Showing posts with label Favorite Foods. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Favorite Foods. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

FOOL-PROOF Pie Crust!

We wanted to share just a quick note today, something you'll put us in your will for!

Summer is a fun time to try new baking adventures and summer is the time for picnics. Then why not combine the two--bake an amazing pie and take it to a picnic?

So the reason you'll be putting us in your will? Jeanne's FOOL-PROOF pie crust recipe. It'll be showing up in our Sep-Oct issue of the Cook'n Magazine, but until then, you need it now.

JEANNE'S FOOL-PROOF PIE CRUST (enough crust for about 2 pies)

4 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 3/4 cups butter-flavored Crisco
1/2 cup iced water
1 egg
1 tablespoon vinegar

Mix dry ingredients well. Work Crisco into crust (Alice uses a pastry blender, Jeanne uses her fingers) until mixture resembles crumbly meal. (Careful here...don't overwork.) Whip egg and vinegar together; add to water. Pour over flour/Crisco mixture and work it all together quickly and lightly. Cover dough and refrigerate about 30 minutes. Then roll out the best crust you'll every make in your life!

TIP: Alice prefers rolling her crust between 2 sheets of plastic wrap, rather than sprinkling her counter surface with flour, the way most folks do. Clean up is easier and you avoid adding extra flour into the dough.

Do YOU have a pie crust recipe you feel as strongly about as we do this one? If so, please share. We're all in this together, remember. Meanwhile, here's to family dinner made easy as we ramp up the 'ol pie-making endeavor!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Take Your Baking Up Several Notches with DUTCH Cocoa Powder!

Many of our favorite cake and brownie recipes call for cocoa powder. While most of these recipes call for sifting the cocoa with flour, you can catch its full flavor by combining the cocoa with a small amount of boiling water prior to adding it to a recipe. (If you want to try this in a recipe, substitute some of the liquid in the recipe for boiling water.) 

There are two types of  unsweetened cocoa powder: natural and Dutch-processed. We’re seeing that more and more people prefer using Dutch-processed cocoa in their baking. This is because a slight bitterness can be tasted in cakes using natural cocoa. And we're part of the group that favors Dutch cocoa. Here's why:

  • Dutch cocoa has around three times the cocoa butter of grocery store cocoa (the natural type). The cocoa butter content in Dutch is between 22% and 24%.  Store-bought natural-type cocoa usually has only 8% cocoa butter. More cocoa butter means a richer cookie, cake, and brownie--much more chocolately! 
  • Good Dutch cocoa is processed with alkali which helps neutralize cocoa’s natural acidity. 
  • Its delicate flavor makes it ideal in baked goods, where its subtle flavor complements other ingredients. Store-bought cocoa  doesn’t have this advantage.     
It's important to note that natural (think Hershey's that you see in the grocery store) and Dutch cocoa can’t be switched out successfully. It is best to use the cocoa type specified in the recipe because the leavening agent used is dependent on the type of cocoa powder. Droste, Lindt, Valrhona, Poulain and Pernigotti are some popular Dutch brands.

Alice made brownies last week while children and grandchildren were visiting, and the crowd went wild. Here's her recipe--using DUTCH cocoa, of course. And if YOU have any cocoa recipes your family favors, please share. Meanwhile, here's to family dinner made easy, and even tastier thanks to the discovery of Dutch cocoa!


BROWNIES TO DIE FOR

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup Dutch cocoa
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 to 1 cup chopped nuts (optional, but they're SO good!)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil and sugar an 8x8x2-inch pan. In a medium saucepan melt butter. Remove melted butter from heat; add cocoa and stir until well blended. Add sugar and mix well. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat well. Add vanilla and mix well. Stir in flour and salt. DO NOT OVERBEAT. Fold in nuts. Spread in prepared pan and bake 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  

Friday, May 25, 2012

Gluten Intolerant Can Enjoy Flour-Free Fool-Proof Cornbread!


Yesterday we promised more fool-proof cornbread recipes from the wonderful website, Prepared Pantry. So here you go. They've done all the trial and error so we don't have to! And remember, for the gluten intolerant, these recipes are just the ticket. So here's to corn bread indulgence and family dinner made easy!

