Jan 30, 2013

Better Together: Brownies Love Blondies


Are you a brownie person or a blondie person? How about brownies and blondies at the same time?


These treats are fun and easy to make. You'll need your favorite brownie recipe or mix, and your favorite blondies recipe. I used a Ghiradelli brownie mix, and the blondie recipe I used is at the end of this post. You'll need two heart-shaped cookie cutters, one large, one small. I used a 3" cutter and a 1.5" cutter.



You'll mix the batter as usual, but then bake in a larger-than-called-for pan so that the brownies and blondies will be thin enough to cut out with cookie cutters. For example, the blondies recipe called for a 13" x 9" pan, and I used a 15" x 10" jelly roll pan. The blondies and brownies will cook a little more quickly than listed times since they're thinner.

I recommend that you don't use nuts or chips in the batters. The bumps they create make it more difficult to cut smooth edges. I didn't notice that the brownie mix had miniature chocolate chips in it until I had already opened it, and some of the chips did make for slightly uneven cuts in some places.



When they're done, set the pans on wire racks until brownies and blondies are completely cool. Lift them out of the pan with the parchment paper still attached and start cutting out shapes. I sprayed the cookie cutters lightly with cooking spray.

To make the heart-in-a-heart brownie: cut a large brownie heart, then cut the center of the large heart with the smaller cutter. Set the smaller brownie heart aside. Cut a small blondie heart, and place it carefully into the large brownie. You can also do the reverse: put a small brownie heart into a large blondie. They're moist enough that they stay together well.

For variety, you can leave some of the hearts whole. It makes a nice contrast.


And now for the recipe I promised! These blondies are very rich, moist, and chewy. It's just a bonus that the recipe is easy- it uses packaged baking mix such as Bisquick or Pioneer.

I'm writing the recipe as originally written, but remember to use a larger pan if you're going to cut out shapes.

Baking Mix Blondies


1 and 1/2 cups baking mix
1 and 1/2 cups light brown sugar
12 tablespoons (1 and 1/2 sticks) melted butter
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray a 9" x 13" pan with cooking spray. Line pan with parchment paper and spray paper. Let the paper hang over on 2 sides.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Spread batter in prepared pan and bake for about 25 minutes, or until center is set. Be careful not to over-bake. (Reduce cooking time somewhat if using the larger pan).

The batter reminded me of caramel frosting


Let blondies cool in pan on a cooling rack until completely cool. Using paper overhang, remove blondies from pan and cut into squares (or hearts!).




Blondies recipe adapted from the Dallas Morning News.


Better Together: Brownies Love Blondies may have been taken to some of these fun parties! 










Jan 24, 2013

Make a Chocolate Drizzle Heart

This is such a pretty way to decorate special occasion cakes and cupcakes. You can make any design you'd like, but since it's almost Valentine's, I made hearts.

Here's a 1.5" heart on a cupcake:
        

You'll need:
*semi-sweet chocolate chips
*a zip-lock plastic bag or piping bag 
*parchment paper
*cookie cutters to draw around (or free-hand it!)
*small piping tip (optional)

I don't want to make this harder than it is- basically, you just melt chocolate in a zip-lock bag, snip a corner off, and squeeze out a design onto parchment paper. But I like to know details on projects I attempt, so here are a few more specifics:


Draw the designs you want to make on the parchment paper. I drew around heart-shaped cookie cutters. Turn the paper over. You'll still be able to see the designs, but you won't get pencil or ink on the chocolate.



I used a 3" heart and a 1.5" heart

If using the piping tip, cut a small hole in one of the bottom corners of the zip-lock bag and push the tip into the hole from the inside.

Put about 1/4 cup chocolate chips in a zip-lock bag. Push them, in a single layer, into one of the bottom corners (into the piping tip corner, if using). Zip top closed. Microwave at 50% power for a few seconds at a time, lightly kneading the chocolate to mix it, until almost completely melted. Lightly knead the chocolate through the bag until smooth. Keep the chocolate in the corner as much as possible. You may want to hold the bag with a kitchen towel or pot holder- it gets very warm.




Twist the bag until the chocolate is firmly "packed" in the corner. If not using a tip, cut a tiny hole in the chocolate corner. Keeping a steady pressure on the twist, pipe the chocolate onto the paper, following the designs you drew.

Now you'll want to fill the inside space of the design with loops or zigzags. Make sure there are lots of intersections in the lines- this is what will give your design strength and stability.


3" heart 

Let the chocolate shapes set. When completely set, peel them v-e-r-y carefully off of the paper. If you have a thin spatula you could slip the hearts off of the paper with that. What worked for me was to keep the chocolate design flat, and peel the paper off at an angle from underneath. Handle them gently, and as little as possible. The smaller hearts were sturdier than the larger ones. You can use your chocolate hearts as soon as they're set, or store them in a covered container in the fridge for 1 to 2 days. They're prettiest right away.


3" heart on a small layer cake:


that I used for this tutorial.


May have been taken to some of these fun parties!


