Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Homemade Pancakes: You Don't Need No Bisquick!

Prior to my life with my future husband, I actually learned how to make pancakes from scratch. OK - so that isn't rocket science, but considering I came from a household where pancakes came out of a box (whether it was powder or frozen), I consider this to be a huge achievement. But the reason I know how to make homemade pancakes is because of my dear friend and former roommate (and future bridesmaid) Gretchen. I lived with Gretchen when we went to Malta during our junior year of college. On Sunday morning, Gretchen would treat the flatmates to a breakfast of homemade pancakes. And even if she went out the night before and decided to not get up until afternoon the next day, she'd come home, make a bowl of batter and leave it in the fridge for the early risers. Gretchen learned to make pancakes from her father Rick and when I asked her for the recipe she said it was probably from Betty Crocker. But it's all good.

Homemade Pancakes

1 1/4 c. flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 T sugar
1 egg
1 c. milk
2 T oil
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix all ingredients together. Cook on a griddle that's heated to 340 degrees or in a frying pan. (If the pan is not hot enough, you'll know ... trust me ... you'll know.)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Monday Madness: Meet my Mama

This is going to be an occasional feature where I interview some of my favorite cooks and ask them some random questions about cooking. Of course, I cannot begin this feature without quizzing the mother of all cooks - or actually, just the mother of me (and my brother ...). My mom Sharon.

What's one of your first cooking memories? My Grandma Schlitter making pies. According to my mom, Grandma Schlitter had miniature pie tins and would make individual pies for her grandkids.

What is your go-to recipe if you have an event to attend and you've been asked to bring a dish? Mom's known for two recipes that are requested time and again - her spinach strawberry salad and her chicken and rice.

What is your favorite food? My mom closes her eyes and seems to go in a trance. Mashed potatoes and gravy - with homemade brown pork gravy. (You see where I get my taste for food?) Mom's other favorite food is homemade gingerbread cake - another recipe of my Grandma Schlitter's.

Why do you cook? Because I like to cook. I find myself standing at the stove with my hand on my hip just like I always saw my mother doing. Mom stops a second and glares when she sees that I'm grinning at her. "You're like your mom?" I ask, very cheekily. I stopped doing that because I am not my mother. (Editor's note ... it's just a long story. And if you're a woman, you probably understand that your biggest fear growing up is that you'll turn out to be just like your mother. But that does not apply to this editor. ... love you ma!)

Words of wisdom for other cooks: To hell with anyone else, cook what you like.

My mama's the hot chick on the left. The other swell chicks are my cousin Trix (middle) and my Aunt Sue - another culinary goddess.

Mama's Spinach Strawberry Salad

1 bag of prewashed baby spinach
1 c. Craisins
1 can of mandarin oranges, drained
Raspberry vinaigrette dressing with poppyseeds (Mom uses Kraft dressing ... I think)

Combine all ingredients, toss with dressing right before serving. If you're looking for a little extra crunch, slivered almonds or chopped walnuts are a good addition.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Domestic female seeking ...

... crockpot and soup recipes. It's getting to be that time of year when I love hot food but am too lazy to cook when I get home. (What else is new, right?) But since the grill has gone the way of the corner of the garage, I'm ready to fire up the crock pot.

Feel free to leave me a comment or shoot me an email at

Let me get you started with this gem from

Crockpot Lasagna

2 pounds lean ground beef
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
48-ounce jar chunky pasta sauce
8-ounce can tomato sauce
14-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
3/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
15-ounce container part-skim ricotta cheese
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 egg, beaten
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
16 ounce package mafalda noodles (mini lasagna noodles)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preparation: In a large skillet, brown ground beef with chopped onions and garlic. Season with season salt and pepper to taste. Drain thoroughly. Add spaghetti sauce, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and water. Simmer 10 - 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine ricotta cheese, parsley, egg, and beat well. Add half of the mozzarella cheese. In 5-6 quart crockpot, pour 1 cup of the beef sauce. Then top with a layer of mafalda noodles. Top with1 cup mozzarella cheese, more ground beef sauce, then a layer of the cheese mixture. Repeat layers to fill crockpot 3/4 full. Cover crockpot and cook on low for 6-7 hours - DO NOT STIR. Top with Parmesan cheese and serve. Serves 8-10.

Not the prettiest girl in the bar ...

I don't remember how old I was when I started cooking, but I do know what the first thing was that I learned to cook.

Under the careful tutelage of my saintly mother, I opened up the pages of her Betty Crocker cookbook (which will forever have a sacred place on my bookshelf) to the Quick Breads section and the recipe for tea breads.

