Friday, January 27, 2012

Almond Sheet Cake

Almond sheet cake 1

So Valentines Day is fast approaching.

Would you be shocked to know that we really don't make a big deal out of it at our house?

I mean it's usually just a week or so after the Super Bowl, so it's a bit of a let down when you compare it to that. Football - wings - dips - brats - chili. Super Bowl Sunday is a good day at my house. Valentines Day, meh, not so much.

John and I don't get each other gifts, or cards even. Shocking I know.

I usually make something he loves for dinner so don't think I'm a total Valentine humbug. We might even say Happy Valentines Day to each other but that's as far as it goes. (I can hear you sucking your teeth at me!)

I'm lucky to be married to someone who treats me really well and shows me everyday how much he loves me. Heck I even get flowers for no reason at all, so take that Saint Valentine. February 14th is pretty much just another day, but for you love-birds out there, I give you cake, cause I'm pretty sure cupids got a sweet tooth.

If you want to make something sweet for your sweetheart this recipe hits the nail on the chubby guys little head.

Try and use real almond extract. It will make all the difference in the world.

Almond sheet cake

Almond Sheet Cake
adapted from a recipe at Your Home Based Mom
For the cake:
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 cup water
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup sour cream (at room temp)
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons real almond extract

For the Icing:
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/4 cup milk
3 1/2 to 4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

Preheat the oven to 375.

In a small saucepan add the water and the butter. Bring to a boil and set aside. Place the sugar and the flour in a mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Pour the butter & water mixture in the dry ingredients and beat well. Add the baking soda, almond extract and sour cream. Add the eggs in last. Mix to combine.

Pour the batter into a greased jelly roll pan. (that's a quarter sheet pan with sides, 13"L x 9 1/2"W x 1"H ). Bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until the middle is set. Let cake cool completely before icing.

For the icing: Bring the butter and milk to a boil in a small pan. Put the powdered sugar into a large bowl. One the butter and milk come to boil pour it into powdered sugar. Stir until combined. Add in the almond extract. You may need to add more sugar or milk at this point. It's a touchy feely kinda icing. You want it to be thick but pourable. Like a thick pancake batter. Pour over the cake and gently spread to cover. The icing will set up. I placed the whole cake in the fridge so it would set up faster.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Friday, January 20, 2012

Health(ier) Espresso Chocolate Chip Muffins

Chocolate Chip Espreso Muffin

Hey it's Friday and there is snow on the ground here in Rhode Island!

Snow makes me happy. Unlike most of the people who live in this state, I love the snow. A blanket of white covering the ground always makes me smile!

John loaded up the bird feeders so my feathery friends can get their fill of seed, the remote starters were engaged, the shovel came out (sorry hon, he's not too keen on the shoveling part) and these muffins were in the big glass jar in the kitchen.

I told ya I was on a breakfast kick didn't I?

I found this recipe on Cooking Light. It was super easy to throw together (no mixer involved) and they tasted great.

I substituted espresso powder for the instant coffee. The only instant coffee in the house is a giant jar of the really crappy, really nasty cheap stuff I use for crafting and I didn't want to throw that into a muffin batter.

We have more snow coming tomorrow and a big game on Sunday - GO PATS!!!!  - so I'll be back in the kitchen tryin' out a few more breakfast recipe to share with you all!

One last thing! DON'T OVER MIX YOUR BATTER! This will make for a tough muffin which is nothing like a tough cookie. Totally different thing!

Have a great weekend!

Chocolate Chip Espresso Muffin 1

Espresso Chocolate Chip Muffins
recipe from Cooking Light
2/3 cup milk
5 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons instant coffee (I used 3 TEAspoons of espresso powder)
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
1 large egg
9 ounces all-purpose flour (about 2 cups)
2/3 cup sugar
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt

Oven to 400. Combine the first 5 ingredients. Lightly spoon the flour into a dry measuring cup and level with a knife. Combine the next 4 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl and stir well with a whisk. Make a well in the center and pour in your milk mixture. Stir until just combined. DON’T OVER MIX! Stop when the mixture just comes together.

Spray a 12 cup muffin pan. Spoon batter into each cup (about 2/3 for each cup). Bake for 18 minutes. Remove from pan immediately and place on a wire rack to cool.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Three Cheese Breakfast Bake

3 Cheese Breakfast Bake 2

I've been on a breakfast kick lately.

I've been scouring through my magazines, cookbooks and the web looking for breakfast recipes.

Of course big breakfasts only happen on the weekends in this house, but that's ok cause I have Monday through Friday to find something I really want to make.

This recipe was handed to me, literally, someone gave me a piece of it and said "here, try this" and I did and it was delicious.

There is a breakfast club where I work, not a cool John Hughes kinda breakfast club, one where once a month they have a member bring in breakfast for all the other employees in the club. You think being a "foodie" that I would be a member of that club....well, you'd be wrong. It's usually donuts and bagels and pastries, not too many homemade items make it to that table, but at year end they have one last breakfast for the year and they all must bring in something homemade. That's how I ended up with a piece of this breakfast bake.

