Sunday, June 30, 2013

Cake Mix Scones

Cake Mix Scones

First of all, these taste GREAT. I'm kind of surprised that my little experiment worked out today. It all started with the lemon tree in my parents' back yard. I thought it would be great to make some glazed lemon scones (and I still plan on doing that soon), but somehow in my research and my pondering I ended up thinking that a scone made from cake mix could taste really, really good, all glazed and with sprinkles on top. Funfetti cake scones even! So...this is what I ended up doing, and I even had my dear, dear friend April here to watch and share with me. These ones you see are slightly over baked, but they still tasted awesome. Just the way you think they would. They're not as sweet as a cupcake, but much sweeter than your typical scone. 
The way I did it, I ended up with a cup of cake mix left over, so I'll have to figure out how to use that up. For now, though, I think these turned out well enough to post. 
Let me know if you try it and tell me what you think.

Cake Mix Scones

  • 2 cups white cake mix
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup butter, cold, cut into chunks
  • 1/4 cup rainbow nonpareils
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons half & half or whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon nonpareils for garnish
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Place cake mix and flour in a large bowl. Add cold butter chunks and cut in with a pastry blender or two knives, until mixture looks like coarse meal. Stir in 1/4 cup nonpareils.
On a work surface, sprinkle some flour and get large knife ready to cut scone dough.
Lightly beat the heavy cream with the 2 eggs in a small bowl. 
Pour liquid into dry ingredients and mix quickly with a silicone/rubber spatula until almost completely combined. Before the nonpareils bleed too much, turn dough out onto the floured work surface. Knead dough lightly so it holds together (your fingers will get quite gooey). Cut dough in half and one at a time, form each half into a disk about 3/4-inch thick. With your large knife, cut into 6 equal wedges. Place wedges on parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough. Move wedges around so they are evenly placed.
Bake at 400 degrees for 11-13 minutes, or until they start to brown on the bottom.
Remove from oven and move scones to a cooling rack to cool. Allow scones to cool almost completely before attempting to glaze.
Prepare glaze in a medium bowl by whisking together the powdered sugar, vanilla, and half & half/milk. Drizzle glaze over scones and then sprinkle with nonpareils, if desired.
Makes 12 scones
I just love rainbow sprinkles

I didn't bother with any kind of egg or cream wash since they were being frosted later.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Butterfinger Muddy Buddies

Butterfinger Muddy Buddies
My photography is limited as I visit family
in California this summer...
Oh, where do I begin with this amazing discovery? I suppose first of all, I should give the required shout-out to Your Cup of Cake for this delicious stroke of genius. I was glad to have discovered it via Pinterest shortly before my annual visit to my parents' house in California. That meant that I'd have people in the same house with me who would help me eat it so that I did not go crazy with it. Well, I kind of went crazy with it. We all sort of did, and we ate the first batch of the stuff in a matter of a couple of hours.
A couple of years ago, Butterfinger came out with these crisp little pillows of Butterfinger, but I don't think they sell them any longer. These remind me of those: relatively light, crispy, crunchy, chocolatey, peanut buttery, sweet goodness. I don't usually eat too much of the yummy things I make, but I definitely ate too much of this. And I will probably make more tomorrow and attempt to show more restraint than I did today. Or maybe I'll come up with my own Muddy Buddy/Puppy Chow English Toffee Muddy Buddies.
For now, though, I think you need to either go to the store to collect the ingredients for this snack/dessert, or you need to mosey on over to Your Cup of Cake and check that blog out. There are a lot more great recipes where this came from, including even MORE variations on Muddy Buddies/Puppy Chow. Have fun!

Butterfinger Muddy Buddies
   -- adapted from Your Cup of Cake

  • 6 cups Rice Chex Cereal
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips 
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (smooth/creamy)
  • 4 Butterfinger Bars, crushed
  • (original recipe calls for a teaspoon of vanilla, but I forgot it, and it tasted great anyway)
Line a large sheet pan with wax paper and set aside.
Place Rice Chex in a largish bowl.
In a microwave safe cup or bowl, melt the milk chocolate chips with the peanut butter. About 35 seconds on HIGH ought to do it. Stir to finish melting the chips and to thoroughly combine the chocolate and peanut butter.
Pour mixture over Chex and fold/stir with a silicone/rubber spatula, taking care not to crush the Chex. Pour the thoroughly coated Chex into a new large bowl with a lid, or into a large plastic or paper bag.
Pour the crushed Butterfingers over the Chex. Seal the bowl or bag and shake gently, but thoroughly, to distribute Butterfinger crumbs all over the Chex.
Spread coated Chex evenly onto the prepared sheet pan. Allow to cool completely (I put mine in the fridge).
Store in an airtight container.
Makes about 6 cups 

