Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Heavenly Easter tradition

Easter Dinner

With holidays comes tradition...where you go, what you do, what you eat.  With our family a lot of tradition revolves around the dinners involved with holidays; Thanksgiving means turkey (I know that's a given), Christmas Eve means posole.  Well, Easter is no different; this past Sunday was Easter, which meant the tradition of our Easter dinner.

Growing up, Easter dinner was always the made a ham covered in brown sugar, cloves and stuff, she made potato salad, green beans and heavenly rice.  These items always worked well together to make a perfectly balanced Easter Sunday dinner.  The location and cooks may have changed, but the meal staples are the same...and the tradition continues.

Now we have Easter dinner at my sister's brother-in-law cooks the ham with brown sugar and such (I'll link it here when he posts on it in a few days) sister, Cheryl, makes the potato salad and rolls (I cannot get enough of those Parker House Rolls, they are AWESOME) it was up to me to bring the Heavenly Rice.

What is "Heavenly RIce"...well...its good, that's what it is.  Its a salad made up of sweetened rice with pineapple, nuts, gelatin and whipping cream.  Mom's recipe has no reference as to where it came from; so I decided to do some research and came up with recipes that were similar, but just not the same.  I figure it is probably a salad that was created in the 50's or 60's.  It has a similar feel to a jello salad or an ambrosia.  Its hard to explain, but it tastes awesome with ham and you don't feel bad for having dessert with your meal...because it is technically a salad.

Heavenly Rice
For printable recipe, please click here
½ C  Rice (uncooked)                     
4 C  Water                                         
¼ tsp  Salt
1 C  Sugar
½ C  Chopped Pecans
1½  C  Crushed Pineapple
1 Pkg  Plain Gelatin
¼ C  Cold Water
1 Pint  Heavy Whipping Cream
1-2 Tbsp  Powdered Sugar

In a 3 qrt sauce pan, boil the water, rice and salt over medium high heat until all water is gone.  This will have a tendency to want to boil over, so be sure to watch it and stir occasionally so the rice does not stick to the bottom of the pan.  Take off heat after the water has boiled off.

Add the sugar, nuts and pineapple to the rice.  Mix together.  Dissolve the gelatin in ¼ C water, add to the rice mixture and mix well.  Refrigerate over night.

Next day, in a cold mixing bowl whip the pint of whipping cream w/ the powdered sugar added until soft peaks form (I beat it to a point between having soft to stiff peaks, but don’t over beat it…you’ll end up making butter).  Fold the whipped cream into the chilled rice mixture.  Keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Refrigerate leftovers, this salad will keep for a couple of days; the whipped cream will start to break down after that.
Heavenly Rice
Heavenly Rice
Easter Dinner with the usual suspects...on the right side of the plate, Heavenly Rice
Everything turned out great and Easter dinner was awesome...gotta love tradition!

Enjoy the foods of your labor.  :-)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Cherry Crumble Pie Bars...just another Sunday afternoon

Cherry Crumble Pie Bars

So a couple of Sundays ago, I decided to have a go at making Cherry Crumble Pie Bars (from "Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publications: Sunday dinners") for our Sunday dinner dessert at my sister's home.  I had agreed to this the Friday before; I agreed to it without having all the ingredients on hand, namely UNSWEETENED PITTED TART RED CHERRIES.  Big mistake!

Now I know what you are thinking..."how hard is it to find unsweetened pitted tart cherries?"  I thought the same question myself after going to the third grocery store and finding everything but those darn cherries. Blackberries, raspberries, mangoes, peaches, pineapple (they have frozen pineapple??? why?), mixed berries, name it, I could find it, but those elusive cherries were no where to be seen.  I felt crushed, defeated...I singlehandedly ruined Sunday dinner (maybe a little dramatic, but I was tired...I was allowed to be dramatic).  At that point I received the phone call that would save me from doing the unthinkable...Sean called to ask "Do you need anything from Wal-Mart?"  So I sent him on a mission to find this elusive frozen fruit.

An hour later I received another phone call, "Will Sweetened Dark Pitted Cherries work?"... *sigh*  Even Wal-Mart had failed to have UNSWEETENED PITTED TART RED CHERRIES.  I said that would be fine, but I wanted 3 bags...he told me I would have to settle for 2...why I asked...because they were the last 2 they had in the store.  *sigh*

Cherry Crumble Pie Bars
from  "Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publications: Sunday dinners"
For printable recipe, please click here

2 C  AP Flour
1¼ C  Finely Ground Almonds (I used a coffee grinders on them)
¾ C  Packed Brown Sugar
1 C  Butter, cut up (I used a grater on it instead of cutting it up)
¾ C  Granulated Sugar
1 Tbsp  Cornstarch
½ tsp  Lemon Zest
4 C  Frozen Unsweetened Pitted Tart Red Cherries, thawed and drained
½ tsp Almond Extract 

Preheat oven to 350°.  Line a 13x9x2" cake pan with foil, extending the foil over the edges of the pan; set aside.

