Friday, December 2, 2011

Questionably Elegant Hostess Gifts; Cuban Diplomatic Bread Pudding

Hunger No MoreToday's recipe from Hunger No More: Food & Fellowship from the Episcopal Diocese of Washington is a great Washington sort of recipe. It didn't originate here, and it is all about places that you've probably never been, yet it wraps the familiar and mundane in so that it seems all sorts of...normal. Nothing could be more normal and dull than canned fruit cocktail, right?

Cuban Diplomatic Bread Pudding
International: Cuban

1/2 loaf of fresh Ciabatta bread (any bread without a hard crust), cut into small pieces
2 cups sugar
2 cups milk
4 Tbsp butter
4 eggs
2 Tbsp Grand Marnier
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 pinch nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp of salt
1 cup canned fruit cocktail, drained

Preheat oven to 350F. Caramelize 1 cup of sugar in a shallow 9 inch square baking pan. Tip pan to cover sides, until sugar turns light amber brown. Do not let the sugar foam.

Pre-soak the bread slices in milk. Puree in blender and reserve. Combine the eggs, Grand Marnier, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, almond extract, and salt. Puree in blender and reserve. Pulse 1 cup of sugar with butter in the blender, and combine with egg mixture and puree. Combine with bread and milk mixture.

Put the fruit cocktail in the caramelized baking pan. Pour the batter in the pan. Place the pan in a large glass pan (Pyrex), pour hot water in the large glass pan halfway up the sides of the baking pan. (I prefer a large glass pan as you can monitor the water level from the oven door.) Place the pan in the oven, and bake the pudding for approximately 2 hours. Do not allow the water level to reach the bottom of the pan. You can tell it's done when a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove the pudding from the oven and allow it to cool on a wire rack. Turn the cooled pudding upside down onto a serving plate and refrigerate before serving.

Serves 10.

This recipe goes along with one of my favorite stories my grandmother used to tell when she made it. In her days in Cuba, a can of fruit cocktail was the most elegant hostess gift; not available in Cuba, it meant you had American connections. This dessert has become my father-in-law's favorite.

Ivonne Burgess
Christ Church, Durham

I'll admit it: I question the elegance of a can of fruit cocktail as a hostess gift. Though, hey, there have been times in my life where a can of Spaghettios would have been seen as a very clever and thoughtful gift indeed... I'll ponder this further.

I love a good bread pudding. They're highly adaptable creatures, and I'd be tempted when tinkering with this dish to do away with the water bath. Yes, yes, it makes the custard set up all smooth and perfect, but we threw caution to the wind over Thanksgiving and did cheesecakes sans water baths, and I'm feeling like tweaking the cooking gods' noses again. Nerds to the water bath!

Consider switching up the fruit here, unless you're making it for an elderly Cuban expat who will recall the fruit cocktail elegance with fondness. I'm thinking that a can of cling peaches would be good here. I imagine it would work with any canned-in-syrup fruit.

Christ Church makes St. Alban's look like a toddler. It was founded in 1661. Not a typo. It came in to being when Charles II was king in England. That, friends, is a very long time ago.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Regionals: Duck's Stuffed Ham

Hunger No MoreSometimes, I love having this blog. Turns out, the compiler of the Bachman Family Cookbook found this here blog, and commented. So, now I've met a cousin of some stripe (if we share a great grandparent as our closest common ancestor, we're, what...second cousins?), who works with the county museum back in North Dakota. There's tons of family stuff for me to rifle through, and it's a great feeling. It's not every day one learns more about one's great grandparents, ya know?

Today's Hunger No More: Food & Fellowship from the Episcopal Diocese of Washington recipe was a quick substitute. Originally, I was going to post Southern Maryland Stuffed Ham recipe, because there's a good bit of history included, but I just couldn't bring myself to write about people owning other people tonight. So, suffice to say, there's hundreds of years of history going on with this dish, and more than a little baggage going along with it.

Duck's Stuffed Ham

12 lb corned ham
3 lbs watercress
2 lbs kale
1 small head cabbage
4 onions
4 hard boiled eggs
salt to taste
black pepper to taste
red pepper to taste

Have the butcher debone ham and tie. Slit pockets in ham to hold stuffing, about 1 inch apart. Grind watercress, kale, cabbage, onions, and eggs together (a food processor makes this easy). Season stuffing to taste with salt, black pepper, and red pepper. Stuff into slits, pack them full. Put any leftover stuffing on top of ham. Sew into an old pillowcase or wrap with cheesecloth. Place in a kettle of cold water to cover. Bring to a boil and simmer 22 minutes per pound (a 12 pound ham takes 4 1/2 hours). Cool in liquid. When cool, remove and drain, then refrigerate.

This recipe is best prepared a day and a half ahead. This recipe was given to Lucille by her dear friend, "Duck" Shelton, who is now deceased. It was her mother's recipe.

Lucille Dyson
Recipes compiled by Episcopal Church Women
Christ Church, Port Tobacco

I can't say I've ever run across a recipe that called for stitching anything into a pillow case before. The other stuffed ham recipe sticks to cheesecloth, but as that one calls for a 20 pound ham, it's possible that there just weren't old pillowcases big enough.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Great Closing: Book Group Apple Cake

Hunger No MoreToday's recipe from Hunger No More: Food & Fellowship from the Episcopal Diocese of Washington is actually from my own church! St. Alban's has been serving DC as a free church for 157 years. (What's a free church, you may ask? Well, back in the day, most churches charged pew rent; St. Alban's never did, by design.)

There's a book group at St. A.'s, and, like book groups the world over, it's at least partially fueled by food.

Book Group Apple Cake

3 large apples, roughly diced
2 cups sugar (I mix white and brown)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup raisins (soaked in brandy is nice, for adults)
1/2 cup chopped, pecans (optional)
2 eggs, beaten
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups unbleached flour (replace 1/4 with wheat germ for added nutrition)
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
a few shakes of ground cloves
1 tsp salt

Mix chopped apples with sugars, then add oil, raisins and/or nuts, eggs and vanilla. Mix dry ingredients together and stir into moist mixture. Bake in a 9 inch square pan (or a tube pan) at 350F for one hour, or until done (test with a toothpick). Serves 12.

So named because our parish book group urged its inclusion in the cookbook. We don't know if the cake keeps well, since there's never any left.

Joyce Walker
St. Alban's, DC

To be honest, it's not the St. Alban's connection that made me include this recipe. No, it's the last sentence, the epic closing, that promise of cake so wonderful you'll never have a crumb left.

I dig a recipe with a promise.

I'll wager it keeps well -- so much of the cake is sugar and apples, it's just bound to be moist as all get out.

This week's daily reminder: you can order your own copy of Hunger No More and support feeding ministries in the DC area.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Father John's Christmas Biscotti

Hunger No MoreUsually, in a church cookbook, the recipes are from the laity. Hunger No More: Food & Fellowship from the Episcopal Diocese of Washington has its fair share of church lady (and church gent) contributions, but also a few gems from the clergy.

