Friday, August 26

Fall is in the air and apples are on the trees!

Here we are, wrapping up the last days of summer. Schools getting ready to start, gardens are at there highlight of the season, and my favorite fresh produce is in abundance.

At this time if year gardens still produce summer staples such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and lettuce. We also begin to see the beginning of squashes, eggplants, and root vegetables. This is a great time of year to start preserving for the upcoming winter.

Picking fruits and vegetables at their peak will ensure an amazing preserved product. Over the next month we will spend a lot of getting back into the school year and colder month schedule, why not relax and unwind in front of a great meal?

One of the seasons best fruits to preserve are apples. Apples can easily be made into several tasty treats. Apple sauce, butter, doughnuts, muffins, and jam are some of my favorites. Apple sauce and butter can be made in large batches and then canned for the upcoming winter months.

Follow me over the next week while I get ready for the winter by saving the tastes of the season with these tasty apple recipes. Learn to make them yourself and get ready to enjoy!

MAKE IT: Applesauce


Making applesauce is a great late summer or early fall activity. This family side-dish favorite is simple and sweet. By starting with fresh locally grown apples and a lite amount of spice (you can easily leave it out to have a plain sauce) you can easily create a new way to kick off the season!

This will make 4-5 cups sauce
Full time: 2 1/2 hours
You will need:

12 small to medium apples
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp cinnamon
1 tbsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tbsp allspice

If you want to make plain applesauce:
Substitue 4 tbsp sugar for the brown sugar and leave out spices

Let us begin:

In a large pot, crumble brown sugar and spices, stir around to blend. If making plain applesauce skip this step


Add water into pot, stir to incorporate and dissolve sugar. For plain applesauce combine water and sugar in pot and stir to dissolve


Carefully, peal, core, and cut apples into 8 pieces

Mix into pot


Over medium high heat bring water and apples to a boil. You will see a foam on the edge of apples begin when it starts to boil

Lower heat to low and cook for 2 hours

Then using a potato mashed, press and mash apples


Once you have a nice even mash, transfer to an air tight container and store in refrigerator.

If you want a less chunky sauce you can always put it in a foodprocessor and pulse until desired texture is reached.

Remember if you are canning to always sterilize your jam jars!


STERILIZING JAM JARS:

Always wash jams jars in hot soapy water. Drain and air dry upside down, do not towel dry.

Carefully place jam jars upside down in a oven

Heat at 300 degrees for 15 minutes

Carefully remove jam jars and place on a clean, dry towel upside down until needed.

Do not touch rims when filling or moving.

Monday, August 22

BAKE IT: Red Velvet Cream Cheese Whoopie Pies



I am not sure why but, New England is known for Whoopee Pies. These cake confections are stuffed with a sweet and often tangy frosting center.

I will admit, I like to take the easy way out when baking whoopee pies, by starting with ready made cake mix!

Makes 12-18 pies
Full time: 2 - 2 1/2 hours (includes rest and cooling time)

You will need:

1 box Red Velvet cake mix (or your choice)
3 eggs
12 oz cream cheese, at room temp
2 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract

Let us begin:

Working with pie batter first, in a large bowl whisk 1/2 cup melted butter with eggs, it will have a "scrambled" egg color and appearance


Next add in the cake mix, it will take a few minutes to get it to want to incorporate.

Once it does continue to mix for a few minutes, it will be a stiff texture which will peak if you pull out the whisk


Cover with plastic wrap and set in refrigerator for 45 minutes to 1 hour

While this sets, we will begin the filling

In a large bowl, mix remaining (1/4 cup) melted butter with cream cheese, it will look similar to cottage cheese when blended


Next add in the powdered sugar and vanilla, this will require a little elbow work as the powdered sugar likes to clump, after a few moments it will smooth out.


Load mixture into a pastry bag or large zip top bag. If using a zip top bag, just squeeze mixture to one corner and snip off the corner

Preheat oven to 350

Once the batter sets, line three or four cookie sheets with parchment paper

Using a small ice cream scoop, scoop out level scoops to ensure same size, onto sheets


It is important to scoop out an even number of scoops, as it takes two per pie


Place in oven for 10 minutes or until cake is set in middle, test by inserting a toothpick and watching if it comes out clean

Let cool on tray until they come to room temp


Now carefully, turn one pie piece upside down and squeeze a small filling into it


Top with a second pie piece

Repeat until you are out of pie pieces

Cake Cookies



Cake cookies are a blend of two great desserts. They blend classic cake flavors with the ease of cookie eating. These satisfying treats are sure to be a crowd pleaser at your table.

Cake cookies can easily be made in any flavor you desire, changing up cake mixes and frosting flavors. For help with making your own frosting, see "Making Frosting" post from Aug 2011.

