Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Do you know Pero?

When my husband first brought home a canister of Pero I thought it was weird and yucky (of course, I hadn't tasted it). He liked to drink it at night when he wanted something kind of coffee-like, but that wouldn't keep him from sleeping. Pffft! Way too weird. I mean, look what's in it: barley, malted barley, chicory, and rye. It was months later when I finally let him make me a mug. And I liked it! I really should have known better--this is not the first time I've poo-poo'ed something my husband liked, only to find out it was yummy when I finally tasted it.

Pero is an instant hot beverage, though you can pour it over ice cubes and have iced Pero. Like coffee or tea, you can have it straight, with sugar, with milk, or with both. My husband likes it with just milk, I like mine with a little bit of sugar and a little bit of milk. Also like coffee or tea, it goes remarkably well with breakfast and sweet things, which may or may not include Hershey Kisses that I eat in the pantry so my kids don't see what I'm doing.

We keep a plastic spoon in the canister (is that totally lowbrow?) and use it to measure out the powder. I use about 1 1/2 heaping spoonfulls, which is about 2 teaspoons. But really, how much you use is up to you and how strong you want your beverage.

This is how I make my Pero:

1 1/4 cup boiling water
1 1/2-2 teaspoons Pero
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup milk

Put the Pero and sugar in your mug. Add the boiling water and stir. Add the milk and enjoy!

Look for Pero in the coffee and tea section of your grocery store (we get ours at Target).

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Malt Ball No-Bake Cheesecake

Pin It

In celebration of Pi day (March 3.14) I made this amazing Malt Ball No-Bake Cheesecake. The recipe comes from my friend, Tamara, who is a self-professed lover of Whoppers. She says:
"This was a whimsical idea.  I love Malted Milk and I love Cheesecake, so one day around Christmas time as I was drifting off to sleep, I came up with this idea. I had no idea how it would turn out. My husband, who has very discriminating taste and is allergic to eggs, raved about it. I also brought it as a refreshment at a holiday gathering and it was very well received. I did not realize it would be a true crowd pleaser. It can be served with whipped cream and chocolate sauce.  

Side note: Because my husband is allergic to eggs, I am always trying to develop scrumptious no-egg desserts."
This was my first no-bake cheesecake and I was really excited to try it. The flavor was very light and delicious, and the texture was light and silky and creamy, not dense like a baked cheesecake. Everyone in my family gave it a huge thumbs up, even my Sophie who doesn't touch pie, and it was really hard to not eat half of it myself (not a good idea). It was also really easy to put together and is definitely now on my list of awesome desserts to make again and again. If you'd like to see more of Tamara's recipes, she has a blog called Baking Banquet.

I should note that I used 1 cup of crushed malt balls, instead of the 3/4 cup Tamara listed in her recipe. I ended up with 1 cup after I crushed them, and I figured more would be better ;)

Malt Ball No-Bake Cheesecake from Tamara Lichfield
printable recipe

for the crust:
1 1/2 cups crushed chocolate graham crackers (1 sleeve)
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
7 tablespoons butter, melted

for the filling:
1 packet unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup sugar
2 1/4 cups heavy cream
2 8-oz packages cream cheese, softened (I used full-fat)
1/4 cup sour cream (I used full-fat)
4 tablespoons malted milk powder
3/4 cup crushed malt balls (Whoppers) (I used 1 cup)

for the garnish:
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
additional malt balls

1. In a medium bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar, and melted butter; mix well. Transfer the mixture to a 8 or 9-in spring form pan and press to the bottom and half-way up the sides to form a crust. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, beat the 2 1/4 cups heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

3. In a small saucepan, combine the gelatin and water; let stand for 1 minute. Add the sugar and stir over medium heat until mixture is hot and gelatin and sugar are dissolved. Remove from the heat.

4. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, sour cream, and malted milk powder until creamy. Gradually add the gelatin mixture and the whipped cream, mixing well on low as you add them; continue to mix until smooth. Gently fold in the crushed malt balls.

5. Transfer the filling to the prepared spring form pan and spread it smooth. Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight for best results.

6. To remove from the pan, run a very thin knife around the pan between the pie and the side of the pan (I used a super-cheap paring knife that has a really thin blade). Carefully unlatch the clip on the side of the pan and open it slowly to make sure it doesn't stick and tear. If it looks like it might tear, run the knife along that spot again.

7. For the garnish, whip together the 3/4 cup heavy cream and sugar until medium to stiff peaks form. Fill a piping bag fitted with a large star tip (I used a tip 1M) and pipe the whipped cream around the edge of the pie (I made 14 rosettes/swirls to act as cutting guides). Dot the whipped cream with malt balls and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes 14 servings.

