Friday, November 21, 2008


Here is the plan for Thanksgiving Dinner:


We brine it, which makes it soooo juicy! I think we will smoke it on Darrell's smoker. It really is tasty this way.

Mashed potatoes.

I use Yukon Gold potatoes, lots of butter, sour cream, salt, and pepper. I make mounds of them.

Cornbread stuffing.

I use only cornbread--no white bread. And I try to get it baked as dry as I can--lots of edges and corners. I guess it can't really be called stuffing, since it isn't stuffed into the turkey. I add just a little bit of onion, celery, spices and chicken stock. I like it to be cooked almost dry. No mackiness!

Candied yams.

I haven't really gotten this right in the past. I like to have still firm yams with a little butter and brown sugar carmelized on them. I usually end up with yams a little too mushy for my liking.

Sauteed green beans.

I blanch or steam the green beans and then saute them with olive oil, shallots and sesame seeds. They get a little burnt and taste almost sweet.


Ok. I cheat! I can't make gravy to save my life. I use the gravy that comes in the packets that say, "Just add water." It's my only cheat and it's worth it.


Mmmm! Hot, out of the oven, with melty butter. Oh, if only I could have one now.

Raspberry Pretzel Salad.

My mom always makes seven-layer jello salad, but I don't have the skills to do that. So I make the Raspberry Pretzel Salad. My brother-in-law Nathan says this isn't a salad. I don't get it, though. There is raspberries, jello, cream cheese, whipped cream, all on a pretzel crust. He also says that Cookie Salad isn't a salad. Whatever. (I'll have to post the recipe for Cookie Salad one day.)

Cranberry Sauce.

I never liked this as a kid. Then I liked it when I grew up. I always used the canned cranberry sauce, thinking making it from scratch would be hard. Last year I made it for the first time. E.Z. And it tasted so much better.

Pumpkin Pie.

Duh! It isn't Thanksgiving without Pumpkin Pie. I always make the recipe on the back of the Libby can. It's the best one out there! I will probably use the canned pumpkin even though I still have at least 4 more cups of pumpkin puree. It was runnier than the canned pumpkin and I don't want a Pumpkin Pie disaster.

Apple Pie.

I will make the recipe I made last year. This year I will follow the recipe, though. I didn't add enough sugar to last year's and it needed it. The crust was divine! It took almost a week to finish the pie and the crust never got the least bit soggy.

Whipped Cream.

I whip my own. Maybe I'll whip two batches and put either cinnamon or caramel in the batch for the apple pie. That sounds really evil! (I'll tell you what else is evil...that you really can't google image whipped cream without seeing things your eyes weren't meant to see. This is the reason there is no photo.)

Cranberry Juice.

I love to drink cranberry juice for Thanksgiving. With a little Sprite for added zing.

A really long nap.

I think I will get one on Friday after Thanksgiving. After I go to the gym to work off some of the calories above. (And the majority of photos on google images for "nap" are kittens sleeping. I am not a kitten and don't find kittens sleeping as cute as some people.)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

It seems I'm always late!

The month of October had one of my FAV.O.RITE. ingredients!

I was SOOO excited--thanks Julie!

I made four, count them, four recipes.

The first was pumpkin puree. It was a ton of work, but it was fun. I don't know if I will do it again, unless I get a spankin' deal on sugar pie pumpkins.

The second was pumpkin seeds. I was a little disappointed with them. I think it was because the seeds are so much smaller in the pie pumpkins than in the gigantic carving pumpkins. They were a good treat, though.

The third was pumpkin ice cream. The recipe is basically a custard with pumpkin puree (see above) added. My ice cream maker wasn't working properly, so it only froze part way. I took it to Lucinda's and we ate some. It is very rich, so we couldn't eat much. Did I mention it was rich?

The fourth was pumpkin bread. Since I've made the recipe a million times, I added a streusel topping, making it even more dessert-ish. I was delish and I finished the last of it this morning for breakfast. (And, yes, I think all breakfasts should include dessert.)

