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 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.  ('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 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!