For crust:  In a large bowl stir together flour, almonds, and brown sugar.  Using a pastry blender; cut in the grated butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs.  Remove 1½ C of mixture (this will be used for the topping), set aside for later.  Press the remaining mixture into the bottom of the prepped cake pan.  Bake for 15 min.  

For the filling:  In a large bowl combine granulated sugar, cornstarch, and lemon zest.  Add cherries and almond extract; stir together gently.  Spoon filling over partially baked cookie crust,  spreading evenly (mixture will be wet).  Sprinkle remaining crumb mixture over cherries. 

Bake about 40 min. more or until filling is bubbly and topping is lightly browned.  Cool in pan on wire rack.  Using edges of foil, lift uncut bars out of cake pan.  Cut into bars.  Makes 32 bars (which is more like 12 bars the way I cut them).  Refrigerate leftovers.

Cherry Crumble Pie Bars
Cherry Crumble Pie Bars
The result was a nice pie bar that tastes excellent with ice cream, even if I didn't use UNSWEETENED PITTED TART RED CHERRIES!

Enjoy the foods of your labor.  :-)


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Buttermilk Waffles in my new belgian waffle iron...

Buttermilk Waffles
I love waffles!  I know, who doesn't love waffles...but seriously, they are awesome.  The little indentations holding butter and syrup so perfectly; they are fluffy and crisp all in the same bite, and did I mention the syrup and butter thing.

Well, I have not been able to make a waffle for the last 5 years...not because I had some random waffle block, "Alas I will never make another waffle again...I have lost all creativity and hate butter and syrup" (um NO)....not because I have random food allergy to butter (omg, even uttering the words makes me gasp in horror)...not because I have been banned from making waffles in several states (which would be funny, but not the case).  Its because I couldn't decide on a waffle iron to buy.

I left my first waffle iron at a Gateway Country in El Paso, TX.  Why you may ask...go ahead and ask it?  It may have been for the next sales associate to take on the task of Sunday breakfasts at the store (um, no) may have been the fact I wanted to leave behind something that would make the people at the store remember me, "oh yeah, didn't that chick use to make waffles on Sunday?" (probably not) may have been the fact the thing was getting too hot and wouldn't have lived past another year (ummm, well...).  The second waffle iron suffered the same fate, left behind in a foriegn country, alone and scared and over heating.

After years of waffle avoidance ("I can live with just making pancakes and french toast, I don't NEED waffles"..."I can get a waffle out, I don't NEED to make them at home"..."I can live with stealing waffles from my sister"), I finally broke down; I could not go another minute without my own Belgian waffle iron.  I think it was the lack of syrup butter well of the pancake or the fact that I tire of trying to sneak waffles out of my sister's home (btw...she makes a good waffle)...either way, I knew it was time to fill my breakfast void.  So last weekend I bought the All-Clad 2-square Waffle Maker.  

All-Clad 2-square Waffle Maker
I had looked at this waffle iron several times, it was a nice foot print for my uber small kitchen and the ratings were outstanding (maybe this waffle iron would not catch on fire after using it a year).  I decided to make waffles the next day, buttermilk waffles.  At that point, I fell for the little overflow container that connects to the back; the couple of Tbsp of batter that did end up squeezing out, did so in the container, not my counter.  The temperature stayed consistent and produced perfect golden brown waffles.  Cleanup was a easy too, partially because of its great non-stick plates and also due to this little overflow container.  This has been the best waffle iron purchase of my life!

All-Clad 2-square Waffle Maker

Buttermilk Waffles from the All-Clad recipe booklet 
For printable recipe, please click here
3 Eggs, separated
1 ¾ C Buttermilk
8 Tbsp (1 stick) Butter, melted
½ tsp Vanilla Extract
1 ¾ C AP Flour
1 ½ tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Baking Soda
½ tsp Salt
⅓ C Sugar
Maple Syrup and Butter for serving
Preheat waffle iron on medium high heat. Preheat an oven to 200°.
** In a large bowl, whisk together: flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar.  Set aside.  In another large bowl, whisk the egg yolks.  Next whisk in the buttermilk and vanilla, blend well.  Slowly add the flour mixture to the egg mixture; whisk together until smooth.  
**(No need to use an electric mixer on this part, a hand whisk is perfect for the task)

In another bowl using an electric hand mixer, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Using a rubber spatula, fold 1 C of the egg whites into the batter, then careful fold in the remaining whites.

