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I saw this Pumpkin Roll on A Recipe A Day’s blog and saved it to bake when I had some pumpkin available.  Well after baking the inaugural autumn pumpkin pie, I had half a can of spiced pumpkin puree leftover.  What to do?  This was more than I needed to try Nancy’s recipe.

The original recipe calls for plain pumpkin and calls out the spices to add to the batter.  I’ve shortcut this by using pie pumpkin puree and added a little extra pumpkin pie spice.  For the filling, I used a ready made vanilla icing (for some reason I have four containers of this stuff in my pantry!) foregoing the cream cheese and hopefully a few calories from fat (see the note below!).  The result was a delicate rolled cake with a good amount of sweet filling to hold it all together.  If you prefer less sweetness, visit the original recipe post for the cream cheese filling.

Ready To Serve Creamy Vanilla Frosting  (Duncan Hines)Calories: 280   Total Fat: 10g

Per serving:  28 calories and 1 gram of fat

Cream Cheese (Philadelphia)  –  8oz:

Calories: 800   Total Fat: 72g

Confectioners’  Sugar  – 1 cup:

Calories: 389  Total Fat: 0.1g

Butter – 6tbsp:

Calories: 600 Total Fat: 66g

—————————————–

Total Calories of the filling: 1789

Total Fat of the filling: 138.1g

Per serving 179 calories and 13.8 grams of fat

I think the type of pumpkin used makes no difference in the end, there was a soft spicy note to the cake.  If you have an abundance of pumpkins in your garden, roast them up yourself and use that instead of canned pumpkin, I love fresh pumpkin in pies so this should be equally delicious.

*

Pumpkin Roll

Adapted from A Recipe a Day

pumpkin roll

* Note * I suggest baking and assembling the night before you intend to serve this roll, keep it wrapped in plastic wrap once assembled.  This will help it hold shape and sort of remoisturize.

  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar (to sprinkle on towel ~ use more if needed)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin pie filling
  • 1/2 can of Duncan Hines Classic Vanilla Frosting or similar

Preheat oven to 375°.

Butter a 15 x 10″ jelly-roll pan then line with parchment paper. Butter and flour the paper. On a flat surface sprinkle a thin, cotton kitchen towel with powdered sugar and set aside.

Mix the dry ingredients in small bowl.  Beat eggs and sugar in large mixer bowl until thick. Beat in the pumpkin pie filling. Stir in the flour mixture. Spread evenly into prepared pan.

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched, do not over bake. (If using a dark-colored pan, begin checking at 11 minutes.) Immediately loosen and carefully turn cake on to the towel sprinkled with powdered sugar. Carefully peel off the paper. Roll up the cake and towel together, starting with narrow end. Cool on a wire rack.

Once cooled, unroll the cake and towel carefully.  Spread the cake with the vanilla frosting and roll it back up without the towel this time.  Wrap the cake in plastic wrap to help it keep its shape.

Calorie and fat information was taken from http://www.livestrong.com/thedailyplate/

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Are you a college student or recently moved out on your own and find yourself in the fast food trap?  Making a meal for yourself and maybe a friend or two can be easy and tasty, and gosh darn it – good for you!  Cooking does not require fancy equipment, expensive ingredients, nor cook books.  You’ve been eating since you were born, silly, use the flavours you like so far and run with them.

I’ve always craved sweet over savoury.  When I moved away for school I started with sweet potatoes, chicken with pineapple or oranges, and grilled cheese sandwiches (Mom taught us how to make them when I was little so I could at least manage to work a stove and one pan).  Simple, yes.  Easy, of course.  Exciting?  Not so much.  Since breaking out on my own and away from the bland monotony of meals on the farm, I wanted to try something new every chance I got.  This strategy is good for expanding the palette but not so good for honing a recipe to its peak of culinary mastery.  Now I’m not trying to turn you into one of those chefs on TV, but everyone should have a stash of reliable and quick dishes in their noggin.  Or in a small coil bound notebook they’ve had since grade 9.

Maybe you’ve been around the kitchen a few times already.  And lately you have no inclination to cook?  Well get in your kitchen, or take over a friends’ for an evening and make something for yourselves!