Individual Bread Bowl Appetizers


I know you've seen the big, regular-sized loaves of bread, hollowed out and used as bowls for soup or dip. This is a variation on that idea- in miniature.

It's fast and easy to put together, and who wouldn't want their very own little bread bowl? No double-dipping here. :)



I bought a bag of 4" hard rolls from the bakery section, and a selection of dips. Thicker dips work better than salsa-types.

Using a bread knife, slice off the top 1/4th of the rolls. Using a small knife or spoon, scoop the bread out of the rolls, leaving a 3/4" thick shell. (I froze the tops and insides for future use). Brush the rolls, inside and out, with a very thin layer of olive oil or melted butter. Place rolls on a cookie sheet, and bake at 375 degrees for about 7 minutes, or until lightly toasted.



 Fill each roll with dip, and serve with chips, crackers, sliced veggies, etc.



Touchdown!



Individual Bread Bowl Appetizers may have been shared at some of these fun parties!


Jan 20, 2013

Classic Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting


Yellow cake with chocolate frosting is my husband's favorite- the only birthday cake (or any cake, for that matter) that he ever wants. Any time I'm cooking anything, he'll come in and ask (with hope in his voice), "What are you making? Is it yellow cake with chocolate frosting?" And this time it was!

This cake is light and tender, and has a beautiful, small crumb. It tastes just like it smells- a sweet, rich, buttery, vanilla mouthful. The slightly browned edges of the cupcakes were the tiniest bit chewy (in a good way), and tasted like a sugar cookie. 


You can make this recipe as a layer cake or as cupcakes.

The Classic: Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Ingredients:

1 and 1/3 cups sifted cake flour
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon vanilla
4 eggs yolks, at room temperature
3 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1/2 cup heavy cream, cold

Directions:

Center an oven rack and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8 inch cake pans, and line bottoms with parchment paper. 

Sift together the flours, baking powder, and salt, then whisk together to ensure that they are well mixed. Set aside. In mixer bowl, cream the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl frequently. Turn mixer to low speed. Drizzle the oil and vanilla into the mixture until well combined. Blend in the eggs and yolks, one at a time, adding the next one as soon as the previous one has disappeared into the batter. Keeping the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk in 2 parts, beginning and ending with the flour. After each addition, mix just until barely combined to avoid over-beating. Scrape sides of bowl frequently.

In a separate chilled bowl, whip the heavy cream to soft peaks. Gently fold the whipped cream into the cake batter. Divide batter equally between the two cake pans.Tap pans lightly on counter to remove air bubbles.

Bake until centers spring back when lightly touched, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Flip the cakes out of the pans, and let them continue to cool, top side up, until they reach room temperature. Leave the parchment paper on the layers until ready to assemble the cake.

While the layers cool, prepare your frosting (recipe follows). When cakes are completely cool, remove parchment paper and frost as for a layer cake. You can prepare as two layer cake, or cut each layer in half horizontally and frost as a 4 layer cake.




Mother's Chocolate Frosting

Makes 2 cups (double this recipe for a 4 layer cake)

1/2 cup butter

1/3 cup milk
6 tablespoons baking cocoa
1 (16 oz.) box powdered sugar (I always sift; there are usually lots of little lumps)
1 teaspoon vanilla 

In a medium saucepan, cook first 3 ingredients over medium heat, stirring constantly, until butter melts. Remove from heat. Using an electric hand mixer, beat in the powdered sugar and vanilla at medium speed until smooth and of desired consistency, scraping sides frequently. Frost as desired.



Make a wish!


"The Classic" yellow cake recipe is from Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson. Frosting recipe is courtesy of my Mom.

These cupcakes may have been taken to some of these fun parties!




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Jan 12, 2013

Creamy Cauliflower Potato Soup


On cold days, my grandmother would often make soup. It might be gray, cold, and dreary outside, but inside the house it would be warm and bright, and the windows would fog up. Eventually, little rivulets of condensation would run down the insides of the windows. I loved how that looked, because it meant that we were warm and cozy and safe inside the house. And there would be soup.

If there was soup, there would almost certainly be homemade biscuits or cornbread. And as long as the oven was on, there might even be pie. Soup days were the best.

A cold front came in the other day, so I made soup. I started out to make potato soup, but remembered there was a head of cauliflower that really needed to be used. So it became cauliflower potato soup, with a couple of carrots added for color. 




This soup is thick and creamy and satisfying. That's one of the great things about using your blender- you get the creamy texture and taste without actually using any milk or cream or butter. I had planned to include some cream or butter in the recipe, but it just didn't need it. You could always add a little if you wanted a richer taste. 

Don't be concerned about the rather long list of ingredients- most of it is seasonings.


Creamy Cauliflower Potato Soup

Makes about 2 1/2 quarts

* 1 large head of cauliflower, cut into florets
* 2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into approx. 1 inch chunks
* 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced into approx.   1 inch slices (basically, you just want all the veggies cut in pieces about the same size, so they'll cook evenly and get done at the same time)
* 2 cans (14.5 oz.) chicken broth (I used low sodium)
* 1 and 1/2 cans water (chicken broth can)
* 2 teaspoons jarred minced roasted garlic

* 1 bay leaf 
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
* 1/2 teaspoon sugar
* 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
* shredded parmesan cheese, for topping
* other toppings as desired, such as bacon, parsley, etc. 

