Monday, January 30

BAKE IT: Amish Friendship Bread/Muffins

Amish Friendship Bread is a great base bread. It easily can take on the flavor and style of any muffin or bread you want to make. Once you get used to making it, the possibilities are endless.

If you have been lucky enough to receive a bread starter, or already have one then you just need to decided if you want the traditional Friendship bread or if you want to try a new flavor. If you want to get one started try mine, available under MAKE IT: Amish Friendship Bread Starter. There is a fermentation period, so make sure you know when your going to want to bake it and plan out when you need to get it started.

The basic recipe has a very cinnamon coffee cake texture and taste, but I will list a few variations on the bottom for you!

This will make 2 loaves of bread or 24 muffins
Full time: 1 1/2 hours
You will need:

3 eggs
1 box (5oz) instant vanilla pudding
1 cup Amish Friendship bread starter
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup Oil
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

1 cup cinnamon/sugar mixture
4 tbsp vegetable shortening

Let us begin:

Coat two bread pans with the vegetable shortening and cinnamon/sugar mixture (reserve a small amount for sprinkling over the top). If making muffins do the same for all the muffin tins

Preheat oven to 325

In a large GLASS BOWL (do not use metal) combine all remaining ingredients and stir well to fully incorporate, using a wooden or plastic spoon (really no metal)

Now pour evenly into your two bread pans

Top with reserved cinnamon sugar

Bake in oven for 1 hour, test for to make sure center is fully cooked, if not bake in increments of 10 minutes until done

Allow to cool for 15 minutes in pan

Turn out onto a cooling rack or board to finish cooling, will take about an hour if you want if fully cooled before serving. Store in air tight container for up to one week

Here are a few great variations to try:

Lemon Poppy Seed Bread:
Substitute lemon instant pudding for vanilla pudding
Substitute 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and 1/2 tsp lemon extract for 1 tsp vanilla extract
Add 1 cup poppy seeds to mixture
Leave out cinnamon
Substitute granulated sugar for cinnamon sugar when coating pans

Chocolate Chip Bread:
Substitute chocolate instant pudding for vanilla pudding
Add 1 cup chocolate chips to mixture
Leave out cinnamon
Substitute granulated sugar for cinnamon sugar when coating pans

Banana Nut Bread:
Substitute banana instant pudding for vanilla pudding
Add 2 mashed bananas to mixture
Add 1 cup chopped walnuts to mixture
Leave out cinnamon
Substitute granulated sugar for cinnamon sugar when coating pans

Apple Cinnamon Bread:
Add 2 apples, diced fine to mixture
Add 1 cup raisins to mixture
Increase cinnamon to 2 tsp

Orange Cranberry Bread:
Substitute orange extract for vanilla extract
Add 1 cup craisins to mixture
Leave out cinnamon
Substitute granulated sugar for cinnamon sugar when coating pans

Sunday, January 29

MAKE IT: Amish Friendship Bread Starter

Amish friendship entered this box about three years ago, I was given a bread chain and letter. If your not familiar with this it works much like a chain letter you can eat! You receive a small loaf of friendship bread with a container of a yeast bread starter and a recipe card. Once you make the bread, starter you package it up and move it on to two of your friends or eat a lot of bread yourself. Regardless of if your starting the chain, ending the chain, or just looking to learn a new technique in the kitchen. This bread starter makes great breads, muffins, pancakes, and takes on the flavor of a variety of ingredients. Which makes this a great base recipe. It also makes a great edible science project for kids!

But as a side note...There are a few tricks and recipes in my box that have no real origin of which I know. This is one of them, from all my research and results: Amish friendship bread actually has nothing to do with the Amish culture? I know puzzling right, I suspected as much when one of the ingredients was instant pudding, and I am pretty sure that is not an ingredient that can date bake very long. I did however find out that it was started during the holiday season to bake and share with your friends and since they do the same, it got the name friendship bread. I was also able to find out it most likely started in California at a church group who wanted to slow things down from a busy modern lifestyle. I am really not sure what is fact or fiction but I do know it tastes great.

This will make 6 cups starter when it's fermentation period is over. After the first batch of yeast, the yield will be slightly less and make 4 cups starter.
Full time: 10 days
You will need:

2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast, or one package
2 cups water, 110-115 degrees
2 cups flour
1 tbsp sugar


For day 5 and 10:
1 cup milk (2 total)
1 cup sugar (2 total)
1 cup flour (2 total)

Let us begin:

Start by placing the sugar in the bottom of the glass bowl and pouring in the water. Now sprinkle the yeast across the top of surface and let it sit for 5-10 minutes until nice and foamy.
*It is very important that your yeast goes active or you will end up with a very bad batch which can not be baked

While this foams up place the flour in the zip top bag

Once the yeast mixture is ready carefully pour it into the bag with the flour. Squeeze out the excess air and squish it around to create a slightly lumpy but pancake batter mixture

Now just set the bag aside closed in a warm but not hot area and DO NOT REFRIGERATE, if you do you will kill the fermentation process that is going to happen.

