Quick Crisp Saturday, Feb 11 2017 

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Family cooks have brought about many of our favorite and comfort foods as the result of limited ingredients on hand, rethinking the use of ingredients, and errors in baking. You may know that the original chocolate chip cookie baker intended to make chocolate cookies but the chocolate never melted. The chocolate chip, instead of chocolate, cookie soon topped the list of all-time favorite treats.

I recently purchased a mega box of packaged serving size instant oatmeal forgetting how much I dislike it. Instant oatmeal makes a softer textured dish rather than the chewier old-fashioned version which I prefer.

So what to do with all this oatmeal? Today I turned some of it into a very quick Blueberry Crisp. I didn’t measure but can give you a general guide to follow.

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The simple recipe begins by spraying ramekins or a baking pan with non-stick spray. Toss blueberries or sliced peaches or apples (I used frozen organic blueberries), in a sprinkle of sugar. Fill dishes about 3/4 full. Blend a couple of tablespoons of softened butter and/or coconut oil with each package of instant, flavored oatmeal. (I used maple brown sugar.) If using unsweetened oatmeal, you will need to add sugar. You also may want to sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake at 350 until the topping browns.

Depending on the amount of butter and sugar added, this is a relatively healthy snack or breakfast that literally takes minutes to prepare. You can bake ahead and have them ready whenever you want. Just top with plain yogurt and serve.

(Check out my posts on Mary K Doyle Books or like me on Facebook to see all my posts.)

Want Some Bugs with That Cake? Saturday, Apr 23 2016 

The concept of red velvet cake escapes me. Don’t get me wrong; I’m a fan of the flavors. But what’s wrong with chocolate cake and cream cheese frosting without dying the cake red?

Red velvet cake requires 2-4 tablespoons of red food coloring to transform the brown chocolate to red. And do you know what that red food coloring is made from? Bugs.

Red food colorants are typically made from chocineal, carmine, or carminic acid, all of which are made from crushed carcasses of a South and Central American insect known as the female dactylopious coccus. It takes about 70,000 insects to make one pound of cochineal.

The Aztecs and Mayans produced the red dye for coloring fabrics as far back as the 15th century. It became popularly used in foods in recent times as a safer alternative to those found to be carcinogenic. Today FD&C Red Dye #40 is also used. This dye is not made from insects but rather coal.

Red food coloring is used in most red drinks and candies as well as red velvet cakes. Check the labels to know for sure.And enjoy those tasty treats.

(Follow my posts on Mary K Doye Books and my Facebook author and book pages)

©2016, Mary K. Doyle

 

Cookie Diet and Exercise Program Friday, Dec 18 2015 

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I’ve been on a cookie diet. Since the middle of November, I’ve baked and eaten cookies day and night. I use only the finest ingredients—hormone-free butter, unbleached flour, organic eggs, fresh nuts, and—lots of chocolate.

Everyone has their favorites. I try to make them all and test frequently to ensure top-quality. The cookie sheets haven’t been put away in weeks. Double-dipped, shortbread, spritz with white chocolate, chocolate covered chocolate, sesame seed, candy cane, almond, pizzelles, and white and semi-sweet chocolate chip. There are many more I have yet to make.

There’s a considerable amount time and fine ingredients in these cookies. And all that mixing and lifting of heavy cookie trays takes a lot of energy, so I know I’m burning more calories than taking in. Right? I ask you, can this program be wrong?

So many cookies. So little time.

***

Here’s Grandma Roses “S” Cookie recipe, a family favorite. It’s a fragile cookie, and a little tricky to make, but melts in your mouth.

Grandma Rose’s “S” Cookies
2 Sticks Sweet Cream Unsalted Butter (I use 1 1/2 sticks butter and 1/2 stick margarine for a little firmer cookie.)
¼ Cup Powdered Sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla
2 Cups Flour
1 Egg Yolk

Mix ingredients. Mold into “S” shapes. Bake at 325 until set(not brown). Remove from oven. Cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar until fully coated.

