the baker upstairs: July 2011

7.25.2011

double chocolate waffles with strawberry sauce

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Geoff had the day off today for Pioneer Day, so we decided to make something a little more extravagant for breakfast (usually we eat cold cereal or toast). Actually, this week we had a little friendly discussion about what constitutes a proper breakfast food. In Geoff's opinion, breakfast foods are things like pastries, eggs, bacon, sausage, cereal, pancakes, etc. In my opinion, breakfast consists of anything you can shove into your mouth with one hand while looking for something to feed the four year old. As such, my breakfast often consists of things like cold chicken and noodles, lunchmeat, pretzels, string cheese, m&m's, and whatever else happens to be in the fridge or on the counter. To balance things out, I always have some kind of fruit for breakfast (plum, banana, apple, peaches, etc.). That makes it all healthy, right?

In any case, these waffles were probably more along the lines of dessert than breakfast, but they still made our holiday pretty darn awesome. I actually packaged up a bunch of these mixes in jars for Christmas gifts, and found a lonely one in my closet that hadn't been given away. So it was pretty easy to throw them together, and I actually got to test whether I gave people something worth having for Christmas. I'm sure we'll be making them again!

Double Chocolate Waffles
Our Best Bites

2/3 C flour
1/3 C corn starch
1/4 C unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/8 t cinnamon
6 T granulated sugar
1 C milk
1/3 C vegetable oil
1 egg
1 1/2 t vanilla
1/2 C mini chocolate chips

Preheat a waffle iron. Combine flour, cornstarch, cocoa powder, baking powder and soda, salt, and cinnamon. Use a whisk to combine. In a separate bowl whisk together sugar, milk, oil, egg, and vanilla. Whisk for a minute so it gets a little frothy. Slowly add the wet ingredients into the dry a little at a time, whisking to combine. Just stir until they’re combined and don’t overmix. Stir in the chocolate chips. This is a pretty thin batter, so don’t be expecting something that looks like a pancake batter. It’s supposed to be thin. Lightly butter waffle iron.  Place batter in and cook according to your iron.


Strawberry Sauce
Our Best Bites

1 pint strawberries
1/3 c. white sugar
1 tsp. almond extract or vanilla extract

Wash strawberries and remove stems. Combine berries, sugar, and extract in medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook for five minutes, stirring/breaking strawberries up with a wooden spoon constantly.

After five minutes, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly (if you have a glass blender jar) or a lot (if you have a plastic blender jar). When cool enough, transfer mixture to blender and pulse until desired consistency is reached.

7.19.2011

spicy honey chicken

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Last week we made this spicy honey chicken. It was delicious! The only little snafu with it happened because Geoff made it while I took Abby to swimming lessons. I told him we didn't have any chipotle chili powder, and said he could add a little ground cayenne to the recipe. He misunderstood and added the same amount of cayenne as the chipotle chili powder the recipe called for (1/2 teaspoon). Needless to see, with a half teaspoon of ground cayenne in the spice rub, the chicken was eye-wateringly spicy. It was still delicious, though! I chopped up the leftovers and threw them into some thai peanut noodles, and they were delicious that way as well. I will definitely make this chicken again, especially now that I have discovered a love for chicken thighs.

Spicy Honey Chicken
Our Best Bites

8 boneless skinless chicken thighs, about 2lbs
2 t vegetable oil

Rub:
2 t granulated garlic
2 t chili powder
1/2 t onion powder
1/2 t coriander
1 t kosher salt
1 t cumin
1/2 t chipotle chili powder

Glaze:
1/2 C honey
1T cider vinegar

Combine the rub spices in bowl and mix well. Use kitchen shears (or a pair of clean scissors) to trim off any excess fat from the chicken pieces.Pat dry. Drizzle oil over chicken and rub in with your hands to lightly coat all the pieces. Then toss chicken with the spice rub to coat all sides well. Use your hands and get in there! Grill chicken for 3-5 minutes on each side, until cooked through.

While chicken is cooking, warm honey in the microwave so it’s not so thick. Add the vinegar and combine well. Reserve 2T honey glaze for later. Take the rest and brush on chicken (both sides) in the final moments of grilling. After grilling, drizzle remaining glaze over the top of the chicken, and enjoy!

fresh fig cookies

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This week we got two containers of fresh figs from the co-op, and I was totally stymied. I googled fresh fig recipes and found only a few that looked appetizing. We tried fresh fig, ricotta, and honey crostini for breakfast one day and found them pleasant but pretty bland. Next we tried these fresh fig cookies from Italian Dessert Recipes, and they were much better. I was surprised, though, that the figs didn't have much flavor. I don't know if it was just the particular figs that we got, or figs in general, but they were extremely mild. The cookies just kind of tasted like generic, nutty, lightly spiced cookies. I had to try several to confirm my opinion of them, of course, but that might just be because I'm a cookie fanatic.

