Category Archives: Recipes

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

It’s spring in Montana, so that means there are some yummy treats being made with our rhubarb.  This is our plant’s third season planted here, and I love seeing it come back bigger and better every year.

The leaves and stalks are huge, they took up half of our dining room table.  I froze a lot of berries last summer from our garden and some produce farms in WA that we visited, so with the strawberries I stored away in the freezer I’ve been making Strawberry-Rhubarb Custard Pie lately.  So good, I love the sweet and tart combination.

Just snapped some quick shots with the ol’ iPhone cameras, and this was the last piece of pie so it was kinda falling apart and I didn’t get to take one of it glistening when it was hot out of the oven.

Pie is not usually the first dessert I make at home for me and my hubby, even though I come from a long line of pie-making and pie-eating dutch women!  There usually has to be a good reason for me to make it, like Thanksgiving, or an abundance of rhubarb.  🙂  The fun thing about pies though, is the more you make them the better you get at it, and it’s good to be familiar with how to make a good dough and master pie crust.

You can find the recipe over at my cousin’s blog, Born in the Wrong Century.  🙂

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Broccoli Cheddar Soup and Pretzel Bread

A little while ago I had mentioned that I made some Broccoli Cheddar Soup and some Pretzel Bread, and wanted to share with you since they turned out so yummy.  The Pretzel Bread was found when I was perusing around this cute blog that I recently stumbled upon, The Apron Archives (isn’t that the cutest name?).  I made sure to pin it so I wouldn’t forget about it.  Turns out I couldn’t stop thinking about it and needed to try making some soon.  So I made it to go with a Broccoli Cheddar Soup the other weekend, and the two made for many heart-warming meals.

The bread is a great one for dipping into soups and making sandwiches with.  I think what I like most about it is that it’s a pretty quick and easy homemade bread to make.  Where most homemade breads are nearly an all day process, the process for Pretzel Bread takes only a few hours.  (Your active working time with it is only a fraction of that three hours).  It was fun to make too, as there’s a little excitement when you get to drop your dough into the pot of boiling water.  Now I want to try making pretzels soon. =)

I won’t write out the Pretzel Bread recipe, as you can find it over here and here.  I highly recommend it, especially if you like making bread but don’t like spending a lot of time on it.

::Broccoli Cheddar Soup::

1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2-3 leeks, quarter lengthwise, rinse, then chop
4 garlic cloves, minced
6-ish potatoes, preferably yukon golds, diced
2 large heads broccoli, chopped
1 qt. chicken stock
6-ish c. whole milk
1-2 T fresh parsley and thyme, chopped
grated cheddar cheese

In a hot pot over med-high heat, sauté onions until translucent, about 4-5 min. Add in leeks and garlic and saute another 4-5 min.  Add in the potatoes and broccoli, a pinch of s+p, and let cook and steam until they’re a little tender, about 7 min., stirring frequently.  Sprinkle in the flour, stir and cook for a few minutes to cook out the raw flour flavor.  Pour in chicken stock and let cook until hot, then stir in whole milk.  Let simmer until the potatoes and broccoli are tender enough to eat and the soup has thickened a little.  Ladle about a third of the soup into a blender and puree.  Pour back into pot.  If you prefer a completely creamy and smooth soup, use an immersion blender, take the pot off the heat and puree the soup until smooth.  (For this soup, my hubby and I prefer the chunks of veggies to bite into, so I puree just some of the soup to make it a little more creamy).  Sprinkle in the fresh herbs, season with salt and pepper to taste.  To serve, garnish with a big pinch of cheddar cheese and enjoy.

I love adding the cheese to the soup as it’s dished up and let it melt in the bowl, as I think the cheese flavor just sort of disappears when added into the big hot soup pot.  This is my kind of dinner (and lunch) for all the cold winter days we’re having.  Enjoy!

