We celebrated the start of my favorite munchkin’s school adventure (The First Day of Kindergarten!) tonight. He set the menu: spaghetti, chocolate mint cupcakes, and by request, homemade ice cream. What a great excuse to bring out the KitchenAid ice cream maker!

Ingredients:

2 cups crunchy organic peanut butter
1 cup organic granulated sugar
4 cups organic whole milk
2 cups organic half and half
2 tsps. organic vanilla
1 cup Guittard semi-sweet chocolate chips

How I Made It:

In your mixer, combine the peanut butter and sugar. Mix on medium-low speed with the whisk attachment until the peanut butter and sugar are combined. With the mixer still going, slowly pour in the milk.  Continue to whisk until there are no lumps of peanut butter left.  Add the half and half and vanilla and whisk for another 2-3 minutes.

Remove the bowl from the mixer, cover it with plastic wrap, and refrigerate the mixture for 3 hours.

Transfer the cold mixture to your ice cream maker and proceed according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. Fold in the chocolate chips at the end, before transferring the ice cream to your container for freezing.  Freeze for 2 hours before serving.

Ice Cream Maker

How It Turned Out:

This batch turned out to be very tasty (though I think I could’ve used a little less vanilla). I try to serve my homemade ice cream within 3 hours of making it, before it gets too hard and crystalized. That means it’s kind of soft, but that’s okay.

Peanut Butter Ice Cream

 

My favorite five year old is growing like a weed and needs all the building blocks to achieve great heights. While he has a broad taste for healthful foods (avocado, kale, hummus, etc.), it’s not easy to get him to eat more than a few bites at a time.  So we all try to pack as many nutrients as possible into what we know he’ll eat.  Pancakes! are one of those tried and true meals.

This recipe swaps out buttermilk for greek yogurt to add more protein (like I typically do in my sweet treats). One ounce of greek yogurt can have 2-3 grams of protein, where buttermilk has just one. That’s more fuel for the munchkin’s muscle-making! You can up the healthfulness by using whole wheat flour (I just didn’t have any).

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbs sugar
3/4 cup vanilla greek yogurt
3/4 cup 1% milk
1 egg, beaten
2 tbs unsalted butter, melted

How I Made Them:

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl, using a fork to sift everything together.  Put 3/4 cup of greek yogurt in a glass measuring cup, topping with enough milk to hit the 1 1/2 cup line (I think this is about 3/4 cup).  Whisk the yogurt and milk together until combined, then add it to the flour mixture. Add the egg and melted butter, and whisk together to make the batter.  Remember that you want a slightly lumpy batter.

Use a nonstick skillet or griddle (so you don’t need more butter) over medium to medium-high heat. Pour 1/4 cup of batter at a time onto the surface, making sure your pancakes don’t touch as they cook.  When the bubbles start to appear, flip your pancake and cook for about 1 minute. If you aren’t getting a lovely golden pancake, you might add a little butter to the pan.

Pancake

You can add berries or chocolate chips as you cook the pancakes, topping the pancake before you flip it.

Choc Chip Pancake

Keep your pancakes warm in the oven (set on warm) while you cook them, so they all go to the table hot.

How They Turned Out:

The munchkin ate FOUR of these little beauties for dinner.  SUCCESS!

This recipe makes about 8 small pancakes.  Double the recipe for a family of four.

 

Southerners love their rolls.  I grew up on the legend of “Helen Duck’s Spoon Rolls.” My friend Judy tells the story of the woman who baked and froze hundreds of yeast rolls to be served at her memorial luncheon when she died — because no one else’s rolls were as good as hers.  I’m new to making my own rolls, because Rhodes Rolls are just so easy and yummy.  But for tonight’s dinner party, in the spirit of my bread-baking adventures (and because Judy the roll connoisseur will be there), I made these homemade rolls.

Ingredients:

1 tbs Fleischmann’s Active Dry Yeast
2 cups hot water (not boiling, from the tap is fine)
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup canola oil
6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tbs olive oil

How I Made Them:

In a bowl, combine the yeast and hot water.  Mix with a spoon or spatula and let sit for 10 minutes or until foamy.

