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Adventures in early literacy


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Citrus and Spice Churros with Mocha Sauce

We just got the February issue of Food & Wine and have had our eyes on this recipe all weekend. It turned out better than I imagined and we can’t stop eating them. Hang on, gotta wipe the chocolate off my fingers…
Here’s the recipe the way I did it (just minor tweaks from the one in the mag).
Ingredients:
1 tsp sugar (plus 1/2 cup for coating)
2 Tbsps butter
1 shake of salt (a pinch)
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp orange zest
1 tsp lemon zest
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cardamom
Vegetable oil for frying (that’s right, this is not one for your new year’s diets)

For the mocha sauce (I halved the original recipe):
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup espresso beans
1/4 lb chocolate (the recipe calls for milk choc. which I didn’t have on hand so I used 1/4 cup dark chocolate and about 1/2 cup semisweet- it turned out really yummy!)

I made the churros first, but in order to enjoy everything warm, start with the sauce.
Put the milk and espresso beans in a small saucepan and bring it just to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover, and let stand for 15 minutes. Strain the milk in to a measuring cup. Wipe out your saucepan and put the milk back in it. Bring it to just a simmer, remove from heat, and stir in your chocolate until its melted. Whisk until smooth and keep it warm while you make the churros.

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Churros:
In a medium saucepan combine the 1 tsp sugar with 1 cup water, butter, and salt and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add the flour all at once. Stir until incorporated. Scrape the mixture into a medium sized bowl. Beat eggs in one at a time, with an electric mixer until batter is smooth. Add vanilla and citrus zests. Now put your batter in a pastry bag with a 1/2 star tip (or the closest thing to it). If you have awesome friends like I do (thanks, Eliza and Nik!) you might have one of these awesome contraptions which make tasks like this lots easier.

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Now that you’ve loaded your batter, pour about 2 inches of oil in a large saucepan and turn the burner to moderate high heat so it can start warming up. You want the oil to reach 350 ultimately. I use a candy thermometer to make sure I get the right temp but I’m sure there are other ways.
While that’s heating up get a bowl out (a flatter, shallow bowl works best I think) and mix the 1/2 cup sugar and the cinnamon and cardamom together in it. Get out a rack or something you can use to drain your churros when they come out of the oil.

By now your oil should be hot and you should be ready for the scary part. Okay, it’s not that scary but getting the churro batter in the oil requires some coordination (of which I have none). Here’s what I did: push some batter out so it’s hanging above the oil (as long as you want, but I did about 4 inches). With a knife cut across the batter at the piping tip so it will drop gently into the oil. If the batter sticks to the knife just gently drag the knife across the surface of the oil and the churro will let go. Your pan should look like this once you have a batch of churros in the oil.

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Now fry them for about 6 minutes or until they are golden brown and look cooked through. Some of mine were more done than others but they all tasted great. Once they are done scoop them out of the oil with a slotted spoon and allow them to drain for a few seconds. I had a helper (thanks hubby!) who then coated them in the sugar mixture, but I’d you don’t, just coat them and then fry your next batch.

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Once you have fried and coated all your batter you should have a lovely pile of churros. Now just dip them in that warm mocha sauce and enjoy!

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Orange Chiffon Cake

In the winter I always crave citrus. Fortunately, we get a lot of oranges from our organics to you delivery (if you’re in the Portland area, look them up- organicstoyou.org). We love this delivery because we get a box of random organic fruits and veggies, sometimes things we’ve never heard of or cooked with (kiwi berries and celery root). We are challenged to create our meals around this box and it has been a lot of fun, mostly for me since hubby cooks and I eat most of the creations. Yum! This time it was my turn to use a basket ingredient (Chopped style) to come up with something new. I chose the orange and worked my thumbs in an allrecipes.com search. My choice was an orange chiffon cake, which I’d never eaten let alone made. I’ve included the recipe with my tweaks as usual. This time there are lots I would change for next time but the taste was so amazing I’ll have plenty of opportunity to perfect the recipe.
Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tsps baking powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
7 eggs, separated
1/2 cup orange juice (about 2 juiced navel oranges)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water (I left this out and did an extra 1/4 cup orange juice instead)
2 tsps vanilla
1 Tbsp grated orange peel (just grate the peels of those two navels)
2 tsps grated lemon peel (didn’t have it, left it out, it was fine)
1/2 tsp cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 325. You’ll need a 10 inch tube pan (I used a bundt pan and it worked fine) ready.
Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large bowl and make a well in the center. In another bowl, beat egg yolks until thick and lemon colored. Beat in the orange juice (3/4 cup if you don’t use water) oil, water (if you use it), vanilla, and orange and lemon peels. Pour into the well you made in the dry ingredients and beat with a wooden spoon until smooth. In yet another bowl beat egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar and beat until stiff peaks form. Gradually fold the whites in to the batter.
Pour batter in your tube pan and bake for about 55 minutes or until cake springs back lightly when touched. Mine was overdone at 55 minutes. I should have checked it at 45 or 50 but got distracted, which I’m sure will not happen to any of you, right? As soon as the cake is out, turn it upside down on to the platter you plan to serve it on. Cool the cake completely, loosen it from the pan and drizzle your glaze over top. Now, eat!!!

