Thursday, April 28, 2011

Becky's Diner - Waverly NY

Well I thought I would try my hand at a restaurant review…I have never done one so bear with me here folks.  I thought for my first review I would choose a small local diner that my family really enjoys going to. It is practically my husband’s second home. Just kidding….but not by much! 
Becky’s Diner in Waverly New York, is just what you want in a diner. A friendly place, where everyone knows someone and the home-cooking is terrific.   You can get breakfast all day and the rustic homespun charm of the place is wonderful.  You can get a table, booth or sit up at the counter….the food is fresh and hot –made to order- and the service is pretty darn fast considering how packed the place often is.  It is not unusual for people to share a table with strangers (or should I say friends they haven’t met yet) during the peak hours of the day.
Becky’s Diner opens very early and closes before dinnertime.  Although the menu leans heavy on breakfast items, they have a nice assortment of non-breakfast fare as well…. and a nice array of fresh pies and strawberry shortcake. They also feature a daily special or two to shake things up a bit.  The waitresses are friendly and quirky with the perfect amount of sass to make everyone smile!  They are also very good at remembering who likes what for the regulars, and there are a lot of those!  Becky’s Diner is jam packed with every age group and every economic group and then some. They are family friendly and don’t blink twice whether you walk in with 4 little ones or 8 grimy construction workers. 
Becky herself mans the kitchen and she slings some fantastic diner food.  Her burgers, omelets, wraps, and soups are terrific.  She serves generous portions and is willing to work with you so you get your meal just how you want it. 
Just a note that the daily special often sells out, so get there before the huge lunch crowd!  Come give Becky’s a try if you haven’t yet….and if it has been awhile, come back and have some delicious down home cooking soon!
Becky's Diner
310 Broad Street
Waverly, NY 14892-1326
(607) 565-7668

Bacon Tomato Dip in a Bread Bowl

I found this recipe awhile ago on  www.tasteofhome.com and I thought it sounded yummy! I am going to be whipping this up this weekend and I will be sure to let you know how it is. It sounds simple and easy….and it has bacon in it, enough said!  If anyone wants to join me in this taste taste…here is the recipe…
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 medium tomato, peeled and chopped
  • 8 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 round loaf (1/2 pound) unsliced sourdough bread
  • Assorted crackers
In a small bowl, beat cream cheese and mayonnaise until smooth. Stir in the tomato, bacon, basil and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Cut a 1-1/2-in. thick slice off the top of bread; set aside. Carefully hollow out loaf, leaving a 1/2-in. shell. Cut removed bread into cubes. Fill bread shell with dip. Serve with bread cubes and crackers.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Bisquick...circa 1933

So I was digging through some old boxes last night, and I found some old cookbooks my grandmother had given me…not hardcover cookbooks, but the little ones that you get with your new blender or in the grocery checkout.  When I came across a REALLY old one and it made me smile looking through it so I thought I would share.
The cookbook is called ‘Betty Crocker’s  101 Bisquick  Creations’ and it was published in 1933 by General Mills (cost 25 cents). The creations were…and I quote…” made and served by well-known gracious hostesses, famous chefs, distinguished Epicures, and smart Luminaries of Movie-land”
Seriously who could NOT buy this amazing book?  This book marvels at Bisquicks ability to “make even the most inexperienced cook a wizard in the kitchen”…Bisquick is the surest way to make biscuits “all husbands will adore”. (Seriously don’t you love it? As soon as I get my scanner working I am posting some photos from this booklet!)
So I decided to share a recipe (I did not try this so you’re on your own to give it a whirl).  It is the recipe of The Countess deForceville. The booklet said the Countess is “full of charm, great taste and ingenuity that has made her the most interesting hostess in New York and is cosmopolitan in matters of cookery………..her philosophy is to please the palates of the men and you will have a successful dinner”. Here is her recipe exactly as written in the booklet…enjoy.
Hunt Club Sandwich
Make Bisquick dough and roll out very thin as for a pie crust.  Dot surface with 4 tbs butter fold so as to make 3 layers. Turn halfway round.  Roll out  ½ the dough to 1/8 inch to cover bottom of an oblong pan 12x9. Spread thickly with chicken and ham filling (to follow) Cover with remaining dough which has been rolled thin. Cut shapes in top crust to vent but leave in place.  Bake at 450 for 15 minutes
Filling:
To 1 ½ cups cooked chicken, cut up and flaked; add ¾ cup cooked ham cut into ½ in pieces, add 4 tbl top milk(cream), 3 beaten egg yolks, and 2 hard cooked eggs chopped fine. Season with salt and pepper.  Spread in pastry as directed above.

