A cooking and baking journal

A Long Awaited Treat

6/21/09: Hot Dogs with Chocolate Chip and Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

  • Meal details: Main course, hot dogs -- pork and beef hot dogs with ketchup, mustard, and green tomato relish for condiments.
Dessert, chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies -- I don't think I need to explain further! I would believe most of you can visualize what these two cookies are like. :)

  • Recipes sources: I had an incredibly hard time trying to find a chocolate chip recipe. . . Not! I just used the good old Nestle Tollhouse cookie recipe that I found on the back of the chip bag. I've tried many different C&C (aka chocolate chip) recipes before and I have found these to be my family's favorite. The oatmeal raisin recipe came from Annemarie's Betty Crocker cookbook. I don't know what I would do without that cookbook!
  • Defining moments: I made TTTOOONNSSS of cookies before, they are one of my favorite things to bake, so I didn't take a big step into the unknown this week.
  • What I learned: I discovered why someone created refrigerator cookie recipes. It was so hot in that kitchen last Sunday! I think the temperature was around 80 that day so you can imagine what it would be like when you are standing by a 375 degree oven for an hour! But the cookie satisfaction afterwards can't be beat. :)
  • Any modifications? Nope, followed the recipes precisely.
  • How it tasted? Haven't had cookies since Winter so they were readily received by all.
  • How about a 2nd time? Yes, and a 3rd, and a 4th, and. . .

Now stop, take a deep breath, and scroll down slowly.

Drooling yet? :)

The Blending Operation Went, Well, "Smoothie" :)

7/14/09: Lemon Asparagus Pasta & Strawberry & Peach Smoothies
  • Meal details: Main course, lemon asparagus pasta -- steamed asparagus and ruffle pasta tossed together with lots of lemon zest, evaporated milk, Parmesan cheese, and pepper.
Dessert, strawberry and peach smoothies -- strawberry smoothie was made with our own fresh strawberries and a few spoonfuls of ice cream. The peach version was made using our frozen peaches packed in simple syrup. Nothing was added to the peach concoction except for water.

  • Recipe sources: The pasta dish came from kitchenparade.com, the strawberry smoothie was found by visiting cooks.com, and the peach smoothie was my own doing.
  • Defining moments: I USED THE BLENDER! Gosh, that's a big stepping stone, isn't it? :) Kidding aside, the blender experience was really something extraordinary. You wouldn't believe how many settings it has and the horrific noise it makes!
Besides the blender, anything exciting and new? Well, this would be the first time I had to steam a large amount of asparagus at once. The steaming part was no problem, only the washing and cleaning.

  • What I learned: I learned that our blender can crush ice. The day before I made the smoothies I thought the blender wasn't capable of doing this and I thought I would have to do it all by hand. Fortunately, I misread the instructions and discovered that it is possible. Glad to hear that!
I also learned that using the double boiler works very well with steaming the asparagus. And you know what? The asparagus that I've been keeping in the refrigerator is holding up rather nicely. I was thinking they would be limp by this time but they have remained crisp and fresh. I guess the plastic bag with some water is doing its job well. I still need to freeze some because I don't think we will be able to use them all in time. It would be nice, too, to have asparagus available when our fruits and vegetables are ready to harvest.

  • Any modifications? Yes, I made some to the pasta recipe. I eliminated the dill from the recipe and I used evaporated milk rather than the half-and-half it called for. I also used less asparagus, about half of what they called for. My family is new to asparagus so we have to take it slow you know!
  • How it tasted? The pasta was really bright and fresh and the addition of Parmesan cheese did wonders! According to one taster, I added too much pepper. I may want to go back on that ingredient a bit next time. The smoothies were just how I expected them to be: fruity, summery, nectar-y. . . Don't I explain it so well? Annemarie said the strawberry version was really, really good; said it three times in fact!
  • How about a 2nd time? All were winners, so yes. I would, however, add more asparagus to the pasta dish.

Now doesn't that look so nectar-y?

They Have Arrived!

Our strawberry patch is bearing fruit as I speak! We started picking them on Thursday. Here, take a look at the fruit of our labor.

We've already been enjoying them on shortcake and cereal. For this Sunday we'll be having more for breakfast and they will be served along side homemade pancakes. I can undoubtedly say that it will be yummy!

The Word is "PIE!"

6/10/09: Chicken BBQ Pizza and Peach Pie with Asparagus on the Side

No, June 10th is not a Sunday but it happens to be my youngest sister's birthday. Many months prior to her birthday she was requesting me to make BBQ Pizza and Peach Pie for her birthday supper. Click here and here to see my past experiences with BBQ Pizza and here and here for the peach pie. The asparagus came in later and let me tell you how and why. Back in May my family watched a PBS special called Asparagus: Stalking the American Life (you can learn more about this show by visiting this blog). During the duration of the 53 min. program we learned about a farmer who lives in our area who was combating the foreign trade issue. Later on, around the end of May, this same asparagus farmer stops at our farm market and promises to bring some of his asparagus to us on a later trip. He stayed true to his word and last week he gave us 10 pounds of fresh picked asparagus!

The asparagus: (I steamed some and pan-roasted the other half. My family hasn't really tasted asparagus before so we're kind of testing it using light seasoning.)

So here are some photos of the peach pie (1 of 2) made using the canned peaches my family did last year:

My youngest sister can't seem to get the pie ecstasy out of her system! For the past 6 days she has been constantly saying with much ardor: "PIE!"

Where's the Beef?

