Monday, April 29, 2013

Homemade Graham Crackers and the best S'mores ever!

Last week, I made two different graham cracker recipes.  There are quite a few out there.  I started with THIS one and it was good.  Tyler really liked them plain, with milk or with frosting but when we paired them with marshmallows and chocolate there was something off.  It was almost like the flavor wasn't subtle enough and it kind of got in the way of my s'more-but Tyler said I needed to keep the recipe because he loved it.  If you are someone who likes just plain graham crackers or, like Tyler, likes them with milk, this first recipe might just be for you.  But if you're like me and you feel like the only reason graham crackers exist is to make s'mores and graham cracker crusts then this next recipe is the ticket.  It has the perfect subtle graham-cracker-flavor but the feeling of something a little better because it's homemade.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Table Talk: Chickpea Cakes with Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce

Whaaat?  Who would pick that for their recipe?  Is this some kind of joke? 
Um, no.  Not a joke. 
It was my week to host.
And I was trying to choose a recipe that was new and different.  
I also noticed that we hadn't made anything from the vegetarian section of the book yet.
Have I told you that Tyler almost turned into a vegan a couple weeks ago?
Yeah, he eats humus now.
I'm not really sure how it all came about but it was about the same time he turned into a cowboy and started listening only to Country music.  Well, and Classical music sometimes.
Basically, he wanted to be a vegan cowboy.
It's weird, but that about sums up Tyler.  Weird.  But also why I love him.  
Never a dull moment and just the way I like it.
Anyway, I thought since he was a humus-eating-fool these days, it would be a good time to try and throw something like a chickpea cake on the table for dinner.  
A couple months ago, he probably would have taken one look at this and walked out.  Maybe for good, maybe just to head to McDonald's.  
We'll never know.
I chickened out during the last couple days and decided I had to at least make these into a sandwich.  
I mean, we've shown some progress in the eating healthy department lately, but just a chickpea cake might just be crossing a serious line.  Just to be careful, I threw in some buns, made from this potato bread recipe (I made one regular loaf and then 10 rolls with 2-2.5 oz of dough/roll).  
I'm pretty sure I would eat anything on that potato bread.
And then, like any other time I'm uncomfortable, I threw in some avocado and tomato.
I know what you're thinking.  Why am I being a freak when I'm the one who picked the dang recipe.  Because I'm a weirdo too.  That's why Tyler loves me. ;)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Kale, Strawberry and Avocado Salad with Light Poppy Seed Dressing

 I really liked this salad.  Like, really liked it.  Tyler, on the other hand, wasn't as in love as I was. He has a block when it comes to fruit in a savory (at all) salad or dish.  The bacon and strawberries together totally threw him off.  And he didn't think strawberries belonged in a salad with lettuce.  I don't know, man.  I"m slowly breaking him down but we're just not to the strawberry/bacon/lettuce point yet.  He ate it though.  I took his strawberries and he seemed to be content with the remainder of the ingredients together.  I didn't complain.  This salad had a bit of everything to tantalize taste buds and it was pretty healthy.  I will make it again (because I loved it and every once in a while I make something I love and tell the rest of them to deal with it) and just leave the strawberries off his salad.  This was a perfect light evening meal but I wouldn't say no to it at lunch.  I can see us making many more salads like this for summer.  And I'm hoping to have avocados coming out of my ears because we have a lot of trees in our yard.  I'm getting excited!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

TWD: Madeleines

 I've never made madeleines before.  The only reason I've even heard of them before is because of FRIENDS.  Remember when Sandy made madeleines?  And Ross was mad because they were 'lighter than air'?  Yeah, that about sums up my knowledge on the subject.  I can't really comment on how successful I thought the recipe was and if they turned out how they are supposed to or not because I really don't know.   I wish Ross or Monica were here, they could tell you.  For a couple hours today, I thought there would be a reunion season of FRIENDS.  It was a blissful couple hours, but the dream has been crushed.

I will say that my kids ate all of these.  I had one and couldn't quite figure out what the fuss was all about.  I mean, where's the freaking chocolate?  Maybe I can't wrap my head around it because I'm not a coffee or tea drinker?  Maybe they go hand-in-hand.

I took the advice of a fellow baker and rather than greasing and flouring the pan, I brushed it with just butter.  That seemed to be a great tip.

For some reason, when I took them out of the oven, they all looked like they had tumors or something growing out of them.  Maybe they are supposed to look like that?  I really don't know.  The recipe just said to fill the molds with the batter, it didn't say how full.  I filled 'er up (I used my 1 oz cookie scoop and it seemed to be perfect).  Maybe I wasn't supposed to fill them all the way to the top though?
I'm not sure I would make this recipe again, but not because I don't think it's a good recipe.  I might just not like madeleines enough.  I guess I will have to try a couple other recipes to decide how I really feel about them.
 If you like madeleines, you should give this recipe a try.  You can buy the book or get it at our host blog for the week, Counter Dog

If you'd like to see how the other TWD bakers fared this week, you can go HERE to get their links.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

White Chicken Enchiladas (Lightened-up) with Corn and Avocado Salsa

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Table Talk: Creamy Chicken and Spinach Casserole

I am a messy cook.  I try not to be, but I just am.  Hopefully it's something I will be able to remedy over time, but for now, when I am done cooking, the kitchen looks like a bomb went off in there.  How hard is it to put things away while you go?!  My pea-sized brain just can't handle it.  What I like about recipes like this?   While the casserole is in the oven I have 20-30 minutes to clean up before anyone can see the evidence. :)  

