Abbiegrey, this one’s for you.

So, three years ago (yes, I’m that bad), I promised to post a recipe for cream puffs to the above person in a Ravelry group.  Oh, I just hope she’s okay with “better late than never”.  Here’s the recipe:

First, you make the dough known as pate de choux (or in English: choux paste).  You will need:

1 cup hot water

1/2 cup butter

1 Tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt.

Bring these four to a rolling boil.  Then add, all at one time:

1 cup sifted flour

Beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until mixture leaves the sides of the pan and forms a smooth ball.  Remove from heat.  Quickly beat in (using wooden spoon), one at a time, beating until smooth after each addition:

4 eggs

Continue beating until thick and smooth.  Dough may now be shaped and baked at once, or wrapped in waxed paper and stored overnight in the refrigerator.

To shape:

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart on greased baking sheets.  Dough can also be squeezed through a pastry bag for eclairs, or dropped by rounded teaspoonfuls for mini cream puffs.

Bake at 450 degrees Farenheit for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees Farenheit and bake 5 minutes longer or until golden in color.  Fill as desired when cool.

Makes about 1 dozen large or 4 dozen mini cream puffs.  I’ve never done the eclairs but I would think you’d get about 2 dozen of those.

I originally made cream puffs for the feast of St. Joseph.  You can see the picture here.

Happy Feast of the Assumption

Today is the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and that means . . .

Cookies!

Okay, it also means Mass.  And since it’s Wednesday, my weekly Adoration hour as well.

But, thanks to Family in Feast & Feria (look them up, they’re on WordPress.  I just don’t have the blog address handy), it will now & forever after mean cookies as well.  Jennifer posted in August of 2008 about how her grandmother always made Moravian Spice cookies for this feast day.  Somehow, I received an email that she had reblogged that post but when I went to find the post, it wasn’t there.

Odd.

So I did a search, and still had a hard time finding the original post.  Went back to the email and tried again.  Success.

Very interesting that just about a month or so ago, I was asked to participate in a survey by some website or other.  As a thank you gift, I received an ebook with about 200+ cookie recipes.  Just cookie recipes.  Those of you who know me personally know that I despise baking, especially cookies.  It goes back to long, hot summer days spent in an un-air conditioned kitchen with my mother baking double & triple batches of cookies to keep our freezer stocked with sweets for drop in guests and my dad’s lunches.  Yes, we kids got to have cookies too.  Mom never skimped there, but the baking was not fun.

So, why did I participate in a survey when the “gift” wasn’t even something I would enjoy?  I don’t know.  All I do know is that I completed the survey, downloaded the ebook and printed only one of the 200+ recipes promising myself that at “sometime in the future” I would bake those cookies.

Which recipe did I print?  Why the one for Moravian Spice cookies of course.  Why that one?  Because the recipe said it would yield about 9 dozen cookies from one batch.  I figured even if I made my cookies bigger than they did, I should still be able to get about 6 dozen from a single, one batch baking.  After all, if I’m going to be miserable, I might as well get good mileage out of it.

I mixed the dough last night and asked Ditty to please bake them today, since I have to be at work.  We’ll get to try them at suppertime and if they’ve turned out well, we can bring them along to her youth group meeting after Mass tonight.

Wish us luck!

Pumpkin Bread

Just made two loaves of cider pumpkin bread.  Waiting for them to cool down before slicing into one.  Photo to be added later.

Don’t worry.  I took the photo while the loaves were still in the pan so you would get to see them.

Edited on 12-7-10 to add photo.

Pumpkin French Toast Casserole

I think we have a new favorite brunch dish here!

On Saturday, I found this in my grocery store:

So, I purchased two tubs thinking that a new french toast casserole is in our future.  I was right.  On Sunday, I assembled my ingredients and got to work.  First, the bread.

You need a 16 oz loaf of bread for this recipe.  Any bread will do, really.  I happened to get a good deal on a 16 oz baguette at Walmart ($1.50) so that’s what I used this time.  Divide the loaf in half and cube each half.  As you can see by my pic, I didn’t get the loaf in perfect halves.  That’s okay, use the larger half for the bottom layer.

