Thursday, October 30, 2014

Pizza Sauce

Pizza Sauce
I've gotten a little tired of using jarred pizza sauce lately. I wanted something that I could tweak and make different, AND that didn't make me think my homemade pizza was not as awesome as it could be. I mean, I'm not opposed to jarred sauces and such, but I figured that since I was going to the trouble of making homemade crust, I probably should at least attempt to make a homemade sauce.
So I went to my trusty allrecipes.com and found this no-cook "Exquisite Pizza Sauce." It is so super easy, and it tastes great too. I may have to do a little more tweaking, but it's a fantastic start--and so easy. doubled the recipe because one of the reviews said it made so little, but I really didn't need to double it. I made two large pizzas and had enough leftover to freeze for our next pizza night. One recipe is enough for probably three large pizzas, I'd say, unless you like tons of sauce on your pizza. What you see below is the original size recipe.
We'll see how this recipe fares over time, but for now, I think it's a thumbs up.

Pizza Sauce
    --Adapted from allrecipes.com

Ingredients:
  • 1 (6 oz) can of tomato paste
  • 6 oz warm water
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 medium clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 3/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
Instructions:
In a medium bowl, mix all of the ingredients until combined.
Allow to sit for at least half an hour before using on pizza.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups of sauce.



Sunday, October 26, 2014

Pumpkin Bars

Pumpkin Bars



Full disclosure first off: When I baked these bars, I baked them in a quarter sheet pan and then another baking dish (I did not have a 10 x 15 inch pan called for). The bars baked in the other dish came out cake thickness, and these are slightly thicker than I perceive pumpkin bars to be, so in the recipe that follows, I call for a half sheet pan. I think that will create the right thickness in this bar, but honestly, now that I'm writing this, I'm wondering if it will bake through to the center. I'll just have to try this again soon.
That being said, here's a mini story of how these bars came to be here on my blog.
I don't even think I knew pumpkin bars existed until I started working at Clive Elementary School here in Iowa. I haven't researched it, but I suspect it's another one of those Midwestern things, like Dutch letters. Connie J., our library associate, makes these about once a year, and although they look harmless, these bars are dangerously addicting. I don't know if it's the tender spice cake or the cool cream cheese icing, but they are awesome. Sorry to say, this is not Connie's recipe. I keep meaning to get it from her, but have not done so yet. This one comes from allrecipes.com, and by the pics on allrecipes.com, I could see it was close to Connie's recipe.
If you've never had a pumpkin bar before, just imagine a light pumpkin bread, tender and lightly spiced, with a nice just-thick-enough layer of sweet, cool cream cheese icing. It's just a perfect fall sweet treat, and great to bring to pot lucks. Really. When Connie makes these for a pot luck, they are always one of the first things to go.
So there you go. Pumpkin bars. Give 'em a try.

Pumpkin Bars
    --Adapted from Paul's Pumpkin Bars on allrecipes.com

Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Icing:

  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened, but cool
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened, but cool
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 3/4 cups powdered sugar

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a half sheet pan (13 x 18 inches) with non-stick cooking spray & set aside. (Note: original recipe calls for a 10 x 15 inch jelly roll pan.)
In a medium bowl, mix the eggs, sugar, oil, and pumpkin. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Mix into the wet ingredients until combined.
Spread the batter evenly over the bottom of the prepared sheet pan. 
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool completely before icing it.
While the baked bars cool, prepare the icing... Cream together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla. Add the powdered sugar. Mix on low until sugar is incorporated, and then mix on medium to medium-high until creamy.
Once the bars are completely cooled, spread the frosting evenly over the top. Cut into bars and serve. Refrigerate leftovers.
Makes one half sheet pan of bars that can be cut into 24 to 48 bars, depending on the size you like.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Homemade Chili Mix & Resulting Chili

