31 January 2011

Super Bowl Snacks I (Pittsburgh Pierogies)

hIn case you hadn't heard, the Super Bowl is next weekend. (Wink, wink)  Pittsburgh vs. Green Bay.  Not sure who I'm rooting for, since I live in Northern California and none of my teams are represented. I think the Super Bowl has become a sort of Thanksgiving, in a way. Greasy, delicious appetizers take the place of the turkey and stuffing, wine becomes beer, and instead of gathering around the dining room table we gather around the TV (as I'm sure many men would prefer to do on Thanksgiving anyway, to watch the Cowboys and the Lions). I know that favorite Super Bowl fare includes nachos, wings, chips and guacamole, and pizza. Here is something new to add to that list: pierogies. Why? Because they are darn awesome, that's why.

Pierogies are a tradition in Pittsburgh.  According to About.com, they eat more than 11 times the amount of pierogies in Pittsburgh than anywhere else in the United States. I've never had a peirogi, much less made one. But I thought it a fitting snack for the Super Bowl, to honor the Steelers.

And boy am I glad I did. They are right up my alley; basically a hand-held pie! Dough and filling. How can you go wrong? The first thing I said to my husband after tasting it was "OMG, why have I never eaten one of these before??" I made the standard potato and cheese filling, but the best thing about these pierogies is you can fill them with anything. I can see ground beef and onion, stewed lamb, even sweet ones like chocolate chips or cinnamon and walnuts. The possibilities are endless!

I know it seems like there are a lot of steps. And there are. But it's worth it. I promise. And, you can freeze them to use later, like at a party. Here is a step-by-step guide:

After the dough has chilled, roll it out to 1/8" thick and cut out circles (I used a 2 1/2" cookie cutter).

Make your filling. Mine is potato, onion, and cheese.

Fill your circles and fold them over into a semicircle.

Pinch them closed with the tines of a fork.

Boil them, in batches, in a large pot of water. They float to the top when they are done, after about 3-5 minutes.

Drain them and let them dry. Traditionally, pierogies are then stir-fried with butter and garlic. Sounds awesome, but not something I want to do at a party. At parties, I like to, well, party. So I do everything ahead of time and the only "cooking" I do is in the oven. So, I decided to bake my pierogies to finish them.

Brush with melted butter and bake for about 10 minutes. Serve wtih sour cream.

Again. Oh. My. God. I've wasted 33 years of my life not eating these. I have a LOT to make up for.

Leftover Filling!

The filling recipe I used made way too much filling. (There was actually more leftover, but my husband kept coming over and grabbing another spoonful.) It makes a great mashed potato dinner. If you don't want leftover potato mixture, you can make two dough recipes and make the double the pierogies (which I wish I'd done!) or, follow my altered filling ingredient recipe to make less filling.

This is an awesome party recipe, for the Super Bowl or whenever. Make them ahead of time, then pop them in the oven and relax. Have a beer, eat a pierogi, watch the game. And then eat another pierogi. And another...

Go Steelers!

Pittsburgh Pierogies Printer-Friendly Recipe (the recipe is super long, so I thought it'd be easier not to put it here.)

Labels: ,

28 January 2011

Sprinkle Pancakes

A few years ago I was at a party talking to a bunch of moms about what our kids eat for breakfast. I don't remember my contribution to the conversation, but I must have complained about how much sugar is in syrup and how much syrup my daughter would use (this was before she used a fork regularly, so we let her dip. You can figure how that would go.) During the course of our conversation, someone mentioned putting sprinkles in their pancakes, thus making them "special" so they "wouldn't need syrup". Genius, I tell you. I went home and tried it the next day, and it worked. This was when Jordan was a young 3, so she just went along with it for over a year. We went syrup free until she discovered she could ask for it, but by then she was proficient enough with her fork that I'd just pour the teeniest amount of syrup on, instead of having her dip. So, now when I make pancakes, it's prefaced with "sprinkles or syrup?"

