Friday, October 31, 2008

In time for Halloween: sugar cookies with royal icing


I have been surrounded by sugar for three days and it's going to my head.

These little guys are fun to make, and I'm seriously handicapped when it comes to icing so you KNOW it's gotta be easy. They're not quite Martha-quality, but I think they came out pretty cute.

-3 c flour
-1 c sugar
-1 c butter, soft
-1 egg, beaten
-1/4 tsp salt
-3/4 tsp baking powder
-1 tbsp milk
-1 tsp vanilla
Cream the butter, vanilla and sugar together in a stand mixer on medium. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, a little at a time, until it is totally incorporated. Turn off the mixer, and divide the dough into two parts. Form the sections into balls, wrap with plastic wrap, and refridgerate for 2 hours.
Roll out the dough, one section at a time, to about 1/4" thickness. Use cookie cutters to create whatever shapes float your boat, and bake at 375 for about 9-10 minutes, or until the bottoms are just beginning to brown. Cool completely before icing.
-3 large egg whites
-1 tsp vanilla
-4 c powdered sugar
-hot water
With your mixer on high, whip the egg whites and vanilla with the whisk attachment until they are fluffy and foamy. Add the powdered sugar, about half a cup at a time, and whisk on medium until all the sugar is incorporated. This icing will be VERY thick, shiny and pasty. It's like caulk made out of sugar.
Color the icing as you see fit with food coloring, and pipe onto the cookies using a pastry bag or ziploc bag with the corner cut off (it's actually not that hard to do!).
To create cookies like the ones I made above, pipe a thin line around each cookie into the shape you desire. Once all of the cookies have this "barrier", whisk the remaining icing with a few tablespoons of hot water until the icing is sort of runny. It's hard to explain the texture that gives you these results, so you'll just have to play around with it. You don't want the icing to be watery, but also not too stiff. Spoon the watered down icing into the center of the shape and spread it out - the lines you piped earlier will act as a barrier and keep it from running down the sides.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

PBPB (Peanut butter puppy biscuits)

Does Martha have dogs? If so, I bet they're fed a steady diet of organic, free-range meats, the finest grains, and attitude.

My dog is fed kibble. But sometimes I like to spoil her - so I made these cute little dog-friendly cookies today. It was very simple, and while they're not exactly nutritious, one or two won't hurt.

Instead of cookie cutters, I used these little pie crust cut-outs that I got at Williams-Sonoma last fall. It cuts the shape and presses a little design into the dough. They're the perfect size for treats (only an inch or so), but any small cookie cutter will do.

-1 c low-fat peanut butter
-1 c skim milk
-2 c unbleached flour
-1 tbsp baking powder

Blend the peanut butter and milk together on medium speed until they are well mixed. In a separate bowl, sift the flour and baking powder together. With your mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture to the peanut butter. Mix well, the dough will be pretty tough. Remove the dough from the mixing bowl and form into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and refridgerate for 30 minutes.

Roll out the dough to 1/4" thickness and cut into shapes with a cookie cutter.

Bake at 375 for about 8-10 minutes. They burn pretty fast, so if your oven cooks as hot as mine does, start with 8 and check the bottoms. Allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

They should keep for at least a week, longer if you refridgerate them. This makes a TON of cookies, you may want to half the recipe if you aren't sharing with friends, or have a really tiny dog.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

French onion-style chicken

I just made this up. It's in my oven, keeping warm, RIGHT NOW. It seems to be pretty darn tasty as far as I can tell. But, then again, the combination of onions and wine and leeks and garlic and butter and beef stock all soaked into chicken seems to me like it just couldn't be bad.

Score extra Martha points if you have a dutch oven AND use it on a regular basis! Does she have her own brand of dutch ovens? Because if so, I'd so be all over that. Credit for the concept goes to my father-in-law, Ron Haygood. Not sure where he picked this one up.

-2-4 chicken breasts, skin on
-1 can of french onion soup
-1 leek, diced
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1 tsp pepper
-2 tbsp wine (I used white because that is what I had open, but I bet that a red would taste better because it's a key ingredient in french onion soup)
-2 tbsp butter

Pre-heat oven to 350.

In a dutch oven over medium heat, sautee the leek in the butter for about 5-10 minutes. Add the garlic and pepper. Cook together for another 2-3 minutes, then add the wine (to get up the brown bits). Add the canned soup and let it all come to a boil for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Place the chicken in the dutch oven, breast-side down. Cover and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until the chicken is done. Take the chicken out of the pot and set it aside (remove skin before eating).

Strain the solids from the sauce and bring it back to a boil for another few minutes, until it thickens and you can use it almost like a gravy. Heck, try adding some Wondra flour and make it into a gravy, if you feel like it. That would probably be really good...if you try it, let me know how it came out.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Brussels sprouts with white wine and bacon

Ahhhhh...I love to make healthy vegetables unhealthy. It only takes two things: bacon and butter.

While the recipe below is my own creation, the concept was borrowed from two sources. Credit goes to Barefoot Contessa and my buddy, Patrick Jones, for helping me come up with the final product.

-1 1/2 pounds of brussels sprouts
-4 or 5 slices of bacon, diced
-2 tbsp butter
-1 c chicken broth
-2 tbsp dry white wine
-1 tbsp dijon mustard
-1 tsp pepper
-1 tsp salt

In a deep sautee pan, cook the bacon until it's crispy. Remove from heat, drain fat.

