Thursday, October 30, 2014

flavorFALL - perfect gingersnaps (without molasses)



I'm sitting in a downtown Boston hotel, late at night, listening to the Ken Burns soundtrack from his Lewis and Clark film and blogging about gingersnaps.  It's really quite surreal, to tell you the truth.  And if you like Early American music, you really need to take a listen to the soundtrack.  

Oh, and did I mention how much I wish John were here?

About fourteen years ago, my history buff and teacher husband wrote a grant to travel to this area and study for about 10 days.  It was a most enjoyable trip, as we walked part of the Lewis and Clark cobblestone trail, experienced Salem, explored Plymouth, strolled along the beaches of Chatham, learned about the Industrial Revolution and celebrated our nation's birthday listening to the Boston Pops and watching the fireworks on the St. Charles River.  I won't ever forget it. And tonight, as I walked just a portion of those same cobblestone streets I did all those years ago with John, I smiled in my heart for the adventure God blessed us with when life together was fairly new and we had much joy ahead of us to live. We had no idea how much joy, but He did. And I might mention the trip was so meaningful to us Luke's middle name was given to him in honor of it... Luke Cambridge... I love that name. And I love this place.

So, what does all of this have to do with gingersnaps you ask?  Not a thing.  Except being here in the fall with the mums and pumpkins adorning historic wooden doors of what are now quaint apartments near the Old North Church and such, along with the known fact that these "ginger biscuits" were greatly enjoyed during colonial times in both European countries and America, I couldn't help but think of them while in this town and wanted to share.  

Our whole family really enjoyed these last week and then again this week.  I made two batches, back-to-back, because they went quickly.  It's the first time I've made them without molasses.  We love them with it, but I didn't have any last week when I got a hankering, so I searched and came across this recipe.  So glad I gave it a try.  I did tweak it slightly and added a dash of pepper and a little allspice to give it a slight bite, in case the lack of molasses left room for a bit more zest.  I loved the result.  There's a slight crunch on the outside while the inside remains soft.  And the cracks are just perfect, are they not?!?

I really loved these with a cup of coffee.  John and Daniel ate theirs so fast, I'm not sure they took time to drink anything, and I think Luke preferred them dunked in milk.  Anyway you have them, you can't go wrong.  As the name states, they're just... well... perfect.

Perfect Gingersnaps
makes about 3 1/2 dozen
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • dash of pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 cup white sugar, divided
  • 7 tbsp butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup packed, dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg

~ Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

~ In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, ginger, baking soda, salt, pepper and allspice.  Set
    aside.

~ In a large mixing bowl, mix together 3/4 cup white sugar, butter and brown sugar until 
    fluffy.

~ Add in honey, vanilla, egg and mix. 

~ Gradually add dry ingredients into wet ingredients and mix until fully incorporated.  Cover
    and freeze for one hour.  

~ Line a baking pan with parchment paper.  With a cookie scoop, roll scooped dough into
    ball and roll in remaining g sugar.  Place two inches apart on cookie sheet.

~ Bake 12-13 minutes until golden.  Remove and let cool 1-2 minutes.  Remove to a cooling 
    rack.

Recipe adapted from Cooking Light.




Thursday, October 23, 2014

flavorFALL - apple cider mojito



It is no secret to anyone that Fall is probably my favorite season.  I've referenced as much with you herehere.... and, oh... here too.  

While I was laid up this weekend with back issues, I compiled several ideas and pulled out many recipes I've considered over time.  The pumpkins, mums, burlap, and all things decorative on our front steps and around the house were fostering a deeper excitement for the season, so I couldn't help myself,  heavy meds or not.  

So this is the first of my "FlavorFALL" entries.  Apple Cider "Mojito" - a super-quick way to spruce up a get-together or just make an ordinary meal a little more festive.  It is a celebration of one of the best fall staples, the apple.  And while I adore hot cider - and I do mean adore - it's kind of nice to have a new twist on an old favorite, and served cold at that!

I'm looking forward to sharing my coming posts in this series.  I hope you'll stay tuned, try your hand at a few, and let me know how it goes.  I'm a sucker for good food conversation.   

Apple Cider Mojito
serves 2
  • 8 oz apple cider, chilled
  • 1 lime, halved
  • 6 ice cubes
  • mint sprigs
  • ginger ale
~ Pour 4 oz of cider in each glass.

~ Add juice of lime-half to each glass and divide ice between both.

~ Pinch leaves of mint sprigs and place in each glass, topping off with ginger ale.  Stir.




Saturday, October 18, 2014

SOUPer saturdays - sausage and bean soup with pasta



I really do love the blogging world, because one simple search for something so insignificant can lead you straight into the significant life of someone you would have never "met" otherwise. Such is the case with the "Italian Dish" blog.  

I was searching weeks ago for a sturdy whipped cream, and I came across Elaine McCardel's work.  I am in Heaven reading her entries, watching her how-to videos, and being transported straight to her Italian roots via her Michigan kitchen.  I do enjoy so many kinds of foods, but my default is always Italian, and when I imagine what cooking in a true Italian kitchen is like, I think fresh, homemade, laughter, and family.  I can't imagine anything better.

