Monday, August 6, 2012

"Shepherd's Pie With an Attitude" Casserole

Ole Sweetie-Pi is the one the one who dubbed this casserole "Shepard's Pie with an Attitude."  Truth be told it is very much like a shepherd's pie. And like shepherd's pie, we loved this recipe.  Ole Sweetie-Pi, who ordinarily doesn't like leftovers, had an early lunch the next day to ensure that he could have this again.

It is satisfying, filling, inexpensive, made with everyday pantry ingredients, and one of those family-style meals that adults seem to wistfully recall their moms making.
This doesn't look fancy; there are no big assertive flavors, just good, simple home cooking that keeps you coming back for more.  Original recipe is found here at Food.Com

Hamburger, Green Bean, Tomato Soup, Mashed Potato Hot Dish

1 pound ground beef (hamburg)
1/4 cup white onion, diced
1 teaspoon fresh garlic, minced (I omitted it)
1 can (10.75 oz) tomato soup, undiluted
1 can (14.5 oz) cut green beans, drained
2 cups mashed potatoes, made in advance with milk and butter
salt and pepper to taste
Other spices as desired
Maybe a little cheese on top would be a nice addition??

Preheat over to 350* Fahrenheit.

Brown the hamburg in a fry pan, adding salt and pepper to taste.  Drain the fat and place the hamburg in a  casserole dish. 

In the same fry pay with a bit of butter or oil, cook the onions until translucent and combine with the hamburg. 

Add the garlic, tomato soup, and green beans.  Stir to combine.  Add the mashed potatoes and spread over the hamburg-tomato soup-green bean mixture.

You might want to put a baking sheet under this as it can bubble over.   Bake, uncovered,  for 30 minutes. 

Will serve 6 to 8, depending on how you "fluff" out the meal with another vegetable,  salad, dessert, etc.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Banana Coconut Upside Down Cake

Banana Coconut Upside Down Cake
Lawsy mercy it has been a while since I've sat down and chatted with you.-- just about three months from the looks of it.  I've missed you all, but I have anonymously stopped by your blogs and oogled and ahhed over your recipes.

I hadn't been feeling tip top for about a year, mostly exhausted, and I thought it was just work-related stress.  Then I developed some unpleasant symptoms which could not be ignored, and to make a long story short, I had a totally unsuspected, potentially life-threatening diagnosis, followed up with some surgery.  I was out of work for six weeks, and have only been back four weeks.  I'm slowly getting my vim and vigor back,  and ever so grateful to be alive.  Time will tell the final prognosis but so far I've been given the green light.

I have to smile. Per doctor's orders, Ole Sweetie-Pi was in charge of the kitchen, grocery shopping, cat boxes, laundry, and just about everything else. I wasn't even supposed to go for car rides in the first stages of healing. Talk about cabin fever. I don't think I've eaten as many submarine sandwiches or frozen dinners as I did during those six weeks.  It's a time I'll look back with fondness.  Ole Sweetie-Pi really came through. 

Anyway, as I make my way back into the kitchen, I'm starting on light (as in weight and time involved, not so much in calories, smiles) cooking.  I used to be quite a snob when it came to boxed cake mixes, but not any more.  They are yummy good!  I found this recipe in one my daily food-related emails, probably Mr. Foods or Recipe Lion, but whatever the source, the recipe was linked to  The minute I saw it, I knew I had to have it. 

This recipe, which makes two single-layer cakes,  is easy to prepare and the result far outweighs the effort.  I made it for dessert for a Saturday night dinner, but promptly ate it as a brunch cake the following Sunday morning.  It was perfect with a steaming cup of hot coffee. 

Banana Coconut Upside Down Cake

1 yellow cake mix
3 whole eggs
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup water

6 bananas, sliced, divided between two pans
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut, divided between two pans

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350* Fahrenheit.  Spray or   grease and flour  two deep 8-inch round cake pans. (I think my cake pans are 8 inches round by 2 inches deep, and I had just barely enough space for the risen cake.)

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cake mix, eggs, oil, water and sour cream on low until combined.  Increase speed to high and beat for 2 minutes.

Slice bananas evenly over the bottom of the two cake pans.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter.  Add the brown sugar and lemon juice and heat until dissolved.  Pour half of the brown sugar mixture into each of the two cake pans, over the bananas.  Sprinkle coconut over the brown sugar sauce.

Pour the cake batter on top of the coconut, dividing equally between the two pans.

Bake 35-40 minutes or until cake tests done with a toothpick.  Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes.  Invert onto serving platter.  Slice to serve.
Cake is probably best the day it is served, but leftovers can be stored overnight in the refrigerator. Much beyond that and the bananas might not be as appealing as you would wish.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Pepper Steak

The mother of a former sweetheart of mine used to boil her steak, regardless of the cut, until it was grey, slice it and serve it. It was chewy and unappealing.  I grew up in a household where steak was fried.  The first time I ever had a roast beef, I was 18.  I can still remember my husband and I taking my mother and two younger brothers out to dinner in a nice middle class restaurant.  My oldest brother saw roast beef on the menu and his eyes lit up; roast beef sounded so fancy.  He proudly placed his order and when the waitress asked him how he'd like it done, he stumbled, looking confused and abashed,  and said, "Fried, I guess." 

I needed a recipe for beef tips and when I found this recipe I was prepared not to like this, mostly because of the way the beef is prepared ...simmered  until tender, even if it was with other delicious flavors.   However, I needed something quick and easy, something a little different than I normally serve, with items I had on hand.  Gosh, this was good.  Ole Sweetie-Pi, the beef lover, gave it two hearty thumbs up.

This is a good recipe if you're trying to cut back on meat.  With one pound of beef, you can serve four people. You're going to have to like the flavor of green peppers, though.  It's a predominate flavor along with the stewed tomatoes.  The recipe calls for cutting the peppers into rings, which makes for a nice presentation, but not so easy to eat. I'd be inclined to save a couple of rings for decorative purposes and cut the peppers into large chunks.  Same with the stewed tomatoes.  I threw the can in whole, but next time will cut the tomatoes into at least halves if not fourths.

Leftovers were very good.  The noddles had a chance to absorb some of the broth and I think I liked this even more the second day.