I gotta say…I am curious..and since hard cooked eggs and ham are currently leftover from Easter and hanging out in my fridge, I may be forced to try this. Then I too, can be like the Countess…or maybe like Mrs Walter Paepcke(another contributor to the booklet) who is considered and “Active cook and does all of her own cooking for dinner parties”.   Imagine that!! 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Did I mention it is raining?

It is 6:30 on Monday night…I have a boy at a track meet and one buried under an entire mountain of homework…I am so glad to be home from work (and secretly glad I could not make the Boy Scout meeting tonight because MAN am I tired and I want to go to bed EARLY) and feeling a little sad because the college kiddos headed back to school today and…. Oh yeah… it is raining….yesterday it rained…and the day before…before that it poured, and drizzled, and misted…it has been raining for so long I can’t even begin to remember what the sun looks like…or feels like.  I mean I know it is springtime and rain is part of that but come on now…seriously. I just feel soggy. I may even be molding.
The lawn is squishy and everything is chilly and damp. The tractors can’t get on the fields, the spring sports keep getting cancelled...there is MUD everywhere. I truly cannot tell that my husband’s pickup is actually white!  It is not the usual warm; rainy spring weather that smells like worms and earth and flowers…it is just wet….and cold….and mildewy.
All of this raining has me swinging between wanting to cook summer foods and ‘pretend’ the weather is better and wanting to cook warm comfort foods and crawl back inside until the sun shows itself.  I want to do some denial cooking like burgers on the grill, potato salad, corn and watermelon…but yet I want to make soup or stew and homemade biscuits.  I swing between wanting lemonade and cocoa.  I feel a bit like I have a split personality.   As I type this the news channel is telling me we are under a severe thunderstorm advisory until 10pm…well….that is just ducky isn’t it? 
Soooo, I think I will split the difference and make a ham and asparagus pot pie (gotta use up those Easter leftovers!) and make a nice summery salad (or maybe skip the salad and dive into summer with a mug of ice cream). Yeah…ice-cream is summery right? Oh Jeez, I think I need mental help. Or a vacation.  Or both.

Monday, April 25, 2011

CaliBowls


I just wanted to tell you about these great bowls I got for Christmas this year…they are called CaliBowls. I love them!     The CaliBowl is designed with an inward-curving lip, like a wave, which pushes all the food back onto whatever you are eating with. This makes it a relatively no spill bowl. You don’t scoop food up the side of the bowl and out onto the table, it stays on the chip or in the spoon! Who wouldn’t love this? The CaliBowl is the patent pending idea of Jeff Bollengier, Richard Stump & Kaveh Soofer; all California natives who started the company SimpleWave.

                               
These bowls also have a no slip ring on the bottom that keeps the bowl from slipping on the counter. They are unbreakable, attractive and microwave and dishwasher safe. They are also  BPA free!
They have a growing line of bowls (including bowls with lids, mixing bowls, and kid’s bowls!)  The kids bowls are great….wish I had them when my kids were small. They have a suction cup bottom and the design helps your little one get every bite on his/her spoon.
I have a set of 3 bowls...in bright red of course….I am seriously considering getting the single serve bowls for soup/cereal.  I love the design and the wonderful colors.
Also, the company has a zero landfill policy and they are passionate about the long-term sustainability of our planet. They also have a recycle a bowl program. At the end of a product’s life, all you have to do is return the CaliBowl™ product to Simple Wave to be recycled into new product. In return you will receive a 20% discount on your entire subsequent order through the CaliBowl™ online store.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy and Blessed Easter!

“The resurrection gives my life meaning and direction and the opportunity to start over no matter what my circumstances.”  ~Robert Flatt

Easter is a time of joy and happiness, what a wonderful day to share with family and friends.
We are having Ham for Easter dinner today….I felt the need to go the traditional route this year.  In the U.S.A, ham is a very traditional choice for Easter dinner.  The reason? Well, back in the ‘day’, meat was slaughtered in the fall. Since there was no refrigeration, the fresh pork that wasn't consumed during the winter months was cured for spring. The curing process took a long time, and the first hams were usually ready around the time Easter rolled around. 
Since I went traditional with my main dish I thought I would try some new recipes for sides. Two new dishes I am doing are an Asparagus Gratin and a Spring Pasta with peas and leeks. Due to popular demand I am also doing our family favorite rosemary and garlic roasted Potato dish.  I am also trying a new glaze for the ham…a Pomegranate glaze (yummmmm!).   
I also pondered making Hot Cross Buns since they are very traditional (and delish). These buns used to be blessed by the church for Easter. Many cultures have a variation on these buns.  I decided not to make them this year since I already have a sea salt and rosemary bread on the menu. So I want to share a link to Ree Drummond’s version (aka The Pioneer Woman…I love her blog, her cookbook!) Here is her Link to a wonderful recipe for Hot Cross Buns  

“The joyful news that He is risen does not change the contemporary world.  Still before us lie work, discipline, and sacrifice.  But the fact of Easter gives us the spiritual power to do the work, accept the discipline, and make the sacrifice.”  ~Henry Knox Sherrill

Happy Spring! 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

What to do with all of these hard boiled EASTER eggs?