This will make 3 to 4 dozen cookies
Full time: 50-70 minutes (includes cool time)
You will need:

1 box Vanilla or Chocolate cake mix
3 cups powdered sugar
2 eggs
3 tbsp milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract (I am substituting 1 tsp orange in photos below)

For added fun use 1 cup of any "add in" or combination of "add ins":

Chocolate chips
Peanut butter chips
White chocolate chips
Mint chips
Toffee pieces
Nuts
Raisins
Craisins

Let us begin:
(photos are of Orange frosted Chocolate  cake cookies)

Preheat oven to 350

In a large bowl add cake mix, eggs, vegetable oil, and 1 tsp vanilla. Mix until a dough forms


On a rimmed plate, pour sugar

Spoon 1 inch (approx 1tbsp) of dough out and roll in sugar


Place rolled dough on a parchment lined cookie sheet, space 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart


Bake in oven for 10 to 14 minutes, edges will be firm but center will remain softer


Remove from oven and let cool on tray for a moment, then give it a gentle shake to ensure no cookies are stuck

Gently transfer to a cooling rack or board for 20 minutes or until they are completely cooled


While cookies cool, let's make the frosting

In a small bowl place butter and microwave for 30 sec to 1 minute to melt

Stir in powdered sugar, milk, and extract(I am using orange). Mix until a smooth texture forms, just remember frosting will set so don't make it too far in advance


Once cookies are completely cooled, gently frost with a small amount of frosting


Let frosting set, approx 10 minutes. Store in air tight container, in a moister free area

Try as many combinations as you can think of, here are a few:

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake Cookies
-use devils food cake mix, peanut butter frosting

Mint Chocolate Chip Cake Cookies
-use chocolate cake mix, chocolate frosting, and substitute mint extract in dough mix. Add in chocolate chips and mint chips

White Chocolate Raspberry Cake Cookies
-use white cake mix, white frosting and substitute raspberry extract in frosting. Add in white chocolate chips

Chocolate Chip Cake Cookies
-use vanilla cake mix, no frosting, and skip the roll in sugar step. Add in chocolate chips

Lemon Lovers Dream Cake Cookies
-use lemon poppy seed cake mix, white frosting and substitute lemon extract in frosting. For garnish finely grate lemon peel and sprinkle on before frosting sets

Tuesday, August 16

Falafel


Falafel is a staple in most Mediterranean cuisines, this lightly fried ball can be served in pitas, as a side, or by itself.

It is a relatively easy dish, which can be prepped up to one day ahead.

This will make 12-18 falafel
Full time: 20-30 minutes (includes multiple cooking batches)
You will need:

15oz can garbanzo beans, drain/rinse
1/2 small white onion, quartered
4 cloves garlic, pealed
2 cups vegetable oil
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, rough chop
1/3 cup fresh parsley, rough chop
6 tbsp flour
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp coriander
1/4 tbsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper


Let us begin:

In a food processor, place beans, onion, garlic, fresh herbs. Pulse to form a rough texture



Add in dried spices, pulse to mix in. Taste to check the spice level and adjust if need be

Add in flour and baking powder, and 2 tbsp oil, pulse to form dough


Cover with clear plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for minimum 3 hours

After dough has set, place remaining oil in a deep frying pan and bring to a nice frying temp over med high heat. To check temp is ready, just drop a small tiny piece of dough in, if it sizzles on the edges you are ready


Use a small ice cream scoop, roughly 1 1/2 tbsp to scoop dough, form into ball


Gently put balls into frying pan


It takes roughly 3-4 minutes for side to brown up nicely, then roll over and repeat


Place finished balls on a drip rack, I do this instead of paper towels. It allows excess oil to drain off without getting a soggy bottom


Serve with your favorite Greek or Mediterranean dipping sauce.

Saturday, August 13

White Chicken Chili


White chicken chili is a great year round meal. In the summer it brings a little spice to your campfire meal, in the winter it is a hearty filling dish, and in the spring/autumn it will fill your taste buds with seasonal spice.

There are two ways to make this dish, on stove top (in less than 1 hour) or in a crock pot, either is great and tasty. The following follows a quick stove top method, but I gave included notes on the bottom to use a crock pot.

