Monday, June 29, 2009

Orange Blossoms

Aren't these just the cutest little cakes you've ever seen? They're Orange Blossoms, selected for this week's installment of the group My Girl, Paula!

These are really delicious and quite addictive. They're so little, you really need some willpower or you'll never stop popping them right in your mouth. They come together really quickly and easily. The only problem I had was dipping them into the glaze without them falling apart. I eventually found my rhythm and got it down pat.

Give these a try, everyone will love them!

Orange Blossoms
(from Paula Deen)

For cakes:
1 package yellow cake mix
3.4 oz. package instant lemon pudding mix
4 large eggs
3/4 cup cold water
3/4 cup vegetable oil
For glaze:
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
3 Tbsp. melted butter
3 Tbsp. water

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease one or two minature muffin pans. For the cakes, in a mixing bowl combine cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, water, and oil, and beat well. Fill the prepared muffin pans, using about 1 tablespoon of batter for each cake. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the cakes spring back when touched.

2. For the glaze, mix the confectioners' sugar, orange juice, butter, and water until smooth; set aside.

3. Dip the blossoms in the glaze immediately after removing them from the oven. Drain on waxed paper.

Makes about 4 dozen cakes.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Grilled Sausage and Vegetable Packets

My husband is usually in charge of the grill at our house, but I'm proud to say I made this without his help. It's really easy - even for those who are a little grill challenged like myself. I guess challenged might not be the right word... I think inexperienced might be more fitting. My hubby just takes the reigns on the grill, so I never end up having to use it much.

Thankfully these Grilled Sausage and Vegetable Packets are quick and easy and perfect for summer. They're full of fresh vegetables that are super moist and tasty. And it's as simple as chopping everything up, tossing it in a delicious sauce, throwing it on some aluminum foil, and wrapping the foil up tight. It cooks on the grill for about 25 minutes and you've got dinner - it's so easy! Serve it with rice or couscous, or whatever you'd like. You can also leave out the sausage and serve the veggies as a side dish. Or, substitute the sausage for chicken or another meat. Lots of possibilities!

Grilled Sausage and Vegetable Packets
(adapted from Taste of Home)

1/2 pound sausage, any flavor (I used a chicken sausage)
3 medium zucchini, sliced
3 medium tomatoes, sliced
1 medium bell pepper, julienned
1/4 cup melted butter
1 envelope onion soup mix
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

1. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Divide between two pieces of double-layered aluminum foil (you'll need about 12 to 14 inches). Fold foil around sausage mixture and seal tightly to prevent leaking.

2. Grill, covered, over medium heat for 25-30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Makes 4 servings.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Butter Dips

Well, my husband has decided he's going on a diet and getting back in shape. Typically I'd be dieting with him, but that's pretty much out of the question with my little turkey in the oven. He requested a nice healthy salad for dinner the other night and of course I delivered with pleasure, because I do enjoy a fresh salad. But, what to make with it? Well I knew just what I wanted - butter dips.

This is a seriously delicious and unique bread recipe. Not at ALL healthy, but I didn't tell my hubby that! Hey, the pregnant girl needs to indulge just a little.

These are really quite easy to mix up and get on the table. They're called butter dips because they're little squares that are literally dipped in butter. The butter is melted in your 8x8 pan, and then you drop in the squares of dough, turning them over to coat them really well with the butter. It all gets sucked right in while baking and makes it so moist and flavorful.

I'm including the original recipe below, but just a few things to note as you're baking: the recipe states to bake for 25 to 30 minutes, however I've found that when I let them go a full 25 minutes they're just a tad bit overdone. Start checking them a few minutes early - around minute 22 just to make sure they're not getting too brown. Sometimes I can't fit all of the squares into the pan if I've rolled them too thin. Don't be afraid to squish them all in together - they're still really easy to break apart after baking. They're really great when served with soups and salads.

Butter Dips
(from Chow Times)

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
3 green onions, finely chopped
1 cup 2% milk
1/2 cup butter

1. Sift dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Stir in cheese and green onions. Add milk and stir slowly with a fork until dough clings together.

2. Turn the dough onto a floured board, coat the dough with flour and knead lightly about 10 times. Roll the dough out to about 1/2 inch thick. Cut into 1-inch squares.

3. Melt butter in a 450°F degree oven in a 8×8 square baking pan. Coat all the sides of the squares in the melted butter. Bake in same pan for 25 to 30 minutes. After baking, flip the little buns over in the pan to coat the top with any remaining butter. Pull apart and serve with soup, chili, salad or a casserole dish.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Potato-Egg Salad

There are a few foods that really signal the beginning of summer to me. Things like corn on the cob, burgers on the grill, fresh strawberries, lemonade, and really good potato salad. I've been making this potato salad for about 3 years and since I tried it, I haven't made another version since. I think I've made it four times in the last month. My husband just keeps begging me for more potato salad, so I have to come up with dinners that would be appropriate to have it with.

