Honey Gingerbread

Another recipe adapted from Eating Well Magazine Spring 2004.

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (This is because I did not have ground cloves and I figured this would take place of the 1/2 t. nutmeg, 1 1/2 t. cinnamon, and 1/2 t. cloves. Now, in hindsight, I could have used my Gingerbread Spice Mix. Live and learn!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar ( I had light brown)
  • 1/2 cup honey (I had a wildflower honey not the dark honey of the original recipe which also called for 2/3 cup. I used all that I had.)
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest (instead of lemon zest; again I used what I had.)
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger (optional but I love crystallized ginger so I have thi in the house. It is wonderful to chew on a small piece for a snack.)

Prepare a 9 x 13 inch pan by spraying with cooking spray. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Whisk dry ingredients. Beat together the eggs, oil, honey, and brown sugar. Blend the dry ingredients with the egg mixture and zest. Add boiling water as you go along. Mix just until fully blended. I used my stand mixer and this took a very short time.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes. The top should spring back lightly when touched. Cool in pan on wire rack.

Our first piece we ate warm. It is a light version. The honey does not give quite the same flavor as molasses. I could taste the orange zest which surprised me. I would call this a honey ginger cake. The bits of crystallized ginger were very tasty. Hubby liked it a lot. He said an addition of raisins would have put it over the top. I would make this again.

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Chicken in Orange Sauce

This is a recipe from Eating Well Magazine Spring 2004. I was browsing through the magazines for interesting recipes. I have chicken and I have orange juice, so that is close enough. The manner of making the orange sauce is something different that just thickening juice with cornstarch. And of course just a few of the ingredients change. Actually the amount of the liquids were changed. I just thought 4 cups of liquid would make too much sauce.

  • 8 chicken thighs, skin removed
  • cooking spray to coat the pan and to spray on the chicken
  • salt and pepper to season the chicken

Place chicken thighs in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray or lightly oiled. Spray the chicken and season with salt and pepper. Bake in a 375 degree F oven for 35 minutes.

Meanwhile make the sauce.

  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Put the sugar and the vinegar in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Do not stir, but swirl the pan from time to time until the sugar melts and turns a nice deep amber color. This should take 6-8 minutes. Add the broth and juice and bring to a boil. The caramel will harden but do not worry about that. It does soften as the cooking continues. This should be cooked 30-35 minutes until it is reduced and lightly coats a spoon. It smells wonderful at this point.

After the chicken has cooked its initial 35 minutes, pour the sauce on top. Turn the pieces so they are nicely coated. This is a thin coat. Bake 10-15 more minutes. I baked them until Hubby came home so that was just over 15 minutes.

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I served this with a tri-color quinoa and green beans. I am trying to have us sit at the kitchen table to eat our dinner. This is to prevent our backsides from becoming one with the sofa too early in the evening! We are binge watching the Inspector Lewis series from Masterpiece Theater from a few years back. Love that Sergeant Hathaway!

 

 

Dry-aged steaks

I was reading, again, my various Cook’s Illustrated magazines looking for seasonal recipes to try. A magazine reader had written in about dry-aged steaks and wondered if this could be done at home. (Reference the March-April 2010 edition of the magazine). The editors replied about their efforts and I decided to give it a try.

  • 2 top sirloin steaks (about 6 ounces each?)

Wrap thoroughly with cheesecloth and place on a rack in the back of the refrigerator (where it is coldest) for four days. Pan sear and enjoy. Supposedly these are tender and intensely flavorful like the more expensive dry-aged steaks. Cook’s used 2 rib-eye and 2 strip steaks.

  • I put mine in the fridge on a Monday and we cooked them on a Saturday so that was a bit longer than the magazine.
  • I wrapped mine while they were still frozen.
  • They had a nice flavor but were not particularly moist or tender.
  • Hubby says the verdict is still out as these were some of the leftover pieces from a top sirloin butt that he had cut up earlier this year.
  • He would like to try this with rib-eyes.

 

Chocolate Mousse Cake a la King Arthur

King Arthur Flour (no I do not get paid for talking about them) has a monthly bake-along. February is a Chocolate Mousse Cake with Raspberries. Looked and sounded delicious and something fun to make on one of my two February holidays. Well, if you know me, I changed it up just a bit. I was not going to spend a fortune on fresh raspberries in the middle of winter. I like chocolate covered cherries and I had a can of cherries in my pantry. I could use those.

So the original bake-along recipe is right here: Chocolate Mousse Cake with Raspberries. I made the cake exactly. I happened to find four 8-inch cake pans, two of which were three inches deep so I baked the cake in two pans and cut these into the four layers. Hint for you: this is a thin batter just like they say. It may not be that wise to use pans that have removable bottoms. Just saying. I had a bit of leakage, very little but I had to bake the cakes on a cookie sheet. I also baked the cakes at 350 degrees F. They came out nicely. They did not have domes, so I am not sure if they fell a bit. The finished product is so rich it was impossible to tell.

