11.28.2011

Cookie Round Up

"C is for cookie. That's good enough for me."
- Cookie Monster


Can you believe it's almost December? I have been warned by the wise women around me that time will fly when I get "older". Well, I must be older now because this year just dashed by and December is beckoning at my door. And that means exchanging and eating lots of cookies.

So here is a round up of cookies for you and some tips on making yummy cookies.






Meyer Lemon Ricotta & Brownie Cookies
Helpful Tips on making yummy cookies

1. If you are making a large volume of cookies, use a kitchen scale to weigh your dry ingredients.
Print this baking conversion chart and convert your ingredients into weight rather than volume. It will save you a lot of time and your baking results will be more accurate.

2. Most cookie recipes can be mixed, made into dough balls, and refrigerated or frozen until ready to bake. Get a few cookie scoops to make it easier. Bake dough balls frozen and add few more minutes to baking time.

3. If you are not able to freeze the cookie dough (some recipes won't allow this) , measure dry & wet ingredients ahead, store in Ziplock storage bags until ready to bake.

4. When incorporating dry mixture into wet (butter, sugar, eggs), use folding technique using a rubber spatula just until flour mixture disappear. Over mixing or beating will result in tough cookies. In IPC kitchen, we use our gloved hands and gently fold in dry ingredients since we bake in large volume.

5. Use parchment paper for easy clean up! Parchment rolls in grocery stores are so expensive and so cumbersome to use. Look for paper & chemical companies in your Yellow Pages. They sell parchment paper sheets(or also called baking liner sheets) in a box of 1000 (16x24, I cut these in half to fit my cookie pans) for $40. I split this box with a friend and we have cheap parchment paper to last us several years. Or here is a package of 100 @ Amazon.

Have a wonderful December!
Let me preach to myself and say "Don't let the busyness make you forget the loved ones around you".


11.23.2011

Spiced Pumpkin Cake and Thanksgiving Journal


“Eucharisteo—thanksgiving—always precedes the miracle.” - Ann Voskamp


Several months ago, I read this book written by Ann Voskamp. It is the best book I have ever read on the topic of Thanksgiving. And taking on the dare to live thankfully and intentionally, I began a gratitude journal, counting and writing down the gifts that God bestows me every
day of my life.


Thank you, Lord for.....

#567 talking and laughing together with my two teenage sons until midnight
#568 a newly painted laundry room
#579 a driving teen daughter going to the grocery store for a gallon of milk
#580 the family dog's wagging tail
#581 the cool weather, 70's in November

Though I have neglected to count thousands of other blessings during these past months, this has been a wonderful way to force my busy mind and body to stop and to remind myself of the gifts. And to give thanks.

And I am grateful to share this easy and delicious pumpkin cake recipe with you today. My church family loved this moist and wonderfully fragrant cake topped with cream cheese frosting.


Quick tip: For large volume baking, combine flour, spices, salt and baking powder and soda in a large bowl. In another bowl, we use this 20-quart bowl, beat with hand mixer sugars, oil, pure pumpkin, vanilla extract, and eggs. Then, we sift the flour into the wet mixture and fold until whites of flour are almost gone.



Spray lightly with oil 23x12x2 pans, and equally dived the batter. Baking time is a little longer on these large, rectangular pans. Make sure toothpick tester comes out clean.


The cake was better and more moist days after baking!


#582 for friendships made through this blog....
A sincere thank you, my dear friends who read this blog. You are an incredible blessings and encouragement to me. Happy Thanksgiving!


Spiced Pumpkin Cake

Cake:
3 cups all purpose flour (15 oz)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 3/4 teaspoons ground allspice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 cup canola oil
4 large eggs
1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon grated orange peel

Frosting:
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
10 tablespoons (5 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon dark rum (optional)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract or vanilla paste
4 1/2 cups(18 oz) powdered sugar (measured, then sifted)

For cake:

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F.

Butter two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides. Line bottom of pans with parchment paper; dust pans with flour. Sift 3 cups flour and next 7 ingredients into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat both sugars and oil in large bowl until combined (mixture will look grainy). Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until well blended after each addition. Add pumpkin, vanilla, and orange peel; beat until well blended. Add flour mixture;using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour mixture. Divide batter between prepared pans. Smooth tops.

Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool cakes completely in pans on rack. Run knife around cakes to loosen. Invert cakes onto racks; remove parchment paper. Turn cakes over, rounded side up. Using serrated knife, trim rounded tops of cakes to level.

For frosting:
Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until smooth. Beat in dark rum (if using) and vanilla. Add powdered sugar in 3 additions, beating just until frosting is smooth after each addition (do not overbeat or frosting may become too soft to spread). Place 1 pumpkin cake layer, flat side down, on platter. Spread half of cream cheese frosting over top of cake to edges. Top with second cake layer, trimmed side down. Spread remaining frosting over top (not sides) of cake.

Make Ahead Tips:

This cake be made and fully assembled and frozen up to 2 weeks or refrigerated up to 3 days. Cover well with food service film and put another cover of foil and wrap tightly. Bring to room temperature before serving.

