Monday, April 20, 2009

Buttery Crescents

The day after I made 60-minute Rolls for Easter, I made these to pair with Crusty Mustard Chicken. If I have time, I prefer to make these, but with fresh, warm rolls, as with cheesecake of any kind, I'm not terribly picky. The eggs, milk, and butter in these create a soft, rich roll.

The recipe comes from Lynne Petersen of Salt Lake City, Utah, and is found in The Complete Guide to Country Cooking.
Buttery Crescents

2 packages active dry yeast (about 4 and 1/2 tsp.)
2 cups warm milk (110-115 degrees F, but I never check. It should be warm to the touch, but not so hot as to kill the yeast.)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tsp. salt
6 and 1/2 - 7 cups all-purpose flour, divided
Additional melted butter, optional

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm milk. Add eggs, butter, sugar, salt, and 4 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Add enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch the dough down and divide in thirds. Roll each portion into a 12-in. circle; cut each circle into 12 wedges. Roll up wedges from the wide end and place with pointed end down on greased baking sheets. cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. Bake at 400 degrees for 12-14 minutes or until golden brown. Brush with butter if desired.

Yield: 3 dozen

Crusty Mustard Chicken

I adapted this recipe from Martha's. It worked perfectly for a last minute company meal (I knew the company was coming; I just didn't plan ahead), and we served it with salt-crusted baked potatoes, tossed salad, this broccoli, and these rolls. They're highly-flavored, peppery chicken breasts with a crisp breading.

I also made a honey-mustard sauce for dipping. Because I like it, that's why!!!

Crusty Mustard Chicken
  • about 6 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts, cut into generously-sized strips
  • 9 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • ground thyme, to taste (1 tsp.?) Martha's recipe calls for fresh, and I'll try it just so in the summer.
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 4 and 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 4-5 cups unseasoned panko breadcrumbs (I'd never heard of them until we were given a container of them. Basically, they're large, coarsely ground bread crumbs made from crustless white bread, which make them airy and crisp. You can even easily make your own!)
I tripled the amount of mustard mixture that Martha's recipe calls for, because I always seem to run out of coating before I run out of chicken. See the original recipe for her suggested amounts.

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. In a small bowl, combine mustard, thyme, black pepper, cayenne, and salt. Stir in butter and oil until thoroughly combined.
  3. Place breadcrumbs in a shallow dish. Brush chicken pieces on both sides with the mustard mixture, and then roll in breadcrumbs to coat completely.
  4. Place coated chicken pieces on a baking sheet, and cook until well browned all over, turning occasionally to brown evenly, until juices run clear when chicken is pierced with the tip of a paring knife, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven, and serve hot.

Perfect Glazed Ham in a CROCKPOT

This is the half we had left after our Easter meal...
The title's a bit misleading, because I did brush a last layer of glaze on this as soon as we arrived home. 20 minutes in the oven is all it took, though!

In the last 7 1/2 years of marriage, I've baked my fair share of succulent holiday hams. This year was no exception, except that John had to work Easter Sunday afternoon. We had roughly an hour from the time we arrived home from church to the time he had to leave for work. This complicated things, but I still wanted a feast, which is why, with trepidation, I found myself looking for "Crockpot Ham" instructions on Google the night before.

The next morning, I slapped together a brown-sugar glaze, slathered it over the ham, stuffed it in the crockpot, and left for church, almost dreading what I'd find when I returned. We love baked ham, and I was pretty sure that crockpot ham just wasn't going to cut it.

No worries. It was juicy, flavorful, and downright delicious. Millie said she wants crockpot ham next year, too. (!) John, a ham connoisseur and great lover off all things pig, gave it two thumbs up. Whew!

So, here's a recipe for the day that you're in a pork pinch-- a day when you want oven ham but can't have it. Then, if you like it, give me five! If you hate it, forget you ever knew me.

The ham is ham. Always good.

The glaze is a finger-lickin', sweet-savory mixture of sugar, mustard, and aromatic spice.

One eight-pound ham, bone-in and NOT spiral sliced. A spiral sliced ham will dry out with the prolonged cooking time, and a ham with bone-in will retain its juices better.

