Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Giada's Farmer Pasta - Loosen Your Belts, Friends

I had the pleasure of hosting dinner the other night with a dear friend from high school.  I hadn't seen my friend Heidi in years and since she's living the academic life in Boston (my buddy does research at Harvard which makes me awesome by proxy!), I decided to bake something rich and awesome.

That "something" was originally going to be crockpot beef stew, but as I was sitting on my ass in the living room on Monday night prior to Heidi's arrival, I just couldn't get excited about beef stew ... at that moment, it seemed like a Sunday thing, not something you serve in the middle of the week.  (Do not ask me where I get my arbitrary rules.)  So I found myself flipping through "Giada's Kitchen" and one of Rachael Ray's cookbooks (note: thank you to my "moms" - Gloria and Sharon for getting these for me) and I came across this Farmer's Pasta dish by Giada.

Oh dear God ... first and foremost - this dish demonstrates that there is no such thing as too much cheese.  Secondly, this dish is making me long for the gym because I can just feel my ass getting bigger with every bite and thirdly - I was "meh" on the first day, slightly smitten on the second day's leftovers and ready to embark on a love affair with this dish on the third day when I warmed some up for breakfast/ brunch.  It is an entree that just gets better after sitting in the fridge and letting the flavors meld.

The pain in the ass factor of this dish (beyond what it's doing to my waistline) is kind of high.  I mean - I'm bound to grate a knuckle when I haul out the box grater, so there's always that danger factor.  But I cannot stress the outcome - it is worth it.  And I am only making this dish for special occasions ... but man ...


Farmer's Pasta
adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis

Ingredients

    * Cooking spray, for greasing pan
    * 2 tablespoons (or more) olive oil
    * 6 ounces pancetta, chopped (**you can use bacon ... I probably would the next time)
    * 4 teaspoons minced garlic
    * 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
    * 4 cups whole milk
    * 3 cups heavy whipping cream
    * 8 ounces Fontina cheese, grated
    * 4 ounces mozzarella cheese, grated
    * 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
    * 6 ounces provolone cheese, cubed
    * 1 pound penne pasta
    * 3 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
    * Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    * 1 cup fresh coarse bread crumbs (**I used panko breadcrumbs ... not sure I'd do that again)

Directions

Grease a 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking dish. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and saute until golden and crisp, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a small bowl. Reduce the heat to medium. Add 3 teaspoons of garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the flour and whisk for 2 minutes (you want to cook the raw flour taste off). Gradually whisk in the milk and cream. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, whisking often, about 5 minutes. Gradually whisk in the Fontina, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheeses.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until almost al dente, stirring occasionally, about 7 minutes. (The pasta will continue cooking in the oven.) Drain pasta and add directly into the cheese. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes. Add the parsley, basil, provolone and pancetta and toss to coat. Season the pasta mixture, to taste, with salt and pepper. Transfer the pasta mixture to the prepared dish.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the remaining garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat. Add the bread crumbs and toss to coat. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the pasta mixture. Drizzle the top with extra-virgin olive oil and bake until the sauce bubbles and the bread crumbs are golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

'Tis the Season: Nigella's Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

Are you getting nervous yet?  It is the DAY BEFORE CHRISTMAS!  Meh - as far as I'm concerned, my planning, my fretting and my actual work all goes downhill at this point.  Christmas starts for me today with a time-honored tradition: Christmas Eve with my dad's side of the family.

It's kind of funny - when I was a kid, I know I enjoyed the holiday from the sheer presents side of the equation.  Family was an additional bonus - for my dad's side of the family, Christmas Eve was one of those times where I'd get to see my cousins from out-of-town.  It also meant lefse and my Grandma Phyllis's beef stew (I think I was a foodie at birth ...).  But then as I grew up, Christmas changed meaning ... my rebellious teenage self didn't really like the get-togethers where my dad and his siblings would talk and talk and TALK and talk, usually ignoring us kids who would then conspire to throw my cousin Larry into a snowbank.  No kidding - this happened a couple years in a row until Larry shot up over six feet in height.

Then there was the year that I actually missed the Christmas Eve get together.  I was probably 24 or 25 and I had pulled the short straw to work Christmas Eve at the newspaper in Wisconsin.  So I hung out with my then-boyfriend, but my mind kept wandering to what my family would be doing at that time (eating and talking, perhaps?).  And as cheesy as it sounds, I promised myself that year that I wouldn't miss Christmas Eve again.  I can't guarantee that things won't come up, but I missed the simplicity of tradition that year.  I would have given my right arm to chat at my Uncle Gary about some obscure book or musician from the 1960s or to talk to my Uncle Bruce about movies.  I missed the hugs that I get from my aunts.  I missed the prayers that usually come from my Uncle Steve or my Aunt Robin.  I especially missed my Grandpa Bob ... he's the patriarch of the family.  He doesn't usually say much, but it's nice to have him near.  Every once in awhile, he'll just chuckle to himself and that's when I realize that me being random doesn't really have anything to do with me just being me - being random in a birthright in my family ...

So if you're reading this on Christmas Eve and are a little pressed for time, here's a recipe from my favorite Brit, Nigella Lawson.  (BTW - she's gorgeous. I know that's random, but it's so refreshing to see a woman who actually looks like she eats the food that she cooks on food TV.  She is God's gift to men and women alike.  Sorry - RANDOM!)


Chocolate Shortbread Cookies
by Nigella Lawson

Cookies:

    * 2 1/4 sticks (18 Tbsp.) soft butter
    * 3/4 cup sugar
    * 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    * 2 cups all-purpose flour
    * 1/2 tsp. baking soda
    * 1 tsp. baking powder


Preheat the oven to 325° and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl and, when you have a light, soft whipped mixture, beat in the 1/3 cup cocoa powder (sifting if it is lumpy) and, when that's mixed in, beat in the flour with the baking soda and baking powder.

Pinch off pieces about 1 tablespoon in size, roll them into balls, then slightly flatten into fat discs as you place them, well spaced, on cookie sheets. You should get about 12 on at a time.

Bake each batch for 15 minutes.  Move to a cool surface and let sit for a bit before moving them to wire racks.

*~*~*~*~*~*

I found this recipe on Oprah.com and Nigella suggests topping these cookies with a chocolate frosting.  Although I am loathe to argue with the domestic goddess, I had some leftover powdered sugar frosting from my cutout cookies and just slathered that on top of the finished goods.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

'Tis the Season: Poor Man's Turtles

Candy intimidates the hell out of me.  And to be brutally honest?  I really suck at making it.  Just ask my father ... I made fudge for him one year that didn't set.  Although he assured me that it made a really good ice cream topping, I wouldn't blame him if he simply pitched it.  And then there was the caramel making incident of 2007.  I had such great intentions and they just sucked.  So while I call these candies the "poor man's turtle," I should really rename this post "the lazy girl's solution for trying to make candy that won't be an absolute fail."

That works for me.  So do these.



Poor Man's Turtles
from AllRecipes.com

small mini pretzels
chocolate covered caramel candies (**Although ShelleyBakes does not believe in name brand products, I can't imagine using anything but Rolos.  Find them.  Buy them.  Try not to eat all of them before the "candymaking" is done.)
pecan halves

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C).  Arrange the pretzels in a single layer on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Place one chocolate covered caramel candy on each pretzel.  Bake for 4 minutes. While the candy is warm, press a pecan half onto each candy covered pretzel. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Basically - make these until you're impatient or until you're out of Rolos.  Then your work is done.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

'Tis the Season: Rosemary Roasted Cashews

My advice when it comes to this recipe? Make this ... now. Do not pass go, do not hesitate to get into your car and get the ingredients necessary at the grocery store. If you absolutely need to, come on over and I'll spare you some sprigs of rosemary.

One note though ...  I combined the ingredients as listed by my beloved Ina, but it caused some major clumpage that was unattractive in the finished product.  When I do this again (and I have four pounds of cashews waiting to be turned into this rosemary roasted goodness in my pantry), I'd combine the dry ingredients, dump in the roasted nuts and then drizzle the butter on top and combine everything together.

These yummy treats are going to my friends who are on Santa's good list.  You know who you are.





