Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Brioche French Toast

The King Arthur Flour website is the source for this recipe. They make hard wheat flour which is supposed to make better yeast bread than our Southern soft wheat formulas (Think White Lily and Martha White brands.) I made Brioche Bread for Kelley's birthday weekend in the mtns, but we never got around to making French Toast from it. The recipe I made was Ina Garten's which used 2 whole sticks of butter ! While I have not tried this one, I think it sounds much easier than the one I made, so I decided to share it with you!

My first experience with really good brioche was on a Celebrity ship in the Mediterranean. We ordered a pot of coffee each morning from room service. A couple of days when we had early shore excursions and no time for formal breakfast, I also ordered brioche. The cabin steward then took it upon himself to bring it with the coffee every morning! And, of course, I ate it whether we planned to also eat breakfast that day or not! After all, I didn't want to hurt his feelings. ;)

From the King Arthur Flour website:
Since French toast is all about the bread, the kind of bread you use makes a difference. You want a firm bread, one that can stand up to a good soak in egg and milk; but it shouldn't be so firm that frying makes it tough. We think butter- and egg-rich brioche is an ideal choice. Here we bake it in a 9" pain de mie pan, to create perfectly square slices; then dip it in a simple cinnamon- and nutmeg-scented batter before frying. Delicious!

2 3/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup Baker's Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast
3 large eggs
1/4 cup lukewarm water
10 tablespoons butter

Batter for French Toast
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 large eggs
½ cup cream or milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a stand mixer or bread machine (programmed for dough), mix together all of the ingredients to form a smooth, shiny dough. Don't worry; what starts out as a sticky mess becomes beautifully satiny as it kneads. This dough takes longer than most to develop, so be prepared to let the dough knead for up to 15 to 20 minutes in a stand mixer. Also, we don't recommend trying to knead it by hand. If you're using a bread machine, let it complete its kneading cycle, then continue as directed below.

Form the dough into a ball (it'll be very soft), place it in a greased bowl, cover the bowl, and it let rise for 1 hour. Then refrigerate the dough for several hours, or overnight. This will slow the fermentation and chill the butter, making the dough easier to shape.

Shape the dough into a 9" log, and place it in a lightly greased 9" pain de mie pan.(Helen's note: This is a fancy square pan with a lid. Use a loaf pan and cover with foil.) Cover the pan, and let the chilled dough come to room temperature, then rise to within 1 1/2" or so of the rim of the pan; this may take up to 5 hours or so.

Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Close the lid on the pain de mie pan, and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, and remove the lid; the bread should be golden brown, and register at least 205°F on an instant-read thermometer. Continue to bake for a few more minutes if the bread isn't done, then remove it from the oven, turn it out of the pan, and cool completely on a rack.

To make French toast: Let the loaf get a bit stale before using it for French toast. Or cut six 3/4" to 1"-thick slices of fresh brioche and let them sit, uncovered, for several hours.

Whisk together the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and flour. In a separate bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the eggs, cream or milk, and vanilla. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.

Divide the batter among six saucers, and soak each piece of bread for about 2 minutes on each side, until it's absorbed most of the batter, but isn't soggy all the way through. While the bread is soaking, preheat your griddle.

Cook the French toast for 2 to 3 minutes on the first side, or until it's golden brown; adjust the heat so it's not cooking too slowly or too quickly. Turn the toast over, and cook the second side until golden brown, about 2 minutes.

To serve, spread hot slices with butter, and drizzle with maple syrup.

