Sunday, October 6, 2013

Cranberry Apple Bread

I've been making cranberry apple bread every year since my first child was born.  It is delicious, but the original recipe really should have been called cranberry apple heart attack in loaf form.  I've been working on making it as delicious without so much of the heart attack, and I think I've succeeded.  So here is the much lighter (but still delicious) version!

Cranberry Apple Bread

4-5 apples
3 cups flour (you can use 1 cup wheat and 2 white if you'd like)
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
4 large eggs
1 Tbs vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup fresh cranberries
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

First we need to make some unsweetened applesauce.  Peel, core, and slice 2 of the apples.  Place in a small saucepan with about 2 Tbs water.  Cover and cook on medium heat until apples are soft and mash easily with a fork, about 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and mash by hand or in a blender or food processor.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 325F.  Grease two large loaf pans (8-inch or 9-inch) and set aside.  Peel, core, and slice remaining apples into 1/4-inch-thick slices.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, cloves, and baking powder.  Add oil, 2/3 cup apple sauce, eggs, and vanilla.  Mix well.  Stir in apples, cranberries, and nuts (if using).  Divide evenly among the two loaf pans.  Bake at 325F for 50-60 minutes, or until a knife inserted into center comes out clean.  Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool on wire rack until cool.

Makes 2 loaves.

Homemade Apple Cider

We went apple picking at a local orchard last week, and my kids were so enthusiastic and had such a great time that we came home with way more apples than I knew what to do with.  I've spent all week using them in various ways, such as apple pie filling, apple sauce, cranberry apple bread, and just sliced and dipped in caramel.  And then on Friday my littlest one asked for some apple cider.  We frequently have apple cider around this time of year but didn't have any at that moment, and so we decided to see how hard it was to make some.  Answer: easy!  It does take a few hours, but was easy and turned out great!  So if you have a bunch of apples that you don't know what to do with, or just love apple cider, this recipe will save the day!

As a note, if you live outside the US you may think this is an alcoholic drink.  In the US, apple cider is a thicker, spiced version of apple juice, similar to Wassail.  It is definitely not alcoholic. 

Homemade Apple Cider
Recipe slightly adapted from

8-10 medium to large apples
4 cinnamon sticks (or 4 Tbs ground cinnamon)
4 Tbs ground allspice
6 whole cloves
3/4 cup sugar (1 cup if you're using very tart apples like Granny Smith)

Quarter apples (no need to peel or core) and toss into a very large stock pot.  Add water to cover.  Add sugar and stir.  Tie up the spices into a doubled-up cheesecloth or a single-layered thin kitchen towel.  Add the spice sachet to the pot as well. 

Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil.  Boil uncovered for 1 hour, watching and adjusting heat as needed so it doesn't boil over.  After one hour your apples will be soft and slightly mushy, like this:

Put the lid on and continue to simmer for 1-2 hours more, or until the apples begin to break up when you stir them.  Remove from heat.

You can let cool, or if you, like us, were feeling tortured smelling the deliciousness of the cider without being able to drink it for two hours, you can just work with it hot.

Place a large colander over a large bowl.  Remove the spice sachet from the pan.  Using a potato masher, mash the apples in the stock pot.  Once they're mashed, pour the whole thing into the colander.  Use a large spoon to gently push the apple mash to release all the juice.  Once it's mostly drained you can scoop the rest of the mash into another cheesecloth and squeeze it to get the rest of the juice out.  Discard the apple mash (or throw it in your compost heap!).  Pour the cider into a pitcher.  Place a fine-mesh sieve over the same bowl you were just using.  Pour the cider through the sieve to strain out the largish bits of apple mash.  Finally you have your completed apple cider!

You can serve this hot or refrigerate it and drink it cold.  It will keep in the fridge for a week, or you can bottle it or freeze it for later.

Makes about 1 gallon.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Sliders with Vietnamese Slaw

I love pulled pork.  It's so easy, and delicious.  Recently though I've been looking for a way to spice it up a bit.  And then a great thing happened.  I received some purple cabbage and some carrots in our CSA box. (For those of you who don't know, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and every week I pay some money to get food fresh from a variety of farms.  But you just get what is in season, so you don't know what you're getting.  It's like a fun surprise every week!)  Anyway, those ingredients reminded me of the delicious Vietnamese tacos recipe, and I thought, why not mix them together.  So I did.  And they were amazing.  The spicy-sweet-crunchy slaw adds a nice contrast to the smoky BBQ pork.  Try it out!

As a note, pork shoulder usually comes as a huge piece of meat.  I usually buy the whole thing and then cut it into 3 or 4 pieces.  I freeze whatever I don't use.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Sliders with Vietnamese Slaw

2-3 lb pork shoulder, trimmed of large bits of fat
1 packet dry onion soup mix
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup white vinegar
3 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs fresh lime juice
2 cloves garlic, mined
1 Serrano or Thai chili pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 cup thinly sliced red cabbage
1/2 cup matchstick-sized or coarsely grated carrots
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
2 Tbs chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tbs chopped fresh mint
1 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce
Slider or sandwich buns

Place your pork shoulder into the slow cooker and sprinkle with the onion soup mix.  Cook on low for 7-8 hours or high for 4-5 hours.

