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.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Rachael's Grilled Ratatouille

Grill baby, grill!

I will preface this post by saying two things: 1) The word "ratatouille" is damn hard to spell but 2) the challenge is what makes this so damn tasty.

I liked eggplant better this time around ... I don't know if it was grilling it (everything is better slightly charred?) or the combination with the rest of the ingredients ...

I got this recipe from Rachael Ray - she's no Ina Garten, but she's another guilty pleasure.


Grilled Ratatouille
by Rachael Ray

Ingredients:

* 3 large tomatoes, halved crosswise
* 2 bell peppers, quartered
* 2 zucchini, thickly sliced lengthwise
* 1 eggplant, thickly sliced lengthwise
* 1 onion, thickly sliced crosswise
* 1 head garlic, halved crosswise
* 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
* Salt and pepper
* 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, sliced
* 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar


Directions:

1. Preheat a grill to medium-high. On a large baking sheet, arrange the tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchini, eggplant, onion and garlic in a single layer. Brush with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
2. Transfer the vegetables to the grill and cook, turning once, until just tender and slightly charred, about 5 minutes for the tomatoes, 8 minutes for the peppers, zucchini and eggplant and 10 minutes for the onions and garlic. Return to the baking sheet and let stand until cool enough to handle.
3. Chop the peppers, zucchini, eggplant and onions into ½-inch pieces and transfer to a large bowl. (Be careful not to burn the crap out of your hand like I did ...) Squeeze out the garlic cloves, finely chop and add to the bowl. Working over the bowl, slip off and discard the tomato skins and remove the cores, then crush the tomatoes with your hands and add to the bowl. Add the olives and vinegar, season with salt and pepper and toss.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sweet Returns

The hubby and I returned tonight from a wonderful weekend with wonderful friends in Door County, Wisconsin. Well - actually, we never made it to the land of cherries and wine - we made it as far as Kewaunee County, which is just south of Door County ... well, you get the picture.

I will be posting pictures from our journey in an upcoming blog post, but had to share this one. This is from our return home ...


Earlier this month, in celebration of a new blog design, my Twitter friend and fellow foodie Katie at Salt and Chocolate hosted a giveaway and I was the lucky winner of a gift basket. It was waiting for Ryan and I upon our return home and wow ... if this is winning, I'm going to be entering contests like a fool. Amongst the contents were a handful of spices from Penzeys, Katie's handcrafted bourbon vanilla, organic chocolate syrup from Holykakow and homemade nut mixes ... pizza flavored almonds, fall spice mixed nuts and a Mexican chocolate mix.

Thank you, thank you, thank you Katie ...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Giada's Orzo Salad


Have I told you that I think I am obsessed with orzo? I can't help myself - rice is one of my favorite grains and being the carb freak that I am, I cannot get enough of pasta - since orzo is a rice-shaped pasta, it's like heaven in a bowl.

We had company over a bit ago and this was the salad that I made for our company. A couple of notes - the mint made a jarring note to this salad. It could be because my knife skills are lacking, but I wasn't overly fond of the mint. Also? If you're planning on serving this salad to guests, make sure to make it a day ahead. My beloved husband/photographer who will eat damn near anything made a suggestion that we might want to have a Plan B once he tried the salad right after I made it. The vinegar had quite an initial kick to it.

Orzo Salad

by Giada De Laurentis

* 4 cups chicken broth
* 1 1/2 cups orzo
* 1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
* 1 1/2 cups red and yellow teardrop tomatoes or grape tomatoes, halved
* 3/4 cup finely chopped red onion
* 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
* 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
* About 3/4 cup Red Wine Vinaigrette, recipe follows
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Pour the broth into a heavy large saucepan. Cover the pan and bring the broth to a boil over high heat. Stir in the orzo. Cover partially and cook until the orzo is tender but still firm to the bite, stirring frequently, about 7 minutes. Drain the orzo through a strainer. Transfer the orzo to a large wide bowl and toss until the orzo cools slightly. Set aside to cool completely.

Toss the orzo with the beans, tomatoes, onion, basil, mint, and enough vinaigrette to coat. Season the salad, to taste, with salt and pepper, and serve at room temperature.

Red Wine Vinaigrette

1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Mix the vinegar, lemon juice, honey, salt, and pepper in a blender. With the machine running, gradually blend in the oil. Season the vinaigrette, to taste, with more salt and pepper, if desired.

Yield: 1 3/4 cups

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Get out and vote

The wonderful folks at Ile de France sent me cheese and I sent them a picture of the cheese platter that's now been entered in a contest. Please vote for my cheeseplate (and my husband's awesome photography skills), to vote, go here.

You don't even need to register or anything - just click on the stars.

Pickles!


