Thursday, March 26, 2015

One of our favorite breads


This is a delicious white version of Irish soda bread. We have a more traditional version using whole wheat that you can find if you click here. In my studying on the subject, I have found that, because soda bread does not traditionally contain extras such as eggs, this recipe would more likely be considered "cake" in Ireland. I'm going to keep calling it bread. Either way, it's easy and delicious, especially with a lovely dose of honey butter.

THE RECIPE:

1 1/2 c. buttermilk*
1 egg
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
3 3/4 c. flour
1/3 c. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. cold butter, cut into small chunks

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray baking sheet with cooking spray. Whisk together buttermilk, egg and baking soda in large measuring cup, and set aside while preparing other ingredients. Eventually it will start foaming.

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in large mixing bowl. Cut cold butter into dry ingredients with pastry blender -- or rub chunks into flour between clean fingertips -- until mixture is coarsely combined. Stir in 1 1/4 cups buttermilk mixture, adding more as needed, until dough is a shaggy mass -- wet, but firm enough to hold its shape. Scrape out into a mound onto prepared baking sheet. Brush remaining buttermilk on top and sprinkle with flour, if desired, for a rustic look.

Bake for 35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. (Baking times may vary by location. I live in a high-altitude state.)



*I usually make my own sour milk. Pour 1 1/2 tablespoons vinegar into a large measuring cup, then add enough milk to make 1 1/2 cups. Stir and let stand for 10 minutes before adding egg and baking soda as written above.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Mexican-Italian mashup


Wow! I really took quite the hiatus from this blog. It feels good to start posting again. These pepperoni quesadillas are a tasty way to make a comeback. They are unique and delicious! Using corn tortillas is a must. I used the 6-inch tortillas, but the bigger ones would work, too. These quesadillas are great for lunch or dinner, served alongside some healthy veggies or fruit.




THE RECIPE:

Corn tortillas
Spaghetti sauce or pizza sauce
1 package pepperoni slices*
Shredded cheese

Heat an electric skillet to 400-425 degrees. Lay several slices of pepperoni on skillet -- enough for one batch. (For example, I laid out 10 slices, because I needed five slices per 6-inch tortilla and could only cook two tortillas at a time.) Don't cook all the pepperoni at once, because you need each batch to have its own drippings. Cook pepperoni until they release their drippings and become crispy. Using tongs, remove pepperoni from skillet to a plate lined with a paper towel. 

Swirl tortillas around in pepperoni drippings, then top half of each with sauce, a little cheese, cooked pepperonis, then a little more cheese. Doing two layers of cheese helps the quesadillas stick together. Fold over. Cook a couple minutes on each side, until golden and crispy. In the meantime, push them off to the side and start cooking the next batch of pepperoni to move things along.

Let finished quesadillas cool on paper towels, then enjoy!




*I often look for ways to reduce fat and sugar, but the reduced-fat pepperoni just didn't work in this recipe. They didn't release any drippings, and the corn tortillas really need oil in order to taste right and crisp up.

Note: This recipe is made with ingredients that are generally gluten-free, but be sure to check labels of particular brands.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Homemade syrup


We have an apricot tree. We love it...that is, when it grows apricots. This year we got NONE. Last year, we got like 200. Utah has crazy spring frosts that can be detrimental to early bloomers such as the apricot tree. So sad.

We were pleasantly surprised when a kind soul brought us a big bag of apricots a couple of weeks ago from trees that had made it through the frost. That meant we didn't have to go without our beloved apricot syrup this year!

If your apricots are naturally sweet, you can really limit the added sugar. I like to add as little sugar as possible so I'm not covering my breakfast with candy. The fruit on our own tree is always very sweet and delicious. We prune our trees and thin the fruit. I have gotten away with adding as little as 1 1/2 cups of sugar to my syrup. Many syrup and jam recipes call for equal amounts of sugar and fruit puree. I think that's insane. If your apricots haven't been thinned or ripened, they might have little flavor and require more sugar. This was the case with the apricots that were gifted to us. I had to use 3 cups of sugar.

This syrup, or you could call it a sauce, is delicious. Enjoy!

THE RECIPE:

6 c. apricot puree
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Bring a pot of water to boil. Set a bowl of ice water nearby. In batches, place whole apricots in boiling water for 1 minute, then remove and place in ice water. This is called blanching. The skins will slip right off the apricots now. They should also break open very easily so you can remove the pits. I never need a knife, but I do get a little messy.

