Monthly Archives: March 2010

Blog UPGRADE

Happy Monday, friends!

Happy and Monday in the same sentence? Is that legal? On the plus side, Monday is about over, so that’s good. On to Tuesday and bigger and better things.

I have no recipe tonight. Lame, I know. Hey, it’s Monday and I’m tired. But I just wanted to pop by and say I updated the About Me section of the blog! Added a few pics, a bit more about me and the blog. Check it out if you’d like!

Click on The Milkman’s Wife tab at the top of the page or go here.

Happy cooking, baking and eating! More delicious eats coming later this week! 🙂

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Top of the Mornin’!

I don’t know about you but I’ve GOT to have breakfast. I’m a little bit baffled by those who don’t eat breakfast. How do they function? If I don’t have breakfast, I never wake up. I drag around with a grumbly tummy that feels totally gross. I need something to get me going and keep me going all morning long.

But breakfast is a tough meal. As much as I love food, I love my sleep just a little bit more. The whole getting up, getting ready, getting out the door on time part is enough work. I don’t need the added chore of breakfast hanging over my head.

The other difficult thing about breakfast is it’s GOT to keep me full. Is there anything worse than looking over at the clock when your stomach starts rumbling and realizing its only 9:30? Oh, I hate that. I’m not a huge snacker, so I just see what I can do first thing in the morning to keep me full right through noon. I could eat a giant, cream stuffed, chocolate frosted, greasy, heavy fried donut. That would keep me full for about three days. Sounds delicious but obviously, that’s a poor choice…fullness or not!

A healthy breakfast muffin sounded like just the thing for a fresh, homemade breakfast we could grab on the go. These Oat Applesauce Muffins are really easy to make and quite good. And since they’re made with 100% whole wheat flour, chock full of oats, and only about 100 calories each, you can pair one of these with some lowfat yogurt and a bit of fresh fruit for a tasty healthy breakfast!

This is a great base recipe that can easily be adapted and changed with what’s around the house. Different fruits could be subbed in. You can add flax or bran for an extra nutrition boost. It’s an empty canvas, really! Those are my favorite kinds of recipes! This time I added a few spices to warm up the flavor and mixed in some chopped apples for extra moisture and sweetness. They taste better the next day after the flavors had a chance to meld and develop a bit.

OAT APPLESAUCE MUFFINS (Recipe adapted from: Allrecipes.com)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup applesauce (I used a sugar and artificial sweetener free variety. If the color of the muffins looks funny it’s because it’s pomegranate applesauce!)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup chopped apples

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Place oats in a small bowl, pour in buttermilk. Let sit for at least 30 minutes at room temp.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease 12 muffin cups or line with paper muffin liners.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda and brown sugar. Stir in oat/buttermilk mixture, applesauce and egg; mix well. Fold in apples. Scoop batter into prepared muffin cups.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of muffin comes out clean. Makes 12 muffins.
**Note** I greased the muffin cups instead of using paper liners as suggested by the reviews. If paper liners are used, they may stick.
ENJOY! 🙂

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Don’t Delay, Act Now!

Soup season is about dry up. If you’re thinking about soup, you better get on it because soup season is fading fast.

Honestly, I’m not all that sad of the passing of soup season. I like soup. I like it a lot. But I like sunshine and warm breezes and summer berries and fresh tomatoes and sweet corn a just a little bit more.

That’s what makes this time of the year so hard. It’s not quite winter and it’s not quiet summer. Some may call it “Spring.” I’m curious about this phenomenon known as spring. In the Midwest, I’m not sure we really experience spring.

There’s an obvious summer. If 90 degrees and 100% humidity doesn’t scream summer, I’m not sure what does.

There’s fall – full of pumpkins, sweatshirts and football. Summer is great for many reasons but those beautiful days in September and October are probably the best of the year, right? Yes. I agree.

There’s winter. Please. One word: Blizzards. One more: 35 below. Wait, that’s two. See also: Here.

