Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Buttermilk Biscuits

Hands down, these are my favorite biscuit.  The recipe comes from the Better Homes and Gardens anniversary edition cookbook- if you can get your hands on a copy, I recommend it.  The method is something I've pieced together from too many sources to remember.

The pounding make lots of flaky layers

These rise up nice and tall and taste great.  I like to cut them small- maybe 2 inches?  I always use a tall glass we brought home from The Spaghetti Factory!

Buttermilk Biscuits
Based on BHG Biscuits Supreme

3 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 cup shortening (I never measure- just do 3 good scoops with a soup spoon.)
1 1/4 cup buttermilk*

*You can use 2 Tbsp of lemon juice plus enough milk to equal 1 1/4 cups.  Let it sit for a few minutes to curdle.

Place all ingredients except buttermilk in bowl of food processor and pulse until mixture resembles corn meal, with some larger chunks remaining. Dump into a separate bowl and add the buttermilk all at once. Stir with a wooden spoon until just combined- dough will be sticky.

Dump dough onto a floured board and knead once or twice.  Pound flat with a wooden rolling pin or dowel.  Fold in half and pound out again.  Repeat once or twice more.  Lightly rub a little flour on top if these are sticking, but the less flour you add in now the better.  

On the final time, don't pound too flat, and lightly roll to even out top.  I leave these tall.  Taller than my first thumb knuckle.  Cut with a round cutter- press straight down and pull straight up.  (If you twist, you'll bind the sides and they won't raise as tall in the oven.)  Place on a cookie sheet (air-filled is best) just barely touching each other, so they rise up not out.  Pat together remaining dough and pound out and lightly roll again- cut. Repeat until dough is gone  Makes about 12 biscuits.

Bake 450 degrees for 10-15 minutes until lightly golden.

Ham and Cheddar Biscuit Pockets

I originally found a recipe for these way back when, in Readers Digest.  (I'm pretty sure I was in middle school at the time.)  The recipe said Grands "thwack" biscuits, and that's what I used.  Hey guess what?  Like most foods in this world, these taste better when you make them yourself!


Ham and Cheddar Biscuit Pockets

1 batch of biscuit dough
diced ham
shredded cheddar cheese

Roll your biscuit dough thin as you can, and cut large circles (I used a 4" round tupperware.) Really roll these thin- biscuit dough puffs a LOT.  Not paper thin, but definitely pie crust thin.  Place biscuit rounds on a cookie sheet and top with ham and cheese, and another biscuit round.  Pinch the edges shut- make sure there aren't any holes!  Top biscuits with a little more grated cheddar cheese- my husband really likes crunchy cheese, this is his addition.

Bake at 450 for 10-15 minutes, until lightly golden.

The kids and Daddy like to dip these in ketchup.  I prefer a mixture of honey mustard and plum jam.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Aunt May's Quick French Bread

Two years of perseverance have finally paid off!!!! Two years ago, we passed New Years with my husband's family. On New Year's Eve, we all gathered at the home of his Aunt May and enjoyed a smorgasbord of soups and her homemade french bread. I'd never tasted anything like it - the insides were slightly tangy and chewy. The crust, though, was what hooked me - I'd never tried homemade french bread with a chewy crust. I'm not a huge fan of crunchy bread crusts...if I wanted to be covered in crumbs while I eat my dinner, I'd eat a bowl of confetti!

I begged her for the recipe, and to my joy, she agreed! She wrote out the recipe for me that night, and brought it along with her the next day when the whole family went bowling.

Only problem? I didn't go. I had a toddler with me, and said toddler needed a nap. Little did I know, that would be my only chance to get that piece of paper.

I tried writing to Aunt May's daughter, but that was no good - she'd been trying to get the recipe for quite a while as well, and had never found the recipe, her mother, a piece of paper and a pen in the same room. D'oh!

Fast forward to last night. We had Christmas dinner at Aunt May's house. It was delicious - turkey, sweet potatoes, funeral potatoes, salad, rolls and the most amazing short-ribs. (I asked - all of the recipes came from Aunt May's daughter...who I'll begin hounding shortly. Those ribs were amazing!) (Note - The turkey was sheer GENIUS. I've heard, of course, that you can make a more moist, flavorful bird by rubbing butter under the skin. This recipe expounded on that greasy goodness by replacing the butter with BACON. That's right - the entire bird was covered in bacon, under the skin. We decided to call it a "burkey". You're welcome.)

I hit Aunt May up for the French Bread recipe again...and finally hit the jackpot! While I was furiously scribbling it down, in case she changed her mind, she told me the background on the bread - it's the recipe she used in college. She used the recipe for years, but unfortunately...it was lost during one of her moves. Luckily, several years later, she met up with an old college friend for lunch and that friend gushed about how she still used the french bread recipe Aunt May had shared with her in college. Aunt May replied, "That's great! Now.....could you give it back to me?"

It's now carefully written on a neon orange notecard, taped into Aunt May's labrinthian recipe notebook.

And now...it's here, too. Enjoy!

(Note - Aunt May gave me a few pointers - she always uses exactly 6 cups of flour total...but she lives in Utah, and the climate doesn't change much. In my own home, in Connecticut, I imagine I'll need to experiment with the flour amounts as the seasons change. Also, when the recipe says to mix and rest, 5 times, using a spoon, she simply leaves the whole mixture in her Bosch mixer and turns it on every 10 minutes.)

Quick French Bread
(From Aunt May)

Mix and let stand to proof yeast, in the bowl of your mixer:
1/2 cup warm water
2 pkg yeast
1 pinch sugar

Mix and add to the yeast mixture:
2 cups hot water
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1/3 cup melted shortening

Add 3 cups of flour and mix well in mixer. Add another 3 cups of flour and mix with a spoon.
Rest 10 minutes. Mix again with a spoon. Rest 10 minutes. Repeat this process a total of five times.

Divide the dough in half and roll out on a floured board, making sure the bread is approximately as long as a cookie sheet. Roll it out so that the loaf is long as thin (again, long as a cookie sheet) and place your two loaves on a cookie sheet. Brush the sides and tops of your loaves with a beaten egg white and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Allow to rise, uncovered, for 60 minutes. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

It should have been delicious...

...instead, it was bland and tasted vaguely of onions.

I attempted to make a breakfast casserole for a church breakfast. I used homemade bread, handfuls of dried cranberries, a few chopped (local) apples and eggnog for the creamy, creamy base. Salt was thrown in for some variety and contrast. I added a few fresh eggs to make it into a lovely custard, and baked it until the top was nice and golden.

I was so proud of my dish. I took it to the party, and placed it on the table. Takers were few, but I assumed that was because they couldn't know that it was an eggnog casserole. Had they known, it would have been devoured on the spot!

When I finally found my way to the table and tasted a bite...I knew I had created a Catastrophic Fail. How could the above mentioned ingredients be combined to create something so completely bland...and reminiscent of onions.

Could it be the onions I chopped on the board a few days prior? Had their evil vapors somehow made their way into the apples? Or the bread that was chopped on the same board as well? Did it simply suffer from a lack of salt?

