Saturday, September 29, 2012

Breakfast Baked Potatoes

"Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal."

- Pamela Vaull Starr

Eggs and potatoes, a match made in heaven! I eat them all the time, but never with one inside the other. A brilliant idea! When I saw this done by another blogger, Our Best Bites, I thought why isn't everyone everywhere doing this all the time!
Slice off the top of the potato
It's perfect. Protein, potatoes and eggs all in one easy to manage vessel. And a great use of leftover baked potatoes.

Scoop out the insides, not all of them, but most. Salt and pepper the insides and brush them with melted butter.

Fill your potatoes with everything you love to put in an omelet. Cheese, ham, bacon, spinach, tomatoes, chives, chili. I love me a chili omelet. So I made a ham and cheese potato, and a chili and cheese potato.

Fill them up with yummy stuff. I did a ham and cheese, and a chili and cheese. Anything you would put in an omelet or a quiche.
I think these would be great to serve at a brunch, with some muffins, and fruit.

Crack and egg on top and more salt and pepper
This is just an idea, not really a recipe, so go wild! Bake up some potatoes and fill them with all kinds of yummy stuff you like. Potatoes are cheap, and eggs are a good source of protein, so it's all good.

 Breakfast Baked Potatoes

Adapted from Our Best Bites


baked potatoes, cooked and slightly cooled - if straight from the fridge, I'd warm them slightly to just warm, or room temperature

melted butter

salt and black pepper

Shredded cheese (cheddar, Gruyere, Fontina, pepper jack, or other of your choice)


additional fillings of your choice: sauteed vegetables, bacon or ham, chili, etc. or raw veggies like chives or chopped tomatoes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, 180 degrees Celsius, Gas Mark 4.

Slice a layer off the top of each potato. Use a spoon to gently scoop out insides, leaving a thin layer of potato against the skin and avoiding puncturing the bottom. Reserve scooped potato for another use.

Brush inside of each potato with melted butter and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Sprinkle a layer of shredded cheese into each potato and add fillings as desired (vegetables, diced meat, etc.) Fill each potato about 1/2 full. Crack one egg into each potato. Sprinkle with a little more salt and pepper. Top with additional cheese and toppings if desired.

Place potatoes on a in an oven safe dish and cook for about 20 minutes, it could be as little as 15 minutes, or as many as 25 minutes or more. (The amount of time depends on how large your potato is, if it's warm or cold, etc.)  Egg whites should be set and yolks soft.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Easy Cream Biscuits and Chocolate Gravy

"To be a champ, you have to believe in yourself when nobody else will."
-Sugar Ray Robinson
1921-1989, Professional Boxer

So I love biscuits. I even made biscuits and gravy (and eggs) on vacation in Oregon recently in our room that had a small kitchen. That's sounds crazy to some people to cook on vacation, but our room was right on the river with a porch to sit outside. So who wants to leave and drive 15 minutes each way to a mediocre breakfast, (I did some research about restaurants in the area, and it was slim pickins) when I'm perfectly capable of making something yummy myself in the room?

Mix the flour and sugar
To make biscuits and gravy on vacation, you just need a few things: Bisquick, milk, sausage, butter for buttering them if you wish, (and to cook the eggs), and eggs on the side. If you grew up with your mom using Bisquick, then you know you can make drop biscuits by only adding milk to the mix. Mix together milk and Bisquick, and drop them on a baking sheet and voila! You have biscuits. To make sausage gravy, you cook up your sausage, add a few tablespoons of Bisquick, and add milk and you have sausage gravy. (By the way, both of those recipes are right on the back of the box.)
The biscuits, are decent, they are good, not bad. The gravy is fantastic.

Add the cream and mix (Seriously it's that easy)
But here's the point. (Finally.) Instead of buying Bisquick for vacation biscuits, you can buy self rising flour, and cream instead of milk, and have these Cream Biscuits!!! Which are fabulous!! They are light as a feather, and delicate, and really delicious. With the exact same amount of work.
Isn't that amazing?

Form a rectangle that is 1/2 inch thick, (I just wanted to get this done, so it's not perfect.)

There is also a tablespoon of sugar in these, but you should have packets of sugar in the room for your coffee.

You don't even need a biscuit cutter because you can just cut them into squares. And seriously, you can have biscuits in the oven in just a few minutes, I'm not kidding you.

Put them on a Silpat, or parchment, and bake (yeah, not really perfect squares, but who cares.)

