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Photo credit:  Jim McQuire:  Pumpkins in Snow

I was looking for a new recipe for dessert this Thanksgiving.
I came across this one, which I have tweaked a bit.
It is like those “Dump Cakes” of the 1970’s.  I have the one in the oven right now.   Wish you could smell it baking

Pumpkin Dump Cake

1 29 ounce can Libby’s canned pumpkin
1 box yellow cake mix, any brand
1 cup melted butter

Prepare the pumpkin according to label instructions, using only one can of evaporated milk.  I also used only 1 cup sugar as the cake mix is very sweet.  Pour the pumpkin mixture into a greased 13 x 9 pan.  I recommend using Baker’s Joy or similar product.  Sprinkle the dry cake mix evenly over the top of the pumpkin mixture, then carefully drizzle the melted butter over the cake mix.

You can sprinkle with 1 cup chopped nuts if you wish, but our extended family is crazy enough already.

Bake at 325 for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.  When completely cooled top servings with real whipped cream.  Refrigerate any leftovers….what leftovers?

When I serve this, I will warm it up slightly, I think it is better slightly warmed.

Enjoy.

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This is one of those recipes that you find on the back of the box of sugar. 
I have a fabulous cook book that I bought 20 years ago called:
Best Recipes From the backs of Boxes, Bottles, Cans and Jars.  by Cecil Dyer 1989

Since it is nearly Thanksgiving in the States, I thought it was time for another great recipe with pecans. 
I’m the only one who likes pecans in my family so I’m glad these freeze well. 

1 cup packed C & H Pure Cane Golden Brown Sugar
1/4 cup shortening
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees

Grease 8 x 8 x 2 inch baking dish.  In medium bowl, beat sugar and shortening until fluffy.  Beat in egg and vanilla.  Combine flour, baking powder and salt; stir into mixture.  Stir in nuts.  Spread batter in baking dish.  Bake 25 minutes.  Cut into 2×1 inch bars. Makes 2 1/2 dozen.  Make a fresh pot of coffee – I’ll be right over!

Thanks to Family Fun Magazine for the photo and C & H Pure cane sugar for the recipe.

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What is my brother going to say when he gets home to find that his 8 year old son is growing like a weed and is eating meat all of a sudden? 
He has turned into a carnivore overnight.

Nephew has been big on salads since he was 2.  He was the only toddler I’ve ever seen who would eat a tossed salads for dinner.  Make sure there was ranch dressing and croutons and he was happy. Don’t worry, he got enough protein; we would sneak in chicken and nephew would even eat a homemade taco salad from time to time. When I was visiting and we would eat out, my brother would order his own salad with blue cheese dressing just to keep his son out of his salad. 

My brother and SIL left me with a well stocked pantry…no matter, I knew how to get to Winco.  (I think that’s how it’s spelled.)
Great market BTW.  I love their ready to grind coffee beans.  I always go home with several pounds of it in my luggage. 

Sam and my niece wanted steak the first night, so we grilled on the barbecue.  Nephew ate half my steak.  I looked at him and thought “who are you and what did you do with my nephew?” 
Since they left on their trip we’ve had so much beef, I don’t know what I’m going to tell my brother. 
Sam had been suffering from withdrawals from not having In & Out double doubles, so I’ve been making them.  If we haven’t had steak, we’ve had burgers or ribs.  I did manage to talk them into a chicken dish I’ve made for years; and they liked it so well I’ve made it twice for them. 
Besides the growing food budget, nephew has been growing too.  I swear he’s 2 inches taller.

This is the chicken dish I’ve made twice now.  The recipe is from Weight Watchers Quick Start Plus Cookbook

We first had it when we were visiting relatives in Northern CA.  It was so good that copied down the recipe with an aunt while the rest of the family went outside to watch the deer make their evening visit to the vegetable garden. 

