Monday, January 23, 2012

Roasted Tomato Sauce

I made this roasted tomato sauce for the first time a few weeks ago. I have made tomato sauce from fresh tomatoes before - but I had always just simmered down the tomatoes after peeling and seeding them. This method, however, is so much less work - and has so much more flavor. I don't think I'll be passing up many sales on tomatoes anymore! This sauce combines a few simple ingredients into a wonderful tomato sauce that you can use for pastas, pizzas and dipping.

Roasted Tomato Sauce
tomatoes, cut in half - I used Roma
carrots, quartered
onion, quartered
olive oil
sea salt
Italian seasoning
fresh basil

1. Arrange tomato halves in a baking pan with carrots and onion. I used a quarter onion and one carrot to every 9x13 pan of tomatoes.
2. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and generously sprinkle sea salt and Italian seasoning over tomatoes.
3. Roast at 250 for 4 to 6 hours, until tomatoes are very tender.
4. Let the tomatoes cool for 20-30 minutes after removing from the oven, then place everything in a food processor or blender with a large handful of fresh basil.
5. Pulse to desired consistency.
6. Bring sauce back to heat by warming it over stove, or in a crock pot. I found my sauce needed just a little bit more time to cook - so I kept it in the crock pot on low for about two hours.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The World's Best Cinnamon Roll (and Cream Cheese Frosting)

Cinnabon? Pphft.

The World's Best Cinnamon Roll (and Cream Cheese Frosting)



1 1/4 cups warm milk
4 Tablespoons butter, softened or cut in thin slices
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 - 4 1/2 cups flour
1 Tablespoon dough enhancer (optional - but HIGHLY recommended!)
2 teaspoons yeast

1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

1. Layer ingredients in the order shown in bread maker on dough setting. Or, do it the old-fashion way by hand - Mix milk, butter, sugar, and egg together. Sprinkle yeast on top. Allow it to proof. When yeast is foamy, add in 3 1/2 cups flour, dough enhancer and salt. Knead, using as much flour as needed to bring the dough together, until smooth and elastic - about 15 minutes by hand, 8 minutes in a mixer.
2. Cover and let dough rise about 1 hour, or until doubled.
3. Punch down dough. On a well greased (if dough is on the dry side) or floured (if dough is sticky) counter, roll out into a 12 x 24-inch rectangle.
4. Spread butter evenly over dough.
5. Mix together brown sugar and cinnamon - sprinkle evenly over butter, except for the last few inches on the long side - so that the dough will seal to itself after rolled.
6. Tightly roll the dough, ending with the butter side.
7. Cut the roll into 1 1/2-inch sections and arrange in a pan. I like to put 12 in a 9x13-in pan, and then my ugly ends on a cookie sheet. (You could also freeze the rolls to use later at this point.)
8. Cover and let rise 1 hour, or until almost doubled.
9. Preheat oven to 375. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until dough begins to turn golden.
10. Immediately after taking rolls out of oven, flip upside down to remove from pan. Flipping the rolls will allow all of the juices that sank to the bottom during cooking to coat the roll while it cools. Or until you eat them all. Whichever comes first. :)
11. Serve warm with cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2 package cream cheese - at room temperature
4 Tablespoons butter - at room temperature
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-4 teaspoons milk

1. Cream together cream cheese and butter. Stir in powdered sugar.
2. Add in vanilla extract and 2 teaspoons milk. Beat until light and fluffy. Add more milk to thin, if needed.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Balsamic Mushroom Soup

This is one of my favorite soups. And, the only form of mushroom anything I will eat. I guess I just don't care for the texture of mushrooms, but pureed into this soup - they are wonderful! The ingredients are very simple, too - mushrooms and onions sauteed with thyme in a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar, broth, and a little milk or cream. I like to keep the soup thick with the vegetables themselves, and just use skim milk instead of cream. Occasionally, I'll make it without any milk or cream at all - and just let the flavor of the mushrooms take over. mMMmm.

I haven't tried it - but I am certain that this soup would freeze very well to use in other recipes later. We just never have enough leftovers to try it out with!

Balsamic Mushroom Soup

16 oz mushrooms, sliced (I usually use one 8 oz pre-sliced pack of the regular button mushrooms, and one pack of pre-sliced baby bellas. If I'm fancy - I'll add in a portabello or two, as well.)
1 large onion, sliced
1 Tablespoon dried thyme
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
6-8 cups chicken or vegetable broth or stock
1 cup milk, half-and-half, or cream
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add sliced mushrooms, onions and thyme and saute until vegetables are very tender.