Here are five easy ways to get cooking tonight.

1. Cheap Eats!

Ground Turkey with Gravy and Mashed Potatoes

Fry (on medium heat) a pound of ground turkey in a little oil in a large frying pan (at least 10″ in diameter) or use a wide bottomed pot.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper as it cooks.  Stir gently.

Peel 3 potatoes (Russet – the dark brown-skinned ones, be sure to buy firm potatoes).  Cut the potatoes into large chunks that are about the same size.  Put them into a pot of cold water and turn up the heat.  Lower the heat to medium-high when it begins to boil.  Do not put a lid on the pot or it will boil over.  Let the potatoes cook while you watch the turkey in the other pan.

Mix 1 packet of gravy mix (like McCormick’s Turkey Gravy) with half a coffee mug of water (about 2/3 cup if you want to measure it).  Have a can of cream of chicken or mushroom soup ready to deploy (open the can).

When the pink hue of the turkey meat is gone it’s time to add the sauce.  Pour the can of cream of whatever soup in the pan with the meat, follow with the gravy/water mixture from the coffee mug.  Stir to dissolve the soup into the water.  When this bubbles turn down the heat to low.  Now check your potatoes.

Potatoes are mashable when they can be stabbed with a fork and they fall off the tines easily.  Turn off the heat.  Pour off the water and add a splash of milk and some butter.  Add salt now if you forgot to salt the water for boiling the taters.  Mash using whatever you have available: fork, ricer, big spoon. Although the process goes faster if you have a masher.

Serve as pictured above.  (You are half way to a Sheppard’s Pie btw!)

Cost: about $6  ($1.50 per serving)

2. Soup

Beef Soup

Soups are very forgiving.  They can have just a handful of ingredients or a wide variety when you are trying to use up veggies hanging out in the fridge.  My thought on soup is this: all you need is a good base.

I make my chicken stock from bones and scraps of veggies that I collect in the freezer until there is enough to fill a stock pot to boil up at stock.  But you could buy a box, can or powder to create the soup base.  Try looking in the international foods isle at your grocery store, you can find some interesting stuff to use as your base.  Even a pack of Ramen Noodles can get you started on a tight budget buy adding some meat and/or veggies to the water for the noodles.

Try any of these recipes:

Texas Beef Soup

Dill Pickle Soup

MrsWheelBarrow’s Mushroom Soup

Cream of Poblano and Turkey Stew

Caldo de Res

3. Baked Salmon with Garlic

Salmon Baked with Garlic

If you like fish and you can afford to buy a pound or two at the market, go for this recipe.

Cover a baking sheet with foil.  Place a salmon fillet on the foil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and freshly smashed garlic.  Bake at 350ºF for 20-25 minutes.  Serve with rice or pasta and a salad.

4. Roast Chicken Breasts with Root Vegetables

Chicken Breasts and Root Vegetables

Cut some potatoes (white or red) into wedges and layer them into a casserole dish or some sort of oven-proof pan with sides.  Season with salt, pepper, and maybe an Italian herb blend?  Add baby carrots or peeled adult carrots.  Lay chicken breasts that still have the bone attached on the potatoes and carrots.  Rub the skin with oil or butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Ready, Set, Roast!

Roast in the oven for 30 minutes at 425ºF. Cover with foil and return to a 375ºF oven for another 20 – 30 minutes.  (Always check the temperature of your chicken at the thickest part, it should read at least 180ºF)

Full recipe is here.

5. Something Sweet to End the Meal

What about dessert?

I can hear your thoughts: I can’t bake!  Nonsense!  Try a crisp.

Take some sliced fruit (apple, apricot, peaches, blueberries, or rhubarb if you are luck enough to live where it grows like weeds) or buy a can of pie filling then top it with a crumbly lumpy mixture from my recipe here.

It’s perfect with its imperfections.

Rhubarb Cookie Crisp

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Armed with two little kids, a dog, and a cooler full of my “essentials” from the kitchen, we headed out to the ranch for Thanksgiving.  The plan was to arrive before stores closed the day before Thanksgiving and pick up the fresh ingredients for a home style family dinner.  The Grandparents had a turkey thawing.

