Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 28, 2009

An Unusual Hobby?

As I was driving my son to the airport today, we were discussing something around saving money. He said to me, "Mom I think one of your hobbies is saving money". I hadn't really stopped to think about it but you know he's right. I guess I got into the habit of trying to save money wherever I could years ago when I had no choice, I had to save wherever I could so we could afford things. Now, I don't have to save quite as much as I used to but you know now I want to save money. I love to go to Goodwill and hunt for great bargains. There's nothing better than finding a brand name clothing article for $5.87. Seriously, it doesn't get any better than that!!!

I've found several blogs that are based on saving money. I wanted to share one I found recently that I love, Fantabulously Frugal. One of today's sales is on clearance items at I'd been looking to purchase personalized notecards but didn't want to spend a lot for something that someone will read and toss in the trash. I was able to purchase 25 notecards for $5.46 and free shipping. This is one of the blogs I read every day. I can't wait to see what tomorrow's bargains may be.
Thanks, Lisa!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Breakfast

The blizzard of 2009 altered our travel plans for Christmas Day. Justin and I were planning to go to Kansas City and Tim was headed to Minnesota. We have 8+ inches, it's still snowing and the wind is blowing about 40 miles per hour. No traveling for us until tomorrow. I took advantage of the opportunity to make a delicious Christmas Breakfast.

Asparagus-Potato Frittata

Broiled Grapefruit
Poinesettia Cocktail

Asparagus-Potato Frittata
Adapted from Food and Wine

1/2 pound unpeeled fingerling cut into 1/3-inch chunks
1/2 pound asparagus, peeled and cut into 3/4 -inch lengths
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
1/2 c. grated white cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
8 large eggs
1/4 cup heavy cream

Steam the potatoes until barely tender, about 5 minutes; set aside. Steam the asparagus until bright green but still crisp, about 2 minutes.

In a 10- to 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil over high heat. Add the potatoes and sauté until browned and crisp, about 7 minutes. Add the asparagus and onion, season with the salt and pepper and cook until tender, about 3 minutes; transfer to a plate.

Wipe out the skillet, set it over moderate heat and add 1 tablespoon of the oil. Beat the eggs with the heavy cream until smooth. Stir in the vegetables and pour the mixture into the skillet. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the edges just begin to set. Lift the sides of the frittata with a rubber spatula, tilting the pa n to allow the uncooked eggs to seep under. Continue cooking until the bottom is set and the top is barely runny, about 7 minutes. Set under the broiler for 3 - 4 minutes until golden brown.Cut into wedges and serve warm.

Broiled Grapefruit

2 large grapefruits, well chilled
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Garnish (optional)
20 grapes
3 Tablespoons sugar
Roll the grapes in the granulated sugar

Preheat a broiler.

Cut each grapefruit in half crosswise. Cut a thin slice off the bottom of each half, if necessary, so that it will stand upright.

Using a serrated grapefruit knife or a small, sharp knife, loosen the grapefruit segments in each half by first carefully cutting between the fruit and the peel and then by cutting along either side of each segment to free it from the membrane. Leave all the segments in their shells. Place the halves upright in a baking dish.

In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, butter and cinnamon. Using your fingers, sprinkle the sugar mixture evenly over the grapefruit halves. Slip under the broiler about 4 inches from the heat source and broil until the sugar is uniformly bubbly, 2 to 3 minutes.

Transfer each grapefruit half to an individual dish and garnish with the grapes. Serve immediately.

Poinsettia Champagne Cocktail

1/2-ounce triple sec, chilled
Champagne or sparkling wine, chilled
3-ounces cranberry juice, chilled

Pour Triple Sec and cranberry juice into a chilled Champagne flute. Stir well. Top with Champagne or sparkling wine. Yield: 1 cocktail.

Christmas Eve Tapas

This year we decided to depart from all of the traditional Christmas Eve menus and have a tapas night. The menu was created by my son Justin.

White Sangria

Cooked Jumbo Shrimp with Tomato and Pepper Dip
Roasted Aspargus
Chicken Wings
Stuffed Baby Portabellas*
Beer Marinated Grilled Flank Steak

*This was a substitution for Broiled Figs. No fresh figs available in Omaha in December!

