Friday, August 31, 2012

Easy Rice

For some, this is an unnecessary recipe.  Plain rice, nothing less, nothing more. Simple.  But for some, getting perfect rice is something that's not that simple.  

I know that I used to mess up rice like I was being paid.  It was either overcooked and mushy or it was uncooked and soupy.  Or worse, it would be burnt and stuck to the bottom of the pot.  Try washing that out by hand. Believe me, you don't want to.

I know some have rice cookers and have great success with them.  I excitedly bought one from Costco a while back, only to discover that I still was having control issues with the results.  So, I leave the rice cooker to steaming veggies and continue to cook my white rice on the stove top.  It comes out perfect every time, so why make it complicated.  Keep it simple, stupid and all of that.

The must-do tricks to have perfect white rice is as follows:

1)  Rinse your rice.  Yes, sounds strange, but unless you want sticky rice, like with making sushi or risotto, you want to rinse the extra starch off of the rice.  It makes for nice separate pieces of rice, for fluffy rice.  Just throw the rice in a fine strainer, rinse with cool water and then throw into the pot.

2) No matter the amount of rice you're making, it's always 1 part rice to 2 parts water/broth.  So, I do rice like my Arabic mother-in-law taught me.... I do one coffee mug of rice to 2 coffee mugs of water.  If you do 1 cup of rice, it's 2 cups of water.  1/2 cup of rice?  1 cup of water.  You get it.

3) Once cooking, DO NOT CHECK.  Don't peek at all.  Doing so will release the steam in the pot and will make for sticky rice.  You will be mad at yourself for doing so when you have ruined rice, so just don't.  Go by the time to know when your rice is done or do what I do, and go by sound.... I know mine is done when I can't hear the water boiling anymore.

For a great, fail-proof brown rice recipe, check here.

White Rice

1 part white rice
2 parts liquid (water or broth)

Place rice and water into a pot.  Set over high heat and heat, uncovered, until water starts to boil.  Once boiling, immediately cover and set to lowest setting.  Cook for 20 minutes.

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Friday, August 24, 2012

Cheesecake Filled Strawberries

Via Google Images

I needed a yummy treat to bring to a friend's brunch.  The thought of combining yummy cheesecake with fresh strawberries seemed like the perfect bite. 

It's crazy how easy these are to make.   You could even mix up a little of the cheesecake and keep it stored in the fridge to serve yourself up a tasty anytime snack.  Serve along side of french toast or waffles for an extra special breakfast. Drizzle with chocolate syrup or dolloped with whipped cream. So many ways to enjoy! 

Recipe from

Cheesecake Filled Strawberries
10 strawberries
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup powdered sugar
4 oz. softened cream cheese or neufchatel cheese (low fat cream cheese works well)

Wash and dry strawberries.  Using a small knife, make an "x" cut 3/4 of way down strawberry.  Make sure not to cut all the way through.

Mix remaining ingredients in bowl.  Pipe into strawberries using a pastry bag or a plastic bag with the tip cut off.

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Easy Homemade Applesauce

Image via Google Images

I can hear some of you now..... why on earth would anyone want to make something that you can easily buy in a jar?  My friend Michelle, in fact, teased me about just that.

There are a lot of reasons, including knowing what goes into the apple sauce, being able to control the amount of sugar and my favorite, awesome taste!  Homemade applesauce blows the jarred stuff out of the water.  And it's crazy easy to make, especially if you have the right tools.  It's a fun cooking activity for your little ones, too.

One tool that makes any apple dish easier is the apple corer.

 It's a simple and cheap tool that especially punches out the core.

Another tool is the apple slicer, which not only cores, but slices.

This works best if you peel first (I've made the mistake of not doing that and then having to peel each slice.  Not fun.

Now, if you want to get super fancy, you'd get yourself an apple peeler.  You could whip through a bag of apples in no time.   Some even core at the same time.

 I just use a good old fashioned paring knife and the peeling is done in no time.

The recipe is a base recipe and can be easily adjusted to taste.  Some like a very sweet applesauce, where others like a more tart one.  Spices are up to your taste, too.  The base recipe calls for cinnamon, but nutmeg and/or apple pie spice mix can easily be used.

The choice of apples is also yours.  Typically, you want a softer, sweeter apple, like  Red Delicious, Gala, Fuji, Winesap, McIntosh or Yellow Delicious.  I like a tarter choice too, like Granny Smith.  It's good to mix types if you can.  This holds the same for apple pies and crisps.   Pick organic apples, when you can, to keep pesticides and other not-so-good things from your tasty creation. 

Use up your applesauce in about 2 weeks.  Mine never ever lasts that long though.  It can be frozen too.

