Monday, November 30, 2009

Classic Green Bean Casserole

This Thanksgiving, both Number One and I were really craving Green Bean Casserole. You know the one, with the canned French fried onions on top, and the creamy mushroom soup? I know you know it. It's sooooo good. We had to have it.

I found this recipe at Campbell's Kitchen, it makes Green Bean Casserole just the way you remember it. One thing to note: the beans need to be cooked before you mix them in. I used frozen green beans, cooked them as directed on the package, then mixed them into the soup and other ingredients. Just perfect.

Classic Green Bean Casserole

Prep: 10 minutes
Bake: 30 minutes
Serves: 6

Campbell's says: "It's the dish everyone's expecting on the holidays, but it's so easy to make, you can serve it any day. What makes our green bean casserole so good? A secret ingredient - cream of mushroom soup."

1 can (10 3/4 ounces) Campbell's® Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup (Regular or 98% Fat Free)
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Dash ground black pepper
4 cups cooked cut green beans
1 1/3 cups French's® French Fried Onions, divided

Stir the soup, milk, soy sauce, black pepper, beans and 2/3 cup onions in a 1 1/2-quart casserole.

Bake at 350°F. for 25 minutes or until the bean mixture is hot and bubbling. Stir the bean mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining 2/3 cup onions.

Bake for 5 minutes or until the onions are golden brown.

Tip: Use 1 bag (16 to 20 ounces) frozen green beans, 2 packages (9 ounces each) frozen green beans, 2 cans (about 16 ounces each) green beans or about 1 1/2 pounds fresh green beans for this recipe.

For Broccoli Casserole, substitute 4 cups cooked broccoli flowerets for the green beans.

For cheese lovers, stir in 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese with soup. Omit the soy sauce. Sprinkle with an additional 1/4 cup Cheddar cheese when adding the remaining onions.

To add a festive touch, stir in 1/4 cup chopped red pepper with the soup.

To add crunch, add 1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds to the onion topping.

For bacon lovers, add 2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled, to the bean mixture.

For Golden Green Bean Casserole, substitute Campbell's® Condensed Golden Mushroom Soup for the Cream of Mushroom Soup. Omit the soy sauce. Stir in 1/4 cup chopped red pepper with the green beans.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Cheddar Chutney Bites

I found this recipe in an ad for Cabot Cheese in the latest Martha Stewart Living magazine. I love the idea of miniature cheese balls, and I thought it would be a perfect appetizer for Thanksgiving.

f course we couldn't find Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheddar, so we used an Extra Sharp White Cheddar, possibly from Tillamook, I can't remember. We used cashews for rolling.

These were delicious, as long as you like strong cheddar cheese! We served ours with Artisan Bread Crostini, and actually Number One rolled them a bit bigger than they should have been.

We will be making these again, possibly with some changes for more chutney flavor. I'll keep you posted~

Cabot Cheddar Chutney Bites
Makes about 24

16 ounces Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheddar, grated (about 4 cups)
6 tablespoons cream cheese
2 tablespoons Major Grey's Chutney (this is a mango chutney)
2/3 cup finely chopped peanuts or cashews

Combine cheddar cheese, cream cheese and chutney in bowl; mash with fork until mixture is well blended and holds together easily.

Shape mixture into 1-inch balls; roll balls in chopped nuts. Cover and refrigerate until serving time.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Pumpkin Flan

I found this recipe in the latest Martha Stewart Living magazine. It's an excerpt from a new cookbook from one of Martha's own, Lucinda Scala Quinn's Mad Hungry: Feeding Men and Boys.

The notes say that "canned pumpkin works perfectly well," but I would lean toward a fresh pumpkin puree, if you can. You can find details of roasting fresh pumpkin in this post.

This flan is amazing! Cath and I LOVED it. Number One said he didn't love it, but who cares! This is going to be a new holiday tradition because I said so. It is delicious, a perfect blend of spices, lighter than pumpkin pie, and the caramelized top was wonderful. Simply delicious.

Pumpkin Flan
Serves 8

1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light-brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup cooked pumpkin puree
1 1/2 cups half-and-half or cream
5 large eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Put the granulated sugar in a 9-inch cake pan or pie plate, set on the center rack in the oven, and bake until the sugar is caramel colored, 8 to 12 minutes. Swirl to cover the bottom of the pie plate with the caramel.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. Stir in pumpkin puree. In a medium bowl, whisk together the half-and-half, eggs and vanilla. Thoroughly blend the egg mixture into the pumpkin puree.

4. Set the pie plate in a large roasting pan, and pour the custard over the caramel. Carefully pour enough hot tap water into the roasting pan to reach halfway up the sides of the pie plate. Bake until the custard is set, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Cool and chill in the refrigerator. Run a knife around the outside edge of the flan and invert it onto a rimmed plate. Cut into wedges or scoop and serve with a dollop of whipped cream.

Buffalo Chicken Dip

You know how much we love Bobby Flay. I think you do. Do you? We love Bobby for his flank steak, his Cuban burgers, his grilled pizza, his grilling in general. So when I saw he had paired with Best Foods (Helmann's for those of you East of the Mississippi) for some holiday recipes, I was excited!

I saw the two-page advertisement in this month's Real Simple magazine. It has four great recipes--a Turkey Cuban, Apple-Cranberry Crisp, Loaded Mashed Potatoes, and this one that was calling our names: Disappearing Buffalo Chicken Dip.

This dip was the surprise hit of the appetizer table this Thanksgiving. It's easy to throw together, and perfectly delicious. Number One thought it could use a bit more Frank's Red Hot Sauce, but the rest of us thought it was just right.

We mixed up the dip the night before, and refrigerated it in a casserole dish. We baked it in the oven right before we wanted to eat it. Perfect! Served with Artisan Bread Crostini and celery sticks.

Disappearing Buffalo Chicken Dip
from Best Foods & Bobby Flay

Makes 3 cups
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

2 cups diced or shredded cooked chicken
1/4 cup cayenne pepper sauce (such as Frank's Red Hot Sauce--our favorite)
1 cup Best Foods Mayonnaise
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (about 4 ounces)
2 tablespoons finely chopped green onions
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Toss chicken with cayenne pepper sauce. Stir in remaining ingredients except blue cheese. Turn into 1 1/2-quart shallow casserole, then sprinkle with the blue cheese.

