Saturday, December 31, 2011

Lofthouse style soft sugar cookies

There's this cookie store in Indiana called Blondie's Cookies that sells these delicious, rich hybrid shortbread/sugar cookies that are covered in a vanilla buttercream icing and topped with sprinkles. Not surprisingly, they're called "Sprinkles" cookies. These cookie shops are ONLY in Indiana so whenever I go home to visit family, I try to stop into the cookie shop and pick up some of the cookies that I crave once I leave. Ever since trying those cookies, I've tried sugar cookie recipe after sugar cookie recipe looking for the one that replicates Blondie's version. They were all too hard, not sweet enough, not rich enough, and just not right. Then, I saw one of my favorite bloggers, Brown Eyed Baker, post her recipe for Lofthouse style cookies. You know, those uber-soft cookies they sell in the bakeries of grocery stores, usually covered in some fluourescent colored icing? I figured I'd give them a try and see how close they come.

Long story short. They work! While not exactly the same as Blondies, they'll certainly satisfy my craving. These cookies puff up wonderfully. They are super soft and still rich. Not too sweet, but not too plain either. And, oddly, they actually taste better the day after you make them! So resist the urge to stuff your face with these the night you make them.

One tip when making these...make sure your dough is COLD. It will make rolling these out so much easier because the dough is quite sticky. And, to make it easier to roll out once the dough has chilled, flatten out into a rectangle before putting into the fridge. I made these cookies on christmas day using cookie cutters, and the dough worked very well for cut cookies! I would not hesitate to use this recipe for all my future sugar cookie needs.

Ingredients, as written on Brown Eyed Baker (makes 5-6 dozen cookies):
For the Cookies:

  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream

For the Easy Buttercream Frosting:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 6 tablespoons heavy cream


  1. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the flat beater attached, cream the butter and granulated sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated. Add the vanilla and sour cream and beat at low speed until combined.
  3. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined, scraping down the bowl as needed. Dough will be a bit “sticky”. Divide dough into two sections. Flatten into rectangles about 1½ inches thick, then wrap with plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator overnight or at least two hours until firm.
  4. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line large baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
  5. Flour the countertop and the top of the dough. With a rolling pin, roll the dough out to ¼-inch thickness. Using a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter, cut out circles and transfer to a baking sheet. Bake for 7 minutes, until pale golden. Immediately transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool. Cook cookies completely before frosting.
  6. To make the frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and vanilla. Slowly beat in the powdered sugar and the pinch of salt. Once smooth and creamy, add in heavy cream, 1 tablespoon at a time, then beat at medium-high speed for a minute or two until light and fluffy. If desired, add food coloring and beat until combined.
  7. Once cookies have cooled completely, frost and add sprinkles. Allow frosting to set, then store in an air-tight container. Let cookies sit for several hours before serving to allow the flavors to develop.

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Pear Butter

Every holiday season, I get a gorgeous box of Royal Riviera Pears from my father in law. Usually, Chris and I can work our way through a good number of them before the turn, but sometimes a few seem to end up past their prime and we have to throw them out. This year, I wanted to figure out a way to use them up before they went south, since they are such delicious pears. I could poach them, but I don't really get the appeal of that. I could turn them into a tart, but then I'd have to eat a whole tart in a short amount of time. But then I remembered the delicious, refreshing pear butter I had at the Dahlia Lounge in Seattle and my search for a pear butter recipe started.

Googling for "Pear Butter", I came across a blog that I follow, Simply Recipes, and their recipe with lots of great pictures to help me along. Trying this new recipe also gave me the opportunity to try canning for the first time.

The recipe itself is quite good and the use of ginger and cardamom with a little lemon zest really make the flavor very refreshing and light. The only tweaks I made to the recipe were to omit the star anise (one of my least favorite flavors in the world), and add just a little cinnamon.

I also did not have a chinois or a food mill, so I had to modify the recipe a little bit. With a food mill, I wouldn't need to worry about removing the peel, seeds, stem and all that stuff. Without those devices, I had to peel the pears, remove the stems, seeds and tough parts. Then, once the pears had cooked down, working in batches, I used a wooden spoon and pressed the softened pears through a fine mesh seive to achieve a smooth puree. If I find that I'm frequently making fruit butters and other pureed foods for canning, I may invest in a fancy food mill, but for making this small batch, this method worked just fine. I just needed some patience and arm strength.

Canning presented a unique challenge for this recipe. I found the website put together by Ball Jars very useful for canning 101: PDF of Intro to Canning. All in all, the process was pretty easy. Again, I didn't have an official "canner" with a rack, but I did have a gigantic multi-pot with a pasta insert that worked just the same.

So, if you find yourself with a lot of pears and want to be able to keep them around for a lot longer, give this recipe a try. It's great spread on any kind of bread, or even stirred into yogurt, cottage cheese, or as an ice cream topping.

Here's the recipe I used, adapted from Simply Recipes:


  • 4 to 5 lbs chopped pears, peeled & cored (Bartlett or other). If using a food mill, no need to peel or core. 
  • 1 1-inch nob of ginger (not chopped, so you can fish it out later)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 3-4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp lemon zest


  1. Put chopped, peeled & seeded pears and ginger into a large pot. Add water and lemon juice, bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until the pears are completely soft, anywhere from 25 to 40 minutes. Remove from heat. 
  2. Fish out and discard the ginger from the pear mixture. Ladle the pear mixture (liquid included) into a fine mesh sieve using a wooden spoon to press the pear through the sieve into a bowl. 
  3. Measure the resulting puree and pour into a large pan. For every cup of pear puree add 1/2 cup of sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon and lemon zest. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. 
  4. Cook on medium heat, stirring often to prevent the puree from sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning. Cook until the mixture is quite thick, and a small bit placed on a chilled plate is not running. This can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the batch. 
  5. While the mixture is cooking, sterilize the jars for canning. To sterilize the jars, either 1) run them through the short cycle of the dishwasher, 2) rinse them and place them in a 225 degree oven for 10 minutes, or 3) place them on top of a steaming rack in a large pot of water which you bring to a boil for 10 minutes.
  6. When the pear butter is ready, pour into hot, sterilized jars and seal, allowing for 1/4-inch head space between the pear butter and the rims of the jars. If you plan to store the pear butter outside of a refrigerator, follow proper canning procedures. (Use Intro to Canning). Before applying the lids, sterilize them in a bowl by pouring boiling water over them. Wipe the rims of the jars clean before applying lids. Use a hot water bath for 10 minutes (remember to adjust time for altitude!)  to ensure a good seal. 
  7. Remove jars from boiling water, set aside to cool and don't touch them for 8-12 hours. Test that the jars sealed after 12 hours by pressing the top of the can. If it pops up, it didn't seal and should be reprocessed immediately, or stored in the refrigerator. (Or, remove some of the pear butter to allow an inch and a half head space and store in the freezer for up to 3 months). 

