Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Moosewood Pesto

For classic recipes like pesto, I often turn to Mollie Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook.  This one comes from the original cookbook that I picked up at a yard sale several years ago.  I also have the 15-year anniversary edition, but it's not with me at the moment so I can't tell you if she updated or changed the recipe at all.

One of the things I love about this recipe is that you have several options of nuts.  This comes in handy, especially since I can't bring myself to pay $20/bag for pine nuts right now!  Unfortunately walnuts are also way UP in price, last time I checked a one-pound bag was about $8, which I also just can't do.  So luckily, I have a bunch of almonds in the freezer, and that's what I've been using for my pesto.

The first batch I made using my homegrown Lemon Basil and almonds, and it is amazing.  My generous FedEx driver dropped off a huge bag of homegrown Basil yesterday, so I am making more pesto today, again with almonds.  I stick the pesto in small freezer containers, so we can have that fresh green summer flavor all year long.

from Moosewood Cookbook
for about 6 servings of pasta

3 packed cups fresh basil leaves (removed from stems)
2 large cloves fresh garlic
1/2 cup pinenuts, walnuts, almonds or a combination
3/4 cup (packed) fresh-chopped parsley
3/4 cup fresh-grated Parmesan
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup melted butter
salt to taste

Combine everything in a blender or food processor on low, then medium speed.  Arrange things so the blender blade will turn efficiently.  Thoroughly work everything into a smooth paste.  Toss with hot, drained pasta.

*This keeps excellently in the freezer too, just thaw before tossing with pasta.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

French Toast Casserole

We love French toast, but I hate having to make recipes that require one of us to eat while it's hot and the next batch is on the griddle. This recipe makes us both happy at the same time and is a time saver because I throw it together the night before AND it uses what might otherwise be wasted. We love sourdough bread, but the heels are sometimes a little tough. I save the heels from each loaf in the freezer and when I have enough I make this casserole. It's absolutely perfect for Thanksgiving or Christmas morning. The smell of the cinnamon baking is one of the best smiles you can give your family. 

8-10 sourdough heels (or regular slices work too)
8 eggs
3 cups milk
4 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons butter, cubed or sliced thin
3 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons cinnamon
maple syrup - OPTIONAL - it really is great without it
  • In a large mixing bowl whisk together the eggs, milk, 4 teaspoons sugar, vanilla extract and sea salt.
  • Cube bread.
  • Add bread to the egg mixture and toss to coat well.
  • Grease a 13x9 baking dish.
  • Pour bread mixture into baking dish, cover and refrigerate overnight.
  • Remove casserole from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking.
  • Preheat oven to 350˚.
  • Dot casserole with butter pieces.
  • Combine topping sugar and cinnamon - sprinkle over top.
  • Cover** and bake 45-50 minutes, or until toothpick comes out of center clean.
  • Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
**If you want a crispy top, uncover 10 minutes before it's through.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

White Chocolate Almond Chunk Cookies

Splurged by buying a $2.99 used cookbook from a thrift store last Saturday. The cookbook is With Love & Butter: Favorite Recipes from Holly B's Bakery on Lopez Island. Tried the first recipe, which confirmed what I thought: No reason for buyer's remorse, since this recipe alone is worth the purchase price. Below is the slightly modified recipe along with a note from me.

Makes 5 dozen

1 cup butter at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups quick (1-minute) oatmeal
1 1/2 cups whole natural almonds
1 ½ to 2 cups white chocolate chips
½ to 1 cup dried cranberries, optional

1. In large mixing bowl, cream together butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar.
2. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
3. Mix in baking powder, baking soda, salt, and vanilla.
4. Add flour to mixing bowl.
5. In a large food processor fitted with the steel knife blade, powder the oatmeal. Empty oat powder into mixing bowl.
6. Mix in flour and oat powder until barely incorporated.
7. Reassemble the food processor without washing. Add the almonds and pulse until roughly chopped. Empty chopped almonds into mixing bowl.
8. Add white chocolate chips and, if desired, dried cranberries to mixing bowl. Stir by hand until combined.
9. Drop by rounded tablespoon on parchment-covered cookie sheet, spacing them 1 inch apart. Slightly flatten each cookie with the palm of your hand.
10. Bake in a 375°F oven on the topmost rack for 4 minutes. Rotate the pan and then continue to bake 3 to 5 minutes. The centers of the cookies should be soft but not gooey. Don’t overbake or even medium-bake. Rather, underbake slightly.
11. Cool completely and then store in an airtight container.

