Monday, March 29, 2010

My Mom's Peach Upside-down cake

Seems like ages since I have posted anything, but it was just last Wednesday. I guess the fact that I haven't stopped since then makes it seem like a long time ago. :) I know I have been neglecting my blog and my baking groups. I believe I fulfilled the two recipes a month for TWD and SMS, but don't think I am going to make Chocolate with Francois tomorrow. :( Sorry Julie, if you are reading this.

I did have Saturday off this past weekend. I spent Saturday morning running a 10K with my daughter. We were a little slower than we were last year, but last year we trained a bit more because we ran a 1/2 marathon two weeks before the 10K.  This year, we skipped the half and just ran the 10K. It was really the low 30's. But, we warmed up once we got running. We alternated between walking fast and running, mile by mile. We started out walking for the 1st mile, then switched to running for the next mile, and then back to walking, and on and on. :) We ended the race running the last mile. It was fun, as is any time I get to spend with my daughter. We are gong to take a break from running for a bit and then set our sights on the 1/2 marathon in November.

Saturday afternoon the hubby and I drove to Vinton, Virginia, where the hubby's best friend lives. We took the Monte Carlo so Randy could see it and we were looking forward to seeing his 1966 Mustang he had rebuilt. We stayed overnight, hanging with the next door neighbors, eating a fabulous dinner, sitting around a fire, having a few drinks and just enjoying being with friends. It was cold in the the 40's after the sun went down. I almost couldn't get close enough to the fire to stay warm. I brought a simple chocolate sheet cake with chocolate frosting to share for dessert and it was enjoyed by all.  Sunday morning was a big breakfast at the neighbors house and then we headed back home. I had to be at work at 3 Sunday afternoon.

Today, no houses, no coffee shop. :) I spent the day doing the usual day off things; ran errands in town that included grocery shopping, post office, treasurers office to pay for my county license for my cleaning business, library to return and pick up a couple more audio books to listen to while I drive back and forth to work and from house to house. I put about 500 miles a week on my car and get tired of listening to the same old songs on the radio. Audio books are a great way to pass the time while driving.  Here at the house I did three loads of laundry, baked some molasses cookies for a co-worker, and, baked my Mom's Peach Upside-down cake.

I think I mentioned it when I made the rice pudding. It is another dessert that she used to make that I love. I got her to write down the recipe the same time she wrote down the rice pudding recipes. Of course, when I decided to make it, I could not find the recipe to save my soul. I tore this place apart looking for it, and finally had to email Mom to ask her to send it to me again. Tonight, after I had already baked the cake from the email instructions, I found the original recipe! Doesn't it always work like that? If I had a dollar for every time something like that happened I'd be rich!

The funny thing about this cake is that I am not a big peach person. I don't eat peaches when they are in season. I don't buy fruit cups that are just peaches. No peach ice cream, or peach pies. I am just not that crazy about peaches. Except in my Mom's Peach Upside-down cake. It's really the only time I will eat peaches.  I don't know what it is, maybe the brown sugar or the soft cake. But I love this cake, peaches and all.

This is a simple recipe. Butter and brown sugar in the bottom of the pan. Peaches arranged on top. A simple cake batter poured over that. Bake, flip and eat! It's wonderful warm, but just as good after it sits and the flavors mingle a bit. When I first moved to the south from upstate NY, all I ever saw was pineapple upside-down cake. I imagine it's good, but nothing can compare (at least in my opinion) to my Mom's upside-down cake. Give it a try and see what you think.

Peach Upside-Down Cake

                                                    1/4 stick butter, melted
                                               2/3 cup brown sugar
                                                            1 large can (1lb. 8oz.) peaches
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg beaten
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup flour
1 3/4 teaspoon baking powder 


Mix melted butter with brown sugar and press into bottom of 8 inch round cake pan. Drain peaches and arrange slices over brown sugar.

Cream sugar and butter till fluffy. Add egg and vanilla. Mix till blended. Sift dry ingredients together and add to wet mixture alternately with milk, ending with dry ingredients.

Pour batter over peaches. Smooth to cover peaches. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40-50 minutes or until cake springs back and tests done. 

Cool in pan for 10 minutes and then invert onto a plate or cookie.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

More healthy dog treats for Patches (and your dog!)

I am slowly baking my way through "Baking for your Dog", one treat at a time. Yesterday while I was home, enjoying a day off, I decided to bake Patches another treat from the book. I baked some Apple and Carrot Dumplings the week before last, and while she did eat them, they were much too hard to break into pieces for her. And, since she often sometimes swallows treats whole, we decided to give the treats to the squirrels instead. They apparently loved them, because the squirrel feeder I put them in was empty the next day. :)

This time I decided to try Bonnie's Banana Biscuits. My hubby came home and saw the banana I planned on using on the cutting board and broke a piece of it off to give to Patches. Patches spit it out. She does that with things she doesn't like...peas, broccoli, and, apparently bananas. :} Hubby turned to me and said, "She doesn't like banana". Yes, dear, thank you for that update. But, I wasn't going to give her raw bananas. I'm going to bake it, with carrot and flour and oats and I think she will like it then. "Okay" he said, "We'll see". Oh ye of little faith.

As with most of these recipes, it uses a few simple ingredients and comes together quickly. It would probably go even quicker if I just cut the dough into squares, but I use small bone-shaped cutters to make her treats. I also use round cutters and even have one that looks like a little cat that I have used from time to time. This time I just used the circle and the bone-shaped one.

