Friday, March 29, 2013

Easter Bread

This recipe is for the bread my mom made at Easter every year when I was growing up. It was such a special treat and much looked forward to. Even the smell of it can take me back to those long ago Easters of my childhood, searching for the eggs we’d colored the day before, eating my mom’s wonderful Easter Bread with breakfast, scurrying to get ready for church. Such sweet memories. I hope you’ll enjoy this as much as I do.

First, set the yeast to soften in the water. I took the water warm from the tap and added the yeast in a bowl. Because you’re using less water and more yeast than typically, it will be thick. Just stir till all is moistened, then cover it with a towel and set aside.

While the yeast is softening, set the milk to scald in a small saucepan. In a small bowl, melt the butter in the microwave oven. Add the sugar, salt, and melted butter to the scalded milk and remove from heat, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. It needs to cool down somewhat now.

In a large mixing bowl, measure out the flour. When the milk mixture is cooled but still warm, add to the flour and stir with a wooden spoon to make a thick dough.

Add the softened yeast, vanilla, and beaten eggs. Beat with a mixer until smooth. It will make a looser, sticky dough, more like a batter. Just some advice here: don’t let the dough climb up the beaters. Keep the speed on medium, and if you have to, stop beating for a few seconds to scrape the batter down off the handles of the beaters before starting again. Now how would I know to warn you about this? ;)

Cover and let rise in a warm place until bubbly. I put my electric oven on 150° for a few minutes, shut it off, and place the covered bowl on a plate inside. It will take about 45 minutes for the rising.

Next, stir down with a wooden spoon. Put into a well greased bundt pan, angel food cake pan, or 10” tube pan. Cover again and let rise till doubled, about 45 minutes.

With the oven heated to 350°, bake for 25-30 minutes. Let cool about 10 minutes and remove from pan onto cooling rack.

While the bread is cooling, mix up some icing using 1 c. confectioner’s sugar and 3 tsp. milk. You want it to be smooth and just thin enough to run down the sides. After the bread is cooled, spread the icing on top, pushing it to the edges so it drips down the sides.

Now, traditionally, this is made with white icing and then tiny pastel colored non-pareils sprinkled on.  However, this year I decided to try something new. When I was done putting the white icing on, I made a little pink, purple, and yellow icings and drizzled them back and forth over the white. Serve and enjoy! ~TMMF

Easter Bread

¼ c. warm water
2 packages yeast
½ c. milk
1/3 c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2/3 c. melted  butter
4 c. flour
1 ½ tsp. vanilla
4 eggs, beaten

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Creamy Spinach Broccoli Lasagna

This is a recipe that I saw in an issue of Woman’s Day magazine, and because I love both spinach and broccoli, I knew I had to try it. One thing I love about this recipe is that, as with most, you can cut the fat and calories very easily by using low fat or fat-free ingredients. The original recipe called for part skim ricotta and mozzarella cheeses, which I used, but also whole milk and regular cream cheese. I used 1 % milk and Neufchatel cream cheese, which saved 3 g. fat and 30 calories per serving for the double recipe I made, cutting it into 12 servings.

Before we start, I'm letting you know there are a bazillion pictures for this! That's because when I tried this recipe, I had one photo to go by, the finished pan of lasagna. While I've been cooking for decades, including in restaurants and nursing homes, I had never made this particular recipe before and for many steps in the recipe, I had know idea if I was even doing it right. I just had to wing it. You're not going to have to blindly wing it. ;) Also, keep in mind that the directions are using the amounts for the doubled batch. If you make the single batch, just halve the amounts it says in the step-by-step instructions.

So, let’s get cooking!

First, you’ll want to thaw out the spinach and broccoli. I simply put them each in bowls and set them to cook in the microwave for about 5-7 minutes each. Keep in mind that I was making a double batch. The original recipe serves 4, and we have 6-8 in the family, depending on who‘s home to eat at a meal. Leftovers are always welcome also.

Finely chop the onion and mince the garlic. In a skillet, sauté the onion in the oil about 5-8 minutes until tender. Add the minced garlic and cook for 1 minute more.

While the onion and garlic are cooking, mix together the ricotta, 2 c. mozzarella, and ½ c. romano (or parmesan) cheeses, along with 1 c. of the milk.

After you have drained the broccoli and squeezed out any excess water in the spinach, add to the cheese mixture.

Add 2 c. milk, ½ c. romano cheese (or parmesan), and cream cheese to the onion and garlic in the skillet.

With a whisk, mix over medium heat until slightly thickened (do not boil),  about 2-3 minutes. Add the pinch(es) of nutmeg and stir.

