Oct 31, 2009

Family Fondue

I haven't made this for awhile, to be honest, but this is my family's fondue recipe. It's wonderful on a chilly evening, when you want to feel cozy. Melted cheese and good bread. It's hard to beat.

1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 cups grated Swiss cheese
2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup chicken broth
3/4 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Pinch of ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

Combine in double broiler 1 3/4 cups chicken broth and garlic. When hot, add cheeses and stir until melted. Mix cornstarch with remaining 1/4 cup broth and stir into cheese mixture. Then add the rest of the ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Oct 27, 2009

Potato Cheddar Soup with Broccoli and Cauliflower

This soup requires some time to chop the veggies, but it is definitely worth the effort. I love this hearty vegetable soup.

2 onions, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon minced garlic (six cloves)
2 1/2 lbs potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
5 cups chicken stock or broth
8 ounces broccoli
8 ounces cauliflower
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Cook onions in hot oil and butter until soft and golden brown. Add garlic and continue cooking. Add potatoes, carrots, and chicken stock. Bring to boiling, then reduce heat and cover. Simmer for one hour. Meanwhile, separate broccoli into small florets (reserve) and tender stems, discarding tough stems. Coarsely chop tender stems. Core and separate cauliflower into small florets. Add broccoli stems and cauliflower to potato mixture. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Add broccoli florets and cook, covered, for 15 minutes more. Add milk, cream, cheese, salt, and pepper to vegetable mixture. Lightly puree with immersion blender or use a potato masher until coarsely blended to desired texture. Add water, if needed, for desired consistency. Makes 8 servings.

Oct 25, 2009

French Chocolate

As temperatures drop and we head into winter, this is a recipe that you'll definitely want to try. It's a variation on hot chocolate, but the reason I like it better is that I don't fully mix the chocolate cream into the milk when I'm making a cup for myself. So when I sip a mug of French Chocolate, I feel the warmth of the milk on my lips and the cool softness of the chocolate cream. Not easy to explain, but I love the simultaneous sensation of hot and cold. Another advantage of this over ordinary hot chocolate is that each person can customize the amount of chocolate flavor they want in their drink. French Chocolate is a Christmas morning/brunch tradition for our family.

2-1/2 quarts milk
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup chocolate syrup (Hershey’s)
1/3 cup sugar

Warm milk over low heat. Meanwhile, whip heavy cream, chocolate syrup, and sugar until stiff (can refrigerate up to 2 hours at this point). To serve, put a heaping tablespoon of the chocolate mixture into each cup and pour hot milk over it. Yield: 16 servings.

Oct 24, 2009

Honey Butter

1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup honey

Whip butter until soft. Add egg yolk and vanilla and blend well. Then add honey gradually and whip until combined.

Whole Wheat Bread

Many thanks to my friend Cheree for this delicious whole wheat bread recipe. I like making bread. I've made sweet breads many times, and I've already posted a fabulous recipe for dill bread on this site that has long been a family favorite. But I've never tried making simple whole wheat bread before. To be honest, I was probably just a little intimidated. I shouldn't have been. This recipe is as easy as can be. It takes a bit of time because you raise the dough three times, but you can go off and do other things while that is happening. In any case, the end result is light and delicious. I'll definitely be making this again.

3 tablespoons yeast
4 cups warm water
4 cups whole wheat flour

Mix these ingredients together and let sit until doubled in size (usually 15-30 minutes). This step is called creating a sponge and is very important to give the yeast a head start.

Then add:
1/2 cup butter or vegetable oil
2/3 cup honey or molasses
3 teaspoons salt
6-8 cups whole wheat flour

Mix this together and knead for 15-20 minutes if kneading by hand (using a Kitchen Aid requires much less time). Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover, and let rise again until double in size (about 30 minutes). Punch down and then shape into pans. Cover and let rise again until doubled (20-30 minutes). Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Recipe makes four loaves.

*Variation: add one cup cooked cereal to the mixture when adding the butter, honey, and other ingredients.

