Friday, December 30, 2016

Sugar Cookie Bake-Off

Since moving to West Palm Beach, our old stand-by sugar cookie recipe just hasn't seemed to work the way it used to, so this holiday season we tried a new one as well, one that had received a lot of high reviews online. The idea was to have the kids rate which one was better. Unfortunately, it wasn't an easy decision; everyone had a different opinion! 

I preferred the taste of our old recipe, yet liked the fact that the new one held it's shape better (which is a good quality for cut-out Christmas cookies). Others preferred the taste of the new one better, but liked the softer texture of the old one. Oh well, I guess we may have to do this experiment again sometime!

New one on the left - holds shape better. Old one on the right - softer texture. Both taste great.

Sugar Cookies from Our Best Bites (the "new" recipe)

1 cup real butter (no substitutions!) at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg (make sure to use a large or extra large egg)
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract (or other flavor of your choice, like vanilla)
3 cups flour, lightly spooned into measuring cups and leveled (don’t scoop it!)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add in egg and extract and mix to incorporate.

In a separate bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt. Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until completely combined. Refrigerate for at least one hour.

When you’re ready to roll out dough lightly sprinkle flour onto your work surface and roll out dough with a rolling pin. Transfer to cookie sheet and bake at 350° for 8-12 minutes.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Microwave Caramels

Microwave Caramels

1/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of sea salt, optional
1/4 cup chopped pecans, optional

Combine butter, sugar, corn syrup and milk in a 2-quart glass bowl. Microwave for 3 minutes, then stir. Microwave for 2 minutes, stir. Microwave for 2 more minutes, stir and add vanilla (and salt and nuts if desired). Pour into a buttered 8" square pan and chill for 20 minutes. Cut with a plastic knife.

These were actually pretty good. I don't think I took any pictures, but we tried rolling a piece of this caramel into a ball, sticking it on a pecan and drizzling it with melted chocolate and it made a delicious mini turtle. It was to see if this caramel recipe would work for making turtles that I actually tried it. (I just don't have success with caramels needing a candy thermometer.) I think it will, but we ran out of time to test that theory this year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Dad's Grilled Salmon

I'll have to make this some day to get a picture, but this is the way my father-in-law cooks his salmon.


2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons yellow mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestshire sauce

Brush over salmon which has been placed in a greased foil pan. Let sit for about 30 minutes. Then grill until done.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Pear and Feta Salad

When I saw the bag of pears sitting on the counter, I was inspired to look for a salad recipe using them and I found one - Pear and Feta Salad. It looked like it would be a great start for our dinner with the sister missionaries, and it was.

Combine or layer lettuce (we had butter lettuce in the fridge), sliced pears, candied walnuts (use a 2:1 ratio of nuts and sugar and heat them until caramelized in a frying pan, then cool) and feta cheese, then top with this salad dressing (mix all the ingredients in a blender for a minute or two):
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup olive oil


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Famous Chewy Oatmeal Cookies

Famous Chewy Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter or margarine
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1/2 c water
2 teaspoons vanilla
6 cups oatmeal
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Cream shortening, sugars, egg, water, and vanilla.

Add dry ingredients and mix well.

Add assorted baking chips (milk chocolate and butterscotch shown above) and/or raisins.

Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes.

I was surprised that this recipe wasn't on the blog yet, maybe because we'd rather have regular chocolate chip cookies than oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. However, I had some butterscotch chips that need to be used up, and I remembered we liked the oatmeal cookie in the Cub Scout book, so here you go.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Lamb Curry

It's time to use up the leftover Easter lamb that's been sitting in the freezer for a while. Usually we have Lamb Curry, and I'm fine with that, but I decided to look for a different recipe. I found this one, and since I also have mushrooms, spinach and coconut milk available, that's what I'm going to try. However, I don't have korma paste; I didn't even know what korma paste was! However, now I know; it's an Indian cooking sauce. (I was also reminded that Shepherd's Pie is an excellent recipe for using leftover lamb.)
Patak's Korma Curry Simmer Sauce, 15 oz (Pack of 6)
Unfortunately, I'm not going to go to the store today. Fortunately, the internet came through with do-it-yourself instructions. We'll see if I decide to follow all of those instructions, or just create my own variation!
Well, I didn't really make the paste, but I combined almond flour with a bunch of spices - cumin, coriander, turmeric, garlic, ginger, garam masala, and salt. I sauteed some lamb, onion and mushrooms, stirred in the coconut milk, chicken and these spices, then added the spinach. I assumed the almond flour with help thicken it, but it didn't, so it was a pretty soupy mixture that we served over rice for dinner. It was still good, particularly garnished with coconut and chutney.

