Saturday, January 30, 2010

Lori's Kickin' Queso and Kicking Habits

I made some queso for the party. I haven't had cheese dip in so long. I wanted one that utilized some cheddar that I had in the fridge. I am trying to decrease my grocery bill and utilize whatever I have on hand.

This was my splurge this week. Yes, I have been dieting or rather I have changed my lifestyle. I am eating 1500- 1600 calories a day. I didnt want to say anything on my blog because i said last year and managed to gain all of it back. Classic I know.

You know I am a fan of the Biggest Loser and have been watching it faithfully every season for a couple years now. It inspires me. I do go to the gym often. Really I have all my life. I am just fat anyway. It's funny, there are some things about Biggest Loser that irritate the pee out of me. One, is that fat people are portrayed as garbage/junk food eaters. While I understand that a lot of people in this country eat junk, both big and small, this is not the case for everybody. You see, I was raised in a family that went to the market and bought fresh fruit and vegetables regularly. I picked them and canned them as a child with my family as well.

Even though I was active as a child, I was plump. My Mother never bought junk food when I was growing up. No sugared cereals, no candy, no chips. I ate healthy and despite my activity level I was still chunky. (No, I don't have a thyroid problem, I have been checked ad nauseum and also for diabetes). I will admitedly say that I eat too much of the good stuff and I know that is my problem. You see, what I have found, through much dieting in my life (and exercising) is that the ONLY way I lose weight is to eat 1200 calories a day. And I get real hungry. And after some amount of time I can't stand it anymore and I overeat- because I hate being hungry. There, I said it. Look down on me if you want to. As my friends brother told me years ago, you lack will power and maybe I do, but it is real hard to be hungry. I did quit smoking 12 years ago. That's willpower isn't it?

One of these days... I wish there was a study that looked at what people really consume- calorie wise. Because those charts that tell me what amount of calories I should consume are WAY over. They say I should eat 1800 to lose slowly but steadily. 1800 is maintenance for me. 1600 is slow, as in weeks without loss. Maybe like a pound or two a month. How many calories do you consume on a given day? I am just curious.

Lori's Kickin' Queso
This is party size, so if you are making for a smaller group be sure to scale the recipe accordingly.

4 cups sharp cheddar, grated (if you grate your own, you will avoid nasty chemicals that help to keep the cheese from sticking together.)
1 teaspoon Tabasco or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup chopped pickled jalapenos
1/2 cup roasted red pepper, minced finely
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1 small onion, minced fine
2 cups milk
1/2 cup beer
1 teaspoon Lawry's salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons Brewer's yeast* (optional)

In a large bowl place grated cheese, pickled jalapenos and red pepper. Saute onions, until soft, cool and add to mixture in bowl.

In a saucepan melt butter, add flour, whisking frequnetly. Let the butter and flour brown to make you cheese dip more tastey. Golden not dark brown. Add the milk, whisking constantly to break up lumps. Stir in salt and garlic powder. Bring to a boil to thicken. Pour directly into cheese mixture in bowl. Stirring constantly to melt the cheese. Stir in beer.

If you find that it will not completely melt the cheese, cover and place int he microwave for a minute or two.

* Bench Notes- I recognize that most people will not have Brewers yeast in their pantry or may not even know what it is. I had the good fortune of finding out about it years ago. You can find it at Natural Food stores. It is in flake form or powder. It tastes a little sharp and nutty. I love to sprinkle it on my popcorn. (Thanks to my cousin Rosan for showing me that little trick). It is great in soups as well. If you are wondering why it is called Brewer's Yeast, it's because its used to make beer. "It also can be grown specifically to make nutritional supplements. Brewer's yeast is a rich source of minerals -- particularly chromium, an essential trace mineral that helps the body maintain normal blood sugar levels; selenium; protein; and the B-complex vitamins... Brewer's yeast has been used for years as a nutritional supplement." (University of Maryland Medical Center).

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Happy Birthday Girls

Our Holidays don't end with New Year's Day. We have our daughters birthdays in January. So after Christmas I am on full game getting ready for birthday parties, etc. We have a little party on their individual birthdays and then a bigger party with our friends and their friends on a day in between their birthdays. So I make a lot of cakes, I try to keep it small so we don't have a ton left over. These are a couple of the cakes I made.

