Monday, July 30, 2007

Chicken Nuggets

I called my husband and said that we were having some kind of chicken for dinner and he immediately requested chicken nuggets. He's like a kid--give him burgers, nuggets, and pizza everyday and he would be happy. But they really are nice for a change from "grown-up" food. They're so fast and easy to make--I had forgotten how much I liked the small breaded bites--yum! And you can change around the seasoning of the breading, giving them different tastes. Tonight I served them with bulgur, cooked with a little thyme and garlic, and green beans. Continue for recipe.

Baked Chicken Nuggets

1 lb. chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
1 T Parmesan cheese (or more)
2 t salt (or less, depending on amount of cheese)
1/2 t thyme
1/2 t basil
1/2 t paprika

Soak chicken in buttermilk.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a gallon sized ziploc bag, mix crumbs and seasonings.
Add chicken to bag and shake to evenly coat all pieces.
Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and place chicken on sheet. (For a crispier nugget, place chicken on a cooling rack and place on top of the sheet.)
Lightly spray chicken with cooking spray.
Bake for 15-18 min.
Broil for 2 more min.

**Feel free to vary the spices: Old Bay, Creole are nice for some spice.


Sunday, July 29, 2007

Pizza Sauce and Basic Pizza Dough

I really just love pizza. The house always smells amazing when they're baking. And today I made my own sauce, adding to the wonderful aroma. Pizza making is so simple, and so much better for you than pre-packaged pizza. It's fun to play around with the toppings or customize each slice for the varying tastes of your family. My husband is a strict pepperoni lover whereas I love everything on mine. We can enjoy two totally different meals, each to our liking, baked at the same time.
Tonight I made a basic crust--just flour, water, yeast, salt, and olive oil. It's a sturdy, bready crust able to withstand the weight of several toppings. It was ok but low on flavor. I definitely prefer my semolina crust or a thinner, herbed crust with a bit a sugar added to the dough. I topped one with pepperoni, Robert's standard, and one with tomato slices marinated in a balsamic/red wine vinaigrette. Continue for recipes.

Pizza Sauce

1/2 onion, finely diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 28oz can diced tomatoes (or 2 smaller cans)

1 large tablespoon tomato paste

Herbs: 1 t thyme, 1 t basil, 1 t rosemary, 1/2 t oregano (or 1 T fresh herbs)--these are just estimates; feel free to throw in seasonings to your taste--I always throw in large "pinches" and usually side with thyme.

large pinch of sugar

salt and pepper, to taste

Heat a bit of olive oil in a skillet. Fry onion and garlic until softened.

Add remaining ingredients and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 45 min, or until the tomatoes have reduced to a thick pulp.

Let sauce cool a little and then puree in the blender. (I like my pasta sauce thunky but prefer a smooth pizza sauce--this is optional though.)

Basic Pizza Dough

For one pizza:

1 1/2 cup flour
1/4 t salt
1 t yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 T olive oil

Place the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk to mix. Stir in the yeast.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients.
Pour in the water and oil and mix with a spoon to a soft dough.
Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic.
Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover.
Let rise in a warm place about 1 1/2 hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 425.
Gently deflate the dough, knead, and shape into a ball.
Roll dough out and place on baking sheet or pizza peel.
Push up the dough to make a rim or a twisted border.
Brush or spray pizza lightly with olive oil (use garlic oil or chili oil for a nice flavor).
Top with desired toppings/sauce.
Bake for about 15 min, or until crust is golden.


Monday, July 23, 2007

Sweet Sticky Rice with Mango

There is something so comforting about warm, sweet, creamy rice. I really like this dessert and leftovers are great for breakfast. I use long grain, asian sticky rice to make this. Usually, I add dates and brown sugar and make the rice with water, adding milk at the end if I feel like it. But I had two overripe mangoes that I needed to use and a can of coconut milk hanging around--perfect for Thai sticky rice with mangoes.

How rich and creamy! Heavenly! Instead of serving the mangoes on the side, I cut them up and added them to the rice with the coconut milk and sugar--after about 10 min. of cooking time. To serve, I drizzled warm, sweetened milk over the top. Ummm. The following day, I poured milk over the leftovers and heated it for a breakfast treat. Can I curl up in bed with a book and eat this everyday?


Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sesame Whole Wheat Sandwich Rolls

What a relaxing weekend! We have had so much rain here in Houston this summer that we're getting used to napping indoors, watching movies, and reading. Nice! The perfect weekend to make a yeasted bread. I decided to try another recipe from The Bread Bible before having to return the book to the library and chose these Sesame Whole Wheat Rolls. The egg glaze gave them a beautiful brown, shiny appearance and they smelled absolutely wonderful. They're very sturdy rolls--great for large sandwiches or BBQ. They need a substantial filling to stand up to the whole grains and bready texture. I'll probably make them smaller next time, as they are very filling. Continue for recipe.

Sesame Whole-Wheat Long Rolls
The Bread Bible, Beth Hensperger's

Yield: 16 rolls

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 1/2 T active dry yeast (1 1/2 packages)--use a little less with instant yeast

2 T brown sugar
3/4 cup warm milk
4 T butter, melted
1 T salt
2 T raw sesame seeds
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
4 -4 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour or bread flour

Egg glaze: 1 large egg mixed with 1 T milk

Pour the water in a small bowl. Sprinkle the yeast and a pinch of brown sugar over the surface of the water. Stir to combine and let stand at room temperature until foamy, about 10 min.
In a large bowl, using a whisk, combine the milk, butter, brown sugar, salt, seeds, and whole-wheat flour.
Beat hard until smooth, about 3 min.
Add yeast mixture and the unbleached flour, 1/2 cup at a time.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for about 5 min., dusting with flour only as needed, to make a smooth, soft, slightly sticky dough.
Place the dough in a greased deep bowl. and cover the plastic wrap.
Let rise until doubled in bulk, 45 min. to 1 hour.
Gently deflate the dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface.
Grease or parchment-line 2 baking sheets.
Divide the dough into 16 equal portions and shape each into an oblong oval.
Place the rolls 2 inches apart on the baking sheet, cover, and let rest until puffy and almost double, about 30 minutes.
Brush with the egg glaze.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Bake rolls for 20-25 min. or until lightly browned.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Strawberry Ice Cream

Ice Cream! My parents gave me a new ice cream maker for my birthday and this was my first batch. Many to follow! I have a rapidly growing list of "must make" frozen treats. And so easy! It's so satisfying to watch the machine churn your ingredients into ice cream. So many possibilities! Continue for recipe.

Strawberry Ice Cream

2 lbs strawberries, sliced
several tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 1/4 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 t vanilla

Place strawberries in a bowl with lemon juice and 1/2 cup sugar. Coarsely mash with a potato masher or fork. Let sit for at least 45 min. Drain strawberry juice into another bowl.

Add remaining sugar, milk, cream, and vanilla to juices; mix.

Place in ice cream maker and process about 20 min. Add strawberries and process about 5 more minutes. This yields a very soft ice cream. Freeze for several hours to firm.

**This is best eaten within several days. Although still really tasty after longer, it's not made with a custard base (egg yolks) and therefore gets icier the longer it's kept, instead of remaining creamy.


Buttermilk Honey Bread

I came home from the library today with a copy of Beth Hensperger's The Bread Bible and decided to try this basic, white bread. It's a nice bread, great for sandwiches and toast. I adapted the recipe a little, using part white-whole wheat flour, and substituting instant yeast and sea salt and it turned out well. The loaf had a nicely browned crust, brushed with an egg glaze, and a great texture--not too dense but sturdy enough for sandwiches. There's a subtle hint of honey--nice flavor. It's a keeper! Continue for recipe.

Buttermilk Honey Bread
adapted from The Bread Bible

3/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoon active dry yeast (3/4 T instant yeast)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, slightly warmed
2 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon salt
6 cups all-purpose flour or bread flour (4 cups AP, 2 cups white whole-wheat)

Egg glaze: 1 egg mixed with 1 T milk

1. Pour water in small bowl. Sprinkle the yeast and sugar over the surface of the water. Stir to dissolve and let stand at room temperature until foamy, about 10 min. (This isn't necessary with instant yeast.)

