Sunday, February 10, 2008

OVERLOAD ALERT!!!! Tons of recipes forthcoming...

I have had this post typed for about ten days and I just keep adding to it and adding to it and adding to it. Work has been NUTS! But I have still been cooking...I just can't seem to finish a post without starting to get sleepy. Thank goodness for the draft button. So if you've been thinking that I disappeared from the blog world altogether, the answer is NO...I've just been super duper busy. I'm going to Phoenix Thursday to visit my father and stepmother and go skiing, so I'll probably post another recipe or two before I go and then nothing until sometime next week.

There are pictures now, but because my company deleted the picture editing software off my laptop and Photobucket won't make them small enough that they won't throw off the layout, the link is embedded in the recipe title from now on. Just click on the title to see the picture. Sorry about that.

Canning update first. Kelley, thanks so much for the tip on the canning. I'm going to try that today when I make my apricot jam. I did go to Wal-Mart this week and picked up the biggest pot they had, and it still wasn't big enough for the rack. *sigh* So, I am either going to get a pressure cooker/canner from Presto OR a single-burner so I can boil the pot that came with my kit...kind of like the crystal meth makers do. Funny, funny. Anyway, I will try the inverting method that you gave me today, Kelly...I can't wait to give it a try.

For some reason two weekends ago, I just got a wild hair to do a lot of cooking. Oh, yeah, and the fact that several of my ingredients probably would have spoiled if I did not. And this week I have made a few things also, last night McKenna and I made a cake, and since I'm so behind on posting recipes, well...enjoy!

There are some funny stories that go along with these recipes, so enjoy reading...and I finally got my camera working so I have pictures too!

Irish Potato Bread

5/8 c milk
3/8 c potato water (water that was used to cook the potatoes)
1 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/3 c plain mashed potato at room temperature
3 c all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast

Place all ingredients in the bread machine pan in order listed. Use standard bake cycle and light crust, 1 1/2 lb size. Remove loaf when done baking and let cool for an hour before slicing.

What I liked about this bread: It smells GREAT baking.
What I disliked about this bread: It's kind of a pain to prep for since you have to use room temperature mashed potatoes, but boy, is it worth the extra time. Just don't do what I did and drain the potato over the sink...I ended up making ANOTHER potato so I would have the potato water. The second time, I remembered.
Cool kitchen gadgets used: My Kitchen Aid mixer is awesome at mashing potatoes.
Tastiness factor: This bread is SO smooth, SO soft and SO GOOD. It is great with jam but if you have it plain with butter, you can really taste the potato. It is fantastic. I have made it twice and it has turned out perfect both times.

Peaches and Cream Pie

1 pie crust, refrigerated
1 lb bag of frozen peaches, partially thawed, or 3 cups fresh sliced peaches
1 c heavy whipping cream
1/2 c powdered sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 c packed light brown sugar

Place pie crust in deep dish pie plate and freeze for fifteen minutes. While crust is freezing, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine cream, powdered sugar, salt and vanilla in small bowl and whisk to blend. Place peach slices in pie shell and arrange evenly. Pour cream mixture over peaches and rearrange slices until evenly arranged. Bake pie for 30 minutes. Remove pie from oven, turn oven down to 350 degrees, and evenly cover top of pie with brown sugar. Rotate pie so that the side that was in the back is now in the front. Bake pie until top is caramelized or about 15-20 minutes. Pie will still be liquidy. Cool pie on wire rack and let cool thoroughly. Refrigerate overnight before serving.

What I liked about this recipe: It was really really easy.
What I disliked about this recipe: Keep reading.
Cool kitchen gadgets used: My whisk. I have a Kitchen Aid one. I also used one of those pie plate edge cover things to keep the edges of the crust from getting too brown.
Tastiness factor: I will never make this pie again. The description of the recipe stated that this tastes like peach ice cream. That is NOT the way I would describe it. It never firmed up so when I cut it, all of the liquid went everywhere and it did not have a good taste to it at all. And I followed the directions to a T with cooling.

Glazed Lemon Poppyseed Loaf

1/3 c water
1/2 c milk
1 extra-large egg
4 tsp unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp grated lemon zest
4 tsp poppy seeds
3 c bread flour
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast

All ingredients should be room temperature. Place ingredients in machine in order specified. Bake on sweet bread cycle, 1 1/2 lbs, light crust. Remove from pan at end of cycle and cool for one hour before glazing. To make glaze, combine 2 tsp unsalted softened butter, 2 tsp grated lemon zest and 4 tbsp powdered sugar in small bowl and cream. Mix in lemon juice until smooth. Drizzle glaze over cooled loaf of bread.

What I liked about this recipe: It is very citrusy and not overly sweet.
What I disliked about this recipe: The glaze makes storing it a mess. The recipe said that the glaze would "dry" on the bread, but mine didn't. It's still very creamy and wet.
Cool kitchen gadgets used: My microplaner to zest the lemons, of course!
Tastiness factor: I am still eating it and it is fantastic with my raspberry jam in the morning for breakfast!