Dear readers, help me out here. How did a lovely Eggnog Breakfast Casserole turn out tasting like...Bland Onion Catastrophe??
For the record, here's my recipe. Seriously - any idea why this wasn't delicious??! Maybe some lemon juice would have helped...or more eggnog spices, to make it more pronounced.
1 loaf stale bread, cubed (1 lb)
2 apples, chopped
1 cup Craisins
6 eggs
1 1/2 cup eggnog
1 tsp. salt
Bake at 350
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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

POM Wonderful Sweet & Sour Shrimp

A little while ago, I was contacted by a blogger at POM Wonderful about accepting some of their product to try. I wasn't asked to review them, but it was suggested that I experiment with the product and give my feedback. (Doesn't that amount to a review? Well, then, I wasn't asked to blog about it. How's that?) However, I like to blog...so there you go.

When the package arrived, it was 8 bottles of POM Wonderful, each one 8 ounces. Bottle #1 was a taste test...and a surprising one. The juice tastes as though the entire seed was ground up and then strained. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but the juice is a good deal more bitter and sour than...whatever it was I was expecting. (Apple juice? heh.)

Bottle #2 became...sweet and sour shrimp. This was a hit, with everyone. Even the baby loved the pineapples, drenched in sauce!

LoLo Pomegranate Sweet & Sour Shrimp

(Serves 6-8)

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3/4 pound shrimp, shells on
1 can pineapple, drained and juice reserved
8 oz. POM Wonderful pomegranate juice
3 tsp. cornstarch

In a bowl or measuring cup, combine the pineapple juice, pomegranate juice and cornstarch. Stir to combine, and set aside.

In a wok, large skillet or dutch oven, heat the olive oil, and then cook your onions until translucent - about 3-4 minutes. Add your shrimp and cook for 2 minutes, or until just cooked.

You want the shells to get a little browned, if that makes sense. The shells add a lovely nutty taste to the shrimp. My husband suggests that the cook clean the shrimp, reserve the shells, saute the shells with the shrimp in this step to get the flavor, and then remove them before continuing on to the next step. I think he just doesn't like getting his hands dirty at the dinner table. Moving on!

Add in the pineapple, and cook another minute. Give your juice/cornstarch slurry a little stir to combine, and add it in. Bring to a boil and cook for one more minute to thicken the sauce.

Serve with rice, steamed garlic broccoli and plenty of napkins. Enjoy!

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Spaghetti with Braised Kale

I was dismayed to find kale in our most recent CSA box- I've given kale a few tries, a few different ways, and all have been inedible (at least to our palates.)  This recipe has changed that!  It's not stellar in a "oh my goodness, can we make this again to tomorrow?" kind of way, but it's warm, comforting, and very good.  And for me, I've made my peace with kale.

A few recipe notes- I used a 1/2 pound of small shell pasta in place of the spaghetti, and threw in the greens attached to the turnips I also found in my CSA box.  Beet greens would probably be good too- any hearty greens.  The recipe calls to braise the greens for 20 minutes or more- it took away nearly all of the bitter taste I've always loathed in turnip greens and kale.  I used a red onion- I love how well they caramelize-- and threw in a handful of refrigerated bacon bits with the cheese, to satisfy our heartier eaters.  Finally, I used a bit more pasta water at the end and a few handfuls of cheese, to make my favorite kind of pasta sauce- let it melt together, while stirring over low heat, and you'll have something delicious!

Spaghetti with Braised Kale
Bon Appetit, October 2009

3 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
1 lb. kale, large center ribs and stems removed, cut crosswise into 1/2 inch slices
8 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 pound spaghetti
finely grated Parmesan (I used 2 or 3 small handfuls)

Rinse kale, drain, and transfer to bowl with some water still clinging.  Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in heavy large pot over medium heat (I used a cast iron dutch oven.)

Add chopped onion and cook until soft and translucent, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes.  Add sliced garlic and sprinkle with salt; cook until onion is golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.  Add kale and remaining 1 Tbsp. olive oil and toss until wilted, about 3 minutes.  cover pot and reduce heat to medium low.  Continue cooking until kale is very tender, stirring occasionally and ading water by teaspoonfuls if dry, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in medium pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally.  Drain, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid.  Add cooked spaghetti to kale mixture in pot.  Add lemon juice and 2 Tbsp or reserved cooking liquid; toss to combine, adding more liquid by tablespoonfuls if dry.  Sprinkle spaghetti with grated Parmesan cheese and serve.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Black Bean and Chipotle Chili

Before running out the door to church, I treasure-hunted in my cupboards to see what I'd serve for dinner that night.  This chili came together fast, it's vegetarian, and everyone (including my white-foods-only-diet preschooler) cleaned their plates.  And had seconds.  Definitely a keeper!

You could definitely go with dried beans, but I didn't have any dried black beans on hand so I wrote this up the way I made it.  

Chipotle peppers are smoked jalapenos- I purchase them in small cans, packed in adobo sauce.  They're smoky, a little spicy, and delicious.  Store the unused portion in the fridge- I hear they're great in eggs!

Black Bean and Chipotle Chili

5 cans black beans
1 can tomato sauce
2 Tbsp. chili powder
2-5 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
2-3 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
Optional garnishes: sour cream, shredded cheddar, green onions

Drain and rinse 3 cans of beans, and put in crock pot with remaining 2 cans of undrained beans, tomato sauce, chili powder, and chipotle peppers with their sauce.  Let cook on low 3-5 hours.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Add cilantro half an hour before serving.  Serve over rice, and topped with sour cream, cheese, and green onions.  


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cheese and Potato Soup

I didn't take any pictures, but this was a fabulous soup.  Thick, hearty, cheesy, and easy.  What's not to love?  The recipe was recommended by a friend- the original recipe is on epicurious.  My only changes were to use three large carrots, puree the finished product with a stick blender before adding the cheddar, and I used extra cheese (maybe 2 cups total?).  I left out the ham too, and let my family stir in bacon bits at the table, and sour cream.  

Cheese and Potato Soup
2 tablespoons vegetables oil
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
2 cups milk
1 10- to 12-ounce russet potato, peeled, diced
1 cup packed shredded sharp cheddar cheese (about 4 ounces)
1/2 cup chopped ham
Hot pepper sauce (such as Tabasco)
Chopped fresh parsley

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add celery, carrot, onion and thyme and sauté until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle flour over and stir 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in broth, then milk. Add potato and bring soup to boil. Reduce heat and simmer soup until potato is tender, about 20 minutes. Add cheese 1/3 cup at a time, stirring until melted and smooth after each addition. Mix in ham. Season soup to taste with hot pepper sauce, salt and pepper. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Bon Appétit
December 1995
by Dorothy Davis: Columbus, Ohio

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Black Bean Asparagus with Tofu

Asparagus must have hit its second wind here in New England (maybe the greenhouse crops?), but I've been seeing it on sale for quite a decent price lately!

This yummy Chinese dish cooks up really fast, and is low in fat and high in protein. What it lacks in authenticity, it makes up for in Sheer Tastiness.