Crushed Butterfingers on top of coated Chex

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Butter. Homemade Butter

Homemade Butter with Homemade Buttermilk on the Side
I leave for California tomorrow for three weeks. I should be packing or something, but instead I'm coming up with ways to use up the heavy cream that will expire in my fridge while we're gone. This is actually item #2. I also made some Chocolate Almond Ice Cream the other day. One and a half quarts down, one and a half to go...
My first memories of making butter come from waaaaay back, the summer between kindergarten and first grade. Our family had moved a couple of miles from our first home in La Palma, California, to another house in the same city, in order to be in a better school district. My mom sent my brother and me to summer school in order to get us acclimated. I was painfully shy back then, and I also wasn't all that well socialized, I guess, because somehow I was chewing gum at summer school. When I realized that I probably should NOT be chewing gum, I decided in my 5 year old brain that I should take it out. The obvious next step would be to throw it in the trash, but that would require one of two options: either get up without permission or raise my hand and ask the teacher an off-topic question that might make her mad. Both choices would call unwanted attention to myself, so I chose a third, very unwise option: sit there with my chewed up gum in my hands. It was hot that day, and I have hot hands anyway. The gum got gooier and stickier the longer I sat there. By the time we got to the awesome activity of the day--making butter by shaking cream in little baby food jars--my hands were essentially stuck together. I was both mortified and angry with myself. I was missing out on making butter! Butter! From cream! 
As I sat there, on the brink of tears for what seemed like hours, I would glance down occasionally to see if maybe I could extricate myself from the mess I'd made. The teacher more than once tried to ask me what was wrong, and didn't I want to make butter, but I just shook my head and willed myself not to cry. I honestly don't remember how I ended up getting the gum off my hands. I kind of think that when it was time to clean up that I took the opportunity to go to the sink and get some paper towels to get the gum off. All I really know is that I didn't get to make butter that day, nor did I eat the yummy fresh butter on the cracker they put in front of me.
Sigh. So, here's to shyness and eventual maturity! Enjoy some homemade butter!

P.S. This is so easy that I have, on occasion, chosen to make my own butter for a recipe rather than drive to the store to buy it. Seriously.

Homemade Butter

  • 2 cups heavy cream, cold
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
Pour cream into a clean glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. The jar should be large enough so it's only about 2/3 full with the cream in there. (I really should have used a bigger jar than what you see below in picture #1.)
Screw the lid on tightly and shake. Up and down. Side to side. Whatever. Just shake. After about 8-10 minutes, it will not feel so liquidy and it will feel like the cream has filled the jar completely. You won't sense any movement. Then at about the 14 minute mark, it starts to feel more solid inside (See picture #2 below.) Keep shaking, and then about one minute later, the butter will solidify and separate from the buttermilk. Keep shaking until the butter is a definable mass in the jar separate from the buttermilk (See picture #3 below.)
At this point, open the jar and pour off all of the buttermilk you can. If you want to keep it for later use, put it in a container you can store it in inside the refrigerator; otherwise you can dump it.
Put the lid back on the container and shake some more to squeeze out more liquid from the butter. Pour off the buttermilk again. Keep doing this until you hardly get any more drops of buttermilk from the butter. 
Transfer butter to a bowl and stir/fold with a silicone/rubber spatula to release more liquid and drain that off. If you would like your butter salted, add 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon to the fresh butter and stir it in. Taste it to see if it's salted to your liking.
Scoop the butter out and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  Refrigerate until ready to use.
Makes almost 1 cup of butter and 1 cup of buttermilk

Jar has some space for shaking.
That's a clean spaghetti sauce jar.
You can see how thick it gets as the butter is starting to form.
That's a solid hunk of butter in the middle
of the jar, and buttermilk around the edges.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Beef Barbacoa

