Monday, March 26, 2012

Nancy's Tea Biscuits

Here's a little taste of home-baked goodness from my dear friend, Nancy. They're quick and simple, so you can whip up a fresh batch and have them out of the oven in no time. They're light and flaky and cozy and comforting and delicious and yummy and perfect! Serve them warm, just out of the oven, with a little spoonful of Fresh Orange Marmalade or Strawberry Jam. They're just the thing for a Sunday brunch or a midweek afternoon tea. Love 'em! Thanx Nance!

Hi Joe,
 Just remembered you had asked for my tea biscuit recipe a while back and I don't think I every sent it over to you. Hope you like these as much as we do. I make them almost every week now. Tom and the boys love them!
 I found three different recipes online and took parts from each that I liked. It turned out to be my own recipe. I cut way back on the salt suggested. I added just a little sugar. One recipe said no sugar and another recipe said half a cup. I decided on 1 tablespoon and it is just the right sweetness, especially since I added the raisins and the recipes I looked at did not have raisins in them. The thing I like best about them is that they turn out very flaky and light. Sometimes biscuits are too heavy, but you can eat two of these and you don't feel like you over did it. I also use fat free milk to save some calories. Let me know what you think when you try them.

2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking power
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup butter (one stick)
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup raisins (soak in water for about 15 minutes to rehydrate)
One egg beaten with one tablespoon of water for egg wash

Preheat over to 400 degrees. Grease a baking sheet.
Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Cut butter in until mixture has a fine crumb texture. Stir in milk with a fork to make a soft dough. Drain the raisins from the water and add raisins into dough. Knead 8 to 10 times, and then roll out to a thickness of ½ inch. Cut into rounds with a cookie or biscuit cutter (I used a small juice glass). Place on cookie sheet, and allow to rest for a few minutes. Brush tops with egg wash. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes (until light golden brown on top). Serve warm.

Tips from Joey:
To cut the butter into the dry ingredients, I just threw everything into a food processor and pulsed it a few times until it resembled coarse crumbs. Super fast!
Instead of greasing the baking sheet, just line it with parchment paper, or use a silpat (nonstick mat).
If you like a sweeter biscuit, go ahead and add another tbs of sugar, but they seriously don't need it, especially if you're serving them with jam.
For a little variation, try using Craisins (dried cranberries) or other dried fruit instead of the raisins.
For a little hint of sunshine, you could even add a little grated orange or lemon zest to the dough before you roll them out. Delish!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Penne Pasta with Sausage and Sun-dried Tomatoes

I was recently browsing my website, looking for something that I could just throw together for dinner for Jerry and me. We knew we wanted something pasta, but couldn't decide which dish to make. We had it narrowed down to two. I was either going to make the Penne Pasta with Fresh and Sun-dried Tomatoes, or the Bow Ties with Sausage, Peppers, and Onions. So, since we couldn't choose one, I decided to do both! I took a little bit from each recipe and made a whole new dish! Clever, huh? It was FABULOUS!!!
 To be honest, I wasn't even going post the recipe because, in my mind, it was something that I "just threw together". But Jerry convinced me to post it because it was SO yummy! It was really simple too! So, there you have it. Here's one more dish to add to your "just throw it together" repertoire. I know you'll love it!!

1 lb penne pasta
a few glugs of olive oil
1 lb sweet Italian sausage, sliced into medallions
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
5 or 6 fresh plum tomatoes, diced
a few big splashes of white wine
1 small jar sun dried tomatoes in oil, cut into strips
a handful of chopped fresh basil
a handful of grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

 Place a large sauce pan over medium heat. Once or twice around the pan with olive oil and then add the sausage medallions. Brown them on both sides. Remove from pan and set it aside, but don't drain the pan. Add the onions to the pan and saute until they begin to soften. Add garlic, diced fresh tomatoes, and wine. Simmer until the tomatoes begin to break down. Add sausage back to the pan. Give it a good stir. Add the sun dried tomatoes, basil, cheese, and salt and pepper.
Place pasta in a large pot of generously salted boiling water. Boil until al dente. Drain and toss with sausage and tomatoes. Top with more cheese and a little more fresh basil.

When you brown the sausage, just put them in the pan and leave them alone. Don't be stirring them around and flipping the pan all over the place. You want to just leave them alone until they get nice and brown on the bottom, and then turn them over to do the same thing on the other side. It'll give MUCH better flavor. seriously!
The fresh basil is key. It REALLY gives the whole dish a big burst of freshness. If you simply MUST use dried basil, then add some chopped fresh parsley. 
Use any favorite pasta instead of the penne. How about bow ties?
If spicy is your thing, then use hot Italian sausage (or a combination of hot and sweet). You could also add a pinch or two of crushed red pepper flakes.
When you add the sun dried tomatoes, be sure to drain most of the oil. Otherwise, the sauce will be too oily. It's ok to add just a little of the tomato oil, though, depending on how much fat is rendered from the sausage. Use your own judgement!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Bailey's Irish Cream Cupcakes

 Ok, so, ya know how I always say how awesome a new recipe is? I often use words like "bangin" or "slammin", or "to die for"....... Well, is there a word that means all of those things combined? Because, seriously, just wait until you taste these! They're insanely good! Jerry used the word AMAZING. Chris used the word OUTRAGEOUS. I'm running out of adjectives!
 If you like Irish Cream, then this is the dessert for you. You get a HUGE punch of Irish Cream flavor, they're moist and rich and just look how festive they are! You should make these the next time you go to a St. Patty's Day party. Or now. Now would be good too....

