Archive for March, 2012


Original post date 3-6-12

Well, today is only Tuesday but it turned out to be an additional baking day. We did our monthly huge trip to Sam’s Club yesterday morning and as I was putting part of our haul away in the deep freeze, I took out a lonely pound of butter to take upstairs to the fridge. I put this pound of butter on one of the pantry shelves so I could continue on with what I was doing without an extra trip upstairs. Have you guessed what my mistake was yet? Yep- you got it: I left the butter there over night. I found it this morning- right on the shelf where I left it. Now, this is not the end of the world. I normally leave my butter- one stick at a time- out on the counter in a butter dish so that I can use it on toast, etc. I just don’t leave a whole pound out unless I have specific plans for it. So I had to make some hasty plans to use it up this morning. I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies and this berry butter. I don’t have any pictures except of the final product because I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. I’ve had some pretty nasty compound butters before and am always a little leery of them. But once I tasted this one I knew I had to share it. This is that little taste of sunshine that makes waiting for Spring well worth it! And it will be even better tomorrow :.)

The Recipe:
8 oz (Half a pound, 2 sticks) Butter, softened
1/4 C Raspberries
1/4 C Blackberries
1/4 C Powdered Sugar
1/2 t Lemon Zest
Pinch Nutmeg
1/8 – 1/4 t Vanilla
The Method:
*Puree or mash berries. The recipe called for doing this in a food processor but you would have to have one of the tiny ones. I tried this in my blender and had to continually stop it & put the berries back up to the blades. I got very chunky berries in the end but I think that makes this better even better :.)
*Add the sugar, nutmeg, vanilla, and zest to the butter and cream together.
*Add the berries and beat together thoroughly.
*Put in a container and let sit overnight before using on whatever you can think of- this stuff will make anything taste wonderful!
Happy Spring everyone!!
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I’ve always loved baking (those who know me know that I was very close to making a career for myself out of baking & pastry arts) but more often than not I end up cooking for my family rather than baking. Until fairly recently baking was something I did for a special occasion or when I got “the itch” to do so. But then I started really looking at ingredient lists and observing how much money we really spent on things I could easily make so much healthier (and much better tasting) at home. So I started baking our bread rather than buying it and started looking into other things to make from scratch. Cookies, of course, are one obvious answer. They are ridiculously priced at the store and chock full of chemicals & other things I don’t want to think about. I have a lot of other things I make from scratch instead of buying now but this post is about cookies so I’ll leave it at that for today. And now that I am making things from scratch more often I’ve also had to do a bit of a schedule overhaul. In addition to Laundry Day and Cleaning Day I now have Baking Days. Since freshly made baked goods (or anything else made at home) don’t last as long- because of shelf life and also the fact that my family likes them so much they don’t sit around for more than a day or two-I have had to schedule 3 Baking Days each week: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Now it doesn’t always have to be something baked. It can be fruit salad or something similar or anything really- whatever I want to make from scratch that would normally be bought from the store. I call them “Baking Days” because it’s easy and alot of the things I make are, in fact, baked. I’m trying to keep things simple :.) So now in addition to meals I will also be blogging about things I make on my Baking Days. Here are two recipes from my inaugural Baking Day: Bacon Breakfast Cookies and Pink Milk Cookies. Enjoy!
We’ll do the Bacon Breakfast Cookies first. Yes- I really do feed my children cookies for breakfast. Sometimes if I’ve made a carrot cake or fruit pie or crisp they get that for breakfast too. They don’t get Oreos or chocolate cake; I’m not that lax. But I see no problem with giving them high quality, home made things to eat for breakfast that will fill their tummies and are more nutritious than most store bought cereals. Yes- I’m defensive about it. I’ve come across too many members of the Food Police who act like I’m handing my kids the sugar bowl and bottle of vodka for breakfast if I feed them something other than toast made from store bought bread and cereal that cost $5 a box. Ok. I rest my case. We can move
on…
In the little yellow bowl is half a pound of bacon. Yes, half a pound. It really does cook down to that little amount. Oh well. It’s in there and that’s what counts! The original recipe (which you can find here: http://www.baconcity.com/2008/07/02/bacon-breakfast-cookies/) called for raisins but I used craisins instead and I’m glad I did. They give the cookie a nicely different flavor and raisins would have been too sweet.
And here is a picture of my wonderful little helper. This is my son, Zachariah. He LOVES to help me in the kitchen. We’re
trying to come up with a catchy sidekick nickname for him :.)
You make these cookies just like any other but these will be a bit crumbly because of the corn flakes. It’s ok- they’ll bake up just fine.
When you’re putting the dough on the cookie sheets you can use your hands to pack the dough a bit. Not too much but just enough to make it stay together. This is what you will end up with…
They are SO good! They get fairly crisp after they cool with just a tiny bit of chewiness. The corn flakes give them a good crunch that is different from anything I’ve had.
On to the Pink Milk Cookies. My kids don’t watch much American TV. Well, they don’t watch ANY actual TV. We haven’t had cable or TV since 2006. We watch Netflix & shows on other websites. So I should say the kids don’t watch many American shows. Most of them are stupid and obnoxious (like Spongebob among others). They do watch Disney shows but they also watch BBC kids shows. One of their favorites is Charlie & Lola (find it on Youtube- it’s awesome!). Lola is a little girl who’s favorite drink is pink milk (or strawberry milk to us Yankees). I saw these cookies, originally called Pink Cloud Cookies, made with Strawberry Quick powder and knew I had an instant hit. These do not get eaten for breakfast
but do make a wonderful addition to lunches.
These have a very light strawberry flavor from the drink powder. If you wanted to you could add maybe a scant 1/4 teaspoon of strawberry extract along with the vanilla to give a bit more strawberry oomph. Next time I make them I intend to do exactly that.
