Categories
Home Recipes Soups and Stews

Chicken Wild Rice Soup

 

What pops in my head when it’s cold outside? THIS soup! The funny thing is that I’ve gotten lazy during my single days in So Cal and the past few years going to Panera to get their version…up until this past Christmas in CO with my husband’s family.  I grew up making Wild Rice Soup with chicken, ham, left over turkey from Thanksgiving…it is the epitome of comfort food to me. It is so creamy, so delicious, and so filling. I almost can’t eat it without dipping crusty, chewy french bread as an edible spoon. Whether I am eat it on its own or dipping bread, I CANNOT eat it WITHOUT my comfort food noises and repeating almost with every bite how yummy it is! This is serious comfort food.  I was out Day-After-Christmas-Sales shopping on my own–I’m an independent shopper which probably has to do with how focused I am and all my wheels turning creating different ideas ALL THE TIME.  I was getting hungry for lunch and being that it was colder than Vegas, I wanted some Chicken Wild Rice Soup and there was a Panera down the street a couple miles. I got there, and it wasn’t even the freaking day they have it available!!! What???!!?!!!??

 

 

So in a “hangry” huff, I spun on heel out the door, straight to the grocery store I passed on the way. I immediately got all the ingredients for MY soup, and I was gonna have a bowl one way or another. I didn’t care what my in-laws had planned, they could join me or not. This was happening. To expedite this mission, I picked up a rotisserie chicken in lieu of raw chicken breasts because the norm when I make this is to use a crack pot, set it and forget it, and then shred the chicken before diving in to enjoy a bowl. I did NOT have time for that. Homey was not messing around, and you do NOT want to get in my way when I am in this mode. Trust me. I was on a mission.

Not an hour later with travel time, and orienting myself with my mother-in-laws kitchen–and hallelujah she didn’t even bat an eye lash when I got home with groceries to make this soup–my husband, my father-in-law, and myself were deep in comfort food nirvana. Ain’t no one was talking! Umm, um, ummmm…that was so good. And you know what, it reminded me how much BETTER my soup is than the corporate soup-mill down the street…or not so down the street back in Vegas. Now don’t get me wrong, their soup is very good and I won’t hesitate to have a bowl if I am there on a day they have it. It was just the last straw on the proverbial camel’s back not having the soup THAT day…on top of the other times I went and it was either it was the wrong day to be up on the menu or they are already out of their day’s stock.

P.S. I like BIG chunks of vegetables. I like meaty pieces of chicken, or whatever meat I add. I like seeing the onions in my soup. I like having mushrooms and broccoli in my soup. Dang it, I just LOVE me some of MY custom, homemade soup, with leftovers at my beck and call the next few days…if it lasts that long because this is one of the dishes I make my husband actually LOVES left overs, never mind the two full bowls the day I make it–and he detests left overs. I, on the other hand, love left overs because I do not have to cook or clean up after so there is no delay to enjoy it.

Besides the fresh vegetables, spices, and meat, what makes this soup is the wild rice and the creaminess. Coming out west, I took for granted how easy it was to get wild rice in MN. Well, duh, the real wild stuff grows in the lakes and rivers of MN and Canada, eh, and the Native Minnesotan’s used to beat the plant to get the seeds while canoeing, in their canoes–I paid attention to my MN history and Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox lore. Yes, seeds. Wild Rice is not even rice. It is a seed, and much like quinoa, it is far less calorie dense than any rice, brown included, AND has a much higher mineral content. Win-win! Not only does it taste so good, add such a wonderful texture rice cannot add and doesn’t get mushy, but it has less calories and more nutrients. The key hack cooking with wild rice is to either soak it overnight, or using your crock pot to cook the wild rice before you add to your soup for a couple hours on high. Which every way is more convenient for you, make sure you have a generous margin of water above the line of the settled wild rice because it will soak up that water and expand. My preference is the crock pot method. You can also cook up a big batch, drain it, freeze in a zip-lock bag ready to use without this step. This is a very handy tip; it opens a ton of doors to amazing wild rice dishes.

The creaminess is achieved with cream, whole milk, or half-and-half, AND roux. What is a roux you say? It is your creamy soup’s best friend. It is a cooked mix of butter and flour in a 1:1 ratio or equal amounts. I always make the roux after sautéing and cooking the vegetables to al dente in the chicken stock, before adding the cream; the cream is always the last step and either I add it to the hot soup and let it somewhat cool it down before eating, or it can simmer a little more BUT I never boil it after I add the cream. That goes for cooking this soup in a crock pot too; I only add the cream after the full cooking time is complete, and all that is left is to shred the chicken, add the cream, stir until evenly mixed, and ready to enjoy.

The roux I always make in a pan separate from the other ingredients because I melt the butter, sprinkle on the flour, and use a silicone spatula to incorporate until you get almost a pastry dough like consistency. When I use my crock pot to make this soup, I stir in the roux with the chicken stock before I add all the vegetables, seasonings, and chicken so it will thicken as every cooks together.

The other thing that sets my soup apart from that other soup, I use poultry seasoning because it already has the perfect blend of all the spices I want. One and done. Boom. Not 10,000 bottles of spices to rummage through, open, measure, and put back. I will season with salt and pepper just before serving to make sure I don’t over season it. 

Oh, I cannot forget about the chicken stock. I actually do not keep canned stock on hand, or can my own (as much as the “pure-est” in me would love to), but I do keep jars of the Better than Bouillon in my pantry and use that 9 times out of 10. But whatever is on hand works just fine…and yes, this last time I made it, I painstakingly unwrapped and used those silly little bouillon cubes my husband bought a BULK jar of. Ya, not my jam if you catch my drift.

Chicken Wild Rice Soup

This is the ultimate comfort food. Hearty, full of fresh vegetables, nutty full-bodied texture of wild rice, and chunks of juicy chicken, this creamy soup can be enjoyed on its own as a full meal. Wild rice, the caviar of all grains, has a deep earthy flavor with less calories and more nutrients than white or brown rice. So tasty, it will be hard to stop at one bowl. Skip the lines, and empty flavor of those other chicken wild rice soups, and make this gourmet custom masterpiece in the comfort of your own home, while enjoying the fruits of your labors the next day or two with just as flavorful, if not more, left overs.

1 jar Better Than Bouillon with 8 c water, or 2 quarts  (2-32 oz) chicken broth  

I c plus 4 T (2 1/2 sticks) butter, divided

2-3 T olive oil

1 c. flour

1 onion, chopped

2-3 celery ribs or 1 c, diced

2-3 carrots or 1 c sliced mini-carrots

2 T garlic, minced

1 c broccoli florets, cut into small pieces

8 oz mushrooms, sliced

 

4 1/2 c cooked wild rice (1 1/2 c dry wild rice)

2 tsp poultry seasoning

salt and pepper to taste

2 chicken breasts, 2 c cubed cooked chicken, or a rotisserie chicken with meat removed and cubed*

2 c (1 pint) whole milk, whipping cream, or half-and-half**

*If using a crock pot, use raw chicken. If cooking on the stove, use pre-cooked cubed chicken, or use a rotisserie chicken with the meat removed and cubed

**Depending on how rich you want your soup, or what you have on hand. I mostly use half-and-half.

 

Crock Pot Directions:

1) Pour the water and Better Than Bouillon, or chicken stock into a crock pot.

2) In a sauté pan on medium heat, make a roux on the stove by first melting 1 c butter, then sprinkle on the flour.  Stir and combine into a pastry-dough like consistency with a silicone spatula. 

3) Add the roux to the chicken stock, and stir until evenly combined.  

4) Add the chicken, all the vegetables, dry wild rice, and poultry seasoning to the chicken stock.  

5) Cook on low for 8 hours, or high for 4 hours. 

6) Once the chicken is cooked through, use two forks and shred the chicken in the crock pot.

7) Add the dairy of your choice, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bon Appetite! 

 

Stove-top Directions:

1) In a large pot or dutch oven, heat 4 T of butter and 2-3 T oil on medium heat until melted.

2) Sauté the onion, carrots, celery in the butter mix until the onions are translucent. 

3) Add the garlic, mushrooms, and broccoli to sauté until the broccoli is bright green. You may also put the cover to the pot or dutch oven on to steam the vegetables until the broccoli is bright green.

4) Pour the water and Better Than Bouillon, or chicken stock in with the vegetables. 

5) Add the poultry seasoning, and bring to a boil then reduce the heat to simmer until the carrots are al dente, or firm to the bite but not crunchy. 

6) In a sauté pan on medium heat, make a roux on the stove by first melting 1 c butter, then sprinkle on the flour.  Stir and combine into a pastry-dough like consistency with a silicone spatula. 

7) Add the roux to the chicken stock and vegetables, and stir until evenly incorporated into the soup.  Let simmer for 20 minutes, or until thickened. 

