Friday, December 31, 2010

Best of 2010: Happy New Year!

This was a damn good year ...

January found me eating the best damn carne asada tacos in Ensenada, Mexico.  I still cannot believe that I was in Mexico.

February was about these amazing peanut butter, oatmeal, cinnamon chip cookies.  They are so good that I'm seriously considering going upstairs and firing up the oven to make a batch.  And that says a lot since my goal today is to see how long I can stay in my pajamas and do nothing but type and drink coffee.

March tested my theory whether or not Giada de Laurentiis was placed on this earth to get people hooked on garlic and cheese.  Me thinks that is her purpose in life.

June was all about fresh asparagus and this incredible dish from Heidi Swanson's 101 Cookbooks site.  This will be one of the first things that I make when asparagus is in season again.

In July, my mother-in-law briefly became a Facebook sensation when I started talking about her Pink Champage Cupcakes.  The irony is that she isn't even on Facebook.  The lasting result is that my co-workers request these cupcakes whenever we have any kind of celebration to mark at work.  Love, love, love these!

One of my favorite August posts was in homage to an incredible sangria that I had in July ... I cannot wait for better weather to make this again.

And wow - I just realized that I didn't post anything in September.  Not entirely sure how that happened, so we'll go back and throw in an honorable mention from July ... Thai Coconut Curry Shrimp.  I'm drooling as we speak ... and wondering if I should go to the grocery store in my jammies to get shrimp and make this for breakfast.

2010 was the year of the weekend roadtrips.  I'm not entirely sure how many miles Ryan and I clocked on our respective vehicles, but we made the most of gorgeous weather and our kind friends and family who let us crash at their places.  In October, we logged about 550 miles to see Here Come the Mummies in Rock Island, IL (and Ryan's grandma, his folks and our 10-year college reunion on the way). Best.  Weekend.  Ever.

I also got to meet Ina Garten in October.  I'm still mentally "squee-ing" over how wonderfully gracious she was.

November was a good month all around - my mom got to play impromptu therapist one Thursday night when I called her cursing about these apple pie bars - a nostalgic delight from my childhood, which she never bitched about making when I was younger.  I love you mom ... bless you for being such an awesome baker and never letting on that some of our favorite dishes from childhood were a total pain to make.

And after four nephews, I finally was blessed with a niece in November.  Kaylee (still affectionately known as "Sweet Pea" to her uncle and I) was born on Nov. 21 and has been known to be entranced by Ina Garten when she's on Food Network.  That's my girl!

In December, I wrote about Gwendolyn's Snack Mix.  I'm still in love with this snack mix ...

So there you go - 2010 in review.  All of us here from ShelleyBakes (that's me, the hubby and our Cat) wish you a wonderful new year.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Holiday Snickerdoodle Cookies

While there are several reasons why I married my husband (he's cute, he loves me, he puts up with the cat, etc.), I have a secret that I need to share with you.  You know how that adage goes, "the way to a man's heart is through his stomach?"  I think my mother-in-law might have tweaked it to say "the way to get a daughter-in-law is to send home treats with her single son to woo potential suitors."

I'll be featuring her cinnamon popcorn at some point during this holiday season.  (That's actually one of my most favorite things that she makes.)  But this is my second favorite recipe of hers that started as a holiday treat and has now been tweaked to make a year-round appearance in her cookie jar.

I think the recipe originally came from a Taste of Home magazine. What's brilliant about it is that you can change the coffee creamer used to fit the holiday season.  Gloria's used eggnog-flavored creamer in the winter months and uses French vanilla creamer at other times.  You could also use some of the pumpkin-flavored creamers around Thanksgiving and Halloween, etc.  These are also brilliant because they freeze brilliantly and a single batch makes about 100 cookies.

Holiday Snickerdoodle Cookies

½ c. butter-softened
½ c. shortening
2 c. sugar
1 egg
2 tsp. rum
½ c. evaporated milk
½ c. refrigerated French vanilla nondairy creamer
5 ½ c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda

Cream butter, shortening, and sugar.  Beat in egg and extract. Add milk and creamer.
Stir in flour, salt and baking soda.

Shape dough into 1 in. balls and roll in mixture of 5 T. sugar and ½ t. ground nutmeg or cinnamon.  (I used Penzey's Baking Spice.)  Flatten slightly with a fork.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.  Let rest on the cookie sheet for about five to 10 minutes before removing to a rack to cool.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Holiday Goodie Advent Calendar o' Wonderment

You might notice that I have a new badge on my website - this is from Heather, one of the fabulous cooks from He Cooks She Cooks.  I'm a little late to the game, but Heather is rounding up a bunch of holiday recipes from bloggers and linking to them on a special "Advent" calendar.  O wonderment.