Spread 1 c. of the sauce on the bottom of a 13 X 15” baking dish. Top with 4 of the no-boil lasagna noodles going along the length of the pan, and one noodle going the width, breaking off a little at the end of the noodle to make it fit.

Spread 1/3 of the remaining sauce (about 2/3 c.) over the top of the noodles. Spread on about 1/3 of the ricotta/veggie mixture, evenly (about 2 2/3 c., I eyeballed it) on top. Repeat twice, doing the noodles, then sauce, them ricotta/veggie mixture. End with the layer of ricotta/veggie mixture, and top with the remaining 1 c. mozzarella cheese.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a 350° oven for 40-50 minutes (check at 30 minutes to be sure). Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes, until knife slides through noodles easily, indicating they are soft. *Note: For the smaller batch, cook for 30-40 minutes before removing the foil. Definitely check doneness after 20 minutes just to be sure. Enjoy! ~TMMF

*Note: The reduced fat and calorie counts for the smaller batch are: 4.5 g. fat and 45 calories. The reason the differences in these counts between the large and small batches are not halved, is because while I did double the recipe, I made it in a 13 X 15” baking dish and cut it into 12 servings, which seemed plenty, while the original recipe (half of my large batch) used an 8 X 8” baking dish and said it serves four people. Thus, the differences in fat and calories saved per serving. You can cut the fat and calories down even further by using fat free ricotta, which I’ve done plenty of times and the recipe still tasted just as great, but I would not use fat free mozzarella. I’ve been there, done that, and I recommend sticking with the part skim mozzarella.

 Creamy Spinach and Broccoli Lasagna                                                       
(double batch; serves 8-12)                                                  

2 Tbl. olive oil
1 small- medium onion
4 cloves garlic
2 10 oz. packages frozen spinach
2 10 oz. packages frozen broccoli florets
2 15 oz. containers part-skim ricotta cheese
3 c. shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1 c. grated romano or parmesan cheese
3 c. 1% milk
8 oz. Neufchatel cream cheese
2 pinches nutmeg
15 no boil lasagna noodles

*For the original batch, just halve everything. :)                                                  

Friday, March 22, 2013

Almost Candy Bars

Almost Candy Bars are similar to Magic Cookie Bars, but with a few little twists. Definitely more chocolate involved here, so chocoholics can get their fix! This recipe is one that I first had at a family gathering with in-laws, and it was so good I had to ask for the recipe. These bars are a treat to make for your family, and also great for a party or gathering.

Easy, easy, easy: empty the devil’s food cake mix into a bowl. Add the butter. You don’t have to soften the butter; it can be room temperature or even refrigerator cold. Which in our house is basically the same thing. ;)

Using a pastry knife, cut the butter into the cake mix until crumbly.

Sprinkle the mixture evenly in an un-greased 9 X 13” baking dish and lightly press it down.

Chop the nuts smallish and measure out the other toppings.

Evenly sprinkle on the chocolate chips, peanut butter or butterscotch chips, coconut, and nuts. I have made this with the butterscotch chips and it’s just as yummy, but this time I used peanut butter chips. I also used pecans this time, because they’re my favorite.

Next, pour the sweetened condensed milk evenly over the whole thing.

Bake for 20-30 minutes at 350°, until light golden brown on top. It may bubble up over the edges around the pan and that may look somewhat ugly, but those pieces will be the chewiest! Cool sufficiently and cut. Enjoy! ~TMMF

          Almost Candy Bars

          1 pkg. devil’s food cake mix
          ½ c. butter
          1 c. chocolate chips
          1 c. butterscotch or peanut butter chips
          1 c. coconut
          1 c. chopped walnuts or pecans
          1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Pizza Part 5: Spinach Mushroom Alfredo Pizza

Pizza, pizza, pizza! What’s with all the pizza?? I love it, that’s what, and according to statistics, three million pizzas are sold in the US alone every year. That’s a lot of pizza. It’s just one indication that Americans love pizza.

The first time I had ever had a spinach mushroom pizza was about six or seven years ago, and it was one of those more expensive frozen varieties at the local grocery store. It had a white sauce on it along with the cheeses, spinach, and mushrooms, and I could taste garlic. I was hooked.

I also knew I could duplicate this at home. So one day I decided to try it, and this was the result. Of course I tweaked it to my liking, and I think you’ll like this too. This is another pizza that does not use a tomato based sauce, so today you’ll expand your non-tomato based pizza sauce repertoire. Let’s get cooking!

The first step for this recipe is to get your toppings ready. Squeeze the extra liquid out of the frozen spinach. I use my hands. Seriously. I’ve tried other methods and you lose a lot of the spinach. Just grab a handful and squeeze, then put in a bowl, until you’ve done it all.

Peel the garlic and mince.

If you use fresh mushrooms, slice and sauté. If you use canned, drain well.