I really enjoyed my yummy pumpkin recipes. I still have 4 more cups of frozen puree. I will have to think of more delicious foods to make.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Better late than late for dinner!

This month, or rather, LAST month, the family cooking club had the challenge of making a different recipe of burgers. Any kind of burger. Turkey, veggie, ham (as in hamburger). Whatever.

I decided right away that I wanted to do a stuffed burger.

And I waited. Until today.

Here is my result:

And this is what Darrell's looked like when it was cut in half:

Doesn't the bun look delish? Yeah. I made 'em. The recipe will follow the burger recipe.

I used 80% lean hamburger (they really should call it 20% FAT), since it really makes the juiciest burgers. I had about 1.75 pounds. I added an egg, some Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper. I formed 8 really big and skinny patties. For Darrell's, I used grated cheese and bacon bits, sprinkled some in the middle and slapped two patties together, sealing well. For mind, I added some cream cheese. I made 2 burgers for each of us, but froze one set for later.

Darrell grilled over mesquite lump charcoal until done. (No pressing down on the patties while cooking, or a mess will ensue).

Here's the recipe for the buns:

1 cup milk plus 1 tablespoon, divided
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter, plus more for buttering bowl
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg, yolk and white divided
2 and 1/4 teaspoon yeast (I use SAF)
3 cups flour

In a microwave safe small bowl, combine 1 cup milk, sugar and butter. Heat until butter just melts and mixture is warm but not hot. If it is hot, wait until it is lukewarm to proceed. In a large bowl, combine salt, egg white, yeast, and flour-one cup at a time, to form a soft dough. (In a separate small bowl, combine remaining egg yolk and tablespoon of milk). Knead dough briefly, about three minutes. Butter same bowl, replace dough, cover and let rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled. (At this point, you could punch the dough down and refrigerate it for up to 24 hours, or until ready to proceed.) Shape dough into 10 separate round buns. You can roll them out and cut them with a biscuit cutter, or you can simply shape them into 10 round buns. Let rise on a greased baking sheet for about 45 minutes, or until light and risen. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Brush buns with egg yolk mixture. Bake for about 15-18 minutes, or until nicely browned.

They tasted yummy and I look forward to eating these again!

Friday, August 8, 2008


Well, I am late in posting for July's family food club and have no good excuse. This month I was the one to choose our food to make. I chose enchiladas. I have wanted to learn how to make homemade enchilada sauce and figured this was a good opportunity. The recipe was so simple and it didn't take any longer than the one we have always made using the McCormick package.

Here's the recipe:
3 TBSP oil
1 TBSP flour
1/4 cup New Mexican chili powder
16 oz chicken stock
10 oz tomato puree
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp cumin

In a saucepan, heat the oil, add flour and cook, whisking, for 1 minute. Add chili powder and cook 30 seconds. Stir in stock, tomato puree, oregano and cumin. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. Season with salt.

I then heated corn tortillas in oil and layered in napkins, like Mom always does. My tortillas, however, did not stick like Mom's did in her post. I used shredded chicken, minced onion and "Mexican" cheese (Safeway brand, so it is really cheddar/jack combo) and rolled it all up. I had put a little bit of sauce in the bottom of my casserole pan, so they wouldn't stick and then more on top of the little rolls. I topped with more of my Mexican cheese. Baked them in the oven for 30 minutes at 350.

Here is what they looked like:

They tasted good, but I think Julie's sauce sounds better. That is more of what I was looking for.

I can't wait for August's challenge. Jennilyn is in charge and already knows.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Cooking with Pineapple

My family decided to start a cooking club, so once a month we get an ingredient, a type of food or recipe that we all have to make and post about it. It was my idea, and I decided that we would choose the food to cook from oldest to youngest. So that means, my mom was first. She decided we would all cook with pineapple--fresh, canned, juice, whole....whatever we wanted, but it had to be pineapple.

