the evolution of supper: quail eggs, freekeh, DIY tomato sauce, and mac and cheese

This gallery contains 5 photos.

Summer schedules have yet to make any more sense to me than they did last time we visited. And I’d bet I’m not alone. Parents everywhere are shuttling their kiddos here, there, and everywhere, while also scrambling to keep up … Continue reading

more marshmallow madness again

This gallery contains 9 photos.

The marshmallow train moves forward as I finally brought a bit of my madness to the masses. A friend who directs a local culinary school had asked me on board to teach a class on boozy marshmallows and last Friday … Continue reading

v, vanilla bean

This gallery contains 6 photos.

T, Tofu. U, Udon. Welcome, my food for fun friends, to V! Today I join Shanna, Sofia, and Ngan as we continue to cook our way through the alphabet. My culinary colleagues smartly assigned V to vanilla bean and I’m … Continue reading

making do, kitchen edition

This gallery contains 2 photos.

Let’s talk about those days when you don’t have time to hunt down recipes, shop for and prep amazing ingredients, and spend an hour putting a meal on the table. In other words, most of our lives nearly all the … Continue reading

the cake! the cake! and marshmallows, too

This gallery contains 3 photos.

Many many thanks to all of you who sent ideas (and encouragement) after last week’s puppy cake post. I promised follow-up on that cake and food for fun is here to deliver.Its deLizious facebook debut noted a resemblance to the … Continue reading

puppies, not ponies: time for another birthday cake

This gallery contains 1 photo.

My youngest daughter, she of last year’s pony birthday cake, is set to turn a year older. Which means I have an excuse to go all out with another cake. Her chosen party theme for turning 8 is “puppies,” so … Continue reading

spring break special ed. or there really is such thing as too many marshmallows

Spring break means sunshine, beaches, and tropical beverages. Especially after Coldest Winter Ever, trips to warmer climes seem mandatory. But our family had other plans. We would visit my husband’s parents in a small town 200+ miles north of where we live.

While this vacation locale won’t bring us any beach days, it does offer opportunity for rest and relaxation. With grandparents on-site to mind the kids, I can sleep in, work out, and tackle projects that haven’t been moving forward back home. One project in particular–remember Marshmallow Madness?–kept me busy today.

Since that last January marshmallow post, I’ve been drawing up outlines, testing recipes, dreaming up marshmallow flavors and uses (popcorn balls, anyone?), and researching what’s already out there in hopes of advancing my own spin on DIY ‘mallows.

To that end, I bought bottles of sweet red wine and sherry, intending to try these wines in marshmallows. Weeks went by, the bottles collecting dust on the shelf (save the sherry, which I enjoy sipping come evening) and I wondered when my schedule would allow me a few hours in the kitchen to try these new marshmallow flavors.

Knowing I’d have plenty of time at my in-laws, I packed it all up and set out to turn my mother-in-law’s kitchen into a marshmallow test kitchen.

And how. After making three different kinds of marshmallows–sherry, sweet red wine, and root beer–I can say without reservation that there IS such a thing as marshmallow overload. Tasting along the way, many spoonfuls of sugary fluff were consumed. Add to that the many marshmallows “tested” after project completion, and I write this in the throes of a sugar coma. That said, here’s a review.

The sherry and red wine flavors were riffs on Alton Brown’s recipe, subbing alcohol for part of the water (1/2 cup for the sherry and 2/3 cup for the red wine). Red wine won for appearance as it started out deep purple, then faded to light pinkish lavender after whipping. Sherry won flavor, if only because I prefer sherry over red wine.

sherry marshmallows-to-be

sherry marshmallows-to-be

boiling the wine syrup

boiling the wine syrup

whipping the wine fluff

whipping the wine fluff

Wanting to make a ‘mallow for the kids, I turned to Marshmallow Madness (Shauna Sever beat me to this book title!) for its Root Beer Float marshmallow. Sever’s recipes had different proportions of corn syrup, sugar, and liquid compared to other recipes I’ve tried, though she knows what she’s doing as her marshmallows were fluffiest and the “batter” easiest to work with. I’ll be turning to Sever’s book again.