Pepper Steak with Stewed Tomatoes

1 pound sirloin tips cut in serving-sized pieces
2 tablespoons oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, diced finely
1 teaspoon salt
dash pepper
1 cup beef broth
1 14.5 ounce can stewed tomatoes, tomatoes broken up
1 large green bell pepper, cut into chunks
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
pinch sugar

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium low heat.  Add the beef and brown, about 15 minutes.  Add the onion and garlic and season with the salt and pepper.  Add beef broth to the meat and cover and simmer over low heat, about 25 minutes, or until meat is tender.  Add the tomatoes and green pepper; cook 10 minutes longer. 

In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the cornstarch, water, and soy sauce.  Stir well to make a slurry.  Add to the meat mixture, stirring constantly, about five minutes to thicken the sauce.  Add a pinch of sugar if desired.  Adjust seasoning.

If sauce is too thick for your liking, add a small splash of water and stir.  If it's not thick enough, make another batch of slurry (just water and cornstarch) and add in small amounts, allowing it to cook in between before adding more  to determine how thick the sauce is going to be. 


Monday, April 16, 2012

Strawberry-Banana Trifle

 I wasn't going to post this, but Ole Sweetie-Pi kept yammering at me until I agreed to put this on the blog, smiles.  This is a dessert I've made for 30 years or more, and don't even have a handwritten recipe for it.  It's one of those easy, delicious, beautiful, make-ahead desserts that you can make without a lick of baking, or if you have the time and inclination, to make as much from-scratch as you wish.  I can't tell you how many times I've made this over the years, and it's still a favorite.  No trifle bowl?  No problem!  Fits nicely into a large pie plate.

Sweetie-Pi ate almost the entire pie-panful by himself!! recipe...just a how to. 

Strawberry-Banana Trifle

One loaf pound cake, cut into an even number of slices
Strawberry jam
A bit of sherry (the kind you drink, not cooking sherry!)
3-4 bananas sliced
Vanilla pudding (two boxes prepared according to directions on box)
A pint of strawberries, rinsed, dried, sliced
Whipped topping

Make "sandwiches" wth the sliced pound cake and strawberry jam and line the bottom and sides of your pie plate with the sandwiches, cutting to fit as needed.  Doesn't have to be beautiful or perfect.

Sprinkle with the sherry.  Go careful or you can add too much and the sherry will overpower all other flavors.  Probably 3-4 tablespoons in total is more than enough.  I would urge you not to forgo the sherry.  It imparts a wonderful flavor and really is one of the ingredients that really makes this trifle.

Spread half of the vanilla pudding over the jam-pound cake sandwiches.

Scatter the sliced bananas over the pudding.

Spread the remaining half of the vanilla pudding over the bananas.

Add sliced strawberries.

If you have it, any extra vanilla can  be spead it over the strawberries, helps to keep the strawberries encased for longer freshness, otherwise it's not necessary.

Cover with plastic wrap and allow flavors to develop for several hours.  Serve with whipped topping of choice.

UMMM-ummm good! 

Monday, April 2, 2012

(Not Key) Lime Pie

Oh boy, if you love the tang of lime, this pie is for you.  Gosh this is good.  Neither Ole Sweetie-Pi nor I could stop taking slivers of this luscious pie even after we had a whole piece to ourselves.  The first thing to hit the taste buds was the tang of the lime and then the sweet of the sweetened condensed milk and then the tang of the lime again.  My mouth waters at the thought of this.  And yes, I ate a piece of it for breakfast the next morning, grins.

Is it possible to have too much of a good thing? As you can see, this makes a thin pie; I suppose it's to allow plenty of room for mountains of optional meringue (which I don't eat) or whipped cream.  When I saw how thin the pie was I was a tad disappointed but when I tasted it, the big lime flavor and aroma more than compensated.  I would not be tempted to double the filling as I think it would be overwhelming, but use your best judgment.  The recipe calls for a 9-inch pie plate; perhaps you'd prefer to use an 8-inch to make a pie with a thicker filling.

The ingredients are so simple and so few.  This is one pie we'll be enjoying often!

(Not Key) Lime Pie

4 eggs, separated
1 rounded tablespoon grated lime zest (about 2 limes)
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk, which is a different product entirely)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

one recipe graham cracker crust, premade or your favorite recipe or try the one below

Preheat oven to 325*F.

Rinse your limes under cold water and dry before using. 

In a medium sized bowl, sseparate the four eggs, (the whites from the yolks and reserve the whites for another use). Whisk the egg yolks and lime zest together in a bowl for about 2 minutes or until the yolks turn a light greenish yellow color. There will be bits of lime zest in the whisked mixture.  Whisk in the sweetened condensed milk and then add the lime juice. Whisk to combine and set aside.  Allow to sit for about five minutes or until the filling thickens ~ the whisk will leave a trail in the filling when pulled through the filling.  Pour the filling into the prepared graham cracker crust and spread evenly.

Bake  in your preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until almost completely set.  The filling should still be a bit wobbly when the pan is jiggled.  Cool to room temperature on a wire rack and then completely chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours before slicing and serving.

Graham Cracker Crust

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 1 1/2 packets of graham crackers)
1/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350*F

Put the crumbs in a small bowl and stir in the sugar.  Pour the melted butter over the crumbs and mix thoroughly.  With your impeccably clean hands, press and pat the mixture evenly into a 9-inch pie plate. 

Bake the empty crust for 8 to 10 minutes or until a dark golden brown.  The crust will continue to harden as it cools.  Cool the crust on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before filling.  You can make the crust up to a day ahead of time; just store it in the refrigerator.

MY NOTES:  I like whipped cream with my lime pie.  I had a little lime zest left over and just added a bit to the whipped cream.  YUM!  Lots of lime flavor.

I use the back of a teaspoon to smooth and thin the amount of graham cracker in the curve of the pie plate~you know where the bottom edge of the pie meets the "floor" of the pie.  Sometimes the crust can become pretty thick there. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato Salad with Thousand Island Dressing

Ole Sweetie-Pi and I went out to dinner a while back and one of the salad offerings was a wedge of lettuce with bacon and tomato with a choice of dressing.  It was such a delicious and simple idea that I decided to recreate it at home.

