Monday, April 30, 2007

A Taste of Yellow- Wild Canary Cake

Growing up I was raised by two moms, my real mom and my grandmother. The four of us, including my brother, lived together in the same house. My grandma was a woman who grew up in a house where food was very important. In a farming family with 13 brothers and sisters, times were often hard. With there always being plenty of mouths to feed my great-grandmother baked bread almost every day (which reminds me, I swear I will be continuing my work with yeast). And since my grandmother was the second oldest, a lot of responsibility fell to her. Growing up we ate a lot of good food, to say the least, as she learned a lot growing up herself. I have a lot of wonderful memories of my grandmother- her super doughy sugar cookies, pumpkin bread every Thanksgiving and Christmas, homemade noodles, chicken & dumplings, and so much more. I have a lot of wonderful memories that don't necessarily involve food. Staying home with my grandmother during the day meant we would watch our soap operas together. And I could stay up late at night if I helped her work the crossword puzzle while we watched Perry Mason reruns. Living through the death of her husband, a brother, and both her parents, my grandmother was definitely the definition of a survivor, in my opinion. Which made it very hard when she passed away in 1994 of cancer. I wasn't just losing my grandma, it was like I was losing a mom too. And it was all the more hard because my brother and I weren't done being raised by her. I was 13 when she passed away, and my brother was 10. I sometimes regret not asking more questions, more about her life, but there's no way you can really expect a kid to think about those kinds of things. I have a lot of wonderful memories, and I do have a lot of stories that I can share with my future children, even if I don't know every single one she had to tell. Here is a picture of my grandmother with a few of her co-workers (a few of them also family) at the brick yard, where she worked during WWII, while my grandfather was in the Navy. She's the next to last woman. I think part of my image of her as survivor has to do with the fact that she was so tall, ha.

A month or two ago I borrowed one of my grandmother's recipe boxes from my mom. I had pulled out several recipes that looked interesting. When I heard about the Taste of Yellow blog event created by Barbara at Winos and Foodies to celebrate LiveStrong Day, I knew that I had to make one of these recipes- Wild Canary Cake. The cake takes it's name from the hue of the main ingredient- egg yolks. Yep, if you are on cholesterol medication, avoid this cake at all costs! The recipe, typed on an index card that is quite yellowed itself, is a bit vague. The last instruction on the back is merely "Bake." But I didn't let that stop me from taking up the challenge. Nor did it stop me when, in an attempt to find out anything else about the recipe my Google searches resulted in nothing but bird feed information. So, this Sunday morning I rolled up my sleeves and got to work. And this is the point at which I feel the need to come completely clean and tell you that I used store-bought frosting. I know, I know- it's a travesty. I'm sure Stephanie and Lindsey are thoroughly disappointed in me, but I was under a time crunch, didn't have all the ingredients I needed, and had total lack of confidence as well, ha. But, aside from the frosting the cake is completely homemade, vague index card and all.

Wild Canary Cake
Recipe from my grandmother; Makes 2 9" round cakes

3/4 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
8 or 10 egg yolks
2 1/2 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cold water
1 teaspoon vanilla

  • Cream shortening. Cream in sugar.
  • Beat egg yolks very light. Beat into first mixture.
  • Sift dry ingredients together. Add alternately with liquid. Beat in flavoring.
  • Bake.
My notes: Okay, so as you can read, those directions are straightforward, but can leave a bit to be desired. I used cake flour, which worked fine, but since talking with my mom she thinks my grandmother probably would have used all-purpose. I also went with the 8 egg yolks, because- seriously, 10 yolks? 8 already seems insane. I greased the pans, lined the bottom with parchment, greased that, and floured them. I divided the batter evenly between the two pans, evened the batter in each pan, and tapped on the counter to bring up any bubbles. I decided to cook these cakes at 350 degrees and started at 30 minutes. I pretty much just based that on a another one of her cake recipes. After the first 30 minutes I left them in for an additional 7 or so after testing with a skewer. While these cakes were baking there was the smell of vanilla in the house. When I took them out of the oven, there was the smell of eggs. I don't mean that in a bad way, but it's just really strange to have your house smelling like cooked eggs. Also, these cakes cooked up, and over. But only to one side. My rack is in the oven evenly, my oven has not recently been placed on a fault line, so I really can't figure out why each one baked up to form a lip on one side. After they cooled in the pans for around 15-20 minutes I cooled on a rack. The top had a very sponge like texture, and thanks to the lip thing, I cut the tops off each of them. This revealed the pretty yellow innards, very moist but quite crumby. As you can see in the picture, the outside of the cake had browned nicely. This is about the time I realized that I had very little time to frost them before our dinner date. So, yeah, I took the easy way out and bought some cream cheese icing. I'm a woman on the go, get off my back! What with the crumby texture of the now exposed tops I figured they should probably be in the middle. I think it made for an interesting visual, since the cream cheese in the center seems to blend with the cake, and the golden brown outer edge of the layers matches up fairly well. I crumb coated the thing, stuck it in the fridge for 30 while I got ready for dinner, and then iced it completed. This is the first time I'd done a crumb coat. To be quite honest I am horrible at icing cakes. I lucked out in marrying a guy who doesn't really like much frosting. I typically ice the middle and top and leave it at that, but I knew that wasn't gonna do this cake any justice. I must admit that there were a few crumbs in the icing, but overall my crumb coat was a success. I will probably stick to my ways as far as household sweets go, but it's nice to know that I can produce a better looking cake for friends and family.

