Thursday, December 31, 2009

I'll Eat to That!

It's New Year's Eve! I can speak for my sister when I say, "good riddance, 2009, and a hearty hello to 2010!"

In our family, New Year's Eve dinner meant sandwiches made from deli meats purchased at Lexington Market in downtown Baltimore. I can still remember the sawdust on the floor and the faint smell of...well, let's not go there. My mother-in-law eats grapes and wears funny colored socks to usher in prosperity with the new year.

There are a ton of traditional meals and customs that come along with the celebration of the start of a new year. We don't do anything apart from eat, drink a little champagne, and hope to stay up late enough to see the ball drop on TV. Wow--that's pretty lame.

If you're looking to adopt a new year's tradition into your celebration, here are a few to try out:
  • Black-Eyed Peas: This is a Southern-US tradition and are served with cooked greens and pork (see below). They're meant to represent prosperity and the custom of eating them at the start of the year dates back to the Civil War.
  • Cooked Greens: Cabbage, collard greens, kale, chard, etc. are cooked and served on New Year's all over the world. The cooked greens represent money and--let's face it--who doesn't want more of that each year?
  • Pork: Eating pork symbolized progress because pigs push forward, rooting themselves in the ground before moving. Hmmm...ok. Pigs taste good, that's for sure. And their fatty richness could also symbolize wealth. No matter why they're eaten, pork products are consumed all over the world in all sorts of varieties: roast suckling pig, pork sausage, pigs' feet, etc. Or marzipan pigs if you prefer the non-meat variety.
  • Grapes: According to my mother-in-law, you're supposed to eat 12 grapes at midnight on New Year's Eve. Each grape represents a different month, so if the third grape is a bit sour, March might be a rocky month. This is mostly a custom in Spanish, Portuguese, Mexican, Cuban, Venezuelan and other Latin American cultures.
If you have any New Year's food traditions, leave us a comment and tell us about it. Otherwise, Happy 2010!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My New Year's Resolution

As I have gotten older and exposed to different cuisines, I have found that the sauces, meats, spices and breads at Indian restaurants to be craveable and extremely delicious. So when it came time to make my birthday and Christmas lists, I found that Indian cookbooks were at the top. I also thought that focusing on one type of cuisine might also give me focus and motivation for the blog.

So my friends and family came through with the cookbooks and I got 2 different Indian cookbooks: Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey and Complete Indian Cooking by Meena Pathak. After looking through both, I got inspired to learn how to cook these meals at home.

The first thing I did was to raid my spices and make a list of everything that I would need. I then headed out to Cost Plus Word Market and stocked up on cardamom pods & powder, coriander, cumin, turmeric, and anything else that sounded good - I even found Kadhai to serve my creations in!

Then the hard part, what to make first? I decided to go with something relatively easy and not super spicy. The winner was Mughlai Chicken with Almonds and Raisins (page 96 of Madhur Jaffrey's book) and Jeer pulav, rice flavored with cumin seeds (page 97 of Meena Pathak's book). I did cheat and buy already prepared naan (which was so-so) - I will attempt homemade naan in the future.

The sauce in the chicken was creamy and had a slight smokey flavor from the almonds and spices and the rice was extremely easy to make and very forgiving too. I did a lot of the prep work ahead of time - chopping the chicken and onions, measuring the spices and making an almond paste. Both dishes were complete successes! They were restaurant quality and super yummy!! I would definitely make these again and serve them for guests.

So here is my New Year's resolution: "To make at least 3 dishes a month and blog about them".

Here is to a new flavor adventure in the new year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Baby Got Bundt

Every Christmas Eve, my husband and I go out to dinner together then drive around to look at Christmas lights. This year my poor husband didn't get home from work until 9:30 pm, so I went out with my parents, my sister, and my nephew to a yummy Italian place. After a lovely dinner, we drove around to look at Christmas lights then came back to my house for a homemade dessert and our annual ornament exchange.

After a big carb-filled Italian dinner, the last thing I wanted was something cloyingly sweet or super heavy. But everyone told me they wanted something chocolaty for Christmas Eve dessert. My solution? A simple but delicious chocolate Bundt cake.

I got the recipe (below) from The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book and didn't make any changes. It turned out to be a very moist, chocolaty cake that was plain, simple, and delicious.


1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
1 teaspoon instant espresso or instant coffee
3/4 cup boiling water
1 cup sour cream, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks and softened
2 cups packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs, room temperature
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Prepare a prepare a 12-cup Bundt pan per the note below. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and baking soda together and set aside.
  2. In another medium bowl, combine the cocoa, chocolate, and instant espresso. Pour the boiling water over the top, cover, and let sit until the chocolate is melted, about 5 minutes. Whisk the mixture smooth and set aside to cool. When cool, whisk in the sour cream and vanilla.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 6 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, until combined, about 1 minute. (The batter may look curdled.)
  4. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in one third of the flour mixture, followed by half of the chocolate mixture. Repeat with half of the remaining flour mixture and all of the remaining chocolate mixture. Beat in the remaining flour mixture until just incorporated.
  5. Scrape the batter into the prepared Bundt pan and smooth the top. Wipe any drops of batter off the sides of the pan and tap the pan gently on the counter to settle the batter. Bake the cake until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 50 to 60 minutes, rotating the pan halfway though baking.
  6. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then flip it out onto a wire rack. Let the cake cool completely, about 2 hours, before serving.
A note about preparing a Bundt pan:
To ensure that your cake comes out of the Bundt pan neatly, follow this awesome trick:
  • Mix together 1 Tablespoon melted unsalted butter with 1 Tablespoon cocoa powder (or flour if you are making a non-chocolate Bundt cake) to make a paste.
  • Use a pastry brush to thoroughly coat the entire Bundt pan--don't forget to do all the sides, the nooks and crannies, and the center tube
Other notes and variations:
  • Trust your electric mixer and really give it time to do its job. Don't rush the mixing process in step 3.
  • Don't leave the coffee out of this cake. The only way I like coffee is in a mug with no cream or sugar; I am not a fan of coffee-flavored stuff. However, in this recipe the coffee enhances the richness of the chocolate and doesn't leave behind a strong coffee flavor.
  • Serve the cake with whipped cream, if you like that sort of thing.
  • You could probably play around with some of the flavors in this. You could add orange, almond, or other types of extract.
  • If you want to get fancy, you could probably frost or glaze this cake, but that takes away from its simplicity.

