Monday, November 30, 2009

Menu Monday


Southwest Eggrolls

Chicken Enchiladas

Pork Chops (possibly with Mango Chutney or Mango Salsa) and Rice

Cajun Potato Salad

Baking Items:
Zuchini Bread
Squash Pie
Pound Cake

Sunday, November 29, 2009

William Sonoma Potato Ricer

I have an addiction to the Food Network (aka Poor Man's Culinary School). I've seen countless episodes this month of Thanksgiving feast by various chefs/cooks etc. and the one common thread was a Potato Ricer. This little gadget is supposed to produce the creamiest fluffiest mashed potatoes in the history of mashed potatoes. Ofcourse I HAD to have one.

Not just ANY ONE but the RSVP brand that Cook's Illustrated touted as the best one. A piddly $13.00 on Amazon...psshaw..No problem. Except that I figured I would save myself the shipping and just buy one here. No luck. Can't find one anywhere. Back up plan: Target carries one (not as good but reasonably priced). No luck. They don't have them in stock. So the Friday before Thanksgiving I go online to see if I can rush ship one. They went up to $20.00! WHAT?! I was very upset and proceeded to complain and whine about it on a message board when a dear girl I 'know' offered me hers. She said "it's in the attic because the apartment is small, you are welcome to it." Bless her heart. She shipped it to me and behold IT WAS BRAND NEW WILLIAMS SONOMA sent to me just in time for the price of shipping! Thank you, Deborah (Wee), from the bottom of my heart.

I was in TEARS cradling this thing to my chest with my darling husband staring at me as if I had lost my ever loving mind! And it is a dream with potatoes. You HAVE to have one of these things and if you only use it at Thanksgiving it is still worth EVERY penny.

Simple Mashed Potatoes:

Steam diced,peeled potatoes for ten minutes. Rinse in cold water and return to steamer for another 10-15 minutes until tender. (Steaming and rinsing supposedly keeps the starch from breaking down making potatoes "gluey" according to Cook's Illustrated Test Kitchens and I dare say it definately works!).

Process potatoes through Potato ricer and gently mix in butter, salt, pepper and whipping cream. Perfect! Quantities are subjective depending on the size of the crowd. I think this is definately a recipe you HAVE to play with and therefore I'm not giving you measurements.

I can not tell you if the RSVP model is truly better then the Williams Sonoma but the WS one definately gets TWO THUMBS up from me. It is an excellent product! Easy to use, only a little effort to squeeze handle, and comes apart for easy cleaning. Get yourself one before the next holiday dinner!
Potato Ricer on Foodista

Maple Apple Cream Pie

Everyone knows, I can bust out an apple pie in the blink of an eye. So to spice things up I decided to spin the apple recipe. This was a big hit. This is a very mild, lightly flavored fall treat served chilled.

Maple Apple Cream Pie

1 Pillsbury Pie Roll Up pie shell
2 tbs butter
3 granny smith apples (peeled and thin sliced)
3 Red delicious or Golden delicious apples (peeled and thin sliced)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup maple syrup
3tbs flour (for thickening)
1 can evaporated milk
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbs sugar

Roll out pastry shell into pie plate. Pinch edges for decorative crust. Double line it with tinfoil. Bake at 450 for 8 minutes. Remove foil and bake about 6 minutes longer till flaky looking. Cool on a wire rack. Melt butter in skillet. Add apples and brown sugar and cook until tender. (about 15-20 minutes). Cool to room temperature and then spread into pie crust.

In a sauce pan, combine syrup and flour. Whisk until smooth. Gradually add milk, whisking until blended. Cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes until thickened and bubbly, stirring the whole time. Remove from heat and stir about 1/4 cup of mixture into egg yolk to temper. Pour back into pan and mix for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanille. When cooled pour over apples in pie crust. Chill for atleast 2 hour-4 hours.

Using an electric hand mixer, beat whipping cream until peaks are formed. Add cinnamon. Gradually add sugar until peaks reform. Serve with Pie. I spread over the pie and sprinkled with cinnamon but you can also "dollop" some on each peice when serving.