2. In a large bowl using a whisk, or mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the milk, butter, salt, 2 cups of the flour, and yeast mixture. Beat hard to combine. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, beating with a wooden spoon after each addition, until a shaggy dough that clears the sides of the bowl is formed.

3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 3-5 min., or until the dough is smooth and satiny, adding the flour only as needed to prevent sticking. (For machine, switch to dough hook and knead 3-4 min., or until smooth and springy and springs back when pressed.)

4. Place the dough in a greased large bowl. Coat the top with cooking spray and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in bulk, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

5. Gently deflate the dough. Turn it out onto a floured work surface. Grease two 9-by-5 inch loaf pans. Divide the dough into 2 equal portions. Place the dough in the loaf pans. Cover lightly and let rise until doubled in bulk, 30-45 min.

6. 20 min. before baking time, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush the egg glaze gently over the top of the loaves. Immediately sprinkle each loaf evenly with 1 tablespoon of poppy seeds, if wanted. Place the pans on the center rack (on top of baking stone--optional) of the oven and bake 40-45 minutes, or until loaves are brown, pull away from the pans and sound hollow. Transfer loaves to a cooling rack and let cool before slicing.


My Birthday Cake

Thanks Mom! I requested a good white cake with vanilla buttercream for my birthday and gave my mom this recipe. :) It was nice--tender and delicious--nothing fancy. It was fun to share with my family and it's been irresistible sitting on my counter top. It's allowing me to extend my birthday experience for several more days. I love birthdays! Each year I drag my celebration out longer and longer, savoring the pampering! I'm certainly blessed with dear friends and family! Continue for recipe.

Classic White Cake
adapted from America's Test Kitchen, 2006

2 1/4 cups cake flour (9oz)

1 cup milk, room temperature
6 egg whites, room temperature
1 1/2 t Princess Cake Flavor
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cups sugar (12 1/4 oz)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened but still cool

Butter Frosting
16 tablespoons butter, softened but still cool
4 cups confectioner's sugar (1 pound)
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 tablespoon milk
pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with cookings spray and line with parchment. Spray the paper rounds, dust with flour. Alternatively, spray with baking spray with flour.

2. Pour milk, egg whites, and extracts into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup and mix with a flork until blended.

3. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of mixer and turn on low speed.

4. Add butter; continue beating at low speed until the mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no powdery streaks remaining.

5. Add all but 1/2 cup of the milk mixture to the crumbs and beat at medium speed for 1 1/2 min.

6. Add remaining 1/2 cup milk mixture and beat 30 sec. more. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides. Return the mixer to medium high speed and beat 20 sec. longer.

7. Divide the batter evenly between prepared pans; spread the batter with rubber spatula. Place the pans 3 inches from the oven walls and 3 inches apart.

8. Bake 23-25 min.

9. Let the cakes rest in the pans for 3 min. Loosen and invert onto wire racks. Cool completely.

10. For frosting: Beat butter, sugar, vanilla, milk, and salt at low speed until sugar is moistened. Increase the speed to medium-hi; beat, stopping to scrape down the bowl, until creamy and fluffy, about 1 1/2 min. Avoid overbeating.


Amish Friendship Breads

A friend from work gave me a bag of Amish Friendship Bread Starter last week. After 10 days of mushing the liquidy bag, building strength on my counter, the result was 2 loaves of sweet bread: Banana Pecan and Cinnamon Raisin, with enough starter to give to three friends.

This was my first time to receive the starter--a sweet mixture of yeast, milk, sugar, and flour. And although I probably won't keep mine going, it's a wonderful idea. After fermenting at room temperature for a bit over a week, it's divided into 4 parts: one to bake with, and 3 to give away. I love the concept of involving friends and family in baking. It's something very personal and satisfying to share. Giving away this bread starter encourages someone to bake who might not do so otherwise, giving them a new experience, expanding their knowledge. Continue for recipe.

Cinnamon Raisin Amish Friendship Bread

1/2 cup Amish starter (at day 10)
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup applesauce
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 t cinnamon
1/4 t salt
1/4 t baking soda
3/4 t baking powder
1/2 t vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease one 9x5 inch loaf pan.
Whisk dry ingredients to mix; add rest of ingredients and mix well.
Pour into prepared pans and sprinkle top with cinnamon/sugar mixture if wanted.
Bake for 50-60 min.

