New Kitchen…

This is the current status of my kitchen. This picture doesn’t show a whole heck of a lot, since I had already done a lot of work. I have finally been able to cook a few dinners. It’s beginning to feel like my kitchen. More pics will come soon once I have it to where I like it.  Thank you all for being so patient with me as we continue to unpack. I will be back soon with some very excited recipes. I have a lot of ideas and I am ready to put them together!

Apple Butter – No Sugar Added

I’m always looking for recipes that have no sugar added or no sugar. My husband is a diabetic and has a sweet tooth. A lot of the recipes I make can be adapted and splenda can be used in place of sugar. But sometimes it doesn’t work well. The chewy chocolate chip cookies do not work well with splenda. The whole texture is changed and has an off flavor. When I saw an apple butter recipe come through my Google Reader, I knew it was something I had to try. It didn’t call for any sugar and relied on the sweetness in the apples and unsweetened apple juice. Perfect!

Last week we got a bunch of fresh Pennsylvania apples and I set off to see if this recipe works. I started the process at 8:00pm in the evening. Seeing that it would take 15 hours of cooking time in the crock pot, I knew starting it at night was the wise decision. The apples were done around 11:00am and the house smelled amazing. I was a little unsure if the apples would get that dark color you find in apple butter, but they did. They were a beautiful dark brown and cooked to perfection. One of the things I noticed is that there was a lot of liquid. I decided to take the apples out with a slotted spoon then put them through a blender. If I hadn’t the apple butter would have had more liquid and not be as thick as it should. The apple butter tasted really good. The only thing was that it had a tiny bit of tang to it. Next time I make this I am going to cut down on the apple cider vinegar. I don’t think there is a need for 1/4 cup of vinegar. I’ve adjusted the recipe to reflect those changes.

Challenge For You:

There was another photo I was going to use, but as I was showing my father-in-law the photo he saw something in the apple butter. As soon as he pointed out what he saw, I could no longer use it as my main photo because it ruined it for me. I decided to still put it on here to see if you could see what he did. We had a very good laugh over this, especially since it’s something I had not planned.

Can you spot the unborn piglet?

Apple Butter:

  • 10 whole Medium Sized Apples (I used a mix of Winesap and Empire)
  • 2 cups Unsweetened Apple Juice
  • ¼ cups Water
  • 2 tbs Apple Cider Vinegar
  • ½ teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Tablespoon Cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoons Ground Cloves
  • ¼ teaspoons Ground Nutmeg
  • 1 pinch Sea Salt (I used Kosher)

1. Place cored and sliced apples (not peeled) into a large crock-pot / slow cooker.

2. Pour juice on top of sliced apples. Add water, apple cider vinegar, extract and spices. Stir all ingredients together, cover pot and let it cook for 15 hours on low.

3. The liquid will reduce and the apples will be very soft, darker in color. After 15 hours, turn the crock pot off and let the apples cool down a bit (about 30 minutes), then with slotted spoon, transfer the mixture into a blender and blend until completely smooth.

4. Let the apple butter cool and then transfer into storage containers. It should store well in the fridge for about 3 weeks. You could even freeze it.

Source: slightly adapted from  Tasty Kitchen

Sushi- Tampa Roll

Sushi has been apart of my families life for close to 20 years. My parents first got the taste of it back when I was in High School and the parents of one my friends brought some to the big football game. They let my parents try some and that is where it all began. We started going to the local Japanese restaurant to get our new addiction taken care of. Soon after that my dad realized it’s much cheaper to make sushi at home. It’s still nice to go out and get some really good sushi but making it at home can be fun.

When my kids were born and were at the age that fish and solids foods were ok, I introduced them to sushi. They LOVED it and it became their favorite food. They love having sushi making parties, it’s fun letting them pick out what they want in their rolls. That’s what is great about sushi, there are NO rules! You can put whatever your little heart desires into it. Fried Chicken? Why not? I personally haven’t done that, but don’t see why you couldn’t.

My husband never had sushi till he met me. He enjoys sushi, but he likes sushi with cooked ingredients. My kids and I are more of the the raw sushi (sashimi) type. When we lived in Tampa my husband wanted to try the Tampa Roll. It’s made of fried grouper, mayo and scallions and it became a favorite of ours. When we moved away from Florida we missed the Tampa Roll and I thought it would be easy enough to make. I found that grouper is harder to come by when you don’t live in Florida. I tried different types of frozen fried fish, and you will be surprised at what tasted closest to the original. Frozen fish sticks! If you can’t find fresh or frozen grouper in your grocery store, the fish sticks make a great alternative.

The items you need to get started…

Bamboo Rolling Mat, Nori (package of seaweed paper), sushi rice, fried grouper (or fish sticks), mayonnaise and scallions. Optional: wasabi paste and pickled ginger.

I like to tape plastic wrap around the bamboo rolling mat. It helps with keeping it clean. You can make your own sushi rice at home but that is a process and I will plan on posting that down the road. If you do not want to make the rice at home you have some options. I found that if you have a Chinese buffet that does sushi, they will sell you sushi rice. You could also try a Japanese restaurant. How much you get depends on how much you want to make. A couple pounds of rice will make quite a few rolls.

*Keep a bowl of water near you when making these rolls. You want to keep your hands wet while working the rice or else it’ll stick to you.

Lay the Nori down on the bamboo mat, shiny side down. With wet hands, put about a cup of rice on the paper and spread it out. When I make an inside roll (rice on the inside) I don’t put it all over the nori, as you can see above. Next, spread about 1 tbs of mayo on the rice in a thin strip going from one end to the other. Layer the grouper and scallions (see above picture). Work with the ingredients facing you and slowly start rolling the nori over the fish. You will continue rolling it up and when you get to the end, wet your finger and run it across the end of nori so it’ll stick to the roll and the seam won’t open. Slice into about 8 pieces and enjoy!