I'm thrilled to be invited to the party and will be participating in future posts.  In the meantime, get your merry self over to the calendar by clicking on the badge.  You will be glad that you did.

Soup Saturday: Easy Tortellini Soup

I was making another soup recipe lately and I jotted in the margins of the page "soup is circumstantial."  And although I don't exactly remember what I was getting at with that recipe (which is still getting tweaked ...), I know what it means when it comes to this soup.  This one originally called for mushrooms, which I forgot to buy - so I substituted celery.  It also called for frozen spinach.  Though I recognize that frozen spinach can be really cool, I'm not that into it, so I used fresh.  Don't like carrots?  Don't use them.  The sky's the limit with this very basic soup.

This tortellini soup (it's from Better and is called Tortellini, Mushroom and Meatball Soup) was brought to a work potluck by my coworker Pat. It's easy and utilizes convenient ingredients, and is a nice change of pace from some of the other soups that I make during winter.

Easy Tortellini Soup
adapted from Better

2 quarts chicken broth
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 sprig fresh thyme (**note on these, I just threw them in the pot as my soup was simmering and then removed the stems when the soup was done cooking.)
1 bay leaf
14-16 frozen prepared meatballs
1 3/4 c. chopped carrots
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 small onion, diced
2 handfuls of fresh baby spinach
9 oz. frozen or refrigerated, prepared three-cheese tortellini

**Note on the herbs, the original recipe called for 1 tsp. of dried Italian seasoning.  I did not have, so I substituted the rosemary, thyme and bay leaf.

Swirl a tablespoon or two of olive oil in the bottom of a large pan over medium high heat.  Saute the carrots, celery and onion in the hot oil until the onion is translucent.  (Add a little bit of salt, which will help the process).  Add the broth, the herbs and the meatballs.  Simmer for five minutes.  Add tortellini and cook until the pasta is just tender.  Wilt spinach into soup, heat through and serve.

As it seems with all soups - this is "meh" the night you serve it, but gets better as the days go on. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Seven Layer Salad

I have a confession to make:  Some of the easiest recipes make me kind of panicky.  I'll tackle a cheesecake or making my own beef stock with pleasure, but tell me to make no-bake cookies and there's a part of me that wants to hide.  And why?  Because cheesecake is complicated, making your own beef stock impresses people because of the time commitment involved.  With more difficult recipes, there's a bit of wiggle room of forgiveness if you screw something up.  "Easy" recipes?  No such room for error.

So when my aunt Robin asked me to bring seven-layer salad to our family's Thanksgiving, I was relatively certain that I would be able to ace this challenge and then I panicked when I looked at other recipes online and didn't see one that looked like what my mom always made.  So of course I had to call her and after a little bit of coaching, I realized ... my family's standard seven-layer salad is actually more like a six-layer salad.  Somehow, that doesn't sound as enticing ...

Bacon.  Eggs.  Cheese.  Miracle Whip.  Peas.  Lettuce.  This is a non-healthy slice of heaven.
Mom's Seven (Erm, Six) Layer Salad

Hardboil four large eggs. 
Crisp one pound of bacon

Layer the following in the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan, shredded iceberg lettuce and one bag of frozen peas.  Top with Miracle Whip (I used most of a 30 oz. jar).  Sprinkle a bag of shredded cheddar cheese on the top of the Miracle Whip, crumble up the cooked bacon on top.  Quarter and place hard boiled eggs on the top. 

So what's so difficult about this salad?  What caused me a moment of sweaty palm panic?  It's pretty simple, actually ... do you know what a pain in the butt it is to spread Miracle Whip on top of frozen peas without pulling said peas up?  It's worth it though ... who knew that "salad" could be so unhealthy?

I'll even throw in a bonus picture ... since I didn't really know what I was doing when I made this salad, I hard boiled way too many eggs.  So I reached back even further to my nostalgia vault and made some deviled eggs.

My mama didn't use paprika, but I'm a rebel.
The filling for the deviled eggs is also pretty simple ... you combine the cooked yolks with a little mayo/Miracle Whip, mustard and pepper and then fill the egg white shells.  Because I think it's pretty, I sprinkled with a bit of paprika.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Gwendolyn's Snack Mix

This super-easy recipe is from my friend and co-worker Gwendolyn.  I am in love with it because it combines my lust for things like cereal and sweetened condensed milk.  What Gwendolyn loves about this recipe is that you can have the ingredients on hand at any time in case surprise guests appear at your doorstep. (Which I might start doing now that she's told me that she will always have said ingredients on hand.)