And then there’s Not Quite Winter Anymore but Still Pretty Cold, Grey and Windy with One More Wallop of Snow after You Thought it was Over and Already Put Your Snow Blower Away. Also known as: Spring.

Witness Exhibit A: The view from our back door on a March day.


Notice the abundance of sunshine and the absence of five foot drifts of snow. Look, there’s the deck! I knew we had one of those! And the grass! It’s still there! We made it! We’re through!

Oh, Spring – such an evil, cruel tease. 3 days later we woke up to more snow. So, I guess we’re not completely out of soup season yet. If there’s still snow on the ground in your neighborhood, may I recommend a big, warm, comforting bowl of Cheesy Potato Soup.  Guaranteed to improve your mood and warm your soul. I actually made this soup quite a few weeks ago (could it have been January still?? Whenever it was, we were still knee deep in soup season, that’s for sure!) but I was thinking about it again this week with our First Day of Spring Snow.

This recipe hails from another one of my awesome Christmas cookbook gifts –  The Farm Chicks in the Kitchen! It is all kinds of fun and awesome. It’s full of down-home, comforting recipes and kitschy country crafts. I just love it. It’s too cute for words.

What intrigued me about this recipe was the fact that soup portion and the creamy cheese sauce portion of the recipe are made separately, then mixed together, heated through and served. This is a different method than I’ve seen in the past and one I like. I avoid whole milk and heavy cream in cooking (baking/desserts…that’s a different story) and will almost always try to finagle a way to use low-fat milk instead (1% usually). I have found in the past that it works well in most applications. The one place it doesn’t work so well is if the milk mixture is cooked too long. Something happens to it – it breaks down, separates, curdles, SOMETHING. It changes the texture and makes it…not good. This is what happened the last time I made soup with a low-fat milk base. General Fail.

With this method though, I was able to make the cheese sauce on the side, cooking the low fat milk until just thickened. Then I added my cheese to melt and stirred the whole thing into my pot of soup. Total time on the heat for the milk – about 10 minutes. It came out PERFECT. Creamy, cheesy and so delicious. I had some broccoli lying around that needed to be used up so I tossed that in there at the very end of the simmering time for the soup. No need to add that if you don’t have it or don’t prefer it. I also cooked up some bacon to crumble on top of each bowl. Again, just my preference. I like bacon.

CHEESY POTATO SOUP (Recipe Adapted from: The Farm Chicks in the Kitchen by Teri Edwards & Serena Thompson)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 4 cups chicken broth (1 32oz. carton)
  • 5 cups peeled and cubed russet potatoes (about 4 medium, 1/2-inch cube)
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 cup chopped broccoli florets (I added because I had some to lose up, feel free to add more, less or none at all!)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (lowfat or whole)
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated (about 2 cups)
  • 6 slices of cooked bacon, crumbled (1 slice per bowl, optional)

DIRECTIONS:

Make the soup: Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the carrots and cook until softened-about 4 minutes. Add broth, potatoes, basil, salt,, and pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes (or until potatoes are tender). If using broccoli, add about 5 minutes prior to the end of the simmering time.

Make the cheese sauce: Melt the remaining butter in a medium saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook for about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the milk and simmer until slightly thickened – about 2 minutes. Add the cheese and stir until melted and thoroughly combined. Gradually pour the sauce into the soup and stir until blended and heat through. Garnish each bowl with a crumbled bacon. Makes 6 generous servings.

ENJOY! 🙂

One Year Ago: Amazing Slow Cooker Pork Tenderloin – super easy and so delicious!
Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream – as good as it sounds!

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Happy (Official) St. Patrick’s Day!

As I was making these Guinness Cupcakes, I couldn’t help but think of St. Patrick’s Days gone by.

See, I never think of March 17 as the day for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. The parties, the shamrocks, the green beer – all that happened well before the actual day on a charming little holiday known as Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day. Or more simply: Unofficial.