Monday, December 28, 2009

More Holiday Treats (In Case You Still Have Room)

These are all recipes from my cookie party. All are delicious and fairly easy to make. If you haven't yet had your fill of butter, sugar and chocolate, then these treats should help put you back into the holiday spirit (or a sugar coma).

Five Layer Bars

By Ariel

Every time a bite into these bars, I think of my Aunt. My Aunt always made a version of these at Christmas time. She kept them in the refrigerator and they were always one of my favorite holiday treats. When these showed up at the cookie party, I was delighted and taken back to childhood!

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 stick salted butter, melted
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup shredded coconut
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350. Combine graham cracker crumbs and melted butter in a bowl. Press into the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Mix pecans, chips, and coconut and sprinkle on top of graham cracker crumbs. Pour sweetened condensed milk over the mixture and bake for 30 minutes. Cool completely and cut into bars.

Frosted Ginger Cookies

By Andrea

These are soft and melt in your mouth. They are perfect with coffee and really bring out the smells and taste of the season!

1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for rolling cookies
3/4 cup butter at room temperature
1 egg
3 Tbsp molasses
2 cups flour, sifted
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
  1. Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl cream 1 cup granulated sugar with butter until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in egg and molasses.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking soda and spices. Add butter to mixture and blend well.
  3. Fill a shallow bowl with granulated sugar. Break off walnut-size pieces of dough and roll into balls; roll balls in sugar. Arrange on greased cookie sheets and bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer to cooling racks.
  4. Meanwhile, make glaze. Combine powdered sugar with 1 Tbsp water and stir until smooth, then stir in lemon juice. Drizzle glaze over cookies.
Enjoy and keep the holiday spirit!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Nuts and Bolts of Snacking

Growing up, we spent many Christmas nights at our aunt and uncle's house. Our aunt made tons of delicious appetizers that thoroughly and happily ruined our appetites for the main meal. One highlight each year was our uncle's Nut and Bolts.

Now, you could just buy a bag of pre-made Chex Mix. It's cheaper and easier than making it yourself, but it's nowhere near as yummy as homemade Nuts and Bolts. Like most things, the homemade version is far better than anything you'll buy in the store.

There are a ton of variations to this recipe, but here's the general outline of what you need. The beauty of a recipe like this is that it's forgiving and is easily modified to suit your tastes.


3 cups Wheat Chex
3 cups Rice Chex
3 cups Cheerios
3 cups pretzel sticks
1 pound unsalted peanuts
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2-3 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
1-2 Tablespoons Season Salt
1-2 Tablespoons garlic salt
  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
  2. In a large roasting pan, toss together cereals, pretzels, and peanuts to combine well.
  3. Pour oil and Worcestershire Sauce over cereal mixture, stirring to coat well.
  4. Toss in spices and stir well.
  5. Cook for at least an hour, stirring every 20 minutes.
  6. Allow to cool before serving. Store in the fridge; can be frozen.
  • Instead of vegetable oil, try melted butter.
  • Adjust the cereal, pretzel, peanut ratio to fit your preference. I like more nuts and Wheat Chex and fewer pretzels, but that's just me.
  • Adjust the amount and type of seasonings. You can try celery salt, paprika, Cayenne pepper, etc....whatever you want. The last time I made this, I was a bit too heavy-handed on the salt. No one seemed to care, though!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ho Ho Ho - Treats for Santa!

What Christmas wouldn't be complete without baking up some cookies to leave for Santa? I thought that this year instead of making tons of different types of cookies, that I would host a cookie exchange - then I would only have to make one or two different cookies, could share them and still have lots of tasty options!

Aidan and I got to work, he made Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies (with a little help from Mom) and I made Mexican Wedding Cookies. Both are favorites of mine and the Mexican Wedding Cookies always remind me of Christmas - I think it was the only time during the year when we made them, plus they look like snow balls. The Peanut Butter Cookies are pretty easy to make with kids and mine loves to push the kisses into the cookies!

Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies
By Aidan

1 cup softened shortening
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup peanut butter
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
1 package Hershey's Kisses

Mix all ingredients in order. Shape into 1-inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 15-18 minutes at 375 degrees. After removing cookie sheet from oven, immediately push a kiss into each cookie. Refrigerate cookies for a while to harden kisses.