Layer one half of the bread cubes in a 9×13 baking pan that has been sprayed with non stick cooking spray.  *(this is why I had you divide the loaf earlier, the hard part about figuring out just how many bread cubes make up half a loaf is already done.)

Then put 1-8oz tub of the pumpkin spice cream cheese into a microwavable bowl along with 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla.

Microwave this for about 1- 1 1/2 minutes on High (based on an 1100 watt microwave).  Stir until completely combined and the cream cheese has melted.

Drizzle this onto the bread cubes in the pan and then spread it out as evenly as possible.  This may take a little doing, but it’s great to get a bite of the cream cheese filling in every bite of casserole.

Then top with the other half of the bread cubes.  Now, beat 4 eggs, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 cup pumpkin puree (canned or homemade) and 1 teaspoon cinnamon together.  Add 2 cups milk and mix well.  It will look something like this:

Now spread this evenly over the top of the bread cubes.  I find that ladling it over the top works best for me.  Push down on the bread to help it absorb the liquid mixture.

Now, bake at 350 degrees farenheit for 35-45 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.  Mine took 40 minutes to bake completely.  The finished product:

The family pronounced it delicious.  This could be served with bacon or sausage or scrambled eggs and drizzled with maple syrup.  A salad and a side of fruit wouldn’t be amiss either.  You can prep this ahead and freeze it unbaked.  You could also put this in two 8×8 pans which is what I would have done if this hadn’t been my first time making it (Four foil loaf pans would also work for couples-adjust the baking time as needed).  Now, where’s my coffee?

Success is a delicious meal

As I drove home from work last night, all I could think about was how we didn’t have time for dinner.  I was seriously thinking about making that call to Domino’s and ordering pizza so that I could have the 25-30 minutes of sanity time before they delivered and I needed to rush everyone to the table to eat.

Then I walked in the door and smelled a most delicious smell-beef roast.  No, DH didn’t get a wild hair and start cooking a meal.  I had totally forgotten in the chaos of the day’s schedule that I had put a roast in the crockpot that morning to cook while the kids were at school and I was working.  Don’t worry, if I had called the kids to meet me in the driveway to go out to eat, one of them would have reminded me about the crockpot.  I’m sure they would have.

The results of that crockpot endeavor yielded a very moist, tender, delicious and surprisingly simple beef roast.  Yes, I’m going to share that recipe with you. 

Yesterday morning, I took a beef roast out of the freezer.  Popped it in the crockpot frozen.  Added the obligatory 1 cup of water (the crockpot’s directions say that you must add water to protect the stoneware from sudden changes in temperature if cooking meats from a frozen state).

Then I wondered how to season the roast.  I like to do things up a little differently from time to time just to keep us out of a rut.  Well, my usual method would have been to toss in a packet of dry Italian dressing mix, cover the crockpot and cook it on Low that way.  It’s very good.  So is a packet of dry Ranch dressing instead of the Italian.  See, two new recipes already.

But yesterday, the Italian and the Ranch would have involved opening a fresh box of dressing mix.  Yes, this does speak to the epitome of laziness, but I didn’t feel like opening a box.  There, I’ve said it.  So I looked at the other seasoning packets sitting in the little container in my cupboard and realized that I have an awful lot of brown gravy mixes in there.  Well, it’s beef roast, I thought.  Beef roast is certainly good with brown gravy.  So I opened a packet after reading how much water to add to the mix (1 cup, how fortuitous).  Then I went to my spice shelf and grabbed the dried rosemary.  I crumbled about 1 1/2 teaspoons of rosemary on top of the gravy mix and beef roast.  Popped the cover on and told the 24 year old to turn the crockpot on Low at 9am.

When I got home at 4:45pm, the smell was heavenly.  I didn’t have time for potatoes, so I made buttered noodles as a side along with a peas & carrots blend for the vegetable.  All three kids pronounced it delicious.  So this will also go into the archives as a “recipe” we’ll serve again.

To recap:

1 two and a half to three pound beef chuck roast, frozen

1 cup water

1 packet dry brown gravy mix

1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary, crumbled

Cook on Low for 6-8 hours in a crockpot.