gelatin "blooming" in root beer

gelatin “blooming” in root beer

I wasn’t overly crazy about any of these flavors, though that’s more about my being sick of marshmallows than it is marshmallow quality. My best bet is to step back from marshmallow making, though I’ll need to hit it again soon as I’ve signed on to teach a marshmallow class at a local cooking school. The madness must continue. I’ll also be reporting back here, eventually offering up the root beer float marshmallow recipe as well*. Please stay tuned!

l to r: red wine, sherry, root beer float

l to r: red wine, sherry, root beer float

*Can’t wait for the recipe? Let me know in comments or on deLizious facebook and I’ll send it your way.

sweet stuff

Too many sweet potatoes. That’s where I found myself after Trader Joe’s opened up in our neighborhood. My girls and I refer to TJ’s as our “happy place” and while the prices are most definitely right, I always manage to drop large amounts of cash if only because I buy so much. Hence the sweet potatoes.

My plan was to serve them solo baked, mashed, and roasted and also cook them up for chili, shepherd’s pie, biscuits, and the like. Best of intentions. What really happened? I baked a batch one night, and while my husband and I devoured ours, the girls were unimpressed. Same thing happened a few days later when I served sweet potatoes mashed. Apparently naturally sweetened foods do not work for my children.

Their lack of enthusiasm dulled mine, and the potatoes sat. Not wanting to throw them out, I finally roasted and mashed what was left of the five-pound bag and committed to making something fun with sweet potato puree.

First up was sweet potato spoonbread, from Down Home Wholesome, 300 Low-Fat Recipes from a New Soul Kitchen. Quintessentially Southern, spoonbread had never graced my Midwestern table. But this custardy, pudding-like “bread” seemed a good way to pass dessert off as part of the main course. Because the cookbook focused on low-fat fare, this version had only one teaspoon butter and one egg. Cornmeal and sweet potatoes made up the bulk and two whites were folded into the final “batter” for extra lightness.

prebake

prebake

It baked up lovely and glorious–especially served with (fat-free) half-and-half. I’m calling it a side dish, dessert, AND breakfast. Score one for the sweet potato.

sweet potato spoonbread

sweet potato spoonbread

glory be!

glory be!

A recipe for squash rolls also came to mind; I remembered making them for Thanksgiving years back and that they were a hit. Sweet potatoes were a natural sub for the squash, so I collected ingredients and made me some dough. It rose nicely and in the interest of variety, I divided the dough in half, shaping 12 dinner rolls from one and rolling out cinnamon rolls with the other.wpid-mntsdcardPhoto-Editor2014-02-12-16.36.08.jpg.jpgContaining only whole-wheat flour, the dinner rolls could have been heavy, but weren’t. Honey and oil kept them soft and tender and the 1 cup mashed sweet potatoes added plenty of moisture.

now with butter

now with butter

The cinnamon rolls got a heavy pour of honey-sweetened cream cheese and offered a legit breakfast, dessert, or snack. They weren’t as light as the bakery-style mile-high rolls, but their graininess and sweet, earthy flavor put them in a league of their own.

before frosting

before frosting

after the frost

after the frost

after plating

after plating

Though my girls were nonplussed with the spoonbread (more for texture and unfamiliarity than objecting to flavor), the rolls–dinner and cinnamon–got a big thumbs-up from all. Mission accomplished.

With that, I’m closing my sweet potato chapter for at least a short while. Just the same, I sense another trip to Trader Joe’s, for yet to be discovered bargains, in the near future.

Sweet Potato Spoonbread

  • 3 cups 1% milk (I used soymilk)
  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups mashed sweet potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 large egg whites, beaten until stiff

Butter 2-quart casserole. Heat oven to 375°F.

In heavy 2-quart saucepan, whisk together 2 cups milk, the cornmeal and salt. Heat over medium-low heat 5 minutes or until thickened. Stir in sweet potatoes, brown sugar, and butter.