Chocolate Twinkie Dessert

I'm posting this recipe more for nostalgic reasons than anything else. This was a dessert that I was fond of when I was younger. Okay, to be honest, I still enjoy this dessert, though I rarely make it. I'm not even a big fan of Twinkies, but combine Twinkies with chocolate pudding and whipped cream, and magic happens! ;-)

2 small packages chocolate pudding, cooked according to package directions, then cooled
10 Twinkies, sliced lengthwise
1 pint whipping cream, whipped and sweetened to taste
Toffee bits (optional)

Spread half of the pudding into the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch pan. Arrange the sliced Twinkies on top of the pudding. Cover with the remaining pudding. Refrigerate 12 hours. Serve with sweetened whipped cream and sprinkle toffee bits on top.

Oct 21, 2009

"Baking by Senses and Memories"

I ran across this lovely essay tonight that captures some of the reasons I like to cook. The essay is part of the "This I Believe" series on NPR (which I heartily recommend, by the way). You can link to the essay here or read the essay below:

"Baking by Senses and Memories" by Emily Smith

I have gone through 10 pounds of flour in three months. I know that’s not normal, but I believe baking is an expression of love — not only for the person being baked for, but also for the person who taught me how to bake, for the person who gave me the recipe, for the past and tradition.

Grandma Dottie lives on in her recipes that I continue to bake. Her molasses cookies are so good they need to be shared with the world. The batter is sticky and has to be refrigerated for four hours. It turns the whole thing into more of a production, but it’s impossible to roll the dough into balls when it’s that sticky. I know; I’ve tried.

So I wait — just like my grandmother waited four hours — while the dough chills. Then I roll the dough into balls, roll the dough balls in sugar and smash them with a fork twice, creating a criss-cross pattern, and put them in the oven. I look at the cookies instead of relying on the timer. I’m beginning to bake with my senses and my memory instead of with the recipe.

My Grandma Dottie abbreviated everything in her recipes so it took me a while to figure it out. Is the batter the right color? The right consistency? Does it smell right? My dad’s job is to compare my reproductions to the originals of his childhood. If they turn out the same, they’re more than cookies — and that’s what I’m trying to do. I like to watch my father’s face when he remembers his mother.

Because we’re Texan, my mother needs a pecan pie for it to really be Thanksgiving. Pecan pie is mostly corn syrup, a few eggs and pecans. It doesn’t look appetizing. But amazing things happen in the oven. The filling caramelizes and turns a dark brown. I baked my mom a pecan pie. I made the crust and everything — and even she doesn’t do that. The recipe I used yields a stiffer filling. It’s not the gooey pecan pie I grew up with. So I was worried at first that I’d done something wrong. But my mother said it was the best pecan pie she’d ever had.

And right then and there my pecan pie recipe, the one that I’d found in the cookbook my grandmother gave me, became the new family recipe. So, this Thanksgiving it’s my job to make the pie. For me, it’s a symbol of becoming an adult, and the pecan pie becomes my contribution to our family tradition.

I believe that as long as I keep baking, my grandmother hasn’t really gone. I believe baking is the best way for me to express love for my people in the present and honor the people of my past, all in one batch.

Dorothy Smith’s Molasses Cookies

Grandma Dottie’s molasses cookies require several hours preparation time, mostly to allow the dough the chill.

3/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
1 cup sugar (plus extra sugar for dipping the cookies)
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine the melted butter, sugar, molasses and egg, and mix thoroughly.

Sift dry ingredients, and then add them to liquid mixture. Beat well. Chill the dough at least 4 hours.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls then dip in sugar. Place on a greased cookie sheet, and flatten with a fork.

Bake at 375 degrees 8-10 minutes until flat and dark brown. The cookies should be slightly crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside.

Emily Smith majored in English and Spanish literature at the University of Texas in her hometown of Austin. She is now pursing a Master of Divinity degree at Atlanta’s Emory University. Smith plans to become a minister in the United Methodist Church.

