I admit it, I took the easy way out this time. As much as I love soups and really wanted to go all out, I’m preparing to travel to California to serve 40-50 people on Sunday (family, including a group from Canada who I can’t wait to see) and then …
This month’s challenge was to make noodles, with a suggestion for Spätzle. A long (long) time ago I lived in Germany for several years and became very fond of them but although I’ve made lots of other types of noodles, for some reason just never tried these. I know my choice of meatballs in cream sauce really isn’t traditional with them, there was the usual time crunch and I had some ready made meatballs on hand that could be made quickly. Thanks for the great idea and I will be making these more often (and with more traditional meals – maybe schnitzel) now that I know how quick and easy they are!
Steph from Stephfood was our Daring Cooks’ July hostess. Steph challenged us to make homemade noodles without the help of a motorized pasta machine. She provided us with recipes for Spätzle and Fresh Egg Pasta as well as a few delicious sauces to pair our noodles with!
I followed the recipe given by Steph for the Spätzle but instead of the sauce she provides, I made the weekday meal version – prefab meatballs with a simple cream sauce to serve with them.
Meatballs and Cream Sauce
1 lb fully cooked meatballs (purchased or your favorite recipe)
1 medium onion finely chopped
2 TBS butter
2 TBS flour
1 TBS Better than Bullion (or 1 teaspoon bullion granules)
2 cups milk or half and half
Heat and brown the meatballs in a large skillet adding a little oil if needed, then remove and set aside. Add the onion to the skillet and brown well (add a little more oil if there is not enough fat from the meatballs).
Add the butter and stir in the flour and cook until it is lightly browned.
Stir in the Better than Boullion or bouillon granules then add the milk or half and half. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Return the meatballs to skillet and heat through, about 1 minute.
While I was visiting the LA Times test kitchen, Noelle Carter was gracious enough to share a great trick with me. Instead of whipping cream with a whisk or mixer, try doing it in the food processor. The cream has less air and is more substantial so it holds better and tastes amazing, a little more buttery. I couldn’t wait to get home and try it out and since I had collected quite a few fruits from my sister-in-law’s trees and the Santa Monica farmer’s market, I decided to make a citrus cream parfait. I used the lime cream recipe (Printable Lime Cream Recipe) substituting a mixture of lemons, limes, grapefruits and oranges to make a double batch. Use whatever citrus fruits you have, as long as it equals the right amount of juice. I zested all the fruits because I like things tart, but you can do only some if you prefer a slightly sweeter recipe.
Once the citrus cream was ready, I made the whipped cream by adding 2 cups of heavy whipping cream, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla to the food processor and processing for a brief (1-2 minutes) time until it was smooth and thick.
Gently fold 1/2 of the whipped cream with 1/2 of the citrus cream. In dessert cups or nice glasses, add a layer of the citrus cream, a layer of the cream mixture and a layer of whipped cream, then repeat if you are using large glasses. You could also do it in a single large glass bowl like a trifle. That’s it!
A double batch of the citrus cream and 2 cups of whipped cream makes 4-8 servings depending on the size of your glasses.
The citrus cream is great for desserts or put it in a jar for gifts. You can use it to make pies, filled cookies, tarts and almost anything you would use lemon curd for, even just on toast or muffins so while I was at it, I also made a double batch of the lime. I put it in a pre-baked pie shell and sprinkled with some toasted coconut for another quick dessert.
Sometimes you just have to go with the classics – a great banana muffin recipe perfect for those last few (too) ripe bananas. This recipe is basic, moist and quick. I made a double batch because I had lots of ready bananas – one batch was regular muffins with no topping and one was minis with the brown sugar/cinnamon topping.
Printable Recipe for Banana Muffins
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 bananas, mashed
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar (split in half)
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon plus one teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup walnuts or pecans (optional)
- 2 tablespoons butter melted
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray muffin tin (24 minis or 12 regular size) with vegetable spray or line with papers.
- Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and 1 tablespoon cinnamon in a bowl. In a mixing bowl, mix bananas, sugar, ¼ cup brown sugar, egg and vegetable oil. Add the dry ingredients and nuts if used just until moistened. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups – an ice cream scoop works great.
- In a small bowl, mix together the remaining ¼ cup brown sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.
- Bake in preheated oven for 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.
- While still warm in the pan, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with brown sugar/cinnamon mixture, then set aside to cool.
This month’s Daring Baker’s Challenge was one I was looking forward to but unfortunately, due to an unexpected but exciting event (my sliders were chosen as one of the top 5 in the LA Times Battle of the Burgers so I was invited for photos and a visit to the test kitchen in Los Angeles) I was only able to do it at the last-minute and wasn’t able to put in the effort I would have liked. Then, rushing and suffering from a clear lack of concentration, I stopped to make dinner and set the dough aside without flouring it enough and it promptly stuck back together after being so nicely made.
