A cooking and baking journal

Mr. Twinkie, Meet Mr. Peach

3/29/09: Sponge Cake with Peaches and Whipped Topping

  • Sources: Annemarie's Betty Crocker cookbook. The title of the sponge cake recipe is "Inexpensive Sponge Cake." The idea of adding peaches and whipped topping came from the book also.
  • Defining moments: First time baking sponge cake. And what I hear from Papa, this would be the first time he had homemade sponge cake. Last but not least, I am using our frozen peaches from last year! Yay!
  • What I learned: I learned that frozen peaches may not be as firm as the canned ones but they sure are good, nonetheless! I also learned that decorating a cake is, well to put it mildly, FUN. :) Especially when it comes to layered cakes.
The recipe said to use boiling milk for the sponge cake but after some advice from Annemarie I decided to heat the milk to the almost-boiling stage. I add the milk to eggs so you can see why I chose to do it this way. Scrambled eggs in a cake batter. . . I've never seen it before in real life but I did catch a glimpse of it on a Food Network show. Hehehe.
One last thing: I learned that whipped topping came in a box! Never knew that one. I used a boxed version called Dream Whip.

  • How it tasted: Better than a Twinkie, I think! I had a lot of good feedback and I now declare the Sponge Cake as my favorite type of cake.
  • How about a 2nd time? I have 2 1/2 quarts of peaches left, so absolutely.

"In the golden lightning
Of the sunken sun,
O'er which clouds are brightening.
Thou dost float and run,
Like an unbodied joy whose race is just begun."

An excerpt from the poem "To a Skylark," written by Percy Shelley. I was reading this poem for school around the time I made the cake and I believe it goes very well with the golden peaches and the clouds of whipped topping, don't you think? And the cake certainly did give joy to those who had a piece! :)

Muffuletta--say what?

3/22/09: Muffuletta, the sandwich of New Orleans, Louisana.

  • Sources: I gathered various muffuletta recipes from the internet and sort of made my own choice of ingredients for the filling. One recipe that was used for inspiration is Emeril Lagasse's Muffuletta. The bread recipe came from www.nolacuisine.com. The source of the idea to make muffuletta is the Food Network show, Throwdown with Bobby Flay. Bobby Flay was competing against some New Orleans brothers for the title of best muffuletta and while the two teams competed against each other I thought to myself, "Gee, that sandwich looks good!" And so it took off from there.
  • Defining moments: First time for muffuletta.
  • What I learned: First and foremost I learned what a muffuletta is. That's always important. So here comes a history lesson: the word muffuletta comes from the Italian word muffa, which means mold, and the bread was first made by Sicilian women. The bread worked its way over to the U.S. and ended up being chosen as "the" bread for the muffuletta sandwich by the Central Grocery in New Orleans in 1910. The sandwich was a favorite lunch for Louisiana farmers on their trips into town. So there's the history, now just don't ask me which way to pronounce it. It is either "muff-uh-LET-ta", "muff-uh-LOT-uh", or "moo-foo-LET-ta." It's your choice, there's no wrong way in my book.
This is another new bread recipe for me, seems like I have to try out a new one every week, doesn't it? I don't mind! The bread is very easy to make and handle and doesn't require much baking time because it is somewhat flat.
The olive salad I made showed me the striking difference between olives (I used green and black) and I also tried out red wine vinegar. I don't remember using or tasting this type of vinegar before, so this recipe allowed me to be introduced to a new ingredient.
Since I didn't follow any one recipe for the salad and choices of meat and cheese, I will write here what I used for the muffuletta filling:

Rebekah's Olive Salad (enough for two 10" muffuletta sandwiches)
10 oz. black olives
3 oz. green olives stuffed with pimentos
1 small onion
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar

And for the choice of meat and cheese. . .
I used thinly sliced ham and mozzarella cheese. I was planning on adding summer sausage to the filling but can you believe it? I forgot. That's me for you!

