bcmom's kitchen

bcmom's kitchen

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Review: Make Ahead Bread

I received a free digital copy of the new cookbook Make Ahead Bread: 100 Recipes for Melt-in-Your-Mouth Fresh Bread Every Day by Donna Currie through NetGalley.

I have been baking bread for as long as I can remember, but I never get tired of looking at and trying new recipes, which is why I was happy to take a look at this book.  Just flipping through it and looking at the gorgeous pictures makes me want to try every single one of the recipes.

The book begins with a chapter on the basics of bread-making, including ingredients and equipment.  Even though I've been baking bread for ages, I learned a thing or two.

I love the premise of the book - breaking up the process of baking bread  into multiple parts, meaning that the bulk of the actual work - the mixing, kneading and forming - can be done whenever the baker has time.  It means that, no matter how busy your schedule may be, you can still make and enjoy homemade bread.  Mixing, kneading, and the first rise are done on the first day - Prep Day.  Then the magical step in the process is refrigeration - the dough is kept in the refrigerator for anywhere from 8 to 24 hours, or longer - which improves both the flavor and the texture of the bread.  As well as allowing the baker to bake the bread on his or her own schedule.  Baking Day is usually pretty simple - remove the bread from the refrigerator and bake it.  And then enjoy, of course!

I bake sourdough most of the time anymore, which requires a longer rise time than breads made with active dry yeast, so I know that extra time does something special to the bread.  The author does include a few sourdough recipes and a very thorough explanation of starting your own sourdough starter.  There are also a few gluten free recipes included.

Once I started paging through the book, I could hardly make myself stop.  Here are a few of the recipes that caught my eye:
  • Page 30 - Fresh Corn and Cheddar Loaf
  • Page 32 - Sauerkraut Rye
  • Page 38 - Stuffing Bread with Dried Cranberries - because cranberries are definitely my thing.
  • Page 80 - Cheesy Breadstick Twists
  • Page 94 - Sourdough English Muffins
  • Page 99 - Oatmeal and Orange Buns with Toasted Coconut
I'm sure I will be making some variation of several of these!

I also enjoyed all the pictures throughout this book.  While I can picture a lot of recipes just by reading through them, having gorgeous full-color pictures in a cookbook definitely take it to the next level.  I do wish there was a picture for every recipe and that the pictures were better labeled, (sometimes the picture is on the page before the recipe; sometimes on the page after) but it wasn't too hard to figure out which picture was for which recipe. 

It also would have been nice to see the book start with the most basic loaf - something for people who have never really baked bread to ease into it with - and for the recipes to be somehow labeled for difficulty, so those same people could easily pick some simpler recipes.  I don't think any of the recipes look terribly hard, and Currie does a good job of breaking them into manageable pieces and sharing handy information and tips for success, but I would hate for someone to be turned off of bread making because the recipe that was a bit harder than they were ready for.  For those of us who have been baking bread for a while or those who would bake bread if only they had the time, this book is an excellent resource.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Pink Grapefruit Margarita

I found this recipe on Pinterest - whatever did we do before Pinterest?  I have made it multiple times.  This may be my favorite drink of all time.  Or at least for now, or when I'm not drinking a Hot Toddy with Jack Daniels.  Those are pretty good, too.

Anyway, back to the Grapefruit Margarita. It's perfectly sour and delightfully tasty, and has to be good for me since it's mostly fresh juice, right?  (I just don't drink it at breakfast time)

Pink Grapefruit Margarita
from Cookin' Canuck

  • 1 Pink Grapefruit
  • 1 Lime
  • Pink Himalayan Sea Salt
  • 2 oz. Tequila (I used Jose Gold)
  • 1 oz. Triple Sec
  • 1 T Simple Syrup
  • Ice
  1. Squeeze the juice from the grapefruit and half of the lime.
  2. Cut a wedge from the other lime half and rub the rim of a glass.  Put a small amount of Himalayan salt on a dish and dip the glass in it to coat the rim with salt.
  3. Place juice, tequila, triple sec, simple syrup, and ice in blender and blend until desired consistency.  Pour into prepared glass, garnish with lime wedge, and enjoy.
Makes 1 margarita

I like my margaritas frozen, but you could also just stir everything together or shake it in a cocktail shaker and serve over ice.  If you don't have Himalayan Salt, you can use regular sea salt or margarita salt.  I've also seen people put sugar on their grapefruit, so I bet a sugared rim would be good with this, too.  I'm kinda partial to the salt - it might be my favorite part of any margarita, or maybe it just goes so perfectly with the tequila - so if you do try this with the sugar, please let me know how it turned out.