©2015, Mary K. Doyle

Good Enough to Eat? Tuesday, Aug 18 2015 

For decades I cooked for a full table of family and friends every day. At that time I always had a packed refrigerator and pantry from which to select ingredients.

Now I eat alone most weekdays but can serve a crowd on weekends. This makes keeping fresh ingredients on hand more challenging. If I don’t cook much for a few weeks, excess items may go to waste before using them.

Fortunately, we have some dried, boxed, and frozen foods that have a longer shelf life. Chopped onion and green pepper is available in the freezer section which offers an easy way to use small portions without wasting a whole onion or pepper. Boxed whipping cream and milk may be stored in your cabinets until opened. And some products that we only use in certain recipes, such as buttermilk and tomato paste, are available in powdered form. Mixed with water, they are nearly identical to the fresh product.

Whatever food is used, it’s important to closely watch the date stamped on every item from pancake flour to cottage cheese to avoid illness. However, there is confusion as to what those dates really mean. Unless clearly stated, the date may be the recommended sell date or use by date. And this date may not apply once the product is opened. A good rule of thumb is to toss the food if there is any concern about its freshness to avoid food-borne illnesses. As I tell my kids, “When in doubt, throw it out. We can’t always know by the way a food looks or smells if it is safe to eat.

The US government has some recommendations on their website for common OPENED products. These recommendations are for foods that are stored properly in the inside of a refrigerator – not on the door – at 40° or below. Here are a few of these items and the length of time they may be kept safely (in the refrigerator) after opening:

  • Bacon – 7 days
  • Eggs, raw in shell – 3-5 weeks
  • Eggs, hard-cooked – 1 week
  • Egg, chicken, ham, tuna and macaroni salads – 3-5 days
  • Hot dogs – 1 week
  • Leftovers – 3-4 days
  • Lunch meat -3-5 days
  • Meat, ground -1-2 days
  • Meat, fresh beef, veal, lamb, pork -3-5 days
  • Milk -5-7 days past the date stamp
  • Poultry, fresh – 1-2 days
  • Sausage – Chicken, turkey, beef, or pork -1-2 days

©2015, Mary K. Doyle

Nutritious Whole Grains Sunday, Jun 21 2015 

Did you know that corn is a whole grain? Have you ever tried amaranth?

Whole grains are often recommended for a healthy diet, including the one I posted about in regards to lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. But in order to eat the recommended three servings a day, we need to know what qualifies as a whole grain food.

Food made from whole grain, whether it is cracked, crushed, rolled, or cooked, contain the entire grain seed in its original proportions. It contains the bran, germ, and endosperm.

In the United States, if an ingredient label says whole wheat or whole wheat flour, we can be assured that it contains the whole grain. However, in Canada if the words “whole grain” are not included in the label the wheat may be only 95% whole grain.

The most common whole grains include: amaranth, barley, buckwheat, corn, millet, oats, quinoa, rice, rye, sorghum, teff, triticale, wheat, and wild rice. Amaranth, quinoa, and buckwheat do not belong in the Poaceae botanical family as the others do, but are considered “pseudo-grains” because they have the same nutritional profile.

Amaranth was a staple of the Aztec culture until Cortez threatened to put to death anyone who grew it in an attempt to destroy the entire civilization. The grain has a peppery taste and high level of protein and an amino acid called lysine that is negligible in other grains.

Barley is one of the oldest cultivated grains. Its tough hull is difficult to remove without losing some of the bran but lightly pearled barley is still high in fiber.

Buckwheat isn’t really a grain. It’s actually botanically related to rhubarb. Buckwheat grows well on rocky hillsides.

Bulgur is the result of wheat kernels that are boiled, dried, cracked, and sorted by size. It is high in nutrition and cooks in only 10 minutes.

Corn has the highest level of antioxidants of any grain or vegetable. Most of the corn grown in the U.S. is fed to cattle but also commonly found in foods for human consumption. When corn is combined with beans, the combination of amino acids raises the protein value.