White Sangria

1 750 ml bottle of Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc
1/4 cup superfine sugar
1/4 cup brandy
4 -5 slices of lemon
4 -5 slices of lime
1 peach sliced
12 - 18 seedless grapes
Club Soda

1.In a large pitcher or other container, combine the wine and sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the remaining ingredients, excluding the club soda, and mix well.
2.Place the pitcher in the refrigerator and let the sangria sit for at least 1 hour (and up to 4 hours). The sangria will sweeten with time, so the longer it sits, the better.
3.Just before serving, stir in the club soda and ice cubes.

Cooked Jumbo Shrimp With Tomato and Pepper Dip

1 pound cooked jumbo shrimp, shelled
1 clove garlic, pressed
2 Tbsp. chopped onions
1/2 can crushed tomatoes
3 Tbsp. chopped red bell pepper
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. tabasco sauce
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor combine all the ingredients except the olive oil and shrimp. Blend until smooth. Add the olive oil in a thin stream and blend further until smooth. Put mixture in large bowl. Chill for at least one hour. Chill the shrimp on a platter.

Serve the dip and shrimp cold.

Beer Marinated Grilled Flank Steak

2 pounds flank steak
1 (12-ounce) bottle Guinness draught
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
3 jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine Guinness, onion, garlic, and peppers in a zipper-locking plastic bag with beef. Marinate 6 to 8 hours in refrigerator.
Remove steak; discard marinade and season with salt and pepper. Grill over medium-high heat to desired doneness.
Let steak rest 4 to 5 minutes; slice across grain and serve.

Holiday Dinner

You gotta love winter...okay maybe not so much. This week the midwest was blanketed with another snowstorm, our second one in weeks. We'd planned to celebrate Christmas with Tim's kids on Wednesday night but because of the weather they headed to their grandparents in Minnesota early.

We were planning on tapas for Christmas Eve dinner so why not have this dinner on Wednesday night anyway?

Deep Fried Turkey

Paula Deen's Cornbread Stuffing
Brussel Sprouts
Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie*

*This is a January Sweet Melissa Sunday's post, so check back for this one!

This incredibly delicious Brussels Sprouts recipe is from my son Justin's recipe file.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts, Dijon and Crisp Crumbs
Fine Cooking

1/4 cup plus 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbs. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. caraway seeds, toasted lightly and crushed
3/4 tsp. kosher salt; more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
2 lb. Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed, cut through the core into quarters
1 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 cup coarse fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Position racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment.

In a large bowl, whisk 1/4 cup of the olive oil with the mustard, Worcestershire sauce, caraway seeds, 1/2 tsp. of the salt, and about 10 grinds of pepper. Add the Brussels sprouts and toss to thoroughly distribute the mustard mixture. Spread the sprouts in an even layer on the two baking sheets.

Roast until the cores of the sprouts are just barely tender and the leaves are browning and crisping a bit, 20 to 25 minutes (if your oven heat is uneven, rotate the pans midway through cooking).

While the sprouts are roasting, make the topping: Line a plate with two layers of paper towel. Heat the remaining 1 Tbs. oil with the butter in a medium (10-inch) skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter has stopped foaming, add the breadcrumbs all at once; toss to coat with the fat. Reduce the heat to medium, add the walnuts and the remaining 1/4 tsp. salt, and cook, stirring constantly, until the crumbs are browned and slightly crisp and the nuts are golden, 4 to 6 minutes. (The crumbs will start to sound “scratchy” as they get crisp.) Dump the breadcrumb mixture onto the paper towels to drain the excess fat.

Transfer the sprouts to a serving bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper if necessary. Sprinkle the crumbs over the sprouts just before serving.

Make Ahead Tips
You can fry the crumb topping up to 2 hours before serving.

Peanut Butter Balls

What Christmas treat are you known for? You know that recipe you make every year and everyone asks you for this recipe. For me, it's these decadent Peanut Butter Balls. It doesn't get any better than peanut butter and chocolate.

I've been making these at Christmas since Justin was small. My recipe is scratched onto a piece of notebook paper, it has my son's scribbles and a phone message he took for me on the back. Too sentimental to rewrite onto a recipe card!

Peanut Butter Balls
1/2 cup butter
3 cups Rice Krispies
2 cups smooth peanut butter
1 pound powdered sugar
8 ounces Hershey's chocolate bar
6 ounces semi sweet chocolate bits
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cake paraffin

Melt butter, stir in peanut butter until smooth. In a large bowl, combine rice krispies and powdered sugar. Pour peanut butter mixture over rice krispie mixture. Stir until combined well. Chill for at least one hour. Roll rice krispie mixture into balls approximately the size of walnuts.