OK - I'm getting pretty late to be posting this, but on the off hand that your garden is bass-ackwards like mine was (I blame the late tomatoes on the cool temperatures ...), there might be the off chance that you might have some cucumbers to pickle? No? Well, then can 'em next year or come over to try a jar of mine!

After my moderate success with the Bread and Butter Pickles (my mama loved 'em ... that's about all the praise that I need), I got all cocky and decided that although I go through about a jar of dill pickles every two years or so (more if I'm making Bloody Mary's), I needed to try and can some dill pickles.

I ended up making two batches of dill pickles - the canned variety and some refrigerator pickles (my kitchen was a disaster area and I was running out of jars.). Here's both ...

I found my canning recipe from AllRecipes.com. This recipe was submitted from a woman who got it from some farmer's wife. If you ask me, that's a sure sign of a winner.

Dill Pickles

from AllRecipes.com

* 8 pounds 3 to 4 inch long pickling cucumbers
* 4 cups white vinegar
* 12 cups water
* 2/3 cup pickling salt
* 16 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
* 8 sprigs fresh dill weed
* 8 heads fresh dill weed

DIRECTIONS

1. Wash cucumbers, and place in the sink ( I use the bathtub!) with cold water and lots of ice cubes. Soak in ice water for at least 2 hours but no more than 8 hours. Refresh ice as required. Sterilize 8 (1 quart ) canning jars and lids in boiling water for at least 10 minutes.
2. In a large pot over medium-high heat, combine the vinegar, water, and pickling salt. Bring the brine to a rapid boil.
3. In each jar, place 2 half-cloves of garlic, one head of dill, then enough cucumbers to fill the jar (about 1 pound). Then add 2 more garlic halves, and 1 sprig of dill. Fill jars with hot brine. Seal jars, making sure you have cleaned the jar's rims of any residue.
4. Process sealed jars in a boiling water bath. Process quart jars for 15 minutes.
5. Store pickles for a minimum of 8 weeks before eating. Refrigerate after opening. Pickles will keep for up to 2 years if stored in a cool dry place.

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

The second recipe I tried was called "Dan Koshansky's Refrigerator Pickles." This one was my kind of recipe, once I got over my fear that I had to leave the jars out for a couple days for the cukes and the brine to "sour." I have sampled these delectable little babies and I gotta be honest - I fear no vampires and I think that I could eat an entire jar in one sitting - thereby ensuring that my husband wouldn't approach me either. These are pretty damn special.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Devil Tequila!

I went to a very good party last night. And as I sit here this morning, alternating sips of coffee with chugs of water, I reflect on the easiest margarita recipe that I've ever (drank) heard of.

Let me set the scene - I drove to Northfield last night to spend some time with a dear friend. We went to another party where grilled burgers and beer were the agenda. And then this guy named Todd showed up with a plastic grocery bag in hand ... in the bag he had a bottle of Jose Cuervo, a couple cans of frozen limeade and a pitcher. Here is Todd's ridiculously easy margarita recipe ... I will drink these again, but not until my stomach decides that it likes me again.

Todd's Ridiculously Easy Margaritas
by some guy named Todd

Equipment needed - standard sized pitcher
1 can frozen limeade
1 can beer (Corona is pretty darn tasty ...)
tequila

Dump the limeade into the pitcher and rinse that puppy out by filling the can with tequila. Then dump in a beer. Adjust to taste (i.e. - for the first pitcher you're probably going to want to add more beer or even Sprite because this is a pretty strong mix. After that - well ... )

Word to the wise ... this recipe will sneak up on even the most veteran drinker. Drink responsibly. And if you've ever had any acid reflux problems, you might want to avoid this entirely.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Meet my photographer …

Regular readers of Shelley Bakes! probably notice that the quality of my blog’s photos have improved. Did I take photography lessons? Did I remember some of those lessons taught to me from my newspaper days when the photogs would growl at me if I dared bring back a blurry picture of an accident scene?

Nope – I just enlisted the skills of someone who is more photographically skilled than I am. And that’s my husband Ryan. I figured you all would like to meet him.

If your wife is absent and you need to make something for dinner, what would you eat?
This has happened to me before, so I've had to plan for this unfortunate situation. First -- leftovers: are there any? If yes, are they still good? If yes or maybe, that's dinner. If the answer is no, I look for something simple -- which usually involves a sandwich, a bowl of cereal, anything made with a microwave, or a delicious bass.

What is your favorite food?
I don't think I have one -- is that wrong? There's so much out there to enjoy. I'd feel like I was betraying all my food friends if I had to pick just one. Try explaining yourself to an angry muffin sometime -- no thanks.

If you were on Death Row, what would you want to eat as your last meal?
It depends on why I'm on death row. My immediate thought is that I'd choose something ironic, based on my crime(s). But since we don't have time to list all the possible crime/food combinations, I'll just pick something generic... we'll say pizza. There. I said it. I'm dead and I don't care if the muffins are mad at me.