Serves 4-6 people
Full time: 50-60 minutes
You will need:

1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast
1 large green pepper
1 small sweet onion
1 small bunch fresh cilantro
6 cups chicken stock
45 oz cannelloni beans*
15 oz red kidney beans*
15 oz white whole kernel corn
7 oz chopped green chilies
2 tbsp cornstarch or arrowroot
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp dried cilantro
2 tbsp ground cumin
2 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tbsp salt
1/2 tbsp ground black pepper


*I am giving you the weight of beans, if you choose to use dry beans remember to soak them the night before to re-hydrate. I personally use canned beans to save time

Let us begin:

First we need to prep all our vegetables

Start by cutting sweet onion into small pieces, less then bite size but large enough to see then


Next cut the peppers into bites size pieces


Cut your chicken into nice bite size pieces


Finally, place any canned items into a strainer and rinse them completely


Now that we are all prepped let's make a yummy meal

In a large stock pot place butter, green peppers, and onions. Cook them until the begin to become translucent, over medium high heat


Now add the chicken into the pot and brown


Once chicken has begun to brown, pour just enough of the stock in to cover the chicken

Add in all dry spices and herbs


Bring to rapid boil

Add in the remaining stock

Add in beans, chilies, and corn. Lower heat to medium low and cover


Cook for 30 minutes, remove a 1/2 cup of liquid from pot. And stir in cornstarch or arrowroot. Stir to dissolve

Return to pot and give a good stir, cook for 10 minutes

While this cooks, chop the fresh cilantro

Add cilantro to chili, stir, and serve


CROCKPOT METHOD:

To use a crock pot for this meal place all ingredients, except fresh cilantro in to pot

Follow prep for vegetables and chicken from above

Cook on low heat for a minimum of 6 hours, but it can go as long as 8/10

Stir chopped fresh cilantro in just before serving

Monday, August 8

MAKE IT: Frosting (Buttercream, Classic, Whipped, and Cream Cheese)


Frosting is probably one of the easiest things to make. With a few ingredients, a mixing spoon, and five minutes you can whip up a batch.

The average everyday frosting is no harder to make than opening up a pre made frosting container. You can have any flavor, color, or combination at your finger tips.

The trick behind frosting is to have a good texture and sweetness level. You always want a smooth and light consistency.  A frosting should mildly harden, that is only the outer most edge should develop a nice "skin" so that it is not sticky if you touch it. But biting into the frosting should reveal a moist inside. You also want a frosting with a nice subtle sweet flavor that will compliment it's cake base. To much sugar will have people scraping it off on the edge of their plates, to little sugar will detract from the overall cake/frosting flavor.

Making frosting can be a lot of fun. It will open you up to experimenting with new flavors and ideas. Try chocolate cakes with peanut butter or mint frosting, spiced cakes with maple frosting, sugar cakes with spiced frosting, orange cakes with raspberry frosting...I could go on for a long time

Frosting is easy if you remember the few key things: texture, consistency, color, and flavor.

1) Texture: If possible work in small batches and make prior to using. It is better to have exactly what you need with only a little to spare. Frosting dries easily and you don't want the texture to change while it sits for long periods.

2) Consistency is important. If your frosting is too liquid, it will run and possible not dry: just add a tsp of powdered sugar at a time. If your frosting is to thick or it appears dry: Just add a tsp of milk at a time.

3) Color can always be darkened or brightened but, once its colored you can't go back. To color your frosting add a few drops coloring at a time until desired color is reached, be patient and work from pale to bright/dark.

4) Flavor is extremely important. Everyone has had a great cake with a bland or overpowering frosting. Just follow the rule of coloring, once it is done, it's done. Add a small bit of flavoring to frosting by substituting flavor extracts for vanilla extract when called for. If a stronger flavor is desired then begin to add a tsp at a time. Just remember flavor adds liquid to the mix, so you may want to add a small amount powdered sugar.

Once you get the basic white/vanilla frosting down the sky is the limit!
Here is a great place to start your frosting journey. These will make roughly enough to frost 12/18 cupcakes, 8" double layer cake, 13" sheet cake.

CLASSIC FROSTING:

Classic Frosting is slightly sweeter and easy to manipulate into any flavor. Classic frosting can be used on anything and will slightly harder to hold its shape. Possibilities with flavoring this style of frosting are endless. Here are a few varieties:
You will need:

For plain Vanilla frosting:
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup butter softened
1 1/2 tbsp milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

For Chocolate frosting:
4 oz unsweetened baking chocolate
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter softened
1/3 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla

For peanut butter frosting:
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

For strawberry frosting:
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup butter softened
1/3 cup strawberry jam (beat in with butter)
1 1/2 tbsp milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Let us begin:
(photos are of peanut butter frosting)

For all frosting blend powdered sugar, milk, vanilla in a large bowl. Beat with hand whisk or low speed mixer until smooth.


Beat in butter (or peanut butter), for 2 or 3 minutes



For chocolate frosting, melt chocolate in double boiler or microwave, allow to cool slightly, fold in to frosting until well mixed. It is important to fold chocolate in not beat it in.

BUTTERCREAM FROSTING:

Buttercream frosting is almost always used in bakeries and grocery stores. It has a very noticeable flavor and sets nice and firm. It hold shape well and keeps slightly longer for use. The only trick behind using butter cream is keeping it cool enough to spread but warm enough not to harden.

