Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day Playlist & Quick Cake!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day!  May love and laughter mark not only today but all your days.
Shout out to both my boys for helping to make a lovely supper on a busy weeknight.  Ryan was my sous chef for the pasta with meat sauce (evoking Lady and the Tramp) and Ethan helped me with this tasty and quick to assemble chocolate cake.

This miracle cake is moist and delicious.
You whisk all the dry ingredients in your baking square,
create a well in the middle (like for homemade pasta),
incorporate the wet ingredients with your whisk,
bake for 35 minutes,
cool, frost and serve in the same dish!
This recipe is an easy vegan treat (no eggs, no dairy), simple enough for beginning bakers and perfect for all of us on a busy night.  Another classic from Mad Hungry, check it out at this link.

I also thought I'd share our playlist for today - made possible by the  'old' tradition of buying CD's rather than downloading singles onto an MP3 player. :).  It was great fun rummaging through the old collection.  What romantic classics are sitting on your shelf of CD's?

Fly Me To The Moon
(sorry for the small pic!)

Slightly, embarrassing that I knew all the words.

Classic - bring on those memories!

No one could sing quite like her.
And this movie was a romance must back in the day!

Tony Bennett is always groovy!

Monday, February 13, 2012

best bacon

Why is this the Best Bacon?
Is it because there is no grease spatter all over my stove top?  Is it because my family can put away an entire pound in one sitting?  Is it because my (not always in love with food-prep) husband makes it every weekend without a word or finger lifted from moi?  Perhaps a combination of all these things.

There is no better way to make bacon for a crowd than in the oven. No muss - no fuss. If you are not already preparing your bacon this way - you must try it!

Best Bacon
One package of center cut bacon
fits perfectly on a 12x17" sheet pan
from Mad Hungry
by Lucinda Scala Quinn

1 - Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2 - Lay bacon strips on a rimmed baking sheet, side-by-side.

3 - Bake 12-15 minutes for thin-cut, 15-18 for thick.

4 - Drain on paper towels or paper bags.

5 - If any slices are left over, cool and wrap in plastic wrap for future use.  (Can freeze in individual portions, say 2 slices)

Tip:  Even if you are horrified at the thought of consuming one pound of bacon - please don't make less than that at a time!  The leftovers are perfect for weekday breakfast sandwiches, burgers or for crumbling on top of your soup or salad.

my lonely piece of bacon!
- large quantities of bacon may be
best consummed by growing, active boys!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

french toast

this morning's french toast
My formula for French toast ensures bread never goes to waste and gives you some flexibility to jazz it up when inspiration strikes.

Formula for French Toast

10-14 'bread slices'
5 eggs
1 c liquid (dairy, or dairy+)
1-2 t spice, flavoring
syrup, sauce

Tips for Tweaking
breads (day-old/ slightly stale is best) My fave: thick slices of challah bread
also: raid your stale bread box! cinnamon raisin bread, sourdough, baguettes, rolls, etc.
liquid My fave: whole milk and juice from one orange (to = 1 c total)
also: buttermilk, half+half, eggnog or cut dairy to 2/3c and add 1/3 liquor (like Triple Sec)
spice My fave: 1 t cinnamon and zest from one orange
also: though cinnamon is classic, a little freshly ground nutmeg is nice, too
sauce My fave: VT maple syrup
but be inspired: check out the all the options when you google 'sauce for french toast' 

Today we made it this way ...

Kaiser's Eggnog French Toast

7 leftover Kaiser Rolls (from Super Bowl party)
5 eggs
1 c 'sugar cookie' eggnog
(left over from holidays, never opened, why does it take so long to expire?)
1 heaping t of cinnamon
dash of freshly ground nutmeg
whipped cream


1. Heat the griddle (or large frying pan).  Where especially thick, I trimmed the top crusts with a serrated knife.

this recipe had plenty of batter for 14 slices (7 rolls)
with a small amount to spare
2. Whisk the batter in a large bowl: eggs, eggnog, cinnamon and nutmeg.

3. Using tongs, dip each slice into the mixture, letting each side soak up some of the batter.

4. I like to lightly butter the griddle then brown the slices for about 3 minutes per side over medium heat.

Tip: My griddle fit 6-8 slices at a time and I kept the finished ones warm in the oven between batches.

5. Serve with whipped cream and syrup.  A little side of bacon and some fresh fruit made for a good start to a busy day.

Boys devoured.  No comment about eggnog flavor = Success!  Moral: Don't be afraid to try 'new' breads!  

Thursday, February 9, 2012

homemade breakfast sausage

homemade breakfast sausage
Food confession: We are a 'breakfast meat' loving family.  Sausage links? Love 'em.  Canadian Bacon? Delish.  Bacon?  Worship.  Breakfast meats have a reoccurring role in weekend breakfasts but tonight they made an appearance in a little bit of kitchen theatre I like to call - 'Breakfast for Dinner'.  This tradition is often something I announce after a long day or maybe on a 'yes' day. (Shout out to Joy Kight in OH for introducing the Stumps to the glory and wonder of a good 'yes' day.)

