Thursday, June 30, 2011

Baked Beans with Swiss Chard

 This is a delicious (if not somewhat unphotogenic) recipe found in the most recent issue of The Food Network's magazine.

This isn't your typical sweet and bacon-y baked bean recipe (although I do love that kind). This lets more of the bean flavor come through, and adds some swiss chard for a little extra nutrition.

We found it pretty yummy. I was making shredded pork the same night so used that instead of the lean turkey or ham called for in the recipe.

Here's how to make it....

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1 small stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1 small carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 small bunch Swiss chard or mustard greens, stems removed, leaves chopped
  • 1/2 cup diced smoked turkey or lean ham (about 2 ounces)
  • 1 15-ounce can whole tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 2 15-ounce cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-ounce can navy beans, undrained
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft and golden, about 7 minutes.
Add the chard, turkey and 1/4 cup water to the skillet; cook, stirring, until the chard wilts slightly, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juice, increase the heat to medium high and simmer until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Add the pinto beans, then add the navy beans and their liquid. Add the parsley, thyme and oregano and return to a simmer.
Coarsely mash about one-quarter of the beans in the skillet with a potato masher or fork to thicken the mixture; season with salt. Transfer to a 2-quart baking dish. Cover and bake 45 minutes, then uncover and bake 10 more minutes.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Champagne Cake with Raspberry Filling

Ever since I've known my husband he has talked about a champagne cake he used to get from a local bakery where he grew up.  All the time, 24/7, that's all he talks about.  After 14 years, I finally took a hint.

This cake was AWE-sum!  I made it for my husband's birthday, and because I was pressed for time, I made the layers a few days ahead, wrapped them tightly and froze them.  It worked out just great!  (thanks Monica :)

I'm not very good at the fancy frosting thing, but I put a thin layer on first, froze it just a tad, then put the rest of the frosting on.  It kept the crumbs from getting all over the place.

This cake was so flavorful, it was light and rich at the same time.  I seriously can't wait for an occasion to make it again.  In fact I'm a little sad right now thinking about it, since it's all gone. 
Here is the recipe I found at a site called Mixing Bowl.  The article is geared towards making it for a wedding cake, but don't worry, the proportions are just right for a two layer cake.

Champagne Cake
6 eggs
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup softened margarine*
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup good-quality Champagne

Raspberry Filling
3/4 cup frozen raspberries
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon good-quality Champagne
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Champagne Frosting
2/3 cup margarine
6 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons good-quality Champagne
1 to 2 tablespoons water (plus more if needed))

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.

Separate eggs, reserving whites and discarding all but one egg yolk. Set egg yolk aside. In a large bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

In a medium bowl stir to combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl beat butter and sugar together with an electric mixer for about 3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Beat in the reserved egg yolk and the vanilla. Alternately add flour mixture and Champagne to the butter mixture, beating on low speed after each addition until just combined. Fold 1/2 of the beaten egg whites into the batter to lighten. Fold the remaining beaten egg whites into the batter. Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool on wire racks for 10 minutes. Loosen sides, remove from pans, and cool completely.

To make the Raspberry filling, combine the raspberries, sugar, Champagne, and water in a small saucepan. Stir and heat over medium heat until mixture is bubbling. Strain raspberry mixture through a sieve into a bowl. Discard seeds. Pour strained raspberries back into the saucepan and heat until bubbling. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and just enough to make a slurry. Whisk cornstarch slurry into strained raspberries (add slurry slowly and if raspberries thicken up before all the slurry is gone, discard remaining slurry). Remove from heat and chill completely in refrigerator.

Meanwhile, to make frosting, beat the margarine on high speed with an electric mixer for about 30 seconds. Beat in the powdered sugar until combined. Beat in the Champagne and vanilla. Beat in enough water to make frosting of spreading consistency.

