I am a wife, a mom of three, and the kitchen is my favorite place in the house. I read cookbooks in my spare time and enjoy getting kitchen appliances for presents :) I love preparing delicious and healthy food for my family and here are a some of what graces our table each week.

Email Me for any of the recipes :)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Daring Bakers – December 2009 – Gingerbread Houses

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The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.
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I decided to use the Scandinavian recipe because I had the ingredients on hand.  It was mentioned in the forums that the dough was a little dry.  Talk about putting it lightly,  this was the dough from hell.  I doubled the recipe so I could make a house for both of the big kids, but it took me so long to roll out the pieces for one, I couldn’t even think of making anymore.  I had to knead in small amounts of water until it would let me roll it, it was horrible.  I have tons of dough in the fridge, I am going to try to make some *drop* cookies tomorrow… 

Here is the recipe:
Scandinavian Gingerbread (Pepparkakstuga)
from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas http://astore.amazon.com/thedarkit-20/detail/0816634963

1 cup butter, room temperature [226g]
1 cup brown sugar, well packed [220g]
2 tablespoons cinnamon
4 teaspoons ground ginger
3 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ cup boiling water
5 cups all-purpose flour [875g]

1. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until blended. Add the cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Mix the baking soda with the boiling water and add to the dough along with the flour. Mix to make a stiff dough. If necessary add more water, a tablespoon at a time. Chill 2 hours or overnight.

2. Cut patterns for the house, making patterns for the roof, front walls, gabled walls, chimney and door out of cardboard.

3. Roll the dough out on a large, ungreased baking sheet and place the patterns on the dough. Mark off the various pieces with a knife, but leave the pieces in place.

4. [I rolled out the dough on a floured bench, roughly 1/8 inch thick (which allows for fact that the dough puffs a little when baked), cut required shapes and transferred these to the baking sheet. Any scraps I saved and rerolled at the end.]

5. Preheat the oven to 375'F (190'C). Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the cookie dough feels firm. After baking, again place the pattern on top of the gingerbread and trim the shapes, cutting the edges with a straight-edged knife. Leave to cool on the baking sheet.

I don’t remember which site I got this simple template from…

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Here is my test run with construction paper…

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Cutting out my final piece…(agh!!)

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When these pieces came out of the oven, I thought there was no way that my house would work.  It was almost laughable, but there was no way I was going to re-do them until I had a major disaster and had to.

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This was my first attempt to glue everything together.  I made the this recipe for Royal Icing, but omitted the extract: http://www.joyofbaking.com/RoyalIcing.html

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When it was time to attach the roof pieces, I realized just how uneven my pieces were.  I ripped it apart, trimmed everything to fit and it worked much better.  Amelia had been waiting days to help me decorate! It was fun to work with her at the beginning and finish it off on my own.

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The final product ;) I think it’s pretty cute for my first attempt.  I didn’t buy much candy, just colored twizzlers, Dots and Juju bees (or something like that).  I used chocolate, white, and cherry chips for the roof which is my favorite part of the house.  The best was seeing the kids come in at the end.  Obviously, they haven’t seen that many gingerbread houses, but they still think their mom’s is the best.  We used it as our centerpiece for dinner the next night for our Chinese Dinner Party and it was really cool. 

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I did end up making cookies from the gingerbread and they have become a family favorite.  The dough was so hard, I decided to just slice it with one of my major chef knifes and it worked perfectly.  The kids decorated them with the leftover royal icing.  I didn’t have cloves so I omitted them and I am glad I did, the cookies have just the right spice with the cinnamon and ginger.  Yum :)

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Our Chinese Dinner Party

My parents came over for a really yummy Chinese dinner.  The kids and I prepared all day for our “Chinese Dinner Party” and it was a definite success.  I thought we would have leftovers for tomorrow night, but it doesn’t look like it.  Maybe Chinese appetizers? ;)

I love Chinese food, but most of it gets prepared right before serving and involves a lot of chopping and mincing.  I stayed up late last night chopping vegetables and mincing a lot of garlic and ginger.  I started cooking right away this morning and had the chicken wings done by 8:30am and had the egg roll filling in the fridge by 10:00am.  All my marinades and sauces were ready and waiting for me and then had a busy 30 minutes or so at the end getting everything (stir) fried up and ready for the table.  I love to cook, but know my limits with three kids underfoot.  I have come up with ways to get around that and, even though I was a little tired today, I was way more relaxed knowing that dinner was going to happen no matter what my kids pulled!
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Sticky Sesame Chicken Wings

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Sticky-Sesame-Chicken-Wings-234650

This recipe is pretty self explanatory.  I had full sodium soy sauce, so I cut it in half, and didn’t use scallions or sesame seeds.  I reheated the wings right before dinner, but they can be served cold, hot or in between.

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Orange Beef

http://www.cooksrecipes.com/beef/orange_beef_recipe.html

I have had this recipe in my files for years and have made it only a few times because it does have a lot of ingredients and many steps.  With the prep-ahead it was a lot easier and much more economical than getting Kosher Chinese take out. 