Makes approximately 48 cookies (plenty to share with friends, family and Santa).

Mexican Wedding Cookies
By Greta

1 cup pecan pieces or halves
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar, divided
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt

Place pecans in food processor. Process using on/off pulsing until pecans are ground. Beat butter and 1/2 cup powdered sugar in large bowl with electric mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Gradually add 1 cup flour, vanilla and salt. Beat at low speed until well blended. Stir in remaining 1 cup flour and ground nuts with spoon. Shape dough into a ball; wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour or until firm.

Shape tablespoons of dough into 1-inch balls; place 1-inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Let cookies stand on sheet for 2 minutes. Place 1 cup powdered sugar in 13x9 inch glass dish. Transfer hot cookies to glass dish and roll cookies in sugar; let cool in dish. Shift remaining 1/2 cup powdered sugar over cookies before serving.

Makes 48.

Everyone brought a different type of cookie or bar and we had hot chocolate, coffee and egg nog to wash them all down. The assortment of treats included 5 layer bars, M&M chocolate chip cookies, German Chocolate bars, soft gingerbread, Snickers cookies, and peppermint sugar cookies. Everyone had fun and no one left hungry!

Merry Christmas Everyone and Enjoy!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"The Night Before" French Toast

I don't know about the rest of you, but in the mornings I don't want to fuss over complicated breakfast recipes. Most days breakfasts are grab and go affairs, but on certain mornings--like Mother's Day, Christmas, etc.--a big breakfast is essential to the day's festivities.

Today's recipe is one of my favorites. It's a baked French toast that can be modified a zillion different ways to suit any taste. It must be made in advance (the night before) which means minimal effort first thing in the morning. It also has a short list of every day ingredients.

If you don't have plans for Christmas breakfast yet, consider whipping this up. It takes just a few minutes to throw together but it results in a yummy, special breakfast. As my husband said the other day after eating a batch, "That was glorious, Miss Lydia." Glorious, indeed!

1 (13- to 14-inch-long) loaf of soft-crust supermarket Italian bread
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 2/3 cups whole milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon almond extract
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup (give or take) sliced almonds
  1. Cut 12 (1-inch-thick) diagonal slices from bread, reserving ends for another use.
  2. Generously butter 1 side of each slice and arrange slices, buttered sides up, in 1 layer in a buttered 13- by 9- by 2-inch glass baking dish, squeezing them slightly to fit if necessary. (Note: you may find it difficult to get everything into one dish--really squeeze the bread in there!)
  3. Whisk together eggs, milk, salt, and extract until combined well, then pour evenly over bread.
  4. Chill, covered, until bread has absorbed all of custard, at least 1 hour and up to 1 day, depending on bread. (The bread really sops up the liquid!)
  5. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  6. Bring mixture to room temperature and sprinkle bread with sugar and almonds.
  7. Bake, uncovered, in middle of oven until bread is puffed and top is golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve immediately with syrup.
  • I've used challah bread and sourdough for this in the past--both worked well. Use any type of bread you want (brioche, baguette, etc.).
  • If you don't like (or have on hand) almond extract, try vanilla, maple syrup, orange, or anything else you like.
  • If you want something festive, try eggnog instead of milk.
  • We drink skim milk in our house, so if you don't have whole milk just use what you have on hand. It won't mess things up.
  • Change the topping: you don't need to add nuts, or if you want, try a different combination of nuts (I think pistachios would be yummy).
  • Instead of maple syrup, try powdered sugar, fruit syrup, or whatever else you may want.
If you make your own concoction of this, let me know. I'd love to hear about your changes.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

About This Week...

Well, it's finally here: the week kids and kids at heart wait for all year long. It's Christmas week! Yay!

Since it's time for friends and family, we're all going to be busy eating. Greta has a cookie swap party set for today, Christmas Eve means dinner out and dessert at Lydia's, and Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a big breakfast and an elaborate dinner.

We're going to be so busy cooking and eating that our writing may be a bit spotty over the coming days. We'll do our best to get posts up because we'll have plenty of holiday cooking comments and recipes to share.

In the meantime, we hope you're taking time to enjoy food, friends, and family no matter how you celebrate during the holidays!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Southern Comfort Sour, Dad's Style

If I am going to have an alcoholic beverage, I much prefer a mixed drink to a glass of wine or bottle of beer. In our family, my dad is the drink maker. There's great irony in this because my dad never drinks.

The king of alcoholic beverages in our family is Dad's Whiskey Sour. It's orange-y, filled with Southern Comfort, and sweetened with sugar and maraschino cherries.

Now, a REAL whiskey sour is made like this:

1 1/2 oz whiskey
1 1/2 oz lemon juice
3/4 oz sugar syrup
maraschino cherry for garnish

Pour the bourbon, lemon juice, and sugar syrup into a cocktail shaker with ice cubes. Shake well. Strain into a chilled sour glass. Garnish with the cherry.

But my father makes a whiskey sour like this:

Orange Juice
Southern Comfort
Granulated Sugar
Maraschino cherries

In a blender, mix together OJ and Southern Comfort on a 2 to 1 ratio (2 parts OJ to 1 very generous part Southern Comfort). Add sugar to taste and drizzle a little maraschino cherry juice into the mixture. Blend well; serve on the rocks.

My dad's drink is more sweet than sour. It makes you feel all warm and sleepy after drinking a few of these bad boys.

