Thursday, October 17, 2013

Serving Up {Cake}: Spiced Oat Pear Blondies

Man on man!  I can't believe that October is nearly a memory and I have not yet posted the recipe for these Spiced Oat Pear Blondies!  Major oversight on my part and one that I am glad that I caught before the demand for fall flavors has completely diminished.

Despite the fact that these really do taste like a little piece of autumn, I have made them throughout the year and enjoy them just as much in April as I do in October.  Because I have made them year round, I can vouch for the fact that you can substitute canned (or in my case, bottled) pears in place of the fresh pear with complete success - just make sure to drain the pears really well before using them so that excess juices don't change the outcome of the dessert.

One Year Ago: Apple Cake with Butter Sauce
Two Years Ago: Pumpkin Bread

(recipe from Amandeleine)
printable version

1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup old fashioned oats
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
3 Tbs. chilled butter, cut into small pieces

1/2 cup chilled butter, cut into 1/2" slices
1 1/2 cup flour
1 cup old fashioned oats
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1 3/4 cups light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups 1/4-inch cubes of cored, peeled, firm pear (about 2-3 large pears)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a 13x9 baking dish with nonstick spray.  Set aside.
Combine the topping ingredients of flour, oats, brown sugar and salt in a medium bowl.  Add butter and crumble the butter and dry ingredients together until moist crumbs form and no flour remains.  Cover and chill.
For blondie; brown the butter in a medium saucepan by heating over medium heat until melted.  Allow to continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the color deepens and dark brown bits form at the bottom of the pan.  Be careful not to allow the butter to burn.  Pour the browned butter into a medium bowl and all to cool slightly.
Whisk the flour, oats, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl; set aside.  Whisk brown sugar, eggs and vanilla in another large bowl until the mixture is smooth.  Slowly add the browned butter to the brown sugar mixture, whisking constantly and until well blended.
Add pears to the dry ingredients; toss to coat well.  Stir into the brown sugar mixture, carefully combining (batter will be thick).
Smooth batter into prepared pan and sprinkle the chilled topping over the top.
Bake 30-35 minutes, until golden brown and tester inserted into the center comes out almost clean, with a few moist crumbs attached.  Allow to cool.
Cut blondies into squares and dust with powdered sugar, if desired, before serving.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Serving Up {Cookies}: Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Last night my husband announced that he was in "need" of chocolate for dessert.  He said that while a plate of Cinnamon Roll Cookie Bars was sitting directly in front of him at the table!  I wasn't as supportive as I should have been and said "no" to the baking of cookies!  I cannot have that much temptation in the house at one time!  So I struck a bargain with the hubby...he could cook up some Toll House cookie dough (packaged) that was in the freezer to meet his chocolate need if he promised to only cook up enough to meet the immediate "need".  The cookies were baked and after he ate one (or two, or three) he said, "these are not nearly as good as yours".  Thank you!  I absolutely agree.  Even if the package does say "Cookie of the Year", packaged cookie dough just doesn't come close to homemade!

So with that I give you my favorite cookie recipe (at the moment).  Chocolate chip cookies are a tricky one because there are thousands of variations out there and everyone feels differently about what constitutes cookie perfection - kind of a thin/crunchy versus thick/chewy thing.  I am a thick and chewy girl myself.  I have tried many FABULOUS, tried and true recipes passed along by friends only to not have success when I recreate them in my kitchen.  My best friend makes awesome cookies - secret ingredient is corn starch - but when I make them they are not like the perfection that comes out of her oven.  Same thing with my sister-in-law's recipe - secret ingredient is pudding mix - but they don't come out of my oven looking like they do out of hers.  For whatever reason, this recipe works for me.  Every time.  So it is the recipe I stand by.  I think that the key to the thick and chewy result is perfecting the amount of flour and that may vary by altitude or weather, so play with it until you have your own Chocolate Chip Cookie perfection.  I have definitely found mine.

