Wednesday, January 7, 2015

What are you doing different in 2015?

Hearing the word 'resolution' in the New Year always makes me feel a lot of pressure to come up with some extravagant resolution for the new year:  Lose 30 pounds!  Start exercising EVERY DAY!  Stop eating junk food!  Start a shelter for lost puppies!  etc. etc.  It seems too much, too big, and too overwhelming.  And unattainable.  and then you just kick 'em to the curb a few weeks/days later anyway because it IS too much.  So, let's just ask the question this way:

What are you doing different in the new year?

Something small?  Seemingly insignificant?  

Something you can accomplish, then feel good about yourself when you have. 

For me, I want to resuscitate this blog.  I didn't even post in 2014.  That makes me sad.  

I got a bit overwhelmed with personal challenges last year and this blog - that I really had fun with - went by the wayside.  I'm committing to posting regularly again.  Why?  Because cooking brings me great joy and I need great joy in my life!  Sharing my cooking with others brings me great joy.  I've recently been reminded of that.  I hope you come back to share this joy with me in 2015!

Happy New Year!


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Just in time for summer- homemade burger buns!

Hi! Remember me? I know it's been awhile. A year, to be exact. 2012 was not the greatest year for me.  I experienced some big family losses and challenges.  I'll spare you the details. I've decided to re-commit to blogging about food to give me something to focus on, since feeding people and sharing recipes with others brings me so much joy and satisfaction. I've been cooking and baking more than ever, and I am really having fun with new recipes!

I have been trying to 'up' my baking skills in the last year or so, and actually started experimenting with natural yeast lately- but that's another blog for another day. I'm still a novice at it.  Meanwhile, I've been loving a recipe I found for homemade hamburger buns. I rarely buy grocery store bread of any kind anymore (so many preservatives!) and never seemed to have buns on hand when I needed them, so I thought I'd try some home-baked buns. Oh my, these are so good! And really, really, easy. I made them last night with pulled pork. But they would be perfect for grilling hamburgers, chicken, anything you would be happy to slap on a bun. This recipe makes 8 large or 12 small buns. I always make 8. I incorporated wheat flour into them for the first time last night, and it gave them just the perfect amount of whole grain taste and look (without raising any eyebrows from anyone).

Try them - NOW! You won't go back to grocery store buns again.

Beautiful Burger Buns
Adapted from King Arthur Flour

1 c. Lukewarm water
2 tablespoons butter, softened or melted
1 large egg
3 1/2 c. all-purpose flour (I do 3 cups all-purpose, 1/2 c. whole wheat)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon instant yeast

In a stand mixer with the dough hook attached, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the lukewarm water and allow to bubble, about 5 minutes.  Add the remaining ingredients and knead until the dough is soft and smooth and wrapped around the dough hook, about 5 minutes.  Cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap, and/or a towel and allow to rise for 1 to 2 hours, or until nearly doubled in bulk.

Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into 8 (or 12) pieces. Shape each piece into a round ball;  flatten to about 3 inches across.  Place the buns on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover and let rise for about an hour, until noticeably puffy.

If desired, brush the buns with melted butter for a glistening sheen. ( I like them better without the buttery sheen).

Bake the buns in a preheated 375* F oven for 15-18 minutes until golden brown.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Peanut Butter Fingers

This recipe has been in my family for so long I have no idea where it came from.  

A church recipe book, maybe?  

My Aunt Nanette, maybe?  I remember her making them for family parties growing up, as well as my mom.  

We went a few decades without really making them, and then at some point, demand returned and I started making them.  My brothers would trap me in the kitchen at get-togethers so I would make them.  I took them to office potlucks and several ladies in the office had an unhealthy obsession with these bad boys.  

They're magic. and full of sugar and sweet stuff. 

Let's be honest, everyone loves a peanut butter-chocolate combo. It's my go-to recipe for something quick and sweet, that I know everyone will enjoy.  

I've messed with it a few times to 'healthify' it, but the most I really do on a  regular basis is substitute half the all-purpose flour for wheat flour.  You can do this and no one will know you did it.  And you'll feel better about yourself and justified in serving these nuggets of deliciousness to those you love. 

The original recipe calls for margarine, but I use butter, of course (who bakes with margarine anymore?).

Ingredients you will need:  butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, eggs, peanut butter, baking soda, salt, all-purpose flour, quick-cooking oats and chocolate chips.  Oh, and a little milk, and powdered sugar for the glaze.   But I forgot to take a picture of those items. 

