Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Toffee Making Novel

I was determined this year to make toffee, for several reasons. First of all, it's so good. Yum! Second, I tried making it years ago and all the butter separated out and it was terrible. I pretty much hate failing at anything, but it has especially bothered me all these years that a simple recipe beat me. It's just a recipe! It shouldn't be that hard! Why didn't it work? What went wrong? Was it the recipe? Was it me?

So really, this journey to make good toffee is really more about revenge for long ago kitchen grievances even more than just wanting some toffee. Despite discouraging stories from relatives (hi aunt Jane!), I was determined to not let the toffee beat me.

I scoured the internets looking for recipes and, most importantly, research on the science of toffee and candy making in general. I learned in grad school that if things aren't working right, you better know WHY everything in your experiment (recipe) is there, because only then can you troubleshoot and figure out what ingredient or procedure might be going wrong or tweak things to make them work better. So I was looking for answers to questions like: why do some toffee recipes have corn syrup and others don't? Should you stir toffee as you cook it or not? Why does butter separate out from the sugar? Why is there water in the recipe? What is the scientific molecular structure of a piece of toffee anyway?

Turns out, sugar chemistry is a $%"@#&, which is why I leave it out of my Cell and Molecular Biology class, and basically people don't know all that much about what's going on scientifically to the molecular structures of the sugar, so I can't share that with you all. I'm sure you're terribly disappointed... (ok, so I didn't look really hard in real scientific sources - it is my vacation, after all and I knew you all wouldn't mind.) But I did find a few helpful websites in my search:

This guy does seem to be a toffee expert and to know what he's talking about. So I picked up several things from his secret toffee tips: 1) the procedure is just as important as the recipe, 2) age your toffee a week before you eat it for better taste/texture --- easier said than done! and 3) keep your toffee in the refrigerator or freezer. However, I wasn't a fan of his toffee recipe. I didn't feel like trying to find 'soy lecithin' and it annoyed me that you would have to weigh your ingredients. While I don't doubt that it is better to weigh ingredients rather than just measure normally, I don't have a scale at home, just in the lab, and I'm not about to weigh my food on the same lab scale I use for toxic and cancer-causing compounds. Besides, my lab scale only works in metric.

Knowing a little bit more about what I was going for, but still having no actual recipe, I decided to check a favorite food blog (101 cookbooks) to see if she had ever made toffee. I was in luck! And, not only did she have a recipe for Toasted Pecan Toffee, but she wrote about failing at another try of making toffee also, when she tried to modify the recipe to make it more 'natural.' So this, and a few of the comments convinced me that I should use a recipe with corn syrup - it seemed to be more likely to work. (My old recipe years ago that was a major FAIL did not have corn syrup in it.) I was pretty convinced this was going to be the toffee recipe I tried to make first. But still I didn't feel like I had a good enough grasp on the process of making the toffee, so I kept searching.

And then I found a baking 911 site dedicated to toffee! It had good answers to most all of my questions and after reading it, I finally felt like I knew what I had to do when making my toffee to make it turn out! I won't repeat all the tips here, but I would strongly suggest you read their site if you give toffee making a try. (Just don't try searching for their 'perfect toffee' recipe - it got moved and it appears to be only available to paying members.)

A few other clues on the baking 911 site also made me think my 101 cookbooks recipe was a good one - corn syrup and water both seem to be pretty important, as well as using salted butter - good to know! So now I was ready to cook! (finally, I'm sure you're thinking!)

I still wasn't confident enough in my recipe to toast pecans and go to that work (or worse, waste the nuts) if the toffee didn't turn out, so I decided to make the 101 cookbooks toffee plain.

So, I melted in a medium saucepan:

1 c. of butter, cut into pieces

Then I added:

1 1/2 c. white granulated sugar

3 T. corn syrup (Karo brand, though often we have a generic on hand... maybe it matters, maybe not)

3 T. water

And then I cooked on medium heat (I have an electric stove), stirring pretty constantly. And stirring slowly, not quickly. I was suprised that the toffee as it was cooking did not boil up very high, I was actually thinking that my pan was going to be too small and I was going to be chipping toffee off my stove, but it didn't boil up very high at all. I used a 'fake' wooden spoon made out of that stuff that looks like plastic but won't melt until it gets to be 500 deg or something crazy like that. (Maybe that matters, maybe not.)

Here is a picture of the pan and spoon I used:

It took forever to cook, probably close to an hour of stirring slowly (the second time I made it, I actually timed it and it was about a 30 min process - I guess it just seemed like an hour). The mixture was a little thick and the bubbles sort of looked like lava lamp bubbles, so I wouldn't necessarily recommend doing this while very tired. You might wake up to the smoke detector sounding the alarm of your burnt toffee because you were lulled asleep by the bubbles.

Finally, it reached 300 deg F and that's when the recipe said it was supposed to be done. So far, so good, it seemed to be all one substance, lacking a distinct pool of liquid butter on top or anything like that. I have a tendency to overcook candy (ask Will about my chunk of teeth-extracting caramel) just because I'm afraid it's not done enough. But this time I just went for it and poured it onto a sheet of waxed paper lining a cookie sheet. I spread it pretty thin (probably a little too thin) and it took up about all the pan (a jelly roll pan, actually.)

