Wednesday, December 19, 2012

M&M Pretzel Bark

Pinterest Strikes Again!

I actually found two recipes that sounded good to me and decided to combine them. The first was for Salted Caramel Pretzel Bark and the other was for M&M Bark. I liked that the salted caramel one made it's own caramel and I liked the use of the M&Ms to dress up the pretzel bark. I combined the two recipes and added a few things from my caramel puffcorn recipe and voila! M&M Pretzel Bark was born.

They are not the prettiest of treats, but they make up in taste what they lack in appearance.


I used Holiday Mini M&Ms to decorate mine. I think they are the right size, but supposed you could use regular if that is what you had on hand. I threw the bark into the freezer before cutting/breaking it into pieces.

M&M Pretzel Bark

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 (16-ounce) bag mini pretzel twists
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
2 cups M & Ms

Line a large jelly roll pan with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray. Fill the pan with a single layer of pretzels.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and the brown sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Bring it to a boil, while stirring. Allow it to boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla and baking soda, stir.

Pour evenly over the top of the pretzels. Put in the oven at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top. Allow to sit for a couple of minutes, then use a spatula to spread the chocolate chips over the surface. Sprinkle with M&Ms, pressing gently to secure them into the soft chocolate.

Allow to cool. Break into uneven pieces. Enjoy!


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Sea Salt Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Bars

I love chocolate. I love caramel. I am in love with all of the new sea salt caramels. So, it was only natural when I found this recipe for Salted Caramel Bars from Annie's Eats on Pinterest, I knew that I had to try them.

I was looking for a treat to bring to work to share for our holiday goodie day and I chose this opportunity to try out the new cookie.

I must say that these were quite the hit. There was something so intriguing about the slight bite that the shortbread lent to the cookie combined with the ooey-gooey yumminess of the homemade caramel and the flavor of the chocolate with the touch of salt giving it the final touch.

I left some home for the family and my son, after trying just one told me that I wouldn't have to worry about any of them being wasted.

Sea Salt Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Bars
Servings 48

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar

1 cup butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk

8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips or baking chocolate, cut into bits
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
1/4 cup butter
Sea salt or Fleur de sel, for sprinkling

Yield: about 96 1" squares

Shortbread: Preheat the oven to 325° F. Line a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. In a mixer bowl, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until well blended. With the mixer on low speed, blend in the dry ingredients just until incorporated. Press the dough into the prepared baking pan. Bake 15-18 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool completely.
Caramel layer: Combine the butter, sugar, corn syrup and condensed milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter is melted. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, stirring constantly. Continue simmering and stirring until the mixture is just below soft ball stage, about 230F. Pour the mixture over the shortbread layer and allow to cool completely.
Chocolate: Combine the chocolate, corn syrup, and butter in a microwave safe bowl. Heat for 1 minutes and stir. Continue heating 30s at a time, until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Pour evenly over the caramel layer and use an offset spatula to smooth the top. Allow to cool for a minute or two and then sprinkle with Fleur de sel. Chill, covered, until firm enough to slice. Cut into 1" squares.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

As I mentioned yesterday, I tried two Pumpkin Cookie recipes on Sunday. This one was found on AllRecipes. I essentially followed the recipe, only skipping the walnuts and increasing the baking time.

These cookies are similar to a sugar cookie recipe that I love that uses oil instead of a solid fat, uses both baking powder and baking soda, and uses milk.

These cookies turned out a nice rich color and with the addition of the cinnamon had a nice pumpkin spice type of flavor.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
makes 3 dozen cookies

1 cup pumpkin pureed
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine pumpkin, sugar, oil, egg, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Dissolve the baking soda in milk. Add the milk to the pumpkin. Add flour mixture to pumpkin and mix well. Add the chocolate chips.

Bake for 15 minutes.

Since I liked different aspects of both cookies, the next logical step was to combine the two batters. After baking the 3 dozen of each, I had some extra batter so I mixed them and baked that for 16 minutes. The result was interesting, I think I liked it. The one in the middle is the blend:


Monday, November 26, 2012

Pumpkin Cake Mix Cookies

After making our Pumpkin Marble Cheesecake this weekend, I was left with about 3 cups of fresh, pureed pumpkin that I wanted to use up before it had time to go bad. I decided that it would be used to make cookies. I found two recipes that both sounded good to me and decided I would make both recipes.

