Wednesday, September 30, 2009

BakeSpace International Taste Tour.....Caramelized Maple Cinnamon Apple Crepes

WooHoo—time for another BakeSpace International Taste Tour. This month I am excited to be making crepes!

I first fell in love with crepes when I was in high school. I was a member of the French club and we had the opportunity to take a trip to Montreal and Quebec with my French teacher (Monsieur Hoeft, who was awesome!). Of course, one of our restaurant meals was at a crepe restaurant (a creperie, if you will) and it was fabulous! Later, when I was in college, I was able to spend a semester in France and got to experience the wonder of crepe stands, set up like hot dog vendors, right on the streets of Paris! Nutella, banana, butter and sugar….oh, and the savory, cheesy crepes….I had stains on my trench coat that never came out. When I came back to the states, the crepe mania must have followed me, because suddenly there was a restaurant in Milwaukee, called The Magic Pan. Ooh La La! My favorite was the Chantilly Crepe with apricot jam and bananas and whipped cream. Oh—and the spinach crepe filled with, I believe, Stouffer’s spinach soufflé. I was quite upset when they were all closed down….but, now…I can make my own crepes!

I do like savory crepes, but the sweet ones are my favorite, so I chose an apple crepe this time around. I used a basic Martha Stewart recipe for the crepes, only changing it a bit since I can’t leave anything alone.

Basic Crepes

1 ¾ cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon coarse salt
2 tablespoons sugar (I added this, since it was a sweet crepe and the sugar helps the crepe to brown)
2 cups whole milk, room temperature, plus more if needed
3 large eggs, room temperature
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for skillet

Put the flour, salt and sugar in a blender and mix until blended (have I mentioned how much I love the KitchenAid blender I won from a few months ago?).

Add the milk, eggs, and melted butter and blend until smooth. Mixture should have the consistency of heavy cream; add more milk if needed.

Heat an 8 inch nonstick skillet over medium heat, and brush with butter. Ladle or pour 3 tablespoons of batter into pan, turning and tilting skillet to coat bottom evenly with batter. Cook until top of crepe appears set, bottom is firm and golden brown in spots, and center is lifted by pockets of air, about 1 minute.

Run a spatula around edge of crepe to loosen. Slip spatula under crepe, and gently flip in one swift gesture. (If it doesn’t land quite right, that’s okay; use spatula to unfold or rearrange it.) Cook until bottom is firm and golden brown in spots, about 45 seconds.

 Transfer to a plate, and cover. (The first one will not be your finest…mine looked anemic.) Repeat with remaining batter, brushing pan lightly with butter as needed (every 2 or 3 crepes).

For the filling, I did what I do best, I winged it.

Caramelized Maple Cinnamon Apples

2 tart baking apples (I used Zestar), peeled, cored and sliced
¼ cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup (use the real stuff)
½ teaspoon cinnamon

Over medium heat, melt butter in 10” skillet. Add the apples, brown sugar, maple syrup, and cinnamon. Stir until the butter and sugar is melted and smooth and begins to bubble. Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until thickened.

To serve crepes, spoon some of the apple mixture in the middle of a crepe. Fold over the ends, top with whipped cream and sprinkle with toasted pecans if desired.

Alternately, fold over a crepe, and then fold again into a triangle and add to the warm apple mixture in the pan. Turn over to completely cover in sauce, place on a plate and spoon some apples over the top.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Outrageous Chocolate Chip Cookies

Do you ever just crave a really good chocolate chip cookie? Here is an easy one that I found on It's chewy and chocolaty and it even has a hint of peanut butter. As a bonus, it is easy to make. From


1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

In a medium bowl, cream together the butter, white sugar and brown sugar until smooth. Stir in the peanut butter, vanilla and egg until well blended.

Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; stir into the batter just until moistened. Mix in the oats and chocolate chips (I used mini chocolate chips) until evenly distributed. Drop by tablespoonfuls (I like to use a cookie scoop) on to cookie sheets.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven, until the edges start to brown. Cool on cookie sheets for about 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

It doesn't get much better than this, does it?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Leftover Spaghetti Frittata

Ever look in the refrigerator and find bits and pieces of about five different meals? Ya--that's what went on in my kitchen yesterday. I thought I would take a peek and make some room for groceries and I found about a handful of leftover spaghetti , a few slices of tomato, about a fourth of an onion……and I didn’t want to waste it all by throwing it away. So I thought I would make a little lunch…..

I put a splash of olive oil (white truffle scented---yum) in a small pan. Then I diced up the onion, added one crushed clove of garlic and sautéed them until the onion was soft, about 5 minutes. To that, I added one minced hot pepper minus the seeds (look at how cute they are—my husband got them free at the beginning of the summer when he bought some plants for the pot) and the sliced tomatoes.

Pretty sure I threw in some salt and pepper about now and then I added the spaghetti.

Hmmm….it needed something, so I took an egg and beat it, added a handful of shredded cheddar and stirred it into the spaghetti. Hey, I think I’ve got a frittata going on here! I browned it well on both sides, got the cheese all melty and the egg cooked through and unselfishly asked Pete if he would like to try some.

This is some good stuff. Not so sure I'm going to share the next time.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

creamy tOmatO bisque......Help Support Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

creamy tOmatO bisque

If I had to use one ingredient to sum up my mother’s cooking, it would have to be the tomato. Now, she made some pretty good stuff….huge meatballs, potatoes mashed with carrots and onions, beef stew (I still can’t make it like she did), Dutch pancakes and some really good rice pudding. But she made my favorite food in the middle of summer. When the sun was hot, the budget was tight, and the fresh vegetables were plentiful, Mama would make a simple meal of tomatoes and onions fried in butter and we would sop it all up with fresh bread, slathered in even more butter. If she was feeling a bit more ambitious, she would haul out the food mill and make those tomatoes into a wonderful soup with tiny little meatballs floating in it. Ahhh, the memories….

I’ll be honest with you, as an adult, I don’t make half of the things I remember Mama making. I do make the Dutch pancakes and the rice pudding. And, my daughter loves fried tomatoes and onions almost as much as I do, except that she likes it on top of her pasta. Lately, though, I’ve been experimenting a bit with tomato soup, or more precisely, tomato bisque. I found a recipe years ago that I love and I morphed it into my own version. It is really tasty and, as it uses canned tomatoes, it works well in the winter when the tomatoes in the store resemble mealy, pink baseballs. But, the other day, my friend and coworker, Brenda, was nice enough to bring me a bag of fresh tomatoes from her sister’s farm. They begged for me to use them in my tomato bisque---I was about to wing it!

This is the recipe as I made it:

Creamy Tomato Bisque


1/2 cup butter
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1/2 cup flour
4 cups chicken broth (may use vegetable broth)
2 (28 oz) cans whole tomatoes, chopped with juice
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons basil
1 teaspoon tarragon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon thyme
2 bay leaves
2 cups light cream
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Salt to taste


Melt butter in large pot over medium/high heat. Add onions, carrots and green pepper and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is softened. Add the flour and continue to sauté for another minute, stirring constantly. Add the chicken broth, tomatoes, sugar, basil, tarragon, cayenne pepper, thyme and bay leaves. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 40 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Remove the bay leaves and, working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until almost smooth. Return the pureed soup to the pot, add the cream, paprika, curry powder and white pepper; heat the soup until it is hot, but not boiling. Salt to taste.

I wasn't really sure how to go about replacing the canned tomatoes with the fresh, so I turned to the trusty and my friend Karen suggested roasting them. So I cored 5 or 6 large tomatoes and cut them into wedges. Then I put them in a large pan, sprinkled them with some salt and pepper and a splash of olive oil and roasted them for about 40 minutes in a 425 degree oven. Then, instead of blending the bisque at the end, I used a food mill to rid my tomatoes of the skin and the seeds before I added it to the soup. Since I was out of green pepper, I used a hot pepper (also from Brenda's sister's farm), scraping out the seeds, so it wouldn't be so hot. At the end, I used the food mill again, to smooth it all out.