8) Add the cooked chicken and wild rice. Stir and simmer until warmed through. 

9) Add the dairy of your choice, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bon Appetite! 

 

 

Categories
Cakes Frosting Home Recipes

White Chocolate Razzleberry Cake

 

I have been in love with the Nothing Bunt Cake’s White Chocolate Raspberry since the first bite…but I was NOT in love with the prices, nor their store hours….AND the presentation left something to be desired with all the gorgeous barrel cakes I was wanting to make. I not only want memorable taste, but a memorable, stylish…GORGEOUS cake! This is WHY I started my trial-and-error search for my perfected copy cat recipe…and then I upgraded to Razzleberry after I used a Black Berry filling in my sealing reception wedding cake. SO amazing…and the color I get from this Razleberry mix when I used it to decorate my Perfect Ratio Dreamy Cream Cheese Frosting was also out of this world. It was a home run on all accounts!!!

 

I was first on my mission for upgraded box cake recipes back in 2013 when I dove in the deep end to make my own wedding cake, pictured to the right. I decided I was not interested in full on, from scratch cakes, because let’s face it, the dry ingredients are already in the perfect ratios, and you can often get box cake mixes on sale. I learned a ton since this cake, but don’t let the flaws like the bulging fool you; this cake tasted so good and I had sooo many compliments. I will post this recipe on a future post as well. I still think this is a beautiful cake, and my talented friend Marissa added the orchids in this ombre design so I could actually get ready for my own reception!

Now, my mom may be floored that her “pure-est” from childhood has given way to a “BOX” mix; you see I was OBSESSED with making stuff from scratch growing up, and it was such a big deal to me I ended up making a lot of dinners and my mom called me the “pure-est” because of this obsession. I’m sure she didn’t mind the help cooking, but I KNOW we butt heads quite a bit because I was, and still am, very independent, strong-willed, and not easily intimidated. So I made my own 5 tier wedding cake, and I had never made a cake more than one tier before. When I say I dive in the deep end and learn to swim or sink right away, I mean it. Remember I’m the “pure-est,” which mostly translates to independent and strong-willed and not much fear of “failure” and only want the highest quality of whatever I do. On a side note, there really is no such thing as “failure,” but rather learning experiences which I feel so strongly about that I plan to devote an entire post on that and redefining what “failure” really is.

I cannot recall where I first learned this box cake mix hack, but it because forever ingrained in my noggin every since my wedding cake in 2013. I added 1-2 more eggs than the box directions indicated, replaced the oil with 1/2 cup melted butter, added a box of instant pudding, and replaced the liquid with 1 c milk. Voila, instant upgrade and you would never know it was NOT completely from scratch. I have modified all my cakes using this base since. In fact, now I DETEST the airy, oily, almost non-existent texture you get from making a box cake from the original instructions…not to mention the lack of food-gasmic taste the basic box instructions yields. Never again! Never looked back since. NEVER made a box cake according the the box directions since.

The step that led to the apex of my recipe trial-and-error journey was the first time I made a bunt cake recipe that used sour cream. I made it for a pot-luck at a Real Estate Investment course my husband and I were taking. I got so many compliments. One of the coaches raved about it and would always ask when I was going to bring it again.  The next time I made my “doctored-up” box cake, I added sour cream, and it was a home run! The moistness on top of the amped up flavor and texture I already loved made this my new go-to box cake upgrade. Oh my oh my, if you have not tried this, you NEED to…AND you will never look back. It is that good.

Now where in the world did the Razzleberry come from? This is the most recent upgrade to this recipe, and there are three main contributors.

1) When my husband and I finally were ready to get sealed, which is the spiritual marriage ordinance in my faith and frankly it is more valuable to me than any civil ceremony could ever be (message me if you would like to know more), I knew I was going to make my cake for the reception again…then oscillated between doing what I did the first time, or once again diving in the deep end to upgrade the cake. I am sure you are getting the sense that there is no way I settled for what I did before, and definitely chose to further customize and upgrade my cake.  This customization also extended to the gum paste flowers I made which were stunning; I will definitely dedicate a post to that as well. Check out the pic below of my stunning cake I made below! I am so in love with it!

2) Once I decided I was not going with the same cake from our wedding reception, which was in So Cal–the sealing reception took place in Las Vegas where my husband is from so I justified a whole reception with the full nine-yards because we never had one for his side in his neck of the woods–I knew I wanted to coordinate the fruit filling with the deep magenta I had paired with the black and white and lime green accents for the colors in all the decorations I was reusing from the first reception; I was going for a Glam Retro Hollywood feel.  I started with the idea of a raspberry filling, but I just couldn’t commit because the last time I made my White Chocolate Raspberry Bunt Cake, the color was not the deep magenta color that I was going for to coordinate with bridesmaid dresses, flower girls dresses, chair sashes I sewed–foreshadowing another post…you are just getting to know me so well by now!! (((air kisses))) LOVE you! Yes, back to where the Razzleberry cake from. Because the sealing reception was late summer/early fall, there were gobs and gobs of gorgeous blackberries, and it hit me! Use a blackberry fruit filling! SO I did, and the color was magnificent. Check out the picture below.

Finally number 3) When I went to make a friend’s birthday cake, along with 3 Valentine’s cakes earlier this February, I didn’t have time to go to the store for only blackberries, but I did have a bag of organic frozen blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries I ended up using for the fruit filling, and it totally added another dimension of flavor I had not used before…and LOVED it!  Hence the White Chocolate Razzleberry Cake was born!

Prepping your pans and my Quick-Release Cake Pan Prep Mx.

Now let’s talk prepping your cake pans before we get to the recipe. I cannot stress how vital this is…vital to NOT losing all your time, effort, and gorgeous, high quality ingredients to a mass of torn cake because a good chunk of it is sticking to the pan. SO NOT PRETTY AND SO AGGRAVATING! Growing up, it was the “grease and flour” step of making a cake. Now I just keep a pre-made mix of flour, lard, and oil in a 1:1:1 ratio to make my Quick-Release Cake Prep Mix (yes, yes it’s long winded, but that’s Bloomy’s Dictionary sometimes). It is important to use a vegetable oil, or any oil that has a high smoke temperature. Olive oils have a lower smoke temperature which means it will start to smoke or burn at lower temperatures than other oils; since you are baking cakes at high temperatures, you do not want smoke ruining the high quality flavors you worked so hard to put in your cakes. I will keep a mix of 1 c. flour, 1 c. oil, and 1 c. lard in an airtight container in my refrigerator. Being it works in this ratio, you can use the same measurements of all three ingredients in any amount. There have been times I have been in a pinch, and needed to whip up 1/2 cup or 1/3 cup mixes of this if I am out of my pre-made mix in the fridge. You will prep your cake pans and bunt cake pans with this mix. Or use the traditional grease and flour method to prep your pans before you add any batter, however, if you take my word for it, this old-school method is a lot more time consuming and can be a lot messier! I use a baster to slater on my Quick-Release Cake Prep Mix; BUT you don’t want it pooling or gobbing on your pan. A nice even coat is sufficient. I also ALWAYS use parchment paper on the bottom of my pans, and for time sake I prefer the precut ones. I will use my quick geometry teacher skillz and can cut out a free-handed circle of any size pretty quickly by folding a section of parchment paper into quarters, and then eighths, and again if not too thick, and essentially cut half the length of my circle pan (half the diameter, or half the radius for y’all who remember your geometry).

Marbling You Cake Layers

If you want to marble your cake with the fruit filling: 1) use half the batter, 2) dollop 2-4 T of fruit filling in 3-5 spoonful drops, 3) use a butter knife to swirl, but not fully mix the fruit filling, 4) add the remaining batter and repeat dollops of fruit filling and swirls with a butter knife half way down, and 5) level your batter in the pan (knock the cake pan on the counter top to get rid of air bubbles) before baking.

*For a 3″ layer in a 6″ round pan, use 3 cups of batter, and bake for 35-40 min.

*For a 2″ layer in a 6″ round pan, use 2 1/4 cups batter, and bake for 28-36 min.

*For a 3″ layer in a 8″ round pan, use 5 cups of batter, and bake for 35-40 min.

*For a 2″ layer in a 8″ round pan, use 4 cups batter, and bake for 28-36 min.

*For a bunt cake, use the number of cups your bunt cake pan is sized by. If you overfill your bunt cake pan, it will overflow in the oven and create a huge mess to clean up…and ani’t no one got time for that! Don’t forget to grease and flour your bunt cake pan.

To build this barrel layer cake, I used 3-2″ thick 6″ layers of marbled White Chocolate Razzleberry Cake. I filled the cake with my Perfect Ratio Dreamy Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting (gourmet flavor cream cheese frosting stable enough to fill, frost, and pipe beautiful cakes), and the Razzleberry Filling (recipe below) using a buttercream dam to prevent bleeding and bludging. I also used gold sparkle powder, limited edition Valentine’s sprinkles from Sweetapolia, these gold metallic rod sprinkles, Lindt White Chocolate truffles, and gold lustre dust to color the “Happy Birthday” and piped accents. I used this tip to pipe the 5 dollops on top. 