The leftovers were great served as a soup with a little rice added.

Southern Sweet Potato Pie

Although South Florida isn't really the Deep South, I figured we'd lived here long enough without trying Sweet Potato Pie that it was time to remedy the situation. I looked at the recipe for Aunt Ruby's pie along with Ruth's pie and came up with my own variation, mainly because I had neither 2 nor 3 but 2 1/2 cups of sweet potatoes to use. 

Southern Sweet Potato Pie

1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup evaporated milk
2 1/2 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust

Cream the butter and sugar well. Mix in remaining ingredients (except pie crust) until well incorporated. Pour mixture into pie crust and bake at 375 degrees for 40-50 minutes.
Top: before baking; Bottom: after
Notes: I went with this recipe because the posts I read said "real" Sweet Potato Pie isn't supposed to taste like Pumpkin Pie. Wayne's comment was, "Where's the cinnamon? And sugar? This tastes like a vegetable side dish, not dessert." I guess we'll give sweet potato pie one more chance, using a spicier, sweeter filling.

Turkey Divan

This is a recipe that's been in the meal rotation for over 30 years, so I figured it was time to write the post. Often we have it "separated" - see here - but today I made the original recipe, which comes from a well-loved cookbook given to me as a teenager.
It's a pretty simple recipe, but does take a few different bowls/pans. Layer cooked turkey or chicken and cooked broccoli in a baking dish, then top with a mixture of unsweetened whipped cream (the secret ingredient) and a chicken gravy. Finally sprinkle with some Parmesan cheese and heat through.
Since I didn't really feel like typing up the recipe, I took a picture. Here you go!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

My directions can be found here - Halloween Countdown 2008. Basically toss the seeds with a bit of olive oil and salt (Wayne prefers garlic salt) and roast at 300 degrees for 30-40 minutes, stirring every so often. It's not necessary to let them dry overnight. That way the job can be completed while passing out candy to trick-or-treaters, if you actually carve the jack-o-lanterns on Halloween evening like we did this year.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Homemade Chicken Caesar Salad

Homemade Chicken Caesar Salad

for dressing:
1/3 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon crushed garlic

for salad:
romaine lettuce
diced tomatoes
sliced mushrooms
chicken, cooked and cubed

Combine the dressing ingredients and set aside. Toss the salad ingredients in a deep bowl. Spread the dressing over the top. Cover and refrigerate 4-24 hours. Toss and serve.

A New Pancake Recipe

While in Utah last week we had breakfast at Penny Ann's Cafe - the home of the heavenly hotcakes. According to the menu, the secret ingredient in their pancakes was sour cream. Over the years we've tried many different variations of pancakes, but I had forgotten that was a possibility. Since there was some sour cream in the refrigerator, it was time to try a new recipe. Pioneer Woman never disappoints, so we gave  her recipe a try. Wayne's verdict? "I like." We'll definitely be having these again sometime.

Edna Mae's Sour Cream Pancakes
(scaled for two*)

1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg

Combine dry ingredients, then gently fold in sour cream. Whisk egg and vanilla together, then fold into pancake mixture. Cook on a hot, buttered griddle. Serve with warm syrup if desired.

*This made four pancakes, using 1/4 cup batter for each. Our teenage sons wouldn't have considered just two enough, but it was perfect for two older people who are watching their caloric intake.

Another note: We had this recipe again, and once again it received the "I like" verdict. However, the centers were a bit doughy, and I remember that was the case last time, even though I cooked them at a lower temperature setting than normal. Next time we'll try making "dollar size" pancakes, or 8 instead of 4, but still to serve 2.

Tortilla Soup Knock-Off

During our layover in Dallas last weekend we ate dinner at Pappacito's Cantina. I wasn't feeling super hungry, so decided to try their tortilla soup. I'd never had a Mexican inspired soup without tomatoes and beans, but it was really delicious - so good that I tried finding a similar recipe online so I could make it again, but without success. That meant I had to try recreating it on my own. Here's what I came up with. I don't know how close it will be to their recipe, but I really liked it and will make it again someday.

