Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Best Way I Know To Eat An Apple

  I love apples! I love eating apples, cooking with apples and baking with apples. I think one of my all-time favorite ways to eat an apple though, is dipped in caramel and drenched in chocolate! I only make caramel-dipped apples in October as a special pre-Halloween treat for family and friends. It's a good thing too, because I can polish one off faster than you can blink! Here's my "secret" to caramel apples.
  I only use gala apples for dipping. Galas are crisp, and have just the right sweet-tart-juiciness that you want in a caramel apple. Also, I try to find medium-sized apples (the perfect size for one sitting), that sit upright.
  One 14-ounce bag of caramels is enough for about 6 medium apples. Place un-wrapped caramels in a heatproof bowl over barely simmering water. Add a splash of milk to the caramels (about 1-2 tablespoons) to loosen the caramels up a bit. You don't want too much milk or the caramel will run off the apples once dipped.
  Prep your dipping area: Lay out a piece of parchment paper large enough for all your apples; lightly spray with cooking spray. Press a popsicle stick about halfway into each apple. 
  Plunge apples, one at a time, into the caramel, twisting a little to coat all sides (I leave about a half-inch space around the top of the apple free of caramel-it looks prettier.) Holding the apple over the bowl of caramel, use a spoon to scrape all the caramel off the bottom of the apple (Caramel tends to pool at the base of the apple as it sets-doing this will ensure you don't have too much pooling.) Place apples on the parchment to set.
  Place 8 ounces of milk chocolate and 1 tablespoon shortening in a heatproof bowl. Microwave in 30-45 second intervals, stirring after each, until chocolate is melted and smooth.
  Lay out a sheet of foil large enough for all your apples. Lightly spray with cooking spray. Dip the bottom third of each apple into the chocolate. Let the chocolate drip off the apple, then scrape the chocolate from the bottom of the apple, just as you did with the caramel. Place apples on the foil to set.
  Once you have dipped all 6 apples, add 1 tablespoon shortening to the remaining chocolate in the bowl. Microwave about 20 seconds, until the shortening melts; stir until smooth. Dip a fork into the bowl of chocolate then shake it over the apples to create a splatter effect on the tops of the apples (be careful not to coat the tops of your popsicle sticks). Let apples rest until chocolate has set.
  To give as gifts: Wrap each apple with a square of cellophane and tie with a festive ribbon. Encourage recipients to eat within 2 days of dipping (they are best if eaten the same day).

A Princess B-Day

  My 3 year old wanted strawberry princess cupcakes for her birthday this year. I wasn't exactly sure how to go about it, but who was I to tell a 3 year old no on her birthday? I had come across some cupcakes on a blog recently, that I was anxious to try, so I figured this would be a good opportunity. I used this recipe for Vanilla Cupcakes with Strawberry Buttercream Frosting (I omitted the filling for this occasion). I made lavender fondant crowns using the top portion of a flower cookie cutter I had, and adorned them with pearl candies. Ultra easy!


Thursday, October 20, 2011

I've Got My Eye On You!

  So, I've mentioned my new fascination with the cake pops on Bakerella. We are attending a couples-only Halloween party tomorrow, and I decided I absolutely had to make some for the occasion. Once set, I stuck them in individual sucker bags and closed them with silver twist-ties.

Stick 'em in a ceramic pumpkin and they look quite intriguing!

Candy Corn...Sort Of

  Candy Corns have been a Halloween standard forever, so when I came across this recipe for Candy Corn Cookies, I knew they were a must-make. I had a package of Betty Crocker Peanut Butter Cookies on hand (and I'm not a fan of sugar cookies anyway), so I used it. I had to add a little flour to the dough to make it pliable, but they turned out fantastic. Have a look!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A New Page Addition

  I have been doing a bit of cake decorating over the years, and decided it was finally time to share some pictures. Have a look. I will begin working on my girlfriend's wedding cake soon (they are having a November wedding). This will be my first solo wedding cake. Wish me luck, and watch for photos come mid-November.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Rosemary Garlic Bread