Beef Barbacoa

I don't know if I'd had beef barbacoa before I made it at home. My husband liked it in burritos at Chipotle or other burrito restaurants, but I hadn't tried it. When I saw that Target carried an Archer Farms brand barbacoa seasoning, I decided to try it. I have to admit, that Archer Farms brand and this recipe here both create a scent in my house that I don't really enjoy. I think it's the cloves. They smell very strong, and it just doesn't match what I think beef should smell like roasting in the oven. I know, I'm weird. But when I eat this dish, it's fantastic, and does not taste too much like cloves. It's tender, juicy, good. 
Last night I purchased a chuck roast but didn't realize I didn't have the Archer Farms barbacoa seasoning to complete my mission. Dang it. So I had to look a recipe up on the internet. I read a few, but this one not only sounded right, but I had almost all of the ingredients on hand. The original recipe at Unsophisicook (a great blog I need to explore further) called for allspice, which I didn't have. I don't even know what it does or tastes like, so I subbed 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and crossed my fingers. I also cut back on the cloves, because 1/2 teaspoon sounded like it would overwhelm me. I went conservative on the chipotles and added 2, which was perfect for me and my family. It was just spicy enough--actually much spicier than the Archer Farms. Overall, I think it tasted the same as Archer Farms, except for the added spice. I'll be making this again for sure.
Oh, and Unsophisicook's recipe is for a slow cooker, so if you want to see how to prepare this dish in a slow cooker, click on any one of those Unsophisicook links you see here.

Beef Barbacoa
   --adapted from Unsophisicook

  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • scant 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1-3 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (depending on the heat level you like)
  • 3-4 pound beef chuck roast
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. 
In a blender or in a tall cup using a hand blender, blend together the vinegar, onion, limejuice, garlic cloves, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, cloves, salt, pepper, and chipotle pepper(s) until it's a chunky paste.
Place roast in a roasting dish (I used my Pampered Chef deep covered stoneware baker). Slather on the blended paste.
Cover the dish with foil and then the cover if you have one. Cook at 325 degrees for 3-4 hours, or until meat is very tender and shreds easily.
Serve with warm flour tortillas, Mexican rice, salsa, beans, guacamole, and whatever burrito/taco ingredients you enjoy.

Makes 8-10 servings

Tiramisu Semifreddo

Tiramisu Semifreddo with Coffee Syrup
Tiramisu Semifreddo with Chocolate Ganache

If you follow this blog at all, you'll have heard me talk recently about doing desserts for a friend's wedding. I made Nanaimo Bars, Shortcake with Warm Berries and Whipped Cream, and White Cupcakes with Raspberry Jam and Mascarpone. I purchased waaaay too much mascarpone and ended up with seven extra containers. I made the ladyfingers because I planned at some point to make tiramisu. Then my friend Rudy of Man Bakes Cake posted a pic of a tiramisu semifreddo, and I knew I had my dessert. I made these for a bridal shower, and I made two with coffee (one of those with some Kahlua) and the other with a chocolate ganache. I think if I were to do the chocolate one again, I'd soak the ladyfingers longer to make it more chocolatey, but overall, people loved these and I had a piece or two myself. Thanks, Rudy!

Tiramisu Semifreddo
    --adapted from Man Bakes Cake


  • 12 ladyfingers 
  • 1 cup sugar + 2 additional tablespoons 
  • 1/2 cup water 
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons espresso powder or instant coffee* 
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons Kahlua or Rum (if desired) 
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream 
  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese 

Boil 1 cup sugar, water and espresso powder or instant coffee on stovetop until dissolved (* I used 1/2 cup of espresso I made in my little espresso machine instead of the water and espresso powder.) Remove from heat. Stir in liquor. Set aside to cool completely.
Beat mascarpone and additional 2 tablespoons sugar in mixer until combined. Add whipped cream and mix on low until starting to combine, scraping bottom and sides of bowl once or twice. Then mix on high until stiff peaks form.Stir in 2 tablespoons of cooled coffee syrup. Scoop cream mixture into a gallon size zip top bag.
Line a loaf pan with parchment, wax paper, or plastic wrap. Take the bag of cream and snip off a half-inch corner of the bag. Squeeze a layer evenly over the bottom of the pan, dip 6 ladyfingers, one at a time, in the syrup until well-coated and place in pan lengthwise in two rows, add more cream mixture, layer six more syrup-soaked ladyfingers and top with remaining cream mixture. Smooth out the top with the back of a spoon, if needed. Cover and freeze at least 3 hours or until set and firm. Remove from pan, slice and serve with any remaining syrup or sprinkle with cocoa powder or drizzle with chocolate.