After they baked I broke one in half and gave her a piece. Her reaction? She spit it out! I couldn't believe she did that. Luckily her "daddy" wasn't around to say "I told you so!". I asked her what her problem was and gave her the other piece. That one she ate, and then she picked up the one she had spit out and ate that too. And, then, looked up at me, with her big brown eyes shining and her tail wagging, and clearly gave me signals that she would love to have another one, please. Which I gave to her.

Plan on making these at the end of the evening, because they are supposed to sit in the oven overnight to cool.

Bonnie's Banana Biscuits

2 carrots
1 banana
200 g (7oz) all-purpose flour
100g (3 1/2 oz) fine rolled oats
50 ml (1 1/2 fl oz) sunflower oil
water as required

Grate the carrots finely and mash the banana with a fork. Mix to make a dough with the flour, rolled oats and oil. If necessary, add a little water.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F). Line a baking sheet with baking parchment.

On a floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1 cm (1/2 inch) thick and cut squares about 4 cm (1 1/2 inches) in size. Place these on the sheet and bake for 25 minutes. Turn off the heat and let them cool overnight in the oven. Store in a paper or linen bag. These biscuits will keep for about 3 weeks.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

No TWD this week - Instead Mom's rice pudding

Hi all. I am passing on this week's recipe, Dulce de Leche Duos, which Jodie of Beansy Loves Cake chose. While I absolutely love caramel and anything that remotely resembles caramel, my hubby hates it. And, making cookies that he won't eat, and, that I will have to eat by myself, well, I just can't do that. :) Besides that, I have been working every day since Monday of last week, either at Starbucks or cleaning houses and today I am taking it easy. Please do go by Jodie's site. She decorates cakes and has several posted. She is extremely talented at it! And, she not only posted the recipe for this week, she took lots of great step by step pictures and even included a picture of her darling daughter. Do go by and see. And, drop by TWD to see who else baked this week.

So, as I mentioned, I am off today and staying home to take it easy. Sort of. So far today I have done three loads of laundry. Gone to the county's treasury office and purchased our county tags and the dog's license. Gone to the grocery store. Unpacked and put away the groceries purchased at the grocery store. Picked up and straightened up around the house from where the hubby has been home alone, and while he tries, he just doesn't seem to be able to put things back where he finds them. Surfed the web a little, and, made my Mom's rice pudding.

Back in 2006 I planned a family reunion for my Dad's 70th birthday. We ended up with a houseful of family over a two day stretch. It was a wonderful time, seeing cousins I hadn't seen for years. Seeing their children. Listening to the aunts and uncles catch up with each other. My folks and siblings stayed here with us while the rest of the relatives stayed in Blackstone, which is only about 15 minutes from here. While Mom was here, I got her to write down her rice pudding recipes (there's two and I made the stove top one today) and her Peach upside-down cake recipe. I later laminated those so I will always have them, in her writing, and can pass them on to my daughter one day.

 I have been craving Mom's rice pudding for quite a while now. I kept telling myself to try and make it, then something else would come up and I would put the recipe aside for another time. Cakes, cookies, pies, they have all been great lately, but I have still had a hankering for the rice pudding. Today, when I got back from the grocery store and got my kitchen back in order I decided to make up a batch. It's really simple to make and doesn't require a lot of ingredients. I think it took me less than 30 minutes to have a potful cooling on the counter. I would love to tell you it makes "x" number of servings, but (hangs head sheepishly) I usually end up eating spoonfuls of it as it is cooling and it seldom makes it into serving bowls. :} I am going to guess 4 to 6 servings since there were 5 of us growing up (Mom, Dad, myself, my sister and my brother). When it's warm, I eat it as is. Once it cools I have been known to add a little milk to it. You can also add a dollop of whipped cream to it. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

My Mom's Rice Pudding

1 cup instant rice
2 1/2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup raisins
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Combine rice, milk, salt, cinnamon, sugar and raisins in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil, over medium heat, while stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer slowly for 15 minutes, stirring often.

Pour a small amount of the hot mixture into the eggs and mix well. Then, add the eggs into the pan and mix well. Add vanilla. Bring back up to a simmer again and turn off burner.

Cool in pan 10 minutes.

When served you can add freshly grated nutmeg, or a little cinnamon. 

This can be made with long cooking rice. Increase milk to 5 cups and cook for 45 minutes until rice is done.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Sweet Melissa Sunday - Double-Crusted Caramel Apple Pie

(Forgive the 45 minute early post...I worked all day today and have to work 8 1/2 hours tomorrow. If I don't post now, it will be 9:30 or later tomorrow night before I will be able to post this.)

I'm so excited and nervous! My pick is being showcased this week. I have been anxiously watching the days tick by, getting closer and closer to the 21st. And, here it is! And, here you are! Welcome!!

It seemed like it was going to be forever until I got to pick a recipe for our SMS group, and yet, just 6 short months later, here we are with my pick, Double-Crusted Caramel Apple Pie.  I am so excited to be hosting this week(I know I said that already) and I sincerely hope that my choice didn't cause anyone too much trouble. I know there were a few out there with pie crust anxiety.  Hopefully those concerns were for naught. :)

I really gave a lot of thought to my choice. Last time I got to pick a recipe-in another group-it was a choice between an apple tart and a chocolate cake. I chose the chocolate cake and then wished I had chosen the apple tart. (I made it later and it was wonderful!) This time while looking through Melissa's cookbook I spied this recipe and knew I had to try it. I love apple pie and I love caramel and couldn't wait to try the two together.