Banana Nut Amish Friendship Bread

2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup applesauce
1 rounded cup flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
3/4 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1 t banana extract or vanilla
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 cup Amish starter (Day 10)
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease one 9x5 inch loaf pan.
Whisk dry ingredients to mix; add rest of ingredients and mix well.
Pour into prepared pans and sprinkle top with cinnamon/sugar mixture if wanted.
Bake for 50-60 min.

**These loaves really lasted a long time, even though they were relatively low-fat. The traditional recipe calls for the addition of a box of instant vanilla pudding. I changed mine around and left this out.


Linda's Ice Cream Cake

My mother-in-law does not spend much time in the kitchen but she has one specialty which is always in demand: Ice Cream Cakes!! That a wonderful niche! Living in Houston, she always uses Blue Bell ice cream and makes a large array of their fabulous flavors: Mint chocolate chip, Banana Split, Cherry Vanilla, Peanut Brittle, Moolenium Crunch, Peppermint, Butter Pecan.....the list is endless. Yum! A great treat in the summer! Thanks Linda!

I've listed the recipe for 1 cake, but it is so easy to make an assembly line and bake multiple cakes at the same time. Measure out your dry ingredients into several small bowls for each cake; powder several tea towels; Lay out your foil pieces for the pan and wrapping; keep water and eggs next to your mixer. When the first cake is in the oven, rinse out your mixing bowel and start beating the eggs for the second cake. It is amazing how fast this is!
Continue for recipe.

Linda's Ice Cream Cakes

For 1 cake:

1/4 cup cocoa (generous--eyeball it)
3/4 cup flour
pinch of salt
~1 t baking powder (eyeball it)
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
~1 t vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line jelly roll pan with foil. Spray foil with floured cooking spray for easy release.
Lay out a thin, pill-free tea towel. Generously spread towel with powdered sugar.
In small bowl, mix cocoa, flour, salt, and bp.
Place eggs in mixer, and beat on high for about 3 min, until light and fluffy.
Turn mixer down and add water, sugar, and vanilla.
Slowly add flour mixture until just combined.
Pour into prepared jelly roll pan and bake for ~12 min. or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Loosen foil from pan and quickly and careful dump the cake onto sugared towel.
Roll towel/cake up, starting with the short edge or edge that is thinnest.
Let this cool a little; not completely cool, but cool enough so that the ice cream won't melt.
Unroll your cake.
Pack with ice cream (use almost a full 1/2 gallon).
Roll up cake, using the towel to help keep it tight. Pack the ends with additional ice cream.
Wrap cake tightly in heavy duty foil and freeze for at least 5 hours before serving.
Serve directly from freezer.


Garlic Cheese Stromboli

How can anyone not love stromboli? Delicious! This recipe came from The Bread Bible by Beth Hensberger. The bread was really lovely. It had a tender texture and sturdy crust. I liked the garlic and mozzarella filling in the roll--it is a perfect combination for an Italian meal. Next time, I will try one with pizza sauce also. Yum!! This is a definite keeper! Recipe to come.

Garlic Cheese Stromboli


Rose's Favorite Low-Fat Banana Bread

This is my favorite Banana Bread, hence the title of the post :). It has great flavor and the perfect sweetness. I love the cinnamon and the bananas really come through in the taste. The buttermilk and the applesauce make it very moist and delicious. The recipe makes a very large loaf--perfect for a week of on-the-run breakfasts! Continue for recipe.

Favorite Low-Fat Banana Bread

2 eggs
1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 c brown sugar
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup applesauce (generous 1/4 cup is good)
1/3 cup milk or buttermilk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (generous)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
dash of cinnamon
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Spray a 9x5 bread pan with non-stick cooking spray, and lightly dust with flour.

2. In a large bowl, beat eggs and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in bananas, applesauce, milk, oil and vanilla.

3. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Stir flour mixture into banana mixture, mixing just until blended. Fold in walnuts. Pour batter into prepared pan.

4. Bake in preheated pan until golden and a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean, about 1 hour. Turn bread out onto a wire rack and let cool.


