Oatmeal Brulee

– johanna | December 30th, 2009

Filed under: BUDGET MEALS, RECIPES - Breakfast

Oatmeal Brulee

I can’t think of anything more satisfying on a wintry morning than a bowl of lightly sweetened hot oatmeal. When I was little my mom would spoon a little brown sugar and butter into our bowls before adding the oatmeal. The brown sugar and butter would melt together from the heat creating a syrup. We would swirl the oatmeal and syrup together then drown it in milk. So tasty.

This version is kissed with a touch of honey and a crispy layer of caramelized sugar. Oatmeal Brulee makes a wonderful snack after a morning in the snow too.

Source: Health.com
3 cups water or milk
2 cups oatmeal
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp honey or pure maple syrup
1/4 cup Almonds, walnuts or pecans
1/4 cup Raisins, cranberries or chopped apricots
Granulated sugar

Heat broiler.

Heat water and salt in a large saucepan to boiling. Stir in oatmeal; reduce heat to low and simmer five minutes. Stir in honey, raisins and almonds.

Spoon into 4 to 5 individual ramekins. Top with a thin layer of sugar, about 1/8-inch thick. Place ramekins directly under the broiler until it is brown and bubbling vigorously, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from oven. The melted sugar will harden once it starts to cool. Serve as is or with a splash of milk or cream.

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A Cup of Hot Chocolate

– johanna | December 28th, 2009

Filed under: BUDGET MEALS, RECIPES - Beverage

Hot Chocolate

When I was in college I discovered Land-o-Lakes Mint Hot Chocolate. I think back then it was around .25 cents a bag. It was a splurge on my collage budget but oh so worth it. Every winter Costco stocks the Land-o-Lakes variety pack for Christmas. Last year they offered a large canister of the Supreme Chocolate. I bought three. The kids and I are hot chocolate junkies. We can’t wait until winter so we can pull out our mugs to savour a steaming cup of chocolate.

A wintry chill passed through in November. It was movie night and we were all craving a cup unfortunately we did not have any hot chocolate on hand. A week before a friend and I were discussing our brand preferences. We agreed we could never drink Swiss Miss again after having had the good stuff. I think my aversion to the stuff began in Elementary school when a friend’s brother poured the powder straight from the envelope into his mouth. Call me a dummy, but I tried it. I have not had the stuff since.

Back to my conversation, Chrystl mentions she makes her own hot chocolate using cocoa powder and milk. On this chilly night in November I decided to make homemade hot chocolate. Only problem was I did not have any cocoa powder. I did have a Lindt Extra Dark chocolate bar in the cabinet. Anyone remember Vianne played by Juliette Binoche in the movie Chocolat? She finely chopped the chocolate to make her special hot chocolate. It did not take long to find a recipe and whip up some pretty darn good hot chocolate.

Source: eHow
8 cups milk
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate

Finely chop the chocolate and place in a mixing bowl.

Heat the milk over medium-low heat until it steams and is very hot to the touch.

Remove from heat. Stir in the sugar and vanilla. Whisk until the sugar has dissolved.

Pour one cup of the milk over the chocolate. Let the chocolate melt; slowly stirring with a whisk. Continue adding milk and stirring until all the milk has been incorporated.

Serves 8

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Jellied Cranberry Sauce

– johanna | December 25th, 2009

Filed under: RECIPES - Sides

cranberry sauce

Cranberry sauce is the long time side kick to turkey but the time has come for this tart delectable side dish to branch out.Use this version of cranberry sauce in quesadillas, on top of pancakes, in sandwiches and with pork or chicken.

This recipe is found on the Ocean Spray website. The cranberry sauce is very runny unlike the canned stuff found in the grocery store. I had to add extra sugar since the cranberries in the grocery store are never ripe enough. Try combining the cranberry sauce with the cranberry relish.

Source: Ocean Spray
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
1 (12-ounce) package Fresh or Frozen Cranberries, washed and drained

Combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil; add cranberries, return to a boil. Reduce heat and boil gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Place a wire mesh strainer over a medium mixing bowl. Pour contents of saucepan into strainer. Mash cranberries with the back of a spoon or pestal, frequently scraping the outside of the strainer, until no pulp is left.

Stir contents of bowl. Add sugar if needed and stir to dissolve. Pour into serving container. Cover and cool completely at room temperature.

Refrigerate until serving time.

Makes 1 cup.

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Orange and Apple Cranberry Relish

– johanna | December 23rd, 2009

Filed under: RECIPES - Sides


A couple of years ago our oldest son went nuts over cranberry relish. Shocker. In the past my mother-n-law used the cranberry sauce recipe on the back of the Ocean Spray cranberry bag of cranberries. This year I took on the task of cooking and baking an entire Thanksgiving feast. Is it rude to say it was really good? I picked up a bag of cranberries to make the cranberry sauce. Of course the recipe was not on the back. I checked the website and found nothing.