In the meantime, in a medium bowl combine water, fish sauce, white vinegar, sugar, lime juice, garlic, and chili pepper.  Mix well, then toss in cabbage, carrots, red onion, cilantro, and mint.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.  The longer it sits the better it will taste!

When the pork is done cooking, shred with two forks, removing and discarding fatty bits as you go.  Pour BBQ sauce over pork and stir to fully coat.

To assemble, place some pork on a bun, then top with the cabbage slaw.  Serve immediately.

Serves 6.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Baba Ghanoush (or Moutabel)

We lived in the Middle East for three years towards the beginning of our marriage, and we absolutely fell in love with the food there.  I already liked hummus, but I had never heard of what the locals called Moutabel. It is essentially the same thing as hummus, but made of roasted eggplant instead of chickpeas.  The rest of the recipe is nearly identical.  In India they call this Baba Ghanoush, which is what most people probably know it by.  

Because it's made with roasted eggplant, it has a smokey depth that is very different from hummus.  The tahini flavor of hummus is muted a lot in the Baba Ghanoush, and instead it's creamier and richer.  I love love love this, which is why I was so happy to get some eggplants in my CSA delivery this week. I immediately knew what to make!

You can eat Baba Ghanoush the same way you eat hummus, namely with pita, crackers,
veggies, or with grilled meat or veggies.  Tonight we ate it with Arabic-seasoned beef kabobs, grilled mini sweet peppers, grilled grape tomatoes, and grilled onions.  Oh, and some homemade pita, recipe courtesy of this website.

As a note, tahini is also known as tahina or sesame paste.  Every grocery store seems to put it in a different location.  Sometimes it's with the peanut butter and other nut butters, sometimes it's with the foreign food, sometimes it's in the "health food" section.  Ask someone at customer service to look it up for you before you search the whole store.  It will save you time!

Baba Ghanoush

2 large purple eggplants (not the Japenese variety)
1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tsp)
1 1/2 tsp salt
Olive oil for garnish
Sumac for garnish (optional)

First you need to roast the eggplant.  Cut away the green leafy bits around the stem of the eggplants, but leave the stem itself on, as it makes a handy place to hold.  Spray the skin of the eggplants with cooking spray, and then place them under the broiler (on a baking sheet) or on a grill.  If you have adjustable heat settings, keep it on high.  Turn them every 5-10 minutes, and cook until the skins are black and cracking, about 20-25 minutes.  Then set them aside for at least 20 minutes to cool, or until they're cool enough to handle with your bare hands.

Once the eggplant is cool, peel away the skin.  It should come off fairly easily if you've cooked it enough.  Then slice the eggplant all the way around from top to bottom, like you're cutting open an avocado.  Using a spoon, scrape out all the seeds, leaving only the firm pulpy part of the eggplant.  Remove the stem end, and toss whatever you have left (the pulpy part of the eggplant) into a food processor or blender. 

Puree the eggplant until fairly smooth.  Add in the tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and salt and process until well combined.  If it's way too thick to mix you can add a little water.  JUST A LITTLE!  When finished blending, pour the Baba Ghanoush into a serving bowl, swirl a little olive oil on top, sprinkle a bit of sumac over it, and serve!

Will keep for about a week in the refrigerator.  Can be served warm, room temperature, or cool, but I prefer slightly warm. 

Makes about 3 cups.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Quick and Easy Fresh Peach Pie with Whipped Coconut Cream

Several years ago my sister-in-law made this pie for a family gathering.  I've since seen it lots of other places, and it is one of my favorites because it's so quick and easy, and delicious, and showcases the amazing peaches that are in season right now!  So when we went peach picking last week I knew I had to make it!

I decided to spice it up a bit by serving it with whipped coconut cream instead of regular whipped cream.  I think it took it from a great pie to an amazing pie.  It was just the right amount of coconut to transport you to another place.  Yum!

I've included directions on how to make the graham cracker crust, but if you prefer to buy a ready-made one, just skip the first three ingredients and the first part of the instructions.

Quick and Easy Fresh Peach Pie with Whipped Coconut Cream
Recipe adapted from Melinda Davis

1 sleeve graham crackers (10 full crackers)
2 T sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted
6-8 large ripe peaches
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 lemon, juiced
1 can coconut milk (full fat, or it won't whip!)
2 Tbs powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

For the crust, place all the crackers in a food processor and process until they turn into crumbs.  Pour into a medium bowl and mix with 2 T sugar.  Add melted butter and stir.  Press into bottom and sides of a pie pan, using the back of a soup spoon to smooth to an even thickness.  Place in refrigerator until ready to use.