Keep an eye on the bag for the day, it will fill with air and need to be deflated a few times, but this is the only day that should be happening often.

Your fermentation period is going to take a total of ten days ( including today), just follow a very simple schedule and you'll be fine:
Day 1: Starter, set aside in zip top bag (in a bowl just in case of leaks)

Day 2: Squeeze bag to mix
Day 3: Squeeze bag to mix
Day 4: Squeeze bag to mix

Day 5: Feed your yeast 1 cup milk, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup flour

Day 6: Squeeze bag to mix
Day 7: Squeeze bag to mix
Day 8: Squeeze bag to mix
Day 9: Squeeze bag to mix

Day 10: Feed your yeast 1 cup milk, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup flour.
Divide into 4 equal portions, 1 cup each and either bake, package for giving away, or start again. (I once had a starter and made this for 5 months straight, by the end I had tried every flavor combination possible)

If your moving on to baking, try one of my great recipes available under BAKE IT: Amish Friendship Bread/Muffins

If your starting over, this counts as the end of the cycle, just pick up the cycle by replacing the starter day with an extra squeeze the bag day

If your packaging the starter for giving it away, make sure the recipient knows what day they are on in the fermentation cycle and that your include both the fermentation cycle and recipe card with the starter.

Saturday, January 28

MAKE IT: Peanut (or Almond) butter

Peanut butter is probably one of the easiest things to make yourself. If you looking for a quick sandwich fix and are lacking peanut butter, you can have it in roughly 10 minutes. The best part is you can decided how smooth or chunky you want it! In fact, if you have fresh peanuts in your house learning to make peanut butter will be faster then reading this recipe.

If you want to make almond butter just substitute the peanuts for roasted unsalted almonds

This will make 1 1/2 cups smooth  (or  a little under 2 cups chunky)
Full time: 10 minutes
You will need:

1 1/2 cups roasted, unsalted peanuts
*For chunky only: additional 1/4 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts
1/2 to 1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp sugar (you can leave this out if desired but such a small quantity of sugar only enhances the flavor)
1/8 tsp salt

Let us begin:

In a food processor, or heavy duty blender place peanuts (not including the optional chunky) and salt
Turn processor on and whirl until the peanuts break down into a half ground paste, that will slowly clump up together. It will take about 5 minutes is a half way through photo

This is what you will see after
Now add in 1/4 tbsp vegetable oil and re-whirl, continue this until the peanut butter is smooth and creamy. It will take about another 5 minutes, at one point the whole thing will turn into a giant ball, don't stop machine just let it keep going, it smooths out in a few seconds

Add in sugar and whirl for 1 minute
If making chunky, hand fold in the remaining peanuts
Store in air tight container for up to two weeks.

Thursday, January 26

Baked White Fish and Egg

I am going to start this by talking about eggs. In our culture eggs are not used as often as they should be. If you walk up to ten people and ask them what they would think of as an egg dish, chances are nine of them will involve breakfast and one will say, I don't eat eggs. But why? They are yummy, versatile, packed with protein, and seriously did I mention yummy? Most cultures have eggs in a various number of dishes: In China noodle bowls have a fried egg on top, (the velvet yolk just fills the broth in a drool worthy way), in Scotland fish is commonly served with a hard boiled egg sauce (that would be what we will be making today), in Mexico they have a egg casserole that can be made for any meal time, and in Russia they have this stuffed egg with cheese dish that is served with potatoes. I could keep going but, this isn't really about eggs, it is about the need to use eggs more, no just in batters or because a package told you too.  Trust me, eat an egg dish, they really will make you rethink the food possibilities.

This is a classic Scottish dish, a nice piece a fish with a egg suace over the top. Baked in the oven until tender and served alongisde mashed potatoes. I enjoy eating this along side sweet potatoes.

Serves 2-4
Full time: 30 minutes
You will need:

4 White fish fillets, cod or haddock work best
4 hard boiled eggs, chopped finely
3 cups milk
1/4 cup butter, plus 1 tbsp butter reserved
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper

Let us begin:

Preheat an oven to 375

Spray a baking dish with a light amount of cooing spray and lay in fillets

In a sauce pan melt butter(not reserved butter) over a low heat.

