Tuesday, September 30, 2008

TWD: Creme Brulee

This week with Tuesday's With Dorie, Mari from Mevrouw Cupcake selected Creme Brulee and my husband was thrilled. Creme Brulee is one of his favorite desserts. I, however, have not been a huge fan.

That may be changing as a result of this recipe, which I found to be quite tasty. This version was smooth, creamy and vanilla-y and not at all like the stiffer versions I have tried in several restaurants. Mr. Gooch was both impressed at the results and looking forward to his next serving.

Logistically, the ingredients came together quickly and easily, and the directions were clear and easy to follow. Here are my little brulees ready to go into the oven.

My only problem with it was the cooking time. It needed to cook for much longer than the 50-60 minutes in the directions. I am not even sure how long it look as I stopped keeping track after 80 minutes.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Blueberry Muffins and Strawberry Minibreads

The last two items included in the September Baking Extravaganza gift bags for Mr. Gooch's mother and grandmother were blueberry muffins and strawberry mini breads. After realizing that I wasn't going to be able to make my usual favorite version since I didn't have enough plain yogurt in the fridge, I went searching for another version.

I found this recipe from Made With Love. In her version she used raspberries, the recipe called for blueberries so I figured I would be OK also using strawberries. Turns out I was right.

For the muffins, I followed the recipe closely but added more fruit.

For the strawberry mini breads, I substituted strawberries, put the batter into 4 mini-loaf pans and baked until the center
tested done with a toothpick, about 30 minutes.

Maxine's Blueberry Muffins
2 cups AP flour

1 cu
p sugar
1 Tblsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup milk

1/2 cup melted butter (1 stick)

1 beaten eggs

1 cup blueberries (or strawberries)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Mix dry ingredients together in large bowl

Then add milk, melted butter and the beaten eggs.

Mix just until all is incorporated, be sure not overmix!!

Gently stir in the berries.

Pour into lined or sprayed muffin tins, sprinkle tops with coarse pearl sugar

Bake for approximately 20 minutes,or until golden brown and center tests done with a toothpick.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies - A Husband Pleaser

Mr. Gooch loves the oatmeal raisin cookie. I, on the other hand, am indifferent. They are good, but I would not cross the street to get them.

However, as part of September Baking Madness, I decided to make Mr. Gooch (and his mom and grandma) his favorite cookie.

Not sure which recipe would be best, I went with the recipe developed by the people that make the oats. The Quaker Oats Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookie.

Mr. Gooch declared the cookies "delicious!" That is good enough for me to keep this in the recipe book for the next 50 years.

Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

1/2 pound (2 sticks) margarine or butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional) [I included the salt]
3 cups Quaker® Oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked) [I used quick oats]
1 cup raisins [I used yellow raisins]

Heat oven to 350°F.

In large bowl, beat margarine and sugars until creamy.

Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.

Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well.

Add oats and raisins; mix well.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until light golden brown.

Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to wire rack.

Cool completely. Store tightly covered.

Tollhouse Cookies - Always a Favorite

Anther crowd pleaser in the cookie repertoire is the Tollhouse Cookie. Made even more famous (if that is possible) by the Friends episode where Phoebe is trying to figure out her family's chocolate chip recipe by Neslay Tolloouse. Makes me giggle each time I think about that episode.

Tollhouse Cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels

PREHEAT oven to 375° F.

COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl.

Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Gradually beat in flour mixture.

Stir in morsels and nuts.

Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely

Triple Ginger Cookies - A Hit!

I have a hit on my hands, thanks to the Triple Ginger Cookies from Cookies on Friday. After baking these and giving some to my Mother-in-Law and Grandmother-in-Law, I have been commanded to bring these cookies to all holiday gatherings. Having sampled them myself, I have to agree. These cookies will be a welcome addition to the dessert selections for years to come.

Just as she recommended, I used shortening as instructed by the recipe and made only one minor substitution. I used washed raw cane sugar instead of the orange sanding sugar called for in her version. I was able to use my mixer for the entire process but did listen for straining of the motor just in case.

I ended up baking only about 2 dozen cookies from this batch. I rolled, sugared and froze the rest for baking a few at a time in the future.

Triple Ginger Cookies

4-1/2 cups flour
4 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups shortening
2 cups sugar
½ cup molasses
¼ cup candied/crystallized ginger, finely diced
1 teaspoon gingerroot, grated on a microplane
¾ cup washed raw cane sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt.

