remove from heat, and with an immersion blender (or a regular blender in batches) blend until perfectly smooth and velvety. Add the parmesan cheese and stir to melt, then add the cream and nutmeg. Stir gently to combine, then add salt and pepper to taste.

Snarfle up with dark brown bread, carefully if you can’t control yourself while it is still as hot as the surface of the sun…ahem, self…yes. Talking to you.

Serves 6 as a meal with a salad and bread, 12 as a first course. 

 

 

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(Pen)Ultimate Chocolate Cake

Cakes are like men...the best are sweet enough to make you want more, deep enough to keep you guessing, and freakin' reliable.

Cakes are like men…the best are sweet enough to make you want more, deep enough to keep you guessing, and freakin’ reliable.

Is that too cliched? Can we not talk about how men (or women) are like food anymore?

Well, you’re not my supervisor! I will. I did.

Don’t judge me…I’m ensuring that you too now have the penultimate chocolate cake recipe in your back pocket too. For that, you can suffer through a little bit of cheesy captioning. This is worth it-for realskies.

Why is it the penultimate, rather than the ultimate chocolate cake goodness? Because I do have others to come. But this is gooooooood.
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Just like my huge girl-crush on Nigella, my admiration for Ina knows no bounds. Rarely do I just swoop in with someone’s completely unadulterated recipe (though this is such a basic chocolate cake I expect it’s been around much longer than the Contessa’s been barefoot) but this one needs no such tweaks.

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While today we’re throwing together 24 cupcakes, you can use this ver batim for 2 hefty nine inch round cakes, 3 nine inch more moderately lifted layers, or halve it for a 3 layer six inch round layer cake, depending on your preference.

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As all of my favorite recipes, this one is incredibly forgiving. No butter to forget to leave out at room temperature. If you neglect to sift your drys (as I inevitably do) your finished product will be no less a beacon of glorious chocolate.

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No fancy pants dutch process 100 billion % cocoa solids required.

Trust me on this. My hubs will (not unhappily) share his memories where I tried 4 different chocolate cake recipes in the span of 3 hours. One that had to be creamed. One with only the most elitist attitude toward the chocolate that was allowed entry. One that required so many separate bowls that when I saw the mixing bowl avalanche from the sink I bawled like a baby.

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This is none of those. This is the old standby recipe I pulled out when, despite my hard labor, the finished cakes were lackluster.

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This is the chocolate cake that makes birthdays happy and celebrations…well…celebratory. This is the chocolate cake that was hiding inside one of my wedding cakes. This is the cake I heart.

Sift your flour, kosher salt, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and cocoa powder into the bowl of a standing mixer. If you’re me, skip the sifting and just dump them in and give them a quick mix with the paddle attachment.

I know it doesn’t seem like enough flour, but this will be ok.

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Everything is ok in the end. If it’s not ok, it’s not the end.

And since we’re in the middle here, get a cup of buttermilk together. Or again, if you’re me, have no buttermilk and instead use almost a cup of regular milk and a teeny dollop of vinegar. Once it sits for a minute or 3, it will be buttermilk just the same.

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And add some vegetable oil…

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Weird looking, huh? Yes…I’m combining all the wet stuff straight in the measuring cup so I can subtract one dish from the equation.

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Since we’re on a dish conservation plan, throw the eggs in that there measuring cup too.

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And some vanilla.

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And just stir to combine with a fork.

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With the mixer on low speed, drizzle in the wets.

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See…this looks like normal cake batter. That’s not what we want.

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Don’t be scared now: Grab a cup of hot coffee and just measure it straight into your dirty measuring cup.

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Hey! Don’t look at me like that. Remember-this is all heading in the same direction…into the batter.

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Super liquidy. It’s totally cool though-I freak out every single time I make this (and that’s more times than I care to admit. Liquidy is what we need here. Step away from the ledge.

The lumps? That’s because I didn’t sift. Don’t be like me.

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Of course, if you are, s’cool. Magically, the lumps are gone in the baking. Every. Single. Time.

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Pour into lined cupcake pans. Or round pans lined with parchment and sprayed with cooking spray.

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Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 16 – 20 minutes for cupcakes, 35 – 40 minutes for a two layer cake, or 20 – 22 minutes for a 3 layer cake.

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Meanwhile, no one will see this….

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Once your cupcakes are springy to the touch, evicted from the oven, and cooled, you can frost away.

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This is a basic boiled frosting, but that’s for another day.