Recipe summary
Hands-on time: 30 mins. to 35 mins. Baking time: 50 mins. to 60 mins. Total time: 8 hrs 15 mins. to 18 hrs 5 mins. Yield: 6 servingsOvernight

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Cheesy Baked Pasta with Spinach and Artichokes

Doesn't this sound creamy and good? I think it will make a nice quick meal for a busy day and it includes some of my favorite foods..spinach, artichokes,cheese, pasta... how easy is that?? I may add some sauteed peppers and/or garlic... or whatever veggie lurks in the refrig.. maybe even zucchini. You've got the basics, now make it your own!
Cheesy Baked Pasta with Spinach and Artichokes
8 ounces rigatoni or some other short pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, rinsed and quartered
1 (9-ounce) package frozen creamed spinach, thawed
1/4 cup grated Parmesan (1 ounce)
2 tablespoons cream cheese
2 cups grated mozzarella (8 ounces)

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and return it to the pot.

Add oil, artichoke hearts, spinach, Parmesan, cream cheese and 1 cup mozzarella to the pasta and toss to combine.

Heat broiler. Transfer the pasta mixture to a shallow 2-quart (or 8-inch square) broiler-proof baking dish. Sprinkle with the remaining cup of mozzarella.

Broil until the cheese is browned in spots, 2 to 3 minutes.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Doesn't this sound yummmy?? Think I'll whip up a batch this weekend (minus the Nutella) for Miss Emmie! Since she loves bananas, she should think these are wonderful - of course, she's 11 months old and likes almost everything! She must have her Grandma's genes!!

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
1/4 cup butter, melted and slightly cooled
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
3 bananas, mashed
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips
2 tablespoons Nutella

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease 12 serving muffin tin and line with papers.

Beat sugar and eggs until light and fluffy. Stir in butter, vanilla and buttermilk. In a separate bowl whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Stir the mashed banana into the wet mixture and then gently fold in the dry ingredients. When 90% incorporated fold in Nutellla and chocolate chips.

Scoop into prepared muffin tins and bake 20 to 25 minutes (or until muffin top springs back when pressed with finger).

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Southwestern Casserole

When you crave something spicy, try this easy recipe. This casserole can be a meatless main dish or a hearty side dish. It's a great make ahead, but don't freeze the leftovers because the sour cream will separate and turn watery.

Southwest Casserole
1 (15-0z.) can whole kernel corn, drained
1 (15-oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (10-oz.) can Rotel tomatoes
1 (8-oz.) carton sour cream
1 cup picante sauce
2 cups (8-oz.) shredded Cheddar cheese
2 cups cooked rice
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 (2-oz) can sliced ripe olives, drained
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded Monterrey Jack cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine first 8 ingredients (through rice) in a large bowl. Stir to mix well and pour into a 9x13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with chopped green onions, olives and remaining cheese. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Chocolate 'Crack'

When I first saw this recipe, I thought it needed a new name. But after making it, I decided it is ADDICTIVE and perhaps aptly named! I even considered sprinkling chopped toasted pecans on it and I've had it made with graham crackers, too. It's a perfect combination of sweet/salty. This would make a nice gift. Wrap it in plastic wrap and put it in a cute container.. maybe a sand pail... with something cute written with a Sharpie on the side of the pail... ????

Chocolate ‘Crack’
51 saltine crackers (approximately)
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 ounces high quality dark chocolate (70% or greater)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 12 x 17 inch jelly roll pan with foil.

Place saltine crackers salt side up and side-by-side in the pan as tightly as possible without overlapping. Use saltine pieces to fill any gaps at the bottom of the pan. Set aside. Chop chocolate so that the pieces are about the size of standard chocolate chips and set aside.(And, yes, you could use GOOD chocolate chips!)
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat stirring frequently with a spatula. Once butter has melted, add brown sugar and vanilla, stirring to combine. Cook for about 5 minutes or until mixture is an even dark brown color and has begun to bubble. Remove from heat and pour over saltines using spatula to spread sauce.
Bake crackers for 5 minutes or until butter mixture begins to bubble. Remove from oven and sprinkle evenly with chocolate allowing the heat to melt the chocolate. Spread chocolate evenly with the spatula so all of the crackers are completely covered.(Sprinkle with chopped toasted pecans or crushed Heath bars.) Refrigerate until chocolate sets and hardens. Break apart and serve. Yield: 1 serving.(Just kidding!)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Fresh Tomato Sauce Tips

I got so excited just thinking about the pasta machine (Thanks to encouragement from Pamela Sheldon Johns, my Tuscan friend!), that I forgot to tell you how I made the sauce!