In the bowl of a mixer, mix the shortening until smooth. Add the sugar and beat until fluffy. Add the eggs and the molasses, mixing until combined.

Stir in about half of the flour mixture and then mix in the candied ginger and the gingerroot.

Add the rest of the flour mixture. You may need to mix in the last bit of flour by hand, as the dough can be too much for most mixers.

Form the dough into 1 inch balls and roll in the cane sugar.

Bake for 11-12 minutes. Cookies will be puffy and perhaps look slightly undone.

Cool 2 minutes on the baking sheet before removing to a wire rack to cool.

Blueberry Scone Goodness

I have never made scones. That being said, I have always loved a good scone with a cup of coffee.

So when Joelen of Joelen's Culinary Adventures posted a scone recipe with a million possible iterations, I knew that I had to try my hand.

I made a blueberry version with while wheat flour and the addition of some flax seed meal (which adds just a bit of nuttiness and healthy omega-3 oils).

My version is below.

Blueberry Scones

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons flax seed meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons butter
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2-3/4 cup blueberries

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. Place the flour, baking powder, sugar, flax seed meal and salt in a large bowl. Whisk together.

3. Using a pastry blender or your fingertips, quickly cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal with a few slightly larger butter lumps.

4. Stir in the heavy cream with a rubber spatula or fork until the dough begins to form, about 30 seconds.

5. Add blueberries and gently fold into the dough so that everything is evenly distributed throughout.

6. Gather the dough and all dry flour bits and press the dough into an 8 inch cake pan, then turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. With a sharp knife or bench scraper, cut the dough into 8 wedges.

7. Bake until the scone tops are light brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Garden Tomatoes = Homemade Pizza Sauce

I have a bit of a like and hate relationship with the tomato. I am just not a big fan. Not sure what the problem is. Is it the slippery seeds? Is it the "jiggliness" when you cut one open? Is it the variety of textures in one single tomato? It could be all of these things.

But this home made pizza sauce is helping to change my opinion. Made with a variety of tomatoes from my neighbor's plants, it was easy as (pizza) pie to make. You just put it on the stove, stir from time to time and just go about your other stuff around the house.

It did take forever to reduce but it made enough to fill 5 small containers that should make about 2 thin crust pizzas per container.

I created the recipe below by combining several recipes for homemade pizza sauce from allrecipes.com. My version is below.

Homemade Pizza Sauce

3 Cloves Garlic, Pressed
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
4 Lbs of tomatoes, pureed
6 Oz. can Tomato Paste (the kind I got had Italian Spices)
2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
1 Tablespoon Italian Seasoning
1 Teaspoon Dried Basil
1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
3/4 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

In a large saucepan, saute garlic in oil until tender.

Add all other ingredients, stir to combine and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to simmer uncovered until desired thickness is reached.

Menu Plan Monday - Back on the Wagon

After skipping the menu plan last week, we are back on the wagon. Not having a plan just didn't work for us and we ended up ordering take out WAY too much.

So this week's menu is

Sunday - Falafel with yogurt dill sauce and pitas
Monday - Taco Bake (made in advance and frozen)
Tuesday - Homemade pizza (with home made dough and sauce)
Wednesday - Skillet chicken
Thursday - I have an evening event so husband is on his own
Friday - Marinated Salmon on the Grill
Saturday - Steaks (preparation TBD)

Sides will be either rice or potatoes, a veggie and salad served at each meal.

Let's hope this helps us be better on track.

Visit orgjunkie.com to see what others are planning for this week for their menu plans.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Baking for Family: Going Overboard

Mr. Gooch and I are heading out to see his grandmother and mother today.

I thought it would be nice to bake some treats for the two of them since Grandma is in Assisted Living and does not have the opportunity to bake and his mom has long days with an awful commute.

Once I got started baking I could not stop so I think I may have gone overboard.

The gift bags contain

  1. Triple Ginger Cookies
  2. Tollhouse Cookies
  3. Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
  4. Blueberry Muffins
  5. Blueberry Scones
  6. Strawberry Mini Quick Breads
All can be frozen so maybe it isn't that much.