In the bowl of the standing mixer fit with the paddle attachment, combine the sugar, egg, salt, and canola oil. Switch out the paddle for the dough hook and add 4 cups of flour.  Pour in the yeast mixture and mix on medium speed for 10-12 minutes.  You may need to pause the mixer and scrape the sides if the dough doesn’t pull together on its own.  Toward the end of your mixing time, add the last 2 cups of flour in small batches until you get a firm, slightly sticky dough.

Prepare a big bowl with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, swirled around the sides. When the dough is done, gather it into a ball and transfer it to the oiled bowl.  Turn the dough a couple of times so that all the sides are coated with the olive oil.  Cover and let rise someplace warm for one hour.

The dough will have doubled in size after the first rising.  Punch down the dough and give it a couple of quick kneads.  Prepare muffin tins (30-36) with baking spray.  Transfer spoonsful of dough to the muffin tins, filling about 3/4 full.  Cover the tins and let rise someplace warm for half an hour or until the dough fills the muffin tins.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (if you used my trick of letting the dough rise in the oven, be sure you removed the tins first!).  Bake the rolls for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve warm from the oven.

How They Turned Out:

Rolls

A nice basic roll with a good texture and soft crust. Makes 30 rolls.

I have been pursuing the perfect loaf of homemade bread for months now.  Usually, if there is something that I cannot make better than store-bought, I concede gracefully. However, since I began baking bread to share for Communion at church, I feel the need to create beautiful golden loaves with the perfect crunchy-chewy crust on top.  So far, I’ve managed passable loaves (once you cut off the too-dense or too-dry crusts).

This recipe, however, may just be the Holy Grail of breads.

Ingredients:

4 1/2 tsp Fleischmann’s Active Dry Yeast
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 hot water (not boiling, from the tap is fine)
1 tbs kosher salt
3 tbs unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 2/3 cups of hot water (not boiling, from from the tap is fine)
7-8 cups of flour
2 tbs olive oil

How I Made It:

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the yeast, sugar and hot water.  Mix with a spoon or spatula and let sit for 10 minutes or until foamy.  Add the salt, butter, and remaining hot water and turn the mixer on low speed.  Add half the flour one cup at a time, letting the wet and dry ingredients come together slowly. Add the remaining flour in small batches until you have a smooth, slightly sticky dough.  (This attempt used a little more than 7 cups of flour.)

Let the mixer knead the dough for 10 minutes, adding a little flour if it starts to get too sticky.  Prepare a big bowl with 2 tbs of olive oil, swirled around the sides. When the dough is done, gather it into a ball and transfer it to the oiled bowl.  Turn the dough a couple of times so that all the sides are coated with the olive oil.  Cover and let rise someplace warm for one hour.

♦ The “let dough rise” step has been giving me trouble. Since I live in a rainforest, and I keep my house very cool, I don’t really have a “warm place” that encourages the dough to rise.  Previously, I’ve placed the bowl on the counter over the dishwasher while I ran a load of dishes. That helped but it wasn’t quite enough.  This time I set the oven to warm just as I started to make the bread.  I turned it off after 2 minutes, so it was warm but not hot by the time I was ready for the bread to rise.  I think this is the answer — but you have to watch to be sure your bread dough doesn’t escape the bowl!

Bread Dough

Once the bread dough has risen to at least twice the original size, punch it down and knead it just a bit before turning it out on a floured surface. Divide the dough into three portions. Fold and pat each portion into a loaf. Spray the loaf pans with baking spray and then transfer the loaves to the pans.  Cover the pans and let them rise for another hour.

Loaves

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees (remove the loaf pans if you were letting them rise in there).  Put the loaf pans on a cookie sheet before putting them in the oven.  Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown on top.  Cover the loaves with non-stick aluminum foil (to prevent burning the top) and bake for another 15 minutes.

Let the loaves cool before slicing.

How It Turned Out:

Three absolutely beautiful loaves of homemade bread to share!

