Sally’s Baking Addiction: November, 2018 Challenge: Savory Vegetable Cheese Tart🍠🍅🧀

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Once again, I am getting this done just under the wire! 😬 It’s the last day of November and Sally will be revealing the December challenge tomorrow. Perhaps I will challenge myself to get that done BEFORE December 31st😁!

Sally loves pies!! Like, really loves them. And, every year in November, she dedicates her blog to all things pie related. This time, she went with a savory tart, which is just a flat pie😂

Sally’s savory vegetable cheese tart recipe begins with a choice of crust. I went with her All butter pie crust, so glad I did! I don’t make a lot of pies, and have never had the best of luck with these types of crusts. Usually I make them too dry, because I am worried about it turning out too wet. But I went for it anyway!

The concept is pretty straightforward. Mix the flour, salt and a little sugar together. Cut in the cold butter.

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Until it is the size of peas

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Why does every recipe say that? the size of peas…? How big is that really?🧐 my “pea size” is actually quite a bit larger 😉

Then add the ice water until it is not dry, but not too wet either 😳 Whatever.

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This recipe will make two crusts, one is needed for this tart. I let it rest in the fridge overnight. The next day I rolled it out.

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This was the best roll out I have ever made, hopefully I can replicate it again!

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The dough went into the tart pan

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Then I blind baked it for 15 minutes at 350F. I don’t have pie weights, so I went with the dried beans!

While the tart was blind baking, I mixed the second element of this dish, the ricotta filling. The cheese filling went into the warm tart shell.

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Now came the creative part! We could use whatever vegetables we liked to top the tart. Sally provided lots of great ideas, and I went back and forth as to what to choose. Finally, I settled on sweet potatoes, tomatoes and zucchini. I was worried that the tomatoes might be too wet, but I cut them thin and blotted with a paper towel, just to be safe.

I tried to do something creative 😂

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This was brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt and thyme.

And, baked until the veggies were tender, for about 40 minutes in my oven.

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And then we feasted!!😋

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My hubby really liked it. And what about the other crust that was left over?

I have always wanted to try a sweet potato pie recipe. I chose one from Alton Brown, and yeah, it was great!

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November was a good month at our house 👩🏻‍🍳❤️!

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Sally’s Baking Addiction: October, 2018 Challenge: Pumpkin Spice Toffee🍬🎃

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I know, I know, EVERYTHING is pumpkin spice right now. And, people often fall into the “hate” or “love” group when it comes to pumpkin spice. I happen to love it❤️ If you do too, then this is a great, easy recipe.

Sally’s Baking Addiction Challenge this month does involve candy making. Many people are a little intimidated by this process, but as usual, Sally has some great tips to make it simple.

The essential tools will be a candy thermometer, a heavy bottom sauce pan and a wooden spoon. Sally also recommends a silicon mat to pour the candy mixture onto. I am sure that this would be helpful, but I just used parchment paper coated with non-stick cooking spray.

There are only 5 ingredients  needed to make the toffee: butter, warm water, light corn syrup, salt and sugar. All these go into the heavy bottom and pan and stirred with the wooden spoon. This does take some patience as you wait for the color to develop.

Initially, the mixture is pale and thin

 

While the sugar mixture is boiling, you will need to periodically brush down the hardened sugar crystals that collect on the sides of the pan with cool water and a pastry brush. Sally has a video showing what this looks like.

In the video below you can see the color and consistency changing as it nears the recommended 290F degrees.

This is removed from the heat and the pecans are stirred in, and you need to immediately pour the hot mix onto the prepared pan.

IMG_7388 It will be thick and requires about 5 minutes to set before adding the melted white chocolate.

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This is topped with the rest of the chopped pecans and sugar/pumpkin spice mix

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And that is it!!😊 give it some time in the fridge to set and then break into pieces. 😋

 

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This is the easiest toffee I have ever made, and the flavors can be changed to whatever YOU like💕 Give this one a try👻🎃🍬

Sally’s Baking Addiction: August, 2018 Challenge: Chocolate Chip Cookie Layer Cake 🍪 🍰

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Oh My! It is August 31st and the last day for me to get this challenge completed 😬. Nothing like waiting to the last minute😉

I got incredibly lucky this month, because Sally chose an easy challenge for our August installment. If you have ever baked a cookie, and made frosting, then this is a fun and simple project! In fact, the hardest part of this challenge was choosing which of Sally’s flavor combinations to make. 😊

My hubby’s birthday is also in August, so I chose flavors that I knew he would like. I made Sally’s Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, as written in the link above. The only difference was that I included white chocolate chips, along with the semi sweet ones, and made mine a 9 inch, 3 layer cake.

