28 December 2009

Birthday Pie

Whenever I solicit a special dessert request, my husband usually asks for pie. His favorites? Shoo-fly and pecan. For his 30th birthday this year, he was in a pecan mood.

I like pecan pie too, but I'm not a huge fan of pecan pie which is basically a custard with some pecans floating on top. I want a dense, not-too-too-sweet pie chock-full of pecans. This one fit the bill (and I think he liked it too!). Now let me go find that splattered piece of paper I wrote everything down on so I can pass the goodness to you . . .

Birthday Pecan Pie

1 c. pecans, chopped and toasted
1 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. white sugar
2 eggs
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 TBSP flour
1 TBSP milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. maple flavoring

Place pecans in un-baked pie shell (I pre-baked mine a few minutes so it wouldn't get soggy). Beat together eggs and sugars. Stir in butter. Add remaining ingredients and stir until smooth. Pour filling over pecans. Bake at 350F for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to 300F and bake another 40-50 minutes. Let pie cool to room temperature before eating. No need to garnish!

14 December 2009

Sweet Potato Pecan Pie

See that pie on the right? After testing and re-testing my pumpkin pie recipe for Thanksgiving, I ended up liking this sweet potato pecan pie even better.

I found the recipe here at allrecipes.com. I made a few changes because we were running low on brown sugar (and something else I can't remember anymore), but it was so simple. I just threw my cooked, diced sweet potatoes in the blender with all the ingredients except the pecans, and whizzed until smooth! Pour into the pie crust, sprinkle pecans on top, and that's it! The filling did make more than would fit in my standard 9-inch pie pan (try a deep dish pan), so I ended up making a mini one for the in-laws too. Try it for yourself!

11 December 2009

Recipe Exchange

One of my favorite Christmas cookie recipes has to be Nutmeg Logs from the "Pantry Gems II" cookbook. The recipe is attributed to Dorothy Cross--thanks for sharing Dorothy!

While the instructions say to roll the dough out and cut into strips, I go ahead and use cookie cutters to make more festive shapes. One trick I learned while scouring the internet for rolled cookie recipes was to dust the table and rolling pin with powdered sugar rather than flour to keep the cookies from getting too floury. Worked pretty well! I also like to bake these cookies until they are brown on the edges--yummy crunchy, buttery flavor.

Nutmeg Logs (or shaped cookies)

3 cups flour
1 tsp nutmeg
1 cup butter
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp rum flavoring
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg

Instructions: Mix ingredients together for a dough that resembles pie crust. Roll 1/2-inch thick and cut into shapes as desired. Bake at 350F for 12-15 minutes.


3 TBSP butter
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp rum flavoring
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 to 3 TBSP cream

Beat until spreading consistency and frost cookies when cool.

Got any favorite Christmas cookie recipes to share?

25 November 2009

Fresh-Ginger Cookies

My mother-in-law and I actually made these last year after Thanksgiving (during the first day of hunting season while our men were out in the wilds). We started with a gingersnap recipe from Cooking Light that a friend had sent me, changing it to suit our needs and ingredients we had on hand. I recently made them again with my nieces (see picture below), stashing a small bag of them in the freezer to take along with a meal for a new mother and family. I forgot about them, but my husband found them a few days later and took them to work for my brother's birthday. Are you still with me? Another one of his co-workers liked them so much that he asked for the recipe which I sent along with David to work this morning. All that to say that if they're good enough for someone to be asking for the recipe, then I should post it here!

Fresh-Ginger Cookies
Yield: 2 dozen

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup King Syrup (or other corn syrup)
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
3 TBSP freshly grated ginger root (or less, depending on your taste for ginger)
2 cups flour
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Instructions: Beat sugars and butter together in a mixing bowl until creamy. Add egg, syrup, vanilla, and fresh ginger, and beat until smooth. Sift remaining ingredients into the bowl and stir until incorporated. At this point, if your dough is sticky, refrigerate it. Mine never has been, so I move right on to the next stage. Roll the dough into walnut-sized balls and roll in sugar or cinnamon-sugar mixture as desired. Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 350F for 9-11 minutes, depending on how soft you like them. I prefer mine a little chewy, but some people like a firm, dry gingersnap. Eat away!

13 November 2009

Pumpkin Pie Fudge

I made a pan of pumpkin fudge this morning, and this is all I have left by bedtime . . .

So it must've been good. I did have lots of people to share it with and, well, I did eat some too . . .

I tweaked the recipe from this one at allrecipes.com.

Pumpkin Pie Fudge

2 1/2 cups white sugar
2/3 cup evaporated milk
3/4 cup pumpkin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp each of ginger, nutmeg, and cloves
1/8 tsp allspice
1 package mini-marshmallows (or 7 oz. marshmallow cream)
2 TBSP butter
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla

Instructions: Grease a 9 x 13 pan with butter or other solid shortening and set aside. Stir together sugar and evaporated milk in a medium-sized saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add pumpkin and spices, and bring to a boil again. Stir in marshmallows and butter, bring to a hard boil, and cook--stirring occasionally--for 18 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in white chocolate chips and vanilla until all the chips are melted. Pour into prepared pan and let cool.

