Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Hummingbird Cake

This is similar to carrot cake only with pineapple & pecans.

For the cake batter:
Preheat Oven to 350 degrees and prepare to round cake pans.  I like to butter and flour them, but a little non-stick spray will work too.

3 cups Cake Flour
2 cups Granulated Sugar
1 teaspoon each of: baking soda, ground cinnamon (I like Saigon), & salt

1 cup Veggie Oil
3 Large Eggs
1 teaspoon of vanilla paste or 1 tablespoon of extract
6 ounces of crushed pineapple in it's juice
About 1 cup of chopped pecans depending on your taste
2 ripe bananas

In the bowl of a food processor pulse all the dry ingredients and the pecans to mix thoroughly.  In a large bowl mash the bananas and then add the wet ingredients. Beat with a fork to break up the eggs. Transfer the dry stuff to another large bowl and slowly mix in the wet stuff.  Don't over mix.  The batter will be a bit lumpy.  Transfer to the prepared cake pans and bake for about 30 minutes.

Cook the cakes on a wire rack.  When completely cooled cover with cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting:  2 sticks salted butter, about 3-4 cups of powdered sugar, two 8 ounce bricks of cream cheese and one teaspoon of vanilla paste or scrape down one vanilla pod.  I like the way the vanilla flecks look in the frosting.

Let the butter and cheese come to room temperature and then beat to light and fluffy with an electric mixer.  Add in the vanilla then slowly sift in the sugar until it's as sweet as you like it.

Don't be shy with the frosting. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Chocolate Ice Cream

My new Cuisinart ice cream maker is my new favorite kitchen toy. My first batch of ice cream was a simple vanilla that turned out too fluffy.  The error in the recipe was not enough cream and too much churning.  The chocolate batch came out wonderful.

Ingredients: 1 cup heavy cream, 2 cups of half & half, 5 egg yolks, 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, 5 ounces semi sweet chocolate.

Chop up the chocolate and place into a sauce pan with the half & half.  Melt the chocolate into the half & half on low heat.  Whisk constantly to keep from scorching.  Once the chocolate in thoroughly incorporated turn off the heat.

In a large bowl whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until the mix becomes  a pale yellow color.  Whisk in the heavy cream.   Slowly pour in 1 cup of the chocolate mixture (it should still be pretty warm at this point) and then slowly mix the egg mix back into the sauce pan.  Heat on low to cook the egg yolk through.  The ice cream base should coat the back of a wooden spoon when done.

Whisk in the vanilla extract at the very end with the heat off.

Transfer to container and refrigerate until cold. 

Process the base according to your ice cream makers instructions. I find that by shaving 5 mins off the recommended churn time and then freezing for at least 3 hours you get a denser ice cream.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Lemon Cream Pie

This pie is tart, creamy and full of fresh lemon flavor.

1 pie crust (I used a homemade one using Crisco)
2-4 lemons
1/4 cup sugar
4 eggs - separated
1 teaspoon of salt
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon of cream of tartar
2 tablespoons of powdered sugar
2 teaspoons of corn starch

The night before prepare the lemons:  Slice up 2 large or 4 small lemons into thin slices. I also cut off the zest for maximum flavor.  Sprinkle with the salt & sugar.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set on the counter over night.  The next morning strain the lemon juice out.  You should have about 1/2 a cup of yellow juice.

Bake your unfilled pie shell in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes.  I cover my pie dough with parchment paper and then place uncooked rice on top to make sure that it stays in place.  Cool your pie shell before starting the rest of the pie.  You can use a pre-made crumb shell if you prefer and skip this step.

Make the meringue first:  Using an electric mixer beat the 4 egg whites, cream of tartar & powdered sugar until stiff peaks form.  Place the bowl of meringue in the fridge.

Preheat Oven to 350.

Set up a double boiler to cook the pie filling.  I just place a heat proof bowl over a pot of simmering water.  Constantly whisk together the sweetened condensed milk, 4 egg yolks, 1/2 cup of strained lemon juice & 2 teaspoons of  corn starch together.  You want to whisk for about 10-15 minutes.  The goal is to cook the egg yolks and thicken the mixture until it starts to be a runny pudding consistency.

Pour the filling into the cooled pie shell and top with the meringue.  Bake at 350 for about 15-20 minutes.  The meringue should start to brown a bit.  Chill in the ice box for at least 2 hours before serving so the pie can finish setting up.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Spruced Up Boxed Mac and Cheese

A couple of days ago I was hungry and too tired to go to the store.  After scavenging the freezer, fridge and pantry I realized that I could make fake Hamburger Helper and it would be so much better!