In a double boiler or a bowl over a pan of boiling water, combine chocolate bar, chocolate chips, paraffin and vanilla. Stir until melted and combined.

Dip balls into chocolate mixture, making sure to cover all sides. Place on waxed paper to dry.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Treats

I decided to make homemade treats for my staff this year. Instead of making one thing, I decided to make a variety of treats. My often requested Peanut Butter Balls, mini loaves of Mrs. Flint's Banana Bread and a third treat to be revealed in January. You see it's the January 3rd Sweet Melissa Sunday's recipe.

Hopefully they will all enjoy some sweet holiday treats. They're a great bunch and I am lucky to have them all on my team!

Vegetable Stock from Scraps

When I took the Culinary Boot Camp series a few weeks ago, we learned to make stocks. I learned a lot of tips from the chef who taught our classes but one of my favorites was the save your veggie scraps and make stock. I am sure for some of you that's a given but for me, I'd never made stock before these classes.

For the past six weeks or so, I've been putting the celery, onion, carrot, mushroom and various other veggie scraps in a gallon bag in the freezer. I was excited to make my first ever Vegetable Stock using these scraps. While the stock was cooking, the house had a wonderful soup like aroma. Although I forgot to take a picture, the stock had a beautiful golden color.

Vegetable Stock

4 cups vegetables*
2 garlic cloves, minced
Water to cover
6 peppercorns
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil

In a large stock pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add vegetables and garlic. Sweat with the lid on for about 5 minutes, stirring at least once. Add enough water to cover vegetables, peppercorns, parsley, thyme and bay leaves. Simmer over low heat for 1 hour. Strain stock into a collander, lined with cheesecloth. If you don't have cheesecloth, use a strong paper towel.
You can freeze your stock in ice cube trays. This makes for a quick way to add stock to soups or sauces.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tomato Soup

I have fond childhood memories of a steaming hot bowl of Campbell's Tomato Soup, a Grilled Cheese Sandwich and lunch with my mom. As I grew older, I became less and less fond of tomato soup or should I say canned tomato soup. Homemade tomato soup on the other hand, I love. The flavor is so much milder and less acidic than the canned varieties. I am always anxious to try a new recipe for tomato soup. I so enjoy Michael Chiarello and when I saw this recipe, I knew I had to try it. The only change I made to this recipe was to substitute vegetable stock for chicken stock. This soup has a wonderful texture and a nice mild tomato flavor.

Tomato Soup
Adapted from 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
1 cup vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup heavy cream, optional

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Strain the chopped canned tomatoes, reserving the juices, and spread onto a baking sheet, 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 until smooth.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Gingebread Cupcakes - MSC

Gingerbread Cupcakes...hmmm? Gingebread, Gingerbread Cookies, Gingerbread Houses but Gingerbread Cupcakes? I am not a big Gingerbread fan but it is one of those signature holiday dishes, so knew I was baking this one. I really wanted to like these cupcakes but the truth is, I didn't. Now that wasn't really because of the flavor, it was because they were DRY!!! I followed the recipe exactly! As I was scooping the batter into the cupcake pan, I thought it seemed really thick. I even baked them for less time than the recipe called for. With some of the earlier Martha Stewart Cupcake bakes, I felt like my cupcakes were overbaked. I bought an oven thermometer to make sure the temperature was right on. What happened? I am anxious to read the other Martha Stewart Cupcake baker's blogs to see if I am the only one who experienced dry cupcakes. Now I am trying to decide what to do with the cupcakes because while on the first day they were dry but edible, on the second day, they're too dry to eat. Maybe some sort of bread pudding?

Thanks to Kayte of Grandma's Kitchen Table for choosing this great holiday recipe for this month's bake. You can find the links to all of the other Martha Stewart cupcake baker's here!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Oatmeal & Cream Cheese Butterscotch Bars

It's been a busy Sunday, I've baked, wrapped and made bath scrub and fizzies. I still felt like there was something missing. What's missing today is Sweet Melissa Sunday's. SMS has become a big part of my weekend routine. We're taking a break until after the holiday's.

This recipe was Day 7 of Food Network's 12 Days of Cookies. I wish I had the time to do my own 12 Days of Cookies or even 12 Days of Holiday Baking. I so admire the bloggers who are doing 12 Days of Cookies or similar baking events.

These bars are delicious. Butterscotch isn't one of my favorite flavors however the lemon in this recipe compliments the butterscotch nicely. I'd like to try this recipe with chocolate and orange juice/zest.

