Sunday, June 23, 2013

Goulash (American Goulash)

 Have you ever had American Goulash? Growing up I thought it was something my mother threw together, using anything and everything she could find and cooking it in one pot as a meal. My sister, to this day, can't stand it but I still really enjoy it. Granted, my mother isn't a great cook, so her variation was probably something that was barely palatable, but I still have fond memories of it.
   I made my own version for my kids tonight and they wouldn't stop with the compliments. It was amazing! My 7 year old has recently decided that she's going to be a picky eater. If it was up to her we would eat macaroni and cheese at every meal. Of course, I'm not going to give into her demands, but I do let her help my in the kitchen so she can feel better about the food that we're having. She feels a little ownership over the meal and that works wonders if you have a picky eater!
  We enjoy our goulash with corn and olives, but those are purely optional. I was trying to get meal done quickly (because we came home from church and the kids were ravenous - which seems to be the case every Sunday), so sadly there are no step by step pictures. The method is really simple, though so you shouldn't have problems following the directions. If you have any questions, please let me know!
Here's the recipe:

American Goulash

1 Tbsp butter or oil
1 to 1 1/4 pound ground turkey
1 small onion, diced
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce 
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes (I used diced tomatoes with onion, celery and green pepper)
*1 can of water
1 large clove garlic, minced (a little more than 1 tsp)
1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
1 bay leaf
few dashes of Worcestershire Sauce
1 tsp seasoned salt 
the corn kernels from 2 cobs (or 1 (11 to 15 oz) can of corn kernels) (optional)
1/2 (6 oz) can of sliced black olives (optional)
1 cup dried elbow macaroni
salt and pepper to taste
In a heavy pot with a lid, add the butter (or oil) and the turkey. Lightly salt the turkey and cook it over medium heat until brown- breaking it up into small pieces as it cooks. Add the onion and garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and water (*fill the tomato sauce can with water and add that), Italian seasoning, bay leaf, Worcestershire, seasoned salt, and a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper (to taste). Stir in the corn and olives (if using). Bring the mixture to a boil and then stir in the macaroni. When the mixture returns to a boil, put the lid on, turn the heat down to low and simmer for 20 minutes. After the 20 minutes, turn the heat off, remove the lid and let sit for 5-10 minutes to thicken. Serve warm.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Cinnaburst Bread

Can we just pretend that it's not summer and nearing triple digits outside? Can I crank the a.c. and pretend that it's still cool enough to enjoy baking every day and making delicious breads on a whim? I like to think so.
   I stumbled upon a version of Cinnaburst bread while on Pinterest. Someone was trying to recreate a cinnamon studded bread they had purchased at a popular bakery. I tried to make her version, but ended up with my own instead. The only main differences being how many cinnamon chips I used. This bread is a perfect fix for a cinnamon roll craving, but it takes less time and can be toasted and buttered to order. The kids and I loved this bread, but my hubby said it was just "o.k." He has recently become very picky as to what he raves about. I think he's been spoiled with too much good food. ;)
   I made this on a whim, at night, so I didn't take any step by step pictures. And my after pictures are pretty dark. I would have taken more in the morning, but there wasn't enough of it left to photograph (even though the recipe makes 2 loaves).  I find myself craving this bread regularly, but because it's getting so hot I only attempt to make it in the wee hours of the morning, or after the sun has gone down in the evening - so as to not heat up the house too much.
FYI: Cinnamon chips are just like chocolate chips, but are cinnamon flavored. Some stores only carry them in the fall/winter months, but I have been able to find them at both Win-Co and Town an& Country in the summer time. Other places like Walmart might carry them in the off months, but I haven't checked them personally. I also gave a link to the cinnamon bits that I think were most-likely used in the original bakery bread, if you would like to order those and try them out. :)
  Try this bread for yourself and let me know what you think!

Here is the first photo I took (never mind that the loaf is already half eaten). It tastes good like this, but the real magic happens when you toast it.

When toasted and slathered with butter it really hits the cinnamon spot. (And yes, that is really how much butter I use. Don't judge, just enjoy life.) If you wanted a true cinnamon roll experience you could spread some sweetened cream cheese on top, but the butter does it for me.