Ingredients: 1 box of Mac and Cheese (I went with organic white cheddar from Fresh & Easy), goat cheese*, 1/3 lb of hamburger*, 1 carton of sliced mushrooms, butter, milk, and some Parmesan cheese.

In one pan crumbled and brown the hamburger & mushrooms.  Make sure you pour off any fat as you go.  Meanwhile boil the pasta in the box according to the package.  Reserve some of the pasta water when draining.

Measure out about 1/3 cup of milk, 1 tablespoon of butter and 2 tablespoons of goat cheese. 

Toss this with the pasta and the powdered cheese packet.  Add in a little pasta water if it seems a bit too thick.  Add in the browned hamburger and mushrooms.  Toss together.  Sprinkle with Parmesan. 

 *Feel free to substitute the cream cheese or ricotta for the goat cheese.  This would work just as well with ground chicken, pork or turkey.

Grilled Cheese with Bacon & Egg

Every want something a little more than a grilled cheese?  Love bacon?  Then this is for you.
Ingredients for 2 sandwiches: 6 slices of bacon, 4 slices of sourdough bread, 2 tablespoons of butter, 2 slices of Edam Cheese, 1 slice of  Cheddar Cheese, sprinkling of Parmesan Cheese, 2 large eggs, olive oil, fresh cracked black pepper

Cook the bacon to your liking and drain on paper towels.  I cook mine in a 425 degree oven for about 10 minutes.

Heat 2 pans with some butter and a little olive oil.  In one pan cook the eggs sunny side up.  Layer the sandwiches as follows: bread, 1 slice of Edam, 3 slices of bacon, sprinkling of Parmesan Cheese, 1/2 slice of Cheddar and finally the other slice of bread.  Toast on both sides until the cheese is nicely melted and the bread is browned.  Top with a fried egg.  I served my sandwiches with some tomato soup.

Recipe Test: Sally Lunn Bread from Smitten Kitchen

I recently tried the Sally Lunn Bread recipe from Smitten Kitchen.  So far my bread baking has been limited to quick no yeast breads and stuff thrown together in my bread machine.  This recipe seemed like a good and easy way to try out a yeast bread recipe that required no kneading.

The recipe itself is pretty simple and the results were alright.  I thought the bread had a nice flavor, but the crumb could have been better.  My loaf also didn't rise very much. 

I didn't make the Salted and Honeyed Brown Butter Spread that came with the recipe.  I instead whipped up some caramelized honey and salted butter.

This bread was lovely toasted the next day with a thick spread of the whipped butter and a cup of tea.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Paula's Pancakes in Solvang California

After waiting for 30 minutes to get seated I finally got to order my breakfast:  The pancake combination plate.  I went with scrambled eggs, pancakes and danish sausage.   The pancakes were wonderful.  Thin and fluffy all at the same time.  The butter was whipped and spread out nice and evenly.  The powdered sugar was plentiful.  It would have been better if it was served with real maple syrup.  These came with stereotypical "pancake" syrup.  I also didn't like the sausage.  It was not browned enough on the outside and the the texture was a little too much like baloney.  The sausage also had some odd lingering flavor.  My dining partner said it reminded him of egg rolls.  I still can't figure out what that egg roll flavor is, but it's not good.

Just order the pancakes and you'll be happy.  I'd give it a 7 out of 10.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Corned Beef & Veggies

Corned Beef is super easy in the crock pot.

2 lbs of corned beef brisket  - I got mine from the Handy Mart in Burbank
1 lbs of small potatoes cut into wedges
2 large onions cut into wedges
4-6 carrots cut into fork size chunks
1 small head of cabbage cut into wedges
1 can beer of your choice

Spray your crock with non stick spray or rub down with a little veggie oil.  Place about 1/2 the potatoes and onions on the bottom.  Trim any excess fat off the brisket and then place it on top of the veggies.  Pack in the rest of the potatoes, onions and carrots around the sides of the brisket.  Pour the beer over the brisket.  Place the cabbage on top of the brisket.   Cook on low for 8-10 hours.

I do not season the veggies because the corned beef already has a lot salt in it.  The broth made from the fat of the brisket & beer will season the veggies fairly well.  I did add some fresh cracked pepper to the potatoes when serving.