Rosemary Roasted Cashews
by Ina Garten

1 1/4 pounds cashew nuts
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon light or dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon melted butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Place the nuts on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes until they are warmed through. Meanwhile, combine the rosemary, pepper, sugar, salt and butter in a large bowl. Toss the warm nuts with the rosemary mixture until the nuts are completely coated. Serve warm.  (If you make the nuts ahead of time, you can simply rewarm them briefly in a hot oven.)

But trust me ... these are just as good cold. :)

Monday, December 21, 2009

'Tis the Season: Gloria's Glorious Snack Mix

Although I have a laundry list of reasons why I give thanks for my mom-in-law Gloria, there are two that are forefront in my mind.  1) She gave birth to my husband and if that wasn't enough, she taught the boy how to properly do dishes and his own laundry.  God bless ya, Gloria.  2) She is as addicted to cookbooks and recipes as I am.

(I read that to my husband to make sure there wasn't anything overly offensive and he was like "are you looking for a certain Christmas present?"  I tell you this, he did not get his sense of sarcasm from his momma.)

Anyway - over Thanksgiving, Gloria concocted a snack mix - dried cranberries, almonds, peanuts, white chocolate chips and sesame snacks.  I'm not sure where the recipe came from, but my God - I think I can safely say that I gained about five pounds from eating this snack mix, along with all of the other food I managed to gorge myself on over the holiday.


I am planning to send some care packages to some of my friends who are out of state or no where the immediate vicinity of my kitchen.  This is making it into little treat bags ... if I don't eat all of it first.



Gloria's Glorious Snack Mix

measurements are approximate and can be tailored to your liking

regular package of Craisins dried cranberries
1 can of dry roasted peanuts
3 c. sesame sticks (**if you have no clue what I'm talking about, this is what they look like.  I found mine in the natural foods section of the grocery store in the bulk foods aisle.)
3/4 pkg of white chocolate chips

Mix together and store in an airtight container.  Both Gloria and I had some almonds in our pantries that we wanted to get rid of, so we chucked them into the mix.  I prefer to use unsalted almonds.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

'Tis the Season: Grandma Sophie's Cutout Cookies

While all my food blogging friends have been all awesome and getting ahead of the eight-ball when it comes to baking (ahem, Renee!), I have to admit that I have to be in a certain mood when it comes to preparing holiday fare.  Forget holiday music, that mood is usually sheer panic as in "oh shit, I need to finish those cookies for my husband's coworkers!" 

The other day I bought some beer (very conducive to baking) and a ton of groceries.  The recipes you'll see this week are going to be "gifts" that will be given to family, friends, etc.  There's even liquor involved, beyond the beer I drank to create these treasures ...

Thank you all for reading. Thank you to the food bloggers who inspire me and to my family members who share recipes with me.  I hope that you all have a blessed holiday season ...

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

I think the biggest connection that I have to my family and to those that I've lost over the years are the recipes that get handed down from generation to generation.  I do not remember a time (except when my mom fooled my dad and I with cutout cookies from U-Bake ... she claims it was dad who got pissed off at the substitution but I kinda remember throwing an absolute hissy fit that year ...) that these weren't a part of my mom's Christmas baking repertoire.

This recipe comes from my grandma Sophie.  Unfortunately for me and for the rest of her grandkids, Grandma Sophie was only with us for a short time and passed on in 1984.  Sometimes it is hard for me to remember what she looked like, but when I think about my grandma I think about cream soda, homemade Play-Doh, kindness and when I make these cookies, I let myself think that she's in the kitchen with me and probably shaking her head from the time in my novice cooking experience when I substituted butter for margarine.  Don't do it.  Just trust me.

Believe it or not, my favorite way to eat these cookies are plain ... don't need icing, don't need dusting sugar. Just give me stack of stars and I'll be a happy camper.

Sophie's Christmas Cutouts

4 cups flour                      
1 cup sugar
pinch of salt                                       
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup butter (no substitutes!)                 
1 tsp. soda
4 egg yolks                                           
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix the flour, salt and butter like piecrust.  Next cream egg yolks and sugar together.  Mix soda and sour cream, add to second mixture.  Then add to flour mixture.  Roll out and cut.

Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes until just brown on edge and set in middle.  Cool and frost. 

The following notes are from my momma:  "Have Joe and Cody up to shake on the sugars. (Those are my nephews ... they're a treat.)  I use powdered sugar frosting, but you can use white frosting already prepared too.  there are no better cookies in the world HOWEVER I did fool your dad one year and used u-bake cookies ... he was really pissed when I broke the news to him ... shit happens and I'm short on time."

I love you ma - as far as I'm concerned, you're the best cook in the world. :)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Turkey Dressing Sandwiches: One Fugly Looking Dish

When I made Michael Chiarello's Citrus Roasted Turkey pre-Thanksgiving, I really had one end-goal in mind: I'd be making a dish from my childhood that reminded me of Saturday's spent at my grandpa's auctions and utilized two classic elements from a basic turkey dinner - bird and stuffing. 

My grandpa Stan was an auctioneer in Northeast Iowa and when I got old enough to not be a total nuisance, many of my weekends were spent in opera houses, farmsteads and at homes, watching as my grandpa and his auctioneer partners called the auctions.  Grandpa's been gone for a few years now but I can hear his singsong voice - a little abraded by the Camel non-filters that he preferred but never tiring as he'd point to the spectators in the crowd and tracked the bids.  There was always something exciting about when a bid would conclude: "Twenty-nine and a HALF!"  I am grinning just remembering my grandpa's voice and seeing him on the auction wagon, his white hat on his head at an inimitable angle.  My grandpa could really wear a hat.

So while my grandpa never made turkey dressing sandwiches (he was in charge of the ham at Easter time), the food wagons at his auctions always stocked these delicacies that seem synonymous to me with the Midwest and fall afternoons spent at auction.  Upon making the recipe, I found it's a rather simple one - leftover turkey, a bag of sage and onion dressing, lots of celery, a big 'ol onion and some chicken or turkey stock.  I also rediscovered that turkey dressing sandwiches are pretty damn ugly looking and that they are up there as one of my husband's favorite foods.   It looks like nostalgia will turn into a regular occurrence at my house. :)


Turkey Dressing Sandwiches
adapted from Cooks.com

Bake turkey; take off bone (it will string).
In saucepan, combine: 10 c. chicken or turkey brother with lots of chopped celery (used 4 stalks) and onion (used 1 large).

Boil for 15 minutes. Put turkey bits in a large roaster. Put 1 large bag Brownberry sage and onion stuffing mix on top of turkey. Pour broth on top. Bake at 350 degrees until heated through. Stir while heating, making sure it is moist. You may have to add more broth. Serve on buns.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

PW's Beef Stew with Mushrooms

Have you ever seen a recipe on a website or a food blog that you could. not. wait. to make that very day for supper, second breakfast, lunch - whatever?  That was the case a couple weeks ago when I was on The Pioneer Woman's website and saw her recipe for Beef Stew with Mushrooms.  For once in my life, I actually had beef in the house - I had found some amazing steaks at Target when my husband and I were doing some post-rush Black Friday shopping - they were close to the expiration date, so they were reduced to $1.00 a lb and were a welcome addition to the freezer bags full of turkey stock that I had in the freezer. (Mi casa cannot live on turkey stock alone ...)  All I needed was beef consomme the mushrooms and voila!  This was one of the most amazing meals I've made in awhile.


The Pioneer Woman's Beef Stew with Mushrooms
Very loosely adapted from Ree Drummond

1 lb. beef stew meat (sirloin - cut into cubes - again, I just used a steak I happened to have in my freezer)

1 T. Flour
2 T. Butter
1 T. Olive Oil
1 shallot, minced
1 sm. onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz. cremini or white button mushrooms
½ c. red wine
1 can Beef Consomme
Salt And Pepper (to Taste)
Pasta - Cooked And Drained
2 sprigs Fresh Rosemary
2 T. Flour

Preparation Instructions:  Sprinkle flour over meat. Toss to coat.  Melt butter with olive oil in heavy pot. Sear meat over high heat in batches; remove to a plate when brown.  Add shallots, onion and garlic to pan (without cleaning); saute for 2 minutes over medium-low heat.  Add mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes. Pour in wine and consomme. Add salt and pepper to taste, and stir.  Bring to a boil, then add browned meat. Reduce heat to low. Add rosemary sprigs to pot.