Father John's Christmas Biscotti

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp grated lemon rind
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup shelled (unsalted) pistachios

Preheat the oven to 325F. Beat the butter at medium speed with a mixer or by hand until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating well. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add lemon rind and vanilla extract, mixing well. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt (unless the pistachios are already salted) then add the dry mixture to the butter mixture. Beat just enough until the dry ingredients are moistened. Turn the dough on a lightly floured surfave and with floured hands mix in the dried cranberries and the pistachios.

Divide the dough in half or in quarters. Shape each portion into a log and place the logs on lightly greased baking sheets. Slightly flatten the logs and leave room for them to expand. Bake at 325F for 30 to 35 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool for 5 minutes then transfer the baked logs to a wire rack to cool completely.

Using a good serrated knife, with a gentle sawing motion, cut the logs diagonally into thin slices. Place the slices on ungreased baking sheets and bake for 10 minutes at 325F. Turn each slice over and bake the other side for 10 minutes. Makes 48.

Between parts, the dough or baked logs may be put in the refrigerator overnight. Any dried berries or nuts may be substituted. The biscotti keep well and may be frozen. Depending on the size of logs and slices, yield is 3 dozen to 5 dozen.

Many a sermon has been written over the years between the various steps of biscotti-baking. This recipe was a marked improvement over an earlier version that involved green food coloring, yileding a chartreuse and unappetizing cookie that looked like something out of Dr. Seuss. Sometimes packaged as "Father Beddingfield's Twice-Baked Biscuits," this and similar recipes have come in handy for church bazaars and fund raisers, not to mention pastoral calls.

John Beddingfield
All Souls, DC

So, the "Father John" part of the recipe is pretty clear -- this is Father John Beddingfield's recipe. The "biscotti" part is also straightforward -- the twice-baked cookie is a biscotti, plain and simple.

The "Christmas" part is a bit more suited for interpretation. Biscotti are a good addition to your Christmas cookie tray, to be sure. Nuts have long been a part of Christmasy food traditions, too. But I like to think it's the no-longer-a-part-of-the-recipe green food coloring that made this recipe a Christmas biscotti.

All Souls is tucked next to the National Zoo on Cathedral Avenue. It's one of 88 churches in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, and, I'm kind of embarrassed to say it, but I don't think I've ever laid eyes on it. Why embarrassed? Well, it's all of two miles from my home, and you'd think I'd have noticed a pretty stone church near one of my favorite places in the town I've lived in for twenty one years. You'd think.

But no.

Remember: you can still order Hunger No More: Food & Fellowship from the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and help fund feeding ministries in the Washington, DC area.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hunger No More, by the Episcopal Diocese of Washington; Homemade Egg Noodles

Hunger No MoreToday at St. Alban's, we had an Alternative Gift Fair to kick of Advent. One of the tables was for the diocese's hunger fund, which gets money out to feeding programs across the Washington area. I snatched up two copies, because, well, I loves me a church cookbook, and I also contributed a ton of recipes.

Hunger No More: Food & Fellowship from the Episcopal Diocese of Washington was edited by Kimberly Bujak, Lucy Chumbley, and Ann V. Talty, and came out just last month (October 2011). They call it "a cookbook that celebrates food, fellowship and the spirit of friendship and community that abides in the Diocese of Washington."

There's still time to order one if you're looking for a Christmas gift for your favorite cookbook lover--the books are $20 each, $12 of which is tax deductible.

Now, it's the week after Thanksgiving, and you might be in need of some leftovers help. If you've a mind to make turkey noodle casserole, why not try your hand at making your own noodles?

Homemade Egg Noodles

1 egg

This recipe is over 100 years old and was told to me years ago in Colorado by my grandmother. First, you crack an egg into a medium-sized mixing bowl, saving half the egg shell. Measure cream into the saved half-shell and add the cream to the egg in the mixing bowl. Add a pinch of salt and stir with a fork. Add flour and stir until the dough forms a ball, then turn out onto a floured surface.

Roll out the dough to desired thickness and cut into strips. Grandmother used a sharp knife for this and I use a pizza cutting wheel. The raw noodles can be dried for a couple of hours at this point, but it's not absolutely necessary. Grandmother hung the raw noodles to dry on clean tea towels on the backs of her kitchen chairs.

Place the noodles into your pot of chicken soup and let them simmer for half an hour or more before serving. The flour on the noodles thickens the soup nicely.

Donna Courtney
St. Dunstan's

For your casserole needs, you'll want to be cooking these up on their own, not as part of soup. Though, heck, you can cook them in stock--extra flavor is a good thing. I wouldn't go a half hour of cooking time, though. You'll want to test for doneness often, as you don't want them falling to mush in the casserole dish.

A lot of the recipes in Hunger No More have little snippets of stories included, sharing how the dishes show up in the contributors' lives. I don't think I'll be typing out the 4 page recipe for sourdough bread, but knowing that it exists makes me happy -- I like a conversational tone in recipes.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Turkey Noodle Casserole

It's Thanksgiving week, the great week of culinary traditions and improvisations. My friend Heather came over with eight fully cooked boneless turkey breasts, and so we're doing turkey leftovers early.

Simple Turkey Leftovers

Rip off a hunk of turkey meat.

Squeeze on some mayo -- preferably Duke's or Hellman's/Best Foods.



That got us through a few days.

Tonight, however, I put together a turkey noodle casserole. Now, I'm no stranger to tuna noodle casserole (though I rarely bother to put it in the oven after mixing), but this is my first ever turkey one. Why? Because I usually am through with my turkey leftovers after sandwiches and simple turkey leftovers like above. With 20 or so pounds of meat to get through, I've plenty.

Turkey Noodle Casserole

Roasted turkey meat, roughly diced --at least two cups and up to five
"Cream of" -- one can (I used cream of celery)
sour cream -- 8 oz.
peas and carrots -- one can, drained, or 1-2 cups frozen
Egg noodles, cooked and drained -- one box or bag (I used spätzle)
black pepper -- to taste
your favorite casserole topping -- to cover (I used seasoned bread crumbs drizzled with olive oil; feel free to use corn flakes or what have you)

Preheat your oven to 350°F. In your favorite 9" x 13" pan, mix together the first five ingredients, thoroughly. Taste. Add pepper to your liking. Odds that you'll need to add salt are slim, what with the canned goods in play here. If it needs salt, though, have at it. Smooth the casserole down so it's level all over, and cover in your topping.

Pop into the oven, and leave it there until your topping is crisped, or until your house smells amazing, or until you can't wait any longer. This takes about 20-45 minutes.

Serve hot, serve cold, serve however. Tastes good with pinot noir.
And that's dinner. Well, and lunch for the next few days, too.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Carrot Ginger Orange Soup

This is pulled from my personal recipe box, posted at the request of @SusanEsparza.

Carrot Ginger Orange Soup

small amount of olive oil
2 shallots, minced (use 2 small mild onions if you can't find shallots)
1 Tablespoon freshly grated ginger
grated rind of one large orange
6 cups chicken stock
12 large carrots, peeled and chopped into uniform chunks
juice of one large orange
sour cream for garnish (optional)

In a soup pot, heat oil over high heat. When warm, sautee shallots till opaque -- 3 to 4 minutes. Add ginger and orange rind, stirring until fragrant -- shouldnt' take long, no more than one minue. Add stock and carrots. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to high simmer/low boil. Cook until carrots are extremely tender -- 30-45 minutes longer; you should be able to mush a carrot chunk against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. Cool on the stove for half an hour. Stir in fresh orange juice. Puree in batches in a blender or food processor (remember: if its still hot, you'll be dealing with the little hatch in your blender top!). Store in fridge. Reheat on stove top before serving. Garnish with sour cream if you want. Haven't tried it, but I think a swirl of pesto through it would be delicious, too.
This is tasty all the time, but is particularly lovely on a rainy night, when you want to feel warm.

