Oh Sugar!

​Reposted from Feb 21,2012.

Sugar.  Seems simple enough right?  The white grainy stuff that you add to various batters to create sweetness, or combined with the right amount of fat can become a most fabulous frosting or glaze.  But sugar is so much more than that! There are many many different kinds of sugar and their individual properties make them better for some purposes over others.  Have you ever had  recipe that just wasn’t working out, it was too sticky, or it didn’t rise in the way you had hoped.  These can all be problems associated with the type of sugar your using and how your incorporating it into your recipes.  Go figure right?!

Refined table sugar used to be a valuable commodity, it was traded, and kept like currency.  It was once so rare that it was referred to as “white gold”.  Before sugar cane was used to produce refinedgranulated sugar,  honey, and fruit sugars were used to sweeten recipes.  Beet sugars became very popular as a less expensive, and more readily available alternative. Today the growing and refining process for both cane sugar, and beet sugar make them about equal in flavor and affordability.

Most people believe sugar is just a sweetener, which in some ways may be true, unless your baking.  In the baking world sugar is so much more! It is a chemical needed for tenderness, fluff, texture,  and color. It even acts as a natural preservative, just think about jelly and jam!

Granulated sugar, whether cane or beet, is what we think of as regular table sugar.  It is white and comes in many different textures from superfine to coarse.  This is the type of sugar used in most recipes as a medium granule size, and when heated takes on a light brown color, and a flavor similar to caramel or toffee. The reason that we cream butter and sugar together in many recipes is to build up air in the batter, and get a rise out of our baked goods.  The granules of sugar rubbing against each other in the butter or fat create tiny little air bubbles, later when a leavener like baking soda or baking powder is added it helps to expand these air bubbles and your cakes and cookies rise like magic.

So what is the difference between superfine granulated sugar, and confectioners sugar?  They look the same and have a similar texture, but confectioners sugar contains additives that prevent clumping, and crystallization.  Usually cornstarch.  Confectioners sugar comes in a few types referred to as 4X, 6X, or 10X  this refers to the number of times it has been processed.  This type of sugar is great for Meringues, frosting, confections, and icings or glazes.

Raw sugar is another type that can be found although it’s not truly raw, it has been processed to remove any potentially harmful contaminents.  A popular brand of raw sugar is calledDemerara Sugar, it comes from Guyana and has a coarse texture and an amber color a lot like a light brown sugar.  Some of the raw sugar varieties will have a stronger molasses flavor. Many people believe this form of sugar is more natural and will give baked goods a better flavor. But, truthfully all sugars that are purchased in the U.S. today are processed in some fashion or another and made different from the naturally occurring state.

Brown sugar is a moist sugar that in the past was a semi-refined cane sugar with some of the molasses left in it.  Today brown sugar is refined white sugar with molasses added to it.  The color light or dark depends on the amount of molasses added back in to the sugar, and can affect how strong the flavor of the sugar will be.   Using brown sugar in a recipe will cause the flavor profile to change, instead of a light toffee flavor when cooked, brown sugar creates a more butterscotchy type flavor, it also adds moistness, and a darker coloration to baked goods. Brown sugar can make recipes baked at higher temps very sticky. Also, if brown sugar sets for long periods of time it can become very hard. To re-soften it, place in a ziploc bag with a slice of apple for 1-2 days and it will become soft again, remove the apple slice and store in an airtight container. If you needed to use it sooner than a day or two, place in a microwave safe dish and heat slowly until it loosens up.

To make your own Homemade Brown Sugar, combine 2 Tbsp of molasses to 1 cup of granulated sugar.  Enjoy!


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The Delights of a Snickerdoodle

​Reposted from February 2012

What’s not to love about a Snickerdoodle cookie, they are sweet, and soft, with that slightly crispy outer coating of cinnamon and sugar. They’re chewy, a fulfilling cookie experience (more bang for your caloric buck!) , and for me bring back great memories of my Grandma CarolAnne. Not to mention they have a great name! Snickerdoodle really just try to say that without smiling 🙂

The earliest recipes for Snickerdoodle Cookies were from the late 1880’s.  This was a very popular cookie in New England and Pennsylvania.  Commonly used as a “tea-time” cookie, they are easy to make, and can store for several days in a sealed container without becoming stale.

