Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Corn On The Cob

I love corn on the cob! When it is in season, I eat it as much as I can. The season is just starting, and I have already had it twice now. Corn on the cob is just one of those foods, like watermelon, ice cream, and lemonade, that remind me of summer. I usually like my corn on the cob plain, although it is also good with a pat of butter, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Other seasonings, such as paprika, parsley, and garlic, are good too. We usually just boil corn on the cob to cook it, it is quick, easy, and simple. We have also grilled it on the barbecue, but this is trickier because the corn burns quite easily, and must be wrapped well. Also, usually it requires a parboiling as well to cook it completely. I just like my corn cooked enough so I can eat it, I don't really care how it is prepared, as corn is one of those foods where the taste does not vary greatly depending on how you cook it. The one thing about corn on the cob, is that it is corn on the cob. If you take the kernels off of the cob, it is no longer the same thing. I will eat corn off of the cob when it comes in a can or a bag, but I do not take the kernels off of the cob to eat. To me, that is simply defeating the purpose of corn on the cob. Eating it off the cob is so much fun; if you take it off it just isn't the same at all! Some people do this because the corn gets stuck in their teeth or braces, but this just won't do for me. We have several sets for eating corn on the cob. They consist of specially shaped plastic yellow trays that are perfectly shaped to fit a cob of corn. They also come with little spears to poke in both ends of the cob, so it is much easier to pick up and eat. If you are a big fan of corn on the cob, these are definitely worth the investment.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Chocolate Syrup Brownies

Chocolate Syrup Brownies
1/4 cup butter or hard margarine, softened
1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup chocolate syrup or thick chocolate sauce (or hot fudge)
1/2 cup all-purpose (plain) flour

Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8x8 inch square pan with foil, lightly grease the foil. In a medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, then the chocolate syrup, then the flour. Mix well. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes.
I thought the classic brownie recipe I usually used was as simple and quick as possible, but these brownies are even faster and easier! Of course, that is only after the chocolate sauce is already made, or if you happen to have chocolate syrup on hand. There are only five ingredients to this recipe, and one bowl. Anytime you want brownies, these are very quick to whip up, and they can even be frosted as soon as they come out of the oven. Any chocolate frosting will do, or just sprinkle the hot pan with chocolate chips as soon as they are done baking, let stand for a few minutes, then spread smooth. I made these brownies a few days ago to use up the leftover chocolate sauce and chocolate frosting, both of which will keep for at least a week refrigerated, from the chocolate cake (not like there was enough chocolate around). They aren't as fudgey and rich as my usual brownie recipe, but they are still pretty good.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Jiffy Cinnamon Rolls

I found this quick, easy recipe for cinnamon rolls in Company's Coming "Muffins And More". I made some with raisins, and some without. The ones without look more neatly formed, but they are both good.These cinnamon rolls are made from a very simple dough that is soft and fluffy and very easy to work with. It is spread with an easy filling, rolled up, cut, and then placed into muffin tins to bake. This gives the cinnamon rolls a nice shape and even baking. Even though I thought I had used plenty of grease in the pan, I still found my cinnamon rolls stuck a bit. The recipe states to place a teaspoon of filling into the bottom of each muffin cup, but after trying this, I would not recommend it. I found that most of this filling just stuck to the bottom of the pan, and did not end up on the cinnamon rolls at all, which both gypped the cinnamon rolls and wasted filling. I would recommend either spreading all of the filling onto the rolled out dough, or using a teaspoon of filling on TOP of each cinnamon roll. Dumping the cinnamon rolls did not work either, they stuck too much, and too much of the filling began to come off. Also, if they are dumped, they end up upside down, because the top does look better than the bottom facing into the cup. I used a spoon to carefully scoop the rolls out. If you do this while the rolls are too warm, the dough will tear apart, so at least cool them slightly if not completely. If you grease the pan very well, not only will the rolls stick less, they will also have a richer, more buttery topping. After you get past the problems of the rolls sticking, they are quite tasty, with or without raisins. There are not quite as good as the cinnamon roll recipe I usually use, but they are quicker, and more of a muffin-like cinnamon roll that is good for breakfast rather than me sweet dessert cinnamon rolls.

Jiffy Cinnamon Rolls
1/3 cup butter or hard margarine, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
2 Tablespoons granulated (white) sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cold butter or hard margarine, cut-up
1 cup cold milk
1/3 currants or raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 400F. Grease a 12 cup muffin tin.

In a small bowl, combine the first amount of butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Place one measured teaspoon of filling into the bottom of each muffin cup. Set remaining mixture aside.
In a separate large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter until crumbly. Make a well in the center and stir in the milk. Knead the dough, adding a little additional flour as necessary, for 6 to 8 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic. Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface to a twelve inch long rectangle, approximately one centimetre thick. 
Spread dough with remaining cinnamon mixture, leaving a small border all around. Sprinkle with currants or raisins, if desired. Roll up dough from a long end, jelly roll style. Pinch seams to seal. Cut into twelve slices. Place each slice, cut side down, into a muffin cup. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Turn out onto a tray. Ice with a simple vanilla glaze or a cream cheese icing, if desired. 