You can use vegetable stock if you are anti-fowl.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Raisin Gingerbread Muffins

I've been baking and cooking up a storm lately!

Last night, for example, I made Raisin Gingerbread Muffins, thinking that they were a little more neatly portable than the boy bait was.

Recipe with my modifications follows.
Raisin Gingerbread Muffins

Take your butter out of the fridge, and let it soften.

Preheat your oven to 375°F

If you forgot to soften your butter, pour yourself a lovely beverage and sip it while you wait for your butter to soften.

Cream together:
1/2 cup butter (which is softened, right?)
1/2 cup sugar

Beat in:
2 eggs, 1 at a time

Beat in:
1/2 cup sour cream

Beat in:
1/2 cup blackstrap molasses, which has more nutrients in it than other molasses, so this gets the mystical allure of being a Healthy Muffin

In a separate bowl, mix together:
2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 generous pinch salt

Add dry ingredient mixture to wet mixture, and stir to combine. Just to combine -- once everything's gotten damp, stop stirring.

Stir in:
1/2 cup golden raisins

Line your muffin tins with, well, muffin tin liners/cupcake wrappers; you're making 12 muffins, so line enough indentations. Distribute dough evenly between the cups. They'll be about 3/4 full, but don't worry too much about it, as long as they are evenly full. Grab a tin by the short sides, lift a few inches off your work space, and thunk it back down on your workspace to help settle the dough in nicely -- it's sticky, so if you try to even 'em out from above, be prepared to lose some dough.

Pop the tins in the oven. Check in on them in 18 minutes: if you can slide a toothpick or broomstraw into one and have it come out clean, you have muffins! Otherwise, rotate your trays in the oven, and give 'em another 3 minutes.

Remove from oven to wire rack. After 5 or 10 minutes, tip them out of the tin to finish cooling on the rack.
Once they're all-the-way cooled, you can pop 'em in a zip top bag -- a gallon size works nicely, if you eat two of the muffins first. (What? They smell good.) Close the zip top almost all the way; you don't want it completely air tight. Store on the counter or in your breadbox if you're going to eat them all in the next few days, otherwise fridge 'em or freeze 'em.

These taste VERY GOOD. They'd be even better with cream cheese frosting.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sunday, Cooking

Today, I'm going a bit nuts in the kitchen.

Right now, I've got a ham in the oven, cooking low and slow a la Alton Brown's City Ham recipe. I've also got a pot of beans simmering so that I can make Tante Suzie's Pork & Beans. I've whipped up a batch of the master dough recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and have it rising. Later, there will also be asparagus.

I also have a big measuring cup filled with tomato juice, for the pork & beans. Trouble was, see, that I didn't have any tomato juice in the house, and I was ill-inclined to go out again (long churchy morning). Thank goodness for the internet! Did you know that you can make your own tomato juice substitute? One can of tomato paste to four cans of water. Doesn't matter what size can of paste you're using, just make sure you measure the water in that self same can. This'll also help you clean out every last bit of tomato goodness.

I've been making a concerted effort to eat more "real food" -- so, there's been a lot of baking. The Boy Bait was just the start. I've made two loaves of no knead bread this week, and as you might have gathered from the first paragraph, I've got more bread plans for this week.

And that's my Sunday. Light on cookbooks, big on love.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Blueberry & Blackberry Boy Bait: Cooking the Books

It's September 11, 2011, and I celebrated the second day of being in a Toxic-Free Zone (TFZ), media-wise. I invited a friend over for movies, made up a big super nacho, and, because nothing makes a TFZ quite like the scent of baked goods, I baked.

Specifically, I baked a Boy Bait...with variations from the original recipe (I know you're all terribly surprised).

  • I used blueberries and blackberries.
  • I used a whole lot more blueberries than called for -- a whole big pint container, not just one cup.
  • Yes, and then blackberries in addition to that...a 4 oz package.
  • I didn't use nutmeg, because, well, I found out I didn't have any nutmeg in the house.
  • I did have cinnamon, though.
  • I ran out of sugar -- what sort of baker am I? -- so filled out the "sprinkle on top" sugar measure with cinnamon sugar.
I recommend upping the amount of fruit like I did. Otherwise, you're having much more cake than fruit. This gives you a good duality. And, yes, I said "cake" -- it's much more cakey than a clafoutis or any crumble, crumb, or whatnot.

The recipe came together just fine. A survey of other boy bait recipes online show that others are way more complicated, with whipping of egg whites and folding in of same, and cutting cold butter into flour... this is easier.

In the original post, I talked about how I liked how the ingredients list was ordered. Well...I take it back. The first measure of sugar, the butter, and the eggs should be together, at the top of the list, and then the dry, then the milk, then the toppings. So sayeth me.

I would serve this slightly warm with ice cream, or completely cooled with whipped cream or Cool Whip. I didn't, though, and it was just a touch on the too-dry side...and that was with the extra fruit!

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner: First Cookbook Drawing Winner

A Little SomethingWe've got a winner for the first cookbook drawing! And A Little Something goes to...

First, process:

There were 7 entries. I numbered them in the order they came in, and then used the Truly Random Number Generator to pick the winning number.

Entry #3 turns out to be ... Kelly, who is afraid of cheddar cheese chocolate fudge. Congratulations, Kelly!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Banana Mutt Cookies, and Just a Few More Hours to Enter the Drawing!

Three Dog Bakery CookbookThere are a few more hours left to enter the cookbook giveaway drawing -- I'm extending the deadline past midnight Eastern tonight all the way until 8:27 AM Eastern...the approximate time that Puck will wake me up tomorrow.

It's the time of year where I declare all my social media outposts as Toxic Free Zones, and I guarantee you'll find nothing morbid, morose, depressed, depressing, sad, or weary here. Happiness, lightness, silliness, frivolity are the rule. And what fits that bill more than Three Dog Bakery Cookbook: Over 50 Recipes for All-Natural Treats for Your Dog and baking for your own or your neighbor's pooch?

Banana Mutt Cookies

Makes about 20 mutt pleasers

Whew! Cat chasing can be exhausting work -- this is truly the paws that refreshes. Use fresh bananas and your dogs will love you a bunch!

1 1/2 cups ripe mashed bananas
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups oats
1/2 cup chopped peanuts
1/4 cup applesauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all ingredients together thoroughly.

Drop spoonfuls of the mixture onto an ungreased baking sheet, and press flat with a fork.

Bake for approximately 15 minutes, then cool on a rack before serving. Store in an airtight container.

"The paws that refreshes." Folks, I want to assure you: I did not write that myself. That pun comes to you straight from the cookbook.

