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Muffins and Memories

Blueberry Muffin

I took a year of Home Ec in high school. Not because I wanted to, believe it or not, but because I couldn’t cook, and my dad told me I couldn’t move out until I learned how to feed myself. He doesn’t remember saying it, but I definitely remember begrudgingly giving up a precious academic hour to learn how to cut up a chicken and make pie crusts.

Twenty years after the fact (yes, twenty years, I really am that old!), I’m really grateful for the lessons I learned in Home Ec from Mrs. Anna Polster. This is, more or less, the muffin recipe she gave us when I took her class. I’ve been using it ever since.

And?  I can still make pie crust and and cut up a chicken.  Thanks, Mrs. Polster!

Blueberry Muffins

Muffins

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1/4 cup of vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Grease muffin tins or use cupcake papers .

Beat egg slightly, add oil and milk.  In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients, including sugar.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add milk mixture.  Stir just enough to incorporate ingredients.  Fill muffin tins 2/3 full.  Bake 20 – 25 minutes, until slightly browned around the edges.

Makes 6-9 muffins.  Can be doubled.

Variations:

  • before baking, sprinkle tops with 1 TBS cinnamon that has been combined with 1/2 cup sugar
  • add 1/2 cup chopped pecans to flour before adding liquid ingredients
  • substitute 1/2 cup oatmeal or whole wheat flour for 1/2 cup flour
  • add 1 cup berries (fresh, frozen, or canned)

Jen’s additions:

  • I usually prep my pans with veggie oil.
  • for banana muffins, substitute 1/2 cup oatmeal for 1/2 cup flour and add 2 ripe, mashed bananas

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Peanut Butter

Homemade PB

Hi, my name is Jennifer, and I am a peanut butter junkie.

If I was alone on a desert island and could only bring one food?

Stressed-out comfort food?

Favorite thing to eat with chocolate?

I think you get the idea!

I like all-natural, no sugar or stuff-added peanut butter and I’ve tried all variety of brands, organic, and not.  The one thing that I can’t get over is how expensive plain ole peanut butter can be.  I can really go through the stuff and it just never lasts long enough!

In a recent out-of-peanut-butter-crisis, I decided to try and make my own.  The slightly astonishing thing is that I had no directions and I didn’t try to find a recipe.  And it worked!  It worked so well, I’ve already eaten it all and made another batch.  Nom!

It’s super easy –  16 oz of roasted, salted peanuts in the variety of your choice.  Toss that into your food processor (it’s a must, sorry if you don’t have one!),   Add about 1 tbs vegetable oil.  I used corn oil, but I’m sure peanut oil would be even more awesome.

Process for about three minutes or until smooth.  Move to a bowl and refrigerate.

Eat!  Really, that’s it!

Nomnomnom!

Next time, I think I’ll try roasting my own peanuts…

Like peanut butter?  Check out my video, Peanut Butter In Real Time!

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Recipe: Stenciled Brownies for My Sweetheart!



Brownies for My Sweetheart

I really don’t need a reason to tell my husband how much he means to me.  Even so, any excuse to make his day a little brighter is one I’ll take.  He loves brownies and homemade ones are extremely easy to make and much yummier (in my opinion!) than the store bought variety.  Baking brownies make the whole house smell like chocolate, which is an added bonus.

This year I thought I’d combine two of my favorite things, baking and stenciling, and make a Valentine’s treat fit for the sweetest of the sweet, my own True Love.

I think the original brownie recipe is my Mom’s but it’s in my handwriting in my recipe collection, and I’ve been making them this way as long as I can remember, so I’m not entirely sure.   Mom, let me know if it’s yours and I’ll give you credit!

Stenciled Chocolate Brownies

  • 1/2 cup butter, room temp or slightly melted in the microwave (~40 seconds)  *note – for a moister, chewier brownie, you can use shortening instead*
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 6 TBS baking cocoa
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • wax, parchment or clean wax paper, trimmed to fit inside a 9″x13″ baking pan
  • powdered sugar

You can make this recipe with or without a mixer.

Preheat oven to 350°F. With non-stick baking spray, coat the bottom only of a 9″ x 13″ baking pan.


Cream together butter and sugar, adding eggs one at a time.


Sift together flour, baking powder and cocoa. Add to sugar mixture, stirring well.


Mix in nuts and vanilla. Stir by hand.


Spread into prepared pan.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.   If you like chewier brownies, stay closer to 20 minutes.  Allow to cool at least fifteen minutes before stenciling.