Plans are great until they change.

Grandma decided to run to the store for me, so I handed her a short list of key ingredients.

green beans

french onions (big can)

cornbread

wild rice

mushrooms (cremini)

Emphasis was made on the fried onions, they should be with the canned vegetables or near spices.

About half an hour later I get a frantic phone call, it’s Grandma.  “Are those onions flaky?  In the spice isle?”  I described it as a tin with a plastic lid, I could swear this was like telling someone who has never used these things before.  Shoot, even the employees at the store could not help to find french fried onions.  At Thanksgiving!

It sounded like she located this alien substance and said she would be home shortly.  I continued prepping what I could for the following day.  At the time it was an apple crisp (an adaptation to the pear crisp in Paula Deen’s cookbook) which I should have waited to bake until dinner time.

This is what I was presented with…

Not french fried onions.  Not what I expected.  So the plan changed.

I took the leek reserved for stuffing and sautéed it with a little onion and butter.  This topped the casserole of green beans and mushroom soup.  For crunch that is now missing from the equation I made fresh bread crumbs using 12 grain bread slices, lightly toasted then ground up in the blender.  The last thing to go on my green bean casserole was Romano cheese.  I like a slight sharpness to the topping and the cheese would have been added had we had the french fried onions.  Bake until bubbly and heated through.

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Little Sister helped make the gravy, it was strenuous work for a two year old…

The gravy making was enjoyable for both of us, unlike the day before when we were making lunch and she poured the dry pasta into the cup of milk standing by.  She must have misunderstood me when I said “next we add the pasta”, she litterally added the pasta to the milk and butter in the cup.  I meant to say “next we cook the pasta”.  Toddlers and young children take everything you say to heart, so chose words wisely!

325ºF for 3 hours (14.5 lb gobbler)

  • 4 Tbsp butter, at room temperature
  • 6 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
  • 2 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 2 tsp rubbed sage or fresh chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp caraway seeds

Combine the butter and herbs and spices in a small bowl.  I like to work it with my fingers to get every bit of butter spiked with flavour.  Create pockets under the skin of the turkey, begin at the breasts near the cavity.  Try to make the skin loose around the drumsticks too.  Evenly shove the butter into the pockets, pressing on the outside of the skin to distribute.  Any leftover butter and be smeared over the skin.

Next, fill the cavity.  I don’t usually stuff the bird with dressing, instead I use large pieces of onion, whole herbs and spices, sometimes citrus fruit cut in half.  The filling will eventually scent the broth so choose a complimentary set of flavours.  Today I used fresh rosemary springs and half a white onion with salt and pepper.

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This was a big weekend for us.  Little Sister turned two and we celebrated her life with a trip to the San Antonio Zoo!

Since we were out all day, I didn’t have time to bake a cake.  We stopped on the way home and picked up a chocolate and vanilla layered cake.  To. Die. For.  I have to find someone who works at the HEB bakery to find out how they made this cake.  From the bottom it had chocolate cake, chocolate cream, vanilla cream, vanilla cake, another layer of the creams, then a duplicate of the first four layers topped with a strawberry.  I’m not a fancy cake baker, at least at this point, so I leave it to the experts for now.  I can appreciate the time it takes to create all those layers!

Paula Deen was in Austin with her NY Times #1 best seller Southern Cooking Bible.  Hugh Acheson, soon to appear on Top Chef as a judge, moderated the conversation with Paula within the beautiful Paramount Theater.  This was my first visit to the Paramount and I’m looking for a reason to return.  It’s not much bigger than the average movie theater in town.  Sitting in the lower level gives an intimate feeling with the person on stage.  Today, that person was one of my Food Network idles!  Paula is very funny, she said she made Matt Lauer nervous when she appeared on the Today Show recently.  Her favorite food is potatoes, and she told the audience about how much she loves her garden and chicken coop at home.  Southern Cooking is not all about fried food, it’s comfort food, it’s food made with love and purpose.  “If you die, your family will get a pie.  If you have a baby, you get a pie.  And if you just moved into the neighborhood…. you get pie!” This was part of Paula’s way of explaining what Southern cooking means to her.  And Micheal’s favorite food?  Oxtail.  I actually have two of her cook books and she signed both of them 🙂  I missed Alton Brown (because we were at the zoo) but I’m sure he will be back to Austin again, all the authors love Texas hospitality!