This potato salad is originally a Paula Deen recipe. Does anyone else think I've gone Paula Deen crazy this month? Okay, then it's not just me. And I don't really have a good explanation other than I must need new cookbooks!

It's really good potato salad, trust me! Perfect for summer bar-b-que's, potlucks, or even just casual dinners.

Potato-Egg Salad
(adapted from Paula Deen)

3 cups diced red potatoes
1/3 cup Italian dressing
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup celery, diced
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 tsp. horseradish
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives

1. Boil potatoes with skins on for 15 to 20 minutes, or until tender. Drain.

2. Pour Italian dressing over warm potatoes. Chill for about 2 hours.

3. Mix remaining ingredients and fold into potato mixture. Garnish with chopped chives. Chill until ready to serve.

Makes 6-8 servings

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

TWD: Honey-Peach Ice Cream

The selection this week for the Tuesdays with Dorie group was Honey-Peach Ice cream. Tommi at Brown Interior chose the ice cream for us this week, and it was the perfect summer selection.

The ice cream was really quite easy to make, though I do admit that I had a LOT of dirty dishes in my sink after I finished this. Between the pots, the food processor, the cutting board, and the ice cream maker, there was a lot of dish-washing to be done as a result. But thankfully the great taste made up for the work. I thought the ice cream was refreshing and very good. I'm usually the type who goes for chocolate in my ice cream, but I was surprisingly pleased at how great the honey and peaches tasted in this. Between this ice cream and the blueberry sour cream ice cream, Dorie sure knows how to throw together some good ice cream!

If you're interested in baking along with us, please join! The group is accepting new members. Check out the Tuesdays with Dorie site for details.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Strawberry Cream Shortcake

This is my second week cooking with the group My Girl, Paula. We made the perfect summer treat - a creamy variation of strawberry shortcake. I really love strawberries and just about anything made with strawberries, so I was more than happy to try this recipe.

The shortcake was a cinch to put together - thanks to the storebought pound cake. And the rest was a breeze. It was really quite tasty too! I think it could have used a few more strawberries, though. Next time I'll pile them on, because they kind of got lost in all of the cream and cake layers. But otherwise it was fantastic!

Strawberry Cream Shortcake
(from Paula Deen)

1 large Sara Lee poundcake
1 (5 1/8 ounce) package vanilla instant pudding mix
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (12 ounce) container Cool Whip
2 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced

1. Slice the cake very thin and lay half the slices in a 13 x 9-inch glass baking dish.

2. In a bowl, combine the pudding mix, water, milk, and vanilla with an electric mixer. Fold in Cool Whip. Pour half of this over the cake and lay half of the strawberries on top.

3. Repeat to make second layer. Refrigerate until well chilled.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

TWD: Parisian Apple Tartlet

For this week's Tuesdays with Dorie, the group is baking the Parisian Apple Tartlet, selected by Jessica of My Baking Heart.

When I heard we were making a Parisian Apple Tartlet, I thought about skipping this week. I kind of assumed the tartlet would involve making some sort of tart dough and an apple-pie type filling and I just didn't feel like exerting a whole lot of effort. Then I opened the cookbook and saw the picture and thought, this looks cool. Then my eyes landed on the recipe. Am I reading this right? FOUR ingredients and very few steps? Huh? You better believe I wasn't going to sit this one out!

So in a matter of fifteen minutes, I had my two little tartlets assembled. Many of the group were trying out pears and peaches and other fruits, but I decided to stick with the apple. And here's what it looked like before I popped it in the oven.

They smelled so great and I was still in shock over how little I had just done for these cute little tartlets. They lost some of their color and weren't all that impressive fresh out of the oven, but a drizzle of caramel syrup and some ice cream on top did the trick! They were delicious and I'll definitely make these again.

For the recipe, go check out My Baking Heart.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Paula's Cheddar Broccoli Casserole

So... everyone knows I'm pregnant, right? Well, I happened to notice a new cooking group that was just assembled. This one is going to be cooking exclusively from Paula Deen's cookbook, The Lady and Sons, Too. I just so happen to own that cookbook and just so happen to be a Paula Deen fan. She has a reputation for making food that isn't exactly healthy. And since I'm not currently watching my calories due to the whole pregnancy thing, and I really do want to try out more recipes from that cookbook of hers... I decided, what the heck? I might as well join! If anyone's interested in feasting once a week with us, the link is here: My Girl, Paula!

The first week's selection is Paula's Swiss Broccoli Casserole. I'm really not a big fan of swiss, so I went the safe route with cheddar. In hindsight, there really wasn't a lot of cheese, so I may have been okay with using the swiss. The only thing I was a little unsure of as I was assembling the casserole was the layer of sliced hard-boiled eggs that went inside. Seemed a little out of the ordinary, but I went with it.

