Saturday, December 27, 2008

How to make store-bought soup mix taste homemade

I love Bear Creek soup mixes. They provide an excellent foundation for cream-based soups that can otherwise be time-consuming and challenging. And we all know that I am not above taking store-bought meals and tweaking them!

My favorite soup mix is the Bear Creek Potato and Cheese soup. I've tried a few different modifications, and my favorite was the one I made tonight.

-1 package Bear Creek Potato and Cheese soup mix (you can find it at Target)
-4 c chicken stock
-4 c water
-1 small shallot, minced
-Salt and pepper
-2 tbsp olive oil
-1 bottle of beer (whatever is in your fridge)
-2 tbsp Worchestershire sauce
-1 tsp paprika
-1 c shredded cheddar cheese
-2 c potatoes, whatever you have lying around, peeled and diced

In a large soup pot or dutch oven, sautee the shallots over medium heat in olive oil, salt and pepper, until it they are soft and translucent. Add the stock and water, bump the heat to high, and let it come to a boil. Whisk in the soup mix until you can't see any lumps. Once it's lump-free, add all of the remaining ingredients. Bring the heat to low and let it simmer for at least 30 minutes, stirring the bottom occasionally so it doesn't brown.

Use a potato masher, whisk or hand blender to mash up as many solids as you can from the soup - the smoother, the better!

Another variation I have tried is very similar to the one above, only without the beer and Worchestershire, and adding other cheeses along with the cheddar. Parmesan gives it bite, blue cheese adds a wonderful tangy taste, the options are endless. For more of a "twice-baked potato" flavor, throw some crispy bacon on top just as you serve it!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Menu

I can't wait to make this dinner!

Crown roast of lamb w/ a dijon sauce
Rosemary roasted potatoes
Green beans w/ shallots
Homemade applesauce

I feel like it could use one more thing but I'm not sure what...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Split Pea Soup

This one is my own - I wound up with far too much liquid the first time, so I scaled way back. Feel free to mess around with the proportions and figure out what works best for you.

-1 pound split peas
-1 c carrots, diced
-1/2 c onion, finely diced
-4 c chicken stock
-2 tbsp olive oil
-1 tsp salt
-2 tsp pepper
-1 tsp garlic salt
-1/2 tsp ground sage
-2 tsp fresh thyme
-ham hock

Wash the peas, then soak overnight.

In a large soup pot, sautee the carrots and onion over medim-high heat in olive oil, add the salt and pepper. Once the onions are translucent, add the rest of the seasonings. Continue to sautee for another minute or two, then add the stock, ham hock and drained peas.

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 2 hours. Before serving, remove the ham and pick off any good meat to toss back into the soup.

If your soup is too runny, strain off some of the excess water. Then, remove another 1/2 cup of liquid, whisk a tablespoon of corn starch into it, and add back to the soup. That should help it thicken.

One idea I had was to actually cook a few slices of bacon, then sautee the veggies in the bacon fat. But I didn't have any bacon to try it - let me know if you do, and how it turned out.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It's been a little slow around here

Sorry about that! I'm working again (finally) and I have been a little lazy about trying out new recipes and making new things. I promise, I'll be back with something tasty and wonderful soon!

(I'm thinking about making a Grunt, has anybody tried it?)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Candy Cane Ice Cream

OMG make this ice cream!

Go to your local fancy Martha wannabe store and buy an ice cream maker and then MAKE THIS ICE CREAM.

-2 large eggs
-3/4 c sugar
-2 c heavy cream
-1 c milk
-2 tsp vanilla extract
-3 tsp peppermint extract
-1 c well-crushed candy canes (about 1 box)

Using your stand mixer with the whisk attachement, beat the eggs until they are fluffy.
Add the sugar, a little at a time, and mix for 5 minutes. Set your mixer to low and slowly pour in the dairy. (Note: you sub the dairy for 3 cups of non-fat half and half. You will lose some of the creaminess, but then your ice cream is practically fat-free). Mix well, then add the extracts and mix again.

Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker, mix according to the manufacturer's instructions. When the ice cream is done, stir in the candy canes. Freeze for at least 2 hours. Should make about 2 pints.

Then, enjoy the candy cane goodness!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Bread: the best way to spend a lazy day

Oh man I love bread.

Do you think Martha has a version of this bread that is carb-free? Because I have a major addiction.

Honey white bread:

-1/2 c warm water (Lukewarm! I actually killed my yeast when making rolls on Thanksgiving because it was too hot and had to serve hockey puck rolls to my family)
-2 pkgs dry yeast
-1 tsp sugar
-1 1/2 c milk
-6 tbsp butter
-2 tbsp honey
-2 egg yolks, beaten
-About 6 c flour
-1 tbsp salt

Trust me: bread is not as scary as you think it is. But you do have to pay attention to it, or you will end up with hockey pucks. Also, I need to come clean about something: I have no idea how to make bread by hand. I rely on my stand mixer w/ the dough hook.

Turn your oven to "warm" or whatever the lowest setting is. Warm up your mixing bowl for a few minutes before adding the yeast, water and sugar. Yeast loves being warm...just remember not to kill it with too much heat. Stir and leave it alone for 5 minutes.

In a small saucepan, warm up the milk and butter until the butter has melted and the liquid is about 110 degrees. Fit your yeast bowl into the stand mixer w/ the dough hook. Turn the mixer on low and slowly add the milk mixture and honey to the bowl.

With your mixer on low, add the egg yolks, 3 cups of flour and the salt for 5 minutes, then add 2 more cups of flour.

Put the mixer on medium and knead for 8 minutes, adding bits of flour every few minutes so the dough doesn't stick to the bowl. Don't go over 6 cups!

Dump out the dough onto a floured surface, and knead by hand for about a minute. Wash and grease the mixer bowl while the dough rests. Add the dough to the bowl, turn it over a few times so the top gets some of the grease. Turn off the oven (so it stays warm but doesn't get too hot) and cover the bowl with a damp towel. Put the bowl into your oven for about an hour, until the dough doubles in size.

Once your dough has risen, punch it down once and divide in half. Grease two 9x5" loaf pans, shape the dough to fit, add to the pans. Cover with a damp towel and it's back into the oven to rise for another hour.

