light and fluffy mashed potatoes

For Erev Yom Kippur dinner last night, I made mashed potatoes.  I thought they were good, but my daughter Randi swooned as she ate some and said, “These potatoes are like fluffy clouds, they’re so light!  She asked me if I had done anything different than usual to which I said I didn’t, but I realized I’d better write down what I did do!

5 lbs. organic Idaho potatoes

2 sticks Whole Foods salted butter

about 1/2 cup whole, organic milk

salt (not kosher)

about 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Peel potatoes.  Cut into largish pieces and put in large pot and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil (uncovered), and simmer over low boil till you can put a fork into potatoes easily.  Drain in colander.  Put your sticks of butter back in pot to melt over low flame.  Add potatoes back in, and mash.  Add salt to taste and pepper too.  Then add milk, and mash till nice and fluffy.

New and Fabulous Pizza

Benji and I are home today due to a blizzard, and it is truly glorious being stuck in the house with one of my kids and no chance of being able to go out to work or do errands.  So I’ve been cooking up a storm. I asked him if he wanted some homemade pizza since I know how much he loves pizza, and of course he gave a very enthusiastic thumbs up.  Now, the pizza is out of the oven, and he is loving it. He said it’s the perfect doughiness, cheesiness and sauciness. And of course, I’m always thrilled when Alexa Hente approves of my cooking!

for the pizza dough:

  • ¾ cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons yeast
  • 2 tablespoons light olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 ¾ cups King Arthur Organic Bread Flour (to start with)

Pour ¾ cup warm water in the large bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add 2 ¼ teaspoons yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar. Mix and let sit about 15 min. till foamy. Add 1 ¾ cup King Arthur Organic Bread Flour and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Mix on low for about 15 min. adding about ½ cup additional flour till dough is mostly together as a ball around the dough hook. Turn out onto floured parchment or counter and knead maybe 10 times. Turn under to roll into a nice ball. Lightly oil a large bowl and cover with saran wrap. Put in warm spot for about 1 ½ hours.

for the sauce:

  • 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes (I used Cento).
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons light olive oil
  • sprinkling of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 light teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

Pour 2 tablespoons light olive oil into pot. Grate 2 large garlic cloves with microplane into the oil. Sprinkle about ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes into the oil as well. Saute over low flame for about 3 min. till garlic is softened, but not brown. Pour crushed tomatoes in. Simmer over low flame about 30 min with cover off till sauce reduces by about 1/3 to 1/2.

put it all together:

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Turn out dough onto floured parchment and flatten. Cut into 2 pieces. Put one in fridge. Let other one rest (covered) for a few minutes or refrigerate covered till ready to use. Cover large baking sheet with parchment and sprinkle parchment with a little yellow cornmeal (I use Quaker yellow). On counter or another piece of parchment, roll out dough to about ¼ in. thick (rectangle or circle). Transfer to parchment on cookie sheet.

Spoon tomato sauce over dough almost to edges. Sprinkle with about 8 oz. whole milk (or part skim- which I used) mozzarella cheese – all the way to the edges. Put cookie sheet on lowest shelf of oven. Bake about 15 min. till cheese is bubbly and golden brown. Slice with pizza cutter.

banana pudding a la magnolia – in more ways than one

I was recently at 2 parties where my cousin Jane made the Magnolia Bakery recipe for banana pudding.  I couldn’t help but notice how everybody was going crazy for it.  So this weekend I decided to make it  as a dessert for my grandson Noah’s afterbirthday party (7 years old).  My daughter told me that it made a big hit.  I don’t see how it couldn’t – it’s rich and refreshing and just plain delicious. My cousin used the recipe on popsugar.com, so I used that as well.  I also referred to the recipe on health-e-child.org

ingredients:

  • 1 box Nabisco Nilla wafers (don’t substitute any other brand of cookies)
  • 1 14 oz. can Magnolia sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/2 cups ice water
  • 1 pack Jello brand vanilla instant pudding
  • 4 large ripe (but not too ripe) bananas 
  • 3 cups heavy cream

instructions:

  1. In the bowl of a mixer, beat sweetened condensed milk and water for about a minute with paddle attachment. Add the pudding mix and beat for canadian pharmacy cialis about two more minutes. Transfer to a smaller bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. By that time the mixture should be nice and firm.
  2. In a large bowl on medium speed, whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form (I put my large metal mixing bowl and whisk mixer attachment in the freezer for 15 minutes. I also put the cream in the freezer for 5 minutes before beating.) Beat till stiff peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in whipped cream to the pudding mixture in thirds until fully incorporated and no streaks of pudding are visible.
  3. I like to use a glass trifle dish.   Start out by putting a shallow layer of whipped cream in bottom of dish. (This is different than any recipe I looked at for the Magnolia banana pudding) Then put about a layer of cookies (about a third of the box of Nilla wafers) on top of cream.  Layer about one third of the sliced bananas over cookies, then about 1/3 of leftover cream.  Then put second layer of cookies, then 2nd layer of bananas, then 1/2 of leftover cream.  Then put last canadian pharmacy online layer of cookies, last slices of bananas, and rest of cream over bananas.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 8 hours before serving.