Cook's Word: Fabulous pumpkin pie flavor! This might have to become a fall favorite. If only I could get my taste-tester to like fudge! Well, enough other people asked for the recipe, so I think I'll call it a success.

11 November 2009

Doughnut French Toast

It was somewhere between asleep and awake--a weird mix of dreams, the breaking dawn, and NPR's Morning Edition program. I was asleep one moment and the next I was catching a snippet of conversation between Steve Inskeep and Nigella Lawson concerning Lawson's "Doughnut French Toast". (I think this must have caught my one awake ear because a few months back one of my sisters had posted about this particular french toast, and I had watched a video clip of Nigella making it.) And in the next moment, I was dreaming about being a chef in a nice country hotel . . .

Later on, I wondered if I had really heard a Morning Edition clip, or whether I had just dreamed it all. I went to NPR's website and found proof that I hadn't been totally in la-la land. And did I have stale-ish bread on hand at that particular moment? Why, yes! And was I having a morning at home with time to make french toast? Absolutely!

Mmmmm . . . this french toast was really good. I think it had a bit much vanilla, and not enough (none at all, in fact) salt. But I loved the egginess and the instructions to soak it as long as it said. My bread could have used even more of the wet stuff, but I had used whole grain bread when the recipe called for white. I also noticed later that there are two recipes (at the NPR site and here)for this toast online in which one calls for double the amount of milk. Now that would make a difference!

Cook's Word: A good, solid french toast. I think I would add a dash of salt to the egg mixture as well as a little sugar. I didn't care for all the sweetness being on the outside. I think I'd also cut the vanilla a bit if I make it again.

03 November 2009

Carroty Cake

In a minute you'll understand why my kitchen counter looked like this last Saturday morning . . . (And, yes, this is a close-up, so there were lots more)

I must say the joy of baking far outweighs the "joy" of doing the dishes afterward. And when I get into it, I really get into it. And the dishes pile up. Up. Up.

I really didn't bake all that much, it was just that I had to use so many bowls per recipe. First off: carrot cake. For Dad's birthday cake, it couldn't be any other. I had found the perfect recipe that didn't call for any pineapple (and then freaked out a little bit when he said he likes the kind with pineapple). I wasn't about to go back on it, though. I had already tested the recipe with some friends and got good reviews. With the applesauce I added to the recipe, I thought the cake had enough moisture to warrant forgetting the pineapple. I actually had the foresight to also take my carrots to work with me and quickly, easily grate all four cups in the food processor there. =)

While the carrot cake layers cooled, I did a batch of pumpkin cupcakes. I used this recipe from Smitten Kitchen pretty much spot on, so I won't copy it here. Delish! Especially with cream cheese frosting on top!

Once the carrot cake layers cooled, I put on a crumb coat (a thin layer to keep crumbs from peeking through the final layer), swathed it in plastic wrap, and stashed it in the fridge 'til evening. The cake and cupcakes were transported to Mom and Dad's house later in the afternoon for the final party frosting. I couldn't think of any other crowning decoration, so we cheesily slapped some candy corns on top. Not my best gourmet moment.

After a splendid dinner, the pinata, and apple-bobbing, it was time for the grand moment of truth. Was this birthday cake good enough for a 60th-year celebration.? After we'd all eaten, I coolly asked my dad, "So, how was the cake?"

Taste-tester's response: "Perfect!"

It can only go downhill from here, folks. Cook's word. (Oh, and: P.S. I thought the cake was good, but I got a little happy with all that frosting. See it literally dripping down in the middle? Yikes! I mean, cream cheese is yummy, but . . . )

And since it was that good:

"Perfect" Carrot Cake
(tweaked from here)

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup white sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
1/2 cup applesauce (I used Ginger-Granny, of course!)
4 cups grated carrots

Instructions: Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon into a small bowl. Beat eggs and sugar together. Add vanilla, oil, and applesauce, and blend well. Stir in dry ingredients. Fold in carrots. Bake at 350F in a greased, floured 9x13 or two 9-inch round pans for about 40 minutes. Frost with your favorite cream cheese frosting.

p.s. Thanks for the pans, Rachel!

29 October 2009

Ginger-Granny Sauce

I'm taking you back about a month ago, to a Thursday afternoon and making applesauce in my sister-in-law's kitchen. I won't bore you with the whole saga of getting the "wrong" apples (Granny Smith) and then getting the "right" ones (Ginger Gold). Though we had anticipated making our batch of applesauce from just the Ginger Golds, we decided to experiment with what we had on hand. And I'm rather glad we did!

We ended up using all the apples, carefully controlling the ratio of Granny's to Gold's we put in for consistency; it amounted to three parts Ginger Gold to every one part Granny Smith. I thought the Granny's would be terrible for making applesauce because of their tart nature, but they added a much-needed apple-y depth of flavor to the milder/sweeter Golds. We did add some sugar to taste (a scant 1/2-cup for about eight quarts), and I became the proud owner of 19 (now 16) quarts of green-gold applesauce. Many thanks to my mom for the canning jars!

apples in waiting


final product

27 October 2009

Tired Woman Soup

Ever worked an eight-hour day on your feet and not been too eager to cook up dinner when you got home?

