Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Beet Relish

I had gotten a lot of extra beets before Christmas thinking I would use them at one of our various meals.  A week later and I still haven't used them so I thought I would try making some relish.  My canning skills aren't the best and most of the time I don't know what to do with the product once it's made, so I wasn't completely sure I wanted to make the relish.  But I decided it was better to make the relish than just throw the beets away in a couple of weeks.  This was a very easy recipe without a lot of room for error, unlike jams or jellies which I find very easy to mess up.  The relish is simply beets, onion and pepper cooked in vinegar and horseradish.  The recipe called for fresh horseradish,  I didn't have any and didn't feel like going to the store, so I used jarred and it was still very yummy.  I am very happy with the finished product, it has a nice bite and a slight tang, but the sweetness of the beets is still evident.  Now I just need to figure out how to use and serve the relish.  Serve it as a side?  Add it to a dish?  I just don't know, any suggestions?
Beet Relish with Horseradish (from Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving)
5 medium Beets (about 1 lb)
1 large Onion, finely chopped
2 Sweet Red Peppers, finely chopped
1 c. White Vinegar
1/2 c. Granulated Sugar
1 tsp. Pickling Salt
2/3 c. Grated Fresh Horseradish (or 1 1/4 c. prepared/jarred horseradish)

Cook beets in boiling water until tender, about 20 minutes.  Drain beets, remove skins and chop finely, there should be about 2 cups.  Combine beets with onion and peppers.  In a large stainless steel or enamel saucepan combine vinegar, sugar, salt and horseradish.  Bring to boil over high heat.  Add vegetables, return to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Ladle relish into hot jars within 1/2 inch of rim.  Add lids and screw tops. Process 1/2 pint jars for 15 minutes, process pint jars for 20 minutes.

When you are done and are looking for something to do with your kids, or if you just want to play,  use the beet juice to do some natural tie-dying.  Save water you boiled the beets in, gather up some scraps of fabric or old white shirts and have fun! I haven't done this with the three monkeys yet, but am hoping to do it later in the week and then use the fabric as decorative toppings for the jars - hmmm, I think I need to keep this in mind next year when I am struggling to come up with Christmas gifts.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Eve

We usually do our big dinner on Christmas eve, but this year we had a lot to do on the 24th - like take two sleeping children out of their room, disassemble their bed/crib and assemble new bunk beds - so we switched things around and did the big meal on Christmas day.  For Christmas eve we basically did sandwiches and salad.  I made up a batch of pizza dough and for the adults I did reubens and for the kids I did wrapped hot dogs.  It was far from fancy and a dinner that I would do on any hurried night, yet it tasted absolutely delicious.  There really is a lot to be said for the company and atmosphere in which you enjoy your food. It was nice having Christmas eve so relaxed, and I think we might switch our traditions up for the next few years, at least until the kids are a little bigger and while Santa still has a lot of work to do on Christmas eve.
Hot Dog Wrap

I didn't get a picture of any of our meals from Christmas eve or Christmas day, I don't know what happened, but this is the Ruben recipe.  It is based on a recipe my Dad has been using for about 25 years, I think it came from Gourmet, and it is one of my favorite Fall/Winter dishes.

Wrapped Reuben Sandwich
1 recipe Pizza Dough
1 lb Corned Beef, thinly sliced
1/2 lb Swiss Cheese, thinly sliced
1 cup Sauekraut
1/4 cup Thousand Island Dressing
Egg Wash

Roll out pizza dough into a large rectangle, about 9x12, place on large baking sheet.  Spread dressing on dough, leaving a 1" boarder on all sides.  Layer corned beef and swiss cheese on top of dressing, top with sauerkraut.  Along each long side make 1" cuts about every 1/2".  Working on alternate sides bring up the dough, enclosing the filling.   Brush egg wash over entire sandwich.
Bake at 375 until dough is golden brown and baked through.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Daring Baker's - Stollen

The 2010 December Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie's Baking.  She chose to challenge Daring Bakers' to make Stollen.  She adapted a friend's family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart's book.....and Martha Stewart's demonstration. This was my first time making Stollen and it was a wonderful addition to our Christmas menu and it will definitely be a permanent addition for my holiday baking.  I am already thinking about making them as gifts.  Too much work?  Maybe, but definitely worth it.  Since we have had so much food around this past week we only ate about 1/4 of it, but I put it in the freezer and am looking forward to New Year's Day when it will be used in french toast.  This recipe did not use marzipan, but after reading other reviews I think I will try it again with the addition of some marzipan.  The recipe went together very easy and the end result was beautiful and delicious.    It bakes up to a wonderful mahogany color and the aroma filled the house. It was wonderfully flavored, not to sweet and not to dry.  It is perfect in the morning with a cup of coffee or in the afternoon with a cup of tea, just a wonderful treat to have on hand.  If you haven't made Stollen before I recommend giving this recipe a try, it is wonderful!

Stollen Wreath

Makes one large wreath or two traditional shaped Stollen loaves. Serves 10-12 people


¼ cup (60ml) lukewarm water (110º F / 43º C)
2 packages (4 1/2 teaspoons) (22 ml) (14 grams) (1/2 oz) active dry yeast
1 cup (240 ml) milk
10 tablespoons (150 ml) (140 grams) unsalted butter (can use salted butter)
5½ cups (1320 ml) (27 ozs) (770 grams) all-purpose (plain) flour (Measure flour first - then sift- plus extra for dusting)
½ cup (120 ml) (115 gms) sugar
¾ teaspoon (3 ¾ ml) (4 ½ grams) salt (if using salted butter there is no need to alter this salt measurement)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 grams) cinnamon
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (very good) vanilla extract
1 teaspoon (5 ml) lemon extract or orange extract
¾ cup (180 ml) (4 ¾ ozs) (135 grams) mixed peel (link below to make your own)
1 cup (240 ml) (6 ozs) (170 gms) firmly packed raisins
3 tablespoons (45ml) rum
12 red glacé cherries (roughly chopped) for the color and the taste. (optional)
1 cup (240 ml) (3 ½ ozs) (100 grams) flaked almonds
Melted unsalted butter for coating the wreath
Confectioners’ (icing) (powdered) sugar for dusting wreath
Note: If you don’t want to use alcohol, double the lemon or orange extract or you could use the juice from the zested orange.