  • 1 3/4 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 large eggs

Whisk dry ingredient together. Mix wet ingredients together but not eggs. Put wet ingredients into dry ingredients, combine thoroughly. Beat in eggs one at a time. Put into the greased pans and bake. The two 8-inch x 3-inch pans took 55 minutes. Cool completely and slice each layer in two.

The mousse filling was more difficult. It did not come out smoothly and was difficult to spread between the layers of the cake.

  • 2 tablespoons soft butter
  • 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Beat the butter, cream cheese, 3/4 cup sugar, vanilla and salt until creamy. Melt the chocolate and stir that in. Whip the cream with the remaining sugar until stiff. Fold this into the cream cheese mixture. This ended up swirled and not a uniform color. Perhaps that was okay.

I used a can of cherries, drained, and a jar of cherry fruit spread instead of raspberries. I mixed this and spread it on top of the mousse layer. I forgot to put cherries on the middle layer. I don’t think anyone noticed this omission.

Once this is done chill or freeze the cake for 30 minutes so it will be easier to frost.

At this point I am thinking about the frosting. This cake already looks extraordinarily rich. The KAF frosting calls for another cup of butter and 4 cups powdered sugar. That just is too much. I then remember I had made a chocolate sauce to serve with the disastrous orange cake for Christmas. Since that cake was inedible I had frozen the sauce for use at another time. This seemed to be that “another time.”

  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon orange extract or liqueur (it was actually the poaching syrup from the disastrous orange cake A Christmas Sponge: an Orange Upside Down Cake)

Whisk sugar and cocoa in a small sauce pan. Gradually whisk in the milk until a smooth paste forms. Reduce heat and simmer whisking constantly for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate and orange extract. (the orange taste does not come through at all.)

So I thawed the chocolate sauce and poured it out on the cake. This gave it a nice glazed cover. Now this glaze looks like a ganache but does not firm up like one.

This is not nearly as good looking as the picture on the King Arthur website. But served with a bit of whipped cream it is chocolate decadence! A little dab will do ya!

Lessons learned: If you want a rich chocolate cake that makes thick layers use this cake recipe. I would make a different filling or just use the fruit and preserves in between layers with some whipped cream. Cover with your own ganache or just sprinkle with powdered sugar. That way you could have a fancy cake with less fuss. But we are enjoying our indulgence a little at a time. Store cake in refrigerator.

Cinnamon Bread

Quite a while ago Hubby asked if I could make Cinnamon Bread, or at least I think he did, but I did not make any. King Arthur Flour’s website is a gold mine of baking recipes for us home cooks. I saw this and thought I would make this. I used to bake breads all winter long but not this winter. Not sure why? Here is the link to the original recipe from KAF: Cinnamon Bread. I made a few adjustments.

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup instant dry milk
  • 3 tablespoons potato flour
  • 7/8 to 1 1/8 cups warm tap water
  • 6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

Whisk dry ingredients together in large bowl of stand mixer. Put butter and water together in Pyrex measuring cup and microwave for 30 seconds. Add the liquid to the dry, stir to combine, and then knead for 7 minutes at Speed 2. I first used the lesser amount of water but the recipe said the dough should barely clean the sides of the bowl. With the lesser amount the dough cleaned the sides right away so I added the extra 1/4 cup. This made a more sticky dough that seemed to match the description from the recipe.

Place the dough in a greased bowl. To do this I scrape the dough to one side of the mixing bowl, spray with cooking spray, then scrape the dough to the sprayed side, and spray the rest of the bowl and the top of the dough. Cover and let rise until doubled. This took about an hour and 15 minutes.

Transfer dough to a lightly greased work surface. I did this. I had never not used a floured work surface for bread making. And this worked out well. Pat the dough into a 6 inch by 20 inch rectangle. Lucky for me my butcher block work surface has a pattern of 2 inch squares all over the top. So measuring the rectangle was to perfection!

Make the filling: 1/4 cup sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons flour. Beat one egg with 1 tablespoon of water and brush this on the dough before sprinkling on the cinnamon mixture. This is to keep the swirl from making gaps in the bread while baking. Roll into a log starting with the short end. Pinch the ends and the long seam to seal. Place in your lightly greased or sprayed loaf pan. Tent loosely with lightly greased plastic wrap and let rise until 1 inch over the rim of the pan.

The size of your loaf pan will matter. I spent my morning measuring the three I have and they are all 9″ x 5″ pans. This loaf, per KAF, will rise more nicely in an 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ pan. In the 9″ x 5″ pan it will rise to the rim. Mine rose very slightly above the rim in 1 hour and 20 minutes time.

Bake in preheated 350 degrees F oven. “Allow the bread to completely cool before slicing.” Yeah right!

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Perfect swirls!