The recipe starts with a creamy sauce made from parmesan, milk, onions and spices.  Add some chicken, spinach and whole wheat penne and then top it off with mozzarella cheese.  And then somehow call it healthy.  My kids loved this (they did pick out the spinach) and Tyler and I loved it too.  We divided it into 6 servings rather than 4.  The 540 calories per serving was a bit much for us; 350 was more doable.  
I also threw in some sun dried tomatoes because I had some,  and because I love them and I thought it sounded good.  I would do it again in a heartbeat.  The only other thing I changed about the recipe was that I seared my chicken and then cut it (remember my aversion to cutting raw meat).  And I would also do that again.
And you wanna know what else I'd do again?  Make this.  Our smaller servings were perfect with a salad (balsamic vinaigrette goes pretty well with this) and it was a crowd pleaser.  There wasn't so much cheese that it was unpalatable, but it was cheesy enough that it didn't feel 'healthy'.

*One side note, the sauce doesn't really specify how much salt/pepper to add, it just says 'to taste'.  I added 1/2-3/4 tsp salt and I could have even added a bit more.

If you'd like the recipe, you can get it at Jen O's blog.  She was our hostess for the week and chose this fabulous recipe.

Want to know more about Table Talk?  Click HERE.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs

Growing up, I thought the yolks of hard-boiled eggs were supposed to be green.  At least a little around the edges.  I am not sure when I realized that green yolks meant they were over-cooked but once I realized that, I wanted to figure out how to make the perfect hard-boiled eggs.  Why?  Because I'm a weirdo and these are the kind of things I spend my time worrying about.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Carrot Cake with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

This cake is haunting me.  I didn't know what to do about this post.  Do I update the cupcake post?  Do I have a new post exclusively dedicated to the cake?  After much pondering, I decided there was enough new information for a new post.  The cake is the same recipe as the cupcakes, but since instructions are different and the frosting is different, I thought it would be easier to just do it this way.  And also, this cake is so freaking good, I might just start posting about it daily.  Two posts might not be enough.  In the next few posts, I will talk about how good this cake is, even days after it's made.  I love desserts like that!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

TWD: Rustic Potato Loaves

I try not to get braggy about food.  Just because I like something, doesn't mean everyone will.  Just because I think something is 'the best...' or delicious, doesn't mean you will.  Because of that, I normally try to reel in my sentiments.  I don't want to over-sell anything.  But seriously, this bread was bomb.  Yeah, it made me feel cool enough to start talking like a 15 year old boy.  And since we are already there, I will just tell you that it was also epic.  Seriously.

When I took it out of the oven, I wasn't all that impressed.  When bread doesn't go how I want, and comes out looking wonky, I label it 'rustic.'  While this was supposed to be rustic, I wasn't in love with the look of it.  Have you ever seen someone and you don't think they're much to look at, but then you get to know them and it turns out, they're flippin' beautiful?  Or vice-versa:  They're beautiful until you get to know them and then they quickly lose all appeal?  Well, this bread was the former.  I wasn't so impressed with the rustic look of it, but then I got to know it a little better and I can't figure out why I didn't love it from the get-go.  I've made potato bread before, but never found a recipe that I wanted to commit to, until now.  Mark my words, this bread and I are going to have a long lasting relationship.  I am hopelessly in love with it.  

I loath peeling potatoes but I was expecting to have to peel them for this bread.  Um, nope.  And I almost chickened out and peeled them anyway because I thought it was going to be super weird having potato peels in the bread.  It wasn't super weird.  Everything about this bread was super awesome. (to be read: ..super awesome period!)  

I had to use a couple red potatoes because I didn't quite have enough russet.  I didn't have enough all purpose flour.  I subbed 2 cups of bread flour for the all-purpose so I left out 1/4 cup (I think I read/heard that bread flour soaks up more liquid than all purpose so I didn't want it to be too dry.)  to make 4 1/2 cups of flour all together.  The substitutions worked seamlessly.  So not only is this bread delicious  it's also forgiving!  

It did give me a little bit of anxiety when I was mixing the dough but the book warned me it would look crumbly.  I seriously wanted to add about 1/4 cup of water right here....
'Have faith and keep beating.'  And so I did.  And it paid off.  The dough did come together how it was supposed to.  Phew!
I didn't use my baking stone because it wasn't big enough for both loaves at the same time.  I lined a baking sheet with parchment, brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with cornmeal.
I was a little worried about transferring the dough, but it wasn't so bad.  The biggest hiccup was that one of the loaves was a bit crooked and it stayed that way.  (below)  Don't you think it's rustic and beautiful?  Well, maybe taste it and get back to me.
If you don't love the outside, try not to love the inside.  I dare you.
We had chicken salad sandwiches with the bread.  I wasn't sure how to cut it because just slicing it would have made for weird shaped sandwiches so I cut the bread down the middle and acted like it was 4 loaves of bread.
I can imagine this bread would be great with anything on it or nothing at all.  You really can't go wrong.

If you'd like the recipe, you can buy the book or visit the blog of our host for the week:  Simply Sweet.  Dawn also has some great step-by-step photos and a loaded baked potato version that I am sure is down-right delicious!

If you'd like to see how the other TWD bakers did you can go HERE.

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