Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"Cooks for a Cause" & "Rain, Hail and Baked Beans" & Food Network Kitchens" - Pizza Meatloaf, Scalloped Potatoes, Boston Baked Beans

Date I made these recipes: October 25, 2009

Cooks for a Cause – Benefiting the Twin Cities Race For The Cure® Susan G. Komen Foundation
Published by: Favorite Recipes Press
© 2001
Recipe: Pizza Meat Loaf – submitted by Dan Terhaar – AM 1500 KSTP – p. 73

Rain, Hail and Baked Beans – a New England Seasonal Cook Book With Favorite Recipes from New England Inns by Duncan MacDonald and Robb Sagendorph
Published by: Ives Washburn, Inc.
© 1958
Recipe: Boston Baked Beans – p. 26

Food Network Kitchens Cookbook by the Food Network Kitchens
Published by: Meredith Press
ISBN: 069621854-2
Recipe: Scalloped Potatoes with Gruyere – p. 204

So some of you might be wondering what I was thinking pairing Pizza Meat Loaf with Scalloped Potatoes with Gruyere cheese (a cheese made in Switzerland) with Boston Baked Beans but reader, there was a method to my madness.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and my mother was a twenty-three-year survivor of breast cancer before she died from a massive stroke. I purchased the Cooks for a Cause book at one of my favorite thrift stores and voila! I had my recipe.

October is also my birthday month and my mom used to make my favorite meal every birthday: meatloaf, scalloped potatoes and baked beans (with angel food cake for dessert).

Now, we were not pizza meatloaf people, my mom making the simple meatloaf recipe probably from the back of a Quaker Oats container, nor did we have access to Gruyere cheese. In fact, there was absolutely no cheese involved in mom’s scalloped potatoes whatsoever. As to the baked beans, well, my mom “doctored up” (her words) some Campbell’s Pork and Beans with mustard, ketchup and a bit of brown sugar. And danged if they weren’t good!

These recipes were all a hit and oddly enough, the flavors didn’t clash as I feared they might. The eight-hour cooking time on the beans may seem long but they came out with the texture of canned beans only better. I like things that I can put in the oven and ignore for hours on end.

By the way Twin Cities’ residents, I would be remiss if I didn’t put in a plug for one of my favorite places to get used cookbooks (such as the Cooks for a Cause cookbook), Value Village. Value Village Thrift stores are run by Arc Greater Twin Cities, an organization that provides advocacy and support for individuals with developmental and mental difficulties and their families. Value Village is currently in Richfield, MN, Brooklyn Center, MN and New Hope, MN with a fourth store just weeks away from opening at 1650 White Bear Avenue in St. Paul. I have been volunteering for Arc for over 22 years and am chairing the grand opening of the new St. Paul store. Their stores are fun places to find everything under the sun—clothes, beddings, household items and books. I think the cookbook cost me a mere $1.00. The best thing about that cookbook is that all recipes were submitted by local TV and radio personnel who work(ed) for KSTP studios. Not only was the recipe good but it benefited two good causes - can’t beat that!

Please note that you must soak the beans overnight before preparing the bean recipe. I cooked the beans for 6 1/2 hours before cranking up the heat from 250 to 350 and then threw in the meatloaf and scalloped potatoes. I cooked the beans for ½ hour at 350, then pulled them out of the oven, and after the other stuff was cooling, put the beans in for another 1½ hour at 250. They were perfect!

Pizza Meat Loaf (serves 20 so you’ve gotta know I cut this recipe in half!)
3 ½ pounds ground beef
1 pound ground pork or pork sausage
1 (16-ounce) can pizza sauce
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
3 cups rolled oats
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup chopped onion
4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup ketchup (for the topping)

Combine the ground beef, ground pork, pizza sauce, tomato sauce, oats, eggs, onion, salt and pepper in a large bowl and mix well. Form into a flat lofa in a 10x14-inch baking pan. Spread the ketchup over the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 ¼ hours. Drain any accumulated juices and let stand for 20 minutes before serving. Note: I cooked it for about 1.75 hours and then let it sit for 20 minutes as the center still needed cooking.

Scalloped potatoes with gruyere – 4 to 6 servings
1 large clove garlic, smashed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 ¼ pounds Yellow Finn or other waxy potatoes (about 6), peeled (Note: I weighed my potatoes and definitely had more than 6; if you have a kitchen scale, you might want to use it for this recipe)
2 cups half-and-half
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese (about 2 ounces)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Rub the garlic all over the inside of an 8x8x2-inch casserole dish. Mince what is left of the garlic cloves. Smear some of the butter all over the inside of the dish.