Friday, December 5, 2014

ROLO Pretzel Delights

If you regularly buy ROLO Chewy Caramels in Milk Chocolate, you have probably seen this recipe.  I've only recently tried them, and they are really yummy - chocolate, caramel, what's not to love?  But, it was only after we'd finished the bag that I noticed the recipe on the back for these ROLO Pretzel Delights.  They sounded really yummy - chocolate, caramel, and crunchy, salty pretzels.  So I bought another bag just so I could try these.  Yep, they really are as good as they sound!  And so easy.

ROLO Pretzel Delights
from Hersheys.com

  • Small pretzels
  • ROLO candies
  • Pecan halves (or additional pretzels)
  1. Heat oven to 350°F.
  2. Place one pretzel for each treat desired on cookie sheet. Top each pretzel with one unwrapped ROLO.
  3. Bake 3 to 5 minutes or until chocolate begins to soften, but not melt. Remove from oven; top with either a pecan half or an additional pretzel, pressing down slightly. Cool completely.

The recipe said to line the cookie sheet with parchment paper or foil, but I just placed my pretzels directly on my cookie sheet.  That seemed to work just fine.  I did half with pecan halves and half with additional pretzels, and I liked them both.  These are a really delicious and simple to make treat.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Spicy Chocolate Snickerdoodles

It's time again for Secret Recipe Club reveal!  My secret blog assignment this month was Lisa's blog Sweet as Sugar Cookies.  As her blog title would suggest, Lisa is "all about the sweets" so there are plenty of yummy looking sweets to choose from.  There are, of course, lots of cookies and an entire list of recipes just for chocolate chip cookies.

I figured it was only right that I make some kind of cookies from Lisa's blog, and when I saw these Mexican Chocolate Snickerdoodles I knew they were the ones. I've always loved Snickerdoodles - though I haven't made them in ages - and the addition of chocolate with a kick of cayenne made them sound absolutely irresistible.

I did think about making these Strawberry Lemonade Muffins, but then I went right back to the cookies. I'll definitely be trying those muffins sometime, though!

These cookies bake up slightly crunchy on the outside, soft and cake-like on the inside.  I especially love that little bite from the cayenne, especially in the cinnamon sugar mix on the outside.  So good!  My husband doesn't like a lot of spice in his food, but even he enjoyed them, so they're not super-spicy - just have that little kick to make them fun.

Spicy Chocolate Snickerdoodles
adapted from Sweet as Sugar Cookies

  • 1/2 c. butter, softened
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 3/4 c. brown sugar, packed
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 c. unbleached flour
  • 1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
For rolling:
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • pinch of cayenne pepper 
  1.  Cream butter and sugars together.  Add eggs and vanilla; mix well.
  2. Combine flour, cocoa, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt and cayenne.  Mix in and stir until well combined.  Chill dough for about an hour.
  3. Roll dough into 1" balls and roll in cinnamon/sugar mixture.  Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake 10-12 minutes at 350°, until cracked on top.  Cool 2-3 minutes on cookie sheet before removing to wire rack to cool.
Makes about 4 dozen

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Red Bean Turkey Chili

I love this cooler weather because it's the perfect weather for soup! And boots and sweatshirts, fires in the fireplace, and snuggling up under the covers at night.  I mean, I would be OK if it wasn't quite so cold already in November, but I'm just going to enjoy it.  And make soup.

I made this one last week, and it's very tasty and satisfying.  I love all the beans.  I can't believe there was a time I didn't like beans.  Now I adore them.  The original recipe called for 2 cans of beans.  I ended up using 4!  I was really only planning to put 3 in, but I accidentally opened a can I didn't mean to open.  The beans were on top of the diced tomatoes I meant to grab, but somehow I moved the beans to grab the tomatoes and then put the tomatoes back and kept the beans - and then I opened them without looking at the can.  Oh well - lots of beans in this soup!

Red Bean Turkey Chili
adapted from Hip Foodie Mom

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 T cumin
  • 1 T dried oregano
  • 2 T chili powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 cans (15 oz.) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cans (15 oz.) red beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 bunch kale, stems removed and leaves chopped
  • 1-1/2 cups frozen corn
  • 4 cups turkey broth
  • 1 can (15 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 to 3 cups cooked turkey, shredded
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes; optional
  1. In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds then add and the bell pepper and season with the cumin, oregano, chili powder, and salt & pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the beans, kale, corn, turkey broth, and tomatoes.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil and then turn the heat down low and simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes, or until some of the liquid has reduced. Add the shredded turkey and red pepper flakes (if using) and simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes. Season with more salt and pepper, to taste. Enjoy!

Like most soups, this is a great make ahead meal. Make it one day, cool and refrigerate, then reheat the next. Soups just get better and better the more times you reheat them. I did end up adding a bit of water the second time I reheated this, because it thickened up a lot and there wasn't much broth left.

The flavors were really good in this.  The combination of seasonings was really good. (I did not use the red pepper flakes because I was afraid it would make it too spicy for my husband, though I think it would have been fine.) 

