Monday, December 26, 2011

Homemade Croutons

There is leftover everything and yet, I don't want to waste a thing.   I had a leftover baguette from my favorite bistro and bakery and thought since we'll be eating lots of salad (indulged in too much food over the holidays) that homemade croutons would be perfect.   It adds crunch, flavor and texture to any salad and is super easy.

Homemade Croutons

  • 1 day old baguette, cubed
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 T dried onions
  • 2 T dried garlic
  • 2 T dried rosemary
  •  1/2 t celery salt
  • salt and pepper
Directions:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cube day old baguette and place on baking sheet.
 Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine dried herbs, salt and pepper and set aside. 
Drizzle bread cubes with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning.
Place in oven and bake for 8 - 10 minutes or until golden brown.   Remove from oven and cool.
  Keep croutons in zip lock baggie and use wherever you want to.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Magic of Christmas Cookies

I haven't posted much this December, only because I have focused on getting our home ready for the Holidays and have started baking for my food demo next Sunday... entitled the Magic of Christmas Cookies.   All our children will be home this year so we are a bit more festive in our home!   Did I go over-board on the decorations... maybe, but it's worth it when I see the sparkle in the kids eyes (though everyone is in the 20ies other than Emma).   Maybe it's all to make me happy!

But, in the spirit of sharing... here is my Sugar Cookie and Royal Icing recipe that I have used year after year.  The cookies are tender and bite after bite melts across your tongue with a hint of citrus and a dusting of sparkle.

You can join me tomorrow on KEYE-TV during the We Are Austin LIVE segment between 4 and 5 sharing with Bettie Cross a few Christmas Cookie tips.

I hope you get a chance to makes these special treats with your family and above all... May the Spirit of the Season find and bless you!

Magical Sugar Cookies
Sugar Cookie Dough
  • 4 1/2 C flour
  • 1 1/2 T baking powder
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 stick butter, softened
  • 2 C sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 C half and half
  • 1 t vanilla paste
  • 1 T orange extract
Directions:   Preheat oven to 375 degrees.   Sift flour with baking powder and salt, set aside. 

Mix a large mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well.   Add the dry ingredients, alternating with the half and half, vanilla paste and orange extract, beating well.   Wrap and chill for at least an hour before cutting into shapes. 
 Roll a section out on a floured surface and with your choice of cookie cutters.  Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 8 minutes.  Remove to wire rack and let cool before icing.   Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Royal Icing
  • 2 C confectioners sugar
  • 2 t meringue powder
  • 2 T water
  • 1 T fresh lemon juice
  • food coloring
Directions:   In a small bowl, mix the meringue powder with the water and let sit a minute.   Mix the sugar, meringue mixture and lemon juice together in a medium bowl.   It should be smooth and creamy.   Tint with food coloring or gel colors to get the colors you want.   I like to use clear squeeze bottles to pipe the frosting onto each cookie and embellish with sprinkles, dragees, and sugar dust.
Cookies can be boxed and stored in the refrigerator and make the perfect gift for neighbors, teachers and friends.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

To brine or not to brine?

Here's my We Are Austin LIVE segment on KEYE-TV, touting the benefits of a brined Turkey. It's moist and flavorful!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Candy Cap Mushrooms, Marx Foods and an inspiration!

I was invited by Marx Foods to participate in their Candy Cap recipe contest.   "What's a Candy Cap" you ask... it's a little gem of a mushroom that smells just like maple syrup.   Seriously, as soon as I unpacked the little sealed baggie, my entire kitchen smelled like breakfast!   My task was to come up with an original recipe using those tasty morsels.   Throughout the day, all I could think of was breakfast... but I wanted to make dinner.   Fried Chicken and Waffles came to mind, but I wanted something original.   I ended up marinating some chicken in maple syrup and created a Candy Cap Risotto that was OH SO GOOD!   Now I'm sharing my recipe with you!   If you haven't tried Candy Cap mushrooms, put it as a must on your list!

