Very Kid Friendly

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

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Cinnamon Swirl Bread

1 c milk
1/4 c butter

2 1/4 t active dry yeast
1/4 c warm (110 degree) water

2 eggs
1/4 c sugar
4 c all-purpose flour, divided
1 t salt

1/4 c sugar
4.5 t cinnamon

1 egg
1 T milk

In a saucepan, heat 1 cup of milk and butter until butter melts. Put aside until it has cooled to 110 degrees.

Meanwhile, put warm water into the bowl of a standing mixture fitted with the paddle and sprinkle with yeast. Stir with a fork to dissolve and let sit for three minutes. Then beat in 1/4 cup of sugar and 2 eggs. Add salt, warm milk mixture and 2 cups of flour. Mix at medium speed until well-blended, pausing to scrape down the sides.  Switch to dough hook and add 1.5 cups of flour. Knead at low-medium speed for about ten minutes, pausing to scrape down the sides until a ball has formed.

Turn dough onto work surface. Knead in about another 1/2 c of flour. The dough should be smooth and elastic and not sticky. If it is still tacky add more flour, two tablespoons at a time, until the dough reaches the desired consistency. When you say ohhhh that feels PERFECT it probably is.

Transfer dough to a large, lightly oiled bowl and spin the dough around a few times to coat with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm place (75 degrees - I used my oven which has a proof setting but a closet nestled in a blanket would work) to rise for two to two and a half hours.

Punch dough once in the center and then gently turn it onto unfloured surface. Let the dough rest for ten minutes. Grease 9 x 5 loaf pan with butter. Combine 1/4 cup of sugar with cinnamon in a small bowl.  

Press dough into a 6 x 8 inch rectangle. Use a rolling pin to roll dough out until it is 8 x 18 inches. Don't squish it - be gentle. Brush dough generously with milk and then sprinkle evenly with cinnamon sugar leaving a half inch border at the far end. Roll the dough away from you very tightly, using your hands to keep it from getting too wide. Pinch seam shut with your fingers. Then poke in the ends and pinch those shut as well.

Place loaf seam side down in the pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let it rise for an hour and a half until the dough is an inch over the rim of the pan. Preheat oven to 350°.

When dough has risen, whisk together one egg and two teaspoons of milk and brush over top of the dough loaf. Bake until golden brown about 30 to 35 minutes. Remove loaf from pan and cool on its side on a wire rack until bread is room temperature.

Printable version here

Notes: Historically I don't bake. But a couple of weeks ago I decided I wanted to master French bread before I die and I have been on something of a run ever since. For this recipe I started with Cook's Illustrated but their dough was so wet it was literally running between my fingers as I tried to work with it so I went online and cobbled a few recipes together the next time I tried it. It turned out BEAUTIFULLY.

If you don't have a standing mixer use a wooden spoon to combine the ingredients and then knead it by hand for about 15-16 minutes.   


Grilled Soy-Lime Chicken

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Grilled Soy-Lime Chicken

1.25 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast

2 c warm water
2 T sugar
2 T kosher salt

3 T soy sauce
1/4 t sugar
1/4 t grated lime zest
2 t lime juice

Combine water, sugar and salt in a bowl large enough to hold the chicken but small enough that it can be mostly submerged in the brine. Stir to dissolve sugar and salt and then add the chicken breast. Brine for thirty minutes.

In a separate bowl combine soy sauce, sugar, lime juice and lime zest. Remove chicken breast from brine, shake to remove excess liquid and then put chicken breast into marinade. Turn to coat and let the chicken marinate while the grill is heating, ten to fifteen minutes.   

Grill over medium heat for nine minutes. Flip and grill for another seven minutes.

Notes: Oh, stop yawning and just eat it. I struggled with chicken breast for a really long time. It's cheap, it defrosts in a plastic bag and warm water in less than half an hour, it's versatile, it's healthy, kids generally like it but... I just couldn't seem to DO anything with it. 