Stencil:


Fold prepared wax paper in random lines vertically along the length of the paper.


Cut hearts out of the paper along the lines.  The amount and size of your hearts is completely up to you.


Completed stencil.


Place stencil on top of brownies. Trim if necessary to make sure it fits snugly as possible.



Sift on powdered sugar.


Carefully remove stencil onto another sheet of wax paper and admire your Sweetheart Brownies!

If you’re handy with an Exact-O Knife and have the time, you can get much more creative with the stencil.  Share your fandom love, write birthday wishes, admissions of undying love or maybe even a marriage proposal!  This same technique will also work on an unfrosted cake.

Fun with powdered sugar
A simpler version, made with store bought brownie mix.
These were for a school party.  They were cooled completely, cut and then stenciled.

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Portabella Crust Pizza

portabella pizza

In an effort to feel healthier and happier, I started following the South Beach Diet.  It’s been about a month now, and I feel better than I have in a good long while.  The only thing I really missed was pizza on Friday nights with my family.  My family and I have homemade pizza every Friday, along with a movie marathon.  I experimented a bit with recipes I found online and just wasn’t satisfied.  This is my own personal South Beach-friendly pizza, using a portabella mushroom as the crust.   You need a fork to eat it, but other than that, it really hits the “need pizza” button!

Makes 2 servings.

Portabella Crust Pizza

  • 2 portabella mushroom caps cleaned with stems removed
  • olive oil
  • sugar-free pizza sauce (try Exquisite Pizza Sauce without the honey)
  • part-skim mozzarella or veggie cheese (like Veggie Shreds)
  • toppings of your choice (I like Canadian Bacon, low-fat feta is nice, too)

Preheat oven or toaster oven to 400°F.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and coat with a small amount of olive oil.  Set aside.

Heat a large skillet or griddle (cast iron, if you’ve got it!) over medium-high heat.  Add just enough olive oil to lubricate the surface. Place mushroom caps bottoms down on cooking surface.  They’ll lose a lot of water as they cook, and that’s what you want.  Leave for about five minutes and then flip the caps.  When you can see moisture collecting inside the cap, flip it again, pressing with a spatula to flatten.  Cook for approximately 15-20 minutes.  Time can vary depending on the size of the caps, you want the caps to be about 2/3 their original size and to have released quite a bit of moisture.

Remove the caps to the prepared baking sheet, bottoms up.  Add sauce, cheese and toppings.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted and slightly toasted.

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Recipe: Gramgram’s Chocolate Cake

Gramgram's Best Chocolate Cake

My son, Gareth, just turned 12.  For his birthday, he asked for a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting.  Was I surprised by this?  No, not really…he’s a chocolate junkie!

There’s only one chocolate cake my kids want when there is an occasion for chocolate cake….my mom’s!  Gramgram has been making this cake recipe since she was in school and I make it now.  I still don’t think mine tastes quite as good as hers, but I’m biased by the memories of childhood and not having to make the cake myself.

Chocolate Cake

  • 1 ¾ c. sugar
  •  2/3 c. shortening
  •  2 eggs
  •  1 tsp. vanilla extract
  •  2 ½ c. sifted cake flour or 2 ¼ c. all-purpose flour
  •  1 ½ tsp. baking soda
  •  ½ tsp. salt
  •  1 c. buttermilk (or 1 tbs lemon juice or vinegar + enough milk to make 1 c.)
  •  ½ c. cocoa powder
  •  ½ c. boiling water

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease and flour 2 9-inch round cake pans.

Gramgram's Best Chocolate Cake
Make a paste of the cocoa and water. Allow to cool while you prepare the rest of the batter.

Gramgram's Best Chocolate Cake
Cream the sugar and shortening together until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time beating well after each one. Add vanilla.

Gramgram's Best Chocolate Cake
Sift together the flour, soda, and salt. Add alternately with the buttermilk. Mixture will be nice and fluffy!

Gramgram's Best Chocolate Cake
Add chocolate mixture and blend well.

Gramgram's Best Chocolate Cake
Scrape down the sides of the bowl and make sure any little bits missed by the mixer are blended in. Cake batter should look like this. Mmmm!

Gramgram's Best Chocolate Cake
Divide evenly into prepared pans and bake about 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Gramgram's Best Chocolate Cake
Baked cakes…nom time is getting closer!

Gramgram's Best Chocolate Cake

Cool cakes for 10 minutes and then remove from pans.  Cool completely before frosting.

