Monday, July 25, 2011

A favorite thing

I am excited to post another recipe from my mom....Twix candies! These are absolutely delicious and I know she gets requests for them all the time. If you enjoy candy making or do-it-yourself foods, this is definitely one to try.

My husband, Kevin, is a great fan of Twix candy bars, so when I originally found this recipe several years ago, I was excited to try it! I had never seen one of these ‘copy-cat’ books up until this time, and had no idea they even existed! What are the odds that the first one I pick up has a Twix recipe?! (Apparently pretty good!) Hooray!
I actually thought it might be harder than it sounded in the book, or maybe just wouldn’t turn out at all. But I thought, “Hey! Someone made it, somewhere. And if they can do it, so can I!” Needless to say, the recipe turned out, and I have been making it ever since!
Twix Candy
35 Caramels (I usually just buy a 14 oz bag of Kraft caramels, which have about 50)
¼ cup water
1 box Nabisco Lorna Doone Shortbread Cookies
2-12oz bags Milk Chocolate Morsels (I use ½ semi-sweet morsels)
Step 1: Combine unwrapped caramels with water in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring often, until caramels have melted and the two ingredients are fully combined.
Step 2: Place cookies side-by-side on a parchment or waxed-paper lined cookie sheet.
Step 3: Drop a small dab of the melted caramel onto each cookie. If you have lots left over, go back and drop a second dab of caramel on each. Place tray in refrigerator for about 45 minutes, or until caramel has set up quite firm.
Step 4: Melt chocolate chips in microwavable bowl for 30 seconds at a time, stirring after each interval, until chocolate is melted and smooth. DON’T cook for longer than 30 seconds at a time!
Step 5: Remove about 1/3 of the cookies at a time, leaving the rest in the refrigerator to stay cool. This makes it so much easier to coat with chocolate. If the caramel starts getting soft again, place cookies back in refrigerator for a few minutes.
Step 6: Working quickly, drop your first cookie caramel side down into the bowl of melted chocolate. Using a fork, flip the cookie over to coat other side. If any cookie is still exposed, use your fork to push some chocolate over the exposed areas. Obviously, any area not covered with chocolate now, won’t be covered later. I use two forks now, and once I have lifted the cookie up with my right fork, I gently tap that fork on the side of the bowl to help any dripping chocolate to fall back into the bowl, and I then go to place the cookie on the parchment or waxed-paper covered tray, using my left fork to help to slide it off, trying not to damage the chocolates’ surface too much.
This is not a professional approach to candy dipping, by any means. There are candy-dipping ‘forks’ and other useful utensils available at most craft stores. For technique, you may want to peruse some websites that have step-by-step photos or even a video. I use this method because the Internet was not around when I first started making candy! I gleaned what I could from every book, article and recipe and came up with this method, which works for me.
Step 7: Continue working until all cookies are coated with chocolate. If your caramel seems a bit soft, just place your tray back in the refrigerator, or only take a few out at a time. Again, remember to work quickly since your chocolate is easiest to work with when warm and will become harder and harder to work with as it cools down. If your chocolate does become too hard to work with, simply reheat at 30 second intervals. One or two 30-second zaps should be all that’s necessary.
Step 8: Let cool in refrigerator, or if you’re in a hurry, the freezer works great! Once your chocolate has set, remove from tray and place in an air-tight container. I like to place small pieces of waxed paper between each cookie. I then place them back in the refrigerator. I honestly don’t know how long they will keep in the refrigerator or the freezer since ours have never lasted more than two days. If you find out…let me know. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

More sauce and more syrup

I just wanted to post something real quick. The other day I had a recipe that called for chocolate sauce, and in these penny pinching days I didn't want to buy a $4 bottle to use a few tablespoons. I knew I had seen a recipe for it somewhere, so I decided to look it up. Sure enough, there it was, simple and quick.
I usually make my own simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water, bring to a boil, boil 1 minute....then you can infuse with any flavor; mint, lemon, lime, vanilla, orange, vanilla-orange, by steeping rinds or herbs in the syrup for 15 minutes, or just add a flavor like maple), but I have never made my own chocolate syrup. It turned out great, and I thought to myself, "other mom's might enjoy this recipe" whether its for Ebenezer's reasons or because you ran out and need some at the last minute, its fun anyway! This morning I made whole grain waffles for the boys, topped them with peanut butter, bananas, and homemade chocolate syrup. Let's just say they cleaned their plates ;).
Happy Thursday!

