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Posts Tagged ‘Freezes well’

I made these lemon cookies, as a last-minute addition, for a wedding shower this weekend, and they were cleaned completely off the plate! I was a little surprised, because I didn’t know if they were really THAT good or just ok. When I added them to the menu I’d figured they were nice and summery for a bbq and anyone who didn’t like coconut on the cupcakes (poor souls) could enjoy them. But I was really blown away by the response! Since they are so popular I thought I’d throw them up here too.

I double the recipe because it makes a rather small batch. The first time I made these, I didn’t quite double the lemon zest and juice and they definitely were not as lemony as I wanted. The second time I added the full amount and they were, as stated, pretty good. I might like even a little more next time…maybe a little more zest to not add more liquid but get a lot more flavor.

The texture is really chewy with a crackly top that comes from the powdered sugar dusting before baking. These have frozen BEAUTIFULLY – put the fully cooled cookies in a ziplock and they come out of the freezer like new.

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Thanks to an idea I found on Pinterest and my newfound love of using the ice-cream scoop for making cookies, I’ve started using a new method of sharing homemade cookies with friends. There is really not much better than a homemade cookie (especially, it must be said, if it’s this chocolate chip cookie recipe) and fresh-out-of-the-oven homemade cookies are the absolute pinnacle of such pleasures. If I bring cookies over to someone I like them to be quite fresh, made the same day preferably, and that can be challenging to plan around delivery. On the other hand, bringing raw cookie dough still requires some work on their part and if they are truly quite busy, it may not be helpful. Finally, for folks who had a new baby or may otherwise be inundated with lots of food at the same time, they may not need or want extra baked goods at that moment.

The perfect solution to all these problems is to pre-roll the cookies and bring them over frozen!

I spent a couple hours one afternoon making two batches of cookies – chocolate chip and Ina’s wonderful oatmeal raisin cookies (the perfect blend of crunchy and chewy). Since I had all the ingredients and equipment out, it took just a few minutes more to make two instead of one. When the dough was all pulled together, I used the ice cream scoop to make the cookies on the sheet pan and then put the whole pan in the freezer. Once the balls of dough were completely frozen, I took the pan out and let it sit for a couple minutes to release the cookies from the pan a bit, and then plucked those little frozen balls of doughy goodness off the pan and popped them into a freezer bag.

(I thought it would be helpful to include specific directions on how to cook them directly on the bag so that a paper wouldn’t get lost.)

Then, all my friends need to do is turn on their oven, lay as many cookies as they want to cook at that time on the pan, and they’ll have hot gooey buttery homemade cookies in just a few minutes!

Having a supply of these bags in the freezer means that I can easily grab them to run over to someone on a moment’s notice – and if I need them for us or company and don’t have time to bake, they are ready for me to use on demand as well! I’ll be keeping my freezer stocked with cookie dough from now on.

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Paris is one of my favorite cities, not really for one specific reason but mostly because it’s a beautiful place to wander. The best way to wander and experience the casual elegance of that great city is to have a warm pain au chocolat (better known here in the US as a chocolate croissant) firmly tucked in your hand. I recommend them for breakfast and then again for an afternoon pick-me-up.

The best pain au chocolat are a perfect combination of flaky and chewy. I love there to be a thousand flaky, buttery layers that fall everywhere at the beginning of a bite, and then decadent chewy gooey chocolate goodness once your teeth hit the middle. This is difficult to find here in the US – usually croissants fall either on the flaky OR chewy side but not both.

A friend recommended the frozen pain au chocolat from Trader Joe’s to me, so I tried them to see if they would indeed be a passable substitute for the real thing – and one you could make at home no less. And they were actually pretty good! Even better than I’d expected! They nail the buttery flaky property, though they aren’t quite as chewy in the middle as I’d like. But the chocolate is really good, and you can’t beat a croissant coming out of your oven nice and hot. These are perfect to keep on hand for company, since they require no actual cooking but make people very happy.

The box contains four frozen uncooked croissants. You simply take them out before you go to bed and place them on a cookie sheet (I did find they needed about 5 min to thaw slightly so I could separate them without breaking them) and then let them rise (‘proof’) overnight. Then bake and eat! All in all, they are a pretty good made-at-home substitute for my favorite Parisian treat!

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Split Pea Soup

This is one of my mom’s recipes, which I can remember eating often as a kid. She says it was a good way to get vegetables down us. I remember wishing there was always more bacon. I recently got the recipe from her and have made it a half dozen times already this fall/winter. It’s incredibly hearty, tastes quite flavorful and rich thanks to the bacon fat, and is CHEAP! I was surprised to see that it doesn’t even use chicken stock, just water and a few bouillon cubes. Normally I’d be tempted to sub out the water for my precious chicken stock which I think makes everything taste better, but this soup really is so flavorful already that it doesn’t need it.

The soup is a snap to make, though it’s significantly easier with the immersion blender (seriously people, just go get one!), so I’d recommend making a pot on a Sunday or Saturday afternoon for a really easy, cozy, wintery dinner in on a cold night. It’s really delicious with a crusty bread, real butter, and nice cold beer.