All I can say is wow! Next time I'll have to try some of those little meatballs, but for now a nice grilled cheese sandwich will have to do.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Caramel Puffcorn….A Sweet Midwestern Addiction

Before we had our daughter, Pete and I lived like nomads, wandering all over the country. We moved from Milwaukee to San Diego to Tampa to Indianapolis to Grand Rapids and, finally, to Minneapolis. Yes, I am a Midwestern girl at heart. I don’t even mind a good snowstorm now and then--after all, it comes with the territory. I’m sure that all of the cold weather has something to do with the proliferation of comfort food that is served up in these parts. In our many travels, I was surprised at the some of the things that I could only find in Wisconsin or Minnesota. One thing in particular is that oddest of snack foods known as Puffcorn.

Puffcorn is manufactured in St. Paul under the brand Old Dutch (I know, I know—there is that weird Dutch connection again). Old Dutch, by the way, is the inventor of the fabulous dill pickle flavored potato chip. But, I digress….let’s talk about Puffcorn. What is it? According to the bag, Puffcorn has a “fresh popcorn flavor that simply melts in your mouth without any hard kernels of hulls”. Hmmm. The fresh popcorn flavor is a bit of a stretch, but it is true that it melts in your mouth. Think Cheeto’s, the puffed kind, without the cheese. By itself, I’m not a huge fan of Puffcorn. But, follow the recipe on the back of the bag for Caramel Puffcorn and, oh my god, pure heaven! This caramel corn absolutely melts in your mouth and it is so addicting that my sister has to send many bags of Puffcorn out to California each year so that my niece can make up bags of deliciousness as holiday gifts for all of her friends. So, let’s get on with the recipe (right off the back of the bag):

Caramel Corn—Old Dutch Style

1 package Old Dutch Puffcorn (I’ve seen that Frito Lay makes a version now, too)
1 cup butter (no substitutes)
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 250 °.

Combine butter, brown sugar, and light corn syrup in a 2 quart saucepan; cook on medium heat until mixture has melted (I let it come to a boil and let it boil for about 2 minutes). Remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda. This will cause the mixture to foam, so be sure your pan is large enough.

Pour Old Dutch Puffcorn into a large roaster pan (sometimes I add a can of honey roasted peanuts with it). Pour caramel mixture over the Puffcorn and stir until mixed.

Place in preheated oven for 45 minutes, stirring at least every 10 to 15 minutes.

Remove from oven, pour on wax paper and break apart. Let cool. (Actually, you might want to let it cool before you break it apart…ouch)

Around the holidays, I like to put this in those cute little decorative bags that you get at Michaels, but since I was making this batch for pure gluttony, I merely put it in a plain plastic bag. It won’t last long, anyway…..

Friday, September 11, 2009

Apple Pie Slices....Fall is in the air!

I have to say that fall is my favorite season. The changing leaves, the cooler weather and, of course, the commencement of the baking season, all combine to make me really happy. Bring on the sugar—Cathy is ready to bake!

Minnesota in the fall is all about the apples and a few of the very best have been invented here. One very nice apple is the Haralson. This crisp, juicy and tart apple was introduced to the world in 1922 at the University of Minnesota and has long been the gold standard for apple pies in Minnesota. In the early 1990’s, the Honeycrisp was introduced, also produced by the University. Unbelievably crisp, the flavor is tart and sweet at the same time and they have a long shelf life. They are truly amazing. Then sometime during the last few years, the University came out with another wonderfully crisp and tasty apple called the Zestar. This one is also tart/sweet and has brown sugar overtones. Yeah—I must make something with apples….

Now my husband, Pete, had a hankering for some homemade apple pie slices, which, basically, is apple pie in a bar form. What better way to enjoy pie than to eat it with your hands, right? So I commenced to finding the right recipe.