Enter the 30 minute brine (wow!) and one of a million marinades. Try this one. I like it. Patrick LOVES it. Caroline and Edward ate respectable amounts even though I think they get tired of chewing after a while and need something easier like the asparagus and rice that went with it. Edward is like a giraffe, he prefers things that are green. Caroline, for some explicable reason, is a rice FIEND.

"RIIIIIIIIIICCCEE?" she shrieks with both hands outstretched and another thousand grains fall to the floor.

What I have not yet tried is this same recipe without the grill but now that we are being deluged with an icy rain and the temperature inside my house is about sixty (who turns on the heat this early?) I think my grilling days are over. I shall try it on the stovetop and report back later, unless you want to try it on the stovetop and report back sooner.


Freezable French Toast

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Freezable French Toast

2 loaves sliced bread

6 T butter, browned

3 c half-and-half
4 eggs
1/4 c brown sugar
2 T flour
2 T vanilla extract
1 T real maple syrup
2 t cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350° unless you are going to use the broiler to toast the bread, in which case you can wait to turn on the broiler and then reduce the heat to 350° for the baking cycle.

Heat butter in a saucepan until it has browned, about five minutes. Remove from heat and let cool about five to ten minutes - you want the butter to still be liquid but not so hot it that it causes the eggs to cook when you add them. Then whisk in eggs, half-and-half, brown sugar, flour, vanilla, maple syrup and cinnamon. Pour into a wide, flat container (like a lasagne pan or a big Tupperware container.)

Spray a wire cooling rack with cooking spray (or grease lightly with oil or a little butter) and place it inside a baking sheet. Two if you have them.

Start toasting the bread. You can either use a toaster or arrange the bread on the racks and broil for a minute or two on each side. The idea is to toast the bread and then soak the warm toast in the egg/half-and-half mixture so that it absorbs.

Take two pieces of warm toast at a time and submerge them in the custard for about sixty seconds (you'll start to see air bubbles as if you are drowning them - drowning them in GOODNESS.) Shake excess liquid off and arrange pieces on the wire cooling racks. Mine fit eight perfectly and I baked two sheets at once. Bake at 350° for fifteen minutes, turning after seven minutes (if you are baking two sheets switch their positions in the oven at this time.) Repeat with toast, custard soak and bake until both loaves and the custard are gone.

Let cool on the racks for thirty minutes, then place in freezer for an hour. Transfer frozen toast to Ziploc bags and freeze to store.

To reheat simply pop into the toaster and toast.

Makes 32 pieces. Serves: 1 Patrick.

Printable version here

Notes: Did that make any sense? It seems so obvious when I was doing it (toast soak bake freeze) but I am not sure if I didn't just garble things a little. The idea came from Cook's Country (a magazine I like) but I tweaked it a lot. The process takes time and is a nice weekend project, I think. The payoff comes on weekday mornings when you can create really good french toast in thirty seconds with the toaster. Ta DA! 


Jan Hagels

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Jan Hagels

1 c butter, softened
1 c sugar

1 egg, separated white from yolk
1 t almond extract

2 c flour

1/2 c sliced almonds
1 T sugar
1/4 t cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°. Using a mixer, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk and almond extract. Then add flour and stir until just combined.

Turn dough into ungreased 15X10X1 inch pan (jelly roll pan.) Using your fingers spread the dough until it evenly covers the entire pan.

In a small bowl whisk egg white until it is frothy. Brush egg white over dough and then sprinkle the almonds on top. Finish by sprinkling the cinnamon sugar over the dough.

Bake for 25 minutes until the top is golden brown. Let cool and then cut into pieces. Traditionally these cookies are served in diamond shapes so cut into diagonal strips that criss-cross the pan. Or, you know, squares taste the same.

Printable version here


Notes: The most time consuming part of this recipe is pushing the dough into the pan. When you first start to do so you will swear that I am  crazy and it will never be enough to cover the pan. But I'm not and it does.

