Monday, March 29, 2010

Cheese Straws

Over the weekend I made cheddar cheese straws and let me tell you, they are hard work!  These are by no means "gourmet", like Betsy's Cheese Straws, but I think they are a start.

3/4 lb. - 1 lb. cheddar cheese, shredded
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
1 1/2 - 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce 
1 teaspoon paprika
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Preheat oven to 350. At medium speed mix cheese, butter, paprika, salt, and Worcestershire sauce together.  Gradually mix in flour, just until blended.  (this next part is similar to making a lattice for a pie or rolling out sugar cookies). Lightly flour countertop.  Take 1/3 of the mix and roll it in a large ball.  Place on the counter and use a rolling pin to flatten the cheese mix to about 1/2 inch.  Take a pizza cutter and cut the "dough" into long strips (like you're cutting dough to make a lattice).  Cut the longest strips into thirds and the shorter ones in half.  Roll up the strips making sure to press the seems together and place on a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Repeat with the rest of the dough.  Bake for 12 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Store in an airtight container.

I didn't initially roll out the dough like pie crust.  That happened by trial and error.  I don't have a cookie press, which would have been helpful, so I tried will all of my upper body strength (which is not saying much) to squeeze the dough out of icing bags.  You know, I thought I was being smart, using an icing tip and bag to make these fancy cheese straws.  WRONG!  This did not work at all.  The dough did not want to come out of the bag, no matter how hard I tried to force it.  That's when I decided on the rolling pin technique (it's a technique, right?)

If you have any questions, just ask, because I totally improvised on this little project!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Lemon Squares

This past week I made lemon squares for the first time.  I think these are a great dessert this time of year, especially for bridal showers, baby showers, and brunches!

I've always been intimidated by lemon squares.  I see them as these dainty desserts that are served at fancy occasions (translation: they must be difficult to make, otherwise you would see them around more often, right?)  This is partly right.  Lemon squares not the most difficult thing to make (heck, I made them!), but they do take patience and time.  Lots of time.  Especially cooling time.  And we all know the hardest part about baking is the cooling process, because you're so excited that you made a new dessert that you want to cut into it immediately.  DO NOT DO THIS. 

This recipe was featured in the March issue of Southern Living, and can also be found their website.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup cold butter, cut into pieces
4 large eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons lemon zest (or more if you like)
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350. Line bottom and sides of 9x13 pan with heavy-duty foil or parchment paper (I used parchment paper). Allow 2-3 inches to extend over the sides.  Lightly grease the foil/parchment paper.  Stir together 2 cups flour and 1/2 cup powdered sugar.  Add butter pieces. Put into a food processor and pulse 5-7 times (be sure not to over mix).  Press the mixture into the bottom of the pan.  Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned (see picture below).  Meanwhile, whisk eggs in a large bowl until smooth; whisk in granulated sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice.  Stir together baking powder and 1/4 cup of flour.  Whisk this into the egg mixture.  Pour over hot baked crust.  Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until filling is set.  Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes.  Lift from pan, using foil sides, and let cool for another 30 minutes (see picture below).  Remove foil/parchment paper, cut into bars, and sprinkle powdered sugar.

This is the crust after it was baked.  Excuse the poor photo quality, these were taken with my phone.

This is the filling after it baked and cooled for 1 hour (longest hour of my life).  Again, poor photo quality.

Tip: if you are not planning on serving these immediately, wait to sprinkle the powdered sugar, otherwise it will soak into the lemon square and you will have to add more (which could be a good or bad thing).  Also, I think lemon squares taste better slightly chilled, so keep them in the refrigerator until you serve them (and before powder-sugaring).

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Turkey Pinwheels with Chive Cream Cheese

I was looking for a new h'or d'oeuvres recipe when Ben's mom suggested turkey pinwheels.  These are great for Spring and Summer because they are cold, light, and fresh.  This recipe made about 40 pinwheels.

Here's what you'll need:
1 package tomato basil wraps
1 jar sun dried tomatoes
1 jar black olives
8 oz. chive and onion cream cheese
1 bag shredded cheddar cheese
mixed baby spinach leaves
1 lb. sliced smoked turkey

Take a spatula and spread about 3 tablespoons of cream cheese on the bottom of the wrap (it may be more or less than 3 tablespoons, I'm not sure. Just eyeball it).  I should have spread the cream cheese to the edges, because I learned that this will help the wrap stay together.  Next layer some mixed spinach leaves.

Add the turkey (I put about 5 slices on each one).  Sprinkle some sun dried tomatoes and black olives.  Next sprinkle some cheddar cheese (not shown here).  Notice how I'm try to keep most of the ingredients at the top of the wrap, leaving about 1-2 inches at the bottom.  This makes it easier to roll.

Roll the wrap, starting at the end with the most ingredients and rolling towards the end with less (I hope this makes sense).  Then roll it in some plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for about 30-45 minutes.  This will make it easier to cut.

Unwrap the wrap and carefully slice it into 1 1/4 inch pinwheels.  Ben did the slicing because I'm still not too fond of knives.

The great thing about pinwheels is that you can mix and match ingredients.  Don't think tomato basil wraps are the only thing out there!  You can use ham instead of turkey, spinach artichoke cream cheese instead of chive and onion.  The possibilities are endless.  Plus these were great leftovers for lunch!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Crostini with Goat Cheese Spread

These are a great appetizer to prepare for dinner guests, plus it's relatively easy.  Ben pulled this recipe out of thin air (isn't he creative?)!  We used pre-toasted and seasoned crostini's from Kroger's.

crostinis (ours came with about 20)
about 8 oz. goat cheese
sun-dried tomatoes
Kalamata olives
fresh basil

Mix the goat cheese, olives, and tomatoes together in a bowl.  Toast the crostinis for 5 minutes or so. Spread the goat cheese on the crostinis. Cut the basil and place on top. 