And so, that's the tale of how a blog event for a good cause brought me just a little bit closer to my grandmother, even though we haven't been in the same kitchen in more than 10 years. My grandmother isn't the only person I know that has been affected by cancer- my paternal grandfather, my great-uncle, my husband's aunt, and one of our good friends. But here's a slice for all of the wonderful, strong, and amazing people who have had to deal with this disease- whatever form it's taken, whomever it has affected. I hope that everyone who participates gets as much out of it as I have.

Weekly Menu

Since Jane is off vacationing, and eating lots of yummy things that I can't get to, I'll just post my weekly menu up here. I typically just post it over there so that there can be an element of surprise to what I might post here throughout the week, for the few people who don't already read her blog too. You should be ashamed if you fall into that category, by the way. So, the plans for this week are as follows:

Monday- Zucchini Lasagna with salad, probably dressed with that vinaigrette I saw on Real Simple this weekend.

Tuesday- Honey Mustard Chicken with vegetable brown rice and red grapes

Wednesday- Crustless Broccoli Cheddar Quiche with salad, probably same dressing

Thursday- Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Black Eyed Pea Salad

And with that I'll make this a short one since I've got something I'm hoping to put up later this evening too. Check you dudes later!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Cooking Television

Today was an enjoyable day for my Saturday morning TV ritual. I had a nice cup of hot black coffee with a bit of sugar while watching, which really hit the spot.

On today's episode of Real Simple the food segment concentrated on uses for those bits of condiments left in your refrigerator. They demonstrated a vinaigrette made with your left over Dijon mustard, a steak sauce with a ketchup base, and a very simple rice dish with a bit of salsa. I think I am going to try the vinaigrette for my salads this week. You can find more condiment recipes here.

Rick Steves' Europe was centered in the Tuscany and Umbria region of Italy. We got to see an example of an old olive oil press and how it was operated, a vineyard that has been producing wine since the Etruscan days, and a delicious looking example of the classic bruscetta- grilled bread rubbed with garlic and topped with thinly sliced fresh tomatoes, salt, and olive oil. Mmmmm!

Mexico One Plate At A Time was all about the typical paste seasonings in Yucatecan cuisine, including a frequent ingredient in this season's episodes- achiote. Right off the bat, Rick cooks up one of the easiest and delicious looking dishes. A simple Mahi steak brushed with a paste of achiote seasoning and lime juice cooked on the grill. After taking a trip through the Merida market he goes back to his Chicago home kitchen to show us how to create our own achiote paste and then used it on some short ribs. He also went over two other pastes, bistec and a black paste which gets it's color from charred chilies. Both these pastes were used in poultry dishes. I think I could handle the Mahi dish, especially if I use store bought achiote, ha.

Everyday Food focused on things you could make with a majority of ingredients you might have in your pantry. This included a Spaghetti Carbonara, Pasta with Lentils and Arugula, Pineapple Pops, Fudgy Brownies with Chocolate Cream Soda, and Bean Burritos. I've made the bean burritos before and they are great. I usually tweak their recipe, using Mahatma brand Spanish rice and pepper jack cheese in place of white rice and monterrey jack. This is featured as a freezer recipe, because you can easily wrap the burritos individually and freeze for a fast dinner solution. I always think about freezing our leftovers, but they never make it further than the fridge for great lunches through the rest of the week. Josh really loves this burrito, and was actually reminiscing about them while I watched the show! The pineapple pops looked really easy and good, those might be a fun dessert for having a few friends over during the summer. I bet it would also be great if you substituted some coconut cream for the milk for a pina colada pop! The brownies they featured are based off the recipe I used earlier in the week for my Almond Mocha Brownies. Josh was put off by the Chocolate Cream Soda, and remarked he'd rather just have some chocolate milk. I thought that another idea might be something I'd seen in one of my recent Everyday Food issues- a Black Forest Shake. I think the cherries would make enough of a departure from a combo that might otherwise be too chocolaty. But, who had ever complained about too much chocolate? I think I might even consider making both the pasta dishes, so I'd say that this was a really great episode!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

We can make sandwiches....

That's an inside joke. With someone who doesn't even read this blog actually. Gosh, how rude of me. Sorry, my mind takes me where it takes me, and I can't be responsible if we get lost on the way. Let me try and get it back on the road. Last night I made Meatball Subs for dinner. I have never even had a meatball sandwich before. They have always been appealing to me, but I've never had the opportunity presented to get one. I know, I coulda just ordered one up any of the hundreds of times I've been to Subway, but I wouldn't even know how to ask for one, since I don't know what makes a good one. But I took it upon myself to introduce this sandwich into my life. We hit it off! This sub was delicious. Granted, I'd never had one before so who am I to know, but I thought it was awesome. And when the hubster got home and I made him his, he concurred. And that's coming from someone who has eaten a few of them before. I aimed to make a less messy version, for the obvious reason of being less messy. This was a truly easy thing to make, especially since it's a leftovers meal. That's right, remember those meatballs I made a few weeks ago? Well, I just popped those leftovers from freezer to fridge the night before, and fridge to the oven that evening. I served the sandwiches with a salad on the side. I just kind of threw together the few vegetables I had left in the fridge- broccoli, carrots, and onion- with spinach and spring mix.