Serve with whatever you have the time to cook 🙂   Sit back and enjoy the compliments.

Freezer Cooking, part 4

This is the final segment of freezer cooking for this month.  I can’t say that I won’t return to this topic again sometime, I just feel like I’m becoming a cooking blog and that wasn’t my intent.  I certainly will always welcome your comments and questions about freezer cooking.  And don’t worry about thread-jacking, I’m not a comment purist-post the questions where ever you like.

I’ve already covered some of the dishes for summer and fall, so let’s look at winter and spring.  And breakfast, I love a good, quick, homemade breakfast.

Winter:

Casseroles-oh you knew that was coming didn’t you?  Most casseroles freeze very well.  About the only thing that doesn’t freeze well in a casserole is fresh vegetables and chunks of potatoes, they get watery when thawed.  I’ve learned to substitute frozen chunked hashbrowns for the regular potatoes in any recipe calling for potatoes that I would like to freeze.

Side dishes-I freeze rice pilaf, creamy noodles, mashed potatoes and mac & cheese to use as side dishes with roasts, chicken, pork, burgers, hotdogs and fish.  I like being able to put everything in the oven so that pre-dinner time can be used to help with homework or to just have time to knit or crochet.

Meatloaf-I’ve done meatloaves with ground beef or ground turkey and both types freeze very well.  I don’t pre-bake them, but I will give you a little tip:  Freeze the meat mixture in gallon size zip bags (not the slider zip ones-they can leak).  Press the mixture flat inside the bag once you’ve pressed the air out and sealed the bag.  This will make a thin layer that thaws much faster than a thick preformed meatloaf.  If you need to bake the meatloaf quickly, pat the thawed meat mixture into a pie pan rather than a loaf pan.  Bake at the temp you usually use, the meatloaf should be done in 25-30 minutes rather than the usual 50-60 minutes.

Spring:

For this season, I usually make and freeze many of the items I’ve made in Fall and I begin to get the Summer grilling items ready.

Ham & Potato Casserole-this is a good way to get rid of Easter leftovers.  Ham balls are another good way to use up cooked ham, although personally I have not gotten around to making them yet I have heard that they freeze well.

Meatballs-we usually begin the rounds of potluck dinners in the spring and meatballs, either in barbeque sauce or white sauce, make a tasty addition to a potluck.  I have also served the barbeque sauced meatballs over cooked rice for supper, or the white sauced ones over noodles.

Breakfasts:

French Toast-either whole french toast, french toast sticks or as french toast casserole, this freezes well and makes for a nice, quick breakfast.  I use regular bread to make the casserole (9×13 pan) and put the bread down in two layers.  In the middle, I put flavored cream cheese (8oz) mixed with 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract.  I also put 1/4 cup sugar into the milk/egg mixture and pour it over the casserole once it’s layered.  Cover and freeze.  Bake at 350 for about 40-45 minutes, thaw prior to baking.  For the french toast and/or french toast sticks, I use Texas Toast bread.  Cut the slices into thirds for sticks.  Use your favorite french toast recipe and bake the toast/toast sticks on cookie sheets to save having to stand over a hot griddle for hours.  Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes each pan, turn the toast/sticks about halfway through the baking time to brown the other side.

Oatmeal:  Baked oatmeal is wonderfully easy if made ahead and frozen.  Reheat in the microwave or in the oven.

Quiches, stratas and egg bakes:  These can be prepped and frozen.  For quiches, prep and bag the egg mixture.  Freeze the pie crusts separately.  You can freeze pre-baked quiche if you prefer.  I find my pre-baked quiches ended up with tough eggs so I no longer do it that way.  Any strata or egg bake mixture will also freeze well.  You can use foil pans to freeze them or the Gladware plastic pans.

Pancakes:  These also freeze well precooked and can be heated up in the toaster for a quick breakfast.  I have not tried to freeze pancake batter yet.

Well, that’s all I can think of off the top of my head.  Again, if you have any questions or comments, let me know.

Happy cooking.