I decided to grill fresh pineapple and make a pineapple chicken salad.
First, I cut the pineapple into wedges, sprinkled them with lime juice and grilled them for about 4 minutes each side.
I originally was going to use a recipe I got off Food Network's website, but I decided to modify it.
I grilled chicken with salt and pepper. Actually, Darrell grilled the chicken.
Since he doesn't like fruit, I made brown rice for him to eat with his chicken. I decided to add some rice to my salad, so I started with brown rice, added my chicken, snap peas, jicama, mandarin oranges, sliced almonds and a honey-lime vinaigrette that I made with honey, lime, rice vinegar, salt and pepper. I thought it was good, but I decided that the dressing and the pineapple didn't quite match. Here are some photos!

Sunday, April 6, 2008


Baking is truly Chemistry in action. While there is an art to baking-creating something new and delicious with flavors-it truly is a science. I may have forgotten that today. In my quest to make Peanut Butter Fudge Brownies, I combined 2 recipes which were very different, into one. The results are still unknown, as there is still 10 minutes of baking time left. However, looking through the glass door, has me concerned. Here is the recipe. I will update later with the results.
1/2 cup Butter
2 oz bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter (I used extra crunchy)
1 Tbsp vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
Melt butter and chocolate. Add sugars, peanut butter, vanilla and eggs. Mix thoroughly. Add flour, soda and salt. Mix to combine. Pour into oiled 8" square pan. Top with miniature Reese's peanut butter cups (found with the chocolate chips). Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A little slice of heaven...

Yes, it's that time again. Daring Baker post-a-thon. This month I actually completed my baking endeavor a full week before the deadline. We were making a layer cake and were given a lot of latitude in how exactly to make it. The basic recipe is for a white cake with a hint of lemon. It sounded divine, but I always crave chocolate, so I decided right away to make a devilish chocolate cake. But, realizing that I would probably be making my cake around Easter, I went for the original recipe so that I could use fresh berries. Here is a brief story-board of my attempt:

This is all the ingredients, right before mixing them in a bowl with my hand mixer. After reading a few comments about making sure everything got mixed well together, I decided to use the hand mixer instead of my Kitchen Aid. It worked really well and I got to use a new stainless steel bowl from Ikea. The only real problem I had was in separating the eggs. I have always done this very easily, using 2 methods. I either pour the egg back and forth between the two halves of the egg shell or "sift" the egg through my fingers. This time, I had 3 egg yolks break, so I went through almost a dozen eggs for the full recipe. I was going to make vanilla ice cream with the yolks, but decided that was just a little too ambitious. Some other day, though. I really liked the slight lemon flavor that the cake had. It was very light, airy and tender. But it held together well. I let the cake cool overnight, only covered by a towel instead of plastic wrap--I don't know if that was part of the ease in cutting it for the layers.

Here are the ingredients for the Buttercream:

I used the Kitchen Aid to make the Buttercream and it worked splendidly. I wasn't concerned with watching it, so I don't know if it curdled or not. I just know that if it did, it came together nicely. It could have used slightly more flavor--either more lemon or more vanilla. I juiced 2 lemons and got 1/2 cup of juice, so I made a small glass of home made lemonade with the extra quarter cup. What a nice treat!

I sliced the 2 layers in half and filled with buttercream, followed by sliced strawberries. I finished with buttercream on top and sides and whole berries on the top. I shared cake with friends at Easter dinner and then tried to finish the rest over the next few days. The cake stayed delicious, but by Thursday the berries were well past their prime and I was unable to finish the remaining 2-3 slices. Here is a photo of the cake, just prior to serving:

Sunday, February 3, 2008

I think I figured out how to add photos...cross your fingers!

