Thursday, December 25, 2014

Best Hot Chocolate

You know how I always re-blog recipes I see and make because I'm paranoid that something I love will suddenly go off the internet? WELL that happened this morning for Hot Chocolate and the recipe was nowhere to be found elsewhere. What a shame.  I decided to just guess and the results were delicious.  Here are my approximations:

.74 oz Chocolate appeals 65% chocolate (Can be found at Sprouts)
1/4 C chopped 85% chocolate
4 C whole milk
2 C heavy cream
1 t vanilla
2/3 C milk powder

1. Pour milk and cream into a pot and bring to a boil. Watch closely so it doesn't boil over.
2. Add chocolates and vanilla and let melt, stirring
3. Add vanilla and milk powder and bring to a boil a second time.
4. Stir and serve
A skin might form but it doesn't impede the flavor

Yield 10 Cups (But our mugs are bigger so this served 4 + 2 refills)

Monday, December 22, 2014

Crispy Roasted Chicken Thighs

Last night we had to make some chicken that we had been defrosting for a few days. Joey decided to opt out of chicken and eat leftovers. I decided to make all the chicken for myself! And it was wonderful!  The skin was crispy, the flavor was spot on and while I made three large thighs I was having trouble not eating all of them!

bone-in chicken thighs (1-2 thighs per person)
olive oil
lemon pepper
potato (1 medium red or yellow potato per person)

1. Preheat the oven to 425
2. On a rimmed backing sheet rub olive oil onto the skin of the chicken. Sprinkle with salt, lemon pepper and rosemary.
3. IMPORTANT: Wipe all excess olive oil off the tray. Don't be like me and boil the oil in the oven and then set off the smoke alarm and wake the baby.
4. Slice the potato into thin slices, toss with olive oil, salt and lemon pepper and place on one side of the tray
5. Bake for 25-35 minutes until juices run clear when chicken is pierced
6. Eat the skin first.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Have you ever had sticky toffee pudding? You can order it at Claim Jumper and in my opinion it is the best thing on the menu. This year, I decided to make sticky toffee pudding for our Smith Christmas celebration...and as you can see from the photo it was a HUGE hit! This is really not difficult to make but it does take a little time. It is so delicious you could eat it any day or you could save it for a big event but don't skip it. Do you hate dates? Yeah I mean who eats dates? I've never had them before but they make this cake absolutely amazing.

I did not vary from Smitten Kitchen's recipe at all but I am forever worried that someone's blog will be taken down and then I will no longer have the recipe and then...I just might cry.  

Okay, well actually I varied it a tiny bit - I used Muscavado dark brown sugar for the sauce and we served this also with whipped cream AND ice cream and in my opinion the ice cream was the best.  Seriously, make this tomorrow. And also you can find already pitted dried dates at Sprouts in a 3/4 lb package which, incidentally is EXACTLY what you need!

3/4 pound dried dates - get them pre pitted to save time
2 1/4 cups boiling water
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

Butterscotch Sauce
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

To serve
Unsweetened whipped cream
Vanilla Ice Cream

Make the cake: Roughly chop dates and place them in a heatproof bowl. Pour boiling water over them and stir in the baking soda. Cover the bowl and set it aside for 30 minutes. (I covered it with a towel and it was fine)
Meanwhile, heat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9×13-inch baking pan. In a large bowl, combine the melted butter and sugars. Whisk in eggs, then salt. lend date-water mixture with an immersion blender until smooth. Stir in the flour, then date puree. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Make the sauce: Combine butter, cream, sugar and vanilla in a larger saucepan than you think you’ll need over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Whisk for about 10 minutes, until the mixture thickens slightly. If you have to reheat the sauce, the butter will be all separated. Bring it back up to a simmer and whisk for about 5 minutes until combined. Then, if you're serving buffet style, consider putting the sauce in a fondue pot or something because it hardens really fast. Also, this is a great chance to use really hard brown sugar because it melts!

To serve: Cut the cake into squares warm or cold. Drizzle each slice with toffee sauce and top with a dollop of whipped cream and/or ice cream. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Gemma Stafford's No-Churn Ice Cream

We make ice cream all the time and it is really delicious. However, this time, I decided that instead of using the regular churn method with cream, milk, sugar and eggs I would use Gemma Stafford's recipe. Gemma has a cooking show on youtube that I watch. You can check her out here. Her no churn ice cream recipe looked so easy I knew I had to try it and see how close it was to the real thing.

Have you ever had marshmallow ice cream? I have, we made s'mores ice cream once and it was great BUT it had a weird texture...not weird bad, just silky and marshmallowy. This no-churn ice cream has the same texture but it's still great. I brought it to my Mommy & Me class potluck and it was well liked so I think you will like it too. The best part? You can make whatever flavor you can think of  all with the same base AND you can do it in the 15 minutes your baby is occupied in a bouncy chair.

Watch the video!