My salad wedge was bathed in bleu cheese, but Ole Sweetie-Pi fell back on his favorite, thousand island.  I've only had the bottled stuff, and while it's okay, I'm pretty happy to pass it up for something more piquant.  However, there's no way on this planet he's going to even try bleu cheese dressing (he can't stand that gorgeous aroma that draws me in), so I begrudgingly went with the thousand island.

Man, there is absolutely no comparison!  This dressing is full bodied, tangy, and just plain delicious.  I didn't know what I was missing.  Every now and again I make a  cooking discovery that makes me sit up and take notice and this was one of those times.

The salad part is easy enough.  Just a head of lettuce, outer leaves discarded if they look iffy, and then the head cut into half (cut from top to bottom, not across the middle) and then at least into half again, depending on the size of the head.  I think I ended up cutting my head of lettuce into six wedges.  Rinse under cold running water, and set on paper towels to absorb the moisture. 

Fry up several pieces of bacon; if you like a lot of bacon, figure two slices each.  After thoroughly cooked,  set on a couple of paper towels to drain off the excess fat, and then crumble and set aside. 

Dice up some firm ripe tomatoes.  I removed the pulp and seeds from mine because I don't like my salad all mushy, but it's personal choice.  If it doesn't offend you, there's no harm in leaving it.

Put your salad wedge on a plate, pour a generous amount of dressing over the wedge.  Sprinkle with reserved bacon crumbles and diced tomatoes. 

Thousand Island Dressing

1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup chili sauce **
1/4 cup minced pimiento-stuffed green olives
1 tablespoon minced green bell pepper
1 tablespoon minced onion
1 hard-cooked, boiled egg, peeled and then finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper sauce (like Tabasco)

Mix all ingredients, cover, and chill several hours.

**Too late I discovered I did not have any chili sauce in the house (it's something we rarely use) so I had to stop and make my own.  I wrote down the ingredients on a scrap piece of a paper but now that I want to find the link to credit the recipe, I can't find it, so my apologies to the originator.  Let me give you what I have, and my assurances that this chili sauce is good!  Man, it would make a terrific base for shrimp cocktail sauce. 

No picture, alas, as it was just a red sauce in a pan.

Chili Sauce

1 32-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
1 medium onion, diced
1/4 cup diced green pepper
1 garlic clove, diced
1 small red pepper, seeds removed, diced**
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

Add all in a medium sized sauce pan.  Boil 30 minutes.  Best after its allowed to sit and ripen for a bit, I think.

**The recipe just said red pepper, and I'm assuming it was a sweet red bell pepper, which I used, not a red chili pepper. 

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Lemon Curd Muffins

The price of lemons is quite dear in our local grocery stores (over $1 each) so I wanted a recipe that would showcase its tart citrus flavor and use both the juice and the zest.  I like lots of lemon flavor.  Boy, oh, boy, does this muffin deliver!  From the lemony fragrance while it baked to the first bite, it is pure lemon.  It has an aroma that keeps you hanging around the kitchen and once baked, going back to the cake plate to have "just one more little taste."

I don't keep lemon curd stocked in the pantry (and truthfully had never tried it until very recently when I made Danish pastries at a friend's house and she had some in her fridge) because the word curd just turned me off.  What an unpleasant sounding word for something delicious.  But a rose by any other name...  I made my lemon curd using a recommended Ina Garten recipe.  It may be on the sweet side for some, but we liked it. 

Lemon Curd Muffins
(Discovered on:  Circle B Kitchen)

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup plain yogurt (I used sour cream)
1/2 cup whole milk
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and then allowed to slightly cool
1 cup lemon curd, divided

Preheat the oven to 350*F.  Line a 12 muffin cups with paper liners.**

In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. (Do not skip this step.)

In a pitcher or bowl with lip, mix the egg, yogurt (sour cream) milk and butter together.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet mixture into the center.  Mix lightly and only until the ingredients are combined (about 25 strokes!)

Add 2/3 of the curd in 6 or 7 dollops and quickly "marble" it through the batter; a couple of good stirs should do it.

Fill the muffin cups 3/4 full.  Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown.  Transfer to a wire rack to slightly cool as these are best eaten on the same day, while slightly warm. 

Top with another dollop of curd before serving.  Personally, I cut a small conical divot out of the center of the muffins, saving the divots as a cook's treat, smiles, and filled the divot with the curd. 

Makes about 12 muffins

Ina Garten's Lemon Curd

3/4 cups sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
2 eggs
1/4 cup lemon juice
pinch of salt

Zest the lemon into the sugar and mix well, set aside.
In a separate bowl, cream the butter and beat in the sugar and lemon mixture. Add the eggs, one at a time, and then add the lemon juice and salt. Mix until combined. 
Pour the mixture into a 2 quart saucepan and cook over low heat until thickened (about 10 minutes), stirring constantly. The lemon curd will thicken at about 170 degrees F, or just below simmer. Remove from the heat and cool or refrigerate.

MY NOTES:  I had enough batter to make 13 muffins.  The recipe called for plain yogurt, but all I had was sour cream so that's what I used, and it worked fine, and in the future that's what I'll probably use as that's what I usually have on hand.

Way back in the Dark Ages when I took Home Ec, Mrs. Haus, my Home Ec teacher was the one who said to stir muffin batter only 25 times.  I have a large stirring spoon that I recently bought, a 25-stir seemed adequate.  The point is, stir until barely combined.  You may have a few bits of flour that are not mixed it but it should be okay.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Last-Minute Chocolate Cake with Mocha Frosting

So you've been craving chocolate cake or company's coming and you need something delicious and fast.  You look in your pantry/  No eggs!  No baking powder!  No salt!  But you still want chocolate cake.  Yikes!  Now what do you do?

You absolutely must try this recipe!  I don't think I've ever had a moister or more delicious chocolate cake that was as easy as this to put together.  Talk about easy peasy-lemon squeezy.  Simple pantry items and you are on your way to  a nice square of chocolate cake heaven.

This makes a smallish 8" x 8" cake, which is a good size for me and Ole Sweetie-Pi.  There's no baking powder in it, so it does not rise to the top of the pan, probably about halfway as you can see.  The big bold chocolate flavor more than makes up for its diminutive size.

