Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Creamy Potato Leek Soup....comfort food!

This is a very simple soup to make and is full of rich and delicious flavors. This recipe calls for very inexpensive ingredients and makes a lot so it can be enjoyed for many meals!

Creamy Potato Leek Soup served with Gruyère Cheese and croutons
Roughly chop the onion

Mince the garlic or use a garlic press

This is a Leek!- looks like an over-sized scallion

Remove the root end and begin to slice in 1/4" rings

Continue to slice the leeks until half way through the dark green portion.

Sliced leeks.
Brown potatoes peeled and largely chopped.

Boil the potatoes in a large pot with the chicken broth.
Melted butter and scallions about to be sauteed.

Scallions  and onions are translucent- ready to be blended.
Emulsion Blender
Blend all the ingredients in one pot with the emulsion blender!
Once blended it is quite thick, time to add the milk.
Milk and Cream has been added, add more if you want it runnier.
Potato Leek Soup topped with Gruyere cheese and croutons.

Potato Leek Soup
Author: Brenna Bowers
Makes: 10 servings (1 1/2 cups per person)

5 brown potatoes, peeled and cut in large chunks
3 leeks cleaned* and sliced in ¼” rings
½ large onion red or white, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 ½ cups chicken broth or chicken stock
2 med cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbs butter
Dash salt (not much needed for the chicken broth can sometime be salty)
Dash pepper
1 ½ tsp chopped dried Herbs De Province (rosemary, thyme, marjoram, basil)
2 1/2cups milk
1 cup Half and Half

Gruyere Cheese, shredded
Croutons or crusty bread

Prepare some of the ingredients by roughly chopping the onions, clean and slice the leeks in 1/4” rings (slicing until you have chopped half-way through the dark green leafy part) (discard at least the last 3 inches of a leek), and mince the garlic.

Peel the potatoes and cut them into large chunks. Place into a large pot and pour in the 3 ½ cups of chicken broth. Place on high heat and boil the potatoes for about 10-12 minutes. When they start getting tender when pricked with a fork, turn off the heat and set aside.

In a large sauté pan, add the 3 Tbs of butter and turn on the stove to medium-low heat. Melt the butter in the pan. Add in the leeks and stir allowing it to cook about 5 minutes (you do not want any browning on any of the ingredients you are sautéing so add in a couple of Tbs of the chicken broth from the boiling potatoes if they are beginning to brown!) Add in the onions and allow to sauté about 7 minutes (add in more chicken broth if needed). Add in the minced garlic, herbs, salt and pepper. Cook for about 2 more minutes and remove from the heat. Add the leek mixture to the potatoes and chicken broth pot.

Using an emulsion blender (see picture above), blend the ingredients until it is a smooth soup**. Allow the soup to cool until it is just slightly hot to the touch before you add the milk and cream (you do not want the milk or cream to curdle). So once the mixture is cooled, pour in the milk and Half and Half and stir until all incorporated.
Taste the soup! Adjust seasonings by adding in more at this time if you want a stronger flavor. Add more milk if you would prefer a more runny soup.

Top each serving with shredded gruyere cheese and croutons or a crusty bread!

*Leeks: have a similar flavor to an onion but are not quite as strong. Leeks are very dirty and therefore must always be cleaned! Dirt and sand get lodged in the leaves easily. You must rinse leeks very well under water and discard the outer leaves that do not look good.

**If you do not have an emulsion blender, it is more than ok to use a blender or food processor (just make sure you do not place boiling hot mixtures into the appliances)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Jazzed up Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies...

Nothing quite like a freshly baked Oatmeal Raisin Cookie...that's chewy!
Full of cinnamon and maple flavor along with hardiness and texture from the oats and can't just take one bite!
Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookie with lots of flavor!
 Cookie dough- good if just eaten with a spoon or frozen!
 Not a fan of raisins?-exchange for chocolate chips or white chocolate chips

Remove from the oven if you like it even more chewy than this!

