31 August 2007

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars

I recently came across this recipe, yet another one from the Barefoot Contessa (I just need to suck it up and buy her cookbooks). I've made it three times, and every batch was perfect. I brought it to a party, family get-together, and most recently for an office Food Day, and every time it was devoured and the recipe was requested.

I think what I love about this recipe is that it tastes exactly like a PB&J sandwich, without the mushy bread. Instead the bars have a shortbread-type texture to them, which I love. Beware, though: they're rich. I gave myself a tummy ache the first time I tried the recipe, because I ate a big one. And then another. And one more before bedtime.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars


1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 c. creamy peanut butter
3 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
18 oz. jam (I always use blackberry jam, b/c I lurve it)
2/3 c. salted peanuts, coarsely chopped (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9 X 13-inch cake pan.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed about 2 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the vanilla, eggs, and peanut butter and mix until all ingredients are combined.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the peanut butter mixture. Mix just until combined.

Spread 2/3 of the dough into the prepared cake pan and spread over the bottom with a knife (or smoosh down with your fingers). Spread the jam evenly over the dough. Drop small globs of the remaining dough evenly over the jam. Don't worry if all the jam isn't covered; it will spread in the oven. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts and bake for 45 minutes, until golden brown. Cool and cut into squares.

29 August 2007

Easy Cherry Tarts

Thought I'd round out my Pillsbury Challenge with a dessert, seemed fitting. I found this recipe at allrecipes.com. Very easy to make (I didn't have a mini-muffin pan, so just baked the tarts in foil I shaped like little muffin tins). I cut the dough with a juice glass as recommended, worked perfectly.

While good, these tarts were a wee bit disappointing. I thought the cream cheese mixture would have more flavor, but all I could taste was the cherry topping. Not like that's a bad thing really, cherries are my favoritest fruit and all... Maybe I'll try it again with more powdered sugar in the cream cheese mixture. This recipe still gets high marks in my opinion: it's quick, easy, and a very cute dessert or appetizer when you have people over.

Easy Cherry Tarts


1 (8 oz.) package refrigerated crescent rolls
1 (3 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 c. confectioners' sugar
1 c. canned cherry pie filling
1/4 tsp. almond extract

Place crescent dough on a lightly floured surface; seal seams and perforations. Cut into 2-in. circles. Place in greased miniature muffin cups. In a small mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and confectioners' sugar until smooth. Place about 1/2 teaspoon in each cup. Combine pie filling and extract; place about 2 teaspoons in each cup.

Bake at 375 degrees F for 12-14 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool. Refrigerate until serving.

28 August 2007

Tuna Turnovers

I love this recipe. I came across it one day when I had no idea what to make for dinner, and very few things in the cabinet to cook with. I did an ingredient search at AllRecipes.com, and found this little gem.

It may sound like an odd recipe, but it is very very good and easy to whip up. I'll change up some ingredients depending on what I have on hand and what I'm craving that day (onions, garlic, relish, tomatoes, etc.). Like a non-messy tuna melt, and the best part: taste just as good the next day, even without reheating.
Tuna Turnovers


2 (6-oz.) cans tuna, drained and flaked
1/2 c. shredded Cheddar cheese
1/3 c. mayonnaise
1/3 c. sliced ripe olives
1/8 tsp. lemon-pepper seasoning
1 (12 ounce) package refrigerated buttermilk biscuits
1 egg, beaten
1 1/4 cups crushed potato chips (bread crumbs work well as an alternative)

In a small bowl, combine tuna, cheese, mayonnaise, olives and lemon-pepper; set aside. On a lightly floured surface, flatten each biscuit into a 5-in. circle. Spoon 2 rounded tablespoonfuls of tuna mixture onto one side of each circle. Fold dough over filling; press edges with a fork to seal.

Place egg and potato chips in separate shallow bowls. Dip turnovers in egg, then coat with chips. Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Make a 2-1/2-in. slit in top of each turnover. Bake at 375 degrees F for 18-21 minutes or until golden brown.

