Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Bok Choy Salad

What seems like many moons ago, I was busy with a fabulous MOPS group here in Pittsburgh. MOPS was such a blessing to our family right after I had the twins. I discovered how wonderful it was to have an army of moms bribing mud meals and helping us through those first insanely crazy months of having newborn twins!

One of the treasures of MOPS is the food. I know, I know- it's not about that but really, I loved coming together with other moms and learning recipes from them and trying new foods (we ate at every meeting!). Maybe not all MOPS groups are like that but ours was very much food oriented.

So here's a recipe from a cookbook that some of the moms compiled.
It has absolute NO BOK CHOY in it but regardless, my kids love this salad and for me…. that makes it a hands down winner.

They don't like cole slaw a whole bunch but this is a cousin to it. We had this salad the other night with PWs spicy pulled pork. They gobbled them both up!

Bok Choy Salad

Salad ingredients:
1 head Romaine Lettuce- if you have a three pack, I used one and a half
2 green onions- sliced
Broccoli Slaw- I used a couple handfuls, not the whole bag
1 package ramen noodles - half of it (you won't need the flavor packet)
1/2 cup or so of sliced red pepper
1/2 cup cashews
1/3 cup sliced almonds

Dressing ingredients:
3/4 c light olive oil- I used half canola and half olive oil
1/3 c apple cider vinegar
2-4 dashes sesame oil
1/2 c sugar
1 tsp salt and pepper, each

Combine dressing ingredients in a jar, shake to combine.
In a bowl, combine first four salad ingredients. Top with cashews, almonds and ramen noodles. Toss gently. Add dressing and toss again. Taste to see if it needs a little more S or P.

You'll have half a jar of dressing left to make this once more! (and you should have plenty of the above ingredients for another salad)

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Back in the Day Biscones

I recently came across this cookbook on instagram and couldn't be more tickled that I did.
It's a gem.
Great recipes, great tips and they've all been delicious!

Last week I started at the beginning of the book and went through all the recipes I wanted to try. I ended up with quite a few but first on my list (well, after already having made the chocolate chip cookies and blueberry muffins) were Biscones.

What, pray tell is a biscone? A cross between a biscuit and a scone, of course! 
Loaded with lots of delicious butter and buttermilk.
These were light, tender and oh so very good!

Buttermilk Biscones
from The Back In the Day Bakery Cookbook

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbs baking powder, preferably aluminum free
3/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp ground cardamom (sadly I was out of this)
1/2 lb cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes (2 sticks)
1 cup dried fruit (such as sour cherries or currants), optional
1 1/2 c buttermilk, or as needed
1 egg, beaten with a pinch of fine sea salt- for egg wash
1/4 cup cardamom sugar or turbinado sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375° and line a baking sheet with parchment or a silpat liner.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, salt and cardamom- whisk until incorporated.  Add the butter and working quickly, cut it in with a pastry blender.  You should have various sized pieces of butter from sandy patches to pea-sized chunks and some larger bits as well. Add the dried fruit, if using, and toss to distribute.

Gradually pour in the buttermilk and gently fold the ingredients until you have a soft dough and there are no bits of flour in the bottom of the bowl.  You should still see lumps of butter in the dough; these will give you light and flaky biscuits! The dough should be moist and slightly sticky.

Dust the top of the batter with a little flour and with a large ice cream scoop, scoop mounds of dough onto the prepared baking sheet. Arranging them about 1 inch apart so that the biscones have room to rise and puff up in the oven. Lightly tap down the tops and brush with the egg wash. Sprinkle with the sugar.

Bake 20-25 minutes, until the biscones are lightly golden and fully baked. Serve warm or room temp with your favorite jam. These are best eaten the day they are baked.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Zucchinis Abound (and recipes, too)!

(crazy behemoth zucchinis)

It's that time of year again... the sun has worked its charm on our little seedlings. They've been watered and nurtured and now the plants are churning out zucchini like crazy!

Here are a few of my favorite ways to eat this vegetable...