When I posted the Chicken and Sliders recipe, my BakeSpace friend, Patti T indicated that she also made them, but they were called “pot pie, slippery pot pie or even Bott Boi”. Surely, it was just the name that was French Canadian, because different versions of the same thing were being made all over the place! The same thing is true for apple pie slices. I found recipes for Danish Pastry Apple Bars, slab pie, apple squares, and apple pie bars, to name just a few. Heck, I was going to have to do what I always do: wing it! So, here is the recipe that I put together:

Cathy’s Apple Pie Slices
Printable Recipe

2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter flavored shortening
1 egg yolk
2/3 cup cold milk
1 egg white
1 1/2 cups frosted cornflakes
8 tart baking apples (I used a combination of HoneyCrisp and Zestar), cored, peeled and sliced
1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1 tablespoon cold butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 350 ° F; grease and flour a 9 X 13 inch pan.

In a large bowl, combine the flour and the salt. With a fork, cut in the shortening until the mixture is crumbly. Beat the egg yolk into the cold milk and slowly add it to the flour mixture, stirring it together until it forms a ball. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and gently knead a little more flour into it if it is too sticky (avoid handling it too much, or the crust will be tough). Divide the dough in half. Sprinkle a little flour on a piece of parchment paper or a silpat and roll out one half of the dough into a large enough rectangle to cover the bottom and sides of the 9 X 13 inch pan. Turn the dough into the pan and gently press it into place.

Beat the egg white until it is slightly frothy. Brush the bottom and sides of the dough lightly with the egg white and reserve the rest for later. Sprinkle the frosted cornflakes evenly over the dough. Arrange the apple slices over the cornflakes.

In a small bowl, combine the white sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon and cardamom. Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the apples; dot with the butter pieces.

Roll out the remaining dough and place over the top of the apples. Pinch all of the sides to seal and cut a few lines on the top to vent. Brush some of the remaining egg white over the top of the dough.

Bake in the preheated oven for 50 to 60 minutes, or until golden brown. In a small bowl, combine the powdered sugar, milk and almond extract. Drizzle over the warm pie.

Happy apple eating!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Coast to Coast Cooking--Chicken Saltimbocca with Creamy Mushroom Cavatappi

“No matter what happens in the kitchen, never apologize.”—Julia Child.

I went into this endeavor with that quote in mind, certain of disaster.

My wonderful friends at came up with a really cool cooking project called Coast to Coast Cooking. In their first attempt, using Food Network’s Melissa D'Arabian’s 4-step chicken recipe, they all created their version and linked up to each others’ blogs. It was so much fun that they did it again, but with Paella. That time, they invited the blogless (including me) to join in and I was lucky enough to have Danielle (Cooking for My Piece of Mind) invite me to be a guest blogger. What a blast that was! It totally resulted in my own blog creation.

This month our mission was to create our own version of saltimbocca. This was just a little scary for me, since I had no idea what it was. Luckily, it is another recipe that has many different interpretations. Just skimming through a few recipes, I noticed that, for the most part, the only things that were constant were the use of sage and prosciutto. Much like every homework project I ever attempted in college, I was going to wing it!

Literally translated, saltimbocca means “jump in the mouth”. Most recipes I found used either chicken or veal. I know for certain that my friend Shane (Culinary Alchemist) will surprise us with another meat, but I, on the other hand, had to keep in mind that whatever I made had to be eaten by my family and prosciutto would have to be as exotic as it got. It was going to be chicken for me. I also decided that I would stuff the chicken with the prosciutto, some cheese and a little seasoned spinach. Then I would accompany the bird with some cavatappi topped with a creamy mushroom sauce.

I started out by flattening a chicken breast half with a rubber mallet. It helps not to get too aggressive here, as it rips the flesh of the chicken. I found this out, but I won’t apologize for it, hee hee. Then I placed a very thin piece of prosciutto, some thinly sliced pepper/jack cheese and the spinach. For the spinach, I just cooked a package of the frozen stuff, drained it really well (squeezed out the water), and mixed it with a little olive oil, a few dashes of lemon/pepper and some ground sage (shoot—why hadn’t I thought to buy the fresh sage?). I left out the salt because of the saltiness of the prosciutto. Then I rolled it up, tucking in the sides, much like an eggroll. I only did two, since it was Labor Day and I was making a traditional BBQ for the family. I didn’t want too many leftovers.