*Cover and refrigerate here if making ahead*

Bake uncovered 20 minutes or until bubbling. Serve, if desired, with celery and/or your favorite dippers.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Key Lime Pie

We haven't had Key Lime Pie in a very long time. In fact, the closest we've come to Key Lime Pie was the Key Lime Pie Cupcakes I made back in July! So when we were thinking of pies for Thanksgiving, we decided on Key Lime. YUM.

This recipe comes off the back of the bottle of Nellie & Joe's Famous Key West Lime Juice. It's really the only Key Lime Pie recipe I've ever used, and it works like a charm. Because this pie needs to be refrigerated, it is perfect for making a day in advance.

Nellie & Joe's Key Lime Pie

One 9" graham cracker pie shell
One - 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
3 egg yolks (whites not used)
1/2 cup Nellie & Joe's Famous Key West Lime Juice

Combine milk, egg yolks and lime juice. Blend until smooth. Pour filling into pie shell and bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes.

Allow to stand 10 minutes before refrigerating. Just before serving, top with freshly whipped cream and garnish with lime slices.

*To make the cute little lime twists, I just very thinly cut three slices of lime. Make one cut from the center to the outside edge, then twist the ends in opposite directions. Place the twisted ends flat on the pie surface, pressing down slightly to adhere.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Three Cranberry Sauces!

Cranberry Sauces--- yes I make three different cranberry sauces for Thanksgiving. My brother Robert called me today and we got to talking about cranberry sauce. He is making a fresh sauce to contribute to his Thanksgiving dinner. I told him about the sauces that I was making and he suggested I share them on Min's blog---so here they are, ENJOY !

The fresh sauce is my mother's recipe----you just have to make this one----easy and very good. The next one my sister Maraley found this recipe on NPR. It has horseradish and sour cream---yummmmmmm! The last but not least is just a good basic cooked cranberry sauce that is super easy.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone !

Cooked Cranberry Sauce
12 oz. fresh cranberries
2 cups sugar
1 cup orange juice
Mix and cook in microwave till cranberries pop their skins.

Fresh Cranberry Sauce
Food Processor:
1 orange & 12 oz. fresh cranberries
Stir in 1 cup sugar, mix well.
Chill 24 hrs. Keeps 2 weeks

Cranberry Relish (NPR)
2 cups chopped cranberries
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup sour cream
2-3 TBL horseradish
Mix together. Keeps 6 weeks.

Min's Thanksgiving Menu, 2009

Orange Rosemary Roasted Turkey*

Classic Dressing

Mashed Potatoes


Green Bean Casserole

Rolls & Butter

Cranberry Sauce


Maple Pecan Pie

Fresh Pumpkin Pie

Pear Pie

Key Lime Pie

Pumpkin Flan*


As usual, * indicates a brand new recipes we haven't tried before. I do realize I have a "*" on the turkey...but doesn't it sound fabulous?

This Thanksgiving, we will be celebrating with some dear friends of ours, and honestly we feel like it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without them! We are so excited they will be joining us, and it's becoming a tradition that we all get together. I like it.

The other great thing about this year, Cath and I are basically sharing duties and dividing up the menu. It is such a relief, for both of us, to not have to "Do It All." Last year we had some help from Cath and other friends, but we still prepared most of the main dishes. I love cooking for people, but this year it's just nice to have some of the (self-imposed) pressure off, you know?

So here it is, our menu for Thanksgiving 2009. Some traditional dishes, some new, some already here, some will be posted after the holiday.

Let us know what you're having!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Bad Girl Review: POM Iced Coffee

It's really been a long time since my first product review here on The Bad Girl's Kitchen. I was very excited when I received an email from Blue at POM Wonderful about trying a new product for them: POM Iced Coffees, the Healthy Buzz.

In the email describing their new Iced Coffees, POM stated: "They've got POMx – an all-natural, ultra-potent antioxidant – made from the same pomegranates we use for our 100% Pomegranate Juice. Plus, it’s coffee too, so you get all the antioxidants found in POMx, plus a great caffeine pick-me-up. We like to call it “The Healthy Buzz.”"

*(POM emailed me, I had no idea they even HAD an Iced Coffee product, so I told them I'd love to try some.)

Today, I picked up the mail and there it was: a box of POM Iced Coffee! (I started this post back in mid-September! Oops!)

First, my dad and I tried the Chocolate Iced Coffee. My dad, a chocoholic who has been known to eat chocolate chips by the bag, loved it. I'm a chocoholic too, I suppose, but I didn't love it. It tasted like you were drinking Hershey's syrup. "That's why I love it," my dad said. But I'd like to taste more coffee, a bit less chocolate.

Next, we tried the Cafe au Lait Iced Coffee--too bitter for my tastes, but Number One liked it. "It's good," he said eloquently. I put milk and sugar or flavored creamer in my regular coffee, so I guess I need some sort of flavor/sweetener to take the bitter edge off.

I had high hopes for the Vanilla Iced Coffee, because there's nothing I'd love more than another product to choose from when I'm looking for a drink, and so far I wasn't completely sold on these Iced Coffees.

Dare I say it? The Vanilla was too...vanilla-y. Or maybe just too sweet? Am I being too picky?

To me, a coffee drink is a delicate balance. You need to to taste the coffee, it can't be bitter...perhaps I should clarify: I am one of those people who gets annoyed at a diner when I have my coffee at the perfect ratio of coffee to cream to sugar and the waitress comes along and fills up the cup without even asking.

While I do LOVE that these are a "healthier" coffee drink, I honestly think the flavors need some fine-tuning. These might be better for using in a different drink recipe, or some other way. If you have any ideas, be sure and let me know, I'll give it a try.

The Verdict:
More coffee, please, less flavor.
That's my opinion...

Post Script: We were just wondering about the sugar content in these babies, after Number One said, "Antioxidants or no, I'm not sure how healthy those are." I couldn't finish the Vanilla Iced Coffee, so it was still in the fridge.

I have to tell you--in one bottle (10.5 fl. ounces), there are 28 GRAMS of SUGAR! Holy Cow! That is a LOT of sugar. (and now I'm wondering how much is in the sickly sweet chocolate flavor...)

