Sunday, August 31, 2008

Campfire Potatoes with Herbs

I'm sure there are more versions of this recipe than there are stars in the sky. And that's the beauty of these potatoes. The recipe is basic, yet the variations are limitless.

I just christened them "Campfire Potatoes" because you can easily throw these packets in a campfire to cook them, and we have done so. They can also be grilled at home, in case you don't plan to have a campfire anytime soon. I'm sure you could bake them in the oven as well, but I have never done that.

Today, this is how I made them.

Campfire Potatoes with Herbs

8 Potatoes, sliced or chopped
1 Onion, thinly sliced and rings separated
4-5 Carrots, sliced
Coarse salt
Garlic cloves, peeled (optional)
Any other vegetable your heart desires (optional)
Fresh herbs of your choice (rosemary, tarragon, basil, parsley, etc.)

Lay out a large piece of tin foil (use a double layer if your tin foil is flimsy). If you're making a lot, use several separate pieces--you will be making packets of vegetables to put on the grill. For the quantity of vegetables listed above, I made three packets, with all the ingredients divided among them.

Slice or chop several potatoes and place them on the tin foil. Thinly slice an onion or two, and lay some of the rings over each pile of potatoes. Slice some carrots, and add those as well. I also meant to throw in some peeled cloves of fresh garlic, but I forgot! You can really add anything you'd like: zucchini, mushrooms, whatever you have available.

Generously sprinkle with coarse salt, and top with several tablespoons of butter. The amount of butter depends on the size of your packet. Don't be afraid to use a whole stick or two if you're making a lot. I used a whole stick, divided between three packets. Mine looked like this:

I couldn't decide on just one herb, so in my three different packets, I used three different herbs (top to bottom): rosemary, Italian parsley, sage. If you don't have any fresh herbs, you could use dried or just leave the herbs out. They'll be delicious either way.

It is very important to seal these packets well, because you will be flipping them on the grill about half-way through cooking. Top your vegetables with an additional piece of foil, roughly the same size as the bottom piece. Join the two side edges together, and fold them over one another, the way you roll your coffee beans or cereal bags closed. Do the same with each side, then with each end, and it should be good.

Place your packets on the grill over medium-low heat, and grill for about 20 to 30 minutes. Gently flip over (use oven mitts or be careful not to pierce the foil with your tongs) and grill for another 20 minutes or so. You should hear the butter sizzling and smell the onions cooking.

When you open them, they will be perfectly tender, and will look like this:

And they will taste amazing.

Blackberry Yogurt Muffins

Pioneer Woman recently had a dairy recipe contest, and unfortunately NONE of my Fabulous Submissions (Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas, Yoghurt Coffee Cake, Min's Creamy Saffron Vegetable Soup) were selected as finalists. I feel like this is a Serious Oversight, but I suppose with over 2,000 recipes it would be difficult to narrow down the field, but you know what? She is missing out. Especially on the coffee cake (my new favorite!) and the enchiladas. I hope at least one of my recipes made it into the top 75. We'll see. You try them and let me know what YOU think.

So anyway, I'd been craving blueberry muffins, and Pioneer Woman posted a contest finalist blueberry muffin recipe, but I kept forgetting to buy blueberries. Wifey said she had some frozen blackberries I could use, so I made her a deal: trade frozen blackberries for warm muffins. I think we're both winning here.

I used the Pioneer Woman recipe as a starting point, but I've made several changes, so here is my version.

Blackberry Yogurt Muffins

Adapted from a recipe from Ellen F., via pioneer woman.

3 cups minus 2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 generous, heaping cup plain yogurt
2 cups blackberries
1 teaspoon vanilla
Softened butter, for muffin pan
Raw sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Generously butter muffin pan.

In a large bowl stir together flour, baking soda, nutmeg, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In another large bowl whisk together sugar, oil, vanilla, egg, and yogurt. Add the dry ingredients and stir gently until just combined. Be careful not to over-mix.

Add blackberries, reserving 1/2 cup, to mixture and gently fold in.

Add mixture to well-buttered muffin pans. Top each muffin with 2 or so berries. Sprinkle raw sugar over top.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes and allow to cool completely.

It's quite possible I need a new muffin tin, either that or I was too anxious to try these luscious muffins. Hard to get out of the pan! I let them cool briefly, and still had to go around each muffin with a knife and gently pry each one out. After cooling completely, it was somewhat easier, but you still need to gently loosen and pry them out with a knife.