Oatmeal & Cream Cheese Butterscotch Bars
Recipe by Ann Burrell

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pea-sized pieces, plus more for pan
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 (11-ounce) bag butterscotch chips
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9 x 13" pan.

In a food processor add the flour, oats and brown sugar and pulse to combine. Add the 2 sticks of butter, the cinnamon and the butterscotch chips. Pulse, pulse, pulse until the mixture forms clumps when pressed between your fingers. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Press half of the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan in an even layer, reserve the other half. Bake in the preheated oven just until slightly golden and set, about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

Beat together the cream cheese, condensed milk, lemon zest and juice and vanilla in an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle, or with an electric hand mixer until no lumps of cream cheese remain. Spread evenly over the baked and cooled oatmeal mixture. Sprinkle the remaining half of the oatmeal mixture over the cream cheese. Bake until the top is golden, about 40 minutes.

Cool and chill before cutting. Run a knife around the edge of the pan, and using the foil handles, transfer the bars to a cutting board. Cut into 2-inch squares with a sharp knife and serve.

Recipe Notes: I didn't add the butterscotch chips until the dough was almost ready. I didn't want to chop the chips!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

White Chili

After having a mild winter and temperatures in the 50's Thanksgiving weekend, winter has arrived in Nebraska. The wind has picked up, the temperatures have dropped and the snow has started to fall. As much as I don't like winter, I do like some of the foods that I think of when I think of winter.

White Chili is one of my favorite recipes for a cold winter night. This recipe comes from one of my favorite longtime cookbooks, Beyond Parsley. Beyond Parsley is the first cookbook of the Junior League of Kanasas City.

Served with a salad and cornbread, White Chili makes a delicious supper!!

White Chili
Recipe Courtesy of Beyond Parsley
8 -10 servings

1 pound large white beans
6 cups chicken broth
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium onions, chopped (divided)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 -4 ounce cans chopped green chilies
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 cups diced cooked chicken breasts
3 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese

Combine beans, chicken broth, garlic and half of the onions in large soup pot and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and summer until beans are very soft about 3 hours. Add more chicken broth, if necessary. In a skillet, saute remaining onions in oil until tender. Add chilies and seasonings and mix thoroughly. Add to bean mixure. Add chicken and continue to simmer 1 hour. Serve topped with grated cheese.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

December 7, 1941. My father and many other young soliders were at Pearl Harbor that day! My father turned 90 this year and I imagine he's one of only a few Pearl Harbor survivors still living!

Take time today to remember those who lost their lives that day and those who lived fighting for our country.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Chocolate Cheesecake - Sweet Melissa Sunday's

I love cheesecake! Cheesecake is one of my signature desserts. My friends and family have always said they are good enough to sell. I always bake those cheesecake recipes that are my favorites. Trying a new one isn't something I do very often. So true to form, this week's Sweet Melissa Sunday's has helped me to think outside the box. (Does any one say that anymore or was that a 90's term?) It also occurred to me, I haven't blogged about cheesecake before so I blogging is challenging me to try recipes I wouldn't normally try.

I did make quite a few changes to this recipe. If possible, I try to use the ingredients I have on hand rather than buying them. I used almonds instead of hazelnuts in the crust. I didn't use any expresso powder, I thought I had some instant coffee but didn't seem to find it. Also, in reading how rich this is, I decided we didn't need a whole cheescake. I cut the recipe in half and used a 4" mini cheesecake pan. However filling made enough for two 4" cheesecake pans. Wouldn't that be an 8" pan? Interesting! Anyway, since there was only one crust, I poured the extra filling into some custard cups. I'm anxious to see how they turn out. I decided not to make the glaze and just dust with powdered sugar.

When I checked the cheesecake at the end of the baking time, it didn't seem to have the same "crust" all of my other cheesecakes have. I hope it is done.

Thanks to Shandy of Pastry Heaven by Shandy for choosing this week's recipe. You can find the links to all of the other Sweet Melissa Sunday's bakers here!

The Sweet Melissa Sunday's bakers are taking a break until January. Check back to see January's delicious creations. In the meantime, Happy Holidays to all of my fellow Sweet Melissa Sunday's bakers!!

A 30th Birthday Celebration at Osteria Mozza

My son Justin turned 30 last Monday. We were lucky enough to be in Los Angeles for Thanksgiving and his birthday. I can't believe my "baby" is 30, wasn't it yesterday we were celebrating his first birthday? For those of you with children, cherish every moment! They grow up way too fast!!

