Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Banana Pudding


I love banana pudding! It is what I survived on my first two years of college when we had to go to the dining hall. Furman didn't have the best food, but they did have a darn good banana pudding (and chicken finger Tuesday). There really isn't much to making banana pudding, and I prefer to go light on the banana (sometimes I eliminate it all together). I'm sure there is a long standing debate on whether it is real banana pudding when you use pudding mix instead of making it from scratch, but the mix is just so easy. Here is my "semi-homemade" version of banana pudding. If you want the "real" stuff, check out the side of the Nilla wafer box.

Banana Pudding

Ingredients:
1 large box of vanilla pudding mix
3 1/2 to 4 cups milk
1 banana, sliced thin
Vanilla wafers (as many or as few as you like)
Vanilla extract
Whipped Cream (fresh or cool whip)


Directions:
1. Prepare pudding mix according to mix, however add some extra milk 1/2 to 1 cup. I find that mixing pudding in a blender usually comes out lump-free, whereas whenever I use a mixer there are always lumps.
2. Stir in 1 to 2 tsp of vanilla extract to enhance the flavor (this makes it taste more homemade!)
3. Fold in some whipped cream - an extra large scoop or so, reserving the rest for layering or on top.
4. In a large bowl (I used my trifle dish and doubled the recipe), put a small amount of pudding on bottom and then place a layer of cookies. Top cookies with bananas.
Cover with a generous amount of pudding and then a layer of whipped cream (optional). Repeat over again with layers of cookies, banana, pudding, whipped cream. I added a layer of whipped cream to my first layer, then realized I wouldn't have enough for each layer so just saved the rest for on top.
5. Refrigerate a few hours in order to allow time for the cookies to soften.



Whipped Cream

Ingredients:
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1/4 c powdered sugar (more if not sweet enough)

Directions:
1. Chill mixing bowls and beater
2. Pour whipping cream into chilled bowl and begin to whip on medium high speed with electric mixer.
3. As the cream starts to thicken, slowly add in the sugar.
4. Whip until peaks are formed and held. If you over-whip you will be close to having butter. Taste and make sure the sweetness is right.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Custard

This is probably one of my proudest cooking accomplishments to date! This is not the regular custard you think of that resembles pudding; it is a drink that is similar to egg nog. My grandmother would make this for us every year and when I think of Christmas I think of custard.

Each year my grandmother brought the custard and proclaimed it would be her last year making it as she always burned the milk and the final product was full of lumps. This made me nervous that the recipe would be difficult, however I was determined to try. I never had the opportunity to make this with my grandmother, but luckily she left a handwritten recipe for my mom and her sister. I was very nervous that I would experience the troubles Nana used to have, however I found it very easy (as long as you have a big enough pot). Mine turned out with the exact flavor I remember and completely lump free! I can't wait to take over the tradition of making custard for our family....it will have to start next year though because the Kasiks are heading to Mexico!!

Custard

Ingredients:
1/2 gallon whole or 2% milk (I used 2% as I couldn't bring myself to go with the full fat version)
4 large eggs, separated
3/4 to 1 cup sugar (I think I used closer to 1 c as I added more sugar after everything was added)
1/4 c sugar for egg whites
2 T flour
2 T vanilla extract

Directions:
1. In a LARGE pot (make sure there is plenty of extra room) pour the entire 1/2 gallon of milk and bring to a boil. Make sure to constantly stir and watch this to prevent the milk from scorching.
2. While waiting for milk to boil, beat egg whites with a mixer on high until stiff peaks form, adding 1/4 cup of sugar while they whip. This is where a stand mixer comes in handy as you can just turn it on and get back to whisking your milk.
3. In a small bowl, whisk egg yolks together and set aside. My grandmother's instructions said to add a little cold milk to this so they don't knot up later on. She also specified that she used a fork to whisk egg yolks. :)
4. In another bowl, stir together sugar and flour. Add some cold milk to this and whisk together so there are no lumps and to dissolve the sugar.
5. Once milk comes to a boil, add some of the warm liquid to the egg yolks to temper them and then add them back to the boiling milk.
6. Also add in the sugar/flour mixture and whisk into the milk and bring the milk back to a boil.
7. Once the milk mixture comes back to a boil, remove 2 cups and slowly add to egg whites as mixer is going (after they are firm). This will make the egg whites liquidy.
8. Add egg whites to the milk and whisk to make sure everything is well incorporated. I let this cook a minute or two, but my grandmother didn't specify what to do in her instructions.
**See how the mixture has doubled in size from the first picture of the milk in the pan alone. That is the importance of having a large pot!! I actually need a bigger one. :)
9. Add vanilla and remove from heat.
10. Taste the mix and see if it needs a little more sugar. It will get sweeter and thicker as it cools. It should end up being similar to the consistency of egg nog, although maybe a little thinner.
11. Once the mixture has cooled down some, transfer to a pitcher or back into the milk jug (that is how Nana always stored it). Put in refrigerator and then drink when cold. Make sure to shake up jug before pouring as when I made it a little film formed on top that may cause lumps.