Homemade Applesauce

12 apples, such as Granny Smith or McIntosh
1 1/2 cup water
3/4 cup sugar (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or apple pie spic mix (or to taste)
Peel and slice the apples into small pieces. Put apples in a pot

Add water to pot and bring to a low boil over medium heat, mashing apples as they cook down. Keep the pot covered.

When desired consistency, add sugar and cinnamon. Bring to a boil and then recover and remove from heat. Let cool in the pot and then refrigerate.

Base recipe from Pinch of Yum.

All images via Google Images.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Blueberry Buckle

Image via Google Images

I have a friend, Nancy, who is a bit of a baker.  In her past life, she was a cake decorator and now in her current life, she whips up yummy desserts whenever we have play dates with our kids.   Even her "failures" are eaten up with an intensity that borders on embarrassing.

So, when my friend said she was going to make a blueberry buckle, I was like "Wha? Huh?"  A buckle?  Never heard of one.  Turns out, it's sort of like a coffee cake with a crumble on top.  Not at all sure why it got a name like buckle.  Then again, how did an apple betty get called a betty? Why not Susy or Christine?  If the kids hadn't killed off my brain cells, I'd sit and ponder that for a minute....

I turned to the buckle when I needed to make a quick dessert for a family dinner.  The raves I got convinced me to keep making them.  This weekend alone, I have made 2.  A friend asked if the recipe was on my blog and I realized, sadly, no.  So, here it is!

Base recipe from Alton John at

The measurements might look a bit strange.  The new trend in baking is to weigh your dry ingredients for more accuracy and better results.  Makes sense since baking is a science and your "level cup" might be more than mine.  If you have a food scale, use it (of course, zero out the container you're using).  If not, don't sweat it and just use the measurement.

The main recipe calls for blueberries, but I've used whatever berries I have at the house, even frozen mixed berries.  If you use frozen, make sure you drain the liquid off after they've defrosted.  You can also bake with the berries frozen, but sometimes I feel the cake gets too dry.  The spices can be anything like cinnamon, nutmeg or a combo.  The cake flour is good because it makes a very light cake; use all purpose if you don't have any.

Blueberry Buckle

For the cake: 

Nonstick cooking spray
9 ounces cake flour, approximately 2 cups
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature (4 tablespoons)
5 1/4 ounces sugar, approximately 3/4 cup
1 large egg
1/2 cup whole milk
15 ounces fresh whole blueberries, approximately 3 cups (or berries of your choice)

For the topping:

3 1/2 ounces sugar, approximately 1/2 cup
1 1/2 ounces cake flour, approximately 1/3 cup
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg (or cinnamon or apple pie spice or combo)
2 ounces unsalted butter, chilled and cubed (4 tablespoons)

For the cake:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Spray a 9 by 9-inch glass baking dish with nonstick spray and set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and ground ginger. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, approximately 1 minute. Add the egg and beat until well incorporated, approximately 30 seconds. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and beat on low speed just until incorporated and then add 1/3 of the milk and beat until incorporated. Repeat, alternating flour and milk until everything has combined. Gently stir in the blueberries and pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.

For the topping:

In a small bowl combine the sugar, flour and nutmeg. Add the butter and work into the dry ingredients using a fork to combine. Continue until the mixture has a crumb-like texture. Sprinkle the mixture on top of the cake.

Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 35 minutes or until golden in color. Cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Mini Apple Pie Tarts

My family's love of apple pie is something fierce.  It's amazing if they ever let me make any other pie or baked goods.  I fully blame them for my lack of baking expertise and recipes on this blog.

So, when I saw recipes using wonton wrappers to make quick little tarts, either sweet or savory, I was all over it.  It seemed like a perfect way to satisfy their cravings for apple goodness without having deal with crusts and all of that.

This recipe turned out quite nicely and made for a nice presentation for my in-laws.  The only changes I'd make is I would for sure add a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar to the wrappers before baking.

I will for sure be using the wontons for other little tarts.... savory especially.  I'm thinking something like leeks and cheese might be a good start.

Mini Apple Pie Tarts
Makes 16

1/2 cup of water
1/4 cup sugar (or less, if you don't like your pie filling super sweet)
1/2 tsp cinnamon or apple pie spice
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp flour
pinch of salt
4 small apples diced – about 2 cups
16 wonton wrappers

Preheat the oven to 375

In a small pot whisk the water, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and flour over medium hear. Add the apple. Stir to coat everything. The liquid should just boil and start to thicken.

Drop the heat down to medium low and cover. Cook for 12-15 minutes until the apple just softens.

Meanwhile, spray a mini muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray press the wonton wrappers in to form the crusts.  If you like your crusts sweet, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. 

Scoop the apple mixture evenly into the wontons. Bake for about 10 minutes until the edges start to brown and get crispy.

Base recipe from