When you put these on the cookie sheets make sure you don’t make them too big. They will stay very puffy and thick and if the dough drops are too big they won’t cook properly. Bake them until they are just starting to turn golden around the
edges. You should end up with…
Little pink pillows of yumminess- just like the original name says! These stay soft indefinitely so long as they are in an airtight container.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the first installment of my Baking Days Chronicles. Hopefully many more will come! :.)
The Recipe: Bacon Breakfast Cookies
1/2 Lb. bacon, diced small
1/2 C butter
3/4 C sugar
1 egg
1 C of flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 C corn flakes (or flake cereal of your choosing)
1/2 C Craisins
The Method: Bacon Breakfast Cookies
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
*Cook bacon until crisp and then drain.
*Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
*Add egg and beat well.
*Combine flour and baking soda; stir into butter mixture.
*Stir in bacon, corn flakes and craisins.
*Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart.
*Bake for 15-18 minutes.
*Remove to rack to cool–about 2 minutes, then remove from rack and put into airtight container or zip top bag.
The Recipe: Pink Milk Cookies
2 C flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 C butter, softened
1/2 C sugar
2 eggs
1/2 C strawberry quick powder
1 tsp vanilla
The Method: Pink Milk Cookies
*Preheat oven to 375 degrees
*In a small bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.
*Cream butter and sugar together until light & fluffy.
*Add eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each.
*Add vanilla and then strawberry quick powder.
*Drop by the tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheets and bake 10-12 minutes.
*Remove from cookie sheets immediately and cool completely on a cooling rack before moving to an airtight container or zip top bag.
*FOOD SNOB ALERT!* WARNING: The Humble Food Snob is about to get snobbish! I figured I’d better give some fair warning that I’m about to live up to the food snob part of my name. I don’t do it very often so it may take some of you by surprise ;.)
Broke food. I don’t do broke food- not like most people do. I can’t bring myself to cook up Ramen noodles and call it dinner. I can’t fry up some Spam, mix it with some mac & cheese and serve it to my family. I just can’t. It’s not tasty, it’s not healthy, and it’s just plain depressing for my entire family. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t do it if they have to. I know that for some that’s all they can afford. Thanks to my ex husband I know what it’s like to have to do that or not eat. I’ve been there. It’s that experience that drove me to redefine broke food for my family. It’s that experience that made me look at the food I buy and think about how I can make it go farther and still be healthy and tasty. I can now take a pound of bacon and make 4 different nearly meatless main courses out of it. I can take 3 pounds of steak and make at least 2 meals out of it- sometimes as many as 5. I can take a big bag of frozen chicken breasts from Sam’s Club and make it last a whole month. And the dishes I create from the food I stretch taste wonderful, are filling, and are at least moderately healthy (sometimes I make something truly indulgent and it’s not the healthiest thing in the world but darn it, it tastes good). So now I’ve redefined “broke food” for my family and we are all perfectly happy to eat it. They don’t know it’s broke food until I tell them it is and it’s a running joke now. Instead of being depressed that we have to eat nasty processed foods we can continue to enjoy dinners as a family, eating inexpensive meals, and never really giving our broke food a second thought. It’s a great illustration that food is as much about psychology as it is about the act of eating.
This is one of the dishes I can make from a pound of bacon. I originally found it in The Soprano Family Cookbook but have also found the recipe on food.com and it is exactly the same. I was a bit wary of making a dish that uses both pasta and potatoes but it turns out amazingly good and not nearly as heavy as it sounds. If you look up the recipe on food.com you will see that I have changed things up a bit. I do that. That’s why my food is so good. (See? I just can’t stop with the snobbishness in this post ;.) )
As you can see, the ingredients are few and fairly cheap. Pictured is double the amount of bacon I would normally use. If you look at the color it has turned you can tell that I needed to use it up so I decided to put it all into this dish. The result was very tasty but it will still be wonderful using a quarter pound of bacon. There are 8 bullion cubes there and that’s one of the changes I made from the original. It called for water and that would just be boring. Chicken broth gives this dish a richness and flavor that water just can’t.
If you’re using the correct amount of bacon you probably won’t need to drain any of the fat because you need about 2 tablespoons to saute everything. If you use any more than the quarter pound you’ll definitely need drain some off or the dish will end up greasy. Once you’ve diced the onion and carrot you can put those in the pot along with the tomato sauce too saute it all together. When everything is golden add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add your diced potatoes and 6 cups of the broth. You should have what looks like soup.
Don’t worry- it will end up a thick, rich, tasty concoction akin to a very thick stew. Now you need to let this simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes, giving it a good stir occasionally. Then take a potato masher or the back of you cooking spoon and mash some of the potatoes. That is part of what will thicken everything and what gives the dish it’s satisfying texture.
Once you’ve done that add the last 2 cups of broth and the box of pasta and let simmer for about 20 minutes, until the pasta is cooked all the way through. This is where you’ll need to stir more often. This stuff likes to stick! If you just let it simmer away at this point you will have an inch of cooked on crud at the bottom of your pot. I found that out the hard way once when I had to attend to something else while cooking this dish. It was not fun to try to clean and it wasted about a serving & a half which defeats the purpose of broke food. So stir it every couple of minutes & save yourself the headache. You will end up with something like this…
Now you can add half a cup of Parmesan cheese. As much as I like fresh parm sometimes I just can’t afford it so the stuff in the green can works fine too. Or you can leave it out. You’ll lose a little flavor but not much thanks to the flavor boost the broth added. Serve it up with some biscuits, rolls, or garlic bread and you’re set. It’s even great as leftovers!
