RECIPE: Lady Finger Cranberry-Berry Breakfast Bake

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So we had a bit of a marital spat last week. I was asked to make my famous tira mi su, and I needed lady fingers. Now I have been making this dish for over 20 years, and I assumed my hubby knew which lady fingers I liked for my dish. I need the spongy kind, that almost feel like angel food cake.

Well, hubby came home with these.


I know Balocco claims these are for tira mi su. They are not for MY tira mi su. 
These are a little tougher and crispy. And he bought two bags of them. TWO.

So now what do I do with all these? I am on a mission to figure out what to do with them, because their website doesn't have many ideas and I have two giant bags to use up. One of the ideas I had was making a breakfasty bread pudding. I was saving some orange scented cranberries left over from Thanksgiving, so I thought I could use that as well.

You don't need to soak this overnight, just for about 10 minutes. I also used my convection bake setting to cook it up evenly. I only used half a bag for this, so I have a long way to go. Stay tuned for more ideas! The good news is that these last a while in the pantry-THANK GOODNESS!

Lady Finger Cranberry-Berry Breakfast Bake

Ingredients:
7 oz. Balocco lady fingers
4 eggs
2 cups milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
dash of salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup dried blueberries
1/2 cup hot water
1/2-3/4 cup reserved cranberry compote (left overs from the holidays?) or berry jelly
Non stick cooking spray

Directions:



Preheat oven to 375˚. Spray an 8" x 8" baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Lay down an even layer of lady fingers, breaking some in half to make them fit in a corner or two.


Next, in a large bowl whisk the eggs with the sugar until thick. Add the vanilla and salt and whisk until mixed. Finally add the milk and whisk until combined. 



In a small bowl, add the hot water to the dried blueberries, and cover with a bowl for 10-15 minutes. Drain and squeeze the berries so some of the liquid drains out. 



 Spread half the cranberry compote on top of the lady fingers, and sprinkle half the blueberries. Layer a second tier of ladyfingers on top, and spread the rest of the cranberries and sprinkle the rest of blueberries.



Gently pour the egg mixture on top. Let sit for 10 minutes so the lady fingers soften and absorb the egg mixture. I gently pressed the top layer into the egg mixture once while sitting.



Bake for about 45 minutes on the center rack, or until things look golden and puffy. Let sit for 5 minutes at room temp. Serve warm with a drizzle of maple syrup or sweetened mascarpone cream.




VIDEO HOW TO: Make a Book/Library Themed Christmas Tree with DIY Upcycled book Ornaments

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So I have a problem. I love the holidays. And that's not such a big problem unless you just keep wanting to decorate and craft things so that each room in your home will eventually be decorated with holiday cheer. But where to store all this stuff in an urban-size house?

Yup. Exactly. 

And my husband is ready to just start tossing stuff out. He gets pretty cranky helping me bring all the holiday bins down from the attic, of which there seems to be more and more of.

But I always wanted a little tree in the library, decorated with little book ornaments. The little book lined room just screams for one. Well, whispers. But still. 

And this is why when I took on this small reading themed holiday tree project, I kept it TOP SECRET. I kept the tree in my trunk hidden for a month! And I quietly crafted away in my craft room, video taping my how-to videos on making my charming mini book ornaments and book tassel ornaments. And when I quickly put it all together on the tree when hubby went to the store, it all just magically was there in all it's loveliness when he got back. 

How could he complain? I mean, look at it!?

So I have put here the two video episodes of making the ornaments for a library themed tree. You will need an old book which you will cut the pages from, so make sure it's something that you won't feel guilty about cutting up. You will need glue or Mod Podge, card stock, ribbon, thread or string, buttons, and paint. The techniques are simple and the mini books use some basic book binding techniques. 




I love my tree. It is so cozy in there and even my angsty tween daughter did her reading homework in there with some hot cocoa.

More crafts to come, so stay tuned. (Like I said, I have issues. Is there a group for Christmas hoarders/crafters anonymous?)

Episode 1: Mini Book Ornaments



Episode 2: Book Page Tassel Ornaments and Book Paper Chains

RECIPE: Post Thanksgiving Turkey, Brown and Wild Rice Casserole

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I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving!
SO now you have a giant turkey carcass to deal with. And you are tired of turkey sandwiches, aren't you?

This baby uses up a ton of turkey meat in a delicious and easy one dish casserole. This was a big hit with the family. I made this while cooking the carcass in a large stock pot with water and vegetables to make a base for a turkey soup. Not bad, eh?
Waste not want not!