Photo Credit-Julie Marie Craig @ Always With Butter
  I found myself doing something yesterday that I haven't done in quite some time; linking from blog to blog. When I find a blog I like, I enjoy checking their side-bar for blogs they follow. I have found some of my favorite blogs this way. I came across this blog; Always With Butter. You can't tell me that blog name isn't intriguing! I scrolled through her home page to find a recipe for Rosemary Garlic Bread. I decided it was a must-try, and what better night than than to serve with my new-found soup recipe? I made a couple changes, because my husband doesn't enjoy too much rosemary in things, and 6 cloves of garlic seemed a little much for serving with leek soup. So, I cut the rosemary to a couple pinches (I used dried because that's what I had) and one clove garlic.
  The bread was absolutely fabulous! And so simple! I made three skinny loaves from the recipe so I could freeze what we didn't eat. I'm happy, and sad to say, there isn't any to freeze. It was that delicious! My husband has requested I try the same recipe omitting the rosemary and garlic so we can have it with our Blood Orange Olive Oil and Raspberry Balsamic Vinegar (combine the two in a small dipping dish; it's phenomenal). 
  What I love? This bread is the perfect combination of crusty outside, and crumbly-soft inside.

Roasted Red Pepper, Leek and Potato Cream Soup

  My father has produced the most fantastic garden this year. Lucky for us, he's generous. Saturday he sent us home with a sack full of leeks. Leeks are not something I have done much cooking with, so I was curious how best to use them. My father's suggestion was Cream of Leek Soup, something he still had yet to make himself. So, I began researching recipes. I decided right off the bat that a smooth chunk-less soup wasn't something I was in the mood for. I started hunting through my freezer and came across some Garlic and Gruyere Chicken Sausage I had been saving for just the right recipe. This was just such a recipe!
  I used this recipe from Fabulous Foods as my base and started to work. Here's what I came up with:

  I prepared the recipe as instructed, omitting the garnish (I had intentions of filling my soup with other things). Also, I used only one bell pepper (that's what I had on hand).
  While my soup was simmering (in the final stages before adding the cream), I began a second pot. To this pot add 2 tablespoons butter and 3 peeled and chopped carrots; cook over medium heat about 3-4 minutes. Add 6 small new potatoes; diced, and 2 cups water. Boil 15 minutes, or until tender. Strain potato-carrot mixture, reserving the liquid.
  Add diced sausage (mine was pre-cooked), potato-carrot mixture and cream to simmering soup. Add potato-water until soup is of desired consistency.

  This soup was delicious (I had two bowls, my husband and 4-year-old each had 3)! What I love most, is that a lot of the work could be done in the morning, or even the day before. Way easy!!
  Notice that hunk of bread on the side of the bowl? Also fantastic! Watch for my post on it to follow.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Another Taste of Fall

  I realized something the other day, it has been forever since I have made pear or apple butter. My mother made it as we were growing up, and pear was always my favorite. Pear & Apple Butters are kind of a jam meets applesauce mixture that's great on toast and pancakes. Here's my recipe for Caramel-Pear/Apple Butter:

Caramel-Pear/Apple Butter

1/4 cup apple juice
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided  
4 pounds ripe Bartlett pears
3 pounds Gala apples
3 cups (packed) golden brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  Combine apple juice and 4 tablespoons lemon juice in heavy, large, deep pot. Peel, core, and cut pears and apples, one at a time, into 1/2-inch pieces; mix fruit into juice mixture in pot as soon as they are cut, to prevent browning. Cook over medium heat until fruit releases enough juice for mixture to boil, stirring frequently, about 15-20 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until fruit is very tender, stirring frequently, about 20 minutes (mixture will splatter). Remove pot from heat. Run fruit mixture through the tomato sauce plate of a food mill (I use a Victorio Strainer) into a large bowl. Return fruit puree to original pot. Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice, brown sugar, and 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered until pear/apple butter thickens and is reduced to 8 cups, stirring every 5 minutes with a flat-bottom spoon to prevent scorching, about 1 1/2-2 hours.
  Ladle pear/apple butter into hot, clean 1/2-pint glass canning jars, leaving 1/4-inch space at top of jars. Wipe jar rims with a clean damp cloth. Cover with hot lids; apply screw bands. Process jars in a pot of boiling water 10 minutes. Cool completely. Store in cool dark place up to 1 year. Yields about 8 1/2-pint jars.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tricks and Treats (Mostly Just Treats!)