Paula's Garlic Cheese Grits

I'm putting the cart before the horse here and telling you about the fabulous Paula Deen's Cheese Grits before I tell you about Thanksgiving. You see, I decided hosting family was the perfect time to try out this little southern gem. Not to mention instead of using the called for Chicken Stock, why not make it a true holiday brunch and use leftover TURKEY STOCK. Talk about using your thanksgiving leftovers wisely! I did not change up the original recipe too much which is why I linked it here to give proper credit.

However, the directions below ARE what I used.

Garlic Cheese Grits

5 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
8 ounce cheddar cheese, shredded
8 ounces Velveeta Cubed
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 cup Quaker Quick grits
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
4 cup chicken broth
2 cups Turkey broth
1 stick butter (You know its not a PD recipe without BUTTER! God Love Her)

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 4 quart casserole dish with Butter spray. Bring the broth, garlic powder, salt and pepper to a boil. Stir in the grits and whisk until completely combined. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the grits are thick, mine took about 5 minutes. Add the cubed cheese, half the shredded cheese and milk and stir. Take about 1/4 cup of the grits and mix into the whisked eggs to temper them. Gradually stir in the eggs and cubed butter, stirring until all are combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle with the remaining cheddar cheese and bake for 35 minutes.

This meal is truly a southern girls dream and lasted us all weekend.

Pink is the New Fall color

I woke up to a foggy Thanksgiving morning. The air was crisp and cold, the world was silent and still. It was one of those rare mornings that creeps into your soul like the fingers of fog grasping at your ankles.

And there it was. In my front yard, like a burning bush of hope to the Isrealites. My Fall camilla, blooming like it has never bloomed before. A ray of pink, in a silent foggy sinful world.

A gift, a promise, a beacon of hope.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving Week!

Thanksgiving is HERE! I have not abandoned you, I promise. Last week I made a few new dishes (Swiss Steak, Vegetable Soup and Pound Cake) but I've spent most of my time cleaning and prepping and grocery shopping and preparing for the In-laws visit and Thanksgiving Dinner.

I'm exhausted and I haven't even started cooking the actual meal yet!

I promise a slew of Thanksgiving recipes after the holiday though as I'm not sure I will have time before to post!

Also check out the new widget to the right of my page! I've been officially accepted on a blogroll network! WOOT!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins

My new favorite Fall breakfast. These little darlings are the epitome of fall tastes and a perfect holiday breakfast item. They can be made the night before and served up to guests with no muss or fuss and delight even the harshest of family critics (aka YOUR MOTHER or Mother-In-Law ha ha!).

Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins

1 1/2 cups Self Rising Flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 egg
1/2 cup cold milk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
1 cup chopped fresh cranberries
Cinnamon Sugar
Chopped Walnuts

Directions: In a bowl cream egg, milk, pumpkin and butter. Add sugars. In a seperate bowl mix your dry ingredients and slowly add that mix to the creamed pumpkin until moist. Fold in your cranberries. Fill greased muffin tins to just under the top. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and chopped walnuts. Bake at 375 for 18 minutes or until muffins test done. Cool in pan for about 10 minutes before removing to a colling rack. (Yields 1 dozen).

Pear Blue Cheese Salad

A crisp fall salad that will delight your senses and "pear" well with any main meat dish. I served it up next to my Basil Tomato Stuffed Grilled Chicken.

Pear Blue Cheese Salad

10 cups torn salad greens (I used Romaine and Iceberg)
3 large ripe pears, peeled and cut into large cubes
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
Blue cheese wedge
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/3 cup olive or vegetable oil
3 tbs cider vinegar
1 1/2 tsp sugar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp salt
Pepper to taste

In a large bowl, combine all of your ingredients. Grate desired amount of blue cheese over salad (I prefer to do this once its in serving size bowls to make sure each serving gets an adequate amount). In an Italian Dressing jar or any jar with lid, combine dressing ingredients and shake well. Pour over salad and toss gently. Serve immediately. (8-10 servings)

Basil Tomato Stuffed Grilled Chicken

This recipe is definately one of my new favorites! It is one of those items that is just beautiful on a plate. Simple, flavorful and elegant. What food should be.

