Sunday, May 31, 2009

Quick Lunchbox Cake

My Sweetie-Pi niece, Laura, emailed me to say she was following my blog and was enjoying the recipes here and learning a little more about our family. Hearing that from her I decided to post a recipe that my grandmother made as an after school snack for me and my brothers.

This recipe has been in the family archives for over 40 years. It's not sophisticated by any means, as my grandmother lived simply and humbly her entire life. The food she prepared was plain, but it was comforting and satisfying. She was of an age where canned goods and TV dinners were incredible culinary events. Her old, oak ice box sat in the hall of her woodshed, holding paint cans and brushes, while her new-fangled Philco refrigerator took up way too much in her tiny, tiny kitchen.

This is a no frills, no thrills (except for the chocolate chips) , no spice, not even vanilla recipe.

Quick Lunchbox Cake

2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup soft butter
1 1-pound can fruit cocktail, undrained

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate pieces
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350F. Generously grease a 13x9 inch pan and set aside.

Combine all ingredients, except chocolate bits and nuts, in a large mixer bowl. Blend well at lowest speed, then two minutes at medium speed. Pour batter into pan and sprinkle with chocolate pieces and nuts.

Bake 35-40 minutes. Cool thoroughly before slicing into serving pieces.

Grins. Told you it was quick!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Whole Wheat Banana Bread

I love banana bread, a really nutty, banana-y, banana bread, that is, warm with melting butter, and aroma that fills you up even before you take your first nibble.

This is my favorite banana bread yet. When I first saw the recipe I went passed it, because one I'm not a whole wheat fan, and second, I just couldn't see it in a banana bread. So I kept trying all the other recipes that promised this was the best; many were very good, but still not what I was hoping for.

Every now and again I get conscious-stricken and buy whole wheat flour and then have it left over (I'm not a whole wheat fan--I only buy it in the 2 pound bags, unlike the 20 pound bags of white flour I buy ever couple of weeks or so).

As luck would have it, I had some overripe bananas. I pulled out my King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary cookbook and discovered a slice of banana bread heaven. The whole wheat adds just a little extra nuttiness that white flour lacks, and perhaps it's just my imagination, but the crumb seems finer. Without the use of any other flavoring except vanilla, the banana is the top note flavor in this bread.

I made this for a breakfast treat this morning, leaving out the optional nuts as Sweetie-Pi has a sensitivity. As I was busy writing up this post, he came and said to me, "I don't know what it is, but my bowels are really working well this morning. (You know you're old when your conversations are comprised of bowel movements and surgeries).

I gave him my best innocent and sympathetic look. "Really?" I said. "You don't suppose it was something you ate, do you?"

Whole Wheat Banana Bread
King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cup mashed ripe bananas (2 or 3 bananas)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F. Generously grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan, set aside.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, cream together the butter and eggs. Add the eggs, bananas and vanilla, and beat to combine.

In a separate bowl, stir together the dry ingredients. Blend the liquid ingredients into the dry, adding the walnuts if you are using them. Stir only until the all the dry ingredients are wet (this is a quick bread and doesn't need a lot of beating).

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for about 60 minutes.

Cooks Notes: I do slightly alter the preparation methods, based on another cookbook. I mash the bananas ahead of time, adding less than 1/4 cup of the required sugar, and the vanilla. I give it all a good stir and let it sit. The flavors meld and enrich and heighten the banana flavor. Then when the recipe calls for the banana, I just add it as directed and continue on.

Cooks Tip: I purchased a couple of antique, silver-plated butter knives at an antiques shop. I loved the shape, but they were discolored from oxidation; however, since they were only $2.00, I brought them home to try a tip I read long ago to polish just such small pieces. Use toothpaste and a soft cloth! (No, I don't think it matters if it has fluoride or not, or extra whitening power.) Worked like a charm. The mild abrasive in the toothpaste removed months of neglect and brought back a nice patina to old silverware. Love my $2.00 finds.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Nutmeg Cake

This is a simple, old-fashioned, single flavor cake. You are going to have to love the flavor of nutmeg to like this, because the heady aroma and nutmeg flavor permeate this cake.