Remove the loaf pans, preheat the oven to 350. Brush the tops with an egg wash (one egg beaten with a few tablespoons of milk or water), bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Let them cool on a rack, not in the loaf pan.

Yummy variation: Cinnamon swirl bread

Follow the recipe above until you get to the part where you punch down the dough.

Instead, divide it in half and gently roll each half into a small rectangle. Mix together about 3/4 cup of sugar with 4 or 5 tablespoons of cinnamon. Spread soft butter into the center of each rectangle, not quite going to the edges. Sprinkle a healthy dose of the cinnamon sugar onto the butter, then roll your rectangle into a loaf shape. Let rise for an hour and bake according to the instructions above. YUM!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Apple, Pear and Cranberry pie



-1 and 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
-1/3 c shortening
-1 tsp sugar
-1 tsp salt
-3 c flour
-1/2 c ice water

This is a very easy pie crust, I promise! It's meant to be made in a food processor, but if your bowl isn't large enough you can just divide the ingredients in half.

Dice the butter and shortening and put it in the freezer for several minutes. While it's chilling, add the dry ingredients to the food processor and pulse a few times to mix it all up. Then, add the cold butter/shortening and pulse several times until you see pea-sized chunks all mixed up. Turn the processor on and slowly pour in the water until the dough begins to form a ball.

Turn out the dough onto a floured surface (or cheat and use a Silpat, which is so handy), form a ball, divide in half, form that into two discs and wrap separately in plastic wrap. Refridgerate for at least 30 minutes to let the dough rest and to keep the butter from melting.


-3 large granny smith apples
-2 large anjou pears
-1/2 c craisins
-1/2 c sugar
-1/4 c flour
-Juice of 1 lemon
-1 tsp cinnamon
-1 tsp nutmeg
-1 tsp allspice

Soak the craisins in hot water for a few minutes, until they plump up. Drain off the water. Peel and slice the pears and apples, toss with the lemon juice in a bowl and let it sit for at least ten minutes (that lets the fruit drain off some of the liquid and your pie won't do that weird dome crust thing).

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, salt and spices. Add all of the fruit and the liquid, stir everything together.

Okay now I'm not going to get into the whole pie assembly bit because I doubt I could explain it well, so just assemble your pie as you see fit (remember to vent the top!). Personally, I can't crimp to save my life so I use those cute little leaf cut-outs to decorate the edges.

Whisk together one egg and two tablespoons of milk. Brush the egg wash over the pie and sprinkle the top with sugar (to make it nice and shiny!).

Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes to one hour, until everything is nice and golden brown. Cool completely before diving in!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Let's talk pie

I need some good pie ideas, please! I have a fairly decent apple, but beyond that I just make stuff up.

Send me pie ideas!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Like going home...

My mom's friend Therese is in town, and we spent the afternoon in my mom's kitchen, making amazing Italian food. It reminded me of hanging out in the kitchens of all of my Italian friends' mothers. We made red sauce with pork, turkey meatballs, and handmade gnocchi with ricotta cheese instead of potato (makes them less mushy). I'm not going to share any recipes on this blog, since they belong to Therese and her family, but I may ask her permission to share the gnocchi recipe at some point, because it was freaking incredible.

The best part? We made so much food that I don't have to cook dinner tonight!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Turkey: not just for Thanksgiving!

I totally baked a turkey on Friday for no reason other than they were on sale at Walmart (so un-Martha and yet she sells like EVERYTHING there).

It was awesome and didn't take too long because it was a small turkey (8 pounds) and I brined - total cook time was about 2 1/2 hours.

BTW: Brining is fantastic, it keeps the turkey moist and cuts down on cooking time. However, the pan drippings can end up being salty and not great for gravy.

Turkey brine:

-1/2 c sea salt
-2 tbsp cracked pepper
-2 tbsp rosemary (dried is fine for all of the herbs in this recipe)
-2 tbsp sage
-2 tbsp thyme
-2 gallons of water

Over medium heat, combine the salt and one gallon of water until the salt it totally dissolved. Pour the warm water into a very large stockpot and add the herbs and one gallon of very cold water.

Rinse your turkey off completely and add to the brine mix - make sure that it's totally submerged. Brine for at least 4 hours in the refridgerator.


-1 large lemon, quartered
-1 or 2 sweet onions, quartered
-5 or 6 cloves of garlic, peeled
-1 stick butter, softened
-2 to 4 tablespoons of herbs de provence

Remove the turkey from the brine mix, rinse very well and pat dry. Stuff with the lemon, garlic and onion.

Mash the butter and herbs together, and generously coat the entire turkey. Try to get it under the skin, which can be tricky but is totally worth it. Truss and put in a roasting pan, then follow whatever turkey roasting rules you go by. I ignore the breast-down method and go straight for a pre-heated oven at 325. Figure out the amount of time needed for the size of your bird, then cut out half an hour (to start) because the brine should cut back on the amount of time it will take. Then, just test for doneness with a meat thermometer until you get the correct temperatures. The breast should be 165 and the leg/thigh 185. Let it rest under tinfoil for several minutes before carving.

Martha Moment: Save the carcass AND the onions/garlic and use it to make stock for turkey soup! We'll be eating turkey for at least another 3 days in my house.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Pot roast with red wine, thyme and honey

This was my first ever pot roast, and it wasn't too shabby! The recipe came from the Food Network. I didn't follow it exactly, since I wasn't making a meal for a bunch of people I just cut back on the amount of meat and veggies I used.

-1 bottom round roast (I think mine was a rump roast)
-Salt and pepper
-5 tbsp vegetable oil (I used olive oil because I didn't read the recipe closely)
-3 small onions, diced (I used 1 large sweet onion but my dice was too small and it got mushy, I would recommend a larger dice)
-10 to 12 cloves garlic, lightly smashed (I used maybe 6 and I really smashed those suckers)
-4-5 carrots, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
-2 c chicken stock
-2 c red wine (MM: Never use anything you wouldn't drink!)
-2 1/2 tbsp honey
-5 to 6 sprigs fresh thyme
-2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2 to 2-inch cubes (I used 4 very large red potatoes and diced them into 1-inch cubes because I was sort of pressed for time and didn't want to eat at 9pm)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Season roast with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over high heat. Add the meat and brown well on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Remove and set aside.

