Saturday, January 24, 2015

Angel Food Cake

I was lucky enough to have enjoyed a three day weekend last week. After spending much of my time running around to the various activities we had planned, it was wonderful to enjoy some good ol' baking. Time in front of my mixer is a huge stress reliever for me and I don't get to do it often enough anymore.

Angel food cake is definitely a little more time consuming and one dessert that needs to be planned ahead of time. But don't feel intimidated, it's fairly easy and so worth it! This is the perfect treat to enjoy during the warm summer months when fresh berries are plentiful. But no worries, I had strawberries in the freezer from summer to use in a quick sauce. You can do the same.

It sure didn't take our family long to dig into this cake. In fact our seven year old kept asking me when it would be done.  I'm pretty sure it was worth the wait!

Angel Food Cake

1 cup sifted cake flour
1-1/2 cups sifted sugar
12 egg whites
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1-1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp almond extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and adjust oven rack to the lower middle position.

In a bowl, whisk flour and 3/4 cup of sugar together. Set aside.

Beat egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer at low speed until frothy.  Add cream of tartar and salt, increase to medium speed and beat until egg whites form soft mounds. Still beating at medium speed, add in remaining 3/4 cup of sugar, one tablespoon at a time. Continue mixing until the egg whites are shiny and form soft peaks. Add in vanilla, lemon juice and almond extract.

Run flour/sugar mixture through sifter once more. Then gradually fold flour mixture into the egg whites. Gently scrape batter into an ungreased 9-inch tube pan with removable bottom. Give pan a tap on counter to release any air bubbles.

Bake in oven for 50 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and invert pan onto a bottle of some sort. Let cool completely, for 2 hours. When ready to remove from pan, run a knife around edges of the pan. Carefully slide cake out of pan and cut the same way around the bottom. Turn cake bottom side up and place on a large plate or platter.  Serve with desired toppings.

To make a quick strawberry sauce: Combine two cups of sliced berries, either fresh or frozen (be sure to thaw) with one-two tablespoons sugar. Using a spoon, stir together and let sit until ready to serve.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Italian Chicken Bake

I've got a creative dish to share with you today, probably not one you've had too often. I love meals that can be put together into one pan, or casserole dish like in this case. Dinner suddenly becomes that much easier. I love putting together more complicated meals when I have the extra time but during the weeknight, easy is just plain necessary.

This particular dish reminds me of pizza and who doesn't love a good slice of pizza? It's probably one of my most favorite foods to eat.  I like this version with chicken but I'm sure a ground beef and sausage mixture would be just as tasty, or how about all veggies? The topping forms a nice crispy crust and then underneath is all sorts of cheesy, chicken goodness. Pair this with a nice green salad and you've got yourself a pretty good meal!

Italian Chicken Bake

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper, to taste
1 clove garlic, minced
14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes with olive oil and garlic

for the topping:
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup milk
2 eggs

In the bottom of a pie plate, sprinkle all around the grated Parmesan cheese. Dice up chicken breasts and add those to the pan. Top with mozzarella cheese and then all spices except garlic. Mix the garlic clove in with the tomatoes, juices and all. Pour over the chicken mixture.

In a medium bowl, whisk together all topping ingredients. Pour batter over the chicken mixture. Bake, uncovered at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until set. Remove from oven and sprinkle with additional mozzarella cheese if desired.

Let dish stand for about 10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Immune Boosting Cookies

I like to think my family is pretty healthy. Colds and other illnesses seem to be few and far between. Well, that is not so much the case for this school year. I am currently at home with our youngest as she's been running a fever off and on for the last day. I, myself have had a total of three colds since September. I thought our immune systems were well built up but evidently not.

In my attempt to do some searching for additional flu fighting foods that I could be adding to our diet I came across this recipe for cookies. Cookies, seriously? But as I read the recipe I was intrigued to replicate them for my own family. Of course I made some changes and I know they are not going to cure any illness. But they do have some-good-for-you components and are a healthier alternative to most other cookies.

It may seem like there are lots of flavors going on and there really are, but somehow it just works. The lemon compliments the cinnamon spice and the dark chocolate, nut and cranberry mixture all blend well together. All in all, it's a relatively healthy dessert you can feel good about eating.

Immune Boosting Cookies

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1-1/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1-1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick butter, softened
zest of 1 lemon
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup plain or vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1-1/4 cups dried cranberries
1/2 cup dark chocolate chunks
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup slivered almonds

In a bowl, combine both flours and spices and set aside. In another bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add in lemon zest. Mix in molasses, yogurt and eggs until well incorporated.

Next, gradually add in flour mixture and then mix in the oats. Fold in cranberries,  chocolate and both nuts. Dough will be thick.

Drop dough onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes, or until browned around the edges. Remove from oven and let cool before removing from pan. Makes about 30 cookies.


Speaking of good flu fighting foods, I'd love to hear how you're keeping your own family healthy this winter? There sure are some nasty viruses out there right now making their rounds through our schools and community.

I stress a lot of hand washing in our house and especially in the classroom. I've been feeding the kids lots of citrus fruits lately, pomegranates, and as many veggies as I can get in their little bodies. Also lots of yogurt and I have been trying to cook with fresh garlic often as well. But as hard as we try it's virtually impossible to avoid all illnesses completely. It just happens, it's all apart of life.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Slow Cooker Beef Tips

Well our first week back at school was surely a crazy one. Winter decided to grace its presence over Iowa and we had our first big snowfall, extremely cold temps and a blizzard warning all in a matter of days. The girls and I were able to enjoy our first snow day together. Other than that, the week felt chaotic having to drag them out early in those cold temps. That's probably the main thing I miss about working from home. Here's to hoping for a much calmer week.

