Saturday, December 21, 2013

Chocolate Snowballs

This cookie recipe came from Dan Savage.  Yes.  THAT Dan Savage.  Well, from his mother, really.  But Dan passed the recipe along and I decided to take a chance and I'm glad I did.

This is the second new recipe I've gotten from a radio podcast.  (The other being the Sweet Potato Pie recipe below.)  Both of them are egg-sell-ent.

I'm going to have to take up NPR all over again.
These are melt-in-your-mouth delicious.  A chocolate, butter-based cookie with pecans and tossed in sugar. What's not to love?
Without further ado....

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 c flour
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup cocoa
2 c pecans
confectioners sugar

Directions:

Sift flour, salt, and cocoa together.  Cream butter & sugar until fluffy.  Add vanilla.  Mix together dry ingredients in a separate bowl.  Gradually beat dry ingredients into butter mixture.  Blend in pecans. Form a log, wrap in saran and then foil, and put in fridge overnight.

Cut loaf into inch-thick slices, then into quartered cubes.  Roll cubes into balls about 1 inch in diameter.  Bake on a non-greased cookie sheet for 20 minutes at 350.  Transfer cookies as soon as they come out of the oven to a cooling rack.  Allow to cool completely before tossing in confectioner's sugar.  Much easier than they look when you finish them.  A great beginner's cookie.

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Nana's Sweet Potato Pie

I'm not going to lie to you.  This pie is so good, you'll stick a fork in your grandmother's hand if she tries to steal a bite.

Thanksgiving is coming up.  At my house, pumpkin pie reigns supreme. Every year I watch my relatives dive into a national favorite.  I watch, but I never partake.  I'm no fan of pumpkin pie.  I am a fan of sweet potatoes.  This year, I decided to take the bull by the horns and make my own pie.  In advance.  Just for me.  Let them have their pumpkin. I gots me some sweet taters.

This is a delicious pie.  I kid you not.  Easily made it into my top five pies.  Try it. You won't be disappointed.  Got it from a NPR podcast.  You just never know.

Ingredients:

3 large sweet potatoes (about 1.5 lbs)
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 stick unsalted sweet butter, room temp
1 can evaporated milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 9-inch pie crust

Directions:

Boil sweet potatoes in their skin until fork tender.  Drain water and allow potatoes to cool.  Peel and discard the skin. In a medium bowl, add the sweet potatoes, eggs, butter cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar, and whip until incorporated.  Add evaporated milk a little at a time until the filling becomes loose.  Pour the filling into the pie crust.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Take the remaining evaporated milk, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 cup sugar and heat just until sugar is dissolved. Brush the mixture on top of the filling.

Place pie in oven and bake for 50 minutes or until the pie is firm to the touch.  Remove pie from oven and allow to cool slightly before eating.


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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Pork Carnitas

You have to try this recipe.  It was so good, I didn't even have time to take a picture of it before it was gone.  The most amazing thing is it is made of pork.  I usually hate pork.  But this is melt in your mouth magic.  I'm not kidding.  You can also double this recipe.

Ingredients:

5 lb pork shoulder
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon adobo sauce
juice of 2 limes
1/2 cup orange juice
12 ounces beer

Garnish

purple onion, small dice
avocado
fresh cilantro leaves
lime juice

Rub

1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne

Directions:

Put the pork shoulder in your slow cooker.  Rub the garlic all over the meat.  Pour the rub over the meat and rub it in.  Add the lime and orange juice, beer, and adobo sauce. Cover and cook for 6 hours.  Shred the meat with forks and return to slow cooker.  Preheat broiler.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Place the meat on the cookie sheet and broil a few minutes until the edges sort of carmelize on the pork.

Serve on corn or flour tortillas with fresh cilantro, diced onions and a drizzle of lime juice.

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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Homemade Apple Butter

Ahh, the apple tree did it again.  Not a mast year like the last one, but I got some nice eating apples and enough to make an apple cake and something new this year:  apple butter.

This recipe came from Allrecipes.com, and it's a good one.  I scaled it for 15 half pints with enough left over to put in the fridge and have some this week.

Ingredients: 

2 cans frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
3 cups apple cider
8 lbs of apples, cored and chopped
1.5 cups dark brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves

Directions:

Bring apple juice, apple cider and apples to a boil.  When soft, mash through a sieve, a chinois, or use a food processor or hand blender.   Return to heat and add sugar and spices.  Simmer on low for up to 2 hours. (I actually had to cook mine longer.)  You want to cook it until when you put a heaping teaspoon of the butter on a plate, no water separates from the pulp.  Another test is if you have a heaping teaspoon and let it cool for 2 minutes, it is still mounded on the spoon.

