Sunday, December 11, 2016

Another birthday in our house

Our daughter, Sarah, is  turning 20 this week, so we are celebrating today with the family.  She requested a chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream icing.....and she got it.  Lately, I haven't been writing on my cakes, just giving them a nice shape and style.  Elegant and definitely chocolatey.

Where does the time go?  I just had her...or well, 20 years ago.  crazy.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Pumpkin Bundt on the fly....really!

My husband had an invite for a "pig-pickin" as they call them here in the carolinas on the spir of the moment...or else, he failed to let me in on the invite and the promise of a dessert until the night before.  Anyway, this cook on the fly thought about it for a while before falling to sleep and woke up with a plan.  Usually, I process my jack-o-lanterns the day after Halloween, but I had to act fast and in the spirit of the pumpkin season, I had only 1.5 hours to accomplish this and it wasn't a group of people I knew, but my husband works with it had to be good.

Pumpkin bundt was in order and it turned out very nice.  I found a few bundt recipes in my cookbooks, but I wanted something less spicy, but with still a flare.  Most recipe ask for more sugar than I think they need and canned pumpkin is lacking the depth of a homemade mash, that I make anyway, so here is what I came up with.
Pumpkin Bundt cake with flair
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
3 cups all purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp cloves
1 15 oz canned pumpkin
Mix together, confectioners sugar, cocoa, and cinnamon in a shaker...I used 1/4 cup confectioners sugar to 1 tbsp cocoa and 1 tsp cinnamon. for the topping.

Preheat oven 350 degrees.  Mix sugars, oil in a large mixing bowl until nicely blended.  Add the eggs.  Next in a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients together with a whisk.  Alternate the dry ingredients and the canned pumpkin mixing until all is incorporated.    For your bundt pan, I crisco it thoroughly with a paper towel, then flour it.  That way you can see where you missed with the shortening.  Pour the batter in the pan and bake for about 55 - 60 minutes.  Let cool for  about 10 minutes before inverting cake onto a cooling rack.  

Sprinkle with the sugar mixture on top and voila!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Pumpkin takeover 2016...and Lolek

Every year in the fall this amazing and sprawling plant brings forth it's fruit:  the pumpkin.  In recent years the retail world has commandeered this massive orange squash in a variety of ways that has snowballed into nothing short of a massive takeover this year!  What began as a fresh fall idea for all beer drinkers a few years ago has ballooned into a frenzy with nearly no limitations!  From pumpkin spice tea, donuts, and lattes to a more aggressive takeover of the well-known and loved original cereals of Shredded Mini Wheat, Special K Crunch, and Life, not to mention the unheard of pumpkin-flavored(gulp) baking chips, marshmallows, cookies, granola, instant pudding?!  I thought I had seen everything until, alas, the Blue Dog Bakery came up with pumpkin flavored dog treats.

I'm a cookie butter fanatic and there is always a jar of Biscoff in the pantry, but the pumpkin flavored cookie butter made by some other company is completely gross, so I won't mention their name.   Actually, the biggest surprise on my pumpkin discovery was the tortilla chips, they were actually very good.  They are not sweet, rather salty and crunchy with a pumpkin hint in the background.  So, to my surprise, they were a success.

I asked the grocery manager at the Food Lion near me how many people buy the pumpkin flavored baking chips, she didn't think they moved at wonder...yuck!  I did not dare try the pumpkin spice instant pudding.....we just couldn't do that to our taste buds, I am a scratch cook for heaven's sake!   This discussion does not cover the complete list of "gone pumpkin" favorites, but just the tip of the iceberg, I tell you, beer varieties abound and so does the donuts, air fresheners, and tea and coffees along with cookies, on and on.  I even saw that Triscuit had a pumpkin spice cracker and I thought, if they pumpkin-fy my kid's beloved goldfish crackers...well there is no telling where my crazy would go.

Anyway, to be completely honest here, my most favorite orange treat in my world is my beloved little ginger, Lolek.  He is the sweetest feline buddy I know.


Sunday, October 23, 2016

King Arthur Flour's October Bakealong

 Oh this one was a breeze!!  I haven't used my french loaf pans in ages, so what a sweet opportunity it was!

These are the Everyday Whole-Grain bread that is the October bakealong challenge from King Arthur Flour company.   This bread worked up beautifully, with little effort. 