Monday, July 9, 2007

Saturday Breakfast

I love eggs! What a nice Saturday morning breakfast. My sister was in town and we woke up late, took a long walk, and then had tomato, green pepper, and Mexican cheese omelettes with multi-grain bread and jam. And 3 leisurely cups of coffee. Weekend mornings are great for lounging. My life is all about relaxing and eating good food...then relaxing some more.


Cake-Pan Chocolate Cake

I had printed this recipe from King Arthur's website a while ago and just found it when I was organizing my files. My husband requested brownies for a late evening dessert but I wanted something lighter. And I didn't want to create many dishes or use my mixer or stove. This cake fit the requirements. You can mix all of the ingredients directly in the baking pan and no mixer! (although next time I'll probably mix in a separate bowl). The recipe even recommends eating the cake right out of the pan.

It was an easy recipe but the simplicity compromises the texture and flavor. It's a chocolate cake but doesn't have an intensely chocolate flavor or delicate crumb, by any means. But it was still good. Actually, it was a comforting cake. And I think it tasted even better the next day. And of course, leftover vanilla buttercream made it wonderful. Continue for recipe.

Cake-Pan Chocolate Cake
King Arthur Flour

1 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon vinegar
6 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup cold water (original recipe), coffee (next inspiration), milk (later inspiration), or 3/4 cup water and 1/4 cup rum (latest inspiration)

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Measure all the dry ingredients into an 8 or 9-inch round or square cake pan. Blend these together thoroughly with a fork and scoop out three holes, or indentations. (It's just as easy to mix this in a bowl also.)

Pour the vanilla into the first hole, the vinegar into the second, and the vegetable oil into the third.

Take the cup of cold liquid (water, coffee, milk, etc.) and pour it directly over everything in the pan. Stir all the ingredients together with your fork until they are well blended.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Serve right from the pan; warm from the oven, this Cake-Pan Cake is wonderful with a big glass of milk (skim, of course!)

This recipe reprinted from King Arthur Flour's Baking Sheet, Vol. II, No. 5, March, 1991.


Chicken Fried Steak

There is really no good way to make chicken fried steak look appetizing! I have to admit, I am definitely not a fan of this breaded and fried steak. But I had some beef cutlets and thought that I would branch out and try something new. This recipe is from America's Test Kitchen and if you like chicken fried steak, it's probably a good method. The steak is dredged through flour, then a mixture of buttermilk and egg, and then re-dipped into seasoned flour. The resulting crust is thick enough to stand up to the onion gravy and turns a nice golden brown when it's fried. It did slide off of the steak when cut though. Something different for dinner, although I don't think I'll make it again.

Type rest of the post here


Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Blueberry Cake

Happy 4th of July and fresh blueberries! That combination calls for a cake to start the day! (And I picked 15 pounds of delicious blueberries and want to use them!) This is a wonderful cake--great for breakfast, tea, or dessert. The buttery, shortbread-like cake is nicely scented with lemon and the blueberries really shine. And it's beautiful! The batter is spread in the pan first and the blueberries are spread on top, allowing the cake to surround the berries while baking. This recipe is adapted from Simply Recipes and is definitely one I'll add to my favorites! Great for company! Continue for recipe.
Blueberry Cake

1 cup plus 1 teaspoon of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
zest from one lemon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
2 cups blueberries, rinsed and drained (may substitute frozen blueberries, or substitute some of the blueberries for raspberries)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Confectioner's sugar

1 Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9-inch springform pan and dust with flour. Or use a 9-inch round cake pan that has been greased and dusted with flour. (I use baking spray with flour.)

2 In a small bowl combine 1 cup of flour with the baking powder and salt and set aside.

3 In a mixer bowl, rub the lemon zest into the sugar with your fingers, releasing the lemon fragrance into the sugar.

4 Using the mixer, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until well blended. Reduce the speed of the mixer to low and gradually add the flour mixture. Beat until smooth. Pour the batter into the baking pan.

5 In a medium bowl, combine the berries with the remaining teaspoon of flour and the lemon juice. Spoon the berry mixture over the batter. (Don't skimp on the berries--overlapping is ok; they don't have to be in a single layer.)