Knowing that I was something of a scatterbrain and that it was more likely that I would forget to read the recipe for banana nut bread than actually manage to make it right the first time, Mom crossed out the directions that did not apply to banana nut bread and wrote in the measurements for the ingredients I would need to make my bread. So there you go - my first recipe. I entered it into competition at the county fair when I was in the 4-H Toppers, I made it and froze it whenever we had bananas that were on the verge of ... well, rotting - it's even a recipe that I brought with me when I was a junior and college and spent a semester abroad in Malta (although my flat didn't have a bread pan, so I had to use a 9x9 cake pan and make "bars.") This recipe has served me well, even though I'm now marrying into a family who puts maraschino cherries and chocolate chips in their banana bread.

This is probably the best analogy I can make for this bread: She's not the prettiest girl in the bar, but she's the one you'd want to marry.

Banana Bread
From Betty Crocker's Cookbook

2 1/2 c. flour
3 T. salad oil
1 c. sugar
3/4 c. milk
3 1/2 tsp. baking powder**
1 c. chopped walnuts
1 tsp. salt
1 c. mashed banana

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour your loaf pan. Smush bananas (takes about 2-3 ripe ones to make about 1 c. of banana) - potato masher works well, hands even better. Measure all ingredients into large mixing bowl and beat on medium speed for 1/2 minute, scraping side and bottom of bowl constantly. Pour into loaf pan or pans, depending on what you're doing. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes or until a toothpick (or steak knife) inserted in middle of loaf comes out clean. Remove from pan and cool on wire rack.
**It is very important to not omit the baking powder - if you do, you will produce loafs that could be used as building materials. No, I am not talking from experience. Or maybe I am. :)

Up Next: Crockpot Lasagna

Friday, October 24, 2008

Baking for breast cancer awareness

I saw this blog this afternoon and just had to share - a lot of food bloggers are "baking for the cure" in honor of breast cancer awareness this month. Well, this blogger took it to a whole new level with her "bra-cakes." These are absolutely adorable - brown sugar pound cupcakes that are decorated to look like bras. Very, very cool.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A culinary mishap ...

... That will eventually benefit all of you!

OK - so for my upcoming wedding, we will be having a "candy buffet." It's something I saw at a wedding Ryan and I attended - the couple had a table with all sorts of candy for people to nosh on during the wedding dance. (My favorite part were the Twizzlers that they had stood up in a vase.)

Inspired, I decided to do something similar. So, I went online and found some clear plastic bags to put candy in ... And I thought the bags were small, but yeah - I was wrong. They could fit a loaf of banana bread. And I have about 400 of them. They will be perfect for packaging my Christmas goodies ... for the next dozen years.

Macaroni & Cheese

It doesn't look like much now, but trust me it will be marvelous.

Dirty little secret? I love the cardboard boxes of macaroni and cheese. Although it's meant as a side dish, I can eat it as an entree and it's even better the next day after it's spent the night on a cold stove burner. (I told you I wasn't a gourmet.)

I've never been a big fan of homemade macaroni and cheese - mostly because every attempt I ever ate was way too greasy and didn't have enough cheese. That all changed the day my buddy Erin made homemade macaroni & cheese for a get-together that he and his partner Paul hosted at their house. I haven't procured Erin's recipe yet, but I found this one to try. It's all a part of the quest to find the perfect homemade mac & cheese. (Though I will not betray my love for you, oh boxed mac & cheese with your vibrant orange cheese powder.)

Easy Macaroni & Cheese
From Midwest Living, October 2008 (I told you this was a good issue)

1/4 c. butter
2 1/2 c. elbow macaroni (that's 8 oz.)
1 c. cubed ham (optional - I didn't use it ...)
2 c. shredded sharp cheddar or cubed American cheese (I used a blend of cheddar & Colby Jack)
3 T. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
4 c. milk (we use 2% in the Kubitz/Mahannah family - the chef who originated this dish uses whole. I guess I'd use anything but skim.)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Melt butter over medium heat in a saucepan. Pour 2 T. of melted goodness into a 2- to 2 1/2 quart casserole or baking dish. Add dried macaroni and stir until coated. Stir in cheese.

For sauce, stir flour, salt and pepper into remaining 2 T. butter in saucepan. Stir in milk. Cook and stir over medium heat until thick and bubbly. Cook and stir for one minute more. Pour sauce over macaroni mixture.

Bake, covered, for 1 hour or until macaroni is tender and coated with sauce. Stir - let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Do you want to know the nutritional information? Nah - I didn't think so.