Makes 6 to 8 half-pint jars.
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Monday, December 19, 2011

Pasta with Sun Dried Tomato Sauce

I recently started using Pintrest...a highly addictive online time waster. The gist of it is browse Pinterest for pretty pictures of whatever (food, clothes, funny quotes, decorating ideas) that others have pinned to their boards, "pin" the pictures you like to your various boards for quick reference later. Sort of like visual bookmarks. For me, aside from a great way to waste some time, Pinterest has become a good source for new recipes to try. This recipe is one that struck me as looking quite tasty when I saw the pin on someone's board. When I clicked through to the actual recipe, which comes from Carnation Milk, the recipe itself was very simple.

To sum up the recipe, it was very creamy, very rich. I could have used a bit more sun-dried tomato flavor as the cheese and creaminess of the sauce tended to overwhelm all the other flavors. For a quick weeknight meal, this one is an easy one to add to the arsenal.

Here's the original recipe from Carnation: Pasta with Sun Dried Tomato Sauce

  • 2 cups (8 oz.) dry penne pasta
  • 8 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1 can (12 fl. oz.) Nestle Carnation Evaporated Lowfat 2% milk
  • 2 cups (8-oz. pkg.) shredded Italian-style four-cheese blend
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper


  1. Prepare pasta according to package directions, adding sun-dried tomatoes to boiling pasta water for last two minutes of cooking time; drain.
  2. Meanwhile, combine evaporated milk, cheese, basil, garlic powder and pepper in medium saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until cheese is melted. Remove from heat.
  3. Add pasta and sun-dried tomatoes to cheese sauce; stir until combined.

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Fire Roasted Tomato Soup

A couple weeks back I wanted to eat a grilled cheese for dinner. But, knowing that wouldn't be enough to make a substantial meal for both of us, I decided to try a soup recipe that I saw pop up in my google reader from the Beantown Baker.

Basically, I wanted something creamy, and tomato-ey, with a little kick to go along with my grilled cheese. Beantown Baker's recipe seemed like it'd get me pretty close, and it was using canned tomatoes too which is a plus when it's winter in Wisconsin. Since this was essentially a "pantry" meal, meaning I was using up what was in my pantry instead of buying new groceries, I had to omit a couple of things...the fire roasted tomatoes with green chiles (I just used regular diced tomatoes) and the smoked paprika (I used regular paprika).

This soup was easy to make, but because it was very garlicky it ended up tasting like one of our favorite pasta sauces. It still made a great soup for dipping your gooey grilled cheese in. When I make it again I'll plan ahead so I can purchase the smoked paprika and the tomatoes with chiles, and will be sure to reduce the amount of garlic.

Here's the recipe as it appears on Beantown Baker's website.

  • 1 roasted red bell pepper*
  • 1 14.5 oz can fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 14.5 oz can fire roasted tomatoes with green chilis
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced (You may want to cut to 3 cloves garlic)
  • 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp salt (make sure to taste as you go. Canned tomatoes are salty, and so you may not need this)
  • 1 tsp cumin


  1. On the stove top, heat olive oil and the minced garlic. Cook for a minute or two and add the tomatoes and cream. Stir, then add salt, cumin, and the paprika. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. Add the roasted red pepper to the soup and then puree with an immersion blender (or food processor/blender).

*To roast the red bell pepper, place pepper under a broiler until skin is charred, about 10 minutes. Place in a ziploc bag and seal the top. When pepper is cool enough to handle remove the skin, rinse under cool water, and coarsely chop).
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Monday, December 5, 2011

Zuni Cafe's Roasted Chicken

I bought a whole chicken to roast for the first time this last week. I know that it's fairly easy to over-cook a chicken so I figured I'd turn to brining to ensure a moist roast chicken. In my search for a brine for chicken I came across something known as dry brining. Essentially, rub salt and herbs all over your chicken and let it sit in the fridge for a couple days.

In searching for dry brining technique, the Zuni Cafe Roasted Chicken was referenced over and over by other bloggers. I've heard that the Zuni Cafe, and the associated cookbook are phenomenal, so I figured this recipe would be worth a try. The recipe I used I found on the Smitten Kitchen. She has simplified the recipe from the cookbook to a more digestable length and her photos really do the food justice. She serves hers over a bread salad, which I am sure would be a delicious way to eat this wonderful piece of meat.

Frankly this is the best chicken I've ever made. EVER. Dry brining is only the beginning of it. Once you've let the chicken sit in the fridge for a couple days, you start the cooking process by heating the oven to a super high temp (475), and heating a saute pan on the stove (I used a cast iron skillet). Then, you sear the bottom of the chicken, place it in the oven, then let it roast up for 15-20 minutes. Then, flip the bird over for another 10 minutes, sear the breasts to get that beautiful golden color. Flip the bird back over and let the breast skin crisp up for the last 5 minutes of cooking. As you let the chicken cool, the juices will re-distribute in the bird, and make your chicken one of the most moist pieces of chicken you'll ever taste.

So while there's a little bit of work involved in getting that gorgeous color and the juciness that'll keep you drooling for days when you reminisce about the chicken you cooked, it is totally worth it.

Here's the recipe from Smitten Kitchen, adapted from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook.
Serves 2 to 4


  • One small chicken, 2 3/4 to 3 1/2-pounds
  • 4 tender sprigs fresh thyme, marjoram, rosemary or sage, about 1/2 inch long
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 to 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • A little water

Season the chicken: (1 to 3 days before serving; give a 3 1/4 to 3 1/2-pound chicken at least 2 days)
Remove and discard the lump of fat inside the chicken. Rinse the chicken and pat very dry inside and out. Be thorough — a wet chicken will spend too much time steaming before it begins to turn golden brown.
Approaching from the edge of the cavity, slide a finger under the skin of each of the breasts, making 2 little pockets. Now use the tip of your finger to gently loosen a pocket of skin on the outside of the thickest section of each thigh. Using your finger, shove an herb sprig into each of the 4 pockets.

Season the chicken liberally all over with salt and pepper. Season the thick sections a little more heavily than the skinny ankles and wings. Sprinkle a little of the salt just inside the cavity, on the backbone, but don’t otherwise worry about seasoning the inside. Twist and tuck the wing tips behind the shoulders. Cover loosely and refrigerate.

Prepare your oven and pan: (Day of, total time is 45 minutes to 1 hour)
Preheat the oven to 475°F. Choose a shallow flameproof roasting pan or dish barely larger than the chicken, or use a 10-inch skillet with an all-metal handle (we used a 12-inch cast iron frying pan for a 3 1/2 pound chicken). Preheat the pan over medium heat. Wipe the chicken dry and set it breast side up in the pan. It should sizzle.