The Recipe
1/4 lb. Bacon, diced
1 large Carrot, diced
3 cloves Garlic, minced
1 T Tomato Paste
1 & 1/2 lbs. Potatoes, diced (the recipe calls for “boiling potatoes”. I use russets because it’s what I buy in bulk & what we like)
8 C Chicken Broth, divided
1 box Ditalini (this is one of those times you have to use shaped pasta. Ditalini works best but you could use stars or a similar sized pasta)
1/2 C Parmesan Cheese, optional
The Method
*Cook bacon until browned but not quite crisp.
*Add diced onion and carrot and the tomato paste and saute until the mixture takes on a golden hue.
*Add the minced garlic and cook for another minute.
*Add 6 cups of the chicken broth and the diced potatoes and cook uncovered on a medium boil (more than simmering, less than a rolling boil) for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
*With a potato masher or the back of your cooking spoon mash some of the potatoes but not all.
*Add the last 2 cups of chicken broth and the box of pasta. Cook on a medium boil about 20 minutes or until the pasta is cooked all the way through and soft. Make sure you stir often!
*Take off the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese if using.
*Serve with bread and maybe a nice salad.
This really is a wonderful, filling dish that you won’t even realize is broke food :.)
*Note* If you look at the date of this post and read the post itself you may be confused. I posted this around the holidays (the post’s original date was 12-14-11) and have moved it here from Blogger. Hence the discrepancy. Sorry for any confusion*
One of my favorite things to do while grocery shopping has always been to walk the aisles looking for prepackaged foods I can make better myself. In fact my husband makes a point of looking for prepackaged foods that look really good in the picture and letting me know so I can recreate them for him with results that will NEVER come out of the box at the store. This paid off big time about 10 years ago in the form of my Taco Bake. I walked into the “ethnic” section and found, advertised in an obnoxious box, a Taco Bell meal kit for a kind of taco casserole. I thought “I cannot believe anyone would pay that much for this crap. I can do that WAY better and much cheaper”. As it turns out I say that at least 2 or 3 times every time I walk into a grocery store. However, I digress. This is one of the easiest dishes I have ever made in the 17 years I’ve been cooking. It’s almost as easy as making a PB&J sandwich so anyone can do it- seriously. That being the case I realized this morning while I was putting it together for Ron to put in the oven this afternoon while I’m gone that this is a great recipe for the holiday season. No- not for the Thanksgiving or Christmas table, but for the dinner table on those nights that you’re exhausted from all the holiday hubbub. Those holiday times where you’ve just baked 12 dozen cookies and don’t want to spend more than an extra 30 minutes in the kitchen making dinner. Or those days that you’ve spent the last 6 hours battling other shoppers for the items on your Christmas list and just want to come home & do the least amount of prep possible but still enjoy a hot, filling, wonderful dinner. Those are the days this casserole is best for. You can even make it ahead of time and keep it in the fridge or freezer to pop in the oven. This is also one of those times that I told you about that I will use canned, prepared ingredients to make something wonderful :.) You can also add whatever you like to it. You like black olives? Throw in some sliced black olives. Green chiles? Sure! (But be careful because you’ve already got the salsa and the Salsa Con Queso.) Corn kernels? Sounds lovely! I make the plain version because that’s what we like for this dish. But feel free to jazz it up however you like.
Now, the idea of this dish being good for the holiday season occurred to me while I was already in the assembly process so I don’t have that great of a shot of the ingredients but I did my best.
The empty baking pan is in this shot to remind me to tell you that you HAVE to spray, grease, or otherwise lubricate the baking dish before you assemble everything. If you don’t you will NEVER get the food out of the dish. It will stick so bad you may have to contemplate just throwing the baking dish away. I know this from experience. Trust me. So when you think you have enough cooking spray in the dish, spray it a little more & move on to assembly. And in the bowl is a mixture of refried beans and salsa. Once again, sorry- I didn’t think of blogging this particular recipe until I was ready to put everything together in the pan.
Spread 2 of the tortillas with enough cheese sauce to create an even layer- about 2 tablespoons. Spread 1/3 of the bean/salsa mixture over that. Sprinkle 1/3 of your taco meat over the beans and finish with about half to 3/4 of a cup of cheese. There should be a decent layer of cheese but you should be able to clearly see the ingredients below it. I like cheese as much as the next person but this is a lasagna. If you put too much cheese between the layers you’ll just end up with a mess when you go to serve it. Now, make 2 more layers like this one and you’re done. That’s it. It’s ready to go in the oven. It really is the easiest Mexican you’ll ever make. And after about half an hour in the oven this is what you’ll end up with…
Oh-and a house that smells absolutely AMAZING! And the leftovers taste just as good as when it came out of the oven. I’ve actually made this just to have the leftovers in the fridge for lunches. It’s THAT good!
The recipe
6 Large Flour Tortillas (you can use any flavor you like but I just use the plain ones I buy at Sam’s)
About half a jar of Salsa Con Queso (you may not need that much but make sure you have it)
1 Can Refried Beans (any fat content you like. Any variety works)
3/4 C Salsa (any kind you like)
One 1-pound batch of prepared Taco Meat (I use the reduced sodium seasoning mix)
2 1/4 C Shredded Cheese (any kind you like. I use the Mexican Blend for just about everything)
The Method
*Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 13 x 9 baking dish.
*Spread 2 of the tortillas with about 2 T on each of the Salsa Con Queso, place in the bottom of the dish.
*Spread 1/3 of the bean & salsa mixture over the tortillas.
*Sprinkle 1/3 of the taco meat over the beans.
*Sprinkle about 3/4 C of the cheese over that.
*Repeat, making 2 more layers, 3 total.
*Bake uncovered for 30 minutes or until the bean mixture is bubbly and cheese is starting to brown on top.
*Let sit for at least 10 minutes before you serve or you may end up with burns to the mouth!
