Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sharpening

 It's no secret that I am in love with my KitchenAid (which looks more cinnamon in this picture but is actually a proud Empire Red), but I also have a special place in my heart for my knives. They're sharp and quick and the French Chef (the big one of course, we don't really have anything "petite" at our house, minus Baby Strawberry who is 50th percentile) is my very favorite. I can't do without them so it's really hard to get them sharpened. Sending my babies away for a couple weeks? No way! Does anyone else have this problem? Really, I'm not sure how I'll make a salad, much less an entire meal without my French Chef. But I'm having surgery on my right wrist today (and I can't so much as pick up a knife with my left hand) so I figured now was as good of time as any to send my babies off! So I'm going to be sans recipes for a while (though I'll try to drag up some I've been saving. I'm not sure what kind of cast I'm going to have, though, so typing may or may not work out! Although I did get pretty good at the one handed typing when Baby Strawberry was tiny!)

Don't forget to enter the giveaway and have an awesome week!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Quick Desserts and a Betty Crocker/Safeway Giveaway

It's no secret that I have my uses for cake and brownie mixes, like the above birthday cupcakes that were delicious, freakishly hot pink, and took me less than an hour from thought to finish (aren't the little Haribo raspberries so cute on top, too?). I know lots of people are mix-haters, and I am in the frosting department. But oh I love me a quick cupcakes or batch of brownies! I only buy the nice Betty Crocker premium brownie mixes, for the record (even if I do with a coupon) but I do like to doctor them to make delicious desserts in no time. Some of my favorite things I've made with boxed mixes include-



Orange Creamsicle Cupcakes (or any cupcake for that matter- I have five German Chocolate cake mixes ready to go in case of a Red Velvet Cupcake emergency. A little sour cream and extra flavoring- vanilla, zest, etc- makes a world of difference!)



So when MyBlogSpark contacted me about doing a giveaway featuring a Betty Crocker baking prize pack and $25 Safeway card I was totally on board. I hate to sound like a sell out with giveaways but really these are my favorite and Safeway is my favorite grocery store so I knew this was a match made in heaven. Betty Crocker cake mixes and traditional brownie mixes are on sale at Safeway through April 6th for only $.69 so you can bet I'm going to cram more into my already overflowing pantry (especially since my normal stock up price for those is a buck! Yay!) They also have a lot of great looking desserts and ecoupons you can load onto your Safeway card on their site here.

So leave me a comment letting me know what you like to make with cake and brownie mixes- I'd love some fresh ideas! One entry per person, US addresses only please. And PLEASE leave your email or a way to contact you- I hate when I can't get a hold of the winner! Giveaway ends one week from now.
 
Disclosure- the coupon, prize pack, information and additional prize pack to give away were all given to me from Safeway and Betty Crocker through MyBlogSpark- but the opinions are my own!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Strawberry Lemonade Bars

{printable recipe here}
Auburn called to see if she could test drive my food processor for an awesome new recipe she found. Lemon, strawberries, pastry crust? You bet! These are made with a quick crust pressed into a pan and then the strawberry lemon puree is poured over top. The whole thing took us onto 10 minutes or so, even with five million little children asking for drinks, balls, attention, treats, you know. Don't forget to take the extra 30 seconds to line the pan with foil before starting. After they cool, lift them right out and slice. They'll look better, make less waste, and less mess around the edges of the pan. Not that my husband MINDS cleaning up that mess!

We made these in a big baking dish but decided we'd like them better a little thicker, so I'm including my changes below. You could also make this without a food processor if you don't have one by pureeing the strawberries in a blender. Whichever method you use I would remove the seeds from the strawberry puree with a mesh sieve. The final product will have a much better texture that way.

Come back Monday for a giveaway!

Strawberry Lemonade Bars
from AnneStrawberry
adapted from Baking Bites

for the crust-
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt

for the filling-
1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
3 teaspoons lemon zest
1/2 cup pureed strawberries (about 3/4 cup berries, pureed and seeds removed)
1 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a small rectangular pan with foil (a 9 x 13 works for thinner bars, but I like my small rectangular Pyrex- it's bigger than a square dish but not too big).
In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter till fluffy. Gradually beat in flour and salt until mixture is crumbly. Pour into prepared pan and lightly press into an even layer. Bake for about 17 minutes, until set at the edges.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling. In the bowl of a food processor, combine lemon juice, lemon zest, strawberry puree, sugar and eggs and process until smooth. Add in flour, baking powder and salt, then pulse until smooth.

