Tag Archives: in the kitchen

lemony custard

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Original recipe here. Cutesy, modernized recipe made with elements from Pugly Pixel and Shabby Princess.

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delizioso, eccellente

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Ah yes, another food post. But take heart, dear ones, this time it’s not a baked good! No need to even turn on the oven for this one. 😀

I’m not sure why I got the idea in my head that I needed to try making ravioli… I know it’s been simmering in there awhile though. Probably ever since Shannalee posted about her experience. But this past week, I promised myself that I was  going to make ravioli (using her recipe) as soon as I got a free afternoon. I even shared the goal with others, just for accountability.

Since we don’t need to stick to a gluten free diet, I used all-purpose flour instead of spelt, but that’s the only change I made.

Pasta

Ingredients:
2 cups spelt flour (all-purpose)
3 eggs, at room temperature (although mine weren’t)
1 heaping pinch of salt
2 tablespoons olive oil

Ravioli Filling

Ingredients:
1 cup of ricotta cheese
1 egg
Generous teaspoons of salt and pepper
Any herbs desired (She used basil, I used Italian Seasoning)

Directions:
Mix ingredients together to form filling; chill until ready to use.


Directions:

Sift the flour and salt together in a bowl or on a work surface. In a small bowl, beat the eggs with the oil. Make a well in the flour and then stir in the eggs and oil with a spoon. Finish mixing with hands and then knead on a lightly floured surface until it comes together into a small ball of dough. Cover in cling wrap and allow to rest for 20 minutes (good time to make the filling!).

After letting the dough rest, divide it in half, then in half again.

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Take a quarter of the dough and roll it with a floured rolling pin on a floured surface until it is as thin as possible. It should still be stretchy and pliable.

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Cut out circles using a cookie cutter (or in a pinch, the lid of a mason jar works nicely).

 

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Plop a teaspoon of ravioli filling in each circle.

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Brush the lower half of the edges with water, bringing the top half of the dough over to create a half circle/moon shape. The water acts like a kind of glue to help it all stick together. Place raviolis on a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper.

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When ready to cook, drop raviolis into boiling salted water. Cook for five to seven minutes, depending on how al dente you like it. You can also freeze them in a single layer, then toss them in a freezer bag to save for later.

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Top with meat sauce & enjoy!

A few things I learned along the way

:: Try to get the dough even thinner next time.

:: Try adding a little garlic to the filling or the sauce.

:: Putting the teaspoon of filling on the top half and folding it towards you helps center it and minimizes leakage.

:: Pressing the edges with a fork gives a pretty design and extra seal.

:: If some filling does happen to seep out, don’t worry about it.

:: Of course, there are unlimited possibilities for the filling and sauce – perhaps a meat filling and a clear broth-ish rather than traditional cheese-filled and tomato & meat sauce?

:: Keep the dough you’re not working with covered with plastic wrap, and after cutting out the circles, gather the scraps back into a ball and put it with the rest of the dough as soon as possible so it doesn’t dry out.

:: It is a lot of work but it’s totally worth it.

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Cake, and eat it too.

I never know quite how I feel about cake. If it comes in a box, either from a bakery or the kind where you “just add oil and eggs,” I can take it or leave it. Mostly, leave it. Especially if it is covered in super-sweet icing. Ick.

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Homemade cakes and frostings are a different story. Perhaps because I have more control over the process and can take it in the direction I want it to go.

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It seems as if I’m repeatedly drawn to the same basic flavors, too, like pumpkin, apple, cinnamon, nutmeg… Red, orange, yellow. Warmth. The kind of cake that could just as easily be a muffin. The good kind of dense – the sturdy-enough-to-hold-a-piece-in-your-hand, no-plate-or-fork-needed, wash-it-down-with-a-cold-glass-of-milk kind. What my friend Mary would call an “old-fashioned” cake.

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So it’s no surprise that when I was paging through the November 2010 issue of Real Simple, (courtesy of the free box at the library!) and saw a recipe for a simple Spiced Pumpkin Cake, it instantly was added to my mental to-do list. It was one of those little things that I gave a  lot of thought and planning to, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to get it out of my hea until I tried it.       

I wasn’t expecting to get to baking it until at least Thursday, but a two-hour delay turned cancellation meant I had most of today free. (Though next time, school district, would you please cancel school before we all get to work so peoples don’t have to drive to and from work and stuff in the ice? Kthanxbai.) Snow day, baking day. Soup day, too.

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I knew going in that I wanted to use butternut squash puree in place of the pumpkin, if only because we had the squash on hand, already pureed, in the freezer, and that wasn’t the case with pumpkin. The other change that was rolling around in my head was to replace the lemon juice in the glaze with Earl Grey tea. That one I wasn’t entirely sure about – would the flavor pair well with the spices of the cake or would they both want to hog the spotlight? In the end I decided the only way to find out was to go for it. Sure glad I did!