Put in sterilized half-pint jars with 1/4" head space and process for 10 minutes.

Allow to cool for several hours until you hear that magical "pop".

Great on everything from ice cream to cornbread.

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Sunday, August 4, 2013

Cowboy Kick in the Spurs



I don't know about your garden, but the weather has been awfully kind to my peppers this year.  I've got a bumper crop of banana peppers and jalapenos, which is to be expected, but I also have for the first time ever...plentiful bell peppers, pasillas, cayennes, Peter peppers, seranos and Thai red chilis.  The only peppers that aren't doing tremendously are the pepperocinis and I think that's because they get shaded for about 4 hours during the day.  Otherwise, it's been a super year for peppers. 

Just what do you do with all of them?  I put up 4 pints of pickled banana peppers, and I'm trading some, but I am still overrun with jalapenos.  So I decided to amke some of that delicious hot jalapeno jam that warms things up during the cold winter months ahead.  This jame will not set to a jelly-like consistency, but is meant to be pourable and served as a condiment.  If you want your mam more firmly set, add more pectin.  This is delicious over a brick of cream cheese and served with crackers or crudites.

Ingredients:

1 lb green or red bell peppers, washed and seeded
3/4 lb jalapenos, washed, stems removed
6 cups sugar
1 1/4 c apple cider vinegar
1/4 c lemon juice
1 t kosher salt
3 oz. liquid pectin

Directions:

Wash and remove seeds from bell peppers.  Wash and remove stems from jalapenos.  Put both in a food processor and pulse into a fine dice.  Place in a large, non-reactive pot and combine with sugar, vinegar, lemon juice and salt.   Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.  Return to a boil and add the liquid pectin.  Bring to a rolling boil for 1 minute.  Ladle into sterilized pint jars.  Wipe down the rims with a clean cloth dipped in boiling water.  Place prepared lids and bands on the jars and process in a boiling water bath 10 minutes.  Remove from water bath and allow to cool on the counter for 24 hours.  Turn jars periodically to ensure that peppers are distributed throughout the jam as it cools.  If, after 24 hours, any lids have not sealed, put them in the refrigerator and use them promptly.  

Amount of jam will depend on the water content of your peppers.  This recipe should make about 8 pints of jam.  Mine made 9.  I just put the ninth in a clean jar and straight into the fridge for immediate use.  Looking forward to this.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake Cookies


Just like you remember from the school lunchroom!  These were among my favorite treats in grade school.  No one I knew ever made these at home even though my family was friends with one of the lunch ladies.  I figured the recipe was a trade secret.  Then I found this online. I enjoy these at least three times a year now.

I hope you like them as much as I do.  They really are a blast from the past.

Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake Cookies

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup cocoa
1 stick oleo or butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
3 cups old fashion oats

Put the sugar, milk, cocoa, and butter in a pan and bring to a hard boil.  Boil for 1 minute.  Remove from heat.  Add peanut butter and stir until incorporated.  Add vanilla and stir again.  Then add the oats.  Mix well.  Drop from spoon onto a greased or oiled baking sheet.  Refrigerate until hardened. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

I keep these in the fridge until they are all gone.  

Don't tell the lunch lady, but these are everything I remember.

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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Fish tacos!




I first had fish tacos at a little joint at Huntington Beach, California.  They were rock-my-socks-off delicious.  Ever since then, I've been determined to re-create that first experience.  This recipe is not exactly like the tacos I had that day, but they are every bit as authentic a California eating experience, and they are rock-star fish tacos.  I kid you not.  Try these and you may find them in your regular rotation for a while.  Or at least as long as your arteries hold out.

Beer-Battered Fish Tacos

Batter
1 cup AP flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup beer (plus more to make a thin batter)


Sauce
1/2 cup mayo
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons of capers, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dill weed
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne (red) pepper

1 lb cod fillets, sliced into 2 oz. chunks
package corn tortillas
shredded cabbage
chopped tomato
vegetable oil (for frying)

Mix the batter and set aside.  Mix the sauce ingredients together and refrigerate.  In a deep, heavy bottomed pot, put one quart of oil and set on medium high heat.  Once the oil is hot, dredge the cod in some flour and then dunk in the batter.  Add no more than 5 pieces at a time.  Do not let them get too dark. Dry cod on paper towels.  Heat a non-stick skillet on high.  Heat a corn tortilla (not too stiff) on both sides.  Load with fish, sauce, cabbage, tomatoes and top off with a little lime juice.

