Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Beer Batter Bread

Today was an unusual day for SE Arizona. It was overcast with heavy cloud cover all day long and had intermittent rain showers, downpours and light drizzle. The high reached 72 degrees when it was over 100 only a few days ago.

It put me immediately in a Fall mood when I woke this morning to no sunrise and cool temperatures. We don't get too many days like this, so I wanted to make something cozy and heart warming for dinner. I made a recipe I had made only a couple times before, Meatball and cheese soup. It's hearty, tastes like a cheeseburger, but has lots of great veggies in it and always turns out great. I was initially going to make a nice rustic, crusty round loaf to accompany it, but decided to peruse my recipe books to get some new ideas first. I was torn between corn sticks, the corn shaped bread that is made in a special cast iron pan, and beer batter bread. I didn't have beer in the house, but it sounded like it would really go well with soup, so I made a trip into town in the rain and got beer for the bread.

It's a really simple recipe that turns out fantastic and really, really delicious! The bread takes on the character of the beer you use, so I decided to try it this time with Fat Tire, a nice Amber Ale that has nice depth and taste. Next time I might try it with of my personal favorites. So, try it with your favorite beer or change it up to experiment with the taste each time you bake it.

Beer Batter Bread

3 cups all purpose flour
3 tbsp brown sugar (well packed)
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 bottle (12oz/375ml) beer, unopened at room temperature
4 tbsp butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a loaf pan

In a medium mixing bowl, with an electric mixer, mix together the dry ingredients - flour, brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Once mixed together, open the beer and add it to the dry mix all at once. It will foam up. Stir the mix together until it is just combined, about 20 strokes. The batter should be slightly lumpy still.

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Put the batter into the greased loaf pan and once spread evenly, drizzle the melted butter over the batter and place in the oven. Bake for 35-40 minutes until it is browned and a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean. Allow the loaf to rest for 5 minutes in the pan and then turn out onto a cooling rack. Once cooled, cut into thick slices and apply plenty of butter!


Friday, September 17, 2010

Thin Mint Cookies

I usually don't blog on a recipe that I haven't tried before and determined fit for consumption and enjoyment, but my younger sister sent me a recipe today that brought back so many rich memories, that I broke my own rule!

Thinking back, my earliest memory of eating Thin Mint cookies from the Girl Scouts, was as a high school graduate, living in Belgium still, were I could get the cookies through the Embassy were I worked. I can happily remember opening one of those long packets of cookies, quietly eating one, then another and then another, pretty soon looking up from my work and realizing I had eaten the whole packet in one sitting! I wonder if the Girl Scouts have partnered up with the drug cartels in providing an absolutely addicting, shameful, l habit forming cookie! Although they should be banned or at least regulated by Federal Law, (fortunately they are not!), they continue year after year to be brought to a neighborhood near you by your local sweet Girl Scout. She's so charming as she asks what you would like to order, like a predator circling her prey! She knows you aren't going refuse to order anything, it's like offering carrots to my horses - it's a sure thing. Not to mention it would be just plain unAmerican to refuse a Thin Mint cookie!

I never really enjoyed any of the other varieties as much as the Thin Mints. They seem to be the masterpiece creation for the Girl Scouts. Known and loved by many!

So, when my sister sent me this recipe earlier today, I was instantly intrigued since I haven't had a Thin Mint cookie for many years and it brought back floods of delicious memories!

So, I apologize if it isn't an exact replica of the original, but I wanted to make them and get some feedback on what needs to change to have them taste as good as the archetypal Girl Scout creation.

So...try this yourself and give me your thoughts!

Thin Mint Cookies

1 1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup semi-sweet cocoa
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 3/4 sticks of butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp mint extract

In a medium mixing bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients and sift together.

In a medium mixing bowl, with electric mixer, cream the butter until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat for another minute. Add the milk, vanilla and mint extract and beat for an additional minute. Scrape down bowl as needed between additions.

Slowly add dry mix to mixing bowl while beating until the batter resembles small pebbles. Scrape together and form a ball, then roll out into a log and wrap in wax paper or plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 2 hours to chill the dough. Remove log from fridge, slice small rounds and place on parchment paper lined cookies sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

1 cup chocolate chips
1 tsp mint extract

Melt chocolate chips in a bowl over boiling water. When melted, add mint and stir until smooth. Once the cookies are cool, either dip or frost with topping.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

A quiet Sunday of Whoopie...pies that is!

While I am still healing my ankle, Matt and I enjoy quiet, stay home Sundays where we can catch up on house chores, maybe groom the horses and just relax all day long. It's the perfect day for me to make grocery lists, look through cookbooks and decide what I should blog next. Matt decided he wanted me to make and blog about a cake. I asked him if he wanted me to bake something I had done before or if he wanted something new and different. He wanted different, so I started looking through all my cookbooks and trying to find something that would be fun to make and that neither of us had ever made. So, while perusing the America's Test Kitchen Cakes section, I came upon Whoopie Pies.

