A kitchen adventure… or something like that

What follows is not a recipe. I’m not entirely sure WHAT it is… let’s call it a journey inside of my mind.

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I haven’t felt like much of a writer, lately. Which is sad. And probably happens to every person who writes at one point or another. But, as is often the case when we’re stuggling (with anything), I feel alone in it.

I need to get the juices flowing. I need to write something (…anything…). I need to DO something. I think I’ll try a kitchen adventure. Adventures are good. Even if they’re just little adventures, like taking a drive and getting lost, or making a pot of soup with no plan. So let’s try a pot of soup. I need to make dinner, anyway.

I have NO plan. Not even the least semblance of one. This is unusual. Let’s look through my recipe book… eh. Not much there. Maybe I should go look at my blog archives. NO. I don’t feel like going upstairs to fetch my laptop. You know what I should do, besides soup? Popovers. It’s been awhile, and popovers are awesome. I’m definitely going to do that.

Let’s look in this other soup cookbook. Should I go with something tried-and-true? Nah. Where’s the adventure in that? Maybe I should make up a new chicken noodle soup recipe. Yes! Wait, no. Chicken and RICE. Hold on. We have lentils. I should use lentils. Here are some lentil soup recipes… I’ll go with one of these. Forget chicken and rice. I don’t feel like messing with meat, anyway. I don’t feel like messing with a recipe, either, so I’ll just put this book away.

Let’s get some chicken stock going. Alright. Let’s rinse these lentils. Make sure to toss them in the air a little bit. REAL chefs toss things a lot. Plus, tossing is fun. *Toss, toss* Whee! OK. Enough of that. I need to get out the soup pot. It’s in the back of the cupboard. Of course. Pan avalanche! OK. Got it. Get the olive oil, next. Although… you know what would be better than olive oil? Bacon! I saw some in the fridge. Yep. Oh, there is no way I’m not using bacon grease instead of oil. Now, some garlic. It’s burning. Don’t do that, garlic and bacon. Down goes the heat. OK. In goes the stock! Up goes the heat, again. Dump in the lentils. Yum, yum! This might actually work.

It could use a carrot, though. Let’s put in a carrot. I don’t feel like slicing it as thin as usual. So, fat carrots. They’ll probably be all crunchy. Oh well. A new song is playing on my MP3 device… it’s Bombabil. No, wait… it’s Jones Street Station. Shoot, no… it’s Good Old War. What am I saying? It’s Ben Kweller. It is definitely Ben Kweller. How do I know my own musical collection so little?

There should be some spices or herbs in here. But what? Let’s consult the cupboard! Salt and pepper. Those are givens. Whoops. A little too much pepper, there. No turning back now, though. Back to the cupboard. I can’t see anything in here. The bottles are falling over each other like dominoes. This isn’t worth it. Where is the rosemary? I can’t find it. Grr. I’ll taste the soup and see how “meh” it is… mmm. Not too meh, at all. The abundance of pepper forbids it. It’s alright. Cover and simmer.

What about those popovers? I don’t feel like popovers anymore. I’m definitely not going to do that.

I should start to make tea and set the table. No, type all this up first.

Time to check the soup! Ooo! The carrots have totally cooked! High five, me! It’s looking good. I wish I’d read more blogs lately. Reading is good. It kindles the writing spark. But I haven’t… except Good Women Project. There’s always time for that. I wonder if I’ll ever be a good woman? Oh, I forgot about the potatoes. This soup needs potatoes. In you go!

Make the tea now, for real. Don’t forget to sniff the teabags… one of life’s simple pleasures. A whisk just tumbled down across the room, with no provocation. Weird. Only logical conclusion? Our utensil crock is possessed.

Let’s taste the soup. Mm. Bacon was the right decision. So was abundant pepper. OK, I know that wasn’t a decision. But it was the right mistake. I wish those happened more often in life. What else should go with soup? Crackers, of course. Do we have any cheese? *Checks fridge* Not really. Would it be weird if I threw this leftover couscous in the soup pot? Probably so. Let’s NOT do that. Hey, look! An uncooked lentil fell on the counter. I’ll chew on it. No… no… ew. Bad idea. Spit it out.

Try looking for cheese again. Maybe I missed something. Nope. Still no cheese. How do we not have cheese? This is AMERICA.

The soup is pretty much ready. I’m bored. I should have made popovers. Let’s get this thing up and out. I hope I don’t regret posting this as a blog. It’s kind of weird. But, hey. I feel a little bit more writerish now, so it’s worth it. I think I’ll go back to the drawing board (writing board? Word processor!)

Ciao. (Ciao? When have you ever said ciao? Just say “see you later” or an ironic “peace out”!)