And then I waited for it to cool so I could try it.

When it finally seemed cool, it still didn't look like any separationg had happened, and when I broke a piece off, it seemed crunchy like toffee is supposed to be...

And it was good! Yum! I had made edible toffee! Here is a picture:

I decided to put chocolate on it. Mostly because Will said he'd probably eat more of it if there was chocolate on it. And I didn't want to be the only one eating it in my house (remember - two sticks of butter AND 1 1/2 c. of sugar in there!) Here are pictures of that and of the toffee all broken up:

Evaluation: it is good! The recipe seemed easy enough and it worked! I probably spread it a little too thin. And yes, it is better several days after making it, at least in Will's opinion. He actually mentioned yesterday that he thought the toffee was better than when I first made it, and he didn't know the secret tip about aging your toffee for a week before eating! I didn't trust my judgement on that issue since I knew it was *supposed* to taste better, so I wasn't an objective evaluator.

I wanted to try it one more time, though. For two reasons. One, just to make sure it wasn't a fluke that it worked and I'd never be able to get it to work again. And two, because the toffee seemed a little on the light side, colorwise, and I'm wondering if I really should have cooked it just a little longer.

So today I made it again. This time with toasted pecans, like the 101 cookbooks recipe calls for. (except I only put the chocolate/pecans on one side, not both). It is also very good! Toasted pecans are a good addition. I cooked it to 305 deg F this time, and the color does seem better this time. The "soy lecithin" guy's recipe is to cook to 310-315, so I think I could even go a bit higher without scorching it, but 305 seemed to work fine for me. (*Note: I did NOT test my new $10 digital candy thermometer from Target before using it* I'm not sure why, too lazy I guess - it seemed too much like lab work.)

Here are a few pictures from today's toffee:

Don't just take my word for it that it's good. Stop by and I'll give you a piece or two! (see you tomorrow Jane and Laura!)
If you like toffee and you like candy making and don't mind a half an hour of meditative stirring, I'd encourage you to give toffee a(nother?) try. I'd love to hear about your experiences if you try this recipe.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Caramel Apple Pecan Pie

This is good. Real good.

Caramel Apple Pecan Pie
(from “Pie” by Ken Haedrich)

Pie Crust of your choice (Our favorite)
12 caramels, each quartered-48 pieces

7 cups peeled, cored, sliced apples (I used 1/2 golden delicious and 1/2 granny smith)
1/2 c. firmly packed light brown sugar
1 T. lemon juice
2 T. granulated sugar
1 T. cornstarch
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. vanilla extract

3/4 c. all purpose flour
3/4 c. pecan halves
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/4 t. salt
6 T. cold unsalted butter cut into 1/4 inch pieces

Caramel and garnish:
3 T. unsalted butter cut into pieces
1 T. water
36 caramels
Large handful of pecan halves
1/2 c. chopped pecans

Prepare crust and place in 9.5” pie pan
Sprinkle with 12 caramel pieces and keep cool (fridge) while preparing the filling

Combine apples, brown sugar and lemon juice in a large bowl, mix and set aside for 10 minutes to juice. Mix sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon together and stir into apples along with vanilla. Scrape into crust and bake for 30 minutes at 400F.

Make crumb topping by combining flour, pecans, sugar and salt in food processor. Pulse processor a few times, add butter and mix again until in fine crumbs. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Remove pie from oven and reduce temp to 375F. Dump the crumbs in the center of the pie and spread evenly. Tamp them down lightly. Return to oven. Bake until juices bubble thickly around the edge, 30-40 minutes. You may have to cover edge of crust with loose aluminum foil to keep from getting too dark.

Remove from oven. Let cool for about an hour. Prepare the caramel by combining the remaining caramel quarters, butter and water and melt in a double boiler of barely simmering water. This may take 10+ minutes. When melted whisk until smooth and drizzle over the pie. Press in pecan halves and sprinkle with chopped pecans. Let cool.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Spices and holiday cooking so far

While we are waiting for Will to post the Carmel Apple Pecan Pie recipe, I thought I'd show a picture of the spices I won! I stumbled upon the website iLunchbox last summer and have occasionally entered to win some contests. I won last month and got all these spices (including real vanilla!) some mulling spices, hot chocolate mix, brining mix for a turkey (not sure if I'll ever use that one), hot buttered rum mix, two dry instant soup mixes and an apron from The Spice Hunter.

It was pretty fun opening and unwrapping all the spices tonight - like an early Christmas. So many spices - it's going to take a long time to use them all up!

