Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cauliflower Sauteed with Anchovies

I wasn't sure about this recipe when I came across it. I am not a big fan of cauliflower or anchovies, so to say that I was a bit skeptical was an understatement. I'm still a bit skeptical even after eating it. Let's just say that I managed to eat my portion but didn't have seconds. My husband did though so just like with anything it really depends on what your taste buds tell you.

Granted it is probably not the most appealing dish to look at. It almost looks like a mystery food, doesn't it? Hmmm, I can't tell if that is hashbrowns, rubbery scrambled eggs, pieces of browned chicken . . . I was reminded of the fact that you can mash steamed cauliflower as a substitute for mashed potatoes. Maybe the consistency is a bit more like the hashbrowns mentioned above. Either way it was an okay dish. I may make it again as a side dish but definitely not as the main course. Enjoy, if you dare!

Cauliflower Sauteed with Anchovies
1 medium head cauliflower
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 to 6 anchovy fillets, drained
pepper to taste
water, if needed

Wash the cauliflower and break it into small floret; chop the stems. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Saute the oil and anchovies in a skillet, just until you see the anchovies have broken down. Add the cauliflower. Stir to coat and season with pepper.

Cook on high heat for about 20 minutes, adding a little water if needed so it doesn't brown too fast. Turn the heat down to low and cover for about 5 minutes or until cauliflower is tender.

Makes 4 servings

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Daring Bakers - Candylicious!

The August 2011 Daring Bakers’ Challenge was hosted by Lisa of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drive and Mandy of What the Fruitcake?!. These two sugar mavens challenged us to make sinfully delicious candies! This was a special challenge for the Daring Bakers because the good folks at offered an amazing prize for the winner of the most creative and delicious candy!

I think this might be the latest that I have ever completed a challenge and blogged about it. It is just under an hour away from the deadline for the reveal (although I guess I do really have tomorrow too to be considered on time on the 27th) and I am just now typing it up. The good thing is that the experience is fresh in my mind, the bad thing is that if there are any typing or grammar errors please chalk it up to the fact that I feel like I need to keep my eyelids open with toothpicks. 

While I enjoy making candy, and have some experience with making it, it is not something that I do very often. I think of making candy as being something more for the holidays to give away as little gifts. Add to that the fact that I am going back to work after taking a break for the last 4 1/2 years to stay at home with my son and you can imagine that I am pretty busy right now. However, that being said I did manage to squeak out this month's challenge.

I started with Almond Roca. This is something that I have made with my mom since I was a little kid. It is a persnickety candy in that you are dealing with heating sugar and butter to the hard crack stage and as I was reminded tonight, it can go from hard crack stage to ruined in the matter of a few seconds. My first batch was going along beautifully. I hadn't made it in a few years so I was trying to recollect if the recipe was correct in telling me to cook it to 350 degrees F since that seemed a bit high. While debating this I decided to go ahead and see where it took me. At about 275 to 280 degrees F the butter and sugar started to separate. I thought that since I hadn't made it in a while and couldn't remember what it transformed into next that maybe this was just a stage it was going through (like one of the many others in this process) and it would eventually get back to where it needed to be. I just needed to be patient and wait. Ummm, no. I was definitely wrong to continue past this point and should have trusted my initial instincts. I was a bit miffed that I wasted an entire pound of butter and two cups of sugar in the process, ending up with burnt sugar sitting underneath a layer of brown, burnt butter. Thankfully I had not tried to pour it on my chocolate and almonds so those were still salvageable.

I decided to give it one more go. After all, the chocolate and almonds needed something to go along with them and now that I knew what the butter and sugar looked like right before it turned I would be able to stop it at the right time. Yes and no. Right about 275 to 280 degrees F the mixture looked like it was starting to separate into two different entities again. So this time I just decided to stop it there before it quite reached the hard crack of 300 degrees F and pour it on the chocolate. I figured that even if it was a bit soft at least it wouldn't be burned. The verdict . . . yes it is softer than it should be (more of a dissolving sugar/butter than a hard toffee) but it still tastes like it should. However, I would still consider this a fail since it didn't turn out how it was supposed to.