APPLE & BACON CORNBREAD
This is a sweeter cornbread with a different texture. Apple and bacon are a wonderful combination. Instead of cheese, it's made with melted butter and maple syrup. It is an egg-rich, skillet cornbread and a flourless recipe.

1 1/4 C yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
4 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 melted butter
3 Tbsp maple syrup
1/2 pound bacon
1 1/2 medium sized apples, finely diced or shredded with peel

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Fry the bacon to a crisp, pat the grease from the bacon with paper towels, and crumble or chop the bacon.

In a large bowl, stir together the cornmeal, baking powder, salt and spices. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs then stir in the milk, melted butter, and maple syrup plus the bacon and apples. Form a well in the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix with a spatula until well combined.

Bake in a 10-inch, nonstick skillet for 20 minutes or until all but the center of the cornbread is set. Remove the cornbread from the oven and immediately sprinkle the reserved cheese over the cornbread to melt. Serve hot with butter and maple syrup.

TEXAS CHILI CORNBREAD
This recipe was adapted from Baking in America by Greg Patent.  (We recommend this book.)  For our version of this recipe, we used chiles instead of jalapenos, red bell pepper instead of pimientos, and garlic powder instead of clove garlic.   

1 C yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped and diced
1/2 medium sized onion, chopped and diced
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 4-oz can diced green chiles, drained (less if you prefer a less spicy bread)
1 cup corn kernels--fresh, frozen, or canned
11/2 cups grated cheese, cheddar or jack
 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a ten-inch skillet and place it on the middle shelf in the oven.In a large bowl, stir together the cornmeal, baking powder, sugar, and salt.   In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs then stir in the rest of the ingredients, reserving 1/2 cup of the grated cheese. 

Form a well in the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.  Mix with a spatula until well combined. Carefully remove the hot pan from the oven and immediately pour the batter into the pan.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and return to the oven. Let bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the pan comes out clean.  The top will be a rich, golden brown.  Let cool for ten minutes before un-molding. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

An Easy Way to Jazz Up Dinner!


We all have our favorite dishes and stand-by menus that we tend to depend on. But in our quest to create excitement for and devotion to family dinner, we might want to jazz things up once in awhile--just to keep family intrigued and comin' back for more.

This said, we were tickled when reader and great cook, Colleen Kimler, recently shared an idea for adding variety and interest to basic dishes--embellishing with a creamy Polbano sauce. This sauce is delicious and easy to prepare. We'd suggest using less of the Poblano peppers though, if you're cooking for younger children. Here's Colleen's comments and her recipe. We hope you try this and let us know what you think. And meanwhile, here's to family dinner made easy as we share our recipes for keeping things interesting! 

"I make chili rellenos about every couple of months and I roast a dozen or so Poblano peppers, peel, seed and what I don't need at the moment, I freeze between layers of wax paper. Makes it a lot easier. Also, some grocers sell them already peeled and seeded in the frozen food section. Look for them in the ethnic foods also in cans. Don't use pickled. Serve over steamed broccoli, cauliflower, steaks, roasted chicken, enchiladas, or pasta, etc. Let your imagination guide you."

CREAMY POBLANO SAUCE (yield: approximately 2 cups)

3 1/2  tablespoons butter, divided use       
1 ½ Tbsp flour
1 1/2  cups milk
3 oz  cream cheese, plain or w/chives
1/2     tsp chicken bouillon powder
Salt & pepper, to taste
2 Poblano peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded

Melt 3 TBSP butter over low heat, add flour and mix well. Cook until flour is golden while stirring constantly. Pour in milk and whisk to mix well. Add cream cheese, remaining 1/2 Tbsp butter, chicken bouillon, salt & pepper.

Stir over low heat until cheese is melted. Pour into blender or food processor, add Poblano peppers and puree. Pour back into sauce pan and bring to gentle simmer, whisking constantly. Cook about 2-3 minutes or until thickened slightly (like gravy). If too thick, add more milk or chicken broth.        