Meatball Subs
Made by me; Serves 2
10 meatballs
1 small can Hunt's basil, garlic, and oregano tomato sauce
Red pepper flakes
Parmesan cheese
Shredded Mozzarella cheese
2 wheat hoagie/sub sandwich rolls

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place meatballs on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes.
  • While meatballs are in the oven heat the tomato sauce in a small sauce pan over low heat. Flavor sauce with sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes, to taste.
  • Remove meatballs from oven, and place them in the sauce to coat. Allow to sit for a minute or two, while you prepare the rolls. Cut the rolls horizontally, stopping short of cutting all the way through. Pull out some of the soft innards on the top and bottom, to create a nest for your meatballs.
  • Place 5 meatballs in the recess of the bottom portion of the roll. Spoon as much sauce as you'd like over the meatballs and top with Mozzarella.
My notes: When the meatballs come out of the oven, I usually pick each one up and move it to a clean spot on the parchment, to help drain off some of the fat that will have pooled around them while baking. Some people might like more Parmesan cheese, but I found that since I used it in the meatballs, flavoring the sauce with a bit carried the flavor through nicely.

And Lindsey- I'm totally gonna work on that entry for you, just wanna do some research first.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Browniebabe Of The Month

My participation in this blog event was a result of coincidence and circumstance. It just so happens that my new issue of Everyday Food had a cover article on brownies. And thanks to the inclement weather yesterday I found myself home 3 hours earlier than normal. And I'd been craving sweets ever since my husband made cookies the night before- cookies that I couldn't eat because they contained my most hated form of chocolate, white. So, all these things came together, convincing me that I should go ahead and whip up some brownies. Browniebabe Of The Month has been created by Myriam at Once Upon A Tart as an ode to the lovely fudgy baked good that no one can turn down. And I think the brownie is a splendid choice to base an event around because it is so darn versatile. I've already got several ideas about my entry for next month! But before I get ahead of myself, let me get down to this months recipe first. I followed the base recipe in Everyday Food, since they were so kind to know that I would need to make brownies in the first place. I tweaked it to create my own batch of---

Almond Mocha Brownies
Based on Everyday Food recipe; Makes appx. 16 squares
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for pan
1 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1/4 cup unsweetend cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
8 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs
Additions: 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder, 2/3 cups chopped almonds

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush a 9-inch square baking pan with butter. Line bottom and two sides with a strip of parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on the two sides. Butter paper, and set pan aside. In a small bowl, whisk flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
  • Place butter and chocolate in a large heatproof bowl set over (not in) a saucepan of gently simmering water. Heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes; remove bowl from pan. Add sugar; mix to combine. Add eggs, and mix to combine. Add flour mixture; mix just until moistened (do not overmix). Transfer batter to prepared pan; smooth top.
  • Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 50 to 60 minutes. Cool in pan for 30 minutes. Using paper overhang, lift brownies out of pan; transfer to a rack to cool completely (still on paper). On a cutting board, using a dampened serrated knife, cut into 16 squares. Store in an airtight container at room temperature, up to 2 days.
My notes: To make my Almond Mocha version you need to add the 2 teaspoons of espresso powder to the melted chocolate & butter mixture. Then add the almonds after you have added the flour mixture. I love how coffee really enriches the flavor of chocolate, and the almonds add a complimentary flavor and texture without taking the spotlight away from the fudgy, cocoa goodness.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Happy National Pigs-In-a-Blanket Day!

Today is National Pigs-In-a-Blanket Day, so of course I made some pigs in blankets. I was intending to make them as an accompaniment to Crustless Broccoli Cheddar Quiche, but while at work I realized that I'd forgotten to get the half-and-half for it. So, I figured I'd get some on the way home, but then there was a bit of an April shower moving through. We left work many hours early when the power started flickering and reports of hail and possible tornadoes in our future. One the way home the streets were mad flooded, as was our parking lot. My mom (I work with my mom, by the way) pulled up as parallel as she could to a parking spot bumper, which I hopped to from the car, then hopping to the sidewalk to avoid the above-ankle deep water. Luckily the second round of storms that moved through weren't near as harsh on us, although it's been an evening full of weather interruptions on tv. Oh well, welcome to spring in Texas. :) So, seeing as I didn't acquire the missing ingredient I didn't make the quiche. But I was determined to make PIBs on PIB day! So, I just fried up some eggs and had a bit of breaky for dinner. These obviously aren't some amazing culinary concoction. I used Pillsbury reduced fat crescent rolls, beef smoked sausage links, and I put a bit of shredded cheddar cheese on the crescent dough before wrapping the sausages up. I bake them as directed on the packaging on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. They are super yummy, and always a big hit with the hubby.