So, as you know I have 6 people in my family and every Easter we run into the same issue…we have a LOT of hard boiled eggs after Easter. We all color eggs, no one wants to color just one egg right? So now I have two dozen hard boiled eggs that I don’t want to waste…I want to use them up! So I decided to right down a few ideas for using up those wonderful, beautiful Easter eggs.  Some may be obvious…some not so much…maybe you will discover a new egg recipe here…or it will spark you to discover one!
1.       Egg Salad…kind of obvious but I thought a basic egg salad recipe was a good place to start. Here is one with and one without Mayo these make enough for 2 sandwiches:
Egg Salad with Mayo
4 hard boiled eggs (diced)
3-4 tbl mayo
1 -2 tea mustard
Onion, celery diced (optional and to taste)
Salt and pepper
Mix it all together and adjust to taste
Egg Salad without Mayo
4 hardboiled eggs
Diced onions, celery, and jalapeno (optional) to taste
2 tbl olive oil
1 tbl Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Chop the hard boiled eggs very fine. Use a food process if you have one. The trick to good egg salad without mayo is to make sure you chop the eggs fine enough. Add onion, celery, mustard, jalapeno (optional), and olive oil.  Mix thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste

2.       Deviled Eggs with Bacon…oh come on, you know bacon makes everything better AND what goes together better than bacon and eggs?

12 hard boiled eggs peeled
8 slices bacon (crispy)
1/8 cup mayo
1/8 cup ranch dressing
Fresh chives chopped

Halve the eggs lengthwise and scoop the yolks into a bowl. Mash the yolks with a fork.
Chop crispy bacon and add to the egg yolks with the ranch dressing and the mayo.  Spoon (or pipe if you want to fancy)the mixture into the egg white halves. Arrange on a tray and refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving.  Sprinkle with chives just before serving.

3.       Cob Salad Sandwich… I love Cob Salad so why not throw it all on a sandwich? Sounds like a plan to me!
4 hard boiled eggs chopped (chunky)
2/3 cup of chunky blue cheese salad dressing
Lettuce
Tomato (sliced)
Onion(sliced)
Bacon (crispy)
Salt and pepper
Toast
Mix eggs and blue cheese and then spread on the bread. Layer all other ingredients. Salt and pepper to taste…enjoy!
4.       Pickled Eggs…I am not personally a fan of these but I know lots of people who are, so here you go:

12     large hard boiled eggs peeled
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon pickling spices
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp sugar
In a medium pot, mix together the vinegar, the water, and the salt.  Combine pickling spices, the garlic, and the bay leaf in a cheese-cloth. Tie and add it to the pot.(if You don’t have a cheese cloth you can throw the spices in but must strain it before pouring over eggs)  Bring to a boil over medium heat, lower temperature. Cover and simmer for about 5 minutes.
Remove the spice bag.  Transfer the eggs to sterile glass containers (with lids like a canning jar). Fill with the hot vinegar mixture (eggs must be submerged completely if you need to add a little extra water)and seal. Allow to cool and then refrigerate for at least 8 days before serving.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Delicious Texas sheet cake with frosting

My husband loves ANY version of this cake…my Mother-in-law had several versions of this yummy dessert, which she made quite often for big get-togethers and summer BBQs…this is one that we all like quite a bit at our house and has been requested as a birthday cake more than once. I will post other version of this cake in the future. It is super moist and perfectly chocolaty! I like this recipe because it feeds a large group, and I seem to always have a large group…or a small hungry one anyway!

Delicious Texas sheet cake with chocolate frosting
·         2 cups all-purpose flour
·         2 cups sugar
·         1 teaspoon baking soda
·         1/4 teaspoon salt
·         1 cup butter
·         1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
·         2 eggs
·         1/2 cup buttermilk or sour milk
·         1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
Chocolate Frosting:
·         1/4 cup butter
·         3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
·         3 tablespoons buttermilk
·         2 1/4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
·         1/2 teaspoon vanilla
·         1/2 cup chopped pecans, optional

Grease a 15X10X1-inch or jelly roll pan or a 13X9X2-inch baking pan; set aside. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In a medium saucepan combine 1 cup butter, 1/3 cup cocoa, and 1 cup of water. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. With an electric hand-held mixer on medium speed, beat chocolate mixture into the dry mixture until thoroughly blended. Add eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla. Beat for 1 minute (batter will be thin). Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake in a 350° oven about 25 minutes for the 15X10-inch pan or 35 minutes for the 13X9-inch pan, or until a wooden pick or cake tester inserted in center comes out clean.
Pour warm chocolate frosting (recipe to follow) over the warm cake, spreading evenly. Place cake in pan on a wire rack; cool thoroughly before cutting.
Makes 24 servings.
Frosting:
In a medium saucepan combine 1/4 cup butter or margarine, 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, and 3 tablespoons buttermilk. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat; add 2 1/4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Beat until smooth. If desired, stir in 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans.