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I also made her Chocolate Peanut Butter frosting, yum 😋

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After that, which was very little work, all I had to do was assembled and decorate!

I kept the decorations simple, as this was for my husband (who does not like sprinkles😳)

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This flavor combo was a hit with the whole family, and it was a fun alternative to the standard ice cream cake he usually requests for his birthday.

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Next month’s challenge involves choux pastry! So I will have to be on top of my game in  September! 👩🏻‍🍳

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Sally’s Baking Addiction: April, 2018 Challenge: Croissants 🥐

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Sally threw down her toughest challenge yet when she went for laminated dough! I have talked about my feelings for laminated dough a few times already. You may remember that I had to make this many times in culinary school and had no desire to revisit those days!

But I have a tough time turning down a challenge! And, Sally has a novel approach to making laminated dough. There are more steps that require longer refrigeration times, but they are quite easy! Check out her site first, she has wonderful videos and tips to help along the way!

We begin by making the dough, which is straight forward.

Butter, flour, sugar, salt, yeast and milk were combined. The dough was kneaded in the mixer and rested, in the refrigerator, for 30 minutes. This allowed the gluten to relax so it could be rolled out in the next step.

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The measurements from here on are important. The goal is to encase the butter layer completely within the dough. So, I had to take my time to make sure that this rectangle was exactly 14 in X 10 in. Use your hands, a rolling pin, a measuring stick and lots of flour!

Once the rectangle was the correct size, and the corners were squared off, the dough was ready for its first long rest. The directions were to rest for 4 hours or overnight. I chose to leave this, covered, in the fridge until the next morning.

 

Lamination and Turns

The next day I made the butter layer.

Three sticks of room temperature butter, and 2 tablespoons of flour, were thoroughly combined. The butter layer was spread onto a parchment paper in the precise measurements of 7 in. X 10 in. This smaller rectangle was cooled in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, until solid. It is important that the butter be cold!

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After 30 minutes, the butter layer was laid in the center of the cold dough layer from the day before.

The dough was folded over the butter, completely encasing the butter layer. The dough has now been “laminated”.

Make sure the dough is pinched tight around the butter so that the butter will not ooze out of the edges when it is rolled out in the next series of steps!

 

The dough was rolled out to 10 in X 20 in this time. When this dimension was achieved it was time to fold the dough. Fold the top third down, then the bottom third up, until you have a smaller rectangle, like the one at the bottom right. That is the “first turn”. You will do this twice more, for a total of three turns. This is what makes the layers of flaky pastry!

If the dough is too warm then refrigerate for 30 minutes in between each turn. In my kitchen, I was able to do two turns and then had to cool the dough for 30 minutes before finishing the third, and final, roll out.

The dough needs to rest again for 4 hours or overnight. Since I did this in the morning, my dough rested for 5 hours before I finished baking the croissants later that evening.

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The dough after three turns, and before going into the fridge for the second long rest.

Shaping and Baking

The dough was rolled out again, this time 8 in X 20 in. Cut the dough in half lengthwise, then again three times to make 8 4in X 5in squares. Cut each square diagonally to make 16 triangles.

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check out the layers! 

Gently stretch out the triangles to make the base more centered and the triangle a little longer. Make a small cut at the base of the triangle to make it easier to roll up. Curve the final form into a crescent shape. Let them sit at room temp for 30 minutes to being the final proof. Finish proofing in the fridge for 1 to 3 hours, you want them cold going into the oven. I left mine for 1 hour.

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Brush with an egg wash and bake at 400F until golden brown. That was about 30 minutes in my oven 😊

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The verdict? They were delicious 🤤 😋 I will be honest, I am not a croissant person and really don’t enjoy eating such a buttery bread. I know I am not “normal” where these are concerned. But I did try one to assess flakiness and taste. I was impressed with Sally’s technique! It was easier than the regular laminated dough process, but does take more time. Breaking it up over a couple days did make it simpler. And, Sally gives some great tips for freezing or making ahead to aid in your planning.

If you have ever wanted to try making croissants but felt intimidated by the process then give this a try! It really is simple, and my family loved them😊💕

Sally’s Baking Addiction: March, 2018 Challenge: The Naked Cake 🎂

 

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Have you heard of naked, or semi naked cakes? 🍰 I am going to be very honest, I am not a fan of this style of cake decorating. It drives my crazy to leave the cake unfinished. I don’t find it “chic” or stylish to see the sides of the cake, must be the control freak in me!