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Duck Sauce

http://www.ehow.com/how_2097780_duck-sauce.html

When I was finished with this recipe and tried it, my eyes almost popped out because of the intense vinegar taste.  I had to come up with something because I was looking very forward to the egg rolls I had spent so long on.  All the hours I have logged on the Food Network seemed to have paid off because the ketchup and brown sugar I added was just the trick.  I didn’t measure, just kept on tasting.  It was actually really good!

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Egg Rolls

http://steamykitchen.com/65-my-mothers-famous-chinese-egg-rolls.html

I didn’t make all 50, like the recipe called for.  I only made however many skins were in the package – maybe 12? I have the rest of the filling in the fridge to add to some fried rice for tomorrow’s dinner.  These fried up really nicely and were the prefect beginning to our party.  My dad loved them so much, he insisted on this photo! ;)

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These are a secret recipe ;) The decorations were done by Amelia and Leo with the new Wilton squeeze bottles I bought them.   So good ;)

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Old-Time Beef Stew

At Hungarian today, I saw this pack of “Cholent Meat” with a big orange sticker on it and just had to see what it was all about.  I asked the butcher if it could be cut up to be used for chinese food and was told that it was “only for Cholent.”  Ok then.  I decided that I was in the mood for stew tonight, not tomorrow morning, so I took my chances with a simple, yet incredible, beef stew. 

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/old-time-beef-stew-recipe/index.html

This is Paula Deen’s recipe, but I am not giving her much of the credit.  In all of the reviews, they replaced the water with beef stock – that’s a no brainer – and added more seasonings.  I dipped into my pot-o-gold (a.k.a my freezer) and pulled out the leftover “juices” from a roast I made a week or so ago for Shabbat.  I made it in the Crockpot and ended up with a ton of liquid, liquid that had retained most of the flavor.  I didn’t know what I was going to use it for, but felt better putting it away rather than throwing it away. 

I didn’t have garlic or celery, so I left them out…and I added three medium potatoes with the carrots.  My package of meat was 3.42 lbs and I just cut it in half and froze the rest.  So, a little under 2 lbs that it called for, but that is ok for my waistline.  I also didn’t use any fat to brown the beef and it was fine.  I will give Paula credit for the cook time.  1 1/2 hours for the beef, seasonings and onions and another 40 minutes with the veggies made the beef “like butta”.

Could I replicate this if I wanted to (or could you?) ? I am sure a really rich stock would do the trick.  The recipe did call for paprika, allspice, salt, sugar, pepper and bay leaves – those are some serious spices.  If anyone tries it with plain old beef stock, let me know how it turns out.  It wasn’t just the taste, but the texture of the beef that made it such a great dish. 

Danny and I each had two servings, but the recipe says there are 6 servings.  If I had anymore people for dinner (or fed the kids this yummy dinner instead of giving them hotdogs!), I would have doubled the recipe.   Danny is the lucky guy who gets to have the leftovers for lunch tomorrow – yummy :)

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After browning the meat and adding everything else…

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after 1 1/2 hours…

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veggies in!

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the final goodness ;)

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it will probably be even better tomorrow ;)

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Breaded Chicken with Apricot Sauce

I picked up a jar of apricot preserves the other day because it is versatile and it has been missing from my pantry for a few months. 

I don’t think I have made this particular recipe before, but I have made things quite similar.  This is marinated in half the apricot sauce and topped with the other half.  The recipe calls for cut up chicken breasts, but I didn’t cut them at all or even pound them.  I think different recipes work best with different forms of chicken and this was the way to go. 

From Meal-Lean-I-Yum!
Apricot Sauce:
2/3 c. apricot preserves
3 tbsp. chili sauce or ketchup (I used ketchup)
2 tsp. dijon mustard (yellow mustard)
1/4 tsp. dried basil
5 or 6 drops tabasco (a very teeny pinch of cayenne pepper)

Breading:
3/4 c. cornflake crumbs or bread crumbs (I used Whole Wheat bread crumbs)
salt and pepper to taste

Marinate chicken in half the sauce, reserve the rest to pour over.  I baked the chicken at 400F, maybe 10 minutes a side.  Watch your chicken breasts!!

Danny bought himself some green beans, so I stir fried them in a touch of sesame oil until they were cooked, yet crunch.  He said they were good :)

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My First *Real* Cake

Every year since becoming a mom, I have wanted to make fabulous birthday cakes for my kids.  Almost six years and three kids later, I made my first one this past week for my sons 4th birthday party.  I am so thrilled that it came out amazing and can’t wait to make a cake for my daughter’s 6th birthday in February.  I was very nervous to take this on so I did a lot of research and enlisted the help of an old friend via FaceBook (see, it’s good for something!) and it worked out pretty well – thanks, Esther!!  I know that there will be no excuses for cupcakes with some sprinkles from now on and I am totally OK with that! :)

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Lots of butter cream frosting…it’s the recipe from Wilton.  I made three times the original recipe and had some left over, but not sure if I would have been OK with it just doubled…

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This was my very professional layout of how I wanted the cake to end up…

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I used Duncan Hines cakes and when I baked them on Thursday night, I thought they looked a little thin.  I started with a square and a circle each of yellow and chocolate and ended up baking a 9x13 of chocolate and another square of yellow the next day.  In the end, I used the three squares, one for the smaller mountains.  The circles and 9x13 are in the freezer for an emergency cake situation…

It wasn’t the most level cake, but it worked for me!