The fish is amazing by itself.  The sauce by itself is amazing.   And, if you use El Milagro corn tortilla shells (out of Chicago), the tortillas by themselves are amazing.  But this dish put together is electric!

The sauce has many more applications beyond this dish.  I can see it as dipping sauce for french fries (even though I'm not a french fry fan), on beef sandwiches, etc.

I'm not a big fan of fried food and I don't make it very often.  (What do you do with all that oil when you are done?)  From a health perspective, I suppose that's a good thing.   But like homemade fried chicken, there is nothing quite like home cooked fried fish.  So I only do this once every two years or so.  I think my arteries will forgive me on those rare occasions.  And this, my friends, was worth it.

On the other hand, the original fish tacos I had in Huntington Beach were grilled.  I'm pretty sure they used tilapia or some other white fish.  I think that you could use any "substantial" white fish (tilapia, cod, perch, etc.) and it would still be fine. I think if you sprinkled that fish with a little cumin and cayenne before baking it, it would also complement the flavors.  So this doesn't have to be only an every-once-in-a-while dish.  I also think it would be more visually appealing with purple cabbage and a nice fresh slice of avocado.  Maybe even a few pinches of shredded carrot.

Delicious.

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Restaurant-style Salsa


Sometimes you just want it like they have at the Mexican place.  You know the stuff.  They bring it out sometimes in a mini-carafe with a basket of warm tortilla chips.

My mouth waters just thinking about it.

I was thinking about that and then I found this recipe.  OK, it is a Pioneer Woman recipe, but it was pretty good nonetheless.  Say what you will, that woman can cook.


Restaurant-style Salsa

1 28 oz. can whole plum tomatoes with juice (I used Contadina brand)
2 10 oz. cans of Rotel with juice
1 clove garlic
1 small onion
1 jalapeno, seeds removed
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 teaspoon sugar
juice of 1 whole lime

Put in your blender or food processor and have at it.

Makes a lot, but that's okay.  You may find yourself pouring a glass and drinking this.

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Gregg's Birthday Peanut Butter Cookies - Shhhh. It's a Surprise!

So today, I made some peanut butter cookies.  I don't like peanut butter cookies.  Never have.  Amazing thing, if you think about it.  Peanut butter is my favorite food.  Followed closely by popcorn.  Nothing else comes in a close third.  Then how is it possible that I don't like peanut butter cookies?

I know this might be heresy, but I also don't like peanut butter cake.  I think it's because the only peanut butter cake I've ever had was prepared as though it was Texas sheet cake and I don't like that style of cake.  I digress.

Monday is Gregg's birthday.  Gregg is a good guy.  He's one of my best friends.  Peanut butter cookies are his favorite.  How could I deny a face like that?

Gregg's Birthday Peanut Butter Cookies

1/2 cup butter, room temp
1/2 cup butter flavored shortening
1 cup smooth or crunchy peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2.5 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat overn to 375F.  Cream together butter, shortening, sugars, eggs, and vanilla until well combined.  Sift together flour, soda, and salt.  Add in thirds to the sugar mixture. Roll into 1" balls and place on a baking sheet.  (I use a silicone mat.)  Squash cookies slightly with the back of a fork and make the cross marks.  Bake 8-10 minutes. Don't overcook.  Allow to cool on the baking sheets for at least 2 minutes to set.  Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

CopyCat Recipe: Olive Garden's Pasta e Fagioli

Like you, I've seen a lot of copycat recipes on various recipe sites, Pinterest (follow me, by the way!) and so on.  I've never bothered to try many of them.  For one, you can often go directly to your favorite restaurant's website and get the recipe straight from them!

There are probably lots of others, but those were three I was curious enough about their recipes to locate.

In any event, if you go to Olive Garden's free recipe site, you will not find a recipe for their pasta e fagioli.  Pasta e fagioli (pronounced pasta fazool) is a classic Italian soup.  It is, to my mind, minestrone with pasta.  Literally translated, it means pasta with beans.  Every cook makes it differently, uses different beans or bean blends, puts some secret ingredient in and so on.  It's a versatile recipe that you can adjust to your own tastes.