When I made these, I was craving bread and sugar, it was that kind of day. But I didn't want to work for it. So I made these and I didn't, (well hardly any work.)

 I had seen over the years Southern people posting recipes about chocolate gravy and biscuits, and how their grandmother would make it for them. How it's something they grew up eating. Whenever I read these stories I wish I was from the South.

While they are cooking (10 minutes ish) make the chocolate gravy, it will be done by the time they come out of the oven.

If you've never eaten chocolate gravy, it's like a thinner version of chocolate pudding. I got my recipe from who else? The Southern queen herself, Paula Deen. I read in the comments, people so happy to have the recipe since they ate it as a child. They said, "You must put butter on the biscuit first before pouring on the gravy." Say no more. I not going to fight with tradition.

Right out of the oven

If you can't get your mind around chocolate gravy and biscuits, just think of it this way. Other cultures have eaten bread and chocolate for years. The French have chocolate croissants. I also read that a popular after school snack in France is slices of a baguette with some dark chocolate on top. A chocolate sandwich. The Southern and the French sure know how to eat.


Easy Cream Biscuits and Chocolate Gravy

Both recipes adapted by ones from Paula Deen. Paula's Cream Biscuits, Paula's Chocolate Gravy.

Ingredients for Cream Biscuits

 2 cups (200 g.) self-rising flour, plus more for dusting (or if you only have regular flour, mix in 2 tsp. baking powder and 3/4 tsp. salt into the same amount of all purpose flour)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 cups (355 ml.) heavy whipping cream - don't substitute. You need to fat from the cream since there is no other fat (butter or shortening) in this recipe
Directions for Biscuits
Preheat oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit, 240 degrees Celsius, Gas Mark 9.
Mix together the flour and the sugar with a whisk. Add the cream and stir with a spoon until the dough comes together. Pat out the dough on a floured surface into a rectangle that is 1/2 inch thick. Cut into 12 squares and place on the Silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheet.
While they are baking make the Chocolate Gravy, below.
Bake for about 10 - 12 minutes. Until they are done inside, and are slightly browned.
Serve with chocolate gravy if you wish, recipe below.
Chocolate Gravy Ingredients
3 Tablespoons butter
2/3 cup (115 g.) sugar
2-3 Tablespoons flour ( Paula's recipe calls for 2, but next time I make this I will use 3 because I want mine a little thicker.)
1/3 cup (28 g.) cocoa powder
2 cups (473 ml) whole milk
Directions for making chocolate gravy
In a saucepan on medium high heat, place butter. When butter melts, add sugar, flour and cocoa and stir. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking to remove lumps. Stir constantly until it becomes thick. Be careful, (don't walk away) it can scorch easily. When it's thick remove it from the heat and serve by pouring it over buttered biscuits.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Ultimate Caramel Apple Pizza

"Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal."
 -Pamela Vaull Starr
It's officially Autumn, next week.  So bring on the fall foods! Even if it is 80 degrees outside.
If you have an apple corer, it comes in handy for slicing apples
I love apples. We have apple trees, and could even use a few more. I love to make apple jam and apple butter with my bounty. It's just a wonderful time that I am reminded of natures abundance.

Since I love finding new ways to use the fall fruit, when I saw the recipe for Candied Apple Pizza from Guy Fieri in this months Better Homes and Gardens, I knew I wanted to  make my own version of it.

I sauteed the apples, but I don't recommend it, when I make this again, I will use them raw.

What is so great is that this pizza dough recipe makes 2 balls of dough, so you can use the second portion to make a savory pizza and have a good old fashioned pizza night!

Mascarpone, down.

Or you could double the recipe and make 2 apple pizzas, (or one apple pizza, and freeze the other one) and use a double portion to make a big ole fat thick crust pizza like we did. Wow, was that good.

 Apples, down.
I love making my own pizza dough because I think it just tastes better. Plus we like to really over do it on the cheese, and when making your own, you have control in that department.

Streusel, down.
Speaking of over doing it, I call this the Ultimate Caramel Apple Pizza because I just piled on the yummy. First there is a layer of mascarpone cheese. Then a layer of tart apples, then comes the nutty streusel to bring some crunch and cinnamon and brown sugar flavor. Drizzled on top is salted caramel, and to top it off, a white chocolate drizzle, since I love a caramel apple dipped in white chocolate.

Caramel, down.
This pizza is so delicious, I had to stop myself from eating the whole thing in one sitting. (Well, maybe not the whole thing, but almost.)

