Thursday, March 27, 2008

Upside Down Cake

Is there more comforting food than apples? When they're baked and drizzled with butter and brown sugar, it's like eating a warm bath. Sometimes it's even better than chocolate, call me a heretic from the cult of cacao, but every once in a while a warm homely apple dessert hits the spot- like a bullseye to your sweetsoul. Considering that, I had no choice but to make an warm caramel apple upside down cake for a friend feeling a little upside down.

Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake
Preheat oven to 325F, spray bottom and sides of a square baking pan.
Melt 1/2 cup butter/marg (I had to use marg. but whenever possible use butter) in a saucepan, stir in 2/3 c. brown sugar, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. vanilla. Stir until butter/marg melts and the liquid is a deep tawny shade. Peel, core, and slice up in 1/2" pieces 2 delicious red apples. Pour caramel sauce in baking pan and spread evenly, arrange apple slices tightly over (overlapping if necessary) sauce.
In large bowl mix 1 1/2 c. all purpose flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. cinnamon. Add 1 c. reg. sugar, 1/2 c. softened butter/marg., 2 eggs, 1 tsp. vanilla. Beat on med. speed until all ingredients incorporated and batter in thick and creamy. Add 1/4 - 1/2 c. of milk or non-dairy creamer. Spread batter over apple wedges. Bake 50- 60 mins or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Nyquil-tini, anyone?

I am in the dripping grip of the cold that refuses to fade away. I've blown through 3 boxes of Puffs, have lost 3 lbs (well maybe it's not such a bad thing), and my head feels like a medicine ball. I'm dragging myself around, performing my usual chores and duties, feeling like I'm underwater. I'm partially to blame as I am not really hydrating (unless you count my daily coffee). Sleeping is also a problem, I wake up at around 12:30 am and toss and turn until around 4:oo a.m. when the littlest kiddle needs his bottle. Usually I'm pretty anti-medicine, preferring to let nature run it's course. But screw that- Drug me up...good and solid. Keep the Nyquil flowin' is my motto du jour. My anti-medicine, natural healing beliefs belong to a woman without children or any responsibilities other than making sure she fed her roommate's goldfish.

Pry open the cardboard box and remove the blue bottle. Unscrew the childproof cap by pressing down and rotating clockwise. Pour Nyquil into measuring cup provided, pour as much as you need and then some. Swallow. Follow up with a few sips of your favorite red. Sit back while watching something completely mindless on the tube (I recommend Access Hollywood). Enjoy the next 8 hours of sleep, you deserve it.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Roasted Veggie Fajitas

I've been under the weather for a week now. It's the usual cold that the kiddles bring home and share with each other and then me. The main issue is that my nose is so stuffed that I cannot taste a thing. It's like cooking blind. And I still have to cook, because there are no sick days in the Mommyhood.
Tonight, inspired by my friend Reever who has a simple, clean, and healthy palette (excepting her voracious obsesssion with chocolate), I decided to make vegetable fajitas. Reever loves vegetables straight and unadorned. I was due at her place this evening for a bit of a computer tutorial. I promised dinner in exchange for her patience. So I set about making these roasted veggie fajitas adding balsamic vinegar so that I would be able to taste something. Reever had seconds, and then patiently walked me through the ins and out of Facebook. All in all a successful evening, that will hopefully end with a Nyquil cocktail.

Roasted Veggie Fajitas
Slice up one red onion, mince 3 garlic cloves and cook in 1tbsp. olive oil. Add 1/4 c. balsamic vinegar, stir periodically, add 2 tbsp.taco seasoning mix. Remove from heat when liquid has evaporated. Set aside. Slice up a red pepper and green pepper, cut wooden stems off bunch of asparagus. Place sliced veggies on baking tray, drizzle with olive oil. Broil in oven until ready. Add balsamic onion mixture to roasted veggies, mix until well melded. Wrap up in a wholewheat burrito, if desired.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Blank Canvas Pizza

Thursday evening- and I find myself contemplating pi again. Pizza pie that is. I am no longer ashamed to admit that pizza is among my all-time favorite foods. I think if I had a last supper it would definitely consist of some sort of gourmet pizza and a huge slab of the kind of chocolate cake you fantasize about when you're on a diet. But I digress... Tonight is Pizza Night, and I've decided to go semi-homemade with a pre-baked crust. I see this blank crust sort of like a blank canvas; a thick impasto layer of red sauce? An artful scattering of shredded white mozzarella? Dabs of tapenade? Slashes of roasted red peppers?
An old friend from my grungy granola college days, Kenzo, came to visit today. Her suggestion was spinach and mushrooms. Sounds great to me, but would be poison to the kiddles. Instead I went basic and simple and headache-free: Pizza sauce with thick slices of fresh mozzarella, olive oil, parmesan, and a dusting of oregano.