Whisk egg into remaining 1 cup milk; stir into saucepan. Remove from heat. Stir in baking powder and baking soda. Fold in egg whites until no white streaks remain. Transfer batter to casserole. Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until just set, though custard will still be jiggly.

Sweet Potato Rolls

Instead of making 24 rolls, I rolled half of the dough into a 15×12-inch rectangle, brushed the dough with melted butter and sprinkled generously with cinnamon-sugar. The dough was rolled tightly, seams sealed, and cut into 1-inch slices. Rolls were then placed in a 9-inch pie pan to rise, covered, 20 minutes. They baked at 375°F for 20 minutes or until lightly browned and baked through.

  • 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water (105-115°F)
  • 1 cup mashed sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 5 cups whole wheat flour

In large bowl, combine yeast and water. Let stand 10 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients except flour. Add flour, 1 cup at a time, stirring until dough forms. Turn onto floured surface; knead vigorously 8 minutes or until soft and elastic. Place dough in clean greased bowl, turning dough so all sides are greased. Cover; let rise in warm place until nearly doubled. Shape into 24 rolls; place on greased baking sheet. Let rise 20 minutes or until puffed.

Bake at 375°F until browned and baked through. Transfer rolls to wire rack to cool.

2 oatmeal cookies–one traditional, one not so much

A fellow WordPress blogger set a lofty goal for herself in committing to read 52 books in 2014. An avid reader as well, I pledged to join her. While I read a fair amount of food-related fare (culinary mysteries are faves), I enjoy genres of all sorts.

Take my most recent read: Before Green Gables. The prequel to the series of Anne and her adventures on Prince Edward Island, it covers the span from just before her birth to her arrival on PEI. It’s a tale that speaks to the spirit of the underdog as well as how hard life was in earlier centuries.

Though there was no direct food connection, Anne’s story made me crave cookies. Molasses, oatmeal, and other old-school favorites were mentioned in its pages. I wanted a plate of old-school, from-scratch, homemade cookies. Oatmeal seemed the thing and despite a disdain for raisins in baked goods (which I’ve learned many of you wholeheartedly share), I had to have me some oatmeal raisin cookies.

yes, they have raisins, but they're so good!

yes, they have raisins, but they’re tasty!

The recipe came from Susan G. Purdy’s The Family Baker. I followed directions for the extra-chewy version, soaking the raisins in beaten eggs and vanilla for an hour before stirring into the batter. Note that this version replaces 1/2 cup butter with an equal amount of shortening, though coconut oil works if shortening isn’t happening in your kitchen. These are lovely cookies, chewy and sweet. Pair them with a glass of milk and call it breakfast.

And the other oatmeal cookie? This one was found in Bartender’s Black Book, purchased ten or so years ago as my first foray into cocktails. I remember well the winter weekend my husband and I were snowbound with a sick baby. We watched movies to pass the time, but my recently purchased spiral-bound bar guide called to me and I flipped through, imagining the cocktails I could create if only I had the booze.

The following weekend we were still snowbound and baby was still sick. Tired of winter, tired of sick, it was time to make my cocktail dream reality. After making notes of recipes I wanted to try along with spirits to buy, I ventured out the few blocks to a local liquor store and came home with ingredients for an Oatmeal Cookie.

oatmeal cookie squared

an oatmeal cookie served with oatmeal cookies

In the spirit of cocktail evolution, I more recently dressed this drink up after Attempts at Domesticity posted this marvelous concoction on deLizious facebook. A cap of marshmallow fluff and brief spin in the microwave made for a steamy and sweet cookie cocktail. No surprise that it pairs perfectly with treats that Anne (with an “e”) would most certainly have enjoyed.

before heating

before heating

30 seconds later

30 seconds later

what a way to drink!

what a glorious drink!

Extra-Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 cups old-fashioned oats

In medium bowl, whisk together eggs and vanilla. Add raisins; stir to coat. Let soak 1 hour.

Heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon.