This recipe makes two loaves and as many bread dough are, it is versatile.  This time around, I made it in my French loaf pans, but next time I am planning on baking them in standard loaf pans so I can slice them for sandwiches and toast.  It is that good!!

The recipe is on the website, and there is a step-by-step link as's the link from their site

The dulcimer is my birthday gift from my husband last I have a violin, mandolin, both a saprano and alto recorder, and a dulcimer.....and a piano, but our youngest is the master of that instrument.   I, however, an the master of none of these, but I love playing them when I have time.  Isn't it a pretty instrument, my dulcimer?

Anyway, I found it looked kind of traditional, basic, and old-timey at the same time with the lace tablecloth.
Well, I hope you will try the bread and enjoy it as much as we did.  I served this first bake with chili and it was fabulous!

If you make it, I'd love to hear about it.  Comment below and share your pics!

Until next time!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

A Hubby surprise and Ginger Pickled Carrots.....YES!

The best part of being married to an open-minded eater, is being able to experiment with all kinds of recipes and getting his honest opinions along with watching him enjoy the fruits of your labor.  I am such a lucky girl.  Recently, I had the surprise of receiving a gift I truly didn't expect, my husband is a home-brewer hobbyist and is always looking/ordering/finding ingredients for his next batch of beer..usually online.  Well, I had put a few cookbooks that were new and upcoming, but not in print yet in the shopping cart on amazon, but didn't buy them yet and then forgot about them!! 
Crazy...I know. 

Anyway, he was hunting some beer ingredients this one day and discovered my books in the cart and decided to purchase one of them for me.  Super!  Not your momma's Canning Book...and what to make with them is that book!   I have been looking at this book for a couple of months and low and behold, it showed up on my porch the other day!

Immediately, I dug into it and discovered a few things I wanted to being these lovely ginger pickled carrots.   The recipe is in this book and it couldn't be easier!  My hubby loves them....along with my son-in-law, so it's a win-win!  It made three jars of carrots and to be honest, I didn't use anything other than my favorite chef knife and me.   It's a stress reliever to just sit and julienne was soothing, actually.

My next project will be mustard...but I am having trouble finding brown mustard seeds...if anyone has a suggestion, please let me know.


Friday, September 30, 2016

King Arthur Flour's September BAKEALONG Challenge

Inside-Out Pumpkin Muffins

King Arthur Flour's September Bakealong challenge was fun and I learned something in the process!

The neatest thing about any recipe I find is learning something new, a skill, an ingredient, or even a different way of manipulating ingredients to obtain the same result...or even better!  This is one reason I wanted to accept these challenges, because I knew that there would be some challenges that may challenge me!  I'm no expert, but I've learned a few things along the way and always happy to learn more to share with you!

In this recipe, I learned about boiled cider, of which I shared prior to this post and I wanted to let you know how absolutely delicious this ingredient is.  These muffins are great and the pumpkin flavor really stands out.  So, here is the recipe for you to make yourself, if you don't have boiled cider, or care to boil your own apple cider, you can  purchase boiled cider from King Arthur Flour's website here.  I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did!

Till next time!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Boiled Cider: a new OLD pantry staple

The September King Arthur Flour's bakealong challenge has an ingredient that got my interest piqued.  I have never heard of boiled cider, absolutely love apple cider, but boiling it down to a thick syrup?  No, have not heard of it....until now.  In the challenge recipe this month, there are alternatives to this ingredient (such as molasses, brown sugar, etc), but says that boiled cider is really the preferred choice, and that you had to buy it from them, you can't just boil apple cider......  Oh, yeah you can, I did some research.

The best recipe and description of boiled cider that I could find was from Rebecca, over at her blog: "Foodie with Family", she has a great recipe and some background about it.  Yes, you can buy it, but it wouldn't be true to myself if I did that, without some investigating.

OK, so what is boiled cider and what do you use boiled cider for? Well in the bakealong with King Arthur Flour, you add a quarter cup of this syrup to the batter for a more heightened pumpkin flavor, you can add this syrup to apple pie filling to bring about a stronger apple flavor.  Tasting it, I can see it as a syrup over pancakes, ice cream, and Rebecca at Foodie with Family, also suggests over ice with seltzer water.  It's a syrup, so use your imagination!