They are delicious! Bake some today!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Raw Mushroom Dip

I haven't posted anything in a while but Min and I were just talking about mushrooms.  We both LOVE mushrooms.  Unfortunately my husband hates cooked mushrooms but he likes them raw.  I haven't made this dip in a long time but it used to be my staple item to bring to any gathering we went to.   And the bowl was ALWAYS empty.  It's quick, easy and delicious!

Here's what you'll need...

1  8-oz package of cream cheese (room temp so it's softened a bit).
1-Tbs chopped chives (fresh tastes better but dried will do fine)
1 1/4-cups mushrooms
Salt to taste
Parsley or fresh chives for garnish

1)  Quarter the mushrooms and put them in the food processor.  Process until mushrooms are finely chopped.  Make sure you have about 1 1/4 cups of chopped mushrooms.  Put mushrooms in a bowl.

2)  Put the cream cheese and chives in the processor and blend until smooth and creamy.  

3)  Add the cream cheese mixture to the mushrooms and mix well.  Salt to taste.

4)  Put in a serving bowl and garnish.

Serve with pita chips, crackers, bagel chips... whatever.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Chicken with Bacon, Mushrooms, and Onions

This recipe is from Real Simple magazine, and it is delicious. I love this dish; it smells wonderful when its simmering away. It is very comforting, flavorful and the sauce is excellent.

Today I cooked this on high, for three hours, because by the time I got around to it, I didn't have six hours to wait for it. I'm sure either way is fine, and it was delicious. The steps of frying the bacon and browning the chicken really are important, and add so much flavor. The little onions are so cute and yummy. I asked my neighbor to pick up the mushrooms, she came back with sliced ones instead of whole. I do prefer how the whole ones look, but it was still good.

Make this for dinner--you and your family will love it.

Slow-Cooker Recipe: Chicken with Bacon, Mushrooms, and Onions

This is the country version of the fussier coq au vin. Serve it with mashed potatoes. (tonight we served it with rice. you could also serve it with noodles, whatev.)

1/2 pound sliced bacon, diced
1 4- to 6-pound chicken, cut up
1/2 cup dry white wine (or 1/4 cup dry vermouth plus 1/4 cup water)
1/2 pound small white mushrooms
1 cup frozen small white onions, thawed
6 garlic cloves, chopped
3 sprigs fresh rosemary (or 1 tablespoon dried rosemary leaves)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium-low heat until crisp. With a slotted spoon, transfer it to a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker. Pour off all but a light coating of fat from the skillet. Add the chicken and brown over medium-high heat; transfer to the cooker. Pour the wine into the skillet and scrape up any browned bits; add the skillet contents to the cooker, along with the mushrooms, onions, garlic, rosemary, and salt. Cover and cook on low heat for 6 hours, or on high for 3 hours. Transfer the chicken, bacon, and vegetables to a platter; keep warm. Pour the sauce into a small saucepan. Combine the water and cornstarch; stir it into the sauce. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Pour over the chicken.

Makes 6 servings

CALORIES 551 (50% from fat); FAT 30g (sat 9g); PROTEIN 56mg; CHOLESTEROL 212mg; CALCIUM 61mg; SODIUM 824mg; FIBER 1g; CARBOHYDRATE 8g; IRON 4mg

Real Simple, MARCH 2004

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Corn Chip Topping

This topping is a substitute for Toasted Bread Crumb Topping, and is easier and faster to make. It can be used to top Chicken and Rice Casserole or Baked Macaroni and Cheese. (also from The Best Make-Ahead Recipe)

Because the corn chips are already crisp and salty, there is no need to toast them in the oven or season them with salt.

Follow the recipe for Toasted Bread Crumb Topping, substituting 6 ounces corn tortilla or Frito corn chips for the bread. Pulse with the butter to coarse crumbs, about 10 pulses. Toss the crumbs with the parley and season with pepper. Set aside until needed.

Ritz Cracker Topping

This topping is a substitute for Toasted Bread Crumb Topping, and is easier and faster to make. It can be used to top Chicken and Rice Casserole or Baked Macaroni and Cheese. (also from The Best Make-Ahead Recipe)

Because the crackers are already crisp and salty, there is no need to toast them in the oven or season them with salt.

Follow the recipe for Toasted Bread Crumb Topping, substituting 50 Ritz crackers (1 1/2 sleeves) for the bread. Pulse with the butter to coarse crumbs, about 10 pulses. Toss the crumbs with the parsley and season with pepper. Set aside until needed.

Toasted Bread Crumb Topping

This recipe accompanies Chicken and Rice Casserole, Baked Macaroni and Cheese, and whatever else your heart desires. It is also from The Best Make-Ahead Recipe.