Roast the chicken:
Place the chicken in the pan in the center of the oven and listen and watch for it to start browning within 20 minutes. If it doesn’t, raise the temperature progressively until it does. The skin should blister, but if the chicken begins to char, or the fat is smoking, reduce temperature by 25 degrees. After about 30 minutes, turn the bird over — drying the bird and preheating the pan should keep the skin from sticking. Roast for another 10 to 20 minutes, depending on size, then flip back over to recrisp the breast skin, another 5 to 10 minutes.

Rest the chicken:
Remove the chicken from the oven and turn off the heat. Lift the chicken from the roasting pan and set on a plate. Carefully pour the clear fat from the roasting pan, leaving the lean drippings behind. Add about a tablespoon of water to the hot pan and swirl it.

Slash the stretched skin between the thighs and breasts of the chicken, then tilt the bird and plate over the roasting pan to drain the juice into the drippings. You can let it rest while you finish your side dishes (or Bread Salad, below). The meat will become more tender and uniformly succulent as it cools.

Serve the chicken:
Set a platter in the oven to warm for a minute or two. Tilt the roasting pan and skim the last of the fat. Place over medium-low heat, add any juice that has collected under the chicken, and bring to a simmer. Stir and scrape to soften any hard golden drippings. Taste — the juices will be extremely flavorful. You can make this into a gravy, or save it for chicken pot pie or other uses. Don't waste this liquid heaven!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

I thought I'd give my new wilton whoopie pie pans a whirl tonight by baking up my mom's recipe for red velvet cake. Because I was also making red velvet cake balls, I baked half the batter in an 8x8 pan, and the rest in my whoopie pie pans. I was able to bake 18 whoopie pie halves with the remaining half of the batter.

The recipe is interesting, calling for crisco (I'm used to seeing butter in recipes), buttermilk, and a combo of vinegar+baking soda. The cake turned out moist, light, and fluffy, with a hint of tang from the buttermilk, and just a tiny bit of chocolate flavor.

Next time, I need to remember to grease my whoopie pie tin, so that the batter doesn't cling to the sides and cause rough edges!

The frosting was also one of my mom's recipes. Her recipe calls for creaming the butter, crisco along with a cup of granulated sugar. You have to whip this mixture like crazy to get rid of the grittiness of the sugar. After getting it fluffy and smooth, I felt it wasn't quite sugary enough for my taste so I sifted in a couple tablespoons of powdered sugar. Next time, I might try making this recipe using powdered sugar from the get go.

Here's the recipe for a 2 layer cake, or roughly 18 whoopie pies (36 whoopie pie halves). Frosting recipe follows:


  • 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup Crisco, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 oz red food coloring (usually about a tube)
  • 2 tbsp cocoa
  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 tsp baking soda


  1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour 2 round cake pans. Line with parchment.
  2. Using an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, cream the sugar, crisco and vanilla together. Add eggs one at a time mixing well after each.
  3. Add food coloring and cocoa to mixer and mix until combined. Add flour, salt, buttermilk and mix to combine.
  4. In a small bowl combine vinegar and baking soda, then immediately add to mixer. Stir to combine
  5. Pour batter into cake pans, and bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the cnter comes out clean.

Frosting recipe:

  • 5 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup Crisco, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla


  1. Combine milk and flour in saucepan on medium heat. Cook mixture until very thick, almost paste-like, about 5-6 minutes. Stir constantly. once thickened, chill in refrigerator until completely cooled.
  2. In electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment cream the crisco, butter, sugar and vanilla until fluffy. Add cold milk/flour mix and beat until fluffy and smooth. Taste and sweeten with sifted powdered sugar to taste.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Roasted Poblano Pepper Burgers

I browse the web quite a bit looking for good recipes and this one stood out so much that it wasn't on my "to-make" list for very long before I actually made it. Frankly, I've been thinking about eating this burger ALL DAY. And, I'm quite happy I made it for dinner tonight, the subtle heat from the poblano, and the juciness of the burger really hit the spot.

The original recipe called for the burger to be topped with pickled onion and chipotle cream. While those would be delicious partners to this burger, my hunger on a weeknight meant I ditched the fancy sauce and veggies for cool crisp lettuce and tomato instead so that I calm my growling stomach.

On this initial go round with the recipe, I only tweaked it subtly, the only change being omitting the fresh cilantro because I'm not a huge fan and didn't have any in the house. I also noticed that the coriander and cumin came through lound and strong so I'll probably dial it back a little the next time I make these. I cooked these in a covered cast iron skillet. That gave the exteriors of the burgers a nice char while leaving the center juicy. Highly recommend this method hen you run out of charcoal or it's 30 degrees below zero!

Here's the original recipe, from Cooking Light, makes 4: Spicy Poblano Burgers with Pickled Red Onion and Chipotle Cream

  • 2 poblano chiles
  • 1 tablespoon 1% low-fat milk
  • 1 (1-ounce) slice white bread, crusts removed, and torn into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro, divided
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 pound ground sirloin
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallots
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 (7-ounce) can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
  • Cooking spray
  • 4 (1 1/2-ounce) hamburger buns, toasted
  • 1/4 cup Pickled Red Onions (optional)


  1. Preheat broiler.
  2. Place poblano chiles on a foil-lined baking sheet, and broil for 8 minutes or until blackened, turning after 6 minutes. Place in a zip-top plastic bag; seal. Let stand 15 minutes. Peel chiles, and discard the seeds and membranes. Finely chop.
  3. Combine milk and bread in a large bowl; mash bread mixture with a fork until smooth. Add poblano chile, 1 1/2 tablespoons cilantro, cumin, coriander, paprika, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and beef to milk mixture, tossing gently to combine. Divide mixture into 4 equal portions, gently shaping each into a 1/2-inch-thick patty. Press a nickel-sized indentation in the center of each patty. Cover and chill until ready to grill.
  4. Preheat grill to medium-high heat.
  5. Combine the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons cilantro, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in a medium bowl. Stir in sour cream, shallots, and juice. Remove 1 chipotle pepper and 2 teaspoons adobo sauce from can; reserve remaining chipotle peppers and adobo sauce for another use. Chop chile. Stir chopped chipotle and 2 teaspoons adobo sauce into sour cream mixture. Set aside.
  6. Place patties on a grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 3 minutes or until grill marks appear. Carefully turn patties; grill an additional 3 minutes or until desired degree of doneness. Place 1 patty on bottom half of each bun; top each serving with 3 tablespoons chipotle cream and 1 tablespoon Pickled Red Onions

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pumpkin Waffles

"Brinner" (breakfast for dinner) is one of my favorite dinners because I get to eat bacon, and it's easy to make. So it's a no brainer, and a nice option when you've had one of those work days when it feels like your brain has melted into goo. I've had brinner on my weekly menu for a couple of weeks now, and after putting it off for other tastier options, I finally decided to give myself a break and make brinner tonight. BUT, I also had a can of pumpkin begging to be used, so I figured why not make some pumpkin waffles???