I used to make my pancakes with a mix, either Bisquick or Krusteaz. Then one day a friend of mine gave me a recipe for Fat Lady Pancakes (I guess that's from Harry Potter?) I'd never made pancakes from scratch, and they were awesome. I'll have to post that recipe sometime. Those. Are. Dangerous.

Anyway, this recipe is from Food Network Magazine. It's just a basic recipe, and you could do lots of things with it, not just add sprinkles. I've made them plain (and used syrup), added chocolate chips, nuts. I think the addition of the dash of vanilla makes these some of the best. I don't even use syrup on the plain ones; I just eat them straight off the griddle. Something about that vanilla makes them almost taste like a cupcake. So good!

I figured this would be a good Friday post, just in time for the weekend. And, it makes a lot of pancakes (about 15). Since only my daughter and I eat them, I freeze a lot for during the week. Not having to make pancakes from scratch on a school day at 6:30 AM makes me a happy Momma! (Of course, if your family is larger, double the recipe for freezable leftovers.)

Oh, and the dog loves them too. :)

Enjoy! Have a wonderful weekend!

Sprinkle Pancakes

1 1/2 cups flour
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups milk (I use nonfat)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
Dash of vanilla (probably about 1/4 teaspoon)
2-3 Tablespoons of sprinkles (FYI, nonpareils will just dissolve and color your batter, as will colored sugars. It's best to use regular sprinkles)

If you're using a griddle, begin to preheat. I use an electric one and I set it for about 350 degrees.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium sized bowl. In a separate bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together milk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Then whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined.

Add your sprinkles and stir. (A great thing for the kids to do!)

Spray your griddle with nonstick cooking spray, or use butter to grease it. (I've used both, depends on my mood.) Ladle the pancakes one by one onto the griddle and cook until bubbly. Flip and cook until golden on the bottom.

Try not to eat them all at once. And share with the dog, if she so insists.

Yield: about 15 pancakes. They freeze well!

Source: adapted from Food Network Magazine
Printed from CrazyforCrust

Labels: ,

24 January 2011

Chocolate Cake (A Test for Taste)

Here is a picture of the birthday cake I made for my daughter last year.

I was rather proud of myself - I'd never made a tiered cake before. And it was all from scratch: chocolate cake layered with chocolate fudge and a vanilla buttercream frosting. My daughter had begged me for a chocolate cake and I delivered. And then she tasted it. And she didn't like it. All she ate was the pink frosting. It turns out that she doesn't like dark chocolate (at ALL) and I didn't know that the recipe I'd used would be so richly strong. She felt bad about it, but I can't blame her. Dark chocolate is definitely one of those tastes you either like or you don't. (The adults enjoyed it, and at least she loved the vanilla frosting, which is her favorite part of a cake anyway.)

Fast forward to now. Her birthday is next month and she still wants a chocolate cake. I didn't want a repeat of last year so I've been scouring blogs and websites and cookbooks for chocolate cake recipes. I decided I'd do a test run on any recipes I thought would be good (secretly hoping I'd have to make several - ha!). 

There are so many choices for chocolate cake methods. You can use cocoa powder, unsweetened or semi-sweet baking chocolate, or Dutch processed cocoa powder (which is super dark, so I ruled that out immediately). Many recipes included coffee, which sounds delicious to me, but I didn't think that would be good for her.

For my first attempt, I used the "Devishly Moist Chocolate Cake" recipe from The Cake Book. And, unfortunately, it looks like I won't have to do any more trials. It was delicious! Not too dark tasting and the title didn't give it justice - it was super moist.

I paired it with the chocolate frosting recipe that I found on Baked Bree. Soooo good. I prefer to eat it this way:

And the most important part? What did Jordan think of it?

Especially with the frosting. It made the cake "better" (according to her). (I thought it was awesome even without frosting.)

Another way to know it was an awesome recipe? This is the cake the very next day:

I originally checked out The Cake Book from the library. Needless to say, I now own a copy.

