December 30, 2008

Spoon Cornbread

Since everyone seems to be snowed in and cold (except for my parents - ya, ya, I know it's warm and sunny and I never should have moved above the Mason-Dixon line. I get it.). I thought I would share with ya'll my perfect accompaniment to the soup that we will all be inevitably making. This is like an amped-up version of cornbread. It's quick and easy, and doesn't even require you to pull out a whisk.

It's starts with good ol' Jiffy mix, then you add creamed and regular corn. There's also some sour cream in there to keep the bread nice and moist. I often make this in muffin tins and freeze any extra muffins. They freeze beautifully and will make even a canned soup night seem homey. If you like sweeter cornbread vs. the kind with some heat, this is for you.

I hope everyone has a wonderful and safe New Years! We are off to Canada for a few days, so assuming I don't become a popsicle while we are there, I will see you all in 2009!

Spoon Cornbread
1 Dozen Muffins

1 package Jiffy Corn Muffin mix (8 1/2-oz.)
appx. 10-oz. Canned Creamed Corn
appx. 10-oz. Canned Kernel Corn, drained
1 cup Sour Cream
2 Eggs
1 stick of Butter, melted
  • Preheat oven to 350℉.
  • Mix all ingredients together using a spoon.
  • Spray muffin tine with a little Pam, and pour in mixture.
  • Bake for appx. 35 minutes, or until tops are golden brown, edges are darkened, and an inserted toothpick comes out clean (if baking in a rectangular pan, bake time will increase to about 1 hour).

December 23, 2008

Panettone Bread Pudding

You know how sometimes you are introduced to something new, and then you see it just everywhere and wonder how you went so long without knowing it even existed? This is my experience with Panettone. Panettone is a beautiful Italian cake that I've seen many people blog about and is all over the grocery stores and bakeries, but up until about a month ago I didn't even know there was such a thing. 

It really caught my attention when I saw Ina making this bread pudding with it on the Food Network. I've never really been a big bread pudding fan, but Brad and I had just recently had an amazing version at a local Mexican restaurant, so I guess I was in the mood.

It is delicious!! The almond and vanilla extracts give it an amazingly rich flavor. It made me immediately think of amaretto. It also looks beautiful with the little pieces of dried fruit and makes enough for the whole family. This would be the perfect ending to a holiday meal. We ate it after it had been out of the oven for about 30 minutes, so it was still warm, with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. I'm using every once of self control trying to restrain myself from running to the fridge and stealing a little bit more!

I hope you and your family and friends have a wonderful and safe holiday. See you in the New Year!!

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa  - Ina Garten

1 Italian Panettone, brown outer crust removed
Unsalted Butter, for greasing the dish
3 extra-large Eggs
8 extra-large Egg Yolks
5 cups Half-and-Half
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 tsp Almond Extract
1/3 cup Sliced Almonds
  • Preheat oven to 350℉.
  • Cut Panettone into 1-inch cubes and spread out on a baking sheet.
  • Toast cubes for about 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.
  • Grease a 9x13 in. baking dish with the butter, and place bread cubes inside.
  • Whisk together the whole eggs, egg yolks, half-and-half, vanilla and almond extracts and sugar.
  • Pour mixture over bread and allow to soak for 10 minutes.
  • Scatter almonds on top.
  • Place baking dish inside a larger dish.
  • Fill larger dish with hot tap water until it comes about halfway up baking dish.
  • Cover the entire thing with aluminum foil with a few holes cut in it so that it vents.
  • Bake for 45 minutes, being careful not to spill any water into the actual baking dish.
  • Remove aluminum foil and bake for and additional 45 minutes or until light golden brown and the custard is set.
  • Allow to rest for 15 minutes before serving (best warm or room temperature).

December 22, 2008

The Wifesaver

We did our first round of Christmas this past weekend. Brad and I are off to Georgia for the actual day, and then to Toronto for New Year's (family is all over the place!), so we decided to do our gift giving to each other while we were still home. We made a whole day of it - complete with a Christmas-style breakfast and dinner. Which is great for all of ya'll because I have 2 recipes that will be perfect for your holiday. We even spent all day playing with our "toys." I gave Brad that RockBand game, and I swear he stayed up till 3 am playing that sucker.

This first recipe is courtesy of my lovely mother-in-law, Terri. It is aptly named the Wifesaver because it can be conveniently prepared the night before, then baked up the morning of. It takes about an hour to bake, which was the perfect time for us to do some present opening. Even Suki got in on the action!