Aunt LoLo's Black Bean Asparagus with Tofu
Serves 4

1/2 block firm tofu
1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 pound asparagus
1/2 tsp. black bean and garlic sauce (available at asian markets)
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. oyster sauce
1/2 tsp. cornstarch
1/4 cup Szechuan Preserved Vegetables (in the canned pickle aisle, at asian markets)

1) Prepare the asparagus. Rinse the stalks and snap the woody ends off. Cut the asparagus into 1" pieces and set aside.
2) Prepare the tofu. Cut the 1/2 block into 1/2" slices, and then cut those slices into 1/2" stripes, and then those strips into 1/2" pieces. (Did you catch all that? Just chop it up, ya'know?)
3) Prepare your seasonings. Rinse the Preserved Vegetables, and roughly chop. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup water with the cornstarch, black bean sauce, soy sauce, sugar and oyster sauce. Set aside.
4) In a small pot, heat up your olive oil until it starts to shimmer. Add in your preserved vegetables and cook until fragrant. Add the tofu and stir. Add the asparagus and 1/4" of water. Cover and steam until the asparagus is just barely tender, about 3 minutes.
5) Remove the lid and add your cornstarch slurry. (Be sure to give it a good stir before you pour it in.) Stir and continue cooking until the sauce comes to a boil and starts to thicken, about 1 minute.

Serve over rice.
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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Review: Betty Crocker Gluten Free Cake Mix

The other day, I found out rather last minute that a friend suddenly found herself free, the night before a new-state move, and could she pop over to see us?

Of course! I love visits...especially when I can cook for my guests.

This guest is gluten-intolerant, and so has always presented a special challenge. (I've known her for 11 years.)

And I do love a good challenge.

I knew she loved chocolate, and I had recently seen that my Stop n' Shop was carrying a new line of gluten-free Betty Crocker baking mixes. Score!

I decided on the Devils Food- definitely the right choice!

I really didn't miss the wheat flour. The crumbs were so tiny and tight, and the taste was spot on. Lo Gung doesn't like frosting (and I'm lazy), so I left these little beauties unfrosted. We each ate two, and I sent the rest home with my friend. They're a bit more expensive than the "normal" mixes, and it's a good thing. Otherwise, I would be tempted to keep a plate of these on my counter At All Times, just in case my friend decides to drive the 5 hours up to my place for a surprise visit! (It could totally happen...)

I give the Betty Crocker Gluten-Free mixes a definite thumbs up!
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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Aunt LoLo's Shrimp Coconut Curry

This dish came about by sheer force of will - I had shrimp in my freezer, slowly making everything else in my freezer shrimp flavored...so they had to go.

I had made curry before, with chicken, but knew that it could be delicious with shrimp as well.

Aaaaand, that's usually all the nudging I need to turn on the stove and start throwing things at the pot!!

This recipe got a thumbs up from the family, but for me it was maybe a B. If I had replaced the spinach with basil, then it would have been an A+++++! (Of course, that would require my basil in the garden to get taller than 1"...)

LoLo's Shrimp Coconut Curry
Serves 4-6
Time: 1 hour

2 T. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 potatoes, scrubbed and cubed
2 carrots, washed and sliced
1 1/2 heaping tsp. curry powder (I used an Indian curry blend. It's yellow, but spicier than the Chinese yellow curry blend.)
1/2 half can (about 3/4 c.) coconut milk
1 lb. raw shrimp, shelled and de-veined
6 handfuls raw baby spinach
sugar and salt

In a soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat, then throw in your onion. Cook until soft. Throw in your carrots and potatoes. Cook for about two minutes, stirring constantly. Add the curry powder, and continue to cook (and stir!) until the curry is fragrant.

When the curry is smelling nice and spicy, add in enough water to cover the veggies by about 1/2". Cover and simmer until the carrots and potatoes are fork tender, about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, clean and de-vein your shrimp. (Nobody wants a mudvein in their curry!) My shrimp were shell on, so Cleaning for me was peeling the shell and tail off, then using a sharp Santoku knife to make a small slit in the back of each shrimp. To take the tail off, hold the peeled shrimp in your left hand, and use your right hand to pinch the shrimp just above the tail "flippers." Carefully pull the two hands apart, and voila! To take the vein out, I used my fingers, and wiped them off on a dry paper towel to get rid of the vein.

When the potatoes are done cooking, take the lid off and check your consistency. Is it too thin? Boil for a few minutes to reduce it. Is it too thick? Add a little more water. The potatoes will begin to fall apart and thicken the sauce as well.

About 5 minutes before it's time to eat (maybe while your three year old is setting the table), throw your shrimp and spinach into the pot and stir it up. It should take about 3 minutes for your spinach and shrimp to cook - the spinach will wilt down to nothing, and the shrimp will turn a nice shade of pink.

2 minutes before serving time, add your coconut milk, plus sugar and salt to taste. (Note - do not bring the mixture back to a boil once the coconut milk is in.)

Serve over rice.


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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Jaimie Oliver's Butternut Squash Muffins

I saw a blog post about these muffins, and just had to give them a whirl - literally. The recipe calls for 14 oz. of seeded butternut squash, cut into smallish chunks, skin left on. Whirl that around in a food processor, then add your eggs, oil, vanilla, spices, sugar, flour...the usual suspects.

What comes out is a super tasty, super light and moist little muffin. He makes a frosting to go with it, but we're not really Frosting People 'round here.

I have to say, though - I much preferred these cooled off, out of the oven. The edges were crispy and sweet, and the insides and top were moist and sticky. After a night in the cookie jar, the crispy bits were gone.
Also, the recipe says that it makes 12 muffins. I'm not sure what size tin Mr. Oliver was using, but I (and several other reviewers) found that the recipe yielded considerably more than 12 standard-sized muffins. (And that was after I had filled the muffin liners nearly to the brim! Not a lot of lift in these guys.) My batch made 12 muffins, plus one medium-sized loaf.
The original recipe can be found here.

PB&J Smoothie

If you love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, this smoothie is for you!  (And if you're the only peanut-butter-lover in your family, as I am, then it's ONLY for you!  Luckily, it makes 1 breakfast serving.)

Peanut Butter and Jelly Smoothie

3/4 cup milk
2 Tablespoons peanut butter
3/4 cup frozen grapes
1 Tablespoon ground flax seed
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt

Blend until smooth- I use an immersion blender.  Adjust ingredient amounts if the consistency isn't to your liking.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Macaroni De-Luxe

Yes, De-Luxe is a word. Why? Because I say so. And because I tweaked this recipe out of a Southern cookbook that my grandmother found for my sister and I ages ago. (I think she actually stole it off one of her sister's shelves...but I could be wrong about that. Heh.)

I had volunteered last week to make some dinner for a friend who was expecting a baby. (As luck would have it, she had her baby right at dinnertime, on the day I had volunteered to cook. Her husband called from the hospital and said their doctor would like me to deliver the food there - lobster and steak please, with a good bottle of champagne. Pff. As if!)