Toasted Bread Crumb Topping
Makes 2 3/4 cups; enough for one 13 by 9-inch casserole

4 slices white sandwich bread, quartered
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
Salt and ground black pepper

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 300 degrees F. Pulse the bread and butter in a food processor to coarse crumbs, about 6 pulses. Spread the crumbs out over a rimmed baking sheet. Bake, stirring occasionally, until golden and dry, 20 to 30 minutes. Let the crumbs cool, then toss with the parsley; season with salt and pepper to taste.

For a tasty shortcut, you can substitute Ritz Cracker Topping or Corn Chip Topping!

Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole with Peas, Carrots and Cheddar

Another recipe from The Best Make-Ahead Recipe. If you love having ready-made, but home-made, meals in the freezer, you really need to buy this book. There is a "southwest" variation of this recipe that I will post later, which features chiles, corn and black beans!

I made this recipe before to give away (keep one, freeze one, give one). It is easily "supersized" to make a huge quantity--directions to follow. This casserole is creamy and delicious, satisfying and comforting. And you can make it up to a month in advance. What more could you ask for?

Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole with Peas, Carrots, and Cheddar
Serves 8

After adding the rice, be sure to stir the sauce often for the first few minutes, using a heatproof rubber spatula; this is when the rice is most likely to clump and stick to the bottom of the pot. Serve with lemon wedges, if desired.

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 medium onion, minced
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 5 breasts), trimmed
1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
1 (1-pound) bag frozen pea and carrot medley (about 3 cups)
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
2 tablespoons juice from 1 lemon
Ground black pepper
1 recipe (about 2 3/4 cups) Toasted Bread Crumb Topping
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley (for serving)

1. Melt the butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and 1 teaspoon salt and cook until softened and lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until golden, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the broth and cream.

2. Add the chicken breasts, partially cover, and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover completely, and cook until the thickest part of the chicken breast registers 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Remove the chicken and set aside to cool. Stir the rice into the pot, cover, and continue to cook over low heat, stirring often, until the rice has absorbed much of the liquid and is just tender, 20 to 25 minutes. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred it into bite-sized pieces.

4. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the shredded chicken, peas and carrots, cheddar and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the mixture into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish and sprinkle with the crumb topping.

5. TO STORE: Wrap the dish tightly with plastic wrap and then foil and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 1 month. (If frozen, the casserole must be thawed completely in the refrigerator, about 24 hours)

6. TO SERVE: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Unwrap the dish and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake until the casserole is bubbling and hot throughout, about 1 hour. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the crumbs are crisp, 15 to 20 minutes longer. Sprinkle with the parsley before serving.

Bake the casserole in a 400-degree oven, uncovered, until the sauce is bubbling and the crumbs are crisp, 25 to 35 minutes. Sprinkle with the parsley before serving.


Bake Half, Freeze Half
Follow the recipe and divide the ingredients between two 8 x 8-inch casserole dishes (each will serve 4) or three 9 x 3-inch loaf pans (each will serve 2 or 3). The casseroles can be baked right away or wrapped tightly with plastic wrap and then foil and refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 1 month. See reheating instructions below.

TO BAKE IMMEDIATELY (for Bake Half, Freeze Half size pans)
Bake the casserole in a 400-degree oven, uncovered, until the sauce is bubbling and the crumbs are crisp, 20 to 25 minutes. Sprinkle with the parsley before serving.

TO BAKE IF REFRIGERATED (for Bake Half, Freeze Half size pans)
Unwrap the dish and cover tightly with foil. Bake in a 400-degree oven until the casserole is bubbling and hot throughout, 40 to 50 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the crumbs are crisp, 15 to 20 minutes longer. Sprinkle with the parsley before serving.

TO BAKE IF FROZEN (for Bake Half, Freeze Half size pans)
Thaw the casserole completely in the refrigerator, about 24 hours, then follow the instructions above for "To Bake if Refrigerated."

Min's Mexican Pots de Creme

We made a quadruple batch of these for our Housewarming Extravaganza, and put little dollops of deliciousness in disposable plastic Asian soup spoons. They were a hit at the party, everyone loved them. The idea behind using the spoons was because I didn't have ramekins or spoons for 40-60 people...and it worked!

We called them Mexican Chocolate Spoons. A quadruple batch yielded about 89 spoons!

The original recipe for these decadent little treats came from my trusty Better Homes & Gardens cookbook. BH&G says this about the recipe: "Pots de creme (poh-duh-KREM) is a very rich, puddinglike dessert that is served cold."