This was yummy and makes a nice toast with my coffee. I just have to be sure I don’t eat it all in one day; that would wreak havoc with my goal of losing a few pounds!

I like recipes from which I learn something. From this one I learned that one could substitute potato flour for instant potato flakes, using an egg wash helps the filling stay in place, and one can use a lightly oiled work surface for shaping bread dough.

Chicken Cooked in Wine with Caramelized Onions

This is an adaptation of a recipe from a “diet book” with the theme of eating the same primary flavor throughout the day. Supposedly this will keep you satisfied and encourage less eating and encourages weight loss. I only tried this theme day once years ago so I have no idea if it would work or not. But this recipe I kept because it sounded good anyway.

We have been trying not to overspend on groceries so my cupboard is sort of bare. Not as bare as Mother Hubbard’s though. Remember that nursery rhyme? I have lots of pantry staples of beans, rice, more beans, pasta, canned tomatoes, more beans. I only had two onions remaining and that is all that this recipe required. And in the freezer I have one of those 5 pound bags of individually frozen chicken breasts. These are great. I pulled two out and put in the fridge to thaw during the day while I went to work.

  • 2 nice sized chicken breasts
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 medium yellow onions, sliced
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 cup broth (I used vegetable broth; chicken broth would be preferred)
  • scant 1/2 cup dried cranberries (Craisins)
  • 2 tablespoons rinsed and drained capers
  • 2 teaspoons crushed dried rosemary (I had dried this herb from my summer herb pot and used a mortar and pestle to crush the leaves.)

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place chicken breasts into a pan. I used a 10 x 7 inch pan which fit the two breasts just fine. Place in oven.

Meanwhile heat the oil and butter in a skillet and add the onions and cook for 5 minutes. They will be soft but not yet caramelized. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5-7 minutes. Pour this over the chicken in the pan in the oven. Bake for one hour. The sauce thickens and becomes a glaze.

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Sorry about the picture. It doesn’t really show case the chicken. We were half way through our meal when it occurred to me to take a picture. I served this with peas and carrots and a quinoa/rice mix.

 

 

 

Thoughts:

  • if using two chicken breasts, use half the amount of liquids.
  • one could use up to 6 chicken breasts for the amount of sauce the recipe makes. Just use a bigger baking dish.
  • the chicken was very moist and flavorful as was the sauce.

 

Glorious Morning Glory Muffins

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I haven’t written for a few weeks. It’s not that I’m not cooking, I’m just not creatively cooking. Or I make standard fare that I have already written about, such as chicken pot pie and chocolate cake. We had a fabulous post New Year Thanksgiving dinner with a roast turkey and all the trimmings including sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and apple pie. Sometimes I just throw chicken in the oven to bake with barbecue sauce or pan sear steaks or pork chops. Frozen vegetables, in a multiple of varieties, round out the meal. And I confess, sometimes dinner is sandwiches made with frozen breaded fish fillets!

And then there is the impetus for weight loss and heart healthy cooking. Hubby and I are not getting any younger and the medical folk have been looking at our hearts regarding cholesterol levels and hypertension, and our sedentary lifestyle, a little more closely lately. So how can I bake yummy desserts with these issues in the front of my mind?

I wanted to bake something. I used to bake muffins every week so that Hubby and the Girls would have something to take along for the commute to school. The Girls are now all grown up with boyfriends and fiances and such. But a healthy muffin might take the place of cupcakes, right? I have an entire section of my recipe notebook devoted to muffins. Most of them claim to be low-fat and have whole wheat and/or oatmeal in the list of ingredients. I chose this one because it has apple butter as an ingredient and I found half a jar of good apple butter when I did a recent fridge cleaning and inventory.

Morning Glory Muffins: this is an adaptation of a recipe submitted to All Recipes.com 2005 by a Jack D. I adjusted the eggs and the amount of sugar and the raisins.

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (in future I would use 1 cup all-purpose)
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour (in future I would use 1 cup)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups grated carrots
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 1 cup Craisins
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup apple butter
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons toasted wheatgerm (I did not remember if the wheatgerm I have is toasted already so I dry toasted it in a small skillet over high heat on top of the stove)

Oven to 375 degrees F. Spray 18 muffin cups or line with papers. I was able to make 20 muffins.

Whisk eggs, apple butter, oil, and vanilla together in a medium bowl

Whisk all dry ingredients together in a larger bowl. These are the first 7 ingredients.

Add the goodies, carrots, apple, Craisins, to the dry ingredients. Then stir in the apple butter mixture just until all is moist.

Mix the wheat germ and the walnuts together in a small bowl.

Spoon into the muffin pans, sprinkle each with the wheatgerm mixture, and bake for 20 minutes. The tops will spring back when lightly pressed.

These were fabulous. I don’t remember baking these before even after printing out the recipe back in 2006. They are enjoyable warm right out of the oven, in the middle of the morning as a snack, and also the next day, and evening, and then for morning again…