To make sheet cakes as shown above in 24x12x2 pans, multiply recipe x2 per pan and frosting recipe x 1.5

11.14.2011

Pie Crust Making and IPC Holiday Hospitality 2011

“Good apple pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness” ~Jane Austen

Last weekend, I participated in IPC's Second Annual Hospitality event by giving a quick tutorial on pie crust making. Along with a cooking demonstration, we also had flower arrangement and bow making classes as well.

Mr. Mitchell, our beloved retired banker-turned-florist, taught us how to make beautiful floral centerpieces.

Beautiful Leah learning how to make holiday bows from Mrs. Scott.

Here are few helpful tips you can use to make your pie making easier this holiday season...


Use a scale to measure your ingredients! This is the key to all baking success, especially when baking in large volume. Whether you are measuring flour, sugar, butter, or cocoa powder, a scale is the quickest way to get accurate amount the recipe calls for.


Here are several choices of simple and inexpensive kitchen scales you can purchase online.

Chill your fats, by keeping shortening in the freezer (measure out, wrap and freeze ahead) and butter in the refrigerator until ready to process.


Use the food processor.
For quick blending of fats and flour, cut the butter and shortening into small chunks and "pulse" the mixture until coarse crumbles forms. (Don't over process!).


Wanna know a secret ingredient to making your pie crust flakey and light? Vodka....I know I am a church cook.....

With only 60% water, vodka gives supple and moist dough for easy for rolling with less gluten which makes the crust light and flakey without any alcohol taste. Give it a try, you will love the airy and scrumptious crust.

Roll out the dough on a cutting board and freeze before cutting the strips for lattice pies. The cuts will be crisp and neat.

Even though clear Pyrex pie dish is the best, when making several pies, use deep dish aluminum pans. Shape, cover well, and freeze until ready to bake.
And remember, the dough should be lightly handled, the less you knead the better. You want to keep the butter and shortening in dough cool as possible.


When you have pie crusts already made, making Classic Apple Pie is a snap....

And how about a pecan pie?

Cherry Pie? Easy as pie!


Here are the two must-have crust recipes:


Fool Proof Pie Crust (Makes double crust)
Butter/Shortening Recipe

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12.5 ounces)
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (6 oz), cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening (3.2 oz) , cut into 2 pieces
1/4 cup vodka , cold
1/4 cup ice cold water

1. Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor; pulse to mix. Add butter and shortening and pulse 8-10 times, until mixture resembles coarse meal, with small pea size pieces of butter. Empty the mixture in a medium bowl.

2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide and flatten dough into two 4-inch disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 2 days. (Note: the dough will be very tacky, lightly flour when making dividing and flattening the discs)

3. Remove one crust disk from the refrigerator. Let sit at room temperature for 5 minutes in order to soften just enough to make rolling out a bit easier. Roll out with a rolling pin on a floured surface to a 12-inch circle; about 1/8 of an inch thick. As you roll out the dough, check if the dough is sticking to the surface below. If necessary, add a few sprinkles of flour under the dough to keep the dough from sticking. Carefully place onto a 9-inch pie plate. Gently press the pie dough down so that it lines the bottom and sides of the pie plate. Use a pair of kitchen scissors to trim the dough to within 1/2 inch of the edge of the pie dish.

4 Add filling to the pie.

5 Roll out second disk of dough, as before. Gently place onto the top of the filling in the pie. Gently pinch top and bottom of dough rounds firmly together, then trim excess dough with kitchen shears, leaving a 3/4 inch overhang. Fold the edge of the top piece of dough over and under the edge of the bottom piece of dough, pressing together. Flute edges using thumb and forefinger or press with a fork. Score the top of the pie with four 2-inch long cuts, so that steam from the cooking pie can escape.

Brush on egg white and sprinkle with white sugar right before baking yields glossy and beautiful crust when baked.


Fran's No Fail Pie Crust
(All shortening recipe/makes double crust)
This is perfect when you need pre-baked crust for custard or chocolate pies.
You won't need pie weight when pre-baking this. Shape the dough in the pie pan, freeze at least an hour, pre-bake, then add your filling.

4 cups. all-purpose unbleached flour (20 oz)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Baking powder
2 cups of vegetable shortening (13 oz), freeze and cut into small pieces
1 egg
1 Tbsp vinegar
5 Tbsps. of ice cold water

1. Combine flour, salt, baking powder in a food processor; pulse to mix. Add shortening and pulse 8-10 times, until mixture resembles coarse meal. Empty the mixture in a medium bowl.

2. In a small bowl, lightly beat egg, vinegar and cold water. Add to the coarse meal mixture and blend with a rubber spatula until mixture forms a supple dough. Divide dough in half, and shape into two 4-inch discs. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate at least one hour.

3. Roll out dough on a floured counter. Use as directed in pie recipe.

Brush on egg white and sprinkle with white sugar right before baking yields glossy and beautiful crust when baked.


11.09.2011

Five Course Dinner for 60 @ Endeavor

When you have a teenage daughter, what do you want to share and teach her before she leaves home? What things do you tell her when her dreams are big and life is full of wonder and excitement? As a mother, how do I equip my girl to be a confident, well rounded and Christ-loving young woman?