However, the dinner was already made, so now...it sits. In my freezer. Awaiting the day when my friend no longer has enough food in her refrigerator to feed an army, and hasn't the will to cook anything. For, my friends, that day will come. And when it does, I'll be ready. Why?

Because I have the largest pan of macaroni I've ever seen, waiting for her in my freezer.

I wanted enough for my family, as well as hers, so this recipe makes two 9x13 pans. Please don't laugh at the ingredients. And please don't make the same mistake I did - if you serve this as a main course, it will serve 4-6 people, and you'll gain about 19 pounds.

Don't say I didn't warn you!

Macaroni Deluxe
(Adapted from "Macaroni and Cheese Deluxe", out of The Energizers' Powerful Good Cooking: a collection of recipes from retired employees of Alabama Power Company)


2 pounds macaroni noodles, cooked and drained

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 can evaporated milk

1 cup mayonnaise

1 tsp. minced garlic

1/2 tsp. black pepper

3 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese, divided

In a large bowl, whisk together the cream of mushroom soup, evaporated milk, mayonnaise, minced garlic and black pepper. Stir in 2 1/2 cups of grated cheddar cheese. Stir in your cooked macaroni, folding to coat.

Divide the macaroni between two 9x13 pans and sprinkle 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese on top of each pan.

Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes, or until the noodles are heated and the cheese is melted.

Alternately, this can be covered well with tin foil and frozen.

*The thing I love about this recipe is that it I can make it at a moment's notice, because these are all ingredients that I generally have in the pantry. So, when someone needs a dinner...I can whip this out and have it on their doorstep within 45 minutes.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Roasted Vegetable Soup

Food stylist I am not, but this was some GOOD soup! I can only give you guidelines, because this was created from what happened to be in my crisper drawer, but give it a go- I promise you won't be disappointed (and I think it will freeze well, too.)

Roasted Vegetable Soup

Hard winter vegetables (sweet potatoes, potatoes, beets, onions, carrots, squash)
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
Chicken stock or broth

So. Take all your winter vegetables- I used:
two sweet potatoes
two russet potatoes
six beets
one large onion
five carrots
one acorn squash

Scrub them well, and chop everything but the squash into large cubes- mine were about 1 1/2 inches. Throw all the veggies onto rimmed cooking sheets ("jelly roll pans") and drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. (My vegetables filled 2 pans.) Make sure they're not crowded, and everything is in a single layer- you want these to roast, not steam. Oh, and skin-sides down, please.

Roast at 400 degrees, giving the pan a good shake or stir every so often. You want the vegetables slightly caramelized at the edges, and knife-tender.

Meanwhile, cook your acorn squash. If you have a big oven, go ahead and poke the squash all over and throw it in there. I microwaved mine for about 20 minutes.

When everything is cooked and soft, throw it in a big pot. Cut the squash in half and discard the seeds, and scoop all the flesh into the pot. Add enough chicken stock to almost cover the vegetables and bring to a simmer. Puree (I used an immersion blender) and thin with more broth if needed.

Serve with cheese and croutons. (Mozzarella is nice. So is cheddar.)
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Making bread every other day...makes a LOT of heels. (What can I say? I don't like heels...and there's always a fresh loaf to cut into!)

Luckily, I've found a way to use up the bags of heels stashed in the freezer: croutons!

They're so simple- take your bread and cut into bite-sized cubes. Don't make something bigger than you'd want to find on your salad or soup...

Drizzle with plenty of olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, or whatever else floats your boat. Stir it all around to make sure ever piece is coated with olive oil, then baked on a rimmed cooking sheet at 400 degrees. Watch them closely, and stir or shake the pan a few times. They should be slightly browned, and crispy, crispy, crispy.
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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A (Healthier) Breakfast Casserole

Last night, I was staring at my fridge and larder, willing dinner to manifest itself to me. I couldn't find a recipe that used precisely what I had on hand, so I made one up.
I do that a lot. I'm simply too creative (read: lazy) to follow someone else's directions. Why make a dish that's been made before?
What I ended up with was a scrummy, slightly healthier version of a breakfast casserole. It puffed up in the oven, like a German pancake, and then settled down into a lovely golden layer once it cooled a bit.

Aunt LoLo's (Healthier) Breakfast Casserole

Serves 4-6


1/2 loaf stale bread, ripped into pieces
1/2 lb bacon, cut into pieces
1 tsp. minced garlic
6 eggs
2 cups skim milk
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Spread your bread pieces out in a 9x13 pan. Set aside.

In a large skillet, cook the bacon pieces until crispy. (Leave 'em soft if that's what you like!) When the bacon is nearly done, toss in a spoonful of minced garlic. Drain the fat away.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, skim milk, salt and pepper. When the bacon is done, toss that into the egg mixture, along with the cheese. Pour the egg/bacon/cheese mixture over your bread pieces and press down lightly through the mixture to make sure the bread is submerged and soaked.

Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook, at least 30 minutes.

Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes, or until the top is golden and the eggs are set.

Serve warm.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Great-Grandma Susie's Apple Cake

My friends...I canNOT believe I haven't shared this recipe with you yet! This is an old family favorite, from my great-grandmother. She was a humble woman, living in backwoods Alabama. What they ate they mostly raised themselves. They were frugal. They were gracious.

The story is that this apple cake could usually be found on Grandma Susie's sideboard, just waiting for a hungry child after school, or a friend who stopped by for a chat. (Because, down south, nobody stops by for a chat without having a bite to eat! My mother used to time her visits to "chat" for right after Great-Aunt Velma pulled her chicken n' biscuits out of the oven. Heh.)

Without further ado....

Great-Grandma Susie's Apple Cake
Makes 1 10-cup bundt cake

3 cups unsifted flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup oil
2 eggs, beaten
2 tsp. vanilla
3 Tbsp. artificial lemon juice (or 1 Tbsp. real)
3-4 cups firm apples, chopped (3 large apples)

Grease a 10-cup bundt cake pan and set aside. Preheat your oven to 350.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt and baking powder. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix together the oil, eggs, vanilla and lemon juice.

Gently mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in the apples.

Bake until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. (Approximately 75 minutes for a bundt cake.)

This is a rather rich cake, so we usually serve it in small slices, with a dollop of whipped cream.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Our Best Waffles

Back when I was first married I tried making waffles one night after work.  I rushed home, got all my ingredients together, separated the eggs, beat the egg whites separately, lovingly folded them back in, baked them in our brand new waffle iron, and....meh.  No different than Krusteaz waffles.  I really couldn't see what the pull of "homemade" food was, if it didn't taste any different than a boxed mix and took so much work!

Thankfully, I've since changed my  mind about "homemade" food, and decided to try waffles again to see if they were really worth the effort.  And oh, they are.  They really are.

This recipe is based on a basic waffle recipe from my go-to cookbook, Better Homes and Gardens.
Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book (Three Ring Binder Edition)

If you're looking for a basic, trust-worthy, cookbook then this is what you want!

I've made a few changes- I upped the flour by 1/4 cup and the sugar by a tablespoon.  I cut the oil from 1/2 cup down to two tablespoons (you're welcome, Dad!)