White chocolate, down.
 Make your family happy by whipping up a pizza for dinner with their favorite toppings and this Ultimate Caramel Apple Pizza for dessert! I think they will love you for it, mine sure did.

Right out of the oven, gooey goodness.

This is the savory thick crust pizza I made with a full recipe of dough, double the amount that is called for in the apple pizza.

The Ultimate Caramel Apple Pizza

adapted from Guy Fieri's Candied Apple Pizza in Better Homes and Gardens Magazine

To make it easier on yourself you can purchase a ball of pizza dough, (Trader Joe's sell them for a dollar-ish), and you can buy premade caramel, if you do, buy one of quality, and add a little salt if you wish to make it salted caramel.

To make a savory pizza, make the dough as instructed, top with sauce and your favorite toppings and bake at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20-22 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and crust is browned.

This dough recipe makes enough for 2 thin (or regular) crusts. Use the second half to make a savory pizza to have a pizza night. I doubled the recipe below and made a thick crust pizza by using a full recipe of dough, (or both halves.) And then I used half of the other portion to make this apple pizza, and froze the other portion.


For the Pizza Dough

This dough recipe makes enough for 2 apple pizzas.

Also note the pizza dough has a rising time of an hour and a half, so keep that in mind when planning.

2 1/2 cups (250 g.) flour

1 tsp. salt

1 Tablespoon Active Dry Yeast (or 2 packets)

2 tsp. sugar

2 Tablespoons of olive oil, plus more to grease bowls

1 cup (8 oz) (237 ml.) water, warm to the touch

For Pizza Topping

2-3 tart apples, sliced thin

1 cup, 8 oz. (226 g.) mascarpone cheese

2 Tablespoons powdered sugar

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

about 1 cup (8 oz.) (237 ml.) Caramel Sauce - either homemade, I used the caramel recipe from my Vanilla Cinnamon Poached Pears with Spiced Caramel Recipe, or good quality store bought

For the streusel

3 Tablespoons flour

1/3 cup (60 g.) packed brown sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. salt

3 Tablespoons butter

1/2 cup (90 g.) chopped pecans or another type of nut

1  cup (200 g.) good quality white chocolate chips, melted according to package directions OR use good quality white chocolate, chopped - optional


Start by making dough.

Stand Mixer directions: Dissolve the sugar in warm water in the bowl of the stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Let stand for 10 minutes till foamy. Add olive oil and salt to the yeast mixture then use the dough hook to mix in the flour. Mix until the dough comes together, add more flour as needed to allow the machine to knead the dough until smooth. (At this point I needed to add more flour to make the dough come into a ball.) When it's come together and not too sticky, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead 2 minutes more, the dough should not be sticky at this point.

By Hand: Dissolve the sugar in warm water in a large bowl and sprinkle yeast on top, let stand 10 minutes until foamy. Stir in the flour, add more if needed, it shouldn't be sticky, and knead the dough on a floured surface for about 5 minutes, until the dough is springy and not sticky.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl and turn to coat surface, cover bowl with a clean towel or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place till it's doubled, about an hour.

Turn dough onto a floured surface again. divide in half and form into 2 smooth tight balls. Place each ball in its own bowl and let rise, covered for a second rise for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, in a small bowl mix the mascarpone cheese with the vanilla and the powdered sugar, set aside.

In a large bowl place the sliced apples with the lemon juice and toss to coat.

Make the streusel. In a medium bowl combine brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter until crumbly. Stir in pecans.

When ready to use, press one ball of the dough with fingers to flatten as much as possible. Drape dough over hands, stretching to desired size and thickness. (Mine was about a 12 inch pizza) Place dough on floured pizza peel or cutting board (I just prepared my pizza directly on my pizza stone.) The other ball of dough can be used for a savory pizza, or another sweet pizza, or you can wrap it well and freeze it.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, 230 degrees Celsius, Gas Mark 8.

Parbake the pizza crust by cooking it in the preheated oven for about 6-8 minutes with no browning. When done, set aside to cool a bit. When the pizza crust has cooled, spread the mascarpone mixture evenly onto the crust. Top with thinly sliced apples, then top with streusel, then caramel. Melt the white chocolate chips according to package directions, (or alternately, use chopped white chocolate and sprinkle it on the top.) Drizzle the melted white chocolate onto the top (if using.)