And my house has smelled amazing for the last 36 hours from all the baking. Look for the recipes and reviews in the next few days.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

And Here We Go...House Goes on the Market on Monday

After 2 weeks of almost constant work, we are finally going on the market Monday afternoon. I cannot believe it.

Our list of projects seemed endless. We have repainted the front porch and steps, back porch and steps, basement stairs, corner of the basement, gotten new furniture in the living room, created a work out area in the basement, moved a bunch of furniture around, stained the deck, freshened the landscaping in the front and back yards, decluttered and brought tons of stuff to the storage unit. Even with all this, we still have some of the final details to finish up in the next 4 days.

So the current plan is that on Monday morning, our real estate agent is having the other agents from her office come through to check the place out. Then later in the week is the broker's open house. Hopefully (keeping fingers crossed) we will sell within 3 months.

Below are photos of the house and the park across the street. What do you think? Any changes you see that we might want to make quickly and easily?

Front of House Front Porch with Swing
Half Bath on Main Floor
Living Room
Dining Room
2nd floor landing/hallway

Master BedroomGuest Room
StudyFull Bath Upstairs
Back Yard Park Across the street

Apricot Peach-Honey Dijon Glazed Chicken

This evening I modified a recipe for Apricot-Dijon Glazed Chicken from Martha Stewart Living Annual Recipes 2004. I love Martha but some of her recipes are quite involved so I was thrilled to find one that was so easy and had so few ingredients.

In my modified version, almost every ingredient was changed. The original recipe calls for apricot jam (substituted no sugar added apricot peach jam), Dijon mustard (substituted honey Dijon since that is what I had) and chicken thighs (substituted chicken breasts). On the plus side, the instructions stayed the same. The modified recipe is below.

It turned out quite nicely paired with rice made with chicken broth (instead of water) and a salad. I think this will have to be added to the rotation.

Apricot Peach-Honey Dijon Glazed Chicken
2 skinless boneless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
1 jar (mine was 9 oz.) of no sugar added apricot peach jam
2 Tablespoons of Honey Dijon Mustard
2 Tablespoons of Honey


Preheat Oven to 425. Wash and dry chicken breasts then place in a baking dish. Season with salt and pepper.

In a small sauce pan, combine jam, honey and mustard over medium high heat. Once simmering, lower heat to medium low and cook until sauce is thickened and reduced by about 50 percent.

Spread mixture evenly over breasts.

Bake in oven basting with sauce from bottom of the dish about every 10 minutes or so to keep the meat moist until juices run clear when pricked with fork (usually about 30 minutes).

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Martha Stewart: Looking for Bloggers

Martha Stewart will be highlighting everyday bloggers on The Martha Blog in the future.

How do you get considered? You leave a comment on her post making sure to link your blog. Click here to get to the post.

Will you be one of the ones featured? Make sure to link your blog.

Do you know of anyone that should sign up for consideration? Let them know about this opportunity. I know of several I would recommend for inclusion.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

TWD: Dimply Plum Cake

This week on Tuesday's with Dorie Dimply Plum Cake, selected by Michelle of Bake-en, is the highlighted recipe. Found on page 41 of Baking: From My Home to Yours, this is an easy and tasty cake.
I am a fan of the plum, though this is the first time I have baked with them. I usually just eat them. I also have never had a prune plum in it's unshriveled version. So this recipe has a few firsts for me.

The ingredients were all currently in my cupboard or fridge (with the exception of the plums).

The steps were very easy to follow.

The only differences in my version of the recipe were I deleted the cardomon and used a round pan since I couldn't find my square pan. As a result of this modification, I placed my plums in a circular pattern.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Tasty Tools: Bakeware - Mini Muffin Pan and Brownie Bites

Another in Joelen's ongoing Culinary Adventures is Tasty Tools: Bakeware. I chose my new mini muffin pan to make brownie muffin bites. I have been coveting a mini muffin pan for some time now, but have held off since space is at a premium in our tiny kitchen. But I was recently at Bed Bath & Beyond and what did I spy on an endcap? A mini muffin pan. It was a sign so I placed it in my shopping cart.
As for the recipe for this Adventure, I love chocolate. I love baking. I live mini anything. The brownie muffin bite is a way to combine all of these into a tasty treat.

Aren't they too cute? They are just the perfect amount of chocolate for a quick snack. To make sure I don't eat them all in one sitting, most are going into the freezer to be thawed one at a time.