Cinnaburst Bread
adapted from  Rae Gun Ramblings Cinnaburst Bread

1 cup warm water (105-115F)
1 cup warm milk (105-115F)
1/3 cup sugar
2 1/4 tsp yeast (1 pack)
1/3 cup veggie or canola oil
1/2 Tbsp salt
1 egg
4 1/2 to 5 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 10 oz bag Hershey's cinnamon chips (or 1 cup Hershey's cinnamon chips and 1 cup King Arthur Cinnamon Flav-R-Bites)
In a stand mixer, combine yeast, sugar, warm water and milk; let sit for about 5 minutes, until foamy. Add in oil and egg. Slowly add 2 cups flour, mix and then add salt. (The flour acts as a buffer so the salt doesn't kill the yeast.) Add 1/2 cup flour at a time until it comes away from side of bowl. Add 1 cup of the Hershey's cinnamon chips when it gets close to the right consistency. (Most of the chips will melt into the warm dough and make it slightly orange in color.) The dough will be very sticky but the softer the dough, the lighter the bread. So use the least amount of flour you can handle. Let rise in mixing bowl (in a warm part of the kitchen) for about 30 minutes. On a floured surface, roll out the dough into a rectangle and evenly sprinkle on the rest of the cinnamon chips (or the Cinnamon Flav-R-Bites, if using). Fold them in gently and the divide the dough into two. Form into two loaves and place into greased loaf pans. Let rise and additional 30 minutes (until doubled). Bake at 350F degrees for 30-40 minutes (until browned and hollow sounding when tapped). Turn out onto towel or cooing rack and cover loosely with another towel. Let sit 30 minutes before cutting. (*I also like to rub the outside of the hot loaves with butter, so the crust is softer, but this is just personal preference.)
 Makes 2 loaves

Monday, June 17, 2013

Coco-Nutty Pavlova Log

I'm pretty sure this is my mother in law's favorite dessert. I discovered it on the Food Network while living in Mammoth and it is always a huge hit. An added bonus is that it's gluten free, so my family members that can't have gluten can still enjoy this masterpiece. This dessert was a definite "to do" while visiting my in-laws this summer. (I actually took these pictures as I was making it for them in their kitchen.)
   It's pretty simple, but looks fancy and complicated. It's cooked meringue, with nuts and coconut baked on top, then rolled around whipped cream, strawberries and coconut. I've made it with different nuts and fruits and it always tastes good, but there's something about the strawberries and pineapple that just taste right. I really hope you try this one out and let me know what you think!

It starts off with 6 egg whites. (I save the yolks to use for other things.) The egg whites get put into a large bowl, so they can be whipped up.

 I just used a hand mixer.

When the egg whites start to get frothy, I slowly added in some sugar. (If you add it in all at once you could deflate the egg whites and they wouldn't whip up properly for you.) You could also use powdered sugar instead of the granulated sugar, if you prefer.

I also added in a mixture of vanilla, cornstarch and vinegar. The cornstarch and vinegar help to stabilize the egg whites and the vanilla lends a nice flavor to the mix.

When the egg whites were mostly whipped, I stopped and chopped up some nuts. You'll want about 3/4 cup of nuts total. Any kind you enjoy will do. The original recipe called for pecans, walnuts and almonds, but I only had pecans and walnuts available this time. (When I can I like to use Macadamia nuts because they are also my mother-in-law's favorite. But they are quite pricey!)

I chop the nuts pretty fine and also get about 1/4 cup of shredded coconut ready. (This is all eye-balled. I didn't actually get out a measuring cup for any of the topping, I just use what feels right.)

I turn my attention back to the egg whites. Give them one last whip (to make sure they are @ stiff peaks, but not over whipped) and then spread the egg white mixture evenly onto a VERY WELL buttered cookie sheet. I usually butter the pan, line it with parchment paper and then spray the parchment paper with cooking spray, because the meringue is very sticky stuff! But, my in-laws don't keep parchment paper around, so I just buttered the pan like crazy. It worked out pretty well.

I ten sprinkled on the nuts and coconut into an even layer.

I usually do nuts first, and then coconut, so the coconut can toast a little in the oven.

When everything is sprinkled on I give them a little pan (to secure them into the meringue) and then bake it @ 325F for about 12 minutes.