Thanks, Tamara, for sharing your delicious creation!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Grow Windowsill Green Onions

OK. I saw this on Pinterest and did not think it would work. But the idea was so intriguing, I had to give it a try. Guess I need to have more faith in what I see on the Internet (hahaha!), because it worked! And it didn't just work, I mean, it worked.

The instructions were to put the left-over white part of your green onions in a cup of water, set it on a sunny windowsill, and watch them grow back. What did I have to lose, right?

So, here they are, when I first put them in the water.

Not even 24 hours later they had started to send out new, fat, healthy-looking roots. Well, now...this looked promising.

Yippee! This picture was about 48 hours later. The green onions are really growing!

This is 10 days after I first put the white parts in the cup of water: These are real, usable green onions!

(If this looks like more green onions that I started with, it's because it is. As I used up the onions I had in my fridge I stuck the white ends in the cup with the rest of them.)

Look at those roots!

So my experiment was a success! I don't know how long they will continue to grow, but I'll keep adding water, snipping the onions to use them, and we'll see how long they keep going!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Tex-Mex Egg & Rice

Pin It

Remember my recent Mexican Rice and Egg & Rice posts? If you combine the two you get this Tex-Mex Egg & Rice, a very tasty, very homey 2-Fer dish (2-Fers use left-overs from one meal to make a different meal). I added black beans, cheese, and my Cilantro-Lime Dressing (that I had in my fridge) to left-over Mexican Rice, cooked it up Egg & Rice-style and was rewarded with a fabulous lunch (or it could be breakfast...or dinner....).

Note: This makes one serving. To make more simply double or triple the recipe.

Tex-Mex Egg & Rice
printable recipe

1 large egg
1 teaspoon milk
pinch salt
1/2 cup cold Mexican Rice
2 tablespoons black beans (from can, drained & rinsed)
1 green onion, sliced
2 tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese
Cilantro-Lime Dressing (for serving)
lime wedges (for serving)

1. Combine the egg, milk, and salt in a small bowl and mix well with a fork. Set aside.

2. Heat an 8-inch non-stick frying pan over medium heat until hot. Spray with non-stick spray. Add the egg mixture and let it cook, without stirring, until the underneath part turns white. Using a heat-safe spatula, stir the eggs just enough to break them up.

3. Add the cold Mexican Rice and stir, coating the rice with the uncooked egg, and cook until the egg is set, about 2 minutes. Add the black beans and green onion, stir to mix well and heat through, and remove from the heat. Stir in the cheese. Drizzle with Cilantro-Lime Dressing, squeeze the lime over the top, and enjoy immediately.

Makes 1 serving.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Basic Irish Soda Bread

I originally posted this in October 2009, and wanted to re-post it in honor of St. Patrick's Day coming up. This soda bread is so easy to make and goes so perfect with Corned Beef and Cabbage :)This bread is super easy to throw together, and it's wonderful dipped in stew, or with eggs at breakfast (or eaten plain...). I first made soda bread last St. Patrick's Day to have with our traditional St. Patties Day corned beef and cabbage. I found an awesome recipe from Diane Duane of, complete with very detailed instructions and how-to videos. My advice is to watch the videos, even if you don't think you need to. My first try at the bread was a flop. Then I went back and watched the videos. "Oh, that's what I did wrong..." Somethings you just need to see. My second try was a complete success, thanks to her well-done video tutorials. Thanks, Diane!

Basic Irish Soda Bread
Printable Recipe

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/3-1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1. Heat your oven to 400, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Combine all of the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Add the buttermilk and whisk it quickly with a fork. (Start with 1 1/3 cup of the buttermilk, and add the rest if it looks like you need it.)

The dough should look like this; "raggy" is what Diane calls it. She says, "You are trying to achieve a dough that is raggy and very soft, but the lumps and rags of it should look dryish and "floury", while still being extremely squishy if you poke them."

4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Gather the dough and knead it a few times, just enough to get it into a ball that holds together (a minute a most). Use a very sharp knife to make criss-crossing cuts in the top; the cuts should go about half-way through. The cuts let the bread "flower" as it cooks.

5. Cook the bread for 35-40 minutes, or until it's nicely browned, and sounds hollow when you tap it on the bottom.

6. To get a softer crust, wrap the hot bread in a clean dish towel while it cools (sometimes I help it along by putting the towel-wrapped bread in a plastic bag).

I absolutely recommend you go and read all of Diane's post about her soda bread (and watch the videos). She has a ton of really great information that will help you get the bread just right.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Simple Sauteed Mushrooms

Pin It
Have you had a chance to take my Bake-Off Flunkie eCookbook survey? If not, I really need your help! Please click HERE to go to the survey. Your responses will be an incredible help! Thanks so much!

