Saturday, January 31, 2009

Super Bowl Eats

Football is not really my thing. It never has been....well I take that back. When I was a wee girl and a major tom boy, all my cousins and I would hang out at my my grandmothers house and play Simon Says, Red Rover and flag football. I LOVED flag football. It was so much fun, but even then I don't really think I understood what I was doing. I was running across the field, sometimes with and sometimes without a ball and hoping to not be caught. Fun! Then we'd walk on over to Dairy Queen and get a dip cone or a Dilly bar. Oh, the good ol' days.

But regular football, not so interesting or fun to me. I just don't get it. And honestly, I have no desire to "get it". But I do appreciate a good Superbowl party. The family, the friends, the beer (even though I don't drink), the food, the snacks, the God-given right to pig out and veg on the couch. That's fun! and so are these baked corn dogs. A perfect and simple meal for game day or any day. BTW, I'm rooting for the Steelers, but only because they used to be my brothers favorite team and he had a Starter Jacket of theirs. Familiarity, ya know?

Baked Corn Dogs from BRK via Vanilla Sugar
  • 3 cups yellow self-rising corn meal mix* (see note)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup freshly grated Cheddar cheese
  • 1-2 dashes Cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 7 hot dogs

Preheat oven to 425°.

In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients but the hot dogs together. Once the mix is smooth, pour into a very greased 9x13 inch baking dish. Place the hot dogs in the batter so that the dogs are placed evenly apart. So that’s about 5 vertically placed hot dogs across the top and two placed horizontally on the bottom. See picture.

Bake for 22-25 minutes or until corn bread is cooked through.Let cool slightly, then with a sharp knife cut around each hot dog insuring each dog is surrounded by corn bread. Serve with your favorite hot dog/corn dog condiments.

*NOTE: I didn't have self rising cornmeal mix. If you don't, don't panic. Use this substitution for the 3 cups self rising cornmeal mix instead, then follow the recipe as follows.

Self-Rising Cornmeal Mix (makes 3 cups)
  • 2 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
  • 3 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Pan Dulce

I spoke a little bit about pan dulce (sweet bread) when I made pumpkin empanadas a few weeks ago. Mr. H and I had dinner at a hole in the wall Mexican restaurant tonight and they had a case full of mexican pastries. And they all looked so good, so we bought $8 worth :-)

A plate full of pan dulce!!!

First up we have a Concha. They come in a few colors- (brown, yellow, white and pink) and have different designs cut into them. They're a light, airy egg bread topped with a very lightly sweetened shortening design to resemble sea shells.

This burrito looking thing is a Flauta de Manzana or an apple flute It's a little fatter than a flute, but it's basically pastry wrapped around an apple filling and sprinkled with coarse sugar. They also come in other flavors such as pineapple and cherry.

This is a Churro. It's a long fried piece of dough (about 8-12 inches long), similar to a doughnut, then rolled in cinnamon sugar. This one happened to be filled with a caramel-cream. (Donna are you excited yet?)

These are some of my favorites- Polvorones. They're just cookies, very similar to shortbread but not very sweet, and made with shortening not butter. They come in a few different colors (brown, yellow, white and pink!) but the most common is the pink. They're hard and dense, but crumbly. Sometimes they're sprinkled with sugar, as these are. They all have a similar taste, except for the brown ones, which are cocoa.

And lastly, Flan, which is pretty common. It's a creamy custard baked in a ramekin (for single servings) and homemade caramel. Once it's cooked and cooled and refrigerated you turn it out and the caramel becomes a sauce over the vanilla custard.

Hope you've enjoyed this public service announcement about Pan Dulce. Sometimes you can find them in grocery stores but more likely in Mexican bakeries. If you ever come across them, I hope you'll give them a try. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

5 More Minutes!

After a few days of not baking, I NEEDED to bake something and I didn't have any eggs. You can make many things without eggs, but you can't bake much without them. Then it dawned (donned?) on me that I could make shortbread. But I made shortbread stars for the holidays, and while they were very tasty, I wanted something different. So cinnamon-y chocolate shortbread it was.

I whipped everything up in a matter of minutes and hoped to be eating a sugary finger shortly after, but it didn't happen :-( The recipe says to bake the shortbread in an 8x12-inch pan. I only had an 8x11. I didn't think it would make much difference but they took forever to to bake. I don't know if it was all me, or if the recipe just isn't right on the timing. Despite what she may think, Martha is not perfect. I blame the recipe.

