Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Bake 52: The Best Buttermilk Biscuits

 I am always completely skeptical when the name of a recipe includes 'The Best...'  I think it's over used and I also think, how can it possibly be known what is 'the best'?  Have you tried every recipe (to be fair, I am sure America's Test Kitchen has tried quite a few) and even if you've tried every recipe out there, how can you possibly know what people are going to like?  Everyone has a different idea of what makes 'the best' of anything.  I mean, some people like fudgey brownies, some like cakey, and there are some weirdos out there who don't even like brownies!  

And then there's biscuits.  I am sure that if you asked a dozen people, they would all have different ways to describe 'the best' biscuit.  Just to let you know, I have no idea if this is in fact, the best biscuit recipe.  It was good, we liked it.  It's been a while since I've made biscuits so I can't tell you if it's better than the recipe I've used before.  They might be my favorite but whether they are your favorite or not isn't for me to say.  

I feel like this might be the kind of recipe you have to make a couple times to get it perfect and that gives you time to add to it and make them how you want them.  I halved the recipe and it made about 7 biscuits and seemed to work well.
 I'd say if you are looking for a great recipe, give this one a try.  It might be your favorite.  It might be your idea of the best buttermilk biscuits.  It might be mine.  I am going to have to make about 10 batches of biscuits just to be sure. ;)  But in the mean time, it was a great recipe and if I needed biscuits for something, I would use it again.
Betsy was our host this week.  You can get the recipe at her blog.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Bake 52: Sweet Potato Pie (Crust-less)

Let me start off by saying that this wasn't my finest week.  It wasn't an epic fail, but it wasn't bliss either.  And it was probably my fault and these are a few reasons:

1.  I never know the difference between a yam and a sweet potato.  I have found myself googling it more than once.  When I went to Target, shopping, I trusted them to know what a sweet potato is and apparently, that was not smart.  What they had labeled as a sweet potato turned out to be a yam (or 2 lbs worth).
2.  I decided to make a crust-less pie because we are spending the holiday with some gluten-free people  and I also didn't really feel like dealing with pie crust.  Partly because:
3.  I wasn't in my own kitchen or even one I have cooked in before.  So not only did it make me not want to deal with the crust, but I also ended up baking the pie for about 25 more minutes than the recipe specified.  Was it the oven?  Do I not know how to work an oven?  Who knows.

It turned out okay and much better than I was expecting, but I still don't know if I would let this slide as dessert.  I bet if it were inside a nice flaky, buttery pie crust, I would change my mind.  

For the crust, I lined a pie plate with parchment paper and added a layer of walnuts

 Then sprinkled with brown sugar and filled it like the recipe told me to.  
I inverted the pie to serve so the walnuts were on the top.

I noticed a lot of the other bakers pies looked way different than mine when they came out of the oven and they all had great reviews of the recipe so I am tending to think that I just didn't have my mojo today.  And it might have helped to eat the pie with whipped cream.  There was another fail on my part.  ALWAYS ADD WHIPPED CREAM!!!

Talesha was our host this week and chose the recipe, you can see pictures of what the pie should look like, along with the recipe at her blog HERE.

And if you want to see what the other Bake 52 members thought this week, use the links below. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

TWD: Best Ever Brownies (Are they?)

When I saw the title of these brownies, I thought, "Hmmm, we'll see."  How can they possibly be better than my favorite brownie recipe?  Or even  my second favorite?  Those two are hard to beat in my book.  I was surprised with how much I ended up liking these.  I will be making them again and I feel like I now have three favorite brownie recipes.  To which I say, this is one thing you can never have too many of.
They were super delicious with ice cream which is one of my brownie requirements.  I didn't have a 9X9 pan so I used an 8X11.5 and it worked great.  I also substituted semi-sweet chocolate for the bittersweet.  
They were fudgey and gooey, but not too gooey and completely delicious.  If you are looking for a great brownie recipe, you should give this one a try!

You can get the recipe at A Beautiful Mess

If you'd like to see what the other TWD bakers did this week, you can go HERE.

Friday, November 16, 2012

If you Invited me to Thanksgiving Dinner (And tips for hosting)

There's a lot of planning going on in cyberspace for the most awesome holiday of the year.  I thought I would give you some menu ideas.  Are you attending a dinner?  Have you been asked to bring something?  Or are you hosting yourself and need some tips?  You can't be too prepared so I thought I would share some of my tips for Thanksgiving.