Figuring that there are 3.94 grams of granulated sugar in 1 US teaspoon, that means there are, not joking, more than SEVEN TEASPOONS of sugar in ONE drink. YIKES! There are also 10 grams of "Sugar Alcohol" listed in the Nutrition Facts. What the heck is that? MORE sugar? I think the formula needs to be revisited before I will be convinced to drink these again!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Artichoke & Spinach Relish

This is a quick appetizer I thought would be nice to try for Thanksgiving this year. My friend Catherine is making it for our appetizer spread. It came from the latest Real Simple magazine. We'll be serving it with homemade crostini; the magazine suggests crackers and vegetables for dipping.

The relish can be made and refrigerated up to 1 day in advance! While I would feel completely comfortable substituting ReaLemon for fresh lemon juice, there is No Substitute for real mayonnaise. You're just going to have to trust me on this. (it's only a few tablespoons, anyway)

This relish is a light, refreshing change to heavier dips you'll see on holiday tables. I really loved it. Cath made it ahead, but left the walnuts out to be stirred in right before serving. I think that was a smart move. Delicious!

Artichoke and Spinach Relish with walnuts
Hands-on time: 10 minutes
total time: 10 minutes
makes about 1 1/2 cups

1/4 cup walnuts
1 13.75-ounce can artichoke hearts, rinsed and chopped
1 cup baby spinach, chopped
1/4 cup grated Parmesan (about 1 ounce)
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt and black pepper

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Spread the walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet and toast, tossing occasionally, until fragrant, 6 to 8 minutes. Let cool, then roughly chop.

In a small bowl, combine the artichoke hearts, spinach, Parmesan, mayonnaise, lemon juice, walnuts, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Swiss Chard With Butternut Squash

I'm not a big "greens" person... no matter how good they are for you. However, Swiss Chard has a completely different flavor than kale or other greens. I found out at the farm last weekend that it's not even in the same family! I actually like Chard... a lot. I made up this recipe although it is based on recipes people have verbally told me to try with kale... which I hated. Give it a try! I also think this would be fabulous spread all over a pizza dough and topped with goat cheese! mmmmmmmmm Maybe with the leftovers!

Here's what you'll need...

@ 1 1/2 lbs of Swiss Chard (stems removed and WASH THE HELL OUT OF IT!!!)
1/2 medium onion (diced)
1 clove garlic
2 cups of butternut squash (diced into cubes)
salt & pepper

Heat up some olive oil (about 2 Tbs) in a BIG saute pan until it "shimmers". Add the squash and onions and cook for about 3-4 minutes or until the onions gets translucent. Add the garlic and toss around.

Add the chard and some salt. Put a couple Tbs of water to help get some steam going and cover your pan. Cook the chard for about 4-5 minutes or until the chard is all wilted down and the squash is tender but not mushy.

Add ground black pepper and more salt if it needs it. You can also add a splash of balsamic vinegar if you like.


Wine Bar Nut Mix

Yet another dish from our Housewarming Extravaganza! I absolutely LOVE that you can make these nuts two weeks ahead. And they are tasty too! I found the recipe in the Food & Wine 2009 Annual Cookbook, and it's a keeper. Quick & easy, I love the mix of nuts and the savory flavors!

Wine Bar Nut Mix
Active: 10 minutes Total: 30 minutes Makes 6 cups

This fantastic sweet-and-savory mix of pecans, almonds and walnuts from The Casual Vineyard Table (Ten Speed Press), by Carolyn Wente and Kimball Jones, makes a great gift.

2 cups pecans
2 cups almonds
2 cups walnuts
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped mixed fresh rosemary, sage, savory and thyme
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a bowl, toss the nuts with the maple syrup, olive oil, herbs and cayenne. Spread the nuts on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until browned. Season the nuts with salt and pepper and toss frequently until cooled.

Make ahead: The nut mix can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Flageolets with Fresh Rosemary

Flageolets are small, white kidney beans that I can't find here. I substituted Great Northern beans. This dish is an accompaniment to Lamb You Can Eat with a Spoon, and indeed is cooked in the cooking juices from that lamb, after the lamb is done.

I have to tell you, this dish didn't work out for me. It could be that I used more than the 12 ounces of beans, because I didn't want just a few beans left in the bag. Turns out that "just a few" beans is about 6 ounces, which I honestly didn't realize when I dumped them in. I'm sure if I had simply added more beef broth, it would have turned out fine, but I didn't. When I put the lid on the slow cooker, the liquid was indeed covering the beans, so I didn't think anything of it. Five hours later, the beans were just about dry and definitely not cooked. I added a couple cans of beef broth to the cooker, and cooked the beans more.

We ate our Lamb without beans tonight. And they still aren't done, but I am posting this anyway.

Report: I lost track how long the beans actually cooked. After the first FIVE hours on LOW, I added a can and a half of beef broth, and cooked the beans on HIGH. I forget how long they cooked, but at the end of Saturday, after I had added yet another can of beef broth, the beans were Still Not Done. It's been cold outside, and thus in the garage, so I just stuck the crockpot out there for the night. (If we had electricity during the night, I would have just left them cooking. But we don't). I retrieved the beans on Sunday morning, turned the crockpot back on LOW this time, and let them cook all day long. I added a few cups of water during the day too. By Sunday night, the beans were FINALLY DONE. I have no idea what the problem was, since the exact same slow coooker had just beautifully and perfectly cooked a lamb roast on Friday.

The beans do taste good, so in theory I can recommend this dish. However, I have absolutely no idea how long this will take. Do tell if you decide to take the risk and make them, how it all turns out for you. Just be forewarned, and don't plan on serving this particular dish on a specific night, say when you're having company. I wouldn't want everyone to be disappointed...

Flageolets with Fresh Rosemary
Yield: 6 servings
Cooking time: 5 to 6 hours on LOW or 2 to 3 hours on HIGH

Cooking juices and solids from Lamb You Can Eat with a Spoon
12 ounces dried flageolet or great Northern beans, rinsed, drained and picked over to remove any bits of dirt and debris
2 heaping tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Low-sodium beef broth, if necessary

To the lamb cooking juices in the slow cooker insert, add the beans, rosemary, salt and pepper. Add beef broth, if necessary, so that the liquid covers the beans. Cover and cook on LOW for 5 to 6 hours, or on HIGH for 2 to 3 hours, until the beans are tender but have not lost their shape. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Serve with Lamb You Can Eat with a Spoon.