Pour about ⅓C of batter into each well of the waffle iron and close the lid. Cook the waffle until golden brown and crisp, about 5 min.  If you need to keep the waffles warm before serving, transfer the waffles to a wire rack set on a baking sheet (I used the pizza stone that is permanently in my oven) in the preheated oven.

Repeat to cook the remaining batter. Serve waffles hot with butter and syrup.  
 Makes twelve 4" waffles.
Buttermilk Waffles in my All-Clad 2-square Waffle Maker
Do you see how the waffle is holding the butter and syrup?
Buttermilk Waffles
How about a closer look...
Buttermilk Waffles
I had forgotten the joy I got out of making waffles.  The waffles came out perfectly and didn't stick an inch.  I also found that my ebelskiver turning tools did an excellent job of getting the waffle out of the waffle iron with out scraping the plates.

ebelskiver turning tools
I now see many a waffle in my future; heck, I may even stop raiding my sister's freezer for leftover waffles...nah!  ;-)

Enjoy the foods of your labor.  :-)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Gone to the dogs...Part II

Peanut Butter Pumpkin Dog Biscuits and Doggie Cheese Treats
I got a comment from Dorene the other day, requesting that I post the recipes for the dog treats that I had baked for the here they are.  The first recipe actually came from AllRecipes.  I worked on the instructions for the recipe, so it would be easier to work with the dough.  The second recipe is a variation of the first and makes more of a chew snack vs. a crisp biscuit.

Peanut Butter Pumpkin Dog Biscuits
For printable recipe, please click here 
2 ½ cups whole wheat flour
2 eggs
½ cup canned pumpkin
2 Tbsp peanut butter
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
2-4 Tbsp Water

Preheat oven to 350°. In a medium bowl whisk together: flour, salt, and cinnamon in a bowl. Set aside.  Using a standing mixer with paddle attachment mix together: eggs, pumpkin and peanut butter on medium speed until smooth.  Set the mixer on low speed and gradually add the flour mixture.  Add water as needed until the dough comes together (1 Tbsp at a time). Dust the dough with flour and roll the dough out on a flat surface that has been floured (you may need to add more flour to surface or dough to keep it from sticking to the rolling pin) (about ¼ in thick). Use cookie cutters (as shown) to cut out the biscuits. Bake in preheated oven until hard, about 35 minutes or until done.  

Doggie Cheese Treats
For printable recipe, please click here 
2 ½ cups whole wheat flour
2 eggs
½ cup canned pumpkin
~1 C English Cheddar
½ tsp salt
2-4 Tbsp Chicken Broth

Preheat oven to 350°. In a medium bowl whisk together: flour, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.  Using a standing mixer with paddle attachment mix together: eggs, pumpkin and cheese on medium speed until smooth.  Set the mixer on low speed and gradually add the flour mixture.  Add water as needed until the dough comes together (1 Tbsp at a time). Dust the dough with flour and roll the dough out (about ½ in thick) on a flat surface that has been floured (you may need to add more flour to surface or dough to keep it from sticking to the rolling pin). Use cookie cutters (as shown) to cut out the biscuits. Bake in preheated oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

 The dogs seem to like them if you can tell from the pics below.

Laci enjoying a biscuit
Apollo just finished his and wants to start on Laci's, "You gonna finish that?"

 Enjoy the foods of your labor.  :-)

PS...You may know that I was participating in a raffle to help benefit a pittie named Khloe (aka Shy) if you had read "Gone to the dogs...".  If you read the blog entry that followed, "Sad News...", you also know that Khloe passed away before she could get the surgery.  :-(

Well I have happy news...the raised money, that was slated for Khloe's surgery, went on to benefit 2 pups; you can read about these two amazing girl puppies on Two Pitties (click here for original story and click here for the update on the 2 pittie girls).  :-)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Farmhouse Grits...

Farmhouse Grits
Breakfast...its what's for dinner.  If you know me at all, you know that I LOVE breakfast/brunch at any time of day.  I am not sure where my love affair began with all things breakfast; maybe it was from my mother serving it for dinner...waffles covered in butter and syrup, sausage/egg/potatoes fried up to perfection, stuff topped with eggs because it completed the dish (enchiladas should ALWAYS have an over easy egg on me).  This was a somewhat normal occurrence in our home and one that I can't get enough of now; however, I have had friends gasp at the thought of dinner for breakfast...GET OVER IT, its deliciousness times 3.