Last Minute Chocolate Cake
(From the Red Hat Society Cookbook)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
3 (rounded) tablespoons cocoa**
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter melted
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup warm water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 350*F.  Generously grease and flour an 8" x 8" baking pan and set aside.

In a large bowl sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa and baking soda.  Beat in the melted butter, milk, water, and vanilla. Pour into cake pan. 

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool completely and frost.

Mocha Frosting
(From the Red Hat Society Cookbook)
1 1/2 teaspoons instant coffee**
1/2 cup cocoa
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups confectioners' sugar, or more if needed

Mix the coffee, cocoa and water together in a medium bowl to make a paste.  Add the softened butter, vanilla and confectioners' sugar to make a spreadable consistency.  Spread the frosting over the cake.

Can't you almost taste this!

**MY NOTES:  The original cake recipe just simply calls for 3 tablespoons of cocoa.  I thought it didn't sound like enough and "rounded" the measuring.  In in the end I probably added 3 tablespoons with an extra teaspoon of cocoa (rounded measurements are different than heaping, but you know that, right?).

**The mocha frosting recipe called for 1 tablespoon instant coffee.  Gosh, that's a lot. I reduced the measuring to 1 1/2 teaspoons, and there was just enough hint of coffee flavor that greatly enhanced the chocolate flavor without overpowering it.  I would suggest starting with the smaller amount, sampling it, and adding more if you want a more assertive coffee flavor.  It's certainly easier to add than it is to take away.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Baked Stuffed Pork Chops and Gravy

If you love good down-home cookin' I can virtually guarantee that you'll love this recipe.  Oh my stars, this was good!  Meat was fall apart tender and the thick country gravy was flavored from cooking with the pork.  It could easily become your signature dish, your Sunday dinner, or special occasion dish . You'll need a  hearty appetite  and a bit of time for this one.

Get ready to mess up some dishes, smiles. It'll be worth it!  This was enthusiastically approved by Ole Sweetie-Pi.

If you're going to try this, take a minute to read through the recipe as there are a number of steps, and some of the ingredients are divided.

Baked Stuffed Pork Chops with Gravy

For the stuffing
3/4 cup soft bread crumbs
2 tablespoons minced onion
1 tablespoon minced celery
pinch of dried sage (or a good pinch of Bell's Poultry Seasoning)
Salt and pepper to taste
2-3 tablespoons chicken broth

4 thick pork chops (about  1 1/2 inch thick)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon yellow mustard

1 egg lightly beaten
2 1/4 cups milk, divided
1/4 - 1 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups water

Preheat the oven to 325*F.

For the stuffing:  Mix the bread crumbs, onion, celery, sage (or Bell's Seasoning), salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Add only enough chicken broth to make the mixture moist, but not wet. 

Cut a slit into the fatty side of each chop to form a pocket. Evenly divide the stuffing between each chop and stuff the pockets with the bread mixture.

In a shallow dish, like a pie dish, mix 1 cup of  flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

In a second dish, make an egg wash by stirring together the egg, mustard, and 3/4 cup of the milk.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat. Dip each chop in the egg wash and then coat completely in the flour mixture, shaking off any excess.  Place the chops in the skillet and cook, turning once, for 2 minutes on each side or until browned.  Transfer the chops to paper towels to drain, and then place them in a large, shallow baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil.

Pour all but 4 tablespoons of the drippings out of the skillet, leaving any browned bits on the bottom.  Return the pan to medium heat and scrape up the browned bits with a spatula.  Whisk in the remaining 1/2 cup flour and 1 teaspoon of salt and cook, whisking constantly for 2 minutes until browned and smooth.  Remove the skillet from the heat and gradually whisk in the remaining 1 1/2 cups milk and the water.  Return the skillet to medium-low heat and simmer, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes.  Mixture should be well blended but will not be thickened as it will thicken during baking.

Pour the gravy over the chops, recover the dish with foil, and bake for 1 1/2 hours. Remove the foil and bake uncovered for another 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown.  Arrange the meat on plates with the gravy poured over.

MY NOTES:  LOL, I've made gravy a hundred times over the years and have never had a problem with lumps.  Can't say that this time; it was lump city.  I ended up removing the chops from the baking dish, scooping the gravy (lumps) into a sieve and forcing them through the sieve a couple of times. adding a bit of milk and rewhisking again.  It wasn't beautiful but it was delicious

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Breakfast Pockets

I love the weekends and not solely because it's a day I don't have to be at work.  Weekends are a time when I can sit and enjoy breakfast.  I can dawdle and sip my coffee (extra light with two sugars, thank you very much), watch our three cats frolic, and eat something perhaps a little naughty and delicious.

This breakfast sandwich was delicious and filling.  You can put just about anything you want in it, keeping in mind that you have to leave room enough for the cover without squishing your filling out the sides.

Have favorite omelet ingredients?  It would be terrific in this sandwich!  I've made this pastry crust once before for you (found here) and it's a favorite that I've used many times.  The original recipe for this breakfast sandwich called for premade biscuits that come in the cardboard tube, which is a terrific shortcut.  I just prefer the flakiness of this recipe and the fact that, to me, it tastes less salty.

The recipe I used makes quite a bit of filling and I ended up making another recipe of pastry to use up all the filling.  Fine by me, as this reportedly freezes and reheats well. We have enough for several more breakfasts, so we won't have to wait for the weekend to enjoy this delicious breakfast sandwich.

Breakfast Pockets

Combine in a medium bowl and set aside:
   6 ounces cream cheese, softened
   1 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
   couple of good pinches of black pepper
   2/3 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

In a fry pan put
   2 tablespoons butter
   5 large eggs, plus one egg yolk (save the white for glazing the pastry)

one slice deli ham for each sandwich (or roughly chop and put in with the eggs)

One or two recipes of pastry crust (link above) or
1  (16.3 oz) can refrigerated biscuits flattened and each biscuit spread into a 5-inch circle

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat and add the eggs and yolk.  Cook, without stirring, until eggs begin to set on the bottom.  Draw a spatula across bottom of skillet to form large curds.  Continue cooking until eggs are slightly thickened but still moist.  Remove from heat and let cool.