Makes 8 servings

If you want the chocolate version, prepare the chocolate ganache described below, and use it for dipping and drizzling instead of the coffee syrup.

Ganache Ingredients:

  • 8 Dove Dark Chocolate Promises (about 4-5 ounces of chocolate) 
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream 
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil 
Chop chocolate into medium/small pieces and place in a small bowl. Heat cream and oil in a small saucepan over medium heat until it comes to a simmer. Pour hot cream over the chocolate and stir until chocolate is completely dissolved. Allow to cool slightly before using. Dip the ladyfingers in the ganache and layer as described above. After cutting and plating, drizzle pieces of the semifreddo with the remaining chocolate ganache.


Ladyfingers piped too far apart, but looking good
I have a ton of mascarpone cheese left over from The Wedding that I did desserts for. I need to work on my math skills. At any rate, I figured that tiramisu was a good use of mascarpone, so I decided to try my hand at ladyfingers. They're sot of like the ones I get in the store, but not quite as soft. Next time I think I'll add a little cake enhancer and actually mix in the egg whites a little more because if you look closely at these ladyfingers, you'll see they sort of look like lava rock. Too much air, in my opinion. I still have three more containers of mascarpone after making three tiramisu I might make some more ladyfingers to use that up.
For now, I'm posting this recipe I got from, and then I'll post the semifreddo recipe I got from my friend at Man Bakes Cake. These ladyfingers were relatively easy to make, in my opinion. I'm no expert, but they did the job.

   --adapted from

  • 5 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar, divided
  • 7/8 cup all purpose flour
  • (confectioners sugar for dusting--I inadvertently left this out)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with the rack in the middle of the oven.
Separate eggs, placing the yolks in a large mixing bowl. Beat yolks with an electric mixer (or in the bowl of a standing mixer) at medium speed until pale yellow. Then gradually beat in all but 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar.
Beat yolks and eggs on medium-high speed until pale yellow, tripled in volume, and thick, about 5-7 minutes. Transfer this egg-sugar mixture to another bowl and sprinkle flour over mixture and stir until just combined. Now you have to clean the mixing bowl (if you're using the stand mixer).
Beat egg whites with clean bowl and clean beaters until they just hold soft peaks. Add remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar in a low stram and then beat whites until they hold stiff peaks.
Stir one third of the whites into the yolk mixture to lighten, and then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly
Spoon batter into a pastry bag fitten with a large circle tip. Line a large baking sheet with parchment, piping a dab of batter under each corner to hold it in place. Pipe rows of batter 3 1/2 inches long and so that they almost touch each other (I placed mine too far apart). (Dust with powdered sugar if you can remember.)
Bake at 350 degrees until pale golden, dry, and soft, but still springy to the touch, about 14-16 minutes. Cool completely on baking sheet before removing (I skipped this step and regretted it, so be sure to let them cool on the baking sheet.)

Makes a lot of ladyfingers, like over 50

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Star Spangled (sort of) Cheesecake

My American Flag Cheesecake. Not as star-spangled as I'd wanted
I made this cheesecake the first time a couple of years ago for my brother-in-law's citizenship celebration. After living in the US for almost 30 years, he finally decided to become an American citizen. I was in the midst of a rainbow cheesecake phase, so I thought that an American flag cheesecake was a natural choice for this party. To my surprise, it came out just the way I'd intended: red and white stripes and a blue square field with little blobby white stars. I even impressed myself. Unfortunately, that was before I got some food photography skills, and the pics I had were unworthy of a blog post. This year, though, I'm making it happen, and I'm blogging about it. 
It didn't turn out quite as well as it did the first time. It's not so star-spangled. If I wasn't in the middle of teaching summer school, I might just make another one to get the field of stars right. For now, I'll have to leave it as is. Sigh. I'm going to change the instructions below to allow for more blue and probably more white. The red sort of takes over. So hopefully anyone crazy enough to attempt this will have read this little paragraph and not try to make adjustments on their own. You've been warned.

Star Spangled Cheesecake

Prepare at least one day in advance for best results.