The oats they're talking about here are the kind that come with a Quaker on the label. Rolled oats, either quick or old fashioned. I'm not saying your dog can't stomach steel cut, Irish oats ... I'm just saying that there might be some extra dog gas if you go that route, and most American households tend to stock the Quaker rolled variety, so use what you have.

Missed a few days of posts, as I was auditioning for a show. Long story short: I'm not doing a show this fall, so the blog will skip nicely over the unsightly lulls that tend to come with my being theatrical. So, yay! Regular cookbook posts!

Let me know what kind of cookbook you think I should cover next. Moreover, go enter the cookbook giveaway drawing before it's too late.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Coq Au Vin: My Deep Dark Secret

It's time to 'fess up. I love cookbooks, but I rarely ever prepare a recipe as written. It is much, much, much more common for me to consult a few books and then some website, and cobble together what I like from all of them to make something more me.

Tonight, for instance, I stopped at a couple stores on the way home, and bought fixings for coq au vin, or, really, A Slightly Less Pretentious Dish of Red Wine Braised Chicken. And here's how I did it:

Coq au Vin, or a Slightly Less Pretentious Dish of Red Wine Braised Chicken

Preheat your oven to 350°F

8 chicken thighs, with skin, bone in
1 cup flour
hearty pinch salt
hearty grinding pepper

Put flour, salt, and pepper in a brown paper bag. Close up, and shake to combine. Open bag, and put in two chicken thighs. Close the bag, and give a few hearty shakes. Open bag, and take out each thigh, placing them on a cooling rack for the time being. Repeat until all thighs are coated and placed on the rack. Throw out the bag.

Why the rack? Because we want the moisture from the chicken to start forming a shell with the flour, so we want as little contact with surfaces as possible.

2 containers of white mushrooms, sliced
big pat of butter
big pinch of salt

In a separate skillet or pot altogether, melt your big pat of butter over medium-high heat, and then dump in your mushrooms. Add salt. Stir occasionally as you do the rest of your work.

1/2 package bacon, cut into chunks

In a big flat-bottomed pot or a deep skillet, over medium-low heat, render out the bacon fat. If your pot is running hot and you're risking crisping/burning rather than rendering, add a shot glass full of water.

Cook until you've a good amount of fat rendered out, then use tongs and remove the bacon to a bowl for now. Leave the fat in the pan.

Lay 2-3 chicken thighs skin-side down in the bacon-y pot. Let sit for a few minutes, until the crust starts forming, and you see a bit of golden brown. Turn over, and let sit until the other side is crusty/golden. Remove to a heavy 9x13 pan. Repeat with the rest of the chicken thighs, in small batches. If you pot dries out, add a few glugs of olive oil between batches.

4 carrots, chopped
1 onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced

Dump your non-fungus veg into the bacon-y/chicken-y pot, and stir frequently until the onions and garlic are softened. If you have the patience, keep going until the carrots are soft. If be it.

By now, the mushrooms should have cooked down. They're now much more brown than they were, and almost all of the liquid they threw off has evaporated.

If it hasn't evaporated, turn up the heat, and keep the non-fungus veg going until the mushrooms are ready.

When the mushrooms are all ready, take 'em off the heat, and spread them over/between the chicken in the 9x13 pan. Scoop up non-fungus veg and spread over/between the chicken & mushrooms. Sprinkle/spread the bacon on top of the whole mess.

1 750-ml bottle of relatively inexpensive pinot noir, ideally from France or Oregon (it should be something that you would actually deign to drink; plonk has no place here, but "I could use it in Sangria" does)
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs rosemary AND 3 sprigs thyme OR a big ol' pinch of dried herbs de Provence

Check your bacon-y/chicken-y/non-fungus-veg-y pot: is there any fat left in the pan? If so, pour it off (not down the sink...into an empty can) or blot it up with paper towels. Dump in your wine, turn up the heat to high, and start whisking to get all the crusty bits up off the pan bottom. This? Is flavor. It's also "deglazing." It is the key to goodness. Honest. Add in the herbs, and whisk frequently as the whole things bubbles strongly. Keep it going for 3-5 minutes -- it'll reduce somewhat.

Take off the heat, and pour over the chicken/mushroom/veg/bacon concoction. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil, and pop in the oven for an hour and a half.

1 package noodles -- egg noodles, spätzle, fettuccine, or whatever you have in the cupboard
large amounts of water
heaping pinch of salt
big knob of butter
store bunch of fresh parsley, leafy bits chopped up, stems discarded

Bring water to a boil in a big ol' pot. Toss in the salt, then the noodles. Stir, and cook for the length of time specified on the package. Drain. Put into a big ol' bowl, and toss with the knob of butter and 3/4 of the parsley.

Eat a bowl full of noodles, because by now you're really hungry, and the house smells amazing, and you're salivating, and you need sustenance.

When the chicken's been in the oven for an hour and a half, pull it out, open it up, and sprinkle the rest of the parsley over the whole thing.

Serve the chicken and veg along side the noodles, and spoon some of the delicious sauce over the whole thing. Make sure you're not eating the bay leaves or the sprigs of herbs. Throw those bad boys away.

Like all things stewed and braised, this'll just get better as it sits in the fridge. Make sure you have some leftovers for the next day or two, because you'll be the happiest person in the world.

And that, m'dears, is how I cook.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Cheese Please Hound Rounds: For, Lo, We Love All Things Cheese

Three Dog Bakery CookbookIt comes as no surprise to you all that we are a cheese-loving family. We're die-hard Tillamook Cheese boosters; heck, Puck was even Tillamook's fan of the month back in October of last year. We love us some cheese, we do.

If a dog in your life is also a fan of all things fromage-esque, why not try out this recipe from Three Dog Bakery Cookbook: Over 50 Recipes for All-Natural Treats for Your Dog and offer up a double indulgence -- two cheeses, no waiting.

Cheese Please Hound Rounds

Bakes up approximately 24 chewy, cheesey chompers

Your hound will definitely hang around when he smells these rounds!

2 cups white flour
1/2 cup shredded low-fat Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese
1 teaspoon chopped cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon parsley flakes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 cup chopped peanuts
2/3 cup water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix together flour, Cheddar and cottage cheese, cilantro leaves and parsley.

Add oil, peanuts and water and mix thoroughly.

Break off golf ball-size pieces and shape into balls.

Place on a greased baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Cool on a rack and serve. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

I give you full permission to use all parsley or all cilantro, as one teaspoon each is going to lead to a lot of waste unless you've got a lot of Mexican and Italian cookery planned for the week.

I also give you permission to use whole wheat flour instead of white flour. They'll be less bakery-pretty, but there'll be some increase in nutritive value, and if you've already got that flour in the house, might as well use it. Seriously, I am just tickled pink at the idea of baking for our dogs, but if it requires a special trip to the store for ingredients, I suspect we might be taking it a bit far. Kooky is all well and good, until it takes you over into nutjob territory.

One nit to pick: there is no such thing as low-fat Cheddar. There is low-fat cheddar, which is a Cheddar alternative. It shares many qualities with Cheddar, but it is not Cheddar, it is cheddar-esque. Picked nit, then, is this: Capitalize Cheddar, but only when you're actually talking about Cheddar. Low-fat options have their place, but their place is not in the List Of Things That Are Capitalized.