One Year Ago: Bran Flax Muffins
Two Years Ago: Roasted Pumpkin with Shallots & Sage
                          Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

(recipe from Stephanie C., adapted by Heidi C.)
printable version

1 cup butter
2/3 cups brown sugar
1 1/3 cups white sugar
2 tsp. real vanilla
2 eggs
3 1/2 cups flour (may need slightly more)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 cups milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy - at least 5 minutes - you can't over mix on this part.  Add vanilla and eggs. Beat lightly until smooth (don't over mix).  Mix dry ingredients and stir into sugar mixture until flour disappears (don't over mix).  Add chocolate chips and stir just until evenly distributed.
Using cookie scoop* drop dough onto cookie sheets.  Bake 8-10 minutes.  They will be slightly firm at the edges and soft in the middle.  They will get more firm as they cool.
Remove from oven and allow to cool on the cookie sheet.  Remove to cooling rack to finish cooling.

* This recipe makes the greatest jumbo cookies.  To make jumbo cookies, use an ice-cream scoop in place of a cookie scoop.  You will need to add 2-4 minutes to baking time to accommodate the larger size.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Serving Up {Butter}: Perfect Honey Butter

You can search my entire site and not find any "perfect" or "world's best" descriptions - I may love a recipe to bits and pieces but don't feel that I can go around making that claim.  Until now.  Not only am I telling you that this is the perfect honey butter recipe - I am calling it "perfect" right in it's name!  I have tried honey butter with cinnamon added (okay), honey butter with vanilla added (good) but when I tasted this recipe last year I went on a search to find the secret ingredient which all other honey butter recipes were lacking.  The secret ingredient turned out to be powdered sugar.  Yeah, it's basically frosting, but it is so GOOD!

Aside from the secret ingredient, the texture is also key to this honey butter being perfect.  Do NOT soften your butter.  You will be tempted.  It's a hard temptation to fight, I understand.  Fight it!  Do exactly as I have written and place your butter on the counter for 20 minutes.  It's all you need.  Trust your beaters.  They will know what to do and won't let you down.  The finished product will look like mashed potatoes.  Mashed potatoes that taste like frosting....why do I not have a cookbook people?

And in case you are wondering, here is the recipe for my mom's "perfect" corn bread pictured above.  Hey, I could get used to claiming my recipes are perfect.  But what else would you expect from a perfect mother, raising perfect children, living a perfect life.  Gag!  I think I will stick with the one perfection in my life...this honey butter.  I hope you agree.

One Year Ago: Caramel Apple Crisp
Two Years Ago: Halloween Bark

printable version

1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup + 2 Tbs. powdered sugar

Remove butter from the refrigerator and allow to stand on counter for 20 minutes.  Place the butter in a medium mixing bowl.  Add the honey and powdered sugar and beat with an electric mixer for about 30 seconds or until everything is light and fluffy.  Serve at room temperature.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Serving Up {Soup}: Beef & Red Bean Chili

Soup weather has come - and with a vengeance!  I know I am not the only one having CRAZY fall weather!  A week into October and I am hearing about snow falling in parts of the country and here in the Northwest we are keeping our canoes and kayaks handy in case we need to make a water getaway!  Sheesh!  We ended the month of September with all kinds of record breaking rainfall.  Who do I need to talk to arrange a few more days of sunshine?  Our house is getting painted and the rain isn't helping that project one bit!

When the weather turns cold, I immediately think "soup".  And while I may quickly tire of the cold, wet weather, I don't really ever tire of the soup.  This chili recipe is an adaption of my aunt's delicious chili.  I still remember my aunt making this when I was pretty young and touting that you could make the entire thing using "only your microwave" - that was when microwaves were cool and new and sat on their very own microwave stand.  30 years later we have learned a few things about those cool microwaves and I was happy to return this recipe to the stovetop where it belongs.  Same great flavor minus a few electromagnetic waves.  Serve with a hearty cornbread (I would suggest this recipe) and some delicious honey butter (come back on Thursday for that recipe) and you are ready for any weather that might be on the horizon.