Clearly, you have to add the photos in the opposite order you want to view them. This is how you would assemble the free-form tartlets, in reverse!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Daring Baker, Round 2

Believe it or not (and I opt for not), it is again Daring Baker time. This month’s challenge is Lemon Meringue Pie. Since I am not a fan of lemon curd or meringue, I was not particularly excited about this month’s challenge. But I decided I would not let this stop me.
I started the recipe Sunday, the 27th, by baking the tartlet crusts and making the filling. The crust was super easy to make—I used my Cuisinart as I find it so much easier than a pastry blender. I rolled out and cut six 5-inch circles of dough and baked them until they were just browned along the edges. The recipe does not call for pricking the pastry dough, so I was a little nervous since all pre-baked crusts I have made in the past have risen a little. I ended up nervous for no reason—they turned out nicely. I think I may have rolled the dough a little too thin, but they look good nonetheless.
The filling was definitely not like any lemon curd I have made in the past. I ordinarily use it as a sauce, and so it doesn’t need to “gel” as much as the filling for the pie needs to. I just wasn’t expecting it to be SO thick. It made it very difficult to temper the egg yolks. I was very grateful my husband wasn’t too far away so I could yell for help when trying to pour, scrape out and stir all at once. I let the filling and crusts sit overnight (yes, the filling was in the fridge) so that I could finish them Monday. I didn’t want them to go soggy and couldn’t deliver them until Monday. Since neither me nor my husband like the desserts, they found homes elsewhere. It was either that or the garbage. And I try not to waste food.
I found the meringue very easy to make. I just used my Kitchen Aid to whip them up. Perhaps since last month’s challenge also included meringue, I wasn’t too afraid of making it at the last minute. It turned out perfectly.
So now for the assembly: I opted for 3 tartlets. First the crust. Next the curd. And finally the meringue. The curd, although I thought too thick last night, didn’t seem to mound as highly as I was hoping. The meringue made up for it. I spooned it on, thick; then created extra peaks by touching the spoon to the top. I was pretty pleased with the way they looked. I baked them for only half the recommended time. They were done on the outside in only 7 minutes and I don’t want them to be burned. I am assuming they will be quite undercooked inside due to baking for only half the time and having cold filling.
In a twist of events, I decided to not give them away. Oh, don’t worry…I did not eat them. I tried the curd and it tasted way too egg-y for my taste and it appears that I scrambled some of the yolks. The curd/lemon custard recipe was by far the most difficult one I have made—and I have made many custards and find them easy. They usually aren’t as thick, making them easier to mix and I can put them through a sieve to eliminate any lumps. I was afraid I wouldn’t have any curd if I tried the sieve method.
Overall, I am glad I didn’t promise the dessert to any friends. I would have been embarrassed to serve it to them. But, since I didn’t really have to purchase any ingredients, I guess it was a good learning experience. I’m crossing my fingers to bake something I really enjoy in February.

P.S. I still haven't figured out how to post photos. :( I am going to do this sometime tonight.

Here's the recipe:

Lemon Meringue Pie
(from "Wanda's Pie in the Sky" by Wanda Beaver)
Daring Bakers Challenge #15: January 2008

Host: Jen (Canadian Baker)

Posting Date: Monday January 28, 2008 (Note: The challenge recipe needs to remain a secret until the post date. We all post on the same day. You may post as soon as it is January 28th where you are.)

Challenge Requirements:
1. Pie flavor must be lemon

Allowed Modifications:
1. You may make either the pie or the Lemon Meringue Free Form Tartlets (recipe follows Lemon Meringue Pie)
2. You can compliment your pie with a sauce. For example, you can serve it with raspberry or white chocolate sauce.
3. You can use a piping bag to apply the meringue if you like
4. Decoration is up to you - lemon zest or fruit are totally acceptable.
5. High altitude modifications are allowed as long as you stay "true" to the recipe.
6. Conversion for certain dietary restrictions like gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan etc. is allowed.
7. Recipe ingredient exception allowed only if allergy or an ingredient not available or cost prohibitive in your region.