Friday, March 16, 2012

How About a HEALTHY Cookie or Two!

We're still talking cookies...Cookie scoops, cookie recipes, we love 'em, don't we? Cookies are one of the most popular treats around and their popularity only seems to increase.

That said, there's an elephant in the room we need to deal with, and we do try to do that on this blog, at least part of the time. It's the weight issue some of us (and especially so many of America's children) struggle with today. And we know this is where we might lose some of you--it's easier and more fun to talk about an ultra cool cookie recipe than it is to talk about what that ultra cool cookie is doing to us.

SO, OK. We won't go there. BUT, how about a HEALTHY cookie recipe or two! Is it possible to create a truly yummy treat that can satisfy the sweet tooth without contributing to sugar addiction and adding pounds? Yup, it is. We won't bore you with the nutritional science, but the solid research says we need to cut back on our grains and sugar in-take, so the healthy cookie or treat recipe should address those needs. Here are two that Alice made off and on when her children were growing up that got their "stamp of approval."

In closing, we share these not as food Nazis swinging an evangelical bat at all the delectable "to die for" cookies, treats, etc. we love. All we're saying is, while we're building our arsenal of amazing recipes, let's include some that foster health as well.Our kids need this from us. So we'd like your help: Would you share a healthy cookie or treat recipe YOUR family likes? We'll be looking at these closely, even testing many, for our Good and Good For You section of the upcoming Cook'n Magazine, and we'd be delighted to include your recipe! Until next time then, here's to family dinner made easy as we serve up a HEALTHY cookie from time to time.

NATURAL CANDY

1 cup nut butter (almond and cashew are great alternatives for those sensitive to peanut butter)
1/4 cup cocoa (we recommend a good quality Dutch cocoa--the flavor makes all the difference)
1/4 cup mashed banana
2 tsp vanilla
Cinnamon for rolling
Walnuts, optional

Mix together, shape into balls. Roll in cinnamon. May press walnut half on top for garnish. Refrigerate. 

NUT JEWELS (yield: about 36 balls or 1 large log)

1 cup nut butter (almond and cashew are great alternatives for those sensitive to peanut butter)
1/2 cup raw honey
1 cup raisins, or dried cherries, or dried cranberries
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Mix nut butter with honey, dried fruit, vanilla, and sesame seeds. Add a little water or fruit juice if dough seems too dry. Drop spoonfuls into shredded coconut and roll into balls; coat completely. Or you can roll all the dough into one log and slice individual cookies as needed. Whichever approach you use, wrap the balls or log and chill.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

THE BEST PIZZA STONE IS THE CHEAPEST PIZZA STONE

"Do I really need a pizza stone?" and the answer is "Maybe." we went without one for a longtime and no one complained about our pizza. We used a cookie sheet and poked a few holes in the crust. Then along came the round aluminum pan which seemed logical because it was round, and pizza is usually round. It made the pizza look more official! But now many people are using the infamous pizza stone.
You may have noticed that a clay pizza stone is not always round, some are square. The clay distributes the heat more evenly, making the crust crispier. The stone is porous and gets very hot which is good because high temperatures are important for pizza and also for crusty breads. Consequently, the upside to the pizza stone is the crispy crust and the evenly cooked pizza. The downside is that, because the stone is porous, the stone looks soiled after a few uses.
A pizza stone is basically a terra cotta slab. You can pay a lot of money for a brand name, a generic brand for less or you can go to your local hardware store and buy an unglazed 18"x18" tile for less than 2 dollars. How's that for economical? (Never use glazed tile, though!)
All pizza stones should be put into a cold oven and pre-heated to the high heat according to instructions. And know that if you put a cold stone into a hot oven, it will crack. Boo hiss. Clay becomes very hot when heated and you want to be sure you have more than just a thin pot holder to handle it. A pizza paddle is the best tool for removing the pizza from the oven, but not a necessity. Just be careful! we roll out my crust, sprinkle my hot stone with corn meal and carefully toss the dough onto the hot stone.
Because the pizza stone is porous, it will season itself by absorbing the oils from the crust. There is a special way to clean your stone. First, it must be cooled down to room temperature (see above for the "cracking lesson."). Then scrape off any bits of cheese or pizza left on the stone. When washing, after the stone is completely cooled, use only warm water and no soap. The soap would be absorbed by the stone.
One more tip: If you use too much sauce you will have a soggy pizza no matter what kind of pan or stone you use. So use a light hand when slathering on the sauce.
Pizza is such a crowd pleaser. Who doesn't love pizza? We sure do! Making your own pizza ensures you have a fresh, hot pizza made just the way you like it!
We hope you found these tips helpful! I love pizza, we very fond of saving money and we enjoy knowing what tools are the best and most economical. Remember that kids love pizza and you can make some healthy versions that will keep the family excited about family dinner.