Spread the cheese mixture over the dough, leaving a border around the edges.  Add a couple of spoonfuls of eggs and ham. If you're using the prepared biscuits, fold dough over in half, pinching ends together.  If using the pastry crust, roll the top out a little larger than the bottom crust (to allow for stretching over the filling), and pinch together.  Use fork tines to press  and seal edges together.  Use a sharp knife to clean up the edges.  (I also put a vent hole in the pastry crust to allow any steam to escape.)

Mix the remaining egg white with a teaspoon of water and using a pastry brush, brush the egg white over the pastry.  Bake in 375*F oven for about 15 minutes or until a beautiful golden brown. 

MY NOTES:  If you decide to add vegetables to this, I would precook them; otherwise I think they may not be cooked enough.

This would have been fantastic with bacon, cooked and crumbled.  Maybe some green pepper.  Or sliced cheese instead of the shredded Cheddar.  I think whatever you choose to use, it would be delicious!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Amish Raisin Cookies

Moist, sweet, chewy, raisin-y goodness.  Oh my, these cookies were down a storm here. Even Ole Sweetie-Pi couldn't stay out of the cookie jar for these.  The cooked batter tastes like a chocolate chip cookie (due to all the brown sugar and butter, I suppose, smiles), and at first glimpse one could mistaken this cookie for a chocolate chip cookie, but the raisins bring a sweetness and a texture all their own.  Made with pantry staples, this is a recipe I will make often.

Amish Raisin Cookies
(found here:

1 cup raisins
1 cup water

3/4 cup butter, softened
2 cups packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
pinch of salt

In a medium sized pan, combine the water and the raisins.  Bring to a boil and cook until the water is reduced to one-half cup.  Remove from heat and set pan aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the softened butter and brown sugar and cream until light and fluffy.  Beat in egg and vanilla.  Sift together remaining dry ingredients and add to butter mixture and gradually add to creamed ingredients, blending well.  Add the raisins with the liquid and stir to combine.

Drop by tablespoonfuls on ungreased cookie sheet, two inches apart.  Bake at 375*F for 10-12 minutes or until a beautiful golden brown.  Let rest on pan a couple of minutes before moving to wire racks to finish cooling.

MY NOTES:  For the first time ever, I used a baker's mat, and I found the cooking time was shortened to more like 8 or 9 minutes.  The cookie is pretty soft when it first comes out of the oven.

My raisins cooled only for the time it took to put the batter together.  I stirred them a couple of times in between putting the batter together, but otherwise the raisin-water mixture was still warm when I added it to the cookie dough.  If you're a purist, you could put the warm pan in a dish of cold water to cool it down completely or put it in the fridge. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012


I have a dear, sweet family member, Liz, Ole Sweetie-Pi's youngest daughter, who is allergic to all kinds of foods:  wheat, dairy, soy, corn, white potatoes, beef, peanuts, almonds, some fruits...poor thing. And doggone, doesn't corn syrup show up in a ton of  processed food, same with gluten in its many disguises.  I don't know what's left.  Rice, beans, fish, some vegetables, some fruits,  sweet potatoes.   When it's time for family gatherings it's a challenge to find food that is delicious as well as belly friendly.

I remember my mother making sushi when my brothers and I were children.  She had the sushi mat and she'd have rolls made in no time.  And boy, did I love them.  Hers were very simple, just nori,  sushi rice, deli ham and sliced gherkin pickle.  We'd eat them as fast as she could make them.  When I went to make my own sushi, I was concerned about rolling the sushi, but there's absolutely nothing to it.  If you've ever rolled dough for cinnamon rolls, made a jelly roll, or even rolled your own cigarettes (okay, just looking and seeing if you're paying attention with that last one), you shouldn't have any kind of trouble.  You don't even need a sushi mat ~ a plain white linen dish cloth covered with a piece of plastic wrap will serve you better than good.

I have to smile.  Sushi is an acquired taste; it's the idea of dried seaweed that throws off a lot of people and the fear that the sushi has raw fish in it.  Let's just say that at Ole Sweetie-Pi's family gathering, this was not a huge hit, even the sushi that did not have the salmon in it, with only three of us trying various selections.

The recipe I'm going to share with you is for the sushi rice only, but for the "stuffing" you can put together any combination of ingredients you think would be delicious and complement the sushi rice.  Try not to overstuff because you need to roll the the nori/sushi rice/filling.  I made three different flavors:  diced avocado and shrimp; sliced deli ham and gherkin pickles; smoked salmon and sliced, peeled English cucumbers.  Because I had a ton of the cucumber and salmon left over, I sliced the cucumbers into discs, put on a dollop of herbed pub cheese  and topped with a couple pieces of smoked salmon.  Served on a tray, it made a tempting, delicious presentation, I think.

Sushi Rice
(found here:

2 1/4 cups uncooked sushi rice (not long-grained rice!)**
3 cups water

1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 1/4  teaspoon salt

Place rice into a large, deep bowl. Fill with cold water and rub rice together with hands until the water turns milky white. Pour off the cloudy water, being careful not to pour out the rice. Repeat 3 or 4 times until you can see the rice through 3-inches of water.

Drain the rice in a fine strainer, then place into a saucepan with the 3 cups of water. Allow to stand for 30 minutes. Cover; bring rice to a boil over high heat; then reduce heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to stand for 5 minutes.

In the meantime, while the rice is cooking, stir together rice vinegar, sugar, and salt until dissolved in a small bowl, set aside.

Scrape rice into a bowl. Stir in vinegar mixture until well incorporated and no lumps of rice remain. Allow to cool at room temperature.

MY NOTES:  Lay out your impeccably clean white linen (not terrycloth!) dish towel.  Lay a piece of plastic wrap over that.  Open up your package of nori and lay the nori on the plastic wrap.  The nori is a small square and fragile.  Using wet fingers, spread about 3/4 cup of the sushi rice evenly over the nori square, leaving no bare spots, going to three edges, leaving about a half an inch or so at the far end without any rice. 
The rice is pretty sticky, so you'll probably want a clean bowl of water and towel to rise off your fingers as you work.

