Friday, December 31, 2010

Champagne Cocktail Discovery: The Korbel Poinsettia

Tom was sent one of those promotional pdfs from Korbel, the kind with recipes. He sent it on to me and, although I was too frenzied at the time to take interest in the food ideas, I did pick up this champagne cocktail idea for Hannah and Rose to try at Christmas. They loved it and so did we, even though champagne does not need any enhancement for us to enjoy it.

It makes a lovely pink drink and we always have cranberry juice and triple sec on hand so it is easy also. We didn't float any berries in the top of the drink as in this Korbel photo, but obviously that is a nice touch.

Korbel Poinsettia

Korbel Champagne
1/4 oz triple sec
Splash Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice or Cranberry Juice Drink

Put triple sec and cranberry juice in a champagne flute and top with Korbel.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Pecan Rolls

Our family's traditional Christmas breakfast, these Pecan Rolls are probably actually Schnecken from Germany. However, as pecans are native to America, these have been Americanized.

We have one pan on Christmas morning and I freeze the other to thaw and warm for New Year's breakfast. A sweet start to the new year, right?

These are simple and the result is impressive. The only thing you need to have plenty of is time as the recipe is a fairly forgiving one. 

It originally came from the Meta Given's Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking which was my mother's go-to book for many recipes that became family favorites ... such as the Tuna Puff Log. Yes, it sounds strange but it was a brioche loaf which one baked and then cut off the lid to in order to hollow out and fill with a delicious creamed tuna (fairly stiff but with walnuts and a dash of nutmeg). It made a surprisingly sophisticated dish which I seem to recall my parents serving to company ... who would eat seconds.

I have adapted the dough recipe for this somewhat to modernize it and I divided it into steps to make it easier to follow. I also simplified it as I am used to kneading yeast breads, etc. But the rest is pure Meta Given.

Pecan Rolls

Step 1:
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 cup warm milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon yeast (or 1 package yeast)
1/2 teaspoon malt powder (optional, I get it from King Arthur flour, not in the original recipe)
4 cups flour

Combine and knead as usual for yeast dough. Let rise. Punch down dough, turn out on a lightly floured counter and let rest 10 minutes.

Step 2:
1-1/3 cups moist light brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup white corn syrup
Pecan halves or pieces

Meanwhile, mix brown sugar, butter and corn syrup until smooth and spread in the bottom of two 9” cake pans. Place pecan halves (upside down) in circles covering pan spread. If using pieces, press enough cover thoroughly firmly into mixture. Set pans aside until after rolls have been made.

Step 3:
1/2 cup soft butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Roll half of dough into a 8x10” rectangle, about 1/3” thick. Spread with butter and sprinkle with sugar mixed with cinnamon. Starting on wide side, roll up snugly. Cut into twelve 1” slices. Place into one pan in circles, with rolls not quite touching. Brush with melted butter. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover lightly and let rise in warm place until double, about 1 hour.

Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes.

Remove from oven; let stand 2-3 minutes, then loosen edges with a knife and turn upside down onto serving plate. Hold pan over rolls a minute for syrup to drain out on rolls. Serve warm nut-side-up.
These freeze well. Dough can be used for any sweet rolls.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Let It Dough

Creation of many things ... amusingly illustrated using cookie dough and sprinkles ... from the NY Times. Brilliant!

Many thanks to Mom for the heads up on this one!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Salsa Mac 'N' Cheese

When I did a little lagniappe episode featuring Velveeta on my podcast, Forgotten Classics, I promised to link to this recipe. Only to discover I never shared it.

Not surprisingly, this recipe came from the Pace Picante Sauce website. It is one our family's favorite dishes. Easy, quick, and tasty. Though, you must like Velveeta. Which we do!

Salsa Mac ‘n’ Cheese
Step 1:
    1    pound extra-lean ground beef
Brown beef; drain.

Step 2:
    1    16-ounce jar Pace Picante (chunky salsa)
    2    cups water
    7    ounces dried elbow macaroni
Stir in all. Simmer, covered 10-15 minutes until macaroni is tender.

Step 3:
    12    ounces Velveeta, cut up
Add and stir till melted.

Monday, December 06, 2010

We Can't Never Get Enuff o' Turkey Bone Gumbo

Made the broth using the turkey bones and skin on Thanksgiving weekend. Froze it along with enough turkey to make it.

Thawed the whole buncha it out and made Turkey Bone Gumbo yesterday.

Yes, you've heard about it before, but it's good enough to take another look. Once again, my thanks to Sara Roahen for graciously taking the initiative to send me that recipe. I love it so much that I'll make a turkey just to have the gumbo later.

Though I'm considering saving up roasted chicken carcasses during the year so we can have some Chicken Bone Gumbo.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Which Bars Make the Grade When You Request Something Off-Menu? Not the Ones Who Advertise Their Drinks Most.

Since our newest hobby of sampling cocktails has begun we have been surprised at the places which cannot come up with a decent cocktail. Namely, these are often places which pride themselves in promoting their cocktails.

On the other hand, we have often been surprised and pleased at the unexpected places which work hard and get a cocktail juuuuuust right.

Our test?