Like all quick breads, these need a quick and light hand for mixing.  Whisk it all together, but for goodness sake leave it lumpy!  A smooth batter means too much mixing, which means gluten developing, which means tough waffles.  Don't do it!

These waffles come out light and egg-y, and taste amazing with lemon juice and lots of powdered sugar.  Of course, Ernie likes them with bottled syrup...but there's no accounting for the tastes of a 4-year-old, she also likes ketchup on her Top Ramen and thinks hot dogs are the epitome of fine dining.


Our Best Waffles

2 cups buttermilk *
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons oil

2 cups flour
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat waffle iron.

Measure out the milk- beat in eggs, vanilla, and oil.

In a separate bowl whisk together dry ingredients.  Make a well in the center and pour in the liquids all at once.  Whisk together, but leave it lumpy!!

Grease waffle iron and pour in the batter quickly, being careful not to over-fill.  Cook until they stop steaming and peel out with a fork.

This makes about 12 waffles in my waffle iron, enough for 2 adults and 2 hungry toddlers!

Chocolate Syrup

Our family is on a quest to banish all processed foods.  Lofty?  Yes.  Snobby?  Possibly.  Feasible?  ...I'll get back to you on that one.

In that vein, I noticed that we were running low on a family staple- our Costco-tub of Nesquik was almost gone!  If you know my husband and daughter, you know this is a tragedy of epic proportions.  Now, a new tub of Nesquik doesn't cost all that much.  But have you seen the ingredients list?  Sugar, cocoa, salt, and a bunch of stabilizers and preservatives (aka corn and soy derivatives.)  Sugar, cocoa and salt I DEFINITELY keep on hand, why couldn't I make my own?

I found out quickly it was difficult to stir cocoa powder into a glass of milk- it kept beading and lumping and sticking to my glass and spoon.  However, I did find this recipe online for chocolate syrup- almost the same ingredients, and definitely easier to stir into a glass of milk!  (Multiple sites have this same recipe, so I'm linking to the first site that pops up when I google "chocolate milk syrup recipe." :)

The syrup is rich and 'dark', like Hershey's syrup.  It's almost a little too dark for my tastes, but Wonder Daddy thinks it's perfect.  (duh...it's chocolate!)

I haven't done a cost breakdown on this, but that's only because I have a five pound bag of cocoa powder in my pantry right now.  Yes really- I found it at our local Cash N' Carry, and the price was too good to resist (somewhere around $2 a pound.)  So for right now, this DEFINITELY beats the pants off that tub of Nesquik!  This takes about 5 minutes, and makes 20 ounces.

Chocolate Syrup

1 cup cocoa powder
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups cold water (or 1 for a very thick sauce)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Whisk cocoa powder and sugar together until the lumps are gone.  Add water and salt and mix well- cook to a boil over medium heat.  (I let it boil a minute or two to make it thicker.)  Add vanilla and let cool before pouring into jars.  Or alternatively, a splash of mint extract is really nice- just a touch, a little goes a long way!

Store in the refrigerator (it will thicken when chilled.)

Aunt LoLo's Pumpkin Butter

*Edited to add a step to the recipe. I had to puree my pumpkin butter because I didn't get a good puree on it when I first put it up in the freezer.

Last year, I convinced the husband that we needed three pumpkins from Stew Leonard's for Halloween. I mean - come on! There were three of us...it just seemed fair.

I need to stop here and ask you a question. You know how when you're at a huge warehouse store and a two pound package of yeast looks small? Because there's nothing really small to compare it to?

Alright - keep that in mind.

When we got our pumpkins home and weighed them, we realized we had just purchased slightly upwards of 100 pounds of pumpkin.

Can I get an oof?!

Then, to add to the Crazy, I was called out of town and couldn't be here for Halloween. We didn't even carve them.

I was told, in no uncertain terms, that if I didn't follow through on my promise to process and preserve all 100 pounds of pumpkin, I would be In Trouble.

I'm a smart girl, so I set aside a few days and dutifully cut, steamed, peeled, pureed, drained, bagged and froze all three pumpkins. I even roasted as many seeds as I thought we could eat! For the rest of the winter, you could be pretty sure that if I was invited to a party, I was going to show up with my Pumpkin Bread in tow.

Well, now that it's October, I figured that I ought to clear the last of that pumpkin out of my freezer, to make way for the new pumpkins I'm going to talk Lo Gung into buying this year! (Luckily, Stew's pumpkins seem noticeably smaller this year. Phew! Because now? There are four of us.) I had five baggies of pumpkin left in the freezer, which I threw in the crock pot on high until they were thawed. At that point, I added some spices, left the cover off, and let the slow cooker work its magic!

I kind of winged this, but I really like how it turned out. A lot of recipes online call for the addition of applesauce or apple juice, which would probably add a nice depth of flavour to this spread. However, as is, it's lovely spread on fresh bread. Even Siu Jeun likes it, straight from a spoon!

Please note - There are no safe ways approved to can pureed pumpkin at home - the mixture is simply too thick to achieve the correct germ-killing temperature. This pumpkin butter is a strictly keep-it-in-the-fridge-and-eat-it thing, or freeze it.

Aunt LoLo's Pumpkin Butter
Makes 2-3 pints
10 cups Pumpkin Puree (If you are using puree made from jack o' lantern pumpkins, you can shave quite a bit of time off of this project if you first drain the pumpkin for a few hours in a tea-towel lined colander.)
2 tsp. Saigon cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground Ginger
3/4 cup brown sugar, or to taste,
In a slow cooker, combine the pumpkin, cinnamon and ground ginger. Turn the cooker to high, and leave the lid off. Stir every hour or so. I found that, since my cooker heats all around the pot (as opposed to just on the bottom), I could move the process along by smearing my pumpkin around the inside of the pot, up the edges.
When the pumpkin butter has reached the desired consistency, sweeten to taste with the brown sugar and pack it into sterile containers (jars or plastic containers with lids). Store it in the refrigerator or freezer. (Freezer would be long term storage - anything over two weeks.)
I should add that my pumpkin was a little on the chunky side - I wasn't very careful about pureeing it last fall. To compensate for that, I let the pumpkin butter cool and then ran it through my food processor before packing it away.
Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pickled Watermelon Rinds

So, watermelon season is drawing to a close. As an homage to my southern roots, I decided to put up a few pints of pickled watermelon rinds this year. Mmmmm. Pickled Watermelon Rinds seems to be an American invention...and an acquired taste. Lo Gung despises these pickles. (Oh well - more for BBJ and me!) They're intensely sweet, and intensely sour, with a sniff of cloves thrown in for a kick.
In other words, they're divine!
I used the recipe from the 75th Anniversary edition of Joy of Cooking, modified just a bit for the amount of watermelon I had on hand. (About half of the watermelon the recipe called for. The original recipe called for 20 pounds of watermelon, to yield 8-10 1-pint jars. I had one 10-pound watermelon.)
First, cut your watermelon into eights, then cut away most of the red flesh. Save it, eat it, juice it...just don't pickle it. Not crunchy = Not tasty here.