Yep. Me.


The recipe for this soup is more like a treasure hunt, really. Between my fridge, freezer, and cupboards I scrounged up these items: oil, onion (saute together); cooked broccoli stems in their cooking water, carrots (chop), half-bag of frozen green beans, small container of frozen ham cubes (dump all this in and bring to a simmer); Oh! and add a quart of home-canned roma tomatoes and a handful or so of lentils. Cook until everything is tender. Salt and pepper.

Cook's Word: the soup turned out much tastier than I expected. I decided not to use any other seasonings besides what already existed in the ingredients and salt & pepper. I ended up making a huge pot of soup which yielded about four meals, plus a quart still in the freezer. For another one of those evenings I come home too tired to cook. =)

18 October 2009

Pizza Flop

I guess I'm kinda glad my camera is loaned away at the moment, so that I have an excuse for not posting any pictures of the pizza I made this evening. While my husband insisted that it was good, I think I'm gonna have to call it a flop.

I have my reasons why:

1. I ran out of white flour at 1/2 cup. Ooops! I was already too dedicated to the idea of pizza (on the new-to-us pizza stone we scored at a local thrift store for $5).

2. I didn't increase the pizza dough like I normally do. Thin, dense, brown crust.

3. I forgot to add any seasonings to the sauce-less pizza. Just a little salt would have improved it immensely.

4. Bagged, pre-shredded cheese. I have finally decided it's tasteless. And I want to taste the ooey-gooey stuff on my pizza.

Well, there you have it. Uncensored pizza flop. We can only go up-hill from here. By the way, does anyone have a "fool-proof" pizza crust recipe they'd like to share? I seem to get 50-50 results with mine (probably due in part to the inconsistency in what kind of flour I use). =)

04 October 2009

The Green Tomato Strikes Again!

If it's nearing the first frost in your hometown like it is here, you might be trying to think of a way to salvage all those not-quite-ripe tomatoes. Well, here's another idea if drying them doesn't appeal to you . . .

Green Tomato Tart*

2 cups sliced green tomatoes
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 TBSP flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 pie crust, unbaked
Instructions: Place sliced tomatoes in a bowl and pour boiling water over them to cover. Soak 10 minutes. Drain the tomatoes and add sugar, flour, and spices, stirring to coat. Roll crust into a rough circle, place on a baking tray (or in a pie plate) and pile tomato mixture in the center. Fold the edges of the dough over the filling, leaving the center open. Bake at 375F until crust looks done (20-30 minutes). Best eaten warm!

Cook's Word: This tart reminds me a little of apple pie because of the cinnamon flavor. Eaten cold is has more of a tomato-y taste than it does right out of the oven. I think I actually prefer dried or fried green tomatoes to this, but then you don't get to eat any pie crust!

*The idea for this tart is a "Green Tomato Pie" recipe from the Mennonite Community Cookbook (c. 1950). Since I didn't have enough tomatoes for the 3 cups called for, I simply scaled down, did away with the molasses and water, and made it into a tart instead. =)

22 September 2009

Pepper Paste

Thanks to a generous gift of hot red peppers from my mother-in-law I was able to embark on a first-time journey of making Turkish red pepper paste, or "biber salcasi". In the southeast of Turkey where I sojourned for a year, no kitchen is complete without a bucket of pepper paste handy. Yes, a bucket. In Gaziantep cuisine, food prepared without at least a spoonful of this rich, zesty red goo is pretty rare.

In high summer, when the spicy red bell peppers are peaking, Antepli housewives hunker down with their buckets and knives and pare loads and loads of peppers for grinding. Once ground, the peppers morph into an orangey "soup" that is poured into pans and set out in the hot sun to thicken over a period of days. Each day the pepper soup is worried over and stirred. It's color begins to brighten as water evaporates off. Finally, it is paste. Olive oil and salt are added as preservatives and the paste is stashed under the kitchen sink or another convenient location to be dipped into daily for soups, meat dishes, kofte, to spread on bread, you name it.

I was not so fortunate as to have a reliable stretch of hot, sunny days, so had to resort to using the oven, set at 200F, to make my pepper paste over a period of several hours (I did it along with my dried tomatoes). I was also not so fortunate as to end up with a whole bucket of it the lovely goo. Rather, from 12 hot peppers and two large sweet red bell peppers my labors yielded about two cups of this delightful stuff. It is so precious to me, that I even had a dream last night about one of my sisters shamelessly using up all but a few spoonfuls of it in a single day! I was happy to wake and discover my jar of pepper paste silently, calmly holding out on my fridge shelf, just where I'd left it.

The Peppers (and how they shrunk) . . .

orangey soup stage

Finally, biber salcasi!