NOTE: Using an insulated baking sheet spread with parchment paper, I put the oven rack on the second position from the top and baked the cookies a bit longer than suggested. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Peach Vanilla Bean Butter

A friend of mine asked me if I wanted some peaches.  I did, so I met her and we hiked back to an old, neglected, almost abandoned but certainly untended orchard where huge organic peaches were literally falling off the trees.  We picked boxes and boxes of peaches, and ate almost a dozen peaches between us as we picked, then hauled the boxes back out to the cars on foot.  It was a very nice way to spend a few hours.

Then I drove almost an hour home, and tried to decide what to do with all the peaches!

The first recipe I decided on was Peach Butter from Smitten Kitchen.  I love that she used less sugar, and that it tastes more like peaches than anything else.  I doubled her recipe from the start.  The only problem was that it took FOREVER...way longer than the supposed "15 to 20 minutes + 30 to 40 minutes" stated in the recipe, and it seemed like there was a big risk of sticking/scorching no matter how I adjusted my burner.  After about 2 hours of simmering, with the peach butter still not being the right consistency, I got a slow cooker and emptied the peach mixture into it. 

The slow cooker worked great, as it always has for my pear butter, apple butter, etc.  It probably took another 12 hours, but I didn't have to watch and stir it, and it turned out really delicious.  After it was canned I decided to start from scratch and come up with my own recipe. I felt like there was way too much water added in the beginning of Deb's recipe, or maybe my organic peaches were just juicier?  I also happened to have some vanilla beans in the pantry, and I thought this would be a good way to use one. 

This recipe is inspired by the original (link above), but the technique and ingredients have been changed, so this is mine.  And it is delicious!  The vanilla bean adds a subtle depth to the peach butter that is just amazing. 

I was able to fit 12 pounds of peaches in my oval slow cooker; I don't remember which size it is.  You can adjust the recipe to fit your slow cooker.  The peaches will exude a ton of juice while you're cooking, and at some points honestly won't look very appetizing, but hang in there and you will get some of the most amazing tasting fruit spread you've ever had.

Peach Vanilla Bean Butter
Makes about 12-14 half pints

12 pounds peaches, peeled, pitted and quartered
4 cups granulated sugar
Juice of two lemons
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped, pods reserved

To peel peaches:  Dip each into a pot of boiling water for about 30 seconds, and then into a bowl of ice water for a minute. The peels should slide right off.  If not, put them back in the hot water, then ice water.  It helps if your peaches are perfectly ripe.

Halve your peaches and remove the pits, then cut each half into quarters.  Place peaches, sugar and lemon juice in a large slow cooker.  Stir in vanilla bean paste, and add split pods as well.  Cover and cook on low for about 10-12 hours.

Remove lid, and remove bean pods.  (**If you want a stronger vanilla flavor, leave pods in and don't blend until you've cooked without the lid for a few hours**)  Using an immersion blender, puree' peaches to a smooth consistency, right in the crock pot.  If you don't have an immersion blender, you can transfer peaches to a food processor or blender in batches to puree'.

With lid off, continue cooking for another 2 to 10 hours, until peach butter is of the consistency you prefer.  I like mine pretty thick, so mine ended up cooking a good 10 hours at this stage.

Deb of Smitten Kitchen says:
"There are several methods to test for doneness: You can drizzle a ribbon of sauce across the surface; when that ribbon holds its shape before dissolve into the pot, it is done. Some people use cold or frozen plates; dollop a spoonful in the middle of one and if no water forms a ring around it in a couple minutes, it is done. Others use a spoon; if the butter remains rounded on a spoon for two minutes, it is done. You can also check the pot itself; the butter is usually done when a wooden spoon leaves a clear train when scraped across the bottom."