Not difficult. We simply ask for a cocktail we enjoy, provide the recipe when invariably no one has heard of it (along with glassware and ice requirements), and sample the results.

Here is our list, admittedly short, of places that pass ... and fail.

The key is not that hard. Willingness to please the customer and using the ingredients called for. Too bad it is such a rare combination.
  • Dino's Steak and Clawhouse in Grapevine, Texas.
    We asked for a Chelsea Sidecar. The waiter was intrigued, friendly, and happy to pass on the recipe, which he was not too proud to jot down. The result was double the usual amount and absolutely delicious. (The food was fantastic also ... pricey but fantastic.) Visited Feb. 2010.

  • Riad Mediterranean Cuisine in Springfield, Missouri.
    As with the best places, the server was interested and willing to see what the bartender knew, and then to take back the recipe when a Chelsea Sidecar was unknown to them. Again the portions were doubled. Is there anywhere in America that just doesn't want to pour liquor down your throat in gigantic quantities? At any rate, they did a stellar job, fresh lemon juice and all, when we were there on two different occasions. (The food? Authentic and wonderful.) Visited Oct. 2009.

  • Arris Pizza in Springfield, Missouri.
    This is a unique sort of pizza place, featuring Greek pizza and with a side room that is a small cocktail lounge worthy of the name. Again, the excellent service of willing servers and bartenders provided me with a delicious Chelsea Sidecar. Also, this pizza is to die for. Visited Oct. 2009.

    "What did I do to deserve this flat, flavorless Manhattan?"* If you think a cocktail can't be flat and flavorless then you've never sampled one off-menu in the below locations. Here's a tip guys. If you're bragging about your cocktails then at least have the goodness to use fresh citrus juice in it when called for.
    • Ozona Grill & Bar in Dallas, Texas.
      Although they tout a "tantalizingly good selection of drinks" (which is what I assume they mean to say on their website), Hannah discovered last weekend that what they meant was "order off our menu or face the consequences." She gave the White Spider recipe to which the waitress responded in a surly fashion. Hannah didn't think to specify it shaken with ice and served in a cocktail glass and the waitress certainly didn't ask, so it was served in an old fashioned glass with ice cubes. Made without fresh lemon juice, this was truly a disappointment and certainly a contrast with the solicitous service received by a friend who arrived later, ordered from the menu, and was peppered with questions about what sort of gin to serve in her cocktail. For shame, Ozona. Visited Oct. 2010.

    • The Porch in Dallas, Texas
      Our hopes were high as we'd read good reviews and seen the boast on their website: The 45' bar features hand crafted cocktails including retro classics and neo-classics with house made syrups, infusions and fresh juices. Not only did the waiter not bother to write down the recipe, in which I did specify "shaken with ice and served in a cocktail glass," but he scornfully told me that the old fashioned glass I received (with drink on the rocks) was a "cocktail glass" and I should have said, "martini glass."

      Thank you for that education.

      I am not sure if it was his lack of detail or the bartenders who were responsible for slipping sour mix into the Chelsea sidecar which I eventually received in a cocktail glass (warm) but the result was truly flat and flavorless. (On a side note, the food was very good but the huge silverware and booths made me feel as if I were in the land of the giants. There was also high noise level as everything had a hard surface. Those weren't deal breakers but considering the service and cocktail we won't be returning.) Visited May 2010.
      * The Simpsons

      Wednesday, October 13, 2010

      Rum-ish Goodness: Captain's Blood and Jade

      It's pretty obvious that I haven't been cooking much lately. And what I've been cookin' ain't been new stuff.

      However, we have been trying new cocktails.

      What a hobby. Simply pour a few ingredients together in a different way and you can sample a brand new taste sensation with relatively little effort.

      So here are our latest discoveries.

      Captain's Blood
      Sounds tailor-made for Halloween, even if it isn't orange. Though it is  almost black. Almost.

      1-1/2 ounces dark rum
      1/4 ounce lime juice
      1/4 ounce simple syrup
      2 dashes Angostura Bitters

      Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker, add lots of ice, shake up well, and pour into chilled cocktail glasses. Garnish with a spiral of lemon peel.

      You wouldn't think that adding such small quantities of the other ingredients would change the rum so much. But they do. And it's also a lovely greenish color.

      1-1/2 ounces light rum
      1/2 teaspooon creme de menthe, green
      1/2 teaspoon Triple Sec
      1 tablespoon lime juice
      1 teaspoon simple syrup

      Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker, add lots of ice, shake up well, and pour into chilled cocktail glasses. Garnish with a slice of lime.

      When Is a Bagel Not Really a Bagel? When It's an Obwarzanek Krakowski .

      It's round, has a big hole in the center and is made of thick, chewy dough.

      But don't call it a bagel.
      Read it all at the WSJ.

      Wednesday, September 08, 2010

      Okra, Three Ways: Pickled, Stir-Fried, and Gumbo-ed

      Something else that flourishes in hot, dry weather is okra. Though looking out my window at the moment all I see is rain and gray clouds, courtesy of tropical storm Hermine, I will pass on these delicious sounding recipes that our CSA farmer sent out.