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we have over the years! I’m hoping to get our Christmas cookie recipes on here before Christmas but it may or may not happen. So if not, may you have a beautiful, blessed Christmas!

And that’s Stroganov- with a “v”, not Stroganoff. I’ve found that there is a difference. See, growing up I avoided Beef Stroganoff at all costs. I remember a time when I was about 14 or so we were invited to lunch at someone’s house after church and I ate only corn just to avoid eating the Stroganoff. Even the smell of Stroganoff cooking was enough to make me queasy. There was always something… off about the whole dish; no matter who was making it. I never could explain it but I sure wasn’t going to put it in my mouth. So you can imagine my unease when I asked my mother in law what she would like for her birthday dinner a couple of years ago. She said her favorites were Chicken Alfredo and Beef Stroganoff. I almost visibly cringed and happily agreed to make the Alfredo- and have every year since. I have refused at all costs to make the off-putting beef dish.

Now, for those that don’t know, I make my dinner menus a month at a time. I try not to make any one dish too many months in a row and never make any dish more than once a month. In an effort to keep costs down I try to make one breakfast, Italian, and one Asian dish each week. This plan is generally well recieved by my family, with everyone having their favorites. However there are only so many of each that we all like and it’s pretty easy to get burned out. So I was looking around on my favorite recipe site- www.food.com – for Russian dishes. (We had grown tired of the same old dishes and I wanted to expand our horizons.) I found MANY recipes for Stroganoff and didn’t bother looking at any of them. Then I came across one that bore the following description: “Originally created in the late 19th Century for a Russian count. There are a lot
of European and American versions that come nowhere close to reproducing this
dish as it was originally made. What follows is the classic Russian version.”
 Being the history buff I am- food related and otherwise- I was intrigued and investigated. It sounded delightful! Why, it called for steak! Actual steak! Not that nasty ground beef that so many versions call for. And whole mushrooms! Not the slimy canned ones. And only sour cream! Not just mushroom soup or soup & sour cream. And even though I have a general aversion to egg noodles I decided to give it a try. It was an instant hit! Even the girls loved it! (Zachariah, being only 3, is still in that “I’ll only eat meat if it’s in chicken nugget or bacon form” phase. He’ll come around. The girls did the same thing and they eat things now that I wouldn’t have even sat at the same table with when I was their age.)
The original recipe is here: http://http://www.food.com/recipe/beef-stroganov-sauteed-beef-in-sour-cream-sauce-97243 . I haven’t made many changes. The main change is the biggest. The recipe calls for 2 pounds of filet of beef. When last I checked beef filet was about $20 a pound. Umm… no- I think I’ll pass. Especially when I’d need 2 pounds. I buy a 2 steak, 3 pound package of flank steak at Sam’s Club for about $25 and get 2 meals out of it. You are more than welcome to make the dish with the beef filet but flank steak works perfectly too.
Here are the ingredients. There aren’t many- it’s an easy dish.
I don’t always use the No Yolks egg noodels. Believe it or not that was ALL they had at the grocery store when I went. They are good but you can use regular egg noodles too. The little bowl has mustard powder, sugar, and water made into a paste. I didn’t want to try to fit all those in the picture so I just mixed it & included the bowl. I’m lazy that way :.) As for the onions (pictured with the mushrooms) I deviated from the recipe. Although some people will dispute this (*cough* my parents*cough* *cough*) I usually use less onion than a recipe calls for. I love onions but let’s not get carried away. A little goes a long way. I usually use about half of what a recipe calls for. This is no exception. The steak is flank steak and, unless you’re using the filet as the recipe states, is best for the dish. Cut it with the grain into about 4 pieces and then slice against the grain as thin as you can get it without actually shredding it. If you need to you can put it in the freezer for about 15-20 minutes to make this task easier.
Now, brown your meat. Once the meat is cooked add the mustard mixture and stir to combine. Unless you have a HUGE pan you’ll have to work in batches. You want to cook it quickly over high heat so it doesn’t get tough. I don’t have a picture of this because, frankly, I forgot to take one. I do apologize. I’ll try to do better next time, I promise :.) What I do have a picture of, however, is…
The mushrooms & onions. Use as little oil as you can get away with because mushrooms are little sponges. They will suck up oil and release water. That being the case you may have to drain them before you add the cooked meat to the pan. You don’t want their liquid in your sauce- it will be thin enough. Once the onions are translucent and the mushrooms have softened (and you’ve drained the mixture if you need to) you can add the cooked meat to the pan. Here is one place I changed the recipe. I love Montreal Steak seasoning and I use it here. I think it adds incredible flavor to the dish. Once I’ve added the steak to the veggies I sprinkle the seasoning over the entire pan. That is usually enough to season the whole thing perfectly. But once the sauce is finished taste it to see if you need to add a little more. Ahh, the sauce. It’s the easiest part of the entire dish. Except maybe cooking the pasta. All you have to do is stir the entire pint of sour cream into the meat & veggie mixture about 1/3 of a cup at a time. SO EASY! Here’s what you should end up with.
You had your pasta water heating and then your pasta cooking right? No?! Neither did I. Well, I had the water boiling but I didn’t drop my pasta when I should have. I was late. But you can leave the sauce on a low simmer for a few minutes & not hurt it. You just don’t want to let it sit too long becaue the texture will suffer.
Isn’t that pretty? And so much better than the stuff that emerged from the Royal original.
The Recipe
1 T Mustard Powder
2 t Sugar
4-5 T Oil (if you use a nonstick pan for the veggies like I did you’ll need less. Most of the oil is for the beef)
2 C Onions, thinly sliced
1 Lb FRESH Mushrooms, sliced. PLEASE don’t use the canned version!!
1 & 1/2 Lbs Flank Steak, sliced as thin as you can get it.
