Tuesday, November 26, 2013

From scratch

Being here has forced me to think outside the Betty Crocker box. And I like it. I've had to modify some of my recipes to swap out the processed ingredients that aren't available, and I ain't mad at it.  Let's just assume every recipe is from allrecipes.com, unless otherwise noted.  And let's just assume I'm not a professional food photographer, most of these were snapped while the kids were sitting at the table starving and I'm all like, hold up, mom has to take a picture of a crouton.

I know making cupcakes from scratch is old news, but when I had .79 Duncan Heinz cake mix at my finger tips I just never bothered to try. Things are different here and I don't know if I can go back to the boxed mix after I've seen the light.  Jason requested lemon cupcakes for his birthday (we've been married for 14 years and I am just now learning that lemon is his favorite. I'm not sure exactly what that says...)

Lemon cupcakes with lemon cream icing
3 cups self-rising flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, at room temperature
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1 cup whole milk, divided
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice,
Lemon Cream Icing
2 cups chilled heavy cream
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
*yield 30 cupcakes
Preheat oven to 375. Sift flour and salt together in a bowl. In another bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Mix in the vanilla and lemon zest. Gently beat the flour mixture into the butter mixture, one third at a time, alternating with half the milk and half the lemon juice after each of the first 2 additions of flour. Beat until just combined; do not over mix. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full, and bake for about 17 minutes. To make the icing, beat the cream with an electric mixer set on Low until it begins to thicken. Add the confectioners' sugar and lemon juice, a little at a time. Increase the mixer speed to High, and beat until the icing forms soft peaks, about 5 minutes. Spread on the cooled cupcakes. Refrigerate leftovers.

After all these years of buying Rothbury Farms croutons (a walmart delicacy), it just never dawned on me that you could actually make croutons and that it was actually super easy, super cheap and super yummy. So this is not so much a recipe as it is a wake up call.

Bread slices (we have the best bread here, so point 1 goes to team New Zealand)
Olive oil
Garlic salt
Dried parsley
Preheat oven to 450. Cut bread into cubes, put in a bowl and toss with olive oil, season with garlic salt and parsley.  Mix well then spread onto cooking sheet and bake 7-10 min or until lightly toasted, stirring occasionally.

My morning breakfast used to consist of greek yogurt, Special K granola, some sort of fruit and a side of facebook. I still check for crucial social networking updates while eating breakfast, but my Special K which come to find out isn't really all that special has been replaced with the homemade version. They do have muesli here (not granola. If you ask for granola they look at you like you're speaking greek. I love hearing Maddox ask for muesli bars or correct me when I call it a jacket and not a jersey or snack time instead of tea time, and I especially like when he uses kiwi phrases, like "I'll come straightaway". Still working on the accent, though).  As I was saying...they have muesli but it's expensive and I figured now was as good of a time as ever to put to use all 32 homemade granola pins taking up space on my pinterest board. Here's a combination of about 12 of them.

8 Cups whole grain oats 
2 cups of rice krispies (or "rice bubbles" as the kiwis affectionately call them)
1 cup wheat bran
1 cup ground flax meal (they don't have this so I use ground linseed, but anything along those lines would work)
1/2 Tbs cinnamon
1/2 cup honey 1/2 cup brown sugar

½ cup peanut butter
1/2 cup applesauce (I didn't realize that applesauce wasn't an international language, instead I use mashed bananas)
1 tbsp vanilla
Throw all dry ingredients in a bowl. Combine remaining ingredients and cook over medium heat until just starting to boil. Pour over dry ingredients and stir well to incorporate all dry ingredients. Cook at 250 for 40-60 min.  Serve over yogurt, with milk or plain by the handfuls. I especially like tossing in some pretzels, nuts, dried fruit, chocolate chips, etc for a trail mix to take with us when we go hiking.
*just so you know, I had to stop mid typing to go and make a batch because just talking about it made me crave it. It's that good. 

I didn't know life existed beyond the Hungry Jack pancake mix. But making it from scratch is almost just as easy and oh soooooo worth it.  Important note: it is critical that you can the cooking spray can and instead spread butter on the griddle before each batch if you want to achieve the highest level of crunchy buttery perfection.

Pancakes with buttermilk syrup
3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Combine milk with vinegar in a medium bowl and set aside for 5 minutes to "sour".
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk egg and butter into "soured" milk. Pour the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and whisk until lumps are gone.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and coat with butter. Pour 1/4 cupfuls of batter onto the skillet, and cook until bubbles appear on the surface. Flip with a spatula, and cook until browned on the other side. 