The casserole was really quite tasty and made a nice side dish to the steak my husband grilled. My husband did comment that the taste was a little "eggy", but I personally didn't find the egg taste overpowering at all. I thought the crunchy onions gave a great flavor, and it kind of reminded me of a green bean casserole, but with broccoli. We barely made it through half of the casserole, so we have a ton of leftovers.

And have I ever mentioned how it's impossible to take a decent picture of a casserole?

Swiss Broccoli Casserole

Two 10-oz packages frozen broccoli spears, cooked and drained
3 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
2 cups french-fried onion rings
1/2 cup shredded swiss cheese
10 and 3/4 oz. can cream of celery soup
2/3 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350° F. Arrange the broccoli in a shallow 2-quart baking dish. Layer the eggs, 1 cup of the onion rings, and then the cheese over the broccoli. Combine the soup and milk, mixing well. Pour this over the cheese and bake for 25 minutes. Top with the remaining onion rings and bake for 5 minutes longer.

Up next week: Strawberry Cream Shortcake

Friday, June 5, 2009

Samoa Bars

It seems like everyone's favorite girl scout cookie is the Thin Mint. I know it's my husband's. For a few years in a row he'd order girl scout cookies from someone at work and come home with a couple of boxes of Thin Mints. Now, I do like Thin Mints, and never have a problem helping him eat them, but I had to tell him to cut it out and start ordering MY favorite! Samoas... yummmm. Chocolate, coconut, caramel. There's a lot to like in those cookies!

When I came across a homemade version of samoas, I bookmarked the recipe and kept occasionally going back and staring in amazement at it. And then I finally had a good occasion to make them - a family reunion. I know my Mom is a big coconut fan, so I figured she'd help me eat them. Turns out, she isn't the only one. I had a LOT of people helping me eating them. They were so delicious, and tasted almost exactly like the girl scout cookie.

I need to include a little disclaimer that these bars were gorgeous and perfect. I forgot to take pictures until after we traveled to the family reunion and the bars were packed and banged together and smushed. These were the only few that were left after we served them. So imagine them even better looking than you see above - without the chocolate topping cracking and falling apart! :-)

Now, I'm not going to lie and say they were totally simple to make, because they were a bit time consuming. However, they were totally worth it. The only problem I had was dipping them in the chocolate at the end. My bars kept falling apart, so I resorted to using a spoon to scoop up the chocolate and spread it over the bottoms. That worked like a charm. If you like samoas, these are worth the effort.

Homemade Samoa Bars
(from Baking Bites)

Cookie Base:
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt

First, make the crust.
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking pan, or line with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter, until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla extract. Working at a low speed, gradually beat in flour and salt until mixture is crumbly, like wet sand. The dough does not need to come together. Pour crumbly dough into prepapred pan and press into an even layer.

3. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until base is set and edges are lightly browned. Cool completely on a wire rack before topping.

3 cups shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
12-oz good-quality chewy caramels
1/4 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. milk
10 oz. dark or semi-sweet chocolate (chocolate chips are ok)

1. Preheat oven to 300° F. Spread coconut evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet (preferably one with sides) and toast 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until coconut is golden. Cool on baking sheet, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

2. Unwrap the caramels and place in a large microwave-safe bowl with milk and salt. Cook on high for 3-4 minutes, stopping to stir a few times to help the caramel melt. When smooth, fold in toasted coconut with a spatula.

3. Put dollops of the topping all over the shortbread base. Using the spatula, spread topping into an even layer. Let topping set until cooled.

4. When cooled, cut into 30 bars with a large knife or a pizza cutter (it’s easy to get it through the topping).

5. Once bars are cut, melt chocolate in a small bowl. Heat on high in the microwave in 45 second intervals, stirring thoroughly to prevent scorching. Dip the base of each bar into the chocolate and place on a clean piece of parchment or wax paper.

6. Transfer all remaining chocolate (or melt a bit of additional chocolate, if necessary) into a piping bag or a ziploc bag with the corner snipped off and drizzle bars with chocolate to finish. Let chocolate set completely before storing in an airtight container.

Makes 30 bar cookies.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

TWD: Cinnamon Squares

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie selection is the Cinnamon Squares. They were chosen by Tracey of Tracey's Culinary Adventures. She has the recipe on her site, so go get it!

This was a recipe I'd noticed in Dorie's book and had been looking forward to trying. The cinnamon squares were not at all what I expected, but totally delicious nonetheless. The recipe was very easy to follow and it turned out great. I expected to want this for dessert (which of course I did), but I also thought it would be great with brunch. The cinnamon flavor just reminded me of breakfast.

The squares were gorgeous iced and cut. The icing was thick and rich and very tasty. And I loved the cinnamon chocolate center. So pretty and so yummy! I think I'll make these for a brunch sometime in the future. Another great recipe by Dorie!