This recipe is from The, who attributes it to The Complete Tightwad Gazette.
I intend to peruse this website more thoroughly when I have time. They seem like they have a lot of great ideas for frugal moms!

½ cup cocoa powder
1 cup water
2 cups sugar
⅛ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon vanilla
Mix the cocoa powder and the water in a saucepan. Heat and stir to dissolve the cocoa. Add the sugar, and stir to dissolve. Boil for 3 minutes over medium heat. Be careful not to let it get too hot and boil over! Add the salt and the vanilla. Let cool. Pour into a clean glass jar, and store in the refrigerator. Keeps for several months, but trust me it will be gone before then. Yields two cups.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Rolls or Buns

Well, due to yet another technical difficulty my writing has been delayed. I just remembered that my mom had emailed me another recipe but after that I remembered that I took more pictures of a recipe my husband told me I have to blog! So I will blog mine today, and my mom's on Friday, perhaps.
First, let me start by saying we like burgers in our house. We like them in the car. We like them at a restaurant. We like burgers from everywhere. As a matter of fact, if we go somewhere around 10:30 or 11:00 am, I try to order breakfast. My husband, he orders a burger.
So, naturally, I have begun making burgers at home. Not just any burgers, we have sliders. I love sliders, because they are small and I think they are really fun. We have had a few different types, such as bacon pineapple teriyaki with homemade onion rings (I will eventually share the recipe for the onion rings). Anyway, I made a new type the other day and my husband said it was the best thing he ever tasted. To be totally honest, he probably says that once a week. It's great to cook for him.
What made these sliders so totally different, is that I made homemade pretzel buns. Before you shut me out, let me tell you this. They are easy, really fun, and a great project for kids to help with.....ok maybe not that last part, but they are easy and fun, and fun for kids to watch.
They are amazing! Really delicious, and if you have never eaten a burger on a fresh-baked bun you are totally missing out.
I'm going to give the recipe for the buns, then my recipe for hamburgers.
 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (about) hot water (125°F to 130°F)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 3/4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon celery seeds

8 cups water
1/4 cup baking soda
2 tablespoons sugar

1 egg white, beaten to blend (glaze)
Coarse salt

Combine warm water, yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in a bowl and whisk. Allow to to activate for 10 minutes. The mixture should look creamy and bubbly. Add bread flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and celery seeds. Stir with a spoon until the dough comes together. Transfer dough to a floured surface and knead for 3 or 4 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Grease medium bowl. Add dough to bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then towel; let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 35 minutes.
Flour baking sheet. Punch dough down and knead on lightly floured surface until smooth. Divide into 12 pieces. Form each dough piece into ball. Place dough balls on prepared sheet, flattening each slightly. Using serrated knife, cut X in top center of each dough ball. Cover with towel and let dough balls rise until almost doubled in volume, about 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease another baking sheet and sprinkle with cornmeal. Bring 8 cups water to boil in large saucepan (make sure it is very large). Add baking soda and 2 tablespoons sugar (water will foam up). Add 4 rolls and cook 30 seconds per side. Using slotted spoon, transfer rolls to a clean towel to dry bottoms, then to a prepared sheet, arranging X side up. Repeat with remaining rolls.
Brush rolls with egg white glaze. Sprinkle rolls generously with coarse salt. Bake rolls until brown, about 25 minutes. Transfer to racks and cool 10 minutes. Serve rolls warm or room temperature. (Can be prepared 6 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Rewarm in 375°F oven 10 minutes.)