Special Equipment
  • 9 inch spring form pan
  • plastic roasting bag
  • Large roasting pan
  • zip top baggies (2 gallon or quart size and 2 sandwich size)

  • 1 ½ cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  •  4 8oz. cream cheeses @ room temperature
  •  4 eggs @ room temperature
  •  2 tsp. vanilla
  •  1 cup sugar
  •  1/2 cup heavy cream
  •  1/2 cup sour cream
  •  blue and red gel food coloring
  •  8 oz. sour cream
  •  2 T sugar
  •  1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • fresh berries for garnish (optional)
  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • In a medium bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbs, 1/4 cup sugar, and butter (I like to crush the graham crackers in a gallon size zip top bag, and then I just add the sugar and butter and mix it in the bag). Line your 9" spring form pan with a circle of parchment that's been cut to fit. Put the graham cracker mixture in the bottom of the prepared pan. Spread crumbs evenly over the bottom of the pan and press firmly all over. 
  • Set pan into the plastic roasting bag and fold down the top edges of the bag to give yourself space to add the cheesecake batter.
  • If you don't have a plastic roasting bag to use for this, you will want to cover the bottom of the pan with 2-3 layers of heavy duty foil to keep the water out from the water bath you will use during baking.
  • Cream cream cheese until smooth.  Add sugar and beat until smooth.  Beat in eggs cream, sour cream, and vanilla.  Stir in heavy cream until incorporated.
  • Set your 4 zip top baggies into cups with the open end at the top to receive the cheesecake batter. 
  • Scoop about 1/4 cup into a small baggie and zip. Set aside. This will be for the stars.
  • Scoop about 1 to 1 1/4 cups into the other small baggie and add 3 drops blue gel food color. Zip top up and gently squish around until all gel color is incorporated. If the blue doesn't seem vibrant enough for you, add more gel 1-2 drops at a time. If you're feeling adventurous, add a whole blob at a time. Set aside. Obviously, this will be the blue part.
  • Divide the remaining cheesecake batter between the two larger bags, but make sure the bag that will remain white has more batter than the one that will become red. Zip one up the one for white stripes and set it aside. 
  • In the remaining large bag, add a dime size blob of red gel food color. Zip up the top and squish around gently until color is incorporated. Add and squish more red gel as needed.
  • Cut a quarter inch from the corner of the white baggie and squeeze a layer of white onto the graham cracker crust until almost completely covered. (If the flow of batter is too thin or slow, you can snip off a little more of the bag, but be careful not to overdo it.) With the back of a spoon or with a small offset spatula, spread the batter to fill in the blank spaces so you can't see the bottom.
  • Cut a quarter inch from the corner of the red baggie and squeeze a layer of red all over the white layer. Again, use the back of a clean spoon to gently spread the batter to completely cover the white layer.
  • Repeat the previous two layering steps until you have two layers of red and two layers of white. Now, take the blue batter and snip a quarter inch from a corner. Squeeze a ring around the edge that goes about 1 1/2 inches in. Smooth out with another clean spoon. Quickly add the next white layer just in the middle of the blue circle, making sure to smooth the white out.
  • Now cut a 1/8  inch corner from the small white bag and squeeze little white dots in the blue ring. The dots should be about the size of a small unpopped kernel of popcorn. These will become the stars.
  • Repeat the previous two steps until you're out of batter. Hopefully you won't be left with an overwhelming amount of one color.
  • Place pan into the bottom of a deep roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with hot water about halfway up the side of the pan. 
  • Place roasting pan with the cheesecake on the middle rack of the preheated oven. Bake at 350° for about 60 minutes or until cheesecake has risen and center is set.  
  • While cheesecake bakes, mix the topping ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
  • When cheesecake is set, remove from oven and pour sour cream topping mixture on top and smooth out.  Return cheesecake to oven for another 5-8 minutes.
  • As soon as you take pan out of the oven, run a knife around the edge of the cheesecake to release the cheesecake from the sides.
  • Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.  Cover with a single sheet of paper towel (or a clean dish towel if you don't have paper towels) and set a wooden spoon across the top to keep the towel in place. Put in the refrigerator and refrigerate overnight.
  • Cut and serve as-is, or with your favorite cheesecake topping.