Whiskey Barbecue Sliders

There have been quite a few recipes I’ve seen on some good blogs and websites lately that just got stuck in my head and wouldn’t go away.  So I gave in and cooked them up to enjoy over the weekend and for the Superbowl.  I ended up making a pot of Broccoli Cheddar Soup, Pretzel Bread, some cookies (of course), and these Whiskey BBQ Sliders.  I want to post the soup and Pretzel Bread later but for now, it’s all about the whiskey and the barbecue.

I first came across the Sliders over at Taco Tuesday and they totally caught my eye and made my mouth water, so I checked ’em out over at Pioneer Woman too.  With the jalapeños, whiskey, and a whole lot of barbecue sauce I was sure that my hubby would be excited for this dinner.  Ended up that he was, so much that he got in the kitchen to cook with me. =)

He loved how the entire house smelled while they were cooking too, “The house smells awesome right now, if there was a cologne that smelled just like this, I’d want it… I want to grab all my clothes and hang them up out here so they’ll smell as good as the house does right now.”  So funny, I’m not sure he loves that I blog about his comments, but I get a kick out of them.

We made them more like small-ish burgers, but I like to call ’em sliders anyway, it just sounds more exciting.  I love that they’re so saucy, and the sautéed onions add flavor and more texture in the sauce, the jalepenos and whiskey add a little kick.  Next time though I’ll use the ‘hot’ jalepenos rather than the ‘tame’ ones, maybe just chop them up to add into the sauce.  Sweet potato fries dipped in blue cheese dressing go great with these too.

I think this will be a sort of regular dinner around here.  Its fun to have a new way to cook up some of the beef in the freezer, and one that’s really quick and easy too.  I know you want the recipe now, it’s right here and here.  Oh and don’t forget, you’ll need heaps of napkins for this.  =)

Chocolate {Birthday} Cake with Italian Cocoa-Kahlua Buttercream and Ganache

It is not too often a Chocolate Cake comes around that has me describing it as perfect.  And ever since I started making desserts in some of the local restaurants, Chocolate Cake comes around a lot.  This Chocolate Birthday Cake does have me using the word perfect so many times.  It is made with hot coffee and Kahlua, what girl or chocolate-lover wouldn’t call this perfect?

My husband’s birthday was last weekend, and this was his fifth annual Birthday Cake.  I have made it for him every year since we met, and it’s a tradition that will definitely keep on going.  He loves it and really looks forward to it every year.

Chocolate and coffee are so lovely together.  Coffee enhances the flavor of chocolate, and chocolate compliments coffee perfectly, in my opinion.  That combination makes this cake wonderful.  Not to mention that the recipe and method is so easy and simple.  A mixer is not even needed, as all you really use is two large mixing bowls and a whisk.

This cake has rich chocolate flavor, a lovely velvety texture, and the crumb and consistency is just right, as it’s not too dense and not too light and crumbly.  It is perfect for layering, shaping, sculpting, and slicing, which means it would be perfect for a wedding cake with a lot of layers and tiers.

…Notice how many times I use the word perfect?  I really can’t help it!  You’d think I was trying to sell something here.  Well, although I’m not selling anything and getting any richer with this, I hope you print this recipe and give it a try.  And I know I talked it up a lot, so you’ll have to let me know your review once you enjoy a slice of this chocolate heaven.  =)


::Chocolate (Birthday) Cake::
{from Colette Peters book, Cakes to Dream On, modified slightly}

2 c. AP flour
1 t baking soda
pinch of salt

1 3/4 c. hot coffee
1/4 c. Kahlua
5 oz unsweetened baking chocolate, chopped into small pieces
8 oz unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, then to room temp

1 3/4 c. sugar
2 eggs, at room temp
2 t vanilla

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.  Coat two 8″ round cake pans with butter and line the bottoms with parchment paper.  (Cut parchment in a round to fit inside the bottom of the cake pan.)