One word. One day. One extremely bad idea.

It all started back in the 90s when a tavern owner in the University town of Champaign, IL decided his establishments were missing out on a lot revenue when the drinking holiday to end all drinking holidays fell over spring break when the students were away from campus and spending their beer money in tropical paradises instead (or if you’re like me, you didn’t have any beer money, let alone tropical paradise money, so you likely spent your St. Paddy’s Day marking down clearance fleece at Old Navy.) So, he came up with a little event he dubbed Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day. The Friday before Spring Break (not the Friday everyone left campus for break, the Friday before that) he would open his bars at 8:00 a.m., dye his kegs green, encourage everyone to put their Irish game faces on, and come party.all.day.long.

Needless to say, the students liked this idea. A lot. So did the other bar owners. They joined in the fun, also opening their doors bright and early and slinging green beer. And so, Unofficial became the highlight of the UIUC social calendar. A full day of drinking, fighting, vandalism, property destruction, emergency room visits and stomach pumping! YES!

Where do I sign up?

In all seriousness though, I liked to have a good time as much as the next person in college, and I’m not saying I never did anything kinda stupid – sure I did! Who hasn’t? But I never actually participated in the Unofficial festivities in all their glory. My freshman year, I wasn’t old enough (have to be 19 to get in the bars in Champaign, I was still 18 at the time.) Sophomore year, I think I went home that weekend for some reason.

Junior year, I had a particularly difficult exam scheduled that day. Partying before exam = FAIL. Just ask the people who were kicked out of the test and given a zero. They’ll tell you ALL about it. Then senior year, I had a job interview. In St. Louis. So, needless to say, I missed out on most of what many UIUC students would say is the best day ever. Meh. My junior and senior year, I got to go have a green beer or two in the evening and that was all the Unofficial fun I needed, really. Those nights usually ended up pretty low key, as the people that had been at since 8 a.m. were no longer upright and/or conscious. Made for a nice evening with friends! 🙂

My green beer days have been replaced by days of cleaning and cupcakes. And that’s okay. I’m all old and responsible now so I can deal. Somewhere along the lines I just naturally transitioned from bars to bleach and from pints of beer to cups of cake. HA! It was so effortless, so seamless and quick, I didn’t even notice! How can that be?

I can still have a rockin’ good time though. Oh yes. And I still enjoy a few libations every now and then – nothin’ wrong with that! I’ve already declared my love for booze in cooking and baking – so St. Patrick’s Day is the perfect time to reminisce about those crazy college days, reach behind the bar and make a loaded cupcake.

These Chocolate Whiskey and Beer cupcakes from Smitten Kitchen would certainly fill the void left by the spilled green beer and wayward cigarette burns of party days gone by. And do a much better job at it too! I ended up taking a few shortcuts to make the process a bit quicker without sacrificing the flavor. Or the alcohol.

I decided to skip the whiskey ganache filling. As delicious as that sounded, I just wasn’t feeling the extra steps and extra ingredients. So instead, I made the Guinness chocolate cupcakes and piped on a chocolate Bailey’s Irish Cream frosting instead of the Bailey’s buttercream. All the taste, but a lot less prep! They turned out great! The cake was super moist and had a great warm, almost malty flavor we really enjoyed. The frosting was to-die-for! LOVED it. Chocolate and Bailey’s is a match made in heaven! All in all a great St. Patrick’s Day treat!

CHEERS! 🙂

GUINNESS CUPCAKES WITH CHOCOLATE BAILEY’S FROSTING (Cake Recipe from: Smitten Kitchen. Frosting inspired by Smitten Kitchen but adapted from Hershey’s.com)

INGREDIENTS:

For the Cake:

  • 1 cup stout (such as Guinness)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup sour cream

For the Frosting:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
  • 2/3 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Bailey’s Irish Cream
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons of milk (more or less as needed)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners.
  2. Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.
  3. Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 17 minutes.Rotate the pans front to back once halfway through baking.  Cool cupcakes on a rack completely. Makes 20 to 24 cupcakes.
  4. Make the frosting: Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and Irish Cream/milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. Makes about 2 cups frosting.