'Breakfast for Dinner' - Always a hit!

'Breakfast for Dinner' always generates a lot of enthusiasm and often a few helping hands in the kitchen.  To round out strawberry smoothies, eggs and english muffins, I was scrambling for the oh, so important breakfast meat and found some ground pork defrosting in the fridge. (Thank you, Wooden Crate, for hooking us up with this local farm!)  Now, I've been wanting to try my own homemade sausage ever since my first breakfast at the Paramount on Beacon Hill.  If you're from Boston you'll know the Paramount. (If not - drag your favorite breakfast lover down to Charles Street and make plans to eat there soon!) Their turkey sausage is out of this world - and the prep is a little bit of food theatre in itself.

My men loved this recipe!  It was a big hit tonight and the four leftover patties are now in my freezer for a quick warm up in the microwave to tuck into breakfast sandwiches. This recipe is my own but you can find inspiration on the internet, too.

Homemade Breakfast Sausage

1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 t fennel seed, crushed
(I used a knife to chop and mash; you could use a spice grinder.)
1 t paprika (sweet not smoked)
Dash of freshly ground nutmeg (or a pinch of nutmeg from a jar)
1 heaping t herbs de provence
(You could use italian seasoning, red pepper flakes for heat, or dried sage and thyme)
1 t black pepper, freshly ground
1 heaping t kosher salt
1 lb ground meat
(I used pork, turkey would be lovely, too.)
2 t vinegar
(I used apple cider, you could omit or use red wine vinegar, etc.)
1 egg white


1. I combined all the dry spices in a bowl with a fork. (garlic - salt)

2.  Then I used my hands to incorporate all the spices with the pork, vinegar and egg white.  Refrigerate at least 15 minutes.  I imagine you could do this the night before and let the flavors meld.

3.  Put the meat mixture on a dish-washer safe cutting board.  I scored my into 8 sections.  Use your (impeccably clean) hands to make each section into a 2"+ patty.  To keep them uniform, I ended up with 10 patties.

4.  Coat a heated frying pan (I used cast iron.) with 2 t of canola or vegetable oil.  Cook each patty for 4 minutes per side.  I drain on paper towels to absorb any residual grease.

5. Voila!  Jeff likes to tuck his into an english muffin with eggs.  Tasty!

leftovers like these are like
money in the bank!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

banana muffins

Perfect for after-school snacks
and for tucking into lunch boxes!

(Yes, still using Christmas muffin liners!)

Check out Claire's perfect Banana Muffins.

My boys love muffins - and I love the ease with which they travel.  Our two favorites are today's post, banana muffins from Cook With Claire, and our pumpkin muffins.  A couple of browning bananas were calling me yesterday, so in the early afternoon I quickly pulled the ingredients together and they were ready as an after school snack.   (Happily consumed over homework and again after a friendly game of football.)

My DF Claire's muffin recipe is the best.  Her technique is simple, her ingredients wholesome and her pictures the perfect tutorial.  My only adjustment was to leave out the chocolate chips (oh, no!) because we were all out.  Make muffins with your kids - so simple and satisfying!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

911 mac and cheese

warm, tasty comfort

911 Mac and Cheese is fast and easy to assemble - perfect for a weeknight.  It falls into a category I call '911' - a quick-fix, wholesome side dish that satisfies everyone and can be assembled in a flash with ingredients most of us have on hand.  I'm a big fan of fancy macs (4 cheese mac and cheese, bacon mac and cheese, lobster mac and cheese ...) and will share some of those on a lazy weekend. But if you're facing a busy night - this recipe is for you!

I found this comforting gem in a foodie novel I'm reading, 'Julia's Child'. Look at the wholesome ingredients - great for hungry, active kids! We whipped it together and served it with turkey kielbasa (a favorite with my boys).  A quick crudite platter and some fruit rounded out the meal nicely. 

911: Mac and Cheese
from Julia's Child, by Sarah Pinneo


1 c cottage cheese
2 c whole milk
1 T Dijon mustard
pinch paprika (Hungarian)
4 c shredded cheese (I used a combination of Mozz & Cheddar)
8 oz dry pasta (I used mini-shells; 8 oz is 1/2 a box)

Tip: The key to this recipe's ease is the dry pasta.  Just like using dry noodles in lasagna, dry noodles save a step.

cottage cheese & milk mixture

1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. I sprayed the casserole dish with canola oil.

2. Combine the cottage cheese, milk, mustard, and paprika in a blender till smooth.

3. Toss the shredded cheese and dry pasta together in a large bowl.  Pour milk mixture over top and stir to combine.

4.  Pour into prepared dish, cover (I used foil - your dish may have a cover).

5. Bake for 30 minutes, remove cover and bake for 30 minutes more.  Will be brown and bubbly.

Scoop and serve - yummy!

shells & cheese