Saturday, October 31, 2015

Apple Pie

This recipe from Living on a Dime was just the thing for the first recipe made with the 20 pounds of apples we picked this weekend. Sweet, but not too sweet, it complemented the slightly salty pie crust perfectly. Other than omitting the nutmeg in favor of more cinnamon, I followed the recipe precisely as written. I used a combination of Ida and Mitsu apples.

Apple Pie

6-7 cups of medium apples, cored, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
2 Tbsp. flour
2 Tbsp. butter
double pie crust

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl except the butter. Pour into the pie crust. Dot with chunks of the butter and top with the other crust. Cut steam slits in the top crust and sprinkle the top with sugar. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Then turn down to 350 degrees and bake for 35-45 minutes, until apples are tender and juices are bubbling nicely out of the steam slits.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Grilled Steak Salad with Gorgonzola and Pine Nuts

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Steak Salad with Gorgonzola and Pine Nuts
2 1-lb sirloin or top round steaks, about 1" thick
2 tsp minced fresh rosemary
1 TBS red wine vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 large clove garlic, minced
8 c mixed greens
3 TBS pine nuts, toasted
6 oz Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

Season steak with salt and pepper and grill or pan fry until desired degree of doneness. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing thin.

Whisk together rosemary, red wine vinegar, mustard, and garlic.

Toss greens with dressing, then top with sliced meat, pine nuts, and cheese.

Serves 4

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Halloween Pillows

A couple of years ago I became obsessed with making pillow covers. It's a quick and easy sewing project that results in a fresh look for the whole room. Now as each holiday season rolls around, I hit the holiday fabric section at Joann's when the sales are good and whip up a set for us or to gift. Sometimes, however, my fabric buying gets ahead of my crafting time. I purchased this fabric last year, but never got around to putting it to use.

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Since these all fit so nicely on one couch, I think I need to think about acquiring more pillow for the other couch and chairs. :)

MS Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake - My birthday cake!

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I turned 36 this year. Surprisingly, it was a bigger deal for me than turning 35. Possibly because last year I was 7 and 1/2 months pregnant or because my husband was working 12-hour night shifts or because my toddler was going through an extremely difficult sleep stage, I just didn't have time to worry about it. This year, however, I felt like 40 is knocking at my door. I'm definitely not grown up enough to be 40! Anyway, what better thing to do than celebrate with an obnoxiously decadent cake? I didn't want to go too crazy as I have a toddler and a 10 and 1/2 month old underfoot, but I did want something fancier than my regular cake. I'd pinned this recipe from Martha Stewart some time ago and decided it try it.

With loads of butter, eggs, and chocolate, this is quite a dessert. The actual cake is surprisingly quite light and fluffy. While I won't say that it is a complicated recipe, there are a number of steps. I actually messed up the caramel because you're meant to bring it to the soft-ball temperature in candy-making 238 degrees). However, the darn mixture kept boiling over even after I switched to a larger pot. So I gave up about 5 degrees short, which yielded a runnier caramel, which is perfect for ice cream. Luckily, when the buttercream hardens it holds the cake together beautifully, so it's not a huge deal. Enjoy!

MS Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake
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For the cake:
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour three 9-inch round cake pans. Sift flour, granulated sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt into the bowl of a mixer. Beat on low speed until just combined. Raise speed to medium, and add eggs, buttermilk, 1 1/2 cups warm water, oil, and vanilla. Beat until smooth, about 3 minutes.

Divide batter among pans. Bake until cakes are set and a toothpick inserted into the center of each comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let cool in pans set on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Turn out cakes onto racks, and let cool completely.

For the caramel:
4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon coarse salt
2 sticks cold butter, cut into tablespoons

Combine granulated sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water in a medium saucepan over high heat. Cook, without stirring, until mixture is dark amber, about 14 minutes. Remove from heat, and carefully pour in cream (mixture will spatter); stir until smooth. Return to heat, and cook until a candy thermometer reaches 238 degrees, about 2 minutes. Pour caramel into a medium bowl, stir in 1 teaspoon coarse salt, and let cool slightly, about 15 minutes. Stir in butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. Let cool completely.

For the frosting:
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
Coarse salt
1 pound semisweet chocolate, chopped, melted and cooled
Coarse sea salt for garnish.

Whisk together cocoa and 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water in a bowl until cocoa dissolves. Beat butter, confectioners' sugar, and a generous pinch of coarse salt in a clean bowl with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Gradually beat in melted chocolate and then cocoa mixture until combined. Let stand for 30 minutes before using.

