Thursday, October 3, 2013

One Pot Smoked Sausage and Potatoes

One Pot Smoked Sausage and Potatoes
 



 
I am trying to consolidate, so I brought this over from What's for Supper.
 
This is one of our favorite meals here at the casa.

So quick and so easy!

1 package smoked sausage
6-8 red skinned potatoes, medium
1 cup water or chicken broth
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. salt, or to taste

Monday, September 9, 2013

Homemade Vanilla Extract, Part Deux

I finally finished my vanilla extract! I brewed it for about 4 months. Kept it in my closet and gave it a good shake every couple-three days.

Here you can see my finished product, but before I put it in individual bottles.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Homemade Vanilla Extract, Part One

I have always wanted to make my own vanilla extract. So, I bought some vanilla beans. And vodka. Lots and lots of vodka.



I got my vanilla beans from Vanilla Products USA. They have a regular Internet store front and also sell on eBay. I bought some extract grade B beans and some gourmet grade A beans. I believe they threw in some mid-grade splits for free.

If you are going to cook with fresh vanilla, that you can scrape the "caviar" from, then you want Grade A beans. Steeping the bean in a warm liquid you are using in your recipe also helps get more yummy vanilla flavor. Milk, for instance.

For extract, the dryer, lower Grade B beans are just fine, in fact they work better, and there is no use wasting your lovely grade A beans to make extract.

Here are the instructions for making your own extract. I followed the ratios very closely. I might have thrown a couple extra beans in.

I now have some lovely vanilla extract brewing (marinating?) in my closet. Because the closet is dark. You need dark. They have been going for a while, so I should have usable extract soon. This is how they looked just minutes after adding them to the vodka:

Homemade Vanilla Extract


I will update once my vanilla is finished, and show how I strain it. I am going to keep some, and give some as gifts. I think that would be a great gift.

Colleen
 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Dark chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel drizzle

salted caramel


So I really seem to be into cupcakes these days, huh?

And why not? Cupcakes are tasty and portable. Kids love them. So do grown ups.

So I made these to take to a potluck I went to this weekend.

Dark, moist chocolate cake, Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream and Salted caramel drizzle.

I like to use ingredients that the average home cook will have in their kitchen. Thus, I like to use cocoa whenever possible. Don't get me wrong, I love chocolate cake made with semi or bittersweet chocolate. However, we just don't always have a bar laying around waiting for us to whip up a cake.

swiss meringue buttercream



The cake recipe is adapted from the Hershey's recipe.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Saturday, April 6, 2013

German chocolate cake

Alright, alright, so it is Baker's German's chocolate cake. It uses a sweeter chocolate that is named after Sam German, who was employed by the Bakers chocolate company. You can read more about it here.

This weekend we celebrated my Dad's 80th birthday. He requested German chocolate cake, so that is what he got, of course!

German chocolate cake is not my favorite. I like all the parts; chocolate, coconut, pecans. I just don't care for them together.

Anyway, since it is not my favorite, I have to look up the recipe when I make it. The recipe off the back of the Baker's German Sweet Chocolate wrapper! Or, you can get it here, even the frosting.

I forgot to take a photo of the cake, so you will have to take my word that it did indeed exist.

However, I did get a photo of the other cake I made, at the party...


Swiss Meringue Buttercream

It is a sheet cake I made out of the same recipe as the German Chocolate Cake, but instead of the coconut pecan frosting I made some chocolate Swiss Meringue Butter cream. Then I chopped up a Hershey bar with almonds and sprinkled it on top of the cake. I figured I should make something the kiddos would like.

The recipe for the Swiss Meringue Butter cream is as follows:

7oz egg whites
pinch of salt
9oz sugar
5 sticks butter
1tsp vanilla paste (or vanilla extract)


And to make the chocolate version:

4oz milk chocolate
4oz dark chocolate

Set your butter out to warm up to room temperature. This is very important, because it needs to be very soft. If you can slice it with a knife, it is still too firm. Nuke it in the microwave in 10 sec. increments until it is soft. Be careful, You don't want melted butter, just very soft.

Put the egg whites and salt in your mixer bowl and whisk by hand for 30 seconds or so. The salt helps loosen up the protein in the whites so they whip up better. Add the sugar, and place over a pot of simmering, (not boiling) water, whisking constantly, until the egg/sugar mixture reaches 160 degrees. At this point, transfer over to your stand mixer and beat the egg whites with the whisk attachment until they are cooled off to room temp and stiff enough to stay if you push them over to one side of the bowl.

Once the whites are nice and whipped, switch to the paddle attachment, and on low, start adding very very soft butter. Butter that you cannot pick up with your hands. You can dump it all in pretty fast, and keep the mixer on low and beat for 5 minutes or so until it comes together, then add your vanilla extract or paste and mix until well blended.

At this point, to make chocolate SMBC, melt the chocolate in the microwave in 30 second intervals until it is almost melted. Then stir it until all the chocolate bits are melted, and it is closer to room temp. Pour in while mixer is on low, and mix well until all incorporated. The color will not be dark like a lot of chocolate frostings, but it delivers a great chocolate taste.