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As is the peanut butter frosting that I often ice and fill this cake with. But soon, my precious. soon.

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If you’re doing a layer cake, let the layers cool for about ten minutes, then run a knife along the edge and flip over to release. Give them another ten to rest at least-then you can wrap each layer in plastic wrap and refrigerate before frosting, or wrap in plastic and then foil and freeze until you’re ready for them.

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I took a page out of Pioneer Woman’s book blog on the decorating here.

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Of course, I was using her version of boiled frosting for these guys, so it just seemed to make sense.

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Plus, these were for my wee niece’s birthday party, and what little lady doesn’t love sprinkles?

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Num.

Penultimate Chocolate Cake

Basically, Ina Garten’s Beatty’s Chocolate Cake. Why mess with perfection?

You will need about 45 minutes and:

1 3/4 cups flour

2 cups sugar

3/4 cups cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 cup brewed coffee, hot

Preheat oven to 350. Sift first 7 ingredients into the bowl of a standing mixer. Combine remaining ingredients up to the coffee with a fork, stirring lightly. Using the paddle attachment, drizzle buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients with the mixer on low until just combined. With the mixer on medium, drizzle in the coffee.

Pour into prepared pans and bake for 16 – 20 minutes for cupcakes, 35 – 40 minutes for a two layer cake, or 20 – 22 minutes for a 3 layer cake.

Allow to cool. Frost cupcakes when cool. If making a layer cake, remove from pans, wrap well, and refrigerate for at least an hour and up to several days before filling and frosting. If you prefer, double wrap your layers and freeze for…a long time.

Makes 24 cupcakes, or either 2 or 3 9 inch layers, depending on how much loft you need.

Posted in Baking, Desserts, Recipes, Wedding Menu | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hoisin Pork Tenderloin

Almost too easy to be called a recipe...

 

Too easy to be called a recipe, this combination will get a company worthy dinner on the table in the blink of an eye. But let’s call it one anyway, shall we?

Pork tenderloin is probably my favorite cut of piggy… delicate and melt in your mouth delicious. Silky, almost, if meat could be. Fried pork chops and mashed tater’s are the ultimate in country comfort, but this is citified comfort food.

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Toss your tenderloins into a big ol’ ziplock bag.

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Contrary to the picture, Hoisin sauce is not made of pandas…thankfully, pictures lie. The fur would be problematic. And the cuteness.

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Speaking of pandas, did you ever play that game where you had to not think about pandas? And once you started, all you could picture was these black and white fluffs? Their pretty paws clutching a eucalyptus branch.

Wait. That’s koalas…

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Bamboo! Pandas eat bamboo. Thank you Discovery Channel!

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And speaking of that…how long till Shark Week?

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This is really just dumping some bits and pieces in with the pork, marinating so the vinegary sweetness permeates the meat, and a quick roast.

The Hoisin, the sesame oil, and some vinegar work together. Cohorts in delicious!

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Toss this bag of flavor in the fridge for at least a half hour, and overnight if you want. Do what you want, yo. The tenderloin will forgive almost anything.

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Preheat the oven to 400 and pop these monsters onto a foil lined cookie sheet.

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The one thing tenderloin will not abide is a roasting till they’re dead dead dead. While I always defer to the FDA for cooking temps and safety, I’m gonna let you in on a secret here:

Pork tenderloin can (and should) be served medium to medium rare, warm and pink in the center. No, you won’t die. This is an extremely lean cut of meat, and cooking the hell out of it will leave you with nothing but a chew toy.

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After 20 minutes, you will have gently crusted exteriors and a range of done-ness from well at the ends of each piece to medium rare in the center.

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Cover tightly with foil and let it have a bit of a rest.

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And slice…mmmmmmmmm…a selection of doneness for any appetite.

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Douse some asparagus in olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper, and roast alongside this gorgeous hunka’ hunka’ hoisin love. Heap some mashed potatoes on that plate.

Yes, this would impress everyone when you have folks over for dinner. But ya know, who cares about being impressive?

Be delicious instead.

Shoot. Score. Nothin’ but net.

Hoisin Pork Tenderloin

Inspired by Cooking Light so long ago I can’t recall exactly what the recipe was called…I’m guessing the title was pretty close.