Here’s the recipe (my notes and changes in bold) :

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled, plus more for the pan
  • 5 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (I never measure things like spices, so I just shook this in, keeping in mind that I wanted to try the tea in the glaze. I’m estimating I used closer to 3 tsp.)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree (1 1⁄2 cups) (1 1/2 cups butternut squash puree)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (2 TB strong brewed Earl Grey tea, room temperature, and I found I had to gradually add more to thin the glaze.)

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  1. Heat oven to 350° F. Butter and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and granulated sugar on medium-high until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Beat in the pumpkin (squash) puree, milk, and molasses (the mixture may appear curdled) (They’re not kidding. It looked gross). Reduce the mixer speed to low; gradually add the flour mixture and mix until just combined (do not over mix).
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 55 to 65 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 30 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  5. In a bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice (tea) until smooth. Drizzle over the cake. Let set before serving.

 

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The result? Just as I had hoped. The cake is wonderfully moist and tender, while the Earl Grey, with its citrus flavor was reminiscent of the lemon, but with the floral notes it was just different enough to add a new flavor dimension.

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Apple-Oat Muffins

It was one of those rainy kind of days that are just perfect for baking – Thursday, I think it was. It’s been the kind of week where the days seem to flow one in to the other without much separation.

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I felt that little tug to be in the kitchen, measuring and mixing, but there wasn’t a clear plan in my head at first as to what I would be creating, only that I wanted something substantial and straightforward. After remembering the bushel of Stayman apples waiting to be turned into applesauce sitting on the porch, I knew I was on to something. Apple Crisp? As much as I love crisp, that’s not what I was thinking. Apple Bread? No, we have two loaves of bread, albeit made with butternut squash, already. Apple Oat Muffins? Perfect. Hearty with a side of wholesomeness.

I don’t have a go-to recipe for apple oat muffins, in fact I don’t remember making them before. But I knew what I wanted, and after a little cruising around the internets I found what I was looking for. 

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Apple-Oat Muffins via Good Housekeeping

  • 2 cups old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup buttermilk*
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup (1 to 2 medium) shredded Golden Delicious or Granny Smith apples
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped**

1.Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease 12 standard muffin-pan cups. In large bowl, combine oats, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and ground cinnamon.

2. In medium bowl, with fork, beat buttermilk, oil, and egg until well blended; stir in shredded apples. Add apple mixture to flour mixture, and stir just until flour mixture is moistened (batter will be very thick and lumpy). Stir in chopped walnuts.

3. Spoon batter into prepared muffin-pan cups. Bake 23 to 25 minutes or until muffins begin to brown and toothpick inserted in center of muffins comes out clean. Immediately remove muffins from pan. Serve warm, or cool on wire rack to serve later.

*I never have buttermilk on hand. If you’re like me, you can use a cup of milk soured with a tablespoon or so of lemon juice.

**I chopped up some unsalted roasted mixed nuts – filberts, almonds, cashews, and pecans. I could have omitted the nuts all together but I really wanted that subtle crunch.

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They were just what I wanted– though I expected them to be a little sweeter, once I got past the initial “hm, they aren’t sweet” I appreciated every bite. They’re the perfect breakfast muffin, but probably not something you’d want to serve for dessert.

Another reason I decided on muffins and these in particular – the desire to try using squares of parchment paper in place of muffin cups. I’m pleased to say it turned out wonderfully. I cut 12 squares, 6” more or less, and formed them around the bottom of a drinking glass, making sure the creases were nice and sharp and everything laid flat on the inside so the batter doesn’t get in between the folds and stick. The lumpy chunky oatyness (it’s a word now) of these muffins went perfectly with the rustic look of the parchment paper ‘cups,’ methinks.

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Five Senses Friday – Tasting Edition

In other words, a recipe of sorts.

Tonight’s dinner was homemade pizza – popular Friday night fare around here. I felt like doing something different from the ordinary sauce, cheese, and toppings, possibly inspired by flipping through a copy of Bon Appetite this afternoon.

Basics first – the crust. Our go-to pizza crust recipe comes from Taste of Home. We like our crust thin and crispy, so we always manage to get at least three pizza’s from the dough – two large and one medium. You can find the recipe here. Of course, if you already have a favorite pizza crust recipe, this is a good time to make it. Remember, the crust is an important component of a pizza – sub-par crust can totally change the flavor.

Next I went out to the herb garden and got a large handful of fresh basil… pesto time! I didn’t have pine nuts so I used an unsalted roasted nut mix and it turned out just fine, I think. Throw in some salt, pepper, a chopped garlic clove, some Parmesan cheese. Add in some olive oil a little at a time while you’re chopping the herbs, either in a food processor or a with mortar and pestle if you want to be really authentic. You want the texture to be coarse, creamy, but not pureed. Of course you could always use the jarred stuff, but it’s not as fresh.