At the end closest to you, lay out what you want your filling to be.  Small slender slices work best and make the most attractive presentation as well the easiest to eat and enjoy.  At this same end, gently begin to roll, using the plastic sheet to raise and roll the nori/rice over and then under the filling.  Tug the plastic out from underneath the nori roll if it's caught underneath and raise the plastic sheet again, rolling the nori over, using the plastic sheet to help you form the roll, gently using your fingers pressing and forming,  keeping everything together.  It's not difficult, you can do it!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Strawberry Preserves

I've been dabbling in teaching myself how to "put up" and so far I've had some success.  I've made apple sauce, stewed tomatoes, apple butter, and now this absolutely positively fabulous strawberry jam.  Even with off season strawberries this jam is good!  As the strawberries were simmering, the house smelled of the sweet fragrance of strawberries, a wonderful aroma in the dark days of February.

Ole Sweetie-Pi bought me a couple of cookbooks (An early Valentine's present?  A just-because present?  It doesn't matter, he saw a cookbook I had been admiring, Mrs. Rowe's Restaurant Cookbook, and he bought it for me).  Like most cookbook lovers, I immediately saw down and started reading it like a novel and found several things I wanted to make.  My mouth was watering as I fingered the pages and read the anecdotes that went with the recipes. 

I was actually looking for perhaps a strawberry cake or a strawberry tart recipe (I had purchased two quarts of strawberries for another reason that did not come to fruition, smiles) and needed to find a way to use them.  And there it was, strawberry jam.  Now, the first time I tried strawberry jam was years ago, and it came out like strawberry sauce, telling me I didn't cook it long enough or hard enough.  It was delicious, but it was not jam.  Ate a lot of ice cream with strawberry sauce that year as I recall, with plenty to share with friends. 

Time to put on my big girl pants and try it again, I decided.  I am not by any stretch of the imagination an expert at canning.  There's lots of helpful information at the Ball Canning site to get you started; they have been the trusted source in my family for decades but the USDA also has some invaluable information if you care to google it, so I am not going to bore you here with how to sterilize the jars and all that.  This jam is so simple you'll wonder why you never tried it before.  I know this is one that I will many times.

Strawberry Jam
(Mrs. Rowe's Restaurant Cookbook)

8 cups strawberries, cleaned, hulled, crushed
8 cups (4 pounds) sugar
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a large soup pot (or similar large pot, keeping in mind that you'll need to have room enough for the syrup to bubble and boil) aalternate layers of strawberries with layers of sugar.  (I put in two cups strawberries, two cups sugar, etc., ending with two cups of sugar).  Let stand in cool place for 5 hours.

Place the pot over medium-high heat and slowly bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves.  Boil rapidly for about 20 minutes, until it reaches the jelling point.  As the preserves thicken, stir frequently to prevent burning and sticking to the pot.  Stir in the lemon juice and boil for 2 minutes longer.  Remove the pot from the heat and skim off any foam.

Ladle the hot preserves into hot, sterilized canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch of head space.  Seal immediately following canning instructions.

**MY NOTES ~ As I mentioned, I think the mistake I made in the past (and this time too until I corrected it because it wasn't gelling) was that I was not cooking the preserves at a rapid boil.  A rapid boil means that there will be large bubbles rising, rolling, and popping on the surface.  I can attest from experience that a simmer will not gel your preserves.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Oatmeal Scotchies in a Pan

If ever there was a cookie that screamed for milk, it is this wonderfully delicious butterscotch oatmeal cookie.  I'll wager we drank close to a quart of milk as we enjoyed every last morsel of this easy bar cookie.

Ole Sweetie-Pi loved this cookie so much he was eating them the next day for breakfast (and I confess so did I).  After all, it does have oatmeal in them as a main ingredient, so how bad can it really be? 

Oatmeal Scotchies in a Pan
(found on:

Preheat oven to 350*F.  Lightly grease a 9" x 13" baking pan.
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
2 cups butterscotch chips, divided

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt; whisk together.  Add the rolled oats and 1 1/2 cups of butterscotch chips and stir to blend.

In a large bowl, mash the butter, white sugar and brown sugar until smooth and creamy.  Beat in the eggs to make a creamy mixture. 

Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture, beating well to combine.

Press the dough into the prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle the top with the remaining 1/2 cup of butterscotch chips.

Put pan  in preheated oven and bake about 30 to 35 minutes or until the top is a golden brown.  Allow to cool before cutting into bars and serving.

Cookies are very sweet and rich. Cut into small squares, approximately 24.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Mini Elephant Ears

One breakfast treat that Ole Sweetie-Pi makes for himself is cinnamon-sugar toast.  I keep a jar of cinnamon-sugar on the spice shelf just for that reason.  So when I saw this super simple recipe for elephant ears on I knew it would be a winner here.  And I was right...

Six mini elephant ears and a cup of coffee later, Ole Sweetie-Pie was still saying how much he loved them! 

Mini Elephant Ears

2 frozen puff pastry sheets (from a 17 1/4-ounce package) slightly thawed
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 egg beaten

Preheat your oven to 400*F.  Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.**

On a lightly floured surface, roll the puff pastry into a 12 inch x 12 inch square.  Brush with beaten egg.

Combine the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl.  Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of the cinnamon-sugar mixture even over the top of each sheet.

Roll one side of the pastry sheet into the middle.

Then roll the other side towards the center so that the two halves meet in the middle, forming a scroll.  Cut into 1/2 inch slices across the scrolls.

Dip one cut side into cinnamon-sugar and lay sugared side up on prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 20 minutes or until beautiful golden brown, then allow to cool for five minutes.  Makes 24 mini elephant ears.

MY THOUGHTS:  If you have it, I would suggest using parchment paper to bake these on.  The sugar carmelizes to the pan, making clean-up a bit sticky.

You don't have to make the whole recipe.  Just take out one puff pastry and rewrap the second and put back in the freezer to use another day.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Ham and Potato Au Gratin

Lawsy mercy this was good!  I had my doubts when I was putting this together, and fretted about it as it was cooking, but once Ole Sweetie-Pi and I took our first mouthfuls, it was love at first bite.  Creamy, cheesy, potato and ham goodness.  It's a old family favorite that needs to be enjoyed more often.  I know we'll be having this again and again. It reheated okay the next day, but some might need a small splash of milk to loosen the cheese.