But, that is the point of a challenge, is it not? So, I sucked it up and went for it. Aside from the instructions to not frost the sides, we were free to choose any type of cake and frosting combo we desired. I knew I would be in Seattle the week before our son’s 22nd birthday. So, the choice was easy! Ryan loves funfetti cake with vanilla icing, and has a ginormous sweet tooth.

Sally’s funfetti cake recipe is straight forward, and I was happy that it did not come from a box! It is basically a vanilla butter cake with sprinkles, and came together easily.

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Then the sprinkles were folded into the mix

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This batter is quite dense and thick. I decided to split this into two, 6 inch baking rounds, with the intent of splitting each to create four layers. It took awhile longer to bake than the times listed in her recipe, as she called for 9 inch pans.

And yes, I did weigh the batter so I could divide it exactly into the two pans (control freak remember, 😜). I let the cakes cool, wrapped them up to be frosted (or not frosted!) the next day.

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I was happy with the look of the funfetti cakes. They look just like the box mix

I made Sally’s vanilla frosting, just as she directed, and started icing, sort of..

This Was Killing Me!!! How can this be a finished cake 😫

I had a small amount of frosting left over and we were allowed to decorate the top. I dyed that remaining frosting blue, and I had no idea what to do with it. So, I put the cake in the fridge and walked away!

I needed a time out! I was making a birthday dinner for my son, daughter and her boyfriend, where the cake was the dessert. I went to Costco and bought some sandals. I went to Soma and bought two new bras (TMI 😂). Then I went to Safeway for some inspiration for this cake!

Since there is an abundance of Easter candy in every grocery store since February 15th, I bought mini robin’s eggs and mini M&Ms. If I cant frost it, then I am going to cover as much as I can with candy 🍭 🍬

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I felt a little better, but was still thinking that this is the ugliest cake I have ever made!

Ryan chose those sparkler candles for his cake and I was ready to light this sucker on fire 🔥 🔥 🔥

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The funny thing is that the kids loved it!

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I will admit that I was happy with how even all four layers were and the amount of icing was equal in each layer. See? I have symmetry issues 😉

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Even big sis liked it

All in all, it worked out well! I met the challenge, mostly, and Ryan loved his sugar bomb cake 🎂

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I hope April’s challenge will let me finish completely! 😳

Slow Cooker Lasagna, A Healthier Version of my Favorite Comfort Food!

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One of my favorite things to do on weekend mornings is to watch cooking shows, mostly on the Food Network Channel. I sleep a little longer and my hubby gets up first. He puts on a pot of coffee and I get up when I smell the brew!  I flip on the TV and do my morning stretching/yoga routine, while sipping Starbucks coffee and watching chefs whip up various dishes. I often draw inspiration for my weekly menu planning this way. Last weekend I hit on a great one!

I was watching The Kitchen and Katy Lee demonstrate her recipe for “slow cooker lasagna soup.” What drew me to this was the ease of the slow cooker-I could assemble in the morning and have it ready for the end of the day. Also, I love the idea of controlling the amount of overall carbs and calories! This method would greatly reduce the number of lasagna noodles and amount of cheese in my regular lasagna recipe. Another huge bonus is that not all of my family eats cheese. The traditional lasagna is layered with cheese and noodles making it hard for people who want to avoid the cheese to pick around it. The cheeses are added at the end with this method, and if you want to skip that step all together, you still get all the great lasagna flavor!

I set out to modify my current recipe for this technique. Super easy and tasty!

I started by browning 1 pound of sweet Italian sausage, breaking it up into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon. This was drained to remove any extra grease, which I did not want in the final dish.

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While the sausage cooked, I set to work on the slow cooker ingredients. 1 yellow onion, medium diced, went into the crock pot.

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From here we just start adding ingredients! Granulated garlic, 2 cloves of fresh garlic, Italian seasonings, bay leaf, red pepper flakes, crushed tomatoes in puree, tomato paste, tomato sauce and the sausage. I like to mix dried and fresh herbs, so chopped basil and oregano are included. Be careful with fresh oregano-it is much stronger than dried so a little goes a long way!

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We need quite a bit of liquid because the lasagna noodles will need to cook in the sauce, near the end of the cooking time. So, 4 cups of low sodium chicken broth was added, along with salt and pepper.

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This gets a big stir, covered and then set on low for 8 hours, or high for 6 hours. The noodles are added during the last hour to 30 minutes of cooking time. I like traditional lasagna noodles as opposed to the “no bake” variety, but I suspect that they would work too.

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The number of noodles you choose to add is really up to you. You could use other noodles as well, as long as it is a hardy version. Raviolis would be wonderful too!

I broke up 8 lasagna noodles and stirred them into the sauce mixture.