Monday, April 23, 2007

I'm a slacker, but I grew up in the 90's, so it's normal...

Okay, so I barely went near a computer this weekend, except to drop a few comments. Saturday was a blur, but I did manage to make some pancakes that morning, at the suggestion of Jane. I love pancakes! As I've mentioned before, I have a lot of trouble with pancakes. I can't really explain why, it's just something I've had to live with. This is my best pancake recipe though. I can usually count on them to come out great, unless I do something to mess it up. I call these Labor Day Pancakes, and here's the reason why- When I was a kid we would go to my Uncle Sammy's dairy farm in Louisiana for Labor Day weekend. One of the highlights of our visit would be Aunt Carol's pancakes. They tasted like sugar cookies, in my opinion. And as someone who always ate their pancakes topped with butter and sprinkled with sugar, it only helped to enhance the cookie flavor for me. This recipe is a basic recipe from Everyday Food, with the addition of 1 teaspoon of vanilla, which is Aunt Carol's not-so-secret ingredient. I guess that might be a common ingredient in most people's batter, but as someone who grew up eating Bisquick pancakes (which I still like, not hatin' on the 'Quick) adding the vanilla really puts it over the top for me.

Labor Day Pancakes
Variation of Everyday Food Recipe; Makes appx. 12
1 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

  • In a small bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, butter (or oil), vanilla and egg. Add dry ingredients to milk mixture; whisk until just moistened (do not overmix; a few small lumps are fine).
  • Heat a large skillet (nonstick or cast-iron) or griddle over medium. Fold a sheet of paper towel in half, and moisten with oil; carefully rub skillet with oiled paper towel.
  • For each pancake, spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons of batter onto skillet, using the back of the spoon to spread batter into a round (you should be able to fit 2 to 3 in a large skillet)
  • Cook until surface of pancakes have some bubbles and a few have burst, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip carefully with a thin spatula, and cook until browned on the underside, 1 to 2 minutes more. Transfer to a baking sheet or platter; cover loosely with aluminum foil, and keep warm in oven @ 200 degrees. Continue with more oil and remaining batter. (You'll have 12 to 15 pancakes.) Serve warm, with desired toppings.
My notes: I cook pancakes on my large electric griddle, which is very helpful for me. I also use a 1/4 c measuring cup per pancake, which makes them a bit bigger. I usually use vegetable oil instead of butter, just cause it saves me the step of having to melt it. I will probably try it with butter sometime, but I'm happy with the results I get, so I don't worry about it much. One of the best tips I've gotten about making pancakes is using a very thin, very large spatula to flip my pancakes. I plan to try this recipe with half white whole wheat flour, buttermilk, and the addition of different fruits, but this is the basic recipe that I go by.

On a side note, I have a post coming up on my weekend shows, but I haven't watched them all yet. We got our new satellite television on Friday, and I am loving it! We got DVR and I'm in heaven. So, I just gotta watch my shows and I'll have an update on them. I've also got some fun stuff on the menu this week, so hopefully I'll have some good stuff to blog about.

Thanks to everyone who stops by here! I appreciate everyone who visits and comments, sorry I wasn't around much this weekend.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

A Taste of Yellow- Livestrong Day Event

Today via Is My Blog Burning? and Peabody I found out about a wonderful blog event- A Taste of Yellow being hosted by Barbara at Winos and Foodies. In honor of Livestrong Day on May 16th, created by the Lance Armstrong Foundation to raise cancer awareness, Barbara is asking food bloggers to make a dish containing some type of yellow food. I think this is a great event to participate in whether or not your blog pertains to food. You can find the rules and deadline information through the link above. I already know what I'm going to make, but I don't want to give it away just yet!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Adventures in Baking