Note:  I recommend you watch the video on popsugar.com at least once before you begin making this banana pudding.

Judy’s Blueberry French Toast Casserole/ Bread Pudding

For my new granddaughter’s baby naming party, I wanted to make one more spectacular hot brunch item. I’ve made my french toast bread pudding recipe a few times to rave reviews, but there’s something I don’t like about it, and that’s the syrup that’s on the bottom.  It’s too sweet for me, mostly. I found a recipe on Kitchen Treaty called Cinnamon Blueberry Overnight French Toast that I mixed with my own recipe. So I pretty much kept the custard part of my recipe, added a sprinkling of blueberries, and sprinkled the top with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar.  Most importantly, when I took the masterpiece out of the oven, I drizzled the entire top of it with pure maple syrup.  Oh my gosh, I can’t express how delicious this was.  Everyone who ate it loved it and commented on the absolute perfection of the dish.  My daughter called me to tell me that I need to make one entire casserole for her family because she did not get enough of it and because her husband got none.  This is an outstanding recipe, and what makes it even better is that you can prepare it a few hours ahead, or the night before, as I did, and bake it off the next day.

for the custard:

  • 1 challah (I use Zommick’s 15 oz. challah, which I buy at Stop and Shop
  • 8 extra jumbo eggs
  • 2 cups light cream
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • pinch kosher salt
  • 1 1/2  to 2 cups of blueberries (optional, but I used them)

for the topping:

  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon 

essential ingredient for serving:

about 4-6 oz. pure maple syrup- medium grade

Directions:

1.  Cut the challah into slices about 1 inch thick.  Then cut the slices into pieces about 1 to 1 1/2 inches big.  Let them sit out to get a little stale.  If I don’t have the time for that, I put them on a cookie sheet and stick them in a 200 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes (I did this for baby naming party).

2.  Grease sides and bottom of large oval or rectangular 9 by 13 pan with butter.

3.  Place the pieces of challah in so they fit like a puzzle.  If you have to squeeze a few in, that’s fine, but use the entire challah.

4.  Sprinkle the blueberries on top of the challah pieces; you can push some of them down a little into some crevices.

5.  Whisk the eggs, light cream, sugar, cinnamon, salt, vanilla in a mixing bowl. Ladle the custard evenly over the bread.

6.  Refrigerate over night or for a few hours till you are ready to bake.

7.  Before you put into the oven, sprinkle the topping evenly over the top, using all of it.

8.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 min. until top is puffed (even the center) and a toothpick comes out clean.

9.  Take out of the oven, and immediately drizzle the maple syrup all over the  top of the casserole.

10.  Serve immediately!

Back to Basics Macaroni and Cheese

When my children were little, I found a recipe for macaroni and cheese on the back of the Creamettes box.  This was the recipe I made for years and years.  I recently made it again instead of the recipe I’ve made for the last 10 years (Judy’s Creamy and Delicious Macaroni and Cheese), and I discovered that I may like it more because it seems a little less rich.  It’s basically the same as my current recipe except that it has much less cheese.

  • 2 cups elbows (I like Creamettes) (about 1/2 of 1 lb. box)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • scant 1/2 teaspoon black pepper 
  • 10 oz. Land o’Lakes yellow American cheese
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk 

Melt butter in saucepan.  Add flour, salt, and pepper.  Whisk over medium heat for about 2 minutes.  Add milk gradually.  Whisk over medium heat for about 10 minutes till starts to thicken a little, but not too much.  Add in the cheese.

Cook pasta in boiling water till just cooked- not overcooked.  Drain in colander.  Butter a casserole dish.  Pour sauce into casserole.  Pour the macaroni noodles in and mix together till noodles are evenly coated with the sauce.

Cook at 375 degrees for about an hour till the cheese starts to rise to top and brown and the edges start to get brown and crusty looking.

Roasted Chicken Pieces with Jewish Spices

This chicken is so easy to make and so delicious!!! And it takes no time at all.  You can use a whole cut up chicken, or just breasts, like I did this time.  I buy my chicken from Whole Foods and it is so fresh and good.

  • chicken breasts
  • kosher salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, and a little cayenne (heaviest on the paprika).