Happy holiday cooking!! What have you all made so far? I made some of Grandma's peanuty white chocolate candies/cookies with rice crispies and marshmallows inside (I don't know the name of them). I got the recipe this past summer when we were there. It was funny because the first time I bit into one I immediately felt like I was back on the farm, since that is the only place I've ever eaten them. Also, I made some fudge last night. It turned out almost right, just a tad bit too crumbly when I cut it. I don't think I have the right size pan for my recipe. Anyone else have trouble with it getting a little too crumbly? And I made some microwave peanut brittle that is super easy. That's it so far - what about you guys?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Perfect Pie Crust

Just in time for Thanksgiving, and by popular request, here is my adaptation of Betty's oil pie crust. Growing up this was the pie crust Mom would make and I learned how to make it from her. It was always a bit frustrating though because sometimes it would turn out great and other times... not so much, it would be crumbly and mealy instead of flaky.

In 4-H when I made apple pie for the fair one year I made a crisco crust instead of the oil recipe to make sure it would turn out. However, my science nature has made me experiment with several hypotheses and keep trying to figure out how to make this recipe work, since I always have oil on hand, and not crisco, and of course, it's healthier, too.

I do think I've figured it out; the crusts have turned out flaky ever since (several years). And for an early Christmas present I will share all my secrets with you!

Here's the basic recipe and then I'll make some specific comments of the important things:

Double crust for a 9-inch pie (though just barely enough - might want to make 1 1/2 recipes if you like to make sure you have enough or for a 9 1/2-inch pie)

2 c. flour
1 t. salt
< 1/2 c. canola oil
4-6 T. cold water

- Mix the flour and salt with a fork in a bowl. Add the oil, and stir/mix until pea-size pieces form. Add in the water a couple tablespoons at a time, stirring, until mixed.

** Do NOT add too much oil. Use a little less than 1/2 c. Too much oil is the biggest cause of the 'mealy' pie crust. If the flour looks completely saturated with the oil then it's too much - add some more flour. It should still have some almost powdery white stuff after this step.

** Make sure you add in enough water. Even if after a couple tablespoons of water the dough is cleanly coming off the bowl, still add it all or at least add until there are nice, white, 'marbling' streaks through the dough.

** Do NOT wait to roll out the crusts. I used to make up the dough and then peel and cut the apples. This is a mistake! Get your filling completely ready and then make up the crust dough and roll immediately.

** Roll between two sheets of waxed paper. This isn't really different than the original recipe. Just thought I'd mention it for any oil-crust newbies out there. Make sure you get it thin and flip it over and peel off the waxed paper a couple times as you roll.


Happy pie baking! (I think another recipe will be posted soon that should give you occasion to dig out the pie pans and get baking... Caramel Apple Pecan Pie! Yum!)

Friday, November 13, 2009

CNS photos

Drying a field of delicious homemade egg noodles.

Veggies simmering, chicken chillin' in the background.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Chicken Noodle Soup

I made this soup last night. It is delicious and perfect for a crisp fall day.


1 Whole chicken, 2.5 - 3 lbs.
6 Carrots
4 Stalks of celery
3 Onions, medium size
8 Oz. frozen peas
10 Sprigs fresh parsley
1/2 Tb. dried thyme leaves
1 Bay leaf
3 Cloves of garlic
2 Tb. butter

1 1/4 C. Flour
1 Pinch of salt
1 Egg
1/4 C. Milk
1/2 Tb. Butter


First, make the soup stock. Throw the whole chicken into a large soup pot with enough water to not-quite cover the chicken. While heating the water, chop 2 carrots, 2 celery, and 1 onion roughly. Add these to the chicken-water. Also add 3 cloves of roughly chopped garlic, 1 bay leaf, a few sprigs of parsley, 1/2 T. thyme, salt, and pepper. Now, add more water so the chicken is covered. Cover the stock and bring it to a boil. Then, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour and 15 minutes or so, until the chicken is nice and tender.

While the stock is simmering, prepare the egg noodles, which are my 2nd favorite part of this soup. I only made them myself because I was too sore to ride my bike to the store to buy egg noodles, and I'm glad I was. Another benefit of marathoning.

Stir together 1 1/4 C. flour and a pinch of salt. To the flour, add 1 beaten egg, 1/4 C. milk, and 1/2 Tb. melted butter (I combined these three in that 2 cup shaker Ann C. (aka mom) got us for Christmas). Mix well, then knead for 5 minutes. Roll out to about 1/4 in. thickness. Roll them back up into a log, like you would a sleeping bag, then cut into about 1/4 in. strips. They will expand a bit when cooked. Cut them to 2 inches in length as well. Then, put the noodles on a clean towel to let them dry out before cooking. They only need to dry about 2 hours, which is how long it takes the soup to cook! A match made in heaven.

Ok, the noodles are made, and the stock is simmering away. Chop up the remaining carrots (4), celery (2), and onion (2) into quarter inch pieces.

Once the stock is done simmering, strain the stock into a clean bowl or pot. Be sure not to pour it down the drain. You can discard the stock veggies, but keep the chicken. Some people skim fat off of the stock. I kept it, and it tastes good.

In your now-empty stock pot, melt 2 Tb. butter and saute the carrots, onion, and celery for about 8 minutes.

