Sunday, October 21, 2007

Pride & Joy

Ok, so I'm kind of a dork about kitchen stuff.

I don't get really excited about fancy gadgety things. I do, however, get VERY excited about workhorse-type tools. I love to cook - but I'm not very speedy & I make a serious mess. So items that improve my efficiency in the kitchen are a big deal.

And if they happen to have the added bonus of looking good...? SOLD!

With that in Kitchen Aid stand mixer has gotten a bit of an upgrade. While it was simply lovely on its own - powerful, efficient & easy to clean - now, it is also a thing of


I may not cook quite like my hero, Alton Brown - but there's no reason I can't be just as sassy while making the attempt.

P.S. I just added a new link to Fridgewatcher. I think it's absolutely fascinating, your mileage may vary...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Chapter Three - You say tomato & I say...Roasted Tomato!

Finally, here is the last chapter. I know you all (hi mom!) have been hanging on my every word.

My mom used to roast tomatoes a lot when we were kids. She'd take a regular tomato & slice it up - add a pinch of this & that (in her house, "this & that" also equals garlic salt & basil) & throw them in the oven. Being on the receiving end of some plum tomatoes (also from Aunt Phyllis & Uncle Jeff) I thought I'd do the same.

But someone I know does not like tomatoes. He eats them as sauce or ketchup - but on his sandwich, no way. And my fresh salsa...*sigh* I notice he lets his chip get some juice on it, but steers away from most of the bits & pieces.

Because I knew I could not keep all these tomatoes in a decent raw state for very long, I asked this someone how he'd feel if I cooked them. "They taste like pizza!" I say enthusiastically. He looks at me suspiciously & says he'll try. That's all I can hope for I guess.

And away we go...

Plum tomatoes - halved
olive oil
salt, pepper, garlic salt (or granulated garlic), dried basil
grated cheese

Pretty simple stuff here.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Place the tomato halves cut side up in a pyrex baking dish (on a sheet, they'll roll around a lot).
Sprinkle the halves with a bit of olive oil, then salt & pepper, garlic salt (or granulated) & basil.
Then cover each half with grated cheese.

Pop these little devils in the oven & hope for the best! Honestly, there isn't much need for hope because this isn't exactly difficult. But if you take a few good ingredients & do something you hadn't thought of before - with delicious results - well, that's as close to magic as I can get you!

Anyway, my little to-mah-toes were in for around 20 minutes - give or take 5. They were just as lovely as I remembered & they really do taste like pizza.

And yes, Will did eat a couple. I don't think he's going to be begging for me to make them again - but they were soooo tasty, I'm going to do it anyway. ;)

P.S. Please don't make my tomatoes suffer because of my awful pictures. I am not good at this part! You simply would not believe how many pictures I take just to come up with 3 that actually have SOMETHING in focus. It's not always what I want in focus, but I can't really be too picky at that point.
Pretend it's art.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Chapter Two – And then there were BEETS!

The beets came from Will’s Aunt & Uncle’s really big garden just outside of Albany.

As excited as I was, I had no idea what to do with them until his cousin told me to roast them like potatoes. Roasted beets!?!? How very sophisticated that sounded! Especially to someone like me who is easily impressed.

(And just so you all know – I keep typing beAts. Ummm…yeah.)

I’ve had plenty of beets in my day. Just open the can! We always ate them dressed with oil & vinegar. Tasty, but now…it seemed mundane. If it doesn’t to you, by all means, give it a try – just a little olive oil, red wine vinegar & a pinch of this & that. (In my world, “this & that” equals garlic salt & basil.)

But this time there would be no can. This time? This time there would be roasting.

After a good soaking (beets are dirty!), I trimmed off the greens. Aunt Phyllis did tell me that I could cook the greens but they were looking a bit wilty. So I nixed that for now – there was plenty of excitement already!

While the oven was getting itself up to 400, I got to the peeling & cubing. (Look how pretty they are!)

Olive oil, salt & pepper were added & then because I can’t leave well enough alone…a few shakes of a bouquet garni herb blend. Why? Well, I really don’t know. For some reason, I was feeling very European about the beets. DON’T LAUGH.

Then I covered the dish tightly with foil & stuffed them in the oven. After 45 minutes or so, I uncovered them but they stayed in for about another half hour.

The verdict…Will loved the beets. Loved them! He kept telling me how good they were. I desperately wanted to love the beets. I kept eating them & thinking “this will be the bite where I love the beets.” That didn’t so much happen.

The beets were just Ok. I think that I may have overstepped with herb sprinkling – but it seemed so harmless at the time. They had a bit of a bitterness that I couldn’t account for otherwise.

On the other hand, they did have a great deal of sweetness – kind of like sweet potatoes - which I am going to try to play off of next time. Yes, there will be a next time. I didn’t hate the beets – I just don’t think I did them any justice. I am going to look for some recipes – or I may treat them more like sweet potatoes rather than regular ones. I promise I will keep you all posted.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Roasted Veggies – An Adventure in Three Chapters

Hi everyone! (Or just Mom!) I’m back!