13 September 2009

Dried Green Tomatoes

You've heard of fried green tomatoes, right? Slices of green tomato dipped in a milk/egg mixture, dredged in flour, and fried in oil . . . At least once a summer I sneak past the garden guards and heist a pre-ripe tomato or two for this treat. Oddly enough, I think they're good dipped in ketchup. A bit gruesome for the tomato perhaps.

But--as per post title--I'm not talking about fried green tomatoes, but DRIED green tomatoes. Yes, it was NOT a typo (though given the proximity of "f" and "d" on the keyboard and my sometimes-atrocious typing skills that could have been a definite possibility).

Thanks again to the in-laws for inspiration. I gathered the meager remaining ripe red tomatoes from our plants in anticipation of making some oven dried tomatoes. This process requires turning your oven on to a low heat and drying the fruit for 6 - 8 hours. I couldn't just do one tray! I had to put that energy to good use by drying something else. How about green tomatoes? It was worth a shot.

So, here's how it went down. I quartered and de-seeded the red tomatoes, placing them cut side up on a foil-lined baking sheet. I sprinkled them with coarse sea salt, some dried basil, oregano, and a little lavender, and gave everything a good glug of extra virgin olive oil (which I had to run to the grocer's for). I did the same for the green tomatoes, skipping the de-seeding since they weren't as juicy inside.

After slowly roasting for about 6 hours, the smallest pieces were done, a little leathery, but still succulent inside. Another hour or two and I pulled them all out. Delicious! Some of the red ones went right onto a pizza, and the rest were placed in a small baggie to be frozen. I've now been gifted with a bucket of cherry and roma tomatoes that will get dried in the same fashion. Yay!

10 September 2009

Late Summer Salsa

There is a tree just around the corner from my house whose leaves have turned yellow-brown and are falling at the slightest provocation. I've gotten out the sweater socks and swapped the summer quilt for a thicker one. Yep. All signs point towards fall. I've almost committed to this being my favorite season. I love the air nipping at me and getting cozy with warm blankets, hot tea, and hoodies. And scarves. I simply relish the smell of decaying leaves and the way cooler air seems to sharpen that sense of smell.

By winter, coziness has lost its charm, and I pine for spring. The thrill of crocuses and daffodils! The glory of budding dogwoods and redbuds! The delight at tossing off winter coats and daring to go barefoot again! And so I just can't quite commit completely to fall.

But it is one of my top seasonal loves. In Number One spot for the time being. For better or for worse, fall is about here and there's no chance to preserve any more of summer (unless I do some sun-dried tomatoes yet). Our four plants (yes, all tomatoes) are slowing production, and in a few short weeks a good frost is going to nip any remaining buds. This evening I was seized by a nostalgic urge to make the most of the time I had left with my backyard produce. Inspired by some in-laws, I decided to make salsa (sans cilantro), using just what I had in my own backyard.

Colander in hand, I headed out to the tomato patch for the main ingredient--green and red roma's and golden nugget tomatoes yielded to a slight tug. I added two small bell peppers (we did plant some peppers, they just got--literally--overshadowed by the tomato plants). Next stop: herb patch. Basil, chives, rosemary, lavender, and marigold. And in the front flower bed, a tiny jalepeno that survived a slug-crunching early in the growing season. A quick rinse, a shake, some dicing and chopping, and viola! Salsa. It doesn't get much more local than this, folks! Below is a rendering of what I came up with.

Anita's Late Summer Salsa

2 cups diced assorted tomatoes
1 small bell pepper, diced (about 1/3 cup)
2 tsp minced fresh chives
2 tsp minced fresh basil
1/4 tsp minced fresh rosemary (I don't like a strong rosemary flavor)
1/4 tsp lavender flowers (careful not to add too many of these!)
1 pathetically small jalepeno, minced
Petals of one marigold
not from the garden:
1 tsp olive oil
juice from 1/2 a lemon
salt/pepper to taste

Instructions: are any needed? Stir ingredients together. Eat.

Served up with some fried plantains
(also not from our garden!)

Happy Last Week of Summer!

Mini Cini's

Here's a fun, easy way to do cinnamon rolls. I made a batch of bread dough, then used one loaf's worth for cinnamon rolls. I wanted to make them small for camping, so I rolled them to about 3-in thickness, sliced, and placed them in well-greased muffin tins. So cute! They got a little glumpy after sitting in a container for three days, so I'd recommend eating them right away!

31 August 2009

Vanilla Chai Cupcakes

A long time ago, I promised a recipe for these cupcakes. For those of you who have been holding your breath, well, sorry . . . I guess you've had to let it out a few times by now. But without further ado . . .

Vanilla Chai Cupcakes
(makes 15 - 17)

1/2 cup milk
1 bag chai tea*
1 cup white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (because I can't resist)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp each of cinnamon and nutmeg
6 TBSP butter, softened
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2 eggs, beaten
2 tsp vanilla

Heat milk and add chai tea; let steep while you assemble other ingredients. Sift flours (or all white flour, if you prefer), sugars, baking powder, and spices into a medium mixing bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir until incorporated. Fill muffin cups (or papers in cups!) 2/3 full of batter. Bake at 325F for 18 - 20 minutes or until done. These cupcakes still look white when they are completely baked, so check with a toothpick if you're unsure. I like to top these cupcakes with a cocoa frosting my sister-in-law gave me the recipe for (see below). A half-recipe made enough frosting for the cupcakes with some left over.