I chose to use Melissa's All-Butter Pie Dough for my pie. She gives you a choice between that and her Flaky Pie Dough. I had not tried the All-Butter and that's why I picked it. It was super easy to put together. I made it in a bowl with a pastry cutter, but you can also make it in a food processor. How great is that?!

I recently made some vanilla sugar and decided to use it in the caramel. I followed the directions to a "t" and my first batch of caramel seized up and became a pan of hard, lumpy sugar. Not caramel at all. It was like all the water cooked out leaving just sugar. Not good. I was thinking "Of course, the recipe I pick is going to give me the most trouble!". I dumped the clumpy sugar and started again. The second time it stayed liquid. However, after 15-20 minutes, it was still not amber in color. I was afraid if I left it on the burner much longer the water would cook out again and I would have another pan of sugar. So, I pulled the pan off the stove, added the cream, butter and vanilla and let it cool. Not very dark or amber in color, but it tasted great!

The next little kink in the recipe was the apples. My hubby had brought home a 3 lb. bag of apples that someone at work gave him. They were Galas (I think) and I couldn't see buying Granny Smith apples (even though I know they are tarter than Galas) when I had so many apples here at the house. What I did was up the lemon zest some and added the juice from the lemon. I debated long and hard about whether to add cinnamon to the apples. The recipe doesn't call for any, but all my apple pies have cinnamon in them. It's what makes it an apple pie, at least in my opinion (and we all know what opinions are like :D) However, at the last minute I decided to stick with the recipe like it was written.

One thing I did do that was not in the recipe was add about 1/2 - 3/4 cup of pecans. The hubby asked if I could do that. Other than that (and the vanilla sugar) I made no other changes.

So, what did I think? I commented in the P&Q that I liked it, but  have to say that I wasn't overly impressed. Maybe it was the lack of cinnamon. Perhaps it was the vanilla sugar or the fact that the caramel never really got caramel-y. Could have been the apples. I liked it okay, but not as much as some other apple pies I have made.  Not much flavor at all. The crust was sensational! Flaky, buttery, perfect in every way. The caramel tasted good in the pan, but seemed to lose something when mixed with the apples. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being awesome, I would give this a 4.  The pie itself was kind of a let down for me. I was even disappointed with the pictures I took of it. Such a bummer. To finally get to pick a recipe and then have it not live up to the expectations I had. Maybe I will have better luck next time I get to pick. :} But, don't take my review as gospel. Head over to SMS and see what the other bakers thought. Perhaps someone else had better luck than I did with this recipe.

Double-Crusted Caramel Apple Pie

This double-crusted apple pie has a creamy caramel sauce that is mixed into the apples right before baking. The addition of lemon zest keeps the rich caramel in check.

For the Caramel Sauce
1/2 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons water
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Pie crust
All-Butter Pie Dough
All-butter Pie Dough bakes up more crisp than the Flaky Pie Dough and is great for pumpkin pie, pecan pie, as well as fruit pies. It has a rich buttery flavor.
Makes enough dough for 1 double-crusted pie or 2 single-crust 10-inch pies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup very cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
6 to 8 Tablespoons ice water

To Make the Dough by Hand
1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt to combine.
2. Add the butter pieces, tossing with your fingers to coat each cube in the flour. Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour until it is the size of large peas.
3. Sprinkle 6 tablespoons of the water over the mixture and toss with a fork. The dough should hold together when you squeeze it in your hand. If it is too dry, add the rest of the water (or more if absolutely necessary).

To Make the Dough Using a Food Processor
1. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt to combine.
2. Add the butter pieces, carefully tossing with your fingers to coat each one in flour. Pulse briefly, until the butter is the size of large peas.
3. Add 6 tablespoons of the water and pulse to combine. The dough should just hold together when you squeeze it in your hand. If it is too dry, add the rest of the water (or more if absolutely necessary).

To Rest the Dough
1. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Pat it together into one piece. Divide the dough into two equal parts, flatten each into a round disk, and then wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling.

To Roll the Dough
1. When the dough is chilled through, lightly flour a work surface. Unwrap the dough disk, lightly flour the top, and , using a rolling pin, press gently on the dough, from the middle upward, and then the middle downeard. Turn the dough disk a quarter turn and repeat the light pressing process. Add more flour if needed to prevent sticking.
2. The dough should now be a round, flatter version of the original dough disk. Sprinkle lightly with more flour if necessary, then gently roll the dough so that it is an inch wider all around than it was. Make a quarter turn, lifting the dough if it is sticking and lightly flouring the work surface below. Repeat this process until the round is roughly 12 inches in diameter and 1/4 inch thick. Slide it onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment or wax paper and chill it in the fridge until you are ready to prebake or assemble your pie.
3. When you are ready to bake the dough, transfer it to a pie plate by sliding both palms under the dough and gently lifting it and placing it down over the center of the pie plate. Gently press the dough into the pie plate, being careful not to stretch it. Patch any rips or tears by pressing the dough together with your fingers.
4. Using clean scissors, trim off any dough in excess of 1 1/2 inches around the edges. Then gently roll the dough's edge under itself, creating a nice uniform edge to crimp. Lightly flour a fork and press the times along the top of the folded edge all around, or pinch the dough all around between your index finger and your thumb.
5. Put the pie crust in the refrigerator to rest and chill for at least 30 minutes.

