Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Nurses "Cure All" Soup

Earlier this morning, I was reading my Facebook wall and so many of my friends have posts about being sick with either the flu or a stomach virus.  One of my daughters friends was even in the hospital over the weekend for dehydration.  As a nurse, I know how tough it is being sick.  It's just about as hard on the caretaker as it is on the person that is sick.  Over the years, I have taken care of many sick people, both in the hospitals where I worked and in my own family.  Although, I have to say, my patients in the hospital were usually much easier to take care of than my own family. Have you ever noticed how even teenagers and grown men seem to revert to children when they are sick?   Maybe that's only my family.

Anyway, this recipe is about as simple as it gets (thank goodness) and it's great for recuperating stomachs because it's so mild.   It's also great served with grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner when you just don't feel like cooking a big dinner.

"Cure-All" Soup

6 cups of water
7 bouillon cubes (chicken or beef)
1/4 teaspoon dried parsley (optional)
3/4 cup dried small pasta shapes (orzo or any other small noodle)

In medium saucepan, bring water and bouillon cubes to a rolling boil, add pasta, reduce heat to medium and let cook for approximately 7-9 minutes until pasta is done.  May be served with saltine crackers.
"Cure All" Soup, Crackers and Apple Juice

Saturday, December 1, 2012

"Nutcracker" Break

I'm on sabbatical the next two weeks from any serious cooking because my 16 year old daughter, Robin, is dancing in the holiday ballet of "The Nutcracker."   Because of all the rehearsal and performances, we have been on the road every night this week and will continue through next weekend.  I have to admit, I'm a proud Mom and I love watching her dance, but I miss our times at the dinner table hearing about each others day.  

I hope you all will bear with me for the next couple of weeks.  I'll be back blogging for real in about two weeks.  I hope you are all enjoying this Holiday season!  

My daughter - Robin

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Goof Proof Casseroles!

Well, I hope all of you have survived the Black Friday sales and are well on your way to enjoying the Christmas season.  My husband and I braved the mad house at our local Walmart, but I am pleased to report that even with the crowds, everybody had a great attitude.  It seems that the Christmas spirit is alive and well, at least in my little part of the world.   I am sharing a couple of recipes today that are wonderful to take to those holiday gatherings.  I made these two casseroles for our family Thanksgiving this year and they were both hits.  They're also really good leftover (which some casseroles aren't).  The best part is that they are also goof proof (even for the culinary challenged) which is always a BIG PLUS in my cookbook.  Hope you enjoy these as much as we do!

Pineapple Casserole
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 15 oz. cans of chunk pineapple (do NOT drain)
2 Tablespoons of flour or cornstarch (mixed into pineapple juice)
2 cups grated Cheddar cheese
1 stick of butter melted
1 pkg. of Ritz or Townhouse crackers (crumbled)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Pour both cans of pineapple with juice into mixing bowl.  Add flour or cornstarch and stir until dissolved.  Add sugar and cheese and mix well.  Pour into casserole dish sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  Mix crumbled crackers and butter together in separate bowl with melted butter.   Sprinkle cracker mixture on top of mixture and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes until golden brown.  *Note:  This is an excellent side dish for Baked Ham.  The sweetness of the pineapple goes really well with the salty ham.

Baked Bean Casserole
1 lb. cooked Hamburger or Ground Chuck
½ lb. bacon – cooked and diced up
1 Tablespoon Onion powder
1 ½ teaspoons Garlic powder
½ cup ketchup
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1/3 cup white granulated sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 Tablespoon of Dijon Mustard
1 15 oz. can Pork and Beans (do not drain)
1 15 oz. can Kidney Beans (do not drain)
1 15 oz. can Butterbeans (drained)

Crock Pot Directions:  Mix all ingredients in crock pot and turn on high for 4 hours.
Oven Directions:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix all ingredients together and pour into 9 x 13 casserole dish.  Bake for 45 minutes.  

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Did I do THAT?!