Paré, Jean. "Jiffy Cinnamon Rolls." Recipe. Muffins & More, Edmonton Alberta: Company's Coming Publishing Limited, 1983. 87.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Oatmeal Bread

Since I was all out of flax seed, I had bran flakes cereal to go with my breakfast instead of my usual oatmeal, I decided to make an oatmeal bread. Usually I only make one loaf of bread at a time, because I like to try many new recipes, and I like to test a recipe before I make a big batch of it, but this recipe was easier not to halve. However, I almost ran out of whole wheat flour too! I managed to scrounge up just enough to finish up the bread. This is another recipe from my favorite bread cookbook, Company's Coming "Breads".

Oatmeal Bread
1 cup rolled oats
3 Tablespoons butter or hard margarine
1/4 cup mild molasses
2 cups boiling water
1/4 cup warm water
1 teaspoon granulated (white) sugar
1 package (8 grams) active dry yeast
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
6 cups flour (all-purpose or whole wheat), approximately
TOPPING (optional)
1 large egg white
1 Tablespoon water
1/4 cup rolled oats (more or less)
In a large bowl, put the oats, butter, and molasses. Pour the boiling water over and stir. Let cool to lukewarm.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, dissolve the sugar in the water. Sprinkle the yeast over top and let stand for 10 minutes until bubbly.
Add the yeast mixture to the oat mixture, then add the brown sugar, salt, and 2 cups of the flour. Gradually add remaining flour, then knead for 8 to 10 minutes until smooth. Place dough in a large greased bowl and let rise for 1 - 1 1/2 hours until doubled in bulk. Punch dough down, divide into two equal portions, and place each into a greased 9x5 inch loaf pan. Let rise for 20 to 40 minutes until doubled in bulk.
Preheat oven to 350F. For the topping: in a small bowl, beat the egg white with the water and brush over the tops of the loaves. Sprinkle with oats. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes.

Paré, Jean. "Oatmeal Bread." Recipe. Breads, Edmonton Alberta: Company's Coming Publishing Limited, 1996. 127.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Chocolatey Chunk Cookies

Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies
1 cup butter or hard margarine, softened
2/3 cup granulated (white) sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups chocolate chunks (chips work too)

Preheat oven to 350F. Line cookie sheets, if desired. 
In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugars, and vanilla. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Mix in the dry ingredients gradually. Stir in the chocolate. Drop dough by rounded tablespoons onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 9-11 minutes, until edges are set, but centers are still a bit soft. Let cool on the cookie sheets for two minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

With a lot of leftover chocolates around the house from here and there, and anywhere, I decided to make some cookies to use it all up. Typically, packaged semi-sweet chocolate chunks (like chocolate chips) are used for these recipes, but you can use any type of chocolate chunk you like, or chop your own chocolate chunks from bars. I used a nice mixture of milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate, and made up the rest with semi-sweet chocolate chips. This made cookies with interesting different chocolate flavors, which worked out nicely. Hey, as long as it's chocolate it's good right? And of course, the cookie base had to be chocolate itself, because the more chocolate the better! These cookies are quite soft and moist and very chocolatey; in other words, delicious!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Caramel Apple Pull-Aparts

I was looking to make something sweet, and we were also out of snacks, and had no ripe bananas on hand to use in muffins, so I looked for a sweet snack recipe. I found this, a different take on a cinnamon roll, combining the classic combinations of caramel and apples, apples and cinnamon, apples and nuts, and nuts and caramel, all wrapped in a nice, fluffy dough. They are excellent warm from the oven, but they are also delicious once cooled. They don't need the caramel sauce, but it does add to them quite a bit. I did not use any nuts in the recipe, and I also made the caramel sauce I usually make, which is a sightly different recipe than this one.
Caramel Apple Pull-Aparts
2 medium cooking apples, peeled and chopped
3 Tablespoons water
1 Tablespoon granulated (white) sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped, toasted walnuts (optional)
2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cold butter or hard margarine, cut up
3/4 cup milk
1 Tablespoon butter or hard margarine, melted
1/4 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup butter or hard margarine
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
4 large marshmallows, quartered
1 Tablespoon chopped, toasted walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 400F. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan or deep pie plate.

APPLE FILLING: In a small saucepan over medium heat, cook the apples, water, and granulated sugar for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally, until apple is tender. Cool slightly before adding the brown sugar, cinnamon, and nuts, if desired.
DOUGH: In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center, add milk. Knead dough about eight times, until smooth. Roll into a 8x16 inch rectangle. Brush with melted butter, leaving a 1 inch border all around. Sprinkle with apple filling. Roll up from long side, pinch seam to seal. Cut into twelve slices. Arrange slices standing upright, cut sides together, in a circular pattern in prepared pan. Bake for 25 minutes until golden. Let stand for 5 minutes.
CARAMEL SAUCE: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat all ingredients until melted and smooth. Cool slightly. Drizzle over warm pull-aparts. Sprinkle with nuts, if desired.

