Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Island Ranch Chicken

I love community cookbooks.

Whether a city, school, business, or League it seems that when asked to contribute, people pull out all the best recipes in their cache.

Almost without exception, you can count on the recipes being great! Every so often you might come across a dud, but I account this to the fact that everyone has at least one bizarre family 'treasure' that they have no idea is actually kinda weird.

Case in point:

My dad used to make 'french omelette's' every Christmas morning and we'd eat them topped with tomato sauce straight out of a can. I loved this family tradition and so of course I pulled it out one Christmas after we had kids, wanting to continue on with it. Needless to say, I got some puzzled looks and had plenty of leftovers, if you know what I mean!

I'm not going to lie though, I sometimes get a wicked craving for those thin eggy pancakes with warm tomato on top!

This recipe came right out of one of those cookbooks. A compilation of recipes from the families in our church group. There are recipes in this book that are GOLD I tell you! I think this is one of them. Originally dubbed 'Keele's Favorite Chicken', this dish's original instructions require cooking three hours in a crock pot which comes in super handy if you belong to my church, as our meetings last three hours exactly each Sunday. Perfect!

Not being crock pot proficient, I let mine bake in a 9x13 pyrex in the oven. Takes less time and I have better luck keeping the chicken tender.

Sometimes you just need something simple and delicious, and I think this should be in everybody's recipe box under that heading. The sauce comes together in a slightly sweet, slightly sour, slightly creamy way, and gives the chicken a nice flavor. I serve it over rice, but it could easily be served with noodles or potatoes. Add a vegetable, and you're good to go!

Island Ranch Chicken (aka Keele's Favorite Chicken)

3-4 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tenders
(brine chicken breasts if needed)
1 jar apricot preserves (12 oz)
8 oz. ranch dressing--you can use bottled, but I make my own:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 T. Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix
1 envelope Lipton Onion Soup Mix: original,dry

After brining chicken, rinse it off and place in a 9 x 13 casserole dish. Mix together the sauce ingredients, mixing dressing ingredients together separately if making your own. Pour over chicken and cover dish with foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes, depending on the thickness of your chicken, making sure your chicken is cooked thoroughly
Remove chicken from dish and set aside. If desired, thicken sauce with approx. a tablespoon of corn starch mixed with 2 tablespoons of cold water.
Serve over rice.

Monday, February 14, 2011


After baking, icing, decorating and wrapping 20 dozen of the pretty pastries pictured below for a posh little local boutique, I switched gears and decided to try something different to hand out as my personal Valentines this year.

I played around with a glace icing technique that turned out to be so much fun! I experimented with all sorts of designs, and found that Valentines Day is the perfect holiday for these type of cookie! Swirls and hearts are easy and beautiful and I even see EKG blips in the
Mille Feuille pattern!

I boxed them up for friends and found these adorable Vintage Valentines to attach!

I love Valentines Day, and even though for me this year it was stretched out to about two weeks long, I still couldn't stop myself from sticking to tradition and finishing up with my own Valentines to hand out. I feel like I can breathe freely now and I'm pretty sure I won't be tempted to make sugar cookie for at least another two weeks!

Giorno felice dei biglietti di S. Valentino!
(It sounds prettiest in Italian!)

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Valentine Whoopie Pies

Whoopie Pies.

I'm about to climb on my soapbox here, so either settle in,
or scroll down to the actual recipe.
This could get ugly.

Like I was saying:

Whoopie Pies.

That delicious, American Original dessert, ostensibly created by
Amish women when confronted with an excess of cake batter.
Sent lovingly with their men into the fields where, upon discovering
the sweet treat in their lunches, would yell,
I'm pretty certain there is no connection to the other connotation of the word.

Now, here's my problem:

Whoopie Pies are springing up all over the food-o-sphere.
In basically as many variations as there are cake and frosting.
And all are delicious! I mean, what could be bad about
a yummy pumpkin cake/cookie schmeared with fluffy cream cheese frosting?
Nothing in my book.
I'd eat 'em all the live long day!
I just wouldn't call themWhoopie Pies.

Let me explain:

I count myself as a member of that particular group of people who harbor very protective feelings about the Amish and all things ascribed to them.
I see them as quaint, peace-loving, artistic people who embrace a simpler,
very devout way of life. Their love of God and family mirrors
my own feelings and their sense of community is beyond compare.
While I can't see myself personally adhering to their strict way of life, I do respect and appreciate it.
I mean, the quilts alone--devine!!


I think the area in which the Amish utterly excel
and where a good deal of my respect resides is the food.
My mom had an Amish cookbook that I used to pour over
even as a 10-12 year old.
The fact that it held my attention even then (sans photographs) is a testament to how scrumptious the recipes sounded.
My favorite being the Amish Stew that I faithfully use today.
Lucky Amish that they can stick to the traditional use of
butter, lard, and cream
and still maintain a lifestyle that allows the correct
metabolism to avoid obesity.

I have to stick to moderation.

That being said, the correct, traditional Amish definition of a
Whoopie Pie
is a Dark Chocolate cake filled with a
fluffy white filling which utilizes a flour/milk thickener.

Oh, and shortening.

The filling contains shortening.

This gives me pause, as I find it a rather abhorrent ingredient
to put in anything. I avoid it whenever I possibly can and only
include it in recipes that would be sacrilege to alter.
Like Lunch Lady Peanutbutter Fingers.
But that is another post for another day.