A saucepan or saute pan that can go from stovetop to oven, without cracking or burning it would be perfect here to save a pan.  If you don't, prepare a separate, buttered casserole dish to put the mixture in before everything goes into the oven.

Ham and Potato Au Gratin
(adapted from

Preheat over to 375*F.

2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
a couple scrapes of a fresh nutmeg on a grater (or a pinch) of nutmeg
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon fresh garlic from a jar (or 2 whole cloves garlic, minced)
pinch thyme (about 1/8th teaspoon)

3 or 4 Russet potatoes thinly sliced (about 1/8th inch thick)
1/4 onion thinly sliced

1/2 to 1 pound ham, diced
pepper to taste

8 ounces cheese (I used 4-Italian blend ~ mozzarella, provolone, Romano, Parmesan), divided

Start by putting the cream, milk, thyme, garlic and nutmeg in a medium sized saucepan or saute pan.  Bring to a boil.  Add the potatoes and onions and cook over medium-high heat, stirring gently for about 3 minutes.  Cover the pan, turn the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.**

Add the ham and pepper to taste. Add the cheese (reserving a small handful for top the casserole) and stir well.  If using a separate casserole dish, pour the mixture into the casserole.  Otherwise cover your saucepan/saute pan with a piece of tinfoil and put in your preheated 375*F oven.  Bake for approximately 35-45 minutes, or until potatoes are easily pierced with the tip of a thin, sharp knife.

Uncover the casserole and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of the casserole and bake for another 10 minutes or until the cheese topping is a light golden brown.

**MY NOTES ~ When I saw the liquid to potato ratio in the pan, I panicked and thought I'd end up with potato soup, hence the fourth potato.  I probably could have added a fifth potato and it would have been okay.  The cheese and starchy potatoes thicken the sauce, so if it looks a little too milky at the end of cooking, I wouldn't hesitate to add a bit more cheese, grins.

I like ham, but I don't like a pound of ham in with 4 potatoes.

Cooking times are approximate.  Depending on how thick or thin you slice your potatoes, you might not need to cook the potatoes on the stovetop for 15 minutes.  I used a mandolin to slice my potatoes, so they were pretty thin so I only needed  10 minutes cooking time before they were fork tender.  From there I put them in the oven and at the end of 35 minutes the dish was bubbly, hot, cheesy, and the potatoes were done.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Maraschino Cherry Cake with Fluffy Cherry Frosting

When I was a girl, I dreamed of this kind of cake, all pink and soft with fluffy pink cloud frosting.  It was the cake that I imagined princesses ate.  I had forgotten about those dreams until I ran across the recipe for Maraschino Cherry Cake in The American Century Cookbook (The Most Popular Recipes of the 20th Century) by Jean Anderson.  The moment I saw the recipe I couldn't get it out of my head.  My memories came back to haunt me; I needed to put them to rest.  Even in this present day, as I baked it, I imagined little girls in big shoes and big summer hats with bright silk flowers and lots of opera pearls slung about their necks enjoying this beautiful cake.

After making this cake, I can see why my mother never made it, smiles.  This is not a cake for the distracted, disorganized, or harried cook.  And for the safety of all, it would be wise not to have dashing pets and children in the kitchen.  The steps are not complicated, but there is some preparation involved.  While making the syrup for the frosting, you must be attentive or serious burn injury could result.  The frosting, while very good, is sticky and tends to string and flow about when and where you don't want it to. 

Regardless, if you want to feel like a princess or you know a little girl who is, this cake is fulfills all those dreams.

Read through the recipe first to get a feel for how the recipe flows.

Maraschino Cherry Cake

3 cups sifted cake flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter, room temperature
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup maraschino cherry juice
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup coarsely chopped nuts
16 maraschino cherries, cut into eighths
5 egg whites, stiffly beaten

Prepare ahead of time:  Coarsely chop 1/2 cup  nuts.  Cut 16 maraschino cherries into eighths and set aside.  They can be put  together in the same bowl as they will be added at the same time. 

Combine the 1/4 cup maraschino cherry juice and 3/4 cup milk in a one cup measure.  Set aside.

The timing of the stiffly beaten egg whites is a little tricky.  Wait too long and they deflate and get weepy.   After creaming the sugar and butter and shortening, I washed off my egg beaters and then beat my egg whites just before the step that adds the nuts and cherries. 

Now onto the cake...

Preheat oven to 350*F.  Generously grease and flour two 9-inch round** layer cake pans and set aside.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together onto waxed paper or in a medium bowl; set aside.

Cream butter, shortening, and sugar in a large bowl until fluffy (about five minutes). 

Add sifted dry ingredients to the creamed mixture alternately with the milk-maraschino cherry juice mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Beat well after each addition.

Fold in nuts and cherries, then fold in the beaten egg whites.

Divide the batter between pans and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until springy to touch.

Cook cakes in pans on wire racks for about five minutes.  Using a thin blade knife loosen carefully around edges and turn out onto the racks.  Cool to room temperature.

Pink Cherry Maraschino 7-Minute Frosting
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup maraschino cherry juice
3 egg whites, stiffly beaten

Mix sugar, corn syrup, water and cherry juice in medium heavy saucepan, covered, but with lid askew, and heat for five minutes over moderate heat.  Remove lid, insert candy thermometer, and heat, without stirring, until syrup reaches 242*F. (takes about 10-15 minutes).

In the meantime, put three egg whites in a medium sized bowl and beat until stiff peaks form.

When the syrup reaches 242*F, add the hot syrup to egg whites in a fine stream, beating hard the entire time.  Continue beating until mixture peaks stiffly, about 7 to 10 minutes.

**A final word ~ I used two 8" round 2" high cake pans to obtain a nice tall cake.  Baking time was increased by approximately 6 minutes because of the smaller sized pan.

This kind of frosting is best enjoyed on the day it is made.  It looks okay the second day, but by the third it is definitely weepy and crystallized looking.  I would suggest forgoing this frosting on a day with high humidity as it may not set up well for you.

I found the cherry flavor to be delicate.  The recipe does not call for it, but I am thinking perhaps a bit of almond extract might brighten the flavor.  I would be careful about adding cherry extract; you might end up with something akin to cough syrup.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Lemon Squares

As much as I love lemon flavor, I have never made lemon squares until recently.  Let me assure you, this recipe comes together quickly and easily.  In these cold and dark winter days, it was heartening to have something so bright and citrusy.