To be continued (after her birthday)...

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting

For the Cake:
(Makes one 9-inch cake. The recipe called for a 9x3 inch round pan, but I only have a 9x2 round pan so that is what I used. The batter filled the pan a little too much, so next time I will not use all the batter in my pan and make a cupcake or two.)

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup natural (unsweetened) cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs (at room temperature)
1/3 cup whole milk (at room temperature)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

1.       Position rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9x3-inch round cake pan (if you have one, a 9x2-inch if you don’t). Dust the pan with flour and set aside. (I cut a piece of parchment paper to set in the bottom of my pan, then grease and flour that. It helps with removal.)
2.      Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer.  Add the sugar and, using the paddle attachment, mix at low speed until blended. Add the vegetable oil and mix a few seconds, until the dry ingredients are crumbly.
3.      In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and until blended. Whisk in the milk and vanilla extract until blended. With the mixer at low speed, add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and mix until blended, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Gradually add the boiling water and mix just until blended and smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
4.      Bake the cake for 45-55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes.
5.      Invert the cake onto the wire rack or cutting board and cool completely.

For the frosting:
2 sticks of room temperature butter
2 ½ cups of powdered sugar
½ cup cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-3 tablespoons heavy cream

Cream together the butter and sugar. Gradually add the cocoa powder (be careful – it’s very messy. GO SLOW!) Add the cream to get the consistency for spreading. Add the vanilla. Frost your cake as desired

(I didn’t frost this cake, I left the frosting on the side, so I’m not sure how much you will officially need. This recipe will probably be more than enough!)

The recipe said “keeps at room temperature for up to five days”. Yeah, right. Like it’ll last that long! :)

Cake recipe from The Cake Book (by Tish Boyle)
Frosting recipe from BakedBree.com
Printed from www.CrazyforCrust.com

Labels: ,

21 January 2011

Brownie Peanut Butter Surprise

Remember last week when I posted about these awesome Peanut Butter Cookies? Well, it being January, there was another birthday I needed to bake for and I needed something easy to ship. I saw a recipe for Peanut Butter Cheesecake Brownies on a blog I read, but I knew I couldn't do that because those need to be refrigerated. Just seeing the photos on that post made me want peanut butter brownies, STAT. I had a brainstorm - why not make those so-simple peanut butter cookies and put them inside a brownie? (I've also been intrigued by putting stuff inside brownies ever since I made these babies.)

So I did. And Oh. My. God. I'm glad had to mail some of them and I was able to give the rest away (except for the few I had to test out to make sure they were edible). Otherwise I would've had to go shopping for bigger pants. The balls of cookie dough held their shape (but were indeed cooked, as they spent 45 minutes in the oven). They almost had the consistency of the peanut butter inside a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. And soft, gooey, chocolatey brownies were all around them. I highly recommend you make this recipe. Now. But be sure to give some away. Or hide them in your closet so your husband and kids won't get them first. I won't tell, I promise.

So easy - just plop down your cookie dough balls and cover with brownie batter!

Peanut Butter Cookie Surprise Brownies

For the Peanut Butter Surprise:
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg

For the Brownies:
¾ cup butter, melted
1 ½ cups sugar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
3 eggs
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 350°. Line a 9x9 inch square pan with foil and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine peanut butter, egg, and 1 cup sugar. Mix until combined. Drop by spoonfuls in evenly spaced rows in your pan. You will have leftover dough. (Drop the rest by spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet, press with a fork to flatten, and bake for about 8-10 minutes.)

In a large bowl, combine butter, sugar and vanilla. Add eggs, beat well with spoon. Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt, gradually add to egg mixture, beating until well blended. Pour over cookie dough drops in the pan and spread to the edges. (The cookie dough should not show).

Bake 40-45 minutes or until the brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan.  Cool completely before cutting into bars. Makes about 16 brownies.