About 1 T Montreal Steak Seasoning
1 Pint Sour Cream (any fat content you like)
The Method
*In a samll bowl, combine the mustard powder and 1 & 1/2 tsp of the sugar. Add enough hot water to make a paste- about 1 T. Let this mixture sit while you prep the other ingredients.
*In a large pan over medium high heat (large enough for the veggies and the meat combined) heat about 1 T of oil (about 1/2 that if you’re using non stick). Add the onions and mushrooms and cook until translucent. If there is liquid in the pan when they reach that stage you’ll need to drain the veggies and then add them back into the pan.
*While the veggies are cooking, add 2 T oil to a large pan on high heat. Add about half of the beef and cook quickly until just done. Repeat with the other half of the beef. DO NOT crowd the pan. If you need to do more batches than 2 do so.
*Once the meat is done add it to the veggies along with the mustard mixture, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, and the steak seasoning, stirring to combine.
*Add the sour cream, about 1/3 cup at a time. I know it seems as though you should be able to just dump it in, but have a little patience. It doesn’t take long and you will make sure the sauce acheives it’s full, silky potential. That’s it- you’re done. It’s as simple as that. Beef Stroganov- it was an amazing dish all along. It had just fallen into enemy hands. Here it is, reclaimed and better than any other you’ve ever had!
I call this “clumsy” Shepherd’s Pie because it is actually born of a mistake- as the best recipes often are. In my family Shepherd’s Pie has always been made by just mixing browned ground beef with corn and putting mashed potatoes on top. Tasty but a little bland for my taste so I tinkered with it until I found a result I liked. Far different than the traditional Shepherd’s Pie (Gordon Ramsey forgive me), it was still a dish I liked and so did most everyone else. So up until this recipe was born my Shepherd’s Pie consisted of steak, onions, garlic, and corn in gravy with mashed potatoes on top. One night while cooking dinner with my thoughts elsewhere, in blatant violation of my own rule, I made the mashed potatoes way too thick and the base way too runny. I went to spread the potatoes over the base and they sunk right in. I was appalled! Well, after much swearing and slamming of pots and pans I thought about what I was going to do next. We couldn’t afford to have the pizza fairy drop by that night and it was the beginning of the week so there were no left overs yet. In the end I mixed the potatoes into the base and spread drop biscuit dough over the top. I put it in the oven to bake, thoroughly convinced it was a disaster and no one would like it. I was, however, mistaken. Everyone liked it better than my original version! I’ve made it this way ever since.
On to the fun part!
You can make this with ground beef or ground turkey if you want but I much prefer round steak.
I like to brown the steak with the onions, add the garlic & cook for a minute and then simmer the whole lot in beef broth (which will later become gravy) for at least an hour. This gives it wonderful flavor and makes the steak bits SO tender- but
you don’t have to do it that way.
.
At this point you either make gravy or simmer the meat in the broth. The meat is sitting in a bowl because I use bullion cubes for broth and I like to use the pan the meat was cooked in so all the browned bits make it into the gravy. BTW, I do this EVERY TIME I make gravy. It’s just the way things should be done so that you end up with the most flavor. If you’re using canned or boxed broth you can just leave everything in the pan. Once you have your broth in the pan you can add the meat mixture back in along with your corn. I use frozen but you can use drained, canned corn if you want. If you use frozen go ahead and boil the mixture in the broth for a few minutes just to give it a head start on cooking. Next make your broth into gravy. I use a corn starch (corn flour) slurry of 1/4 C water and 2 T corn starch mixed together. DO NOT just put the corn starch into the hot broth!! It will instantly clump & ruin the gravy.
Let’s talk mashed potatoes. For things like this I make mine out of potato flakes mixed with milk, butter and chicken broth. I NEVER use water to make mashed potatoes- fresh or boxed. The same goes for rice, BTW. Unless I’m cooking for a vegetarian I just don’t see any point in letting this opportunity for adding flavor to an otherwise bland dish go to waste. Potatoes and rice cooked with chicken broth have a rich flavor. Potatoes and rice cooked in water tend to have the flavor of wall paper paste. While your meat is browning go ahead & make your potatoes. It’s OK if they cool off while you’re doing other things.
When the mashed potatoes are done and your gravy has thickened add the potatoes to the meat mixture and stir. Don’t stir too much- you want to be able to see that there are mashed potatoes in there. It should look like this:
Now let that mixture sit while you make the biscuit topping. I use Bisquick and milk. Usually I addParmesan cheese but this time I forgot. Didn’t even cross my mind while I was gathering ingredients. But it didn’t make too much difference- the dish is still super yummy! You’re making drop biscuit dough- slightly runny drop biscuit dough. You want it to spread a bit when you drop it onto the casserole.
Yes- it looks like cottage cheese. It’s supposed to. When this is ready pour the meat mixture into a 13 x 9 baking dish. Now drop the topping mix by large dollops onto the top of the meat mixture.
Put into the oven until the biscuits are as browned as you like them and the gravy is bubbly.
So easy and so definitely comfort food! Awesome on a cold winter night. So here’s to fortuitous mistakes! May all of yours turn out as well as mine :.)
Clumsy Shepherd‘s Pie
1 Lb Round Steak (or Ground Turkey or Ground Beef)
1/2 Medium Onion, chopped
3 cloves Garlic, minced
4 C Beef Broth (Canned, Boxed, or made from Bullion Cubes)
1/2 small bag Frozen Sweet Corn (or 1 can corn)
Cornstarch Slurry made from 1/4 C cool or cold water & 2 T cornstarch
4 servings Mashed Potatoes (about 3 cups)
1 recipe Drop Biscuit Dough (recipe below)
Drop Biscuit Dough
2 C Bisquick (or similar baking mix)
1 C Milk
1/2 C Parmesan Cheese
Combine well in medium bowl. Let sit 5 minutes.