Buttermilk Syrup
1 1/2 cups white sugar
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup butter (real)
2 tablespoons corn syrup (I substituted maple syrup)
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
In a saucepan, stir together the sugar, buttermilk, butter, corn syrup, and baking soda. Bring to a boil, and cook for 7 minutes. Remove from the heat, and stir in the vanilla. And try to refrain from drinking it straight out of the pan. This is pure evil but so good. Consider yourself warned.

And once again Prego gets knocked clean out of the water.  There's no competition when it comes to homemade vs. store bought.

Meat Lover's Spaghetti Sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 small onions, chopped
1/2 pound Italian sausage
1/2 pound ground beef
1 teaspoon dried Italian herb seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 (29 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1 (14.5 ounce) can Italian-style diced tomatoes
1 (14.5 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 C beef broth
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 tsp thyme
¼ c chopped basil
¼ c chopped parsley
¼ c chopped oregano
1 tablespoon white sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat; cook and stir onions and Italian sausage until the sausage is browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer the sausage and onions to a slow cooker. In the same skillet, cook and stir the ground beef, Italian seasoning and 1 teaspoon of garlic powder until the meat is browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer the ground beef into the slow cooker. Stir in the tomato sauce, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, beef broth, thyme, basil, oregano, parsley, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Set the cooker on Low, and cook the sauce for 8 hours. About 15 minutes before serving, stir in the sugar. Serve hot

It's no secret, Mexican food is my vice. I've been having some serious withdrawals. They have a very slim selection of salsa here and not only is it expensive, but with a brand name like "Pam's" you know you're just asking for disappointment. I've been on the hunt for a salsa recipe but since they don't carry jalapenos or tomatillos and the red chili peppers cost $49/kg, I figured it was a hopeless cause. Then I came across this gem and my life has never been the same.

Garden fresh salsa

8 tomatoes
1/2 onion, chopped
½ green bell pepper, chopped
1 (4 ounce) can diced green chilies (which they don't have here)
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 Tbs lime juice
1 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ C chopped oregano
½ C chopped cilantro
1/8-1/4 tsp ground chili (different then chili powder, this is the straight up hard kind that sends smoke coming out of your ears like the cartoons if you use too much)
salt to taste

Submerge tomatoes in boiling water for a few minutes until the skin starts to peel off, then remove skins and coarsely chop. Add all ingredients to the crock pot and cook on low for about 3-4 hours. Store in refrigerator until using. *you could stick it in a blender if you prefer it less chunky. I don't have a blender so I tried sticking my beaters in the crock pot and to this day I'm still cleaning salsa off the walls.

I used to always just use Rhodes Rolls dough to make calzones, but this is so much cheaper and in my opinion so much better.

Calzones with a slow cooker marinara sauce

2 Tbs dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 C ricotta
3 C shredded cheese
olives, pepperoni, mushrooms, peppers etc.
To Make Dough: In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Add the oil, sugar and salt; mix in 1 cup of the flour until smooth. Gradually stir in the rest of the flour, until dough is smooth and workable. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface for about 5 minutes, or until it is elastic. Lay dough in a bowl containing 1 teaspoon olive oil, then flip the dough, cover and let rise for 40 minutes, or until almost doubled. When dough is ready, punch it down and separate it into 4 equal parts. Roll parts out into thin circles on a lightly floured surface. Mix filling ingredients then spoon onto on half of the dough circle, fold over, securing edges by folding in and pressing with a fork. Brush the top of each calzone with beaten egg and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 375 for 30 min.  Serve with marinara sauce for dipping.
Marinara sauce 
2 28oz cans crushed tomatoes  
1 6oz can tomato paste
1/2 onion, chopped  
1/2 Tbs minced garlic  
2 tsp bay leaves  
1/2 C water  
1/4 C chopped basil  
1/4 C chopped oregano  
1/4 C chopped parsley  
1 Tbs brown sugar  
1 Tbs balsamic vinegar 
salt and pepper to taste 
Add all ingredients to the crock pot and simmer on low for 8 hrs

Once again, I thought Bisquick was the holy grail of biscuit mixes and once again I was proven wrong.

Cheddar Biscuits
2 C flour
1 Tbs baking powder

2 tsp sugar
¼ tsp salt
½ C butter, melted
1 C milk
¾ C shredded cheddar cheese (oddly enough they don't have regular cheddar cheese, it's called "Tasty cheese" which I'm a little leary of, so I use colby)
Preheat oven to 450.  Mix dry ingredients. Mix butter and milk then add to dry ingredients an stir until blended then drop by tablespoon fulls onto greased cookie sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until edges are just starting to brown.

And there you have it. Up next: Thanksgiving without Libby's canned pumpkin, Rhodes rolls or Stovetop. Stay tuned.