Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Strawberry Lemon Scones

Oh my goodness, I cannot even attempt to explain to you how delicious these are!  Admittedly, I don't have a lot of scone experience, eating or making, but these are divine!  My recipe is slightly adapted from the one at What's Cookin, Chicago.  I've seen several strawberry lemon scone recipes, but I liked the idea of using yogurt instead of milk or cream.  Instead of plain yogurt, I thought vanilla yogurt would add a deeper flavor of creamy goodness.  I think I was right.  Yum, yum, yum. 

Strawberry Lemon Scones
  • 2 C all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp each, salt and baking soda
  • 4 Tbsp cold butter, cubed
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 6oz cup of vanilla yogurt
  • 1/4 C milk, half-and-half, or cream
  • 1 C chopped fresh or frozen strawberries (don't thaw if using frozen)
  • lemon juice and powdered sugar for a glaze, optional

1.  Preheat oven to 450 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper
2.  Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda and lemon zest.  With a pastry blender, or just by pinching and squeezing with your fingers, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir in Strawberries.  Add yogurt and milk, stirring until it just begins coming together in a ball.  It should still look kinda shaggy and flour-y.
3.  Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, and knead together gently with your hands a few times.  Pat dough out into a circle about 1" thick.  Cut into 8 wedges and place on the prepared baking sheet. 
4.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until tops are lightly golden and scones feel fairly firm when tops are gently pressed.  If thy don't seem done inside but the tops are browned, chances are they are too thick.  (I do this a lot.)  Just reduce the oven temp to 375 and bake a few minutes more.  You can cover them loosely with foil if you think they are getting too browned on top.  Remove to a wire rack to cool.
5.  While scones are still warm, whisk together some lemon juice and powdered sugar to make a glaze to drizzle over the top.  Juice from 1/2 to 1 of the lemons and about 1/2-1 cup of powdered sugar should be good.  Keep it kinda thick, or it will just run right off and make a mess.  Slide the parchment from the baking sheet under the cooling rack to catch drips.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Pitas with Baked Falafel and Tzatziki Sauce

I don't know what got me feeling all Greek the other day, but this was one fabulous meal!
Homemade Pitas from Brown Eyed Baker, Baked Falafel and Tzatziki sauce from Kalyn's Kitchen. Light and healthy, but very satisfying, and a good way to up your veggie intake!

for the pitas
  • 3 cups of flour (I used all-purpose, but plan on using at least half wheat next time)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 package (2 1/4 tsp) yeast. (regular or instant is fine, just dissolve your yeast in the water and sugar for about 5 minutes if you use regular active dry yeast)
  • 1 1/4-1 1/2 C warm water
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
1. In a large bowl or bowl of your stand mixer, combine all ingredients, mixing with a wooden spoon or paddle attachment until well combined. Either switch to the dough hook, or turn out onto a floured work surface if kneading by hand. Knead for 10 minutes, adding more water or flour as needed, 1 Tbsp at a time, until you have a smooth and elastic dough, moist but not sticky.
2. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Allow to rise until doubled in bulk.
3. When doubled, punch down dough and divide into 8 equal pieces. (Use a kitchen scale if you want. I didn't.) Roll each piece into a ball, cover them with a damp towel and let them rest for 20 minutes. The resting lets the dough relax so it's easier to roll out.
4. On a lightly floured surface, roll each ball into an approximate 6-in circle, about 1/4"-1/8" thick. Place pitas on a lightly greased baking sheet or some waxed paper. Allow to rise, uncovered, until almost doubled in thickness, about a half hour.
5. While pitas are rising, preheat oven to 400. Place either a baking stone or over-turned baking sheet on the middle rack to preheat as well- this will be your baking surface, it needs to be hot too.
6. Open the oven, and without removing your baking surface, place as many pitas as can fit without touching. (I could fit 2 at a time on my baking stone, but they seemed to puff up better if I only did one at a time. A wide spatula worked well for both putting them in the oven and taking them out.) Bake about 5 minutes. They should puff up and be slightly browned on the bottom. (Not all of mine puffed up very well, but that's ok. They still tasted good.) Best served warm, but I wouldn't recommend reheating them in the microwave, unless you like a tough pita. In a low oven, or just over a burner works.

