Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Apple Cider Doughnuts

Today is a laundry day.  Well, every day is a laundry day, but today, or, rather, I should say, this morning is a laundry morning.  Laundry is a chore that I really don't mind.  My washer and dryer are in a convenient closet in my kitchen.  I think if I had to lug laundry up and down stairs I would feel differently about it.  I also love having my dryer on the first floor because it heats the house and I need that in the mornings.  It's in the 40's these days so every little bit of heat helps!

Yesterday I roasted two more chickens, made a fun Halloween cake for the kids, and baked a big pan of banana bread.  Today, I'm making apple crisp and orange mousse.  

The weekend was warm enough for me to hang freshly washed linens on the line and let them dry in the sun.  This afternoon might give us a few hours of warm sun so I can hang out some bleached towels.

Last week I found a doughnut pan at a local kitchen store.  I bought two.  The pan is made by Wilton and you can find it here.  I decided to make apple cider doughnuts for the kids because we always end up buying those at the orchard and they are gone in seconds!  I played around with a basic doughnut recipe until I was happy with the results and came up with these cider doughnuts.

I was hoping the kids would like them, and happy because they devoured them.  I've since made 3 dozen and the most recent batch I made at about 8:00 p.m. and my 8:00 a.m. the next morning they were gone!

Here's my recipe:

Apple Cider Doughnuts

2 C. all purpose flour
3/4 C sugar 
2 t baking powder
1/2 t cinnamon
3/4 t salt
3/4 C apple cider
2 eggs
2 T melted butter

For the cinnamon sugar glaze

2 T melted butter and pastry brush
mix together in a separate bowl: 
1 C white sugar
1 T cinnamon

Mix all the dry ingredients together.  Add the cider, eggs, and melted butter.  Spray the pans with cooking spray and fill about half way.  The dough is not like batter, it's like dough so you have to nudge it into the pans a bit.  Bake for about 8-9 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let rest about a minute.  Brush the doughnut lightly with butter and roll both sides in the cinnamon sugar.  Place on a wire rack to cool.

They really are easy.  My kids love doughnuts and they've always been so much work to make what with making the yest dough, rising, frying, etc. and baking them is so much easier and healthier!

You can play around with this recipe too.  I was thinking I might toast some coconut and then put it in the blender and try using that as a coating for my next batch!

Well, that's about it for today, I hoping to get some housework done, keep up with my reading schedule for the kids (3-4 books daily with my 4 year old) and a chapter a night of Prince Caspian for the boys.  I'm about to put a big pot of coffee on and get to work!  

Friday, October 24, 2014

Homemade Beef Stock, Simple Lentil Soup Recipe, and Laine's Letter's Link!

Today it's really starting to feel like winter.  The sky is pewter and the leaves are past their peak.  It's been rainy and windy and cool.  I like the cooler weather, I must say and it's nice to feel encouraged to come inside and take care of indoor domestic duties.  I've been baking up a storm this week.  Bread, brownies, 24 homemade cider donuts, big stockpots full of soup, chicken, bacon, and beef stock.

This afternoon was so cold, I decided to light a candle, run the dryer to warm the house, and put on a pot of my special occasion Susan Branch inspired lavender tea with rose petals.  If you read A Fine Romance, you know what I'm talking about!  I thought the tea sounded so delicious so I described it to my local tea merchant and he made it up for me.  It's a cream earl grey tea with lavender and rose petals and it's as beautiful as potpourri and as fragrant as perfume.  I like to add cream and sugar to it and tastes like dessert!  Oh, it's so good!  This is the perfect beverage to go with a good book.  

As I mentioned above, I've been making a lot of stocks and broths because I've been making so much soup.  I got two large beef bones from the butcher, roasted them, and made them into stock.  I managed to take a few photos for you:

These are the roasted bones

You can add a bunch of stuff, but I added just what I had on hand:  salt, pepper, onions, their skins, and some garlic.

I boil this uncovered for days, adding more water as needed until I have a rice, brown stock.

I strain everything out, put it in a bowl in the fridge overnight, remove any fat, restrain, and repeat again so that I have a fat-free, nutrient rich broth.

Today I'm using it as the base for my easy lentil soup.

I cut up 1 onion, a few baby carrots, and two baby bok choy and cooked them in some butter, then added 1 lb. lentils and all of my stock.  I added some garlic, salt, and lots of black pepper.  Bring it all to a boil, then cover and simmer for about 45 minutes.  So easy, and such a healthy lunch.  I think that consuming real bone broths a few times a week helps to keep the immune system strong.

A good night's sleep and a good sense of humor help too!