Orange Chicken –

IMG2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons reduced-calorie margarine…seriously, I use 3 tablespoons butter
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cups sliced mushrooms
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
2/3 cup water
1/4 cup thawed frozen concentrated orange juice (no sugar added)
2 chicken broth bouillon cubes (No MSG)
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions (green onions)
1 cup canned mandarin orange sections (no sugar), heated

In a 10 inch skillet heat butter until hot.  Add chicken and cook until browned on both sides.  Remove from skillet and set aside.  
In the same  skillet cook mushrooms over high heat, stirring occasionally, until all liquid has evaporated; sprinkle mushrooms with flour and stir quickly to combine .  Gradually stir in water;  add orange juice and bouillon cubes and, stirring constantly, bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, add chicken and let simmer for about 3 minutes to allow flavors to mingle.  Serve chicken over rice sprinkled with scallions and topped with orange sections.
Cook’s notes: 
Besides using butter, I like to prepare this with more sauce;  I usually double the sauce recipe, because it is so good over left over rice the next day.  If you are feeding more than 4 people then you just need to plan accordingly.  When I visit my family, I generally cook meals for them in advance and freeze the dishes.  When they have late meetings and lots of homework, my SIL only needs to pop one into the oven.  She has this dish frozen in individual servings for a crazy night in the fall. 

  

 

 

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Years ago, hubby and I drove up to Monterey and stayed at the Martine Inn in Pacific Grove. 
The inn is a charming bed and breakfast on the coast of California. 
Our room was wonderful, with a sitting room area that overlooked the ocean. 

Finally this was a trip where we could stop frequently, and did.  Unlike when we traveled in “Clustr Maps:  Connect the Dots!” 
We spent several hours in Morro Bay, CA.  
We visited a sea lion rescue center, had lunch, wandered in and out of souvenir shops and antique stores.  But we were anxious to get to the Martine Inn.  We had planned lots of excursions for our three day stay on the coast…

While in Monterey we visited the aquarium, 17 mile drive, walked along the ocean, watched otters eating seafood al fresco at sunset. 
Every afternoon our hosts had wine and cheese for us in the parlour over looking the ocean. 
A few times we were lucky enough to spot a whale.  Well, I thought it was a whale…could have been a guy in a wet suit on a surf board. 
Our dinner we planned for the first evening was at Hammerheads. 
I have looked in vain on line for Hammerheads Restaurant in Monterey.  I am afraid the only hammerheads you will find now are swimming in the ocean.  The eatery must have closed in the last 25 years. 

The restaurant was set in a lovely old fire station, sadly I did not take any photos. 
The food was delicious, we both had steaks with all the extras. 
But what had really drawn us to the restaurant was their famous Chocoholic Dessert Bar
Yes, a dessert bar with all things chocolate.  Anything you can think of that was chocolate they had.  Chocolate pie to candy bars. 
I admit, some of it was rather uninspired.  But they did have a decadent cake covered with chocolate. 
Over the years I have seen recipes for it with different names, Chocolate Suicide Cake, Better Than Sex Cake….(highly unlikely)…or as I call it, simply –

Chocolate Ganache Cake

1 box devils food cake…I like to use Betty Crocker’s Triple Chocolate Fudge cake mix
Eggs, water and oil as directed on the box
16 ounces semisweet chocolate – see cook’s notes
1 1/3 cups heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoons real butter

Prepare cake as directed on the box.  Bake in a 13×9 according to  package directions.  Cool completely. 
Line the bottom of a 9 inch spring form pan with waxed paper. 

To make the ganache:  In a glass mixing bowl, microwave cream and butter just until the mixture begins to boil.  Remove and immediately add the broken up chocolate; let sit 1-2 minutes.  Stir until chocolate is completely melted.  You might need to rewarm in the microwave for a few seconds.  Cool slightly. 

Cut the cooled cake into small pieces and place in a large bowl.  Pour about half of the cooled ganache mixture over the cake and mix well.  While you are mixing , you may have flashbacks to childhood days of mud pies – but this will be WAY better.  Use a spatula to thoroughly mix the cake and chocolate together.  Scape mixture into the prepared spring form pan, smooth the top and place in freezer for about an hour. 
It is okay to leave the bowl of the remaining ganache on the counter until the cake is cooled.  Try not to sample it. 