In fact, I cannot tell you how fun it was to parade this cake (well, there was no other way to describe carrying this cake in a restaurant, trust me) through The Cheesecake Factory! I mean getting all the ooooh’s, and aaaah’s, and compliments, and all eyes on this cake that I did at THE CHEESECAKE FACTORY is a feat in itself! AND they didn’t even get the privilege to taste this masterpiece! I assure you, it tastes as good as it looks, if not better! I mean look at the gorgeous birthday girl’s reaction to the cake! A gorgeous cake for a gorgeous momma!

White Chocolate Razzleberry Cake

Nothing Bunt Cake…I don’t think so. This is White Chocolate Raspberry done right…aka White Chocolate Razzleberry Cake! Love those well-known bunt cakes but not the price? Or wished they looked more elegant? This recipe not only taste BETTER than those bunt cakes, but you can CUSTOM design your own masterpiece with a few simple steps. You are not limited to making this cake in a bunt cake pan, but have the flexibility to do so if you would like.  Check out the Perfect Ratio Cream Cheese Buttercream Recipe that is easy to decorate with AND tastes amazing with this cake. NOTE: I always use wet (but wrung out) cake baking straps on all my pans, and I wrap up the baked and cooled cake layers I am not immediately using in plastic wrap, and freeze for up to 3 weeks. Freezing cakes like this keeps them moist when thawed and ready to use.

1 white box cake mix

4 eggs

1 package white chocolate instant pudding

1/2 c sour cream

 

1 c milk

1/2 c melted butter

1 to 1 1/2 c white chocolate chips, optional

3/4 to 1 c Razzleberry Fruit Filling, recipe follows

1) Pre-heat the over to 325 degrees F; bake your cakes low and slow (may need to add to baking times–use a toothpick or cake tester to see if done in the middle). 

2) Prepare your layer cake pans AND bunt cake with my Quick-Release Cake Prep Mix(see recipe in post) mix or grease your pan with lard (or butter) and dust with flour, and a parchment liner on the bottom(optional but i do not risk all my efforts to possibly having the cake stick to the pan).  **Even if you have a non-stick pan, it is worth greasing your pans with lard/butter and dusting with flour, or just having a batch of the Quick-Release Cake Prep Mix (see recipe in post).

3) Mix all the ingredients except the white chocolate chips and fruit filling in a stand mixer, or a large bowl and hand mixer until smooth. It will be thick. Do not over mix

4) Stir in the white chocolate chips and mix by hand with a spatula or spoon. 

5) Divide your batter between your prepared cake pans. If you want to marble your cake with the fruit filling: A) use half the batter, B) dollop 2-4 T of fruit filling in 3-5 spoonful drops, C) use a butter knife to swirl, but not fully mix the fruit filling, D) add the remaining batter and repeat dollops of fruit filling and swirls with a butter knife half way down, and E) level your batter in the pan (knock the cake pan on the counter top to get rid of air bubbles) before baking. 

*For a 3″ layer in a 6″ round pan, use 3 cups of batter, and bake for 35-40 min.

*For a 2″ layer in a 6″ round pan, use 2 1/4 cups batter, and bake for 28-36 min.

*For a 3″ layer in a 8″ round pan, use 5 cups of batter, and bake for 35-40 min.

*For a 2″ layer in a 8″ round pan, use 4 cups batter, and bake for 28-36 min.

*For a bunt cake, use the number of cups your bunt cake pan is sized by. If you overfill your bunt cake pan, it will overflow in the oven and create a huge mess to clean up…and ani’t no one got time for that! Don’t forget to grease and flour your bunt cake pan. 

NOTE: The picture below left shows my dollops of fruit filling before I take a butter knife and swirl to get the marble effect with the cake layers. The pic below right shows what my marbled batter looks like before I put it in the oven. 

BAKING TIP: If you are baking 3″ layers with an 8″ pan or larger, use a metal rose piping pin inverted in the middle of the pan to get heat and bake the center of the cake evenly with the outside; or use a baking core. I do this with 2″ layers for pan 10″ or larger as well. 

 

 

Razzleberry Fruit Filling

3 c fresh or frozen mix of blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries 

1/2 c lemon juice

 

1 c sugar

4 T corn starch, mixed in 1 c cold water

 

1) Add all the ingredients except the corn starch & water mix in a sauce pan on med heat. 
2) Mash all the berries, sugar, and lemon juice with a potato masher. As the mix heats up and starts to boil, the berries will give off more of their juices and the sugar will dissolve. 
3) After the mix has had a chance to heat through, the berries give off their juices, and the sugar is dissolved, pour the mix into a blender. Blend until smooth and even. 
4) Strain the juice back into the rinsed pan through a metal sieve using a metal spoon to circulate the seeds to get all the juice through. Discard the seeds.
5) Bring the seedless berry mix to a boil.
6) Add the corn starch and water mix, and let boil stirring constantly until thickened.
7) Let the fruit filling cool before adding to an airtight dish to chill in the refrigerator. DO not use to fill cakes or to add to frostings until completely chilled. 
8) To fill a cake: frost the bottom layer with an even coating of frosting, pipe a frosting “dam” around the boarder of the frosted cake, then dollop a general tablespoon or two depending on the layer size, and spread evenly to the dam before topping with another layer of cake; and repeat until the top layer.

Note: Let’s get real. I love to cook once and use multiple times. This recipe is modified from using a full 48 oz. bag of organic mixed berries consisting of blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries from my local bulk store. 

Quick-Release Cake Prep Mix

In a 1:1:1 ratio, mix flour, lard or shortening, and vegetable oil. Mix until evenly incorporated, and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. For example, I use 1 cup of each ingredient to mix up and have on hand to prepare all my cake pans before adding batter, and then baking. Cakes will come out clean and easily, with no sticking. I coat my pans with this mix using a silicone baster brush. I also add a cut parchment paper to the bottom of any flat bottomed cake pan I use.

Categories
Main Course Pasta Dishes Recipes

Chicken Marsala with Silky Smooth Spinach Pasta

 

I remember the first time ever making this dish, and it was the Valentine’s weekend when my husband and I were first dating, and just became an exclusive couple. This dish is a winner ladies and gentlemen. Not only is this dish so delicious, but it is special for that reason, and because of my dear friend Holly, who I consider closer to me than a sister and has since past at the young age of 4. Holly made a very nice dinner for the two of us after she moved in to a new apartment in Costa Mesa, CA. It was the nicest diner anyone has made for me, and it was a thank you for helping her move, being her friend, and a thank you for all the dinners I had her over for and many other people during the course of our friendship. It was such a lovely night between two dear fiends, at her new espresso dining table set in her her new apartment. Really, it was a celebration of so much she had been through, so much we had been through together as friends to support one another, and to celebrate the future ahead. And it was my first time every having Chicken Marsala…but it was not my last.

 

 

The fresh spinach pasta came into the Chicken Marsala picture when my husband and were dating and talking about making Chicken Marsala. He mentioned that he had pasta attachments he had never used before and he knew I love to make good food. Fortunately I also had a Kitchen Aid so his attachments would work on my stand mixer. Since I had never made pasta before, Valentine’s was coming up, and Chicken Marsala had such a sentimental meaning since my friend Holly made it for me, my wheels started turning. Why not NOT go out and fight the crazy crowds on Valentine’s Day, which is never romantic, spend the evening together at home making pasta for the first time AND I could wow him with my Chicken Marsala AND my Sugar Cookies and heart cupcakes with my special Cooked Frosting! Win win win!!! Creating first memories together, eating good food, and spending it with my sweetheart on Valentine’s Day…need I say more…expect that WOW, we both were knocked off our feet with how good and surprisingly easy the fresh pasta was. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!

I have to admit, I cannot imagine making the pasta without my stand mixer and his, now my pasta attachments. It really allows you to work with both hands, and not try to crank while holding fresh pasta dough with only one hand. I am sure this added to the ease and overall satisfying experience making pasta for the first time. Funny thing, I honestly do not recall why we went with SPINACH pasta, but it really was a great choice. Fluke or not, it has to be spinach pasta with our Marsala Chicken from now on. I have ordered since Holly made it for me, and I have made it at home, and frankly I was underwhelmed. I detest going out to eat, getting a dish I know I love, and so regretting the fact I have to pay the jacked up restaurant price for a far less superior meal than I could have made at home. I always feel jipped and images of Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares were there is crap food and he turns the restaurant all around, not not without a string of vehement profanity! I have a little Gordon Ramsey on my shoulder when it comes to food.