After peeling the tomatoes (Dip them in a pot of boiling water, then in ice water to slip the skins off easily.), I seeded them over a bowl (Like squeezing oranges for juice!). In another bowl, I mushed them up with my hands in order to pick out all the seeds. The seeds make it bitter,besides, I like to play in my food! I strained the tomato peel and seeds to get the juice. Then combined the juice and tomatoes and proceeded with the recipe.

I know this sounds like a lot of work (and it was!) but the tomato sauce turned out rich with a great fresh tomato taste.

You can also make this sauce with canned plum tomatoes! The BEST sauce is made with plum tomatoes, but I used what I had - vine ripened large tomatoes.

Try it! You'll be glad you did!!!!

Fresh Tomato Sauce

When there's an abundance of fresh tomatoes, this sauce is absolutely perfect for preserving the taste of summer. Make a big batch and freeze it for next winter. Or make a batch,cook some pasta and enjoy! You'll never want Ragu again!

Oh! Oh! Oh! My dear husband ordered me/us a pasta machine.. stay tuned for our new adventures!! I think I'll freeze the batch of Fresh Tomato Sauce I made on Saturday until the pasta machine arrives!!

Fresh Tomato Sauce
2-3 pounds tomatoes, peeled, cored, seeded, chopped
1 clove garlic
1 rib celery (about 6 inches long)
1 small carrot
1 medium onion, cut in half through root (leave on the root end)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons sugar
½ cup chopped parsley
3 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup red wine
1 cup fresh basil leaves

Place the chopped tomatoes,garlic,celery, carrot,onion halves, salt, pepper, sugar, and parsley in a pot; add just a few drops of water. Simmer until the sauce begins to thicken slightly.Check the seasoning and return sauce to the heat; add olive oil and wine. Simmer until sauce is thickened and a drop put on a plate no longer gives off a huge watery halo (depending on how watery the sauce was to begin with, this can take up to an hour).
When the sauce is done, remove onion halves, celery and carrots. Stir in the basil leaves and remove from heat.

To Serve:
Figure about a quarter cup sauce and a quarter pound of pasta per serving. After you've cooked and drained the pasta, stir in the sauce and a dab of butter, then serve it with freshly grated Parmigiano cheese.
For a variation, heat the sauce and, assuming that you're serving four people, stir in a half cup of fresh cream when it begins to bubble. When the sauce is heated through, use it to season your pasta, which is now Rosé.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Ice Cream Lasagna

What fun! This is so simple its not even a "real" recipe, but how yummy! You can make it as decadent as you like or as simple... your choice! Just layer the ingredients as listed... and enjoy!!!

Ice Cream Lasagna

Drizzle chocolate syrup on bottom of 13x9 pan,
layer of ice cream sandwiches
Spread cool whip on top
Drizzle with chocolate syrup and/or caramel sauce
Crumbled Heath Bars
Another layer of ice cream sandwiches
More whipped topping
Heath bars
And if you want, an extra drizzle of chocolate syrup over the Heath bars
Freeze completely.
When ready to serve, set out for a few minutes before cutting.

A definite crowd pleaser!!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Summer Vegetable Tian (Casserole)

I found this recipe in Martha Stewart's magazine several years ago. It is delicious as well as impressive looking. This takes "casserole" to another level! Forget the cream of mushroom soup goopy mixtures of your childhood - this is soooo much better!!! Substitute vegetables as you have them, just keep the design. You can even use thinly sliced red potatoes in the layers... use your imagination.... and delight your taste buds!