To unmold the cake:  Carefully run a knife around the edge of the springform pan.  Remove ring. 
Taste any morsels of cake that may remain on the ring, as this is the cook’s privilege. 
Place the serving plate on top of the cake and flip.  Remove the bottom plate and carefully peel off the waxed paper.  Pour the ganache over the top of the cake; spread smooth.  The ganache will drip down the sides of the cake.  Store in the refrigerator until serving time; cover and refrigerate any leftovers.  The cake can be stored up to one week in the refrigerator, but trust me, there will be no leftovers. 

Because it is so rich, I serve thin wedges of the cake.  If you are feeling extra fancy you can drizzle a little chocolate sauce on the dessert plate place the cake on top, adding a few strawberries or raspberries on the side.          STARBUCKS%20Milk%20Chocolate%20Signature%20Bar%20-%203%20ozbars_intense_twilight_lg

Re: the chocolate for the ganache.  You can make this cake very inexpensively, or you can spend more money on quality chocolate.  I have made this just using Semi-Sweet Chocolate morsels, but the consistency was not pleasing.  It also took more ‘zaps’ in the microwave to become smooth. 
When I make this, I like to use a good quality chocolate.  I often use 3 packages of Ghirardelli Intense Dark, Twilight Delight 72% cacao bars, at 3.5 oz a package.  And, 2 packages of Starbucks Milk Chocolate, 3 oz each package. 
The recipe calls for 16 oz of chocolate, these bars will give you 16.5. 
What are you going to do with that extra 1/2 ounce? 
I say, eat it!

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Balloons

Sam is officially 12. 
I know, I can’t believe it either.  Pete is a bit annoyed that Sam is taller than Pete was at the same age. 
Adapt – I told him. 

There were 12 birthday “partiers” at my house this weekend.  Eleven 12 year old boys and one petite and polite 8 year old girl, dressed in, what else?  Pink. With sparkly hot pink ballerina slippers.  Jasmine is Michael’s sister.  Where he goes, she goes.  I was delighted to have another female in the house….AJ doesn’t count. 

After they arrived, we loaded into 3 vehicles…(good thing my older sons brought their cars)…. and went to the bowling alley.  Sam wanted a bowling birthday party.  Usually we always have parties at home, so this was a switch. 

They all had fun.  I think the high score was 200…..for all 3 games.  Not bad when you’ve never picked up a bowling ball before.  Jasmine even had a bowling ball that coordinated with her outfit.
We came home and ate lots of pizza and salad.  I am glad I remembered how much my older sons ate as teens, or should I say ‘tweens’?   Between the 15 of us we polished off 12 pizzas.  It’s a good thing we didn’t take them out for steak! 

The afternoon would not have been complete without cake and ice cream.  Sam has specific standards.  It had to be Haagen-Dazs Vanilla ice cream, nothing else would do.  I wanted to order the cake from a bakery or Costco.  He wouldn’t hear of it.  He said, and I quote, “But Mom, I only like your cakes, I don’t care if they have fancy decorations, I just want your cake!”  By the time he finished batting his eyelashes at me, I was feeling like a piece of toast…I’d been”buttered up!”  I should add that the #1 gift on his list was Rock Band.

Cross Costco off my list and add cake mixes. 
We dug through the Rubbermaid tote of fast food toys, giving us three different cake themes: Lilo & Stitch – white cake blue frosting waves…complete with surf boards.  I couldn’t quite get the big waves of the Hawaiian islands…in frosting…but I tried. 

Surf’s Up Penguins – more white cake with blue frosting waves & surfboards…some graham cracker crumbs for sand and a palm tree…courtesy of the market’s bakery. 