To assemble casserole:
Make the mashed potatoes in whichever manner you choose. Brown meat, draining if using ground. Halfway through cooking, add onions. Once meat is brown and onions are golden add garlic and cook for one minute. Add broth or remove mixture to bowl to make broth if using bullion cubes. Add corn and let boil 5 minutes. Make the gravy by slowly adding the cornstarch slurry to the broth and meat mixture, stirring constantly. Let the mixture come to a boil, thickening fully. Once thickened, take off the heat. Make the drop biscuit dough and allow to rest 5 minutes. Add mashed potatoes to mixture, stirring well but not fully incorporating them. Pour mixture into a 13 x 9 baking dish and drop or spread biscuit dough over the top. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or until biscuits are browned and gravy is bubbly. Let cool 10 minutes or warn people that it will be VERY HOT!
I have learned that carrot cake is a funny thing. You either love it or you run screaming from the person who dared utter the term. The reason is understandable; it’s basically fruitcake and we have all been well versed throughout life on the evils of fruitcake. However I like fruitcake- IF it’s made correctly. Yes, I’m one of those people. The wierdos who are delighted to receive a quality fruitcake at Christmas and think that a well made carrot cake is a thing of beauty. But it MUST be made correctly. There are thousands of recipes for carrot cake if you run a search. Out of these, nearly all will be hideous. Most will be too dry, some will be bland, some will have bizzare ingredients (like the one I found with sesame paste in it). Most of the recipes out there will end in utter failure. Carrot cake should be moist but not gooey, well spiced but not overpowering, and nicely sweet but not sickeningly so. This cake is everything a carrot cake should be. I serve it one of 2 ways: as a cake or as a trifle. Pair it with my cream cheese frosting and you may well weep with joy. Well… you will if you’re a carrot cake person :.) And before you groan at the thought of heavy, grainy, too-sweet cream cheese frosting and decide to pass, hear me out. This is not like all the others. It’s smooth, creamy, and mellow. It has about half the sugar as the traditional recipe and goes perfectly with this cake. I also use about 1 cup of it as the base for my trifle cream, as I will explain. SO! Carrot cake! Will you give it one more go & see if you, too, are a carrot cake person?
Fisrt, let’s bake the cake:
This is a small can of crushed pineapple. It MUST be crushed. No tidbits, no chunks.
When you drain your pineapple don’t throw the juice away! The raisins need to soak and there is nothing better you can use than the juice from the pineapple. Let the raisins soak while you get the carrots ready.
This recipe differs from most because the carrots are steamed instead of just grated into the batter. This, I think, makes all the difference in the world .
While the carrots are steaming you can get your dry ingredients together. You’ll need flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. You can use cloves if you want, however I despise cloves (unless hidden in the above mentioned yearly fruitcake) and don’t bother even buying any.
When the carrots are done cooking take a potato masher to them. You can use a ricer or a foodmill if you prefer. Don’t have a potato masher? Get one. They are good for alot more than just mashing potatoes! (But they are pretty darn good at that too.)
Now put your wet ingredients together. You’ll need the carrots, of course, oil of your choice but no olive oil, unsweetened applasauce (I use half oil, half applesauce and the results are awesome!), the pineapple, 3 eggs, 1T of the juice from the raisins.
Now if you’re ready, combine the wet and dry. You may not know it, but you can prepare these 2 halves of the recipe in advance if you need to; they will keep for awhile. So if you get interrupted & need to attend to something else just don’t combine the wet & dry until you’re ready to bake the cake. Once combined, put the batter into a well greased & floured 9 inch pan.
The batter will come very close to the top of the pan. In my case the batter will run over into the well a bit. If you need to you can put some in a pan and make some muffins or small cakes. However it works for you.
Et viola! The finished cake. It will most likely need to be darker than you are comfortable with it being to get done all the way through. It’s a thick batter- give it time :.)
)
Now… If you’re just wanting a cake with frosting leave it where it is and frost it when it’s cool. Or you can take it out of the pan and frost it. But if you want to make my trifle you need to let it cool completely and cut it into 1 inch cubes.
Make your trifle cream out of 1 cup cream cheese frosting and one tub cool whip. Yes- cool whip. This part is putting together- not baking. ;.) (Update April 16, 2014: having come a long way in eliminating nasty artificial things from our diet, I do not use Cool Whip anymore. Whipped, sweetened heavy cream will work beautifully here.) Make sure the frosting is room temperature and the cool whip (or whipped cream) is thawed. Use either a stand mixer or a hand held mixer to whip the 2 together.
Get your trifle dish out or you can use whatever you have on hand. My trifle dish is packed right now so I used the insert out of a 4 quart slow cooker. Layer the cake and cream, starting and finishing with the cake. You will get 3 layers of cake out of this recipe .
Very nice, no? Now, the hard part. You can’t eat this cake right after you make it- in cake or trifle form. You must think ahead when making this recipe. It will be good a few hours after you make it, but the next day it will be truly awe inspiring! So let good things come to those who wait… if you can :.)
The recipe:
1 1/2 C All purpose Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 – 3/4 tsp Ginger
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
1 C Cooked, mashed Carrots
3/4 C Oil ( I use half canola oil & half unsweetend applesauce. Chunky is good too)
1- 8 1/4 oz Can Crushed Pineapple, drained, reserving juice for soaking raisins
3 Eggs
1 1/2 C Granulated Sugar
1 Tbsp Pineapple Juice from saoking raisins
1/4 C Soaked raisins (These are optional. If you don’t use them don’t forget to reserve 1 Tbsp of the juice when you drain the pineapple.)