The first was a cake mix recipe. I am a fan of convenience and like that it had two ingredient - pumpkin and cake mix. Now, I will admit that at first I was a little skeptical about this recipe, it sounded very similar to a muffin recipe, so I was worried that it wouldn't hold on the pan and would run off. I did make a minor adjustment and added a bit of baking soda so that they would rise and not flatten. I also added butterscotch and white chocolate chips to this batch.

The cookies turned out very moist and cake like. My son really enjoyed the addition of the butterscotch chips.

Pumpkin Cake Mix Cookies
1 box yellow cake mix
1 3/4 c fresh pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 c butterscotch chips
1/2 c white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine the cake mix, pumpkin and baking soda in a bowl. Mix until combined. Stir in chips.

Drop by spoonful onto cookie sheet. Bake for 20 minutes. Cool on pan for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.


Pumpkin Marble Cheesecake

One of my favorite fall flavors is Pumpkin. At our house, we enjoy treats like Pumpkin Pudding and Pumpkin Sherbert year round - made from canned pumpkin. In the fall though, I prefer to bake with fresh pumpkin.

After Halloween, we take our small 'pie' pumpkins and roast them up in the oven, scoop out the meat and mash it. Then, of course, we roast the seeds. This year, we roasted two pumpkins and got about 4 cups of pumpkin puree from them.

Since it was just the four of us at our Thanksgiving meal this year (we had had Thanksgiving with my extended family the weekend before), I decided to go with a pumpkin cheesecake this year, instead of the traditional pie. I tried and tweaked a new recipe. It was well received by the family. I think that the fact that it only used two packages of cream cheese was part of the secret - it gave a better texture, as it was able to cook more evenly then some of the larger, thicker recipes we have had in the past. I didn't do a water bath and it cracked, but I am okay with that - function over form, taste over appearance. This recipe is a definite keeper.

Pumpkin Marble Cheesecake

Servings 10

1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup butter melted
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 cup fresh pumpkin pureed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350.

Spray 9" spring-form pan with cooking spray. Combine the crushed graham crackers and melted butter. Press into the bottom and up sides of the pan. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool.

Combine cream cheese, 1/2 cup of sugar, and vanilla. Cream until smooth and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Reserve 1 cup of the batter, refrigerate covered. To the remaining batter, add the remaining sugar, the pumpkin and spices. Mix until blended.

Remove the plain batter from the refrigerator and spoon about half onto the crust in dollops. Cover with the pumpkin batter and then dollop the remaining plain batter on top. Using a butter knife, gently swirl the batters together.

Bake for 50-60 minutes. Allow to cool on wire rack in pan. Refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Slow Cooker Beer Chicken

Pinterest strikes again! I was checking out what my friends were pinning the other day when I came across a recipe for Crock Pot Beer Chicken. Overall, it was a simple and basic recipe, so I decided to kick it up a notch by adding gravy. I made it for dinner and the family enjoyed it. The chicken was so tender, moist and full of flavor. The kids ate all of the chicken that I gave them and the gravy really gave it that extra rich flavor. My husband compared the gravy to a Marsala sauce, without the mushrooms. We used a Yuengling Black and Tan for the beer.

Slow Cooker Beer Chicken

2lbs skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 bottle or can of your favorite beer
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp black pepper

2 tbsp butter
1-2 tbsp flour or corn starch

Place all ingredients in the slow cooker. Cook on low for 6-7 hours.

In a small sauce pan, melt the butter and stir in the flour or cornstarch. Stir with a whisk, once it has thickened, add about 1 cup of the broth from the slow cooker. Stir with the whisk. Continue to simmer for about 5 minutes, adding additional broth as needed to maintain the desired consistency. I strained the gravy before serving.

Serve chicken with gravy.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Brownie S'mores Cupcakes

The other evening, I was out meandering on Pinterest (I do a lot of that) and stumbled upon a post for Brownie Marshmallow Cupcakes at Striving to Be Bold. They sounded very intriguing to me, but I knew that if I made them, I would have to change them up. I wound up making several changes and in the end, I made Brownie S'mores Cupcakes.

Brownie S'mores Cupcakes
yields 12 cupcakes

1 pkg Brownie Mix Family Size (for 13x9 pan) prepared
Graham Crackers, broken (about 3 full, 4 cracker sheets)
1/2 c Milk Chocolate Chips

Prepare a cupcake pan with pan spray.

Ladle enough brownie batter into each cup to just cover the bottom.
Into each cup, place about 4-5 mini-marshmallows making sure that they are in the middle and not touching the edge.
Top with the remaining brownie batter.
On each cupcake, sprinkle some graham cracker pieces and crumbs. Add milk chocolate chips.
Bake at 350 for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and add 6-7 mini-marshmallows to the top of each cupcake.

