Tag Archives: From The Kitchen

Home made Vanilla

Found a screaming deal on Vanilla beans here. And decided to make my own vanilla!  Its been brewing in my cupboard since Christmas…I had four jars to start with, but have gifted two of them, so I only have 2 left!


I’m a big cheater!

What I mean is, I like to take short-cuts when I can.  Not when it comes to important stuff but just the little things.  I recently found this…

Talk about a short cut for breakfast.  Noah usually wakes up 30 minutes before we walk out the door to hockey.  Factor in a shower and that does not leave much time for Breakfast…  So I found this pancake batter in a can.  Throw in some fruit and you have instant breakfast.  Yesterday I pulled some frozen blue berries out to thaw and then made Blueberry pancakes.  Today was Banana pancakes.

My mom was always big on breakfast.  Never for herself, but she made us kids hot breakfast almost every morning before school.  And for NOT being a morning person, she could put together a GREAT breakfast in a pinch. In hind sight thats were I learned it from. Ive always been a big breakfast person.  Eggs might just be the perfect food!

sidenote:  I have a freezer full of fruit!  I have been flash freezing strawberries and blueberries all summer.  there were about 3 weeks in a row at the farmer’s market where pints of blueberries were a $1 a pint!  Ive been working through them putting them in pancakes and they work really good in smoothies for Noah in the morning.  I also froze the last batch of peaches that I didnt have the energy to preserve.  I have also been using them for mini pies….  I do wish I had more raspberries, but maybe I can find some from the farmer’s market this weekend.


My garden is winding down… and I have to say I didnt have the success I was hoping for.  As the summer progressed the sun moved so that my garden didnt have sun until after 1 pm… so nothing really did well.  I have gotten about a dozen tomatoes from 3 plants.  Although they are still producing and hopefully will have more before our first freeze.

My peppers have also done well and I am drying a bunch of them.

My strawberries are the only other thing that did well.  I just planted my potted plant in the ground so maybe I will have a BUNCH next year.

My garlic was a bust, my onions were a bust, my lettuce was a bust, my cantalope was a bust, my cucumbers were a bust, and my corn were a bust….  big bummer.  Our next house is going to have lots more sun!!!

My husband keeps telling me how we spent more on tomato plants than we would have buying tomatoes from the grocery or farmers market, but there is something really pure about picking a tomato and eating it while its still fresh and warm…  so I will probably plant more of those next year.    Ill have to figure out what I can plant next year.  My herbs did ok, but the onions didnt grow at all…

How did your garden do this year?

Dinner is Served: Garden & Shrimp Alfredo

Tonight’s Menu: Garden veggies with Shrimp alfredo over spinach angel hair pasta.

I was going to make shrimp alfredo, and then decided to church it up with what ever I had in the fridge from my veggie delivery.

Onions sautéing in bacon grease while I chop garlic-

Roasted Green Chiles from the farmer's market ready to chop

adding broccoli and cherry tomatoes

Yum- I could eat just this over pasta plain!

add shrimp

and I totally cheated and used alfredo sauce from a jar...


My (stolen) bread recipe

First I have to give credit, where credit it due!  I live for 14 years at 9000 feet.  Any idea how hard it is to bake at that elevation?  Super duper hard!  In fact, in moving to Denver, a mere 5000 feet, I can bake just about anything.  Yet all box mixes say anything over 3500 feet should be “enhanced” for altitude….

A couple of years back my husband got me a GREAT kitchenade stand mixer. The grand-daddy of them all (must weigh 50 pounds), and I started wanting to make bread.  Well yeast does funny things in that low oxygen environment and most of my loaves, while still edible, were very dense and chewy.  I was always looking for good high altitude cook books and one day found this: http://www.highaltitudebaking.com/thebook.htm.

For those of you who love cook books- this is a pretty amazing one.  It gets into great detail of the technical aspects of cooking/baking at Sea Level, 3000 feet, 5000 feet, 7000 feet and 10000 feet.  Each recipe has detailed instructions and ingredients adjustments for each altitude.  I’m now baking at 5000 feet and loving it.

This is the basic bread recipe I use.  Its labeled in the book as “Buckhorn Baguettes” but I use it for all shapes and sizes and mix all kinds of stuff into it.  I’m going to give you the sea level version of this knowing that most of my peeps are much lower than I.

Combine 1 1/2 cups HOT water, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Your looking for a temperature of about 115 degrees, so if you used really hot water let it sit until that temp comes down.  I just stick a digital thermometer in it and watch it.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine 1/4 cup of WARM water and 1 tablespoon of sugar.  Stir to dissolve the sugar if you can then add 2 1/4 teaspoons of active dry yeast (= 1 packet, I don’t use fast acting, just normal yeast).  Stir in the yeast and set aside for 3 or 4 minutes or until the mixture bubbles.  (if it takes longer than 5 minutes your yeast is probably old and you need to start over with new yeast).