for the falafel
  • 1 can (15oz) chickpeas, drained (you can also soak 1 cup dried chickpeas in water overnight, but who keeps dried chickpeas on hand?)
  • 1 C chopped onion
  • 1/4 C chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 C chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1-2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2-4 Tbsp flour (any kind will do)
1. Put chickpeas, onion, parsley, cilantro, garlic, salt and cumin in the bowl of a food processor. (I don't have a food processor, I just put it in a medium sized bowl and used my hand blender.) Pulse until mixture is well chopped and combined, but not pureed. Sprinkle over baking powder and flour and pulse a few more times to combine. Mixture should easily stick together when rolled into a ball. If not, add a little more flour. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and chill for a few hours to overnight. (I didn't do this, I didn't see that step, they still turned out good. Might have been more flavorful if I had, though)
2. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400. Spray a large baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
3. Shape the mixture into 12 balls, pressing each one flat into a patty a touch less than 1/2" thick. Place on baking sheet. Bake 20-25 minutes, flipping the patties halfway through, till brown on both sides. Serve warm.

for the tzatziki sauce, and no, I have no idea how to pronounce it properly
  • 1 1/2 C non-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1-2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
  • salt for the cucumber, plus salt and pepper to taste
1. Place cucumbers in a colander and generously salt them, about 1 Tbsp. Let stand for 30 minutes to drain. Rinse, drain well and pat dry.
2. Combine all ingredients in a food processor. (I have a little 2 cup mini food processor/chopper thingy I used for this. It wasn't big enough for the falafel. A hand blender would work too.) Process until well blended. Chill for a couple hours before serving to allow the flavors to blend. (This I did do. I thought it was too lemony at first, but it mellowed out and was really tasty after some time in the fridge.)

These are all delicious on their own, but together make one tasty sandwich. Use a sharp knife to cut the pitas in half, and use a sharp pointy knife to help open the pocket, if necessary. I just added some spinach, but you could add anything you want; sliced red onion, sliced cucumber, hummus, lettuce, tomato...

Friday, March 11, 2011

Banana Bread

Except perhaps for the scent of wheat bread baking, the tantalizing fragrance of banana bread is one of the homiest smells ever. Like a chocolate chip cookie, banana bread recipes are pretty basic. I'm not sure what it is about this one, but it has such a nice, crispy, almost candied top crust. The inside is soft, moist and tender. I leave out nuts and chocolate chips because my husband is a purist when it comes to banana bread, but I think those would be great additions to this recipe.
Old-Fashioned Fragrant Banana Bread from the book A Passion For Baking
  • 1/2 C unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 C sugar (I used half white, half brown sugar)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 C mashed ripe banana
  • 1/4 C sour cream
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment. (This is to place the loaf pan on to prevent the bottom from cooking too much. Works great.) Generously spray a 9x5 loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray and place on parchment-lined baking sheet.

2. In a mixer bowl, cream butter and sugar until well blended. Add eggs, banana, sour cream, and vanilla. Fold in dry ingredients, scraping sides of bowl often. Fold in 1 C each chocolate chips and nuts, if you want.

3. Spoon into prepared pan. Bake 50-55 minutes, or until bread springs back when gently pressed with fingertips. (You can do the toothpick thing, too.) It may be cracked a bit on top, that's ok. If it doesn't seem done after 55 minutes, reduce temp to 325 and bake another 10-15 minutes. Cool in pan 20 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Brazillian Chicken Stroganoff

I'm not sure how authentically Brazilian this is, not being familiar with Brazilian food, but I got this recipe from my friend Amanda, who got it from her sister-in-law, who got it from her in-laws who lived in Brazil for a time, so there.
Brazilian Chicken Stroganoff (slightly adapted)

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts

1/2 C chicken broth, give or take

2 Cans Nestle Creme (found in the Mexican aisle) or cream (I used half-and-half, about 2 C)

1 small can tomato paste

Spices to taste (I sauteed onion and garlic, seasoned with salt, pepper, Italian seasoning and oregano)

Hot cooked rice

Place chicken, it can be frozen, in a crock pot and cover with water or chicken broth. Season with salt and pepper and garlic, if desired. Cook on low until done, about 6-8 hours. Drain off water and shred chicken. Either replace in crock pot, or in a large pan on the stove top. Stir in tomato paste, about 1/2 C of chicken broth and the cream. Should be a pinkish sauce about the consistency of gravy. Add more chicken broth until you get the consistency you want. Season as desired. You can serve it once it's heated through, or you can keep it warm on low heat until ready to serve. Just take care not to warm it too much, you don't want to curdle the cream. Serve over hot cooked rice.