Next is to make the alfredo sauce. You’re going to make a white sauce by first making the roux. Roux is just a mixture of flour and fat, used to thicken sauces. In a smallish saucepan, melt the butter. Using a whisk, add the flour and cook over low to medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes (it will be bubbly), stirring.

Add about ¼ c. of the milk, immediately stirring with the whisk, using a rubber spatula to  scrape the outer edges of the bottom of the saucepan. It will be quite thick. Add the remainder of the milk and stir constantly with the whisk. At first it will be thin, but cook for one minute, stirring constantly. Add the parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper, and cook for an additional minute, again stirring constantly, until thickened to a medium consistency. Remove from heat.

Press out the pizza dough into the greased sheet pan or round pizza pan. With  a spoon, evenly spread on the alfredo sauce. Sprinkle on the mozzarella cheese.

Distribute the spinach onto the pizza. Again, I use my hands. I’ve tried using tongs, forks, whatever; but nothing works as good as my fingers. Evenly spread the mushrooms and the minced garlic.

With the oven heated to 425°, bake the pizza for 18 minutes., until browned on the bottom of the crust.  Enjoy! ~TMMF

Spinach Mushroom Alfredo Pizza

1 pizza dough
2 Tbl. butter
2 Tbl. flour
1 c. milk
1/3 c. grated parmesan cheese
¼ tsp. each salt and pepper
2 c. shredded mozzarella
1 10 oz. package frozen spinach
1-2 small cans sliced mushrooms
     (or 1 package fresh)
3-5 cloves garlic

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Company Mashed Potatoes

This is a lovely recipe that my sister Susan used to make and shared with me. I will mention that I’ve tweaked it to my own taste. The first time I had these potatoes, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. ;) They are so very easy to make, and only add mere minutes to the prep and cooking time. They truly are a special recipe to make for when you have company over. Let’s get cooking!

Cut the potatoes into medium sized chunks. I stopped peeling potatoes over a decade ago. At first it was because I couldn’t peel them, due to a rare allergy, but a couple of years after that, I was thinking one day and realized that restaurants offer mashed potatoes with the skins and it’s considered “gourmet.” Thus, I stopped having someone peel them for me long ago.

Rinse well. And I do mean well. The key to making great mashed potatoes is to make sure you rinse all the starch off the potatoes prior to cooking. You can put them in a colander and spray with water for several minutes, turning them over and spraying to ensure complete rinsing. Or, like I do, place them in the pot you’re using to boil them in and add water, swish around, hold potatoes back while you dump the water out, and repeat several times.

If you have rinsed the potatoes well enough, the water in the pot should be clear of any starch; crystal clear. Boil the potatoes until a knife inserted into one of the largest chunks goes through easily. This can take anywhere from 30-45 minutes.

While the potatoes are boiling, you can shred the cheese. I love how the apple hardwood smoked cheddar cheese lends a hearty smoky flavor to this dish, but if you don’t have that, use extra sharp cheddar cheese. Mince the onion finely.

When done, drain the potatoes in a colander immediately. Never let the potatoes sit in the water when they’re done; this is another factor that can make for gluey mashed potatoes in the end.

While the potatoes are draining, add the butter to the pan. Place the potatoes back into the pan. Add salt and pepper to taste (½ tsp of each) and the evaporated milk. With a mixer, beat the potatoes until smooth.

Turn the heat on under the potatoes to medium. Add the smoked cheddar cheese and minced onion. The reason the onion needed to be minced finely is because you’re only going to cook it for 5-7 minutes or so, stirring every few seconds, until it’s somewhat tender and the cheese is melted. See? There’s a reason for why we do things the way we do in cooking and baking. ;)

When done, turn off the heat and serve.  I made this recipe with Rosemary Chicken and carrots. Company Mashed Potatoes is such an easy recipe, but so delicious it will wow your friends and family. Enjoy! ~TMMF

                                                        Company Mashed Potatoes
                                                              (serves 6-8)

                                                        5 large potatoes
                                                        ½ c. butter
                                                        ½ c. evaporated milk
                                                        ¼ to 1/3 c. minced onion
                                                        1 c. grated apple hardwood smoked cheddar cheese
                                                              (or extra sharp cheddar cheese)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Mom's Barbecue Sauce

Barbecue sauce isn’t just for meats on the grill; it’s delicious on chicken baked in the oven during the winter. Although we have been known to use the grill during the winter also. ;) This recipe is what my mom used when I was growing up. It’s delightfully hearty, and when I smell it baking on the chicken, it takes me back to my childhood.

Chop the onions and set aside. You want them to be smallish, but you don’t have to mince them.

