Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Day 1 of 14 Days of Valentines!

For day 1 of our celebration we are making white chocolate Valentine tumbleweeds! Gather your ingredients and make these as a special treat for friends, family, neighbors, teachers, or a special someone. Everyone loves tumbleweeds!

3 cups of chinese noodles
2 cups of white chocolate chips
2 cups of party peanuts
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
decorative sprinkles, like hearts or circles in Valentine colors like red or pink 
  Melt your chocolate by putting the white chocolate in a double boiler. 
Stir the chocolate until it is smooth and completely melted, Add about a teaspoon of vegetable oil to the melted chocolate to thin it a little.
Add the melted chocolate to the noodles, and mix. Add the peanuts and mix again.

Make small mounds of tumbleweeds on your cookie sheet. 

After all your tumbleweeds are made, go back and add decorative sprinkles or valentines conversation hearts.

There is no limit to what you can decorate with.

 Day 2 of 14 Days of Valentines-Seafood Scampi!!!!

Monday, January 31, 2011

14 Days of Valentine Ideals!

Valentine's Day is 14 days away!So what should we do to celebrate? How about 14 days of ideas for delicious  Valentine's Day treats! Delectable ideas that are a delight to the eye, and a feast for the soul. The Freshman Cook is going to feature a couple dinners, some breakfast ideas, some specials desserts, some chocolate delights, and all of the recipes are easily prepared by a freshman cook. So stay tuned! The recipes and fun start tomorrow!!!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Southwest Sandwich Spread

I created this recipe for one reason and I love it. I love sandwiches. I love mayo on them. Now that I have high blood pressure,  mayo is no longer an option. I love avocados. I love them in any form. They are fantastic for fighting high blood pressure. So this recipe is my answer for a sandwich spread that is good and good for me.
Southwest Sandwich Spread
1/4 cup diced tomato
1/4 cup diced onions
1/2 cup sour cream
1 medium avocado
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Dice your tomato and your onion. Mix it into the sour cream. Cut the avocado into the mix. You can just scoop it out of the skin if you want. You are going to mash it up, so it does not have to be pretty. Add the garlic powder. Mix everything together. Use a fork. It makes it easier to incorporate the avocado evenly. Make sure you put the sauce in the refrigerator for at least two hours. This gives time for the flavors to meld together.

Now, this is how I use this spread. But you can use it for lots of things. It could be used for wraps, or with soft tacos. You could also add ingredients to spice it up or give it a different taste. Red peppers come to mind. Or what about jalapenos, YUM! 
I use it for the spread on chicken sandwiches.  I grill a chicken breast in a pan with pepper and garlic powder seasoning. Then I pull it apart from itself, and make a sandwich. I use Sargento baby swiss cheese. It is delicious and 1 piece only has 40 grams of sodium. I also put the sandwich on whole wheat bread. It is delicious, and the sauce makes it feel like a wonderful treat. 
Try this the next time you are making a sandwich or if you are looking for something different to wrap in your wrap. Let me know what different ingredients you add. The sky's the limit!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Eggs and Room Temperature

As a cook and a baker, there is no doubt that eggs are a staple of your pantry. I always have plenty of eggs, just in case. Besides, I am an egg eater. I love egg sandwiches, fried eggs, hard boiled eggs, omelets, and 2 minute eggs with bread. Anything with eggs. Besides, isn't it amazing that one little egg can have so many uses? 

     I am a big cookie baker, so eggs and I are the best of friends. But sometimes, I do have to admit, I forget to take the eggs out of the refrigerator before I begin putting my recipe together. And I know that eggs should be at room temperature before using them to bake or cook. Right? Right! But why? 
     Because in most recipes you cream together the fat (butter) with the sugar, then you add the eggs. This is called emulsion. If the eggs are cold, the fat and the egg will not combine and are unmixable. Adding cold eggs to your butter & sugar mixture can curdle the egg and make your baked goods have little flavor, ending up grainy and flat.
    So what to do? How about a simple 5 minute fix!! Put the eggs you need for your recipe in a bowl,
and immerse them in warm (not hot) water for 5 minutes! It's that simple!
Now your eggs are ready to use!
Happy Baking!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Baking Biscotti