Apparently a blogger has dedicated an entire blog to perfecting pumpkin waffles at "Pumpkin Waffles Blog". I'm just glad that I get to take advantage of this person's obsession of getting pumpkin waffles 'right'!

Much like my Pumpkin Bread Pudding, the pumpkin flavor in these waffles is subtle. The spices tend to build the more you eat. And the maple syrup on top is like the little bow that makes the whole package work. Slightly crispy and incredibly moist.

I had my concerns as I was mixing things up and cooking the waffles. The batter didn't taste all that sweet to me (yes, I tasted the batter!), but knowing that the waffles would inevitably be drowned in maple syrup, I resisted the urge to sweeten the batter. And, as I was cooking the waffles, I had a hard time finding the balance between not burning them and getting them to crisp up (I'm a crispy waffle person). Normally I cook my waffles on high setting, but frankly these need a little more time to cook, and therefore shouldn't be cooked on high. On my iron scale of 1 to 7, I cooked mine on a 5. I think that the extras that I'll freeze will make great toaster-waffles.

Bottom line is, this is a great way to use up some pumpkin. You will not be sorry you made these!
This recipe made 8 belgian waffles. Here's the recipe from the Pumpkin Waffles Blog: Ultimate Pumpkin Waffles Recipe

  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 3/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and warm


  1. Set waffle iron to the desired temperature (go for a medium-high temp).
  2. Combine brown sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl. Whisk together to break apart the cornstarch. Add the remaining dry ingredients, and whisk to blend.
  3. Separate eggs: yolks go in a medium sized bowl and whites get set aside in a smaller bowl.
  4. Add pumpkin and milk to the egg yolks. Whisk to blend and set aside.
  5. Whip egg whites with a hand mixer on high until stiff peaks form – about 1 1/2 – 2 minutes. Set aside.
  6. Pour melted butter into the yolk/milk/pumpkin mixture. As you pour, whisk to combine.
  7. Add the pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients, and mix them together until just combined. A little lumpiness is fine. That will smooth out when the egg whites are added.
  8. Slide the whipped egg whites out of the bowl and onto the mixture you just prepared. Gently fold them in until no white bits are obvious.
  9. Once the waffle iron is heated, you’re ready to pour the batter! Each waffle should take a couple of minutes to cook. Check after the steam escaping from the side slows down. 

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Pumpkin Bread Pudding

This photo really doesn't do this dessert justice. So, I strongly suggest you check out the source of this recipe to see a photo that will certainly leave you drooling here, at Use Real Butter.

This is a very easy dessert to whip up and can definitely be a great pumpkin-based option for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Overall, the pumpkin flavor is fairly delicate and the spice flavor comes through nicely. I omitted the burbon because I had none in the house and that's not something I normally drink so I didn't want to spend the money on it. I also left out the allspice, because again, I had none in the house and never seem to use it.
The original recipe on Use Real Butter comes with a recipe for vanilla custard. I attempted making that, but didn't manage my temperatures properly and ultimately the custard curdled on me. So, I served with vanilla ice cream and was happy with the contrast of the cool creaminess of the ice cream and the warm bread pudding. Someone I know suggested serving with cinnamon ice cream and I think that would be amazing. Even a vanilla with caramel swirl would be good.

This recipe makes a lot, and would easily serve 6-8+ people. I modified the recipe slightly, and have included the modified recipe below. To see the original, plus the recipe for the Bourbon vanilla custard follow this link: Use Real Butter Pumpkin Bread Pudding

  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup cream
  • 3/4 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • pinch of ground cloves
  • 5 cups day-old baguette or crusty bread cubed about 1-inch
  • 6 tbsp (3 oz.) unsalted butter, melted


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
  2. Toss the bread together with the butter in a large bowl. Set aside.
  3. Whisk the pumpkin, milk, cream, sugar, eggs, egg yolk, salt, and spices in another large bowl. Pour the pumpkin custard over the bread cubes and toss gently to coat.
  4. Pour into an 11x7-inch baking dish and bake 25 to 30 minutes until custard sets.
  5. Serve warm, with ice cream

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Strawberry Cake from Scratch with Buttercream Icing

Last weekend was my sister's birthday, and she happened to be visiting me in Madison! To celebrate we went out to dinner and came home for dessert to a homemade strawberry cake with vanilla buttercream frosting. Finding out that my sister's favorite cake flavor was strawberry took a little bit of sleuthing...rather, a text message to her boyfriend asking him to find out what her favorite cake flavor was so that I could make it for her when they were in town. Okay, so not that difficult, but still, I think she appreciated the surprise!

I wanted to make the strawberry cake from scratch but most of the recipes I found online called for a box of vanilla cake mix and strawberry jello. I did find a couple of recipes using a few pounds of strawberries to make a cake that was truly from scratch... I had neither the time nor the patience to make those versions so I turned to to find a recipe that would work. Mostly homemade was what I ended up with.

The use of strawberry Jell-o is really the only non-homemade thing in the recipe. It's what gives the cake it's nice pink color and most of the strawberry flavor. The recipe did call for pureed strawberries, and while I was hoping to see fleck of strawberry throughout the cake, they weren't really visible. I actually ended up adding more strawberries than called for, and didn't reduce the amount of liquid to make up for the additional moisture in the cake, so the cake itself was very very moist!I think next time, I will reduce the amount of Jell-o used and up the fresh strawberry. The buttercream icing was delicious. And using 4 drops of red coloring, I created a nice powdery/fluffy pink color.
Here's the cake recipe from
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 (3 ounce) package strawberry flavored gelatin
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 4 eggs (room temperature)
  • 2 3/4 cups sifted cake flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup whole milk, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup strawberry puree made from frozen sweetened strawberries
  • Buttercream Icing (recipe below)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour two 9 inch round cake pans.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and dry strawberry gelatin until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Combine the flour and baking powder; stir into the batter alternately with the milk. Blend in vanilla and strawberry puree. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.
  3. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a small knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow cakes to cool in their pans over a wire rack for at least 10 minutes, before tapping out to cool completely.
Buttercream Icing from Confections of a Foodie Bride:
(Yields enough for a two-layer cake, or 18-24 cupcakes)

  • 2 stick of butter, at room temp
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 5 Tbsp milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract (I omitted this because I don't like almond that much and I didn't have any)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 vanilla bean pod, optional
  • a few drops of food coloring, optional

  1. Place all ingredients in your mixer bowl. Beat on low just until you have no more dry streaks of powdered sugar. (Add a bit of food coloring/gel here, if using. If using a vanilla bean, split the pod in half, scrape with the edge of your knife, and add the scrapings to the mixer bowl.)
  2. Turn to high and whip for 3-4 minutes, until light, fluffy, and smooth, stopping once to scrape down the sides.
  3. Extra frosting can be stored in the fridge for quite a while. Bring to room temp and whip for a couple of minutes before using.
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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Top Pot Raised Glazed Ring Doughnuts

Top Pot Doughnuts is probably my favorite doughnut shop on earth. It is a must-visit on my trips to Seattle. So, when I saw a Top Pot Doughnuts cookbook on I made sure to put a recently acquired gift card to good use, buying the book and a nice set of doughnut/biscuit cutters.

