Friday, December 9, 2011

It's a Marshmallow World in the Winter

Inspired by this pin over on pinterest:

I did this: 

These little creatures are some of the most brilliant things. EVER. Now I just have to figure out where to hide them until the Christmas party tomorrow night! All my men folk will i.n.h.a.l.e. these if they get wind of them.

P.S. Making homemade marshmallows? Ridiculously easy. Like comical. And as always, way better than the stuff you buy in a bag.

P.P.S. Sara - this is SO not a GAPS compliant recipe. ;)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Hearty Chicken Stew with Pumpkin and Wild Rice

So I was over at Pinterest this morning and  came across a recipe for this:

It's official title is "Hearty Chicken Stew with Butternut Squash & Quinoa."

I didn't have any butternut, but I had some pie pumpkins. I didn't have any quinoa but I had some wild rice. And I didn't put any olives in it because...well, because my family just wouldn't eat kalamata olives. I would eat them, no problem, but the rest of the crew? Not so much.

Here's my version of the stew:

And the family gobbled it up, baby girl included.

Have I mentioned how much I love Pinterest?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Halloween Candy Cake

Inspired by this:

I made these:

I made five of them for the cake walk at our church Trunk-or-Treat party last night. They look deceptively difficult but are in fact, a breeze.

I used two 6" cake rounds stacked on top of each other (you can get the pans at your local WalMart) and 14 fun-size Kit-Kats for each cake. I iced the layers with my favorite chocolate icing and then just stuck the candy bars on the sides and candy corn on top.  (If you try this, I would recommend sticking the Kit-Kats in the freezer before handling. It made them much easier to unwrap and put on the cake without getting fingerprints all over them.)

With very little work, I had some totally awesome small cakes for the cake walk.

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Gingerbread House Cookie Dough

It only took me 10 months to get this recipe up, but here it is, just in time for the Halloween Gingerbread house making fun. This stuff will make walls so sturdy you can drill right through them without fear of breaking them. 

I forgot to cut a notch for lights, so we just drilled, baby, drilled!

  • 1-1/2 cups whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2-1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons baking soda
  • 1 Tablespoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1-1/3 cups light or dark molasses
  • 9 cups all-purpose flour


Line 12 x 15-inch rimless baking sheets with parchment paper. (I just cook it on the back side of a jelly roll pan because (a) I am cheap and (b) I am thrifty. See pictures below.)

In a small bowl, whip cream and vanilla until it holds soft peaks. Set aside.

Homemade vanilla. Yum.

In a large bowl, whisk together brown sugar, baking soda, ginger, and cinnamon.

Beat in the molasses and whipped cream mixture until well-combined.

With mixer running, gradually add flour, beating until completely mixed.

(I use an old-school Bosch. It handles this recipe with no trouble at all.)

Lightly flour a pastry board or mat. Roll out a portion of the dough until flat, but not so thin that you cannot pick it up without it tearing. Drape it over the rolling pin and move to the prepared baking sheet.

Continue rolling the dough to an even thickness on the baking sheet. This is easily achieved by placing two equally thick wooden strips on either side of the baking sheet to support the rolling pin. An even thickness is important. Lower areas will bake darker in color and be more brittle. You will need about 2 cups of dough for each 1/8-inch thickness, about 4 cups for each 1/4-inch slab, and about 6 cups for each 3/8-inch slab.

Bake two sheets of dough at a time.

After 20-30 minutes (depending on thickness of slab), position your gingerbread house pattern cut-outs as close together as possible on the sheet of cookies. Cut around the pattern with a sharp knife, remove the pattern, and separate the scrap pieces (may be baked later to eat. Mely's note: We just eat 'em while they are warm and soft!!!! A big glass of milk and you could almost consider it a meal. Almost.)

Return house pieces to the oven, swapping their rack positions, and continue to bake.

