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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Spinach Artichoke Dip

  • 1 box frozen boxed spinach, thawed
  • 1 cup light sour cream
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup part-skim mozzarella
  • 8 oz reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 4 gloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, plus more to taste
  • 1 (14 oz) can artichoke hearts, drained


Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Squeeze all excess liquid from spinach, place in food processor with sour cream, Parmesan, 1/2 cup of the mozzarella, cream cheese, garlic, pepper and hot sauce.
  3. Process until blended but still slightly lumpy. Add artichokes and pulse to form a chunky mixture.
  4. Place in 1-quart baking dish. Top with remaining mozzarella.
  5. Bake until bubbly, about 30 minutes.

Crab Dip

A co-worker was looking for a crab dip recipe and emailed me, suspecting I'd have a good one.  In fact, I do.  Several years ago at my husband's prior job, the company's diversity team put together a cookbook; it was filled with recipes contributed by employees.  This crab dip is one of the recipes I have made from the cookbook.  It's a hit every time I make it.

You'll notice that there are no exact measurements for some of the ingredients.  I just do it to taste, which I'm sure differs each time I make it.  Nonetheless, it always comes out great!

Ingredients:
2 1/2 - 8 ounce bars of cream cheese, softened
1/4-1/2 cup heavy cream
2-3 T. horseradish
6 ounces pepper jack cheese (shredded)
2 ounces cheddar cheese (shredded)
Old Bay
Emeril's Essence
1 1/2 pounds lump crab meat

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350.
Mix cream cheese and heavy cream with a mixer until a smooth consistency.  Fold in horseradish.  Add Old Bay and Essence to taste.  Add 4 ounces of pepper jack and all of cheddar.  Fold in crab meat.  Spread mixture in a buttered baking dish.  Bake until bubbline.  When ready to serve, add remaining pepper jack cheese on top.  (I like to add the cheese at the end so it melts.) 

Serve with crackers, tortilla chips, or crusty bread. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Homemade Artisan Bread

No-knead artisan breads seem to be all the rage these days. I've come across a number of different recipes for no-knead bread in the past couple of months. I was using one recipe, but I found that the crust was always a little too crispy for my taste, even with under-baking a bit. One of my professors, Dr. Ed Taylor, bakes most of his own bread. He has brought warm bread into class several times, and it is delicious! I got the recipe from him last weekend and made it tonight to go along with some slow-cooker lasagna. This recipe makes four loaves, and you can store the extra dough for up to two weeks in the fridge. So with just a little bit of prep time, you can have everything you need for four loaves of fantastic bread - soft on the inside with a crispy-chewy crust. I'm excited to try some variations - maybe some fresh herbs or cinnamon and raisins. We had it with butter tonight, but I would also like to try it with some herb-infused olive oil. I think it would also work great for French toast or panini.

6.5 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 Tbsp. salt
1 1/2 Tbsp. yeast
3 cups warm water

In a large bowl, mix the ingredients together until well combined and form the dough into a big ball. (I mixed first with a wooden spoon and then my hands.) Let rise two hours, covered with a towel. Be sure it's not in a cold or drafty place. After two hours, split the dough into four even balls (use flour on your hands and/or the dough to make it easier to handle). Wrap three of the balls in plastic wrap and store in a zip-lock in the fridge for up to two weeks. (When baking bread from the dough in the fridge, let the dough come to room temperature for about 40 minutes before baking.)

Place a pizza stone on a rack positioned in the middle of the oven. On the top rack, place a pan of water for a water bath; this will create steam, which will help the bread brown and stay moist. (I used a 9-inch cake pan.) Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

With floured hands, take the fourth dough ball and shape into a loaf. I placed mine on a well-floured pizza peel. When the oven is preheated, carefully move the dough from the peel onto the heated stone. Bake for 30 minutes at 450. Remove from the oven. Let bread sit for 5-10 minutes after baking before cutting.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pumpkin Threefer

Apples and pumpkins. These are my two favorite fall ingredients.


In my doctoral program cohort, we take turns providing a snack for class each week. A couple weeks ago it was my turn, so I made some Pumpkin Cinnamon Chip Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting. I found some fall-colored sprinkles at Target, so I used those to add some color and flair.

I had come across a recipe for Pumpkin Snickerdoodles. I love regular snickerdoodles and figured you couldn't go wrong by adding a fall twist to them. They were delicious! My husband loved them and was not happy about my wanting to share them with the neighbors; he wanted to keep them all for himself. (Sorry, no pictures of these.)


Lastly, I had some leftover pumpkin from the snickerdoodles, so I used it for some Pumpkin Muffins with Streusel Topping - perfect for a cool Sunday morning breakfast. These have a healthy element to them in that they use some whole wheat flour and oatmeal, but the six tablespoons of butter probably offsets that, right? They made the house smell wonderful! I thought they were yummy warm out of the oven. They weren't too sweet, and you could definitely taste the pumpkin spices. Kate loved helping with the baking. As I measure each ingredient, she yells, "I want to dump it in!"