A really good neighbor is just the luck of the draw, is it not? I mean, you can't plan who your neighbors will be. My family and I had a great neighbor when we lived in Utah. He lived next door, and he never grumbled or complained when our dog barked or when my son and his group of 20 or so  friends would come into the yard to ride the bike jumps my son built on the neighbors side of the house. He would come over early, in the cold morning snow, and scrape our driveway with his 4 wheeler, so we wouldn't have to go out there later using a shovel.  I could easily spend an hour in the backyard, on a clear summer afternoon, talking over the fence with my neighbor, about what was going on in our little piece of paradise and basically solving all the problems of the world! He was a great neighbor and a nice person. After we left I sent him some holiday biscotti, (they are great to mail because they are sturdy) along with some other treats for the holidays. I got a call from him saying how much he liked the treats, but how much he loved those long cookies with the cranberries. So I sent him some more, and every couple months I would send the holiday biscotti with another kind of  biscotti for him to try. Sometimes he liked the new, and sometimes he doesn't. I value his opinion, so I keep sending him different biscotti to try, but I have a feeling that I always have to send the holiday biscotti. This month I am sending him the holiday biscotti and some biscotti with a fall design to it. Maybe something with apples, pecans, and caramel. I don't know. I will have to think about it and experiment. (That's my favorite part!!) If he likes it I will share it with you! But he loves the holiday biscotti, so here is the recipe:

Holiday Biscotti
(adapted from Giada De Laurentiis, (but changed just slightly)

2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped  FRESHMAN TIP:( This means chopped, but to no particular size)
2/3 cup craisins

Preheat oven to 350.
Line your baking sheet with parchment paper.

Whisk the flour and  baking powder into a medium bowl.

FRESHMAN TIP: Zesting (Is that a word?) Well it should be!! Because that is what we are doing here. 
 Wash your lemon, then pull the lemon along the zester, but don't go too deep into the skin. You don't want to use the white part of the lemon skin. Only the yellow. The white has a bitter flavor that will ruin your recipe.

This is what your teaspoon of grated lemon zest should look like. In the interest of always trying to use everything I buy, I usually will make something with the lemon juice within the next day or two. That way nothing gets wasted. If I can't seem to make it happen in that time frame, I at least squeeze the lemon to get the juice out, and I usually use it for tea or to flavor my water.

Beat the sugar, butter, lemon zest, and salt in a large bowl to blend. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time.

 Add the flour mix  and beat until just blended.

It should look like this:

Add your pistachios and craisins and mix in with a spoon.

Your dough will be rather thick. Place it on your baking sheet, and stretch and pat out the dough until it becomes a log measuring 13" long and 3" wide. It is important to measure the dough. Use a plastic ruler that can be easily washed. The ruler can also be used to square your sides, so your biscotti  loaf is even .
   Bake until it is light golden, about 35 minutes.

Remove your biscotti from the oven, and let it cool for 20 minutes. Then cut the biscotti into 1/2 " wide pieces. I like to use a serrated edge knife to cut with. I use it like a saw, and it seems to minimize any  crumbling. The biscotti will crumble a little, but don't worry. 
Place your sliced pieces back on a cookie sheet, with a side up. Put them back into the oven for 10 minutes.
Pull the biscotti out of the oven and flip the pieces over, so that the other side can be finished.
 Let them bake for 5 minutes longer.
This is your finished product. They take a little while longer than most cookies, but they are worth it! These are great to dunk in tea, coffee, milk or even hot chocolate. Try them and let me know what you think!

With the holidays coming up they are a great cookie to send to family and friends far away.

Monday, August 30, 2010

A Match Made in Heaven!

Could there possibly be anything better than the pairing of peanut butter and chocolate? The correct answer is NO! It is the best combination ever, ever, ever! So what cookie could live up to the hype of the best combination ever? There is only 1. Peanut Butter Blossoms!!! The perfect combination of chocolate and peanut butter, and easy to make too! Here's what you need:

48 Hershey's Kisses Milk Chocolate
1/2 cup shortening (solid white)
3/4 cup creamy Peanut Butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar 
                                FRESHMAN TIP:(Remember how we did this in past blogs?)
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1and 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
more granulated sugar ( you will understand near the end of the recipe)

Heat your oven to 350 degrees.
Remove the wrappers from all 48 chocolate kisses. Remember, if you can't resist temptation, and you decide to eat one, or two, or three, you will have to unwrap more. I have only heard about this, I would never ruin the sanctity of a recipe for the sake of chocolate.! (Ha!)

Mix the shortening and peanut butter in your bowl until it is well blended. 
Add the 1/3 cup of granulated sugar and packed brown sugar.
Beat until fluffy.
Add the egg, milk and vanilla and mix well.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
Gradually beat into the peanut butter mixture.
After all your ingredients are well combined, start shaping the dough into 1 inch balls.
Place the granulated sugar in a bowl. Try to use one that is medium sized and not too shallow.

