Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Cranberry Orange Bliss: A Two-fer

I hope you all had a peaceful holiday full of family, friends, fun and food! There was a lot of cooking and preparing on my end, but once the festivities began, I was able to relax a bit. I hope the same was for you. We had family over (a total of 17) for Christmas Brunch over at my mom's house. It's the first time we've ever done brunch for this holiday and I have to say, it was a nice change to the usual turkey and ham- though I love that too.

Since I was so pressed for time this year, I wasn't able to make the dozens of cookies that I am known to make. I was a little bummed about it because I had such grand plans conjured up in my head, but all I was able to crank out of my kitchen for gifts was this bread. But it's a fabulous bread, so that's okay. This recipe comes straight from the Cranberry people themselves- Ocean Spray. That just goes to show that the recipes on the back of the bag deserve to be made- they're there for a reason. I tripled this recipe and made 2 loaves for my neighbors and I froze one to share with the family at Christmas brunch. This recipe also makes really great and addictive muffins. The fresh orange flavor really shines through and it's low in fat. Shhhh....I won't tell if you don't.

I bought this stoneware wreath mold from Williams-Sonoma last December at their after Christmas sale. I got it on clearance for about $9, but I never used it until this past Thanksgiving when I made the classic molded cranberry sauce from their website. It really was delicious, but my family kept calling it "fancy Jello", which irked me a bit 'cause it took a lot longer to make than Jello. I could have just made the boxed stuff for ease, but this was SO much better! Eh, I'll get over it :-) If you don't have a mold, you can just use a bowl or a small bundt pan, but do make it. Also excellent on leftover turkey sandwiches.

P.S. If you're interested, I did a guest post on Maranda's blog, Jolts & Jollies. If you haven't been over there before, you need to check her out, because she has a lot to offer! Go HERE.

Cranberry Orange Bread from Ocean Spray

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  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange peel
  • 2 tablespoons shortening
  • 1 egg, well beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts, optional

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.

Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a medium mixing bowl. Stir in orange juice, orange peel, shortening and egg. Mix until well blended.

Stir in cranberries and nuts, if using. Spread evenly in loaf pan.

Bake for 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely. Wrap and store overnight.

Makes 1 loaf (16 slices)

Molded Cranberry Orange Sauce from Williams-Sonoma

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  • 1 lb. fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbs. sugar
  • Zest of 2 oranges
  • 2/3 cup fresh orange juice
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2/3 cup plus 2 Tbs. cold water
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin

Lightly coat the inside of a ceramic cranberry mold with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the cranberries, sugar, orange zest, orange juice, salt and the 2/3 cup water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens and the cranberries have burst, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour the 2 Tbs. water into a small bowl and sprinkle with the gelatin. Let stand until the gelatin softens and swells, 5 to 10 minutes.

Spoon 1/2 cup of the juices from the cranberries into the gelatin and stir until the gelatin has dissolved. Pour the gelatin mixture into the cranberry mixture and stir to combine.

Pour the cranberry mixture into the prepared mold and let cool to room temperature. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to overnight.

To unmold, dip the mold into a large bowl of warm water so the water reaches almost to the rim of the mold. Remove from the water and run a small paring knife or spatula around the inside of the mold to loosen it. Place a serving platter upside down on top of the mold, invert the platter and mold together and shake gently. Then lift off the mold.

Serves 12 to 16.

NOTE: I pureed, then strained the cranberry mixture before adding it to the gelatin, for a smoother texture.

On a side note, this is my most favorite gift that I received this year from my hubby. Actually, it was my favorite gift from anyone. It's special to me, because he made them with his own two talented hands. They're made with black walnut, cherry and maple woods. Ahhh, LOVE.

Hope you have a safe weekend. Happy New Year!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eats and Greetings

Last year, I did 7 days of Christmas Breakfasts and it was a lot of fun. I had intentions of doing the same thing this year but time slipped through my fingers, just like the last 12 months did! I guess next year I should start my holiday posts in August so I can ensure they get done. If you think about it, that's not much unlike the stores that start putting Christmas stuff out in September, or Valentine stuff out the day after Christmas. That's annoying isn't it?

Well today I have a pancake recipe for you. Like pancakes and bacon covered in maple syrup? Me too. Ever had a whole slice of bacon cooked into the pancake? Well, that's what makes these special enough to serve on Christmas morning. If you're not a bacon fan we can't be friends just make the pancakes and serve with fruit, because they are delicious. I hope your family will love them as much as we did.

If you're needing other breakfast ideas, I hope you'll check out my Recipe Index (scroll down to breakfast) for inspiration. I have over 25 delicious ideas for you to choose from. And if you're wanting a sweet version of bacon and eggs, check these out!

Bacon Pancakes from Everyday Food

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  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 8 slices thick cut bacon

Preheat oven to 200 F.