I have to get some writing done for school this morning, and then we may head to the orchard this afternoon to get some local apples and pumpkins. More fall baking to be done!

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Crazy Cat Lady

Early Saturday afternoon we arrived home from being in Delaware for my sister's wedding. My neighbor approached me to say that she'd seen a black and white cat wandering around who seemed to be lost and wanted to be sure that one of our cats hadn't gotten out. Just then, the lost cat appeared. He's a sweet little guy - meowed and rubbed against my legs and followed me up to my front porch. He would've invited himself in if I had let him. He seemed well cared for and had a collar, so I doubt he's a stray. Our neighborhood has a blog, so I emailed the moderator some information about the cat along with a picture with hopes that we could find the owner.

I have received several emails from people in the neighborhood, none of whom are the owner. One woman in particular, Joy, has emailed me multiple times. She gives new meaning to the notion of the crazy cat lady. I don't know if Joy has cats, but because she is so (overly) involved with this cat, I think she's nuts.

Her first email's subject line reads: "Pray found this dear cat's home." Her message reads: "Did u? Can you take him in?" I replied that I can't take him in, as we already have two cats and a dog. The she emailed me to ask me to take him to the vet and pay his vet bills. I didn't reply. Then she emailed me again to tell me exactly which vet she wants me to take him to and that I should pay the bill. (She reminds me that it's tax deductible. Doubtful.) Again, I didn't reply. She emails me again to tell me she can pay its vet bills and gives me her phone number; she asks me for my phone number. Again, I don't reply.

She then writes to ask me to pray for the cat: "Pleeeeeaaase pray that he's OK. Please, please, please pray." Umm, OK...I hope that everything works out for the cat, but I haven't (nor do I intend to) have a prayer vigil for this cat and/or his owner.

Then she writes again to tell me that I should find the cat, get him in a carrier, and she'll go with me to take him to the vet. Ummm, again, NO. I'd be more likely to find this crazy lady, put her in a carrier, and take her somewhere for care (like a mental hospital).

To sum up: seven emails from the crazy cat lady who wants me to take in a stray cat, or at the very least catch him in a carrier and then call her so we can take him to the vet of her choosing, where I will pay the bill, together. And during all of this cat-catching and vet-transporting, I should also be praying for the cat.

I'm totally an animal lover, but isn't this a bit extreme?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Working for the Money

My cupcakes' reputation has gotten around, and I just finished my first paid baking job! Our daycare provider's niece is having a baby shower this weekend and asked me to make two dozen cupcakes for the kids who will be attending. She's having a baby girl, so I got to use pink sprinkles and pink frosting. I made red velvet with cream cheese frosting and vanilla bean with vanilla bean buttercream. (Both of the recipes are from My Baking Addiction.) I had a couple extra of the vanilla bean cupcakes, so I dropped them off to several of my neighbors. While I was taking the dog out, my neighbor brought a cupcake to her son who was playing basketball in the backyard. I heard him say, "Wow - this is amazing!" YES!


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Cafe Mocha Cupcakes

On the way to work on the Friday before we were to leave for vacation, my hubby got a flat tire. He had meetings scheduled all day and didn't know when he'd have a chance to get his tire replaced. His boss offered to take the car and get it fixed so my hubby could attend his meetings. As a thank you, I baked some Cafe Mocha Cupcakes from My Baking Addiction. The cake has good flavor, and I love, love, love the mocha buttercream. I garnished them with chocolate-covered coffee beans that I got from the bulk candy bins at Wegmans. I think they'd be tasty with a cup of coffee or a glass of milk.



Cafe Mocha Cupcakes



For the Cupcakes
Ingredients
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
1 ½ teaspoon instant espresso granules

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tins with paper liners or spray with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined.
3. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. Add the 1 ½ teaspoons of espresso granules to the cup of hot coffee and stir to combine. With mixer still on low, add in the coffee/espresso mixture and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
4. Using a large scoop (about 3 tablespoons), distribute the batter into the prepared muffin tins.
4. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then remove them onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

For the frosting
Ingredients
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
pinch of fine grain sea salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 pounds confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 tablespoon instant espresso granules dissolved in 1 tablespoon warm water
3-6 tablespoons heavy cream or milk

Directions
1. In a large bowl, sift together the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa powder; set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter until fluffy. Slowly add in confectioner’s sugar/cocoa powder mixture, and continue creaming until well blended.
2. Add salt, vanilla, 2 tablespoons heavy cream or milk and espresso/water. Blend on low speed until moistened. Add an additional 1 to 3 tablespoons of heavy cream or milk until you reach the desired consistency. Beat at high speed until frosting is smooth and fluffy.



Yield 24 cupcakes