Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Harvest Cookie

I have to admit that when it comes to experimenting with recipes and baking I take it easy, no chances. I pretty much follow that philosophy in everything I do, not take chances. I've never been a dare devil, even as a boy I was not prone to doing things that took a chance. One of the good things about cooking is that there comes a time when you know that things will just work because all of the components that come together are so complementary. This trick worked with I was whipping up a batch of Oatmeal cookies and had the thought, "What about not putting in raisins but craisins and white chocolate chips?" This addition came to become my families top favorite cookie. We make at least one batch of these a week in my house. If you come to my house you will most likely find these in our cookie jar.

My boys have started helping me bake and while I desperately want to pass on my love for cooking to them there are times that their help gives me a twitch. Levi is always the first to come a running, "Dada whatcha doo-wing, I see, can I help?" There is no way you can turn away this brown eyed beauty no way. One of my favorite things in all the world is when he picks up an egg and calls it, "baby kicken." This sprang from him asking me what an egg was to which I replied, "a baby chicken." Ever since then we've been killing and cooking baby chickens! How savage!

Harvest cookies will be added to my list of fav's. I went through an oatmeal scotchie phase about a year ago and passed the phase before I went through all of the butterscotch chips in my pantry. I was originally going to make chocolate chip cookies, but saw half a bag of white chips and a then the three bags of butterscotch chips staring at me and though, "these would go well together, maybe." So, I used my standard chocolate chip cookie dough recipe and used butterscotch chips and white chips instead of chocolate chips. The end result was a delicious, soft, chewy, reminds me of fall cookie. Let's get with the program...the cast of characters:

  • 1 stick Crisco® Butter Shortening Sticks
  • 1 1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups Flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 (6 oz.) package butterscotch chips (1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips

My wife does an amazing job of decorating our house for Fall, and Christmas which are our two favorite times of year. She found these cool place mats at Wal-Mart of all places and has used them in the kitchen to adorn the counters. The Crisco is barely in the shot, thanks to my...helpers.

I do want to encourage you to begin practicing getting all of your ingredients measured and ready before you start baking. It really does speed up the process and also let's you know if you are out of something you thought you had (lesson learned over and over). This is a French cooking term called Mis En Place (meezenplahce) which simply means everything in place. This one step will relax your cooking experiences and make everything so much easier.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees (is this the new 350?). If you are a parchment/silpat baker go ahead and get your pans ready. I use a thin metal Analon cookie sheet and love it.

With the paddle attachment on your stand mixer, place the brown sugar, Crisco, vanilla, and milk (I added the vanilla to the milk in my OXO mini-measure) in the bowl and mix on medium speed for at least five minutes. You will want to scrape down the bowl and make sure you scoop up from the bottom at least once in this process. I've found that this is a key step in good cookie baking. You really need to get that fat and sugar together and really liking each other...becoming one. If I were a chemist I'd be able to tell you about the chemical relevance to this step, but I"m not, all I know is that this step has made the difference in my cookies outcome. If I under mix the fat and sugar then I don't the texture I like in a cookie. Your batter should look something like this once you have mixed the wet ingredients together. If you don't have a stand mixer, you can use a hand mixer (that goes without saying, right?) See how the mixture looks whipped, smooth and creamy. My helpers were ready to start licking at this point. Patience I said, patience. One more thing about having all of your ingredients pre-measured and ready is that you helpers are less likely to spill the ingredients because there is one motion required--the dump.

Once you have mixed this for five minutes add your egg [baby chicken], salt, and baking soda mixing until the egg [baby chicken] is incorporated and not apparent. At this point you will add your flour, slowly so you don't create a flour smog in your kitchen. Turn your mixture down to it's lowest setting (mine says stir) and mix until just combine. The last step is the addition of the chips, mixing to just combine. There was a time when I would not mix flour with the paddle attachment, opting to hand stir. I've since come to my senses and just exercise restraint in the mixing. Only until combined.

The dough looked a little wet to me so I added a little more flour (I adjusted the recipe above with the additional flour so don't worry, it's all fixed upstairs) which helped me get the texture I wanted.

I used my medium spring loaded scoop to portion out the dough on the pan. Bake at 375 for 9-10 minutes. Your cookies will look light brown and with the glories of carry over cooking have a moist chewy texture that is just delicious with a glass of ice cold milk. I had to take a picture of these cookies right out of the oven because I think it goes to show how useful and appropriate a spring loaded scoop is for baking. Uniform and consistent cookies all the same size that will leave you with every cookie baked just right and not having one cookie that is a crouton and one cookie that is play dough. I yielded over 3 dozen cookies (I think it was something like 40 cookies).