Once the flesh cut away, you can hold your watermelon rind in your hand and, using a vegetable peeler, careful pare away the green outer rind. You want to be left with just the white part on the outside. The green part will never get soft during the pickling process.

(Do you love how I'm multitasking here? I fed the kids lunch while I was prepping my watermelon. If I do big cooking projects while they're asleep...they don't stay asleep for long!)

Once your green outer skin is peeled away, you can dice up your rinds. Cut them into pieces that are approximately 1" square. (Incidentally, these pickles aren't really good for anything except snacking. Not as far as I know. Anyone else have any great uses for these fabu little pickles?)
Blanch your little pickle-ettes in boiling water until they are crisp-tender, about ten minutes. Drain and set aside in a large non-reactive bowl or another container you can cover.

Now for the fun part - the pickling!

Gather your materials: white vinegar, sugar, cinnamon and powdered cloves.

Put your ingredients together in a large pot (I used a 5-qt dutch oven) and bring to a boil.

Pour your boiled syrup into your large bowl, just covering the watermelon rinds. Cover and let them hang out in the refrigerator overnight.

On the second day, drain the syrup back out into a large pan and bring to a boil again. Then pour it back over the rinds. Cover and let it chill out, just like the first night.

(That golden wire-y thingy in the bowl up there is called a "spider" and I LOVE it. It's perfect for scooping things out of liquids. We use it for wontons, making pickles, boiling greens...whatever needs to be scooped and drained! I picked mine up at a restaurant supply shop in Chinatown, but I've seen them all over the place. The bamboo handle makes it nice and sturdy - my plastic "spider" tends to bend when I scoop up anything heavy.)

On the third day, put the whole mess into a big pan and bring it to a boil. Remove the rinds to your prepared jars, then add your hot syrup. Process your cans....and you've got pickles that will last the rest of the year!

Pickled Watermelon Rinds
(Adapted from Joy of Cooking)
Day 1: Slice, de-fruit and peel 10 pounds of watermelon. Cut the watermelon rinds into 1" squares and blanch in boiling water until crisp-tender - about ten minutes. Drain and set aside in a large non-reactive bowl.
In a large skillet or pot, combine 3 1/2 cups sugar, 1 cup distilled white vinegar, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon and 1/4 tsp. ground cloves.
Bring to a boil. Pour over the watermelon rinds. Cover, cool, and store in the refrigerator overnight to plump the pickles.
Day 2: Drain the syrup back into a large skillet or pot. Bring to a boil. Pour over the pickles. Cool as on Day 1.
Day 3: Prepare 4 or 5 pint-sized jars for canning. Pour the pickles and syrup into a large pot or dutch oven. Bring to a boil. Using a slotted spoon, pack the hot rinds into your prepared (read: warm) jars, then pour in enough syrup to cover the rinds and leave 1/2" of headspace. (Any pickles that lack the proper amount of syrup can be packed away into jars and put into the refrigerator for immediate consumption. Or foisted off onto your friends. Make sure you pick friends that like intensely sweet and sour pickles, otherwise you might lose your friends.)
Process 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.
(For more information on how to can, visit www.FreshPreserving.com)

No Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

This recipe came from the Sun Times. I was looking for some butter-free chocolate chip cookies to serve at a party at home. These are tasty, but I really prefer my cookies a bit thicker and chewier. However, if you are looking for a dairy-free (sub out the chocolate chips!) cookie to nibble on, and like them on the crispy side, these are for you!
(See my notes in parenthesis below.)

No Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from a recipe at Sun Times

In a medium bowl, whisk together:

2 1/4 cups flour

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. (Saigon) cinnamon

In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat well:

2 eggs


1/4 cup oil

Blend until well mixed.

Add and mix in well:

1/2 cup white sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

Add the flour mixture into the egg mixture slowly, and then fold in:

1 cup chocolate chips

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto a Silpat lined cookie sheet and bake at 375 for 9-11 minutes.

1/2 cup white sugar

1 tsp. Saigon cinnamon

Monday, September 28, 2009

Lo Gung's Razor Clams with Jalapenos

(Foreground: Razor clams with jalapenos. Background: Italian Asiago Sausage with carrots and broccoli)

We've developed a love affair with the razor clam. (As an aside, I never had ANY idea why the clam actually had that name. I had always assumed razor was a kind of messed up "racer" and the clams were really fast and, thus, hard to catch. Heh. Turns out they're called "razor clams" because they're long and skinny. Like a knife. Or a shaving razor.)

When we find fresh razor clams, I know just what to do - hand them to Lo Gung and walk away!

On that note, I'm going to hand this over to Lo Gung. I asked him for his recipe, to share with y'all. (I really hope this doesn't backfire. Honey, you're still the official Clam Cooker, right? Right? *chirp chirp*)

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1 Tablespoon of vegetable oil
1 1/2 Tablespoon of Minced Garlic
1 Tablespoon of Black Bean Sauce
1 chopped hot pepper (skinny ones - with seeds removed)
1 lbs of razor clams

1) Heat oil in pan until "hot". sizzling if you touch it with a chopstick
2) Stir in the garlic and let garlic cook a little bit (not too long - do NOT burn the garlic)
3) Add clams to the oil and garlic
4) Stir in the black bean sauce
5) cover and cook for 3 minutes and stir
5a) add in the peppers and stir
6) check to see if clams are all opened (if they are, they are done)
7) if not, stir, cover, and let it cook for another 2 minutes.

Then enjoy.

As always, this is a Chinese-style "side dish", meant to be served family style and eaten with a bowl of white rice and one or two other "sides", preferably vegetables.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

MaMa's Oatmeal

I can't believe I haven't posted this yet!

Well, actually, I can. It's oatmeal. Oatmeal porridge. It's grey and...it's oatmeal.

However, fear not - this happens to be one of my mother's favorite breakfasts when she's visiting us. This is how my mother-in-law (MaMa) cooks oatmeal for her family. She cooks it nearly every morning, and serves it with a slice of buttered toast and a glass of milk for a breakfast that is healthy and very tasty! The oatmeal is cooked slowly over medium heat, to make a porridge that isn't watery and isn't gloppy. Delicious!

MaMa's Oatmeal

(adapted by Aunt LoLo)


1 cup Old-Fashioned Oats

3 1/2 cups water

1/4 cup brown sugar (unpacked), or to taste (I just use the 1/4 cup scoop in my canister and scoop a bit out.)

In a medium saucepan, combine the oats and water. Cover and place over medium heat. Stay close - if this mess boils over, it's a bear to clean up.

Once the mixture starts to bubble, uncover and keep it at a simmer until the water thickens and gets glossy - about 10 minutes.

Add sugar to taste and serve!

Kids love this. Adults love this. Perfect for an autumn morning!

*Serves 2

(In the original recipe, MaMa soaks the oats for about 20 minutes before cooking, so that they don't need to simmer so long. Also, she uses white sugar, to taste - approximately 2 T.)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Curry-Chicken-Noodle-ish Noodles with Carrots

Just dashing in to share this recipe before I forget it. Both kids love it, it was relatively painfree to make, and it's just as good the second day.