Lamb You Can Eat with a Spoon

We had a lamb roast in the freezer we needed to eat. We usually make our fabulous Lamb Tacos, but it's not the weekend yet and I just didn't feel like I had the time. I was looking through some of my slow cooking cookbooks, and ran across this recipe in Slow Cooker Cooking by Lora Brody. I was excited that I'd finally be able to use my precious jar of herbes de Provence!

As I was reading through, and looking at the clock, I knew this meal wouldn't be ready until tomorrow. There are actually two recipes in one, the lamb and then the side dish of Flageolet beans with rosemary, so it definitely takes a long time. I went ahead with it, so tomorrow's dinner will just need a quick reheat after I make the beans.

It doesn't take long to put together, and it smells really good. I love shallots, and the wine mixture smelled great too. I can't wait to taste this.

Note: This is most definitely NOT a fast recipe. You need to plan ahead, get up early, or even prepare the dish for tomorrow's dinner. The lamb itself takes 10 to 12 hours, and if you're making the beans too, add another 2 to 6 hours on top of that!

While I wouldn't say you can eat "with a spoon," this lamb is delicious! I cooked it for just over 10 hours, then stuck the crock pot insert in the fridge until morning. I heated the pot on the "warm" setting for a couple hours while I ran H-Bomb to school, and when I got home I proceeded with slicing the meat and starting the beans.

The beans are another story. Let's just say dinner is over and we didn't eat beans with it. You can read about them here.

The lamb reheated in the oven beautifully. I completely forgot to take a picture. I'm blaming it on the beans.

Lamb You Can Eat with a Spoon

Yield: 8 servings
Cooking time: 10 to 12 hours on LOW

Slow Cooker Size: 5 1/2 to 6-quart oval

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 shallots, peeled and minced
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup low-sodium beef broth
1 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 (6-pound) shoulder of lamb, boned and rolled (4 to 5 pounds after boning) *I just used a lamb roast we had, and left the bone in*
10 garlic cloves, peeled and quartered lengthwise to form 40 slivers
1 tablespoon dried herbes de Provence (see Note)

Flageolets with Fresh Rosemary, optional

Heat the oil in a small saute pan over medium heat and saute the shallots until softened. Scrape them into the insert of the slow cooker.

Strew the carrots in the insert with the shallots. In a medium mixing bowl whisk together brown sugar, vinegar, broth, wine, mustard, and soy sauce, and then pour the mixture over the carrots.

Use a small sharp knife to make tiny slits all over the surface of the lamb. Insert a sliver of garlic into each one. Place the meat in the slow cooker and sprinkle with the herbes de Provence. Cover and cook on LOW for 10 to 12 hours, or until the meat is extremely tender.

Transfer the meat to a cutting board and cut into 1-inch slices. Transfer the slices to an oven-proof serving platter. If you are not making the beans, simply serve the lamb. If you are making the beans, cover the lamb on the platter with foil and refrigerate for 2 to 6 hours while you prepare the Flageolets with Fresh Rosemary. Use the vegetable solids and cooking liquid in the slow cooker to make them.

When ready to serve, reheat the lamb. If you haven't already done so, place the lamb on an ovenproof platter, cover with aluminum foil, and place in a preheated 250 degree F oven for 30 minutes. For each serving, spoon some beans and their cooking liquid onto a dinner plate and top with slices of lamb.

Note: If you cannot find herbes de Provence, you can make your own by combining equal amounts of dried tarragon, rosemary, chervil, basil and thyme.

Gina's Plum Cake

We were so happy Aunt Gina (and everyone else!) was able to join us for our Housewarming Extravaganza! (And YES, I am still posting recipes! Narrowing it down, I'm telling you it was a tremendously delicious spread!)

The special thing about Aunt Gina? She brought this exquisite plum cake! She asked if she could bring it, and of course I said yes. I'm so happy, because that plum cake, made with one little Italian plum half on each scrumptious piece, was perfect. I am in love. The cake is just the right density, not too sweet, and the plums were a nice, slightly tart contrast.

I do have
a confession to make: I, alone, ate all of the plum cake that was left after the party. I did it. It was me. And I'd do it again in a heartbeat!

Thank you so much, Aunt Gina! We love you!

Now the rest of you go make this cake this instant! Look how gorgeous those perfectly-sized squares are! The ultimate finger food, I'm telling you.

Plum (or Prune or Apple) Cake

½ cup butter
1 cup sugar
1-2 eggs
3 cups flour
grated lemon peel
1 tsp. baking powder
milk as needed ( ¼ to 1/3 cup)

Cream butter and sugar together, add eggs and beat well. Add remaining ingredients. Press into 9x13 inch pan. Top with halved Italian plums or sliced apples. Top with the Streusel topping and bake at 350 degrees for 25 – 30 minutes.

Note: 1 ½ times recipe for a jelly roll pan.

Streusel Topping

½ cup butter
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar

Cut butter into flour and sugar.

Note: I usually make ½ the streusel topping, to cut down on the fat.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Chicken & Brussels Sprouts over White Bean & Rosemary Puree

I had thawed some chicken legs, and we'd just had Peking Honey Chicken a couple weeks ago. I needed a new recipe!

I found this one in Food & Wine Quick from Scratch Chicken Cookbook. It takes just 40 minutes, which worked out fine for a week night. And H-Bomb loves Brussels sprouts. This is a nice, well-rounded dish with a side of beans! What more can you ask for?

I did have to add more water to the beans before serving, and I really didn't end up with much in the way of pan juices. I added about 1/2 cup of water to the roasting pan, after deglazing I simply stirred the pan juices into the beans since there wasn't really enough to put some juice over each serving. Other than that, I followed the recipe.

Our niece was here for dinner, and she even said, "These Brussels sprouts are way better than my mom's!" Everyone liked the chicken, although Sawed Off refused to taste one Brussels sprout! I may be spoiled by our various Chicken in a Fabulous Sauce recipes; I was really missing more of a "sauce," but it was delicious.

Chicken & Brussels Sprouts over White Bean & Rosemary Puree
Prep time: 5 minutes Cook time: 40 minutes Serves 4 A drizzle of pan juices ties everything together to make a complete meal that's welcome during the winter. Cannellini, one of our favorite canned beans, make a quick, delicious puree.