To assemble cake, spread Raspberry Filling in the center of one cake layer (leaving about 1/2 inch border around the edges uncovered). Top with the second cake layer. Frost the tops and sides of the cake with the Champagne Frosting. If desired, use a pastry bag to pipe remaining frosting in decorative designs on the tops and sides.

I decided to use the frosting between the layers along with the raspberry sauce.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Honey Lavender Ice Cream

You know that smell when you go into a health food store or farmer's market (like Sprouts), near the lotions and beauty items aisle?  Kind of a strong, floral smell?  If you really really like that smell and wish you could have it in something to eat, this ice cream is for you.

I had seen recipes around with lavender in them, and wanted to give it a try.  When I bought my little dried lavender flowers and brought them home, after a thorough sniffing I was pretty sure it wasn't something I would enjoy in a foodstuff, but I proceeded anyway.   

This recipe is from Epicurious.   It starts out by making a custard, and really isn't difficult; and the consistency was definitely pleasing....

....this was after freezing overnight.  But it smelled and tasted more like a soap to me.  Maybe I should melt it down for Lavender Milk Bath :)
But if you are someone who enjoys that flavor, I do recommend this recipe.  Here it is for you.  

  • 2 cups heavy cream

  • 1 cup half-and-half

  • 2/3 cup mild honey

  • 2 tablespoons dried edible lavender flowers

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

  • Bring cream, half-and-half, honey, and lavender just to a boil in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, then remove pan from heat. Let steep, covered, 30 minutes.
    Pour cream mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl and discard lavender. Return mixture to cleaned saucepan and heat over moderate heat until hot.
    Whisk together eggs and salt in a large bowl, then add 1 cup hot cream mixture in a slow stream, whisking. Pour into remaining hot cream mixture in saucepan and cook over moderately low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until thick enough to coat back of spoon and registers 170 to 175°F on thermometer, about 5 minutes (do not let boil).
    Pour custard through sieve into cleaned bowl and cool completely, stirring occasionally. Chill, covered, until cold, at least 3 hours.
    Freeze custard in ice cream maker. Transfer ice cream to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden.

    P.S.  I'll bet this recipe would be just dandy if you substituted some vanilla bean for the lavender. 

    Wednesday, June 22, 2011

    Twice Baked Butternut Squash

    It's time for the butternuts again...looks like we've got a bountiful harvest for our little backyard.  Martha Stewart's recipe for Twice Baked butternuts looked like a good one to try.

    pictures on aluminum foil are just a bad idea

    And good it was,  and pretty darned easy too.  I was most surprised that the girl child even like it!  Give it a whirl if you get a's the recipe for you.

    • 6 butternut squash (about 9 pounds total)
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
    • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
    • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon nonfat sour cream
    • 2 teaspoons paprika
    • 6 fresh chives, cut into 1/8-inch pieces
    • 3 tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs, lightly toasted
    1. Heat oven to 450 degrees with the rack in center. Halve squash lengthwise, and remove seeds and fibers. Sprinkle squash halves with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Fill a roasting pan with 1/4 inch water. Place squash in pan. Cover with aluminum foil, and bake until squash is tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, 35 to 45 minutes. Remove from oven, transfer squash to a cool surface, and let cool enough to handle. Reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees.
    2. Use a spoon to scoop baked flesh out of each half into a large bowl, leaving a 1/4-inch border around six of the halves so they will keep their shape. To the bowl, add sour cream, paprika, chives, and remaining teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Mix with a handheld electric mixer or potato masher until smooth and well combined. Season with salt and pepper. Fill six squash halves with mixture (discard remaining six empty halves). Sprinkle tops with toasted breadcrumbs. Bake until golden brown and warm throughout, 20 to 30 minutes. Serve.
      Things I did differently:
      I didn't use 6 butternuts, just one, so just decreased the other ingredients by eye-balling it.
      I nuked the butternut before the second baking to speed things up.  I added just a little butter and used store bought bread crumbs. 