Gwendolyn's Snack Mix

8 c. Crispix cereal
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. cashews
1 c. pretzel nuggets

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Put cereal, cashews and pretzels in a large bowl.  Combine sweetened condensed milk and vanilla in a smaller bowl.  Drizzle over cereal mixture and gently stir to coat.  Transfer to 2 lightly greased cookie sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes.  Immediately remove to waxed paper and spread out to dry.  Store in an airtight container.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Soup Saturday: Hungarian Hot Sausage and Lentil Soup

My obsession with everything Hungarian has everything to do with this book ...

At this point, I have lost count of how many times that I've read this book.  I have given away copies of this book (sending one to Russia, I might add) and if ANYONE asks me for a book recommendation, 9 times out of ten I will recommend this book.  It is the literary equivalent of mashed potatoes in my mind - totally satisfying and comforting ... even if the subject matter is Dracula.

So when I was trolling Food Network's site the other night, I stumbled across this Rachael Ray recipe and although it seems like the only thing Hungarian about this is the paprika that I used to season it, this is a very decent dish.

A couple of headnotes ... I ended up tweaking this recipe because when I originally made it, it seemed like a grocery store exploded into my mouth.  Italian Sausage!  Lentils!  Portabella mushrooms!  Potatoes!  Too many really good things were crowded into one meager bowl and this soup seemed like it would work better if flavors weren't crowding to get my attention.  So I swaped the 'bella mushrooms for white button mushrooms (portabellas are meaty ... they are used in vegetarian burgers, for Pete's sake!  It was stealing the spotlight from the Italian sausage ... ).  I was happy with this substitution, since it also makes this dish easier on my pocket book.  I omitted the potato all together ... this dish has enough starchiness in it with the lentils.

Hungarian Hot Sausage and Lentil Soup
original recipe by Rachael Ray

    * 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    * 12 oz. bulk hot Italian sausage (**can substitute mild)
    * 3 cloves garlic, chopped
    * 1 medium onion, chopped
    * 8 oz. white button mushrooms, chopped
    * 3 carrots, chopped
    * 1 cup lentils
    * Salt and pepper
    * 1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
    * 2 teaspoons smoked paprika (or substitute a mix of 2 teaspoons cumin, 1 teaspoon sweet paprika and 2 pinches cayenne pepper ... I actually use Hungarian hot paprika ... love it!)
    * 3 sprigs fresh rosemary, intact on stems
    * 1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
    * 6 cups vegetable stock
    * 4 cups baby spinach
Heat a medium soup pot over medium high heat. Add extra-virgin olive oil, then add sausage to pot and brown and crumble it, then add garlic, onions and mushrooms. Cook a few minutes, then add carrots, lentils, , salt and pepper, bay leaf, paprika or substitute mixture and rosemary (leaves will fall from stems as soup cooks). Add tomatoes and broth and cover pot then raise heat to high and bring to a boil. Uncover pot and place heat back a bit but keep soup at a good rolling boil. Cook 15 minutes until lentils and carrots are tender. Wilt in greens in small bunches, remove rosemary stems and turn off heat. Let stand 5 minutes. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust

This recipe made me fall in love with the concept of a gingerbread crust ...

OK ... this isn't the sexiest picture I've ever taken, but this a last ditch attempt to snap a picture of this decadence before it was decimated by my husband and I.
Pumpkin Cheesecake
original recipe by Rachael Ray

    * Cooking spray
    * 25 gingersnap cookies
    * 1-3/4 cups sugar
    * 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
    * Three 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
    * 5 large eggs, at room temperature
    * One 15-ounce can pure pumpkin puree
    * 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
    * 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
    * 1/2 teaspoon salt
    * Boiling water

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 325°. Lightly coat a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray. Using a food processor, grind the cookies with 1/4 cup sugar. Add the butter and pulse to combine. Press the mixture into the bottom and halfway up the sides of the prepared pan. Bake until firm, 3 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and remaining 1-1/2 cups sugar until smooth, about 1 minute. Beat in eggs until blended. Add the pumpkin, vanilla, pumpkin-pie spice and salt and beat until combined, 2 minutes.

Set the springform pan with the cooled crust on a double layer of heavy-duty foil and wrap the foil tightly around the bottom and sides; set in a roasting pan. Pour the cheesecake filling into the crust. Transfer the roasting pan to the oven and fill with enough boiling water to reach about halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake the cheesecake until the center is slightly wobbly but the edges are firm to the touch, about 1-1/4 hours.