Fisher Family Cocoa Butter Frosting

1/3 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup cocoa
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 TBSP milk (or more as needed for the consistency you like)

With a whisk or fork mix ingredients in a small bowl, drizzling in milk until you have the consistency you like.

*If you don't have spiced tea make your own mix. For this batch I used a heaping teaspoon of black tea with 4 cardamom pods, 4 cloves, 5 peppercorns, and a bay leaf. Use any or all chai spices you like/have on hand. Ginger would have been a good addition.

28 August 2009

Basic Bread

Last year I went on a "basic bread quest". Not limiting myself to cookbooks I owned, I also borrowed from the library and found recipes on the internet that seemed to my liking. I was looking for a basic whole-wheat bread (but not ALL whole wheat) that wasn't too complicated and would give consistent results. Each time I made bread I used a new recipe, trying some a second time if they seemed promising. But for all my searching, it came back to the beginning for me. Esther Shank.

For some of you the name "Esther Shank" is totally meaningless. For others, it is roughly synonymous with a warm, busy kitchen where economy and good-sense reign; nothing is wasted, least of all pounds off the cook's middle. The back of her cookbook (titled, "Mennonite Country-Style Recipes & Kitchen Secrets") effuses with some charming rhyme: "Mennonite homemaker Esther H. Shank . . . has collected and perfected good recipes and food tips for 25 years. In this remarkable collection of more than 1,000 recipes and hundreds of hints for success, she shares her legacy of kitchen know-how". Indeed.

While there are some wonderful standard recipes (most of them marked by tell-tale oil or cocoa stains) that I can personally vouch for--Basic Pancakes, Delicious Chocolate Cake, and Buttermilk Biscuits for example--many of the recipes and ideas in the book seem outdated and unusable. The "Party Foods Recipes" section in particular takes my "Whoa-There!" cake. Besides "Surprise Hamburger Muffin Cups" and "Hot Dog Treats" (okay, so I admitted to liking hot dogs, but they either have to be from the diner downtown or sizzled to perfection over a campfire), there is the inscrutable "Elegant Party Loaf". The idea behind this is to take a loaf of bread, cut it into four horizontal slices, and slather each layer with a highly-mayonnaisized salad, chicken, egg, and ham. The loaf then gets cut so that each slice has layers of bread and salads. Elegant, no? From the first time I laid eyes on this page, I have been puzzled and repulsed.

But despite these occasional culinary ditches, I keep going back to Esther Shank for invaluable advice (on such varied topics as mattress-rotation and egg-poaching) and some of those standard recipes that will never go out of style. My basic bread recipe happens to be one of those. I have actually paper-clipped page 60 so that I can easily find it when the bread-baking urge hits.

My only changes to the recipe have been to use a 1-1 ratio of white to whole wheat flour rather than 2-1, respectively. I also have found that baking my loaves for the recommended 40 minutes results in a dry, crumbly texture rather than soft and moist how I like my bread.

Between the two of us, here's what I end up making (a half-recipe that yields two loaves):

Basic Whole Wheat Bread

1/2 cup warm water
1 1/2 TBSP yeast
1 TBSP sugar
3/4 cup hot milk
1/3 cup oil
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 TBSP molasses
2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cups water
3 cups white flour (plus enough to gain the proper texture)
3 cups whole wheat flour (I often substitute one cup of another whole grain flour, such as rye tonight)

Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water and let sit. In a large-ish bowl dump oil, brown sugar, molasses and salt. Pour milk over all to dissolve. Add 1 1/4 cups cold water. Stir in yeast mixture. Add flours and knead until dough is sticky-smooth. I leave it a little sticky, not kneading too long. I then remove the dough from the pan and dump in about 2 TBSP of oil, returning the dough to the bowl and turning to coat. Cover and let rise until double. Shape loaves (2 9X5) and let rise again until double. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes. Once the bread comes out I use my mom's old trick to keep the crust soft: cover with towel, then a layer of plastic (a grocery bag usually covers both loaves), then another towel. Let cool. Before it's completely cool, I generally can't resist slicing into one of the loaves to "test" it. With butter and honey. YUM. I think my taste-tester said something like: "That's good, honey".

23 August 2009

Confessions of a Foodie #2

Alright. Tomato sandwiches are great, but their consistency as a menu item around here has left me with very little blogging material. Plus I'm just not up to the picture-uploading thing right now. Plus it's Sunday. Time for a confession.

I like hot dogs. I'm a little ashamed of publishing this. Especially being a person who calls herself a "foodie". My table should only be graced with the most wholesome of foods prepared with fresh, local ingredients and presented in the finest taste. Right? I'm supposed to shun so-called "foods" that contain a long list of obscure and un-pronouncable ingredients such as (hang on, let me find a highly processed food that's lurking about . . .) "thiamin mononitrate" and "sodium aluminosilicate"*.