My mother's best friend was German (still is, last I heard from her) and she used to make these cookies at Christmastime. For the first thirty seven years of my life I only considered eating these in December. But I have recently realized that life is too short to relegate things that taste good to tiny windows of time and my new plan is to start drinking at breakfast. Oh, and to make Jan Hagels whenever I feel like it.

Last week I was standing in the grocery store about to buy a package of Oreos when I decided that I should bake more often. What could be more comforting and loving than a homemade cookie in one's lunchbox, I reasoned. So I virtuously returned the Oreos to the shelf and I picked up a big bag of chocolate chips and a small ditto of sliced almonds on my way out. Then, as I do, I forgot about it until about nine o'clock on Sunday night. Jan Hagels come together very quickly and they bake quickly so it wasn't THAT much of a hassle but I still felt like I had been particularly selfless when I told Patrick on Monday morning that I had made cookies for his lunch.

"Great!" he said. "Chocolate chip?"

"No! Jan Hagels!"

So he looked at them and made a face and said, "oh. I don't like almonds" and then Steve said, "oh no not those ALMOND cookies again" because Steve doesn't like almonds either (I think he had a bad marzipan experience as a child.) The end result is that I got six dozen cookies all to myself and Patrick took one of those vile little shelf stable puddings we had left over from his tonsil surgery.

There is no moral to this story but if you are not weird and you like the delicious taste of a well-sugared almond then you will no doubt enjoy this recipe. 

PS Someone requested printable versions of the recipes and I think this is an excellent idea and I am working on implementing it. So... I'm trying.

PPS I froze some of the cookies after I baked them because... well I could eat 6 dozen Jan Hagels but should I? I defrosted them later and they were pretty good.


Thirty Minute Chicken Noodle Soup

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Thirty Minute Chicken Noodle Soup

1/2 small onion, diced
1 c sliced celery
1 c sliced carrots
2-3 garlic cloves, minced

1.5 T butter
1/2 t salt
1 t dried tarragon

4 c chicken broth
1.5 c cooked, chopped chicken

1 c wide egg noodles
1 c frozen peas

Melt butter in a small stockpot. Add celery, carrots, garlic, onion, salt and tarragon and saute until vegetables soften, about fifteen minutes. Add chicken broth and chicken and simmer, covered, another fifteen minutes. Stir in egg noodles and simmer another 8-9 minutes until noodles are cooked but not mushy. Off heat stir in peas. Pepper to taste and serve.

Notes: I had half of the chicken leftover from Zingerman's so I made this specifically in the hopes that the tiny pieces of chicken and the soft noodles and carrots would be easy on Patrick throat. They were. 

A few things about this recipe. First, using a chicken broth you like is crucial because the soup does not have a long time to develop a whole lot of additional flavors. I love Swanson's Natural Goodness but to each his own. Sauteing the vegetables in butter rather than my usual olive oil is key, too, because it adds a richness that you miss with the quick cooking time. I used to cut cooked chicken into small cubes but I have started really mincing it for certain recipes. I think it works especially well in soups. Finally, I usually make twice this much but I had to adjust for the small quantity of chicken we had leftover.

This served Caroline, Edward, and Patrick for dinner and me the next day for lunch.

Addendum:

A couple people asked about the butterflied chicken in that last recipe. Because you are using a 3lb fryer rather than a larger roasting bird it really does fit into a cast iron skillet even after the backbone is removed and the two halves are flattened. My skillet (I am almost positive - I will check when I get home from the library. I am here "picking up books for Patrick") is only ten inches and it fit comfortably.

To answer another question the advantage to butterflying is the much faster roasting time. The chicken is able to cook through in just about an hour.

Hope this helps. 