Shepherd's Pie

5 strips lean bacon
2 c finely chopped onion
1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
3 c chopped cooked beef or lamb
1 T Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste
3 large eggs, beaten
4-6 c mashed potatoes (see below for recipe)
2 Tbsp melted butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a 2-quart casserole. In a large heavy skillet over medium heat, fry bacon until crisp and drain on a paper towel. Crumble bacon finely. Add onions, pepper and garlic to the grease and cook until onions are golden, about ten minutes. Put vegetables in a large mixing bowl and add the bacon, meat, Worcestershire, salt, pepper and eggs. Mix until well-blended and set aside. Spread half of the mashed potatoes over the bottom of the casserole. Spread meat mixture on top of the potatoes. Spread the rest of the potatoes on top of the meat and brush the top of the potatoes with the butter. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

What I liked about this casserole: Very versatile for switching out ingredients. I used one cup of white onion and one cup of purple onion since I had them left over, substituted red bell pepper for green and used 2 lbs of ground sirloin instead of the chopped cook beef or lamb.
What I didn't like about this casserole: A little lengthy to cook due to the mashed potatoes, but worth it. And the leftovers heat up great.
Cool kitchen gadgets used: I have a silicone pastry brush that I used to brush the butter. LOVE that thing.
Tastiness Factor: Really, really good. I had two was that tasty! Although now I feel like I'm slipping into a coma...hence the reason why this entry was saved on draft once. McKenna even likes this recipe. I have given it to her twice for dinner and she loves it.

Best Mashed Potatoes EVER

2 lbs peeled potatoes
4-6 tablespoons of unsalted butter, cut into pats
1 c milk
1 c half and half
1 Tbsp salt

Chop potatoes into thirds, place in a saucepan and cover with water. Add salt. Bring to a boil and boil for 20-25 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Combine milk and half and half in small sauce pan and warm but do not scald; keep warm. Drain and mash using a potato masher, mixer or ricer. Return potatoes to the hot pot and stir/cook for about two minutes to dry out the potatoes. Add butter, one pat at a time, until butter has melted. Add milk in a slow stream, mixing. Add salt and pepper to taste.

What I like about these potatoes: They turn out perfectly EVERY TIME.
What I dislike about these potatoes: This recipe doesn't quite make enough, but when I have tried to double it, the potatoes aren't as fluffy. I don't know why.
Cool kitchen gadgets used: Again, LOVE my mixer! But I also have a small saucepan that I bought at Bed Bath and Beyond to go with my Emerilware set that has a little notch in it for pouring and it is perfect for the milk mixture. What I usually do when I make this for company is to warm the milk while the potatoes are boiling and when it gets hot enough, I move it to my warming zone. When I make the potatoes just for me, I usually will just microwave plain old milk and skip the half and half altogether. They still turn out great.
Tastiness factor: I have made these for a lot of meals and they are always a hit. I could eat them forever. I have tried several mashed potato recipes over the years, and these are THE BEST I've ever had. They are SO good. Another variation is to boil five or six cloves of unpeeled garlic with the potatoes and blend them into the potatoes...they are also very good that way as well.

Erica's Tips: Don't cut down on the salt called for. You will need the full amount to fully flavor the potatoes. Make sure you use unsalted butter as the potatoes will be too salty if salted butter is used. And TASTE the potatoes before you salt them to eat. I'm a serious salt freak but even I don't have to salt these potatoes...the salty boiling water flavors them perfectly. Also, I have yet to use all of the milk/half and half that has been called for. Usually I cut it to a cup of liquid (1/2 c of each when I am making it for company and 1 c of milk when I make it just for everyday) and it's more than enough. Supposedly the moisture contents of your potatoes dictates how much milk you will need and I guess my potatoes are moist enough that they don't need all of the milk.

And...the phenomenon that is coconut cake.

Apparently this is a real Southern tradition. I had no idea...and I lived in North Carolina for a while.

I really love coconut. I think it is one of the best things ever to put in desserts. My fascination with coconut involves German chocolate cake, pina coladas, Mounds, Almond Joys, Malibu rum, macaroons, coconut shrimp, coconut cream pie, and even those coconut slushies. I love everything coconut.

I was looking on the internet for cake books probably about three months ago and came across this one on the internet that has an entire chapter devoted to coconut cakes. At that time, I had never had coconut cake, but I was sure that I would really like it given my love of everything coconut. So I bought it and made a coconut cake at Christmas. It was a HUGE hit with my dinner guests and I even pawned a piece off on my friend D's husband S (by the way, D, how did he like it?) so none would go to waste.