In the late 1970’s, I was privileged to know Baba, an 80 something woman from Yugoslavia who was an amazing cook and who was gracious enough to teach me some of her recipes, even giving me an ethnic recipe book her church put out that I still use. She took a lump of dough and using only her fingers, made it into a piece the size of a tablecloth, perfect with no holes or thick spots and so thin you could easily see through it. I have tried a couple of times, but really didn’t have the patience to perfect it (and of course it was much easier to just buy it) so I haven’t done it in years. Since I was too tired to remake the dough after dinner, I separated it as best I could and in the end it was edible, but not spectacular. The dough recipe is wonderful and easy to work with, stretching nicely without breaking and I was so proud of how it turned out . . . before dinner! I will definitely make this one again.
Erica of Erica’s Edibles was our host for the Daring Baker’s June challenge. Erica challenged us to be truly DARING by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that homemade dough to make Baklava.
Here is the recipe, just as given by Erica who did such a wonderful job (the only change I made was to use pizza flour as suggested by Audax)!
*Note 1: To have enough to fill my 9” x 9” baking dish with 18 layers of phyllo I doubled this recipe.
*Note 2: Single recipe will fill a 8” x 5” baking dish.
*Note 3: Dough can be made a head of time and froze. Just remove from freezer and allow to thaw
and continue making your baklava
1 1/3 cups (320 ml) (185 gm/6½ oz) unbleached all purpose (plain) flour
1/8 teaspoon (2/3 ml) (¾ gm) salt
1/2 cup less 1 tablespoon (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) cider vinegar, (could substitute white wine vinegar or red wine vinegar, but could affect the taste)
1. In the bowl of your stand mixer combine flour and salt
2. Mix with paddle attachment
3. Combine water, oil and vinegar in a small bowl.
4. Add water & oil mixture with mixer on low speed, mix until you get a soft dough, if it appears dry add a little more water (I had to add a tablespoon more)
5. Change to the dough hook and let knead approximately 10 minutes. You will end up with beautiful smooth dough. If you are kneading by hand, knead approx. 20 minutes.
6. Remove the dough from mixer and continue to knead for 2 more minutes. Pick up the dough and through it down hard on the counter a few times during the kneading process.
7. Shape the dough into a ball and lightly cover with oil
8. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let rest 30-90 minutes, longer is best ( I let mine rest 2 hours and it was perfect)
Rolling your Phyllo
** Remove all rings and jewelry so it does not snag the dough**
Use whatever means you have to get the dough as thin as you can. I have included a fantastic video at the end of the post on how to roll out your phyllo dough, using a wooden dowel, which worked perfectly for me. You may also use a pasta machine if you have one, or a normal rolling pin whatever works for you.
1. Unwrap your dough and cut off a chunk slightly larger then a golf ball. While you are rolling be sure to keep the other dough covered so it doesn’t dry out.
2. Be sure to flour your hands, rolling pin and counter. As you roll you will need to keep adding, don’t worry, you can’t over-flour.
3. Roll out the dough a bit to flatten it out.
4. Wrap the dough around your rolling pin/dowel
5. Roll back and forth quickly with the dough remaining on the dowel (see attached video for a visual, its much easier then it sounds)
6. Remove; notice how much bigger it is!
7. Rotate and repeat until it is as thin as you can it. Don’t worry if you get rips in the dough, as long as you have one perfect one for the top you will never notice.
8. When you get it as thin as you can with the rolling pin, carefully pick it up with well floured hands and stretch it on the backs of your hands as you would a pizza dough, just helps make it that much thinner. Roll out your dough until it is transparent. NOTE: you will not get it as thin as the frozen phyllo dough you purchase at the store, it is made by machine
9. Set aside on a well-floured surface. Repeat the process until your dough is used up. Between each sheet again flower well. You will not need to cover your dough with a wet cloth, as you do with boxed dough, it is moist enough that it will not try out.
Adapted from Alton Brown, The Food Network
For the syrup:
· 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) honey
· 1 1/4 cups (300ml) water
· 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) (280 gm/10 oz) sugar
· 1 cinnamon stick
· 1 (2-inch/50 mm) piece fresh citrus peel (lemon or orange work best)
· a few cloves or a pinch or ground clove
When you put your baklava in the oven start making your syrup. When you combine the two, one of them needs to be hot, I find it better when the baklava is hot and the syrup has cooled
1. Combine all ingredients in a medium pot over medium high heat. Stir occasionally until sugar has dissolved
2. Boil for 10 minutes, stir occasionally.
3. Once boiled for 10 minutes remove from heat and strain cinnamon stick and lemon, allow to cool as baklava cooks
Ingredients for the Filling:
1 (5-inch/125 mm piece) cinnamon stick, broken into 2 to 3 pieces or 2 teaspoons (10 ml) (8 gm) ground cinnamon
15 to 20 whole allspice berries ( I just used a few pinches)
3/4 cup (180 ml) (170 gm/6 oz) blanched almonds
3/4 cup (180 ml) (155 gm/5½ oz) raw or roasted walnuts
3/4 cup (180 ml) (140 gm/5 oz) raw or roasted pistachios
2/3 cup (160 ml) (150 gm/ 5 1/3 oz) sugar
phyllo dough (see recipe above)
1 cup (2 sticks) (240 ml) (225g/8 oz) melted butter ** I did not need this much, less then half**
1. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4.
