Tuesday, May 29, 2012

TWD: Baking with Julia - Rugalach

Since the month of May has 5 Tuesdays, and my Tuesdays with Dorie group bakes on the first and third Tuesday, we had the option to make a recipe we might have missed on the fifth week.  I decided to bake Rugalach.  Have you ever had a rugalach?  If not, I am happy to introduce you to these delicious treats.  First of all, lets talk pronunciation.  Rugalach is pronounced like you might say arugula, the green, but drop that first 'a'.  RU-gu-la.  Since we can now discuss the treat appropriately, let's talk about what it IS.  Rugalach is a Jewish rolled cookie, having origins in Eastern Europe.  In Yiddish, rugalach means "little twists".  Traditional rugalach are shaped more like crescent rolls, rolling a triangle onto itself.  This recipe made the rugalach more like a jelly roll and then sliced them.

The TWD group originally posted about rugalach on March 6, 2012, which is before I joined this group, and I was especially bummed to have missed this recipe.  Why?  Well, we have come to another family tradition at our house.  We make rugalach every year for Christmas.  Obviously it is not supposed to be a Christmas cookie, but, well, it is for us.  My dad was actually raised Jewish and converted to Christianity as an adult, and our recipe is from my grandmother.   My cousins (my dad's brother's kids) also grew up with rugalach as a Christmas cookie.  What can I say?  Anyway, as it is my "job" to make the pecan sticky buns each year, it is my sister's "job" to make the rugalach each year. 

Rugalach dough tends to be made with sour cream or cream cheese.  The older recipes tend to have sour cream, and the cream cheese was an American innovation.  (Side note - isn't it amazing how many things are made with cream cheese?  I once helped host a baby shower and every appetizer we served was made with cream cheese, not intentionally!  I think for us Americans, cream cheese = goodness.)  Okay, back to rugalach.  My family's recipe actually uses a mixture of sour cream and cream cheese, so I guess we add a bit of new with the old.  The TWD recipe uses cream cheese.

Enough babbling!  Let's get on to the actual cookie!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Dyed Purple shorts!

My parents found some cute shorts for the Clever Girl at a consignment shop.  They were adorable!  They were denim (great fabric for kiddo shorts) and had sparkly bling on the pockets.  What is better?  Oh, but they were WHITE DENIM.  Is there any reason to even manufacture shorts in white?  In any size?  I think not.  The entire world could go without white shorts.  That is just my opinion.  But certainly white shorts on 3-4 year old kids is just ridiculous.  So, I dyed them!  Holy mackerel, this has opened up a whole new world of ideas for me! 

Once upon a time, the shorts were white.  I neglected to take a picture of the white shorts, so you'll just have to envision them with me.  They were not a bright white, as they were at a consignment shop and thus had likely been worn and washed a lot, plus white clothes never stay white for long, do they?  Anyway, the shorts were white and I decided they would be prettier in purple.

So, I dyed them.  If you have any random white clothing, or even light colored clothing that you think would look better another color, give this a try!  I used tips from MADE for instructions.  (By the way, if you haven't checked out that blog, you should.  She has great ideas!)  Anyway, here is what you need:

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Gifts for the Teacher

This is my daughter's last week of school for the year.  She does have pre-school over the summer too, but it changes up a bit.  So now was the time to brainstorm a good gift for her teacher.  We made her a stamped apple bag and a framed subway art print!

Let it be said that I really have enjoyed my daughter's teacher this year.  Ms. Angie was marvelous.  I am sad that the Clever Girl won't be in her class anymore, to be honest.  Ms. Angie became a friend!  So, she needed a special gift from the Clever Girl and I.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Summer Squash, Bacon, and Mozzarella Quiche with Foolproof Pie Dough

You read that right!  It does indeed say FOOLPROOF pie dough.  A delicious summer squash, bacon (that makes everything yummy), and mozzarella quiche with FOOLPROOF pie dough.  Are you ready for this??

There is a SECRET INGREDIENT to this pie dough.  Just wait.  You won't believe it.  And it is essential!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Chocolate Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce

We are in a dinner club with some friends, and we meet (in a good year) every other month at someone's house for dinner.  The host plans a theme/menu and everyone signs up to bring something.  Most of the time, I sign up for dessert (Chocolate Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce, this time).  I just can't help myself!  I don't get any complaints, so I guess it is okay!