And my personal favorite this year…Kung Fu Panda –
A chocolate 13×9 cake…with a ‘mountain’ on one end made out of sculpted cup cakes….lots of brown and green frosting.  I don’t have a picture, so you’ll just have to take my word for it, the cake was adorable.

P.S….His brothers bought him Rock Band.

Thanks to Flicker for the the balloon photo.  It was perfect.

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I’ve been making this recipe for abut 15 years.  It is one of those where if the guys know what’s in it, there is a chorus of “I’m not eating THAT!”  But serve it up, tell them taste it and before you know it, the pan or crock pot has been licked clean.  Not really, I have trained them better than that.

This can be made three different ways. 
In the oven, in a 13×9 casserole, covered tightly with Reynolds wrap….(metal foil)  Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour, or until chicken is done. 

On the stove top, in a Teflon coated saute/skillet.  This method with give you the sticky caramelized consistency.  The chicken will brown in this version, having a sticky coating.  Cooking time about 25-30 minutes, if cooking boneless chicken. 

Or the easiest way, in the crock pot.  The chicken will soak up the flavors of the sauce; my house smells so good right now.  Cooking time about 3 hours on low if chicken is fresh.  About 2 hours on high and another 2 hours on low, if the chicken is frozen. 

Whichever way you decide to make it, serve it over rice.  Either from the rice cooker or the stove top.  I like both styles of rice.  When we had Japanese students stay with us for several summers, I bought a rice cooker.  We used it EVERY day, we would buy the big bags of rice from Costco several times during the summers. 

Before I forget, here is the sauce recipe that the chicken is going to cook in. This is doubled because we like lots of sauce. 

“Mom when are you making that Chicken again?…”

2 envelopes Lipton Onion Soup Mix
1 cup water (if desired…the soup mix is concentrated…normally making this as soup you would add 8 cups of water)
1 cup 1,000 Island Dressing (which ever brand you prefer)
1 cup apricot preserves – My favorite brand is Knott’s Berry Farm…but that’s probably not easy to come by in Australia.  (Let me know.)  : )

Pour this sauce over the chicken of your choice.  We prefer boneless, skinless chicken tenders.  Cook using the desired method, serve over rice.  If you want some for your lunch the next day, I would suggest putting a serving aside for yourself before the guys start on seconds!

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31e8vp85ywl__sl500_aa280_I promised earlier this week that I would share two quick appetizers with you for the big game on Sunday. 

These are ridiculously easy and fast.  If you have two crock pots, even better.  The ingredients are a bit unusual.  If you think that some of your crowd might be a bit squeamish…just tell them it is barbecue sauce.  Boys will eat anything if you tell them that. 

Grape Jam Meatballs

1 bag frozen meatballs…approximately 24-36
1 16 ounce jar grape jam….generic or name brand
1 16 ounce jar chili sauce (for a spicy flavor)
OR
1 16 ounce bottle ketchup (for a mild flavor the kids will eat)

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the jam and sauce or ketchup.  Dump (don’t you love the fancy cooking terminology?) the meatballs into the crock pot, pour the sauce over, cover and cook on low (if you have a few hours) or on high if the guys will be arriving any minute. 
Be sure you get your serving quickly.  These will be gone in no time. 

The other recipe is very similar and equally quirky, 

Cranberry Meatballs

1 bag frozen meatballs…approximately 24-36
1 16 ounce can jellied cranberry sauce…there’s only one brand
1/2 cup barbecue sauce, your favorite brand…
(See you’re not lying…there’s barbecue sauce in this one.)

Whisk the sauces together until smooth.  Pour sauce over meatballs in the second crock pot.  Adjust the cooking temperature to your needs. 

Now, the fancier recipes say you should serve these meatballs with toothpicks.  But if the game has started and the guys are yelling for their team to complete the next play…
Those toothpicks could be dangerous….I’ve seen my sons poke each other with them, especially if their team was winning.  If someone gets carried away with the poking, you could end up with EMT’s and half the fire station in your entertainment room…there’s definitely not going to be enough meatballs for that crowd!

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