Sometimes things go wrong and sometimes it is for a good purpose we may not understand at the moment. Take for instance this version of Orange and Apple Cranberry Relish. I would have never found it and to be honest we all liked it better than the recipe on the back of the bag of cranberries.

Elise from Simply Recipes uses a grinder. I have rewritten the directions using a food processor. If you do not have a food processor or grinder a blender is ok.

Orange apple cranberry relish

Source: Simply Recipes
Preparation time: 15 minutes.
2 cups washed raw cranberries
2 skinned and cored tart apples, cut into sections
1 large, whole (peel ON) seedless orange, cut into sections
1 to 2 cups granulated sugar (depending on how sweet you would like your relish to be)

Chop the apples, oranges and cranberries in a food processor use the entire (seedless) orange, peels, pith and all. (Be very careful not to over-pulse, or you’ll end up with mush). Dump into a large bowl.

Mix in the sugar. Let sit at room temperature until sugar dissolves, about 45 minutes. Store in the refrigerator.

Makes about 3 cups.

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Savory Orange Honey Butter

– johanna | December 21st, 2009

Filed under: RECIPES - Breakfast, RECIPES - Snacks, RECIPES - Treats

Honey butter is very easy to make and tastes wonderful on everything from corn bread, muffins, french toast and rolls. I thought I would make up a batch for a special holiday breakfast treat. The orange zest is a nice compliment to the salty butter and naturally sweet honey. Slather some on a biscuit for a satisfying dessert.

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 honey
1 tsp grated orange zest

Whip the butter, honey an zest together until well combined.

– To make a glaze use melted butter in the place of softened butter. Whip in the honey and zest. Allow to cool in the refrigerator overnight.

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Basic Bread Pudding

– johanna | December 18th, 2009

Filed under: RECIPES - Breakfast, RECIPES - Treats

Classic Bread Pudding without sauce

Ever wonder what to do with left over bread? Make bread pudding of course! Bread pudding is a lovely addition to a holiday dessert table. Or begin a tradition by serving bread pudding on Christmas Eve with a mug of steamy hot cocoa. Even still bread pudding is mighty tasty for breakfast on a wintry morning.

I used a loaf of European French bread I purchased from the bakery. Cut the bread into bite sized cubes. Spread them out on a baking sheet and left them out, uncovered, overnight. In the morning the bread is just perfect for making bread pudding. Do not use fresh bread because the bread will become too soggy.

When cooking milk for longer periods you would want to stir frequently to keep it from burning the bottom. Milk when heated creates a film on the surface. This film is formed when the proteins attach to a fat molecule. The film then serves in increasing the temperature of the milk underneath. Stirring constantly keeps this film from forming and the milk from boiling over. For this recipe we are just heating the milk. Since we are using the film as a guide constant stirring is not recommended.

Source: MomsWhoThink
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup butter
*2/3 cup brown sugar (light or dark)
3 eggs
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (use slightly less for freshly grated)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups french bread, cut into cubes
1/2 cup raisins (optional)

In medium saucepan, over medium heat, heat milk  just until film forms over top. Add butter, stirring until butter is melted. Cool to lukewarm.

Combine sugar, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. Whisk until well combined and frothy. Slowly add milk mixture, whisking constantly.

Bread for Bread Pudding

Place bread in a lightly greased 1 1/2 quart casserole. Sprinkle with raisins if desired. Pour batter on top of bread. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 to 50 minutes or until set. Serve warm. To serve sprinkle with powdered sugar or a bread pudding sauce.

Classic Bread Pudding with Sauce

***Note: If you make the sauce to put on top of your bread pudding, adjust the sugar in the bread pudding recipe, change it to 1/3 cups sugar.

Bread Pudding Sauce:
1 cup whole milk
2 tbsp butter
1/3 cup granulated white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp flour
dash of salt

Mix everything together and bring to a boil over medium heat for 3 – 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Set aside for 5 minutes, then pour on warm bread pudding.

Classic Bread Pudding

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How To Grate Fresh Nutmeg

– johanna | December 16th, 2009


Nutmeg Seed

There are two spices derived from the fruit of the Myristica fragrans tree, nutmeg and mace. The spices were originally derived from the Spice Islands of Indonesia. Mace comes from the red lacy covering of the stone-like seed, while nutmeg is made from the seed itself.

I have only ever used the ground form of nutmeg. Foodies profess they only use freshly grated nutmeg. I finally decided to try it out to see what all the hype was about. I purchased a bottle of Spice Island Whole nutmeg. It is not gourmet from Whole Foods, it was the only brand the market carried. I started with my favorite holiday recipe Pumpkin Chip Cookies. I was all set to go with my Microplane in one hand and a nutmeg seed in the other. Problem was I was uncertain what to do. Was I supposed to crack the seed open? Is the seed it? I turned to the internet but could not find anything on grating nutmeg. I concluded I would grate the seed and hope for the best.