May's dinner theme was a Louisiana Crawfish Boil.  Holy-mackeral there was a ton of food!  Our hosts just kept adding more and more dishes to an already full meal!  We were stuffed like ticks when we left!  Thank goodness we only do this every other month!  It was a delicious meal.  Besides crawfish, we also had some meat pies, gumbo, red beans and rice, fried green tomatoes, maque choux, a salad, hush puppies, shrimp creole and I am probably forgetting what else in my food overload!  For dessert, the hosts chose Chocolate Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce.  

I was excited to try this recipe.  One of the most decadent things I have ever eaten is White Chocolate Bread Pudding at the Jazz Festival in New Orleans.  Oh, my, is it tasty.  Somehow, even though it is a zillion degrees outside and I am hot and tired, I can STILL eat that delicious concoction.  I just eat it with a Rose-mint Iced Tea and all is well.  You put the little plastic spoon in your mouth, close your eyes, and sigh with abandon.  You are transported to a world of deliciousness.  Since it is so amazing, obviously I had to find the recipe, so I have managed to re-create it at home a couple of times.  We have not returned to Jazz Fest since becoming parents and must get back soon.  I highly recommend the fest as a whole, and the food there is unlike any festival food you will ever eat!  Anyway, since White Chocolate Bread Pudding is so heavenly, and I am not even a white chocolate fan, could you go wrong with straight up CHOCOLATE bread pudding?  I think not.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

TWD: Baking with Julia - Pecan Sticky Buns

Pecan Sticky Buns are close to my heart.  Every year for as long as I can remember, my family has eaten sticky buns on Christmas morning.  It started out with me helping my mom make them every year, and we'd be up late on Christmas Eve getting them ready (as we had not planned ahead, year after year to do it earlier)!  Over time, it morphed into my mom helping me make the sticky buns.  Until very recently, we have always used the same recipe, one that my mom found in the newspaper long ago and clipped.  A couple of years ago, I did a test drive of a new recipe (not on Christmas) and then created a new sticky buns plan, using parts of each recipe for our Christmas morning treat.  I guess you could say I am a sticky buns aficionado!  So when I saw that the Tuesdays with Dorie group was planning on making Pecan Sticky Buns, it was a challenge I could not deny.

The recipe can be found in the Baking with Julia cookbook on page 190 or by checking out our hosts' blogs, Lynn of Eat Drink Man Woman Dogs Cat and Nicole of Cookies on Friday.  Each month we pick one "easy" and one "challenging" recipe.  This was the challenging one for sure!  Not challenging in a complicated way, but challenging in a lots-of-steps way.  Does that even make sense??

Monday, May 14, 2012

Overnight Caramel French Toast

I found a recipe for an Overnight French Toast on Cooking Light's website.  I like making a special breakfast on Saturday mornings.  "Special" generally means pancakes, but really anything other than cereal. To make french toast the night before and just pop it in the oven in the morning?  Great idea!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Sister Granola

I love granola on my cereal.  Or on my yogurt.  And sometimes on ice cream.  Store bought granola tends to be pretty expensive and often too sweet for my tastes.  So I use a recipe that my sister found many years ago and then adapted to how she likes it, and then I adapt it to how I like it (or what I happen to have in my kitchen at the time).  Since my sister and I call each other "sister", I decided this granola should be named Sister Granola.  And now you can adapt it to how YOU like it, too!  It's versatile like that!  This recipe is super easy and makes a ton of granola!  Yahoo!

In a small saucepan, heat oil, butter, and honey in a saucepan.

Stir in brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and vanilla.  Heat it enough so the sugar dissolves, then set it all aside for later.

Mix together oats, coconut, almonds, wheat germ, and sesame seeds.  For this recipe, I did not have any sesame seeds, and I used almonds and pecans.  It's just what I had on hand!  Plus I added some ground flax seed in this step.

Grab your small saucepan of the butter/sugar mixture, and pour it over the oat mixture.  Toss well.  Spread it out on a half sheet/jelly roll pan.  Bake for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

When those 20 minutes are over, stir in your dried fruit.  I used dried cherries, cranberries, and pomegranate seeds.  I have used regular raisins, golden raisins, dried apricots, dates, figs, cherries, you name it!  Throw in whatever your favorite dried fruit might be!