You will need 35 minutes total active, roasting and resting time, plus time for marinating, and:

2 pounds pork tenderloin (2 individual cuts, usually)

1 jar commercial Hoisin sauce

3 tablespoons sesame oil

3 tablespoons vinegar, preferably rice wine (I used cider vinegar because that’s what I had)

Add all ingredients to a large ziplock bag and seal. Massage the bag to combine the marinade and refrigerate for at least a half hour and up to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 400 and line a cookie sheet with foil. Roast the tenderloins on the cookie sheet for 20 minutes, no more, and cover with foil and rest.

Slice into medallions and serve with steamed rice or mashed potatoes, maybe some olive oil doused asparagus roasted alongside the pork.

Serves 6 – 8.

 

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Overnight Blackberry Cheesecake French Toast

Good morning, indeed.

Good morning, indeed.

Are you planning a night on the town this weekend and need a hangover breakfast for a crowd? How bout some house guests who might wake ravenously in the morning? Having people over for a holiday breakfast?

This would totally work for Easter…Passover not so much. Bread, you know. But maybe the day after – a post seder bread binge? The proverbial finger to Dr. Atkins and Agatstan, perhaps?

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So many questions, sorry. Luckily I do have answers!

Baked french toast is one of my faves, and it totally falls into the breakfast casserole category: A number of delights that are prepped the night before, covered in an eggy psedo custard, and left to steep in the fridge overnight. Then, they are plopped into the oven, eyes still half closed with sleep, so you can stagger round putting on the coffee (or hitting snooze) while they puff into an almost soufflé.

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Impressive? Of course.

Satisfying? And how.

So very easy your head will spin? Yep. Let’s go!

I do a savory sausage one on Christmas. A potato-ey one at Hanukkah. A vegetarian spinach, tomato and asparagus for girlie brunches. A basic cinnamon french toast just because. But this one…theeeeeeeesssee one…is a wee bit more. Breakfast blackberry cheesecake.

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Once you’ve sliced up about a half loaf of bread, grab 6 – 8 eggs.

Why did I use 6? Because that’s all I had, man.

For the bread, staled would be fine…I used an italian loaf. White or wheat sandwich bread is fine too, as is cinnamon raisin. Or ooohhh challah would be fantabulous.

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Crack them all into a mixing bowl.

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And add vanilla…

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A sploush of maple syrup.

C’mon. It’s totally an accurate unit of measurement.

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About 1/4 cup heavy cream for oomph.

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And about 2 cups of milk.

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It’s almost a light creme brûlée in the making…remember?

http://perfectcrumb.com/2013/01/26/easy-creme-brulee/

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Whisk until combined and fluffy…

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And butter or Pam a baking dish…frankly, butter is great, but you’ll have an easier clean up if you take the cooking spray road. Learn from my mistakes.

I’m still working on that myself.

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In the meantime, add 1/2 cup of sugar to a block of softened cream cheese

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Maybe throw in a bit of cinnamon too..just for fun.

We’re having fun, right?

Lie to me. S’cool. I’ll believe you.

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Combine the whole mess. Get some on your thumb. Taste it. Close your eyes and consider scrapping the whole mess and just tucking into the bowl with a spoon.

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Resist.

Spread a healthy layer on each slice of bread.

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And gently set them in the baking dish. Keep going until you fill the pan, stacking them.

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Sprinkle on 6 ounces of fresh blackberries.

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This would look super patriotic if I had some red cherries to toss in too…no matter.

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If you have any extra bread, chop it into cubes

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And just throw it on top.

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Now just drizzle the eggy mixture over the whole thing, soaking it.

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Cover with foil, stash in the fridge, and leave it till morning.

Once you wander into the kitchen in the morning, just heat the oven to 350 and toss this goodness in uncovered.

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Once you get some coffee in you, make the sauce:

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Combine 3/4 cup water, 3/4 cup sugar, and two tablespoons cornstarch in a saucepan on medium heat.

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Whisk frequently as it starts to heat.

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Then grab another little box of these guys

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And let them go for a sugary swim.

After about ten minutes of stirring and squishing, we have this:

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Whoa.

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Just pour it into a serving bowl and grab your breakfast from the oven.

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It’s puffed. It’s golden. And most importantly,

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It’s oozing blackberry cheesecake.

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Just one more thing…

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Ok, two. Bacon makes friends so easily.

Enjoy!

Overnight Blackberry Cheesecake French Toast

Adapted from Allrecipes Baked French Toast recipe

You will need 25 minutes total active time, and overnight rest, and 40 minutes baking time, along with:

Bread (1/2 a large italian or french loaf, 10- 14 slices white or wheat, the equivalent in challah or brioche…even stale croissants. If they ever last long enough to get stale.)