27 August 2007

Crescent Samosas

Every time Scott and I dine India Palace downtown, we ask ourselves why we don't eat there more often. The atmosphere inside is dark and cozy, the décor is tasteful, the staff is quiet yet attentive. But, of course, it's the food that shines. Rich vindaloos and masalas, not to mention the samosas and pakoras and nan. Each and every one a real treat, because all are a bit too complicated and intimidating to replicate at home.

And then, I came across a samosa recipe that used Pillsbury crescent rolls. Hmmm! A common Indian street food, samosas are tasty fried pastries filled with an aromatic filling (commonly potatoes and peas). Classic Indian snack. And to boot, this recipe was a wee bit healthier (no frying involved). I couldn't help myself, I had to try them.

These samosas have quite a different texture than the traditional kind, obviously - no crispy fried coating. Instead it's a little puff of softness enclosing the potato/pea mixture. But still satisfying, and if you've never had samosas I recommend this recipe - no need to go to a restaurant and order them, and the flavor is very good. The sauce could use some work, maybe more cilantro? Some mint? Just not the same as the green chutney at an Indian joint, but it does the trick for these.

Crescent samosas


2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 can chopped green chiles
1 can whole new potatoes (or 1 large baking potato, parboiled and cubed)
½ tsp. salt
1 (15-oz) can peas, drained (or about a cup of frozen peas, thawed)
1 tsp. curry powder
1 ½ tsp. lemon juice (or more to taste)
Ground black pepper, to taste
2 (8-oz each) cans crescent roll dough

1 c. plain yogurt
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1 garlic clove, minced
½ tsp. cumin
¼ tsp. salt
Ground black pepper, to taste

Heat oven to 375 F. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat until hot. Add 1 garlic clove and 4 tablespoons of the chiles; cook and stir 2 minutes. Add potatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook 8 minutes or until potatoes are light golden brown, stirring frequently. Add peas, curry powder, lemon juice and pepper; cook and stir until thoroughly heated, mashing slightly as mixture cooks.

Separate dough into 16 triangles. Place 2 rounded tablespoons potato mixture on shortest side of each triangle. Roll up, starting at shortest side of triangle, gently wrapping dough around filling and rolling to opposite point. Pinch edges to seal. Place on ungreased large cookie sheet.
Bake at 375 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or until samosas are golden brown.

Meanwhile, in blender container, combine all sauce ingredients. Cover; blend until smooth. Refrigerate until serving time. Garnish samosas with remaining chiles. Serve warm with sauce.

This recipe yields 16 samosas; 8 servings.

26 August 2007

Pigs in a Blanket

Yeah, I know. Everyone makes these. But one thing I've noticed, is that everyone makes them differently. My mother always bought crescent rolls and rolled them around the middle of the hotdog. My first roommate laid biscuit dough over chopped-up hotdogs in a 9X13 pan. I've developed my own system, which makes a lovely crusty roll with a cheesy hotdog inside. I'm sure we all know the basic ingredients, but I thought I'd give a step-by-step instruction of my most amazing piggie method (um, that's totally tongue in cheek my darlings). If you're interested, keep reading. Here's our basic ingredients:

American cheese slices
Canned biscuits

Preheat that oven to the temperature instructed on the can of biscuits! First off, I lay out my ingredients on a cutting board. I take a biscuit first. Smoosh it down so it's nice and flat and big enough to take on a full slice of cheese. I then add the cheese, and lay the hotdog on top.
Next I roll it up, so the dough covers the hotdog:

Then I seal up the seam, and the two sides. I roll it in my hands a few times to seal well.

I lay them all out on the sheet pan. I usually make half cheese and half non-cheese, and mark the non-cheese with hatch marks.

After baking for a nice 15-18 minutes, the piggies emerge nice and golden brown. I serve them with the usual condiments: mustard, ketchup, and relish. Yum!