Makes one whole 9-inch cheesecake (12-24 servings)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Perfect Little Sliders

I've thought about posting a burger "recipe" for a while now, but these are one of my quick dinners, so I usually don't take the time to make them look cute and take pics. Today, since I was making these cute sliders, though, I decided to type up the recipe and post. Another reason I'm doing this is for those who are just starting out cooking, and who don't know that you need to flatten your patties pretty well before grilling, lest you end up with a chunky charred hunk of ground beef that doesn't fit the bun. I'm a fan of my patty fitting my bun, which will happen for you too, if you take the time to form your own patties and make them relatively flat (see pic at the end).
So, if you already know burger basics, this post may insult your intelligence. If you're new to cooking ground beef, I hope you find this helpful.

Burger Sliders

  • 1 pound ground beef (I like the 85/15)
  • burger seasoning*
  • 8 dinner rolls, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Onion Strings (optional)
  • American cheese slices (optional)
  • other hamburger toppings, if desired
Cut some wax paper into 4x4 or 4x5 pieces.
With a knife, roughly divide ground beef into 8 equal portions.
Roll each portion into a ball. Working with one ball of ground beef at a time, start flattening the ball in your hands, and then place onto a piece of waxed paper. Gently press the beef into a flat circle, about three inches or so in diameter and 1/2 inch thick. I usually make mine slightly thicker around the edges and when they cook, they'll end up relatively flat. Place on a plate or sheet pan to wait. Repeat with remaining balls.
Sprinkle patties with your favorite burger seasoning. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Preheat your grill to about 400 degrees Fahrenheit (or whichever temperature you like to grill burgers at). While grill preheats, lightly butter the cut sides of the buns and set aside. 
When grill is hot, carefully place patties on the grill surface, leaving about 1/2 inch between burgers. Close grill lid. Grill for about 3-4 minutes, or until edges are starting to set. Then flip burgers with a spatula to grill for another 2-3 minutes, or until burgers are done to your liking. 
Top with 1/2 slice of American cheese, if desired and grill with the lid down for 30 seconds, or until cheese is melted.
Remove patties to a plate. Place buns, buttered side down onto the grill. Close grill. After about 30-40 seconds, start checking for doneness. I like mine just toasted. Remove with spatula and serve with the patties and any toppings you like.
Makes 4 servings/8 sliders

Monday, June 17, 2013

Fried Baked Potato Wedges

Fried Baked Potato Wedges
I had intended to serve simple (and relatively healthy) baked potatoes with our burger sliders this evening for dinner, but then my husband said he had some errands to run after he installed my new hood vent over our stove. I had to try out the new hood, right? So I figured I'd have to fry Onion Strings to go on top of the burgers. Well, since I was already heating the oil, and the potatoes were getting cold since I'd started them in time for an earlier dinner, the only logical thing to do was to fry the baked potatoes. You know, to heat them up. I was going to butter mine anyway, and the canola oil is actually better for me than the butter. So here you go. This is what I ended up with. They were fabulous. Try them. You'll like them.

Fried Baked Potato Wedges

  • 4 medium russet potatoes
  • canola oil
  • salt
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Wash, pierce, and lightly oil the potatoes. Place in oven directly on the middle rack and bake for about 1 hour, or until potato yields when gently squeezed with an oven-mitted hand.
Remove potatoes from oven and allow to cool for about 30 minutes before you cut them. Cut each cooled potato lengthwise in quarters.
Heat about 1 1/2 to 2 inches of canola oil in a heavy bottomed frying pan over medium high heat (stay on the medium side of medium high, as opposed to the high end). 
When oil is hot (try it out by dipping an end of a potato in there--if it bubbles immediately, it's hot and ready), carefully place as many potato wedges as will fit with a half inch space between. I like to start with the skin side down, so the white fluffy part does not stick. Fry until edges start to brown, and then with metal tongs, turn wedges on their sides until they are an all-over golden brown with deep brown crusty edges.
Carefully remove wedges to a paper towel lined plate and immediately sprinkle with salt. Repeat with remaining wedges.
Makes 16 wedges

Today I also fried up some onion strings after the potatoes fried.