3/4 pound Brussels sprouts, cut in half from top to stem
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
4 chicken thighs (I only had drumsticks thawed, so we used 8 of those instead of thighs)
4 chicken drumsticks
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crumbled, or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
4 cups drained and rinsed white beans, preferably cannellini (2 cans)
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Heat oven to 450 degrees F. In a medium bowl, toss the Brussels sprouts with 1 tablespoon of the oil, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Set aside.

Put the chicken pieces in a large roasting pan and toss with 1 tablespoon of oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Arrange the chicken pieces about 1 inch apart, skin-side up, and roast for 25 minutes. Add the Brussels sprouts and continue cooking until the chicken and sprouts are done, about 12 minutes longer. Transfer them to a plate and leave to rest in a warm spot for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, the garlic and the rosemary over low heat, stirring, for 3 minutes. Raise the heat to moderate and add the beans, 1/4 cup of water, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Cook, mashing beans to a coarse puree, until hot, about 5 minutes. Stir in the parsley.

Pour off the fat from the roasting pan. (we had no excess fat) Set the pan over moderate heat and add 1/2 cup of water. Bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pan to dislodge any brown bits. Boil until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 4 minutes. Add any accumulated juices from the chicken and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Spoon the white bean puree onto plates and top with the chicken, Brussels sprouts and then the pan juices.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Taste & Create XXV: Black Bean Soup

Once again, it's time for Taste & Create! It seems odd not to be hosting the event this month, after helping Nicole out for so many months in a row while she had her sweet new little boy. Congratulations, Nicole!

Taste & Create was started by Nicole of For the Love of Food, and it's a fun event in which participants are paired off and asked to create a recipe from their partner's blog. And, it seems like Liza of Knick Nosh and I are destined to be new best blog friends or something, because once again, she's my partner! (Hi, Liza!)

In August, I made Liza's delicious Spicy Oven-Roasted Potatoes, and in July I made her fabulous Greek Salad. I also tried her yummy Chicken Burgers with Portobello Mushrooms, Spinach and Sundried Tomato Mayo. She has some great recipes!

Still tempted by those Banana Oat Muffins of hers, and now her new Mini Soft Pretzels, I decided that I wanted to make something for dinner instead. Even though it's quite obvious that I am Hungry Right Now!

I considered at her Red Lentil Soup, but honestly I don't think my grocery store carries red lentils, and although I'm sure any kind of lentils would work, I just really didn't feel like doing it. I'm tired.

So I decided on her Black Bean Soup, because I love black beans, it sounded simple and delicious, AND I have almost everything in the pantry to make it. I only need a pepper and maybe some sour cream, but I can quickly pick those up when I take H-Bomb to the store for his after-school snack for the ride home. Doesn't that sound better than standing in the miniscule dried bean section looking for lentils you know you won't find? It did to me. And here we are.

I did make a couple slight changes, so check out the link above for Liza's recipe. Basically, I increased the olive oil, substituted some flat parsley for the cilantro and meant to use chicken broth, but accidentally grabbed beef. Not too major.

This is a lovely, easy soup, very filling and delicious with a dollop of sour cream. Obviously you can use any kind of broth, and just using vegetable broth makes this a simple vegetarian soup as well.

Black Bean Soup
Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 red or yellow pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt & black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chile powder (I used about 1/2 tablespoon because our chile powder is very strong)
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups (or 1 14 ounce can) chicken broth (or beef or vegetable broth)
1/4 cup fresh, flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Juice of half of a lime

Heat the olive oil in a large sauce pan or small soup pot. Add the onions and peppers and heat until peppers are soft and onions are translucent. Stir in garlic, salt, pepper, and chili powder. Add black beans and vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Simmer on low heat for 10 - 15 minutes (until soup starts to thicken a little). Stir in cilantro. Remove 1 cup of soup from the pot and set aside. Blend the remaining soup with a hand blender or with a food processor until relatively smooth. Return reserved soup to blended soup and stir in lime juice. Top individual servings with low-fat sour cream.

Smoked Trout Spread

At the family reunion last summer, Aunt Kathy gave me a gorgeous new cookbook: The Vineyard Cookbook: Seasonal Recipes & Wine Pairings Inspired by America's Vineyards. She had it signed for me by the photographer. Kathy owns a terrific book store in California, and is always sending us books (signed by authors no less!) that she thinks we will enjoy. So thoughtful and generous! Thank you, Aunt Kathy!

This is the first recipe I've tried out of the new cookbook, but there are many more that also look delicious. I really wanted to make this spread with smoked trout for our Housewarming Extravaganza, but for some reason we couldn't find any so we substituted smoked salmon.

I didn't have the time (or the help!) to assemble the spread on toasted pumpernickel triangles adorned with cucumbers and dill, but I was confident that our guests could figure out what to do! We served this dip with artfully sliced cucumbers and/or Artisan Bread Crostini, and I was right: our guests knew exactly what to do with this delicious spread--eat it any way they could!

The next time I run across smoked trout, I will be making this again. I'm sure it's equally delicious either way!

Smoked Trout Spread

3/4 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
3/4 cup sour cream
1 pound smoked trout filet, cut into small pieces (I used smoked salmon)
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish, drained
4 scallions, trimmed and minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper
24 small slices of pumpernickel bread, toasted and cut into triangles (optional)
2 cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced (optional)
dill sprigs, for garnish (optional)

1. Place the ricotta cheese, sour cream, smoked trout, horseradish, scallions, dill, lemon juice and pepper to taste in a food processor. Process until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasonings and process again. Scrape into a bowl, cover, and chill in the refrigerator 2 to 3 hours before serving.

2. Spread the pumpernickel toasts, if using, with the trout mixture and top with cucumber slices. Garnish each toast with dill sprig and serve.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Chicken Soup for the Body and Soul

1 chicken quartered and cleaned (I used four bottoms.)

6 quarts of water

1 whole onion, peeled ( two onions)

2 stalks of celery with leaves (4)

3-4 whole peppercorns

3 large whole carrots, peeled (halved)

3 parsnips, peeled

1 medium turnip, peeled

1 sweet potato (my addition)

2-3 sprigs dill parsley

salt and pepper to taste

Obvious any changes are miniscule. I can't use a strong pepper flavor or a few members of the family stop eating. They don't know what is good. Remember, one of them does not do well with garlic either. Oh, the suffering I go through. (giggling)

Place chicken, onions, celery, sweet potato and one sprig of dill in pot of water so that there is enough room for the chicken and vegetables.

