Oatmeal Raisin & Walnut Muffins

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Craigy, nutty, only slightly sweet, wonderful muffins

It was Dec. 8th, feast of the Immaculate Conception. And I made it a point, with the new upcoming year, to start making more of our feast days. After all, whats not to like about feasts? Why let them slide by with no feasting? So this day needed something special for breakfast. Mini feasty. And I didn’t have all day, it had to be quick and easy.

Muffins.

Muffins are wonderful. Continue reading “Oatmeal Raisin & Walnut Muffins”

Strawberry Yogurt Pie

That title is kind of loosie-goosie. Its more like cream cheese Cool Whip pie with a bit of strawberry.

It’s like the one I remember grandma making way back in the day, only last time I tried to remake it, I didn’t use any strawberries. I found an old recipe of hers that was just cream cheese pie, with Cool Whip and sour cream.

So I did some research and found recipes using strawberry jello. But I just ended up making my own version. Its’ easy enough and a great cool dessert for hot days in the desert.

Its kind of like what I put in the strawberry cream trifle of excellence.

Only instead of cream cheese pudding mix, I used a brick of cream cheese.

And no pound cake. Mores the pity.

Here ya go…

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Yes, that is a store bought graham cracker crust. I was doing this the grandma way.

Continue reading “Strawberry Yogurt Pie”

Stuffed Bell Peppers

Did you like them as a child?

Did they make your heart go wild?
Would you eat them in a box?

Would you eat them with a fox?

No thanks.

I didn’t like eating bell peppers in any way shape or form.

Buuuuttttt, I did like eating out the middle. My sympathetic mom would leave out bell pepper from the stuffing part and that part I would eat. With gusto.

Not much has changed. I still prefer the flavor imparted by bell peppers than eating bell pepepers themselves.

Funnily enough, just when I went searching for stuffed bell pepper recipes (because my one and only bell pepper plant in the garden has given me at least a dozen bells!), I looked on the Pioneer Womans site, which is always a good starting place. Low and behold, what did I find first thing-front page? Stuffed Bell Peppers!

Ree always has your back.

So this is largely thanks to Ree at Pioneer Woman with a little tinkering from me.

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Ready to be popped into a 350 oven. In spite of it being summer…Its just cool enough tonight to get away with it. especially if we eat outside.

Continue reading “Stuffed Bell Peppers”

Saucy Sweet Potatoes with Apples

I kind of like the idea of being called ‘saucy and sweet’. Better than ‘cranky and bitter’.

Well these potatoes are neither cranky n or bitter.

It is a fabulous dish to have even if its summer and too hot to bake. Hubby picked out the apple bits at the end because he said it tasted like apple pie and, being gluten free, that was something he really didn’t have any more.

It’s so easy, you don’t really need a recipe per say.

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All I used were a few  sweet potatoes that I peeled, sliced and simmered in some water until tender. Drain, dice into chunks and set aside. Continue reading “Saucy Sweet Potatoes with Apples”

Spinach and Chicken Waldorf

You know how it is; a friend of your aunt Sally’s has a sister who won a blue ribbon with this awesome pie recipe.

Or the airline attendants brothers wife’s sister knows someone who works at the French Laundry and can get you this awesome recipe for…

Well, here is one from Hillstone’s restaurant who gave it to Bon Appetit who put it on there website, which landed as a post in my inbox because of the subscription to their magazine from my daughter…

It’s truly awesome!

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I poured a little extra dressing on top. I just couldn’t get that ‘piled high’ look to it though.

After reading their article here about the Hillstone restaurant group, look online to see if they have one near you. Continue reading “Spinach and Chicken Waldorf”

Caramel Cake

Apparently caramel cake is a southern thang. I had been collecting recipes for this cake for a while, always a bit wistfully, waiting for an excuse to make it.

I finally tried it out for our church bake sale, selling it by the slice. It became my new BFF and I even made it myself for my birthday last November. (I couldn’t trust anyone else to get the frosting just right, don’t ya’ know.) And if I am deadnburied, feel free to make this on my birthday and remember me with fondness, while biting in to the soft caramely goodness.