And there you go. All enclosed and non-messy and totally dippable.

24 August 2007

Antipasto Squares

This is an appetizer recipe, but I'll often make it for dinner (even then, there's plenty of leftovers and it reheats well). It makes a good meal: the meats and cheeses are rich and filling, but the egg mixture and crescent roll dough lightens it up so you don't feel like there's a lump in your tummy. It's easy to make, too, which is a plus. The recipe below is actually halved; if you want to make more to make appetizers, use a 9X13 pan and double all ingredients.

Antipasto Squares


1 (10-oz.) can refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
4 thin slices deli ham
4 slices provolone cheese
4 slices Swiss cheese
6-8 slices Genoa salami
1/8 lb. pepperoni sausage slices
½ (12-oz.) jar roasted red peppers, drained and patted dry, cut into thin strips
2 medium eggs
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
¼ tsp. ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 C).

Unroll one-half of a can of crescent roll dough, and cover the bottom of a 9X9-in. pan. Bake in preheated oven for 6-8 minutes, until just set (not yet browned). Allow to cool slightly.

Layer the ham, provolone cheese, Swiss cheese, salami, pepperoni, and red peppers, on top of the dough.

In a bowl, beat the eggs lightly, and stir in the parmesan cheese and black pepper. Pour 3/4 of this mixture over the peppers. Unroll remaining half of dough, and place over the top of the peppers. Brush with the remaining egg mixture.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove foil, and bake another 10 to 20 minutes, or until dough is fluffy and golden brown. Cut into squares. Serve warm or at room temperature.

22 August 2007

Classic Pizza by Pillsbury

I decided to start my own personal Pillsbury challenge with the pizza crust. I've never bought the stuff before, (1) because I'm worried that it would taste like garbage, I mean seriously it's in a can; and (2) I didn't want to pay $3+ for garbage. But considering the sale price, I thought it was the perfect time to experiment with it. Given the nice meats/veggies in the fridge, I couldn't resist making a lovely pizza for dinner.

Now, since I was cheating with the crust, I thought I'd go all out with toppings. First I fried some bacon, and drained and crumbled it. Then I sliced a small onion and pan-fried it in the bacon grease until nice and caramelized. I pulled out the onions and then added sliced portabello mushrooms to the grease, and sautéed them until soft. Lastly, I sautéed garlic in the bit of bacon grease left until nice and golden.

I smooshed the canned crust into a jelly roll pan and baked the crust for 6 minutes as recommended, then pulled it out and added toppings. I used leftover marinara for pizza sauce, then topped with the bacon, onions, mushrooms, and garlic as well as pepperoni slices and lots of shredded mozzarella. I popped it back in the oven for about 14 more minutes, until the toppings were heated through and the cheese was gooey and browning on top.

The pizza ended up really great. The flavor of the onions and garlic really came through due to the sauté beforehand, the mushrooms were soft and flavorful, and the meat was delicious of course. The crust was actually really good too - crispy but not overly cooked, and actually tasted like DiGiorno crust. All in all, I was rather impressed and it made for an easy meal to whip up on a weeknight. If you ever want to make pizza on your own, I highly recommend the Pillsbury canned pizza crust.

Pillsbury Challenge, Nemmie-Style

So, we got back from Wisconsin and were wiped out, yet had a million things to do. One of those things being grocery shopping. While I'm generally one of those really anal people who plans meals and then makes a list and gets everything at once, I just didn't have the strength to do it this time. So off we went to the store, without any idea what we wanted to eat for the week.

We're wandering around the store, and I went to get some butter. Lo and behold, but what did I see? A huge sale on all Pillsbury canned products, all the biscuits and crescent rolls and breadsticks and breads… At a buck apiece, I just couldn't help myself. So I loaded the cart with a bunch of different products, some I've never used before, and started hunting the aisles for possible ingredients.