Creamy (Not Pasty) Macaroni & Cheese

Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

Well, it's the Monday after my big day making desserts for a friend's actual BIG DAY. With the help of a dear friend, and by stepping on a few toes, I think I pulled it off: the desserts were delicious and pretty. Overall, I feel good about it. One thing I did mess up on, though, were my mascarpone frosting calculations. Somehow I ended up with seven 8 oz. containers of the stuff after all was said and done. So, I've started researching recipes that call for mascarpone. I've found a few good ones, but they will all take time (like the mascarpone ice cream that will be turned into some sort of tiramisu ice cream, which means I will be trying my hand at making ladyfingers as well). 
On my way home from my summer job (teaching a blogging class and Writers' Workshop), I actually had time to think. I was hungry, though, so I started thinking about lunch too. My thoughts of lunch and mascarpone collided, and it dawned on me that I've been going about my pursuit of the perfect homemade mac and cheese all wrong. I've been using recipes that call for making a roux with butter and flour, and then I end up with a pasty clump of inedible cheesy pasta-like stuff. I thought about my Creamy Pasta with Chicken and Broccoli. That sauce is creamy and doesn't clump. Of course, it always ends up soaking into the pasta and leaving very little creaminess, but at least it's not pasty. At any rate, I decided to base a mac and cheese on that method of sauce making, using a bit of mascarpone as one of the cheeses. I also had some Gorgonzola left from making Green Salad with Craisins, Gorgonzola, etc. 
So, what I did was what you see pictured above and detailed below. I'm happy enough with the results. It's tasty, but very, very rich. I have a "main dish" tag on it, but I think it would work better as a small side dish. Maybe even as a side dish for that delicious salad. Hmmmm...
Unfortunately my eating buddy, Ezra was not too impressed, so now I have a big bowl of pasta that I will be solely responsible for. For now, I've eaten plenty--more than I should have eaten, and I'll have to wait until I have some other mac and cheese lovers come over before I make it again. At least now I have a recipe I like. Almost as much as I like the mac and cheese from the blue box. I'm serious.
Note: I think you can use whatever cheese you have around the house. I just happened to have these three. I do think the mascarpone added to the creaminess, though. I'm no expert, but I liked it.

Creamy (Not Pasty) Macaroni & Cheese

  • 1/2 pound pasta
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups grated medium or sharp cheddar cheese
  • 4 ounces mascarpone cheese
  • 2 teaspoons corn starch 
  • 4 teaspoons cold water
Prepare pasta according to package instructions until it is al dente. Pour much of the water out into the serving bowl (this will warm the bowl so your mac and cheese stays warm longer). Pour pasta and remaining water into a colander and allow pasta to drain in the sink while you prepare the cheese sauce.
Put a large pot (I use the same pot I used for the pasta) over medium heat and melt the butter. Add chopped garlic and allow garlic to soften as you add the black pepper and cayenne pepper. Stir. Add milk, stir, and bring milk to a simmer. Add the Gorgonzola and whisk to melt cheese. Add the cheddar cheese and whisk some more. Then whisk in the mascarpone and whisk until smooth and all cheeses are melted. 
Add the drained pasta back to the pot and stir with a spoon until liquid comes to a simmer. At this point, quickly mix the corn starch and cold water, pour into the pasta mixture and stir with a spoon until sauce is thick and coats the pasta.
Drain the hot pasta water from the serving bowl, and then pour the macaroni and cheese into the serving bowl.
Makes 5-6 large servings or 10-12 side dish servings (in my opinion)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Yummy Dill Dip

Dill Dip
I'm sure my mom got this recipe from someone else, but I got it from her, so I'm giving her credit. This is a fabulous, and I mean fabulous dip that goes with just about anything you want to dip: veggies, pretzels, potato chips, tortilla chips. It's a nice change from the typical ranch dip, and the way I make it here it's pretty salty, which I probably shouldn't enjoy so much, but I do. The original recipe calls for Bon Appetit Seasoning, but since I didn't have that, I just used celery salt, and it tastes just fine.
Enough said. Try it. It's delicious.

Dill Dip

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
  • 1 tablespoon dried dill weed
  • 1 tablespoon dehydrated minced onion
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt (or Bon Appetit Seasoning)
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt (optional)
In a medium bowl, mix all of the ingredients until combined. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least an hour until ready to serve. Refrigerate any leftovers.
Serve with fresh cut vegetables, chips, or pretzels.

Makes 1 3/4 cup dip

I may have added too much salt to this batch...