One of my coworkers has been asking me to make him a coconut cream pie for months after hearing that I am quite a baker. He saw me eating a piece of coconut cake for lunch after Christmas and was rather miffed that I did not bring him a piece despite his love for coconut that rivals mine. Yeah, give me an excuse to try it again. My last one was a little thin on the frosting and I've been dying to try it again to get it perfect. So, here is my coconut cake:

Classic Coconut Cake

3 c cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c milk
1 c (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 c sugar
4 eggs

1 c sugar
1/2 c water
2 egg whites
3 c shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9" cake pans. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in small bowl. Combine vanilla and milk together in separate bowl. In large bowl, beat butter at medium speed until creamy. Add sugar and continue beating until mixture is light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat well after each one until mixture is thick and smooth. Add about 1/3 of the flour mixture to the batter and beat on low speed, add 1/2 of the milk mixture and beat well, and repeat this until ingredients are all in and mixture is very thick and smooth. Immediately place the batter into the pans and divide it evenly. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until cakes are golden brown. Remove and cool on wire racks for ten minutes. Turn out the cakes onto racks and cool completely before frosting.

To make frosting, stir sugar into water until dissolved and bring mixture to gentle boil on stove. Cook for three minutes without stirring. Boil for 5-10 minutes more, stirring constantly, until syrup has thickened and will form a 2" thread when dripped off a spoon. Set syrup aside and let cool slightly. Place egg whites in a mixing bowl and beat on high until they are bright white, shiny and cloud-like. Stream syrup into bowl while mixing to blend into white fluffy icing.

To ice the cake, place one cake layer on plate and spread thick layer of icing over top. Sprinkle with coconut. Place second layer on top and repeat. Ice sides. Place cake stand over a cookie sheet and sprinkle coconut over the top. Pat handsfuls of coconut onto the sides and fill in any bare spots.

What I like about this cake: Very spongy and delicious.
What I dislike about this cake: The frosting is really just not would be a little better if it were thicker. Plus, I almost kind of want to mix the coconut into the frosting for the middle layer...with the coconut on top, it doesn't allow the layers to really stick together so when you slice the cake, the layers fall apart. Make sure and read Erica's tip before doubling the frosting.
Cool kitchen gadgets used: I have these Magic Cake Strips that I have been using for cakes lately. You can get them at cake stores. You get the strips wet and then wrap them and pin them in place around the pans. The moisture keeps the layers from doming in the middle. They are great for cakes. Makes frosting them a piece of cake!
Tastiness factor: It is a perfect coconut cake. SO freaking good, I can't stand it. It is so perfect for coconut lovers.

Erica's Tip: After making it the first time and my dinner guests telling me (I asked for blunt feedback) that it really needed more frosting, I decided to double the frosting this time and see if that made it better. I do NOT know what happened, but I think the syrup was so much that it deflated the egg whites. It never set up. So I threw that out and made two seperate batches instead. That would have worked fine except for some reason one of the pots hardened the sugar into candy. So I made a FOURTH batch and the sugar caramelized and turned an amber color. That's the reason why this cake is kind of a peach color. It was still great though...but it was an extremely frustrating experience. Anyway, lesson about the frosting; don't double it in the same batch. Double it, but make the frosting twice instead of doubling the ingredients.

And my creation from last night...this is McKenna's favorite cake and also the favorite of my nieces and nephews. I have made it several times and everyone loves it, I made it for her second birthday party, and last night we made it for girls' night. Great, great cake.

Perfectly Chocolate Cake

2 c sugar
1 3/4 c cake flour
3/4 c unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs at room temperatur
1 c milk at room temperature
1/2 c vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 c boiling water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease two 9" cake pans. Combine dry ingredients in mixing bowl and either mix on stir setting or whisk. Add eggs, oil, milk and vanilla and beat on medium speed for two minutes. Stir in boiling water. (Batter will be REALLY thin and watery...don't panic.) Pour into pans. Bake 30-35 minutes. Cool for ten minutes on wire racks in pans and then turn out cakes and cool completely before frosting.


1/2 stick of unsalted butter, melted
2/3 c unsweetened cocoa
3 c powdered sugar
1/3 c milk at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla

Mix cocoa into melted butter. Alternately add sugar and milk, beating on medium speed to spreading consistency. Stir in vanilla and add more milk if needed.

What I like about this cake: It is so easy to make and comes out perfect every time. The texture is very soft and spongy.
What I dislike about this cake: It's chocolatey chocolatey. What's not to like? I guess if I had to say, probably a little too sweet. But a glass of milk will take care of that.
Cool kitchen gadgets used: I have already professed my love for my Magic Cake Strips. I used my pale pink heart-shaped silicone cake pans last night and they are so cute.
Tastiness factor: I was a tad short on the cocoa for the frosting (maybe 1/2 tbsp) and I realized when typing this recipe that I forgot to add the vanilla last night when making the frosting, but it didn't seem to matter...the cake came out delicious.

I guess that's all for recipes in one post is probably enough. I'll post some more as I make some other stuff. Happy cooking!


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