I have to say I am getting quite good at making the pasta, and if you are ever feeling intimidated by pasta, please don’t. I hope I can ease your mind and encourage you to give it a go. Also, please don’t overthink it, or worry you will ruin pasta. Frankly, pasta dough is SO forgiving, and much easier IMO than bread dough. You also need to know there are so many different types of pasta recipes out there, many are regional, some Italian, some French, etc. One dogma says the only way you can do pasta is this way…another that way. Goodness me. All I have to say, is hallelujah I did’t worry my pretty little head over this never ending debate before making pasta for the first time. Innocence is bliss…or is it ignorance…or just dumb stupid luck? Either way, I knew my pasta was gonna have Semolina Flour, because dang it, I flipping bought it before looking at recipes because I knew pasta had Semolina, right?! Well, again, that played to my advantage in the end and I did a half and half All Purpose and Semolina Flour pasta for that fateful first time. I believe the recipe came with the attachments…I honestly don’t recall. Oh did I mention that a big part of the pasta debate has to do with egg, no egg, All Purpose Flour, Semolina, or some other type I cannot recall and frankly don’t put any brain space on. In the end, I have only just confirmed my early naive decision to use half and half, all purpose and semolina flour with whole egg and egg yolks. The recipe is simple. I mix it on my counter using a well. I am sure I could use a bowl, but I have visions of old Italia that most likely come from my romantic imagination wishing me off vicariously through the movie Under The Tuscan Sun and making pasta the old school way. Ironically, I have since found out the recipe I use is more French than Italian. Oh well, doesn’t change my Tuscan romanticisms…nor y pasta.

There really has only been a two key changes I have made to my Silky Smooth Fresh Spinach Pasta. 1) I now sauté the spinach in extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and salt to season. I mean, dang it, I want flavor, not some bland pasta if I am gonna put the effort into making it in the first place, and I have made leaps and bounds strides in my confidence adding flavor in my cooking and knowing what will work and what won’t–I’m usually 90% of the time right and what my brain cooks up actually works in the kitchen. 2) I make elegant little pasta nests with the cut pasta rather than monkeying around trying to dry it all nice and draped. Nesting the linguini size pasta has a few benefits beyond not having to dry and drape it (which I only did the first time). You can make more and freeze the little nests in ziplock bags, and boil straight from the freezer. I am ALL about the make once-and-enjoy-multiple-times philosophy. AND the little nests are perfect single servings without going overboard…unless you feel in the glutinous mood which is easy with ridiculously good fresh pasta. One thing you need to understand about fresh pasta that I didn’t know, but frankly didn’t phase me, the first time I made fresh pasta is that you don’t spin the pasta on your fork like you may be accustomed to doing with the traditional dry spaghetti or linguini. So with the nests, I just cut the past and load up my fork rather than twirl in a spoon. A slight adjustment, if any at all, but the older I get the more I realize our expectations make ore break our experience if we are not flexible and ready to shift…which I am able to do more easily and it bring me more joy on the regular. I will definitely have to post about that whole ball of wax another time.

I definitely suggest making the pasta to the nests before any cooking steps for the Chicken Marsala.  During the 30 minute resting of the pasta dough, I will: 1) butterfly and pound the chicken between two layers of plastic wrap (video below left), 2) make sure I have Essence on had, or make up a batch to use (the last recipe below), 3) mix the flour and dredge the chicken (video below right), 4) get the remaining ingredients out ready for the sauce, 5) get a pot of water with salt started on the stove to be ready for when I need to cook the pasta nests, 6) make any side salad, 7) set the table or have other do that bit, and 8) put any dishes in the dish washer or clean up any dishes sitting my hot soapy water I always start when cooking. That last step is a tip my Grandma Joy taught me about; she said you always need a sink full of hot soapy water ready when you start cooking because it makes the clean up easier along the way.  I would add, it also makes cleaning of items I need to reuse along the way.  There can be a step 4.5, which is running to the store because I realize I do not have any Marsala cooking wine on hand. I do not drink alcohol, and do not regularly cook with alcohol, so it is not unusual that when I am making a dish like Marsala Chicken that I think I have some when in fact I do not. Oh, and call to make sure your local grocery store carried Marsala, because not all do. AND ask where the cooking wines are, especially if you do not frequent the wine aisles.  If you are completely against using cooking wine, you can omit the Marsala, and replace the amount with chicken stock, but you definitely want to add chicken bullion otherwise the flavor will be completely missing; I always use Better Than Bullion when I use a bullion–it is so much more flavorful. Don’t forget that the alcohol does cook out while boiling the sauce, but I also understand there are those opposed to even having it in the house for one reason or another. I just love the flavor it adds, and cannot imagine not having the Marsala in my Chicken Marsala. 

Funny little blip in the video if you caught it, you were right. I accidentally sautéed the mushrooms before browning the chicken, quickly took them out, brown the chicken and resumed the steps as indicated in the recipe, but i didn’t edit it out…because I didn’t notice until just now and I am too anxious to post this and spread the love of these recipes to go back and do so. I use the same recipe my friend Holly used to cook us dinner, and she got her recipe from Emeril Lagasse.

Silky Fresh Spinach Pasta

Have you ever tried fresh pasta before? Have you always wanted to? Have yo felt overwhelmed by the idea of making pasta? This is the recipe for you. Fresh pasta just cannot be described, but needs to be experienced. And it is not hard to make like many of the heresy rumors floating around. In less than two hours, you could be sitting down to your very own, freshly made pasta, and have servings of fresh pasta in the freezer ready to cook up and enjoy. Pasta dough is so forgiving, you basically mix, knead, rest the dough before you roll, cut it, and cook it. No need to hang and dry it. This recipe makes 8 individual nests of pasta–one per serving. 

Spinach Puree:

about 8 oz of fresh spinach (I half of a big 16 oz container)

1 tsp-1 T garlic, to taste

olive oil to coat a skillet (about 1-2tsp)

1 tsp salt

 

Remaining pasta dough ingredients:

1 1/4 c all purpose flour

1 1/4 c semolina flour

2 large eggs

4 egg yolks

1 tsp salt

1) On med heat, sauté the spinach, garlic, and salt in a pan dirzzled with olive oil. Stir until it is still bright green and about a third of the original spinach volume. 

2) Transfer to a blender (still hot has not been an issue for me). Blend until it is a silky smooth puree. It should yield about 3/4 cup of spinach puree. Set aside for the pasta dough.

3) Make a well with the flours and salt on the counter (I am sure you may use a bowl and no Italian grandmas will die). I drop the eggs, egg yolks, and spinach puree in the center and mix with my hands, adding flour (mostly semolina) as needed if the the dough is too wet. 

4) Once the dough comes together in a ball, knead the dough until it is smooth and elasticity, and almost feels like play dough. 

5) Separate the dough into two balls, cover with plastic wrap, and let the dough rest for 30 min. This is when I make the sauce that will accompany my fresh pasta. 

 

NOTE: If you do not want to make spinach pasta, omit the spinach puree, and omit about 1/4 of each of the flours. If you absolutely do not have semolina, you can use all purpose flour for the entire 2 1/2 c. combined about of flour, and people swear by it. I personally prefer the extra elasticity that the semolina flour add because of its gluten content. 

6) After letting the dough rest for 30 min, roll out the dough, dusting with flour as you go. I HIGHLY recommend a stand mixer pasta attachment to do the rolling and cutting, and have not done this part without it. PROCEED WITHOUT A STAND MIXER PASTA ATTACHMENT AT YOUR OWN RISK.

7) Start out at the widest setting, and roll the dough in sections at a time. Lay each section you roll out on a flour dusted counter (I use semolina flour to lightly dust with pasta). I do all sections at a single thickness setting at a time. It ends up being 4 for me because I know how to handle bigger portions, but feel free to use smaller portions at a time until you get comfortable. I also end up running it through the roller  on the first setting about 3 times each section before setting on the flour dusted counter–before sending it through the widest setting the additional times I fold the dough in half, and repeat, until I get a pretty good rectangle section. Then each reduced thickness setting, I only need to run each dough section through once. After three different thickness settings, I change out the roller for the cutter dough attachment, and I generally just use the linguini attachment–but that is my preference. 

8) As you roll each section to be cut, I twist it in a loose nest on the floured surface and do not worry laying out the cut linguini and dust before making a nest out of each section…but again, that is up to you. 

9) Once all 8 of your nests are made, you can freeze the nests on a parchment lined cookie sheet until frozen, and store in a ziploc bag in the freezer for future meals. You can boil the pasta straight from the freezer without thawing if you do this. 

10) To cook the pasta nests, boil water with a dash of salt, add each nest (I really only do up to 4 at a time in my large ditch over pan). You know the nests are done when they float to the surface. It is about 5-6 min…but don’t hold me to that, because I don’t think I have properly timed it. 

