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December 30, 2010 / Baker by Night

Cornmeal Cranberry Orange Bread with Honey

Hi. Can I just talk about something other than this bread for a second? I mean I know that it looks really good and you probably want me to get right to it, but there is something I need to say. Ok, here it is, please pay attention.

Do not ever make or eat cajun shrimp pizza.

Whew. I feel better. I would have saved this for another post, maybe one devoted to the cajun shrimp pizza that I made for dinner tonight. But alas, there will be no such cajun shrimp pizza post because you will all stop reading my blog if you make and eat it. This pizza was such a dissapointment because the different parts of the pizza were amazing. The crust was crispy on the bottom and chewy on the sides, the sauce was perfectly balanced, and the cajun shrimp were spicy and flavorful. The problem occured when I put them all together and baked them in the oven. Thankfully, the pizza was great once you pulled the shrimp off, and the shrimp were great once they were pulled off the pizza. So at least the dinner wasn’t a total loss.

And now we are enjoying slices of this wonderful bread to get the cajun shrimp pizza taste out of our mouths.

Well at least you now know that I too make mistakes in the kitchen. Seriously, it seemed like such a good idea!! Ok, move on Aliza…

So, on to the bread then. I used to think I was obsessed with peaches and berries, and then fall came. I used to think I was obsessed with pumpkin, and then winter came. Now I am obsessed with cranberry and orange, and I’m sure once Spring comes, I will realize that I am obsessed with lemon. I am realizing that I am a seasonal eater, which I consider to be a good thing. I like to eat local and I’ve been thinking about reducing my carbon footprint, so knowing that I am craving seasonal foods just makes me feel a little more green. I realize that I just posted the cranberry orange thumbprint cookies, but I gave them all away and I was still craving cranberry orange. I found this recipe and thought it would make a great quick bread. It was really good. It’s not sweet like a pound cake, but not savory either. It is really good freash out of the oven and even better a few days later. It’s also really good to get the tasted of a bad dinner out of your mouth. (:::Shiver:::)

Get the recipe!

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December 28, 2010 / Baker by Night

PPQ: Individual Baked Omelets

I really don’t like to toot my own horn, but I feel that I need to give credit where credit is due. So here it is. I make the best omelets. Seriously. The World’s best omelets. And today is your lucky day, because I am about to give you the secret of my most perfect omelets. Are you ready? I’ll give you a minute to go grab a piece of paper and a pen, because you are going to want to write this down, laminate it, and make a second laminated copy to put in a safe location should the first copy ever catch fire.

Ok now that you are ready, here’s the secret:

  1. Dice all omelet “fixin’s” and saute in butter
  2. Mix egg with a little bit of milk and whisk until foamy
  3. Pour egg mixture into pan with sautéed vegetables
  4. Scramble until perfectly cooked. Yes, scramble
  5. (Now here’s the world’s most perfect part), Use a spatula to form the eggs into the shape of an omelet and present to your favorite person.

And that’s it! That is how you make the World’s best omelets.

Ok, so I understand that scrambled eggs with vegetables formed into the shape of an omelet does not really qualify as an actual omelet. And, in all fairness, my “omelets” probably aren’t the World’s best, but it’s all I know. I have tried to make traditional omelets in the past, but I got tired of peeling them off of the ceiling or picking pieces of egg out of the vent hood. So I stick to the formed omelet idea. Well, at least until today.

As usual, I was looking forward to this week’s Project Pastry Queen recipe. Breakfast is my most favorite meal of the day, and I love an excuse to make any form of breakfast food. These freeze and reheat very easily and I will definitely be making these again to take for lunch with a salad when school starts back up (ACK!). You can forget about my secret to the perfect omelet. That was a joke. Try this one though, this one really could be the World’s most perfect omelet.

I only made one adjustment to this recipe, I added 1 cup of sharp cheddar cheese. It was a good addition. I love cheese.