I digress--

Just put the shortening in and forget about it.
It's not that much in the grand scheme of things and
if you've ever eaten a Twinkie, well, you're obviously still here,
so it's gonna be okay.

FACT: Cake sandwiches with frosting in between
do not a Legitimate Whoppie Pie make.
Long hours of discussion with my BFF Kellie,
who left her heart in Lancaster County PA bears this out.

So make 'em however you want, with whatever you want,
but for the sake of avoiding discombobulation and
degridation of this American Classic, we will call them:
Cake Sandwiches Not To Be Confused With Legit Whoopie Pies.

This recipe comes straight out of BFF Kellie's box.

i.e. Legit Whoopie Pies.

The addition of raspberry curd is my own just to dress them up for Valentines Day and because raspberry never made anything taste worse.

For a truly original version, just make the cake/cookie and filling and Enjoy!

**Another seemingly huge recipe, but DON'T WORRY! Just break it down into parts and take your time! It is a lot to accomplish in one day so make your curd first. It can easily sit a couple of days in the refrigerator. Then make the cookie/cake portion. I do the filling last.**

Whoopie Pies
Mix until smooth:
1 cup cocoa
1 cup hot water

Cool 5 minutes.

Cream together:
1 cup shortening
3 cups granulated sugar

4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
cooled cocoa mix from above

Sift together:
5 1/3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Add to above mixture alternately with :
1 cup buttermilk

Make sure you mix well (but don't over mix!) or you'll get pie halves that do this:

Scoop onto silpat or parchment lined baking sheet using a large level scoop (I use the 3 Tblsp. size for large pies. I get about 20-24 finished pies. You could use a 2 Tblsp. size.) Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10-11 minutes. Cool on pan a minute, then remove to a cooling rack. When cooled, set aside. Keep unused batter in refrigerator until ready to bake.

Filling for Whoopie Pies

6 Tablespoons flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups shortening
3 cups powdered sugar
4 teaspoon vanilla (use clear vanilla if you want really white filling)

Mix the flour and salt in a small saucepan. Slowly whisk in milk. Stir and cook until thickened, about 5-7 minutes. Cool in fridge.

Cream shortening and powdered sugar in a mixer. Add vanilla and chilled milk mixture. Mix well. I run the mixture through a sieve at this point just to get rid of any flour lumps. Return to mixing bowl and mix for 7 minutes. I use the wire whisks for the filling.

Fold in as much raspberry curd as you like according to your taste.


Match up the whoopie pie cookies as best as you can. Spread filling on one half and sandwich with matching half. I like a lot of filling, use what you want. I individually wrap whoopie pies and store in the refrigerator (or freezer).

Give these a try and as always, I'd love your feedback!

Raspberry Curd

This is good stuff, man.
I mean,
it's 'take-a-taste-to-see-how-it-turned-out-and-then-forget -that-you-actually-made-it-for-a-specific-purpose-and-keep-spooning-it-in-your-mouth-with-abandon!'

I think I'm a curd fan for life. If you've got puree or juice, or nectar; you've got the beginnings of some delicious yum! I made this particularly for the Valentine Whoopie Pies, but I could see it used in many ways:

1. Cupcake filling
2. Served with raspberry scones
3. Mixed with butter for rolls or frybread
4. Layered in a cake or pie
5. On pancakes or crepes.......

Possibilities are unlimited! It's not difficult, but it does require a few specifics:

1. A non-reactive pan to cook it in.
If you have a glass or stainless steel double boiler, super!!
If not, fashion one, like I do:

Take a medium-sized stainless kitchen bowl and place it on a smaller saucepan containing an inch or two of water. As long as the water is not touching the bottom of the pan it will work. I use this to melt chocolate, make pastry cream, curds, anything you would need a double boiler for! It works like a charm! You can easily control the heat by how much water is in the bottom pan and the temperature of your stove! If you use a pan with reactive metals, like aluminum, it will react with the acidity of your ingredients and impart a metallic taste to your curd.

It's now ruined.
Don't do it.

2. Actual raspberries.
Frozen is fine.

3. Butter.
Lots of it.
Unsalted, please!

4. Plastic wrap.
To place directly over the top of your curd.
So it doesn't form that yukky dried-out skin on the top.
Don't skip this step.
That's pretty much it! Are you ready?

Let's begin!

Raspberry Curd:

10 oz. fresh or frozen raspberries (thaw if using frozen)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 egg yolks
juice from half a medium lemon (about 2 tsp.)

6 Tablespoons butter--cut into Tablespoon-sized chunks.

Puree raspberries. Run through a sieve small enough to catch the seeds. Measure enough puree to equal 3/4 cup. You might get a different amount using fresh vs. frozen, so be ready to puree more raspberries if needed.

Fashion a double boiler using a medium, non-reactive (stainless steel is great) bowl fitted over a small pan with an inch or so of simmering water. Or if you actually have a double boiler, great!

Pour 3/4 cups raspberry puree, sugar, Egg yolks, and lemon juice into the double boiler. Stir well and let cook over simmering water until mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the chunks of butter. Mix until butter is melted.

Strain through sieve again and place into a small bowl. You should have about 1 1/2 cups of curd. Lay some plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the curd and set in fridge to cool.

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