It was great that I could utilize the leftover frosting from the monkey cake. My daughter said she wanted a flower, my Mom suggested sunflower. Hey- perfect. Good idea Mom! I am blessed to have my Mother around. She is a very wise woman and a walking encyclopedia. Really- she could blow Jeopardy out of the water. Problem is, she would freeze up in front of the cameras. You can imagine with her wisdom that I call her at least once a day looking for advice on cooking, canning, child rearing...

We really enjoyed celebrating the children's birthdays. I count my blessings to know that I have two beautiful children. Even though I complain about the challenges of raising children sometimes, they are of course, the apples of my eye.
Isn't that a cool card that my brother and his wife sent my daughter? The ferris wheel spins around.

Confetti White Cake
Cooks Illustrated recipe found here at Epicurious.

2 1/4 cups cake flour (9 ounces), plus more for dusting the pans
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
6 large egg whites (3/4 cup), at room temperature
2 teaspoons Marachino cherry juice
1/4 cup rainbow sprinkles
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar (12 1/4 ounces)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened but still cool

Set oven rack in middle position. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment or waxed paper rounds. Spray the paper rounds.

Combine milk, egg whites, and vanilla extract and maraschino juice into a small bowl, and mix with fork until blended.

In a seperate bowl mix cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Blend at slow speed. Add butter; continue beating until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no powdery streaks remaining.

Add all but 1/2 cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed (or high speed if using handheld mixer) for 1 1/2 minutes. Add remaining 1/2 cup of milk mixture and beat 30 seconds more. Be sure to scrape down sides of bowl occassionally to make sure everything is incorporated. Fold in sprinkles.

Divide batter evenly between two prepared cake pans. Bake until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 23 to 25 minutes. Let cakes rest in pans for 10 minutes. Loosen from sides of pans with a knife, if necessary, and invert onto wire racks. Reinvert onto additional wire racks. Let cool completely, about 1 1/2 hours before frosting.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Cinnamon Buns

When I used to work in dialysis, one of my fellow Social Workers brought these bad boy buns to a meeting. We all melted over them. She's said, "ah they are so easy- anyone can make them." At that time I wasn't very yeast savvy. I had some fear of it. I thought maybe easy for you but not for me. She gave us all her recipe and her tip to making them a little over the top. It took me a while but I finally worked up the nerve and made them. This was some years ago. I haven't made them since I started my blog and wanted to share the recipe with you all. I was just waiting for the perfect time.

Then I saw Ingrid posting about some bun recipe that Katy gave her and I thought, hey if she is game to make Katy's, I will send her the recipe and maybe she will like this one too. I know we love it. So Katy- you have to try these buns. If you dont know either of these two lovely gals, click on their names and check out their blogs. They both make amazing things.

Frosted Cinnamon Rolls
adapted from a Taste of Home Recipe

1 cup milk
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups bread flour
1/4 cup instant vanilla pudding mix
1 T sugar
1 T active dry yeast

1/4 cup bitter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

you can put the remainder of the pudding in the frosting if you like.

4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1 1/2 t milk
1/2 t vanilla extract

In a bowl or in a mixer, combine flour, vanilla pudding mix, salt, sugar and yeast. In another bowl combine milk and water. Make a well in the center of the flours or beat in with a KA- the milk and water. Add the egg and the softened butter to that well. Stir the mixture together in the center, pulling the flour into the mix, until allt he flour is incorporated. Add more flour or water, depending on what is needed. If the dough feels dry add a tablespoon of water. If the dough is too sticky add a tablespoon of flour. Knead the dough on a surface or continue to knead in a mixer, whichever you are using. When it is a soft and smooth, place in a bowl, cover and let rise until it had doubled in size- about an hour.

After the rise, roll out the dough to a 17x10 inch square. Spread with butter; sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon. Roll, jelly roll style, starting from long end. Pinch sides and seam to seal. Cut into 20 or 21 pieces. Place 12 slices in a 13x9x2 inch pan. Place the remaining 9 rolls in a 9 inch pan. Cover and let rise until doubled- about 45 minutes. Bake at 350F for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown. Frost warm rolls.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Savory Apple and Pork Pie

This is a recipe in the making so to speak. I had this idea and I am still working with it to see what I can come up with to make it better. Pork and apples go pretty good together of course. Apples and cheese go good together. And let'ace it, just about anything with cheese is good. I wanted to make a meal out of these components.