Bake until fairly firm in the center. The temperature and time will vary with the thickness of the slab. For 1/8-thick slabs, bake in preheated 300 F. oven for about 1 hour; for 1/4-inch slabs, bake at 275 F. about 1-3/4 hours; and for 3/8-inch slabs, bake at 275 F. about 2-1/4 hours.

While the pieces are baking, any remaining dough may be rolled out for cookies or additional decorative gingerbread house pieces.

The darker color of these was because they were made with blackstrap molasses.
When pieces are finished baking, loosen gently with a flat spatula and let them cool on the sheet another 5 to 10 minutes before moving to a rack to cool completely.

At this point, you may wrap the gingerbread house pieces airtight in plastic wrap and store up to one month. Or proceed to assemble and decorate your house or cookies using icing cement (below).

Yield: about 9 cups dough, or 4-1/2 slabs 1/8 inch thick, 2-1/2 slabs 1/4 inch thick, or 1-1/2 slabs 3/8 inch thick. Each full slab is 10 by 15 inches.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Challah (Egg Bread)

Have you ever longed to make the perfect bread pudding but it always left you feeling a little bit...meh? Well, look no further because challah is here to rescue you from bread pudding purgatory! Sometimes I make it just so I can have "leftovers" to make bread pudding out of.

In all seriousness, this is one of the most lovely breads you can ever learn to make. Traditionally served on the Jewish Sabbath and other holidays, it will become a favorite in your kitchen and a workhorse in the menu. While it is sublime eaten fresh and warm, it makes incredible french toast and bread pudding. You can use the dough to make cinnamon rolls or caramel apple buns. If you can dream it up using an enriched dough, this is the recipe for you! The honey rounds out the richness of the bread and sends the flavor profile through the roof. And there are few things closer to heaven than the smell of fresh baked challah wafting from your oven. 

Have fun and happy baking!



Traditional Challah

Time: about 1 hour, plus 2 1/2 hours rising
Yield: 2 loaves

  • 1 ¾ c. warm water
  • 1 1/2 packages active dry yeast (1 1/2 Tbsp)
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup oil, plus more for greasing the bowl (I used coconut - olive or vegetable is fine, too)
  • 4 large eggs + 1 more for egg wash
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 8 to 8 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup raisins per challah, if using, plumped in hot water and drained
  • Poppy or sesame seeds for sprinkling

1.  In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in 1 3/4 cups lukewarm water.  

2.  Whisk oil into yeast, then beat in 4 eggs, one at a time, with honey and salt. Gradually add flour. When dough starts pulling away from the sides of the bowl, it is ready for kneading. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8-10 minutes by hand.  
(Smitten Kitchen says: "You can also use a mixer with a dough hook for both mixing and kneading, but be careful if using a standard size KitchenAid–it’s a bit much for it, though it can be done." Melynda here: I have a Bosch mixer and it can handle a double batch – 4 loaves – with no problem.)

3. Place dough in a well greased bowl, turning once to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until almost doubled in size. Dough may also rise in an oven that has been warmed to 150 degrees then turned off. Punch down dough, cover and let rise again in a warm place for another half-hour. (Melynda here: I do the second rising in the refrigerator because it makes the dough easier to handle when making the strands.) 

While the dough is rising, go watch this video: 

Pretty cool, eh? Trust me, you will get the hang of it and when you do, you will feel so accomplished!!!  

4. After the second rising, you can knead the raisins into the challah, if you’re using them, before forming the loaves.

5. To make a 6-braid challah, either straight or circular, take half the dough and form it into 6 balls, approximately 150 gms each.

6. With your hands, roll each ball into a strand about 12 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. 

7. Place the 6 strands in a row, parallel to one another. Starting with the strand on the far right, pinch the tops of the strands together. (Note: The key to following then braiding by numbers is to remember to FORGET THE OLD POSITION NUMBER OF THE STRAND.  Just remember there are six POSITIONS from left to right 1-2-3-4-5-6.)