Maple marinated Chicken with Candy Cap Risotto

  • 4 chicken breasts, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1/2 C maple syrup
  • 3 strips bacon, chopped
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 2 C hot water
  • Candy Cap mushrooms, reconstituted and rough chopped
  • 2 C vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 C arborio rice
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 t brown sugar
  • salt and pepper
Directions:   Trim all fat from chicken breasts, rinse and pat dry then marinate them in a zip lock bag with maple syrup for an hour.

 Heat 2 C water until at a boil and add the Candy Cap mushrooms to reconstitute.   Let sit for 5 minutes, remove from water, rough chop and set aside. 

In a small sauce pan over medium heat, add mushroom water and 2 C chicken or vegetable stock.   Meanwhile, cook bacon until done and drain on a paper towel.   Use bacon drippings to saute minced shallot then add the arborio rice and saute a few more minutes. 

Add a ladle of hot stock mixture to the rice, stirring well, until the liquid is absorbed.   It's important to keep stirring the rice as the stock is absorbed then add another ladle when the rice is almost dry.   Keep this up, a ladle at a time, for about 20-30 minutes or until the rice is tender but firm.   When the stock is almost gone, add the chopped Candy Cap mushrooms, butter, brown sugar and salt and pepper to taste.

As the rice is cooking and using an outdoor grill, cook your chicken until done.   Crumble cooked bacon.

To assemble your delicious dinner, start with a nice helping of Candy Cap Risotto, then a whole and sliced maple syrup marinated chicken breast and top with a bit of bacon.   You'll think breakfast for dinner!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Pumpkin Roll

After my mother had her back surgery, I wanted to make something yummy for her.   Since we are finally in autumn I grabbed my new favorite, the trusty pumpkin, and made a lovely pumpkin roll with a cream cheese frosting garnish with salty roasted pumpkin seeds and dusted with freshly grated nutmeg.

Pumpkin Roll

  • 1 1/2 C brown sugar
  • 1 C vegetable oil
  • 1/2 C apple sauce
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 2 C canned pumpkin
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 C flour
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 2 t baking soda
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • 1t ground cloves
  • 1 t freshly grated nutmeg
Directions:   Preheat oven to 350 degrees.   Grease and flour a jelly roll pan and set aside.   Sift together the flour, baking powder, soda, salt and spices and set aside.  In a large bowl combine the sugar and oil.   Blend in the applesauce, vanilla and canned pumpkin.   Beat the eggs in one at a time.   The 1 cup at a time, add the flour mixture.   Spread the batter into jelly roll pan and bake for 20-24 minutes.   Remove from oven and let cool a bit.   Generously dust a large kitchen towel with confectioners sugar and turn out the cake.   Sprinkle top with confectioners sugar and gently roll cake up to cool.

 While the cake is cooling, toast some pumpkin seeds for garnish...
Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 2 8 oz pkgs cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 C butter, softened
  • 2 C confectioners sugar
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 t freshly grated nutmeg
Directions:   In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter, then mix in the vanilla and gradually the confectioners sugar.   Add the nutmeg and if it's too thick, thin with a bit of heavy cream to your desire consistency.

To assemble the pumpkin roll, gently unroll cake and fill center with frosting.   Roll back up and transfer to serving platter.   Frost the outside of the roll, garnish with crunchy and salty roasted pumpkin seeds and dust with freshly grated nutmeg.   SERVE!

Brined Thanksgiving Turkey

I like to brine my Turkey because it's my belief that brining makes it moist.  The salt causes the meat tissues to absorb water and flavorings and breaks down the proteins, resulting in a tender turkey. This means that despite the moisture loss during roasting and the long cooking time, you still end up with a juicy bird.

It's important to find a container that's large enough to submerge the turkey, yet small enough to fit in your refrigerator. Try a stock pot or a bucket.  You can also purchase brining bags, like I did, and use the roasting pan, but you'll need to turn the bird periodically so that each side rests in the brine.