This is one of those recipes where you just kinda go by what works for you. I made this last week, and my poor hubby had a cold and couldn't really taste it, but I sure loved it! It is so simple, but oh so good! This will definitely become part of our regular rotation.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

A chocolate chip cookie is... a chocolate chip cookie. There's not much you can do to change the basic recipe of a chocolate chip cookie, but do a Google search for a chocolate chip cookie recipe and you'll get hundreds of different recipes, each claiming to be the best. I guess everybody has their own likes and dislikes, no matter how subtle the differences in various recipes. Me, I like to use butter and not shortening, and I use all brown sugar for a deeper flavor compared to a combination of white and brown sugar. I do like walnuts in mine, but my son is allergic to walnuts so I leave them out.
This is supposedly a copycat recipe of the giant chocolate chip cookies at Levain Bakery in New York. Never having tasted one of their cookies -or heard of the bakery before- I have no idea how close they are, but these are pretty darn tasty.
chocolate chip cookies (adapted from My Baking Addiction)
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 C brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 3/4 C flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 C chocolate chips
1 C chopped walnuts, optional
1. Preheat oven to 375 and line baking sheets with parchment paper
2. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with the paddle attatchment, cream together butter and sugar, at least 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, and vanilla, beating until well combined.
3. Add flour, salt, baking soda and powder and mix until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts.
4. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto prepared baking sheets (I used a medium cookie scoop, you can make them whatever size you want, including big giant sized, just adjust baking time accordingly.)
5. Bake 10-12 minutes or until edges are golden. Cool for a few minutes on the pan before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.
After mixing the dough I almost added another egg, it was a little dry. The cookies are fine, just not as soft and chewey as I like. Next time I'll reduce the flour by a 1/4 C or so. I have read that adding a Tbsp of corn starch to the dough keeps the cookies tender, although I haven't tried it yet. You can replace the butter with shortening or do a mix of the two, but I like using all butter. It tastes better, and although shortening is lower in fat and calories, I think that since butter is a natural product with only one ingredient, it is overall healthier for your body than the long list of oils and artificial flavors and colors in shortening. Just remember moderation. :)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Cinnamon Rolls

Who doesn't love a warm, ooey-gooey cinnamon roll?

These are melt-in-your-mouth, buttery and soft in the middle, and a little crispy and flaky on the outside, almost like puff pastry. Even for a yeast dough, these take a good long while to rise. If you're planning on these for breakfast, either get up really early, and I mean really early, or assemble them the day before and either refrigerate or freeze them. Simply set them out about an hour before you want to bake and Bob's your uncle.
This is the sticky bun dough from the book Confections of a Closet Master Baker by Gesine Bullock-Prado, adapted to make cinnamon rolls instead of maple rolls.
for the starter:
1 tsp sugar
1/4 C warm milk or water, about 105 degrees F
1 packet (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
1/2 C sifted all-purpose flour
for the dough
1/4 tsp salt
3 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp warm milk or water
2 large eggs
1 1/2 C sifted all-purpose flour
12 Tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
for the filling
1/4-1/2 C softened or melted butter
1/4-1/2 C sugar
1-3 Tbsp cinnamon, or to taste
Chopped nuts, optional
for the starter
1. Combine the sugar and milk in the bowl of an electric mixer. Sprinkle the yeast over the mixture and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.
2. Stir in the flour, forming a soft dough. Let the starter rise, covered with plastic wrap, at room temperature until doubled. This took me about 15 minutes.
For the dough
1. Combine the salt, sugar and milk in a small bowl and stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved.
2. Fit the mixer with the dough hook; add the eggs, sugar mixture, and flour to the starter and mix on low until a soft dough forms. Slowly add 1 stick of the butter and mix until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 6 minutes. Add the remaining butter and beat 1 minute, or until the butter is incorporated. The dough is very soft and sticky.
3. Lightly grease a large bowl and scrape the dough into the bowl with a rubber spatula. Lightly dust the dough with flour to prevent a crust from forming.
4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until more than doubled in bulk, about 2-3 hours.
To assemble
1. Punch down the dough and turn onto a well-floured surface. Gently roll the dough into a 12x18 inche rectangle of uniform thickness, preferably about 1/4" thick.
2. Spread the butter over the entire surface of the dough except for the top 1/2 inch along one long side of the dough. Mix the cinnamon and sugar, and sprinkle evenly over the butter. Sprinkle chopped nuts over cinnamon mixture.
3. Starting at the long side opposite the unbuttered 1/2", roll the dough into a log. Pinch the dough along the seam to seal. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the dough into 12 even pieces.
4. Grease a baking sheet well and place the rolls cut-side down about 1-2 inches apart. Allow the rolls to rest for a half-hour.
5. Preheat oven to 375. Bake until the tops are golden, about 15 minutes. The recipe said to bake them for 30 minutes, but that was way, WAY too long!
6. Remove immediately to a wire rack to cool. Top with a powdered sugar glaze, if desired.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Devil's Food Cupcakes with Raspberry Cream Cheese Frosting