      3 CUPS WATER





      1/2 TSP SALT




      4 -- 6 CUPS CHOPPED OKRA


      Thursday, September 02, 2010

      Parmesan-Eggplant Crisps

      Our current eggplant glut reminded me of this recipe from Cooking Light 2000. In fact, in looking through my four Cooking Light cookbooks' indexes for this one, I realized that there are tons of eggplant and okra recipes in these books which include everything from the magazine for each year.

      This one is simply delicious.

      Parmesan-Eggplant Crisps

      1/4 cup fat-free mayonnaise [didn't have any, used regular]
      1 (3/4 pound) eggplant, cut crosswise into 24 slices
      1/2 cup crushed saltine crackers (about 12 crackers) [I didn't have any ... used breadcrumbs]
      1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan
      Cooking spray

      Combine crackers and cheese in a shallow dish.

      Spread about 1/2 teaspoon mayonnaise over both sides of eggplant slices, using a rubber spatula. As you spread the mayonnaise on a side, dredge it in the cracker-cheese mixture.

      Place eggplant in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray; chill 2 hours [I never remember to do this early enough to chill it ... it is great anyway].

      Preheat oven to 425°.

      Bake eggplant for 15 minutes; turn slices over; and bake an additional 5 minutes or until crisp. Yield: 4 servings.

      Thursday, August 26, 2010

      Freezing Eggplant

      One of the plants that thrives in hot, dry weather such as we've been having lately (105° anyone?), is eggplant.

      We have been getting generous portions from our CSA.

      Here is a link that we were given that has freezing instructions.

      Looking at that, I was inspired by the idea of baked or grilled eggplant ready to pull from the freezer.

      I preheated the oven to 450°, sliced the eggplant 1/2" thick, placed them in lightly oiled jellyroll pans, brushed them with olive oil and put them in to bake for 10 minutes per side (20 minutes total).

      When done, they were beautifully browned on one side and soft when poked with a fork. I layered them with waxed paper and put them in 1-pound batches into the freezer.

      This is especially handy in dealing with a glut since I love eggplant but have yet to persuade the rest of the family to share my delight. Tom doesn't mind it but no one else is very happy to see it show up.

      The Unseen Heroes: Organic Farmers

      Our CSA farmer has suffered greatly this year from terrible weather (too cold, then floods, then drought, then more floods ...), too few bees because of that cold weather, and now from squash beetles. Hearing about their struggles makes me appreciate the accomplishment it is to get in a good organic crop. Nature is out to get those plants before we do. Here is a sample from a recent update:
      As we told some of you at last Saturday's delivery we had to sacrifice the second crop of yellow squash, zucchini, and patty pan because the plague of squash bugs had gotten so bad after working so many hours manually killing them and removing the eggs. The nasty bugs were just about to migrate to the second crop of cantaloupe and watermelons. We could not allow that to happen as the cantaloupes and watermelons look good. The squash bugs ruined our cantaloupe and watermelons one year as we didn't think they would be affected by squash bugs, but found out they will destroy them as well as squash. So we used our propane burner tractor attachment and destroyed them all along with the eggs and nymphs. It took quite a long time and used a full 58 gallon tank of propane, but hopefully we have "stayed the plague" and saved our cantaloupe and watermelons. This is part of growing organic. We could have provided some beautiful squash if we were using conventional methods---just spray them with harmful pesticides, kill all of the bugs, and have squash. However, we are committed to organic only and will continue growing produce accordingly. We will plant a third crop of yellow squash, zucchini, patty pan, butternut, and acorn squash tomorrow. I am sure we didn't kill every squash bug, but I believe 98% of them so hopefully the third crop of all the squash will produce abundantly in the fall.
      I must say, though, that the crops we do receive have been the freshest and highest quality I have ever had since my parents' big gardening days. It is definitely worth the trouble.

      Thursday, August 19, 2010

      This Chips Bag May Break the Sound Barrier

      Frito-Lay makes a lot of noise marketing its Sun Chips snacks as "green." They are cooked with steam from solar energy, the message goes.

      But its latest effort—making the bags out of biodegradable plant material instead of plastic—is creating a different kind of racket. Chip eaters are griping about the loud crackling sounds the new bag makes. Some have compared it to a "revving motorcycle" and "glass breaking."

      It is louder than "the cockpit of my jet," said J. Scot Heathman, an Air Force pilot, in a video probing the issue that he posted on his blog under the headline "Potato Chip Technology That Destroys Your Hearing." Mr. Heathman tested the loudness using a RadioShack sound meter. He squeezed the bag and recorded a 95 decibel level. A bag of Tostitos Scoops chips (another Frito-Lay brand, in bags made from plastic) measured 77.
      There was a certain amount of validation (and amusement) in reading this Wall Street Journal article. I kid you not, you really can't hear yourself think when you are rustling around in this chips bag. Tom immediately began laughing and saying that some poor person at Frito Lay was going nuts now trying to dampen the sound. Looks as if he was right!

      Friday, July 23, 2010

      Something I Really Like - Pupcakes!

      Hannah had a gift certificate to Target and came home with Hello, Cupcake! and What's New, Cupcake? which she promptly proceeded to use. Luckily, she was provided with the perfect event as the vet where she works is having a goodbye party today for two vet techs who are going away to college.