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, soda, and salt.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, add in the chopped chocolate, Kahlua, and softened butter.  Pour in the hot coffee, make sure it’s very hot.  Give it a little stir, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let set for about ten minutes until all the mixture is melted.  Stir around until smooth.  (If you still end up with it not all melted you can set your bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water and stir the chocolate coffee mixture until it’s all smooth.)

Whisk in the sugar, let the mixture cool completely.  Whisk in the dry mix in two batches.  Then whisk in the eggs and vanilla.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a tester comes out of the center clean.  Rotate the cake pans after 30 minutes if necessary.

Let the cakes cool completely in their pans, set on a wire rack.  After cooling completely, and even letting them refrigerate for a while, you can remove the cakes from the pans.  Run a butter knife along the inside edge of the pan, then set a flat plate or small cutting board over the cake pan, invert, and tap gently upside down.  When you feel the cake fall down, lift up the pan.  Chill the cake layers completely before icing and decorating.

::Cocoa-Kahlua Buttercream::

My basic ratio for Simple Buttercream is 1 lb softened butter for every 2 lbs (about 8 cups) powdered sugar and 1 T vanilla.  I use that basic ratio and just go by it’s creamy, fluffy consistency as I make it.  Buttercream is often made with an egg, but I do not use any.

1 lb butter, softened/room temp
1 lb, 12 oz powdered sugar (or 7 c.)
1/2 c. cocoa
1 or 1 1/2 T Kahlua

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, cream the softened butter until it’s light and fluffy.  Gradually add in the sugar and the cocoa, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go.  Add in the Kahlua and continue beating until it is light and smooth.  Do not chill before using.

To ice the cake, it is good to do a crumb coat on the chilled cake first.  Spread icing on the top of one layer, set the other layer on top.  Then simply spread on a thin layer of buttercream on the whole stacked cake, not worrying if the icing picks up some crumbs or not.  Refrigerate that for a bit, then gently spread on your Cocoa Kahlua Buttercream.

For this buttercream, I got to use some Italian Cocoa that my cousin sent me for Christmas.  =)


::Simple Chocolate Ganache::

1 c. chocolate chips (at home I use ghirardelli 60% bittersweet)
1 c. heavy cream

Set the cream in a small saucepan over med-high heat.  Set your chocolate in a medium bowl.  Once the cream reaches a simmer/light boil, pour it over the chocolate and let set a few minutes.  Stir until it’s all melted and smooth.  Use as desired in decorating, or pour in a squeeze bottle to drizzle over the cake as you serve it.

I still want to try making this cake with some Grand Marnier in place of the Kahlua.  Then layer it with Orange Buttercream, using fresh, concentrated orange juice in the place of vanilla, and adding in some orange zest.  I love dark chocolate and orange together.

Cheers and happy baking. =)

THE Perfect Holiday Treat : Apple Zeppoles

I am so excited to share these with you.  Good things are even better when shared, right?  These little babies are so, SO yummy!

I think if my blog ends up being good and useful for one thing, I’d hope that it’s this recipe that gets put to use!

I made these Apple Zeppoles at work this last fall, and now over this holiday season I’ve made them (big batches) two weekends in a row.  Last weekend I cooked up more than 50 for a holiday get together with some friends, and they were a huge, HUGE hit!  Everyone really loves them.  Not to mention my husband who said, as I was cooking all these up and he had a couple, “Maybe we shouldn’t go anywhere…  We could just stay home and eat these.”  Ha!  Good suggestion, honey.  😉  So this weekend we had some friends over for a little dinner, and I had to make them again, of course.

Zeppoles are an Italian dessert like a small fritter or doughnut, and are made with a Pâte à Choux dough.  This pastry dough can be made sweet for lovely treats like profiteroles, or cream puffs, eclairs, beignets, or zeppoles; or it can be made savory for something like cheese popovers.

I started making choux pastry several years ago while working in restaurants, always using it to bake into profiteroles.  But over this past fall season I was having fun using apples in new yummy ways, and I realized how versatile this dough is and what an amazing little zeppole treat it can be turned into.