For the french toast:

6 – 8 eggs

1/4 cup cream

2 cups milk

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

6 ounces blackberries (one little container)

For the sauce:

3/4 cup water

3/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

6 ounces blackberries (another little container)

 

Slice the bread.

Add the eggs into a mixing bowl, along with the next 4 ingredients through the vanilla. Whisk to combine.

In a separate bowl, combine the cream cheese, sugar, and cinnamon.

Prepare a baking dish with nonstick spray. One at a time, spread a slice of bread generously with the cream cheese mixture and lay it in the baking dish, overlapping with the others.

Once the baking dish can take no more slices in a single layer, sprinkle the blackberries evenly on the bread.

If you have room for more slices, repeat with another layer. Otherwise, chop the remaining bread into large cubes and sprinkle atop the slices.

Pour the egg mixture evenly in the casserole, cover, and refrigerate until morning.

When you wake up, heat the oven to 350 and bake the casserole, uncovered, until golden and puffed – about 40 minutes.

While the casserole is baking, make the sauce:

Combine the water, sugar, and cornstarch in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisking frequently, allow it to start to thicken – about 5 minutes.

Add the blackberries and continue over the heat until the berries break down and the sauce is lush and thick, stirring frequently – about 5 more minutes.

Slice the french toast and plate up, drizzle over the blackberry sauce, and enjoy.

Serves 10 – 12

 

Posted in Baking, Breakfast, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Straight Up Strawberry Jam

Yes...more strawberries.

Yes…more strawberries.

Did I say I was done with strawberries? I’m so sorry…did you mishear?

Oh. I don’t remember saying it. I hope you don’t mind…really though, you won’t. You will be thrilled, if you just have a go at some basic, straight up, homemade strawberry jam.

Resistance is futile.

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You know, I went out to breakfast this weekend…or onesies, since I’d missed elevensies.

As I unintentionally wowed my husband and our friend by systematically taking down a breakfast built for two truckers in under five minutes, I reached for the jam on the table. All I had left was the toast, and I stretched for the finish line.

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I saw the family two tables away giving me a puzzled look. The walk of shame booth across the way was giving me the stink eye, probably because my ability to eat massive quantities at speed (wait…is that a physics formula?) shamed all of woman kind.

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I ain’t judging by the way…I can neither confirm nor deny any experience with such things. Just a sign of a good night.

The breakfast joint had those little individual tubs of jam on the table, you know. I slathered the strawberry on my toasted bread, took a bite.

Gads, it was awful. I’ve been on this jam, the simplest thing ever…and I can’t go back. You shouldn’t either. That stuff made me stop eating.

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This is literally the recipe from the Ball Canning website. It’s not exactly a secret, but I’m sharing it with you anyway…just in case it gives you that teeny push you need to get some on your toast.

Rinse, hull (or just slice off the green bits) and very roughly chop 3 pounds of strawberries and throw them in a heavy bottomed pot.

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Grab your pectin – one box should do it.

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And read your instructions guys! This brand said to add it straight to the fruit, then heat, then add the sugar.

Other brands may have some weirdo instructions.

So check yours out before you get going, and follow their instructions. They probably know best here.

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So that’s what I did…stir, per the package, with the heat up to medium high.

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Meanwhile, let’s get some lemon juice.

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I squeezed it straight into the strawberry bowl.

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Mainly because it looked like a seedy specimen, and I didn’t want pips landing in my jam.

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And, about 1/4 cup total juice can go right in with the heating berries.

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The magic will start to happen as they cook.

Now, lots of jam recipes tell you to crush your berries before cooking the jam. Personally, I cut about 1/3 of the berries just in half and chop the rest – mostly, I love the thrill I get when I get a big hunk of strawberry on my toast.

If you go big like me, don’t worry if these are still big chunks.

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In about ten minutes, they’ll have all broken down…except for the stray chunks which makes eating toast like winning the food lottery.

Add your sugar. Yes, a lot.

Get that heat up so you have a vigorous boil.

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A boil that you can’t stir away will do.

Make sure you skim off as much foam as you can as you go. Just make a game of it. Do it to music.

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May I suggest the Rock of Ages soundtrack? Just don’t let anyone see you rock out in the kitchen to Russell Brandt’s cover of Jefferson Starship.

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After two minutes at a furiously angry boil, turn off the heat.

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Fill your readied jars.

