Sunday, October 31, 2010

Chicken Velvet Soup

I love love love this soup. It is rich, creamy and oh so fast and easy to throw together. With the colder weather upon us, I am starting to want soups more and more. I love having homemade soup for dinner on a cold day. I first had this soup at my sister in law's mothers house a couple of years ago and I have been addicted ever since. In fact when I think back over time about those "favorite" meals I recall having which just tasted so good. This soup is one of them. It was chicken velvet soup in bread bowls served with a side of garden fresh salad and homemade ranch. When I make this, I serve it the exact same way.

This recipe isn't heavy on seasonings, so sometimes if I'm in the mood to kick it up a little I'll add some seasoning to the chicken when I cook it. I've used everything from my favorite dry and fresh herbs to some Mrs. Dash. For a little more I have also added cheese and cooked broccoli. This is a great base soup and you can really add what you like to suit your own tastes and cravings.

Chicken Velvet Soup
From the kitchen of Mrs. Treu
Serves 4

6 tbsp. butter
1/3 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. light cream (I will also use half and half depending on what I have on hand)
3 c. chicken broth
1 c. finely chopped cooked chicken
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter. Blend in flour. Add milk, cream and broth. Cook and stir until mixture thickens and comes to a boil. Reduce heat. Stir in chicken and dash of pepper. Heat again just to boiling. Serve hot.

Friday, October 29, 2010

BEST Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

I enjoy a good chocolate chip cookie but I'd have to say that I am certainly partial to any cookie that has oats in it. I love the added texture and the nutty flavor the oats bring to the mix. This recipe for Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies is wonderful and lived up to every expectation I had. Sadly I didn't have a chance to take a pic of my own cookies so I have stolen the one from Mels ( blog which is where I found this gem of a recipe. I loved these and think I have certainly found my go to Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe. One thing I particularly loved about this recipe other than the fact that it was easy to throw together is that the cookies had some height to them. I'm not a fan at all of a flat cookie. I like a little something in the middle, a mound, a lump, a hump...something. Just not flat. I have to have something to sink my teeth into. Thanks again Mel!

Classic Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
2 3/4 cups oatmeal
2 cups chocolate chips

Cream together the butter and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy. Add Baking soda, powder, and salt and mix. Add flour, oatmeal and chocolate chips. Mix until combined. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Peaches and Cream Trifle

My sister in law Liz celebrates her birthday in September. This year I told her I wanted to make her a special cake or dessert for her birthday when we got together for our monthly family dinner with the in-laws. I asked her what she wanted and she said either a fruity cake or something with chocolate or caramel. With such a broad range to work with my mind quickly got working on the perfect birthday treat for my beautiful sister. I had recently acquired some gorgeous flavorful peaches from my in-laws peach tree and so knew that they would be the perfect star for my creation. I love love love peaches and more than loving peaches, I love fresh off the tree peaches. I had a blast with this and the results were...even if I say so myself...FREAKING AWESOME!

Peaches and Cream Trifle
By Nat

For the cake:
Martha Stewart Classic Pound Cake

1 pound (3 1/4 cups) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon coarse salt
4 sticks softened unsalted butter, plus more for pans
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
9 large, room-temperature eggs

1.Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter two 5-by-9-inch loaf pans. Combine all-purpose flour and salt in a bowl.
2.Cream butter and sugar with a mixer on high speed until pale and fluffy, for 8 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl. Reduce speed to medium, and add vanilla extract.
3.Lightly beat eggs, and add to mixer bowl in 4 additions, mixing thoroughly after each and scraping down sides. Reduce speed to low, and add flour mixture in 4 additions, mixing until just incorporated. Divide batter between pans. Tap on counter to distribute; smooth tops.
4.Bake until a tester inserted into center of each cake comes out clean, about 65 minutes. Let cool in pans on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Remove from pans, and let cool completely on wire rack.

For the first Peach Layer:
Approx 12 peaches peeled and cut into chunks
1/4 cup of sugar- more or less depending on the sweetness of your peaches
1 tbl spoon lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla

Place all of the ingredients except the vanilla in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Recuce heat and let simmer for 10 minutes. Off heat add the vanilla and stir. Set aside.

(NOTE) If this mixture seems overly liquidy (it should have some substance/body to it) you can thicken it with a little cornstarch and water paste.

For the second peach layer
Approx 6 peaches peeled and cut into moons for layering and garnish

For the Custard Layer:
1 cup of full fat milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp of vanilla essence
4 egg yolks
1 tbl spoon of cornflour
1/3 cup of white sugar

1. Combine milk and cream in a saucepan. Using a sharp knife, split the vanilla bean in half lengthways and scrape out the seeds. Add bean and seeds to the milk mixture, Place over medium heat. Cook, stiring constantly, for 5 or so minutes or until hot. (Do not allow the mixture to boil). Remove from heat.

