Thursday, October 25, 2012

Being a "foodie"

One of the best uses for the internet, in my opinion, is finding interesting cooking and baking recipes. I visit about a half dozen food blogs everyday to see what's cooking and to get ideas. I have a few butternut squash languishing in my cold room so it was fortuitous when I ran across this recipe:
Fettucine with Roasted Butternut Squash

I whipped this up last evening, and it looked EXACTLY like the picture (minus the pine nuts, because I didn't have any). It was also delicious. This was a meal that wouldn't have passed the taste test for Son2 (there's no meat, hehe) but for hubby and me it was perfect.

Something interesting in the comments section of the recipe caught my eye. Several people remarked that their hands got extremely dry after handling the squash. Now, I've cooked squash innumerable times and have never noticed this happening to me, but the idea lurked in my brain. I clasped a vegetable peeler in my right hand (I'm disgustingly right-handed), and held the squash in my left. After chopping the squash, I rinsed my hands. Continued with the prep, ate the meal (did I mention it was delicious?) and by the time I stacked the dishes in the washer the skin on my left hand was tight, dry and rough.

Back to the internet I went, and this is what I found.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Banana bread

Even better, chocolate-chip banana bread. Need I say more?

My boys love a nice thick slice with breakfast. And with lunch. And in that long gap between lunch and supper.

I got the original recipe for banana bread from my mom. Of course I've tweaked it a bit. The original instructions called for separating the eggs, then folding in the stiffly beaten whites before baking. I don't bother with the separating, but I do beat the dickens out of the butter/sugar/egg mixture, much like you do when making a cake. I think that incorporates enough air, and I stand by my decision.

My other tweak is adding a cup of mini chocolate chips. Regular size chocolate chips work too, but I find the mini chips distribute more evenly, and the bread is a tad easier to cut.

So without further ado...

Chocolate-chip Banana Bread

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup milk
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9x5 loaf pan.

In bowl of mixer, cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, and beat at medium speed until pale and fluffy. Stir in mashed bananas.

In separate bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Stir into banana mixture, alternating with the milk. Stir in chocolate chips.

Pour batter into prepared loaf pan, batter will be thick. Bake for at least 1 hour. My oven needs 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cake tester or toothpick should come out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then transfer to rack to cool completely.

I firmly believe this makes a perfect breakfast. You've got the fruit, the carbs and the protein (from the eggs). For added protein, spread a slice with peanut butter. Yum!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Blueberries in pie form

I rarely need an excuse to bake dessert. Actually, I never need an excuse. We have something for dessert after every supper, and it's usually home made. Except for ice cream. I need to buy an ice cream maker. I've been meaning to do so for several summers. Anyway...

Our youngest son and the neighbour's oldest girl are heading off to college in a couple of weeks. So we're having the neighbours over for a little shindig to celebrate. Hubby is grilling ribs and I baked a pie.

Being that it's wild blueberry season up here in Maine, I made a blueberry pie. I found this recipe many years ago, clipped it out and stuck it in my recipe scrapbook. Based on the paper, font and style of the clipping, the recipe came from Bon Appetit. I've altered the recipe, because that's what I do. I use a purchased graham cracker crumb pie shell instead of the listed pastry shell. I changed the flavourings in the filling just a smidge. And I left off the crumb/nut topping.

Blueberry Sour Cream Pie

1 cup sour cream (I used low-fat)
3/4 cup white sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
zest from one lemon
2 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 400 F. Mix first 7 ingredients in bowl to blend. Fold in blueberries. Pour into graham crust. Bake until the filling is set, about 35 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

We have a new oven and it takes a bit longer, about 40 minutes. I look for the sides of the filling to be puffed, with one or two golden spots.

I serve with a dollop (or squirt) of whipped cream and a few fresh berries sprinkled on top.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Ewww, gross!

I’m not, as a rule, squeamish about bugs and similar critters. I have two boys, and have always enjoyed discovering with them what lives inside rotted logs and under rocks. Son1 once found a praying mantis in the hedge, and fearing the coming frost of late October, brought her inside. We set up a lovely terrarium, purchased crickets for her meals, and enjoyed her company until the following spring.

I regularly capture bugs and spiders inside the house and release them to the great outdoors.