3 Loaves of Bread

This is definitely the recipe I’ll use from now on.

 

 

These baked beans are amazing — amazingly easy and amazingly tasty.  The secret is to use a crock pot and to add a dash of mustard.

Beans

Ingredients:

2 pounds dried navy beans
4 strips of center cut bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
12 ounces frozen chopped onion
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup organic low salt ketchup
2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup Splenda brown sugar blend
4 tablespoons organic Dijon mustard

How I Made Them:

Rinse the beans in cold water and drain in a colander (with small holes).  In a large pot, cover the beans with cold water and bring to a boil.  Turn off the heat, cover, and let sit for two hours. Drain the beans and transfer them to the crock pot.

In a heavy bottom sauce pan, cook the bacon until done but not crispy.  Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and stir it into the beans in the crock pot. Cook the onion in the bacon grease until it’s soft but not brown.  In a bowl, combine the vinegar, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, and mustard.  Add that to the onions and stir to combine.

Pour the sauce over the beans in the crock pot.  Set the crock pot to the lowest setting — on mine it’s “serve.”  Let the beans cook for 8 hours, stirring once halfway through to be sure the beans are thoroughly sauced.

How They Turned Out:

YUMMY!!  Serve with your favorites of the grill, hot dogs, or on their own.

 

This is a super-quick supper that is fancy enough for a dinner party.

Ingredients:

1 bag of frozen tortellini
1 lb of fresh asparagus
1 lb of fresh snow peas
3 tbs of Greek feta vinaigrette dressing
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese

How I Made It:

Wash and pat dry the peas and asparagus.  Snap the ends off and de-string the pea pods.  Reserve 3 stalks of asparagus, cutting the remainder into pieces (tops, then three sections — I don’t keep the tough thick bases).  Create asparagus ribbons with the reserved asparagus stalks, using a vegetable peeler.  Set the ribbons aside and squeeze a little lemon juice over them.

Cook the tortellini according the instructions.  Use a big pot and at least 2 cups more water than called for, so that you can blanch the vegetables for 3 minutes in the same pot as the pasta.  I also add a little olive oil in the pot to prevent the pasta from sticking. When it’s all done, strain the pasta and vegetables in a colander (do not rinse).

In a large glass serving bowl (so you can see all the lovely green veggies), toss the hot pasta and vegetables with the dressing, then sprinkle half the parmesan on top.  Toss again, then top with the rest of the cheese.  Garnish with the asparagus ribbons and serve.

How It Turned Out:

The bright taste of fresh peas and asparagus pairs nicely with the creamy tortellini. I made this as the main dish for a dinner party, but it would also be a lovely side dish for grilled or poached salmon or a lemon chicken entrée.

Easy Peasy Pasta

Makes 4 servings.

Springtime calls for lighter flavors and fresher treats. These orange cream cupcakes are sweet and tangy, just like the first spring breezes.

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tbs baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup canola oil
5 eggs, separated
the zest of one medium organic orange
3/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1/2 tsp cream of tartar

How I Made Them:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the canola oil and begin to mix at medium speed. Add the egg yolks and orange juice and mix until the batter is thoroughly combined and smooth.  Stir in the orange zest.

In a second bowl (that fits your mixer, or using a hand mixer), beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks begin to form.  While that is coming together (it takes about 5-7 minutes), prepare your cupcake tins with festive paper liners. When your egg whites are light and peaky, fold — do not mix — the them into the batter.

Fill the cupcake tins three quarters full (about 1/2 cup of batter each). Bake for 17 minutes or until a cake tester comes away clean.  Let cool completely before decorating.

Makes 17 cupcakes (I don’t know why it doesn’t quite stretch to 18).

How They Turned Out:

The rose and rounded out beautifully — almost too pretty to frost!

Orange Cream Sans Frosting

 

I used an orange buttercream frosting to decorate these. They were a big hit at the springtime cakewalk today.

I think they were a bit dense, even with the lightening of the egg whites, so next time I’ll try cake flour instead of all purpose flour.

 

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