Any left over brisket makes great hash the next day.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Banana Buttermilk Mini Bundt's with Chocolate Chips

Aren't these the cutest little bundt cakes ever?

2 ripe bananas
2 cups brown sugar
1 stick of butter
1/2 cup veggie oil
4 eggs
1 teaspoon each: baking soda & baking powder
dash of ground allspice & nutmeg
1 tablespoon of maple syrup
pinch of salt
1 cup of buttermilk
1/2 bag of chocolate chips

Cut up the banana into chunks and place in a large microwavable bowl.  Top with some plastic wrap and zap em for about 3 minutes.  (seriously, do this!).   After the bananas are cooked add in the stick of butter to the bowl.  Mash up the butter and bananas.  The butter will start to melt.  Keep mashing.  Add in the brown sugar and maple syrup.  Using an electric hand mix cream everything in the bowl together.  Add in the eggs one at a time.

In another bowl sift all the dry ingredients together.  Measure the buttermilk and oil in the same container for ease of pouring.

Slowly start adding about 1/3 of the flour to creamy goodness.  Mix.  Add in a 1/3 of th wet ingredients.  Then some more dry and then some more wet until everything is mix together except the chocolate chips.  Add those last.

Now you  want to bake this delicious mixture in a 350 degree oven.  I chose to use mini bundt pans.   You could use 1 regular bundt pan or 2 loaves or make some muffins.  Your make time will be about 20 minutes for mini bundts or muffins and closer to an hour for a loaf or full cake.

I plan on whipping up some cream to fill  the centers of my mini masterpieces.

Mushroom Barley Soup

For the Beef Stock:
7 cups of water
2 lbs of beef shank cut into pieces
3 3 ribs of celery cut into large chunks
1 whole bunch of parsley
6 cloves of garlic lightly crushed
1 large onion cut into quarters
4 large carrots cut into chunks
1 can of tomato paste
salt & pepper to taste

Sear the beef shank pieces in olive oil in the stock pan.  Then add in the water and the rest of the ingredients.  Simmer over low heat for about 4 hours.  Add more water as it reduces.

Strain the stock and discard the vegetables.

For the Soup:
2/3 Cup of pearl barley
1 lb of sliced mushrooms
1 cup of finely diced carrots
1 cup of finely diced onion
1 cup of finely diced celery
3 cloves of finely minced garlic (feel free to omit this)
salt & pepper to taste
olive oil
Spice Blend: 1 teaspoon each of garlic granules, onion granules and aleppo pepper

In a large soup pot heat a tablespoon of olive oil and add in the diced vegetables & mushrooms.  Cook until the onions are soft and translucent.  Sprinkle in your spice blend.   Ladle in the stock.  Add the pearl barley and the tomato paste.  Simmer on low until the barley is tender.  I let mine cook about an hour so all the flavors would come together.

I made my soup very brothy, but you can put in less stock if you like a thicker soup.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Middleswarth BBQ Potato Chips

Today I recieved a package from my lovely co-workers in PA that contained The Weekender Kitchen Fresh BBQ Potato Chips from Middleswarth.

They are delicious and tasty and highly recommended.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Rose Bowl Kitchen Finds

I went to the Rose Bowl today to look for some fun new kitchen toys and came away with a nifty toaster cover, 2 Fire King soup bowls, a stash of new hankies and two new cookbooks!  I was a little bummed that I didn't find any Corelle Crazy Daisy aka Spring Blossom to add to my collection, but at least I scored a few fun new pieces for my kitchen.  The green Fire King pattern in the soup bowls mixes in nicely with my current kitchen theme.

The Fire King soup bowls will get used really soon for french onion soup.  Who doesn't love rich french onion soup with a crusty cheesy top?

The cook books provide more entertainment value than anything else.  These were both published in 1959 so the focus is on all the bountiful canned and frozen foods that are now available to the busy career girl.  I'm tempted to through a 1959 themed tea party and only make confections found in the books.

My true love of the day was the toaster cover.  I think it's just perfect in my kitchen.

Off to prep my crock pot chicken for a Chicken Taco Bar dinner.  Monday's dinner will be simple & delicious.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

1/2 & 1/2 Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Vanilla, Chocolate & Cream Cheese Cupcakes

For the cakes:
1 stick of softened butter
3 eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1.5 cups flour + 2 tablespoons of cornstarch (this mimics cake flour)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup well packed light brown sugar
1.5 teaspoons of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla paste or real vanilla extract
2 ounces Dutched Cocoa

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line your 12 count muffin tin with paper liners.