The fat content of these cookies means you will not have to grease your cookie sheet. I have a coated Teflon, making it really dark, cookie sheet but think if you were to use a shiny metal sheet that they wouldn't stick at all. The color of this cookie remind me of candy corn, but more of Fall. With all of the golden brown, white, golden yellow bits.

These are a sweet cookie which doesn't bother me. Kendra like, didn't love, but liked them. She's not a super sweet cookie lover though. All three of the kids really like them, I'm guessing because they were really sweet. My Dad and Step Mom happened to drop by for a visit (wound up eating dinner with us) and we served these with Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream. Dad is not a fan of butterscotch but did like these cookies. I say that to say if you don't like butterscotch then go ahead and give these a try, I think you'll be surprised. I'm sure there are more than a few people who love to add nuts to their cookies--I'm not one of them, but think if you were to add nuts to this cookie it should be pecan or walnut...maybe macadamia.

Fall is a fun time of year and one of my favorite seasons, probably my favorite truth be told. Winter is good, but Fall just has a warmth about it that I find hard to describe. I'll just say Fall is the most comfortable of all Seasons and fits me to a tee.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Pull your pork not your leg

Do you ever feel so busy that you are certain you will meet yourself coming while you are going? I'm not sure there is a time when my family isn't just running, running, running. There are times when we just have to stop and not do anything to decompress. I have come to love my Crock Pot for the simple fact that I can have a dinner ready for my family and not have my family wait.
My version of Pulled Pork couldn't be more easy because the ingredients list is short...three short ingredients--no joke. Let's get this party started, what do you say? The cast of characters are:
2 trimmed 3 pound Pork roasts
  • 1 bottle of Root Beer. More on this later.
  • 1 bottle of Barbecue Sauce.
This particular bottle of barbecue sauce was a 32 oz. bottle of sauce and the root beer was 16 ounces. I also had Lawry's seasoned salt that I dusted on the roast, it's is great either way.
About this Root Beer. When I made this roast I didn't want to buy a 2 liter bottle, wouldn't use it all. I didn't want to buy a case and as luck would have it my grocery store had a section of micro brewed root beer! Who knew that there was micro brewed root beer? Not me. I thought the name of the root beer was really cool and the bottle looked cool. One sip and I knew that the stuff was super good. I don't know who Virgil is, but his Mother would be proud. I did come to the conclusion that a good quality root beer would be great because the cane sugar that is used really helped the roast. If you can only find or use A&W or Bargg's that will be great, too. Just use 16 oz.
Place the pork roasts in your crock pot and season with Lawry's seasoned salt or other favorite seasoning blend, I have several which I'll talk about in a post. Pour the root beer over the roasts and place the lid on the crock pot. You can cook this roast on low 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours. I put this on before we left the house, knowing we would be home around 5-6PM and it cooked all day. I'm no chemist, but I think the carbonation in the root beer, helps the meat tenderize. Anyone have an idea about this? I'd love to learn and know about the power of carbonation in tenderizing meats, everyone needs to learn something every day, huh?

When the roast is done it will look like this, on the left. The root beer has really reduced, the fat and tissues in the pork have broken down, you can see some of the fat which has released out of the roast on the edge. The meat is SUPER tender and moist.

At this point you will no longer need the root beer. Please do not feel the temptation to sip this root beer...let it go. Pork infused, reduced root beer would taste nasty. Place the pork on a plate pour off the root beer and then put the pork roasts back in the crock pot.
Using two forks, break up the pork roast, it will shred lickity split and very easily. This shouldn't take very long at all, maybe 3 minutes. I used the forks scissor like to shred the meat. It will look something like this when you are done shredding the meat. It's very moist and not dry at all. At this point pour in the barbecue sauce. I like my pork...saucy. You may not like your pulled pork with as much sauce, but I think it's worth a shot the first time. Ok, brace yourself. Get ready. Grab a Kleenex...no get the box you may just tear up when you see this beautiful dish come together.

