Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Grandma G's Microwave Caramel Corn

I think this recipe came from my Grandma, but maybe it came from mi madre. Either way, it's still Grandma G's recipe. I've enjoyed numerous batches of this crunchy treat over many, many years. Last night around 9:30 Mauri requested we make some, since she will be getting braces today and will have to stay away from all things sticky/crunchy/gummy for a couple of years. I hadn't made it for a long time, and was reminded once again how quick and easy it is.

Grandma G's Microwave Caramel Corn

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cube BUTTER (or margarine)

Microwave for 2 minutes, then stir. Microwave 2 more minutes, then add:

1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Stir (will foam a little), then pour over popcorn. Stir. Microwave all together for 1-1/2 minutes more, stirring every 30 seconds. Let cool until crispy.

*Notes: Always use a glass bowl for the caramel. Once, when Bill and I were visiting my sister in Maryland (18 years ago), we made it in a plastic bowl. Not a good idea. The caramel melted a nice big hole in the bottom of the bowl and we had a hot mess. Literally.

The quantity of popcorn needed is subjective. I have made this using air-popped popcorn or microwave popcorn (it's delicious over butter flavored, and the salt gives it a little savory, too). I have found that the perfect amount of popcorn is pretty much a single full-sized bag of microwave popcorn per recipe.

Per my grandma, ALWAYS sort the unpopped kernels (I think we used to call them old maids) out of your popcorn before pouring the caramel over. We wouldn't want any EXTRA dental work!!

You can do the last step (popcorn and caramel together) in a plastic bowl, if needed. You just have to make sure it will fit in your microwave.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Misty's Fresh Strawberry Yogurt Cake

I am not doing great at getting my favorite recipes posted. Obviously.
I've actually been in quite a baking/cooking/grilling/making dinner RUT. Life has been so busy that, by the time dinner rolls around, I am only looking for cheap, fast, easy, and low-mess options. Unfortunately, this has led to many a freezer-to-stovetop-to-table meal. (We've been having a lot of Costco's Crazy Cuisine brand of Chicken Teriyaki over rice with frozen oriental veggies lately. 20 minutes, 2 frypans + a rice cooker, about $7 for the entire meal for 4.)

Excuses aside, I've had the pic for this cake on my desktop since we made it for Shi's birthday, and decided today was the day to git 'er done - before I lose the recipe (it's happened before).

This recipe came from my awesome next-door neighbor, Misty.

Misty's Fresh Strawberry Yogurt Cake

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
8 oz plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
12 oz fresh strawberries, diced

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease and flour a 10" Bundt pan (10 to 15 cup pan). Sift together 2-1/4 cups flour, baking soda and salt. With an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Alternate beating in the flour mixture and the yogurt, mixing just until incorporated. Toss the strawberries with the remaining 1/4 cup of flour. Gently mix them into the batter. Pour the batter into the Bundt pan. Place in oven and reduce the temperature to 325 degrees. Bake for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool at least 20 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely. Once cooled, pipe cream cheese icing over the top and serve.

Cream Cheese Icing
8 oz. cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
6 Tbs. milk
2 tsp. vanilla

Yummy, yummy!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Teriyaki Delight

I have always saved recipes from magazines.  Due to my-favorite-pinboard-and-yours, Pinterest, I have less need for such things these days. Good thing, since magazines cost extra dinero, and usually only have a couple items of interest in them.

That being said, I have definitely subscribed to my share, resulting in binders full of recipes that are either tried-and-true, or yet-to-be-tested. The tried-and-failed recipes go directly in the garbage along with the tried-and-it-was-okay-but-I-can-live-without-it ones.

I mark the tried-and-true with either a smiley face sticker (we like it), or a heart sticker (we love it). This is one of my "love it" recipes.

(This is not necessarily the BEST representation, but it's all I have.)

Teriyaki Delight 
(Recipe from Family Fun, 2006)
Serves 6 to 8

1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 Tbs. soy sauce
2 Tbs. rice vinegar
2 tsp. minced fresh garlic
2 tsp. minced fresh ginger
2 tsp. dark sesame oil

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (you HAVE to use thighs for good teriyaki)

Place chicken thighs in a gallon-size ziplock bag. Whisk together marinade ingredients and pour into bag with chicken. Press air out of the bag and seal it. Turn the bag to coat the chicken, then place in a bowl or on a plate and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (preferable overnight), turning the bag occasionally. Remove the meat from the refrigerator 20 minutes before grilling.