This post has has absolutely nothing to do with cooking and everything to do with life's little blunders and the ability to laugh and get joy out of them.   This "blunder" is courtesy of my daughter Robin.  Robin has been dancing all her life (since the age of 2) and dances with a pre-professional ballet company.  As a proud mom, I love to see her perform and see how beautiful and graceful she is on the stage.  Then, there's the other side I also get to see.  Sometimes, it's like she's related to "The Three Stooges" or "Steve Urkel."  Being around her can be quite a riot, and it's never, ever dull. 

So here's the story to explain this little video clip:  my daughter, Robin, was asked by a local church to choreograph a praise dance for some younger children to perform in their Christmas musical.  She had been working on this little dance for a bit and decided to tape it for herself, just so she could see how it looked.  She set up her little camera, and this is what happened.....

Her face says it all....just like the commercial says "Priceless."  Until next time, enjoy the beauties around you and laugh at life's blunders.  It makes life so much more enjoyable that way.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Cinnabon Coffee Cake

Do you ever have days that you just want to eat something that is so yummy and good but you know you probably shouldn't?  I do, in fact I probably have more of those days than any other kind.  Unfortunately, I am not blessed with the metabolism of a skinny person.  I wish I was the type of person that craved healthy, low-fat dishes but alas, that was not to be.  So, I indulge occasionally, probably more often than I should but not nearly as often as I want to, in the decadent and delicious.  This coffee cake is a winner for two reasons.  The first reason is that it's easy (I don't do difficult) and the second and most important reason is that it's like sin on a  plate.  You know you shouldn't but the temptation is just too strong to resist.  The recipe is easily doubled for a larger crowd and is a definite crowd pleaser.  This is amazing warm out of the oven but can be reheated in the microwave too.    Hope you enjoy!

Until next time, enjoy the beauty around and laugh at the blunders, life is much more enjoyable that way :)

Cinnabon Coffee Cake
Ingredients for Cake
*1 ½  cups self-rising flour (see note if you only have all-purpose flour)
*if you have all-purpose flour, then add 1/8 teaspoon salt and 2 teaspoons baking powder
½  cup sugar
¾  cup milk
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 Tablespoons butter, melted

Cinnamon topping
 1 stick room temperature butter
½  cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon flour
½  teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup pecans (optional)

1 cup powdered sugar
3 Tablespoons milk
1 tsp vanilla

Cake:   With an electric mixer or stand-up mixer, mix flour, sugar, milk, eggs, and vanilla. Once combined well, slowly stir in 2 T melted butter.   Pour batter into a greased 8 x 8 baking pan.  
ToppingIn a large bowl, mix the 2 sticks of softened butter, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and pecans (optional) until well combined.  Drop evenly over cake batter by the tablespoon and use a knife to marble/swirl through the cake. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 35-45 minutes or until toothpick comes out nearly clean from center.
Glaze:  Place powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla in a large bowl.  Whisk until smooth.  *If too thick, add a couple of drops of milk at a time to get glaze thin enough to pour.  Drizzle over warm cake.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Post Election Pick Me Up!

As I was sitting watching Food Network reruns that I have saved on my DVR, one of my favorite food network stars, the Barefoot Contessa made homemade caramel sauce.  I sat thinking to myself, mmmm, that looks good.  I wish I had some of that.  Unfortunately, I do not have a personal chef at my disposal so I have to make my own caramel sauce.  I realize they sell the caramel dip at the grocery store but then you don’t get to conveniently say that you made it.  Caramel can be very tricky to make homemade and can burn very quickly.  Good news, my recipe is goof proof.  For me, that’s awesome because if it can be messed up, I’ll mess it up.  Now I’m not saying that my caramel is better than Ina’s (I’ll never know because I don’t have the guts to try hers) but I do know that it is a hit wherever this caramel makes an appearance, (from pot lucks to school holiday parties to lunch boxes).  Not to mention the fact that I LOVE saying that I made it and seeing the impressed look on peoples faces.  I didn’t use to see that look a lot (okay, never) but it’s getting better in my middle age.  Hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do.  Please note that this is not a quick cook recipe but it is SO worth the wait.  I usually put mine in the crock pot and let it do its thing overnight.  It’s like magic!