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Easy Coconut Cake

Super Easy Coconut Cake

I first had this fabulous coconut cake at a staff dinner at our principal's home. It was this crazy potluck, where our principal provided pizza for everyone, and the rest of us were supposed to bring desserts. Neat idea, right? What we ended up with was a super gluttonous spread of just about every dessert imaginable. This cake, though, is what got my attention. I don't even like coconut, but it just looked so yummy, and people were just digging in with a spatula. So I took a little bit just to taste it, and oh my gosh. It was one of the best cakes I've ever eaten. I'm not a huge cake fan (no pun intended), but this one was a keeper. It's so easy, that the original recipe just calls for you to mix the cake right in the pan. It's moist, tender, sweet, creamy, and coconutty. So, so good. The only complicated thing about this recipe is that you have to let the cake cool for an hour in the refrigerator. Definitely a crowd pleaser and the perfect cake for a potluck. Thanks, Wendi for one of the best cake recipes ever.
Note: I've also tried making a cupcake version of this cake. They're cute, but I think it tastes better this way.

Easy Coconut Cake

  • 1 box white cake mix (I used Betty Crocker)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 2 cups shredded coconut, divided
  • 7 oz. cream of coconut (found in the liquor section, but it's non alcoholic)
  • 1 tub (8 oz.) Cool Whip, thawed in the refrigerator
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 9x13 inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Mix the cake mix, eggs, oil, water, and 1 cup coconut until smooth. Pour into the prepared pan and spread evenly in the pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 28-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs.
Remove from oven and poke surface every 1/2 to 3/4 inches with a meat fork. Open up your can of cream of coconut and stir well to break up any solid parts. Pour 7 oz. (or so) of the cream of coconut evenly over the hot cake. With the back of a spoon, spread the cream over any parts that didn't get poured on.
Allow cake to cool a bit before moving to the refrigerator to cool completely (about 1 hour).
Mix the thawed Cool Whip with the other 1 cup coconut and spread evenly over the top of the cake. 
Refrigerate until ready to serve, and then be sure to refrigerate any leftovers.
Makes 1 cake, or 12-24 servings

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Gluten Free White Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting

Gluten Free Cupcakes

I'm not even sure what to say about this recipe. It's just a white cake recipe where I subbed Better Batter GF flour for cake flour. Maybe it's the cake enhancer that pushed them over the edge, but they're not quite what I was going for.
The cupcakes taste good according to me and my gluten limited son. The texture, though, is somewhat strange to me (and to him, although I don't think he could quite articulate it). It's almost as if they are too moist. Moist is desirable in a cupcake most of the time, but when you chew these cupcakes, they almost taste underdone. The tops and bottoms are well-browned and it looks well baked, but it is so moist and soft that it turns a little doughy in your mouth. I think some people like that, but I am not one of them.
We'll have to see if Max chooses to eat any more of these. That will be the true test. For now, I'm really not sure what I'm going to do with all of these cupcakes. 

Gluten Free White Cupcakes

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 26-28 muffin cups with cupcake liners.
  • In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, mix all of the dry ingredients on low speed. Add the soft butter and mix until it all looks like wet sand.
  • Add the egg whites, one at a time, and then the whole eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl after each addition.
  • In a small bowl, whisk the milk with the vanilla. Add this mixture, 1/3 at a time, to the batter. Beat 1-2 minutes after each addition, until fluffy. Scrape down sides and bottom of the bowl.
  • Transfer batter to a large zip top bag. Carefully seal the top and twist a top corner so that the batter is forced into the opposite bottom corner. Cut about 1/2 inch off the corner. Squeeze batter into each muffin cup to within 1/2 inch of the top. Do not overfill. With a wet fingertip, smooth out the top of the cupcake a little so it doesn't bake with a point on top. Get out another pan and put some liners in even if it's only for one or two extra cupcakes.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in a center cupcake comes out clean.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan for a few minutes. Then with a butter knife or offset spatula, remove cupcakes to a wire rack to finish cooling.
  • While cupcakes cool, prepare the frosting.
  • Frost cupcakes however you want and sprinkle with sprinkles, if desired.
Makes about 26-28 cupcakes

Buttercream Frosting

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4-6 tablespoons milk
In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and vegetable shortening to combine. Add powdered sugar, vanilla, and 4 tablespoons milk. Mix on low until sugar is incorporated. Then beat on high until well blended and fluffy. If the frosting seems too stiff, add more milk, a tablespoon and then a teaspoon at a time until you reach the desired consistency.

GF Cupcake right out of the oven--it's puffy

GF Cupcake after cooling--kind of shriveled

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