Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The oozing blob of dough that almost took over the kitchen...

For some reason it’s been a while since I’ve done some serious baking, it’s good to have my arms up to my elbows in flour and sugar.
While Oatmeal Raisin cookies aren’t really my thing – they are my family’s. So while Bronwyn dished those cookies out (and Nicholas stole the dough and baked cookies) I was making Apple Butter Cinnamon Swirl Bread. Oh, yeast my friend! We meet again!
The recipe was easy enough and instructions simple too. While the cookies baked – I let the dough rise on top of the stove – oh it did actually rise! Yahoo! Then the tough but fun part, rolling it out, spreading on the homemade apple butter, then cinnamon sugar. You then roll it up like making cinnamon rolls, then slice it down the middle of that beautiful roll and twist the whole mess together. My twisting was less than graceful and mostly a giant flop of dough, apple butter, and cinnamon sugar all over the counter. But it looked yummy! I plopped it into the prepared bread pan and shoved it in the oven to rise.
Off we went to the community expo with the kids. Superheroes, princesses, bouncy house, balloons, candy, puppies, old lady on the ground that needed help off the ground and into her car, equally old and decrepit man (husband of wife) needed help into their purple muscle car to drive her home, then back home again. Yes, weird morning. We came home and the dough had exploded all over the place. So that nice loaf pan I had it in? Well, that wasn’t going to work – so I used an 8 x 8 glass dish, turned the whole mess out and got the oven going.
It baked up beautifully – smelled amazing. We sliced it up Sunday morning, toasted it – oh my yes. This recipe certainly is a keeper. My kids even had some! They even asked for seconds! Next time I think I’ll split it between two loaf pans rather than let it be confined to one.

Apple Butter Cinnamon Swirl Bread
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 (1/4 ounce) packet active dry yeast
3 tablespoons (lightly packed) light brown sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 3/4-4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup apple butter

Place the warm water in a large bowl and sprinkle the yeast on top. Set aside for 5 minutes to allow the yeast to proof.
Add the brown sugar and butter. Blend in 2 cups of the flour and the salt until moistened. Beat on medium speed for 3 minutes.
Stir in an additional 1 1/4 to 1 3/4 cups flour, until dough pulls away cleanly from the sides of the bowl. Knead on floured surface, adding 1/2 to 3/4 cup additional flour, until dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Place dough in large greased bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise in warm place until doubled in size, 30 to 45 minutes.
Lightly mist a 9x5-inch loaf pan with non-stick spray. (Or two if you want to be sure you don't have it grow over the sides.) Stir the granulated sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Punch down the dough and roll it into a rectangle, about 9 inches on the short side and 1/4 inch thick. Spread with a thin layer of apple butter, and top with the cinnamon sugar. Starting at the short side, roll into a tight log (like a cinnamon roll). Using a sharp knife, cut the log in half lengthwise, leaving the two halves attached at one end. Twist the two long pieces together and place in the prepared pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise in warm place until doubled in size, 30 to 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Uncover dough. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until loaf sounds hollow when lightly tapped. Cool completely before slicing.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Making Jam with my Best Girl

Come for lunch on a Saturday or Sunday to my house and you’ll see my kids eat the same thing every single day. PB&J, or Peanut Jelly or Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches. Since they eat their lunch during the week at daycare, I don’t feel nearly as bad about them having PB&J a few times on the weekend – they love it. LOVE it. Sometimes we cut the bread into fun shapes, always make them eat the crust – and every once in a while they get special bread! Mostly because we’ve run out of regular bread and they get hamburger buns or the heals.
With all these sandwiches – we go through a lot of jelly, or jam. We’ve battled this out before – you know I’m a jelly girl. I know it’s actually jam because it’s made with fruit and not juice. Well – it’s going to remain jelly.
Recently I discovered, to my horror, that we only had one jar of jelly left from last year in the freezer! Oh NO! how could we ever manage? Then I saw the local grocery store had a sale on Strawberries - $1 a pound. That’s unheard of in the beginning of March! SO cheap! Off I went and bought a bunch and some Certo – my handy secret pectin. The strawberries were really pretty and sweet too! Not sure who was growing these babies in winter – but hats off to them!
I asked my best girl to help me. Every jelly maker needs an assistant – how else would I stir in all that sugar? Bronwyn did great. She made sure I correctly cut the tops off the strawberries, tasted a few in the process, make sure to lick her fingers appropriately after all was said and done. She really wanted to help pour the jelly into the jars, I drew the line there. She really does enjoy helping in the kitchen and I love her by my side. She’s a good helper. It very much reminds me of when I would help my mom in the kitchen. I’m loving the time we spend together and hope when she’s older she’ll do the same with her kids. She does plan to have kids… at least she tells me she wants to be a grandma someday. I did explain that the process of grandmahood does often begin with motherhood – but at 4 ½ she’s may not totally ‘get’ that quite yet..