Cover and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes. After that time, mix 2 tablespoons flour with a little water and pour into the stew. Allow to cook and thicken for ten more minutes.  Turn off heat and allow stew to sit for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

Ree notes that this dish is also good over mashed potatoes.  I am fearful of trying this, because I think that I would make this dish for every day in a week to eat it over potatoes.  So yeah - pasta was a good start for this.  Rice would also be good ...

*~*~*~*~*~

Anyone who has spent a modicum of time talking cooking with me realizes that I pretty much adore Ree Drummond.  I am now grappling with whether or not I want to be Ree when I grow up or if I should be Tina Fey or Ina Garten. 

But since I am still me, I have a confession to make.  As much as I love Ree, I missed an opportunity to meet with her when she visited Minneapolis before Thanksgiving to sign copies of her cookbook "The Pioneer Woman Cooks."  Or I should amend that statement - I actually went up to the Mall of America for her book signing, but silly me didn't realize that the rest of the people in love with Ree would start showing up at 7 a.m.!  So when I arrived 15 minutes after the 1 p.m. book signing began, the line was already two hours long.  So as much as I adore the Pioneer Woman, I am not known for patience and I had a 4 p.m. date with my friend Deb.  We needed to see Taylor Lautner shirtless.  Sorry Ree!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Guest Post: Bubble Pizza

My friend Deb and I go back to fifth-grade when she moved into our school district and was the "new girl" in school.  So we knew each other throughout junior high and high school, but it was the summer after our graduation that we really became close and we've remained close throughout college and throughout our lives after school.  Deb is that friend who I email to ask random marriage advice ("What should I do when my husband changes the radio station in my car without asking me first and he pisses me off?" "Do I really need to trade in my car to get a more family-friendly vehicle?")  Deb's never afraid to tell me when I'm being an absolute idiot (see emailed questions above) and her advice is usually spot-on and stellar.  Plus, she's a brilliant mom and a loving wife with two equally brilliant kids and a crazy addiction to all things Pearl Jam.  That makes her even cooler in my book.

Deb's shared an old family favorite for today's guest post.  And this is making me salivate - it's simple, easy, and kid-friendly. 




Bubble Pizza
from Deb

1 lb ground beef
2 tubes buttermilk biscuits (I think generic works best)
1 C cheddar cheese
1 C Mozzerella cheese (I use the 'pizza' cheese mix...if you really like cheese you can use more.)
1 can (16 oz) pizza sauce

Brown ground beef, drain.  Quarter the biscuits; mix with ground beef and pizza sauce.  Put into a 9x13 pan.  Bake at 400 for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and top with cheeses.  Bake for 8-10 minutes more.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

This is an OLD favorite for our family and gives us 2 meals for about $8.00.  You can also experiment with adding things like mushrooms, peppers, etc.  I haven't met anyone who didn't like this - especially kids!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Guest Post: Lentil BBQs

ShelleyBakes has been feeling exceedingly lazy lately and keeps forgetting to snap pictures with her meals (unless they are incredibly fugly, in that case - she purposely forgets to take a picture of said stuff.).  OK - wow, I'm going to stop referring to myself in third-person ... anyway - lucky for me, my buddy Deb sent me a couple recipes that are in her family's repertoire -- I love you as much as I love lentils Deb, and that's a lot. :)


Lentil BBQs

From Deb

2 cups lentils or 2 lbs ground meat (beef, turkey, chicken, or a mix)
3 T butter (2 T if using meat)
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup ketchup or tomato sauce
½ cup water
2 T brown sugar
2 T lemon juice
1 T Worcestershire Sauce
1 T vinegar
½ tsp mustard (any kind – I usually use spicy brown)

For lentils: pick over, rinse, and put in pan with enough water to cover by about 1 inch.  Bring to a boil and then simmer until tender (about ½ hour – 40 minutes).  Drain.

For meat: brown in pan and drain.

Combine cooked lentils or meat in crock pot with rest of ingredients, mix, and cover.  Cook on low 4+ hours.  Serve on buns, over rice, with pasta with chips, in a tortilla, or whatever else you can think of.  It can even just be eaten by itself!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Indoor Smores

I should preface this recipe by telling all of you that I think campfire s'mores suck.  I do not like burned marshmallows, I think that my chocolate bars should be consumed in a polite fashion and I love graham crackers.  Why mess with individual perfection?

On the other hand, if you present one of these treats to me I will embarrass myself trying to snarf down these little bars 'o heaven.  My love affair with indoor s'mores goes back to college when the Caf would take the stale Golden Grahams cereal from the bins in the breakfast area and make industrial sheet pans of these bad boys.  But when I think of indoor s'mores, I think of my friend Rhonda that I met in Manitowoc.  She is one of those people who make cooking look effortless and she would make these bars for my friends and I.  Only when I was making these myself, did I realize what a pain in the ass these bars truly are.  So thank you Rhonda for making these whenever we requested them - you are the bomb.



Indoor S'mores

Ingredients

    * 4 cups honey graham cereal
    * 3 tablespoons butter
    * 6 cups miniature marshmallows
    * 1/4 cup light corn syrup
    * 1 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips

Directions

   1. Coat a 9x13 inch dish with cooking spray. Place cereal into a large bowl; set aside.
   2. In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt margarine. Add marshmallows and corn syrup and stir until melted and smooth. Stir in chocolate chips until melted. Remove from heat and pour over waiting cereal; stir well to coat. Press into prepared pan. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Chocolate Spice Cake with Brown Butter Frosting

First and foremost - many thanks and most humble adoration to Kelly of Evil Shenanigans who dreamed this recipe up in the first place. 

I made this cake recipe for a Halloween shindig that the husband and I attended and wow ... want to be popular at a party?  Bring a recipe that features either booze or chocolate and you will become the belle of the ball.  There were two themes that I heard from the comments I received - the cloves used in this recipe are delightful.  People had a hard time putting their finger on the taste, but as soon as you said "cloves," it was an "a-HA!" moment.  (A moment - not the Norweigan pop band ...)  The second - and maybe I'm imagining this because it was my favorite part of the cake - was the brown butter frosting.  This frosting is almost a typical buttercream, but browning the butter before assembling the frosting just takes it all the way down to the goalpost.  I usually hate frosting, but I could cheerfully eat this frosting every day of my life and never fit into my pants again.

Well - maybe I won't go that far, but make this cake!  You will see that for once I am not exaggerating!

Chocolate Spice Cake with Brown Butter Frosting   
from Kelly at Evil Shenanigans

Serves 9

For the cake:

6 T. unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 ounce dark (at least 64%) chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup cake flour
1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon all-spice
1/2 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

For the frosting:
3 tablespoons butter
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-3 tablespoons cream (**I omitted)

Heat the oven to 350 F and spray an 8″x8″ cake pan with non-stick spray.  In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar until well mixed.  Add the vanilla and the egg and whisk until lighter in color and well mixed.  Stir in the melted chocolate.

In another bowl sift the flour, cocoa powder, spices, baking soda, and baking powder. Alternately add the flour mixture and milk into the butter, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sides of the cake begin to pull away from the sides of the pan.  Cool in the pan for ten minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cake cools prepare the frosting.

In a small pan over medium heat brown the butter until it is nut brown.  Be sure to stir the butter constantly.  Allow the butter to cool to room temperature.  Beat the butter, powdered sugar and vanilla until combined.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Michael Chiarello's Whole Roasted Turkey with Citrus Rosemary Salt

'Tis the season to be thinking about turkey.  And since I don't have a lot of room in my freezer and one of our local grocery stores had turkey on sale for .39 a pound, I jumped the gun a bit and made this recipe a few weeks ago so I could get my turkey fix early.

I found a ton of recipes on the Internet for roasted turkeys, but given my love for rosemary and lemon, this one stood out for me.

Mr. Chiarello's recipe calls for 2 8-10 pound turkeys, so I basically halved this recipe.  Also, I didn't utilize his recipe for making turkey gravy because necks and giblets freak me out.  Other than all of that?  This recipe is incredible.