While the veggies are cooking, break down that chicken. You should be able to just pull the wings, legs, and thighs apart. I recommend doing so early and letting them cool off before handling too much. Pull the dark meat off the bird (legs, thighs, wings) and try some, because it is delicious, and also my #1 favorite part of this soup. Next, carve the out the breast meat-

" The breastbone runs along the top center of the chicken carcass. Feel for it with your fingers. Make a 3-inch-long slit along both sides of the breastbone. Dig your fingers into one of the slits and peel the entire half of the breast meat off the carcass. Do the same to remove the breast meat an the other side." - Marion Cunningham

Chop the meat into about 1/2 inch pieces. Add the meat, frozen peas, and reserved stock to the sauteed veggies, and simmer for about an hour. While the soup is simmering, flip those egg noodles over so the other side can dry.

After 1 hour of simmering, chop the remaining parsley and add to the soup. Add the egg noodles as well, and simmer for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until the noodles are cooked.


Monday, October 12, 2009

that time of year...

Hey all, instead of posting a proper recipe I thought it might be fun to ask everyone how they season their roasted pumpkin seeds, as I just did jack-o-lanterns and made some puree this last weekend.

Fat / Salt purism aside, I like:

Butter, Salt, Cumin, Cardamom and Yellow Curry (this is my regular spiced kind)

Butter, Sugar, Ginger, Clove, Cinnamon (the pumpkin pie kind)

What about everyone else?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Tomato sandwich, part deux

It just so happened that Claire and I had open-face tomato sandwiches for part of dinner last night. We both loved them. We had nice hearty homemade bread - toasted, of course - olive oil, home-grown tomatoes, home-grown basil and a little Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top. Just about the perfect summer sandwich!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Tomato Sandwich, mmmmmmm.

This is a simple one (nothing groundbreaking by any means), and it's important to stuff your face now because once good heirloom tomatoes are gone, so's this recipe. I looooooove these, hopefully everyone else will too.

Heirloom tomatoes of your favorite sort
Good sturdy sandwich bread ( i like multi-grain but white's all good)
Mayo (not miracle whip. i assume i don't even have to say that here.)
Nice flaky salt

Toast bread. While it's still very warm (you should move it right from the toaster to this step) spread with mayo on one side. Don't go nuts, but don't be mean about it either. Top with 1-2 thick slices of tomato, salt liberally, pepper it up and enjoy open-faced. Make a few, you're gonna want them. Add some fresh basil leaves if you're the sort to mess with perfection.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Katy's Meat Marinade

I thought would be fun to all share our favorite marinade recipes (and pictures if you think of it). This is my favorite; I got this recipe from a friend (Rachel, not Katy). It seems like pretty much standard marinade ingredients but for some reason it just makes chicken or beef (kabobs or whatever) SO tasty!

The last time we used this recipe we then used the marinated, grilled chicken on huge salads with strawberries and pineapple, besides the normal lettuce, spinach, carrots, red pepper, WALNUTS, etc. Fruit on a salad isn't a new idea or anything (Panera's been doing it for ages!), but it does make a pretty picture and I remembered to take one so I'm sharing it here:

Katy's Meat Marinade (marinates meat for ~6 people, we usually cut it in half and that's easily enough for a package of chicken, probably too much)

1 c. canola oil

1/2 soy sauce

1/4 c. worcestershire sauce

1/2 c. mustard

1/2 c. lemon juice

1/2 t. garlic salt

1 t. pepper

Marinate meat 24-48 hours for best flavor. Just ~8 hours works too, but overnight is better.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Mushroom-Shallot Bruschetta

Kate, I'm sorry for posting right on top of you - I feel like that's how this blog goes. Nothing for a month and then everyone at once!

Anyway, this is a creation of my own and I very much enjoy it, hopefully everyone else will too.

Like pretty much everything I cook, at various times this is used to accompany cocktails, as an appetizer, for a weekend lunch, (cue discussion on the validity of the oxford comma) or as a main course - just change the amount you put in front of whoever you're feeding!

As usual, amounts are VERY rough.

ok, let's go. you'll need:

  • ~1 lb asparagus
  • french baguette
  • 10-15 shallots
  • 15-20 cremini mushroom caps (i just like the caps... sue me)
  • walnut halves (one per slice of bread)
  • chevre (1 oz per 3 slices of bread)
  • herbes de provence (use whatever combination you like - a lot of the time i just toss a sprig of fresh thyme in and call it a day)
  • 3-4 T bacon fat (if you don't save yours, start. seriously.)
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
get your oven broiling. make sure it's really hot before you put anything in.

snap asparagus, toss with a bit of olive oil, and put in a baking dish in a single layer. pyrex lasagna pan works great. sprinkle the spears with salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.

cut the bread diagonally/on the bias and brush each piece lightly with olive oil on one side. set aside.

cut the goat cheese into REALLY thin slices - one of those supermarket 4 oz packs should make about 12 slices. set aside.

cut off the flower and root ends of your shallots, as well as the outer layer. slice into rings, no need to separate them, that'll happen during the cooking. set aside.

clean your mushrooms and slice, medium thin (about pizza thickness works great). set aside.