This does take at least 2 hours to chill, so plan a bit ahead. You can make it up to 24 hours ahead. I love planning ahead for dinner parties, and this is a quick and elegant dessert.

I've changed it up, so here is my version:

Min's Mexican Pots de Creme

1 cup half-and-half or light cream (I use heavy cream if it's all I've got)
1 4-ounce package sweet baking chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 beaten egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Whipped cream (optional, but a wonderful addition)

1. In a small heavy saucepan combine half-and-half, chocolate, sugar and cinnamon. Cook and stir over medium heat about 10 minutes or till mixture comes to a full boil and thickens. Gradually stir about half of the hot mixture into beaten egg yolks; add egg yolk mixture to hot mixture in pan. Cook and stir over low heat for 2 minutes more. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Pour into 4 or 6 pots de creme cups or small dessert dishes. Cover and chill 2 to 24 hours. If desired, serve with whipped cream. Makes 4 to 6 servings.


If you'd rather not have "mexican flavored" chocolate, omit the cinnamon.

If you'd like an espresso-flavored dessert, simply omit the cinnamon and add 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder (or instant coffee powder) along with the cream.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

H-Bomb's Little Golden Apple Pies

One of the perks of H-Bomb going to Kindergarten is spending time at the house in town as the fruit is ripening. Being down at the ranch last year we missed a lot of the fruit, as it ripened the deer got to it before we did.

This year, the little golden apples ripened first. H-Bomb picked a bunch, ate a bunch, stuck a bunch on top of the chain-link fence, and brought some home to make apple pie. I decided we should make little apple pies, technically tarts, because it will be easier and cuter. So here is his recipe.

H-Bomb's Little Golden Apple Pies

1/2 recipe Pate Brisee
A whole bunch of little golden apples, cored and chopped (as many as Mommy can do until she gets tired of it)
1 to 2 tablespoons lime juice
about 1/8 cup sugar
about 1/8 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Make and chill Pate Brisee.

Sprinkle apples with lime juice as they are cut. Mix apples and the rest of ingredients in a large bowl.

Press balls of chilled Pate Brisee into nonstick tart pan. My Mommy uses a wooden tart shaper she bought from Krista.

Fill tart shells with apples, and dot each tart with a teeny-tiny piece of butter.

If your Mommy is feeling ambitious and/or artistic, have her make some top crusts for the tarts. My Mommy wasn't feeling either way, so we don't have any top crusts today.

Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. If the tarts need more time, bake a few minutes longer, checking frequently. (Ours baked too quickly in Grammy's oven, darn it. We'll try again another time).

Taste & Create XIII: Decadent Breakfast Tacos

Decadent Breakfast Tacos!

For this edition of Taste & Create, hosted by Nicole, I was paired with Scrumptious of In My Box, who has an interesting blog about what to do with bounty from a community-supported agriculture program (CSA) in California. If I only lived close enough to ANYWHERE with such a program! My teeny-tiny town, 35 miles from my home, doesn't even have a farmer's market. :-( The lone, miniscule grocery store would be flabbergasted if I asked them for fresh fennel, kale or even goat cheese (they don't even carry blue cheese!) Ugh! I was excited to find leeks there last's sad, I realize.

{Incidentally, Nicole has a new Taste & Create website you should go check out!}

After perusing In My Box, I told Number One that apparently Scrumptious doesn't eat gluten, meat or much dairy, and "Duck" appears to be a vegan. Remembering my last T&C pairing, he said, "What do all these people have against MEAT?" I don't know, but I found a recipe to try anyway. We got nothing against vegetables! (it's just difficult to find some of the more "exotic" ones around here. You know, like shallots, or beets, or spinach that doesn't come pre-washed in a bag)

I quickly decided on Decadent Breakfast Tacos, because we love tacos (and any excuse to eat salsa for breakfast!). You can find the original recipe here, but I will be improvising quite a bit so I hope you'll stick with me. We do eat real bacon here, (what is "tempeh bacon"??) and unfortunately we're short on gourmet artisan cheeses. (sadly, no Laura Chenel aged goat cheese for hundreds of miles). Also, there is a severe shortage of all-night eateries (read: none) in a town that takes an hour to get to anyway, so I'll be making my own version of delicious "desert fries." I am debating whether to just make the potatoes in the morning, or to have desert fries the night before, and make extra? Number One said, "but what if there aren't any leftovers?" He loves homemade fries. We'll see.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Scrumptious has a FUN post about her creation from the Bad Girl's Kitchen, gluten-free, meatless Breakfast Casserole! (our original recipe is here)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

On the Day of the Decadent Taco, we hadn't been able to use our kitchen sink for two days, so I didn't cook any potatoes the night before. Instead, we went up to CG's to make this fabulous meal. I fried the bacon, then cooked some potatoes in the bacon grease and seasoned them with cajun seasoning. (I realize this isn't the only way to cook potatoes for this recipe, but it sounded delicious). It did take longer to cook the potatoes, naturally. I tossed in the bacon to rewarm it, then scrambled eggs for our family of four. I used the same pan for the eggs that I had for the bacon and potatoes, which made for an easier clean-up at CG's house.

