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Risotto with Balsamic Mushrooms

It snowed today. Technically its been snowing for the last week, but a little bit actually stuck. Normally this would be fine, but I spent a good chunk of my afternoon on Sunday whipping my garden into shape for the spring. We have quite a few raised beds, and grow a pretty good variety of fruits and veggies during the summer. We planted seeds for carrots, spinach, lettuce, swiss chard, beets, zucchini, and onions. We also brought home a bright pink blueberry bush that I am super excited about! After cutting down the massive celery plants that had survived the winter, and totally taken over, I discovered that some of my herbs made it through the winter too!

It was a lot of work, not to mention really cold! This risotto is a fantastic way to warm up after working outside. The mushrooms are by far the best part.

Risotto

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon thyme
1/3 cup white wine
6 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

 

Balsamic glazed mushrooms

2 cups thinly sliced mushrooms
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

 

To make balsamic mushrooms, heat a pan over medium high heat. Add mushrooms, let cook for 3-4 minutes. Add in balsamic vinegar. Turn heat down to medium, and let the balsamic vinegar to cook down and glaze the mushrooms until very little vinegar remains. Remove from heat and set aside until risotto is finished.

In a large sauce pot, heat chicken broth. Chicken broth should remain on heat, barely simmering throughout the risotto cooking process.

Heat oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Add onions and let cook until softened. Add garlic, and cook for a short time until fragrant, add salt, pepper, and thyme. Add rice, coat with the remaining oil, let toast in oil for 1-2 minutes.

One rice has toasted lightly, add in white wine, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. Once wine has cooked down, add chicken stock, about 1/2 cup at a time. Continue adding chicken stock each time the liquid cooks down, stirring frequently to develop the starch from the rice. The risotto may need slightly more or less chicken stock depending on different variables. Test rice for doneness based on your own preferences.

When risotto is done cooking, add the cheese and mix in well. Mix in balsamic mushrooms.

*Also good with:
Diced cooked chicken
Artichoke hearts
Sun dried tomatoes
Topped with fresh herbs

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Caramel Corn (Gluten Free)

Caramel corn is a great snack food that is naturally gluten free. I recently found some popcorn that was marked specifically for making caramel corn, so I decided to buy some to try it. I was kind of surprised, but it actually made a differece!  Don’t get me worng, this caramel corn is great no matter what type of popcorn you use, but if you can find some specifically for caramel corn, give it a try. This is a fast and easy recipe, and it stays good for a few days, but it probably wont last that long! I recommend making more than you think you will need, although it is really easy to scale up or down.

Caramel Corn

Adapted from Allrecipes

1 stick of butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
10 cups popped popcorn

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Place popcorn in a very large bowl.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in brown sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil without stirring 1 minute. Pour in a thin stream over popcorn, stirring to coat.

Place in a large baking sheet, and spread it out.  Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely before breaking into pieces.

Gluten Free Blueberry Lemon Loaf (Eating the Alphabet)

It has taken me years to realize just how much I love lemon desserts. I sometimes even love lemon more than chocolate! In the time that I have been baking gluten free, I have found that more assertive flavors really help to make something gluten free taste like the “real” thing. It is great timing that I am on a lemon kick right now, it seems to work really well for gluten free. So when I decided that I wanted to take part in the Eating the Alphabet challenge, and saw that B would be one of the options for the month, I thought I would take on blueberries, and we all know that blueberry and lemon make a great combination.

There are a couple of things that are very important for this lemon bread. The first is to toss the blueberries in a little bit of flour, so keep them from sinking. I forgot this step, and as a result, all of my blueberries sunk to the very bottom. Also, the lemon glaze is key to making this bread fantastic. It adds a wonderful tangyness, and brightens up the whole thing.

Blueberry-Lemon Loaf

Adapted from Girl Cooks World

3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons rice flour, divided
3/4 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup potato starch
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
grated zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup milk
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Glaze:
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter or grease a standard-sized loaf pan.

Combine 3/4 cup of the rice flour, the sorghum flour, potato starch, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and stir to combine.

In a large bowl, mix the canola oil, sugar and eggs.  Stir in the lemon zest and juice.  Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk and stir thoroughly to combine.  Mix the blueberries in a small bowl with the 2 Tablespoons of rice flour and stir lightly to coat the blueberries.  Gently fold the blueberries into the batter.   Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for approximately 50 minutes, or until the top turns a light golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack.

Make the glaze by combining the lemon juice and granulated sugar and stir to combine in a sauce pan over medium heat. Let cook until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Pour or brush the glaze over the top and sides of the loaf.

 

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Getting Back to Normal

Hello guys!