put the asparagus in the oven, directly underneath the flame / heating element.

put half the bacon fat (fine fine, butter if you insist... but you're missing out) in a large heavy-bottomed reasonably deep saute pan. heat over med high heat. when heated, add shallots and stir to get them coated (if not using bacon fat, add some salt). cook them for 5-10 minutes over medium heat until they're softening and getting caramelized.

at this point the asparagus is probably getting close. take it out of the oven and carefully shake so the cooked sides are no longer facing up (should be getting very caramelized / almost charred in places), make sure they're still in a single layer, and put back in the oven.

add the remaining bacon fat to the shallots, let it melt, then add the mushrooms, a bit more salt (helps get liquid from the mushrooms) and whatever herbs you're using. stir the whole mixture gently. reduce heat a bit and keep an eye on the mushrooms so they don't get rubbery, stirring frequently. taste it, when it's done, it's done. add salt and pepper to taste.


after a minute or three of additional broiling, asparagus should be done. remove from the oven and set aside.

lay your pieces of bread on a cookie sheet, oiled side up, and broil for just a minute until they start to turn golden brown. remove from the oven, put a slice of goat cheese on each piece, and push a walnut half into the goat cheese. return to broiler JUST for a minute to toast the walnut and soften the cheese. Remove from oven.

assembly: put a heaping spoonfull or two of the mushroom mixture on each piece of bread. you have options with asparagus:

for a dinner i like to plate the topped bread and just put some asparagus spears in an "oops this is so accidentally attractive!" pile.

for an appetizer, i lay a whole spear diagonally across each piece, on a serving platter, so it looks all pretty and creates a neat visual effect when all the pieces are in a row. if you wanna be fancy AND wasteful just use the asparagus tips in this way. enjoy while hot!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Pasta with Garlic, White beans, Tomatoes, and Zucchini

This is a quick, easy, tasty vegetarian dinner. A great summer dish - we probably have it every other week. This is adapted from a vegetarian cookbook called: "Vegetarian Classics" by Jeanne Lemlin, a book we use a lot. Note: if you do not like garlic (is that possible??) do not try this dish. Sorry, no picture. I promise my next post will have a picture!

1 pound pasta (Barrilla Plus is recommended!! :o) Penne or Rigatoni or something like that
1/3 c. olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 t. crushed red pepper flakes
2 med zucchini
1 (16 oz) can diced tomatoes (petite-diced if possible)
1 (15 oz) can small white beans, like Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed well in a strainer
1/2 t. salt
1/4 c. minced fresh basil
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to taste (or the Kraft stuff is okay if you don't have the other)

Before you start, get the water boiling for the pasta. Sometimes I even start the cooking when the water is boiling, right before I add in the dry pasta. The recipe goes quickly once the chopping is done.

1. Mince garlic. (Yes, use that much garlic! Don't skimp!) Cut the washed, unpeeled zucchinis lengthwise into 4 pieces and then slice crosswise, pretty thinly. You want them to be able to cook quickly.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet til medium hot or so. (We don't use non-stick, it's not needed at all here.)
3. Add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes, just until it barely starts to get colored.
3.5. Almost forgot - add the crushed red pepper.
4. Then add the zucchini and cook, stirring frequently, until zucchini starts to get crisp-tender, usually about 5 minutes.
5. Add the can of diced tomatoes with their juice (I think the smaller, petite diced tomatoes work best in this recipe.)
6. Add the white beans.
7. Add salt.
8. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes, until a little thick (and until pasta is done cooking.) I like to mash up several of the white beans as I'm cooking this - I think it makes the sauce a little thicker.
9. Add sauce over the drained penne and mix.
10. Add basil and a small handfull of parm. cheese. (add more on the table)


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

6 - 3's ice cream

I saw our ice cream maker in the basement this morning, which made me think about homemade ice cream. And this recipe is what I always think of when I think of homemade ice cream. I remember making this at the farm when we'd go visit in the summer and sometimes at home for our neighborhood ice cream parties (back when we lived in Ottumwa - where Andy always wanted to go on vacation after we moved away. Anyone else remember that?? We'd have our family meeting to discuss where we might want to go on vacation that year and there'd be suggestions like North Carolina and Colorado. And Andy would always want Devil's Lake. When that got shot down (well, we did go there once), he'd suggest Ottumwa. Am I remembering that right???)

Summer and ice cream just go so well together. Ok, every other season, too. I love ice cream, it's my favorite dessert! Right after I finish typing this I think I'll go get that ice cream maker and freeze the bowl so we can make some of this soon.

Anyone else remember making this ice cream at the farm?

6 -3's Ice Cream

This makes 1 qt., for a small ice cream maker. The original recipe was 6 ingredients and 3 c. of the first ingredients and the juice of 3 lemons, etc. and made a lot (a large, old-fashioned ice cream maker's worth). (It also called for bananas instead of pineapple, but I don't know that I've ever had it with bananas - ever since I can remember our family has used pineapple). This recipe has also been adjusted by Grandma K. to be slightly less rich than the original recipe, but it is wonderful, so don't let that fool you!