Ingredients for the base:
2 Cups heavy whipping cream
1 (14oz) can of sweetened condensed milk, cold (place it in the refrigerator overnight)

1. Whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. I did this in the stand mixer but if you want to get some exercise do it by hand!
2. Once stiff peaks form, turn down the mixer speed and add the condensed milk and combine together.
Yields 3 1/2 pints of ice cream with flavoring/mix-ins added

And now make it fun! I made two flavors, Blueberry Pie and Chocolate Candied Orange.  Both were good but the chocolate one was AMAZING.  This is what I did:

Blueberry Pie Ice Cream
2 slices blueberry pie
4 cups ice cream base

1. Put the 4 cups of base in a large bowl.
2. Add pie and break up with a fork or potato masher
3. Stir together until well combined
4. Put in containers and freeze for a few hours or overnight before eating

Chocolate Candied Orange Ice Cream
2 T chopped candied orange peel (we made our own...)
1 1/2 oz bittersweet chocolate roughly chopped
scant teaspoon butter
zest of one orange
remaining ice cream base

1. In a microwave proof bowl place chocolate and butter. Melt on half power for 30 second increments until mostly melted. Then stir to melt completely.
2. pour chocolate into the base
3. Add the zest of one orange and the orange peels
4. Stir together until combined. Put in containers and freeze for a few hours or overnight - if you can wait!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Autumn Panzanella

Last week was my week to bring treats to Mommy & Me. I decided I wanted to bring some kind of autumn thing but nothing that was hard, too much like Thanksgiving the next day or contained meat. So, I decided to make a panzanella! I used two different recipes as inspiration and then came up with my own twist. The dressing I made for the class was dull but the one I had later was awesome. I recommend this recipe whole-heartedly. Also, these sweet potatoes are awesome and I recommend them on their own.  This would also be great with nuts but our classroom is listed as nut free. Add pecans if you don't have that trouble. I also don't really have measurements for this but anything will work.

Except for cutting the apple, you make make this whole thing 24 hours ahead. This made enough salad for about 10 people.

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
Two large packages spinach or one spinach + one mixed greens
One loaf of bread or one bag of 'bread for stuffing' cubes of dry day old bread (this was a variety pack and it was perfect)
dried cherries
dried cranberries
parmesan cheese, shaved or use a long zester to make strips, or just shred.
cayenne pepper
ground cloves
olive oil
balsamic or lingonberry balsamic vinegar
1 large apple, diced just before serving
lemon juice

1. Preheat the oven to 425.  Toss bread in olive oil and salt and put on a rimmed baking sheet. On a separate sheet, toss sweet potato, olive oil, cayenne pepper, cinnamon and cloves and salt.  Roast bread 10-15 minutes until hard. Roast potato for 30 minutes or until tender, tossing in the middle if you remember.

2. Meanwhile, combine lettuces, cherries, cranberries, cheese, bread and a dash of salt in a bowl.
3. Make the dressing. In a lidded container add 1/2 C olive oil, 1/3 C vinegar, dash of salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon. Shake and set aside
4. Remove potato from oven and toss into salad. Dice the apple and add.
5. You can either serve the dressing on the side or tossed. If you toss it, the bread gets a little soft and it is true panzanella.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Thanksgiving Pies

Every Thanksgiving we spend in San Diego we make the pies. The required pies at the Smith Thanksgiving are pumpkin and apple. However, Joey likes to experiment and make other pies too. This year, we decided to make mini pies so we could make a lot of different things. And as an added bonus, Joey's Aunt & Cousin made the pumpkin and chocolate pies.

We didn't really deviate too much from the recipes so in this post, I am going to review the recipes, note the pie types and leave the picture awkwardly sideways.

Dutch Apple Pie - I secretly think Joey makes up this recipe but he says he uses Betty Crocker. This year, he messed up the crumb topping so that there was less crumb and it didn't cover the pie completely. Although the pie didn't look super appetizing it was delicious.

Cranberry Ribbon Apple Pie - This was my favorite. It is a traditional apple pie with a layer of cranberry sauce in the bottom.  The cranberry sauce by itself is also very delicious and would've been great on our Thanksgiving table. These little pies looked pretty adorable. We used some leftover maple glaze on the top to make them brown but you could use an egg wash.

Cranberry Maple Pecan Pie - This is a pecan pie that has a little maple kick and then a bit of tartness from the cranberries. It calls for walnuts but we were using pecans so we stuck to one nut. I think this is a really good pie too. It tones down the sweetness of traditional pecan.

Bittersweet Chocolate Pecan Pie - Last time we made this pie I loved the combination of chocolate and pecan, but this time, I didn't notice it as much. The chocolate has the same effect as the cranberry in the previous pie, toning down the sweet-sweet of pecan pie.

We didn't make the chocolate pie (but a whipped cream topping is added and it is delicious). We also didn't make the pumpkin pie but it was your standard pumpkin and the perfect one time per year treat!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Braised Chicken Thighs with Red Wine and Cherries

Joey and I went to Costco this weekend and bought one of those 6 packs of chicken to put in the freezer. We left one pack out and I was immediately craving braised chicken thighs. We had some red wine we've been wanting to use up and finally had the opportunity!  I revised this recipe from this similar one I posted back in 2008. This new recipe, however was MUCH more flavorful and loved by the whole family!  It also doesn't take too long to make. 30 minutes total and it would be less if all your chicken was comparable size.

Serves 4 or 2 really hungry people

4 bone-in skinless chicken thighs (you can always remove the skin yourself)
2 C red wine
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 C dried cherries
salt & pepper
Mashed Potatoes for serving (I used Fresh & Easy heat and serve)
1 T olive oil
1/2 T flour

1. Salt & Pepper chicken and remove skin if necessary.
2. In a large pan with a lid (such as a dutch oven), heat olive oil. Add chicken and brown for 6-8 minutes a side.
3. Once chicken is brown, remove to a plate. Add onion to the pot and cook for 3-5 minutes until brown.
4. Add flour and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Cook, stirring 30 seconds.
5. Add wine to the pot and place chicken thighs in the pan. Cover the pan with a lid and cook 6-8 minutes until chicken is opaque. Stir in cherries and simmer 1 minute.
6. Serve chicken and sauce over mashed potatoes (or polenta is probably good too)