Place chicken breasts on baking pan covered with aluminum foil.  Sprinkle both sides with garlic powder, onion powder, pepper, a little salt, very light amount of cayenne, and lots of paprika.

Drizzle tops of chicken breasts with a little light olive oil.

Roast uncovered at 375 degrees for about 40-45 min. till nicely browned. I use my convection roast setting.  Once or twice during the cooking, take out, and baste with drippings.

Homemade Applesauce

This is a great recipe for homemade applesauce.  You will think you’re eating baked apples with cinnamon.   I made this for my son and his friends, and they couldn’t get over how much better it was than eating store-bought applesauce.

  • 1 teaspoon good cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (I use Minute Maid lemon juice from concentrate if I don’t have fresh lemons)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into eighths (or Cortland, Honeycrisp, Winesap) (Reserve some of the apple peels)
  • 3  large McIntosh apples, peeled, cored, and cut into eighths (or any of the above varieties)
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place cut up apples in dutch oven or pyrex baking pan.  Sprinkle apples with the lemon juice, cinnamon, brown sugar, salt, and water.  Add the reserved pieces of apple peel. Mix gently.  Bake for about 45 min.  Mix once or twice during the cooking.  After the 45 minutes, cook a little longer if aren’t soft enough.  When apples are soft enough, take a potato masher just to mash the bigger pieces a little.  There should be a little texture to this apple sauce.  If you wish, you can take out any pieces of apple peel, but they may have pretty much dissolved.  Refrigerate or serve warm.

Amazing, Incredible Irish Soda Bread

This is the most perfect Irish soda bread imaginable.  My son Danny’s friends couldn’t get over how great it was.

Ingredients:

2 cups flour (I use organic unbleached flour, preferably King Arthur or Whole Foods brand)
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder (I use aluminum free)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, from the fridge is fine
2 eggs (1 extra large for the bread;  the other can be any size egg to be mixed with 1 tablespoon milk, half and half, or light cream for brushing on top of the bread before baking)
3/4 cup buttermilk (I usually use Friendship, which is 1.5%)
1/3 cup raisins (I try to use the most amazing raisins, which I get at Whole Foods (they are Sunview Organically Grown Black Seedless)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking powder, baking  soda, and salt. Cut butter with a knife into cubes, and add to bowl.  Cut in butter with pastry blender until crumbly.  Then take the raisins (if you are using the ones mentioned above, you’ll want to chop them up just a bit because they are larger than normal raisins) and add them to the flour mixture. In a small bowl, combine the one extra large egg with buttermilk and then pour into flour and butter mixture.  Fold the wet ingredients into the flour mixture just until moistened.  Take a piece of waxed paper and sprinkle a little flour on it.  Dump your dough onto the paper, and sprinkle just about 1 teaspoon of flour on top of it.  Gently knead 1 or 2 times.   Knead on a well-floured surface with just 2 or three motions.  You don’t want to overwork the dough.  Grease a cookie sheet with butter, and take the dough onto the cookie sheet, and shape it into a round loaf about 10 inches in diameter.  With a knife, make a X indentation in the loaf.  Mix the Shape dough into a round loag; place on a greased baking sheet. Cut a 1/4″-deep cross in the top of the loaf. Brush egg wash over loaf. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes until golden brown.  You will know the loaf is done when you put a toothpick in the middle and it comes out clean.

Serve right out of oven with butter.  Or eat later and heat up in microwave or in toaster.

THE MOST FLUFFY BUTTERMILK PANCAKES IN THE WORLD WITH THE TASTIEST BACON!

My son Danny’s best friend Stephanie stayed with us over the weekend, and I had the best time trying to spoil her with some of my cooking.  Saturday morning was a rare day for me with no work, so I made homemade buttermilk pancakes and bacon. Oh my god! The pancakes were the fluffiest, most tender, perfect buttermilk pancakes I’ve ever made or eaten. I have so many recipes for pancakes, but this one came from America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook.

for the pancakes:

  • 2 cups King Arthur Flour unbleached organic flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons aluminum free baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 extra large egg
  • 2 cups buttermilk (I used Friendship 1 1/2 percent milkfat)
  • 3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
  • 1 – 2 teaspoons corn oil for the frying

In large mixing bowl, put dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt) and mix with fork to blend.  In large measuring cup, measure buttermilk and break egg in and mix with fork, add slightly cooled melted butter and mix with fork to blend.  Pour wet ingredients into dry and whisk by hand for just a bit till there are still a few lumps in there.  If you feel the batter is too thick- which I did- add 1 or 2 more tablespoons of buttermilk and whisk again.