I made a pie crust that I saw on this show on Tina Nordstrom show that airs on Create TV. I browned some ground pork in a frying pan and added some leftover breakfast sausages. I then layered in Jonagold apples and topped with some swiss cheese. I liked the flavors. What it really needs is some sauce to pull it all together. I didnt want to do an egg type thing like a quiche. The obvious choice here I think is a bechamel poured in. But if any of you have any ideas of a lighter style sauce that would work well here I would love to know.

Pork and Apple Pie

pie crust (Tina Nordstrom: New Scandinavian Cooking, click here for recipe)
1/4 cup (50 g) softened butter
1 1/2 cups (4 dl) flour
1/2 cup (11/2 dl) milk
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt


2 Jonagold apples or other firm apple, peeled, cored and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 1/2 pounds ground pork
6 breakfast sausage links, cooked and chopped
1 teaspoon Lawry's seasoned salt
pepper to taste
pinch of sage
2 cups grated Swiss cheese, Gouda or Gruyere

Brown ground pork in saute pan, along with sausage links. Drain any excess fat and season with sage, seasoned salt and pepper. Set aside to cool.

Mix pie crust dough and roll out to 1/4 inch thickness. Fold and place in a 10 inch spring form pan. Carefully push dough down the inside of the pan, covering all spaces. Do not trim the dough, whatever is hanging over the side, let it be. Once your pork mixture is cool spoon it into the bottom of your pie shell. Add layer of sliced apples. And sprinkle the cheese over top. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake in a 375F oven for about 45minutes. Remove foil and bake 15 minutes more. When top is a little golden remove from oven. With a sharp knife, remove the dough that is hanging down the side. Remove sides of the springform. Let sit at least ten minutes before attempting to move or cut. If you try to cut it too soon, it will fall over.

Bench Notes: Next time I make this, it will be with a becahmael poured over the pork before layering in the apples and cheese. Or with the eggs and half and half. Unless someone out there has a lighter idea.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Turkey Burgers

A lot of times my turkey burgers come out dry and bleh. I am so excited because my turkey burgers have turned the corner. These were tastey, moist and delicious. Okay so I am tooting my horn here but how else am I going to tell you that this recipe is worth trying.

After Thanksgiving, for the past three years, I have made some serious turkey fixings. The first thing I do the week after Thanksgiving is go shopping for turkey. You know the week when everyone is sick of turkey and the stores have it marked down because they have an abundance. I buy two turkeys. I butcher them, reserving turkey legs for one or two dinners. The remainder of the meat I place in the meat grinder. The bones, skin, giblets and heart are baked in the oven until they reach crispy perfection. The browner the better. I take the bones et al and place it in a large stock pot with some onion, celery, carrots, bay leaves, peppercorns (crushed) and whatever other veggies I have around. I bring it to a boil and simmer it for three hours. Whew. I am tired just thinking about it. It's a lot of work I admit but well worth it. You end up with a lot of broth, ground turkey and turkey legs enough for many meals to come at a fraction of the cost. Oh, and after the carcasses have boiled I do salvage the meat and mix it with mayo for turkey salad.

After boiling the broth, I strain it and chill the clear broth. I scrape the fat off and freeze it in small containers for future soups.
Italian Turkey Burgers

1 1/2 lbs of ground turkey
2 teaspoons worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon of rosemary seasoning
1/2 teaspoon oregano
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chiffonade
2 teaspoons of olive oil
s and p
1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
1 egg or 2 egg yolks (I used the yolks since I always have some left over from my egg white breakfast)

Combine all the ingredients together. The oil is added in because the ground turkey is fat free. If your turkey has fat in it you don't need to add the oil.

Spray frying pan with cooking spray or very lightly grease. Fry until both sides are browned on a medium high flame. Add about a 1/2 cup up to a cup of water to the pan cover and steam until the turkey is cooked through.

* Bench Notes: I discovered this by accident as the outside of my turkey burgers were cooking faster than the inside and I thought what am I going to do here? I added the water and quite by accident discovered it worked real well. Adding the water to finish cooking the turkey burgers gave them a really nice texture and moistness. I will always do my turkey burgers like this from now on.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Black Bean Soup Crock Pot Style

Lately I have been into my crockpot. Since I bought the new crockpot for yogurt it has reignited my love for crock pot cooking. I cooked a ham in it last week. It was one of the juciest hams I have ever had. I placed pineapple slices in the bottom of the crock and poured the rest of the juice in there along with about a cup of water in before placing my ham inside. I had to lop off the end of the ham to get it to fit. In five hours my bone in ham was done. Juicey and tastey.

