Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day

It's Leap Day, something that only comes around once every four years. It seems like there is a lot of trivia online today about leap years, like this little bit  i found on the news blog of my favourite local radio station. I decided today I wanted to finally post some of the things that I have made in the last little while but not had time to post. I don't really have the recipes, and I can't remember where I got them. I just went through my Blog folders and found one in each of the last three months that were not dated and grabbed the pictures. 

First up, from December: Homemade Vanilla Extract: 

This turned out really well. It was not a cheap venture, either. I figured it out to about the same price of store bought, at least around here. You basically put one split vanilla bean in with 2/3 cup of vodka, put it in a cool dark place for 3 months, shaking daily. I used four beans, and it made three of these bottles (i cut each bean in half before bottling it). I sent one to Newfoundland to my cousin, one I gave to my secret Santa at Christmas, and I kept the third to use myself. I plan on making more for gifts this year, so this reminded me i best get my butt in gear, as the first one I want to give away is for a June birthday. 

Next in line, from early February: Pancake Shapes: 

I got these little bottles for decorating cookies, and i had seen online that some people use them for making pancake designs as well. Using a store bought mix, i decided to try it one morning.

The first one i tried was a heart, super easy. But while i was refilling the bottle, I forgot about it for a minute.


Second, i decided to try a smiley face. I drew it out and then covered it with more batter. It turned out for the most part, but a bit difficult to make out.

Number three was just swirls, it turned out great! And cooked to perfection.

I decided to try another heart, this time it turned out much better. You can see where i drew the outline first and then went back to do the inside. I don't think this is an everyday thing, but it would be a neat breakfast surprise if you have children. 

Finally, from Valentine's Day, my Cookie Conversation Hearts:

I used two recipes for this, because I made half of them Chocolate and the other half White Sugar cookies. I had bought a set of heart cutters that decreased in size, this was the smallest. Because i have 30-some teammates, i cut out  about 75 of each type. I used a bag to decorate the white ones and a squeeze bottle for the chocolate ones.

I got a set of edible markers at Wal-Mart for five dollars, and Googled sayings to write on them. Finally, I bagged them up, 5 per bag with 5 real conversation hearts, and delivered them to my teammates. The Kiss is there for size comparison.  I had some pink ones because i had leftover icing from another project the day before. 

This is the finished product, everyone was quite impressed. This bag was made special for my little man K, i took one to him as a Valentine, to. His has no red marker or icing in it, because he can't have red dye. It makes him go psycho! 

So, there we go, all caught up. For now anyway :-) Hope everyone is having a great leap day! It is Wednesday, so all I am doing is heading to work soon. 

Have a good week, everyone!

Monday, February 27, 2012

King Cake

Yeah, I know, it is a week late...but in my defence I made this for a Friday Mardi Gras themed potluck. We celebrated three days late at work, and I am posting two days later, because it was a crazy weekend! When they announced a Mardi Gras potluck, i went searching for a recipe. I've wanted to make King Cake for a long time, but never had a reason, and a whole cake is a bit much for one person. I found this recipe on Cooks dot com.

Mardi Gras King Cake.

1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup  sugar
1+1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup shortening
1/3 cup warm water (110-115 degrees)
2 pkg dry yeast
3 eggs
1 tsp grated lemon rind
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
4+1/2 - 5 cup bread flour, sifted
1 1" baby doll, bean or nut (optional)

Combine milk, sugar and salt and shortening, heat to just boiling (scald), cool to lukewarm. In small bowl, combine yeast with warm water. Pour 2 cups flour into mixer bowl, add milk mixture, eggs, lemon rind, spices,  and yeast mixture. Mixed until combined. Add remaining flour 1 cup at a time until all incorporated. Knead five minutes or until smooth and elastic. 
Put dough into greased bowl and let raise 90 minutes to 2 hours, or until doubled in size. Punch down and knead five minutes; divide into thirds. Roll each into a strip 28 to 30 inches long. Braid the strips and shape into an oval. If using, push the doll into the roll from the bottom, making sure it is completely covered. Let the dough raise another hour until doubled. 
Bake at 375 F for 20 minutes, until browned. Cool completely before glazing and decorating with green, gold and purple sugars. 

It came with a recipe for a lemon glaze, basically lemon juice, icing sugar and water. I made that and coloured it instead if using the sugars and it looked horrible; you can actually see the coloured glaze under the icing. So, when I went for groceries that morning, I grabbed a container of icing and some sprinkles and used them instead. I wanted to same myself a trip and some money, so i was originally just planning on using the coloured glaze. 