The casserole is hearty but not overly heavy. It has almost a quiche-like texture, combined with salty ham, sharp cheddar cheese and a crunchy cereal topping (the Special-K topping threw me a bit as well, but it was awesome!). Really delicious. Especially when it's paired with a nice fruit salad and croissants, like we did.

Since Brad and I are going to be spending the actual Christmas day with my family, this will be his first Christmas in 30 years away from his snow-covered home. He had requested that I try and make his mom's recipe as it was one of the things he will miss most about not being there on the actual day. It's funny how food is associated with some of our most cherished memories.

We are packing up here, but in the next day or so I will post the recipe for the most amazing Panettone bread pudding. Yum!

The Wifesaver

16 slices White Bread, crusts removed
1/2 lb. Canadian Back Bacon or Ham, thinly sliced
8 slices Sharp Cheddar Cheese
6 Eggs
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Pepper
1 tsp. Dry Mustard
1/4 cup minced Onion
1/4 cup Green Pepper, finely chopped
1-2 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
3 cups Whole Milk
dash Tabasco
1 stick of Butter, melted
approx. 3 cups Special K cereal 
  • Butter a 9x13 in. glass baking dish.
  • Place 8 pieces of bread on bottom of dish and cover with slices of back bacon.
  • Place cheese slices on top of back bacon, then cover with remaining bread slices.
  • In a bowl, beat eggs, salt, pepper, dry mustard, onion, green pepper, Worcestershire sauce, milk and Tabasco.
  • Pour mixture over bread, cover and let stand overnight.
  • In morning, Pre-heat oven to 350℉.
  • Pour butter over casserole and cover with cereal.
  • Bake, uncovered for 1 hour (casserole will puff up and some of the cereal may fall off, so I'd recommend lining your oven with foil or a baking sheet).
  • Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

December 16, 2008

Vanilla Crescents

On the off chance that your sweet tooth hasn't totally revolted and left for a healthier habitat, here's another one of the Christmas cookies I've been making this year. They are really simple and seem to be a huge hit with everyone. They are sweet and buttery and a great cookie to add to your repertoire. They are especially great because you only need 5 ingredients to make them. Perfect when you have somehow run out of eggs or other fancy ingredients and don't feel like braving the cold to get more.

Personally, I was out of about everything except these five ingredients and there was no chance I was leaving the apartment to run to the grocery. No, the weather in NYC was a balmy 53℉ yesterday, so it wasn't the cold. Let's just say although living 3 blocks from Bloomingdales is a blessing most of the year, it is not so fabulous a week before Christmas. Thank-you tourists for visiting our lovely city and helping our local economy, but please, please, don't just stand with you and 10 of your friends in the very middle of a busy sidewalk. If everyone visiting NYC knew they should move to the side and not create a major sidewalk traffic jam, I guarantee the perception of new yorkers would be much sunnier. Ahh - I feel much better having gotten that off my chest. :)

But back to the cookies - although these are very simple to assemble, you have to be extra careful when baking them, because they can get too toasty very quickly. I learned that the hard way when I had to trash my entire first batch. I also think the original recipe is completely off. It called for them to be baked at a higher temperature and for about 10 minutes longer than I ended up ever having to do for a batch. In the recipe below, I've tweaked it to the times that I ended up using. But if you attempt these, check them often and pull them out before they start to brown at all - by that point you will be too far gone. Just check to make sure that they are slightly firm to the touch.

Vanilla Crescents

2 sticks Unsalted Butter, softened
1 cup Confectioners' Sugar, plus more for dusting
1 1/2 tablespoons pure Vanilla Extract
2 1/4 cups AP Flour
pinch of Salt
  • Preheat oven to 325℉; place one rack in the upper 1/3 of the oven, and one in the lower 1/3.
  • In an electric mixer, combine the butter and 1/2 cup confectioners sugar for 5 minutes.
  • Add vanilla, flour and salt just until combined.
  • On a floured surface, spoon out tablespoons of the dough and roll into 3-inch strips. Form the strips into crescent shapes (make sure the ends aren't smaller than the middle or else they will brown quicker).
  • Place cookies on parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 14-16 minutes (switching oven position halfway), or until the bottoms are golden and the tops are pale blond.
  • Allow to cool on racks for 10 minutes.
  • Place remaining 1/2 cup confectioners sugar in a small bowl (adding more as necessary), and roll warm cookies in it to coat.
  • A few minutes later, repeat the sugar rolling process and allow the cookies to cool completely.