Return to the oven and continue to bake for another 10 minutes.

Allow to cool before removing from the pan.
These cupcakes were so nice and ooey-gooey in the middle and the toasted marshmallow on top was delicious.
We took them to a game night with friends and they were a hit.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

New York Deli Rye

Growing up, my grandma was the best cook and baker that there was. Most of her best recipes consisted of a dash of this and a handful of that. Many of them were not written down anywhere. Unfortunately, that means that now, many of those recipes are forever lost. I have been on a quest lately to find a recipe similar to hers for German Rye Bread. I tried a recipe a few months ago, but it wasn't quite it (you can find that version here).
A few weeks ago, I came across this version on Smitten Kitchen. This version is getting closer. This bread has a great flavor that is very similar to what I remember, maybe a little light on the rye. The texture fresh from the oven was a crusty crust and a soft center. This seemed different than Grandma's bread, but after a day of resting it was a bit more chewy in the crust and the center - which is closer to what I remember. The crust was a lighter color than I was used to.
I think next time that I make it I might swap in a little rye flour in place of some of the bread flour in the flour mixture. Not a lot, but maybe 1/4 cup. I might see about swapping molasses for the honey too. I am thinking that might give me a darker crust and a deeper flavor. I also did not include any ground caraway seeds, because I'm not a fan of the seeds themselves. Perhaps I might try adding a bit of ground seeds - I know my grandma's bread was seedless, but I don't know if she added ground seed to it.

New York Deli Rye
3/4 cup bread flour
3/4 cup rye flour
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tablespoon honey or malt powder
1 1/2 cups water at room temperature

Flour Mixture
2 1/4 cups bread flour
1/2 plus 1/8 teaspoon instant yeast
1/2 tablespoon coarse salt

Dough and Baking
1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoons cornmeal

Make the sponge: Combine sponge ingredients in a large or mixer bowl and whisk until very smooth, to intentionally incorporate air — this will yield a thick batter. Set it aside.

Make the flour mixture and cover the sponge: In a separate large bowl, whisk together the flour mixture and gently scoop it over the sponge to cover it completely. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and allow it to ferment for 1 to 4 hours at room temperature. (The sponge will bubble through the flour mixture in places.)

Mix the dough by hand: Add the oil and with a wooden spoon or your hand, stir until the flour is moistened. Knead the dough in the bowl until it comes together, then scrape it onto a very lightly floured counter. Knead the dough for 5 minutes, after which it might still be a little sticky. Cover it with the inverted bowl and allow it to rest for 20 minutes. Knead the dough for another 5 to 10 minutes or until it is very smooth and elastic.

Let the dough rise: Place the dough in a large container or bowl, lightly oiled. Oil the top of the dough as well. Allow the dough to rise until doubled, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Flip the dough out on to a lightly floured counter, press it down gently, fold it back into a square-ish ball and allow it to rise a second time, back in the oiled bowl covered with plastic wrap for about 45 minutes.

Shape it and wait out the final rise: Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and gently press it down again. Round it into a ball and set it on a cornmeal sprinkled baking stone. Cover it with oiled plastic wrap and let it rise until almost doubled, about 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes. You will know it is ready, when after gently pressing with a fingertip, the depression will very slowly fill in.

Preheat the oven: Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Slash and bake the bread: With a sharp knife or singled-edged razor blade, make 1/4- to 1/2-inch-deep slashes in the top of the dough. Mist the dough with water. Bake for 15 minutes, lower the temperature to 400°F and continue baking for 30 to 40 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Cool the bread on a wire rack.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Ravioli with Tomato Basil Cream Sauce

Recently, I came across a recipe that sounded really yummy. It used a jar of sauce and then it was kicked up a notch with the addition of other items. Unfortunately, it called for sun-dried tomato Alfredo sauce, which was not available in my stores. Since it sounded so tasty, I decided to do some improvising and make my own sun-dried tomato Alfredo sauce. The family enjoyed it - although my son, who will eat tomatoes right from the garden, picked out the fresh diced tomatoes. This is a definite keeper - it is an easy to make, tasty, quick dinner option for a busy night.

1 pkg frozen Cheese Ravioli
1 jar Light Alfredo Sauce
3 sun-dried tomatoes (6 halves)
2 tbsp white wine
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 tbsp basil
Parmesan cheese

Prepare ravioli according to package directions.