Soak the raisins
In a small bowl, soak the raisins in the rum (or in the orange juice from the zested orange) and set aside. See Note under raisins.
Pour ¼ cup (60 ml) warm water into a small bowl, sprinkle with yeast and let stand 5 minutes. Stir to dissolve yeast completely.
In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup (240 ml) milk and 10 tablespoons (150 ml) butter over medium - low heat until butter is melted. Let stand until lukewarm, about 5 minutes.
Lightly beat eggs in a small bowl and add lemon and vanilla extracts.
In a large mixing bowl (4 qt) (4 liters) (or in the bowl of an electric mixer with paddle attachment), stir together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, orange and lemon zests.
Then stir in (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment) the yeast/water mixture, eggs and the lukewarm milk/butter mixture. This should take about 2 minutes. It should be a soft, but not sticky ball. When the dough comes together, cover the bowl with either plastic or a tea cloth and let rest for 10 minutes.
Add in the mixed peel, soaked fruit and almonds and mix with your hands or on low speed to incorporate. Here is where you can add the cherries if you would like. Be delicate with the cherries or all your dough will turn red!
Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mixing with the dough hook) to distribute the fruit evenly, adding additional flour if needed. The dough should be soft and satiny, tacky but not sticky. Knead for approximately 8 minutes (6 minutes by machine). The full six minutes of kneading is needed to distribute the dried fruit and other ingredients and to make the dough have a reasonable bread-dough consistency. You can tell when the dough is kneaded enough – a few raisins will start to fall off the dough onto the counter because at the beginning of the kneading process the dough is very sticky and the raisins will be held into the dough but when the dough is done it is tacky which isn't enough to bind the outside raisins onto the dough ball.
Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling around to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
Put it in the fridge overnight. The dough becomes very firm in the fridge (since the butter goes firm) but it does rise slowly… the raw dough can be kept in the refrigerator up to a week and then baked on the day you want.
Shaping the Dough and Baking the Wreath
1. Let the dough rest for 2 hours after taking out of the fridge in order to warm slightly.
2. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
3. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 with the oven rack on the middle shelf.
4. Punch dough down, roll into a rectangle about 16 x 24 inches (40 x 61 cms) and ¼ inch (6 mm) thick.
Starting with a long side, roll up tightly, forming a long, thin cylinder.
Transfer the cylinder roll to the sheet pan. Join the ends together, trying to overlap the layers to make the seam stronger and pinch with your fingers to make it stick, forming a large circle. You can form it around a bowl to keep the shape.
Using kitchen scissors, make cuts along outside of circle, in 2-inch (5 cm) intervals, cutting 2/3 of the way through the dough.
Twist each segment outward, forming a wreath shape. Mist the dough with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap.
Proof for approximately 2 hours at room temperature, or until about 1½ times its original size.
Bake the stollen for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan 180 degrees for even baking and continue to bake for 20 to 30 minutes. The bread will bake to a dark mahogany color, should register 190°F/88°C in the center of the loaf, and should sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.
Transfer to a cooling rack and brush the top with melted butter while still hot.
Immediately tap a layer of powdered sugar over the top through a sieve or sifter.
Wait for 1 minute, then tap another layer over the first.
The bread should be coated generously with the powdered sugar.
Let cool at least an hour before serving. Coat the stollen in butter and icing sugar three times, since this many coatings helps keeps the stollen fresh - especially if you intend on sending it in the mail as Christmas presents!
When completely cool, store in a plastic bag. Or leave it out uncovered overnight to dry out slightly, German style.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Gift Boxes

This year I really struggled with what to do for teacher/neighbor gifts.  I like to come up with something that the kids can help with and that everybody in the family can contribute to.  I also like to give something that can last and be enjoyed past Christmas.  I feel like people get so many yummy homemade treats this time of year that sometimes they go to waste.
 Last year I did hot cocoa mix and homemade marshmallows and I was really happy with the results.  The kids decorated mugs for their teachers, grandparents got mugs with the kids picture and neighbors got holiday mugs.  I made the marshmallows and everyone helped dip them in chocolate.  The gifts were really well received and many people told us they enjoyed having the cocoa when we were up to our knees in snow during the big February storm.  
But, this year I really struggled coming up with something.  I wanted something that could be done in bulk, but still looked individual.  Wasn't too time consuming, but looked as if it was.  I came up with chocolate and maple fudge, peanut brittle and peppermint cookie pops.  There wasn't a lot of contribution from the kids which I was disappointed about.  They didn't feel much ownership or pride in the gifts, which was obvious when they gave the gifts to their teachers.  I did have them choose one of their salt dough ornaments to include on the gift bag, but it still wasn't enough to instill a lot of pride in the gift.
All recipes were very easy and could be completed in a short amount of time.  My favorite was the maple fudge.  I was lucky enough to have about 3lbs of maple sugar in my pantry (my Dad lives in NY and brings maple products to us on every visit) so this year I decided to try using it to make maple fudge and it was heavenly.  I do the no fail fudge and while I feel like a slight cheater it is a yummy recipe that always works and everyone loves.  The peppermint cookie swirls were a last minute addition, I saw the idea on Paula Deen and they were the perfect topper.    The cookie isn't my favorite, I don't really like peppermint cookies, but they look good.