  • How it tasted: It was accepted by all but there were a few complaints, one of which came from me. Number one: the bread crust was a bit too crunchy. This is the way the bread is suppose to be and it is probably caused by the egg wash that is brushed on before placing it in the oven. So the next time I make this bread I'll eliminate this step. Number two: I think the onion in the olive salad was too strong. I will add less next time or maybe none at all. Number three: according to my youngest sister, too many olives. She could be right. . . Maybe I do need to add bell peppers to the salad like my Papa suggested to me earlier.
  • How about a 2nd time? I think this would be exceptional if the above changes were made to the recipe. I like muffulettas and since they can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple days (they say the longer the filling is on the bread the better the sandwich) I think this sandwich would be a good choice for the busy summer months. There is also a hot muffuletta sandwich that can be made and I think it sounds really good. Just think of it. . . hot ham, summer sausage, olive salad, and warm, melted mozzarella cheese. Mmmm.

Gosh, what would I do without that non-stick aluminum foil from Reynold's? (Look at above photos.)

My Joe! It's a Homemade Sloppy Joe + Bun!

3/15/09: Sloppy Joe's with Homemade Hamburger Buns

  • Defining moments: 1st time to use a recipe from the Food Network channel and 1st time to make homemade hamburger buns.
  • What I learned: I never thought of making my own hamburger buns so when I found the bun recipe at the bottom of the page on recipezaar.com, I knew then and there that I will be using them this Sunday. It is a known fact that you can take a store bought bun and mush it into a small ball within seconds. (Hey, I've seen it done many a time on those Food Network hot dog eating competitions.) So I knew from the beginning that if I had Sloppy Joe's in mind I was going to have to send in the big artillery, aka a bun that can stand up to a heavy, wet sauce.
I learned from making the buns that they don't rise much while baking. So I should form the buns as big as I want the baked version to be. I also noticed that the dough was not that easy to form, it is quite sticky and wet and took at least 10 minutes to knead. There's a lot of liquid in this recipe (eggs, water, oil) so it is understandable.
I learned from making the Sloppy Joe's that it is VERY important to taste as you add the strong flavorings, such as the Worcestershire and A1 sauces that I used. It is a better practice to add teeny-weeny amounts of these types of flavorings, in order to not overpower the whole dish, than to just follow the recipe. Taste it every step of the way.
I changed Rachael's recipe ingredients for the Sloppy Joe's, so here is my ingredient list: 4 lb. ground beef, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 3 tbsp. A1 steak sauce, 2 medium onions, 1 bell pepper, 6 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce, and 8 cups tomato sauce.
  • How it tasted: Both the buns and the sauce were great, according to me and the whole family. Papa said this was the best Sloppy Joe sauce he ever had and my youngest sister said that she likes it, and she happens to not like ground beef much. The bun held up nicely and didn't become goulash in the end. :)
  • How about a 2nd time? Why, uh, yeah! Definitely. And I am looking forward to making a hot dog bun shape.

One of My Favorites -- A Bread Recipe for You


I've made St. Joseph's Day Bread two times so far and have found it to be the easiest, fastest, and one of the most delicious breads to prepare and bake. I thought it would be a good idea to share with you this recipe, which was taken from A Catholic Calendar of Culinary Customs (visit angeluspress.org to purchase this wonderful calendar) and was tweaked a bit by yours truly. Side note: this edited version of the recipe was published in the March 2009 issue of Saint Maria's Messenger magazine.

St. Joseph's Day Bread

2 tsp. dry yeast
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup shortening (I used unsalted butter, melted)
2 cups (500 ml) lukewarm water (see bread making tips below)
7 cups (500 g) flour
6 eggs
2 tbsp. sesame or anise seeds
Cooking spray

Directions: Combine yeast, salt, sugar, and water. Pour flour into a bowl and make a well in the middle. Drop eggs, melted butter, and a few seeds into the well. Stir slowly, and gradually add the yeast mixture.

Knead mixture until you have a smooth, elastic dough. It may be necessary to add some extra water or flour to achieve this.