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here it is with a few slices left to it. Enough for me and you.

Continue reading “Caramel Cake”

Cake Strips

Just a quick note for you cake maker out there, or cake makers to be.

Over 20 years ago, yes, I must have been an infant, I took a cake decorating class. I learned 2 things. One, that you really should use cake strips around your cake pans and 2, I dont like decorating cakes! I don’t like the mess of cleaning up all the random icing that gets stuck every darn where and can’t go down the sink, lest it clogs the drain. Of course, it is easier with disposable frosting bags, but still…

Cake strips, I’m not exactly sure thats what they are called, are strips of something that you soak in hot water, run between two fingers to get out some of the excess water, leaving it wet still and, using a safety pin, pin it around your cake pan.

Why?

So you dont get a huge dome for a cake.

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Here we go-tops flat as a pancake. (Like most of us gals until we are 13, 14, 15 or so). If you look close, the strips are the same color as the pans. Now you can get them in cool colors. This set is very, very old. They still work great though. No domes crowning in the middle of my  cakes! Just flat plains.  This particular cake is getting ready to be made into Caramel Cake. (I will try to post this recipe for you soon. It is from a “Best of” book by Americas Test Kitchen.)

Adios amigos!

Mini Spinach Lasagne

You are going to want to run out right now and make this! Its delicious! Its easy! It’s meatless (for those meatless Friday nights, or every night for some of you.)

I have made this twice now and keep forgetting why I dont make it more often. Probably because I just plain…forget.

The only hitch is, you should be using a brownie pan. You know, those square muffin type pans used to make brownies. Like this…

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They are more shallow than muffin pans and hold the square ravioili’s perfectly. I tried them in the round muffin pans and I couldn’t get them in there. You would have to use smaller ravioli’s, like some fresh ones I found at the store.

Anyway, hopefully you have one of these. If you don’t and want one, give me a call. (they are $20 bucks from Pampered Chef).

I dont have a picture of the finished product, but have a couple of the steps along the way. You can make it, take a pic and send it to me. Last night I made this for my son and his friends, then I left the house for book club. So I kind of forgot about taking a picture. They had that and the easy-cheesey-focaccia bread (without the pepperoni it was supposed to have), and a salad. Oh, and cheater cherry cobbler.

Mini Spinach Lasagna Squares

  • 4 oz mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 1 oz parmesan, grated
  • 1 pkg chopped frozen spinach, 10 oz, thawed and drained. (I used slivered fresh)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 3/4 cup marinara sauce, divided
  • 24 small frozen cheese ravioli’s. (about 1 1/2″x2″)
  1. heat the oven to 350.
  2. mix 1/2 cup of the mozzarella, parmesan and spinach. Use a garlic press on the garlic and add to this. Mix with a wooden spoon or a mix n scraper.
  3. Measure out 1 tbsp. of the marinara into each well of the brownie pan. Place a frozen ravioli over it.
  4. Put a small scoop of the spinach/cheese mixture over the ravioli’s and then another ravioli on top of that. Now another spoonful of marinara.
  5. top it off with the leftover mozzarella.
  6. I put the pan on a parchment lined baking sheet, in case of spillage. Put into the oven and bake 20-22 minutes.

 

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Look at those pretty colors!

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For now you will just have to imagine them all cooked down, gooey, hot, and tender. Actually, now that I think of it, this could be a very versatile recipe, couldn’t it? How about seafood ravioli’s with a garlic cream sauce? (Like Alfredo) with maybe some chopped up bacon in between the layers. Ah ha! I think I’m on to something!

 

Anyway, thank you to the Pampered Chef for this great and snappy recipe. You can find it here… And it will have a picture of the done deal.

 

Homemade Buttermilk

If you have a heating pad lying around the house, I am about to tell you a new and useful way to use it. And it has nothing to do with buttermilk.

Because you don’t need it to make buttermilk. Making buttermilk is even easier than making yogurt. Of course, not everyone has a ‘thing’ for buttermilk like I have. And I don’t even drink it straight. I just love baking with it. Buttermilk makes bread products moister and more flavorful. It makes wonderful ranch or blue cheese dressing. How about buttermilk doughnuts? Yes, the crowd goes wild!