Yummy Cajun Potatoes with Bacon

We spread our double layer of tortillas with cream cheese (an excellent substitution, pre-approved by Scrumptious!), and piled the components in: home-fried "desert" potatoes with bacon, scrambled eggs, avocado and fresh homemade salsa.

This Breakfast Taco is indeed Decadent, delicious and just plain tasty! Two tacos was too many for me. It was difficult to spread the cream cheese onto the warm tortillas, but worth every second. We used my Roasted Yellow Tomato-Serrano Salsa, which vastly improves everything it touches. For the boys, I salted a small bowl of unseasoned potatoes, and left off the salsa (only because Sawed Off said he didn't want any salsa this morning). They both did a pretty good job with their tacos.

Another picture, because they're so darn good.

Decadent Breakfast Tacos

corn tortillas
soft, spreadable cheese (goat or cream cheese)
potatoes (any kind, leftover or not)
cajun seasoning
salt, to taste


Fry bacon and remove to paper towel-lined plate. Break up when cool. Fry or reheat potatoes in the same pan. When potatoes are warm/golden, add bacon to pan to warm. Remove to bowl; scramble eggs in the same pan.

Spread cheese on one tortilla, top with another. Fill with potatoes, bacon, eggs, avocado and salsa. And enjoy!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Breakfast Casserole

{picture soon!}

This is a simple yet satisfying casserole for breakfast. It serves quite a few people, so it's perfect if you're having a brunch or overnight guests.

Breakfast Casserole

1 loaf bread, torn
1 pound ground sausage
2 cups grated cheese
9 eggs, beaten
2 1/2 cups milk
salt and pepper, to taste

Cook and drain sausage. Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl, and add the sausage. Mix well. Pour into 9 x 13" pan. Spread evenly in pan.

Mix the following and pour over the mixture in pan before baking: 1 large can Cream of Mushroom soup, 1/2 to 1 can evaporated milk.

Place casserole in oven and bake uncovered for one hour at 350 degrees.

Monday, August 11, 2008


This dish comes from my trusty Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook (which in my home, is quite old and well-used by now). It is a perfect way to use up leftover meat or vegetables, and is quick and easy. You can have dinner on the table in about 20 minutes!

I've used just vegetables, or a combination of meat and vegetables, depending on the leftovers. Tonight, I didn't have any leftover vegetables or meat, so I sauteed some potatoes, carrots, onions and broccoli in olive oil, until the potatoes were nicely browned and everything was cooked. I bet I had about 2 cups of vegetables, rather than the 3/4 cup the recipe calls for--it's quite forgiving, so feel free to make it your own.

There are also two ways to cook it, I prefer the oven method. But, no matter the method, there is one very important thing I must tell you. After the pan comes out of the oven or broiler, don't forget that the handle, which 9 times out of 10 is normally cool, IS FREAKIN' HOT. And trust me, it will burn you every time. You might just slide an oven mitt right over it to be safe. And have an ice pack, and perhaps a cold beer, on standby.

A frittata is an Italian egg dish that resembles an omelet.
Makes 3 to 4 servings

6 eggs
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon butter (I used olive oil tonight, with a little salt)
3/4 cup cooked vegetables and/or meat
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan or Romano (or any kind of cheese. tonight, cheddar)

1. Beat eggs and pepper, set aside. In a 10-inch broiler-proof or oven-proof skillet cook onion and garlic in butter till tender. Stir in vegetables or meat.

Oven method: Use an oven-proof skillet. Pour egg mixture into skillet over vegetables or meat. Bake in a 350 degree F oven about 15 minutes or till a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Sprinkle with cheese. Cut into wedges and serve.

Broiler method: Pour egg mixture into skillet over vegetables or meat. Cook over medium heat. Broil for 1 to 2 minutes or till top is just set. Sprinkle with cheese. Cut into wedges and serve.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Yoghurt Coffee Cake

This is a variation of one of my mom's classic recipes. It is very delicious and very popular! She even used to make her sour cream version for a college friend of mine, and when she heard he might be visiting last month, she made sure she had the ingredients on hand. When my friend didn't show, I encouraged her to make the coffee cake anyway since we were there on vacation and we love it too!

