Saturday, October 22, 2011

Favorite Recipes

Friday, July 1, 2011

Christmas in July

I'm way behind on blog posts-- I mean WAY behind. I started this blog in 2009, and took about a year and a half off because I got engaged and had a wedding to plan. I still took pictures of recipes I made and craft projects though, in hopes that I would eventually get them posted here. The wedding was a month ago, and things are finally getting back to normal, so I'm catching up. Hence the posts about Christmas gifts and goodies at the beginning of July!
I gave these gifts to the staff in my classroom last Christmas, and I am still in love with the idea. It was a fun low cost gift that was a big hit with everyone.

I spent around $10 for each gift. For each person, I bought a drink glass, a small drink mix, and a mini bottle of alcohol. I wrapped each up with cellophane and attached an ornament on the outside, along with a tag that said "I'd like to buy you a drink!" The inspiration for these gifts came from a Stirrings Drink Mix Package similar to the one below:

For the men, I bought tall cylinder glasses and included a mojito mix and mini bottle of white rum. For the women, I bought fun martini glasses and included a flavored martini mix and a mini bottle of vodka. The sparkly ornaments were $2 in the ornament section at Target, and I love using this ornaments to decorate the outside of packages, they are so festive! Please forgive the poor pictures, these were taken at 6am the morning I took them to work.

Cowboy Caviar

Another popular summer recipe is Cowboy Caviar. This recipe has been popular at potlucks over the past few years, and it took me a while to find a version that I was in love with. My version is adapted from this site. This recipe is great as a dip for tortilla chips, and leftovers are great to include as a side dish or a filling in tacos or enchiladas.

Cowboy Caviar:

2 cans black beans, rinsed
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
1/2 red onion, diced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar (I like the garlic flavored)
3-4 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lime juice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Combine the black beans, corn, red onion, and cilantro in a bowl and stir until well-mixed. Mix together the vinegar, lime juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper, then pour over the bean mixture. Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour to let the flavors marinate. Dip can be served with tortilla chips or crackers.


Summer S'mores Bar

With the summer weather and 4th of July festivities going on all weekend, I suggest arranging a S'mores bar for guests for an evening snack. In addition to the original s'mores ingredients, we added some fun extras to make a variety of s'mores. You can use almost anything, but we included everything in the picture below:

Here are some ideas for a s'mores bar:

Outer cookies:
Graham Crackers
Chocolate Chip Cookies
White Chocolate Macadamia cookies
Chocolate Graham Crackers

Marshmallow filling:
Original Marshmallows
Jumbo Marshmallows
Coconut coated marshmallows
Marshmallow Fluff
Marshmallow Peeps

Chocolate Squares
Reese's Cups

Check out this site for more great s'mores bar ideas!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

French Bread

One of my favorite bread machine recipes is for a simple loaf of french bread. As much as I dislike gimmicky kitchen gadgets that are rarely used, I make the exception for a bread machine. I love making bread from scratch, but the time it takes for kneading, rising, and baking is just too much for me sometimes. Using a bread machine makes it so easy for me to throw in the ingredients and go about my work around the house, returning three hours later to find a fresh baked loaf of bread. This means that rather than fresh bread on special occasions, we bake at least two loaves a week. I own a Breadman Ultimate Plus (purchased at Target about two years ago), and this recipe comes from the booklet included in the machine. It is a very simple loaf of bread, but have many uses for it: smeared with butter and jam next to our eggs at breakfast, dipped in olive oil and seasonings during an Italian meal, or sandwiched around peanut butter and jelly when my niece and nephew are over.

French Bread (1.5 lb. loaf)

1 cup + 2Tbsp. water at 80 degrees F
1Tbsp. + 1tsp. olive oil
1Tbsp. + 1.5tsp. honey (original recipe calls for sugar)
1tsp. salt
3 1/4 cups bread flour (I use King Arthur unbleached bread flour)
2 tsp. active dry yeast

Place all ingredients in the bread machine in the order listed, moving from wet to dry ingredients. When adding the flour, spread it out so it covers all the wet areas on top, then sprinkle active yeast over the flour.

On your bread machine, select the French Cycle with a loaf size of 1.5lb. This bread takes a little over 3 hours, and comes out browned, crispy on the outside, and soft and tender on the inside! I usually store it in a large Ziploc bag, and the outside of the loaf softens when stored in the bag.


Eggplant Parmesan

To make eggplant parmesan the way I wanted it, I combined what I liked from two different recipes, found at the Food Network and Epicurious. I had not tried Eggplant Parmesan until recently, but I have now fallen in love with it! Check out either of the links for great recipes or try the one I've listed below:

* 1 pound (about 1 medium-sized) eggplant
* Salt
* 1 cup vegetable oil
* 1 tsp. salt
* 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
* 1 cup all-purpose flour
* 3 large eggs
* 2 cups panko * (Japanese bread crumbs)
* 2 oz. finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (2/3 cup)
* 2 cups of your favorite tomato sauce (I used Newman's Own Marinara)
* 1 pound ball fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Wash and towel dry the eggplant. Slice the eggplant horizontally about 1/4-inch thick. Place the slices in a large colander, sprinkle with salt and set aside to rest about 30 minutes. Drain and rinse the eggplant and dry on towels.

Stir together flour, salt, and pepper in a shallow bowl. Lightly beat eggs in a second shallow bowl, then stir together panko and 1/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano in a third shallow bowl.

Working with 1 slice at a time, dredge eggplant in flour, shaking off excess, then dip in egg, letting excess drip off, and dredge in panko until evenly coated.

Heat vegetable oil in a small dutch oven over medium heat until hot but not smoking, then fry eggplant 1 slice at a time, turning over once, until golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes per batch. Transfer with tongs to paper towels to drain.

Repeat with all of the pieces. On a cookie sheet lay out the 4 largest pieces of eggplant. Place 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce over each piece and place a thin slice of mozzarella on top of each. Sprinkle with Parmigiano and top each with the next smallest piece of eggplant, then sauce then mozzarella. Repeat the layering process until all the ingredients have been used, finishing again with the Parmigiano. Place the pan in the oven and bake until the top of each little stack is golden brown and bubbly, about 15 minutes.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

Perfect Pancakes

I made these pancakes over Memorial Day weekend, and they were just how a pancake should be: soft, sweet, and fluffy.

To make these pancakes, you need flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, one egg, milk, and butter.

Start with a large bowl, and measure and pour 1 1/4 c. unbleached flour.

Next, I added 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder to the flour.

Now measure and pour 2T. sugar to the dry mix.

Also mix in 3/4 tsp. salt, and stir all the dry ingredients together.

In a separate bowl, crack an egg into the bowl and beat it.

Measure 1 1/4c. milk, and pour it into the egg while mixing together.

Now add 3T. of melted butter to the wet mixture, and mix together.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and pour in the wet ingredients.

Mix the wet and dry ingredients together until just combined-- don't overmix!

I like to pour my batter into a spouted measuring cup, which makes it easier to pour into the pan. I also used a small nonstick pan so all of my pancakes would turn out the same size.

Spread the batter around the pan, and let sit until bubbles are forming throughout the surface of the pancake. Then flip.

Let the other side cook for a few more minutes, until the pancake has puffed up a little and is lightly browned on the bottom.

There you have it-- a stack of perfect, even pancakes. Now the finishing touch, a drizzle of maple syrup.

Okay-- maybe a little more maple syrup. These pancakes would be great with any variation-- fresh blueberries, a sprinkling of cinnamon, a handful of pecans. They are a great base recipe for whatever you are in the mood for!