The only difference I could tell was that the freshly grated nutmeg seemed to blend in in a silky smooth way. The powdered form of nutmeg can sometimes be overpowering. I paid $6.59 for a bottle of 14 seeds. Cost-wise it is a good deal. I made two recipes and barley used a quarter of the seed. Grated nutmeg may be substituted for ground simply by adding a smidgen less of the fresh stuff.

To grate nutmeg gently rub against the sharp edges of a microplane in a back and forth motion. Keep the hollow side turned up to catch the shavings. It makes it easier to see how much you have grated.

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Gas Price Travel Guide

– johanna | December 14th, 2009

Filed under: THE BOOKSHELF


Photo by: The Brooklyn Nomad

Thinking about traveling this holiday season? Check out the AAA Fuel Cost Calculator. The price guide displays the current average gas prices across the country by state. To figure out how much a trip would cost simply input the starting city, destination, car make, year and model. The site calculates the estimated miles, the gallons used and cost of fuel.

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School Day Apple Pie

– johanna | December 11th, 2009

Filed under: RECIPES - Treats

apple Pie

One day this past spring, on the way back to the car after picking Mason up from school, he stopped to admire a great redwood tree standing in a neighboring yard. “Hey, that looks like the tree in the book my teacher read today!” I could tell Mason had a great day at school because he actually remembered what he learned. He continued to tell me about how trees, eggs and frogs grow.

When we got home Mason asked if I would bake him an apple pie. A couple of weeks prior he requested a blueberry pie inspired by Pig on Word World who loves to bake blueberry pie. Now here was another request but for an apple pie. I surprised myself by successfully baking the blueberry pie but pastries make me nervous so it took me quite a while to get up the nerve to try it again. I have gone through several failures to get to this recipe of apple pie.

I have come to understand when making crusts for delicate pastries such as pie crust the ingredients must be cold. When I made the blueberry pie I used frozen butter. By the time I was done cutting the butter into cubes it was the perfect temperature as if I just pulled it out of the refrigerator. However in subsequent baking attempts my pastry cutter broke. I have not replaced it for I find I enjoy working the butter in with my fingers. Consequently you will notice the recipe will direct you to use chilled butter (not frozen) and return the crust to the refrigerator until ready to use. The reasoning is the cold butter in the crust helps produce a flakier moist tastier crust. To cut in the butter use a food processor, pastry cutter or your fingers. Always cut butter into small cubes before adding butter to the flour mixture.

Let’s talk apples now. Granny Smith is the apple of choice. It keeps its shape and gives the apple pie that tart flavor. You can make the pie using just Granny Smith apples or a combination of Granny Smith and the following: Braeburn, Rome, Jonathan, Winesap, Empire, Fuji, Pink Lady and McIntosh. I like to use Ganny Smith and Braeburn. The Breaburn is sweet and is a nice compliment to the sour Granny Smith.
Apples used in apple pie may be chopped into 1/2 inch pieces or sliced thinly or thickly.

Apple Pie A-la Mode

Flaky Crust:
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup chilled shortening
1/4 cup chilled butter, cut into small pieces
4-6 tbsp ice-cold water

Fill a small cup with ice cubes and water. Let sit.

Whisk flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut in the shortening and butter with a pastry blender or rub in with fingers, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Do not mix too much; a few pieces of butter are ok. Sprinkle with ice water, a tablespoon at a time. Stir with a fork to moisten. Gather dough into a ball. Divide in half. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

4-5 medium-large baking apples
3/4 cups sugar
3 tbsp flour
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
2 tbsp butter
Heavy Cream

Peel and core the apples and cut into thin slices. Place in a large bowl. Combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon and allspice; toss mixture with apples. Let sit for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Meanwhile roll out bottom crust. Drape over a pie plate smoothing the bottom and sides. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Pour apples and juice into a strainer set over a sauce pan. Let drain for 15 minutes (should have at least 1/2 cup).

Add two tablespoons butter to the pot with the apple juice. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil until liquid has reduced slightly and mixture is syrupy and lightly caramelized; about 3-5 minutes

Roll out top crust. Remove pie plate with bottom crust from refrigerator. Spoon apples into the crust lined pie plate. Pour syrup over apples.

Drape top crust over apples. Trim edges to 1-inch below rim of pie plate. Tuck the edges under and leave as is or flute using knuckles. Cut slits in the top to vent. Brush with heavy cream. Sprinkle with sugar. Cover edges with tin foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake 25-30 minutes until crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly.

Add 1/4 cup raisins to filling.

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How To Peel, Core and Slice Apples and Pears

– johanna | December 9th, 2009


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