Well I usually just buy the yellow carton of Knudsons buttermilk at any ol’ store. (cheapest at Smart and Final). But I was at Sprouts and decided to get the Organic Valley pasture raised cows buttermilk, which cost an extra buck maybe. It was labeled ‘cultured buttermilk’ like all the other brands.

Then as hubby and I were walking around in the store, who should I run into but my neighbor-down-the-street, the totally organic lady with the veggie garden in her front yard and is the one who always updates me when Whole Foods has their chicken on sale. She saw the buttermilk and asked if I had heard of this other kind, the name escapes her, but it is around $7 a little bottle and tastes fabulous! Well, no, I had not heard of it and I would not pay $7 a bottle for ANY buttermilk. But she buys it by the case, because she loves to drink it, and gets a case discount!

That afternoon she came knocking on my door with a bottle of this…

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Kalona SUPERNATURAL Buttermilk. (please disregard the chopped veggies waiting to me omelet-ted)

“Try it” she kept saying. Really? Drink it? I usually just bake with you ya’ know. But I buckled under the pressure and poured a little bit of my Organic Valley buttermilk and a little of the Supernatural one. With only minor nose wrinkling, I tasted them both and no, I still do not drink buttermilk. But I have to say, my buttermilk tasted very much like just tart buttermilk, kind of sour. But her tasted like…a cross between buttermilk and yogurt. Not as tart, very interesting flavor. I could definitely tell a difference in quality here.

The ingredient label actually listed the cultures used to make this, kind of like when you buy yogurt. So, if it has culture like yogurt, why cant you make it yourself, like you can yogurt? Neighbor Barb got very excited at that idea and so I went to work.

I researched. It should be easy. Just mix up a good quality milk with a good buttermilk at a ratio of 3/1. So I took a mason jar, put 1 cup of this buttermilk in it and added 3 cups of milk to it, put a lid on and shook it up a bit. Then I loosened the lid, set it aside and THAT’S IT!

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If I’m going through the effort of making yogurt myself (effort, what effort? Its easier than going to the store.) I am going to make it organic.
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Ready to be tucked away for brewage! brewing? Incubating?

12 to 18 hours later you have buttermilk! It tastes like it, smells like it, looks like it.

Except one thing. The first time I made it, I set it on the heating pad, like I do my yogurt now and waited the full 18 hours.

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this heating pad on the table is great for brewing yogurt, (which is what is pictures here) keeping it warm while it ferments for 24 hours. It also helps sprout my little baby lettuce plants much much faster! 3-4 days instead of 10! I tried the buttermilk this way too at first.

It became something altogether different. Smelled and tasted like  a cross between yogurt and buttermilk , as I expected but with the consistency of European yogurt, thickish but still a bit pourable. Or maybe I made creme fresh. Or a little like sour cream. I just dont know. But I used it in my recipes to make buttermilk pancakes and biscuits. It still worked fabulous. I just thinned it out with a little milk. Next time I would culture it less.

Or would I? I decided yesterday to make another batch. I mixed it up in under 2 minuets and set it aside, this time on the counter. Only it was 9 am. Which means it might be ready by 9 tonight or as late as 3 am. Yikes! I had better check it at 9. I am not sure if it was thick last time because of the extra heat or the 18 hours, but I would check it at 12 hours this time.

Only thing is, I went to my book club last night. Then when I got home, my sons had friends over and, with hubby out of town, had kind of taken over the house, so I retired to my room, already tired at 930. Buttermilk? What buttermilk? I didn’t remember the buttermilk until I woke up at 2:30 am. Then I remembered it oh-boy! I went leaping out of bed and dashed to the kitchen. There is was, still brewing in its little corner. I opened the lid. Smells great. I tipped it. Sheesh, thick again!

Sigh. So I have yet to make it at its proper consistency. But that is such a small problem. A non-problem really. And I need to find out if I can get the same good results with other buttermilks. And how many generations of buttermilk culture can I get out of that first bottle? I used the last of it to make this new batch. I will make a new batch off this homemade culture. Will it still work? How about another batch after that? How long before it stops working? Usually with yogurt, you need to freshen the culture after 3 or 4 batches.

