Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Cream Cheese Lasagna

I'm always intrigued by variations of lasagna.  I mean - I make my Mom's lasagna and it's delicious every time.  I'm sure it's the same for you.
 
But everyone's lasagna is different than everyone else's.  And everyone claims that theirs is best lasagna in the world.
 
And I have no doubt that it's true.
 
I rolled upon this recipe on Pinterest and Sommer, during a visit with her husband's family, discovered that her Mother-in-law uses CREAM CHEESE instead of ricotta or cottage cheese in her lasagna!
 
I know. 
 
But why not?
 

 
Sommer's recipe actually calls for sausage, but I'm not terribly fussed on sausage, so I just used ground beef.

Okay - there's clearly spices in there.  But I have no idea what they are.  Sorry about that. I'm pretty sure I just used some garlic salt. 

Or something.  My bad.  But because I used ground beef instead of Italian sausage it needed a little flavoring.  Use your judgement.

 
After the beef is cooked through, pour in the marinara sauce and let simmer.  I suggest using a really big skillet.  I clearly need one.

 
Cook and drain lasagna noodles, I used 12.  Lay the noodles flat on a clean tea towel.
 
Evenly divide the cream cheese and spread on each noodle, covering as much of the noodle as possible.

 
Then assemble.
 
And bake.
 
And I would say that it needs to stand for 15 - 20 minutes or so.
 
 
It is wildly cheesy and creamy.
 
The cream cheese adds a sweetness and tang that's kind of unexpected, but completely delightful!

 
Okay - so granted, these pictures make this dish look like a hot mess.  And does Sommer about zero justice.
 
But trust me when I say that it is AMAZING!!. Creamy, cheesy, saucy - just a delicious dish.  Next time I would top it with sweet basil instead of Italian Seasoning - but that's just my personal preference.

  
Run over to see Summer at her blog and try her delicious lasagna!

Source:  A Spicy Perspective

Friday, 16 January 2015

Buttery Soft Dinner Buns

It took me a LOOOOOONG time to be comfortable working with yeast and understanding how it worked.

I read article after article, recipes, tips, you name it.  But what really helped were the step-by-step picture tutorials that people would put up showing what yeast should looked like when it was proofed, how "doubled in size" should look, everything. 

Darla over at Bakingdom put up this tutorial and it helped SO much.  She even used a scale weight instead of a size reference.  Because I'm terrible with size references - when someone says "golf ball size" I can barely figure it out. 

For some strange reason.  I mean - I know how big a golf ball is.

Anyway - on to the buns.  They don't require proofing, but they do need a lot of time for rising.

 
Add flour to a large bowl.

 
Then add the salt.

 
And the sugar.

 
And the yeast.

 
And mix it all up.

 
Then - in a measuring cup, fill to 3/4 cup with hot water.  Add cubed butter and stir until melted.  Make sure the butter is room temperature - it'll melt much more easily.

 
Beat an egg until it's frothy and then add it to the butter-water.  Then add more water (lukewarm).
 
Add the water-egg-butter-mixture to the flour mixture and stir until a dough starts to form.

 
The turn out the dough and knead until it's soft and elastic.
 
Then put the dough into a lightly greased large bowl.  I always just use the one I was doing the mixing in so that I'm not using a bazillion dishes.  

 
Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size.  Now.. For a novice bread-maker, it's important to know this part.  As you know, yeast needs to be warm to activate and grow - making the dough rise. 
 
Yeast is actually kind of gross if you think about it.
 
There are a number of ways to help the dough rise. 
 
You can put it on top of a dryer - dryer running of course (that doesn't work in my house because the laundry room can get quite cold). 
 
You can do the preheated oven method (which I don't really understand because the temperature won't stay consistent and the oven cools off, thereby hindering the rising process.  Unless I read the process wrong?).
 
Or - the way I do it.  Make sure the thermostat in the house is set to no less than 21 degrees and put the dough in a sunny spot.  Not in a window.  I put mine on the kitchen table - the kitchen faces south, so the sun is on the table for a huge majority of the day.
 
And then let rise.  I usually go for 2 hours. 

 
Then it comes to the "formation of the buns" part of the day.
 
Divide the dough into 2 ounce portions.  I like to cut off a portion at a time.  I also like to use my kitchen scale to weigh the portions. 
 
PS - kitchen scale?  Worth every red cent.. Which technically don't exist in Canada anymore.  So...  worth every nickel?  Whatever.  I will always own a kitchen scale.
 
Lay the rounds/buns/boules or whatever on parchment paper on a cookie sheet.  I like to place them so they're just touching a little bit.
 
And yes.  I get 23 out of this batch.  Every.  Single.  Time.  I have no idea why.
 
Let them rise until doubled in size.  I go for 2 hours.

 
And as for finishing.  There are a few different options.
 
First, is a milk wash.
 
Second, is an egg wash (beat and egg with a little milk or water).
 
Third, is melted butter.  I like that one.  Because they don't have enough butter to begin with.
 
Then.  Bake.

 
These buns come out soft, kind of sweet, full of flavor and completely perfect.
 
Every time.
 
Without fail.


 
I totally love these buns.  They are perfect with lasagna, stew, soup, roasts (with gravy!), and everything in between.
 