I found this recipe on the site and have made it several times. The frosting only makes enough to cover the tops of the two layers (if you opt to follow the directions and make a layer cake), or if you make a bundt cake as I did, (grins) you will have probably too much frosting and will have to slather it on. I went for slathering. I like a bundt cake; sometimes a layer cake looks like it's too much. Two slices of a bundt cake, however, well, now that looks dainty and delicate. The other comment I want to make about the frosting is that the directions say to let it cool. Nay, nay, oh contraire, the frosting sets up fast, almost fudgy in consistency, and does not spread easily or well when cool. Defy the rules. Spread the frosting when it's warm. Rebellion in the kitchen!

This cake tastes better the second day and is still moist. We enjoy it all hours of the day and night. Cake for breakfast anyone?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Sweet & Sour Pork

One of my favorite meals that my mother made was a sweet and sour pork dish that she called "puck-eye." With what seemed like only a few ingredients she was able to make a dinner that my brothers and I have longed remembered and reminisce about. This is not her recipe, but it is one that I've had and loved for over thirty years and to me, makes what's served in restaurants pale in comparison. The vegetables are tender crisp, the pork is marinated and separately stir fried, and the sauce has a very good balance of sweet and sour. For me, there is no better recipe than this for sweet and sour pork. Sweetie-Pi agrees.

There are a number of steps to this recipe, and typical with Chinese food, most of the time is spent in preparation. It is probably not a weekday meal, but I can virtually guarantee that if you like sweet and sour, you'll love this!

Sweet and Sour Pork
(copied from a Sunset cookbook back in the early 70's, and moved with me countless times)

The Vegetables
1 medium sized onion, cut in 1-inch chunks
1 cup sliced celery (sliced diagonally about 1/4 inch thick)
2 carrots, sliced diagonally about 1/8 inch thick)
1-inch piece ginger root, peeled and cut into thin slivers, optional
1 thin cucumber, sliced 1/8 inch thick (I omit this!)
1 green pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch squares (I used a green and a red for color)
1 can (about 5 oz) bamboo shoots, drained
2 tablespoons sesame seed, lightly toasted in frying pan (omitted because Sweetie-Pi has a sensitivity to seeds)

Sweet and Sour Sauce: Mix 1/2 cup brown sugar, 2 teaspoons cornstarch, 1/2 cup cider vinegar, 1 1/2 cup pineapple juice and 2 tablespoons soy sauce in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring until sauce thickens and becomes clear.

Marinade: Combine 1/2 cup soy sauce, 2 tablespoons sherry, 4 teaspoons sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt (which I omit because of the soy sauce), 3 cloves minced garlic and a crushed 1-inch piece of fresh ginger root.

For the pork: 3 pounds lean pork butt, cut in 1-inch cubes and about 1 cup of water.. Place pork in pan with cold water. Cover and bring to boil and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain. Pour marinade over cooled pork. Marinate 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain off. Dredge pork in 6 tablespoons of cornstarch.

Heat oil in large frying pan until very hot (390F). Fry pork a few cubes at a time until crisp and brown. (This happens very quickly.) Remove and drain on paper towels. Keep warm.

Pour off all but 3 or 4 tablespoons of the oil from pan. Reheat until very hot.

Toss in onion, celery carrots and ginger. Stir fry vigorously one minute. Add pepper and fry one minute more being careful not to overcook.

Return pork to pan and pour in warm sweet and sour sauce. Stir until thoroughly hot. Serve at once.

**Cooks Notes ~ Tonight this seemed particularly salty to me, so I would use a low sodium soy sauce. I used a dry sherry and I thought the flavor it imparted was too strong, so I think a sweet sherry might be a better.

I had read somewhere that in order to be considered a good cook, you only needed to know how to make a dozen really good recipes. This is one of mine. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Strawberry Sauce

It was definitely time to use up all those strawberries that had jumped into my grocery cart earlier this week, and what better way than to make a simple and delicious strawberry topping

The first time I saw this recipe, I discounted it, and found a recipe that required more ingredients and more effort. That recipe did not live up to its imagined potential.

Ordinarily, I make the simplest strawberry topping, (a little sugar and allow the berries to macerate) but I was looking for something a little more. This simple recipe, with five ingredients (or is it four because we don't count salt as an ingredient?) is just what I was looking for.