The basic ratio for turkey brine is two cups of kosher salt to two gallons of water. Some recipes include sweeteners or acidic ingredients to balance the saltiness.
  • Dissolve salt (and sugar, if using) in two cups of hot water. Stir in remaining gallon plus 3 ½ quarts of cold water.
  • Remove giblets and neck from turkey.
  • Immerse turkey in brine and refrigerate for at least eight hours but no longer than 24 hours.
I have a tried and tested recipe that is full of flavor and I use every year to rave reviews!

Stacey’s Savory Brine

  • 1 C course Sea Salt
  • 1/4 C Sugar
  • 1/2 C Dried Cranberries
  • 2 Garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 C Chopped Apple
  • Zest of 1 Orange 
  • 2 T Sage, rough chopped
  • 1 T Juniper Berries
  • 1 T whole Black Peppercorns
  • 1 T Thyme, rough chopped
  • 1 T Rosemary, rough chopped

This makes about 2 cups.  Add this to 1 gallon boiling water and stir until solids are dissolved.  Cool to room temperature then refrigerate to chill.   Using a large bucket or brining bag, place thawed Turkey breast side down in brine with an additional gallon of water to fully submerge.   Chill for 12 -24 hours.  Remove bird from brine, rinse and pat dry.  Now it’s ready to roast.   Tuck the wing tips behind the back and place the bird, breast side up on the roasting rack.   I like to rub my bird with a bit of olive oil then pepper the skin, add fresh herbs to the cavity and tie the legs together.   Follow the roasting instructions for your size Turkey.   Remember that the turkey has already absorbed a significant amount of salt and any drippings that you use for gravy will already be salty, so taste before you add any additional salt.

Weight Watchers demo and recipe

I was invited to demo some great food for the Weight Watchers Round Rock grand opening!   Met so many wonderful people that afternoon and wanted to share the recipe that was gobbled up.   I apologize that I didn't get it up on the blog as soon as I should have, but LIFE stepped in and we've had a house full of children.

Weight Watchers Friendly
Chicken and Spaghetti Squash Saute

  • cooking spray
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 1 C fat free chicken stock
  • 1 C artichokes, quartered
  • 1 small spaghetti squash, cooked and shredded
  • 1 C green beans, cut into 1 inch segments
  • pepper
Directions:   Trim any fat from chicken breasts, rinse and pat dry.   In a large saute pan, coat with a quick blast of cooking spray and saute garlic and onion until soft.   Push to the side and saute the chicken breasts until cooked thoroughly.  For faster cooking, slice the chicken into strips before sauteing.   If things seem to be sticking, add 2 T of the fat free chicken broth to the pan.  Remove the chicken only and hold. Once cooled, slice into strips.   Deglaze the pan with the fat free chicken stock, then add the artichoke quarters to the onion/stock mixture.

I like to cook my spaghetti squash in the microwave, cut in half with seeds in, covered with a damp paper towel.   A small squash will take about 12 minutes.   Remove the seeds and shred with a fork.   Add the cooked and shredded spaghetti squash to the pan as well as the sliced chicken and stir.   Finally add the green beans and saute until cooked.   I plated mine then added fresh ground pepper.

I can't divulge the Points Plus for this entree, but I can tell you that everything but the chicken is free!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Seared Scallops with Crab Buerre Blanc

Grabbed some scallops at the store and came home to make dinner.   After peering in the frig for a few minutes I spied a can of crab and thought I'd create a crab infused buerre blanc to top those lovely little seared sea gems.   Placed on a bed of greens, we had the perfect dinner!

Seared Scallops with Crab Buerre Blanc

  • 1 lb scallops, rinsed and patted dry
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 shallots, minced finely
  • 8 oz white wine
  • 2 oz lemon juice
  • 1 T heavy cream
  • 12 T cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • salt and pepper
  • parsley
Directions:  Start by making the buerre blanc.  In a small pan over high heat add shallots, wine and lemon juice and reduce till it's about 2 tablespoons.   Add the cream and as soon as it starts to bubble, turn the heat to low.   Add the butter 1 knob at a time, whisking to incorporate, until it's all gone.   Remove from heat, add crab, salt and pepper and cover to keep warm.