Gently pour the filling over the hot crust when it has finished baking. Return pan to oven and bake for about 30 minutes. The filling should be a little set. It may have a sugary crust on top- just make sure it's semi solid. It will continue to harden in the fridge.

Cool completely in the fridge then slice with a damp knife, cleaning between cuts to get the best final product. Top with sliced strawberries if desired. Help bars to keep their shape by storing in the fridge.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

TWD- Dulce de Leche Duos (Caramel Cookies!)

I love the look of sandwiched cookies- the dulce peeking out is smooth and pretty and hints of extra goodness. I was actually super surprised by this recipe. The dough is basically normal chocolate chip cookie dough with added dulce de leche. Sandwich some more between little, soft cookies and you have a fancy named caramel cookie. These were a big hit at our house and are all gone already (although my tall man said they should have been a bit crispier- but I don't trust his opinion on that and he doesn't mine. I think we'll always disagree on crunchy or chewy cookies!). My only complaint is that one can of Eagle brand milk didn't make enough to go into the cookies and on top. It wasn't all bad, though, because I scooped and froze half the dough for another time. That's the kind of freezer cooking I excel at! With about two more minutes of effort today we'll have some more of these soft, delicious cookies again later. Yay!

I'm including my version of the recipe since I made a few changes. I added more flour (mine was way too batter-y to even scoop), more salt, and vanilla. See the real recipe here and the rest of the TWD group's renditions, too. It'll have you craving cookies I guarantee! And don't miss these awesome tips for making your own Dulce de Leche.


Slow Cooker Dulce de Leche
1 Can Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk

Remove label from the can and place in a slow cooker. Fill slow cooker with water, two inches over the can, and cook on low for 8 hours. Remove carefully and enjoy!

*Note- I made two cans and I think they turned out a little dark, although everyone loved the taste. It wasn't quite as spreadable as other pictures looked so let me know what you think! And do you think it looks totally unappetizing? My brother was appalled!

Dulce de Leche Duos
adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking

1 cup (8 oz) butter, softened
3/4 cup dulce de leche + more to sandwich the cookies
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350. Prepare baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Beat the butter at medium speed in a stand mixer until soft. Add 3/4 cup dulce de leche and both sugars and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 or 3 minutes. Add the eggs and beat for 1 minutes. Mix in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they disappear into the batter.

Spoon or scoop teaspoon-fuls of dough onto the baking sheets, leaving 2 inches between them and bake for 10 minutes. The cookies should be honey brown with a light sugar crust, but they will still be soft. Let cool for a minute and then transfer the cookies to a rack to cool. Repeat with the remaining dough, making sure you cool the baking sheets before spooning dough onto them (or scoop the dough onto the sheet and refridgerate while the other pans bake.

Spread a little dulce on the flat side of half the cookies to make sandwiches. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St Patrick's Mint Brownies

Happy Saint Patrick's Day! My dad's grandmother came over from Ireland and even though he doesn't care in the least bit, we like to celebrate with corned beef, cabbage, and carrots. It's yummy once a year (haha) but I think we should add these brownies on to the tradition. I made them for the adults so I kept the green pretty low key but for next St. Patty's I'm going all out kelly green. You could change the extract and coloring, though, for a different dessert- almond, orange, or anything like that would be yummy. Though I must admit I'm super partial to the mint!

I've been on a serious brownie kick lately. I love that you can top them, swirl something in, and vary your mixins to make a totally different end product. They freeze nicely, are easy to serve, and please everyone (minus my tall man who can't have chocolate!) These brownies look pretty impressive but are actually pretty simple. Line your pan with foil (both ways) so you can lift them out after they cool. Spread on your mint frosting (this would be a good use of leftovers- I know I usually have some after I make cupcakes), let it set, and spread on your chocolate. Not a lot of hands on time but really these brownies pack a lot of deliciousness. Cut them with a hot knife and clean it in between strokes to get prettier brownies than me! I like to cut them into one and a half inch pieces and put thm into cupcake wrappers. Set them on a nice platter and people go crazy. Yum.