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Finger twist on your lids.

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And load ’em up, head ’em out. To water bath processing, that is.

Ten minutes please, so you don’t die. I like you, you know.

Check this one out if you want a closer look at the processing part:

http://perfectcrumb.com/2013/02/14/cherry-kiss-preserves/

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Once they’re cooled, sealed, and the lids have plip plopped, throw a label on these and store in the pantry for up to one year…if they last that long.

This one’s a keeper guys. It will ruin you for any commercial strawberry jam, and I’m not apologizing.

Straight Up Strawberry Jam

Adapted (barely, really just scaled down) from the Ball Canning website

You will need about 45 minutes to an hour and:

3 pounds strawberries, hulled and roughly chopped

1 lemon, juiced

1 standard box pectin

6 cups granulated sugar, or 1 cup per cup of fruit

Add your rinsed, hulled, and chopped strawberries (I had about 6 cups from the 3 pounds of berries) to a heavy bottomed sauce pot or dutch oven on medium high. Add the lemon juice and follow the directions on your pectin for adding the sugar and the pectin.

As here, add the pectin directly to the fruit and lemon juice, and cook until the strawberries have broken down, about 10 – 15 minutes. Remember to stir frequently to prevent scorching the bottom (there’s no salvaging that)

Then, add the sugar all at once and bring the heat to high. Boil furiously and stir with just as much force for 1 – 2 minutes, then turn off the heat.

Fill your prepared jars and water bath process for 10 minutes, or store in the fridge.

Makes about 64 ounces of jam, or 8 8 ounce jars.

Posted in Breakfast, Jams and Preserves, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Carrot Parsnip Ginger Soup

It totally tastes better than it looks. Promise.

It totally tastes better than it looks. Promise.

So spring has totally sprung, dude. Birds chirping. Flowers blooming. Walking Dead is back.

The usual signs are all here. What this means is that two major knee-shaking with fear events are on the horizon:

1. April 15th…the tax man cometh.

and 2…and perhaps even scarier: swimsuit season approaches.

Now, I’m not suddenly going low fat/low carb/low deliciousness on you, but keep in mind that I don’t eat only what gets posted here, in its buttery glory. I totally have wobbly bits to keep in check.

Lots of things go un-posted: a basic salad with some protein thingy, oatmeal, yogurt, toast (as she crunches, spraying crumbs across the computer screen), a bowl of veggies for dinner…what have you. I just don’t think anyone wants to see that stuff, unless it’s a superfabulous salad or home strained greek yogurt.

You can totally see this one though: Carrot Parsnip Ginger Soup. Here, we get to use up the last parsnips of the winter that were stashed in the crisper for, like, weeks. So, we feel less wasteful…go on. Feel it.

Then, we get to enjoy its awesome flavor. I love parsnips…it took me by surprise, but there’s something about their weird little bite that thrills me.

And even better, this stuff’s super good for you. Vitamins and junk. Totally vegan, but you can use chicken stock and a touch of cream if that morally offends you in some way. Even doctored, this stuff will both comfort and prepare you for swimsuit season.

For tax day? Good luck.

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Parsnips. A second cousin or so to carrots.

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Do you see the family resemblance?

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Not siblings…a bit removed for that.

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But definitely invited to the family reunion.

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Into a soup pot with some olive oil you go.

You could totally line a cookie sheet with foil and roast the carrots and parsnips, doused lovingly with the oil, sprinkled with herbs, at 400 for 40 minutes. I’ve done that before.

You don’t have to though, this is still awesome.

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Welcome to the party, carrots!

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What a lovely color you’re wearing.

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Into the pot you go.

Leave them alone for a while before giving them a stir, to get some color.

Or don’t. S’cool.

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Friends who help clean up dropped bits in the kitchen are just fabulous.

Did you know he and I blast the music and dance in the kitchen together?

Yep. Totally dog abuse? But he likes it…

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Chop up an onion and throw it in…

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And smoosh some garlic with a knife to peel it, then toss that in too. Garlic can totally par-tay.

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48 ounces of vegetable stock…if you want to make this vegan and for just a meal or two, totally feel like you’re just a better person than anyone else.

Totally true. Sorry. Veganism does something to your psyche.

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Cover and bubble up that soup pot of health until the veg is tender…don’t test it with your fingers, like Jes-say.

But she does have some purty fingers, so we’ll let her slide.

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Grab some freakish looking ginger.

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I don’t bother to peel it…just wash and grate.