Lower heat to medium and saute onions, garlic, and carrots for 5 minutes. Add the broth, wine, honey, and thyme, stir to combine, and then add the roast back to the pot.

Cover pot and transfer to oven. Bake for 2 hours, turning the meat over twice. Add the potatoes to the pot and bake, uncovered, for another 30 to 45 minutes longer until both the potatoes and the meat are fork-tender.

Okay I ignored this last step - I didn't start cooking until 5pm and we were sort of hungry so I cooked for an hour, turned, cooked for 30 minutes, turned, added potatoes, cooked with the lid on for another 30 minutes, done. It came out just fine, but next time I'll be more prepared and follow the rules.

Friday, October 31, 2008

In time for Halloween: sugar cookies with royal icing


I have been surrounded by sugar for three days and it's going to my head.

These little guys are fun to make, and I'm seriously handicapped when it comes to icing so you KNOW it's gotta be easy. They're not quite Martha-quality, but I think they came out pretty cute.

-3 c flour
-1 c sugar
-1 c butter, soft
-1 egg, beaten
-1/4 tsp salt
-3/4 tsp baking powder
-1 tbsp milk
-1 tsp vanilla
Cream the butter, vanilla and sugar together in a stand mixer on medium. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, a little at a time, until it is totally incorporated. Turn off the mixer, and divide the dough into two parts. Form the sections into balls, wrap with plastic wrap, and refridgerate for 2 hours.
Roll out the dough, one section at a time, to about 1/4" thickness. Use cookie cutters to create whatever shapes float your boat, and bake at 375 for about 9-10 minutes, or until the bottoms are just beginning to brown. Cool completely before icing.
-3 large egg whites
-1 tsp vanilla
-4 c powdered sugar
-hot water
With your mixer on high, whip the egg whites and vanilla with the whisk attachment until they are fluffy and foamy. Add the powdered sugar, about half a cup at a time, and whisk on medium until all the sugar is incorporated. This icing will be VERY thick, shiny and pasty. It's like caulk made out of sugar.
Color the icing as you see fit with food coloring, and pipe onto the cookies using a pastry bag or ziploc bag with the corner cut off (it's actually not that hard to do!).
To create cookies like the ones I made above, pipe a thin line around each cookie into the shape you desire. Once all of the cookies have this "barrier", whisk the remaining icing with a few tablespoons of hot water until the icing is sort of runny. It's hard to explain the texture that gives you these results, so you'll just have to play around with it. You don't want the icing to be watery, but also not too stiff. Spoon the watered down icing into the center of the shape and spread it out - the lines you piped earlier will act as a barrier and keep it from running down the sides.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

PBPB (Peanut butter puppy biscuits)

Does Martha have dogs? If so, I bet they're fed a steady diet of organic, free-range meats, the finest grains, and attitude.

My dog is fed kibble. But sometimes I like to spoil her - so I made these cute little dog-friendly cookies today. It was very simple, and while they're not exactly nutritious, one or two won't hurt.

Instead of cookie cutters, I used these little pie crust cut-outs that I got at Williams-Sonoma last fall. It cuts the shape and presses a little design into the dough. They're the perfect size for treats (only an inch or so), but any small cookie cutter will do.

-1 c low-fat peanut butter
-1 c skim milk
-2 c unbleached flour
-1 tbsp baking powder

Blend the peanut butter and milk together on medium speed until they are well mixed. In a separate bowl, sift the flour and baking powder together. With your mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture to the peanut butter. Mix well, the dough will be pretty tough. Remove the dough from the mixing bowl and form into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and refridgerate for 30 minutes.

Roll out the dough to 1/4" thickness and cut into shapes with a cookie cutter.

Bake at 375 for about 8-10 minutes. They burn pretty fast, so if your oven cooks as hot as mine does, start with 8 and check the bottoms. Allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

They should keep for at least a week, longer if you refridgerate them. This makes a TON of cookies, you may want to half the recipe if you aren't sharing with friends, or have a really tiny dog.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

French onion-style chicken

I just made this up. It's in my oven, keeping warm, RIGHT NOW. It seems to be pretty darn tasty as far as I can tell. But, then again, the combination of onions and wine and leeks and garlic and butter and beef stock all soaked into chicken seems to me like it just couldn't be bad.

Score extra Martha points if you have a dutch oven AND use it on a regular basis! Does she have her own brand of dutch ovens? Because if so, I'd so be all over that. Credit for the concept goes to my father-in-law, Ron Haygood. Not sure where he picked this one up.

-2-4 chicken breasts, skin on
-1 can of french onion soup
-1 leek, diced
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1 tsp pepper
-2 tbsp wine (I used white because that is what I had open, but I bet that a red would taste better because it's a key ingredient in french onion soup)
-2 tbsp butter

Pre-heat oven to 350.

In a dutch oven over medium heat, sautee the leek in the butter for about 5-10 minutes. Add the garlic and pepper. Cook together for another 2-3 minutes, then add the wine (to get up the brown bits). Add the canned soup and let it all come to a boil for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Place the chicken in the dutch oven, breast-side down. Cover and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until the chicken is done. Take the chicken out of the pot and set it aside (remove skin before eating).

Strain the solids from the sauce and bring it back to a boil for another few minutes, until it thickens and you can use it almost like a gravy. Heck, try adding some Wondra flour and make it into a gravy, if you feel like it. That would probably be really good...if you try it, let me know how it came out.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Brussels sprouts with white wine and bacon

Ahhhhh...I love to make healthy vegetables unhealthy. It only takes two things: bacon and butter.

While the recipe below is my own creation, the concept was borrowed from two sources. Credit goes to Barefoot Contessa and my buddy, Patrick Jones, for helping me come up with the final product.

-1 1/2 pounds of brussels sprouts
-4 or 5 slices of bacon, diced
-2 tbsp butter
-1 c chicken broth
-2 tbsp dry white wine
-1 tbsp dijon mustard
-1 tsp pepper
-1 tsp salt

In a deep sautee pan, cook the bacon until it's crispy. Remove from heat, drain fat.

Prep the sprouts by cutting them into quarters (so they just start to shred).