For the Apple Filling
8 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1.2-inch slices
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 Tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar, for sprinkling

For the Egg Wash
1 large egg
2 Tablespoons heavy cream
Pinch kosher salt

To Make the Sauce
1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the heavy cream to hot, but not boiling, 3 to 4 minutes
2. In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar, and water and heat until amber in color (live clover honey), about 10 minutes. Immediately remove the caramelized sugar from the heat. (Please be careful when caramelizing sugar-no kids in the room. Hot sugar is a very bad burn.)
3. Slowly pour the cream into the caramel, stirring with a wooden spoon. Stir in the butter and vanilla. Let cool to warm.

To Prepare the Pie Crust
Roll out the dough into two rounds 14 inches wide and 1/4 inch thick. Gently fit one into a 10-inch pie plate and lay the other flat on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to assemble, at least 30 minutes.

Before you make the Filling
Position a rack in the bottom third of your oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or aluminum.

To Make the Filling
1. In a large bowl, stir together the apples, zest, flour, sugar, and salt to combine.
2. Stir the caramel sauce (which should be warm but not hot) into the apples.

To Complete the Pie
1. For the egg wash: Whisk together the egg, heavy cream, and salt with a fork.
2. Pour the caramel apple filling into the unbaked pie shell. Brush the edges of the crust with some of the egg wash.
3. Place the second dough round on top of the filled pie shell. Fold under the edges and crimp.
4. Brush the top crust with the egg wash and sprinkle with the 2 teaspoons sugar. Cut 4 steam vents in the top crust.
5. Place the pie plate on the freshly lined cookie sheet. Bake for 1 hour and 45 minutes, or until the juices are bubbling and thick and the apples are tender. Remove to a wire rack to cool before serving.

This pie is best served warm or at room temperature. As with all fruit pies, it is best eaten the day it is baked.

(Next time I am choosing a recipe that doesn't require as much typing! Whew!)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie - Soft Chocolate and Raspberry Tart

Raspberries and Chocolate. What a wonderful combination. Many thanks to Rachelle of Mommy? I'm Hungry! for picking this recipe for our Tuesdays with Dorie choice this week. Please drop by her blog. She has the prettiest backgound and her site is full of recipes, product reviews, and fabulous photos! Thank you Rachelle for choosing such a fabulous dessert.

I for one was thrilled to see this recipe come up and just as thrilled to give it a try. Raspberries and Chocolate. What a wonderful combination. :) Is there an echo in here?!

I love Dorie's tart crust recipe. I have used it for several different tarts now and I must say, for me, it is about foolproof. Throw it together in a food processor and press it into a tart pan, bake it and boom! You are in business. I made this one with the nuts as she recommends. Turned out perfect. My only complaint, and it happened the last time I baked this crust, is that a small amount of the tart stuck to the foil when I peeled it off of the tart after the first baking. So, my pretty tart looks a bit rough in the pan. But, I am not losing too much sleep over it because no one can see it after I add the filling, what ever it might be.

I made the tart crust up last Friday and popped it into the freezer. Then, this morning I baked it and set it on the counter to cool. I almost over baked it. Got distracted multi-tasking, but pulled it from the oven just in time I think.

I was lucky enough to find some really nice raspberries at the grocery store that weren't too outrageously priced. And, wonders will never cease, there wasn't a moldy one in the bunch!

Once my tart crust had cooled I covered the bottom with the fresh raspberries. Then, I made up the filling. I didn't have any milk chocolate in the house, but I did have two bars of Ghirardelli's Semi-sweet chocolate. I decided to use 3 ounces of the bittersweet bar I had and 2 ounces of the semi-sweet bar. The filling came together with no major problems. I did have what seemed like a lot of bubbles and I rapped the bowl on the counter quite a few times trying to get them all to rise to the surface and pop.

Put the tart into the oven, set the timer for 30 minutes and went off to do other things around the house (usual day off stuff...laundry, changing sheets, dishes, catch up on my blog reading, etc.) After what seemed like a good while I went into the kitchen to see how much time was left on the times. What I saw was "End". I guess I never heard the beeper go off! I yanked open the oven door, expecting to see a burnt mess, but the tart didn't look bad at all. I stuck a knife into the center and it came out with some streaks of chocolate. So, I lucked out. Seems a fair number of bakers had to bake their tarts longer than the recipe stated. I guess I did the same, without realizing it. :D

The verdict? Oh! My! Goodness! Susan! Put down the fork and step away from the tart!! I swear I could have eaten half of it in one sitting. The crust is crisp, and buttery and tender and just delicious! The chocolate filling is like silk in your mouth. Wonderfully creamy and smooth and rich. The raspberries almost melt when you bite into them and the tartness of each berry is perfection when paired with the chocolate. After I took my pictures I scarfed down the slice on the plate and then began eyeballing the rest of the tart. It was only with the greatest use of willpower was I able to put down the fork. The hubby? He said he'd rather eat the carrot cake! Can you imagine?!?! If you read my post about the carrot cake I made over the weekend you will realize the impact of that statement . He'd rather eat the carrot cake.  Hey, that's absolutely fine with this girl!