Verdict: Poor Ryan never got to try this cheesy goodness. The making of this mac coincided with some dinners out with friends and so I made this one night when he was gone and had leftovers over the next few days for lunch. I will make this again - I'm not too fond of the whole simmering milk, flour and butter concept (reminds me of too many errors made in home economics as a junior high student), but this was pretty good mac.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Harvest Bread


I used to be a prolific reader of magazines - my subscriptions included Entertainment Weekly, Vanity Fair, Bon Appetit, Cooking Light ... these days I rely on the kindness of my relatives (thank you Mom & Gloria) for my magazine subscriptions and read from the "Taste of Home" family. A couple months back, I sent in a card for a two-year subscription to Midwest Living. It was a cheap magazine ($20 for 2 years ... ) and since I am now a homeowner, I wanted to find a magazine that would give me gardening ideas that are specific to my region. Midwest Living isn't an amazing magazine, but I've enjoyed the issues I've received so far. I've also been pleasantly surprised by the recipes I've found as well.

October's issue of Midwest Living featured a recipe for Streusel Apple Bread. Since I could not find fresh cranberries and wasn't willing to pay $3.50 for a bag of frozen cranberries, I found a mixed berry blend and substituted that for the cranberries. In the
future, I'd also take out the apples - I used Granny Smith, typically a more tart apple, and I don't think it really added anything to the bread.

Despite my "meh-ness" of this recipe, I made this one for a recent family get together and my uncle John absolutely adored it. So it has to be good for something ...

Harvest Bread
2 c. flour
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 c. sour milk (put 1 tsp of lemon into a measuring cup - fill the rest with milk until you have 1/3 of a cup.)
**1 c. frozen berry blend (do yourself - and your guests a favor - give 'em a quick chop with a knife before folding them into the batter)
2/3 c. chopped walnuts

1/3 c. brown sugar
2 T. flour
1 tsp. zested lemon peel
1 T. butter, melted

Grease a loaf pan and heat your oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, beat 1/2 c. butter with an electric mixer for 30 seconds. Gradually beat in sugar until combined. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Combine flour with baking soda and salt; add to beaten mixture alternately with the sour milk. Stir in fruit and walnuts. Spoon batter into pan.

For streusel topping: In medium bowl, combine brown sugar, 2 T. flour, lemon peel and melted butter. Sprinkle evenly over bread batter.

Bake bread for 55-60 minutes (this depends on size of loaf pan ... it seemed to take me about 1 hr. 15 minutes to get this bad boy baked). Cool bread in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan - cool completely on wire rack. I covered mine with a clean kitchen towel and let it sit overnight before slicing it for my family's shindig.

**If you opt to use cranberries in this recipe, I'd reduce the amount of fruit to 1/2 cup, because cranberries are tart. The recipe also recommends to chop 'em up ... I'd do that. If you want to use cranberries and apples like the original recipe - chop up one apple, toss the pieces in about a tablespoon of flour and reduce the cranberries to 1/3 cup.

Modified from Midwest Living, October 2008 - Streusel Apple Bread.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Again, my thanks ...

... to all of you awesome folks who took a moment out of your day on Wednesday to contact me about the launch of this blog! It is sooooo appreciated by me (and by proxy, Ryan, because he sees more cooking in his future.).

Things to look forward to:
  • Sauerkraut casserole - a recipe from my buddy Bryan. I'm not sure when I'm making this, I don't think I'll get Ryan to touch it with a 12-foot pole, but my buddy Paul S. loves 'kraut as much as I do. (I'll be bringing leftovers by one of these first days, Anne - how does that sound?)
  • Potato soup - another recipe from my buddy Bryan. This recipes comes from the bad old days of college when we'd go to Cantine's house for parties and Jen would whip up a batch of chili and this potato soup recipe from our friend Lindsey's mom. If I can find any pictures from college that I can actually share - I'll get those scanned in as well.
  • Weeve's Chicken Chili - My friend The Weeve made this for me once. She gave me the recipe and of course, I lost it. So I'm in the process of getting it again so I can share with the masses.
  • A couple meatloaf recipes - One from The Weeve and one that I found by Kate Gosselin. (Jon and Kate + 8 for those of you who don't automatically gasp when I mention the saintly Kate G.)

I'll be on vacation over the next week and I'm looking forward to whipping up some new recipes. I'll keep you posted.

What prompts us to bake

I’ll tell you all later about my obsession with food blogs, suffice it to say – I have my favorites bookmarked and surf the ‘net regularly for culinary inspiration.

One of the things I like the most about a lot of the food blogs I visit is the stories that come with dishes. For so many of us, there is usually a story behind a favorite recipe – some one’s baked macaroni and cheese might be the first dish they ever made for their future husband, a certain cake was faithfully made on every birthday by another person’s mother, etc. Kitchen Sink is one of my particularly favorite blogs out there, mostly because this person is a Midwesterner (no one cooks like Midwest people – apologies to those I will offend with this notion). Her recipes are also reliably tasty and most are simple.

I post this link because I liked the story that Kitchen Sink told about a recent trip home to Minnesota and her mom’s “to-cook” list. Kitchen Sink’s notion is that all people who cook are influenced by their families. The recipes that Kitchen Sink finds on the web are comparable to her mom’s collection of cooking magazines. KS’s mom has a “to-cook” list, KS has an Excel spreadsheet built of future recipes to try. (I gotta say – that’s commitment, right there.)

I’m not sure if I’m going to make this recipe – it calls for fennel, and to be honest, I’m not sure what fennel is. I’m sure that I would be able to find it if I went to the grocery store and took a good look, but will I know what to do with it once I take said fennel home? Or will the cat and I stare at this ingredient and try to divine its meaning?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A tip of the blogger hat

ShelleyBakes! is destined for greatness in North Dakota thanks to my buddy Devlyn's blog. Thanks Devlyn!

Mama Soup!

Soup ... it's cheap to make and there's usually a lot of it. Soup is a frugal girl's best friend. This particular soup is an old favorite of mine and I call it Mama Soup because it's my mama's recipe.
This soup has been a staple in my family for years and what it's shown me as a cook is that you don't have to go fancy to make something that's really good. It's also one of the easiest recipes you'll ever find and the minimal time you'll spend prepping the vegetables will pay off later when you ladle up a bowl of this wonderful schtuff.

Here's Ryan spooning up some Mama goodness
Mama Soup

1 lb. ground meat (beef, turkey, venison ... whatever trips your trigger)
Brown this with about 1/4-1/2 of a large onion, chopped. While the meat is browning, prep the vegetables:

3 carrots - chopped
3-4 stalks, celery - chopped
3 potatoes (medium to large, depending how much you like spuds) - peeled and sliced thin
1/4 of a head of cabbage - sliced thin

Slice your vegetables into a large pot. When your meat and onion are done, add these to the mix. Add:

1 large can crushed tomatoes

Fill the rest of the pot with water and add salt - I think I used about 1/2 tsp. of salt and it turned out perfectly. Simmer for about an hour or until vegetables are tender.

Variations: In a lot of the cooking blogs and various articles that I've read about soups, a lot of writers will mention that the glorious part about something like this recipe is that its a good way to get rid of any leftover vegetables that might be lurking in your refrigerator. Because this recipe is so dear to me and I try to make it just like my mom does, I don't usually do that. As much as I like vegetables like green peppers, corn, etc., to put these in my Mama Soup would be unnatural. But they could work - so could zucchini or green beans. Substituting kale for the cabbage would also be a good option.

Another variation that I've tried with some success was back in the day when I was trying low carb cooking - I substituted cauliflower for the potatoes. And as ashamed as I am to say this, I really couldn't tell the difference.

What I know about the art of cooking ...

What I know about the art of cooking could probably fill my grandma's large mixing bowl. The bowl belongs to my Grandma Boots and it's one of those fabulous bowls from the 1970s that is large enough to thaw a small fowl, whip up a double batch of chocolate chip cookies and hold a potluck-sized pasta salad. It's also a marbled yellow and orange color that has become "modern" once again. (Funny enough - Rachael Ray is now hawking a similar bowl at Kohl's and it runs about $15. Not as cool as my grandma's.)

The description of my grandma's cooking bowl is my long and convoluted way of warning you: If you're looking for truffle oil, you've come to the wrong cooking blog. I'm a lifelong Midwestern cook and nothing in my mom or my grandma's reperoitoire of recipes has ever called for truffle oil.

Or another way of looking at this blog is how I explained it to one of my aunts at a recent family get-together is that Shelley Bakes is a blog containing "simple recipes for lazy people."

I am not going to guarantee that you'll never see truffle oil on this blog, but the chances are pretty slim. Shelley Bakes is about simple recipes that don't involve ingredients that you probably haven't heard of. I really like to cook, but I work two jobs, am planning a wedding and am just an all-around semi-lazy person. Things like ginger root scare me because when I look at something like that, I'm kind of stumped as to what to do with it. Hand me an onion and I'll slice and dice it a dozen ways until Sunday - because I know what to do with an onion.

I come from a very long and proud line of cooks - many of whom have canned their own produce, baked their own bread and a handful of which who lived through the Great Depression. What the cooks in my family have taught me is that good food doesn't have to be fancy - at the end of the day, cooking someone's favorite soup or making banana bread is a simple expression of love. As seduced as I have been in the past by wonderful magazines like Cooking Light or Bon Appetit, the recipes I turn to are the tried and true recipes that have been passed down in my family or come from familiar names in my collection of local church cookbooks.

Come back and visit often ... If you have any recipes you think I'd like to try or want to send me a comment, please write me at I look forward to hearing from you.