This was going to be a layer cake for our Valentine's Day treat, but it didn't quite turn out as planned... Click here if you want to see what happened. So I tried again a couple days later and did cupcakes instead; they're harder to mess up. Cupcakes are fun, but for some reason I like doing layer cakes better. Maybe I just like the challenge of getting a cake to look purty.
This is one seriously tasty chocolate cake. It's not really difficult, but definitely takes a few more steps than dumping the ingredients into a bowl and mixing. The frosting has a lovely raspberry flavor, but the cream cheese flavor gets a little lost, so I think next time I will use a little more cream cheese and a little less butter. I'm not sure how I feel about having raspberry seeds in frosting, but it does look really nice. It was also very sweet, partly because I had my hubby pick up frozen raspberries for me and he got sweetened ones, and partly because I measured them by volume instead of weight, so it was too many raspberries and I had to use about 6 cups of powdered sugar. Now that I think about it, that's probably also why I couldn't taste the cream cheese.
For the Devi's Food Cake: (from the book A Passion For Baking by Marcy Goldman)
  • 4oz unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 C unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 boiling water
  • 1 C unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 C firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2/3 C white sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 C sour cream
  • 1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease and line two 9"round cake pans with parchment paper (grease the parchment too), or line 2 muffin tins with papers.
2. Place chopped chocolate and cocoa in a medium bowl and cover with boiling water. Stir to melt chocolate and then cool.
3. In a mixer bowl, cream butter and both sugars until fluffy and well combined- at least 2 minutes. Blend in eggs, vanilla, and then sour cream. Blend in cooled chocolate and then fold in flour, baking soda and salt.
4. Spoon batter into prepared pans. Bake until cake springs back when gently pressed with finger tips; 30-35 minutes for cake, 15-20 minutes for cupcakes. Cool in pans for a few minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely before frosting.
For the Raspberry Cream Cream Cheese frosting: (from goodLife eats)
  • 3/4 C (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 C (40z) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3-4 1/2 C powdered sugar
  • 6 oz (by weight, not volume) fresh or frozen raspberries, thawed and divided
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeds only, or 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1. Cream butter and cream cheese in electric mixer for 1-2 minutes until fluffy. Add 1 C sugar and beat until smooth. Add half the raspberries and mix until combined. Add remaining powdered sugar, 1/2 C at a time and beat until well incorporated.
2. Add vanilla and remaining raspberries and mix at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, (2-3 minutes) adding more powdered sugar if necessary to reach desired consistency.
3. Pipe or spread onto cooled cakes or cupcakes.

Parchment Paper

For a long time I did't really know what parchment paper was for. Then I just thought it was too expensive, I would be fine with just greasing and flouring my pans really well. Then I bought some, and I do really like it, but for some reason I still insist on greasing and flouring most of the time. I think I've finally learned my lesson. This was supposed to be a lovely devil's food layer cake with raspberry cream cheese frosting for our Valentine's Day treat....

So if you learn only one thing from me, let it be USE PARCHMENT PAPER!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Oreo Truffles

This is a very simple and easy way to make a lovely, yummy little treat. Topped with a few sprinkles, they make a perfect Valentine! This is also a fun activity to do with your kids, and adaptable to any holiday. Have fun!

Oreo Truffles
  • 1 pkg Oreos (I like mint), finely crushed
  • 1 pkg (8oz) cream cheese, softened
  • 16 oz chocolate, melted
  • sprinkles
1. Stir together Oreo crumbs and cream cheese. Roll into balls, using about 1 Tbsp of mixture. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment or waxed paper. Chill until firm in the fridge or freezer.
2. When firm, drop into melted chocolate and roll around using a couple forks, then place back on paper-lined baking sheet. Top with sprinkles. Chill again until chocolate has set. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Homemade Oreos

Are you a twister, or a dunker?

Homemade Oreos
for the chocolate wafers:

  • 1 1/4 C all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 C Dutch process cocoa
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 to 1 1/2 C sugar
  • 1/2 C plus 2 Tbsp (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 large egg
for the filling:

  • 1/4 C (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 C all vegetable shortening (the white kind, not butter flavored)
  • 2 C sifted powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
1. In a food processor or bowl of electric mixer, thoroughly mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt. While pulsing or on low speed, add the butter and then the egg. Continue processing or mixing until the dough comes together in a mass.
2. Preheat oven to 375. Take rounded teaspoons of batter, roll into a ball and place on a parchment lined baking sheet, about 2 inches apart, and flatten each ball slightly. Bake for 9 minutes. Either place baking sheets on a wire rack to cool, or slide the parchment off the baking sheet and onto the rack to cool, being careful not to disturb the cookies until they have cooled.
3. To make the filling, place the butter and shortening in a mixing bowl. Cream together. At low speed, gradually add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Turn mixer on high and beat for 2-3 minutes or until filling is light and fluffy.
4. To assemble the cookies, fit a pastry bag with a 1/2 round tip and pipe a teaspoon-sized blob of cream onto half of the cookies (flip over so the flat bottom is facing up). Place another cookie relatively equal in size on top and press lightly to work the filling to the edges. Enjoy with a tall glass of milk!