Spray the inside of a large bowl with cooking spray. Place dough inside bowl, flip dough once, and cover bowl with a warm, damp towel. (You flip dough in order for the oil to cover the top.) Leave in a warm place until doubled (about one hour).

Punch dough down, and shape into a huge round flat dough nut. As the dough will rise and expand a lot while rising a second time, make sure the hole in the middle is quite large. Place on a large greased baking sheet and sprinkle the remaining seeds on top. Cover and let rest for half an hour. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F (190 C) until done and golden brown (around 25 minutes). The bread is done when it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Serves 10 to 12.

Some bread making tips from me: Activating yeast requires the water you use to be around 120 degrees F. You should not go beyond 130 degrees (as this will kill the yeast) and below 115 (which would be too cool). Many bakers can tell the temperature of the water by feel alone, but you may want to use a cooking thermometer like we did.
It is very important that you keep your dough in a warm place when rising. I found that placing the dough on top of the stove when an open oven is at 200 degrees makes for the perfect environment.

Credits to the Photographer

I wanted to say, "Thank you" to my sister who does such a great job with my blog photos. She had to leave her painting about four times today just because of me, and she did it without one tiny sign of annoyance! Thank you very much!

Time to Catch Up with Bon Appetit--French Bread Pizza Style

3/08/09: French Bread Pizza using French Bread I Made from Scratch

  • Sources: French bread recipe from Annemarie's Betty Crocker cookbook and pizza recipe from recipezaar.com (Recipe #355783).
  • Defining moments: First time making French bread pizza.
  • What I learned: French bread takes a good amount of time to prepare--about 3 hours in all, and that is only in the rising. So what was I to preoccupy myself with during this long duration? Why reading a couple back issues of Bon Appetit of course! I may skip over a good portion of the magazine because restaurant reviews are just not my thing but I did find some interesting articles, interviews, and of course recipes. So today I learned that French bread and a magazine work exceptionally together. Hmm. . . Maybe I should do what my mom did while cooking: play a game of solitaire. Haven't played a card game in a while. :)
Ok, let me get to the real cooking facts. I didn't really follow the Recipezaar recipe (in both ingredients and preparation) but it is this website that provided the inspiration for the meal. This would be my second time in making french bread; to learn more about my first encounter go to my earlier post entitled: ¿Hablas español? Parlez-vous Francaise?. So I didn't walk into uncharted territories this time, everything seemed pretty familiar and not too far beyond my grasp such as the meringue episode of last week. :) I may not have learned a new technique or skill this week but I am getting more comfortable about creating my own recipe.
In able for me to remember exactly what I did for the pizza toppings here is my ingredient list, from first layer to last: store bought pizza sauce, ground Italian sausage, Italian cheese blend, and a few slices of pepperoni on top.
After reviewing these ingredients I have come to realize how inexpensive this meal is. I glimpsed at the price tags while I was waiting for the bread to rise and I estimated that everything (including the bread) comes to the total of five dollars. $5 for eight people, now that's nice!

  • How it tasted: So far all good comments. But since we ate it about two hours ago I don't know the full story yet. Will add more info as soon as I receive more input from the expert food tasters.
  • How about a 2nd time? Only when I have a full afternoon free. French bread takes a long time to prepare because it is a heavy dough and the yeast needs extra time to create those air pockets.
1st step:

2nd step:

3rd step:

Peach Pie Revisted

I think I should write down my peach pie recipe here because I used a couple different cook books to figure out the best way to use my canned peaches in a pie. So here it is:

Peach Pie recipe for one 10" pie (made on 2/08/09)

Pie crust ingredients for one 2-crust 10" pie:
  • 2 1/2 c. flour
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 c baking Crisco
  • 6-7 tbsp. water
  • 3 tbsp. plain bread crumbs
  • Cooking spray

Filling ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 qt. canned peaches (I used the Harrow Beauty variety)
  • 1/4 c. cornstarch

Sift together dry ingredients. Cut in Crisco with pastry cutter. Pour in water (you can add more if need be). Knead dough for a few seconds. Divide dough so that one portion is slightly larger than other. Take larger portion and roll out to a circle that is about 12" in diameter. Carry dough (using rolling pin method) to pie plate that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Shape dough to plate and trim away excess. Add bread crumbs and pat to adhere.