Please drop by TWD to see what the other bakers thought of this fabulous dessert. There was a lot of buzz about different fruits being used. Can't wait to see!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sweet Melissa Sunday - Carrot cake with Cream cheese frosting

Well, I wasn't sure I could pull this off, working all weekend at Starbucks, and finding time to bake,  but I made it! "It" being the recipe for our Sweet Melissa Sunday group. The recipe being  Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting. Chosen by Julie of Little Bit of Everything. Julie was one of my first followers and I keep up with her blog. I was excited to see her choice. I haven't met a carrot cake yet I didn't like. Some I have liked more than others. :) Please stop by Julie's blog to see what she thought of this cake and to get the recipe to try it for yourself. She has made some changes to her header and it's so pretty! You can tell her Susan sent you. :)

So. about this cake.  I baked the cake Saturday night, after dinner, after work. Left it on the counter to cool overnight and frosted it tonight after work. I decided to only bake 1/2 the recipe and to bake it in my 6 inch cake pans. My hubby isn't a carrot cake person, and I sure don't need an 8 inch round two layer cake sitting in my fridge calling to me late at night. "Hello...I'm in here...come cut a know you want to..." You know how it goes, right?  And, I didn't want to skip this week because I missed last week. So, I made it happen.

Pretty easy to put together. I did add the walnuts as I love nuts of all kinds in my baked goods. As I mentioned, I halved the recipe and baked it in 6 inch pans. I think I ended up baking it for about 35 minutes. It looked perfect when I took it out of the oven.

I didn't make the cream cheese icing because I actually had some cream cheese icing left over from another project. And it turned out to be just enough. I usually tort my cake layers, but, while I had enough frosting to ice the sides and tops, there was only enough to fill between one layer, not three. Had I baked the full size cake I would have torted it and made more icing. But, I didn't, so, I didn't. :)

The verdict? This is one delicious cake! I loved the walnuts scattered throughout. I also chopped some walnuts and sprinkled them over the top and on the sides. They added just the right amount of crunch. The cake was moist, cinnamon-y, delicious!  The hubby? He said, and I quote, "I'm not much for any carrot crap, but this is one good cake. I mean, really, really good."  Oh, and Patches? She gave it two paws up! I have a feeling the hubby is going to wish I had made the full sized recipe. I may wish the same thing. Good thing I have the book and can make another one any time I want.

If you want, slide by SMS and see what the other bakers thought of this cake. And, next week? It's my turn to pick!!! I hope you will come back then and see what I've baked up. :)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Reward Biscuits for Patches

I have started baking my dog homemade treats. I mentioned (the first time I baked treats for her) that I received "Baking for your Dog" for Christmas. It was a a gift from my sister-in-law, who knows I love to bake and each Christmas tries to find me something baking related as a gift. :) Thus, "Baking for your Dog".

I know I have also talked about Patches before, but for those of you who may have missed the first post...This is our girl, Patches. She is an Australian Cattle Dog, also called a Blue Heeler. She is the most intelligent dog I have ever owned. She is going to be 9 in September, and is the apple of her "daddy's" eye. This picture was taken during a trip to Virginia Beach last October.

We got Patches as a puppy, for my father-in-law. :) He had owned a Blue Heeler once, Bunny, and loved her. He often talked about getting another one some day. During the fall of 2001 we decided (the hubby and I) to get a Heeler puppy for Ray. We found a farm nearby that had Heelers and picked one out for Ray. Problem was, we had to pick her up about 6 weeks before Christmas. Each day, for those 6 weeks, the hubby and I would go out to the pen we had her in and play with her, feed her, spend some time with her. Even before Christmas day we told each other if for some reason Ray didn't want the puppy, we would keep her. She was the cutest thing when she was little!

Well, Christmas day rolled around before we knew it. I had purchased a large stocking full of dog toys and wrapped it up for Ray to open. When he did he looked puzzled and thanked me. I think he thought the toys were for his hunting dogs.The hubby and I asked him, and the rest of the family, to come outside to see the rest of his present. When everyone got outside, we brought Patches from the truck and carried her to Ray. He was stunned and couldn't believe we did that for him. He also said he couldn't take her. He said she was too attached to us after being with us for so long. We tried to tell him that she would get used to him as her owner, but he said "Yes, she will get used to me, but she will always be your dog". He asked us if we would keep her. And, of course, we were thrilled to. So, Ray's Christmas Present became Patches and the rest is history.

Now, back to the treats I baked.  I have baked three different things for her and she has liked them all. Bobby's Brownies, which I posted a while back. A peanut butter biscuit recipe that one of my blogging friends posted (I forget who, sorry), Apple and Carrot dumplings and this recipe, Reward Biscuits. Super easy to put together, as have all of the dog treats I have baked from this book.

  Reward Biscuits

100g (3 1/2 oz) whole wheat flour
100g (3 1/2 oz) coarse rolled oats
2 Tbls. oat bran
2 eggs
75g (2 1/2 oz) grated Parmesan cheese
75g (2 1/2 oz) finely diced ham
100 ml (3 fl. oz) water

Mix all the ingredients with the water to make a smooth dough. Cover and let the dough rest for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F) . Line a baking sheet with baking parchment.

On a floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1 cm (1/2 inch) thick and cut into 3cm x 5 cm (1 1/4 x 2 inch)  rectangles. Place these on the baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the biscuits harden in the oven for another 2 hours. Store in a paper or linen bag. The biscuits will keep for about 4 weeks. 