Get the recipe over at Joelen’s Culinary Adventures and see how other PPQ members did here

 

December 26, 2010 / Baker by Night

Autumn Mac and Cheese

In case you are keeping track, I also have an irrational fear of mac and cheese. Yes it’s true, mac and cheese elicits the same feelings in me as spiders, the Wizard of Oz, and team mascots. You see, when I was in culinary school, we had an assignment to make mac and cheese. I felt so bad for my partner, everyone else’s sauce came out creamy and cheesy and smooth. Ours, however, came out gritty and clumpy and looked like we had stuck a bowl of noodles covered in cheese in the microwave. From that point on, I vowed to stay away from any mac and cheese recipe. I hate to admit it, but I actually love the kind that comes in the blue box. Especially when you mix a can of tuna into it. But seeing that my anti-box guild membership has yet to run out, I decided I needed to face my fears and learn how to make mac and cheese.

The other night, after a much needed step class at the gym, I decided I was going to have more than just cookies and rolls for dinner (don’t judge, it’s what’s in the house right now). I had saved this recipe awhile ago and I decided that I was going to give it a try. I figured that with all of the interesting ingredients, this could either be really good, or really horrible.  I mean apples? And brussel sprouts? And cheese? That doesn’t really sound too appetizing, does it? I was already preparing my back up meal of cookies and roll as this came out of the oven. I took a skeptical bite and shouted “DELICIOUS!”, which evoked awkward and confused looks from the dogs.

There is no one flavor that takes center stage in this dish, the flavors blend perfectly together. The apples give this dish a bit of sweetness while the brussel sprouts add a good bite. The cheddar cheese is a perfect accompaniment to the vegetables, and it adds a sharpness that really helps pull the flavors together. This was so good, I had to stop myself from going back for thirds. I feel a little more confident and a little less scared about mac and cheese now. I may just think twice before reaching for that blue box. I would definitely make this again, maybe with some different vegetables. Or tuna. I’m just saying…

Get the Recipe!

December 24, 2010 / Baker by Night

Cranberry Orange Thumbprint Cookies

I don’t think that it was a coincidence that the commercial for pajama jeans came on while I was baking these cookies. Actually, I think that it was a sign, especially since the commercial played not once, but twice while I was baking (and subsequently eating) these cookies. Are you familiar with the pajama jean? “They look like denim but feel like PJ’s!” Basically, for those that like to stay in their pajamas all day and can’t seem to find a pair of jeans to put on before going grocery shopping, these are a perfect alternative to tucking your sweats into your Ugg’s! These are the best “jeans” for this time of year since there is no actual button and they are, in all reality, pajamas. You can eat all you want and not have to worry about popping your top button at the dinner table. In fact, the more I think about it, maybe I should get some pajama jeans. No, I take it back, I don’t want these pants, but I did eat one too many cookies today. See, when the cookies came out of the oven, I had to try one to make sure that they tasted ok. Then I realized that I tried the first cookie while it was hot, so I had to try another one to see what they tasted like when cooled. Well, I wasn’t quite sure if that one was good, so I had to try a third. And then that darn pajama jeans commercial came on for the second time, and I figured since they made such a big deal out of  “fitting every figure”, I ate cookies number four and five. Yes. I ate 5 cookies. Because they are that good. So buttery and soft and the tartness from the cranberries just perfectly compliments the sweet citrusness (it’s a word, trust me, I have a blog) of the cookie. Oh I just really need to stay out of the kitchen and away from these cookies right now or I will need to order those pajama jeans.

Get the recipe! (And see some more pictures)

December 23, 2010 / Baker by Night

Cheese Straws

This year, I had the crazy idea to send out my very first holiday gift boxes. I spent weeks planning what to include. I wanted to make sure that the treats in the box were shippable, and that there was something for everyone to enjoy. I knew that I wanted treats with classic winter flavors like gingerbread and peppermint, so I put peppermint bark and gingerbread men in the boxes. I also included some biscotti; they are easy to make, delicious, and I figured they would ship well. In addition to that, I wanted to add something savory for people that were “cookied-out” and something fruity to round out the flavors. Well, the fruit jellies I tried to make turned into gummy-fruit-soup-goo, so I turned my focus to picking a great savory snack. I figured the best thing to send would be something crunchy and cheesy. Almost everyone loves cheese straws, they are compact so you can take them in your pocket, they don’t require refrigeration, and they are tasty! The boxes looked great once they were put together, but I definitely learned a lot for next year, like don’t pack the gingerbread on the edge because they will show up missing an arm or leg. Or maybe I will pack them the same way, gingerbread without their appendages need love too.