It looked like a fun project for our slow Sunday afternoon, so I sent him off to buy me some Marshmallow Fluff (not something I usually stock in my pantry) and started researching why Whoopie Pies are called such. I have only had a Whoopie pie once before in my life, it is a very regional treat that has roots in both Pennsylvania and Maine. Whoopie pies are actually 2 small cakes put together with a creamy filling and not a pie at all! People that grew up with Whoopie Pies are big fans and claim it's the best treat you can have! Whoopie pies can be made with chocolate cake with vanilla cream filling, like Oreos cookies, or with anything like pumpkin cake with cream cheese filling. There are many options, but I liked the traditional chocolate with marshmallow cream filling and decided to go with that.

So, enjoy this recipe and I hope Whoopie pies will become a staple in my baking repertoire and in yours!

Whoopie Pies


2 cups all-purpose flour

½ Dutch processed cocoa powder

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

1 cup packed light brown sugar

8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 large egg, room temperature

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup buttermilk


2 cups Marshmallow Fluff

¾ cup confectioner’s


10 tbsp (1 ¼ sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/8 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Adjust oven racks to the upper middle and lower middle positions. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk the flour, coca powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy, about 3-6 minutes. Beat in the egg until incorporated, scraping down the bowl and beaters as needed. Mix in vanilla.

Reduce Reduce the speed on the mixer to low and beat in 1/3 of the flour mixture. Beat in ½ of the buttermilk. Repeat with half of the remaining flour mixture, then the remaining buttermilk, and finally the remaining flour mixture. Give the batter a final stir using a rubber spatula to make sure it is thoroughly combined.

Using a ¼ cup measuring cup, scoop the batter into mounds and drop them, about 2 inches apart, on the prepared baking sheets (about 6 per sheet). Bake until the cakes bounce back when pressed, about 12-18 minutes, switching and rotating the pans halfway through baking. Let the cakes cool completely on the baking sheets, about 1 hour.

For the filling: Whip the fluff, confectioner’s sugar, butter, vanilla and salt together in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 4-8 minutes.

To assemble, sandwich about 3 tablespoons of the filling between the flattened sides of cooled cakes.


Friday, September 10, 2010

Images of my life!

Pound Cake Ends the Hiatus!


I am back! After taking some time to reflect on such things as what I want to do with my life, I am feeling more grounded and feel like getting back into the swing of things.

I had a couple month vacation from riding since July 6th, when my filly, Lil Red, took a spill with me and I ended up with a fractured foot and ankle. Long story short, over 2 months later and I am just now getting healed up and ready to ride again. As much as I love to ride, I missed just being around my horses and being able to cook and bake even more! Life on crutches is quite limiting and sitting all day long can be a very, very difficult thing for an active, outdoor cowgirl!

At first it felt like the whole world was passing me by and didn't care if I had fallen off the grid (well except for my friend Tammy!). That was the first sign of a little post accident depression. The world was passing me by, but I was still on it. I was just moving along with it a heck of a lot slower than I had been before! I found out that you aren't much fun when you are laid up and so you end up with a lot of alone time to contemplate the life lesson that you are supposed to learn from the situation. I am still contemplating.

The next stage of depression started in on me after about 2 weeks post surgery. My doctor insisted I had another 4 weeks on crutches and I nearly broke down crying right then and there! My activities were severely limited to reading, doing crossword puzzles, playing around on the computer and watching TV - all while sitting with an elevated leg. With all that sitting, that's when I noticed my house was quietly getting messier and dirtier and the kitchen started looking like it belonged to someone else! AHH!! That was the lowest moment for me. I was unable to even do the basics that keep my world tidy and running smooth. Having to rely on others for everything is tough enough, but to have to watch the everyday entropy of an untended household was almost too much to bear!

So after 2 excrutiating weeks of watching the slow decline of my home, I finally broke. It all started because I wanted to make some pound cake to give to a friend that had helped me with a computer issue. When I hobbled into the kitchen to start, I realized I didn't have the 8 eggs it takes to make the pound cake! I texted my husband and asked if it was possible that he stop by and bring me some eggs at lunch time or something, but he was tied up on a job and wasn't able to do it. I weighed the options...I could drive with my left foot into town and get the eggs, but I still wouldn't be able to push a cart or carry eggs with my crutches. I had it in my mind I was making pound cake and I didn't want this little obstacle to stop me. This was really irritating! Since I had been off my leg for 4 weeks straight and it felt fine, I made an executive decision for the sake of pound cake. Crutches be damned. I had had enough. I drove into town, taking my crutches with me (not sure why since I had no intention of using them), limped my way on the cast into the grocery store and did my first grocery shopping by myself in 2 months. It felt liberating and empowering. I am sure most people would think that the first time I swung a leg over a horse again would be my happiest moment after my accident and I am sure it will be a great feeling. BUT, being able to do for myself and grocery shop at my leisure was really a joyful event for me. It lifted my spirits and put the last 2 months into perspective.