Add the butter to the sautee pan and let it melt over medium heat. Add the sprouts, broth and mustard. Saute for 5 minutes, then add the wine (it will sizzle), salt and pepper. Cook over low heat for another 5-10 minutes, or until the liquid starts to thicken into a sauce. Toss the bacon back into the mix at the last minute.

This makes enough to serve 4-6 friends - it's a great side dish!

EDIT: 1/31/08

I made this dish again last night, only this time I left some of the bacon fat in the pan, used half the butter, and sauteed the sprouts in that for several minutes before adding the stock and dijon. It was excellent!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Chicken and rice casserole

Chicken and rice: such a classic, cold-weather, "comfort food" dish! I actually make Ryan take me to Cracker Barrel (so un-Martha of me) on Saturday nights so I can have their Chicken n rice. Ryan says mine is better...I don't agree but this comes close enough!

-Chicken breasts (between two and four, depending on how many people you are feeding)
-1 1/2 cups of white rice
-2 /14 cups of water
-1 tbsp butter
-2 cans of Campbell's mushroom soup
-Salt and pepper

Heat oven to 350.

In a saucepan, bring the water and butter to a boil with a pinch of salt. Add the rice, stir and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Pour the rice into a wide casserole dish. Top with a can of the mushroom soup.

If you are using four chicken breasts, just lay them on top of the rice. If you are using less, I recommend pounding them into wider/thinner strips so you can completely cover the rice in the dish. Salt and pepper generously.

Pour the last can of soup over the chicken and sprinkle with paprika. Bake for about 40-50 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.

At this point, I set the chicken aside and stir the rice with the sauce that is left in the dish, so I can be sure my rice is totally covered with mushroom soup. Serve any way you see fit, however, because this is a pretty fool-proof dish!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

More ice cream: Mint Chocolate Chip

I'm pretty proud of this recipe, it's my own creation! I have been on an ice cream kick all summer, and I am finally beginning to figure it out.

If you want your ice cream to be super creamy, just use more cream than half and half. As long as you end up with 4 cups, you're good. The more half and half used, the more "icy" your final product will be. Unfortunately, the thing that makes ice cream so creamy is the amount of milkfat you use. Less milkfat, more ice. Such is life...

Score extra Martha points if you have a fancy stand-alone ice cream maker! I have the ice cream bowl attachment for my stand mixer, but frankly it's just as good.

-3 c fat-free half and half
-1 c heavy cream
-1 egg yolk
-1 c sugar
-1/2 tsp salt
-2 tsp vanilla
-2 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
-1 cup dark chocolate chunks (I just chop up a candy bar)

Mix the cream, egg yolk and sugar on medium for about 3-5 minutes. Turn off the mixer, add the half and half, blend again on medium for another 5 minutes. Add the salt and flavorings, mix well.

Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker and blend for about 25 minutes, or until it's almost set. Stir in the chocolate chunks, and freeze for at least 2-3 hours before serving.

I don't add food coloring, but if you like your mint ice cream green, go nuts!

Non-dairy potato salad (Provencal)

This is my kind of potato salad - no mayo, no chunks of onion or celery (I have issues with mushy/crunchy combinations), lots of bold flavor.

This is in no way my invention, I got it from Barefoot Contessa. I substituted a few things, which I will note below. Feel free to try any combination you think will taste great!

-2 pounds of potatoes, peeled (Unless I am cooking for a crowd, I use a small bag of golden Klondike)
-2 tbsp white wine
-2 tbsp chicken stock
-3 tbsp Champagne vinegar (I don't have Champagne vinegar, so I mix 2 tbsp of white Balsamic with 1 tbsp of rice vinegar)
-1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
-2 teaspoons kosher salt
-3/4 tsp pepper
-10 tbsp olive oil
-1/4 c minced scallions (I omit)
-2 tbsp minced fresh dill
-2 tbsp minced flat-leaf parsley
-2 tbsp julienned fresh basil leaves (I omit)
-1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
-1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped

Peel the potatoes and cut into quarters. Boil the potatoes into a large pot of boiling salted water and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, or until they are just cooked through. Drain in a colander and toss gently with the wine and chicken stock. Allow the liquids to soak into the warm potatoes before proceeding.

Combine the vinegar and mustard and slowly whisk in the olive oil, salt and pepper. Add the herbs and toss with the potatoes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

(Omit the chicken stock to make this dish vegetarian, change out the dijon mustard for another variety to make it vegan).

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Pumpkin Bread

I love fall! I love pumpkins! I love food that is made from pumpkins!

-1 c butter at room temperature
-3 c sugar
-3 eggs at room temperature
-3 c flour
-1 tbsp baking powder
-1 1/2 tsp baking soda
-1 tsp salt
-2 tsp cinnamon
-1 tsp ground cloves
-2 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated is always best!)
-16 oz (1 can) of pumpkin puree

Cream the butter and sugar with your mixer on medium-high speed for about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time.

In a separate bowl, sift all of the dry ingredients together. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients (about a cup at a time) until well mixed. Turn off the mixer and stir in the pumpkin.

Grease and flour your loaf pan before adding batter. Bake at 350 for about 50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

This should be enough for two small loaves, or one very big one. If you make two small loaves, bake for 40 minutes and test for doneness.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Red Velvet "Wedding Cake"

To celebrate our 6-month anniversary (Yes, it's silly, but it's still a big deal to us!), I decided to try and recreate our wedding cake. Well, I did say "try".

The real cake is from Bluebonnet Bakery in Fort Worth (our florist did the flowers). My version is from an ancient Hershey Chocolate cookbook that used to belong to my grandmother. I poured through dozens of red velvet recipes before settling on this one - for some reason, most people make red velvet with loads of food coloring and very little cocoa. Actually, the reaction between the cocoa and vinegar makes it a reddish color - then, you only need a tiny bit of food coloring to really make it pop.

If you are wondering why I am so into room-temperature eggs, it's because they actually will fluff up better than when they are cold. That's your MM for the day...

Red Velvet Cake

-1/2 c butter, room temperature
-1 1/2 c sugar
-1 tsp vanilla
-2 eggs, room temperature
-1 tsp red food coloring
-2 c flour
-1/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder
-1 tsp salt
-1 c buttermilk
-1 1/2 tsp baking soda
-1 tbsp vinegar

Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla in a mixer on medium. Add the eggs one at a time, then the food coloring. Mix for 5 minutes on medium speed.