      As a side note, I recently tried to make Jamie Oliver's recipe for homemade ketchup.  This sort of fell under the category of "what was I thinking?". 

       It started out promising with some lovely homegrown tomatoes and a mix of other lovely veggies (everything Jamie uses is lovely so I felt I needed to follow suit).  

      When he made this on TV it came together pretty quickly, but in reality there's a lot of "cooking down" time.  Where is my fast forward button when I need it?

      Smelled really great, but in the end, it never thickened up at all, it was more of a "runny tomato sauce".   I ended up using it to flavor some sloppy joes and it was really nice, but way more work that I am interested in investing for such a small result.  Probably yielded just shy of 2 cups.  Oh well, live and learn!

    Sunday, June 19, 2011

    Monster Cookies for Dad

    Hope everyone has had a great Father's day, be it showering your husbands or father's with attention, or if you are the dad and were the recipient of much praise and adoration. Or if it was a time of quiet reflection of the dad who's no long with you, hopefully with many happy memories left behind.
    I don't talk in depth about the dad of my kids here on the ol' blog very much, other than a casual mention. He's kind of a private person and I'm sure prefers it that way.  (Thank goodness I'm not a well known blogger who scatters pictures of her entire family all over the place...ha!)  But I have to say he's a great dad and a great husband and we are blessed to have him.  Since I was feeling especially thoughtful with it being father's day and all, I wanted to do something extra nice and make some cookies that reminded him of his past.  He had recently got his hands on his grandmother's monster cookie recipe, so I decided to take a stab at making them for him.

    No pressure there!  These cookies hold memories that are near and dear to him, and my hope was that even if they weren't just like grandma's, they would at least remind him of her cookies and bring back happy feelings of a simpler time.  

    I had the pleasure of meeting his grandmother only once, she has since passed.

      We traveled to Iowa and stayed with her for a few days.  I remember  sitting at her kitchen table and watching in amazement while she made a pie completely from scratch, never once consulting a recipe, and chatting the whole time.  I'm sure that sort of thing was as natural to her as brushing her teeth.  

    So how did the cookies turn out?  Were they just like grandma's or was there something lacking?  I'll never know of course, because my husband would be too kind to tell me they weren't up to snuff.  But they are definitely tasty!  I made the entire recipe and boy do they make a lot!

    Here's a scan of the copy of Grandma Litwiller's recipe that I followed.

    I was surprised after reading through the recipe more closely there was no flour!  I wondered if it was a mistake...but I decided to trust the recipe and go with it.  And I started to improvise and use butter, but then decided if the lady said oleo, I'd better do what she said.  We left out the coconut, and as far as a "bag" of m&m's, I just threw in however many made my skirt fly up.

    I had Simon in the kitchen helping me each step of the way. He helped with  the m&m's by stuffing the majority of them into his face. 

    okay, maybe I scatter a few pictures here and there, but I'm not well known so it's okay :)

    Saturday, June 11, 2011

    White Beans and Cabbage

    I saw this dish as made by Joanne at Eats Well With Others, and new I had to make it mine.  I adore cabbage and don't use it nearly as much as I should.  

    I sauteed some brats first to go with this dish, then proceeded to prepare the cabbage in the same pan and liked the flavor it added.  I also added a little of the flipflop Chardonnay toward the end and think that was a great touch too :)

    Here's the recipe...hope you'll give it a try if you get a chance.

    2 tbsp olive oil
    4 oz potatoes, unpeeled, scrubbed and cut into tiny cubes
    1 large shallot, thinly sliced
    1 cup dried white beans, soaked and cooked (I used canned)
    8 oz finely shredded green cabbage
    1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

    1. Pour the olive oil into a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the potatoes and a big pinch of salt.  Toss, cover, and cook until potatoes are cooked through, about 5-8 minutes.  Be sure to scrape the pan and toss the potatoes once or twice so that all sides get browned.

