Sunday, September 9, 2012

Homemade Pop Tarts


Life has changed quite a bit since I started this blog a few years ago. It has been fun documenting these changes here along with my recipes and photos. The latest change is that I am currently 5 months pregnant with my first baby--we just found out we are having a girl! 

A girl! Well, that explains the insane sweet tooth I have developed (and according to the old wives tales, a slew of other totally unsexy symptoms. Why don't they tell you how un-hot certain parts of pregnancy are?? I will take every symptom in the book with infinite gratitude---I'm just saying, I would challenge any truck driver in a variety of, um, contests. I mean, for real, people should bring me and the truck driver to Vegas and bet on us. People would cash in on the pregnant chick.)

I've been asked a lot if I am having any cravings. Yes. Yes. Yes. POP TARTS! Are you kidding me? Since I've become pregnant, I could eat them every meal of every day. I think part of the craving could be that I miss my favorite late-night, karaoke bar where the champagne flows freely and they serve pop tarts at the bar! If I can't have the late nights and champagne, then for god's sake, give me the pop tart.

So I decided it would be much healthier for baby (and hopefully kinder to my ever-expanding, um, "parts") to make my own version of pop tarts than to buy the store brand with all the junk that would, with NO doubt, end up in my trunk.

So here is my version of a whole grain, high-fiber, low sugar, preggo and parts-friendly pop tart! (Sorry, Sir-Mix A Lot--I figure, it's better to pop some tarts than to pop my parts.)

Homemade Pop Tarts
[Makes 6 Tarts]
  • 1 Cup spelt flour
  • 1/2 Cup whole wheatflour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 Cup butter or margarine (I used Earth Balance soy spread<--my fave!)
  • 1/3 Cup  agave or maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1-2 Tbs. cold water
  • 1/4 c. all fruit, no sugar preserves, any flavor (I used raspberry)
Optional frosting (I made mine unfrosted but I think this would be delish too:
  • 1 Cup powdered sugar (optional)
  • 1-2 Tbs. non-dairy or organic milk (optional)
  • sprinkles
DIRECTIONS:

1. In a food prcessor, combine first 5 ingredients just till incorporated and begins to come together

2. Transfer to a bowl. With a wooden spoon, stir in vanilla and syrup.

3. Divide  dough into two, equal size rectangles (form with your hand).

4. Wrap each one in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

30 Minutes Later...

5. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

6. On a floured board, roll our one rectangle into a large rectangle that is about 1/4-inch thick. Cut into 6 evenly sized rectangles.

7. Place all 6 rectangles on a lightly greased baking sheet (I greased mine with Earth Balance).

8. Top the center of each rectangle with a2-3 teaspoonfuls of fruit preserves. I left mine in a ball in the center without spreading it out, so avoid the tarts leaking in the oven. It worked out.

9. Roll out the second rectangle into a similarly large rectangle that is about 1/4-inch thick. Cut into 6 evenly sized rectangles.


10. Top each tart with a rectangle "lid." Crimp the edges with a fork. If you like (I will do this next time) poke a few hols in the top with a toothpick to give the tarts an authentic store-bought look.


11. Bake at 325 degrees for 17-20 minutes. Let cool 1 minute on the baking sheet, then transfer the tarts with a spatula to cool onto a cooling rack.

12. For optional frosting, combine confectioner's sugar and milk in a bowl. Spoon over each tart and top with sprinkles.

(13. And then if you're me, try your hardest to not to eat all of them in one sitting of Pregnant in Heels. Then try not to feel guilty when you realize you just ate all of them in one sitting of Pregnant in Heels.)


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Aunt Toot's Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting (aka "Dump Cake"!)

My Aunt Toots was my dad's older sister. She was also my godmother. Her real name was Frances, but everybody called her Toots. And she really was a Toots! She had the most mischievous sense of humor, and was always the life of the party. She danced at all the weddings, often with her sister -- my Aunt Sarah -- as her partner. They were so awesome. We used to call them Laverne and Shirley when they'd dance together.

Although she never had much money, she was always the classiest, most elegant, sharp-dressed woman at the party. Her lipstick and nail polish always matched. Her colorful jewelry and shoes and handbag were always perfectly coordinated. And every time I saw her, from as early as I can remember to the very last time I ever saw her, she was always sneaking a couple of dollars in my hand and saying in my ear, "It's not much, but go get yourself a little something, honey." I was in my 30s, married and she was on her deathbed, but she still went into her purse, took out a dollar (may have been her last one) and shoved it in my hand and said "I wish it could be more, honey." I still have that dollar on a shelf in my room.