The coffee cake (both my variation and hers!) is delicious and goes quickly. I think my yoghurt version just might be a bit more delicious than hers...but don't tell her I told you! They are both moist and buttery and delectable, but the yoghurt version just has a little extra somethin' the sour cream cake is lacking. You might want to make one of each and do a taste test yourself!

Yogurt Coffee Cake

1/2 pound butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 heaping cup plain (or vanilla) yoghurt (I use Mountain High Original Style Plain Yoghurt)
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and blend well. Alternately add yoghurt and vanilla with flour, baking powder and soda and mix well. Set aside.

Mix together walnuts, brown sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.

Grease and flour angel food or bundt cake pan. Spread 1/2 of batter in pan and sprinkle with 1/2 of nut mixture. Cover with remaining batter and sprinkle with remaining nut mixture.

Bake in 350 degree F oven for 45 minutes. Let cool briefly, then turn out onto serving dish.

Min's Creamy Saffron Vegetable Soup

This is a soup of my own creation. I originally made this soup when I was hungry but had no plans for dinner, with things I happened to have in the pantry. This time, I decided I would make a "creamy" version, with milk instead of the water. You have to taste this soup to believe it. It is delicately-flavored, beautifully-colored, creamy, and delicious.

Min's Creamy Saffron Vegetable Soup

Olive oil, 1 to 2 tablespoons
1 yellow onion, diced
1 leek, diced and thoroughly cleaned
2 carrots, diced
about 6 diced potatoes
1 can baby corn, drained and cut in halves or thirds
1 package Mahatma Saffron Rice Mix
6 cups whole milk (or a mix of whole and 2%)
6 cubes chicken bouillon
large sprig fresh rosemary
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
Italian parsley (for garnish)

Saute onion and leek in olive oil in a dutch oven pan until the onion is translucent. Add carrots, potatoes, baby corn, Saffron Rice Mix, milk, chicken bouillon, and rosemary.

Bring to a very gentle simmer over low heat, cover and simmer until rice is done (about 20-30 minutes) and vegetables are tender. (try not to boil!) Season with kosher salt, freshly ground pepper and garnish with fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley.

*If for some reason you are lactose-intolerant, feel free to substitute water for the milk (as I did here).


Lemonade is one of H-Bomb's favorites; we go through gallons of it in the summertime. We also serve it at almost every party. It is both H-Bomb's and Sawed Off's beverage of choice in restaurants.

It is very easy to make good lemonade. Lemonade that doesn't involve mystery powders or mixes. It is delicious to use real lemons, but with two little cowboys, I don't have that kind of time.

I use ReaLemon.
It is simply delicious. You could use other brands of lemon juice, but I've found the ReaLemon brand to be better,tastier and more consistent.

Choose an appropriately sized container; you can make one serving or two gallons! Another reason to love it. All you need is lemon juice, sugar, and water. I always measure the sugar first, then the lemon juice, then the water, and then my measuring cup is a snap to clean. Depending on the container, sometimes I use a funnel (if I'm making gallon jugs for a back-up party supply, for example)

Here are the measurements:
(you'll notice that you use equal parts sugar and ReaLemon)

1 serving: 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons ReaLemon; 3/4 cup water

1 quart: 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup ReaLemon; 3 1/4 cups water

2 quarts: 1 cup sugar and 1 cup ReaLemon; 6 1/2 cups water

1 gallon: 2 cups sugar and 2 cups ReaLemon; 13 cups (or however many it takes to fill your gallon jug)

2 gallons: 4 cups sugar and 4 cups ReaLemon; 26 cups water

Mix well, relax and enjoy!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas

These enchiladas are a crowd-pleasing family favorite; whenever we serve them, we get rave reviews and recipe requests! We make up a bunch almost every year for our family reunion, and I usually try to keep a pan or two in the freezer as well. I have given these enchiladas to expectant mothers and people who've just moved to town.

Don't be shy with the cheese, but don't overdo it on the onions. With roasted chickens from the grocery store's deli, you can set up an assembly line and whip these out in less than an hour. Whether you use green chiles or jalapeƱos, the sauce is just perfect. Enjoy.

This recipe is for a “double batch,” which makes enough enchiladas for about 16 hungry cowboys. You can also freeze a pan or two for a month or so if you just have your little family to feed. (instructions below) If you want to make a single batch, just cut all ingredients in half. I got a variation of this recipe from my friend Karen, a fiery red-head from Texas.