I've seen recipes for homemade Oreos several times, and all the recipes are pretty much the same, but I used the one from My Baking Addiction.

In case your not familiar with it, Dutch process, or alkalized cocoa has been treated to soften the cocoa flavor a little bit, which can sometimes come across tasting a little bitter. My unrefined palate had never noticed that before, so you'll probably be fine using regular cocoa powder. I used Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa, which is a combination of Dutch process and regular cocoa. I think the Dutch process portion must be black cocoa, which is cocoa that has been very alkalized, producing a very dark, nearly black color. I chose My Baking Addiction's recipe because she used the Hershey's Special Dark cocoa, which produces a much nicer looking chocolate wafer. They are very dark, nearly black and look more like a real Oreo. All the other recipes I've seen were definitely brown. While I'm sure they still tasted good, they just didn't look as good.

As far as the sugar goes for the wafer, you can use anywhere from 1 to 1 1/2 C. Because the cream filling is quite sweet, I used 1 C of sugar in the cookie. The cookie part of an Oreo really isn't very sweet. If you really have a sweet tooth or are using the wafer for another use, go ahead and add that half cup of sugar back in.

This chocolate wafer recipe is a good one to keep around. Get creative with them. Make ice cream sandwiches, keep some on hand to crush and use as a crust for cheesecake, crumble them for an ice cream topping. And think of the things you can do with the filling. Mint Oreos, anyone? You could easily use a little gel food coloring to dye the centers pink for Valentine's day, or pastel colors for Easter, green for St. Patrick's day... You get the idea. I used clear vanilla extract to keep the filling a nice pure white, but regular vanilla extract would be fine.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Honey Yogurt Wheat Bread

Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts! ~James Beard

I grew up on homemade whole wheat bread. Still to this day one of my favorite things to eat is fresh bread, still warm from the oven, with butter and honey. Mmmmm. But then, the bread cooled and it became dry and crumbly. Not so mmmm. Store bought bread was a treat that I relished. Now that I'm a grown up... well, of an adult age at least... I don't like store bought bread so much anymore. Even the supposed 100% natural stuff still has stabilizers and preservatives to extend the shelf life. I don't want to eat that. So I've been searching for a while for a great 100% whole wheat bread recipe.
Almost all recipes I came across were at best only half wheat. I know that I could use all wheat flour, but then it wouldn't be soft. I also wanted a good, moist bread that didn't have a ton of added oil, butter or eggs. Those do make a nice, soft, moist bread, but it adds a lot of fat and calories that I don't want. I'm not necessarily dieting, but I am striving to make healthier choices in an effort to lose some weight and really just become healthier overall. I had nearly given my quest for the perfect whole wheat bread up as impossible, when I found this wonderful gem of a recipe:
Honey Yogurt Whole Wheat Bread
  • 3 1/2-4 C whole wheat flour
  • 1 packet (2 1/4 tsp) instant or quick-rise yeast
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp vital wheat gluten
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 C warm water (about 110-115 degrees)
  • 3/4 C plain yogurt; regular, non-fat, or Greek
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients. Using the paddle attachment on your stand mixer, or by hand with a large wooden spoon, stir until all ingredients are combined. Cover loosely with plastic wrap for about 5-10 minutes to let rest and allow the gluten to develop.
2. Using the dough hook, knead for 5-10 minutes, adding additional flour or water, 1 Tbsp at a time, to form a soft and moist dough. (not sticky, though)
3. Transfer dough to a large lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place, about 1 hour, til dough has doubled.
4. Shape dough into a loaf. Place in an greased loaf pan, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise again til dough crests about 1" over the pan.
5. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 40-50 minutes. Bread is done if it sounds hollow when thumped, or when internal temperature reads 190 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from pan immediately and cool on a wire rack.