Skin, pit and slice all the peaches into a medium bowl.  Pour sweetened condensed milk and lemon juice over the peaches and stir gently until well-combined.  Pour peaches and milk sauce into pie crust.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours (or more). 

Place can of coconut milk into freezer at least 30 minutes before serving pie.  Just before serving, remove can from freezer.  TURN CAN UPSIDE DOWN and open from bottom.  This is because the fat, which is what you want to whip, rises to the top.  You need to get rid of the coconut water that is at the bottom, so open the can upside down and pour out the coconut milk.  You can keep it for another use or discard it, as you desire.

Once the coconut water is removed, scoop out the coconut cream into a medium bowl.  Add powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes on high.  Unlike regular whipped cream, coconut cream stores well in the refrigerator and won't separate.

Serve a slice of cold pie with the coconut cream on top.  Enjoy!

Makes 1 pie, about 6-8 slices.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Zucchini Lasagne

It's that time of year again -- Zucchini Time!  They are plentiful at the moment, and I'm loving it!  Unfortunately, I'm the only member of my family that loves the zukes, which means I end up having to "hide" them in foods quite often.  I love making Zucchini Bread, as well as Slow-Cooker Thai Chicken, which uses zucchini as well.  But I wanted something new. 

I was talking with my friend Amy and she mentioned that she had made lasagne, substituting zucchini for the noodles.  Her only complaint was that you didn't taste enough of the zucchini.  Perfect! I thought.  My family will love it!  Of course, if you are a big lover of zucchini you can double it, and just put thicker layers of the zucchini between the layers of cheese and meat.

I served this with some amazing cheesy garlic bread that I found on this site.

As a side note, this makes one 8"x8" square pan, enough for 6 servings.  If you want a 9"x13" pan, you can double the recipe.

Zucchini Lasagne
Recipe adapted from Natalie Beal

1 T olive oil
1/2 lb Italian sausage
1 tsp minced garlic
1 T fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes (or 2 fresh tomatoes, chopped)
1 6-oz can tomato paste
1 large zucchini, very thinly sliced into circles or half-circles (use a Mandolin or food processor if you have one!)
1 1/2 cups cottage cheese
1 egg
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 tsp fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 lb shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 375F.
In a medium skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat.  Add Italian sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned.  Add garlic, basil, salt, tomatoes, and tomato paste and stir to combine.  Cook 5-10 minutes on a low simmer.  Set aside.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine cottage cheese, egg, Parmesan cheese, parsley, pepper and all but 1/4 cup of mozzarella cheese.  Set aside the last 1/4 cup of mozzarella to put on top of the lasagne before baking.
Spoon a very small amount of the meat sauce into the bottom of an 8"x8" square pan and spread to thinly cover the bottom.  Layer half the zucchini, with edges of circles slightly overlapping, in rows until the bottom of the pan is covered.  Next spread half the cheese mixture on top of the zucchini, followed by half the meat mixture.  Next layer the remaining zucchini slices, followed by the remainder of the cheese and then the meat sauce.  Top with the 1/4 cup reserved mozzarella cheese.
Bake in the preheated 375F oven for 30 minutes.  Let sit for 10-15 minutes before serving.
Serves 6.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Tomato and Avocado Salad

My tomatoes are ripe!  It's the time I look forward to most during the summer.  Due to the restrictive space of living in a townhouse, as well as all the trees that make the space I do have very shady, last year my husband and I decided to put a garden on our roof.  Luckily our roof is flat, which makes this all possible.  It's been a huge success, and it makes me so happy to see all my little plants creating delicious miracles.

Tomatoes are in full swing at the moment, and I've been picking a handful of cherry tomatoes and one big tomato every other day or so.  Now don't get me wrong, I love them dearly, but you do need to come up with something to do with all this produce when it hits.  I have made my favorite Tomato Basil Tart, and tomato sandwiches, and eaten them fresh with just a sprinkling of salt and pepper.  But otherwise I'm mostly putting my delicious tomatoes in salads.

Of course, I'm out of lettuce at the moment (and the lettuce that is still growing in my garden has gotten bitter and yucky due to the 90-degree weather we've been enjoying), so I had to come up with something else.  I often make a tomato-cucumber salad, but tonight I wanted something a little different.  Fresh, and flavorful, and just a tad creamy.  And ta-da!  This salad was born.

I combined the cherry tomatoes with a regular-sized tomato because I love the contrasting colors, but you could of course use all of one type.  And if you're in a big hurry you can just toss on a little vinegarette dressing and call it good, but I think this is better because it doesn't overwhelm the flavor of the tomatoes.

If you were feeling gutsy, you could also add a little bit of feta, goat cheese, or fresh mozzarella.

This salad was so delicious and light and just perfect on a hot summer day.  Enjoy!

