Best. Gift. Ever.

March 25, 2009 at 6:30 pm | Posted in Bookshelf, Christmas, Cookbooks, Favorite Things | 3 Comments
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For a foodie like myself, particularly someone who bakes often and gets tired of leaning over the counter to check the cookbook, I present to you – the best. gift. ever.

For Christmas this year, my mom presents me with a giant “paper” box. You know, the kind that schools and large businesses buy full of paper. Although I go through a little paper, it’s less than two reams a year, so (to be honest) I’m thinking that there is no chance I’m ever going to use all the paper. And then I picked it up – whoa! – not heavy at all!

I opened the box, and voila! Here’s what’s inside:

This is what it looks like empty

This is what it looks like empty

That’s right – it’s a custom-made oak cookbook holder. Awesome! Beyond words! Now admittedly, my mom has one also, and the same gentleman made hers (and all her custom kitchen cabinets). From the picture, you can see that he filled in the screw holes from attaching the stand to the base. On hers, the screw holes aren’t filled in and I really like that look, too.

Here it is with a cookbook on it:

Honestly the best gift ever!

Honestly the best gift ever!

In the photo, you can see that it’s sized to perfectly hold the only cookbook I harp on regularly – the Betty Crocker Bridal Edition. It holds it perfectly and looks great doing it.

All that being said, if you don’t already own a cookbook stand, this one is exactly everything I could have hoped for … I highly recommend it.

Awesome! I Made the Top 100!

March 18, 2009 at 2:09 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Thanks to CulinarySchoolGuide.org for listing me in their entry of “Top 100 Blogs for the Frugal Gourmet”

I am #19! And … #1 under Budget Recipes!

Go check out their site and show them some love … and thank you to the kind editors at CulinarySchoolGuide.org for the recognition!

Hot Fudge Sundae Cake

March 18, 2009 at 1:42 pm | Posted in Cake, Chocolate, Desserts, Favorites | 1 Comment
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Okay, I admit … I don’t have a photo of this recipe. Because, to be honest … there’s really no way to make it look good, as far as I can tell. It was a dark brown blob in a white bowl. But, to quote Rob “On a scale of 1 to 10, I give it a 23.”

The neat thing about this recipe is that you make it right in the baking dish. There were very few dishes in the sink at the end of mixing this up, a fact I appreciated very much. Also, as it bakes, it separates into two “layers” – the bottom being the sauce, and the top being the cake. It’s really cool – and made me wish there was a window in the door of my oven.

This recipe came, again, out of my trusty Betty Crocker Bridal Edition Cookbook. So far, I haven’t tried a single recipe out of this book that was a failure. So far. I’m guessing they made these recipes as idiot-proof as possible. But all that being said, here’s the recipe:

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons baking cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts, if desired (I left them out because I didn’t have any)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup baking cocoa
1 3/4 cups very hot water

DIRECTIONS:

1. Heat oven to 350F.
2. In ungreased 9-inch square pan, mix flour, granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons cocoa, the baking powder, and salt. Mix in milk, oil, and vanilla with a fork until smooth. Stir in nuts (if desired). Spread flat in pan.
3. Sprinkle brown sugar and 1/4 cup cocoa over batter. Pour water evenly over batter.
4. Bake about 40 minutes or until top is dry-looking. Remove from oven (yes, it should jiggle like that). Allow to cool 10 minutes.
5. Spoon warm cake into dessert dishes. Top with ice cream if desired. Spoon sauce from pan onto each serving.

White Wine Cake

March 2, 2009 at 2:21 pm | Posted in Cake | 1 Comment
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Mmm ... Wino Cake

Mmm ... Wino Cake

Okay, so what do you do with half a bottle of really cheap white wine left over from your rendition of Kat’s Fast Fancy Chicken? Well, if you like to bake, like me … you look for a recipe that lets you bake it. And I found it! And it was fan-freaking-tastic!

I got this recipe from Cooks.com. I made it almost exactly like suggested and it turned out great! As you can see from the photo, it does get a little soggy with all the sauce poured on it, but it’s delicious and I wouldn’t change a thing about it! I do have some ideas for next time around though!