Pay no attention to the darling child in his highchair on the left. :)

 In a mixer, cream together the butter, two sugars, and eggs.

Once creamy and fluffy, add the peanut butter, vanilla, soda and salt 
and continue to mix together.

Now it 's time for the oats and flour.  Starting with the oats, add one cup at a time until incorporated.  One cup oats, one cup flour, one cup oats, etc.

Next, press the mixture into the greased cookie sheet.  Pop in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees, until just starting to brown slightly. 

Take the pan out of the oven and immediately pour the chocolate chips onto the warm bars.
Spread them out evenly, and LEAVE THEM ALONE to melt for 10-15 minutes.  
For some reason people have problems with this step.

 When the chips are shiny and melty, take the back of a spoon or a knife 
and spread into a thin layer.

 It should look like this when you're finished. 

Finally, make the glaze and spread on top of the chocolate chip layer.  
I usually wait until the chocolate chip layer has 'dried' (an hour or two) 
so that the glaze doesn't mix in with the chocolate. 

Cut into bars and enjoy!

Peanut Butter Fingers
Vicki Jones 

1 c. butter, softened
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. brown sugar, packed
2 eggs, room temperature
2/3 c. peanut butter
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. quick-cooking rolled oats
1 12 oz. bag chocolate chips
Peanut Butter Glaze (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a cookie sheet with cooking spray and set aside.  In a mixer, cream together the butter, sugars, and eggs until fluffy.  Add peanut butter, soda, salt and vanilla and continue to mix.  Stir in flour and oats, alternating one cup at a time, starting with the oats until well combined.  Turn mixture out into the greased cookie sheet and spread evenly in the pan.  Bake for 10-15 minutes, until slightly browned on top.  Remove cookie sheet from the oven.  Immediately spread chocolate chips evenly on top.  Allow to melt (about 10-15 minutes), then spread chips into a thin layer with a knife.  Once chocolate chip layer has set, top with glaze, spread evenly, cut into bars and serve.

Peanut Butter Glaze
2 c. confectioners sugar
1/3 c. peanut butter
1/4 c. milk

Whisk ingredients together until smooth and creamy.  

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

a recipe that will change your life

Have you ever been out at a restaurant or at a friend's for dinner and you've had something that you can tell is homemade that you usually buy off a shelf and you think to yourself, 'I can make this.  I should make this.'?  Yeah, I have, too.  One of those somethings' for me is ranch dressing.  Creamy, herby, buttermilky, ranch dressing.  Yum.  I'm surprised I've never attempted made-from-scratch ranch dressing until now.  Discovering this recipe has changed my world.  I'm not kidding.  You see, I try to avoid bottled dressings, although some of them can be really good with limited preservatives.  I try to avoid foods that have a lot of ingredients i can't pronounce, and don't recognize.  Having a thing with prepared dressings, you would think I would have quite the repertoire of homemade salad dressings up my sleeve.  Oh contra ire.  I tend to make the same (good) basic red wine vinaigrette all the time.  It's my go-to dressing.  It's simple and quick to make, I always have the few necessary ingredients on hand, etc.  However, my husband gets tired of it, so lately I've been trying to mix it up a bit.  And then I found this recipe.  I had my doubts that it would really be THAT good, but it really IS that good.  And in fact it tasted better the next day, and the next day, and the next day.  In fact, I made BBQ chicken pizza last night for dinner and the ranch dressing made a delicious compliment to the pizza!  It will last for awhile in your fridge.  So, mix it up a bit if you tend to get in a rut with whatever dressing you favor and try this one!  you won't be disappointed!

Homemade Ranch Dressing
Pioneer Woman

1 clove garlic
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 c. real mayonnaise (I used light mayo)
1/2 c. sour cream (I used light sour cream)
1/4 c. Italian flat-leaf parsley, minced
2 T. fresh dill, minced
1 T. fresh chives, minced
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. white vinegar
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
Dash hot sauce
1/4-1/2 c. buttermilk (to achieve desired consistency)

Mince the garlic with a knife and then sprinkle on the salt and mash it into a paste with a fork.
In a bowl, combine the garlic paste, mayonnaise, sour cream, parsley, dill, chives, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper, vinegar, paprika, cayenne and hot sauce. Add the buttermilk to desired consistency and mix to combine, tasting frequently and adjusting seasonings as needed. Chill for a couple of hours before serving, thinning with more buttermilk if needed.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Damian's 1st Birthday!