3 Cheese Breakfast Bake

To me there is just something special about sitting around in your pj's with your favorite comfy socks on, the Sunday paper in hand, eating a delicious warm breakfast.

It's what Sunday's should be all about.

I served this to my friend Tati last Sunday. She stops by every other Sunday morning to have a cup of tea and share breakfast with us. This was so delicious that we each had 2 pieces of it served with fresh fruit.

The perfect way to start the day!

Another great thing about his recipe is that you can make it the night before and just pop it in the oven. I left mine out at room temp for about half hour, if you heat it straight from the fridge you will have to add some additional time.

Three Cheese Breakfast Bake
from Kraft Foods
1 - 8oz loaf French bread, cut into 1 inch cubes (about 5 cups)
1/2 of a medium onion, finely chopped
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
8 oz of shredded cheddar cheese (I just eyed this)
1 cups mozzarella cheese
1 cup cottage cheese
5 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
salt & pepper to taste

Oven to 350. On a lightly greased 9x13 inch pan, spread 1/2 of the bread cubes. Top with half of the onions, bacon, cheddar and mozzarella. Sprinkle the cottage cheese over the first layer. Just use your hands, it easier. Repeat the layers, set aside.

Meanwhile whisk the eggs, milk, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and salt & pepper until combined. Pour over the bread cubes, pressing lightly until mixture covers the bread cubes. Bake for 50 minutes or until center is set and top is lightly golden brown. If you are baking this right away, let it stand for 10 minutes or so. If not it can be stored in the fridge overnight. If you are baking it the next day, add 10 minutes more on to your baking time.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Chicken, Monterey Jack & Leek Stuffed Shells

Stuffed Shells - cooked 1

Hey fellow foodies? How's your new year so far?

I have no complaints. I'm happy to be feeling better and to be back in my kitchen cooking and baking. I have such a long list of things I want to make, sometimes I just don't know where to start. This pesky little thing called a job keep interrupting me and taking all my time away from cooking, so my weekend are usually spend whipping up as much as I can. There still is never enough time though.

So I pick through and I sort and I try to make the things I absolutely think we'll love and most time I hit the nail on the head. This recipe is no exception. I found it on a blog called Carrol Luna. Beautiful stuff. The picture of her Chicken Stuffed Shells made my mouth water. I had to make them.

A kinda wandered off the beaten path with the recipe. I added in some leeks and changed the spices up a bit, but I did keep the brown sugar in. I was hesitant at first, but it worked!

Here's what they looked like before they went into the oven:

Chicken Stuffed Shells

And when they came out:

Stuffed Shells - cooked

If you're the type of person that loves the crunchy pasta that sticks to the side of the pan...well, well my friend...this is the perfect dish for you. All the tops of the shells get just a wee bit crunchy. Lovely!

Chicken, Monterrey Jack & Leek Stuffed Shells
adapted from a recipe at carrolluna.com
1 box jumbo shells
2 pounds of ground chicken
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large leek, chopped (white and light green parts only)
2 tablespoon of tomato paste
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 cups tomato sauce
8oz shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
Butter to top the pasta (optional)

Oven to 375. Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Add the chopped leeks and cook for 2 - 3 minutes. Just until they start to soften. Add in the ground chicken. You will have to break it up as it cooks. Meanwhile boil the pasta in salted water for about 6 minutes. You want it very al dente.

Add Italian seasoning and tomato paste to the chicken mixture. Turn off the heat and add in the brown sugar and cheese. Remove from heat and gently stir. Set aside.

Now this is where it gets interesting. Instead of baking these in the usual 9x13 inch pan, they are baked veritcally in a round baking dish. I used my Pampered chef round baking pan. A deep dish pie pan would work well too.

The original recipe also calls for topping each of the shells with a little butter. I skipped that step. Maybe I'll try it next time. I'm curious to see if it would make a big difference.

Cover with foil and bake for 35 - 40 minutes. Uncover the last 10 minutes or so and sprinkle on a bit more cheese if you'd like.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Where did you get that pan?

I've had quite a few inquires about this pan.

It's not the kind of pan you see everyday now is it?

giveaway 4

Looks like there are a few folks that want to make the Swedish Almond Cake.

I picked up my pan(s) at a local store called the Christmas Tree Shoppe.

They are mostly out east. If you have one near you, I'd check with them first. I bought them quite a few months ago.

I did find some online here.

I also found out that they are called Rehrucken Ribbed Loaf Pans so if you google that you will find some. Amazon even has them.

Prices are reasonable too.

I hope you pick one up cause that recipe is fantastic!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Monday, January 9, 2012

Random Thoughts & Observations

paperwhites cu

I figured that rather than jumping on the bandwagon with everyone else who posted New Year's resolutions (I don't believe in 'em) or do a top ten (I wish I had the time to even gather the info to post that kind of stuff. I work 40+ hours outside my home so I rarely have that kind of time to devote to this blog. Sorry, just keepin' it real) or list all of the things I hope to accomplish in the year, I'll just throw out some thought and updates as to what's been happening in my little world.