The Method:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9 inch pan. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Combine the wet ingredients, including sugar, in another bowl. Add the wet to the dry and stir gently until all the dry ingredients are incorporated. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 35-55 minutes, until tester inserted in middle comes out clean. Let cool completely, taking out of the pan if you wish. Frost or prepare as a trifle.
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The recipe:
Cream Cheese Frosting & Trifle Cream Base
8 oz Cream Cheese, softened to room temp (any fat content you please. I use reduced fat)
1/2 C Butter, softened to room temp
1/2 Lb powdered sugar
1 tsp + Vanilla (this is to taste really. If you want more vanilla, add it)
The Method:
In a stand mixer or with a hand held mixer beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy & lightened. Add vanilla & mix well. Gradually add the powdered sugar and mix very well. Makes enough to frost one 9 inch cake plus about 1 C left over to do as you please with.
 
Trifle Cream
1 C Cream Cheese Frosting, room temp
1 tub Cool Whip or store-brand equivalent, thawed OR 2 C Whipped, sweetened heavy cream
In a stand mixer or with a hand held mixer beat to thoroughly combine.
I realize I promised to have this post up sooner. I suppose that’s what I get for promising things. As luck would have it I am sick. I wasn’t feeling the greatest when I made this dish Wednesday but as I’m the only one in the house who cooks I had to get dinner on the table. (No- I’m not complaining. I truly enjoy my calling and duties. I am merely stating a fact.) By Thursday when I had planned on writing this post, sitting upright at the computer was not on the list of things I felt up to. But today- Saturday- I feel well enough to put fingers to keyboard. So here goes!
Spaghetti Amatriciana. I can’t take credit for coming up with this on my own of course. The original recipe came from The Sopranos Family Cookbook that I bought years ago. It was not until about 3 months ago that I finally decided to try some recipes out of the book and this was the first. It is an AWESOME recipe! I don’t usually go to Italian restaurants- or order Italian in any other restaurant for that matter. It’s always just so darn mediocre so I don’t bother. Homemade Italian on the other hand is almost always a joy to behold. Modest, hearty, and flavorful almost to a fault. But I have always been intimidated by making homemade Italian. I thought there was just too much involved. Not that I’m against tedious, tricky recipes. I’m not- they can be great fun and I love the challenge. But as a SAHM (Stay at home mom for those not in the know) with 3 young kids and 7 people total to feed right now I don’t often get to make recipes that take hours to put together. And that’s the beauty part of this recipe: It goes together incredibly quickly. I want to apologize for the quality of these pictures. All we have right now is our dirt cheap digital camera that we got a few years ago. The pictures are NOT high quality. However this will be rectified by the next post. Our brand new, 10 mega pixel digital camera will be delivered to Best Buy and picked up by us next week. So after this the pictures will be MUCH better!
 First step: Gather your ingredients and start your pasta water heating.
On the cutting board are: garlic, onion, chili pepper flakes, and bacon.
 Step 2: In a large pan (it has to be LARGE because you will be adding the pasta when it’s cooked)over medium heat, render bacon with 1 scant tablespoon of olive oil- DON”T DRAIN IT WHEN IT BROWNS! You’ll need all that bacony goodness to saute the onion and garlic. If you use turkey bacon you will have to use 1 & 1/2 – 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Let the onions turn a nice golden color and then add your garlic. Don’t add it until now because overdone/burnt garlic is very bitter and will ruin the entire dish. So add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute.
Step 3: Add your UNDRAINED Italian Diced tomatoes and stir to combine. Add chili pepper flakes. I only use about 1 teaspoon but we’re spice wimps. Play with the amount until you get it how you like it. And you can always serve more on the side for those who want it spicy.
Step 4: Let simmer about 20 minutes. Remember what I said about tasting often? This is where you start. You will need to add salt to taste.
Step 5: After about 10 minutes of simmering drop your pasta into the boiling water and let cook until it’s done the way you like it. (What?! You’ve never figured out just how done you like your pasta? Well now would be a good time to try it at different stages of doneness & see wouldn’t it?)
Step 6: When pasta is to desired doneness reserve about 2 cups of the pasta water and then drain the pasta and add to the pan with the sauce and toss to combine. The sauce should evenly coat the pasta with a little left in the bottom of the pan. If the pasta seems too dry, add some of the reserved pasta water a little at a time until it’s to the desired consistency.
Step 7: When pasta and sauce are thoroughly combined take off heat. Now you can serve it family style or plate it up individually.
Ingredients:
4 slices bacon, diced small (if you have a problem with real bacon you can use turkey bacon)
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 tsp. chili pepper flakes
1 scant T. olive oil (1 & 1/2 – 2 if using turkey bacon)
3- 15 oz cans Italian seasoned, diced tomatoes in juice
1 lb. Spaghetti
Salt to taste
Large pot of boiling water to cook pasta
*Gather your ingredients and start your pasta water heating.
*In a large pan (it has to be LARGE because you will be adding the pasta when it’s cooked), render bacon with 1 scant tablespoon of olive oil- DON”T DRAIN IT WHEN IT BROWNS! You’ll need all that bacony goodness to saute the onion and garlic. If you use turkey bacon you will have to use 1 & 1/2 – 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Let the onions turn a nice golden color and then add your garlic. Don’t add it until this step because overdone/burnt garlic is very bitter and will ruin the entire dish. So add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute.
*Add your UNDRAINED Italian Diced tomatoes and stir to combine. Add chili pepper flakes. I only use about 1 teaspoon but we’re spice wimps. Play with the amount until you get it how you like it. And you can always serve more on the side for those who want it spicy.
*Let simmer about 20 minutes. Remember what I said about tasting often? This is where you start. You will need to salt to taste. After about 10 minutes of simmering drop your pasta into the boiling water and let cook until it’s done the way you like it. (What?! You’ve never figured out just how done you like your pasta? Well now would be a good time to try it at different stages of doneness & see wouldn’t it?)