Sparkling Ginger Lemonade

First I have to wish my son, Matthew a very Happy 19th Birthday today!  We are very proud of you and we are glad you will be home from college tonight to celebrate!!


Here is a drink that will be perfect for your next BBQ or summer get together (and a tribute to my ginger haired son! )….If you are currently in the north, well mix up a batch …close your eyes…..and dream sweet dreams of summer time (which they tell me will ACTUALLY be coming this year – but it is Easter week and we are expecting snow flurries soooooooo  not too sure about that) if you are in the south….well…don’t rub it in too much but go outside on your porch(or veranda, or lanai, or terrace, or deck, or heck go sit in your driveway)…soak up the sun and sip this drink and feel really bad for your neighbors to the north. I believe this recipe came from an old Taste of Home magazine…but to be honest I have had it in my cookbook for awhile and don’t know for sure!

Sparkling Ginger Lemonade
2 cups water
1 cup honey
2 tbl fresh ginger grated
2 cups cold club soda
1 cup lemon juice
In a saucepan bring water, honey and ginger to a boil. Remove from heat and let sit 15 minutes…then strain. Cool in fridge.  Pour into a pitcher stir in soda and lemon juice…serve poured over ice…feel free to add a little umbrella if you want to!  OR change it up by skipping the fresh ginger and adding raspberries instead (blend in a blender then strain)!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Chicken with Lemon sauce and Sage

This is the latest recipe to cause a stir in our house…it was met with “ohhhs “and “yummmms” and a rousing vote to definitely make it again!  I read the recipe in a magazine while I was waiting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office…of course I did not write it down and could only vaguely remember what was in it when I finally got home, the only thing I did remember was the 'backwards breading' and that lemon and sage were involved somehow…so I winged it…and I guess it did not matter since it was extremely well received!

Chicken with lemon sauce and sage
4 boneless skinless chicken “tenders” or breasts cut into “fingers”
4 eggs beaten
½ cup pecorino romano cheese grated
1 tbl dried basil
½ tea sea salt
½ tea pepper
½ cup flour
4 tbl olive oil
2 tbl diced onion
2 tbl minced garlic
½ cup white wine
Juice of 1 ½ lemons
Zest of 1 lemon
½ pint heavy cream
3 tbl butter
3 tbl fresh sage chopped
Pre heat large skillet with the olive oil/ preheat oven to 375
In a bowl combine eggs, grated cheese, and salt and pepper. Put flour in the second bowl……now I know this sounds backwards but trust me…..Dip the chicken into the FLOUR and THEN into the egg mixture. Brown chicken in the skillet in small batches. Transfer to a shallow baking pan in a single layer. Bake uncovered for 10 minutes or until done and no longer pink.  In the skillet drippings sauté onion until tender…then add garlic. Cook 1 minute. Add wine and lemon(juice and zest) cook over medium heat until reduced by half. Add cream and sage whisk well and cook until thickened stirring often. Add the butter just before serving to finish the sauce.  Pour over chicken and serve!  Sooooo good!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Grilled Corn & Black Bean Salad

Okay…so it’s been very chilly and wet here the last few weeks…and as I look at the majority of my posts I realize I am still in the heavy, rich comfort food mode of winter…which is understandable with the weather still threatening SNOW!  But just so you don’t think I never eat anything light and fresh and summer time friendly…I give you this recipe…it is super good and a great side to any BBQ. This recipe has 3 parts...grilling the corn, making the salad, then making the dressing….I have each section separated for you.


