Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Mozzarella Sticks

I love mozzarella sticks.  Always have, probably always will.  I used to buy them in big bags at Costco, and they were good, but not great.  So, I decided to try making them myself.  SO worth it!

The light batter that I use is reminiscent of a cheese curd...if you have never had a fried cheese curd get yourself to Wisconsin as soon as possible.  Let me know if you need recommendations on where to find the best ones ;)

Mozzarella Sticks

12 mozzarella cheese sticks, cut in half
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup bread crumbs, homemade or store bought
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Place the flour in one small bowl.

Place the beaten eggs in another small bowl.

Place the bread crumbs, salt, pepper, garlic powder and Parmesan cheese in a third bowl.  Mix these ingredients until combined.

One by one dip the cheese into the flour, tapping off any excess.  Next, move the cheese sticks to the eggs, coat completely and let the extra drip off before moving on.  Lastly, put the cheese into the bread crumb mixture and sprinkle some over the top of it with your fingers to make sure that the stick is entirely coated.  Move the stick to a sheet pan covered in parchment paper.

Repeat with the 23 remaining sticks.

When you have breaded all of the mozzarella, place the sheet pan in the refrigerator for 6-24 hours.

Heat about 2-3 inches of Canola oil to 365 degrees in a thick bottomed, deep pot.  Be VERY careful...if this oil splatters or spills on you it will burn you.  It is best to do this step when your children are not anywhere near the kitchen.
When the oil is heated, carefully place the mozzarella sticks in the pan, eight at a time and fry for 2-3 minutes, or until golden.  Remove with a frying basket or slotted spoon.

Make sure that the oil stays around 365 degrees, change the burner heat often to keep the temperature steady.  It is also helpful to wait a minute or two between batches to bring the oil back to temp.

When the batch is cooked, place the sticks onto a wire rack fitted over a sheet pan to cool.
When you are done frying, let the sticks cool for 5-10 minutes.  At this point you have two options...

1.  Eat them.

2. Put them back in the freezer on the wire rack and sheet pan, and when you are ready to eat them cook them at 425 degrees for 5-7 minutes.

If you are not eating them the same day freeze them for four hours on the pan and then transfer them to a plastic freezer bag.    

Monday, September 28, 2015

Pumpkin Waffles

It is officially the season of everything Pumpkin...lucky us!  Pumpkin spice is one of my favorite flavor profiles and seems to make things I love taste just a little bit better.

I like mine with a little frosting drizzle instead of syrup.  The recipe for the drizzle is below. need for further introduction...

Pumpkin Waffles

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 eggs
2 cups of milk
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
1 can pumpkin puree

In a large bowl mix the flour, baking powder. sugar, salt, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon.

In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs and milk.  Add the cooled butter and continue whisking.  Add the vanilla and pumpkin puree and whisk until well combined.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dried ingredients and whisk until well combined.

Cook in a waffle maker set to the longest cook time (around 4-5 minutes is what I usually do).

When the waffle maker cook time is over remove the waffle and top with frosting drizzle or syrup.

The waffle will be crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.  Yum.

Makes 5-6 Belgian Waffles.

You can freeze leftover waffles (if there are any) and reheat in the toaster for later enjoyment.

Frosting Drizzle

1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix the ingredients together and drizzle over waffles.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Cakey Sugar Cookies

I love sugar cookies, but not all sugar cookies.

Lots of people enjoy the thin, crisp cut out cookies that are covered in royal icing and me, they have always tasted a little harsh and factory like.

I like my sugar cookies a little cakey, super soft, and light on the frosting (that may be the only time I ever use the term "light on the frosting"...the whole reason that I like cupcakes is because they have a mound of frosting to a little bit of cake).

At Christmas I pump out dozens of these cookies each week.  They go to school, to friends, to family, and also right in my family's tummy.

Tips to make these cookies perfect...

1. Do not cut the refrigeration time short.
2. Do not roll the dough too thin.
3. Make the dough scraps into a flat disc and put them back into the refrigerator when they get a little soft and start to change color.  Leave them in there for 10-15 minutes.  Work with another section of dough until the time has passed :)
4. Do not worry about trying to decorate the cookies the same way that I did, find your own signature designs and have fun with them!  I found my style because I am really good at straight lines, but generally stink at art.
5. Use good quality food coloring (like Wilton) so it will not dramatically change the consistency of your frosting.