Pizza Night Pizza I
Preheat oven to 375F. Brush pizza crust with olive oil. Place pizza crust in oven for 5-10 mins. Remove from oven spread crust with 3/4 c.- 1 c. pizza sauce, thick slices (about 1/2") of fresh mozarella, 1/2 c. grated parmesan, 1/2 tsp. oregano, and a splash of olive oil. Bake for about 25-30 mins. until cheese is melted and crust is golden.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Crunchy Granola

It's been a while since I've been described as "crunchy granola". But back during my college days in the early to mid 90's, I had the de rigeur flannel shirt/baggy jeans/tattered sneakers. I saw no need for razors, or any other method of hair removal. And I was a real vegetarian (as opposed to a borderline one). That was long ago in a galaxy far away...... Now I'm a SUV drivin' Soccer Mom, I guess that's the natural progression from Grungy Granola Girl.
Feeling nostalgic for those good ole days I decided to make some crunchy granola. I was satisfied with the results, but Hubbabubba really liked it. He praised it for not being too sweet and at just the right crunch level. This is great recipe to just riff off of. Throw in the nuts and dried fruit of your choice, and bake to your level of done-ness. For maximum pleasure enjoy while wearing your old flannel shirt.

Crunchy Granola
Preheat oven to 325F. Butter a baking sheet.
In a big bowl combine 3 c. old fashioned rolled oats, 1c. slivered almonds, 2 tsp. ground cinnamon. In a small bowl stir together 2 tbsp. melted butter and 1/2 c.- 3/4 c. pure maple syrup and 1 tsp. vanilla or almond essence. Pour wet mixture over dry ingredients and toss. Make sure dry ingredients are well coated. Spread evenly onto baking sheet and bake for about 30-45 mins until golden brown, stirring every once in a while so that it browns evenly. Once granola has cooled off add whatever dried fruits strikes your fancy. I decided on dried cherries and strawberries, next time I'm going to try dried apples and bananas.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Red Sauce for the Blues

Today I'm in a slight funk. Not a black funk where all the world feels desperate and bleak. More of a blue funk where everything feels dull and bothersome. Much of it has to do with lack of sleep. Fatigue has a way of casting a shadow over even a sunny early spring day.
So dinnertime has rolled in and I have a couple of options. But the thought of making a shepherd's pie seems outright depressing- maybe it's the mashed potatoes, but I just can't today. I need to make somehing aromatic and vibrant. Something full of flavor and sunshine. Something red and bold.....OK, so pasta marinara it is.
Unfortunately the tomatoes in the produce section are not nearly ripe enough to make a good sauce from. Undeterred, I reach for my winter arsenal of canned tomatoes in various states of preservation (sauced, diced, stewed, pasted) and get down t making a red sauce for the blues.

Winter Marina Sauce
chop up 2-3 garlic cloves and add to 2 tbsp. heated olive oil. Mix until fragrant and light golden brown in color. Add 2 cans of tomato sauce, 1 can of diced tomatoes, 1 tsp. oregano, 1 tsp. basil, a few good grinds of black pepper, 2 tbsp. tomato paste. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes or until it reaches the consistency you prefer. Serve over pasta of choice with a liberal sprinkling of parmesan.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

the sweet taste of freedom

It's not often that I get a whole saturday night to myself. I got one tonight, hubbabubba went off to some sporting event with his crones, kiddles mcViddles- all sleeping in varying degrees of soundness, and here I am with nothing but a long and blank evening canvas before me- YIPPEE! What to do? What to do? The possibilities are limitless...
First things first, I'm hungry. I haven't really eaten anything all day, certainly nothing satisfying. I don't even really know what I want, I think insipidly as I stare into the fridge. But then I see it- Brie! A big Costco sized wheel of it. Brie and a beautiful, firm, unblemished golden delicious apple. Finally a chance to make my favorite cafe sandwich at home; toasted brie with apples and cinnamon on a baguette. I am almost giddy with the knowledge that no one will be asking me for a bite or to make one for them.
Next time I'll sprinkle some lemon juice on the apples while they're in the hot butter bath, but not bad. It might be the temporary freedom that I'm tasting.

cinnamon apple brie sandwich
Peel, core, slice an apple. Melt 1 1/2 tbsp. butter in skillet. Add apple slices to butter add sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar. Sautee until the apples are tender and well coated. Slice brie as you prefer and place on bread roll, baguette or ciabatta, layer the apple slices on top. Wrap in foil paper and leave in warmed oven until the brie reaches the level of melt-iness you like.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Apple Crumble Bars

This is only the second time I've made these bars. The next time I'm going to try adding oats to the crumb topping for a crunchier texture. I used margarine, but do as the French and always use butter whenever possible. Tart crisp green grannies are always best in these apple desserts- sometimes I even sprinkle lemon juice into the apples-to make them that more tart.

