Tuesday, August 31, 2010

French Bread - No Cheating, No Breadmakers!

What? What do you mean you don't have 12 hours to make a few loaves of bread? You don't need to sit and WATCH it rise, because much like the old water boiling trick, it wont if you watch it! 

This is a great thing to make with the kids on a weekend where you are around the house but doing other things because there is a lot of "rise time" with this recipe but takes no time to prepare.  They will love mixing it as it sticks to their fingers and if they are anything like me when I was a kid I LOVED the punching the dough part!!  Oh wait, I still do ;) so if you don't have kids....well, you get to have ALL the fun!
Best part of all of this....oh you guessed it, your house will smell fantabulous!  I remember walking in and out of bakeries in Montreal as a kid wishing I could smell that smell in my house forever - bottle that up and bring it home...hey Yankee Candle Company...you should make THAT as a new scent!
But honestly, who can resist a hot fresh loaf of bread dripping with butter??? Reeled you in on that one didn't I?  My mouth is watering too.

French Bread - makes 2 large loaves

2 packages dry yeast (or  5 teaspoons)
2-1/2 cups warm water
1 tsp. sugar
6 cups all purpose flour (approximately)
1-1/2 tsp. salt

Place warm water in a large bowl and sprinkle with yeast and sugar. Let stand for 5 minutes until yeast dissolves and starts to bubble. Stir in 2 cups flour and salt. Cover and let rise for 1/2 hour.
Slowly stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 5-8 minutes. You may need to add a bit of flour as you go so that its not super sticky when you are kneading.
Clean the large mixing bowl, grease it with some olive oil, and place the dough in the bowl. Turn it in the bowl so the dough is greased (this prevents the top from cracking as it rises).

Cover the dough and let rise at room temperature for about 2-1/2 hours, until doubled in bulk. I usually put it in the oven especially if your air conditioning is on!
Now, the best part!!  With your fist, punch down the dough. (releases some aggression)
Divide in half and place one half on a lightly floured surface.  Using a rolling pin, roll dough to a 12x6" rectangle. Starting with the 12" side, roll up tightly. Seal seams and edges by pinching. Repeat with remaining dough.
Place on a grease cookie sheet sprinkled with cornmeal and let rise until doubled in size - approximately 1 hour

After dough has risen for about an hour
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Sprinkle the loaves with a bit of water, then using a knife, make a few slashes across the top of each loaf. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until loaves are golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack. (only until you can touch it, slice it and slather it with butter!)


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Summery Watermelon Soup

Now, first I must tell you I despise soup.  I'm not 90 or have my jaw wired shut so I don't feel the need to drink my food.  SOOO many people tell me "you don't know what your missing" or "but you haven't tried...." really, I have tried it, MANY times as a kid.  I know "they" say your pallet changes, but its not the tastes I don't like, its the runny hot liquid that I have to slurp up that turns me off.  How do you people feel full after that??  Give me a hearty meat and potato stew and that might make me happy - because I have to CHEW.
That is why when I found a variation of the recipe I am going to post here I was elated!  The summer gazpacho style soups are "in" folks, all the cool people are eating them and hey...I'm cool, or at least I want to pretend I am!
It received mixed feelings when I unveiled it last night for dinner (as a first course - because you cant be full off soup!) Its sweet with a little kick from the garlic and jalapeno - I know, weird but it works.  But what really got the Ughs was the fact that it was cold - who eats cold soup?  See, I am not the only one that has strange thoughts about soup!
Surprisingly all bowls were emptied and I only had to say "you don't want me to cry do you" once!
So while I cant stand this expression I am compelled to use it here TRY IT, YOU'LL LIKE IT!!!