Basil Tomato Stuffed Grilled Chicken

3 or 4 Boneless chicken breasts
1/2 tsp coarse salt
3 cloves garlic
Olive oil
3 tbs dried basil
3 plump red tomatoes (use a meaty variety such as beef steak)
Fresh Mozzerella Ball

Butterfly chicken breasts. Open up and pound with a meat tenderizer gently (don't beat it till its paper just flatten out). Sprinkle with salt and pepper and minced garlic and drizzle with olive oil. Let marinate for about 30 minutes like this.

Lightly coat a grill pan in a little more Olive Oil and heat. Place slices of tomato on one side of chicken breast, sprinkle with basil, fold other half over and secure with tooth picks. Grill. Only flip once so watch your heat and flip once the top piece of chicken starts to turn white. I do this over medium heat. When you remove chicken immediately place a slice of mozzerella on top to let it gently melt and sprinkle with parsley.

Chicken Perfection!

Menu Monday

I'm not going as elaborate this week with the menu as I'm preparing for Thanksgiving. I have a few cakes to bake for other's not to mention I have to pull out one of my Holiday cakes for my husband to take to his Company Luncheon. Have no fear, my dears, I will be catching up on a few recipes I haven't posted from last week as well as a few new ones this week. Happy Cooking!

This Weeks Menu Includes:
Swiss Steak over a bed of Brown Rice and a crisp garden salad

Slow-Cooker Vegetable Soup

Japanese Resteraunt Style Stir Fry, Chicken and Rice with white sauce.

Swedish Meatballs with a Mushroom Gravy Over Pasta

and hopefully I will fit the Onion and Rosemary Foccacia in there since it alone got left out last week!

Baked Goods for the week:

Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins (SO GOOD!)

Pound Cake (hopefully without the oven fire this time)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Thanksgiving Battle Plan

The month of November brings the Holiday Craziness to fruition. Being the master of to do lists, I believe in OVER organization. Sometimes I get it right, and sometimes despite my best intentions, it all goes wrong. (see my disaster of a garden attempt this year).

I'm fairly on point for the Holidays but as they are fast approaching I can slowly feel that my prep work isn't enough and I will be overwhelmed and not get it all done. Before you know it, the holidays will be gone and I will have a blur to remember them by and once again say " I didn't get to do such and such."

Plan of Attack:
1st week: Nail down plans for Thanksgiving and start putting together menu.
Start watching sales for ingredients.
Gather recipes
Update Address Book

2nd Week: Put together a Comprehensive Ingredient List and Chore List
Check Linens, towel supply etc. for guests.

3rd Week:
Pantry Check
Grocery List
Weekend Before: DOUBLE CHECK that everything is purchased
Create Christmas Card List

Suggestion: If you traditionally put up your Christmas Decorations Thanksgiving weekend and you are hosting family from out of town, you may want to put the Outside String lights up before so you do not have to neglect guests to climb on the roof (Or listen to your grandpa instruct you on how to do it while pointing with his cane).

Tuesday before Thanksgiving: Bake cakes, muffins etc. that will keep.
Make sure Turkey is thawing.
Thaw out other ingredients for Dinner

Night Before:
Brine Turkey.
Put together Cranberry Salad/Gel.
Prep any dishes that can be made ahead of time and just pop them in the oven on the day of!
Set out Piles of Platters and Plates so you aren't hunting for serving items the day of during the hectic cooking and guest greeting!

Thanksgiving Day:
Wake up thirty minutes before the family and guests. Get a quick workout/walk in and spend some time collecting yourself over a cup of coffee and muffin before beginning the day!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Spinach Pork Tenderloin

As I have aged, I have truly come to appreciate the simple Spinach plant. This is a dark green leafy veggie full of iron. True to Popeye Fashion, I eats me Spinach. I include spinach leaves in salads, on sandwiches, in dips and quiches. Pretty much anywhere I think spinach will fit, I put it. I came upon a delightful little recipe in an old edition of Taste of Home (2000). With a few changes, this is probably going to be one of my new go to recipes for pork tenderloin. It quite possibly was the most juicy flavorful tenderloin without masking the true flavor of the meat. Simply Delicious.