Pea Soup

16 oz dried peas

1 Tbs olive oil

8 oz bacon, diced

2 large or 3 medium celery ribs, diced

1 large onion, diced

2 yellow potatoes, cubed

8 cups water

2 tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

3 beef bouillon cubes

1 bay leaf

1 cup half and half

  1. Boil 4 cups of water. Pour over dried peas in a medium bowl; set aside.
  2. Drizzle olive oil into a heavy-bottomed soup pot and head to medium. Add bacon and cook, stirring frequently, until browned and crispy. Remove bacon to drain on a plate; set aside.
  3. Add the celery and onions to the hot oil and cook until they are beginning to brown.
  4. Add the potatoes and sauté for 2 minutes.
  5. Add the remaining ingredients except the half-and-half. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a low simmer for about an hour.
  6. Once the potatoes are softened, puree the soup by either using an immersion blender in the pot or using a blender or food processor in small batches (be careful: the hot soup will expand so you can only fill the blender or food processor about halfway full.)
  7. Once soup is pureed in the pot, add the half-and-half and taste for seasonings. Serve with bacon crumbles on top.

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Since returning to work full time, I am taking a serious look at how we’re going to eat during the week, or more practically, how in the world I am going to find time to cook between my full time job and the baby.  I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that soups are going to be the way to go – or maybe soups in the winter and big hearty salads in the summer?

Cold and rainy/snowy weather is the perfect time for soup.  Something about it is as right as a roaring fire for this season.  I also love the process of making soup. I love the chopping and the smell of onions sauteeing in olive oil, which is how soups almost always start. I love the sizzle as more ingredients hit the pan.  I love peeking into the pot and seeing it bubble away.  I like that it’s a whole meal, possibly with bread or salad on the side, but not necessarily.  I like being able to put leftovers into the freezer for another heart- and belly-warming meal on another cold and rainy day down the road.

Since I’ve been making soup a lot recently I’ve been thinking about all my favorites.  Here is my list of top five vegetable soups – all super healthy and super delicious.  I highly recommend an immersion blender for making some of these soups – it comes in handy for lots of other things as well.  It makes the whole process quite a lot easier when you don’t have to transfer hot soup to a blender or food processor in batches, and this one cleans up easily and is not bulky to store.

1. Provencal Vegetable Soup

2. Broccoli Soup

3. Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Curry Condiments

4. Pappa Al Pomodoro

5. Spiced Pea and Coconut Soup

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Banana Bran Muffins

These Banana Bran Muffins are from my regular rotation that I thought I would share.  The first reason I made these muffins, and one of the reasons I continue making them, is to use up leftover buttermilk.  We buy our milk and buttermilk (and egg nog, when it’s in season!) from a local dairy, Maple View, who sells their milk in glass recyclable jugs at the Harris Teeter near our house.  The buttermilk is very, very thick and rich, and after using a cup (or sometimes less) for a random recipe, it kills me to just dump the rest out after it expires.  So when it comes close to expiration date, I start searching cookbook indexes for ways to use up the buttermilk.

Nine times out of ten I’ll make these muffins, because they are yummy, healthy, and freeze well.  The muffins are dense from the bran, with chunks of banana, walnuts, and raisins, and rich flavor from orange zest and molasses.  There are tons of good vitamins and fiber in these so they actually make a very healthy breakfast.  To ensure they don’t taste TOO healthy, I usually toast the sliced muffins and slather them with butter.  Because they have fresh banana chunks, I usually keep them in the refrigerator.  And the recipe does make a lot, so if you’re not serving a crowd, put half the cooled muffins in a freezer bag and save them for later.

Banana Bran Muffins

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Many of you already know that I am probably the MOST devoted follower of the Barefoot Contessa (aka Ina Garten) out there.  I swear by her recipes because they are almost always really flavorful and not too difficult and they make people HAPPY to eat them.  Seriously – something about her food feels either perfectly cozy and hearty or special-treat fancy, without being snobby.  And she is such a merry person, too, on her Food Network shows.  Michael’s not-so-secret fear is that I will throw in the towel and just decide to be fat so that I can be as good a cook and as happy and jolly as Ina Garten. 🙂

I have 3 of the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks and although I’ve made many of the recipes, I’m still trying new ones.  I recently made her Blueberry Coffee Cake Muffins from the Barefoot Contessa At Home.  I want to share this recipe because I think it’s a good basic to have on hand.  I don’t think it quite compares to the old-fashioned goodness of my great-grandmother’s blueberry muffin recipe, which I would like to make again soon (just to be sure, of course – in the name of science) which is more bisquit-y and dense.  These were quite light and sweet.  But they whipped up FAST – about as much time as it takes to mix up a bunch of brownies – and I discovered that they freeze really well. 

I really made them because, well, I was hungry.  I work from home and so it is easy to satisfy those urges that suddenly pop into your head, as this one did, when I saw a box of frozen summer blueberries in our freezer.  Happily I had all the ingredients on hand so it was a nice warm, sweet late breakfast treat.  Once I’d satiated myself, however, I had 22 muffins left for just the two of us.  So I left a few out and packed 2 freezer bags with the noble idea of saving them for when company visits.  Unfortunately the last bag just came out this morning so it doesn’t look like they are going to make it that long.  But it was good to know that they freeze really well and are still nice and moist when thawed.  They are heavenly when heated and spread with REAL butter (don’t use that processed stuff!).

Two quick tips:

1. The Barefoot Contessa must use some jumbo muffin pan that the rest of us don’t have.  Her muffins and cupcakes say they make 16 but I actually fill up 24 normal muffin cups with the batter.  If you only fill up as many as she suggests you’ll end up with overflowing muffin cups and either messy muffins or a messy pan. 

2. Ina’s suggestion of using an ice cream scoop to fill muffin cups is really brilliant.  I only recently started following that advice and it really was so much easier to get muffins equally sized. 

Here’s the link to the recipe.  Bon appetit!

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/blueberry-coffee-cake-muffins-recipe/index.html

 

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