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Efficiency at it's finest

A full freezer is an efficient freezer – so says my mom. And my dad says their freezer is SO efficient!!
Our freezer is working its way towards efficient – oh can you guess where this post is going? Can you? Can you?!
Oh yeah, freezer meals! This edition – Spaghetti Pie. One of our favorites.
This time in the round of freezer meal making I decided to only make meals that we are excited about. No settling on meals here – we want to be excited for the meals we pick. Spaghetti pie is a little spaghetti, a little lasagna – but all good.
This meal is pretty easy to put together – but even better to do as a freezer meal to have at the ready for a quick dinner. The noodles are mixed with cheese and herbs, layered with a cottage cheese and cheese mix, then topped with a meat sauce and mozzarella cheese. This time I used bigger containers as our family is getting older, the kids are eating more and we have fewer leftovers. We like leftovers in our house – meals ready-made lunches and easy night dinners.
To make 6 larger pies, I tripled this recipe – but you can easily make it as written and use a 9 x 13 pan to make it. I would try the freezing idea, but I’m crazy efficient like that… or just crazy.

Spaghetti Pie
What you need!
4 ounces dried spaghetti
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried basil
8 ounces ground beef or bulk Italian sausage
1/2 cup chopped onion (1 medium)
1/2 cup chopped green sweet pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 12-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
1 teaspoon dried basil
Nonstick cooking spray
1 cup low-fat cottage cheese, drained
1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Make it!
Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Drain.
Return spaghetti to warm saucepan. Stir butter into hot pasta until melted. Stir in egg, basil and Parmesan cheese; set aside.
Meanwhile, in a medium skillet cook ground beef, onion, sweet pepper, and garlic until meat is brown and onion is tender. Drain. Stir in, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, basil and oregano; heat through.
Coat a casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. Press spaghetti mixture onto bottom and up sides of pie plate, forming a crust. Spread cottage cheese on the top and up the sides of pasta crust. Spread meat mixture over cottage cheese. Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese.
Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly and heated through. To serve, cut into wedges.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A beautiful brown big baked buttery bundt!

