Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Candy Houses

Christmas candy cereal cookie house

Ok so there are gingerbread houses and then there are candy houses. The only other candy house I know is the one in Hansel and Gretel. But nevermind.

I have never understood gingerbread houses.

I love gingerbread, I make it almost every year, but it looks like this.

Love gingerbread cookie
Love gingerbread

Great flavor, on the soft side with a word on each that's christmas-y. I guess I like writing on words, (that is royal icing by the way madethe easy way with meringue powder, water and powdered sugar.) nothing against homemade gingerbread people, but my desserts on more on the rough elegancy side and less on the drawing on buttons and noses, which is more cute. My candy houses those are my cute.

I have made many of them. and I don't have the photos for the step by step it's messy and almost always made at night/ But I have ingredient recommendations.

The structure's components are a soda carton (the glass boxes come in, can be beer as well of course) and a shoe box lid.

Sometimes you have to trim the soda carton's center a bit. Bring it down so the roof has more support. When you make the lid just see if it wobbles or leaves a hude gap.

With the shoe box lid. you make two slits on the sides, and fold it so you get an angle then glue it down.

You may need to stuff the soda carton with something, newspaper or grocery bags to help it have more structural integrity.

Don't take down the roof though. Yay one less thing. If you want to make a chimmney I cut up a lose piece of cardboard off something below, and shape and adjust to get it as straight as possible on a slanted roof.

Shopping list

White frosting for mortar
Chocolate frosting for paving
Cereal for roofing (this was captain crunch)
Doughnut holes for retaining wall (you cut off the glazing and just use the slices.)
Fruit leather for bricks, I cut with scissors
Cookies for door (Milano has a little pack they sell by the register)
Cookies for window
Gum drops one green, one red for wreath, cut off the top of a green one and pierce with a skewer. The ribbon you cut a segment and cut out
Plus more green gum drops for bushes
Cereal for Christmas lights
Chocolate covered mints for pathway

You can use marshmellow fluff for snow cover, but you really have to cover it if you're doing that.

The sooner you make this, the dustier it will get, so I'd wait as much as possible.

Candy Christmas House

By the way candy houses smell amazing, Seriously you add in a christmas tree and it's like Christmas exploded.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Cookie time Perfect Spritz cookies for the holidays with the best cookie press

I love Spritz cookies, they're like the upgraded version of sugar cookies for me. They help make the holidays. But if you've ever made them then you probably know they have issues. Mainly the tool that makes them are a pain. Unless you have an old functioning electric machine, there are one of many problems you'll come across. 

1. An old machine that cripples your hand
2. A new machine that breaks without having finished it's first batch. 
3. Huge amounts of wasted dough. 
4. Some patterns just don't work. 
5. The number of clicks you need to push out dough varies constantly. 

Yeah, and I still bake them. Here's why. 

It's not stopped being about the damn machine and is about the recipe. 

My favorite Spritz Cookie Recipe 

1 cup butter (2 sticks) room temp
3/4 cup sugar 
2 1/2 cup flour 
1 egg
1 tsp almond extract 
1 tsp vanilla 

I like Nielsen-Massey for my almond and vanilla extracts. The price on amazon can be good. But always price compare for this, I've seen everything from $16 to $25 for the same 8 oz bottle of vanilla. 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

Cream butter and sugar. 

Add in egg and extracts. 

Add flour. 

Press into cookie press, add your favorite disc. Adjust press to pack dough. Some discs work better than others. 

If nothing is coming out right, cool dough. If nothing comes out at all leave it out to warm up. 

You may need to click two or three times with some patterns. Anything you don't like, scoop up and place with remaining dough in bowl. 

Press them directly onto on an ungreased cookie sheet. 

Bake for 6 to 8 minutes. It shouldn't have any color underneath. 

Cool on racks, or just a cutting board like I do.

Makes around 40 cookies.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Perfect Baked Potato Split with a fork

Perfect Baked Potato with crispy skin
Baked Potato with Crispy Skin
This blog has always also been about the simple stuff. and there's nothing simpler than this, but getting a nice skin is not always that easy unless you make potatoes like this.

Heat oven to 375,

Cover potato in your go to oil, I just use olive oil. Use very little oil, and just spread it on with your hands.
Place the potato on the oven rack directly. Foil is what ruins potato skins. Bake for an hour for a midsize potato, (45 minutes for small, 1 hour 15 minutes for large)

I prefer the creamy texture of Yukon Golds, but many like a nice Russet.

