Archive for the ‘What we eat’ Category

Photo Every Day Lucky #13 (April 2)

IMG_2433Jim was cutting up some Bell peppers, and thought it was cool that this one had a miniature pepper embedded inside it.  So I decided to use it for photography practice.  I think it makes a cool picture, and I’m pleased with it.  But Jim thinks it just looks like a plain old picture of a pepper, which I suppose technically it *is*.  But I like how I got it composed against the brick  background, and decently centered and focused.  What do you think of it?

Recipe Time: Cinnamon Pecan Pound Cake

So, I’ve barely blogged this year, but here’s what happened Monday.  I went to make a recipe, and I couldn’t find my paper copy of it.  And I was just too lazy to go out to the car to get my work computer because I had *just* e-mailed it to someone earlier that day.  So I decided to wait, get the recipe at work, and make it Tuesday.  Except on Tuesday, after dinner when the chicklets went to bed, I was so tired, I fell asleep about 10 minutes later.  D’oh!

So here it is the night before Thanksgiving, and I’m giving it another shot.  Both the baking and the blogging, because my life would have been a lot easier this week if I’d done this last year.  So, here’s the first of 3 recipes I’m making for Thanksgiving this year.  I’m bringing this one to my nephew’s HS football game tomorrow morning.  It’s technically a dessert, but it’s great for breakfast too, and makes phenomenal french toast.

The recipe is Cinnamon Pecan Pound Cake from Cooking Pleasures Magazine (click the link for the recipe itself, since I assume it’s copyrighted protected.  The following pictures are mine though, from start to delicious finish.

The first thing to note is that it makes TWO loaves.  The first step is to grease & flour the pans.  I use butter and flour, but you can use a shortcut cooking spray with flour already in it, and that should work just as well.

Greased & Floured Loaf Pans

Then, here are the ingredients you’ll need to have on hand, plus all-purpose (I prefer unbleached) flour (which I just keep in a large airtight container, so not very photogenic).  Please do not use cake flour, bread flour, or any other kind of specialty flour.  And you can probably substitute whole wheat flour, but I don’t know if you’d use the same amount or not.  Feel free to experiment with this as you wish, but if you change it, please let me know how it does.  I’d love any excuse to rationalize calling this recipe “healthy.”  Thanks!

When the batter is ready, here’s how it should look in the pans before you bake it:

Prepared Batter (before baking)

Then, when your timer goes off, you’ll want to use a clean (duh!) toothpick inserted deep into the center of each loaf to see if it’s done.  If the toothpick comes out clean, then your loaf is done.  Let it cool enough to flip it out of the pan, and serve warm or cool.  If the toothpick comes out gooey or with any batter stuck to it, your loaf needs more time in the oven.  Put it back in until the toothpick comes out clean.  I usually go in 5-10 minute increments when I need to add time to a recipe.  Also, I know glass v. metal can come into play, but I can never remember which one cooks faster.  For me, the glass one cooks faster, but it’s slightly smaller too, so that could be why.

Also, if (like me), you don’t have 2 identical loaf pans, one loaf will very likely cook faster than the other.  That’s OK.  You just have to roll with it.  Your patience and diligence will be duly rewarded when they’re both done and look like this:

Yum!

Feeling crafty today

With Valentine’s day quickly approaching, I took advantage of a relatively quiet Sunday to make some goodies for the girls to bring to school on Tuesday.

For Veronica’s class, I made my first attempt at Bakerella‘s cake balls (http://www.bakerella.com/category/pops-bites/cake-balls/).  They’re very weird to make, so I hope they come out good.  I made them with strawberry cake, vanilla icing mixed in, and I’m going to dip them in pink melting chocolate.

The recipe I made for Sabrina’s class is just as cute, doesn’t have a weird name, and was VERY easy.  Like, so easy, I could hardly believe they came out to be both tasty and adorable.  Here’s a link to the recipe, and a picture of how they actually came out when I was done with them:  http://familyfun.go.com/recipes/conversation-heart-fudge-683686/

Happy Halloween!

For Veronica’s class this year, they’re not allowed to wear costumes to school (don’t get me started, I think that’s ridiculous!), but they are allowed to bring in treats to share with the class.

So, instead of just buying a bag of candy, I seized an opportunity to make a recipe I saw in a magazine for this creation called “Candy Corn Fudge” and I hope it’ll be a big hit.  The recipe couldn’t have been easier, either!  The only hard part was cutting it after it had set, b/c the knife kept getting stuck in the cold candy corn.

 

Here’s the recipe if you want to try it.  I came from Woman’s Day October 2011 issue (page 114):

Ingredients:  8 oz. cream cheese (room temperature), 2 cups powdered sugar, 2 tsp. vanilla extract, 3 cups white chocolate chips (approx. 18 oz.).

Optional:  2 cups mini pretzels (or broken pretel pieces), 1 cup cried cherries, 1 cup candy corn

Preparation:  Line a 9″ square pan with parchment paper, leaving overhang on all sides.   Mix the cream cheese & sugar in an electric mixer until smooth (approx. 2 min.), then add the vanilla & mix until smooth.  Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave according to package directions (for me, it was 2 minutes @ 70% power).  Add the chocolate to the cream cheese mixture and mix until smooth again.  Fold in the pretzels & cherries (if used), and transfer to the prepared pan.  Top with candy corn & refrigerate until firm (at least 2 hours, and up to 2 days).  Use the edges of the parchment paper to transfer the fudge to a cutting board and cut into 1″ pieces.