I went to the library and picked up two books that I've been wanting to read for a while.  One is a whodunnit mystery and the other is called The Art Forger.  Both look really good.

I've been reading Laine's Letters this past week.  Brenda from Coffee, Tea, Books, and Me posted that Laine's Letters are back so it's just been fun to go through them all.  So much wisdom and old fashioned encouragement in those simple letters.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Loaded Baked Potato Soup - Except Made With Cauliflower Instead!

A couple of weekends ago, my mom took my brother and I out for lunch at The Cheesecake Factory.  She and I ordered a bowl of their "loaded baked potato soup" and it was so yummy that I thought I'd try to make it at home.  Since I'm making a large pot of it, I wanted to see if I could use cauliflower as an alternative to the potatoes because it's a bit healthier and I love the taste and ease of not peeling all those potatoes!  So, here's my recipe!  It takes a bit of work, but not if you have some of these items pre-made such as (a few baked potatoes on hand, some cooked bacon, or even frozen cauliflower.)

Here is what I began with.  Two beautiful heads of fresh cauliflower from the farm up the road.  I did save all of the greens and put them in my freezer to use in stock at a later date.

Wash and chop the cauliflower into small florets.

Set them in a large kettle with a lid to steam.  I filled my stock pot with about 4-5 inches of salted water.  You are going to use most of this water as the broth in your soup so it's better to have too much rather than too little.  I don't really measure the amount, but it's enough to submerge half of the cauliflower while the other half stays dry.  Steam/boil the cauliflower until it's fork tender.

While the cauliflower is steaming.  In a small pan, cook 1 chopped onion with 2 T olive oil, 2 T butter, and 1 T minced garlic.  

Once the cauliflower has steamed and cooled a bit you are going to remove spoonfuls of it with a slotted spoon and add to your blender.  You will need to do this in batches.  And to each batch you'll add a portion of the following:  milk, cauliflower liquid, and parm. cheese.  The total amount of each that will be added in batches is 3/4 C, 2/3 C parm. and about 4 C cauliflower broth.  It took me about 3 - 4 batches to blend everything.  For example, blend the steamed cauliflower with 1 cup of the cauliflower liquid, 1/3 C parm. and 1/4 C. milk.  The measurements don't have to be perfect because everything is ending up in the same pot anyway.  Once it's smooth, pour the mixture into a large vessel that will hold the entirety of the soup.  Continue until all the cauliflower has been blended.  Add the onion garlic mixture to the last batch and blend until smooth.  

After all that blending, you should have a big bowl of creamy soup.  But you're not done yet . . .

Reserve any leftover cauliflower broth in a measuring cup and return the soup to your stock pot.

  Add to it:

2t salt
1 t. pepper
6 slices of crumbled bacon

1/2 t. dry parsley
a handful of shredded cheddar cheese (3/4 C)

 2 baked potatoes, jackets off, cubed and 2 more cups of cauliflower broth.  The potato gives this soup a nice, hearty texture.


Stir, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.  Taste for seasonings.  

Serve and enjoy!

This is delicious with a salad!  

Here's the official recipe:

Loaded Baked Potato Soup - Except Made With Cauliflower Instead

2 heads fresh cauliflower, chopped, steamed in 4-5 inches of salted water.  Water reserved.

1 large onion, chopped
2 T butter
 2 T olive oil
1 T minced garlic
2/3 C parm. cheese
3/4 C whole milk
2 t salt
1 t pepper
1/2 t dry parsley
6 pieces of cooked, drained, bacon, crumbled
2 baked potatoes, cubed, jackets off
3/4 C shredded cheddar cheese

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Getting The Most From Your Roast Chicken Part 2

So, now it's day two and you have two carved roast chickens in your fridge.  What to do?

Obviously, there are a lot of options, but I decided to make chicken pot pie.  This is more of a chicken and biscuit pot pie recipe and it makes a lot.  I was in the mood for this savory dish and it makes the house smell so good while it's cooking.  This isn't the most low fat of choices, but it's all homemade, and it's all real food.

First off, you need to get as much meat off of your roasters as possible.  Put it in a big bowl as shown above.

Then get to work on your chicken pot pie filling.  The thing I like about this recipe is that you can make it in stages and assemble the whole meal right before you eat it.  You need some chicken stock, onions, flour, butter, and some chopped up carrots if you have them.  In a pinch you could use bagged, chopped, frozen carrots.  I am a big fan of frozen veggies, chopped and ready to go in one pound freezer bags.  