I haven't used the crutches since that day a week ago and my ankle is doing great! My house and kitchen are restored back to clean order and there is peace in my world. I do see the doctor next week and hopefully I will get official permission to walk on my leg and move forward with physical therapy! My goal, which I probably won't share with my doctor, is to be horseback by month's end. But until then, I am really glad to be back in the kitchen, back on my feet and feeling in high spirits for the days to come!

So, I want to share with you the pivotal pound cake recipe that not only got me back on track mentally and physically, but is a really delicious treat!

I apologize for not having pictures to go along with this, but I will post pics from here forward.

Please enjoy!


4 cups of cake flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp mace (this really makes the recipe, so I suggest you don't skip this!)
1 lb butter, softened
3 cups of sugar
8 eggs, room temperature
1 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla

Remove butter from the refrigerator in advance, so it is slightly softened, but not greasy.

Grease and lightly flour (or line with parchment paper) 2 loaf pans. I like to grease, line with parchment paper and flour the areas the parchment paper doesn't cover.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift the cake flour, salt, baking powder and mace. set aside. In a separate bowl or measuring cup, mix the milk with the vanilla, set aside.

In an electric mixer, cream the butter, gradually adding in sugar until light and fluffy and no granules of sugar remain.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, just enough to not see any color difference from adding the egg.

Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk mixture. Start with the dry mix, approx. 1/3 of the flour and follow with wet mixture, approx. 1/2 the milk. End with the dry mixture and mix until all the ingredients are incorporated. It is important to mix the batter for as little time as possible to avoid toughening the cake.

Put batter into prepared loaf pans and bake for about 60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out of the center nearly clean. I suggest you check the loaves at 50-55 minutes to avoid overbaking. All the loaves to cool slowly if possible to avoid them caving in in the middle. The cake should be golden brown on top, you should reduce the heat or cover with foil if the cake is browning too quickly.

Once the loaves are fairly cool in the pan, tip them out onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before cutting or wrapping.

This is a rich, moist cake that can be enjoyed with fresh whipped cream and berries or all by itself.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Chicken Paprika - A hungarian cowgirl's favorite dish

Chicken Paprika is a traditional Hungarian dish I learned from my mother, who learned it to feed my Hungarian father! All my family makes this dish and we all add something or do something a little different, but the fact is, it is delicious no matter what and is a real comfort food in my home. So, without further ado, here is Chicken Paprikash! ENJOY!!

Chicken Paprika

1 whole chicken, cut into pieces
1 large onion chopped
3 tbsp Olive oil
1 clove garlic chopped
2-4 tbsps of authentic Hungarian Paprika
2-4 cups of chicken stock or water
2 tbsps of corn starch dissolved in a little water
1 pint sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large heavy pot, add olive oil and brown the onion.

Once they are lightly brown, add the garlic chicken pieces and brown the chicken well on all sides.

Once the chicken is browned, add the paprika and cover the meat well with it, turning it over until all surfaces are covered. Add the chicken stock/water - just enough to cover the chicken pieces

Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and allow to simmer until the chicken is well tender.

Remove chicken from broth into a bowl

Bone the chicken pieces and set aside in warm place

Add cornstarch to the broth and stir over medium heat until thickened. Add the sour cream once thickened and bring sauce back to a low simmer. Add back the chicken and gently stir to combine.

Serve over rice or pasta! ENJOY!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Dutch Oven Pork Loin

The weather has been wonderful, but it started changing yesterday and a cold wind blew in. I had been out riding in the cold sunshine and when I got home I decided to make something cozy and easy so I could spend the rest of the afternoon with my own horses (for once) instead of slaving away in the kitchen. I just threw this together, but it turned out fantastic, so I thought I would share it with you for all your cold, rainy days that are left this winter.

Dutch Oven Pork Loin

2 lb pork loin
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion chopped
1 tbsp chopped fresh garlic
2 cups chopped green cabbage
2 cups chopped carrots
1 large sweet potato - cubed
1 1/2 cup saurkraut
1 tbsp dill weed
salt & pepper to taste
2-3 cups water

In a medium to large (5 qt or larger) dutch oven, heat olive oil on medium/high heat. Place chopped onion and garlic in the oil. Cook until lightly browned. Salt and pepper the pork loin and add to dutch oven and brown on all sides, ending with fat side up.