Tortilla Soup

6 cups chicken broth
1 large onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 zucchini, chopped
1 can green chilies
2 chicken breasts/thighs, diced (optional)
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon oregano
dash cayenne pepper
lots of salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons cornstarch in 1/2 cup water

Combine everything but the cornstarch and simmer until done. Add the cornstarch mix to thicken and serve with tortilla chips/strips and grated cheese. Avocado chunks would go with this nicely as well.

Notes: The zucchini was a bit mushy after simmering for an hour, so I probably should have added it later in the process. Wayne thought the would taste great with some big fat noodles added. Maybe there's a chicken noodle soup recipe that would be similar to this to give me some ideas for seasonings. It was great reheated for lunch later, even without tortilla chips and cheese, and there's some in the freezer so I can see how well that holds up.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Tuscan Tomato White Bean Soup

As Hurricane Matthew was approaching, we put up the hurricane shutters, and hunkered down inside our dark house. It seemed fitting to make a pot of soup, so we did. Because there were some white beans in the freezer to use, this is the recipe I chose.

Tuscan Tomato White Bean Soup

1 cup onions, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 can (28 ounce) tomatoes
3-4 cups cooked white beans
4-5 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
salt to taste

Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for about 20 minutes. Blend with an immersion blender. Garnish with croutons and mozarella cheese if desired.

Notes: This was fine, but not quite what we were expecting. I took what was left and used the regular blender to make it super smooth, then added some cream to make a Cream of Tomato Soup. We liked this version better, and it's an acceptable way to use up the dried white beans sitting in food storage. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Turkey Tetrazzini


Turkey Tetrazzini

7 ounces thin spaghetti, broken in half
2 cups cubed, cooked turkey
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1 small onion, chopped
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 can cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning*
1/8 teaspoon dry ground mustard
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 taplespoon shredded Parmesan cheese
minced fresh parsley

Cook spaghetti until al dente. Drain and place in a greased baking dish. Top with turkey and set aside.
In a skillet, saute the mushrooms and onion in the butter. Whisk in the soup, milk and seasonings. Then stir in the cheddar cheese until melted. Pour over the turkey. Top with remaining cheese and bake, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees. Sprinkle with parsley. Serves 4-6.

*You can make your own poultry seasoning; just combine the following ingredients.

2 teaspoons ground sage
1 1⁄2 teaspoons ground thyme
1 teaspoon ground marjoram
3⁄4 teaspoon ground rosemary
1⁄2 teaspoon nutmeg
1⁄2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper

However, I just sprinkled in some sage, thyme, marjoram and pepper.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Sunday Dinner

The inspiration for our dinner today came from here. I have no idea what chicken paillards* are, but it worked well with chicken thighs and the leftover couscous in the refrigerator. It turned out well, and since someday in the future I may be looking for a quick and easy dinner once again, here it is.
Sunday Dinner

Saute some onions and garlic in a bit of olive oil. When limp, stir in a can of diced tomatoes. Add basil, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for a bit. Combine some chicken broth with a tablespoon of cornstarch and stir into the pan to thicken. Serve over cooked chicken thighs and couscous.

*So I looked it up: a paillard is a piece of meat, chicken or fish that is pounded thin and seared quickly. Next time I pound my chicken breast, I'll have to call it a paillard! And just so you know, if you coat your pounded meat with flour before cooking it, it becomes a scaloppine.

French Bread

I'm not sure where this recipe came from, but it's been in my "tried and true" binder for a long time. You'll have to let me know if it's the "best ever" but we like it.

Best Ever French Bread

2 tablespoons shortening
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups boiling water
2 tablespoons yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
6 1/4 cups flour
1 egg white
2 tablespoons water

In a large bowl, combine shortening, 1/4 cup sugar and salt. Pour boiling water over it and mix; cool to lukewarm.

Dissolve yeast in warm water and 1 teaspoon sugar. Add to cooled liquid. Stir in flour all at once. It may look like it's too much, but just continue stirring until it's all mixed.

Cover; allow to stand for ten minutes. Stir again; cover; allow to stand for ten minutes. Repeat for an hour total time.

Divid the dough in half and on a floured surface, roll each half into a rectangle, then roll up like a jelly roll.

Place on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray and dusted with cornmeal. Cut slashes in top. Brush tops with a mixture of the egg white and 2 tablespoons water.