Check to see if it's done by piercing to the center with a fork. By splitting it open with a fork you get this fluffy texture you just can't get with a knife.  You can hear the tear of the skin, and all the glorious crunch.

Give it a y-injection. Add salt of your choice, I'm hooking on pink salt at the moment, and a little butter.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Warm Greek Apple Hand Pies with whiskey soaked raisins and walnuts, love love.

It's that time of year again, and another apple recipe. I love fruit based desserts, and I think apples maybe my favorite to bake with,

This reminds me of being a teenager, we used to heat these things up in panini presses, the powdered sugar would get these amazing char marks. Cold they don't inspire much, but warm, amazing.

Warm Greek Apple Pie with Whiskey soaked raisins and walnuts

Traditionally they use softer sweet apples for milopita (Greek for apple pie), so the filling is a bit like apple sauce. But I usually use something firmer, often Gala because I can find it year round.

I also make drunk raisins by soaking them in whiskey these days, I did it at St. Patrick's day for the soda bread, and it's amazing, I like it better than the traditional rum,

If you're having trouble finding yellow raisins, as so many people seem to, they still carry them at Trader Joes, and at some specialty grocery stores.

 Greek Apple Hand Pies

3 apples. peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp white sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp yellow raisins, soaked overnight in 1 tbsp whiskey
2 tbsp walnuts
juice of half lemon
1 tbsp flour

pkg puff pastry

powdered sugat

Soak raisins in whiskey overnight, or cover in a bowl and microwave in 30 sec increments.

Preheat oven to 400.

Mix filling ingredients.

Cut puff pastry into squares. Size will depend on your preference for final size, I like a 6 in on the diagonal.

Fill with filling, fold over and crease sides to seal.

Warm Greek Apple Pie with Whiskey soaked raisins and walnuts
Add caption

Place on ungreased baking sheet.

Bake for around 20 minutes until puffed and golden.

Once mostly cooled, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Serve warm.

Warm Greek Apple Pie with Whiskey soaked raisins and walnuts

Monday, October 13, 2014

Possibly the best soup in the world, Spicy African Peanut

Spicy African Peanut Soup with berbere
Spicy African Peanut Soup
I can't believe I've never mentioned this soup, it is often my favorite. Competing with too many others to name them all, although Yogurt-Mint and Lentil are probably on the podium,

Spicy African Peanut Soup with Sweet Potatoes and Ginger

This soup started out very different than it ended up, although I have done so many substitutions over the years, it's almost anything goes. I just try and keep the sweet and savory balanced, and adjust around what's in the pantry. If you don't have sweet potatoes, use regular and add an apple or a sweet pepper. I also love that it's a puréed soup, it means not having to finely chop everything up.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Middle Eastern Fish Tacos

Mint, garlic, yogurt, lemon, on crunchy fish with charred bread. Oh yeah. Love this, And by making it at home it's still warm when you eat it.

This started off as a regular fish taco, but I quickly realized I was subbing out everything except the fish. Upon tasting it, it soon became one of my favorite foods.

it's basically breaded fish, a garlic-y spicy strained yogurt mix, a cabbage bell pepper mix tossed with lemon mint garlic dressing all on a charred pita.

Ok there is a major cheat here, frozen breaded tilapia. I'm just never going to be the person that fries much, and frying fish, I leave that up to others,

So it starts off with charred pita bread. I literally place it directly on an electric burner. This is something my grandfather used to do when heating bread. Ok, so I suppose you could potentially burn the house down, but it's not easy to get these marks without a little risk.

Place slices of cooked breaded fish on top. 

 Top with strained yogurt mixture.

Top with cabbage mixture.

 Isn't it pretty?

You can double decker it with another layer of fish.

Strained yogurt mix

2 tbsp strained yogurt (this can be bought or made)
juice of half a lemon
1/2 tsp cayenne or to taste
1 clove crush garlic

Mix all ingredients, taste and adjust, I like to keep it on the spicy side.

Cabbage mix

1/3 small head of cabbage sliced
1/2 yellow pepper
1 clove garlic crushed
2 tsp mint
juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salr

Mix and let sit out on the counter until cabbage is softened. This will keep and get better after a few hours, days.

Fish Taco

1 fillet breaded frozen tilapia
strained yogurt mix
cabbage mix
pita bread

Monday, September 22, 2014

Caramelized Peach Cobbler, Sticky and Sweet for a Happy Last Day of Summer Day

Sticky easy peach cobbler

Sticky easy peach cobbler

Sticky easy peach cobbler

It's been such a long summer, so long it doesn't feel like fall yet. With all this heat the pumpkins in the grocery stores seem really out of place, it feels like the produce section should still be filled with heirloom tomatoes and stone fruit.

