Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Dulce de Leche Apple Pie & Dulce de Leche Instructions

The slice above isn’t the first slice of pie. It’s the second. I couldn’t help myself. I thought perhaps the piece would look better broken up a bit. Then I thought maybe it needed a bite out of it for composition, no maybe three. Whoops too many bites. Oh gosh, can’t let the crust go to waste. Instead it went to waist!

I don’t know how it happened, but all of a sudden I caught myself licking that little plate clean while Rocky the Hippopotamus (my dog) stared at me in disbelief. I'd inhaled that piece of pie so quickly and didn’t share a single taste with him!

It’s been less than 24 hours and this pie is only a sliver of its former self. Thankfully I had a little help and didn’t eat it all by myself. Just most of it. Yikes!

I think I’ll go ride my bike for awhile today.

Dulce de Leche
First, if you don’t want to purchase dulce de leche you’ll need to make your own.

Don’t be afraid to boil cans of sweetened condensed milk. As long as they're covered by a couple inches of water at all times you’ll be safe. Think of it as canning you didn’t have to go to all the trouble of harvesting for.

You’ll need:
Sweetened condensed milk in cans (You can do several at a time and store extras in your cupboard)
1 Big deep pot
A tea kettle
Two timers

Remove the labels. Place the cans in the pot and cover cans completely with water at least two inches above the top of the cans. Bring the water to a boil. After it starts to boil set two timers; one for 4 hours and the other for thirty minutes. Turn down the heat if the boil becomes overly vigorous.

Meanwhile fill the tea kettle with water and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and leave on the burner. After the 30 minute timer is up refill the water that has evaporated from the pot with the water from the tea kettle. Turn the timer on for 30 more minutes and repeat until the 4 hours is up. You must keep the water filled! Exploding cans are not good!

Once 4 hours is up, turn the heat off from under the pot and let the cans cool completely in the pot of water for a couple hours. Once cool, remove the cans and rinse them off under the sink and dry them with a towel.

That’s it. Now you can open the cans and enjoy the world’s easiest caramel type sauce.

Refrigerate any leftovers in a separate container.

Dulce de Leche Apple Pie
Double crust for 9” pie (I purchased mine as usual)
Egg white for brushing dough
5 cups peeled and sliced mixed apples
¼ cup dulce de leche
2 Tablespoons apple cider
½ cup brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1 Tablespoon of butter for dotting pie
9” Pyrex pie dish, not the 9 1/2" deep dish

1. Place the oven rack on the lower 3rd of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.

2. Mix together sugars, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Make sure the cornstarch is well mixed in so you don’t get cornstarch lumps in your pie.

3. In a large bowl toss together the apples, then toss with dulce de leche, apple cider, and vanilla extract. Add the dry mixture and toss to combine. Set aside.

4. Between wax paper gently roll out the pie dough and stretch it about another inch or more for the bottom piece, and roll the top piece gently to even out the dough.

5. Line a 9” Pyrex pie dish with the bottom crust, brush with the egg white. Add the filling and spread out evenly. Dot the mixture with little bits of butter here and there.

6. Cover with the top crust. Press the top dough into the bottom piece gently to stick together. Tuck the top edges into the pie dish leaving a little to crimp at the top. Flute the edges.

7. Poke a few holes in the crust for venting or cut out decorations.

8. Bake for 30 minutes. Then turn the temperature to 375 degrees, cover crust edges with a pie shield, and bake for another 30 minutes or until crust is golden on the bottom and no longer wet and raw looking.

9. Remove the pie from the oven and set on a cooling rack for several hours to set up the filling.

Pie Recipe by Laura Flowers

Monday, September 21, 2009

Honey Raisin Bread Because I'm Crazy

Want to know how crazy I am? That’s five day old bread you’re looking at. Completely untested and untasted until it was judged honey raisin bread.