Sift the dry ingredients (except the cocoa)  together.  Cream the butter & sugar in a large separate bowl.  Add the dry to the wet.  Add the milk and vanilla.  Mix well.  Take out 2 cups of the batter and set aside.   Add in the cocoa powder and mix well.  The batter will be very brownie like. 

Spoon the chocolate batter into the tins.  Spoon in the vanilla batter.  Swirl with a toothpick.

Bake for between 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2 brick of softened cream cheese
1/2 stick of room temperature butter
1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract
about 1/2 box of powdered sugar (it depends on the humidity)
1 tablespoon 1/2 & 1/2 or heavy cream

Cream together the cheese, butter & vanilla.  Slowly sift in the sugar until the frosting comes together.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Chocolate Dipped Shortbread

I recently picked up a container of Harry & David's shortbread cookie mix and finally decided to make them.  They turned out great, but I decided to make them even better by dipping them in chocolate.

For the cookies:  Follow the directions on Harry & David's shortbread cookie mix.  I rolled small balls of dough into nice spheres to get round cookies.   The cookies came out a lot lighter than my preferred brand of Walkers.

After the cookies had cooled I dipped them in melted semi sweet chocolate.

Ingredients: Half a bag of semi sweet chocolate chips and one tablespoon of shortening.

In a double boiler slowly melt the chips and shortening.  The shortening helps with tempering the chocolate and makes the chocolate have a nice glossy appearance.  I only dipped 1/2 the cookies in chocolate so that they'd be easier to handle.  After dipping place them on wax paper and refrigerate until chocolate sets up.

Next time I dip cookies in chocolate I think I'm going to add some sprinkled toasted nuts on top.

Cheese Fondue

Who doesn't love some cheesy fondue?

Basic Fondue Recipe: 1-2 cups of white wine, blend of Emmentaler, Swiss, & Gruyere (about 1 lb),  2 Tb corn starch, dash of nutmeg, 1 garlic clove & fresh cracked black pepper.

Get a good glass or enamel saucepan and rub it down with a cut piece of garlic.  Discard the garlic.  Over very low heat bring one cup of wine to simmer.  Add in a handful of grated cheese and stir until nice and melted.  Add in the cornstarch, nutmeg and black pepper.  Stir to combine.  Slowly continue to add in the cheese by the small handful.  If it's too thick add in a little more wine.  This whole process will take about 30 minutes.

I served my fondue with salted and boiled mini potatoes, cubed french bread, broccoli & cauliflower florets, mushrooms and pearl tomatoes.

We ate the whole pot.  It was fantastic.  I suggest a good California Sauvignon Blanc for the wine.  If you use cheap wine, you'll regret it.

Olive Oil, Rosemary & Lemon Roast Chicken

Ingredients: 1 whole chicken cut into pieces, 3-4 meyer lemons, 3 parsnips, 4 large carrots, 3 white onions, 1/2 cup good olive oil, fresh rosemary, 4-6 cloves of garlic, salt & pepper.

Start by making a simple marinade of olive oil and fresh lemon juice.  In a bowl combine 1/2 good olive oil and the juice of 3-4 meyer lemons.  Whisk in 1 tablespoon salt and 1 tablespoon of crushed black pepper.  Put chicken pieces in a plastic bag and pour in marinade.  Chop up several springs of rosemary.  Bruise with the back of you kitchen knife and toss in the bag as well.  Smash the garlic cloves and had it with the rosemary.  Seal it up and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours.  I prefer to let it marinade for about 6 to get maximum flavor.

Preheat oven to 450.  Lightly spray a roasting pan with oil or non stick spray.  Slice up the onions into rounds to use as base for the chicken.   The onions add moisture and flavor during cooking.  Roughly chop up the parsnips and carrots.  Season them with salt & pepper.  Take the chicken out of the marinade and arrange in the baking pan.  Place the parsnips and carrots around the chicken.  Place the lemon rinds in the pan as well. Pour any leftover marinade over the top.  Pick out any huge pieces of rosemary and discard.

Roast for 30 minutes at 450 and then turn down the heat to 350 and finish cooking for about 30-40 minutes.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Nudi Dumplings or Malfatta

I make a lot of home made gnocchi and finally decided to branch out to Nudi sometimes referred to as Malfatta.   Nudi dumplings are basically the inside of a ravioli and are super easy to make.  They also go fantastic with Sunday Gravy.

