Category Archives: Cooking

(Machine-less) Homemade Ice Cream

I’ve recently become obsessed with a website called Pinterest. If you’ve never heard of it before, it’s an online resource for gathering and sharing ideas. Sort of a virtual corkboard for pinning your favorite things. My cousin-in-law, Jenna, did a great post on how it works. You can find all sorts of fun things on there spanning several categories. Can you guess which of my categories (besides Halloween decorations) is currently overflowing? That’s right, it’s Recipes. And I’ve found some goodies.

Last night we tried this one (pinned first by Jenna– thanks!). It’s an ice cream recipe that doesn’t require a machine to make it. And it claimed to produce a smooth and creamy texture. Sounds too good to be true? I was skeptical, but had to give it a go.

Seriously, people. You have to try this recipe! It’s not Ben & Jerry’s or even Thrifty’s Ice Cream, but it is goooooood. She gives some suggestions for flavors that sound delish. We went with our own this time: Nutella Toffee Crunch. Take the basic recipe and add 1/2 cup Nutella, 1/2 cup toffee bits, and 1 tsp. vanilla extract.

It came out of the freezer looking like this:

It was pretty smooth and surprisingly creamy. The straight whipping cream parts were slightly icy, but not bad at all. For what it was, and how easy it was to prepare, I’d call this a winner.

We enjoyed it for Family Home Evening tonight. Maddie kept saying, “This is my favorite ice cream!” though using the word “favorite” is currently her favorite thing to do. Still. Try it. You won’t be sorry.

 

Pasta Salad with Cannellini & Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Summertime calls for pasta salad, warm-weather friend and dinner staple. Simple and flexible and fast, you just need some good tomatoes and possibly some cheese and you’ve got a meal.

But pasta salad wasn’t on the menu this particular night. Instead I decided to get creative.

Now, I know I’ve said that I want to keep my meals simplified, but sometimes I just can’t help myself. Sometimes I look at ingredients that I have assigned for one dish and decide they need to take life in another.

Such was the case last week. I saw the zucchini that I was planning to use in the Roasted Zucchini Pasta with Ricotta, which I love but didn’t want to heat up the oven to make, and thought they could be put to better use. I started gathering other items laying around the kitchen to form a new idea. I didn’t want to make the same-old variety pasta salad that you find at any pot-luck. I wanted something a little jazzy. Something with a solid garlic foundation.

Here is what I had at my disposal (fresh garlic not pictured):

Doesn’t the basil look so fresh?

And so I created this: Pasta Salad with Cannellini and Sun-Dried Tomatoes. I like it because, with the addition of Cannellini beans, it can stand alone as a hearty vegetarian meal or be served as a side dish.

We ate it with a side of watermelon and that rosemary olive oil bread from Costco. Divine.

Pasta Salad with Cannellini and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Serves 4

1 package pasta (your choice), cooked according to directions
1 zucchini, quartered and sliced
1 (15 oz) can Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
3 TBS. sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup feta cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil, julienned

In a large serving bowl, toss all ingredients with Sun-Dried Tomato Dressing.

SUN-DRIED TOMATO DRESSING: In a blender or food processor, combine 1/2 cup olive oil, 4 TBS. balsamic vinegar, 2 TBS. sun-dried tomatoes, and 1 clove of garlic. Blend until smooth.

Cook’s Notes:

  • All ingredients are approximate. I need to make this again and see if anything needs to be tweaked. I’d love your feedback, if you make it!
  • I think you could add another zucchini and still be happy

Sous Chefs in Training

Lately, whenever I’m in the kitchen preparing dinner, Maddie and Warren are right there with me. I call them my little sous chefs, though by definition I suppose they’ll eventually have to fight for the title.

Often times they are pulling out my unused pots and pans or rummaging through my utensil drawers for the ladles and turkey baster and other fun gadgets. They place the works on the floor and pretend they are concocting exotic dishes like soup and oatmeal. I’m always asked to sample. My right as head chef, of course.

Sometimes they actually want to assist me with the real deal. I don’t mind. They’ll pull up two chairs and help me spread sauce over the pizza dough or stir the pot of beans. It generally means that they also take a cut from the ingredients. I can only assume it’s quality control.

My mom gave me a strong foundation for cooking and taught me many useful skills in the kitchen. And I loved every minute of it. I hope I can do the same for my four.

