Sunday, February 27, 2011

Daring Bakers: Panna Cotta and Florentine Cookies

We completed our first Daring Cooks challenge and now it is time for the first Daring Bakers challenge!  We were excited because we haven't made either item for this challenge either!  We decided that these desserts would be perfect for Valentine's day weekend!

We were challenged with making a Panna Cotta and were allowed to be creative with the flavorings of a gelee to go with it.  At first I was envisioning a peanut butter and jelly theme to our Panna Cotta, but as soon as the thought of lime and coconut entered my head it would not go away!  The idea of something tropical and summery sounded great since we keep getting so much snow!!

The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.

First, we made a lime gelee.

1 tsp unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (was about 4 limes)
1 tsp lime zest

 In a small cup, sprinkle the gelatin over 1 tablespoon of cold water and let stand until softened, about 3 minutes. In a small saucepan, combine 1/4 cup of the sugar with 2 tablespoons of water and simmer over moderate heat just until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the sugar syrup from the heat and whisk in the softened gelatin until dissolved. Stir in the lime juice and 1/2 teaspoon of the lime zest.  Pour into glasses.  Refrigerate for about 15-30 minutes until set.

Then we made the Panna Cotta.  Instead of using whole milk we used coconut milk so that our Panna Cotta would be a honey coconut Panna Cotta.  

I also made some in my heart shaped silicone muffin pan; however, we couldn't get them to un-mold properly. The gelee layer stuck to the bottom. FAILURE!!!  It still tasted good though! :)

Here are the cookies we made.  D liked the ones that were slightly softer and I actually liked the really crispy ones (they tasted more like caramel that way).  

Since we didn't have dark corn syrup we used a little molasses in place of some of the corn syrup to give it a darker color.

Here are the cookies out of the oven.

The cookies needed a chocolate drizzle.

Another picture of the final presentation!

If you'd like to try the recipes visit HERE.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Daring Cooks Challenge #1: Soba Noodles and Tempura

Finally!!  The reason we started this blog...  OUR FIRST DARING COOKS CHALLENGE!!  I was so excited on the day of the announcement of the monthly challenge, I think I checked the website about 10 times before it was posted!  I was excited that this first challenge seemed like something that wouldn't be too difficult.  The most difficult part was going to get over my slight fear of a big pot of oil on the stove.  (Thanks Mom and Dad for the fire extinguisher for Christmas.  We didn't even need it!)  You'd think I wouldn't be scared of the oil since we deep fry our turkey, but that is outside and I make sure to stay inside!

The February 2011 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by Lisa of Blueberry Girl. She challenged Daring Cooks to make Hiyashi Soba and Tempura. She has various sources for her challenge including,, and

Here are the recipes if you'd like to try them!

First, we cooked the noodles so that they could cool.  The noodles have to be rinsed with cold water after they are boiled.  The Soba noodles are served cold as a noodle salad.

Meanwhile, D mixed together the ingredients below to make a dipping sauce for the noodles and the tempura.

Then we cut up all the veggies so they could go back in the fridge to chill.  The sweet potatoes had to be blanched quickly to slightly cook them.

To keep the tempura batter cold we sat the bowl with the batter in a large bowl filled with ice water.

Mix the tempura batter together, it should be somewhat lumpy.

Once the oil was heated to about 340 deg.  The veggies came out and got tossed in some flour, tempura batter, and then into the oil.

We made snap peas, onions, sweet potatoes, and cauliflower.

Here is a finished plate with Soba noodles, dipping sauce, and tempura.

I even really liked the tempura left over.  Both of us agreed the tempura was good, but doubt we will spend the time to make it again.  It is definitely something we wouldn't have tried had we not been faced with the challenge.  Thank you Lisa at Blueberry Girl!!!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Hamburger Buns

D was going to be breaking out the smoker this weekend for a pork shoulder, so I knew I'd want some bread to go with it.  We typically don't buy hamburger buns because we end up not using them all, so I got the idea to make some homemade hamburger buns.  It was much easier then I ever imagined and they turned out way better than store bought buns!

Hamburger Buns (From Annie Eats)

1 tbsp. sugar
2 ¼ tsp. instant yeast
¼ cup warm water (105°-115°)
1 cup warm milk (105°-115°)  (I used skim)
1 tbsp. vegetable oil  (Used Olive Oil)
1 tsp. salt
3 to 3 ¾ cups all-purpose flour  (I used half Whole Wheat Flour)
1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp. cold water
sesame, poppy or caraway seeds, or coarse salt, for topping

In a bowl of an electric mixer, dissolve the sugar and then the yeast in the warm water.  Add the milk, oil, salt and 1 ½ cups of flour to the yeast mixture.  Beat vigorously for 2 minutes.  Gradually add flour, 2 tablespoons at a time, until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.  Switch to the dough hook and knead until you have a smooth and elastic dough, about 7-9 minutes. 

Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl.  Turn once to coat the entire ball of dough in oil.  Cover with a tightly-woven dampened towel and let rise until doubled, about one hour. 

Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface.  Working with oiled hands, divide the dough into 9 equal pieces.  Shape each piece into a ball, and flatten into 3 ½ -inch disks.  For soft-sided buns, place them on a well-seasoned baking sheet a half-inch apart so they will grow together when they rise.  For crisper bun, place them three inches apart. 

Cover with a towel and let rise until almost doubled, about 45 minutes. 

15 minutes before you want to bake the buns, preheat the oven to 400°.  Just before baking, brush the tops of the buns lightly with the egg wash and sprinkle with any desired toppings. 

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the internal temperature of the bread reaches 190°.  When the buns are done, remove them from the baking sheet to cool on a wire rack.  This will prevent the crust from becoming soggy.

Dutch Baby Pancake

We used to go to the Pancake Pantry every once awhile when I was growing up back in Michigan.  I miss breakfast places like that... In KY breakfast is slightly more southern than fancy pancakes.  I miss fancy pancakes!  I miss sweets for breakfast!  I'm sure that I had a dutch baby pancake at some point, but really I remember getting the apple pancakes the most often.  This morning I just had to have a dutch baby pancake!

Since, its almost Valentine's day I made a powdered sugar heart on D's.  Awww, isn't that cute!  Instead of syrup, I heated up some frozen berries and added a little splenda to sweeten them.

Dutch Baby Pancake (from Smitten Kitchen)

4 eggs
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup flour, sifted
2/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons soft butter (I somehow forgot to add this and guess what it came out just fine! So for less calories just forget this part)

Heat oven to 400°F. Butter two 9-inch cake pans well. Put eggs in blender container, cover and process until light yellow in color. Remove cover and add remaining ingredients; process until smooth. Pour into prepared pans and bake 20 minutes; then reduce heat to 350°F and bake 10 minutes. Slide onto hot plates.

  • Make sure to either butter your pans really well or use non-stick spray.  One of my pancakes came out perfect the other.. was a pile of mess.. that tasted amazing!

Banana Blondies with Cinnamon Chips

I wanted banana muffins..  I ended up making banana blondies.  I'm rather indecisive sometimes when it comes to what I want to bake.. mostly because I want EVERYTHING!  To help me (or actually make my decision harder) I turned to  I chose to search just banana (bad idea), 32 pages of pictures of food came up for me to look at!  I'm pretty sure I ended up going through all 32 pages.  After calling out the name of various items to D and getting "Sounds good," to almost everything.. I called it quits and made a decision on these banana blondies on Erin's Food Files.  I chose to modify to make them slightly healthier..  they are banana right?  That makes them healthy already!

They turned out so good, I apparently forgot to take a picture of them completed!

Banana Blondies with Cinnamon Chips

4 TBS butter
2/3 cup Splenda Brown Sugar Blend
1 egg
3 bananas
1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 tsp vanilla 
1/2 cup cinnamon chips
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 deg.  Spray 9inch square pan with baking Pam.  Beat sugar and butter.  Add egg.  Add  bananas and mash.  Add vanilla and mix.  Combine dry ingredients in separate bowl and then combine with wet ingredients.  Finally, add chips.  Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake for about 20-25 minutes.  Cool and enjoy!

Homemade soft pretzels

This is the first item on our "To make" list that we've actually made!  D and I had planned on making these before starting the Revolution back at the beginning of January.  Somehow, we ran out of time.. The first weekend after the Revolution was over we decided to tackle these homemade pretzels.  It also happened to be Super Bowl weekend.  They turned out to be much easier then I imagined.  It takes a little bit of time because of the rising and boiling.  The boiling process also made a mess, but it was well worth it!  We will definitely be making these again!!

Homemade Soft Pretzel Bites (As found on Two Peas and their Pod)
Adapted from Bobby Flay
Soft Pretzels:
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 package active dry yeast
3 ounces unsalted butter, melted
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
Vegetable oil
3 quarts water
3/4 cup baking soda
1 whole egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water
Coarse sea salt
For the Pretzels: Combine the water, sugar, yeast, and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix with the dough hook until combined. Let sit for 5 minutes.
Add the salt and flour and mix on low speed until combined. Increase the speed to medium and continue kneading until the dough is smooth and begins to pull away from the side of the bowl, about 3 to 4 minutes. If the dough appears too wet, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Remove the dough from the bowl, place on a flat surface and knead into a ball with your hands.
Oil a bowl with vegetable oil, add the dough and turn to coat with the oil. Cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until the dough doubles in size, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Bring the water to a boil in a small roasting pan over high heat and add the baking soda.
Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a flat surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces, about 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 ounces each. Roll each piece into a long rope measuring 22 inches and shape. Cut the dough into one inch pieces to make the pretzel bites. Boil the pretzel bites in the water solution in batches. We did about 15 bites at a time. Boil for about 30 seconds. Remove with a large slotted spoon. Place pretzel bites on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Make sure they are not touching.  Brush the tops with the egg wash and season liberally with the salt. Place into the oven and bake for 15 to 18 minutes until golden brown.
  • The recipe said if you wanted cinnamon sugar pretzels, to sprinkle it onto the pretzels after the eggwash.  I don't recommend it... the sugar started to burn and the pretzels weren't done yet!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Turkey Taco Soup

