Dill Bread

There’s virtually nothing I love more than a loaf of homemade bread, fresh and hot from the oven.  It’s a bit dangerous for me, though, because I can easily eat the entire loaf myself.

Like, in thirty minutes.

When I was single and still had the metabolism to eat whatever I wanted, I had a bread machine I used all the time.  It actually worked quite well, and I was able to have homemade bread with very little effort.

After I got married, the bread maker was boxed away into the depths of my basement junk pile storage room.  Later, I decided to make homemade bread without the use of a maker…and failed miserably.  I’d attempted a French loaf, which rose so large, it nearly filled an entire cookie sheet.

In all directions.

I’m not sure how that was even possible.

I’ve gotten a little better with yeast breads since then, and this bread is one even a novice can master.  Believe me, if I can do it, you can, too.

In a small bowl, pour yeast over warm water, and let stand for 5 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine cottage cheese, sugar, onion, butter, dill, salt, baking soda, egg and yeast water mixture.

Add flour in portions, beating after each addition to form a stiff ball.  Cover bowl and let rise until doubled in size, about one hour.  Punch dough down and turn into a well greased loaf pan.  Let rise another 30 to 40 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350.  Bake for 40 to 45 minutes.  Brush with butter and spinkle with kosher salt.

Dill Bread (click to print)

  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 cup cottage cheese, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons dill
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 2 1/4 to 3 cups flour

Preparation Instructions

  1.  In a small bowl, pour yeast over warm water, and let stand for 5 minutes.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine cottage cheese, sugar, onion, butter, dill, salt, baking soda, egg and yeast water mixture.
  3. Add flour in portions, beating after each addition to form a stiff ball.  Cover bowl and let rise until doubled in size, about one hour.
  4. Punch dough down and turn into a well greased loaf pan.  Let rise another 30 to 40 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 350.  Bake for 40 to 45 minutes.  Brush with butter and spinkle with kosher salt.

recipe from The Reluctant Entertainer

 

Raspberry Lemonade Fizzy

It’s still miserably hot here.  So hot that you need to take a gallon of water with you just to walk to the mailbox.  Or a huge $1 Diet Coke from McDonald’s to run errands at Target.

And, because this is the sort of grace and coordination I have, I dumped the entire cup of soda onto my foot today while loading purchases into the trunk.

At least it cooled me down for a bit.

Speaking of cold, sticky drinks, this is one of our favorites right now.

Thaw a one-pound bag of raspberries, reserving the juices.  Puree fruit and juice with 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1 tablespoon vanilla extract in your blender until smooth.

Using a wooden spoon, press the puree through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl.  Discard seeds.

To make your fizzy, fill your glass with ice and the juice of half a lime.  Fill glass halfway with lemonade or lemon-lime flavored drink.  Add in 2 tablespoons of puree.

Stir to combine, and fill remainder of glass with beverage.  Slurp and enjoy.

Refrigerate extra puree up to one week.  Use the remaining for ice cream or on French toast.

Cucumber Salsa

Apparently, my son has decided one of his new favorite activities is serving as my personal trainer.  Not that I don’t need one, mind you, but he’s tough.

When we get home after work in the evenings, he immediately sticks my iPod in the Bose and flips it to Pink’s “Perfect.”  And then insists I do sit-ups.

To the entire song.

This might be okay if I was in any sort of shape.  However, my exercise routine typically involves seeing how quickly I can hit the ice cream supply after dinner.

Anyway, this recipe may not give you a rockin body, but it might at least offset the margaritas that pare with it nicely.

Now, pay close attention.  This is pretty tricky.  Grab your ingredients:

Chop your cucumber, red onion and cilantro.  Drain a can of Rotel and dump it in.

Isn’t it pretty and bright?

Stir in 1/4 cup white wine vinegar and 1 teaspoon sugar.  Combine, and serve with tortilla chips.

Cucumber Salsa

Mix together:

  • 3 cucumbers, chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1 can of Rotel, drained
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • cilantro, to taste

Italian Chicken in Red Wine

We try to eat a lot of lean meat around our house.  As a mother to a toddler, it’s important to me to set a good example regarding healthy eating habits.

So, I wait until the Doodlebug is in bed before I raid the pantry for my secret stash of chips and candy.