I serve this on buttered and toasted buns. This is sweet, tangy, tender, juicy, and so delicious. You can turn the Crock Pot on warm or keep it on low to heat the pulled pork up.
I made this recipe when our church preschool asked me to cook for their annual Hoedown dinner. There were 400 people who came which meant I would need to cook over 200 pounds of pork. I didn't butter and toast the buns. I did make from scratch cole slaw and potato salad. In case you are curious you have to peel 100 pounds of potatoes to feed 400 people. I'm sure there were folks who didn't like the pulled pork, but many people loved it a lot.
Give it a try, you'll love it, your family will love it, and people will casually call you and invite you over to a party and when you say, "what can I bring?" They will immediately say, "how about that pulled pork." It's that good.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sausage Cheddar Chowder

My Mom traveled for her job about two or three times a year and when she did, we always stocked up on TV dinners, when you had to bake them in the oven because they came in aluminum foil...remember? There were one or two nights a week that we would go to my Grandmother's house for dinner. When that happened I knew what that would mean--soup. Specifically vegetable beef soup in a shallow wide mouthed bowl and crackers that's it nothing else. My Grandmother was a good cook, but when it came to soup it was horrible. This soup was watery, with clotty splotches of grease floating around. The chunks of meat were usually rubbery and tough to chew. It was not a great soup, but I had to eat it and pretend I liked it.
I've been recovering from the soup horror ever since I fell in love with the creamy and wonderful bliss of Broccoli cheese soup, baked potato soup, chicken augratin soup, and other cream soups that just call my name. To this long list of creamy soup love enters Sausage Cheddar Chowder. Sausage Cheddar Chowder is my take on a soup I found in one of my favorite cookbooks that Cindy calls, Texas Chowder. If I made her version without addition or deletion it would be delicious. If you don't have her cookbook you owe it to yourself to go to Amazon.com and buy it. There are no recipes in this cookbook that I wouldn't try once (even the duck! bad experience with the one and only time I ate duck...long story).

The cast of characters for my version are:

  • 1 cup of chopped onion (about the size or a baseball)

  • 1 cup of chopped celery (about 3 or 4 ribs)

  • 1 cup of chopped carrot (about 4 carrots)

  • 1 cup of red bell pepper (1 large)

  • 1/2 cup of butter

  • 2-10 3/4 ounce cans Cream of Potato Soup

  • 2 1/2 cups half & half

  • 1 Tablespoon Cavendar's Greek Seasoning

  • 1 Tablespoon of pepper

  • 1 Tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce

  • 1 Tablespoon of Chicken base (not a bullion cube, base by the soup section it comes in a glass jar)

  • 1 pound of sausage

  • 2-17 ounce cans of cream corn

  • 2 cups Cheddar Cheese

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Put sausage in a large stock pot and brown over medium heat. I use a potato masher to make sure the sausage is evenly cooked and crumbled, it works great for ground beef, too. Remove the sausage to a towel lined plate and set aside. If there is a lot of grease in the pot, pour some out (I didn't have that much grease, maybe a teaspoon if that). Place butter in the stock pot and melt, over medium heat. Add carrots, celery, onion, pepper and cook for 3-5 minutes until onion is clear. Season with Cavendar's Greek seasoning and fresh cracked pepper, stir. Add Worcestershire sauce and chicken base, stir well. Pour in soups, sausage, and corn then half & half. Stir well, reduce heat to medium-low or low (electric ranges will need low) add cheese and stir. Once the cheese melts and the veggies release more of their moisture the soup will thin out, it's rather thick at first, but does thin out, maybe 10 minutes more cooking on low heat, stirring often. The cheese and dairy in this chowder will scorch if you don't stir it often. This is the soup right before I added the chopped parsley. I didn't get a picture of the soup all dolled up, we had company and it was crazy.


  • Last night I made this ahead because we were having company over. I didn't have time to tend the stove, I placed the chowder in a crock pot on low, adding the parsley. This worked great because it heated the chowder and gave me plenty of time to get everything else done.
  • You could add a cup or so of frozen has browned potatoes (the cubed kind) and frozen corn if you wanted. I found that the chowder had good corn flavor, but did feel that the potato taste was not there, adding the hash brown potatoes would give it that potato kick.
  • You could use milk in this, with much thinner results over all. I opted for half & half, not because I'm hastening a heart attack, but because I wanted the rich velvet texture of a chowder that comes with addition of half & half...I could have used cream--Just sayin'.
  • The addition of celery, onion, and carrot in equal parts is called a Mirepoix. I think it's french but it will make you sound will savvy when you are telling your co-workers about this chowder you made with a mirepoix. Some might even think you are using some exotic endangered species so be careful if you see a game warden pull up to your office.

I served this soup with Green Chili Cheddar Corn Muffins and it was delicious. I have a soft spot in my heart for the muffins, as well as a weakness to not eat every last one of the little buggers. They couldn't be easier to make (no pictures, sorry).