There's still time to enter the cookbook giveaway.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Three Dog Bakery Cookbook, by Dan Dye & Mark Beckloff: Party Hearty Mix-It-Up Mix

Three Dog Bakery CookbookWe're going through our bookshelves this weekend, doing a massive purge of books we've read and not loved. This is not a small task -- we are book fiends, and our shelves are overflowing. In pulling books yesterday, I found several cookbooks on non-cookbook shelves, including Three Dog Bakery Cookbook: Over 50 Recipes for All-Natural Treats for Your Dog-- I take it as a blogging sign. This week: dog treats! I'll even try to throw in a cooking-the-books post with feedback from Puck the Corgi.
Party Hearty Mix-It-Up Mix

Makes 42 hellraisin', raucous, rowdy snacks

The favorite for squirrel-chasin', stick-fetchin', hole-diggin' hounds--let the good times roll-over!

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
4 teaspoons skim milk
2 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix together oil, honey, vanilla, egg and milk in a bowl.

In a separate bowl, blend together flour, baking powder and ginger.

Combine dry ingredients with wet mixture and stir thoroughly.

Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface, roll out to 1/4-inch thick and cut into shapes.

Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Cool on a rack and store in an airtight container.
I do believe this is our first use-cookie-cutters recipe on Take One Cookbook...! You don't have to use cookie cutters, mind you. You could just cut the dough into long strips and then cross-cut into squares, rectangles, or diamonds. That method is quick, and you can make the treats as small as you want.

But, really, where's the fun in that? This is an opportunity. Yes, an opportunity to use cookie cutters! If you have bone shaped cutters, whip 'em out, but there's nothing saying you can't make your dog some turtle-shaped cookies, or stars, or hearts, or dinosaurs, or airplanes, angels or armadillos! Cut out as many as you can, then take the scraps, roll into a ball, and roll out again and keep going until you've used as much of the dough as possible. If it starts getting too sticky to work with, pop your dough in the fridge for 10 minutes or so, or add more flour to your board.

You can still do this even if you don't have a rolling pin: a clean wine bottle works great as an impromptu pin, and your dog won't even look at you funny.

Really. Dogs only look at you with love when you're baking for them.

Puck the Corgi guarding the polar bears' private meeting.
Yes, this week will have lots of pictures of my dog.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Oven-Fried Zucchini, and Cookbook Give-Away

A Little SomethingI'm an apartment dweller, with no yard or patio or porch of my own, and no real strong motivation to schlep tools several blocks daily to manage a plot at the community garden. This is to say: I never have too many tomatoes. I never have to find someone to take some cucumbers off my hands. And I never, ever, ever have to figure out a way to use up an over-abundance of zucchini. If you are a gardener, though, you probably are coming into zucchini, and  A Little Something has a way for you to get through the bounty.

Oven-Fried Zucchini
The secret to the zucchini's crispiness is double dipping in egg whites -- finally, double dipping is acceptable! These are excellent with Horseradish Yogurt Sauce or prepared tomato sauce.
Makes 4 servings
Vegetable oil cooking spray
1/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch wedges
2 large egg whites
  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Liberally spray a baking sheet with vegetable cooking spray.
  2. Combine the bread crumbs and Parmesan in a large bowl. Set aside.
  3. Dip the zucchini in the egg whites and then coat with the bread-crumb mixture. Repeat.
  4. Place on the prepared baking sheet, and spray liberally with cooking spray. Bake until golden, about 30 minutes. Serve with Horseradish Yogurt Sauce.
Okay, you're not going to get through five grocery bags of zucchini this way. One cup of zucchini? Not  going to get you as far as hoped. So, I say, keep cranking these out. Crispy veg for dipping = a good movie day/night snack. Try it.

The sauce recipe is on the same page of  A Little Something but rather than type it all out in proper format, let's go easy: Take a container of plain yogurt, mix in 1 or 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish. Ta da. That's sauce. Or, you know, use lemon yogurt for a bit of extra tang -- this sauce is what I put on roast beef sandwiches.

I may have to make this later this weekend, as I've eggs and breadcrumbs in the house from the great meatball experiment.

Speaking of... time to put the balls in the sauce.

But before that... how's about a giveaway?

The First Ever Take One Cookbook... Cookbook Giveaway!

Yes, I'm giving away a cookbook! In fact, I'm giving away this week's cookbook: my well-worn copy of  A Little Something.

You can get up to four entries in the drawing. How? Leave a comment on this blog post with one of the following:
  1. An appetizer you love to make.
  2. A recipe from Take One Cookbook... that sounds really good to you.
  3. A recipe from Take One Cookbook... that sounds appalling to you.
  4. A link to your tweet or blog post wherein you tweet or blog about Take One Cookbook... in some way.
Each comment is one entry; don't put all four in one, or you'll confuse and confound me when it comes time to draw a winner.

Drawing will take place on Sunday, September 11, because we need a little happy on that day. Get your entries in by midnight Eastern on Saturday, September 10.

Cooking the Books: Dom's Mom's Meatballs

It's day two of a four day weekend for me, and I've a clean kitchen and a non-over-stuffed fridge. This means...

Time to cook.

I wanted to chop, and I wanted to mix, and I wanted an excuse to eat pasta. So, I hopped on over to the grocer's and bought all the fixings for Dom's Mom's Meatballs, the quintessential meatballs from Dom DeLuise (and his mother).

Of course, there are in-the-moment variations: I upped the amount of parsley, because I couldn't bear the thought of using just a bit of a bunch, knowing I'd not use the rest of it before it went bad. I bought pre-seasoned breadcrumbs, feeling in part like I was a poseur, but also admitting that, damn it, really good seasoned Italian breadcrumbs are, in fact, really good. I grated my cheese (parmesan -- Mr. DeLuise doesn't specify, but, c'mon, ya know his mom's using parmigiano) because the stuff in a shaker jar just isn't good enough for a loving batch of meatballs. I didn't measure the cheese -- it was closer to 4 oz by weight than by volume. I used 1.5 pounds of ground beef, and 1 pound ground pork, mostly because I couldn't buy a smaller portion of pork, and so I thought my option was "double the recipe" or "just switch proportions." There's only two of us -- well, three if you count Puck the Corgi -- and we've a small little freezer, so making 40 massive meatballs seemed foolish at best.

The meat mixture is resting right now. Didn't take any photos during the assembly & mixing process, because my hands were busy, and dirty. Perhaps I'll ask Nick the Chefly Husband to take some pictures as the shaping process happens. If so, I'll post 'em here. If not, well... They're meatballs. I assume they'll be brown and lovely, and eventually covered in red sauce and served with penne.

And a lovely glass of almost-undoubtably-red wine.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Island Delights: Four Recipes, No Rum

A Little SomethingThe whole concept of A Little Something is, really, party tidbits. Little bits of food to serve at parties. Little bits of food to soak up some wine or cocktails. Even the picture on the cover has a glass of wine.

So, you'll understand my dismay at the following group of recipes, all of which are clearly missing a vital ingredient:



Sure, sure, they'll say "add some light rum" but that's hardly how one writes a cocktail recipe. Tell me I'm wrong here.