Until next time, appreciate the beauty around you and laugh at the blunders, life is so much more enjoyable that way! 

Homemade Caramel
1 can of Sweetened Condensed Milk (DO NOT OPEN CAN).
1 Crock Pot (small or large - doesn't matter)

1.  Peel off the label of the can.  Do NOT open the can.  Place in crock pot.
2.  Fill crock pot with water until top of can is covered by at least 1 ½ - 2 inches of water.  It is very important that the can be covered well.  Some evaporation will occur and it’s possible that the can will bust if not covered by the water while cooking.
3.  Turn crock pot on low for 8 – 10 hours.   Remove from water carefully and let cool completely.  Do not attempt to open can while hot because it can explode.   The crock pot acts similar to a pressure cooker so it’s necessary for the can to cool before opening.

Serving suggestions:  Eat with a spoon (my personal favorite), slice apples and serve with caramel.  May also be used as an ice cream sauce or pour over warm apple pie.  It also makes awesome caramel macchiato’s.  This stuff is amazing!  Let me know what you think, I’d love to hear from you!

*Note:  It is possible for the can to leave a rust ring on the bottom of the crockpot.  It does in mine and scrubs out easily with my normal kitchen sponge.  If you are concerned about the ring, I suggest using a small, heat safe bowl or saucer to set the can inside and then place in the crockpot. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

How much do I love thee? Enough to make German Pancakes!

My husband LOVES German Pancakes!  This morning after 21 years of marriage, I made them for him for the FIRST time.  My late efforts in making one of his all time favorite foods does not mean that I don't love him dearly.  It just meant that I didn't want to look like an idiot when they turned out more like cement paving stones than the golden, light and heavenly bits of puffed pancakes that they're supposed to be.  I asked my brother-in-law for his recipe after seeing that he had made them for my sister-in-law last weekend.  Since my sweet sister-in-law is always posting about all the wonderful stuff he makes for her, I decided I couldn't be outdone.   A couple of years ago, when I got hooked on the Food Network, I had an epiphany.  I began thinking that cooking has much more to do with heart and soul than the ability to follow a recipe.  When you enjoy doing something, no matter what it is, the results seem to turn out better.  I have found this to be true in my new found exploration and joy in cooking.  I have been willing to try recipes out of my normal comfort zone (recipes that require more than 5 ingredients) and more often than not, they have come out pretty amazing.  The recipe for these German Pancakes is not difficult.  The hardest part is that it does require that you whisk the mixture for about 5 minutes.  As I was making these this morning, and I got to the part of whisking for 5 more minutes, I had to stop and get my KitchenAid mixer out.  I really do love my husband but standing there whisking this batter would make my arm fall off (although he thought I should do it by hand, if I really loved him).  Hey, small steps, right?  Anyway, this recipe is easy, although I do suggest using a hand mixer if you don't have a stand mixer.  Unless you're into working out, then this pancake recipe will help you build your biceps.

Until next time, enjoy life's beauties and laugh at the blunders, life is so much better that way.
German Pancakes

German Pancakes - courtesy of Ron Hertz
4-6 Servings
6 eggs (Room Temperature)
1 cup milk
1 cup sifted bread flour or all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 tablespoons butter
1 lemon cut into wedges
Confectioners suger (Powdered Sugar)
2-4 Servings
3  eggs (Room Temperature)
½  cup milk
½  cup sifted bread flour or all purpose flour
1/8  teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
7 teaspoons butter
1 lemon cut into wedges

*Bread flour is a high protein flour which helps the pancake rise.  All-Purpose flour may be used but the results will NOT be as light and fluffy.