I was hastily working on a brand new breakfast bread recipe last Wednesday. I was so busy I didn’t even take the time to make the loaf pretty or bother covering the top at the end of baking. This bread never intended to be photographed and especially wasn’t supposed to go to the fair. This was a test loaf. Something I’d never take pictures of, or give to you until I know it worked.

However, I realized the fair entries were due that day and I didn’t have a spare moment to throw something else together. So off it went to the fair of course! For all I knew it could have had holes all over inside and been completely inedible. I dropped off this lopsided overly-browned bread and forgot about it. My family ate cold cereal the next day for breakfast. I'm such a good mom.

The next busy crazy afternoon, my friend Julie calls me on my way to an out of town meeting and tells me my bread has two ribbons on it. She already knew the story and we both had a good laugh.

I still have no idea what those ribbons mean, but the bread has now been tested. It’s really quite good surprisingly!

Honey Raisin Bread
This bread utilizes the dough cycle on the bread machine to cut down the work, but the final rise and bake is done the old fashioned way.

1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons water
¼ cup honey
2 Tablespoons butter, softened
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup raisins
1 ¼ cups soft white whole wheat flour
2 cups bread flour
1 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast
Extra bread flour for flouring surface
Butter for brushing pan

1. Place all the ingredients in a bread machine with flour on top, and yeast on top of the flour. Select the dough cycle on the bread machine and hit start.

2. Once the cycle is finished, remove the dough from the pan onto a clean and floured surface. Knead the dough several times until lightly sticky (but not too sticky), adding a little more flour as needed.

3. Lightly butter and flour a Pyrex bread pan. Shape the dough into a loaf and place in the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes. (I do mine on top of the stove while the oven preheats)

4. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

5. Bake the loaf for 32 to 35 minutes or until deeply golden on top. Cover the last 10 minutes with foil if you don’t want your top overly browned.

6. Carefully remove the bread from the oven onto a cooling rack. Brush the top with melted butter and finish cooling.

Recipe by Laura Flowers

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Parmesan Chicken & Broccoli Casserole

It's finally below 85 degrees and life doesn't feel so unbearably hot. That means its casserole season right? Wait, do casseroles have a season? They seem to in my kitchen when it’s simply too hot to cook.

I cracked open my Better Homes & Gardens Biggest Book of Casseroles for the first time in several months, and decided this very American, creamy, salty, gooey, blob of a casserole was what I wanted to welcome the start of fall with.

It was even good the next day, which was helpful because we had a lot of casserole to consume!

1 cup uncooked white rice
2/3 cup diced onion
1 ¼ pounds chicken tenders, thawed and cut into chunks
4 Tablespoons light colored cooking oil, divided
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning, crushed between palms of your hands
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 ¾ cups whole milk
½ of an 8 ounce package of cream cheese
1 ½ cups frozen cut broccoli, thawed and chopped slightly
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
2/3 cup (4 ounces) diced fully cooked ham
2 Tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted

1. Cook rice according to package directions. Remove from heat and stir in 1/3 cup of the diced onions. Transfer to a 2 ½ quart casserole dish or a 9x13 inch rectangle baking dish.

2. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

3. In a large skillet warm 2 tablespoons of cooking oil over medium high heat and add the chicken pieces. Salt and pepper the chicken and turn once when the bottom starts to turn golden. Finish cooking and add the crushed Italian seasoning and minced garlic and cook for a minute longer. Remove the chicken from the pan reserving the drippings.

4. Warm 2 Tablespoons cooking oil in the pan on medium heat and add the onions. Cook for 1 minute and then add the cornstarch and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the milk and bring to a simmer. Simmer until reduced slightly, about 4 minutes.

5. Turn heat to low and add the cream cheese and stir until almost combined. Add the chicken, diced ham, chopped broccoli, parmesan, and dash of salt & pepper. Stir to combine and warm through.

6. Once warm, move to a casserole dish and cover the rice. Plunge a spatula in several places to incorporate the rice and sauce but do not mix. Bake for 30 minutes for the 9x13 inch pan or 45 to 50 minutes for the 2 ½ quart round casserole.