In a bowl whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl, combine buttermilk, butter, and 1 large egg. Combine and stir until just moistened with small lumps remaining.

In a large skillet fry bacon until it is just crispy. Remove bacon and drain on paper towels. Remove grease from pan, retaining a few teaspoons.

Place about a teaspoon of bacon grease on a hot griddle. (I skipped this step because I use a nonstick griddle). Pour pancake batter on pan, using about 1/4 cup for each pancake. Place a strip of bacon in the middle of each pancake.

Cook until batter is bubbling and side touching pan is golden brown. Flip the pancake (so now the bacon side is down) and cook until golden brown.

Place cooked pancakes on plate in oven to keep warm until all pancakes are done. Serve with butter, maple syrup and fresh fruit.

This will be my last post before Christmas, so I wanted to take a moment and thank each and every one of you for supporting me and this blog. I bake, photograph and blog for my own satisfaction, but it wouldn't be nearly as much fun or rewarding without YOU. Thank you for being here.

I cherish your comments, your emails and the friendships that I've made along the way and I wish you all a peaceful and memorable holiday.

Merry Christmas and blessings to you and your family,

Monica and Mr. H

Photo taken by my friend Lori of Each Day Wiser.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Think Harder Rum Cake

I know you're all busy, so I'll keep this short and sweet. I just wanted to share this cake with you that I made last Christmas that I'll be making again for this years' festivities. It was so good, that I'm pretty sure it will become a Christmas tradition. And it's a good one because it's loaded with booze- rum to be exact.

I also wanted to share with you a conversation that happened between Mr. h and I that made me laugh:

Mr. H: Remember that rum cake you made last year?

Me: Yes, why do you ask?

Mr. H: Because it was GOOD.

Me: Yeah, I know. I was thinking of making it again this year.

Mr. H: well you should really think harder.

Well if that wasn't a clue, I don't know what is. This cake was good, really good. It starts off with a cake mix and you add some yummies to make it extra tasty. It's simple and delicious, but it's the glaze that's the star. You brush the rummy glaze on and it soaks into the cake. When it sets, it turns to a flaky buttery crust- almost like a glazed cake donut...but better!

Golden Rum Cake adapted from All Recipes

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  • 1 cup chopped walnuts, optional
  • 1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix
  • 1 (3.4 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup dark rum
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4- 1/2 cup dark rum (I used 1/4 cup)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10 inch Bundt pan. Sprinkle chopped nuts evenly over the bottom of the pan, if using.

In a large bowl, combine cake mix and pudding mix. Mix in the eggs, 1/2 cup water, oil and 1/2 cup rum. Blend well. Pour batter over chopped nuts in the pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

About 5 minutes before the cake is done, make the glaze. In a saucepan, combine butter, 1/4 cup water and 1 cup sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat and continue to boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in desired amount of rum (1/4-1/2 cup).

While cake is still hot use a skewer to poke holes all over the top of the cake (which will become the bottom). Brush on glaze allowing some of it to soak down the sides, between the cake and the pan. Let sit for 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto serving plate. Brush glaze over top and sides. Allow cake to absorb glaze and repeat until all glaze is used, this may take up to 10 minutes.

Allow to cool completely before serving. Tastes best on day 2, so make it a day in advance if possible.

Store any uneaten cake in an airtight container at room temperature.

It's even good served on paper plates and eaten with a plastic fork :-)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sweet and Tart

Last Sunday, my in-laws celebrated their 39th wedding anniversary. That's just amazing to me! We invited them over for dinner, dessert and Christmas tree decorating. Dinner was roast chicken, mashed potatoes and glazed carrots and dessert was this delicious cranberry cake from Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman. This cake was also baked by all the other Cake Slice Bakers and judging by their comments, it's an all around winner. Pretty darn perfect for the holidays too.

I decided to make this cake for their anniversary, because it was far less fussy than the one I made last year and because it's loaded with cranberries (an entire bag), which I know my MIL loves. That night, we carefully placed hundreds (yes, hundreds!) of ornaments on the tree, placed the embroidered tree skirt around the base then sat down to have a nice slice of cake. Afterwards, Mr. H and I presented them with a photo of themselves, framed in aubergine velvet and a silver border. A friend of mine took this photo of them and I think it's just beautiful (thanks Lori!) It's also special because they don't have any formal photos of themselves, and now they do.

Back to the cake, I did have a minor issue, but nothing that would keep me from making it again. The recipe says to bake it for 60-70 minutes at 300 degrees F, but after an hour and 30 minutes it still wasn't done. So I upped the temp to 325 F and baked it for an additional 15 minutes and it was finally done. Of course, it delayed my dinner plans, but it was well worth it. Just keep this in mind if you decide to make it. This cake stayed moist and tender for days- the cranberries were tart and the almond streusel was sweet and crunchy. Light enough to eat for breakfast and sinful enough to have for dessert.