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.   (Note:  It is very important that you preheat you oven)  Make sure that oven rack is in the middle slot.  Place ovenproof skillet (Example: 10 inch iron skillet) in the oven to preheat.  While pan is heating prepare the batter.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs until light and frothy.  ( I suggest using a hand mixer or stand mixer).  Add milk, flour, vanilla extract and cinnamon, and beat for 5 minutes more.  The batter will be thin but should be smooth and creamy.
  3. Using a pot holder, remove the skillet from the oven and add the butter to the skillet letting it melt.  Tilt skillet carefully to let butter coat the sides of the skillet. 
  4. Pour the prepared batter into the hot skillet all at one and immediately return the skillet to the oven.
  5. Bake approximately 20-25 minutes or until puffed and golden brown.  (Baked until the pancake puffs up around the edges – it may puff irregularly in the center).
  6. End of baking time
  7. Remove from oven and serve immediately.   (Once pancacke is out of the oven, the pancake will begin to deflate, this is normal).

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Mom, PLEASE!!!!

Mom, PLEASE!!!!  Does anybody else hear those words and your heart melts?  My children have those two words down to a a science.  I hear those words and look into their sweet faces and sometimes even my hardest resolve just caves.  My oldest child, Alberto is 26, and is married to a precious young woman, who I am proud to claim as a my daughter of the heart.  My youngest, Robin is 16 and she is my social butterfly.  I think my son must have taught his little sister all the tricks for when to use that phrase.  Now, mind you, they don't use it all the time, which makes it that much more effective when they do.   So, when my daughter Robin was begging for one of her favorites for dinner last night, yeah, I made it.  It does my heart good to do  special things for my family.  Cooking their favorites is such an easy way to do that.  A few years ago, they would have much rather eaten out, which makes them requesting that I cook even more special to me.  The recipe below is my take on O'Charley's Loaded Potato Soup.  It is not just like it, but it's wonderfully rich and flavorful and it really hits the spot on a cold, winter evening.

Until next time, enjoy the beauty around you, and laugh at the blunders.  Life is so much more enjoyable that way :)

  1. 1 Box Chicken Broth (1 Quart) 
  2. 3 cans of Campbells Cheddar Cheese Soup
  3. 1 Quart of Half & Half
  4. 1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder
  5. 1 teaspoon Paprika
  6. 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  7.  ¼ - ½ teaspoon of Cayenne Pepper (Season to your taste-start with ¼, if it doesn’t have enough heat for you, then add another ¼ teaspoon)
  8. 1 lb. of frozen hash browns (southern style-the kind that are cubed, no spices or peppers in it)
  9. 1 tablespoon Corn Starch mixed with ¼ cup cold milk (mix well in cup before pouring into soup)
*Suggested garnishes – shredded cheddar cheese, bacon bits, sour cream, chives 

Mix together first seven ingredients in large saucepan and combine well using whisk.  Add in frozen potatoes and cook on medium low heat until warm stirring frequently.  (Note soup is thin at this point).  When thoroughly heated through and potatoes have cooked completely (about 1 hour), then add corn starch mixture and turn up heat to medium high and stir until mixture is thickened to desired consistency. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy and Skillet Apple Pie