1/3 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup Bailey's Irish Cream
1/3 cup water
1 tbs milk
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Heat oven to 325F.
Line a cupcake pan with 12 paper liners. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat well. In a separate bowl, combine Irish cream, water and milk. In a third bowl, sift together the flour baking powder and salt. Add the dry mixture to the butter mixture alternately with the wet mixture. Divide batter equally between the 12 cupcakes and bake for about 25 minutes or until top springs back when lightly tapped. Cool completely before frosting with Bailey's Irish Cream Frosting.

If you prefer a different brand of Irish cream, by all means, use it!! You could even try any of the flavored varieties of Bailey's Irish Cream. YUM!
If you're baking for a crowd, simply double the recipe! More is more!

Bailey's Irish Cream Frosting

If you're tired of the same old butter cream frosting, try this one! 
It's different and fun and perfect for your St Patty's Day baked goodies!

8 oz cream cheese
1/4 cup butter
1 tbs Bailey's Irish Cream
2 tsp cooled brewed coffee
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp unsweetened cocoa
2 cups powdered sugar

Mix all ingredients together in order listed until smooth and creamy. Spread on your favorite cake, cupcakes, or Bailey's Irish Cream Cupcakes.

Store unused frosting in the fridge in an airtight container.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Joey's Cowboy Squares

 My family recently got together to clean out my Dad's basement. It was quite a big job, so it was all hands on deck! And of course, if you know my family, you know there was a huge spread of food. As my Mom would say, "Feed the workers and you'll get the job done." Even though I wasn't able to lend a hand to the effort, I was still sure to contribute some baked goodies. When I asked my sister, Cathy, what I should bake, she said that "a little picky uppy thing' would be great. (I think that's a technical term, btw) At first I was gonna just do a simple brownie, but I decided to try something new instead. As I often do, I surveyed the contents of my pantry to see what sort of ingredients I had to work with, and then found a recipe to go with it. And this is the result! From what I hear, they were a big hit, especially with my niece, Kelli. Glad you liked them, Kel!
Oh, and if you're wondering why they're called Cowboy Squares....
This is a "baked in a pan" version of Cowboy Cookies, which are chocolate and oatmeal, and sometimes have chopped nuts and coconut, and even raisins. I'm not sure what they have to do with Cowboys other than the fact that a hard-working Cowboy might like something that is a little heartier for a snack. Makes sense, right? We'll go with it. And can I just tell you how heavenly they smell while they're baking? It's all about the cinnamon! Actually, you don't usually see cinnamon as one of the ingredients, but for me, cinnamon and oatmeal go hand in hand, so why not??? They're the perfect snack to have "long about noon, when your appetite's pokin' at ya... pokin' at ya..." LOL
Try 'em!
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup butter, softened 
1 cup sugar 
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups oatmeal 
1 cup chocolate chips 
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)
1/2 cup shredded coconut (optional)
2 tbs sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

Heat oven to 350F.
Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and 1 tsp cinnamon. Set aside. In another bowl, mix butter, sugars, and vanilla. Beat in eggs. Add flour mixture and blend. Stir in oatmeal (and nuts and/or coconut, if using). Place dough in fridge for about 1/2 hour, just so it firms up a little.*
Press half of dough into greased and floured 13x9x2 inch pan.
Sprinkle evenly with chocolate chips. Crumble remaining dough over the chips. In a small bowl, stir together 2 tsp cinnamon and sugar. Sprinkle over the top. Bake 25-30 minutes or until lightly brown. Let it cool slightly, but not necessarily completely before cutting into squares. Serve them when they're still slightly warm with an ice cold glass of milk. YUM!

*The recipe says to chill the dough before pressing it into the pan, but you really don't have to. It just makes it a little easier to work with, that's all. If you're pressed for time, just skip that step, and moisten your impeccably clean hands with a little water. Or spray your hands with a little vegetable oil spray. It'll keep the dough from sticking to your hands while you work.
 -I left out the pecans and the coconut, just because I was making them for my family, and I know there are some who don't like them. But normally I would DEFINITELY have added them. Just sayin!
-I was a little heavy handed when I was measuring the brown sugar, just because it makes them so nice and chewy. It's one of those little things I do that makes people say "how come it always tastes better when YOU make it?" hee hee