The only change I made was adding the cinnamon and omitting the lemon. I did not have one and was unable to get out to get one. There was no cinnamon in this recipe, only nutmeg; which is strange because every recipe I came across had it in it and every description of King Cake said it was basically a large cinnamon I added a half teaspoon, it was just enough. 

I originally had it on this pan, but then changed my mind and moved it to a round pizza pan. I'm glad i did, i think it would have risen over the sides of this one and would have given it an odd shape. The hardest part was making the ropes for braiding, they kept springing back. I just fought with it and stretched it as i braided. 

As for taste, it really reminded me of the Hot Cross Buns that I made last year for Easter. The only difference was this dried out much faster. There was a bit left over so i brought it home for my guinea pig, since he loves all things cinnamon. By the next day it was so dried out he could barely eat more than a bite. I had one slice then tossed the remaining two. It was absolutely delicious fresh, though. 

So, onward to Easter; my next big thing is a baby shower, but i am not planning any new recipes. It is going to be a simple affair. After that is K's birthday, for that I am just a guest. And then Easter, I am planning a surprise for my co-workers for then. 

Happy Monday, everyone; hope you all have a good week!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Oatmeal Pancakes

Happy Pancake Day, also know as Shrove Tuesday, the last day before Lent, or more commonly known as Mardi Gras! This year once again I decided to try a new recipe. I did a Google search yesterday afternoon and came up with this one from a website called The Pancake Recipe. Can't get much more straightforward than that! I served them with the Strawberry Maple Syrup that I made last night. Yummy!

Oatmeal Pancakes.

3/4 cup oats (quick cooking or normal)
3/4 cup oat flour (put 3/4 cup oatmeal through the food processor)
2 tsp baking powder.
1/2 tsp baking soda.
1/4 tsp each cinnamon and nutmeg.
1+1/2 cup milk.

In medium bowl, combine oats, oat flour, powder, soda and spices. Add milk and stir to combine, batter will be lumpy. Using a ladle, pour a bit of batter onto a hot buttered pan. Cook about 90 seconds, or until browned, and then flip, cooking second side until golden brown. Serve with syrup,butter or favourite toppings.

My mini food processor does not work very well, as you can see by this picture. This was after it was in there for about 60 seconds.

Because it didn't quite get the flour consistency, I also added about 2 Tbsp of all purpose, just in case. I also only used 1 cup of milk. The original recipe called for soy milk, i have never used it (and can't afford it), so i don't know if it might have made it thicker or not, but it definitely did not need the extra half cup.

I have to admit, I was a little worried they would not bind and that I would be left with a huge mess on my hands when I tried to flip them, but thankfully they came out quite nicely.

The recipe stated it made six, and that is exactly what i got. Three for breakfast, with a fruit cup and yogourt, and maybe three for lunch. I might save them for tomorrow morning because I'm kinda feeling like hot dogs now.

So, a healthy breakfast, and it was quick to! The strawberry syrup is extremely sweet, I might just add another cup of water to it and boil it down some more. I will let my guinea pig decide when he gets home tonight.

Happy Pancake Day everyone, Good Luck if you are giving anything up for Lent! The Easter season is upon us, which's almost Spring! My Mom saw a Robin over the weekend, which is usually the first sign of Spring around here. It has been a fairly mild Winter with little snow, so I am not surprised they are back early.

Have a good week!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Strawberry Maple Syrup

It's Pancake Day! OK, it's half an hour until pancake day...minor technicality. But, I work evenings now, so I will not be able to have pancakes for dinner tomorrow :-( I can, however, have them for breakfast! So, to save time, I made the syrup tonight, and as soon as I am done typing about it, I will get all the ingredients together for the pancakes in the morning. I get grumpy if breakfast takes to long.

This afternoon, because of President's Day in the US and Family Day in most of Canada, it was quiet at work. So, i used my time somewhat wisely, and googled pancake recipes!  I found this syrup on a website called Breakfast and Brunch Recipes. I didn't know if I wanted the strawberry or Pineapple, but after copying them both out into my notebook, i decided on the Strawberry. I had a bunch in the freezer from last summer that needed to be used up.

Strawberry Maple Syrup

16 oz frozen unsweetened strawberries, thawed.
1 cup sugar.
1/4 cup real maple syrup.
1 tsp vanilla extract.

