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Recipe: Breakfast pop tarts

4 Oct

When I was a child I absolutely LOVED pop tarts. Sweet fruity filling and crispy icing in a hand held package? Sign me up! Toaster strudels took this one step further, of course, by giving the humble toaster pastry real fruit filling and a better crust. These breakfast treats were my kryptonite.

THEN.

I realized (with the help of the internet) that I could make them myself, and fill them with ANYTHING I WANTED. What is the toaster pastry, after all, if not a mini pie?

So although in this post I make breakfast pastry, you should feel free to fill your pop tarts with whatever strikes your fancy. I have used nutella, chocolate chips with a sprinkle of salt, all kinds of jams, cheese, and of course, bacon and eggs!

First you need dough. You can either make your own or use a pre-made dough like a pie dough or the pillsbury crescent roll dough. I make my own because it’s cheaper.

You can use any pie or pastry crust recipe that works for you. The one I like is below. It’s a nice, fast pie crust that doesn’t require chilling.

Quick Pie Crust

2 1/2 c. Flour
1 c. Shortening
1 Tsp. Baking powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 egg + 1/2 c. cold water

Sift the dry ingredients together. Add the shortening using a fork or pastry cutter and mix until chunky. In a separate vessel crack the egg and add very cold water until the mix measures half a cup. Whisk the egg and water together then pour the mix into the dough and continue to work the the fork/pastry cutter. When the mix becomes more of a solid mass start kneading it with your hands. Cut the dough in half and roll into two balls.

For the filling:

3-4 eggs, scrambled

3-4 pieces of bacon, very crispy

cheese of your choice

Make sure that either your bacon is super crispy or cut it into pieces, otherwise it will be hard to bite off inside the tart and it will all come out in one bite. Don’t you hate that?

Now. Start cutting and rolling out your dough. Roll the dough to 1/4″ thin (ish) and make it as rectangular shaped as you can manage. Cut the large rectangle into smaller individual pie crusts. I aimed to make the tarts hand-size. I don’t have specific measurements for this but just cut them out and don’t worry so much about it. They will all be delicious regardless of their size!

 

Put the filling on one side of the tart crust.

 

 

Flip the dough over the filling and crimp the edges. You can also square off the tart by cutting off excess dough. You can see here that I used some extra dough to cover places where the bacon had torn through the top of the tart. Pesky bacon.

 

Poke holes into the top of the tart and place on a baking sheet. Repeat until you run out of dough or filling.

If you like you can brush the tops with a wash of scrambled egg and a little water. This will make the tarts shiny and golden once baked-but this is not necessary.

Bake in a 350˚ oven for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown around the edges.

 

 

Enjoy!

 

 

Breakfast is SAVED!

xoxo

❤ stef

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Recipe: Gingerbread Caramels

21 Dec

Christmas, oh Christmas.

I’m not religious but Christmas is  my guilty pleasure. I love the holiday season in general-that magical time between Halloween and New Year’s makes me all gooey. It’s probably all of the alcohol and baked goods you’re encouraged to imbibe. (Hey-o!)

Since my fiance joined me on the east coast a year ago, we’ve only gone back home for one holiday a year, which means picking between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Last year we went home for Xmas. This year was Tgiving. And so, schmoops and I will be celebrating Christmas with our cat this year. Honestly? I’m really excited about it. I’m making epic Christmas brunch, we’re going to lay around in our pjs, open presents, and maybe go to a movie. Our theatre here has a bar inside of it so, because it’s Christmas, I’ll probably splurge and buy us movie-themed adult beverages to enjoy. You know. Live it up.

The downside of spending Christmas (almost) alone 3,000 miles away from the rest of your family is that Christmas presents begin to pose a problem. Add to that the fact that you’re broke and you’ve been unemployed for 5 months (guilty…) and you see what I’m talking about. This called for creativity. What could I send loved ones that would be inexpensive, easy to mail (to three different countries), and universally well received?

CANDY!

Specifically, caramel. Gingerbread caramel. Thank you, Ms. Martha Stewart.