Friday, February 24, 2012

EASY 20 MINUTE CHILI RECIPE SHARED BY MAUREEN KILGOUR

Wow! We love when family, friends and neighbors share. Thanks Maureen for the awesome, easy chili recipe. it's going to get cold this week, so this recipe will be perfect! I like that it is so fast and easy to to make. Maureen  also mentions that you can double or triple the recipe and that it freezes well. Sounds like a keeper to us!

MAUREEN'S 20 MINUTE CHILI

1 pound ground beef
1 - 16 ounce can chili beans (Bush's)
1 1/2 Cup water
16 ounce can tomato paste
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves (minced)
1 Tablespoon olive oil


Heat olive oil in a large pot, add onion, garlic and ground beef. Break up beef and cook until beef is nicely browned and shows no pink. Add a can of chili beans, tomato paste and chili powder. Stir until the tomato paste is melted and all ingredients are combined. Add water and bring to a boil, turn down to simmer and cook for ten minutes. You can make this in the morning and just reheat it for dinner. 

Serve with favorite rolls or bread. You can add sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese as toppings on the side. Add a green salad in a bag and you have a whole meal in about 20 minutes.

We love fast and easy! It's always good to have ingredients in your pantry for these kinds of meals. When days get crazy we can still have a delicious meal.

Thanks Maureen for sharing. Do you have a fast, easy, satisfying meal you can share with us? After all, we are all in this together, trying to make dinner happen in our homes.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A QUICK FIX...A MUFFIN MIX


Although, you can get some screaming deals on box muffin mixes when they go on sale, they are not as cost effective as homemade. Some of you may be saying that buying the flour, sugar etc. is more expensive than a box mix. It may be initially but you will get so many more mixes from a few staples than you can ever imagine. Most of the ingredients will already be in your pantry.

Commercial dry mixes use dehydrated shortenings, eggs, butter and preservatives. We prefer fresh ingredients when at all possible. Like most of you, we have very little knowledge about the additives and preservatives that are added to store bought mixes. Yikes, we can’t even pronounce their names. We do know that we have good reason to be concerned about some additives and preservatives and that consumption of too many of them might be harmful to our bodies.

Having the dry ingredients mixed together a head of time will give you the convenience of a store box mix along with the satisfaction of being homemade. After making your own mix a few times, it will become second nature to you. You’ll be able to create fresh, warm muffins in no time at all.

Once you find a muffin recipe that you love and learn how easy it is to make substitutions, you’ll never be content with anything but the real deal.

The Basic Muffin Mix

9 cups of white flour
1 tbsp salt
2 ½ cups sugar
1 tbsp baking soda
3 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 ¼ cups dry buttermilk or powdered instant milk

Mix the dry ingredients together by using a wire whisk. Store in an air tight container.

To bake a dozen muffins:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray muffin tin with cooking spray. Measure out 2 ¾ cups of the Basic Muffin Mix into a large bowl. In a small bowl, beat 2 eggs, 1 cup of water, ½ cup of canola oil or melted butter, 1 ½ teaspoons Vanilla (try Mexican vanilla). Add the wet ingredients to the dry mix. The batter will be lumpy (that’s okay, it’s suppose to be). Do not over mix. Fill each muffin tin ¾ of the way full. Bake for 16 – 18 minutes.