And, that's it. Super easy. Patches loves them. And, I feel better knowing exactly what she is getting. Not to mention the money we are saving by not buying store bought biscuits.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Two recipes for the price of one! :D

I had today off from both of my jobs. No houses to clean today and no coffee to serve. (I now work part-time nights and weekends at Starbucks). I have every Monday off from cleaning, as I am sure I have mentioned in other posts. Mondays are often when I try new dinner dishes and almost always bake something new. Today was no exception to that rule. :)

I also squeezed in a walk with my dog (it was a glorious day today), three loads of laundry, a trip to the DMV for my hubby, and filled all my bird feeders. Don't cha' just love a "day off"? While on my walk, I noticed that my tulips are coming up. Well, only the leaves. I had actual tulips the first and second year I planted them, and the last two years all I got were leaves. :( I also noticed that my crocuses are coming up. Spring can't be too far off. Yeah!! Oh, speaking of spring. Several of my friends- and anyone who takes the time to drop by and read my blog is a friend- have mentioned the new header I have posted. That is a photo I took last spring when the dogwoods were in bloom. I love the look, with the light behind the blossom and thought it would be a nice change from the snowy driveway scene I have had. I think I may change that picture as the seasons and moods strike me. Thank you to those of you who have complimented me on it. :)

But, I am sure you didn't come here to listen to me ramble on about pictures. You came for the food! So today I made two new recipes. Dinner was Layered Polenta and dessert was Tiramisu Cheesecake. I thought both were really good. The hubby thought both were okay.

The layered polenta recipe I stole from a darling young lady I have known for, wow, almost 10 years?! Can that be right? She was my daughter's roommate in college and they have stayed friends since then. Beth just turned 27 and was in college at 18 so I guess it has been 9 years. Wow! I have watched Leslie grow into a beautiful, creative, funny, talented woman. She has a food blog called 'Cause I Eats Me Spinach. It is vegan/vegetarian and, let me tell you, the girl can cook! I am often in awe of her because she just makes things up as she goes along. I am a by the book baker/cook. I am often afraid to vary from what is written. Leslie just seems to know what works and how to put it together. Anyway, the other day she posted a recipe for a Basic Layered Polenta. Having just "discovered" polenta, I was intrigued to think of using it as a main dish rather than a side. I took her recipe and got brave and played around with it, creating a dish I thought the hubby would eat. That meant it had to have meat in it. :)

What I did, for the layers between the polenta was to dice up one green pepper, three carrots, one onion and 3 cloves of garlic. I sauteed all of that in a large skillet with about 2 tbls. of olive oil and then added about 3/4 of a pound of ground turkey to the skillet. Cooked all that together, seasoned it with some salt and pepper and then, when the polenta was good and thick, I put a layer of polenta in a greased casserole dish, put about half of the meat/vegetable mix over it, sprinkled some freshly grated Parmesan cheese over that, and covered that with polenta. I then repeated the process until all the meat/vegetable mixture was gone, and the final layer was polenta, which I sprinkled additional Parmesan cheese over. I popped the dish into the oven and let it bake for about 30 minutes. I served this with some steamed broccoli. I used a small round casserole dish and I think next time I would use a larger shallower dish. My hubby thought it should have been "crunchier or crustier" but he did clean his plate. Even Patches liked it. I thought it was perfect like it was. The flavors all melded together, the vegetables adding just a little texture to the polenta. I did not use a lot of cheese so the flavor was subtle, more in the background. It was a very mellow tasting dish. None of the ingredients really standing out. Instead everything seemed to work together to create a warm, rich comforting dish. Of course, my layers all fell together when I spooned it out of the casserole dish. Another reason to use a shallow baking dish next time so I can cut it instead of spoon it. But, the taste would still be good. :) Thanks Leslie for a great dish!

The other dish I made tonight was dessert. There is another group I have started posting with , Have the Cake. I was invited to join last month after Chaya of Sweet and Savory saw my Red Velvet cake and said that was the February challenge for the group. I decided to join and this month's challenge is Tiramisu. I have never made Tiramisu before and decided it was time to change that! My Mom had given me a recipe for a Tiramisu Cheesecake a couple of years ago, and I never got around to making it. In fact, I lost the recipe and totally forgot about it. Until I saw March's Have the Cake challenge. I emailed Mom and she still had the recipe and sent it to me. I am not sure where she got it from. She said a lady from church gave her the recipe. So, I can't give credit to whoever may have created it.

I thought this was delicious! You could detect the coffee flavor, but not the Kalhua. I think next time I might bump that up a bit. The cheesecake itself was smooth and creamy and the 2 tbls. coffee added didn't impact the flavor at all. It was strange not to have a "hard" crust on the bottom of the cheesecake. I usually use graham cracker or some kind of cookie crust. This crust, made from the coffee soaked ladyfingers was soft and just melted in my mouth. The shavings of chocolate were a nice touch, adding a hint of crunch, for just an instant, before melting into the creamy cheesecake itself. The hubby? "You've made better" was what he said. But, in all fairness, he's not a big coffee person so that may have influenced his review. :)

It was pretty easy to put together. I used store bought Ladyfingers and store bought Mascarpone cheese. I know you can make your own of both, and while I may do that in the future, today I just didn't have that kind of time. So, store bought it was. The first Ladyfingers I dipped in my coffee/Kahlua/sugar mixture I let get totally submerged and they dissolved! I scooped them out and hung on to the rest of them letting them only get soaked on one side! I won't go into all my step by step moves, rather I will just post the recipe and you can imagine me doing those things as I worked around in my kitchen. :)

Tiramisu Cheesecake

1 1/4 cup triple strength coffee (reserve 2 Tbls.)
2 Tbls. plus 1 1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbls. Kuhlua
1 1/2 package (7 oz. each) imported Italian savoiardi ladyfingers
3 8 oz. blocks of cream cheese, softened
1 Tbls. corn starch
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tub (8 oz.) mascarpone cheese
1 oz. bittersweet chocolate, grated