Gingerbread Caramels

4 cups (2 pints) heavy cream

2 cups light corn syrup

4 cups granulated sugar

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1/2 cup unsulfured molasses

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Vegetable-oil cooking spray

A quick note about the corn syrup-I really didn’t want to use it. I’m a giant hippie deep down inside so I think corn syrup is the devil. Also, my best friend’s little daughter is allergic to it and I wanted her to be able to eat these things. However, at the last minute I got lazy (and I had a random bottle of the stuff) that I wanted to use. If you’re interested in corn syrup substitutions, there are lots of suggestions on the ol’ interwebs. The best ones I found were to make a thick simple syrup  from water and sugar, or to use honey. I think you can also use tapioca syrup and/or agave syrup.

ONWARD.

Prepare your pans. This is what you will be pouring the hot caramel into to cool. The recipe suggests using a 12×17 inch rimmed pan, but I didn’t have one of those so I just used what I did have, and made sure that the sum of their measurements matched. The caramel is crazy sticky, so you have to grease the bottom and sides of all the pans. Then, line the pans with parchment or wax paper, and grease the paper as well. Trust me on this. You want to do it.

Bring the cream, corn syrup, sugar, butter, and molasses to a boil. Continue to cook over medium-high heat until it reaches 248˚F. The amount of time it takes to do this will vary depending on your altitude and what you put in the caramel. I swear it took me almost an hour. The thing is-it is very important that you reach that 248˚ mark. If you don’t the candy won’t be thick enough and it won’t harden properly.

Boiling boiling.

Once it reaches 248˚, turn off the heat and stir in the spices, the salt, and the vanilla.

Pour the mixture into your prepared pans. Allow to sit undisturbed for 24 hours. This is to make sure the caramel cools completely. Also, I would recommend that you lightly cover the pans with a clean dishcloth. Caramel is sticky. You don’t want any dust or..whatever else getting in it.

The next day, get yourself a cutting board and a knife. I used my pizza cutter, which, incidentally, I have never used to cut a pizza. Grease the cutting surface and your cutting implement. Turn the caramel over onto your prepared surface. You might have to use a knife to loosen the parchment overhang, but if you greased properly this should be easy. Then you’ll have to peel the paper from the back of the caramel.

Cut the caramels into 1″ pieces. I actually used a ruler and traced a light grid onto the caramel before I cut them. You don’t have to do that if you don’t want to, but I found it helpful.

Wrap the individual pieces in wax paper or parchment paper.

Twist the sides to make them look like real candy.

If you’re giving them as gifts, you can put them in fun little cellophane bags. I used a free template to print those stickers, which can be found here.

The whole process was really quite easy, if time consuming. I hand-wrapped over 100 caramels, you guys.

❤ stef

How To: Homemade Coffee Creamer

4 Nov

I don’t know about you, but lately I’ve had an undeniable craving for pumpkin spice ANYTHING.

I’m not really a big fan of pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice lattes, or even pumpkin, really, so this is a bit of a surprise for me. I think it has less to do with the “pumpkin” and more to do with the “spice”. I’m a big fan of “spice”. The pumpkin is just an ingredient I can’t get away from.

In the last few weeks, I’ve made pumpkin spice syrup, pumpkin spice pancakes (more on these later…), and the subject of today’s ramblings-pumpkin spice coffee creamer. I found the recipes for homemade coffee creamer on Pinterest (um, how great is Pinterest? You should follow me.) and was crazy excited. There are a bunch of recipes for different flavored creamers up there, but I singled out the pumpkin spice one, of bloody course. I did change it just a bit but the basics are the same. If you want to experiment with making other flavors, definitely check out Deliciously Organic. It seems to me that once you get the general idea, you can make any kind of flavor your little brain can imagine. Yum.

1 C heavy cream

1 C whole milk

3 TB pumpkin puree

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ginger

1/8 tsp clove

1/8 tsp nutmeg

(Quick note here: for the spices, the original recipe calls for 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice. You can use that, or the spices I’ve listed here, or really any combo you like. The most important is cinnamon and I wouldn’t use too much ginger, clove or nutmeg just because they can be kind of strong. Steffany out.)