So I sit here wondering right now, "what will I be making for dinner tonight"...Farmhouse Grits.  Its cheesy; its got bacon; its got butter; its GOOD.  We had something similar at a restaurant in Portland, Oregon (The Screen Door).  Their grits were so good that I had to recreate the dish when I got home from our trip and I have been making it pretty regularly ever since.

Farmhouse Grits 
For printable recipe, please click here 
2 tubes of Trader Joe's Polenta
6 strips of Bacon
2 - 4 Tbsp Salted Butter
1 - 2 C English Cheddar
2 - 4 Tbsp Heavy Cream**
~1 C Milk
Salt/Pepper (to taste)

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Cut the bacon into pieces using kitchen shears.  Fry up the bacon.  Once it is crisp, set the bacon aside to drain in a paper towel.  Place the skillet back on the burner at medium low heat (keeping the bacon grease in it), add the butter.   After the butter is melted, crumble the polenta into the skillet.  Stir in the cream, the polenta should start to become creamy.  Start adding the milk gradually, the polenta should be very creamy looking at this point.  Stir in the cheese and the bacon.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Refrigerate leftovers. 

**If you do not have heavy cream, a couple of spoonfuls of sour cream will work instead.

Farmhouse Grits
Farmhouse Grits - "Lets eat!"
So tonight, I will have a breakfast dish for dinner...tomorrow, I will eat my dinner for breakfast (I love leftovers).

Enjoy the foods of your labor.  :-)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Irish Soda Bread and tea time...

Irish Soda Bread
My mother was in town recently for a stamp convention.  Whenever she visits; my sister, mother and I like to go to tea at the St. James Tearoom.  For March, one of the tiers of delightful treats at tea had a small Irish Soda Bread roll made with dried currents.  It was tasty and I became a little obsessed...I wanted to make Irish Soda Bread too. 

That night I went through all of my cooking/baking books that I own.  I finally came across a recipe in "Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook", of course she had a recipe...why on Earth didn't I check this book first (this was "DOH!" moment).  I studied the recipe carefully; I find bread making intimidating, to say the least.  Since soda bread is not a yeast bread I felt a little more confident, but not by much.  

I set out the next morning ready to concur the world!  Ok, maybe not the world, but I expected a lot out of this bread.  I got started...after a little pep talk and 2 cups of tea, of course. 

Irish Soda Bread from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook   
For printable recipe, please click here 
4 C all-purpose flour
¼ C sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
½  tsp All Spice*  
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, cold
2 C Dried Cranberries**
1 ½ scant C buttermilk
1 lrg egg
1 tsp baking soda
1 lrg egg yolk
1 Tbsp heavy cream

Heat oven to 350°.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, baking powder & all spice until well combined.

Using a pastry cutter or two knives in scissor fashion, cut in butter until the mixture feels like coarse meal. Stir in dried cranberries until evenly distributed.

In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg, and baking soda until well combined.  Pour buttermilk mixture into the flour-and-butter mixture all at once, and stir with a fork until all the liquid is absorbed and the mixture begins to hold together, it should resemble a rough biscuit dough.  Using your hands, press the dough into a round, dome-shaped loaf about 8 inches in diameter.  Lift the loaf from the bowl, and transfer it to the prepared baking sheet. 

In a small bowl, mix the egg yolk and cream together.  With a pastry brush, brush the egg wash over the loaf. With a sharp knife or razor, incise a cross, about ½ inch deep, into the top of the loaf.  Transfer to the oven.  Bake, rotating halfway through, until it is deep golden brown and a wooden skewer comes out clean when inserted into the center, about 70 minutes.  Remove from oven, and transfer bread from the baking sheet to a wire rack to cool. 

* The recipe actually calls for 2Tbsp of Caraway Seed.  I replaced the caraway seed with all spice, I didn't have caraway on hand and I thought the all spice would be a nice touch to the flavors of the bread. 

**The recipe calls for 2 C raisins.  I replaced the raisins with dried cranberries, because I am not a big raisin fan.  I like the taste of dried cranberries as a substitute for things that call for raisins. 

Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread, after being sliced
I followed the recipe to the letter, except for the noted changes, and the result was an amazing bread that I plan on making again and again.  It may not bring world peace, but it tastes really good and isn't that all any baker can ask for.

Enjoy the foods of your labor.  :-)