Fresh Fig Cookies
Italian Dessert Recipes

1 cup granulated/white sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 egg
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup chopped fresh figs
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream sugar and butter. Beat the egg and add to the butter/sugar mixture. Sift dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the mixture. Fold in the figs and nuts. Drop cookies by tablespoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

7.18.2011

this week's menu

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This week is a little nutty. We had friends over for dinner on Sunday, and we have more friends scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday, and my mom's graduation (with her master's in education) on Friday. We also have swimming lessons Monday through Thursday at 6:55 p.m. (for the next three weeks), which makes dinner harder to coordinate. Today I had a job interview, Goober's four month checkup, swimming lessons, and a desperately needed trip to Target. I'm really hoping to be able to stick to our menu instead of slipping into eating out, but who knows?

Sunday: chicken pillows, zucchini, fresh cherries (I didn't get to the chicken pillows last week)
Monday: Jimmy John's (it was a crazy day)
Tuesday: skillet vegetable lasagna
Wednesday: tuscan linguine with fresh basil pesto and mushrooms, garlic bread
Thursday: mar-a-lago turkey burgers
Friday: egg and bean burritos (a la Geoff)
Saturday: graduation dinner for my mom at the Grand America (yum!)

Treats: apple crisp, hot fudge peanut butter pudding cake
(Yes, I listed both of them in previous weeks and never made them. This time I'm making them for realsies.)

7.05.2011

strawberry lemonade bars

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These strawberry lemonade bars were tart, fresh, summery, and delicious. I love the color, too! I was kind of dumb and added twice as much butter as I needed to the shortbread crust, so I just doubled the crust recipe and used the extra to make shortbread cookies. They were also delicious! I will definitely make these again!

Strawberry Lemonade Bars
Baking Bites

Crust:
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt

Filling:
1 cup fresh lemon juice
2-3 tsp lemon zest
1/2 cup pureed strawberries (about 3/4 cup berries)
1 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking pan. In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter, until smooth and fluffy. Working at a low speed, gradually beat in flour and salt until mixture is crumbly. Pour into prepared pan and press into an even layer. Bake for about 17 minutes, until set at the edges.

While the crust bakes, prepare the filling. In the bowl of a food processor, combine lemon juice, lemon zest, strawberry puree, sugar and eggs and process until smooth. Add in flour, baking powder and salt, then pulse until smooth.

Gently pour the filling over the hot crust when it has finished baking. Return pan to oven and bake for 23-26 minutes, until the filling is set (There will be a light colored “crust” on top from the sugar in the custard – nothing to worry about). Cool completely before slicing and use a damp knife to ensure clean slices. Store bars in the refrigerator.

fourth of july food

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Our plans changed a little bit, and we ended up having dinner at home on Monday, so I changed our menu around a little bit. We had grilled corn on the cob and chicken sausage, along with my favorite potato salad. It's super easy (and I'm sure everyone knows how to make potato salad) but I love it. Here's how I make it:

Potato Salad

6 medium-size white potatoes, boiled then skinned
3 boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
1/2 can olives, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/4 cup green onions, chopped

dressing:
3/4 cup light mayo
1 T yellow mustard
1/2 T dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Combine dressing ingredients. Combine all other ingredients in a bowl, then toss with dressing.

I also made our new favorite (and super easy) lemonade!



Lemonade

3 lemons
8 cups cold water
1 cup sugar

Cut the ends off the lemons, then cut them into eighths. Add half of the lemon pieces, 4 cups of water, and 1/2 cup sugar to blender. Pulse five times. Pour the mixture into a pitcher through a strainer. Repeat with remaining ingredients. (If your blender is big enough to hold 8 cups, I suppose you could do it all at once, but my Ninja maxes out at 6 cups.)

7.04.2011

hawaiian haystacks

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This is definitely not the most glamorous dinner in the world, but it is yummy. And the homemade chicken sauce is way better than cream of mushroom soup... yum! We topped them with all the lovely things you see below. Okay, actually, I topped them with all those things, and Geoff topped his with olives and cheese. Abby refused chicken sauce and just put cheese on her rice and had peas and mandarin oranges to the side, while cramming chow mein noodles into her mouth. (Heaven forbid foods should mix.)

Chicken Sauce for Hawaiian Haystacks
Mel's Kitchen Cafe

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size chunks (or leftover cooked chicken, cubed)
3 tablespoons butter
½ onion (about ½ cup), finely chopped
3 cloves garlic; finely minced
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ cup flour
2 cups milk
1 cup chicken broth

In a large skillet melt the butter over medium heat and add the onion and raw chicken (if using leftover cooked chicken, don’t add it to the skillet now, you’ll add it later). Saute the onion and chicken, if using, until the onions are soft and translucent and the chicken is cooked through, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about one minute, stirring, until fragrant.

Sprinkle the flour over the onions and chicken and stir to combine. Cook over medium heat for one minute – this helps get rid of the starchy, flour taste. Slowly whisk in the milk and chicken broth. Cook, stirring constantly with a whisk, and bring the sauce to a simmer over medium to medium-high heat. Add the salt and pepper. If you are using leftover cooked chicken, add it now. Continue simmering, stirring the sauce frequently, until the sauce has thickened, about 5-8 minutes.

Serve the chicken sauce over rice with your toppings of choice, such as olives, tomatoes, shredded sharp cheddar cheese, green onions, mandarin oranges and chow mein noodles.


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