Add in the flour slowly, stir to ensure no lumps
Add in the milk slowly and continue to stir until it is smooth
Heat mixture for 3 minutes over the low heat while stirring gently

Add in eggs, nutmeg, salt, pepper, and remaining butter, stir to ensure completely mixed
Gently pour over fish
Bake in over for 15-20 mintues or until fish tests done

Tuesday, January 24

Chinese Doughnuts

If you have ever gone to a Chinese New Year's celebration, chances are you ate these. They are light, fluffy, golden, and covered in sugar. You can also find them at take away restaurants, buffet restaurants, and occasionally at brunches. They can make a great beginning or end to your day, cook up relatively easy, and impress most people.

I learned to make these while in China, from a extremely nice women who was letting me stay with them for a while. She really taught me a lot of recipes, several I have already shared with you, and several more that will be coming sooner or later.

This will serve 4-6
Full time: 20 minutes (includes multiple batches)
You will need:

4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cup milk
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup butter, cut into pieces
1 1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Frying oil

Let us begin:

In a large bowl mix flour, baking powder, and salt.

Add in butter and blend until there are no lumps
Add in milk and blend just until it balls up

Knead 10 times, being careful not to over knead
Gently form dough into small dough balls and flatten to create a disk shape

In a saute pan, heat 1 1/2" of frying oil over medium heat
When oil is ready to go, carefully slide dough disk into the oil

Fry for approximately 2 minutes or until a light golden color begins to develop

Flip over and repeat on second side
Remove to a wire rack and allow to cool to the touch

Once you can comfortably touch them, roll them in the granulated sugar

I would not recommend storing these for more then a few days, as they can harden very easily

Saturday, January 21

MAKE IT: Rice (Crispy) Cereal

Rice Cereal is fun thing to know how to make. I will be 100% honest, it is really easy but slightly in-efficient. If your trying to minimize your grocery bill, making this from scratch not the best way to go about it. You will end up spending more for the rice and oil required to do this. However if you want a great thing to show off, impress an overnight guest, or got stuck in the house during a storm, this is the way to go!

This will serve 2-4
Full time: 2 hours
You will need:

2 cups vegetable oil
1 1/2 cup uncooked rice white rice

Let us begin:

Preheat oven to 350

Prepare rice with water as instructed by package. If it calls for optional salt, oil, butter, leave out

Once rice has fully cooked, spread it out on wax paper lined sheet and let it sit for 10 minutes. This drains excess water and makes it cool to touch

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper and spreed rice out on it. Place in oven to dry for 30-45 minutes. You need the rice to be completely dry in order to proceed.

In a medium sauce pan bring oil to 400 degrees over medium-high heat

Working with small amounts of rice at a time, place rice in a metal sieve and gently immerse into the oil

Carefully shake around the sieve and the rice will begin to pop/puff open after approx 15-20 seconds

Pour popped/puffed rice onto a paper towel lined plate and continue until all rice is done.

Allow to cool at room temp for 20 minutes before serving or moving to air tight container.

It will store and stay crispy in an air tight container for a week or two. This makes great rice cereal treats and bars!

Thursday, January 19

Scottish Deviled Chicken

There are few things in this world that I am not sure where I learned them. I don't know who taught me to knit and crochet as a child, I don't know where I learned to rock climb, and I don't know who taught me to make Scottish Deviled Chicken. I do know that of all of these activities, none where shared by members of my family and most I have past on to them.

What I do know is that Scottish Deviled Chicken, is amazing. It has the right amount of heat verses sweet. it can be made easily, modified for those who prefer a spicier flavor, and involves a list of ingredients found in your refrigerator. I enjoy making this on nights that need a little zing to the week, a mid-week pick me up, so to speak. try this the next time your chicken needs a little wake up!

This serves 2-3 but, easily doubles
Full time: 1 hour 15 minutes
You will need:

1 lb split breast chicken, skinless
1/2 lb boneless chicken thighs, skinless
1/4 cup ketchup
3 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp apricot jam
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 tbsp hot sauce of your liking, I use a mild on half, Scotch bonnet on the other half
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp salt

Garnish: crushed red pepper flakes

Let us begin:

Preheat your oven to 350

Line a baking dish with tin foil, the sauce likes to stick

Place chicken in lined dish

Mix all remaining ingredients in a bowl, stir to full incorporate

Liberally apply sauce mixture to the chicken

Bake covered for 1 hour or until chicken is cooked through, sprinkle with red pepper flakes and serve immediately.

Left overs of deviled chicken make amazing chicken quesadillas and burritos

Tuesday, January 17

Brown Sugar Cookies

We have all had sugar cookies, in fact it is probably one of the most often eaten cookies. They come in various forms, frosted, un-frosted, on lollipop sticks, at bake sales, and holiday trays. But have you ever considered making brown sugar cookies? These tasty counter parts to the traditional sugar cookie have a great balance of flavor, texture, and color.