8. Next, establish the base of the braid:
o   Move the far RIGHT strand all the way over to the right. (6 --> 1)
o   Move the 2nd strand on LEFT to the far RIGHT (2-->6)
o   Separate the middle four strands (2.3.4. & 5) into two sections (2 ,3  and 4, 5)
o   Move the outside LEFT strand over two strands (1-->3)

9. After base is established, repeat the following pattern:

o   Move second strand on the RIGHT to the far left (5-->1)
o   Move the far right strand over to two strand (6-->3)
o   Move the second strand on the LEFT over to the far right (2-->6)
o   Move the outside LEFT strand over two strands (1-->3)

The braiding pattern by numbers is this:
  • Establish base
    • Move strand in position 6-->1
    • Move strand in position 2-->6
    • Split the four in the middle
    •  Move strand in position 1 -->3
  •  Repeat this pattern until strands are braided 
    • Move strand in position 5-->1
    • Move strand in position 6-->3
    • Move strand in position 2-->6
    • Move strand in position 1-->3

10. For a straight loaf, tuck ends underneath. For a circular loaf, twist into a circle, pinching ends together. 

11. Make a second loaf the same way. Place braided loaves on a greased cookie sheet with at least 2 inches in between. 

12. Beat remaining egg and brush it on loaves. Either freeze breads or let rise another hour.

13. If baking immediately, preheat oven to 375 degrees and brush loaves again. Sprinkle bread   with seeds, if using. If freezing, remove from freezer 5 hours before baking.

14. Bake in middle of oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden. (If you have an instant read thermometer, you can take it out when it hits an internal temperature of 190 degrees.) Cool loaves on  a rack.


Friday, June 17, 2011


My behind has grown too big to be blogging about food.

For now. Just give me a few months of focusing on getting some of this pregnancy/nursing poundage off and then I will be back! I have big plans for this place, baby, big plans.

Well, I don't know how big they are but they should be fun. I am going to start posting recipes from some of the vintage cookbooks I have collected. It should be tons of fun, but first I need to loose about 39 pounds. Wish me luck!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Cream of Mushroom Soup

 Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • 2 10-oz bags of frozen mixed mushrooms from Woodstock Farms 
  • 6 cups homemade chicken stock
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 c. finely diced yellow onion
  • 1/4 lb. good butter 
  • 1 tsp. minced thyme leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. minced tarragon
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1 c. cream
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 1/2 c. minced fresh flat leaf parsley


Thaw mushrooms, making sure to reserve any liquids. When completely thawed, squeeze remaining liquid from mushrooms & combine the liquids with the homemade chicken stock in a medium pot. Add two cloves of crushed garlic, sprig of thyme, and some freshly ground black pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and then simmer for about 30 minutes. Strain the liquid - you should have about 5 cups of stock.

Meanwhile, in another pot, heat the butter and the finely diced yellow onion. Cook over low heat for 15-20 minutes until the onion begins to brown.  While onion is cooking, dice thawed mushrooms.  When onions are just starting to brown, add mushrooms into the pot and cook for another 10 or so minutes until they begin to brown. Add minced herbs & 1/4 c. thickening agent of your choice (flour, cornstarch, arrowroot). Stir well and continue to cook for about 1 minute. Add stock, salt, and pepper then bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until it thickens (flour takes longer than cornstarch but remember cornstarch starts to break down after about 10 minutes!!!). Add the cream, milk, and parsley. Adjust seasonings.  Heat through but do not boil. Serve hot.

Note: To make a cream of mushroom soup that can be used as a substitute in for the condensed canned stuff, just follow the same directions but simmer the stock until it has been reduced to about 3 cups.  Once you add the cream, just ladle it into jars and refrigerate it for later use in recipes. It has more mushrooms than that canned stuff but is waaaaaaaaaaay better tasting and far more nutritionally sound, especially if you are making it with dairy from grass fed cows, homemade chicken stock from free range chickens, and organic mushrooms. You can also omit the parsley if you want.