Cocoa Frosting

 4 c. powdered sugar, sifted
 ¾ c. cocoa powder
 ½ c. butter, room temperature
 ½ c. evaporated milk (whole milk or 1/2 & 1/2 will also work, but they’re not as yummy!)
 1 tsp. vanilla

Gramgram's Best Chocolate Cake

Mix cocoa and sugar. Cream about half of the sugar mixture with the butter. Blend vanilla and half of milk. Add remaining cocoa/sugar mixture. Blend well. Add remaining milk and beat to desired consistency.  Add a little more milk if frosting is too dry. Makes enough frosting for 2 9-inch layers.

Frost your cake…and then lick the bowl!   Enjoy your chocolate cake with decorations or as is.  It’s especially yummy with vanilla ice cream.

Not enough chocolate for you? Try one of these!

Chocolate Chocolate Marshmallow Cookies
Chocolate Marshmallow Cookies

Cow Pattie Cookies
Chocolate Saucepan Cookies, aka Cow Patties

Peanut Butter Bon Bons Coconut Bon Bons
Peanut Butter Bon Bons (L) and Coconut Bon Bons (R)

Faux Ferrero Rocher
Faux Ferrero Rocher

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Recipe Review: Emergency Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Cake in a Coffee Mug

I made this from an email recipe that was going around.

It’s called Minute Chocolate Mug Cake, but I like Emergency Chocolate Cake. 😉

I sprayed one coffee mug with cooking spray and it definitely came out better than the rest…less mess in the mug afterward. For best results, eat it while it’s warm. It gets a little too dense after that.

Minute Chocolate Mug Cake

  • 1 Coffee Mug
  • 4 tablespoons AP flour
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons baking cocoa
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 3 tablespoons chocolate chips (optional)
  • Small splash of vanilla

Chocolate Cake in a Coffee Mug
before baking

Add dry ingredients to mug, and mix well .. Add the egg and mix thoroughly. Pour in the milk and oil and mix well. Add the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla, and mix again. Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts. The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don’t be alarmed! Allow to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate if desired.

Serves 2…or 1, if you don’t mind a bit of a tummy ache!

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Recipe Review: Chocolate Balls

Truffles:  Chocolate Balls

I belong to a fun group of friends over on Live Journal called My Flist Cooks. We post recipes to share with each other. While there aren’t loads of recipes posted on a regular basis, what is posted is usually really tasty!

One of my favorite things about My Flist Cooks is the opportunity to try recipes from friends around the world.  Many of the recipes are family favorites and come highly recommended.  I love knowing that people I know and like enjoyed a recipe enough to post it on MFC.

As a treat for my family, I tried ‘s hardhatcat’s Chocolate Balls from her Truffles post.

Chocolate Balls
by hardhatcat

  • 250g packet plain biscuits, crushed (from Cat:  I crush mine in the blender, but a plastic bag and rolling pin will do the same thing)
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 400g tin of condensed milk
  • extra coconut

Add dry ingredients to bowl and blend well.  Add condensed milk and mix well.  roll into balls and roll in extra coconut.  Store in airtight container.

Jen’s notes:

  • I Americanized my batch a bit by using most of a 12 oz box of Vanilla Wafers in place of the plain biscuits.   I did weigh them out so that I had 250g and I’d estimate there were about 10 cookies left in the package when I was done.
  • The sweetened condensed milk I bought came in 396g cans.  I didn’t adjust the recipe for that, but it didn’t seem to hurt anything, on the contrary, they were really moist.
  • I crushed the cookies in my food processor and then added all the ingredients right to the processor.
  • Having killed my last cookie scoop, I used a teaspoon to scoop out the mixture and roll it in coconut. I think it was a little too sticky because they went flat and looked more like cookies than truffles. After some time in the fridge, I was able to roll them into a nice ball shape.  If I make them again, I’ll pop them in the fridge first, and then roll out the balls.

My family LOVED them. They’re super rich and very yummy!  Thanks for sharing the recipe, Cat!

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Recipe: Make Your Own Damn Pizza

Mmmm, pizza!

With the changing economy, ordering pizza for a family of four has been out for quite a while.  What to do, what to do?  Well, make our own damn pizza!

Since I started making my own pizza, pizza family night has become a tradition every Friday. We watch t.v., eat pizza, and just laugh and talk together. Pizza night makes the world go round!

This is my own recipe for pizza dough, made to satisfy that pizza craving without crashing my wallet.

Make Your Own Damn Pizza (Crust!)