Anything else you’d like to tell the readers?
I don't think I'm going to do hamster style anymore.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Beatty's Chocolate Cake - Ina Garten

The first time I made this cake was for my birthday. I'm not a big chocolate cake fan, but since I was leaving my husband the next week to go on vacation without him, I figured I'd make HIS favorite cake for my birthday. (Get the logic?) And don't get me wrong - the cake? Brilliant. Moist. Delicious - everything a chocolate cake should be, even if you're not a freak for chocolate cake. The problem? I have an issue with following directions at times, so when Ina Garten wrote "Butter 2 (8-inch) round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans" I said "screw this" and I just grabbed my baking spray and tried to spray the hell out of my cake pans. And instead of two glorious layers of chocolate cake, the cake came out of the pan in delicious malformed chunks, leaving other chunks still in the pan. Ryan was still happy with this delicious mess and I chalked it up as a failure that would not show up on this blog.

But then I had a dinner party ... and I needed a decadent dessert. And I worship Ina ... hence, I decided to give Beatty's another go round. And this time, I buttered the frickin' pans and bought parchment paper!

Here's the result. I didn't use Ina's chocolate buttercream, instead I used the leftover raspberry coulis from Michelle's recipe at Big Black Dog in the middle and dusted the top of the cake with powdered sugar.

This cake could make me a chocolate cake convert yet ...

Beatty's Chocolate Cake
by Ina Garten, Food Network

* Butter, for greasing the pans
* 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
* 2 cups sugar
* 3/4 cups good cocoa powder
* 2 teaspoons baking soda
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1 teaspoon kosher salt
* 1 cup buttermilk, shaken
* 1/2 cup vegetable oil
* 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
* 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
* 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 2 (8-inch) round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

Place 1 layer, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Cheese plate 101


Do you want to know why I don't like raw carrots? It is because they do not taste like cheese. Here's the story ... I was a wee lass of probably four or five and I remember watching "Sesame Street" and watching my beloved Ernie munch on a carrot in one of the skits. And to my little pea brain I saw "orange" which translated to "cheese" and I vaguely remember thinking that if I ate a carrot, it would likely taste like the best piece of cheese ... ever. My mom happened to be making soup that day and was chopping up carrots, so I ran into the kitchen and asked for a bite. You can imagine my disappointment.

I try raw carrots every couple years or so to see if I like them. Obviously, I don't think they should taste like cheese, but I still hate raw carrots. Love 'em cooked. Raw? Yick.

And no - my carrot story really has nothing to do with making a cheeseplate, but I just thought I'd share that story with you. Now I'll talk about cheese.

My friend Katie at Salt and Chocolate hooked me up with the cheese mongers at Ile de France who sent me a free sample of goat cheese. The free cheese had a two-fold purpose - first and foremost, I give them a shout out on my blog (and their goat cheese? Fabulous - my friend Anne even liked it and I was sure that she wouldn't because she's picky that way. Love you, Anne.) Secondly, I'm going to be entering their contest to show off who has the best cheese plate.

From my worship of Ina, I can appreciate a good looking cheese plate. A good cheese plate should have a number of choices for your guests to sample, it should also feature a combination of sweet and savory - red grapes paired with a sharp cheddar. Pears and Stilton - that sort of thing.

Here's my attempt at making a cheese plate - aside from the goat cheese and a brie that I offered as a nod to the Frenchies and their freakin' good cheese, I went with a few of my own favorites - some Irish aged cheddar, a smoked gouda, my favorite white cheddar from Target (it's $1.89 for a block ... what can I say? You don't have to spend a ton to get good cheese!) and some Amablu blue cheese from the cheese caves in Faribault, Minnesota. I also included an olive tapenade for color and variety, water crackers as a neutral palatte to pair with the various cheeses, a crusty baguette, tomatoes from my garden for color and some red grapes and dark chocolate.

I don't know if it's the prettiest cheese plate out there, but it's a step in the right direction to make these in the future.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

My mama's cinnamon rolls


So my parents came up in August to stay a night and take my three youngest nephews to the Twin Cities. My folks arrived at about 6, we were at mine and hubby's favorite pizza place by about 6:30 and at around 8:30, when you would think that all of us should be in a carb coma, I decided to enlist my mom's help to make the cinnamon rolls I remember her making when I was a kid.

Don't get me wrong, you're not going to learn any family secrets in this particular post. In fact, this post goes back to the philosophy I started this blog with ... simple recipes for lazy people. But it goes to show that favorite memories don't have to involve extravagant vacations, money spent on really choice ingredients, etc. For me, all I need is some frozen bread dough, a soft stick of butter and some peanut butter and I have a little piece of paradise.