While leaving, I stopped to see what the fuss was about at the Paramount.  Another author?  No.  Val Lauren was there with director James Franco to open his new film Sal.

Have a look….

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And “Hi” to Sonia, Claudia, and Cassie (I hope I caught your name right!), it was very nice to meet you at the book fair!

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Hearing about the wildfires back home was torment enough, this time the disaster can be seen from my current home in Texas.

We have one of the worst droughts since 1925, as we surpassed that 86-year-old record many days ago.  Signs along the I-35 corridor flash EXTREME WILDFIRE CONDITIONS… CONSERVE WATER.  Over 500 homes have been destroyed by the flames, and there’s no end in sight.  This summer’s heat wave sucked the moisture out of the trees, grass and the Earth itself.  Everything surrounding the fires only feeds its fury.  Meanwhile firefighters from all across the state have converged to help fight these fires.  The plume of smoke can be seen for miles.

As we returned home from our Labour Day weekend, helicopters with water headed east and out of view from the car window.

Tomorrow we will return to the recipes you all tune in for.  For today, please keep our neighbors in your prayers.

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Kitchen toys are so much fun to share with the kids, at least the safe ones.  They love to push buttons and turn handles.  Big Brother was my pasta sous chef for the day, in charge of turning the hand crank of the pasta machine and using scraps of pasta to make his own noodles.  He is obsessed with Kung Fu Panda, and easily convinced he should eat lots of noodles, just like Po.

Little Sister can’t keep still now.  She has learned the tools of the toddler trade: chairs and stools.  These tools are especially useful to see what is cooking.  Any long utensil extends the toddler toolkit to be able to scoot objects off high surfaces and spilling them on the floor.

Big Brother and I worked on the ravioli.  I roasted the softball-sized acorn squash from the garden box with salt and pepper until it was soft.  The flesh of the squash was combined with fresh basil and Pecorino cheese.

The pasta dough is easy to prepare: I used about 2 cups of semolina flour and 2 large eggs.  Pour the flour on the counter and make a well in the middle.  Take off your pointy rings, they will become dough balls and you will tear the pasta sheets as you handle them.   Mix the eggs and slowly incorporate the flour, you might not use all of it.  Knead for about 1 minute until the dough springs back when you poke it.  Cover with a glass bowl and rest for 30 minutes.  Cut slices about an inch thick to begin squishing it down to size, either in a pasta roller or with a rolling pin.  Cut the sheets into squares, roughly the same size squares for even cooking.

Too much water around the rim of the first two ravioli caused a sticky mess.  From then on, I used a sprinkle of semolina flour on the work surface and very little water to seal the edges.

After the squash filling was used up, Big Brother had the chance to make more noodles as I boiled the finished ravioli.

Voilà, fresh ravioli!

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Big Brother is officially a student and is off and running in his first week of Kindergarten.  That means there really is a bedtime now, no two ways about it.  I feel rushed and Big Brother is still learning how to tell time, he is trying at least.  There is a way to be on time for dinner though, get out your crock-pot!  If yours is anything like mine, it was housed in the bottom of a cupboard and is missing its lid.

Apologize to your topless crock-pot and fit it with another lid.  Tin foil and a large kitchen towel may be substituted if needed.

Before you go to sleep tonight, fill up the crock-pot.  Option 1) Cover and refrigerate until morning, then put it on LOW whilst you work, or 2) Turn the crock-pot on LOW now so you can turn it off before it burns dinner, then refrigerate just before leaving for work.

I’m going with option 2.

Carne Guisada (before)

A certain someone likes mushrooms, so those are the extra special ingredient which would not normally appear in a traditional Carne Guisada.  Be your own chef, right?  Well that’s what I intend to do…

Midnitechef’s Carne Guisada (via Crock-pot)

  • 1 pkg Carne Guisada seasoned beef (approx. 1.5 lbs)
  • 1/2 onion, large dice
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, large dice
  • 1 roasted Poblano pepper, seeded peeled and diced
  • 1 15oz canned tomato + 2 cans water
  • 1 cup sliced baby Portobello mushrooms
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 12 baby carrots, sliced crosswise

Combine everything but the beef in the pot, mix to distribute.  Add the beef and stir slightly, add more water to just cover.  Set the crock-pot to LOW and cook for 6-8 hours.