In the following recipes, as indicated, add or substitute the ingredients to the Basic Muffin Mix to create variations.

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

1 small package instant lemon pudding
1 tbsp poppy seeds
2 eggs
Substitute ½ cup of the water with lemon juice

Pumpkin Muffins

1 cup pumpkin (canned)
½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
½ cup mini choc chips

Sour Cream Muffins

Substitute ½ cup of water with ½ cup of sour cream

Chocolate Muffins

¼ cup of cocoa
½ cup sugar
1 cup chocolate chips

Carrot Muffins

1 cup grated carrots
½ cup raisins
1 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg

Zucchini Muffins

1 cup grated zucchini
½ cup raisins
1 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg

For other variations, add either ½ cup of dried or fresh fruit, such as blueberries, apricots or try adding mashed bananas to the Basic Muffin Mix. 

This is just a smart way to use a basic recipe. The sky's the limit! Coming up with new variations is fun for the whole family. Muffins don't cost much to make and they sure can add to a breakfast meal or brunch. They also make a great snack. Do you have a favorite basic mix that you would share with us? We would love to hear from you. When we share recipes and tips it helps us all to keep the family coming to the dinner table.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

STILL Two Things: Recipe Contest & Hot Tip for Hot Cocoa


THING # 1: Wonderful readers, just another reminder about the recipe contest going on: Thanks to all those that have sent your favorite recipe featuring asparagus, and to those that mean to, but haven't as yet, hustle hustle. Get it in. We'll be announcing the two lucky winners of the Cook'n Recipe Organizer Software Version 10 on Monday. This product lists for $99 and sells for $79 on the Cook'n website (www.dvo.com), so you know this prize is a screamin' cool deal!

THING # 2: We have a hot tip for your hot cocoa: Whenever you have any extra hot cocoa (or make extra so you can do this), or whenever you have any leftover chocolate milk (or buy a quart so you can do this), freeze it in an ice cube tray(s).

Then the next time you serve up this wonderful wintertime treat, and it's scalding hot, just pop a couple chocolate ice cubes in the mug. The cocoa will cool down enough to start drinking right away. AND, as the cubes melt, they'll add to (rather than dilute) the flavor.

Another thing we've done, cocoa-wise, is to melt chocolate chips and thin them with milk, and then pour that chocolatey goodness into ice cube trays. You can see where we're going with this. You can freeze all sorts of things that would add a nice flavor to your cocoa:
  • Marshmallow creme
  • Melted and thinned WHITE chocolate chips
  • Peppermint-flavored cream (you add drops of peppermint to a quart of cream--to your taste)
  • Almond-flavored cream (same deal--add drops of almond extract to a quart of cream--top your taste)
  • Etc.? What would YOU add?
The beauty and fun of cocoa is how easy it is to make and how adaptable to your creativity it is. Bring the kiddies into this and see what they come up with as well.

SO, let's join the contest and enjoy a delicious hot mug of cocoa while we're making family dinner possible!

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Healthy Alternative to Cold Cereal That's a Neat Christmas Gift As Well!

We're finishing up our gifts--the last being food gifts. Today we're making "Pauper's Granola." Here's a little background:

Back in the old days when Alice was feeding her family of 9 on less than $10 a month, she needed a money-saving alternative to cold cereal (folks can only take so much cooked oatmeal and cracked wheat mush!). They were living in Portland, OR, and her friend, Shirley Smith, gave her a recipe for homemade granola. 

As you know, most granolas are fairly expensive, this recipe included, so Alice massaged and tweaked it until it was just the money-saver she needed--hence the name, "Pauper's Granola." 