Measure about 2 1/2 cups of flour into your mixing bowl (1 cup should be all purpose, with the balance being bread flour).  Pour in Water/oil mixture when it hits 115 degrees and add yeast mixture and mix HARD for 4 minutes using the mixer’s paddle attachment. Stop and scrap sides of bowl down. Continue mixing on low working in another 1 1/2 to 2 cups of bread flour, using just enough to make it slightly gooey but coming together in a ball.

Switch from paddle attachment to dough hook and knead with the mixer on low for 12 minutes. The timing on the knead as well as the 4 minutes of hard mixing at the outside is very important.  I set my timer so that I make sure to run both of these full-time amounts.

Once your 12 minutes of kneading is up your basic dough is done and ready for its 1st rise.  Place your rounded dough ball in a well oiled bowl, covering with oiled plastic wrap and a towel.  Place bowl someplace warm for 1st rise.  At sea level 1st rise should be 60 to 80 minutes.  Dough should double in size.

**Here is a little hint.  This makes a good amount of dough.  At this point, I divide the dough in half and put half of it in a well oiled zip-lock bag and stick it in the fridge for use later in the week.

Once dough has risen, punch down to remove large air bubbles.  You can turn it out onto the counter and give it a gentle knead once or twice if you want.  I just punch it down, pick it up and turn the bottom under until I have a nice ball again.  Place back in the bowl and cover for 2nd rise.  2nd rise should take 50 minutes or so.

While you wait for 2nd rise, you should prepare your cooking surface.  I have a bread bell http://breadtopia.com/store/round-la-cloche.html that I use.  I also sometimes just bake on a pizza stone.  Make sure to dust the surface of the stone with corn meal so the bread can expand and rise without sticking.

Now dough has risen from its second rise, punch down, knead to form into the shape you want to make.  You can go with long baguette ( you will have to divide the dough) or a round boule, or loaf.  Place your dough on your stone for 3rd rise.  This should take about 30 minutes.

You can pre-heat your oven while the 3rd rise is happening. Preheat to 425.  Once your dough has risen use a very sharp knife to cut slits in the top.  This allows it to expand as it cooks better.

Even though you have preheated to 425, you are going to bake at 400 for 15 minutes then 350 for 15 or 20 more.  They also so to add steam to the baking process.  You can place an oven safe pan full of water under the pan.  I have also tossed in a few small ice-cubes to the bottom of my oven during the baking process.

Here is what I used to enhance mine tonight for dinner.  The boys like it spicy…. I just like the cheese, so its easy to do 2 small loaves.

Mini Pies

Every week when I go to the farmers market Noah requests a personal pie.  There is a stand (that makes a KILLING) selling pies and 3 different sizes 3 inch, 6 inch and 9 inch (regular size).  Noah likes the little 3 inch pies.  They make all different kinds of fruit pies.  However, they charge an arm and a leg for them.  The little 3 inch pies are $4!  I decided it would be easier to just make them.  I keep a box of rolled pie crust in the fridge and picked up some cherries at the store the other day.  The outdoor oven was very handy in our 95 degree heat yesterday…  I need to find some little pie pans though, cause I bought the individual ones from the store with graham cracker crust already in them, just cause I like the pan size.  But they are single use, so I’m on the hunt today for small pie pans.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

I have been making these for about as long as I can remember.  I buy the chocolate which is packaged as Dolci Frutta in its own microwaveable container.  Just pop it in the micro for 30 seconds, stir and then 30 more seconds until melted all the way.  They come in milk, dark and white chocolate. I always made dozens of these for Valentines Day parties at school when Noah was younger.

The latest from the kitchen…

I have subscribed to a weekly delivery of organic fruits and veggies to be delivered on each Monday afternoon.  In this week’s order was a bunch of living pea sprout.  I was out of town when they were delivered so they were just left on the counter for a couple of days.  When I got home they were a little wilted so I put them in a shallow pan and add a little water and they sprang right back.  But I had no idea what to make with them.  So I went on Facebook to my favorite organic expert cousin and asked her what I should do with them.  Luckily Stephanie posted this recipe http://coconutlime.blogspot.com/2008/06/pea-shoot-pesto.html.  Well I tried it out tonight and it was very good.  I made a couple of changes to that recipe but mostly just added about 6 cloves of garlic.  Then served it with grilled shrimp on the side. Yummy!