Anyway, I’m always looking for ways to dress up my chicken dishes, because really–a person can only eat a chicken breast with brown rice so many times before experiencing a breakdown resolved only by the consumption of a large supreme pizza and a pan of turtle brownies.

Not only is this recipe fairly healthy, it comes together quickly and easily, making it perfect for a weeknight meal.

Grab your ingredients:

Drizzle a bit of olive oil around a large pan.  Over medium-high heat, add your chicken and cook about 2 to 3 minutes on each side.  Remove from pan and set aside under a tent of aluminum foil.

Using the same pan, melt butter and add your shallots, carrots and mushrooms.  Cook until the veggies are tender.

Add in sugar, parsley, and Italian seasoning, and stir to combine.

Add wine and reduce liquid for 2 minutes.

While you’re waiting, pour yourself a glass of wine for a “taste test.”  You know, just to make sure it’s fit to serve.

Add tomatoes to sauce and stir to combine.  Add chicken back to pan and simmer until chicken is cooked through.

Serve alongside buttered egg noodles.  And with some more wine.  I mean, you did open the bottle, and it’s a major foul to waste good wine.

Italian Chicken with Red Wine, adapted from Rachel Ray (click to print)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 1/4 pounds chicken breasts, cut into chunks
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 12 mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
  • handful of parsley, chopped
  • 1 1/3 cups good red wine (if you won’t drink it, don’t cook with it, either.  I used a Merlot)
  • 15 ounce can crushed tomatoes

Noodles

  • 3/4 pound egg noodles, cooked al dente
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into bits
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Preparation Instructions:

  1. Drizzle olive oil around a large pan.  Over medium-high heat, add your chicken and cook about 2 to 3 minutes on each side.  Remove from pan and set aside under a tent of aluminum foil.
  2. Using the same pan, melt butter and add your shallots, carrots and mushrooms.  Cook until the veggies are tender.
  3. Add in sugar, parsley, and Italian seasoning, and stir to combine.
  4. Add wine and reduce liquid for 2 minutes.
  5. Add tomatoes to sauce and stir to combine.  Add chicken back to pan and simmer until chicken is cooked through.
  6. Serve alongside buttered egg noodles. 

Homemade Toaster Pastries with Apple Compote

I discovered early on in my relationship with my husband that his favorite dessert is apple pie.  Of course, I did what any girl in a new relationship would do–I attempted to impress him by making one from scratch.

I toiled over this dessert for what seemed like hours.  And I have to say, it turned out pretty darn well.  He ate  it, complimented me, and I was quite pleased with myself.

The next time I decided to make an apple pie, I didn’t have time to make one from scratch.  So, I cheated.  I bought refrigerated pie crust and a can of apple pie filling.  And my husband couldn’t tell the difference.  In fact, he informed me that he didn’t even really like pie crust.

Needless to say, I have not baked an apple pie from scratch since.

Anyway, the other day I was in Williams-Sonoma and spotted this:

Toaster Pastry Press

Now, you don’t really need something like this to make individual pastries, but I get totally disillusioned into thinking these types of products will turn me into a world-renowned chef.  Also, it’s just fun.  Plus, after I brought the box home, my son asked like a million times when we were going to make these because they looked “so cool.”

Anything to get this kid to eat, people.  I’ll do whatever it takes.

First we made our apple-compote filling.

In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat.  Add the apples and sugar and cover.  Stir occasionally until the apples are tender and are starting to fall apart, approximately 30 minutes.

Mix in cinnamon and nutmeg and cook uncovered until the apples become completely soft.  I added in a bit of cornstarch to thicken mine up.

While this makes a lot of filling, it freezes well up to one month.  Use it in stuffed french toast, or as a topping for pancakes or ice cream.

As I said, I don’t make pie crust from scratch, but you can certainly do so here.  I used my old stand-by; ready made crust from the refrigerated section.  Two rounds should make about 8 pastries.

Using molds (or just using a cookie cutter or round beverage glass), cut out your pastry shapes and pile approximately 1 tablespoon of filling in the center, leaving a half-inch border on all sides. 

Whisk together an egg with 1 teaspoon water, and brush edges with wash.  Top with additional crust and press edges to seal.

Bake at 350 for approximately 25 minutes.