2. Whisk egg yolks, corn flour and sugar in a heatproof bowl until well combined. Remove vanilla beans from milk mixture. Pour hot milk mixture over egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly.

3. Return mixture back to saucepan over low heat. Cook stiring constantly, for 15 to 20 minutes or until the custard thickens and coats the back of a metal spoon. Be sure not to let the custard boil.

For the cream layer:

2 cups of heavy whipping cream
3 tbls spoons of sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp lemon juice
8 ounces of cream cheese softened

Using a hand mixer combine cream cheese, lemon juice and vanilla and blend until smooth. In a separate bowl whip cream and sugar together. Fold cream mixture into cream cheese mixture and set aside.

Now the fun begins. Start by spooning a small amount of the cooked peach mixture into the bottom of your trifle bowl so that when you place the first layer of cake into the trifle bowl it has something moist to sit on. Then slice approx half inch layers of the pound cake and layer them into the trifle bowl trying not to leave any large holes. Once you have your cake layer in place spoon some more of the cooked peach mixture over the cake. Follow with a thin spreading of custard. On top of the custard a thin layer of the cream mixture and then finish the layers with a layer of the freshly sliced peaches. Continue layering in this fashion ending with a topping of fresh peaches.

One of the things I like most about triffles is that they are not an exact science. You have all your various layers and you don't have to be stuffy about how you apply them. Ultimately what you are going for is a moist dessert filled with flavors which compliment each other. So if you like more custard...add more custard. If you like more fruit..add more fruit. Have fun with it!!!


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Best Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

Another heavenly combination! This pumpkin chocolate chip bread from Mels Kitchen Cafe- (I've said it once and I'll say it again...LOVE her!)is wonderful! I can't get enough of the pumpkin chocolate chip combination. If I see a recipe for it, I have to try it. I made this last week and after Brad, Gabe and I devoured one of the loaves in no time, I knew I had to get rid of the other one...stat!

This bread is moist, full of pumpkin and chocolate chip flavor and just plain ol delicious. Mels note however regarding the bread being even better the next day is very true. So if you can, make it the night before and resist the urge to partake until the next morning.

One thing I did do differently with this recipe which didn't affect the taste at all was add some flax seed. One of my gym instructors has put me onto the stuff and since everything we eat tends to be so over processed and unhealthy I am always looking for easy and non-invasive ways to add a little somethin somethin good to my naughty treats. Maybe it just makes me feel better about eating them. "Hey it's healthy it has flax seed in it" Anyways I bought a bag of the stuff at Sams Club for $10.00 and just add a scoop or two to everything I bake and most things I make.

Flax seed is naturally gluten free, is a great source of fiber, protein and most importantly Omega-3's. I add it to my morning shakes, all of my baked goods, my cereal and even some of my main dinner dishes. Give it a go!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

*Note: This bread tastes best when it has cooled completely for a few hours and tastes even better the next day.

*Makes 2 (9X5-inch loaves) or 3 (8X4-inch loaves)

2 ½ cups white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
4 large eggs
2/3 cup water
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 9×5-inch loaf pans or three 8×4-inch loaf pans.

In a large bowl, mix flours, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt together. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together canned pumpkin, oil, eggs and 2/3 cup water until well combined and stir into dry ingredients, just until the dry ingredients are moistened and no dry streaks remain. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour batter in prepared pans.

Bake the bread for 60 to 70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the bread from the oven and let sit for 10-15 minutes. Run a knife gently around the edge of the bread and turn the bread out, right side up, onto a wire rack to cool completely.

This bread freezes beautifully. After cooling, wrap the bread in a layer of plastic wrap and then a layer of tin foil. Freeze for up to 2 months.

BEST Banana Butterscotch Muffins

My amazing friend Holly over at Phemomenon ( gave me this recipe a little while back and now whenever I have banana's that are ready to be made into some deliciously naughty treat my mind goes straight to these little wonders. I must admit when she first suggested butterscotch chips I was a little hesitant but I happened to have some that I needed to use and OH BOY it was like the windows of heaven opened up- what a truly wonderful combination!!! A must try!!!

Banana 'Chip' Muffins
Adapted liberally from Nigella Lawson

2-3 ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour (or a combination of all-purpose and wheat flour)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 to 1 cup chips (butterscotch, chocolate, white chocolate, cinnamon, cappuccino, peanut butter or toffee bits, and/or nuts - or any combination)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line or spray 12 muffin cups with oil. Set aside.

Whisk together the oil, eggs and vanilla in a small bowl or glass measuring cup. Set aside.