Using a mandoline or vegetable slicer (or heck, just a plain, old kitchen knife), slice the potatoes about 1/8 inch thick and put them in a large saucepan with the mined garlic, remaining butter, the half-and-half, thyme, salt, pepper to taste and nutmeg. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring, until the mixture has thickened slightly, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish and shake the pan to distribute the potatoes evenly. Bake, uncovered, occasionally spooning some of the liquid over the top, until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 50 minutes (more like 75). Sprinkle the cheese over the top and bake until brown and bubbly, about 15 minutes more. Remove from the oven and let the casserole cool 10 minutes before serving.

Author’s note: Boiling the potatoes in the cooking liquid before layering them in a baking dish is the key to superior scalloped potatoes. As the half-and-half heats, it draws the starch from the potatoes and turns into a satiny sauce. To lighten up this classic (Ann’s note: why?!), use the same technique with chicken broth.

Boston Baked Beans – serves 8
1 quart pea beans (I used navy)
½ pound salt pork
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup molasses
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon dry mustard
Boiling water

Wash and pick over the beans. Soak OVERNIGHT in cold water. In the morning, drain, cover beans with fresh water, and simmer until skins break (about an hour). Put beans into bean pot or other casserole. Score pork and press into beans, filling pot until three-fourths full. Add sugar, molasses, salt and mustard. Cover with boiling water. Cover and bake 8 hours without stirring in slow oven (250). Keep the beans almost covered but not swimming in water. Remove the cover during the last half hour of baking.

By the way, my husband, who usually tolerates my attempts at baked beans, was all over this recipe. He said if all baked beans tasted like this, he could grow to like them!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

"Cake Love" - Chocolate Sponge Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Date I made this recipe: October 18, 2009

Cake Love – How to Bake Cakes from Scratch by Warren Brown
Published by: Stewart, Tabori & Chang
ISBN: 978-1-58479-662-6
Recipe: Chocolate Sponge Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting – p. 128-129 (cake) and 154-155 (frosting)

Time flies when you’re having fun.

My birthday was a couple of weeks ago and I decided to make my own birthday cake and was going to do it the next day but then I got derailed and so didn’t make it until a week later. Such is life. Let me just say that the saying “another year older and deeper in debt” has never been more true; my law school student loans are ridiculously high, such that I’m pretty sure that I will die before I pay them off. Lest you think I’m kidding, I’m now scheduled for payoff when I’m 74. Hahahaha…..

So speaking of law school, Warren Brown, author of today’s featured cookbook, had the right idea. Warren was a D.C. lawyer before returning to his first love, cooking. He founded a bakery called Cake Love and went on to have a show on the Food Network (that I loved, by the way) called Sugar Rush. I left business to go into law and have nada to show for it. Would that I had Warren’s expertise in baking or even cooking because then I might have been “a contenda” (just like Marlon Brando in the movie, On the Waterfront).

Anyway, when Warren came out with a book, I just had to have it and when I saw the picture of the chocolate sponge cake with buttercream frosting, I did indeed experience Cake Love.

Except, folks, I am not at all a cake kind of gal. But I am most definitely all about the frosting. (And in my world, you either like cake or you like the frosting but I almost never hear of anyone who likes both.) To me, the cake is just to conduit to the frosting and my, how I love the frosting. I am always the person who eats the corner piece with the most frosting…but when I say “eat” the corner piece, I really mean that I eat the frosting off the piece and leave the cake behind. My husband and I have a deal where I eat the top of the cake and he does cleanup on aisle 12 and it works beautifully.

As far as cakes go, this one was pretty good and I had several comments from tasters that it was more like a European cake than an American one…in other words, this cake was dense. Warren commented that sponge cake is often dry but I thought it was fine…what I ate of it, of course!

But oh, reader, the frosting, the frosting! It was positively divine and there was enough left over for me to nibble at for days to come. I have been known to eat frosting right out of a can and this is no exception. My only question is: does frosting freeze?!!

Take it from me, you will LOVE this CAKE.

Chocolate Sponge Cake – yields two 9-inch-round cakes
Cake Ingredients
8 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
1 cup (8 ounces) extra-fine granulated sugar. Note: Most bakers weigh their ingredients rather than measure them by cups, tablespoons, etc. and I followed suit. But be warned that eight ounces of sugar weighed is way more than 1 cup measured. I was worried that the cake would be too sweet but it was fine.