11) To remove, I use a slotted spoon, make sure the water doesn’t puddle in the center of the nests to dilute your fresh sauce, plate, sauce, and bon appetite! Great job! You now get to enjoy the fruits of your labors!!!

 

Marsala Chicken

1/2 c flour

1 T Essense (Emeril’s Creole Seasoning)

2 boneless chicken breasts, butterflied, and pounded thin 

1 T olive oil

4 T butter (or more, tee hee hee)

 

3 c sliced mushrooms

3/4 c Marsala

1 c chicken stoke

Salt & Pepper to taste

Garnish with chopped chives or flat leaf Italian parsley

 

1) Mix the flour and Essence (see below). Dredge the pounded chicken on both sides.

2) Heat the oil on a pan on med-high heat until hot, but not smoking. Add the butter and cook the chicken golden brown, about 3 min. on each side. Remove to a plate, and set aside.

3) Melt 1 T butter, and sauce the mushrooms until the are browned and give off their liquid.

4) Add the Marsala wine, bring to a boil and cook off the alcohol for about 4 min.

5) Add the chicken stock, and boil for another 3 min.

6) Reduce the heat to medium, add the chicken to the sauce, and continue cooking for another 5-6 min.

7) Melt in the remaining butter to the thickened sauce.

8) Salt and pepper to taste, garnish with fresh herbs, and serve immediately.

Note: I prefer to serve it on a nest of Silky Fresh Spinach Pasta; you will find the recipe above.

Essence (Emeril’s Seasoning)

2 1/2 T paprika

2 T kosher salt

2 T garlic powder

1 T black pepper 

1 T onion powder or dehydrated onions 

 

1 T (or less for  less heat) cayenne pepper

1 T oregano

1 T thyme

Directions: Combine all the ingredients, and store in an airtight container. Yields about 2/3 c.

 

Categories
Grill Master Recipes Salads

Citrus Spinach Salad with Lime Grilled Chicken

Citrus Spinach Salad

 

Date night can be as informal as holding hands while watching a movie or an episode of a tv show we like to watch together. We used to get all gussied up to the nine’s all the time when we were dating, so ya, we’ve gotten lazy for a number of years. Well, I take part of that back. Lazy and complacent came after the necessity of pinching our pennies due to lost jobs early in our marriage. We never really bounced back to even a reasonable semblance of our courting days. Does any couple, really? I can’t say for sure, but I do know for us a “fancy date night’ includes getting dressed and actually leaving the house. The particular fancy date night is what inspired my Citrus Spinach Salad with fresh Citrus Vinaigrette. I love me a dang good salad slathered in an even better dressing! The toppings are great, but for me it is all about the dressing. Bottle dressing, especially ranch, usually inhibits my “food-gasmic” experience. Give me a fresh, custom crafted, full flavored dressing, and I’m putty for the duration of my salad consumption. I could drink a good dressing…well, not literally…but an out-of-this-world dressing can send me into rapturous visions of pouring that dressing all over my whole body…that’s how important dressing is to my salad 

 

The coolest thing about our “fancy date date” that inspired this recipe is that a group of my Pre-Calc students whom I affectionately call my “cheeky monkeys” got together and gave us a gift card to go out! WOW!!! Of the gifts I’ve gotten from students this was so special because of the coordination it took on top of the thought that went into it. Now, let’s get real for a moment–high school kids do not deluge their MATH teacher with gifts (which usually only happens around Winter Break). Honors kids are more likely to give a gift than, say Algebra 1 classes in high school, but it just isn’t common, so the gifts I do get are always heartwarming to me. I definitely don’t measure gifts monetarily, and I’ve received letters that only cost the giver the time to write that I consider my best gifts because of how moving they are and how they remind me of why I teach because that “why” can get lost in all the red tape and “stuff” that simply is not teaching stuff. Basically, it’s my long winded way of saying this was extra special.

We went to Claim Jumper for our fancy date night. We LOVE their bread, but I can’t say we have been often enough, nor have I had anything memorable enough to where I KNOW exactly what I’m gonna order just about every time I’m there like I do at The Cheesecake Factory (which is usually a toss between the Sante Fe Salad and the Chicken Madeira–BOTH of which I have a marvelous home adapted recipe I will share in a later post, don’t worry). I do KNOW about Claim Jumper’s Mother Load cake, and I have a funny story I will have to tell if I adapt my own version of that cake, but it isn’t a motivation to go eat there for me. Being we had our gift card to use, we were gonna splurge and I got the Filet and the CA Citrus Salad. Ok, just saying that salad just made my mouth water so you know it was beyond memorable for me…in fact it was a MUST to make my own, which I like to tweet and kick up a notch..or ten…so I can enjoy it anytime I want.

That CA Citrus Salad was divine! Oh dear me…I did not hold back on my food comfort noises the whole time I devoured that salad. I did not care who was looking because I was too involved in my salad…well, to be honest, I generally do not care what people think in general. The only thing I found myself wanting was spinach or mixed greens rather than just romaine lettuce, and a peppier apple in the mix…and maybe some blueberries!

You will notice in my full recipe, I have more ingredients than pictured below to the right. I will on fly modify the recipe, and use what I have on hand. Last night when I was gathering all my ingredients, I saw The Olive Press Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar & Master Blend Extra Virgin Olive Oil that my husband bought in the gift store at the Jacuzzi Vineyard in Sonoma, CA after our tour. We don’t drink alcohol and they didn’t have any grape juice like we were hoping, so to our delight there was something we could fully enjoy: their olive oil and massive selection of traditional and flavored balsamic vinegar. Being that this was such a fond memory of our trip to San Francisco and Valntine’s day is around the corner, I thought it would be extra special to use those instead of the vegetable oil and apple cider vinegar I had planned. In my excitement, I forgot the paragon, thyme, and honey. I tend to cook by taste so I just added more sugar to get the balance I am used to with this dressing even absentmindedly, thought very happy lost in the memories of our trip, omitting the honey. Sadly, the older I get the more I get side tracked like this, but I ALWAYS taste as I go and adjust accordingly. Hence, I didn’t even notice until typing up my recipe and looking at the photo I took. Classic Bloomy’s Dictionary! The moral of the story is that these things are NOT the end of the world, and as you get familiar with recipes they become more of a formula that you are adjust to achieve different nuances and flavor profiles. In fact, using a balsamic vinegar and olive oil made the dressing much more full bodied but the citrus was not a front note; it was still amazing and I couldn’t stop groaning in pure bliss eating my salad tonight. A vegetable, or rather soybean oil and apple cider vinegar will allow the citrus to really shine. When I planned this post, knowing was valentines around the corner, I picked up blood oranges for their color. In the past I tend towards tangelos if available, or about 4 tangerines, or 2 navel oranges depending on what is ripe; I will go for the tangelo or tangerines before the navel orange because I am head over heals for their sweet tanginess! If you have not had an tangelo yet, you need to! So good. Imagine the sweet juicy tanginess of a tangerine in the size of a navel orange!

Once I made the dressing, I was able to reuse and fill The Olive Press bottles from the balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil for the dressing I made. Even more sentimental now. I had emptied one of the olive oil bottles, and the white balsamic vinegar oil, but had not thought to fill them until I used up the other two this time. I had under a cup left I put in a small smoothy hard and twist top. Put them all in the refrigerator, and now every time I open the fridge I not only see that crazy good dressing but the bottles knowing I saved them and found a great way to reuse them extending the sentimental value.

You will find the recipes for the vinaigrette and lime grilled chicken below, but let me list the salad toppings I chose to go with this dressing, inspired by our face date to The Claim Jumper and the CA Citrus Salad I had: mandarin oranges (drained), Pink Lady apples (diced), red onion (sliced thin), dried cranberries, fresh blueberries, crumbled Black River Blue cheese (a mild Blue Cheese, but crumbled Gorgonzola is also lovely), pecans. Did I miss anything? I don’t think so. Now, The Claim Jumper uses green apples, and I do not recall the dressing being this yummy that’s for sure. I also did not have time, but would have preferred to candy my pecans. I will definitely post about candied pecans, as they are such a treat in a salad balancing out the sweet, salty, and tang of the vinegar. SO good. So worth the extra time.

In a nut shell: 1) just throw everything for the dressing in a blender until it’s smooth and frothy, then throw in a container or jar to set in the fridge. 2)Blend all the marinade ingredients, and throw that in a zip lock or bowl with the butterflies chicken breasts, seal or cover, and throw that in the fridge. 3) Forget about it until you are ready to grill…get those errands done…do that laundry…paint that painting…take a nap…do what you gotta do and it is doing it’s magic so don’t think about it until you are hungry…maybe even HANGRY because it will be ready in a jiffy. 4) Pull that chicken out and let it come up to room temp while you prep the salad topping. 5) Heat that grill on med high heat to about 400-450 degrees F, then throw that chicken on the grill and DO NOT move it for 4 min; flip it for for more min. 6) Remove the chicken and cover it with foil to rest for at least 5 min, turn off the grill or if you have briquettes you better dang well have some S’mores goin’ on later. 7) Slice that chicken against the grain, build your salad, and BOOM, you’re in salad Nirvana!