Homemade Chili Mix

This may look like a regular recipe post on a blog, but it's actually me at 4:30 on a Sunday afternoon avoiding lesson planning for the week. There I said it. I don't like lesson planning.
Now that I've admitted that, onto the chili.
I normally purchase chili mix in little packets in the grocery store to make chili. Recently, though, I didn't have a packet in the house when I went to make chili, so I looked one up on the internet. What do you know--there are a bunch of recipes out there. I actually forgot which one I used the first time, but today I'm writing down and posting what I used, which is adapted from Allrecipes.com. Allrecipes.com is my go-to recipe finder because they have so many recipes to choose from AND especially because they have reviews and ratings. This one rated high, so I've used it. And I like it too. 
I think the taste will depend a lot on the chili powder you use, so I recommend using one you already know you love, or try something you know has a good reputation. I really like the Bueno Special Reserve that my brother's friends introduced me to. I "import" it from New Mexico, but if you click on that link, you can order some online.
The resulting chili is super good. Not too spicy, a little greasy, and very satisfying. I tried a cooking method I've seen several times on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives--cooking the meat in water before adding spices and tomato sauce. I think the difference is that you don't drain the fat, as I do when I brown the meat first, and dang it--it tastes better. Oh well, I just won't make it very often then.
Give it a try--chances are you have all of the ingredients in your cupboard already.

Homemade Chili Mix & Resulting Chili
    --Adapted from Allrecipes.com

Chili Mix Ingredients:
  • 4 tablespoons chili powder (I used Bueno Special Reserve medium hot)
  • 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
  • 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons masa* (corn) flour
Instructions:
Mix all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Store in a zip top bag until ready to use.

Makes enough mix for one recipe of chili (below)
 
*You can use all-purpose flour if you don't have access to masa flour, but it's really a second choice--try to get the masa if you can.



Homemade Chili
Chili Ingredients:
  • 2 1/2 pounds ground beef (I like to use 90/10)
  • 3 cups water, divided
  • 1 recipe of Chili Mix Powder (recipe above)
  • 1 can tomato sauce (15 ounces or 2 8 oz cans)
  • 4 teaspoons beef base or 4 cubes beef bullion
  • 1-2 cans pinto or kidney beans (optional)
Instructions:
In a high-rimmed saucepan over medium heat, place 1 cup water and the ground beef. Allow to start simmering and then break up the ground beef with a spoon, spatula, or other appropriate kitchen tool.
When beef is cooked through, add the chili mix and stir. Add tomato sauce and 2 cups water. Add beef base/bullion. Stir until incorporated. Bring chili to a simmer, cover and reduce heat to low. (Add the beans now if you're going to use them) Simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes to 1 hour on low. The longer you simmer it, the more tender the meat will be. If it seems to be getting too thick, add a little more water, about 1/4 cup at a time until you reach the desired consistency.
Leftovers freeze and reheat very well.

Serves 8-10, depending on appetites
Recipe is easily halved




Thursday, October 9, 2014

Soft Oatmeal, Coconut, Pecan, Toffee, Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Soft Oatmeal, Coconut, Pecan, Toffee, & Chocolate Chunk Cookie
It seems like anything I write about these cookies is going to pale in comparison with what the cookies are: soft, moist, flavorful, buttery, chewy greatness. They're not the most attractive cookies in the world, but they are one of the best-tasting. They have just enough oatmeal to live up to the name, and you can taste each of the other tasty additions: the coconut, pecans, toffee, and chocolate. Even without the chocolate, they're fabulous.
You want to be careful not to under bake these, because they need to caramelize pretty well on the bottom so that they stay intact once cooled. The second pan I baked didn't get done enough, and when I put them in a zip lock bag to take to my tutoring students, they had broken a little bit, even though I handled them gingerly. The first pan I thought I'd over baked, but they held together, stayed soft, and were de-lish.
I only made half of these with the chocolate chunks. They taste great both ways.

Soft Oatmeal, Coconut, Pecan, Toffee, Chocolate Chunk Cookies
     --inspired by Barb's Oatmeal Cake

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup shredded coconut (sweetened)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 3/4 cup toffee bits
  • 8-9 ounces dark chocolate chunks (I used chopped up Dove Dark Chocolate)

Instructions:
In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring milk to a simmer/boil. Remove from heat, add rolled oats, and stir. Set aside to cool for about 15-20 minutes.
Into a small bowl, sift the flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon.. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar for about 3-4 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix on high until fluffy again. Then mix in the cooled oatmeal until incorporated.
Add the dry ingredients and mix just until fully incorporated. Add the coconut, pecans, toffee bits, and chocolate chunks and stir to incorporate. Be careful not to over mix.
Move dough to a plastic container with a lid and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop dough into 1 1/2 tablespoon balls and place evenly on prepared baking sheet, leaving about two inches between dough balls.
Bake at 350 degrees for 11-13 minutes, or until browned around the edges and the cookies are starting to darken a little toward the middle.