In  a medium saucepan, mix together the tomato sauce, lemon juice, molasses, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and salt. Add the chopped onions.

Simmer 30-45 minutes. I simmered mine for 45 minutes for a somewhat richer taste. You can cook it for less time if you prefer.

While the barbecue sauce is simmering, you can start the chicken. For this recipe I used chicken leg quarters and separated the legs and thighs. Legs and thighs are our family’s favorite parts, and I also get them for around 59¢ per pound.

Spray sheet pan or baking dish with cooking spray. Place the chicken skin side down and bake for about 25 minutes in a 350° oven. Take the pan out, coat with barbecue sauce, and turn the chicken over. Cover the tops of the chicken pieces with the rest of the barbecue sauce.

Bake for another 35 minutes. I served this a few weeks ago with corn and Company Mashed Potatoes (recipe to come soon). Enjoy! ~TMMF

                                                              Mom's Barbecue Sauce

                                                             1 c. chopped onions
                                                             2 Tbl. oil
                                                             3 ½ c. tomato sauce (canned)
                                                             ¼ c. lemon juice
                                                             ¼ c. molasses
                                                             2 Tbl. Worcestershire sauce
                                                             1 tsp. yellow mustard 
                                                             1 tsp. salt

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Irish Soda Bread

With St. Patrick’s Day coming up, I thought I’d share this quick and easy recipe for Irish Soda Bread that my mom used to make when I was growing up. It’s so good, and just sweet enough to feel like it could be dessert. I like it in the morning with a nice cup of hot tea.

Add the vinegar to the milk, stir, and set aside for now.

Mix together the flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Add the raisins and caraway seeds and mix well.

Using a fork, beat the egg in a small bowl. Melt the butter in another bowl.

Add the egg, milk, and butter to the dry ingredients, stirring till just mixed. It will look lumpy, and that’s not just from the raisins. ;)

Pour the batter into a greased 9 x 13” baking dish. Smooth out so it’s all even.

Bake in a 350° oven for 25-30 minutes. I would seriously check it at 25 minutes, to be safe. It should be lightly browned on top, and edges pulled away from the sides of the baking dish. I probably could have taken mine out a few minutes before I did. Mea culpa. ;)

We usually just eat it plain, but you can serve it with butter if you’d like. Erin go braugh! as the Irish say.  Enjoy! ~TMMF

Irish Soda Bread

2 c. milk
2 Tbl. vinegar
4 c. flour
½ c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
½ 12 oz. box raisins
1 Tbl. caraway seeds
1 egg
½ c. butter

Monday, March 11, 2013

Oven French Toast

This is a recipe that one of my sisters first made to bring to a family brunch many years ago. It was an instant hit, and I started making it for my own family. What I love about this recipe is that, besides being to-die-for delicious, it’s easily adaptable for cutting down the fat and calories, and still downright tasty.

For the stale French bread, I always look at the day old rack and get a loaf of that. I’ve used Italian bread for this too, if that’s all I could get. If you can’t get any that’s stale enough, cut it and lay them out to get drier the day before you make them.

So, you want to cut the French bread into 1” slices, and place them in a  greased 13X15”  baking dish.

Mix together the eggs with a wire whisk, then add the milk, half-and-half , and vanilla. Add the nutmeg, cinnamon, and mace, mixing well. If you don’t have mace on hand, just add a little more nutmeg and cinnamon. I’ve made it with mace and without, and it’s good no matter what.

Pour the mixture over the bread slices in the pan. Cover and set aside overnight.

Before baking, you need to make the topping. Chop the nuts. You want them to be smallish. I’ve made this dish using walnuts and using pecans, but since I like the taste of pecans more, I tend to use them more.

Mix together the softened butter, brown sugar, Karo syrup, and nuts.

Spread the topping on top of the soaked slices of French bread. You might need to use a rubber spatula.

Bake at 350° for about 50 minutes. You can tell it’s done by how brown and bubbly it will be, and also by inserting a knife in the middle. If it comes out without any egg mixture, it’s done. Keep in mind that the knife will have some of the topping on it, but that will be brown. If you don’t have any yellowish egg mixture, it’s done.

You can serve this with a little maple syrup on it if you‘d like, but believe me, it’s plenty sweet without it. My family doesn’t bother with the maple syrup. Enjoy! ~TMMF

                                          Oven French Toast                  Topping

              1 loaf  stale French bread                  ¾ c. butter, softened
                  8 large eggs                            1 1/3 c. brown    sugar
                                          2 c. milk                                 3 Tbl. Karo
                                          2 c. half and half                      1 1/3 c. walnuts or pecans
                                          2 tsp. vanilla
                                         ½ tsp. nutmeg
                                          1 tsp. cinnamon
                                         ½ tsp. mace