In mixing bowl, beat together butter, shortening, and granulated and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add soaked raisin mixture; beat to blend. Slowly beat in flour mixture just until dry ingredients are incorporated. Stir in oats.

Drop batter inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake 12 to 16 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool on baking sheets 1 minute; transfer cookies to wire rack to cool completely. Makes 5 dozen cookies.

Oatmeal Cookie Cocktail

  • 2 ounces half-and-half
  • 1 1/2 ounces Irish cream liqueur
  • 1 1/2 ounces butterscotch schnapps
  • 1 ounce Jägermeister
  • 1 ounce cinnamon schnapps
  • Large spoonful marshmallow fluff

In microwave-safe drinking glass or mug, stir together all ingredients except marshmallow fluff. Top with fluff, spooning to seal rim of glass. Microwave, watching carefully, 30 seconds or until warm and fluff is puffed but hasn’t yet overflowed.

in-laws, outlaw marshmallows, plus a pan of bars

The blogosphere has been abuzz with end-of-year posts and kicking-off-the-new-year posts and year-end reports. And while I’d like to consider myself capable of looking within and learning from the past 365 days in hopes of improving my next round, I find that mostly I just move forward. I go and I do.

Balancing professional and personal ambitions with mommyhood leaves precious little time to just Be. And while that’s a bit disturbing, it’s where I–along with a lot of other mommies–am right now. Forward march with the task-driven mentality. (Though should you need a good look inward, I’ll send you over to meet Kaela. She’s fun!)

So to kick off 2014, food for fun offers you its most recent Adventures in Marshmallows. (If you were reading food for fun last winter, you know that I went through a bit of ‘mallow madness back then as well.)

Another blogging friend and I have been trading cocktail recipes and found we share a love for bourbon. Her use of cherry-flavored bourbon piqued my interest and I did a bit of “research” when visiting my in-laws over the holidays. Their small town boasts one liquor store and it’s little more than ten or so shelves on one wall, plus a few bottles behind the counter. I figured my chances of finding cherry bourbon were small, and it was indeed a wash.

Yet I knew from reading Drink More Whiskey (best. birthday. gift. ever. Thanks, dear husband!) that on some level whiskey is whiskey–whether bourbon, Scotch, Canadian, etc–and a bottle of black cherry Canadian had to share some common ground with cherry-flavored bourbon. I bought said bottle and returned to my in-law’s.

cherry whisky meet other marshmallow ingredients!

cherry whisky meet other marshmallow ingredients!

But I didn’t plan to drink it. Instead, I was subbing it in for bourbon in a cheeky recipe I’d found at The Tart Tart. The resulting marshmallows were amazing and lovely–the cherry sweetness came through as the spirited booze flavors flew just below the radar.

whitedogmallows

I bet Santa would have enjoyed a few of these!

Santa would have enjoyed a few of these!

My sister-in-law and mother-in-law helped me lick the beaters (and spatula and bowl) clean upon project completion. It was then that s-i-l made a game-changing comment:

“I need rice krispies with this. And butter.”

My universe shifted a bit at her words. Boozy rice krispy bars. Sheer brilliance! A few rice krispies were stirred into the fluff left in the bowl and we enjoyed  a taste.

Fast forward a few days and I was back in my own kitchen using TTT’s recipe again, this time replacing the bourbon with rum.

there's rum in these 'mallows

there’s rum in these ‘mallows

After the marshmallows had cooled and been cut, I measured up 10 ounces and made a batch of Hot Buttered Rum Rice Krispy Bars. Oh divine.

hot. buttered. rum.

hot. buttered. rum.

The possibilities seem endless–adult rk treats in flavors of margarita, mudslide, etc. I sense that 2014 has taken on a new purpose for me. My resolution seems clear: Make More Marshmallows. (Which oddly enough is not too far off from my 11-year-old’s “eat more gummy bears” resolve.)

So please stick around (marshmallow pun–get it? 😉 ) and help me meet my ‘mallow-y goal. A fellow blogger (you’ve met amb here before) and I have joked about Marshmallow Mondays and while I’m not sure yet exactly how this will play out, I see it as a good start for a new year of sweet and fluffy fun.