Picture thick, sweet, rich with bright strawberry flavor, slowly cascading down ice cream or waffles or pound cake....this is it!

I took pictures of this last evening but they came out too dark. So, this afternoon on my lunch break, I made myself another bowl of ice cream with this topping and found a patch of light.

I did this only for you because I want you to have the very best. (grins)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Pasta with Chicken & Pepperoni

As there are only the two of us, cooking usually means leftovers for an additional two or three meals. I like leftovers and sometimes will eat the previous night's dinner for the next morning's breakfast, but after the second meal I am searching for ideas for a "new" and tasty meal. That's what happened after I made the Chicken Marsala: we had an abundance of noodles and chicken.

I went back to my Chicken Recipes Step by Step cookbook and found this. Sweetie-Pi and I have had this once before and we enjoyed it, and it certainly worked very well in giving new life to our leftovers.

The measurements are in metric, but because this is cooking and not baking, I didn't bother to recalculate the math. I just eyeballed what I thought would be enough pasta and pepperoni, but followed the sauce recipe exactly, because of the balance of flavors.

Pasta with Chicken & Pepperoni
Chicken Recipes Step by Step
The Confident Cooking Promise of Success

1/2 barbecued chicken (from the deli, your own, or in my case, plain, pan fried chicken)
500 grams rotini (1 pound)
50 grams pepperoni (about 2 ounces or less than 1/4 cup)
1 medium green pepper, sliced in thin strips
1 tablespoon oil
1 medium onion, sliced
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup chicken stock
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons cream
Salt and pepper

Cut chicken into strips, set aside.

Heat water for pasta and cook according to package directions.

In a large fry pan, heat the oil and add the pepperoni, onion and green pepper. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes or until the vegetables are crisp tender.

Stir in the all remaining ingredients, except chicken, and simmer gently for two minutes.

Add chicken and heat through, stirring the mixture occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Place the pasta in a large serving bowl and pour the chicken and sauce over. Stir to combine.

Serve immediately.

When I made this, I had two boneless, skinless chicken thighs remaining, which I cut up. I sliced up about a dozen of those pepperonis used for pizza topping. I had leftover pasta from the night before so I did what a lot of restaurants do: I just boiled a pot of water, turned off the heat, threw my pasta in for a couple of minutes to heat it through and drained.

This dish doesn't have what I'd describe as a big flavor (probably partly because I didn't use barbecued chicken). The strongest flavor was the pepperoni, which gave it a nice spicy flavor that wasn't bold. For a family that fluffs their meal out with a salad and bread, the sauce would probably cover enough pasta to serve four people, but the pasta will not be swimming in sauce.

This is not the best meal I have ever eaten, however, it is far from the worst. I will turn to this recipe again and again because of its simplicity, good flavor, and quick preparation.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Chicken Marsala

I really enjoy Chicken Marsala and will frequently order it in a restaurant. I don't know what it is, but lately I've been terribly disappointed in the flavor of the dishes I've been served. They just don't seem to taste Marsala-y enough for me. And I swear, one restaurant substituted white wine for the Marsala, a big no-no if you're craving a particular flavor!

I've tried a couple of home recipes; they've been just okay, but not worth repeating. I was beginning to think that perhaps this is a dish best prepared and served in a fine restaurant. my little $2.99 cookbook, I found this keeper. This recipe does not call for mushrooms or onions that I traditionally associate with this dish, but it doesn't need it. The person(s) who developed this recipe pared the ingredients down to the essence of what makes this a delicious and repeatable Chicken Marsala.

Chicken Marsala
By The Confident Cooking Promise of Success

4 chicken breasts
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 cups chicken stock (14 oz can works just fine here)
1/3 cup Marsala wine (not the cooking wine)
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cream
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Heat a heavy frying pan and add the oil, then add the chicken. Cook the chicken over medium heat until cooked through and golden in appearance. Remove the chicken from the pan, place on a dish, cover with aluminum foil, and keep warm. Pour off any fat that remains in the pan.