Bring to simmer - never to boil Reduce heat to medium-low. The gentle heating ensures that the soup will remain clear.

Skim soup of fat and scum frequently. This usually takes about 30 minutes. Add two carrots, two parsnips, half of the turnip, one spring of dill, salt and pepper and cook partially covered for two hours over very low heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Using a slotted spoon, remove chicken and vegetables from the broth. Debone the chicken, dice and save for salad or crepes. Save the carrots, parsnip and turnips and discard the celery and onion. (I throw the chicken, cut-up, back into the soup.)

(I left out part of Ruth's recipe. With apologies. She keeps out a carrot and parsnip to cut into one inch pieces with half of a turnip, also cut up and steams them separately over the some of the broth for serving with the soup.

(I add two peeled zucchini for the last thirty minutes and add them, cut up, to the soup.

Let the soup cool to romm temperature, uncovered before refrigerating. Do not allow to cool, covered. It can sour.

Refrigerate overnight and carefully remove remaining fat.

We had the soup, Friday night, and it was nourishing and with the addition of knaidlach, (matzah balls) it was very filling.

Posted by Sweet and Savory Says it All

Shepherd's Pie

I have an alternative version of the traditional shepherd's pie that is made with just vegetables and is EXCELLENT. I wanted to attempt a more traditional shepherd's pie with meat and here it is! I found it on and it's a Alton Brown recipe. Mighty tasty and very easy to make! With mounds of mashed potatoes and meat & veggies in a tasty gravy, it is the ULTIMATE in comfort food for chilly fall evenings!

Here's what you'll need for the mashed potato top (or use your favorite mashed potato recipe!)
  • 1 1/2 lbs russet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup half n half (I used plain old milk with a bit more butter)
  • 2 oz butter
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 egg yolk (I have to admit I've never used eggs in my mashed potatoes and I forgot when I made this recipe. Turned out just fine.
Here's what you'll need for the filling...
  • 2 Tbs canola oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 carrots peeled & diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 lbs ground lamb, beef or turkey (I've used turkey and beef, both good)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbs flour
  • 2 tsp tomato paste (or a squirt of ketchup if you don't have it)
  • 1 cup chicken broth (or beef broth if you're using beef)
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp fresh rosemary (or about 1/2 tsp or so of dry)
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves (or about 1/4 tsp of dry)
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
Peel potatoes and cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Place in a medium saucepan with water and bring to boil. Decrease heat to a simmer and cook until tender (10-15 minutes). Drain and return to pan. Add butter, salt & pepper and mash with masher or mixer. Add half n half (or milk) when the butter has melted and continue mashing/mixing until smooth. Add the yolk (if using) and stir until well combined.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the filling. Place the oil into a large saute pan and set over medium high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the onion and carrots and saute just until they begin to take on color (3-4 minutes). Add garlic and stir to combine. Add the meat, salt & pepper and cook until browned and cooked through. Sprinkle the meat with flour and toss to coat. Add tomato paste, broth, Worcestershire, rosemary and thyme and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer slowly (10 minutes or so) until the sauce is thickened slightly.

Add corn and peas and stir to combine. Spread evenly in a 11 x 7 baking dish. Top with mashed potatoes, starting around the edges to create a seal to prevent the mixture from bubbling thru. Place on middle rack and bake for 25 minutes or just until the potatoes begin to brown.

Let set for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Maple Peanut-Butter Cookies

There always comes a time when you a need a vegan recipe for something. Vegan friends for dinner, folks who don't do dairy, you're out of eggs, food allergies, etc... Today was no exception. I'm out of eggs but really really wanted cookies! One of my all-time favorite cook books is Feeding the Healthy Vegetarian Family by Ken Haedrich. Great recipes that aren't ALL vegan but he always leaves tips on how to make something vegan if you need to.

I found an interesting recipe for these peanut butter cookies that uses no milk, eggs or refined sugar. Believe it or not, they taste yummy!

Here's what you'll need...
  • 1 cup natural creamy peanut butter (I'm sure any peanut butter will do).
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 2 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (I just used regular flour)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 and butter or lightly oil & dust with flour 2 large cookie sheets OR line them with parchment paper.

In a bowl, combine peanut butter, maple syrup, oil and vanilla with a mixer until smooth. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Make a well in your dry ingredients and blend in the peanut butter mixture until just blended. You may need to use your hands.

Make 1 1/2 inch balls and place them on the sheets, leaving 2 1/2 inches between them. Using a fork, flattening the balls until about 1/2 inch thick. Make the traditional crisscross pattern if you like.

Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes. Cookies should be lightly crusted over but still soft. Cool on sheets for 2 minutes, then move to a rack to cool completely before storing.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Min's Pork Chile Verde Stew

For a while, we had a Schwan's delivery guy who used to be chef. He said he was "Irish-Mexican" and that his dream job would be cooking on a ranch like ours. He was large, round, friendly and nice, and we talked quite a bit about food. He shared the ingredients for his "secret" Green Chile, and I wrote them down. I didn't write down the technique, amounts, or anything else, so I'm just going to wing it here.

I think this should turn out just fine for a last-minute dinner for 14 hungry cowboys, don't you?

Just so you know, here are all the notes I started with:

Green Chile--
chicken stock

roasted green chiles
chicken bouillon
mexican oregano
pork sirloins or chicken
cornstarch to thicken (don't if freezing)
pureed tomatoes

And that's all I've got. He said that green chile is "peasant food" or something to that effect, and that he used to make and serve it in a restaurant where he cooked. He also said something about feeling okay to share the "recipe" with me because I live in the middle of nowhere, basically "who are you going to tell?" Ahem.

But, you know, I am making this up as I go along, and I'm also going to add more ingredients, and completely improvise the method. So it's not really like I'm divulging any big secrets here. I don't think, anyway, given the end result.

I pulled a 5-pound package of pork loin ribs out of the freezer, but didn't realize that they were not boneless, but that's all I had. That's okay, since I was cutting the meat up anyway, I just had an extra step of removing all the bones. Incidentally, the slab of meat wouldn't fit into our microwave for defrosting, so I did it a different way: I stuck it into the biggest frying pan I have (it didn't all fit, some was sticking over the edge), put a cup of water in the pan and perched the lid on top of the meat. I turned it on medium to sort of "steam-thaw" it until I could get the ribs apart and cut them into bite-size pieces. It worked pretty well, I just tried not to cook the meat very much in the process. It would be much easier with advance notice and having meat that was thawed.