A typical serving is two enchiladas.

2 roasted chickens, deboned and shredded or chopped
2 large yellow onions, diced
2.5 pounds shredded cheese (Monterey Jack, Colby/jack or a Mexican blend)
+ 40 tortillas
1 recipe Enchilada Sauce (below)
  1. Spray 9 x 13 inch pans with Pam oil spray.
  2. In each tortilla, tightly roll up: small handful chicken, some cheese and some onions. Roll up tightly, and place in pan with rolled part at the edge of pan and round loose end facing the middle of the pan—the round end will flap down and prevent the enchiladas from unraveling. Lift up each flap to put in the next enchilada—it’s alright if the rounded edges are sticking up a little when you’re finished.
  3. Squeeze enchiladas tightly in the pan, and if there is space to one side of your enchiladas, put one or two on that side of the pan as well.
  4. You may or may not use all the onions; if you run out of chicken, you can either get more or simply use cheese and onions for the remainder of enchiladas. It is important that the pans be tightly packed with enchiladas. (if you see you are running out of supplies, use a smaller pan for the last few enchiladas)
  5. Sprinkle enchiladas generously with cheese.
  1. At this point, enchiladas may be tightly covered with plastic wrap and foil and frozen.
  1. To Prepare and Bake If Frozen:
    1. Thaw enchiladas overnight in refrigerator.
    2. Prepare Enchilada Sauce:
      1. Mix together in large saucepan:
        1. 2 16 oz. Containers sour cream
        2. 2 14 oz. Cans chicken broth
        3. 2 4 oz. Cans diced green chilies OR diced jalapeƱos
      2. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring until sour cream is melted.
      3. Ladle generously and evenly over enchiladas, almost up to rim of pan. (you may need to make more sauce; use 1 of each of the above ingredients)
    1. Bake at 350° to 375° for roughly one hour, until golden and bubbly.
  1. To Prepare if not freezing:
    1. Prepare Enchilada Sauce (follow steps under 7.b. & 7.c.), and bake at 375° for about one hour, until golden and bubbly.

Roasted Walnut Vinaigrette

CG brought home La Tourangelle Roasted Walnut Oil from TJ Maxx ($6.99). It is from a company out of California (who has very beautiful pictures on their website), and there is a recipe for a vinaigrette on the back of the can. She asked me to make the dressing for a salad for dinner. Two nights in a row. The dressing is light and flavorful, savory and delicious.

At this rate, the can of oil won't last long, so I'm on a mission to find more. The website lists US stores that carry their oils, and says that a nearby grocery store carries it, or they have several online merchants (prices ranging from $9.75 to $12.99-yikes!). I'll report back on the grocery store price. (and do a taste test if I find other roasted walnut oils)

In the meantime, here's the recipe:

Roasted Walnut Vinaigrette

4 tablespoons La Tourangelle Roasted Walnut Oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon dijon
Dash of salt to taste (I used a pinch!)

Whisk together or shake until well combined. Mix again before tossing with salad; toss with salad just before serving.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Step By Step Cake Decorating: Pirate Ship!

H-Bomb's birthday party is days away, and my plan to bake and decorate a Pirate Ship Prototype Cake a week or so ahead of time did not happen. Now I'm just going to have to bake and decorate on the fly (as usual) and hope for the best!

The plan, since we always have a lot of kids and adults here for our parties, is to bake two cakes. Two warring pirate ships, if you will. So this is going to be fun. I got a new cake pan, shaped like a pirate ship, and it looks pretty awesome. I've gathered all of H-Bomb and Sawed-Off's pirate toys, and cleaned them, just in case I want to stick a little pirate or a treasure chest somewhere.
The cake pan is very detailed, so much so that the company doesn't really frost it. But to me, it's not a birthday cake without frosting, so I will be embellishing these ships to no end: wooden boards, planks, sails, you name it. This is going to be fun!

*If for some reason I don't go into enough detail about frosting technique or something, you can just ask for clarification in a comment, or check here for more information.*

I plan to bake the cakes, then use my 16-inch square cake board as the ocean/scene of the battle. I'm going to need at least a double batch of buttercream frosting, possibly more. I'll keep you posted.

If only I could levitate a malted milk ball, I mean cannonball, in the air between the ships. Now that would be a sight!