In a separate bowl, sift the cocoa powder, flour and salt together. With the mixer on low, alternate adding buttermilk and the flour mixture until well mixed.

In another bowl, mix the baking soda and vinegar together (it will fizz up). Carefully fold into the batter (do not mix!).

Pour the batter into two 9-inch round cake pans that have been greased and floured (MM: when making chocolate cake, you can use cocoa powder or hot cocoa mix instead of flour, so your cake won't have white spots on it). Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes. Cool for at least an hour before frosting.

This recipe only filled the two cake pans about halfway. If you want a dramatic looking cake, with lots of height, I would suggest doubling the mix and making at least three layers.

Cream Cheese Frosting

-1 pound cream cheese
-2 sticks butter
-3 c powdered sugar
-1 tsp vanilla

Let the cream cheese and butter sit out for 10 minutes before mixing all of these ingredients together on high for 5 minutes, or until it's creamy. If you like your frosting very sweet, just add more sugar. Let it cool in the fridge for about 10 minutes before frosting your cake, otherwise, it can get goopy and uncooperative.

Penne with white beans, roasted garlic and tomatos

I first saw this dish on a Food Network show about two years ago - and I've been making it ever since. It's one of my husband's favorites. My version is slightly modified, because I think that the original just isn't flavorful enough. Roasting the garlic and tomatos is time-consuming, but it's still a very simple dish to make.

-4 or 5 vine tomatos
-1 small head garlic
-4 tbsp olive oil
-1 tbsp salt
-1/2 tbsp pepper
-1 pound of penne pasta
-1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Separate the head of garlic, leaving the cloves in their paper wrapping. Dice the tomatos, remove the seeds.

Toss the tomatos, garlic, salt, pepper and 1 tbsp of the olive oil in a 9x9" glass casserole dish, spreading evenly throughout the pan. Roast in the oven for 45-50 minutes.

While that is roasting, boil the pasta until al dente - once you drain out the water, add the can of rinsed cannellini beans and toss it all together. (No need to cook! The heat from the pasta will warm the beans).

When the tomatos come out of the oven, use a spoon to fish out the garlic, set aside to cool. When they are cool enough to touch, squeeze out the garlic into a small bowl, add the remaining olive oil, and mash with a fork until it's very pasty.

Add the paste back to the dish with the tomatos, stir until the garlic coats everything. Then, dump the tomatos into the pot with the pasta and beans, mix it all together, and serve!


Friday, September 26, 2008

"Cheaters" Thai peanut chicken

I love cooking, but there is no way I am going to make my own peanut sauce from scratch. Since the jar sauce means I lose Martha Points (MP's), I made up for it by using chilies from the garden. Mild when raw, HOT when cooked!

-About 1 pound of chicken breast
-1 c shredded carrot
-1 small onion, diced
-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
-2 tbsp olive oil
-salt and pepper
-4-5 small chilies, diced (seeds optional)
-1/4 c sesame seeds
-1/4 c chopped parsley (I used it because that is what I had on hand, but I bet cilantro and basil would be fantastic)
-1 jar of store-bought Thai peanut sauce (I like the Archer Farms brand from Target).
-1/4 c crushed peanuts

To prep the chicken, remove any fat and wrap in plastic wrap. Use a rolling pin or something similar to flatten out the chicken, and then cut in to medallions. Or, just buy the pre-cut stuff from the grocery store and save yourself the work. Salt and pepper generously.

Heat up the oil in a deep pan or wok over medium heat, add the garlic and onion. Sautee until the onion is translucent. Add the chicken and cook on both sides. Add the carrots and chilies, and the peanut sauce. Stir it all together over medium-low heat for 5-10 minutes. Toss in the parsley (or basil, or cilantro, etc) at the last minute.

Serve over rice or noodle, and top with the sesame seeds and peanuts (bonus MP's if you toast them!).

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Coconut cupcakes

About a month ago, we were at Target and noticed that they were selling coconuts. For some silly reason, it was decided that we should buy one and fill it with rum. It marinated in the fridge for several weeks this way, until Saturday morning, when I decided to give all that yummy rummy coconut a new home.

If you don't want to use the rum, just add a little more milk until the batter is at a good consistency.

This is adapted from a Barefoot Contessa recipe, but with a very un-Martha frosting!

-3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
-2 c sugar
-5 large eggs, at room temperature
-1 1/2 tsp vanilla
-3 c flour
-1 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp baking soda
-1/2 tsp salt
-3/4 c milk (make it 1 cup if you don't use rum)
-4 oz shredded coconut, soaking in 1/4 c of dark rum

Using a mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light yellow and fluffy. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl once during mixing. Add the vanilla and mix well.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients and the milk to the batter, mix until just combined. Then add the coconut and rum, and mix again until just combined.

Grease the muffin tin (or use paper cups) and fill the batter to the top. Bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees, or until the center comes out clean with a toothpick. This should make about 2 dozen cupcakes.

So, I am really bad at making frosting. Like, REALLY bad. To accomodate for my disability, I just blended together a can of store-bought vanilla frosting with half a bag of shredded coconut and a tablespoon of rum. I encourage you to find a method that works for you, but my fake version is pretty decent if you're as frosting illiterate as I am...

Monday, September 22, 2008

Long break + Lentil Salad

After a weird week, I realized I had totally set my little blog to the backburner!

On Thursday, Ryan and I were watching "Good Eats" on the Food Network and Alton shared this recipe. Ryan turned to me and said "Ummm...can you please make that for me?". So, on Saturday, I gave it a try, and it was fantastic!

Lentil Salad

1 pound brown or green lentils, approximately 2 1/2 cups
1 small onion, halved
1 large clove garlic, halved
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Pick over the lentils, rinse and drain. Place all of the above ingredients into a large saucepan and cover with water PLUS 2-3 inches. Place over high heat and bring just to a rolling boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the lentils are tender, approximately 25 to 30 minutes. Drain the remaining liquid and discard everything that isn't a lentil.

1/2 c red wine vinegar
1/4 c olive oil
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
6 to 8 slices thick-sliced bacon, cooked and chopped

Whisk the vinegar, olive oil, mustard, salt, pepper, parsley and thyme together in a large mixing bowl. Add the warm lentils and bacon and stir to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature.