    2. Stir in the shallot and the beans.  Let the beans cook in a single layer for a few minutes, until they brown a bit.  Then scrape and toss again.  Cook until the beans are lightly brown and crispy on all sides.

    3. Stir in the cabbage and cook for another minute, until the cabbage loses its structure.  Serve dusted with parmesan.

    We ended up having a bit of a multi-cultural meal this particular night. 

    Along with the cabbage and brats, we had some Mexican Corn Cups I had seen made on the Food Network quite some time ago. (I loved these, I'll put the recipe below for you), and my attempt at fried green tomatoes covered with some homemade salsa.  Not a bad meal!

    Mexican Corn Cups:
    • 4 ears sweet corn, husked and silks removed
    • 4 tablespoons mayonnaise or Mexican sour cream
    • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
    • 6 tablespoons crumbled queso fresco or mild feta cheese
    • Ground chili powder for sprinkling
    • Salt, for sprinkling
    • Lime wedges, for serving, optional


    Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the corn and cook until tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the corn to a platter and allow them to cool slightly. Using a serrated knife, remove the kernels from the corn. Divide the corn between 4 individual cups or small glasses. Put 1 tablespoon mayonnaise (I used sour cream) and 1 tablespoon butter in each glass. Sprinkle with cheese, chili powder, and salt. Serve with the lime wedges, if desired.

    Wednesday, June 8, 2011

    Cube Steak Sandwich and Flip Flop Wines

    Of course this is really "Marlboro Man's favorite sandwich" from The Pioneer Woman.  But I just felt too silly to call it that.

    It really is a butter-laden monstrosity wonderful sandwich that the whole family enjoyed.  I love the "au jus" that goes along with it...sorta like a kicked up french dip.  

    Here's PW's recipe.  I'll admit that I didn't use quite as much butter as she did, I just toasted the buns instead of grilling them, and I added a little red wine to the final product and simmered it just a bit.  (If you feel the need for the 15 step tutorial on how to slice an onion you can click here for the recipe on PW's site)

    • 1 whole Large (or 2 Small) Onions
    • 2 sticks Butter (lots And Lots Of Butter)
    • 2 pounds (to 3 Pounds) Cube Steak (tenderized Round Steak That's Been Extra Tenderized)
    • Lawry's Seasoned Salt (or Similar Seasoned Salt)
    • ½ cups (approximately) Worcestershire Sauce
    • Tabasco Sauce, To Taste
    • 4 whole French/deli Rolls 

    Preparation Instructions

    Slice onions and cook in 1/4 stick butter until soft and light brown. Remove and set aside.
    Slice cube steak against the grain. Season with Lawry’s.
    Heat 2 tablespoons butter over high heat (in same skillet) until melted and beginning to brown. Add meat in single layer. Cook one side until brown, then flip and cook until brown, about a minute on both sides.
    Add 1/2 cup (at least) Worcestershire sauce, 5 to 6 shakes Tabasco, and 2 tablespoons butter. Add cooked onions. Stir to combine.
    Butter halved French rolls and brown in skillet.
    To assemble, lay bottom half of French roll on plate. Place meat mixture, followed by a 
    spoonful of juice from the pan. Top with other half of roll.

    So, speaking of wine, I was recently given the opportunity to try a variety of wines made by flipflop. 

     You know, I'm not much of a wine expert, but I have to say I really enjoyed the chardonnay....really light and refreshing.  I haven't had a chance to try the other two but am looking forward to it.  Not only are these wines tasty, and quite reasonably priced, they also take part in helping others through an organization called Soles4Souls. Since 2005,  Soles4Souls has distributed over 14 million pairs of new and gently used shoes to people in need.  And for each bottle of flipflop wines sold, Soles4Souls distributes a pair of shoes.  Sounds like a win-win to me! 

    Sunday, June 5, 2011

    Seven Sporadic Questions: Krista's Kitchen

       A few posts back I made two different recipes that I had found at the same blog, Krista's Kitchen.  So it seemed only fitting that I feature her for June's episode of Seven Sporadic Questions.