As I sat here at my computer this morning reading the news about Hurricane Sandy and the potential devastation that comes with hurricanes, it brought to mind all the hurricanes that have stormed through my little part of the world.  I live in the Florida Panhandle (about 50 miles from the beach) and therefore have weathered quite a few hurricanes.   Some were much more devastating than anticipated and there were some that I wondered what all the fuss was about.   My conclusion is that you can never truly predict what nature will do.  The best thing you can do is prepare for the worst and pray for the best.  One of the ways we prepare is to make some "comfort food."  What is comfort food?  Well, it can be different things to different people.  To some it might be sushi (not me, by the way), or a homemade schnitzel (again, not me) or in the South, it's usually casseroles and homemade desserts.   Whatever your comfort foods are, they tend to evoke feelings of well-being and well, comfort, like everything is gonna turn out alright.  I made one of my families favorite comfort foods last night, Skillet Apple Pie.   My daughter, Robin, has declared this the best apple pie ever.  Not that she's the best judge.  She's only had Walmart apple pie to compare it to, but it makes me feel good that she loves it.  My son and daughter-in-law who have much more experienced taste-buds have also declared it the best apple pie ever.   Last, but not least, my husband has declared it the most amazing apple pie ever and he's a very adventurous eater (he eats kinds of sushi that I don't even like to look at).  By the way, just like hurricanes, my cooking is unpredictable.  Last nights apple pie tasted alright but it wasn't quite a beauty or a blunder, more of a blooper.  The pie part was good but the ooey-gooey sauce on the bottom got a little burnt.  I cooked the brown sugar too high and too long (which is why there's the side note about cooking it on medium heat).  Just so you know, I was trying to load the dishwasher at the same time.  That's what I get for trying to multi-task in the kitchen.  I'd love to hear from you if you make it and let me know what you think.

Until next time, enjoy the beauty around you and laugh at the blunders.   It makes life much more enjoyable that way :)


2 pounds Granny Smith apples (about 2-3 apples depending on the size of the apple)
2 pounds Red Delicious apples (about 2-3 apples depending on the size of the apple)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon lemon juice (bottled is fine if you don’t have fresh)
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 (14.1-oz.) package refrigerated pie crusts

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Peel apples, and cut into 1/4-1/2-inch-thick wedges. Toss apples with cinnamon, lemon juice, flour and nutmeg (optional) and 3/4 cup granulated sugar.  

2. Melt butter in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat; add brown sugar, and cook, stirring constantly, 1 to 2 minutes or until sugar is dissolved.  *Do not cook on high or it will burn the brown sugar and develop a slightly bitter taste.

3.  Remove from heat, and place 1 pie crust in skillet over brown sugar mixture. Spoon apple mixture over pie crust, and top with remaining pie crust. 

4.  Cut 4 or 5 slits in top for steam to escape.3. Bake at 350ยบ for 55-65 minutes or until crust is golden brown.  Let stand for about 30 minutes before serving.  
Optional Serving Suggestion:  Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.

Friday, October 26, 2012

What's for dinner?

I am sitting here racking through my poor, pitiful brain trying to decide what's for dinner.  I asked my sweet husband to go on a mission to the grocery store and check what's on sale.  I have a feeling it's going to be chicken.   We eat a lot of chicken because it's usually less expensive than red meat.  We have to live on a budget, so unfortunately, my taste buds may want Prime Rib au Jus, but they get hamburgers (or chicken).  Sometimes I feel like I eat so much chicken, I'm gonna start clucking.  I have learned how to make excellent BBQ chicken though (of course, it only takes 1 ingredient - BBQ sauce).   I don't particularly like to cook things that require 25 ingredients.  I'm not saying those recipes are not wonderful, I just haven't worked my way up to that level yet.  (Much too many places to mess up, and I don't need any help in that area).  I honestly don't know if I ever will make it to that level of cooking.  Some cooks/chefs have reached the level of PhD in their cooking expertise, I'm more of a high school drop-out.  In high school, I actually took  a Home Economics class taught by a wonderful teacher by the name of Mrs. Hubbard.  We had to learn to balance a home budget, sew a blouse and cook.  Well, I balanced the budget (we got to go grocery shopping at the store, and boy can I shop) so I passed that with flying colors!  Next, we had to sew a blouse starting with a pattern.  My first problem came with cutting the pattern (I didn't know you were SUPPOSED to leave those stupid little triangles on the pattern so you could match the pieces of fabric).  Needless to say, I did not get an A on my blouse, although my sweet teacher took pity on me and gave me a B for effort, not because it resembled anything close to a blouse.  It looked more like......, well, let's just say it looked more like a thing.  Then, we get to the cooking phase of the course.  We started off with pudding (instant pudding)!  Success!!!  I got an A!  I was off to a great start and was excited to take on something much more difficult, like a scrambled egg.  Unfortunately, my teacher thought that we should try something a little more difficult in order to expand our cooking horizons.  We had to make a Lemon Meringue pie and you guessed it, that didn't go so well.  Everybody else in my class had these perfectly beautiful meringue peaks that were just slightly browned, mine looked like a bunch of goo.  I think I forgot to add in the cream of tartar, but that was so long ago, I don't quite remember.  Anyway, my meringue was flat and the filling was salty.  I put salt instead of sugar into the filling.  Everybody else took their pie to share with their friends, mine conveniently fell into the garbage can when I accidentally knocked it there.  So, there you have it, the story of my first cooking blunders.  Thankfully, I do cook better now than I did back in high school, although I still have my blunders as evidenced by my first blog (The bread brick).  Thank goodness my husband doesn't grade me on my cooking like my poor teacher had to.