Sorry I don't have a picture for you of this beautiful bread; it hasn't stayed around long enough for me to snap one!
I've made this twice. The first time I actually thought that I had undercooked it, it is that soft and moist. It's a nice and dense bread with a very tender crumb.
If you don't have instant yeast, don't feel like you have to go out and buy some. I used regular active dry yeast and it came out fine. It definitely didn't rise as high as I think it could have, but it was fine. The first time I followed the recipe exactly, mixing all the ingredients together. The second time I proofed the yeast first by dissolving it in the warm water for about 5 minutes before adding the remaining ingredients. It did rise a little bit higher this way, but not much. I don't know how much of a difference using instant yeast might make. Instant yeast doesn't have as much oomph as active dry, so if you use it, be careful not to punch the dough down much when you put it in the pan or it might not rise enough.
I used non-fat plain Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is thicker and creamier than regular plain yogurt. I would imagine that using regular plain yogurt with fat would impart even more moisture to this bread, but I have no complaints with how it turns out using non-fat.
Vital wheat gluten is easily found at any grocery store. It will probably be right next to the yeast. Adding it to your bread dough helps give your bread a higher rise and gives it a bit of togetherness, preventing it from being crumbly.

By the way, this makes amazing French toast.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Chocolate Chip Banana Cookies

These are such delicious cookies! And they're totally healthy because they have banana in them. Really. They have a super soft, almost muffin-like texture. Perhaps I should call them mookies.... I like that.

This is a high altitude recipe that I got from Click here to see the regular recipe if you don't need the high altitude version.

High Altitude Chocolate Chip Banana Mookies
  • 3 1/2 C flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 C unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 C white sugar
  • 1/2 C brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 C mashed ripe banana
  • 2 C chocolate chips
1. Preheat the oven to 375. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.

2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Stir in the vanilla and banana. Add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined (like you would for a muffin batter). Fold in chocolate chips.

3. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake for 11-13 minutes, or until edges are lightly golden. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

To get the greatest banana flavor, use very ripe bananas. 2-3 medium will get you 1 cup of mashed. I love the banana flavor, but I don't like having chunks so I puree my bananas. Make sure you do not make these cookies too big, or your edges will be done but the mookie will be doughy in the middle. A medium sized cookie scoop works well, but you definitely don't want to go any bigger than that.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Lemon-Berry Scones

This is the same basic scone recipe as the Orange Scones, just a little different. I increased the sugar by just a little to counteract the tartness of the berries. I do not like tart flavors. I hope you feel inspired to try different flavors. I'd love to hear about it if you do!

2 C all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

4 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

3 Tbsp sugar

Zest of 2 lemons

1/2 C half-and-half or milk

1 large egg

1 C frozen berries of choice

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Using your hands, rub the butter into the flour mixture, squeezing and pinching until the mixture resembles a course meal and there are no butter lumps bigger than a pea. Add the lemon zest and sugar, and whisk to combine
2. In a small bowl, combing the milk and egg. Whisk or beat with a fork until well combined. Add to flour mixture along with the berries and stir until just combined.
3. Turn dough out and any unincorporated flour onto a board or counter top. Press and gather and gently knead the dough until it just comes together. Be very careful not to overwork the dough or the scones will turn out tough and chewy.
4. As soon as the dough holds together, pat it into a circle about 1" thick. It doesn't need to look perfect. Cut into 8 wedges. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment.
5. Bake at 425 for 10-14 minutes or until lightly golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Frozen berries really work the best in this recipe. I used a mixture of blueberries and raspberries because that's what I had, but I'm not much of a blueberry fan. These are absolutely amazing when still warm from the oven. If you need to reheat them it's best done at 300 in the oven, but I'm too lazy and impatient for that so I just do it in the microwave.

I've made these with half-and-half and with 1% milk, and I truly don't notice a difference in taste or texture... but then I don't exactly have a very refined palate. So if you're looking to cut calories, use milk.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tortellini Primavera

This dish is so good and creamy and hearty and easy and light. That's right. I said light.

Tortellini Primavera
  • 1 pkg (19oz) frozen cheese tortellini
  • 1/2 lb sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 small onion, chopped or thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp butter
  • 2/3 C skim milk
  • 1 pkg (8oz) fat-free or reduced fat cream cheese, cubed
  • 1 pkg (10oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 1/4 C shredded Parmesan cheese

1. Cook tortellini according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray, saute the mushrooms, onion and garlic in butter until tender. Stir in milk; heat through. Stir in cream cheese until blended. Add spinach and Italian seasoning; heat through.

2. Drain the tortellini; toss with the sauce and tomato. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

So, I've made this a couple times and haven't ever followed the recipe exactly. Here's what I did and why:

I hate mushrooms, so I leave them out. Nasty. I think this would be really delicious with tomato, but tomatoes at this time of year are gross. A dish like this is so adaptable. I like to use a red bell pepper. I've used edamame. Frozen peas would be good. Asparagus would be fantastic. I also don't use a 10oz box of spinach. I think it would overwhelm the dish with spinachyness. In fact, for pretty much any recipe I don't use the 10oz box of spinach, it's just too much. I buy frozen chopped spinach in a bag, then just toss in a handful or two.