So what are the defining characteristics of this baked treat? So glad you asked, there is only really one major difference between a Snickerdoodle, and a sugar cookie. Sugar cookie’s do not traditionally incorporate other spices like cinnamon, and with a Snickerdoodle, the cookie is rolled in a generous amount of sugar and cinnamon creating a sweet lightly crispy outer crust, and the cookie it self is soft, and has a cake like texture, and they have the most amazing flavor. So yummy!

One serving of Snickerdoodle Cookies, usually two medium sized cookies 2-3 inch diameter, will cost you only about 125 calories, and contain about 9 gm of sugar.  Compared to peanut butter cookies which will cost you around 145 calories/serving, or chocolate chip cookies at 167 calories per serving,(values are dependent on the recipe used).

My Grandma used to make cookies every week, she would usually make a couple of different kinds but I always loved to see the snickerdoodles.  It was such a treat to see her big glass cookie jar full of fresh homemade cookies.  So, without further delay, let’s bake some cookies!

Snickerdoodle Cookies

2 3/4 c. all purpose flour

1/2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. baking powder

1 c. unsalted butter at room temp.

1 1/2 c. granulated sugar

2 lg eggs

1 tsp vanilla

outer coating

3/4 c. granulated sugar ( you can also try raw sugar for a little different flavor)

2 tsp. ground cinnamon or cinnamon spice blend

Preheat you oven to 400 degrees, and line baking sheets with parchment paper.  In a large bowl whisk or sift together Flour salt and baking powder and set aside.

In your mixer, blend together butter and sugar until creamy, add eggs one at time until well incorporated and then add vanilla.  Mix well, and then add your dry ingredients a little at a time until dough is well mixed.

Refrigerate for 1-2 hours or until dough has firmed up and can be easily handled.  Flour your hands and roll dough into 1-2 in. balls.  Drop these into the sugar and cinnamon mix and coat generously.  Place about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets and using the bottom of a glass flatten the cookies to about a half inch thickness. If you don’t flatten the cookies it can affect cooking time.

Bake 8-10 minutes in a preheated oven.  Remove and allow to cool on a baking rack.  Makes 4-5 dozen cookies. Enjoy!


Valentine’s Day Treats

​reposted from February 8th 2012

Valentines day is upon us and what a great “holiday” for bakers.  Treats galore, cookies, candies, cakes, and fudge there are so many fabulous options to choose from when looking for that perfect sweet for your sweetie.  My daughter is thoroughly excited about being chosen to be on the valentines day committee for her class, she has already signed us up to make cupcakes, and I’m sure that they won’t disappoint.

Valentine’s Day, orginally known asSaint Valentine’s Day was derived from early Christian and Roman traditions, one legend has it that the holiday has originated from the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalis/Lupercalia, a fertility celebration that used to observed annually on February 15. But the rise of Christianity in Europe saw many pagan holidays being renamed for and dedicated to the early Christian martyrs. Lupercalia was no exception. In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius turned Lupercalia into a Christian feast day and set its observance a day earlier, on February 14. He proclaimed February 14 to be the feast day in honor of Saint Valentine, a Roman martyr who lived in the 3rd century. It is this St. Valentine whom the modern Valentine’s Day honors.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, there were at least three early Christian saints by the name of Valentine. While one was a priest in Rome, another was a bishop in Terni. Little is known or documented about the third St. Valentine except that he met his end in Africa. Surprisingly, all three of them were said to have been martyred on the 14th February.

Thus 14th February became the day for all lovers and Valentine became its Patron Saint. It began to be annually observed by young Romans who offered handwritten greetings of affection, known as Valentines, on this day to the women they admired. With the coming of Christianity, the day came to be known as St. Valentine’s Day.  Later Shortened to just Valentine’s Day.

Candies are a traditional Valentine’s Day treat and here is a simple recipe that is sure to please!

Oreo Truffles

1 package- Oreo cookies

1 12 oz- bag Semi Sweet ChocolateMorsels

1 oz. paraffin

1 8oz. package of Cream cheese

2 Tbsp. Powdered sugar

Line a baking sheet with wax paper, and set aside.  In a food processor grind down 9 oreo cookies into a fine powder and set aside for use later.  Take the remaining cookies and grind them down into a fine powder in the food processor, once well blended down begin to add the cream cheese and pulse in the processor until a dough begins to form, add the the powdered sugar and pulse some more until well blended. Take your cookie mixture and refrigerate for up to 1 hour to firm the dough up. In a double boiler add the chocolate chips and carefully melt them down being careful not to burn them, once melted add the paraffin, melting it into the chocolate this will allow your chocolate to harden once cooled, and give it a glossy shine when your truffles are finished.  Form the dough into 1 inch balls and carefully dip in the tempered chocolate, place them on the lined baking sheets to cool.  Before they dry completely, top with the reserved powdered cookie bits. Chill for 10-15 minutes and remove from parchment paper, I place mine into small cupcake liners to be served. They are so delicious! Enjoy!