Watermelon Soup - makes about 6-8 servings

1/2 watermelon cubed
1 cucumber peeled and cubed
1 tsp olive oil
1 large yellow pepper diced
1 jalapeno finely chopped
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Now, you can add other colour peppers, onion, more or less jalapeno etc. but these are the ingredients I chose to use.
First puree watermelon and oil in batches in a blender or food processor.  Pour juice through a strainer to make a clear liquid.  Take a small handful of each of the other veggies and pulse.  Pour this into the watermelon juice to give it a little consistency.
Simply add the rest of the veggies to the bowl, salt and pepper if you wish and cover.  Refrigerate at least a few hours so the flavours merry together.
Easy, tasty, and slightly weird but worth trying.
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Thursday, August 26, 2010


This post really needs no explanation does it?  Your waistline will thank you for only making cupcakes.
Just don't get up in the middle of the night to devour one unless you promise to brush your teeth again before you sneak back into bed!

Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

3½ oz white chocolate, coarsely chopped

4½ oz butter, coarsely chopped
2/3 c. brown sugar
¼ c. corn syrup
2/3 c. milk
1 1/3 c. all purpose flour 
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. cocoa powder
1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 350 and line your muffin tin with liners.
Combine the chocolate, butter, sugar, syrup and milk in a saucepan. Stir over a low heat until melted and combined.  Allow to cool for about 15 minutes.
Sift the flour, baking powder, soda, salt and cocoa.  Mix into the caramel mixture and stir in the egg.
Bake 22-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clear when inserted in the center.


1/2 c. softened butter
1 1/3 c. icing sugar
2 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 oz milk chocolate wafers - melted

Beat butter until smooth and add icing sugar and milk.  Once combined add the vanilla and slightly cooled melted chocolate and continue to beat until velvety.
Throw it into a Ziploc bag, cut off a corner and pipe onto completely cooled cupcakes.
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Don't Tell the Mexican's We Switched Their Tacos to Pie

And don't tell the Little Ugh its chalked full of veggies that he normally wouldn't eat!
It all started with the request for TB for lunch, then it turned into "fine, can we make tacos at home?"
MEAN MOM ALERT - wont let her child enjoy some fast food once and a while.  HA HA and I am about to hide eggplant and zucchini in a whole wheat crust!!
We love tacos in our house but it just seems like its so ... ordinary? Actually, this taco pie is an easy way to disguise and get rid of leftover veggies, tastes great and is a healthy alternative to Taco Bell.
This recipe is so versatile, each time you make it you can change up your meat, cheese or veggies and it will never be boring - beat that Old El Paso, I had way more "mucho fun tonight"

Taco Pie
4 large whole wheat soft taco shells
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 lb ground chicken
1 medium onion diced
1 small jar of salsa
1 cup diced zucchini
1 cup diced eggplant
1 red pepper diced
1 1/2 ears of corn - corn removed from cob
taco seasoning

Brown chicken and taco seasoning together, stir in veggies and salsa and continue to cook for another 5 minutes.
In a pie pan or baking dish place 1 shell on the bottom and layer meat/veggie mixture with some cheese, continue layering until you finish with a taco shell.
Bake in preheated oven at 350 for 15 minutes or until top is crispy and slightly brown.
Serve with additional salsa and sour cream
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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Eggplant Parmesan

"Eggplant?  Does it taste like eggs or dirt?" HA, out of the mouth of babes!!
I came up with a way to engage the guys at the grocery store.  Each time we go, one person gets to pick a fruit or veggie we all haven't tried together.  I would like to think this will make it a little more of an enjoyable trip to the grocery store for them but also a way for me to come up with new and inventive things to create, make or adapt.
So this week was the Ugh Guy, he picked Eggplant. A REAL SHOCKER ACTUALLY.
Now instead of buying them at the local Loblaws off to the farmers market we went.  Its in season you know...I even let the little Ugh pick it, and of course he picks the one that has a nose (or at least that's what we thought it looked like!)
Since Little Ugh likes veggies I figured for the first time trying it it might be a good idea to find something that he should enjoy - Enter Eggplant Parmesan
Pretty simple to make and a new take on lasagna.