Let's move on now to the chocolates. I had a really hard time deciding what type of chocolate to make. I really wanted to make a chocolate that was filled with a raspberry cream but it was so difficult to find a recipe to use. I should probably clarify that statement. There were many recipes out there but because I had never made a cream filled chocolate before I wasn't sure which ones would work and which ones wouldn't. Many of them also called for fondant which seemed a bit strange to me so I shied away from making a cream filled chocolate like I wanted to. Instead I decided to base my chocolate on a turtle with the addition of pretzel pieces.


Tempering the chocolate was an interesting experience. Personally I don't know if I even needed to do this process. I didn't have time to buy couverture chocolate so I went with Lindt chocolate already in bars. As you know, this chocolate is already tempered since they want their product to have a crisp sound and feel when breaking it into pieces and a shine upon unwrapping. I went ahead and chopped it into little pieces, melted it over my double boiler, but then struggled to get it down to the temperature that it needed to be. I kept adding chocolate pieces and chocolate pieces and chocolate pieces. Finally I got it down to a good temperature but not all the pieces melted and weren't going to. I heated it back up just for a second and it skyrocketed up 15 to 20 degrees F. Ugh. Now the process again of waiting for it to cool down. Finally it got down to about 90 degrees and I decided to take a leap of faith in getting the chocolates finished. I used a ladle to spoon the chocolate into the molds, stuck it in the fridge for 5 minutes, put in the caramel, pretzel pieces, and pecans, covered with more chocolate and let it sit in the fridge a bit longer.

Out popped beautiful chocolates! I cracked my cheapy little mold in the process but I was impressed by the shiny look of these guys, even to the point where you could see the reflections of the lights. If only they tasted as good as they looked. I know, I know, another fail, how could that be? The chocolate was way too dark and overpowering. I ended up using 85% cocoa and it was just so, so strong that you couldn't even taste the caramel, pretzel or pecan pieces. I was super disappointed. Did I say super, because I was SUPER disappointed. I hate spending money from our food budget on things that don't quite turn out. It is so disappointing. Did I already mention that I made two candy's tonight and both of them were disappointing. Yep, I thought so.

So, anyway . . . the Almond Roca really is a tasty candy if you can get it to the hard crack stage without burning it. I may try the chocolates again with milk chocolate (or a lower percentage dark chocolate) but right now I am candied out. Enjoy!

Note: Even though my Almond Roca didn't reach hard crack stage it actually stayed hard in the freezer.

Almond Roca
7 ounces milk chocolate bar (freeze ahead)
1 cup chopped almonds
2 cups sugar
1 pound butter

Grate frozen chocolate bar. Chop almonds. Cover a 9x13 cake pan with 1/2 cup almonds. Sprinkle 1/2 grated chocolate bar on top of almonds.

Melt butter over medium heat. Add sugar, stirring constantly until it is 300 degrees F or hard crack stage.

Pour immediately over grated chocolate and almonds. Spread evenly. Cover immediately with other half of chocolate bar and sprinkle with rest of almonds. Let stand to cool. Once cool, turn it out of the pan and break it up.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Basic Potato Salad

Summer isn't summer without at least one helping of potato salad. This batch was made to accompany us on one of our summer camping trips. We wanted something to go along with our brats roasted over the campfire and were tired of a side dish of flavored potato chips. This was definitely a welcome change. This recipe is great because you can add in so many other ingredients depending on which direction you want to go with it. Enjoy!

Basic Potato Salad
Source: Martha Stewart

3 pounds waxy potatoes (such as Yukon gold or new), scrubbed and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1/3 cup white-wine vinegar
4 scallions, white part minced, green part thinly sliced
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
3/4 cup light mayonnaise
cooked bacon, crumbled

Set a steamer basket in a Dutch oven (or large pot with a lid), and add enough salted water to come just below basket; bring to a boil.

Place potatoes in basket, cover pot, and reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Steam potatoes, gently tossing occasionally, until tender, 15 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine vinegar, scallion whites, 1 teaspoon coarse salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Add hot potatoes to vinegar mixture; toss to combine. Cool to room temperature, tossing occasionally, about 1 hour.

Add mayonnaise, scallion greens, and bacon to cooled potatoes; mix gently to combine. Serve, or cover and refrigerate up to 2 days.

Makes 8 servings

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Don't these swirls look incredible? The smell and taste are just as incredible as the neat swirlies throughout the dough! This recipe was chosen on the same day that I chose the recipe for the Cinnamon Raisin Nut Bread. I wanted to compare two cinnamon swirl breads to see if a slight change to ingredients and method would make a big difference in the outcome. I was actually surprised at how different they tasted.