I kept running back to the oven every 5 freakin' minutes to check if they were done. The first couple times it wasn't a big deal, but every five minutes for 30 minutes is 6 extra times to the oven. Not fun. I was starting to resent these cookies and it was a shame because they were smelling SO good. I think next time (because there will be a next time) I'll bake them in a 9x13-inch pan. They may be a little thinner, but it'll be worth my sanity. Don't you think?

Chocolate Shortbread Fingers from Martha's Baking Handbook
  • 3 sticks (1 ½ cups) unsalted butter, room temp, plus more for pan
  • 2 ½ cups plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 4 ½ tbsp. Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • Heaping ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 12 by 8 inch rimmed baking pan and line with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang on the long sides; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, cinnamon, salt and baking soda until combined. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and 1 cup sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add flour mixture, and beat on medium speed until just combined.

Using a small offset spatula, evenly spread dough in prepared baking pan. Chill in the freezer until dough is firm, about 15 minutes. Prick dough all over with a fork; bake until just firm to the touch, about 20 minutes*. Transfer to a wire rack, let cool a bit. Then while still fairly warm, use a large knife to cut shortbread into 4 by 1 inch pieces. Sprinkle with granulated sugar. Cool completely in pan. Can be kept in an air tight container for up to 1 week.

NOTE: I baked my shortbread in a 8x11-inch pyrex dish (the recipe calls for a 8x12) and it took far longer than 20 minutes. In fact, it was closer to 50 minutes! I was worried they'd burn, but they were still jiggly in the center. When they firm up and dry out a bit (no longer shiny), they're done, but it may take longer than the time the recipe states. I let them cool overnight and even the next day, they were still a bit soft in the middle. They were cooked throughout, but I think they could have dried out a little more.

So if you want to make these (and you should), make sure your calendar is clear, because you'll be running back and forth to the oven, just a few times. Just think of it this way, you'll burn up the calories you'll be consuming when you eat these buttery shortbread :-)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

100th Post!

This is my 100th post! In honor of the 100th post, I offer you a 100 calorie snack...uh hmmm, I mean a 100 calorie per bite snack- Graham Break-Aways!

I've only made these a couple times because they are so rich and decadent and my husband and I would weigh 500 pounds each if I made them any more often. Actually I think my husband would probably weigh something like 643 pounds because both times I made them he ate the entire pan. Seriously. Last time I had two of them, this time I had 4 of them. And he, unapologetically, ate the rest :-)

Graham Break-Aways from Kraft Foods
  • 12 Graham Crackers, broken crosswise in half (24 squares)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) Butter
  • 3/4 cup Brown Sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 1/2 cup Pecans, chopped

1). Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the graham crackers (I used cinnamon grahams) in a single layer in a 15x10x1-inch baking pan.

2). Place the butter and brown sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil for 2 minutes. Pour molten mixture over grahams...

3). And immediately spread to completely cover all crackers. Basically, that means don't take time out to take pictures because the sugary lava will harden quickly and it will be impossible to spread. Bake for 6-8 minutes or until lightly browned and bubbly.

4). Once the sugar mixture is bubbly, remove from the oven and sprinkle with chocolate chips. Return grahams back to oven and bake for an additional 1-2 minutes until chocolate melts.

5). With the back of a spoon or an offset spatula, spread chocolate evenly over caramelly sugar.

6). Sprinkle with chopped pecans. Carefully press the nuts into the chocolate so they stick, but be careful because they're HOT!

7). Cool completely. Break into 24 squares and enjoy!

Other Variations: Substitute white, milk or dark chocolate for the semi sweet morsels. Use regular, cinnamon or chocolate grahams for the base. Sprinkle with peanuts, almonds, pistachios or even add dried fruit such as cranberries, cherries, apricots...or marshmallows! The possibilities are endless.

Autumn and I say thanks for reading. We hope you stick around for another 100 posts!


Monday, January 19, 2009

You say Potato...

Breakfast potatoes, papas, hash browns or home fries are one of my favorite components of breakfast. But (and this is a big BUT!...ha ha ha, I said big butt!!) they have to be crisp around the edges. But I can't stand ordering potatoes for breakfast in a restaurant and having them soft and squishy. They look great, but the flavor and texture is missing something. That probably explains why I like McDonald's hash browns so much.

Anyway, I think there are certain elements that make up a good breakfast potato. First you start with a fresh potato and they have to be well cooked, crispy around the edges, well seasoned, and not greasy. These potatoes fill the bill and my husband loves them just as much as I do.
Breakfast Potatoes (For 2)
  • 1 medium sized Russet potato
  • 2 Tbsp. Vegetable or Light Olive Oil
  • Seasoned Salt (see recipe below)

Preheat non stick skillet on stove top over medium high heat. Put enough oil to coat the pan (about 1-2 tablespoons). Meanwhile peel the potato and wipe it off with a clean paper towel. DO NOT rinse the potato because it absorbs water and takes longer for the potatoes to crisp up. Cut the potatoes into a 1/4 inch dice. They don't have to be perfect, just all similar in size.