Some more prep work was in order – shredding cheese, caramelizing onions, roasting red peppers, and slicing tomatoes. After baking the crust the first 15 minutes as the recipe directs, I spread the pesto over it, laid the tomato slices out over that, sprinkled cheese over that, and topped with the peppers and onions. Back in the oven to bake for 15 more minutes – a long wait when it smells so good. 🙂

It was definitely the perfect “something different” that I was looking for and I’m sure I’ll be making it again. If you try it, let me know how you like it!

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“When you look at a cupcake, you’ve got to smile.”

I was browsing some foodie blogs this morning, Tartelette being one of them. After following a few internal links, I found an older post of hers with a recipe for Violet Macarons. Now, I wasn’t feeling adventurous enough to try making macarons, but the thought did occur to me to try making some candied violets. So I took a walk back to “The Cove” (basically an area of unfenced pasture at the back of our property) where I knew violets were blooming, and returned with a nice little handful. I decided to pick some mint from my herb garden and candy the leaves, as well. More on that in a bit.

I didn’t have any superfine sugar, but I do have a mortar and pestle, so into that went some granulated white sugar. I’m not sure how “superfine” it was, but I could definitely tell a difference. After lightly beating an egg-white, I was ready to begin.

My plan was to dip the flowers into the egg whites and then into the sugar, but when they all folded up onto each other when I dipped them into the egg white, and it was all gloopy, so I ended up with a big pile of sugar on an unrecognisable purple clump. Yuck. Time for Plan B – brushing the egg white lightly on the petals with a pastry brush, and sprinkling on the sugar. Much more tedious, but also a much prettier result. For the mint leaves, I just dumped a little egg white in the bowl, tossed to coat them, laid them out on the tray with the violets, and sprinkled sugar on them, and set them aside to dry.

Then it was time to decide what to bake, because I needed something to showcase the candied violets, right? After a bit of thinking and looking around the kitchen, I saw the bowl of lemons sitting on the counter and decided on lemon cupcakes. A Google search for a recipe led me to this one and the reviews were high, so I decided to use it – at least the cupcake part. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do about the icing yet. If you’re looking for a good lemon cupcake recipe, you ought to try this one. It has the perfect amount of lemon flavor and it’s wonderfully moist.

While the cupcakes were baking, it was time to decide on the frosting. I came to the conclusion that cream cheese frosting would be best after all, but not the recipe attached to the cupcake one – instead I made a double batch of The Pioneer Woman’s Cream Cheese Frosting. And resisted the temptation of eating it all before I put it on the cupcakes.

After the cupcakes baked and the oven had cooled a bit, I put the tray with the candied violets and mint leaves into the oven to speed drying time as it cooled. It worked pretty well for the violets, but the mint leaves crumbled when I tried to lift them off of the waxed paper. Oh well, there’s plenty more mint where that came from! I just had to use it fresh.

You’ve probably noticed some of the cupcakes have lemon zest on them, and some have a mixture of violet petals and lemon zest. Variety is the spice of life! Also, some of the cupcakes are for a friend’s dad’s birthday, and while I think the violets are lovely, they may be a bit to feminine for him. 😉 Plus, I can never resist lemon zest.

You all have a great weekend! Me? I’m off to eat a cupcake.

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The 12 Indisputable Laws of Chocolate Chip Cookie Baking

Now, far be it for me to assume that I’m an authority on baking. I think we’ve established on here by now that’s not the case. But, I also think it’s safe to say that if I make it and it turns out alright it’s pretty much fool-proof. So here are my 12 indisputable rules to follow when baking everyone’s favorite cookie.

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1. Start with a good recipe. I’ve used the one in the Better Homes and Gardens cook book, the familiar “red and white check one,” for several years now. Prior to finding it, I was on a mini-quest for a good recipe that worked for me. And one day, my friend Joy brought some chocolate chip cookies to church. They were the best I’d ever had.  I grabbed her and demanded she give me asked her for the recipe, and she looked at me kind of funny and said “it’s in the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.” Being in possession of said cookbook, it was right under my nose the whole time. I have no idea why I didn’t think to look in there. If you don’t have that recipe, there’s a very similar one here at Honey & Jam.

2. If the recipe doesn’t already call for it, use half shortening and half butter. I know some people will disagree with me here, but I find it helps the cookie stay together much better. And when I find something that works for me, I don’t mess with it.

3. Double, or maybe triple, the vanilla. Trust me. At the very least, don’t measure it, just dump it in.

4. Instead of creaming the butter and sugars together, melt the butter and the brown sugar together until they’re smooth, and then stir in the granulated sugar. Again, some people would disagree, but please try it at least once. The texture of the cookie is so much better this way!

