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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Spinach Artichoke Dip

This is a crowd-pleasing appetizer that we've discovered just in the last few months. It's very easy to make, which is a good thing because it will get scarfed up quickly. The recipe is originally from one of those Betty Crocker cook book pamphlets that you pick up on your way through the grocery check out; I used to do a lot of work at General Mills and acquired a large collection of them that way. The original recipe called for a little crab added to the recipe. I forgot about the crab the first time I made it and didn't miss it, so I haven't added it since. The original recipe also called for frozen spinach (a ten-ounce box). I am much more likely to have fresh spinach on hand than frozen, so I just put in a few handfuls of fresh spinach until the colors (spinach vs. artichoke) look balanced.

Spinach Artichoke Dip
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 can (14 ounces) artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped
2-3 cups fresh spinach
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack or Cheddar cheese (I think I usually use a combination of the two)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix mayonnaise and parmesan cheese in a medium bowl. Stir in artichoke hearts and spinach. Stir in most of the remaining cheese, reserving a little bit to sprinkle on top as a garnish.

Spoon into a medium-sized baking dish (about 1 quart). Sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted.

We've tried eating this with a variety of crackers, chips, etc. I think our hands down favorite is some lightly toasted baguette slices.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Jearlene's Brownies

Of all of our many brownie recipes, this is a favorite standard. It's full of chocolatey goodness. We usually frost these, but left them unfrosted in this photo because we were (of course) topping them with vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup. And we do have our limits.

This recipe came to us from my childhood friend, Jearlene.

Jearlene’s Brownies

1 c. butter or margarine
¾ c. cocoa
4 eggs, beaten
2 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla
1 1/3 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
½ t. salt

In large saucepan, melt butter. Remove from heat and stir in cocoa until smooth. Blend in eggs, sugar and vanilla. Stir in dry ingredients; mix well. Bake in greased 13” x 9” pan at 350 degrees for 32 to 35 minutes until done.


¼ c. butter
1 t. vanilla
2-3 c. powdered sugar
5 T. cocoa
¼ c. milk

Blend butter, vanilla, sugar, cocoa and milk until smooth. Spread over hot brownies. Cool and serve.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Yummy Spice Cake

There's nothing like a spice cake for comfort. After looking high and low, and adapting here and there, we've finally settled on this recipe as a favorite. It's rich and moist and just says "home." As an added bonus, it's awfully easy to make. But remember, I never said it was healthy!

Yummy Spice Cake
2 cups flour
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 20-ounce can crushed pineapple
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients, including the pineapple juice, and mix thoroughly. Pour into a greased and floured 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Let cool completely and frost with cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 8-ounce package of cream cheese, softened
1 cube butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar

Combine all ingredients together and beat with a mixer unto smooth and creamy.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

This post is really more of a pitch for a new favorite cookbook than it is a recipe. But I'll include a recipe below.

A few months ago our friends Steve and Laura stopped by late one evening. They brought with them the most stunning loaf of bread. They related how some friends had taught them to make the bread using the book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

Being the frugal and conservative soul that I am, I found the book at the library and tried it out. It was instant love. Our family loves homemade bread, and we have long dreamed of making the kind of bread you find in Italian bakeries. This book proved just the ticket.

I've settled into a couple of favorite recipes, although I'm sure I'll eventually try others. For the most part, this book lives up to its title: you can mix up the bread, let it raise for a couple of hours, and then either bake it immediately or store it in the fridge for use a few days later. Or, since the recipe makes a large quantity even by our family's standards, you can do both. I often make an initial batch on Sunday and then bake the rest later in the week. Here's what the pre-baked product looks like:

And yes, having a pizza peel and a pizza stone really helps.

To be clear, I ordered the book through Amazon not long after it was due at the library. The recipe below is for peasant bread. In the book it's listed as roasted garlic potato bread; I made it with roasted garlic the first time, but wasn't awed by the results. Now I make it without and (gasp!) use instant potatoes. 

 Roasted Garlic Potato Bread
From Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day
By Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois

3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons Kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup mashed potato
6 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I confess that I usually use the pure white stuff)
Cornmeal for the pizza peel

1. Mix the yeast, salt, sugar and mashed potatoes with the water in a 5-quart bowl or a lidded (not airtight) food container.

2. Mix in the flour without kneading, using a spoon or a 14-cup capacity food processor with dough attachment, or a heavy-duty stand mixer (with dough hook). If you're not using a machine, you may need to use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour.

3. Cover (not airtight), and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses or flattens on top, approximately 2 hours.

4. The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate in a lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next 7 days.

5. On baking day, dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit size) piece. Dust the piece with more flour adn quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. Allow to rest and rise on a cornmeal-covered pizza peel for 1 hour (or just 40 minutes if you're using fresh, un-refrigerated dough).

6. Twenty minutes before baking time, pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees with a baking stone placed on the middle rack of the oven. Place a broiler tray for water on any other shelf that won't interfere with the rising bread.

7. Sprinkle the loaf liberally with flour and slash a cross, "scallop," or tic-tac-toe pattern into the top, using a serrated bread knife. Leave the flour in place for baking; tap some of it off before eating.

8. Slide the loaf directly onto the hot stone. Pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler tray, and quickly close the oven door. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until deeply brown and firm. Smaller or larger loaves will require adjustments in baking time.

Allow to cool before slicing or eating.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Chunky Blonde Brownies

We're big brownie fans. Not necessarily because we like our brownies large (although, truth be told, that's probably more right than wrong). But we like brownies of all kinds. When we want to mix things up a little bit we try these blonde brownies as an alternative to classic chocolate brownies.  Even Bob, who claims not to like blonde brownies, likes these.

I think the recipe is originally from Taste of Home. I found it on a now-unknown website and have modified it slightly based on the ingredients we tend to have on hand. I've found that this recipe is especially popular with kids, but everyone likes it with vanilla ice cream on top.

Chunky Blonde Brownies
Makes about 24 brownies, unless you cut them very large

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 - 1 cup chopped walnuts

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugars in a mixing bowl. Add the eggs and vanilla; mix well. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; add to the butter and sugar mixture and blend well.

Stir in the white chocolate chips, semi-sweet chips and the nuts. Spoon into a greased 13 x 9 inch pan and spread evenly over the bottom. Sprinkle with any remaining nuts.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.