The only bugs I go out of my way to kill (squish, DESTROY!) are those insects that damage the garden. My spring days are spent hunting down and squishing the cutworms who seem to take delight in chopping down my green bean seedlings. While digging in the garden, I collect all the Japanese Beetle grubs I can, and feed them to the chickens. If I’m feeling lazy, I just squish the buggers between my fingers. (This always reminds me of the scene from Lion King when Timon mentions a “cream filling", *giggle*.)

A few days ago, whilst checking out the tomato plants, and rubbing my hands with glee at the coming bounty, I witnessed a sight that struck horror in my soul. Well, maybe not horror, but a definite case of heebie-jeebies. Branches stripped of their foliage, and little mounds of excrement on a few leaves. I knew what this meant.

Tobacco Hornworms, aka ewwww, gross! Ginormous caterpillars that chomp the leaves with their non-horny *giggle* ends, and poop out green goo from their horny ends *snort* . (I’ll stop now.)

What do these slimy (not really) disgusting things have to do with my opening sentence? I’ll tell you. I have a deep, visceral resistance to touching the Hornworms. They are just too damn big. Firm, yet slightly squishy. And they grip the plant with steel talons (not really) so it’s not just a matter of knocking them off. It takes at least a thumb and one finger, sometimes two, and considerable force, to dislodge the b**tards. And then they rear up as if to attack! OMG that’s scary.

I’m not alone in my fight, however. For there is within the wild kingdom of insects a species of beneficial wasps who need to find a nice place to grow their babies.

Those white pellet-y things are the pupae of the wasps, parasitizing the life out of the Hornworm (huzzah!).

The caterpillars covered with their little friends I leave in place, figuring more beneficial wasps will be the result.

The caterpillars without little friends I scrap off into a container, take them out to the road, and drop a brick on their sorry asses.

Side note: the chickens won't touch the Hornworms, and, in fact, flee in terror.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Gettin' nuthin' done

Raise your hand if you think I was being extremely silly to think I could get writing done when the house was full of carpenters.

I guess it’s unanimous.

It’s not only the noise (they’ve got a particular saw that sets my teeth on edge [no pun intended {you know – saw teeth?}]), or that there are several sets of fine masculine muscles wandering around. I just plain like to watch the work. I’d be a shadow if I didn’t know it would be really annoying to the shadow-ee.

It’s best not to annoy those responsible for remodelling the house. In my opinion.

Friday, June 29, 2012

It's started.

The destruction and mayhem have truly begun. A crew of many showed up in the wee hours (okay, it was 7:30, but I was tired) and tore my house apart. Okay, only the kitchen and the boy's bathroom.

"Only"? Am I crazy? Two rooms out of commission and the house is useless. Okay, I'm exaggerating just a little. But for someone who loves to cook, not having a kitchen is driving me effing crazy. We've set up a pseudo-kitchen in one end of the family room, i.e. a microwave, coffee maker, toaster. We're now using paper plates *shudder* and I'm buying prepared foods *double shudder*.

As an aside, the frozen meat pies from Bisson's Farm are fabulous!

Sharing a bathroom with two young men, AKA Son1 and Son2, is a challenge. They like to stay up later than we do so we're back to "time to get ready for bed!". That way they won't have to creep thru our room after we're asleep. Our squeaky floors preclude creeping.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A mystery...

I feel sure a bandit broke into our house. If we lived on a houseboat, I'd blame a pirate, but, alas, we're stuck on dry land, so it must have been a bandit. How do I know a bandit broke into our house? Because...whilst cleaning out the kitchen cupboards in preparation for the "Great Renovation of 2012", I came across six - SIX! - cans of sweetened condensed milk. The only logical explanation for said cans of sweetened condensed milk to be in my kitchen is that they were planted there by pesky bandits. Why the bandits would do this thing, I have no clue. It is not up to me analyze the motives of bandits. Rest assured the cans of sweetened condensed milk have been dealt with in an appropriate manner.

I shudder to think what the bandit has placed at the back of the fridge.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Strawberries are perfection.

I saw this recipe for Strawberry Summer Cake and thought, wow, that sounds fabulous. Until I got to the part about the strawberries needing to be almost too over-ripe. Strawberries never get to that state in this house. Particularly with Son1 home from college. He is a fruit vacuum. Every time I turn around, the fruit bowl is empty.