To prepare filling: Drain peaches and coat them with cornstarch. Pour into pie plate. Preheat oven to 400°.

To make top layer of crust:
Roll out smaller piece of dough so that it is roughly 10" wide. Place on top of peaches. Tuck top layer's edges under bottom layer's and crimp with fingers. Make slits in top. Bake for 45 minutes.

Not Your Average Meringue


3/01/09: Spanish Chicken with Pasta and Chocolate Cream Pie
  • Sources: For chicken I went to southerngood.about.com and for pie, Antoinette Pope cook book.
  • Defining moments: First time for chocolate pie filling and meringue.
  • What I learned: I learned that even though I've seen my mom make meringue without one bit of difficulty, that doesn't mean meringue making will be painless. Ok, yes, my meringue went completely wrong and I am still puzzled by what happened. I stayed true to the recipe--the recipe my mom uses--but my meringue still remained in a marshmellow fluff state even though I used the electric beater on it for 1/2 hour! In the end I poured the "marshmallow meringue" on top of my chocolate cream pie and baked it. The pie turned out fine (taste-wise, too) but my older sister was a bit perplexed by the pies' flat meringue surface. "Doesn't meringue pies have peaks or something?" she asked.
  • How it tasted: The Spanish chicken was awesome I think and my youngest sister may have to change her birthday meal plan. The chocolate cream pie was good too, and no, the meringue didn't taste like marshmallows--close to it though. And my Papa told me a very funny scenario that happened this morning. When he first went into the kitchen in the early morning he saw that the leftover pie was gone and was very "upset" about it! He didn't know that the pie was placed in grandma's refrigerator. When he discovered that the pie still existed he sighed with relief. :)
  • How about a 2nd time? Yes, for both recipes.

M'm! M'm!. . . Homemade!

2/22/09: Chicken, Corn, and Potato Chowder and St. Joseph's Day Bread
  • Sources: Recipelink.com for chowder and March 2009 issue of Saint Maria's Messenger magazine.
  • Defining moments: First time I ever made soup from scratch. (If I was talking canned soup this would probably be my 100th time.)
  • What I learned: I learned that you should never have soup without bread accompanying it! I also discovered that the second time you do a recipe everything seems to flow so nicely. I had zero trouble with the St. Joseph's Day bread this time.
  • How it tasted: It was the best chicken soup I ever tried and my brothers really liked it as well. My sisters looked more fondly at the bread than the soup, which I don't mind in the least!
  • How about a 2nd time? The bread, definitely. The soup. . .If I could have it my way I would have this soup, cabbage soup, and split pea soup every month! These three are my favorites. And split pea soup may be coming soon, the ham bone is waiting patiently in the freezer as I speak.

"Ok, everyone in the pool." -- The Art of Boiling Bagels in a Pot

2/15/09: Homemade Plain and Pizza Bagels
  • Sources: Allrecipes.com, recipe was called "Boiled Bagels."
  • Defining moments: First time making bagels.
  • What I learned: I learned that even though a recipe may sound very complex (it is true that I was a bit concerned about simmering dough in a pot of water), I should go for it anyway. It will be a great way to learn new techniques and bagels proved to do just that.
  • How it tasted: I placed pepperoni, olives, pizza sauce, and mozzarella cheese on each bagel to transform them into Pizza Bagels. Magnifico! I also froze some leftover plain bagels and had them for breakfast during the next two weeks to come. They were great with jam and honey.
  • How about a 2nd time? Would love to.