I've never been a big fan of Olive Garden.  I always felt that their food was mediocre.  It bears no resemblance whatsoever to real Italian food which can be obtained at many small, family-owned restaurants scattered in mid-sized cities throughout the country.  One of my favorites is a place called Scotty's Italian Restaurant on 9th Street and Vine (I believe) in Cincinnati, OH.  It was about the only redeeming thing I found in Cincinnati, OH.  But I digress.

Back to Olive Garden.  Never a big fan. But I went there for lunch once many, many moons ago and remember that their soup and salad was pretty darn good.  The soup I had was pasta e fagioli.  So when I saw a copycat recipe, I decided to give it a try.  I'm glad I did.

However, it is pretty pedestrian as listed.  You may prefer it this way.  I think it pretty well mirrors Olive Garden's actual recipe.  This is a recipe you need to toy with.  Tinker with.  Try a major overhaul once in a while.  But for starters, here's the bones you'll get to work with.

Olive Garden's Copycat Pasta e Fagioli

1 lb. ground chuck/turkey/beef
1 small onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
2 large carrots, diced
2 15 oz cans of Hunts Fire-Roasted Tomatoes (to me, this is vital that they be "fire roasted)
1 15 oz can of tomato sauce (any brand, plain)
1 Tablespoon vinegar (recipe calls for white, I use apple cider vinegar because white vinegar is for cleaning, people)
2 cups beef broth
1 14 oz. can of red beans (I use red kidney beans)
1 14 oz. can of white beans (I use northern or canneli beans)
1.5 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 lb. Digitali pasta (or a small rigatoni, or even elbow macaroni--whatever you've got on hand)

In a large stock pot or dutch oven, brown the ground meat together with the onion, celery and carrot. I usually use ground chuck and there is so little fat to drain that I usually don't bother.  If you are counting every calorie, go ahead and drain it.  Return it to the pan and add the diced tomatoes, beans, broth, tomato sauce, vinegar, salt, basil, oregano,  pepper and thyme.  I usually also add one bay leaf.  I'm a rebel that way.

Bring to a boil and lower the heat until it is maintained at a slow simmer.  Cook for 50 minutes, minimum.  It's always better the second day.  It's practically illegal by day three.  Keep in mind that this soup works very nice as a poaching liquid for Italian sausage links.  Just saying.

After 50 minutes, put on a pot of salted water to boil.  When it reaches a rolling boil, add the pasta to the water and allow to cook according to package directions.  Remove when al dente.

Now, you can add your pasta to the pot if you like, but we warned that it will continue to cook in the soup liquid and will begin to absorb a lot of the liquid in your pot.  Next day, you'll go to have a bowl of soup and find out you know have a pasta chowder that has to be watered down again.  I'm not a fan of losing precious liquid to pasta and then having to water down my soup that I worked so hard to develop the flavor in.  I usually keep my pasta on the side and add abut a quarter cup to a single serving of soup.  Much better.

Now, I modify this recipe.  What do I do?   

I chop up two mild Italian sausage links and brown it with the ground chuck, onion, carrot and celery mix.  Sausage adds rich fat flavor.  It gives this recipe ummph and ummph is a good thing.  A nice breakfast sausage might work just as well.  Because Italian sausage links usually come in packages of five, I throw the remaining three in to cook as the soup cooks.  You can leave them in there as long as you'd like. Take them out and feed them to your husband.  Hide them in the soup and save them for yourself.  Use them in another recipe.  Go crazy!

Italian sausage is also heavy in salt, so I completely omit the salt.

I usually skip buying prepared beef broth and just toss in two beef bullion cubes with the tomatoes and add 2 cups of water.  You don't have to use beef broth.  You can use tomato juice.  V8.  Plain water.  I've even used leftover coffee!  Use whatever is handy.  Whatever liquid you use will marry in with the flavors and turn into liquid gold.

I add any Parmesan rinds I have hidden in the back of the fridge with the tomatoes and tomato sauce.  This really add some fantastic flavor.  You've been throwing those away?  Oh dear Lord.  Don't do that anymore.

I rarely keep dried basil in the house.  I have frozen pesto left over from last year's garden in the freezer, and I usually add a tablespoon or so of the thawed pesto to the pot.  Pesto, for those who don't know is a maceration of fresh basil leaves, pine nuts, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese.  Nothing there that would conflict with this recipe!

As I mentioned, I also add a bay leaf.  I fish it out before serving.

I usually add a generous 3/4 to a full cup of a good burgundy wine (Merlot, Shiraz, something along those lines).  I like wine in Italian dishes.  But be warned, this is going to change the tenor of this soup.  If you aren't a wine fan, proceed with caution.