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About a tablespoon, or an inch and a half chunk.

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And just add that in here…the kick is pretty awesome.

Sweetness from the carrots, spice from the ginger and garlic, that certain somethin’ somethin’ the parsnips throw down. Quite the combo.

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Grab your immersion blender and puree.

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Blend this into oblivion!

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Salt and pepper, of course.

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A squeeze of lemon for freshness.

I am really liking this as a soup finishing tool…truly the simplest twists are the greatest!

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Ladle it up.

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Into a big ole bowl. Relax. It’s uber healthy.

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You can totally eat heaps of it and feel good about it.

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And to make it even more awesome, dunk a glorious piece of buttered crusty bread in here.

The butter is totally cancelled out by the parsnips. Bring on the pool time!

Carrot Parsnip Ginger Soup

You will need about 30 minutes and:

1 pound carrots

1 pound parsnips

1 yellow onion

3 -4 cloves garlic

48 ounces vegetable broth or stock

olive oil

fresh ginger

lemon juice

Add some olive oil to a large pot or dutch oven and start it over medium high heat. Peel and chop your parsnips into 1 – 2 inch cubes and add them to the pot. Chop your carrots, peel and chop your onion, and add those as well. Let them sit for a few minutes before stirring to allow them to color.

Using a large knife, bear down on the garlic cloves to peel and add them to the pot as well.

Reduce heat to medium and pour in the vegetable stock. Cover and simmer until the veg is all fork tender, about 20 minutes.

Wash the ginger and finely grate about a tablespoon. Add that to the pot and turn off the heat.

Using an immersion blender, or a regular blender in batches, blend the soup until smooth and velvety. If it’s too thick, feel free to splash in a bit more broth, or even water.

Salt and pepper to taste, and just before serving squeeze in the juice of half a lemon.

*If you prefer a richer soup and aren’t worried about a random vegan coming ’round for dinner, use chicken broth instead of the vegetable and splash in 1/4 cup of heavy cream instead of the lemon juice. Just fabulous.

Serves 8

 

 

Posted in Dinner, Recipes, Soups | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yogurt Pancakes for Two

What are you makin' for breakfast tomorrow?

What are you makin’ for breakfast tomorrow?

Want to make someone really super happy? Make pancakes for breakfast.

That someone can just be you if you want – that’s worth it. This recipe will do about 10-12 5 inch unbelievably fluffy pancakes…while realistically they could serve 4, let’s splurge and do them up for just two of us, hey? Or cut it in half and just do them for you, on your own, on a Saturday.

We don’t do things strictly for ourselves nearly often enough. Let’s be selfish this weekend, whaddya think?

Soak in the bath and ignore your phone. Putter around and try not to kill every green thing in the garden. Have a lie in with a puppy without setting the alarm at all.

When you do stumble out of bed, make some of these. Believe that all is right in the world.

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Grab some plain yogurt…no milk in these pancakes, no conversion to buttermilk. Nah. Too early, too many steps. Besides, yogurt is, like, almost the same as buttermilk.

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Seriously. One substitution for buttermilk is a few tablespoons of yogurt, rather than a smidge of vinegar, added to regular milk. We’re just skipping a step.

Grab a couple eggs too while you’re waiting on the coffee to brew.

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Just dump it all in a mixing bowl.

Sometimes to be good to ourselves we just do things the easy way.

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And we add some vanilla…makes everything awesom-er.

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Vanilla + pancake batter = meant to be.

See? I haven’t lost the important math.

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Promising…

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A couple spoonfuls of sugar from that bowl over there and a teaspoon of kosher salt.

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And we’ll need this too, for a touch of rise.

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Flour. Just let it flop in there…

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And just barely combine. Leave any lumps where they lie, they won’t be there when we’re done. Scout’s honor. Of course, I was never a scout, so take that as you will.

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Heat a large skillet over medium low heat until it’s nice and hot, and add some butter. A cast iron skillet would be best, but…I don’t know why I didn’t use mine. No excuses for that, but all was fine in the end.

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This stuff is really thick, much thicker than that stuff that’s premixed in the jug. Thicker than milk based pancake batter. Don’t fret, it’s meant to be that way.

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Ladle the batter into your buttery skillet.

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Truly a soothing activity. No sounds at all but the pancakes sizzling and the coffee brewing.

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Once the edges look dry and the cakes themselves are all bubbly you can flip ’em.