We just celebrated my son's first birthday. What a year 2011 was for us!  To mark the occasion, we had a 'small' gathering at our home over the weekend.  I thought I wasn't extending an invitation to THAT many.....but we ended up having a house-full, around 25pp.  It was so great!  Wonderful that we have so many close friends and family nearby to celebrate with us.  I decided to serve a couple of soups.  My winter favorite this year,  Butternut and Acorn Squash Soup and a hearty, long-time fave, Vegetable-Leek Beef Barley, crock-pot style.  Both were delicious.  They went so fast I hardly had time to snap pictures.  Bear with me as I hope to improve my photography skills through blogging. :)  The squash soup is a Food Network Ina Garten recipe adaptation (how fabulous is that?).  It calls for butternut squash, but I like to mix it up by adding acorn squash as well.  The original recipe calls for the squash to be peeled, seeded and chopped before roasting, but I HATE peeling butternut squash.  It's difficult.  So, I just cut the squash in half and roast in large pieces, then just scoop out the flesh and add to the soup.  Much easier. The only spice is curry powder (don't be scared), which gives the soup a warmth that is so subtle you don't really detect as curry.  It's wonderful.  So easy.  The Vegetable Beef Barley soup takes a bit more effort with more ingredients, but once it's in the crock pot, you're done.  I did mine Friday night and let it cook all night long.

Here are the recipes:

Butternut and Acorn Squash Soup (adapted from 'Butternut Squash Soup and Curry Condiments' - Ina Garten, Food Network)
1 small (2lb.) butternut squash, cut in half and seeded 
2 acorn squash, cut in half and seeded
1 large onion
1 apple, peeled and cored
3 T. olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6-8 C. chicken stock
1 tsp. curry powder
1/3-1/2 c. half and half (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Chop the onion and apple in 1 inch cubes and place them on a sheet pan.  Toss with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place the squash (flesh side up) on a separate sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast for 35-45 minutes, tossing occasionally, until vegetables are very tender.  Meanwhile, in a stock pot heat the chicken stock to a simmer.  Add the vegetables to the stock maintaining a low simmer.  Add the curry powder, salt and pepper.  Allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes, until very tender.   Blend with an immersion blender until most vegetables are blended.  Add more stock to obtain consistency of your liking.  Add half and half, adjust seasonings if necessary, and serve.  Serves 6-8. 

Vegetable-Leek Beef Barley Soup (Laura's Best Recipes)
3-5 lbs. boneless chuck roast, trimmed of fat and cubed 1/2 inch
2 T. olive oil
Pat of butter
3 carrots, sliced
3 celery stalks, sliced
1 leek, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cups crimini mushrooms, sliced (I used white mushrooms)
1 red potato (use more if you love potatoes), cubed 1/2 inch
5 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 c. dry red wine
1 28 oz. can diced organic tomatoes
3/4 c. pearled barley
4 c. organic chicken broth
4 c. organic beef broth
2 T. fresh chopped thyme (I use 1 T. dried Thyme)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. Ancho chile powder
salt and pepper
1/4 c. fresh chopped flat leaf parsley

Heat large skillet on stovetop.  Pat beef cubes very dry (they will brown easier if dry on a pre-heated skillet).  Once skillet is hot, add olive oil.  Add beef and brown quickly on all sides.  Brown in two batches so that beef isn't crowded during browning - add more olive oil if needed.  Place browned beef in slow-cooker.  Add butter to same skillet.  The skillet should have remnants and browned bits from browning beef.  Add onions, carrots, celery, and leeks.  Sauté until soft, about 7-8 minutes.  Add garlic and sauté for one minute.   Add red wine.  Scrape up all browned bits from bottom of skillet.  Pour sautéed vegetables in slow-cooker with beef.  Sauté mushrooms in same skillet until soft and juices are rendered, about 10 minutes, then add to slow-cooker.  To the slow-cooker add tomatoes with juices, pearled barley, thyme, broths, bay leaf and Ancho chile powder.  Set to cook for 7-8 hours on low (I found it needed to cook 7-8 hours on HIGH).  Cook until beef is very tender.  Sprinkle with parsley before serving. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

new year, new post - welcome 2012!