Millet includes several small, related grains commonly consumed in India, China, South America, Russia, and the Himalayas. It’s found in variations of white, gray, yellow, and red and is high in protein and antioxidants. Millet is gluten-free and used in flatbreads, side dishes, deserts and even alcoholic beverages.

Oats contain a fiber called beta-glucan that is effective in lowering cholesterol and has a unique antioxidant that helps protect blood vessels. The more oats are steamed and flattened, the quicker it cooks.

Quinoa, pronounced keen-wah, is botanically related to Swiss chard and beets. It can be found in a light color as well as red, purple, and black. Quinoa should be rinsed before cooking to remove the bitter naturally occurring residue of saponins. It is a complete protein containing all the essential amino acids.

Rice can be found in white, brown, black, purple, and red. It’s one of the most easily digested grains and is gluten-free. Converted rice has added B vitamins making it healthier than white but still lacks the nutrients found in brown and other varieties.

Rye is high in fiber producing a feeling of fullness. To lower glycemic index, look for whole rye or rye berries on the label.

Sorghum, also called milo, thrives where other crops cannot. Although edible and can be eaten like porridge or ground into flour, most of the U.S. crop is fed to animals, made into wallboard, or used for biodegradable packing materials.

Teff has twice the iron and three times the calcium of other grains. It is the principal source of nutrition for over two-thirds of Ethiopians.

Triticale, pronounced trit-i-KAY-lee, is a hybrid of durum wheat and rye. It is easy to grow organically.

Wheat contains large amounts of gluten, a stretchy protein necessary for bread to rise. Bread wheat is considered hard or soft depending on its protein and gluten content. Wheat has many varieties including einkorn, farro/emmer, freekeh, kamut®Khorasan, and spelt.

Wild Rice really is a seed of an aquatic grass rather than a rice. It was originally grown by indigenous tribes around the Great Lakes. Because of its high price and strong flavor it’s usually blended with other rices or grains. Wild rice has twice the protein and fiber of brown rice but less iron and calcium.

(Information from this post was taken from the WholeGrainsCouncil.org. Go to their site for more details.)

 

©2015, Mary K. Doyle

Breakfast or an All-Day Snack Sunday, May 17 2015 

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but I have a recipe for you that you’ll want to munch on all day long. I’ve been perfecting my granola recipe for more than six months and have it right where I want it. I think you’ll like it too.

Oatmeal is a super food that should be in all of our diets. I don’t mind cooked oatmeal, but can only eat it a couple of times a month at best. Toasted oatmeal is another matter. A sweet, salty, crunchy granola has definitely turned this non-cereal lover into one. The coconut oil and pecans in this recipe makes it healthier yet!

Oatmeal contains two types of fiber: soluble which absorbs water and is fermented by bacteria and insoluble which does not absorb water or ferment. Both have health benefits.

The fiber in oatmeal helps to decrease LDL cholesterol, (the bad cholesterol), as well as high blood pressure and the risk of mortality from cardiovascular diseases. It helps control blood sugar by slowing down digestion time. Fiber also makes us feel fuller longer, reducing overeating and the bulk cleans us out reducing the risk of colon cancer.

Why don’t you give this very quick and easy recipe a try and let me know what you think.

 

Mary Doyle’s Granola

2 cups regular oatmeal – rolled outs*

¼ cup chopped pecans

¼ cup coconut oil, softened

¼ cup butter, softened

½ cup brown sugar, packed

1 teaspoon vanilla

¾ teaspoon salt

Mix the oatmeal, brown sugar, pecans and salt in a bowl. Blend coconut oil, butter, and vanilla. Combine the dry and soft mixtures together. You may want to toss with your hands.

Spread the mixture across a cookie sheet. Bake 350 for about 15 minutes. Turn once or twice during baking. Watch carefully. The granola quickly goes from brown to burnt.

*Do not use instant oats—which is too soft—or steel cut—which is too gritty.