Introspection will always be welcome here and maybe even occasionally offered outright. But it’s mostly about the food and the fun that accompanies. Marshmallows, then, seem a good way to kick off the new year. Wishing you all a mountain of marshmallows in 2014!

let the good times roll–part deux

A recent conversation with fellow bloggers got me thinking rumballs. More specifically, it got me thinking that I will need rumballs to survive upcoming holiday travels.

But instead of rumballs, I recalled another candied ball of booze. A few years back, my husband and I traveled to Kentucky and it was there that I fell in love with bourbon. And Rebecca Ruth bourbon balls. These sweet Kentucky gems have a great back story (Which I’ve featured at Blog of Funny Names–read about it here. There’s a video of a fellow RR bourbon ball fan making a batch, too.) and are one-of-a-kind in the bourbon ball world. (The more traditional bourbon balls were featured at food for fun nearly two years ago–these of course were the part un.)

A recent purchase of more chocolate than anyone really needs (thank you, Trader Joe’s!) made the decision for me and Rebecca Ruth’s chocolate-dipped bourbon balls were my project for the night.

Chowhound’s recipe caught my eye as it was as simple as 1/2 cup butter, 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar, and 5 tablespoons bourbon. The amount of chocolate was vague, but I melted 14 ounces of dark chocolate and ended up with just a bit left over.

The process wasn’t overly long nor was it too messy. Best part: I now have 40 or so bourbon balls that should keep for a long while, powering me through the Christmas holidays and quite possibly taking me into the new year. Though I plan to share, so they may not make it that long.

shiny!

shiny!

Speaking of sharing, I wish I could give everyone here a Rebecca Ruth Kentucky-style bourbon ball as a token of my gratitude. I appreciate you reading and wish you a blessed and wonderful holiday season. Food for fun is off for the next week or so, but already looking forward to coming back in 2014 with fun new food finds. Until then, enjoy the crazy delicious that is life.

so sweet

so sweet

eggnog blog (plus granola bars, too)

While eggnog is held in higher regard than say…fruitcake, it’s still not always respected. It’s old-school. It’s quaint. It’s the kind of party drink Clark Griswold enjoys.

Then again, all things “old-school” seem to be enjoying new-found popularity. (Can you say “retro”?) Old-fashioned cocktails are making a comeback and I’m betting eggnog is poised to do the same.

This train of thought led me to my most recent Blog of Funny Names post. Would you please hop over to read about funny eggnog names (bonus comic included)? Then return for a recipe and a snack!

***

Researching the BoFN post made me thirsty for eggnog, though I wanted to try my hand at DIY instead of buying store-bought. An Alton Brown recipe (Anyone else an AB fan? I love this man.) came to mind, so I googled and hit the kitchen.

Brown offers uncooked and cooked versions of this holiday punch. Knowing full well that consuming raw eggs is not recommend, I went with uncooked anyway, mainly to save time. (Pasteurized eggs are an option, though the whites won’t whip as fully.) Without whole milk, I subbed in soymilk and also used rum instead of bourbon. As well, I cut the recipe down to make only one serving.

Though I expected the eggnog to turn out nicely, I had no idea it would be amazing. After just five minutes of prep time, this eggnog poured up light, fluffy, cool, creamy, and refreshing. I would have downed the entire serving (and it was a big mug) in one swallow if I hadn’t had a meeting to run off to. (Though you’d better believe I stored it in the fridge for later consumption.)

freshly grated nutmeg is so worth the effort

freshly grated nutmeg is so worth the effort

The cooked version would have been thicker, I’d imagine, but still creamy and decadent in its own way. What matters most here is how unbelievably easy it is to whip up your own batch of eggnog. Even without the booze, this is a lovely holiday beverage: Think of it as (melted) ice cream for winter.

With a mug of eggnog at the ready, we’ll need a snack. Preferably something healthy to balance out the cream and sugar. How about granola bars?