No Fail Fudge
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar 
2/3 cup (5 fl.-oz. can) NESTLÉ® CARNATION® Evaporated Milk 
2 tablespoons butter or margarine 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
2 cups miniature marshmallows 
1 1/2 cups (9 oz.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels 
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional) 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

Line an 8-inch-square baking pan with foil. Combine sugar, evaporated milk, butter and salt in medium, heavy-duty saucepan. Bring to a full rolling boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil, stirring constantly, for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat.  Stir in marshmallows, morsels, nuts and vanilla extract. Stir vigorously for 1 minute or until marshmallows are melted. Pour into prepared baking pan; refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm. Lift from pan; remove foil. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Cranberry Cake

The December cake for the Cake Slice group was a Cranberry Cake, and it was a perfect have around the house type of cake for the holiday season.  I baked it early in the month, for no particular reason except I was craving cake and thought I would give it a try.  The kids thought it was a little tart, they just ate the streusel topping, but my husband and I were big fans and would take little slices every time we walked by the cake.   I really liked the crunchiness of the stresuel topping, plus the top of the cake got a nice sugary crust.  The cake itself is a wonderfully simple recipe and the cranberries can easily be substituted.  Blueberries would be an obvious substitute, chocolate chips would be good.  Even just adding a lemon or orange zest would be nice.  Just thinking about all the possibilities is making me hungry.  I will have to find an excuse to make this again sometime soon in the new year.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Holiday Fun

We hosted a holiday party this weekend.  This is the second year we have hosted this group and of all the get togethers we host during the holidays it is the one that causes me the most stress.  It is also the one that requires the least amount of prep work, so technically it should be the least stressful.  This is a party for the teachers and board members at my kids' preschool and the party is a tradition that has been going on for a few years.  I have only been on the board for two years, and therefore never attended one of the parties before agreeing to host, but I have heard about them and how they are always a great time.  So there is the pressure of the past to live up to.  Then there is the fact that it is a potluck party, and I hate hosting potlucks.  I love going to them, but hate hosting.  The idea of not knowing what will be available to my guests drives me crazy.  I alternate between planning a large assorted menu and a menu with just a box of crackers.  It usually isn't until I am setting up that I finally settle on a menu and by that point I have purchased enough food to host two parties.  Last year we had a lot of spinach and artichoke dip, so I was glad I over prepared and was able to pull out some backup items.  This year we had a better assortment and I didn't need to go to the reserves.  In the end I decided on a simple meat platter (while I hate doing the same thing again and again, when we have a party I almost always do a meat platter.  With a husband who is allergic to pork it is the perfect opportunity for me to indulge in yummy cured meats) and a few desserts. 
 My favorite were the mini gingerbread cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and the Bailey's truffles were pretty good as well.  Both were extremely simple and very well received.  And while I stressed out on the food, I completely spaced on table decor.  I don't know what was wrong with me and how I avoided thinking about the "table scape."  But about an hour before the party I realized I hadn't given it any thought.  I quickly pulled a few things together, but it was a very lame attempt and I was glad when the food started to come in and hide my sad table. 
Gingerbread Cupcakes

2 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1 cup unsulphered molasses
2 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup water to a boil. In a bowl, combine boiling water and baking soda; set aside. In a large bowl, sift together flour, ground spices, salt, and baking powder; set aside.  In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until light. Beat in the brown sugar until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Beat in the molasses, baking-soda mixture, and flour mixture. Beat in the eggs.  Fill the cupcake papers three-quarters full, making sure that the batter is divided evenly. Bake cupcakes until a toothpick inserted in the center of them comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let cupcakes cool a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before decorating

Bailey's Truffles

2 tablespoons heavy cream
7 ounce white chocolate chopped
2 tablespoons Irish cream liqueur (recommended: Baileys)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts

Place the cream in a heat-proof bowl, and set the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Cook until heated through. Using a wire whisk, slowly stir the white chocolate into the warm cream until completely melted. Whisk in the liqueur and vanilla. Cover and chill for 1 hour or until pliable but firm enough to scoop.  With 2 teaspoons or a 1 1/4-inch ice cream scoop, make dollops of the chocolate mixture and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes, until firm enough to roll into rough spheres.  Melt the bittersweet chocolate in a heat-proof bowl, set over a pan of simmering water. Drizzle the melted bittersweet chocolate over 10 of the truffles. Roll the remaining truffles in the chopped nuts. Chill until ready to serve

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Gingerbread Village

The baking/cooking has been pretty slow around here recently.  Which is a little odd considering it is the holidays and I should be doing a lot of it, but I have been a little distracted with our gingerbread village.  I have been doing gingerbread houses with my kids since my son was about two. They have always enjoyed it, but the houses were usually a little sad looking with just one or two pieces of candy in one giant puddle of icing,  but this year that they really got into it and were able to help out, so we went a little crazy with the gingerbread.  We started with a village kit and then added our own castle.  Aggie helped out with the dough and Liam helped cut out the pieces.  I did the assembly solo and then let them go at with the decorating.  Liam is now able to use a pastry bag on his own, I finally broke down and got some bag closures from Wilton and they make a big difference.  Aggie still needs help so she told me where she wanted the icing and I piped it for her, which makes the process a little less frustrating.  Nellie is still just into eating the candy, which proved a little frustrating for the other two, but is all part of the process.  
I have always loved making gingerbread houses and always attempted to make them when I was little, but often found the process very frustrating and failed more than I succeed.  But after many trial and errors I finally have a recipe for both the house and the icing that works and makes it much more stress free.   The gingerbread is very easy to work with and as long as the shapes are cut on the baking sheet they keep their shape nicely and don't distorted when bake.  The icing is a basic royal icing and dries very hard, which is good when there are small candy monsters in the house who like to pick away at the house. 