Makes about 5 dozen cookies




See how that chunk of toffee in the middle
of that dough ball turns into a fantastically
sweet and crunchy crater in the finished cookie?

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Egg in a (Sourdough) Basket


Egg in a Basket 



Egg in a Basket. I first saw this breakfast item way back in 1987--the year I graduated from high school--in the movie Moonstruck, starring Cher and Nicolas Cage. Crazy that I remember it. It fascinated me, though, that one would fry an egg within a hole in a piece of bread. I probably tried it shortly after that, and have been making this dish on and off since. Recently I've had it at Cracker Barrel, and when the Pioneer Woman made her version the other day with gobs of butter, I thought I'd better make myself one soon. So I did, with my favorite bread: San Francisco sourdough. Mmmmm. Eggs and sourdough are one of my favorite combinations.
It's a pretty simple thing to make, and for me, it makes fried eggs more enjoyable because when I usually fry eggs, the edges end up tough and crisp--not something I like in an egg. Done this way, some of the white soaks into the bread and cooks to a tender perfection inside. The yolk is always perfectly done, which for me is done around the edges and liquid throughout the rest. Mmmm. Then the toasty sourdough soaks up the yolk and each bite is a perfect pleasure. I suppose if you don't like liquid yolks, you can cook this a little longer. The times I'll give below are approximate, and I generally go more on look and puffiness than time on this one.

Egg in a (Sourdough) Basket

Ingredients:
  • 1 large slice of sourdough bread
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions:
Heat a non-stick frying pan/skillet over medium-ish heat. Butter one side of the bread with most of the butter. Using a large biscuit cutter (about 2 3/4 inches), cut a circle out of the center of the buttered bread. Place bread and cut circle into the preheated pan, butter side down. Spread the remainder of the tablespoon of butter on the unbuttered side of the bread. 
Crack the egg into the hole and cover the pan with a domed lid. 
After about 1-2 minutes, lift the lid. When the white is set and clouded, carefully turn the bread/egg over with a spatula. Turn the bread circle over at this time as well.
Fry the egg another minute or so, or until the center looks puffed and edges of the egg circle seem set. 
Remove to a serving plate, sprinkle with salt and pepper and eat while it's hot.

Makes 1 serving





Wednesday, October 1, 2014

About Me

 
Me and the fam


About me. Well, for a couple of years I had a long explanation of how this blog came to be and about what I do and why I do it. My revised bullet-point version is more straightforward, just like me. Sort of.

(In no particular order) I am...
  • A Southern Californian who has also lived in Portland, Oregon, and who now lives in Des Moines Urbandale, Iowa.
  • A mother of two awesome boys, one ninth grader and one tenth grader.
  • A wife for 23 years to a man who loves and blesses me daily—whether it be through his kindness or his challenges to my status quo.
  • A teacher who has been transitioning for the past year from elementary ESL (English as a Second Language) to, well, we will have to see.
  • A cook, baker, and entertainer—just for fun and sharing. I have no real passion for making money, but I do have a huge passion for food and making people happy with food.
  • A volunteer tutor to an amazing group of Burmese refugee women who bless me every time I meet with them.
  • A reluctant blogger. I mean, I was reluctant at first, but now it’s often my sanity.
  • A member and participant of a tiny but mighty faith community called the Des Moines Vineyard.
  • A modern woman who would sometimes prefer to live in an age before screens took over. I love my blogging, iPhone, and email too much though.
  • Someone who likes to share and be helpful, which is why I do this blog.
I also love to respond to questions. If you have a question for me, feel free to post a comment within a post the question is about, or, if you want/need a quick response, email me at mckellysu@gmail.com. 

Thanks for stopping by Food Pusher. I hope you enjoy your visit.




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