      These were amazingly easy. Plus, they will taste as good as they look as Hannah eschewed the authors' cake mix and canned frosting suggestions and baked from scratch chocolate cupcakes to adorn with real buttercream frosting. Now that's how you do it!

      Wednesday, June 30, 2010

      Fruit Crisp

      I cobbled this together after experimenting with two different pie recipes in James Beard's American Cookery. It leaves a nice leeway for playing with various fruits and spices. I have used it for various fruit crisps featuring in turn, apples, peaches, and blueberries.

      Fruit Crisp

      Fruit Filling:
      4-5 cups of apples, peaches, berries, or other fruit, peeled and diced if necessary
      2 tablespoon flour
      1 teaspoon cinnamon (or other spice to coordinate with crisp topping)
      Juice of 1 lemon
      1/2 cup sugar

      Combine all ingredients and pile into a buttered pie pan.

      Crisp Topping:
      1/2 cup butter (melt)
      1 cup sugar
      3/4 cup flour
      1/4 teaspoon salt
      1 teaspoon cinnamon or 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg or other spices

      Combine all ingredients together well and crumble over top of fruit filling.

      Bake 30-40 minutes in a preheated 400 degree oven. (Note: be prepared to test fruit to see if it needs to bake longer. Apples, obviously, will take longer than soft fruit like peaches. You may need to bake as long as an hour to be sure the fruit in the middle is cooked.

      Tuesday, June 22, 2010

      Something I Really Like* - Tasty

      Truly a delicious potato chip, worth the extra money. Just enough salt, zipped (or is it zapped?) with just enough pepper on hand-made potato chips. One bag per week for the household makes sure we appreciate these savory bits.

      If you have a few extra bucks, then it is worth picking up a package of their most recent limited edition.

      Hoochey mama, that's a zesty chip! You can read the story behind the flavor here.

      Thank you Zapp's!

      *Something I really like is one of Dr. Gemma's regular segments on her podcast, which I thought I'd try to adapt as I have so much I'd like to share that I never can get to it. One bite at a time ... maybe I can do it.

      Wednesday, May 26, 2010

      Reviewing Dallas Food: Fireside Pies and Tiramisu from Cheesecake Royale Bakery

      Pulled from my birthday celebration post for those who don't read my main blog:

      Tiramisu from Cheesecake Royale
      Tom came home half an hour early, having left work an hour early to drive to the other side of White Rock Lake to Cheesecake Royale where, which despite what you might expect from the bakery's name, he was picking up "the best tiramisu in Dallas."

      You might think they would mention this on their website, but no. They are evidently hoping that the fact they even produce tiramisu will also be the best kept secret in Dallas. Anyway, it is truly amazing as is evidenced by the fact that we had it over ten years ago at an acquaintance's home who I no longer even recall by name. Wow. This bakery uses all fresh ingredients and starts from scratch each day. It shows. Delicious, creamy, not too sweet, and dripping a bit of fresh espresso from the lady fingers. So very good. So very much also as they sell it in a large plastic pan that is about 9x13".

      Fireside Pies
      Then we grabbed Kirsten (a college friend of Hannah's who is staying with us for a few weeks as she has begun working after graduating but needs to save up some deposit/rent money) and went to Fireside Pies on Henderson. I'd been curious about the quality of their pizza since they mention a wood burning oven and hand stretched dough.

      Hoochy mama, that's good pizza! They definitely encourage communal dining as diners are advised that pizzas are good to share between two to three people, as are the salads (which are gigantic). We tried Jimmy's Spicy Italian Sausage Pizza (with Scamorza & Roasted Red Onions) and the Peta Pie (Sonoma Goat Cheese, Balsamic Mustard Portobellas, Arugula, Roasted Red Peppers, Roasted Pinon Nuts & Charred Tomato Vinaigrette). Both were delicious with thin, oven baked crust and perfectly balanced flavor. The sausage pizza was definitely spicy while the Peta Pizza almost seemed as if it came with salad atop it which made it a bit difficult to eat but the balsamic element shone through and made the trouble worth it. We were all full with four pieces total left over. Tom and I indulged in an Italian beer on tap which was a flavorful lager that complemented the pizza perfectly.

      Truly Amazing Use of Flash ... And Food

      And then there was salsa is something that you really need to see at the home site to appreciate. It's short. Enjoy this land of luscious tomato trees, spicy jalapeño cacti and canopies of fresh cilantro where anything is possible.

      Thursday, May 13, 2010

      The Triple Threat: White Lady, White Spider, and Chelsea Sidecar

      It's all about the proportions and never more so than when making cocktails evidently. Perhaps as there are relatively few ingredients, one can taste the differences better.

      You may recall that, making good use of our Mr. Boston Official Bartender's Guide, Tom and I were enjoying the difference that a cocktail can make on the weekends. One of our favorites is the Chelsea Sidecar, which recipe I will repeat below for the sake of simple comparison. It has also become our favorite way to tease test bartenders. We have not yet come across one who knew the recipe or, even more sadly, even had a Mr. Boston book to look it up in. I have written the proportions down on a card to carry in my purse as inevitably I must give the waiter the recipe. At which time, it becomes a test of the waiter's ability to convey the information.