The healthy eating wagon has once again stopped at this Raatjes house. Lucky for Andy – it’s just me this time around. He was on the wagon for a bit – but hungry Andy does not make for a particularly happy Andy, so he hopped off the wagon while I stayed on. I’ve been doing well for quite a few weeks and since Bronwyn asked to bake cookies – why not? We made a batch of chocolate chip cookies – yum. They turned out great – we had a fun time making them, eating the dough and even eating the cookies after they were baked. Yum. I also decided to bake something else – a Cinnamon Roll Pound Cake. I made it in a bundt pan – because everything is better in a bundt pan – let’s be honest! It looked amazing, it smelled amazing, it was amazing! We had it for breakfast on a Sunday – my kids polished off their pieces. Andy? Tried to polish off the whole cake by days end. Either it was really good – or I haven’t baked hardly anything in a long long time. Can’t it be both?
It felt so good to bake again. I truly do enjoy baking with my best girl and spending time together. I also love putting ingredients together and watching the finished good puff up and bake to a golden finish. Makes me excited for my next baking adventure! Do I pick a family favorite? Or do I pick something new…
Cinnamon Roll Bundt Cake
For Cinnamon Sugar
½ cup Granulated sugar
2 tablespoons, heaping Ground cinnamon
For the Pound Cake
3 cups All-purpose flour - spooned then leveled
½ teaspoon Baking soda
1 teaspoon Salt
1 cup (2 sticks) Unsalted butter, room temperature
2 ½ cups Granulated sugar
1 cup Sour cream
1 tablespoon Vanilla bean paste
3 tablespoons Heavy cream or milk
6 Eggs, large
For the Icing
3 ounces Cream cheese, room temperature
¼ cup Heavy cream or milk
1 teaspoon Vanilla bean paste
1½ cups Confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
Make the cinnamon sugar:
In a small bowl combine granulated sugar and ground cinnamon. Whisk quickly with a fork to combine and set aside.
Bake the pound cake:
Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit and place oven rack in middle of the oven. Butter and flour a 10-cup Bundt cake pan. Shake the excess flour and set aside.
In a large bowl combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy over medium/high speed, about 3 minutes. Stop and scrape the mixer and add the sour cream, followed heavy cream and vanilla bean paste. Turn the mixer on and beat over medium speed until combined. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stop and scrape the mixer once more. Turn the mixer onto low speed and add the flour. Mix until just combined, no longer than 45 seconds.
Remove bowl from the mixer and give the batter a couple of folds, making sure you scrape the sides of the pan. Pour about 1/3 of the pound cake batter into the Bundt cake pan. Bang it a couple of time on your counter to even out the batter. Sprinkle about 1/2 of the cinnamon sugar over the batter. Add cake batter over the cinnamon sugar, followed by second half of the cinnamon sugar. Finally, add the remaining batter to the pan.
Place the Bundt pan in the oven and bake for about 50-55 minutes (I usually remove at around 53 minutes) until an inserted bamboo skewer or knife comes out clean. If the cake has not baked through, check every 3-5 minutes until the tester comes out clean.
Remove pan from the oven. Allow the cake to cool out of the oven for about 3 minutes or so, then gently run a knife over the edges and slowly pulling towards you to loosen the cake from the batter. Be as gentle as possible. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for another 5-10 minutes, then carefully invert in a wire rack to cool completely. While the cake is cooling slightly, make the icing.
Make the icing:
In a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (a hand mixer rocks here too), combine the cream cheese, heavy cream, vanilla bean paste, and confectioners’ sugar. Whisk on high until combined then pour over the pound cake while it is still slightly warm. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Rows and rows of awesome rolled up with delicious - for the freezer

Freezer Meals – Don’t want to hear about them… move along. Want to hear about something delicious to make and toss in the freezer? Read on.
Our freezer is woefully low on freezer meals – so that means it’s time for me to get moving making a bunch. We also were low on chicken stock. That’s perfect! I can hit two birds with one stone. Baked up two chickens, took all the meat off for the casseroles and left the bones for the chicken stock. This time we decided to pressure can our chicken stock. Guess what that leaves more room in our freezer for? Yes! Freezer Meals! At first Andy wasn’t overly thrilled with the idea of canning the stock, but in the end, he was pretty proud of all those jars full of chickeny goodness.
The first freezer meal up is Chicken Tortilla Bake. My mom made this one years ago when I was a kid and I loved it. At the time – my family wasn’t overly thrilled about it. I have been making it ever since. I used the cut up chicken from the two chickens and made a triple batch of sauce. This gave me 8 casseroles. That’s 8 nights I don’t have to cook a meal from scratch for my family. I realize as my kids get bigger and eat more I will need to increase the size of my casseroles. Right now one of my little casseroles feeds us one meal with very little leftovers. I use my homemade salsa in the recipe – which makes it even better, in my opinion. Add some fresh parsley and this dish – even if it’s from the freezer tastes fresh! I prebake these, so the tortillas get nice and crispy when they go into the freezer. I can’t give you a scientific reason why that works – but it does. It was hard to not dig into one of those casseroles as they cool on the counter – but they’ll be worth it some busy day when we come home and dinner is done. Yum!

Zesty Chicken Tortilla Bake
1/2 cup Miracle Whip Dressing
1/2 cup flour
3 cups milk
1 pkg. (8 oz.) Shredded Cheddar Cheese, divided
1-1/2 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup Salsa
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
16 flour tortillas (6 inch)
Make It
Heat oven to 375°F.
Whisk dressing and flour in medium saucepan until blended. Gradually stir in milk. Bring to boil on medium heat, stirring constantly; cook and stir 2 to 3 min. or until thickened. Add 1 cup cheese; cook 5 min. or until melted, stirring constantly. Reserve 1 cup sauce.
Stir chicken, salsa and parsley into remaining sauce; spoon 1/3 cup down center of each tortilla. Roll up. Place 8 roll-ups, seam sides down, in each of 2 (13x9-inch) baking dishes sprayed with cooking spray; top with reserved sauce and remaining cheese.
Bake 25 min. or until heated through.  Serve or Cool and Freeze.
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