St Patrick's Mint Brownies
from Anne Strawberry
adapted from Linda Buchanan

One 9 x 13 pan of Brownies, cooked and cooled (I like to line the pan with foil before I grease it, then I can lift them right out after they cool. Peel off the foil for a nice, neat sheet of chocolate deliciousness).

Mint Frosting:
1/2 Cup Softened Butter
2 Cups Powdered Sugar
2 Tablespoons Milk
1 Teaspoon Pure Peppermint Extract
Green Food Coloring

Cream butter with 1/2 the powdered sugar until well incorporated. Add the remaining sugar and milk until desired consistency is reached (it should be light and nice and spread-able). Add extract and coloring to taste. Spread over cooled brownies and refrigerate.

Chocolate Topping:
1 Cup Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips
6 Tablespoons Butter

Make a double boiler but setting a heat proof bowl over an inch or so of simmering water. Slowly melt the butter and chocolate, making sure to remove from heat just before the chocolate is completely melted. Stir until smooth and pour over cooled, frosted brownies. Place in freeze until firm and cut into small pieces.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

TWD- Soft Chocolate Tart with Chocolate Cheerio Crust

{printable recipe here}
This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was delicious and quick- I love that! I subbed out the tart crust for my new favorite chocolate cheerio crust. It's "healthy" (all things considered) and super quick. Pour a little ganache on top and you have a tasty treat that was eaten even quicker than it was made. My testers didn't notice the berries inside so nice time I think I'll just leave them out to put on top. Please don't look too closely at my piping job. I almost failed the Wilton course one cake decorating class and deservedly so (that's one of the many reasons I love cupcakes!) I do hope you'll try the chocolate cheerio crust- I'm loving it lately!

 (this is why I don't do process photos- that and the flour that ends up all over my camera!)
Come back tomorrow for St. Patrick's Mint brownies. Mmmmm. Grab the real tart recipe at Rachelle's.

Chocolate Cheerio Crust
from Anne Strawberry
{printable recipe here}

2 1/2 Cups Chocolate Cheerios, crushed (in a baggie with a mallet or in the food processor)
1/4 Cup Melted Butter
1 Tablespoon Sugar
1 Tablespoon Cocoa Powder (I like Hershey's special dark)

Preheat the oven to 350. Combine all ingredients and press into four mini springform pans or one regular springform. A pie pan will also work if that's all you have. Make sure the layer is even and not too thick. Bake for 8 minutes and set aside to cool completely.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Banana (Nut) Muffins

{printable recipe here}
My mom has been making this simple recipe for banana bread my whole life. The first time I tried someone else's I thought, "Why is this dry? It's not supposed to be!" Well with this recipe it won't be. Mix in (or sprinkle on top) chocolate chips, nuts, etc. Anything goes. I prefer it served as muffins but we like mini loaves, too. Like I said, anything goes. So mush up those brown bananas sitting on the counter and make your husband some moist, delicious banana bread. You won't regret it.

Banana (Nut) Muffins
from Anne Strawberry
{printable recipe here}

yields 12 muffins or 3 mini-loaves

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed banana (about three small bananas)
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped nuts or chocolate (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350. Line a muffin tin with paper wrappers (or grease) and set on a silicone lined sheet. Set aside.

In a mixer, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and beat until combined. Add bananas, milk, lemon and vanilla and mix until combined. Add dry ingredients (sift if you're feeling motivated) and gently mix in. Mix in nuts or chocolate (or reserve to sprinkle on top). Use a medium ice cream scoop to portion batter into muffin tins (about 2/3 full). Bake for 20-25 minutes (35-40 for mini loaves), let cool, and enjoy!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

TWD- Thumbprint Cookies (late!)


First and foremost I'd like to thank Mike for choosing these adorable little cookies (which were still small even though I made them much bigger than Dorie recommended). Sweet carbs + jam almost equals heaven to my husband so needless to say these were a hit. They're also sans egg so I'm adding them to my repertoire for my sweet niece who is allergic to eggs. She doesn't get many cookies or baked goods so I'm excited to let her try these.

Now I have a little list of things to be excited about I'm sharing. It's been a good week (full of things besides blogging, obviously- sorry!)

+Spring- the AZ weather has been so lovely! Rainy, sunny, back and forth. I love it. I always hated the end of winter when we lived in UT and with summer around the corner I'm going to try to remember this perfect Spring!

