Monday, September 29, 2008

Pumpkin Bundt Cake


Oh, pardon, I got a little excited there! Fall is my favorite season and nothing heralds in the season better than pumpkin foods. After my disastrous jell-o mold, I thought I'd get back up on the horse with the new silicone bundt pan.

After a quick hunt on the 'net, I found a great, moist pumpkin cake. The cranberries and orange really added something special to the cake, although I still have not mastered the whole bundt pan thing. My impatience and the heavenly smell got the better of me and I didn't wait for my silly cake to cool all the way. One quick flip of the pan and I got 7/8ths of my cake, with the top happily stuck up in the curves of the mold and steam rising from the remains!

It didn't matter though- it was delicious! We've been munching it for both breakfast and for dessert. Sorry coworkers- I was going to bring it in to share, but I think we're going to gobble it down ourselves!

Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Orange Glaze
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 C. Shortening
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 16 oz. can Pumpkin
  • 2 C. Flour
  • 1 Tbsp. Cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp. Ground Ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. Ground Cloves
  • 1/2 Salt
  • 1/2 C. Whole Cranberries (I used Mariani brand.)
  • 1 C. Powdered Sugar
  • Grated Orange Peel from 1/2 orange
  • 1/2 C. Orange Juice

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If necessary, grease and flour your bundt pan.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the sugar, shortening, eggs, and pumpkin until smooth, 3-5 minutes.
  3. Slowly add in the dry ingredients, mixing as you go. I added in 1 cup of flour, then mixed, then a little flour plus the baking powder, baking soda, and spices (Not the powdered sugar, peel, or OJ), then mixed, then the remaining flour, and then one last mix.
  4. Make sure you batter is well blended. Fold in the cranberries.
  5. Pour the batter into you pan. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  6. Remove cake from oven and leave on a cooling rack in the pan for a good long time. This is where I got a little overexcited. Once it is relatively cool, flip out onto a serving plate. Then let it cool some more!
  7. While the cake cools, mix together the powdered sugar, orange peel and orange juice until you have a thick glaze.
  8. When the cake is just slightly warm to the touch, drizzle the orange glaze over the top. Serve warm or at room temperature morning, noon, or night!

Spanish Skillet Chicken

Have you visited my friend Thatgirl's blog? You really should. She is smart, witty, and an excellent cook. She also puts my blog to shame with the sheer quantity of blogging she does- I mean, I was lucky to get what I did in this month, and she's posting like every day! Show off... I kid, I KID!

One of the best things about a number of her recipes is that they are simple. She uses good ingredients and lets them shine, and the meals are quick to prepare. And when this one popped up in my blog reader, I knew it was a keeper. In fact, I made it only about a week or two later to rave reviews. (Did I mention she's a lot better at posting than I am?)

This was perfect- my only tweaks were eliminating the parsley (that I didn't have on hand) and the addition of avocado. Which I can't believe she didn't add- she LOVES that green creamy fruit! It is so totally making a comeback to our kitchen, maybe in the dead of winter when we need a little of that Spanish sun feel!

Spanish Skillet Chicken
From Paved with Good Intentions

  • 1 Chicken Breast
  • 2 Tbsp. Butter, divided
  • 1 Shallot, chopped
  • 1 Clove Garlic, chopped
  • 2-3 Tbsp. Red Wine Vinegar
  • 3/4 C. Chicken Broth
  • 2-3 Tbsp Green Olives, chopped
  • 1 Avocado, cubed

  1. Melt 1 Tbsp butter in a large skillet over medium high heat and cook chicken, flipping once, until it is browned on each side. Remove from skillet and keep warm with foil on top.
  2. Add shallot, garlic, and vinegar to skillet and bring to a boil and cook 2 minutes.
  3. Add broth and return to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until broth is reduced to 1/2 cup.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in remaining butter.
  5. Serve chicken over couscous. Drizzle sauce on top and generously sprinkle olives and avocado for a delicious complete meal!

Eat to the Beat: Retro Coca-Cola Jello Mold

A.K.A. Not So Attractive Flesh Gelatin
A.K.A. Ballistics Jell-O
A.K.A. Very tasty, but very ugly dessert in my fridge we just can't get excited enough about to actually eat

Ok, so I really had such a great idea for this latest round of Elly's Eat to the Beat event. It's inspired by a song called "Jackie Will Save Me" by Shiny Toy Guns. It is about Jackie Onassis Kennedy and has a great angry techno electronica style. It's very good for blasting at the top of your car speakers with the windows down.