Cover and allow to rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Brush with egg white mixture again half-way through if desired.

Can divide in half to make just one loaf.
Wheat: Change white sugar to brown; substitute 2-3 cups wheat flour for some of the white.
Cheese: Add 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar or any other cheese.
Herb & Onion: Add 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning and 1/4 cup minced dried onions. Experiment with other herbs like dill and rosemary
Cheesy Garlic Bread: Bake bread above and slice in half when cool. Combine 1 cup butter/margarine, 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, 2 teaspoons parsley and 1 tablespoon minced garlic. Spread on bread and broil until golden brown.
When we tried our new recipe, Pickled Shrimp, the day before, Wayne mentioned it would be nice to have some french bread to mop up the olive oil. Since I didn't feel like going to the store, I made some. It was a perfect accompaniment to our yummy appetizer.

Flounder with Vegetable Couscous

The inspiration for this recipe came from here. To make this I cooked some couscous in chicken broth, chopped up some onion, zucchini, red pepper, celery and garlic, sauteed the vegetables then mixed in the couscous with salt, pepper, oregano and basil to taste. I cooked the flounder - doesn't take long with these super thin filets - and served it with a simple Dijon Vinaigrette, made by combining a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, a tablespoon of white wine vinegar and 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil with salt and pepper to taste. There you go!

Creamy Bacon Salad Dressing

Creamy Bacon Salad Dressing

1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion

Combine and chill for at least 2 hours. Serve over salad greens.

from the Taste of Home Magazine 
August/September 2003

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Great Macaron Experiment

Making macarons was on Michelle's summer bucket list, and since it had been on my list of new things to do for even longer (since Brad announced he'd be living in France), we made it happen. I don't know that we'd consider our attempt super successful, but we did learn quite a bit and the end results for the most part were quite delicious. 

These recipes came from my friend, Nancy. We liked both of them as far as the cookie part went. I liked the fillings separately, but we couldn't quite get the combinations right. The lemon curd was too tart and overpowering. The buttercream was way too sweet. I guess that means we'll just need to experiment more in the future!

Plain Macarons

7/8 cup powdered sugar
4/5 cup almond flour
4 large egg whites, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar

Sift the powdered sugar and almond flour into a large bowl. You don't want any lumps at all.

Beat the egg whites until they hold their shape, then beat in the sugar until very stiff and firm, about two minutes.

Fold the dry ingredients, in two batches, into the egg whites with a rubber spatula, just until smooth. Don't overmix!

Scrape the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2" plain tip. Pipe 1-1/4" rounds on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bang on counter to create the "foot" of the macaron and let dry for 30 minutes to set the top.

Bake in the center of an oven preheated to 300 degrees for 11-12 minutes. Cool completely before filling with Lemon Curd, buttercream, or chocolate ganache.

Lemon Curd

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1-1/2 tablespoons butter
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
dash salt
dash vanilla

Heat lemon juice and butter to just under a boil. In a heatproof bowl, which egg yolks then stir in sugar until combined. Gradually which the hot lemon juice mixture into the eggs. Cook, stirring constantly, until the curd thickens. Strain it through a sieve into a bowl. Stir in the salt and vanilla. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing into surface, and chill 1-2 hours before using.

Buttercream Filling

1/2 cup butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon strawberry puree
1-2 tablespoons cream

Cream butter and sugar together. Stir in remaining ingredients until desired consistency.

Note: We couldn't taste the strawberry flavor with the puree, so tried adding jam. That made it way too sweet. I need to look into flavored extracts.

Chocolate Macarons with Chocolate Filling

1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup powdered almonds
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
pinch of salt
5 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 tablespoon butter

Using a food processor, grind the powdered sugar, almonds and cocoa powder together. Sift the mixture into a large bowl. You don't want any lumps at all.

Beat the egg whites until they hold their shape, then beat in the sugar until very stiff and firm, about two minutes.

Fold the dry ingredients, in two batches, into the egg whites with a rubber spatula, just until smooth. Don't overmix!

Scrape the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2" plain tip. Pipe 1-1/4" rounds on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, about 25 per sheet. Bang on counter to create the "foot" of the macaron and let dry for 30 minutes to set the top.

Bake one at a time in the center of an oven preheated to 350 degrees for 7 minutes. Rotate and bake 7 more minutes. Cool completely.