6 TB maple syrup

1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix all ingredients, EXCEPT vanilla, on a pot on the stove. Heat, whisking together, until the mix starts to steam. Don’t let it boil. Remove from the heat and whisk in vanilla. Let cool until room temperature. On a hot day, do this in the fridge. No one wants bacteria. Once cool, strain through a fine mesh sieve, pour in a bottle and store in the fridge.

I added more maple syrup to my creamer than the original recipe, but I (personally) still find that I like a tinge bit more sugar in  my coffee. What can I say? I like my coffee super dark and sweet. It’s the best. If you find that the creamer isn’t sweet enough for you, you can always add more maple syrup and shake it into the creamer, or you can just add some extra sugar to your coffee.

Happy morning time!

❤ stef

How To: Creme Fraiche.

30 May

Alrighty. Creme fraiche. So it turns out creme fraiche is ridiculously easy to make. All you need is some heavy cream, culture, and a warm-ish windowsill. Emphasis on the warm-ish windowsill. I made this stuff in early May and Boston was still dealing with some shitty weather, so although I left my jar out for almost two and a half days the creme fraiche did not thicken correctly. I ended up sticking it in the fridge and then leaving it out for again for about an hour when the sun finally showed up, and it thickened almost immediately. Bacteria yay?

It is very fun to make. Very. It doesn’t involve much active process, but you feel triumphant anyway. Like an ass-kicking pioneer woman who is about to blow your bloody MIND.

1 container heavy cream

1 TB buttermilk or 2 TB yogurt – I used yogurt

jar

This picture makes me believe that the cream is ready to conquer the WORLD.

So. Pour all of your cream into a jar and add the buttermilk or yogurt. I used 2TB of greek yogurt. I had read that the cultures in yogurt aren’t as “strong” as the ones in buttermilk so I doubled the recommended amount. The yogurt you use will impart a slight flavor to your finished creme fraiche. For example, I used a tart greek yogurt and my creme fraiche was likewise slightly tart.

Stir in the yogurt/buttermilk and leave it (preferably uncovered, unless you’re worried about bugs) at room temperature for 24-48 hours. Keep in mind that it will continue to thicken slightly once you move it to the fridge.

I left it out longer (2.5 days).  On a warm day I would probably leave it for 12 and then check on it to ensure that it is thickening correctly, but you likely won’t need to leave it out for so long. Mine, even after 2.5 days, was initially very thin. I then left it out in the sun for maybe an hour and it thickened right up.

This is how it looked after 2.5 days.

As you can see, it wasn’t coagulating correctly. It still tasted good, it just didn’t quite have the texture I was after. If you end up with runny creme fraiche, remember that you can always whip it like whipped cream if you wish. I was actually planning on doing that until the sun finally showed up.

You can use the finished product in so many ways, just be sure to use it up in a week-ish. (I’m a little lax with expiration dates…I basically use something until it starts to smell.) (TMI?) Things I made:

Scrambled eggs

Pancakes

Creme fraiche/nutella strawberry dipping sauce (you just swirl the two together).

Enjoy!

❤ stef

Recipe: Dulce de Leche

14 Jan

What is dulce de leche, you ask? That is an excellent question. It’s basically caramel, but made from milk and sugar instead of just sugar. Literally translated it means “milk candy”. It’s gotten pretty popular up in the states in the last 10 or so years, but it’s a South American candy. I actually grew up with it, because my mom’s family is from Argentina and they have a dulce de leche recipe that is passed down from oldest child to oldest child on her father’s side of the family. My grandfather, Nono, is the oldest child in his family, and I am the oldest of mine. So when I was around 10 or 12 he taught me how to make dulce de leche.

My brother, sister, cousin and I were in San Diego visiting my grandparents. We were playing in the back yard and my Nono came to get me and bring me inside. I remember being a little annoyed because I wanted to be outside playing, but he brought me into the kitchen and told me that because I was the oldest he was going to teach me how to make his dulce de leche. He told me that his mother had taught him when he had been around my age (at the time) and so it was my turn to learn. I still remember that day, the kitchen tiles against my feet, the cool darkness of the kitchen. I didn’t try making it on my own until years later but that was one of the only afternoons I ever spent learning something from my Nono.