Island Delights
Relax, sip, and enjoy. Add some light rum or a scoop of vanilla ice cream if you like. These drinks are excellent with nachos, flavored nuts, potato skins, guacamole, black bean dip, chips, and of course, your favorite something.
Makes 1 to 2 servings
Strawberry Banana Colada
1 banana
1/3 cup frozen strawberries
2 tablespoons canned cream of coconut
1/4 cup pineapple juice
1/2 cup ice
Piña Colada
1/4 cup canned cream of coconut
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1/2 cup ice
Island Paradise
1/2 cup frozen sweetened strawberries
2 tablespoons canned cream of coconut
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup pineapple juice
1/2 cup ice
Strawberry Daiquiri
1/2 cup frozen sweetened strawberries
1/4 cup sweet-and-sour mix
1/2 cup ice
Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Garnish with fresh fruit slices or wedges if desired.

A daiquiri is not a daiquiri if it doesn't include rum. Okay, purist might well say that a daiquiri isn't a daiquiri unless it's just rum, lime juice, and simple syrup. And coladas aren't coladas when they're just fruit.

Call 'em something else, please. "Island Paradise" is fine by me.

Or, call 'em Frozen Drinks. Some of my friends (Heather & Philip, of Picaroon Blog) used to host a Frozen Drinks Party every summer, where they supplied the booze and everyone brought frozen fruit, ice, and other add-ins. A good time, every year.

Okay, okay. I'll admit it. I don't tend to do frozen, blended cocktails. I like my margaritas on the rocks. I like my daiquiris in theory. But I'm being crotchety, and A Little Something has let me down on this group of recipes.

Henceforth, I'm going to pretend that these are Frozen Drinks, or Mocktails, or Fancy Drinks For Baby Showers And Children's Parties. I'm an information architect; labels are important. With the right label, I'll stop this recipe rant.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Chocolate Truffles with Kahlua and Pecans: This Is a Keeper

A Little SomethingWe've been savory for far too long here on Take One Cookbook... (Yes, I'm conveniently forgetting the week of Jell-O.) It's time for something decadent, something sweet from A Little Something to help you roll into the holiday weekend.

And, really, when you're looking for decadent and sweet, nothing fits the bill quite so nicely as a boozy homemade truffle. They are really, really, really easy to make, but you don't have to let anyone know that. Just like in that old Rice Krispies commercial where the mom makes a big deal about making rice cereal marshmallow treats and the family believes that they were the hardest thing to make in the world, the ultimate expression of maternal love.

No offense meant to said marshmallow cereal squares -- they really are darned tasty. Heck, I had an R.A. back at American University who was completely mystified by my ability to crank out Rice Krispie Treats.

He'd be gobsmacked by today's recipe -- you, too, can leave people dumbfounded.
Chocolate Truffles with Kalua and Pecans
These elegant chocolates are a perfect accompaniment to your favorite coffee or espresso. 
Makes 25
3/4 cup whipping cream
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate bars, finely chopped
2 tablespoons Kahlua
1 1/4 cups finely chopped pecans
  1. Line an 8-inch-square baking pan with foil. Set aside.
  2. Bring the cream to a simmer, remove from the heat, and whisk in the chocolate until smooth and melted.
  3. Whisk in the Kahlua. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and freeze about 30 minutes, until just firm.
  4. Cut the chocolate into 25 squares. Pour the nuts into a small bowl. Coat each square with nuts and roll into a ball.
  5. Place the chocolates on a small baking sheet and chill until firm, at least 2 hours. Serve cold.
Try some of these combinations:
  • Substitute Grand Marnier for the Kahlua.
  • Substitute almonds or hazelnuts for the pecans.

If you made up a batch of kaluha a few weeks back, you can certainly use it here.

You also don't have to step near the stove. Really! Heat up that cream in the microwave, and you'll have an easier time all around. Don't even think of touching a double boiler.

If you're sharing these with people who might have nut allergies, for the love of all things, do not put nuts in your truffles. You can replace the nuts with crushed vanilla wafers, or even some puffed rice cereal. If you go the Krispie route, I'd recommend melting up some more chocolate in the microwave so that you can coat the truffles and make them extra pretty.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Romaine Burritos with Blue Cheese, Chicken, Apples, and Pecans: On Not Being Pithy

A Little SomethingOne of the quirky joys of reading old cookbooks is delighting in the crazy recipe titles. Remember Watergate Cake? Or Hell Balls? And who could forget Home-for-Lunch Quickie? The author and editors of A Little Something seem to lack some imagination when it comes to recipe titles. They're all so very straightforward and prescriptive. Yesterday's Garlic & Cheese Twists were twists with garlic and cheese. Baked Clam Dip Loaf was a clam dip, baked, in a loaf of bread. Today's recipe is similarly direct.
Romaine Burritos with Blue Cheese, Chicken, Apples, and Pecans

Romaine, radicchio, butter, or iceberg lettuce are great low-calorie "wrappers." Make a platter for your next get-together or whip one up for a snack or light lunch.

Makes 8

4 ounces cooked chicken, diced
2 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
1 apple, peeled, cored, and diced
1/4 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons prepared Dijon mustard salad dressing or vinaigrette
8 romaine lettuce leaves, hard stem removed

  1. Combine the chicken, blue cheese, apple, and pecans in a small bowl, and toss with the dressing.
  2. Place the romaine on a flat work surface. Place a tablespoon of filling about 1/4 inch from the wide end of each leaf. Roll up burrito style, completely enclosing the filling.
Some other nice stuffings:
  • Tomato Salsa (page 28) mixed with diced chicken
  • Goat cheese Log with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Basil (page 42)
  • Dilled Shrimp Salad (page 94)
  • Chopped Eggs, Mushrooms, and Onions (page 61)
See what I mean? A direct recipe title.

It's... well, it's boring, frankly. Why not "Chicken Salad Lettuce Rolls"? Or "Bertha's Butter Lettuce Burritos"? Something with more character. Something pithy, or something that hints at a story untold. I'm willing to hear suggestions.

I don't know why the author felt a need to put "wrappers" in quotation marks. The lettuce is used as a wrapper. It's not a fake wrapper. It's not something something normally used as a wrap that is only containing items in some vague, molecular cuisine manner. The lettuce wraps the salad. If they'd wanted to put burrito in quotation marks, I'd understand. As is, it smacks of bad "sign" writing, where "people" put quotation "marks" around random "words" because "they" don't understand "language."

End rant. (For now.)

I suggest you use butter lettuce instead of romaine -- it is more pliable, and rolls easier. Also, the mild taste is lovely with chicken lettuce rolls. Also, there's no reason whatsoever to peel your apples. Wash 'em, sure, but leave the peel on, unless you're petrified of potential pesticide residue. Nuts are optional -- be aware of allergies of your guests.

And, really, you can make your own salad dressing. If you don't know how, leave a comment, and I'll post easy directions.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Garlic & Cheese Twists: Crunchy Goodness

A Little SomethingI bought A Little Something when it was first published, making it one of the few cookbooks in my collection that I bought in a regular ol' bookstore, paying publisher's prices. Back in '98, I was four years out of college, and starting to entertain like a grown up...or, at least, like I thought grown ups entertained. Today's recipe was one of the recipes that made my eyes go wide. This? This is Grown Up.
Garlic and Cheese Twists

These look lovely on a buffet table, but you'll also enjoy munching them while watching a good movie.