With that in mind, I decided this week (and all food posts) will revolve around said Pillsbury products. My own personal food challenge of sorts. Every day I'm going to cook our dinner using canned whatnot, and I'll give the recipes and/or critiques. We'll see how it goes! In a minute, I'll be posting my creation from last night.

21 August 2007


Just got back from a whirlwind trip to my home state, Wisconsin. It was Hubs' first trip there, which made it that much more fun. My sister Tinnie tagged along with us, and might I add? She's the Best Road-Trip Companion you could have. I must admit, this post might get a bit mushy. I am always sad coming home to Lawrence after a trip to Wisconsin, it makes me homesick.

Wisconsin might not be the first state you think of when you think of great food (or the 2nd, or 3rd, or 10th...) but it should be someplace you consider. Wisconsinites love their food as much as their beer. And there's a lot of regional cuisine you find here that you just can't find anywhere else, hence this (very long) post dedicated to the place I call home.

We flew into Madison, the Berkeley of the Midwest, then drove up north to Appleton, then Stevens Point, on to Green Bay, then made our way back down to Madison (with a stop in my hometown, Fond du Lac). I initially planned on posting everything in chronological order, but that would get confusing. Instead, we're going to explore the state by their unique foods/dishes/brew. And to start, let's go with the beer...


We had some lunch first in Madison, at the Great Dane Brewery. Hubs is a beer nerd, a card-carrying member of Beer Advocate even, so he did his research before our trip and asked that we stop there for lunch. And I gotta say, it was good. The beers are yummy - I had their Mallard Cream Ale, a light beer that lives up to the name - very creamy, almost no aftertaste. Mmmm. Their lunch menu was also good, unfortunately I was too busy eating to get a good picture of any food. Had the Great Dane burger - hamburger smothered in artichoke dip - and it was divine. Tinnie had the prime rib wrap, and Hubs had the brat burger on a pretzel roll (can't get a more WI burger than that).

After lunch we visited Monona Terrace (the last architectural design by Mr. Frank Lloyd Wright) and headed to the shops on State Street. Had a beer at State Street Brats before hitting the road up North, too bad we were full because their brats looked mighty tasty! I totally recommend this place if you ever find yourself in Madison - for happy hour they run a "stock" ticker on the TV screens behind the bar, upping and lowering the costs of beers continuously. You can get a good beer for $1.50 if you watch closely (make sure you're not ordering one at a steeper price too!). Fun fun place, with a great beer garden to boot. That's a shot of my sister pretending to punch Bucky in the nose, by the way. I'm surprised we weren't escorted out at that point.

The night before we flew back to Kansas, we hit up Ale Asylum in Madison as well. Another great brewpub, this one with good dark beers. I had their porter, and it rocked. Hubs was partial to the Hopilicious, and Tinnie got their Gold Digger (a blonde ale). All were very, very good. The decor is very modern-slash-goth and they also serve food, but we skipped that and filled up on the brews instead.

Those were the only microbrews we visited, but definitely do not begin to give you an idea of the amount of great beers found in the state. There's Miller for the cheap goodness, and Leinenkugels (Wisconsinites call them Leinies). Stevens Point has a great brewery where they make their famous Point Beer. Another favorite brewery is New Glarus, and their beer is unavailable outside the state, such a pity. New Glarus Spotted Cow is to die for, and I ordered it whenever I had the chance. We also got a 6-pack to enjoy in our hotel room our last night there.


Fish plays a big role in Wisconsin's "culinary" traditions. Minnesota may be known as the Land of a Thousand Lakes, but Wisconsin takes a close second. All these lakes are filled to the brim with perch, walleye, bluegill, herring, whitefish, you name it. So when in my hometown, we made sure to have a meal at my most favorite seafood restaurant, Salty's. Fond du Lac is at the foot of Lake Winnebago, a lake so big you can't see across it (we had a lighthouse, for goodness sake). Our house was a mere 3 blocks from the lake, and Salty's is only 1 block off the water. It also serves the best seafood in town. It's a small place and the bar takes up more room than seating, nice and dark on the inside as well: the perfect supper club type of place. Did I mention that Wisconsin is also known for its rocking supper clubs?