Once pork loin is browned, place cabbage, carrots, sweet potato, saurkraut in the dutch oven, surrounding the pork loin. Add water until it halfway covers the loin and vegetables. Sprinkle dill weed over top and cover.

Simmer over medium/low heat for about 2 hours or until the loin is tender and falling apart. Do not stir too much during the cooking process or you will break down the vegetables too much.

Serve with apple sauce and a warm roll and ENJOY!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Music, Cookies and good friends!

I have been very remiss in blogging since the New Year. Hard to think I am so busy when I am not working, but it is surprising how much you can find to fill your days when you want to!

I am super excited for tonight's festivities! We are attending a Dave Stamey concert (not my first, but Matt's first). Dave is an amazing Western singer (different than country/western) and is not only talented, but super humorous! The stories he tells between songs keep the tears of laughter in your eyes and the goodwill permeating the whole room. He's a kind, down to earth, honest kind of man and it shows in everything he does!

I volunteered to be the "Official Baker" for this event and make refreshments for sold out crowd of 120 people attending the concert in the intimate Elgin Club. I didn't know what to make at first...wanted to impress and create something that would bring some attention to my baking efforts, but when baking for 120 people I had to be realistic. My friend and music connoisseur, Patty Wands, who puts these lovely concerts on for us, requested something easy to serve and able to eat with a napkin...translation...keep it simple!

So, I decided that cookies were an easy way to feed the masses and keep it simple. I researched many recipes and decided to make 3 different kinds of cookies and about 30 dozen for the event! It took some critical math skills to decide on the portions, but with Matt's mathematical brain it was pretty simple to decipher! Boy, I love having a brainy husband! I can save my remaining brain cells for more important things than blogging! My choices in cookies came from the type of people attending this concert. People who enjoy the western lifestyle and like to keep things simple rather then fancy. Cowgirls and cowboys, ranchers and locals. I was going to bake to my demographic!

Luckily for me I also had a secret weapon in my arsenal! My best friend, Della. She is also exploring her baking skills and interested in learning more like me, so when I mentioned what I was planning for this concert she jumped on board and offered to make one of the recipes for me. I gave her a choice and she chose the recipe with the most ingredients and the toughest to put together, but I knew if anyone was up for the challenge it was her! She loves to make baked goods that are intricate and have lots of ingredients. I am good at making the simple recipes taste like heaven, but she likes the challenge of making the tougher recipes seem easy to make and simply delicious! Together, we make a formidable team in the kitchen!

So without further are the three recipes.

Laura Bush's Cowboy Cookies

Makes 36 HUGE cookies or 6 dozen "non-Texas" sized cookies

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tblsp baking powder

1 tblsp baking soda
1 tblsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 tblsp vanilla extract
3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
2 cups sweetened flake coconut
2 cups chopped pecans (or walnuts as Della used)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a bowl. In an 8-quart bowl, beat butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Gradually add in sugars, beat to combine, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each. Beat in vanilla extract. Stir in flour mixture until just combined. Add in chocolate chips, oats, coconut and pecans. For each cookie, drop 1/4 cup dough onto ungreased baking sheets (this is the Texas size one...), spacing 3 inches apart. Bake for 17 to 19 minutes, until edges are lightly browned, rotating sheets halfway through. Remove cookies from rack to cool. Makes about 3 dozen cookies. FOR 6 dozen smaller cookies, use 2 tablespoons dough for each. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes.


Paul Deen
These are actually bars...SUPER rich and sweet.

1 16-oz box of Graham crackers
12 tablespoons butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 cup chopped pecans
2 cup shredded coconut

2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 tblsp butter
3 tblsp milk

For the filling:
Line a 13"X9" glass pan with whole graham crackers. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add sugar. Beat the egg and milk together, add to butter mixture. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add the nuts, coconut and 1 cup of graham cracker crumbs.

Pour this mixture over the graham crackers in the pan. Cover with another layer of whole graham crackers.

For the topping:
Beat all the ingredients together and spread this topping over the top layer of graham crackers. Chill. (preferably for several hours). Cut into squares.

Helen's note: FYI - These are SUPER rich, so I cut into very small squares...that should be more than enough!


Chocolate Gooey Butter Cookies
Paula Deen

Makes about 2 dozen

1 brick cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick butter, at room temperature
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 box moist chocolate cake mix
Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Beat in the egg. Then beat in the vanilla extract. Beat in the cake mix. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours to firm up so you can roll the batter into balls. Roll the chilled batter into tablespoon sized balls and then roll them in powdered sugar. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart. Bake for 12 minutes. The cookies will remain soft and gooey. Cool completely and sprinkle with powdered sugar.