My grandparents used to eat dulce de leche on toast in the mornings. My grandparents ALWAYS eat toast for breakfast-toast with butter, cream cheese, jam, honey, dulce de leche, and sometimes a combination of the above! I always preferred cream cheese and honey, but someone always ate their pan con dulce de leche.

This being my second year as a poor-ass grad student, I wanted to give christmas gifts but could not spend much money. I also didn’t want to give crap gifts. Then I remembered that pretty much everyone in the whole world likes caramel, my friends probably haven’t eaten much dulce de leche in their lives, and gosh darnit it just sounds so exotic. Duuuulce de lechhhhe. Mmmmmmm. Also, when you tell your friends that you spent six hours in front of the stove stirring they are very impressed and think you are the best friend ever. Which I am.

Dulce de Leche

Ok, now, here’s the thing. I can’t actually give you my family recipe. Well, I could but I’ve been instructed not to. Seriously. So I’m giving you Alton Brown’s instead. Rest assured, though, I have checked it for accuracy and it is basically the same, but this will only make you 1 jar and mine made 8. Also, I’m taking out some of his totally unnecessary steps. Like, straining the finished product. Um, Alton? You really don’t need to do that.

1 quart whole milk

12 ounces sugar

1 vanilla bean, split with seeds scraped out

1/2 tsp baking soda

Mix everything together. Grab your vanilla bean, split it lengthwise and scrape all of the seeds into the milk sugar mix, then throw the vanilla pod in there as well.

In the beginning.

Now. Keep the heat at about medium low so that you achieve a very gentle simmer, and stir constantly for the next 2 hours. You really have to stir frequently otherwise the bottom of the caramel will burn. At some point take out the vanilla bean pod.

I'm sorry this picture is horrible.

This is about what the dulce de leche should look like-a medium brown caramel color. This picture is terrible because it was late and I had no natural light. The batch I made was huge so I was stirring for six hours, not two.

Allow to cool and then pour into jars.

You can serve dulce de leche:

on toast

on ice cream

as a cookie topping (alfajores, anyone???)

on pretzels (enthusiastically suggested to me by a friend the day after I gave him his jar).

on apples (pears, whatever)

with PIE

as a cake filling

etc

etc

etc

or you can just eat it from the jar.

❤ stef

Recipe: Pepper Cheese Ball

21 Nov

I am a vair vair bad food blogger. Keeping up with posting really shouldn’t be as difficult as I make it. I cook EVERY day. Yesterday I made some nom-tastic eggplant parm, without a recipe (which I’m still sort of amazed I can do). Today I’ll probably make some butternut squash soup. I should take pictures, but I probably won’t start until it’s dark and then the pics will be crap (I prefer to use natural light) and I’ll be annoyed. To be perfectly honest, I’m probably only getting around to posting today because I have a paper due tomorrow and I am diligently procrastinating. La de da!

A few years ago my friend Nisi got me a copy of I Like You by Amy Sedaris. It’s one of the most perfect gifts I’ve ever been given. I heart Amy Sedaris, and I heart cooking, and I heart weird humor. Perfecto. There are many different recipes in this book and lots of different ideas for party themes and for party food. (Not to mention a recipe contributed by Stephen Colbert! Squee!) One of the items that is usually always included in a party menu is a cheese ball. First reading the book, I’d never seen a homemade cheese ball before. It was one of those weird retro items I’d only seen strangely prepackaged and sad looking, like fruitcake, and it had never occurred to me that a cheese ball could actually be good. You probably know why. You’ve seen the shrink wrapped monstrosities sold in supermarket deli departments and lurking in holiday gift baskets.