This casserole was perfect to throw together while decorating for the holidays. You can prep the green beans and the rice and just chill it until you are ready to put this all together and throw it in the oven. The holidays are busy, and you need some easy dinner solutions this time of year. Keep this one close at hand. I think you can sub in left over chicken and it would be just as delicious.

On to the holiday crazy!

Post Thanksgiving Turkey, Brown and Wild Rice Casserole

Ingredients:
1 8 oz. pre sliced package of button mushrooms
2-3 cups trimmed green beans, cut into 1" pieces
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp. dried parsley
2 Tbsp. butter
salt and fresh ground pepper
2-3 cups shredded or cut up left over turkey meat
6 oz. sour cream
1 can condensed golden mushroom soup
1 cup brown and wild rice blend cooked in 2 1/2 cups chicken stock until tender
1/4 cup bread crumbs
2-3 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:


Blanche the green beans in hot water until just tender about 5-8 minutes. Set aside. In a large pan, melt butter over medium heat. Saute garlic until just tender, then add the mushrooms. Add the dried parsley and saute until the mushrooms begin to release their juices.


Toss the green beans into the mushrooms, and mix until everything is heated through and the green beans cooked a little bit in the garlic. In a large bowl, mix the turkey with the cooked brown rice mixture. Once the green beans and mushrooms are ready, add a touch of salt and a couple of grinds of pepper. Toss into the turkey mixture and mix well.

In a small bowl, mix the soup with the sour cream. Add it to the turkey and vegetable mixture. Combine it well. Preheat oven to 350˚.




 Spray a 13 x 9 pan with non stick cooking spray. Pour the casserole mixture evenly into the pan. Sprinkle the top with bread crumbs and grated Parmesan cheese. Bake for about 40-45 minutes, until puffy and golden brown on top. Let sit for a few minutes before serving hot.


RECIPE: "What do I do with these egg whites?" Cake

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I've been doing a lot of baking for the holidays, as I am sure you are too! Last weekend, I ended up with 5 egg whites left over from my flurry of cookie dough prep. People have told me that egg whites are freezable. I have never tried it. I usually like to make something with them quickly, but I am not a huge fan of angel food cake, meringues, or egg white omelets. I hate throwing away food, so I resolved to come up with a go-to cake recipe for egg whites. I did some digging. I found a basic sugar cake recipe floating around the web. I adapted it to suit my approach to baking, my amount of egg whites and my tastes. I tried using my snow flake cake mold for this cake. But I am going to warn you-even with it being non stick, using a non stick spray and a healthy sprinkling of flour, it still stuck. I recommend using a simple pan and lining it with parchment. The egg whites and sugar make it a touch sticky.

You can use butter instead of shortening, but my guess is it will feel denser and richer-and add calories. But hey-it's the holidays. Calories, what?!?

"What do I do with these egg whites?" Cake

Ingredients

4-5 egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable shortening, room temperature
1 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. almond extract
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups plus 2 Tbsp. flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
confectioners sugar for sprinkling on top


Directions


Preheat oven to 350˚. Spray a 9 x 13 pan or a bundt pan, or a 10" pan  with 2" sides with non stick cooking spray. Lay parchment paper on the bottom and spray again. Cream the sugar with the shortening. Add the milk, and whip. The shortening will separate and look like curdled milk. Mix in the almond and vanilla extracts and salt until well combined.


Mix the flour with the baking powder. in a small bowl. Turn the mixer on low, and gently beat in the dry ingredients into the wet. Next, mix in the egg whites, and whip until just combined.


Pour the batter into the pan. Bake on the middle rack for about 40 minutes, or until cake is puffy and golden and toothpick comes out clean. Once cooked through, let pan cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Invert the cake out of the pan onto a rack to cool completely. Once cooled, sprinkle the top with confectioners sugar. Serve with tea or coffee. It could also go really well with some fresh vanilla whipped cream.