I know it has been a while since I posted last, but I hope you forgive me! I wanted to have some time during the holidays to concentrate on my family, soon after the holidays were over a new term started at school, and these last few weeks I have been working through some changes in my life, and trying to decide how they will fit in to the blog. Last week I decided to get tested for a gluten intolerance, and while the results were inconclusive, I have started a gluten elimination that will continue for about a month. I am hoping that the elimination is successful, and that cutting gluten out of my life fixes some health problems I’ve had for most of my life. That doesn’t mean that I am happy to be cutting out gluten, but I do see it as a personal challenge to find ways to adapt recipes to be just as good, if not better, than standard recipes.

This change does not mean I will only be focusing on gluten free cooking. Due to work and family events I will continue to cook and bake non-gluten free foods, other times I will make naturally gluten free recipes, but there will be a large amount of recipes featuring alternate flours. I also hope that this can be a resource for people who are hoping to find gluten free ingredients. I really do not want to isolate readers who do not follow a gluten free lifestyle, and it is possible that in a month when my elimination is over I will end up going back to a normal diet.

I really hope that anyone who reads this blog will continue to do so as I try to figure out this new change in my life. Recipe posts will be back to normal now that my life has settled down a little.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

 I’m just going to post a short post today, just in time for New Years!

I made this fantastic dip for my family’s Christmas Eve get-together this year, and it was a hit. I thought that by doubling the recipe I would have some left over to take pictures of, but it was seriously gone within minutes. This is great for a party, with tortilla chips, crackers, or some nice crusty bread to dip in it. It keeps nicely in a crock-pot on its lowest heat setting. I’m just giving you the single recipe, but definitely make more than you think you will need!

Spinach Artichoke Dip

8 oz cream cheese

1/4 cup sour cream

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup parmesan cheese

3/4 cup frozen artichoke hearts, thawed

1 package chopped frozen spinach, thawed

1 clove fresh garlic, finely minced

dash of cayenne or red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

 

To prepare in a crock-pot:

Place all ingredients in the crock-pot set on medium heat. Allow cream cheese to melt. Once cream cheese is soft, mix all of the ingredients together. Lower heat to lowest setting.

To prepare in the microwave:

Place cream cheese in a microwave safe bowl. Heat cream cheese in 1 minute increments, until warm, and soft enough to mix. Add all other ingredients to the bowl, mix well. Add mixture to crock-pot on low heat to keep warm.

Tea Brined Chicken in Coconut Sauce

Sarah from Simply Cooked was our November Daring Cooks’ hostess and she challenged us to create something truly unique in both taste and technique! We learned how to cook using tea with recipes from Tea Cookbook by Tonia George and The New Tea Book by Sara Perry.

This was my first month participating in the Daring Cooks challenge. I cook a lot, but I never really take a lot of time to get creative with my ingredients. This was a really interesting challenge for me. I have never cooked, or baked, or really done anything with tea other than just drink it. I had a hard time finding a dish to make, so I ended up think this up on my own. It tastes a little like a curry, and makes a great meal paired with some brown rice and green beans in garlic sauce.

This dish does not have much tea flavor, but the tea brine added a tone of moisture, and really helped to tenderize the meat. I brined the chicken for about 8 hours, but this would work well over night. I used chicken tenders, which is what I had on hand, but I think this would be great with legs or thighs.

 

 Tea brined chicken in coconut sauce

12 chicken tenders

2 bags English breakfast tea

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon salt

½ can coconut milk

Juice of ½ a lime

1tsp chili powder

2 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

For the brine:

Brew a cup of tea using both tea bags to get a stronger flavor. Dissolve brown sugar and salt in the hot tea. Add in a cup of cold water to cool down. Cover chicken with the brine, let sit for at least 6-8 hours.

For the chicken:

To cook chicken, heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Remove chicken from brine, pat dry.  Brown chicken on both sides, cooking in batches is the pan is too crowded. After the chicken is browned, place all the chicken back into the skillet; add in half a can of coconut milk. Add in the lime juice, chili powder, and garlic. Let simmer for 20 minutes.

Serve over rice, squeeze the other half of the lime over the chicken as needed.

Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes (Crazy Cooking Challenge)

This month was the first time I participated in the Crazy Cooking Challenge, and the challenge was mashed potatoes.
My family is VERY traditional when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner. Every food has to be exactly the same every year. Last year I tried to change up the candied yams, and it was met with an amazing amount of resistance! I do think I have finally gotten everyone to accept brining the turkey, but that took a few years. So when this month’s Crazy Cooking Challenge came around, I know it would be the perfect time to ease everyone in to a slightly different mashed potato dish. And I mean slightly different, I (gasp) used brown butter instead of regular butter!
I used Love and Olive Oil’s recipe for these browned butter mashed potatoes. These potatoes were good. The browned butter flavor was very subtle, and when covered in gravy would be really hard to detect. These probably won’t be my go to recipe for Thanksgiving dinner, but for an easy way to make an everyday week night dinner a little nicer, these are the way to go!

Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes

Makes 6-8 side servings.
INGREDIENTS:
3 lbs. Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup heavy cream, divided
salt and pepper, to taste
DIRECTIONS:
Put the potatoes in a large pot or Dutch oven and cover with cold water by at least half an inch. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat and simmer until tender, about 10-15 minutes depending on the size of your potato pieces.
Meanwhile, heat the butter over medium-high heat in a medium saucepan or skillet until foamy (you can skim off some of the foam if you like). Continue to cook the butter until it’s golden brown and nutty, an additional 3-5 minutes (watch it carefully, it will go from browned to burnt very quickly). Add cream and continue to cook over low heat until mixture is warmed through.
Strain the potatoes and return to pot set over low heat. Begin to mash with a potato masher. Doing this over low heat will allow any remaining water to evaporate out of the potatoes. Add half of the browned butter mixture and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Slowly add more of the butter mixture until desired consistency is reached.

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Daring Bakers: Povitica

The Daring Baker’s October 2011 challenge was Povitica, hosted by Jenni of The Gingered Whisk. Povitica is a traditional Eastern European Dessert Bread that is as lovely to look at as it is to eat!

This is my first month participating in the Daring Bakers Challenge. I tend to fall into ruts with my baking, often seeing challenging recipes that I want to make, but putting them aside for something easier like cookies. This challenge has so far been a lot of fun, and it has pushed me to try something I would never have done on my own.

I just want to say that this is the most amazing dough I have ever worked with. I don’t know what was different about this dough from other sweet dough that I have worked with before, but it was so easy to work with. I was worried when I started this project, thinking that there was no way I would be able to roll this dough as thin as it needed to be. It took only moments for this dough to be thin enough for me to see the wood grain of the table I was rolling it out on. I think I will end up using this dough around the holidays to make cinnamon rolls.

I changed up the filling because even though I love walnuts, they do not love me back! I decided to use up some extra peach jam that was sitting around in my fridge for one, and made a cream cheese and chocolate filling for the other. Otherwise I kept everything the same from the original recipe, and I am glad I did!

This looks like a lot of steps, but they are all very easy.

Ingredients

To activate the Yeast:
2 Teaspoons (10 ml/9 gm) Sugar
1 Teaspoon (5 ml/3 gm) All-Purpose (Plain) Flour
½ Cup (120ml) Warm Water
2 Tablespoons (30ml/14 gm/½ oz/2 sachets) Dry Yeast

Dough:
2 Cups (480ml) Whole Milk
¾ Cup (180 ml/170gm/6 oz) Sugar
3 Teaspoons (15 ml/18 gm/2/3 oz) Table Salt
4 Large Eggs
½ Cup (120ml/115 gm/one stick/4 oz) Unsalted Butter, melted
8 cups (1.92 l/1.12 kg/39½ oz/2½ lb) All-Purpose Flour, measure first then sift, divided

Cream cheese filling:

8oz cream cheese, softened

1 egg, beaten

½ cup sugar

4 oz chocolate, finely chopped

 

Peach filling:

1 pint peach jam

¼ cup sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

Topping:
½ Cup (120 ml) Cold STRONG Coffee
2 Tablespoons (30 ml/28 gm/1 oz) Granulated Sugar
Melted Butter

To Activate Yeast:
1. In a small bowl, stir 2 teaspoons sugar, 1 teaspoon flour, and the yeast into ½ cup warm water and cover with plastic wrap.
2. Allow to stand for 5 minutes

To Make the Dough:
3. In a medium saucepan, heat the milk up to just below boiling (about 180°F/82°C), stirring constantly so that a film does not form on the top of the milk. You want it hot enough to scald you, but not boiling. Allow to cool slightly, until it is about 110°F/43°C.
4. In a large bowl, mix the scalded milk, ¾ cup (180 gm/170 gm/6 oz) sugar, and the salt until combined.
5. Add the beaten eggs, yeast mixture, melted butter, and 2 cups (480 ml/280 gm/10 oz) of flour.

6. Blend thoroughly and slowly add remaining flour, mixing well until the dough starts to clean the bowl.

7. Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead, gradually adding flour a little at a time, until smooth and does not stick. Note: I did not use all 8 cups of flour

8. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces (they will each weight about 1.25 pounds/565 grams)
9. Place dough in 4 lightly oiled bowls, cover loosely with a layer of plastic wrap and then a kitchen towel and let rise an hour and a half in a warm place, until doubled in size.