The first recipe I tried was the basic yeasted doughnut recipe with vanilla glaze. Since my prior doughnut making experience involves opening a can of biscuits and frying those, I figured that I should attempt a basic yeasted doughnut recipe to get the hang of it before I tackle the recipes that have a very high bar in my house (my husband's favorite Maple Bars, for example). Good thing too, as I learned that Mace, a key ingredient used in Top Pot's yeast doughnuts, really shines through quite a bit. I'll probably tone it down for the highly anticipated Maple Bar.

The only changes I made to the recipe were to use regular flour (frankly, I wasn't patient enough to wait to go to the grocery store again to buy bread flour), and I divided the recipe in half, which worked fairly well. I also used tahitian vanilla which added a very flowery flavor to it, and I think that regular madagascar vanilla would probably work better in the future.

Don't be intimidated by yeast doughnuts. They're just as easy as making a loaf of bread.

You can find the recipe for Raised Glazed Ring Doughnuts and Simple Vanilla Glaze (among many others) in the cookbook: Top Pot Hand-Forged Doughnuts - Secrets and Recipes for the Home Baker on

Here's the recipe from the book. Makes about 1 dozen:
  • 3 Tbs (4 1/4oz packets) active dry yeast
  • 1 cup very warm water (about 105)
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus 1 Tbsp
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground mace
  • 2 tsp iodized salt
  • 4 - 4.5 cups bread flour
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • canola oil, for frying

Simplest Vanilla Glaze (you should prep this during the 2nd rise):
  • 3.5 cups confectioners sugar, sifted (measure first, then sift)
  • 1.5 tsp light corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp iodized salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup hot water, plus more if needed

Doughnut Directions:
  1. Whisk yeast, water, and 1 tbsp of sugar in work bowl of stand mixer and set aside for 5 minutes
  2. In large bowl, whisk remaining 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, mace, salt and 4 cups of bread flour
  3. Add shortening, egg yolks and vanilla to the foaming yeast mixture. Mix with paddle attachment on low for 1 minute to break up shortening. Add about 1/3rd of dry ingredients and mix until blended on low speed, then repeat with second 1/3rd of the dry ingredients
  4. Switch to the dough hook and add the remaining dry ingredients, mixing on low speed until no white spots remain each time, adding additional flour as necessary until the dough is dry enough to clan the bottom of the bowl. Increase the speed to medium and knead for 2 more minutes. (It should be smooth like bread dough, but still a bit tacky)
  5. Transfer dough to a baking sheet sprinkled with 1 tbsp flour. Shape into a flat disk 6 inches in diameter and dust lightly with flour and cover with a dish towel and set aside.
  6. Create a proofing box in your oven. Bring 8 cups of water to a boil, pour water into a 9x13 dish set on the floor of your oven. Place sheet tray with covered dough in the middle rack. Close the door and let rise until doubled - about an hour.
  7. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and roll into a roughly 12 inch circle, about 1/2 inch thick with lightly floured rolling pin. Cut into 12 doughnuts and transfer doughnuts to baking sheets arranging them 2 inches apart and let rise in the oven (with new boiling water) uncovered for another 30 to 45 minutes until doubled in size.
  8. Using a candy thermometer to measure the temperature, heat oil in a deep fryer or large pot over medium heat to 350 degrees. When the doughnuts have doubled, carefully place a few in the oil, taking care not to overcrowd them, and fry for a bout 30 seconds. (Note that the doughnuts will look more brown when they're done than they do in the oil). Carefully turn the doughnuts and fry for another 20 to 30 seconds until golden. Transfer to a cooling rack set over a layer of paper towels to cool.
  9. While doughnuts are very warm, dip the rounded side of each into the glaze. Let dry on cooling racks for 10-15 minutes.

Simplest Vanilla Glaze directions:
  1. Place confectioners sugar, corn syrup salt, vanilla and hot water in a large mixing bowl. Using a whisk, blend until mixture is smooth and all of the sugar is incorporated. If glaze is too thick, add more hot water a teaspoon at a time.

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Monday, August 29, 2011

Artichoke & Tomato Pesto Pizza

That amazing pesto I made tonight found its way onto a pizza. It was topped off with some simple ingredients that I had around - tomato, artichokes, mozzarella and feta. Give yourself enough time to make the dough from scratch, top with fresh ingredients and you'll have a delicious meatless meal.

  • 1/2 recipe for dough (I used Annie's Eats dough recipe)
  • Cornmeal for dusting
  • 1/2 cup prepared pesto
  • 1 tomato, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 cup artichoke hearts, rough chopped
  • 1/2 to 1 cup mozzarella cheese
  • 1/8 cup feta

  1. Heat pizza stone in oven to 500 degrees. Allow the oven to heat at 500 for 30 minutes or more.
  2. Roll or toss dough out to form a 12-14 inch pizza. Transfer to a pizza peal that's covered with thin layer of cornmeal. Top pizza with pesto, tomato, artichoke hearts, mozzarella and feta
  3. Carefully transfer pizza to heated pizza stone and cook for 15-20 minutes, until crust is cooked through and cheese is browned and bubbly.
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Homemade Pesto

This is delicious. This is exactly why you should plant basil every summer. This is what you should slather on pizza, stir into hot pasta, and dip your bread and tomatoes in. This is what you should make right now.

It's ridiculous to think about how long it takes to make this - about 5 minutes - and the amazing payoff at the end. Easily one of the most rewarding things I've ever made.

Don't skimp on the ingredients. Use fresh basil you picked yourself. Olive oil that is so good you'd eat it straight off a spoon if you had to. Fresh pine nuts - not the 3-year old jar in the back corner of your fridge. And don't forget the cheese. Use the parmesan cheese you grate yourself. A parmesan cheese that, when you do grate it yourself, you have to fight the urge to stuff it all into your mouth before you use it...

  • 2 cups packed basil
  • 2 cloves peeled garlic
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • salt (healthy pinch)

  1. Wash and dry your basil. Toss into a food processor along with pine nuts and garlic. Pulse 3 times.
  2. With blade running, add in olive oil. With the blade off, add half the cheese and salt. Pulse a couple times to combine. Remove from food processor and stir in remaining cheese.
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Monday, August 1, 2011

Artichoke and Tomato "Pantry" Pasta

I'm heading out of town soon so I didn't want to stock up on loads of groceries only to have them spoil. So, scrounging around in my pantry tonight for dinner meant I was going to have pasta! This is why it's always good to stock up on canned tomatoes, artichokes and things like that. This is super easy, and can be easily tweaked for your tastes. The key for this recipe, and any pasta recipe, is the technique for finishing the noodles in the sauce. Rule number one is not to overcook beyond al dente. Rule number two is to save some of that starchy pasta water to add to your sauce so that when you finish the noodles in the sauce pan (which, by the way, is rule number three - finish the noodles IN the sauce) the starchiness of the water you've added to the sauce will coat and stick to the noodles. Do this and all your homemade pasta sauces will be phenomenal.