Bake on a pizza stone or on a baking sheet for about 10-12 minutes, until the crust is lightly brown and everything has melted nicely.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Beefy Mac and Cheese


"If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves."
-Thomas Alva Edison 
This is my husbands kind of food. He eats about 5 different meals over and over again. Sure I tried cooking different varieties of things for him over the years but a long time ago I stopped trying. It was like fighting against the tide.
There is a quote that I am reminded of about this, which is:
"What is patriotism but the love of the food one ate as a child?" Lin Yutang


You see all of these meals are nostalgic to him, they make him feel comfortable, like home. So I can respect that. Now I'm accustomed to it. Usually I cook food for him, and something different for myself since we have different tastes. However, I feel completely the opposite. My sister Melanie as well. I've heard her say, "I'll never eat another lunch meat sandwich again for the rest of my life." Since we ate so many of them in our lunches as kids. But my husband? He grew up eating ready made sandwiches out of the fridge, and he still loves them. So we're all different, I guess.

I add a layer of cheese in the middle so it's nice and cheesy

When I saw this recipe from Michael Rhulman on pinterest, (from his blog back in 2010) I was like, "heck yeah!" Now that's a recipe my husband could add to his repertoire. It has all the essential elements, beef and noodles. Many of his favorite meals consist of those elements in different forms, such as spaghetti with meat sauce, homemade macaroni and cheese with ground beef and beef noodles, a version of beef strogonoff with no sour cream, he hates sour cream.

Ready for the oven

I told him, "I have a new meal that you'll like, beefy mac." He said, "I love beefy mac! I'm hungry, can you make it now?"

I did and he loved it.

Thank you Michael Rhulman for posting a simple, heartwarming, easy and well liked recipe. My husband thanks you too.


Beefy Mac and Cheese

This makes a lot. Feel free to halve it. It also freezes well. 2 pounds of beef to one pound of macaroni may be a lot for you, it's pretty beefy, (but just right for us) feel free to only use 1 pound. This fills my deep dish 9x13 dish to the top. If you don't have a deep 9x13 pan you may need to use a second pan. I reheated some later in individual ramekins as seen in the above picture, so cooking some up individually is another option.

1 large onion, diced

1 tablespoon oil

salt to taste

optional seasonings: black pepper, oregano, cumin, coriander, chopped garlic, hot smoked paprika, chili powder—whatever you’re in the mood for (I just used black pepper and a tsp. of granulated garlic.)

2 - 15 oz cans (850 g. total) diced tomatoes

1 - 15 oz can (425 g.) tomato sauce

2 pounds (907 g.) lean ground beef

1 box (1 lb.) (454 g.) elbow macaroni

4 cups (1 lb.) (454 g.) grated sharp cheddar cheese or you can use a mixture of different cheeses
Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, 200 degrees Celsius, Gas Mark 6.
Cook the macaroni a few minutes less than the package directions; drain and place back in the pan, add the diced tomatoes and the tomato sauce to let the pasta absorb the tomatoes.
Heat the oil in a large skillet; add the onion and and saute until soft. Add the ground beef and saute until browned. Add plenty of salt to taste, and pepper and spices if using.
Add the ground beef mixture to the macaroni mixture and stir. In a greased deep dish 9x13 inch casserole dish, add about half of the macaroni. Add a layer of cheese, about half, (2 cups.) Add the rest of the macaroni and top with the rest of the cheese. Cover with foil and bake for about 30 minutes. Remove the foil and broil the top for another few minutes so it gets nice and bubbly, brown and melted. Let sit about 10 minutes before serving.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Berry Cream Cheese Crumb Cake

“All in all, it was a never-to-be-forgotten summer — one of those summers which come seldom into any life, but leave a rich heritage of beautiful memories in their going — one of those summers which, in a fortunate combination of delightful weather, delightful friends and delightful doing, come as near to perfection as anything can come in this world.”  
-  L.M. Montgomery, Anne's House of Dreams 

I've just returned from vacation to the Oregon coast, and Grants Pass, Oregon on the Rogue River. It was fabulous. We had such a great time, relaxing, sight seeing, frolicking in the water, exploring small towns, and eating well. At every stop the weather was perfect. The places we stayed, we were welcomed with exuberance. It was a magical trip.
Much of the Oregon Coast is undeveloped, and gorgeous
My favorite day of our trip,we kayaked all day on the Rogue River. Not just kayaked, we got out and swam in the river. At some points I got out of the boat and floated down the river, it was so fun. There were places where we would "pull over" to the shore. We were going up stream, then down stream, up and down a few times. So to go up stream, once we hit the rapids, (not really big rapids, but still rapids) of course it's impossible to paddle against that. So we would pull the kayak over, and walk it up stream, past the rapids.
The view from our room on the Rogue River