And although this started out to be a somewhat "authentic" Chile Verde, it ended up being something quite different. I embraced the "peasant food" label and ran with it, boiling and straining the pork rib bones for broth, adding ingredients that we had in the pantry to extend the recipe when I didn't think it looked like enough to feed 14.

It was a bit too spicy for the kids, but they ate leftover pesto instead...If you're concerned about it being too spicy, just leave out the can of jalapeños and reduce the cumin. Either way, it's delicious!

Min's Pork Chile Verde Stew
serves about 14

Olive oil
5 pounds boneless pork ribs
1 cup flour
1 1/2 yellow onions, diced (about 2 cups)
2 carrots, peeled and cut in 1/4-inch dice
4 cans chicken broth (2 cans if using pork "broth")
7 cubes chicken bouillon
4 4-ounce cans fire-roasted diced green chiles
1 4-ounce can fire-roasted diced jalapeños
6 to 8 red potatoes, washed and cut in 1/4-inch dice
1 can garbanzo beans
1 can whole kernel corn
1 tablespoon cumin (or to taste)
2 teaspoons Mexican oregano, crushed
1 can diced tomatoes
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Pour flour into a large ziploc bag. Cut pork into 1/2-inch pieces, add to ziploc bag, seal and shake to coat. Starting with two tablespoon each, add butter and olive oil to a large soup pot over medium heat. Remove pork from flour with a slotted spoon, and fry in butter and oil until golden brown and cooked through, stirring occasionally. Remove cooked pork to a plate, and repeat until all pork is cooked and on a plate, using more butter and oil as necessary in equal amounts.

Add diced onions to the pan, along with an additional tablespoon each of butter and olive oil, if necessary. Saute over medium-low heat until onions are translucent. Add carrots, stirring in and cooking for a few minutes. Add chicken and pork broth, and chicken bouillon cubes. Return pork to the pot.

Add everything else except tomatoes, salt and pepper, and stir well. Reduce heat to low, and simmer until potatoes are tender. Stir in tomatoes and warm through. Taste and adjust for spices, add salt and pepper if needed.

Serve with tortillas or crusty bread on the side and plenty of Corona.

Classic Peanut Butter Cookies

When Number One said he wanted Peanut Butter Cookies to go along with lunch on one of this week's branding days, I considered using Mrs. Field's recipe. But honestly, it just takes too long to bake her cookies, especially when you need to make a lot...over 20 minutes per pan?! Even with more than one oven at my disposal, I just didn't feel like I had that kind of time.

I pulled out my trusty (and well-used) Better Homes & Gardens New Cook Book, where I knew I would find a good cookie recipe with no frills (and a 7 to 9 minute baking time, I might add!)

These are good, classic cookies, a crowd-pleasing favorite. If you bake them about 7 minutes, even if they don't look quite done, then let them rest on the cookie sheet for a minute or two before removing to a cooling rack, they'll be soft and delicious.

Peanut Butter Cookies
Prep: 25 minutes Bake: 7 minutes per batch Makes about 36 cookies

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar OR 1/4 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
Granulated sugar

1. In a large mixing bowl beat the butter and peanut butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking soda and baking powder. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in the egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in remaining flour. If necessary, cover and chill dough until easy to handle.

2. Shap dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in additional granulated sugar to coat. Place balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten by making crisscross marks with the tines of a fork. Bake in a 375 degree F oven for 7 to 9 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.


You probably remember I was searching for a sangria recipe when planning our Housewarming Extravaganza. I found two great recipes in my friend Catherine's Williams-Sonoma Cocktails & Appetizers cookbook, for a White Sangria and this traditional Sangria.

The red Sangria is good and a bit easier to prepare than the White Sangria, but honestly I do like the White Sangria best. Most everyone enjoyed both kinds of Sangria.

I made a quadruple batch of this sangria as well. Didn't have room in the refrigerator to chill it for an hour, but since we served it over ice it didn't seem to matter!

Incidentally, this does not keep, even leaving it overnight the citrus was overpowering. Best to drink it within hours of preparation. Follow the link for several similar glass drink dispensers.

Serves 6
Sangria is the beloved Spanish infusion of red wine and fruit. This recipe adds strawberries to the mix. When choosing the wine, look for something dry and of good quality. Choose one you would drink by itself.

1/2 each lemon and orange, sliced and seeded
1/2 apple, cored and sliced
1/2 cup fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/4 cup sugar
1 bottle (750 ml) dry red wine (we used Black Mountain Merlot)
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 fl. oz) brandy
soda water (we used club soda)

1. Place lemon, orange, apple, strawberries and sugar in a large pitcher.

2. Pour in wine and brandy and stir with a long-handled spoon. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

3. Just before serving, add up to 2 cups soda water. Stir again and serve over ice in tall glasses.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Beef Brisket Sandwiches

You'd think this cowgirl would already have a BBQ beef sandwich recipe, but I really don't! I make a mean pulled pork sandwich, (and by "mean" I do mean "delicious") but I think we've just come to rely on our yearly fill of Uncle Brian's BBQ Beef at the annual Bull Sale.So I found this one at Williams-Sonoma Kitchen, and it's bound to be a winner if only because it smells so good cooking. I used my favorite dry rub recipe, and I'm planning to top the sandwiches off with the Redd's Famous BBQ Sauce.

I started this recipe two nights in advance, and I've doubled it. I let the beef sit with the rub overnight, then in the morning I put it in the two crockpots. I didn't slice it, it was so tender and falling apart tonight that I just "pulled" it with a couple forks, sort of shredded it all up when it was done. I put the meat back with the juices in the crockpot, and refrigerated it overnight. In the morning, I plugged the crockpot back in and set it to "Warm" to reheat the meat without cooking it. I also poured some barbecue sauce into a separate crockpot to warm it.

Just before lunch time, I toasted the buns and assembled the sandwiches, wrapping them in aluminum foil for our lunch in the corral. The BBQ Sauce was plentiful in two 16-Ounce squeeze bottles, although I promised Number One he could have one bottle of BBQ Sauce all to himself...