I combined two recipes to add lemon zest and more lemon juice, and this still came out too sweet for me.  However, upon taking a small square of it the next day, the lemon flavor had become more pronounced, but was still quite sweet.  Even with the increase in lemon, this still  is not lemony enough for me, but I think I have a sour tooth along with my sweet tooth.

Lemon Squares

1 cup butter (no substitutes), room temperature, plus additional to butter the baking pan
2 cups flour
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
pinch of salt (omit if using salted butter)

4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup lemon juice (about one large lemon)
zest of one lemon
1 teaspoon baking powder

Additional confectioners' sugar for decoration

For the crust:  Combine all crust ingredients, using pastry crust, two knives, or food processor, or your impeccdably clean hands,  and press into a  buttered 9" x 13" inch pan.  Bake at 350*F for 15 minutes and set aside for a few minutes while you're making the filling.  Leave oven on.

For the filling:  Combine eggs and sugar and beat well.  Add flour, lemon juice, zest, and baking powder.  Pour over the warm crust and bake at 350*F for 20 minutes.

Cool.  Sift or sprinkle a little additional confectioners'sugar on top of squares for decoration.  Serve.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Cinnamon-Swirl Raisin Bread

I've had a hankerin' for cinnamon raisin bread for a while now.  It's one of my all-time favorite breakfast treats, and once I get the craving I can't seem to get it out of my mind.  Our local breakfast place doesn't serve it and it's becoming scare as hen's teeth to find it on on our grocer's shelves and when I do find it, the cost is the price of a second mortgage for a good quality loaf.  All I really want is a couple of nice pieces to satisfy my craving.  I know me, if I have a whole loaf, I'll eat it. 

So, I bought a Fine Cooking magazine and lo and behold was a cinnamon-raisin swirl bread recipe.  Is that a divine hint or what?  So, I  dug out my bowls and pastry mat and ingredients and set to make this.

As my grandmother would say, "I'll tell you what..." if you had a loaf of this you'd be hard pressed not to eat an entire loaf in one sitting.   This Fine Cooking recipe is chuck a block full of plumped, juicy raisins  that are added into the dough and a ton of cinnamon, added to the dough and then as part of the filling.  There is absolutely no skimping.   

A couple of caveats:  This is a sticky dough, but not as wet as a  batter bread.  Just stay with the directions; more flour is added later on, but only when it's time to roll it out.

This dough has three risings.  I confess to messing up and only doing two.  Now I'm not sure if it's my cool New England kitchen or the recipe itself (minus the middle rising or could it be the instant yeast had gone past date?), but this bread did not rise well at all for me.  My warm place is setting the loaf pans in a plastic tent in the sun on my kitchen table, and that usually works very well.  When I saw the dough was still not rising, I put my oven on warm, left it on for about 30 seconds, and put the pans of dough in the oven for about 2 hours.  Still the dough didn't rise to bread dough filling the pan.  I baked it anyway, and the bread rose a little more while baking, but still not to the height of  the big loaves I made here.  It took me a couple of minutes to figure out that my older recipe called for double the flour, etc., but not nearly the amount of raisins and cinnamon, smiles.  These Fine Cooking loaves are apparently meant to be small.

These loaves are dense.  In reading the reviews at Fine Cooking, I see that another baker made the same observation, so I want to think (smiles) this is to be expected. 

In the final analysis, this is truly a very good, almost superb, cinnamon-raisin bread.  My chief complaint of other recipes is that the cinnamon and raisins were skimpy and fell out of the rolled bread. My chief complaint with this one is the heaviness of the smallish loaves, which is richly overcome by the abundance of raisins and cinnamon.  Plumping the raisins and adding them directly to the dough along with a generous portion of cinnamon and sugar is positively genius.

Cinnamon-Swirl Raisin Bread
(found at

2 cups dark raisins
light-flavored oil to grease the bowl (such as canola or grapeseed)
4 cups (18 ounces) unbleached, all-purpose flour plus more for dusting (I used King Arthur's flour)
6 tablespoons sugar, divided
6 tablespoons cinnamon, divided
1 packet  (1/4 ounce or 2 1/4 teaspoon) instant yeast
3/4 cup lukewarm water
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup whole milk
1 large egg
3 1/2 ounces (7 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the pans

First plump up the raisins.  Put them in a large measuring cup or bowl and add enough hot water to cover them.  Allow to sit for five minutes and then drain them.

If you are fortunate enough to have a stand mixer, this would be a good time to use it, otherwise you can do this by hand, it's just a little work. 

 In a large bowl, combine the flour, 2 tablespoons each of the sugar and cinnamon, the yeast, and salt. Mix (or whisk) until well combined.  Add the milk, egg, tablespoons of the butter, and 3/4 cup room temperature water.  Mix until well combined, until the dough comes together.  Continue to mix until the dough is smooth and slightly sticky.   Add the raisins to the dough and gently knead in by hand.

For the first rise:  Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface, roll it into a ball,.  Clean the bowl you were just using, lightly oil it, and put the dough in the oiled bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature until the dough looks slightly puffy, about 30 minutes.

For the second rise:  On a well-floured surface, use your hands to flatten and spread the dough out until it’s about 3/4 inch thick. Fold the dough in half from top to bottom, then in half again from left to right. Return the dough to the bowl, cover, and let sit until it has risen slightly, about 30 minutes more.

For the third rise: Lightly grease two 8" x 4" loaf pans with butter.

Starting from the short side, gently roll each rectangle into an 8-1/2-inch-long cylinder. Put the cylinders in the pans, seam side down. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rest at room temperature about 60-90 minutes.  The dough will spring back when lightly poked.

Bake:  Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F. Bake the loaves, rotating and swapping the positions of the pans halfway through baking, until dark brown and hollow-sounding when thumped on top and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the loaves registers about 190°F, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the loaves in their pans to a rack

Melt the remaining butter and use it to brush the tops of the loaves.  When cool enough to handle, tip the loaves out onto the rack to finish cooling.  Try and wait before slicing into the bread!

Bread stays nice for about five days.  Doubt if you can make it last that long!