One Year Ago: Sesame Chicken
Two Years Ago: Thai Coconut Ginger Broth

(recipe adapted from aunt Marie)
printable version

2 lbs. hamburger
1/2 onion, chopped
1 tsp. garlic, minced
32-ounce can petite diced tomatoes
15-ounce can tomato sauce
2 15-ounce cans kidney beans, drained
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 Tbs. chili powder
1 Tbs. brown sugar
1 tsp. cumin powder
1/2 tsp. Tabasco
2 bay leafs
8 whole cloves
8 whole allspice

Tie cloves and allspice into a small peice of cheesecloth and set aside the "spice bag".
Heat a large dutch oven over medium heat and add hamburger, onion and garlic.  Continue to cook until hamburger is no longer pink.  Drain excess fat.  Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine.  Add spice bag and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered for one hour.
Flavor is best if you place cooked chili in the fridge overnight, with bay leaf and spice bag in place.
Rewarm and discard spices before serving.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Serving Up {Breakfast}: Cinnamon Roll Frosting

It has been a busy week!  I know, I know....I am probably singing to the choir but sometimes it hits me harder than others and this week it was driving a semi-trailer!  All I really want to do is sit down, put my feet up and indulge in something sweet and delicious.  Sadly, there is nothing sweet and delicious currently at my disposal and I am a bit bummed!  But my kids will be grateful for my mood come Sunday morning cause we are making ourselves some homemade cinnamon rolls and momma is indulging her craving!

This weekend, our church broadcasts a worldwide meeting that allows us to listen to our church leaders - it's called General Conference.  It happens twice a year (April & October) and it is really and truly my favorite two weekends of the year...and not just cause I get to "watch church" in my pajamas and eat cinnamon rolls.  The messages are always uplifting and inspiring - something I could really use after this past week.  If you are interested in watching along, click here or here and watch along with me....there are broadcasts at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. (MDT) on Oct 5th & 6th.

Since I am going to be indulging in some delicious cinnamon roll goodness, I thought it only right of me to pass along my favorite tip for frosting cinnamon rolls - no matter what recipe for the rolls you swear by.  Here is the tip - when you make the frosting, replace the milk you would normally use with Cinnabon flavored International Delight Coffee Creamer.  The flavor is subtle but subtly delicious!  Promise me you will try it and I will promise to post the recipe that caused me to buy Cinnabon flavored Internation Delight Coffee Creamer in the first place.  Yum!

One Year Ago: No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies
Two Year's Ago: Pear Pecan Muffins


1/2 cup butter, softened
2-3 cups powdered sugar
1 /4 cup Cinnabon flavored International Delight Coffee Creamer
pinch salt

Place butter in a medium bowl and beat until smooth.  Add a pinch of salt and then gradually add the powdered sugar, alternately with flavored coffee creamer until desired, spreadable consistency is reached.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Serving Up {Breakfast}: Liege Waffle (Belgium)

This past summer I was in Salt Lake City and I had two different people tell me that I simply had to try an eatery called Bruges Waffles & Frites.  I was excited to try it out for the Belgian Frites (fries) because years ago I had eaten at a Frites Stand in NYC and I still remember the "perfected" fries served with an array of unique dipping sauces.

During my trip I had reason to be downtown one afternoon and so I decided to stop in and get my fry fix.  When I walked in I saw the menu on the wall featuring the Liege Waffle adorned in a number of mouthwatering ways and I new that what I really neede to try was the waffle (I did try the fries as well but they kind of paled by comparison).  I ordered my Leige waffle with vanilla bean ice cream and fresh strawberries and it was AMAZING!

My understanding of the Liege Waffle is that it is the street waffle of Belgium.  The dough is actually a yeast dough with pieces of pearl sugar added right before cooking, so the end product is a very dense, delicious waffle with little pockets of caramelized sugar throughout.  I knew as I left Bruges that afternoon that I needed to find a recipe to recreate that waffle at home.  As I searched online there were a lot of people who felt the same way that I did.  I decided to try this recipe and it turned out delicious.  My only tweak to it was to omit the cinnamon that the original recipe called for, and I was pretty generous with the vanilla (which was the pure vanilla in this case - no imitation flavor for this recipe).

A couple of helpful tips:
* You can coarsely crush sugar cubes in place of the pearl sugar, which totally worked fine, but I figure I will make these waffles enough to justify ordering the real stuff to have on hand. (here or here)
* You don't want to overcook this waffle, so play around with the setting on your waffle maker.  I found that I had to turn down the temperature on my waffle maker from what I usually use.  You want a light golden brown end product.
* This recipe makes a mess of the waffle iron - sorry!  I have read a tip online that a paste of corn starch and water is the perfect cleaning solution to remove the caramel remains.