A few weeks back, food for fun offered a granola bar recipe. Soon after, Shanna of Curls and Carrots surprised me by sharing her AMAZING granola bars and crediting me with helping to inspire her recipe. These granola bars looked better than what I’d made and I looked forward to making a batch.

No surprise–Shanna’s Favorite Granola Bars were phenomenal. With room for all sorts of improv, they can be made repeatedly without ever being the same: I used dried apricots in place of some of the dried cherries and almonds instead of pecans. I also chopped up chocolate bars instead of hunting down chocolate buttons. Shanna had also mentioned trying cinnamon along with the other spices, which sounds lovely to me.

packed with goodness

packed with goodness

Now that we have our food and drink plated and ready to go, I offer you a warming winter beverage and a deliciously healthy snack.

DIY granola bars and eggnog. Cheers!

DIY granola bars and eggnog. Cheers!

Thanksgiving in the blogosphere, French bread, and lots of blog links

The past week has been an especially tasty one in the blogosphere as forward-minded bloggers published post after post of amazing dishes that would make any Thanksgiving table proud. Simply Bitten Kitchen gave us cornbread dressing (along with the cornbread for said dressing), cranberry sauce, and turkey wings. A Pug in the Kitchen also offered cranberry sauce and dressing along with potato rolls, a centerpiece-worthy turkey complete with gravy and sides, pie, and even wine suggestions. These are two of oodles of blogs that published Thanksgiving recipes in a timely manner. If you are hosting a Thanksgiving meal or providing at least a component, you would have read their posts and still had plenty of time to whip up the recipes.

Then there is food for fun. My blog. Where you will indeed find a stand-out recipe for a lovely baguette–developed by a Jesuit priest, for goodness’ sake–posted very late in the eve before the day that is Thanksgiving. This is the bread I will be bringing to my mom’s Thanksgiving feast. We will slice it and slather it with butter and maybe spread some cranberry sauce on it or even dip it in gravy. It will be heavenly. I will also slice up a loaf and turn it into Sweet Potato Crostini as seen in a Taste of Home back issue and offer it as an appetizer.

But sadly, Brother Curry’s recipe will not help you this November 28. For who has time to make this bread–with its 10-hour rise time–for their Thanksgiving meal? I apologize for this. My bad.

Just the same, I offer you a photo, recipe, and hopefully a feel for how easy it will be when you do have time to make this bread. It doesn’t need a holiday to be enjoyed, no. Make a batch (you’ll be richly rewarded with three loaves) and enjoy for breakfast, lunch, supper, and any time before or after any of those meals. Eat it plain, spread it with butter/jam/honey, make turkey sandwiches with it, float thin slices atop soup. You’ll find plenty of ways to enjoy these baguettes.

three French loaves

three French loaves (recipe below)

Though I am unable to help American folk fill their Thanksgiving table, I still want to wish all a blessed Thanksgiving. The blogging community–readers, Likers, commentors, followers–is high on my list of what I am thankful for. Blogging has brought amazing friends and helped me stretch my writing wings, take a few more risks. I’ve learned how to use my camera’s photo editor and my recipe collection has expanded exponentially. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine the blogosphere to be so rich. A sincere and heartfelt thank you to all.

In that vein, I’d like to especially thank Ada, of More Food, Please and Shanna, over at Curls and Carrots. Both ladies, besides offering first-rate content on their respective blogs, have supported my endeavors with their thoughtful and enthusiastic (and just plain fun) comments both here and over at deLizious facebook. Over the past few months, they’ve honored me with their nominations for Dragon’s Share, Versatile, Sunshine, Blog of the Year 2013, Dragon’s Loyalty, WordPress Family, and Best Blogger Ever of All Time (haha, just made that last one up) Awards. I love that you enjoy what you read here, Ada and Shanna. Many many thanks. You ladies rock.

While there are official rules for accepting these awards, I’m going to mix it up food blogger-style. Instead of answering questions and nominating others, I offer you a recipe.