Both recipes have yummy qualities to them. I like the fact that with the other swirl bread I added the raisins and nuts to give it a bit more texture. But while you could smell the cinnamon in the dough while kneading it the finished product didn't have an overly cinnamony (is that even a word?) taste. However this cinnamon swirl bread definitely has a sweeter, cinnamon taste. It is delicious all on it's own merits. It also makes a monster loaf of bread! This thing definitely doubled in size while it was rising at both rise times. I wasn't sure if it was going to take over the oven like the blob but it managed to bake up just fine. The top was a bit lopsided (not sure if you can see it in the picture) and looked a bit like an alien head from the back once you started cutting down the loaf.

Between the two recipes I would say that this is definitely the tastier of the two. I think the extra cinnamon and sweeter flavor make it just a bit more delicious. Not sure if in the future I will try adding raisins and nuts to this recipe or not but that definitely would make it a straight across comparison. We'll just have to wait and see what the next baking kick brings along. Enjoy! 

Cinnamon Swirl Bread
Source: Pioneer Woman

6 tablespoons butter
1 cup milk
2-1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
2 whole eggs

2 tablespoons butter, softened + some for greasing pan
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
egg wash (1 egg + splash of milk beaten together)

Melt 6 tablespoons butter with milk. Heat until very warm, but don't boil. Allow to cool until temperature reaches between 105-115 degrees F. Sprinkle yeast over the top, stir gently, and allow to sit for 10 minutes.

Combine flour and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix sugar and eggs with the paddle attachment until combined. Pour in milk/butter/yeast mixture and stir to combine. Add half the flour and beat on medium speed until combined. Add the other half and beat until combined.

Switch to the dough hook attachment and knead dough on medium speed for ten minutes. If dough is overly sticky, add 1/4 cup flour and knead again for 5 minutes.

Grease a large bowl. Throw dough in and toss to coat. Cover bowl in plastic wrap and set it in a warm, hospitable place for at least 2 hours.

Turn dough out onto the work surface. Roll into a neat rectangle no wider than the loaf pan you are going to use, and about 18 to 24 inches long. Smear with 2 tablespoons softened butter. Mix sugar and cinnamon together, then sprinkle evenly over the butter-smeared dough. Starting at the far end, roll dough toward you, keeping it tight and contained. Pinch seam to seal.

Smear loaf pan with softened butter. Place dough, seam down, in the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix egg with a splash of milk for egg wash and brush over the top. Bake for 40 minutes on a middle/lower rack in the oven. Remove from the pan and allow bread to cool.

Makes one loaf

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Orange Chicken Fajitas

Super easy recipe and pretty tasty too! There isn't a lot to this main dish as you can see in the ingredient list. It was pretty quick work to get the veggies and chicken chopped up and once they were cooked through and simmered for a few minutes in the juice it was time to dish up. Enjoy!

Orange Chicken Fajitas
2 yellow bell peppers
2 orange bell peppers
1 large white onion
1 1/2 to 2 pounds chicken breast tenders
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup orange juice

10-12 tortillas
shredded lettuce (optional)
sour cream (optional)
Mexican cheese (optional)

Wash and cut the peppers and onions into thin strips. Wash chicken tenders and cut them into strips.

Heat olive oil in a skillet and add chicken, peppers, and onions. Cook until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are tender.

Add orange juice and let simmer for 5 minutes. Serve on flour or multigrain tortillas. Top with shredded lettuce, sour cream, and Mexican cheese if desired.

Makes 10-12 fajitas

Friday, August 12, 2011

Mini Lemon Chiffon Cake

Doesn't this cake just scream summer? To me it definitely looks like a dessert that should be eaten in the heat of a July evening. Red, white, and blue . . . fresh, summer fruits . . . light, airy cake . . . fluffy, slightly sweet whipping cream. Yum, yum, yum.

I made a lemon chiffon cake in a mini bundt size for individual portions. Strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries were our fruit of choice this time, but you could easily do another summer fruit and have it taste as equally delicious. The homemade whipped cream is just heavy whipping cream whipped to medium stiff peaks with a bit of powdered sugar and vanilla added in for flavor. Enjoy!