*When pasta is to desired doneness reserve about 2 cups of the pasta water and then drain the pasta and add to the pan with the sauce and toss to combine. The sauce should evenly coat the pasta with a little left in the bottom of the pan. If the pasta seems too dry, add some of the reserved pasta water a little at a time until it’s to the desired consistency.
*When pasta and sauce are thoroughly combined take off heat. Now you can serve it family style or plate it up individually.
Yes, these are the same directions I gave in the step-by-step. Hey- they were good directions and it seemed the easiest for those who may want to copy & paste. If any of you would like to see it done differently, let me know & we’ll “talk” about it!
One of the wonderful things about this dish is it’s versatility. Don’t eat pork? Use turkey bacon. Don’t like a lot of garlic or onion? Scale it back a bit. Don’t have spaghetti on hand? Use what you’ve got. The original called for buccatini. I looked in every store that’s close to me the 1st time I made this and couldn’t find it. Now I use whatever pasta I’m in the mood for. So go on- get in the kitchen & play!
As I was sitting next to my husband, Ron, this evening during dinner and discussing my blog he asked me a question to which I had no immediate answer. He asked “What are your 5 rules for cooking?” (I know- it sounds like one of those questions that I just made up & pretended that he asked it so that I could have a good excuse to tell you my rules. Well it’s not. He really did ask me.) I had no idea where this question came from so I asked him why he asked it. He told me that it seemed to him that such a thing would be a good topic for a post before I really got into posting recipes & such. I had to think about the answers for a bit. I don’t often explain the methods to my madness in the kitchen- even to myself. I just do- my actions are more instinct than thought out processes. So I grabbed a pen & paper and Ron and I discussed 5 things that are “rules” in cooking. Well… My cooking anyway. So for here goes…
Rule 1: NEVER, ever use margarine. There is only one reason margarine will ever find it’s way into my house and that will be because someone has gotten their head stuck in a railing of some sort and the margarine is for greasing said head so it will slip out of said railing. I know butter is expensive. I get that. So to make up for that fact I make just about everything from scratch. (This makes up for the expense of a large number of thing- not just butter.) I don’t buy frozen dinners, packages of cookies, and a list of other things that could fill a whole other blog post- and might yet in the future. In this way I can afford things like butter. And no- margarine is NOT interchangeablewith butter in baking recipes unless you buy one that is clearly marked “good for baking” and has the proper oil ratio. The baked goods will be different in taste, texture, and quality. It’s easier- and better for you- to just buy butter. And so ends my rant on margarine. I shall let the offensive fat die in peace.
Rule 2: Always taste frequently. This should be obvious but not everyone does it. Go into the kitchen of any fine restaurant and you will find a container of small spoons next to each chef’s station. Those are tasting spoons- and the head chef expects to see a pile of them. It’s the only way to ensure consistent quality. No, I don’t have a pile of spoons next to my stove each time I cook. I’m also the one who does the dishes! I have one spoon that I taste with. The main stirring spoontransfers (with no actual contact) a small amount onto the tasting spoon. Voila! Consistent quality!
Rule 3: Never cook while your mind is elsewhere. I’m guilty of this from time to time (aha! A flaw! Told you I had those!). I will be angry, anxious, stressed, or excited and ruin at least one component of whatever it is I’m making. So just don’t do it! Take a minute to calm yourself or eat leftovers. Or maybe the pizza fairy would like to pay your house a visit. Sometimes there’s just no calming down and Lord knows you don’t need the stitches that always seem to happen when sharp objects mix with inattentiveness.
Rule 4: Always think ahead. Read your recipes all the way through and gather and measure out all ingredients before you start. Take time to put the parts of a new idea together. Figure out what’s for dinner well before dinnertime. Your life in the kitchen will be infinitely happier! (And you will avoid the painful stitches mentioned in Rule 3 that you would end up with because you’re stressed.)
Rule 5: “Semi- home made” is not cooking (or baking). It’s putting stuff together. I’m not saying that I don’t use the occasional cake mix, boxed, or canned item that I could make perfectly well from scratch because I’m low on ingredients or just too darn tired to do it right. I’m saying that when I do I don’t call it cooking. “Cooking” and “baking” to me are synonymous with “creating”. However, you will more than likely see some such boxed or canned item in a recipe on this blog. If such a thing should happen they will be an ingredient because to me those things are just the jumping off point. Just another piece to the puzzle. So no Sandra Lee nonsense on this blog.
So there are my 5 rules. Question answered. I hope I have been informative without boring you to tears; I want you to come back & visit me! Especially since my next post will be an AWESOME recipe for Italian food. Incredibly simple & better than anything I’ve ever had in a restaurant!
Welcome to The Humble Food Snob! I realize that this title seems to be an oxymoron but as those who know me can attest- and those who read my blog will learn- the title suits me quite well. I assure you that you will not be subjected to me continuously commenting on how awesome a cook I am; I will be the first to list my flaws and mistakes. I will also be the first to tell you that just about anyone can do what I do (with a few exceptions of course). However, sometimes I even amaze myself and I’ll happily let you know when that happens. As for the food snob part I am, indeed, guilty- to a point. While I am perfectly happy to use store brands and work to cut costs on recipes, I do have fairly concrete quality standards. These shall be addressed as they arise. I will not, however, be intolerable with my food snobbery. I’ll use ingredients that I find of high enough quality and you can do likewise. I promise I won’t be offended :.)
And now a word of caution: I’m one of those innumerable people that doesn’t measure ingredients while I’m cooking (cooking not baking). I will do my best to give accurate measurements in the recipes I post. I am saying this for the benefit of those lucky readers that get to eat my food as theirs & my results will differ. So, without further ado, let the fun begin!