I prepared these beef tips on Thursday for dinner. I still have to be to work at regular time when the schools delay and I knew we wanted something comforting and warm to eat that night. I quickly threw everything into the crock pot before we left the house that morning and let it cook all day long.

Now I realize I am one of the few lucky ones that am generally home by 4:30 or so in the afternoon, but this can work even if you're gone longer than eight hours during the day. The meat is so incredibly tender after roasting all day long. We served our portions over egg noodles but mashed potatoes would be great as well.

Oh and you won't have to worry about using any cream of mushroom soup in here. It's one ingredient I really try to avoid cooking with. Not just because it's so bad for you, but I have really never liked the way those soups taste. By adding a bit of flour and making your own gravy, the dish tastes much better I promise. Add this to your menu soon and take the night off from cooking!

Slow Cooker Beef Tips


1-1/2 lbs. stew beef
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 cups beef broth
2-3 tbsp flour


Place beef into the slow cooker and season well with pepper, salt, thyme and brown sugar.  Add in minced garlic. Pour in liquids and cover with lid. Let cook on low for at least 8 hours. If not serving right away, you may turn to warm setting after 8 hours.

Before serving, whisk in 2-3 tablespoons of flour to thicken into a gravy. Serve beef over cooked egg noodles or mashed potatoes.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Crab Meat Salad

I'm enjoying my very last day of winter break. Tomorrow the kids and I head back to school. To be honest, I haven't been too productive. It has been a nice, relaxing time with the family. And that really was the goal, I think I've earned that break.

In preparation of getting back into our routine and packing lunches again, I made some of my mom's crab meat salad Sunday afternoon. I am not much of a sandwich person and I love variety. This will be something easy for me to take to work and eat with some crackers and a piece of fruit on the side.

Mom makes this every so often as an appetizer for us to enjoy, we usually like spreading the mixture over crackers. I'm sure you could also serve on buns as a sandwich or over a bed of leafy greens.

With only a few ingredients it's really one of the easiest sides you will ever make.

Crab Meat Salad

8 oz. pkg. imitation crab meat
2 celery ribs, diced
1 green onion, diced
1/2 cup mayonnaise
black pepper, to taste

Shred crab meat or cut into small chunks and add to a medium sized bowl. Toss in celery and onion, mix well. Stir in mayo and mix to combine. Season with pepper. Store in fridge until ready to serve. Serve with crackers.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Ham and Egg Breakfast Bake

Well I really can't believe Christmas is already here. Maybe it's the lack of snow here in Iowa or just the fact that we've been so busy. Regardless, I am excited to be off work for almost two weeks! I'm looking forward to spending the holiday with our families, relaxing and who knows,  maybe even doing a little freezer cooking.

Christmas morning I always like to have something special for us to eat after we open presents. The usual cinnamon rolls or waffles are favorites but the hubby likes more savory dishes. So I created this with him in mind.

I combined some of his favorites: ham and cheese. And it can even be made ahead of time which I love. Christmas eve night toss everything together in a casserole dish and let it set in the fridge overnight. Then while you're busy opening presents in the morning, your breakfast can be baking away in the oven. Perfect if you ask me!

Ham and Egg Breakfast Bake

4 slices thick deli ham, cut into small pieces
4 English muffins, cut into chunks
6 eggs
1 cup milk
Pinch of salt and pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

In a 2 qt. casserole dish place two slices of ham in bottom of dish. Layer muffin pieces on top.

In a medium bowl whisk together eggs, milk and seasonings. Pour over the mixture and sprinkle cheese over top. Cover with foil and let set in fridge overnight or at least 4 hours.

Remove from fridge when ready to bake. Bake covered at 350 degrees for 30 mins. Then remove foil and bake for another 10-15 mins. or until center is set. Remove from oven and serve warm.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Candy Clusters

In our family we have our usual favorites we make each Christmas and these are definitely on the list. For as long as I can remember my mom has added them to her list. However, this is the first year I have decided to try them for myself.

The little miss and I spent a weekend afternoon doing some baking and we tackled these first. Start to finish, with a four-year olds help, we finished in about fifteen minutes.  Simple is what I like.

Like I said, the recipe has been in our family for many years. It originated from a close friend of my grandmothers. I even found the handwritten recipe in a box belonging to my great aunt. It was labeled Betty's Candy.

My mom always makes a batch and tosses them into the freezer until she's ready to assemble her holiday treats. They'll keep just fine and taste as if you just made the clusters.

I love how you get a nice sweet and salty combination from these treats. I say if you're looking for any treats to make this weekend, add these to your list. They are so simple and a treat loved by all!

Candy Clusters

20 oz. package vanilla almond bark
1 cup chunky peanut butter
2 cups mixed nuts
2 cups miniature marshmallows
3 cups Rice Krispie cereal

In a large pan melt almond bark over stove top. Once melted completely remove from heat and stir in peanut butter until mixture is smooth. Add in nuts and cereal and stir to combine. Lastly, add in marshmallows and stir again.

Using a medium sized cookie scoop, drop mixture onto wax or parchment paper. Let set until cooled and clusters are set. You may then store in airtight containers at room temperature, in the fridge or freezer.

Makes about 4 dozen clusters.
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