2. Combine nuts, sugar and spices in a food processor and pulse on high until finely chopped. If you do not have a food processor chop with a sharp knife as fine as you can. Set aside
3. Trim your phyllo sheets to fit in your pan
4. Brush bottom of pan with butter and place first phyllo sheet
5. Brush the first phyllo sheet with butter and repeat approximately 5 times ending with butter. (Most recipes say more, but homemade phyllo is thicker so it’s not needed)
6. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top
7. Continue layering phyllo and buttering repeating 4 times
8. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top
9. Continue layering phyllo and buttering repeating 4 times
10. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top
11. Continue layering and buttering phyllo 5 more times. On the top layer, make sure you have a piece of phyllo with no holes if possible, just looks better.
12. Once you have applied the top layer tuck in all the edges to give a nice appearance.
13. With a Sharp knife cut your baklava in desired shapes and number of pieces. If you can’t cut all the ways through don’t worry you will cut again later. A 9×9 pan cuts nicely into 30 pieces. Then brush with a generous layer of butter making sure to cover every area and edge
14. Bake for approximately 30 minutes; remove from oven and cut again this time all the way through. Continue baking for another 30 minutes. (Oven temperatures will vary, you are looking for the top to be a golden brown, take close watch yours may need more or less time in the oven)
15. When baklava is cooked remove from oven and pour the cooled (will still be warmish) syrup evenly over the top, taking care to cover all surfaces when pouring. It looks like it is a lot but over night the syrup will soak into the baklava creating a beautifully sweet and wonderfully textured baklava!
Next morning all syrup is absorbed
16. Allow to cool to room temperature. Once cooled cover and store at room temperature. Allow the baklava to sit overnight to absorb the syrup.
17. Serve at room temperature
Freezing/Storage Instructions/Tips: There are a few ways to store your Baklava. It is recommended that you store your baklava at room temperature in an airtight container. Stored at room temperature your baklava will last for up to 2 weeks. You will notice as the days pass it will get a little juicier and chewier. You may choose to store it in the fridge; this will make it a little harder and chewy, but does increase the shelf life. You can also freeze your baklava and then just set it out at room temperature to thaw.
Additional Information: I have included some videos and links to help you through the process
How to roll the phyllo dough –
Excellent 3 part video showing the whole process –
Making Hollow Baklava Rolls- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FvM8cWzjKI
Making Baklava Rolls – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H51egHWv0sQ
Nut Free Baklava –
Gluten Free Baklava
As we have already established, I’m a picky eater. I generally don’t do salads of any kind mostly because I don’t like condiments – no ketchup, no mustard, no dressing (or anything with vinegar in it), absolutely no mayonnaise and healthy is clearly not my strength so coming up with a healthy potato salad recipe was a big challenge for me. I’m not a big yogurt fan either, but some of the flavored ones are ok so I went with that. The best part though is that I do love potatoes in pretty much any form so I had something to work with! This was inspired by the sweet potato casserole that usually goes with Thanksgiving dinner. Thanks to Jami for a great challenge.
Jami Sorrento was our June Daring Cooks hostess and she chose to challenge us to celebrate the humble spud by making a delicious and healthy potato salad. The Daring Cooks Potato Salad Challenge was sponsored by the nice people at the United States Potato Board, who awarded prizes to the top 3 most creative and healthy potato salads. A medium-size (5.3 ounce) potato has 110 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, no sodium and includes nearly half your daily value of vitamin C and has more potassium than a banana!
Ingredients for 4 side or 2 main course salads:
2 large sweet potatoes cubed into 1 inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon bacon or regular salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
6 pineapple rings
1 1/2 cup pecans toasted
1 cup coconut (1/2 toasted)
1 6 oz orange yogurt cup
1 11 oz can mandarin oranges
4 large fresh lettuce leaves
1/4 cup dried cherries
1 tablespoon marshmallow cream
Place the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet.
Drizzle with olive oil
Sprinkle with cinnamon and bacon salt
Mix to coat.
On a second baking sheet place the pecans, 1/2 of the coconut and the pineapple cut into half circles and sprinkle the pineapple and pecans with brown sugar, cinnamon and bacon (or regular) salt.
Roast both pans in 400 degree oven for approx 10 minutes until the coconut and pecans are toasted – watch carefully they will go from brown to burned quickly. Remove them from the pan and continue to roast the sweet potatoes and pineapple for a total of 30-45 minutes until tender and lightly browned. Remove from the oven and cool.
Drain the mandarin oranges, reserving the liquid. Mix enough of the liquid with the orange yogurt to thin it to a pouring consistency.
Reserve 2 pineapple 1/2 slices and cut the remaining into bite sized pieces. Mix the sweet potatoes, pecans (reserving a few for garnish), toasted coconut and bite sized pineapple pieces together in a mixing bowl with the dressing.
On the serving plate lay down the lettuce, add the potato mixture, surround with the reserved pineapple half slices and the mandarin oranges, sprinkle with the untoasted coconut, reserved pecans and dried cherries.
Top with a dollop of marshmallow cream.
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