Saturday, September 20, 2008

double dog daring myself ~

I need to come up with something to do with these, a gift from my mom.

I'm thinking this - what about stuffing them with some flavoredup cream cheese, and then baking them?

Those red ones are supposed to be pretty hot (I'm drying those) but the jalapenos would be nice, and the yellow ones, well, they are supposed to smoke off my socks, too...I can hardly wait to try those.

So - herb-flavored cream cheese it is.

I'll let you know how it goes.

more bananas, pudding this time ~

This recipe is the most basic, most easy, probably most well known dessert ever. So why am I posting it? Two reasons.

Well - for one thing, sometimes people forget to teach the 'basic' stuff. It was years before I could successfully make gravy, because nobody taught me. Cutting up a chicken? I never quite got that until I was probably 30 years old.

Sometimes we just assume...

The other reason is that I just wanted to take some pictures today. HAHA

Banana Pudding

1 large instant vanilla pudding mix
1 3/4 cups cold milk
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 regular size frozen whipped topping, thawed
lots of vanilla wafers
a few firm bananas

Mix up the vanilla pudding mix and the milk, and whip for a couple of minutes.


Pour in the sweetened condensed milk, and mix it well.


Fold in 1/2 of the container of whipped topping. Go slow and easy on this, mix well but not hard.


In the dish you want to put the pudding in, layer vanilla wafers and sliced bananas.


Top that with half the pudding. Repeat the cookie/banana layer and then cover with the last of the pudding.


Spread the remaining whipped topping over it all, or just pile it in the middle. Crush a couple of cookies over it to pretty it up some.


Refrigerate it for a few hours at least, or overnight (best). When I made ours, I made one for Dustie and Jenni and decorated it with a few extra cookies. Just because I love them.


The sweetened condensed milk is what makes this pudding so good. It adds a smoothness and yet gives the pudding some 'weight'. And it tastes like a dream.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

banana muffin ~

I always hit the cookbook table at the school's book fairs, and one of the best finds I've ever made was this little bitty muffin cookbook. It has quick and amazing muffin recipes, from standard ones like banana and blueberry, to healthy ones full of nuts and raisins and made with wheat flour, to party ones with chocolate and cherries and such.

If you love muffins like Dr. Kelso, you gotta try this one. Warm and sweet, with a cup of coffee, you can't beat it for a great starttotheday...

Banana Walnut Muffins
(from The Totally Muffins Cookbook by Helene Siegel and Karen Gillingham)
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease muffin tins or line with paper cups.
Spread nuts on a tray and toast in oven 8 to 10 minutes. Set aside.
In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.
In another bowl, cream butter, sugar, and vanilla until smooth and creamy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add mashed bananas and beat until combined.
Stir dry ingredients into banana mixture just until flour disappears. Lightly stir in nuts.
Spoon batter into muffin cups to the top. Bake 20-25 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. Makes 12 muffins.

Monday, September 15, 2008

egg-cellent ~

OK all you experienced cooks, maybe you will have a good laugh at this - I'm almost 47, been married 2 times, and cooked for most of my life.

Yet - I've never cooked a frittata.

Well, at least until tonight. My excellent cookfriend Lee told me how. What would I do without him?

So here's what I did - cut up the veggies I had, which included onions, garlic, peppers (a variety that's kind of like bell peppers), and celery - I was supposed to have broccoli but my daughter drove off with it, LOL. Sauteed those for a while, until crisptender, and also browned a pound of ground sausage, and drained it. Broke about 16 eggs in a bowl (I have big boys here, remember? ha) and beat those up with a little milk, chopped cilantro, and grated cheese. With the veggies and sausage in the bottom of my great big skillet (I think it's 14"), I poured the eggs over it and let it cook on medium until the bottom set, and then put it in the oven to broil. The top browned so nicely and it was so pretty when I took it out. I tore up a big handful of spinach leaves all over the top to wilt...

Y'all, me like frittata. Frittata good.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

addendum to the best biscuit recipe ~

I have discovered that if I spray my huge cast iron skillet (remember, I double this biscuit recipe), set it in the preheated 450 degree oven while I dump and pat out the dough, then crowd the cutout biscuits into the hot skillet before baking, I get a hugely tall, soft insides, crispy top and bottom, wonderful biscuit. As much as I love my baking stones, this skillet thing is even better.

Look and see. Better yet, try and taste and see.




best hot sauce ever ~

Really. I mean, that's the name of this hot sauce.

I got it from our church cookbook, submitted by a local doctor who likes to eat healthy stuff.

And let me tell you, it's best with fresh tomatoes. But my brother's tomato plants are long gone, and tomatoes in the store are too expensive right now to make this huge batch of sauce, so when fresh is unavailable (or unaffordable) please use canned, it's really good in spite of not being fresh.
So - here it is - Best Hot Sauce Ever. Tweak the ingredients to your liking - everything is adjustable except that you do need a lot of maters. And once, I made a smaller batch using fresh everything, but I diced it all instead of using a blender, and then tossed it in a bowl with a squeeze of lime juice (I left out the tomato paste on this version). It makes a great fresh chunky salsa.

Best Hot Sauce Ever
(original recipe by Vince L.)