      Chelsea Sidecar
      1/2 oz. lemon juice
      3/4 oz. Triple Sec (we use Cointreau)
      3/4 oz. gin

      Shake with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass.
      Last Saturday, Tom came across the White Lady recipe and wondered if it wouldn't taste very similar as the ingredients are identical. Not so. It has much more of an "adult" flavor, if I might use that term. The gin is more prominent and it has a bit more bite. It was refreshing and very enjoyable. It might be my favorite of the three.

      White Lady
      2 oz. gin
      1 oz. Triple Sec (we use Cointreau)
      1/2 oz. lemon juice

      Shake with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass.
      With that successful experiment in mind, I made us a White Spider on Sunday. Notes showed we had made it before but neither of us could call it to mind. Again the same three ingredients, but with a bit of additional sugar to counter the large quantities of lemon juice. This was almost like a Gin Sour and Tom declared it to be the best of all.

      White Spider
      1 oz. gin
      1 oz. lemon juice
      1/2 oz. Triple Sec (we use Cointreau)
      1 tsp. Superfine Sugar or Simple Syrup

      Shake with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass.
      There you have it. Three ingredients mixed three different ways for three completely different taste sensations. The triple threat.

      Now Serving Hot Links ...

      ... from around the interwebs.

      Tuesday, May 11, 2010

      Lemon Cake

      This cake is from Betty Crocker's Cake Decorating. Following the tradition from when we were little, I got this book so the girls could choose whatever cake they wanted for their birthdays. Yes, I even made a Dinosaur Cake one year. It didn't look half bad either.

      The great thing about Betty Crocker cookbooks is that they really have been tested well so the recipes are foolproof. This cake is the Spring Flower Cake which has Yellow Layer Cake with Lemon Butter Frosting. Between the layers I used Lemon Filling from the Umbrella Shower Cake, which was similar to a lemon pie filling and quite deliciously tart. (Quite meaning "very" in the American sense, not the British usage ... which I found out a while back when listening to CraftLit means "so so." Language use is so interesting, isn't it?)

      Anyway, back to the recipe. All the above use of pieces from here and there was because I dislike White Mountain Frosting (a 7-minute boiled frosting that is similar to ... maybe melted marshmallows? ick!) which is what was called for in the Lemon Allegretti Cake that Tom chose. Also, it would have white cake layers which are all right, I suppose, but yellow are just as good and I didn't feel like separating eggs. Not a big deal, but just felt fiddly to me.

      So, there you are. All that considering took me several enjoyable days as I thought about options. I knew that Tom wouldn't care as long as he had a lemon cake.

      The verdict?

      Absolutely delicious and very lemony.

      Tom said that the lemon filling was too tart on the first day but felt it had calmed down by the second day. I didn't notice any calming down but loved the tartness on both days. Perhaps his expectations were different on the second day?

      The filling was rather loose and I would have added a bit more cornstarch or a bit less lemon juice perhaps so it was firmer between the layers. No matter what, make it the day before so it is cooled down in the fridge and as firm as possible.

      I must also admit that I completely missed the part where I was to split the cake layers so that the cake had four layers total. I think that would have made the cake more elegant and also spread the lemon "hit" more effectively throughout the cake. Ah, well. There's always next time.

      Am I right? Of course I am!

      Yellow Layer Cake
      2 cups all-purpose flour
      1-1/2 cups sugar
      1/2 cup butter, softened
      1 cup milk
      3-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
      1 teaspoon salt
      1 teaspoon vanilla
      3 eggs

      Heat oven to 350. Grease and flour 2 round 9" cake pans. Beat all ingredients in large bowl on medium speed, scraping bowl constantly, until blended, about 30 seconds. Beat on high speed, scraping bowl occasionally, 3 minutes. Divide batter between pans.

      Bake until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 30-35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans. Cool completely.

      Lemon Filling
      3/4 cup sugar
      3 tablespoons cornstarch
      1/4 teaspoon salt
      3/4 cup water
      1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
      1 tablespoon butter
      1/3 cup lemon juice
      2 drops yellow food color (I didn't use this)

      Mix sugar, cornstarch, and salt in saucepan. Stir in water gradually. cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir 5 minutes. Remove from heat; add lemon peel and butter. Stir in lemon juice and food color; cool. If filing is too soft, refrigerate until set.

      Lemon Butter Frosting
      6 cups powdered sugar
      1-1/2 cups butter, softened
      1/4 cup lemon juice

      Beat all ingredients on high speed until frosting is smooth and spreading consistency. If necessary, stir in additional lemon juice, 1 teaspoon at a time.

      Note: I downsized this since the recipe is to also fill a cake. I used 4 cups powdered sugar, 1 cup butter, and 3 tablespoons lemon juice. If you plan on decorating cake then you may want to make the entire amount.

      To Assemble
      Split cake to make 4 layers.

      Fill layers with Lemon Filling.

      Frost cake with Lemon Butter Frosting. If decorating, put extra frosting into cake decorating tube and swirl away!

      Thursday, April 29, 2010

      Listen My Children and You Shall Hear of a Colonial Drink That Brings Good Cheer: Raspberry Rum Shrub


      Isn't that a bush?