Anyhoo, back to the food. Hubs had the grilled skate wing. Tinnie had the crab cakes and I got the battered bluegill. All were served with a side of twice-baked potato or German potato salad as well as coleslaw. The bluegill was battered with the skin still on, but it really added to the flavor and the skin so thin you never noticed. Their batter was dotted with lots of spices, I could taste garlic and onion and pepper. Very good. Crab cakes were okay, but the skate was probably the best of the three - the meat was so tender and soft, it fell apart when you put your fork into it. I can't place the taste of it, but it was very good and not "fishy" at all.

We also ordered a bowl of their famous seafood chowder - it was cheddar-cream base full of whitefish and shrimp and veggies. So, so good. We gobbled it down even though we were already full from our meals. Cheesy and thick and every bite had a big chunk of fish. Good stuff.

We also had some Friday Fish Fry (see below), but Salty's is a classic and a place worth stopping by if you ever find yourself passing through Fondy...

Friday Fish Fry

One tradition that blankets the state in general is the Friday Fish Fry. Every Friday night, the people of Wisconsin head out to their favorite restaurant to enjoy their fish fry. Almost every restaurant has a fish special on Friday, and you can find at least one GREAT fish fry restaurant in every town in Wisconsin. Lightly breaded, deep-fried lake fish, a side of fries, coleslaw, bread, and you're there. We went to visit my sister Carole and her family in Appleton, where she took us out to the best fish fry in town: Cinders Restaurant.

I was too chicken to break out the camera with so much family around, so sadly I have nothing to show for it. The restaurant had versions of fish fry with walleye and shrimp, but as my sister told us, "It's the perch you want." The perch I got and the perch I ate, crispy on the outside and moist yet firm on the inside; absolutely perfect. The fish comes with tartar sauce and that Wisconsin dipping tradition, melted butter. Um, I'm not too fond of the melted butter. But all was so good, we ate our fill and then some. Also? This place meant business when it came to the beer batter. You could taste the beer quite distinctly. A bit of a surprise, but yummy too. Gotta love Wisconsin.


I love brats. Saturday we met up with my cousin Joylyn, who just happened to have 4 tickets to the Packers game that evening, close to the field too... Yeah, I'm a lucky b*tch. We breezed into town about 90 minutes before the game, changed and grabbed some rain gear (it was rainy and in the 60s, and the venerable Lambeau Field has no dome), then headed to the game. We got to the stadium just in time to scarf down a brat before finding our seats, perfect timing.

Now, I'm sure most people know Wisconsin is known for their brats, but the best are available anywhere. Johnsonville really is one of the best you can find, and that's what they serve at the stadium. But it's how their made that makes them so good: simmered in beer and onions, then thrown on the grill to brown and crisp up the skins before eating. They mash them in a bun and top with kraut, then send you off to add your own choice of mustard. Only a spicy brown mustard will do for brats, my dear friends. Those stadium brats are perfection on a bun, and I wolfed mine down in no time.

Hubs rather enjoyed his as well.

Cheese Curds

After the Packers game we met up with Joy's husband at a local pub, where we made sure to order fried cheese curds with our Leinies.

Not sure what a cheese curd is? A one-of-a-kind delight in the state of Wisconsin, these are the balls that first float up during the cheese making process. You can buy/eat them in their original cheese curd state (the best and freshest make a squeak when you bite into them). But better yet: batter or bread and deep fry them, and you have heaven that no other cheese stick product can replace. We ordered a pile of them and finished them in no time. Creamy and cheesy and crispy on the outside, yum. Perfect bar food. You have to try these before you die.