Gingerbread Recipe
1 c. Crisco (shortening)
1 c. Sugar
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Salt
1 c. unsulphered Molasses
1 tsp. Ground Ginger
1 tsp. Cinnamon
5 c. Flour
4 Tbs. Water

Preheat oven 350
Mix the first seven ingredients until well blended.  Add flour and water, mix until dough forms.  Working with small amounts of dough, roll out between two sheets of parchment to 3/8" thickness.  Move dough to baking sheet and cut out desired shape.  Remove unwanted dough.  Bake 10 to 15 minutes depending on size of shape. 

Royal Icing
2 lbs. Confectioner Sugar
4 Tbs. Meringue Powder
10 to 12 Tbs. Warm Water

Mix confectioner sugar and meringue powder together.  Slowly add water until icing forms still peaks.  When working with icing keep covered with damp cloth. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Non-Edible Baking

My daughter loves making sugar cookies, or any cookie that she can roll and cut. While it is a great dough to make up in large batches and to always have on hand, there are only so many sugar cookies we can eat and I get a little tired of them after a while.  As a solution to this problem I remembered a favorite craft project of mine from when I was little - salt dough. This is a great dough for kids to make on their own. It contains only three ingredients, all of which are pretty inexpensive, so it is a great recipe for kids to experiment with.  This weekend was our first attempt with it. I had a lot of other things going on and wasn't able to really work with the kids, so I set out all the ingredients and the recipe and put my son in charge. They all loved the freedom of being able to work without me hovering around them. Liam especially loved the power of being in charge, then again he always feels as if he is in charge, but that is a whole other blog. After all the ingredients were added the dough was a little wet, and they had a hard time working with it, but they did get a better consistency by playing around with the flour. My plan was for them to use the Christmas cutters and make ornaments to give as gifts, but as usual they had other plans and the call of The Force was too strong -  nothing says Merry Christmas like Darth Vader hanging on your tree. 

Salt Dough

2 cups Flour
1 cup Salt
1 cup cold Water
Food Coloring (optional)

Directions: In a large bowl, mix table salt and flour together. Gradually add 1/2 cup of water and mix to desired consistency. Knead the dough on a flat surface, adding a few more drops of water as needed (but not making it too moist).
Once the dough is made, divide it up into small portions.  If using food coloring you can add desired color to the small portions.  Using a rolling pin roll into 1/8" thick pieces.  Use cookie cutters to cut out a variety of shapes, and place the shapes on wax paper or other surface to dry. If you want to make hanging ornaments, pierce the dough through with a toothpick while it's wet.
To dry ornaments bake them in the oven at 200 degrees F until hard. Baking times varies depending on oven and dough thickness. Make sure the dough is completely baked. You can cover the dough with aluminum foil if it starts to darken before completely baked through.
Once dry onaments can be decorated using acrylic paints or glitter.  Finish ornaments by sealing on all sides with polyurethane spray or clear varnish to make them lasting gifts or keepsakes

Thursday, December 2, 2010


The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.  It was a delicious pastry and I will defintily be using the pasta frolla again.  I did a simple jam crostata and made two smaller tarts.  I didn't have quite enough dough, I probably should have rolled it out a little thinner, and would have liked a little more crust on top.   It was a great mid-morning, afternoon or late evening treat and my family devored both little tarts.
Simona provide two different versions of the pasta frolla, this is the first version which I chose:

Version 1 of pasta frolla

  • 1/2 c. minus 1 tablespoon [105 ml, 100 g, 3 ½ oz] superfine sugar (see Note 1) or a scant 3/4 cup [180ml, 90g, 3 oz] of powdered sugar
  • 1 and 3/4 cup [420 ml, 235 g, 8 1/4 oz.] unbleached all-purpose flour
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 stick [8 tablespoons / 4 oz. / 115 g] cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • grated zest of half a lemon (you could also use vanilla sugar as an option, see Note 2)
  • 1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten in a small bowl
Note 1: Superfine sugar is often also referred to as ultrafine, baker’s sugar or caster sugar. It’s available in most supermarkets. If you cannot find “superfine” sugar, you can make your own by putting some regular granulated sugar in a food processor or blender and letting it run until the sugar is finely ground.
Note 2: There are different ways of making vanilla sugar. I keep vanilla beans in a jar half-filled with sugar until I need to use them, for example, to make vanilla ice cream. After I remove the split bean from the custard that will go into the ice cream maker, I rinse it, dry it and put it back in the jar with sugar.
Making pasta frolla by hand:
  1. Whisk together sugar, flour and salt in a bowl.
  2. Rub or cut the butter into the flour until the mixture has the consistency of coarse crumbs. You can do this in the bowl or on your work surface, using your fingertips or an implement of choice.
  3. Make a well in the center of the mounded flour and butter mixture and pour the beaten eggs into it (reserve about a teaspoon of the egg mixture for glazing purposes later on – place in the refrigerator, covered, until ready to use).
  4. Add the lemon zest to your flour/butter/egg mixture.
  5. Use a fork to incorporate the liquid into the solid ingredients, and then use your fingertips.
  6. Knead lightly just until the dough comes together into a ball.
  7. Shape the dough into a flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Place the dough in the refrigerator and chill for at least two hours. You can refrigerate the dough overnight.
  8. Ideas for Filling for Your Crostata