This is Charlie, my cooking companion.  Wherever I am, he is.  Often sitting or lying directly on my foot, but always touching me in some way.  Lucy is more nonchalant.  She is generally in the room as well, but she keeps her space.  It can be nerve-wracking having him lying on my feet while I am cooking something hot on the stove.  Alas, he is so devoted. 

Bake until granola is golden brown, stirring occasionally, for another 15 minutes or so.  Cool.

Eat by the handful or on whatever your favorite granola platform might be.  I have never figured out what the nutritional information might be for this granola, but I am fairly sure it is healthier than most of the granolas you can get in the store.  And I can assure you it will be substantially less expensive and (most importantly) TASTIER!  This granola gets clumps of crunchy bits (which I like).  If you don't like that, make sure you stir often while baking and also while cooling. 

Sister Granola
5 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
3 cups coconut (I try to find unsweetened, but sweetened is fine too)
1 1/2 cups whole almonds (or any other nuts!)
3/4 cup sliced almonds (or again any other nut!!)
1 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup ground flax seed (optional)
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 TB vanilla extract
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup dried cherries (or any other dried fruit)

Preheat oven to 300F. Heat oil, butter, and honey in a small saucepan. Stir in brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and vanilla. Heat until sugar is fully dissolved. Set aside.

Mix together oats, coconut, almonds, wheat germ, flax seed and sesame seeds. Pour honey mixture over oat mixture and toss well. Spread out mixture on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add dried cherries and bake until granola is golden brown, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes longer. Cool.

Yield: 10 cups
Printable Recipe

Have fun with this recipe!  I'd love to hear of how you change it up!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Avgolemono - Greek Chicken Soup

I've been a bit under the weather.  Bad allergies with the current Houston air turned into some sort of overall yuck.  When I am sick I want my mom to make me some chicken soup.  Since my mom doesn't live anywhere near me (boo), I just have to make some chicken soup myself!  I'm a mom, so it should still work!    I decided to make Avgolemono, a Greek chicken soup with egg-lemon sauce.  Hello.  I may have found a new favorite soup!

Avgolemono in Greek actually means egg-lemon.  You start off with a fairly basic chicken soup recipe,  but instead of ending with just chicken soup, there is MORE.  You add a sauce made of lemon juice, eggs, and fresh ground pepper to the stock and it takes chicken soup to an entirely new level! 

The chicken stock is made of chicken, water, a leek, a carrot, some salt and bay leaves.   When the chicken is cooked, you remove it and then add a sauteed onion and either rice or orzo.  Shred or dice the chicken, put it back into the broth, and there you have a nice tasty chicken soup. 

But wait!  There is more!  Mix up some lemon juice, eggs and pepper, temper the eggs with some of the hot chicken stock, and then mix it all into the chicken stock. 

Instead of having a simple chicken noodle soup, you have a chicken noodle (if you used orzo) soup with the extra zip and vitamin C benefits of lemon!  The egg-lemon sauce really makes the soup amazing.  It adds a creaminess and vibrancy to the dish.  Often when I am not feeling well, I feel like my taste buds have gone on hiatus, and this soup will encourage them back. 

So whether your mom makes it, you make it, or someone else makes it, get yourself a nice bowl of Avgolemono. 

Avgolemono - Chicken Soup with Egg-Lemon Sauce
Adapted from Food Network, Cat Cora

1 (3 pound) free range chicken
12 cups cold water
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1 leek, cleaned and quartered (or 1 inch pieces if you intend to keep it in the soup)
1 carrot, peeled and quartered (or 1 inch pieces if you intend to keep it in the soup)
2 bay leaves
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups finely diced onion (about 1 medium onion)
2/3 cup arborio rice (I used about 1 cup whole wheat orzo)
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

In a 6 to 8-quart stockpot, combine the chicken, water, and 2 tablespoons salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to a very low simmer, and skim the foam from the surface. Add the leek, carrot and bay leaves and continue to simmer with the chicken until the chicken is thoroughly cooked, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.  The internal temperature of the chicken needs to be 165F.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the onion until translucent, about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Remove chicken from the broth and allow meat to cool before dicing or shredding. Strain the broth (optional) and skim the fat.