I actually shouldn't have been surprised - Darla is amazing and her recipes are always a winner!
 
I totally believe that anyone who isn't sure about making buns that they could do so with this recipe!
 

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Smothered Beef and Bean Burritos

So it's Taco Tuesday again.  But for the love of your sanity you absolutely do not want to have tacos again because if  you do you'll scream and run for the hills while setting fire to every taco shell you can find.
 

Isn't that a delightful run-on sentence?

But seriously.  Aren't you interested in spicing up Taco Tuesday? 

Have burritos instead!  It could beeee.e..........  Burrito Buesday.  Let's just pretend.

And THESE burritos are totally what you should do.

Totally.

 
In a large frying pan, start browning the meat (insert raw meat picture below.  Oh look!)
 
 
Just before the beef is fully cooked through, add the chili powder.
 

Then the cumin.


And the coriander.


And the salt and pepper.
 

Then, once the beef is cooked through, add the refried beans.


Okay - this part is a little weird.  Add in some water.  I know.  I know.  It's weird.  And from one person with food texture issues to another, this completely freaked me out.

Add it anyway. Stir it all together and put it aside.

 
Then you have to make the green Chile sauce - that's the smother part.
 
 
In a medium saucepan, start melting the butter.
 

 
Add the flour.

 
Whisk the flour and butter together and cook - this just gets rid of the "raw flour" taste.


Whisk in the chicken broth and cook until thickened.

Add the Chiles and sour cream and stir until combined.

 
 
After the meat mixture is cooked and the chile sauce is done, it's time to roll the burritos. 

Divide the meat mixture between 6 tortillas, spreading the meat down the middle of each tortilla.  Put about 2 Tablespoons of cheese on the meat and roll up by folding the sides over and rolling into a burrito shape.
 
To be honest, the recipe says to top with sauce, then top with cheese.  But I think I did it backwards.  I kind of like it that way.  You could always stick the rolled and cheese topped burritos under the boiler for a hot minute to melt the cheese.  Then pour the sauce over the burritos..
 
 
Totally your call.

 
Holy macaroni Batman these burritos were amazing. 
 
I didn't use all the sauce - I was worried about sogginess.  I served what I didn't pour over the top on the side, but it didn't all get used.  You could cut the sauce recipe in half if you wanted to.
 
The filling is tender and has a ton of flavor.  The sauce is creamy and adds a level of decadence that is kind of unexpected.  I totally recommend topping with fresh, crispy lettuce!  And DON'T skimp on the cheese!
 
But I absolutely think you'll love these and should be making them a regular part of your Taco Tuesday rotation!
 
xoxo - Heather 

Friday, 9 January 2015

Coca Cola Cake

Has anyone ever heard of Coca Cola Cake?

Ya - me neither.

From the limited information that's out there, it sounds like it's an American thing - very popular in the deep South.  And it's been around forever.  In fact, it seems that the earliest published recipe was found in The Charleston Gazette in August 1952, submitted by Mrs. E.D. Greer.

Then, in 1997, the Cracker Barrel chain of restaurants introduced a modified version of the cake to their menu (albeit at first intermittently, but permanently in 2009).  When people think of Cracker Barrel, they immediately associate Coca Cola Cake with the restaurant.

Or so my research says.

I have no idea if that's true.  Because I've never eaten at a Cracker Barrel restaurant.  Mom!?  Maybe this year?????

Now.  With an old, popular recipe like this, there is bound to be a number of variations out there.  And, in fact, there are.  Some versions have pecans added.  Some versions have marshmallows.  Some versions have both.

The one we're trying today is the Cracker Barrel version.  No nuts, no marshmallows.  Pretty plain Jane.  Although, those are not the words I would use to describe this cake.

 
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the butter.

 
Then add the Coke.

 
Next in the pool, the oil.

 
And the cocoa powder.

 
While the Coke mixture is coming together, get the dry ingredients ready.
 
Add the sugar to a large bowl.

 
Then add the flour.

 
Annnnnnd the salt.

 
Stir it all together, then add the Coke mixture.

 
Stir in the eggs, add the baking soda.

 
And lastly, the vanilla and the buttermilk.

 
Pour the mixture into a 9 x 13 inch pan and bake.
 
While the cake is in the oven, make the frosting.  Combine the butter, cocoa, and milk in a saucepan and heat over medium heat until the butter is melted.  Add in the vanilla and icing sugar and stir until combined.
 
After the cake has been pulled out of the oven - let it sit for about 10 minutes.  Then pour the icing on  top of the cake and allow to cool completely.

 
Oh man, I loved this cake.  Easy, uncomplicated, moist, a tender crumb, delicious icing. Chocolatey, but not too over the top.  Not too sweet.


It's fricking awesome.

Cracker Barrel serves theirs with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream - which would be delightful.  If you're into that kind of thing.  I actually don't like cake and ice cream.  Mostly because I talk too much and the ice cream melts and then the cake is soggy.  Which makes me sad face.

Either way, with ice cream or without, this cake is a must-do if you want a super-delicious dessert but don't have a ton of time to invest.

Enjoy!

xoxo - Heather