I was thrilled when Justin shared with me he'd made reservations at the popular LA restaurant, Osteria Mozza for his birthday dinner. Mozza is owned by Nancy Silverton, Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich. The executive chef is Matt Molina.

Dark wood, light blue walls and candle lit tables make for a lovely, warm atmosphere. The bar is a beautiful dark wood adorned with bottles and glasses. If you aren't lucky enough to snag a reservation, you can dine at the mozarella bar. The mozarella bar is a beautiful marble bar, ornamented with all sorts of brass animals and objects. I wish we lived in LA, so we could go back and sit at the bar.

I chose one of their signature cocktails, The Sugar Plum. Pomegranate nectar, grapefruit and vodka. It was beautiful and delicious. In keeping with the service levels at Mozza, the rum and coke that Tim ordered was poured tableside. The cocktail glass was presented on a silver tray and the coke was poured from a small coke bottle.

From the mozarella bar, we decided to try the Bufala mozzarella with shell beans, basil pesto & sauteed bitter greens. The flavors were wonderful. I wasn't bold enough to try one of the signature pastas, Calves Brain Ravoli. Although I loved calves brains as child, I couldn't bring myself to order this dish. The butternut squash ravioli was divine. The pasta melted in your mouth. I can never bring myself to leave a restaurant without trying something from their dessert menu. Being the chocolate lover that I am, the Cioccolato (bittersweet chocolate cake) seemed like a perfect choice. The cake was presented with Perugian chocolates on the side. Possibly one of the most delicious and decadent cakes I've ever had the pleasure of tasting.

The service was outstanding. You know... one of those places where water glasses are refilled even though you may have only taken a sip or two of water. There were servers walking the room to make sure every detail was taken care of. If we lived in LA, Osteria Mozza would be at the top of my list.

Fabulous Holiday Giveaway

Everyone loves a giveaway but this is one of the BEST giveaways I've ever seen. It's not a food giveaway but a fashion and beauty giveaway. What more could a girl ask for!!!

The giveaway can be found here!!! Don't miss out, it's worth it to enter!!! When enter, please mention you read about this on my site and both of us get an extra entry. Also, you don't have to be a blogger to enter, so share the site with your friends!!!

Good luck!! It would be awesome if one of my readers would win!!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Great Giveaway

No, not my great giveaway! Erin Cooks great giveaway. She's giving away a copy of the movie Julie and Julia. Every food bloggers favorite flick! You can find her blog here! You can enter once on her blog, then a second time by creating a post on your blog about the giveaway and posting a link to the blog.

How great is that? Good luck everyone!

Glazed Carrots with Sage

The sage in my AeroGarden is growing like crazy. What do you think of when you think of sage? Thanksgiving dressing!! I remember as a child helping my mom with dinner and putting the sage in the pumpkin pie instead of the pie spice. Not sure what we did but I always laugh when I think of sage.

I have a big bag of carrots in the frig. Big bags of veggies at Costco are almost the same price as the smaller bags at the regular grocery store. I always make glazed carrots with brown sugar and honey. I need some different carrot recipes. I found this one on line and made a few modifications.

Glazed Carrots with Sage
2 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut diagonally into 1 inch pieces
1/2 of a small onion, thinly sliced
10 to 12 fresh sage leaves, roughly chopped
salt and pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the carrots, onion, and sage and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions begin to brown (about 8 minutes). Season with a touch of salt and pepper, add the wine and the chicken stock, and bring to a simmer. Cover the skillet and cook for about 12 minutes or until the carrots are tender (if necessary, add more stock or water as they cook to prevent scorching).

Uncover the skillet and simmer off enough remaining liquid so that the carrots are coated in a nice, moist glaze. Check for seasonings, adding more salt and pepper if needed, and serve.

My notes on this recipe: These were so flavorful. The sage adds a nice woodsy flavor to the carrots. This recipe will be one I will make again and again!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

SCORE!! - Snow Flecked Brownies - Sweet and Simple Bakes

No I haven't taken up hockey or football. I finally feel like I've scored with a Sweet and Simple Bakes recipe. If you've been following my Sweet and Simple Bakes posts you know I have had less than baking perfection with my recipes. The main reason for my flops has been because I didn't own a scale. I knew I needed to be the proud owner of a scale in time for this month's Sweet and Simple Bakes because these flops were getting frustrating.