If you asked to bring rolls to Thanksgiving dinner, I would bring these:

If you asked me to bring mashed potatoes to Thanksgiving dinner, I would bring these:

If you asked me to bring a green salad to Thanksgiving dinner, I would bring this Apple Bacon Salad with Craisins and Poppy Seed Dressing.

If you asked me to bring a side dish, I would probably bring this:

If you asked me to bring a drink, I would bring this Homemade Sparkling Cider
If you asked me to bring dessert to Thanksgiving dinner, I would bring one of these desserts:

Oreo Cheesecake (I'd probably do the mint-twist but that's up to you)

Can you tell dessert is my favorite part?  It is.  

Tips for Hosting Thanksgiving.
♥  Don't be afraid to ask people to bring things.  I think the best dinners can be when everyone brings something because when people only have to focus on one thing it's less stressful and everything is made with extra care. (And that makes it extra delicious)
♥  Do yourself a favor and get a roaster oven (like THIS ONE )  It's so worth the money and it will save your sanity and oven space.  Also, they cook the most juicy turkeys you've ever had.  Even if they didn't save on oven space, I would consider them necessary.  I would cook a 20 lb turkey and it would be done in 3 hours and amazing.  Just be careful not to lift the lid too often to check on it and don't put more than one turkey in there, it's disastrous (yes, I did that one year).   Also, make sure the turkey you buy will fit in the roaster oven you have.  
♥ Use your crock pot!  The last few minutes of getting the turkey on the table is pretty hectic.  Pulling rolls out of the oven, getting things on the table, making the gravy and ten million other things.  Making a side dish in your cock pot frees you up in the last few minutes because it's already to dish up when dinner is ready.  Like the Candied Yams with Apples and Cranberries (above) or these delicious Crock Pot Mashed Potatoes or this Creamy Corn.  It's one less thing you have to worry about during crunch time!
♥  Make desserts the day before.  All of the desserts listed above (with exception of the pie) are just as good, if not better the next day.  Make them the day before so you can just pull them out of the fridge when you need them.  The caramel for the caramel pecan pumpkin pie can be made the day before, stored in a storage container in the fridge and heated in the microwave when needed.  If you really need a pie, consider putting it together the day before and sticking it in the freezer and putting it in the oven about 2 hours before you're ready for it.  (Your cook time will be about 1/2 hour longer than usual) 
♥  Have a schedule written down and be very lenient with times.  For instance, if you know your turkey will take 3 hours to bake, then plan on starting it at least 4 hours before dinner time.  It will take you a few minutes to get it ready in the oven and you will need to take it out before eating to collect your drippings for gravy and let the meat rest before cutting.

This is an approximate schedule for our meals in the past, assuming dinner is at 2.
The day before, make all desserts
The day of:
8:30 start cooking mashed potatoes
9:00 whip potatoes and put in crock pot, preheat oven or roaster oven
9:15-9:30 am get turkey in the roaster as well as add giblets to stock pot with celery, onions and carrots
10:00:  Start rolls and get dough ready for the first rise
11:30:  dump roll dough out and let it rest for 30 minutes
12:00 shape rolls and set aside to raise (takes about 20 minutes) for an hour
12:30 prepare any other side dishes
1:30  remove turkey and put rolls in the oven to cook
1:40 remove dripping and stain stock.  Make gravy.
1:50  Remove rolls from the oven
2:00 carve turkey and serve.

This schedule assumes you will have people helping set and take things to the table.  If not, you will need to adjust your schedule and add those things to the time table.  

Which leads to my last piece of advice (which I need to take for myself sometimes):
If dinner doesn't go exactly as planned, it's okay.  Be thankful for what goes well.  If it's a complete disaster and you end up eating tacos on the beach (which is what I think we are doing this year), it's okay.  Breathe and be thankful for what you have.
If dinner isn't done right on time, don't freak out and start yelling at everyone to help you.  Take a breath and be thankful.
Don't let Thanksgiving dinner ruin your day.
Thanksgiving dinner should enhance your day, not rule it.
Be thankful.
For whatever you can think of.