(Omit bacon, or change it out for bacon bits, and this becomes a vegetarian dish. Switch out dijon mustard for another type, and it becomes vegan).

Monday, September 8, 2008

Bailey's Ice Cream

Oh man, this is good stuff. And totally Martha, too: it's insanely expensive to make and takes awhile to get it right. BUT - the reward for your hard work is a creamy, amazing ice cream that is pure Bailey's.

-2 c of Bailey's liqueur
-4 egg yolks
-2 c sugar
-1 1/2 c milk
-2 c heavy cream
-1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Heat the Bailey's in a saucepan over medium heat, let it boil slowly until the 2 cups has reduced to 1 cup of liquid. (Note: this will take at least 30 minutes).

Pour out the Bailey's in a bowl to cool, and add the milk to the pot. Slowly scald the milk over medium heat, stirring often to avoid burning. Set aside to cool.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar together. Slowly incorporate the cooled milk, whisk like crazy to avoid "scrambled eggs". Dump the lot back into the saucepan, and heat for around 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently. Strain the mixture and put in the fridge to cool for at least 10 minutes.

Once the egg and milk custard has cooled, add the vanilla, reduced Bailey's and cream. Whisk well, and put it back into the fridge to cool completely before transferring the mix to an ice cream maker to freeze. It's important that the mix be completely cooled, otherwise it won't freeze as you put it into the ice cream maker. I keep forgetting that rule, and the result is a rock-hard lump of frozen ice cream that is impossible to scoop.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Cheap 'n Easy Lasagna

I hail from a part of the country that boasts the highest percent, per capita, of Italian-Americans in the US. New Haven County is home to East Haven (also known as "Staven"), which is home to some of the best Italian restaurants in the Northeast.

Growing up with so many Italian heritage friends was delicious. I have fantastic memories of watching my friends' mothers making dinner - talk about a process! It can take an entire afternoon to prepare a traditional Italian dinner.

Well, most of us don't have an entire afternoon to prepare a meal - thankfully, this lasagna is quick and easy!

-1 pound lasagna noodles, cooked al dente
-1 jar of marinara (I use Classico tomato and basil)
-3/4 pound of Italian sausage
-1 pkg (3 cups) shredded mozzarella cheese
-1/2 c shredded parmigana cheese
-1/2 c shredded asiago cheese
-1 c ricotta cheese

Remove the sausage from the casing and brown over medium heat. Drain off fat, then add the jar of marinara. Simmer together for about 10 minutes over low heat.

Mix the mozzarella, parmigana and asiago cheese together in a bowl, set aside.

In a casserole dish, add a spoonful of the sauce so it completely coats the bottom. Layer the noodles over the sauce, so it is totally covered. Add tablespoons of the ricotta cheese, "dotting" it on top of the noodles. (Ricotta is a pain to spread over slippery noodles - but it sort of evens itself out as it cooks so just lump it all around). Top with a hearty layer of cheese. Repeat until you reach the top of the dish, and finish it off with the remainder of the cheese.

Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

Sounds easy? It is! Lasagna is one of those dishes that scares a lot of cooks - and it shouldn't. Granted, this cheap and easy solution isn't nearly as good as the dishes that take half a day to prepare, but it's pretty darn tasty.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Ice cream!

I started making my own ice cream this summer - it's very challenging, which surprised me. I guess I always figured it would be easy - add ingredients, mix and freeze. Wrong! I have had some really bad batches, and some good ones.

The Ben and Jerry's ice cream book never fails me - every recipe of theirs that I have tried has been successful. To date, my best batches have been their peach and strawberry recipes.

Does anybody have an ice cream recipe that they could share with me? I am always looking for more!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Been a little busy lately

We added a new member to our little family this weekend, and she's been taking up a lot of my time!

This is Lily - she's about 11 weeks, she's some sort of Lab-Retriever-Terrier mix. She's sweet and cuddly, and needs a lot of attention!

More soon - I promise! I am making all sorts of frozen meals for friends, and today I'm making an amazing potato salad (totally vegan, no mayo!) and I want to share the recipe when I have some free time and Lily is asleep.

Friday, August 29, 2008

"Grown Up" Mac and Cheese

This dish actually started with my mom - she would make it for us from time to time, and I always loved it. So, about a year ago, I was trying to impress my in-laws. We had just gotten engaged, and I was desperate to prove to them that I was a good MIT (Martha In Training). It was all in my head, because of course they approved, but the result of my paranoia was a string of experimental dishes, and this update to my mom's mac and cheese was one of the more successful results.

I played around with different cheeses, and I am happy with my three choices below. The asiago gives it bite, the Gruyere creates depth, and the cheddar is always a classic. Feel free to play around with your own combination of cheeses and come up with a flavor that works best for you!

-1 pkg of elbow macaroni, cooked al dente
-2 c cold milk
-4 tbsp butter
-4 tbsp Wondra flour (you'll find it near the flour and sugar at your local grocery)
-1 tsp salt
-1 tsp pepper
-2 tsp Worcestershire sauce (add more for a bigger punch)
-1 tbsp ground mustard powder
-1 tsp garlic salt
-1 c shredded asiago cheese
-1 pkg shredded sharp cheddar (enough for about 2-3 cups)
-1 c shredded Gruyere cheese
-1/2 c Ritz crackers, crushed

In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the milk and flour, whisk together. Add the salt, pepper, mustard, garlic salt and Worcestershire sauce, whisk again. Let the whole thing come to a boil, stirring constantly.

Remove the sauce from the heat and add the asiago and Gruyere cheese, stir well until it melts into the sauce. Mix the sauce and macaroni together in a large pot or bowl.

In a 9x9 casserole dish, layer macaroni - cheddar cheese - macaroni and so on, until just below the top of the dish. Top it off with more cheddar cheese and a good layer of Ritz crackers. Bake the casserole at 350 for about 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and the crackers are slightly browned.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Turkey Chili (pt 2)

Martha! Martha! Martha! Why must you have me totally and completely convinced that all soups must be made in a Le Creuset dutch oven? Not that I am complaining, mind you, I love the even heat distribution and the overall indestructibility of the cast iron. But it's just SO BIG and SO HEAVY. (Photo note: I forgot to take a picture until 10:00 last night and we had already scooped the chili into a smaller pot so it would fit in the fridge). My husband is convinced that I am just looking for excuses to use the dutch oven, and maybe he's right. I mean, chili in August? I'm getting sweaty just thinking about it.