Paré, Jean. "Caramel Nut Pull-Aparts." Recipe. Mostly Muffins, Edmonton Alberta: Company's Coming Publishing Limited, 2007. 134-135.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Broad Bean Soup

Since we were asked to look after a friend's large garden while they are away, and were told to help ourselves to whatever we wanted. Well, actually we were encouraged to pick any vegetables that were ready. The garden is fairly big and varied, it includes peas, beans, lettuce, cabbage, rhubarb, carrots, squash, tomatoes, etc. Upon our last visit, we discovered that the broad beans were ready and plentiful, so we had to pick them. Now, what exactly do you do with pounds of broad beans, especially if you have never even eaten broad beans before? They aren't exactly the kind of vegetable you eat fresh and raw, they also aren't very exciting just boiled and served either. My father, who used to eat a lot of broad beans as a child, came up with the idea to make broad bean soup. My grandmother often makes a really good bean soup, not with broad beans but with other beans. So my father kind of used this idea to make something similar. He boiled up a lot of broad beans with some carrot, onion, sweet potato, and some other ingredients. Once cooked, he pureed it with a hand blender. The result was a thick, broad bean soup. It was relatively bland, a few garlic cloves, or other spices would have probably helped it out a bit, but we didn't have any on hand (this soup was a spur of the moment thing). Also, the chopped onion was added near the end, so it did not get pureed. I kind of like the little extra texture this added, but my father wasn't a fan of it. We also debated whether or not to add pasta, but as it was a side dish, decided against it. A little spaghetti or other pasta would have been good in it though. Overall, it's not a bad soup, just not one you can eat large quantities of in one sitting. And it certainly solved the problem of what to do with all of the broad beans. But we still have some beans left. Any ideas?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Chocolate Overload Cake (Chocolate Suicide)

I developed this recipe myself by looking at other chocolate cake and death by chocolate recipes. I threw a little bit of each recipe together to create the most chocolatey masterpiece I could come up with. I'm certainly not one to use cake mixes often, but a scratch recipe just won't work in this case. I like to think of more as a cake recipe that simply uses a cake mix as one of the ingredients, since this cake does contain quite a few ingredients. 

Chocolate Suicide Cake

1 box (two layer size) chocolate cake mix
1 package (4 serving size) dry instant chocolate pudding mix (not the cooked kind)
4 large eggs
1 cup sour cream (or unflavored yogurt)
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup chocolate syrup
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chocolate (or hot fudge) sauce
chocolate filling
1/2 cup chocolate sauce
grated chocolate, chocolate curls, or chopped chocolate 
chocolate frosting
chocolate icing
chocolate sauce
chocolate ice cream, for serving
chocolate whipped cream, for serving
chocolate milk, for serving
a doctor's number handy, just in case

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a bundt pan.

In a large bowl, combine the cake and pudding mixes. In a separate medium bowl, combine all ingredients before the chocolate chips. Add this to the mixes and beat on low speed for 30 second until blended. Beat on medium speed for two minutes. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cake (not the hole) comes out clean (it may be chocolatey though). Using a wooden skewer, poke holes at random intervals all around the top of the cake. Carefully and slowly pour the chocolate sauce over, allowing the cake to soak it up. Let cool, then take cake out of pan. Cut the cake in half horizontally and fill with chocolate filing. Then spread chocolate sauce over the filling, and sprinkle with grated chocolate. Put other cake half on top. Frost the entire outside of the cake. Top with chocolate piping and drizzle with chocolate sauce. Sprinkle with grated chocolate. Top individual slices with chocolate ice cream and chocolate whipped cream. Enjoy with a glass of chocolate milk in moderation!

Cut this cake into small pieces, it is extremely rich and chocolatey. Feel free to alter the decorations, piping, and filling as you wish. Try using a chocolate mousse, or chocolate ganache. Use as many chocolate decorations as you think you can handle! The chocolate piping doesn't show up very well on the chocolate coated cake, but I wasn't about to use something not chocolate! To complete this chocolate masterpiece, I wrote "Happy (Chocolate) Birthday Matthew!" It's what he asked for, after all!

Happy Birthday to my brother Matthew!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Chocolate Birthday Cake

Last year, I made a "Death By Chocolate" cake for my brother's birthday. It was the most chocolatey cake I have ever made and could even think of making. It was delicious, and certainly a chocoholic's dream! Obviously, it didn't quite do the trick though. I asked my brother (well in advance, of course, preparation is key) what kind of cake he wanted for his birthday this year. He responded simply, "chocolate." Here is roughly how the conversation went:
Me: What kind of cake do you want for your birthday?
Him: Chocolate.
Me: What kind of icing?
Him: Chocolate.
Me: What kind of filling?
Him: Chocolate.
Me: Piping?
Him: Chocolate.
Me: Decorations?
Him: Chocolate.
Me: Lettering?
Him: Chocolate. Just make everything chocolate.
Me: What do you want it shaped like? Do you want any particular figure, or just a round cake?
Him: Chocolate. I want it shaped like chocolate. And don't even bother writing "Happy Birthday" on it. Just make it say "Happy Chocolate."
Me: Okaaaay then.....