Whole Roasted Turkey with Citrus Rosemary Salt                          by Michael Chiarello - Food Network

Citrus Rosemary Salt:

    * 1/2 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
    * 1 tablespoons lemon zest
    * 1/4 cup coarse salt

Roasted Turkey:

    * Turkey (I used a 13-lb.)
    * 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    * 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
    * 1 lemons, halved
    * 4 large carrots, halved lengthwise
    * 4 celery stalks

Directions

For the Citrus Rosemary Salt: In food processor, process all the ingredients. Pulse until well blended. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

For the Turkey: Wash the turkeys, inside and out, and dry well. Coat turkey, inside and out, with the olive oil. Season turkey on the outside with a tablespoon or two of the Citrus Rosemary Salt, pressing it in to adhere. Place 4 rosemary sprigs and 2 lemon halves inside the cavity of each turkey.

Arrange the halved carrots and celery stalks on baking sheets with a lip. Position turkey on top of the carrots and celery so that the turkey does not rest directly on the bottom of the pan. Drizzle turkey with remaining olive oil.

Roast until an instant-read thermometer (inserted deep into the thigh but away from the bone) reads 165 degrees F and juices in the thigh run clear when pierced with a fork, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours; begin checking at 2 hours. Remove from the pans and let rest for 15 minutes before carving.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

For the past two years, I've worked weekends at my town's local cab company.  It's a job that I've done to make some extra bills so I can pay off MY extra bills and have generally enjoyed it enough to stay there longer than I have ever stayed at a part-time job.

That's not to say my part-time job is perfect.  In fact, since I'm in the communication business at the cab company (I basically take phone calls, put cab requests in the computer and panic if the dispatcher steps away from their microphone for a smoke break.), the worst moments are when we have miscommunication.

These cookies were an apology gift to Pablo, who was driving the airport shuttle bus on Sunday.  He called me to see if there was a credit card number in the office on one of his fares, I thought he was checking to see if he could accept credit cards and long story short, Pablo got screwed out of $11.50.  Since Pablo is an all-around nice guy, I promised him that I would bake some cookies as a mea culpa and even let him pick what kind of cookie he wanted.  So he picked these.

That was a wise choice ... they are damn tasty.


White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies
adapted from Brown Eyed Baker who adapted them from Crepes of Wrath

Yield: About 2 dozen cookies (depending on size)

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup butter, melted
1 cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped macadamia nuts
8 oz. white chocolate (Brown Eyed Baker used 2 c. of white chocolate chips. I used 2 Ghiardelli White Chocolate bars and chopped them roughly with my knife.)

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease baking sheets or line with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.

3. Beat together the melted butter, brown sugar, and white sugar. Beat in the egg, then beat in the egg yolk, then beat in the vanilla.

4. Gradually add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture until just moistened. Stir in the macadamia nuts and white chocolate chips by hand with a rubber spatula.

5. Roll into balls or drop by heaping tablespoons onto baking sheets.

6. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the edges look golden brown and the middles don’t look quite set. Allow to finish cooling on the baking sheet.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I've been tagged!

 The lovely Renee at Flamingo Musings tagged me this morning with this list of questions ... I did a similar one and I think the rule is that you can only use one word to answer the questions ...

1. Where is your cell phone? Hidden
2. Your hair? Short
3. Your mother? Gorgeous
4. Your father? Chatty
5. Your favorite food? Indian
6. Your dream last night? Unending
7. Your favorite drink? Beer
8. Your dream/goal? Travel
9. What room are you in? Office
10. Your hobby? Many
11. Your fear? Ignorance
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Wealthy
13. Where were you last night? Home
14. Something you aren’t? Quiet
15. Muffins? Bran
16. Wish list item? Cookbooks
17. Where did you grow up? Iowa
18. Last thing you did? Type
19. What are you wearing? khakis
20. Your TV? Home
21. Your pets? Cat
22. Friends? Several
23. Your life? Tiring
24. Your mood? Meh
25. Missing someone? Family
26. Vehicle? Tank
27. Something you’re not wearing? coat
28. Your favorite store? Target
29.Your favorite color? blue
30. When was the last time you laughed? yesterday
31. Last time you cried? Hmmm ...
32. Your best friend? Ryan
33. One place you go to over and over again? Work
34. One person who e-mails you regularly? Deb
35. Favorite place to eat? Erin's

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Chipotle Honey Roasted Peanuts

Oh, how do I love this recipe?  So much, I had made this to bring to a get-together with some friends and nearly punked out at the last minute so my hubby and I could keep this to ourselves.  But good sense and hospitality prevailed.  I will make this again - I have a feeling that this will be one that will make an appearance at many more get-togethers.  It's just that simple and it is just that good.



Chipotle Honey Roasted Peanuts
from AllRecipes.com

    * 1/3 cup white sugar
    * 1 1/2 teaspoons chipotle chile powder
    * 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
    * 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
    * 2 tablespoons butter
    * 2 tablespoons honey
    * 1 teaspoon kosher salt
    * 1 pound skinless peanuts (I bought a jar of unsalted, roasted peanuts)
   
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Stir together the sugar, chipotle powder, chili powder, and garlic powder in a small bowl; set aside.
2. Stir together the butter, honey, and kosher salt in a large saucepan over medium heat until the butter has melted, and the mixture is bubbly. Stir in the peanuts until well coated, then pour out into a 9x13 inch baking dish.
3. Bake in preheated oven until the nuts are golden brown, about 30 minutes. Stir the mixture 2 or 3 times to ensure even cooking. Once done, scrape the peanuts into a large metal bowl, and sprinkle with the spice mixture. Toss the peanuts to evenly coat with the spice mixture. Allow the peanuts to cool to room temperature, tossing every few minutes so the nuts do not stick together.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Paula Deen's Sausage Balls

This was one of the easiest recipes that I ever considered harming myself over.  Let me paint the picture ... I was home sick a few weeks ago and the Cat and I found ourselves snuggling in our favorite chair, watching some vintage Paula Deen.  While Paula is not my favorite Food Network icon (that place is held firmly by that goddess named Ina), I do appreciate her Southern sensibility and her penchant for using whole sticks of butter.  So when she made these Sausage Balls and I heard a subtle crunch as she bit into one of the finished products - I was intrigued.  And with only three ingredients, all of which are usually in my pantry - what a winning appetizer to whip up for my next get together with my buddies.

Well - it's a winner, but if you like to use your bare hands to form about five-dozen one-inch balls, be a martyr and make this recipe.  It's good, don't get me wrong - and I shouldn't complain because this recipe makes a ton, but this recipe only reminds me that I have a short attention span that is not conducive to making fussy appetizers and that I hate it when I get my hands dirty and Bisquick under my fingernails.  Paula made it look so easy on TV!


Sausage Balls
from Paula Deen

Ingredients

    * 1 (1-pound) package ground sausage
    * 3 cups baking mix (recommended: Bisquick)
    * 4 cups grated sharp Cheddar

Dip:

    * 1 cup mayonnaise
    * 1 tablespoon mustard

Directions


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a baking sheet with vegetable oil cooking spray.  Combine all ingredients in a large glass bowl. Mix well with your fingers. The mixture will be very crumbly. Form into 1 inch balls, squeezing the mixture so it holds together, then rolling it between the palms of your hands to form balls.  Place the balls on the baking sheet. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. To prevent sticking, move the balls with a spatula halfway through cooking. To make the dip, combine the mayonnaise and mustard. Serve with sausage balls.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

My Mama's Beef Stroganoff

I called my mom the other day and was chatting with her about my food blog ... and somewhere during the conversation, I had a revelation that I've been writing a lot about her lately ... her unnatural hatred of turkey (truth be told - I'm not entirely sure where I got that from - she doesn't eat turkey, that doesn't necessarily equate hatred ...), how I learned how to cook from her copy of the Betty Crocker cookbook, her amazing cinnamon rolls, etc.

Truth be told?  My mom is the reason that I cook the way that I do and she also influences some of the departures that I make in cooking.  Case in point - my mother would probably cheerfully die rather than eat a smidgen of cream of mushroom soup.  Her hatred of that particular atrocity causes her to call my favorite green bean casserole "those slimy green beans."  So when you hear a nuclear explosion somewhere in northeast Iowa, it is because I have taken one of her signature dishes and have made it my own - complete with ground turkey and cream of mushroom soup instead of ground beef and cream of chicken soup.

There is nothing sexy or difficult about this dish, but for me - when I eat my mom's beef stroganoff or even my own bastardized version of it, I am instantly transported to my mom's kitchen and can picture the perfect roasting pan full of this casserole on Sundays when she was diverting from the Sunday roast routine.  This is one of those dishes that I've probably altered for my own purposes because I will never get it to taste as good as it did when I was a kid and mom would serve this with a side of garlic bread (leftover hamburger buns slathered with buttered and damn near dredged in garlic salt) and salad. 