December 12, 2008

Mom's Molasses Cookies

I'm finally able to get out of bed and do some holiday baking - Wahoo!! Even though I'm battling the remains of a terrible cold, I'm not letting it keep me down and miss out on my favorite time of year. Plus, over the next few days I'm visiting some of those folks you don't see everyday, like my hair person and the piano tuner. So I'm being a tough girl and baking up some goodies. 

My mom makes these molasses cookies year round, but their spiced quality and pretty icing make them perfect for the holidays. They bake up thin and moist, which makes eating a dozen in one sitting an absolute possibility. The fresh tasting icing is the perfect contrast to the spiced cookie.

There is no rolling and cutting required. My mom uses a little melon baller to scoop out perfectly shaped cookies every time. When the icing has dried they package up nicely as well. I fit about a dozen into these cute little Christmas take-out style boxes that I got from the container store for like a dollar. Talk about a recession-worthy gift!

I'll be sending a slew of these to my friends far away, since my mom always ships them to me. Even after a few days in a box, they come out perfect and taste as fresh as the day they were baked. Happy holiday baking!!

Mom's Molasses Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen

1 1/2 (12 Tlbs) sticks Sweet Butter, melted (if using salted version, omit additional salt)
1 cup granulated Sugar
1/4 cup Molasses (Grandma's Original Molasses recommended)
1 Egg
1 3/4 cup AP Flour
1/2 teaspoon ground Cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground Ginger
1 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/4 cup Lemon Juice
3 cups Powdered Sugar
  • Preheat oven to 350℉ and line 2 baking sheets with foil.
  • Thoroughly mix together melted butter, sugar and molasses.
  • Lightly beat egg and add to the mixture; blend well.
  • Sift flour with spices, salt and baking soda, and add to mixture (batter will be wet).
  • Drop tablespoons of cookie batter on foil, leaving approx. 3 inches between cookies.
  • Bake just until they begin to darken; about 8-10 minutes.
  • Transfer cookies to cooling rack.
  • Using mixer, whisk together lemon juice and powdered sugar until a glossy icing is formed (may need more or less lemon juice, so add gradually).
  • When cookies have cooled completely, cover in icing; let dry on racks.

December 9, 2008

Baked Potato Soup for the Soul

For the past few days I have been feeling a bit under the weather. It started like the usual, somewhat manageable, seasonal cold that I always get when it becomes chilly out. But after running outside in the snow for a few hours on Sunday morning at the GOTR event, my little cold has turned into a full fledged can't-get-out-of-bed illness. Yuck!

Naturally I'm in no mood to really eat anything, let alone cook something. As cooking something would mean standing up, which is not exactly feasible at the moment. Luckily I made a huge pot of this soup a few days ago and we are now surviving on the leftovers. Baked potato soup is always delicious, but especially so when you aren't feeling so hot. I actually made this recipe for the first time when I had just started college. I remember it so well because it was one of my first attempts at cooking something more complex than mac and cheese. Needless to say it was a total disaster because I neglected to stir it while it was cooking and the whole bottom half of the soup burnt to the pot. Lesson learned - thou shalt stir soup (duh!).

The soup is thick, rich and filling. I can also vouch that it makes awesome leftovers. Potatoes, cheese and bacon - need I say more?

Baked Potato Soup

4 Baking Potatoes
2/3 cups AP Flour
6 cups Milk (I used skim)
1 cup Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
1 cup Reduced Fat Sour Cream
3/4 cup Green Onions, chopped
6 Bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
  • Preheat oven to 400℉.
  • Scrub potatoes and pierce each with fork.
  • Bake potatoes in oven for 1 hour or until tender.
  • Cut potatoes into chunks and send through a food mill with the coarse attachment (no need to peel), or peel and coarsely mash by hand.
  • Place flour in a large dutch oven and gradually whisk in milk.
  • Cook over medium heat until thick and bubbly (about 8 minutes).
  • Add mashed potatoes, 3/4 cup of cheese and salt and pepper to taste (the recipe called for only 1 teaspoon of salt, but I ended up adding about 3 teaspoons total), stirring until cheese melts.
  • Stir in sour cream and 1/2 cup green onions and cook over low heat for 10 minutes (do not boil), or until thoroughly heated.
  • Serve each individual serving with additional cheese, onions and bacon.