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This was a mix of a couple of Wilton Dyes, I thought Copper would work and it didn’t, so I added Brown….

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Crumb coats are supposed to make the “real” frosting easier, but they are so freakin’ hard, especially on the pieces that have cut sides.  Grrr.  I was so happy to be done with them and get them in the fridge to harden a bit.

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Frosted and lovely :) I had bought circle cake boards, so I cut a little out of one so it fit snuggly next to the other. 

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I ended up using some cake scraps to shimmy the small mountain from the back, it was a little tipsy at first.

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The cake design I was working from used butter cream for their waterfall, but Esther suggested I used piping gel.  Piping gel?? I had never heard of it, but it is inexpensive and gives a pretty cool effect.  I tinted it with the Wilton dyes.  I read somewhere that it takes alot of gel to make your design.  I used two containers, but probably only needed one.  The thing is, you never want to be short when you are dying something.

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I did have to reapply some gel on the top part of the mountain because it slid down to the second tier, but it was ok.  I would put less on to start and build it up next time.  This step was so scary, but I just decided to go for it and see what happened.  Fingers crossed and it came out awesome!

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I used the Wilton grass tip and green butter cream all around the cake.  Wilton.com is right, if you stop the pressure on the bag *before* lifting up, your grass will stand up straight.  It’s just not always possible when doing the sides of the mountain.  I bought jungle animals from Joann and they were the perfect size.  Next time, I will cover the cake board…:)

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The final product…and it tasted pretty good, too! ;)

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Chicken Stir Fry

I think I have posted this before, but it is good enough to be repeated. Take whatever veggies you have and 3-4 chicken breasts, cut up and do a quick stir fry of each. I used no oil, just PAM and a hot pan. When everything is cooked, put back in the pan to warm through with sauce. The sauce will thicken too much if the pan is too hot. I had hoped to give the leftovers to Danny for lunch, but just munched on it all night. Ooops! :)

Sauce is adapted from the “Chinese Chicken with Cashews” recipe in Spice and Spirit:

1 tbsp each, cornstarch and sugar
1/4 c. each, soy sauce and water
drizzle of sesame oil
dash of dried ginger

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Chicken Soup with Dumplings

When I got home from picking up Amelia, the house was so cold and I was too frozen to want to think about dinner and start preparing. I knew the kids were having the new “chickenless nuggets” from Trader Joes, so I was only thinking about me and Danny. I wanted something really good, something that would warm me up! I decided to make soup and it evolved from there. I had some raw chicken breast left in the fridge from Danny’s shopping and some chicken stock in the freezer from Thanksgiving and *tons* of veggies around. I combined the stock and 4 cups or so of water and poached the chicken in that, with diced carrots and sweet potatoes and chopped parsley. I added salt, pepper and dried thyme until it was yummy and shredded the chicken and added it back. I added pasta wheels, but ended up removing them when I decided to make the dumplings – I didn’t want them in the soup for another 10 minutes, they would be mush. Turns out, pasta simmered in chicken stock is really awesome, just ask Macie and Amelia who finished them off for me. Back to the dumplings, they came from my Soup cookbook and are really easy: 2 beaten eggs, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1/4 c. water and 1 c. flour. You put dollops of the batter into the simmering soup, cover for 10 minutes. They came out a little on the tough side (my dad would have loved them!), and I am not sure if it was because I put the batter in the fridge while Danny was on his way home, or if they didn’t cook long enough. They were really tasty anyways and the soup was everything I had hoped dinner would be and then some. I served it with challah toast, smeared with that herb butter from Thanksgiving. Yum :)

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Shredded BBQ Chicken Sandwiches

After attempting a tofu meatloaf last night (Macie and I were totally fine with it), I thought Danny deserved a real man’s meal tonight. The fact that Danny did a meat shopping today and came home with chicken breasts made the whole thing alot more tempting. These sandwiches were really good and totally easy to throw together. The recipe comes from my Weber Grilling cookbook, but I made some simple changes.

Take 4 chicken breasts and grill/broil them with whatever you want…the book calls for S&P, I used a BBQ rub that I had saved in a ziploc.

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Shred the chicken after it cools off for a few minutes.

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Make BBQ sauce:
1 c. ketchup
2 TBSP each, lemon juice and soy sauce
small pinch of cayenne
big pinch of brown sugar

Simmer for a few minutes and then add chicken. Bring lots of napkins to the table.

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You know its a good meal when Danny asks if he can bring some to work for lunch :)

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