  • 3 cups flour + 1/2 – 1 c
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 2 1/2 tsp. instant yeast (not quick-rise)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar, honey or agave nectar
  • 1 egg plus enough room-temperature water to make 1 1/2 cups
  • 2 tbs olive oil

Hint:  Use a stand mixer if you’ve got it! You can also do this by hand, it just takes a little longer.

Mix dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl (or stand mixer bowl).  Mix wet ingredients together, adding slowly to the dry ingredients until a sticky dough forms.  Slowly add additional flour 1/2 cup at a time until dough is no longer sticky.  (It usually takes me about 1/2 c.)


Knead for approximately 5 minutes (by hand or with a dough hook in a stand mixer).

Allow to rest for about 1 hour or until double in size.


Punch down and split in half, forming two balls of dough.  Allow to rest while preheating oven and preparing pizza pans or baking sheets.

Preheat oven to 425°.


Oil two round pizza pans (12 – 15″) or baking sheets with olive oil.  Using your hands, slowly stretch one ball of dough to cover pan.


Just keep working with it and it will eventually cover the pan.  It will shrink a little after you stop working with it, but that’s okay.  As you’ll see in the “after” photo, the pizza will plump right up to the edges!    Repeat for the second pan.


Add toppings of your choice.  I recommend 3 tablespoons of Exquisite Pizza Sauce or sauce of your choice.


Mozzarella and feta with pepperoni or Canadian bacon are my favorites!


Cook for 18 – 20 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.


Optional:  for a crispier crust, remove pizza from pan and cook directly on the oven rack for the last 5 minutes OR cook the pizzas on a pizza stone.

Allow to rest at least 5 minutes before slicing.  Makes enough for 2 12-15″ pizzas, which serves four nicely.  Enjoy!

All told, and depending on toppings,  it costs between $8 and $10 to make two fresh-from-the-oven pizzas!

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Applesauce Raisin Bread



I love making bread, any kind of bread.  Yeast bread, savory or sweet quick breads.  ANY bread.  It makes my house smell like home and feeds my family.

This Applesauce Raisin Bread is slightly sweet and is lovely toasted with butter.  Enjoy it as a desert or with your coffee.

I think I’ll have another piece right now!



Applesauce Raisin Bread

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg (fresh, if you have it!)
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup seedless raisins
  • 1 cup oatmeal, uncooked (quick or old-fashioned)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 c vegetable oil
  • 1 cup applesauce (I like unsweetened, but you can use either)

Preheat oven to 35

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, soda, and salt.  Stir in spices, sugar, raisins and oatmeal.  In a small bowl, beat 2 eggs with vegetable oil and applesauce.  Add to dry ingredients and stir until moist, being careful to not over-stir.

Pour into greased loaf pan.  Bake 40 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool for at least 1/2 an hour before slicing.  Enjoy!

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Recipe: Rice In The Box

Rice in the Box - Microwaved Rice

Rice.

It should be one of the easiest things in the world to make.  And it is, really.  Mainly, because I’ve started cooking it in the microwave.

Seriously!  It works brilliantly and you can tweak the rice to go with whatever you like.

Rice In The Box

  • 1 cup of white rice, any length grain (I’ve tried it with brown rice…it DOES NOT WORK, just fyi!)
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbs butter (optional…for that yummy, buttery flavor & shine!)

Rice in the Box - Microwaved Rice
Add all ingredients to a round casserole dish with a lid.   If you don’t have a round casserole, you can use a flat-bottomed round vessel with plastic wrap on top.  Poke holes in the plastic for venting.

Rice in the Box - Microwaved Rice
Microwave for 5 minutes on high, then 15 minutes on 50%.  Leave the rice in the microwave for at least five minutes.  Remove the lid carefully – there will be steam, so be careful.

Fluff with a fork or spoon and serve!

Variations:

Use chicken, beef or veggie broth instead of water, reduce salt to 1/4 tsp.

Add to cooked chicken

top with veggies or sauce

Use rice cooked with water for Rice Pudding!

My Mom’s Rice Pudding

  • 1 c. rice, cooked
  • 1 ½ c. milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ½ c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon (optional)

Instructions: Boil rice and milk over low heat, stirring often so you don’t scorch the milk.  Slowly add eggs, sugar and vanilla, stirring constantly. * Pour into 1 ½ quart casserole.  Mix spices and sprinkle on top. Place dish into a larger pan containing ½” water.

Bake 35 – 40 minutes at 350 degrees (F) or until knife inserted near edge comes out clean.

*optional – you can skip the oven and continue to cook until it’s a thick consistency. It gives the pudding a slightly different texture, but it’s still delicious!

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