You will need:

1 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature for 30 minutes
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
6 egg yolk, gently beaten
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

2 tbsp flavoring or additional water

In a heavy saucepan combine water and sugar. Bring to boil and remove from heat.

Now slowly add half mixture to egg yolks.Once you have added half of the mixture to yolks, add the yolk mixture into the saucepan and return to heat.

Bring to low boil and lower heat. Cook for 2 minutes and add in flavoring or additional water.

Move mixture to cool bowl and place bowl in ice bath: storing often to get mixture to room temp.

Mix butter and cooled yolk mixture with a hand or standing mixer on medium speed. Blending until it is fluffy and combined.

To make this into a chocolate buttercream: add 4 ounces melted semisweet chocolate to butter when adding in yolk mixture.

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

Cream cheese frosting is a magical blend or sweet and savory. The cream cheese brings an extra dimension to a standard frosting. It goes well on carrot cake and any spiced cake. I do not recommend flavoring this style frosting, it has a great base flavor to start with.

For cream cheese frosting:

8 oz. cream cheese softened
4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup butter softened
2 tsp milk
1 tsp vanilla

For cream cheese frosting, beat cream cheese until smooth in a separate bowl.

Prepare remaining ingredients to form a base a directed above.

Gently combine frosting base to cream cheese. Beat for 2 or 3 minutes to ensure a blended frosting.

WHIPPED FROSTING

Whipped frosting is the new kid on the block. It is lighter and fluffier than classic frosting. It will hold a piped shape for 2-3 days after being used and has a great subtle sweet flavor.

You will need:

2 cups whipping or heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp cold water
1 tsp gelatin, unflavored for plain

Bring 1" of water to boil over high heat.

In a heatproof measuring cup combine gelatin and cold water. Place measuring cup into boiling water and cook until gelatin dissolves.

Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes. While it stands whip sugar and cream together.

Gradually add in cooled gelatin mixture and whip until stiff peaks form.

Thursday, August 4

BAKE IT: Porchugise Style English Muffins


Portuguese Muffins are a flatter style muffin. It has a shape and size closer to a traditional English muffin. However they have a sweeter and richer flavor then an English muffin. These are great for breakfast and brunches, especially when topped with a honey butter!

This will make 18 white muffins
(for variations see bottom note)
Full time: 3 1/2-4 hours (includes multiple rise times and multiple cooking batches)
You will need:

3 eggs
5 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 cup milk
1 cup soy flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water 110 degrees
1/4 cup butter
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (or 1 .25oz packet)
1/2 tsp salt

Let us begin:

Start by placing water in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle over yeast and 1/4 tsp sugar. Allow to sit for 15 minutes

Yeast should now be bubbly and foamy.


Add in the remaining sugar and salt, give a stir to fully dissolve

Add in eggs, milk, and soy flour, give quick stir

Add in flour 2 1/2 cups, stir then add remaining flour to form a slightly sticky dough


Melt butter and allow to cool to touch.

Blend butter into dough and begin to knead

Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead until it becomes smooth and elastic, approx 8 minutes. This is a very sticky dough but be careful not to add too much additional flour


Cover dough with a tea towel and set aside to proof/rise for 1 hr

Dough should double in size, give a quick punch down and divide dough into 18 pieces (it helps to roll it into a long log first)


Roll each piece into a ball, this is an extremely sticky dough, so I like to keep a small pile of flour next to my work surface. Give each piece a little flour bath and it won't stick to your hands


Shape dough into round flat pieces and arrange on a lightly floured piece of wax paper


Cover with a light sprinkle of soy flour, then cover with tea towel and let rest for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours

Once muffins have rested and set bring a large un-greased skillet to a medium heat.

Place 3 muffins at a time (or how ever many fit without edges touching) in skillet


Cook until golden brown color, approx 3-4 minutes, flip and repeat. You will notice that the muffins will puff up.


Let cool on a rack.


These can be individually sealed, frozen, and toasted. Just seal in double layer of plastic wrap and set in freezer for up to 45 days

Looking for a different flavor muffin? They are just as easy to make, here are a few great options:

Whole Wheat Muffins:
Using the recipe above replace the
5 cups all purpose flour
with
4 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour

Rye Muffins:
Using the recipe above replace the
5 cups all purpose flour
with
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups rye flour
1/2 to 1 cup seeds (if desired)

Oat Muffins
Using the recipe above replace the
5 cups all purpose flour
with
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cup oat flour
1 cup rolled oats
Add 1 tbsp milk to mix

Potato or Rice Muffins:
Using the recipe above replace the
5 cups all purpose flour
with
3 cups all purpose flour
2 cups potato or rice flour