Serve with rice, tortillas, avocado, lime wedges, and a tall glass of <insert your favorite beverage here>!

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Another spur of the moment short adventure close to home yesterday in Lockhart.

I finally managed to get everyone in the car early enough on a Saturday morning to get to the farmer’s market at Barton Creek Mall.  This is quite a hike from our house, nearly 30 minutes at 60mph.  Not exactly the closest market and probably the most retail of any I’ve visited.  The only thing we bought were two homemade fruit popsicles at 2.50$ a pop.  There’s not enough sunblock in the world to save me and Little Sister from the summer sun, especially Texas summer sun.  We had to pack up and skeedaddle as soon as the mango popsicles melted and consumed.  I was covered in bits of mango from Little Sister’s hands and face, I’m her napkin.  I wish I had bought some peaches, but there should be plenty in my regular grocery store as many local orchards sell to them.

Hubby mentioned Lockhart after we saw a piece about the best BBQ coming from Lockhart and all the German settlers of that area.  I was all for it.  BBQ here we come!

There were two predominant BBQ joints we saw: Black’s and Kreuz Market. Lines were long because we arrived just in time for the lunch rush, if there’s such thing as rushing in this heat, in this sleepy Podunk town.

(Above: Black’s BBQ       Below: Kreuz Market)

The queue was out the door at Black’s so we doubled back to Kreuz Market.  The motorcycle weekend festival is happening in Austin and it attracts thousands of hogs and their riders every year.  Many bikers venture to surrounding areas, including our suburbia and Lockhart.  A few bikers arrived as we did so I snapped a photo or two.

The Biker Co-patrons

Bikes @ Kreuz Market

Pepper was part of the clan today and she was happy to meet someone smaller than her.  A friendly dog owner was waiting outside the market for her family, attending to the two black and white Chihuahuas she had with her.  Little Sister loves all dogs, and Chihuahuas resemble puppies even as they age.  The lady was once a resident of Lockhart and missed the small town BBQ, we asked what she recommended at Kreuz… beef ribs (which are not common), prime rib and beef shoulder.  We tried the shoulder along with some ham and sausage.  All of it was delicious.

To our most pleasant surprise, a classic car show was happening within some sort of summer festival down town.  I jumped out of the car to quickly take some pictures of the neat old cars.  I thought my dad would appreciate some of these, as he loves antique cars and still has at least one from his collection.  His car looks very similar to this one:

Every little town in Texas has at least one antique shop, Lockhart was no exception.  The last stop of our introductory tour was the Antique store. They had three old carriages in the back storage area.  Those snapshots are included in the slide show below…

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Greens Remix

Have you ever had greens like this?

Roll up the trimmed greens and slice thusly…

Add those ribbons of nature’s goodness to a pan of vegetables, beans and a can of tomatoes, then wilt ever so slightly.

Top with browned italian sausages and bake for a while.  Cover the roasting pan to force everyone to meld.

Serve over freshly made rice and enjoy with your loved ones.

Full recipe…

Collard Green Oven Stew

  • 1 lb sausage (mild Italian, chicken, or merguez)
  • 3 heads of collard greens, stems removed
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 1 (15oz) can white beans, drained well
  • 1 (15oz) can diced tomatoes (with garlic, green chilies, or onion add a bit more flavour)
  • 1 tsp Greek Seasoning (or oregano and thyme)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 375ºF.

In a Dutch oven or roasting pan with a lid, brown the sausage on both sides.  Remove from the pan and drain off any excess fat, the amount of rendered fat will depend on the type of sausage used.

Add a little olive oil and the onions, sauté.

Add the red pepper, carrot, greek seasoning, salt, pepper and the strips of collard greens.  Toss it around.  Add the beans and tomatoes, plus a couple tablespoons of water.

Top with the sausage and cover.  Bake for 1 hour.

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