I'm not sexy, but I put the "comfort" in comfort food

Mama's Beef Stroganoff - the ShelleyBakes version
by Mama Sharon and ShelleyBakes

1/2 bag wide egg noodles, cooked per directions
1 lb. ground turkey or beef, browned and drained
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cans cream of mushroom (or chicken) soup
1 c. sour cream

Make the noodles and drain.  While noodles are cooking, brown the meat together with the chopped onion.  If you're going to bake it, it can be a little pink, but if you think you'll eat it straight from the pan like my husband and I do?  Brown it till it is no longer clucking or mooing.  After the noodles and the meat are done, throw in a big bowl and add the soup and the sour cream.  You can get by with just one can of soup, but adding the extra makes it damn near velvety. 

This step truly makes it better, although you do not have to follow it ... if you decide you want to bake this casserole - have your oven preheated to 350 degrees.  Dump the contents of the bowl into a large casserole dish or a roasting pan (if your my mom and have doubled this recipe because you are feeding a herd of hungry folks) and bake until the top is slightly golden.  (Probably about 45 minutes?)

If you are like me and do not have the patience - you can eat it now, but only if you browned the hamburger properly. 

A couple of notes - this recipe is a cinch to double and it freezes incredibly well.  In fact, this is something I make on a relatively frequent basis when I know I'll be working extra shifts and I keep quart freezer bags of stroganoff in our freezer.  You can thaw and serve after nuking it for awhile or you can go that martyr's extra mile and bake it after it thaws. 

On a personal note - I love you Mom!  I promise I won't ever make stroganoff when you come over!.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Congrats to my friend Lindsey!

I've been blessed by my friend Lindsey who has been a faithful contributor to Shelley Bakes.  And as you guys saw in the Creepy Crawly Spiders post, this lady makes adorable babies.  Well, she welcomed baby number three today and since Baby Girl was three weeks early, she is currently nameless, but I'm just thrilled to know that Mommy and baby are healthy and well. 

Congrats to Ryan, Lindsey, Kyler and Anya!

Bastardized Bean Soup in the Crockpot

I gotta say - when I first saw this recipe on the Cooking Light website - it looked so damn cosmopolitan.  You know that recipe - the kind with the sexy title that just begs for you to invite over company so they can revel in your culinary prowess, but also a wee bit intimidating ... a recipe with such a great title MUST be complicated to pull off, right?  Right?

Um ... yeah.  After putting off and putting off this recipe because I was a bit daunted by the title (apparently I hadn't read the actual TEXT of what had seduced me ...), I realized something.  This was basically a version of my mom's bad-ass bean soup, but with stuff she wouldn't even IMAGINE crossing her palate (i.e. - smoked turkey sausage ... the woman has an unnatural hatred for turkey ... love you ma!)


So after reading the recipe and realizing that the only thing that was daunting me was the process of browning the sausage (unnecessary step, by the way) and the garlic and shallots, I made the next ultimate mistake of putting this soup in overnight in my crockpot.  And sometime after reassuring myself that the house wouldn't spontaneously combust in the middle of the night (I have that irrational fear when I leave the crockpot on for extended periods of time, which truly negates the use of a slow cooker), my sleep was plagued by dreams of baking and I was literally tormented by the smells of awesome bean soup goodness that leeched into my subconscious.


I woke myself up when I heard myself talking and when I accidentally hit my husband in the head because I was gesturing some point in my dream.  So despite the unintentional injuries and the fact that I basically had to quarantine myself from society after consuming bean soup for breakfast, lunch AND dinner in the span of one day (I never said my love for bean soup was reasonable), I hereby present my version of Cooking Light's "Tiny French Beans with Smoked Sausage" otherwise known to my husband as "that damn soup that my wife made in the middle of the night and assaulted me over at 2 a.m."



I am a bowl of pooty goodness

Bastardized Crockpot Bean Soup with Smoked Sausage
adapted from Cooking Light

Ingredients

* 1 lb. smoked turkey sausage, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
* 1 T olive oil
* 1/3 cup minced shallots
* 3 garlic cloves, minced
* 2 C dried flageolets or other dried white beans, (about 1 pound - I used lima beans, apparently Hyvee doesn't carry flageolets? What the hell are flageolets?)
* 2 C water
* 1/4 C minced fresh or 1 tablespoon dried thyme (**I used rosemary ... it's what was in my kitchen)
* 1 teaspoon celery seeds (**don't have it - omitted)
* 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
* 2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth

Preparation

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add sausage; sauté 5 minutes or until browned. Remove from pan, and place in an electric slow cooker. Heat the oil in pan over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Sort and wash beans. Add beans, shallot mixture, water, and the remaining ingredients to slow cooker. Cover and cook on high 8 hours or until beans are tender.

WARNING ... cooking times are approximate.  After accidentally nailing hubby in the head and checking the soup at 2 a.m. (I had been in bed since 10 - four hours), the liquid had cooked down substantially and I ended up using an entire box (32 oz.) of chicken broth.

Would I make this again?  Most definitely - I'd also add a Shelley twist and chuck a few chopped carrots into the mix.  But if I make it again, I will not consume bean soup for an entire day's worth of meals and I'll make it on weekend when I won't obsessively dream over my culinary concoctions.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

#GreatHallowTweet: Pumpkin Beer Quick Bread

I wasn't too surprised when I saw my husband cringe as I pulled down a can of pure pumpkin for this recipe.  You see, the poor man suffered for a week of insanity last fall when I decided to devote a week's worth of recipes to utilizing canned pumpkin.  And although I'm a little sad that he has yet to try this recipe, really I'm not too bummed out because this quick bread is so good, I have ate every single muffin that I made using this awesome batter which utilizes not only canned pumpkin - but beer as well.  And hell - it's from Cooking Light so how bad can it be?  (Unless you eat a loaf in its entirety ...)



Pumpkin Beer Quick Bread
adapted from Cooking Light

Yield: 2 loaves, 14 servings per loaf (serving size: 1 slice)
Ingredients

    3 1/4 c. all-purpose flour (about 3 1/4 cups)
    2 tsp salt
    2 tsp baking soda
    1 tsp baking powder
    1 tsp ground cinnamon
    1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
    1/2 cup water
    1/3 cup ground flaxseed
    2 1/2 cups sugar
    2/3 cup canola oil
    2/3 cup beer (at room temperature)**
    1/2 cup egg substitute
    2 large eggs
    1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin

Preheat oven to 350°.  Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, salt, and next 4 ingredients (through pumpkin pie spice) in a medium bowl; stir with a whisk.  Combine 1/2 cup water and flaxseed.  Place sugar and next 4 ingredients (through eggs) in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium-high speed until well blended. Add flaxseed mixture and pumpkin; beat at low speed just until blended. Add flour mixture; beat just until combined. Divide batter between 2 (9 x 5–inch) loaf pans coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pans. Cool completely on wire rack.

** The Cooking Light recipe called for honey beer - I didn't have any, so I used a chocolate-y stout and wow ... awesome.  Also I made one loaf and used the rest for muffins.  Decrease the cooking time for the muffins to about 40 minutes.

If you decide to make two loafs, you may wrap the other one in plastic wrap and freeze for up to two months.

Friday, October 30, 2009

#GreatHallowTweet: Lemon Poppy Seed Bread

Yup - I know what you're thinking ... what does lemon poppy seed bread have to do with Halloween?

Well, quite like how my great-grandma Schlitter messed with convention and handed out gingerbread men to her great-grandkids instead of Snickers bars, my great-grandma Ewing (her name was Florence ...) handed out loaves of lemon poppy seed and reminded all of us to check the deep freeze before we left and make sure we took some freezer jam.

I loved my great-grannies.  God love them and bless 'em both for actually feeding us "good" treats that were baked with love.