See my problem? How exactly do you make a cake shaped like chocolate, besides just having a chocolate cake? Should I just slap a chocolate bar down in front of him and be done with it? Of course not, I am way too ambitious and dedicated for that. Besides, that would be no fun! So, here is a picture of the cake base I came up with. It is not yet nearly as chocolatey as it will be once completed, but I will show you that tomorrow along with the recipe and explanation. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Meat-za Pie

Meat-za Pie
2 Tablespoons oil
one pound (454 grams) extra-lean ground beef
ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry seasoned breadcrumbs (or use your own seasonings)
2/3 cup milk
1/3 cup ketchup (or tomato paste or tomato sauce)
1 cup sliced fresh button mushrooms (or one 10 ounce/284 mL can, drained)
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese (or cheddar, or add some Parmesan too)

In a large frying pan over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the beef and scramble-fry until fully cooked. Transfer to a pan/pans. Season with pepper and breadcrumbs, and moisten with milk. Add ketchup, and stir it all up with the meat in the pan.  Spread the meat evenly in the bottom of the pan, then top with the mushrooms, then sprinkle with the cheese. Cover with foil and bake at 375F for about 30 minutes, or until cheese is melted and entire dish is hot. Serve with potatoes, pasta, or rice.
This is a quick, tasty family meal and a good way to use ground beef (I'm sure it would work with other meats too though). It is also incredibly versatile - if you don't like mushrooms, use another vegetable. Use any cheese you like. Add more spice, chopped peppers, different cheeses, whatever. Also the dish is quite forgiving, the oven temperature and baking time may be varied, and it may be baked with other dishes too. The breadcrumbs really give the dish a lot of flavor, so you don't even need to add salt to the meat. The ketchup also adds a hint of sweetness to the dish, and has more flavor than tomato paste and most sauces, so I would recommend using this. I used slightly more than a pound of beef, so I also increased the amounts of the other ingredients, and divided it all into two 8-inch round pans. The original recipe suggest a 9x9 inch pan. Just use whatever works for you!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Year Of Blogging

Well, since this is my 365th post, as of today, I have officially been blogging for a year now! I have successfully posted something, mostly recipes, pictures, and descriptions of items I have baked, every day for the past year. This means I am either extremely dedicated and committed, or I use the internet way too much (maybe a bit of both). I must admit that some of the posts are not exactly the best, while others are exceptionally good. It all depends on how much time I have to bake, write, and post. In some cases, I will go a few days without baking, and I will need to write culinary-related articles for my blog. I try to choose from a wide variety of different topics and areas, while making the articles as interesting and informative as possible. I also give my opinion on the subject area whenever possible.  When I am really short on time, I will write a short, fun little post. I often do what I call my alphabet posts, where I choose a letter of the alphabet and lists as many foods as I can think of off the top of my head that begin with that letter. I am only on the letter H, so I have not become that desperate for posts yet. Sometimes I will do other fun things, such as list as many different flavors  of ice cream, cookies, pasta shapes, etc. Other posts I do are feature master recipes, baked goods I have made a while ago, before I began blogging, and tips and tricks. Some of my posts are long, step-by-step explanations, some merely pictures with captions, some constructive feedback, and some informative. I try to give my blog a lot of variety, and try to bake and cook as many different types of things as possible, from cakes, to lasagnas, to cereal, to soups; you name it, I'll feature it. In case it wasn't obvious, I absolutely love to cook, bake, cake decorate, develop recipes, test recipes, taste recipes, photograph my creations, give feedback, and reflect on the finished product. Whatever I choose to post about ultimately depends on what I have made lately, how busy I am that day, what I have posted about yesterday, what kind of mood I am in, and what is going on in the world today. I must admit, sometimes (okay, often), I do "cheat" a little bit. By this, I mean I will do a lot of preparation work for my blog posts. I have a small collection of pre-written blog articles, all ready to go, many with pictures and all, for those days when I really don't have any time to even think about my blog. When I make things, I often type up the recipe beforehand, and add the picture and commentary/suggestions later, and then post it. I also occasionally take advantage of the schedule option on this blog website, which allows me to choose a date and time for a post I want to publish automatically if I do not have internet access. I remember beginning my blogging last summer, finally deciding to take the plunge of commitment to a daily post, after having been baking for years. I began the day before my brother's birthday, so my first food post could be his "Death By Chocolate" birthday cake (see July 24th, 2011). I will be featuring another very chocolatey birthday cake for him again very soon! This cake, along with my Halloween Graveyard Cake, my Minecraft Cake, and my Easter Cake, are all some of my proud accomplishments this past year. I have listed cakes because they are impressive, and meant as much for viewing as eating; they also take a considerable amount of time and effort. I am also extremely proud of all of my other baked goods, including my meals, cookies, breads, cupcakes; everything! All are tasty, though some are better and more impressive looking than others. Some baked goods were loved by some, and not enjoyed by others; that's just how it goes! I must say, I am not usually one to pick favorites, but my all-time favorite post and baked item of the year would have to be my My Jungle Birthday Cake. It was just so incredibly cute, fun to make, and tasty. In fact, I could not bear to eat the adorable little animals, and I had them shellacked and placed on my shelf. No matter what, I know I will not run out of ideas for blog posts as long as people continue eating and I continue baking. Here's to another great year!
PHOTO CREDIT:"birthday cake (1)"   http://www.fabglancenashville.com/2009_06_01_archive.html.Fab Glance Nashville, n.d. Friday, July 20, 2012.  