    Whether you choose to make Version 1 or 2 of the pasta frolla, there are numerous fillings that you can choose from for your crostata. I am suggesting some filling for you here (and including assemblage and baking instructions). But be brave and creative and see what you can come up with! Crostata di Marmellata (crostata with a jam filling using Version 1 pasta frolla) If you choose to make a crostata with a jam filling, you will need:
    • 1 and 3/4 cups [415ml, 600 gm, 21 oz] of jam or fruit preserves, whatever flavor you like (Note: I use my homemade fruit preserves, which have a low sugar content. I recommend you choose a good quality product, made with mostly fruit.)
    Assembling and baking the crostata di marmellata:
    1. Heat the oven to 375ºF [190ºC/gas mark 5].
    2. Take the pasta frolla out of the fridge, unwrap it and cut away ¼ of the dough. Reserve this dough to make the lattice top of the crostata. Refrigerate this dough while you work on the tart base.
    3. To help roll the crostata dough, keep the dough on top of the plastic wrap that you had it wrapped in. This can help rolling the dough and can also help when transferring the dough to your pan. You can also use parchment paper for this. However, you can also roll the dough directly on a work surface if you prefer.
    4. Lightly dust the top of the dough and your work surface (if you’re rolling directly on a work surface) with flour. Keep some flour handy to dust the dough as you go along.
    5. If the dough is very firm, start by pressing the dough with the rolling pin from the middle to each end, moving the rolling pin by a pin's width each time; turn the dough 180 degrees and repeat; when it softens, start rolling.
    6. Roll the dough into a circle about 1/8th inch (3 mm) thick.
    7. If you used the plastic wrap or parchment paper as rolling surface, flip dough over the pan, centering it, and delicately press it all around so the corners are well covered. Peel away the plastic wrap.
    8. Trim the excess dough hanging over the edges of the pan. Press the remaining dough around the border into the sides of the pan making sure the border is an even thickness all the way around.
    9. Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork in several places.
    10. Take out of the fridge the reserved pasta frolla you had cut away earlier. Roll it with your pin and cut into strips or use cookie cutters to make small shapes (this is not traditional, but it looks cute); or roll with your hands into ropes.
    11. Spread the jam or fruit preserves evenly over the bottom of the crostata.
  9. Use the prepared strips or rolls of dough to make a lattice over the surface, or decorate with the cut shapes. (Note: You can use dough scraps to make cookies: see the Additional Information section for some pointers)
  10. Brush the border and strips of dough with the reserved beaten eggs. You can add a drop or two of water to the beaten eggs if you don’t have enough liquid.
  11. Put the tart in the oven and bake for 25 minutes.
  12. After 25 minutes, check the tart and continue baking until the tart is of a nice golden hue. (Note: Every oven is different. In my oven it took 34 minutes to bake the tart until golden.)
  13. When done, remove the tart from the oven and let cool. If you have used a tart pan with a removable bottom, then release the tart base from the fluted tart ring. Make sure the tart is completely cool before slicing and serving. 

Monday, November 22, 2010


This weekend I began prepping for my annual cookie bake.  I started this about 10 years ago as a girls get together, to bake some cookies before the craziness of the holidays set in.  As new friends,  husbands and children began to enter the picture the party grew and the baking of cookies was no longer the focus.  We still call it a cookie bake, but we no longer bake cookies - which is a little confusing for first time invitees.  Instead of a cookie bake we do a cookie exchange and enjoy meatball subs.  We added the meatballs as a way to entice boyfriends, soon to be husbands, to join us for the day without getting in our way.  Early on the guys would hangout by the fire pit or watching football and we would bake.  Now we all hang out around the fire pit, chase kids, catch-up and eat, a great beginning to the holidays.  So this weekend I began prepping, not by baking cookies, but by making sauce and baking off a couple hundred meatballs. 
I am a fan of baking meatballs, frying is just too messy and time consuming.  If making them and eating them the same day I finish cooking them in the sauce, but when making meatballs and freezing I just bake them thoroughly in the oven then reheat them in the sauce.  This year I am also returning to the large sized meatballs.  For a few years I went with the mini slider size, which were fun and easy for the kids, but they just don't have the same feel and the messiness is part of the fun.  Here is the base recipe I use, obviously when making huge amounts I alter the quantities of the ingredients.

2 Eggs
1/4 cup Milk
2 lbs Ground Beef
2 Cloves Garlic - finely diced
1 Tbs. Onion powder
1 Tbs. Worcestershire Sauce
1 cup Grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup Bread Crumbs
Salt and Pepper

Bake at 375
In large bowl mix eggs and milk together, beat lightly.  Add remaining ingredients, mix until combined.  Shape into desired size.  Bake until done, time will be determined by size.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cinnamon Pudding Cake

I attempted the Cinnamon pudding cake, the November cake for cake slice, but it was just not ment to be.  I began baking it late at night, without checking to make sure I had all the ingredients.  Of course I got about half way through the recipe when I realized I didn't have enough milk.  I had vanilla yogurt in the fridge so used that in combination with the milk.  That seemed fine so I went ahead and baked it off.  As I said I was baking late and it had been a long day, I set the timer, but then went downstairs - and fell asleep.  I over baked it by about 30 minutes, so it was just an ugly mess and it went straight in to the trash bin.   I am hoping to give it another try, but it won't be until after the Thanksgiving baking is done, so maybe next weekend. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Summer Salsa Chicken

Every year I try to do some canning.  I have never done the same thing twice, I have had more failures than success and I rarely use the things that do come out successfully.  Every Spring I have visions of a beautiful garden producing massive amounts of wonderful vegetables that I will can and savor throughout the winter.  Well, for many reasons I am still waiting for this vision to come true, but that is another story.  Anyway this summer we had a couple of weeks where we were swimming in peaches and tomatoes so I decided to make these ingredients my canning experiments for the season.  I came across a reciepe for Summer Salsa, it sounded yummy and I had all the ingredients on hand.  It was a little spicy, but I was really happy with the results.  I made dozen jars, I have 11 in the pantry - I used one jar to make a quick dip, combined with cream cheese it was super yummy, but everything is better with a little cream cheese - and now that Fall is quickly turning into Winter I thought I would try to use another jar or two.   I didn't do anything fancy, I just dumped the salsa over chicken breasts, but the meal tasted so yummy.  Next year I am definitely going to do more canning, and I am definitely making this salsa. 
Summer Salsa (from "Complete Home Presererving")
4 c.  Tomateoes, peeled, chopped cored
2 c.   Peaches, peeled, chopped pitted
2 c.   Pears, peeled, seeded chopped
1      Red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 c.  Red onion, finely chopped
3-4  Jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 c.  loosely packed finely chopped cilantro
1/2 c.  Honey
Gated zest and juice 1 lemon
1/4 c.  Balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs.  Mint finely chopped

In large stainless steel saucepan combine tomatoes, peaches, pears, red pepper, onion, andjalapeno peppers.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring constantly.  Add cilantro, honely, lemon zest and juice, vinegar and mint.  Reduce heat boil gently stirring frequently, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. 
Ladle hot salsa into prepared canning jars, leaving 1/2 inch of head space.  Wipe rim, center lid on jar, screw band down.  Place jars in canner, process 8oz jars for 15 minutes, pint jars for 20 minutes. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Menu Planning Monday

Monday - chicken breast with summer salsa
Tuesday - meatball subs
Wednesday - Fish Tacos
Thursday - Steak Salad
Friday - ??