Custard and Blue Moon Ice Cream

Our last evening in Madison, Tinnie and I begged and begged until Hubs took us to our favorite place in town, Ella's Deli. This is a sentimental favorite, as our parents used to take us here for sundaes when we were kids. But I must say, it is quite possibly the best ice cream place on the planet. There's a carasol located right outside the restaurant, and when you walk in it is like being in the middle of a carasol itself. Antique toys attached to strings and pulleys are zooming and dipping at you, covering the entire ceiling. Other toys are out for you to play with in the aisles. All the tables have a toy theme, with the toys encased in the table itself under glass. I can imagine, though, for some parents it's quite headache-inducing.

Ella's Deli serves kosher food, but is really known for its custard and ice cream. Their sundaes are to die for, and we ordered the Turtle Pound Cake. It had a slice of homemade walnut pound cake on the bottom, topped with vanilla custard and then buried in hot fudge and homemade butterscotch. Add whipped cream, and you're all set. Frozen custard is so rich, the vanilla really comes out and isn't overwhelmed by the cake or toppings. We all shared the sundae, as well as a dish of that Wisconsin favorite: blue moon ice cream.

Never heard of it? Blue Moon is a regional flavor mostly found in Wisconsin and Michigan. I had always thought it was a regular flavor everyone had, like mint chocolate chip or butter pecan, until we moved to Kansas and it was never to be found. The ice cream is a bright blue hue and tastes just like Fruity Pebbles cereal. My absolute favorite, and now I'm craving it again. Damn. Sylas and Maddy's in downtown Lawrence will make it (maybe once every few years), so I'll just have to deal until I can find it again.

That's all we sampled while there, but doesn't begin to lift the surface of the state's offerings. If you ever visit, also try to find Racine kringle (pastry), local cherries or cranberries in anything, wild rice salad, and cream puffs (which are best from the state fair). Ahh, I wish we had months to visit instead of just 4 days... Okay, I will go back to pining away for my home state in private, but I hope that gave you a decent idea of the awesomest state in the Union. In my humble opinion.

Later gators.

16 August 2007

Tuna and Tomato Sauce

This recipe is from Giada De Laurentiis' cookbook Everyday Italian. I make loads of her regular marinara sauce at a time, usually on the weekends, and then freeze it into Gladware so that I can pull one out to thaw for an easy pasta dinner during the week. It's a great basic recipe: tons of flavor but yet nothing is overpowering (Hubs makes a marinara with lots of red wine and basil; very good but also quite strong). The carrots add a tinge of sweetness to the acidy-tomato base, and I love the chunky texture.

This sauce makes a great "starter" to make other pasta sauces. When I thaw out a container of sauce, I'll stir in vodka/cream/parm for a vodka sauce, or will add any multitude of things to keep it interesting (sauted mushrooms, meatballs, mixed olives, you get the picture). I am giving the basic marinara sauce recipe below, as well as my favorite variation on it: Tuna and tomato sauce. It is SOOOO good.

Basic Marinara Sauce

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 small onions, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 celery ribs, finely chopped

2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped

1/2 tsp salt, plus more to taste

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

2 (32-oz.) cans crushed tomatoes

2 dried bay leaves

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, and 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper. Cook until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Taste, and adjust seasonings.

If making ahead, cool, then cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day. Or transfer the cooled sauce to freezer bags and freeze for up to 3 months.

Tuna and Tomato Sauce

This is so good. The lemon zest wakes up all the flavors and perfumes the dish, but doesn't overpower anything. It's a from-the-pantry version that comes together really quickly with the pre-made marinara.


3 c. Marinara sauce

2 (6-oz) cans tuna packed in oil, drained (get the good stuff if you can find it on sale)

1 Tbsp. drained capers

1 tsp. grated lemon zest (about half a lemon)

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper, plus more to taste

1 lb. pasta of choice (rigatoni or large shells work well)

Freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to the bite.
Meanwhile, combine the tomato sauce, tuna, capers, and lemon zest in a heavy large skillet. Using a fork, break the tuna into chunks. Simmer to blend the flavors, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Add the pasta to the sauce and toss to coat. Toss the pasta with enough reserved cooking liquid to moisten. Stir in the parsley and serve. If you're in the mood, dust with some parmesan.