Spinach Pork Tenderloin

1 Package frozen chopped spinach-thawed, drained and squeeze dried
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 garlic clove minced
3 tbs butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 boneless pork loin /roast (about 3 1/2 lbs)
1/4 cup orange pineapple juice
2 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs ketchup
1 1/2 cup sour cream
3 tbs prepared horseradish
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp course salt
1/2 tsp dill

In skillet, saute onion and garlic in butter until tender. (wait a minute or two after onion to put garlic in so it doesn't burn). Separate roast into two pieces. Pound out the two pieces with tenderizer and sprinkle with course salt. Spoon onion/garlic on one side. Top with the second piece of meat. Tie with kitchen string or stake with tooth picks. Place in tinfoil lined casserole dish or shallow roasting pan.

In bowl combine the orange juice, soy sauce and ketchup. Poru half over roast. Bake, uncovered at 350 for an hour. Baste with remaining orange juice mixture. Cover and bake 1 hour more or until a meat thermometer reads 160. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing. (The meat will continue to cook a bit when you remove from oven if you leave it tented/covered). I let it rest ten minutes in a covered state and then five uncovered.

In a sauce pan, combine sour cream, horseradish, mustard, salt, dill and reserved spinach. Cook over medium heat just until heated through. Do not overcook or boil. Serve warm with a slice of pork roast on top. (10-12 servings)


Italianless: Butternut Squash Ravioli

I apparently do not have an Italian Bone in my Body. I know I shouldn't feel bad for messing up a recipe or not getting it right the first time around. If you don't ever mess up in the kitchen, then you aren't cooking enough. Having said that, its a blow to my ego.

Valentine gave me her Grandma Tulio's recipe for Butternut Squash Ravioli. I was so excited. I've never made home made pasta before! It Failed miserably. Between my pathetic Ravioli that leaked all their stuffing out in the water, to the sad attempt to turn into an edible Butternut Dumpling recipe just to see what the flavors were like. Somehow, it just didn't come together in a pleasant palate for me. Maybe I really don't have enough Italian in me. I like SWEET southern Butternut Squash recipes. My heritage is English, Germany and Irish with a little Native American thrown in for good measure. Meats, stews and Cakes...I've got you covered. Pasta, well, we need to work on that.

Sad isn't it?

Cajun Potato Salad

I whipped up this dish last night. It is very easy and is a meal in itself. My husband LOVED this dish and asked me to make it again. It's a little vinegary for my taste but I think the recipe has merit. I would prefer a bit more mustard and a little less vinegar to balance the flavors a bit better. (but then again, I'm a southern American who loves a good old fashioned potato salad which is mayonnaise and mustard based! LOL).

TIP: Most chef's and cook's use a Scrap Bowl or sink while they are cooking. It's much easier when you are peeling veggies, fruits or deboning meat to have something right there to put your left overs in. Whenever I'm using breads, fruits or veggies, I try to do this and send them to Dad's chickens. They LOVE scraps and I get the eggs! You can clearly see my Green Scrap bowl and my basket of beautiful fresh fruits and veggies that is my inspiration this week on my counter.

Happy Cooking!

Cajun Potato Salad

2lbs small red potatoes unpeeled ( I used half red and half Idaho and peeled them because I needed to use up some potatoes that were sprouting)
1/2 cup chopped red onion
2-3 green onions finely chopped/sliced
3 tbs dried parsley or 1/4 cup fresh chopped
6 tbs cider vinegar, divided (I prefer a little less)
1/2 lb precooked kielbasa sausage sliced
4 tbs olive Oil
1 tbs Dijon mustard
2 tbs chopped garlic
Pepper to taste
1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Cook potatoes in boiling salted water for 20 -30 minutes. Do not overcook or they will get mushy like mine did. Drain. Rinse with Cold water to stop the cooking process. Cool completely. Cut into 1/4 inc slices instead of dicing them for a better aesthetic look than mine had. Place in a large bowl. Add onions, parsley, and 3 tbs vinegar. Toss.
In a medium skillet, cook sausage in oil for 5-10 minutes until sausage is browned. Remove but leave oil in the pan. Add mustard, garlic, pepper and cayenne plus remaining vinegar to skillet. Bring to simmer, whisking constantly. Pour over salad; toss gently. Serve hot.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

RIP Cake Dome

My precious Cake Dome met an un-timely end in a sink of hot suds this week. I nearly broke into tears as it was a beloved wedding gift from dear friends of mine. It was a complete accident and unsaveable (Please never used cracked and chipped glass with food items people!). A kitchen Tragedy of epic proportions.