ENJOY! 🙂

One Year Ago: Pineapple Butterscotch Bars – a different combination that’s surprisingly delightful!

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The Amazing Shrinking Pastry Crust

In all my adventures in cooking and baking, I hadn’t yet tackled a baked egg dish. What could be better for a Sunday brunch/lunch than fluffy baked eggs, loaded with cheese, veggies and meat? For my introduction to this wonderfulness, I decided to go with a classic – Quiche Lorraine. On the side, I served up a simple green salad dressed with homemade balsamic vinaigrette. Delicious! Light but satisfying at the same time. 🙂

Quiche Lorraine is a classic French dish that combines a flaky pastry crust with eggs, milk or cream, Swiss or Gruyere cheese and bacon. Some recipes call for onion as well. It’s all baked in the oven until warm and golden and then sliced and served like a piece of pie.

Here’s an example of where I had every intention of taking a store bought shortcut but ended up making everything from scratch instead. How often does that happen? It’s usually the other way around! I debated back and forth about making my own pastry. After much consideration, I decided I would use store bought pie crust this go round and save the pastry for another time. Well. I forgot to BUY the pie crust. D’oh! But I had the butter, flour and ice water necessary to make my own so rather than go back to the store, I decided I’d just make it myself.

I baked my pastry and quiche in a 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom as suggested in the recipe because I thought it would make for a prettier presentation than a standard pie plate. I ran into a pretty major snafu – my crust SHRANK LIKE CRAZY! Blast!

I noticed it the minute I took it out of the oven – a HUGE gap between the pastry and the pan on one side of the pie. I had one of those “this can’t be good” moments, but moved forward anyway thinking I could somehow carefully pour the egg mixture into the crust and NOT have it overflow and run into that space.

Um. Yeah. That’s impossible. Can’t be done. I poured the eggs into the crust, where they immediately spilled over the pastry like a river flooding its bank and started leaking out the bottom of my tart pan, which luckily, was already on a baking sheet covered in foil.

Eep. 😐

I tossed that thing in the oven to bake and immediately set out to find out what in the world causes insane pastry shrinkage. Ha. That makes me think of Seinfeld. Maybe my pastry decided to go swimming and the water was too cold?

Anyway…

I couldn’t really come up with a definitive answer. I got everything from the dough wasn’t cold enough, to it was too wet, to I stretched it too much in the pan. I swear I didn’t make any of these mistakes along the way, but maybe I did. Oh well.

In the end, the half of my quiche that was not overrun by runny eggs was quite good! The pastry actually had a really great flavor and flake to it. It paired very well with other ingredients, all of which brought their own flavor to the table – salty, crispy bacon, creamy cheese, a slight bite from the scallions. We both enjoyed it very much. The other half…well…it was a little more frittata-like than quiche-like. It still ate, but the crust just got lost inside the egg and it certainly wasn’t as pretty.

So, pastry experts! Any tips for a Newb? Is there a way to insure butter pastry won’t shrink? Any tricks of the trade to share? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

QUICHE LORRAINE WITH A SIMPLE SALAD (Recipe Adapted From: Emeril Lagasse via Foodnetwork.com)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 recipe for Flaky Butter Crust, recipe follows
  • 6 ounces thick cut bacon, cut into narrow strips
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 1/4 cups half-and-half (I used fat free)
  • 3 scallions, white and greens, chopped.
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere or Swiss
  • 1 recipe for Simple Salad, recipe follows

DIRECTIONS:

On a lightly floured surface, roll out pastry dough in to an 11-inch circle. Fit into a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom and trim the edges. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Line the pastry with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until the crust is set, 12 to 14 minutes. Remove the paper and weights and bake until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.

In a medium skillet, cook the bacon until crisp and the fat is rendered, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Discard the fat or reserve for another use.