Fried Grouper:

  • 4 grouper fillets
  • 5 cups peanut oil
  • tempura batter

Heat the oil in a heavy bottom pot till it registers 350 degrees. Slice the grouper fillets into long thin strips and dip into the tempura batter. Place a few strips of battered fish into the hot oil. Cook until lightly browed and place on paper towel to soak up the grease.

Tempura Batter:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup ice water
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt

Beat an egg in a bowl. Add ice water in the bowl. Be sure to use very cold water. Add sifted flour and salt in the bowl and mix lightly. Be careful not to overmix the batter.

Italian Bread

Homemade bread is simply the best thing ever. There is something so soothing about kneeding the bread and the smell, oh the smell. It’s heaven! I had been searching for a good Italian bread recipe and when I saw this one on Annie’s Eats I knew I found it. I’ve made this bread a handful of times and each time it comes out better. The recipe calls for the bread to be kneaded in the stand mixer for a total of 10 minutes. But I found that once the dough started to come together and was still a little sticky, kneading it by hand was better. I added flour to the dough as I kneaded it so it wouldn’t stick to me or the counter. I think by doing that you don’t over flour it.

You need to allow a lot of time for making bread, but the smell of the house and the bread alone is well worth all the work!

*You will need to start the process the night before you want to bake it.

Italian Bread

For the preferment:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup bread flour
  • ½ tsp. instant yeast

For the dough:

  • All of the preferment
  • 5 cups bread flour
  • ½ cup nonfat dry milk
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar or granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. instant yeast
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cups water, at room temperature

  1. To make the preferment, combine the water, flour and yeast in a medium bowl.  Mix well to blend, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit at room temperature at least 4 hours and up to 16 hours.
  2. When you are ready to make the dough, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the preferment, 4 cups of the flour, dry milk, sugar, salt, yeast, olive oil and water.  Mix on low speed until a sticky dough has formed.  Switch to the dough hook and add the remaining flour ¼ cup at a time.  Continue kneading on low speed until the flour has been incorporated (At this stage is when I’ve taken it out of the bowl and hand kneaded it. You will end up adding more than 5 cups of flour) and you have a dough that is smooth and elastic, and no longer sticky.  The total kneading time should be about 10 minutes.
  3. Transfer the dough to a well greased bowl, turning once to coat, and cover with plastic wrap.  Allow to rise at room temperature until approximately doubled in size, about 2 hours.  Punch down the dough, cover once more, and let rise again for 30 minutes.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Knead the dough once or twice and divide into two equal portions.  Cover the two pieces of dough with a damp towel and allow to relax for 20 minutes.
  5. Shape the two portions of dough into the desired final shape and transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone baking mat .  Cover again with a damp kitchen towel and let rise until approximately doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
  6. Preheat the oven to 425˚ F.  Just before placing the loaves in the oven, brush or spray them lightly with water.  Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes before rotating them.  Bake another 20-30 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 200˚ F.  Remove from the oven, transfer to a wire cooling rack and let cool at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

Source: Annie’s Eats

Goat Cheese Spread with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Basil

I whipped these up the other night to go with the Chicken Milanese. I love the combination of goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and basil. I toasted up the slices of Italian bread and I must tell you the awful truth of that night. I put the slices of bread under the broiler and turned my back. I know better but I couldn’t help myself. I started chopping up the tomatoes while having a nice conversation with my kids. The next thing I knew I was smelling burnt bread. I was able to salvage 8 slices of bread so we could enjoy this wonderful cheese spread. I don’t add any salt to this because the goat cheese and tomatoes have enough salt and any more would be too much.

Your tip of the day: DO NOT turn your back on bread you have toasting in the oven!

Goat Cheese Spread w/Sun-dried Tomatoes and Basil

  • 1 loaf Italian Bread sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic cut in half
  • 8oz Plain goat cheese
  • 3 tbs chopped sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
  • 2tbs chopped fresh basil
  • Dash of pepper

1. Set rack to top shelf and toast both sides of the bread under the broiler, flipping them over once. When nice and browned take them out and set on plate.

2. With the cut side of the garlic rub it onto the hot bread. You will notice the garlic melts a bit on the toasted bread.

3. Mix together the goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, pepper and basil.

4. Spread the cheese mix on the toasted bread and enjoy.

Flavored Ice Tea

I honestly think that iced tea runs through my veins. My husband and I live on it. There is nothing better than freshly brewed iced tea on a hot summer day. When Lipton came out with cold brew tea, the angels sang a beautiful song. Instead of waiting 30 minutes for iced tea; I wait 5 minutes. Twinings realized how wonderful this cold brew tea was and created their own line. It was my beautiful mother-in-law who thought about combining the two different teas. She instantly became my favorite mother-in-law. If you love iced tea and want to switch it up a bit; I recommend adding a couple of the different kinds of Twining cold brew tea to your regular tea. My favorite is with mixed berries; reminds me of PF Changs berry tea.


Well, there really isn’t a specific recipe. We use a 1 gallon size pitcher and put 3 of the big size Lipton cold brew tea bags in with 2 of the Twining tea bags.

Anniversary Cake

A few weeks ago I made an Anniversary cake for my husband’s Aunt and Uncle’s 38th wedding Anniversary. I enjoy making cakes and I’m on the search for the perfect cake recipe. I had a few mishaps when baking this cake. I went to my trusty cookbook Cooks Illustrated thinking it was going to work perfectly. Unfortunately it did not work out like I had hoped. The center of cakes collapsed. Positive note: the cakes tasted really good. I am going to keep on my search for that perfect cake and keep you posted along the way. I will also post in the future how to make these beautiful fondant roses.

Till then, enjoy the picture.