To assemble the cake:
Trim tops of cakes using a serrated knife to create a level surface. Cut each in half horizontally to form 2 layers. Transfer 1 layer to a serving platter, and spread 3/4 cup caramel over. top. Top with another cake layer, and repeat with remaining caramel and cake layers, leaving top uncovered. Refrigerate until set, about 1 hour.

Frost top and sides of cake. Sprinkle with sea salt.

Cake layers and caramel can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Martha notes that they actually taste better when refrigerated and have a better texture for stacking. Bring the caramel to room temperature before using. The frosted cake can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.  photo IMG_6145.jpg

1st Birthday Cake - Yellow Cake with Vanilla Buttercream

Well, I'm only about six months overdue in posting this creation, but better late than never, right? I started drafting this post ages ago but never published it....

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My younger son turned 1 year old! I have no clue where the previous year went. I still vividly remember all the blood tests, weekly doctor's appointments, and worrying about what we'd do with our toddler during delivery and subsequent stay in the hospital. Amusingly, my husband actually didn't remember that our awesome babysitter stayed at our house for 2 or 3 days while we were in the hospital and apparently thought our son had stayed with friends instead). Rather a big memory glitch in my opinion as one of the reasons I embarked on a mad hunt to find reliable paid care for our hospital stay as our closest friends live at least 45 minutes away. Plus, they have jobs and children of their own which might have made it challenging to drop everything and take our older child. Baby #2 arrived about 3.5 hours after I checked into the hospital and maybe a mere 4 hours since I was sitting in my OB's office telling her that I didn't think I was in labor only to find out I was more than 7 cm dilated. (*Sigh) Yet another opportunity for my husband to say "I told you so."
Getting off track here.

For my baby's birthday for whatever reason I thought he seemed like a white cake kind of guy. I love chocolate cake and had made my favorite chocolate cake for my older son's first birthday two years ago, but somehow I thought Baby #2 wanted a vanilla cake with a vanilla buttercream frosting. Hitting the cookbooks, I used a cake recipe from my big Gourmet cookbook and a frosting recipe from an old copy of Betty Crocker's Baking Classics.

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Yellow Cake
2 3/4 c sifted cake flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
12 TBS butter (1.5 sticks), softened
1 1/2 c sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
1 1.2 tsp vanilla
1 c whole milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two cake pans by lining them with parchment paper or buttering and flouring them.

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat sugar and butter together until pale and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and continue beating for 5 minutes more. With the mixer on low, gradually add flour and milk in batches until mixture is smooth.

Divide mixture evenly into pans. Bake 20-25 minutes until tester comes out clean and cakes are beginning to pull away from sides of pans. Cool 5 minutes in pan, then remove cake from pan to cool completely before icing.

Vanilla Buttercream
1/2 c butter, softened
4 c powdered sugar
2 TBS milk
2 tsp vanilla

Mix butter and powdered sugar until well combined. Beat in milk and vanilla until desired smooth consistency is reached.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

MS Basic Pancakes Made With Whole Wheat Flour

I've never been in search of the perfect fluffy pancake recipe. I simply want a pancake that's tasty, whips up easily and isn't too unhealthy. With a little tweaking, Martha Stewart's Easy Basic Pancakes fit the bill. To feed my growing family of four with a few leftovers for the freezer, I always double the recipe. This morning on a whim I decided to use whole wheat pastry flour, which tasted just fine, but made for a thinner batter. I simply added an extra 1/4 cup and all was well in toddlerland.

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MS Basic Pancakes
2 cups white whole wheat flour (or 2 1/4 c whole wheat pastry flour)
1/4 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cup milk
4 tablespoons butter, melted, vegetable oil, applesauce or a combination thereof (I used 2 TBS butter and 2 TBS canola oil)
2 large eggs

Whisk together dry ingredients. Make a well in the center and add eggs and butter, oil, etc. Gently combine while adding milk until a smooth consistency is reached. Allow to rest for a few minutes while you preheat your griddle to 350 degrees or skillet to medium. Grease cooking surface lightly with oil.

Cook until surface of pancakes have some bubbles and a few have burst, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip carefully and cook until browned on the other side, 1 to 2 minutes more. Transfer to a baking sheet or platter; cover loosely with aluminum foil, and keep warm in oven on low. Continue with more oil and remaining batter. Makes about 24 2-3" pancakes