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)

    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

    * 30 fresh strawberries
    * 8 ounces white baking chocolate, chopped
    * 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
    * 1/4 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
    * 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

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


* 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


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.

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 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

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.