Warm the cream in a pan just to boiling, then pour over the chocolate. Stir gently, without creating bubbles, until melted together. Add butter. Chill 30 minutes, until thick but spreadable.

To assemble, place one teaspoon of filling between two macarons and press together gently, but don't let the filling ooze out. Chill, covered, for 24 hours before serving. Makes 25.

The chocolate dough was too stiff and didn't spread properly.
We had better success with our next batch.
Here are a few websites we looked at before attempting to make our own macarons:

Sally's Site       Top Ten Tips         King Arthur Flour

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffins

These weren't terribly sweet, but I liked them. And although they tasted "healthy" that's not necessarily a bad thing. The original recipe called for spelt flour, but gave the option of using whole wheat flour. Since I don't have spelt flour, I used wheat. Maybe some day I'll get some spelt. Have any of you ever used it?

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffins

1½ cups whole spelt flour (can substitute whole-wheat flour)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon each allspice, cloves, ginger and nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 eggs
½ cup honey
⅓ cup melted butter
1 cup pumpkin puree

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin pan with liners and set aside.
Using a whisk or fork mix together the flour, pumpkin spice, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
Make a well (hole) in the center of the flour mixture and drop in the eggs, honey, and melted butter. Mix together until well combined. Fold in the pumpkin puree. Do not over mix.
Pour the batter into the muffin pan so it’s evenly distributed. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick comes clean, about 18 – 20 minutes. Store at room temperature or freeze for a rainy day. Makes 12 muffins at about 150 calories each.

Note: Instead of using the individual spices, you can use a couple teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice. Or, you can make your own; there's a recipe for that here.

Hannah's Sweet Corn Muffins

Sweet Corn Muffins
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup yellow corn meal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups milk (almond or rice milk works)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 350. Line muffin cups (15-18). Combine first five dry ingredients in a bowl. Combine liquids in a small bowl and mix well. Add liquids to flour mixture; stir just until blended. Pour into muffin cups until 2/3 full. Bake for 18 - 20 minutes or until wooden toothpick comes out clean. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Asian Chicken and Pineapple Noodle Bowl

We tried a new recipe tonight and it was quite good. Anything that gets the "we can have this again" comment is a success! I was looking for something to use the leftover chicken and pineapple from our barbecue picnic on Saturday and this was perfect.

Asian Chicken and Pineapple Noodle Bowl

1/4 cup peanut butter
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon garlic powder
red pepper flakes to taste
3 stalks broccoli
2 carrots
1 red pepper
1 cup pineapple chunks, drained
12 ounce chicken breast chunks
6-8 ounces Thai rice noodles, dry
2 green onions, sliced

Combine peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, honey, garlic powder and red pepper flakes and set aside. Grate the broccoli, carrots, red pepper and pineapple and combine. (The suggestion to use a food processor was a great one.) My noodle package said to soak them for 6-8 minutes, so I did that, then drained them.

Heat a bit of oil in a frying pan and add the vegetable/pineapple mix. Stir fry for a few minutes, then add the chicken. (I used already cooked chicken this time and it turned out just fine.) Add the noodles and sauce and heat through.

Serve garnished with the green onions if desired. Makes 4 servings.
The pork version was delicious as well!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Thanksgiving Side Dishes

These are some recipes I discovered today that my great-aunt Olive used for Thanksgiving. I think my dad might enjoy trying them this year. I wonder if my sister will be willing to swap out her traditional Green Bean Casserole for peas!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Black-Bottom Cupcakes

I felt like taking cupcakes to a pot luck dinner the other day, so checked my recipe binder and decided it was finally time to try these Black-Bottom Cupcakes. I figured they had to be delicious because the cake batter was the same as our favorite Wacky Cake. They did turn out beautifully, maybe not in looks, but definitely in taste!
Powdered sugar covers a multitude of defects!
Black-Bottom Cupcakes
from The Great Book of Chocolate, by David Lebovitz

8 ounces cream cheese
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 ounces (or 1/3 cup) semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/4-1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/3 cup oil
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat together the filling ingredients and set aside. For the cupcakes, combine the dry ingredients, then the wet ingredients, the mix together. Place batter in cupcake lines, then dollop with filling. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Yield: 12 regular or 30 mini cupcakes.
I only used 2/3 of the filling, so made another 1/2 batch of batter. The original 12 were too full, so the real yield is closer to 14 cupcakes for batter and 18 (or even more) for filling. If I ever make these again, I also need to remember to cover the filling after dolloping because it doesn't really sink.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Veggie Burgers