      Yes, unless you are talking about a refreshing drink from before sodas were the order of the day.

      Slow Food USA tells us:
      Shrub is a colonial-day drink whose name is derived from the Arabic word sharab, to drink. It is a concentrated syrup made from fruit, vinegar, and sugar that is traditionally mixed with water to create a refreshing drink that is simultaneously tart and sweet. In the nineteenth-century, the drink was often spiked brandy or rum. Ubiquitous in colonial times, the use of shrubs as a flavoring for tonic and sodas subsided with increasing industrial production of foods.
      Reading Eric Felton's entertaining and informative book, How's Your Drink?: Cocktails, Culture, and the Art of Drinking Well, I came across his recipe for a Raspberry Rum Shrub. I remembered having seen similar recipes as curiosities in old cookbooks and the vinegar was offputting to my mental palate. Until, that is, I remembered lemonade with its sweet-tart combination that was diluted by water and ice to make a refreshing summer drink.

      Ah ha!

      Suddenly a shrub beverage was recategorized mentally and I was interested. Especially when considering it as something that would stand up to dark rum.

      This was an easy recipe and yielded a lot of syrup. Felten points out, for those who do not want to make the syrup or who want different flavors, that Tait Farm Foods provides ready made shrub syrups in many flavors. They also have recipe booklets I noticed when stopping by their website which may come in handy when trying to figure out what to do with all this Raspberry Shrub syrup. Although, honestly, I like its flavor so well I can dip it out on a spoon. Mmmmm....

      I might add here that the Raspberry Rum Shrub, which we made with ginger ale, got two thumbs up.

      Here's the recipe for those who want to give it a try.

      Raspberry Rum Shrub
      1 ounce raspberry shrub syrup
      2 ounces dark rum
      4 ounces ginger ale or soda water

      Build with ice in a stemmed goblet (I used wine glasses), and stir. Garnish with fresh raspberries.

      Raspberry Shrub Syrup
      1 cup sugar
      1 cup water
      2 pints raspberries
      2 cups white wine vinegar

      Whisk water and sugar together at a boil. Reduce heat for a few minutes and add raspberries, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add vinegar and bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Strain, cool, and bottle. Keep refrigerated (even if the Founding Shrubbers didn't).

      (Recipe courtesy of Walter Staib, Chef of Philadelphia's City Taverns.)

      Friday, April 16, 2010

      Lomo de Cerdo en Chile Verde (Loin of Pork in Green Chile Sauce)

      My mother had been asking if I had Dad's green pork recipe copied down. Sadly no, but I am sure it's genesis was in Elisabeth Ortiz's original The Complete Book of Mexican Cooking. This is from waaay back in the day ... wait for it ... 1967. Yet it is fascinating to look at how authentic the results were that Ortiz communicated in her recipes using canned tomatillos and jalapenos. In fact, looking up the recipe, I was seized with the desire for green pork and also seized with curiosity about making it old-school Ortiz style.

      I remembered when I was in the store and saw a pork roast on sale. Then I ran all over the store picking up the ingredients. Turns out this is not actually the recipe my parents favored. (They used the recipe under this one which I may actually get around to sharing one of these days.) They never had access to nopalitos. I actually saw some and threw them in. Not that I could see any difference ... but I was in an experimental mood and going for matching the recipe's requirements.

      This was absolutely delicious. We scooped it into flour tortillas. Mmmmm ...

      These days pork is not what it was then and I'd use a pork shoulder, though my roast did very well. Also, my ... ahem ... handful of cilantro is actually an entire bunch. What can I say? I'm a fan.

      Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz did update her book (The New Complete Book of Mexican Cooking) and making this recipe made me curious as I am sure she now uses fresh tomatillos and the like. I have requested it from the library.

      Lomo de Cerdo en Chile Verde
      Loin of Pork in Green Chile Sauce

      2 tablespoons lard or oil
      1 large onion, finely chopped
      2 cloves garlic, chopped
      3 pounds boneless loin of pork, cut into 2-inch cubes
      2 10-ounce cans Mexican green tomatoes [tomatillos]
      Handful of fresh coriander [cilantro], chopped
      3 canned mild jalapeno chiles, cut into strips
      1 8-ounce can nopalitos (cactus pieces), rinsed well
      Freshly ground pepper

      Heat the lard or oil in a skillet, and saute the onion and garlic until limp. Drain, and place in the bottom of a heavy, flame-proof casserole that has a cover. Add the pork, tomatoes with all their liquid, coriander, chiles, and the nopalitos. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover; and simmer over a low heat until the pork can be pierced easily with a fork, or about 2 hours. Serves 6.

      Wednesday, March 31, 2010

      Thursday, March 25, 2010

      Cream Filled Oat Bars

      I really can't believe I never shared this cookie recipe before now. What brought it to mind was reading The Pioneer Woman's recipe for the same things. Hers have a different name and the recipe is slightly different but I'd bet they taste the same. They sure look the same. I'd show you her photo but I know she worked hard on photographing these and the process. Click through and see.

      I wasn't sure where I got this recipe, but I see the exact match from Betty Crocker.