On Sunday I made my first steps into the world of yeast. It wasn't a totally successful expedition, but it wasn't a total failure either. I had been thinking about trying a bread recipe for awhile, but then when it was announced that the theme for this month's Waiter There's Something In My... event would be bread, I figured it was the perfect opportunity to take the plunge. When I was growing up my mom never had any luck baking with yeast. I remember her many failed attempts and the resulting frustration. So, I was a bit nervous to say the least. But I tried to be as prepared as I could be- I had my instant read thermometer, I turned the thermostat up since it was kind of cold in the apartment, and I preheated the oven far in advance to heat up my tiny kitchen. I was going to take a crack at a Whole Wheat Cinnamon Raisin Bread I saw on bakingsheet, now Baking Bites. Well, the first time round did not go so well. I guess it's kind of hard to know what each step is supposed to look like when you've never done it before. I'm not sure I got enough reaction out of my yeast, then I started mixing things, but it never really seemed to come together. I used the larger of the flour measurements, but it still had the consistency of runny oatmeal. I made an attempt to knead it, but that was just unbelievably messy. I scrapped the dough, and decided to take a crack at another recipe. I noticed a recipe on the back of the flour package that seemed easy. The steps were different than the Cinnamon Raisin bread, so I thought I'd give it a shot. I decided to add cinnamon to the Whole Wheat Walnut Bread recipe, but that was the only part of the recipe that I changed, initially. This time around I decided to use my stand mixer, instead of my arm and a wooden spoon. I measured out and mixed all the ingredients. As it mixed I had something along the same consistency of the last bread dough. I called my mom, who had little advice for me. I called Stephanie who didn't answer because she was at Edgefest. And I just decided to start chucking in more flour. I also decided to proof my yeast, to see if that was somehow the problem. So, between adding flour I measured out some warm water and sugar. But before I was able to add the yeast my mixer started making a funny noise. It was working hard to mix my dough because it was actually the consistency of dough! I whipped the mixer off, floured my work surface and quickly went to work kneading, lest things progress downhill in any moment I wasted. I worked my dough, with relative ease, and once I'd finished I put it back in the bowl, on top of the oven for warmth, and covered. I let it rest for a bit over and hour and it had actually risen! I was so surprised that it had worked. Mistake #1 occurs here- I probably should have let is risen even more. I removed it from the bowl, molded it into the loaf shape and put it in the pan. I let it rise again on the oven. Mistake #2- should have let it rise more again. Popped it in the oven and 40 minutes later a lovely looking loaf emerged. It did look lovely, but it didn't look that big. And when I cut into it yesterday it was very dense. So, next time I think letting my dough rise much more at each stage will help. Please correct me if I'm wrong though. I'm not unhappy with the way the loaf turned out. I set out to make a loaf of bread, and that was the end result. I think it could definitely be better, but since I had serious doubts that I could even get something remotely resembling bread I would say it was overall a success. However, I'm going to take another crack at working with yeast this weekend, because I would like a better WTSIM entry. But, for those who are interested, you can click the link above for the recipe. The addition of cinnamon was nice, but I should have added more sugar to help balance it.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Cooking Television

So, I guess this is going to become a regular thing on here, commenting on my Saturday morning shows. Perhaps I should give a little background on my Saturday mornings. Most weekends I wake up just a bit before 9:30 to catch Real Simple, followed by Rick Steves' Europe, and then Mexico: One Plate At A Time. Then I've got an hour and a half before Everyday Food comes on. Obviously, not everyone's PBS station runs shows at the same time, but this is my Saturday morning line-up. I encourage you to take a look at your affiliate's schedule if you haven't seen any of these shows before. Now, I know that Rick Steve's Europe isn't a cooking related show, but he does often discuss some aspect of the local cuisine in whatever part of the continent he is in. And really, since it's gonna be quite awhile before I can afford to get there, this serves as my weekly vacation.

On this week's episode of Real Simple the cooking segment focused on 30-Minute Sloppy Joes. I ate sloppy joes as a kid on occasion, but not too often. Not that I didn't think they were delicious, but I really didn't get too excited about half the contents of my sandwich being on my hands and face. And I'm still not crazy about that. And Josh just bemoaned how disgusting the sandwiches were through the segment, so I don't think you'll be seeing a sloppy joe post on here anytime soon. That said, this month's issue of Real Simple does have some interesting looking recipes, so there isn't a total lack of Real Simple inspiration.

This week's episode of Mexico: One Plate At A Time with Rick Bayless was great. At first I thought I was in for a letdown. As it opened on a scene of a courtyard filled to the brim with dancers I thought I was about to be watching a repeat of the Merida episode. And while they were in Merida, this episode was very different. It was all about snacking- I love snacking! This show has got me thinking about ceviche again, especially since Josh's dad delivered some trout to us last week. I honestly didn't take notes during this episode, but it was filled to the brim with some of the most delicious looking Yucatan snacks that I doubt you could go wrong with making anything from the episode.

Everday Food seemed to answer the age old query, "Where's the beef?", this week with a steak filled episode. They did a lime marinated skirt steak with chili sweet potato wedges, shell steaks with parsnip fries, and a chili rubbed steak with salad. They also made a heavenly looking strawberry tart, which I can only imagine to be a fantastic dessert for any event this time of year. I must admit that all these recipes have been floating around in my head since watching the show, and a couple since before that, having seen them in the magazine. I have never in my life considered eating a parsnip, but they've got me mulling it over.

Did you see any of this week's episodes? Have you made any of the recipes featured? Please share if you have!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Spaghetti & Meatballs

Monday night I made Spaghetti with Vegetable Marinara and Parmesan Meatballs. I'm quite pleased with how this meal came out because I just kind of made it up as I went along. My one regret is that I put my sauce over my meatballs so you can't really see them in the pic. I've never made meatballs before, so this was a bit of an experiment for me. This made enough for us to both have a good meal, and I have extra sauce and meatballs in the freezer for another night. I didn't really follow a set recipe for any of it, so I'll just try to re-cap as best I can.