    When I read Krista's blog, I get the mental image of a super-organized person who loves trying new things, and is very family oriented.  Let's visit with her now!

    1. What inspired you to start blogging?

    I don’t know if it was inspiration so much as efficiency that motivated me to start my blog. Here’s the 
    story: In the winter of 2007 we moved from Indiana to Atlanta, GA. Since it was the middle of the school 
    year, I didn’t look for a teaching job while we settled into our new home. (Before we moved I taught high 
    school Family and Consumer Science or “Home Ec” classes). While we were in Georgia and I wasn’t 
    working, I was able to really dedicate some time to one of my passions: cooking! I tried new recipes, 
    learned new techniques, perfected my favorite dishes, and invented a few of my own. Also, during this 
    time, my youngest daughter was born. I decided to start a family blog to keep all of our relatives and 
    friends “back home” updated on the happenings of our little family. After starting our family blog, I 
    discovered other blogs. I found Ree Drummond’s blog, “The Pioneer Woman Cooks” by clicking a link 
    on one of the blogs I was reading. “How cool!” I thought. “A whole blog dedicated just to what she’s 
    cooking. That’s a great idea!”
    When we were transferred to Ohio in the summer of 2008 for my husband’s job, I began getting a lot of 
    phone calls and emails from friends in Georgia and my friends and family in Indiana requesting recipes 
    and advice about meal planning. Looking up recipes and returning calls and emails was taking up a lot of 
    time. Not that I minded, but trying to keep up with a 3 year old and crawling baby while unpacking were 
    already keeping me pretty busy! Then I remembered the Pioneer Woman’s blog and thought, “Wouldn’t 
    that be convenient?” I could put my tips for meal planning and all of my recipes into a blog and then my 
    friends and family could access them whenever they wanted. I actually thought that blogging would save 
    me time by not needing to look up a few recipes! You bloggers know that this is not the case. At the time, 
    I also didn’t realize that there were like, a GAZILLION other food bloggers out there. Nearly a year after 
    I began my blog, the movie “Julie and Julia” hit the theatres. By then, people besides my family were 
    reading my blog. I got a lot of, “Oh, so you saw the movie and then started a food blog? “ Nope. I was 
    clueless. : ) 

    2.  What's your favorite thing to make for a crowd?

    I always make dessert when I’m having company over. My husband isn’t big on sweets and my oldest 
    daughter only likes brownies. If I make a dessert, I’m usually the one that ends up eating the whole thing. 
    So I usually try to wait until company is coming to make dessert. I love to bake. You know that theory 
    that you’re either a cook or a baker? It doesn’t apply to me. I was a baker first, and then became a cook
    later out of necessity- I had to get dinner on the table for my family. Now I enjoy doing both. 
    I love to cook for a crowd, so consequently, we entertain whenever I can get people to come over. I
    sometimes make my old favorites, but I often test out new recipes on company. I love to make fussy little 
    appetizers that both look impressive and taste amazing when we host a party.  However,  my most 
    requested summer recipes for a crowd are Bruschetta, as well as Beef On A Stick, Spicy Peanut Chicken

    3.  What's your favorite thing to make for just you?

    I tend to make seafood or Asian cuisine (or a combination of the two) when it’s just me. Recipes like 
    Linguine with Clam Sauce, Coconut Shrimp Soup, and sushi are some of my favorites. Oh, and I love to 
    make a Caprese Salad for my very own lunch in the summertime

