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.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Cherry Cola Cooler: Pop, Soda, Coke

Favorite Recipes from Caldwell, IdahoBack in June, I posted a recipe for a cherry Coke salad, and made mention of a similar recipe from a remembered cookbook from my youth. Lo and behold, that book is this week's Amazing Magical Jell-o Desserts and it seems like it's altogether appropriate to feature the recipe that triggered the memory.

I'll admit: I waffled a bit though. I mean, more than one eggnog recipe, sure. More than one way to roast a turkey? Of course. Five different sugar cookie variations? It's only natural. But two cherry Coke Jell-O dishes? It seems a bit...indulgent. But I asked Kelly which recipes she thought I should write about this week, and she immediately said the cherry Coke one. Far be it from me to say no to my sister (at least when her dictates nicely coincide with my wants).

♥ Cherry Cola Cooler

1 package (3 oz.) Jell-O brand cherry flavor gelatin
1 cup boiling water
1 cup cola beverage

mixing bowl
1-cup liquid measure
mixing spoon
4 small glasses

  1. Dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Add cola beverage.
  2. Pour into small soda glasses or individual dessert dishes.
  3. Chill until set, about 1 hour. Garnish with thawed Birds Eye Cool Whip non-dairy whipped topping and maraschino cherries, if desired. Makes about 2 cups or 4 servings.
It's another ♥ recipe, so think about your preschoolers. Or preschoolers in general.'s an easy recipe.

I know I normally take a moment to tell you to use better ingredients, but I'm not going to say a bad word about Cool Whip. I love Cool Whip. It's not a substitute for whipped cream for me; it's an entirely different substance with different applications. For example: whipped cream goes on mincemeat pie, Cool Whip on pumpkin pie. There's an order to the universe.

When this cookbook came out, Cool Whip was just 10 years old. Back then, it was made by Birds Eye -- which makes some sense, as Birds Eye was the really super nifty division of General Foods that was all about revolutionizing frozen foods. Cool Whip: a revolutionary dessert topping. Cool Whip: totally okay to dollop on your cherry cola cooler.

And, no, that's not a paid endorsement. I just loves me some Cool Whip. (If you're hearing Stewie Griffin in your head right're welcome.)

Since we're taking the time to talk brands here, I want to say flat out that I think you should use honest-to-goodness Coca-Cola in this treat. Why? Because I just think it tastes better. It tastes more like a soda fountain. It tastes more like...well, what I think Pop Shoppe cola must have tasted like, and I was a kid who was enthralled at the idea of Pop Shoppe pop. I was a rabid watcher of Ramblin' Rod growing up as I did in the Portland area in the 70s, and Ramblin' Rod gave birthday boys and girls Pop Shoppe pop. It seemed important. It seemed magical. It seemed good. Helluva good bit of promotion, there, ye olde Pop Shoppe.

And, yes. I called it pop. I call it soda now, but that shift only happened once I moved to DC (21 years ago this week!). My dad has held on to "pop" longer, but he calls it "soda pop." No one in my family has ever called anything other than a Coke a Coke, though, so I haven't lost all my sparkling soft drink lingo to the South.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sunny Whip: Electrical Appliances and Kids

Favorite Recipes from Caldwell, IdahoMy mom's electric mixer was avocado green. The cord unplugged from the mixer, and, once bent back against itself into a tidy bundle, it slipped into an old toilet paper tube which had been covered with little squares of tissue paper and white glue. I'm pretty sure my sister made that, not me, but I can remember every bump of it.

I loved that mixer, and everything associated with it. Do parents still let their small kids use electrical appliances in the kitchen?

Today's Amazing Magical Jell-o Desserts recipe is flagged with a , so we know that at least in the 70s, this was thought of as a "preschoolers can do it, under supervision" recipe.

♥ Sunny Whip

1 package (3 oz.) Jell-O brand orange flavor gelatin
1 cup boiling water
3/4 cup cold orange juice

mixing bowl
1-cup liquid measure
mixing spoon
hand beater or electric mixer
rubber scraper
6 dessert glasses

  1. Dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Add orange juice.
  2. Chill until slightly thickened; then whip with hand beater or electric mixer until fluffy and thick, about double in volume.
  3. Spoon into dessert glasses; chill.
  4. Garnish with halved orange slices, decorated with cloves and maraschino cherries, if desired. Makes 4 cups or 6 servings.
It's never too early to start 'em garnishing, folks.

Though not specified, the rubber scraper is clearly for getting the whip into the dessert glasses.

Notice that there's only 1 3/4 cups of liquid going into this recipe -- 1/4 cup less than you'd expect for a 3-oz. package of Jell-O brand gelatin. Odds are this is just so that if it were to set it would set thicker ... and the thicker thickness gives more structure to the whip. More liquid, and it wouldn't stay as fluffy.

I'm not saying that you couldn't try. Or that you might not want to take out shot or two of water and replace it with, say, vodka or rum. Fluffy Jell-O shots sound delightfully strange.