They’re so comforting and perfect for this time of year, all warm, soft and airy on the inside, with the outside all crisp and rolled in cinnamon and sugar.  If you haven’t made these before, or any choux pastry, don’t shy away!  It is really easy.  Frying up a big batch of the Apple Zeppoles does take a little time, but trust me it is very well worth it!

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::Apple Zeppoles::
(Adapted and modified from Giada’s Apple Zeppole)

  • 4-5 apples, or 3 c. peeled and grated apples, Granny Smiths work well
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. unsalted butter
  • 1 c. water
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 2 c. AP flour
  • 8 eggs
  • Canola Oil for frying, can combine a little olive oil and/or vegetable oil with it
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar + 1-2 T cinnamon combined in a pie dish

In a large saucepan or deep frying pan, pour in the oil(s) to 2-3 inches deep.  Use a candy thermometer and heat the oil to 360 deg F over medium heat.  Crack all eggs into a bowl and set aside.  Grate all peeled and cored apples (food processor is quick).  I squeeze out the liquid in the grated apple by handfuls as I move it all to a bowl.  You can stir in a little lemon juice and set aside.

For pate choux: In a med/large saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, water, and salt and heat until it’s all melted and starts to boil.  Once it reaches a boil, take off heat and stir in two c. flour with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula.  Keep stirring, set back on hot burner, for 2-ish minutes until the dough forms a ball and is all clumped together.

Transfer the mixture into the bowl of your stand mixer and using the paddle, turn on medium speed and add in the eggs one by one.  Incorporate each egg completely before adding the next.  Beat until smooth and slowly stir in the grated apples.

Set out a baking sheet with paper towels on it, have a soft-tipped tongs or a ‘spider’ ready to use.  Once the oil reaches 350 – 360 deg F, drop in spoonfuls of dough, about 1-2 T each, using a small cookie scooper or a tablespoon.  You want them about 2″ around once cooked.  They will drop to the bottom of the pan and pop back up.  I let each one pop up to the surface before adding the next.  Work in batches so not to over crowd the pan.  Let cook for about 2 minutes then flip over for another 2 min., using the nylon-tipped tongs or the spider.  They will puff up and be very golden brown when done, remove and lay onto paper towel lined baking sheet.  Roll them in the cinnamon + sugar while still warm.  Move them to a serving platter or baking dish and enjoy!

Notes:  Monitor the oil temperature while cooking, it will drop once all the dough is added in so you can turn the heat up a bit while they’re cooking.  If you want to cook up the remaining batter later, the oil can be cooled and set aside (covered) and the batter can be covered with plastic wrap and set in the fridge and used within four or five days.

So the method part is a little long-winded, but don’t run away from this thinking they’re too much work!!  I so hope you make these, you (along with your friends and family) will be glad you did.  =)

And if you so desire, make up some delicious whip cream to complete them:

::Cinnamon Whipped Cream::

1 to 1 1/2 c. whipping cream
3-4 T powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla
1-2 t cinnamon (optional: cardamom, nutmeg, allspice, ginger.. they’re all good here)

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk, whip the cream to medium-stiff peaks.  Halfway through add in the powdered sugar, vanilla and cinnamon spices.  Set in a bowl and enjoy immediately or set in fridge for later.

Enjoy!  And I hope you’re having a lovely week-before-Christmas.  =)

Cheesy Baked Tortellinis

Since we’re in the midst of the busy holiday season, I wanted to share a favorite dinner recipe with you.  It’s not so much a great idea for all of the holiday parties, potlucks, and plans for entertaining as it is a great one for the busy weeknights where you just need a delicious home cooked, satisfying, and easy dinner.

When I’m in the mood for some comfort food, a little pasta, or just want to make a really quick and easy dinner, I make this Baked Cheese Tortellini dish.  It’s comfort food at it’s best and I love it.  And my husband loves it too, he’s always very happy when I tell him it’s what’s for dinner.