Cakey Sugar Cookies
(frosting recipe below)

3 cups of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of unsalted butter, softened
1 cup of sugar
3 Tablespoons of milk
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 egg

Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and put aside.

In bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment cream the butter and sugar for 2-3 minutes, or until fully combined.  Add the milk and vanilla and mix well.  Add the egg and continue mixing until just incorporated.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in thirds, beating each time until well incorporated.

Remove the dough from the bowl and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Roill out one half of the dough at a time to 1/8-1/4 of an inch thick.  (The dough will be hard to roll at first because it is cold and stiff, bang it a few times with the rolling pin and then put some muscle into it).  Cut out shapes and place directly on cookies sheets.  Leave the rest of the dough in the refrigerator until you need it.

Cake each batch for 6-9 minutes or until they are puffed.  It may take a batch or two to learn to eyeball the perfect time to pull them because it is just before they brown.  If a batch or two has slightly golden edges they will still taste amazing so don't worry about it :)

Let cool for 2 minutes on the pan and then place on the cooling rack until completely cooled.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies with a standard size cookie cutter.

Sugar Cookie Frosting

2 cups of powdered sugar
2-3 Tablespoons of milk
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
food coloring

Mix the sugar, 2 Tablespoons of milk and vanilla by hand in a mixing bowl until it just comes together.  It should be hard to mix, but a consistency that will be able to go through a thin tip in a piping bag.  If it seems to thick you can cautiously add the 3rd Tablespoon of milk.

Divide the frosting into bowls and add food coloring.  Place frosting into food bags and decorate your cookies!  I like to lay mine out on wax paper to decorate them.

Looks like a gingerbread cookie snuck into this picture...I will have to share that recipe around Christmas.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Giveaway $15 Amazon Gift Card

I LOVE Amazon!  (They are not paying me for any of this or providing the gift card--I truly do just love them).  The UPS truck probably thinks that I have a problem of crazy proportions because every day he pulls up to my house and unloads boxes of stuff, most of it bearing the tape that come on all of their boxes.

The truth is, a lot of what I have delivered is food.

I have them deliver milk boxes, applesauce pouches, breakfast bars, protein bars, macaroni and cheese...the list goes on and on...

So...I wanted to offer a little gift to one of you from one of my favorite companies.

To enter, comment below with your favorite thing to order from Amazon.  I will pick a winner at random at noon on Thursday.

Happy entering :)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Simply The Best Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin bread is one of my all-time favorite Fall treats.  (Do I say that about all Fall treats?  Can you guess what my favorite time of year is?)

I have been making this pumpkin bread for the last seven or eight years and it is always everyone's favorite.  It is probably the recipe that I have been asked for more times than any other recipe.  I based it off of a recipe that I found in a cookbook that a friend gave me years ago and made a few tweaks that make it fit my families taste and my style in the kitchen a little better.

I often make this for my kids' teachers in the Fall or for friends or play dates.  When I am making it for others I often cook it in the cute, small disposable paper bread pans that you can get at the grocery store or craft store.  In fact, I should probably just start attaching the recipe to the loaf because of all of the loaves of this that I have handed out I think that I have only had two people not ask me how to make it.  

One year for Thanksgiving I made four loaves and they were all gone in mere moments.  The bottom line is that if you make this, it will be a hit.

A few things that I think that you should know...

1. The sugar and oil mixture will look like crushed ice when you mix will never get creamy...don't worry.

2. This is my favorite "dry ingredients" bowl.  I don't even know if you can still buy it, my husband got it for me 4 or 5 years ago, but you can find one that is similar.  It is melamine which makes it really easy to handle, and it has the great pour spout which makes dry ingredients pour easily into wet.  It is technically a batter bowl, but try it for dry ingredients and you will see how well it works :)

3. I love Libby's pumpkin puree.  Like the old jingle says, "When it says Libby's, Libby's, Libby's on the label nothings better, better, better on your table, table, table."  A few years ago there was a canned pumpkin shortage and I went to the store nearly every day looking for it, when it finally appeared I became a hoarder and bought almost a whole case.

Simply the Best Pumpkin Bread

3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2  teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
3 eggs
15 ounces of pureed pumpkin

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Grease and flour two loaf pans.

In a small bowl combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.  