Cranberry Almond Cake from Cake Keeper Cakes

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For the streusel:
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 Tablespoons light brown sugar, packed

For the cake:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 bag (12 oz.) fresh cranberries

Make the streusel: Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Grease a 10-inch round springform pan.

Combine the almonds, butter and brown sugar in a medium bowl. Work the mixture between your fingers to form large crumbs. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Make the cake: Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Combine the eggs and granulated sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on a medium high speed until the mixture is lightened and increased in volume, about 5 minutes.

With the mixture on low, add the butter in a slow stream. Turn the mixture to medium speed and beat for another 2 minutes. Stir in the vanilla.

Gently but thoroughly fold in the flour mixture, 1/2 cup at a time. Stir in the cranberries.

Scrape the batter into a prepared pan, smoothing the top with a spatula. Sprinkle the streusel over the batter. Bake the cake until it is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes (mine took over 1 hour and 30 minutes).

Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Release the sides of the pan and use a large spatula to slide the cake from the pan bottom to a wire rack. Cool completely, cut into wedges and serve.

Store uneaten cake in a cake keeper or wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for up to 5 days.

To see more cakes, head on over to The Cake Slice Bakers!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Breakfast In A Cup and A Winner!

It has been a loooong stressful week. My mom had back surgery on Monday and I've been tending to her needs for several days. Luckily she doesn't live too far, but it's hard to help her out the way I want/need to as well as live my own life. She is recovering and doing very only takes time!

There are a lot of things I have yet to do. I try and do one little thing a day, so I don't get overwhelmed, but the boys' Christmas tree still isn't decorated. There are boxes stacked up in our living room and presents need to be wrapped. I haven't started my holiday baking or sent out Christmas cards (eeek!), and things keep piling up. On top of that, there's friction between my sister and I over something stupid. All this led to a minor meltdown on Tuesday and Ingrid got to hear all about it. Thanks for listening my friend :-)

There's just not enough time in my day and the holidays are fast approaching. That's where this meal comes in. It's an all-in-one breakfast in a cup. You have toast, eggs, bacon and cheese all wrapped up into one. They're cute and delicious and come together in a matter of minutes. They're perfect for breakfast any day of the week as well as a simple supper, when you're too tired to do anything else. I baked these in a ramekin, but I'm pretty sure they'd work well in a muffin tin. Get creative and have fun.

Bacon, Egg, and Toast Cups adapted from One Ordinary Day

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Makes 2 servings

  • 4 slices whole wheat bread, crusts removed
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked or uncooked
  • shredded Cheddar cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Butter four ramekins and set aside.

While oven is warming, fry bacon slices in a pan until partially cooked, but not crispy (if using precooked bacon skip this step). Remove from pan and drain on paper towel.

Meanwhile, butter the insides of 4 ramekins and cut crusts from 4 slices of bread. Gently press the bread slices into the ramekins.

Place the bacon slice inside the bread, creating a well for the egg. Sprinkle a small amount of shredded cheese in the center of each bread cup.

Crack an egg into the center of each bread cup. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Cook for 10-15, to your desired level of doneness. Pop toast cups out of ramekins to serve.

And the winner of the Tate's Bake Shop cookies and cookbook is...

Andrew's Mom!

Congratulations sweetie! Email your address and they'll be shipped right out to you.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Pan Cake. Not Pancake.

Ever heard of one-bowl chocolate cake? Of course you have. It's a simple recipe that can be mixed up in one bowl. But have you ever heard of a one-pan cake? Me neither! This recipe comes from King Arthur Flour and all the ingredients are mixed right into the very pan you bake it in. It sounded too good to be true so I tried it out, and it worked!

I took step by step photos of this one so you could see just how simple it really is. You mix it, bake it and serve it from straight from the same pan. Since it doesn't call for greasing the pan, you need to serve it from the pan, but if you want, you can mix it up in a bowl, then pour it into a greased pan for a nicer presentation. The hard working people at KAF made two cakes to show the difference, check it out here. This cake is great though because there aren't many dishes to clean up, nor do you need a bowl to make it.

Not only is this recipe unique and different, but it's vegan too. According to KAF, it's cholesterol free and if you use canola oil, then it's relatively low in saturated fat as well. It's tasty too and stays moist for days. I served this with Mexican style cinnamon chocolate ice cream, (which my momma loved and ate 3 bowls of in one night!) and some fudgy chocolate sauce from The Perfect Scoop. Simple and delicious and lusciously chocolatey!

Cake-Pan Cake from KAF

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  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder, optional
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup cold water, coffee, or milk

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

1. Measure all the dry ingredients into an 8" or 9" round or square cake pan. (If you use an 8-inch pan, make sure it's at least 2 inches deep, otherwise use a 9-inch pan.)