Friday, July 20, 2012

Nutty Bran Flakes

Breakfast is a very important meal, and I always make sure I have a substantial, well-balanced breakfast. Often my breakfast consists of a bowl of cereal with fruit, a piece of toast with peanut butter, and a glass of milk. Sometimes, I'll have a hard-boiled egg for protein instead of peanut butter. I always have whole wheat toast of course, often homemade, and some kind of multi-grain cereal. There are several store-bought cereals I really like, and they are certainly convenient, but because I love baking and making everything I can homemade, I decided to try making my own cereal. I searched on the internet, and found many granola recipes, which I have made before, but I wanted a little something different. I came across this easy recipe for bran flakes.
Nutty Bran Flakes
1/2 cup natural bran
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup finely ground nuts 
2 Tablespoons granulated (white) sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup water

In a mixing bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients together. Add the wet. Divide dough in two, roll out each piece between two pieces of parchment paper into a long rectangle (about the size of your cookie sheet), as thin as it can go. Try to roll the dough evenly, but if some spots are almost translucent and some a bit thicker, it is fine. Place dough on the bottom piece of parchment on a baking sheet and bake at 350F for 10 minutes, checking every minute after five minutes as it burns easily (bake the dough in two batches if your oven is small). Let cool, then break into bite-size pieces with your hands (like store-bought bran flakes would be). Place pieces (from both batches) on one parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake at 275F for 20 minutes, stirring every five minutes. Cool, then store in an airtight bag or container at room temperature for two weeks.

This cereal recipe is actually so incredibly easy and quick to make, I think I will always have homemade cereal on hand at my house now. The only complaint I have is that the batch is not nearly big enough, as the cereal does store well for two weeks, and I am sure it could be frozen too. The recipe would probably double or even triple well, but I would have to bake every batch individually given the size of my oven. Here is a useful suggestion, when breaking the large pieces up, divide the portions into smaller pieces, stack them together, and rip four or so at once, it saves a lot of time and energy and works just as well. And don't worry too much about the size, just make them whatever you prefer. 

I found these bran flakes tasted better than store-bought. They were not quite as "branny" as the packaged ones, but I prefer them this way. If you like your bran flakes really branny, just use more bran and less whole wheat flour. I also really like the addition of ground nuts to the bran flakes. It adds some nice crunch, extra flavor, and extra nutrients. The original recipe suggested ground walnuts or pecans, but I used almonds because that is what I found. These bran flakes contain just the right amount of sweetness, and just enough salt for flavor without being too salty. I usually eat my cereal dry, with fruit but no milk (I know, strange), so I don't know how crunchy these bran flakes stay in milk, but if you like a lot of crunch, simply bake them longer. These bran flakes are definitely a nutritious and delicious addition to any breakfast!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Potatoes Lyonnaise

I found the idea for this simple potato side dish in one of my many cookbooks. It seemed very simple, not too complex in flavors - so quite versatile, and a nice change from the usual potato dishes we eat around here. Frying the potato with caramelized onion in a little margarine gives a lot of flavor, without all of the fat of deep frying. It is also a tasty change from plain baked potatoes. They can be seasoned and dressed up any way you want; cheese would also be a welcome addition. Although these potatoes require a bit more prep time, because they must be pre-baked and then allowed to cool, this may easily be done a day in advance. Once this step is done, the assembly of the entire dish only takes about 15 minutes, and does not require constant attention.

Potatoes Lyonnaise
4 medium potatoes, peeled
2 - 4 Tablespoons  hard margarine or butter (butter will brown faster)
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
any other seasonings you would like (salt, pepper, chili powder, parsley, etc.)

Cook potatoes in a pot full of water on the stove until just tender. Drain and cool until cool enough to handle. Cut into 1/4 inch thick slices. In a large frying pan, melt the margarine. Add the onion, and caramelize for five minutes. Add the potato slices and fry until browned, about ten additional minutes. Season with seasonings, as desired. Dish can be kept warm over low heat for another 10-20 minutes or so if the main is not quite ready.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Classic Sugar Cookies

These are simple, old-fashioned sugar cookies that travel well and keep well in the heat. They are fairly plain, as they are just sugar cookies, but they do have a nice flavor from the vanilla (real vanilla extract is crucial). I didn't add the lemon zest because I didn't have any, but that would probably make the cookies even better! These cookies are sweet, with just the right texture. They could be iced and decorated, if you want, but they are good with just a little rolling in sugar.
Classic Sugar Cookies
1 cup melted butter or hard margarine
1 cup powdered (confectioner's) sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
additional granulated sugar, for rolling dough balls

In a large bowl, stir together the butter and sugars. Let cool to room temperature before adding the egg and vanilla. Add the lemon, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Add the flour in one-cup increments, mixing well after each addition. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill at least one hour. Overnight is fine too.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 325F. Grease or line cookie sheets. Roll dough into 1/2 inch balls and roll in granulated sugar. Place two inches apart on prepared cookie sheets. Flatten slightly. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until set and edges are just starting to brown. Cool on cookie sheet for two minutes before removing to cool completely. 
Makes about four dozen (48) cookies.
Recipe from Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder

Fluke, Joanne. "Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies." Recipe. Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, New York: Kensington, 2000. 234-235.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Barbecue Feast