Citrus Vinaigrette
Are you ready for a fresh, tangy, citrus vinaigrette packed full of flavor? Are you ready for that full flavored dressing to be as easy as throwing ingredients in the blender? Are you ready to chuck that bottled dressing for good? Then you are ready for this show stopping vinaigrette. Your mouth will be singing an anthem of delight after eating a fresh salad with this drizzled on top.
3 c. mild, or light extra virgin olive oil, or vegetable oil

2 c. apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar

1 c. corn syrup

3/4 c. honey

 

3 T. sugar

1 shallot (or 2 T dehydrated onion)

1 1/2 tsp. taragon

2 tsp. dry thyme

2-3 T. minced garlic

1 T. koser salt

1-2 tsp white pepper, to taste

2 blood oranges, tangelos,  or navel oranges, juiced

1 lemon, juiced

zest of the citrus used 

1) Throw all the ingredients in a blender. Blend on high until all incorporated. Pour into an airtight jar. Refrigerate overnight for all the flavors to merry. Enjoy!
Lime Grilled Chicken
3 limes, juiced, or rind trimmed off

1 c. brown sugar

1c. soy sauce 

 

1/2 c. oil

1 T. garlic

5 lbs. boneless chicken breasts, butterflied

1) Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. If you are using the whole limes, minus the rinds you have cut off, throw all the ingredients in a blender; blend on high until smooth.
2) Butterfly the boneless chicken breasts. Place the chicken in the bowl, or a gallon sealable bag with the marinade for 2 or more hours. Overnight is best. I also use the marinade setting on a Food Saver twice which takes about 10-15 minutes, and it is ready to throw on the grill.
3) Heat your grill to about 400-450 degrees F. Use tongs to apply a paper towel doused in oil to prep the grill for the chicken. It is best to grill chicken that has warmed to room temperature. Place the chicken on the grill, and do not move for 4 min. Flip to the other side for another 4 min. Remove from the grill, and cover with tin foil to let rest for at least 5 min.

Categories
Frosting Home Recipes

Cooked Frosting

 

Cooked Frosting: frosting that will beat any boring buttercream’s butt, total KO with one bite! Frankly this is the only frosting I knew or made growing up, and every time I make it people rave about it. All my mom knew is that she got it from a roommate in college, and it was called Cooked Frosting.  I have looked everywhere for this recipe online and cannot find it. I am pretty sure it has a proper name unbeknownst to me.  Just like a rose called by any other name, I really don’t give a flying flip what it is called because it is the BOMB when it comes to frosting, and if you have never tried it, dive down that rabbit hole and give it a go! I promise, you will come back to it for cookies, cakes…hey, even a stale graham cracker can taste like the most exquisite cookie with this frosting.  I have used my fruit cake fillings to stripe this or mix it in to add another depth and dimension of flavor.  The standard of vanilla and almond extract is delightful. I also love adding coconut extract in addition…or Creme Bouquet or lemon…it truly is a magnificent canvas to frosting masterpiece to flourish with any flavor you love. 

 

Pictured above you see this frosting on my Valentine’s Cookies 2/5/2019 where the frosting by itself, striped with my mixed berry cake fruit filling, and the fruit filling fully mixed in all with sprinkles. SOOOO delicious! You also see it colored with green and yellow food coloring to get a light chartreuse color with one of Wilton’s Christmas sprinkles. You also see it in the first Valentine’s Day I celebrated with my now husband who I was dating. Truth be told, that weekend we went exclusive and my husband has since confessed that is when he knew he loved me…or did he love the frosting? Wink wink. It’s all good, and the rest is history as we say. The cupcakes with the frosting almost neon bright colored was celebrating my 33rd birthday…I think…you know you hit 42 and you think you’d never forget things and all of a sudden you find yourself forgetting EVERYTHING….ya, I wish I wrote more things down…but I digress. I LOVE SweetTarts so that is what I put on the cupcakes to pump up the volume and the inspiration to the color theme for that party. These were a hit! This frosting on a rich almost fudge cake is one of my weaknesses. Hence the heart cupcakes for the hub’s and my first Valentine’s together. Whether that move was to impress my man or to indulge myself, my lips are sealed…with a mouthful of this frosting! Ha!

This is the recipe my  mom hand wrote and oddly I don’t remember if she gave to me or if it came with me after I was on my own. BUT, that is neither her nor there and I will go with the first option. You can see her hand writing versus mine at the wee bottom so I could glue the backside down in my recipe binder. Of course the minimal directions are easy for me to follow because I have made this so many times I could do it in my sleep. Oh, that’s exaggerating a tad, but let’s just say this is how I prefer my recipes and all my well loved ones are just like this. Minimal, and mostly in my head.  

So on to decoding this recipe and give explicit directions. No, no, not THAT explicit…the explicit that is CLEAR, understandable, ya know what I mean? Before we go there, a couple things always stood out when I was learning to make Cooked Frosting which I feel helps in making this particular frosting because it is very different to what most may envision or expect when making frosting. My mom always said to use the cheapest shortening you can get. I generally go with the white store brand version of shortening. You end up making the frosting in 3 parts: an egg white mix, a powder sugar/lard mix, and the pastry dough part. I always have the egg white part in my stand mixer, the power sugar in a large bowl, and the pastry part in a pan on the stove. My mom always said the powder sugar part looks all crumbly and dry, you add add the powder sugar mix and the pastry dough mix in thirds to the egg white mix and whip it up on high in between each added third. She also said if it looks weird and like it will not actually be fluffy frosting, just keep mixing on high and it will fluff up almost magically. I have only felt that way a couple times, and my impressions are that those times were when I first started making it in my early teen, and after college when I had not made it for a number of years while going to college.

This is what the pastry part of the frosting looks like before you add it in thirds with the sugar mix to the egg white mix. I’m pretty sure the “cooked” part of the name comes from this element, and I never really thought about it until now. The cooked part is like a pate a choux used to make eclairs, profiteroles, croquembouches…basically a light pastry. It doesn’t take long and I have always started by melting the butter and adding the milk to heat up, and sprinkling the flour on top and mushing it around with a silicone spatula on med heat until it all comes together like the picture.

I will use a dough blender and cutter to start mixing the powder sugar, salt, and shortening. I end up using my hand to mix it until it is evenly fine and will stick together in my fist like fine wet sand. This is when I know I am done.

It whips up beautifully white and delicious! It is soft and easy to frost right away, and when chilled it stiffens quite a bit. I keep it in an air tight container in the refrigerator in between uses. It does make a lot, but I have never measured the amount because it doesn’t last very long. If you want to frost a cake or cookies and it is fully chilled, I set it out until it softens to almost room temperature. Also, on a side note, if I want to use part of the batch using a different flavoring, I will just add it to the amount I need and add other flavoring to taste. I find this gives me the flexibility I want so the main batch is more of my blank canvas and I modify as needed, as the wind blows, or according to my mood. However, the basic recipe with the vanilla and almond extract is delightful on its own.

Cooked Frosting

This is frosting is unlike any buttercream you may be used to; it is fluffier, feels lighter, and full of flavor without the sickening sweetness other frosting recipes offer, or the bakery type buttercreams that leave a shortening film in your mouth. It is simply amazing on its own, or kick it up with flavoring with fruit fillings or flavorings to add complexity and different flavor notes. It is fantastic on cookie cut outs, cupcakes, and cakes alike. It is initially made in 3 parts, which are combined for this lovely, fluffy, snow white frosting. Enjoy!

the sugar mix:

1 1/2 c. shortening

6 c. powdered sugar

1 1/2 tsp. salt

the pastry mix:

3 T. butter

6 T. flour

6 T. milk

the egg white mix:

3 egg whites

6 tsp. vanilla

3 capfuls almond extract

 

1) For the sugar mix: mix all the ingredients in this section together until it is evenly incorporated in even crumbles.  

2) For the pastry mix: in a pan on medium heat, melt the butter, add the milk, and sprinkle on the flour. Use a silicone spatula to mix until the dough forms and comes clean from the pan all together.

3) For the egg white mix: in a stand mixer, add the egg whites and extracts and beat on high until fluffy, but no peaks forming (Tip: use this time to use your hand to evenly mix the sugar mix while the mixer runs). 

4) Add a third of the sugar mix and a third of the pastry mix to the egg mix, and beat on high until all combined. Repeat 2 more time to use up the remaining 2 thirds of the sugar and pastry mixes.

5) Mix the frosting on high until white and fluffy. If it doesn’t not look fluffy at all, just turn up the mixer speed and mix until fluffy. 