I really haven't spent near as much time as I'd like to scrolling through this gem of a site, but what I have viewed makes me want to be Ms. Elaine's neighbor.  I want to RSVP for her in-home cooking classes and be the recipient of her homemade goodness.  But since I live several states south of her, I'll continue to peruse her wonderful site and try my hand at many of the recipes I've already marked.  

I, unfortunately, injured my back a couple of days ago and have been kind of "stuck" in the house in more ways than one.  The kind of issues I have with my back does not allow me to sit comfortably.  And anyone who knows me knows that lying around is not at all who I am, either.  So… I have been cooking in spurts as my pain tolerance will allow.  Because getting in the car to get groceries has not been an option, I started thinking about what I already had in the house and scoured the blog to find a recipe to match.  This one was a perfect 10!  I did an Italian sausage soup a couple of years ago, but this is different and full of just as much flavor.  It comes together quickly, so give it a try.  Your Italy is less than an hour away!

one year ago: in a pinch pie filling,  autumn chicken stew
two years ago: creamy tomato soup

Sausage and Bean Soup with Pasta
makes 6-8 servings
  • 1 lb Italian sausage
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 1/2 carrot, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 6-8 cups chicken stock/broth
  • 1 15-oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 tsp fresh thyme, or 1 tsp dried
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup small pasta
  • grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
~ In a large pot, cook sausage until brown and remove.  If a lot of oil is left, pour out, but do not wipe.  

~ Add onion, carrots, and oil, cooking five minutes or until softened.  Add garlic and cook another minute.

~ Add tomatoes, six cups stock, beans thyme, bay leaf, and salt and pepper to taste.  At this point I used my immersion blender to puree some of the soup, but you don't have to. 

~ Add the sausage and cover the pot, cooking on a low simmer for 30-45 minutes.

~ Remove lid and add pasta, cooking until tender.  If soup is too thick, you can add more stock.

~ Top servings with cheese.

Recipe from The Italian Dish

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

lemon ice cream



I know this recipe seems as though it should be right smack in the middle of Summer, but with my countertop ice cream maker, we can have the stuff any time we want it.  It's fabulous!

I had most of this on hand one night and thought I'd try the recipe.  I've only made lemon ice cream once, and I was really disappointed with the results.  The flavors weren't very balanced... all the zest sank to the bottom...  Ick.  Just a real failure.  So, I've been on a hunt for a better option, and this recipe is certainly a keeper!  If you need to bring a little sunshine indoors, give it a try.  Tart and creamy, it's just perfect!

Lemon Ice Cream
makes 1.5 quarts
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 2 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1 cup lemon juice
~ Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  Pour into ice cream freezer and freeze
    according to manufacturer's directions.

Could it get any easier?


Recipe from The Peacock Pantry.  

Saturday, October 4, 2014

SOUPer saturdays - southwestern chicken stew


I get way too excited about grocery shopping.  Especially at Aldi.  I know this about me, as do many of my friends, and I'm OK with it.  

I like seeing what's new, I like getting my regular staples, and I LOVE the prices.  I can't hardly go anywhere else to do major shopping, because I know how much less I'll pay at Aldi for a basket full.  They have fabulous organic items, consistently the best produce, and a wonderful array of gourmet cheeses and international foods I never would/could splurge on at other stores' prices.  And did you know they're owned by the same company as Trader Joes? 


I have tried really hard lately to try not to buy way over what we need.  I've really tried to use what's in our freezer, leftover veggies in the crisper, and anything else I can find to scrounge up a decent meal for the family.  Today's recipe is a result of doing just that, and all of the major ingredients happened to come from Aldi.  If you have one nearby, it's definitely worth a try. Take your recyclable grocery bags, a quarter for your cart, and an open mind.  If you're all about the thrill of the hunt, you'll love this place!

I am excited to say that in Nashville temperatures have plummeted and I am totally pumped for a Fall weekend.  This stew will warm you nicely and doesn't take any time to throw together. Totally versatile, a ladle full would be great served over rice, corn cakes, nacho chips or just in a bowl.  

Enjoy!

Southwestern Chicken Stew
serves 4-6

  • 2 (10 oz) bags frozen southwest corn blend
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can fire roasted salsa style tomatoes
  • 1 (46 oz) can tomato juice
  • 4 cooked chicken breasts (mine came straight out of the freezer)
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • garlic, sour cream, and cilantro for garnish
~  Stir together corn, tomatoes, juice, and spices in crock pot.  Add frozen chicken breasts.

~ Cook on low for 6-8 hours or until chicken shreds easily with two forks (I just did it in 
    the pot).

~ Ladle into bowl or over rice, corn cakes, etc., and garnish to taste.



Friday, October 3, 2014

the lazy daisy decorates - our ottoman (finally) gets a makeover!


There is no telling how many hours this project took.  If you could have seen inside my brain and my original intent for this ottoman, you wouldn't have dreamed this would be the result. But I could not be happier!  I just love taking a creative road and winding up down a path I would have never originally planned to travel.  It's exciting but exhausting, and in the end, rewarding.  