While your pastries are cooling, mix together powdered sugar, milk and vanilla extract.  Drizzle icing over the top, and decorate with colored sprinkles or sanding sugar.

Apple Compote (click to print)

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 large Granny Smith apples and 3 large Pink Lady or Gala apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Preparation Instructions

  1. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat.  Add the apples and sugar and cover.  Stir occasonally until the apples are tender and are starting to fall apart.
  2. Mix in cinnamon and nutmeg and cook uncovered until the apples become completely soft.  I added in a bit of cornstarch to thicken mine up.
  3. Store refridgerated up to one week; freeze up to one month.  Use it in stuffed french toast, or as a topping for pancakes or ice cream.

Cherry Limeade Pie in a Jar

It’s amazing the things you think you’ll never do until you have kids.  Like, congratulate someone on using the potty while you’re at Barnes and Noble.  Willingly host a birthday party at Chuck E Cheese (and enjoy it).  Prepare hot dogs wrapped in crescent rolls for dinner and consider them “fine cuisine.”

Or wear a swimsuit in public.

Okay, this might be something many of you do with no problem at all, but not me.  I’m fairly modest, and also, I like my hair and makeup to stay dry and pretty.  Seriously, I think the last time I wore a swimsuit in public was on my honeymoon in Jamaica and I only did it because the chance of seeing any of those people again was slim to none.

Since our son has been taking swimming lessons and just loves the water, we decided to take him here while we were home on staycation:

Of course, this required me to wear a swimsuit…but one of the best things about being a mommy is that your kids do not care if your hair looks goofy wet or if you have pudges in places you didn’t have when you were 17.  Seeing the sheer joy on my son’s face and watching him splash and play and laugh completely made me forget about the fact that my makeup was a melted mess and that my body will never again look like those of the teenage girls I saw there giggling and sunning.

While I may never be able to confidently wear a bikini ever again, I pretty much feel like a rock star when my son hugs me and proclaims, “No mama, I love you more.” 

Unconditional love, folks.  You can’t beat it.

Anyway, I truly believe that ice cream or some form of frozen dessert treat is an absolute requirement after a long, hot summer day at the water park.  So, I whipped up these cuuuuuute little pie in a jar treats I stole from The Cookbook Queen:

Use a food processor to finely chop approximately two cups of graham crackers.  Mix with 1/4 cup sugar and 1 stick of melted butter.  Press into the bottom of 8 oz wide-mouth Mason jars.

Place on a baking sheet and bake for approximately 6 minutes at 350.  To keep your jars from sliding around like crazy, set them on a Silpat baking mat.

 

For the filling, mix limeade with sweetened condensed milk and Cool Whip.  Spoon into your Mason jars and freeze at least 4 hours.

Right before serving, prepare your whipped cream.  If possible, chill a metal mixing bowl for about 15 minutes.  Whip together your cold cream, cherry juice and powdered sugar until peaks form.  Spoon on pies and top with a cherry.

 Cherry Limeade Pie In a Jar (click to print)

For the Crust:

  • 2 cups graham cracker crums
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1/4 sugar

For the Filling:

  • 12 8-ounce wide mouth Mason jars
  • 8 ounce can of frozen limeade
  • 7 oz sweetened condensed milk
  • 8 ounce Cool Whip, thawed

Cherry Whipped Cream:

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • Maraschino cherries
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar

Preparation Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. In a large bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, butter and sugar.  Press a few spoonfuls into each Mason Jar.  Bake for 6 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, fold together limeade, Cool Whip and condensed milk until combined.  Pour into jars, leaving room at the top for the lip.  Freeze for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
  4. Before serving, combine cream, 3 tablespoons of cherry juice and powdered sugar in a mixing bowl.  Using the whisk attachment, mix until peaks form.  Spoon on pies and top with a cherry.

 

Tropical Fruit Salad

Given the choice between fruit and a buttercream-frosted cupcake, my son will choose fruit every time.  My husband finds even vanilla ice cream “too sweet” and much prefers carrots and Ranch dip to any form of dessert.

What is wrong with these people and why are they in my house?

I, on the other hand, have to make deals with myself in order to eat healthy.  For example, if I eat well all week, I can reward myself by purchasing Martha Stewart’s “Cookies” recipe book or “How to Cook With Butter” by Paula Deen.