Add the butter and garlic, stirring over medium heat for about two minutes. Try to scape up any little chicken bits for added flavor. Add the chicken stock and Marsala; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half, about five minutes.

In the meantime, combine the flour, cream and Worcestershire in a small bowl to make a slurry; stir out any lumps. Once the liquid in the fry pan has been reduced, carefully stir in the slurry, and continue stirring over medium heat until the sauce boils and thickens.

Taste sauce for seasoning, and adjust as necessary. Serve hot, poured over chicken.

Very good with broad noodles.

Strawberry Streusel Muffins

The grocery store I go to has long tables stacked with tall rows of quart cartons of luscious looking, ruby red strawberries. They are right at the door as I walk in and they are the first thing I see. I cannot not see them. They beckon me; they sing their siren song. I just cannot pass them by. I draw closer, take a whiff and it's too late. At least one, more likely two, cartons of strawberries jump into my grocery cart and follow me home. That's the honest truth. Really. Well, maybe I've slightly exaggerated. Only about the siren song; strawberries really don't sing. Do they?

And then I have the most delicious task of finding a way to use them. I scanned Recipezaar and found Strawberry Sweetheart Streusel Muffins and they sounded just perfect for breakfast.

After the first bite, I knew these were a keeper. While the muffins are simple and lovely on their own, you must make the strawberry butter. Oh. My. Goodness. Sweet strawberry goodness in every mouthful. It's definitely the strawberry butter that brings these muffins right over the moon.

Makes me glad for lazy Sunday mornings and hot coffee.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Elegant Cream of Tomato Soup

We're having a cool, spring rain; it's drizzly outside and has been for most of the week. The house feels damp. Our five cats are clamoring to go outside; they come up, stare me straight in the face and howl. You'd think they were being chased by mad dogs. If I pretend not see them, they claw at my leg, and the volume of their plaintive cries increases. Somehow they have deemed it my personal responsibility to make the sun shine again so they may frolic and romp in the new green grass and and daffodils. I tell them to see their Sweetie-Pi. Everyone pretends to ignore me.

**sigh** This is not what I had in mind when I wished I were a sun goddess.

I needed something warm and comforting, something that would make me feel pampered. I needed this Flemish Cream of Tomato Soup. Oooh, so smooth and velvety and creamy good. I still love the tomato soup with the familiar red label, don't get me wrong, but this, this is like the difference between lightening and lightening bug.

Cream of Tomato Soup
from Everyone Eats Well in Belgium Cookbook
by Ruth Van Waerebeek with Maria Robbins

5 tablespoons butter, divided
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 carrot peeled, shredded
1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, with their juices
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt to taste
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 1/2 to 4 cups chicken broth (two 14.5 oz cans)
3/4 cup light or whipping cream
2 to 4 tablespoons Madeira or Cognac (or more to taste!)
Black pepper, to taste

In a large pot, melt two tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally until the onion is transparent and the carrot is soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, sugar, cayenne, and good pinch of salt. Simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Let this mixture cool slightly and then puree either in a blender, with an immersion blender, food mill, or food processor. Set aside.

Melt the remaining three tablespoons butter in the soup kettle over low heat. Add the flour, stirring constantly until smooth. Gradually add the broth, stirring constantly with a whisk. Do not be alarmed if you have a floury mass. Continue to stir, stir, stir, adding the broth in increments. Eventually the flour will loosen into a beautiful thick white sauce. Still whisking, allow the sauce to boil up to cook off any floury taste.

Remove the soup from the sauce from the heat. Add the tomato mixture and whisk. At this point you can let the soup sit until just before serving or you can cool and refrigerate and serve the next day.

To serve, reheat the soup, but do not allow it to boil. Stir in the cream and Madeira (Cognac). Taste for seasoning, adjusting to please you.

If the soup needs to be reheated again, be careful not to bring it to a boil, as it does very unpleasant things to the cream!

Cook's Notes: I use more butter than called for, probably twice as much, for the first step.

Really, this soup is excellent without the cream or the alcohol, but I make this using Cognac, because that's what I have on hand. I enjoy the flavor it imparts; a little goes a long ways, so I start with a tablespoon, sample it, to see if I think I'd like to add a bit more. I've never made it with Madeira, but I'll bet that's nice, too.