Vegetable Tian

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 leek, white and pale green parts only, quartered lengthwise, rinsed well, and cut into ¼-inch slices (1 ½ cups) OR 1 ½ cups sliced Vidalia onion
1 clove garlic, minced
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 zucchini, very thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
1 yellow squash, very thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
2 plum tomatoes, very thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
1 small Italian eggplant, unpeeled, very thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
¼ cup very dry white wine
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or 1/2 teaspoon whole dry oregano flakes)
Grated Parmesan, if desired

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add leek (or Vidalia) and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and cook until soft, about 4 minutes. Spread in bottom of a 9-inch gratin dish or round baking dish.

Arrange vegetables over leek in slightly overlapping circles, alternating zucchini, squash, tomatoes, and eggplant.

Top with wine, 1 tablespoon oil, oregano, salt and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes. Drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Bake until vegetables are tender, 30 minutes or more. Serve sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.

Note: If small Italian or Japanese eggplants are not available, use small diameter eggplant. After slicing, place on paper towel and sprinkle with salt. Turn over and sprinkle the other side. Let stand for about 30 minutes, then rinse with cold water and drain well. This will remove bitterness in the eggplant.

Mashed Potatoes with Blue Cheese

This is not a sinful as it sounds! Grill a steak and serve these on the side.

Mashed Potatoes with Bleu Cheese

2 pounds red potatoes, cut into 2-inch chunks
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup crumbled bleu cheese
½ cup skim milk
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place potatoes and garlic in a large saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil; cook 15 minutes or until fork tender. Drain. Place potatoes in a large bowl. Mash to desired consistency. Stir in remaining ingredients. Serve hot!

Helen's Tip: If you're not a blue cheese fan, substitute your favorite cheese - sharp Cheddar, Swiss, etc.. just make sure it's full flavored.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Shrimp Linguine in Fresh Tomato and White Wine Sauce Recipe

Shrimp Linguine in Fresh Tomato and White Wine Sauce
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion,diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
Chili flakes or red pepper flakes, to taste
1/2 cup white wine
4 cups chopped fresh tomatoes or 1 (28 ounce) can plum tomatoes (crushed)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
Hot cooked linguine

Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add onion and sauté until tender, about 6-10 minutes.
Add garlic and chili pepper flakes and sauté until fragrant. Stir in wine and tomatoes; simmer until the sauce just starts to thicken, about 15 minutes. Season the tomato sauce with salt and pepper to taste. Add shrimp to the tomato sauce and simmer until cooked, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in parsley and basil. Drain the pasta, add pasta to tomato sauce and serve .

Helen’s Tip: To chop basil, roll basil leaves together like a cigar. With scissors, cut into narrow slivers. Separate shreds and add to recipe.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Sweet n' Sour Chicken recipe

It's too hot to cook and school is starting so everyone is looking for quick and easy supper ideas! This one may become a family favorite! Plan to do the chopping for this the night before, then put it all together when you're ready for dinner.

Quick and easy way to make rice: Put 1 cup rice, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon butter in a shallow microwave proof 2-quart baking dish ( I use a square Corning ware dish with a glass lid). Add 2 cups water. Put on the lid and microwave on HIGH for 5 minutes. Lower power to 5(medium) and microwave for 15 minutes. Viola! Fluffy rice and you didn't have to wash a pot or heat up the kitchen!

Sweet n’ Sour Chicken
2 tablespoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, cut into bite-size pieces
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 green peppers (or 1 red and 1 green pepper), cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 ( 8 -oz.) can sliced water chestnuts
1 (15-oz.) can pineapple chunks, undrained
1 (11.5-0z.) jar Sweet n’ Sour Sauce
Hot cooked rice

Combine cornstarch, salt, pepper and garlic powder in zip top bag; add chicken and toss to coat chicken. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat; add chicken and cook until lightly browned. Remove from oil and set aside to drain on paper towels. Add peppers and onions to skillet. Cook until crisp tender. Add chicken, water chestnuts, sweet n’ sour sauce, pineapple and juice and ½ cup water. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Serve over hot cooked rice. Yield: 4 servings.