6) Store in the refrigerator in an air tight container. Let soften to room temperature when you want to spread on cookies or cakes.

 

Categories
Cookies Home Recipes

The Last Sugar Cookie Cut-Out Recipe You will Ever Need

 

Growing up, my mom had this sugar cookie recipe we used for cut-outs and a wonderful frosting she called Cooked Frosting.  I used those recipes and those alone, no questions asked.  Fast forward to sometime during the last 5 years since moving from Huntington Beach to Las Vegas after getting married, and amid various home improvements including two straight years of replacing the floors upstairs and downstairs, my cookie recipe got mangled. This was BAD! I’ve been on the hunt since then for the perfect recipe, and there are 10,000 out there to sort through. I started with the ones that used powdered sugar (okay, confectioners sugar…I’m from the midwest and it is powdered sugar to me), like Swig copy cat recipes. The problem is that any I made were not memorable! That’s a problem. If I made something I want it to be memorable. In other words, if it is a meh in my book, it doesn’t get made a second time. 

 

This picture attests to the last time I used the beloved sugar cookie recipe from my childhood. It was my first Valentine’s day with my husband, who I was dating at the time, and not yet exclusive. Now, the question as to whether these cookies and heart individual cakes with the special Cooked Frosting were the reason we become exclusive, remains to be seen.

And the search continued…then a major break through!

I was at a math teacher conference in Palm Springs, getting my fill of Sherman’s dessert selection and Reuben sandwich, Norwegian style (no thousand island dressing, only yellow mustard–of course I can’t go without a CUSTOM order). While I was waiting to order, I was chatting with this delightful fellow food snob. Pardon me, but I own it, and we were commiserating on how we detest ordering anything out we felt we could have made better at home. We got on the topic of desserts, and somehow on BROWNED BUTTER! It hit me. DUH, use browned butter!!!

 

So this sat in my mind, filed in the back “as needed.” Life went on. As my mind got through teaching, got through Thanksgiving, vacation mode, and turned to planning for my annual Christmas Kick Off Dinner, my mind started to swirl around all the Christmas related to-do items I needed to accomplish. As soon as I remembered the annual cookie exchange a gal in my ward at church hosts, I thought, “Dang it, I am gonna bring sugar cookie cut outs this year, and I’m gonna use BROWNED BUTTER.” Never mind that lost original cookie recipe had nothing to do with browned butter. Ok, time to upgrade, and shift. Time to let that recipe from my childhood lie in the past. Time to move up and move on. Enough with the obsession to find a like recipe that used powdered sugar like I remembered using. And while I am at it, I might as well find one that has a tang I like. So I found a Taste of Home Recipe for White Velvet Cutouts. Ooooh, White Velvet, as my thoughts immediately went to Black Velvet by Alannah Myles, and images of me dancing all sultry like with the kitchen fridge door. Hot…but I digress. So then I’m thinking, “ya, but I don’t want a crispy cookie.” Not wanting to change it, I did a quick search on Pinterest and found this recipe. This was all coming full circle, and now all I needed to do was add my BROWNED BUTTER…and 4 dozen cookies for this exchange plus at least a dozen to keep. Ok, so I don’t work on a small scale basis…nor do I measure reliably… and I go a lot by feel and taste as I go when I cook or bake…I understand, this poses a problem for duplicating a recipe. I tried my best to write down any and all ways I strayed from the recipe to my best when in my fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants mode and it’s-get-this-done-now-or-never time crunch. I leave notes cards all over the place for various projects. Last week I made the recipe to confirm my measurements, and by golly, it worked! Woo hoo!

BROWNED BUTTER: adds a rich, toffee-esque, almost nutty, full bodied flavor to these cookies. No sweet cardboard here! Take my word for it…or don’t, and try a “regular” sugar cookie next to one of these babies. The difference in flavor will knock your socks off. The number of calls, texts, emails, FB posts to get this recipe after the cookie exchange surprised me, until I tried another sugar cookie. I knew these cookies were delicious, but until I had the side-by-side taste test with cookies I got from the exchange, I couldn’t fully grasp it. 

I am the type of baker that needs to do things in stages. I’ve got multiple things to get done at any given time of the day, and any wasted time just sitting there waiting just doesn’t cut it. SO, if I bake a cake, cookies, whatever it may be, and it needs to have rest time somewhere from beginning to end, I usually break it up into multiple days if it’s during the week. For example, when I brown my butter and I need to chill it, in goes the pan I browned it in on a hot plate in the fridge, and I forget it until I have time to go to the next step. Fortunately, this works phenomenally for me and my browned butter. While one person may insist this is WAY too much work for extra flavor, I just want to say it is totally worth it and it is totally do-able if you break it down into phases. Browning  and chilling the butter is phase one

Phase One: Make the browned butter, and chill completely before using in the sugar cookie recipe.

Phase Two: using the browned butter and make the dough. Then pop the divided and wrapped dough into the fridge to chill, possibly overnight…one to two hours if it is a weekend and I can get other things done in the meantime.

Phase Three: Take out the dough and let it warm up a bit so it’s pliable while I do something else like make the frosting that will chill in the fridge until it has it’s turn. I also pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. 

Phase Four: Get out the cookie sheets. Line them with parchment paper. Dust my work surface with flour. Roll the dough out to a beautiful 3/8 of an inch using this rolling pin or a couple spoon handles about that diameter on each side. Cut them and place them on the cookie sheet, spaced about 1/2 to 1 inch apart. These cookies should not spread. If they do, something went amiss. Pop two full cookie sheets into the over, and get the next two cookie sheets loaded. Set the timer for 12 minutes and sit my hiney down to breathe. It’s a well oiled machine if done right.

At this point, I chuck the phase mentality, and I adopt the “I better not forget the timer or go somewhere and burn these puppies so all my work goes down the tube” mentality and rest on the couch. Unfortunately, this is when I realize how tired I am, but the sheer will to not waste my efforts to this point trumps my will to stay parked on the couch.

Once the cookies rest on the cookie sheet until cool enough to handle, I will pick up the whole parchment paper and transfer the cookies to cool on my beloved, hand made–ahem, CUSTOM–wood cutting board. You can also put them in an airtight container if they have cooled enough until ready to frost.

I generally do NOT frost my cookies the same day I bake them. You can call this another phase, but I call this experience from melted dripping messy frosting because I am not patient if I try to wait.

 

Didn’t these turn out so adorable? I sure thought so. Here is the link to the frosting recipe and the sprinkles I used. I also used this mixed berry filling to add flavor and color to the frosting. If I need color I can use a fruit filling to get, as well as add to the flavor, you bet your bottom dollar I will pass up the food coloring!

I need to admit something. I LOVE the designs so many amazing cookie masters make with royal icing, but I CANNOT get myself to try it. I have confidence in my piping and design skills, but I LOVE thick, yummy, flavorful frosting, and royal icing just doesn’t do it for me.

How would you decorate these incredibly flavorful Browned Butter Cream Cheese Sugar Cookie Cut-Outs?.

The Last Sugar Cookie Recipe You Will Ever Need

Are you tired of boring, almost bland sugar cookies? Don’t even enjoy sugar cookies because they are almost like sweet cardboard? NOT these sugar cookies! There’s a slight tang from cream cheese, flavors pop with vanilla and almond extract, sweet and salty bring the best balance, and the secret ingredient: BROWNED BUTTER.  You cannot go wrong with these cookies. I like mine with a crisp edge, and an aldente but not quite soft texture. 

3/4 c. browned butter (1 1/2 sticks)

1/2 c. cream cheese (1/2 of a 8 oz pkg)

1 1/2 c. sugar

1 egg

2 tsp. vanilla

2 tsp. almond extract

2 tsp. salt

4 c. flour (reserve one cup as needed)

1) In a sauce pan on med heat, brown your butter. Watch the butter as it starts to froth up, and stir as needed. You will notice the froth will go down, and then start frothing again. By the 2nd froth/bubbling I have found this is about the time you want to stop browning the butter. Take the butter off the stove as you smell the nutty richness. Chill the browned butter until solid.

2) Let the browned butter and the cream cheese come up to room temperature. 

3) Cream the browned butter, cream cheese, and sugar until fluffy in a stand mixer, or using a hand held mixer in a large bowl. You will see the color turn light and the mix becomes fluffy. 

4) Add the egg, vanilla, almond extract, and salt. Scrap down the sides with a silicone spatula. 

5) Add 3 cups of flour and mix. Scrape down the sides. Add the remaining flour in 1/4 cup increments as needed. You know the dough is ready when it comes to a ball and is clean away from the side of the bowl. Depending on the humidity and elevation, you will need to be vigilant in how much flour you add, and may not need the extra full cup. The dough is pretty stiff, but not crumbly to where the flour is not incorporated. 