The original recipe used white beans, chicken stock and rotisserie chicken, Swiss chard, and added some diced zucchini, but I had just pulled some red beans and kidney beans out of my freezer - to make just a regular old pot of chili, except I then realized I had no tomato sauce so I needed another recipe for the beans - so I used the red beans.  I think any beans would work, whatever you like or have on hand.  I used turkey and turkey broth because I had those in my freezer too, and with Thanksgiving coming up and turkeys on sale, I will soon be cooking another turkey and replacing some of that cooked turkey and broth.  I'm cleaning out the old to make room for the new!

Anyway, that's a long way to say - the seasonings are really good in this, but you can mix, match, and substitute the ingredients you have and the ingredients you like, and you're still going to come out with a very good soup perfect for a cool weather meal.   Serve with a pan of cornbread fresh out of the oven, and you have perfection!  Or something very near.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Quick and Easy Beef Burrito Skillet

I've made this a couple times for dinner. It really does go together quickly, and it tastes good too. The original recipe calls for 1 lb. of ground beef, but I like things better without so much meat, so I cut it in half.  I do that with most of my recipes.   If you're a big carnivore, feel free to use the whole pound.

Quick and Easy Beef Burrito Skillet
adapted from Kraft Recipes

  • 1/2 lb. ground beef
  • 2 T Taco Seasoning Mix
  • 1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup frozen corn (optional)
  • 1 cup Salsa
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 corn tortillas, cut into strips
  • 1 cup Shredded Cheese
  • 1/3 cup Sour Cream
  • Chopped green onion
  1. Brown meat in large nonstick skillet on medium-high heat; drain.
  2. Add seasoning mix, beans, corn, salsa and water; stir. Bring to boil; simmer on medium-low heat 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in tortilla strips; top with cheese. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 5 min. or until cheese is melted. Top with sour cream and onions.

This recipe is very adaptable - add some chopped onion with the ground beef, use black beans or pinto beans, use flour tortillas or stir in some tortilla chips for some added crunch.  Feel free to add your favorite toppings or sides - shredded lettuce, tomato, avocado, rice, etc.  You can also serve the sour cream and green onion on the side and let everyone top their own servings the way they want.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Cranberry Cream Cheese Muffins

When I saw this recipe, I knew I had to try it. I love anything with cranberries (I previously made these amazing Lemon Cranberry Muffins from the same blog), and the addition of the cream cheese just sounded amazing.

I've made these twice this week.  The flavor is really amazing.  It reminds me of this Almond Tart a bit - probably because of the almond extract and the cranberries.  Those flavors just go together so well.  The soft, slightly sweetened cream cheese is just a bonus.

If you want, you can take a knife (or your finger) and spread that soft cream cheese all over your muffin. Yum!

Cranberry Cream Cheese Muffins
adapted from The Pajama Chef

  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided 
  • 6 oz. fresh cranberries (or frozen)
  •  2 eggs
  •  1/4 cup brown sugar
  •  1/4 cup oil
  • 3/4 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp. almond extract
  • 1-1/2 cup flour, part whole wheat (or use all white whole wheat)
  • 1 T ground flax seed (optional)
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.  Line muffin tin with paper liners or grease well.
  2. Mix cream cheese with 2 T sugar; set aside
  3. In small saucepan, combine another 2 T sugar with the cranberries.  Heat on medium, stirring occasionally, until cranberries pop.  Mash slightly with a wooden spoon and set aside.
  4. In mixing bowl, beat eggs then stir in the rest of the granulated sugar and the brown sugar.  Mix in oil, vanilla, and almond extract.
  5. Stir flour, flax seed (if using), baking powder, and salt together; mix into wet ingredients.  Then gently fold in cranberries, being careful not to over-mix or your batter will turn pink.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan, filling muffin cups about 2/3 full.  Use a spoon to scoop cream cheese mixture into the center of each muffin, pressing down gently.
  7. Bake 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.  Cool 5 minutes in muffin tin then remove to wire rack to cool.
Makes 12 muffins

I like my muffins dense and not too sweet, so I used the white wheat flour and flax seed and cut the sugar down just a touch.  They were still plenty sweet, but if you like your muffins sweet and light, use 1 cup of sugar in the batter, with an additional 2 T sugar for both the cream cheese and the cranberries.  And use white flour instead of the whole wheat, though white wheat isn't as heavy as regular whole wheat would be.  I would also recommend using cupcake liners because, even with the wheat flour, these muffins wanted to stick to my muffin pan just a little.

The reason I made these twice in one week wasn't just because I love the flavor - which I do - it was because the recipe, as first posted, called for about 1/2 the flour it should have.  (Sarah weighed all her ingredients, so she got it right, but then she used an online conversion calculator when she wrote the recipe post)  I did not even bother to check, just followed the recipe - and they still turned out really good!  Just very delicate.  And hard to stop eating.  Very hard to stop eating.

I will definitely be making these again!

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