For the hamburgers:
I like to add a bit of liquid smoke and Worcestershire sauce to the meat, and one egg. Make patties by placing about 2 tablespoons of meat into the palm of your hand and gently flattening it into a circle.  Make it very thin. Place on a hot frying pan (medium high heat) with just a tiny bit of oil. Salt and pepper both sides. Once you flip the burger and salt and pepper the second side, top with grated cheddar cheese.
Thinly slice or grate the lettuce and mix with mayo (use homemade if you have it!). You're going to place this on the bottom bun, under the meat. You can add thinly sliced red onions or tomatoes, but remember this is a small burger.
Split the buns, butter them, and cook them in a frying pan, butter side down over medium heat until browned. For this particular hamburger, I spread stone ground (also called deli-style) mustard on the top, then added my homemade dill pickles.
Assemble, and enjoy.
Oh, and I also made homemade chips with this dinner. I left the skins on and used my mandolin slicer to get really thin slices of potato. I cooked them in about an inch of oil (bacon grease, lard, veggie oil...whatever you have), transferred them to a paper towel and sprinkled them with equal parts Parmesan, paprika, and salt (I also added a hit of pepper).
This actually comes together really quickly, and I think it's quite fulfilling.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

All about risotto

As a young child, on the rare occasion that we would eat out, a strange thing would happen. Without even trying, the first thing that sounded good to me, the first thing I would point out that I wanted, was usually, with rare exception, the most expensive thing on the menu.
Now, my dad likes to try new things. My mom doesn't. She does now a lot more, but as a general rule, she doesn't. Somehow I inherited the desire to try new things from my dad. There are very few things that scare me when it comes to food. I said food, not disgusting combinations people come up with to see if they can make you sick. Also, if it is a part of the animal that is not consumed in civilized cultures, I will probably pass.
I will try just about anything. I love to give everything a shot just once. I tried elk steak the other day for the first time. I have to say it tasted just like very lean beef, but anyway.
I am very glad to say that my husband is usually game to try anything also. Especially if I tell him it is good, or I think he would like it. That makes eating out and eating in general fun for the both of us. Many times, we will order two things on the menu that we both want to try and split them.
One thing my husband is not crazy about is mushrooms. When we were first married, well maybe it was a few years into it, I made a cream of mushroom soup. Not from a can, like real soup. I liked it. He didn't. He wouldn't even finish his. I even made these yummy cheese-topped crostini to go along with it, but nope. It just wasn't his thing. I like mushrooms. He will eat them with steak, but other than that, he'd rather just skip it. So, when I found a recipe for wild mushroom risotto, I thought I should pass. A whole dish devoted to mushrooms probably wouldn't be a good idea. But the risotto sounded amazing. I thought about just leaving them out, but when a whole dish is built around something you don't like, maybe you should just find another recipe.
I forgot about it. My husband and I ate at a restaurant and my fish came with risotto as a side. I had never had risotto, but I knew that was not it. Risotto is made with a special kind of rice, and constantly stirred, so it becomes creamy. This was long-grain rice that had some cheese added to it. I bent over and whispered in my husband's ear, "This is not risotto!" I was a little miffed, but it just reminded me that I wanted to make it at home.
Then, just a few months later, my copy of Saveur magazine was all about butter. I have to say it was an issue I really enjoyed. Lo, and behold, there was a recipe for risotto. Just plain risotto with butter, saffron, and Parmesan cheese. I made it. We loved it. End of story. If you have never made/had risotto you have got to try this. It is unbelievably creamy, buttery and just all around delicious. I have to admit before I had it I wondered what all the hoopla was about risotto. Now I know. And you should, too.

Risotto Alla Milanese
In Le Ricette Regionali Italiane (Solares, 1967), which contains the recipe on which this one is based, the food historian Anna Gosetti della Salda points out that the original formula for butter-rich risotto alla milanese is a subject of dispute. Some say wine was a key ingredient, others question whether saffron has always been included, but few dispute that you should sauté the rice before adding liquid and stir in extra butter at the end.
6 cups Chicken Stock
1⁄8 tsp. saffron threads
9 tbsp. unsalted butter (I always use salted)
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 cups vialone or arborio rice
1 cup grated grana padano (Parmasan cheese)
1. Bring stock to a bare simmer in a saucepan over medium heat. Put saffron and 1⁄2 cup hot stock into a small bowl; cover and set aside to let soften. Cover stock; keep hot.
2. Heat 5 tbsp. butter in a medium pot over medium heat. Add onions; cook, stirring, until softened, 2–3 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until opaque, about 4 minutes.
3. Add 1⁄2 cup stock; cook, stirring often, until stock is mostly absorbed, 2–3 minutes. Add another 1⁄2 cup stock; repeat process until all the stock is used, about 25 minutes total. Continue cooking rice until just al dente, about 3 minutes more. Strain saffron from stock over a bowl; set saffron aside. Pour saffron-infused stock into rice and cook, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes. Gently stir in saffron threads. Remove from heat; stir in remaining butter and half the grated cheese. Serve risotto with remaining cheese on the side.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Coffee's Mate