Source: brownie recipe from Hershey’s
Printed from www.CrazyforCrust.com


Labels: ,

17 January 2011

Oatmeal Cookie Truffles

In our family, January and February are on birthday overload. There are seven of them during the two months. Since all but one of them live far away, we do lots of shipping in these months. Regardless if a gift is being given, I like to send a birthday treat to each person for their special day. I can't very well send a cake in a box, so I'm always trying to find new recipes that are good for shipping. Cookies travel well, but after the holidays I was tired of making cookies.

The first birthday girl is my niece, and she told me once she loves Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. I've made them for her several times and I wanted to find something new. Over Christmas two different blogs I read posted recipes for Chocolate Chip Cookie Truffles, using egg-free cookie dough. My mind immediately turned to Oatmeal Cookies. Could I do the same thing with them?

The result? YES YOU CAN. And they are delicious. My niece barely managed to snag a few in her birthday box. And that was probably only because it was right after the New Year and I was trying to be good. Because if I made these for her today, I doubt she'd have gotten any.

After doing some searching, I learned you can substitute milk for eggs in recipes, so that you don't have to worry about eating raw eggs. Many of the places I searched mentioned about 4 tablespoons of milk for each egg. I used my favorite Oatmeal Cookie recipe, from Quaker Oats. I've been making these cookies since I was a kid.

I have a feeling that I'm going to be making lots of cookie dough truffles in the future. What just popped into my head? Those peanut butter cookies from last week. Made into a truffle. Hmmm...gotta go!

Oatmeal Cookie Truffles
½ cup butter, softened
½ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
3-4 tablespoons milk (start with 3, add an additional tablespoon if needed)
½ teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups oats
1 package chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate)

Cream together butter and sugars until creamy.  Add milk and vanilla, beat well. Add flour, cinnamon, and salt. Mix well. Stir in oats.

Scoop into even sized drops and roll into balls onto a parchment or wax paper lined cookie sheet. Chill for about a half hour. Meanwhile, melt half of your chocolate chips. (I used the microwave. Heat on 50% power in 30 second increments, stirring each time.) You only want to do half the chocolate at a time in case it seizes up. Chocolate can be tricky and sometimes (whether it’s from being in the refrigerator or just because of the ingredients in the dough) it can get clumpy and become unusable during dipping (this is often due to water getting in the chocolate). I prefer to do half the chocolate at a time so I don’t ruin all my chocolate if this happens.

Dip the oatmeal cookie balls in the chocolate and place on the cookie sheet. Chill in the refrigerator until hardened.

Try not to eat them all at once. :)

Source: Oatmeal cookie recipe adapted from Quaker
Recipe printed from CrazyforCrust.com

Labels: ,

12 January 2011

Peanut Butter Cookies

I love peanut butter cookies. I remember my mom making them for me as a child, squishing them down with a fork. I love them at Christmas, when you squish a Hershey's Kiss on top. This recipe is my favorite for peanut butter cookies. And they are so easy! There are only three ingredients: 1 egg, 1 cup of sugar, and 1 cup of peanut butter.  When I first saw this recipe I didn't believe it could be true. No flour? No baking powder? But it's amazing - it really works. And it produces a very moist and delicious cookie. The peanut butter is a super star in these cookies - the flavor is very strong without all those other ingredients to cloud the taste. And you can mix them up a little; add mini chocolate chips before baking or dip in melted chocolate after they've cooled. As I am writing this I'm having an epiphany: make this chocolate frosting and put in the middle to make peanut butter and chocolate sandwich cookies! Um, well I think I need to go. I guess I'm not done in the kitchen...I think I need to go make some chocolate frosting...

Peanut Butter Cookies (The Easiest You've Ever Made)
1 cup of peanut butter (do not use reduced fat)
1 cup of sugar
1 egg

Mix the peanut butter, sugar, and egg in a medium bowl. Drop by spoonfuls onto parchment lined cookie sheets. Use the back of a fork dipped in sugar or water to press the cookies in a criss-cross shape.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 8-10 minutes. Let cool and try not to eat them all at once. I'm serious. Be careful here.

