Friday, April 25, 2014

Monkey Bread

Monkey Bread!  I mean seriously.  This makes an amazing Mother's Day table contribution, pleasing both kids and adults alike.  It's sweet, there's warmth from the cinnamon, it's buttery and soft and you get to rip it apart with your fingers.  Om nom.   There are many recipes out there that call for using packaged biscuit dough, but we try to avoid processed foods, so I found a recipe that called for making the dough from scratch. There is rising time involved so plan accordingly!

Monkey Bread
Food Network Canada
Makes 1 large bundt pan

4 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup butter, melted

2 cups milk

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 tablespoon instant yeast

4 cups flour

2 teaspoons salt

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 200F. Lightly oil a large bundt pan or other baking pan.

In a large bowl, add melted butter, milk, brown sugar, vanilla and yeast. Stir together, then add the flour and salt. Mix with mixer until dough comes together in a shiny mass, and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Put the dough in a large oiled bowl, cover with a towel, and place in the preheated warm oven for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
When the dough has risen, take it out of the oven and pour the melted butter into a small bowl. Put the sugar and cinnamon into a second bowl and whisk well to combine.

Punch down the dough to knock the air out of it and then form and roll small balls in your hand or on the counter. Dip them first in the melted butter and then roll in the cinnamon sugar and layer them in the bundt or other baking pan.

Put the pan into the oven to rise for a second time, for about 45 minutes, until the dough balls reach the top of the pan and double once again.

Remove from the oven, and increase the heat to 350F. Once hot, place the pan back into the oven and bake for 40 minutes.

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Random Assortment of Tips - Parties, Kitchen, Personal & Home

Having a party?
-use cake stands to serve the food - stack them for a dramatic display.-pretzel sticks make clever edible toothpicks for cubes of cheese or meat.
-ordinary ice cubes become extraordinary if you freeze mint leaves, citrus wedges or maraschino cherries inside them.
-skip the balloons and save your breath with clusters of paper lanterns instead: they are reusable and you won't waste time blowing them up.

In the kitchen...
-after grating soft cheeses or other sticky foods, use the pulp side of a lemon to remove hard to clean residues.
-lemons are also effective at bleaching and cleaning cutting boards.
-use a turkey baster to simplify (and to keep things neater) portioning out small amounts of liquid and batters.

Health and Beauty:
-to lighten blond hair slightly, simmer two sliced lemons in water for one hour (add more water if necessary). Strain, pour into spray bottle and mist hair. Even more effective if heading out into the sun.
-roast a halved lemon over a flame until the peel turns golden. Remove from heat and mix juice with one teaspoon of honey; drink. Soothes a sore throat.

Around the house:
-skip bleach, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup lemon juice to wash cycle to lighten whites.
-soak a cotton ball in vanilla or apply a few drops of essential oil then place in your vacuum bag before vacuuming. Will scent the rooms as you go.
-if you worry about your plants when going on vacation, poke a tiny hole in the cap of a bottle and stand it cap side down into the soil of your plant pot. The water will drop out slowly, keeping your plant happy.
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Monday, April 7, 2014

Peach Cobbler for Peaches Geldof

I'm not one for celebrity news.  I don't follow the typical websites dedicated to the inane details of celebrity lifestyle.  Facebook however, has begun including a 'Trending' section in the sidebar and it was there that I learned of the untimely death of a young lady named Peaches, daughter of Bob Geldof, who founded the Bandaid.

Celebrities, despite their big fat bank accounts, nice clothes and fancy vacations, really do have it sort of rough.  They live their life with cameras flashing constantly, not even able to run out to the grocery store in their flannel jammie pants without it being documented for the world to see.  That's got to be extremely stressful.  No thanks!

As a sort of homage to the late Peaches Geldof, I give you Peach Cobbler.

Peach Cobbler

Makes one 8 inch dish

2 large peaches, sliced (peeled if using fresh)
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 dash nutmeg
3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 375F.

Mix peach slices with 3/4 cup sugar and set aside. Pour butter into an 8 inch square baking dish. Mix flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and remaining sugar. Stir in milk until just combined. Pour over butter in baking dish. Top with peach slices.