Aunt LoLo's Curry-Chicken-Noodle-ish Noodles with Carrots
2 carrots
1/2 pound pasta (macaroni works well)
2 tsp. chicken base
1 pinch curry powder
1 tsp. olive oil

In a soup pot, bring water to a boil (enough to boil pasta). Add the carrots and simmer until nearly tender. Add the pasta, chicken base and curry powder. Boil until the noodles are cooked to desired tenderness. (I like to boil it a bit past al dente when serving it to my little guy. He's not a fan of hard foods yet.)

Strain, toss with olive oil and serve!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Chinese Iced Tea

Behold, floral, yummy BLISS. I have no idea why it's taken me so long to make this, but I know I'll be making it again soon!!
Chrysanthemum tea is very popular in Hong Kong, both for its health benefits and for its great taste. As you can see in the photo above, it's nothing more than water and dried flowers. Kinda pretty, isn't it?
Chrysanthemum tea is served unsweetened in most tea houses and dim sum parlors. However, it can also be bought in little boxes, like our juice boxes, complete with straws and enough sugar to satisfy even the pickiest of third graders. The second beverage is what I was setting out to recreate.
(One warning - when I finished steeping my tea, it was a lovely, rich yellow, just as I was used to. When I returned to the tea a few hours later...it hard turned a rich, emerald GREEN. Even the flowers, still sitting in the strainer in the sink, had turned green. Just didn't want anyone to get scared when their iced tea goes leprechaun on them!)
Aunt LoLo's Iced Chrysanthemum Tea
You'll need:
A soup pot full of water
1/2 cup dried chrysanthemums (available at any Chinese grocery or medicine shop)
Rock sugar, to taste. (I used a block about the size of my fist...I suppose that would be about 1 cup of white sugar?)
Combine everything in your pot, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and simmer until everything tastes right and the sugar is dissolved, about 7-9 minutes.
Pour the contents of your pot into a metal sieve placed over a large heat-safe bowl. Allow the tea to cool, and then put it in a pitcher in the refrigerator.
The flowers can be re-used if you like: refill your pot with water, put the flowers back in with sugar, and make a second pot of tea. I wouldn't recommend waiting too long between batches - you don't want your flowers to mildew! I made up two pots, and by my calculations it cost me about $2, total. I made this tea very sweet, in homage to my Alabama heritage, but you can add as little or as much sugar as you like. Also, this tea is very good for you. It is "cooling", meaning that if you are "heaty", as a result of lack of sleep or over indulgence in junk foods, this tea will help to balance that out. Symptoms of being too "heaty" are a swollen tongue, canker sores, bad breath and breakouts on your face.
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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Crumbs Bake Shop: Hostess Cupcake

We have a new favorite sweet shop out here - Crumbs Bake Shop.

There are several locations around the NYC area, but we are lucky enough to have one within about 40 minutes of the house.

These are, hands down, the best cupcakes I have ever had.

Let me put it this way - Lo Gung hates frosting. (Just ask my father - every birthday cake always has one little corner left naked, just for Lo Gung!) Lo Gung ate all his frosting on his cupcake.. Whoa.

Proof #2 - When I asked Lo Gung what kind of cake he wanted for his birthday, he said, "Crumbs cupcakes!" Harumph! Guess he doesn't want a homemade cake this year!

This beauty is the Hostess Cupcake. Mmmm...it's one of their "Signature" size, meaning that two people could share it easily. (Think Costco muffin size!) (There are small cupcakes available, but their flavors are a lot less frilly - plain vanilla or chocolate, with icing, with or without sprinkles. These small ones run about $2.50. There are also tasting boxes of mini cupcakes.)

These aren't cheap - about $3.50 a pop. However, you'd pay the same for a trip to an ice cream parlor!

We have found, however, that the cupcakes with fillings are drier than their un-filled cousins. Stick with the unfilled cupcakes, and you will not be sorry.

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(Besides the Hostess cupcake, we have also tried the Red Velvet, the Pina Colada, and several of their vanilla varieties, with either strawberry or chocolate icing. All delicious...but the Red Velvet and vanilla cupcakes are definitely my favorite.)

Making Butter(milk)

Step 1. Get your hands on some heavy whipping cream and a jar with a lid. Oh, and a pair of strong arms.
Step 2. Pour the cream into the jar. (Note, about half way through the shaking process, I put half of the cream into another jar. You want to leave plenty of room for the cream to MOVE. Don't fill your jar more than 2/3 of the way full. 1/2 way is better.)
(Oh, and yes - these are baby food jars you're looking at. We didn't have much cream on hand.)

Step 3. SHAKE IT. Shake it up, shake it sideways, shake it like those bartenders you see on TV. Whatever floats your boat. First it will slosh around, then it will slosh slower and slower. Then, it will be really hard to slosh. That's when you grab the jar with both hands and...

...SHAKE it UP and DOWN, like those glass ketchup bottles in diners that never let the ketchup out without a fight. Pretty soon....PLOP. You'll hear your butter hit the top of the jar while the buttermilk sloshes around inside the jar. Shake it another minute or so to make sure the fat is good and stuck together, and then...

...VOILA! You've got butter! Strain the buttermilk out (save it to make pancakes!) and wash your butter until the water runs clear. You want to get all the buttermilk of of your butter - it will keep it fresh longer.

Now, go find yourself some yummy bread and start spreading your homemade butter!

(Note - this butter is really sweet and tasty, but it would taste better on bread with some salt in it. Anyone know if I'm supposed to add the salt pre or post shaking?? I wasn't sure how to work salt into already-made butter...so I just left it as is.)

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Eggs and Tomatoes

*Edited....the ingredients should have read "minced garlic", not "minced (blank)". Sorry!

When I lived in Hong Kong, this was absolutely, hands-down, my favorite lunch. We would find a cart on the street - restaurants couldn't get this dish right for some reason. For a few bucks you could get enough rice to feed a full grown man and two sides. I always chose a vegetable and eggs with tomatoes. The tomatoes are stewed down and combined with sugar and garlic, then a beaten egg is gently cooked in. The result is sweet and savory and garlicky and absolutely delicious.

This is my version of the dish...enjoy!

Aunt LoLo's Eggs and Tomatoes
2 T. oil

1 tsp. minced garlic

3 roma tomatoes, cut in wedges (or one large beefsteak tomato, or equivalent)

2 eggs, beaten

2 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. soy sauce

1/2 tsp. sesame oil

2 green onions, sliced

In a medium skillet, heat the oil until shimmering, then add the garlic. Sautee until fragrant and add the tomatoes. Reduce heat to medium, cover and let the tomatoes cook until they release their juices and the peels are coming off - about 5-8 minutes. Meanwhile, scramble two eggs in a small bowl. When the tomatoes are ready, gently pour the eggs into the skillet. Allow the eggs to simmer on the juice until they are almost set, then gently stir to break up the eggs. (You want scrambled eggs in stewed tomatoes, not egg-drop tomato soup!) Before you stir in the solid eggs, add in the sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar and green onions. Adjust the seasonings to taste.