Whisk together the flour(s), sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add the oil/egg mixture and stir well till just combined. Add the mashed bananas till just mixed in. Fold in the chips.

Distribute the mixture evenly between the 12 muffin cups (will be about 2/3 to 3/4 full). Bake the muffins for 22 to 24 minutes or until lightly golden and springy to the touch. Let cool 5 minutes before removing from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store completely cooled muffins in an airtight container.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Strawberry Cream Cake

A few months ago now Brad bought me a new America's Test Kitchen cookbook that I had been drooling over for months. When I was skimming through the cake section and saw the recipe for this cake I was so excited to try it. I made this cake for our family dinner to celebrate the August birthday's on Brads side of the was the perfect excuse!

This cake was a little tricky in terms of cutting the not so high cakes into three slim layers but the end results were SO worth it...even if it did look a little like the leaning tower of Pisa. The colors were gorgeous and it was quite impressive to look at and boy did it taste good. Best strawberry cake I have ever tasted hands down! Both my little sister in law's Shelbi and Savannah have already requested it for their next birthdays. Enjoy!!

A labor of love well worth the time and effort. I love planning and making special deserts for those I love, infact there are many nights where I am kept awake planning my next meal, treat, dinner party etc.

Please excuse the not so great pics. I was so worried about getting this baby safely to my in-laws that I forgot my camera to take a pic of the sliced cake. You will just have to trust me on this one.

Strawberry Cream Cake
Americas Test Kitchen
Serves 8-10

Cake:1 1/4 cups cake flour plus extra for the pan
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp table salt
1 cup white sugar
5 large eggs (2 whole and 3 separated), room temperature
6 tbl spoons unsalted butter melted and cooled slightly
2 tbl spoons of water
2 tsps vanilla extract

Strawberry Filling:2 pounds of fresh strawberries- washed dried and stemmed
4-6 tbls spoons of sugar
2 tbls spoons of kirsch ( I omitted this- I still don't even know what it is)
pinch of salt

Whipped Cream:
8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp table salt
2 cups heavy cream

1. For the cake: Adjust an oven rake to lower middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 9 inch wide by 2 inch high round cake pan or a 9 inch spring form pan and line it with parchment paper. Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and all but 3 tbls spoons of sugar in a mixing bowl. Whisk in 2 whole eggs and 3yolks (reserving the whites), the butter, water and vanilla. Whist until smooth.

2. In the clean bowl of a standard mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the remaining 3 egg whites at medium-low speed until frothy, 1 to 2 minutes. With the machine running, gradually add the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar and increase the speed to medium-high, and beat until soft peaks form (60 to 90 seconds). Stir one third of the whites into the batter to lighten; add the remaining whites and gently fold into the batter until no white streaks remain. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a rubber spatula. Lightly tap the pan against the countertop two or three times to settle the batter. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes rotating the pan half way through the baking time. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert onto the wire rack and peel of the parchment paper. Invert the cake again and cool completely on the rack for 2 hours.

3. For the Strawberry Filling:
Halve 24 of the best looking berries and reserve. Quarter the remaining berries and toss with 4 to 6 tbls spoons of sugar (depending on the sweetness of the berries)in a medium bowl and let sit for 1 hour stiring occasionally. Strain the juices from the berries and reserve (you should have about 1/2 cup of juice). In a food processor, give the macerated berries 5 pulses (you should have about 1 1/2 cups). In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, simmer the reserved juices and kirsch until syrupy and reduced to about 3 tbl spoons, 3 to 5 minutes. Pour the reduced syrup over the processed macerated berries, add the salt, and toss to combine. Set aside until the cake has cooled.

4. For the whipped cream:
When the cake has cooled, place the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and salt in the clean bowl of a standar mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 1 o 2 minutes, scraping down the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Reduce the speed to low and add the heavy cream in a slow steady stream; when almost fully combined, increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.

5. To assemble the cake:
Line the edges of a cake platter with stips of parchment paper to keep the platter clean. Use a serated knife to cut the cake into 3 even layers. Place the bottom layer on a platter and arrange a ring of 20 strawberry halves, cut sides down and stems ends facing out, around the perimeter of the cake layer. Pour one half of the pured berry mixture (about 3/4 cup) in the center, then spread to cover any of the exposed cake. Gently spread about one third of the whipped cream (about 1 1/2 cups) over the berry layer, leaving a 1/2 inch border from the edge. Place the middle cake layer on top and press down gently. Repeat with 20 additional strawberry halves, the remaining berry mixture, and half of the remaning whipped cream; gently press the last cake layer on top. Spread the remaining whipped cream over the top; decorate with the remaining cut strawberries. Remove the parchment paper from the platter and serve.