Brownie Muffins

3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon [omitted]
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup cocoa
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup sugar
2-3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional) [omitted]
chocolate chips and chopped nuts (to garnish) [omitted nuts]

Preheat oven to 350.
In a bowl combine flour, baking powder, and cinnamon. Set aside.
In a small pot melt butter over low heat.
Add chocolate chips and cocoa while stirring constantly.
Remove from heat when chocolate chips are just about melted.
In a large bowl combine eggs, sugar, and vanilla.
Add in flour mixture and chocolate mixture alternately stirring just until blended.
Spoon into well greased muffin tin or paper cups that have been lightly sprayed with oil. (muffins tend to stick).
Sprinkle muffins with chocolate chips.
Bake for 12-14 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Happiness is A New Apron for Cheap!!

Happiness is a new apron. OK, in reality happiness would be something involving chocolate but chocolate and an hot iron do not mix.

I was perusing the One Pretty Thing site and came across the easiest instructions for an apron on the blog modobject. Even I, unable to sew a straight line, was able to create a cute new apron from a pillowcase from my closet, ribbon from the $1 bin at Michael's and the iron-on adhesive for less than $3.

I took a pillowcase that had a plaid on it (allowing me to easily line up the ribbons). Due to the width of the ribbon, I attached 2 to the apron.

I ironed on the adhesive according to directions, then attached the ribbon.

It was so easy.

And ended up with a darn cute apron at the end. I think I will be making more of these pillowcase aprons. Think florals would be nice?

Easy No Sew Pillows

As part of the staging of our living room, I needed to create some colorful pillows to break up the neutralness (is that a word?) of the walls and the furniture.

I had purchased a number of large napkins several years ago from the Crate & Barrel Outlet with the intent of making pillows. But the hitch in my giddy up, so to speak, was the fact that I don't own a sewing machine. I did end of making three pillows stitching them by hand and it took me days so I resolved to never do that again.

Fast forward about three years and I am again in the situation of needing to make pillows. Seven pillows to be exact. However, this time I am armed with much better tools: my handy dandy iron and iron-on adhesive. Not a needle or thread in sight.

The steps are very easy and the main thing it to be patient on the step of bonding the two pieces of fabric together. I had to "re-iron" several sides when they didn't totally adhere to each other.

For this project you will need
at least 2 napkins (washed, dried and ironed)
iron-on adhesive
iron-on hook and loop tape (aka velcro)
iron and ironing board

Step one: Measure the washed, dried and ironed napkins to make sure you get the right size pillow. I wanted to have a flap around the edge of my pillows, so I purchased 18x18 inch pillows for a 21x21 inch napkin.

Step two: Apply the iron on adhesive to 3 edges of the wrong side of one napkin

Step three: Apply hook and loop tape (cut according to directions) to the 4th edge of the napkin.
Step four: Lay second napkin, wrong sides together and iron according to directions to "seal" the napkins together.

Step five: Carefully separate hook and look tape side and insert pillow. You now have a fab new accessory for your living/family/bed room

I think that the room looks quite nice, don't you?

Moving On - The Basement

As you know, we are putting our house on the market. And as any HGTV viewer knows, this means tackling all those home improvement projects you have been putting off.

For us, this means resealing the corner of our basement. At some point, a previous owner put up some shelves. The nails holding that up put cracks in the masonry, letting moisture seep in. So we needed to seal the cracks and reseal.

This was a pretty time consuming project that took 2 days.

Saturday, we went to the store to get all the supplies. Then it was down to the basement to scrape off all the loose sealer previously applied with a wire brush. This was dirty work and made me sneeze like crazy. Once that part was done, I mixed the Fastlok, a concrete like epoxy, to the spots that looked like they were allowing water to seep through. I didn't realize how quickly the mixture was going to setup so had to work quickly. The patches dried over night.

This morning we got up and began applying the masonry sealer. This had the consistency of plaster and we made quite a mess. This afternoon we put on coat number two. At this point I remembered that I should be taking photos.

This evening the final coat of paint went up. Sherwin Williams Lightening Bug. Not out choice but this is what the other walls of the basment are painted.

I touched up the grey paint along the edge of the floor and now I think it looks pretty darn good.

Now onto the pillows in the living room.


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