Beat the sugar and oil in a large mixing bowl until well combined. 

Add the eggs and beat well, then add the pumpkin and continue beating until incorporated.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well by hand.  

Pour the batter into two the two loaf pans and bake for 50-60 minutes or until a knife inserted into the middle of the loaves comes out clean.

Let the loaves cool for 10-15 minutes and then turn out onto a cooling rack.  Wait twenty minutes, or as long as you can stand it (for me this is about 5 minutes) before slicing and eating.

Freezes well. 

Note: If you decide to cook this in smaller disposable loaf pans shorten the cooking time to 35-45 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the middle of the loaves comes out clean.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

An Apple A Day...

When we lived in Wisconsin we had a beautiful old apple tree in our backyard that produced an insane amount of apples.  Like Strega Nona's pot, the supply of food from my tree was never ending.  For several weeks every Fall we would pick apples and make fantastic creations with our bounty.  My favorite by far though was always making apple sauce...

I am not a canner...I worry too much about food safety and was paranoid that I would not get it right and kill us all, so I almost always just made my applesauce for the refrigerator or freezer (except the one year when my expert canner friend offered to come over and help me...thank goodness for people who know things that I do not).

After trying a few different ways to make applesauce, I realized that my favorite is skin on, no sugar, touch of cinnamon, true perfection.

I love Texas, but I really miss my apples...

Elizabeth's Applesauce  

However many apples you have (usually 3-5 pounds works best), cut from the core in a large dice
1-2 cups of water, you can always add more if needed
2 cinnamon sticks

Place the apples into a large pot and pour in 1 cup of water.  The water should just cover the bottom of the pan around the apples.  If the water does not quite cover the bottom of the pan add an additional cup of water.  Bury the cinnamon sticks in the apples and place the pot over medium high heat.  When the mixture starts to bubble turn the heat down to medium low and simmer.

Cook the mixture until the apples are quite tender and then remove the pot from the heat and let it cool for 5-10 minutes.  When the mixture has cooled removed the cinnamon sticks and discard them.
Place an immersion blender into the applesauce and blend until you reach your desired consistency.  Spoon the applesauce in freezer safe jars and put them in the freezer until you are ready to use them.  (Make sure that you leave at least an inch of headspace for possible expansion during freezing.  They can also go straight into the refrigerator if you plan to eat it immediately...


I feel that I would be remiss if I did not mention that the absolute best way to eat this applesauce is warm from the stovepot.  Try it, you won't regret it.

(NOTE: If you do not have an immersion blender you can use a potato masher, or you can put it into a regular blender.  If you put it into a regular blender you need to cool it for an additional 10-15 minutes and use caution as hot items in blenders can cause burns.)

Monday, September 14, 2015

Crock Pot Chicken

The crock pot is not my friend.  People are always raving about these awesome crock pot meals that they make and I can never seem to make it work when I try them.  Often I find things get bland, or that everything made in my crock pot tastes the same.

I dislike my crock pot so much that I was actually excited when my old one broke during our so excited that I didn't even file a claim about it with the moving company.


There always comes the point where I want to make pulled pork, which actually tastes really good from the crock pot, and that point came last Fall during football season.  So...I went to the store and bought a new crock pot and recommitted myself to a cycle of trying meals I did not like.

But an amazing thing happened.  I have actually found several meals in the last 11 months that are turning out well in my crock pot!  I have discovered that I can make chicken and brisket and soup and other things that I never seemed to like that way before.

Maybe my old crock pot was just cursed ;)

This chicken that I started making in the crock pot is actually good for two meals.  I like to eat one on a Monday and one on a Wednesday...on the night in-between we eat something that is not Mexican food.  (Cook once, eat twice is one of my favorite rules).

Night #1--Chicken Tacos

4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 jar of your favorite salsa
2 Tablespoons of Taco Seasoning (I like Penzeys)
Flour or Corn Tortillas
Shredded Cheddar or Jack Cheese
2-3 Chopped Scallions
Sour Cream

Place the chicken in the crock pot.  Pour the jar of salsa on top of it.  Sprinkle the Taco Seasoning all over.  Cook on low for 4-5 hours or until the chicken is thoroughly cooked.

Remove the chicken from the crock pot and shred only the amount that you need for the tacos.  Put the rest aside to cool and then refrigerate for dinner tomorrow night.