7. Remove from the oven. Toast the sliced almonds for 40 seconds on a plate in the microwave and sprinkle over the casserole. Wait 10 minutes and serve.

Make-Ahead Directions
Assemble as directed. Cover unbaked casserole with heavy foil; seal, label, and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw covered frozen casserole in the refrigerator overnight (casserole may still be icy). Bake casserole, covered, in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes more or until heated through. Sprinkle with almonds.

Recipe adapted from BH&G’s Biggest Book of Casseroles. Picture by Laura Flowers.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Buttermilk Oatmeal Bread

I make strange New Year’s resolutions. This year I vowed to make my own bread for an entire year. No buying sandwich bread. That means even when I’m sick I’ve need to get my backside in the kitchen.

That’s why I love the dough cycle on my bread machine. It does all the dirty work. All I have to do is take out the dough, shape it into a loaf, place it in a pan, and bake it in the oven. It looks like I’ve slaved away in the kitchen, a nice sort of deception. Like the old Rice Krispies Treat commercials where the mom pats flour on her face before serving her family cereal bars.

This is especially helpful right now. I’ve got the flu and haven’t felt like cooking, or eating. I’m just doing the bare minimum to get by. There’s a full jar of peanut butter in the pantry. I think that qualifies as a meal.

1 cup quick cooking oats
1 1/3 cup buttermilk or sour milk (see notes)
2 Tablespoons honey
1 Tablespoon butter or margarine, softened
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup bread flour
1 ¾ cups white whole wheat flour
1 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast

1. Place all the ingredients in the bread machine pan except flours and yeast. Top the mixture with bread flour, white whole wheat flour, and top with the yeast.

2. Select the dough cycle. When finished brush a bread pan with butter and coat with flour. Set aside.

3. Knead the dough with your hands and shape into a loaf. Place the bread in the bread pan and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.

4. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 350 degrees. After the dough has doubled in size, remove the plastic wrap and bake for 32 to 35 minutes until browned.

5. After baking, remove the bread from the pan onto a cooling rack. Brush the top with melted butter and cool completely.

1. To make sour milk, place 4 teaspoons of vinegar in a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Add enough milk to measure 1 1/3 cups liquid. Set aside for 5 minutes before using.

2. Cheating is ok. Feel free to bake this bread on the whole wheat cycle if you’d prefer.

Recipe by Laura Flowers

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Grilled Garlicky Bread Sticks with Marinara Dipping Sauce

I had some extra pizza dough leftover after Friday night’s pizza party. It took five days of staring at it annoyingly every time I opened the fridge before I found the motivation to do something with it. Now I won’t be bothered with leftover pizza dough until Saturday morning when the cycle begins again.

Although my family enjoyed these, I could use some fresh creative ideas. What do you do with leftover pizza dough?

Pizza dough, enough to cover a pizza pan
Olive oil
Couple Tablespoons freshly grated parmesan
Couple Tablespoons dried parmesan
Dried parsley flakes
Garlic powder
Salt & freshly crack pepper
Warmed marinara sauce for dipping (I used jarred Lucini sauce)

1. Turn the grill to medium high.

2. Thinly roll out the pizza dough and place on a pan. Brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with fresh parmesan, dried parmesan, dried parsley flakes, garlic powder, salt and freshly cracked pepper.

3. Place the pan on the grill and cook until golden. About 6 to 9 minutes.

4. Cut the bread into strips and serve with warm marinara sauce for dipping.

Recipe by Laura Flowers

Friday, September 4, 2009

Acorn Squash Soup with Bacon & Squash Seeds

This recipe idea is from Mari over at Once Upon a Plate. She and Monique from La Table de Nana have the most beautiful blogs. I believe they also happen to be friends. A natural kinship as both are brilliantly stylistic people. I often go to their sites for aesthetic inspiration and marvel at how they make everything look so beautiful and effortless. Graceful really. I aspire to be more like them when my blog grows up. In my own way of course.