Mini Lemon Chiffon Bundt Cakes
Makes 4 mini bundt cakes

1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 + 1/8 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt, preferably kosher
1/8 cup vegetable oil
2 medium egg yolks
1/8 cup water
1/8 cup lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon lemon zest, grated
3 medium egg whites
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spray bundt pans with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour and baking powder. Add in all but 3 tablespoons of sugar, and all of the salt. Stir to combine.

In a small bowl combine the oil, egg yolks, water, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Whisk thoroughly. Combine with the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly for about one minute, or until very smooth.

Put the egg whites into a stand mixer, and beat on medium speed using a whisk attachment, until frothy. Add cream of tartar and beat on a medium speed until the whites hold soft peaks. Slowly add the remaining sugar and beat on a medium-high speed until the whites hold firm and form shiny peaks.

Using a grease free rubber spatula, scoop about ⅓ of the whites into the yolk mixture and fold in gently. Gently fold in the remaining whites just until combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack.

To unmold, run a knife around the sides to loosen the cake from the pan. Invert the cake on the wire rack and cool completely.

Can be refrigerated for up to 4 days. Serve with whatever accompaniments you wish.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Black Bean Pineapple Enchiladas

I'm not usually one to experiment with new recipes for foods that I've found that work for my family and we have a great chicken enchilada recipe already. However, I did come across this recipe in a book I was reading, the same as the pork chop recipe, so I was thinking that I would give it a try and see if it knocked my socks off like the pork chops.

While it didn't knock my socks of  it is a good enchilada recipe. The enchiladas are very filling and have a nice combination of textures and tastes with the chicken, black beans, and pineapple. I'm sure you could spice it up a bit more because it did seem like it was a little on the bland side. It was nice to get a large amount of enchiladas so that we could freeze some for lunches at a later date. Overall, I think we'll keep it in the books as one to use for variety but it in no way takes over as top dog for my other chicken enchilada recipe.Enjoy!

Note: I went ahead and used a rotisserie chicken, but you could just as easily bake or grill up some chicken breasts and shred them once they've cooled to the touch.

Black Bean Pineapple Enchiladas
1 red bell pepper
1/2 medium white or yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 15 oz. can of black beans, drained
1 20 oz. can of crushed pineapple in pineapple juice
1 rotisserie chicken
1 cup Mexican shredded cheese
1 large can enchilada sauce
10 to 12 medium-size multigrain flour tortillas

Dice the red bell pepper and onion and saute in olive oil over medium heat or until tender. Add drained black beans and pineapple including juice into the skillet. Stir and heat.

Pull apart white meat chicken and shred. Add chicken to the skillet and cook until hot.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two 9x13 glass or casserole dishes. (I used a 9x13 and a 9x9.)

Lay one tortilla in the dish and scoop approximately 1/2 cup filling into tortilla, place filling in the center from end to end. Roll up tortilla, completely enclosing the filling. Place seam side down in dish. Stuff and roll the rest of the tortillas the same way until the dish is full. Pour the enchilada sauce over the top and sprinkle cheese on top.

Bake for 15 minutes or until bubbly hot.

Makes 10 to 12 enchiladas

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Ahhh, breakfast pastries, muffins, rolls . . . what fun to dig through recipes looking for something fun to bake on a lazy, rainy Saturday morning. And I was definitely in a baking mood today. I wanted to bake every bread recipe I looked at. After two loaves of bread and a batch of popovers I called it good otherwise I could have gone on and on with no end in sight.

I think technically these should be called popunders instead of popovers. I'm betting that they didn't "pop" up as much as they should have because I used custard cups instead of popover cups. I just can't see spending that much money on a pan for one purpose, especially a purpose that I don't have very often. They still tasted good, a bit more dense than they were supposed to be, but yummy none the less. You can see in the photo above that one ended up sinking in the middle and the other is upside down so that you can see the popped portion. Slather it with jam and no one will know any better. Oh, and don't mention they are supposed to be popovers either. Enjoy!

2 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat over to 450 degrees. Grease 6-cup popover pan or six 6-ounce custard cups generously. Beat eggs slightly in medium bowl. Beat in remaining ingredients just until smooth (do not overbeat). Fill cups about one-half full. Bake 20 minutes. Decrease oven temperature to 350 degrees. Bake 20 minutes longer or until deep golden brown. Immediately remove from cups and serve hot.

Makes 6 popovers