Put the potatoes in the pan and coat them evenly with the oil so they don't stick to the pan. Leave them alone for the first couple minutes until the cubes turn a golden brown. Don't toss them too much or the potatoes will cook through without browning and will become soggy. Toss the potatoes around a few times until they're evenly browned on all sides.

When they're completely cooked through and crispy around the edges, sprinkle a little seasoned salt over the potatoes until they're seasoned to your liking. Mix well and eat them while they're still hot. No ketchup needed.


Seasoned Salt

  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 Tsp. paprika

Measure and mix all ingredients together. Store in an airtight container. Sprinkle on all your favorite dishes.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Red, White and Blue- Obama Brownies

Mary Louise Butters Brownies were featured on Food Network awhile back by the HOT! Deen brothers on Road Tasted. They have seen been on the Today Show and are one of Rachel Ray's favorite snacks. But then again, she'll eat anything! Was that mean?

Anyway, these brownies are good and rich! I got a couple sampler packs, ate some and gave quite a few away in gift baskets. She now has 17 flavors! including plain chocolate brownies to those with crystalized ginger, chipotle in adobo, stout beer, roses (yes, roses) nuts, dried fruit and kona coffee. There are so many different combinations but her newest one is the Obama Brownie.

The Obama Brownie is "graced with cranberries, white chocolate and blueberries...It symbolizes the true colors and collaborative efforts as a nation." Proceeds from the sales of the Obama brownie will benefit domestic hunger relief organization Feeding America (formerly known as America's Second Harvest). It's a win win situation!

Right now when you enter Promotion Code: HOPE at the checkout, you can receive 10% off your purchase of the Obama Brownie.

If the crispy edges of the brownie are your favorites part, then try a bag of their biscotti-like Brownie Butts!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Butter Makes Everything Better

I have been making this for years! The minute I saw Paula make this on her show, I jotted down the recipe on scratch paper and made it. I've made this at home on lazy weekends, and while on vacation. It's so quick and easy and everyone loves it.

For some reason, I don't remember there being rolled oats in this recipe. I have never made this coffee cake with oatmeal and it's been perfectly delicious. I make everything exactly according to the recipe, just minus the oats and I also don't put sugar on the blueberries. So basically, I don't follow this recipe at all, and I have been making what I *thought* was her recipe- whatever! I've made it with brown sugar and granulated sugar and both are really good. Here is Paula's version. My version is below.
Blueberry Coffee Cake adapted from Paula Deen
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 1- 12 ounce can Grand's buttermilk biscuits
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown or granulated sugar
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Generously grease a 9-inch square baking dish and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine brown or granulated sugar and cinnamon and mix well with a fork. Separate biscuit dough into 10 biscuits. Cut each biscuit into quarters, and dip each piece in melted butter and coat with cinnamon sugar mixture. Arrange in a single layer in baking dish.

Pour blueberries over biscuits. Drizzle melted butter on top of blueberries and biscuits. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cake is golden brown and center is done. Cool slightly before serving.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

It's A Wrap!

Jenn from No Lemon Juice made Caesar Club Sandwiches several weeks ago. I craved them the moment I saw them, except I'm not a fan of ciabatta bread sandwiches. I think it's too much bread to sandwich filling ratio. Does that make sense?

So I decided to make the dressing and make Chicken Caesar wraps instead. And they were yummy. The hubby liked them so much he even asked to have them for leftovers the next day, which he rarely does.

Caesar Dressing from Ina Garten
  • 1 large garlic clove, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons anchovy paste*
  • 1 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup good mayonnaise

Place the garlic and parsley in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade (or in a blender) and process until minced. Add the anchovy paste, mustard, lemon juice, and mayonnaise and process again to make a smooth dressing.

Refrigerate the Caesar dressing if not using it immediately.

NOTE: *I couldn't find anchovy paste at my supermarket, so I got a small can of anchovy fillets and used that instead. I used about 4-5 fillets in place of the 1 1/2 tsp. of paste.

Chicken Caesar Wraps

  • 2 Tortilla wraps
  • Romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 1 Chicken breast, sliced
  • Caesar dressing
  • Parmesan Cheese, grated
  • Fresh ground pepper

Place the wraps on a plate. In the center of the wrap, pile the romaine lettuce in the center. Top with sliced chicken breast. Spoon the desired amount of dressing over chicken and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and fresh ground pepper. Wrap up and enjoy!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Spice Girl

Several months ago I came across a spice storage set. Most of them are designed to sit on the counter and look pretty. But I keep my spices in a cupboard to the left of the stove. I want them organized and within reach. I want them all to be accessible.