Summer means lots of barbecues, grilled food, and dining al fresco. Here is an example of just one barbecue feast we had. We had a few guests over, and for the majority, we are big meat-eaters (me excluded, but I do enjoy some grilled meat once in a while). My father manned the grill once again. In total, he grilled chicken breasts, sausages, pork chops, and steaks. No lack of variety in meat there, although I would have enjoyed some surf to go along with all of our turf, but that's just because I am a big fish lover. And of course we didn't just eat all meat. We did have some vegetables as well, and some potatoes, because what is steak without potatoes? Most of the meat my father barbecues is simply brushed with our favorite barbecue sauce, simple, easy, and tasty. The steaks were marinated overnight before cooking, but other than that, barbecue preparation around here is pretty simple. We didn't have hot dogs or hamburgers this time, as we often do, so we didn't even need to bother with buns. Summer is all about outdoor cooking and fuss-free meals. Pass the ketchup and mustard, and we are all set.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Rice Krispie Squares

Who doesn't love the classic, simple, and delicious Rice Krispie squares (or crisp rice cereal squares, if you don't want to use brand names)? Whether they came directly from a box, or were homemade from cereal in a box, they are quite tasty squares. Slightly surprising, considering they take about five minutes to make, and contain only three to four ingredients (crisp rice cereal, marshmallows, butter or hard margarine, and sometimes vanilla extract). They are so simple to make, I even have the recipe memorized; six cups of cereal to one bag of marshmallows, and two tablespoons butter plus a splash of vanilla). Although the classic version is such a favorite, I have also made chocolate, fudge, chocolate caramel, and chocolate butterscotch versions of these squares. I have also used this cereal in countless other recipes, mostly cookies and other squares. There are now also different flavors of crisp rice cereal you can buy to make different kinds of squares, including vanilla, cocoa, and whole grain. Crisp rice cereal and marshmallows seem to go very well together, just maybe not for breakfast. I prefer to make homemade crisp rice cereal squares, because I like everything homemade, they taste better, have less preservatives, and you can control exactly what goes in them. Plus these squares are so quick and simple to make, there really is no excuse to buy them instead of make them. I will include the recipe in case you don't know it, but it is featured on many crisp rice cereal boxes, as well as in cookbooks and online.

Crisp Rice Cereal Squares
1/4 cup butter or hard margarine
1 bag (250 grams) miniature marshmallows (or about 40 large)
6 cups crisp rice cereal
a splash of vanilla extract (optional)

In a large pot over medium heat, melt the butter and marshmallows together. Stir in the cereal, and vanilla if desired, until well coated. Spread into a lightly buttered 9x13 inch rectangular pan. Set aside to cool and set before cutting.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Whole Wheat Yogurt Loaf

Since I was running low on my stock of homemade whole wheat bread, and I had some leftover plain yogurt in the fridge after using it in another recipe, I searched for a bread recipe that would incorporate it. I suppose I could have just eaten the yogurt, however there was quite a bit leftover and I already had plenty of yogurt to snack on. Also, plain yogurt may be good for baking, but for eating alone, it is just so plain. Although it is supposedly the best for you, and can be spruced up with fruit, cereal, nuts, and honey, I prefer flavored yogurts. I have also become accustomed to the thicker, creamed texture of Greek yogurt. So I decided to use this leftover plain yogurt for my baking. I found three good whole wheat bread recipes with yogurt, one using a bread machine, one with two rises and yeast, and one quick loaf with baking soda. Since I don't have a bread machine, and didn't have a lot of time to wait for bread to rise, I chose the quick loaf recipe.

Whole Wheat Yogurt Loaf
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or hard margarine, melted
1/3 cup liquid honey
1 cup plain, fat-free yogurt
1 large egg
2 Tablespoons white vinegar mixed with 2 Tablespoons water or milk (1/4 cup lemon juice may also be used)
2 cups whole wheat flour (or 1 cup white flour & 1 cup whole wheat flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
*Add seeds, bran, flax, other whole grains, nuts, spices, or whatever else you wish.
Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan.
In a large bowl, whisk together the butter and honey. Whisk in the yogurt, egg, vinegar, and water. Add the remaining ingredients, mix well. Spread into prepared pan. Bake for 40-50 minutes until done.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Hotdogs & Hamburgers

It is still summertime, thank goodness. Let the warm weather and sunshine last! Summer also means a lot of barbecues, and here is an example of another barbecue we had. Of course, my father manned the grill, as always. This time we kept it fairly simple, which makes it much easier to feed a larger crowd. We simply barbecued hotdogs and hamburgers. The burgers were my father's standard delicious burger recipe, and the hotdogs were, well, hotdogs. All you need is hamburger buns and hotdog buns, and lots of condiments and toppings, and you are all set. Side dishes, although nice, are optional. But of course, since we all have sweet tooths here, there was plenty for dessert! I am not really a fan of hotdogs at all, but I do enjoy hamburgers. Actually, I'm not a huge meat lover at all, but who doesn't like a homemade burger fresh from the barbie? A simply brush of barbecue sauce and a slice of tomato is all I need. Sure, there are plenty of fancy burger recipes out there, and there are even tons of "gourmet" hotdog recipes, but generally simpler is better for hot summer days with friends and family. Maybe next time, we'll try a double bacon cheeseburger, or a peanut butter burger, or a chili dog, or Monte Cristo hotdog, but for now, let's just enjoy the summer!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Sudoku Cookie Puzzle