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie
Author: Brenna Bowers
Serving: about 15-20 cookies...depending on how much dough you eat :)

2 sticks butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granular (white) sugar
2 Tbs honey
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
¼ tsp maple flavoring
1 ½ cups flour
3 cups quick oats
1 tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
1 cup raisins*
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped**

In a small bowl, beat the butter, brown sugar, granular (white) sugar and honey until whipped and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Add the eggs, vanilla, and maple extract and beat until incorporated.
In another bowl, stir and combine the flour, quick oats, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
Add half of the flour and oat mixture to the butter mixture and stir until just combined. Add the rest of the flour and stir until fully combined. Add in the raisins (and walnuts) and stir with a wooden spoon.

Place heaping spoonfuls (about 3 Tbs. of dough) on a cookie sheet and slightly flatten and form the dough into a cookie shape (they do not flatten much as they cook so you must help the process). Bake at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes (it is better to pull the cookies from the oven when they are barley golden brown and still gooey for a more chewy cookie!)

Mmmmm….eat up!

*don’t like raisins?? Substitute with chocolate chips or even white chocolate chips!

** add walnuts or any kind of nuts you prefer…or omit completely

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Mocha Crinkle Cookies.....for those who love cookies, coffee and chocolate

It is the season of baking cookies! Give this gooey and chocolaty cookie with a hint of coffee a try!
Not just any has chocolate and espresso!
the cookie dough

placing the cookie dough ball into the powdered sugar

Roll the dough in powdered sugar and remove the excess.

Place the cookie dough that has been rolled in the powdered sugar right onto the cookie sheet to be baked.

Notice how they "crinkle" beautifully when they bake!

These cookies are gooey! Pull them out of the oven sooner than later!

Mocha Crinkle Cookies
Author: Brenna Bowers
Makes:10 large cookies

1 stick butter
¾ cup brown sugar
¼ cup granular sugar
1 egg
½ tsp vanilla
1/2 Tbs espresso powder
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup oats
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips

1/3 cup powdered sugar (just to coat the cookies before baking to give the "crinkle" look) 

In a small bowl, combine the butter brown sugar and granular (white) sugar. Beat well and until creamy (about 2 minutes)! Add in  the egg and vanilla and stir until combined. 

In another small bowl combine all the dry ingredients from the espresso powder to the baking soda. Stir to mix it and add it into the wet ingredients. Stir until just combined and add in the chocolate chips.

Take a large spoonful of dough (about 3 Tbs) and roll in your hands to form it into the shape of a thick cookie (about 2 1/2 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick). 

Place the powdered sugar in a small bowl. Drop the dough into the powdered sugar and roll until completely coated. Brush off the excess. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 9 minutes at 350 degrees F. You want to pull them out of the oven when they are still gooey!

Enjoy with a glass of milk!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Get your veggie fix with Brenna's Vegetarian Enchiladas

Mix all your favorite veggies into one dish with this Vegetarian Enchilada recipe!
This dish can be altered for you... add the vegetables you like and omit the ones you don't!
Bake it now and eat it later...or better yet, just eat it now

These are my favorite vegetables....but feel free to adjust.
To assemble: place the ingredients and lots of cheese on the tortilla to be rolled
Everyone is wrapped and ready for some enchilada sauce and cheese!

Time to place it in the oven.

Baked to golden brown and bubbly perfection.