Apple Crumble Bars
Preheat oven to 350F
crust: in a big bowl mix 1 c. flour and 1/4 c. sugar. Add 1/2 c. slightly chilled butter and cut through until pieces resemble peas. In an 8x11" pyrex pan, press the crumb mixture until somewhat level and cover entire pan. Bake 25 mins. or until slightly tan.

crumb topping: mix 1/2 c. all-purpose flour with 1/2 c. brown sugar and 1/4 c. butter until crumbly (next time I make this I'm going to add 1/2 cup quick cooking oats and add some more butter as well as include 1/4 tsp. ginger powder).

apple filling: in bowl mix 1/4 c. sugar, 2 tbsp. flour, 1 almost-tsp. cinnamon. Peel and core 3-4 granny smith apples (the harder the better), slice up in 1/4" slices. Stir apples in sugar mixture until coated. Spoon over baked crust. Sprinkle profusely with crumb topping

Bake for about 30 mins until crumb topping is a light golden brown and the apples are tender. Let cool for 45 minutes and then cut into squares.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


This evening found me baking 2 super-easy and rather mmmmm-worthy pies. I guess you could call me pie-ous (gong!). But seriously folks, what is better than a homebaked pie? How about 2 homebaked pies?
The brownie pie is fudgy and rich in texture and consistency. And the praline pie is strongly reminiscent of warm cookie dough. Second only to the deliciosity of these pies? The ease and brevity of these recipes.

Brownie Pie
Preheat oven to 350F. Melt 1 c. butter or marg. Stir in 2 c. sugar, 2 tsp. vanilla, 4 slightly beaten eggs until blended. Mix in 1 1/2 c. all purpose flour, 3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder, and 1/8 tsp. salt. Add 1 c. semi sweet choc chips and 1 c. toasted chopped walnuts. Spread into pie crust. Bake 45 mins. or until set.

Praline Pie
Preheat oven to 350F. Mix with electric mixer until well blended: 1/4 c. melted margarine/butter, 1 c. packed brown sugar, 3/4 c. all purpose flour, 1 tsp baking powder. Then add 1 egg, 1 tsp. vanilla; mix well. Stir in 1 c. toasted chopped pecans. Pour into graham cracker pie crust. Bake for 30 mins. until center is set.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Breakfast- the new dinner

There's something mildly anarchic about eating breakfast food at dinner-time. It's like the usual order of quotidian life is turned upside down. But sometimes bliss can be found in a shortstack of buttermilk pancakes smothered in butter and syrup while watching the evening news. Something should make that stuff (i.e. the news) go down sweeter. Of course not all breakfast fare is sweet and syrupy. Let's not forget the incredible edible egg- a real morning favorite, that is so versatile and basic it deserves it's own blog. It's perfect with potatoes and sausages in this hearty breakfast casserole.

Breakfast Casserole
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Peel and parboil 2 potatoes, prepare a package of breakfast sausages as you wish (I boil them). Cube potatoes and cut up sausages, place in greased pyrex dish. Beat 4- 6 eggs, add 2 tbsp. of herb & garlic salad dressing/ recipe mix, mix well. Pour over potatoes and sausages. Place in oven and bake 30-45 mins. or until set.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Sunday Night Aglio Olio

Here's to slow and lazy sundays and the meals that they inspire. Hubbabubba went fishing, leaving me with the Kiddles McViddles. I let them watch more T.V. than was probably necessary, I watched more T.V. than was probably necessary. We stayed in our PJ's until well past lunch. The kitchen got incrementally messier what with breakfast, mid-morning snack, dinosaur egg excavation, water painting, lunchtime, etc. etc. So when 5:00 rolled around I was ready to declare Pizza Night part deux. But after taking inventory of my fridge and pantry I reconsidered.
This is basically a kicked up and colorful version of pasta aglio olio. One of the best things about this meal is that measurements don't have to be precise, and you can use whatever you have on hand- I would've thrown in spinach and pine nuts if I had any.