INGREDIENTS:
1 box yellow cake mix (I think I used Duncan Hines “Moist Golden” or something like that)
1 (3 1/2 oz) pkg instant vanilla pudding (I used a small box of white chocolate pudding instead)
1/2 cup brown sugar (lightly packed)
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
4 eggs (yes, 4 – really)
3/4 cup oil
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup white wine

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all the dry ingredients together. Add eggs, oil, water, and white wine. Mix thoroughly. Batter will be thin and probably a little lumpy. This is okay.

Pour batter into well-greased bundt pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes. (Mine took 50 minutes)

After cake tests done (lightly browned, tester inserted comes out clean or nearly clean) …

SAUCE:
Stir together 1/4 cup white wine and 1/2 cup powdered sugar. Bring to boil in a small saucepan. Pour hot sauce over hot cake and let stand IN PAN for 1 hour or more. Turn onto a plate and serve.

This cake was yummy! So that you’re aware, you can (lightly) taste the alcohol, so be aware of the audience you are serving this to. I think this would also be fantastic with red wine, chocolate cake, and chocolate pudding … or rum, spice cake, and vanilla pudding. There are probably a thousand variations … and I think I will probably try them all!

Review – Orville Redenbacher’s Shakeables

February 23, 2009 at 5:51 pm | Posted in Review | Leave a comment

ranchshakeables1

I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know if this product is currently on the market or not, because I found it in my “snack bin” when I was unpacking after the move. (More on that later). So today at lunch, I was still hungry, even after a yummy sandwich. So, I decided to have some popcorn. This was the selection that was right on top, I love ranch, so I thought – “Why the heck not?”

Well, I’ll tell you why the heck not. Because if, like me, you enjoy breathing while eating, you will spend the majority of your time eating this product not actually chewing or swallowing, but rather coughing, due to inhaling some of the too-fine “dust” that makes a shakeable, well, shakeable.

The flavor itself is a pretty intense ranchy-style flavor and isn’t bad at all. It’s just that I don’t like to cough because of some clumsy product researcher. Seriously, I don’t know how this got out of the test phase at all, since most people I know don’t want to feel like they’ve just inhaled chemicals while eating.

All that being said – yay for the popcorn popping completely, yay for the flavor. NAY for the horrible side-effects. In my personal opinion … stay the heck away.

Bread Pudding With Sauce

October 28, 2008 at 2:36 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

 
This recipe is something I’ve always wanted to try and never had the guts to make. The reason? Well, have you ever been in a restaurant and thought, “Geez, I don’t think this is the way it’s supposed to be?” And if the chef of a nice restaurant can’t do it very well, surely it’s too complicated/difficult/etc for me to make! Well, that’s what I’ve thought about bread pudding for a long time. The most recent example was on our 1-year anniversary trip this summer. We went to the nicest restaurant I’ve been to in a while, had a meal that blew me away, and then I ordered the bread pudding for dessert. It was tough, dry, and chewy. Clearly not right, because in my humble opinion, bread pudding should be moist and, well, pudding-like.

Well, this recipe takes the cake, so to speak. I got it from my Bridal Edition of the Betty Crocker cookbook, which is now my go-to cookbook for things I’ve never made before that I want to taste good on the first try. Rob loved this bread pudding, it was exactly what I think of when I think of bread pudding, and it made a LOT – we’re still eating leftovers 5 days later. Here goes:

INGREDIENTS

BREAD PUDDING:

4 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
¾ cup sugar
2 ½ cups milk
2 ½ cups whipping (heavy) cream
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
10 cups bread, diced into chunks (I used leftover stale sourdough and about 4 slices of plain old white bread)
½ cup raisins (optional, but yummy!)
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter, melted

SAUCE:

½ cup butter
2 tablespoons water
1 large egg
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons whiskey, bourbon, rum, or an extract of one (I used leftover rum from my Rum Balls)

DIRECTIONS

1. In large bowl, beat 4 whole eggs, 1 egg yolk, and ¾ cup sugar with wire whisk until well blended. Beat in milk, whipping cream, vanilla, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon until well blended. Stir in 7 cups of bread pieces and the raisins. Let stand 20 minutes.