We have found a winner! This will be the recipe I turn to for barbecue beef sandwiches. All the hungry cowboys loved them, especially topped off with our famous barbecue sauce, of course.

*picture next time!*

Beef Brisket Sandwiches
Serves 10

Beef brisket is a tough cut of meat that benefits from long, slow cooking. Here, we accomplish this task by using a slow cooker, which produces juicy, exceptionally tender meat. To create the ultimate sandwiches, layer slices of beef between toasted sandwich rolls and drizzle with your favorite barbecue sauce.

1 beef brisket, 4 to 5 lb.
Salt, to taste
1⁄4 cup beef grilling rub
2 small yellow or red onions, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1⁄2 cup beef stock
1⁄2 cup lager-style beer
10 sandwich rolls, toasted
Barbecue sauce, warmed, for serving

Season the beef brisket generously with salt and coat with the grilling rub. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour or refrigerate overnight.

Put the onions, garlic, stock and beer in a slow cooker. Add the brisket, fat side up. Cover and cook on high for 8 hours. Transfer the brisket to a carving board, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let stand for 30 minutes.

Slice the brisket across the grain and fill the rolls with meat. Pour barbecue sauce into a bowl and pass alongside.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

When we're carving pumpkins, we always save the seeds for roasting. We also save the pumpkin flesh that we scrape out for Fresh Pumpkin Pie, and usually the boys eat their fill of raw pumpkin too. They eat more after it's been roasted, so it's actually amazing that we have any left for pie at all!

Simply reserve your seeds in a clean bowl as you are cleaning out your pumpkin. Never mind if some of the pumpkin strings are still attached, they'll just make your seeds more flavorful. When you've got all your seeds, add a couple tablespoons of olive oil to them. Sprinkle them with sea salt (our favorite), and/or any number of spices. I've used rosemary + salt; hickory seasoning; you name it, it's all good. It really just depends what you're in the mood for. Just be sure to mix it up well.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Spread your oiled and salted seeds out onto a baking sheet, in a relatively single layer. (I fit all the seeds from two large pumpkins onto one sheet, but I probably should have divided them). Sprinkle lightly with just a bit more salt, then bake for 10 to 15 or even 20 minutes, stirring a couple times with a wooden spoon, until the seeds are golden brown and crispy. (the more strings you left, the longer it will take!)

Allow to cool, then store in a plastic bag or container, unless you sit down and eat them all at once!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Aunt Sunny's Tomato Soup

This soup is something I crave and make often... especially when the weather starts to turn cool. I first tasted it about 5 years ago when my awesome Aunt Sunny made it. Rumor is, My Uncle Hardy (Sunny's hubby) ate at a restaurant in New York and loved the soup so much that he asked for the recipe and they gave it! I'm not sure what restaurant it was, so I've always called this "Aunt Sunny's Tomato Soup".

It's different than any other tomato soup that I've tried. It's creamier and has just a hint of sweetness to it. It's difficult to describe the taste suffice it to say that I LOVE this soup. Yes, if soup could be a spouse, I would marry this one. In addition to the absolute deliciousness of it, I love it because it is a simple and quick dish that I can throw together and serve in as little as 15 minutes. I recommend serving with a grilled cheese sandwich or an artisan bread. YUM!

1/2 medium onion (diced)
2 Tbsp. butter
2 cans diced tomatoes (each can is 14 1/2 oz)
2 cans tomato soup (I prefer Campbell's)
1 1/2 C. milk
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 8 oz. package of cream cheese

Saute the onions in the butter. While onions are sauteing, take 1 can of tomato soup and the cream cheese and blend until smooth (I like to use a blender). Add both cans of diced tomatoes to sauteing onions and boil. Stir in other can of soup, herbs, and cream cheese/soup mixture, and bring to a slow boil. Lower heat and add milk. Simmer until hot (DO NOT BOIL). Enjoy :).

Dark Chocolate & Orange Cookies

It's been a while since I've baked anything for Sweet and Simple Bakes. Since last January, actually, when I made two batches of Christmas Morning Muffins without managing to learn anything at all about converting ingredients from metric measurements to whatever we call "cups." Even though I discovered an excellent measurement conversion website, I still just don't get it. For example, the conversion that I calculated for sugar turned out to be 7/8 cup. In addition to being an "odd" measurement, I thought that was a lot of sugar for this recipe, so I rounded down to 3/4 cup...

So this might be an adventure.

Here is the original recipe for White Chocolate & Orange Cookies. I thought about using white chocolate chips, but then I thought about how unfair it would be to Number One, to finally bake some cookies, except that he can't stand white chocolate Anything. I decided to go with chocolate chips instead, and while at the grocery store I ran across some Extra Dark Chocolate Chips from Guittard's. Extra Dark Chocolate complements Orange perfectly. And here we go!

fter I zested the orange, I chopped the long strips up a bit so they wouldn't hang out of the cookies. Orange zest smells so good! After it was combined with the butter and vanilla, the mixing bowl smelled like a Creamsicle! Very encouraging! I'm not a "sifter" so I just threw the dry ingredients in the bowl after the zest and mixed everything up.

Good news! The cookie dough looked like cookie dough! It tasted amazing, you could eat it with a spoon if you were so inclined. I rolled the cookies into balls and flattened slightly, as directed. I tasted the first cookie just seconds out of the oven, and it was begging me for some pecans. So I quickly chopped up some pecans and tossed them in with the rest of the dough. Now the rest of the dough is as happy as I am. Incidentally, you do have to flatten the dough balls or they just sort of stay ball-shaped. Trust me, I tried it.

Although my cookies don't look like they flattened out as much as the originals, these little gems are cute and round and have the just right ratio of orange to chocolate to pecans. Somehow I don't think white chocolate would have tasted anywhere near this good.

To see all the other participants' cookies, go to
Sweet and Simple Bakes.

Dark Chocolate & Orange Cookies

Makes 2 dozen

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup plain flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1/2 pound chocolate chips (white or milk or dark chocolate)
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F

Beat the butter and sugar. Add the egg, orange zest and vanilla extract.

Sift together the dry ingredients.
Stir the dry ingredients into the butter mixture until combined; stir in chocolate chips.

Roll into balls. Use your fingers to flatten onto a non-stick baking sheet 2 inches apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Cool for five minutes and transfer to a cooling rack.

When cool, store in an airtight container for up to four to five days.
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