+A new toy for me- CSNStores contacted me and wanted to know if I wanted to review something from their enormous family of websites. They have kids beds (I'm loving the four poster- maybe someday for my baby girl), furniture, and cookware- oh the cookware! I'm dying to try this beautiful new pan that will go from stove to oven. New recipes to come. Oh I can't wait! I can't tell you how fun it was browsing and browsing. I love shopping, in stores, online, whatever. Somebody stop me!

+My baby is almost six month (scary, huh?) and her nursery is almost done. My little man keeps saying, "how about we paint..." just about anything. We've been painting a lot. We got her dresser moved in and it's so pretty I want it for myself. Pictures to come as soon as her room is tidied up. And my Baby Strawberry is *almost* sleeping through the night. Yay. That's certainly a topic I'll welcome advice on, particularly from those of you like minded readers who are too soft to let your baby cry much. I read a little Babywise but that's as far as we got there...

+My wonderful cousin is coming into town this weekend with her girlfriends for a sunny springbreak. I'm so excited! She's talented and sweet and I'm hoping we get to do some cooking (and that my new pan arrives in time!)


Thumbprint Cookies
{printable recipe here}
adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking
find the original recipe at Mike's

1 1/2 cups finely ground almonds (I just ground mine in the FP and then mixed in the flour)
2 cups all-purpose flower
2 sticks butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
Powdered sugar (for dusting)
1 Cup of jam (I used Blackberry- Strawberry or Lemon Curd next time I think)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with silicone mats.

Working with a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the extracts and beat to blend. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the nut-flower mixture, mixing only until it is incorporated into the dough.

Use a small scoop to portion out the dough and roll each cookie in your hands if a more uniform look is desired Place 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Use the pinkie of your hand (or the end of a wooden spoon) to poke a hole in the center of each cookie. Be careful not to go all the way down to the baking sheet.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point. The cookies should be only slightly colored–they may even look underdone, which is fine: they should not be overbaked. When the cookies are baked, remove the baking sheets from the oven and let the cookies rest on the sheets for 2 minutes before transferring them to cooling racks with a wide metal spatula and sifting confectioner’s sugar over them.

Repeat with the remaining dough, remembering to cool the baking sheets before baking the next batch.

Boil the jam in a microwave safe bowl and fill the indentations of all the cookies with enough of the hot jam to come level with the tops. Cool to room temperature. Watch your husband flip out when he tries these. Ah, bliss.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Crouton Confessional

It's Tuesday and I'm sans Coconut tart. Honestly, I think Coconut tastes like sunblock and has the texture of something too unappetizing for a cooking blog. However, I have already made next week's Chocolate Berry Tart and it was delicious and photogenic! So until then, I'll leave you with a healthy and crowd pleasing recipe. A big, grilled chicken and crouton topped salad is one of our favorite quick meals. I have to confess I've never actually liked croutons (why eat dried bread when you can eat it soft and fresh? Save the calories!)... until I tried the homemade variety. They are crunchy and delicious and an excellent vehicle for soaking up salad dressing.

 
And this "recipe" isn't something to be afraid of- it's a way to save yourself from running to the store because you forgot to buy croutons again (because you didn't like them in the first place, how would your new-baby-sleep-deprived brain remember) and your husband insists on having them with his salad. I'm including a real life crouton making picture to show how easy these really are. Pretend like you can see my little man running around, Baby Strawberry squawking, and you get the idea. They literally take two minutes to throw together, even with other stuff going on, and are a great way to use up leftover bread before it gets too stale (see in the picture? leftover hard rolls and wheat bread, pretty much just the heels). I like to toss on some favorite herbs and when my Tall Man sees I've actually made croutons he even flashes me his real smile. You should try it, too! If you're married to a Mr. Carbohydrate like I am this is something you should do often. I try different herbs, often depending on what I find first when I reach in my overly full cupboard. I usually bake them at whatever temperature the oven is already set on. Like I said, these are easy. And delicious. Go go!

Homemade Croutons
from Anne Strawberry

About 5 Cups Bread, cut into 1 inch cubes
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Garlic Powder
Kosher Salt
Pepper
Pinch of Thyme and Oregano

Preheat oven to 400.

Place bread on sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, and season. Toss to coat and bake at 400 for 7-10 minutes (until crisp and starting to take on color). Cool and serve. Store leftovers in a plastic bag for a few weeks (or as long as they last!)