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Beauties! Another minute or so on the other side, and stack them on a foil lined cookie sheet in a 180 degree oven (or the lowest keep warm setting) while you go on to finish the rest.

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Seriously guys. The fluff in the batter? This is what you get because of it. Such unbelievably light pancakes.

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By now, maybe your spouse has stumbled into the kitchen, wondering where the smell of bliss is coming from.

If you have a strawberry overload like I do, maybe you could slice a handful and sprinkle them with sugar. Just saying.

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And grab a few bits and pieces for breakfast.

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Grab your pancakes and add a pat of butter. Just cause.

Allow some sugared berries to cascade across them.

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Drizzle the whole mess with pure maple syrup.

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If strawberry shortcake for breakfast doesn’t make you feel special, I don’t know what will.

Yogurt Pancakes for Two

Adapted from Ina Garten’s Banana Sour Cream Pancakes and Pioneer Woman’s Sour Cream Pancakes…there’s a world of pancakes out there y’all.

You will need 20 minutes and:

2 cups plain yogurt

2 eggs

2 1/2 cups flour

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 tablespoons sugar

butter for greasing pan

Heat a large skillet over medium low heat.

Combine all ingredients besides butter gently in a mixing bowl.

Melt butter in the skillet to grease and spoon large tablespoons worth of the thick batter onto the skillet, at least an inch apart, as they will spread.

Cook 2-3 minutes, or until the edges are dry and the pancakes have bubbles. Flip, and cook another 1-2 minutes or until golden.

Stack on a foil lined cookie sheet in a 180 degree oven (or the lowest keep warm setting) while you go on to finish the rest.

When you have griddled them all, serve with sugared strawberries, butter, jam, syrup, or all of the above.

Serves 2 – 4, depending on how much company you want first thing in the morning.

Posted in Baking, Breakfast, Desserts, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bacon Swiss Mac and Cheese

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Mac and cheese is always good, but there are certain levels of awesomeness it can achieve on its own. There ain’t nothin’ wrong with the 33 cent box with the powder…or even the “splurge” of the boxed shells and “cheez.”

However, a homemade mac and cheese, begun with a roux and freshly grated cheese and finished in the oven with crust above and creamy cheese gold beneath? That’s poetry. That’s the stuff of comfort when life is crap. That’s a celebration waiting to happen. That really could illicit a marriage proposal, unlike Glamour’s famous “Engagement Chicken.”

You can go any way you want with mac and cheese-leave out the bacon (gasp), change the cheeses to cheddar and add some cayenne and dried mustard, refuse to bake it and simply slurp it up straight from the pot. I really don’t mind what you do, because you can’t go wrong with this.

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Start by grating up your cheese, something I hate with a capital Ugh…mostly because I always rush through it and scrape my knuckles on the grater.

Since I have no patience, I got this:

http://www.amazon.com/Kitchenaid-RVSA-Rotor-Slicer-Shredder/dp/B001KOXWFA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1362004270&sr=8-1&keywords=kitchen+aid+grater+attachment

My Kitchen Aid is my appliance savior. I cannot overstate this-it has been with me for well over a decade, through 8 homes, survived battered relationships, earthquakes and state lines…and it still works.

Plus, with a handy dandy grating attachment, I can grate 5 pounds of cheese in the blink of an eye and with no blood loss…or just grate about 3 cups, as here.

In my top ten kitchen tools...

In my top ten kitchen tools…

I don’t have many motorized kitchen appliances (toaster, immersion blender, and that lush standing mixer. Done) and while I yearn for an actual food processor someday, I’ll make due with a knife…and the grating attachment here.

If you’re feeling frisky, you can get this:

http://www.amazon.com/KitchenAid-KPSA-Stand-Mixer-Pasta-Roller-Attachment/dp/B000TTCK64/ref=sr_1_2?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1362004603&sr=1-2&keywords=kitchenaid+pasta+attachment

or even:

http://www.amazon.com/KitchenAid-KICA0WH-Cream-Maker-Attachment/dp/B0002IES80/ref=sr_1_1?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1362004654&sr=1-1&keywords=kitchenaid+ice+cream+maker+attachment

Your Kitchen Aid can do just about anything, except maybe change your oil in your car. I bet there’s even a lawn mowing attachment…

In any case, grate up a pound of swiss:

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And start a big pot of water boiling and throw in these:

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Large elbows. Seems we shouldn’t tease our food about its large joints, but no matter. We’ll eat it anyway.

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Cook to just al dente…

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Drain and set aside for now.