Transfer the roasting pan with the cheesecake to a rack and let cool for 45 minutes. Remove the springform pan, discard the foil and let the cheesecake cool on the rack for 3 hours. Run a knife around the edges to loosen the cake. Wrap the pan in plastic wrap; refrigerate for 4 hours. Run a knife under the bottom of the cake to release it, then slide onto a serving platter.

** A note ... the original recipe was "pumpkin swirl" cheesecake.  I couldn't get this damn thing to swirl for love nor money, so I've modified this to take out the "swirl" part of it.

** Another note ... Happy Thanksgiving.  I hope that you and yours have a wonderful holiday season.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Pickle Dip

This is one of my latest obsessions when it comes to something that's easy to make, but has one hell of an impact on the tastebuds.

This recipe came from my coworkers who like to call it "tickle dip."  Because they are slightly perverted, which makes me adore them.  Despite the dubious name and the nature of this recipe, do not stop, pass go or collect $200 until you make this recipe.

Pickle Dip

1 tall jar of baby dills, drained and chopped
1 pkg. of Hillshire Farms honey ham, chopped
1 pkg. of Hillshire Farms corned beef, chopped (I could not find this, so I ended up using 2 packages of the Carl Buddig stuff)
1 8 oz. pkg. of cream cheese, softened
1/4 c. mayo

Take all of these ingredients.  Dump them into your food processor.  Blend until incorporated.  Serve with crackers.  Try not to eat the entire dish in one serving.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

... Also known as those "f*!@ing" apple pie bars

I'll let you in on a little secret ... there are times when not all goes well in ShelleyBakes land.  Usually, the "not so good" things are when I try out a new recipe and it isn't what I expect it to be.  And yes, there are occasions where I burn things.  Or drop things.  Or the pictures don't turn out.

And then there are those times when things just simply do not want to work out.  And this, my friends, was one of those times.  Here's a bit of back story on this particular recipe ... this dessert is hands down one of the best things that my mom made during my childhood - apple pie in flaky pastry bar form with powdered sugar frosting drizzled on top.  This recipe is my BIRTHRIGHT, shouldn't be a problem to recreate it in my kitchen, should it?

One word for that misconception: Whatever.  After struggling for 45 minutes to get the bottom crust of the bars to roll out properly, I sent a profane text to my mom.  I believe it said: "I HATE these f*cking apple pie bars!!!!"  And then my mom called me.  Laughing.

"Oh honey, I forgot to tell you what a pain in the ass those are."


Regardless of my failure to properly execute this dish (the bottom crust - laughable, then I forgot the layer of crushed cornflakes and then I couldn't get the top crust to roll out at ALL, so I got pissed off and started flinging bits of pastry on top of the bars), I have to admit ... it still tasted really good.  Good enough that they were inhaled within a half hour of my bringing them into work.

If you are brave and noble with a rolling pin, try these if you dare.  I will begrudgingly admit that they are worth it and that I will make these annually until I master these bastards.

This is one section that actually got a covering of dough! 

Danish Pastry Apple Pie Bars

2 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 c. shortening (**note from my mama ... use lard.  Don't be afraid of it, do not substitute Crisco.  Otherwise, these will not reach the flaky consistency that will forever adhere to your thighs.)
1 egg yolk (note: Save the white!)
1 c. crushed cornflakes (**note from me ... if you forget, it's OK.  The bottom crust will just get a little soggy from the apple-y goodness that's to come)
8-10 Macintosh apples (pared and thinly sliced)
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

Here's the shortcut that I took with the crust ... I blitzed it together using my food processor.  Those ingredients are the flour, salt and shortening.  After that was put together, I kept my processor running and I added this mixture:  one egg yolk and enough milk to make 2/3 of a cup of liquid. 

On a (heavily) floured surface, take half of the dough (**) and roll to 17 x 12 inches and put into and up the sides of a 15 1/2 x 10 1/2 x 1 inch baking pan.  Sprinkle with cornflakes.

In another bowl, slice up the apples and then coat with the sugar/cinnamon mixture until well incorporated.  Put into prepared pan and roll out the remainder of the dough to place on the top.  Beat the egg white a little and brush over the top.  Bake at 375 degrees for 50 minutes.  The drizzle with some powdered sugar frosting.  (I don't really have a recipe for this - I just take powdered sugar, enough milk to make it runny and some vanilla for flavoring ...)