At that point, though, you'd have to get rid of the ♥ -- we're all for the alcohol here, but not for the pre-school set.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Bonus Post: Ceviche Costa Rica Style

My hands smell like limes, and I don't have a cocktail in front of me. Astute observers might conclude that I've been making something else with lime juice. And, it's true. I've been making ceviche, but if you're used to having ceviche at your local tex-mex place, you might be a little cautious when you see mine.
Ceviche, Costa Rica Style
1 lb bay scallops (sea scallops work, too, but are more expensive, and
need to be cut into bite-sized bits)
4 limes
1/2 bunch cilantro
1/2 red onion (or, you know, any other onion you have around)
1-2 glugs olive oil
saltine crackers

Place scallops in a clean, non-reactive bowl or jar. Cover with the juice of 4 limes -- the scallops need to be covered in the juice. Add cilantro and onion, both finely chopped, salt, and olive oil. Let marinate in the fridge overnight -- it helps to put plastic wrap over the bowl, letting the plastic rest on the surface of the ceviche to make sure there's no air getting in. Serve on crackers, garnished with a mixture of mayo and ketchup.
I say the recipe is mine; it's not. It's really my dad's (that's him in the picture above..handsome devil, no?). See, way back in the 80s, Dad went on sabbatical to Costa Rica, and he ambitiously took my sister and I along. I look back at that and have to realize: I am now two (nearly three) years older now than my dad was when we went. It is a weird feeling. Anyway, long digression short, my grandma came down to stay with us for several months, and with the anniversary of her death this month, I'm all sorts of nostalgic for all things family.

Back to the fish. My dad fell in love with ceviche down there, and when we got back to the States, he worked and worked to recreate it. He had the darnedest time finding cilantro (this was Oregon, in the early/mid-80s, after all), and no one had heard of ceviche. He prevailed, and this is how I know ceviche.

Dad and I would stand around the kitchen counter, spooning the fish out of a tall jar onto a saltine, and then dolloping on a ketchup/mayo sauce (mix 1 part to 1 part).

I know that sounds strange. I know that we're conditioned now to think only of tortilla chips and maybe some salsa when eating ceviche.

The saltines and Marie Rose are authentically 1984 Costa Rica. I will vouch for it. Give it a try. Throw caution cautiously to the wind. If you end up hating it -- and I've never met anyone who does -- you can always rip open a bag of Tostitos and uncap a jar of Jardine's.

I've got a bowl of ceviche tucked into the fridge, and tomorrow evening, I'll be eating it with friends.

Costa Rica style.

Amazing Magical Jell-O Desserts: Puddin' Pops

Favorite Recipes from Caldwell, IdahoThere are only a very few cookbooks on my shelves that are from my childhood, and even fewer that are actually the original copy I grew up with, and then there's one, one special one that is an original copy of a cookbook I grew up with that was chock full of recipes I could make, all by myself, right from the start. That book is the winner of the Facebook poll: Amazing Magical Jell-o Desserts: 72 Gelatin & Pudding Recipes Your Kids Will Enjoy (General Food Corporation, 1977).

If you all were hoping for scary molded salads, you're out of luck. This book is all about things that won't freak out the kids. No cabbage. No fish. Nothing called "aspic." Instead, there's lots of single-serving snacks and desserts (and a few pies for the whole family), all rated by difficulty.
Some of the Jell-o brand gelatin and pudding recipes are very easy to make and preschoolers can do them under supervision. These are marked with a ♥ so that you will be able to spot them right away. Other recipes are a little more challenging and will appeal to the interests of older children. These are marked with a ♦. And when you see a ★, you'll know that these recipes are for children with more cooking skills. But none of the recipes is hard; none makes use of any bowl or mold or cutter that you don't have right now in your kitchen. And, best of all, each recipe is fun and delicious.
I'll say.

Our first recipe for the week is one that I always wanted to make and never quite did right. I have an impulse control problem when it comes to a bowl of perfectly-edible-all-by-itself pudding, it seems; it never lasted long enough to get in cups and get frozen.
Illustration by Seymour Chwast, photography by Arnold Rosenberg
♥ Puddin' Pops

1 package (4-serving size) Jell-O brand instant pudding and pie filling, any flavor
2 cups cold milk or half and half

2-cup liquid measure
small mixing bowl
hand beater or electric mixer
rubber scraper
six 5-ounce paper cups
6 wooden sticks or plastic spoons, foil or wax paper

  1. Prepare pudding mix with milk as directed on package for pudding. Pour into six 5-ounce paper cups.
  2. Insert wooden stick or plastic spoon into each for a handle. Press a square of aluminum foil or wax paper down onto pudding to cover, piercing center of foil square with handle.
  3. Freeze until firm, at least 5 hours.
  4. Press firmly on bottom of cup to release pop. Serve plain or dip in melted chocolate and sprinkles, if desired. Makes 6 pops.
    To melt chocolate: Combine 1/2 cup Baker's chocolate flavor baking chips and 2 tablespoons water in a saucepan and cook and stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
Oh, yes. Homemade pudding (excuse me...puddin') pops! A delight on any day, but especially in the hot summer time.