Dreamin’ BIG

O.M.Gee!!! My fabulous husband is dreaming big today and there are few things I find more attractive.

He took me and the family on a road trip today to the Lansing Boat show!

It may be a five year plan…but a plan is a plan…and I can’t wait! Today we dared to dream big and began the planning process toward the purchase of a cabin cutty boat; for some family fun getaway time.

We have been pretty fortunate and although we need to save and plan, hard work always pays off! I look forward to sharing in his dream for us!

We have always been able to meet our own expectations in life…we wanted to buy a house, done!…new cars, done!…start a successful business, done! I know we can do this too!

What are you daring to dream for?!

Football Fare

Reposted from February 4th, 2012
​Super Bowl weekend is upon us, and who needs a better excuse to get in the kitchen and do some culinary damage.

The first Super Bowl, or Super Bowl I, took place in 1966,  and this years Super Bowl XLVI will take place on Sunday February 5th, 2012.  The New England Patriots will battle against the New York Giants for the championship of theNational Football League.  Super Bowl Sunday has become a great American tradition, founded on pride for the national game, and has become the second largest food consumption day in the U.S. second only to Thanksgiving.  The Super Bowl television broadcast is also known for being the most watched television program of the year, bringing in large sums for advertisement, and entertainment.

My family is no exception to the pseudo-holiday that is the Super Bowl,  we love it!  It’s so exciting to watch all the pregame gear up, and

get the professional opinions on the game and players.  I don’t have a personal favorite this year but I may be routing for the New York Giants, and Eli Manning for the simple fact that this will solidify Eli’s place as an amazing quarterback with talent that was far underestimated in his early season’s when compared to big brother Peyton.  O.k. I know that sounds like I have a favorite but truth is I will be far to busy in the kitchen to really route for either team.

My kitchen will be alive on Super Bowl Sunday! Our menu will consist of Bacon- Ranch Blooming Bread, Taco salad bar, seasoned wings, and for the adults the Touchdown Tea (a.k.a. Long Island Iced Tea).  And of course no party would be complete without dessert!  So, I’m preparing chocolate covered strawberries with a football twist, and cupcakes for the kids! I’m not going to share all of these recipes but the fun ones I just have too!! I can’t help myself.

Bacon- Ranch Blooming Bread

1 unsliced round loaf of sour dough bread

1 12 oz. block of cheddar cheese sliced

1 pound of thick sliced bacon cooked crispy and chopped

1/2 c. butter

1 1/2 Tbsp. Powdered Ranch Dressing Mix

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. With a serrated bread knife cut the bread in both directions with out cutting through the bottom crust.  Open up the sections of bread and stuff with sliced cheese and chopped bacon, don’t be afraid to stuff it completely full.  Melt butter and mix in the ranch dressing seasoning. Pour butter mixture evenly over the bread and wrap completely in Aluminum foil.  Place on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes in preheated oven.  Unwrap and bake and additional 10 minutes until cheese is melted and bread begins to toast lightly.  Serve warm, the bread will pull away from the uncut base like a “blooming onion”. Enjoy!

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

1 pound small- medium sized strawberries

1 container Dolce Chocolate

1 container Dolce White Chocolate

Clean and dry strawberries and set aside, heat the chocolate until smooth and dip strawberries covering nearly the entire strawberry. In another bowl heat the white chocolate and pipe onto the cooled strawberries in the shape of football laces.  The kids will love this chocolate treat!

 

Bahamian Food-cation

Reposted from January 2012

 A week or so ago I encouraged you all to experience your own food-cations and in the meantime I have had one of my own.  We visited the famed Atlantis Resort onParadise Island, in Nassau Bahamas.  The resort was beautiful, and elegant, and definately carried the aquatic theme throughout.  You could see the sea turtle and sting ray habitats from the balcony of our room, as well as a breathtaking view of the ocean. 


 



The Bahamian citizens are friendly, and always willing to share with you little bits about the island and it’s history and culture.  They are also encouraging of their local foods a common ingredient in bahamian food the conch. Conch are the little critters that you find in the big pink sea shells, and they can be found everywhere on the island.