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Grilled Pizza, Part One

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Fifteen  Minute Pizza Sauce

2 T olive oil
2 clove of garlic, minced
8 oz can tomato sauce
6 oz can tomato paste
1 t sugar
1 t dried oregano
1/2 t dried basil

In a saucepan heat olive oil. Add garlic and saute three minutes. Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, sugar, oregano and garlic. Stir and then simmer for ten minutes.

and

One Hour (Give or Take) Pizza Dough

2 1/4 t active yeast (I buy a jar and keep it in the fridge; otherwise, use  1 packet)
1 1/4 c 106° water (for years I failed to make sure it was hot enough, now I use an oven thermometer)
4 c all purpose flour
1 T salt
1/4 c olive oil

Dissolve yeast in warm water. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine flour and salt. Using the dough hook attachment gradually stir in olive or and yeast/water mixture, alternating between the two. Increase the speed to medium and stir dough for seven minutes, stopping every so often to scrape dough from the sides and bottom of the bowl. If you do not have a stand mixer just use a spoon and beat the beejeezums out of it until it is elastic and just a little sticky. Flour and water are moody. Sometimes these amounts are perfect; some times they are not. Use your judgment and add water or flour by the tablespoon until the dough feels right.

Put the dough into a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Give it an hour or so to double in size. Then punch it down (I love that part) and divide into eight equal portions. Cover the eight balls with plastic wrap and let them rise again for ten minutes. Then roll or stretch each one until it is very very thin (wafer thin) and about 8-10 inches around.

Heat the grill to medium-low. Oil one side of one dough round and place on the grill oiled side down. Grill 1-2 minutes. Remove from the grill, oil the other side, and then add sauce (if desired) and other toppings lightly. Too much stuff on a grilled pizza is a problem. So scatter cheese, spinach, basil, pepperoni, what have you with a sparing hand and then return the pizza to the grill for another 2-3 minutes.

Depending upon the size of your grill you can do a few pizzas at once.  

Notes: I cut the dough into eight slices like a pie. When I went to roll them out they maintained their triangularity. Oh well. Pizza doesn't HAVE TO be round, you know. We made three pizzas this way (which was a mistake since Steve ate one, Patrick ate one and Caroline and Edward ate one together - hellloooo? no wonder I am always hungry at bed time) which left five balls of dough. We decide to grill them and then freeze the pre-grilled crusts for another day. I also froze the leftover sauce. My plan is to report back on how the freezer pizza components fared in Grilled Pizza Part Two.  

Patrick likes pepperoni and kalamata olives. Caroline and Edward liked (although they didn't have much choice in the matter) baby spinach and olives. I like black olives, fresh tomato, spinach and fresh basil. Steve prefers sausage when he can get it but seemed happy enough with spinach, olives and a few of the fifty billion chanterelle mushrooms he and Patrick have gathered this week. They are, like, I don't even know what... gnomes. And we are all tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese people. 

What do you put on yours?


Tomato-Balsamic Marinated Chicken

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While I was in the process of trying to make grocery store grape tomatoes taste like something I went through a few iterations of tomato-balsamic reduction. In the end I had a dressing I liked for the tomatoes and three pans full of a sort of glaze/marinade leftover. I put it all into an empty jelly jar and let it sit on the counter while I figured out what to do with it. Then Steve graciously volunteered to go grocery shopping for us and he came home with an item I have never purchased before, chicken wing drummies.

What the... ? I like a buffaloed wing as much as the next person but without a deep-fat fryer it just isn't the same. So for a lack of anything better to do I threw the drummies into my tomato-balsamic marinade and we grilled them for dinner.

Patrick said, "THIS is delicious." And it was.

Tomato-Balsamic Marinated Chicken   

24 chicken wing drummies

1.5 c tomato juice
3 T balsamic vinegar
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced

6 T olive oil

In a saucepan combine tomato juice, vinegar and garlic. Bring to a low boil/rapid simmer and cook until it reduces by about a third. Off the heat whisk in olive oil. Let cool.

Pour half of the marinade into a large bowl, add the chicken and toss thoroughly to coat. Refrigerate for two hours (or less if you have less time.)

Grill over medium heat for 12-15 minutes, turning three or four times as they cook.