I use a griddle pan that has a nonstick finish.  Heat the pan up for a couple of minutes- medium flame.  Then brush griddle pan with a small bit of oil.  Take a 1/4 cup measuring cup and use it as your spoon.  I use a scant 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake.  Gently scoop batter into measuring cup and then pour it onto griddle.  Since griddle is already hot, it will only take a minute or two to cook the batter.  You will start to see a few bubbles form on your pancakes.  Turn when beautifully browned on bottom.  Take a peek before you flip- if the underside is not browned, do not turn yet! Let cook till browned before you flip.  Flip and then cook on other side till browned.  For next batch, brush pan again with oil and repeat above instructions.

Serve with butter and the best syrup- Whole Foods brand Organic maple syrup!

for the bacon:

Best bacon:  Stop n Shop’s brand- Nature’s Promise  (no nitrates or nitrites) bacon- it comes in a 12 oz. package

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Place bacon on half sheet pan or slightly smaller pan.  Try not to overlap slices.  Bake for about 20-30 minutes.  We like ours well- done, so that might take a little more time.  Drain on paper towels and keep covered with paper towels to keep warm till pancakes are ready.

Amazing Chocolate Cake

It was my daughter’s anniversary today, so I decided to make a yummy dinner for her and her husband (and kids).  For dessert, I decided last night that I’d make a chocolate cake that I’d been eying the recipe for.  It is known as “That Chocolate Cake” and I found it on the Scharffen Berger web site and on Tastespotting. This cake was everything I was looking for, and it was super simple to make.  I believe this recipe is almost exactly the same as the recipe I’ve made for chocolate cupcakes (Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Cake recipe) except that it calls for no vanilla. I followed it pretty much exactly as it appears on the web site listed above, except that I added vanilla.  The finished product was magnificent.  The cake was really dark, moist, but light at the same time.  The icing was bittersweet and creamy, but I prefer to use my own recipe you will find on this site under “Judy’s Famous Birthday Cake.”

Recipe is adapted from the Scharffen Berger recipe – “That Chocolate Cake.”


for the cake:

  • unsalted butter (for greasing pans)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup SCHARFFEN BERGER Unsweetened Natural Cocoa Powder (I used this brand of cocoa and after tasting the cake, I’m a huge fan of it! But I also use Ghiradelli unsweetened cocoa and it’s great)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (I used aluminum free- Rumsford)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 extra large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup  oil (I used light olive oil or canola)
  • 1 cup whole milk (I used organic)
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

 This is one recipe, but I prefer the chocolate icing from Judy’s Famous Birthday Cake  for the frosting which can also be found on this site:

  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar (I used a heavy 1 1/4 cups since I did not use the 99% unsweetened chocolate the original recipe calls for, but totally unsweetened chocolate)
  • 1 cup heavy cream (I used organic)
  • 5 ounces  (squares) Baker’s unsweetened chocolate
  • 8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter (I used organic)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (original recipe calls for 1 teaspoon, but I feel that is too much)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon  kosher salt (the original recipe does not call for salt)

make the cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter the bottom of  a 9 by 13 inch rectangular pan or two 9-inch round cake pans. My cake pans are amazing- they have a bottom that comes off the sides so I never have to worry about getting my layers out of the pans.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or using a hand held mixer or with a whisk, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder, and baking soda, mixing on low speed just to combine. Mix in the eggs, oil, and milk and vanilla.

Increase the speed to medium and beat for a minute or two, scraping the bottom a few times. Reduce the speed to low and mix in the boiling water. The batter will be soupy, but if you mix it on low for a minute, it will thicken up a little.

Pour into greased rectangular pan or divide the batter evenly between the 2 round cake pans. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the cake starts to separate from the sides and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and cool on a cooling rack for 15-30 minutes.  Then you can frost.  If using round pans, then run a knife around the edges of the pans turn the layers out onto the rack and cool completely. I just take the sides off my pans to finish the cooling, because the cake is a little fragile at this point.

 Start making the frosting while cake is baking or at end of baking, because it will require about 15 or 20 min. to firm up enough to use.

see Judy’s famous birthday cake recipe for favorite chocolate frosting.

make the frosting:

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and cream and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. Reduce the heat and simmer for 6 minutes, stirring almost constantly.  Turn flame off and add the chocolate.  When almost completely melted, add the butter and stir until melted. Pour into a large bowl and stir in the vanilla. Immediately place in the fridge to start firming up.  Every 15 min. or so, mix the frosting with a rubber spatula and place back in fridge.


to frost the cake:

Place one cake layer on a serving plate. Spread the frosting with a palette knife or icing spatula. Spread about 3/4 cup of the frosting over the top of the first layer. Top with the second layer. Spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake.  Cover with a good quality of plastic wrap that won’t stick to the icing and take any off the cake, and refrigerate cake until you serve it.