I decided to try making one for a New Year’s Eve party at a friend’s house, and the lucky cheese ball was Cluster Haven’s Pepper Mill Cheese Ball, chosen because of a friend’s nut allergy. I didn’t want him to be denied the cheese-y delicious. All went exceptionally well, and hey, turns out cheese balls are AMAZING. Since then (NYE 2006) I’ve made the same cheese ball for almost every party I’m invited to. Once I bring it that first time, people request it! Basically, you want to make this cheese ball. It makes you popular and everyone wants you at their parties. In fact, I am doing myself a great disservice by giving you the recipe at all, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take. Because I Like You.

Cluster Haven’s Pepper Mill Cheese Ball

1 stick of butter

1 8 oz package of cream cheese

1.5 C grated cheddar cheese (though really, you could use anything)

2 T grated onion (I usually use 1 tsp onion powder and 1/2 tsp garlic powder)

2 T coarsely ground pepper

The pics in this post are of a cheese ball I made for a Halloween party, so I tried to make it scary. He’s supposed to be some sort of Cthulhu/Octopus hybrid. Mostly he just looks cute. If you want to give you cheese ball a face like I did here, you need some pimiento olives and some carrot shavings.

Make sure your butter and cream cheese are at room temperature, or you’re going to hate your life.

Combine the butter and cream cheese.

Add the grated cheese and the onion (and garlic, if using). Mix thoroughly.

Pop the whole mess back into the fridge to firm up a bit, maybe 20-30 minutes, then take it out and form into a ball. The original recipe says to roll it in the pepper, but that’s never worked exceptionally well for me because I always end up with one side coated in pepper and the other bare. I’ve started just using my regular pepper mill and cracking pepper on one side of the ball, turning, cracking some more, until the whole thing is coated. It really helps if you have someone help you with this, but I live alone and I usually manage so I have faith in you.

Awwww!

If you want to give your cheese ball a face, use two whole pimiento olives for eyes (I used a teeny knife to make two hollows before I inserted the olives) and three olives for the tentacle things. Cut three olives in half and use three halves for each side of the cheese ball. Then, use carrot shavings for the nose and mouth.

I think he looks hilarious in the fridge.

Serve at room temperature with crackers.

❤ stef

Recipe: Pumpkin Cheesecake

19 Oct

Man oh man. I am getting BEHIND in the blogging.

Ok, so, we left off with a whole bunch of pumpkin puree, it was about 2 cups. I decided to take that puree and turn it into delicious, soul-sustaining cheesecake. Yummy yum yum!

I was a little worried that I would have to eat the whole thing by myself, but my fears turned out to be unfounded. The cake was split equally between my internship class and my internship site-ie-a whole bunch of counselors LOVE ME right now. I don’t know why no one else has ever thought of this. Problems at work? Bring cheesecake, douchebag. (Not that I had problems. I’M LOVELY. Even without baked goods).

Ingredients (Recipe by Paula Deen).

Crust:

1 3/4 C graham cracker crumbs

3 TB sugar

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 stick melted butter

Filling:

24 oz cream cheese (3 8oz packages)

1 15oz can of pureed pumpkin (this is where I used my homemade pumpkin puree, which I had about 2 cups of).

3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk

1/4 C sour cream

1.5 C sugar

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

1/8 tsp ground cloves (I didn’t use cloves because I didn’t have any).

2 TB flour

1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 350˚.

Crush up your graham crackers. I used my hands.

Add the sugar, cinnamon, and butter. Mix until combined and then press into the bottom of a springform pan.

Beat the cream cheese until smooth (it’s supposed to be room temperature, but I put in in the microwave for about 30 seconds). Then add the pumpkin puree, eggs, egg yolk, sour cream, sugar, spices, flour and vanilla.

Beat until well combined.

Pour into the springform pan and bake for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and let rest for 15 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

My effing cheesecake cracked.

And it started out life as so perfect and smooth!

Right after exiting the oven.

I left it to sit for longer than 15 minutes, and I suspect this is what made it crack. It may have looked like The Land Before Time but it tasted like DELICIOUS. Cut up into slices you could hardly tell, too, so I consider this cheesecake experiment SUCCESS!

Eaaaaat meeeee!

Nommy. Remember to share!

❤ stef