Friday, November 29, 2013

. . .the Day After

Food hangovers, tight pants, piles of leftovers, and tons of trash.  Sound like your house?  Need an easy vintage breakfast idea without buying one single thing?  Mom's Fried Cakes.  A cross between a funnel cake, beignet and a donut.  Scrumptious.  Might as well forget starting that diet just yet.  If you have children in the house, as we do, you'll need to feed them SOMEthing, so why not these easy little treats?!
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
2 egg whites
1 cup flour
veggie oil for frying
powdered sugar for coating

Separate eggs and place yolks in medium size bowl.
Beat yolks with sugar using a wire whisk
until the sugar is well incorporated.
In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients
with the milk and mix well.
Add to egg/sugar mixture and whisk together.
In a small bowl, using a hand held mixer,
beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.
Fold egg whites into other mixture to combine.

Pour veggie oil in a heavy skillet or frying pan
until it comes about 1/3 of the way up the sides.
Heat oil on medium heat and drop batter by
tablespoonfuls to fry.
Rotating cakes to brown on each side.

These cook pretty fast, so have a cooling rack
or plate lined with paper towels ready to go
before you start as well as the powdered sugar.
As soon as they have drained, place them
on a serving plate and sprinkle heavily with
powdered sugar (we use a sifter) while they are still hot.

After the plate is filed up with these little fried cakes,
it will be like the best powdered donuts
you've ever tasted!
Quite similar to a beignet and delicious all day long!

These would be great for a yummy sweet breakfast
or for afternoon coffee or tea time.
You could probably cover these with a
cinnamon sugar mixture in lieu of powdered sugar
but am unsure if it would coat as well.

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!


Friday, November 22, 2013

Rudy Takes the Cake

    Once upon a time there were three daughters that lived in a house and wanted cake.  Wait, that's almost daily!  It seems like at least one of these girls has a craving for something almost everyday.
   A few weeks ago, Rudy, had an instant craving for lemon cake.  It didn't take very long until we were all on board with that same craving.  We were having a lazy weekend, so we searched to find that perfect recipe that would satisfy us.  It had to be super moist, not too heavy, sweet and tart, with a little drizzled glaze for the top.
  When I set out to find a new recipe, my first thought is always, ALWAYS, my hero. The Contessa.  You know, THE Contessa, Ina Garten. Ahhhh.  That's where we found our dream lemon cake that day, and she did NOT disappoint.  Tons and tons of lemons let me tell you, lots of butter, good vanilla and you've got your recipe for the best lemon cake you'll ever want to eat.  Similar to a lemon pound cake, but softer and fluffier and lemonier than any other lemon thing in the world.  It may be Fall around here, even cold and slushy outside, but this lemony piece of heaven will bring warmth and sun shiny brightness to the depths of your soul.  Stretching it a bit much???  Go grab a bag of lemons and let's get started.

2 sticks butter, at room temperature

2 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup grated lemon zest (6 to 8 large lemons- yes, I know)
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup plus 3-4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla (we use Mexican vanilla)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Grease and flour 2 loaf pans (appx 8 1/2 x 4 1/2)

Cream the butter with 2 cups granulated sugar
in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment,
until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs,
1 at a time, and the lemon zest.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. 

In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup of the lemon juice,
the buttermilk, and vanilla. 

Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, 
beginning and ending with the flour.
Scraping down the sides of the bowl from time to time.
Divide the batter evenly between the pans, smooth the tops,
and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour,

until a toothpick (or ice pick) comes out clean.

While the cake is baking,
you'll want to make the lemon syrup.

Combine the remaining granulated sugar (1/2 cup)
with the remaining lemon juice (1/2 cup) in a small saucepan.
Heat on low/medium until sugar is completely dissolved.
Set aside.

When the cakes are done, remove from the oven
and let cakes cool in the pans for about 10 minutes.
Remove cakes and place on a cooling rack
that's been placed over wax paper or a cookie sheet.
Drizzle the lemon syrup over the cakes slowly
using all of the syrup.  Let cool completely.

Now, prepare the lemon glaze.
2 cups powdered sugar
3-4 tablespoons lemon juice
Mix the sugar and lemon juice together in a bowl

with a wire whisk until smooth.
Pour the glaze over the tops of the cakes
and allow it to dribble down the sides.
This my friends is deliciousness at it's finest.
We started eating ours right off the cooling rack.
For leftovers, you may cover yours with a tight fitting cake dome
 or place it in a good 
Tupperware container,
so as not to disturb that lovely glaze.
Now, I will mention we did indeed use a whole lotta lemons.
A whole bags worth, but you will be glad you did.

Rudy learned how to zest a bunch of lemons,
as well as, how to get the juice out of them.
We had a lemony lesson and learned lots and lots.

It is crazy the amount of zesting and juicing
that took place for this slice of sunshine,
but I don't believe it could get any better.

Impress your friends, impress your neighbors,
or just stuff your family's face.  Yum.


Friday, November 15, 2013

Dump, Stir and Bake

It's officially feeling like fall around here.  The trees showing off their rich beautiful colors and the smell of neighborhood fireplaces in action. Cool temps are not my favorite but, the beauty of the countryside makes it tolerable.

This week's Free Recipe Friday just screams fall.  Pumpkin Bread has been a staple in our family since I was a child.  Mom used to make hers in clean empty coffee cans.  Round bread!  It was the coolest.  My mom was very nifty and was great at using what she had.  There was never a year that went by that we didn't have this around Thanksgiving or Christmas.

Please feel free to make round bread, square bread, big muffins, little muffins, using whatever you have.  This recipe cannot be any easier.  Just gather the ingredients, dump them in a bowl, whisk them together, pour them in a sprayed baking dish of some sort and bake away.  There's none of this keeping dry ingredients separate, etc etc.  Just gather, dump, stir, bake.  And YUMMY!  Enjoy it now or enjoy it later.