So, I brought out a beautiful bowl, and served myself two big scoopfuls. I decorated with fresh chive and bits of diced tomato. I take a silken mouthful and look out my kitchen window past the rain, past the gray clouds. I cannot hear the kitty babies pining for sunshine. I am lost in my own reverie with a bowl of elegant cream of tomato soup to sustain me.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Stack of Pumpkin Pancakes

I saw this recipe on Kristen's Whatcha Eatin' and I knew that I had to have them now! It was rainy and damp here again this morning, and the warm, autumnal spices seemed so right.

I read all the ingredients, had everything on hand. I was a little nervous about the whole wheat as it's not one of my favorite flavors, but considering how much white flour gets consumed in this house, I decided it's about time to make some small, healthier choices. I also liked the idea that the recipe called for applesauce, which means less oil. (Change is easier when done in small increments, don't you think?)

I tasted the batter, decided that it wasn't spicy enough, and increased the spices to 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon and 1 teaspoon nutmeg. I didn't increase the clove as sometimes clove can be overpowering. The balance worked perfectly for us.

And you can see the result. Golden orange pancakes of pure delight. The wheat flavor was an under note, with the pumpkin and spices taking center stage. Ole Sweetie-Pi just loved these, and I have to agree.

A delicious, healthier choice pancake recipe and one we shall certainly enjoy again and again. Picture shows a stack of six for the purposes of this photograph, which was later divided between the two of us, with melted butter and syrup. (Served with a side of bacon, not shown.) LOL!!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Chocolate Zucchini Brownies

My wagon has been dragging this week. It must have been the dreary weather we had earlier in the week that has sapped my energy and made me so lethargic.

Time for some chocolate to perk things up a little!

I didn't want a layer cake; didn't feel like cookies. I wasn't sure what I wanted, only what I didn't. I saw down with a cookbook that I haven't used yet, The Amish Cook, Recollections and Recipes from an Old Order Amish Family by Elizabeth Coblentz with Kevin Williams. I flipped to the index, went to chocolate, and of the nine chocolate recipes listed, these zucchini brownies caught my eye. Ordinarily I'd give a recipe like this a quick pass as I can't imagine a vegetable with chocolate, but I had zucchini left over from my wheat germ and zucchini bread, so why not give it a try?

Oh my goodness! If you like moist chocolate cake, you'll love this. No way, no how can you taste the zucchini, but the quality it imparts is it's superb moistness, without being what I would term fudgey.

The directions call for the batter to be baked in a 10" x 15" baking sheet, (which is why I surmise this recipe is called a brownie) but I don't have one that size, so I baked the batter in two 8" x 8" baking pans, which made two small cakes. I like the result so much, I'll do it this way again, and freeze the other small cake for a future use. Perfect for me and Ole Sweetie-Pi.

Chocolate Zucchini Brownies

4 eggs
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups shredded zucchini
1 cup chopped nuts

Shred the zucchini and set aside. Generously grease a 10" x 15" jelly roll pan (or use a baking dish and watch for doneness)

In a large mixing bowl combine the eggs, oil and sugar; beat well.

In a separate bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and cocoa.

Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Stir just to combine. Add the vanilla, zucchini and nuts to the batter and mix thoroughly. The batter will be thick.

Spread the batter into your jelly roll pan (or baking dish). Bake for 30 minutes or until done (a toothpick poked in the center will come out clean).

Cool. Frost with vanilla frosting. I used my favorite butter cream.

So good! Simple and delicious!

Zucchini on Foodista

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

No Name Chicken (or Pork) Dish

Hmmm...believe it or not I do have some limits on the amount of fat, cholesterol, or starch I can consume in one sitting. It's true. However....

During my child bearing years (I hope that is a delicate way to express this) there were times when my closest friend and I would need something just creaking with carbs and fat. (My arteries are sclerosing as I write this, but I do this for you!)