Lemon Meringue Pie
Makes one 10-inch (25 cm) pie

For the Crust:
3/4 cup (180 mL) cold butter; cut into ½-inch (1.2 cm) pieces
2 cups (475 mL) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (60 mL) granulated sugar
1/4 tsp (1.2 mL) salt
1/3 cup (80 mL) ice water

For the Filling:
2 cups (475 mL) water
1 cup (240 mL) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (120 mL) cornstarch
5 egg yolks, beaten
1/4 cup (60 mL) butter
3/4 cup (180 mL) fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp (15 mL) lemon zest
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract

For the Meringue:
5 egg whites, room temperature
1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) cream of tartar
1/4 tsp (1.2 mL) salt
1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) vanilla extract
3/4 cup (180 mL) granulated sugar

To Make the Crust:
Make sure all ingredients are as cold as possible. Using a food processor or pastry cutter and a large bowl, combine the butter, flour, sugar and salt.Process or cut in until the mixture resembles coarse meal and begins to clump together. Sprinkle with water, let rest 30 seconds and then either process very briefly or cut in with about 15 strokes of the pastry cutter, just until the dough begins to stick together and come away from the sides of the bowl. Turn onto a lightly floured work surface and press together to form a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 20 minutes.

Allow the dough to warm slightly to room temperature if it is too hard to roll. On a lightly floured board (or countertop) roll the disk to a thickness of 1/8 inch (.3 cm). Cut a circle about 2 inches (5 cm) larger than the pie plate and transfer the pastry into the plate by folding it in half or by rolling it onto the rolling pin. Turn the pastry under, leaving an edge that hangs over the plate about 1/2 inch (1.2 cm). Flute decoratively. Chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Line the crust with foil and fill with metal pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden. Cool completely before filling.

To Make the Filling:
Bring the water to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan. Remove from the heat and let rest 5 minutes. Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together. Add the mixture gradually to the hot water, whisking until completely incorporated. Return to the heat and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. The mixture will be very thick. Add about 1 cup (240 mL) of the hot mixture to the beaten egg yolks, whisking until smooth. Whisking vigorously, add the warmed yolks to the pot and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in butter until incorporated. Add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla, stirring until combined. Pour into the prepared crust. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming on the surface, and cool to room temperature.

To Make the Meringue:
Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC). Using an electric mixer beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar, salt and vanilla extract until soft peaks form. Add the sugar gradually, beating until it forms stiff, glossy peaks. Pile onto the cooled pie, bringing the meringue all the way over to the edge of the crust to seal it completely. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden. Cool on a rack. Serve within 6 hours to avoid a soggy crust.

Daring Bakers Extra Challenge: Free-Style Lemon Tartlets
(from "Ripe for Dessert" by David Lebovitz)

Prepare the recipe as above but complete the following steps:

To roll out tartlet dough, slice the dough into 6 pieces. On lightly floured surface, roll each circle of dough into a 5 inch disk. Stack the disks, separated by pieces of plastic wrap, on a plate, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

To bake the dough, position rack in oven to the centre of oven and preheat to 350ºF (180ºC). Place the disks of dough, evenly spaced, on a baking sheet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. Cool completely.

To finish tartlets, first place oven rack in the upper third of the oven and increase heat to 425ºF. Divide the lemon filling equally among the disks, mounding it in the centre and leaving a 1-inch border all the way around. Spoon the meringue decoratively over each tartlet, right to the edges, in dramatic swirling peaks.

Return tartlets to oven and bake for about 5 minutes, until the meringue is golden brown.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Late Yule Log Posting

You know how they say, Better Late Than Never? Well, I think they are right.

I made the Yule Log December 25th and it turned out delicious! Everyone loved the way it looked, even before the buttercream frosting.

I'm hoping I can post photos, as I haven't quite figured that out yet. Here goes:

So I only get error messages...I will try later!