P.S.  I was right, it's chicken for dinner.  Decided to do Baked Chicken with Garlic and Rosemary.  Easy and Delicious.

Garlic Rosemary Chicken
3-4 chicken breasts (skin on and bone in)
1/2 teaspoon Garlic Salt
1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil
1 teaspoon of crushed dried Rosemary
1/8 teaspoon crushed Red Pepper Flakes

Directions:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Brush chicken with olive oil, mix dry spices together and sprinkle on top of chicken.  Bake chicken for about 45 minutes - 55 minutes (until juices run clear).  *Note:  time will vary depending on the size of the chicken breasts.   Let rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

Garlic Dill Potatoes
3 Tablespoons of butter or margarine
2 lbs. new potatoes
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon dried dill (fresh is amazing, but dried works just fine)

Directions:  Wash potatoes and cut into 1/4 inch slices.  Put slices into boiler with cold water.  Add approximately 1 teaspoon of salt to water and heat to boiling.  Let boil for about 15 minutes until tender.  Drain and toss with butter.  Sprinkle with dry ingredients and toss to coat.  Serve immediately.

Until next time, I hope you enjoy the beauties around you and laugh at the life's blunders, life is so much more enjoyable that way!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Queen and her Court Jester

Hello my dear blog friends,

I am writing this blog today in the hopes of being considered one of the new Deen Family bloggers.  Since Paula Deen is one of the people indirectly responsible for me starting this blog (because I got hooked on her Food Network show), I thought I would give it the old college try.  Paula Deen is undoubtedly the Queen of Southern Cuisine.  She's sassy, vibrant, and the epitome of the Southern Hostess.  If Wikipedia had a picture of the Southern Hostess, Paula's picture would be right next to it.  It's kind of funny, but in a way, she reminds me of my mother who was very much a Southern Hostess.  I guess that may be why I can relate to her, not because she's so likable (she is), but because she reminds me of my Mom.

My mom was THE BEST COOK that I know.  She could turn leftovers into a gourmet meal and set a table that would put Sandra Lee's (another one of my favorites) tablescapes to shame.  Of course, this was back when the only cooking show on TV was Julia Child, so she was self-taught through the "LEARN IT OR BURN IT" culinary academy.  Since she grew up during the depression, she learned to not burn too many things.  I always loved to watch her cook, she never measured anything (unlike me, who I measure with the accuracy of a chemical engineer), and it always turned out amazing.  The only thing my Momma couldn't make was sweet tea, bless her heart.  She NEVER put enough sugar in it.  Anyway, I always thought I would have plenty of time to learn the secrets of being a good cook, but she passed away unexpectedly one night from a blood clot in her leg that dislodged and went to her brain.  Of course, she was supposed to be on bed rest which is why she went to Milo's restaurant (an hour away) to get a hamburger and sweet tea.  She wasn't an ideal patient (in medical terminology, that means she's non-compliant).   Now, I only regret the time that I was busy doing something else and not spending time with her and sharing in her knowledge.  So, I have found the next best thing and that's to watch Miss Paula on the Food Network.  She makes me laugh like my Momma did and I am now learning all the stuff that I should have learned way back when.