Here's what you need for your pot pie:

Cooked, cut up chicken (a few cups)
2T olive oil, butter, or coconut oil
2 chopped onions
3-4 chopped carrots
6 cups chicken stock
1 1/4 sticks of butter
3/4 C flour
1/4 C whole milk
1 package frozen, chopped green beans
good pinch of dried thyme, salt, pepper, and parsley

Melt the butter and oils (or whatever combo you choose) over medium high heat and add the onions.  Cook for about 15 minutes.  Next, add the flour and whisk into the butter/oil/onion sauce for about a minute until cooked.  Add the chicken stock the the flour mixture and continue to whisk until smooth and thick.  Add the spices and the milk and stir together.  

Next add the chicken and beans

Stir to combine and pour in to a large Pyrex baking dish (13 x 11 inches)

At this point you can cover and return to the fridge and work on it later.  Or, you can get started on rolling out the biscuits:

For the biscuits, you'll need:

2 C flour
1 T baking powder
1 t salt
1/2 t sugar
1 stick of butter, diced and cold
3/4 C whole milk

optional herbs and egg wash

In bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix well.  Add the butter and mix, then add the milk.  You should have a nice, soft ball of dough.  

Roll it out

Use an upturned glass to cut out your biscuits

Place the biscuits on top of the pie filling and brush with egg wash if desired.  I did in the photo - 1 egg + 1 T water = egg wash

Place in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes

Until the biscuits are golden and the pot pie is bubbly.  I sometimes make an extra batch of biscuits to go on the side.

This is a hearty, comforting meal on a cool, fall night and a great way to stretch your chicken!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Making The Most of Your Roast Chicken Part 1

Chicken is a great meal because almost everyone likes it and it is so versatile.  These roasters were purchased at Costco for about $25.00 (for the pair) they are organic and fresh (not frozen) and come bagged together.  Because these birds are a little more expensive I want to make sure I make the most out of them and I'll show you how.  

The first step is to roast the chickens.  You can do this as elaborately as you wish depending on what you have around your kitchen and how much time you have.  Wash the chickens, pat them dry with paper towels and stuff them with whatever you have.  In this case I just used two onions, skins on and cut in half once.  I put a little olive oil on the birds and sprinkled them with with Montreal chicken seasoning (I buy this at Costco) it's only a few dollars and works well with almost anything.  It's a taste I like, but you could just add salt and pepper.  You can also stuff your chicken with lemons, apples, carrots, and celery.  Just use what you've got.  

I snug my chickens in a large, glass, Pyrex baking dish, head to foot, so to speak, so that they are really packed into the pan.  Then, to avoid making a huge mess in my oven, I cover them tightly with foil and bake in a 425 degree oven for about 1 1/2 hours.  This is the amount of time I approximate for about a 3 1/2 lb. roaster but you can adjust according to your oven and the size of your poultry.  After that time has elapsed, I take off the foil and cook a little longer so that the tops get brown.  Take them out of the oven let them cool for a while.  Remove them to a platter to rest and put the foil back on if your're saving for later or trying to retain heat.

Here they are!  See all those juices in the bottom of the pan?  Here's what you can do with them:

First, take your chickens out of the pan and allow them to rest.  Next, get a large, Pyrex measuring cup (4 C.) and pour all of those juices into the cup.  You may want to place a sieve on top of the mouth of the measuring cup before pouring to catch any little bits of skin etc.  

You should find yourself with a nice big portion of drippings:

I don't know about you, but whenever I do this I always have a visitor in the kitchen who tries to look like she is on her best behavior:

Once your drippings have cooled a little, put the whole measuring cup in the fridge overnight.  In the morning scoop off all of the fat that has accumulated on the surface.  You should be left with a jelly like substance that will plop right out onto a plate when you invert the measuring cup.  Slide your chicken jelly disc into a freezer bag and defrost the next time you make chicken so that you can make chicken gravy.

Now, back to the chickens, just slice and serve the breast meat nice and hot with salt and pepper with whatever accompaniments you choose (rice pilaf, steamed broccoli, etc.)

Next time, I'll give you another great recipe that you can use with the leftovers!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Teddy Bear Breads!

To make teddy bear breads, you just shape your bread dough like this:

Let them rise, bake, and cool on a wire rack:

When they're still warm, press chocolate chips into the soft bread to make eyes, nose, buttons, etc.

You can also paint clothes on them by mixing up some powdered sugar and milk and a little food coloring.  Apply the frosting when the bread has cooled.

This is an easy way to make a snack, use up some leftover dough, and have some fun on a rainy day!

To find the recipe I use for my teddy bears click here but you can use just about any recipe you like.