Grandma Florence's Lemon Poppy Seed Bread
by Florence Ewing (and God knows how many other home cooks)

1 box lemon cake mix
1 box lemon instant pudding
1 c. hot water
1/2 c. vegetable oil
4 eggs
1/4 c. poppy seeds

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine the cake mix, oil and eggs, mixing until combined.  Then add the pudding and the hot water.  Mix until well incorporated.  Add poppy seeds.  Pour into greased loaf pans (makes two large) and bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

#GreatHallowTweet: Creepy Spider Cookies

My friend Lindsey is one of my favorite contributors to ShelleyBakes ... as a little bit of background, I think Lindsey and I technically met our freshman year, but didn't become friends until we were both employed at our college's radio station.  It goes like this:  If Lindsey says something is fashionable, that woman just knows and when it comes to cooking, her taste is impeccable.  What's also incredible is that she's the uber-busy mother of two incredibly busy kiddos and has another one on the way.  Also - her timing is uncanny - when she emailed me this morning - I was thrilled - what a perfect recipe for the #GreatHallowTweet!

Lindsey - you are saving my ass, just like you did back in college.  I adore you. :)



Creepy Critter Spider Cookies
from Martha Stewart

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter
1 egg
1 TB vanilla
2 1/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
Black sugar
Black Licorice laces
Cinnamon Red Hots

Heat oven 375. Combine sugar, egg, butter and vanilla in bowl.  Beat.  Add flour, baking powder and salt.   Beat and scrape bowl.  Roll dough into 1 inch balls.  Roll balls in black sugar to coat entire ball.  Place on ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake 8-10 min.  Immediately insert 4 licorice pieces into each cookies (pre drill hole with toothpick)  and add eyes.  Transfer to cooking rack, let set.

These guys are Lindsey's adorable kids Kyler and Anya ... thanks guys for helping your mommy make these!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

#GreatHallowTweet: Strawberry Ghosts

Here is another opportunity for me to express to you, world, that I absolutely suck at decorating.

Let me tell you a little bit about my Strawberry Ghosts - the one in front is Drooly, the other two right behind are former members of KISS and the last one was made using an entirely DIFFERENT chocolate that was more forgiving than melted chocolate chips.

Or as my husband said - the one in the front looks like he's bleeding.  "He looks horrific."

Thanks honey.  ;-p

Strawberry Ghosts
adapted from Taste of Home

Ingredients
    * 30 fresh strawberries
    * 8 ounces white baking chocolate, chopped
    * 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
    * 1/4 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
   
Directions
    * Wash strawberries and gently pat with paper towels until completely dry. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt white chocolate at 50% power; stir until smooth. Stir in extract.
    * Dip strawberries in chocolate mixture; place on a waxed paper-lined baking sheet, allowing excess chocolate to form the ghosts' tails. Immediately press chocolate chips into coating for eyes. Freeze for 5 minutes.
    * In a microwave-safe bowl, melt remaining chocolate chips; stir until smooth. Dip a toothpick into melted chocolate and draw a mouth on each face. Yield: 2-1/2 dozen.

P.S. - Pain in the ass quotient?  HUGE!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

#GreatHallowTweet: El Dia de los Muertos Party

Once upon a time, a not-so-technologically-inclined girl named @ShelleyBakes joined a wee Internet phenomenon called Twitter.  After meeting some great folks like Renee at Flamingo Musings, Elle at Elle's (now Helle's - get it?) New England Kitchen, Paula at Dragon's Kitchen, Heather at Bodacious Girl, er ... Ghoul, Michelle at Big Black Dog, Jeff at Culinary Disasters and Deeba at Passionate About Baking, I can now confidently say that I am pretty damn hooked on Twitter. (By the way - these are just a handful - not even all of the culinary talents that are participating in this project - see my sidebar on the left-hand side to visit their blogs and others.)

So when Renee decided to host a #GreatHallowTweet bloghop that would celebrate a week of ghoulish recipes to kick of Halloween, I excited jumped at the chance to get all ghouly with my Tweeps.  And the #GHT seemed like a good of reason as any to throw a party.  On a chance afternoon when the Cat and I were watching Food Network, Rachael Ray happened to be cooking Tex-Mex and that episode (which I can't, for the life of me, find on the FN webpage ... FAIL!) inspired this particular party menu, which I mentally referred to as the El Dia de los Muertos party, in honor of the Mexican holiday that celebrates the Day of the Dead.  (Incidentally, this occurs on Nov. 1, but hey ... I jumped the gun.)  I turned to Rachael Ray for Beef and Bean Burrito Sliders, found a spicy chili recipe (perfect for the four inches of snow that got dumped in Rochester that afternoon), Mexican hot chocolate cookies, a Tex-Mex inspired salad featuring a avocado-lemon dressing, lots of Corona and some sangria that was contributed by my friend Carey.  (As well as a butternut squash lasagna from my resident vegetarian friend ...)


Beef and Bean Burrito Burgers/Sliders
from Rachael Ray

This is my friend Erin, doing his Vanna White impression with the sliders

I'm still not entirely certain that this is the recipe that I saw that fateful day when Cat and I were watching some Food Network.  And while these burgers were very tasty, they had a huge "pain in the ass" quotient caused by the fact that without mashing the black beans a little bit before you incorporate them in the ground meat?  Yeah - my sliders were extraordinarily fragile little burgers that left half of their rice and beans like fallen comrades on my hot griddle.

Mexican Salad with Tomatoes, Red Onions and Avocado Dressing
Again ... by Rachael Ray

Alas ... I never got as far as eating the actual GREENS associated with this salad, but I highly recommend RR's dressing - it made a perfect topping for the sliders.

Crockpot Turkey Chili
from About.com

These little "Soup Kettles" are straight out of my childhood - the same bowls that my grandma used to ladle her Halloween soup into.  I love tradition ...

What I thought was going to be a fail ended up being one of the best items on the menu.  I used this "lightened" version of chili as a base.  When I realized that the recipe as-is only fed four people (and I was set to have six adults and three kids over for the party), I panicked and hurled in a can of light red kidney beans, more salsa, more canned tomatoes and finally ... leftover bloody Mary mix from the fridge to get this to the zippy soup I served my guests.  I even had leftovers.


Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies
adapted from Joy of Baking



One of the features that makes Mexican hot chocolate different from its other North American brethren is the inclusion of cinnamon.  When I first made these cookies in preparation of my party (it was a kind of test drive that was almost immediately consumed by Hubby and I), I just really wanted to make cookies and decorate them with frosting so they resembled cobwebs (and truly - to show my mad decorating skills.  That's sarcasm - really.)  So after the first round of cookies was decimated and I went to make another batch, I added a heaping teaspoon of cinnamon to the rich batter to give it a bit of a spicier kick.  To be honest - the next time I make these, I'd even add more.  Plus I'd add a hint of cinnamon in the frosting as well ...

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder (**I used Penzey's)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes).  Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until incorporated.  First sift together the cocoa powder, flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt and then add to the butter and egg mixture.  Mix just until incorporated.

Using a small ice cream scoop or two spoons, place about 1 1/2 tablespoons of batter on the prepared baking sheet, spacing about 2 inches (5 cm) apart.

Bake for approximately 8 minutes or until the the cookies are still soft in the center but are firm around the edges.  Remove from oven and let cookies cool on baking sheet for about 5 minutes before removing the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 24 - 3 inch round cookies.

These may also be made in advance and kept in the freezer until they are ready to be baked.  For this, I measured out the scoops onto parchment lined cookies sheets and froze the cookies overnight (well - it doesn't take that long, I just whipped together the dough before I went to bed).  You can then remove the frozen nuggets of joy and store them in freezer bags until they are ready to be baked.  I upped the cooking time to about 10 minutes.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Giada's Quick & Spicy Tomato Soup


I happened across this particular episode of Giada DeLaurentiis one day when I was being a bad ass and went home for my lunch break. There's no reason that I can't eat with the rest of my co-workers, but faced with the idea of sitting with my co-workers and not escaping my office versus going home, nuking whatever leftovers are in my fridge and cuddling up to my Cat, the Cat wins hands down. Especially since he likes Food Network as much as I do.

Quick and Spicy Tomato Soup
from Giada DeLaurentiis

Ingredients

* 3 tablespoons olive oil
* 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
* 1 small onion, chopped
* 1 clove garlic, minced
* 1 (26-ounce) jar marinara sauce (recommended: San Marzano brand)
* 2 (14-ounce) cans chicken broth
* 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
* 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
* 1/2 cup pastina pasta (or any small pasta)
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Warm the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the carrots, onion, and garlic and saute until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the jar of marinara sauce, chicken broth, cannellini beans, red pepper flakes, pasta, salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes. Ladle into bowls and serve.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Classic Apple Crisp


I haven't made my love for Betty Crocker a secret. Some people were raised by the "Joy of Cooking" while my mom had a big ol' orange copy of Betty Crocker cookbook. So when I was having a wicked craving for apple crisp, I was tempted by several different recipes and options, but when it came down to it - all I needed were apples, oatmeal, real butter, flour and brown sugar.