Green Chili-Cheddar Muffins

2 boxes Jiffy Cornbread Mix

2 eggs

2/3 cup buttermilk

1 Tablespoon of fresh cracked pepper

2 cups, heaping shredded cheddar cheese

1/4 finely chopped onion

1 3oz can of green chilies (or jalapenos)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray your muffin tins with baking spray (it has flour built in--miraculous), set aside. Mix all ingredients together well. Using a large spring, loaded scoop, fill muffin cups half full. You will yield 21 muffins. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden. Cool for 1-2 minutes in the tins, to give the cheese a chance to calm down. Resist temptation to gorge your mouth full of the entire batch.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Down...Set...Munch! Munch! Munch!

You can take what I know about football, put it into a thimble and have room for your finger! This goes for just about any sport, except competitive food challenges--that's a sport, right? I have never been a fan of sports, tried bowling on a league when I was in 5th grade and that was a disaster. I also played baseball as a kid, that was a disaster, too. Sports just don't get me all riled up. My Dad loves boxing, and baseball, my sister is an absolute freak about Monday night football, and the sports in which her children compete. For me, I just go to these football parties to talk to the other people who could care less and are forced to go along with those that do, and eat the food. There are some great snacks at football watch parties.

One of my most favorite snacks is this corn dip. I can't tell you how delicious this thing is, but I'll try: It's delicious! I found this dip at a Christmas party last year and nearly embarrassed myself eating it. One should not walk around Christmas parties, at fancy houses, cuddling the shiny bowl of corn dip as the bag of Doritos Scoops dangle from your fingers. Ok, so I didn't actually do that, but it was close to that--very close to that.

Here's the line up (sounds footbal
ly doesn't it?):

  • 15oz can of Mexi-Corn (some places call it fiesta corn) You can substitute frozen, fiesta corn thawed if you have that.
  • 15oz can of White Corn (shoe peg corn) Again, you can use frozen white corn thawed.
  • 4 oz can of Green Chilies. If you want this hot, you can use chopped jalapenos, but I'm a hot wimp.
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions (I used about 4 stalks of green onion)
  • 1/2 cup Sour Cream
  • 1/2 cup Mayonnaise (the real stuff). I really love the new Kraft mayo made with Olive Oil, give it a try it's really good.
  • 2 cups Sharp Cheddar Cheese. I only had Cheddar-Jack on hand, but you can use fresh grated, Pepper jack, any shredded cheese you like.
  • 1 teaspoon Lawry's Seasoned Salt. I always add more Lawry's after mixing, but you may find this to be all you need.
  • 1 teaspoon Garlic Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Fresh Cracked Pepper
Chopping the green onions is the most strenuous part of this project. Unless you feel the compulsion to grate your own cheese. I've seen already chopped green onion in the refrigerated section of my produce aisle, so I guess you could buy that. Then the only hard thing is stirring--pray you don't cramp up.
So place everything in a large bowl (not your serving bowl). Stir it well to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning to suit your personal taste. I usually add the Corn (did I tell you to drain the corn? I don't think I did...Drain the corn), chillies, green onions, cheese, then seasonings, finally adding the mayo and sour cream. Stir it really well.

After you have accomplished all of this place it in a pretty bowl. I have this really cool oval shaped tulip bowl, Kendra and I got when we married and I really love it. It's heavy duty, but very pretty and useful for our parties.
I usually add more cheese to the top and green onions, but I forgot to save any green onions out so I just had to use the cheese. You can serve this right away or chill it (even over night) it's good either way.
I would recommend using the scoops, or the big Fritos would be good too. If you wanted to make this fancier, you could put scoops on a serving platter, then portion out the dip into the individual scoops and garnish each one with some cheese and green onion (or, two crossed chive stalks if you really want to make this dip fancy). They probably wouldn't hold up for long, so you would want to do it fairly near the party.

You might just find yourself eating this for dinner...in the closet where no one can find you and where the clothes will hide the moans of delight.

P.S. I think black olives would be good in this dip, chopped olives. If you give it a try let me know. We don't keep those puppies in our house, no reason, just don't use them.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I spring, you spring, we all spring for--scoops

I'm not a fan of gadgets that have only one purpose, they just clutter things up in my cabinet. I do have a few things that are single purpose use, like my juicer (it was a wedding gift) and egg separator, but for the most part I buy items which can be used for multiple tasks in my kitchen. When we moved to our house in Tulsa I dreamed of setting up a baking center in our large kitchen. I really, really wanted a space that was dedicated to just baking, Kendra agreed and it's wonderful. The overhead cabinets contain all of the ingredients I need for baking, as well as mixing bowls, a slew of itty bitty bowls I use for ingredients when getting recipes ready. The drawer is laid out with all of my baking tools: spatulas, scrapers, whisk (why do I only have one whisk? It's huge!), measuring cups, measuring spoons (three sets), etc. I'd take a picture, but I don't' have a camera and I won't remember when I do get one (the one I use is either lost or living with someone else who has no morals or objections to stealing from people). Among the things that I love are my spring loaded scoops.