And on the left hand side, you can see where I got pissed off and just started flinging dough to cover the fracking pan.
** Something that you will figure out during the course of the epic struggle known as rolling out this fracking pastry dough is this:  The dough that's produced is really, really sticky.  At first I thought that I had done something wrong (not enough flour?) and then I was worried that my dough wouldn't be crumbly and pliable because it took an epic amount of flour to get it from sticking to my counter and rolling pin.  But during my therapy session with my mama, she told me that it does take an inordinate amount of flour to get the dough to roll out.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from us here at ShelleyBakes! I saw this article this morning in the New York Times and had to share.  R.L. Stine was a fixture of my childhood reading and this commentary was appreciated and enjoyed.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

#GreatHallowTweet: Eye (Cake) Balls

Look deep into my eyes, my pretty ... these sweet things are my #GreatHallowTweet take on cake balls.

Red velvet cake balls, to be exact.

Here's the method to the madness ...

Take and bake a boxed cake mix to the specifications on the back of the box.  (And yeah - if you're a super star, you can make your own homemade cake, but I've been traveling around the Midwest for the past couple of days - boxed cake was as good as I was going to get for this ...).  Let the cake cool completely and then crumble it into a large bowl, using a fork to make sure the cake is good and crumbled.

Then take a container of frosting - for the red velvet cake, I used cream cheese frosting, because it just felt right - and mix about 3/4 of the frosting into the crumbled cake, stirring to incorporate.

Now here's the messy part ... take the cake and form it into one-inch balls.  Place them on a cookie sheet and set in the freezer to chill and solidify (about one hour). 

After your eye, erm ... cake balls, have frozen dip them in some melted white almond bark.  Tap the excess off and place on sheets of waxed paper to harden the candy shell.  To paint the eyeballs, I used food grade color gels (thanks to Coco Cooks and her marzipan eyeballs for the hint).


Anyone who has spent a modicum of time on this blog know that I absolutely adore Ina Garten.  So when she announced a book tour to support her latest cookbook "How Easy is That?" I admit that I was disappointed that the closest she was coming to Minnesota was a stop in Skokie, Illinois.  Then I put in a request for some time off. 

Here's the line up at the Barnes & Noble in Skokie, Illinois.  Folks started lining up at 8 a.m. for a noon book signing.

Ina!  And a very red-faced me.  And a slightly blurry Ina - I can only assume that the person who was taking this picture had shaky hands like I did.
So what was Ina like? She was incredibly gracious and friendly.  I don't know what I said to her, but I tried really hard to not come off like an idiot fan girl (and I might have failed.  But I'm OK with that.)

Some of the highlights of this trip (other than meeting Ina, of course), were the two ladies that I stood in line with.  They were incredibly friendly and made the wait fly by.  I also got to spend the evening with my cousin Kelly and her new one-month-old baby Owen.  Thank you guys for your hospitality!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

#GreatHallowTweet: Cauldron Crack Dip

You'll have to forgive me for lacking a photo on this particular dish.  I brought it to work last Friday and didn't feel like whipping out my camera in front of my co-workers to get a picture of what can only be described as "crack dip."  You know what I'm talking about ... the kind of dip that is really, really bad for you, but you can't get enough of.

So here's the deal ... over the past few months, I've really tried to eliminate processed food from my diet.  When Happy Meals can sit out for six months without getting moldy, there is truly something wrong with the make up of what we're feeding our children.  But while I can totally get up on my soapbox about that - I have a confession to make:  I have a secret love for Velveeta.  I don't eat it all the time, because I get slightly disgusted with myself, but if I have it every once in awhile, I feel like my life has achieved some sort of nirvana-ic balance.

Anyway - the story behind this dip is that my co-worker Melinda made it one night when she lured me to one of those jewelry parties.  I had toiled for an hour at a gym and had promised myself that I would be good at this party, but once I saw that she had a crockpot full of this cheesy goo, I could not help myself.  And the best part about this dip?  Have fun with it ... everything is approximate and if you don't like something - eliminate it.  Replace it with something that you do like. 

Melinda's Cauldron Crack Dip

1 small onion, diced
1 lb. hamburger, browned and drained
1 small box of Mexican Velveeta, cubed
1/2 large box of Regular Velveeta, cubed
1 can chili beans
1 small can diced green chiles
1 package/can of Spanish rice (I ended up using that Uncle Ben's stuff that you're supposed to microwave for 90 seconds.  But I didn't microwave it.)
1 c. salsa

Dice up one small onion and brown with one pound of hamburger in a large skillet.  The next part is totally up to you ... you can either incorporate all of the ingredients into said skillet and get everything melted down and THEN dump into a large Crockpot (make sure to keep the heat on low, for risk of burning the cheesy, processed goodness) or you can throw all of the ingredients in the Crockpot and then heat on low until the cheese is melted and everything is well incorporated. 