***If you think your custard is lump, strain it before pouring into pitcher.

I hope you enjoy custard as much as I do!! I apologize the pictures aren't the best, but it is hard to photograph a drink. :)

Hot Browns


The Brown Hotel is a historic hotel in downtown Louisville, KY and the birthplace of the Hot Brown. According to the hotel's history, it was a hot spot for dinner dances in the 1920s. After the guests retired their dancing shoes for the night, they were always hungry for a late night meal. This led the chef at the hotel to come up with the Hot Brown. It is a delicious open-faced turkey sandwich with a mornay sauce (fancy name for a parmesan cream sauce). I hope you give this a try the next time you have turkey leftovers (or chicken would work too). If you visit the Brown hotel's website they have their recipe posted, yet I made a few adjustments to make it less fattening (i.e. I didn't use heavy cream).

I made this a couple weeks ago so I don't remember my exact measurements, but I am just remaking the bechamel sauce I use for mac and cheese, just slightly thicker.

Hot Brown

Ingredients:
4 to 6 pieces white bread
Turkey breast
2 T butter
2 T flour
1 1/2 c milk
1/2 c (or more) grated parmesan cheese, and extra to sprinkle on top
4 to 6 slices crispy bacon
Tomato slices
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Melt butter in mixing bowl in microwave
2. Add flour, whisk, and then microwave 30 seconds
3. Add milk, whisk, and microwave at 2 minute intervals until thick (just like macaroni so see that post for pictures)
4. Once thickened, add in cheese to melt and salt and pepper to taste - you now have a mornay sauce
5. Toast bread slices and remove crusts. Place in a baking dish (I used 4 pieces but had lots of extra sauce at the end so you could do 6, possibly 8, pieces)
5. Place generous amount of turkey on top of bread.
6. Top with tomato slice, if desired. I left the tomato out when making it for myself and Kris.
7. Cover with mornay sauce and then top with some extra cheese.
8. Put under broiler until cheese melts.
9. Top with bacon slices and enjoy!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pumpkin Cheesecake


Ok...now for a real post, although Mrs. Smith's is still the best pumpkin pie in my opinion. I tried this recipe for a Thanksgiving potluck in law school and made it again last week for a co-worker's birthday. I keep getting good reviews, so I guess that means it's a keeper. Try it and judge for yourself. :)

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Ingredients:
3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 14 ounce can pumpkin pulp
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Graham cracker crust

Directions:
1. Prepare graham cracker crust according to box directions (graham cracker crumbs, butter, sugar). I added a little bit of cinnamon to the crust or you could try using crushed cinnamon graham crackers. Press the crust mixture into the bottom and about 2 inches up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan.

2. Preheat oven to 375.
3. In a mixer bowl, beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Add sugar, cornstarch and vanilla. Mix well.
4. Add eggs and yolks all at once, beating on low speed until just combined.
5. Fold in cream, pumpkin pulp, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
6. Pour filling into the crust lined pan. Place on a shallow baking pan in oven. I also put a pan of water on the bottom shelf (just because people say to do that, but mine cracked anyways)
7. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the center appears nearly set when shaken.
8. Cool until room temperature, and then refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving (I like to give it overnight).
9. Drizzle with caramel sauce to serve (or any toppings you like)

Cutting tip: use plain dental floss or non-colored thread - makes really clean cuts!!