The other day I suggested veggie burgers as a dinner option and Wayne mentioned he had just read an article on the subject in Consumer Reports. So, we decided to see if we agreed with their findings. Our local grocery store had the first "very good" one on their list - MorningStar Farms Garden Veggie Patties, so we gave them a try. While they'll never take the place of a regular beef burger, they were pretty good. 
Image result for morningstar farms veggie burger
Maybe someday we'll try the next one on the list - Boca All American Flame Grilled. It's more likely, though, that we'll try the recipe they printed. Here it is so you can try it too.

A Healthy Homemade Option

It's easy to make veggie burgers yourself. This recipe has two variations, black bean and corn and quinoa and carrot. You can make a big batch to freeze so you have them at hand for a quick meal. Wrap the uncooked burgers individually and once they're frozen, put them in a plastic zip bag. Don't thaw before cooking.
1. Make the BaseHeat 1 teaspoon olive oil in nonstick skillet over medium heat. Sauté ¼ cup each finely chopped onion and red pepper and 1 clove minced garlic until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Place in large bowl and add 1¼ cup cooked quinoa, ½ cup panko bread crumbs, 1 egg, ½ cup grated sharp cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, and ⅛ teaspoon each salt and black pepper.
2. Choose Your Style
For black bean and corn: Add ½ cup black beans, ½ cup corn, ¼ cup chopped cilantro, and ½ teaspoon chili powder.
For carrot and parsley: Add 1 cup grated carrot, 1 tablespoon tahini, 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, ½ teaspoon cumin, ¼ cup chopped parsley.
3. Chill and CookWith wet hands gently form six patties. Refrigerate uncovered until firm, at least 30 minutes or up to 4 hours. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook until browned on one side, about 5 minutes. Flip and cook about 5 minutes more.
4. Top and ServeTop black bean burgers with salsa and avocado. Top carrot burgers with tzatziki.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Another Bean Soup

Unlike the other Spanish Bean Soup, which we didn't particularly like, this one was pretty good. It included garbanzo beans, a ham bone, a beef bone, some salt park sauteed with onion, chorizo and potatoes, with a saffron and paprika for seasoning. Comparing the recipes, really the only difference was the first one used white kidney beans while the second used garbanzo beans, and the first one had morcilla and no saffron. I wouldn't think that would make a great difference, so maybe we've just learned the proper way to use salt pork. Or maybe we just used meat bones with a lot of meat still on them!

Pickled Kingfish

Have you ever heard of kingfish? I hadn't, particularly not as a fish you can buy at the grocery store. I learned that it's a type of mackerel, with a strong "fishy" taste, too strong for most consumers in South Florida. After checking our local stores and then making several phone calls, I finally found a market that could order it for me, and they did. Thank you, Joseph's Classic Market. While there, I also discovered that they carry green olives without pimiento, but that gave me the idea to check Whole Foods when we try this recipe again with shrimp.
Fortunately the rest of the ingredients were normal - onions, green peppers, garlic, olive oil, white wine vinegar, bay leaves, peppercords and salt, plus flour for dredging the kingfish steaks.
Wayne got to work!
Kingfish is similar to mackerel, another fish I doubt I've tried. After browning the fish, we would have been satisfied to eat it right then, but that was just the first step.
Slicing onions and green peppers was the next step, along with removing the bones in the fish.
The vegetables were cooked for a bit, combined with the olive and vinegar, and then layered with the fish and put in the refrigerator for a while (up to a week or ten days).
With just the two of us, the large pot lasted us over a week, and it was actually quite good, something I wouldn't have expected. It was also kind of neat being able to use a wedding gift (the clay pot) that usually sits in the cupboard!
Note: After eating all the fish, there were still some vegetables in the pot, so I looked for ways to use them up and find quite a few options. They were a great addition to both quesadillas and scrambled eggs!

You can also add picked onions/peppers to grilled cheese sandwiches, tacos, Cuban sandwiches, tuna or chicken salad, Asian noodle bowls or baked potatoes with sour cream. So many options!

One more option - use shrimp instead of kingfish!
You can also easily halve or third the recipe if you're not cooking for a crowd.