XX. (That works.)

Mini Monkey Breads

The title given this recipe on the blog where I found it (“Top With Cinnamon”… a delight) was “Quick Mini Monkey Breads”. And while the end product IS a miniature monkey bread, in my case there was nothing quick about it. Whether it’s just me, or whether Top With Cinnamon’s author is one of those people who has magical powers in the kitchen that makes everything easy and fabulous, I do not know. What I do know is that I listened to the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack two and a half times through before my mini monkey breads were finished. The power of the music of the night may be potent, but it wasn’t enough to speed the baking process along for me this morning.
None of this is a knock on the recipe. These things are rather addicting. Which is a problem, as I made them for church, and not just to cram my own face with. Which brings THIS song to mind.*
But enough rambling. On to the recipe!!!

 

Oh, and a happy Easter to one and all!

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*I humbly ask my readers to please not judge my musical taste solely by the information presented in this blog post.

Mini Monkey Breads

1 1/4 cup flour
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup cold, unsalted butter
1/4 cup  buttermilk
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
optional extras: up to 1/4 a cup (4 tbsp) of chocolate chips, chopped nuts or dried fruits.

1/3 cup granulated sugar
1-2 tsp cinnamon

For the Caramel:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup  corn syrup / golden syrup
1/4 cup  unsalted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp milk
optional: 1/3 cup chopped pecans

Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together with a fork in a large bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the bowl. Use a pastry blender or your finger tips to cut / rub the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the chocolate chips / nuts / dried fruit.

Combine the 1/3 cup (2 oz/ 55g) of sugar and cinnamon in a wide, shallow bowl. Set aside.

Make the caramel:
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar and corn syrup and continue heating and mixing until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Take it off the heat and stir in the vanilla and milk. Set aside.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees F) and grease a mini doughnut pan well (Note: I used a muffin pan). Put 1/2 – 1 tsp of the caramel mixture in the bottom of each cavity in the doughnut pan (if you refrigerated it overnight, you may need to warm it gently until its thin enough to do this). Then sprinkle in some chopped pecans (if using).

Using a fork, whisk together the egg, buttermilk and vanilla in a small jug. Add it to the flour mixture, and stir with the fork until just combined.

Take 1/2 teaspoons (or less) of the dough and roll into balls. Roll each ball in the cinnamon-sugar and place into the doughnut pan – you should aim for 4-5 pieces of dough in each cavity, but the dough should only fill it 2/3 of the way.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, when they should be golden brown and slightly crusty on top. Let them cool in the pan for 2 minutes.

To remove them from the pan, first gently run a blunt knife around the outside of each monkey bread. Next twist each monkey bread, in the pan, with your hand to make sure it’s not stuck at all, then turn them out onto a cooling rack, being careful of the caramel. Drizzle on any extra caramel. Store in an airtight container once cool.

** If you want to kick it up a notch, you can use Nutella fudge sauce in place of, or in addition to, the caramel sauce. I did this, and I am telling you… I will be making it again. **

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Waffle Sandwich (With Apples, Peanut Butter, And Nutella)

I discovered this ridiculously delicious combination yesterday. It’s one of things that should probably be a snack, but ends up being a meal. Breakfast… brunch… second breakfast… lunch… dinner… brinner… it really doesn’t matter. There isn’t a bad time for this waffle sandwich.

waffle sammies

Just spread one half of a warm waffle with peanut butter, one with Nutella, sandwich with thinly sliced apple, and proceed to stuff your face.

waffle sammies 2

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

“And dinner parties do combine two of our favorite things. Dinner … and parties. It’s like if you could have an X-Box pancake.”

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It really is great when you can take two things that are awesome by themselves and combine them into something new. Like chocolate and peanut butter. Or peanut butter and apples. Or peanut butter and apples and waffles. Or peanut butter and… well, pretty much anything.

This is a recipe for Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies. I found it forever ago, and have been itching to try it for months. Because the idea of combining the essence of mint chocolate chip ice cream (my favorite flavor) with chocolate chip cookies is truly inspired.

I wasn’t disappointed, either. I’ll be adding these to my rotation. Especially as I now have a almost-still-full bottle of mint extract that isn’t going to use itself. So, yeah… if anyone needs to borrow some, you know where to find me.

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies (Adapted from AllRecipes.com)

  • 1 1/2 C flour
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 C butter or margarine, softened
  • 1/4 tsp mint extract
  • 6 drops green food coloring
  • 1 egg
  • 1 C semisweet chocolate chunks
  • 1 C creme de menthe baking chips

(Note: In place of the creme de menthe chips and chocolate chunks, I just used what I happened to have on hand… which happened to be a combination of dark chocolate chips, mini chocolate chips, and regular semisweet chocolate chips. So, go with whatever floats your boat. Or whatever is in your cupboard.)

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Add the butter, egg, mint extract and food coloring and mix until well incorporated, and a soft dough has formed.