Side note: my roommate in college was from Japan and she came to our house for Thanksgiving dinner one year. My dad made a batch of Southern Comfort Sours and after drinking one, my poor roommate got so intoxicated that she forgot how to speak English. True story.

Everyone who drinks in my family has had Dad's Southern Comfort Sours, and we're always glad to indulge. They're deliciousness of yum in a glass!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Indian Adventure

Very poor iPhone photo.

Whenever someone in the family has a birthday, they get to pick the cuisine and restaurant for the celebration. This year for my family birthday dinner out, I chose the Clay Pit Cuisine of Indian at Mill Creek Town Center - super yummy Indian food! All day I looked forward to the rich sauces, spices and tender meats. My sister and I made the menu selections (Lydia and I often go to the Clay Pit for dinner together) and shared all the entrees - I was not disappointed by the meal!

For appetizers, we started with meat Samosas (golden fried flaky pastry stuffed with marinated ground beef with 3 cheeses) and Vegetable Pakoras (chickpea and cumin battered fritters). My favorite were the cauliflower pakoras with their crunchy batter - they are mouth watering. My son that hates most food even loved the pakoras!

The main dishes were Plain Naan (leavened bread baked in a clay pit), Puri (unleavened whole wheat bread), Lamb Kasturi Curry (lamb curried and finished in a creamy saffron and kasturi sauce), Chicken Tikka Masala (tomato based butter cream sauce seasoned with herbs and spices), Tandoori Chicken Tikedar (chunks of boneless breast of chicken marinated in yogurt and spice paste), Boti Kebob (lamb marinated in spices), and Malai Kofta (vegetable and paneer stuffed chickpea rounds in a saffron curry, finished with a nut puree). Everything was accompanied with their delicious basmati rice.

Finally, we ended the meal with Chai Tea, Kheer (rice pudding), Gulab Jamun (special dough golden brown in cardamon syrup), and Coconut Ice Cream. This was the first time that I had ever had dessert at an Indian restaurant and I am really happy that we decided to give it a try! I have had rice pudding and coconut ice cream before, but I have never had anything like Gulab Jamun - it was warm and sweet and very delicious!

The stars of the night for me were the Lamb Katsuri Curry, Malai Kota and the Gulab Jamun. Everyone left very full, even the picky 7 year old - he gave the evening a 3 out of 5 stars, I gave it 5 of 5!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I Know It Sounds Weird, But TRY IT!

There are some meals that have always been in my life. I can't remember the first time I tried them, I'm not quite sure when I learned to cook them, but there they are: my culinary constants. One of these constants is Tuna Spaghetti. It's a quick family dinner that my mom's been making forever. As an adult, I've been making this meal for my husband for years and he loves it.

Tuna Spaghetti. Sounds gross, right? And if you ask Greta, she'd agree with you. She hates Tuna Spaghetti. Despite this, we've allowed her to stay in the family.

This is one of those recipes that has never been written down, that changes ever so slightly ever time we make it, and that really has to be tasted to appreciate. If you like pasta, bacon, and Parmesan cheese, you should check this out.

serves 4 to 6 depending on how hungry you are

1 pound of spaghetti
Bacon (about 6 slices or so...however many you can fit in a single layer of a good sized fry pan like this one)
Crushed garlic--2 cloves (more or less if you'd like)
2 cans of water-packed tuna (7 oz. each--do NOT drain the water)
Dried oregano
Pepper to taste
2 T butter or margarine
Shredded Parmesan Cheese
  1. Fry bacon in a good sized skillet over medium heat. While the bacon is frying up, put a big pot of salted water on the stove and let it heat up to boiling.
  2. When bacon is crispy, drain on paper towels. Crumble (or chop if you don't want to get your hands all greasy) and set aside. Pour off all but about 1 Tablespoon of the bacon drippings in the skillet.
  3. When water boils, cook pasta according to directions on the box.
  4. Meanwhile, return the skillet used to cook the bacon (with the 1 T of reserved fat) to the burner. Reduce the heat to low since the pan will probably still be a little hot. Add garlic and let it cook for a few seconds (don't let the garlic burn). Add the undrained cans of tuna to the pan. Scrape up the bacon-y residue on the bottom of the pan and stir to combine the tuna and garlic. Add a few good pinches of dried oregano (as much or as little as you like) and a few grinds of fresh cracked pepper.
  5. Using tongs, grab a now empty tuna can and dip it in the boiling pasta water to fill it up. Pour the starchy pasta water into the skillet with the tuna. Increase heat to medium and stir to combine. You'll want to reduce the liquid down a bit in the pan. (Note: how far you reduce it is a matter of personal preference. I like my Tuna Spaghetti less watery than my mom cooks it. Try it a few ways to see what you like.) Adjust oregano and pepper, if necessary.
  6. When spaghetti is done, drain and toss with 2 Tablespoons of butter. Add spaghetti to the skillet and toss with the tuna mixture.
  7. Add crumbled bacon into the spaghetti and tuna mixture. Serve pasta immediately, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.
Sure to serve Tuna Spaghetti with lots of crunchy Italian or French bread and a salad.

If you try this one, let me know how it turns out for you.

Monday, December 14, 2009

My Favorite Birthday Meal

Sunday, December 13 was my 38th birthday. To celebrate it, I opted for food, family and of course presents! I had Indian food on Saturday (see the post on 12/16) and home cooked comfort food on Sunday - both were very different, but delicious and wonderful.