Prep the sprouts by cutting them into quarters (so they just start to shred).

Add the butter to the sautee pan and let it melt over medium heat. Add the sprouts, broth and mustard. Saute for 5 minutes, then add the wine (it will sizzle), salt and pepper. Cook over low heat for another 5-10 minutes, or until the liquid starts to thicken into a sauce. Toss the bacon back into the mix at the last minute.

This makes enough to serve 4-6 friends - it's a great side dish!

EDIT: 1/31/08

I made this dish again last night, only this time I left some of the bacon fat in the pan, used half the butter, and sauteed the sprouts in that for several minutes before adding the stock and dijon. It was excellent!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Chicken and rice casserole

Chicken and rice: such a classic, cold-weather, "comfort food" dish! I actually make Ryan take me to Cracker Barrel (so un-Martha of me) on Saturday nights so I can have their Chicken n rice. Ryan says mine is better...I don't agree but this comes close enough!

-Chicken breasts (between two and four, depending on how many people you are feeding)
-1 1/2 cups of white rice
-2 /14 cups of water
-1 tbsp butter
-2 cans of Campbell's mushroom soup
-Salt and pepper

Heat oven to 350.

In a saucepan, bring the water and butter to a boil with a pinch of salt. Add the rice, stir and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Pour the rice into a wide casserole dish. Top with a can of the mushroom soup.

If you are using four chicken breasts, just lay them on top of the rice. If you are using less, I recommend pounding them into wider/thinner strips so you can completely cover the rice in the dish. Salt and pepper generously.

Pour the last can of soup over the chicken and sprinkle with paprika. Bake for about 40-50 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.

At this point, I set the chicken aside and stir the rice with the sauce that is left in the dish, so I can be sure my rice is totally covered with mushroom soup. Serve any way you see fit, however, because this is a pretty fool-proof dish!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

More ice cream: Mint Chocolate Chip

I'm pretty proud of this recipe, it's my own creation! I have been on an ice cream kick all summer, and I am finally beginning to figure it out.

If you want your ice cream to be super creamy, just use more cream than half and half. As long as you end up with 4 cups, you're good. The more half and half used, the more "icy" your final product will be. Unfortunately, the thing that makes ice cream so creamy is the amount of milkfat you use. Less milkfat, more ice. Such is life...

Score extra Martha points if you have a fancy stand-alone ice cream maker! I have the ice cream bowl attachment for my stand mixer, but frankly it's just as good.

-3 c fat-free half and half
-1 c heavy cream
-1 egg yolk
-1 c sugar
-1/2 tsp salt
-2 tsp vanilla
-2 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
-1 cup dark chocolate chunks (I just chop up a candy bar)

Mix the cream, egg yolk and sugar on medium for about 3-5 minutes. Turn off the mixer, add the half and half, blend again on medium for another 5 minutes. Add the salt and flavorings, mix well.

Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker and blend for about 25 minutes, or until it's almost set. Stir in the chocolate chunks, and freeze for at least 2-3 hours before serving.

I don't add food coloring, but if you like your mint ice cream green, go nuts!

Non-dairy potato salad (Provencal)

This is my kind of potato salad - no mayo, no chunks of onion or celery (I have issues with mushy/crunchy combinations), lots of bold flavor.

This is in no way my invention, I got it from Barefoot Contessa. I substituted a few things, which I will note below. Feel free to try any combination you think will taste great!

-2 pounds of potatoes, peeled (Unless I am cooking for a crowd, I use a small bag of golden Klondike)
-2 tbsp white wine
-2 tbsp chicken stock
-3 tbsp Champagne vinegar (I don't have Champagne vinegar, so I mix 2 tbsp of white Balsamic with 1 tbsp of rice vinegar)
-1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
-2 teaspoons kosher salt
-3/4 tsp pepper
-10 tbsp olive oil
-1/4 c minced scallions (I omit)
-2 tbsp minced fresh dill
-2 tbsp minced flat-leaf parsley
-2 tbsp julienned fresh basil leaves (I omit)
-1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
-1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped

Peel the potatoes and cut into quarters. Boil the potatoes into a large pot of boiling salted water and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, or until they are just cooked through. Drain in a colander and toss gently with the wine and chicken stock. Allow the liquids to soak into the warm potatoes before proceeding.

Combine the vinegar and mustard and slowly whisk in the olive oil, salt and pepper. Add the herbs and toss with the potatoes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

(Omit the chicken stock to make this dish vegetarian, change out the dijon mustard for another variety to make it vegan).

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Pumpkin Bread

I love fall! I love pumpkins! I love food that is made from pumpkins!

-1 c butter at room temperature
-3 c sugar
-3 eggs at room temperature
-3 c flour
-1 tbsp baking powder
-1 1/2 tsp baking soda
-1 tsp salt
-2 tsp cinnamon
-1 tsp ground cloves
-2 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated is always best!)
-16 oz (1 can) of pumpkin puree

Cream the butter and sugar with your mixer on medium-high speed for about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time.

In a separate bowl, sift all of the dry ingredients together. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients (about a cup at a time) until well mixed. Turn off the mixer and stir in the pumpkin.

Grease and flour your loaf pan before adding batter. Bake at 350 for about 50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

This should be enough for two small loaves, or one very big one. If you make two small loaves, bake for 40 minutes and test for doneness.