So, if you would like to get 4 times the buttermilk out of your carton of buttermilk, now you know that you can make it yourself, easier than falling off a log. And much less painful!

PS, I found out that by putting my homemade yogurt to incubate on the heating pad for 24 hours, it comes out perfect! Tart, thick-yes, thick, without adding gelatin or anything to it. See this post on making yogurt yourself.

French Kings Cake (Galette des Rois)

Epiphany. The Magi. Feasting. Cakes with little plastic babies in them. Or not.

We were invited to a friends home for a lovely Epiphany party a few days after Epiphany and I was in charge with bringing the kings cake.Which is fine and I looked up recipes. I just needed to make a sweet dough, use an almond filling, roll it up, etc.

No.

Not even close. Nope.

What was required was a FRENCH kings cake made with puff pastry.

And so I did more research and came up with several recipes and it was fun to make. I also learned new things working with this kind of pastry.

Such as, when you do not crimp the edges, you get lots of puff, as in this…

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What starts like this…
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Turns into this! Mon Dieu!

While, if you crimp the edges, say with a fork, sealing the edges together, you go from this…(notice all the crimping marks on edges)

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To this…

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Not nearly as puffed.

It tasted the same, just looked a little different.

I did not have any baby Jesus to put in the cake, nor any fava beans, which is tradition. (Whoever gets the slice with the bean or baby in it is king/queen for the party…or has to bring the Kings cake next year, whichever tradition you like best).

I wrapped a dime in foil and inserted that into the round cake. Thats what I learned from the Greek New Years cake I made. These other countries have these great old traditions I just love, especially if it involves desserts.

Here is the recipe for kings cake. It makes 2.

Galette des Rois

  • 2 pkgs or puff pastry sheets, thawed, but cold
  • 1 cup of soft butter
  • 1 cup of ground almonds (you can grind yourself if you have them)
  • 4 Tbsp flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 1 tsp of almond extract
  • pinch of salt
  • powdered sugar for dusting
  • egg yolk mixed with water for an egg wash (I use a whole egg mixed with a tbsp of water or so)

directions:

preheat oven to 450 degrees.

with an electric mixer (I used hand mixer as opposed to my kitchen aid), mix the first 7 ingredients (after the puff pastry) together. That was pretty easy, oui?

On a lightly floured cold surface (I had a marble cutting board just for this kind of thing) roll out one of the pastry sheets to about 9-10″. Now you can either cut it into a large circle and make a round cake or just make a large rectangular cake. If making a round, for instance, you will cut a round circle out of the second pastry. Each box of pastry comes with 2 sheets.

Put one of the pastry sheets on a baking pan that is lined with parchment paper. Brush the edges with the egg wash. Spread half the frangipane cream (yes, that’s what you made earlier) over the pastry dough. AT this point you might want to hide your baby/bean/coin thingy somewhere on it.

Now place the second pastry over it, either round or square or rectangle or moon shape or stars, whatever you ended up using. Press the edges together so the filling wont ooze out. I sealed the round one with a more decorative touch, which did not seal as well. Some filling oozed out, but not much. Some leaked out of the other too, so you just never know.

Now make the second one.

With the sharp edge of a small knife, I decorated just the top of the pastry puffs, not to poke through, just to barely slice a thin layer of the top.  Mine was a feather type design I saw on the web. I then brushed the egg wash over it and put them in the oven.

Bake the galette for 15 minutes, rotating the pans if baking 2. After that, reduce the oven temp to 350 and bake another 30 minutes. During the last 5, take it out, dust with powdered sugar and put back in the oven.

“Serve warm with a gold paper crown on top”.

Oh sure, I did that-NOT. Brought it to the party, sliced it up and had 2 servings. Next time I might add some apricot jam as a bottom layer under the frangipane.

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Close up of the design I scratched into it.

Enjoy! Happy Epiphany, a little late…

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Dear friend, always opening up your home to gobs of people, feeding them delicious and organic foods. God bless you!