There is a verse that spoke to me for this event:

I think you're slipping
American Coca-Cola
Sugar Sweetness

Cooking with Coke, now that was something different. And what about the retro aspect of diving into old school dishes? I did a little hunting for recipes and found a totally kitschy dessert I thought would be perfect- Cherry Coca-Cola Salad!

First point of note: turns out jell-o molds were really more of a 50's thing and not a 60's thing. Oh well, close enough. Second point of note: who in their right mind considers gelatin, cream cheese, fruit, and soda a "salad" of any sort!? I loved that some of the recipes were described as "congealed salad." Mmmmm... congealed, appealing, huh?

All of that aside, this seemed like it would be fun. I went out and bought a silicone bundt mold and picked up a single Coke since we don't really drink soda in our house. I prepped this according to the directions and gave it a taste- yummy and saccharine as expected! Into the fridge it went overnight to set.

Well my friends, the first issue in this minor disaster was removing said dessert from said silicone pan. I've never used this type of pan before and it was frankly a little weird. It also wasn't so effective- maybe I should have greased it after all since the poor mold had its top ripped off on about 2/3 of the ring. D'oh! I had to oh so gently pry out the rest and place it top of the base.

Sadly, once "assembled" the dish was, well, hideous. Red gelatin + white cream cheese = pink gelatinous mess that looks just like a slightly sunburned arm! For those of you that enjoy the show Mythbusters, you'll note this looks a lot like Buster the Ballistics Gel Crash Test Dummy.

So that's my entry. A very tasty, creative, and repulsive-looking dessert. Better luck next time, eh?

Cherry Coca-Cola Jello "Salad"
Based from
  • 1 16 oz. Can Cherry Pie Filling
  • 1 8 oz. Can Chunk Pineapple
  • 2 3 oz. Packages Cherry Jell-o
  • 3-4 oz. Cream Cheese, softened
  • 6 oz. Coke (or Diet Coke or Coke Zero)

  1. Drain all of the pineapple juice from the can into a glass measuring cup. Drain the liquid from the pie filling can into the same measuring cup until you have 1 Cup of total liquid. I probably had 2/3 cup of pineapple and 1/3 cup of pie goo. Dispose of the remaining liquid pie filling, leaving the cherries.
  2. In a small saucepan, pour in the liquid and bring it to a boil.
  3. Stir in the gelatin and whisk it together until everything is dissolved.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat. Mix in the cream cheese until the mixture is smooth.
  5. Add in the Coke and beat for 2-3 minutes. The original recipe says to mix until it is "fluffy" but I don't know what that means.
  6. Pour the warm mix into your mold. You may want to try greasing the mold or using a non-stick spray given the results I got. Then again, I'm no Jell-O expert, so maybe the fault is mine?
  7. Fold in the drained cherries and pineapple. Chill in the fridge for 6-8 hours or until the mold is set. Once ready to serve, cross your fingers and don't follow my example to turn out the mold onto a serving dish. Serve to blind or far-sighted guests!

Sun-Dried Tomato Risotto

Here in our house, we love the warm, creamy comfort that risotto brings to a meal. I think I've said it before, but I don't understand the idea that risotto is a difficult dish to prepare. Folks site the length of time involved or the amount of effort involved in "babysitting" the dish. For me, I am going to be in the kitchen prepping dinner for a good 30 minutes anyway, so what's a little stirring and pouring on the stovetop when I’m already involved in cooking!

So not only do I love that risotto fits into my dinner prep schedule, it is also so versatile! You can have your plain Parmesan version or you can kick it up with artisan cheeses, specialty mushrooms, savory vegetables, smoky meats, or fresh seafood. This chameleon dish is happy to be the star of the meal, or morph into a perfect complimentary side.

With all this adoration, I was pleasantly surprised to find a recipe for sun dried tomato risotto attached to the cap of my Bella Sun Luci bottle! We made it and devoured it- the flavors were fantastic together. It was the perfect addition to the stuffed chicken entree and will definitely be on the menu again soon.