Spaghetti with Vegetable Marinara & Parmesan Meatballs
Recipe from me!
1 lb. ground beef
1/5 cup dried breadcrumbs
1/5 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
1/3 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1/3 teaspoon dried basil
Coarse salt and ground pepper

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl using a fork or your hands. Roll meat mixture into balls about the size of ping-pong balls. Place on cookie sheet. Bake for 20 minutes.
  • If freezing for later use, arrange on cookie sheet and place in freezer for 30 minutes. Remove from freezer and place in airtight container or freezer bag. Flash freezing beforehand will keep them from sticking to one another.
Vegetable Marinara-
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, ribbed & seeded, chopped
1 small zucchini, quartered lengthwise and chopped
1 can Hunt's Garlic & Herb Tomato Sauce
Crushed red pepper flakes
Dried oregano leaves
Dried basil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, pepper, and zucchini; cook, stirring, until vegetables have softened.
  • Add tomato sauce. Add seasonings to taste. Stirring occasionally, cook until heated through.
My notes: I just eyeball how much spaghetti I want to cook. I usually have leftovers but we were hungry people. :) I was going to add carrots to the sauce, but I discovered that Josh had taken the baby carrots to work with him that morning. So, you might add carrots, if you're so inclined.

The rest of this week has been comprised of repeat performances from Red Beans and Rice and Chicken Pot Pie. I was planning on making grilled cheese and soup tonight, but I actually didn't have the supplies in the pantry that I thought I did. I've been having real grocery problems lately. I've already spent over half my monthly budget, and it's only the 12th of the month. Jeezy Creezy! I've gotta do some re-thinking of the way I go about things, I guess.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

I saw the Easter bunny!

On Saturday as we left our niece's Easter themed birthday party I saw the cutest bunny by our back tire. I decided it must be the Easter bunny, so I have been very excited about that. Sunday I got up and made the pound cake that I was supposed to make Saturday morning, when I was apparently too busy sleeping to do anything. This was my dessert contribution to our Easter dinner with Josh's mom and family, with an accompanying strawberry whipped cream. This was a pretty simple recipe and I will definitely make it again.

Cream Cheese Pound Cake
Recipe from Martha Stewart; Makes 2 loaf cakes
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 bar (8 oz.) cream cheese, room temperature
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
Non-stick cooking spray

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees;. With an electric mixer, beat butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar; beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in vanilla. With mixer on low, add flour and salt in two additions, beating until just combined.
  • Generously coat two 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-by-2 1/2-inch loaf pans (1 1/2 quarts each) with cooking spray; immediately pour in batter (pan will seem full). Tap pans on work surface to eliminate any large air bubbles.
  • Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out almost clean, 60 to 75 minutes (if the tops begin to brown too quickly, tent with aluminum foil).
  • Cool 10 minutes in the pan. Turn out the cakes; cool completely, with top sides up, on a wire rack.
My notes: As per usual I halved this recipe, since I really only needed one cake. I also used nuefchatel cheese, which has 1/3 less fat than regular cream cheese. Everything went as described, but as I was also making the strawberry whipped cream and working on the easy-way-out version of my potato casserole I didn't check the cake as often as I should have. It definitely browned quickly and I was a bit late in getting it tented. This resulted in dark sides and top edges when I removed it from the pan. To make it look prettier I trimmed the sides of the cake, and since that made it look a little bit awkward, I went ahead and sliced it as you see in the picture. This worked out well- big slices of the creamy white cake were very appealing, and it was all ready to go at dessert time.

I will have a further report on Easter dinner, as soon as I snag a pic that our niece, Amber, took of my dinner plate, ha.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Cooking Television

Well, since I'm just now posting on Tuesday, you can guess that I didn't have quite the weekend I was expecting. We overslept by an obscene amount on Saturday, but I had set my Saturday morning shows to record, with the exception of Everyday Food, assuming I would be up by then. I told you it was obscene how late we slept! So, I missed Everyday Food. Did anyone else catch it? Anything good? I'll look up the episode info in a bit. Since I've been a fan of the magazine for awhile I'm hoping it was just recipes I'm already familiar with.

This week's Real Simple had a meal that looked great for the warm weather that will be headed our way (did I mention that it snowed here on Texas!). Their preparation of Panzanella looked delicious. A nice no-cook meal is always a good idea on hot summer nights. I can definitely see myself entertaining with this one, since using the oven can cause an uncomfortable temperature increase in the dining nook directly adjacent.

Saturday's episode of Mexico- One Plate At A Time was all about tamales. I have never made tamales, and living in Texas, I am more familiar with the corn husk variety. But Rick made his tamales the Yucatan way, with banana leaves. I don't know that this is something I'll be trying anytime soon, but this show was highly informative. As I'm fairly new to the show it was the first time I got to watch Rick at action in one of his real-life restaurant kitchens too.

I'm in the process of trying to get my Easter post together, as well as one for dinner from last night. I missed work yesterday thanks to this cold weather making my FM flare up, but I'm better today, and will hopefully be even better tomorrow. I've got several blog events coming up, which will mean quite a lot of posts, hopefully. And I can guarantee that I won't have such a late start next Saturday!