Post baking thoughts:
Mine came out with a HUGE crack in it (which gradually appeared as it cooled). Some suggestions given to me were: (1) bake it on a lower temperature, (2) bake it in a water bath, not just a pan in the bottom of oven, and (3) leave in oven for 1 hour without opening door after cooking (see my regular cheese cake directions). Hopefully yours will turn out prettier than mine!

Pumpkin Pie


Pumpkin pie is one of my all time favorite desserts. I can easily eat the whole thing and it is best with a mountain of cool whip on top. I prefer it cold, but go ahead and serve it warm if you must. My mom always made the best pumpkin pies and I think now is the time to share our secret family recipe. If you have been frantically searching for that perfect pumpkin pie recipe for tomorrow, look no further. You will be very amazed on how easy it is!!

Pumpkin Pie

Directions:
1. Go to the grocery store, preferably with coupon in hand.
2. Pick up a Mrs. Smith's pumpkin pie.
3. Bake according to box directions.

I told you it was easy! I remember there used to be a pumpkin custard version, but this year I could only find the original. I was a little disappointed when I took the pie out of the box because they have definitely cut back on the size, but I guess this is Mrs. Smith's way of surviving the economy.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream

I recently took a fondant class and afterwards decided it was time to try to make the real buttercream used by bakeries. It always intimidated me a little, but it is really rather easy. I wouldn't suggest attempting this if you don't have a stand mixer, your arm will be tired by the end! I have made two batches so far, one chocolate and the most recent an Andes mint chocolate (I had to know if it would be good and it is delicious in my opinion...can't wait to try it out on others - perhaps at Val's xmas party). It doesn't have a dark color to it, but that could possibly be due to the chocolate I used. Maybe black or brown food coloring would help deepen the color to fake the extra chocolately look, or using dark chocolate.

Chocolate Buttercream (adapted from Martha Stewart's recipe)

Ingredients
5 large egg whites - save the yolks for something else tasty
1 1/4 c granulated sugar
4 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
12 oz semi-sweet chocolate, or Andes mints, melted and cooled

Directions:
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine egg whites and sugar. Place bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (double boiler style). Whisk continuously until mixture reaches 160 degrees, about 5 minutes.
The mixture will look white and fuller after the cooking period.
2. Transfer bowl to the stand mixer and beat egg whites on high until they become thick and fluffy and cooled (the bowl will no longer be warm to the touch). This will take about 10 minutes (I time it out) hence the importance of the stand mixer. :)
This is what it looks like after:
3. Reduce speed to medium and add in butter one tablespoon at a time.
4. Reduce speed to low and add in melted chocolate.
Here's a look at the melting of the Andes mints...I used the larger sized ones so there was less to unwrap. If not using mints, just use one bag of semisweet chocolate chips.
5. Up the speed to medium-high and mix until all incorporated, making sure to scrape sides of bowl.
6. Frost your favorite cake, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. After refrigeration, let frosting come to room temperature and re-whip with mixer before using.

I made a witch's hat cake for Halloween with my first batch of chocolate buttercream. Not the most perfect hat but it was fun to try! The Andes mint version is waiting in my fridge to be used on a birthday cake for friends this week. :)

Beef Stew


I attempted and successfully made my first beef stew recently. After calling my dad and getting his full instructions on how to make it stove-top, I found Jerrie's crockpot recipe and opted to use it instead. I hope you have a crockpot because you can make cooking easier and this is a delicious meal. Perfect for the yucky rainy and cold weather we have had lately.

Ingredients:

2lb beef chuck roast (cubed)
1/4 c flour
1 t salt (we all know I put way more than this)
1/2 t pepper
2 beef bouillon cubes - dissolved into 2 c water
1 t worcestershire sauce
garlic powder
1 bay leaf
1 t paprika
Carrots (baby carrots work well, if using regular carrots chop into big pieces)
Onion, chopped
3 potatoes skinned and cubed

Directions:
1. Place meat in crockpot.
2. Mix flour, salt, pepper together and stir with meat.
3. Add remaining ingredients and stir to mix well.
4. Cover and cook on low 10-12 hours, high for 4-6 hours.
5. I had to thicken the stew up a little and used cornstarch dissolved into water to do so...use your best judgement.