Veggie Enchiladas
A great weeknight meal to make ahead of time and just heat up individually when your ready to eat!
Author: Brenna Bowers
Makes:11x8 pan

2 Tbs olive oil
3 medium carrots,  peeled and chopped
½ bell pepper, chopped
¼ cup broccoli chopped
¼ cup onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small can mild green chilies
¼ cup frozen spinach, thawed and drained
¼ cup cherry tomatoes, diced and de-seeded
1 ½ cup precooked lentils (Trader Joes has a great product available)
1 ½ cups cheddar, shredded
1-2 Tbs Taco seasoning
1 tsp Cumin
1/2 tsp.Smoked paprika
Salt and pepper
20 oz. Green Chili Enchilada Sauce**
8 whole wheat tortillas

In a large saucepan, heat up the olive oil. Add the carrots and slowly sauté until slightly tender (about 10 minutes, adding one Tbs. of water at a time if they are browning). Add in the onions, and sauté about 3 minutes. Add the bell pepper, broccoli, and garlic. Sauté for about 8-10 minutes more; stirring occasionally and adding more water to keep from burning. Add in the green chilies, spinach, tomatoes, and lentils along with the seasonings (add more or less seasoning according to your taste). Sauté and stir about 2 more minutes just to get the ingredients combined and hot; remove from the heat.
In a small sauce pan, place the Green Chili Enchilada Sauce and place it on low heat just to warm it up.
Prepare your glass 11 x 8 inch baking dish by greasing it lightly with cooking oil spray.

Place the tortillas in the microwave for about 30 seconds just to them heat up and get them more pliable. One at a time, dip a tortilla into the warmed enchilada sauce with tongs and remove the excess sauce by gently shaking it and place right onto the counter. Place about 2-3Tbs of filling on the center of the tortilla and a generous pinch of cheese. Roll like a burrito and place the seam-side down in the baking dish. Repeat this process with each tortilla/enchilada until all the ingredients are used. Pour the Green Chili Enchilada Sauce over the enchiladas and top with the rest of the cheese. Bake the enchiladas covered  with foil for about 40 minutes at 375 degrees F. Remove the foil from the enchiladas and bake for another 10-20 minutes or until the cheese turns a golden brown color and everything is bubbling.
Serve hot!

Make ahead of time: Assemble and bake the enchiladas and place them in the refrigerator or freezer (covered with a lid or plastic wrap) to be eaten later in the week.  Heat up individual size proportions (best if placed back in the oven or second best is by microwave).

*Adjust this recipe to your liking! Add the ingredients you like and omit the ones you don't. 
Some alternative ingredients: Squash, Zucchini, eggplant, beans, potatoes, corn....etc.)

** Use Green Chili Enchilada Sauce or Red Enchilada sauce if you prefer.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Puff Pastry Fruit Basket Appetizer...

A wonderful sweet bite-size appetizer with little guiltiness. 
A combination of fruit, Greek yogurt, honey and puff pastry dough. 
The best part is, this is an EASY recipe!

Puff Pastry Fruit Basket
Author: Brenna Bowers

1 box Frozen puff pastry (cheapest at Trader Joes and found in the freezer section)
1 egg
2 Tbs. sugar (for garnish)
1 cup Greek yogurt (or vanilla yogurt)
1 ½-2 Tbs. honey
1 tsp lime zest
Fresh berries (choose what is seasonal)

Thaw the puff pastry dough until it is no longer frosty but also not warm (if it gets too soft it is difficult to work with).
Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with oil.
In a small bowl, scramble the egg with about 1 Tbs of water (this makes what is called an “egg wash”).
To make the baskets, cut the thawed puff pastry dough into squares* (2.5”x2.5”) and then cut out another smaller square out of the middle. Slightly roll out the cut out middle square with a rolling pin and then paste it onto the larger square using the egg wash and a pastry brush. Place the baskets on the foil lined and greased baking sheet with the small square placed down. Brush the entire square basket with the egg wash then sprinkle with a light dusting of sugar.
Place in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes (Tip 1).
Bake at 400˚ F for about 5-7 minutes or just until golden brown.
Allow to cool completely before filling them.
In another small bowl, mix the Greek yogurt, honey and lime zest. Place a spoonful into each basket (only when you are about to serve!) and top with the fresh berries! Enjoy!

Tip 1: Do not skip the step of placing the puff pastry baskets in the refrigerator before baking! It is important the dough is chilled when placed in the oven. If you did not pre-chill the dough before placing it in the oven, it would not puff/rise properly. 