I sucked in a deep breath and placed it in the garbage. Steve had to remind me that "it was three years old and things happen. It's okay." THREE YEARS? Seriously? It feels as if its brand new but even still our relationship was far too short.

RIP dear cake plate Dome. I shall miss you.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Stuffed Cabbage

I actually took a bare bones ingredient list given to me by BGG (from her Girlfriend) and combined it with a more traditional Southern version Recipe to create my own Stuffed Cabbage.

It cooks away in a Cast Iron Dutch Oven as I type this. Pictures and results to come later.

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

1 large head cabbage

2/3 lb ground Beef (chuck or sirloin works best but hamburger will work too)Browned
1/3 lb Italian Sausage-Browned
1 stalk finely chopped celery
2-3 tbs dried parsley
1 tbs dried basil
1/3 cup brown rice, raw, can use instant or regular
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tbs crushed garlic/finely chopped
Half of One Large Purple Onion Sliced
1 Can Stewed Tomatoes
1 Can diced tomatoes

3 to 4 teaspoons lemon juice (1 large lemon)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup hot water

Remove about 6-8 large leaves from the cabbage; cut off very thick part of each leaf. Pour boiling water over the cabbage to wilt the leaves.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Combine Filling ingredients in large bowl. Place a mound of meat mixture in cupped part of each softened cabbage leaf. Fold over sides of cabbage leaf; roll up. In bottom of Dutch oven, place a few of the remaining leaves from the cabbage head. Combine Topping Ingredients (minus sliced onions) in seperate bowl. Arrange layers of cabbage rolls, seam side down; cover with Topping mixture and sliced onions in a Dutch oven or large casserole. Place in oven for one hour. Check for tenderness. Cook longer if necessary.

I may try this in a crock pot next time. Uncooked for 4 hours.

Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

This Recipe was given to me by my sweet friend Beth (aka CrownedBee). I changed a few minor details mostly because of appearance and storage issues rather than taste. This created one of the most perfect little cookies I've ever seen with a very light flavor and soft texture. Thank you Beth. I love it!

Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

1 8oz. pkg cream cheese, softened
1½ sticks butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp peppermint extract
2½ cups Self-Rising Flour
4 squares unsweetened baking chocolates, melted
1 6oz pkg white baking chocolate

Preheat oven to 350°. Beat cream cheese, butter, sugar, vanilla and peppermint in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add flour and mix well. Blend in unsweetened chocolate. I actually slightly melted the white chocolate and bakers chocolate in the microwave before hand and mixed both into the batter. Place batter which will be a nice sticky ball onto Plastic Wrap. Wrap tightly and place in fridge for 30 minutes.

Shape tablespoonfuls of dough into balls, place on greased baking sheet, and flatten with the flat bottom of a glass or press down with your fingers or the palm of your hand.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes. Cool 5 minutes on baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. For a more decorative cookie you can save the white chocolate and do what Beth's recipe tells you: Microwave white chocolates as directed on package, drizzle over cookies. Let stand until chocolate is firm.

Chicken Enchiladas

Every now and again we come across a simple recipe on the back of a food can, in a newspaper, etc. This is one of those recipes. Not EVERYTHING has to be hard to become a favorite. The Ingredients you use are more important than difficulty when creating a great dish. This adapted Recipe from a Campbell's Ad in the Newspaper is definately a new favorite. I paired it with SteamFresh SouthWestern Rice for a quick flavorful meal that my husband LOVES.