15 August 2007

Peanut Butter Cookies

Not much time to write today, it's a busy one. Have to fly out to WI early on Friday. So here's a goodie from my archives. This recipe is for a chewy cookie (not a huge fan of crunchy cookies), and a very poofy one at that (thank you, shortening). And at my house we don't add Hershey kisses, we put Hershey bars on them. Kinda rations out the chocolate with the peanut butter better. This time I placed two bars on each cookie, as they turned out a bit large.

Peanut Butter Cookies

¾ c. peanut butter (creamy or crunchy will work)
½ c. shortening or butter-flavored Crisco
1 ¼ cup brown sugar, packed
3 Tbsp. milk
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 egg
1 ¾ c. flour
¾ tsp. salt
¾ tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine peanut butter, Crisco, sugar, milk, and vanilla in a bowl. Beat at medium speed until well blended. Add egg. Beat until just blended.

Combine the last 3 ingredients in a separate bowl. Add to creamed mixture at a low speed until just blended. Chill dough in the fridge for at least an hour.

Drop onto baking sheet, and flatten slightly with a fork dipped in sugar (making a criss-cross pattern). Bake for 7-8 minutes.

After removing from the oven, immediately push candy bar piece into cookie. Let cool for a few minutes on the baking sheets, and then carefully transfer to a cooling rack (be careful to not smash the chocolate, which will be melty at this point). Allow chocolate to harden before storing.

14 August 2007

Toad in the Hole

When we were visiting my parents recently my dad made Toad in the Hole, and it totally brought me back to my childhood. While 100% German, my father always has had an undying love for English foods. The man can whip up soft pretzels from scratch and makes a mean sauerbraten, but he also adores bubble-and-squeak and roast with Yorkshire pudding. When us girls were younger, if we were very very good and asked nicely, he'd make us Toad in the Hole.

Not sure what exactly it is? Toad in the Hole is a simple (read: cheap) dish basically made up of sausages and Yorkshire pudding, baked together in the oven. And it is soooo good – sizzling sausages in a fluffy "popover" type thing, brown and crispy on top, soft in the center. Mmm. Easy to make and very tasty.

I've been craving Toad in the Hole nonstop since Christmastime. This past weekend apparently I was a very very good girl who asked nicely (or perhaps I just have a lovely Hubs), because Scott found a recipe and made me some Toad in the Hole. And it turned out great – a wee bit on nice and golden brown and he bought the wrong type of sausages (TURKEY??), but yummy nonetheless. Just a few more (dozen) pans of Toad in the Hole, and I'm sure he'll have it down pat. Practice makes perfect and all that…

Toad in the Hole


2 eggs
4 oz flour
1 c. milk
Salt and pepper
6-8 good-quality sausages (the smaller link-type of sausages, and make sure they have casings!)
2 Tbsp. lard or grease from the sausages

Preheat the oven to 400 F. On the stovetop over low heat, cook the sausages in a frying pan on all sides until nicely browned.. Do not prick the skins! Allow to cool.

Using an electric mixer (or whisk by hand) blend the eggs, milk, flour, and salt & pepper together until smooth. Allow the mixture to rest awhile.*

Slip the lard (or grease from cooking the sausages) into a baking pan** and place in the oven. Allow to heat up until the oil is visibly smoking.***

Quickly, but carefully, take out and rest on the top of the oven. Pour in the batter mixture. Then add the Sausages, parallel to each other, the length of the tin. Place back into the oven and bake for around half an hour until the batter is puffed up, golden brown and crispy. Eat immediately, before it starts to deflate!