1 and 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1/2 - 3/4 tsp. dry mustard, to taste
some honey (2-3 tablespoons?)
ground cloves, to taste (I shook pretty liberally)
I believe I sprinkled on a touch of allspice, too
a few tablespoons of orange juice, if desired
about 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, if desired, to taste

Mix all ingredients together. I added orange juice and Dijon mustard so make a thick paste. Spread on the bottom of the crockpot and rub all over the ham. Place in crockpot, cover with lid, and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Crockpots vary in temperature. Ours was easily ready in 6 hours. Don't overcook, or the ham will become dry.

If desired, remove ham from crockpot after about 6 hours and place in a large baking dish. Mix a few tablespoons of cornstarch with a small amount of cold water until dissolved. Pour the juices from the crockpot into a saucepan and stir in the cornstarch mixture. Cook over medium heat until mixture thickens and begins to boil. Brush some of the mixture over the ham and bake an additional 15-20 minutes in a hot oven until the glaze has baked nicely onto the surface, brushing on a coat of glaze every 5 minutes or so. Remove ham from oven and tent with tin foil. Let sit for about 15 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute before slicing. Use the additional glaze from the saucepan to pour on served ham, if desired.

60-Minute Rolls

This recipe comes from a KitchenAid cookbook, and it's my go-to recipe when I want fresh, quick yeast rolls, like, for example, on early Easter Sunday morning. Whenever I make these, I feel as if I'm burglarizing my sister-in-law Wendy's kitchen, because these rolls are synonymous with her. She brings them to nearly every holiday gathering, and she makes them taste better than I ever could. Plus, she makes them as mini-rolls-- little one-inch-wide coils-- that are just as tasty as the big versions, only cuter.

Mine are big and manly.

60-minute Rolls

1/2 cup low-fat milk
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. salt
3 tablespoons butter
3 packages active dry yeast (about 6 and 3/4 tsp.)
1 and 1/2 cups warm water
5-6 cups all-purpose flour

Place milk, sugar, salt, and butter in small saucepan. Heat over low heat until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Cool to lukewarm.

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Let sit until proofed (slightly foamy on top). Add lukewarm milk mixture and 4 and 1/2 cups flour. Stir or mix until combined. Add remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until combined. Knead until dough is smooth and elastic. Dough will be slightly sticky to the touch.

Place dough in a greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover. Let rise in a warm place, free from draft, about 15 minutes. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Shape as desired. Cover. Let rise in slightly warm oven (90 degrees F) for about 15 minutes. Bake at 425 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans immediately and cool on wire racks.  While cooling, BRUSH WITH MELTED BUTTER.  Yes, important enough for all caps.  I forgot to brush the rolls above with butter, and, really, butter makes everything better.

Shaping suggestions:
Curlicues: If you have a pizza cutter, use it! It makes cutting this dough a breeze. Divide dough in half and roll each half into a 12"x9" rectangle. (In an attempt to duplicate Wendy's cute rolls, at this point I usually cut each rectangle in half lengthwise, as well.) Cut 12 equal strips about 1 inch wide. (If you've cut the rectangles in half lengthwise, each rectangle will have 24 strips.) Roll each strip tightly to form a coil, tucking ends underneath. Place on greased baking sheet about 2 inches apart.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Spinach Beef Bake

Two weeks ago we had a church potluck. Lucky you! And it's another "bake!" Your favorite!!!!! I'm cheating by re-posting this, but I didn't have a picture before, and now I do, so it's allowed.

Potluck people like this. They really do! When they ask me its name, I tell them "Spinach Stuff." So it is, but it's good spinach stuff. It's a garlic-y, quickly prepared dish that can be used as a main course or a side. One may use fresh, torn, blanched spinach, too, and fresh mushrooms (just cook with the beef), but that increases preparation time. So, if you're in a time pinch, be lazy and use the bagged, boxed, and canned stuff!

2 tubes (7.5 oz. each) refrigerated buttermilk biscuits
1 ½ pounds ground beef
@ ½ cup finely chopped onion
2 eggs
1 package frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (about 10 oz.)
1 can (4 oz.) mushroom stems and pieces, drained
4 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (can also use crumbled feta)
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tsp. garlic powder
Salt and pepper, to taste
1-2 tablespoons butter, melted

1. Press and flatten biscuits over bottom and up sides of a greased 11x7x2 dish (or whatever else works)

2. Cook ground beef with onion and drain.

3. Beat eggs in bowl; add spinach and mushrooms and mix well.

4. Stir in cheeses, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and beef mixture. Mix well.

5. Spoon into crust, drizzle with butter, and bake ucovered at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until crust is well-browned.