Since we've had a lot of sweets lately, I decided to cut this decadent recipe in half and use a 9" square pan. Measuring by weight is so much easier than measuring in cups. Also, everything I read indicates how much more accurate it is as well.

I always have trouble knowing when brownies are done. This recipe said when these were done the tops would take on a slightly paler speckle color. Mine didn't seem to do that, so I baked them the required time and just hoped they weren't overdone.

These brownies are so delicious! I used a combination of milk chocolate and semi sweet chocolate chips for the chopped chocolate. I will be making these brownies again. I want to try different types of chips next time I make these. Maybe even some toffee chips.

Thanks to Rosie and for hosting Sweet and Simple Bakes. There's lots of creative and talented bakers in Sweet and Simple Bakes, you'll be able to check out their brownies here on 12/2.

Snow-Flecked Brownies

375g best quality dark chocolate
375g unsalted butter at room temperature
1 tablespoon real vanilla extract
6 eggs (large)
350g caster sugar (superfine)
1 teaspoon salt
225g plain flour
250g white chocolate buttons or chips, or white chocolate chopped into chunks (or your own choice of chocolate)
2 tsp icing sugar, for dusting

Tin measuring approx 33cm x 23cm x 5.5cm

Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4/350F.

Line the sides and base of a 33 x 23 x 5.5com baking tin with foil or baking parchment.

Melt the butter and dark chocolate together in a large heavy based pan.

In a bowl or wide mouthed large measuring jug, beat the eggs together with the caster sugar and vanilla extract.

Allow the chocolate mixture to cool a little, then add the egg and sugar mixture and beat well. Fold in the flour and salt. Then stir in the white chocolate buttons or choped white chocolate. Beat to combine then scrape and pour the brownie mixture into the prepared tin.

Bake for 25 minutes, You can see when the brownies are ready because the top dries to a slightly paler brown speckle, while the middle remains dark, dense and gooey. Even with such a big batch you do need to keep checking on it: the difference between gungey brownies and dry ones is only a few minutes. Remember, too, that they will continue to cook as they cool.

To serve, cut into squares while still warm and pile up on a large plate, sprinkling with icing sugar pushed with a teaspoon through a small sieve.

Old World Rye Bread - Recipes To Rival (RTR)

Homemade bread...there isn't anything better than Homemade Bread!!! I've never baked much bread. One of my reasons for blogging was to be challenged to make recipes I normally wouldn't make. I was thrilled to see this month's Recipes to Rival was Rye Bread.

Since I am now the proud owner of a scale, I used the scale to measure my flour. So much easier than the standard cup measurement method. Also, for bread making so much more accurate! I did not make any changes to this recipe. Not being an experienced bread baker I wanted to follow it exactly. Of course, rye flour wasn't a staple in my kitchen. When I looked at my supermarket a couple of weeks ago, a 5 pound bag was a little pricey. Especially when you know you are buying it to make on specific recipe. I love the bulk section at Whole Foods, perfect when you only need a little of something.

Oh the smell of bread baking!!! This bread smelled especially wonderful, almost smelled more like a cake than bread.

I am so excited!! My bread turned out beautifully!!! The flavor and texture were wonderful! I am not a big fan of rye bread but this bread is a milder rye bread. I really enjoyed this bread. I will make this again. Thanks Recipes to Rival for helping me conquer my bread baking fears!

Old World Rye
A World of Breads by Dolores Casella, 1966

2 cups rye flour
1/4 cup cocoa
2 T yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
1/2 cup molasses
2 tsp salt
2 T caraway seeds
2 T butter
2 1/2 cups white flour or whole wheat flour

Combine the rye flour and cocoa. do not sift.
Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup warm water.
Mix molasses, 1 cup warm water, salt, and caraway seed in large mixing bowl.
Add the rye/cocoa mix, the proofed yeast, the butter and 1 cup white flour or whole wheat flour.
Beat until the dough is smooth.
Spread the remaining flour on a breadboard and kneed it into the dough
Add more flour if necessary to make a firm dough that is smooth and elastic.
Place in buttered bowl and cover. Allow to rise until double (about 2 hours).
Punch dough down, shape into a round loaf and place on a buttered cookie sheet that has been sprinkled with cornmeal.
Let rise about 50 minutes.
Bake at 375 for 35 to 40 minutes.

My notes for this recipe: I used my kitchen aid. For the intial mixing, I used the paddle attachment. Once the ingredients were mixed together, I switched to the door hook. I kneaded this about 10 minutes.