Tomato and Avocado Salad

1 large tomato
8-10 cherry tomatoes (I used the Sungold variety)
6 large basil leaves
1 avocado
2 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp garlic powder

Toss all ingredients in a bowl.  Let sit for 10-15 minutes to marinate, then serve at room temperature.

Makes 2 side dish servings or one main dish serving.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Juicy and Delicious Italian-Style Meatloaf

A few days ago I was planning out my menu for the week when my husband came over to see what I was doing.  For some reason he was thinking about meatloaf.  Now I've never made meatloaf, because it just didn't seem like the type of thing he would like.  He hates casseroles, and I guess I thought meatloaf seemed too casserole-ish (yes I made that word up).  But he told me about a meatloaf he had eaten years and years ago, before we were married, that was moist and delicious and had big chunks of tomatoes inside.  Normally, he said, he hates meatloaf.  But he loved that meatloaf, and maybe I could try to recreate it.

Since he's such a low-maintenance guy and never asks for anything (except occasionally cycling gear and power tools), I decided I couldn't let him down.  And anyway, I like a challenge.  So I began my search for the perfect meatloaf recipe.

The first thing I discovered is that there are a million and one ways to make meatloaf.  The second thing I discovered is that if you type "meatloaf" into Google or Pinterest, you get equal amounts of recipes and pictures of the singer Meatloaf.  Who, by the way, is not appetizing.

After reading at least twenty different recipes I had decided on a few things I wanted to do with mine.  I wanted fresh herbs.  I wanted to soak Panko breadcrumbs in buttermilk before mixing them into the meat.  I wanted something tangier than plain ketchup on top.  I wanted to include Parmesan cheese.  And I wanted to add some chunks of tomatoes (which, by the way, I never found a recipe that had them!).  There were tons of recipes that had one or two of these, but I didn't find a recipe that combined all of them.  Also, so many recipes used two or even three pounds of meat.  I only wanted to use one pound of ground beef, in case it was a total flop or none of my kids would eat it.  Finally I came up with a recipe.

I mixed it all together, put it in a loaf pan, and baked it.  I wasn't sure which temperature to cook it at, or how long it would take to cook, so I started with 30 minutes at 425F and checked it every few minutes after that.  I was a little nervous when it finally was done.  What if it was terrible?  What if I just wasted all those ingredients? I sat down at the table with the family.  The kids all looked at the meatloaf and stated emphatically that they hated this and were not eating it.  But since that's what they do any time they see a new food, I ignored them.  I sliced the meatloaf, and it oozed juices.  It smelled fantastic.  I cut up one slice and distributed it among my children.  My 7-year-old son was the first to taste it.  He smiled.  He quickly ate it all and asked for more.  He ended up eating four whole slices.  The rest took courage from his reaction and tasted it.  They all loved it.

I had to agree.  It was the best meatloaf I had ever tasted. The flavors were well-balanced.  It was moist and delicious.  It had just the right amount of the tomatoes my husband had specifically requested.  It was fantastic!  But would he like it?

Yes.  Yes he did.  He heaped praises on me and said it was the best meatloaf he'd ever had, and that I was the best wife ever.  It was great.  He took a huge slab of it to work for lunch today.

So now I'm sharing with you my best ever meatloaf recipe.  I hope you enjoy it!

Juicy and Delicious Italian-Style Meatloaf
Recipe by Holly

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 lb ground beef
1 medium onion, minced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs fresh parsley, chopped
2 Tbs fresh basil, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, but into bite-size chunks
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 eggs
1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup steak sauce (I love A1!)

Preheat oven to 425-degrees Fahrenheit. In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs and buttermilk.  Let sit for a few minutes.  In a large bowl, place ground beef, onion, garlic, parsley, basil, salt, pepper, eggs, and Parmesan cheese.  Using your hands, mix it until all the ingredients are evenly distributed.  Add in the breadcrumb mixture and the tomatoes and mix again until evenly distributed.  Place the meat mixture into a 9-inch loaf pan and smooth the top.
In a separate small bowl, combine ketchup and steak sauce.  Use half of the sauce to spread across the top of the meatloaf.  Reserve remaining sauce for serving.
Bake meatloaf at 425F for 45-60 minutes (mine took 55), or until a meat thermometer inserted into the middle of the loaf reads 165-degrees F.  Let sit for a minute, then drain off any excess grease.  Using two spatulas, carefully remove meatloaf from pan and put on serving dish.  Serve hot, with the remaining sauce on the side.
Serves 4-6.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Big and Soft Sugar Cookies

There are so many different styles of sugar cookie.  Some are thin and crisp, some are fat and frosted, some are chewy and some are cakey.  These cookies are most like the type that you buy from the grocery store, that they always have frosted in the colors of whatever holiday is coming next, or if there isn't a holiday around the corner, they're usually pink with sprinkles on top.  They are big and soft and cakey and delicious. The frosting is to die for, especially when it's slathered on thick.  So for the next birthday, holiday, or random day, make these cookies.