Rinse all grit from scallops and pat dry.  If scallops are wet, the olive oil will pop.   In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil on high.   You want to get a good sear or crust on the scallops so make sure the oil is hot and the scallops are dry. Season with salt and pepper and place into the pan and leave undisturbed for 2 - 3 minutes, then turn and cook an additional 2 minutes.   Transfer to paper towels to drain.

To plate, start with fresh salad, scallops then top each scallop with a spoonful of the crab buerre blanc.  I finished with parsley and fresh cracked pepper.   Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Amazing Roasted Pumpkin Bread - it's healthy too!

I have been asked by Weight Watchers® to do a cooking demonstration at the grand opening of their new Round Rock facility.   In addition, they asked if I could come up with some new recipes that are healthy and Weight Watcher® Points Plus friendly.   I love heading into the kitchen to create something brand new and this pumpkin bread is great.   To make it a bit more "kid friendly" I made a brown butter glaze and served it on the side to my daughter, who gobbled it up.

Roasted Pumpkin Bread

  • 1 medium pumpkin, quartered, seeded and roasted, flesh removed (about 15 oz - or used canned)
  • 1/2 C fat free egg substitute
  • 1/2 C Truvia sweetener
  • 1/4 C brown sugar
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t fresh grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 t ground cloves
  • 1 C Whole Wheat flour
  • 1/2 C Oat bran flour
  • 1 t baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 C uncooked oatmeal
  • 1/2 C golden raisins
Directions:   Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray bottom of loaf pan with baking spray.   In a large bowl, beat eggs substitute with roasted pumpkin flesh, then add sugars, vanilla and spices.

In a medium bowl, combine flours, powder and salt and mix well.   Add about 1/2 C flour mixture to egg/pumpkin mixture, combining well, then adding additional flour mixture until it's all incorporated.  

Mix in oatmeal and golden raisins and turn out into loaf pan.  

Bake for 50 minutes.   Note that bread will still be moist in the center but fully cooked.   A loaf will provide 12 slices.

Brown Butter Glaze:
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 2 C confectioners sugar
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 2-4 T milk
Directions:  Heat butter in a saucepan over medium heat until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Pour butter into a bowl, leaving sediment behind.   Add sugar, vanilla, and 2 tablespoons milk to butter, and stir until smooth. If glaze is too thick, add more milk. Drizzle over a slice of the Roasted Pumpkin Bread.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Tarte Normande

Had such a wonderful time with the participants at my Apples Everywhere Food Demo at Faraday's Kitchen Store in Lakeway.   I showcased three of my signature apple desserts, had different apple varieties to taste and gave away fabulous door prizes.   A huge thank you to Tony, Sharon and Blakely from Faraday's who are always gracious hosts and have a wonderful kitchen.

As promised, here is the Tarte Normande recipe that I needed to upload onto my website.   This is a very traditional French tarte that at the demo I topped with unsweetened whipped cream.   Growing up in England I have learned that the Europeans do not sweeten their whipped cream on a normal basis.   I actually love it this way as you are able to fully enjoy the taste of the apples and Calvados custard.

Hope you are able to re-create this and enjoy in your home with your family and friends.

Tarte Normande

  • Tart Crust (recipe below)
  • 1 1/2 lbs Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 C unfiltered apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 C sugar
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1 t freshly grated nutmeg 
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 C sugar
  • 1/4 C flour
  • 3/4 C heavy cream
  • 1 T apple cider vinegar
  • 4 T Calvados Apple Brandy
  • confectioners sugar
 Pate Brisee Ingredients:
  •  2 1/2 C flour
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2 lb cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/4 C ice water
Directions:   Put flour and salt into food processor.   Add pieces of butter and pulse for about 10 seconds each time until the mixture resembles  coarse meal.   Add ice water, a little bit at a time, until the dough holds together but is not sticky.   Turn dough out onto plastic wrap and form a disk for easier rolling, wrap and place in refrigerator for about an hour.