6/7/09: Beef and Bean Chimichangas

  • Meal details: Chimichangas filled with cheese, onion, corn, refried beans, chicken, peppers, and taco sauce baked in the oven to become an ooey, gooey, cheesy package full of goodness. :) What, no beef? Read on to learn why.
  • Recipe sources: This recipe came from a book called Allrecipe's Dinner Tonight. If you have been reading my blog for awhile you would know that I go to allrecipes.com frequently for Sunday supper. This website has a huge amount of recipes that have been submitted by home cooks, so for me I find them easier to follow and the ingredients tend to fall within my family's comfort zone. I mean, I don't usually have goat cheese, lamb, or tuna filets available all the time! For some of you these may seem like everyday ingredients but I find them to be exotic! If you want to take a look at the recipe you can find it here.
  • Defining moments: Before I began making Sunday supper my family used to have store bought chimichangas every Sunday. This is what made me choose the recipe, I wanted to see if I can make them myself. I'm always interested in making my family's "everyday food" from scratch. That is why I was so fascinated with making homemade hamburger buns a few Sundays back. Click here to read about it.
  • What I learned: It was a very easy recipe to follow and execute so not many new techniques or ingredients were learned this time. But I did learn how to roll up a flour tortilla burrito style, and I discovered that smearing the tortilla with the refried beans really helps in performing this step.
  • Any modifications? Yes. I substituted chicken for the ground beef so this recipe would be better known as Chicken and Bean Chimichangas. And I omitted ground cumin and chili powder from the recipe and used taco seasoning instead. I didn't follow the amounts exactly either so maybe I should write down my ingredient list here:
To make 20 chimichangas:

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 large onion
1 cup bell peppers
2 cups whole kernel corn, drained
1 (8 ounce) bottle of taco sauce
4 tbsp of taco seasoning
2 teaspoon of garlic salt
1 (32 ounce) can refried beans
20 (9 inch) flour tortillas
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 tablesppon butter, melted
Toppings: 1 (16 ounce) container of sour cream -- Note: I thought the added sour cream was fantastic!

  • How it tasted: Everything about it was great! Even though these chimichangas would probably be regarded as 'burritos' by any die hard Mexican restaurant (because they were baked rather than fried), I believe my family truly enjoyed the homemade version of our classic Sunday supper meal.
  • How about a 2nd time? You betcha!

I had to make two 13 x 9 pans of these. I only wanted to have a picture of this batch because, well, let's just say the first was my rough draft!

St. Michael's Angel Food

5/31/09: Hash Brown Casserole and Pentecost Cake in Honor of the Feast of Pentecost (May 31st)

  • Meal details: Main course, hash brown casserole -- had cheese, eggs, evaporated milk, and bacon and was baked in two 13 x 9 pans.
Dessert, Pentecost Cake -- a special cake recipe that was topped off with cranberry cream cheese frosting. This specific frosting was chosen to achieve a reddish color to represent the Holy Spirit.

  • Recipe sources: Casserole recipe came from verybestbaking.com. You can see it here. The cake recipe came from catholicculture.org and can be seen here.
  • Defining moments: Using cranberries in frosting. Who would of thought! And I must mention here that this is my first time using bacon as an ingredient for a Sunday supper. Pretty big moment, don't you think? :)
  • What I learned: I learned that it is very easy to cut bacon into pieces when it has been out of the freezer for thirty minutes, and only thirty minutes. I shouldn't let it sit out for much longer because it will be difficult to stand the stack of bacon on its side. My Papa said this is the easiest way to do it and he is absolutely right!
I also learned what a tube pan is; it is the pan that is normally used to make angel food cake.

  • Any modifications? Yes, to both recipes. For the casserole, I didn't add onion or pepper, didn't use turkey bacon but rather good old pork bacon, and added more hash browns (4 oz.) and eggs (2 eggs yolks that were left over from the cake I made) to the bowl.

The cake recipe wasn't changed exactly, only the frosting. But I did have to resort to using an 8" bundt pan instead of the 7" tube pan that the recipe called for; we don't have any pan like that in my family's collection. Because I used a large cake pan the baking time went much faster. Instead of baking for 45 minutes, the cake was done in 30.

So getting back to the frosting. . . The frosting recipe called for strawberries and since I didn't have any on hand and I wanted a red fruit, I decided to substitute it with a cranberry frosting recipe. Here is the cranberry frosting recipe I used:

Cranberry Cream Cheese Frosting
--recipe found on razzledazzlerecipes.com--
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
4 tb. cranberry sauce (I used the jelly kind you find in the can)
1/3 tb. salt

1 lb. powered sugar (that's 2 cups for you fellow volume lovers!)

Soften cream cheese. Add cranberry sauce and whip until light and fluffy. Add salt. Gradually add powered sugar and continue beating until mixture is creamy. Spread between layers and on top and sides of cake.
Yield: enough for two 8" layers. (Note: the frosting I made was not very stiff. It will dribble off the sides of the cake.)

  • How it tasted: The casserole was liked by all but I wish it had more of a flavor punch to it! However, the texture was great and it was really easy to put together. Just make sure you have an hour for it to cook!
The cake was also well liked and I found the cranberry frosting to be d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s! Most of the time I find cake frosting to be too sweet, but with this recipe the tart cranberry flavor tones down the sweet-tooth quality I typically find.

  • How about a 2nd time? I think the casserole can be made again but I would like to find that one important ingredient that it is lacking. The cake I love so that will have to reveal itself again next year!

My Papa said, "The texture of the cake is like a pound cake but the flavor is like an angel food. Perhaps a tough angel food would best describe it then? Oh, I got it! St. Michael's Angel Food!" Sounds good to me!

Am I getting high-tech or what? Here is a 360 view of the Pentecost cake on video. Take a look!