Puree apricots in a blender, then pour into a pot, along with lemon juice, sugar and cinnamon. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently. The sugar will dissolve, and the puree will eventually boil up then back down. At this point it starts to look glossy and more syrupy. It will never get really sticky, though, like pancake syrup because I don't add enough sugar for that. That's a good thing. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. The syrup can be canned or frozen.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Summer refresher


Try this coconut limeade slush for a unique and delicious way to cool off this summer. My whole family downed it. The recipe came from Smitten Kitchen, but I had to increase the sugar because Deb's version, which was 3 tablespoons, was too tart for my taste. There was coconut milk leftover from the can, so I made a mini batch after the first since we hadn't had our fill yet. Yum.

THE RECIPE:

2 1/2 c. ice
1 c. coconut milk (shake can first)
1/3 c. lime juice
6 Tbsp. granulated sugar

Puree ingredients in a blender until very smooth and creamy. Serve immediately. Makes 3 cups.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Super fast fish tacos


If you are looking for a really easy dinner, make fish tacos using frozen fish sticks! My husband and I loved these. There is a delicious sauce that you can adapt to suit your tastes. The version below is very mild but very flavorful. And, of course, you can use whatever toppings you have on hand. The fish sticks take about 20 minutes to bake, but other than that, there's very little time commitment. The sauce tastes better the longer it refrigerates, so make it first. Don't we all love achieving great results with very little effort?

THE RECIPE:

20 frozen fish sticks, baked according to package directions
10 6-inch tortillas (I used flour)

Optional toppings:

Corn
Chopped tomatoes
Shredded cheese
Lettuce, spinach or cabbage
Green onions
Cilantro

Sauce:

1/4 c. sour cream
1/4 c. mayonnaise
1/4 c. milk
1 tsp. lime juice
1/8 tsp. each chili powder, cumin, salt, onion powder, garlic powder and dried basil

Mix sauce ingredients and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using. Assemble tacos as desired, using two fish sticks per tortilla. Top with sauce.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

All the right attributes


Everyone loves this strawberry pretzel Jell-O. It works as a dessert, or it could be a side dish for a holiday cook-out. It has all the best attributes -- creamy, salty, sweet, crunchy. Note that this dish requires several hours of refrigeration time.

THE RECIPE:

2 c. chopped/crushed pretzels
1/4 c. sugar
2/3 c. butter, melted

8 oz. cream cheese
1/4 c. sugar
8 oz. Cool Whip

6 oz. package strawberry Jell-O
1 c. boiling water
1 c. cold water
1 lb. fresh strawberries, sliced

Chop pretzels in food processor. You'll get a nice mix of chunks and powder. I found about 4 cups whole pretzel sticks reduced to 2 cups chopped. Mix with sugar and butter, then press into 9x13 baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. Let cool completely.

Place cream cheese and sugar in dish and microwave until soft so sugar can easily be stirred in. Let stand to room temperature. Stir in Cool Whip. Spread over pretzel crust, ensuring that cream mixture reaches edges of baking dish and seals off access to pretzels. Refrigerate several hours.

Stir Jell-O into boiling water until completely dissolved. Stir in cold water, then sliced strawberries. Pour over cream layer, which should be firm enough by now to handle liquid. Arrange strawberries evenly. Refrigerate about 3 hours, or until Jell-O is set.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Pumpkin year-round


I am aware that it's springtime, but for some reason I wanted to open a can of pumpkin. I don't know what got into me. I made this cheesy pumpkin pasta, and my whole family was happy with it. It's something different from the ordinary, and it's fast and easy to make. We will definitely remember this one for when fall rolls around.

The recipe came from Taste and Tell. The ingredients are kind of crazy, so I recommend going on faith. Don't taste the sauce until it's all put together. Then you'll love it! I could have eaten it like a soup.

THE RECIPE:

1 lb. whole wheat penne*
4 Tbsp. butter
1/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. ground mustard
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. chicken broth
2 Tbsp. honey OR brown sugar
2 c. milk
2 c. pumpkin puree
2 1/2 c. shredded sharp cheddar, divided

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, melt butter in large saucepan. While it melts, put flour and seasonings in a small bowl. When butter is melted, whisk in flour mixture until smooth, then whisk in chicken broth. Mixture will start to thicken quite rapidly. Mix in milk and honey and continue cooking until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Whisk in pumpkin, then 2 cups cheese.

Preheat broiler to high. Combine pasta and sauce in casserole dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese and place in oven. Broil until cheese is melted, bubbling and browning in spots.




*Don't substitute enriched noodles. This isn't just a health thing. The ingredients are written to complement the nutty flavor of whole wheat, and it makes a huge difference. I made this recipe both ways, and my entire family thought the whole wheat version was way better. The enriched version lacked flavor.