According to Ark of Taste in the USA they report about it and Cider jelly as a ..."relatively little known except as a cultural artifact, and certainly underappreciated."  I have to agree!  Yes, it takes a few hours to accomplish from boiling apple cider, but the results are dripping with flavor and benefits!   Give it a try!

Here's how:

In a stainless steel, non-reactive stew pot, stock pot, what ever, I used one gallon jug of apple cider.

1 gal Apple Cider
other ingredients to each is own:
Cinnamon, ginger, vanilla bean, allspice, etc.    I didn't do it this time.

Boil down to 1/7th of it's original amount.*

*My husband is a scientist and gave me the exact measurment in meters.......I with a glazed-over-face, I got a popsicle stick from my craft stash and measured the before amount in the pot and divided up the eights on the ruler and did it that way and made my mark there as well.  It took about 2 hours on medium heat on the stove for the total reduction, and OH how the house smelled!!

Some time later, you have a nice thickening apple syrup!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Cast-Iron Potatoes

Obsessed is the word I'd use to describe how I feel about my cast iron skillets.  I have 3 right now, an 8", 12" and the square grilling skillet.  All three have never disappointed me or my family.  (However, I do have to admit that the grilling pan is harder to clean.)

Clearly, you can cook anything in a cast iron skillet and I have found some great recipes that I would not have thought of.  Pie for one!  Macaroni and cheese for two.  Both are absolutely delicious.

We grilled some steaks the other day and I was in charge of the sides.  It was just the two of us, so I could add onions. HA!
The nice thing about cast iron, is that it keeps the heat even throughout the pan surface even after you turn off the burner.  The caramelization that happens to the potatoes is great.  I just sliced the potatoes rather thin along with the onions.  For the oil, I used vegetable oil in the pan and added some unsalted butter, just a tablespoon or so, for flavor.  The seasonings are simple, pepper, kosher salt and garlic powder.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

King Arthur Flour's August Bakealong Challenge

Summer, ah, the long hot days of summer when the days are hot, humid, and humid.  I'm a autumn girl myself, so I endure the summer to get to the fall with all the colors and the cooler air, brisk breezes and spicier foods.  You knew I was going to get to the food least I hope you did.

So, I follow King Arthur flour on both Instagram and Facebook and get their weekly newsletter via my email box and they have a challenge that sounds interesting.  A Bakealong!  I'm in and will be sharing my results with you.  The first challenge is the Pane Bianco loaf, which is filled with fresh basil, tomatoes, garlic and cheese!  YES!

Here is the picture of my dough as it is pre-proofed on the left and then here is the second stage of the shaping process.   After rolling the dough out to a 22x8.5" rectangle, you put the filling on and roll it up long wise.  Then with seam side down, you cut through the layers from 1/2 inch from each end..not to the bottom, however.

 Now that is is shaped, the right side is the pre-proof stage and the left is the finished risen stage, ready to bake!  I rarely follows rules to the T, and today is no different, I didn't have the ingredients for the filling, so I used the leftover tomato paste from my cast-iron pizza, and dried basil.  It still turned out absolutely a pizza bread.
 Now baked, it smells heavenly.  I tented it after about 20 minutes as suggested and the golden crust came out perfect.  The slices were beautifully soft and evenly distributed with the filling.
This challenge was so easy and delicious!!  Try it!


Saturday, June 25, 2016

Pickled Eggs

The farmer's chickens are very productive right now and I'm thinking about what to do with them, aside from the usual scrambled eggs, angel food cake (I made one for both Father's Day and Memorial Day),and  basic additions to recipes.  SO, hunting through my huge recipe collection for something else, I landed on pickled eggs.  My husband will LOVE them!!

Anyway, very easy and in fact the sky is the limit to what you can add or change for the right pickle flavoring, really.  Here is the one I used, but you can also use the remaining juice from the large pickle jar of pickles stored in the back of your fridge.

Pickled Eggs

9-12 eggs, hard boiled, see Cooking Hard Boiled Eggs
6 whole cloves
1-1/2 c white vinegar
1/2 c water
1 c sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 bay leaf
1 small onion

In a small sauce pan, combine the water, vinegar, salt, sugar, cloves and bay leaf and cook until boiling, then simmer for 5 minutes.  Divide the eggs and place in canning jars, pour the liquid evening over all, making sure the eggs are completely covered.  Slice onion and top the jars with a slice each on top of eggs, seal the jars tightly and place in refridgerator.