Ranch potatoes


These twice baked potatoes are courtesy of my M-I-L Jerrie. I adapted it by cutting out the actual refill of the potato skin and just putting the filling into a baking dish. She thinks this is horrible as the potato skin is her favorite part, but Kris and I would rather not eat the skin (I know it is packed with nutrients). This is a great way to add some extra flavor to your potatoes, and I typically eliminate the butter the recipe calls for to try to make it healthier.

Ingredients:
6-8 Russet Potatoes
1 pkg Hidden Valley Ranch Dip
¾ can evaporated milk (I use the fat free)
1 stick butter (I eliminate this - maybe add a little extra sour cream or milk in exchange)
Small sour cream container
Grated cheddar cheese
Salt/Pepper

Directions:
1. Bake the potatoes, cool, scoop out
2. Mix all ingredients (except cheese) with potatoes and stuff into skin, or a baking dish if you want a shortcut
3. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese
4 Bake at 350 until hot

Apple Pie


I have neglected the blog lately and hope I still have readers! With Thanksgiving on the horizon I figure I should post about my favorite apple pie.

Kris' hands down favorite dessert is apple pie. To be honest, I had never really given apple pie a fair shot (aka decided I didn't like it) until I went home with Kris for the first time in college. Kris' mom baked an apple pie and my mom taught me to eat whatever your hosts put in front of you so I ate the pie. I'm not sure if that was a good or bad decision in this case, because now I like apple pie, although I can easily resist it unlike other desserts. Kris on the other hand could eat the whole pie if you let him.

Here is my go-to apple pie recipe. Since Kris is not a crust fan, I use a crumb topping instead of a double crust, but you could do either. As for the apples, I typically use a mixture of golden delicious, fuji, and gala. I really dislike granny smith apples because I am not a tart fan, but use whatever you like making sure to adjust the sugar if needed.

Apple pies are also made easy due to the handy apple pie peeler/cutter that we received as a wedding gift (along with a great pie dish that makes your crust look perfect). I highly recommend this tool and can't imagine having to actually peel and cut the apples by hand!
The apples look like this after using the peeler/cutter...how fabulous!


Apple Pie

Ingredients:
8 cups of thinly sliced apples
1/3 to 2/3 c sugar (depending on your apples...I often opt for the full amount of sugar)
1/4 c all purpose flour
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t ground nutmeg
Dash of salt
Pie crust (make your own or go with the easy Pillsbury crusts in the refrigerator section)

Crumb topping:
1 stick butter (firm, not room temp)
1/2 c packed brown sugar
1 c all purpose flour

Directions:
1. Heat oven to 425
2. Combine apples with sugar, flour, and spices.
3. Line pie plate with crust. Fill with apple mixture trying to fill in any holes.

4. For crumb topping, mix together flour and sugar. Cut in butter so that it remains crumbly.
5. Put pie plate on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper (the juices will bubble out so this will help with cleaning). Top the apples with the crumb topping trying to cover the entire pie.

6. Bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, cover pie with foil and continue to bake for 20 minutes.
7. Let cool to room temp or until it is still slightly warm so the pie can set up a bit. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

French Onion Chicken and Rice


My mom made this recipe often when we were growing up and now I understand why....it is delicious and easy on the working woman! It is as simple as putting all the ingredients in a baking dish and sticking it in the oven. I don't really have any good stories for this dish except that has a great flavor and pretty healthy. Give it a try soon!

Ingredients:
4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breast (can be frozen)
1 1/2 c rice
1 packet dry onion soup
1 can cream of chicken or mushroom soup (I use the 98% fat free)
1 can chicken broth
Water
Salt and Pepper

Directions:
1. Put rice into a large baking dish. Sprinkle the dry soup mix over the rice.
2. Mix in cream soup and chicken broth. Fill can of chicken broth with water and add as well. (You want to make sure you have at least a 2:1 water to rice ratio, but I usually add more too make sure it isn't too dry).
3. Place chicken breast in pan. Sprinkle salt and pepper over chicken.
4. Cover and bake at 375 for 50-60 min or until rice is done. I typically check it once or twice during baking and stir it around so that it is well mixed. This is also your chance to add more liquid if it is absorbed and rice isn't done yet.