Heat the tortillas in the oven or the microwave.  If you heat them in the oven then wrap them in aluminum foil and put into a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.  If you want to heat them in the microwave put them in a stack on a microwave safe plate and cover them with a wet paper towel.  Heat for 20-30 seconds.

Fill the tortillas with the chicken, cheese, scallions, and sour cream and eat!

Night #2--Chicken Casserole

Leftover chicken from the recipe above, shredded (at least one cup is needed, but you can have up to five cups and the recipe is still great).
1 box of Spanish Rice, prepared according to their instructions (if you are supposed to add a can of tomatoes, like with Zatarain's which is my favorite, do that)
1 cup of salsa
10 ounces of frozen corn
6 ounces of cheddar cheese, cubed

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl, then pour into a greased 9x13 casserole dish.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake 30-40 minutes until it is heated through.  Makes 8-10 servings.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Rice Krispie Treats For Adults...And Kids...

I have an unhealthy obsession with Rice Krispie a six year old girl style love for this bad for you treat.  My friends used to wonder if I had some form of arrested development, but eventually they gave into my problem and started buying me the super big kind that you can get at the gas station whenever they saw them.  I found over the years that I was willing to try almost any version that I could find of this delish goody, but they always fell a little short of something that I would actually serve at a party...for next to the tarts and the cheescakes and all of the other adult food.

Enter my insomniac idea...

I was laying in bed the other night going through the thousand things on the "to do" list and I remembered that I have to make the regular version of Rice Krispie Treats for my kids' school next month.  For some reason, with my eyes closed the treats looked different in my head than they normally look in the pan.  They had pretzels and m&m's and marshmallows, oh my!  And so was born this creation...

Adult Rice Krispie Treats

3 Tablespoons of salted butter
10 ounces of marshmallows
6 cups of Rice Krispies
1/2 cup of broken pretzel pieces (not smashed, just broken)
1/2 cup mini marshmallows
1/2 cup mini m&m candies
Cooking spray

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium high heat being careful not to burn it.

When the butter is melted add the marshmallows and stir until they are all melted.  If the marshmallows start to bubble, turn down the heat. 

When the mixture if fully melted, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the Rice Krispies.  Stir for 20-30 seconds, and then add the pretzels, marshmallows, and m&m candies.  Continue stirring until combined.

At this point spray the bottom of a 9x13 pan and turn the mixture out into the pan.  Spray a piece of waxed paper and use it to press the mixture evenly into the pan.  At this point the recipe looks like chaos...there are broken shards of everything...just ignore that and keep going.    

Wait 10-15 minutes for the treats to cool and then cut and serve.  Eat slowly and enjoy feeling like a kid again :)

These can also be frozen to savor later.  If freezing, cut the treats and put them on a sheet pan covered with parchment paper.  Freeze for 4-6 hours and then place in large ziploc baggies.  Freeze for up to two months.    

Friday, September 11, 2015

Giveaway Winner

Congratulations to our Penzeys Spices giveaway winner Kristin!

We will have another giveaway a week and a half from today :)

Thank you to all who entered.

The Kitchen Tart

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Give Away--Penzey's Spices!

Please leave a comment below telling me what your favorite spice is to be entered into a drawing to win this awesome pack of Penzey's Spices!

Penzey's is in no way sponsoring this, I just wanted to share some of my favorite spices with my readers and viewers!

You can enter through Friday at noon.

Happy eating!

The Kitchen Tart

You Tube Kitchen Tart Channel

I have decided it is time to have a You Tube Channel.  My sweet husband has been pushing me to do it for a couple of months, but it has taken me some time to become comfortable with the whole thing.

If you subscribe you won't miss a single thing that I have to say ;) it is...

Click here to go to the Kitchen Tart You Tube Channel

Monday, September 7, 2015

Bored With Lobster...

This is a photo of me sometime in the 1980's at the ripe age of three or four looking thoroughly bored with lobster..

For those who grew up in any area of the country other than where I did (New England) this may be an unthinkable situation, but there were times where it was less expensive to buy lobster than steak...and I think that this must have been one of those times.

Additionally, I grew up spending many summers in Maine with my grandparents, and my grandmother felt it her duty to provide her guests with as much lobster as they wanted (which as you can imagine probably made her have a facial expression similar to mine at times).