It was so good and such a hit, that she ended up making it at Christmas time to sell at bazaars and to give to family and friends. So today we pass this recipe on to you--whether you want to save a little on your grocery bill or just want another idea for a great last-minute gift. You might like this:

PAUPER'S GRANOLA

10 C old fashioned oats
1 C whole wheat flour
1 C powdered milk (instant is fine also)
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 C honey
1/2-3/4 C brown sugar
1 C healthy oil (grapeseed, coconut, walnut, sesame, or extra virgin olive oil)
1 C old fashioned peanut butter
2-3 Tbsp pure vanilla
Raisins
In large roasting pan, mix dry ingredients. Heat honey, brown sugar, oil, and peanut butter until melted and blended well. Remove from stove and add vanilla. Pour over dry ingredients. Bake at 225 degrees for 1/2 to 1 hour, continually checking and turning the mix so it all roasts evenly. Add raisins. Let cool before packaging into containers.

NOTES:

1) There's nothing sacred or scarey about any granola recipe, so tweak it to your needs and preferences. For instance, if you can't eat wheat, omit the wheat flour and substitute millet, amaranth, teff, etc. The flour acts as a binder for the liquid ingredients--it helps coat the oats. Also, if you can't eat peanuts, then substitute almond butter for the peanut butter. And if you don't like raisins, substitute dried cranberries or diced dried apricots, or... Play around with this.

2) This is pretty much a bare bones recipe, but if saving $$ isn't an issue and you really want to jazz this up to increase the "WOW!" factor, then add black sesame seeds (to increase the lignans), raw sunflower seeds, unsweetened coconut, walnuts (or cashews, or hazelnuts, or...), pumpkin seeds, etc. You get the idea.

3) This is so versatile--you can use it in cookies (we put it in our "Cowboy Cookie" recipe) and you can make granola BARS with it. Before roasting, press the granola onto a cookie sheet with a raised edge and roast until golden brown. Upon removing from oven, use your chef's knife to cut into bars. Let rest and cool before removing from pan. If you want a chewy bar, add a little extra honey and oil to the mix before pressing onto the cookie sheet. (HEY! Homemade granola bars--now there's another good Christmas present idea! Put  each bar in its own baggie, and put the number you want to give in a nice, reusable container and tie with a pretty bow. We're doin' this!)

Don't you just love serving foods that are not only good, but good FOR you? This is really one of those foods, and we hope if you don't give it a try now, you eventually will. And then drop us a comment as to what you think of it, what changes (if any) you made to the recipe, etc. And so until next time, here's to family dinner made easy as we serve up a healthy alternative to cold, store-bought cereals. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Old Fashion Sugar Cookies

Nothing smells more like Christmas than sugar cookies baking in the oven. Years ago we found a recipe that makes soft, fat sugar cookies. If you have ever had a “pink cookie” and you know how good they are. Now imagine a fresh one straight from the oven. This recipe is so close to that thick pink cookie it is unbelievable! We have been making and enjoying these cookies for years. So put on some Christmas music, bake some sugar cookies and shabam! The family will be gathered in the kitchen before you can say Merry Christmas!  Oh, we have to tell you that these cookies turn out best if you use a large cookie cutter, one that doesn’t have too much detail - like a circle, star or outline of a snowflake.

Good old fashioned sugar cookies definitely gets us in the Christmas spirit. We hope you get a chance to try this recipe and that you enjoy it as much as we do. Time in the kitchen with your family will create memories that will never be forgotten.

OLD FASHIONED SUGAR COOKIES
4 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/4 cups butter or margarine
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla


1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1 cup buttermilk

In a large bowl, mix together all dry ingredients. In a mixer bowl, add butter and sugar. Beat until fluffy. Add eggs, vanilla and lemon extract and beat well. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to shortening mixture. Cover and chill for about 3 hours. These cookies are easier to handle if cold.

Roll dough 1/2 inch thick. Cut into 3 inch shapes with a cookie cutter. Place 3 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. If you don't plan on frosting them, sprinkle extra sugar on the top. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until done. This recipe makes about 24 large cookies.

Tip: If you don't have buttermilk, combine 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to a cup of milk and let set for 15 minutes.

Enjoy your family or a friend and keep them coming to the dinner table with these yummy sugar cookies. Take sometime to talk about life and your many blessings. Oops! Don't forget the hot chocolate.