To Roll and Assemble the Dough:
16. Spread a clean sheet or cloth over your entire table so that it is covered.
17. Sprinkle with a couple of tablespoons to a handful of flour (use flour sparingly)
18. Place the dough on the sheet and roll the dough out with a rolling pin, starting in the middle and working your way out, until it measures roughly 10-12 inches (25½ cm by 30½ cm) in diameter.

19. Spoon 1 to 1.5 teaspoons (5ml to 7 ½ ml/4 gm to 7 gm) of melted butter on top.
20. Using the tops of your hands, stretch dough out from the center until the dough is thin and uniformly opaque. You can also use your rolling pin, if you prefer.
21. As you work, continually pick up the dough from the table, not only to help in stretching it out, but also to make sure that it isn’t sticking.
22. When you think it the dough is thin enough, try to get it a little thinner. It should be so thin that you can see the color and perhaps the pattern of the sheet underneath.

23. Spoon filling (see below for recipe) evenly over dough until covered.
24. Lift the edge of the cloth and gently roll the dough like a jelly roll.

25. Once the dough is rolled up into a rope, gently lift it up and place it into a greased loaf pan in the shape of a “U”, with the ends meeting in the middle. You want to coil the dough around itself, as this will give the dough its characteristic look when sliced.

26. Repeat with remaining three loaves, coiling each rope of dough in its own loaf pan.
27. Brush the top of each loaf with a mixture of ½ cup (120 ml) of cold STRONG coffee and 2 tablespoons (30ml/28 gm/1 oz) of sugar. If you prefer, you can also use egg whites in place of this.

28. Cover pans lightly will plastic wrap and allow to rest for approximately 15 minutes.
29. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4.
30. Remove plastic wrap from dough and place into the preheated oven and bake for approximately 15 minutes.
31. Turn down the oven temperature to slow 300°F/150°C/gas mark 2 and bake for an additional 45 minutes, or until done.
32. Remove bread from oven and brush with melted butter.
33. Check the bread at 30 minutes to ensure that the bread is not getting too brown. You may cover the loaves with a sheet of aluminum foil if you need to.
34. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for 20-30 minutes, still in the bread pan. Remember, the bread weighs about 2.5 and it needs to be able to hold its own weight, which is difficult when still warm and fresh out of the oven. Allowing it to cool in the pan helps the loaf to hold its shape.
35. It is recommended that the best way to cut Povitica loaves into slices is by turning the loaf upside down and slicing with a serrated knife.

Chocolate cream cheese filling:

Finely chop chocolate. Mix together cream cheese, egg, and sugar until smooth. Spread cream cheese mixture over the rolled out dough, sprinkle chocolate evenly over mixture.

Peach filling:

Mix jam, sugar, and cinnamon together. Spread over the rolled out dough.

Casserole Cook-off

I just found out that we are having a casserole cook-off at work in a couple of weeks! Since I won the one and only other cook-off that has happened since I have worked here, I would love to keep my record strong :). I was thinking a scalloped potato dish, but I would love to get some ideas! If you have a favorite casserole recipe, sweet or savory, leave it in the comments or email it to me. I look forward to seeing what you’ve got!

I am so excited!

I am so excited to say: I am the proud new owner of this beauty!

 

 

KitchenAid Professional 600 Series 6-Quart Stand Mixer

A Kitchenaid Professional 600 series 6-Quart stand mixer.

 

This is not my first mixer, but my previous one had an unfortunate accident. SOMEONE who will remain nameless (my boyfriend), put the flat beater through the dishwasher a while back. That caused the finish to come off and for it to constantly produce a strange black residue. It has been a huge pain to make everything with the whisk. It is not fun to make cookies that way!

So needless to say, I have been in the market for a new mixer for a while now. I wasn’t planning on one of the big ones, just an upgrade from a 4.5 to a 5 quart. But I looked on a whim, and noticed that while most of the colors were around $400, some were super low. So just as a heads up to anyone who has been wanting an upgrade, check out amazon http://www.amazon.com/KitchenAid-KP26M1XOB-Professional-6-Quart-Stand/dp/B000P9GWFS/ref=pd_ybh_4?pf_rd_p=280800601&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_t=1501&pf_rd_i=ybh&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=16XRWGQ8RH2TCAGXCN22. The color I got was only $260! It was brand new, sold by amazon, the only difference I could find was that it was possibly a less desirous color? I am beyond excited for this!