I’m always looking for ways to liven up my fruit dishes so that I’m not tempted to consume an entire jar of Nutella when eating a banana or an apple.  Not that this wouldn’t be great with Nutella.  In my book, pretty much everything is great with Nutella.

Tropical Fruit Salad

  • 2 (20-ounce) cans pineapple chunks, undrained
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 6 medium oranges, peeled and sliced
  • 4 kiwi, peeled and sliced
  • 2 mangos, peeled and cubed

Preparation Instructions:

  1. Drain pineapple, reserving 1/2 cup juice
  2. Stir together reserved juice, honey, and next 3 ingredients; add pineapple, orange slices, and remaining fruit, tossing gently to coat.
  3. Cover and chill up to 24 hours.  Garnish with coconut, if desired.

 

Grilled Potato Salad

My husband and I took this week off work for a stay-cation.  As our (un)luck would have it, we’re setting record temperatures here in Kansas, and it’s too hot to do anything but sit on an air-conditioner vent and eat ice cubes.  Plans for the zoo and mini-golf?  Not happening.

It was 111 degrees here on Sunday.  No joke.  I’m pretty sure it’s not supposed to be that hot anywhere outside of the Mohave Desert.  Maybe not even there.

So, not being in the kitchen is top on my priority list this week, at least not while the oven and/or stove is on.  Am I cooking everything I possibly can on the charcoal grill?  Absolutely.

Grilled Potato Salad (click to print)

  • 1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes, quartered
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 4 bacon slices
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Preparation Instructions:

In a heavy-duty aluminum foil tray, pile in your potatoes and veggies.  Drizzle with olive oil, and place bacon slices on top.

Grill over medium to high heat for approximately 15 to 20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.

While vegetables cook, whisk together vinegar, broth, vegetable oil and garlic.

Place grilled vegetables in a large bowl, and crumble bacon slices over the top.  Shake vinegar dressing to mix and pour over veggies.  Serve immediately, or cover and chill until ready to serve.

Strawberry-Orange Bread

I’m a waste not, want not kind of person.  My husband and I generally eat a lot of leftovers throughout the workweek, mainly because we want to teach our son the value of money and the importance of using what you have.  Also, because I’m lazy.

However, any time we host any sort of food-related event at our home, we always purchase waaaaaaaaaay too much food.  I have this fear that people will have to end up splitting the last chicken breast into three portions or taking only miniscule servings of potato salad so that there is enough for everyone.  And then that they’ll have to stop at McDonald’s on the way home because they’re still hungry.  This gives me all sorts of anxiety.

So when I decided to do a fruit and dip tray at a recent party in my home, I purchased a cantaloupe, a pineapple, two large containers of grapes, a large bag of mixed apples and oranges and four containers of strawberries.  That’s right.  FOUR.  Don’t ask me to explain this, I can’t.

Needless to say, I have some fruit left over.  The cantaloupe and pineapple are basically gone, my son and husband will finish off the grapes, and I’ll eat most of the apples.  But I needed to do something with the extra strawberries before they got all mooshy.  I live for fresh strawberries all winter long, so the idea of letting them go to waste makes me a little sad.

Anyway, I loosely adapted this recipe from Sandy at the Reluctant Entertainer and used up most of my remaining berries.  The best part about this recipe is that it makes either two large loaves, or six small ones.  Give some away as gifts, or freeze them to have on hand for times when you don’t want to bake.

Or, do what I do, and pretty much eat it all yourself.

In a large bowl, whisk together your dry ingredients:

Add in your remaining ingredients, through the strawberries, and mix with a wooden spoon:

Gently fold in your sliced strawberries:

Pop in the oven and bake for approximately one hour.  While you’re waiting, do something productive like fold a load of laundry and sweep the kitchen floor turn on QVC to find out what the Today’s Special Value is and talk yourself out of buying another new purse.  Remind yourself that moms don’t need “buttery leather bags” but instead something sticky-finger resistant and washable.