Every 4th of July, my entire extended family would get together for a big picnic. It was a potluck, and Aunt Toots had some famous dishes. She made the most kick-butt lasagna, homemade cream puffs, and this chocolate cake. She was proud of her cooking. She would often take me by the hand to the table where the food was spread out, and she'd cut me a piece of HER lasagna, making sure to point to the other lasagna at the end of the table and she'd whisper "I didn't make that one. I made THIS one. Here honey, try mine. I'll cut you a little piece." And she'd proceed to cut me a piece the size of an encyclopedia.

And the chocolate cake!! She called it "Dump Cake" because you just dump all the ingredients in a bowl --no sifting, separating wet from dry, and all that jazz. It's an easy cake to make, but tastes like it took hours to put together. It is also one of the moistest cakes around. It is a nice, dense, almost wet crumb, and it melts in your mouth. I always enjoy this cake cold out of the ice box, probably because that is the way she served it when she transported it to the July 4th shindig. This is a fool proof cake, and everytime I make it, I am amazed at how awesome it is. That said, no one's dump cake can compare to Aunt Toot's dump cake. I wish you could have had a piece.

But if you make this recipe, you will come close.  :)

Aunt Toot's actual handwritten recipe


AUNT TOOT'S CHOCOLATE "DUMP CAKE"

3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. pure vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups warm water

Preheat oven to 350 F. Whisk first 6 ingredients in a big mixing bowl. Then add the last 4 wet ingredients and stir a lot more till smooth.

Pour into a Bundt pan or a 13x9 inch cake pan, or two 8-inch cake pans.
Bake for 40-60 minutes. Check with a wooden toothpick around the 30 minute mark to be safe.

Cool cake(s) COMPLETELY and then frost with chocolate frosting. MMMM!

By the way, Aunt Toot's chocolate frosting recipe is lost to the universe, but I use Hershey's classic chocolate buttercream recipe. It reminds me of Aunt Toots' frosting.

HERSHEY'S "PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE" CHOCOLATE FROSTING

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
2/3 cup cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency.
Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups frosting.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Zucchini Extravaganza! (Pizza & Bread)

I love my city Farmer's Market. Every Saturday, the farms surrounding my city haul in loads of beautiful veggie booty for us nature-starved children, just a few blocks from my apartment building. That and the park mean so much to me--I honestly don't know how this tree-hugger could have survived city living all these years if not for those two heaven-sent places on my local map.

Last weekend, I loaded up on some beautiful zucchinis and got down to it. You may have read in previous posts that I am an outspoken foe of most preparations of zucchini, miserable little cucumber-like slices of soggy sadness. No thanks! But bake it, roast it, grill it, shred it up, and I am a forever friend of the jolly green giant (or elf, depending on what was available at the farmer's market that day).

Someday, in a land far, far away from this city (or perhaps in the land of my own imagination), I see myself in a beautiful, thatched-roof cottage, with lots of wild flowers growing 'round, puppies playing in the sunlit yard, pies cooling on the sill, and of course, my very own veggie garden, chock full of pretty bounty... Until then, I'll scout the local farmer's market for the freshest picks of the freshest soil, in the freshest air just a few miles away. And I'll bake...

Which brings me to the recipes...

ZUCCHINI BREAD

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Yield: 2 loaves or approximately 24 muffins

3 eggs
1 cup olive or vegetable oil
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 cups grated zucchini
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (or allspice or cloves)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
1 cup dried cranberries, raisins or chocolate chips or a combination thereof (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Grease and flour two 8×4 inch loaf pans, liberally. (See those pictures of the cakes inside their non-stick pans? Yup, they’re pretty much hanging out in there for the time being.) Alternately, line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk. Mix in oil and sugar, then zucchini and vanilla.

Combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder and salt, as well as nuts, chocolate chips and/or dried fruit, if using.

Stir this into the egg mixture. Divide the batter into prepared pans.

Bake loaves for 60 minutes, plus or minus ten, or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Muffins will bake far more quickly, approximately 20 to 25 minutes.

Note: These loaves will mellow and actually get better sitting at room temp wrapped in foil on the kitchen counter over the course of the week.


ZUCCHINI-CRUSTED PIZZA
(adapted from Mollie Katzen's recipe)

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups grated zucchini
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 pinch basil or 1 pinch marjoram or 1 pinch rosemary (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil

TOPPING SUGGESTIONS:
Extra olive oil
2-3 cloves sliced garlic
sauteed mushrooms
1 large sliced tomato
extra mozzarella (sliced or grated)

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Generously oil a 10 inch pie pan or a foil-lined baking sheet, and coat lightly with flour or cornmeal.
3. Combine zucchini, eggs, flour, mozzarella, parmesan, herbs and 1 T olive oil in a bowl and mix well.
4. Spread into the prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown.
5. About halfway through the baking, remove from over and loosen the crust a bit from the pan with spatula so it won't stick later. Then brush with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.
6. Remove from oven.
7. When it has cooled for about 10 minutes, use a spatula to loosen the crust from the pan so it won't break later.
8. Top with your favorite pizza items and bake at 400 F until heated through.