Place your rolled balls of dough into the sugar and roll it around in to coat it with sugar.

Place them on your parchment covered cookie sheet.

Bake 8-10 minutes. I like to check mine at 8 minutes just to be sure. You may want to turn your cookie sheet around in the oven at this time. Not all ovens bake evenly.
When you take your cookie sheet from the oven, place it so you can work with it and not burn yourself.

Place a chocolate kiss in the middle of each cookie. Press down slightly, but not too hard. The cookie will crack around the edges, but don't worry. That's what makes them beautiful!

Cool on a wire rack until you can't wait any longer, or they cool off!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Back To School Chocolate Chip Muffins

These muffins get their name from the fact that they are the first home baked item, of this school year, that I am sending to my son who is away at college. I love sending him homemade goodies, and I always try to include his favorite muffins when I do. These muffins are adapted from the book The Cake Mix Doctor by Anne Byrn.  All the recipes I have tried are fabulous and I have made several of them multiple times. This recipe was originally a cake, but lends itself well to the muffin category. Although I love creating desserts and meals from scratch, there is nothing wrong with using available products to make things easier and faster. Especially when they are this good! Here's what you need:

1 Bar ( 4 ounces) German Chocolate
1 package (18.25 ounces) of Butter Recipe cake mix (I used Duncan Hines )
1 package (3.4 ounces) vanilla instant pudding mix
1 cup milk
1 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Set up your muffin tin by putting your baking cups in the pan so you will be ready when your batter is. Break the German chocolate bar into pieces and use a food processor or hand grater, like I did, to grate the chocolate.

Put the cake mix, pudding mix, milk, oil, and eggs into your mixing bowl.You are not making the cake according to the box directions, so ignore what the back of the box says.

Blend all your ingredients on low, for 1 minute, then stop your mixer and cleanly scrape down your bowl.
Add your grated chocolate.
Turn your mixer up to medium speed. Mix for two minutes, scraping the sides if you need to. Fold in the chocolate chips. By gently stirring the chocolate chips into your batter by hand, you are avoiding the possibility of breaking some of the chips.
Plus, hand mixing the chips ensures an even distribution of the chips into your muffin batter.
Spoon your batter into your baking cups. Place in the oven for about 17 minutes. Stick a toothpick in your tallest muffin and check to see if any batter comes out on the toothpick. If it does, continue to cook for 1 minute, and check again. Continue this until your toothpick comes out clean. (Invest in a box of toothpicks, you will need several because you use a new toothpick each time)
Once you have determined the muffins are done, pull them out of the oven. Let them cool on a rack for about 5-10 minutes. You need them to firm up a little. If you take them out of the tin now, they will be too hot and too soft, and you are risking smashing them.
After 5-10 minutes, take them out of the muffin tin to cool completely.
Enjoy your back to school muffins!!!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Strawberry Banana Smoothie

    There is nothing quite as refreshing as a luscious, creamy, fruity smoothie. I am a big fan. But the price tag of purchasing such a thirst quencher can be too high to enjoy the treat. So, why not make them at home! Although strawberry season is sadly coming to an end, you still have time to make this delectable drink and make your taste buds dance! Here is what you need:

2 Cups crushed ice
6 oz strawberry or strawberry banana yogurt
4 oz 1% milk
a squirt of lemon juice
2 oz orange juice
10  medium strawberries
2 medium bananas

~Put the ice in your blender. If your blender crushes ice and your ice is in whole cubes, go ahead and crush        the ice before adding anything else.
~Add your yogurt into the blender.
~ Add the milk.
~ Add the orange juice
~ Add the lemon juice
~ Add your bananas. You can slice them, or cut them into several pieces.

~ Hull your strawberries. That means cut the stems off. You can buy a huller at the store or just use a knife
    to cut the stem out. Make sure you go down into the berry to get the entire thing.

 ~Blend your delectable concoction until smooth and creamy. You can put this smoothie in the fridge if you are not ready to drink it yet. Perhaps you have a nice husband who makes them for you when you are on your way home from work, so it is ready when you get home? (I am very lucky!) If you do, then this smoothie will keep for about 4 hours in the refrigerator.

~You can make changes to this recipe according to your love of fruit. You can add more or less of the
   bananas or strawberries. More banana makes the smoothie super creamy. You can add blueberries,
   pineapple, etc. You have a lot of choices.
~ You can use different yogurt. Match the yogurt to your fruit, or just use your favorite.
~ You can add ice cream!!!  Not as healthy, but oh so good!
~ Use a fresh lemon squeeze instead of the real lemon juice.

The only limit is your imagination! Experiment and have fun!!