So, I'm not so much into New Year's resolutions, as they are just a reason to feel bad about myself 30 days later when I have seemingly abandoned said resolution. However, I have been wanting to resurrect my food and wine blog for some time, realizing that I need a new hobby, besides taking care of Jeff and Damian. 2011 brought so many amazing changes and blessings! Damian was born January 6th, and the year just got better from there. My 2012 resolution: maintain this blog with regularity! for myself, and those that choose to follow me. I am increasingly aware of food and the important part that it plays in our lives. I just read an article in Edible Wasatch by Wendell Berry entitled 'the pleasures of eating', on the decline of American farming and rural life and its affects. This subject is fascinating to me. And frightening, all at the same time. He discusses how the industrial eater no longer knows or imagines the connections between eating and the land, and is therefore passive and uncritical-in short, a victim, suffering a kind of cultural amnesia that is misleading and dangerous regarding the food he or she is eating. Over-processed, and pre-cooked. Not the best for our bodies, our land. Watch Food, Inc. for an expanded explanation on this thought process. I will continue to explore these ideas through this blog....but for now, I digress. Back to the meal at hand. A new year! A new blog! A new meal! We spent a few days up in Eden, the Ogden Canyon, with some friends of ours in town from the Bay area, here to ski. Unfortunately, there wasn't a lot of great snow. This has been the driest December ON RECORD in Utah! I made an amazing Squash Soup for New Year's Eve last night. I think I will re-make, re-address this weekend for Damian's first birthday party. Soup and salad I think will be on the menu to mark the occasion. For tonight, to bring in the new year? French Onion Soup! It smells amazing. A recipe I also found in the Winter issue of Edible Wasatch. Jeff and I both love French Onion Soup. Not sure why I haven't made it before. It calls for 5 onions, sliced thin, and sautéed for about an hour on medium low, until soft and beautifully caramelized. I'm all about soups right now. They taste so healthy to me. The soups with the fewest ingredients seem to appeal to me the most. This soup has very few ingredients. It seems the focus lies in the technique of preparing the ingredients. Here's the recipe for tonight:

Classic French Onion Soup - Winter 2012 Issue of Edible Wasatch

5 large onions, peeled and sliced thin
2 c. beef stock
6 c. water
2 c. white wine
4 slices gruyere cheese (I used swiss)
4 slices day-old bread
2 bay leaves
1 T. dried thyme
2 T. butter or olive oil

Saute the onions gently in a few tablespoons of oil or butter in a large saucepan with a heavy bottom (and a dash of salt). When the onions wilt (about 20 minutes), reduce heat to medium-low. Stir from time to time to make sure no onions are burning. Here, you must be patient. There's seemingly no limit to how deeply amber-colored and flavorful onions can become if you let them cook slowly enough. Don't settle for less than 30 minutes (I cooked for one hour). If the pan is too dry, and you have to stir often to avoid burning, a spoonful of water or wine will help, but will also slow down the caramelization process.

Once you're satisfied with the color and flavor of the onions, turn up the heat to high, stir, and add the wine, scrapping up the brown bits with a wooden spoon. Once the alcohol has had a minute or two to simmer off, add the water, beef stock, bay leaves, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. To serve, dish into bowls or crocks that can be broiled in the oven. Float a slice of bread on the top of each bowl, top with cheese and broil until the cheese is melted, bubbly and starting to brown. Vive la revolution!

served with: Mixed greens, french vinaigrette
wine: The Stump Jump, Riesling Sauvignon Blanc blend, Australia

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

lemon everything

so, the Jones' are big fans of lemon desserts. i find myself looking for unique lemon anything to share with my hubby and in laws. I found this recipe for a lemon yogurt cake that is TDF. really good. I made it for the first time when we had my friend Chris Talley and his wife Rachel over for dinner one night. they loved it. Chris and i were missionaries together in Lisbon, Portugal. so many years ago I don't even like to admit it! i like to think the cake is semi-healthy since it has yogurt instead of sour cream or something. really easy to make. enjoy.

Lemon Yogurt Cake
1 1/2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. plain yogurt
1 1/3 c. sugar, divided
3 eggs
2 tsp. grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. canola oil
1/3 cu. freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 c. confectioners sugar
2 Tblsp. lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2 inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 c. sugar, the eggs, lemon zest and vanilla. slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. with a rubber spatula fold in the canola oil into the batter, making sure it's all incorporated. pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a toothpick placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 c. lemon juice and the remaining 1/3 c. sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. set aside.

when the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. while the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. cool.

for the glaze, combine the confectioners sugar and lemon juice and pour over the cake and serve.