Freezer Cooking, part 3

Some blog friends have wanted new ideas for make ahead dishes.  Sometimes, people don’t realize meals they already make can be made ahead and frozen.  I’ve decided to post a list of our favorites here.

Summer:

Buy or mix up your favorite marinade.  Place meat in a zip top plastic bag in proportion to your family size and/or the number of servings you need.  Add the marinade, press out the air, seal, label and freeze.  When you thaw the package in the fridge prior to grilling, the meat marinades a second time (the first was as the meat was freezing) giving it more flavor than if you marinated just that day.  I added the number of servings part because personally I like to grill up extra marinated chicken to add on top of a salad for lunch a day or two later.

Chicken Chow Mein & Beef Chow Mein-I could eat this any time of year.  My own recipes for these are under the recipes tab at the top of the page.

Muffins, quick breads, bars and cookies-Again, any time of year but especially nice not heating up the kitchen more than once a month to have baked goods all month long.

Fall

Soups-Some of the soups I’ve made and frozen with success:  Potato Cheese (puree the mixture and it freezes well), Broccoli Cheese, Tomato, Chicken or Turkey Vegetable (I add noodles or rice or dumplings on serving day), Beef Vegetable (same thing-add the barley or noodles on serving day), Ham & Rice, Chili, Vegetarian Vegetable.

Precooked beef stew meat in gravy-this is especially versatile.  It can be used for stroganoff, beef pot pie, beef & gravy over noodles, thin the gravy and make soup, as well as just using it for stew.

Chicken & Vegetables in Gravy-love this served over biscuits or as pot pie.  Can also make white sauce instead of gravy and serve the mixture over noodles.

Shepherd’s Pie-I also freeze the mashed potatoes in a separate bag placed with the meat mixture so that I don’t have to do anything extra on serving day.  Make the mashed potatoes with sour cream instead of milk to keep them a bit thicker and they will freeze well.

Goulash-I personally enjoy goulash, but skip it if you don’t.

Lasagne

Precooked ground beef or ground turkey-this makes tacos or spaghetti go even faster.

Extra portions of mashed potatoes-I reheat the frozen mashed potatoes in an 8×8 pan in my oven while the roast or chicken bakes.

Parmesan Chive Chicken-chicken marinated in italian dressing then on serving day breaded with a mixture of dry bread crumbs, a bit of grated parmesan cheese and 2 Tbsp chives.  Really good!  I freeze the marinating chicken in one bag, the crumb mixture in another and then place both bags into a larger bag, seal & label that bag.  This way the crumbs are right there with the chicken when I’m ready to bake this dish.  No searching for crumbs, etc in the cupboard.

Well, that should get you started thinking about what dishes your family enjoys that you might be able to make ahead and freeze.  If you have any questions about whether or not a dish would freeze well, you can post them in the comments section and I will try to answer them for you.

Freezer Cooking, part 2

Okay, here are the pics I promised:

This is the worksheet that helps me keep track of what I have in the freezer.  We actually have two freezers, a chest type (where everything gets lost in the bottom) and an upright (where everything gets lost in the back).  I do prefer the upright freezer because moving things out of one shelf to get at food in the back is much less hassle than moving all the food on top only to find that the food at the bottom has freezer burn.  I mainly use the chest freezer to  store large items, breads and bags of shredded cheese.

And this calendar is a reminder of what I’m making and when, so I know when an item is used up and need to make more.

I also try to vary what I make by the seasons:  Spring brings the less heavy meals, Summer brings lots of meats in marinade for the grill, Fall & Winter bring hearty soups, stews and casseroles.

Oh, I also need to say thanks to Sam over at Thy Will Be Done  for this lovely pork roast with apples recipe.

Sorry the roast is still raw in the picture.  I would have taken a pic of the finished product, but the family gobbled it up too fast.  Really delicious!  I topped the roast with craisins instead of the mixed dried fruit in the original recipe.

Emergency Preparedness

One thing that I enjoy doing that gets the most curious looks from the people I know is . . . freezer cooking.