So, that is it. I am going to get some pictures of the process next time I make SMBC and add them here.

xo,

Colleen

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Yummy, Easy, Pretzel-y Turtles

OK, so pretzel-y isn't a word.



Rolo Pretzel Turtles
Pretzel Turtles
I learned to make these back in 2004 from a girl I worked with at the time. (Thanks, Misty!) I have since been told by my best friend, Google, that I was not the only person Misty let in on this yummy little secret. 

ANYWAY... I thought I'd post this on the off chance that there are people that Misty forgot to tell. Take this to work, and your coworkers will call you awesome!

You will need, Rolo candy, pretzels, and pecan halves.
I prefer unwrapped Rolos (because I am lazy efficient), and the little square pretzel snaps, because I like a little more pretzel and I also think it just holds up better. The unwrapped Rolos are hard to find, so don't feel bad if you can't be efficient too. Kids are good for unwrapping the Rolos!

I usually put my pecan halves in the oven @300 or so for 15-20 minutes and roast them. This is totally optional. They taste great either way.

Preheat your oven to 250.

Line your pretzels up on a cookie sheet with a silpat or parchment.

Put a Rolo on top of each pretzel, larger side down.

Bake for 4-5 minutes, until chocolate is glossy, but Rolo is still holding it's shape,

Remove from oven and while still warm press a pecan half on the Rolo, smashing it down a bit.

Rumor has it you can also use almonds, cashews, or M&M's in place of the pecans, but I wouldn't know about that.

Let cool and enjoy!

Rolo turtles
Remember Polaroids?
 
xo,

Colleen

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Happi Tree

I finished the Happi Tree cupcake tree topper. Yay!

Did you know covering a Styrofoam dummy with fondant is rather tedious? It was for me, anyway. I will need to practice this some more. A lot more.

Oh well, I am happy with the outcome.

 
 





xo,

Colleen

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Chocolate Cupcakes

My kiddo and his friend wanted some cupcakes today, so I made some chocolate cupcakes with fudge icing. This cupcake is not a photogenic recipe, but it sure does taste good! I am generally averse to making non-pretty baked goods, but for this case I will make an exception.

I adapted a Texas Sheet Cake recipe from a church cookbook that I own. You can use any Texas Sheet cake recipe, just half everything. This makes a moist delicious cupcake which is rich and decadent. Next time I will put a pecan on top!

I snapped this with my iPhone:

 
Ingredients:

Cake:

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup water
3 T cocoa powder
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
dash salt
1/4 buttermilk
1 egg
1/2 tsp baking soda
1tsp vanilla

Icing:

1/2 stick butter
3 T milk
3 T cocoa
2 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 chopped pecans (optional)

Preparation: Line 12 cup muffin tin with paper cupcake liners. Preheat oven to 350

Cake: Combine butter, water, and cocoa in saucepan over medium heat; heat until butter melts. Add to sugar, flour and salt and combine well. Measure buttermilk, add egg, soda and vanilla. Add to first mixture and whisk till completely combined. (I mix by hand, no need to get a mixer out, just a wire whisk or wooden spoon will do the job.) Scoop just slightly less than a quarter cup into each tin. Bake at 350 for about 12-15 minutes. Remove and let cool.

Icing: Combine butter,milk and cocoa in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, combine in a mixing bowl with powdered sugar and vanilla. Mix well either by hand or with a hand mixer just till everything is combined. Fold in nuts while still warm.

Add about 2 teaspoons, maybe a tablespoon of icing for each cupcake. Spread a bit, it will not be pretty, but that does not matter, because these cupcakes taste so good they make up for the ugly. You can decorate with a pecan half if you have them on hand.

*Use a little less cake batter per cup and there will be room at the top so that the liner will contain the icing. Plus, this is such a rich recipe it is totally OK for the cupcake to be on the small side. In fact, mini's would be great for this recipe!

*This recipe is not finnicky, so if you do not have buttermilk you can totally use sour cream

xo,
Colleen

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

I made my first batch of Swiss Meringue Buttercream, aka: SMBC today. It went well! It is very buttery, but I love the smoothness that you just do not get with American buttercream.

Here is the recipe I used:

1 cup egg whites
2 cups sugar
2.5 cups of butter (5 sticks)
1 tsp vanilla
dash of salt

This is slightly less butter, proportionally, than any recipe I have found, and it was still very very buttery. I am going to experiment with this, but I will say, I liked it!

For instructions, I followed this YouTube video by Dyannbakes.


Happy baking,

Colleen

PS.....

I recently ran across a great tutorial and recipe for this yummy icing by the very talented Jennifer Bratko who owns Beyond Buttercream. Her method is different, (totally soft, room temperature butter, you can even set it out the night before), but her reasoning makes sense. I also like the proportions of egg/sugar/butter. She does everything by weight, so it is extremely accurate every time.This tutorial is the bomb ya'll! I am totally going to try this recipe and method next time I make up some SMBC.