Lightly spray tart pan with cooking spray.  On lightly floured board, roll out pastry to a 1/8th thickness and press into the pan.   Trim the edges by running your rolling pin over the top.   Poke the pastry with a fork and bake blind (lined with foil and weighted by dried beans) for 12 minutes.

Mix the apple slices with the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and arrange in concentric circles in the tart crust.   Bake for 20 minutes or until the apples begin to color.   While that is baking, begin the custard by beating the egg and sugar until thick and pale yellow.   Add the flour and beat until smooth.   Next add the cream, apple cider vinegar and Calvados and beat again until smooth.   Pour the mixture over the apples and return tart to the oven.   After 10 minutes, sprinkle with confectioners sugar and return to oven for an additional 15-20 minutes or until the custard is set and the top is browned.   Serve warm with whipped cream.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

You're invited!

Please join me TODAY at Faraday's Kitchen Store, Lakeway for a festival of apples at my Apples Everywhere Demo.   Lots of samples, different apple varieties to try and lots of door prizes - and it's all FREE.

Noon till three today, Sunday Oct 16th... hope to see you there

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Lemon Bundt Cake with Blackberries and Cream

Autumn mornings take me back to my childhood growing up in England.   Though the grass was green, the air was brisk and the leaves were crisp under my feet.   I remember walking to my Primary School in my uniform and drinking a little bottle of milk around 9:30 with a tinfoil lid.   The best memory by far was all the glorious hot lunches we would have.   Our entire class would sit around tables with real silverware while our teacher would serve lots of fresh steamed vegetables along with our meal and we'd finish with the most amazing desserts such as warm Treacle Sponge Pudding with Golden Syrup or Chocolate Sponge Pudding with Custard.   Sometimes we'd get to pour cream on our sponges (cakes) which would make them moist and delicious.   I kept that idea in mind when I put together this recipe, and topped off this wonderful Lemon Bundt Cake with a drizzle of fresh cream.   Perfect along with the blackberries. 

Lemon Bundt Cake with Blackberries and Cream

  • 1 C butter or margarine, softened
  • 2 C sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 C all-purpose flour
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 C half and half
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon peel
  • 1/4 C fresh lemon juice
  • 1 T water
  • 1/2 t lemon extract
  • 3/4 C sugar
Directions:    In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar then add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in extracts. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with milk. Stir in lemon peel. Pour into a greased and floured 10-in. fluted tube pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes; invert onto a wire rack. Cool 10 minutes longer. Place rack on waxed paper. 

For the glaze, combine all the ingredients then drizzle over the warm cake. Cool completely before serving.  To plate, add fresh blackberries and a drizzle of cream.  Enjoy!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Pepper Soup

Now that autumn is FINALLY here in Austin and our temperatures have dropped out of the 100's to a nice 85 degrees, its time to fire up the oven and roast vegetables.   I had a beautiful butternut squash and made a great tasting soup.   For an added variety, we grilled and sliced chicken and added it on top of the soup for a complete meal.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Pepper Soup

  • 1 Butternut Squash, cut into chunks
  • 1 large sweet onion, cut into chunks
  • 1 jar prepared fire roasted red peppers
  • 3 T heavy cream
  • 2 C chicken stock
  • salt and pepper
  • creme fraiche
  • thin sliced roasted red pepper strips
  • fresh nutmeg
Directions:   On a large baking tray, toss the squash and onion chunks with a light drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in a preheated 350 degree oven for 1 1/2 hours.   Once roasted, remove from oven and cool.

Remove the roasted butternut squash flesh from the skin and place into a blender.   Add the roasted onions, 2 fire roasted red peppers, 3 T heavy cream and 1 C of chicken stock.   Blend to a smooth consistency and transfer to a heavy pot over medium heat.   Slowly add additional chicken stock until the desired thickness is reached.   Taste then season with salt and pepper and make sure to heat thoroughly.

To serve, ladle soup into a bowl and swirl in a little creme fraiche into the center of the bowl.   Top with thin slices of the fire roasted red pepper and dust with freshly grated nutmeg.   Serve with hot crusty bread or embellish with grilled chicken and enjoy!