P.S. - I only utilized my Crockpot because my cauldron is broken and they frown upon open fires at my office. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

#GreatHallowTweet: Grandma's Beef Soup

In last year's GreatHallowTweet, I got all nostalgic for my great-grandmas and their unlikely Halloween traditions.  This year, I'm all nostalgic again, but this time it's for my grandma Boots.

I grew up in a very small town in Northeast Iowa and while that town was small (literally one stoplight, my friends), I actually grew up 10 miles from that town on my folks' farm.  Needless to say, there's not a lot of opportunity to trick-or-treat in the country.  Sure, there were a couple houses that we would hit up, but we were literally the only kids that would go to those houses and that was because they were neighbors.  The serious trick or treating was done in Waukon.  My older brother and I would go with our cousins Ryan and Tracy and our moms and hit a handful of houses before we'd retreat back to my grandparents' house.  And every year, my grandma would serve this soup.

What's funny about this recipe is that I have the barest inkling of what went in it (except for the rutabagas - and that's because my old friend and classmate Aaron would supply them to my grandma).  Here's the email that I sent my mom:  "I know that I've asked you this before … but how did grandma boots make her Halloween veggie soup?  I'm doing a Halloween week at ShelleyBakes and was going to feature that recipe."

Here's my mom's response ... "She boiled soup bones (beef) and then put in some leftover roast beef  in the broth.  It's pretty much the same as hamburger soup otherwise, but no tomatoes or sugar and when Aaron brought her rutabagas she'd add some of them cut up like the potatoes.  Simmer it in lots of broth  (add canned if you need to) with potatoes, carrots, onions, and add peas or corn if you want ... sometimes she just added a bag of frozen mixed you can tell it was never the same twice!  ...  P.S. To save time she'd do the beef stuff and bones in the crockpot with water over it."

Sigh ... that's the thing with family recipes - sometimes they aren't really written down and you have to recreate them from memory.  Even if it's a memory from about 20 years ago ... So this is my best guess.

Grandma Boots' Beef Soup

I made the soup for Sunday dinner, but it took a little bit of advanced planning.  So Saturday, I made a batch of beef stock.   I used about 8 cups of stock to make the broth for this soup and ended up using a couple tablespoons of dried au jus mix (and some Worchester sauce) to give the stock a little more color and flavor. (My stock is going to be a work in process ... it wasn't quite right this first time at bat.)

Olive Oil
1 lb. stew meat
1 medium onion, halved and sliced

4 lg. carrots, large chunks 
2 medium potatoes, large dice
1 medium rutabaga, large dice
8 c. beef stock
2 T. dried au jus (I used the LeGout au jus base)
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper

Take whatever pan you make your soup in and put in 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat.  Brown your stew meat in batches.  After the meat is browned, deglaze the pan with a little bit of beef stock to get the browned bits off of the bottom.  In this, saute onions until tender.  Add remaining vegetables, the browned beef, stock (with au jus mixed in) and bay leaves and bring to a simmer.  Remain uncovered and cook until the vegetables are tender (about 45 minutes to an hour).  Serve hot in bowls and salt and pepper to taste.

Obviously, this soup - like any others - tastes better the next day.


So how did reality stack up to nostalgia?  Well, the soup was good, but it definitely wasn't my grandma's.  I also know that this soup would have really done well had it featured more herbs (Thyme?  Oh most definitely.).  But I was really focusing on trying to recreate a dish that I remembered from childhood and although many years have passed, I don't ever recall my grandma having fresh herbs in her kitchen. When I make this again (because the chunks of vegetables made want to swoon), I will definitely put more of a Shelley twist on things.  

Thanks for indulging me in a little nostalgia. In case you're wondering ... here's a picture of my grandma. She was a pretty stylin' lady.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

#GreatHallowTweet: Pumpkin Shortbread Cookies

There is only one word to describe these cookies.  And that word is: "da-a-a-a-a-a-a-mn."  If it were appropriate to catcall at a cookie, this would be the cookie that I would choose to harrass in such a fashion.  Because they are like eating pumpkin pie in a cookie form.  And I love pumpkin pie.  And cookies.  You can imagine why I am so transfixed.

I got this recipe from Recipe Girl, and although the recipe takes a little bit of pre-planning (you need to chill the dough for four hours or just overnight), I think it's well worth the wait.  Especially when you consider how gloriously simple these are.