Ingredients: 15 ounces Ricotta, 1 box frozen thawed and drained spinach (really squeeze the water out), 2 egg yolks, about 1/3-1/2 cup of all purpose flour, 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, dash of nutmeg along with a little salt & pepper.

Mix everything in a bowl except the flour.  Start adding the flour in by the large spoonful until the dough comes together. You may need a little  more or less flour depending on the humidity.  Roll small balls of the dough in your hand and place on a floured surface.  It's easier if you flour your hands first.  My nudi ended up slightly smaller than golf balls.  I made around 2 dozen.

Drop the balls in salted boiling water.  After they start to float let them cook a bit more.  I served mine with Sunday Gravy and some cheesy toasty bread.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Sunday Gravy or All Day Tomato Meat Sauce

Every few weeks some form of tomato sauce in made in the kitchen.  I like to keep frozen containers of home made sauce on hand for easy weeknight meals.  Today I made Sunday Gravy.  The entire process took about 4 hours.

Ingredients:  Olive oil, 1/3 cup of red wine, 1 large can crushed tomatoes, 1 small can diced tomatoes, 1 small can tomato sauce, 1.5 pounds of lean ground beef, 1 large onion, 6 cloves of garlic, 2 tablespoons of sugar and my spice blend.
Spices: salt & pepper, 1 teaspoon of each of onion granules, garlic granules, oregano, dried sun dried tomatoes, and 2 large bay leaves.
You'll also need about 2 cups of water on hand.

In a large stock pot heat a few tablespoons of olive oil.  Sweat the onions and garlic until tender and translucent.  Add in the ground beef and all the spices except the bay leaf.  Slowly brown the beef.  Take your time.  You want to develop a nice color.  Once the beef is browned add in the red wine to deglaze the pan.  Simmer until the wine is reduced by 1/2.   Add in all the canned tomato ingredients along with the sugar and the bay leaves.  Simmer for 30 minutes.
Add in 1/2 cup of water.
Simmer for 45 minutes.
Take a taste.  Add in a little more salt if needed.
Add in 1/2 cup of water.
Simmer for 45 minutes.
Take a taste.  The sauce should be getting nice and rich at this point as the water keeps evaporating off.
Add in 1/2 cup of water.
Simmer for 45  minutes.
Add  in another 1/2 cup of water and let simmer for another 30-45 minutes.

During the entire simmering process make sure you give it a stir every 15 minutes or so.  You want the heat to be barely on, just high of a flame to keep it cooking.  

At this point it should be irresistible.  I then turn the heat off and put on the lid while it comes down to room temperature.  Once its cooled down I portion it out into freezer containers.

Don't forget to pull the bay leaves out before portioning it out.  If you don't want to use red wine use a little beef broth instead.

Sopa Seca

I'm always looking for easy ways to use up leftovers.  A while back a came across a recipe for Sopa Seca which is a turkey noodle Mexican casserole. 

Ingredients: Olive Oil, 12 ounces fideos, 1 medium onion chopped, 4-5 cloves of chopped garlic, 1 can Ro-Tel canned tomatoes (feel free to sub diced tomatoes), 2-4 finely minced chiles in adobo sauce,  1.5 cups of chicken or turkey stock (I used the leftover frozen turkey stock I had), 2 cups shredded chicken or turkey, 1 cup shredded monterey jack cheese.

Spices:  One teaspoon each of the following: coriander, cumin, chili powder, garlic granules, onion granules, salt & pepper and oregano along with 2 bay leaves and 2 tablespoons of tomato powder.

In a large sauce pan heat up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  Toast the fideos and then place on a plate for later.   Your going to want to toss them around the pan with some tongs being careful not to burn them.  The goal is just light toasted color on some of the noodles.

In the same pan add a little more oil and add the onion.  Cook until translucent.  Then add the spice blend and cook until nice and fragrant.  This should only take 30-60 seconds.  Next add in the tomatoes and chiles in adobo sauce.  Simmer for about 5 mins to thicken up.   Then add in the broth & fideo.  Cook for 4-5 minutes before adding the shredded chicken or turkey.  Mix to combine.  Pour everything into a greased casserole and top with some shredded cheese.

At this point you can cover and store for 2 days or just pop it into a 375 oven for 25-35 minutes.  I made this casserole in the morning for a quick dinner later in the day.

I served this with some sour cream and fresh salsa.