Friday, April 2, 2010

A QUICK and EASY Sunday Dessert

With Spring and Summer approaching, I like to plan on lighter (but still yummy) desserts for our family dinner hour--especially for Sunday dinner hour. I really think Sunday dinner does a lot toward setting the family dinner hour tradition. And because, generally speaking, no one has to rush off to a sport practice, dance lesson, or community meeting, the pace for the meal can be slower and the effort that goes into it can be more extensive, if you like. And in our family, Sunday dessert was a big deal.

My Aunt Annie was a master at paring just the right dessert with the right meal and the right season. I will admit up front though, many involved whipped cream (hey, we're Scandinavian--we've got a tradition to uphold), so from that aspect, they may not seem so light. Maybe it was the fluffiness of these desserts that caused me to think they were "light." 

Well, whatever, they were fantastic and I think you ought to know about one of her desserts in particular. Thus below you'll find one of Aunt Annie's recipes for a quick and easy Sunday dessert. Do YOU have a favorite Sunday recipe you could share? We'd love your input--we're all in this together, remember. And until next time, here's to making Sunday dinner especially nice as we make family dinner hour possible!

ORANGE ANGEL FOOD DESSERT (makes 10 servings--but that's SO relative!)
Fresh citrus flavors and the light textured angel food cake combined with whipped cream topping will bring you applause and shouts of "Encore!" And it can be made the night before, thus making the actual dinner day a little simpler.

1 angel food cake, prepared
2 envelopes Knox gelatin
1/2 C cold water
1 C boiling water
2 C sugar
1 1/2 C orange juice
1/4 C lemon juice
1 1/2 C heavy whipping cream
1/2 C toasted almond slices for garnish
1/2 C toasted coconut for garnish

In large bowl, pour packets of gelatin over cold water. Stir to blend and add the boiling water. Add sugar, orange and lemon juices. Mix well. Refrigerate until things thicken (1 1/2 to 2 hrs).  Beat the whipping cream until firm and add to gelatin mixture. Beat well until thoroughly combined. In 9x13 pan, tear angel food cake into pieces and distribute evenly over bottom of pan. Pour the creamy gelatin mixture over the cake pieces and garnish with nuts and coconut.  Cover and refrigerate overnight, approximately 8 hrs. Cut into squares and serve.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Muffins Are Always a Treat!

No question about it, muffins are without doubt one of my favorite foods. Here's why I just LOVE them:
  • I love how handy they are--real grab-and-run food.
  • I love how versatile they are--they run from decadent to healthy (and healthy can taste decadent!)
  • I love how easy they are to make--basic techniques turn out GREAT muffins.
  • I love how doable they are--they don't take exotic or gourmet-type ingredients.
  • I love how easily children can learn to make them--a muffin recipe is a good overall training recipe for basic baking and cooking
  • I love how yummy they are--whether sweet or savory, they just can't be beat!
How about you--do you like muffins as we ll? Do you have a favorite muffin recipe we ought to know about? Please share. We're all in this together, remember, so let's help each other out. Here are a couple of my favorite recipes--try one this weekend and let us know what you think. And until next time, here's to muffins--they're always a treat! And of course, here's to making family dinner hour possible!

HEALTHY APPLE-WALNUT MUFFINS (makes one dozen)
2 C flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 rounded tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 C plus 2 Tbsp frozen, thawed *apple juice concentrate
2/3 C buttermilk
2 Tbsp oat bran
2 small Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
1/3 C chopped walnuts (about 1 1/3 oz)
1 small Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and cut into 12 THIN slices (for garnish; optional)

Preheat oven to  375 degrees. Grease 12 standard size muffin pan cups or line with paper liners. Mix together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, and salt. Mix together eggs, apple juice concentrate, and buttermilk. Stir flour mixture and oat bran into egg mixture until dry ingredients are just moistened. Do not overmix. Gently fold in apples and nuts. Spoon batter into prepared pan, filling cups two-thirds full. Garnish each muffin with apple slices, if desired. Bake about 25 min., or until lightly golden and muffin tops spring back when pressed. Turn out onto wire rack to cool completely.

IDEA: Instead of frozen apple juice concentrate, use other fruit juice concentrates. Health stores carry several varieties. Experiment with such interesting flavors as papaya, pineapple, and mango for a tropical taste.