Serve over rice.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Easy Peasy Cheesy Chili Dip

This dip is great for a party, or a cold afternoon, or...anytime you really just need something to dunk your Wheat Thins in.

(*Note - while the bowl above IS lovely, please do not leave your crackers stuck into the dip for any long period of time. They melted. Thank you.)

LoLo's Easy Peasy Cheesy Chili Dip
Adapted from the memory of a similar dip her grandmother served at a family gathering 10 years ago...so she's sure it came from a women's magazine somewhere

In a microwave safe bowl, combine 1 can chili** and 8 oz. cream cheese*.

Microwave for about 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, or until the cheese is almost melted and the chili is heated through. Stir to combine thoroughly.

Serve with crackers.

Can be kept in a teeny-tiny crockpot during the party to keep warm.

*You can substitute Velveeta cheese for the cream cheese for a truly tailgate-esque experience.

**I used Cattle Drive Chicken Chili.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Aunt LoLo's Pasta Salad

I love to make pasta salad in the summer time. It's perfect - boil up the noodles in the morning when the house is still (relatively) cool, mix everything up and stick it in the fridge until dinner time. Perfect!

My salads are always different, every time I make them, depending on what I find in the pantry and refrigerator...and what I'm in the mood for.

Here's today's version.
Aunt LoLo's Pasta Salad
Serves 4-6 as a main dish, 8-12 as a side dish
(This is great in the summer - you can boil the noodles in the morning while the house is still cool, and have dinner ready whenever you are.)

1 lb pasta
1/4 cup Italian dressing
1 can crab
1/4 cup chopped olives
1/2 lb frozen peas and carrots
3 T. chopped sun-dried tomatoes
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste

Boil the pasta according to directions, then drain and rinse under cold water. Drain well and remove to a large bowl.
Add in the Italian dressing, crab meat, chopped olives, frozen peas and carrots, chopped sun-dried tomatoes and eggs and stir to combine.
Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Store in the refrigerator until ready to eat.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Chinese Pork and Watercress Soup

My husband, Lo Gung, made the yummiest soup. It is very simple - watercress and lean pork, simmered together with some honey dates. Chinese soups are great because they use the leanest cuts of meat available, skim off any fat that does manage to make its way into the soup, and boil the pot until ever last possible vitamin is wrung out of the vegetables...and into the delicious, dark broth.

The remaining chunks of meat and vegetables can be eaten over rice, but are usually dipped in soy sauce as they have relinquished all their natural flavors to the soup!

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Chinese Pork and Watercress Soup
Serves 6
In a soup pot, combine:
5 honey dates
1/2 lb lean pork (I used two 1" pork chops)
Two generous bunches watercress
Simmer for 2-3 hours, or until the broth is rich and dark.
Tip: While simmering the soup, place a wooden chopstick along one rim of the pot, and put the lid on top of that, so that it is slightly open. This will prevent boil-overs.
(Yes, I always leave the lid ajar while simmering soup...but for some reason, simply leaving it ajar does not prevent boil overs - you must use the chopstick. Infuriating, but true.)

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Moving Cookie

These are based on a recipe for Ranger Cookies from my every-trusty Better Homes & Gardens cookbook. We've been looking for a good "travelling" cookie for Wonder Daddy to pack on long bike rides and runs- after one bite he looked at me and declared "These are the perfect cookie!" At fifty calories per cookie, 1 gram of protein, and almost a gram of fiber, I think I might agree. Next time, we'll use whole wheat flour, and cut the sugar back- I think the white sugar could be cut out entirely, and these would still be plenty sweet.

The cookies are cake-like and moist, and with the cinnamon and applesauce are really delicious, kind of like concentrated cider. The coconut and oats give them a nice chew, and the dried fruits plump up and moisten. These would also make a delicious treat for anyone on a dairy-free diet.

Wonder Daddy's Traveling Cookie
makes about 36 cookies

1/2 cup applesauce 1 egg 1 tsp vanilla 3 Tbsp flax seed 1/2 cup brown sugar 1/2 cup sugar 1/2 tsp baking powder 1/4 tsp baking soda 1 tsp cinnamon 1 cup oats 1 1/4 cup flour 1/2 cup dried blueberries 1/2 cup dried cranberries 1 cup coconut

Mix wet ingredients, then stir in dry ingredients. Drop by rounded teaspoonful onto a greased cookie sheet, and bake at 375 for 8 minutes.

Nutrition information from this website

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 22 g
Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat
% Daily Value*
Total Fat
Saturated Fat
Total Carbohydrates
Dietary Fiber
Vitamin A 0%Vitamin C 1%
Calcium 1%Iron 2%
Nutrition Grade C

* Based on a 2000 calorie diet

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Mango Pudding

This was one of my favorite desserts when I lived in Hong Kong, and I love to order it whenever I go for dim sum. This can be made with just about any juicy fruit - peaches, apricots, raspberries, strawberries...whatever you've got.

Mango Pudding (easy way):
Serves 12

12 oz. Evaporated Milk (skim is fine)
2 Mangoes, diced and divided
1 large box flavored gelatin (8 serving size) (Use mango if you can find it, but I used pineapple flavor, and it was divine with the mangoes!)
2 cups boiling water

In a medium bowl, combine the water and gelatin. Stir well to combine.

In a food processor or blender, puree 3/4 of the diced fruit. Add the evaporated milk and blend to combine.

Stir the milk and the water mixtures together, mixing very well, and pour into an 8x8 glass pan.

Throw in the reserved mango chunks, cover the pan with plastic wrap or a lid, and refrigerate until firm (about 3 hours).

For those that care about this sort of thing, this dessert comes out to about 100 calories per serving - it's very refreshing on a hot day, and won't ruin your diet!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Asparagus and Spinach Hot Pasta Toss

Sometimes it's the last minute meals, pulled together from whispy memories of recipes, that turn out the greatest. Perhaps it's because the expectation is so low, we're delighted at any measure of success?

At any rate, this is the first meal in a long time that had Wonder Daddy and I fighting over the last bites (he won...but I got to scrape the pan.)


This is best served hot, straight from the stove. I had some greens left over from last week's CSA box that needed using-- asparagus and spinach-- but I imagine that many vegetables would be just as lovely, but these worked especially well because of their basically unassertive flavors.

Asparagus and Spinach Hot Pasta Toss
Olive Oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
a few pinches Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
1 bunch asparagus, chopped to 1-inch pieces
1 bunch spinach, chopped to 1-inch pieces
1/2 lemon
1 pound cold pasta
Shredded Parmesan Cheese

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the sliced garlic and crushed red pepper flakes- saute until fragrant. Throw in the asparagus, and the zest and juice of the half lemon- the juice should really sizzle in the pan. When the asparagus is just crunchier than you'd like it to be, add in the spinach, and then the noodles to heat. Glug in a little more olive oil, to nicely coat the noodles.

Top with generous handfuls of shredded Parmesan cheese, and let sit for a few moments until cheese is nicely melted- you could speed this along by throwing the lid on.

Serve hot.