1. Remove bottom of a 9x3 inch springform pan and wrap the bottom with plastic wrap.
2. Stir coffee, 2 Tbls. sugar and the Kahlua in a shallow bowl until sugar dissolves. Set 1/2 of the ladyfingers aside. For each of the remaining ladyfingers, quickly dip one side into coffee mixture and place wet side up on pan bottom to cover, cutting ladyfingers as needed to fit. Freeze about 15 minutes until firm. Lift plastic wrap, with ladyfingers, off pan bottom and place on a flat plate in freezer. 
3. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Reassemble the springform pan and coat with non-stick spray.
4. Quickly dip one side of reserved ladyfingers into coffee mixture. Place wet side up on pan bottom to cover, cutting ladyfingers to fit and pressing to fill spaces. Freeze until ready to assemble.
5. Beat cream cheese, 1 1/4 cups sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl with mixer on medium speed until smooth. On low speed, beat in eggs, one at a time until just blended. Beat in mascarpone and reserved 2 Tbls. of coffee. Pour half the batter into pan; spread evenly. Top with ladyfinger layer from freezer; sprinkle with grated chocolate. Spoon remaining batter over chocolate. Spread evenly.
6. Bake 45 minutes, or until cake still jiggles slightly when shaken. Some bubbles may form on surface (will sink as cake cools). Turn off oven and leaving door closed, leave cake in oven for another 45 minutes.
7. Remove cake from oven. Carefully run a thin knife around the edge of the pan to release the cake (leave the pan sides on). Cool completely on a wire rack. Cover loosely and refrigerate at least 4 hours or preferably 1 day for best flavor.
8. To serve remove pan and place cake on a serving plate. Dust with cocoa; top with chocolate curls.  Enjoy!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

No SMS here- Sorry Leslie!

I really hate to disappoint Leslie of Lethally Delicious, who chose this week's Sweet Melissa Sunday's recipe, Roasted Pecan Cake with Caramel Orange Marmalade and Burnt Orange Buttercream, but I did not participate. I have had to take a second job and I worked Saturday from 12:30 to 9:30PM and today from 9AM  to 5:30PM. That has left me no time for baking at all this weekend. In fact, the hubby is doing the laundry and making dinner tonight for me since I just got home about a half hour ago. I am one tired puppy. :} So, again, my sincerest apologizes to Leslie. Please stop by her blog and see the four layer beauty she created. And, be sure to also stop by SMS to see what the other bakers thought.

Friday, March 5, 2010

It's good to have friends. Help me help you win us both a Kitchen Aid Mixer!

My blogging friend Susan, of She's becoming Doughmesstic is having a super giveaway. Susan not only got me involved in Operation Baking Gals, but she also set up my blog for me, during a visit to her home last year. She's a really sweet girl (anyone younger than me is a girl!) and has a terrific blog. Her photography is amazing and she comes up with the most delicious sounding (and looking) cakes and desserts. The girl has talent!

Another thing she does is offer these fabulous giveaways! Last week it was Le Creuset cookware. This week? A KitchenAid 5 Quart Stand Mixer. Actually, two! One for me! And, one for you! All you need to do is drop by her blog and leave a comment. When you do, please, please, please! mention that I "sent" you. Then, if your comment is picked we both win! If my comment is picked, I will have to try and pick a friend out of all my blogging buddies. It would be so much easier if you just post a comment and then I won't have to pick! Makes sense, huh?

So, walk, no, run! over to her site and leave a comment mentioning that I sent you. And, if we are really, really lucky, we will be the proud owners of a bright new shiny Kitchen Aid mixer. Good luck to us!!!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Chicken-Fried Steak dinner ala "The Pioneer Woman"

Welcome to another addition of dinner ala "The Pioneer Woman". I will be linking this recipe to Foodie Fans of the Pioneer Woman, a group of cooks and bakers who are fans of Ree and love to showcase her recipes. Twice a month, every other Monday, a theme is chosen and everyone bakes or cooks something that fits into that theme. This coming Monday? Main Dishes. I may have mentioned all of this when I made the Ranch Style Chicken last week, but, it wouldn't be the first time in my life I have repeated myself. :)
So, back to dinner. I have a copy of Ree's cookbook and love it. The photography in it is just gorgeous and the recipes are wonderful. Simple down-home ingredients she whips up into hearty meals.  While flipping through the cookbook last week I saw the recipe for Chicken Fried Steak and decided to give it a try. When we were growing up, Mom used to make cube steaks for dinner from time to time. No breading, just plain fried cube steaks. I always had mine with lots of ketchup. :)  Guess the whole "chicken fried" thing is a southern way of doing cube steaks. I certainly never heard of it till I moved to Virginia. Then I married a southern boy and had to learn the southern way of cooking. Pancakes cooked in bacon grease. Scrambled eggs with cheese. Grits. (Which to me are(is?) like Cream of Wheat and I make my in-laws shudder because I eat them(it?) with sugar and milk!) (Damn Yankee! Hehehe)  Where was I? Oh yeah, cooking southern food...Biscuits with every meal. Ice Tea with every meal, summer or winter. Squirrel for breakfast. Yes. Really. Once. His Mom made it for us.  For Breakfast. Enough said.

Anyway, back to my southern hubby. Chicken Fried Steak is right up his alley. Fry meat after dipping it in egg and flour, cover it with gravy you make with the residue from frying said meat, and, you have one happy redneck. Hey, that's what he calls himself. Don't shoot the messenger! 