My friend received a copy of this recipe from her sister without a title, so we don't know the actual name. We've always just called it "Chicken Dish" or "Pork Dish" ( if we were using boneless pork chops). The phone would ring; I'd answer, and she would say just two words, "Chicken dish!" and I would say, "I'll be right there!" Sometimes I'd stop to pick up a cheap (sorry, I mean inexpensive) bottle of white wine. She would prepare this; I would watch. And then the two of us would eat unladylike mountains of sauce covered chicken and mashed potatoes, toast the day, and groan in bloated satisfaction.

She makes it far better than I ever could; I have no idea what her secret is, and I've stood over her and watched her make this numerous times so I know the recipe hasn't been altered (as some cooks do when they don't want to share their signature dinner). I'm going to give you the recipe as she gave it to me. I think part of it is that her dashes of this and that are far more generous than what I perceive a dash to be. The recipe calls for small amounts of butter, but I distinctly recall her using maybe half a stick at a time. It's one of those recipes where you kind of have to taste as you go along. One of the joys of cooking, I think.

Just let me leave you with this caveat; I think there is not a lot of real food value in this dish. It is extremely high in fat, sodium, and all else that is not good for you. But if you are in dire need of carbs to get you through the day (or the week), this will more than suffice. And as I used to say to my friend, "I'm going to push my car home just to burn off some of these calories."

No Name Chicken (or Pork) Dish

Mix 1 cup of flour, 1 teaspoon seasoning salt, and black pepper in a plate or dish. Dip the chicken (6-8, however many you are feeding or how hungry you are) in the flour mixture. Set aside.

Heat a skillet with vegetable oil (I think she used a half a stick of butter here with a little oil). Fry chicken until browned on both sides. Remove chicken to dish, set aside.

Slice and cut into bite-sized pieces one onion, one red pepper, one green pepper. Put in the saute pan with two tablespoons of butter (again I think she probably used half a stick here), 2 tablespoons of wine. Saute until tender. Remove from heat.

In a separate bowl, combine 1 can of cream of mushroom, one-half of a 16-ounce container of sour cream, 1 can of milk, 1 teaspoon wine, half a can of French fried onions, chopped mushrooms (I just used a pint container), 1/2 teaspoon sweet basil, dash of celery salt, dash of season salt. Mix together with a whisk.

Combine the sauteed vegetables with the sauce mixture.

Place the chicken in a 9"x13" baking dish. Pour the sauce over the top. Crumble the remaining canned French fried onions over the sauce. Bake at 350 F for approximately 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

When done remove the chicken and put on a platter. Add the remaining half of sour cream to the sauce mixture' serve separately.

Scoop generous amounts of sauce over the chicken and heaps of creamy mashed potatoes made with real butter and cream. Swear you will never eat this much food again.

The day will be infinitely brighter.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Frosted Orange Rolls from the Lion House

The first time I made these orange rolls was this past Easter. Unfortunately, their presentation wasn't the best, and no amount of turning them to get their best side improved their appearance or my temperament and I decided not to post. So, this is my second attempt, and alas, my skill at rolling them them for a beautiful presentation hasn't improved, but I'm posting away.

I selected the four prettiest rolls for you; the other 14 rolls seemed to have a mind of their own, more so than these four, rising in all manner of disrespectful direction and size. Grins. Oh, well.

Regardless of their appearance, these rolls are light and fluffy and without question the single best breakfast roll I have ever made. I used two mineolas which probably yielded more orange zest than two regular sized oranges, as well as the mineola juice. The fresh citrusy flavor and aroma just filled my senses. As the rolls were baking, Ole Sweetie-Pi couldn't find enough reasons to walk through the kitchen to catch a whiff. I barely had spooned on the frosting and he was there waiting for me to offer him the first hot, gooey roll. I gladly obliged him, but I had beaten him to the first bite though. I ate one while I was frosting the rest!

These rolls take some time to put together; I spent about four hours this morning beginning with pulling out the first bowl to taking the first warm, drippy frosting, orange-filled, fragrant bite. It was totally worth the effort, and no question, this recipe is a a keeper.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Wheat Germ Zucchini Bread

Many of my fellow bloggers are posting about healthy food choices and healthier cooking. I won't say I've succumbed to peer pressure, but let's say this is a nod to a healthier quick bread recipe.

My grandmother was really big on healthy cooking. She used to subscribe to magazines about organic gardening and bought any number of cookbooks for heart healthy recipes, saving your eyesight, healthy brain, and just about every other organ, I think.