Recipe for a Culinary (and otherwise) Tour of the Blogosphere

Makes as many servings as you think you can handle.

Click on links. Read, then laugh, drool, swoon, ponder, smile, etc as appropriate. Click Follow if you want another serving.

One more thing: I already sent you to Curls and Carrots above, but if you haven’t yet clicked over, I’ll send you directly to Shanna’s recent granola bar post. She claims she took inspiration from last week’s food fun for granola bar post, though even if that’s the case, she’s far surpassed anything I could have done. You must see these!

And now for that bread…

French Bread

From The Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking by Rick Curry, S.J.

  • 1 (1/4-ounce) package active yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water (105-115ºF)
  • Pinch sugar (my addition)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 to 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

In large bowl, combine yeast, 1/2 cup water, and the sugar, stirring to dissolve. Let stand 5 minutes.

Add remaining 3/4 cup water, the salt and 2 cups flour to yeast mixture; beat vigorously 3 minutes. Beat 5 minutes longer, continuing to add remaining flour until dough pulls away from side of bowl.

Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Knead 8 to 10 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic, adding flour as needed to prevent stickiness.

Lightly oil large bowl; place dough in bowl. Turn to coat on all sides. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in refrigerator 10 to 12 hours or overnight. (or at room temperature for half that, which is what I did due to lack of foresight. see paragraph 2 above)

Let dough come to room temperature (lucky me–mine already was). Heat oven to 450ºF. Turn dough out onto work surface. Divide dough into thirds; shape into baguettes. Place dough on trays. Cover with tea towel; let rise 20 minutes or until doubled in bulk.

Spritz loaves with water. (Original recipe recommends spraying with vinegar, which I didn’t understand. Anyone know why this would be a good thing?) Make seven slashes in each baguette (so says Brother Curry). Bake 10 minutes; spray with additional water. Bake 10 minutes longer or until golden brown. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

pan of (granola) bars

Pre-kids (and pre-Internet), collecting cookbooks was my thing. Consequently, my shelves are lined with hundreds of books I can’t seem to part with. While I’ve pared the collection down some, I still have far more cookbooks than I’ll ever need or use.

I’m betting many of you can relate. Cookbooks are more than recipes–they remind us of the people who gave them to us, restaurants enjoyed, travels made, classes taken, places lived. Even though there are plenty I’ll never cook from, each has its own reason for sticking around.

Why, though, would I purchase another cookbook? There are few recipes that can’t be found online and decluttering has more appeal than acquiring.

my new toy

my new toy

But I’m easy prey for a good deal and a pretty face. Hamilton Book offered both when its recent flyer advertised Entenmann’s Home Baking for a mere $4.95. Shipping didn’t add much and the memories I have of Entenmann’s baked goods, sitting on supermarket shelves in their blue and white boxes, drew me in. I wanted–no, needed–this book!

So in my collection it now sits and I’ve enjoyed turning its pages. Muffins, cookies, crumb cakes, pies, fancy desserts–they all look wonderfully homespun and there are many I would make. The Almost Homemade chapter uses Entenmann’s products as ingredients (their frosted donuts–along with coarsely chopped popcorn–somehow morphs into Dreamy Chocolate Bars). It all looks like great fun and I’ve already gotten my money’s worth by making two recipes.

Their basic chocolate chip cookies got a bit of a makeover when I subbed in cut-up Halloween candy (still trying to make my way through our stash) for the chips and are rich and buttery and delish.

Nutty Granola Bars were almost as successful. The photo reminded me of the Nature Valley bars we buy in bulk to keep my husband in constant supply. I’ve tried to make DIY versions with varying levels of success (thanks, Ada, for one of my favorites!), but have yet to achieve the crunch of store-bought brands.Open book

pan of bars

pan of bars

Instead of corn syrup, I used honey (seemed a cleaner ingredient) and maybe that was why these bars were softer than expected. Flour and a longer bake time differentiated this recipes from others, but the bars were still more soft than crisp.

