Saturday, October 18, 2014

Fall Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

 I have to admit to having a slight obsession with baking. I'm sure by now that you all have noticed this fact, but I really do live for this stuff. Decorating cookies is very time consuming, but for me it's a form of relaxation. I love the creativity and the repetitive nature of the task.

Tomorrow is Carnival at J's school. It's a huge school fundraiser, but most importantly it's a ton of fun for the kids. I volunteered to bake cookies for the bake shop, and what a better fall theme than pumpkin and maple leaf shaped sugar cookies?

Of course I have to go straight to my favorite sugar cookie recipe, which is also by my favorite home cook: Ina Garten. It is very important to weight out the flour here, so don't try to skip that and estimate cups...

For the icing, I like to keep it simple and eggs-from-the-fridge free for bake sales. So for the royal icing (for the decorations) I turned to my favorite baking source: King Arthur Flour. I absolutely love their merginue powder, and it really makes the whole royal icing thing a synch! Happy fall baking, and happy decorating!


Friday, October 17, 2014

Sourdough Baguettes

Yesterday morning I woke up to this mess in my fridge. Clearly my sourdough starter is VERY healthy, and decided to explode everywhere. I cleaned up the mess, closed the door and didn't think much of it. A couple of hours later I opened the fridge to see it exploding again! It was time to take action...so, of course I visited my most trusty bread-baking-website: King Arthur Flour, and got to work.

I found a recipe for sourdough baguettes that required fed or unfed starter. This was perfect since my starter clearly needed no feeding, and it would take some of the bulk down. The dough was thrown together in a matter of minutes. I didn't have any vital wheat gluten around, so I added about 2 tsp of whole grain dough enhancer (I figured it couldn't hurt, right?), and 2 tsp of yeast.

The results were fabulous! These baguettes were crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, and perfectly tangy. A total success. Plus, ever since we found the book Monsieur Saguette and His Baguette, the kids just can't get enough baguettes! Happy baking:)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Pumpkin Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread

Everyone knows how much this family loves cinnamon swirl bread. I have my go-to sweet cinnamon swirl bread recipe, then my whole wheat cinnamon swirl one, my other pumpkin swirl bread, so I figured why not add another pumpkin variety to the list! This swirled pumpkin yeast bread really appealed to me for it's variety of grains: regular all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, and oats. In addition, I love baking with applesauce, so that addition also caught my eye.

This bread is so yummy. It's a bit less sweet than the other pumpkin swirl bread, so it's slightly more fitting for a savory snack or a slice of breakfast toast, but it's just as good. The kids were so excited and happy to munch on some of this with pumpkin butter, no less.

Let the pumpkin baking season commence!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Sweet Potato Cakes and Tomatillo Salsa

Tonight's dinner was definitely brought to us by our CSA. J had picked out one of Yotam Ottolenghi's recipes, sweet potato cakes, for our week's menu. Luckily for me this week's farm share came with an abundance of sweet potatoes! These cakes were easy to make, hearty, sweet and savory all at the same time. The yogurt sauce was the expected condiment, and certainly rounded out the cakes. But, we also had an overwhelming number of tomatillos in our farm share this week, and something told me that they'd make another great addition to this meal. We topped the cakes with the salsa, but also ended up dipping carrots and pita chips into it as well because it truly was addictive!

Tomatillo Salsa
1.5 lbs tomatillos, rinsed and cubed
1 medium avocado, chopped
1 banana pepper, chopped
2 tbs lime juice
2 tbs cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Throw all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until the desired consistency. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Whole Grain Blueberry Muffins


 The kids have been asking for blueberry muffins. J always requests the "airport ones" because when we travel he always chooses to get a treat of a sugary blueberry muffin from whatever coffee shop or junk store that happens to be around. Tonight I was feeling particularly nice, and decided to oblige and finally bake them some blueberry muffins.

These whole grain blueberry muffins were a complete breeze to make.  They took me literally 30 minutes from start to finish, including oven preheating time. I love that they actually rose nicely; something always tricky with whole grain baked-goods. And, because they are filled with white whole wheat flour, the nutritional profile is vastly improved over the all-purpose flour variety. Also, gotta love that buttermilk!

Next time I won't forget to add a few tablespoons of milled flax seed, but otherwise these were totally fabulous. Oh, and I used frozen blueberries. The trick to not having purple muffins is simply to defrost, give a quick rinse in cold water, and drain for a few minutes in a strainer. I bet no one would know they weren't fresh blueberries...

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Vanilla Bean Honey Ice Cream

2 c heavy cream
1 c whole milk
1/3 c sugar
1/2 c honey
1 tbs vanilla bean paste
1/8 tsp salt
6 large egg yolks

Place the cream, milk, sugar, honey, vanilla bean paste and salt into a 3 qt sauce pan. Heat until very warm, but do not boil.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks.  Temper the yolks by adding about a cup of the hot cream mixture to the yolks, whisking constantly.
Pour the hot egg yolk mixture back into the sauce pan, and heat until the custard thickens slightly, and is around 170F. Whisk constantly!
Strain the custard, pour into a bowl and let it cool a bit. Cover with a piece of parchment paper, and place in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Pour custard into ice cream machine, and churn according to manufacturers directions.
Grab a spoon and enjoy!

I've been making ice creams for a while now, and joking around about opening my own small batch, artisan ice cream shop. In honor of Rosh Hashanah, I decided to accompany my apple cake with a batch of homemade honey ice cream. This stuff was incredible! And, one of the best parts was that it stayed creamy for days afterwards, without getting the least bit hard or icy. My next batch of this may include some bourbon in the base;)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Whole Wheat Pearled Couscous, Panko Crusted Chicken, and Roasted Veggies

Last night's dinner was a CSA pantry-type dinner, and it was fabulous! I stumbled across a bag of whole wheat pearled couscous, and because the kids are such couscous lovers, I thought I'd give it a try. I am SO glad that I did! This is better than regular pearled couscous, nuttier in flavor, and certainly healthier. The kids even said they liked it better than "regular couscous"!

I cooked the couscous in a bit of broth and water, with a dash of salt and olive oil. Then I stirred some fresh parsley and arugula into mine. I served the couscous topped with CSA beets, peppers, eggplant, and potato all roasted in some olive oil in the oven. I even made a few panko-crusted chicken tenders to serve along side, since D and J are chicken fans.

This meal was simple, hearty, fall-like, and perfectly delicious:)