    4.  If you could invite 3 famous people (living or dead) to dinner, who would they be?  Any 
    particular reason?

    Curtis Stone. When I was in college and during the first few years after I joined “the real world”, I was a 
    huge fan of TLC’s “Take Home Chef”. I used to wish that Curtis Stone would pick me up in the 
    supermarket and come home with me for an afternoon of cooking! So, I guess I’d start with him. (I may
    still have a teensy weensy married woman’s crush on him.) Can you blame me? Have mercy, he is HOT!
    Plus, I recently read one of his cookbooks and cooked some of the recipes and they really are fabulous. Of 
    course we wouldn’t have to cook or eat. He could just talk to me with that cute Australian accent of his….
    I don’t think that I’d pick another famous person. Truthfully, I don’t give a lot of thought to famous 
    people. Maybe because I’m so far from their world? I’d rather have dinner with the people I already know 
    and love. Since becoming a stay-at-home mom, a girls’ night out is one of my favorite things to do.
    Dinner with my 2 sisters and/or a group of my best girlfriends is always just what I need to put me in a 
    good mood. Dinner with a famous person would certainly be something to brag about, but I’m pretty sure 
    I’d have more fun with “my girls” on any given night. 
    Finally, I would love to sit down with my grandma one more time. My dad’s mom lost her battle with 
    cancer when I was a freshman in high school. She wasn’t famous, but she certainly was a great lady! I’ve 
    always wished that I could sit down with her now that I am an adult and get her perspective on things and 
    hear her stories.

    5.  When you think of your childhood, do any favorite dishes come to mind?

    Many of my childhood memories are centered around my family’s kitchen. Growing up on a farm, 
    everything came from our barn or garden and everything was made from scratch! I come from a long line 
    of good cooks and I spent hours learning from my mom and my grandmas. I have written about many of 
    my childhood favorites on my blog. Some standouts are  fresh green beans, fried mushrooms, ham and 
    beans with cornbread, my mom’s lasagna, and desserts like Texas Sheet cake, homemade ice cream, 

    6.  What do you have in your kitchen that you just couldn't do without? (besides your stove/oven of 

    I absolutely love my Santoku knife. I use it every day. A super sharp knife is a must have! Also, my 
    beloved KitchenAid stand mixer, my immersion blender, my Pampered Chef chopper and microplane 
    grater, and my wooden spoons and rubber scrapers.

    7.  What's your favorite part of blogging?  Do you think you'll keep doing it for a while?

    I have always enjoyed writing, so blogging about food is a great way to combine two things that I enjoy. 
    While I started blogging so that friends and family could have easy access to my recipes, my blog has also 
    become a creative outlet for me. Plus, I like that fact that I have a record of nearly everything I have 
    prepared in my kitchen over the last 2 years. If I want to remember what I thought of a recipe or how I 
    executed a certain step, I only have to type the name of the recipe into a search bar on my blog and I can 
    see all of the details

    Writing a food blog also challenges me to keep learning about food and cooking and to keep trying new 
    recipes.  The saying “practice makes perfect” holds true.  I have become a better cook, photographer, and 
    writer because I exercise those skills almost daily to provide content for my blog. 
    I also like blogging for the fact that you put the information out there and then receive feedback. Whether 
    it’s a tip, a new recipe, or just a word of encouragement, I enjoy hearing from the people who are reading 
    my blog. This brings me to the final reason I enjoy blogging- the friendships that I have made as a result.  
    Sure, they are friendships based on reading each other’s blogs and responding with comments, emails,
    and facebook messages but the friends I’ve made in the blogging world are not so different from the 
    friends that I see in person.  We share parts of our lives with each other, offer support, and genuinely care. 
    So, for all of the reasons that I listed above, I do believe that I will keep blogging for some time. I’ve been 
    at it for 2 years and 7 months now. While I’m not turning out posts every day like I did in the beginning 
    (before I had to balance work and family activities and caring for a new house with a great big lawn), I 
    still shoot for 2-3 posts per week.  Some weeks I really have to force myself to get a post up- there never 
    seem to be enough hours in my day-but my blog is something that I’m not willing to let go of. 

    Well, I don't know about y'all, but after reading that I'm pretty darned hungry! Somebody pass the sushi!

    p.s.  I'm not sure why my paragraph lines came out all broken like that...sorry :)