These pictures are from the Pampered Chef website and the scoops I own. Feel free to go to this website and order you some scoops, or look up a consultant in your area. Pampered Chef is a great kitchen/cooking company. I've loved this company for nearly 20 years. Kendra was a consultant for about three years and we had such a good time doing it. I won't make anything on this plug, but I also want to keep it real and let you know when I feel great about something. You can find other scoops in other places and pay a lot more or a lot less, but these work really well and are backed by a guarantee. How easy is that?

I like to use scoops because I have the ability to get even, precise measurements. I'm anal about things being exactly the same, but don't have the eye for doing it by hand. These scoops give me the right amount, no skill required. So to keep this short and sweet I'll give you some bullet point tips that I think make scoops worth screaming about.
  • Small scoops are the perfect measurement for mini-muffin tins.
  • medium scoops are the perfect measurement for regular size muffin tins.
  • Large scoops are the perfect portion for mashed potatoes, and other starches. If you are watching your weight, then you know portion control is paramount. This scoop will be your best friend and help you have control.
  • Having a party? Make it an Ice Cream Sundae bar! Use all of your scoops to make different size ice cream balls. Place the ice cream "scoops" on a sheet pan and then place that in the freezer. When you guests come you can pull out those pans and have already portioned ice cream scoops ready to go.
  • Use your scoops for cookie dough and get exact portions of cookies each time.
  • Meatballs roll right out of the bowl with your small scoop, you can also use the larger scoop for bigger meatballs, the choice is yours.
Is there a kitchen gadget that you just love to scream about? Let's hear about it. There are other gadgets that I love as much and you can rest assured you'll hear about it. Have a great day.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Buttermilk Cake

Welcome to my new place! I decided to begin a food blog, which is dedicated to just food and food related items. Over at Teensyandtheboys.blogspot.com I would occasionally post recipes and such, but then get back to my crazy stories. Here I can just relax and post food and talk about the thing I love to do the most.

This cake is one of my all time favorite cakes. It is super good for breakfast or lunch, or dinner, or snacks, or after a snack, or before bed, or when--do you get the picture. I love cake and like my cakes to be very tender, not dry, and have subtle flavors. This one meets all of the desired tastes that make my tongue so happy. An added bonus is how incredibly easy it is to make.

One of the key ingredients in this is buttermilk. I usually don't have buttermilk on hand, but for this cake I bought a half gallon and still have some. Buttermilk is a great additive in place of milk or water. The next time you make mashed potatoes (tell me, please that you do not buy frozen, or boxed spuds) add buttermilk instead of cream or milk and you'll be amazed. If you do not have buttermilk you can use one tablespoon of vinegar emptied into a 1-cup measure, then add milk to the one cup mark and let sit for five minutes. The vinegar acidulates the milk and thickens it like buttermilk.

Buttermilk cake:
  • 1 (18.25-oz.) package white cake mix
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 5 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • Shortening
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Beat first 3 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer 2 minutes or until thoroughly blended; add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

2. Stir together brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.

3. Spray your Bundt pan with cooking spray which contains flour. Set aside.

4. Spoon one-third of batter into prepared pan; sprinkle brown sugar mixture evenly over batter. Top with remaining batter.

5. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool cake in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack, and cool 20-25 minutes. Drizzle Buttermilk-Vanilla Glaze over slightly warm cake.

Buttermilk Vanilla Glaze:
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 to 2 Tbsp. buttermilk
Stir together first 3 ingredients and 1 Tbsp. buttermilk until smooth, adding additional 1 Tbsp. buttermilk, if necessary, for desired consistency. I like it to be thick, if you prefer it thinner...you may do so (Simon says)

This cake is adapted from a Southern living recipe I found which they adapted from a recipe they found. There's love all around this place.

I hope you make this cake it is so good. I would imagine that you could add chopped pecans to the brown sugar and cinnamon mixture and it would be really good. I'm not such a big nut lover though so I wouldn't add nuts. If you are then please do.

Love to hear how you liked it.