I use whatever beans I have handy.  I usually try to stick with dark kidney beans, some white bean (Northern or Cannelli), or a bean mixture.  Pintos would fall apart. Avoid them.  Garbanzos?  No. You can use chili beans as long as they are rinsed.  You don't want Mexican overtones here. And Pasta e fagioli is not a spicy dish.

I almost always serve with a piece of chewy crusty bread.

Man, that's good eating.

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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Parmesan Enrusted Talipa

There was a time when I was watching my carbs.  Say what you will, it is an effective diet regimen.  Not a lot of fun, but effective.  This dish made it suck just a little less.  OK, a whole lot less.  Then again, I'm a fish lover.  If I had my way, I'd probably die of mercury poisoning.

But all that aside, this no-carb dish is delicious.   If you like fish, you'll love this dish.

I stole this recipe from Food.com.  It isn't often that I prepare Food.com recipes, but the ones I have tried, including Bobby Flay's Orange Jalapeno Turkey, are fantastic.

As I said in my review of this dish, I made it for four adults who can't agree on anything.  Everyone loved this dish.

Because I'm not following a low-carb diet at the moment, I served this with long grain and wild rice.

Topping:
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (do yourself a favor and use fresh)
1/4 cup butter, softened
4 Tablespoons mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon celery salt
pinch of table salt
2 lbs tilapia fillets

Directions:
Line a broiler pan with foil and spray lightly with Pam.  Turn the broiler on to heat up.  In a small bowl mix together Parmesan cheese, butter, mayo, lemon juice and garlic.  Add the seasonings and mix well.  Set aside.

Arrange the fillets in a single layer on the prepared pan and broil a few inches from the heat for 2-3 minutes.  Turn the fish over and broil 2-3 more minutes.  Remove from broiler and cover with the Parmesan mixture on the top side only.  Return to oven and broil for about 2 minutes or until the topping is browned and the fish flakes easily.  Don't overcook the fish!

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Makeup Organization for Small Spaces

I live in a small house where storage is at a premium.  I realized the other day after tripping over my canister vacuum for the 90,000th time that something has to give. My kitchen linens are stored in a dresser in the living area.  The utility room closet is so inconvenient that I put things there that by all rights should be in the garage.  The only thing that has ever persuaded me to lug the vacuum into the inconveniently placed and awkwardly shaped utility room closet was the prospect of my mother knowing exactly how I keep house.

The bathroom has the most closet space in the house.  My clothes closet is in the bathroom rather than the bedroom, which has no closet at all.  The linen closet, also in the bathroom, is spacious.  Both do triple duty as generalized house storage.  Which is to say, they are a mess.

Compounding the problem, there is no medicine cabinet in the bathroom.  The toothpaste and brush, hand soap and air freshener are housed on the sink top out of necessity. Everything else has found its way into the oversized linen closet. That closet hides an extraordinary amount of sins.  If you want to know how someone can own five different bottles of shampoo, 13 different bottles of hand lotion, 18 hair brushes--all essentially the same, it's because of overtaxed linen closets where things can get lost.  I've tried all sorts of things to bring organization to that closet, but it just has to meet so  many different objectives, nothing seems to work.  And the makeup is buried in that zoo of shampoo, conditioner, hand lotion, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, towels and sheets.

I've never been one to wear a lot of makeup.  It's not that I don't like looking put together. Perhaps I'm not your ordinary girl. If things aren't sitting right in front of me and beyond easy to access, to hell with it.  Such was the case with makeup.  So I decided to try something to put the makeup front and center.  I made it conveniently available.  I put up a magnet board inside the linen closet door and stuck the makeup to it.  Isn't it cute?  If you only knew how cheap that was.

Here's what I used, where I got it and how much it all cost.

Lowe's
12" x 24" piece of sheet metal: $3.68 (the $24.97 aluminum sheet is for another project coming soon!)
Primer for metal: $4.98
Chalkboard spray paint: $5.98
Magnets (bought 2, only needed 1 - 1 going back) $1.97
6 screws, $0.05/ea, $0.30

Kohl's 
3 stainless magnetic pockets $6.99/ea. (with 15% off coupon) $17.82

Repurposed
Magnetic hook FREE!  (already had - cost unknown)
Gorilla glue.  FREE!  (Already had this. I think it was about $5 for the bottle, but I only used about 2 cents worth.)

Total cost of project:  $34.73.