I haven’t been here in awhile. I am always cooking something new or good (or both new AND good!) but it seemed like I would take a bunch of pictures & then not feel like posting anything. The process here is a bit tedious – but I think I’ve figured a way around that so hopefully I’ll make this all regular or something.

Anyway, this roasting of was done on different nights with different vegetables. As far as cooking goes, they are all pretty similar but I am excited about them for different reasons.

Soooo...there will be 3 different posts - kind of like a mini-series! I really know how to turn up the excitement - don't I??? Wheeeeee!

First up – String Beans…

This has become my new favorite way to eat string beans. The fabulous thing about it is that the beans don’t have to be the freshest to come out tasting wonderful.

Does anyone else leave produce in their refrigerator a little too long? Can't be just me...can it? Noooooooo! I refuse to believe that.

So let's just pretend then, that you are rummaging around, looking for something else to go with your teriyaki pork loin when suddenly...GASP! THERE IS A BAG OF STRING BEANS!

You vaguely remember purchasing this bag of string beans & you are sure when you made that purchase, they were lovely. But you have since forgotten about them & they are looking a bit…well…peak’ed.

Well, I can save your string beans. YES I CAN. Now that may seem like a fantastic claim - but it is true. Or mostly true.

Actually, Cooks Illustrated can save your string beans. Just like they saved roasting. Sounds unconventional, doesn't it? It is. And we like that around here.

So here you go...

1 lb. of string beans - cleaned
1 T olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Line a cookie sheet with foil (this is really just to help with cleanup).
Cook the beans for 10 minutes - then flip the beans and cook for another 10.

Ummm...that's it. I SWEAR THIS IS REALLY GOOD!

They are going to look kind of shrivelly - but they are supposed to. And they are going to taste quite different than you are used to. Sweeter & a bit nutty. Very interesting.

I have noticed that sometimes they come out a bit on the crunchy side & others they are just, well cooked. And sometimes – you get them both ways in the same batch.

I would imagine it will vary a bit depending on the state of your beans to begin with. Either way, they are quite lovely.

The other thing that's pretty cool is that you can still make string beans this way even when it is no longer string bean season! The roasting brings out their natural sweetness. I'm even going to attempt this later in the season with frozen ones. I promise to let you know how that goes.

The magazine gave a few different options for topping these if you want to be all fancy. And they did sound me. But there is another member of my household & oftentimes, as tasty as something may sound TO ME, this other person (who shall remain nameless) will make squidgey faces.

So my beans remain plain. :) They are still fabulous! But if anyone is interested - leave me a comment & I'll post the fanciness just for you!

Stay tuned for Chapter 2! BEETS! (Oh yeah, NOW you are excited! Hee!)

Saturday, August 11, 2007


So I finally made some banana muffins. And I'm glad I waited to blog about this batch because the recipe involves mini chocolate chips! How fun!

This is another goodie from Taste of Home - but specifically the Taste of Home Baking edition. (Fabulous stuff in there - someday I'll tell you about my lemon blueberry biscuits...)

Anyway, the bananas were ready to roll, extra-ordinarily ripe even & while sometimes that makes the baked good taste a little bitter it didn't have that affect this time. This time...there were chocolate chips. :)

So here's the recipe...

You will need:
1 egg
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup sugar
3 medium ripe bananas (mashed)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats (I've used quick-cooking too!)
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, beat egg, oil & sugar until smooth.
(Action shot!!!)

Stir in the bananas.

In another bowl, combine flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder & salt.

Stir dry ingredients into wet until just moistened.

Stir in chocolate chips.

Fill greased muffin cups three-quarters full.

Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

(If you use a bigger muffin pan like I did, they may need another minute or 2.)

Cool in the pan for 5 minutes before removing from the pan to a rack.

Yields 1 dozen regular muffins or 6 large ones

Now look how wonderful they are! They taste just as wonderful! This recipe is definitely going into the repetoire. I left the house for a bit after they were done & when I got back, Will said "you know, those muffins are good." HA!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

As promised...

This is seriously a fantastic dessert. People go simply batty & it's probably one of the easiest things I have ever made.

It's an ice cream cake...made out of ice cream sandwiches. Yes, another recipe that is not really a recipe - but you will thank me!

Of course, credit must be given to someone and this time it is the Taste of Home cookbook. Taste of Home is one of those magazines that relies mostly on home cooks to submit their own recipes. Sometimes the stuff sounds absolutely ghastly...other times, you get ice cream cake.

You will need...

Ice cream sandwiches
Cool Whip (approx. 12 oz)
fudge sauce
& something crunchy for in between.

Ready for the tough stuff?

Put a layer of sandwiches on the bottom of the dish. Cut whatever you need to make them fit without any big gaps.

Next, spread half of the Cool Whip over the sandwiches.