Stir in the chocolate chips/chunks. Drop teaspoonsful of dough onto an un-greased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart. Bake for approximately 10 minutes.

Yields about 2 dozen cookies.

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Easy Peanut Butter Fudge

UPDATE: When I posted this a few days ago, I accidentally omitted a very important ingredient (confectioner’s sugar). Oops! You definitely don’t want to leave that out.

WARNING: This recipe has the potential to be dangerous. At least to anyone who has a bent towards peanut butter and chocolate. Before you even realize what you’re doing, you might easily consume half the pan. And due to the fact that it is so simple to make, the temptation whip up another batch once they’re gone may very well prove irresistible.

I caution my readers to use this recipe responsibly. I will not be held accountable for any tummy aches or inflated waistlines that may result from its preparation.

Thank you.

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Easy Peanut Butter Fudge

*Note: Fudge doesn’t seem the precise term to slap on this recipe, but it’s the best one I know of.*

  • 1 1/2 C peanut butter
  • 1 C plus 2 T brown sugar
  • 1 3/4 C confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 sticks margarine
  • 1 C chocolate chips

Melt 1 stick of the margarine and mix it together well with the peanut butter and brown sugar. Press the mixture evenly into a 13×9 baking dish.

Melt the remaining margarine with the chocolate chips (I did this in the microwave, heated at intervals). Pour over the peanut butter mixture.

Refrigerate for several hours before cutting.

(See? I told you it was easy.)

PB Fudge 4

PB Fudge

Gingerbread Cookies

I thought maybe we could make ginger bread houses, and eat cookie dough, and go ice skating, and maybe even hold hands.

There are a lot of cookies being whipped up in my kitchen at this time of the year, but gingerbread is the grand-daddy of them all. The recipe yields enough cookies to feed the state of Oklahoma. It is the messiest baking project I get myself into every year, and usually the most time consuming. It is also one of the most fun.

I cut the recipe in half this year, as I don’t care to still be eating gingerbread at Valentine’s Day (they seriously last that long, usually). I am going to go ahead and post the halved version here… it still makes a ton of cookies, believe you me.

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Gingerbread Cookies

  • 1/2 C butter, softened
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 egg
  • Approx. 1 C molasses
  • 1 C buttermilk (I substituted regular milk mixed with vinegar)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 5-6 C flour (plus plenty of extra to keep the dough from getting too sticky when you’re rolling it out)

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine butter and sugar. Mix in the egg, then add molasses and milk. Stir in the baking powder, soda, ginger, salt, and cinnamon along with the flour a little at a time until you have a very thick, sticky dough.

Take a portion of the dough and roll out on a well floured (a very well floured) surface. Cut out into the shapes of your choosing (I myself am partial to tiny flowers and velociraptors). Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for about 12 minutes. When they’re done, remove from the pan right away to cool.

Repeat with the remaining dough.

gb dough

gb critters

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gingerbread stars

Kringla (Take Two)

My Scandinavian heritage tends to manifest itself in two ways:

1.) Baking.

2.) A sincere love for The Swedish Chef.

And the second one probably doesn’t count, because I would be fond of The Swedish Chef whether I shared his Swedish blood or not.

But I do love my Swedish baked goods, and kringla is probably my favorite of them all. In fact, the first post ever here at Nutella Enchanted covered kringla. However, looking back at it, I realized two things. First, the recipe listed has not proved the most reliable in my experience (the kringla, though they taste fine, always sort of lose their shape). Second (and much more important), I accidentally left out a MAJOR ingredient. Seriously. I hope nobody ever tried to use that recipe, because whatever it yielded would not have been kringla.

For these reasons, I thought it would be nice to revisit my favorite Scandinavian treat. So here you have it.

Nu här är några slumpmässiga ord på svenska! Och Lycklig Jul!

Kringla

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 pint sour cream
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 1/2 c flour

Cream the sugar and butter. Add the egg, vanilla and sour cream. Stir in all the remaining ingredients until well incorporated, and you have a thick dough.

Chill dough for at least two hours, or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350. Roll small lumps of the chilled dough out on a floured board into the shape of your choosing. Kringla are traditionally made into either a figure eight or a pretzel shape. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes, or until the kringla are a very light golden shade.

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DIY My Neighbor Totoro Ornament

I have been considering a departure from covering only food here at Nutella Enchanted. The final decision on this subject is still up in the air, but while I am weighing my options, it seems appropriate to give a non-food topic a trial run.

Thus, what I offer to you today is not a recipe, but a craft.
I am not the world’s craftiest person. The mood has to strike, y’know. Lately, is has struck, which is almost certainly correlated to the fact that Christmas is on its way. Christmas is the craftiest time of the year. I don’t know why, but it is. Last year, I made a small army of little felt crittery ornaments to give away. Like this little bugger:

Cute, right?