Pierogi Sautéd with onions, peppers, zucchini and basil

                                                            Mock (Zucchini) Crabcakes
                                                                    or just call them zucchini pancakes

2 Cups grated zucchini, unpeeled and squeezed out of any liquid
1 onion, grated or finely chopped
1 c Italian bread crumbs (or plain and add some italian seasoning)
1 Tbs mayo
1 Tbs Old Bay seasoning
1 egg, beaten

Combine all those ingredients. Adjust the texture, if needed- too dry, add more egg; too wet, add a bit more bread crumbs.
Heat some oil in a skillet (whatever you want- veg, coconut, olive)- take a Tbs of mix and place in hot pan, use the back of the spoon to smoosh it down and create a flatter pancake.
Fry for 2-3 minutes per side.

original recipe from Pittsburgh Post Gazette Aug. 2002

So all that said, what's YOUR favorite way to use up this versatile and plentiful ingredient?

Friday, June 28, 2013

Make it SOON: Margarita Cake

If only I had a picture of the entire cake to show you... alas, I didn't think about sharing this gem of a cake until AFTER we nearly devoured it all up!

A friend of mine makes a similar cake that is very good too and that's where my fascination with Margarita cake came from in the first place.

I can't recall if I didn't have the recipe or if I decided to make this on the spur of the moment (usually THAT is the answer), but I happened upon the Cake Mix Dr's version of this cake and whoa... it is so super good. I decided to make this for a group of friends of mine who happened to be getting together on the day of the Pope's election. He's from Argentina and well, I decided a Margarita Cake was the BEST way to CELEBRATE! 

(I am not ashamed to say I LOVE an excuse to make a CAKE!)

Three words to describe this cake:

Okay, that last one is more than a word, but really, the glaze/icing part of this is boozy and tart and all that!

Margarita Cake

The Cake:
1 box of yellow or lemon cake mix- I always reach for lemon supreme- Duncan Hines, I believe
1/2 package vanilla instant pudding mix (4 TBS)
1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup fresh lime juice - I have been using the little bottle of lime juice from the produce section- works well in a pinch, but you still need a lime for the cake/glaze!
1/4 cup Tequila
2 Tbs Triple Sec
1 tsp grated lime zest
4 large eggs

1 1/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted (may have skipped that)
1 Tbs each of tequila, triple sec, & lime juice
1-2 tsps lime zest


1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease and flour (very well) a 12 cup bundt pan. 

*don't skip the greasing and flouring step... the last time I made the cake, I did this step but must not have checked to make sure I did it very well and my cake stuck. It still tasted great, but it looked a little less appetizing. 

2. Place the cake mix in your mixer and turn it on low to break up any lumps. Then add the pudding mix (4 Tbs only!) through the eggs into the mixer. Turn on low and mix a minute or two. Scrape down the sides and mix on medium for 2 minutes until all ingredients are fully incorporated. Remove the bowl from the mixer and using a rubber spatula, scrape all around the bowl making sure all the dry ingredients are fully incorporated into the wet. The batter will be thick and should be smooth.

3. Pour into your prepared Bundt pan and place in the oven for 40-45 minutes. The top of the cake (well, bottom since it's in a bundt pan) should spring back when you press on it. Insert a toothpick to make sure it's down- it will come out clean with a few dry crumbs on it.

4. Let the cake cook on a wire rack 10-15 minutes- another important step. (Rushing this step may have been the other reason my cake stuck a bit.)
Run a knife along the sides of the pan and don't forget the middle part! Tap the pan on the counter a few times and then invert it onto your cake plate. Before you lift it, I tap the top with the handle of a spatula. Let the cake cool again- 25 minutes longer.

5. While the cake cools, make your glaze. Place powdered sugar, triple sec, tequila and lime juice in the mixer bowl. Add lime zest if you'd like. (I added lime zest to this as well- the original recipe says to garnish with lime slices, but I like the flecks of green zest in my glaze). Whisk until the powdered sugar is incorporated into the wet ingredients. Spoon over the COOLED cake. (alternatively, you can poke holes into the top of the cake and then spoon the glaze over the cake). Let the glaze set for 10 minutes and then serve!