Next I dredged the chicken in flour, then in a beaten egg and finally in some Panko bread crumbs seasoned with a little parmesan cheese and lemon/pepper. I then heated some vegetable oil in a heavy skillet and quickly browned the chicken pieces on all sides. I put them in a pan and baked them at 350 ° for 45 minutes.

While the chicken was in the oven, I made the sauce. In a large skillet, I melted about 4 tablespoons of butter and a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Notice, I haven’t measured anything so far. I was indeed winging it. I sautéed a half of an onion, chopped, a package of sliced mushrooms and two crushed cloves of garlic. Then I seasoned all of it with about a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of Italian seasoning and some pepper. Oh, and I added about a ½ cup of dry white wine and some roasted red pepper slices from a jar. I let all of this cook down (it smelled sooo good!) and then I let it simmer while I cooked up the cavatappi. When, the cavatappi was nearly done, I added about a cup of light cream, a cup of parmesan cheese, and another splash of wine to the mushroom mixture and let it heat through. I stirred in the drained cavatappi and slapped my husband’s fingers out of the pan.

Finally, I sliced the chicken placed it on top of the cavatappi. Holy Cow!! This stuff was delicious. Thankfully, there was no need to apologize.

If you would like to see what my beeps (BakeSpace peeps, for the uniformed) created, here is the link:

Coast to Coast Cooking

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Pancakes, the Breakfast of Champions…..or Just People Who Like to Eat

For years I stayed away from buttermilk pancakes. The stuff I got in restaurants, or from a box, was heavy and nasty. In fact, the only pancakes I really liked were the ones my mother made. Hers were Dutch pancakes (of course) which are really more like thicker, eggier crepes, all rolled up with fried apples and real maple syrup (to be sure, I will be making those again, soon). But a buttermilk pancake didn’t interest me until I tried a recipe from Martha Stewart.

Now, I kind of have a “love/hate” thing going on with Martha. I’m not a real fan of all of the perfection. And I didn’t care for the way she handled herself when she got herself into hot water with her stock dealings. Still, she did come out of that whole ordeal with a nice looking crocheted thingy…..and, more importantly, she knows how to cook. It was her recipe for buttermilk pancakes that converted me into a buttermilk pancake fan. These are the lightest, tastiest buttermilk pancakes you will ever eat!  And so, I present to you:

Martha Stewart’s Buttermilk Pancakes
Printable Recipe

• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or slightly less table salt
• 3 tablespoons sugar
• 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
• 3 cups buttermilk
• 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus 1 tablespoon extra for brushing griddle
• 1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen and thawed (optional)

First, you’ll want to preheat an electric griddle to 375°F, or place a griddle pan or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Next, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl. Add the eggs, buttermilk, and 4 tablespoons melted butter into another bowl, whisk to combine, and add it to the flour mixture. Mix it together lightly; the batter should have small to medium lumps.

Test the griddle by sprinkling a few drops of water on it. If the water bounces and spatters, the griddle is hot enough. Using a pastry brush, brush the remaining 1/2 teaspoon butter onto the griddle. Wipe off the excess with a folded paper towel.

Pour the batter in pools 2 inches apart (I use a 1/3 measuring cup). If you wish to make blueberry pancakes, arrange a handful over the cooking pancake, pressing them in slightly (this time I used a frozen mixed cherry/berry blend from Trader Joes). When the pancakes have bubbles on top and are slightly dry around the edges, about 2 1/2 minutes, flip over. If any batter oozes or blueberries roll out, push them back under with your spatula. Cook until golden on bottom, about 1 minute.

Repeat with the remaining batter. You can keep the finished pancakes on a heat-proof plate in the oven at 175°F. Serve warm.

I like to make several plain pancakes as well as the berry filled ones. Then you can wrap one around a sausage and you will have a wonderful “Pig in a Blanket”!

Bon Appetit!!