One Year Ago: Crispy Black Bean Tacos with Crumbled Feta
Two Tears Ago: Whole Bowl
                          Bread Pudding


1 (1/4 ounce) package yeast
1/3 cup lukewarm water
1 1/2 Tbs. granulated white sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
2 cups flour
3 eggs
1 cup butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup pearl sugar

Mix the yeast, water, sugar in a bowl and let it rest for 15 minutes. Place the flour and salt in a separate large mixing bowl, making a well in the center of the flour.  Pour the yeast mixture into the well and mix until blended on medium speed.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and melted butter slowly and then vanilla;  mix well after each addition to the batter.  The batter will be thick and VERY sticky.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and let the dough rest until it doubles in volume inside the bowl, about 1 hour.  Gently fold in the pearl sugar and let the dough rest for 15 more minutes. While the dough is resting, heat the waffle iron.

Spoon about a 2″ ball of dough into the center of the waffle iron. Waffles will take 3 to 5 minutes to bake (I use level 3).  Don't overbake!  Eat plain or topped with your favorite combination of ice cream and/or berries.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Serving Up {Pizza}: Balsamic Pear Pizza

Earlier this week I posted a recipe for a Tomato & Basil Pizza and in doing so shared my culinary pizza adventure as I tried to create a pizza dinner for my family recently, using mainly ingredients from my own garden.  The second pizza I made that evening was this recipe for Balsamic Pear Pizza.  I have enjoyed pear pizza many times in restaurants, so with a pear tree just outside my backdoor I knew that a pear pizza was what I wanted to make that night.

My most memorable pear pizzas have generally been paired with a balsamic flavoring, so as I searched for the perfect recipe I was drawn to this one.  I have also enjoyed pear pizza with Gorgonzola cheese so I experimented a bit, but having made this recipe with a smattering of Gorgonzola as well as without, I have to say that without won it for me so that is how I wrote the recipe.

This pizza was a hit!  So much so that I didn't get as many slices as I would have liked so I was "forced" to make it again later the same week.  I served it the second time to my in laws for lunch and it was voted a hit again so this recipe is definitely a keeper.

One Year Ago: Sally Luna Bread
Two Years Ago: Coconut Chex Mix

(recipe adapted from Inspired Taste)
printable version

1 ball favorite pizza dough (I prefer Trader Joe's)
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4  cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tbs. brown sugar
2-3 pears, ripe but still firm
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup pecan pieces

Preheat oven to 450 degrees and place pizza stone in the oven to heat as well.
Form pizza dough into a 12-inch circle on large piece of parchment paper, sprinkled with corn meal.  Allow dough to rest.
In a medium sized non-stick frying pan, heat 1 Tbs. of olive oil over medium heat.  Add sliced onions, thyme and salt.  Cook 3-5 minutes or until the onions are soft and beginning to brown.  Add the balsamic vinegar and brown sugar and allow to simmer until the syrup becomes thickened and coats the onions.  Set aside.
Core and thinly slice the pears.  To prevent the pears from browning, sprinkle with lemon juice and gently toss.
Drizzle remaining olive oil over the pizza dough.  Spread onions over the pizza dough.  Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the onions, then place pear slices and top with pecan pieces.
Remove heated pizza stone from the oven and carefully transfer prepared pizza from parchment paper onto pizza stone and place in the oven.  Bake the pizza until crust is cooked and cheese is melted and beginning to bubble - approximately 12 minutes.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Serving Up {Pizza}: Pizza with Tomato and Basil

A few weeks ago I found myself needing to begin preparing dinner without really a menu idea in mind.  With it being late summer, and with plenty of fresh produce in the garden and the orchard, I determined that I wanted to make something utilizing all the yummy options outside my back door.  We ended up having two very different pizza's that night and they both turned out delicious.  I am sharing both recipes this week in hopes that maybe you still have some fresh ingredients of your own to utilize.

The first recipe is pretty standard fair at many pizza parlors - a tomato and basil topped pizza.  In my case I used Roma tomatoes because that is what I had ripe on the vine, along with basil picked from the plant right as it went onto the pizza.  It could not get any fresher and the delicious flavor was evidence of the perfect ingredients.  In fact, the pizza was so yummy that I made it again only a few days later.  What can I say?  I had a lot of tomatoes!