I primed the sheet metal with two coats of spray-on primer.  Then I put on two coats of spray-on chalkboard paint.  Then I glued the magnets to the bottoms of the various pots of makeup I had.  I drilled 6 holes around the sheet metal to accommodate the screws.  I screwed the thing to the inside linen closet door and then just slapped all the magnetics to the sheet metal.  Voila!

The three pockets are organized so that they contain lip items, eye items, and brushes.  I was surprised that even the large brushes and tubes fit really nicely into the metal pockets.  I need to think of something that will prevent the tubes/pencils/etc. from tipping over when I remove one. Rice might work.  I'll let you know.  

The nice stainless steel magnetic pockets were more than half the cost of the project.  I could have shopped around for less expensive alternatives.  I'm pretty sure that Staples has plastic magnetic pockets, but this was still pretty cheap and it looks sharp.  In fact, it was those stainless pockets that caused me to think of this project.  I could have  opted for basic black matte paint and possibly saved some money (I didn't comparison shop so I'm not sure about that).  I could have opted for no paint at all and saved $11 off the project costs.  But really, it's my bathroom and I wanted it to look nice, not like the garage.

I'm pretty pleased with the results.  I'll let you know if it prompts me to wear makeup more often or if this was just another crafty project gone wrong. Then again, if I find it doesn't work, it's a chalkboard I can use to make a grocery list.

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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Upside Down Cake in a Skillet
I get that my mom wasn't much of a role model in the kitchen. But I really didn't know that you are supposed to make pineapple upside down cake in a skillet.  An offhand comment from a friend alerted me to this fact.  So I tried it.  And here is how it looks.  I used the largest iron pan I had.  It's the size for frying chicken.  Large diameter, deep sides, and heavy.  But it looked and tasted fantastic!

And here's the recipe, just for Sue!

Ingredients:

1 pineapple cake mix 
1 can Dole pineapple slices (liquid reserved)
1.5 c brown sugar (packed)
1/2 c butter
maraschino cherries

Directions:

Preheat the oven according to the directions on the cake mix box.  Melt the butter in a 10-12" high-sided cast iron skillet.  Remove from heat and sprinkle the brown sugar all around the skillet in an even layer.  Arrange the pineapple slices atop the sugar and place a maraschino cherry in the center of each pineapple slice.  You can also add additional cherries in between the pineapple as shown above. 

Prepare the cake mix according to the directions on the box.  Instead of using water, use the reserved juice from the pineapple slices to prepare the box mix.  Pour the batter into the skillet and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Expect that this cake will take significantly longer to bake than the directions indicate on the box.  My cake took about 55 minutes to bake through.

Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool slightly.  You want to flip the cake carefully, making sure not to crack it.  Also, you can't wait until the cake has completely cooled or the sugar/pineapple on the bottom will stick to the pan.

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Sunday, January 27, 2013

The best cookies on the planet

I don't say this lightly.  These cookies are it.  They are the perfect texture.  They are sweet, nutty, chocolatey and equally as spectacular after they have cooled.  They are PERFECT dunked in a cup of coffee.  PERFECT I TELL YOU!

Grandma Swisher had this recipe.  Grandma was my maternal grandmother.  She could cook like a baws.  Unfortunately, she didn't pass the skills on to her daughter and I had to learn it all over from scratch.  But this recipe.  She had it forever.  I assume she got it from her mother, who appears to have been something of a baker.  These cookies are so spectacular because they are crisp and chewy at the same time.

There's a couple of tips you need to know.  Don't overcook them.  Let them cool for about 4 minutes on the cookie sheet before moving them to a cooling rack.  (Otherwise, they will fall apart on you.)  Try to keep from eating all the dough.  Try to keep from eating all the cookies straight out of the oven.  Try to control yourself.

Oh hell.  It's useless.

Ingredients & Directions:

1.5 cup AP flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt

Mix together and set aside.

In your mixing bowl, combine

1 cup butter flavored Crisco (which thankfully comes in a convenient 1 cup serving size these days)
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, unbeaten
1 t vanilla
1 t hot water

Cream ingredients until well combined.

Add the dry ingredients.  Mix well.  Then, add:

2 cup Old Fashion oats (must be slow cook)
12 oz. pkg of Nestle's chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts (not optional!)

Mix until homogeneous.  Bake at 350F for 8-10 minutes.  Cookies are done when they are only just beginning to show some brown on the top.  At first, you'll think they are undercooked. They are not. If you don't believe me, make a batch, let them cool and then try one before baking any more.

Take them in the vicinity of your favorite suitors and wait for the marriage proposals to start flooding in.

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