But, huzzah! I was a bit tardy in picking the berries from our own wee strawberry patch, so I had enough “almost too ripe” berries for this recipe. I say again, huzzah! I also say “nom-nom” with near-orgasmic undertones. Seriously, if you have to hide the berries from your loved ones until they reach that perfect state of “just about too far gone”, then do so. They will thank you.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Gourmet chicken

A couple days ago I made Sloppy Joes using this recipe. I must say, they were scrumptious! The only change I made to the recipe was using red bell peppers instead of green, which don't agree with my tummy.

Anyway, after browning the meat I was left with about a cup of drippings (a combination of meat juice and fat).

I hate to let anything go to waste.

But really, I hate trying to figure out how to dispose of drippings. Pouring it into the trash is kind of messy and gross. Pouring it down the drain is asking for trouble of the expensive plumber variety. Pouring it onto the compost pile is asking for trouble of the destructive raccoon variety.

On these cold winter days, I often make porridge for the hens. Stop laughing! Today I used the drippings plus a bit of water, 1/2 cup of oatmeal, and stirred in some leftover mashed potatoes that had been in the fridge for a few days/weeks.

Okay, yes, the porridge did smell good as I mixed it up, but I didn't taste it. I may be a good "hen mother" but I draw the line at sampling their food.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The recipe

I searched again on the Bon Appetit website for the killer chocolate layer cake recipe, but alas, I think it may be too old to have been put online. Thinking back, I've been making this outrageously delicious cake four times a year for at least fourteen years. Yeah, that's a lot of chocolate cake. I have the curves to show for it, too, hehe.

So, because I'm such a stellar individual, I typed out the recipe. Enjoy!

Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake

with Cocoa Frosting (Bon Appetit, late 1990's)

3 cups flour 2 cups cold water

2 cups sugar 1 cup vegetable oil

½ cup cocoa powder 1 tablespoon vanilla

2 teaspoon baking soda 1 ½ cups chocolate chips

1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour three 9-inch cake pans. Sift dry ingredients together into medium bowl. Combine water, oil and vanilla in large bowl. Whisk in dry ingredients. Divide batter between pans. Sprinkle ½ cup chocolate chips over batter in each pan. Bake 25 minutes, or until tester comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans on racks for 15 minutes. Turn cakes out of pans and cool completely.


½ cup butter, room temperature

5 cups icing sugar

8 tablespoons (approx) cold milk

1 ¼ teaspoon vanilla

¾ cup cocoa powder

Beat butter until fluffy. Gradually beat in 3 cups sugar. Beat in 6 tablespoons milk, and vanilla. Add cocoa and remaining sugar. Beat until well blended, thinning with milk if necessary.

To assemble:

Place one cake layer, chip side up, on platter. Spread with approx. 2/3 cup frosting. Repeat with second layer and another 2/3 cup of frosting. Top with remaining layer, chip side down. Frost sides and top of cake.

Monday, January 23, 2012

I have a hankering

for cake. Perhaps it has something to do with the weather - dark and drizzly. Now my quandary is, what flavour of cake should I bake?

My tried and true "birthday" cake is a triple layer chocolate extravaganza with cocoa frosting. It's almost too rich.
I got the recipe from Bon Appetit years ago, and it's been the requested cake ever since. Unfortunately, it's not anyone's birthday today. Well, not anyone that I know well enough to bake a cake for. (I searched online for the recipe and can't find it. I'll type it up and post later. This picture is not it, but doesn't it look yummy?)

A simpler chocolate cake is a recipe that's been in my family on my mother's side for decades, and it's named after Great Aunt Hilda Young, from Paradise, NS. I usually bake it in a bundt pan and cover with vanilla frosting. The recipe is one of the type that uses boiling water in the batter.

I recently was given a recipe for a Triple Vanilla cake, that uses vanilla beans, vanilla sugar and vanilla extract. The cake is divine, light and buttery, and the vanilla flavour is intense without being overpowering. I'm not sure I have the energy today for messing with vanilla beans though.

Looking at the clock, I've about run out of time to bake a cake and have it cool enough to frost in time for supper. I'll sleep on the question and decide tomorrow. Ha! I can almost guarantee I'll be making Great Aunt Hilda's chocolate cake.

It's a good thing there are a few brownies left for tonight's dessert. I used a mix, but substituted melted butter for the oil. Butter is a fabulous invention and I use it in all my baking. Because I'm worth it.