Eggplant Parmesan

3 large eggplants sliced lengthwise
3 eggs
1 c. flour (season with salt and pepper)
2 c. panko breadcrumbs (season with salt and pepper and oregano)
6-8 cooked bacon strips chopped
oil for frying
pasta sauce (of your choice - homemade is best but not everyone has time for that)
Mozzarella cheese sliced or grated
grated Parmesan

Slice eggplant either lengthwise or to make rounds (your choice) salt and place in a colander for at least 30 minutes to drain the moisture.  Rinse and pat dry.
Dredge in flour, egg wash and end with breadcrumbs.
Fry until golden brown on both sides - approx. 3-4 min per side.  Place on a paper towel. 
In an oven proof dish place sauce on the bottom.  Layer eggplant slices, bacon, sauce and dust with Parmesan, repeat layers and finish with mozzarella.
Bake in the oven at 350 for 20 minutes or until cheese is bubbly
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Spaghetti and Stuffed Chicken Meatballs

Well, as mentioned I love carbs.  I love bread, I love pasta, I love crackers, and then pass the sugary carbs my way for dessert!  The sadness in all of this is that the UGH Guy does not love pasta.  Apparently this stems from being forced to eat KD as a child until he threw up.  C'Mon, KD isn't even in the same range as a good chicken Alfredo, stuffed ravioli, or lasagna!  Why make us suffer?!

Good thing I know he likes meat....like tricking a kid to eat their veggies by hiding them I will disguise the meal by adding large copious amounts of tasty meat.  There is no possible way he can complain now can he?  BAH who cares!  I'm not a restaurant, well, unless you pay me and leave a tip, then I will make you what YOU want ;)
But in all seriousness he loved it, didn't even complain AND high fived me for a job well done!  Meat....works every time.
Now to shake things up a little the tender morsels have a little hidden surprise - CHEESE!
Its not just for crackers anymore

Stuffed Meatballs with Rose Sauce
1 lb ground chicken
1 egg
1 small onion diced finely
2 cloves garlic chopped finely
1/2 c. Italian breadcrumbs (or plain adding Italian seasonings)
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
30-40 small boccacinni cheese balls

Mix first 6 ingredients until just combined (don't over mix)  Take a small amount of meat mixture in your palm and place 2 cheese balls in the center.  Make sure the meat forms a ball around the cheese to ensure no leakage.
In a skillet on medium heat place 2 tbsp olive oil and brown meatballs on all sides.  Approx 10 minutes.  Pour sauce to cover and simmer another 10 minutes or until pasta is complete.

1 medium onion diced
3 cloves garlic chopped
1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1 can diced tomatoes (or 8-10 Roma tomatoes cubed and a can of tomato paste)
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. onion powder
pinch of salt/cracked pepper
1/4 c. herb n garlic cream cheese

Sweat onions in oil for approx. 5 minutes on med-high heat, add garlic and stir for another 2 minutes.  Add tomatoes and spices.  Simmer on low for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Just before serving add cream cheese and stir until combined.  Pour over meatballs.
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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Spicy Orange Chicken with Jalapeno Cheese Cornbread

Oh I am on a ROLL today my friends, this skillet and I are working miracles together.  I might just have a new love but I can't tell my Dyson.
So not only do I get to use the cast iron skillet but I get to use some produce from my garden!!  I have been waiting WEEKS for my jalapenos to be ready.  And when I mean weeks I mean weeks!  Some sort of spice loving creature has stolen a few large ones off my plant already (which is potted on my table no less) and every time I go to get one I shake my fist at this mysterious creature in vain.
Tonight's dinner is going to be a little spicy but don't leak it to the kiddo - he refuses to eat anything that could give you a little kick in the pants (obviously doesn't take after his mom).  I have already had to fib and say I used chives as he asked... HEY what are those GREEN things in there?

Dinner doesn't really follow the traditional southern "fried chicken n cornbread" theme.  In fact, I am not too sure it follows a theme at all but it does have chicken in it so that should count for something right?