When the peach butter is done, wash and prep your jars, lids and rings.  Ladle peach butter into half pint jars, wipe rims and put lids on, then submerge in a pot of boiling water.  Process as directed for jams at your altitude.  I am at about 7,000 feet, so I processed my peach butter for about 25 minutes.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Today I used what I had on hand and we liked it even better.  Instead of 4 slices of ham I used a small ham steak and just cubed it.  I also used Muenster cheese instead of Jack.  I'm thinking next time I should cut up the chicken into bite sized pieces for a complete casserole. Hubs loved it.

4 large boneless/skinless chicken breasts
1 (10.75 oz.) can Cream of Chicken soup (see soup substitutes)
1 cup milk
4 slices ham
4 slices Jack cheese
6 ounce pkg of herb or chicken flavored stuffing mix (such as Stove Top)
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup water
  • In a small bowl whisk together the cream of chicken soup and milk until well blended.
  • Spray crock pot with PURE.
  • Pour half of the soup mixture into the bottom of a 6 quart oval crock pot.
  • Place the chicken breasts over the sauce in a single layer.
  • Cover the chicken with a layer of ham and then a layer of Swiss cheese.
  • Pour the remaining soup mixture over the chicken.
  • Sprinkle the chicken with the dry stuffing mix.
  • Whisk together the butter and water.
  • Drizzle the butter mixture over the stuffing.
  • Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours or on high for 2-3 hours.
  • Serve and enjoy!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Baked Donut Holes

Last month, I joined the The Secret Recipe Club.   It is a secret blog assignment, where you are set off into another foodie's blog alone, and no one else is supposed to know.  Someone else all together gets to peruse your blog.  We'll all find out who had which blog on the same day and time.

Without further ado, my assignment for the Secret Recipe Club this month was:

It's Yummy To My Tummy!

In perusing this new-to-me blog, the first recipe that caught my eye was Bacon & Sundried Tomato Guacamole.  I believe I will try this recipe at some point. 
But I kept coming back to the Baked Donuts.  I do have a donut pan, which I have not yet used, but as luck would have it, it wasn't at this house at the particular time I decided it was "time to make the donuts."  The donut pan languishes, unused and shiny (although probably a bit dusty by now) at the ranch.  

However, I had recently purchased a Bella Cake Pop & Donut Hole Maker for my son's Angry Birds birthday party, and that was right here where I needed it!  (the one I have is similar to this one, although I purchased mine at Target and it actually makes 12 at a time)

I didn't have the ingredients for Heather's chocolate or vanilla glazes, so I opted for a cinnamon sugar topping, which was delicious!  I also didn't have cake flour or nutmeg, but regular flour and cinnamon work just fine.  To see the original recipe and the yummy glaze recipes, please follow this link!  

These are easy to whip up and everyone loved them!

Baked Donut Holes
Adapted from  It's Yummy To My Tummy!
makes about 48, I think, we ate them pretty fast!

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons butter, melted
3/4 cup buttermilk (a big splash of lemon juice + enough milk to total 3/4 cup)

1/2 stick butter, melted
sugar mixed with cinnamon (I never measure, but I'd guess at least a 1/2 cup sugar and a teaspoon or two of cinnamon?  just mix and add more until it looks/tastes right)

In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt. Add eggs, 2 tablespoons melted butter, and buttermilk. Mix until just combined.

Preheat the donut hole maker.  Fill and cook as directed, mine took about 5 minutes per batch.  Meanwhile, melt the remaining butter in a bowl.  In a pie plate, mix sugar and cinnamon.

As each batch comes out, coat the donuts with melted butter and then swirl around in cinnamon sugar until coated.  I put about 6 donut holes at a time in the butter bowl, then transfer to the pie plate to coat.  If you don't use butter, the cinnamon sugar just won't stick.

I will definitely be making these again!  Enjoy!

Secret Recipe Club
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