Grilled Corn & Black Bean Salad
4 ears of sweet corn husked
2 tbl butter melted
Oil you grill racks well so the corn does not stick. Brush the corn with butter and grill (turning and basting occasionally) over a med-high heat –covered- for about 10 minutes or until the corn is tender. You want the corn to have ‘grill marks’.  Let the corn cool...then cut the kernels off the cob and set aside….now on with the salad
1 can black beans rinsed very well and drained
1 small sweet onion diced small
1 rib celery thinly sliced
1 small sweet red pepper diced small
1 jalapeno pepper seeded and finely diced (suggest you wear gloves for this step…and don’t touch your face!)
Small handful of cilantro minced
Corn kernels that you grilled previously
Toss all ingredients in a bowl…then make the dressing
2 tbl sesame oil
1tbl red wine vinegar
1 tbl lime juice
2 cloves of garlic minced finely
1 tbl minced ginger (fresh )
½ tea sea salt
Whisk together in a small bowl then pour over prepared salad. Refrigerate for an hour or so to let flavors marry.
** YOu can use frozen corn if you can't grill your corn and it is still delish!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Take stock…err I mean MAKE Stock

I know very well that every grocery store now sells a stunning array of broths and stocks in nice cartons on the shelf. These are wonderful, don’t get me wrong. I use them. They are especially good if you only need a little bit of stock, or you don’t need the flavor of the stock to be the shining star of the dish, or you have neglected to make stock lately or just used up your last bit in the freezer. Stock is always a better choice than Broth…the flavor is much better. The Beef stock in a carton is pretty decent but the chicken stocks you get in a carton are always sub-par.  Chicken stock is super easy to make and it freezes really well.  You can freeze it in Ziploc Freezer Bags,  your favorite Tupperware, or freeze it in an icecube tray (than pop out the ‘cubes’ and throw them in a Ziploc…great for when you only need a little bit of stock for a sauce)
You can make Beef, Chicken, Vegetable or Fish Stock.  The process for all is pretty much the same…add everything to a big pot, add water, simmer simmer simmer….than strain and eat or freeze.
I will give you good bases for a chicken stock and a vegetable stock.  You can add or change up the ingredients to suit what you have and what you like. Also if you are going to make stock…make a HUGE batch…like I said it freezes really well.  Your idea of Chicken noodle soup made with homemade stock will forever be changed!  This is a great Lazy Sunday project...throw it on and relax...its great when you can make something THIS good with so little effort...
oh, and your house will smell divine!
Chicken Stock
Chicken legs, thighs, backs, bones, and/or wings (about 5-6 pounds)
3 Large onions paper skin peeled off and quartered
6 large carrots peeled cut in half
8 stalks celery with leaves cut in half
5 sprig fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 whole clove garlic peeled
8 peppercorns
16 cups water

Place chicken, vegetables, and herbs and spices in a huge stockpot. Add water and cook on high heat until you begin to see bubbles break through the surface of the liquid. Turn heat down to medium low so that stock maintains low, gentle simmer. After a little while you will see a “scum” form on the top of the water. Skim this scum from the stock with a spoon or mesh strainer several times during the first hour of cooking and then as needed. Add hot water as needed to keep bones and vegetables submerged. Simmer uncovered for 6 to 8 hours.
Strain stock through a fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth into another large stockpot or heatproof container discarding the solids. Cool immediately to below 40 degrees. Place in refrigerator overnight. Remove solid fat from surface of liquid in the morning and store in container with lid in refrigerator for 2 to 3 days or in freezer.

Veggie Stock - (feel free to add any of your gardens bounty to this stock..squash, tomatoes, herbs, whatever…it will just be that more flavorful)
4 cloves garlic peeled
2 large onions peeled and quartered
2 leeks washed and chopped
5 ribs of celery with leaves cut in half
6 carrots peeled and cut in half
3 parsnips (or turnips) peeled and cut in thirds
1 bulb fennel cut in quarters
1 sprig of thyme
1 sprig of rosemary
2 bay leaves
8 whole peppercorns
2 tbl olive oil
water
In a large stockpot heat the olive oil until hot. Add onions, leeks, parsnips, fennel, and carrots…sauté 6 minutes then add garlic. Saute 4-5 more minutes... Pour in the water (enough to cover) and other ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and skim and discard any scum from the top. Simmer, uncovered, at least 2 hours. Add water to keep veggies covered.  Strain and store in the refrigerator up to a week or freeze.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Comfort in a bowl...Bread and Butter Pudding!

My husband loves comfort food.  He loves warm, homey, rich, old-fashioned comfort food. This recipe is my version of an English classic comfort food, Bread and Butter Pudding.  It is divine…especially when it is a little chilly and you want something to warm you body and soul. It is very easy to do. I like it warm from the oven with cream poured over it. (hey …I never said it was low-fat or anything!)  This is an excellent way to use up slightly stale white bread. You can also make it a million different ways by using different breads, rolls, croissants, Panetonne, Brioche, cinnamon raisin bread…whatever!  I am a bit loose with the measurements here because it is a sort of carefree type recipe. You definitely MUST use whole milk and heavy cream to make it properly. Sorry…but that is just the fact of the matter.  You also want to butter your bread liberally…now is not the time to be stingy. We are looking for comfort food not calorie counting. So if your bread slices are bigger or smaller...you may need more or less butter...this is fine and it won’t hurt the recipe a bit. Oh, and if you don’t like raisins…leave them out or add one of your favorites dried fruits (currets, dried cherries,figs)... or maybe even chocolate chips?
 A glass baking dish works best.  Large enough that you can get several layers of bread (3 at least).