1 3/4 c. milk

1/3 c. cream

3/4 c. sugar


1/3 c. orange juice

1 1/2 T. lemon juice (or a bit more)

3/4 c. crushed pineapple

1/4 c. corn syrup (also not in the original, but adds smoothness)

Mix in an ice cream maker. Add the fruit and juices after the milk, cream, and sugar is partially frozen.

Enjoy summer!

(note: picture from allrecipes.com from their 6-3's recipe, which is the original, but is not as good as this family version. Really, it's pretty much white ice cream with little bits of pineapple, not much special to look at but awesome tasting. Who needs a picture, anyway?)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Barilla Plus pasta

I decided to write a "Product Review" post in case some of you haven't tried this pasta, though a recipe post will follow sometime soon. (And no, I was not paid to write this or given free product or anything like that.)

It would be fun if people posted some reviews on their favorite brands of certain food items. Possible examples: yogurt, olive oil, favorite 'convenience' food (including how you modify it to make it better, if you do), many other possibilities...


Have you ever tried (or been forced to try by your mothers) whole wheat pasta? Well, if you haven't, DON'T!!!!! It's terrible tasting, and the extra nutrition you end up getting is pretty minimal - something like 1g extra of fiber or something like that.

So I was a little hesitant to try Barilla Plus pasta, after all, it is MUCH healthier than normal pasta, not just 1g-extra-fiber-healthier. It has lots of protein, Omega-3s, and fiber. I actually don't remember how I heard about this pasta, but we've been eating it for a few years now. (so maybe all of you have already tried it too.)

It really tastes good! Actually, if you don't tell other people that you switched types of pasta, they may not even notice. The only differences that we noted were that 1) the texture is a little bit more substantial, just a little more al dente, which we really liked. You could probably overcook it to death if wimpy pasta is your thing (though probably not for those that read this blog. :) and 2) the pasta fills you up better (especially great for when Will was running 50 miles a week and I was eating for two - we couldn't keep food in the house then!)

I really couldn't notice any big difference in taste, at least nothing that I could put into words. I think I'd be able to tell the difference between regular pasta and Barilla plus, but mostly because the Barilla is somehow slightly more substantial and I like it better. Certainly it tastes a million times better than whole wheat pasta, the one time I forced myself to eat that.

Give it a try, it's good and good for you! (yes, I'm a mom now, so I have to care about the good-for-you stuff.)

Also, if you have Hy-Vee in your area, they make a Hy-Vee brand version - just as good and cheaper. It doesn't come in as many shapes, at least at our Hy-Vee, however.

Have you tried this pasta? What do you think? Comment below!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Vegetable couscous

The other day I was working with some kids on the simple present tense. I think one of the easiest ways to do this is to have them talk about their daily routines. Here is what was said in one class.
Me: What time do you eat breakfast on Tuesday?
Boy: For Fridays I take couscous.

So then I spent the rest of the day thinking about couscous. I decided to make couscous for dinner. The problem is (as I have said before) that we have a poorly stocked kitchen. Plus spices here are ridiculously expensive. So while I found recipes that looked better, this is what I ended up making because I had at least 3/4 of the ingredients. :) It was good, and I am anxious to try other couscous recipes after I am back.

• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 medium onion, diced
• 1/2 cup finely chopped carrots
• 1 large red pepper, thinly sliced
• 2 small zucchini, thinly sliced
• 1 teaspoon minced garlic
• 1 tablespoon Penzeys Turkish seasoning mix or see recipe below
• 1 can (14 ounces) fat-free chicken broth
• 3/4 cup whole wheat couscous
• salt and pepper to taste
• 2 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped, optional
• 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint, optional
Turkish Seasoning Mix*
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon cumin
• 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
• 1 teaspoon sharp paprika
• 1 teaspoon oregano
• 1 teaspoon dried cilantro leaves
• 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
• 1/8 teaspoon cayenne red pepper
In a large heavy skillet, heat oil. Add onion and carrots. Cook until onions are translucent. Add pepper, zucchini, garlic, and seasoning mix. Cook 2 -3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add broth and cook over medium heat for 3 - 4 minutes or until vegetables are tender-crisp. Stir occasionally. Add couscous and stir to mix. Remove from heat and tightly cover skillet. Let stand 5 minutes. Remove cover and fluff with a fork. Add additional seasoning mix or salt and pepper to taste. Add chopped tomatoes and fresh mint if desired.
*To prepare spice mixture, combine all spices in a small custard cup.
Serves 6

Sunday, March 22, 2009

what to do with around 8 strawberries from a 2 kilo box

Strawberries are in season in Spain, and therefore everywhere here. Yesterday at the Saturday morning market my roommate and I bought 2 kilos of strawberries. We weren't exactly sure what to do with them, until my roommate came across this recipe. It didn't really use that many strawberries, but it was sooo yummy that it made our outlook on life positive enough that wasted strawberries did not seem like much of a problem. We came across several issues when making it-no mixer (really hard to make a cake and buttercream frosting with no mixer or even a good whisk), butter comes in blocks weighed in grams not conveniently measured half cup sticks, we did not learn until we were getting ready to add the powdered sugar to the frosting that "sucre en poudre" is not powdered sugar, it is regular sugar, which we used anyway. Despite these setbacks, these were so good and tasted like summer! Not awesome for the diet I am supposed to be on though...