Oh - and since this is my mom's recipe, there are no measurements ... you just gotta wing it.
Mama's Cinnamon Rolls
by Mama Sharon

2 loaves frozen bread dough, thawed and processed according to instructions.
1 stick of butter
cinnamon
sugar
Peanut Butter Frosting
1/4 c. confectioner's sugar
1/2 c. smooth peanut butter (use chunky and I will hunt you down)
milk ... eyeball it - you're gonna want about 2 T to start with

Preheat your oven to 375-ish.

Once you get to the point where you've raised the dough, kneaded it, etc., grab a rolling pin and some flour. It's time to roll your dough out into something that resembles a rectangle. (And yes, I made my mom do this because I SUCK at using my rolling pin.) Got a large rectangular shape? Good. Now grab your soften stick of butter. Mama Sharon used salted butter, I use unsalted - I guess it really doesn't matter. Spread butter all over your rectangle of dough - not too much, not too little. You're looking for even coverage and something to bind the cinnamon and sugar to the dough. So then you can be like my mom and sprinkle the dough with sugar THEN cinnamon, or you could be a wee bit anal retentive like me and mix your cinnamon and sugar together (2 parts sugar to 1 part cinnamon - what you don't use in the rolls can be turned into cinnamon toast ...). Sprinkle sugar/cinnamon all over and then using the LONG side of the dough, roll the dough into a cylindrical shape. And now you will cut said cylinder into little ... rolls. And if you have a three year old like me in the house, you will give into her demands and give her the little end piece of raw bread dough in sincere hopes that she will be quiet. Put the rolls into a warm place and let them do one more rise - Mom and I were impatient on Friday night, so we didn't let them raise as much as they could have. Depending on the temperature, a half hour should do?

Bake until golden brown. While the little rolls of love are baking, grab a bowl and start mixing up the piece de resistance of this dish - the peanut butter frosting. Again, this is one of those things that you eyeball and taste until the consistency is right. While the rolls are still warm, go ahead and frost 'em.

Like I said - it's not the most glamorous dish that you're ever going to make for company, but it reminds me of my childhood and some of those happiest baking times when my mom was getting ready for the church's Fall Festival. We had a huge floor vent for our home's furnace and she'd line up her baking pans and bread pans on the vent for baking day.

I don't care how good of a cook I become - nothing tastes better than my mom's home cooking.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

If you don't have kids, this pound cake is for you


I am smitten enough with the Web's Smitten Kitchen to have sifted flour three times for this pound cake on a recent occasion when the hubby and I had some company over. And I have to say this - the pound cake ... it was OK, but I've had better. Sorry, SK ... I still love your website.

Pound Cake

from SmittenKitchen.com who adapted it from James Beard's "Beard on Food"

Makes one loaf cake

1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Salt
4 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon Cognac (**My guest Chrissy decided that triple sec was the liquor of the day for this recipe)
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest.

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a loaf pan. Sift the flour onto waxed paper and then spoon it gently back into the sifter, adding the baking powder and a good pinch of salt. Sift the mixture twice more, each time spooning it lightly into the sifter. (This is the part of the tale where I'm standing in my kitchen marveling about how much time that I have to meticulously sift flour).

2. Using an electric mixer, whip the egg whites until they hold soft peaks and then gradually beat in 1/2 cup of the sugar, two tablespoons at a time. Transfer to a bowl.

3. Fit the electric mixer with a paddle attachment and cream the butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the remaining six tablespoons of sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks until light and lemon-colored and then add the liquor and zest.

4. Gradually fold the sifted flour mixture into the butter-egg mixture. Fold in the beaten egg whites just until the batter is smooth. Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake in the oven for 35 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick pierced in the center comes up clean. Cool in pan ten minutes on a rack, then cool the rest of the way out of the pan.

And what's that topping my pound cake, you ask? My Twitter friend Michelle at Big Black Dog devised this wonderful raspberry coulis that I made to top the pound cake. And while it was a good addition, it was put to wonderful use later when I used it as a filling in Ina Garten's Beatty's Chocolate Cake. Here's Michelle's recipe for Coulis de Framboise:

Coulis de Framboise:

1 1/2 c Raspberries
1/2 c confectioner's sugar
Juice of ½ lemon
1/4 c Riesling (**perfect excuse to use up the little bit of my friend Paul's homemade wine)

Coulis:
Rinse the raspberries. Put the raspberries in a food processor and whiz until completely pureed. Stir in the confectioner's sugar and lemon juice. In a small sauce pan heat the coulis until it begins to thicken. Add the wine and continue heating until it will coat the back of the spoon without
dripping.

Michelle was patient enough to strain the seeds out of her berry puree ... me? not so much.