Return the broth to the stove, bring it back to a boil, and add the onion and rice or orzo.  (I happened to have the orzo on hand and thought it'd be tasty!!)  Reduce the heat and simmer until the rice/orzo is almost cooked through, about 20 minutes for rice, 6-8 for orzo. Add the chicken and reduce the broth to a low simmer.
In a medium sized bowl, beat the lemon juice, eggs, and pepper. Ladle 2 cups of hot broth into a measuring cup with a spout. While whisking, slowly pour the 2 cups of broth into the egg mixture. Pour the egg mixture back into the pot with the remaining 1 tablespoon of salt. Stir well to blend. Divide among bowls and serve immediately.
Printable Recipe

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Carnaby Skirt

I knit a skirt!  This is something I was a bit scared to do, as I was always in fear of the BUMP that might occur after sitting down.  Then I found the Carnaby pattern and I had to have it.  It's cute!  It's fashionable!  It is fun to knit!

One of my knitting hurdles is my allergy to wool.  It is an awful allergy to have if you love to knit.  Seriously there are so many beautiful yarns out there containing wool.  Plus most patterns are written for wool yarn, and substituting can be really tricky.  Wool has some great qualities, like a natural stretch and give, that many other fibers do not have.  Why oh why am I sensitive to wool??  It is an unfair knitting affliction.

However, I have learned to adapt.  For the Carnaby skirt, I used Berroco Remix in Clementine.  Berroco Remix is a great yarn for us non-wool types.  It is made of 100% recycled fibers, including nylon, cotton, acrylic, silk, and linen.  It is soft and has a tweedy look that I really like, plus has some elasticity that is KEY for a knitted skirt!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Swedish Visiting Cake

My heavens.  I have found what will become a new family favorite!  Swedish Visiting Cake!  You may recall that I was responsible for bringing nibbles to church during April for the snacks between services.  Well, the weekend of the big Texas Sheet Cake event, I was not very motivated to do even more baking, but duty called.  So I went to Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours to see if there was a simple, fast recipe to use.  Boy, did I find a keeper!  Dorie reports that you could start making this cake when you saw guests coming up the road and have it ready by the time they settled for coffee.  This is an exaggeration, but only slightly!  It's not only fast and simple, but it is truly delicious.

Put your mixer away.  Get out one medium mixing bowl.  That is all you need!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Birthday Banana Pudding

Mr. Clever Mom requested banana pudding for his birthday.  Usually he wants a coconut cream pie (divine!!) but I guess he wanted to change things up a bit so banana pudding it was.  I pulled out an Alton Brown recipe and went to work!

First off, though you could so easily BUY vanilla wafers, when you are goofy like me and you can find an actual recipe for them, you make them!  So that is what I did.  This too was an Alton Brown recipe.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

TWD: Baking with Julia - Hungarian Shortbread

The latest Tuesdays with Dorie - Baking with Julia recipe is Hungarian Shortbread.  The recipe can be found on pages 327-328 of the book or here and here, the blogs of the two hosts for this recipe!

The shortbread is filled with a rhubarb jam, which made me excited as I have never cooked rhubarb before this instance!  I have eaten it before, but never out of my own kitchen!  So I was eager to learn more about rhubarb.

My wikipedia research lead to a few interesting tidbits:
  • Rhubarb is generally considered to be a vegetable, however in 1947 a court in New York decided that since we use it in the U.S. as if it were a fruit, we would consider it a fruit.  The benefit of this declaration is that vegetables have higher tariffs, so the importation of rhubarb became less expensive.  Interesting how we can decide in a court that a vegetable is a fruit for our own benefit.  Hmmm.  I won't go any further with that.  It just makes my brain go off in all kinds of directions!
  • Rhubarb can be used as a laxative.  Yikes.  We certainly don't want to put too much in our shortbread!  That is not an effect I generally want from my baked goods!
  • This is sort of random, but rhubarb contains tannins, and Chinese medicine uses rhubarb not only for the laxative effect but also because tannins reduce colon inflammation.  Since red wine also has tannins, shouldn't that be just another reason why red wine is good for us??
That is enough talk about laxatives and colons.  I hope this never comes up in a blog post again.  Ugh.

On to the jam.