End of the Long Weekend . . .

End of the long weekend and before we can even turn around, Thanksgiving is coming up all too soon. My ever-present spiral notebook is at hand for jotting down notes, groceries lists, and unseen corners of the house that will be cleaned whether guests will see them or not. The first thing I might consider getting on the grocery list is a turkey!

We splurged a bit on treats this weekend as the schedule was out not followed as usual and we often got home from shopping or just browsing too late to go into full meal preparation mode.

One of my treats for the weekend was potato chips. However, my version of potato chips is about 60% less fat but still as crispy and crunchy as any bagged portion. I don’t have the smoke of fried oil hanging in the air and it takes me about two minutes to clean up and then enjoy my chips. It just takes me, a couple of medium potatoes, a can of vegetable oil spray, parchment paper, salt, pepper, and a microwave. The only hard part is slicing the potatoes as thin as possible but some food processors can do that. If they are cut a bit too thick, you can still get a chip-like snack.

Once I have my potatoes sliced, I lay them out on sheets of parchment paper that will fill in the microwave. I give the whole sheet of them a quick spray of the vegetable oil spray, dust with salt, pepper and microwave about 5 and a half minutes. The timing is dependent on your own microwave so go four minutes and increase until you get some golden chips. Before I put mine in the microwave for baking, I like to sprinkle them with some Parmesan. There are other options, too. There is smoked salt, chili powder, etc.

What amazed me about making my own chips was the cost savings. Imagine, two medium potatoes makes the equivalent of a large bag of store brands . . . for a lot less money, salt, and fat.

Thanksgiving Shortcuts in the Kitchen

Yes, we are in that month where we are thinking about guest lists, menus, and plans for  a holiday dinner. My ever-present notebook is always at hand but lots more scribbling going on in it at this time of the year.

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Here is one super-fast recipe that will make you look like a culinary expert in the kitchen!

For a nice breakfast snack with the first cup of coffee of the day, Monkey Bread is always a welcome addition. There are many, many recipe versions but this one is easy to get in the oven and baked within 30 minutes. Okay, 35 minutes if you decide to ice them, too.

Monkey Bread

3 cans of refrigerated biscuits (I like using the flaky type but any will do nicely.)
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter (margarine would be okay, too)
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons water
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease or vegetable oil spray a Bundt pan or any round cake pan with high sides. Place the chopped nuts evenly over the bottom of the baking pan.

Cut each biscuit into fourths. Kitchen scissors make fast work of this. Combine the granulated sugar and spices in a bowl. Roll each piece of biscuit in the mixture. Place in prepared baking pan.

In a small pot, melt the butter, brown sugar, water, and vanilla together. Bring to a boil and boil for about two minutes, stirring constantly. Pour over the biscuits in the baking pan. Bake for approximately 20-30 minutes. Biscuits should be golden. Cool for a few minutes and turn out onto a serving plate. Pour the glaze over the still warm treat and let it drip down the sides!

Fast glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Enough milk to form a glaze.

Gluten-Free Cupcakes

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Nothing I like better than an excuse to bake. On Sunday, our parish had an event that included a bakery table so it was my cue to get out the recipes and ingredients. I ended up with apple tarts, peanut butter/chocolate cupcakes, cranberry/carrot cupcakes, and chocolate/marshmallow cupcakes. They are all gluten-free offerings but no one could tell. Who says there is no life without wheat products?

Merry Christmas Cranberry Bread

Yes, I’m already working on things that need planning for Christmas. Sure, it is two months away BUT, It is ONLY two months away! I’ve been lining up my recipes and making sure to slowly accumulate the necessary supplies needed  for the holiday baking. This is a good recipe for a festive addition to breakfast or giving as a homemade gift.

Merry Christmas Cranberry Bread

2 cups sifted, all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup orange juice
1 well-beaten egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup diced green maraschino cherries
1/2 cup toasted, chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together dry ingredients. Cut in the shortening until it is roughly broken up into the dry ingredients. Blend together the orange juice, egg, and vanilla. Add to the dry ingredients and mix to moisten. Fold in the cranberries, cherries, and nuts. Bake in vegetable oil sprayed 9×5-inch bread pan for 45-60 minutes. Use a toothpick to test the middle of the loaf. If there is still wet dough, bake longer. Cool for 15 minutes and then remove from pan to finish cooling on a rack. A lemon glaze wouldn’t be frowned upon!

You can also bake the batter in cupcake tins for individual portions. Just remember to reduce the baking time.

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Homemade Cafe Coffee Mocha Drink

Homemade Cafe Mocha Coffee Drink

2 cups ice cubes
1/2 cup very strong, freshly brewed coffee
1/4 cup cream or half and half
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons chocolate drink mix of choice
1 teaspoon vanilla

Put all ingredients into a blender and process until combined and mixture is thick and creamy. Top with whipped cream and make sure you serve with a colorful straw to make it special. Makes about two largish servings or three smaller ones.

Ideas:
Want chocolate coffee mint? You can either add a few drops of peppermint extract or throw in a hard mint candy along with the rest of the ingredients.

A bit of fresh orange zest included at the mixing is a nice change.

Always, always, various kinds of sprinkles to decorate the whipped cream topping never go amiss!

 

Donut Days Should Happen During Holiday Days!

Although we don’t indulge too often, it is always a welcome treat to have fresh donuts. With the holidays coming up, the idea is getting more and more appealing. I prefer fresh, plain donuts but my children always have input as to what flavor icing and how much icing should go on their donut. I don’t know too much about storing donuts . . . as they seldom last until the next day!

Cake Doughnuts

3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour*
1 cup granulated sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons shortening
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk

Heat oil in deep fryer or heavy kettle to 375 degrees.

Beat 1 ½ cups of the flour and the remaining ingredients in large mixing bowl on low speed, scraping bowl constantly, 30 seconds. Beat on medium speed, scraping bowl occasionally, 2 minutes. Stir in remaining flour. Turn dough onto well-floured board; roll out 3/8th inch thick. Cut with floured doughnut cutter. Slide doughnuts into hot oil with wide spatula. Turn doughnuts as they rise to surface. Fry until golden brown, 1 to 1 ½ minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels. Serve plain, sugared or frosted.

*I’ve been successful in using a gluten-free flour blend called BetterBatter to make these gluten-free. Just remember, you have to go by weight rather than cups to get a workable, tasty outcome.

Raisin-Crasin Nut Cookies

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As always, simple cookies get the cookie jar filled in short order and makes one a much-loved mother. And, if you sneak in some raisins and nuts, you can almost feel healthy.

Raisin-Crasin Nut Cookies
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 1/2 cups shortening
1/2 cup walnuts
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
1 tablespoon of freshly grated orange zest
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup milk

Run the raisins, cranberries, and walnuts through the food processor briefly to coarsely chop them up a bit.

Place the shortening and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat until well-combined and fluffy. Add the eggs, extracts, and zest. Beat well.

Mix together the dry ingredients. Add to the shortening/sugar combination along with the milk. Mix well. Chill the dough until easy to roll out and handle.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or use vegetable oil spray.

Divide the dough up into thirds or fourths for easy rolling. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out to about 1/4-inch thick. With a large, round cookie cutter (or your choice of shape!) cut out the cookies and place them about one-inch apart on prepared baking sheets.

Bake for approximately 8-10 minutes until lightly golden brown. Place on wire racks to cool.

Orange Glaze
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Enough fresh orange juice to form a glaze

When the cookies are cooled, you can either brush on a coating of glaze or drizzle it over them.