So when an organization like Teenpact, asks the same questions for their young members and intentionally seek to equip and teach them, you get on board! Quickly and enthusiastically.

My daughter and I were truly blessed to attend a one of Teenpact alumni events called Endeavor. She as an attendee, and I as one of the moms to cook and spend time with 40 lovely young ladies for five days.

The conference attendees had the most amazing accommodation and stayed in this breathtaking house on Oconee Lake.

During five wonderful days, my daughter and the other attendees learned to cook.....
Had fantastic time building friendships from all across the states.....

Learned table manners, fashion, poise......

Auto care and how to shoot rifles and pistols......

Learned to set beautiful tables and had a tea brunch....

Learned about flower arranging, and played ultimate frisbee and football.......

Photography........and most importantly, heard wonderful messages of encouragement and exhortation to become godly women, sisters, daughters, and leaders.

And one of the evenings, the Endeavor Moms and I had the best time preparing a five-course dinner for these young ladies. And the director and the staff of the conference served the dinner, 5-star rating on the service, mind you.


With beautiful harp music playing.....

Our first course was Spanakopita Triangles


Iceburg Wedge Salad with Homemade Ranch and Bacon Bits

Blackened Chicken with Israeli Couscous with Grilled Vegetables

And to finish our dinner with White Chocolate Cheesecake with Raspberry Coulis


Beyond all the fun activities and foods, my daughter and I came back home desiring to be better disciples of Christ and better lover of His people. It was truly a very special time for us.

Endeavor is one of many Teenpact alumni events, which seeks to teach and equip young people to be leaders. If you want to teach your children about leadership, click here for more information on TEENPACT.

11.05.2011

Booyah, Savannah Style!

This hearty beef rib and chicken soup is a favorite among the Northerners but hey, we could have it here in South, too! After all, the temperature did fall way down to 60 degrees today and my family needed something like this to warm their tummies. Inspired by Cook's Country recipe, I decided to give this a try at home, in hopes to convert this recipe suitable for my church family of later on.
I began with 2 pounds of back ribs and rotisserie chicken. De-bone the chicken, shred the meat and set aside. Discard the skin but reserve the carcass.


Boiled the back ribs with 4 cups of water for 15 minutes. Discard the water, cleaning out the foam inside the pot with paper towel, add 8 cups of cold water to the pot, then add chicken carcass, one onion chopped, 2 stalks of celery, and two bay leaves and boil to make rich stock.

After about an hour, the stock is reduced to about 4 cups. To defat the broth, lay a paper towel over its surface, quickly lift it up by a corner (the fat will adhere), and discard. Repeat with more paper towels, as needed.
Chop veggies: onions, celery ribs, green cabbage, carrots, rutabaga, and potatoes. Yes, hearty and healthy!
Heat 3 tablespoon of olive in the pot, stir in prepared veggies (potatoes and peas later) until fragrant, 4-5 minutes. Add 4 cups of homemade broth and 4 ups more of low-sodium chicken broth, 2 cans of 28-oz diced tomatoes. Also add shredded chicken and beef meat from ribs.
You know how I LOVE freshly ground nutmeg! Microplane does the perfect job for this.


15 minutes before serving, add diced potatoes. Season well with salt and pepper. And right before serving, add rinsed frozen peas. Squeeze in some Sriracha sauce to your taste. Serve with lots and lots of warm crust French bread.

PRINT THIS RECIPE!

Booyah, Savannah Style
Makes 10+ quarts

2 pounds beef short ribs (or 3 to 4 pieces of back ribs)
1 whole rotisserie chicken, de-boned, skin discarded, meat shredded (reserve carcass)
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onion, chopped fine, divided
5 celery ribs (2 whole for stock and 3 minced)
4 cups shredded green cabbage
4 cups homemade stock
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1/2 of rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 cloves of garlic, grated/minced
2 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg.
1 cup frozen peas
2 teaspoon of Sriracha sauce

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Take 2 pounds of short rib and 4 cups of cold water in 10-12 quart stock pot. Bring it to boil, then discard the water and foam, leaving the ribs in the pot. Add 8 cups of cold water, chicken carcass, 1 diced onion, 2 celery ribs, 2 bay leaves, and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to bring the stock to a good rolling simmer. Simmer uncovered about 1-1/2 hours, occasionally skimming off the foam that comes to the surface. Strain the stock in a fine sieved colander into a large bowl. Defat the stock using the paper towel method as shown.

2. Cool ribs and cut off the meat from bone and finely shred the meat. Set aside the meat, discard the bones along with vegetable remnants.

3. In the empty stock pot, heat 2 tablespoon of olive oil, add onions, carrots, celery, rutabaga and cook over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add grated garlic. Stir in homemade and canned broth and canned diced tomatoes.

4. Add shredded beef, cabbage, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until rutabaga is translucent around edges, about 30 minutes. Stir in potatoes, shredded chicken and cook until all vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. And right before serving, add peas to stir and heat. Off heat, stir in Sriracha sauce to taste. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with crusty French Bread.