Pie Making for the First Time


2/08/09: Peach Pie and Chicken Nuggets
  • Sources: The pie recipe was an offshoot of the Antoinette Pope and Peaches and Other Juicy Fruits cookbooks. The pie crust and use of bread crumbs came from Pope and the amount of peaches and cornstarch came from Peaches.
  • Defining moments: First pie I made. Now I can stare right into the face of that customer who was shocked to hear that I never made a pie before! :) It was also a big moment for me because I used homemade canned peaches. Yes, those peaches that took forever to wash, boil, peel, quarter, pack, seal, label, and store away. Funny isn't it? How can you like doing something that requires so much work?
  • What I learned: I learned that pie dough is very tricky to handle and requires more liquid (either water or milk) than the recipe calls for. I found this to be true during the winter when it is dry so I will have to wait and see if it changes later when the humidity rises. I also found it to be easier to transport the rolled out dough to the pie dish by rolling it onto the rolling pin like I would do with my Danish Apple Bars.
  • How it tasted: The peach pie was as any red blooded Michiganian would expect: delicious. My youngest sister still talks about it to this day and she wants to have it as her birthday dessert. I guess I will save those canned peaches for June then!
  • How about a 2nd time? June is planned.

St. Joseph's Day Bread


2/01/09: Italian Tomato-Herb Chicken and St. Joseph's Day Bread
  • Sources: The Woman's Day Cook Book for the chicken and A Catholic Calendar of Culinary Customs for the bread.
  • Defining moments: Breading chicken and making a gigantic loaf of bread.
  • What I learned: I learned, first and foremost, that I shouldn't whack my head against the wall just because my yeast doesn't activate. My goodness, worst things can happen, right? So just throw out the first batch and start again. I later discovered (after my mom calmed me down a bit and explained, once again, the necessary water temperature), that the water needs to be no lower than 115 and no higher than 130 degrees. I originally thought that I shouldn't go beyond 120 and should try to stay at 115. So in a nutshell, my water was too cool. My second attempt, however, proved to be successful.
  • I also learned that breading chicken is not an easy thing to do. I tried it out and unfortunately almost all of my bread crumb coating fell off once the chicken touched the hot skillet. I later asked Annemarie what is the cause of this and she said that I have to use a egg wash next time. Dip the chicken in the egg, then the bread crumbs, back into the egg, then finally into the skillet. The egg makes the crumbs adhere better and her family has been using this method for, um, forever so it is fool proof from the sounds of it. I'll have to try it next time.
  • How it tasted: The chicken was accepted but I didn't get any big cheers, but then again maybe the chicken horrays were drowned out by the St. Joseph's Day Bread applaud. Everyone "loved" the bread so that made the yeast episode an event of long ago.
  • How about a 2nd time? Definitely yes for the bread.

Assembly Required

1/25/09: Cheese and Pasta in a Pot
  • Sources: Allrecipes.com
  • Defining moments: Nothing out of the ordinary for me.
  • What I learned: I learned to always have someone around when doing pasta. I, for a second, thought no one was in the next room and I needed to get the pasta out of the pot NOW. I was so grateful my brother came along to help me drain the macaroni! I also learned that it is a whole lot of fun making an assembly line. I had to lay out all my ingredients in order to build up this casserole-type dish. Maybe I should do a lasagna in the future.
  • How it tasted: Very good, it was similar to our Macaroni Italiano. I think the sour cream really made the dish.
  • How about a 2nd time? I would vote for the Macaroni Italiano over this recipe.

Hello Again Mr. Calzone

1/18/09: Calzones with Pork Sausage
  1. Sources: Myrecipes.com
  1. Defining moments: Already made calzones before BUT this would be my first time making pizza dough from scratch.
  1. What I learned: I learned that raw pizza dough is the best (have to keep my youngest sister away from the bowl constantly) and very easy to make. Another thing I remember is not to overstuff them with the filling, I did that with my first one and it was a pretty horrifying sight once baked. Oozing everywhere!
  1. How it tasted: A complete winner. I think my family is more Italian than Czech.
  1. How about a 2nd time? Si, senor.

Top Secret! C.I.A. Meat Loaf this Week!