Big and Soft Sugar Cookies
Recipe adapted from here

1 cup butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 1/2 cups sour cream
6 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups butter
1 tsp vanilla
6 cups powdered sugar
2-3 T milk
food coloring, if desired

For the cookies:
Cream the butter and sugar together at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each egg.  Add vanilla, almond extract and sour cream and beat until combined.

Add the dry ingredients and mix on low until combined.  Dough will be very sticky.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 425F.  Remove a quarter of the dough and place on a lightly floured surface.  Place remaining dough back in the refrigerator until ready to use.  Lightly flour the top of the dough before rolling dough to 1/4-inch thick.  Using a 2 1/2 or 3-inch biscuit cutter cut out circles and transfer to a lightly greased baking sheet.  Bake for 7 minutes, then immediately transfer to a cooling rack.  Cookies should not be browned.

Continue to roll, cut, and bake cookies until all dough is used.  While cookies are cooling, make the frosting.

For the frosting:
In a large mixing bowl combine butter, vanilla, and powdered sugar.  Add milk, one tablespoon at a time, until it reaches a spreading consistency.  Add food coloring if desired and beat until well combined.

Once cookies are completely cooled, frost generously and add sprinkles or other toppings if desired.  Store at room temperature in an air-tight container.

Makes about 4-5 dozen cookies.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Quick and Tasty Tomato Soup

We've had a very strange Spring in Virginia this year.  It was a dry winter until March, when we suddenly had more snow than we'd had in the past two years combined.  That set Spring back a bit, and even at the end of April we had days that were 40 degrees.  It's mid-June and I'm still picking sugar snap peas from my garden.  Today is not that cool, but it is raining, as it did two days ago and as it will again tomorrow.  For lunch I wanted something cozy and comforting, and fell to that old favorite, Tomato Soup.

This recipe is great because it's easy, delicious, and quick as a flash!  If you serve it with some homemade bread or garlicky croutons, all the better.

Quick and Tasty Tomato Soup

1/4 cup tomato paste
1 cup milk (you can use water but it won't have a creamy taste)
3 large leaves of fresh basil, finely chopped (or 1/4 tsp dried basil)
1 tsp fresh parsley, finely chopped (or a dash dried parsley)
A dash of granulated garlic
1 tsp Parmesan cheese

In a small saucepan combine tomato paste, milk, basil, parsley, and garlic.  Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until warm and aromatic, about five minutes.  If desired, puree in blender (though I don't think it's necessary unless you don't like to see your herbs).  Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top and serve.

Makes one serving, but is easily multiplied to feed more.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Glazed Doughnuts

In honor of National Doughnut Day, I thought I'd repost my favorite doughnut recipe!  Here it is!

Glazed Doughnuts

1 cup milk
2 packets (2 T) yeast
3 cups flour
1/2 cup warm mashed potato (microwave a medium potato on high for 5 minutes, scoop out potato and mash with a fork)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 T oil
Vegetable or Canola oil to fry in
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla

Microwave 1 cup milk for 1 minute or until warm but not hot. Stir in yeast and let sit 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl combine flour, mashed potato, salt, and sugar. Mix well then add the milk/yeast mixture and oil. Mix until a soft dough forms. Turn onto a floured surface and knead until dough is smooth and not too sticky. Roll into a circle that is 1/2" thick. Using a doughnut cutter or two biscuit cutters, cut into doughnuts. You can either keep the doughnut holes and fry them too (we do) or re-roll them into the dough to cut out more doughnuts. Repeat until dough is used up. Place cut doughnuts on a lightly floured surface to let rise for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the glaze. Put powdered sugar in a small bowl. Add milk, one tablespoon at a time, until glaze is desired consistency. Add vanilla and mix well.

In an electric skillet or frying pan, pour enough oil so that it is 1/2" deep in your pan. Heat until 350F (medium to medium high on a stove). It should take about 5 minutes to heat up. Place doughnuts carefully in oil, cooking each side until browned. Remove to wire rack that has paper towels underneath to catch the oil. After doughnuts have cooled for about 3 minutes, drizzle with glaze.

Makes 12-15 doughnuts and holes.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Hawaiian Sweet Rolls

My husband LOVES sweet bread.  And really, what's not to like?  It's soft, tender, sweet, and pairs well with just about anything.  I found a recipe on pinterest the other day that was for a bread machine loaf of Hawaiian Sweet Bread, but I wanted to make rolls, and I don't have a bread machine, so I changed up the recipe to suit my needs.  This is what we ended up with!  We served these with BBQ Pulled Pork.  Delicious!