Take to the potluck and gobble, gobble, gobble.

Cheesecake with Caramel and Chocolate

Potlucks don't really qualify as special occasions, but I sometimes use them as my excuse to make things I never make at home, like, say, cheesecake. (If you must know why I never make them just for us, it's because 1. They're expensive... but really it's because.... 2. I'd eat nearly ALL of it.) I have a long-standing and permanent love affair with cheesecake of any shape, size, or flavor, and I also wanted to use a bag of caramels** I'd been saving that my sister had given me after Christmas. Life is short, so I combined the two desires into one.

Enter Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake. I didn't want the caramel flavor to be overwhelmed by too much chocolate, but I couldn't bear to leave chocolate out entirely, so I sandwiched a thick vanilla cheesecake between layers of chocolate and caramel. And pardon the pictures. I put the slice on a potluck chair in the middle of the potluck meal in order to take a potluck picture. POTLUCK!

The crust and caramel layer were perfection, and I'd love to make this again, especially considering how long it sat in the warmth before I tasted a bite. I took it out of the fridge before we left for church, and we didn't eat it until almost 1 in the afternoon. That's not the best scenario for cheesecake eating, so I think it deserves another chance to shine. This would allow the cheesecake layer to be more firm, like cheesecake should be. Besides, I always want to give cheesecake a chance to shine. (Admirable of me, yes?)

Lastly, this is more like a Philly or New York-style cheesecake instead of a Chicago, but, really, is it worth the breath to quibble over this and that style when dealing with cheesecake?!

I thought not.

So here's what I did.

About 3 1/2 cups crushed chocolate crumbs (out of thriftiness, I use generic oreos, but chocolate graham cracker crumbs also work, and you could add some finely chopped almonds, too.)

If using generic oreos, stir in about 1/3 cup melted butter, enough to help the mixture stick together. If using chocolate graham cracker crumbs, stir in 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup melted butter.

Press onto the bottom and 1 and 3/4 inch up the sides of a greased 9-inch springform pan. Bake for five minutes in a 350 degree oven and cool completely on a wire rack.

Caramel Layer:
30 individually wrapped caramels (unwrap them, please)
3 tablespoons milk

In a heavy-bottomed pan, heat the caramels and milk over low heat, stirring constantly, until melted and smooth. Set aside 1/3 cup of the melted caramel mixture. Pour the remainder over cooled chocolate crust.


4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, melted
5 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Beat cream cheese and sugar in a large bowl until smooth. Beat in butter, and then add the eggs one at a time, beating until just combined. Mix in vanilla extract. *Don't overbeat the mixture once you've added the eggs. This beats air into the cheesecake batter, which will cause the cheesecake to fall and crack while baking.

Pour cheesecake batter into chocolate/caramel crust and bake in a 350 degree oven for about one hour or until the center is almost set. (Sides should be puffed and set, and center will move slightly when shaken) Cool in a cracked-open oven for ten minutes. Carefully run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the crust. Cool for one more hour and then refrigerate overnight to let the flavors ripen.

Before serving, reheat the reserved caramel mixture. (If you have a microwave, use it! I used a small frying pan.) Cool slightly until no longer hot. Pour the warm mixture into a piping bag or into a plastic baggie with a small hole cut in one corner (OR just use a spoon) and drizzle the mixture on top of the cheesecake. Melt about one cup chocolate chips with about one tablespoon of butter (again, if you have a microwave, use it! If using a stove, melt over low heat to avoid scorching the chocolate). Using your preferred method, drizzle the melted chocolate on top of the cheesecake.

Eat a slice. Then enjoy a second slice for me. And then eat a third slice for my dog, even though I don't have a dog. Finally, immediately drive yourself to the emergency room as your body enters sugar-shock. Tell them I sent you.

Place foil or a cookie sheet under the cheesecake because many springform pans leak.

Dip a knife in warm water before cutting the cheesecake, and wipe and dip again in warm water before making each cut in order to make clean cuts.

** If you don't have caramels but do have heavy cream, make homemade sauce in place of the wrapped ones.  Tho' not as convenient, it's more delicious, plus you get to lick the spoon(s)!