Serve with onion gravy, if you're that kind of person. Serves 2 or 3 as a main meal.


* The key to a great Yorkshire pudding is to let the batter rest for about half an hour before baking.
** Use a metal pan - an 8- or 9-inch square works well . The batter will not crisp in a ceramic or glass dish.

*** The hotter the fat is when the batter first hits it, the poofier the end result.

13 August 2007

Linguine with Garlic Sauce

This is more of a fall dish, so the fact that I'm raving about it in the middle of the muggy KS heat says something. It was creamy but not too rich, and the bacon and garlic really flavor the dish well. The leftovers re-heated pretty good (no curdling that you sometimes get in a cream pasta dish), so a total winner in my book. Be sure to use fresh spinach in this dish - I bought spinach but it went bad before I could use it, so used frozen instead. The spinach was a bit too clumpy that way...

Linguine with Garlic Sauce


12 oz. uncooked linguine
1/2 lb. sliced bacon, diced
5 c. fresh spinach
1/2 c. chopped onion
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 1/4 c. milk
1 pkg (8 oz.) cream cheese, cubed
2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
1/2 c. pine nuts, toasted

Cook linguine according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove to paper towels and drain. Reserve 1 Tbsp. of bacon drippings in pan.

In the drippings, saute the spinach, onion, and garlic until tender. Add the milk, cream cheese, butter, salt, nutmeg, and pepper. Stir until smooth. Stir in bacon and pine nuts to heat through.

Drain pasta and toss with sauce.

10 August 2007

Flag Cake

Hmmm, there seems to be a few berries missing from that cake...

I made this cake, not for the 4th of July, but as a birthday cake. The recipe is from Ina Garten. My sister (affectionately known to me as Beah) and babies were coming to visit, spend some time sister-bonding without our husbands around. Her visit also happened to be over her birthday, and since August is so unbearably hot, I thought this cake would fit the bill.

I halved Ina’s original recipe and baked the cake in a 9X13 pan, which worked perfectly. The cake tasted sooo good and the cream cheese frosting was to die for. The berries gave this light cake just the right amount of extra zing.

The only complaint that I have is the refrigeration factor. You need to refrigerate it because of the frosting and berries, but then the cake seems really dry. I will say that we left a 3-day-old slice out to warm up, as an experiment, and then the cake was just fine and moist. So it’s strictly a fridge thing, not a batter problem. Still not sure how to combat that in the future…

Flag Cake

For the cake:
9 Tbsp.(1 1/8 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ½ c. sugar
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
½ c. sour cream, at room temperature
¾ tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 ½ c. flour
1/6 c. cornstarch
½ tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. baking soda

For the frosting:
½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ pound (3/4-of-a-pkg) cream cheese, at room temperature
½ pound confectioners' sugar, sifted ¾ tsp. pure vanilla extract

To assemble:
1 half-pint blueberries
2 half-pints raspberries

Heat the oven to 350 F. Butter and flour a 9X13-in pan.

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed, until light and fluffy. On medium speed, add the eggs, 2 at a time, then add the sour cream and vanilla. Scrape down the sides and stir until smooth.

Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda in a bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture until just combined.

Pour into the prepared pan. Smooth the top with a spatula. Bake in the center of the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool to room temperature.

For the icing, combine the butter, cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mixing just until smooth. Spread three-fourths of the icing on the top of the cooled sheet cake.

For the flag: Outline the flag on the top of the cake with a toothpick. Fill the upper left corner with blueberries. Place 2 rows of raspberries across the top of the cake like a red stripe. Put the remaining icing in a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and pipe two rows of white stripes below the raspberries. Alternate rows of raspberries and icing until the flag is completed. Pipe stars on top of the blueberries.

P.S.: behold, the berry thief.

Hi hi!

We're going to give this food blog thing a try. I have tons and tons of stuff to post from the past (currently on my scrawny myspace blog which I've outgrown). So look for things to come in the future!