Spicy Orange Chicken
8-10 boneless skinless chicken thighs
3 cloves garlic chopped
1 tbsp. chopped fresh ginger
juice of 1 orange
1 tbsp. orange zest
1/2 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. rice vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 1//2 tbsp. sweet Thai chili sauce
3 dry chilies

Combine all ingredients in a zip loc bag and marinade for at least 2 hours
BBQ chicken on medium heat approx 4-5 minutes per side or until juices run clear

Jalapeno Cheese Cornbread

1 1/2 c. cornmeal
1/2 c. flour
6 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 eggs
1 c. sour cream
1/4 c. olive oil
3 jalapeno peppers chopped
1 c. sharp cheese shredded

Mix all dry ingredients and jalapenos together in a bowl.  In a separate bowl mix eggs, sour cream and olive oil.  Combine wet into the dry ingredients and stir until just moist.  Fold in cheese.
Pour into greased skillet and bake at 350 for approx 20-22 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
Cut into slices and serve warm.

This meal was also accompanied by some grilled zucchini - fresh from the market!
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German Apple Pancakes (30 min. prep, 25 min cook time)

Frühstück, kommen sie und erhalten Sie!  In English, BREAKFAST, COME AND GET IT!
My wonderful mother in law (ok I'm not married but its been 9 years people) picked us up a cast iron skillet from good ole Cracker Barrel a few weeks ago (after we borrowed hers to go camping) and I have been ITCHING to put it to good use. 
This morning I woke up from a dream about pancakes, strange, I know, so decided that I should go back to my roots and whip up some German style pancakes (which by the way is more like 1 ginormous pancake) ANDDD the best part...I get to use my skillet!!  Oh happy day!
Its rather painless really but tastes absolutely divine and it gives a new twist on the regular flat pancakes.
Now, do you want the recipe in English?

4 Eggs
1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tbsp. sugar
pinch of salt
1 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

1/4 c. unsalted butter
1/2 c. sugar, divided
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 large apple (cored, sliced)

In a bowl combine the first 8 ingredients and let stand at least 30 minutes (you can refrigerate overnight)
Preheat oven to 425.
In oven proof skillet melt butter, brushing the sides of the pan.  Mix together sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and sprinkle on the butter.  Arrange apple slices in a thin layer and sprinkle remaining sugar over top.  Gently pour batter around pan and place in the oven for the first 15 minutes at 425.  Reduce heat to 350 and continue to bake for another 10 minutes.
Remove from pan with a silicone spatula to ensure clean removal.
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Monday, August 9, 2010

I Have a Snack for YOU! Caramel Popcorn

Who says you cant teach an old dog new tricks?  This week I was lucky to have a friend stay with me who enjoys to eat (well who doesn't really) but doesn't often bake for herself.  I have to say she was a trooper!
We made meat stuffed ravioli (search recipe on the site), mini pumpkin pies, apple oatmeal muffins, and our signature snack food for the weekend - CARAMEL POPCORN
I think I gained about 40 pounds this week but boy was it worth it!
A simple and easy way to spruce up movie night or a take a long treat for a road trip or weekend getaway.
Here is what you need for this delish treat:

Caramel Popcorn
6 c. air popped corn
1 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. corn syrup
1/2 c. butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp. Malibu rum (but you could use vanilla extract)
1/2 c. chocolate chips (to drizzle over once done)

Over medium heat combine sugar, syrup, butter and salt.  Bring to a boil while stirring constantly.  Continue to boil for another 4 minutes without stirring.  Remove from heat and stir in soda and rum and pour over popcorn.  (I use 2 bowls to coat)  Place on a large cookie sheet (or 2 smaller) and bake for 60 minutes at 250 stirring every 10 minutes to break clumps.
Meanwhile, melt chips in a microwave.  When finished baking, drizzle melted chocolate over entire surface and place in the fridge or freezer to harden. 
Store in a Ziploc or air tight container - if if lasts that long!!
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