Overnight Waffles

A few weeks ago, some generous friends invited me, along with some other friends, to their family's vacation home in the mountains near Kamas, Utah for a weekend retreat. We had a great time! Listening to general conference, talking and hanging out, and playing games. But one of the food highlights of the weekend was Sunday breakfast. My friend Heidi made waffles that were fabulous! We topped them with blueberries, sliced strawberries, sliced bananas, maple syrup, and whipped cream. It was like being in heaven! Here is Heidi's recipe:

2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon rapid rise yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups milk
1 stick butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

Combine the dry ingredients and then whisk in the milk, melted butter, and vanilla. Cover and set aside overnight on the counter. Do NOT refrigerate.

In the morning, separate the two eggs. Stir the yolks into the batter. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form and then fold them into the mixture.

Cook in waffle iron at medium heat. Serve with your favorite waffle toppings--fresh berries, sliced bananas, maple syrup, and some whipped cream. Serves 4 to 5 people

Oct 20, 2009

Taco Soup

1 pound hamburger
2 cups chopped celery
2 cups chopped carrots
2 cans cream of potato soup (undiluted)
1 can beef stock (Swanson's)
1/2 package. taco seasoning
1 can kidney beans (drained and rinsed)
1 can chili beans (drained and rinsed)
1 small can tomato sauce
1 quart tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon dried onion

Combine all ingredients and simmer on low for 2 hours. Serve with a dollop of sour cream, grated Monterey Jack or Mozzarella cheese, and a few finely chopped green onions on top. You can also top with Fritos or tortilla chips.

Oct 19, 2009

Chocolate Chunk Pumpkin Bread

I just tried this recipe recently and thought it was a big hit. It's a recipe I'll make again. I omitted the pecans because some people I know don't like (or are allergic to) nuts.

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs
1 cup fresh mashed cooked fresh pumpkin (I used canned pumpkin and it was fine.)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
6 (1 oz.) squares semi-sweet baking chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup pecans

Blend all dry ingredients together. Beat eggs, pumpkin, sugars, milk and oil in a large bowl until well blended. Add dry ingredients and stir until moistened. Stir in chopped chocolate and nuts. Place in a greased 9 x 5 loaf pan and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees. Cool for about 10 minutes and remove from pan.

Seven-Minute Frosting

If I had to pick one recipe that I associate most with my family and growing up, this just might be my choice. This marshmallowy frosting is one that we make over and over again. It's the frosting that is most requested for birthday cakes. Seven-minute frosting (I've never liked the prosaic title) is visually appealing and can be used on all flavors of cake, though we usually put it on chocolate cakes. It's easy to make, but you do have to have a double boiler.

2 egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup or 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine all ingredients except vanilla in top of double broiler. Place over boiling water and beat with rotary beater until mixture stands in stiff peaks. Take off heat and mix in vanilla. Frost cake immediately.

Oct 17, 2009

Apple Cake with Butter Sauce

The rich butter sauce is what makes this dessert.

Apple Cake:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup shortening
1 egg
3 medium apples, peeled and grated
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup nuts, chopped

Mix sugar, shortening, and egg in mixer. Then add grated apple to this mixture and blend again. Finally, add the dry ingredients and nuts and mix well. Pour the batter into a greased 8 x 8-inch pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. While the apple cake is baking, make the butter sauce to go on top.

Butter Sauce:
2 cubes of butter or margarine
2 cups sugar
1 cup canned evaporated milk or heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

Cook the butter, sugar, and milk or cream in a saucepan over low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, but don't let the mixture boil. Then blend in the vanilla and remove from the stove. Serve the warm apple cake in bowls, topped with the hot butter sauce.

Oct 16, 2009

Corn Chowder

1/2 stick butter (1/4 cup)
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 cup flour
4 cups milk (or light cream)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
2 tablespoons dried chives (fresh are even better)
2 1/2 cups cream style or whole kernel corn (I usually use a blend of creamed corn and fresh or frozen corn)
1 ½ cups cubed ham
1 or 2 potatoes, peeled, cubed, and cooked

Sauté the onion in the butter until soft but not brown. Blend in the flour and cook until blended and bubbly. Then add the milk and simmer until the soup has thickened slightly. Add the corn, ham, potato, and seasonings and continue to simmer. Makes about seven to eight servings.