 

Tortilla Tutorial

I grew up eating homemade tortillas. My paternal grandmother (full-blooded Native American from the Laguna tribe in New Mexico) taught my mother once she married my dad, who then taught me how to make these from scratch. They’re not the super thin variety you’d find in a package at the store. These are thick and hearty and full of flavor. Add a little butter to one straight off the griddle and oh my! A little piece of heaven.

It’s not as difficult as you might think to whip up a batch. To assure you that you can have your very own freshly cooked tortillas, I’ve made a tutorial to walk you through the process, step by step.

You probably already have all the equipment you need. Nothing fancy required except a rolling pin (though also having a pastry cutter would be an upgrade from the fork needed to cut in the lard/shortening in Step 2).

Now, on to the recipe…

Grandma Louise’s Tortillas
(Makes 1 Dozen)

Ingredients:

4 c. flour
4 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. salt
2 T. lard or shortening
Approx. 1 ½ c. luke-warm water

Directions:

1. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl.

2. Cut lard or shortening into the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly until it looks coarse and mealy.

3. Pour in half of the water.  Knead dough thoroughly and add remaining water until dough has an elastic consistency. (It shouldn’t be too sticky or too dry.)

Meanwhile, heat a heavy skillet over moderately high heat.

4. Separate dough into 12 even balls:

First, form the kneaded dough into one large ball with a slightly oblong shape.

Next, divide the large ball in half. Divide the two halves into four pieces. Finally, divide each of the four pieces into thirds.

You should now have 12 fairly even pieces of dough.

5. To create a round tortilla:

a) Roll each piece into a ball. Lightly flour your work surface.

b) Flatten each ball in the center with your rolling pin, or flatten with your hand.

c) Once initially flattened, roll out the ball, moving from center in an upward direction and then downward.

d) Turn the rolling pin and repeat motion in opposite directions.

e) Continue to roll in all directions until you have a near circle, lifting the dough and stretching slightly to the desired shape, if necessary.

6. Once the tortilla is flattened and rolled out, place one at a time on the hot skillet for approximately 2 minutes.

You’ll be able to tell it’s time to flip it over when it starts to bubble. Flip and cook for another 30 seconds. Remove from heat and stack on a plate. Cover with a towel to keep warm.

Cook’s Notes:

  • I usually roll out each dough ball one at a time. While one tortilla is cooking, I’m preparing the next one (Step 5, a-e), that way I don’t run out of work space and the dough stays moist.
  • Make sure your griddle/skillet is hot. They just don’t cook right if the heat is too low.
  • I have never tried these with whole wheat flour. If any of you are brave enough to do so, let me know how it goes!
  • I have started using lard instead of shortening and have been pleased with the results. Might as well use the natural fat if you’re going to use any at all!
  • These are not what you would use to make quesadillas or enchiladas. Serve these with beans or as a fat holder of taco ingredients.

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Was the tutorial fool-proof? I’d love to know how your tortillas fared!

Strawberry Season

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We are fortunate enough to live in strawberry country, which pretty much means that we can enjoy the fruit year round. And I do. I buy a half flat once a week and devour the contents almost by myself.

But now it is strawberry season. The most glorious time of the year for strawberry lovers like yours truly. Right now they are at the peak of perfection. Brilliant red, and juicy, and sweet. Absolutely divine.

I heart this fruit. I’m so grateful it exists on the earth.

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes

Disclaimer: This is one of about 5 recipes I intend to share over the course of this month. I just can’t get enough pumpkin this time of year…

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We made these for breakfast this morning and oh my! The only way they could have been improved is perhaps with a topping of maple whipped cream, or something. We just used butter and regular syrup. And you could probably get away with only 1/4 tsp. of nutmeg. But otherwise, they’re perfect.

I cannot wait to make them again.

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes

1 C. whole wheat flour
1/2 C. cake flour*
1 t. baking soda
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. ground nutmeg
1 C. buttermilk
1 C. canned pumpkin puree
2 eggs
2 T. oil
1 t. vanilla
2 T. dark brown sugar

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the first eight ingredients (whole wheat flour through nutmeg). In a separate bowl, whisk together the last six ingredients (buttermilk through brown sugar).

2. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and blend together with a wooden spoon until just combined. Lumps are ok, just make sure all the flour on the bottom of the bowl is mixed in. If batter seems too thick to pour, you can gently stir in a little more buttermilk.