Makes about 20

Vegetable oil cooking spray
2 puff pastry sheets (10 by 15 inches), thawed
1/2 cup milk
2 egg whites
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
  2. Open the puff pastry and lay the sheets flat on a clean surface.
  3. In a small bowl, beat the milk and egg whites together. Brush evenly over one side of each pastry sheet.
  4. Sprinkle each sheet with 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder and 1/2 cup cheese. Roll lightly with a rolling pin to adhere. turn over and repeat.
  5. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut the pastry into long strips. Twist each strip. Sprinkle evenly with remaining garlic powder and cheese.
  6. Bake about 20 minutes, until golden.
For Cinnamon twists, omit the garlic powder and cheese. Substitute 1 cup sugar mixed with 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon. After brushing each pastry with the milk and egg mixture, sprinkle each sheet with 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Roll lightly with a rolling pin to adhere. Turn over and repeat. Prepare and bake.
Okay, so it's not rocket science. It's not hard. It's not frou frou. It's dead simple, as long as you plan ahead far enough to defrost your puff pastry.

It's also really tasty, really pretty, and a bit of fun to eat. Breadsticks are all well and good, but puff pastry twists are flaky bits of crunchy goodness.

I made these once with my sister, Kelly, who's known for being a bit of a picky eater. I mixed up a peanut sauce for dipping, and while that wasn't entirely her favorite thing ever, the twists were a hit.

Even picky eaters like puff pastry.

If you take the "with a good movie" recommendation from the recipe description, you should also take my recommendation: Serve these with champagne. Puff pastry and champagne add instant elegance to any occasion, even if that occasion is a rewatching of "Megafault" on Netflix.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Little Something, by Susan Epstein: Baked Clam Dip Loaf

A Little SomethingToday, we move to a more modern cookbook: A Little Something: More Than 150 Snacks, Appetizers, And Hors D'oeuvres For Every Craving And Occasion by Susan Epstein (William and Morrow Company, New York; 1998). Epstein has the 150+ recipes, sure, but also puts them together in menus for every kind of party, every kind of budget.

So, a cookbook from the late 90s, with party food. I don't know quite what I was expecting, but "everything old is new again" wasn't at the top of the list. And yet...the modern recipes show more than a little bit of nodding to some of the more curious mid-century recipes. Case in point:
Baked Clam Dip Loaf

Surround this impressive dip with crudités, breadsticks, and the leftover bread cubes.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

1 large (1 1/2 pounds) unsliced round sourdough or black bread
4 containers (4 ounces each) herb or garlic cream cheese spread
1 cup mayonnaise
3 cans (6 1/2 ounces) minced clams, drained
4 green onions, finely chopped
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Cut a slice off the top of the bread, about 2 inches down. Reserve the lid. Remove the insides of the bread, leaving a 1-inch shell. Cut the insides into cubes, and set aside.
  3. Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese spread and mayonnaise until blended. Stir in the clams and onions.
  4. Spoon the mixture into the bread shell and cover with reserved lid. Wrap tightly in aluminum foil.
  5. Bake about 1 1/2 hours, until the filling is very hot and bread is crusty.
If you prefer, you can substitute canned lump crabmeat for the clams.
Ah, there we go, I remember what I was expecting: fine-quality ingredients, and a bit more froofiness when it comes to preparation. The idea that we're using canned goods and containers of pre-seasoned cheese product is a bit disappointing. How about this instead: Soften 16 ounces of cream cheese, beat until fluffy, mix in minced garlic and/or chives. Use that instead of the pre-done stuff. And, hey, I understand that canned clams are convenient. I do. You can use them. If you happen to have fresh clams about, though, promise me you'll use those.

If you're thinking of serving this at a party, I'd stay away from the crab variant option. Why? Well, hot crab dip is something you can get on nearly every bar menu, and people will wonder why there's no artichoke in your crab-and-... dip. Subvert their expectations. Embrace the retro clambakiness.

Embrace, also, the knowledge that there are lots of folks out there with shellfish allergies. Put a sign with your dish letting people know that here there be clams. Of course, if you used fresh clams, you could just garnish with a scrubbed-clean clam shell--it's pretty darned unambiguous a statement.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Fantastic Fruit Bars: Improvisational Cookery

Amazing Magical Jell-O RecipesWe can't end our week with Amazing Magical Jell-o Desserts without having at least one -rated recipe "for children with more cooking skills." The fine folk at General Foods seem to think that more cooking skills translates into better improvisational choices, so there's more freedom in this recipe than the others we've looked at.

This freedom might come in handy this weekend, if you're on the East Coast of the U.S., and stuck inside waiting out Hurricane Irene -- you can mix up flavors to suit your tastes and your pantry supplies. Of course, if you're still standing in line at the grocery store, you could ask the nice person behind you to watch your cart while you run to get the ingredients, and then you can plan a little more specifically.

★ Fantastic Fruit Bars

1 cup graham cracker or vanilla wafer crumbs
1/4 cup melted butter or margarine
2 packages (3 oz. each) Jell-O brand orange, lemon or peach flavor gelatin*
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 cup chopped dried apricots or prunes or chopped mixed dried fruits*
1 teaspoon grated lemon or orange rind (optional)*

1-cup dry measure
1-cup liquid measure
small saucepan
medium bowl
measuring spoons
9-inch square pan
small knife

  1. Combine crumbs and melted butter; sprinkle 1/2 cup ccrumb mixture over bottom of a 9-inch square pan.
  2. Dissolve gelatin in boiling water.
  3. Stir in corn syrup, fruit and rind. Chill until slightly thickened.
  4. Pour into pan over crumbs; sprinkle with remaining crumbs. Chill until firm, about 3 hours.
  5. Cut into bars; store in refrigerator. (Bars hold well at room temperature for several hours.) Makes 20 confections.
*Suggested combinations: Orange flavor gelatin with apricots and orange rind. Lemon flavor gelatin with prunes and lemon rind. Peach flavor gelatin with mixed fruit; omit rind.
They're not coddling kids here: they recommend prunes. Prunes! Instead of raisins! You could use raisins. Or sultanas. Or Craisins. Or...any other dried fruit. Dried blueberries with Berry Blue Jell-O -- why not! Okay, other than my firm belief that food is not nor should it be blue. Regardless, we have a lot more flavor options in the gelatin world these days than we did back in the 70s, so branch out. If the idea of finding a flavor on a cookie tray doesn't make you hurl, try it here.

If I were writing this recipe, I'd change the order of the HOW TO MAKE IT so that you'd do step 2, step 3, and then step 1 -- there's no need for you to make the crust before making the gelatin, and you're going to have some time to twiddle your thumbs as the gelatin thickens slightly. This thumb twiddling time is the perfect time to throw a sleeve of graham crackers in a heavy duty zip top bag and start bashing the crap out of it.