Hawaiian Sweet Rolls

3/4 cup pineapple juice, at room temperature
2 T vegetable oil
2 1/2 T honey
3/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp (1 packet) yeast
2 T dry (powdered) milk
3 cups bread flour
1 egg

In a large mixing bowl combine pineapple juice, oil, honey, salt, and yeast.  Add powdered milk and 1 cup flour.  Mix until a gooey dough forms.  Add egg and mix well.  Add remaining 2 cups flour and mix until a soft dough forms and the dough leaves the sides of the bowl.  Place into a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch dough down.  On a lightly floured surface, divide dough into nine equal portions.  Roll into balls and place in a greased 9" square baking dish.  Let rise until nearly doubled, about 30 minutes - 1 hour.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350F.  Bake risen rolls for 25-30 minutes, or until lightly browned on top.  Remove from oven and brush tops of rolls with butter.  Let cool before serving.

Makes 9 rolls.

Monday, February 18, 2013

President's Day Activity: Food Faces

It's President's Day here in the US, celebrating the births of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. I decided to have a little dinnertime activity where we made faces of these presidents using our dinner.  We were eating mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables, and grilled chicken.  Here are the results:

Washington, using potatoes, corn, lima bean, and green bean

Lincoln, using potatoes, chicken, lima beans, and green bean

Washington, using mixed vegetables and chicken

We're not sure what this is.  My two-year-old didn't specify...

Lincoln, using potatoes, chicken, lima beans, peas, corn, and green beans

Washington, using chicken, potatoes, and mixed vegetables

Which do you like?  And what creative things do you do with your food?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sweet and Sour Chicken

I originally posted this about three years ago, but I've changed the recipe since then, so I thought i'd update it!

When I was a kid and we would go to a Chinese restaurant, the only thing I would ever order was Sweet and Sour Chicken.  Years ago, when my brother and sister-in-law lived in Hawaii, they got me a Hawaiian cookbook.  I was delighted to find this recipe in it, which is a more Hawaiian version of sweet and sour chicken.  Their directions were terrible and their quantities and cooking times were also pretty off, so I revamped the recipe a few times, until I came up with this version. I love it!

Sweet and Sour Chicken

1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken (breasts, tenders, thighs, whatever you prefer)
1 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 T oil
1 red or green bell pepper, sliced in 1/4"-thick rings
1 (10 oz) cans of pineapple in juice (rings or chunks), drained, reserving juice
OR 6-8 fresh pineapple rings

3/4 cups pineapple juice
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 T corn starch
1 t ground ginger
1 cup sugar
1 cube of chicken bullion

Preheat the oven to 350F. Cut the chicken into 1" cubes.  Place flour, salt, and pepper in a large Ziplock bag.  Add chicken and toss to coat.  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add floured chicken and cook about 5 minutes, turning once, or until very lightly browned.  Remove chicken from pan and place in a 9"x13" pan.  Arrange peppers and pineapple on top of chicken and put in oven for 25-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the sauce.  Put all ingredients in medium saucepan.  Heat over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil.  Boil for 2 minutes, still stirring, until sauce has thickened slightly. Remove from heat and pour over already-baking chicken.  Continue to cook chicken with sauce until fully cooked.

Serve over rice.

Serves 6.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Valentine's Day Heart-Shaped Cinnamon Rolls

I saw this idea floating around Pinterest and thought I'd try it.  They turned out nicely.  The buns do lose their shape a bit when baking, but a little frosting in the right shape helps you see the heart.  This is my favorite cinnamon roll dough! As a note on the recipe, you need a total of 9 Tbs of butter, 4 of which is melted.  I split it up in the recipe.

Heart-Shaped Cinnamon Rolls
Recipe adapted from Peter Reinhart

6 1/2 Tbs sugar
1/2 tsp salt
5 Tbs butter
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1 tsp lemon extract (not lemon juice!) or lemon zest
3 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp yeast
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
2 Tbs butter, melted
1/2 cup cinnamon sugar (7 Tbs sugar plus 2 Tbs cinnamon)
1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbs milk
2 Tbs butter, melted
1/4 tsp lemon extract or vanilla extract

In a mixer, cream together sugar, salt, and 5 tbs butter on medium-high with the paddle attachment.  Whip in egg and lemon until smooth, then add flour, yeast, and buttermilk.  Mix on low speed until dough forms a ball.  Switch to the dough hook and increase speed to medium.  Machine knead for approximately 10 minutes or knead by hand for about 15 minutes, until dough is silky and supple, tacky but not sticky.  You may need to add a little extra flour to achieve the right texture, but don't add more than 1/2 cup.

Place kneaded dough in a lightly oiled bowl.  Spray the top with oil and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise for about 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size. If you put the dough in a warm (90-120F) oven, it will rise faster.

Punch the dough down. Spray the countertop with cooking spray and transfer the dough to the counter.  Roll out the dough with a rolling pin until you have a rectangle about 2/3" thick and 14" wide by 12" long.  Don't roll too thin or the rolls will be tough instead of tender.