When we first moved into our house and I was organizing our kitchen, I went to the garage and grabbed a couple bricks. I washed them then covered them in foil. I then placed them in the back of the cabinet and placed my spices on them. It worked fairly well, but it only elevated one row of spices, as if they were on a stage. The rest of them were mingling in a crowd and every time I wanted oregano, I had to pick up about half a dozen red capped bottles til I found the one I was looking for.

I finally convinced myself that I could have a spice rack. You see, I have a hard time spending money on myself. I may want many things but I feel selfish when I buy stuff for myself. I'll have to work on that :-) Anyway, after a long day and a few curse words at my spice cabinet, I went to the computer logged on to and ordered the spice rack of my dreams.

I originally found the Spice Stack on Target's website then again on But, I'm a bargain shopper and I have to find the best deal. I think Amazon had a lower price, but then you add in shipping costs and it's no longer a good deal. Then I found it at Walmart for a dollar more, but you can do the "Site to Store" purchasing and pay tax, but no shipping charges. So that's what I did. And I love it!

Tagco Spice Stack Before:
See my foil covered bricks?


It takes up just as much room as my spices did before, so it's not space saving, but it's spice organizing. I have sweet spices, sprinkles and sparkly sugar on the top rack, herbs on the second rack and salts and and spices on the bottom rack.

See this and more on my Favorite Things list.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

In My Stocking

For Christmas, I got a few kitchen goodies in my stocking and I thought I'd share.

I got a funnel set from OXO that has a strainer in it. You see, I have always convinced myself that I don't need a funnel that they're a waste of money. Then when I need one I have to go out to the garage and steal one of my husband's paper funnels. Then I tell myself that I am going to get one. I go to the store, I put it in the basket, then before checkout, I take the funnel out of my basket once again convincing myself I don't need one and they're a waste of money. It's a vicious cycle. So my honey got me some.

I also got an OXO Y-shaped peeler. I have a regular vegetable peeler, but I've read that the Y-shaped ones are easier to use for peeling things such as squash and thin skinned fruits. I haven't used it yet, but I'm sure I'll like it. I have a regular OXO peeler and it works really well.

I got 2 packages of Crate & Barrel holiday cupcake liners. They're so cute. They're red and green polka dots and stripes. I can use them for Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Cinco de Mayo and Christmas! I'm so excited to start making cupcakes.

Well this wasn't in my stocking...I got a beautiful footed cake dome from Crate & Barrel. I don't have anywhere to store it, but it is so pretty. My husband's birthday is next month, so his cake will probably be the first one in it. I'm sure he planned that. I just love it!

What fun stuff did you get in your stocking, or under the tree?

Saturday, January 3, 2009

I Converted!

I'm not usually a fan of banana bread. I don't know if it's because it's too banana-y or too nutty or too spicy...I'm not really sure why, I've just never been a fan. I don't like artificial banana flavor either, like Banana Laffy Taffy- gag! But I do like fresh bananas, especially the under ripe, slightly green ones. I think it's a texture thing.
Anyway, I came across this recipe for banana bread and thought I'd give it a try. But really only because I had 3 overly ripe (seriously, they were black and wrinkly) bananas sitting in the fruit basket. Usually I make strawberry jello salad , but my husband doesn't like the bananas to be that ripe, so I used some other less brown ones for that.
I was hoping I would like this banana bread and I did! The batter was really light and fluffy and it was whiter than the usual banana bread. I think the lemon juice helped to keep the 'nanas from turning dark. Dawn added chocolate chips and walnuts to the top of her bread, but I decided to add mini chips to the batter. Yum- they taste very much like the oatmeal banana chip cookies I made earlier this year! Go make this, I promise you'll convert if you're an anti-banana bread person like I am. I mean, like I was :-)
Chocolate Chip Banana Bread adapted from Mama Dip’s Kitchen via Vanilla Sugar
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup mashed very ripe bananas
  • 3 tbsp. sour cream
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl with an electric mixer or a spoon, cream shortening and sugar together. Beat in eggs one at a time; then mashed bananas, sour cream, and lemon juice.

Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Slowly add dry ingredients to the wet mixture, then fold in chocolate chips. Pour into greased and floured 9x5x3 loaf pan. Bake for 60 minutes.

NOTE: If your bread is getting too dark, loosely cover bread with foil. I did this for the last 15 minutes of baking time.

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