One of those times at the shore I looked over, and in front of me was a mass of wild blackberry bushes, full of ripe blackberries!  I couldn't believe my eyes, it was like a mirage. We had already been out for hours, so we could use a snack, what more could we ask for? We ate berry after berry, perfectly ripe and sweet, warm from the sun. There were so many of them, I was looking for a way to take some with me. The only vessel I had was my almost empty water bottle. We swiftly drank that water and filled my Sigg bottle with blackberries.
Some of the many geese that live on the Rogue River
I got back to the room and put some of those berries in a bowl, added a packet of sugar (meant for our morning coffee) and added 3 or 4 of those little half and half creamers that were in our fridge (also meant for coffee) to enjoy my second berry snack sweetened with cream.
Some of the wild blackberries I picked in Oregon mixed with some frozen blueberries to make the compote for this cake
I took the rest of the berries home, added some blueberries I had in the freezer, and made a compote that tops this cake.
Spreading the cream cheese layer on top of the cake layer
This cake has the flavors of a cream cheese danish, but in a cake. The cake itself is rich and buttery, topped with lemony cream cheese, then brown sugar crumb topping and finally topped with the slightly tart berry compote.
The crumb topping goes on top of the cream cheese layer

It's really delicious. Perfect for a weekend brunch.

The berry compote thickens to almost a jam

If you haven't picked some wild berries lately, you can use almost any type of berry, or even another type of fruit. Raspberries would be awesome, peaches or plums sound equally amazing.

Ready for the oven

I'm glad the berries I picked turned into something so scrumptious!
Forever I will look back at this recipe with a special fondness.

Berry Cream Cheese Crumb Cake
For the Cake
2 1/4 cup (337g.) flour
1/2 cup (100 g.) sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
1/2 cup (118 ml) whole milk, soured by adding 1 tsp. lemon juice or vinegar and let sit on the counter for 5 minutes
4 Tablespoons sour cream or plain yogurt
1/2 cup butter (1 stick) (113 g.) melted
2 tsp. vanilla extract
For the Berry Compote
about 3 cups (about a pint and a half) (18 oz) or (510 g.) berries (I used blackberries and blueberries)
1/4 cup (50 g.) sugar (more or less depending on the sweetness of the fruit)
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Cream Cheese Layer
1 - 8 oz package (227 g.) of cream cheese at room temperature
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup (50 g.) sugar

The zest from one lemon - done on a microplane is best to get it very fine
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
For the Crumb Mixture
1 cup (150 g.) flour
1 cup (150 g.) packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, (1 stick) (113 g.) , melted
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, 180 degrees Celsius, Gas Mark 4.
Grease a 9x13 pan, set aside.
Start by making the berry compote. Add all of the ingredients of the compote, to a saucepan and cook on medium heat, stirring frequently until it's thickened, about 20 minutes or so. You want it thick, but not quite as thick as jam, it shouldn't be as sweet as jam, so it serves as the slightly tart component with the sweet cake and crumb mixture. Taste it to see if it tastes good, if it's super tart add a little more sugar. While that's cooking, start making the cake.
To make the cake: In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. The flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In another large bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients. The egg, melted butter, sour cream (or yogurt), soured milk, and vanilla extract.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Stir them together until incorporated. The batter will be thick. Spread the cake batter into the greased pan.
Make the cream cheese layer- Stir together all of the ingredients for the cream cheese layer, and spread it on top of the cake layer.
Make the Crumb Mixture - Add the flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon to a large bowl and stir. Add the melted butter and stir until crumbs form. Crumble the mixture over the cream cheese layer.
Now add the berry compote to the top. Spoon the berry mixture over the crumbs in 4 wide strips down the cake, so that some of the crumbs still show.
Bake the cake for about 25-35 minutes in the preheated oven. You want the cake portion to be done, of course. The rest will set up while it's cooling. Use the tip of a knife or a toothpick inserted in the center. If you don't get any cake batter on it, then it's done.
Let it set up before you slice it, on the counter for a few hours or in the fridge for an hour or so, till it's room temperature.
I would store this cake in the fridge, covered, since it has the cream cheese. But I would serve it at room temperature.