Chicken & Cheese Enchiladas
1 can Cream of Chicken Soup
1/2 Cup Sour Cream
1 Cup Picante Sauce
2 tsp. Chili Powder
2 Cups Chopped Cooked Chicken (or approx. 2 boneless/skinless boiled Chicken breasts)
1 Cup Mexican Cheese Blend or Monterey Jack
6 Flour Tortilla's (6")
1 Tomato (Diced)
1 Green Onion (Chopped)

Stir soup, sour cream, Picante Sauce and Chili Powder in bowl. Use 1 Cup of the Picante mixture and add your Chicken and Cheese. Divide the chicken mixture among the 6 tortilla's and place in a 9 x 13 casserole dish. As I folded them up leaving one end open, I used a toothpick to hold them closed. Pour remaining Picanted Sauce over tortillas. I topped with some extra Mexican Cheese (1/2 cup or so-I love Cheese!)

Bake at 350 for 40 minutes or until enchiladas are bubbling and cheese is melted. Top with the Diced Tomato and Onion.



Monday, November 9, 2009

Menu Monday

This week will be a busy week in the kitchen. I'm trying several new recipes and am very excited.

Last night I started the week off with a simple Chicken Enchilada recipe that I will post shortly and Beth's Chocolate Peppermint cookies (which I will post as well).

Also up this week:
Butternut Ravioli with Sage Butter Sauce and a Spinach stuffed Pork Tenderloin.

Beef Roast (crockpot) with Caun Potato Salad

Stuffed Cabbage

Rosemary/Onion Foccacia with Roquefort Pear Salad

Baking Menu:

Oatmeal Pumpkin Cookies (from Jessis Blog)

Pound Cake

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Eat This Not That

Yesterday, two of my girlfriends and I drove to Charlotte/Concord area to surprise another friend for her birthday. We truly had a girl's day out. No husbands or kids. We vented, we caught up, we had a lunch, icecream and walked the big mall. It was so much fun.

On the way down, T brought out the Eat This Not That book. We looked up the resteraunt to see what would be better menu choices. I was ASTOUNDED at what was the worst choice: Veggie and Turkey burgers. They load them with such horrible fillers to get the taste that those items are the highest calorie and fat options on the menu!

This sparked a whole rampage through this book glaring at our favorite places and menu options. I am going to have to completely re-think the way I eat. (which I knew this but was too lazy until it slapped me in the face how truly horrible it was). I did refuse to look at Starbucks because, well, I just don't want to know. LOL

I did look up the entire menu/allergen/nutrition info for Ruby Tuesdays for those of you who love this place. I was a little shocked that the resteraunt so famous for "THE GARDEN BAR" would be one of the worst score recievers. Be careful what you eat. If you aren't making it home made you have NO CLUE what they put into their foods. For people like my friend Sarah who can't have gluten, or Tonya who has to relearn to eat because of her DH's type 2 diabetes, or Brandi who is vegetarian, its very important to know WHAT is in your food. For me, I need to know healthier options to control my weight. WE ALL need to watch what we eat and I highly recommend this book for a quick reference to healthier options and hidden sins in our food.

Ruby Tuesday can still be a good place to eat for your family but I recommend the peppercorn steak with a side of smashed cauliflour and sweet potato (leave off the butter and sugar). Be careful of Salad Bars and go for the fresh veggies and fruits, stay away from the creamed dressings (which I failed miserably at yesterday).

Friday, November 6, 2009

Perfect Holiday Cake

This week I wanted to not only try some new things but reflect on an original recipe I created and try to perfect it. I'm totally in love with this cake now (as is my aunt and half the people I work with -the other half didn't get a piece..LOL)I originally posted the recipe April of LAST year as a Sweet Potato Cake. This time I used pumpkin and made a few changes. The effect was phenomenal.

Perfect Holiday Cake (Feel free to give me name suggestions)

3 cups self-rising flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
3 1/2 tsps cinnamon
2 cups pumpkin puree
2 tsps vanilla extract
1/2 cup crushed pineapple
1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup pineapple juice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 eggs
8oz cream cheese (softened)
1 egg
3 tbs sugar
Pineapple rings
1/2 stick butter
1/2 brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Chopped nuts (optional, I didn't use these since my aunt has allergies but they would make an awesome addition to the cake or even sprinkle on top)

Preheat Oven to 375. Mix pumpkin, eggs, shortening, vanilla, pineapple, pineapple juice together. In seperate bowl mix flour, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg. Slowly add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture and blend well. Do not over mix. Mix Filling Ingredients together in a seperate bowl and set aside.