1 can prepared pumpkin
1 2/3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 350.
Spray 2 loaf pans, several mini loaf pans,
small or large muffin tins, etc. with non stick spray.
In a medium size bowl, combine all ingredients.
Mix together using a whisk until
well combined. Divide batter among baking dishes
until all batter has been evenly dispersed.

Bake for appx 20 minutes.
Small muffins require a little less time,
loaf pans require a little more.
Adjust accordingly.
Remove from the oven when bread
does not jiggle in the middle or
a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Try not to over bake.

Once removed from the oven,
let rest in the pan for 3-4 minutes.
Remove bread from pans and set to cool on a paper towel.
I wrap mine while still quite warm
in a large storage baggie - this keeps them nice and moist.
These store well in the freezer,
so make ahead and have them ready for
early morning Thanksgiving Day Parade watching
or as you open gifts on Christmas morning!

We devour our pumpkin bread by toasting a slice or two,
top with a little butter, and spread with a little cream cheese.


Friday, November 8, 2013

Shells and Cheese

Do you ever look back and remember meals your mom made??? Do you ever wonder how she fed the whole entire family with one small roast? I know portion sizes have gotten larger but, goodness - were our quantities THAT much smaller???

Even more strange, I remember certain meals being made and served in certain pots, bowls and platters.  We never ate buffet style from the stove as we often do in our house these days.  It didn't matter to my mom if it was a weeknight or Sunday lunch, dinner was always served at the table and NOT in the dishes it was prepared in. Oh, heavens no.  

Do you remember what it was like to come in from after school activities and you saw a certain pot or dish out? I do, and immediately knew what we were having for dinner!  Somehow I don’t think it’s that way anymore.  Do we have too many dishes these days or do we just cook a bigger variety?

One of my favorite memories is homemade mac and cheese.  Made in a specific brown round ceramic dish with it's own matching lid.  My mom made that faithfully and Every. Single. Time. It was made in that same dish.  Mac 'n cheese in our house was always a side dish to meatloaf or salmon croquettes.  I was always so happy when it accompanied meatloaf, because I wasn't the biggest fan of that, so having a good side kept me from going hungry!  I bet that dish was probably only 8 or 9 inches in diameter. How in the world did she feed 5 people with that?!  It was homemade macaroni and cheese for goodness sake!

Okay, enough ranting - let's get to the yummy stuff - modern day crazy out of this world good, homemade Mac 'n Cheese.  You'll die. 

This is definitely not yo mama's homemade mac 'n cheese.  

Making homemade mac 'n cheese, no matter what 'flavors' you want,
is basically all the same.
Boil the noodles to al dente, drain
and place in a butter lined casserole dish.
Add in a few cups (globs) of cheese,
my mom used velveeta,
 we use assorted cheeses, some butter and some milk,
salt and pepper.  Mom would top hers
with some shredded cheddar and then bake.
We made an outright cheese sauce and poured it in,
stirred and then baked.
Mom's would make it's own sauce
during the baking process.
Our baking process was much shorter
and we topped ours with bacon. Win.
Are you thoroughly confused yet???

Our middle daughter, Shelby,
 introduced us to this fancy mac
that we've named, "Shells and Cheese."
We don't eat it too often but, she's been the maker of it
every time.  For us,
we add a side salad and it's a complete meal
it's that rich (and good).

recipe fills a 9x13 dish and feeds 12-15 - perfect for the holidays!
this can easily be halved for a 9x9 dish and feed 6 or so

1 lb box of penne pasta - cooked al dente
1 cup bacon - diced
1/2 cup onion - diced
5 tablespoons butter

6 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 tablespoon mustard - dijon

3 cups whole milk
1 cup cream (or sub with whole milk)
1 teaspoon dried thyme (use more if fresh)

1 bay leaf - crumbled
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups shredded monterey jack
1/2 cup shredded white cheddar - we used Cabot
(and a bit more for topping)

 1/2 cup blue cheese - crumbled
1/2 cup parmesan (and a bit more for topping)

After boiling pasta in salted water until al dente,
drain and place in a buttered 9x13 baking dish.
Set aside.
Cook diced bacon until crispy, remove and set aside.
Keeping bacon grease in the same pan, saute onions until clear.
Add in the butter and stir until combined.
Using a whisk sprinkle in flour and stir constantly
making a roux.  Whisk in the mustard.
Gradually add in milk/cream stirring well.

Add onions and bacon grease into reserved pasta.
(You can certainly omit extra grease if need be)
Next, add in spices and salt and simmer for about 15 minutes.

Strain out any bits of bay leaf and quickly stir in cheeses.
Stir until melted and add mixture into reserved pasta and stir well.
Top with a little extra shredded cheese and parmesan.
Bake in a preheated 450 oven for about 15 minutes
or until golden and bubbly.

Before serving, top with reserved bacon crumbles and chopped parsley.
This is a richer than normal version of mac 'n cheese.
For an old fashioned traditional version
substitute the cheeses with about 3 cups of cubed velveeta,
omit the onion, mustard, thyme and bay leaves
and top pasta with shredded cheddar
before baking.
The old fashioned version is pretty close 

to what my mom used to make
(in that little brown dish - quite similar to the one below)  
Vintage Hall Stoneware Casserole. Lidded Baking Dish. Rust. Brown. Cream 
If you've never tried homemade mac 'n cheese,
I hope you will soon
it will be your new favorite comfort food!

A big thanks to middle daughter Shel (Shelby)
for introducing us to this
and expanding our horizons.