Sunday, April 7, 2013

Cookie Experiment & Apple Kuchen & Casserole

So this is your two-fer post. I'm, 1. too tired to make it two posts and 2. It's late.

So this last few weekends, I guess from the week before Easter to this weekend has been full and busy with back and forth and family gatherings.

Honestly some of the end of March is a blurr. I have some photos to remind me of what I purchased that week but not much else haha. I guess the running is using my brain power now and taking over.

I did buy grapes not long ago but found that these grapes were hulk sized.

That is an average sized spoon. Can you say HUGE. That was the word of the day one day the week after St. Patrick's but before Easter. I bought these Hulk grapes and then at work saw two HUGE vultures just chilling out on top of the office building I work in. Came back from lunch and was just standing in the parking lot staring with mouth agape and saying, oh my goodness those are HUGE birds! I'm serious, when they look big from the ground floor of a 5 story building you know they are big birds.

So then I got bored one night and decided it was time to experiment. I kept seeing people online using Easter candy to create new and fun treats. So, since I lacked candy I had to go buy some. So I went and purchased the candy I know Mike likes and decided to play with my mom's chocolate chip cookie recipe.

So I took my mom's basic chocolate chip cookie recipe is actually pretty close to the Toll House recipe with a few tweaks in measurements. Crazy huh? I think everybody's chocolate chip cookie recipes are based on the Toll House recipe but then tweaked for preference.

So I made the basic recipe, then I added about 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup creamy natural peanut butter. Then I added chopped up Peanut Butter Squared Snickers. So delicious on their own and then to add it to a cookie. Then I baked according to directions.

After I took some powdered sugar, butter (room temperature), a package of Swiss Miss dark chocolate cocoa, and a little vanilla and made a frosting. Then when the cookies cooled, (they were still soft and had a great chewy caramel bend to them, I frosted them with the chocolate frosting. Mike said the frosting texture wasn't quite right. A little grainy, yes. But that could have been solved by melting in a little milk before adding, then I would not have had to add any milk.

Basic frosting recipe is as follows: (I use for cookies and cakes)
1 stick soft, room temperature butter/margarine
1 tsp - 2 tsp vanilla (or desired flavoring)
8 - 16 oz powdered sugar (depends on how much frosting you want
1-3 Tbsp milk (depends on consistency you are going for - cookie or cake or a glaze)

Mix all together in mixer and frost as needed.

So after making the cookies and sharing with Mike I decided to make something else, I think my baking bug is finally coming back. I got burned out there for a while. So I decided I needed to use the apples Dad had given me that were taking up a good portion of space in my freezer. So I pulled those out and thought about what I could make.

I had been eyeballing my great grandmother's apple kuchen recipe for a while but just didn't take the time to do it. It's definitely not a 10 minute project. More like 2 1/2 hours total. Definitely something to plan to do. I'm sure you can make the dough the night before and place in the fridge after proofing to save and then bake the next morning for breakfast. I think of this as one of those special breakfasts or for dessert. It's delicious and has some family history with it.

First you have to make the dough, with flour, yeast, sugar, butter, water, egg, cinnamon, and salt. Then once it's put together, you knead it out into a nice ball and let it rest.

this is what happens when
I don't put the splash guard on my mixer
After you let the dough ball rise you have to punch it down in the center and let rise again. Mind you, rise times are 1 hour for the first and around 30 min to 1 hour for the second.

Once dough has risen twice and is nice and puffy you have to spread it out into a pan, the recipe says to divide into two pieces and then add toppings and bake. I chose to leave it in one and spread the dough out in a 9 1/2 by 11 inch cookie sheet.

Then you add your toppings, in my case - apples with a little flour, sugar, and cinnamon tossed together for a delicious flavor combo. Recipe says to arrange neatly. I did my best but would have preferred to have very thinly sliced apples but I made due with what I had.

So then you bake for about an hour and then it looks a little like this. Once cooled top with either powdered sugar dusted all over or make a thin glaze and drizzle. I chose to glaze it.

Hulda Bader's Kuchen Recipe:

5-6 cups flour
2 pkg active dry yeast
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup softened butter
1 1/2 cups hot tap water (120 F - 130 F)
2 eggs
1 tsp cinnamon
Salad oil/vegetable oil (I used Pam spray)

Combine 2 cups flour, cinnamon, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add softened butter. Add water into bowl all at once. Beat with mixer at medium speed for 2 minutes. Add eggs and 1 cup flour. Beat at high speed 1 minute. Gradually stir in just enough flour with wooden spoon to make soft dough that leaves the sides of the bowl. Then onto floured board round into a ball. Knead 5-10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Brush with tiny amount of oil. Cover with Saran Wrap then a towel. Let rise on board. After 1 hour, push down in center. Leave to rise again (about another 30 min to an hour). Divide and shape. Place on greased bakery sheet. Brush with melted butter, let rise again. (30 min to an hour). Bake at 350 F degrees for 30 min.

Fruit Kuchen: roll out dough, brush with melted butter and add fruit toppings.

Apple Kuchen: slice apples thin. Mix them with cinnamon and sugar, and a little flour. Arrange neatly on dough. Sprinkle again with cinnamon and sugar where needed.

Rolled Kuchen: Roll out dough, brush with melted butter. Chop desired amount of nuts, raisins, cinnamon, and sugar. Roll up into log. Place on bakery sheet and brush with butter.