Peach cobbler is one my cousin's favorite desserts, we made one together many years ago, this is based off that recipe, it's sort of gooey, and the caramelized top gets really sticky.

This can be made with frozen peaches, not as great of course as peak of season peaches, but still awesome.

I have made this vegan before with coconut oil and almond milk, still turns out great.

Peach Cobbler

3 cups sliced peaches (Can be fresh or frozen)
1/4 cup white sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

8 tbsp butter
1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup milk

Mix peaches with sugar and cinnamon, let it for around half an hour to release juices and dissolve sugars.

Set oven to 350.

Place butter in 9" x 18" pan. Melt in the oven.

Mix remaining sugar, flour, baking powder, and milk. Pour this mixture on melted butter without mixing.

Scoop out peaches and place on flour mixture without stirring. Pour sugar and peach juice on top.

Baking at 350 for around 45 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream sprinkled with a little cinnamon.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

I own a blender Butternut Squash Soup

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

On the list of fairly easy to pull off, this tops the list, it's ground up veg and broth. It can be done with just about any vegetable, but butternut squash is a favorite, which has more to do with the little Italian restaurant I fist had it at, than anything else.

2 cups cut up butternut squash
1 onion, large chop
i clove garlic, still in the skin
1 tbsp olive oil
spicy paprika

4 cups broth

Place veg on foil lined sheet tray, cover with olive oil and spice, roast at 375 for 20 minutes.

Place in a blender with some broth and grind up.

Pour into pot, and heat up, add more broth until you like the consistency.

Serve warm, the next day is best.

In the past when I've have fresh sage in the garden, I've fried them up whole and used them as a topping,

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Show Stopping Gluten Free Strawberry Mascarpone Almond Cake, that's a mouthful

Gluten Free Strawberry Almond Cake with Mascarpone Cream

I make a lot of gluten free desserts, but for the most part, I'm not a fan of the whole GF flours, rice is grainy, bean based ones that taste like beans, corn is something I avoid more than wheat. I'm just not happy with a lot of them, so looking back on the good old paleo diet days, I like the nut based ones, and although I have used hazelnut and cashew, I like almond the most. I can buy the meal from TJs, and it doesn't need lesser known additives to work. (Having said that I do use arrowroot for savory applications.)

Gluten Free Strawberry Almond Cake with Mascarpone Cream

I know some people insist on almond flour instead of meal, but the truth is really difference is moisture, meal is larger and therefore more moist, instead of light and fluffy. I'm cool with more moist, I prefer my cakes on the coffee cake side over the spongy and in my opinion less flavorful.

Gluten Free Strawberry Almond Cake with Mascarpone Cream

I like my interior strawberries chopped, it makes for easier slicing, just separate the berries into pretty and eh, and chop the eh.

Gluten Free Strawberry Almond Cake with Mascarpone Cream


2 pints strawberries

2 cups almond meal
1 cup sugar
pinch of salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
6 egg whites

16 oz. mascarpone
3 cups cream
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Sliced almonds for decoration

Draw three different eight inch circles on parchment paper. Turn paper upside down. Cut to fit onto trays. Spray top with a little oil spray.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Beat egg whites until soft peaks form, slowly add in vanilla and 3 tbsp sugar. Continue whipping until stiff but not dry peaks form.

Mix together remaining sugar and almond extract.

Carefully fold in almond mixture. Try and keep as much body as possible.

Place 1/3 of the mixture on each circle. Spread towards the edges.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until mostly firm and slightly browned. My slow oven took close to 40 minutes.

Cool cakes.

Make cream.

Combine cream, mascarpone, cream, vanilla, and sugar. Whip a little and taste to see if you need more cream, I tend to like my creams less sweet.

Whip until stiff, this cream needs to hold up a lot of cake.

Separate strawberries by half into pretty and less pretty. I like to save the smaller ones.  Chop up the less pretty and slice most of the pretty.

Start layering cake with cake,

Then a little cream.

Fill center with half of chopped strawberries.  Leave a little cream rim on the edge.

Top with more cake.

More cream.

Then the rest of the chopped berries.

The last cake layer. Cream the top and sides.

Top cake with strawberries in an amusing pattern.

Cover sides with almond slices.