Bread and Butter Pudding
2 sticks of butter soft
12 slices of slightly stale bread (you CAN use fresh but the stale soaks up the custard better)
1 ½ cups whole milk
1 ½ cups heavy cream
8 egg yolks
1 tea vanilla
¾  cup sugar
¼ cup Golden raisins and regular raisins combined
Combine milk and whipping cream in heavy large saucepan, add vanilla.. Bring milk mixture to simmer. Whisk egg yolks and 3/4 cup sugar in large bowl to blend. Very, very gradually whisk hot milk mixture into yolk mixture(start with a few table spoons at a time and KEEP whisking…you don’t want scrambled eggs!). Set custard aside.
Butter a glass baking dish. Spread butter over both sides of bread slices. Arrange some bread slices in single layer over bottom of prepared dish, trimming to fit. Sprinkle half of golden raisins and half of brown raisins over bread. Cover with another single layer of buttered bread. Sprinkle remaining raisins over. Layer with the remaining bread. Pour over bread. Let stand until most of the custard is absorbed, about 20-30 minutes. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 325°F. Bake pudding until custard thickens and begins to set, about 20-40 minutes.  There is a big difference in time because it will depend on the type of bread and how many layers you did. Then sprinkle with a few tablespoons of sugar and broil VERY CAREFULLY until the pudding begins to brown slightly. Be CAREFUL it is very easy to burn the top. If you prefer a less sweet pudding simply skip this step… Serve warm. (with ice cream, or in a bowl with heavy cream drizzled over is divine)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Do you Love Cannolis too?

I am very picky about my cannoli filling…I like it not too sweet, I like marscapone, I like the ricotta taste too. I rarely find cannoli’s that I like. So now I make my own!  Except, to be brutally honest, I hardly ever (okay so I did it once!) make my own shells. The reason is to make the number of shells my family eats would take all day (especially with 1 small cannoli form!) so instead I cheat (as I suggest you look into as well).  I found a nice Italian Market that bakes cannolis and ask to buy empty shells.  I included the recipe I used for shells here, but again…I just buy them now. This way we can have cannolis anytime!! Oh, and I also have put this filling in the little puff pastry dough shells that you can find in the freezer section...yummy!

Cannoli Filling
3 cups of good ricotta cheese (drained) it needs to be very dry
1 container mascarpone cheese
½ cup (ish) confectioners’ (10x)sugar
1 tea vanilla
Mini chocolate chips
Combine first 4 ingredients very well with an electric mixer…stir in chips.
Pipe filling into each side of some Cannoli shells.

Cannoli Shells
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon white sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup white wine
1 quart oil for frying
Stir together the flour, sugar and cinnamon. Blend in the white wine. When dough forms a ball, turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 15 minutes. Cover and refrigerate for an hour. Letting the dough rest is important! Heat oil in a deep heavy skillet (180 degrees F). On a lightly floured surface, roll 1/3 of the dough out into a big circle as thin as you can get it. Cut into 5in circles. Wrap each circle around a cannoli form, and seal with water.
Fry 2 or 3 at a time until golden brown. Remove with tongs to drain on paper towels.
NOTE: Carefully remove shells from forms while they are still hot, or they may become stuck 

My Mother

As I stood in my kitchen making shortbread cookies at 8pm on Monday night (why you ask? Well because I had a craving and wanted them NOW) I was thinking about my Mom. She is such an amazing phenomenal cook who definitely has no fear in the kitchen.  She is also a whirling dervish in the kitchen…so basically I guess I take after her quite a bit!  We have a special relationship; we talk daily and live very close so we see each other often.  We enjoy each other’s company and we try not to drive each other too crazy!
She is famous for her Italian cooking, and even more famous for her multiple main dish holiday dinners.  I mean who else makes ham, chicken AND lasagna for Christmas dinner??  She often makes enough for fifty even if she has only invited ten (Of course she SAYS it’s so everyone can bring home leftovers…hmmmm…not sure if I believe that or that she just likes to cook and gets carried away)  I swear you can almost hear the table actually GROAN when yet another platter is laid on it! At her house you ALWAYS eat your fill, it’s ALWAYS delicious, and you NEVER have room for dessert…but somehow manage to eat it anyway.
She never measures anything either…she cooks by feel and taste and smell.  I totally blame her for how hard it is for me to get a recipe down on paper…you see I often “forget” to measure as well.  It’s also impossible to exactly duplicate any of her recipes (you see it is very hard to translate “a handful” or a few cups” or “until it feels right” into an exact universal measurement). I never really thought too much about it since I tend to cook the same way…however my daughter does not. She needs precision.  So trying to help her learn a recipe opened my eyes to the fact that most people need measurements!  Then when I began entertaining thoughts of writing this blog I realized I would need to pay attention to amounts. I remembered my frustration as a young bride when my mother would try to explain a recipe to me.  That was when I was afraid in the kitchen, and is was my mother who got me over that fear completely.  She is the one who made me realize it was my kitchen and as such the rules were my own and that a little experience goes a long way. She showed me that it was a confidence issue and that once you were confident in your ability to “eyeball” an amount you could cook anything! (And… no “cooking police” would show up and haul you off for not following the recipe exactly or for not measuring!!)
My Mother has nurtured my love of cooking and baking, she makes me laugh, makes me crazy, and makes me so glad to be her daughter!  Love you Mom.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Grandma's Italian Bowtie Cookies