      So simple and if you love lemon, you're gonna love these.

      Cream Filled Oat Bars

      Step 1: Filling
      14 ounces condensed milk
      2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
      1/4 cup lemon juice

      Mix until thickened. Reserve.

      Step 2: Crust
      1-1/4 cups flour
      1 cup quick or old-fashioned oats
      1/2 cup brown sugar
      1/2 cup butter, softened
      1/4 teaspoon salt
      1/4 teaspoon baking soda

      Mix until crumbly. Press half in greased 8” square pan. Bake 10 minutes at 375°.

      Spread filling over baked layer. Sprinkle remaining crumbs on top. Press gently into filling.

      Bake 20 minutes until center is set but soft. Cool completely. 20 bars.

      Thursday, March 18, 2010

      Wednesday, March 03, 2010

      CSA! CSA!

      (That's Community Supported Agriculture to you and me.)

      I still remember the first time I read about CSAs many years ago. The idea of purchasing a share or subscription of a farm's produce and in return receiving a box of seasonal, locally grown produce each week throughout the growing season was so appealing.

      I looked in vain, off and on, for such a set up in the Dallas area until a few weeks ago when I happened across a notice on the Dallas Morning News food blog pointing me to this notice that a local farmer was looking for subscribers for a CSA he was beginning.

      Exciting? Oh yeah! They are even providing blueberries. Blueberries!
      You will receive 6-15 different fruits and vegetables each week. All fruit and vegetables will be grown here on our farm (we may have to supplement our certified organic blueberries by picking from another blueberry farm close to us where absolutely no pesticides are used. Our blueberry bushes are still only 4 years old.) This supply will include 2 pints of blueberries each week plus one full flat (12 pints) during blueberry season. We will be planting peach, pear, plum, and apple trees for future fruit harvest.
      I wasted no time but signed up online and sent in my check that very day. I later received notice that I was in. Woohoo!

      I just got an email that sets up the pick up schedule and talks about the effects of our wacky weather on the planting. Somehow I didn't stop to think about the fact that I now will feel more connected to our weather just because I now know it will have a direct effect on the farm which I am now helping support. I like that though. Reading the email suddenly took me back to the days when my parents had a gigantic vegetable garden (GIGANTIC) that we weeded all summer long.
      ... have been so busy trying to finish all the spring transplanting from the small plug trays into the 2 inch cups, finishing onion planting in the fields "on mud beds", planting eggplant seeds, the 8 varieties of pepper seeds (5 heirloom varieties) and tomato seeds (one heirloom variety) in the small plug trays on warmer beds in the greenhouses. It is already time to begin planting squash, cucumber, watermelon, cantaloupe, Israel melon, and zucchini seeds in the greenhouses.
      Yep, we're going to have a connection to nature that I haven't experienced in some time, even though it will be vicarious. As well, I am going to be forced to vary our diet and try new varieties of fruit and vegetables ... also all to the good. I'm excited about this.

      Photos of our future produce pickups (fingers crossed for good weather).

      Thursday, February 11, 2010

      Blog Aid for Haiti Cookbook

      Bringing together some of the webs most luscious food bloggers, the book offers incredible recipes and photographs, making it a must-have cookbook for your pantry collection. ...

      100% of the Blog Aid for Haiti proceeds will be donated to Doctors Without Borders and the American Red Cross.

      Better yet? Both West Canadian Graphics AND are matching the dollar amount of proceeds raised up to $10,000. And, until February 12th, the Canadian government will match those funds. So, every dollar you spend will be matched and quadrupled. Great, holy mccoy.
      I have to say that most people giving money to help Haitians are not going to walk away with anything like this great looking cookbook. Read all about it here. I was vaguely aware of this but never stopped long enough to really take it in. Thanks to Bridget for bringing it into my full consciousness!

      Wednesday, January 20, 2010

      Easy Smoked Brisket

      This is one of Matt Martinez's shortcuts to achieving authentic flavor with less than usual work. I know that when I have used this technique it is universally acclaimed as delicious. It could hardly be any easier. I can't remember which of Martinez's cookbooks this came from at the moment but they are all very good.

      Smoked Brisket
      8-12 pound short, fat beef brisket
      Wood chips soaked for 1 hour

      Season untrimmed brisket if desired.

      Prepare charcoal grill so that charcoal is ash white. Place wood chips on coals. Grill until dark and crusty on both sides, 30-40 minutes, turning occasionally. Expect flare-ups, but allow meat to char.

      Bake in oven on a rack, covered, at 300° or 350° for 30-45 minutes per pound.

      Monday, January 18, 2010

      $10 Wine Hall of Fame

      For those who were intrigued by my review of The Wine Trials 2010 which focuses on inexpensive but delicious wines ... my friend Web has a heads-up to The Wine Curmudgeon's 2010 $10 Hall of Fame. Looks intriguing.