2. Heat oven to 325. Grease bottom and sides of 13 x 9 glass baking dish with cooking spray.

3. Pour bread mixture into baking dish. Lightly press remaining 3 cups bread pieces on top of mixture in baking dish.

4. In small bowl, stir 2 tablespoons sugar and ½ teaspoon cinnamon until well blended. Brush top of bread mixture with melted 2 tablespoons butter; sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Bake uncovered 55 to 65 minutes or until top is puffed and light golden brown (center will jiggle slightly). Cool 30 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, in 1-quart saucepan, melt ½ cup butter over low heat; do not allow to simmer. Remove from heat; cool 10 minutes. Mix water and 1 egg in small bowl, stir into butter until blended. Stir in 1 cup sugar. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved and mixture begins to boil; remove from heat. Stir in alcohol (or extract). Cool 10 minutes before serving.

6. Serve sauce over warm bread pudding. Store remaining sauce and dessert covered in the refrigerator.
 

COST ANALYSIS

6 large eggs    $1.50
2 cups sugar    $0.75 (approximate)
2 ½ cups milk    $0.75 (approximate)
2 ½ cups heavy cream    $1.50
1 tablespoon vanilla    $0.10
1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon    $0.10
10 cups bread    $1.50
1/2 cup raisins     $0.75
10 tablespoons butter    $0.65
2 tablespoons rum    $0.10

TOTAL    $7.60

 
All in all, not bad for a pretty fancy dessert that you can definitely serve to company or for a holiday!

Pumpkin Apple Muffins

October 21, 2008 at 12:40 am | Posted in Desserts | 1 Comment
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Pumpkin Apple Muffins

Pumpkin Apple Muffins

The other day, I was looking to welcome Fall with some sort of pumpkin-flavored baked good. As it happened, I also had some apples that were on their last legs and that neither Rob or I was willing to eat. You know, they get a little rubbery sometimes. Anyhow, as silly as it is to bake a pumpkin-favored baked good to welcome in the continuation of 90-degree weather, that’s what I wanted to do, darn it. So … that’s what I did. I came across this recipe on Allrecipes.com for “Pumpkin Apple Streusel Muffins”. They were delicious – moist, chewy muffins that just begged to be eaten … in quantity! Rob and I both gave them an “A”. Here’s the recipe:

INGREDIENTS

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
2 cups peeled, cored, and small-diced apple

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 teaspoons butter

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 18 muffin cups (or use paper liners).
2. In a large bowl, sift together 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 cups sugar, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together eggs, pumpkin, and oil. Add pumpkin mixture to flour mixture, stirring just to moisten. Fold in apples. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups (I use the large Pampered Chef scoop for this – it is truly the PERFECT size for muffins.)
3. In a small bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons flour, 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle topping evenly over muffin batter. (I admit, this is my least favorite step and Rob did it. 🙂
4. Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean. (My oven took 35 minutes).

ENJOY!

I know I’ve been lax at giving out prices for my recipes lately, and honestly, its because I was trying to get back into the flow of blogging. From here out, I PROMISE I will start including costs again.

Red Wine Crock Pot Chicken

October 15, 2008 at 12:03 am | Posted in Entree | 2 Comments
Red Wine Crock Pot Chicken

Red Wine Crock Pot Chicken

So, what do you do with a bottle of red wine that’s gone south? In this case, you make a yummy dinner! I got this recipe – or rather, the bones of it – from Healthy Recipes for Moms, which I know doesn’t technically apply to me. It was a great recipe, as you can see for yourself, but I was missing most of the ingredients. So … I made a few substitutions. Okay, I basically redid the recipe. The writer of this blog doesn’t identify herself, but thank you, and my apologies for what I’m about to do to your recipe. 🙂

INGREDIENTS

3 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 generous teaspoons jarred minced garlic
1 large can of mushrooms (or you could use fresh)
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup cranberry juice
1 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons maple syrup (the real kind, please)
2 cups cooked rice (to serve underneath)

DIRECTIONS

Place garlic in the bottom of crock pot. Combine flour, salt, and pepper on a plate. Dredge the chicken through the flour, then arrange over the garlic. Add mushrooms, basil, and oregano.

In a separate bowl, mix cranberry juice, red wine, and maple syrup together. Pour over chicken. Cover, cook on high for 1 hour, then on low for 6 hours. (I am guessing you could also just cook on low for 8-10 hours).

Enjoy!!

Yes, But Will It Wash Your Car?