Stay tuned for upcoming seasonal recipes.....up next...PUMPKIN!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Challah


For some reason, every cooking show and blog that features Challah involves a super-corny and overused pun. Heard any of these yet?

“Happy Challahdays”

“All Holla for Challah”

“Happy Challahween”

“Chall I love you, let me count the ways...”


...corny stuff like that.

Do you still have an appetite after reading that? If not, then ponder the glistening eggy wonder called challah bread. The slightly sweet, super-chewy egg bread is as tasty as it is pretty. This is the first one I ever attempted to make and, despite the elaborate-looking braided dough and shiny egg wash, it really is not as difficult as one would think. Even a beginner can do it! All it really takes is time. And affection.

I like to think of baking bread akin to housebreaking a puppy. Both are time-consuming labors of love that require patience and affection, resulting in joyful rewards. Kneading dough with force and brute makes for a tough dough. However, handling dough with affection and gentle coaxing makes for a tender, delicate bite, sure to please any crowd. Treat your dough as you would a cute puppy. That's the secret.

I highly recommend Mollie Katzen’s beautifully hand-illustrated cookbook The Enchanted Broccoli Forest for all the recipes, but especially for her informative chapter on bread baking. It comes complete with step-by-step, hand-illustrated pictures, including one of a fist, punching down a dough after the first rise, with a Batman-like caption of “Thwap!” (That's the only non-puppy comparison. No puppy-thwapping allowed, only dough-thwapping.) :)

Challah
(from Mollie Katzen's The New Enchanted Broccoli Forest)
This recipe makes 2 loaves.

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups wrist-temperature water
1 package (scant Tbs.) active dry yeast
1/2 cup sugar or honey
4 Tbs. melted butter or canola oil
3 eggs (1 for crust)
1 Tbs. salt
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
8-9 cups unbleached white flour
a little oil for the trays
poppy or sesame seeds (optional)

Directions:

1. Place the water in a large bowl. Sprinkle in the yeast. Beat in the sugar or honey, butter, 2 eggs, and salt with a wire whisk.

2. If using, stir in raisins. Then add flour a cup at a time, whisking after each addition. (Start using a wooden spoon as needed.) Knead the dough until smooth, elastic, and no longer sticky. (The recipe says you can do this in the bowl, but I found it much easier on a lightly floured surface.) Cover dough with a clean cloth and set in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in bulk

3. Punch down the dough (“thwap!”) and turn out onto a floured surface. Divide in half, and knead each half for about 5 minutes, adding flour if it gets a little sticky. Divide each half in thirds, roll into snakes about 1 ½ inches in diameter. Line up 3 snakes, and braid starting from the middle, working out. You will end up with one long braid. For a round loaf, as I did, you can form the braid into one large circle, tucking in the end underneath the loaf.

4. Lightly oil two baking trays and place a finished braid on each. Cover with a towel and let rise another hour, until doubled in bulk. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees.

5. Beat the remaining egg in a small bowl. Brush a generous amount over each braid and sprinkle with seeds, if using. Bake 40 minutes or until the braids give off a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom. Mine took approx. 30 minutes, so check the loaves early. Cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before eating.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Matzo Ball Soup

I’ve missed you! Sorry I’ve been away for over a month—I was busy getting hitched! Now that I have solidified the deal with the love of my life, I return happily and nesting in my lil urban kitchen. Since I married a nice Jewish boy, I thought it only fitting to post my first recipe back as a married woman, his favorite, Matzo Ball Soup. It is so easy to make, and anyone can do it.

There are two kinds of matzo ball soup lovers, I’ve come to realize. The first kind is the “purist.” They like their soup simple and refined: a clear, fragrant chicken broth ladled lovingly over 2 or 3 light and fluffy matzo balls. The second group likes heavy, hockey puck-style matzo balls with lots of veggies in the soup. Just by the description I think you can see I am of the former camp (delicate broth, fluffy matzo balls).

Just between us, you can make this soup any night of the week in just a few minutes, but it is the same quality soup of the old-school grandma variety. Honest. For real. There is a secret...All you have to do is make a big old batch of stock (you can even make your stock in a crock pot) and keep it in the freezer in quart-sized bags. When you are ready for your soup, you heat up a bag o' broth, throw in the balls, and simmer. Voila, in just a half hour, your kitchen has been transported back in time to a grandma’s kitchen on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, circa 1923. Flapper Food. :)

And flu season? Not a chance with this all-powerful defense in the house!