  • 8 oz spaghetti
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup minced onion or 1 minced shallot
  • 1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 can quartered artichoke hearts, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 1/3 to 1 cup of reserved pasta water
  • 2 Tbs heavy cream
  • Parmesan cheese

  1. Heat a pot of salted water to a boil, cook noodles until al dente.
  2. In a saucepan heat olive oil to medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until transluscent. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and drained artichokes to the pan and saute for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Crush chicken bouillon cube and add to sauce. As your noodles finish cooking, begin adding pasta water to the tomato sauce starting out with about a 1/3 of a cup, adding enough for as thin or as thick of a sauce as you want. If you add a little more pasta water than you want, cook the sauce on high heat uncovered to evaporate some of the water.
  4. When the pasta is al dente, drain and immediately add to the sauce pan. Add cream and saute for 2-3 minutes on medium-high heat tossing the sauce and noodles together to coat.
  5. Serve with fresh grated Parmesan cheese.
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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Romano's Macaroni Grill Rosemary Bread

Today is my 6th wedding anniversary with Chris. In some years we exchange gifts and others we don't. This year, we went the gift route and I got to open up a shiny new 12-cup Kitchen Aid food processor which is something I've had my eye on for a LONG time. I've got a mini food processor which works great for grating parmesan cheese (but I really prefer using a microplane anyway), but always find myself ruling out some recipes because they call for a larger food processor. I'm excited to try out more bread recipes, bigger batches of hummus, perfectly slicing potatoes for scalloped potatoes, and whipping up our favorite salsa in the processor instead of the blender.

To celebrate our anniversary, we went to the Tornado Steakhouse in downtown Madison. This was the first time we've eaten there, and we had a few drinks, so of course we were ooing and awing over pretty much everything and this included the bread plate that arrived before our salads. One of the breads was a yummy rosemary bread, so I decided that I had to take my new food processor for a test drive by whipping up a batch of rosemary bread myself. Also puts good use to the mound of rosemary growing in the garden right now.

I found this recipe by googling "rosemary bread food processor" and honestly hadn't even thought about looking for a recipe for the Macaroni Grill bread...I haven't eaten there in years! But, when I saw the recipe in the search results I remembered how good the bread was, and seeing the great reviews I decided to give it a try. The recipe came together easily and if I made it again, I'd go ahead and use all 2.5 cups of flour right away since the dough was very sticky with 2 cups. And, I'd add all the rosemary to the dough rather than saving a tablespoon for the tops. Other than that, it's a great recipe that yields two tender loaves of bread. Perfect for eating one and saving another!

Here's the recipe on Romano's Macaroni Grill Rosemary Bread Recipe
I've modified it below just slightly to reflect the changes I'd make.

  • 1 tablespoon yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter, separated (1 Tbs for the bread dough, 1 Tbs for brushing the tops of the loaves after baking)
  • Kosher salt for finishing
  1. Place yeast, sugar and water in large bowl or food processor and allow mixture to become bubbly, about 5 minutes. Mix in 1 T butter, salt, and flour. Add one tablespoon of the fresh chopped rosemary. Knead for about 10 minutes by hand or in food processor about 5 minutes until smooth and elastic. (dough will still be fairly tacky with 2.5 cups, and that is okay)
  2. Oil a bowl, put dough in it and cover with a towel. Let dough rise in a warm place for one hour or until doubled. Punch down dough and divide in half. Let dough rest about 5 minutes.
  3. Spray baking pan with cooking spray. Shape the dough into 2 small, round loaves. Let loaves rise again until doubled, about 45 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until lightly browned. Melt remaining tablespoon of butter. Carefully remove bread from oven, brush with melted butter and a few hearty pinches of kosher salt.
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Friday, July 29, 2011

Spicy, Pressed Carving Board Chicken Sandwich

This is by far one of the best sandwiches I've ever made. And, aside from a BLT with a garden-fresh tomato, this is one of the best sandwiches I've ever eaten. You all should know, I work for Kraft Foods Oscar it's only natural that I'd use some of the great food my company makes to develop a sandwich that Chris has actually requested more than once (that never happens with sandwiches, even BLTs... I take that back. He requests burgers a lot). It makes my life easier that I can buy most of the ingredients for this sandwich at the company store in my office building too!

There are a few things that make this sandwich awesome. First, the bacon. Who doesn't like an excuse to eat bacon? Crispier the better. Second is the chicken. Carving Board Rotisserie Chicken is is what makes this a winner for Chris. Chris isn't a cold cut eater, but this Carving Board Chicken is moist and juicy like the chicken we'd get if we had bought a rotisserie chicken and sliced it ourselves, but better because someone else sliced it. And last, but certainly not least, the bread. I know you all have experienced a grilled panini that tears the roof of your mouth up because it's dry or over-grilled. I don't know about you, but for me, that wrecks the entire panini experience. The bread I use here is ciabatta bread and when the exterior is buttered and grilled (just like a grilled cheese) you'll end up with a crispy shell and a soft bready interior. No painful eating experience! Only deliciousness!

(Did I mention, I work for Kraft Foods Oscar Mayer? Sorry folks, I have to say that.)

Here's the "recipe" for two sandwiches

  • 1/2 loaf ciabatta bread, cut into 2 sandwiches and split (the loaf I found was at Target in their bakery/fresh bread section)
  • 1/2 Tbs butter
  • 2-3 Tbs ranch dressing (I used Kraft Ranch)
  • Couple pinches of cayenne pepper (omit if you don't want it too spicy)
  • 2-3 slices pepper jack cheese (I used the new Kraft Big Slice pepper jack cheese)
  • 1 mashed avocado
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked to crispy (3-4 minutes in the microwave)
  • 1/2 package Carving Board Rotisserie Chicken

  1. For each sandwich, butter the outsides of the ciabatta bread. Spread 1 to 1.5 Tbs of ranch dressing on one side of bread. Sprinkle with pinch of cayenne pepper. Spread 1/2 avocado and top with the chicken, two slices of bacon and pepper jack cheese.
  2. In a skillet over medium heat place the sandwich in the pan with the cheese side closest to the bottom (this will help the cheese get all melty). Using a plate or strong spatula, press the sandwich down to flatten a bit. After 3-4 minutes carefully flip the sandwich and grill the other side, continuing to press the sandwich. If the cheese isn't melting, cover the pan with a lid briefly.
  3. When each side has gotten as crispy as you want it, remove from heat, cut in half and serve.
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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Bubbly Homemade Lasagna

Lasagna is so good. And this recipe is very easy. My mom taught me how to make lasagna and this recipe is essentially the same way she's been making it for years. It's what I make when I want comfort food, lunch the following day (or week!) or leftovers the following night. I've got this recipe down and can whip it up on a weeknight with the help of no-boil noodles. Or if I want a particularly noodle-y batch I'll spend a little more time to boil up those thick chewy lasagna noodles. Give this a try and tweak the cheese, amount of sauce, number of layers to your taste. It's very flexible and forgiving.