3. Drop pancakes by ladleful onto a medium-hot griddle. Pancakes are ready to turn when the edges start to look a little dry and you can see small bubbles forming on the surface.

*I used all-purpose flour and they turned out fine.

I love pumpkin goodies.

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What are some of your favorite pumpkin recipes?

Cookie Maker

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There is no doubt who the cookie maker is in this family: it’s Colin. Hands down, he bakes the best cookies of anyone I know.

His specialty is chocolate chip cookies. Rich, buttery, gooey, chocolate chip cookies. One of the many reasons I aim to keep him around for eternity.

Believe it or not he uses the recipe on the back of the Nestle Toll House chocolate chip bag. So common sounding, but he makes it his own. He has some trade secrets that I’m not at liberty to divulge here. But let’s just say that they make for a wicked good cookie. Top it off with the fact that he usually whips up a batch in a white shirt, tie, and blue-striped apron because the only time he has to make them is on Sundays. That is style, friends.

Original NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Chocolate Chip Cookies
Yields 60 cookies

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
1 cup chopped nuts (opt.)

Directions

PREHEAT oven to 375°F.

COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

PAN COOKIE VARIATION: Grease 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan. Prepare dough as above. Spread into prepared pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in pan on wire rack. Makes 4 dozen bars.

SLICE AND BAKE COOKIE VARIATION:
PREPARE dough as above. Divide in half; wrap in waxed paper. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm. Shape each half into 15-inch log; wrap in wax paper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.* Preheat oven to 375° F. Cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices; place on ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

* May be stored in refrigerator for up to 1 week or in freezer for up to 8 weeks.

One tip I will share is his method for storing, because he usually doubles the recipe: After taking enough for the amount desired to bake and eat, take remaining dough and scoop into small balls. Place on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Place sheet in freezer for at least 20 minutes, just to hold their shape. Once set, place balls into gallon ziploc bags and store in freezer. You’ll now have cookie dough ready to bake at a moment’s notice. (Warning: dangerous practice.)

“C” is for cookie? Or Colin? That’s good enough for me.

Handmade Popsicles

While the rest of the country may be settling into fleece jackets and baking loaves of pumpkin bread, I’m making popsicles. How’s that for living in a place with no real seasons?

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Kelley sent me the link to this recipe for creating tasty fruit pops. Essentially, it’s this:

  • 2 cups fresh fruit
  • Throw them in a food processor with 1 Tablespoon super fine sugar, 1 teaspoon lemon juice and a pinch of salt.
  • Then blend it all together until completely smooth.
  • Pour and freeze.
  • Makes 4 popsicles.

I added vanilla yogurt to make pretty layers. I also used store-bought popsicle molds but you could do as the recipe suggests and use candy cups instead.

Popsicles melting in the hot sun. Cleaning sticky hands in the hose water. That’s autumn in these parts.

Cherry-Almond Brownies

This is another Martha recipe. When I saw the picture in the magazine I just knew I had to have them. They are delectable. I love them. Only a tiny bit more work than my normal brownie recipe, but so worth it.

Tips: it suggests eating them straight from the oven on the first day. I do not recommend this. We served them to some friends this way and I was a tad embarrassed by their texture. Make these ahead and give them time to sit in the fridge. You won’t be sorry. Also, I substituted a water/cocoa powder mixture for the 1/4 cup coffee. It might even need a little more liquid than that to yield a moister brownie. (I’m still playing around with it…)

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Cherry-Almond Brownies

Yields 10

Ingredients
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
9 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup strong coffee, room temperature
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 cup toasted almonds, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup chopped dried cherries

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a microwave-safe 8-inch square baking dish, combine chocolates and butter. Microwave on high in 30-second increments, stirring each time, until melted, about 2 minutes. Whisk mixture to combine. Let cool slightly.
  2. Add sugar, eggs, and coffee and whisk gently to combine. Add flour, salt, and almonds and stir to combine. Gently stir in cherries.
  3. Cook just until set and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs, 40 to 45 minutes. Serve warm, or let cool completely in dish on a wire rack and refrigerate 2 hours before cutting into 10 rectangles.

Editor’s Note: I have since decided that this recipe is not as good as our standard brownie recipe. Instead, I just use our old stand-by and add 2 TBS. cocoa powder, chopped almonds, and chopped dried cherries. Easier and a better texture.