Dry Ingredients
8 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour (1/12 cups + 3 tablespoons)
1 ounce (1/4 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ ounces (3 tablespoons) confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla power (note: I found this locally at Byerly’s grocery store)

Liquid ingredients
1 ½ ounces (3 tablespoons) unsalted butter
Whiskey, 2 tablespoons (optional)

Frosting ingredients
Yolk mixture
6 large egg yolks
2 ounces (1/4 cup) extra-fine granulated sugar
2 tablespoons potato starch
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Milk Mixture
2 cups whole milk
12 ounces (1 ½ cups) extra-fine granulated sugar

Flavorings and Butter
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons chocolate-covered cocoa nibs (optional)

To make the cake:
Preheat oven to 350 (conventional) or 335 (convection). Set the rack in the middle of the oven.

Set out the ingredients and equipment. Crack the eggs and yolks into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the wire whip attachment and set aside. Measure the sugar into a bowl and set aside. Sift the flour directly into a bowl on a scale for accurate measuring. (Oops…it always helps to follow the instructions. I didn’t sift and everything was fine). Measure the other dry ingredients into a separate mixing bowl, add the flour and whisk for 10 seconds to blend. Set aside. (Note: I weighed all the flour and sugar dry ingredients as well as the cocoa and confectioner’s sugar but didn’t weight the teaspoon items such as salt and baking powder).

Measure the liquid ingredients into a separate bowl, w2hisk to combine and set aside.

Add the sugar to the eggs and yolks and whip on high speed until a thick ribbon is formed, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Reduce the mixer speed to medium for about 30 seconds to stabilize the foam. Stop the mixer and remove the bowl.

Using a large spoon, gently sprinkle a third of the dry ingredients evenly over the top of the foam and folk in with a rubber spatula. Repeat in two more additions until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated. This step should take a total of about 30 seconds.

Slowly fold in the liquid ingredients until combined. (Note: I had a tough time combining all the ingredients and so what I did was to mix in a little of the combined ingredients with the dry pockets at the bottom of my mixing bowl so that they were the same consistency - more or less – as the rest of the batter. When cooking, though, each pan formed a squishy little center where the remixed ingredients settled. Just keep an eye on the time and test for doneness at more frequent intervals and you’ll be fine.)

Prepare the pans; line the bottom of each pan with parchments but do not spray the sides.

Divide the batter equally between the prepared pans by depositing the batter into three separate areas of each pan and smoothing it out with the rubber spatula or an offset spatula. (Note: yeah, right! No offense, Warren, but come on, how on earth do you manage to get three separate areas in a 9-inch pan? I kind of plopped and eyeballed and it was fine).

Baking time is 20 minutes for those folks who live at sea level and 34 minutes for those who live in high-altitude areas.

Once the top of the cakes appear smooth, dry, don’t dent when touched, and are even in color, test for doneness by inserting a bamboo skewer in the center of a cake. When the skewer comes out clean, the cake is done. Remove the pans from the oven and place on a heat-resistant surface or wire rack.

Cool to room temperature, 25 to 30 minutes, before removing from pans. Use a small offset spatula to loosen each cake from the rim of the pan (or just use a dinner knife like I did—works great!). Place a cardboard cake circle or plate over the pan and invert. Remove the parchment from the bottom. Assemble immediately or wrap cakes tightly in plastic and store.

Cake storage: store an unfrosted cake under a cake dome at room temperature, or wrapped in plastic in the fridge, for up to 1 week. If frosted, store under a cake dome for up to 3 days, or in the fridge for up to 1 week. To store unfrosted cake longer, label, date, and store the plastic wrapped cake in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.

To make the buttercream:
Set out the ingredients and equipment.

Separate the yolks into a large bowl. Add the 2 ounces sugar, potato starch, and cocoa powder and set aside. Place a damp kitchen towel under the bowl to prevent it from sliding.

Measure the milk mixture ingredients into a 2-quart heavy bottomed saucepan and set aside.

Measure the flavorings into two separate bowls and set aside.

Bring the milk mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Once it reaches a boil, slowly pour the milk mixture into the yolk mixture, whisking slowly in small circles at first and ending with broader strokes until fully combined. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan.

Return the saucepan to the stove and heat over medium heat, whisking constantly but not rapidly, for about 4 minutes (3 minutes at high altitude). The key is to keep the pastry cream moving so it won’t scorch the bottom of the saucepan.

When you begin to see lava bubbles-large, slowly forming bubbles that burp steam- reduce the heat to the lowest setting and whisk briskly for 1 minute to pasteurize the pastry cream. Note: 1 minute is not enough as my mixture was still pretty soupy. Keep going until it starts to look like a frosting instead of a syrup.