Let stand in refridgerator for several days...2 weeks preferably.  slice/chop/in hand, enjoy!!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Hard Boiled Eggs....Perfect every time

OK, I don't know about any of you two readers that I have, but boiling eggs to perfection so that you don't have that ugly grey/green circle around the yoke as been a goal of mine for years!!  Well, I finally achieved it and have been cooking my eggs to perfection for a few years ugly circle!

Here's how:

6 large eggs
Water to cover all eggs

In a medium sauce pan, place (carefully) 6 eggs and cover them with tap water.  Heat to boiling from room temperature.  When the pot boils turn heat off, but keep pot on burner and put the timer on for 12 minutes.

At the 12 minute mark, remove eggs to a bowl and refrigerate. 


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Sunday, April 24, 2016

When and where were you.......

....when you first realized how much you loved to cook?  I'm interested, please leave a comment at the bottom here.

When I realized how much I enjoyed cooking and especially baking, I was a teenager...a young teenager at that.   My family had gone out for firewood and groceries on a cold and really wintery day in Upstate New York.  I wanted to stay behind and keep the fires burning at the house, but I also had a plan.  I was nervous because my mother was the chief cook in the house and she had very little patience for teaching her young daughter the tricks of the trade, so basically all I did was watch and listen.  Every meal and dessert that came from my mother's kitchen was delicious and truly a work of love and cooking wisdom.  I pined for that skill, so on the day that everyone including my mother left the house for a few hours, I got to work.  I had planned on doing something fairly simple, cookies.  I had never ever baked before, much less on my own without permission, so I was truly nervous, but determined.

The recipe was fairly straight-forward, so I got out all the ingredients, turned the oven on and got to work.  Mixing all the ingredients went well, placing each cookie on the cookie sheet using my mother's method of a teaspoon and a knife, I had a bit of a learning curve on that one, but after about  5 or 6 cookie balls, I had it down.  The first batch of cookies came out amazing!!  as did the following ones, I was a success on my first rodeo!!  As my family came in from hours of out running errands in the wintery cold, they were surprised and pleased by the warm kitchen with ginger cookies baking in the oven and the aroma of sugar, ginger in the air.  I was smart by keeping things under control as I went along, cleaning the bowls, spoons and putting all the ingredients away as I added them, so when my mom saw me and the kitchen behind me, she was pleased....boy was I relieved!!

There have been many mistakes since then that my poor family has had to endure, but probably 95-98% of my much like my mom's.  My children were taught the love of cooking as well.  The first thing I taught them each (there are 3 of them) was how to crack an egg properly without dropping shell into the dish.  Each of them take pride in their baking and cooking, mostly baking or the girls and cooking for our son....but I am glad that they enjoy being in the kitchen and as the years go by, they, I hope, will continue to enjoy, experiment, and create amazing meals and goodies to please and delight their families and friends!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Steel Cut Oats.....that's what's for BREAKFAST!

Steel cut oats are deliciously crunchy and fulfilling for a hardy breakfast winter, spring,...or whenever.   There are many different ways to cook these crunchy goodies, but the way I'm going to show you today is the best so far for this home chef.  Since it takes nearly an hour, cook it the night before and put in the fridge for the next day, reheating is a snap and is equally delicious and satisfying the next day! 

Here we go:

Steel-Cut Oats

3 c. of boiling water
1 c. Steel Cut oats
2 Tbsp.  unsalted butter, melted
1 c. Milk, (I use whole)
raisins and cinnamon, optional

Cook and stir once or twice for 25 minutes,

Then add the milk, then continue to cook 8 - 10 minutes until the milk has been mostly absorbed into the oats, stirring a couple of times so as to keep oats from sticking to bottom of pan.   Just as the oats are getting nice and thick, after 10 minutes, pour in the cup of milk and continue to cook for another 10-15 minutes..   At this point, I like to add cinnamon and raisen to the oats and let them cook in the remaining cook time.
After 10-15 minutes, remove the thick oats from the heat, cover and let stand 2minutes.  Serve or store in airtight container in fridge for up to a week.  Leftovers are wonderful!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Zests, peels, and juices, OH MY!!