Here are my tips for building your lasagna:
  • When placing your next layer of noodles, rotate the direction of the noodles. It'll make for a more stable lasagna.
  • Break the no-boil noodles where needed in order to fully cover the pan. It's fine if a no boil noodle overlaps a bit, but work to have just one layer of noodles so that they cook through.
  • No boil noodles work because they absorb the moisture from the sauce in order to cook. So for this lasagna to turn out (especially your top layer) make sure that the noodles are covered in sauce. It doesn't have to be a lot of sauce though (unless you want it that way)!
  • No boil noodles require more sauce than the noodles you boil before assembling. The two jars of sauce should be more than plenty for a saucy 9x13 pan using no-boil noodles. You'll probably only need 1 jar if you boil noodles ahead.

The recipe below will make a saucy, cheesy 9x13 pan of lasagna or 8x8 pan with some leftover noodles, filling & cheese. About 3-4 layers is usually all that fits in my baking dishes. All measurements are approximate so eyeball the cheese in each layer adding more or less than you want. Just remember to save enough sauce for the top layer!

  • 1 package of no-boil lasagna noodles (Barilla)
  • 1lb ground beef
  • 2 jars of your favorite spaghetti sauce (make sure to cut this in half if making an 8x8 pan)
  • 16z cottage cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbs Italian seasoning
  • 2-4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 6 slices provolone cheese, torn into pieces (or use shredded provolone)
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Prep the sauce: Brown ground beef in a pan, drain fat and add spaghetti sauce heating it through.
  3. Prep the cottage cheese: Combine cottage cheese, egg and Italian seasoning in a bowl stirring to combine.
  4. Begin layering the lasagna: In your baking dish spread a very thin layer of sauce on the bottom before adding any noodles. Add the no bake noodles on top of the sauce. On top of the noodles add a layer of sauce. Dot the layer of sauce with 4 (or so) heaping tablespoons of the cottage cheese mixture, spreading it out just a little bit (this isn't pretty. It doesn't have to cover the entire pan). Sprinkle on shredded mozzarella. Top mozzarella with one layer of torn provolone (about 2 slices worth). Sprinkle a little parmesan. Top with another layer of noodles and repeat the layering process described above. For your last layer cover the lasagna noodles evenly with sauce and top only with the mozzarella, provolone and parmesan. You will not need the cottage cheese here.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour. Check periodically to make sure the cheese isn't browning too quickly. If it is, cover with foil.
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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Lemon Sandwich Cookies

These are very refreshing cookies, especially when stored in the fridge and eaten cold. The cookie dough itself is pretty delicate, and warrants being baked on a silpat. And, it's easy to over-bake them so keep a very close eye on them. I would add more lemon zest than is called for in the recipe. You can't go wrong.

Recipe from

  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for rolling
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, for sprinkling
  • Creamy Lemon Filling (recipe below directions)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl using an electric mixer on high speed, beat butter, confectioners' sugar, lemon zest, and salt until combined. With mixer on low, add flour (dough will still be stiff); finish mixing with a wooden spoon.
  2. Turn dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, pat into a disk about 1/2 inch thick. Wrap, and chill until firm, about 1 hour (and up to 3 days).
  3. Unwrap dough; place on a lightly floured piece of parchment or waxed paper. With a lightly floured rolling pin, roll dough about 1/8 inch thick (if dough cracks, let it warm up slightly).
  4. Cut out cookies with a 1 1/2-inch round cutter (reroll scraps once, chilling of too soft). Place 1 inch apart on two baking sheets; sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake until barely beginning to brown, 15 to 20 minutes; transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
  5. Form sandwiches: Place about 1 teaspoon creamy lemon filling (recipe below)between two cookies, sugared sides facing out; squeeze gently.

Creamy Lemon Filling:
  • 1 package (4 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

  1. In a small bowl, mix cream cheese and zest until smooth. Gradually add 1 cup confectioners' sugar, mixing until smooth. Mix in remaining sugar as necessary to create a firm but spreadable filling.
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Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

These muffins are delicious. I don't think my husband had any clue that there was zucchini in this. The key is to finely shred the zucchini before combining in the recipe. I also liked using chunky chocolate pieces to make it feel even more indulgent. These are a great way to use up summer's bounty of zucchini!

Recipe from

  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease or line two 12 cup muffin tins with paper liners.
  2. In a large bowl beat the eggs. Beat in the sugar and oil. Add the cocoa, vanilla, zucchini and stir well.
  3. Stir in the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and cardamom. Mix until just moist.
  4. Pour batter into prepared muffin tins filling 2/3 of the way full. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool on a wire rack. Store loosely covered.
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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Pasta al Pomodoro

The May issue of Bon Appetit was a big winner on the recipe front for me. Featuring italitan recipes, I've found a couple new pasta sauce recipes to add to my arsenal. The cover photo of Pasta al Pomodoro was so delicious looking that I knew I had to make. I was not disappointed!

I love that this recipe can be made in 30 minutes. It's also got very straightforward, simple ingredients.

A quick tip:
The recipe calls for minced onion. It also requires that you puree tomatoes. So, break out the food processor and mince your onions in there, and sautee them up in the pan. Then, puree your tomatoes in the same food processing bowl.

Here's the recipe, courtesy of Bon Appetit

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 28 oz. can peeled tomatoes, puréed in a food processor
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 large fresh basil sprigs
  • 12 oz. bucatini or spaghetti
  • 2 Tbsp. cubed unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan or Pecorino
  1. Heat extra-virgin olive oil in a 12" skillet over medium-low heat. Add minced onion and cook, stirring, until soft, about 12 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 2-4 minutes. Add crushed red pepper flakes; cook for 1 minute more. Increase heat to medium, add puréed tomatoes and season lightly with kosher salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens slightly and the flavors meld, about 20 minutes. Remove pan from heat, stir in basil sprigs, and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, bring water to a boil in a 5-qt. pot. Season with salt; add spaghetti or bucatini and cook, stirring occasionally, until about 2 minutes before tender. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup pasta cooking water.
  3. Discard basil and heat skillet over high heat. Stir in reserved pasta water to loosen sauce; bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook, stirring, until sauce coats pasta and pasta is al dente, about 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat; add butter and cheese; toss until cheese melts. Transfer to warm bowls; serve with more cheese, if desired

"Mexican" Brownies

Okay, let's be clear. There's nothing Mexican about these brownies at all, except for the fact that they've got little Mexican flags stuck in them....A couple of weeks ago I went to a birthday/Cinco de Mayo party for a friend of mine. I figured brownies were a good treat to bring. I happened to be in a cake supply shop the morning I made the brownies and spotted these little flags and thus my Mexican brownies were born.