Oh, and as a side note, my boss is on a BBQ team for the Smoke on the Water Championship!  It's happening this weekend in North Little Rock on the river front.  The team name is hilarious! "Pork Barrel BBQ", very funny!  So if you're in the area stop by the BBQ competition.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Fancy French Fries

Well, I lied.  It's not so much that the French fries are fancy, but the way they are presented.  You know, there are whole books written about how to present food attractively and I live by the motto "it's all about the presentation."

Southern Living had this idea featured under "Appetizers", but we served them as part of the dinner, because French fries go much better with BBQ ribs and chicken than they would as an appetizer.  The French fries are called Salt-and-Pepper Oven Fries but they really they are Ore Ida "fast food" fries sprinkled with pepper and Kosher salt and served with a Lemon-Garlic Mayo dipping sauce.

Ingredients for the sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup mayo
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Combine minced garlic and lemon juice in a bowl.  Let stand for 5 minutes.  Add the mayo and parsley.  Stir well.  Add salt and pepper.

I served the French fries and dipping sauce in some small ice cream sundae bowls.  They were the perfect size!

St. Patrick's Day is on Wednesday and if you don't have much time to prepare something extravagant, here's an easy dessert.  It's not green, but if you love chocolate and mint, you'll love this.

You need one package of brownie mix, a cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips, and peppermint extract.  Prepare the brownie mix as directed.  At the end, mix in one teaspoon of peppermint extract and the chocolate chips.  Bake in a 9x13 or 7x11 pan and serve!  The subtle mint flavor is so good you'll never want to make normal brownies again!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Chocolate Creme Brulee with Strawberry Sauce

I still haven't gotten enough of these creme brulees!  I decided to do a little experimenting and make some strawberry sauce.  I figured since chocolate covered strawberries taste delish, wouldn't strawberries and chocolate creme brulee?  And the answer is yes!

Strawberry Sauce
10 oz. frozen strawberries, thawed
1 1/2 tablespoons corn starch
1 tablespoon water

Place strawberries, corn starch, and water in a medium size sauce pan over medium heat.  Stir continuously until thick.  Pour over creme brulees and top with whipped cream.

I'm starting to think that you can do this sauce with any fruit (remember, I did raspberries for Ben's birthday?).  A peach sauce would be wonderful with some vanilla ice cream!

I'm really racking my brain for a cute, fun Spring dessert to make this weekend.  Hopefully on Monday I can report back with something amazing!  Wish me luck!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Show my little sister some love!

My little sister, Becca, has just started her very own blog about being crafty and baking and decorating adorable cupcakes!  (we take after each other, if you couldn't tell!)  Anyways, this blog is brand new and I would be ever-so-grateful if my wonderful readers would pay her a visit!

Thank you!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Around the Kitchen

I tend to be a messy baker, spilling stuff all over the place and there's always flour on the floor.  I try my best to always wear an apron, my favorite one being from Anthropologie.  Unfortunately, I could not find a picture of it online, so the Athropologie one pictured below will just have to do!
Around the Kitchen
I love to be comfortable in the kitchen.  Jeans and a comfy top are my favorite.  I also have a couple of go-to items that I am always using.  My Ice Blue Kitchenaid mixer, for example.  I wish I had multiple bowls and attachments, so I am not constantly washing them while I bake.  The next item(s) that I love are my cupcake measuring cups.  Ben's grandparents gave them to me for Christmas this year and as soon as I got them in my kitchen I basically abandoned my old set (who wouldn't, though?)  They are so fancy and fun to use. 

One thing I wish I had are these oven mitts!  If someone is feeling generous, send me some cute oven mitts (my half birthday is coming up!).  The ones I currently use are basically falling apart (you can ask anyone that has been in my kitchen).  Several months ago I had every intention of making my own set.  I had done all of the research, knew what I wanted, and just never got around to it.  Maybe oven mitts will be a Spring project of mine, especially since my sister got a sweet sewing machine that I can use!

So, are you like me and have to bobby-pin or wear a headband in the kitchen?  I get tired of constantly putting my hair behind my ears only for it to come loose 5 seconds later. 

And what's your favorite outfit or thing wear around the kitchen when you bake?  (and no, I will not accept your "birthday suit" as an answer!) 

Have a great weekend!  I hope y'all are having perfect Spring weather like we are in LR!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Potatoes on the Side

Well, I'm back.  Not completely healed, but ready to blog (read: I still keep a bandaid on my finger 24/7 and do not use my middle finger to type).

I made these potatoes two weeks ago, or so.  They were a nice change of pace from the usual roasted seasoned potatoes and mashed potatoes.  Not only that, but I think they make for a nice presentation.  I found the recipe on Dinners for a Year and Beyond.  If you are ever in a dinner funk go to this blog for some inspiration!

5 potatoes (serves 5 people)
1 stick of butter, melted
1 cup of seasoned bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash and scrub the potatoes really well.  Cut a small slice out of the bottom of the potato so it won't roll around.  Cut 1/4 inch vertical slices, but make sure you don't cut all the way through the potato.  Tear a sheet of foil for each potato.  Place the potato on the foil and sprinkle with salt a pepper.  Then pour butter and the bread crumbs over the top.  My suggestion: try to open up some of the slits and pour butter and bread crumbs in the potato and not just over the top.  Wrap in foil and bake for 45 minutes, then open the foil and continue baking for 15 minutes.

Thank you to my readers and friends who have been concerned about my finger.  I still don't like to look at it and may or may not have permanently altered my finger print on that finger by slicing and dicing it.  (Isn't that lovely to think about? I think not.)