What beautiful things these zests, peels, and juices are!  Especially as they liven up any recipe, refresh us in the heat of the summer, and create an incredible and healthy addition to our diets.  But which to use and what can be a substitute?  I want to examine and study this deeply and share it with you.

First, lets define what they are:

Zests are the scrapings of the brightly colored peel, be it yellow, green, or orange. There, we have also handled what Peel is!!  Don't go too far, though or you will hit the membrane that is very bitter.  To quote "Joy of Cooking" by Rombauer and Becker,
"What better name than "zest" could be found for the gratings of the colorful outer coatings of lemons, oranges, tangerines, and limes - those always available, valuable, yet somehow not fully appreciated ingredients!"
 Zests brighten up a dish, just a teaspoon of zest can make such a pleasant difference to a dish!  Zests, I have found, need a certain grating system to be successful, not just any grater works well.  Microplanes are the best, a box grater can work well too.  In this video, you can see how they work:

The Peel of the fruit is just that, the outside colorful skin of the fruit.  Zests are made by grating the peel...see above.

Juices, directly from the fruit is the best and only true ingredient when a recipe calls for the juice of "such and such" fruit.  period.

True juice is not from concentrate with water added, it is the real deal, squeezed from the actual fruit.  It is more expensive, but oh so worth it.  Just a little goes a long way here too!

So how much is the right amount and what can be a substitute?

"Joy of Cooking" says

1 tsp of freshly grated zest (peel) = 2 Tablespoons of fresh juice = 1 tsp dried zest = 1/2 ts extract = 2 tsp of grated candied peel(zest).

Hope this helps!!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Snow Cream!! Jonas the megasnowstorm is coming Reposted from Jan 2014

Well the snow storm hit yesterday here on the coastal side of North Carolina.  Everything in the area is closed and there are hardly anyone on the streets....hopefully.  The four of us are snuggled in for the day, gladly I may add.  It's always nice to have husband home during the week, along with the kids.

Snow Cream was the order of the day and both girls went out and filled my big Tupperware bowl with the rather dry and powdery stuff.  I grew up in the north, Upstate NY, and never EVER had I heard of snow cream until I moved to the south.  Anyway, here is the recipe that seems to be our favorite.  There are many Many variations, some with butter, some with sweetened condensed milk, some with chocolate, but we like the plain vanilla version best.

First, send the kiddos out with a large bowl to get the snow with the very careful instructions that they get the snow from the MIDDLE not top and definitely NOT the bottom!  No yellow snow either...yuck!

Then to the parental inspected snow, add:

2 cups of whole milk...or as much as needed to make it creamy
1 Tbsp of vanilla
1/3 - 1/2 cup sugar

Mix until fluffy, smooth, and enjoy!!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Chicken with Bowties

Well, the race was on and I beat my husband home the other night.  It was a long day for both of us and we were hungry.  I knew that I had some chicken and about half of a box of bow tie pasta in the pantry, so when I got home, I got the frozen chicken out and in my large frying pan with a cup of some of my turkey stock from our Thanksgiving bird.  Next, I chopped up some celery stalks (along with the leaves), an onion, carrot, and celery and got them in the pot as well.  Letting that cook, I started got the pasta water started in another pot.

In about 15 minutes, the chicken was cooked so that I could shred it and I added some breadcrumbs to thicken the broth into a nice tasty sauce and added a can of diced tomatoes.  Covering it and letting it warm up together, I drained the pasta and added it to the dish and voila!

Here's the recipe:

Chicken with bow ties

Chicken pieces, boneless, skinless
3 Tbsp Olive oil
2 stalks of celery, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cups of turkey stock
1 can of diced tomatoes
1/2 cup of Breadcrumbs
seasonings to taste:
Sea salt
garlic powder

one half box of bow tie pasta

In a large deep pan, heat up olive oil, add the chicken and let cook for 10 minutes on each side or until cooked enough to shred.  Add the vegetables and broth and let cook for 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.  Shred the chicken and add back to pan along with a can of diced tomatoes. Add the breadcrumbs to thicken the stock into a nice sauce.

In another pot, cook the pasta and drain.  Add the pasta to the meat/vegetables and cover.  Let simmer until completely heated through.    Enjoy!

Serves about 4