A bundt cake like this will serve 12-16 people- all depending on thick you make your slices!

Monday, June 24, 2013

White Pizza

It wasn't too long ago that I shared with you The Pizza Dough that Changed My Life. It truly has. I don't exaggerate much (stifles laughter).

We were getting home from a few days away the other day and I thought pizza would be a great option for dinner because it's easy. Now I realize when I say that, that most people grab their take out pizza flyers and start perusing what place they're going to order from that night. However, they don't call me Crafty for nothing and well, when I think pizza, I think of making the dough and throwing some toppings on it! (hey, I buy DelGrosso's pizza sauce, so there you have my "easy" button)

So, really, when I tell you that this dough is so simple to make... can you just trust me and try it sometime? It really is THAT good and once you get the hang of it, you can have pizza in about an hour. And if you're all organized and have the dry ingredients already portioned out in zippie bags, you're going to knock this one out even faster!

okay, okay, onto the actual pizza recipe!

I'm about 28 weeks pregnant now with bambino number 6 and the worst part of pregnancy for me every.single.time is the heartburn. Tomato sauces seem to be the major culprit but really, when we get down to brass tacks, I think anything that goes down is bound to give me heartburn at this point. The good news is, is that in 2 more months and a few weeks, the heartburn will go away for good and I will be holding a brandy new baby!

where was I? oh yes, pizza.

I thought if I cancelled out the red sauce and went with a white sauce, I might "help" the heartburn stay away or something along those lines. Nah, it didn't work, but good gravy am I glad I did some searching around and found THIS recipe which I combined with some swiss chard (that I GREW on my back PORCH- say what!?!?), sautéed mushrooms, grape tomatoes, mozzarella and feta.  We had ourselves a winning pie!

Crafty's White Pizza ala Annie's White Sauce
This sauce recipe makes enough for ONE half of my pizza dough. We used a traditional red sauce on the other pie.

Pizza dough

White Sauce (from Annie's Eats Spinoccoli Pizza)
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour
3/4 cup whipping cream/heavy cream
1 garlic clove- I like Trader Joe's crushed garlic
3-6 Tbsp parmesan cheese
little S&P

Toppings of your choice:
(in the picture above)
swiss chard
sautéed mushrooms
mozzarella cheese
grape tomatoes

parchment paper
pizza stone

Step 1: Make your pizza dough about an hour before you'll need it and up to a day before you'll need it. You can keep it in the fridge after you've kneaded it a bit and it will rise perfectly. I take it out about 30 minutes or more before I'm ready to roll.

Step 2: Make the white sauce. Melt butter and add flour. Whisk together and cook about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the cream to combine making sure you incorporate after each addition. Add garlic and S&P. let simmer a bit to thicken. Remove from heat and add parmesan cheese. Taste and adjust S&P to taste.

Step 2.1: Preheat your oven to HOT- 425 works.

Step  3: Roll out your dough. I divide my dough into two and roll it out on a piece of parchment paper. This just makes it easier for me to slide it onto the HOT as HADES pizza stone.

Step 4: dress your pizza. First, brush some olive oil onto the edge of your pizza crust. I sprinkled some granulated garlic on top of that (parmesan would be nice, too) Add a smathering of sauce. A thin layer of mozzarella and then any other toppings you want.

Step 5: Take a upside down sheet pan and SLIDE your pizza onto it (you're using this as your makeshift pizza peel)... then slide it onto the hot pizza stone. (alternatively, you can use the sheet pan right side up with your pizza on it, if you don't have a pizza stone (but really, you should... it makes the crust soooooooooooo good)

Step 6: Bake about 15 minutes or until the cheese on top is just how YOU like it.

Step 7: VERY IMPORTANT- if you're using a pizza stone, let your pizza rest up a bit on it after you take it out of the oven. This step ensures the crust will be crisp on the bottom. It retains an amazing amount of heat  and will keep your pizza hot!