2. Pour balsamic vinegar over vegetables, and saute 2-3 minutes more.
3. Add in enough broth or stock to cover the vegetables. Bring the soup to a boil and let simmer for about 10-15 minutes.
4. Transfer soup into a food processor or blender and puree well. (You may want to reserve a scoop or two of the vegetables to add in later if you like chunky - I prefer to just puree it all.)
5. Pour soup back in pot, and add in milk or cream and salt and pepper to taste. If the soup is too thick, add in a little more broth or milk. Heat soup through, and serve.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Hot Fudge Sundae Cake

This cake is one of my all-time favorites - a rich chocolate cake and warm fudge sauce all-in-one. Perfect over vanilla bean ice cream. The cake is mixed in the pan that it's made in - so less clean up, too! Make sure to read the directions carefully - this is made a little differently than what you might be used to!

Hot Fudge Sundae Cake

1 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 3/4 cups hot water

1. Preheat oven to 375-degrees.
2. In an ungreased 9x9-inch pan or casserole dish, mix together flour, sugar, 2 Tablespoons cocoa, baking powder, salt, milk, oil and vanilla. Spread evenly in pan.
3. Sprinkle brown sugar and cocoa evenly over batter, then pour hot water over entire mixture.
4. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the cake on top is no longer shiny. The cake will be essentially floating over the fudge sauce, so it will wiggle in the pan a little bit - don't over-bake it thinking that it is underdone!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Huevos Rancheros

I don't know how the tradition started - but growing up, every New Year's morning my mom would make Huevos Rancheros for breakfast. Is was something we all looked forward to as a family. Huevos Rancheros is a Mexican dish with beans and tortilla layered with eggs that have been poached in a tomato sauce. It's unique, healthy, and delicious!

Huevos Rancheros

1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons cumin
2 Tablespoons olive oil or butter
4 ounces diced green chili's
16 ounces tomato sauce
16 ounces red enchilada sauce
12 eggs

refried or black beans
cheddar cheese
sour cream
bacon or turkey bacon, diced and cooked
cilantro, chopped

1. Saute onions, garlic and cumin with olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat until soft and translucent.
2. Reduce heat to medium. Add can of green chilies, tomato sauce and enchilada sauce. Bring mixture to a simmer.
3. Crack 3-5 eggs into the sauce, depending on the size of your pan - far enough away from each other that they do not touch.
 4. Cover, and let the eggs poach in the sauce until they are done. Remove the eggs with a large slotted spoon, and keep warm. Stir the sauce well, then repeat with remaining eggs.
5. Layer a warm tortilla with beans, place an egg and sauce on top, then garnish with other toppings.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Honey Wheat Sandwich Bread

This is my favorite recipe for day-to-day sandwich bread. Usually, I'll just stick everything in the bread maker on the dough setting - but there's a little bit of therapy for me in kneading dough, so I prefer to do it by hand when I have the time. Either way you make it, this loaf is perfect for sandwiches or snacking!

Honey Wheat Sandwich Bread

1 1/2 cups warm water
2 Tablespoons honey
3 Tablespoons dough enhancer (optional, but highly recommended!)
2 cups whole-wheat flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons yeast
1 teaspoon salt

1. Mix honey and warm water, sprinkle yeast on top. After the yeast has proofed, and the mixture becomes foamy - add in the rest of the ingredients (using only as much flour as needed to make a smooth dough) and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic (usually about 10-minutes of hand-kneading for me). (Or throw everything in the bread maker.)
2. Cover with damp towel or lightly grease and cover with plastic wrap, and let rise one hour or until doubled.
3. Punch down dough and shape into loaf. Place in loaf pan and cover. Let rise 30-45 minutes, or until doubled.
4. Bake at 350-degrees for 30-35 minutes.

Dough Enhancer

I don't know how I went so long without it, but I recently decided to try out a dough enhancer. When I couldn't find any at the grocery store - I decided made my own using the recipe at Chickens in the Road. I only made one substitution of Ball Fruit Fresh for ascorbic acid/vitamin C crystals, mostly because it was about $16 cheaper.

I really can't believe I have been baking bread for so long without using a dough enhancer. Seriously, it is incredible what just a little bit can do to a simple loaf of bread. Homemade bread is so good, but homemade bread with a little help of an enhancer is even better. It's kind of hard to explain the difference - trust me, just try it out and see for yourself. Your bread will be lighter and have better texture. It will stay fresh longer, and not crumble on the second day. The enhancer will make your loaf taste more like store-bought pre-sliced bread, but much much better - since it is fresh from your own oven.

Dough Enhancer

1 cup wheat gluten
2 tablespoons lecithin granules
1 teaspoon ascorbic acid/vitamin C crystals or 1 teaspoon Fruit Fresh Produce Protector
2 tablespoons powdered pectin
2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk
1 teaspoon powdered ginger

1. Mix all of the ingredients together and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
2. Add 1 Tablespoon for every cup of whole-wheat flour, and 1 teaspoon for every cup of white flour along with the flour in your bread recipe.

This article from the Bread Machine Digest does a great job explaining how different ingredients help to enhance a dough.


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