Bake for 45 minutes or until golden. Cobbler is best eaten day of baking as the fruit tends to render it soggy if left to sit.
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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Kelly's Chewy Double Chocolate Cookies

It's interesting to think about the odd things one remembers from the various homes lived in growing up. We didn't move a lot, per se, but we did live in several houses and thinking back to what I do remember, some of it is just strange. What sticks in your memory, you know?

King Road was the first house I have a memory of. Nothing about the inside of the house but outside I remember our dog got all tangled up in a pile of scrap barbed wire out behind the barn and my uncle cutting him free...poor little dog succumbed to his injuries anyway. On another occasion little Rina decided to head off down that long gravel driveway thinking she'd get the mail and suddenly Mom in that bronzey beigey beast of a car roaring up behind, dust billowing all around and her panicked face. Good gracious.

Then there was the house on the street with the fancy name. I remember vividly watching hockey with my Dad, me eating a banana and him combing out my hair wet from the bath. One of my favorite memories. There was a bridal shower where balloons filled with confetti were popped all over that brown chair in the living room. The backyard where I first learned to ride a bicycle and my Mom suntanning while making garage sale signs with a big black marker.

Oh, the house on the hill. I loved that house because of the big piece of country property it was on - treed and perched just on the side of the hill with a view like nothing else. The forts we built and the fun we had riding our bicycles...Dad building bonfires (because that's how country folk got rid of garbage don't you know) and tossing the odd fuse or lightbulb into the flames just for fun. Finding pieces of broken pottery in the dirt as my Dad landscaped; my littlest brother falling out of the pool and how frightening it was as Mom took him to the hospital because he kept dozing off. Mom hiding pieces of Trident gum in the plants so my birthday party guests could have a scavenger hunt. The cast iron woodstove and how another brother burnt his entire hand on it - the blister, oh my goodness the blister. My sister and I finding our new birthday bicycles in the storage shop under the patio.

Finally, the house where we lived the longest, and where I moved out on my own from. Far too many memories to list, in that house. I will however mention Kelly, our neighbor.

Her Mom passed along a recipe for double chocolate chip cookies to my Mom many many years ago and as a kid, I never really liked them. But boy oh boy do I ever like them now. They're rich and chewy and chocolately and really? There isn't one single reason I can think of for us both not to make them right now.

Kelly's Chewy Double Chocolate Cookies
Makes 4 dozen large cookies

1 1/4 cups butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups chocolate chips

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Add flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Blend well. Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop by spoonful onto parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 350F for 8-9 minutes, do not overbake!!

The cookies will puff up while baking but flatten while cooling.
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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Gingerbread Granola

So uh...hello again.  Poor blog.  I'm not apologizing, however - life, real life, comes first and foremost always, no? 

While writing up the recipe for this post I felt badly about not updating on life (you know, for all of those readers still hanging around *crickets*).  Perhaps in another post?  I'm just dipping my toes into the blog waters at this point...see how she feels, trying things on for size again.

In any case, hai!  Granola!  I feel bad about granola.  It's like the redheaded step child of foods I like.  When I have it, I'm all over it, a regular yogurt-n-granola-for-breakfast-lunch-snack-nighttime snack-fiend.  Bring it on.  When I don't have it, I don't feel like making it and therefore do not have a fiendish addiction to it.  I'm so fickle.

This granola?  Even Matt (who doesn't typically like yogurt) thought this was delicious.  It's the maple syrup, doncha know.  And of course those gingerbready spices.  I was at first concerned about all of that olive oil - I would suggest using a very light and subtle oil although once baked and tasted you don't really know it's there.  We typically choose Greek yogurt, for the thicker texture and tangy flavor.  Top it off with this crunchy goodness and you are set.  Om nom.

Gingerbread Granola
A Beautiful Mess

2 cups oats
1 cup almond slivers
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves

Combine oats and almond slivers in a large bowl.  Add olive oil and maple syrup and stir to combine.  

Combine spices in a separate bowl and toss with granola.  

Bake at 350F for 15-18 minutes or until golden and crunchy!

I'm caving, but just barely.  Here's the most recent shot of my beautiful family:

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