Step 8: enjoy!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Pastry Wrapped Sausages with Maple Dijon Dipping Sauce

Funny story. Have you ever seen a recipe and visually cataloged it in your brain... maybe even added the ingredients to your shopping list and then bought them only to find that you cannot, for the life of you, remember where you saw/read that recipe?

That happened to me a month ago. Searched my internet history, Pinterest boards, ziplist file, recent magazines I had read and still... couldn't find this recipe. Then I googled it. And I found similar recipes but not THE one... the one that was in my head and I could literally see a picture of how these things were made, in my mind.

And a few weeks ago I finally happened upon it in a new cookbook I received for Christmas, Savoring the Seasons with Our Best Bites! I couldn't believe when I saw the little inset picture on the corner of page 8. It was exactly what I had imprinted in my mind.

To be completely honest, I know I could have recreated this recipe but I really just wanted to FIND where I saw it!

So I picked up the rest of the ingredients at the store today set on making these as an after-school snack for the boys. I knew they'd love them. And they did. I made enough for two batches. One for today and another in the freezer for another day! So my recipe below is doubled. You do all the work once and get to enjoy them twice!

While the little sausage bites are great, the addition of the dipping sauce is really good. I recommend you go for it.

Pastry Wrapped Sausages with Maple Dijon Dipping Sauce
adapted from Savoring the Season with Our Best Bites, pg 8

1 box frozen puff pastry, thawed according to package
2 pkgs breakfast sausages- about 14 links; 12 oz each
1/2 cup shredded cheese- I used sharp cheddar
little maple syrup
1 egg, beaten, for egg wash

Maple-Dijon Dipping Sauce

2 Tbs Dijon mustard
4 Tbs maple syrup
4 Tbs mayonnaise

whisk until combined, refrigerate until ready to serve.
*incidentally, I think I did a 2, 2, 2 ratio on the sauce and it was still really good. So go ahead and use a little less maple syrup and mayo. Remember too how much you are making... I served about half of my sausages and froze the rest.

For the Sausages:

Unfold the puff pastry onto a silpat or lightly floured surface.  Sprinkle the top lightly with flour and roll out to about 12x12 square. Mine was not quite square as you see. Use a knife to cut into 3 equal portions. Brush one side with a little maple syrup (real maple syrup, okay I guess you could use pancake syrup but why?)

Place about 3 sausages down one side (lengthwise)  of the puff pastry, in each section. If you have a little extra dough, cut a sausage to fit. Sprinkle cheese right beside the sausage, just a little. You can skip the cheese if you'd like. These are quite adaptable. Now starting from the edge where the sausages are, roll them up until the pastry is all around them. Pinch the seam to seal.
(forgot to take a picture of this most important of the recipe. mea culpa)

Cut sausages up using a serrated knife (it worked best for me, but then I felt like the kitchen shears did an equally impressive job getting through the sausage casings). I got about 3 bites per sausage or.... this many... which is more, I know, but I wanted them to be snack size.

Repeat these steps until you've used all your pastry dough.

Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and brush with egg wash. 
Take this un-egg washed batch and flash freeze it while you continue making your wrapped sausages. I did this with half of them and they're ready to be popped in the oven for the next snack time or game day or get together!

Bake at 375-400 (they forgot to mention the oven setting in their cookbook!) for 15-20 minutes. You want them to look like this:

Serve alongside the dipping sauce and enjoy!

They have the thumbs up from our crew! The Big People in the house really loved them as well! Did I mention the sauce was fabulous? It was!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Bread and Butter Pudding with Whiskey Sauce

Once March rolls around I start thinking about what we'll eat on St. Patrick's Day. Yes. Beginning March 1st, I start thinking about it. Now for the past 3 years I've been making corned beef and cabbage with potatoes and carrots. Oh and soda bread. And the now infamous St. Paddy's Day Sauce- that stuff is so very good.

We started our celebrating with Pimm's Cups (Pimm's is a type of gin and you add it to Sprite with a wedge of lemon, that's OUR version and it works!)  and a smattering of fruits and cheese and the soda bread spread with Kerrygold Butter.

The Corned Beef couldn't be easier to make. I buy the packaged kind and just throw it in a pot cover the beef with water and I do add that seasoning packet because why not? It's there right?