Steep the sun-dried tomatoes in warm water, then drain. Use kitchen shears to cut the tomatoes into small pieces.

Pour the Alfredo sauce into a saucepan. Add the wine to the pasta jar, recap and shake well. Add to the saucepan, along with the sun-dried tomatoes. Cook over medium low heat. Add the diced tomatoes and basil. Stir to combine. Continue heating until heated thoroughly.

Toss the sauce with the pasta and serve with Parmesan cheese.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Mini Meatball Soup

I enjoy having soup for dinner. It is a great way to get the family to eat their vegetables and a variety of them.

When the kids were little, soup was a great way to easily get the kids tender vegetables and meat that they could eat. I would prepare soup and then, pull out the meat and vegetables leaving the broth behind. I also would get the salad bar when we went out, so that I could give them the tender peas and diced fruit from the salad bar, along with the stuff in soup.

When it comes to having soup for dinner, it needs to be hearty. We like to pair it with a side salad (more veggies!) and bread (to soak up the broth and to give you something to really sink your teeth in).

A soup that we tried recently is Mini Meatball Soup. I liken it to an Italian Wedding soup. The vegetables are a little different and it only has one meat. I have made this following the meatball recipe below and using ground chicken and the next time, I made up a larger than normal batch of meatballs following my Spaghetti and Meatballs recipe using ground turkey and set them aside for soup the next day. You probably could even use premade meatballs if you don't want to mess with preparing them, although, I prefer homemade meatballs.

You can save time by dicing the vegetables and making the meatballs ahead of time. I also have been known to leave the soup on a medium high heat after adding the meatballs and pasta and serving it then. Of course, the longer you can let it simmer the more flavors will develop and the more tender the meatballs, pasta and vegetables will be.

Mini Meatball Soup

Servings 6

1 pound ground turkey (or chicken)
1 egg
1/4 cup bread crumbs
3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic minced
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 small onion diced
10 baby carrots diced
2 stalks celery diced
3 cloves garlic minced
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
8 cups chicken broth
1 cup small pasta like Ditalini
2 cups baby spinach
salt to taste
pepper to taste

Combine the ground meat, egg, bread crumbs, Paremsan cheese, garlic, Italian Seasoning, and parsley flakes in a bowl. Form into mini meatballs and cook over medium heat until cooked, turning after a few minutes.

In a large pan, heat the oil and add the onions, carrots, celery and garlic. Saute for 4-5 minutes, with constant stirring. Add the tomatoes and chicken broth. Slowly bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Add meatballs and pasta. Cover and cook for 20 minutes. Add spinach. Cook until the spinach is wilted. Season with salt and pepper as needed.

Serve with fresh shredded Parmesan cheese.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Roasted Cauliflower Cheese Soup

When the weather turns cooler, I am a big fan of soup. I could eat soup for several meals a week - whether as a side course or a main course. There is just something so satisfying about the warmth of a soup - the steam coming off the bowl as you sit above it eating and the warmth of it in your stomach. When I make it a meal, I love to serve it with a hearty bread (and sometimes I even add butter).

When I added this new soup to my weekly meal plan, I had an ulterior motive. The soup was to be pureed. For years, I have either skipped puree steps for my soup or I have tried to transfer a portion of it to a standard blender to puree. The problem with that is two-fold. Hot liquids seem to seep out of my blender, so I have to cool them some before blending and since you can't puree it all, the texture is never quite right. I decided that since I had some Kohl's Cash and a 20% off coupon, that this time I was going to get something for me. I picked up a stick/immersion blender with my discount. It cost me about $4 plus tax after my discount. A great investment. A specialized tool that is worth finding the space to keep.

Roasted Cauliflower Cheese Soup
Servings 4

1 head cauliflower cut into florets
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon thyme
3 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups White Cheddar Cheese, shredded
1 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste

Toss the cauliflower with 2 tbsp oil. Sperad on a large baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Roast at 400F for 20 minutes. The florets should be lightly browned.

Heat the oil in a sauce pan. Add onion and garlic and saute for about 5 minutes. Add thyme and cook another minute. Add broth and cauliflower to the pan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes. Puree the soup to desired consistency. Mix in the cheese and allow to melt. Mix in milk and remove from heat. Season to taste.

Notes - I used chicken bouillon and water instead of broth. I garnished my bowl with additional shredded cheese. I recommend leaving a certain amount of chunks in your soup. According to my recipe software, this soup has about 300 calories per bowl (plus any garnish you add). I think I could do the same recipe with broccoli, although I would probably use regular cheddar.