Pour the pastry cream into the bowl of the standing mixture fitted with the wire whip attachment. Whip the pastry cream on high speed until it’s cooled to room temperature, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Reduce the mixer speed to medium-low and add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time followed by the cocoa nibs and vanilla extract. Whip on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes.

So okay, we’ve made the cake and the frosting and now it’s time for assembly. Warren would have you slice the two cake rounds into halves but I say “screw that.” And let me just say that frosting this thing was a nightmare. So I frosted as best I could and after cleaning up the ridiculous mess that the buttercream created, tossed the entire thing in the fridge without so much as tasting one bit. The day after I made the cake, I took half of it to work where it was gobbled up in a heartbeat. So sure, one could follow the rules but one could also go rogue and the results are the same: one damned good cake!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"Make It Minnesotan! Sesquicentennial Cookbook" - Omelets in a Baggie and Oven Hash Brown Potatoes

Date I made these recipes: October 17, 2009

Make it Minnesotan! – Sesquicentennial Cookbook – 150 Years of Recipes and Stories from Minnesota Kitchens by the Minnesota Sesquicentennial Cookbook Committee, edited by Patricia Miller, Foreword by Sue Zelickson
Published by: Nodin Press
ISBN: 978-1-932472-74-5
Recipe: Omelet in a Baggie, submitted by Jean Badovinac, Itasca County – p. 42-43
(By the way, I previously published a recipe from the Minnesota Centennial Cookbook. My how time flies!)

Minnesota-North Dakota Division – The National Secretaries Association [International]
Published by: The committee from the Minnesota-North Dakota Division – The National Secretaries Association [International]
© 1977
Recipe: Oven Hash Brown Potatoes, submitted by Randi Weisser, Moorehead, MN, Red River Chapter – p. 74

Today was Ladies’ Lunch day. As I previously blogged, I get together on a bi-monthly basis (more or less) with two former co-workers for a Meet and Eat (and gossip and bitch) session. (Not to be confused with a Walk and Talk that I do with other friends). When we started, there were six of us but now we are down to just three (the best of the bunch in my humble opinion).

A few months ago, Vicki had us over to her old house (she since bought a new one) and then Arlene had us over to her new apartment and well, you can see that my number was quickly up! So when the next luncheon date rolled around, I offered up my home and then set out to find something fun to make. (But note that after this, we are back to eating out in restaurants and having someone else do the cooking for us).

The omelet recipe was actually scoped out by Anna, the woman sitting next to me at a cooking class at Cooks on Crocus Hill. (How do I love that store? Let me count the ways!). Whenever you take a cooking class, Cooks gives you a discount coupon for an item in the store and I chose this cookbook. When Anna was looking through it, she found the recipe for an omelet boiled in a baggie and I was off and running.

Since I’m a big fan of potatoes, I decided to look for a brunch-style potato dish to accompany the omelets and oddly enough, selected it from a cookbook that one of Vicki’s friends had given me. In true casserole fashion, it featured two cans of cream soup and a small container of sour cream. No calories in that, no sir!

So Vicki brought some bread and Arlene brought some yummy fruit salad and I provided the omelets and potatoes and we had a great time getting caught up on what we were doing and of course, rehashing the good old days. (Actually, some of the years that we worked together were most certainly not good but that just gives us fodder for discussion).

As to the preparation of these items, as per usual (is it me, or what?) everything took longer than the recipes called for. The omelets took about 9 minutes to cook completely (and even then, a minute in the microwave was in order) and I think I went at least another half an hour on the potatoes, if not an hour. Each time I checked, the potatoes were crunchy and that wasn’t a good thing.

But other than that, we had fun boiling our omelets in a bag and just generally stuffing ourselves with food. I don’t know what I would do without these gals. We worked together for 8 years and just had a whale of a time even when the walls were tumbling down all around us.

If you have your own Ladies’ Lunch Bunch, I’m sure they’ll like these recipes.

Omelet in a Baggie - 1 serving
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon of your favorite cheese, shredded
1 tablespoon of chopped ham, cooked bacon, mushrooms or other filing ingredients (optional)
1 freezer zippered plastic bag (1 quart)(use heavy-duty freezer bag)
boiling water

Break eggs into a small mixing bowl. Using a wire whisk or a fork, lightly beat eggs. Add cheese and filling ingredient(s) and stir to combine. Carefully pour egg mixture into zippered. Seal bag then open seal about 1-inch and press to remove air from bag. Reseal firmly.

Fill a 2-quart saucepan about 2/3 full with water. Cover and place on heat; bring to a full boil. Place the filled zippered bag into boiling water. Boil egg mixture for 5 minutes (Note: more like 9-10 minutes). Using tongs, carefully remove the zippered bag from the water. Open the bag and roll the omelet onto a plate. When the omelet is done it slides easily out of the bag.