This is what I made using the brown sugar cookies from yesterday. I simply rolled the dough into a rectangle about 1/4 inch thick, and then cut the dough into a bunch of small squares. I didn't bother to move the squares apart or anything, I just baked the cookies as one giant mass. Then, right after baking them while they were still warm, I re-cut them, although the cut lines were still clearly visible; they just needed a bit of reinforcement. The squares are not perfectly even as you can see, but they don't look too bad.
I arranged these cookies into nine rows of nine, and then partitioned them into 3x3 squares with 9 cookies in each square. This was done to resemble a Sudoku puzzle. A Sudoku puzzle is a number puzzle in which every horizontal row, vertical column, and 3x3 box contains the numbers 1-9. The puzzle is started with some numbers already filled in for you, the more numbers given. the easier the puzzle is. My cookies are an example of a puzzle that has been completely solved. I just used some purple icing to write the numbers on the cookies. I followed a completely solved Sudoku puzzle that appeared in the newspaper (I love solving these puzzles, hopefully I didn't make any mistakes). I used a different color icing and a thicker tip to partition off the nine different squares. And that was it! Pretty simple, and a cute puzzle. Another idea is to only put a few squares on the pan, and have the diners solve the puzzle before they can eat it!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Brown Sugar Cookies

Brown Sugar Cookies
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 Tablespoons granulated (white) sugar
1 cup + 2 Tablespoons all-purpose (plain) flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 300F. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat the butter with the sugar. Add the flour and salt, mix well. Gather dough together and roll into 1/4 inch thickness. Cut with cutters, or simply into squares with a knife. Place cookies spaced slightly apart (they do not spread) onto an ungreased or lined baking sheet. Bake for about 25 minutes until set. Watch carefully, as they may burn if cooked longer than this.

This is a quick and easy cookie recipe. It is different from the usual sugar cookies because it uses brown sugar, giving the cookies more of a caramel flavor. These cookies are a bit like shortbread cookies too, because they use lots of real butter, and a large proportion of flour, and no egg. I used these cookies as the base for a creative design I will feature in tomorrow's post.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Quick Chocolate Boil Cake

This cake is incredibly moist, and so easy to make, with ingredients readily found on hand. It gets so nice and moist from the yogurt, I think. It is a great base for any decorated theme cakes, such as my calculator cake from yesterday. I found it in my Hershey's Recipe binder, which contains many great chocolate recipes, especially for cakes.

Quick Chocolate Boil Cake
2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
2 cups granulated (white) sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or hard margarine
1 cup water
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 13x9x2 inch rectangular baking pan (lining it also works). Two 8 or 9 inch round pans may also be used.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir the butter, water, and cocoa until it boils. Add to flour mixture. Add eggs and sour cream. Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until well combined, about two minutes. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
West Side Publishing. "Easy Cocoa Cake." Recipe. Hershey's Classic Recipes, Lincolnwood Illinois: Publications International, Limited, 2009. 86.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Calculator Cake

Here is a calculator cake I decorated. I was debating decorating it as a fancy TI-84 plus calculator or even as the TI-Nspire calculator, but I decided against it. Both of these calculators have over forty buttons, each different shapes and colors. They also have a lot of tiny writing on them - on their buttons and above the buttons for second and alphabet options. They both sounded a bit complicated to do on a small cake with limited resources, and also if you choose to imitate a well-known calculator, it is important to get every single detail accurate. So I decided just to make a simple calculator cake, not copying any specific design or model, just having a basic picture in my head, and adapting it to fit the amount of space I had left on the cake. At the top I have a large display screen, currently showing the number 123456. Below that, I have a row of buttons as follows: clear, brackets, square route, x squared, and on. I have the ten numbers in the middle, along with a decimal button. At the bottom, I have multiplication, division, subtraction, and addition buttons. On the right, I have a large equal button. 
To decorate this cake, I simply used a 9x13 inch quick chocolate cake covered in my signature vanilla buttercream icing. I added a simple star border using chocolate fudge frosting all along the edge of the cake on the top and on the bottom. Then I partitioned the buttons with more piped stars as I pleased. I wrote on the bottoms by piping purple buttercream icing. It was a pretty simple and fast cake to make, it just required the use of a lot of square and rectangle shapes. And of course, the classic combination of a chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream and chocolate piping is always a hit.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Smoked Side Ribs

The Grill Master at our house (also known as my father) cooked up another great supper recently. He made ribs again, but usually he cooks them in the slow cooker. This time, since it was a beautiful hot day, he decided to use the barbecue. He prepared his usual dry spice rub and barbecue sauce to finish the ribs, and even decided to use some flavored wood chips. He slowly smoked the ribs for about four hours. Some people insist on smoking ribs for much longer, up to eight to twelve hours, but dad did a shorter cooking time. The ribs were not quite fall off the bone and as tender as usual, but they were pretty good. I liked the crispy coating they got from the barbecue. Another issue was that my father could only get side ribs at the store, when we have always had back ribs. Back ribs are what we are used to, and we generally prefer them, but I found these side ribs pretty good as well. The ribs turned out incredibly spicy, probably because more of the rub is lost in the long process of slow cooking, so go a bit easier on the rub when grilling. Leaving the sauce until close to the end also left the ribs with a nice saucy coating. The ribs were also incredibly moist. Maybe this was because they were tented with foil and briefly allowed to rest before being cut.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Turtle Squares