This post shared at the Ultimate Recipe Swap.

This recipe is thanks to the time I spend wandering on Pinterest. You can find the original post on Riches To Rags by Dori here.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Apple Crisp

It is really beginning to feel like fall outside and of course, in my world, along with fall comes apple cider, apple dumplings, and apple crisp.

It's funny, when I was a kid and they would serve us apple crisp in elementary school, it was one of my least favorite desserts. I'm not sure how they made it but I'm guessing that in their crisp portion they must have had oats and maybe even nuts. (would they have been able to do that thirty something years ago?) I can remember picking through it to try to 'save' the apples, but wanting with all of my heart to avoid getting any of the crisp.

At home, well, that was a different story. My aunt gave had a recipe for apple crisp, that I can only describe as satisfyingly simple and wonderfully delicious. There are five ingredients - apples, flour, sugar, butter and cinnamon. The topping is very similar to what you would receive on top of a crumb pie.

It is a family favorite for my kids too. Even my coworkers request it special from time to time - 'not just for my birthday' said one coworker.

I don't use a specific type of apple when I make it, in fact, I generally prefer to mix it up and use at least two varieties of apples when I do. I have even been known to substitute in a couple of peaches for an apple and peach crisp.

Apple Crisp
8 Apples, peeled and diced

1/2 c flour
3/4 c sugar
6 T butter

Place diced apples in a square baking dish.
Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Crumble together the flour, sugar and butter. Distribute evenly across the apples. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Bake at 350 for 1 hour.

Enjoy! I prefer it served warm and typically reheat it if I am having some later.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Lime Glazed Shrimp and Pineapple Kabobs

I am always looking for simple, flavorful meals to include in my weekly menu plan. Whether it be clipping recipes out of newspapers or the updated Pinning recipes on Pinterest, I seem to have a steady supply of new to me recipes to try. The unfortunate thing is that some of these recipes will sit in a pile (or a pin board) for months, even years, before I try them. I was doing really good for a while where I was trying a new recipe each week and if we liked it, I would add it to my recipe collection and if it was not a hit, well, then we got rid of it or made notes on how to tweak it for next time.

One recipe that I clipped from some paper, at some point, was for Shrimp and Pineapple Kabobs. The use of lime and hot peppers just sounded delicious to me. It also seemed like a very quick to prepare meal that I could create with ingredients that I have on hand - Pineapple in the pantry and Shrimp in the freezer. Of course, you can use fresh pineapple and even shrimp that hasn't been frozen.

Lime Glazed Shrimp and Pineapple Kabobs

3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons lime juice
4 teaspoons butter
1 tablespoon ginger
2 teaspoons minced jalapeno chiles
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pounds shrimp peeled
1 can pineapple chunks in juice

Combine the brown sugar, lime juice, butter, ginger, jalapeno, and salt in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes until syrupy.

Arrange pineapple and shrimp on skewers (I use stainless steel ones, but the bamboo ones would work).
Spray with some cooking spray to prevent sticking.
Grill kabobs, brushing with the glaze, for about 2 minutes on each side, until the shrimp is cooked through.

I like to serve it with a side of rice. To give the rice a little extra pizzazz. I like to add some of the pineapple and juice to the rice, while it cooks. When it comes to warm pineapple, you simply can't have enough!


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Banana Ice Cream

I'm not sure when I first heard of it or where really for that matter, but lately I have found myself very intrigued with the Yonana. The idea that you could take a banana that has been frozen and turn it into soft serve ice cream just sounded really good to me. Of course, it is another kitchen appliance that I am not sure that I really need. After all, I seem to be challenged with space to store things and talk about a specialty item - it makes banana ice cream (okay, they have other recipes, but still).

I had a free day on Labor Day, so I decided to try an experiment. I took two soft bananas, mostly brown skin and sliced them and put them into the freezer. I wasn't sure whether to try blender or food processor, but since I only had two bananas the food processor made more sense to me. I put the bananas into the bowl and started to swirl them around. At first, it seemed to be a failed experiment. The bananas were breaking apart, but they weren't really pureeing. I used a spatula and scraped and turned and returned to processing. Still, wasn't quite getting there - maybe I needed to let them soften a little from their frozen state? I wasn't patient enough to allow for that, so I added a tablespoon of milk and tried again. Now, they were becoming smooth and whipped.