Sunday's menu was baked chicken breasts, macaroni and cheese, green beans with toasted almonds, Pilsbury crescent rolls and finished off with homemade cherry pie - one of my favorite meals. My Mom started cooking after breakfasts and put together a mouthwatering treat for me!

Here are Mom's recipes:

Baked Chicken

2/3 cup dried breadcrumbs
1 1/2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 skinned and boned chicken breasts
1/4 cup melted butter or margarine
  1. Combine breadcrumbs, cheese, garlic salt and pepper.
  2. Dip chicken in butter; then dredge in breadcrumb mixture.
  3. Place in a lightly greased oven proof baking dish; sprinkle with remaining crumb mixture.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until done.
Baked Macaroni and Cheese

1 8 oz package elbow macaroni
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1/4 cup margarine
1/4 cup unsifted flour
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Cook macaroni as package label directs; drain.
  3. In 1 1/2 quart baking dish, alternate macaroni (in 2 layers) with 1 1/2 cup cheese.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare sauce: melt margarine in medium saucepan; remove from heat. Blend flour; gradually stir in milk, then seasonings. Bring to boiling, stirring; boil 1 minute.
  5. Pour sauce over macaroni + cheese in casserole. Top with remaining cheese.
  6. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until cheese is melted and browned.
Finally, I am not the biggest fan of cake, but I love a good pie (especially Mom's pie crust)!

Pie Crust


1 1/3 cup sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup Crisco
2 to 3 tablespoons water


2 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup Crisco
3 to 4 tablespoons water

Combine flour and salt. Cut in Crisco until mixture is uniform. Sprinkle with water, a tablespoon at a time; toss lightly with fork. When all water has been added, work dough into firm ball.

To bake without filling: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. prick bottom + sides with fork. Bake 10 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

To bake with filling: Preheat oven to temperature stated in recipe. Do not prick with fork. Bake according to recipe directions.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cookbook Corner: Betty Crocker's Cooky Book

Ever since I was a little kid, I've loved cookbooks. I'll have to try to find the old photo of me as a toddler sprawled out on the kitchen floor with my mom's awesome Betty Crocker cookbooks scattered around me. Betty Crocker books were always close at hand growing up. I loved their hard covers, their spiral binding, the sound the pages made over the metal spirals when I turned them, and--of course--the dated but still yummy photos.

My mother says she never had Betty Crocker's Cooky Book, but it seems so familiar to me. When I saw it perched on the bookshelf at Barnes and Noble, I had to snatch it up and take it home with me.

What to expect: The Cooky Book is packed with over "450 cookie recipes, dozens of appetizing full-color photographs, and many how-to-do-it sketches." The book originally came out in 1963 and was reissued in 2002 with the following comment from the Betty Crocker folks:

We're excited to bring you this treasured edition of
Betty Crocker's Cooky Book. The recipes are exactly as they appeared in the original 1963 cookbook to reflect the heritage of American baking. Eating habits may have changed, but the fond memories of sharing the delicious cookie recipes from this cookbook remain the same.

Some ingredients and food safety concerns have changed over the years. So you may want to try these recipes using today's ingredients and methods. Or ask Mom or Grandmom how they make these recipes still taste so good today!

Some cookbooks are family treasures. They're splattered with batter, dribbles of egg, and crusty splotches of vanilla. The fact that they're so worn makes them all the more special. Betty Crocker's Cooky Book is one of those books. I can't wait to see how my book warps with wear. If you like to bake, if you're a cookie fiend, or if you have kids, this is a bookshelf essential.

Best recipes: Wow. There are way too many to list. I sat down and listed all the cookies I want to try, and came up with several dozen. Oops. Here are my current top six:
  • Chocolate Crinkles (page 23)
  • Zimtsterne: crispy, spicy cookies from Switzerland (page 43)
  • Banana Spice Cookies: for my husband (page 67)
  • Chocolate Crisscross Cookies (page 68)
  • Old Fashioned Sour Cream Cookies (page 79)
  • Chocolate Coconut Candies: for my sister; the first ingredient in this is mashed potatoes! (page 125)
Also, I have to mention that in the back section of the book, the Betty Crocker folks have information and recipe on what they've deemed their top cookie recipes for the decade dating from Hermits in the 1880s to French Lace Cookies in 1963 and everything (brownies, Toll House Chocolate Chips, etc.) in between.

Complaints: I have nothing to complain about. However, there are an awful lot of recipes for date-based cookies and bars. The fact that some of the recipes and ingredients are a bit foreign or old fashioned make the book all the more endearing.

Deliciousness scale: 5 spoons of yum out of 5!

This review was based on the 2002 reissue facsimile edition. ISBN: 0-7645-6637-7

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Gingerbread Yum

This past weekend, my son asked to make gingerbread cookies - he can devour them like Cookie Monster. Since I like to cook with him, I thought that it would be fun. It seems that making and decorating gingerbread is quickly becoming a Christmas tradition and I am always on the lookout for things that can make decorating fun and easy.

I didn't have everything that I would need to make and decorate the cookies, so I headed out to the store and the seasonal isle. There I found a bucket of various cookie cutters and what looked like glue. It turned out to be squeezable white icing in a bottle by Wilton and has now become one of my favorite decorating tools - everyone loved it, from my 7 year old to my Mom and Dad. We used it to add mini M&Ms, sprinkles and nonpareils.