Vanilla cake with strawberry frosting
2 cups sugar
1 cup butter, softened
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
3 cups cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350.

Beat sugar and butter at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until creamy and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until yellow disappears after each addition. Beat in vanilla and almond extracts.

Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl; add to sugar mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat a medium-low speed just until blended after each addition. (batter will be thick)

For two 9 inch pans, cook for 32-36 minutes.

Cupcakes bake for about 20 minutes.

Strawberry Vanilla Buttercream

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
1 (16 oz) package powdered sugar
1/2 cup of fresh strawberries, chopped

Beat first 3 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.

Gradually add powdered sugar alternately with strawberries, beating at low speed until blended and smooth after each addition.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Lemon blueberry biscuits

After having them again this morning I re-realized just how good these are. Best. Biscuits. Ever.

2 c. flour
1/3 c. sugar
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 8oz. carton lemon yogurt
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/4 c. melted butter
1 t. grated lemon peel (we never have lemons around so we just add a dash of lemon juice)
1 c. fresh blueberries

1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 T. lemon juice
1/2 t. grated lemon peel

Combine dry ingredients. Combine yogurt, egg, butter and lemon peel; stir into dry ingredient until moistened. Fold in blueberries and drop on greased baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-18 minutes until lightly browned. Make glaze and drizzle over warm biscuits. Makes about 12 biscuits.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Salad with Herbed Baked Goat Cheese

Well, this is a favorite of mine.  Tends to come and go as far as how often it's made, but I always come back to it for weekend lunches, or as a starter / salad course if I have people over.  This is one that I make often enough that the original recipe and my version have some differences, so when possible I've included both the original (as I recall it) and the "about" measurement that I use.  Also (and I'm sure this has already occurred to this crowd), this recipe lends itself very well to improvisation - adding fruits or nuts, switching up the greens - one of my favorites involves adding some chopped toasted walnuts and dried cherries that have been plumped for ten minutes or so in warm port.

Full disclosure: This recipe has been adapted from a well-known public television food series involving an American kitchen that tests things.

For the goat cheese rounds, you'll need (and this varies depending on how many rounds you'll be making):
2-3 oz white melba toasts
1 t ground black pepper
1-2 eggs
2 T Dijon mustard
1-2 T minced fresh thyme (I go heavy on the herbs)
1-2 T minced fresh chives (ditto)
2-3 oz firm goat cheese, per serving (assume about .75-1 oz per round, although they can be larger or smaller.  I tend to use 2 rounds/person as a lunch or starter, 3/ if this is a main course)

For the salad:
~2 T red wine vinegar
~1 T Dijon mustard
1 t minced shallot (I just use a whole one, minced. I like a very assertive vinaigrette, and I mean... what am I gonna do with 3/4 of a shallot in the fridge?)
1/4 t table salt
6 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T chopped fresh chives
Hearty greens (I use this spring mix that I like, and the amount varies HUGELY by situation - also, I like big salads. For a main course, I use maybe 4-5 cups per serving, for a side, maybe 3-4.  How hungry are you?)

Goat cheese:
In the food processor, process Melbas until quite fine, maybe a minute or so (blender works fine, as does the old standby - rolling pin and ziplock on the counter).  Put in small bowl, stir in pepper, set aside.  In a second bowl whisk eggs and mustard until combined, set aside.  In a third bowl, combine chopped herbs.

Using your preferred method for slicing goat cheese (mine is twine), divide cheese into equal pieces.  Roll each into a ball, then roll in herbs, then roll in hands again to get the herbs to stick.  Working with a couple at a time, roll around in the egg mixture to coat evenly, then transfer to melba crumbs.  Roll around in crumbs, then roll in hands to coat evenly (press firmly to ensure a good coat).  Flatten each round in your palm (make it as pretty as you like, should be vaguely disc-shaped) and place on a cookie sheet.  Freeze for 30 minutes, and preheat oven to 475.  After 30 minutes, remove cheese from freezer, brush top and sides of each round with olive oil, and bake for 7-10 minutes (depending on how frozen they got).  After removing from oven, transfer the rounds to a couple layers of paper towel and let sit for 3 minutes.


While zee goat cheese is baking, whisk together shallot, mustard, vinegar, and salt.  Slowly drizzle in olive oil, whisking constantly until emulsified.  Add pepper to taste.

Place greens in large bowl, drizzle with dressing (as much or as little as you like - I like it light), toss to coat.

Put greens in individual serving plates or bowls; place goat cheese rounds on top, serve immediately.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Chicken and Lentils Fantastic Food Product

Alright so this dish is one of my standbys as it is healthy, delicious, and reheats well for leftovers/lunches.