2. Blend the ingredients together thoroughly with a fork or whisk and scoop out three holes, or indentations.

3. Pour the vanilla into the first hole, the vinegar into the second, and the vegetable oil into the third.

4. Take the cup of cold liquid (water, coffee, milk, etc.) and pour it directly over everything in the pan. Note: If you've used espresso powder, adding coffee will make this a mocha cake.

5. Stir all the ingredients together with your fork or spatula until they are well blended.

6. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.

Serve right from the pan; warm from the oven.

Yield: 8-12 servings.

Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream adapted from Perfect Scoop

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  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 6 Tablespoons unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tablespoons Brandy

Whisk together the cream, cocoa powder, and sugar in a large saucepan. Heat the mixture, whisking frequently, until it comes to a full boil (it will start to foam up). Remove from the heat and add the chocolate, then whisk until it is completely melted. Stir in the milk, vanilla, salt cinnamon, and Brandy. Pour the mixture into a blender and blend for 30 seconds, until very smooth.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Makes 1 quart.

NOTE: Ice cream is very rich and thick. You can opt to use half-n-half in place of the cream or add more milk for an icier texture.

Chocolate Sauce from Perfect Scoop

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  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 6 Tablespoons unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk together the sugar, corn syrup, and cocoa powder in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture begins to bubble at the edges.

Continue to whisk until it just comes to a low boil. Cook for 1 minutes, whisking frequently. Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla, and let cool. Chill in the refrigerator before using.

Use as a topping or swirl into any flavor ice cream.

Makes 1 cup.

Store for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Appreciation Shortbread & A Giveaway

I am one lucky blessed woman. I honestly believe that I have the best husband in the world. Shouldn't we all feel that way about our significant others though? When I went out of town, this past weekend, Mr. H cleaned house, did laundry, put up the Christmas tree and did a little decorating just to help me out. Then yesterday he was scrubbing toilets! That means the world to me since I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed lately- there's just so much to do and very little time to do it all. I appreciate him and his thoughtfulness, but I don't always have the appropriate words to express how I feel. "I love you" and "thank you" don't always seem adequate.

To sweeten my "thank you's" I made him these cappuccino shortbread. He's a big coffee, chocolate and butter lover, and these filled the bill. This recipe comes from Tate's Bake Shop Cookbook. Lots of bloggers have been reviewing their cookbook and famous chocolate chip cookies, and I am no different. When someone offers me cookies and a cookbook for free, I don't hesitate to say yes :-) Thank you Tate's! These shortbread (pg.33) were crunchy, buttery, flaky and loaded with intense coffee flavor. The chocolate bits were just an added bonus. And they're pretty enough to share, so be sure to make an extra batch of this decadent treat.

I received 3 different flavors of cookies- Chocolate Chip, White Chocolate Macadamia, and Oatmeal Raisin. These cookies are thin and crunchy, not soft and chewy. They made with salted butter, so there's a bit of salty and sweet in every bite. My MIL likes her cookies crunchy like this so I shared with her. We thought they had good flavor but wished for more chocolate chips. The oatmeal raisin (which I normally love) was my least favorite, because they weren't crisp or chewy, they were somewhere in between which was slightly off putting to me. The cookbook has lots of great sounding recipes and I look forward to making a few more things from it. My only complaint is that there aren't many pictures, but that's not a deal breaker for me. That just means I have to read the recipe and use my imagination.

Cappuccino Shortbread slightly adapted from Tate's Bake Shop

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  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temp
  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • 2 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate mini morsels

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Mix all the ingredients except for the chocolate in a mixing bowl. Mix until everything is combined. Add the chocolate and mix again to incorporate.

Put the mixture into an ungreased 9-inch square pan (I used a round pan). Pat down the mixture evenly.

Bake them for about 30 minutes or until they are brown on the edges.

Remove the pan from the oven. While still hot from the oven, cut the shortbread into desired sizes (I used a bench scraper). Let cool completely in pan.

Yield: 32 small or 16 larger pieces. (I got 12 generous triangles).

The generous folks at Tate's Bake Shop want to give one of you the same gift pack that I received. The giveaway is open to US residents only.

One winner will receive:

  • A copy of Tate's Bake Shop Cookbook by Kathleen King
  • 3 boxes of Tate's Bake Shop cookies

To enter this giveaway:

  • Please leave a comment here telling me how you show your appreciation for the people you care about.
  • For a second entry, become a fan of Tate's Bake Shop on Facebook. Leave an additional (separate) comment for this.

This deal keeps getting sweeter. If you'd like to purchase any of Tate's baked goods, enter "cookies" at checkout to receive 15% off your purchase, through December 31, 2010.

You have until Friday, December 17th, then I'll pick a winner. Good luck!

Have a great weekend!

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