But the fact is I don't have such a pristine criteria for what I consider "food" or even "good food" for that matter. I suppose I can chalk some of this up to sentimentalism. The family gathered around a crackling campfire. Forest sounds reverberating beyond our circle's cheery glow. A piece of unappetizing processed "meat" sizzles and spits as it cooks over the flames . . . Substitute "A lump of processed sugar substance puffs and goldens over the flames . . ." and I've explained away my craving for a nice toasted marshmallow too. It could be the association with good, family times that sends me into a downward hot-dog-craving spiral.

Or, I'll admit, it could just be plain "poor taste." (har, har). Pass the relish and mustard please.

*Ingredients culled from a (now-empty) "Cheez-It" box and container of "French Vanilla Coffee-mate"

19 August 2009

Salsa, Salsa!

I had a day off this week, so what did I do? Spent the whole day on my feet turning our garden roma tomatoes into salsa. I wished I'd planted some green peppers and onions to go into it. Maybe next year . . .

I started with my mom's salsa recipe and another one I found online, making up my own version as I went. Several hours and loads of sweat later, I ended up with about 16 pints. Yay!!!

Anita's Salsa Picante

Yield: about 16 pints

26 c. chopped roma tomatoes (skins, seeds, and all!)
4 1/2 c. chopped onion
4 c. chopped bell pepper
6 jalepenos, chopped (seeds and all!), plus two dried cayenne peppers, minced
2 TBSP sugar
4 1/2 TBSP salt
2 TBSP cumin
10 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 (10.75 oz.) can of tomato sauce
1 (6 oz.) can of tomato paste
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 bunch cilantro, chopped fine

I basically put everything in a pan and simmered until it was the right consistency and taste. I think I overcooked it, though, because everything got mushy. I added the vinegar, lime juice, and cilantro right at the end, did a quick taste check, and it was ready! Another time, I think I'll cook the "sauce" ingredients (tomato paste and sauce, spices, vinegar) and add to the tomato/onion/peppers mix without further cooking. Once you process them for 25 minutes in a boiling water bath, they'll probably get thoroughly cooked!

It's spicy!!!

13 August 2009

Open Face

Summertime is sandwich-time around here. With big, juicy tomatoes hanging off the vines, what more do you need? A slice of bread, some light mayo and horseradish . . . that's that!

Today for lunch I did a variation on my classic tomato sandwich. Remember the walnut pesto I made two days ago? After all the work that went into it, I felt the individual ingredients got a little lost on the pasta. So I tried spreading some on a slice of toast and throwing it in the toaster oven for a few seconds. Y.U.M. You can see where this is going . . . add a slice or two of tomato . . .

And another open-faced sandwich from this week. Venison sloppy joes with another round of Sweet Zingy Slaw.

Got any great summertime sandwich ideas to share?

11 August 2009

Sweet Zingy Slaw

Quite a supper tonight. After a weekend away (and very little cooking on my part) I was ready to get creative in my kitchen again. Before we'd left for our trip, I preemptively whacked the basil way back to prevent it from flowering while we were gone. They look a little sad. BUT, I've got this mound of basil all bagged up in the fridge, so pesto-something was in order.

We were also gifted recently with some lovely summer squash, and I'd bought a bag of shiitake mushrooms from Mom and Dad. Now how to get all these foods to the table . . .

The pesto was pretty straight forward. I used this recipe (1 cup basil leaves, 1/4 cup walnuts, 2 garlic cloves, olive oil, and a squeeze of lemon), whirring each ingredient separately in my mini-chopper and then stirring them all together with the oil and lemon juice. I added the Parmesan cheese right to the spaghetti when I stirred the pesto into it.

Next, mushrooms. I had some Stilton cheese leftover from a splurge purchase, so I combined that with some oatmeal, ground flax seed, and the mushroom stems (chopped fine) as a stuffing for the caps. Nice flavor, but a little dry.

And finally, the squash. This turned out to be my favorite dish of the meal, so I'm including the recipe (I actually measured all the ingredients this time!). Each bite was initially sweet, followed by the delicious burn of cayenne pepper.

Sweet Zingy Slaw

1 medium-sized summer squash
1 carrot
2 TBSP virgin olive oil
2 TBSP white vinegar
1 TBSP brown sugar
I tsp minced fresh dill
1 cayenne pepper, minced*
salt to taste (a few dashes for me)

Shred the summer squash and carrot into a bowl. Mix the remaining ingredients and pour over the veggies. That's all! The "*" is because this was quite spicy. I threw in the whole pepper, seeds and all. I suggest starting with maybe a 1/2 pepper or discarding the seeds if you don't like that much bite. Alternatively, you could probably leave the pepper out altogether and cut the brown sugar in half for a sweet/tangy vibe.