Arrange the bacon evenly over the bottom of the baked crust.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs, yolks, and half and half. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk to combine. Pour into the prepared crust and bake until the custard is golden, puffed, and set yet still slightly wiggly in the center, 30 to 35 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before serving. Serve with Simple Salad.

FLAKY BUTTER CRUST:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons ice water, or more as needed (I needed about 4)

To make the dough in a food processor, combine the flour, salt, and butter in the processor and process until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, about 10 seconds. With the machine running, add the ice water through the feed tube and pulse quickly 5 or 6 times, or until the dough comes together and starts to pull away from the sides of the container. Gather the dough into a ball, flatten it into a disk, and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface according to the recipe, fit it into the pan, and allow to rest again in the refrigerator before baking.

Yield: one 9-inch tart or pie crust

SIMPLE SALAD

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar, optional
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • Assorted salad greens, for accompaniment

Beat the vinegar in a bowl with the sugar, garlic, salt and pepper until sugar and salt dissolves. Then beat in the oil by droplets, whisking constantly. (Or place all the ingredients in a screw-top jar and shake to combine.) Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Toss a few tablespoons of the dressing with the salad mix and serve immediately.

If not using dressing right away, cover and refrigerate, whisking or shaking again before use.

ENJOY! 🙂

One Year Ago: Chicken Piccata

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House Rules

My kitchen comes with several rules. Some are generally pretty easy to follow:

  1. The flour and sugar containers belong in the cabinet above the stove.
  2. The person responsible for taking the garbage out to the garage is always Eric. (This one is really, really easy for me to follow. For Eric….mmmm….takes some gentle coaxing every now and then but overall he’s pretty good.)
  3. At the kitchen table, I sit in the chair with my back to the window. Eric faces the window.

Some rules are not as easy to follow. For example:

  1. Always washing my pots and pans (and other hand-washables) immediately following the meal instead of leaving them in the sink until the next day. (I do PRETTY well with this one. I’d say I have about an 85% success rate following this rule most of the time – a nice, solid B average. In the words of George Costanza: “not showin’ off…not fallin’ behind.” Ha. )
  2. Finding ways to sneak vegetables into my husband’s mouth. Sometimes it’s easier to just give up….and eat my own broccoli raw on the side instead of cooking it and adding it our meal.
  3. Only baking once a week.

Oooo. Number 3 is extra hard, isn’t it? I always have the urge to take flour, sugar and butter and turn it into something golden brown and delicious. The other problem is I have the urge to EAT all things flour, sugar and butter-laden pretty much all the time. If I gave in to every urge I had to bake, I’d eat everything in sight and then, well….let’s just say these cute skinny jeans I’ve been rockin’ lately would have to be retired.

And so I created the Bake Only Once a Week rule. This means I pick out one baked good a week and make enough for Eric and I to share (example: 12 cupcakes – not 30. 2 dozen cookies, not 5) The item is reserved specifically for after dinner and is not packed in lunches or eaten as snacks. If someone (ahem – me.) goes overboard and decimates said baked good in three days, well, then that’s it…it’s gone and there’s no more homemade goodness until the weekend rolls around again. The incentive is there to make it last. Oh yes. Because if I don’t have my little fix of something sweet after dinner…I go a little loony and start doing crazy things. Like eating these nasty orange slice candy things Eric brings home from Farm & Fleet that I DON’T EVEN LIKE! If I’m going to waste calories on sweets, which, please, is a total given – I would much rather it be on something I’m really going to enjoy. Yes. I’m pretty good at making it last.

Where I run into trouble with this rule is when it comes to bread. If I make bread, does that count as my once a week baking or not? Well, if I made a healthy whole grain bread, I would probably say no and go ahead and whip up a batch of cookies after that. The problem is…when I get the urge to make bread it is never of the whole grain variety. It’s of the white and packed with cheese variety. Dang!