I have loved mushrooms for as long as I can remember; even as a kid I looked forward to eating them. These sauteed mushrooms are almost as easy as it gets, and are a healthy, delicious addition to almost anything--chicken, pork, beef. Or you can eat them on their own. I made these yesterday to eat for lunch with my turkey wrap. I used a 10-oz bag of pre-sliced mushrooms which made a generous 1-cupful when finished. I usually don't buy pre-sliced, but they were marked down because they were at their sell-by date--and starting to look their age--and I didn't want them to be thrown out. And I knew they would be perfect sauteed. Depending on how much you like mushrooms and how many people you are serving, this may or may not be enough. If you want more mushrooms, simply double or triple the recipe.

Note: I used crimini mushrooms because they are my favorite, but you could do this with regular button mushrooms, too.

Simple Sauteed Mushrooms
printable recipe

2 teaspoons olive oil
10-oz sliced crimini mushrooms
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2-3 tablespoons dry white wine
2 green onions, thinly sliced
freshly cracked black pepper to taste

Heat an 8-inch non-stick pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and heat for 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms and salt, and cook, stirring often, until almost all the water they release evaporates, 8-10 minutes Add the white wine and cook, stirring often, until it's reduced and almost gone. Add the green onions and black pepper to taste, and cook for one minute.

Makes a generous 1 cup.

These mushrooms are super tasty with some fresh Parmesan cheese.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

High Altitude Yellow Cake w Lemon Buttercream

Pin It
Have you had a chance to take my Bake-Off Flunkie eCookbook survey? If not, I really need your help! Please click HERE to go to the survey. Your responses will be an incredible help! Thanks so much!

Most of you know that I live in Utah at an elevation of about 5,000 feet above sea level. We love living here (the mountains are beautiful) but the high altitude wrecks havoc on baked goods. Since moving here from California in 2007, I have figured out how to get most cookies, brownies, quick breads, and yeast breads to turn out right, but a simple yellow or chocolate cake still eluded me. I wanted cakes that were delicious, rose nicely, that had a moist, tender crumb, and didn't collapse in the middle, either during baking or shortly after coming out of the oven. It became a bit of an obsession. I'm not completely anti-cake mix (though I don't really love them), but I really wanted a good scratch recipe. Here are a couple pages from my recipe test book:

I finally got tired of cake fails that wasted time and ingredients (and my emotional well-being), and last week I ordered "Pie in the Sky" by Susan Purdy. I've known about the book for about a year, and I honestly don't know why it took me so long to buy it (well, I think I really wanted to figure it out by myself). Ms. Purdy is a baking teacher, journalist, book and cookbook author. For "Pie in the Sky" she tested 100 recipes for a variety of baked goods until she had formulas that worked at sea level, 3,000, 5,000, 7,000, and 10,000 feet above sea level. Along the way she learned about the science behind high-altitude baking and shares her knowledge in the book.

"Pie in the Sky" is amazing (if you live above sea level and have trouble baking, this book should definitely be on your cookbook shelf), and it was really nice to have everything I've learned about high-altitude baking validated by someone with Ms. Purdy's expertise. Things like a couple extra tablespoons flour, a few tablespoons less sugar, and buttermilk instead of regular milk really do make a difference.

The morning after the book arrived I made her recipe for a basic yellow cake, formulated for 5,000 feet above sea level. I was so excited and nervous (I know, I need to get out more) and worried that it wouldn't really work. But it did work! Well, OK, I have to qualify this a little: The cake tasted really good, it had a nice yellow color, it didn't sink in the middle, it was moist, and it had a nice, small crumb. But her recipe says to bake it at 375, which is a lot hotter than I bake any thing (other than some cookies, muffins, and biscuits), and the side and bottom crusts were very brown and almost crunchy. I also thought the cake was too dense, almost like a pound cake.

So I tried it again. I re-read everything she explained about how high-altitude effects rising, etc., and changed the eggs from 5 whole eggs to 4 whole eggs and 1 egg yolk, and the baking powder from 2 teaspoons to 2 1/4 teaspoons, and I decreased the oven temperature to 350 and increased the baking time.

Look at that crumb! Totally perfect.