02 August 2009


A fabulous summer evening meal! Pronounced "pahn banYAHT" (apparently) this sandwich originally comes from the region of Nice, France. You can find all this information on the web (I first encountered it here). Far from its origins, what I made probably should not be called pan-bagnat. Maybe just "Squashed Loaf Sandwich".

Basically, you take a loaf of bread, stuff it with fresh veggies, and then squash it so that the juices soak into the bread. Some instructions say to hollow out the loaf; I left mine intact.

After cutting the loaf, I drizzled both sides with olive oil, then layered on the following veggies: slices of tomato (thanks, Bek!), mushroom slices, green peppers, purple onion, and torn basil leaves. I gave the pile of veggies a good dash of salt and pepper then closed the loaf, wrapped it in saran wrap, and squashed it under an upside-down chair and a planter (see black and white picture below). After about two and a half hours, I unwrapped the deflated sandwich sliced it, and served it up with a bowl of olives and glasses of lemonade. Bon apetit!

29 July 2009

Anniversary Fare

The Uncensored Chef is back from a 1st Anniversary getaway! It was nice to take a little break from the computer. =)

Since we didn't leave for our trip until a few days after our actual anniversary, I made my husband a nice dinner at home. My mom said that we should go out since it was a celebration for both of us, but I love to cook and had such a fun afternoon cooking up this meal (see the menu below)!


Bagel with Cream Cheese, Basil, and Golden Nugget Tomatoes

Green Salad with Cranberry Stilton Cheese
Basil and Bacon Potato Salad

Teriyaki Venison Oven Kebab over Brown Rice

Rustic Shoofly Tart
Chocolate-dipped Strawberries

I really did spend the whole afternoon cooking! We were both hungry before dinner was ready, so I made the quick little bagel appetizers between chopping and baking . . . toasted bagel spread with cream cheese, topped with fresh, torn basil leaves and sliced golden nugget tomatoes. I added a dash of salt and pepper to complete it.

The venison "oven kebabs" (we don't have a grill) were great fun to do. I found a teriyaki marinade over at allrecipes.com that was meant for beef kebabs. I marinated the venison chunks in the fridge overnight. Prior to baking I added halved mushrooms, thick onion slices, and halved golden nugget tomatoes (our one plant is very productive right now!). I baked it all at 425F for about 20 minutes. Delicious served over brown rice!

For dessert, I wanted to make pie, because we had homemade pies at our wedding instead of cake. One of our favorites: shoofly. I also wanted to do chocolate-dipped strawberries since I'd just found some nice-looking strawberries for a good price. My dilemma: too much dessert. To solve the problem, I made a shoofly tart, using just half a recipe for the filling (we joked that it was a half-calorie pie!). I rolled the crust into a rough circle, big enough to fill a 9-inch pie plate to the rim. I put some of the crumbs onto the crust, ladled in the "wet" filling, dumped the rest of the crumbs on top, and gently folded the pie crust over the edge. I was nervous that the filling would bubble up over the crust, but it baked beautifully at 350F for about 20 minutes. It had a nice, moist bottom that night and turned cakier the next day, which made it perfect for an alfresco dessert downtown! The strawberries were yummy too!

Taste-tester spouts off effusively when asked for a comment. I think he's glad he married me.

22 July 2009

A New Kitchen

No, we're not renovating our small kitchen. I want to write about the kitchen I joined for today. Now that I'm only working three days a week, I've got some free time that I can do various things with. One of my goals was to go down to the OCP to hang out with my sister-in-law who is the kitchen manager there. Every day she sorts through an array of donated food items and turns them into warm, filling and delicious meals for anyone in town who wants to stop by for lunch.

When I got there at about 10:00 today, a group of women were already snapping yellow beans for lunch. My job assignment was to attack the mounds of squash and make squash cake. I didn't do a whole lot of attacking; the recipe only needed three medium-sized squash. This first assignment progressed slowly as I stopped every few moments to ask where such-and-such was located. My second cake--plum--went a lot faster. While the cakes baked a few of us decided to try making plum jam. We should have asked Sadie before cutting back on the sugar, because we actually ended up with plum syrup. We also drank plum smoothies while we worked and considered what a squash smoothie might taste like. Desperate ideas for desperate mounds of squash.

Before serving lunch, the community circled up and each person shared what he/she was thankful for. When it came my turn, I had to say I was thankful for my sister-in-law and all the hard work she does every day. And although I didn't add it, I was also thankful to get out of my little two-person kitchen for a morning and become part of a team, cooking for a whole community of people.

18 July 2009

Apple-Wineberry Jam

It's high berry season in our neck of the woods. We went wineberry picking again (remember the tarts?). This time I was determined to do something with more of a future. Jam.

I scoured the internet for good jam recipes, searching for raspberry jam since wineberry is a little less common. I found this recipe for raspberry apple jam which looked good to me since I had apples on hand, it didn't take pectin, and the apples would add some volume as the berries cooked down.

Anita's Apple-Wineberry Jam

4 cups wineberries
2 cups peeled, chopped apples (basically two apples)
2 cups sugar

Pretty simple. Just put everything into a pan over medium heat and cook until it's thick! I ended up using my stick blender towards the end to smooth out the apple chunks. I think I cooked it for about 50 minutes.