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Later I added a simple glaze: 1/4 cup powdered sugar mixed with 1/8 cup orange juice. After the glaze was on the cake it was a lot moister!

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Favorite Brownies

These are my favorite brownies and now that I’m feeling well after an icky cold I just had to make some. They take less than an hour from start to finish so they’re perfect for mid-week craving. The best part: the book the recipe comes from. One of those beautifully yellowed, well worn cookbooks from the ’70’s (1979).

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Isn’t that a pretty sight? If you gave this book turn to page 50 and use the Chocolate Brownie recipe there.
Here it is for those unfortunate souls who suffer without this great book (maybe check your library?!):
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup butter melted
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cocoa (I use Dutch process cocoa but the book calls for Hershey’s, of course- it doesn’t matter which you use)
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts optional (I can’t stand nuts in brownies but throw them in if you must)
Beat the eggs in a mixer and gradually add sugar and vanilla. Mix in butter. Add dry ingredients gradually until well blended. Stir in nuts of you choose to. Spread mix into an 8 inch square pan and bake for about 30 minutes in a 350 oven. They’re done when they start to pull away from the edges of the pan. That will give a perfectly chewy, chocolatelty, delicious brownie. Cool for about 10 minutes for warm brownies or longer for firmer ones. Dust with powdered sugar and gobble ’em up!

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Pebernodder (aka dog food)

My senior year in high school my mom and I planned to spend Christmas in Mexico with my grandparents. As excited as I was to go, this would be my first Christmas away from home and cinnamon rolls and cranberry jelly. Would Santa even come? Should I pack my stocking?
We stayed with my Great Aunt Salli and Uncle Steve in Seattle before heading to the airport in the morning. They have this amazing house on Queen Anne Hill with perfect views of Mt. Rainier. Steve drove us to the airport, we said our goodbyes and went to the airline counter. Guess what? We couldn’t go until we got some papers taken care of (won’t bore you with those details). Back to Steve and Salli’s. Luckily for me, Salli makes these delicious little cookies every year in mass quantities (seriously, likes garbage cans full, I swear) and she just happened to have made a big batch very recently. I couldn’t get enough of those cookies! When we finally got our papers and got on the plane, there was an extra big bag of dog food cookies tucked into my backpack. Salli knew they’d make me feel less homesick. And they did.
For years I begged Salli for the recipe and she never gave it to me. Until 2009 when I got married. She slipped it in to my hand during the reception. It was one of the best gifts I ever got and now I’m sharing it with you (you lucky thing, you). Make big batches and make merry memories! And enjoy the reactions on people’s faces while you enjoy your “dog food”.
Ingredients:
1 cup light Karo syrup
1 cup molasses
1 cup shortening (I use organic all vegetable shortening to avoid nasty trans fat)
11/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp soda in 1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 tsp pepper
8 or 9 cups flour
Melt syrup, shortening, and molasses. Mix in sugar, spices, and soda water. Transfer to a big mixing bowl or kitchen aid mixer (use a mixer if you have one or be ready to get a major work out). Add flour one cup at a time. I usually only need 8 cups but if the dough seems super sticky then add more flour. Chill.

Roll in to snakes

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And cut in to small squares (about the size of a filbert-think big dog food).
Put on baking sheet not touching (about 1/8 inch apart).

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Bake at 350 about 20 minutes. Let cool completely before putting in jars or bags. These are very crunchy cookies so no, you didn’t over bake them. 😉
Enjoy!!

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Five (or Four) Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies

Yesterday my husband watched an episode of 5 Ingredient Fix and Claire made these super easy and SO yummy peanut butter cookies. He told me about them when I got home from work and less than 20 minutes later they were being eaten.

Ingredients:

1 cup natural peanut butter (no sugar, etc.)*

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

Coarse salt (I didn’t think we had this so left it off and they were just fine without)

*I didn’t have any all natural peanut butter so I used Organics which has some sugar in it. Therefore, I only used 2/3 cup of sugar instead of the full cup.