Sometimes you can't mess with simplicity.

Apple Crisp
from Betty Crocker

4 medium tart cooking apples, sliced (4 cups - I used Honeycrisp ... excellent)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup quick-cooking or old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup butter, softened
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (**I actually used fresh grated nutmeg - my life has been drastically altered by spice)
Cream or Ice cream, if desired

1. Heat oven to 375ºF. Grease bottom and sides of 8-inch square pan.
2. Spread apples in pan. In medium bowl, stir remaining ingredients except cream until well mixed; sprinkle over apples.
3. Bake about 30 minutes or until topping is golden brown and apples are tender when pierced with a fork. Serve warm with cream or ice cream - or eat it straight out of the pan like me. For dessert and for next day's lunch.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Old School: Grandma Schlitter's Oatmeal Cookies


As much as I love trolling the Internet for recipes, I'm gonna be honest - some of the best recipes I've ever found were given to me ages ago. I'll bookmark various recipes for chili - but I still like my mom's the best. Chocolate chip cookies are another one - there are a zillion recipes out there and I've made a few variations - but what's wrong the recipe on the back of the Nestle's bag?

When I have a wicked craving for oatmeal raisin cookies, I have a host of options that I've found on the Internet, but the best cookie I ever ate came from a German woman who happened to be my grandma's mom - my great-grandma Schlitter. I have two distinct cookie memories that are assigned to Grandma Schlitter - one was her killer gingerbread men that she'd make at Halloween and pass out to the grandkids in lieu of candy. One year I got to apprentice in her tiny little kitchen. After a morning of baking, she fed me and my mom boiled cabbage which only made me love her more.

The second cookie recipe that I associate with Grandma S. is this oatmeal raisin cookie recipe. According to my Grandma Schlitter, the gingerbread recipe came from her mom and was the cookie that she'd always pack in little Geneva's lunch pail when my great-granny went off to school. There was another girl in the class whose mom made these oatmeal raisin cookies. The girls would switch their cookies and Grandma Schlitter later received this recipe.

Unfortunately, my great-grandma made these cookies so much and foisted them on her grandchildren so much that one day she asked my Aunt Sue if she'd like a cookie and my aunt calmly replied "I wouldn't eat another one of those dog biscuits if my life depended on it." Which is why we also call these cookies dog biscuits. Rest in peace, Grandma Schlitter - I hope heaven is full of more appreciative people. :)

Grandma's Oatmeal Cookies

1/2 c. lard (don't even THINK about substituting it for shortening)
1 c. sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. salt
1 c. heavy cream **
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 c. raisins or more
2 c. flour
1/2 c. chopped nuts (optional)
2+ cups steel cut oatmeal (you can use quick oats ...)

Cream lard and sugar together and add egg, mixing well. Add remaining ingredients in the order given and stir in enough oatmeal to make a very stiff dough. Drop by spoonful on greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned. If they spread out and are too crisp, add more flour and oatmeal.
A couple of notes: Lard? Oh yes, lard. I've done the leg work and I've tried making these cookies with shortening. They are a pale imitation of what they SHOULD taste like. You will usually find lard somewhere in your grocer's refrigerated section. This time, I found mine sandwiched near the salt pork/bacon products. Other times, I've found it near butter. Once I found it on a shelf and it was NOT refrigerated. Just ask if you can't find it.

** Heavy cream. The first time I ever made these cookies solo, I had to call my mom because the original recipe called for "sweet cream."

Me: What the hell is sweet cream?
Mom: Well, when your grandma would make these cookies, she'd get the cream straight from the bulk tank. You're probably not going to find cream that fresh.
Me: SIGH!

And finally - these cookies, while admirably good, are nothing like I remember from childhood. But I'll keep trying ... :) I have to use up that lard somehow.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Baked Orzo with Peppers, Tomatoes and Zucchini


Baked Orzo with Peppers, Tomatoes and Zucchini

adapted from Martha Rose Shulman and the New York Times

1/2 pound orzo (about 1 1/8 cups)
3 c. chicken stock or broth
Salt to taste
1 large red pepper, roasted and diced (**I used a green pepper that I sauteed in olive oil)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 medium zucchini, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 pound tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced; or 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 or 2 plump garlic cloves (to taste), minced
2 ounces freshly grated Parmesan or 2 ounces crumbled goat cheese (1/2 cup, tightly packed)

1. Bring chicken stock to a boil in a large pot and add the orzo. Cook eight minutes, or until it is cooked through but still firm to the bite. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Toss with the diced pepper and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.

2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Oil a 2-quart baking dish. Heat another tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat in a large, wide skillet. Add the zucchini and cook — stirring and turning over the slices, or tossing them in the pan — until just cooked through and lightly colored, about five minutes. Scrape into the bowl with the orzo.

3. Return the pan to the heat, add the final tablespoon of oil and the garlic. Cook just until fragrant, 20 to 30 seconds, and add the tomatoes and salt to taste. Cook, stirring from time to time, until the tomatoes have cooked down slightly and smell fragrant. Taste and adjust seasoning. Scrape into the bowl with the orzo, add the Parmesan or goat cheese, and mix everything together. Add freshly ground pepper to taste, and adjust salt. Transfer to the baking dish.

4. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, until the top is just beginning to color. Serve hot or warm.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

"Healthy" Beef Stroganoff

I'll be the first person to admit that way too much of my money goes towards eating out. Sure - I'm a food blogger, but if there are no leftovers in the house - chances of me trucking home over the lunch hour to stand by my fridge and marvel at the (lack of) possibilities for noontime nosh? Slim to none. Everyone at my job is basically on a first-name basis with the Jimmy John's delivery man, the people at China Star shrink in fear when I show up with a list of orders in hand and I have been known to spend an ungodly amount of money for Noodles & Company. My current favorite? The beef stroganoff with braised beef. But you add in a drink with that, that's about $8. I could be spending that money on shoes. So I was particularly thrilled when I found this recipe the other day at EatBetterAmerica.com. It looks like my favorite beef stroganoff and it has to be a hell of a lot cheaper than eating out.

If you are wondering about the presentation of this dish, I am so showing off the awesome plate that my sister-in-law bought me at Gordman's. The entree itself falls under the "I taste really great, but I'm pretty homely" category, but I had to show off this awesome plate! Thanks Amanda! xoxo


"Healthified" Beef Stroganoff
adapted from EatBetterAmerica.com

1 1/2 lb boneless beef sirloin steak (**I used a medium sized sirloin ... a bit shy of a pound.)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion (1 large)
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
2 cups beef broth
4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 pkg sliced or whole button mushrooms
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 cup reduced-fat sour cream
6 cups hot cooked medium egg noodles

First - take about a tablespoon of olive oil and saute your mushrooms in 12-inch nonstick skillet. Saute them until they are brown and then remove from heat. While your mushrooms are cooking, prep the other ingredients: Cut the beef with the grain into 2-inch strips, then cut the strips across the grain into 1/8-inch slices. Cook beef in skillet for 4 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until brown. Add onion and garlic to skillet; cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in 1 1/2 cups of the broth, the Worcestershire sauce, basil, salt and pepper. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until beef is tender. In small bowl, mix flour and remaining 1/2 cup broth with wire whisk until blended. Add to skillet. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute.

Stir in mushrooms and ketchup; cook until thoroughly heated, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in sour cream until well blended. Serve over noodles. Garnish with fresh chopped chives if you have some in your garden that need to be utilized before the first frost.

NOTES SECTION: This recipe originally called for canned mushrooms, which I have come to determine taste like arse. So I substituted fresh ... I cut my own because I'm a martyr ... if you want to be even quicker, spend the extra 20 cents and get the pre-cut beauties. You will be a happy camper if you do.