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Soccer Cupcakes

Liam's soccer season ended last weekend and this week the team celebrated with a pizza party.  There were only six boys on the team - in the U6 league they play 3 on 3, so cute - but with the noise and chaos the boys and their siblings created one would have thought there were 30 boys on the team.  Always looking for an opportunity to bake and then get the baked goods out of my house I volunteered to make the cupcakes.  I had wanted to make chocolate soccer balls, but ran out of time, so I was very happy when I found these guys at Michael's.  It was my first time using the grass tip, oh what fun!  I now want to make people just so I can pipe hair with this fun tip.  For the cupcakes I was craving chocolate, so I went to my old stand-by, the Martha Stewart "One Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes."  This is a great recipe, very moist and super yummy.  I highly recommend them when you feel the craving for a classic chocolate cupcake.

Chocolate Cupcakes
2 1/2 c. AP Flour
1 1/4 c. Cocoa Powder
2 1/2 c. Sugar
2 1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1 1/4 tsp. Baking Powder
1 1/4 tsp. Salt
2 Large Eggs
1 Egg yolk
1 1/4 c. Milk
1/2 c. plus 2 Tbs. Vegetable Oil
1 1/4 tsp. Vanilla extract
1 1/4 c. Warm Water

Bake at 350
Sift together dry ingredients, place in bowl of electric mixer.  Add remaining ingredients, with paddle attachment beat on low until combined, about 3 minutes.  Fill cupcake tins about 2/3 full, bake for 20 minutes or until tester comes out clean. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Setting the Table

Even before I had kids I knew that I wanted us to sit down, as a family, for dinner.  I grew up having family dinners almost every night, that time was always special to me and I wanted to give my kids the same opportunity.  I knew it would be tough as the kids got older, schedules and everyday events would get in the way.  What I didn't fully prepare for was the work involved, with little kids,  in getting these dinners to actually happen.  I don't mean the dinner prep, most nights I like making dinner, cooking relaxes me so it usually doesn't feel like work.  What I am talking about is actually getting three little bodies to sit in their chairs and put food in their mouths.  It sounds so easy, dinner is cooked, put on the table, everybody sits down and enjoys.  Yet this rarely happen in our house and dinner time is becoming one of the most stressful times in our day, so I am on a mission to make dinner time fun.
It all starts when I ask for the table to be set.  Either no one is willing to help or Liam and Aggie both want to help resulting in a small scale cage match as they fight about which utensils to use and the proper placement of each item.  First we decided to alternate nights who gets to set the table.  If the person responsible decides not to do the job they loose a PP (our family money) and the other person can then help out and earn a PP.  The person setting the table gets to choose which utensils, plates and napkins we use, but must put the items in the proper place, and the rest of the family cannot change or complain about the items chosen.  To help get everything the proper spots we each made our own place mat. 
I made templates of a fork, knife, spoon,  plate and napkin, the kids traced them in the color of their choice then we glued each item in the proper place.  The kids decorated the plates and then drew a picture on the back.  When they  were done I covered the place mats in clear contact paper, some day I will have laminating machine.  We have been using them for a couple of weeks, the kids love using them.  They have helped Liam remember which side everything goes on and he likes being able to set the table without any help - he is my independent perfectionist.  They definitely help when Aggie is setting the table, she tends to be much more creative in her approach to, well pretty much everything and having the visual cue reminds her there is a proper way to set the table.  The table setter also gets to choose our centerpiece.  As long as it fits on the center place mat it can be used, pumpkins have been the favorite so far, but we have also had a LEGO centerpiece and a few other random toys.  It has been a good start, but it is relatively new and still exciting.  We will keep focusing on this for another week or so then I will begin making more of a focused effort to work on another aspect and hopefully it won't be long before our dinner time blues are a thing of the past. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Has anybody ever been to ICE?  I think last year was the first year it was in the area.  I really wanted to go, but we never got it on the schedule, so I am hoping we can make it this year, it sounds like an amazing event.  The combination of The Grinch and massive amounts of ice is just perfect.  Last year we went over to the Gaylord at the holidays, it was beautiful and the kids love walking around the hotel and National Harbor any time of year, so I can only imagine how excited they would be at seeing ICE.  We do have grandparents coming to town and having them stay at the Gaylord might be a good option, maybe we can even convince them to bring the kids for a sleepover one night.  Is it wrong to give a gift that would benifit Marshall and I?  Something to think about.  Anyway right now our holiday outing traditions includ zoo lights, the National tree and our favorite the Botanical gardens - if you haven't had the opportunity to visit this event and are in the area it is a wonderful outing for all ages.   I'll post about the Botanical gardens another time, but this picture is just a small example of all the amazing things made entirely out of natual elements.  Our Kids is giving away tickets and it would be wonderful to win, but even if I don't,  I think this year we will have to add one more outing to the list. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Menu Planning Monday

Not a lot of meals being eaten at home this week and the days we are home I have other projects to work on so I think it will be a salad and breakfast for dinner week.   What are your go to meals when you are unsure if you will need meals fixed at home or what time you will even get home.  Those are the meals I always struggle with.  Any suggestions?