Monday, October 25, 2010

#GreatHallowTweet: Slime Soup

Oh, my lovelies ... it's that time of year again when everything gets a little more eerie around here.  The recipes are influenced by the season and I start sticking plastic spiders into my soup.

Oh yes - this is the second year of the #GreatHallowTweet.  This year, 18 cooks (including yours truly) are participating in this blog hop that features a week's worth of Halloween-themed recipes.  Hugs to my friend Renee for continuing the tradition.  You may also visit the other lovely hosts by clicking on the "GreatHallowTweet" sidebar.

Without further ado, here's my first offering for this year's GHT.  Nigella Lawson's Slime Soup.  Oh yes, the domestic goddess herself must like Halloween, because this was featured on a show of hers called "Fun Food."

This tastes just like you'd expect pureed peas to taste like.  The spiders are crawling in for a closer look.
Slime Soup
by Nigella Lawson

4 cups frozen peas
1 green onion
3 cups boiling water
Chicken or vegetable stock concentrate or a stock cube
1 ball mozzarella, diced (approximately 10 ounces)

Cook the frozen peas and scallion in the boiling water with the stock concentrate, to taste, or stock cube until tender and cooked through. Drain and discard the scallion, and put the peas into a blender.*

Add the diced mozzarella to the peas in the blender. Liquidize the soup until smooth.

*When blending hot liquids: Remove liquid from the heat and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes. Transfer liquid to a blender or food processor and fill it no more than halfway. If using a blender, release one corner of the lid. This prevents the vacuum effect that creates heat explosions. Place a towel over the top of the machine, pulse a few times then process on high speed until smooth.


My thoughts on this?  Well, first off - the picture above does not do justice on how ... green ... this soup is.  I think I finally figured out what they must have used as the base for the slime they used to sling on "You Can't Do That on Television."  Secondly, you don't realize how much a whole bag of frozen peas makes until you're faced with a blender full of this soup.  If I was making this again (which I probably wouldn't, unless I wanted to seek some sort of revenge on my nephews or my future children), I would probably halve this recipe.

Finally - this tastes precisely what you would think some pureed peas would taste like.  So yes - it's a cute novelty, but likely not a dish to make a repeat appearance in my kitchen.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


After two years of lovingly writing this bad boy, I've decided to give ShelleyBakes a facelift to look a little bit more modern and streamlined.

One of the biggest changes (other than the general look) is that I've cleaned up the "labels" tab.  My old labeling convention had gotten out of hand, so I am trying to emulate the subchapters that you'd find in a cookbook.  I've also added an "About Me" page that sounded so much cooler when I was formulating intelligent things to say when I was running errands this afternoon.

ShelleyBakes (or "SB" as I affectionately call it) isn't exactly what I planned it to be - which was "Simple Recipes for Lazy People."  But we've grown together since this venture first started in October 2008.  Stay awhile, feel free to comment ... be inspired.  Or run for the hills when you check out my photography - there's a lot of love here.  And a lot of bad photography.

Peanut Bars

My brother- and sister-in-law (along with my nephew-pup Toby) recently moved cross country to Virginia.  And while my sister-in-law took only a few kitchen necessities with her (they arrived ahead of the rest of their worldly goods), she was still able to whip this dish together, which she says is reminiscent of eating a Payday Bar.

You'll have to excuse me, I'm currently drooling ... 

Peanut Bars

1. Bottom Layer:
Butter a 9x13 pan.  Pour in 1/2 of a 16 oz. jar of dry roasted peanuts (Note from my SIL: On a subsequent try you may be tempted to add more peanuts. I only recommend adding to the bottom. More on top do not stick as well :))

2. Middle Layer:
Melt 2-1/2 T butter with 10-12 oz peanut butter chips.  Remove from heat.  Add 1 can sweetened condensed milk and 3 cups mini marshmallows.  Stir to mix, pour into nut lined pan.

3. Top Layer: Add remaining nuts and press into mix.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rosemary White Bean Soup

Ryan and I had a rare weekend at home recently and after cleaning up my kitchen, I proceeded to trash it by baking scones, cupcakes and this soup from Ina Garten.

The bread is from Daube's Bakery in Rochester, Minnesota.  This is their Onion Vienna bread.  To die for ... 

Just a note ... this soup is one that takes a little bit of advanced planning to let the beans soak long enough.  I started soaking the beans on Sunday morning so we could have this soup for dinner.  Another option would be to soak them overnight.