The chili turned out pretty good, but it was a little too hot for me. The overall heat of a dish is really hard to figure out as you are cooking it - just tasting from a spoon isn't always a good indicator - sometimes it takes a few good bites before the spice kicks in. If you make this chili, and want to keep it mild, omit the jalapeno and cayenne pepper. If you don't have to have a dutch oven to make it, a large pot will do just fine. Instead of putting the pot in the oven to finish cooking, just simmer it on very low heat on the stovetop.

Turkey Chili

-1 lb ground turkey
-1 large green bell pepper, chopped
-1 small to med yellow onion, finely chopped
-1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
-2 or 3 big carrots, diced
-1 or 2 celery stalks, diced
-2 cloves garlic, cut as thin as you can get it (MM: a garlic press works wonders)
-2 cans of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
-1 large can of diced tomatoes
-3 tbsp cumin
-3 tbsp chili powder
-pinch cayenne pepper
-pinch nutmeg
-salt and pepper
-olive oil
-3 cups water

Heat the pot over a low to medium flame, and add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Add the onions and carrots, sautee for several minutes until the onions are translucent. Then add the rest of the veggies, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and let it slowly cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the veggies and set them aside, and pour out the excess oil. Brown the turkey in the pan, then drain off any fat you can. Dump in the tomatoes, beans and veggies. Add the water and spices. (You can use more or less water, depending on how soupy you like your chili). Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Cover and let it simmer for at least 30 minutes, or as long as you please. The longer it cooks, the richer the chili.

If you have a dutch oven, just take the whole pot and throw it into the oven at 200 degrees. You can leave it there for hours, it sort of acts like a crock pot.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Turkey Chili

I am going to attempt to make turkey chili in a dutch oven this afternoon - wish me luck!

(any pointers?)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Awesome couscous dish

This dish never fails to impress. It looks great, tastes great, and makes your guests believe that you spent hours slaving over a hot stove to create a fancy Martha Stewart-like side dish.

Trust me: you will make this again and again.

-1 c couscous
-1 1/2 c chicken stock (see: easy chicken stock recipe)
-1/4 c pine nuts (MM: toast the pine nuts over medium heat until they are beginning to brown to bring out their flavor)
-1/4 c craisins
-1 small to medium shallot
-1 tbsp butter
-Salt and pepper

Heat the butter in a saucepan, and finely chop the shallot. Once the butter has melted, start to carmelize the shallot over medium to low heat. Add as much or as little salt and pepper as you prefer.

Once the shallots are beginning to carmelize, add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Then, add the couscous, pine nuts and craisins, stir it all once, cover the pan and remove from the heat.

DONE! Just let it sit for a few minutes, then fluff it up with a fork before serving.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Fruit Crisp


-4 or 5 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into slices (think apple pie size)
-1/4 c flour
-1/4 c sugar
-1 tbsp cinnamon
-1 tsp nutmeg (Martha moment: I recommend using freshly ground nutmeg, just get a spice grinder and some fresh nutmeg from a cooking store, it makes a huge difference)
-Juice of 1 lemon
-Pinch of salt

Mix the dry ingredients until they are well incorporated, then add the apples and lemon juice, mix well, and set aside.

-1 stick of very cold butter, diced (MM: dice the butter and throw it into the freezer to chill)
-1/2 c oatmeal
-3/4 c flour
-1/2 c white sugar
-1/2 c brown sugar
-Pinch of salt

Pull out your trusty mixer and mix all of the above ingredients together on low until the butter is pea-sized and mixes with the dry ingredients. You want the consistency to be dry and kind of clumpy - not so thick that you have one big ball of dough. Pour the apple filling into any 9 x 9" baking dish, then crumble on the topping so that the apples are totally covered. The apples will bake down some, but you don't want the dish to be overflowing or it will drip into your oven (lesson learned). Bake at 350 for about 45-50 minutes.

This is a pretty easy dish to make, the hardest step is prepping the apples.

I encourage you to find your own fruit combinations to use as filling. I tried peaches a few weeks back, and it was very good. I just cut back on the cinnamon and stepped up the nutmeg a bit. Pears would be awesome, and I would love to try out plums. If you have a variation to share, please let us know in the comments!

And I'm back!

A week in the Caribbean was exactly what the doctor ordered. In a very fabulous un-Martha kind of way, of course, because my 9-year-old sister doesn't qualify as an "entourage".

New feature! I'm adding "Martha Moments", or MM for short. Keep your eyes peeled for them - it usually means adding a step or ingredient that seems lavish and unnecessary, but can make all the difference in the taste of a dish. OR, it can just mean a shortcut that I have found to be handy.

I would love to share some amazing tropical recipe with you all, loaded with fruit and rum and coconut, but all I can think of is the apple crisp that I made last night. We coupled it with several Bay Breezes (coconut rum, pineapple juice and cranberry juice) to relive one last moment in the tropics before going back to the real world.

Here's a photo of Ryan and I sailing around St. Thomas...ahhhhh the life...

Friday, August 15, 2008

Lil' update

Hey there!

Leaving tomorrow morning for a week in the tropics, so I won't be posting anything for a little while.

I'm totally packing Martha-style, minus the entourage of stylists and sous chefs and interns to smack around. And the private jet. Or hand-knitted ponchos.

Oh who am I kidding?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Nutty brownies

Forgive me, Martha, for I have wronged you. I cheated on you with Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa (and a personal hero of mine).

These nutty brownies are adapted from one of her recipes - beware, the portions are HUGE, and these brownies are anything but healthy.

-1 pound butter (4 sticks)
-1 pound chocolate (I recommend half semi-sweet, half bittersweet)
-6 oz unsweet chocolate
-6 eggs, at room temperature
-3 tsp coffee
-2 tsp vanilla (note: vanilla and coffee actually enhance the flavor of chocolate when used in small doses)
-2 1/4 c sugar
-1 c flour
-1 tsp baking powder
-1 tsp salt
-peanut butter

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a double boiler, set aside to cool.