The magazine suggests serving each square in a mini cupcake liner, but as you can see, I just stacked them up in a disposable Gladware bowl, which I then covered in foil.

Yum!

Lemon meringue pie – 2nd attempt

Normally, baking comes easily to me.  I follow the recipe closely, and have had very few disasters.  My first attempt at lemon meringue pie several weeks ago (maybe it was in March?), was certainly one of those disasters.  It was a Martha Stewart Recipe, and I cheated by using pre-made pie crust.  I’m also awesome at making meringue, if I do say so myself.  My only issue with meringue is if I don’t watch it closely enough and it burns.  Martha’s recipe for lemon filling was the part that came out a mess.  Literally.  It’s a double-boiler method, and I used fresh lemon rind, and hand-squeezed lemon juice and everything.  I followed every instruction perfectly.  The lemon mixture was thickening nicely, and when I poured it into the crust, it seemed to be setting correctly.  So I spread on the meringue, baked it, and burned the meringue.  So I picked off the burned bits, and put it back in the oven for a minute until it was just golden.  It looked good, but when I got it to my parents house and cut into it, the lemon part was downright soupy.  Not “set” like it should have been at all.  My parents still ate it, because while ugly, it did taste good, but it was more like a lemon pudding than it was like lemon pie.

So, now that Dad’s appetite & taste buds are recovering from the side effects of chemotherapy, he mentioned that lemon pie sounded good again.  So, I decided to try again.  This time, I used a different recipe, because despite Auntie Joyce’s sage advice to use a lemon filling mix, I wanted to make it from scratch.  I used a family cookbook to get the recipe, and there were two.  One that called for flour as the thickening agent, and the other called for cornstarch.  Not wanting the pie to have a floury taste, I opted for the cornstarch recipe.  Neither called for a double-boiler, which made me optimistic that I’d get better results, because I wondered if maybe I used too much or too little water in my double-boiler last time?

Anyway, the mixture this time seemed to be coming together nicely, but after the prescribed boiling time of 4 minutes, the mixture was hardly thick enough to set to a custard-like texture.  Ack!  So, I took a deep breath, and decided to let it sit in the pot for a few minutes to see if it would thicken that way a little, then I’d spread it in the pie crust.  I am disappointed to report that it did not.

So, being somewhere around 3:00 a.m. at this point, because I am nothing if not a procrastinator to my core, I had the bright idea to try to salvage it by adding more cornstarch.  So I did, but it wasn’t dissolving into the still-warm goo, so I added a little more.  Then I realized it might thicken better over heat, so I brought it back to a boil, whisked the hell out of it, and just for good measure, added 2 tablespoons of butter (which the Martha & flour recipes called for, but the cornstarch recipe didn’t).  This seemed to thicken it to my satisfaction, but I still had no idea if it would go runny on me like Martha’s did.  I also had no idea if it would taste right anymore, but I had faith in the power of fresh lemon zest and freshly squeezed juice.

Those fresh lemons didn’t let me down.  I cut into the 2nd attempt, and while there’s a little bit of sticky syrupy stuff oozing at the bottom of the pie plate, the lemon filling itself held its shape & texture quite nicely.

So maybe lemon meringue pie isn’t my baking nemesis after all.  Maybe I just haven’t found *the* perfect recipe for it yet.  If anyone has a scratch recipe for it that they use with uniformly reliable results, I’d love for you to share it with me.

Pretty please?

Apple Chicken Salad

Also known as “food-your-kids-might-claim-disgusts-them-but-really-is-delicious.”

This is not the most creative recipe in the world, but I was feeling experimental to make a chicken salad with the meat from a rotisserie chicken we bought this week, and this is what I came up with:

Ingredients:

Approx. 4 oz. white rotisserie chicken meat (without skin), chopped or diced

1/8 c. (2 T.) chopped nuts (I used pecans, but only because I couldn’t find walnuts – almonds would be yummy too)

1/4 c. dried cranberries

1 medium apple, diced (I used golden delicious, with skin, but I’m sure any kind would also be tasty)

2-3 T. Lemonaise Light

Preparation:

Chop or dice chicken & apples to the desired size pieces.  I chopped to about 1/4 – 1/2″ chunks, but I would chop smaller to use this salad in a sandwich.  In a small mixing bowl, add pecans, cranberries, and Lemonaise Light.  Toss together & serve chilled or at room temperature.

This also nicely stretches the chicken to about 2 servings of chicken salad.  I think chopped celery would be another delicious addition, but I didn’t have any on hand.  The recipe could also be easily modified to use more of each ingredient for a bigger bowl & more servings.  In the proportions I used, each serving has approx. 300 calories.

Veronica (predictably) said “eeeeeew” and made a disgusted face when I made her try a bite.  Sabrina said “eew” before she tried it, but after I told her I like it, she  (also predictably) said she liked it too.

For those who’ve never heard of Lemonaise, it’s a light seasoned mayonnaise substitute, and I buy it at Whole Foods.  It’s mild, and has a slightly different taste than plain mayonnaise, but I think it tastes better than lowfat or fat-free mayo too.  Here’s a picture of the label, if you want to look for it to try for yourself:

Mmmm, banana bread! (again)

You cannot believe how good this banana bread smells right now!