Perfection! It was almost too much to take in, looking at the perfect cake sitting on my counter. My search was over. *sniff* I have to add that when I compared her recipe with the slight changes I made, to the latest version of the yellow cake I was trying to work out, they were really close! I was so close to getting it right, but there were a few things I wasn't doing that would have kept me from ever getting the cake I wanted:

1. I wasn't letting my fridge ingredients (egg, buttermilk, butter) come to room temperature. I hadn't been convinced yet that it mattered. (I'm convinced now.)
2. I wasn't sifting my flour. Pure laziness on my part; I just didn't want to have to.
3. I was melting my butter instead of creaming it with the sugar. I used to cream the two together, but I couldn't see that it made a difference. (I was wrong.)
4. I wasn't adding the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk. Again, laziness. I wanted to add all the dry ingredients at once, and then the buttermilk all at once.

So, there you have it. I have changed my lazy, unbelieving ways, and now have the perfect high altitude (for my 5,000 feet) yellow cake recipe. If you live at a high altitude, you should definitely add Susan Purdy's book, "Pie in the Sky", to your cookbook library, you will be so glad you did. In the meantime, give this recipe a whirl!

**I have listed the flour amount in ounces. High altitude cakes are so temperamental, and it's really hard to measure flour accurately with a measuring cup, so I strongly suggest you use a kitchen scale. If you must use measuring cups, 13 3/4 oz is 3 cups plus 1 tablespoon sifted flour, meaning you sift the flour first and then measure it out. I find it is much easier to weight the flour out and then sift it afterward; easier, and by weighing it I'm sure I've got the right amount of flour. (I don't have a flour sifter, I just use a fine mesh strainer, and tap, tap, tap...)

**Make sure your oven is ready when your batter is ready. Once the buttermilk is mixed with the baking powder the chemical reaction that creates leavening starts, so you want to get the batter in the oven right away.

High Altitude Yellow Cake w Lemon Buttercream (adapted from "Pie in the Sky")
printable recipe

13 3/4 oz all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups, minus 1 tablespoon, sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
1 egg yolk, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons, buttermilk, room temperature
additional flour for dusting pans

1. Heat your oven to 350. Use a folded paper towel to generously grease 2 9-in round pans with vegetable shortening. Add 1 tablespoon all-purpose to each pan and shake it around to coat; tap out the excess. Line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper, if you want (this is a good way to make sure the cake doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. Sometimes I use the parchment paper, sometimes I don't).

2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

3. In a large bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until well blended. Add the eggs and egg yolk (2 or 3 at a time), and vanilla, scraping down the bowl and mixing well after each.

4. Add the flour mixture and buttermilk in 2-3 batches, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix on low and scrape the sides of the bowl after each addition. Mix on medium for 1 minute, until the batter is smooth and creamy, and thickened up a bit.

5. Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans (I use my digital kitchen scale for this, too, so I'm sure my cakes will be the same height.) and spread it evenly. Bake at 350 for 28-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs stuck to it. Cool on racks for 10 minutes before removing from the pans.

6. To remove the cakes from the pans, run a thin knife around the outside of the cakes to makes sure the sides have come completely away from the pans. Put a cooling rack over the pan, invert the cake onto the rack, remove the pan, and peel off the parchment. Invert the cake a 2nd time onto another rack, and let it finish cooling. (I've also used plates, cutting boards or foil-covered carboard cake circles to do this.) Cool the cakes completely before trimming the tops to make them level (if necessary) and frosting.

Makes 2 9-inch round cakes or 1 9x13-inch cake (You can use 2 8-inch round pans, but you have to make sure they are 2-inch deep pans, otherwise you'll have cake batter all over your oven. You will also need to bake the cakes a little longer. Start at 30 minutes and then check every few minutes until the cakes pass the toothpick test.)

Lemon Buttercream Frosting
printable recipe

1 cup butter, room temperature
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 pounds powdered sugar, sifted if from a box
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons heavy cream
Lemon yellow gel or paste food coloring, if desired.

In a large bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and shortening together until well blended. Add the vanilla and mix well. Add half of the powdered sugar and mix on low until well blended; scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the lemon juice and mix on low until well blended; scrape down the sides of the bowl. Repeat with the remaining powdered sugar and the heavy cream. Add a little yellow food coloring to tint the frosting, if you want. Mix a final time on medium-low to medium until the frosting is smooth and creamy, about 1 minute.

Makes about 5 cups frosting.

To assemble the cake: Put one cake layer on a serving platter, cake plate, or foil-covered cardboard cake circle, trimmed-top side up. Spread just under 1/4 of the frosting on top. Place the second cake layer, trimmed-top down, on top of the first layer. Spread just under 1/4 of the frosting on top. Spread the remaining frosting on the sides of the cake. Use a paper towel to clean up any frosting that gets on your cake plate. (I've never had luck with putting strips of waxed paper under the edges of my cake and then frosting it. My frosting always gets messed up when I pull them out. Now I don't bother and just clean up the plate when I'm done.)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...