Here is another recipe from my Mom, although I had actually also written it down to share! I won't rehash what she says, but this is easy, quick, and absolutely delicious! I have had people pay me to make it for them on a regular basis!

This is yet another recipe I received from my Mom before I was married, and I am still in the process of learning its’ origin. This possibly came from my Mom’s own mother, which would, in turn, mean that it has been enjoyed by my family now for at least four generations! It’s one of those truly timeless recipes that once they’ve arrived have a way of staying put. They are pulled out time and again because of their ease and reliable results. This is one of the few recipes that I have that fall into that category. It’s one of the few that I’ve been making for years and just keep coming back to.  This is my recipe for coffee cake.
So the first thing people ask when I offer them coffee cake is always... YES...How did you know! They always ask me, “Is there coffee in it?” The answer is “No”…there’s NO coffee in coffee cake. It’s just that it needs an excellent cup of coffee to accompany it! This makes it a wonderful breakfast bread, but many, many times we’ve eaten it late in the evening, after dinner. It’s very versatile. Not only is it good around-the-clock, it’s always my reliable stand-by when I have unexpected guests or need a bread-type dessert in a hurry! It’s my substitute for breakfast breads or evening dessert that might normally call for yeast…which means they have to rise…and rise…etc. But not this recipe! This recipe is so basic and quick, that once I pop it in the oven, it cooks up and is ready to serve in only 20 to 25 minutes! I’ve also used this in cupcake pans, with great results! Not only is it quick to whip up and quick to cook & serve, it tastes exceptionally good. So without further ado…
Coffee Cake
Mix together the following ingredients:
½ cup Sugar
1 Egg
½ tsp Salt
2 tsp Baking Powder
2 Tbsp Melted Butter
1 cup Flour (I usually use 1/3 cup whole wheat flour and 2/3 cup white.)
Pour into a prepared 8x8x2” baking dish, or if doubling the recipe, use a 9x13 baking dish. Set aside.

NOTE: I ALWAYS double the entire topping recipe. This isn’t necessary. I made it the original way for many years and thought it tasted great. I guess I’m just one of those people who figure that if ‘a little’ tastes good, then a lot will taste ‘even better’!  So if you do decide to double the topping, I listed the increased increments below, next to each ingredient. Also, if I double the batter recipe for my 9x13 pan, I then quadruple the topping recipe!
¼ cup Brown Sugar (Double: ½ cup or Quadruple: 1 cup)
1 tsp Cinnamon (Double: 2 tsp or Quadruple: 4 tsp)
1 Tbsp Melted butter (Double: 2 Tbsp or Quadruple: 4 Tbsp)
1 Tbsp Flour (Double: 2 Tbsp or Quadruple: 4 Tbsp)
Mix together with a fork and sprinkle it evenly over top of batter. Bake in a preheated 375* oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until an inserted knife comes out clean. If doubling the recipe and using a 9x13 baking pan, cook for 5 to 10 minutes longer. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