5 Bake for 1 hour at 350°F, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes. If using a springform pan, slide a thin knife around the edges of the cake to release it from the pan before you release and remove the springform. If using a cake pan, slide a thin knife around the edges of the cake and invert it onto a cake rack. Transfer the cake to a platter, berry side up. Dust the cake with confectioner's sugar before serving.


Monday, July 2, 2007

Perfect Party Cake Again

I made this cake for my good friend Shelly's birthday. It's great to have old friends, like family, that you share history with. And I just love this cake. It has a great consistency, is very moist, and isn't overly sweet. I used Princess Cake flavor instead of the lemon extract--yum! Dorie Greenspan's recipes are just fabulous!

Type rest of the post here


Dark Chocolate Cake with Easy Chocolate Buttercream

I made this cake for a friend's birthday and it was a hit. It is a very dark, chocolaty cake. Dutch-processed cocoa and bittersweet chocolate give it an intense flavor and sour cream adds to the moistness. It has a great texture and stays nice for several days. I think it would be great with coffee or vanilla buttercream or a whipped filling and topping. It was almost too much chocolate for me--but still wonderful! I made two 6-inch layers and sliced each in half, yielding a four-layer cake. This recipe makes nice cupcakes also. Continue for recipe.

Dark Chocolate Cake
America's Test Kitchen: Test Kitchen Favorites, 2007

12 cupcakes or Two 6-inch cakes

8 T unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup (1.5 ounces) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
3/4 cup (3.75 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
3/4 cup (5.25 ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (4 ounces) sour cream

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 12 muffin cups OR prepare two 6-inch cake pans.
Combine butter, chocolate, and cocoa in medium heatproof bowl. Set bowl over a saucepan of simmering water; heat mixture until melted and whisk until smooth and fully combined. (Alternatively, heat slowly in microwave on 50% power until melted.) Set aside to cool until just warm to the touch.
Whisk the flour, baking soda and powder in small bowl to combine.
Whisk eggs in another bowl; add sugar, vanilla, and salt and whisk until fully incorporated.
Add chocolate mixture and whisk until combined.
Sift about 1/3 of the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined.
Whisk in the sour cream, then sift the remaining flour mixture over the batter and whisk until homogenous and thick.
Dived batter among the muffin tin cups.
Bake until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, 18-20 minutes for cupcakes and 25 minutes for cakes.

**This recipe doesn't double well--cupcakes don't rise as much with a doubled batch.

Easy Chocolate Buttercream

2 sticks butter, room temperature, soft
3 cups powdered sugar
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup cocoa (I like Hershey's Special Dark for deeper flavor)
1 oz. melted semisweet chocolate

Beat butter; Add sugar and mix until moistened.
Add salt, vanilla, milk, and chocolates.
Beat until fluffy and desired consistency, several minutes.


Crepes with Ricotta and Blueberries

Crepes with berries and powdered sugar is one of our favorite breakfasts and one that my husband requests often. In fact, I can almost bet that every time I ask him on a weekend what he wants for breakfast, the answer will be Crepes and Bacon!

This recipe is from an absolutely lovely food blog, La Tartine Gourmande. Her pictures are amazing--a wonderful food stylist and great recipes too. It's definitely one of my favorite sites! Continue for recipe.

La Tartine Gourmande

1 cup flour
1 cup milk (skim is fine)
1/3 cup water
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon melted butter, cooled (can use 1-2T)
optional: 1 T rum

Mix all ingredients in a blender and let the batter rest for 2 hours (30 min. minimum). (Alternatively, whisk all ingredients except for butter very well; add butter and continue to whisk until smooth.)

Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with fresh berries or jam. Or try one of the following toppings.

Ricotta filling:
Ricotta cheese
powdered sugar, to taste (I don't like mine very sweet--just a hint of sweetness is nice) and optional: several drops of flavoring: vanilla, lemon,
Fiori di Siscilia...
Mix all ingredients.

Berry sauce and filling:
water (about 1/2 cup)
several tablespoons sugar (to taste--depending on sweetness of fruit)
options: vanilla, cinnamon, lemon juice, zest, wine, mint
Mix over medium heat until thickened.

Apple or Plum Filling:
apples or plums
brown sugar
options: vanilla, cinnamon
Saute until soft and carmelized.