Creamy Tomato-Basil Soup

Creamy Tomato-Basil Soup

I have been seeing all sorts of yummy recipe ideas on Pinterest, and I have tried a couple of them – some good, some I won’t try again.  When this recipe popped up, though, I couldn’t wait to try it!  Who doesn’t love tomato soup, especially creamy?  The recipe came from Random Thoughts and Thrills Blog, where she called it Tomato-Basil Parmesan Soup.  I made a couple small changes to her recipe.  I did not include carrots (just because I completely forgot them) and I used half parmesan cheese and half romano cheese.  We were expecting company, so I also doubled the recipe, and it worked well.  The best part about the recipe, other than it’s ease, is that I can throw it in the crock pot and forget about it until about half an hour to and hour before we want to eat. Continue reading

My Year – 2011 In Review

Amy January 2011

I’ve been working on writing this post in my head for a while now, and I decided the only way to actually get it done was to sit down and start typing.  If a stranger looked at my life during the year 2011, they would probably think it was a horrible year that I am happy to leave behind.  They would be a little bit accurate – there were specific events and activities in 2011 that I would just as soon forget and leave behind.  With a quick glance, all the focus would be on the negative events because they were the biggest; however, on further investigation there were far more positive activities, events, and blessings that happened and outweigh all the negativity.  I’m going to re-cap my year by month, and hopefully I’ll be able to link to a previous post for each subject I talk about. Continue reading

A Woman Sconed?

You read that right, I meant to say “sconed”, not “scorned”.

One of the worst things best aspects about me being home so much right now, is the amount of time I spend researching and learning wasting my day away playing new recipies to make for my family.  I have tried several new things out of sheer boredom the desire to utilize my cooking skills to make healthy food and to nearn new things.

I have read about scones, but I have never actually seen one, let alone taste one.  Yesterday, after being sick for so long, I was completely stir-crazy really needed to be active.  The scones were really easy to make, and tasted really good.  I made a very basic recipe, but I can see how one might alt3er it to bring out different tastes from savory to sweet.

I’m taking a page out of Pioneer Woman’s photo tips for this post, and I’m not ashamed of it – I’m a copy cat, and I don’t mind admitting it.  Oh yeah, the ridiculously ugly scars nasty burns on my hand are from my adventures in baking sugar cookies for Valentines Day and for Emma’s Basketball Team.  They are taking forever to heal!

The ingredients include flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, salt, egg, sour cream, and frozen (yes, frozen) butter.  Pretty simple and basic.  As you can see by the picture, I’m a cheapskate I’m economically responsible and purchase generic brands for quite a few things.  I refuse to purchase generic for some products – they’re just not the same.

The first two steps are very simple.  Add all the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt) to a large bowl and whisk them together.

The second step was to whisk together the egg and sour cream.

 The reason the butter has to be frozen is because once the first two steps are completed, the butter is then grated into the flour mixture.  That would not be possible with refrigerator temperature or room temperature butter.  And, quite frankly, the next step of incorporating the butter into the flour was much easier with the grated butter.

This is where I forgot to take pictures.  After the butter is incorporated (so the combination looks like little grains), stir the egg & sour cream misture into the flour with a fork until it forms chunks of dough.  Use your hand to press the doug around the bowl further until all dry ingredients have been incorporated.

Then, on a lightly floured surface, pat dough to a 10-12 inche circle that is about 3/4″ thick.  Cut into triangles with a butter knife.

The triangles should be placed about 1″ apart on a parchment paper lined tray.  They cook for 12 minutes at 400 degrees.
 

Mmmmmmmmmmm, yummy!  They’re very good with strawberry topping and whipped cream, and they are just as yummy plain.

So, while this time at home has been great for developing my cooking skills serving my sweet-tooth, it has not been any good on this whole getting in shape thing I’m trying to manage.

The recipe from allrecipes.com:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 8 Tbsp butter

I followed their recipe with the exception of the raisins.  I didn’t include them, and I still think the scones tasted great!

Cheeeeeeeeeeese . . . CAKE!

Wednesday night the parents (read: MOM’s) held a taco-feed team & family dinner at Heppner High School for the varsity girls’ basketball team.  Each mom brought something to contribute, and I volunteered to bring dessert (I kind of like sweet things just a little.).  Emma wanted be to bring cheesecake, which was okay except for one problem.  I’ve never made a cheesecake that didn’t come out of a box and was no-bake.

No problem, right?  Sure, Emma, if you say so.

I began today by getting out my handy-dandy all-time favorite cookbook:  The Best Recipe Book by the Editors of Cooks Illustrated Magazine.  It had a perfect recipe for cheesecake with three or four different variations.  I elected to make the “light and fluffy” version.  I did not, however, follow their directions to bake the cheesecake in a water bath, which I believe is supposed to prevent the top from cracking, but for my first try, I wasn’t going to get that complicated.  The recipe is delightfully easy to make and turned out well.

The best advice they gave was to wrap the bottom piece of your springform pan with tin foil BEFORE adding the crust because it helps with removal of the cheesecake to a serving dish when it’s all cooled. 

Press a graham-cracker crumb crust into the bottom of a springform pan.  I like a thicker crust, so I used one whole package of graham crackers (the plastic package, not a box) and 4 tablespoons of butter.

Beat cream cheese until it’s light and fluffy.

Add sugar.

Add lemon zest and vanilla.

This is the point that the “light and fluffy” recipe differs from the “dense” recipe.