For what it's worth, here is my menu plan for the week:
Monday - tonight we ended up with poached eggs and milk toast
Tuesday - Pizza party
Wednesday - pasta with veggies from the vegetable delivery, unsure what that will be
Thursday - ?
Friday - Marshall's night, I'm out with friends

And when all else fails, we will just have my little one's favorite, a plate full of clementines - she fixed this meal by herself.

Fire Truck Cake

This weekend I had the opportunity to make a birthday cake for a little boy turning 3.  He was having his party at a fire station, so of course he needed a fire truck cake.  The cake was a white butter cake with a chocolate mousse filling and iced with butter cream. The cake was made to serve 25, but the costumer ended up with a higher guest count than anticipated, so we added a dozen white cupcakes which I frosted with fire orange buttercream.  I got a lot of my ideas for the truck on-line, there are some great tutorials available.  The ladders were done in white chocolate and the fire hydrant and puddle were done in fondant.  For the lights I used Jolly ranchers and M&M's.  It was my second attempt at a truck cake and I think this one was much cleaner than my first attempt.  I still need to work at the detail on my cakes and figure out a way to work around my shaky hands, that make my piping look like I was working during an earthquake.  As I do more cakes it is becoming easier for me to set up a work schedule.  I am getting a better idea of how long each step will take and what can be done ahead of time.  Having a schedule definitely helps eliminate some of the last minute rush, there are still steps that have to be done last minute, but at least I am getting a better idea of what those steps will be. 

Fire Truck Cake Timeline
Mon: Sketch design, make templets, make cake board
Tue: Chocolate work -  ladders
Wed: Fondant work - fire hydrant, puddle, ladder sign 
Thur: Bake and freeze 2 9x13 cakes 
Fri: Chocolate mousse filling
Sat: Build and ice cake - do all piping work
Sun: Add detail - candy, ladders

The next things I need to get better at are determining how much cake I really need and making better ingredient lists so I only make one trip to the store instead of ten. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010


 Not an original thing to make with kids, but definitely a favorite.  We make it at least once a month, usually more.  The dough is quick, fun to play with and easy to make, the kids can work on it with little assistance.  The break while the dough rises can be helpful, although sometimes I have lost them completely during this two hour break and they have no interest in returning to finish the job, so sometimes it is good to just make the dough up ahead of time and let them focus on making the pizzas.   I usually put my dough in the oven to rise, there is enough warmth in there to speed the process and makes for a nice rise of the dough.  Just remember to take the dough out before you preheat the oven, not that I learned that from previous experience. 
We usually make individual pizzas and cook them on the pizza stone, but I also like to mix it up and make one or two large pizza - I often do this on those days when we need some help with that whole cooperation, sharing, compromise thing that kids need to learn.  And I am sure I have said this before, but pizza can be a great way to use up leftovers.  This week Aggie helped make the dough, she loves any job that involves getting her hands messy, and then the kids each made their own pizza while Marshall and I shared a pan pizza.  The kids did basic pizza, the girls no sauce just cheese and pepperoni.  Liam is willing to be a little more adventurous with his toppings this time he went with ground beef, pepperoni and pineapple.  Like the girls Marshall and I don't really like sauce and prefer white pizza, so we went with ground beef, spinach, diced tomatoes, garlic and cheese and since Marshall made the pizza it was seasoned heavily, but in a very good way.  I don't have a recipe for the pizza, but here is the dough I like to use, it is a great multi purpose dough.

Pizza Dough
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1 Tbs. Olive Oil
1 Tbs. Honey
3 tsp Dry Yeast (or 1 packet)
2 1/2 cups Flour

Combine water, milk, olive oil and honey, heat until lukewarm.  Sprinkle yeast over wet ingredients, stir and let rest until yeast dissolves.  Stir in flour, once combined knead until smooth.  Place in oiled bowl, cover and let rise until double in size.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Chicken Satay Salad

The kids have been taken down by a nasty cold so I am keeping them out of the kitchen, but I will post a kids cook later in the week.  I had been planning on making chicken satay lettuce wraps for dinner, but due to sick grumpy kids and a change in our vegetable delivery I changed things up a little.  Satay is is a great meal to make with kids, there are a lot of things they can do and it is a fun meal to eat.  When I cook with the kids I typically have them do the cutting, but with satay I do the cutting and they get to do more of the actual cooking, so it is a meal they take a lot of pride in.  I know some people don't like the idea of kids handling raw chicken, but I think it is important to have kids do all types of jobs and learn the responsibilities, like washing well after handling, that go along with the various job.  I cut the chicken into strips, but let them flavor and skewer.  Not all kids love touching chicken, but my kids love slimy gooey things, and for them chicken is one of the best slimy things around so they will always jump at the chance to "play" with it.  Skewering is a great activity for kids, weather it is putting on a bunch of different items, or putting one long piece of chicken on a stick, it helps develop fine motor skills and dexterity.  Plus it only takes a few times of watching food fall off the stick before kids realize the importance of getting the stick through the center of the item.  I often put my oldest son, 5, in charge of making the peanut sauce.  I use a very simple kid friendly receipe, so kids are familiar with all the ingredients and can often do all the mise en place and measuring alone.  The sauce is not cooked making  it a great solo activity for young cooks. 
As I said my meal for last night changed slightly.  I had originally planned on doing wraps, with chicken skewers, but we got a bag of lettuce instead of a head of lettuce, so i went with a salad with chopped chicken,  instead of wraps, which was just as tasty.