I served this with mashed potatoes, which I also covered with the gravy, and green beans cooked with bacon and  herb seasonings. To say that my hubby was happy with dinner would be an understatement. He loved it! Cleaned the plate and informed me that he would rather have "that kind of gravy" over brown gravy any day.  And, "boy, that was delicious". And, "was there any of that left"?  And, while I was cleaning up the table? He was over at the stove, with a spoon, "helping" me clean up the pan I cooked the steaks in. :D Recommendations don't get much better than that in this house. 
I am going to list the ingredients that Ree uses in her recipe. I cut back on the amount since it is just the hubby and I. I am also going to stream-line the instructions from how they are written in the book. I love Ree's style...I just don't want to type it all. :)  

Chicken-Fried Steak
From The Pioneer Woman Cooks cookbook, pages 142-145

3 pounds cube steak
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups milk, plus 2 cups for the gravy
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus about 1/3 cup for the gravy
2 teaspoons seasoned salt, such as Lawry's
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more if you can handle it)
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
3 teaspoons seasoned salt
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil for frying

Mix the flour, seasoned salt, paprika, cayenne and black pepper together in a shallow plate. Mix the eggs with 1 cup of the milk in another shallow dish. Have a third empty dish close by. Lightly season the meat with salt and pepper. Dip each piece into the egg/milk mixture, then into the flour mixture. Now, dip the flour covered meat back into the egg mixture and then one more time into the flour mixture. Place the double dipped meat onto the empty plate. 

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. (A few sprinkles of flour will sizzle in the oil when it is hot enough) Fry the meat, several pieces at a time. Cook on one side until the edges start to look golden brown, about 2 1/2 minutes. Flip the meat and cook for another 2 or 3 minutes on the other side. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate and keep warm until all the meat has been cooked. 

After frying all the meat, pour off all the grease into a heat-proof bowl. Do not clean the pan! Return it to the stove over medium-low heat. Add 1/4 cup of the grease back to the pan. Allow the grease to heat up. Sprinkle 1/3 cup of flour evenly over the grease. Using a whisk, mix the flour with grease, creating a paste. When the flour becomes golden brown, while whisking constantly, pour in two cups of milk. Whisk to combine, then let the gravy come to a slow boil. Add more milk if the gravy becomes too thick, whisking it into the flour/gravy. The whole process should be between 5 to 10 minutes. 

Place the warm meat on a plate with a heaping pile of mashed potatoes. Drizzle with a little (or a lot!) of  the gravy. Ree says "Serve this to a hungry cowboy and you'll earn a friend for life".

Monday, March 1, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie - Toasted Coconut-Custard Tart

Beryl of Cinemon Girl chose this weeks Tuesdays with Dorie recipe. It's a Toasted Coconut-Custard Tart, if you didn't already know. If I knew where she was, I would go kiss her! Coconut is one of those things that I love, but seldom get to have because the hubby isn't crazy about it. He will usually eat a small slice of his Mom's coconut cream pie at Thanksgiving, but other than that, it's not one of those things he asks me to make. And, I really don't need to make something I will have to eat by myself. I keep losing weight, but darned if it doesn't keep finding me!

So, when I saw this weeks choice I almost passed.  But, I reasoned, a tart is much smaller than a pie (yeah, right!) and I could share some with my mother-in-law and father-in-law, since they both like coconut. My mother-in-law is recovering from hip surgery so I thought making it and taking some to them would cheer them both up, and keep me from eating the whole tart by myself. With all that in mind, I forged ahead.

I preheated my oven and read over the recipe. Decided to toast the coconut while I worked on the tart crust. I sprinkled coconut over a sheet of parchment paper I put on a baking sheet. I placed it in the oven, telling myself not to forget it was in there and burn it. Then I started mixing up the dough for the tart. After several minutes (or 5 or more, I don't know) I smelled something cooking and realized it was my coconut! Yanked open the oven door and there was my baking sheet, full of what had been beautiful coconut, now full of almost burnt coconut! I think the only thing that kept the whole cup and a half from going straight into the trash was that it had gone into the oven frozen. The outer edges of the coconut was too dark to use, but all the coconut in the center was almost perfectly toasted. Whew! Lucked out on that one. I do stuff like that all the time. Put something in the oven and say "Now don't forget this", and then forget it! :}

After that little mishap, everything went as smooth as glass. The tart dough came together perfectly. Baked it and set it on the counter to cool. Made the custard. The only deviation from the recipe I made was to add about 1/4 teaspoon of coconut extract, to kick up the coconut flavor.  It seemed a bit thick at first, but I added a little milk to it when I took it off the stove until it was the consistency I thought it should be, then finished it with the butter and coconut. Set that in the fridge to cool.

After the crust was cool enough I spooned the custard into it. Smoothed it out and then I whipped up the whipping cream and piped it on top of the custard filled crust. I sprinkled some toasted coconut on top and stood back to admire my work.

Perfection! I cut a couple of slices to take to the in-laws and then cut a sliver to taste. Oh. My. Goodness! It was divine. The custard was creamy, rich, full of bits of toasted coconut with just a hint of the dark rum coming through. The crust was tender, but crumbly, "sandy" is the description in the book, and it fits. The whipped cream on top, with a tiny bit of rum, light and airy, is the perfect compliment to the rest of the tart. I can't wait till after dinner when I can have another slice, a bigger one this time!

If you would like to see what all the other bakers thought of this fabulous dessert, head over to TWD and check them out. Excuse me while I head to the kitchen. I think I am going to have that slice before's uncertain you know. :)