Let bread cool in the pan for approximately 15 minutes.  In the meantime, mix together your glaze ingredients.  Turn bread onto a cooling rack and drizzle the glaze over the top:

And, because I have a firm belief that everything is better with chocolate, smear some nutella over the top:

Strawberry-Orange Bread (click to print)

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest
  • juice of half an orange
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 1/2 cups sliced strawberries

Glaze:

  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease loaf pans lightly with cooking spray.  Combine dry ingredients in large bowl and whisk to combine.  Add in remaining ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon.  Add berries last.

Bake 35 to 45 minutes for small loaf pans, or about 60 minutes for large loaf pans.

Let bread cool for approximately 15 minutes before removing from pan.  Drizzle glaze over the top.

Best Sugar Cookie Icing Ever

The Valentine’s Day that my son was two years old, I decided I’d attempt to bake and frost heart-shaped sugar cookies to send with him to Mom’s Day Out.  I wanted to be one of “those moms”—moms who sort of breeze into the room airily with a plate of fresh-baked goods and wave off compliments with, “Oh, it was nothing, really.  Just whipped these up in a flash.”  And mean it.

However, I am not one of those moms.  Baking is a chore for me, and most often times, a near disaster.  But really, how hard could sugar cookies be?

Apparently, much harder than I anticipated.

Oh, the cookies tasted fine.  They were totally edible, as long as you looked past the appearance of a shapeless blob that was supposed to be a scalloped heart.  And the powdered sugar icing that I made so often as a child (okay, my mom made it, maybe that was the difference) ran off the cookies in a dripping, messy ooze that caused me to throw the entire batch into the trash and declare myself a complete failure.  It was an embarrassment, truly.  I’d show you pictures, but fortunately I had enough self-preservation to know better than to take any.

By fall, I decided to give it another whirl.  And while I am not nearly as talented as Bridget at Bake at 350, my technique has definitely improved.  I’ve since taken cake and cookie decorating classes…and while all the instructors advised using royal icing that for the prettiest cookie, I’m here to tell you – dont.  Well, unless you actually like royal icing, that is.  Then go for it.  Personally, I like my cookies to look pretty and taste yummy, and not have to worry about cracking a tooth on the cement-like hardness you’ll find with royal icing.

This icing is probably very similar to the powdered sugar icing we made as kids, with a bit of corn syrup added in to give them a slight sheen.

Here’s the skinny (well, it’s not actually skinny, since eating these are likely to cause weight gain upwards of five pounds, but you know what I mean):

Grab your ingredients:

  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 6 tablespoons whole milk
  • 6 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 ½ teaspoon almond extract

 In a large mixing bowl, whisk together powdered sugar and milk until smooth.

Add in corn syrup, and 1 ½ teaspoons almond extract.  You can use vanilla extract if you wish; but almond really tastes the best here.  With a strong arm, whisk together until the icing is shiny and smooth and drizzles off your whisk easily.

The consistency you have at this point is what you’ll use to fill your cookies.  But unless you thicken some up first to use as a dam, you’re going to be left with a runny mess everywhere.  Trust me on this; I have plenty of experience.

Using a small bowl, pour in a bit of your thin consistency icing.  Sprinkle in some additional powdered sugar and whisk again, until smooth and difficult to mix by hand.  It’s going to look thick—this is a good thing!

 

Fill a piping bag (or a Ziploc with the corner snipped) with your thick icing.  Using a #3 or #4 decorator tip, outline your cookie:

I’ve tried many different methods to fill my cookies, but I’ve found these decorator bottles work the best and cause me the least amount of stress.  You can find them at Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, or anywhere cake decorating supplies are sold:

Carefully squeeze your thin consistency icing onto your cookie.  Do not be tempted to immediately fill in every gap and cranny.  This icing is runny and will spread—if you squeeze too much on, there is no dam in the world that can save you from overflow.  Again, just trust me.

 

It’s really best to let these dry for a few hours before decorating, but I usually don’t have that much patience.  I pop them in the refrigerator for a about 30 minutes and then get started.  If they are dry to the touch, you should be good to go.

 

 

 

Again, using your thick icing and a #3 or #4 tip, add your decoration or embellishments.  I’m making a fairly simple design here, but you get the idea.

Let your cookies dry overnight before stacking.  They will eventually harden, but not quite as hard or as quickly as royal icing will.  If you really want to look professional, package these in clear cellophane bags and tie with coordinating ribbon.  Since I made these for party favors, I added goody-bag tags to mine, designed by Chickabug.