See, this why I rarely make bread. I’m not intimidated, I don’t think it’s hard – I would just rather have the cookies or brownies or whatever. Every so often, I’ll forgo my sweet treat for a week in favor of white bread. It’s rare, but it does happen.

A couple weeks ago, I was browsing the King Arthur Flour website. The actual reason I was there was because I am interested in getting started in using more whole grain in baking. Really!  King Arthur has great offering of whole grain flours and fun recipes that use them so I was perusing what’s out there. I admit I haven’t ventured into this realm much yet but since I’ve already decided I’m not going to be able to quit it with the stupid cookies or whatever, the very least I can do is add a tiny bit of nutritional value to each one. Like whole wheat flour totally negates butter. And sugar. And eggs. Mmm hmm. Right. All of us sugar addicts will just keep telling ourselves that.

Anyway, I got totally sidetracked and stumbled upon this recipe for No-Fuss Foccacia. It looked so simple and yummy, I skipped my usual sweet baking that weekend and made this instead. It could not be easier. In less than two hours with no kneading and no mess, I had hot, fresh, cheesy bread with a nice thin crust and a light and fluffy interior. Mmmmm. Empty, white bread calories. Worth forgoing the cookies for a week.

Now, the more I look at this recipe the more I think rapid-rise yeast does not equal instant yeast. Am I correct in this assumption? Instant yeast sounds like a specialty product. At any rate, the rapid-rise yeast I used worked like a charm. After 60 minutes of resting, I did in fact have a nice puffy dough, so I assumed all was well and tossed it in the oven. Came out great! My only other note about this recipe is that you don’t need 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil for the bottom of your baking dish. That’s way too much. About half a tablespoon will work just fine – just spread it around evenly with a pastry brush.

I’m sure you’re wondering what I did for my sweet fix since I didn’t do any other baking when I made this bread. That’s what open bags of chocolate chips are for. 🙂

NO-FUSS FOCACCIA (Recipe adapted from: King Arthur Flour)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (plus additional for drizzling)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast (I used quick rise yeast and it worked fine)
  • Dried herbs of your choice or pizza seasoning, optional (I used Italian seasoning)
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese, optional (I used Parmesan cheese)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Lightly grease a 13×9 inch baking pan. Drizzle 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil on the bottom. (I used about 1/2 tablespoon, spread evenly with a pastry brush.)
  2. Combine all the ingredients, and beat on high with an electric mixer for 60 seconds.
  3. Scoop the sticky batter into the prepared pan, cover, and let rise at room temperature for 60 minutes, or until dough becomes puffy.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  5. Gently poke the dough all over with your finger.
  6. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with dried herbs, pizza seasoning or cheese, if desired.
  7. Bake until golden brown, about 35 to 40 minutes
  8. Remove from the oven, wait 5 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

ENJOY! 🙂

One Year Ago: Potato Chip Cookies – My grandma’s recipe! An old family favorite

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Sweet Rewards

I have a confession to make. Deep breaths. Ready? Okay, here we go.

I STINK at cleaning my house. I am horrible. It’s disgraceful, really. Sure, sure – I can PICK UP the house. That is, get the clutter out of the way so no one sees it (Hm. Here’s a drawer that still opens and shuts – must need more crap inside.) and clean up the obvious glaring messes (Oops. There’s a pile of petrified shredded cheese on the kitchen floor again…) But when it comes the actual roll-up-your-sleeves, put-your-back-into-it, elbow-grease cleaning, I just kind of….ignore it. No, I mean I forget about it. Yeah, yeah…forget. Since I’m so busy…and stuff.

Until I look around one day and think…Holy cow, this place is disgusting. Nothing can remedy this nastiness except…an entire day off work devoted to cleaning. A vacation day. To clean.