asparagus sundried tomato kalamata aglio olio
Boil up a box of spaghetti. Drain a jar of sundried tomatoes in olive oil, reserve oil. Mince 6-8 garlic cloves. Cut sundried tomatoesinto strips, cut up a bunch of asparagus into 2" pieces, julienne red pepper into 1/2" strips; Pit and chop up kalamata olives. Heat reserved sundried tomato oil in skillet, add minced garlic. Cook until garlic is fragrant. Add asparagus and red pepper. Add 1 c. veg broth. Sautee until asparagus bright green Remove from heat add chopped olives. Drain spaghetti, add to sundried tomato mixture. Sprinkle with parmesan and toasted pine nuts.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Spicy Tomato Potatoes

Who doesn't love a good potato dish? I personally think that there should be a religion centered around the french fry. In that light I had some family over this weekend, and for friday night dinner I made a side dish of spicy tomato potatoes. They were pretty good, probably could use some working over the next time I make them. But not bad for a first try.

Spicy Tomato Potatoes
Parboil 5 peeled potatoes, remove from pot and cut into 1" cubes. In a large skillet heat 4 tbsp. olive oil and cook potato cubes in a single layer until they start to brown. In the meantime put 1 can diced tomatoes, 1 can diced chilis, 5 garlic cloves, diced, 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar, 2 tbsp. taco seasoning mix, tabasco sauce, as much or as little as you like, in a bowl. Mix vigorously. Add tomato mixture to the potatoes. Pour into a baking dish, cover and bake at 350 for 30-45 mins.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

In praise of Pizza Night

I'm a real dental case today. I had my weekly dental visit yesterday, and my teeth are still kind of bothering me. I don't feel like cooking dinner tonight- luckily it's Pizza Night, which means all I have to do is throw an Amy's Organic pizza or two in the oven, slice up some cukes and tomatoes and sing out gaily at 5:30p.m. "dinner time!" and my l'il chidlers are as pleased as hawaiian punch.
Sometimes if I'm feeling really ambitious, and maybe a little martyr-ish, I buy a ready made crust from my health food store. I pile it up with tomato slices, olive oil, and shredded mozzarella, a light sprinking of oregano or basil, and yum I'm in pizza heaven. But the chidlers prefer the Amy's Organic or best of all greasy parlour slices. Which confirms to me that I can slap some peanut butter on bread every night and they'd be pleased as hawaiian punch.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Soy Carumbles Mexican Lasagne

I'm a borderline vegetarian. It has little to do with ideology and dogma and everything to do with my love of beans, soy, and cheese (as well as an uncomfortable sluggishness I feel after eating meat). I am always trying to create dishes that incorporate all or at least a couple of these ingredients. Sometimes it works- other times....not so much.
Tonight I threw together a tortilla lasagne, which happily and harmoniously melded my three favorite ingredients. I love Morningstar Farms soy crumbles for a multitude of reasons, let me count the ways; it's low fat, high flavor, and tastes convincingly of ground beef without the health food aftertaste. It gives a vegetarian dish heft, that even a card carrying carnivore like my hubbabubba can't deny. And in this towering tortilla lasagne it fits right in with the taco sauce, refried beans, and extra sharp cheddar. Add guacamole and sour cream on the side and you have a delicious and flavorful Mexican-style meal.

Soy Carumbles Mexican Lasagne
Heat soy crumbles in skillet with 8 oz. jar of taco sauce, stirring until mixed well. Add a small can of diced green chilis. Remove from heat. Combine can of refried beans to about a cup of shredded cheddar. In a glass pie dish layer flour tortillas spread alternately with soy crumbles mixture and then refried bean mixture. Top final layer with some salsa a healthy sprinkling of cheese and if desired a small can of black olive rings. Place in oven at 375 degrees for about 20 minuts.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The icing on the cake

We were invited to a farewell dinner for friends who were setting sail for the distant shores of Boston. As usual I opened my big mouth and volunteered to make dessert that I swore would be ridiculously sublime. Not having the time or werewithal to concoct a "little something" from my favorite dessert cookbook, I had to think fast and easy. Chocolate is always popular, and dark chocolate is even better. I decided on a two layer chocolate cake, smothered in a wondeful semi-sweet frosting, that makes even a Betty Crocker cake mix taste gourmet. This icing is dark and glossy, and makes a layer cake look like it's straight out of a birthday party scene in a slick Hollywood production. You know what I'm talking about.

dark chocolate frosting
1 bag of dark or semi sweet choc. chips (I used ghirardelli)
1 container of cool whip (yes, cool whip) thawed

Place chips and cool whip in a microwaveable bowl. Microwave for 1 1/2- 2 minutes. Stir until mixture becomes smooth, dark, and glossy.