As far as I'm concerned, if dessert goes well, that's all that mattes. ;)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

FYI: A giveaway

I posted this on Facebook earlier today so you may have already seen it.  I just wanted to let you all know about this giveaway.  It's for a $50 product of your choice and they have tons of kitchen products (not to mention tons of other products!).  Visit their stores to see what you would pick and enter to win!
50 dollar product giveaway

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Bake 52: Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake

 Update 11/14/12:  This was so good the next day, it tasted more cheesecake-y and delicious.  I am not sure if I was just being a cheesecake snob yesterday or if it's just REALLY good for breakfast (oops), but I am taking back my wishy-washy sentiments from the past.  So add that to the list; can and should be made ahead. :)

This was my week to host. I have been wanting to make pumpkin cheesecake for a while so I decided to try the recipe in our book, and make everyone do it with me.  :)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Honey-Lime Shrimp and Avocado Salad

Look at this!  Yesterday I promised a blog post on Facebook and here it is!  (I was sharing tips for storing cilantro)  I am not sure what my problem is, but I am all about the salad and veggies lately.  ??  Yeah, I don't know if my body knows it's Fall and I am supposed to be craving all things apple, cinnamon, pumpkin and cranberry.  I will try to break it to myself.  We've had this twice now because I bought some shrimp on sale. When shrimp is on sale, I am there.  I wish crab was on sale more often.....Anyway, we really liked this salad, like enough to have it twice in 2 weeks, so I thought I'd share.  It's fresh and pretty and healthy and delicious.  Are there anymore positive words I can use?  Oh yeah, it's fast too.  Enjoy!  And now that my internet is fixed, (WHOOOOHOOOO!!) I will, hopefully, be around more often!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Bake 52: Red Velvet Cupcakes

 We are officially in the home stretch of our baking year.  This week marks the end of another cycle and leaving only one cycle left.  Only 7 weeks left!  I can't believe it.  

This week was red velvet sheet cake and it should surprise no one that I made cupcakes instead.  Because that's what I do.  Cake isn't usually on the top of my dessert list but the last couple cakes we've made have started to change my mind.  It might be the cream cheese frosting.  Cream cheese makes everything better.  These were pretty quick and simple and easy to share with friends.

Was anyone else surprised with how little chocolate is actually in these? 

The only complaint I had was that the recipe stated I would get 24 cupcakes (but since I halved the recipe I expected 12) if I used a 1/4 cup scoop.   And I did, and I was careful about it.  And I only ended up with 9 cupcakes.  So if you are okay with only 18 cupcakes, then use the 1/4 cup scoop.  If you want 24, then use a 3 T of batter for each cupcake.  And yes, I did the math.  I think the only time I use math is when I am cooking. :)

So the difference in the directions would be:  Line cupcake pans with liners or spray with cooking spray.  Make batter, and spoon 1/4 cup (or 3 T depending on how many you want) batter into each liner.  Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.  Cool and frost.  
 I also halved the frosting recipe and it was plenty for half a batch of cake.  Each of these cupcakes has PLENTY of frosting, as you can see.  You might even be able to get away with 1/4 a batch of frosting.  I also added about 2 cups of extra powdered sugar (to half a batch) to get it to a firmer consistency.   If you are just spreading it on the cupcake, it doesn't really need to be firmer though.
If you are sad about the election, maybe whipping up a batch of these will make you feel a little better.  Remember what I said about cream cheese?  Makes everything better. ;)   You can get the recipe at Janet's blog.  She was our host for the week and chose the recipe.  Thanks for picking a great recipe Janet!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

TWD: Buttermilk Crumb Muffins

These were pretty good.  Simple but good and I am all about simple but good.  They kind of reminded me of Amish Friendship Bread.  That was the flavor I identified them with anyway and I happen to love Amish Friendship Bread.  

Here's where I deviated from the recipe:
♥ Instead of using my hands to cut in the shortening, I used my mixer and whisk attachment.  I started with my hands and it was quite a mess, which made me wonder why my mixer was watching me do something she could do infinitely better.
♥ I substituted 3/4 cup sour skim milk and 1/4 cup sour cream for the buttermilk and it seemed to work pretty well.

What I would do next time:
♥  I would bake them at a lower temp next time, probably 325.  They seemed overly brown on the outside when they were just done in the middle. (Maybe my oven runs a little hot, I will have to look into that.)

♥  Make more topping.  You can never have too much topping, can you?

♥ I would probably half the recipe so I don't eat so many.  Or give some away.

 I hope you all are having a great election day! 

If you'd like a simple but good muffin recipe, give this a try.  You can get the recipe at the blog of our host for the week:  Easier than Pie
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