That sounds wrong. So, so wrong. I’m a little ashamed of it myself. 😉

Enter our bathroom. Now, don’t get me wrong – the bathroom is on my regular Saturday cleaning schedule. Every Saturday morning, I do my quick sweep through where I change out our towels, wipe down the counters and sink, scrub the wayward toothpaste splatters off the mirror and clean the toilet. About once a month, I go crazy and wash the rugs and sweep and mop the floor. I mean, I don’t let us live in complete squalor over here, but I’m ashamed to admit how much time goes by in between shower/tub cleanings and grout scrubbings. It’s a little bit sick.

So early last week, I’m surveying the bathroom and it’s hundreds of white subway tiles (note to self: TOO MUCH TILE IN THE BATHROOM. NEVER AGAIN!) and I’m thinking…ew. I can see little specks of dust on my tiles and grout. There’s some pretty gnarly hairballs jammed into the corners and there was some definite black and pink moldy, mildewy gunk building up in the tracks of the shower door. Time to roll up my sleeves, put my back into it, slather on that elbow grease and clean the stupid bathroom.

So that’s what I did. Took the day off on Friday and spent the better part of the entire day cleaning the bathroom. Save for the half hour or so I had to get the heck out of there after the bleachy fumes started to make me a bit wobbly. I went through every drawer and cabinet and purged a bunch of old junk. I scrubbed and scoured every tile, every surface in that little room. I chiseled moldy, mildewy junk off the shower door, cleaned every inch of that tub and shower up to the ceiling. I got down on my hands and knees and scrubbed every single crevice of those textured tiles on the floor. You could serve dinner on my toilet it’s so sparkling clean in there now.

I always feel extremely satisfied after I do something like that. Now, if I just kept up with it a little better I wouldn’t have to spend ENTIRE DAYS doing it but…meh. Job well done, anyway. I’m gonna go ahead and give myself a pat on the back. ::pat, pat, pat:: Ah. Nice. Good job, Self. Way to git ‘er done. 🙂

After all that, I decided to reward myself with…COOKIES! YAY for cookies! I wanted something classic and comforting after all that hard work, so when I saw my latest copy of Midwest Living (my favorite magazine!) hinting at the Midwest’s best chocolate chip cookie recipes hiding inside, I knew exactly what I wanted make. Of course, I turned straight to their number one pick!

These.Are.So.Good. Oh my. The recipe hails from Lindsay’s Chocolate Cafe and Coffee House in O’Fallon, MO, which after trying these cookies, I will have to stop at the next time we’re in the STL area! Mmmm. They are chock full of chocolate, oats and nuts. Crispy around the edges and chewy on the inside. I loved all the different textures going on in these babies. Mmmm. Truly a most perfect and wonderful cookie!

What intrigued me most about these cookies was the addition of a grated milk chocolate bar to the batter. I’m not sure it added any more chocolate flavor so much as a nice chocolatey marble. It really gave the cookies a nice color.

Looks like little chocolate centipedes! Ah! They’re trying to escape! 🙂

LINDSAY’S CHOCOLATE CAFE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES: (Recipe Source: As seen in Midwest Living, March/April 2010)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2-1/2 cups regular rolled oats
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 12-oz. pkg. (2 cups) semisweet chocolate pieces
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 4 oz. milk chocolate bar, grated

DIRECTIONS:

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

2. Beat butter in a bowl with an electric mixer on a medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugars and beat on medium speed until mixture is combined, scraping sides of bowl. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Beat in as much of the flour mixture as you can with the mixer, then stir in any remaining flour mixture with a wooden spoon until combined. Stir in chocolate pieces, nuts and grated chocolate.

3. Drop dough from a large cookie scoop (about 3 tablespoons) 4 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets or baking stone. Bake in a 375 degree F oven for 9 to 10 minutes or until edges are light brown. Cool on cookie sheets 1 minute. Transfer to wire racks and let cool. Yield: about 30 cookies. (These can be made smaller, if you prefer. Expect to get about 60 if using a standard cookie scoop)

ENJOY! 🙂

One Year Ago: California Medley Pasta Toss

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