Spread or brush the 2 Tbs melted butter over the surface of the dough.  Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the dough all the way to the edges.  Roll up the dough, beginning with the bottom long side, up to the center.  Roll the top of the dough down to meet the other roll.  It will look like a scroll.  Using a sharp knife, bench scraper, or some dental floss, cut the scroll into 12 equal pieces, each about 1 1/2 inches thick.  Place each roll, cut-side down, 1/2" apart on a lightly greased baking sheet.  Pinch the bottoms out so they look like hearts.  Mist the dough with cooking spray and cover loosely with plastic wrap. 

Let rise for 1 - 1 1/2 hours, or until large and puffy and almost touching. 

Preheat oven to 350F.  Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown.  Let cool slightly while you prepare the icing.

In a small pan combine powdered sugar, 2 Tbs melted butter, lemon or vanilla, and 1 Tbs milk. If the glaze is too thick, add more milk, a teaspoon at a time, until a thick but pourable glaze is created.  Put the icing into a pastry bag or a ziplock-type bag with the corner cut off.  Pipe the icing onto the buns in a heart shape, following the swirls in the dough as a guide.

Makes 12 heart-shaped buns.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Radishes Braised in Cream with Garlic and Thyme

Radishes are the last of the new vegetables we're trying in January.  My husband and I have both eaten radishes lots of times, and love them crunchy and raw on salads.  My kids also tried them raw and liked them quite a bit.

But none of us had ever had them cooked.  This recipe looked delicious, and didn't fail to satisfy.  We served it with Fauxtisserie chicken and root vegetables, and it was a great addition to the mix.  Also, they're pink, which might make for a good addition to your Valentine's Day meal!

Radishes Braised in Cream with Garlic and Thyme
Recipe by Cook's Illustrated

1 T butter
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
20 medium or 16 large radishes, preferably with their greens still attached to insure freshness
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 Tbs heavy cream
1 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves
Salt and pepper, to taste

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  When the butter sizzles, add garlic and cook for 30 seconds.  Add radishes and cook 1 minute.  Add broth, cream, and thyme.  Cover and cook, stirring once or twice, until radishes are tender, about 10 minutes.  Remove cover and cook until liquid thickens, about 1 minute longer.  Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Serves 4 as a side dish.

Roasted Beets with Spinach, Walnut, and Goat Cheese Salad

Beets are the second vegetable my children picked to try this month.  I must admit, I had never tasted a beet.  I'd seen them at salad bars and always steered clear of the jiggly, purple vegetable.  So I was pleasantly surprised when I tasted them.  They're quite good when you cook them yourself, and the texture is not at all jiggly.  They actually taste a bit like broccoli.  They were good on this salad, and soon we'll be using the leftovers to make borscht.  You can also serve the beets on their own, if you'd like.

Roasted Beets with Spinach, Walnut, and Goat Cheese Salad
Beet recipe adapted from Cook's Illustrated
Salad recipe by Holly Beal

2 medium beets (about 1/2 lb)
2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
6 cups baby spinach, washed
1/4 cup walnuts
2 T herbed goat cheese
1/4 cup mixed salad sprouts (such as alfalfa, broccoli, radish, etc.)

Preheat oven to 400F.  Trim all but 1 inch of the stems from the beets.  Wash beats well and remove dangling roots.  Wrap each beet individually in aluminum foil and place in a shallow roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet.  Roast until a skewer inserted into a beet comes out easily, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Remove beets from oven and carefully open aluminum foil.  Allow to cool until cool enough to handle.  With paper towels in hand, rub the skin from the beets.  Slice 1/4-inch thick.  Toss beets with oil and salt and pepper.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

For the salad, combine spinach, walnuts, sprouts, and goat cheese.  Arrange sliced beets on top of salad.  Serve immediately.

Serves 6.

Honey Mint Lamb Chops

I love lamb meat.  Unfortunately in beef and poultry-driven America it's not nearly as plentiful as many other countries, which is why most of our lamb comes from Australia.  However, every now and then I still splurge for it.  This recipe is easy and combines honey and garlic, both my favorite things.  It makes a great fancy meal or a weeknight dinner.

Honey Mint Lamb Chops

One bone-in rack of lamb chops (about 8 rib bones), or 8 lamb chops
1/4 cup honey
1 T minced garlic
1/2 tsp dried mint
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400F.

In a small bowl, combine honey, garlic, and mint.  Sprinkle salt and pepper over meat, to taste.  Brush on honey mixture until fully covered on all sides.  Place in roasting pan and bake at 400F for 15-25 minutes, or until meat registers 155F.  Let rest for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Serves 4.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Beef with Bok Choy

Beef and Bok Choy. Sorry for the phone photo, I couldn't find the real camera.