Oven Hash Brown Potatoes - no serving size given
1 large bag frozen hash brown potatoes
1 green pepper (I used red)
1 onion, diced
1 can cream of potato soup
1 can cream of celery soup
1 small carton cultured sour cream

Salt and pepper to taste. (Note: The instructions don't say but combine the ingredients first before salt and peppering!). Put in greased 9x13 inch pan. Sprinkle with paprika and parsley. Bake, uncovered, for 1 1/2 hours at 300. (Make that about 2 hours at 350 or until potatoes are done).

Saturday, October 10, 2009

"Best of the Best - QVC Family Cookbook" - Easy Crockpot Lentil Soup

Date I made this recipe: October 4, 2009

Best of the Best – QVC Family Cookbook – Favorite Family Recipes from QVC Viewers, Guests, and Friends – edited by Gwen McKee and Barbara Moseley
Published by: Quail Ridge Press
ISBN: 1-893062-72-4
Recipe: Easy Crockpot Lentil Soup – p. 59 – Recipe submitted by Gail Bradshaw, Chesapeake, VA

My friend, Carol (also known as “Tall”) is a self-proclaimed “shopper-head.” This woman loves to shop, shop, shop until she drops. And not one to be snobby, she is a big fan of QVC, a cable TV home shopping network that is now online as well.

So when I found this QVC cookbook at a used bookstore in town, I had to have it. Actually, I probably should have given it to her but I have a recipe blog and she doesn’t so I win.

Unlike Carol, I have never warmed up to QVC but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate a bargain. In fact, I was prompted to pull out this book yesterday after spending a bit of time emailing her (we have not yet progressed to Face Book postings) that I scored a jacket on sale at Chico’s. To me, scoring something on sale is a rare event but to her, it’s an everyday thing. The fact that she is 6 foot tall (thus, the nickname) and finds stuff at all, much less on sale, slays me but she does.

My mother also appreciated a sale, and my dad used to tease her to no end by yelling “Sale!” There’s a sale!” when we were in a department store. My mother had the opposite problem of Tall’s – small in stature but not quite petite. And yet, she too, came back with bags of clothes. Of course, like all women around the world she “never had a thing to wear!” (My mother’s second-favorite phrase, usually directed toward my dad was “Oh, you’re not going to wear THAT are you?” You know you are your mother’s daughter when you find yourself saying the same thing to your husband.).

But I digress…this recipe book was fun to leaf through because it had many photos of QVC employees in action (there is nothing like the “in action” photos that companies use in their communication material. My favorite has to be “poised with a pen.”). I went with today’s recipe because it allowed me to use up the cabbage I bought for my vegetable soup a couple of weeks ago and it involved a crockpot. I mean, what great invention is that – plug it in and leave it alone! I am all over that instruction. (If your sense of humor is like mine though, the fact that a crockpot recipe was deemed “Easy” made me laugh. Is there such a thing as a “Hard” or “Difficult” crockpot recipe?)

Easy Crockpot Lentil Soup – serving size not listed
1 package dried lentils
3 stalks celery
1 large onion
1 large potato
1 ½ cups prewashed, prepackaged cole slaw mix (cabbage and carrots). (As noted above, I used up some pregrated purple cabbage and then just added some carrots to it to come up with a cole slaw mix)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
1 (14 1/2–ounce) can chicken broth
1 (10 ¾-ounce) can condensed chicken soup (any kind)
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes

Spray crockpot with cooking spray. Wash dried lentils and place in crockpot. Wash and coarsely chop vegetables, then add to crockpot. Add cole slaw mix directly from the package.

Sprinkle all spices over ingredients in crockpot. Pour broth, soup, and tomatoes into crockpot; fill crockpot within one inch of top with water. Cook on high 2 hours. Then turn crockpot to LOW and cook at least 6 more hours.

Interesting variations: Vary the flavor of the canned soup (such as creamed soup, chicken and rice, chicken noodle, ramen noodle soup, etc.). Add additional vegetables (such as mushrooms, broccoli, squash or cauliflower). Vary the type of dried beans (such as split peas, blackeye peas, or navy beans.).

NOTE: Well, folks, either my crockpot is broken (doubt it but it is old) or the author underestimated the cooking time because after 8 hours of cooking, 2 on high and 6 on low, the lentils were still pretty firm. And so I put them on the stove in a regular soup pot and cooked them for about an hour more and they were still firm. Hmmm….lentils are usually pretty easy to cook so I don’t know what happened. The flavor was still good even if it took much longer to cook than I planned for!