I grabbed two spoons out of the drawer and handed a spoonful to my husband that had just arrived home and to my daughter who was anxious to try it. They both liked it. My husband couldn't believe that it was just bananas. I gave my daughter a small bowl with a bit of chocolate drizzle.

I put the rest in a bowl and put on a lid and stuck it in the freezer for part two of my experiment. My son came home a little while later and after dinner, I let him try the ice cream too. Much to my delight, when I pulled it back out of the freezer, it was still a soft, scoopable texture.

Banana Ice Cream
2 - Bananas, sliced and frozen

Add frozen bananas to food processor. Process until bananas puree and whip.
Add 1 Tbsp Milk if needed to help the puree process. Serve.

The two bananas made enough ice cream to let us all taste it and each of my kids to have a bowl of ice cream. It was reasonably quick to prepare - I had only put the bananas in the refrigerator this morning, it doesn't take long to freeze them. With it just being bananas, it isn't too bad for you either, even with a little chocolate syrup drizzled on top.

I probably won't clutter my kitchen with another gadget, but will certainly enjoy banana ice cream again. I might even try adding to it - maybe some strawberries, or peanut butter, or chocolate chips.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

There is nothing that can quite compare to the smell of cinnamon rolls baking in the oven. There is something so inviting about that warm smell of cinnamon filling the house. When we have company, or a breakfast gathering, one of my favorite treats to make is cinnamon rolls. They might sound overwhelming on the surface, but it really is quite easy to whip up a batch of homemade cinnamon rolls. This recipe takes about 75 minutes from start to ready to eat and the result is a wonderful, soft fragrant treat.

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls
Servings 12

3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
3 1/4 cups flour divided
2 1/4 tsps instant yeast (1 packet)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup water
1 egg
1 cup brown sugar packed
1 Tbsp Cinnamon
1/2 cup butter softened

Heat milk in a small saucepan until it bubbles, then remove from heat. Mix in butter, stir until melted. Let cool.
In a large bowl, combine 2 1/4 c flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Add water, egg and milk mixture. Beat well. Add remaining flour 1/2 c at a time, stirring after each addition. When the dough starts to pull together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 5 minutes. Cover dough with damp cloth and let rest 10 minutes.
In a small bowl, mix together the butter, brown sugar and cinnamon.
Roll dough into a 12x9 rectangle.
Spread the brown sugar mixture over the dough. Roll up dough and pinch seams to seal.
Cut into 12 rolls. Place in a lightly greased pan.
Cover and let rise for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375F.
Bake for 20 minutes.
Serve with frosting or plain. For ease, I find that a tub of frosting is quick and easy. It is best to apply warm so that it melts in.

Sometimes, to mix things up a bit, I will add thinly sliced apple pieces with the sugar mixture.
Then, you can roll it up and cook as above. I like the added touch of the apple flavor and a bit of crunch, too.

The cinnamon rolls keep well and stay soft. We always reheat them when we serve them later - another advantage of not frosting them all.


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Homemade Pizza

Homemade pizza is one of my all-time favorites. I am not sure exactly why it is, but somehow it just is better than other pizza.

Growing up, homemade pizza was always a rectangle. Mom would use a boxed mix for the crust and it was usually a fairly simple pizza with a few toppings - pepperoni, green peppers, onions, mushrooms and olives. I can't really say if they were always on the pizza or not, I just remember those toppings being used on our pizza. The mushrooms were always from that cute little jar.

When I grew up, I had trouble finding that same boxed mix that my mom always used. There was a similar one, but it was a full kit and that wasn't what I wanted. I found some alternate mixes, which I still use on occasion.

Most of the time when we are having homemade pizza, we start with a loaf of frozen bread dough. We pull it out a few hours before we are ready to make it and allow it to thaw, covered on a counter, or it can be pulled out in the morning and placed in the refrigerator.
I put a little bit of cornmeal on the pizza stone and then, using my hands, spread the dough out over the stone.
The toppings are simple. I use a can of plain tomato sauce to cover the dough.
I add some Italian seasoning and use a fork to spread it around. Then, a layer of cheese.
Pizza cheese or mozzarella is fine, but to give it a little extra zing, I like to add a bit of fresh shredded fontina cheese to it. Sometimes we add pepperoni, sometimes we just have cheese and sometimes we go halvesies.

Once topped, I add a little basil and a little onion salt to the top. I generally place it in my hand and rub it as I drop it evenly on the pizza. You don't want too much, just enough to add some flavor.

Bake at 425 for 20 minutes. This is generally enough time to get a nice browning to the top of the cheese.