If you haven't yet, head on over to This Week For Dinner and share your menu with everyone!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Busy Bee

I'm having a bit of a busy week, and it's only going to be a busier weekend. Hopefully I'll get an opportunity to blog about what I'll be making. I've gotta make the pound cake I'll be taking to Easter dinner Saturday morning before we head off to our niece's 8th birthday. And then from there to the birthday party for my best pal, Stephanie at Frosted Garden. And of course Sunday will be more Easter preparations and celebrations. Oh yeah, I still need to go grocery shopping too, but I'm struggling with my menu plan and shopping list. My brain is swirling with lots of distractions. Which might account for the difficulties I had with dinner tonight. Okay, actually the problem is my love of Pepper Jack cheese. I put way more than I needed into my turkey burgers, thus making it difficult for them to stay together while cooking. They managed, but they were just too soft, moist, whatever. They might not have been pretty, but they were pretty delicious. I love making these burgers, cause the 2 we don't eat freeze really well. I served them on toasted wheat bread, cause we just don't eat any type of burgers often enough to justify buying a package of 8. And it's just healthier this way anyway. And despite the fact that there was too much cheese in the burgers, I topped mine with more Pepper Jack. We had these juicy burgers with a side of Chili Oven Fries, which are pretty darn easy to throw together and quite delish.

Southwestern Turkey Burgers
Recipe from Everday Food; Serves 4
1 1/2 lbs. ground turkey, 93% lean
1 jalapeno, minced, seeded and ribbed
2 ounces Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded (1/2 cup)
1/4 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
Coarse salt and ground pepper
Vegetable oil for grates (if grilling)

  • Heat grill/pan to medium-high. In a medium bowl place turkey, jalapeno, cheese, breadcrumbs, mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Mix very gently with fork to combine, being careful not to over mix.
  • Gently form meat into 4 equal-size patties, 4" in diameter and 1" thick. Press thumb in the center of each patty to make an indentation approximately 1/2" deep.
  • Moisten a folded paper towel with oil; rub on cooking surface. Season burgers with salt and pepper; grill until cooked throughout, 5 to 8 minutes per side. Serve on buns with desired toppings.
My notes: Okay, I take a shortcut and just use Pepper Jack cheese, I figure it kills 2 ingredients with one, uh, ingredient. Yeah, that's it. I've made it the proper way before, I've made it with jalapeno and Pepper Jack cheese, and I've made it with just the Pepper Jack, and every way has been delicious.

Chili Oven Fries
Recipe from Everday Food; Serves 4

3 large Russet potatoes (2 lbs.)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons chili powder
Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Halve potatoes lengthwise; cut each half lengthwise into thirds.
  • In a large bowl, whisk olive oil with chili powder; season generously with salt & pepper. Add potatoes and toss to coat.
  • Transfer potatoes to a baking sheet, cut sides down. Bake, turning potatoes halfway through, until they are tender and golden brown, about 45 minutes.
My notes: Like I said, easy and yummy. I've also done these in chunks before, just need to cook them for a little less time.

Okay, here's hoping I can find time to update through my busy weekend! And a big thanks to Lindsey at Just Recipes for the shout-out. If you haven't checked out her page yet you should! I also dig her family blog, Cafe Johnsonia. You may know her from her recent stint as guest mom over at Design Mom. I think her kids have the cutest names.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


I've been looking for ideas for a potato dish to take to Easter dinner at the mom-in-law's house this weekend. I got some good suggestions over at This Week For Dinner..., but still hadn't come across quite what I was looking for. I had a Scalloped Potato recipe, but I wasn't 100% keen on it. Anyway, I've taken that recipe and made a few changes to try and come up with something more to my liking. Let me know if it sounds good, if the measurements seem okay, stuff like that. I'd certainly appreciate it!

Potato & Broccoli Bake
Serves 8

2 lbs. (appx. 4 medium) Russet Potatoes, well scrubbed, sliced 1/8" thick
2 10. oz. frozen chopped broccoli, thawed
1 large onion, diced
1 1/2 cups Gruyere cheese, shredded
1 1/2 cups Sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
2-3 cups half-and-half
Coarse salt & ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 2-quart casserole dish. Mix together broccoli and onion. Mix together shredded cheeses.

Layer bottom of dish with 1/3 of the potatoes, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Layer on 1/2 cup of cheese mixture, 1/2 of the broccoli mixture, and then another 1/2 cup of the cheeses. Repeat the layers. Top with last remaining 1/3 of potatoes, pour half-and-half over dish, top with 1/2 of the remaining cheese and dot with butter.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for one hour. After the hour, remove from oven, remove foil, and top with rest of the cheese. Return to oven for an addititional 30-40 minutes. When done, the potatoes should be tender, but not mushy, and the liquid should be mostly absorbed.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Weekend Extravaganza!

Hmm, that title might be a bit much, but I feel like being a bit over the top. I solved my baking dilemma. Or rather, the weather solved it for me. The torrential rains, lightening, and thunder made their way through Friday evening resulting in a cloudless bright Saturday morning. The sunny skies doubled my yearning to do some baking, but I didn't feel like doing anything big. Between Jane's strawberry post over at This Week For Dinner, and the grocery store circular advertising strawberries on sale, I figured it must be kismet that I try the strawberry shortcake recipe I've had my eye on. After a trip to the store I returned home with my supplies, and quite a bit more, ha. The recipe I'd had my eye on is from I Like You: Hospitality Under The Influence by Amy Sedaris. I loved this book, but I had yet to make any of the recipes. So, I set out to rectify that. I washed and quartered the strawberries, then tossed with a little over a tablespoon of sugar and popped them in the fridge.