      Tuesday, January 12, 2010

      Nil By Mouth

      When Roger Ebert underwent surgery for his thyroid cancer, no one mentioned the possible side effects ... such as not being able to eat, drink, or speak. Most of us are aware that he can't speak but not so many knew about him being able to take no sustenance by mouth. He writes interestingly and also movingly here about not being able to eat or drink.
      When it comes to food, I don't have a gourmet's memory. I remember the kinds of foods I was raised to love. Chaz and I stayed once at Les Pres d'Eugenie, the inn of the famous Michel Guerard in Eugénie-les-Bains. We had certainly the best meal I have ever been served. I remember that, the room, the people at the other tables and our view in the photo, but I can no longer remember what I ate. It isn't hard-wired into my memory.

      Yet I could if I wanted to right now close my eyes and re-experience an entire meal at Steak 'n Shake, bite by bite in proper sequence, because I always ordered the same items and ate them according to the same ritual. It is there for me.

      Why We Serve Champagne Year-Round: Reviewing "The Wine Trials 2010"

      Several years ago one of my sisters-in-law introduced me to Domaine Ste. Michelle Cuvee Brut. It tasted delicious but, amazingly, cost only about $7.00 at that time. I began stocking it regularly since I'm a firm believer that champagne goes with everything and that everyone likes champagne. Plus it is so very festive and makes people feel extra special. This is a win-win. Gradually the price has risen to about $9 (less on sale) but there is no denying that it remains a fantastic deal and a delicious bottle of sparkling wine.

      Hence, you can understand my glee and the necessity of reading Tom the first three paragraphs of the latest review book I received, The Wine Trials 2010: The World's Bestselling Guide to Inexpensive Wines, with the 150 Winning Wines Under $15 from the Latest Vintages. (Yes, a long title, but you are never left in doubt as to what the book offers.)
      Dom Perignon, a $150 Champagne from France, and Domaine St. Michelle Cuvee Brut, a $12 sparkling wine from Washington State, are both made in the traditional Champagne method. Both wines are widely available at wine stores, liquor stores, and restaurants. Both are dry, with high acidity. The two bottle are more or less the same size and shape. So why are consumers willing to pay more than 12 times more for one than for the other?

      The most obvious explanation would be that, to most wine drinkers. the liquid inside the bottle of Dom Perignon tastes better than the liquid inside the bottle of Domaine St. Michelle -- if not 12 times better, then at least somewhat better. However, that doesn't seem to be the case. Between fall 2007 and spring 2008, we conducted an experiment serving these two sparkling wines head-to-head in five different blind tastings, with the bottles hidden inside brown paper bags. And 41 of 62 tasters -- about two thirds -- preferred the Domaine St. Michelle.

      In October 2009, we replicated the experiment on a smaller scale with newer releases of the two sparkling wines. This time, we served them to a group of professional chefs, certified sommeliers, and food writers, of which more than 70% preferred the humble $12 bottle to the famous $150 one. this time, we also threw in Veuve Clicquot, a popular $40 Champagne from the same luxury products group -- LVMH -- that makes Dom Perignon. More than 85% of the tasters preferred the Domaine Ste. Michelle to the Veuve.
      Of course, I feel even more justified than before. Add in the fact that I feel I am splurging if I spend $15 on a bottle of wine and you can see that The Wine Trials is clearly a book to which I was receptive.

      The first few chapters talk about wine critics, marketing, actual cost versus perceived values and such things. I was much more interested in the last part of the book which contains the 150 wines under $15 that beat bottles costing over $50 in brown-bag blind testings. Each has its own page, complete with a photo of the bottle, which discusses:
      • cost
      • type (Old World or New World, white or red, heavy or light)
      • country
      • vintage tasted
      • grapes
      • drink with (what foods it accompanies best)
      • website for the producer
      • commentary: this is sometimes about the type of wine or grapes, sometimes about the winery, and then always segues into the wine itself
      • nose (always in understandable terms)
      • mouth (again always in understandable terms) 
      • design: a critique of the label and/or bottle. This is the iffy part to me, especially when you consider that sometimes a vineyard that has several bottles featured in the book will receive scathing remarks in one review for something which is completely glossed over or even called "cute" in the very next review. I think that a simple comment when the label is goofy is enough and they were pretty picky about labels. That is coming from someone who is pretty picky herself about graphic design ... so lighten up gang.
      I definitely got a good feel from reading the reviews as to which wines I was interested in looking for and which would probably not appeal to my taste. This is an excellent resource and I recommend it to anyone who is more interested in good wine value and taste rather than impressing others by conspicuous consumption based solely on how much is spent on a bottle of wine.

      Note: as I mentioned this is a review book. I'd recommend it even if I bought it myself.

      Saturday, January 09, 2010

      Oh, Gosh!

      While you're snuggled up reading on these very cold winter nights that are overtaking us, you might enjoy sipping this delicious sour which Hannah picked out to try over Christmas vacation. It is a close relation to our other favorite, the Chelsea Sidecar, as it uses the same relationship for the measurements. Think of it as a Rum Margarita. That's the impression we were left with and it was definitely enjoyed by all who tried it.

      • We used Cointreau which is our favorite orange liqueur.
      • We treat the recipe below as a double (which we then split). If you check the Chelsea Sidecar recipe you'll see that those amounts are halved and we find them perfectly adequate for one cocktail.
      Oh, Gosh!
      1-1/2 ounces light rum
      1-1/2 ounces Triple Sec
      1 ounce lime juice

      Shake with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.