Preheat the oven to 350 and place your oven rack on the top third of the oven. Mix ingredients in a large bowl until well combined. Drop rounded tablespoons of batter onto a cookie sheet. Using a fork press the cookies to create a  cross hatch design on top. Bake for about 10 minutes or until the edges are golden brown (this didn’t really make sense to me since they didn’t really get golden brown so I’d say bake them until they are dry all over with no glistening-the color of the cookie will change if you pay attention and that’s when they are done). This made 17 smallish cookies. Just perfect for the two of us!

You can see Claire’s recipe and pictures here: Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies


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Salted Caramels

It has been months since my last confession, I mean blog post. Things have been so busy around here that I’ve barely had a chance to bake, not to mention blogging about baking. But, my stomach has been keeping me home sick so what better time to catch up on the blog? Forgive me for my lateness and enjoy the recipe!

This recipe is by the Barefoot Contessa and is in the December, 2010 Food Network magazine. While it’s actually super easy, you do NEED a candy thermometer or know how to test for firm ball in cold water (I’m not a pro at this so we got a candy thermometer). The first batch I made was too soft because we didn’t have a thermometer to test the temp-let me tell you, it was not fun to deal with! After we got the thermometer I did it again with perfect results.

Original Ingredients:

Vegetable oil

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1/4 cup light corn syrup

1/4 cup water

1 cup heavy cream

5 Tbsp butter

1 tsp sal de fleur, plus extra for decorating

Changes:

Instead of sal de fleur (good luck finding this at your local grocery store!) I used 2 tsp kosher salt. For decorating I used course ground sea salt-it added a nice crunch and the desired saltiness to the outside of the caramel.

Prepare a pan: use an 8″x8″ casserole dish. Line it with parchment paper (don’t substitute parchment paper with wax paper–trust me. Seriously, trust me.) leaving some paper hanging over two edges, and brush the paper lightly with vegetable oil. Set aside.

First, put water, sugar, and corn syrup in a saucepan (a good sized one-BC calls for one 6″ across and about 4.5″ deep). Bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. In the meantime pour heavy cream, butter and 2 tsp salt into a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Once the milk mixture boils turn off heat and set aside. Watch your sugar as it boils. Once it reaches a “warm golden brown” remove it from the heat and CAREFULLY!!! pour in milk (it boils up like nobody’s business!). I stirred after pouring in the milk and then put it on the burner under medium low heat. Let the whole mixture simmer until it reaches firm ball or 248 on a candy thermometer. Then pour it in your prepared pan. Stick it in the refrigerator for about 3 hours, or until the caramel is completely cooled and set.

Once the caramel is cooled lift it out of the pan use the overhanging parchment paper. Place it on the counter. Cut the caramel square in half. Take one half of the caramel and roll it into a log (BC does it a little differently, but this is what worked for me). Once you have a log about 1 – 1.5 inches in diameter start cutting it into pieces. Now cut pieces of parchment paper (about 3in X 3in) and place caramels on the papers and sprinkle sea salt on top. Roll the paper around the caramel and twist the ends to secure. Ta da! The number of caramels you end up with depends on how small you make your caramels. If you want more, but smaller caramels just roll your log out longer.

One of my caramel batches was a little harder than the other. Therefore, I couldn’t really roll it into anything. I just cut it into squares and wrapped the squares up . The caramels were just as yummy-you just had to hold them in your mouth a few seconds longer before chewing (oh, darn!).

Hope you give this one a try-could be a great Mother’s Day treat!


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Peanut Butter Chocolate Bites

Some of you might remember those delicious peanut butter chocolate squares they gave us for dessert in elementary school. I couldn’t wait for the day we had that for dessert. So delicious! This is a simple recipe for those squares, but without all the chemicals I’m sure they used in the ones at school. They taste a lot better to me (didn’t know that would be possible!)  The best part about these: NO BAKE!!!! You do have to melt the butter and chocolate, but you could probably use a microwave for that if you wanted.

Ingredients:

2 sticks butter

1 cup creamy peanut butter

2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 36 graham cracker squares pre crushing)

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 bag (12 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a large saucepan, melt the butter on low. Once melted remove from heat and sitr in peanut butter until smooth. Add graham cracker crumbs and sugar until everything is well mixed. Press mixture into an ungreased 9″x13″ pan. Set aside. Melt chocolate chips over boiling water (I just fill a big pan with water and float a metal bowl with the chips in the boiling water-just be sure to use a pot holder when you grab the bowl out of the water). Pour chocolate over peanut butter and spread it around evenly (you can even make a design in the chocolate if you are feeling creative!).  Put the pan in the fridge for about 30 minutes or until the chocolate is mostly set. Cut into squares and enjoy! 🙂