I also have to put a plug in here for buying fresh mozzarella (the kind that comes in a ball that you have to grate yourself and it makes a mess when doing so) whenever you are making homemade pizza.  It tastes better, it melts better and the pizza will thank you.

One Year Ago: Darn Good Chocolate Cake

printable version

1 ball favorite prepared pizza dough (I love Trader Joe's)
corn meal
Olive Oil
1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced thinly (1/4 inch)
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup packed fresh basil, cut chiffonade-style

Preheat oven to 450 degrees and place pizza stone in the oven to get to temperature.

Roll out pizza dough into a 12-inch circle on a large piece of parchment paper sprinkled with corn meal.  Drizzle olive oil over pizza dough.  Sprinkle mozzarella over the top of the dough.  Arrange tomato slices over cheese.  Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over tomatoes, then basil and garlic.  Remove pizza stone from oven and carefully slide prepared pizza onto pizza stone.  Place in preheated oven and bake until crust is baked through and cheese is melted, approx. 12 minutes.  Remove from oven and generously sprinkle with salt to taste.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Serving Up {Snack}: No Bake Energy Balls

We are only two weeks into school and I am already dreading the 3:05 pm question....."what's for snack?".  I think that by the time I have answered four children ask me "what's for breakfast?", "what's in my lunch?" and "what's for dinner?" I really should get an option to pass on the snack question - or at the very least they could organize themselves to come to me in a group so that I only had to hear/answer the question once, but they just aren't that organized yet.

The result is that I have snack on the brain a lot.  So when I saw this recipe on pinterest last week (with the eye catching tag of "my favorite snack ever!") I thought to myself, "that is what we are having for snack today".  And while I cannot claim that it is my favorite snack ever, or even in my top 10 because brownie variations probably occupy all 10 of those spots, I will say that these were a tasty little snack without near the guilt of my truly favorite snack ever.  My kids readily agreed!

Two Years Ago: Creamy White Chili

(recipe via pinterest)
printable version

1 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup honey
1 tsp. vanilla

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until well combined.
Using a cookie scoop, make individual balls and store in an airtight container (I store them in the fridge).

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Serving Up {Pasta}: Herbed Chicken Lasagna

One of the tell tell signs that your kids are growing up (at least for my kids) is their willingness to try different foods and enjoy flavors that they used to turn their nose up to.  What a great plug for this recipe to admit that my kids plug their nose and run away when I make it :)  More correctly, they used to plug their nose and run away.  Like I said, they are growing up.

This past month when I made this lasagna, they actually followed their noses into the kitchen asking what smelled so good.  My daughter's exact comment was, "it looks kind of scary (anything that has green in it is deemed scary) but I just have to taste it because it looks so good!"  I was thrilled with her maturity and the best part was that she LIKED IT - even though I think that she didn't want to :)

The only down side to the maturing of the taste buds is that I had to share.  And this is one of those meals that I would rather not share cause it is so stinkin' good that I could probably eat the entire pan myself (not in one sitting).  So whether you have kids with mature taste buds or kids that will turn away, you really can't lose because you will either be the hero for making a fabulous dish that the whole family raves about or you will enjoy the goodness of it and have awesome leftovers for the next week.  Hey, I'm just telling it like it is.

One Year Ago: Chickpea Masala Sandwiches (Doubles)
Two Years Ago: Coconut Syrup

(recipe from Good Things Utah, 2007)
printable version

1 ½ cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 cup chopped onion
2 Tbs. butter
2 pkgs. Hollandaise sauce (prepared per directions)
½ large pkg. pre-cooked lasagna noodles
1 pound chicken, cooked and cubed
½ Tbs. fresh basil
½ Tbs. fresh oregano
Salt and Pepper
1 (12-ounce) can asparagus tips
1 ½ cups Italian blend or mozzarella cheese
½ cup shredded parmesan

Sauté mushrooms and onion in butter for about 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, mix chicken, basil, oregano, and salt & pepper to taste.  Gently fold in asparagus tips.
Using a 9x9 pan, spread small amount of prepared Hollandaise sauce on bottom.
Make 2 layers as follows: noodles, Hollandaise, chicken mixture, mozzarella and Parmesan.  Repeat for second layer.
If there is any sauce left over, pour it over the second layer of noodles before adding the last of the cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.