Separate 4 eggs, and add egg yolks only one at a time scraping the sides of the bowl between each egg.  Do not discard the whites, you will use those later.

Remove bowl from mixer and stir in heavy whipping cream and sour cream by hand.

Now beat the egg whites until soft peaks are formed and fold them into the cream cheese mixture.

Pour finished batter into springform pan.

Now the recipe does something a little odd.  It gives you two options for baking – one was a steady temperature for a fixed amount of time, and the other was two separate temperatures for different times.  I chose to bake the cheesecake using the differing temperatures method.

I made a sauce out of raspberries to put on the top, and voila!  A super yummy cheesecake that I am very proud of for my first try.

Unfortunately (Fortunately for me because now it gets to stay here for us!  🙂 ), the cheesecake did not cool completely before we had to leave for Heppner, so I made a different one to take there.  It is a super easy no-bake recipe I got from my mom, and even though I didn’t take pictures, I’ll post it anyway.

Donna Betts’ Easy Cheesecake Recipe

  • 1 – 8 oz. package cream cheese
  • 1 – cup powdered sugar
  • 1  – cup cool whip
  • 1 – topping off choice
  • 1 – ready-made crust (for Wednesday, I made my own similar to the other recipe)

Beat cream cheese until light and fluffy.  Add powdered sugar and beat mixture until completely incorporated.  Add cool whip.  Spread mixture into ready-made crust and refrigerate 1/2 hour.  Pour topping over top of mixture and refrigerate until ready to serve.  I used a huckleberry topping I bought in Montana when I was there last Spring, but any fruit topping would work.  Emma loves it plain.

The Best Recipe Book by the Editors of Cooks Illustrated Magazine

  • 2 – pounds cream cheese (4 – 8 oz. packages)
  • 1-1/4 – cups sugar
  • 4 – large eggs
  •  2 – teaspoons vanilla
  • 1  – teaspoon lemon zest minced
  • 1/4 – cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 – cup sour cream

Line bottom of springform pan with foil, folding extra over the bottom of pan.  press graham cracker crumbs and butter into bottom of pan to desired crust thickness.  Beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy.  Add sugar and mix until incorporated.  Add vanilla and lemon zest.  Add 4 large egg yolks one at a time, scraping bowl sides between each yolk.  Remove bowl from mixer and stir heavy cream and sour cream in by hand until completely incorporated.  Beat egg whites until soft peaks form and fold them into the cream cheese mixture.  Pour mixture into springform pan.

Bake at 500 degrees for 10 minutes!  Open oven door and reduce heat to 200 degrees (once oven is cooled down, close door) and bake for an additional 45 minutes.  The cheesecake will be done when the sides are set and the center jiggles like jello when the pan is tapped.  LEAVE THE CHEESECAKE IN THE OVEN.  Turn off the oven and brace the door open with a wooden spoon handle and let it sit for one more hour.  Remove from oven to a cooling rack.  Once the cheesecake has cooled to room temperature, place it in the refrigerator to cool completely.

Remove from springform pan and serve with topping of choice.

Enjoy, they’re both really yummy!

Valentine’s Cookies

When it comes to holiday parties at school for the girls, I usually have really grandiose ideas and plans, but I generally don’t plan well and end up doing something different in the long run.  This year, for Valentine’s Day, though, I planned ahead.  I wanted to make decorated sugar cookies for them to take to their classrooms.  I didn’t want to use the traditional multi-colored butter cream frosting, though, I wanted to try something new – something I had never tried before.

I am part of a group called Post-A-Day 2011, and today’s topic was share something you learned recently, so the next two paragraphs are excerpts from that post I wrote earlier today:

First, I have to give a plug to THIS book.  The Best Recipe Book by the Editors of Cooks Illustrated Magazine.  Not only does it have great recipes, but it details the processes the test kitchens went through to get to the end-recipe result.  I used their rolled butter cookie (basically a stiffer sugar cookie dough) recipe.  It is FANTASTIC!  It is easy to work with , rolls nicely, and best of all, it tastes really really yummy!

Until this weekend, I had never made Royal Icing before, so I was a bit intimidated because I knew it could be troublesome.  Luckily for me, though, I follow The Pioneer Woman’s blog, and before Christmas, she had a post detailing how to make and use Royal Icing.  She had Bridget from Bake at 350 over to demonstrate at her ranch, so I used all the information from their two blogs.  Also part of the post was learning how to use Royal Icing to make flood icing, so I did that, too, and that is what I used for the colors on the hearts.

Bake at 350’s Royal Icing Recipe

Pioneer Woman’s Decorated Christmas Cookie Blog Post

I made my sugar cookie dough earlier this week and let it firm up in the fridge until I had time to actually bake the cookies.  Sunday morning, I made the Royal Icing and Flood Icing.  After I outlined all the hearts with Royal Icing, Harley helped me fill in the centers with the color.  First, you squirt the icing on the cookie with a squirt bottle, then you use a toothpick to spread it around and smooth it.  I thought it would take a lot longer than it did, but it was quick and easy.

 

We used four colors for the flood icing – red, pink, green, and turquoise.  After the flood icing dried and became solid, I piped the phrases on in Royal Icing.

Each of the girls now has a container of cookies for their class parties.

This picture is just for fun.  I had no idea my little point and shoot would take pictures using a selective color technique, and I accidentally stumbled upon it when taking the picture above so I thought I would try it.  It looks pretty cool, but I’m generally not a fan of selective color, so I probably won’t ever use it again.

Happy Valentine’s Day!