It is entirely acceptable to use pre-crushed, comes-in-a-box-as-crumbs graham cracker crumbs. It is easier to measure, as there's no guess work as to how many crackers you'd need to whack. (We're full service here: 14 graham crackers make a cup of crumbs. You're welcome.) I do have a box of said crumbs on my shelf, in case I get a hankering to make a seven layer cookie. No shame.

Stay safe, folks. It's going to be a heck of a weekend, weather-wise. We'll be back with a new cookbook tomorrow.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Dazzling Easter Eggs: Doing It Old School

Amazing Magical Jell-O RecipesWhen I was a kid, we had finger Jell-O -- Jell-O and Knox gelatin in a 9x13 pan, that you could slice and eat, well, with your fingers. Years later, Jell-O started marketing Jell-o Jigglers which, if I understand correctly, involved just less water and no extra gelatin. I'm sure my mom's way is best, but I did think the Jigglers approach had one thing going for it: a related proliferation of egg-shaped molds, so you could have Jell-O Easter eggs. Amazing Magical Jell-o Desserts has a more old-school approach to the task.
♦ Dazzling Easter Eggs

8 eggs
1 package (3 oz.) Jell-O brand gelatin, any flavor
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup milk

skewer or cake tester
mixing bowl
wire whip or fork
1-cup liquid measure
mixing spoon

  1. Using a skewer or cake tester, make a 1/2-inch hole in one end of each egg shell. Shake eggs out of shells, reserving 1 egg. (Use remaining eggs at another time.)
  2. Rinse shells thoroughly with cold water and place in an egg carton.
  3. Beat reserved egg slightly; blend in gelatin. Add boiling water and stir until gelatin is dissolved.
  4. Add milk and pour carefully into egg shells. Chill until firm, about 4 hours.
  5. Crack shells slightly, dip quickly in warm water and peel off shells.
  6. Arrange "eggs" in nests of green-tinted Baker's Angel Flake coconut, if desired. Makes 8 "eggs" or 4 servings.
Darned tootin'.

Do not fear the raw egg -- when you add in the boiling water, you're cooking the egg enough to take care of any oddness. The egg shell, however, might still have oddness. If you've a delicate system for any reason, you'll want to sterilize the shells. You could boil them. I'm fairly certain you could bake them. And, according to the internet, microwaving might also do the trick. Me, I like to live on the edge, and would use 'em rinsed with cold water.

Pour the boiling water in slowly, and stir the whole time, or you're risk scrambling the eggs.

I'm charmed by the last point of the list. The eggs are "eggs," but the nest is just a nest, even though I've yet to see any creature make a bed or a home out of flaked coconut, green tint or no. Though, the idea has delicious potential.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Halloween Pie: No Bake Pumpkin Pie -- Really!

Amazing Magical Jell-O RecipesMy nephew out in Oregon -- Jamie -- is a big, big fan of pumpkin pie. When it comes to his birthday, he requests a "pumpkin pie cake" March! Now, I'm always happy to bake a pumpkin pie, but I understand that some people freak out at the thought of baking, especially custard pies, so I appreciate that there may be call for a no-bake option. Today's recipe from Amazing Magical Jell-o Desserts is about as simple a no-bake pie as you (or your older children) can get.
♦ Halloween Pie

1 package (6-serving size) Jell-O brand vanilla flavor instant pudding and pie filling
1 can (16 oz.) pumpkin
1 cup cold milk
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg*
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger*
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon*
1 baked 9-inch graham cracker crumb crust, cooled
1 container (4 1/2 oz.) Birds Eye Cool whip non-dairy whipped topping, thawed

* Or use 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice.

9-inch pie plate
mixing bowl
mixing spoon
electric mixer or hand beater
1-cup liquid measure
1-cup dry measure
measuring spoons
wax paper
metal spatula

  1. Combine pie filling mix, pumpkin, milk, and spices in bowl.
  2. Mix slowly with electric mixer or hand beater just until blended, about 1 minute.
  3. Fold in 1 cup of the whipped topping.
  4. Spoon into pie shell. Chill until set, at least 2 hours.
  5. Garnish with remaining whipped topping. (To make "face," cut pieces of wax paper in shape of eyes, nose and mouth and place on pie filling. Spread whipped topping around papers; then remove papers. Garnish with candy corn to resemble teeth.)
Buy a pre-made crumb crust and you're in no-bake land. I really want you to think about getting a gingersnap crumb crust. Or a chocolate one. Oh, yes.

I'm trying to puzzle out the call for a 1-cup dry measure -- my best guess is they want you to treat the Cool Whip as a dry ingredient, which seems more than a bit strange to me, but you know what? Your wet measure is dirty from the milk, so might as well use another measuring cup for the Cool Whip. Go for it.

This cookbook is so precise about listing out every little thing you might need that I find it odd that they don't list out candy corn in the "These Go In" list. Of course, you could just have your mouth stencil have teeth on it...

Do I have to point out here that you should use straight canned pumpkin, and not canned pumpkin pie filling? Don't use that canned pumpkin pie filling. Ever. You can spice your own darned pumpkin, boys and girls. You can.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Banana Wobbler: Everything Else Is Shaking, So Why Not?

Favorite Recipes from Caldwell, IdahoGreat googly moogly, we had an earthquake here today! For those of you not familiar with the mid-Atlantic region of the US, DC is a couple hour's drive away from the epicenter. There was some (thankfully limited) damage to the National Cathedral up the road, but everything chez nous is safe and content. That being said, I had to change up my Amazing Magical Jell-o Desserts plans a bit to reference the incredibly out of the norm occurrence -- no matter if the world rumbles or no, Jell-O will jiggle and wobble.

♦ Banana Wobbler

1 package (3 oz.) Jell-O brand gelatin, any flavor
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup cold water
2 medium bananas, cut in half
Lemon juice
Shoestring licorice

3 empty 6-ounce juice cans
mixing bowl
1-cup liquid measure
mixing spoon
paring knife

  1. Dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Add cold water and chill until thickened.
  2. Place a spoonful of gelatin in each of 3 empty 6-ounce cans.
  3. Center the banana halves and spoon remaining gelatin around bananas.
  4. Chill until firm, about 2 hours. (Dip remaining banana half in lemon juice; set aside for another dessert.)
  5. Dip each can to the rim in warm water, invert onto plate, puncture bottom and lift off can.
  6. Insert piece of licorice in one end of each mold to resemble firecracker. Makes three servings.
I have never once felt a need to eat a firecracker. That being said, how cool would this be for an Itchy & Scratchy/Simpsons-themed gathering? Also, I adore licorice, so even though I'm skeptical about pairing it with banana and random Jell-O, I'm willing to give it a try. This is our first "appeals to older children" recipe, and it is a good deal fussier than the others featured this week.

You may have noticed some weird little cartoons in the bottom corners of pictures this week. They're part of two different flip books! The right-hand pages show a boy eating a dessert until it's gone; the left-hand pages show a rabbit escaping a magician's hat. There's also tons of magic tricks throughout the book, which helps explain the cover art somewhat. They're "magic tricks by Marvello the Great." If anyone's really eager, I'll post a magic trick before we're done this week. For now, though, I'm going to sign off, have some pizza, cuddle my dog, and remember that earthquakes are really, really rare here, and we're all safe.