I originally found the recipe here, and just simplified it a bit and made it how I like it.  I often buy these Cheese Tortellinis when I’m at my cousin’s Italian specialty food store, All Things Italian.  I think it’d also be great with some of the fresh tortellinis you can buy in the refrigerated section in the grocery store.  Then this dish would be even quicker and easier to make.  =)

::Cheesy Tortellinis::

~ 1/2 lb cheese tortellinis
2 c. marinara sauce
4 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced
1/4 c. grated parmesan
optional: fresh basil or parsley

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Cook the tortellinis in boiling (salted) water until al dente, about ten minutes.  Drain, leaving just a tad bit of the pasta water in the pan.  Return the cooked pasta to the pan and gently stir in the marinara.  Pour into a small baking dish, sprinkle on the parm, s + p, and lay on the slices of fresh mozzarella.  (If using fresh pasta, just set in the baking dish, pour in the marinara, give it a little stir, and top with the cheese).  Bake for about 20-30 min.  I opened the oven door at the end and finished it under the broiler for a couple minutes.  Garnish with optional fresh basil or parsley.

This is so great when you’re in the mood for something easy and cheesy!  Enjoy! =)

Homemade Beef Stock

The day before I made the big pot of Beef and Bean Chili, I cooked up a pot of Beef Stock for the first time.  It turned out good, and to my surprise was very easy and very much worth the effort.  Homemade beef bone stock is inexpensive to make, and when made right and with good quality ingredients, it is nourishing and has health benefits as it’s rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, gelatin which is good for your hair, nails, and joints, and glucosamine and chondroitin which is also beneficial for your joints.  There is a good article here at Nourished Kitchen on the benefits and advantages to making your own bone stock.

When I asked the Chef that I work for now for some suggestions on making beef stock, he said roast the bones first, and that he wouldn’t use much for fresh herbs in it, especially if you’re making a lot of it and freezing it for later.  Then if you go to use it later on it would be good to use for just about anything, from a Stir Fry to a big ol’ pot of Chili or Beef Stew, or some gravies and sauces.  He also suggested simmering it down for a long time to a very concentrated stock would be helpful if you are making a ton and your freezer space is limited.  Then when you go to use it, just add water to reconstitute it.

(There’s a little foam on there, you’re supposed to skim off the foam as it simmers, especially in the beginning.  It’s kind of difficult to get an appealing photo of simmering beef stock indoors and at night!)  =)

Well I kind of cheated and made up a quicker version.  I didn’t roast the bones first, I didn’t add in vinegar (which helps the nutrients and minerals to leach out of the bones into the broth), and I didn’t let it simmer for 48 hours.  I just threw my beef soup bones into my stock pot along with chopped yellow onion, garlic cloves, carrots, celery, peppercorns, and filled the pot with cold filtered water.  I brought it to a boil in the evening, reduced it to a light simmer and let it go overnight.  After it simmered for about 14 hours, I strained it the next day, set it in the fridge to cool completely, then took it out to remove the top layer of fat.  Voila, a beautiful and flavorful soup stock!

It was really nice having a stock simmering overnight in the house too, made it feel really home-y.  I woke up a couple times in the night to check on it and it felt kinda like there was really something special waiting for me in the morning, and the house smelled that way too!

I did get some soup bones with all the meat from the yearling we got in the freezer, but for this stock I just stopped in to the local meat processing shop and asked the butcher for some beef soup bones.  The bones have the marrow in them, and the more knuckles the better since those will give you a very gelatinous stock.  It’s so easy to use those soup bones from the butcher since there’s no preparation with them and they are very inexpensive!

It turned out great and made the Chili very yummy.  Next time I’m going to try roasting the bones first, use a little vinegar in it, and let it go for about 24 hours.  =)

…Our furry friend Jackson really appreciates that I grab a bag of the marrow bones to keep in the freezer for him too!