I successfully baked two pirate ship cakes, flavors of H-Bomb's choosing: Confetti and Strawberry. The instructions with my pan were from Bundt, and were very helpful. They suggested brushing the shortening into the pan (perfect for all those little cannons and other details), then lightly flouring. For the first cake, I used a sieve to sprinkle the flour over the pan, then my usual slapping the pan, out in the yard, to move the flour around and get out the excess. For the second one, I forgot about my sieve technique and just dumped a bunch of flour in there. Both cakes came out great, so I believe the key is the brushing of the shortening.

The cakes are currently on the kitchen counter, covered with a towel. Number One and I decided a side-by-side configuration would work, especially since the ships will be fighting each other. That is also the only way both cakes will fit on the board!


I prepared the buttercream frosting this morning. (I was too tired to do it yesterday). I applied the crumb coat to the cakes, and there was no way I was going to crumb coat all those details on the tops! I just coated the sides of the cakes, and some of the larger features. I will be creating most of the features (cannons, barrels, etc.) out of frosting and/or candy anyway, so the teeny tiny cannons will get covered up. I'll just have to be careful to watch for stray crumbs on the top. I really don't think it will be a problem, we'll see.

The crumb coat is setting up; I'm going to clear a shelf in the refrigerator for the cakes. Today I'm not going to try to divide and color the frosting all at once. I'll just start with brown for the ships' wood plank siding, then go from there and see what I feel like doing.

Number One has been gathering plastic pirates and miscellaneous sea creatures to embellish the cake. I have a feeling these cakes will be spectacular, and I have no idea how we will top them next year!

For the brown frosting, I started with some brown gel coloring to make a base brown color for the wooden ships. Then I added more brown and a bit of black gel coloring, but didn't mix it in all the way. The plan is that this will give the wooden planks a bit of a grainy, wooden look. Right now it is in the fridge, setting up a bit because it is almost 100 degrees out today. I'll post a picture or two in a while, after I get some of the ship sides done, so you can see whether this technique was successful.

Too much black, so the ships are more on the gray side than brown, but it does look rather "grainy." I guess they are "old" ships...I'm using a Wilton #104 tip, with the wider part towards the bottom to make "wood" on the ships. Since it's so hot, I'm having to refrigerate more frequently, and cool frosting down too. It's quite a process. You can see some of the frosting boards sagging down from basically melting in the heat, which is unfortunate. Luckily, H-Bomb is 5 and not too particular (at least if he's not making something!)

Taking inventory of our candy embellishments, we decided to trim off the miniature cake cannons and use Crunch Stix instead, since Whoppers are our cannonballs. After I mixed up black frosting to frame the ship's porthole windows, I remembered I had some black licorice whips, so I'll use those instead. Funny, I'm so used to doing everything with frosting!

I decided on using a small paint brush for the frosting on the top of the ships, and it has worked very well. I painted brown frosting on the decks, and painted some of the other details, like stairs, black.

I made square windows on one ship and round porthole windows on the other. I burned the two ends of licorice whips with a candle, and they stick together with some effort. No guarantees on flavor, burned licorice kind of stinks! At least it looks pretty cool. I just pushed the licorice into the frosting on the sides; no problem with the hot temperature today! ( even with the burning, the round windows were easier than the square windows)

Number One has been working on flags for the ships--made of fruit roll-ups. He drew a skull and crossbones on one fruit roll-up with a toothpick, then stuck them onto another fruit roll-up. He trimmed the whole fruit roll-up so the top and bottom are straight across, but the sides are still rounded, which adds to the "billowing" effect. He left the whole fruit roll-up on its plastic backing for a bit more support. We will thread the sails on wooden skewers, and use black licorice nibs to hold them in place (we used four nibs per sail) The second sail just has some stripes on it (pirates are attacking an innocent ship, apparently).

The pirate ship cakes are finished! They look great! We filled a toy treasure chest with Skittles, used the Whoppers and Crunch Stix for cannonballs and cannons, and used black licorice whips for window frames and a rope on one pirate. We also used root beer barrel candies as barrels of rum. We borrowed a few toy pirates, and threw a toy squid in the water.

After the cakes were frosted and most of the embellishments on (except for the sails), I colored the rest of the frosting blue, added another glob of gel coloring and didn't mix it in, then I used a rubber spatula to spread frosting around for the ocean. I had thought about using one of my cake decorating tips, but man am I glad I didn't. The spatula worked great, gave the "water" just enough texture, and the dark blue streaks add interest and depth. I put some blue frosting on top of part of the squid too, so it looks like he's coming out of the water.

The sails were a bit tricky, but they worked. We used the nibs to hold the sails up, and also put another nib on the stick, which we then pushed down into the frosting to anchor the sails.

H-Bomb is going to be so excited about his cakes! I can't wait for him to see them.

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