So once I had the necessary tools and decorations, I then turned to my bible - the Joy of Cooking for the gingerbread recipe.

Recipe from the Joy Of Cooking, by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker, 1985:

Gingerbread Men

1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup dark molasses
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Blend the butter and sugar until creamy.
  3. Beat in molasses.
  4. Sift the flour, then add all spices and resift dry ingredients.
  5. Add the sifted ingredients to the butter mixture in about three parts, alternately with the water.
  6. Roll the dough to any thickness you like and cut out shapes with cookie cutters.
  7. Decorate before baking with small raisins, bits of candied fruits, red-hots, marshmallows and citron; use icing and sprinkles after baking.
  8. Bake the cookies for 8 minutes or longer, according to their thickness. Test for doneness by pressing the dough with your finger. I it springs back after pressing, they are ready to be cooled on a rack.

1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
A few drops of water

In a small bowl, stir together the sugar and water. Add a drop or two of food coloring and use to decorate cookies.

This year, I omitted the icing recipe and used already prepared, multicolored icings. We all had fun and even shared some with friends and family. I hear that Santa is very fond of gingerbread too!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Puff Daddy

As a rule, I much prefer kitchen tools that can multitask and I tend to avoid single-use items (honesty, do we really need to spend $8 for a citrus peeler? I think not!). But all rules have their exceptions, which is why I own an ebelskiver pan.

I know, I know...what a goofy name: ebelskiver. Say that three times fast, I dare you. In my house we refer to the ebelskiver pan as the Nebekenezer pan, but that's just because my husband and I are somewhat nerdy.

Anyway, I'm getting off track. Despite the funny name and it's ability to only be used for one thing, an ebelskiver pan is an awesome kitchen addition if you're a fan of breakfast. See, the ebelskiver pan is used to make super yummy pancake puffs.

Here's how it works:
  • Mix up some pancake batter using your favorite recipe or mix.
  • Heat up the ebelskiver pan on your stove. Some companies do not recommend using the pan on glass cooktops, but that's what I have and so far I haven't caused any damage to either the pan or the stove.
  • Lightly grease each well of the ebelskiver pan.
  • Pour about 1 Tablespoon of prepared pancake batter into each well.
  • Top the batter with the filling of your choice (see below), about 1/2 teaspoon per pancake puff.
  • Cover the filling with another tablespoon of batter.
  • Cook the ebelskivers 2-3 minutes, until the batter bubbles and gets firm around the edges.
  • Using a pair of chopsticks or two toothpicks, carefully flip each puff so the other side cooks.
  • Continue cooking about 1 more minute.
  • Remove each puff with the chopsticks/toothpicks and serve warm, topped with maple or other flavored syrups or powdered sugar, a dusting of cocoa, or a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar, depending on your taste.
Filling ideas:

You can fill your pancake puffs with anything you'd like. Pancake puffs are just begging to be experimented with! Try:
  • Your favorite jams/fruit spreads
  • Chocolate chips
  • Fruit, like blueberries
  • Pie fillings, especially spiced apples--throw in some nuts for added texture
  • Nutella
  • Cheese (marscapone, ricotta with a bit of orange, etc.)
  • Meat (cooked and crumbled bacon, sausage, etc.)
  • Williams-Sonoma recently featured pancake puffs with a sticky, nutty toffee filling and a gooey sauce on top. Wow!
  • Mix up chocolate pancake batter and fill with raspberry jam. Yum.
Other considerations:
  • I want to try this with a lighter batter that will yield a crispier coating.
  • Speaking of batter: you could add some spices to give the pancake part more flavor.
  • Patience is a requirement when making ebelskivers. And practice makes perfect. Give yourself permission to make a few batches that are less than perfect. You'll need to get your technique down.
  • Ebelskiver pan, approximately $30 to $40 (check here and here for ordering info).
  • Optional: squeeze bottle for your pancake batter or a pancake dispenser (check out this one--it's pretty awesome!).
  • Toothpicks or chopsticks.
Photo above from Williams-Sonoma. They also have a handy-dandy video on how to cook up these bad boys.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Comfort Casserole

This weekend it was cold and frosted over in the Seattle area. Christmas lights were up and in my house, we were waiting for Saint Nicholas to visit. So it was the perfect weather for meaty comfort food and a nice glass of red wine! Whenever I think of these things, my mouth waters for Connecticut Beef Supper.

This recipe has been on my family since the mid 1970's and has been served for dinner parties, family get togethers and weekend meals. Whatever the cause, no one walks away hungry!

My mother first found this dish in the February 1976 edition of Sphere and was submitted by Dick Wernsman of Chicago (my mother still has the original page from the magazine).

Below is the original recipe and after are some additions/substitutions that I have made over the years.

