Eclairs

I was in need of something yummy yesterday. And when I say yummy I mean REALLY yummy. OOZING with yummy-ness. Decadently yummy. Do you get the idea? Boring old cookies or something like that just weren't going to cut it, I needed something amazing. But I don't have huge reserves of energy right now (and I'm just lazy) so it had to be something that wasn't going to require a large amount of effort. Or a trip to the store. Ethan helped me swim through mountains of cookbooks and ideas and we finally decided that these would be the perfect thing. And OH BOY were they ever!
What you need:
Pudding (we used this recipe to make our own, but you could use the boxed stuff) or Pastry Cream
   
*For the eclairs:
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup water
1/2 cup butter
4-5 eggs
*For the chocolate glacé icing
3 squares (3 oz) semi sweet baking chocolate, melted in 1 1/2 TBS water
3 cups confectioner's sugar, SIFTED
3-4 TBS water

What you do:
Make your pudding/pastry cream first and get it started chilling in the fridge.

For the eclairs:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Sift the flour and salt together into a small bowl or onto a piece of waxed paper. Put the water and butter into a fairly large saucepan, bring to a boil, and when bubbling, remove from the heat. Immediately pour in the flour/salt. Beat vigorously for a few seconds until the mixture is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the pan to form a ball.
Cool the mixture about 5 minutes, then beat in the eggs, one at a time. If the eggs are large, break the last one into a bowl and beat with a fork. Add this egg slowly to the pastry dough to ensure that it remains firm and keeps its shape--all of this last egg may not be needed, depending on the consistency of the dough.
Beat the dough for 1-2 minutes until it's glossy and very smooth.
Put the dough into a pastry bag (I just use a large ziplock bag and cut off the tip of one corner) with a 1/2 plain tip. Pipe the dough fairly far apart onto a dampened baking sheet in 3 in lengths (I don't know why they have you dampen the baking sheet. It didn't prevent the pastries from sticking, next time I'm going to try just spraying the pan with cooking spray).
Bake for 10 minutes in the heated oven, then raise the temp to 425 degrees and continue baking for 15 minutes. When the eclairs are firm and crisp, prick the sides to release the steam and cool on a wire rack. Slit them open along one side.Fill the eclairs with the pudding, making sure the entire length is filled, preferably using a pastry bag fitted with a small plain tip (again, I used a plastic baggie). 
Dip the tops of the eclairs in the icing (recipe to follow) and return to wire rack to set (I didn't dip mine, I just spooned the icing over the tops, it seemed less messy). These were good warm, but we decided we liked them best chilled. 
For the chocolate glacĂ© icing:
In a pan over gentle heat, melt the chocolate pieces in the water, stirring until it's smooth (Remember how I said I didn't want to have to go to the store? I didn't have baking chocolate, so I just threw in three medium size handfuls of semi sweet chocolate chips, and it worked fine). Take from heat and beat in the sugar. Add enough water to make a thick cream. Heat the icing over a pan of hot water until warm to the touch--it should coat the back of a spoon. If it's too thick, add a little more water; if too thin, beat in more sugar.

Now, I do have to warn you that I have a terrible time getting my pastry to come out uniform. There are often several of them that have holes or deformations that make them unfit for filling. Also, my oven has a thing against heating to and staying at the temp you've chosen so my first pan of these didn't cook right. So, I took the ones that would work and filled/frosted them the conventional way, but the rest didn't go to waste. I put a layer of the pastries in a dish, then poured the leftover pudding over the top of them. I added another layer of pastries and topped with the remaining frosting. I ended up with an eclair casserole tiramisu lasagna cake pie thing that was REALLY yummy, though not beautiful. None of the ugly pastries got wasted and I have WAY more good stuff to fatten myself up with. That's a win for everyone!

Vanilla Pudding

Okay, so I didn't take a picture of this one, but we all know what pudding looks like, right? Home made pudding tends to be more mildly flavored than the store bought boxed stuff, but it's SO good!

What you need:
 1/3 cup sugar
2 TBS cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
2 cups milk
2 large egg yolks, slightly beaten
2 TBS butter or margarine, softened
2 tsp vanilla

What you do:
In a 2 qt saucepan (it really does need to be that big, trust me), mix sugar, cornstarch and salt. Gradually stir in milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir 1 minute.
Gradually stir at least half the hot mixture into the egg yolks, then stir back into hot mixture in saucepan. Boil an stir 1 minute; remove from heat. Stir in butter and vanilla.
Pour pudding into individual serving dishes. Cover (use plastic wrap and push it all the way down onto the surface of the pudding, if you don't a skin will form on top of the pudding, yuck!) and refrigerate about 1 hour or until chilled. Store covered in the refrigerator.

Cam's Chicken and Dumplings

Before church we decided chicken and dumplings sounded amazing for lunch. So I looked up recipes to get the gist of the meal and put together my own concoction. If you don't try anything that we've posted so far, try this! And...I'm a genius. This shtuff is good! -Cameron

This really was amazing. So good, easy, and filling. This is going in our must have fall/winter recipe rotation.


Gravy/Soup Ingredients:

  • 18 oz. chicken broth (I used low sodium broth because that's what we had on hand)
  • 1 can Cream of Chicken/Cream of Mushroom soup (I used the Campbell's soup combined can)
  • 2 large chicken breasts (can use thighs), cut into big bite size chunks
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 medium to large onion, chopped
  • 1 scant tsp. celery seed (I didn't have celery on hand but wanted the celery flavor, so I used the celery seed instead)
  • 1/4 tsp ground sage
  • 1/4 tsp ground thyme
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp of cumin
  • 1/4 tsp parsley flakes
  • 1/4 tsp basil leaves
  • 3 1/2 tbs unsalted sweet cream butter (substituting margarine may work, but butter will taste better)
  • 7 small green onions, chopped
  • 3 large carrots (quartered coins)
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 1/2 c. flour
  • 1/2 c. yellow cornmeal
  • 1 heaping Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 c. half and half
  • 1 c. milk 


Directions:
  1. Combine broth, soup, chicken chunks, garlic, onion, and spices/herbs (celery seed, sage, thyme, cumin, parsley, and basil)
  2. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer until chicken is cooked. 
  3. Add the butter, vegetables, and salt. Let simmer while you mix up the dumplings. 
  4. Simmer until vegetables are nearly done (or all the way done if you like your veggies a little more mushy), add the cream cheese and stir until melted into the soup. 
  5. Drop dumpling dough by heaping tablespoon (or fork full) onto top of soup.
  6. Cover (leaving the lid cracked) and simmer for 15-20 minutes. 
  7. Spoon into bowl and devour. 

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

So this recipe came from a super cute cook book that was given to me forever ago (by someone amazing, by the way). I've looked at the pictures and thought "hmmm, there's some yummy looking stuff in here", but I've never actually gotten around to making any of the recipes. I was trying to decide what to make for FHE treats yesterday and decided these looked really yummy and not too complicated, so here you go.

These are super chocolatey and stay soft and chewy even after they cool, which makes them amazing.

What you need:
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped (I never have this on hand, so I use the substitution guide in my Betty Crocker cookbook that says to use 3 TBS baking cocoa plus 1 TBS melted shortening or butter for each oz of baking chocolate you're replacing. So for this recipe that comes to 3/4 cup baking cocoa and 4 TBS melted butter)
1/4 cup unsalted butter
4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-process (I just used regular)
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups miniature semisweet chocolate chips (I didn't have mini ones, I just used regular ones and they worked fine)
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar

What you do:

*Add the unsweetened chocolate (or above mentioned substitute) and butter to a heatproof bowl placed over (not touching) a pan of simmering water. Warm, stirring often, until the butter and chocolate melt and the mixture is smooth. Remove the bowl from the pan and let the mixture cool slightly. (I just threw the butter in a sauce pan, melted it over low heat, and then stirred in the cocoa powder)
*In a large bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, and vanilla. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat until the mixture is light in color and thick, about 3 minutes. Add the melted chocolate mixture and stir with a wooden spoon or beat on low speed until blended.
*In a bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture and beat on low speed until blended. Add the chocolate chips and stir with a wooden spoon until incorporated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the dough is firm enough to roll into balls, about 2 hours (ok, sometimes you can ignore the refrigeration step in a recipe, but DO NOT skip it this time. The dough is VERY SOFT and needs to firm up in the fridge so you can work with it).
*When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper (I never have this either, I just used tinfoil). Sift the confectioner's sugar into a bowl.
*Roll a rounded TBS of dough between your palms into a 1 1/2 inch ball, then roll the ball in the confectioner's sugar to coat it completely. Place on a prepared cookie sheet. Repeat to shape and coat the remaining dough, spacing the balls 3 inches apart on the cookie sheets. Press each ball down slightly so that it stays in place on the cookie sheet. (I found that I had to put the dough back in the fridge to set back up every few minutes or it got too soft to work with)
*Bake 1 sheet of cookies at a time, until the tops are puffed and crinkled and feel firm when lightly touched, about 15 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then use a spatula to transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temp. for up to 3 days.