  • As I said before...I was on vacation for over 10 days...I was miserably sick for 9 of those 10 days. Thank goodness I got a Kindle Fire for Christmas. Let me tell you, I have been a book reading fool. I read 2 books in 4 days and I have another started. It was a great to push a little button and read in between my frequent naps. *It will never replace real books for me though, but it really is a nice little device!


    Kindle

  • I drank a lot....no not booze...tea. Lots of tea with honey. We had the kettle on and off all day long for weeks.  
  • I lost my voice completely for 2 days and have been hoarse ever since. Hoarse in a gravely, creeky way, not in a sexy Demi Moore way. The first morning I came out of the bedroom and couldn't talk John did a fist pump and said "thank you Jesus". Meany.
  • I realized how just how much of my Nana that Alzheimers has stolen.  She spent Christmas day with us and it was heart-breaking. I took lots of pics of her. 
  • I had some really intense dreams. I don't know if it was the head cold or not, but I would wake up shaking or crying on some nights. One night I dreamt about my friend Andy who passed away a short time ago. He was talking to me and we were forehead to forehead, something he did often and I remember saying "I miss you so much" and pulling back to see his smile. It made me happy and sad all at the same time. Tati says that was him visiting me. That made me feel so good.
  • I learned how much I love my "comfy cozy" blanket as I call it and how good it feels to have Moose curl up and keep my feet warm. Best lap dog ever.
  • Each gathering with my friends makes me realize just how much I love them. They are more than friends to me, they are part of my family, the part that makes me laugh till my sides ache.
  • My paperwhites bloomed. They look so pretty, but they stink so bad.

    paperwhites

  • I got new pasta bowls from Pier 1. I love them. It's the little things.
  • I miss taking pictures outside. It happens every winter. I'm forced to take pics on the weekends. I go to work in the dark and come home in the dark, so no weekday pics are happening.
  • John took to me Providence (THE BIG CITY) and we went out to lunch together and then stopped at Crate & Barrel where I got some bargains. I love a good bargain.
  • I miss yard sales. I think 2012 will be the year I score something amazing. I just feel it in my bones.
  • I miss my friend Mitchell. It's the first time in a long time that he didn't spend Christmas with us.
  • I wish I lived closer to my blogging buddies. I hear about their meet-ups and I get jealous thinking about all the fun they are having without me. I still love them though. 
  • I watched the Steven Tyler Oprah special like four times now. I just love that man. 

    People Steven Tyler

  • I can't wait to cook and bake and take pictures and share them with all of you in 2012.
  • Thank you all for still coming and reading.

    Friday, January 6, 2012

    Pierogi Lasagna

    Pierogi Lasagna

    I love Pierogies. Those little bundles of dough filled with potato and onions and sometimes sauerkraut. Come to think of it, anything stuffed in dough is pretty delicious in my book.

    Do I get to eat Pierogies often? No.

    Does anyone in my house like them besides me? No.

    Would I make a whole batch just for me? I'd like to but...again, no.

    So when I found this recipe for Pierogi Lasagna just before the holidays I flipped. I knew I could make it when there were others besides my men in the house.

    I made this for my New Years Eve party. It was a hit. A total hit. Yeah! People to share my pierogi love.

    The original recipe came from Mr. Food. It did not include a sauce. After reading through the recipe, I thought it would have been just too dry without it. I whipped up a bechamel sauce and I'm so glad I did, cause it was just perfect.


    Pierogi Lasagna 1

    Even my husband, whose not a big onion lover loved this. I plan on making it again and again.

    Pierogi Lasagna
    adapted from a recipe at Mr. Food.
    12 lasagna noodles * see my note on prepping the noodles.
    4 tablespoons vegetable oil
    5 medium-sized onions, finely chopped (about 3 cups)
    1/2 teaspoon black pepper
    1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese
    6 cups warm seasoned mashed potatoes, store-bought or homemade

    Preheat oven to 350. Coat a 9- x 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

    See my note below on cooking the lasagna noodles.

    Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Saute onions 8 to 10 minutes, or until lightly browned. Add remaining onions, pepper, and cheese to mashed potatoes; mix well.

    Place enough  bechamel sauce to lightly cover the bottom of the pan. Place 3 noodles on bottom of prepared baking dish. Spread 1/3 of potato mixture and  bechamel over noodles. Repeat layers until a total of 4 layers of noodles and 3 layers of potato mixture have been placed (with a layer of noodles on top).

    Cover with aluminum foil and bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until heated through.

    Bechamel Sauce. I use this recipe from Leite's Culinara. It's quick and delicious.

    * This is how I prep my noodles for lasagna. Place the noodles in a 9x13 inch pan and cover with boiling water. Let sit for 15 - 20 minutes. This will soften the noodles but not make them mushy. Works every time.


    Pierogi Lasagna 2

    Wednesday, January 4, 2012