Who out there is still chopping their onions and garlic by hand? (All of the foodies are raising their chef's knives ...) Here is my confession - I SUCK at chopping onions. Even worse at chopping garlic (unless you like substantial pieces of garlicky goodness in your food ...). So I've been using my grandma's small food chopper/processor when there's something that calls for an entire onion or more. Call me lazy ... for this recipe, I just tossed the garlic clove with my onion and gave it a couple rotations in the processor. Perfect!

FINALLY ... I don't know if it was because I'm at the end of my Worcestershire sauce or not, but DAMN my sauce had a kick to it that I wasn't entirely appreciative of. I wasn't a fan of the ketchup either - I put it in there because it's my hubby's favorite condiment. In the future, I'm going to either cut the Worcestershire to 2 tablespoons or omit that entirely. Not going to add the ketchup in the future either.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Spinach Rice Casserole

Two reasons this recipe is not accompanied by a photo of the dish: 1) I was really hungry when I made this and we ate the casserole before I could secure photographic evidence of this dish. And 2) this dish is really, really ugly. So ugly that if I have kids, I don't think there is any way in hell that I will convince them to try this because you look at it and say "wow - this is one ugly, healthy looking dish."

Fall is in the air here in Minnesota - even if the thermometer keeps claiming that the temperatures are in the 80s. (I'm writing this on September 15th ... by the time this actually posts, it probably will be chilly out.) But the days are getting short, the nights are significantly cooler and dammit, the grill is getting ready for hibernation, it's time for me to be making casseroles!

I found this at EatBetterAmerica.com. This site is sponsored by the good folks at General Mills and while I'm not a slave to labels, General Mills is headquartered up in the Twin Cities and are also the people currently associated with the Jolly Green Giant.

My oldest nephews and I had a close encounter with the Jolly Green Giant this summer when we were on vacation. Why would a giant man wear such a short tunic? The world may never know ...

Oh yes I did ... gratuitous crotch shot of the JGG.

Now that your mind's are firmly in the garden gutter - here's the recipe.

"Healthified" Spinach & Rice Casserole
adapted from EatBetterAmerica.com

2 teaspoons olive oil
3 medium carrots, chopped (1 1/2 cups)
2/3 cup chopped celery - 3 stalks
1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 3/4 cups water
1 can (10 3/4 oz) condensed 98% fat-free cream of mushroom soup
2 boxes (9 oz each) frozen chopped spinach, thawed & drained
1 1/2 cups uncooked instant brown rice
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (**next time I'm going to omit, I kept getting dried rosemary stuck in my teeth - not very attractive)
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup diced cooked ham
3/4 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (3 oz)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 13x9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dish with cooking spray. In 3-quart saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add carrots, celery, onion and garlic; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add water and soup; heat to boiling. Add spinach, rice, Italian seasoning and pepper; return to boiling. Remove from heat; stir in ham, 1/4 cup of the Cheddar cheese and the Parmesan cheese. Spread in baking dish. Cover with foil.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup Cheddar cheese. Let stand uncovered 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

A thought - this would be good with some diced cooked chicken. Also - the recipe called for reduced fat cheese? I said screw that and used the full fat stuff ... considering how much goes in it (not a lot), I'd rather forgo the additives and fill my body with good stuff. All things in moderation, right?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Red Velvet Cake

One of the adages I remember from my days in journalism was to remember the audience to whom you are writing for. So ... I write for you guys. I write for the comments, I write for the new "friends" that I've made through this process and I write because there are days when I sincerely miss working in newspapers and blogging is the only thing I have found close to that type of immediacy of print journalism. So at the end of the day, I guess I write for me, but hell - you all are the most amazing fringe benefit to this endeavor.

When I cook, there's also an audience that I'm catering to. I've developed this very odd habit of narrating my cooking in my head, on the off chance that a camera crew might drop in sometime to my cramped (and messy) kitchen to catch me having an Ina moment. Some nights, I have an audience of one - my wonderful food critic of a husband who seems to like everything that I cook. But do you want to know who my hardest critics are? Ready? My parents. (My mother is probably reading this and is going "what the hell?")

Let me explain ... my grandmas? Amazing cooks - starting from my Grandma Sophie's Ice Cream Dessert, detouring by my Grandma Boots' Homemade Noodles and stopping somewhere near my Grandma Phyllis's Million Dollar Chocolate Cake - there is a presence of memory in my family's culinary lives. So then you have my mom - brilliant cook. You have my Aunt Sue - she's a freakin' legend ... even my cousin Trix who claims she can't cook made this grilled pork loin the other weekend that my father wanted to devour whole. So you can see why I am something of an upstart in my family. My culinary talent is simply not needed unless you want someone who can mash the hell out of potatoes.

I was in the presence of my three formidable lady relatives a few weekends back - my mom, my aunt Sue and my cousin Trix (her name really is Tracy, but my sister-in-law - another fabulous cook - is also named Tracy, hence the nickname ...). It was Suzie's birthday, so I volunteered to make a cake. Would it be Beatty's Chocolate Cake? (Chocolate ... too predictable.) Would it be Better Than Sex Cake? Nope - that wouldn't show off my culinary acumen ... too easy. Angel Food Cake? My husband hates that ... so I went to Food Network and immediately fell hard for one of Paula Deen's versions of Red Velvet Cake.

I'm a recent convert to the Red Velvet phenomenon (in fact, every time I think about red velvet cake or eat it, I think of "Steel Magnolias" and the "bleedin' armadillo groom's cake."). But I gotta say - despite the fact that the picture displayed only shows my shitty cake decorating skills, this cake is FIERCE. It definitely deserves a spot on the "last meal" roster.

Of course, my husband loved it. We both loved it so much that we ate leftovers straight from the pan. (We're ridiculous that way.) My husband almost cried when I decreed that we should leave the rest of the leftovers for my father. But the best part? My dad called the Sunday after we had our weekend at home - there was about a quarter of a pan left. Now keep in mind that my father is probably only 20 pounds heavier than he was when he left high school - the man is like a trash compactor who can damn near eat anything and not gain a pound.

"Thanks for leaving that cake," Dad said. "Yup, I ate half the pan for breakfast this morning and finished the other half after church. That was good cake."

This cake is a freakin' winner. Boosh!

Red Velvet Cake
by Paula Deen

* 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (recommended: White Lily)
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 teaspoon cocoa
* 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
* 2 eggs
* 1 1/2 cups canola oil
* 1 teaspoon vinegar
* 1 (1-ounce) bottle red food coloring (**my entire family was freaked out by the fact that this cake takes an entire bottle of food coloring. I was wondering if you would be able to "taste" the food coloring? But you can't ... the men in my family were in awe of the cake's redness.)
* 1 teaspoon vanilla
* 1 cup buttermilk

For the cream cheese frosting: (And my God in heaven ... in Paula's recipe for this frosting she calls for MARGARINE ... what the hell, Paula? There is no margarine in MY house and no maragrine in this FROSTING. Use butter, y'all - and kiss a dairy farmer.)

* 1/2 cup BUTTER
* 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese (**I made amends and used the 1/3 fat kind ...)
* 1 box confectioners' sugar, sifted
* 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
* 1 cup chopped lightly toasted pecans (**I omitted because the hubby doesn't like nuts in his baking ... sigh ...)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 3 (9-inch) round layer cake pans. (**I used a 9x13 pan because I realized I'd look rather ridiculous trucking a layer cake to a campground - increase cooking time to about 30-45 minutes.)

Sift flour, baking soda and cocoa together. Beat sugar and eggs together in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl mix together oil, vinegar, food coloring, and vanilla. Add to the bowl of eggs and sugar and beat until combined.

Add the flour mixture and the buttermilk to the wet mixture by alternating the buttermilk and dry ingredients. Always start with the flour and end with the flour.

Pour batter into pans. Tap them on the table to level out the batter and release air bubbles. Bake for 25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted near the middle comes out clean but be careful not to over bake or you'll end up with a dry cake.

Let layers cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes before turning out of pan. Cool completely before frosting.

For the cream cheese frosting: Let butter and cream cheese soften to room temperature. Cream well. Add sugar and beat until mixed but not so much that the frosting becomes "loose". Add vanilla and nuts. Spread between layers and on top and sides of cake.

Sorry for the shitty picture - I figured my family would think that I was a nutter if I hauled out my camera in the middle of a camp outing to snap some pictures of people eating cake. So ... another display of my mad skills as a cake decorator.