Actually, all together, this was probably only about four days of work.  But it's not because it was so hard.  I mean, really.  How hard can stitch witchery, a staple gun, and some basic sewing be? It just took a while because I didn't plan exactly what I was doing ahead of time, so as the ideas morphed, some things had to be undone, redone, and adjusted.  

I have had this material for years.  Yards of it.  I fell in love with it long ago and knew it would come in handy one day for something great.  It's so us, with it's perfect red toile design on top of a bit ruddy, tea-stained backdrop.  In my opinion, it's the exact balance of old, yet refined. Once we received our new couch, and I pulled out the material and laid it over a cushion, I couldn't wait to use it!  I had to come up with something to cover ASAP! 


As you can see in the "before" picture, our ottoman was screaming, "Recover me!"  So, I did. John's mom came in to town, I showed her the material, she had the same reaction I did to how beautifully it worked with the couch, and all of a sudden we were pulling 11:00 and 12:00 bedtimes, because we couldn't wait to see it finished.  Unfortunately, she had to go back home before the ottoman was complete, but I know she's going to love it as much as I do.

The only problem now is how protective I am about it.  Every time the boys put a finger on it, I find myself cautioning them as though it has a sign saying, "Don't Touch - Just Look."  We laughingly joke the whole scenario reminds us of the episode of "Everybody Loves Raymond" when Marie finally takes the protective plastic off the couch after years of using it.  If you need some comic relief, just watch it.  Only four and a half minutes long, and hilariously funny!



So, if you have a project in mind and have plenty of materials for trial and error, I say, "Go for it!"  Sure, I could go somewhere and find something more beautiful, more well-made, and more durable, I'm certain.  But it wouldn't mean near as much to me, and handing over my credit card wouldn't be near as fun as it was tying off the ottoman's  sash and looking at the completed project with satisfaction.  As long as I have time, I'll take homemade and handmade any day.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

heavenly cinnamon rolls with caramel icing



You may or may not remember this post, when I expressed my slight frustration with the fact that Luke rather have Pillsbury cinnamon rolls than mine.  And here I shared that I finally found a version he would approve.  I am excited to say, the recipe below is another tally mark for me, and it came from a rainy Saturday night stuck in the house trying to scrounge up ideas for Sunday breakfast.  Because who in the world wants to go to the grocery store for a can of Pillsbury in the rain on a Saturday night, right?

I have used this yeast roll recipe time and time again, with no trouble.  In fact, I recently found out it goes above and beyond in the "can't mess this one up" category.  Those of you who can struggle with successful yeasted breads, prepare to be amazed!

A couple of  weeks ago, I had put the dough in the fridge over night so I could make fresh rolls for a meal I was taking to friends the next day.  To my frustration that morning, I found the lid had come off, leaving the dough deflated and even dried out on the top.  I figured I had nothing to lose, removed the dried layer, re-kneaded the dough slightly, then let it rise in a warm oven.  Before we left for church that morning, I had plenty of warm, soft rolls that tasted as good as if nothing had gone awry. 

I love recipes like that.

So back to the rainy Saturday night.  I thought about the yeast roll recipe and figured I could try adding more sugar to the dough, find a delicious icing, and maybe - just maybe - I'd have a couple of happy boys the next morning.  To my delight, and theirs, my trial baked up beautifully and my wish came to be.  Luke gobbled them up, and my heart was warmed.  

So here's to the third cinnamon roll recipe on the blog.  Can there really be too many?!? 

Heavenly Cinnamon Rolls with Caramel Icing     

For the rolls:
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 tbsp. yeast
  • 6 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 4 tbsp. butter, melted
  • 4 cups bread flour
For the filling:
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
For the icing:
  • 4 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp caramel sauce
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
~ Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water.  Let sit until foamy; about 5 minutes.

~ With dough hook, mix in salt, butter, and flour until fully incorporated.  Continue to mix 
    about 10 minutes (or you can remove the flour and knead by hand a fully twenty minutes;
    MAJOR triceps workout!)

~ Remove dough and place on lightly floured surface, kneading 10 more minutes (if you
    kneaded the first 10 with the hook) until smooth and elastic.

~ Place dough in large, lightly greased bowl, turning once to cover the top.  Cover and let
    rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about an hour.

~ Uncover dough and punch down. 

~ Roll dough into rectangle, approximately 1/4 inch thick.   

~ With a pastry brush, cover dough with butter, leaving a 1/2 inch border around edge.

~ Mix together brown sugar and cinnamon, reserving 1 tbsp of mixture.  Sprinkle dough 
   liberally with remaining sugar/cinnamon.

~ Roll dough, starting with long side, and evenly slice.

~ Heat oven to 375 degrees.

~  Place cut rolls into greased pans and let rise about 30 minutes.

~ Cook rolls about 20-25 minutes, or until golden.

~ While rolls cook, whip together cream cheese and butter until fluffy.  Add caramel and 
    blend.

~ Mix in milk and vanilla until incorporated.  Gradually add in sugar and mix well.

~ Top warm rolls with caramel icing.  Sprinkle tops with reserved sugar and cinnamon.


Caramel icing recipe from Annies Eats.