1 #10 can whole tomatoes, drained (reserve juice)

1 can tomato paste

1 large onion

3 large jalapeno peppers (more or less to taste)

large handful cilantro (more or less to taste)

Process the whole tomatoes in a blender, until they are a thick saucey texture. Process by using pulse and in small batches, so they don't get processed too thin.

In the last batch, top them with rinsed and drained cilantro (I use a whole bunch, but that's pretty strong flavored - adjust to your own taste) and rinsed and destemmed jalapeno peppers (again, to your taste - these 3 huge peppers made the sauce pretty wonderfully spicy). Process the same as the tomatoes, in pulse mode to retain some texture.

Peel and slice the onion into wedges. Pour a little juice from the reserved tomato juice into the blender, top with the onion wedges and the tomato paste, and pulse until blended into a nice saucey texture. You can see it in the 3rd from last picture, poured in front of the green stuff.

Combine the tomatoes, green mixture, and onion mixture well. Salt to taste - the mixture will foam a little but it will soon go away. Be careful not to salt too much right now - you'll have to taste again after the flavors meld and maybe add more, maybe thin with a little reserved juice, maybe just leave it alone. You can eat it right away, but it's a lot better when you let it refrigerate overnight. And it's good with anything you'd eat hot sauce with - chips, eggs, taco salad, whatever...

One more thing - this hot sauce freezes GREAT, and thaws quickly, tasting as good as when you first made it.

I could make myself sick on this stuff.

ooey gooey rich and chewy ~

The other day, I decided to finally get around to trying The Chewy, a chocolate chip cookie recommended to me by my sweet friend Lee - the cookie itself is found at the following link:

So - since there is the recipe, and it's simple to follow, I'll leave that to you to link to and read - in the meantime, here are photos of the process.

There was a glitch - since Dillon is well known for his chipstealing abilities, and since Stevie made chocolate chip pancakes the other morning, this is what I had to go with, for a double recipe (which should have been 4, count them, 4 cups of chips)...

Grr. Ah well, when ya got a lemon, make some lemonade, even if you have to use lime juice too. Behold, here's what you get when you pick out as many chips as possible from the trail mix, including m&m's, and then make up the rest with the white chips and the raisins and stuff, haha.
So - just follow along and see the result. And try not to drool on your keyboard. You'll be mad at yourself if you do.
(anybody else surf while cooking? teehee!)
(notice the vintage cookie jar in the back - I don't have a lid, so it holds my cooking tools)
(mmm, here they are, on my great-aunt's wagon train prairie plate. HA)
This cookie recipe is awesome. Best warm from the oven, of course, but still good days later. And if you take them out just a minute or too early, you get the gooey part. I did a little of both, gooey and more crispy. But I did learn one thing. I really don't like the white chips very much. And also I can't wait to make these with just plain old semi-sweet chips, I think it will be a favorite cookie recipe from now on. (thanks, Lee!)

tofu...can you believe it? ~

I can remember my mom cooking tofu once, when I was a teen - I thought it was absolutely the most "nothing" thing I've ever eaten, LOL - I have no idea how she cooked it, but I've had no desire to try it again...until I started trying Vietnamese cooking.

My good friend Tom sent me some simple instructions to 'break me in' for my first tofu experiment. I didn't have the fresh tomatoes he recommended, but I did have a nice 14 oz can of diced tomatoes and that worked just fine.

Tofu is kind of fun. It's springy and a little spongy and looks a little like cheese, to me. I rinsed and drained it well on paper towels, and then I sliced it into blocks. First lesson learned (later, when I ate it) - make smaller thinner blocks. The sauce soaked into the tofu but they were so thick, it didn't go all the way.

Next, in a cast iron skillet sprayed liberally with Pam, I slowly fried the tofu blocks. There was a little sticking, but I don't have a large non-stick pan and so I was stuck with this (haha, get it?). However, there was so little liquid produced, I bet I could have gotten away with cooking these on my non-stick electric griddle.
Just a note here - during the tofu cooking, I had water boiling for noodles, and cooked them at the same time as the sauce.
OK - here are the browned tofu cubes. I thought they were kind of pretty.
The next step was to stir fry a little minced garlic for 15 seconds or so, and then add the can of tomatoes. I let it simmer to reduce some of the liquid, then I added the tofu cubes and simmered some more, stirring frequently to cover the cubes well.
Before turning off the heat, I sprinkled a tablespoon or so of soy sauce over it all and mixed it in. This is the sauce I used, it's what I have on hand right now. I liked the previous one better, I think it might have had a swan on it...I'll have to find out what kind it was. This sauce is a bit strong and black.
Finally, I topped the drained hot noodles with the tofu sauce. And, I may get whipped with a wet noodle, haha, but I sprinkled some feta cheese on it as a final touch. Nothing like mixing ethnic cooking to taste, is there, LOL.
Here's my final impression - I liked it, and think the health benefits of tofu are worth buying it again. It was different, and I can't say it will ever be an absolute favorite, but I think next time, the thinner blocks will be better. Also, in "Into the Vietnamese Kitchen" by Andrea Nguyen, there is a pork stuffed tofu that looks absolutely divine. I've just gotta try that.