One of the things I remember about her is that she always had wheat germ in her refrigerator. What I don't remember is how she used it. I bought it, then discovered I didn't know what to do with it except sprinkle it on yogurt (and I'm almost positive my grandmother never ate yogurt in her entire life; it would've been considered "foreigner" food and that would have been the end of that).

Anyway, so I've had this jar of wheat germ in my fridge for longer than I want to admit. I was reading my Best Recipes from the Backs of Boxes, Bottles, Cans and Jars cookbook when this recipe leaped out at me. Ah ha!

This bread is interesting. Nice mild flavor (unlike my other zucchini bread recipe which has an assertive cinnamon flavor). This bread also has texture, kind of crumbly, but not so much that you can't spread softened butter on it. I like it. I feel righteous. I like that, too! I'm pretty sure that I can now run faster and jump higher than I could before. I'm not sure why I want to do that.

Wheat Germ Zucchini Bread

Preheat oven to 350F for metal baking pans; 325F for glass pans.
Grease and flour two 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" x 2 1/2" loaf pans.

1 1/4 cups wheat germ, regular (I presume they mean not the honey flavored)
3 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup chopped nuts
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2/3 cup cooking oil
3 cups (about 3 medium-sized) zucchini, grated

In a medium bowl, combine the wheat germ, flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nuts.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs until light colored and fluffy. Add the sugar, vanilla and oil; beat well.

Stir in the zucchini.

Gradually stir in the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, until just combined. Divide the batter between the two pans. Place in preheated oven.

Bake for about 1 hour or until a pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 to 10 minutes before turning out onto a rack to finish cooling.

Apricot Chicken

I was at Border's bookstore a little while back. Ole Sweetie-Pi headed to the Transportation section (he's a train brain, crazy mad over model and prototype steam trains) and naturally I head to the cookbook section. We have an agreement. I don't mention how many train related items he has and he doesn't breath one word about my cookbooks. It seems to work. Grins.

Anyway, I also checked out the discount section, and I saw a spinning rack of $2.99 cookbooks. My heart thumped wildly at the possibilities. There were maybe 10 different titles, soft covered, about the size and thickness of a high quality magazine. One that caught my eye was Chicken Recipes Step by Step , no author listed, but published by Bay Publishers in Australia. I open the covers, peruse the pictures first (do you do that, too?) and then scanned the ingredient list of half a dozen recipes to make sure the recipes didn't contain ingredients that I'd never find in my little city. A quick scan revealed that the recipes were not gourmet quality but every single recipe seemed simple enough to do on a hectic work night and tasty enough to be satisfying. Home cooking at its simple best, I decided.

And that's when I noticed that the weights were all in metric. I have never been good at math, and metrics just throw me off entirely. But this is cooking (as opposed to baking which must have precise measurement conversion for the baked good to come out well), so I bought the books and did the best I could with the math.

Apricot Chicken

1.5 kg chicken thighs (a little over 3 pounds)
1 tablespoon oil
120 g dried apricots (about 1/4 pound, or 1/2 cup) cut into strips **
1 1/2 cups apricot nectar (12 oz can)
40 g packet French onion soup mix (I just used a Lipton's packet, didn't measure)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley

Trim the chicken of excess fat and sinew.

Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Heat the oil in a good sized pan and add the chicken. Cook the chicken, in batches if necessary, over medium high head until the chicken is browned. Remove chicken from pan and drain on paper towels. Discard any remaining oil or fat.

Return the chicken to the pan and all the remaining ingredients except the parsley. Mix well, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered for about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally until the chicken is tender and cooked through and the sauce is slightly thickened.

Remove pan from heat and stir in the parsley.

**You can also use a large can of apricots in heavy syrup if you like.

This dish does not have what I would classify as a "big, in-your-mouth" flavor, but it's simple, very easy and delicious. I added a couple of sprinkles of dehydrated garlic pieces, and that was a nice addition, I think. You could probably add a little green or red pepper, but beyond that I probably won't tinker too much with the recipe. Sweetie-Pi made yummy noises, got seconds.

This one goes in our keeper file.