Sun Dried Tomato Risotto
From Mooney Farms, Bella Sun Luci Sun Dried Tomatoes

  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic, minced
  • 1 C. Risotto (Arborio) Rice
  • 4-6 C. Chicken Broth, warmed
  • 1/2 C. Sun Dried Tomatoes (packed in oil), chopped
  • 1/4 C. Fresh Basil, chopped
  • 1-2 tsp. Dried Parsley (I didn’t have fresh on hand.)
  • Salt & Black Pepper
  • 1/4+ C. Parmesan Cheese, grated

  1. In a large saucepan, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Saute the onion and garlic until the onion starts to become translucent.
  2. Add in the dry risotto rice. Stir to coat the rice with oil and let it sit for a minute to brown.
  3. Pour in about 3/4 cups of broth to the pan. Bring to a low boil and stir the risotto. As the liquid starts to absorb, add in the tomatoes, basil, parsley and salt & pepper to taste. Give a good stir.
  4. Continue to pour in 1/2 to 1 cup of broth and stir until the rice is al dente and creamy. Personally, I pour the liquid in, give it a stir, and then let it sit for a few minutes while it simmers away. I only stir every few minutes, usually in between chopping something else that will go into dinner. When I give a stir and the bottom of the pan is dry, that's when I add in more broth.
  5. You may not need all of the broth. Other liquids can be used as well such as water or white wine. The stirring will create the creaminess and the slow simmering will make the rice soft and chewable!
  6. Just before serving, stir in the grated Parmesan until it melts and is thoroughly mixed in.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fried Tofu with Peanut Sauce

There's a fun game I like to play... it's called catch up! The premise of the game is you go back through your food pictures and see that you have great recipes from, um, July that you haven't posted yet and then you spend a Sunday evening finally putting them up for the "world" to enjoy!

It's a lot of fun. The best is trying to remember what the heck you changed from a recipe- d'oh!!!

This meal was really good, and I do legitimately remember that these 2.5 months later. But really, how can you go wrong with a peanut sauce, right?! I'm trying to incorporate more vegetarian meals and tofu is a great way to do it. It is cheaper and I really need to eat more greens! Now we'll just see if I can blog about these lovely recipes sooner so I can recreate them again!

Fried Tofu with Peanut Sauce
Loosely based from Food Network

  • 1 Package Extra Firm Tofu
  • 1 Tbsp. Soy Sauce
  • 2 tsp. Sesame Oil
  • 2 tsp. Cooking Sherry
  • 1/2 can Coconut Milk
  • 1/2 C. Smooth Peanut Butter
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. Brown Sugar
  • 1 tsp. Curry Powder
  • 1 Tbsp. Lime Juice
  • 1 tsp. Sesame Oil
  • 2 tsp. Soy Sauce
  • Dash Cayenne and/ or Chili Powder

  1. Remove the tofu from its container and drain it by gently but firmly pressing the block between a few layers of paper towels. Does that make sense- gently but firmly? I mean that it is easy to break up the tofu if you are too rough, but you do need to apply some pressure to get moisture out.
  2. While the tofu drains, mix together the soy sauce, oil, and sherry from the start of the ingredient list.
  3. Slice the tofu into large chunks. In a large skillet on medium-high heat, warm up a splash of oil. Place the tofu pieces in the pan and let them sit so that they brown. It takes some time- I want to say a good 10 minutes. Once lightly browned, gently flip the pieces to brown the opposite side.
  4. I think at this point, I poured the sherry mix in the pan to season the tofu. But there is also a chance I either used it as a marinade as the recipe calls for, or I may have omitted that whole portion. (Sorry, the peanut sauce really was the star, so I didn't bother to remember these details!)
  5. While the tofu cooks, mix the remaining ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat. The peanut butter will melt and the sauce will thin out.
  6. Serve the tofu over while rice or Asian noodles and pour the peanut butter goodness generously over the top!

Philly Cheesesteak Night!

My husband is a good man... he eats just about anything I put in front of him. Not only that, he usually loves it and thanks me profusely for it! I find a lot of joy in cooking with exciting ingredients like new produce, cheeses, and other wonderful items from different regions of the world. I will spend 2 hours over the stove happily if it means creating a real gourmet masterpiece.

Adam... well, he loves all that stuff, but he find just as much delight in pasta with sauce from a jar, chicken patties on a bun (who doesn't love those though?), and mac n cheese from the blue box. So as a special treat a couple of months ago, I made the man Philly cheesesteaks for us! Oh man, he was so freaking happy!

They were in fact delicious. Nothing fancy, nothing gourmet- just simple comfort food.