These brownies are rich, very dense, and wonderfully chocolatey. They've got that thin, crackly top and chewy texture that I love about brownies from boxed mixes, but is entirely from scratch, so you know exactly what's going in it. Best of all, it's a one-bowl recipe!

The recipe is from Brown Eyed Baker, and adapted from Cook's Illustrated

  • 1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
  • 1½ teaspoons instant espresso (optional)
  • ½ cup plus 2 Tablespoons boiling water
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ cup plus 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups (17½ ounces) sugar
  • 1¾ cups (8¾ ounces) all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into ½-inch pieces
  1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with foil, leaving about a one-inch overhang on all sides. Spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Whisk cocoa, espresso powder, and boiling water together in large bowl until smooth. Add unsweetened chocolate and whisk until chocolate is melted. Whisk in melted butter and oil. (Mixture may look curdled.) Add eggs, yolks, and vanilla and continue to whisk until smooth and homogeneous. Whisk in sugar until fully incorporated. Add flour and salt and mix with rubber spatula until combined. Fold in bittersweet chocolate pieces.
  3. Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake until toothpick inserted halfway between edge and center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack and cool 1½ hours.
  4. Using foil overhang, lift brownies from pan. Return brownies to wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve. Brownies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.
    (Makes 24 brownies)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Spaghetti Bolognese


A few months ago, Madison held its winter restaurant week - $25 for 3-courses for one week only. My husband and I, along with a group of friends, partook in a dinner at Lombardino's, a popular and very well-reviewed Italian place in Madison. I had never been there before but had heard so many good things about it, I was sure that whatever I ordered would be phenomenal. Well, it was. I ordered their Spaghetti Bolognese and it was hands down one of the best Italian meals I've ever had. EVER.

Ever since then, my weekly craving has been for bolognese. I've never really sought out a bolognese recipe though, so when I got this month's Bon Appetit and saw a gorgeous looking bolognese recipe in an article, I thought I'd give it a try.

I tweaked the recipe a bit, because 1) I don't like veal so I used ground beef instead, and 2) I stupidly bought prosciutto instead of pancetta, so I substituted bacon, and 3) I was surprised to not see any garlic in the recipe so I added some. But other than those minor tweaks, I followed the recipe to a "T" and it turned out wonderfully. This makes a sizable portion. Enough for four very, very large portions or six filling ones. Quite happily, I've got plenty of leftovers to eat the rest of the week.

Here's the original recipe on Bon Appetit

I've modified the recipe slightly below.

  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 12 oz ground beef (85% lean)
  • 3 slices of bacon, finely chopped (original recipe: 3 oz pancetta)
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine (I used merlot)
  • 3 cups beef stock
  • 4 Tbsp tomato paste (original recipe: 3 Tbsp)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 lb spaghetti
  • Finely grated parmesan (for serving)

  1. Chunk the onion, carrots, celery and garlic into 1-inch pieces and throw them into a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped.
  2. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, celery, and carrots. Sauté until soft, 8-10 minutes. Add beef, and pancetta; sauté, breaking up with the back of a spoon, until browned, about 15 minutes. Add wine; boil 1 minute, stirring often and scraping up browned bits. Add 2 1/2 cups stock and tomato paste; stir to blend. Reduce heat to very low and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until flavors meld, 1 1/2 hours. Season with salt and pepper
  3. Bring milk to a simmer in a small saucepan; gradually add to sauce. Cover sauce with lid slightly ajar and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until milk is absorbed, about 45 minutes, adding more stock by 1/4-cupfuls to thin if needed. DO AHEAD Ragù can be made 2 days ahead. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Rewarm before continuing.
  4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season with salt; add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until 1 minute before al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water. Transfer ragù to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pasta and toss to coat. Stir in some of the reserved pasta water by tablespoonfuls if sauce seems dry. Divide pasta among warm plates. Serve with Parmesan.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Cinnamon Sugar Pull Apart Bread

Once again, a recipe from Annie's Eats makes its way on to my blog. And this one is delicious. I've had this recipe starred in my Google reader for about a month, and I have come to it weekend after weekend debating whether I should make it or not. Well, I'm so glad I finally made it.

Do you know that moist, tender interior of a cinnamon roll? The part with just a little bit of a crunchy edge, but mostly it's just soft cinnamon-ey bread? Well, this bread loaf is MOSTLY that. You've got this great crusty edge, but on the inside, throughout the length of the entire loaf, you've got that soft, yummy interior. The whole idea about this loaf are the layers, which you're supposed to peel layer by layer. Well, Chris and I just used our fingers and tore off big chunks and shoved rapidly into our watering mouths once this thing cooled down just enough not to burn our fingers on the caramelized sugar on the bottom. So worth it.

Here's the recipe as it appears on Annie's Eats, minus the great step-by-step photos. Make sure to visit her site for detailed how-to photos.

For the dough:

  • 2¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 2¼ tsp. instant yeast
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs

For the filling:

  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg


  1. To make the dough, combine the flour, sugar, yeast and salt in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Combine the butter and milk in a small saucepan and heat just until the butter is melted. Set aside and let cool briefly, until the mixture registers 115-125˚ F on an instant-read thermometer. Add the milk mixture, water, vanilla and eggs to the mixer bowl. Mix on low speed until a cohesive dough forms. Continue to knead until smooth and elastic, adding additional flour as needed 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough clears the sides of the bowl and is tacky but not sticky. Knead about 3-5 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat, and cover. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. (After the dough has doubled, it can be wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated overnight. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before proceeding.)
  2. While the dough rises, add the butter to a small saucepan and melt until browned. Set aside. Combine the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a small bowl and mix well.
  3. Once dough has risen, transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and gently deflate. Roll into a ball, cover with a clean towel and let rest for 5 minutes. Roll the dough out into an approximately 12 x 20-inch rectangle. Brush the dough with the browned butter. Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar mixture over the dough in an even layer. (Yes, really, use all of it.)
  4. Lightly grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Slice the dough vertically into 6 even strips. Stack the strips on top of each other and again cut again into 6 equal slices. Stack all the squares on top of each other and set into the prepared loaf pan. Cover loosely with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place, 30-45 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Transfer the loaf to the oven and bake 30-35 minutes, until the top is golden brown. (If the top seems to be browning too quickly, cover loosely with foil at the end of baking.) Remove from the oven and let rest in the pan 20-30 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen and carefully turn the loaf out, transferring to a serving plate. Serve warm.