Nutty Granola Bars

Nutty Granola Bars

Ironically, the other issue was that the edges crumbled and I had a cup or so of granola left in the pan after cutting and wrapping. The granola–and bars–were fantastic: buttery, a bit salty (did I mention I sprinkled the bars with Maldon sea salt before baking?), just slightly sweet. A splash of almond milk added to the granola crumbles made a fine supper.

granola for supper

granola for supper

I’m glad to have tried this recipe, but would add a bit more honey next time in hopes of better gluing the dry ingredients together. Perhaps a slightly longer bake time, higher temp, and larger pan would crisp them up a bit. Most likely, I’ll find another granola bar recipe to try (if you have one you love, please holler in comments or message me via my deLiz facebook page). Entenmann’s Home Baking will see more use, though, as there are crumb cakes, et al. to be made. This book will earn its place on my shelf.

Nutty Granola Bars

adapted only slightly from Entenmann’s Home Baking

  • 2 1/3 cups rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup chopped hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey or corn syrup

Heat oven to 350ºF. Grease 9-inch square pan. (original recipe calls for 8×8-inch)

In large bowl, mix oats, hazelnuts, flour, and cinnamon.

In saucepan, combine butter, brown sugar, and honey; cook over medium heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Pour over dry ingredients; mix well. Spoon mixture into pan, pressing down and smoothing top. Bake 25 minutes or until golden and firm to touch. Cut into 16 pieces while still in pan; cool completely. Makes 16 bars.

syrupy sweet

Last week’s post mentioned that I was “taking it easy,” which many of you (accurately) pointed out wasn’t really the case. When does taking it easy include making a pot of soup, loaf of banana bread, lovely cake and caramel sauce, and pumpkin waffles? Yet keep in mind that my profession–and obsession–puts me in the kitchen. And as it is for many of you, the kitchen is my playground. Strangely enough, it’s the weeks I don’t have time to be in the kitchen that are my busiest and most stressful.

Now THIS week, though, I’m really going to take it easy. Really. Because all I’m going to do (well, mostly all), is send you over to yesterday’s Blog of Funny Names in Food post. It was fun to write and I’d love for anyone who hangs out at food for fun to also see what I’m putting out over there. It’s a once-a-month gig and I’ll continue to highlight it here when my turn comes around. (Which, btw, I spaced last month. Read this if you want to see what a hastily thrown together blog post looks like.) So. You head over to read at least the latest waffle iron (spoiler alert, yes) post and I’ll wait here. Promising you something tasty when you return!

Alrighty then, you’re back? Signed up for the Cornelius S Waffle event on facebook? Excellent. Because I promise to never send you home empty-handed, we’ll finish with two recipes that were posted months apart on the same blog. Last April, I mentally bookmarked the first and when the second posted a few days ago, I committed to making them both. Then the waffle flag started flying–it was time.

I admit to being one of those maple syrup snobs–shunning anything in a plastic squeeze bottle on grocery shelves. If it isn’t pure maple syrup (preferably from a local artisan), I’m not buying. When I saw Kitchen Simplicity’s DIY syrup recipe, I was a bit taken aback, but the ingredients looked wholesome (read: no corn syrup) and it seemed a fun project. Ditto when I saw her buttermilk version go up.

butter-flavor on left, buttermilk on right--both divine

butter-flavored on left, buttermilk on right–both divine

These recipes are as easy as it gets. They both came together in under 10 minutes–not 10 minutes each, mind you. I made two syrups in 10 minutes. Now I have two lovely homemade syrups and they’re amazing.

We’ve already enjoyed them on pancakes and waffles and next up will grant my daughter’s wish of pouring over ice cream. They’re going to be grand in cocktails as well.

drizzled over 'cakes

drizzled over ‘cakes

oh, so sweet on waffles

oh, so sweet on waffles

poured over ice cream

poured over ice cream

add a bit of soda water, and this could be a lovely cocktail

add a bit of soda water, and this could be a first-rate cocktail

If you’re up for “taking it easy” this week, I suggest you get into the kitchen and cook up syrup. It’ll be the easiest DIY you ever do.