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5. Don’t omit the salt. I know this seems common knowledge, but I’ve heard of it being done before.

6.  I don’t care if the recipe only calls for one cup of chocolate chips. Dump the whole bag in.

7. And speaking of chips, this time semi-sweet is the way to go. I normally love milk chocolate, but they’re just too sweet in these cookies.

8. Don’t add nuts! Nuts are only acceptable in white chocolate chip cookies.

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9. Eat some of the dough. But try not to eat too much. Of course, pregnant ladies and persons with weakened immune systems are exempt from this – we don’t want anyone getting sick. (I was going to say that we want everyone to be healthy, but then I remembered we are talking about cookies.)

10. And while we’re on the subject of health – cookies aren’t supposed to be healthy, so don’t try to make adjustments to make them “healthier.” You want to eat healthy, then go eat some carrot sticks.

11. Don’t over bake the cookies. My recipe calls for 8-10 minutes, so I always set the timer for 8. Sometimes they’re done, sometimes they need a little more. And trust me, as little as 30 seconds can make a pretty discernible difference.So watch carefully and check frequently, k?

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12. Enjoy with a glass of cold milk.

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Rice Pudding

Ah, this simple, homey dessert evokes so many good memories for me. It’s something I’ve grown up with and have loved as long as I can remember. My grandmother made it and so Dad grew up eating it. When he married Mom, of course it was one of the things she learned to make. And now, I make it too (though I think I may have made it once years ago, but I’m not certain – mostly my memories are of watching Mom make it and waiting for it to be done.)

It’s not hard to make at all.

Cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, rice, sugar, milk, vanilla.

Stir together in a big oven proof bowl.

Cook until the rice is tender.

*A note on the bowl – we purchased it at the Williamsburg Pottery Outlet in Williamsburg, VA, several years ago. The only thing we use it for is rice pudding. 🙂

Mmmm.

Put it in the fridge and get it nice and cold.

Put some in a pretty dish* to take a photo.

*Or, in my case since we don’t have any small clear glass bowls that don’t have some sort of design on them, you use a glass teacup, turn it around so the handle doesn’t show, and position a spoon in front of the spot where the handle attaches to the cup. And then a few days later, discover a clear dessert dish in the cupboard. Just keepin’ it real here, folks.

Then you eat it and savor every delicious mouthful.

Okay, so I deliberated and thought and argued with myself over whether I should post the actual recipe. One part of me would love to share, but the other part says no because it’s one of those really special family recipes and having it on the internet for anyone to make might, for me, take away the specialness of it. Is that weird? So I came to middle ground – if you want the recipe, all you have to do is leave a comment with your email and I’d be more than happy to send it to you – I guess I just want to feel like I know the person it’s going to. 😀

What’s *your* favourite family recipe and/or what food or dessert do you have fondest memories of?

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No need to knead?!

Oh dear. Anyone who knows me knows that making bread is on my list of least-liked things to do. More specifically, kneading bread – I do love shaping it after it’s all kneaded and nice and not sticky anymore. But that time between, when it’s really sticky and goopy and just ugh… I don’t like the feeling of it in my hands, I don’t like the messiness and the sticky goopiness.

Usually I can get around that by using our Kitchen Aid stand mixer with the dough fork (bless whoever invented that!) but then I saw this post at Honey&Jam and knew it was just the thing for me – no knead bread!

One variation on my part – I used 2 cups whole wheat flour, 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, and 2 cups bread flour.

And yes, I *just* realised that’s only 6 cups of flour and the recipe calls for 6 1/2 cups. You see? That’s how those disasters happen.*facepalm*

So no wonder it was sticky and needed about another – yup – 1/2 cup of flour worked in when I went to shape it.  😆 (at which point I thought “Ugh, do I really still have to mess with sticky dough!”)

It’s the oddest dough I’ve ever worked with though – it was very light and airy and bubbly. I liked it.

Anyway, one way or the other, it all worked out in the end – it’s a wonderful crusty bread!

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In The Kitchen

My sister and I often joke about me having a show on Food Network someday – it would be called “In the Kitchen with Linz – The Disaster Chronicles.” This stems from many, well, disasters that have happened while I was in the kitchen, and particularly baking… for example, remember the cupcakes?

But I’m happy to report to you that my baking is getting better. As in “hey this is actually fun, I really enjoy it now” better.

I think it was inspired by the book my aunt got me for Christmas. Or maybe it was because of Hannah because I really am inspired by her. In any case… baking has now become a part of the life of Linz. And while this little corner of the internets will still be a random hodge-podge of things, (like, uh, my life) it’ll now feature some recipes and goodies. And probably some more disasters.

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