Thaw berries. Mash and strain to separate juice, microwaving to get a bit more if necessary. Measure out one cup of juice (add a bit of water if necessary). In medium saucepan, combine sugar and juice. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture boils and thickens slightly. Remove from heat and add syrup, vanilla and berries. Stir to combine. Let cool 15 minutes before using to top ice cream, waffles or pancakes.

Not the best picture, but it is late, and I am tired :-) This came together very easily, aside from the straining the berries. All i have for a strainer is a bitty one, it holds about 4 Tbsp of berries at a time, so it went slow. I only got about 3/4 cup, the recipe said to add 1 to 2 Tbsp of water if necessary but i ended up adding a quarter cup.

I was a bit concerned about the fuzz, for lack of a better word, on the top. Usually when my Mom makes jam, she skims it off, so I tried my best to do that as well.

Delicious, somewhat nutritious and i can't wait to dig in. Now, time to get my ingredients together for pancakes and off to bed!

Have a good night, everyone!!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Valentine 'Switch' Cookies.

Another foray through Pintrest led me to a blog called Food on Paper and these lovely cookies. I made them as a last minute addition to the bake sale at work last week, and later I was told they sold all but one of my cookies , I was really pleased!

 Valentine 'Switch' Cookies. 

125g unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1+2/3 cups flour
1 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
Few drops red food colouring
Strawberry essence (optional)

In large bowl, beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add egg and vanilla. In another small bowl, combine flour and cornstarch. Slowly add flour mixture to egg mixture, stirring well to combine. Divide mixture into three. Add cocoa to one, and red food colour and strawberry essence to another. Wrap and refrigerate minimum 20 minutes. Roll out cookies, cut out centres and switch them. Bake at 350 F for 10-12 minutes.

I made the dough Wednesday night and rolled it out Thursday morning. My only regret is that it was to cold, i had to knead the balls in order to make them roll well. The recipe stated to dust them with icing sugar, but i skipped that since they were being transported and sold.

I couldn't find strawberry essence, so i just skipped it. The recipe stated a yield of 24, but i only got 18. I made six of each colour and then just switched three of each centre.

I had hoped the red would have stayed a smidgen darker, but they still look great. They were easy, but i had a lot of compliments on the complexity of them!

We got a massive storm yesterday, about 8 inches, and it drifted very high onto my door. I am just taking a break from shovelling, so out I go again!

Hope everyone is having a great pre-Valentine's weekend! I got my gift yesterday, and it is great!! Pictures later! :-)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Chocolate Rolled Cookies

Hello, I'm seems the last few months I have only been posting every week or so. It's been a bit hectic lately, with planning a baby shower, baking for fundraisers and just plain life! But here is a new recipe to share. Once again, it was found on Pintrest, and this time the pin led me to Glorious Treats. She had a link for the ideas to decorate them, i followed it to Karen's Cookies, and then stuck her link on one of my Pin Boards for future reference.

Chocolate Rolled Cookies.

1 cup butter.
2/3 cup sugar.
1/2 cup brown sugar.
1 egg.
2 Tbsp chocolate liqueur or extra strong coffee .
1 tsp vanilla.
1/2 cup cocoa powder.
3 cups flour.
1/2 tsp baking soda.
1/4 tsp salt.

In mixer, cream together butter and sugars. Add egg, liqueur or coffee, and vanilla. Mix well. In another bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, soda and salt. Gradually add to wet mixture, mixing until well combined. Divide the dough into two or three balls, wrap and refrigerate minimum one hour. Roll and cut cookies as desired, bake at 350 F for 7 to 10 minutes. Cool completely before decorating.

For the coffee, I used a about 1/4 tsp of Nescafe instant coffee (dissolved in 2 Tbsp of water). I don't drink coffee myself, but my Dad keeps a small bottle at my apartment for when he and my Mom come around. I could taste the coffee in the dough, but not the cookies. I made two batches of these, and a batch of regular sugar cookies and decorated them all for a bake sale at work tomorrow. I decorated them all yesterday before work, so when I came home I was greeted by this:

Cookies everywhere! The very tiny ones are for my co-workers, I am going to use food markers to write sayings on them, like those little conversation hearts you get this time of year.

The only complaint I had about the dough was that it was quite dry. I made two batches, the first I omitted about 1/4 cup flour, the second I left out over 1/2 cup. Otherwise, it came together great, and rolled out nicely.

This is one of two Valentine's recipes I made for the bake sale. Hopefully I'll have time to post the second tomorrow. Hope everyone has had a great week so far, we are on the downhill stretch to the weekend!