RECIPE: Slow Roasted Herb Crusted Chicken and Potatoes

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What is the best thing on a chilly weekend for dinner? Anything slow roasted in the oven, making your whole house smell delicious and keeping you free to do other housework (ahemm, or watch old movies). So yesterday I wanted to slow roast a chicken, and I wanted an herb rub that was a little different than my typical lemon and garlic go-to. So I went to Pinterest for inspiration and found a great recipe posted by blog that I really enjoyed, and will continue to visit, called The Bitten Word. Their purpose is to cook religiously from all their food magazines they get, complete with notes and commentary. They posted a chicken recipe originally authored by Bon Appetit. I found the herb rub of red pepper flakes, fennel seeds and marjoram very intriguing. Marjoram is the milder, sweeter cousin of oregano, and isn't used very often. Fennel has an anise flavor that's usually found in Asian dishes. 

But I changed a few things. I used a pyrex pan, because I liked the higher pan sides to gather more juice for a gravy and so I wouldn't lose any potatoes overboard. I added garlic, and I doubled the herb rub and rubbed the potatoes, too. I also brined the chicken, and I baked the chicken on a slightly higher temperature and on convection roast. This sped up cooking slightly, so depending on your oven, you need to keep a close eye on the chicken the last hour, and you may need to cook it at my higher temp or the lower 300˚.

This baby takes 2 1/2-3 hour, depending. First hour, I roasted the chicken breast side up. Then I flipped it in hour 2, then flipped it back up the final hour. This is a trick I do for my chickens and turkeys. It keeps the breast meat very moist. Baste throughout, and reserve the juice. All that yummy makes a delicious gravy.

Sunday dinner is calling my friends. Get your roast on!

Slow Roasted Herb Crusted Chicken and Potatoes

Ingredients

1 3 1/2-4 lbs. whole chicken
water, 1/2 cup kosher salt and 1/2 cup sugar (for the brine)

2-3 lbs. Yukon gold or small red potatoes
1 head of garlic, cut in half and some of the outer skin peeled off
1 lemon, quartered
Rub
4 tsp. fennel seeds
2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 tsp. granulated garlic
4 Tbsp. fresh marjoram leaves, chopped, plus 4-6 sprigs
4 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves, chopped, plus 4-6 sprigs
2 Tbsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. fresh ground pepper
6 Tbsp. olive oil, plus 2 for drizzling the bottom of the pan

Gravy
1 Tbsp. corn starch
1 cup chicken broth
reserved dripping and juice from the pan, fat separated

Directions:


 Take the organ meat packet out of the cavity of the chicken and discard. Rinse the chicken. In a large bowl, dissolve the salt and sugar in the cold water. Place the chicken in the bowl and let brine for an hour.

Meanwhile, in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, grind together the garlic, red pepper flakes and fennel seeds. Mix with the chopped marjoram and thyme, salt and pepper. Mix with the 6 tablespoons of olive oil until a paste is formed.


Rinse the potatoes. Halve or quarter the potatoes, depending on the size, then slice down along the top to the center of the potato, 3-4 cuts on each. This allows olive oil and flavor to soak into the flesh of the potatoes.



Divide the herb paste in half, and take one half and rub the spices all over the potatoes. Let them sit in the herbs while you prep the chicken. Preheat the oven on convection bake for 300-325˚. Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of oil along the bottom of a large pyrex pan. Drain the chicken from the brining solution after 1 hour of brining. Rinse the chicken inside and out, then pat dry with a paper towel. With the rest of the herb mix, rub the chicken inside the cavity, under the skin and outside the skin, top and bottom. Place on the pyrex pan. Stuff the cavity with the garlic, lemon, thyme and marjoram sprigs. Cinch the cavity closed with trussing needles of toothpicks. I did not truss the legs. I preferred to let the chicken sit flatter in the pan for even cooking. Nestle the potatoes around the chicken in the pan. Rub any left over herb paste on the potatoes and chicken. Roast in the center of the oven.



After the first hour, flip the bird, breast side down. Roast for another hour. Then the last hour, flip the bird right side up. Baste often with pan juices and keep basting and turning the potatoes. Roast until the thickest part of the breast/thigh area reads 165-170˚ on a meat thermometer. Let rest 10 minutes on  cutting board before carving. The chicken should take 2 1/2-3 hours.

While the chicken is resting, pull the potatoes out and cover loosely to keep warm. Drain the pan juices and separate the fat and discard. Heat the juices in a saucepan to a simmer. Meanwhile, heat the chicken broth and add it to the saucepan, reserving a couple tablespoons of broth in a small ramekin. In that ramekin, mix in the corn starch until smooth and dissolved. Simmer the liquid in the saucepan for 10 minutes, reducing it slightly. Then add the corn starch mixture, and simmer until it's thickened.

Serve the gravy with the carved chicken and potatoes.




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