I have yet to find a good frozen tortellini. Frankly, of all the kinds I've tried, which isn't really that many, I like the dried kind from Bertolli the best that's found in the pasta aisle instead of the freezer. Someday I want to make my own, but I don't have a pasta roller and I don't know if I'm up to the challenge of rolling pasta dough thin enough by hand. If you really want to cut calories, use regular pasta instead of tortellini. I think farfalle or fusilli would be perfect. I think part of my problem with the frozen tortellini is that I don't like white pasta anymore. I've grown accustomed to whole grain, and now I prefer it. Which is probably a good thing because I adore pasta and eat way too much of it.

You could add some grilled chicken, but really, it's so good and hearty, that I really don't miss having meat in it. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


  • 1 package active dry yeast (1/4oz or 2 1/2 tsp)

  • 5 C all-purpose flour, plus additional for kneading

  • 1/4 C plus 3 Tbsp olive oil

  • 2 1/2 tsp table salt

  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary

  • 1 Tsp course salt, such as sea salt or kosher salt

1. Stir together 1 2/3 C lukewarm water and the yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

2. Add the flour, 1/4 C of the oil, and the table salt, and beat with the paddle attachment at medium speed until a dough forms. Replace the paddle with the dough hook and knead at low speed until the dough is soft, smooth, and sticky, about 3-4 minutes.

3. Lightly oil a large bowl. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead in 1-2 Tbsp more flour. Knead the dough 1 more minute-it will still be slightly sticky- then transfer to the bowl and turn the dough to coat it with the oil. Let rise, covered with plastic wrap at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

4. Generously oil a 15"x10" baking pan. Press the dough evenly into the pan and cover it completely with a damp kitchen towel. Let the dough rise in a war corner of the room until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

5. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 425. Stir together the rosemary and remaining 3 Tbsp of olive oil. Make shallow indentations all over the dough with your fingertips, then brush with the rosemary oil, letting it pool in the indentations. Sprinkle salt evenly over the focaccia and bake in the middle of the oven until golden, 20-25 minutes.

6. Immediately remove from the pan and place on a rack to cool.

I got this recipe from the book Confections of a Closet Master Baker by Gesine Bullock-Prado (yes, she's Sandra Bullock's sister). It was by far the best food memoir I've read to date. I highly recommend it, and I can't wait to try more recipes from it.

It's really good focaccia; as good, if not better, than what you get in an Italian restaurant. I may have lost count when measuring the flour and added an extra cup because it definitely wasn't a sticky dough for me, but it seemed to turn out fine. I've got some ideas for a bit of flavor modification such as mixing the rosemary into the dough or using a different herb, adding some thinly sliced red onion or roasted garlic. I liked it the next day warmed in the microwave, it got really chewy.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Pull-Apart Orange Rolls

Oh. My. Gosh. These are so good! Hubby and I cannot stop eating them! I guess I should say couldn't stop eating them... they're gone now. Our 3 year old likes them too, but he usually stops after he's eaten the icing off the top. I've had rolls like this before, and these really are pretty similar, but I must say these are so much better. I think the difference comes from the fact that there is a little bit of orange in the dough itself, and from using fresh zest instead of the dried stuff from the spice aisle. This is Martha Stewart's recipe. I made no changes, but have a few ideas in my head I want to try. More on that when I actually do it. (think like cinnamon rolls. with chocolate)

Pull-Apart Orange Rolls
  • 2 envelopes yeast

  • 1/4 C warm water mixed with a pinch of sugar

  • 1 C scalded milk, cooled slightly

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1/4 C sugar

  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

  • Finely grated zest and juice of 2 oranges

  • 1/4 vegetable shortening

  • 3 1/2 C flour

  • 2 1/2 C powdered sugar

  • 5 Tbsp melted unsalted butter

1. In a mixing bowl, sprinkle yeast over sugar water; let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add milk, eggs, sugar, salt, half the zest, and shortening. Slowly add flour, mixing until combined. Knead until shiny and elastic, 3-5 minutes. Place in an oiled bowl; cover with plastic. Let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/4 hours.

2. Make filling: In a small bowl, mix remaining zest, 1/2 C powdered sugar, and melted butter. On a well-floured work surface, gently knead dough 2-4 times to release air pockets. Roll out dough to an 18"x14" rectangle. Brush some of the filling over bottom half; fold to enclose. Brush half with filling, and fold again to enclose. Let rest about 5 minutes.