Friday, July 8, 2011

It's in the Rain

Well, I finally made my way out of the new 'blogger in draft'  layout and made my way back to the things I know. The old stuff. So now I can get back to posting on my blog!
I wanted to start by saying it is really sad that I have around 400 pictures of food on my camera, and about 150 of my children/ family.
I know it is July, but the weather has been a bit gloomy lately, and that always makes me feel like baking. Even though, somehow, it is gloomy and raining but it is hot and humid outside. I wanted to share a recipe for focaccia. I LOVE LOVE LOVE focaccia. I could eat it with everything. As a matter of fact, I do. When I make up a batch, we eat it with dinner, as an after dinner snack, I make breakfast sandwiches with it the next day and then I turn the rest into croutons or stuffing. It is absolutely delicious. If you have never made homemade bread, you have to try it. There is nothing that beats the aroma of fresh baked bread filling your house, and then eating it! I love it warm, with lots of butter. Not the fake stuff. Butter. Focaccia has all these wonderful little pockets in it that make it perfect for soaking up butter. Yum!
This is absolutely perfect for a special Italian dinner. Obviously I can't make it all the time, or else I would have to buy new clothes. Bigger clothes. But it is definitely worth the effort, just to have it once in a while.
So the next time the weather cools off, and you are in the mood to bake, throw in a batch of this bread, start a pot of coffee, and put in a Christmas CD. It makes bad weather fun!

Rosemary Focaccia
from the  Art and Soul of Baking
2 1/4 cups warm whole milk (110 to 115 F)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
5 cups flour
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 bunches fresh rosemary, leaves removed and very finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt

Combine the warmed milk and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast over the top. Whisk in 1/4 cup of the flour by hand. Let the mixture sit for1 minute, or until the yeast is activated and foamy or bubbling. Whisk in another 2 cups of flour, or enough that the dough resembles a thick pancake batter. Attach the paddle attachment and mix on low speed for 4 minutes.
Add the olive oil, rosemary, and salt to the dough, attach the dough hook, and knead on low until well blended. Add the remaining 2 1/4 cups flour and knead for 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and turn the dough over in the bowl so everything is mixed evenly. Continue to knead for 2 minutes longer. The dough might stick to the side of the bowl a bit but that's ok.
Lightly oil a tub or bowl and scrape the dough into the tub, lightly brushing the top with oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp lint-free towel and let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 1 to 1/2 hours.
Scrape the risen dough onto a prepared baking sheet. Lightly oil your hands and press down on the dough firmly to expel some of the air bubbles, but don't knead the dough. Begin to push and gently stretch the dough into an even layer in the pan.
Brush the top of the dough with a little olive oil and cover the plan with plastic wrap or the damp towel. Let the dough rise until it is almost doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 375. Be sure your oven is completely preheated.
Remove the plastic wrap. Dimple the dough by gently pressing your fingertips into the dough about 1/2-inch deep.
Bake 30 to 35 minutes, until the bread is a deep golden brown. Cool for 10 minutes, then cut with a serrated knife.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Let's Ask the Cook

Just in time for your 4th of July picnic or potluck, my mom is contributing a recipe from my grandma for fried chicken seasoning. This is another item that is going to be making it's way to my 'have-to-try-that' list. I usually just put some salt, pepper, paprika, and maybe Parmesan cheese in with the flour, and don't get me wrong its good, but I want to try this!
Spice blends are quite popular, and one reason is because their unique combination of flavors creates a bit of an explosion in your mouth when you try them. We have all been there, when we taste something new and there is such a perfect succession of flavors as our tongue distinguishes each herb or spice and we can't wait to take the next bite! I hope you will give this a try.

This is a recipe that I remember well. Probably at least once a week, for no special reason, Mom’s fried chicken made its’ way to our dining room table, served with real mashed potatoes smothered in Mom’s delicious gravy! (There was never enough gravy!)

Then there were the extra times it was served, and almost always accompanied by Mom’s delicious potato salad: any summertime holiday, any and all picnics including a day at the beach or a leisurely drive up through the beautiful Southern California mountains…destination: Mt. Baldy, Lake Arrowhead or Lake Gregory. Or the occasional church potluck with dinner on the grounds…..

Mom’s Fried Chicken Seasoning Salt

6 TBL Salt
½ tsp Thyme
½ tsp Marjoram
½ tsp Garlic Powder
2 ¼ tsp Paprika
½ tsp Curry Powder
½ tsp Dry Mustard
¼ tsp Onion Powder
1/8 tsp Dill
½ tsp Celery Salt
1 tsp Black Pepper
Process in blender or simply put it in a jar, secure the lid and shake.
For fried chicken coating:
1 Tablespoons Seasoning Salt
3/4 cup Flour
Mom clipped this recipe from a newspaper column, “LET’S ASK THE COOK” by Nan Wiley, 35 to 40 years ago.

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