As promised earlier, my kids and I are trying new vegetables this year.  I now present our first one: Bok Choy!  Ta-Da!  I have eaten bok choy before at various Asian restaurants, but had never cooked it myself.  However, it was easy to cook and got good reviews from my kids (more about those later).  The recipe I was looking at was only for the bok choy itself, so I added to the recipe to include some beef.  You could just as easily use chicken or pork and not change anything else, so feel free to substitute. 

First, about buying bok choy.  There are a few varieties of bok choy, but the major difference you need to know about is the difference between regular bok choy and baby bok choy.  The baby kind is small (about 6-inches tall) while the regular bok choy is much bigger (mine was about 15-inches!).  For this recipe you'll want to buy the big kind.  If you buy the little kind you won't have anything to cut off and it will cook totally differently.

And with that, the recipe...

Beef with Bok Choy
Recipe adapted from Cook's Illustrated

1 lb steak, chicken, or pork
1/2 cup soy sauce, divided
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons peanut oil (or you can use canola or vegetable oil)
1 medium head bok choy (1 1/2 - 2 lbs)
1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger root

First, to prepare the meat, slice against the grain into 1/4-inch-thick slices.  In a ziplock bag combine all but 2 tablespoons of soy sauce with the minced garlic; add meat and let marinate about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the bok choy.  Chop off the bottom inch of the bok choy, then separate and wash all the leaves.  Pat each leaf dry, then cut the green leafy part away from the white stalk part.  Slice each stalk in half lengthwise, then crosscut into 1/4-inch thick pieces.  Set aside.  Pile all the green leaf parts on top of each other and cut into 1/2-inch wide strips.  Cross cut if desired.  Keep the chopped greens and stalks separate.

In a small bowl, combine remaining 2 Tbs soy sauce with 1 tsp sugar and set aside.

Heat 1 Tbs oil in large nonstick skillet over medium high heat.  Add meat, discarding the remaining marinade, and stir-fry until just cooked, about 3-5 minutes.  Remove meat into serving bowl and wipe skillet with a paper towel.  Pour remaining 2 Tbs oil into skillet and heat until almost smoking.  Add the bok choy stalks and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.  Add the ginger and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the leafy part of the bok choy, meat, and the soy sauce mixture and cook, stirring frequently, until leaves are wilted, about 1 minute.

Serve immediately, over rice or noodles.
Serves 6.

My husband and I liked this dish pretty well. 
My kids rated this dish as follows:
E (age 7): Bok choy stalks, 9/10;  bok choy leaves, 10/10; meat, 10/10; everything together, 10/10.
J (age 6): Bok choy stalks, 19/20; bok choy leaves, 19/20; meat, 18/20; everything together, 19/20.
E (age 4): Bok choy stalks and leaves, yuck; meat, good; everything together, no thank you.
G (age 2): Chocolate, please?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


This year one of my resolutions is to try new vegetables.  There are some things that I've never eaten, and others that I've eaten but never liked.  There are some things that I eat all the time, and with those I'd like to try them a completely new way.  My kids, who are pretty good at trying new things (whether or not they eat more than one bite!), have agreed to try three new vegetables a month.  So look for that in this coming year.  On schedule for January are beets, bok choy, and radishes.  I'll post recipes and results as they come through.

What are your goals for this year?  And do they have anything to do with eating?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Seasoned Pork Chops

These are easy and delicious, a sure-fire hit!

Seasoned Pork Chops

4 boneless pork chops, 3/4"-1" thick
3/4 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried sage
1/2 tsp dried tarragon
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 clove garlic, minced
Applesauce, to serve

Preheat oven to 350-degrees F.

In a small bowl combine thyme, sage, tarragon, salt, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and garlic.  Rub herb mixture evenly over all sides of pork chops and place meat into a 9 x 13" pan, or other roasting pan.
Bake at 350F for 30 minutes, or until pork registers an internal temperature of 150-155 degrees F.  Let sit five minutes before serving.
Serve with applesauce.

Makes 4 servings.

Home Fries

Home Fries, or sometimes they're called hash browns, are ridiculously easy to make and are so homey and delicious.  They are good for breakfast or dinner, with pancakes or pork chops.  They're really just potatoes that are pre-cooked, then seasoned and browned.  Easy-peasy, and sure to please everyone!

Home Fries

3 large baking potatoes (Russets are the best!)
1 Tbs butter
1 Tbs vegetable oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Wash potatoes and stab a few times with the tines of a fork.  Place in a microwave oven and cook on high for 12-15 minutes, or until potatoes feel tender when you squeeze them (use a hotpad!).  Alternatively, you could use leftover baked potatoes.  Remove potatoes from microwave and carefully slice the skins off using a paring knife.  Discard skins, then cut potatoes into 1/2" cubes.

Combine butter and oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add potatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.  Stir potatoes carefully with spatula to coat all sides in butter/oil mixture.  Let brown, stirring every 3-4 minutes, until potatoes are slightly crisp and browned on all sides, about 15 minutes total.  Serve immediately.

Makes 4 side-dish servings.