So...let's get creative with the things that you can do with lobster...

Jamie Oliver has a recipe for lobster mac and cheese that will make your family and guests think that you got it from a fancy steak house.

You can make lobster pizza.  My grandmother did this once or twice and I have to admit that while interesting, it was not necessarily my favorite.  I do not remember my grandmother's having bacon on it, but this recipe from the New York Times includes that as a tasty additional treat.

This lobster risotto recipe from Williams-Sonoma will likely leave your mouth feeling like it has just experienced heaven.

...but I always fall back to the thing that has always left me with a smile...a simple, New England style Lobster Roll.  No extra filler.  A buttery bun.  Cains mayo.  Here is the recipe...

New England Lobster Roll

1 lb. freshly picked lobster meat, chopped
Cains mayonnaise to taste
2 New England style hot dog rolls
2 Tbsp. Butter, softened

Move your oven rack to the top position and turn the broiler on.

Place the picked lobster meat in a bowl and add a spoonful or two of Canes mayonnaise.  You want to lightly coat the meat, but you do not want the mayonnaise flavor to overpower the flavor of the lobster meat.

Butter both sides of two New England style hot dog rolls.  Place them under the broiler with one of the buttered sides up.  Watch the buns carefully and remove them when they start to brown.  Flip the buns and repeat the same thing with the other side of the bun.  Remove them from the oven when both sides have a nice buttery yellow center and crispy light-brown edge.

Place half of the meat in each of the two buns.

Stop here.  Do not do anything else to the food.  Except, of course, eat it.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Okay, so you probably have a million recipes for chocolate chip cookies, but I promise you that these will become your favorite if you are willing to give them a whirl.

I started making these shortly after my oldest child was born eight and a half years ago, and I have probably made several hundred of them since then, but it was not until a year or two ago that I realized my favorite thing about this dough...

You can freeze it!

That is, yummy chocolate chip cookies whenever you want them.

The recipe makes about five dozen small cookies, so it will last your family a while.  Or, if you are single, it could literally last you two months (which is as long as I would recommend freezing them for).

You start with a dough that is quick and easy, you make some cookies balls with a small scooper, you freeze or bake them, and you have cookies.  It is that simple.    

Here is the dough...this is the moment when you have decide if you are the type of person who takes the risk and eats the dough raw,* or the type of person that needs to wait until it is cooked...

Half of my cookies today are going straight to the freezer.  If using this awesome option line a baking sheet with parchment paper, place the cookies on the sheet in neat scooped shapes and freeze for about six hours.  When the dough is fully frozen you can place it into a large plastic freezer bag for up to two months.  When you are ready to cook them follow the same cooking instructions as the recipe below.  Check the cookies after eight or nine minutes and see if they need an additional minute or two, usually they do not.

I had a tray of these in the refrigerator tonight and my friend who was over asked if I had rules against eating one in this raw state.  As mentioned above, there is a risk associated with eating raw or undercooked eggs, but since these are pasteurized and organic I told her that if she was comfortable with it I was too.  (Plus I had already eaten a spoonful or two while I was making the dough...details...)

Whenever I make the dough I have to taste-test just a few to make sure that I did not make any mistakes, so I baked some up for the family as an afternoon snack.  Here are my nine little cookie soldiers about to come out of the oven...

The finished product...

Elizabeth’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter, softened 
3/4 cup golden brown sugar 
3/4 cup sugar 
1 extra large egg 
2 teaspoons vanilla** 
2 1/4 cups unbleached flour 
1 teaspoon baking soda 
1 scant teaspoon table salt 
12-14 ounce bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

Add the egg and mix until well incorporated.

Add vanilla and mix for one minute. 

With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients into the mixture about ½ cup at a time until fully incorporated. 

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer cream the butter, brown sugar, and sugar on medium speed until creamy.

Stir in chocolate chips on low for about 10 seconds.

Use a scoop to make uniform size cookies. Bake at 375 for 8-9 minutes.

*Because raw or undercooked eggs cause the majority of Salmonella illnesses, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) does not recommend eating eggs that are raw or undercooked. However, the USDA also says, “In-shell pasteurized eggs may be used safely without cooking.”--Copied directly from the USDA

**Using high quality vanilla really makes a difference in baked goods.  Please consider investing in the high-test.  You will thank yourself later.