I however am not graceful like Mari and Monique. My nickname growing up was “Grace”, a sarcastic call to my clumsy ways. Making this soup was just another example of this. Earlier in the morning I had attempted to wrestle open a Champagne bottle for a batch of preserves. Failing, I set the bottle on the counter and settled on Riesling preserves.

As I struggled to slice open a tough acorn squash that evening, the Champagne cork finally blew off with an explosive bang and flew across the room. I was so startled I almost sliced my hand to bits and my panicked Toy Australian Shepherd ran around the room barking his brains out.

I took that as my cue to stop and have a glass of that stubborn Champagne before I finished wrestling the squash open. Perhaps I’ll just have to settle for someday having a bit of style with a little bit of klutz thrown in for good measure. I think being clumsy is here to stay.

2 acorn squash, reserve seeds
Olive oil for basting squash
1 small white onion or half of a large onion, diced
3 tablespoons butter
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons water to deglaze pan (Or Champagne if you have it)
salt & pepper
Fresh grated nutmeg
4 to 5 slices crispy cooked bacon, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil.

2. Cut squash in half leaving your fingers intact, scrape out and reserve the seeds in cold salted water. Slice the squash into strips leaving on the skin. Place in a foil lined pan and coat the squash with olive oil. Bake for 50 minutes. Cool until you can handle them without burning your fingers off and remove the skin with your fingers.

3. Meanwhile, drain the water from the seeds and place them on a foil lined baking sheet. Coat them with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bake at 350 degrees for a few minutes until toasted and lightly golden brown.

4. In a medium to large pot add the butter and onions. Cook over medium high until the onions look softened a bit. Then turn off the heat.

5. Place the squash, onions, and chicken or vegetable stock in a food processer or blender and process until smooth.

6. Deglaze the pan with 2 Tablespoons of water over medium high heat. Then add the soup and turn the heat to medium. Cover and stir frequently until warmed through. Add salt, pepper, and fresh nutmeg to taste.

7. Ladle into bowls and garnish with cooked chopped bacon and toasted acorn squash seeds.

This comforting recipe idea comes from Mari at Once Upon a Plate. Visit this lovely post and beautiful soup picture. I've adapted it somewhat, as she left her recipe open for all of us to suite our own tastes.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Soft Chocolate Cake Mix Swirlers

Life is busy here and I’m guessing it is for you too. School just started. Then there are fairs, rodeos, and other events to attend. This is also the big month for veteran’s group fundraisers. Plus, my daughter learned how to ride her bike this weekend so I’ve been getting lots of much needed exercise following her around. Oh, and traveling. Yikes! I can barely keep my head afloat right now and that means more cake mix cookies for my husband to take to work. I happen to like these ones; well ok of course I like them they’re chocolate! I hope my husband’s co-workers will too.

These brownie like cookies are very good plain and don’t feel that you need to frost them if you’re in a hurry. If you want to go that extra step, stuff half white frosting and half chocolate frosting into a piping bag with a Wilton tip 199 and press the frosting onto the cookies.

1 (18.4 ounce) box Betty Crocker Super Moist Triple Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
2 eggs
1 container fudge frosting
1 container white frosting

1. Line a couple cookie sheets with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a mixer mix the softened butter until fluffy. Add the eggs and mix until combined. There may be some little butter lumps, this is ok. Add the cake mix and beat until just combined.

3. With a mini cookie scoop (size 60), or two teaspoons, scoop the dough onto the parchment an inch and a half apart. Keep a glass of hot water nearby to dunk the scoop into after every few cookies as they dough becomes stuck to the scoop. Shake the water off well and continue to scoop the dough.

4. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool on the sheets for 4 minutes and then move to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

5. Once cooled, stuff a piping bag with a Wilton tip 199 (or any tip you want) with half fudge frosting and half white frosting. Then press some frosting into the middle of the cookie gently lifting up as you go. Once you stop pressing pull the tip away from the cookie to create a little swirl on the top.

By Laura Flowers

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