I chose this recipe for cheese straws because they looked so easy to make. I mean what could be that hard about making dough in the food processor, rolling it out, cutting it into strips, and baking up straws of cheesy goodness? It didn’t sound too difficult to me! Well, the dough making was easy, just throw everything in the food processor. However, these are quite difficult to transfer. The dough is very fragile and tends to break. The good news is that you get little mini pieces of cheese straw that you just can’t include in the boxes. I was forced to eat all of the broken small pieces, it was a difficult task, but fortunately I’ve been trained for such a situation.

Get the recipe!

December 22, 2010 / Baker by Night

Chicken Strudel

This was one of the first recipes I ever attempted to make. I don’t know what possessed my 18 year old self to try to make this, I barely knew how to turn on an oven at the time, but something about chicken, spinach, and flaky phyllo dough told me I better learn. The first few times I tried to make this recipe, it didn’t turn out too well. I wasn’t that comfortable in the kitchen  and I would either forget to add an ingredient of I would accidentally let the phyllo dough dry out. I think that I may have even tried to experiment with the recipe. This was long before I knew anything about flavor combinations, so I added ingredients like cumin, lemon pepper, and marshmallows. I really do not recommend any of these additions, especially the marshmallows. Thankfully, I was finally able to master the strudel and it became my go to recipe. Family coming in town for a visit? Make chicken strudel! Movie night with the girls? Chicken strudel! Impress the guy I’m dating? Chinese takeout? No! Chicken strudel! Chicken strudel over and over and over again until people started saying, “Hey Aliza, what’s with all the chicken strudel?” I was finally forced to turn away from the strudel and search for other recipes to master. I had completely forgotten about it until I had a chicken strudel dream a few months ago. I went on a search and chicken strudel is rightfully back in the dinner rotation where it belongs.

The main reason I keep coming back to this recipe is that it is really simple and very good. I love it because I normally have the ingredients on hand and it is very quick to make. This time, I didn’t have any swiss cheese, so I substituted Fiesta Blend. I was really nervous about using a different type of cheese, but it still tasted great! The other thing I love so much about this strudel is that it is healthy, which is really helpful right now considering all of the cookies I have been baking and eating lately. I think I should have just sent chicken strudel in my holiday boxes this year, it really is good for everything.

Get the recipe!

December 20, 2010 / Baker by Night

PPQ: Rocket Rolls

Today, as the smell of homemade bread filled my house, I had a realization. I realized just how much of my life is influenced by my sense of smell. Smells can tell me the day of the week or what season it is. For instance, the smell of toast and bacon let me know it’s Sunday morning. The scent of freshly cut grass and newly paved roads tells me it’s summer time. Cinnamon and apples indicate that it’s time to pull out the sweaters. I also realized that scents are the strongest triggers of my memories. When I want to remember my trip to Israel, all I have to do is smell my passion fruit lip balm. The smell of patchouli and vanilla remind me of my first date with the hubby, and the smell of tea roses remind me of my Grandma. Well today, I realized that the smell of homemade bread makes me feel comforted and at home, and I like that feeling. I either need to make a bread scented candle or just make these rolls more often. (I think making the rolls would be a bit easier, I’m just saying…)

I have really grown to love PPQ Sunday’s, they take me outside of my comfort zone a little and I am always happy with the result. Since this is only the second time that I have made bread, I was still a little nervous. However, I’m starting to learn that bread really isn’t that hard to make, and it makes the house smell amazing so the hard work done by the stand mixer is truly worth it. The only things that I changed were that I put an egg wash on the rolls before baking, and I sprinkled the tops with poppy seeds and sesame seeds. The rolls were so fluffy and soft with just a hint of sweetness. I made the smaller rolls for smaller sandwiches or sliders.

Check out the recipe here, and see how the other members fared here.