Having ham makes me think about black bean soup. No winter would be complete without black bean soup. This time I wanted to do my stand by recipe in the crock pot.


2 cups dried black beans
8 cups water or broth
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 cup sherry
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons Worcestershire
2 bay leaves
4 slices bacon, crisped and crumbled
2 carrots, chopped
2 onions coarsely chopped
2 cups ham, small cubes

Add all ingredients to the crockpot except for the ham. Cook on low for about 6 to 8 hours. Puree soup and add in ham before serving, along with a dollop of sour cream.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Skillet Bread

This is one of those posts that I wrote and erased about a dozen times. I wanted to write about my picky daughter and how much she loved these skillet breads. Then I thought about the people in Haiti or any other places where people don't have enough to eat. They don't know picky. They, like you or I if we were starving, would eat anything that was given to them. I am grateful for the things I have in my life. I know there are people that have so much more than I and of course there are people that have so much less. I think about our blessings a lot. You have to wonder sometimes just what it all means. Why is it like that? Do we live many lives and experience every level? Do we learn from what we are born into? Is there a master plan for "our lessons"? What does it all mean?

I guess with my mind on what is happening over in Haiti with the earthquake and subsequent aftershocks, I can't help but feel gratitude for my own situation and empathy for their situation. We all need to help out in whatever way we can- prayers, money or our direct and indirect assistance. It's really monumental what has to be overcome. Look at Hurricane Katrina and how it continues to impact the lives of so many here in the USA- really all of us.

Skillet Bread

3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 cups + or - warm water

In a large bowl, combine the yeast with 1 cup warm water and the sugar. Cover and allow to sit for 10 minutes, or until frothy. Stir in the flour and the salt, and add more water is the dough is dry. Knead for 10 minutes, or until the dough is elastic. Place the dough in a large oiled bowl, loosely cover and let rest in a warm area until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down the dough and knead for another 10 minutes. Divide the dough into 8 equal portions; roll out each into a round about 1/4 inch thickness. If the dough contracts while rolling, let it rest while you roll out another piece, then come back to it (it will relax and roll more easily).

Heat a seasoned cast-iron griddle or frying pan over medium-high heat. Oil the surface lightly with canola oil and grill the dough until it is golden on the bottom, about 30 seconds. Flip the bread over and grill the second side for 30 seconds, until golden-brown. The bread will be soft, not crispy. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Daring Cooks: Satay

I actually have made some satay before on this blog, almost two years ago... time flies. It was chicken satay. When I saw satay for the challenge of this month's Daring Cooks, I actually was excited, even though I had made it before. It was a great excuse to make satay again. Really it is so delicious. I went with pork for this satay since I had done chicken before. I used pork loin.

This is one of those dishes that is really hard to photograph, especially during the winter months. I like natural lighting so really I have to wait until the next to do my shots. The reason why it is so difficult is because it just disappears. I literally had to act like a pit bull for the last piece of meat so I would have something to shoot in the morning. How funny is that?

The January 2010 DC challenge was hosted by Cuppy of Cuppylicious and she chose a delicious Thai-inspired recipe for Pork Satay from the book 1000 Recipes by Martha Day.

Pork Satay with Peanut Sauce

Satay Marinade

1/2 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 T ginger root, chopped (optional) (2 cm cubed)
2 T lemon juice (1 oz or 30 mls)
1 T soy sauce (0.5 oz or 15 mls)
1 tsp ground coriander (5 mls)
1 tsp ground cumin (5 mls)
1/2 tsp ground turmeric (2-2.5 mls)
2 T vegetable oil (or peanut or olive oil) (30 mls)
1 pound of pork (loin or shoulder cuts) (16 oz or 450g)

Feeling the need to make it more Thai? Try adding a dragon chili, an extra tablespoon of ginger root, and 1 tablespoon (0.5 oz or 15 mls) of fish sauce. (I keep some premature (still green) dragon chili peppers in the freezer for just such an occasion.)