Baked Beans

This recipe, with a slight variation or two, comes from my friend Kathy (see Amazing Meals link under "my blog list"). It's a definite keeper. I tried it yesterday in combination with steamed ham and some applesauce. Total comfort food. And I liked the beans so much that I made a second batch.

2 15-ounce cans of pork and beans
1 large onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 pound lean bacon, cooked crisp, then drained and crumbled (I actually prefer slicing up about 6 pre-cooked sausage links instead of the bacon)

Combine ingredients thoroughly. Pour into an 8 x 8-inch baking pan. Bake for 2 1/2 hours, covered with foil, at 325 degrees. Uncover and bake for another 30 to 40 minutes.

Oct 15, 2009

Easy Caramel Sauce

1/3 cup butter or margarine
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/3 cup whipping cream

Melt butter in saucepan over low heat. Stir in brown sugar, corn syrup, and cream. Heat to the boiling point and then remove from heat. Serve warm or cold. Makes 1 1/4 cups.

Easy Chocolate Sauce

This chocolate sauce is so easy and so good.

1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
3/4 cup evaporated milk
Vanilla to taste

In a saucepan melt butter. Add sugar, cocoa, and milk; boil, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Serve warm or cool. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Oct 14, 2009

Baked Rigatoni

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 28-oz can whole or diced tomatoes, undrained
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
16 ounces rigatoni, cooked according to package directions and then drained
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until golden but not brown, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes and their juices, red pepper flakes, oregano, salt, and sugar. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer. Crush tomatoes with back of wooden spoon if using whole tomatoes. Simmer until sauce thickens slightly, about 20 minutes. Then stir in 1 cup heavy cream and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Add the drained rigatoni and toss to coat. Transfer to a 2-quart casserole dish and top with 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Bake 20 minutes and then let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Oct 10, 2009

Steamed Ham with Apricot Sauce

Steaming a ham has a number of advantages. It cooks some of the fat out, reduces the saltiness, and results in more tender meat. It also allows you to get good results with a less expensive cut.

Buy an inexpensive ham, such as a butt or shank ham. Put in a large pot and add ½ cup water. Cover and bring to a boil. Then turn heat to low or simmer so that the ham can simmer for about 4 hours. Serve with apricot sauce (see below) or homemade applesauce (or make some caramel sauce to go with the applesauce for extra richness).

Apricot Sauce
½ cup apricot jam
3/4 cup bottled apricots, drained and pureed
2-3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon dried minced onion

Combine ingredients in a saucepan and heat for 5-7 minutes.

Oct 9, 2009

Three-Bean Salad

1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 package (10 ounces) frozen lima beans, thawed
1 package (9 ounces) frozen cut green beans, thawed
1 can (15 ounces) red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

In a medium bowl, whisk together vinegar, and oil; season generously with salt and pepper. Add all beans; toss to combine. Let marinate at room temperature or in the refrigerator, tossing occasionally, at least 30 minutes and up to a day. Serves 6.

Oct 7, 2009

Baked Sweet Potatoes

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. With a fork, pierce 4 medium sweet potatoes all over and rub with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Bake on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil, until a paring knife inserted in the center meets no resistance, about 45 minutes. Cut a deep cross into the middle of each sweet potato and push the ends together to open. With a fork, loosen and lightly mash the insides of the sweet potatoes. Top each with a tablespoon butter.

Oct 3, 2009

Big Soft Ginger Cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup margarine, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup molasses
2 tablespoons white sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, then stir in the water and molasses. Gradually stir the sifted ingredients into the molasses mixture. Shape dough into walnut-sized balls, and roll them in the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Place the cookies 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet, and flatten slightly. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container. Yields approximately 24 cookies.