Once the beef is cooked through I remove it to a platter and cover it and then I throw in my sliced (not cored) cabbage, peeled carrots and potatoes. They need to boil and that cabbage needs to cook the longest it seems. I'm usually running late and thankfully, my mom has been nearby to help me out in the kitchen.

This year, she brought parsnips and cooked them once she got to our house. She slices them really thin, like long julienned strips, if you will. Then sautés them in butter until the edges brown a bit. OH MY. They caramelize and sweeten beyond their original sweetness and it's just a real treat. 

I threw my soda bread together on St. Patrick's Day morning because I ran out of time the day before. It didn't take long at all. And I'll be posting that recipe as it was quick and really good.

Lastly, the Bread and Butter Pudding with Whiskey Sauce (and Vanilla Sauce). The creme de la creme. The icing on the cake. The perfect accompaniment to our wonderful dinner.  It was a bit more time consuming than I thought but that's mainly because I hadn't really read through the recipe as well as  I should have prior to the day. I suggest reading the recipe a few times before you're in the MIDST of making a recipe. Good thing to do. I made this for my full-blooded Italian father who likes to poke fun of the Irish and their food but LOVES bread pudding.

So we'll start with dessert and work our way backwards...

Bread and Butter Pudding with Whiskey Sauce (and Vanilla Sauce)

1/4 cup golden raisins- I used regular 'ol raisins
1/2 cup hot water
4 Tbs butter at room temp
10 slices of white bread- let's just say a loaf of bread, crusts removed
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 eggs, beaten

Whiskey Sauce
1 cup milk
2 Tbs sugar
2 egg yolks
2 Tbs Irish Whiskey (or leave that out and add vanilla in it's place)

Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a casserole dish with butter (square, oblong, something pretty). Stick your cut bread in it first to see what will fit and then butter it.

In a small bowl, combine raisins and water and let soak 10 minutes. drain and set aside until ready to add to pudding

Remove the crusts from the bread and butter one side. Cut each slice in half (diagonally would be nice). Arrange half of the bread, buttered side up, in the prepared dish. Sprinkle the raisins over the bread (I tucked a few under some of the slices.

In a small saucepan, combine the milk, cream, vanilla, sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon. Cook over medium heat until the mixture begins to boil, 5-7 minutes. I stirred with a whisk in the beginning and then switched to a wooden spoon. Using the wooden spoon allows you to see when the sauce has thickened. When you can drag your finger along the back of the spoon and it leaves a line in the sauce... it's ready! Remove sauce from heat and slowly add a ladle of the cream mixture to the eggs while you whisk them. You need to temper the eggs OR you will have scrambled egg custard. No good. Keep adding the hot cream to the eggs and then pour this mixture over your arranged bread. Let sit for 10 minutes. I sprinkled the top of mine with cinnamon.

Cover the dish with aluminum foil and place in a larger pan- roasting pan worked for me. Add hot water to the pan around the covered dish. You're creating a hot water bath so the custard cooks evenly in the oven. Go to about 2/3 up the sides of the dish. This is down easily if you place the larger pan with the dish in it on the oven rack, THEN add the hot water. Bake about 50-55 minutes, until the custard is set. Let cool for a few minutes before removing from larger baking pan.

To make the sauce: In a small saucepan, combine the milk over medium heat until it just begins to boil. Remove from heat. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy. Slowly (just like before) add a little of the eggs to the hot milk as you whisk. It will temper the eggs and you shouldn't have scrambled eggs. Simmer over low heat, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes.**  Stir in the whiskey now OR divide the sauce into two containers and add a little less whiskey to one and 2 tsp of vanilla to the other.

To serve, spoon the warm pudding onto plates and pour the sauce of your choice over the pudding.


 **I actually forgot to do this part. I added the hot milk to my egg yolk mixture... slowly and still had a little scrambling occur. No worries. I simply poured the mixture through a fine mesh sieve and had perfectly smooth sauce. I then divided it into two containers, added 1 Tbs whiskey to one and the vanilla to the other.