1 T Olive Oil
1 - 1 1/2 lbs. chicken, cubed for skillet cooking [2-3 chicken breasts]
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 carrot (or more), finely chopped
3 gloves garlic, finely chopped [I like garlic]
3/4 cup dried lentils [I use green, and I soak in water (fill measuring cup to 1 C. line) starting that morning so they are more tender]
14 Oz. Chicken Broth
1/2 t salt
1/2 t dried rosemary
1/2 t dried basil
10 oz. tomato sauce
1 T lemon juice

*Heat the Oil in a skillet over medium heat, cook chicken until done [Josie likes it browned a bit]
*Set aside chicken
*Cook onion until tender, ~5 minutes.
*Mix in the carrot and garlic, stir in lentils and broth. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low, simmer 20 minutes.
*Return chicken to skillet, cover and cook 20 minutes.
*Season with salt, if mixture too dry add some water (not needed if lentils pre-soaked)
*Stir tomato sauce into skillet, season with rosemary and basil.
*Cook ~10 minutes or until lentils are tender. Stir in lemon juice and serve. [lemon optional]

At some point I'm going to try making this dish into a curry (maybe ginger and yellow curry?), as the same basic ingredients would work well there. If anyone has suggestions for curry seasoning let me know.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Easy Tomato Soup

Sometime between the cold shower I took this morning (Thanks, Dave!) and my first step into the cold morning weather, I decided it was going to be a soup day. More specifically, I was craving tomato soup - something I don’t usually eat or particularly enjoy, and didn’t have on hand – and a grilled cheese sandwich. With a three-hour break between classes, I had time to stumble upon and enjoy the following recipe for simple homemade tomato soup.


Homemade Tomato Soup
Adapted from Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello

· 1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
· 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
· Salt and freshly ground black pepper
· 1 stalk celery, diced
· 1 small carrot, diced
· 1 yellow onion, diced
· 2 cloves garlic, minced (I used 3)
· 1 cup chicken broth
· 1 bay leaf
· 2 tablespoons butter
· 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves (I used dried basil)
· 1/2 cup heavy cream, optional (I used ¼ C of milk)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Strain the chopped canned tomatoes, reserving the juices, and spread onto a baking sheet (I used a 9x13 w/ aluminum foil on the bottom for easy cleanup), season with salt and pepper, to taste, drizzle with 1/4 cup of the olive oil and roast until caramelized, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, heat remaining olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the celery, carrot, onion and garlic, cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the roasted chopped canned tomatoes, reserved tomato juices, chicken broth, bay leaf and butter. Simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Add basil and cream, if using. Puree with a hand held immersion blender (or regular blender) until smooth.


This soup was really easy to make and really, really good. It is a rich, earthy, not too tomatoey tomato soup. Like I mentioned earlier, I don’t even like tomato soup that I’ve had before too much, but this I will definitely make again. The soup goes well with sandwiches or just toast.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

a bit late, but is there really a wrong time for egg nog?

Hello! So I made this cake for Christmas dinner with the Morris side of the family. It kind of doesn't really taste much like egg nog, but it's pretty tasty just the same. I put some holiday sprinkles on mine for a little extra Christmas cheer. :)I had a picture, but me and the blogger image uploader are having some issues this evening.


1/2 c. butter
1 1/3 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. EACH rum extract & vanilla
3 c. flour
2 1/2 baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. egg nog
2 tbsp. water

Beat butter and sugar, eggs and extracts. Add dry ingredients, followed by egg nog and water. Mix well and bake in a greased and floured angel food cake pan. I always cut out a layer of waxed paper for bottom of pan so cake comes out easily. Cool in pan 15 minutes before removing.


3 tbsp. egg nog
2 tbsp. light corn syrup
1/2 tsp. rum extract

Mix and add powdered sugar to desired consistency and spread over cake.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Chicken Tikka Masala with Basmati Rice

We experimented with this new dish for Christmas Eve and were very impressed. Less impressive was our failure to take a picture of it for your viewing pleasure.

Chicken Tikka Masala with Basmati Rice (from Dave's Dinners)

1.5 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup plain whole milk yogurt
3 large garlic cloves, pressed
1 (1 inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
3 tsp paprika
10 cardamom pods (cracked lightly)
2 Tbsp honey
1.5 tsp salt
black pepper (plenty)
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp curry powder
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 cup heavy cream
Basmati rice

Cut the chicken into 1 inch cubes. In a large bowl mix the yogurt, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, cayenne, paprika, cardomom, honey, salt and pepper. Add the chicken, mix, cover and refrigerate at least an hour, or as long as overnight. Bring up to room temperature before cooking.

Make the rice according to directions. (We used about 2 cups of uncooked rice.)

In a large skillet heat the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Stir in the curry powder followed by the tomato paste and cook for a couple minutes. Add the cream and mix together until smooth. Add the chicken and marinade, stir and bring to a simmer. Maintain at low simmer for 15 minutes until chicken is cooked through. The mixture should thicken. Serve over the rice.

Claims to serve 4-6 and that sounds about right.