These squares are quite chocolatey and delicious. The base reminds me of the base for Nanaimo Bars, in both the preparation method and the ingredients. However, this recipe simply used rolled oats and flour in place of shredded coconut and graham cracker crumbs. This recipe also contains no egg to bind the crust together,so you do not have to worry about cooking it to a proper temperature. The cocoa, butter, sugar, and nuts are the same, although I leave the nuts out of both recipes, with excellent results. These bars are fairly thin, not very high, I think the caramel filling, as delicious as it is, could have easily been doubled, but that might overwhelm the chocolate flavor a bit. The recipe comes from Company's Coming "Chocolate Squared", a small cookbook filled with delicious chocolate bar recipes. They get the name from the classic combination of caramel, pecans, and often chocolate, made popular by the "Turtles" chocolates.
Turtle Squares
1 cup butter or hard margarine 
1 3/4 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 chopped pecans or walnuts, optional
1/2 cup butter or hard margarine 
1/2 packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (125 mL) sweetened condensed milk
2 Tablespoons corn syrup (golden)
2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (or 4 semi-sweet chocolate baking squares, one ounce each)
2 Tablespoons butter or hard margarine

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line a 9x13 inch rectangular baking pan.
CRUST: In a medium heavy saucepan over medium heat, heat and stir all ingredients together until melted and combined. Press firmly into prepared pan. Bake for about 15 minutes until set. Cool slightly.
FILLING: In a medium heavy saucepan over medium heat, bring all ingredients to a boil. Boil for five minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and beat gently for two minutes until slightly thickened, do not overbeat. Spread over bottom layer. Cool completely.
GLAZE: Melt the chocolate and butter together until smooth. Spread evenly over filling.

Paré, Jean. "Turtle Squares." Recipe. Chocolate Squared, Edmonton Alberta: Company's Coming Publishing Limited, 2009. 2.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Strawberry Bread

Strawberry Bread
1/2 cup butter or hard margarine, softened
3/4 cup granulated (white) sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt 
1 1/2 cups diced strawberries

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line a 9x5 inch loaf pan.
In a large bowl, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the sugar until thoroughly incorporated. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla.
Add the cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 1/3 of the flour. Mix in 1/4 cup of sour cream or yogurt, then more flour, 1/4 cup sour cream or yogurt, and the remaining flour. Fold in the strawberries. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 60-70 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove bread from pan once cool.
Makes one nice, moist, strawberry loaf. This recipe probably works well with other fruit too, and is a good way to use overripe fruit. I even used fat-free yogurt with excellent results.
“Strawberry Bread.” http://www.joyofbaking.com/breakfast/StrawberryBread.html. Joy of Baking, n.d. Wednesday, July 4, 2012.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Double Chocolate Banana Cake

We always seem to buy more bananas than we can eat, even though we are big banana eaters. Bananas tend to ripen even faster in the summer heat, so we always have some speckly ones to use up before they go to waste. We have some go-to recipes for banana cakes and muffins, which are delicious, but I am always looking for new ones to try something different. Here is a really quick, easy, and chocolatey one I found.

Double Chocolate Banana Cake
2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 cup granulated (white) sugar
2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup banana, mashed (1 large or 2 small)
1/3 cup butter or hard margarine, melted
1 Tablespoon lemon juice*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line a 9x9 inch or 8x8 inch square baking pan.
In a large bowl, combine the first five dry ingredients. Make a well in the center. Pour remaining ingredients except for chocolate chips into the well. Beat well with a fork for two minutes, or until well combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (an 8x8 inch cake may take a bit longer to bake). Dust with confectioner's sugar before serving, if desired.
*NOTE* I didn't have lemon juice, so I left it out and added a bit more vanilla extract and a splash more milk. This worked out fine.

“Easy Double Chocolate Banana Snack Cake.” http://www.dairygoodness.ca/recipes/easy-double-chocolate-banana-snack-cake. Dairy Goodness, n.d. Thursday, July 5, 2012.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Strawberry Banana Muffins

Strawberry Banana Muffins
2 1/4 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup fresh strawberries, diced
1/2 cup butter or hard margarine, melted
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup mashed banana (2 large or 3 small) 

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease muffin tins or line with paper cups.
In a large bowl, mix the first six dry ingredients. Stir in the strawberries to coat with flour (this prevents them from sinking in the batter).
In a separate medium bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Add to dry ingredients, stir until just moistened. Divide among muffin cups. Bake for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

I made these muffins to use up some overripe, soft strawberries. This batch of strawberries also did not taste the greatest, they were not very sweet and lacked flavor, but they tasted fine in the muffins. The recipe came from online.

“Strawberry Banana Muffins.”  http://www.joyofbaking.com/muffins/StrawberryBananaMuffins.html . Joy of Baking, n.d. Wednesday, July 4, 2012.