Sunday, January 31, 2010

Apple Fritter French Toast

This recipe tastes completely homemade even though I cheat and use Walmart Bakery's Apple Fritter Bread to make it.  My family also really likes the Blueberry Crumble Bread as well.  


6 thick slices Apple Fritter Bread
3 eggs
cooking spray

1. Heat large skillet on medium heat.  Give it time to heat up.
2. Beat three eggs with a fork.  I use a pie plate. 

3. Mist heated pan with cooking spray.
4. Dip a slice of bread in egg mixture, coating both sides.  Do this very quickly because you just want egg on the outside of the bread, not soaked all the way through.
5. Cook on both sides until lightly brown and egg is somewhat firmed.

Serve with syrup or whipped cream.  If you don't like super sweet, try these with some butter instead.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Prune Cake: The Best Thing I've Eaten in Awhile

Yes, really.  You read that right Prune Cake.  Moist, spicy, luscious Prune Cake.  It is truly the best thing I've eaten in awhile...well except for perhaps the Amaretto Fudge that my Dad made at Christmas.  The recipe Grandma Iny's Prune Cake comes from The Pioneer Woman Cooks by Ree Drummond.  It is definitely a keeper!
The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Free Audio Books at Audio Owl logoJust thought I'd pass this website along that my Dad shared with me yesterday.  Audio Owl provides free public domain audio books to download to itunes or MP3 players.  Definitely check this site out for the classics such as Jane Eyre or Jane Austin books as well as many others!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bagel Attempt #1

I came across this simple bagel recipe in the cookbook, Church Socials, and decided to give it a try. Having never made bagels before, I was a little nervous. They turned out pretty good for my first try albeit a little nonuniform. My kids gobbled them up with enthusiasm, so that's always a good sign.  I'm definitely going to try some more bagel recipes. 

from Church Socials recipe submitted by Rachel McClean Dabritz

1 envelope active dry yeast
2/3 cup water, boiled and cooled to luke warm (temp should be between 110-115)
2 TBSP sugar plus more for cooking
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 TBSP oil
1 egg beaten
3 cups flour (mine ended up a tad dry and I had to add some warm water)

1. Dissolve yeast in 1/3 cup of the water.  Let stand for 10 minutes.  (Your yeast should get foamy in the water.)

2. Place remaining water in a large mixing bowl.  Add sugar, salt, and oil and stir to combine. Stir in yeast, egg, and half of flour using a dough hook attachment.  Gradually add remaining flour.  Knead for 8-10 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic and springs back when pressed with a finger.  (The dough is very stiff.)

3. Transfer dough into large oiled bowl, cover, and set aside in a warm place until doubled in size, 2-3 hours.  (Tip: Boil a small amount of water in the microwave.  Place the covered bowl of dough in the microwave with the steaming water.)

4. Punch down dough, divide into 12 pieces, and form into rings.  Allow enough time so that dough begins to rise, up to 1 hour.

5. Preheat the oven to 400. Grease baking sheet. (I used my exopat mat.) Bring a stockpot to boil over high heat.  Sprinkle sugar into the water.  Place dough rings into the boiling water in batches, cooking until they rise to the surface (approximately 1 1/2 minutes). 

Remove with a large slotted utensil and place on baking sheet.  Bake for 20 minutes (It took mine 15 so watch them!) or until lightly browned. Makes 12 bagels.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday Morning Scones

Just thought I'd share one of my favorite recipes: Buttermilk Blueberry Scones from Average Betty.  She has really excellent step by step photos. You don't have to actually purchase buttermilk, just sour milk using 1 TBSP white vinegar or lemon juice per 1 cup of milk.  Do this step first because it needs to sit for five minutes.  She suggests using frozen blueberries because fresh bleed too much.  I think she said this backwards. Fresh blueberries bleed less than frozen.  I've been getting really good fresh blueberries at the store lately.

Of course I've made changes to this recipe to suit my tastes, and I think it is improved to perfection!  Instead of cutting with the biscuit cutter, I prefer to just dust my baking stone with a little flour, form a disk and cut the traditional scone triangles.  You will want to separate them some so that they don't bake together.  I do not coat with the buttermilk at the end, but sprinkle sparkling sugar on top and pat them in lightly before popping them into the oven. After baking, I make a glaze out of powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla. Drizzle this glaze over the cooled scones.  YUM!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Regular Me and Chicken Spaghetti

Every six months or so I suffer from an identity crisis.  Just when I think I'm feeling comfortable staying at home with my children, I get that itch to seek employment; to do something slightly more incredible with my life than cooking, cleaning, laundry, shuttling people around, and bottom-wiping.  It can be depressing.  Now I know that raising kids is an incredible job, but I can't help but feel that I'm not living up to my own expectations.  Yes, I know too...enjoy them when they are little, and I do.  But.......