Prepare charcoal fire or set a gas grill to medium/high, close the lid, and heat until hot, about 10 minutes. Remove chicken from the bag and discard marinade. Grill the thighs until they are no longer pink inside, about 5 minutes per side on a gas grill.

Transfer the thighs to a cutting board and let rest for about 5 minutes, then slice each piece at a diagonal. Sprinkle on toasted sesame seeds, if desired. Serve over rice.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Carrot Soup

I had this recipe tucked away in my Holiday binder under "Easter." I had clipped it out of a magazine years back (you can find it here), and had never tried it.  Until now.

It will no longer be filed away only to be seen once a year.  I will seriously make this soup all year long. (Good, fast, cheap, and easy - my prerequisites for an oft-repeated recipe.)

Carrot Soup
(Serves 4 to 6, depending on your serving size)

1 Tbs. olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
1-1/2 lbs carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 to 1/2" rounds
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (I used home-made, made the day before from my rotisserie chicken carcass - did you know you could do that?)
1 Tbs. grated ginger (I didn't have fresh on hand, so I used botted)
1-1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

Heat oil in a large saucepan over med/high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, utnil softened but not browned, 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the carrots, broth, ginger, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the carrots are soft, about 20 minutes. Let cool at least 10 minutes. Using a blender, puree the soup in batches until smooth. Return to pot and rewarm over medium heat. Divide soup into bowls and top with Dill Cream and freshly ground black pepper, if desired (yummy!).

Dill Cream:

1/2 cup heavy cream
3 Tbs. chopped fresh dill
1/4 tsp. salt

Whip cream in small bowl until soft peaks form. Fold in salt and dill.

Note: When I went shopping for fresh dill, I discovered that I could purchase a ginormous bunch for less than the tiny pre-packaged stuff. Because I'm cheap, I went for the vast quantity. It sat on my counter for a few days, then I tossed it, not knowing what the heck to do with it. No time to do a web-search. No time to chop and freeze. I may try dried dill in the cream the next time I make it, just to see if it would work.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Sandwich For A Crowd

My mom gave me this recipe YEARS ago (at least 15). She had found it in a Taste of Home magazine before the days of widely-used internet, and certainly before the days of recipes easily searched for (and found) on the www.

I have made it on numerous occasions. Always for a crowd (although Shilo requests it frequently for an every-day type meal/snack).

I made a single recipe the other day (seriously, my first time making only two sandwiches - one for my neighbor, whose husband suddenly passed away the night before, and one for us). Shilo has been in heaven for two days, as she pretty much single-handedly ate the whole thing.

These are awesome.

Sandwich For A Crowd
(Makes 2 large sandwiches, and feeds 12-16 people, depending on how thick you slice them)

2 unsliced loaves of french or italian bread
(I love WalMart's bakery bread for these; their french bread is usually longer and narrower, the italian bread is shorter and wider)
1 (8oz) pkg. cream cheese
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup sliced green onion
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1 lb. thinly sliced deli ham
1 lb. thinly sliced deli roast beef
10-12 thin slices of dill pickle (sandwich sliced - length-wise)

Cut the bread in half length-wise. Pull some of the bread from the middle of the top and bottom halves, leaving a 1/2" to 3/4" shell (discard removed bread or save for another use). Combined cream cheese, mayonnaise, Worcestershire, and onion. Mix in shredded cheddar. Spread over cut sides of bread, making sure to spread it to the edges (this will sort of "glue" the sandwich together). Layer ham down the hollow center on top half of each loaf, and roast beef down the center on the bottom half of each loaf (a total of 1 lb. of meat per loaf). Place pickles down the center of each sandwich, then gently press halves together. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (up to 24 hours+).  Cut into 1-1/2" slices (bigger or smaller, if you like).

Note: on this particular batch, I should have spread the cream cheese mixture to the edges better (always in a rush these days). Spread it to the edges of each loaf. My ham and roast beef slices were a little thick, too - the deli lady wasn't the most pleasant I've met.

Variations (that I created back in my days of zest-full entertaining):

Olive Turkey
Replace ham and roast beef with thinly sliced deli turkey (plain or smoked, whatever your preference). Delete green onions and add finely chopped black olives to the cheese mixture. Place black olives down the center of the sandwiches in place of pickles.