Of course, we had to try some right away!

The rest was ladled into jars and sealed. I processed them in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Meet the Jam Family below (I was seriously hoping they'd have more children!).

16 July 2009

Beans & Rice 1

I call this Beans & Rice 1 because I have so many variations on this theme! Tonight I just needed something fast and easy. It's too hot to cook for long. My beans and rice always include the following: oil, onions, garlic, canned chili's or hot pepper, cumin, salt, and cooked/canned beans. That's the basic, and it goes from there depending on how creative I'm feeling or what else I have on hand. Tonight I added tomato sauce for something different.

Beans & Rice 1

2 TBSP vegetable oil
1/2 med. onion, diced
1 large clove garlic, crushed and roughly chopped
few pieces canned chili's
1 tsp. cumin
1 (15 oz.) can red beans
1/2 (15 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1 chicken bullion cube
dash of brown sugar (maybe 1/2 tsp?)
salt to taste

Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and saute until translucent. Add the chili's and crush with stirring utensil. Add cumin, stir, and let cook a minute or so. Add beans,crushed tomatoes, chicken bullion, and about a 1/4 cup water and simmer until heated through. Eat over rice.

Tonight I topped my beans and rice with some raw shredded cabbage, diced golden nugget tomatoes, a drizzle of olive oil, and a squeeze of lime juice. Fresh mango slices sprinkled with cayenne pepper on the side. Cook's Word? Mmmmmmm . . . add some fresh cilantro and take it to another level of delish.

15 July 2009

Quick Fix

One of our favorite quick lunches or dinner (besides "root, hog, or die" or fast food) is a simple tuna melt. Nothing spectacular, just your favorite tuna salad (tuna, mayo, onions, celery, beans, pickles, shredded carrots, horseradish, whatever!) on a slice of bread or bagel. Top with a slice of tomato and shredded cheese--we like cheddar--and pop in the toaster oven for a minute or so until the cheese melts. When it comes out we often add a leaf of lettuce and sometimes hot sauce. Not what I'd call "pretty food" but simple and (usually) delicious!

10 July 2009

Chocolate & Fig Scones

So here it is . . .

Chocolate & Fig Scones

3/4 cup flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
2 TBSP brown sugar
dash salt
2.5 TBSP butter
1/4 cup dark chocolate pieces
1/4 cup chopped dried figs
1/4 cup milk
2 TBSP yogurt

Sift flour, baking powder, brown sugar, and salt into a bowl. Cut in butter to the size of peas. I like to refrigerate or freeze here to re-solidify the butter. Stir in fig and chocolate pieces. Stir in milk and yogurt just until flour is incorporated. Dough will be too sticky to handle! I just dump it out on my pizza stone or pre-greased and -floured baking sheet and press it into a circle. Score into 6 - 8 triangles with a knife (see picture below) and bake at 400F for about 12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Brew some coffee. Enjoy! This makes fairly small scones. In fact, it is a modified half-recipe, so it can easily be doubled. If you prefer round scones, dump your sticky dough onto a generous pile of flour, dust top with flour too, and pat flat before cutting with a biscuit cutter, or glass, or what have you.

Cook's Word: I love the buttery taste of these and the combination of dark chocolate and figs! They are crisp on the outside and moist inside. They re-heat nicely in a toaster oven to give the same freshly-baked texture. For endless variety, omit the chocolate and figs and add any combination of dried fruit, spices, or melty candy that suits your fancy!

All in a Day's Cooking

I spent the better part of yesterday afternoon cooking up a storm. I only wished I could've cooked up some rain to go with it!

It started with a 50 cent pack of frozen okra at the discount grocers. Okra. I think "gumbo." Oh, and I have those two potlucks this weekend to contribute something to. Whey from making (failed) yogurt last week. Potato flakes we've had in the cupboard for far too long. Potato bread. And while the oven is hot, I might as well whip up a batch of scones . . . Do I really wonder WHY I'm tired after a meal?!

The potato bread turned out lovely, moist and delicious with a little butter on it. I made two plain round loaves, and two garlic-rosemary free-form "baguettes" for the two potlucks. I also had to do a miniature of each variety for us to try while it was hot and fresh. I didn't use enough garlic powder or rosemary. I'll have to play with it some more before posting a recipe.

The okra gumbo came from allrecipes.com. I basically followed this recipe minus the file powder since I didn't have any, and plus a dash of ginger. I also only used half the amount of mushrooms it called for since I might want some of them for pizza later. I found it a bit on the salty side, and I don't mean expensive! The okra only cost 25 cents, after all, and the canned tomatoes were a gift from the new neighbors. =) We ate it over brown rice.

Then there were the Chocolate & Fig Scones. All I can say is, "yummy, yummy!" I meant to take a picture of them after they were baked, but I didn't have the memory card in. By the time I realized my mistake, the last one was in my tummy. Deliciously buttery and dark-chocolate-y. I may have to post the recipe . . .

Bon Apetit!