1. Cheater alert: If you have a food processor or blender, dump in everything except the pork and blend until smooth. Lacking a food processor, I prefer to chop my onions, garlic and ginger really fine then mix it all together in a medium to large bowl.
2. Cut pork into 1 inch strips.
3. Cover pork with marinade. You can place the pork into a bowl, cover/seal and chill, or place the whole lot of it into a ziplock bag, seal and chill.

Chill Chart

Pork Beef/Lamb Chicken Vegetables Tofu (no oil)
4-8 hrs
Up to 24 hrs
6-8 hrs
Up to 24 hrs
1-4 hours
Up to 12 hrs
20 min – 2 hrs
Up to 4 hrs
20 min – 4 hrs
Up to 12 hrs
* If you’re grilling or broiling, you could definitely brush once with extra marinade when you flip the skewers.

Peanut Sauce
based on this recipe from Tyler Florence

1 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons red curry paste
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 limes, juiced
1/2 cup hot water

Combine the peanut butter, soy sauce, red chili paste, brown sugar, and lime juice in a food processor or blender. Puree to combine. While the motor is running, slowly pour the hot water to thin out the sauce. Thin to desired consistency.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Mango Chutney

I have this tiny little jar of mango chutney in my pantry that I must have wanted a 100 times but didn't eat because I didn't want it to be gone. I know that is a little strange. It's not like I couldn't go and pick up another. Silly me. I was grocery shopping the other day and found mangoes for a dirt cheap price. I bought 14 of them. Yes, 14. I decided I had to make some mango chutney so I would no longer covet the chutney in my pantry.

On a side note, I was wondering when I bought those mangos if people eating only local produce will ever eat tropical produce again. I really try to eat locally for the most part but I really can not give up things like mangos and bananas. Does anyone else besides me think of these things when they are shopping?

I liked the chutney but I totally screwed up. I had some frozen pineapple juice, thawed it out on the counter and then poured it into the chutney. I tasted teh chutney and it was pretty sour. I tasted what was left in the measuring cup and much to my chagrin it was lemon juice, yikes. I decided to just add more brown sugar. In the end I think it worked okay because it sure disappeared at dinner.

Mango Chutney
adapted from this recipe by Alton Brown.

4 pounds firm fresh mangos, peeled (measurement taken after peeled and pitted)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon chile flakes
4 cups small dice red onion
1/4 cup minced fresh ginger
8 ounces lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped pineapple
4 ounces cider vinegar
1 cup brown sugar (I increased the quantity largely due to the fact that I added lemon juice)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon coriander
Kosher salt and fresh ground white pepper
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Heat the oil and add the chili flakes. Once the oil has darkened a bit from the chili flakes add the onion and saute until soft. Add the mangos and the remainder of the ingredients except for the cranberries. Cook until mixture begins to thicken and mangos are tenderized. Add the dried cranberries and cook a few minutes more.

*Note: I would not can this because there is not enough acid in the mixuture. I have it in those canning jars to give to my friends. You can however freeze this.

This was a great taste with the ham we had for dinner.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Going Crackers

Geez, first I was going bananas now I am going crackers. What's happening around here? Maybe its that I am a little stir crazy from staying couped up. We have had a lot of snow fall. Good old Lake Ontario is doing the grand slam on us. As of today it has stopped, but whew have we had a lot of snow. I actually like the snow. You see I received a dose of snow gratitude.

I left New York in the 90's to get away from the cold and rain and snow. I was rewarded with blue skies in Arizona, warm temps all winter long. I loved it for about three years. Its funny, it always felt like I was on vacation. I was working mind you but I always felt like I was on vacation. Not a bad feeling, eh? But I digress. After three years I had my fill of the heat. I could not stand it anymore not to mention I missed my family. I moved home. I now very much appreciate the weather elements of New York.

Sesame and Flax Seed Crackers
Lori's Lipsmacking Goodness

1/2 cup semolina
1 cup unbleached all purpose
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 cup warm water (more or less depending on humidity)
1 teaspoon baking powder

Combine the flours and seasonings as well as baking powder. Add the water and stir in. Add a little more water if the dough is too dry. Knead in seeds. Let rest 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350F. Roll out dough by hand or by machine- if you use the pasta roller go to about 4 setting. The number 3 setting would be even better. If you are doing it be hand, roll out to an eigth of an inch or thinner.