Rosemary White Bean Soup
from "The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook"


    * 1 pound dried white cannellini beans
    * 4 cups sliced yellow onions (3 onions)
    * 1/4 cup good olive oil
    * 2 garlic cloves, minced
    * 1 large branch fresh rosemary (6 to 7 inches)
    * 2 quarts chicken stock
    * 1 bay leaf
    * 2 teaspoons kosher salt
    * 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


In a medium bowl, cover the beans with water by at least 1-inch and leave them in the refrigerator for 6 hours or overnight. Drain.

In a large stockpot over low to medium heat, saute the onions with the olive oil until the onions are translucent, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook over low heat for 3 more minutes. Add the drained white beans, rosemary, chicken stock, and bay leaf. Cover, bring to a boil, and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, until the beans are very soft. Remove the rosemary branch and the bay leaf. Pass the soup through the coarsest blade of a food mill, or place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until coarsely pureed. Return the soup to the pot to reheat and add salt and pepper, to taste. Serve hot.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

You must have been a beautiful baby ... (Yellow Cake & Fudge Frosting)

My beloved turned 33 a couple weeks ago.  And he asked if I would make cupcakes for his regular Dungeons & Dragons group that meets on Wednesdays.  Specifically, if I would make yellow cake with chocolate frosting.  It gave me the perfect excuse to make Smitten Kitchen's Best Birthday Cake and her Instant Fudge Frosting.

At one point, this cupcake said "33" - that's before I took a bite out of it.

A couple of notes ... first off, the cake?  Wow.  This was some of the fluffiest batter that I've ever seen in my life.  So much so that I do not see myself going back to box cakes (and as you all know - I don't have kids, so these words might be foolish and rash.)  I ended up making 18 cupcakes and had enough batter leftover to make a round pan.  (I get lazy after a bit with cupcakes - and I only have one cupcake pan.)

The frosting?  Meh ... not so much.  But here's a disclaimer - I'm not a big frosting fan, so no one should be surprised that I preferred my cake without frosting.  Because I'm contrary like that.

So are you ready for some eye candy?  Here's a picture of my lovah now ...

Yup ... he's a cutie

And here's proof that at least one of us has the genetics to make adorable babies ...

18 months old.  And on a hideous couch.

Love you honey!  I am thankful every day that I got to marry my best friend ...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A warm weekend in October. With some (HCT) Mummies

Again - no words are needed.  But links to websites are probably helpful - especially if you wonder why my husband and I would drive 300 miles to see a bunch of musicians who dress up like mummies.

On Oct. 9, Ryan and I drove to Rock Island, Illinois (via North English, Iowa to see his grandma) to see Here Come the Mummies. (Their official site is offline currently, but when it's back up it will be here.)  And if you wonder why they dress like mummies, see here.

This is Java and if you have to know what he's doing, he's playing a Cow Belt.  Yup - a Cow Belt.

The venue was the Rock Island Brewing Co.  We got there early for dinner and refreshments - the RIBCO is one of their "signature" burgers and featured onion rings, bacon and your choice of cheese on top of a 1/2 pound burger.  Um ... yeah.  It was one of the best burgers I've ever had.  Ryan had "The Warmth" which was a marinated chicken breast with jalapenos on top.  It was so hot I would have thought that it came directly from the fires of hell.  It even made Ryan break his two beer rule because he needed something to quench what should have been called "The Blaze."

The food, the beer and the ambiance were worth the drive (we ended up logging over 540 miles that weekend to swing up to Decorah, Iowa to catch the dregs for our 10-year class reunion - sorry classmates!  You were trumped by mummies.), but the concert was indescribable.  Thank you, Rock Island, for a wonderful night.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Apple Cheddar Scones (and some fall scenery pics)

Sometimes, I don't need words.


The pictures above were taken at the Sekapp Orchard in Rochester, Minnesota. What the pictures don't show you are the multitude of parents and their adorable children who were out that Saturday morning picking out the perfect pumpkin to carve.

And since I'm now obsessed with all things apple and because I wanted to make something delicious for Sunday morning snacking (this was after staying up until 2 a.m. getting anihilated by my husband's mad Dr. Mario skills.  You'd think that after winning only one of six games that I'd give up, but no ... I'm plotting next weekend's revenge.), I made these Apple Cheddar Scones that were created by Dorie Greenspan and featured in her book "Baking: From My Home to Yours."

The picture is a little bit of false advertising because they actually use dried apples instead of fresh, but that only makes this recipe perfect for year round.

Just a couple of warnings ... this is one hella-messy recipe, but is well worth it.  Also, when I originally made these, I wasn't sure how much they would spread in the pan (they do, so separate them a bit) and I'd also use some parchment paper on the baking sheet.