  Halloween is one of my all-time favorite holidays. I love cooking and baking for fall weather, and especially love how much fun you can have in the kitchen creating "spooky" treats. Here are links to some of my favorite resources for Halloween goodies:

One of my holiday movie faves!
Food Network
Bakerella (Cake pops are a new obsession I'm just getting into. She has a great selection of ideas for Halloween pops.)

  If you have any great resources for Halloween recipes you are willing to share, please comment on this post. I'm always on the prowl for new recipes, especially when it comes to Halloween!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Blackened Orange Roughy & Browned-Butter New Potatoes

  I am a huge shellfish fan, but a little picky when it comes to fish. I love fish when it's cooked perfectly, and has just a slight ocean taste to it (fish sticks and canned tuna...not my bag!) This recipe for blackened orange roughy is one my parents have been making for longer than I can remember. Orange roughy can be a little pricey, so I was incredibly excited when I found it for just $7 a pound (yes, that's a decent price).
  I served the fish with "Browned-Butter New Potatoes" and some veggies (not shown in the picture). Double-Yum!

Blackened Orange Roughy

½ c. Flour                                    ½ tsp. Thyme
¼ tsp. Cayenne                             ¼ tsp. Dried Minced Onion
¼ tsp. Season All                           ¼ tsp. Paprika
¼ tsp. Powdered Ginger                ¼ tsp. Garlic Powder
4 fillets Orange Roughy

 Combine dry ingredients. Dredge orange roughy fillets in milk then coat with flour mixture. 
  Heat 1 tablespoon each, butter and olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Fry fish 2-4 minutes per side, or just before fish begins to turn black (thus "blackened" orange roughy). Serve immediately.

Browned Butter New Potatoes

1 lb. new potatoes
1 stick salted butter

  Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Peel the middle section of skin from the potatoes. Place potatoes in boiling water; boil 15 minutes. Drain well.
  Place butter in a medium saute pan over medium-high heat. Heat butter until it turns golden brown, swirling pan occasionally. Add potatoes to butter and shake to coat. Shake pan over heat about 2 minutes, or until potatoes are warmed through and coated with browned butter.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Fall Is In The Air

  Of all the seasons, fall is one of my favorites (and not because that ended up being my nick-name through most of High School). I love using all the fall produce in my cooking and baking. Apples are one of my favorites, because they seem distinctly fall (watch for my how-to on candy apples coming up).
  This is an adaptation of this recipe found on I loved the cake recipe, but wasn't fond of the idea of putting buttercream (but I'm not big on buttercream anyway) on a fruity cake.

Triple-Decker Apple Cake with Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pans
2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pans
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs

4 apples (I used Gala, which were fantastic. If you would like the cake a little more tart, use the Granny Smith. I think I will try Granny Smith the next time I make this)-peeled, two coarsely grated and two diced

  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter three 8" round cake pans; line bottoms with parchment paper. Butter and flour paper and sides.  
  In a medium bowl; whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and salt.
  In a large bowl, whisk together butter, sugar, and eggs until well combined; fold in grated and diced apples. Add flour mixture; mix just until combined. Divide batter among prepared pans; smooth tops.
  Bake until cake top springs back when pressed lightly with your finger (about 25 to 30 minutes). Cool cakes in pans 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pans, then invert onto wire racks; peel off parchment. Invert cakes again, and let cool completely on racks. 

8 oz. cream cheese
1/2 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 pint heavy whipping cream

  In the bowl of a stand mixer (using the whisk attachment), beat cream cheese and sugars until fluffy (scrape bottom of the bowl to ensure all the cream cheese is incorporated). Add vanilla and continue to beat. With the mixer on medium-low, gradually beat in whipping cream (you may need to stop several times to scrape the cream cheese from the bottom and sides of the mixer, ensuring it gets incorporated without any lumps). Once all the cream is incorporated, turn mixer up to high and beat until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes).

  Place one cake layer on a serving plate; top with frosting. Top with another layer; spread top with frosting. Top with third layer; spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Refrigerate at least 1 hour (or up to 2 days). To serve, bring cake almost to room temperature.

  I apologize for not having a pretty picture of the cake. We took it to an event last night, so I wasn't able to get the picture I wanted (you know the one on the whole cake with just one slice missing from it).