Sweet Cream Biscuits
Recipe from I Like Amy Sedaris; I got 8 biscuits

2 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups heavy cream

  • Mix dry ingredients in a bowl and add heavy cream. Using a wooden spoon or spatula pull together unti lit tightens and transfer to a well-floured surface. Form into a large ball and press out with the hell of your hand to 1" thickness. Cut into 2"x2" squares and place on a sheet tray. Moisten the tops with some heavy cream and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 450 degrees, 10-15 minutes or until golden brown on top.
My notes: Those instructions were a little confusing to me. I wasn't clear if I was suppose to reserve some of the heavy cream for the tops, or if it all went in the mix. After looking up another recipe online I decided that the 1/4 cup was for the tops. I'm pretty sure I was wrong on that. The biscuits turned out great, but I think they would be just a bit sweeter if that 1/4 cup cream had been in them. Also seems like you could add some more sugar, if you like your shortcakes a bit sweeter. The cream and sugar crusted top was awesome though.

While at the store I grabbed a lemon-pepper rotisserie chicken (also on sale) a bag of field greens and some cherry tomatoes. So, for dinner we had the chicken with a three cheese salad, comprised of the greens, quartered tomatoes, carrot coins, mozzarella, parmesan, and feta. And followed with the strawberry shortcake for dessert. To assemble the shortcake I cut the biscuits in half, spread a small amount of whipped cream I had made before dinner on the bottom biscuit, topped with strawberries, biscuit top, and big dollop of the whipped cream again. In the future I think I'll just poor the strawberries and whipped cream on a whole biscuit. Trying to cut through the biscuit top down to the bottom was a little messy with the berries in the middle.

On with the extravaganza! This morning I decided to take a stab at those Orange-Ricotta pancakes I saw on Everday Foods yesterday, thanks to the encouragement of Jenny. Well, I am notorious for having difficulty with pancakes, and these were no exception. It took me forever to perfect just my Labor Day pancake, which is my regular go-to recipe. I had difficulty with Ina Garten's Zucchini Pancakes, and I had difficulty with these damn things. While they tasted great I couldn't get the cooking temperature just right, which affected the cooking time, blah blah blah. I made them, they were edible, but they were no works of art. I baked up some bacon in the oven as an accompaniment. That was delicious, but a bit tepid by the time the darn pancakes were done. Overall, a nice breakfast, especially since it's a meal I rarely make. Could have been better, but not gonna beat myself up over it.

Orange-Ricotta Pancakes
Recipe from Everday Food; Serves 4

15 oz. part-skim ricotta cheese
1/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
Appx. 2 teaspoons orange zest
2/3 cup all purpose flour

  • In a medium bowl, whisk together part-skim ricotta cheese, sugar, eggs, and grated orange zest (1 orange). Whisk in 2/3 cup all-purpose flour until just combined.
  • Heat 3 tablespoons canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Working in batches (and adding more oil to skillet as needed), add batter, using a scant ¼ cup for each pancake. Cook until browned, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer pancakes to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Serve hot, dusted with confectioners’ sugar or drizzled with maple syrup.
My notes: Uhhh, yeah, I kind of already typed it all up there, ha.

And last, I'm gonna backtrack to Thursday night when I made a Crustless Broccoli-Cheddar Quiche. It was so incredibly easy, and delicious. It's funny because this recipe has been on my to-make list since before Christmas, but for some reason I was really intimidated by it. I guess words like quiche can be a bit overwhelming for a novice cook. Now I'm so glad to have a nice, easy recipe that can be thrown together in a pinch.

Crustless Broccoli-Cheddar Quiche
Recipe from Everday Food; Serves 4
Butter, for ramekins or pie dish
Coarse salt
1 10 oz. package frozen broccoli florets
6 large eggs
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter 4 8 oz. ramekins or a 9" pie dish; set aside. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add broccoli; cook for 1 minute. Drain well; transfer to a cutting board and blot dry with paper towels. Chop coarsely.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, half-and-half, 1/2 teaspoon salt, ground pepper, and nutmeg. Stir in broccoli and cheese.
  • Place dish(es) on a rimmed baking sheet. Ladle mixture into dish. Bake until golden brown, 35-40 minutes.
My notes: To make this recipe even easier I bought a 10 oz. package of chopped broccoli and used bagged shredded cheese. I cooked the broccoli in the water for 2 minutes and then set it in a strainer over the emptied water pot while I got everything else ready, allowing it to drain and dry very well. I generally use pre-shredded cheese in most recipes that call for it. I also went the pie plate route, because my ramekins weren't the right size. I definitely recomment this recipe. It was fast and delicious for dinner, but would also be a nice brunch recipe.

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