About the only thing I'd change about this is the instructions on how to make the chocolate coating. You in no way need to have your preschooler thinking about a sauce pan. Melt your chocolate in the microwave -- it's easier, it won't seize up on you, and it's much easier all around. You also don't need to use "chocolate flavor" anything. Use some real chocolate.

You deserve it.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Bagdad Hash: Classic Scary Casserole

Favorite Recipes from Caldwell, IdahoThanks to you all who voted on Facebook, today's Favorite Recipes from Caldwell, Idaho recipe is....a scary casserole!
Bagdad Hash
Laura Hadley
Star, Idaho

1 c. diced celery
1 c. diced onion
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can water
1 (5 1/2 oz.) can chow mein noodles
3 or 4 oz. cashews
1 can tuna
Crushed potato chips on top

Bake for 1 hour at 350° in 2-quart dish.
This, folks, is what I think of when I think of a casserole. Heck, it's what I think of when I think of chow mein noodles, too (though butterscotch haystacks come swiftly afterwards). Cans of stuff, mixed with fried crunchy things. I particularly appreciate the fact that we get two fried crunchy things in this recipe (the noodles and the chips).

You could fancy this up if you want. Two cups of your own homemade cream of mushroom soup (or cream of celery soup, or cream of chicken soup, or what have you) would be lovely. Softening up the onion and celery before putting it in the gloop would be nice. Buttered and herbed breadcrumbs instead of potato chips would add an air of cassoulet.

But sometimes, you're just in the mood for simple, comforting, slightly scary casseroles, and Laura Hadley has you covered.

Not sure why Bagdad is spelled Bagdad and not Baghdad here. Moreover, I'm not sure why I'm at all surprised by the fact that a dish that clearly has nothing whatsoever to do with Baghdad is spelled differently.

This wraps up our tour through Favorite Recipes from Caldwell, Idaho -- starting tomorrow, we'll dive into one of these cookbooks:You can vote over in the Facebook poll if we're friends there, or you can leave a comment with your preference here in the comments. If you're bummed out that we didn't get to Norwegian meatballs this week, you should know: NAHC has a venison Norwegian meatball recipe. It also has moose pot roast.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Blotkake: A Special Occasion Layer Cake

Favorite Recipes from Caldwell, IdahoYesterday, I slapped a poll up on Facebook asking which of three recipes from Favorite Recipes from Caldwell, Idaho should be posted today. This one won by a landslide, but never fear: the second place one will go up tomorrow, too, as I run yet another poll on Facebook asking which cookbook I should feature next. Without further ado:
Bløtkake (A Special Occasion Layer Cake)
Mrs. Bjorn Friling

1 1/4 c. sifted cake flour
2 tsp. double-acting baking powder
6 egg yolks
3/4 c. granulated sugar
6 egg whites
3 squares German's sweet cooking chocolate
3/4 c. margarine or butter
1 1/4 c. confectioners sugar
2 eggs
2 c. heavy cream

Make, then freeze, several days ahead as follows: 1. Heat oven to 325°. Line bottoms of three 9-inch layer cake pans with waxed paper. Sift cake flour with baking powder. 2. In small bowl, with mixer at high speed, beat egg yolks with granulated sugar until light. In large bowl, beat egg whites stiff. Fold in yolks and flour. Pour into pans. Bake 15 minutes or until golden. Cool on racks. Remove and freeze in paper. 3. Early in the day to be used: Thaw cakes at room temperature for 1 hour. Meanwhile, with knife, shred chocolate; reserve 1/4 cup. Also, in small bowl, with electric mixer at high speed, with electric mixer at high speed, mix butter with confectioners sugar. Then beat in 2 eggs until creamy. Refrigerate this butter cream. 4. On serving plate, place 1 layer, bottom side up. top with 1/2 of butter cream, then half of shredded chocolate. Set second layer in place, top as before; place third layer. 5. Whip cream; frost cake with some and decorate with rest. Garnish with reserved chocolate. Refrigerate immediately until served.
Say it with me now: BUTTER, not margarine. Use butter.

Now, if you've Googled "bløtkake," as I have, you might be surprised to see that there's not a single berry used in this cake. It's still legit! It seems that bløtkake is sort of catch as catch can in Norway. Use what you have, and what you like. Love marzipan? Cover the whole thing in Marzipan. Blueberries in season? Go to town with blueberries! The chocolate is pretty darned optional.

Chocolate lovers, be at ease: you can use chocolate and berries, if you like. Perhaps some lovely raspberries or sliced strawberries?

Mrs. Frilling also contributed her Norwegian Meat Balls recipe -- that's Kjøttkaker for you Norwegian speakers, or those who like the excuse to use a slashed ellipse in a blog post. That recipe is currently in the running for tomorrow's bonus post -- it's up against Bagdad (sic) Hash, which is a casserole with both canned chow mein noodles and crushed potato chips. Either way, we'll wrap up our time with Favorite Recipes from Caldwell, Idaho on a savory note.