Not very sweet, a tad bit addicting, these traditional Italian cookies were always one of my Mom’s favorites and I remember helping her “tie” these when I was younger. They are a perfect little “something” to snack on with your coffee or tea. They are not at all what we Americans think of as a cookie, but like I said they are tasty! This is my grandmother’s recipe.  My grandmother loved to bake…she always tried to remember everyone’s favorites and bake them when they came to visit. So cook up a batch of these, call a friend, put on a pot of tea or coffee and visit for awhile. Look at you…I can tell you need to relax a little. There now……don’t you feel better already?


Grandma’s Italian Bowtie Cookies

2 eggs
2 Tbsp sugar
2 c sifted flour
2 Tbsp vanilla ( I add a touch more)
Oil for frying
Powdered sugar

Beat together the eggs and sugar in a medium size bowl until the mixture is light and fluffy. Stir in 1 1/2 c of the flour, the vanilla until blended. Shape into a ball.

Turn the dough out onto lightly floured surface. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes; add as much of the remaining flour as necessary to prevent sticking. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rest 5 minutes.

Divide dough into 4 equal portions. Roll 1/4 of the dough to 1/8 inch thickness. Keep remaining dough covered with plastic wrap while working with the one fourth. Cut into 5 x 1 1/2 inch strips with pastry wheel or pizza cutter. Make a lengthwise slit about 1 inch long in center of each strip. Pull one end through the slit to make a bowtie. As you work, keep bowties covered with plastic wrap. Repeat with remaining dough.

Pour oil into large fry pan or deep fryer   to a depth of 4 inches. Heat oil until it registers 375 degrees on a deep fat frying thermometer. Fry a few cookies at a time for a total of 3 minutes or until golden brown, turning once. Drain on paper toweling; cool. Keep un-fried bowties covered with plastic wrap. Fry remaining cookies in small batches. Store cooled cookies in tightly covered containers. Sprinkle with powdered sugar just before serving. Makes about 2 dozen

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

PBJ......bread....yes.... I said PBJ quick bread!

So, you’re a mom who may or may not be that adventurous in the kitchen. You can cook, sure…but you want to bake for your child, spouse or yourself. You want to bake something beyond cookies. Your feeling a little Laura Ingalls like…..You want to bake bread!  But yeast, rising, kneading…well to be honest you are not ready to take THAT big of a step yet. (I know you can do it…but maybe you want to take baby steps? That is ok!) So my solution for you is bake up a quick bread.  Sure, you can go buy a box mix for quick bread…and they are pretty good…but you want to bake “from scratch” don’t you? Besides you won’t find THIS flavor in your grocery store!  Well if you have a little one (or a not so little one because this is super yummy!) this recipe just might be the ticket AND you probably already have everything you need in the house to make this RIGHT NOW…so what are you waiting for? Go pre heat your oven!!
I found this recipe in a magazine called “Homemade Breads”…I altered it slightly to suit my needs and tastes. 
Peanut Butter and Jelly Bread
2 cups flour
¾ cup brown sugar –packed
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 ½ cups milk
2 tbl honey
1 egg
1/2 cup peanut butter (creamy or chunky or a combo)
1 cup chopped peanuts (optional - kids like the nuts, husband not so much)
¾ cup jam or jelly (any flavor…we like seedless black raspberry)
Pre heat oven to 350. 
In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Combine.
In a separate bowl, combine your milk, egg, and peanut butter…whisk well.  Combine wet and dry ingredients until just combined.  Stir in peanuts if using.  Spray a standard (9x5) loaf pan with cooking spray. Pour in ½ the batter…drop spoonfuls of jelly (1/2 the jelly) over the batter. Pour remaining batter on top. Top with remaining jelly and swirl slightly. 
Bake for 50 minutes.
NOTE: cool this bread completely before removing from the pan.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Dinosaur Bar B Que Sauce