3. Roll out dough again to a 16"x10" rectangle. Brush half with remaining filling and fold. Cut into small squares, about 2 inches. Spray muffin tins with non-stick spray, and place squares in cups, layers facing up. Let rise till almost doubled in bulk, 12-15 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 350 while rolls are rising. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes. Cool in tins for 1 minute, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

5. Make a thick icing by whisking together remaining 2 C powdered sugar and the juice from the oranges. You might not use it all, you might need to add a little more if you've got it, or just use water. Drizzle over cooled rolls. Yield: about 24. Try not to eat them all in one day.

I didn't even use half of the icing, so next time I will only use 1 C of powdered sugar and see how that goes. I guess if you like a lot of icing make the 2 C, but one of the best things about these is that they are not super sweet.


I remember the first time I ate an avocado. It was at my aunt and uncle's house in Rigby, Idaho. I was about 13 or 14. My aunt split it in half and gave me a spoon to scoop it right out of the shell. It was over-ripe and disgusting. I don't remember when I tried again, I know it was as an adult, but avocados are now one of my favorite foods. Mildly nutty, creamy... I'm drooling as a I type. My husband and I love guacamole. During the summer we make it a couple times a week to snack on while watching a Rockies game.
When it comes to guacamole, I am a bit of a minimalist. Too many people ruin the beautiful taste of the avocado by putting too much crap in it; sour cream or cream cheese, jalapeno, tomato, then they puree it to death. It should still be a little chunky. Sometimes I will put a little finely diced onion or tomato it, or maybe a little cilantro, but not very often. Here's my recipe:

  • 3-4 ripe avocados
  • 1-2 tsp lime juice
  • 2-3 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
Slice avocados in half and scoop flesh out into a medium bowl, discarding the pit. Lightly mash avocados with a potato masher. Add remaining ingredients and stir gently to combine. If desired, cover with plastic, pushing plastic all the way down to rest right on the guacamole and squishing out any air, and leave at room temperature for an hour or two to allow the flavors to blend.

The variances in the seasoning ingredients is because avocados are different sizes and will depend on how many you use. Start with the smaller amounts first, and then add more if needed. If you're just going to be using it as a dip for chips, you may want to decrease the amount of salt since the chips will lend their saltiness to the guacamole. The lime juice not only adds flavor, but helps protect against browning. A trick I discovered one night after adding too much lime juice, (I don't often measure) add more cumin. It covers up the overpowering lime flavor, but doesn't add an overpowering cumin flavor. Browning doesn't affect the flavor, but it looks a little like... never mind. It's just gross. If you have leftovers, (we rarely do) rather than store in an air tight container, cover with plastic, pushing the plastic all the way down on top of the guacamole so that there is no air left.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Quinoa Salad

  • 2 C uncooked quinoa

  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced

  • 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced

  • 1/3-1/2 C diced red onion

  • 1/2 -1 C fresh cilantro, chopped

  • 1/4 C olive oil

  • 1/4 C lemon juice

  • 1-2 Tbsp ground cumin

  • 1-2 tsp salt, or to taste

  • 6 oz feta cheese

1. Cook quinoa according to package directions. Chill completely.
2. Combine veggies & cilantro with quinoa in a large bowl.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, cumin and salt. Pour over quinoa, add feta and toss to coat.
4. Devour!

I could eat this salad nearly every day. I first heard of quinoa a few years ago, but never tried it till this summer. Quinoa is and ancient grain (well, technically a seed) eaten by the Incas. It is highly nutricious, gluten-free, high in fiber, and a complete protein. And have I mention it's delicious?

The seeds are naturally covered with saponins which are very bitter. Most packaged quinoa is pre-rinsed, but if you buy it in bulk you'll need to give it a good rinsing to get all that nasty stuff off. You can either put it in a fine mesh strainer-the quinoa seeds are very small-and run cold water over them while swishing it aroud, or place the quinoa in a large bowl, cover with water and let it sit for an hour or so. The water will become very cloudy. Carefully drain the water off and refill with clean water, drain, and repeat a few times till the water remains fairly clear. It's a bit of a pain, but it's better than havin inedible quinoa. Don't be turned off by the way it smells while it's cooking, it's a little stinky. It tastes way better than it smells. Very mild, slightly nutty.

Quinoa is a bit expensive. Buying it in bulk at a health food store will probably be your cheapest bet, but here it is actually cheapest at Costco, a 4 lb bag is only about $9.50, and it's the pre-rinsed kind.

Quinoa is really versatile. Add it to soup, or use it in pretty much any recipe that calls for rice. Make a basic salad like this but create your own dressing. Add some to a regular lettuce salad. Throw a little bit (cooked) into your muffin batter to boost the nutrition. Get creative, go crazy. It's some pretty good stuff.