6) Split the dough into two equal parts. Wrap each dough section in cling wrap. Flatten into a rectangle, and chill in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours, overnight if necessary. An alternative step at this point(or just intentionally make a double or triple batch), if you choose to make frozen dough disks (I use an ice cream scoop and flatten the round dough to a puck shape, line a cookie sheet with parchment or wax paper, freeze on a cookie sheet, then place the pucks in a freezer safe ziploc bag to keep frozen sugar cookie dough on hand for in a pinch cookie hankerings–you can bake frozen, just watch the cookies because they may need extra time being baked from a frozen state).

7) When you are ready to roll out, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. You may need to let the dough warm up a bit on the counter, especially if it has been chilling overnight. 

8) Lightly flour the surface, then roll out your dough to 3/8 inch for thick cookies. If you prefer thinner cookies, adjust the bake time down. Cut out your dough, and place on a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Space them at least a half inch apart. The cookies should not spread. If you want to sprinkle sanding sugar on the cookies and not frost them, do so before baking them. These are great cookies to eat without frosting, but I have an even better recipe for sugar cookies if you just want sanding sugar on them, but these work as well. 

9) Bake for 9-11 min. If your cookies are thinner or small cut out, watch them at 7-9 min. A perfectly baked cookie will show golden patches on the bottom, but not dark brown or worse.  Rest on the cookie sheet until cooled enough to move the parchment without damaging the cookies, and cool on a counter off the hot cookie sheet, or in a airtight container. If your first batch of cookies does not have the wonderfully crackled look on top, knead the rest of the dough before rolling out and baking. 

10) Completely cool before frosting. Check out my Cooked Frosting, which I think beats any butter cream frosting on these cookies hands down!

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About Me

About Me

About Me

 

Hi there, I’m Heather.  I was born in Happy Valley, otherwise known as Provo, UT. I grew up in the Midwest, specifically the Minneapolis, MN suburbs, which I affectionately call “The Land of the Frozen Chosen”.  After going out west for university and 15 wonderful years in paradise– from SF’s Bay area to SoCal–I find myself a flower in the desert, learning to bloom in a different extreme climate. I’ve been a high school math teacher for 20 years now, but outside of the classroom,  I am obsessed with creating.  Whether I am tweaking a recipe, painting my wall calendar for the new month, using my power tools to cut scarp wood for a new holiday decoration, or planning my next dinner party, you can be sure it is not DIY, it is CUSTOM!

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Story

My Creative Obsessions Begin

My earliest creative memory was helping my dad build a shelf in our first home in Orem, Ut.  Well, “helping” is generous as I am sure I as more playing with daddy’s tools than anything.  It was a great time to grow up, and growing up to be meant a lot of creating. My dad was a carpenter and my mom an interior/exterior designer, so to say creating oozed out my pores is putting it lightly.  My mom designed and decorated our house since I can remember.

 

Our first house in MN had an unfinished basement and no garage, and finishing the garage and the basement were not the only projects throughout my childhood. Our house was a blank canvas that was constantly being improved. Walls were blown out. Decks,  porches, and patios built.  The word “entertainment system” didn’t exist in my vocabulary. Going out to buy one was  not in my realm of life experience. We needed shelves, cabinets for toys, a place for the TV. No problem, so my mom and dad would design and build it. We needed curtains. We didn’t go shopping for them. We shopped for fabric and my mom sewed not only the roman shades for our windows, but upholstered the window valences my dad made the from MDF. The number of projects we did in that house, I honestly couldn’t count them. I can tell you that by 16, I announced that my parents were not allowed to do another project until I moved out to college.

 

Holidays were filled with not only great food from scratch, but homemade decorations. I have so many memories of my grandmas dinner rolls, caramel pecan rolls, mashed potatoes…food and lots of it was the center of any family holiday, celebration, vacation which was always a family reunion. My mom made my Pink Princess Leia costume, and it made zero different that most people would never be able to say they recognized I was a Pink Princess Leia.  What meant the most to  me is that my mom asked what I wanted to be, that is what I told her, and she sewed it.

 

Carving pumpkins isn’t my first thought when I think of Halloween; painting pumpkins is!  That is because my earliest tradition for halloween besides making our costumes, is painting pumpkins. Paint brushes were as common in my house as pencils or crayons…well, ok, maybe that is a stretch, but my point is that creating whether it is sewing, cooking, drawing, using power tools…whatever it was, it was custom. Custom to our needs, design ideas, and the space, event, holiday, or whatever we could think up. It wasn’t about finding a stock,  pre-made item that everyone else had; it was about dreaming it up and then making it a reality. It wasn’t DIY, it was custom. So, here I am. My whole life has been about custom design. I have a intatiable desire to create, and it is in my blood. My brain just won’t stop. It is wired that way. I find great joy in creating, I find great joy in sharing what I create, and seeing others add richness in their creations!

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About Me

Bloomy’s Dictionary…how did I get here?

This is one loaded question! Are you ready for it? Ok, here we go…

To say I knew I’d be right here right now one day is far from the reality of it.  AND, let’s just say if you knew all the going-ons of my brain, we’d both be in the looney bin. If I told you how many ideas, projects, recipes, holiday dinners I’ve come up with in my life, you would think I was exaggerating. In fact, just telling you for my wedding reception I made the invitations, sewed 6 bridesmaid dresses combining two patterns, a mother of the bride and mother of the groom dresses, 13 flower girl dresses, hair flower clips for all the bridesmaids and flower girls, a foam sucker display for the candy bar like a wedding cake, the table signs, the tea light stickers, a 3 tier chandelier from curved pvc pipe and twinkle icicle lights, all the flowers from my bouquet, bridesmaid bouquets, table centerpieces, to boutonnieres and corsages, as well as the 5 tier wedding cake…to start…you may not believe me without the photo proof.  It’s a sickness. We have our own sickness, and mine is creating. One thing I learned in my madness creating, it’s not DIY, it’s CUSTOM! I take great joy in my custom creations and all the artisanal work that goes into them. All my creations are one of a kind. I knew I needed to change the meaning or connotation of DIY to what I see it as–custom work without the custom price tag.

Let me give you some background about Bloomy…me! At 16, I couldn’t find a job during the week to pay for my gas and car insurance for my commute to the University of MN, which I was attending for dual credit my junior and senior year of high school. I started with a weekend paper route with the StarTribune, and taking the bus…well a couple bus transfers…to the U of MN. I got a call to fill in for an old gentleman who was not well; he had one of the bigger older paper routes of the depot that had not been divided up since he had it for years. After subbing the route for two weeks, I was given his route permanently because the gentleman’s health didn’t permit him to haul papers through high rises anymore. This rocked the paper-route world, of which I still had no idea of. Well, we are all creatures of habits, and here I am, this tall 5’11” 16 year old brunette stuffing papers every morning at the paper depot among most men who could be my father, or fathers and sons, maybe one husband and wife team…to say I stuck out was in understatement, AND I got the most lucrative route–meaning you could deliver the most papers in the shortest time being paid by paper you deliver on your route. I had no idea a paper route at that time was a serious source of income at that time for some people, and the best paying route basically fell into my lap. The guy who stuffed his papers on the other side of my table–who I later found out was doing his route to make up for past due tax money taken out of his pay checks, so to say he was jealous of my route was putting it lightly, but he was still friendly and social with me–started calling me “Bloomies” as in “Bloomingdales” because I was “making so much money for a 16-year-old.” This made me laugh, but it stuck. “Bloomies” was shortened to “Bloomy.”

Little did I know less than 8 years later, my now ex-husband whom I was dating at the time, would tease me about my creative use of words and made up words, for which I never apologized for, and basically just became part of my panache and style. He dubbed it Bloomy’s Dictionary.  An English teacher who I team taught with my first year teaching said I was “almost, not quite, but almost as good as Shel Silverstein at making up my own words.” I’ll take it, and I take it all as a compliment!

You see I LOVE to create, even down to my words! Shel has nothing on me!

So fast forward 20 years into teaching high school math from remedial to upper division in some of CA’s and now NV’s most challenging public schools…I’ve worked hard every step of the way. Many of those steps took me places, like the Bay Area of SF and now Sin City, I never would have expected. Life changes that often felt like left field hits to my face and the biggest life trials I wasn’t sure I’d overcome in the midst of it, became my happiest times…until 5 years ago. Now I’ve never regretted teaching until the red tape started choking me, and I dreaded getting up in the mornings. The only escape I had were my creations, in what ever form they came in. While teaching in Las Vegas, I started to get this nagging to do something else…something more…something I absolutely loved…creating! So, then what? Little by little it dawned on me to start a blog. I’m such the foreigner the world of blogging, and all I know is what I know…to dive in the deep end and learn to swim. So here I am…and it couldn’t have happened at a better time! Cheers to this new path and thank you for joining me. We are gonna have some FUN! And remember, it’s not DIY, it’s CUSTOM!

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