After cooled, drizzle with icing, top with cherries and walnuts.

This is the lady who made this deliciousness. Mrs. Hulda Bader. (my great grandmother)

So I took this to work with me the next day and it was an instant hit with all the coffee drinkers. People ask for the recipe, I send them here. ;) Easier than sending out 100 emails of the recipe that I never bring to work with me.

So then we hit Easter. Mike wanted me to make Rockin' Guac, a recipe sponsored by rotel. I was cool with that since I know my family will eat just about anything and this would be good to munch on before the ham and German potato salad would be ready.

It's a super simple recipe.

1/2 cup chopped onion (red)
3 avocados, ripe
1 can rotel, mild or original
salt and pepper to taste

Instructions: Mash all together.

Mike says it should be a 2 avocado to 1 can ratio, where I think maybe using mild rotel and adding a tomato might help. Definitely had to add more salt and pepper. I tend to under season with salt just to be on the safe side. Something totally fixable.

But it was a hit, mom enjoyed as did Mike and myself. Not sure if I saw dad take a dip at it or not. I only went home with a heaping half cup. So I think this was a good one. A little chunky but good.

Mom made a delicious dinner of honey glazed spiral cut ham, German potato salad, some olives and pickles as a part of the dinner (much like what we do for Thanksgiving). Then I brought the vegetable. Carrot casserole. Mike enjoys this so much he even eats seconds. It's tasty and you WILL want seconds. Of course this batch came out a bit lumpy, I think it's because I used baby carrots instead of whole carrots chopped up. Boiling baby carrots to a tender mush takes FOR-EV-ER! Do not do it unless you have a food processor. Which is what I want for Christmas or my birthday, you hear that family? I WANT A FOOD PROCESSOR, at least 5 cups capacity and not a proctor silex brand. Preferably Black and Decker or kitchen aid. Yes, this is what I have been asking for every year for about 3 years now. Why can't they seem to remember?

Oh well...guess I'll just have to buy it myself.

Easter went well, normal family gathering. Food, chatter, Easter basket hunt, Nerf shootout.

Speaking of Nerf shootout, which Mike and I did in the living room of my folks house and had a great time and had many laughs from everyone, I went to go practice for trap the day before Easter. Took a friend to come watch, he had a good time and was fascinated with it.

Wish me luck on May 11, that is when the corporate challenge trap shooting competition is. I am in it as the female shooter for my company. So nervous. I average between 15 and 18 per round out of 25. I would love to get closer to 20 but I need to practice more. Ammunition is not cheap, however.

So now we come to this last weekend, we finally made it to our favorite local bar and checked out the updates they had done, new floor, new seating, new TVs, and new menu. We had the pepper jack bites, which they kept from the old menu, and then Mike had the Saint's Burger (signature burger with bacon, cheese, and lettuce and tomato and onion and a Jack Daniels sauce. Looked amazing. I had a grilled chicken bowl. It had grilled chicken, shredded jack cheese, corn, mashed potato and gravy. It was quite delicious. We hit it up on the right night too since it was $2 anything behind the bar. We each had a drink with our dinner and called it a night.

Now we come to this weekend. Last night was the travel time to Mike's and today we slept in and kind of bummed around. A rest day. Then I made dinner. A Mac & Cheese Chicken Veggie Casserole. It was ok, not fabulous but edible and tasty.

It needed more flavor pop, chicken needed salt and pepper and the cheese needed to be more spread out through the pasta. But all in all, something we can improve upon to have as a quick and easy family dinner staple.

The recipe is simple and comes from Country Crock.

Easy Mac & Cheese Veggie Chicken Casserole:
4 Tbsp country crock spread, melted, divided
1 cup 2% milk (used 1%)
8 oz dry rotini pasta, cooked and drained
2 cups diced COOKED chicken breast
4 cups assorted frozen vegetables, thawed (used California mix)
2 1/4 cup finely shredded low fat cheddar cheese
1/4 cup plain dry bread crumbs
1 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 F degrees.

If using raw chicken, season with salt and pepper and cook until 80% done. Then dice.

Cook past according to package directions, about 7 min in boiling water.

Combine 3 Tbsp Country Crock spread, milk, cooked rotini, cooked chicken, thawed vegetables and cheddar cheese in a large bowl and spread into an 8 inch baking dish/casserole dish.

Combine bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and remaining margarine in a small bowl; sprinkle over top of casserole.

Bake until heated through and crumbs are toasted. About 30 minutes.

Makes 6 servings.

Like I said, it needs more flavor. Seasoning. Maybe more salt and pepper and some garlic powder. Something to round it out and give it some depth. Not bad though.

Tomorrow is turkey scouting day, will also be a RushFit day and maybe a good 1 - 2 mile run. Shall see I suppose.

So what is in store for the upcoming weekends? Well, Mike will be turkey hunting, so hopefully we will have some upcoming wild turkey recipes for you. Also, I will be in the Color Me Rad race for KC next weekend and then April 27 I will be in the Warrior Dash 5k. In May I have trap on the 11th and then on the 12th I have a 5k walk with my mom for Mother's Day. So the upcoming months are busy and packed full of fun, adventure, and mystery *as usual right ;) *

So get out there, have fun, and go cook something!