Why should I get picked as the next Deen Team blogger?  Well, I'm not a great cook, but I'm getting better (much to my husband's delight).  I'm honest about my triumphs and failures, hence the title of my blog "Beauties and Blunders."  Besides if Miss Paula is the Queen of Southern Cuisine, everybody knows that a queen has her very own court jester.

Until next time, enjoy the beauty around you and laugh at the blunders.   It makes life much more enjoyable that way :)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Autumn and French Onion Soup

Cool weather, falling leaves, fireplaces gently pluming light gray smoke, don't you just love Autumn?  I am in "Fall mode" today.  A cup of hot tea liberally sweetened and a couple of pecan sandies cookies while I sit looking out the window watching those beautifully colored leaves fall.

French Onion Soup

Since the weather seemed to call for it today, I am currently simmering some French Onion soup with the recipe that my precious daughter-in-law Silka shared with me from her Julia Child cookbook.  I don't know if it's the original recipe out of the cookbook or if she "tweaked" it before passing it along to me, all I know is that it's delicious!   It is also a very frugal recipe (I use 2 quarts of beef broth, 1 large sweet onion, salt, pepper, sugar, flour, butter, oil and a little dash of Worcestershire sauce) which is about $5.00 for the whole pot of soup.  Please keep in mind that this is not a "quick cook" recipe.  It takes some time but not a lot of effort.  You have to sort of baby the onions at first, cooking them low and slow until they caramelize, then once the beef broth is added, you just let it simmer and meld all those wonderful flavors together.  I like to serve it the traditional way with a toasted baguette slice with cheese broiled on the top.  All I can say is mmmmmmm, mmmmmmm, good!
French Onion Soup
Part 1
1 ½ lbs. of thinly sliced onions (approximately 2 medium onions)
3 Tbsp. of butter
1 Tbsp. of oil
A heavy bottomed saucepan with cover
Cook the onions slowly on medium  heat with the butter and oil in covered sauce pan for about 15 -20 minutes (until softened)
Part 2
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon sugar
Uncover, raise heat a little bit and stir salt and sugar in. Cook for 30-40 minutes stirring frequently (so they don’t burn) until they have turned a really dark brown color. Like the color of dark brown sugar.
Part 3
3 Tbsp. flour
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Sprinkle in flour and stir for 3 minutes (This cooks out that raw flour flavor)
Part 4
2 Qts beef broth/stock
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup White wine or sherry (This is optional.  I have left it out, and the soup is still amazing).
Stir in broth and remaining ingredients.   Cover with lid, turn soup on low/simmer and let simmer for about  1 - 1 ½ hours.  Stir gently every 15-20 minutes.

Serve with a sliced toasted baguette (french bread) with mozzarella or swiss cheese (gruyere is best but it is not available where I live, so I substitute with mozzarella or swiss) melted on top.  Enjoy J

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Heavenly Bread

Hello blog world!