BANANA-NUT MUFFINS (makes one dozen)
1/2 C butter
1 C sugar
2 large eggs
2 large, ripe bananas, mashed
2 C flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder (I prefer non-aluminum, such as Rumford's)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 C buttermilk
1/2 C chopped pecans
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Greased a 12 cup standard size muffin pan or use paper liners. Beat together butter and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in bananas until smooth. Mix together flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Alternately stir flour mixture and buttermilk into egg mixture until dry ingredients are just moistened. Stir in nuts and vanilla. Do not overmix batter; it should not be completely smooth.

Spoon batter into prepared pan, filling two-thirds full. Bake until lightly golden, 15-18 min., or until golden brown and muffin tops spring back when touched. Transfer muffin pan to a wire rack to cool slightly. Turn muffins out onto rack.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Best Thing We Ever Ate!

Last night we were watching Food Network's "The Best Thing I Ever Ate!". We needed drool bibs, no kidding! Anyway, I asked my children what was the best thing THEY ever ate. We had a lot of fun talking about their favorite restaurants and their favorite dishes, and then it occurred to me to ask them, "Well, what's the best thing you've ever eaten at OUR table?"

It was interesting to me how we all had a few choices in common: the ever-popular "Funeral" Potatoes, my baked macaroni and cheese, chocolate cake (in all its varieties), pie (of all sorts), and ta-da--Shepherd's Pie! If you were to poll your family, you might hear similar responses. This just goes to show us that we really don't need to be Julia Child, Bobby Flay, or Rachel Ray to win rave reviews at the dinner table. Good news.


Then a great idea came to me: Once a month (maybe the first Monday) I'm going to have a "The Best Thing I Ever Ate!" night and serve something from their list. For starters it'll be Shepherd's Pie, since out of everyone's choices, that was unanimous. And as a fun conversation-starter I plan to talk about the  "favorites" (and a a little background as to why) of our extended family members (I'll call, email, etc. to get this information). For instance, "Did you guys know that your cousin Jessica's favorite food is____________?" and so on. This will hopefully become a tradition with us--pleasant traditions built around food are always a good dinner-time draw.


If you like this idea and decide to try it yourself, won't you report back? And if you have a favorite food you could tell us about, maybe along with the recipe, please share. Below you'll see my Shepherd's Pie recipe--let me know if you like it. And until next time, here's to enjoying our favorite foods and of course, to making family dinner hour possible!


SHEPHERD'S PIE (serves 4-6; prep time = 20 min.)
This is an American variation of traditional shepherd's pie that is sure to please any meat and potatoes fan. The ground beef  has a natural rich mushroom gravy and the potatoes are loaded with cheese. (I learned the other day that the authentic Shepherd's Pie uses lamb--hence the name of the dish!)


  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 8 oz mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 C chopped onion
  • 2 large cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 1/2 C beef broth
  • 1/2 C heavy cream
  • 1/2 C frozen peas, unthawed
  • 1/2 C frozen corn, unthawed
  • 3 C shredded frozen hash brown potatoes, thawed
  • 1/8 C chopped chives (or finely sliced green onions with tops)
  • 2 C finely-shredded Cheddar cheese or cheese blend, divided use
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 C mayonnaise
Preheat oven to 375 F. Place ground beef, mushrooms, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper in a large heavy skillet. Saute, breaking up ground beef, until the juices have almost evaporated.

Stir in Worcestershire, then flour. Cook 1 minute, stirring often. Add beef broth, stirring to combine, then heavy cream. Simmer until gravy thickens. Pour into glass baking dish. Let cool slightly, then sprinkle green peas and corn evenly on top of beef.

In a mixing bowl, combine hash brown potatoes, chives, 1 cup of the Cheddar cheese, salt, and mayonnaise. Spread evenly on top of beef layer. Spread remaining cup of Cheddar cheese on top and sprinkle lightly with paprika. Bake about 45 minutes until cheese has melted and is slightly browned. Let rest 15 minutes before serving.