Matzo Balls
1/2 cup matzo meal
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons chicken stock or seltzer

For soup
2 to 3 quarts prepared chicken stock (recipe below)
1 carrot, thinly sliced
A few sprigs of dill (optional)
[If you are in a time pinch, you can also use 2-3 quarts of stock in a box. I like Manischevitz brand low-sodium chicken broth]

With a fork, mix all matzo ball ingredients in a bowl. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes.

Bring 1 1/2 quarts of well-salted water to a boil in a medium sized pot.
Reduce the flame. Wet your hands. Roll 1-inch-balls of matzo dough in the palm of your hands loosely. Drop the balls into the simmering salt water one at a time. Lower the heat, cover the pot and let simmer for 30 to 40 minutes.

Meaniwhile, bring chicken stock and sliced carrot to a simmer in a separate pot.* When matzos are done cooking, you can spoon them into the stock.

With a slotted spoon, place 2-3 matzo balls into a serving bowl, and gently ladle the soup over that. Garnish with dill if you like. Eat it up and have then seconds!

*If you are fighting a cold or flu, throw in 2-3 whole, peeled garlic cloves along with the carrot slices. Feel free to eat the garlic cloves if you are particularly brave or particularly sick, or if you are a garlic lover like my husband. 

Chicken Stock

3 1/2 to 4 1/2 pounds chicken necks, backs and wings
3 celery ribs, cut into big chunks
3 carrots, scrubbed and cut into big chunks
2 parsnips, scrubbed and cut into big chunks
2 onions, unpeeled and quartered
1 head garlic, cut horizontally in half
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
4 quarts cold water

Bring all ingredients to a boil in a large soup pot. Skim the top of any foam. Once it comes to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and allow to simmer peacefully for 2-3 hours.

Pour stock through a pasta strainer into a large bowl. Allow to cool, and fill quart-sized freezer bags and freeze for up to 6 months, or store the stock in the fridge for 3 or 4 days.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Chickie’s Linguini & Clam Sauce


My mom makes the best clam sauce in the whole wide world. (See for yourself--these are the mouthwatering pics of the actual dinner she made when I was visiting her this past week!) I love this sauce because it isn't white, and it isn't red. It's in between. She makes a basic white clam sauce but adds some chopped tomatoes to the sauce.

This is a slightly sweet sauce because of her secret ingredient: Marsala wine. A lot of white clam sauce recipes call for dry white wine, but she insists on Marsala and Marsala only, which gives the sauce a slight sweetness that offsets the garlic and clams. The chopped tomatoes (rather than puree) complement the Marsala, and when the alcohol reduces, thickens, and the basil works its magic, well, you've got yourself a bit of snack heaven on your hands. Crusty bread and a glass of your house red is a must!


CHICKIE’S LINGUINI & CLAM SAUCE


1 pound of linguini
¾-1 cup exrta-virgin olive oil
4-6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup Marsala wine
2 cans of 6.5-ounce chopped clams, 1 drained, 1 juice reserved
1 Tbs. dried basil
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
Salt & pepper
½ a 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes
Locatelli Romano cheese, grated

Boil water for pasta, and cook al dente, according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepot, heat olive oil over medium low. Add garlic, and cook gently for about 5 minutes, being sure garlic doesn’t burn.

Stir in wine, clams, basil, red pepper flakes, salt & pepper, tomatoes. Bring to a gentle boil; reduce to a very soft simmer, and cover. Let cook for 15 minutes. Toss sauce with hot pasta, and serve, passing grated cheese at the table.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Quinoa Crunch

Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner!!!

Let me count the ways...

Cheap? Check. (Verrry cheap. As in, pennies, cheap. Check the bulk grains section in the healthfood store. You're covered.)

Quick? Check. (As in, I threw this in the oven while my coffee brewed and I showered for work.)

Easy? Check. (As in mix, spread, bake. Done!)

Oh and there are so many wonderful ways this is the perfect snack:

Quinoa is the highest and only complete-protein grain out there.
It's versatile; tasty in savory and sweet recipes. You can use this quinoa crunch anyway you would granola - on yogurt, baked into Blueberry Crunch Muffins, or mixed into Fig Scones, or poured into a bowl with cold milk.

This would be a fab grain to add to my old stand-by, Mix & Match Granola. Remember this one?
(CLICK HERE, if you don't remember.) ;)
Quinoa Crunch is close to perfection in a snack.
Snack heaven. Snack love.
Perfect to eat while watching eye candy on the old cable TV. And also for watching version two of eye candy on the old cable TV. (Indulge me for a moment. Thanks.)


QUINOA CRUNCH
adapted from Body & Soul Magazine

1 cup quinoa
1 Tbs. agave or organic maple syrup
1 Tbs. safflower oil

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix all ingredients and spread onto a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or so, till golden brown. Cool completely on the sheet and store leftovers in an airtight container.

 
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