Come join Soup-a-Palooza at TidyMom and Dine and Dish sponsored by Bush’s Beans, Hip Hostess, Pillsbury and Westminster Crackers

With all the cold weather and snow, it seems like every weekend all we think about is making a soup.  One that we can enjoy that night for dinner and then hopefully have for lunch a few days the next week.  I love taking a nice warm soup for lunch!  It is a great way to warm up since I'm always freezing at my desk.  We have had a ton of taco soups, but never made one on our own.  After looking up recipes and seeing they all called for taco seasoning mix and ranch seasoning mix, I knew we were on our own!  Seasoning mixes have way too much sodium!

1 lb ground turkey
1 container of salsa
1 box of broth
2 cans black beans (or dried beans that have been cooked already)
1 onion
1 green pepper
1/2 cup frozen corn
2 TBS chili sauce
1 TBS Onion Powder or more after tasting soup
1 TBS Cumin or more after tasting soup
1 TBS Chili Powder or more after tasting soup
1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper or more after tasting soup

Brown the turkey with the onion, garlic, and spices.

In a pot combine the broth, salsa, green pepper, corn, black beans, chili sauce, and browned meat.

Allow to simmer for at least 20 minutes.  Taste and add more spices by taste.  I really need to improve my photography and take photos in bowls other than my red dishes!  

Balsamic Chicken

Watch out balsamic vinegar I'm on a roll and the bottle is disappearing quick!  To go with the balsamic turnips I decided to keep the tastes very similar or..... I wasn't creative that night..  A quick and easy balsamic chicken!

1/2 cup Chicken Stock
2 - 4 TBS Balsamic Vinegar

Pound the chicken out.  Season with whatever seasoning you like, I used garlic powder, onion powder and a chicken seasoning we had.  Spray pan with non-stick spray and cook chicken on each side.

Remove chicken from pan, pour in chicken broth and balsamic vinegar.  Whisk to pick up the brown bits from cooking the chicken.

Place chicken back into pan and simmer with sauce until chicken is done.  If sauce is thickening too much add more stock and place cover on pan.

Remove from pan, pour sauce over top and serve!  (Red plates don't make food look very appetizing.. I promise it was good!!)

Balsamic Turnips

We were standing in the produce section trying to determine what vegetables we would like for the week. I said I’d like to try making fresh beets. After a discussion about how they stain, I decided against it (but only for a little while). D said he liked turnips. I wasn’t sure if I’ve ever had one (MOM- did you ever make them?). So we bought turnips. So they sat in the fridge until I ran out of all my familiar vegetables. Now, what to do with the turnips? Hello Google here I come… After reading tons of recipes of what to do with a turnip I decided to wing it and incorporate a few of the recipes I saw. I decided that turnips are my new friend in the kitchen. I loved them! Here are Balsamic Roasted Turnips:


2 Turnips
½ tsp Olive Oil
1 Tbs Balsamic Vinegar + ½ Tbs

Turn oven up to 425 deg F. Cut off bottom and top of turnips and cut into about 1 inch pieces. Toss with olive oil and Vinegar and place on baking sheet with foil and baking spray. Roast for about 30 min. total. Flip occasionally. Sprinkle a little more balsamic vinegar over the top and serve.

Eggplant Lasagna

We have been awful at keeping up with blogging, it is a lot more time consuming than we ever thought!  Plus the cord for the laptop is unusable, so having to go all the way to the office to use a computer really puts a damper on things.  We are determined to catch up and get back on track so expect a few posts!!

D was craving some lasagna.. odd because he says he doesn't really like lasagna.  However, we are right smack in the middle of The Revolution at our gym.  Therefore, NO pasta!  What do you do when you can't have pasta in your lasagna?  You look toward eggplant of course!  (We had many other ideas of what to use, Shiratki noodles layered, spaghetti squash, etc.. but settled on eggplant.)  It turned out great and neither of us missed the noodles.  I actually think we liked it better!  

Here is how we made it.  First, brown some ground turkey (or whatever kind of meat) with onions and garlic.  

Blended some fresh tomatoes with the pasta sauce to keep the nutrition stats better!  Yes, I know from our blogs title you'd think we didn't eat tomatoes.. and we really don't eat them often.. and when we do they have to be cooked or in D's case garden fresh.  Please don't top our salads or sandwiches with tomatoes!  EWW...

Mix sauce into browned meat mixture and simmer for about 20 minutes.  We also added fresh basil because they had some on sale at the store that day.

Next, cut eggplant into thin disks.  (I left this task to D.. I sometimes cannot be trusted with a knife!  Ask my nurse friend that had to come save me once.. THANKS SKY|!!)

Create lasagna layers, sauce, eggplant, cheese (we used fresh mozzarella), and to mine I added some fat-free cottage cheese and spinach.

Bake at 350 deg F for about 30 minutes covered and then 10 to 15 minutes uncovered.  ENJOY!!!