Cut into cracker shapes and bake for about 15 minutes. If you have an air bake baking sheet this is the best thing to use because it will help make the crackers crispier. The crackers should be golden when you remove them from the oven.

Cool on a rack and store in an airtight container.

Bench Notes:

1. Next time I will add a tablespoon of garlic powder and onion powder as well as a teaspoon of Lowrys salt instead of regular salt.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Nutmeg-y Coffee Cake

Before New Years I was in search for a recipe for some coffee cake. My parents really like a good coffee cake and we were expecting company so I figured why not. I think the real name of this coffee cake should be nutmeg coffee cake. The flavor is real pronounced in the cake. I usually go light on nutmeg but this time I wanted to follow the recipe exactly ( I usually don't) just to see how I liked it. To my surprise my daughter just loved it. I liked it too, but my picky six, soon to be seven, went hog wild over it.

The cake has a real nice texture. I could definitely see myself making it again.

Buttermilk (Nutmeg) Coffee Cake
from Sunset magazine, recipe here

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
About 2/3 cups (1/3 lb.) melted butter or margarine
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 large egg, beaten to blend
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda

In a large bowl, combine brown sugar, granulated sugar, flour, nutmeg, and 2/3 cup butter. Transfer 1 packed cup of the sugar mixture to a small bowl. Add nuts and cinnamon, mixing well. Set aside.

To the remaining mixture in the large bowl, add egg, buttermilk, baking powder, and baking soda; mix well. Pour batter into a buttered 9-inch cheesecake pan with removable rim. Sprinkle cinnamon-nut mixture evenly (you can see that I wasnt exactly even in my sprinklage) over batter.

Bake in a 350° oven until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean and cake begins to pull from pan sides, about 40 minutes. Cool on a rack at least 20 minutes. Remove pan rim. Serve warm or cool.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Going bananas with the monkeys

When I was a kid I loved monkeys, chimps specifically. I made chimpanzee sounds (pretty authentically scary actually). I begged my Mother for a chimp. She said "No way" as you can imagine. I begged that he could wear diapers and I would change him. Ah...., noooooo. I am very glad that she said no because I have seen a program on PBS about the sad, left behind chimps that people had and then could no longer manage. Poor things! Broke my heart.

But I still have a special fondness for all things monkey, including Curious George. I am just about as happy to watch Curious George on PBS as my kids are.

My youngest daughter seems to feel the same way about monkeys or maybe I have superimposed my love of them on her. So for this birthday I went for it and made this adorable monkey cake that I saw on Martha. Oh, so cute! Ooh ooh ahh ahh!

For all the instructions on constructing a monkey cake, go here.

This is the recipe I used for the cake inside.

Sour Cream Chocolate Cake
adapted from Allrecipes here.

1 cup baking cocoa
1 cup boiling water
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream

Dissolve cocoa in water; let stand until cool.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Add vanilla.

Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with sour cream, beating well.

Add cocoa mixture; beat well.

Pour about 3 cups into a 3 quart mixing bowl. Fill two muffin tins 2/3's full (an extra one for any mistakes). And the remainder in any other pans you may want to make. Anything extra you can use for a later project. In my case that would be my other daughters birthday at the end of the month.

This cake is not deeply chocolatey. It is a lighter crumb cake that if you leave in the oven too long will dry out so be careful.

Go easy on the yellow food coloring. I was a bit heavy handed.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


This is one of those dishes that I saw on many blogs and really wanted to make. I never ended up making it during the summer. But I did roast and freeze a ton of red peppers. So for New Year's I pulled them out and finally made the muhammara!

I liked the dip but quite honestly I liked it better before the bread crumbs. THe chips you see in the picture are wontons dipped in an oil and soy sauce mixture and baked until crispy.

adaped from this recipe.

2 cups roasted red peppers, drained
1/2 cup fine fresh bread crumbs
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted lightly and chopped fine
4 garlic cloves, minced and mashed to a paste with 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste
2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses*
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

In a food processor blend together the peppers, the bread crumbs, the walnuts, the garlic, the lemon juice, the pomegranate molasses, the cumin, the red pepper flakes, and salt to taste until the mixture is smooth and with the motor running add the oil gradually.