Whisk the eggs, coffee, vanilla and sugar together, slowly add the cooled chocolate.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together into a separate bowl. Add it, a little at a time, to the chocolate batter.

Transfer the mix to a greased pan - the one I have is 9x13 and really that's not quite big enough.

Now, onto the nutty goodness!

Decide how much peanut butter and Nutella you want to use - then scoop them into small separate bowls and microwave for 30 seconds so it's soft but not too runny. Scoop blobs of PB and Nutella into the brownie mix, alternating as you see fit, and then use a spoon or knife to swirl it throughout.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Please don't stop loving me, Martha. I promise, it's only a fling! Those Barefoot Contessa cookbooks in my kitchen mean nothing to me!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Corn Pudding

4 cups corn, drained
6 T flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 stick margarine
4 eggs
2 cups 1/2 & 1/2

Mix corn, sugar, & flour. Add eggs and stir well. Melt margarine and add to mixture. Stir in
1/2 & 1/2. Pour into buttered 9 X 13 dish. Bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour. Stir often (every 10-15 minutes) while baking.
Serves 6-8

*Suggestion: This portion is huge. Therefore, I usually half the recipe and cook it in a square Pyrex dish. It works great for 4-6 people.

Yummy Easy Cobbler

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a 9 X 13 inch glass pan, melt one stick of butter or margarine in the preheating oven.

Mix the following ingredients together, stirring well:
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup milk
Pour evenly over the melted butter.

Add 3 cups of fresh fruit (peaches, apples, blueberries, raspberries, etc.) that have been mixed with 2/3 cup sugar. Sprinkle with cinnamon to taste. During baking, crust will rise over the fruit.

Bake for 40 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream or cold with whipped cream.

*When using peaches, allow to soften for 3-5 days until very ripe.

It's pudding time!

I wonder, would Martha approve of using so much dairy? Actually, I take that back. She probably milks her own cows.

This is my comfort food!

Bread Pudding

-10 slices of bread, cut into cubes (Most types of bread work - I learned the hard way that baguettes don't work very well)
-1/4 c melted butter
-1 tsp cinnamon
-1/2 c raisins (I sometimes use Craisins because we always have them lying around)
-6 eggs, beaten
-3/4 c sugar
-2 tsp vanilla
-1/2 tsp salt
-3 cups of milk

Whisk the cinnamon into the melted butter, then toss in a bowl with the bread and raisins, pour into a casserole dish. It's like a bread marinade!

"Scald" the milk over the stovetop - basically, bring the milk to an almost boil (it start to look a little foamy on top), and stir it a lot because milk can burn easily. Set aside to cool.

In a separate bowl, mix the eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt together. When the milk is cooled, whisk it into the egg mixture. If the milk is too hot, it will scramble the eggs. Once that is all mixed together, pour it over the bread.

Sprinkle some nutmeg over the whole thing, then bake at 375 for about 25 minutes. If your bread is sort of floating at the top of the dish, let it soak in the custard for a few minutes first. Otherwise, you get sort of crusty dried-out bread floating on top. (Lesson learned!)

Old-fashioned Rice Pudding

Note: you can make this thick or thin, however you prefer - my mom and husband like it thin, but I like more of a pudding texture. The recipe is for a thinner pudding - to thicken it, just cut out a cup of the half and half.

-3/4 c raisins
-2 tbsp dark rum
-3/4 c white rice
-1/2 tsp salt
-5c fat-free half and half (my attempt to be healthy - you can also substitute a cup of milk to thin it out)
-1/2 c sugar
-1 egg, beaten
-1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Soak the raisins in the rum.

Boil the rice in 1 1/2 cups of salted water for about 10 minutes.

One cup at a time, stir the half-and-half into the rice, and simmer for about 25 minutes. Carefully mix in the egg (no scrambling!). Remove from heat. Add the vanilla and raisins.

Pour the mix into a bowl to cool. To avoid getting a skin on the surface, just cover it directly (like, on the actual pudding) with plastic wrap!

Easy chicken stock

A friend and I were just talking about chicken stock today, because now that I have cleaned out the fridge, I'm going to make stock. She uses canned stock, because it is easier. And while that is true, the real stuff tastes so darn good!

I promise you, this is easy. It doesn't require any fancy chopping or peeling, because you just throw everything out once it's cooked (or compost it all, if you are able). It is also easy to customize - you can make more or less, just adjust your herbs and garlic so it's not overpowering.

-Chicken carcass (previously cooked)
-20 cups water
-Whole onion, quartered
-3-5 carrots, cut into pieces
-2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed (just whack it with the flat part of your knife)
-3-5 celery stalks, cut into pieces
-1 tbsp salt, 1 tbsp pepper
-2 tsp each of the following herbs (fresh is better, but dried is fine): rosemary, dill, sage

Put everything into a stock pot, cover, and set the burner to low. Simmer 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally. Strain out all of the solids, and put the liquid into the fridge to set overnight. Simply skim off the fat the next day, and freeze until you need stock!

Do you think Martha would give me one of her super fancy chickens to find out if they make better stock than the rotisserie chicken I bought from Albertson's on Monday?

Leftover casserole

Martha would be proud - this tasted great, and it emptied out my fridge entirely. Now I have room for the gallon or so of chicken stock that I'll be boiling up from the leftover rotisserie chicken!

-Shredded leftover rotisserie chicken
-1 cup of week-old rice (previously cooked)
-About 1/2 cup of leftover broccoli-cheese soup
-Shredded cheddar cheese
-Salt and pepper

Mix the rice and soup together in a tupperware container until it's well incorporated. It will be a little soupy, but we all know how dry and weird week-old rice can get when it's been left in the back of the fridge.

Microwave for about a minute.

Add the cheese and chicken, stir well.

Microwave another 2-3 minutes.

Serve with whatever else you find in your fridge that is still edible. Last night, that meant day-old green beans and peach cobbler.


I hope this site takes off - I have a bad habit of starting projects and not fininshing them. How very un-Martha of me!

When I decide to be crafty, or garden, or create something in the kitchen, I ask myself one question: WWMD - What Would Martha Do?

Hopefully, this blog will help me find the answers.