Connecticut Beef Supper

2 pounds stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 large onions, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
1 jar (4 1/2 ounces) whole mushrooms
4 medium potatoes, pared, thinly sliced
1 can (10 1/2 ounces) condensed cream of mushroom soup
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup dairy sour cream
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese
Cracker crumbs or fine dry bread crumbs
  1. Season meat with salt and pepper. Cook and stir meat and onions in olive oil in large skillet over medium heat until meat is brown and onions are tender; pour off oil.
  2. Drain mushrooms, reserving liquid. Add enough water to mushroom liquid to make 1 cup. Stir mushrooms and liquid into meat and onions. Heat to boiling; reduce heat and cover. Simmer 2 hours.
  3. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Pour meat mixture into baking dish, 13 1/2 x 8 3/4 x 1 3/4 inches. Arrange potatoes over meat. Mix soup, milk, sour cream, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; pour over potatoes. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake uncovered 1 hour. Sprinkle with cracker crumbs if desired; bake uncovered until potatoes are tender and crumbs are brown, 20 to 30 minutes.
These are my changes/additions:
  • I never use canned mushrooms, I always use fresh. So I add the fresh mushrooms to my meat & onions right before I pour it in to the casserole dish.
  • Try using either wine or broth instead of water for more flavor.
  • Add a clove of garlic to the meat & onion mixture.
  • Make sure that the potatoes are cut extremely thin - you could also par boil them a bit.
  • Remember to serve this with lots of crusty bread - you will want something to sop up all the sauce!
Please enjoy this dish with your friends and family too!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Bake Sale Treats - Cheesecake Cups

Well it is that time of year again - time for school bake sales and holiday parties!

So what is easy to make and super yummy? For my son's holiday bake sale, I went with an old standby - cherry topped cheesecake cups. I also thought that this recipe would be easy to make with my son and would yield plenty of batter left in the mixing bowl for him to lick. I was right on both accounts!

Here is the recipe:

Cheesecake Cups

2, 8oz packages of cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon juice
vanilla wafers
pie filling
  1. Have cream cheese at room temperature, then cream with next 4 ingredients.
  2. Place vanilla wafer in the bottom of cup cake papers (which have been placed in muffin tins) and fill 2/3 full with cheese mixture.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 - 20 minutes.
  4. Cool.
  5. Top with any type of pie filling you choose or leave plain.
Makes about 21 cakes.
Note: 1/2 can pie filling fills 1 recipe cheesecake cups.

These are always delicious and my favorite is using cherry pie topping on them. Over the years, I have also discovered that using a Kitchen Aid or an electric mixer to make a smooth batter really makes these even more tempting, plus my son loves to work anything electric.

So give these a try for your next office party, bake sale, dinner party or any other occasion!


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Cookbook Corner: How to Be a Domestic Goddess

NOTE: I'm a cookbook fiend. I have no idea how many cookbooks I have, but the number is well over 100. Easily. I've never stopped to count. If I go into a used bookstore, there's a good chance I'll come out with a new cookbook to add to the collection.

When it comes to cookbooks. I'm not picky. I like the classics, gimmicky books, books by celebs, hell--even books of recipes complied by members of neighborhood clubs are awesome. There's always something to learn from cookbooks. My only exception to this rule: all books by Rachael Ray suck. There's no nicer way to say that.

Since I have so many books, I thought I'd do a somewhat regular feature reviewing my collection. And today we're starting with Nigella Lawson's classic How to Be A Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking.

What to expect: Nigella Lawson is British and her way of speaking is dizzying. I don't think the woman's met an adjective she doesn't like. Her word choice is grandiose and her writing style matches. When you read her books, you can hear her honeyed accent dripping over the pages. But that's what makes Nigella's books fun. I was given this book as a gift when I got married in 2003, and I must say that it's a great book for gift giving.

The book houses recipes of varying levels of difficulty and deliciousness that will tempt even the most committed dieter. If Nigella's flowery descriptions don't get your mouth watering, photos of scones drizzled with chocolate, overflowing martini glasses filled with syllabub, and stark iced gingerbread are sure to turn you into a salivating Pavlovian dog.

Nigella doesn't believe in perfection, which is refreshing. She makes baking approachable and tempting. There isn't one thing in this book that intimidates me.

Best recipes: I obviously haven't baked everything in the book, but here are five of my faves:
  • Banana Bread (page 33)
  • Blackberry Galette (page 115)
  • Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake (page 166-I love this one so much that the pages are stained from batter splatter!)
  • Chocolate Mousse Cake (page 176)
  • Peanut Butter Squares (page 223)
Complaints: Because Nigella isn't into perfection, you may find that you need to adjust baking times and ingredient amounts a bit. Be careful if you use her Buttermilk Birthday Cake recipe (page 210). Greta tired this one out and ended up with a cake that was a bit too dense for our liking.

Nigella's coming from a very British perspective, so some of her combinations and ingredients may seem a bit off to us Americans (game pie with jellied stock [page 281], anyone?)

Deliciousness Scale: 4 1/2 spoons of yum out of 5!

This review was based on the 2001 hard back version of this book. ISBN: 0-7868-6797-3

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Pumpkin Eater

(Sorry for the crappy iPhone photo. I meant to snap shot of this beauty sooner, but that just didn't happen!)

I hate pumpkin pie. It smells so good and the taste of pumpkin and spices is like a forkful of fall. But the texture? Blech. It's like eating baby food. Cold, somewhat soggy baby food.

So what's a girl to do when she loves the taste of something but not the texture? She finds ways to have her pumpkin and eat it too, that's what. Thanks to the Queen of Butter and All Things Deliciously Lethal (otherwise known as Paula Deen), I whipped up a batch of Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting for our Tacho Turkey Day.

Before I go any further, let me just ask this: isn't everything better with cream cheese frosting? Everything dessert-y, anyway.