*You can also make these baskets in the shape of a circle, just use a large and small cookie cutter. 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Secret Ingredient Almond Toffee- a sweet and salty treat

This is a family favorite recipe of Almond Toffee that I have been baking for many years. It is fun to make and let people bite into and then ask them to guess the "secret ingredient"- can you guess what it is by just looking at the picture??

 Well, can you guess what is the unique ingredient to this Almond Toffee recipe??





Believe it or not...Saltines!
These crackers add a hint of crunch
as well as the perfect harmony of sweet and salty.

Already baked and now time to be cooled.

This depicts the underside of the toffee- see the saltine layer under there!?

Saltine Almond Toffee Bars
Author: Brenna Bowers

1 cup butter (not margarine)
1 cup brown sugar
8 oz. Saltine crackers (abut a sleeve and a half)
12 oz. chocolate chips
½ cup sliced or slivered almonds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Line a cookie sheet with foil and grease it well with butter.
Place one layer of Saltine crackers on the greased cookie sheet, laying them end to end and close together.
To make the toffee mixture, in a medium sized saucepan, melt the butter on medium heat. Once it is melted add the brown sugar and stir.  Boil and continue to stir for exactly 3 minutes (tip 1).
Pour the toffee mixture over the saltine crackers and spread evenly with a spatula as quickly as possible before it cools and begins to harden.
Place into the oven and bake for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over the toffee.
Let it rest for 2 minutes (to let the chocolate chips melt) and with a clean spatula, spread the melted chocolate evenly over the toffee. Sprinkle with the nuts.
Let the Almond Toffee cool completely (you can even place it in the fridge for a few minutes to harden it faster). Break into pieces and enjoy!

Tip 1: It is so important that you boil it for exactly 3 minutes. You want to see bubbles as it boils. Cooking this the proper amount of time makes the toffee the correct texture- completely melting the sugar and caramelizing it.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Reindeer Cookies….perfect for baking with kids!

I had the privilege of baking these tasty cookies with my talented cousins! They are such wonderful little bakers….take a look for yourself!

 It’s the perfect cookie to bake to get the holidays started!

 In order to make these cookies, you must first create the simple cookie dough

Next, its time to assemble these darling Reindeer Cookies
Make a large and small circle out of the dough to create the face of the reindeer
Add the antlers by placing the pretzels on the larger circle of dough
Add M&M's to create the eyes and the nose
 Kids can easily assemble the reindeer face!
ready to be baked...
The kids are happy to be putting them in the oven-the quicker they bake the quicker they can eat them!
Baked and ready to be enjoyed!

Time to enjoy this kid-made treat!
Reindeer Cookies 
Author: Brenna Bowers
Serving: about 20
Ingredients for the Cookies
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
2 ¼ cups flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda

Extra Ingredients for the Cookies
Small Pretzels
M &M’s

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
In a large bowl, cream the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar. Beat in the egg and vanilla until well mixed. Add in dry ingredients and mix completely just until combined.

Spoon out a 1 ½ Tbs scoop of cookie dough and roll into a ball. Slightly flatten the dough to about ¼” thickens and place on a greased cookie sheet. Spoon out a ½ Tbs scoop of cookie dough and roll this into a ball and flatten to about ¼” and place the corner on the large flattened circle of dough.
On the larger circle of dough, place two pretzels about 1” apart to create the “antlers”. Place two M &M’s as the eyes on the larger circle of dough under the antlers and one M &M as the nose for each reindeer cookie.
 Repeat this process until all the dough is gone.

Bake for 10-12 minutes. (You will have  placed the m&m's and pretzels on before baking- so when you pull them from the oven they are ready to eat!)
Enjoy these cookies with a glass of milk- just as Santa would do!

Brenna's disclosure:
I learned an important lesson- watch those kiddos closley as they will keep dipping their little fingers into the yummy dough ending up with a BELLY ACHE!
I caught him red-handed; not once but 6 times!