Category Archives: kitchen

Soft and Chewy Dinner Rolls

The name says it all – soft and chewy dinner rolls.  Potato flakes are the secret ingredient in this recipe, and I do believe they make all the difference.  I’ve made rolls before, but these are easily the most similar store-bought white rolls – in a good way, not an “I’m-eating-paste” way.

These take a couple hours to make, though hands-on time is minimal.  This is a great lazy Saturday recipe.   And bonus – according to Cook’s Country, you can take the rolls out of the oven at about five minutes, or when they are just starting to brown.  When they cool, you can freeze them for up to a month.  To finish the rolls, let the rolls thaw on a prepared baking sheet for an hour, then bake at 400 for 10 minutes.

Soft and Chewy Dinner Rolls

adapted from Cook’s Country April/May 2011
makes 12 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups water, heated to 110 degrees
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup instant potato flakes
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Directions

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position.  Heat oven to 200 degrees and turn it off.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.  Grease a large bowl.
  2. Whisk water, oil, and sugar in large liquid measuring cup until sugar dissolves.  In bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook, mix flour, potato flakes, yeast, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt until combined.  With mixer on low, slowly add water mixture and mix until dough comes together, about 1 minute.  Increase speed to medium and mix until dough is smooth and comes away from sides of bowl, about 6 minutes.
  3. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead briefly to form smooth, cohesive ball.  Transfer dough to prepared container and turn to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in turned-off oven until dough has doubled in side, about 45 minutes.
  4. Gently press down on dough on lightly floured surface.  Divide dough into quarters and cut each quarter into 3 equal pieces.  Form each piece into rough ball by pinching and pulling dough edges under so that top is smooth.  On clean counter, cup each ball with your palm and roll into smooth, tight ball.  Transfer to prepared baking sheet.  Cover loosely with plastic and let rest in turned off oven until doubled in size, about 20 minutes.   (Unbaked, formed rolls can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours).
  5. Remove unbaked rolls from oven and discard plastic.  Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Brush rolls with egg and sprinkle evenly with remaining salt.  Bake until golden brown and 200 degrees in the middle, about 15 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking.  Cool rolls on sheet 10 minutes.  Serve.
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Cheesy Ranch Chex Mix

We’re a traditional Chex Mix type of family.  Until recently, I’ve rarely varied the recipe aside from, say, adding a cup of mixed nuts instead of a cup of peanuts.  Just to spice things up a bit around here, I went wild and tried an entirely new (to us) flavor combo: cheesy ranch.

I’ll say this: not the original.  I’ll also say this: pretty tasty nonetheless.  I don’t think I’ll be exchanging our classic Chex Mix recipe any time soon, but this was fun to try, if nothing else!

Cheesy Ranch Chex Mix

recipe adapted from Chex
makes 26 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 9 cups Corn, Rice, or Wheat Chex (or any combination)
  • 2 cups bite-sized pretzel twists
  • 2 cups bite-sized cheese crackers
  • 1 cup mixed nuts
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 1-ounce package ranch dressing or seasoning mix
Directions
  1.  Heat oven to 250. In ungreased large roasting pan, melt butter in oven.
  2. Add cereal, pretzels, crackers, and nuts; stir to coat.  Add ranch mix and cheese; stir again.
  3. Bake 1 hour, stirring every 5 minutes.   Spread on paper towels to cool, about 15 minutes. Store in airtight container.

Breakfast Casserole for Two

Egg Bake

Egg bakes can be delicious, but they can be overkill for our small family (especially since one of us doesn’t eat solids yet).  Enter Cook’s Country’s Breakfast Casserole for Two.  We’ve made and enjoyed this before, and it’s definitely on the short list for Christmas brunch!

Breakfast Casserole for Two

recipe from April/May 2011 Cook’s Country
makes 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 slices bacon, chopped
  • 2 slices hearty white sandwich bread, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 6 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 scallions, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Directions

  1. Adjust oven rack to upper middle position and heat oven to 475 degrees.  Cook bacon in 8″ nonstick, ovensafe skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 8 minutes.  Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towel-lined plate.  Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from pan.
  2. Add half of bread to skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes.  Transfer to medium bowl and toss with toasted bread.
  3. Whisk cream, eggs, salt, and pepper in another medium bowl until smooth.  Stir in bacon, scallions, and cheddar.  Add egg mixture to now empty skillet and cook over medium heat, using spatula to scrape bottom of pan, until eggs are just beginning to set, about 1 minute.  Fold in bread and lightly pat mixture into even thickness.  Bake until puffed and golden brown, 7 to 9 minutes.  Serve.

Chocolate Oatmeal No Bake Cookie Recipe – and a photography lesson

Yeesh.  We’ve tackled shutter speed, ISO, and now we’re on to aperture.  You think I’d be better at photography by now.  Honestly, I felt better at it after the second day.  Now that we’re on day five, I’m a bit muddled.  I’m hoping it’ll clear up as the lessons continue.

But first… a recipe.  This is a quick and easy, down and dirty recipe for when you’re craving something sweet but don’t want to pull out all the stops.  (How many more cliches can I use in one sentence, by the way?  And why do I always misspell sentence?)  It pulls together in about five minutes.  Next time, I’ll substitute Rice Krispies for the oats.  Because, you know, it’s too healthy as is.

Chocolate Oatmeal No Bake Cookies

recipe adapted from One More Moore

Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

  1. Combine butter, sugar, milk and cocoa in a saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil, and boil for 1 minute.
  2. Stir in remaining ingredients and drop onto wax/foil paper. Let cool until set.