Combine all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on low heat until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes (you might want them "crisp tender" to eat, but in this case, we're going to put them in the blender, so we want them fork-tender).

Remove pot from heat. Remove the bay leaf and discard. Working in batches (half a blender container at a time), blend the soup just until smooth. Taste and correct for seasonings. At this point, you could add 3 or 4 tablespoons of cream, or a couple of tablespoons of butter or olive oil, if desired.

Print Recipe



Sprinkle with a little parmesan cheese


It makes enough to share :)



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Jan 7, 2013

Rolls Italiano (Homemade Italian Yeast Rolls)


There's nothing quite like homemade bread. It's the quintessential "yesterfood": the aroma, the taste, the memories of a cozy kitchen with loved ones.

I was making chicken spaghetti the other night, and wanted just the right bread to go with it. I visited the Red Star Yeast website and found One-Hour Pan Rolls Italiano.
 The "one hour" part of the description caught my eye, and the "Italiano"part sounded perfect for spaghetti.

These rolls go together pretty quickly. Much of the one hour is the time the rolls need to rise- and you can use that time to prep the rest of the meal.

The roll recipe (here) includes directions for using a bread machine, stand mixer, or food processor. I used my stand mixer. You just mix in the ingredients, let the machine knead for a few minutes, then shape into 16 rolls:


 Right out of the mixer

Cut dough in half, then each half in half. That keeps the pieces fairly evenly sized.

Cut each fourth into four pieces: now you have 16 rolls

Tuck each piece into a smooth ball, sprinkle with cheese, let rise, and bake!


Your kitchen smells wonderful while the rolls bake: the delicious, warm aroma of yeast bread, layered with the fragrance of Italian herbs and cheese.

These rolls bake up big and fluffy, and have a savory flavor that would compliment other dishes containing herbs such as oregano or basil. They're pretty, too- bits of herbs peek through here and there, and the parmesan cheese on top gives them a bit of a rustic flair.



Fresh out of the oven

Pass the rolls, please!



Yesterfood's Rolls Italiano are featured on the Red Star Yeast website here!

You can check out the Red Star Yeast website for more recipes and helpful tutorials.





Jan 1, 2013

Bacon Cheeseburger Meatloaf Sliders


These little sliders are some of the best things I've had lately. Ever fix yourself a sandwich with leftover meatloaf? These are even better, because you get the baked-on sauce in every bite, not just on the top. Plus, they bake faster than a regular-size meatloaf does, so there's not as much waiting, and there's a great balance of meatloaf and cheeseburger flavors.

Besides, meatloaf sliders are just fun. :)



Bacon Cheeseburger Meatloaf Sliders

Ingredients:

* 1 pound lean ground beef (I used 96%)
1/3 cup real bacon bits 
* 4 oz. shredded cheese (I used 2% fat Mexican blend)
* 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
* 1/2 cup bread crumbs (
I used slices of day-old french bread, toasted, then crumbled to about pea size, then measured. If you use commercial bread crumbs, which are very fine, you might want to use less)
* 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
* 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
* 1 (3-ounce) can French fried onions (divided use- half in the burger mixture and half on top)

* 1/2 cup ketchup
* 1 tablespoon prepared mustard 
* Slider buns or small rolls
* Optional: I also added 2 tablespoons of brown sugar to the ketchup mixture before dividing it- I like a sweeter meatloaf topping. If you like a more savory topping, just leave this out.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cover a half-sheet size cookie pan with sides in heavy duty foil. Spray foil with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the bacon bits, and the next 7 ingredients through the black pepper, mixing well. Stir in a little less than half of the french fried onions, breaking up the larger pieces. Crumble the ground beef into this mixture and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the ketchup and mustard (and brown sugar, if using). Stir 2 tablespoons ketchup mixture into meat mixture. Reserve remaining ketchup mixture for topping.

Combine the meat mixture thoroughly. Shape the meat mixture into small patties, just slightly larger in diameter than the buns you will be using. I made indentations in the center of each burger so that they would bake evenly and not puff up in the middle. I ended up with 9 sliders.



Ready for the topping

Place the burgers on the prepared pan, and brush them liberally with the reserved ketchup mixture. Bake at 350 degrees until done (at least 160 degrees, or until no longer pink inside), about 35 to 40 minutes. About 5 minutes before the burgers are done, sprinkle them with the remaining french fried onions, breaking up the larger pieces. Bake an additional 5 minutes or until onions are nicely browned. Remove from oven, and let burgers sit in the pan for 2 or 3 minutes before serving.




Lightened up and adapted from Paula Deen's Bacon Cheeseburger Meatloaf.

Bacon Cheeseburger Meatloaf Sliders may have been taken to some of these fun parties!