So, if you want to make delicious Pumpkin Bars, here are some things to consider:
  • Though they're called Pumpkin Bars, they're more like a Pumpkin Sheet Cake. No matter what you call them, they're awesome. And yummy.

  • You need to plan ahead, but only a little. Since the bars are made with oil and no other form of fat, you don't have to sit around and wait for butter to come to room temperature.

  • That said, you do need to wait for the pumpkin bars to cool completely before you attempt the frosting. My suggestion? Make the pumpkin bars before you go to bed. That way they'll cool all night long and your house will smell like pumpkin when you hit the sheets (here's a bonus: the scent of pumpkin is supposedly an aphrodisiac for men!)

  • The frosting, though majorly yum, is a bit much. To cut the sugar overload, consider making just half the frosting. Cut your bars/cake/awesome pumpkin things into nice even serving sizes, fill up a pastry bag with the frosting, and make pretty little dollops on each bar.

  • Skip the frosting all together. You could dust the top of the bars/cake/awesome pumpkin thing with powdered sugar and then serve it with whipped cream. Or spread pumpkin butter on the bars/cake/awesome pumpkin thing and serve with whipped cream.

  • Play with the cake spices if you want. It calls for cinnamon, but you could put in whatever you want: ginger, clove, pumpkin pie spice, etc. You can probably also cut some of the fat by using applesauce....whatever.
So, with that said, here is the recipe:

4 eggs
1 – 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup oil
one 15 ounce can pumpkin
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Using an electric mixer at medium speed, combine the eggs, sugar, oil, and pumpkin until light and fluffy. Stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix at low speed until thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth.

3. Spread the batter in an ungreased nonstick 13 by 10 inch baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes (or until it feels a tiny bit firm in the middle!).

Let cool completely before frosting.

One 3 ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter softened
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To make the icing: Combine the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugar and mix at low speed until smooth. Add the sugar and mix at low speed until combined. Stir in the vanilla and mix again. Spread on cooled pumpkin bars.

Makes 48 small bars or 24 larger ones.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Making a Gingerbread House Kit

To get ready for Christmas, Aidan (my 7 year old) and I decided to make a gingerbread house together. I got this kit from Toys R Us for $9.99 + tax in the hopes that it would be easy and fun to assemble together.

First we read the directions and got a large cutting board to build it - I also thought that the board would allow for easy clean up. The pieces parts were packed well and everything was intact.

Next, we cut out the base part of the tray, kneaded the Royal Icing and applied generous amounts of icing to the front, back and sides. We then set a timer for 15 minutes and let it rest and allow for the icing to harden.

At the end of 15 minutes, we added more icing to the roof pieces and carefully attached the roof. Aidan held it in place for about 5 minutes and we set another 15 minute timer. After the timer went off, then the fun really started - decorating the house. The kit came with lots of candy and plenty of icing - it even included directions on how to make more icing if needed.

After decorating the house with the included candy, Aidan and I thought that it would be good to add something else (like sprinkles). We found some left over fundip from Halloween and sprinkled it over the house - it was perfect! Overall, it was fun and easy for the 2 of us to complete and I would recommend it as a fun way to spend an hour together.

Friday, November 27, 2009

New Thanksgiving Traditions

This year has been full of changes so with this in mind, we decided to do something other than the traditional turkey - this year was TACHOS!

So what are tachos? They are a combination of tacos and nachos, the name came from my 7 year old son and are one of his favorite foods. Our Thanksgiving Day feast started with plain nacho cheese and chips (for the boys) and Rotel cheese dip and chips (for the girls). Later we moved on to beef tacos with all the fillings (cheese, beans, salsa, avocado, onions, lettuce, sour cream, etc.) and margaritas - yum! The only failure of the meal was my very overcooked Spanish rice - I had good intentions, but I let it cook way too long and it turned into glue with Mexican spices. Oh well, not everything can be perfection!

The night ended with a game of Catan, Paula Deen's Pumpkin Bars, and Lydia's homemade snickerdoodle cookies. Lydia won the game and the cookies were all eaten up! It was a very low key Thanksgiving, but it also was relaxing and fun for everyone!

So Happy Tacho Day!

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Welcome to our new blog, Deliciousness of Yum! Be sure to bookmark us or become a follower. We'll be adding updates soon.

In the meantime, get to know us.

Who we are: Greta and Lydia are 30-something sisters who live outside of Seattle, WA (Lydia wants you to know that Greta's the oldest!). We grew up on the East Coast (in Maryland, land of the blue crab) with a great cook--our mother. We both love to cook, but since we both work, and because our lives are crazier than we'd sometimes like, we don't get into the kitchen as much as we want. We plan to use this blog as a way of recording our culinary successes and failures, to talk about cooking, baking, eating, and other foodie things.

Greta is a science nerd by day and an bona fide Sci-Fi fan by night. She is a dedicated mom to a 7 year old boy who has a picky palate. We're still not sure what's up with the kid's lack of culinary adventure.

Lydia hates her day job but loves to write. In her other blog, Kiss and Makeup, she has explored the world of makeup for the past four years. She is married with no kids but has two insane, high-maintenance kitties.

Why the crazy name? When we eat something really good (like a super yummy slice of pizza or an exceptional plate of tikka masala) we refer to it as "deliciousness of yum." Neither one of us knows where this got started, but it's stuck and it has become part of our foodie vocabulary.

We'll be getting this blog rolling soon, so watch this space!