* the pomegranate molasses was made by boiling down a cup of pomegranate juice with 1 tablespoon of sugar and the juice of half of a lemon. Boiled down until it thickened.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Hoppin' John turns into Skippin' Jenny

I hope you all had a lovely New Year's Eve and Day. We celebrated with family and friends and shared this flavorful dish called Hoppin' John. Cheers!
"Hoppin' John is found in most states of the South, but it is mainly associated with the Carolinas. Gullah or Low Country cuisine reflects the cooking of the Carolinas, especially the Sea islands (a cluster of islands stretching along the coats of south Carolina and northern Georgia). Black-eyed peas, also called cow peas, are thought to have been introduced to America by African slaves who worked the rice plantations. Hoppin' John is a rich bean dish made of black-eyed peas simmered with spicy sausages, ham hocks, or fat pork, rice, and tomato sauce. This African-American dish is traditionally a high point of New Year's Day, when a shiny dime is often buried among the black-eyed peas before serving. whoever get the coin in his or her portion is assured good luck throughout the year. For maximum good luck in the new year, the first thing that should be eaten on New year's Day is Hoppin' John." (What's Cooking America).

According to Wikipedia, on the day after New Year's Day, leftover "Hoppin' John" is called "Skippin' Jenny," and further demonstrates one's frugality. Oh, and we got frugal! It's so much better when you wait anyhow, the tastes have time to marry.

Hoppin' John

The dressing idea came from this recipe, the rest of the recipe is kind of a hodge podge of a bunch of recipes.

1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil

2 ribs of celery, copped
2 onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
2 bags of frozen black eyed peas
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 pork hocks

In a large bowl, whisk olive oil, molasses and apple cider vinegar. Saute onion, celery and bell pepper in 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of canola oil until tender. Add minced garlic, saute one minute more. Pour into the bowl with the dressing. In the same pot, boil beans with ham hock and bay leaf until beans are tender. (If you are using dried beans, this will take some time but you could do it this way.) The frozen beans should be ready in twenty minutes. Drain and place drained beans into bowl with the celery, bell pepper and onion. Place the ham hocks in the pot again with about 4 cups of water and cook until falling apart- this will take a good hour or more on a low simmer. When finished, falling off the bone, remove and discard the fat. Shred the meat with a fork and add to the bean mixture. Cover and chill for 24 hours for maximum flavor.

*If I had okra on hand I would have thrown this in as well.

Serve with pickled jalapenos and rice.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Recipes to Rival: Appetizers 2010

This months Recipes to Rival was hosted by yours truly. I chose appetizers because that's what is on a lot of people's mind come New Year's. I had a few that I was just wanting to try. I made them late in November to get ready for the challenge. But I am seriously thinking of doing the olive one again. They are absolutely delicious and wonderful for snacking on during a cocktail party.

I have two puff pastry recipes in progress as I write this post. You know after you make your own puff pastry you will never want the store bought one again. I used the store bought one for the olive recipe below because it was near Thanksgiving and with so much on my plate, pun totally intended, I thought I'd go the easy route. Ah, like, so not worth it. And c'mon don't give me that song and dance that puff pastry scares you. Honestly, if you really want puff, you can make it. It's as easy as, well, it's easier than cleaning your house. You mix up a dough, roll it, insert squared butter, fold over the butter, roll and chill. Take out roll, fold, chill. Then five more times. It's pretty time consuming but between all those rolling times there are plenty of moments to do the other things you want to do. Making those layered jello desserts is way more time consuming and messy. Wow, am I rambling?

So here are my choice appetizers.

Turkey Croquettes

(Thought for Food adapted this recipe From the Joy of Cooking: All About Chicken’s recipe for Chicken Croquettes)
This is my adaptation.
(Yield: 16 croquettes)

1/2 T butter
1 medium onion, diced
2 c shredded skinless, cooked turkey (I like to use a mix of dark and white meat for this)
1/4 c minced fresh parsley
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp fresh or dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
Salt to taste
1 1/2 c Panko breadcrumbs
1/2 c all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, beaten
Canola oil, for shallow frying
Lemon wedges, for serving
Salad greens, for serving

The Roux:
1 1/4 c chicken stock, warmed
1 1/2 TB butter
1 1/2 TB all-purpose flour
Salt and pepper to taste

For the Roux: In a small pan over medium heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Turn down to low heat and cook (stirring constantly) until the roux is just slightly darkened and fragrant (about 6 minutes). Slowly whisk in the warm stock and simmer the sauce (stirring occasionally) until it’s thick. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

In a small pan, heat ½ TB butter over medium-low heat; add the onion and sauté for about 7 minutes, until the onion is starting to soften and change color. In a bowl, combine the roux, cooked onions, shredded turkey, minced parsley, pepper, thyme, celery seed, breadcrumbs and salt to taste. Cover mixture and refrigerate until very cold and firm (at least 2 hours).