In skillet melt butter, add brown sugar-stir over medium LOW heat until melted and mixed. Pour into a bundt pan (I use a stoneware bundt pan but this would probably work in other kinds of cake pans). Arrange pineapple slices into mixture. Pour half of pumpkin batter on top, pour cream cheese mix in, swirl slightly and pour the other half of pumpkin batter in. Bake approx. 1 hr or until tester comes out clean.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Epic Failures: Sandra Lee and my Pumpkin Tenders

This is a quote from Anthony Bourdain on Sandra Lee:

"She makes her audience feel good about themselves. You watch her on that show and you think, "I can do that. That's not intimidating." All you have to do is waddle into the kitchen, open a can of crap and spread it on some other crap that you bought at the supermarket. And then you've done something really special. The most terrifying thing I've seen is her making a Kwanzaa cake. Watch that clip and tell me your eyeballs don't burst into flames. It's a war crime on television. You'll scream."

This quote made my day. Thank you Valentine for finding it. For some unexplainable reason, this woman grates on my nerves more than an orange zester in Florida on Thanksgiving. Her booze soaked show is an insult to those who actually LIKE to cook. Opening cans and slapping some ugly pastel frosting in a ziplock bag does not equal COOKING. You think I'm kidding? The proof is in the pudding (aka Youtube).

Having said that, I must admit that the best cooks have failures. Things don't always come together working from scratch. Which is something Sandra Box-A-Lots-LEE will never understand. It's really hard to mess something up when you are dumping it from a box and adding water. Take cooking classes from EASY BAKE OVEN does not qualify you for your own Food Network show (there is a conspiracy here, I'm sure of it. BJ Queen anyone?)Sorry MOM, I know you like her and my rudeness is in no way a reflection of your upbringing. I learned it all on my own. *wink*

I also must admit that even I have failures in the kitchen. GASP. That hurt to admit. LOL My attempt at Pumpkin Cookies did not turn out well. They came out little pumpkin Cake blobs. Nice taste. Terrible texture for a cookie. Lumpy Pancakes would be a better description. They were also resembling Chicken tenders which does not bode well for their aesthetic appeal. Fortunately, the guys at work whom I adore dearly and are always ready to be my guinea pigs, scarfed them down. (I think they were truly afraid to offend me in case I didn't bring more goodies...its okay..I know ya'll are bald faced liars and I love you for it.) They did however get dubbed "Pumpkin Tenders". Sigh. Back to the drawing board. Here is the recipe for those of you brave enough to try altering it to get a better version. Happy Experimenting!

Pumpkin Tenders (okay okay Cookie Blobs if you prefer)

1/2 cup Butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 tbs maple syrup
1 egg
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 cups self-rising flour (or all purpose flour plus 1tsp baking soda)
1 1/2 tsps cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup milk

IN a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in honey, syrup and egg. Stir in pumpkin. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir flour misture into the creamed misture. Add the milk.

Drop dough onto greased baking sheet. Bake at 375 for about 10-12 minutes. Do not overcook because bottom will burn, so watch them closely to get the timing. Cool on sheets for a minute or two then move to cooling racks.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Chicken Salad

I'm a fan of healthy eating. I'm also a fan of budgets, to-do lists, and conservation. So when I can plan menu's that use leftover ingredients I am one happy girl. My favorite thing: WHOLE CHICKEN. Do not be scared of the whole chicken. You can grab a few during a sale at the grocery store for 2-3.00 a piece. A WHOLE Chicken for less than 3 dollars. That's about four meals people. You can pop a whole chicken directly in the freezer to use for later. So simple to fix. Once you do it, you will kick yourself for not using whole chicken ALL the time.