Makes about 24 cookies.

Source: several places, including Parents magazine

Labels: ,

10 January 2011

A Few Things that Hello Kitty Taught Me

This past weekend I made a birthday cake for a friend of mine. She had asked if I would make the cake for her daughter's party and (of course) I said yes. Then came a week of wondering, "will it look okay? will it taste good?"  I spend a lot of time going through my favorite blogs, printing recipes, and comparing them. I bought a bigger pan (11x15) so we'd have enough cake. I had never made a cake for someone besides close family before, and I wanted it to be perfect. Here are a few things that I learned from making this cake:

1. An 11x15 pan makes a lot of cake. Double a regular recipe. And when you make two of them to make a layer cake, it is very big. And very heavy.

2.  That you should always buy two of the same sized pan, so you don't spend all day baking two cakes.

3.  That you should always buy twice as many ingredients as you think you need, because, well, the cake is huge (see #1).

4.  That, next time, I'm shopping at Costco for my ingredients. (See #3)

5.  A flower nail is a perfect heat conductor for a large cake (if you don't have baking strips). Just butter and flour the nail and lay the base in the middle of your pan.

6. This Yellow Cake recipe (from Annie's-Eats) is awesome.

7.  This Chocolate Buttercream (from Baked Bree) is even better. (And her Vanilla Buttercream was amazing as well.)

8.  I need to do more wrist exercises to strengthen my muscles for that much piping.

9.  Stencils are my new best friends.

10.  Jill Fosters' "Write Way" of decorative piping (from her book Creative Cakes Anyone Can Make) is so easy and makes so much sense I'm astounded that I've never heard of it before.

11. 17 sticks of butter, 16 eggs, 5 cups of milk, 12 cups of powdered sugar, and hours of work to make the cake didn't matter once I saw the look on faces of my friend and her daughter.

12. It was hard work, but I loved it. And I want to do it again. Soon. And often!

06 January 2011

BBQ Chicken Soup

Happy New Year! I can't believe we're already a week into 2011.

Speaking of time flying, I can't believe it's been so long since I last posted. I was looking forward to my daughter's two weeks off of school (and my husband's week of vacation) figuring I'd get all sorts of writing done so I'd have weeks worth of posts ready to go.

Um, that's not how it went. As you can see by the two-plus week lag since my last post.

In my house, January means removing the "feed bag" and trying to be more healthy. For me that means not eating liberally while I bake. For my husband, that means counting points on Weight Watchers. So, now when I make dinner I play a game of "weight watcherizing" my recipes. Which means, taking the recipes I like to eat and trying to make them more healthy. It's fun really, adding things to the recipe builder and seeing how I can reduce points. (It'll get old after a month or so, but to help motivate my husband, I try!)

Since it's been so cold here lately (and yes, I know that 50 degrees isn't cold to most of the country, but for me it feels pretty darn cold!) I decided to start out 2011 with a comforting soup recipe.  This recipe came across my Google Reader from Picky-Palate. To tell you the truth, it was pretty healthy to start with. I didn't have to take much away, I just altered the amount of oil used.  It's a very tasty soup. It warmed me from the inside, which sounds funny considering it's a soup, but it had much more depth than many of the soups I've made.

And don't worry, there will be plenty of baked goods and treats coming soon. I just have to find new people to give them too. :)

Happy New Year!

BBQ Chicken Soup

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced (you can use all of one color, or do like I did and use half of two colors - I used green and orange)
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups cooked shredded chicken
1 cup frozen corn kernals
1 1/2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup BBQ sauce

Heat your oil in a medium sized saucepan. Cook the onion and bell pepper over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and corn and cook another 1 minute. Add the chicken, broth, and BBQ sauce. Bring to a simmer and cook 5-10 minutes or until you're starving and can't wait anymore.

Garnish with cilantro or parsley, if desired.  Serves 2 (but would be super easy to double for a larger family).

Adapted from www.Picky-Palate.com