They bake up just as easy as sugar cookies, store just as well, and  I highly advise you try them, you may never go back to traditional sugar cookies again.

This will make approx 4 dozen cookies
Full time: 30 minutes
You will need:

2 cup flour
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar (for garnish on top of cookies *optional)
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Let us begin:

Preheat oven to 350

Line cookie sheet with parchment or bakers cooking spray

In a large sauce pan combine butter and brown sugar over a low heat. Bring the mixture to a low boil

Once boiling, remove from heat and stir in eggs, and vanilla, work carefully as to not cook the eggs but incorporate them

Set a shallow sauce pan or deep saute pan, fill half way with water on the heat. And leave it there

Mix in all remaining ingredients (except garnish).

Once thoroughly mixed, set sauce pan into the pan of hot water and turn off water heat. This will keep dough from becoming to stiff to work with

Drop rounded balls of dough roughly 1 tbsp onto cookie sheets

Once your sheet is filled, sprinkle the top of the cookies with the white sugar, it will appear as if it dissolves, that is okay

Bake in oven for 10-12 minutes or edges are golden and center feels set, I like to rotate mine half way through the baking process to ensure even baking

Remove from oven and allow to cool on trays for a few moments, move to cookie rack to completely cool. If your cooking on parchment you can cool completely on the tray

Monday, January 16

Learning to Make it yourself

Recently, I have had several people ask me for recipes to make things from scratch. Anything from pasta, to sauce, various breads, and baked goods. I has got me thinking and noticing, there seams to be a trend in homemade goods again. I have always been one to prefer making things from scratch when possible or efficient, but lately it seams more and more people are doing the same.

Personally I think it is about time! With growing health concerns such as diabetes, obesity, allergies, I think people should be paying more attention to what goes in their food. I am the first to admit packaged saves time, prepared meals are great on busy nights, and not everyone has a kitchen large enough to produce their entire diet. However, I think if you make even 25% of your food from scratch you will seriously increase your health awareness, your willingness to look at ingredients rather then just buying, and children are more likely to diversify their diets if they are helping to create the meal.

Your welcome to disagree with that statement, but here is a little experiment for you: go look at a bottle of one of the following things Ketchup, Barbecue sauce, Tomato Sauce, or Peanut butter. Now if the first thing is sugar my suggestion is you toss it. Now come back to your computer and look up multiple recipes for the same thing. Don't just look at mine, look up five or six different ones...did you do it? Good, now answer this how many of them started with or contained huge amounts of sugar? how many of them contain less then half the ingredients listed on the bottle? How many of them seriously make you wonder what your eating? Now consider that going homemade may mean a little more time in the kitchen but will mean a longer time with a healthier life. Trade off= worth it, not for just you but those you cook for.

If your planning to follow this trend, or continue along the same homemade path your on, or join me in what I call my semi-homemade life style. I have a great amount to show you, follow me with my MAKE IT and BAKE IT recipes. Over the past year I have already covered this style recipes and I plan to be adding many more. With these recipes in hand you can move towards the homemade lifestyle.

Here are a few highlights and popular recipes from this past year:

Make fresh bagels:

Sunday, January 15

BAKE IT: Tortilla strips and chips

Making tortilla strips and chips is actually a very easy thing to do. If you start with soft tortilla shells you can have fresh, homemade tortilla strips or chips in under 15 minutes. It is a great fix for salsa night, making soup, or when you want a quick snack.

Season them to match your dinning plans and your sure to please even the most picky tortilla chip eater!

This will make 2 cups strips or 16 chips
*easily double multiple times
Full time: 20 minutes
You will need:

2 tortilla 6"/8" soft shells, whole wheat or corn work best, but I love flour for strips
2-3 tbsp olive oil cooking spray, or olive oil
2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp paprika, or seasoning of your choice

* if you want roughly the amount of chips in a bag make 10 shells for a total of 80 chips

Let us begin:

Preheat oven to 400

Line a cooking sheet with parchment paper, set aside

Take tortilla shell and cut in half
Now for strips, work with one half at a time
*for chips you can work with 2 by stacking them on each other
Cut tortilla half into strips roughly 1/4" wide or cut each half into quarters, you will end up with 8 chips per shell
Now lay cut pieces on the parchment paper

If using cooking spray give them a quick spray just to moisten them, if using oil gently brush strips with oil just to moisten surface

Sprinkle lightly with seasoning, you will notice that your only coating one side

Place in oven for 8-10 minutes

Check for readiness, edges should be golden and middle should be light in color but not pale

Remove from oven once ready and allow to cool on sheet for a few minutes
Once cool to touch, gently shake tray to loosen and move to serving bowl

Store in air tight zip bag to keep crisp for up to a week.