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Grab a half pound of bacon.

I typically have a half pound of bacon around because there’s just two of us who live here. While I know if I cooked a full pound of bacon at a time it would be eaten…ahem…in seconds flat, that’s probably not a good idea. So when I do some bacon up on a weekend, I usually cut the whole package in half, straight through the plastic, and stash half in the fridge.

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Grab your scissors and just snip little pieces right into a pot that’s big enough to take all the pasta and sauce.

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And cook on medium heat until the bacon is just crispy and all the fat has been rendered.

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Spoon the bacon into a little bowl for now, leaving the pot on the heat.

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Since I’ve only got a little over a tablespoon of bacon fat here (What?! These pigs 30 Day Shredding?) I’m going to add a tablespoon of…shhhhhh….butter.

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And a 1/2 cup flour.

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And whisk together into a roux. Cook for a minute or two, continuing to whisk.

I love this little whisk so much more than the standard ones. I think it’s meant for salad dressings and such, but it is so the roux master.

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Add 2 1/2 cups of milk and stir away for about 5 – 8 minutes.

If it still doesn’t thicken up, dissolve a few more tablespoons flour into 1/4 cup water and stir that in, always does the trick.

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Once we have a thin yogurt consistency, add a good amount of salt.

No tragedy like over-salted soup and under-salted mac and cheese.

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Pepper…from the box. Sorry.

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And the queso…I’ve got about 3 cups swiss and 1/2 cup mozzarella because I had it and it wasn’t enough to use for anything else.

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Toss it in and reduce the heat to low so it can melt, stirring occasionally.

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While you’re at it, add 4 ounces of goat cheese.

You can leave this out or you can sub cream cheese in for it, it’s up to you. If it’s up to me, well, duh. I’m adding it. It’s not necessary, especially if you were, say, doing a cheddar mac. But with the swiss and the bacon, it just makes the whole thing feel very…adult.

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Let everything melt together…surreptitiously sneak tastes.

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Then just dump the bacon back in. Reunited!

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Drizzle a little of the sauce in with an egg and stir it together to temper it so you don’t end up with cheesy scrambled eggs.

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And pour that in too…stir to combine these forces. Forces for good. Unless you’re dieting…then, not so much.

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Grab some of these. Forget that we felt grown up about this and dump in about a cup, straight into the sauce.

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Now go stash the box in the back of the pantry so no one sees it. Goooooo! Get to the choppahhhh!

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Add about a cup of these to the sauce, along with the noodles.

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Give it a stir and take a bite to check the seasonings…and another bite because it’s hot dang good.

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Pour it into a casserole dish…

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Top with another cup of panko crumbs, and if you like, another sprinkle of those french fried onions that shall not be named. If you want, you can cover this with heavy duty foil and freeze for another day, but I’m impatient.

When you’re ready, bake at 350 until golden on top, bubbly, and (swoon) perfect, about 40 minutes.

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Enjoy!

Bacon Swiss Mac and Cheese

You will need about an hour (including baking time) and:

1 pound elbow noodles

1/2 pound bacon

1 tablespoon of butter (optional)

1/2 cup flour

2 1/2 cups milk

3 cups freshly grated swiss cheese

4 ounces goat cheese

1/2 cup mozzarella (optional)

1 egg

1 cup french fried onions

2 cups panko crumbs, divided

salt and pepper

Cook the macaroni in boiling salted water until all dente. Drain and set aside.

Cut the bacon with a scissors or knife into small pieces and add to a large pot. Cook on medium heat until just crisp and remove with a spoon to a separate bowl.

You should have about 2 tablespoons bacon grease. If you’re short, add a tablespoon of butter. Add 1/2 cup flour and whisk to combine into a roux.

Cook for 1 – 2 minutes, whisking occasionally, then whisk in the milk. Allow it to thicken for 5 – 8 minutes, stirring every minute or so.

Add salt, pepper, and all the cheeses. Reduce heat to low and allow the cheeses to melt.

Crack the egg into a small bowl and drizzle in a tablespoon of the cheesy sauce. Stir to temper, and pour it into the pot. Add the bacon, the french fried onions, and half the panko. Stir to combine and add the noodles.

Fold everything together and taste for seasonings.

Pour it all into a baking dish and top with the remaining panko.

Bake at 350 until golden on top and bubbly, about 40 minutes.

Serves 12.

Posted in Dinner, Pasta, Recipes, Sides | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments