Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Semi-Vegetarian Lasagna


For some odd reason, I do not know how to make regular lasagna. I'm sure that I could go to any website out there and find a recipe for lasagna, but instead I always buy the box of Creamette and make their vegetarian lasagna that's featured on the back. One reason I make it? Because it's a no-boil recipe and I've discovered that I probably don't make regular lasagna because I'm intimidated as hell at the thought of boiling noodles and trying to assemble a "real" lasagna.

So here's my tricked out version of Creamette's finest - it's a good makeahead dish to throw in the bottom of your fridge, bake on a cold evening and eat the leftovers for the next couple days after that. (Move over Wheaties - I have a new source of breakfast goodness.)
Vegetarian Lasagna
adapted from Creamette

Sauce:

First, saute a clove or two of minced garlic in some olive oil. Add some sliced mushrooms and saute until tender. Then I usually take a can of Hunt's sauce (it's cheap, it makes several meals, I love it) and add it to make the sauce. Recently to please my honey, I added some ground beef to suit his palate.

Ricotta mixture:

1 15-16 oz. container of low-fat ricotta cheese
3 c. shredded cheese (I usually use a mix of Italian cheeses - provelone, Parmesan and mozzarella)
2 eggs

Mix these bad boys together.

To assemble:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put 1/2 cup of sauce mix on the bottom of a greased 9x13 pan. Pick up your lasagna noodles and spread on some ricotta mixture. I've never thought about it, but I usually put the noodles cheese down in the pan. I don't think it really matters. You'll get about three or four lasagnas per layer of noodles. I then put down a layer of fresh spinach leaves and top it with some more sauce. Repeat with a layer of cheesy awesome noodles. More spinach and sauce. Finally top with another layer of cheesy noodles. At this point, you should be out of sauce and top this layer with some Parmesan cheese or whatever suits your fancy in the Italian cheese world.

Cover with tin foil and bake the lasagna for 45 to 50 minutes until hot and bubbly. Uncover and let stand for a couple more minutes.

This stuff also freezes well. If you're going to freeze, cover the lasagna with some plastic wrap and then some tin foil. Before baking, remove the plastic wrap and recover with foil. Thawed lasagna can be baked for 45-50 minutes at 350 degrees. Frozen lasagna is going to take you about two hours.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

An interesting request ...

I was slaving away at the cab company today (Read: Catching up on email and reading a cookbook) when my future sister-in-law asked me if I knew any blogs that were about kitchen organization. And no, I really didn't until I Googled "kitchen organization blog" and found this consortium of sorts of blogs on WordPress that have entries about kitchen organization. Because the list looked so nifty, I thought I'd share.

http://wordpress.com/tag/kitchen-organization/

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Jambalaya Casserole


Prepare yourself to fall in love ... the first time I made this, I was really apprehensive because this is a recipe that is built to make THREE casseroles and it's jambalaya - you kiss a lot of frogs before you find a keeper, I've found.


Jambalaya Casserole

From "Best of Country Casseroles"

3 large onions, chopped
3 large green peppers, chopped
3 celery ribs, chopped
12 garlic cloves, minced (do not be afraid ...)
1 1/2 c. butter
3 lbs. cooked smoked sausage (I use turkey to cut back on fat ... see 1 1/2 c. butter for explanation)
9 c. chicken broth
6 c. uncooked long grain rice (I used brown ... it worked fine)
3 c. fresh tomatoes, chopped **
1 1/2 c. chopped green onions (I omitted because I didn't have any ... it was fine)
3 T. Worcestershire sauce
3 T. hot pepper sauce

Be easy on yourself - if you have a food processor, pull it out from its dusty perch and use it to chop your veg - a couple pulses should do - you don't want to puree your onions, peppers, celery and garlic. But you don't want to be eating whole garlic cloves either ...

Once chopped, sautee veg in butter until they are crisp-tender. (Not sure what it means - I think you will 'divine' whether it's good to go or not.) Put into a very large bowl and stir into remaining ingredients.

This is enough to make three casseroles. You'll want to bake the jambalaya in shallow, greased casseroles, but I just used regular Tupperware to freeze what I didn't immediately bake. Cover and bake at 375 degrees for 45-30 minutes or until rice is tender. (MAKE SURE YOU COVER OR THE RICE WILL NEVER COOK!)

**Variation: When I first made this casserole, I didn't use fresh tomatoes - I used diced tomatoes and saved the juice from the cans to use as liquid in this dish. And if I can read my scribbles from the first time around - you're going to want 2 cans of diced tomatoes (or 3 ... I like tomatoes) and decrease the chicken broth to 7 or 8 cups.

Disclaimer! This stuff freezes well, but if you don't thaw the casserole before you cook it, it will take FOREVER to bake. So make it easy on yourself - thaw it.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Rum Cake ... 'tis the season to get MERRY!

I am pretty much in love with the Pioneer Woman Cooks website. First and foremost, the woman is funny. And most importantly, she makes some of the tastiest and most accessible recipes on the Internet. PW's philosophy on cooking is somewhat similar to mine - if it needs ingredients you cannot pronounce, chances are your loved ones won't eat it.


Ever since a friend gave me a taste of rum cake she had brought back from Jamaica a few years back, I've had this odd craving for rum cake. But it's not something that I've made - mostly because I don't have rum in the house, I used to live alone and even now that I live with Ryan - why make an entire cake? Luckily, Ryan and I had a dinner invite a couple weeks back and I got to polish off this gem of a cake. And man - it's everything a cake should be - decadent, moist and most importantly? Easy. This one will show up at future gatherings.


The Pioneer Woman’s Mother-in-Law’s Christmas Rum Cake
Cake:
1 box yellow cake mix
1 small package INSTANT vanilla pudding mix
4 eggs
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup rum (dark or light is fine)
1 cup chopped pecans
Brown sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 325.
Grease and flour Bundt cake pan. Sprinkle nuts over bottom of pan. If desired, sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of brown sugar over the nuts.  Mix all cake ingredients together.  Pour batter over nuts. Smooth out ’til the top is even.  Bake 1 hour, or a little less if the pan is black. Do not overbake!

Glaze:
While cake has ten minutes to go, make the glaze.
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) butter
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup rum

Melt butter in saucepan. Stir in water and sugar. Boil 4 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Turn off flame and pour in rum. Stir to combine and reheat for 30 seconds.

Remove cake from oven. Immediately drizzle 1/3 of the glaze on the bottom (top) of the cake. Allow to sit for five minutes.

Invert the cake onto a serving plate. Prick surface a hundred times with a fork (gently, please.) Slowly drizzle remaining rum glaze all over the top of the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides. Cool to room temperature before serving to ensure glaze has soaked in.

Note: You will want to transfer this to another platter before taking out in public. The rum glaze is SUPER STRONG and taking the cake away from the glaze ends up being a good thing, otherwise the edges of the cake taste like a distillery. Also - if you have pets who like to jump up on the counter, make sure you take away the offending cake platter away so they do not sample the rum glaze. I'm just sayin' ...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Cookbook Review: Better Homes & Gardens Cook Once, Eat Twice


I got this cookbook last year for a Christmas present after I read about it in one of the several blogs that I subscribe to. It's a great premise - use your crockpot to cook an initial meal and then use the leftovers the next day to create a second totally different meal. However, I come from the school of thought that if you have leftovers - woo hooo! It's another day of bean soup or another plate of pot roast to heat up the next day.

I can see where this particular cookbook might hit your pocketbook a little harder because the recipes themselves are pretty detailed. .... You also have to watch the calorie content in the recipes. 500 calorie recipes might be good for families feeding linebackers, but a wee bit too much for Ryan and I.

Having said all of these things, this is the cookbook that has gotten me over my fear of lamb. Don't get me wrong - I've ate lamb and I've loved it (come to think of it, that sounds really cruel ...) but to cook lamb? Daunting! But with 243 calories, 5 grams of fat and cooked in a crockpot? I can make the Greek Lamb Dinner (p. 74) and use the leftovers in the Lamb Gyro Salad (p. 75).

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Monster Cookies

To view the awesomeness that constitutes one of my favorite cookies in the world, view picture below.

I got this recipe from the SingForYourSupper blog, but for some odd reason, I'm having problems with the link, which is here. She found the recipe at AllRecipes, which is here. There's really nothing Christmasy about monster cookies, but the recipe below makes a ton of cookies. Perfect to feed both Ryan's and my coworkers.


Monster Cookies

INGREDIENTS
6 eggs
2 1/3 cups packed brown sugar
2 cups white sugar
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup butter
2 2/3 cups peanut butter
9 cups rolled oats
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (I omitted)

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease cookie sheets.
Cream butter and peanut butter together. Add the sugars and stir until well mixed.
Add eggs one at a time, then add vanilla.
Mix oatmeal and baking soda separately, then stir into batter.
Add chocolate chips last. (Omitted!)
Drop by heaping teaspoons onto cookie sheets. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

Oreo Balls


My dentist told me about these bad boys when she was filling my latest cavity (irony? I think so) and they sounded so disgustingly good I decided to find them on the Internet. And found them I did at Recipezaar.com.

Oreo Balls
  • 1 package regular size Oreo cookies, crushed
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 package white almond bark
  • 1 package chocolate almond bark

Directions

  1. Using a blender or hand held mixer, mix Oreos and cream cheese together. (I used my food processor. Trust me. Dust it off. It works awesomely.)
  2. Roll into walnut size balls.
  3. Chill for an hour.
  4. Melt approximately 3/4 package of white almond bark.
  5. Stick a toothpick in an Oreo ball and dip it in the melted white almond bark. (Did not have toothpick so used skewer from my grill set that I bought last year after Christmas. It worked awesomely.)
  6. Allow to harden on wax paper. This takes about 15 min.
  7. While waiting, melt about 1/4 package of chocolate almond bark.
  8. When Oreo balls are no longer sticky to the touch, decorate with drizzles of chocolate and white almond bark.
  9. I just use a sandwich bag with a tiny hole cut in one corner to drizzle the almond bark. (I accomplished this with a spoon.)
Verdict: These are pretty damn easy to make. I will make them again, I have not, however, tried one because I'm afraid of the addiction it might cause.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas ...



Shopping does not get me into the Christmas spirit. Neither do most television specials (although I weep if I ever watch the cartoon with Baby New Year in it ... crazy, I know.). And whereas Jesus is the reason for the season (I love that particular rhyme because it's cheesy, but true), for me it is Christmas when I start baking.

Since time is short (yeow! Four days until Christmas!), I'm going to flood you with a couple of recipes and posts so you can recreate them for your own eating/sharing pleasure if you wish. One disclaimer though - nothing I really made this year screams Christmas except for the Oreo balls. I was going more for taste than pizzazz, I guess.

The gift bags I made for my co-workers. If they don't love me after this then ... bah humbug!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake


I'll be honest - there's something missing in this recipe and I wasn't too fond of it. I brought it home for Thanksgiving though and supposedly my uncle Dave ate it, so ... but yeah. This isn't going to win any awards and it won't impress the hell out of your friends and families, so I will continue searching for greatness.


Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake
from AllRecipes.com
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch ground cloves
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1 (9 inch) prepared graham cracker crust
1/2 cup frozen whipped topping, thawed

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
2. In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Blend in eggs one at a time. Remove 1 cup of batter and spread into bottom of crust; set aside.
3. Add pumpkin, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg to the remaining batter and stir gently until well blended. Carefully spread over the batter in the crust.
4. Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until center is almost set. Allow to cool, then refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight. Cover with whipped topping before serving.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The method to my madness, Part II


OK – so you know why I love cookbooks as much as I do. Let me know tell you how I “judge” a cookbook and can tell you whether or not it has merit.

Yeah, that last sentence just made me sound way cooler than I truly am. I couldn’t tell you if a cookbook is a good one or not, because they all bring something (literally) to the table. For instance, people go ga-ga over “The Joy of Cooking.” Well, Ryan has a copy and I really don’t like it. I can see where it’s valuable to people who aren’t very experienced with cooking, but if I’m going to make homemade mac and cheese, give me the recipe in its entirety, don’t direct me to a separate section so I can learn to make a roux. On the other hand, my beloved orange “Betty Crocker” book? Is it sad that I think I’d take my copy to the grave with me?

Needless to say, I love cookbooks. And when I get a new one, I go through the book in its entirety and either earmark pages or I use pieces of paper to mark particular recipes that I think will be a good bet. I’ve recently fell in love with using those Post-It flags or bookmarks. That way they actually stick to the page and don’t fall out of the book if you happen to throw it at your cat. (That only happened once and he was creeping toward a freshly baked chicken. And it was a wee paperback. What would you do?)

I will fully admit that between my cookbooks, my cooking magazines, the recipes that I’ve torn for newspapers over the years and my latest addiction to food blogs, I’m probably never going to make every single recipe that I’ve marked and saved.

But part of the fun is trying.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Best of the Blogosphere: Holiday Candy Edition

I've been skulking around the food blog world lately and have decided that there are more recipes out there than time. Hence, I'm going to try to make what I can, but share my holiday making "wish list" with you all so you don't miss out!

Sugared Cranberries

Sesame Candy - This one is Middle Eastern and I have a feeling that I'm really going to attempt this one. It is nothing like the ones my mama makes!

Coconut Bars - Technically, this does not count as candy, but it looks sooooooooo good.

Assorted Treats - The blogging world has been full of fleur de sel caramels and despite last year's utter failure at making homemade caramels, I really really want to try these. And who has heard of buckeyes? They sound good too.

This is just a start - if I find more, I'll share 'em. Otherwise, this year's holiday-treats-as-gifts are on the simple side - brown sugar shortbread, dipped pretzels and Oreo balls.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Cranberry Oatmeal Bread

I found this peach of a recipe from About.com and I think this bread is going to turn into a serious addiction in my life. It's moist, it's good, it's somewhat healthy, Ryan doesn't like it and man - I just love cranberries. It also freezes well and is a good addition to a holiday brunch.

Cranberry Oatmeal Bread
from About.com

1 cup oatmeal
1-1/4 cups hot water
3/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1-1/4 cups brown sugar
2 Tbsp. grated orange peel
1 egg
2-1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1-1/4 cups chopped cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 8x4" loaf pans and set aside. (FYI - I used muffin tins and one of those mini loaf pans. I put waaaay too much batter in the mini loaf pan - I probably could have made about 6 more muffins.)

In medium bowl, combine oats and hot water, stir, and let stand for 5 minutes. In large bowl, beat butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add oat mixture, sour cream, orange peel, and egg and blend well. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon and mix gently. Fold in cranberries and walnuts. Spoon batter into prepared pans and smooth to level. In small bowl combine 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Sprinkle over batter.

Bake at 350 degrees for 55 to 65 minutes until bread is golden brown and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Cool 5 minutes, then carefully run a knife around the edges of the breads and remove to wire rack to cool. Wrap in plastic wrap to store.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Nutty Choco-Oatmeal Cookies

These cookies ended up being gifts to my coworkers out at the cab company. I assume they loved them. Heard no reports of food poisoning ...

I'm not a big chocolate chip cookie fan, but if I am craving said cookie, this is my favorite recipe on the entire planet. I found this recipe a few years ago, probably from Family Circle, and it's been cut out and hung on my fridge ever since. When I was in newspapers, I liked to whip up a batch of these from time-to-time. I don't make them as often anymore because Ryan's a purist and isn't a fan of healthy stuff (oatmeal) in his cookies.

These are seriously good though.

Nutty Choco-Oatmeal Cookies
1 1/4 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1 c. (two sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 c. old fashioned oats (I use rolled oats that I find at the natural foods store)
1 c. chocolate chips
3/4 c. chopped walnuts (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl, take your electric mixer to the butter and brown sugar. Beat until fluffy, add eggs and vanilla and mix until incorporated. The recipe says to use your mixer for the next part, but I always make a godawful mess, so I use my wooden spoon and fold the flour mixture into the egg/sugar stuff. Mix until just combined. Then add the oats, chips and nuts.

Place these bad boys on your cookie sheet about two inches apart. Typically, my little dough balls are about 1 inch in diameter, etc. Bake for 11 to 13 minutes.

Eat. Love. Thank me later.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The method to my madness


I’m not sure what it is about me and cookbooks, but I’m pretty sure it’s genetic. As I’ve patiently explained to Ryan, there is no real good reason that I have about fifty cookbooks, ranging in specialty from Indian food to 1970s Lutheran cooking madness, but I love each and every one of them.

Just like my mom does. Just like my Aunt Sue does. And just like both of my grandmas did. Some of my greatest treasures are cookbooks I got from my grandmas, their handwriting populating the corners of recipes that they tried and liked, recipes that they meant to someday make for their families and recipes that totally flopped when they tried to reproduce them in their kitchens. (A note from one of my grandma’s cookbooks: “BAD!” OK, grandma – I won’t make that one.)

When I would go to church festivals with my mom or if we were anywhere that sold an organization’s cookbooks, my mom would always buy three – one for her, one for my Aunt Sue and one for my Grandma Boots. I now have many of those cookbooks that once belonged to my grandma and there’s something right about that. And now if I see a unique cookbook, I’ll buy three copies – one for my mom, one for Suzie and one for me.

My Grandma Boots is currently in a nursing home and she’s gone to that place in Alzheimer’s where many people can’t reach her. But some of the best times that I had visiting her in the home when she was coherent were the times that I’d pick up a current copy of “Taste of Home” or Paula Deen’s cooking magazine and bring them in to page through with her. We would talk about the things that I would make for Ryan and how much recipes changed – how Chinese food used to be a rarity for American housewives to make and how now everyone has a go-to recipe for their own version of Sesame Chicken.

No matter how much my grandma’s mind has slipped over the past decade, there is one moment that cemented her reputation as one of the ultimate bakers in my mind. I was living in Wisconsin and tried to make a cranberry cake with a buttercream sauce. My mom always made it for me, it was one of my favorites and I wanted to try to recreate that dessert for some friends. The cake turned out fabulously, but the sauce never thickened properly.

So I came home and had coffee with my grandma and grandpa. When I told grandma what happened to the sauce, she immediately narrowed her eyes. “Which cookbook did you use?” I told her which one. “Whose recipe was it?” I told her the cook. “Hmpfh,” Grandma said. “Well, she can’t cook.” Grandma turned to where she had her handwritten recipe files. “Next time, use this one.”

And next time I make that cranberry cake, Grandma – I will.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Smoky tomato and black bean soup


Two words: Hot damn! Followed by one with many syllables: Yeee-oooooooo-w.

I had some leftover chipolte peppers in adobo sauce lurking in my fridge and found this recipe when I was trolling for ideas out in the blogosphere. It combines two of my favorite things - black beans and tomatoes. What an awesome idea for a soup! Right? Well, sort of. Ryan and I nearly offed a gallon of milk trying to eat our respective bowls of soup. It's very good, but very hot. I will make this when I am ill and trying to clear out my sinuses. Or else, I'll decrease the amount of peppers that I put in this bad boy.

Smoky Tomato and Black Bean Soup
Source: Caviarandcodfish.com
serves a few hungry people as a first-course or lunch

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
half of one (7 oz.) can of chipolte peppers in adobo, with sauce (I'd halve this amount)
1 (30 oz.) can black beans, drained
1 (28 oz.) can fire-roasted whole tomatoes, with liquid
1 cup water
1 small bunch fresh oregano (I omitted)
salt, pepper

Take half of peppers out of the can, split them open with a paring knife and scrape out the seeds. *(This part is a pain in the arse, but if you don't get rid of the seeds, this will be even hotter.) Discard seeds. Chop peppers. Add oil into a big saucepan or medium dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions, cooking until they begin to brown. Add garlic and chilis and about half the adobo sauce. Cook for a few minutes. Add black beans and tomatoes with liquid and water. Break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon, leaving them in chunks. Bring to a boil. Skim off the foam if you are particular like that, and then lower the heat. Add fresh oregano and simmer gently for the flavors to meld, 15 minutes if you are famished, 45 minutes if you can wait. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

**Another note - Ryan and I were starving the other night and had some of this soup in the fridge and some leftover rice from our jambalaya. So I combined 'em. And it tasted excellent. Keep this in mind for a second-day makeover or something like that.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Guest Post! Creamy Potato Soup


This recipe (and pictures) comes from my friend Lindsey. A couple of comments about Lindsey - a) she knows good potato soup - her mom has a recipe that is to die for and is loved by many ex-DJs from KWLC and b) she knows good cooking in general and if you ever need a Tastefully Simple consultant, let me know and I'll hook you up with her.

This recipe comes from Jessica Seinfeld's cookbook "Deceptively Delicious" where Ms. Seinfeld very sneakily hides all sorts of healthy schtuff in what would typically be viewed as comfort food. Lindsey made the potato soup and even added in some broccoli for an extra healthy factor.


Creamy Potato Soup
from Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld (with a few LT twists) 

• Nonstick cooking spray
• 2 teaspoons olive oil
• 1 small onion, chopped
• 1 clove garlic, cut in half
• 2 (14-ounce) cans reduced-fat low-sodium chicken broth
• 2 pounds potatoes, any kind, peeled and chopped
• ½ cup cauliflower puree
• 1 ½ cups butternut squash or carrot puree
• 1 cup lowfat (1%)buttermilk **
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 1/4 cup shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese (optional)
• store-bought croutons (optional)

Coat a large pot with cooking spray and set it over medium heat. When the pot is hot, add the oil, onion, and then the garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft but not brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the broth and potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the potatoes are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Carefully spoon the mixture into a blender or food processor and add the vegetable purees, buttermilk, and salt; puree until smooth. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with cheese, if you like. (Here’s where LT added some steamed broccoli to her dish. One word: Yum.)

**Don’t have buttermilk? Don’t fret. An easy substitution for buttermilk is to take 1 c. of milk and add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice. Wait for about five minutes and presto – you have buttermilk. Or an uncanny substitute.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Shelley's New Best Friend

A dear friend of mine just had a baby and I've promised food that she can throw in her freezer. OK - that's not too difficult, but finding the perfect recipe is. So, I went to my handy stash of recipes to try in Google Docs and found one for a Tuscan Stoup that sounds good and sounds like something that her other two children might actually eat. One problem - it calls for an ingredient that I've never heard of. And for once, Wikipedia didn't really steer me in the right direction.

So ... I went to recipezaar.com and since I'm fancying myself these days as a novice foodie, I actually signed up for their free membership and posted my dilemma on their community board. Not 15 minutes later, I received reply from people who are far more knowledgeable than I am.

Recipezaar ... I think I love you.

Monday, December 1, 2008

A blast from the distant past

A couple of my readers might remember my Great-Grandma Florence Ewing, but unfortunately for the rest of you, Grandma Ewing went to her heavenly home about 15 years ago and there's no one else like her in this world.

First and foremost, my grandma was tiny - she came up to about my chest. That lady was chin-high, but damn could she cook and bake. I can close my eyes and remember exactly what she looked like - my grandpa Stan favored her in looks and oh, how my grandpa loved his mom. All of the Ewing kids adored her, so did her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren. I would give anything for a loaf of her lemon poppyseed bread. My mom almost cried the day that she opened grandma's last jar of homemade pickles.

One of the things that is maddening about losing someone like my great-grandma is that many of her recipes came from the confines of her head - the lady rarely wrote anything down. So to find this one, with little to no explanation - is a sweet surprise. Even if its just a road map.

Fried Green Tomatoes
by Florence Ewing


Green tomato Seasoned flour
Bacon grease

Stem and wash a green tomato. Slice it round. Roll in seasoned flour. Fry in bacon grease or oleo. Try these for supper. Very good.

Grandma didn't waste words, y'all.

Guinness Cupcakes

When my buddy Erin suggested we have a meal where every recipe had alcohol in it, there was only one that I could think of turning to (instead of just trying to make my mom's vodka slush): Guinness cupcakes. I had run into a recipe for these lovely, stout-laced cakes on a food blog and decided to make them for my friends. And yes friends, it is very, very good.


Guinness Cupcakes
by Dave Lieberman
12 ounces Guinness® stout
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I substituted applesauce for a "lighter" recipe.)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for garnish
2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

For the Frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup heavy cream
3 c. powdered sugar (eyeball it and don't be afraid to try the frosting to make sure it tastes what you want it to be.)
cocoa powder for dusting

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large mixing bowl, combine the Guinness®, milk, vegetable oil, and vanilla. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Mix in the sour cream. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cocoa, sugar, flour, and baking soda. Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the wet Guinness® mixture. Butter 24 muffin tins and divide the batter among the muffin tins.

Bake 25 minutes until risen and set in the middle but still soft and tender. Cool before turning out of the tins.

Make the frosting:
Beat the cream cheese in a bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the heavy cream. Slowly mix in the confectioner's sugar. Top each cupcake with a heap of frosting and dust with cocoa.