Conch fritters are a particular favorite, as well as conch salad. Conch fritters are a savory pastry type food, reminiscent for me of an American hushpuppy. The conch is cut in to very small pieces, and incorporated into a batter that is then deep fried. It has a crispy bite on the outside but a soft bread texture in the center. Very tasty! Often served with a dipping sauce this is a must have when visiting the bahamas.


There is one particular place to visit when looking for the most authentic Bahamian food, at a reasonable price. The Fish Fry.  The fish fry is a specific area of Nassau where local fare takes center stage, and you can find everything from beans and rice, chicken souse, and the freshest snapper and grouper you’ve ever tasted!  Known for the seafood in the area, the fish fry is well priced for the amount of food you get, and is authentic to the area which is a must for any food-cation!  A seafood celebration in the bahamas!

There are still moments on any food-cation where you want “normal” food, and  at Atlantis it will cost you! An average meal within the resort will easily run you $50/adult or around $200/meal for a family of 4-5.  There are alternatives though you just have to seek them out. One favorite for my kids while on resort an American favorite; Johnny Rockets! At a third of the price of the resort meals, you can get a great burger, fries, and soft drink that will definately fill you up and is just a short walk away in the Marina Village, surrounded by shopping areas, and other touristy attractions, this was a nice stop for us. 

Johnny Rockets, Grilled Chicken Sandwhich and Fries

Another great way to beat the money monster that is Atlantis, order Dominos Pizza! They will deliver to the Lobby of the resort, and two large pizzas and a 2L of pop cost only $30.00! Not my favorite but the kids would choose this over conch salad any day, and this was one of their favorite meals.

Although bahamian food presentation is much simpler than other places that I visited, it is full of flavor, and a source of pride for the bahamian people. Rightly so, I couldn’t get enough it was so delicious, and now to find fresh conch in Michigan…hmmm… that one might be tough.  Happy eating everyone!


National Peanut Butter Day

Reposted from January 24th 2012

In my haste to get going on my food-cation, I almost missed out on sharing in the joys of national peanut butter day with you all!

Peanut butter is an American favorite, we make sandwiches with it, cookies with it, pie with it… we make it into sauces, and toppings. It’s a comfort food. I remember very vividly my Dad making sandwiches for us when we were kids. Using the moist Holsum white bread and generously applying about a 1 inch thick layer of peanut butter on it; it was so thick and sticky, but we still looked forward to that special Dad delicacy!

Peanut butter was patented in 1884 by Marcus Gillmore Edson, although the patent described the preparation of a peanut paste, the modern version is credited to American inventor George Washington Carver.  It is made primarily from ground dry roasted peanuts with the addition of oil and in some recipes sugar.

A relatively healthful food, peanut butter contains a high level of mono-unsaturated fat ( the heart healthy kind) as well as protein, folate, and fiber.  An average serving of peanut butter contains about 180 calories.  There are even more healthful peanut butter alternatives take for example the newest powdered version PB2.  PB2 is slow roasted peanuts that have been pressed to remove the fat.  The process creates a peanut butter powder with 85% less fat calories than the standard preparation!  PB2 boasts a mere 53 calories per serving and can be mixed with other ingredients to get that rich delicious peanut butter flavor.  A quick PB2 recipe in case you want to give it a try; Mix PB2 with sugar free whipped topping and use as a fruit dip, YUM!

Peanut butter has been used in some other alternative ways as well. For example, who hasn’t heard of using peanut butter to get gum out of hair?  But here is a less widely known use for peanut butter; have you ever made a fabulous pan fried fish fillet in your kitchen only to regret it an hour later because of the smell?  Peanut butter can help.  While your fish fry pan is still hot, drop in a Tbsp of creamy peanut butter and allow it to coat the bottom of the pan, and cook down slightly, it will kill the smell, and the oil in the peanut butter will loosen up fried bits stuck in the pan to make clean up easier!

So, Happy National Peanut Butter Day!! I hope you all celebrate accordingly, I leave you with a simply delightful peanut butter s’more recipe to give try, and now I will be off on previously announced food-cation! Enjoy!!

Peanut Butter S’mores

Ritz crackers

Peanut butter

Large Marshmallow

Spread peanut butter on the crackers and top with a marshmallow, place under the oven broiler until the marshmallows begin to brown. And serve!!