This year, due to a recent infatuation with Japanese animated films, I determined that I would make a Totoro ornament. For the uninformed, I refer to the title character of Hayao Miyazaki’s 1988 classic My Neighbor Totoro. He is big and round and fuzzy and, basically, was begging to be made into a felt ornament.

I sketched out a pattern so that anyone out there who shares my affinity for all things Ghibli can share in the felt Totoro  joy.

***

DIY Totoro Ornament

You Will Need:
-Gray, black, and off-white felt with thread to match
-A ribbon or string to use for a hanger
-Stuffing
-Your inner child

The Pattern:

Right click and select “View Image” for the full-size version

Note: In the end, I decided to use buttons for eyes and just stitch the tummy speckles by hand. It proved much easier.

The rest is simple. Just cut out your felt pieces. Sew the tummy and facial features on to one half of the body, then stitch the two halves together, adding the ears and hanger the top of Totoro’s head. When you have only a small opening left, insert the stuffing to give him a bit of that jolly roundness, then close him up and you’re done!

Ta-da!

If you want to get really carried away, you can throw together a few soot gremlins when you’re done. Yes, I did this.

Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries

“Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did. ”
William Allen Butler

If you spend more than 5 minutes on this blog, you will discover that I am a woman of simple tastes. I could survive on three food groups if they were soup, bread, and cookies.  Breakfast cereal and eating Nutella straight out of the jar… these are the things that make me happy.

And so when I was compelled to help my good friends in the making of food for my sister’s bridal shower, I found myself wondering. What can I possibly bring? Breakfast cereal and jars of Nutella probably aren’t gonna cut it (although if it were my bridal shower, they totally would).

In the end, I wound up making these cheesecake stuffed strawberries. The recipe had been sitting on a Pinterest board for months, and seemed appropriate. And, you know what? They were pretty great, if I say so myself. Easy on the palate and quite easy preparation-wise, to boot.

If you are a poor unsophisticated food-loving soul like me, you probably won’t find a better sweet little party food than this.

Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries (from The Sweets Life)

  • 1 lb. strawberries
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 3 T powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • graham cracker crumbs (I left these out)

1. Rinse strawberries and cut around the top of the strawberry. Remove the top and clean out with a paring knife, if necessary (some may already be hollow inside). Prep all strawberries and set aside.
2. In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla until creamy. Add cream cheese mix to a piping bag or ziploc with the corner snipped off. Fill strawberries with cheesecake mixture (I used a Pampered Chef decorator doo-dad, which makes ’em even prettier). Once strawberries are filled, dip the top in graham cracker crumbs. If not serving immediately, refrigerate until serving.

Harvest Vegetable Soup

“There ain’t a body, be it mouse or man, that ain’t made better by a little soup.” (Kate DiCamillo)

I like things that make me feel warm and fuzzy. Whether inside or out. Even just the phrase “warm and fuzzy” makes me feel a little warm and fuzzy.

My top 10 list of warm and fuzzy stuff, lately:

1. My brand new little cousin-once-removed, Grace Elizabeth Anderson… isn’t she precious?
2. Hair bows

3. Winter coat window shopping at ModCloth.

Because their coats are just so purty.

4. The Avett Brothers’ new album.

5. George MacDonald stories.

6. The very autumn-ish weather we’ve been having.

7. Totoro

I am totally not a nap person, yet I can’t imagine a pleasanter prospect than a nap on the tummy of a giant teddy bear/bunny-like creature.

8. Other (non-Totoro) animated films.

9. Discovering that Totoro has cameo appearances in certain other (non-Totoro) animated films.


Pixar couldn’t be much more awesome, right?

10. Soup.

Of course, soup is a warm and fuzzy mainstay, in my world.

This recipe is for a very tasty vegetable soup… for this time of year, it is utter perfection.

Harvest Vegetable Soup (Adapted ever-so-slightly from Make It Do)
-Olive oil
-A few cloves of garlic OR about 1/3 C of minced onion
-4 C Chicken stock
-2 small potatoes
-Veggies of you choosing (I used carrots, peas, and squash)
-1/4 C butter
-1/3 C flour
-2 C milk (I didn’t actually measure, so… this is a guesstimate)
-4 oz. cream cheese
-1 C  shredded cheddar cheese
-Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat some olive oil in a large stock pot and gently sautee your garlic (or onion). Pour in chicken stock, then add chopped potatoes. Bring to a boil. Cover the pot and reduce to a simmer.

Prep your veggies and sautee (in a separate pan) until soft and golden. Set aside.

Melt the butter and then slowly add in the flour and whisk to make a roux. Whisk in the milk and allow the liquid to thicken.

Pour the milk mixture in with the stock, then add the remaining veggies.

Add the cream cheese to the pot, in pieces, then the shredded cheddar. Allow cheeses to melt. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve promptly.