©2015, Mary K. Doyle

 

Cinnamon Rolls Friday, Mar 21 2014 

If the aroma of fresh-baked bread lures you to the kitchen, cinnamon rolls in the oven will get you running. I have a recipe that works every time. Some patience is required with all yeast breads. You have to let the dough rise twice, but the extra time and simple steps are well worth it.

I mix the dough in a bread maker, but it also can be done in a mixer with bread hooks or by hand. If you don’t use a bread maker, use warm water and allow the yeast to soften in it before adding to the other ingredients. Let me know how your yummy rolls work out.

* * *

Buttery Cinnamon Rolls

Begin by mixing the ingredients for the bread dough. (This dough recipe also makes delicious loaves and rolls.)

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 ¼ cups bread flour
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tablespoons dry milk
  • ¼ cup softened butter
  • 1 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast

Allow the dough to rise.

Divide dough into three pieces. Roll each section into an 8 X 9 inch rectangle.

Spread each rectangle with ¼ cup butter. Sprinkle ¼ cup brown sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, and 1/3 cup raisins if desired, evenly across the dough.

Roll up the dough lengthwise keeping it as tight as possible. Pinch to seal.

Cut into 1 inch pieces.

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Place on greased baking sheet or baking dish.

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Allow to rise for about one hour.

Bake in a 374°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Cool. Frost with cream cheese or vanilla frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 3 ounces of cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar

Mix all ingredients together until smooth. If consistency is too thick, add a couple drops more of milk.

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©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Edible Paper Cookie Decorations Tuesday, Dec 17 2013 

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I love a good cookie and enjoy baking but I am not very patient when it comes to decorating. My solution this holiday season was to decorate with edible wafer paper made from potato starch, vegetable oil, and USDA approved food colorings. I wanted to see how easy applying the paper would be to dress up an otherwise plain cookie.

I purchased the papers from Fancy Flours, Inc (www.fancyflours.com, 406-587-0118). Their site offers a number of products for baking and decorating as well as excellent recipes for gingerbread and sugar cookies. I chose three of their many different designs. The square and rectangular shaped ones are the easiest to cut out and also the easiest to cut cookie dough to size.

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Use of the wafer paper requires several steps. The directions are as follows: Make the cookie dough ahead and allow it to stiffen in the refrigerator. Roll out the dough and cut to accommodate the shapes of the paper.

When completely cool, frost the cookies with buttercream, royal icing, or fondant. I used fondant on a few of the gingerbread cookies, but I’m not a fan of it. Although it is very smooth, I think it is too thick, too sweet, and not very tasty. The remainder of the cookies I frosted with a mix of confectioners’ sugar and whipping cream. The simple recipe allowed the frosting to remain white and covered the cookies without too much thickness. Once frosted, I froze the cookies until the frosting was completely set.

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After carefully cutting the wafer paper designs, the directions said to brush a light coat of corn syrup on the back of the papers. I found it easier to dab the corn syrup on the cookie, slide the paper over it, brush the edges, and press down gently.

Turn the cookies face down on parchment paper for about 30 minutes to set.

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Turn them over and allow to  completely dry.

Embellish the cookies with piping and sprinkles as desired. The paper is somewhat fragile and requires careful handling but easy enough that I will try them again. My cookies look a bit sloppy, but with a little more patience, next time they could be quite beautiful.

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©2013, Mary K. Doyle

It’s Cookie Time Tuesday, Dec 10 2013 

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Cookies are one of my go-to treats, and I love homemade ones best of all. Each year I try one or two new recipes, but there are a few I’ve baked for decades. Pecanettes and Chocolate and Oat Bars are two of my tried-and-true old-time favorites.

Pecanettes are my compromise to pecan pie. I love pecan pie – my family not so much. If I bake a pie, I end up eating the whole thing myself. These little cookies have a pecan pie taste, and a little of the texture. For some reason, even people who don’t like the pie do enjoy these cookies. (The last batch I made was a bit salty. I used sea salt which may be why, but you may want to cut back on the salt.)