I know some of you health nuts out there will never survive without your lean, skinless, boneless Outrageously priced cutlets but really, you know where that comes from right? A WHOLE CHICKEN. Can you imagine little boneless, skinless creatures rolling around in the dirt on a farm? ::giggles::

After rinsing and patting dry, throw a whole chicken in the crock pot (you don't have to remove the neck and innards if you are squeamish about sticking your hand in the cavities) on top of a bed of course chopped onion. Add some salt and pepper, parsley, and rosemary. Sprinkly with lemon juice and pour hot water in to cover chicken. Set the crockpot on low for 8-10 hours and off you go.

When done, dump the whole thing through a large strainer over a bowl. This seperates the good flavored broth from the chicken. Let the chicken drain and set aside. Pour your broth into multiple containers (2 cup measurements are good) and freeze for future recipes (soups, stews, stuffings, etc.)The chicken will fall apart. Literally. Just pick out your meat pieces and discard the onion, skin and bones. Now you have perfectly cooked chicken to make stews, casseroles, sandwhiches, etc from. One recipe to try:

Chicken Salad
Chicken pieces from cooked chicken (both light and dark meat but more light)
Celery (2 stalks)
small-medium Onion
1 tsp celery salt
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
1 tsp dried Rosemary
1 tbs dried Parsley

In a food processor, coursely chop one small-medium onion and two stalks of celery. Add your chicken pieces and course chop til small chuncks of veggies and meat but don't mince it. Add salt and pepper to taste, a dash of parsley and rosemary. Add Mayonaise until creamy. SIMPLE, perfect and SO delicious.

I like to serve it on warm dinner rolls with green leaf lettuce and a side of fresh cut fruit. Makes a wonderful light lunch or dinner and is great for parties.

Maple Brown Sugar Cookies

After a very stressful evening, I jumped into my kitchen to experiment with some new recipes I'm toying with. I want a variety of cookies in my Holiday Tins this year and after much taste testing by my co-workers (such a hard life they lead around me) I think it is unanimous that this cookie should make it into the line-up. ENJOY!

Maple Brown Sugar Cookies

2 cups flour ( I use Self Rising which alleviates the need for the next two ingredients)

1 1/2 teaspoons bakingpowder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1/4 cup shortening

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons real maple syrup

1 egg

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoonful of cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Stir together the dry ingredients and set aside. Sitr together the 2 tablespoons cinnamon, and 1/2 cup brown sugar and set aside.

Cream the butter and shortening. Add the sugar and the syrup and beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat well. Mix in the dry ingredients.

Roll into 1" balls and roll the balls in the brown sugar/ cinnamon mixture. Place on greased baking sheet. Bake for approx. 10-12 minutes. Cookies should soft (almost underdone) when you take them out to give them a nice crisp outside and slightly chewy inside. Makes about 30 cookies.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Up This Week

I'm going to make once again the Sweet Potato Upside Down Cake to perfect the recipe. I'm also going to try a Pound Cake Recipe for Brandi's Birthday and Cranberry Muffins, Maple Brown Sugar Cookies, Pumpkin Nut Cookies. These items, once perfected, will be added to my available menu for purchase.

I'm currently obsessed with anything FALL feeling or Thanksgiving Related. I'm cooking an entire Thanksgiving Feast for my In-laws this year. I'm very excited to bring out a few favorite recipes and try a few new ones. So if you can't find me browsing the web for recipes, my butt is probably parked in front of the TV glued to the Food Network.

It has long been a passion of mine to make a living from cooking/baking and/or gardening. I've never been quite sure HOW I wanted to do that though: Writing Cookbooks/blogging, a Show on Foodnetwork, bakery or small catering business. I just want to feed people and be in my kitchen as much as possible. For now, I'm satisfied playing with recipes, blogging and feeding friends. Will it be more one day? I hope so. Until then, sit back, relax and enjoy my triumphs, my catastrophe's and my unsolicited opinions and reviews!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Big Changes

For the next few days, this blog will be undergoing renovation. I have decided to streamline and expand topics to encompass more of my domestic interests and provide my readers with more variety. Please bare with me as we change it up a bit because I am super excited to bring you the new Garden Gourmet.