Sunday, April 22, 2007

My love/hate relationship and Snickerdoodle cake

I love to bake. I love the way the whole house smells good when there is a cake or cookies in the oven. I hate to clean. I hate how when I do bake there is always a huge mess to clean up. Especially in my very small kitchen that is always cluttered. (Did I mention I hate to clean?)

Anyway, all this is to tell you about one of my favorite cookbooks. A lot of people think I am an amazing cook, when really almost everything I do is all about how can I do this fast and with not much of a mess. Oh, yeah, and cheap! My favorite cookbook series is by Anne Byrn. She wrote The Cake Mix Doctor, The Chocolate Cake Mix Doctor, The Dinner Doctor, and The Cake Mix Doctor Cupcakes. Her recipes are incredible! She takes a simple, ho-hum cake mix and makes it incredible and not nearly as messy as a cake from scratch. Her books are also just fun to read, full of stories and great tips. They are also usually really easy to convert. For instance, if the recipe in the book is to make a layer cake, just look for a basically similar 9 x 13 cake and follow those baking instructions. Here is one that was a big hit at my husbands staff meeting. I was going to take it back to the church the next day but Emily threw herself prostrate before it yelling, "No! Don't take my cake!" Hope you like it.

Snickerdoodle Cake

1 French Vanilla cake mix
1 cup milk
1 stick butter or margarine, melted
3 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 9-inch round cake pans generously with cooking spray.

Place cake mix, milk, melted butter, eggs, vanilla, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for one minute. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat two minutes more. The batter should look well combined. Divide the batter between the prepared pans, smoothing it out with a rubber spatula.

Bake the cakes until they are golden brown and spring back when lightly pressed with your finger, 27 - 29 minutes. Remove pans from the oven and cool for ten minutes. Run a dinner knife around the edge of each layer and invert each cake onto a wire rack and then turn right side up to cool completely, 30 minutes more.
Prepare Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting and frost cooled cake. Place cake in refrigerator 20 minutes until frosting sets.

Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting

1 stick butter or margarine, at room temperature
3 3/4 confectioners sugar
3-4 tbsp. milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon

In large mixing bowl mix butter on low speed until fluffy, about 30 seconds. Stop the machine and add the confectioners sugar, 3 tbsp. milk, and vanilla. Blend with mixer at low speed until sugar is incorporated, 1 minute. Add the cinnamon and increase the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 1 minute more. Blend in up to 1 tbsp. milk if the frosting seems to stiff.

*In a pinch frosting: Add 1 tsp. cinnamon to a can of buttercream frosting.

Here are some quick conversions if you don't want to make it a layer cake:

9 x 13: 35 - 38 minutes
Bundt: 40 - 45 minutes
Cupcakes: 28 - 30 minutes


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Apple Cinnamon French Toast

Here's a recipe that has been a hit every time I've made it. It's from a Pampered Chef cookbook. On the terms of recipes and copyright laws, recipes can not be copyrighted. That's why Colonel Sanders has a secret recipe, because if it gets out, we wouldn't need to pick up a bucket. If you take a published recipe, change one ingredient or the amount, and it's yours. I didn't change any of the measurements here, but I did "un-Pamper Cheferize" it. I love Pampered Chef and most of their products, but they do tend to saturate their instructions with their products which leaves the inexperienced cook feeling threatened unless they own all the products listed. So if you want to make this recipe, any 9 x 13 pan will do (rather than a stoneware pan), and so on.

This is also a great recipe to make with your kids. My Cameron loved helping put the apples on top! This is also a great brunch recipe or one for Christmas morning because you make it the night before.

Apple Cinnamon French Toast

1 loaf bread (about 12 slices)
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
8 tbsp. sugar, divided
1 tsp. vanilla
1/8 salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
4 apples (Granny Smith is best, but any will do)
Sprite or orange juice, anything with citric acid to dip the apples in
2 tbsp. butter or margarine
your favorite pancake syrup

Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray. Cut bread slices in half and line pan two slices deep keeping them very close together. In a mixing bowl beat eggs with a whisk and add milk, three tablespoons of sugar, vanilla, and salt. Pour over bread. Combine the 5 remaining tablespoons of sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Peel and core apples and make thin slices. (You can use the PC Apple Peeler/Corer/Slicer for this, but I'm usually too lazy to get it out and then clean it.) Dip apples in Sprite or orange juice and then layer on top of bread. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon mixture. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour or over night.* Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut butter into small pieces and arrange over apples. Bake, uncovered, 35 - 45 minutes or until apples are tender and eggs are set. (You can do this by making a small cut in the center and if the bread appears dry, it's done.) Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Serve with syrup on the side.

*If you use a glass baking dish let it sit on the counter for 30 minutes before preheating oven. Placing a very cold glass dish in a hot oven will break the dish and ruin your brunch!

Hope you love this one as much as I do.

Here's a quicky you can always rely on in a pinch. Keep a bag of meatballs in your freezer and spaghetti sauce in your pantry for last minute company. Just throw the meatballs and sauce in your crock pot on high for 3 hours, or low for 6-8 hours, stirring every once in a while if you can. Just serve in hot dog buns with mozzarella cheese. Add some chips and veggie sticks and they will be impressed.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Oh, look! I'm blogging!

Okay, this is a little wierd, but I just thought this might be fun. Everytime I cook anything and take it somewhere, someone asks me for the recipe but I never get it to them. So, I thought I'd try this. Now whenever some one asks I can just post it here. It might be fun. Here's my first one you might like:

Black Bean and Corn Casserole

1 pound hamburger
1/2 cup frozen chopped onions
1 can black beans, drained
10 oz. frozen corn
2 packages taco seasoning mix
3/4 cup salsa
3 cups crushed tortilla chips
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

on the side:
shredded lettuce, chopped tomato, sour cream, extra chips, salsa

Preheat oven 375 degrees. Brown hamburger and onion in large skillet. Drain grease. Add black beans and corn and stir until warm. Add salsa, taco seasoning, a cup and a half of water, and salsa. Simmer 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, place crushed chips in the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish. When the hamburger mixture has cooked down (has less liquid) pour into baking dish and top with cheese. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until cheese has melted and the casserole is bubbly around the edges. Serve with lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, salsa, and extra chips.

Hope you like that one. It's a quicky, but it's yummy and an easy one to throw together. Something that might make it a dish you can always have ready to throw together is to keep a zip-lock bag in the freezer with the hamburger already browned with the onions in it. (2 3/4 cup of browned hamburger is a pound.)

Stay tuned for more! If there is a recipe you have asked me for in the past, let me know and I'll post it!