December 5, 2008

Sugar Cookie Fun

For the past few months I've been volunteering as an assistant coach for a non-profit organization called Girls on the Run (GOTR). GOTR essentially partners with local schools and sets up after school running programs for young girls. They are taught about having a healthy body image, working as a team, being a good sport, etc., all while training to run a 1.5 mile or 5K race at the end of the season. The girls I work with are between 3rd and 5th grade, so it's amazing to see girls training for such an amazing feat. I can't even fathom running 3 miles when I was that young!

The girls' big race is this coming Sunday, so all the coaches are putting together a bit of a party for them. I decided to bake sugar cookies and decorate them with all their names and some other cutsey designs. This is one of my first forays into baking cookies from scratch, and the first round did not go over so well. Making the dough was super easy, but after it chilled rolling it out was a nightmare. The dough kept cracking and wouldn't roll, and then when it heated up just enough to get rolled out, it would be to gooey to actually cut out cute shapes with the cookie cutters.

For the second round I decided to go the slice and bake way and roll them in some pink and white sugar. This was SO much easier, and they turned out just perfect. I think I might do these in red and green sugar (or blue and white) for the holidays. And who doesn't love decorating sugar cookies! We use to do it as kids and I guess I haven't outgrown it.

I'm off to our final practice today and to hand out the cute cookies. Hopefully the girls will like them!

Slice-and-Bake Sparkling Sugar Cookies
Adapted from Blueprint Magazine (which is no longer in print...)

1 cup Unsalted Butter
1 cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 large Egg
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
3 cups AP Flour

For Dough:
  • In an electric mixer, cream butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy.
  • Add egg and mix until combined.
  • Add vanilla.
  • Add flour slowly, and only mix until incorporated.
  • Divide dough in half and place on waxed or parchment paper.
  • Using the paper, roll dough into a 2-inch wide log.
  • Unwrap from paper and roll in desired sugar color (you could also do nuts).
  • Wrap back in paper and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (or up to 2 days).
To Bake:
  • Pre-heat oven to 350℉.
  • Slice dough into 1/4 inch disks and place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Bake for 7-12 minutes, or just until edges begin to brown.
  • Let cookies cool on the sheet.
  • Decorate! (cookies will keep for about a week in an airtight container).

December 1, 2008

For those of us who can't eat anymore turkey...

I don't know about ya'll, but I can't fit another bite of turkey, ham or potatoes into my mouth. We've eaten nothing but leftovers for days, and I find myself having cravings for something simple and healthy, like a salad -- I'm craving salad, something must really be wrong with me!! Thank goodness there is a month between Christmas and Thanksgiving. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving, with my mom and Magga doing all the cooking for both my side and my husband's side of the family. No small feat - especially since all 12 of us (and 3 dogs) stayed under one roof!

Now that we are back home (we were in GA for all the festivities), and want nothing to do with anything heavy and rich, we will be eating lots of this soup. It's my husband's grandma's recipe for miso soup and it is soooo good! It's very satisfying and comforting, but is still light and healthy, which is exactly what we need for our turkey day detox.

We are lucky enough to live right around the corner from a Japanese grocery store (Katagiri), so we were able to find the exact ingredients that hubby's grandma recommended. Although we have no clue what they say since all the writing is in Japanese, she showed us the boxes and we just went and got the same one. So that is what I will do for you too... Miso is on the left and Dashi on the right.

Usually when we make this soup it's very flexible with no real specifications on how much to add of what. We tried to give exact estimates of what you should add, but know that you really can eyeball when making this and don't bother getting out the measuring tools. Add as much tofu, mushrooms and green onion as you prefer.

Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday and stayed far, far away from any malls! :)

Miso Soup
Courtesy of Bachan

2/3 cup White Miso (Amano Shiro Miso, Organic - recommended)
6-8 Shitake Mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
1 packet of Dashi 
6-8 ounces of Firm Tofu, cut into small cubes
White Rice**
Green Onions, thinly sliced
  • Place miso into a medium sized pot.
  • Add just enough water to cover miso.
  • Cook over medium heat, and stir until paste is dissolved and there are no clumps.
  • Add sliced shitakes.
  • Cover, stirring occasionally, and bring to a boil.
  • After water boils, stir in dashi and tofu until well combined.
  • Cook for a few minutes then remove from heat.
  • When serving, place desired amount of white rice in in bowl, fill with soup and garnish with green onions.
** When cooking white rice, a great tip is to rinse the rice before cooking to remove some of the starch. Just fill a bowl with the uncooked rice, add water and swirl around with your hand. Drain the water and repeat until water no longer appears milky white. Your rice will then cook up beautifully.