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40 minutes later, it was looking and smelling like lasagna!

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This was spooned into two soup mugs, that were oven safe, and we covered it with grated mozzarella, shaved parmesan and Italian parsley. I put them under the broiler for about 6 minutes. This is completely optional! You could save the calories and fat and dive right in!

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We were thrilled to get the lasagna flavors in a healthier version! I am not going to pretend that this is good for you, it is comfort food. However, you really can alter it for your own health goals. Give it a try and let me know what you think 🙂

 

Slow Cooker Lasagna

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

All the great lasagna flavor from your slow cooker, with less carbs, fat and calories than the traditional layered dish.

Credit: invisible-no-more.com

Ingredients

-1 to 1 1/2 pounds of sweet Italian sausage

-1 medium sized yellow onion, med chopped

-1/2 teaspoon granulated of powdered garlic

-2 cloves fresh garlic, minced

-1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

-1 bay leaf

-1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

-1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes in puree

-1 6 oz. can tomato paste

-1 8 oz. can tomato sauce

-4 cups low sodium chicken broth

-2 to 4 Tablespoons fresh basil, chopped

-1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

-1/2 teaspoon black pepper

-8 oz. fresh mozzarella, grated

-Shaved or shredded parmesan, for sprinkling

-chopped fresh Italian parsley for garnish

 

Directions

  1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook the italian sausage, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until browned, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
  2. In a slow cooker, combine the sausage with the garlic, both fresh and powdered, the dried Italian seasoning, bay leaf, red pepper flakes, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, chicken broth, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Cook on high for 5 1/2 hours or on low for 7 1/2.
  3. Stir in the lasagna noodles and continue to cook for another 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to broil. Ladle the lasagna into ovenproof bowls. Top each with a few tablespoons of shredded mozzarella, a sprinkle of Parmesan and the parsley. Place on a baking sheet and heat under the broiler until the cheese is bubbly, 5 to 8 minutes. 
 

Enjoy 🙂

 

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Sally’s Baking Addiction, January Challenge: Conquering Yeast!

Well, actually we were supposed to make bread bowls. But Sally really wants this group to expand their abilities and provide us a successful way to learn the basics of bread baking.

Many of you know that I already love to bake bread and have had a lot of practice with artisan loaves. So, I wanted to try out her recipe but also play a little bit! As a result I did not bake the bowls but used a recent episode of “The Great British Baking Show” as part of my inspiration with this challenge.

Hubby and I have been watching the most recent season on Netflix, and in one episode the bakers made Fougasse bread for one of the technical challenges. Traditionally this bread is made with olives, but I detest olives! And, I had some leftover caramelized onions and roasted peppers from a pulled pork recipe earlier in the week (maybe you saw that sandwich on my Instagram?), so that was my flavor profile for the Fougasse.

I began with Sally’s bread bowl recipe which is a straight dough for the most part. I chose one of her recommended variations and added 2T of Italian seasonings.

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The dough came together quite nicely.

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The yeast is good and active, always a positive sign!

The dough was left to prove and double in size. It was a hot day here in Tucson so this only took an hour!

The final weight was 2 lbs 12 oz or 44 oz total. As I said before, I wanted to play so I divided the dough into two equal portions, 22 oz each (or 1 lb 6oz.)

 

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Time to get out the leftovers and chop finely

I added the caramelized onions and yellow peppers to one portion of the dough. The tricky part is getting them incorporated as they do have quite a bit of moisture. I just kept at it! I was careful to not over knead the dough as I did not want it to be too tough.

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This was shaped into a rough (so very rough!) oval and the Fougasse cuts were made.

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The cuts need to be quite large so they don’t fill in during the second prove and subsequent baking.

I left this to prove for a second time and turned my attention to the second portion of dough. I kept this one a little simple and just formed it into a long baguette. I then used a pair of scissors to make the leaf sections.

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This turned out to be too long for my sheet pan! So I had to cut it into two loaves

 

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This also had to be set aside for its second proving.

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Both types of bread needed a crunchy exterior so I did not use Sally’s egg wash and put them into a 400°F oven with steam. The results were pretty darn tasty!

 

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One of my concerns was that the onions and peppers on the surface would burn, fortunately, that did not happen.

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When we got inside it was baked through and retained the moisture from the vegetables, so it was not dry!

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I was also pleased with the flavor and texture of the baguettes.

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These froze well and made some wonderful sandwiches later in the week.

Overall, we liked both versions but really found the Fougasse to be extraordinary! My husband has not stopped talking about that one!

I do hope Sally continues with the bread challenges, my hubby hopes so too 🙂