Club (Turkey, Ham, Bacon)
Replace roast beef with thinly sliced deli turkey. Omit green onions from the cheese mixture. Place crisp bacon strips down the center of each sandwich in place of pickles.

I love that these can be made a day ahead. I have found that you can even stack them two high in the refrigerator and they come out just fine.  I have made up to 8 sandwiches at a time and think they are a great alternative to the Costco meat-and-cheese tray.  Try them!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Sugar Cookies

I am not as successful at regularly posting recipes as I had initially hoped.  Life is busy, and my ZEST has all but disappeared.  I am hoping to reclaim it in the near future.

I managed to eek out some sugar cookies for my VT ladies (AND my family) last week.  I started with the grand idea of making home-made chocolate-covered marshmallow eggs (which I will most likely NOT post the recipe for, as I have determined it was my first and last attempt - too many steps, too much mess, not as amazing as I had hoped). I realized that I was NOT going to have enough finished product on it's own to take to my two sisters and Bill's HT family, so I whipped up a batch of these little babies.

I got the recipe from a friend back in my YW days.  The icing/glaze recipe changed my life.  Soooooo much quicker and easier than spreading or piping buttercream, just enough sweetness to make the cookie perfect.

Julie Williams' Sugar Cookies and Glaze

1-1/2 cups butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover and chill cough for at least an hour (I usually don't chill and the cookies turn out fine).

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Roll out dough on floured surface 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into shapes with cookie cutter. Place cookies 1" apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 6 to 8 minutes in preheated oven. Cool completely.

Cookie Glaze

1 to 2 cups powdered sugar (enough to make it stick, but not so thick it's globby)
1 Tbs. light corn syrup
2 Tbs. water
Food coloring
Flavoring (if desired)

Stir powdered sugar, corn syrup, and water together in a small bowl. Stir in food coloring and flavoring, if desired. The glaze must be stirred each time you use it. If it is not stirred before each use it may dry with a mottled look instead of a solid color.

Note: This glaze is pretty forgiving.  You can add drops of water if it gets too thick, a little more powdered sugar if it gets too thin.   If you want to add sprinkles, you must sprinkle IMMEDIATELY or the glaze will start to harden and not-a-thing will stick. Once the cookies are glazed, let them dry for an hour or two. The glaze will harden and the cookies will be stackable (I LOVE that). Cookies with the hardened glaze also freeze well.

My Super-Fast-Sugar-Cookie-Glazing Technique

This is not how I usually glaze (for a solid glaze I usually just use a regular spoon, scoop up a spoonful of the glaze, drizzle it around, then spread with the back of the spoon to fill it in), but needed something  that was even FAST(ER). I decided to try putting the glaze (two colors, for fun) in quart-sized ziplocs, then snipped the corner and drizzled.  As you can see, I tried some crosshatch style, which turned out looking sort of PLAID, and others one-directional.

My intention was to swap out the cookie tray underneath the rack of cookies being iced, but I was in too much of a hurry. (BTW, cookie decorating is NOT fun when you A) do it by yourself, and B) are in a time crunch.  I just wanted to git 'er done.)  I think the results were great considering the amount of time I devoted to it. Let's just say it took longer to clean up than it did to glaze.

I really liked the technique for a quick solution, but would definitely take the time to rotate the cookies to the pan to save on clean-up. I would probably also make one more batch of glaze to drizzle, just to give each cookie a little more glaze.

Easy peasy.
Those marshmallow eggs, on the other hand, not so much.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Peanut Butter Cornflake Cookies

I'm beginning the process of transferring recipes posted on my other blog, just so things can all be in the same place.  Even I use this handy reference for recipes - if I only had time to get ALL my recipes on here. SOMEDAY.

Here is the recipe for some of my favorite quick and easy sweet-tooth-satisfying treats.

Super easy.

1 cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup (I use the cheap GV brand from Walmart)

Bring to a boil and stir until sugar is dissolved (less than a minute).

Stir in 1 cup peanut butter.

Pour over 6 cups of cornflakes.  

Gently stir to combine, then drop by spoonfuls onto foil (or do the dump... I promise... just as good, although not as aesthetically pleasing.  If you are making them for guests, by all means, take the time to spoon them).  

In an effort to make them even slightly healthy, you may be able to notice the Bran Buds in the cookies.  A little fiber can't hurt, right?  You might even get away with eating them for breakfast when they have so much fiber.  Warning:  flatulence possible.  Just sayin'.

Here's the dump method (you could call them "pull-aparts"):