Sprinkle your crunchy stuff.

Spread fudge sauce over crunchy stuff.

Make another layer of ice cream sandwiches.

Cover with last of Cool Whip.

Decorate & stick in the freezer. Overnight is perfect - if that's not possible, at least try to give yourself 4 hours for it to set up.

Now, the recipe says to use 19 sandwiches for a 13x9 pan - this particular time, I made a smaller version soooo....I'm not sure how many you'll need - but if you have some leftover, is that really a problem?

Also, you have to work fast. The sandwiches melt very quickly & getting them out of their paper wrappers isn't as easy as you might think. It's a sticky process. Keep extra sandwiches in the freezer until you need them or you will have a real problem - especially when you are trying to cut them to fit.

For crunchy stuff, I've used many different things - nuts, praline topping, toffee bits & mini M&Ms - basically, whatever makes you happy. Have at it!

Now, I will confess that because I was documenting this for y'all, I followed the directions from the recipe for the order of the layers. The recipe wants your crunchies on top of the fudge layer.

I won't be doing THAT again because the cake split in half right between the crunchies & the top layer of sandwiches - there was nothing sticky in between! Follow my sequence as written here & your layers will stick together nicely.

Oh & I'm only telling you this because my pictures don't follow my written instructions.

Also, there aren't nearly enough pictures of this one. Sorry!

I got home from the grocery store & knew I had to move fast in order to give the cake time to set before I had to bring it somewhere. By the time I realized that I had promised to tell y'all about this, I had nearly the whole cake done.

But this isn't exactly a complicated gourmet construction. It's ice cream sandwiches. Now I want to say that this is a fantastic cake for a kiddie party. It would be. But I've only ever made it for adults & you would not believe the reactions I get. People love this damn cake.

Oh & don't be afraid to ad lib! If you prefer carmel sauce, use carmel. If you want to smash up cookies for your crunchy layer, smash away! Just make it. I'm telling you! Nothing could be easier!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Absent no longer!

I'm not even sure how many of you noticed but I haven't posted in several weeks! I took pictures of 2 different recipes - but then, I wasn't really happy with either one. So fajitas & banana muffins will have to wait. (Probably not long because there are some seriously ready bananas on my counter as we speak!)

But I have something new & wonderful instead! It's a recipe that I have made several times & they are always fantastic - plus, I get to show you the most favorite thing in my kitchen! My Kitchen Aid's the big'un...The Professional 6. Doesn't that sound ominous? hee!

Look! There she is!!!
Anyway...the food! Sun-dried Tomato Biscotti...How fantastic does that sound? So fantastic that you simply cannot wait for me to tell you more? Yay!

First, credit where it is due - Sweet Maria's Italian Cookie Tray. What a cookbook! These are more of an appetizer - but most of the book is traditional Italian cookies. I have made quite a few of them for my own holiday trays. Once I figure out how to be an Amazon affiliate (as well if it's even worthwhile), I will post links for you to buy your very own copy - which you really should have if you like to bake.

Now here we go with the recipe...

Sun-dried Tomato Biscotti
(yields about 25 cookies)

1 stick of butter (softened)
1 Tablespoon of sugar
3 eggs
1 3/4 cups of flour
1/2 cup grated romano cheese
2 garlic cloves (minced)
2 Tablespoons fresh basil (chopped)
1 Tablespoon fresh parsley (chopped)
(if you only have dried herbs, simply substitute TEASPOON for tablespoon)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup dried sun-dried tomatoes (chopped)
(not the ones packed in oil)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter & sugar until blended.
Add eggs & mix well.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, cheese, garlic, herbs, salt, baking powder & tomatoes.
Mix with a wooden spoon until well blended.

Add flour mixture to butter mixture & mix on low speed until just blended.


Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface & knead just enough to blend ingredients.

Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces & shape each into a loaf about 12 inches long.

Place loaves on a (she says parchment-lined - I lightly grease instead) cookie sheet about 3-inches apart.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

When you remove them from the oven, transfer the loaves to a wire rack to cool.

Now here's the key to biscotti - the 2nd baking...

When the loaves are cool, transfer them to a cutting board & slice on a diagonal (sort of!) into 1/2-inch slices.

Place the slices in a single layer back on the cookie sheet & return them to the oven for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned.

That's it! I cannot properly explain to you how phenomenal your kitchen smells when you are making these. And you can see how gorgeous they look!

That would be Will's cue to laugh at me as he does whenever I get excited about how good the food looks. I do get a little excited...but you have to admit...they do look damn good. hee!

Serve these little lovelies with wine, cheese, olives etc. as a nice little antipasto & your dinner guests will be impressed!

So that's what I've got for today! I think it was a very good recipe to break the dry spell with so I am rather pleased with myself right now.

Also, check back soon because I am going to make something today that isn't quite a recipe but you simply will not believe! Easy, delicious & I promise you - if you make it, everyone you serve it to will ask how you did it. ;)