October 10, 2008 at 11:22 pm | Posted in In Defense of Food | 2 Comments
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So, I’m continuing my long-ago post series about Michael Pollan’s book, “In Defense of Food.”  To catch you up, there are a bunch of eating “guidelines” in this book about how/what/what not to eat.  We’re still in the “what not to eat” section.  Here’s the next guideline.

AVOID FOOD PRODUCTS THAT MAKE HEALTH CLAIMS

There are two principles behind this idea. First, that any food able to make a health claim on the package is more likely to HAVE a package. And generally, packaged food isn’t as good for you as it’s “from scratch” counterpart. The other principle is that generally the foods with the most unpronounceable ingredients are the ones most likely to make health claims. The ones with (in my humble opinion) the most NON-food qualities.

For example, have you seen the recent series of corn syrup advertising? There has been a recent series of ads on TV with folks claiming that corn syrup is just as good for you as sugar. And they’ve got this website now proclaiming that corn syrup actually makes food BETTER (see the last bullet point on the link). I’m sorry. I just can’t believe that a non-natural product (one that isn’t a direct product of nature) is healthier.

Anyhow, so how does this apply to you and I, you ask? Well, I would say that unless your doctor has specifically mentioned to you that you should eat more of X … don’t. And that goes double for some of the crazy chemical concoctions we seem to have brewed up for the sake of “nutrition” lately. Some of the protein bars, shakes, and other “healthy” food on the grocery store menu has more non-food stuff in it than a candy bar. And personally, I’d rather eat a candy bar. 🙂

So that’s that. What do you think? Are health claims on a product a good thing, a bad thing, or are you indifferent to the whole concept? Leave me a comment!

The Best Bread Ever … No Joke

October 9, 2008 at 12:48 am | Posted in Breads, Favorite Things, Favorites | 3 Comments
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Homemade Bread - YUM!

Homemade Bread - YUM!

This bread is honestly, truly, 100% the best homemade bread I’ve ever had.  No offense, mom.  But seriously, a few years ago, I bought a magazine cookbook on a whim in the checkout counter.  Now, don’t get me wrong, the frugal me just stares at them longingly for the most part, but this time, something just made me add it to the groceries on the belt.  And I’m glad I did.  I’ve heard it said that in every cookbook, there’s one recipe that makes it worth the purchase.  And for this cookbook, I think this receipe made it worth at least 50 times more than I spent.  Thank you, Taste of Home Bread Bonanza Cookbook!!

INGREDIENTS

2 packages (or 4 1/2 tablespoons) active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups warm – NOT HOT – water (I usually put it in the microwave for one minute and that’s about right)
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
1/2 cup honey
2 eggs
1 tablespoon salt
8-9 cups of flour (I use bread flour, but you can use regular all-purpose flour if you want.)

DIRECTIONS

(NOTE: I use a KA Custom Professional mixer for this recipe. I don’t know if a regular stand mixer could handle the recipe, but I think so. Mixing by hand is possible, but it would be VERY tedious.)

Use the beater for your mixer and set it to “stir” for almost the entire recipe. In the mixer’s bowl, combine yeast and warm water. Add melted butter, honey, eggs, salt, and 4 cups of flour. Allow to mix for about thirty seconds, then turn up to 4 or 5 for three minutes. (This is medium speed on mixers with labels). After three minutes, turn back to stir and add enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. NOTE: Dough will not form a full ball, but should be pulling away from the sides of the bowl, and will still be sticky.

Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic. This takes me about 4-8 minutes, depending on how frustrated I am at life. 🙂 Place bread dough in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover with a clean lint-free cloth and let rise in a warm place (I use the oven. Turn it on to 350 for a minute, then turn it off, put the dough in, and close the door) until doubled. This is about an hour.

Punch dough down. Divide into thirds (I never get them even, let me know if you have “a method”). Shape them into loaves and place in three GREASED loaf pans. Cover again and let rise until doubled (about 30 minutes).

Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes (I only need 25. Check your oven at 20, just in case.) Tops should be golden brown. Remove immediately from pans to wire racks to cool.

I give this bread an A+, and I’m not just saying that. Make it yourself. It’s not hard. And if you don’t love it – honestly – I’ve got a “kitchen prize” waiting for you. 🙂 So what do you have to lose? Give it a shot and let me know what you think!

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