The Chocolate and Oat Bars are so healthy you can eat them for breakfast. At least that’s my story. The recipe calls for oatmeal, nuts, and (condensed) milk, so how can that be bad for you? And then you add the chocolate, which we know is a “happy” ingredient. MMMMM, good.

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Pecanettes

Pastry:
½ cup butter
3 oz. pkg. cream cheese
1 cup sifted flour

Filling:
1 egg well-beaten
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter, melted
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ – 1 cup chopped pecans

Cream butter and cheese with mixer until light and fluffy. Add flour and beat until blended. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of the mixture in each of 2, 24 miniature cupcake pans. Press around.

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Mix filling and spoon into each shell.

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Bake 350 for 18-20 minutes.

 * * * * *

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Chocolate and Oat Bars

1 cup unsifted flour
1 cup quick-cooking oats
¾ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
½ cup butter, softened
1 (14 oz.) can Eagle Brand Milk
1 cup chopped nuts
6 oz. of chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 (325 for glass dish). In a bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, and butter. Mix well. Reserve ½ cup.

Press remaining oat mixture in the bottom of a 13 X 9 inch baking pan. Bake 10 minutes.

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Pour Eagle Brand Milk evenly over crust. Sprinkle with nuts and chocolate chips. Top with remaining oat mixture; press down. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool.

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Store covered at room temperature.

©Mary K. Doyle

Little Chefs Thursday, Aug 1 2013 

When I was 12 years-old, I won 1st place in a cherry pie baking contest at my school that was sponsored by Northern Illinois Gas Company. I went on to a second bake-off to compete against the winners from other schools in the Chicago area. In that contest my pie won 4th Place – my essay won 1st.

I baked a pie just about every day the weeks prior to each contest. I’m thankful my parents allowed me to do that because I’m sure it was difficult for them to afford the ingredients. But that practice actually was an investment in mastering the skill of pie baking. Making the crust in particular can be intimidating for even adult bakers. Learning how to do that at a young age has allowed me to whip up meat and fruit pies all my life.

I wanted to share that ability with my six-year-old granddaughter. Kaylee is my son-in-law Steve’s daughter from a previous marriage, and I treasure the time I have with her when she is in town. She is smart, compassionate, and delightful and one of my favorite young ladies.

We decided on baking the pies in individual pans, and I was especially happy she chose to make cherry. While we baked we discussed safe food handling, the importance of each ingredient, and of course, the steps in making the pies. We also talked about our daily thoughts and concerns.

Kaylee is a quick learner and did an excellent job of measuring, cooking the filling, rolling out the dough, and sealing the pies.

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The end result was perfect. Kaylee’s pies were as beautiful as they were delicious.

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It’s never too early to introduce children to cooking and baking. The benefits are many. Young chefs learn to appreciate the time and money involved in food preparation. They are more eager to try foods they prepare. They also learn not be intimidated to cook later in life.

Best of all, we gain priceless time with them to exchange ideas and what weighs heavy on our minds. I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation Kaylee and I shared while baking. It’s a memory we both appreciate.

* * *

Cherry Pie

Pastry:
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup lard or vegetable fat (Crisco)
4 tablespoons Ice water

Filling:
2 cans red tart cherries
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup sugar
¾ teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 350.

I. Drain cherries. Combine juice from one can, sugar, and cornstarch in a saucepan. Cook till thick and clear. Remove pan from burner. Add butter, almond extract, and cherries. Cool.

II. Mix flour and salt. Cut in the fat until the size of peas. Sprinkle ice water onto the flour mixture. Carefully add a little more water if needed. Gently form the dough into a ball. Cut the ball in half. Roll out one half of the dough about 1 inch larger than the inverted pie pan for the bottom crust. Prick the crust and lay it in the pie pan.

Pour the filling into the pie pan.

Roll out the top crust. Slit in the center. Dampen the edges of the bottom crust. Lay the top crust over the pie and seal.

Bake pie in 450 oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350. Bake about 30 more minutes.

©2013, Mary K. Doyle

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