Edited to add: oh damn it! I forgot to say, after grilling pour the reserved marinade over the chicken and serve. The serve part is probably intuitive but the marinade as sauce thing was not.


Black Raspberry Cobbler

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Patrick likes to forage (he'd make a good bear, I think) and a recent expedition netted him about three pints of black raspberries.

"Let's make a pie!" he said.

"Let's make a cobbler!" I countered.

"What's a cobbler?" he asked. The actual answer is that a cobbler is what I am capable of making since I cannot make pie crust (I KNOW. feel free to teach me) but I am pretty good with forgiving doughs that are intended to be rustic and ugly.

I told him a cobbler is like a pie but you can use even more sugar. He became pro-cobbler, abandoning his pie platform in the face of my compelling rhetoric.

There are a lot of ways to cover a bunch of berries. You can use biscuit, oats, cake, bread, shortcake... personally, I like to make a sugar cookie dough and just drop it on top of the fruit. Even better is to give your child the ingredients and a chair to reach the counter and let them make it while you read a magazine. So that is what I did.

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Black Raspberry Cobbler  

3 pints black raspberries (or red ones. blueberries. blackberries I suppose)
1 T cornstarch
2/3 c sugar
1 t vanilla extract

Gently combine and scrape into 9 inch deep pie plate. Heat oven to 400°. Cover pie plate with aluminum foil and place on rimmed baking sheet. Bake about fifteen minutes until berries release juice.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl mix

1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/4 t baking powder
pinch of table salt  

and set it aside. Then in a medium bowl beat

8 T butter, room temperature
1/2 c sugar

until light and fluffy. Add

1 egg
1/2 t vanilla extract

Beat until smooth. Stir in flour mixture until just combined.

After the fifteen minutes remove pie plate from oven. Stir fruit and then drop dough evenly over berries in heaping spoonfuls. Return to oven and bake (uncovered) until topping is browned and fruit is bubbly, about 35 minutes.

Notes:

Patrick's berry haul was shy of three full pints so I augmented the black raspberries with leftover blueberries I had in the refrigerator. It all baked down into a nice purple mess regardless.  

Did you make it? Change it? Have a better idea? Tell me what you think in the comments.


Oatmeal Buttermilk Pancakes

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There is a lot to be said for these pancakes. They are (practically) healthy. They freeze (moderately) well. You can make them (almost entirely) the night before. And they are (emphatically) delicious.

Beebo's Oatmeal Buttermilk Pancakes

2 c rolled oats
2 c buttermilk*

Stir to blend. Refrigerator overnight.

2 eggs
1/4 c butter (melted & cooled)

Mix together in separate bowl:

1/2 c flour
2 T sugar
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t table salt

Add flour mixture to oat mixture and stir until moist.

Preheat griddle. Use about 1/4 batter for each pancake. Flip when air bubbles start to appear.

Makes about 14 pancakes.

Notes:

I usually make the flour mixture at the same time I put the oats into the buttermilk to soak. Then in the morning all you have to do is combine the flour and oats, break two eggs and microwave half a stick of butter for 20 seconds. Not being a morning person I appreciate having to do as few things as possible before I get to eat.

*My grandmother used to drink buttermilk sprinkled with ground black pepper - this is a taste I never managed to acquire. However, I have a shameful weakness for Hidden Valley Original Ranch dip. Not the bottled stuff that tastes like paste but the little packets that you mix with buttermilk and mayonnaise. I just laughed aloud because it suddenly occurred to me to check the nutritional content on a packet in my pantry and I thought, "Huh, 100 grams of fat? That's not terrible." Then I noticed the serving size: 1/4 teaspoon. AS IF. No wonder it's so good.

All of which is to say I usually have buttermilk in my refrigerator and the stuff keeps forever. Seriously. But if you do not have any on hand here is a little trick for this recipe:

Buttermilk Substitute: Combine 2 T white vinegar or lemon juice with 2 c milk and let sit for five minutes.

Did you make it? Change it? Have a better idea? Tell me what you think in the comments.