Chicken Satay Salad
1 lb Boneless Chicken breast cut into strips
2 Tbs. of Ginger, finely chopped
1 Tbs. Garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup Apple Juice
1/4 cup Peanut Butter (creamy or chunky)
3 Tbs. Soy Sauce
Dash Hot Sauce
1 Cup Shredded Carrots
1 Cucumber, peeled and julienned
1 Bag/Head of Lettuce

Heat pan with oil, add chicken, ginger and garlic.  Cook until chicken is cooked through, remove from pan, cool slightly and chop roughly.
For sauce heat apple juice slightly.  Add peanut butter and soy sauce.  Toss half of the sauce with the chopped chicken, use remaining sauce as dressing for salad. 
Combine carrots, cucumber and lettuce top with chicken and additional dressing if desired.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Pumpkin Streusel Muffins

My little one woke up around 4:30 this morning and decided it was time to start the day, plus my morning coffee was feeling a little sad a lonely.  The cure - Pumpkin Streusel Muffins.  I would like to describe the muffin,  but I just watched the Saturday Night Live skit with Betty White and I just can't write about muffins right now, so here is a picture and the recipe.

Pumpkin Muffins with Struesel Topping
Makes about 18

1 Stick Butter
¾ Cup Brown Sugar
1/3 Cup Molasses
1 Cup Canned Pumpkin
1 Egg
1 ¾ Cups Flour
½ tsp Salt
1 tsp Baking Soda
1½ tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Nutmeg
¾ Cup Dates, Prunes 
½ Cup Chopped Pecans

Streusel Topping:
4 Tbs. Butter softened
1/2 cup Sugar
1/4 cup Flour
1 Tbs. Cinnamon
1 tsp. Nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper baking cups.
Cream the butter, brown sugar, and molasses until creamy. Add the pumpkin and the egg and mix well.
Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Add the dry ingredients and the dates, prunes or raisins and nuts to the mixture. Beat just until the batter is smooth. Spoon into muffin pans.
For topping combine dry ingredients, then work in butter.  Sprinkle over tops of muffins
Bake for 15 minutes

Monday, November 1, 2010

Lo Mein Soup

The planned meal for tonight was Lo Mein, but with two sick kids it morphed into a soup and a pretty tasty one at that.  I have also rediscovered my love of Ramen Noodles.  Like many college students,  I lived on them.  Easy to fix when living in the dorm and a great cheap food when first living on your own.  During those years I didn't do anything except fix them as plain noodles or fix them as soup, and of course I used that salty flavoring packet that tasted so good after a long night out.  After a few years of these as the base of my diet I gave them up completely and then a couple of months ago I picked them up as a quick lunch for my kids and ever since I have been hooked once again.  My kids love having them for lunch, we alternate between eating them  as soup and just as noodles, and of course we use the flavor packet.   But there are so many other uses, they are great uncooked in salads or as a replacement for pasta in soup.  And if you ask my youngest they are just fun to play with!  What is your favorite use?

Lo Mein soup
1 lbMushrooms (I had button, but any kind would do)
1 Bunch Spinach
1 Tbs. Garlic
1/2 inch Ginger finely chopped
2 Carrots grated
3 packets Ramen Noodles cooked
2 cups Broth (I used chicken, would have preferred beef, but didn't have any)
1/4 cup Soy Sauce
2 Tbs. Oyster Sauce

Saute garlic until soft and fragant.  Add ginger.  Add mushrooms cook until soft.  Add spinach once wilted add broth, soy sauce and oyster sauce stir together add noodles and carrots.

Menu Planning Monday

Wow, could it be two weeks in a row where this actually gets done on Monday!  No recipe links this week, but hopefully I will post some receipes this week, even though they are all pretty straight forward. 

Monday -  Lo Mein
Tuesday - squash meatloaf - from the new Everyday Food
Wednesday - Chicken Satay
Thursday - Steak fajitas
Friday - Make your own pizza

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Kicked up Krispies

We have been on a marshmallow crispy kick recently, we have made them 4 times in the past 10 days.  Luckily most of them have left our house shortly after being made.  They are one of those foods I find myself picking at until the entire pan has suddenly disappeared.  We made two regular batches, cut into triangles and topped with a piece of candy corn for school bake sales.  Then we made a batch that we turned into pumpkins.  We formed them into balls, dipped in orange chocolate,  used a green Mike-n-Ike as a stem and M&M's for eyes - the kids loved making these. 
Our last batch was an experimentation that I did with the kids, this batch stayed home, it was the most dangerous batch and really should have left the house, immediately.  On a recent trip to Colorado we went to the Hammond candy factory in Denver, it is a fun tour and a great way to spend a couple of hours, plus you can get some wonderful deals on their candy.  On the day we were there they were selling all their candy canes for .25 cents, so I loaded up for Christmas, I also loaded up on their Mitchell candies.  At the factory store they sell bags of mushed up ends for, I think $5.00, these candies aren't pretty, but they are still delicious.   I had a partial bag of Vanilla Mitchells, a partial bag of mini marshmallow and a partial box of Rice Krispies.  Melt the Mitchells and the marshamallows add the Rice Krispies and you have creamy caramel crunchy yumminess.  I definitely wouldn't do this with a "nice" bag of Mitchells, since they sell for over $20 a pound, but it is a great use for the "ugly" bags.  I only wish they sold these bags on-line and not just in the factory, actually I don't otherwise I would be making these way too often. 

Friday, October 29, 2010

Battle - Salad!!

My kids, Liam in particular, love the food challenges on Food Network, so I challenged them to the Ultimate Salad Battle.  We get our vegetable delivery on Wednesday and they had to see how many of the items in the box they could use to create the best salad ever.  At first they didn't think about using the fruit, for them dinner and salad means vegetables.  We have fruit salad for breakfast or lunch, the idea of oranges and apples at dinner was a little strange for them, and this is why I like cooking with my kids, it helps me realize what I am teaching them without knowing it.  I have taught them that fruits are not part of dinner, this is not something I have ever said, but have taught them this by not making fruits a part of dinner.  Now that I know this I can now make an effort to find ways to include fruits and vegetables into our evening meals.   What do you teach your kids about food without realizing?

My youngest helped by taking a bite out of everything