We have also been mowing through the fruit from the weekly delivery.  One of Noah’s favorite things is apple pie.  So I went to the store the other day and found disposable personal pie pans.  Actually they were disposable pot pie pans, but same thing.  Im all about short cuts too so I picked up a couple of boxes of pie dough from the refrigerated section at the store. Anyway – we had really cool temps this morning and I had about 10 minutes before a conference call so I threw together an apple pie for him.  Think he will be having it for desert soon.

Earlier this week we had a 1/4 of cow delivered and now our freezer is packed full.  Im looking for suggestions for recipes with ground beef.  Last night I made a pan of sloppy joes with cream of mushroom soup, bbq sauce and horseradish sauce.  It was pretty good!  Whats your favorite ground beef recipe?  Whats been happening in your kitchen?

Dutch Letters!

My room mate from college passed on this recipe to me and I just had to try it.  I did not think anything could taste as good as Jarsma’s Dutch letters- http://www.jaarsmabakery.com/ .  I was wrong….

I thought they would be much harder to make.  But they were really easy!  Here are some more photos and recipe at the bottom.  Enjoy and thanks Nicole!!

Almond Paste, white sugar, brown sugar and egg whites- Mix.

I might recommend using a food processor to mix these ingredients together.  The Almond Paste is really stiff.  I was too lazy to get my food processor out and just ended up cutting it with a knife to mix it together.

Unfold the thawed puff pastery and roll out on well floured surface.

Cut into 2 1/2 inch strips, and then add the filling in a well down the middle.

Dont be tempted to use more filling than you need.  A little goes a long way, and if you put too much in then it all leaks out.  This photo above is probably too much filling.

Fold over one side, and then brush the edge of the dough with water to help in sealing.  Make sure to seal well, or the filling will heat up and leak out.

I placed on a sheet of parchment paper just cause Im lazy and hate to scrub pans 🙂

Dutch Letters

Before purchasing the almond paste, check the ingredients listed on the package.  Select a brand that is made only with almonds and sugar, not corn syrup or fructose.  Otherwise, the filling may soften and leak out of the pastry during baking.

2 17.5 oz pkg. frozen puff pastry

1 slightly beaten egg white

1 8 oz. can almond past

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup packed brown sugar

Granulated sugar for dusting

Thaw the frozen puff pastry according to package directions.

For filling, in a small mixing bowl stir together egg white, almond paste, ½ cup granulated sugar, and brown sugar.  Set aside.

On a well-floured surface, roll each sheet of thawed puff pastry into a 12 ½ x 10-inch rectangle.  Cut each rectangle into five 10 x 2 ½ inch strips.

Shape a slightly rounded tablespoon of almond filling into a 9-inch long rope.  Place the almond rope down the center of puff pastry strip.  Brush the edge and ends with water; pinch well to seal.  Repeat with the remaining dough strips and filling.

Place the filled strips, seam side down on an ungreased baking sheet, shaping each strip into a letter “S”.  Brush with water; sprinkle with additional granulated sugar.  Bake in a 370 degree oven for 20 – 25 minutes or till pastry is golden.  (I baked 2 pans on the top shelf and 1 on the bottom, and the bottom came out better…) Remove pastries from the baking sheet.  Cool completely on wire racks.  Makes 20. (mine only made 12- and my husband inhaled 3 right away!)

To Freeze.  Place the cooled, baked letters between layers of waxed paper in an airtight freezer container.  Seal, label, and freeze for up to 3 months.  To thaw, let pastries stand, uncovered, at room temperature for 30 minutes.


Champagne Cake

A girlfriend of my from college started posting the other day on facebook how she was looking for a Champaign Cake.  It has sentimental meaning to her, as her parents birthdays were one day apart and they always had a Champaign cake to celebrate.  Her mom passed away September.  This is the first birthday her mom has missed.  I know exactly how that feels…

So anyway… I started thinking about Champaign Cake.  We used to go to an orthodontist in Des Moines, and next door was Barbara’s Bakery.  They made the most Fantastic Champaign cake….

I found this recipe on http://www.recipezaar.com/Pink-Chagne-Cake-153192

Paella- a school project

Noah is working on a big project for his Spanish class for which he chose to make paella.  So we did some research and found a couple of recipes online and he narrowed down to one, made a grocery list, did some shopping and then started to fix paella.  Noah did most of the prep work and cooking.

Apparently the most important ingredient to paella is the rice which you use.  The recipe called for Bomba rice… of course we couldnt find any- tried 4 or 5 different stores to no avail.  So….we substituted Jasmine rice. Well…. Jasmine rice is fine, but needed several extra cups of liquid to cook the rice.  Im gonna have to order some Bomba rice to have on hand for our next try.  All in all it turned out good.

And there are plenty of left-overs!