Philly Cheesesteaks
From Hannaford Grocery fresh Magazine

  • Vegetable Oil
  • 1 Green Pepper
  • 1 Large Onion
  • 1 Package Premium Shaved Beef
  • Provolone Cheese Slices
  • 4 Submarine Rolls

  1. Slice the green pepper and onion into long thin strips.
  2. Heat a little bit of oil (1-2 tsp) over medium heat in a large skillet. Add in the peppers and onions.
  3. Cook veggies until they are soft, darker, and a little caramelized. This will take a little while- 10-20 minutes. You don't want them to burn; if things seem too hot, add a little water.
  4. When the peppers and onions are cooked, remove to another dish and cover with foil, tenting it to let steam escape.
  5. Increase the skillet's heat to high and add in a little more oil.
  6. When hot and smoking a hair, add in the beef. Grind a little black pepper over it if you are inclined.
  7. Allow the meat to cook on one wide for about 2 minutes, until it is nice and brown. Use a spatula or tongs to break up the beef into smaller pieces and to press it down against the pan to aid the browning.
  8. Flip the meat over onto the other side to cook it. Cover the beef in the pan with slices of provolone. Don't be stingy- nobody wants a cheesesteak that goes easy on the cheesy!
  9. When the cheese is melted, make the subs with the cooked steak and top with the pepper and onion mixture. Serve hot with a good cold beer!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Homegrown Gourmet 11: Game Day Dishes

Welcome back, Homegrown Gourmet! My little blogging event dedicated to the joys of local cooking traditions has come back to me by way of a tasty margherita pizza. A big thanks to Elizabeth for a great round and the honor of hosting again!

The air is getting brisk here in New England and the days are getting shorter, which triggers some deep instincts in me- inadvertent smiling, a craving for soups and warm comfort food, and an undeniable desire to watch sports on lazy Sunday afternoons. Yes, I can't lie that September is one of my favorite months when it comes to sports. Football is back on the air with new season excitement and the Red Sox are usually making a sprint to the finish as baseball comes to a close. The only thing that could make it complete is if cycling moved the Tour de France a few months to round out my top 3 spectator sports.

With all these athletics making their way back into my yearly schedule, I can't help but choose GAME DAY DISHES as my theme for this round of Homegrown Gourmet!

I hope that this round brings out the creativity and international crowd- I'd really like to know what folks eat while watching cricket or sumo wrestling! Now first, let's face it- we don't want a round up that shows a collection of potato chips from a bag, Cheez Whiz dips, and plain ol' nachos. BORING! Let's get INNOVATIVE, my fellow chefs.

  • Do you have a special regional dish that you always serve to watch the Big Game? I want to see it!
  • If Doritos and Bud are you typical fare, why not take inspiration from your favorite team?
    • Minnesota Vikings fan? Why not make a Scandinavian entree!
    • Looking for the Chicago White Sox to take home the pennant? Make an all white dip!
    • Rooting for rugby stars the New Zealand All Blacks? A healthful fruit salad with Kiwi fruit is a fun play on words fit!
  • Not feeling that creative? Take those late harvest local fruits and veggies and twist that tailgating chili into something really special!
  • Maybe you have a spouse or roommate that insists on hogging the television all weekend, numbing their brain watching grown men or women be overpaid to play a game? Game Day for you might be all about a chance to have the kitchen to yourself for some fancy, not-suitable-for-a-stadium cuisine. Let's see that too!
Sound good? Great- here are the rules:

  • Anyone can play!
  • The theme will be picked by the host. Participants will make a dish that follows the theme (Game Day Dishes) and that somehow represents their home region- town, state, area. Representation can feature a local ingredient, be a traditional dish from your area, or be a creative twist.
  • Participants will have 3-4 weeks to complete their recipes and post them to their blog (or email the pics and text) and they notify the host via their preferred method as stated.
  • An explanation of your dish is required; it can be a story about the local custom or ingredient, how you came about eating/ making the recipe, or an explanation about how your creative dish fits the theme.
  • Please link back to this post in the host's blog.
  • Fresh and local foods are encouraged!
  • When the round is done, the host will announce their favorite dish by updating their blog. "Favorite" is completely subjective to the host- no one expects the host to make and taste test all the dishes, it is just something that strikes the host's fancy! The creator of the fave gets the honor of hosting the next round, if they so choose.
Deadline: Monday, October 13th

Please send the following to

  1. Your name
  2. Your location
  3. Your blog- name and URL (If you do not have a blog and wish to participate, please just send along a description of your dish and a brief story about it!)
  4. The permalink to your Game Day Dish
  5. A photo of your completed item
I look forward to seeing what wonderful treats you all come up with!