I am in a very chipper mood because I would like to report my second attempt with my really old bread maker was a BEAUTY!  Yep, the bread turned out perfectly with a golden, crispy crust and a soft, fluffy middle.   I will tell you my secret to success (and it was a surprise to me), you have to follow the recipe.  I know, that doesn’t sound like rocket science but recipes sometimes are like astrophysics to me.  I can look at one and think, ok, that’s pretty easy, I can do that.  (I need to not think sometimes.)  All kidding aside, I followed the recipe exactly (which I didn’t the first time) and lo, and behold, I ended up with a beautiful loaf of homemade bread.  Yes, I know it’s a bread machine, but I’m still taking credit for it.    So,  here’s what I did differently.  I went to the store and purchased *BREAD FLOUR AND QUICK RISE YEAST.   The first time I used what I had in the pantry which was all-purpose flour and regular yeast.   I did not know there was such a thing as bread flour.  I had heard of cake flour but not bread flour.  (If you want to know the difference, see the below information –credit to www.ochef.com)   Anyway, I went to my local market and there it was sitting on a shelf.  They also had the instant yeast (also known as Fast-Rising, Rapid-Rise, Quick Rise, and/or Bread Machine Yeast).   I got home and hurried to get all my ingredients together.  I followed the recipe with the precision of a NASA engineer and when all ingredients were properly assembled and dispensed into the bread maker, I pushed that magic start button.   Then I had to wait FOUR hours.  Do you have any idea how long FOUR HOURS can be?  Since reaching mid-life, I have come to the conclusion that time speeds by.  That is so not true when I am waiting for something for FOUR HOURS.  I think I may have discovered a way to slow down the aging process, and it’s for me to make bread every day for FOUR HOURS.  Anyway, the beeper sounded on my ancient bread maker indicating the bread was FINALLY done.  I opened the lid tentatively and looked inside and to my amazement, I had a beautiful loaf of bread.  (Party dance).    My poor husband was willing to be my guinea pig and be the taste tester.   He pronounced it, delicious!   I am posting the recipe below and hope to hear from you about your adventures in the kitchen.   (Side note: my ancient bread maker died on the third loaf so further bread making exploits will have to wait for a new machine). 

Bread Machine Bread
1 cup warm water (110 degrees F - 45 degrees C)
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 (.25 ounce) package bread machine yeast
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 cups bread flour
1  1/8 teaspoon salt

Place the water, sugar and yeast in the pan of the bread machine. Let the yeast dissolve and foam for 10 minutes (this is called “proofing” the yeast).  Add the oil, flour and salt to the yeast. Select Basic or White Bread setting, and press Start.  *Most bread machines call for the yeast to go in dry and not be activated.  Trust me, follow these directions,  the results are wonderful.

*Bread flour is a high-gluten flour that has very small amounts of malted barley flour and vitamin C or potassium bromate added. The barley flour helps the yeast work, and the other additive increases the elasticity of the gluten and its ability to retain gas as the dough rises and bakes. Bread flour is called for in many bread and pizza crust recipes where you want the loftiness or chewiness that the extra gluten provides. It is especially useful as a component in rye, barley and other mixed-grain breads, where the added lift of the bread flour is necessary to boost the other grains.  All-purpose flour is made from a blend of high- and low-gluten wheat, and has a bit less protein than bread flour (11% or 12% vs. 13% or 14%).  You can always substitute all-purpose flour for bread flour, although your results may not be as glorious as you had hoped. There are many recipes, however, where the use of bread flour in place of all-purpose will produce a tough, chewy, disappointing result. Cakes, for instance, are often made with all-purpose flour, but would not be nearly as good made with bread flour.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Homemade Bread Brick!

Well, it looks like this first post will start off with a blunder...  I decided to try and revisit my bread machine that has been sitting collecting dust for about 10 years (or more).  I pulled it out, cleaned it up, washed and dried all the parts,and I was ready to go.  I plugged it in and got ready for the taste of some homemade bread (sort of).  Can you call bread machine bread homemade?  Well, I think so, it will make me feel better especially when you see the EPIC FAILURE of the first loaf.  Anyway, I digress, I measured and poured all the ingredients, chose the crust setting and pushed the magic button (the one that says Start).  Four hours later, the wonderful aroma a fresh baked bread is wafting through our house and the beeper sounds indicating that the bread is done.   Woo Hoo!!!  I get so excited and I open the bread machine to find not a loaf a bread but a brick.  My hopes deflated just like my bread had done.  So, here is a pic of my bread blunder.  Don't laugh, it's not nice.  Ok, go ahead and laugh.  It should make somebody smile.  Since I am not a quitter, I will be trying this again, hopefully, with a much different result.  I'll post pics of the next attempt.