Yet, I really have no direction at this point.  Some days I want to go back to teaching.  This seems unlikely with the current teacher layoffs in our county. Some days I think I'll get my masters. But in what?  I love to read, so maybe library science.  I just have this fear that I'd spend all that money and not be able to find a job near my home. This kind of wallowing can go on and on. Luckily, I married a very patient man.  

What pulled me out of it this time was a conversation I had with my three year old son yesterday.  It went something like this:

Charlie in his favorite batman t-shirt and black "batman" socks
Me in my PJ top, robe, and blue jeans 

Me: There's my batman!
Charlie: I'm NOT batman!
Me: There's my batboy?!
Charlie: I'm NOT batboy!  I'm Charlie! I'm REGULAR Charlie!  (sounds like rehyoular Charwee)

Well if he's okay with being regular Charlie then I should be okay being regular Emily. Right? Not professional Emily.  Not extra educated Emily. Just regular Emily.  It's okay to just be regular. There's a certain peace in accepting that.  (Isn't funny how children can be the best life coaches?)

Which leads me to......Chicken Spaghetti.  Just regular chicken spaghetti.  It isn't too fancy.  It isn't too hard.  But it IS rather good and comforting and filling.

I followed Ree Drummond's recipe from The Pioneer Woman Cooks pretty closely.  I can't seem to ever follow a recipe exactly...part of a rebellious nature perhaps.  Here is the link to her recipe: Chicken Spaghetti
The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl
Here is what I did differently:
Instead of cut-up fryer chicken, I cooked a whole chicken because it was cheaper to do this even when buying humanely treated. 

1. Rough cut 2 onions, 3 stalks celery, and 2 carrots.
2. Rinse chicken and remove gibblet bag.
3. Place chicken in the pot and cover with vegetables, about 10 peppercorns, and a dash or two of salt.
3. Cover all with water.
4. Bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 2-3 hours.
5. Remove chicken.  Remove and discard vegetables and pepper.

Follow Ree's recipe from here.

This made a very large casserole.  It could easily be made ahead and popped into the oven later.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Toad-in-the-Hole and Being Holed Up

Holed Up - sitting at your PC - Day and Night - in the dark in your jammies without any human interaction (The Urban Dictionary)

I woke up feeling great today!  After being sick from one ailment or another since the beginning of December, I truly feel like the world is my oyster...I'm on top of the out world, here I come!  There's something about being sick and then getting better that gives one a new lease on life (and the freedom to use cliches whenever the heck she wants).

With the single digit weather and winter storm blast last week, I have been holed up in my house with stir crazy children and dogs.  Now I'm holed up in my house with all this energy and feeling a bit stir crazy myself. In the warmer months, I'd take to the outdoors and dig in the dirt or hack away at something that needs a good trim down. This is not going to happen for awhile as I'd like to keep my fingers and toes.  

I could take on some indoor project.  The walls are barren and sad from lack of decoration, and there are several areas in need of some organizational attention.  But that's just not very appealing to me.  

So, I think I will bundle up, hit the store, and cook up something tasty or two.
The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl
My inspiration today is the wonderful book, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl.  (Thank you Doug and Carrie!) I've read it cover to cover a couple of times.  The pictures of ranch life are just absolutely beautiful, and Ree Drumounds commentaries are fun and informative. Many of the recipes are tried and true and have been around for years and years: Texas Sheet Cake, Buttermilk Biscuits, Country-Fried Steak (though here in Indiana we are very fond of the Pork Tenderloin version of this), Chicken Spaghetti, etc, etc.  Maybe her versions are somehow better.  They are definitely worth a try. (I was shocked to see that she doesn't put cinnamon in her Texas Sheet Cake, which in my opinion is THE ingredient that makes that cake special.)

I haven't tried anything substantial from it yet. I did manage to make a very simple recipe called Egg in the Hole, more commonly known around these parts as Toad in the Hole. It is not only simple and tasty, but it is the perfect thematic tie-in to being holed up. Just click the link to find the recipe.  The only thing I changed was toasting the cut out piece of bread in the butter as well. Then I slipped it underneath the finished Toad in the Hole.  I didn't want to waste it! Enjoy!