Day 5: Understanding Aperture

Aperture refers to the physical opening of the camera lens.  A larger number means a smaller lens to view through; a smaller number is a wider opening.  Counter-intuitive, but true.  A low number (wide aperture) means a shallow depth of field; that is, one focal point is chosen and the background is blurred. A high  number (small aperture) makes the entire photo crisp and in focus.

I don’t have a fancy camera lens – I can only choose between two apertures for any given shot.  The two photos below show the same ISO and shutter speed, varying only in aperture.  Do I see the difference?  Yes.  Do I understand it yet?  Not quite.  But soon… hopefully… soon.

ISO 80 at 1/10 sec., f/3.5

ISO 80 at 1/10 sec., f/8

Pagache Recipe (and photography day four)

Day Four’s photography assignment centered around ISO.  I can’t say I completely understand it, even after fiddling around with it… but I did get some photos of a delicious pagache!

Pagache is a Polish stuffed pizza.  It’s a layer of bread, then a cheesy potato filling, topped with another layer of bread.  What’s not to love?  It’s a Cook’s Country recipe.  Their bread recipes are the only ones I’ll use any more – every time I try another recipe, it falls flat.  Well, not literally… but it certainly doesn’t compare.  So here’s the recipe… and keep reading if you want to hear my ramblings about the photography as well.  (As you can tell from the photo, I haven’t learned very much yet… but I’m working on it.)

polish pizza

Pagache (Polish Stuffed Pizza)

adapted from Cook’s Country Lost Reciepes
makes 4-5 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup warm water (110 degrees)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 cups all purpose flour (extra quarter cup may be needed)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons rapid rise or instant yeast
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ chunks
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions:

  1. Mix water, oil, and sugar in large measuring cup.  Mix 3 cups flour, yeast, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.  With the mixture on low, add the water mixture.  After the dough comes together, increase hte speed to medium and mix until shiny and smooth, 5 to 7 minutes.  (Add remaining flour as needed if too sticky.)  Turn the dough out onto a heavily floured surface, shape into a ball, and place into a greased bowl.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rest in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1.5 hours.
  2. Cover the potatoes with one inch of water in a large saucepan.  Bring to a simmer over medium high heat; reduce heat to medium and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.  Drain, then mash until smooth.  Stir in cheese and 2 tablespoons butter; season with salt and pepper.
  3. Adjust oven rack to the middle position and preheat to 400 degrees.  Roll the dough into a large rectangle (9 by 18″), with the short side facing you.  Spread the potato filling on the bottom half of the dough and fold the other half of the dough over ht filling.  Pinch the edges to seal and transfer to a 9×9″ baking dish.  Gently press down on the dough until it touches the sides of the dish.  Prick the top of the dough several times with a fork and bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.
  4. Turn the pagache out onto a cooling rack.  Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter and brush over the top.  Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Let cool 10 minutes.  Cut in half, and then into strips.  Serve.
And now… for the photography.

Day 4: Learning ISO

OK, like I said… totally stumped.  I think I’ll need a few more lessons before I understand this one!  I set up an experiment where I set the shutter speed on auto and manually controlled the ISO.  All of the photos looked about the same – but the shutter speed changed as I adjusted the ISO.  From what I can tell… a higher ISO correlates to a faster shutter speed.  And we want a fast shutter speed.  The drawback of a high ISO (according to my lesson anyway… I couldn’t tell the difference) is a grainy picture.

Scrumptious Sunday, Second Edition

On Scrumptious Sunday, I take a look back at my week’s worth of favorite recipes floating around on the internet and choose my favorites to share with you (and hopefully try out for myself in the near future).   Click on the photos for links to recipes.  Hooray for followthrough!

Baked Chicken Fajitas from Real Mom Kitchen

Crockpot Baked Potatoes from Skip to My Lou

Crockpot Hawaiian Chicken from The Mommy Diaries

Baked Ziti Casserole from My Kitchen Addiction

Vanilla Pudding Sauce from Creations by Kara

Hasselback Garlic Cheesy Bread from Lauren's Latest

Broccoli Cheddar Soup from The Curvy Carrot

Cheesy Vegetable Bake – Recipe

This is a simple make-ahead supper, easy to pop in the oven when company’s over.  It’s actually the first meal I prepared after Bean was born.  (That’s right – I went four weeks without doing anything more than reheating.  Don’t judge.)

I made this when my sister-in-law and her daughter stayed for the weekend.   With eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, and onions in the mix, I was nervous that my sixth grade niece would balk.  Perhaps she was just being polite, but she ate it.  (Disclaimer: She did pick around the eggplant and tomatoes.)

Cheesy Vegetable Bake

adapted from Real Simple
makes 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound dry, small-shaped pasta
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1 yellow squash
  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 4 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup pasta sauce
  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) crumbled Feta
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded mozzarella

Directions

  1. In a large pot, cook the pasta according to the package directions. Meanwhile, whisk together the vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and 1 tablespoon of the oil in a small bowl.
  2. Cut the zucchini, squash, eggplant, and onion into bite sized pieces and place on a baking sheet. Brush with the vinaigrette. Heat broiler on high. Broil until tender, 6 minutes per side.  Reduce heat to 350 if baking right away; turn oven off if freezing.
  3. Place the empty pasta pot over low heat. Add the garlic and the remaining oil and cook for 3 minutes.  Add the drained pasta, vegetables, oregano, tomatoes, pasta sauce, Feta, black pepper,  and the remaining salt and toss.
  4. Transfer to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with the mozzarella. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for 20 minutes longer.  Serve immediately.

To freeze: Assemble (but do not bake) the casserole. Cover tightly with two layers of aluminum foil. Store for up to 3 months

To reheat: Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.  Cover and heat in a 350° F oven for 30 minutes. Uncover and heat for 20 minutes longer.