Put your flour and breadcrumbs in separate shallow bowls, and beat your eggs in a separate shallow bowl. Gather mixture into tiny balls or patties about the size of a large olive. Roll in flour first, then egg, then panko crumbs to coat.

In a large skillet, add enough oil to generously cover the bottom; preheat the oil on medium-high heat. Fry the croquettes over medium to medium-high heat until golden and crispy on both sides, then drain on a paper towel-lined plate.

Mini Pigs in a Blanket

I saw this recipe for biscuits and have been wanting to make these cute little wrapped dogs for ages. Kids usually love them. One of my children loved them (the one that doesnt like hot dogs- ha! and the other one not so much, she prefers a plain old hot dog.

Bride's Biscuits
adapted from Southern Sideboard, by the Junior League of Jackson Mississippi, 1978
*note- this is a large recipe purposely so you can use it as needed. If you are not big on biscuits or anything made with biscuits you can reduce the amounts.

5 cups flour
5 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup shortening
2 cups buttermilk
1 package dry yeast or 2 1/4 teaspoons
5 tablespoons warm water
mini hot dogs, aka cocktail weiners

Sift dry ingredients, then cut in shortening. Add buttermilk. Dissolve yeast in warm water and add to mixture. Knead lightly. Cut squares and wrap hot dog at a diagnol.

Place on greased cookie sheet and bake at 450F about 10 to 12 minutes. Store dough in refrigerator, pinching off as much as needed each time. It can also be frozen.

Olive Straws
I saw Michel Roux on Martha Stewart and knew I needed to make these. They are so cute!

The demonstration to make these can be found here.

All-purpose flour, for work surface
13 ounces Puff Pastry
15 large green pimento stuffed olives, about 1 1/4 inches long
1 medium egg yolk
1 tablespoon milk

1. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out puff pastry to a 12 1/2-by-6-inch rectangle, about 1/8-inch thick. Using a large sharp knife, cut the rectangle into a 5 1/2-by-6-inch rectangle and a 7-by-6-inch rectangle. Place both rectangles on a baking sheet and transfer to refrigerator; let chill 20 minutes.
2. Place the 5 1/2-by-6-inch rectangle on a baking sheet. Place 5 olives, end-to-end, in a straight line along the short side of the rectangle, leaving about a 5/8-inch border. Repeat process two more times to make three lines of olives.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolk and milk. Brush egg mixture on all exposed spaces between olives. Cover with the 7-by-6-inch rectangle of puff pastry, pressing the whole surface of the dough between the olives firmly with your fingertips. Transfer to refrigerator ( I think in the demonstration they said freezer); let chill 20 minutes.
4. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Using a very sharp knife, trim edges of dough; cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide straws. Lay flat-side down on a baking sheet. Transfer to oven and bake until pastry is golden and crisp, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer straws to a wire rack to cool slightly. Serve warm.

To make your own rough puff pastry:
recipe from Martha Stewart- click here.

Makes 2 pounds, 10 ounces.

1 pound 2 ounces all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1 pound 2 ounces very cold, unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup ice-cold water

  1. Mound flour in center of a large work surface, and make a well in the middle; place butter and salt in well.
  2. Using your fingertips, mix ingredients together in the well. Using the fingertips of your other hand, slowly incorporate flour, beginning with inner rim of well. When cubes of butter have become small pieces and dough is grainy, gradually add ice water until fully incorporated, taking care not to overwork the dough. Roll dough into a ball and wrap with plastic wrap; refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  3. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough into a 16-by-8-inch rectangle. Fold the short ends over the middle (like a letter) to make three layers. This is called the first turn.
  4. Give the dough a quarter turn and roll away from you into another 16-by-8-inch rectangle. Fold again into 3 layers; this is called the second turn. Wrap dough in plastic wrap; refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  5. Repeat process in steps 3 and 4 to create the third and fourth turns. Wrap dough in plastic; refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, and up to 3 days, before using. Dough may also be kept, frozen, for up to 4 months.