While the pavlova is baking, I strained 1 20 oz can of crushed pineapple. (I use the kind in 100% juice. What you do with the juice is up to you, but we like to just drink it.) :)

You'll want to make sure that all the juice is out, and the pineapple is as dry as you can get it. To achieve this I just give the pineapple a few pushes/squeezes. 

This is what it looks like all drained: I put it into a bowl and set it aside for a minute.

Next come the strawberries. You'll need about 1 pint, washed.

Just hull them (take the tops off), slice them and then dice them. That's the easiest way I've found to manually dice strawberries. (Sorry the shadows make the picture so dark.)

I dice the strawberries pretty small. You want to make sure that they mix well with the pineapple and you get the right balance of each fruit in every bite.

The last thing to get ready is the whipped cream. Just 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream,

mixed with 2 Tbsp powdered sugar. (This is to taste, so you can add as much or as little as you would like.)

When the pavlova is golden brown, take it out of the oven and allow it to cool. It will puff up while baking in the oven, but then deflate a little as it cools (Sorry I forgot to take a picture before I put the whipped cream on.)
  After the coco-nutty meringue/pavlova is cool, I turn it upside down onto a flexible cutting board (or a clean sheet of parchment paper) and remove it from the pan. Keeping it nut side down, I spread the whipped cream evenly over the whole thing.

Next I sprinkle on the pineapple . . .

and then the strawberries.

When I've added all the fruit, I roll it up starting on the short side. (You get more rolls this way. It stays together better and looks more dramatic when you cut it.)

Make sure to roll it as tightly as possible.

When I get to the end, I like to use the flexible cutting board to bring up the end to meet the rest of the roll. Then I wrap the cutting board around it and give it all a gentle squeeze evenly over the entire roll. (Kind of like when you make a sushi roll - or if you've never made it yourself, perhaps you've seen it made. This final squeeze helps to keep everything sealed together.; just make sure to do it lightly, or you'll have a huge mess on your hands.)

The final step is to place it seam side down onto a serving platter and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Isn't it beautiful? It always draws "Oohs and Ahhs!"
Next time you want to impress (whether it be your in-laws, your boss, your friends and family or just yourself) try this out and let me know what you think!
adapted from Yummy Coco-Nutty Pavlova Log

Coco-Nutty Pavlova Log

about 1 Tbsp butter (to grease the cookie sheet)
1/2 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut (to taste)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (to taste)
1/4 cup chopped almonds (to taste)
1/4 cup chopped pecans (to taste)
1 pint strawberries, hulled and diced
1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple, well-drained
1/2 cup heavy cream 
1 Tbsp powdered sugar (to taste)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Generously butter a baking sheet and line it with buttered parchment paper. (If you don't have the parchment paper it might stick a little.) 
Mix the vinegar, cornstarch and vanilla in a small bowl and set aside. In a stand mixer, or with a hand mixer, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. With the mixer running, slowly add 1/4 cup of sugar and then the vinegar mixture. When stiff peaks form, spread the meringue evenly on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle the nuts and coconut evenly over the meringue. Bake until the coconut begins to turn golden and the whites are shiny and springy, about 10 to 12 minutes. Cool completely. (It will puff while baking and then settle while it cools.)
While the meringue bakes, combine the diced strawberries and drained pineapple in a bowl and set aside. In a clean bowl, whisk the heavy cream and powdered sugar until stiff peaks form.
Use a knife or spatula to release the edges and remove the meringue from the pan. Gently invert (flip) the meringue onto a parchment-lined surface (or onto a flexible cutting board), nut side down. Spread the whipped cream over meringue and sprinkle evenly with pineapple/strawberry mixture, leaving a 1-inch border around the perimeter of the meringue. Starting with the short side, slowly roll the meringue into a log, keeping the roll as tight as possible and tucking in the fruit as you go.  Wrap the roll with the parchment paper (or flexible cutting board) and gently squeeze the roll evenly to seal everything together. Place onto a serving platter, seam side down. (If you want cleaner edges you can use a serrated knife to slice the ends.) To serve, use a serrated knife to cut into 1 1/2 to 2 inch slices. Serves 8-10