1/11/09: Sausage Loaf
  1. Sources: C.I.A. Encyclopedic Cookbook
  1. Defining moments: First ever meat loaf.
  1. What I learned: How to test the inner temperature of the meat in order to tell if it is done. I also learned that meat loaf doesn't require much prep, but rather, "a lot" of cooking time. So it isn't that hard to do.
  1. How it tasted: The majority liked it and it was my personal favorite meat loaf recipe until Annemarie made a BBQ version last week. You have to do that one again, Annemarie!
  1. How about a 2nd time? The BBQ may overcome the sausage. . . We have to wait and see.

Vacation this Week

1/04/09: My brother's birthday this Sunday so I spent my day in the sewing room rather than the kitchen. Doing what? Knitting of course!

Going Against the Grain

12/28/08: Chicken BBQ Pizza from The California Pizza Kitchen
  • Sources: recipezaar.com. See recipe here.
  • Defining moments: Tried an iffy recipe. Yes, when I first came by this recipe I thought it sounded really "extrana" (aka "strange", I'm learning Spanish right now, hehehe), so I kind of was risky that day. Paid off though as you will soon find out!
  • What I learned: Boxed pizza dough is really easy to use. All I had to do is dump the box contents into a bowl, add water, stir, let sit 5 minutes, and that's it. Maybe it was too easy. . . I like to feel like I am doing something.
  • How it tasted: My goodness, everyone flipped over this one! I guess it was a good idea to try something a little bit out of the ordinary.
  • How about a 2nd time? It was liked so much that I made it again in the middle of the week.

¿Hablas español? Parlez-vous Francaise?

12/21/08: Spanish Rice and French Bread
  • Sources: Boxed rice and Annemarie's Betty Crocker cookbook (the orange one).
  • Defining moments: Never made bread before and I mean never ever. So, yes, I was a bit shaky when I tied my apron.
  • What I learned: Well, for beginners, how to activate yeast and make bread. I also learned that bread making is a whole lot of fun, shocker there!
  • How it tasted: For my personal tastes. . . Fantastic! The rest of the family. . . Very good. I guess I loved it so much because I am a big fan of rice and bread, especially the Francaise kind.
  • How about a 2nd time? Yes.

From the Pantry and Freezer

12/14/08: Cheese Tortellinis and Spaghetti Sauce
  • Sources: Box and freezer.
  • Defining moments: None.
  • What I learned: Since I used boxed cheese tortellinis and homemade spaghetti sauce from the freezer everything came down to just heating up two pots. Nothing new and exciting otherwise.
  • How it tasted: Hey, its cheesy pasta with homemade sauce, it had to have been great. :)
  • How about a 2nd time? Oh sure.

The Apple Dumpling Gang

12/07/08: Apple Dumplings with Butterscotch Sauce
  • Sources: This recipe was given to me by Annemarie so I can't remember the source exactly. Possibly allrecipes.com.
  • Defining moments: First time for dumplings of any kind.
  • What I learned: Dough can be easy to handle when done on wax paper.
  • How it tasted: Just like I remember it, delicious.
  • How about a 2nd time? Absolutely.

First Batch


I will begin my journal with my first Sunday, November 30, 2008:

11/30/08: Had Chicken Argentina and Potato Parmesan.
  • Sources: Former was from "Best Recipes From the Backs of Boxes, Bottles, Cans and Jars" by Ceil Dyer and the latter was from "The Woman's Day Cookbook"
  • Defining moments: First time working with completely defrosted chicken. I so much rather use partially frozen! And this would be my first time making homemade mashed potatoes, only used boxed version before.
  • What I learned: Meat can take a lot longer than what the recipe says, I ended up being 30 min. late.
  • How it tasted: Flavors were very bright for the Chicken Argentina because I used lime juice and olives. The potato dish was very good because I added a layer of Parmesan on top so it was nice and crispy when finished.
  • How about a 2nd time? I am definite about Potato Parmesan but I don't think the chicken recipe will be repeated.