Oh sure, now you’re giving me “that look” too.  I can tell.  Really, it’s okay.  Most people just don’t know what to say when I tell them that I spend hours preparing meals for my family to put in the freezer.  They can’t understand someone wanting to spend extra time cooking.

But if you think of freezer cooking as a way to get organized at mealtime and take away the “what’s for dinner” 5pm panic, it really does make sense.  Yes, I do enjoy cooking but that is not why I freezer cook (or OAMC, etc.).  I like the ease of menu planning.  The comfort that comes with knowing I can serve my family a well balanced meal without ripping my hair out an hour before dinnertime.

Many methods of freezer cooking make the task seem insurmountable to the beginner.  They make you think that if you don’t have a month’s worth of meals at the end of your cooking day that you’ve somehow failed.  Or that if you can’t find one whole day to do your cooking that you have poor time management, or an ungrateful spouse, or unruly kids.  Oh let the kids go a little nuts, they’re kids.  You can still provide your family with wholesome, nutrious meals even if you don’t have a full day to cook.  And who would want to be on their feet for 16 hours straight anyway?

My method is simple and I learned it here.  Nancy & her crew made freezer cooking simple and amazingly understandable from many viewpoints.  I use the mini session approach to meal making.  I simply take a look at what’s on sale and plan a mini session to take advantage of that item.  Then I can look at what’s on sale the next week and do another mini session if needed.  Or if I still have some freezer space available.

Sometimes my mini sessions aren’t based on what’s on sale.  Sometimes we specifically need, oh let’s say, breakfast/brunch items.  We always eat brunch on Sundays so I will plan a mini session to make things like quiche, strata, french toast sticks, etc. ahead of time.  Since eggs are a cheap protein item, I can make several of each recipe and have several weeks of brunch dishes made in about four hours.

I keep track of what I’ve made during a mini session on the 30 Day Gourmet’s Worksheet E: Recipe Inventory Checklist.  This form has pre-done columns for number of recipes stored, the recipe name, and includes space to list the items needed on hand for serving day.  Since the form only includes one line for the date, I use the next open line for recording the date of my second & subsequent mini sessions.  I also add a note to the upper corner that says “Updated” with the date of the update so that I know how current my list is (unfortunately, not everything gets crossed off as it gets used so this helps me keep track of foods that should be used up soon as well).

Not only does having the food prepped and frozen simplify meal time, it’s good for emergencies too.  Like a sudden job loss, friend/family member having a baby, illness, funeral or other occasion requiring you to bring food at short notice.  See, emergency preparedness.

I’ll try to post a photo of my checklist tomorrow.  If you have any questions about freezer cooking please feel free to post them in the comments section and I’ll answer as many as I can.

Pray, eat & love; a food post

As you know, I’ve been trying to bring the faith to life with our children by celebrating the feast days of saints with special meals.  This could be a daunting task if we celebrated every feast day of the year since there are very few open days on the calendar.  So I got busy and wrote down some of the things we like to do and looked up the patron saints of those things and we will begin by simply celebrating the witness of those individuals to Jesus.

Since we love to be in the out-of-doors, whether camping, hiking or picnicking, we needed a patron saint of the out-of-doors.  Well, there wasn’t one that I could find, so I decided that St. Francis of Assisi would be as close as we could get.  Because Franciscans take a vow of poverty, the meal needed to reflect that with simple and inexpensive food being the focus as well as food from St. Francis’ native Italy.

So what to make?  Minestrone!  Minestrone is mainly vegetables in broth with some pasta.  Not much could be cheaper or more simple than that.  Now since my kids tend to balk at soups to begin with, I needed to make something they would be happy to eat also.  Grilled cheese sandwiches, not very Italian I know, but at least they fit the “simple” criterion.  The kids actually enjoyed the meal, DH not so much but he survived on three grilled cheese sandwiches.

I am also trying to celebrate the various Marian feasts throughout the year.  My biggest source of recipes and ideas comes from Catholic Cuisine.  You can check out their blog by clicking their RSS feed on the right.

Since I also like to prep meals ahead, all I need to do now is coordinate my saints’ & marian feast days into my regular food prep schedule.  Right now, the freezers are full so the feast day menus will have to be items I can make easily.

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