I made BBQ Beef the other day and while I was licking the BBQ sauce off my fingers I thought I should tell you about this sauce…it is fantastic. I do make my own sometimes, but to be honest unless I am home all day with nothing better to do, I just don’t see the point. There are many superior jarred sauces it doesn’t seem like something that is a must… (Like making your own Shortbread cookies for example) Anyway, have you heard of Dinosaur BBQ? They are a small NY state based chain of BBQ restaurants that now sells their signature sauces online and in grocery stores. It is my goal to actually GO to this particular restaurant sometime (My brother and his wife have been and love it) but for now I make do with loving all over their sauces. My two Favorites are their “Sensuous Slathering BBQ sauce” (that is one heckava great name isn’t it?) and their “Roasted Garlic Honey BBQ sauce”…..divine! Seriously….just finger lickin’ good stuff. My sons like stuff really spicy and zippy so they also like the kick of the “Wango Tango Habanero Hot BBQ sauce”…not my thing, I could break out in a sweat just thinking about that sauce…but they love it!
So that is my advice for you…give this stuff a try. This is just my humble opinion here…and just so you know…if I review something here, it will be because I like it and I want to share my finds with you and I do not get any freebies or anything to do so. They have a terrific cook book as well...

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Shortbread...I love you

My favorite cookie is homemade shortbread cookies….I LOVE these. I have never and I repeat NEVER had a store bought shortbread cookie that even begins to come close to homemade…and they are seriously the easiest cookies to make- 4 easy, every day ingredients. So please promise me you will try these…and will never buy store bought shortbread again!  These bake longer at a lower oven temp…watch them toward the end because you want them to be just golden at the edges. 





Shortbread cookies
2 sticks of butter  softened
½ cup of sugar
2 cups flour
1/8 tea salt
Pre heat oven to 325.
In a large bowl beat butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add flour and salt. With your hands (easiest) or a wooden spoon, rub the flour and creamed butter together gently until you can press the dough together and form a ball…the reason your hands are easier is because the warmth of your hands helps the butter and flour blend together faster. Place dough on a lightly flour surface and roll out to about ½ inch think. Cut into traditional rectangle shapes (or any shape and size you desire..we even do cookie cutter shapes - the ‘finger’ shapes were just easier for those who had them at ‘tea-time’ they were dainty and easy to dip into your coffee or tea…whatever, do what you want J )
Place on ungreased cookie sheet and prick with a fork. Place cookie sheet in the PRE HEATED oven and immediately turn the oven DOWN to 275. Bake 25 – 30 minutes.  As I said watch the color…you want them still sandy white on top, golden around the edges.
NOTE:  To be fancy I sometimes drizzle these with melted chocolate (dark, milk or white) They are yummy that way!  On St Patty’s day I serve these tradition Celtic cookies with white chocolate that I made green with food coloring.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

News!

I am working hard on getting 'A Chaotic Cook' where I want it to be....if you have not noticed I did add an 'About Me' page, some links so you can be emailed or subscribe through an RSS feed for updates. I am also in the process of getting a 'A Chaotic Cook' facebook page! When that is up and running I will be sure to let you all know.  I am excited because Mary, good friend of my daughter Sarah, is creating original artwork of yours truly to spice up the blog and facebook. So things are progressing and I am very excited about the whole thing.

MaryJo’s Crockpot Corn Casserole

My mother in law, MaryJo, was a wonderful, witty, amazing woman. Always ready to laugh or visit….she was the best mother in law a young bride could ask for! She was a proficient cookie baker and kept her large family, visitors and many a farm hand happy with her seemingly never ending supply of homemade cookies. She was also famous for her casseroles. It seems that every family get together she had to make at least one of her repertoire of casseroles. In our family, her corn casserole was the huge favorite and I still make it (as do my sisters-in-law) at every family gathering! I honestly don’t know where she got the recipe, or if it is an invention of her own. I have found versions of this recipe but none exactly like it. It is super yummy comfort food, and it always brings to mind my Amazing Mother in law whom I miss every day.



MaryJo’s Crockpot Corn Casserole
1 box of chicken flavored stuffing mix
1 box of corn bread mix
2 sticks of butter melted
2 eggs
1 16 oz container of sour cream
2 cans whole kernel corn drained
2 cans creamed corn
First spray your crock pot with PAM or some other cooking spray. Then combine wet ingredients in a large bowl, stir in dry ingredients. Combine well. Add mixture to crock pot and cook on low for 3-4 hours. (NOTE:  Stir a few times in the first hour or so.)