Monday, November 30, 2009

Roasted vegetables...easy as 1, 2, 3

Roasted vegetables are perfect for the holiday dinner table. Winter vegetables have an earthy character to them and roasting brings out the deep flavors. I roasted a medley of veggies on Thanksgiving that I thought were complementary to each other. They turned out colorful and flavorful.

These veggies are fast and easy to prepare... less than 10 minutes to get them in the oven. You can combine just about any of your favorite veggies, or roast a single vegetable if you choose.

I roasted these vegetables earlier in the day and warmed them up in the microwave just before serving them. I felt they were overcooked, but I still got compliments. I would recommend roasting them right before you serve them for optimum texture and flavor.


1 lbs. brussel sprouts, trimmed and halved
4 carrots, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 red onion, cut into chunks
2 cups cauliflower, cut into bite-sized pieces
3 zucchini, cut into 1" pieces
Olive oil
Garlic powder
salt and pepper, to taste
( you can also add any seasoning you like; rosemary, thyme, oregano, etc.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place cut vegetables on a cookie sheet and drizzle olive oil over them. With fingers, toss vegetables in olive oil to cover vegetables evenly. Sprinkle with garlic, salt and pepper (or other seasonings as desired), and toss again.

Place vegetables in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until desired crispness and color is reached. Serve hot.

Serves 4-6

Friday, November 27, 2009

If life gives you lemons, make a lemon cake

It was my boss' birthday so I asked him what kind of cake he wanted. "I like lemon cake, but with a good buttercream frosting," he said. So, that's what he got.

I found this recipe in the Cake Mix Doctor's Cookbook. It's a cookbook of recipes starting with a basic cake mix, but adds a little something here and there to make it just a little different. I doctored the recipe even more than what the cake doctor called for. I hope she doesn't mind. I'll let you know if it's worth making again.


1 box yellow cake mix
1 package lemon gelatin, 3 ozs.
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup hot water
4 large eggs


4 oz. cream cheese, softened
4 Tbsp. butter, softened
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
3 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray tube pan with vegetable oil spray, then dust with flour. Shake out excess flour. Set aside.

Place hot water in mixing bowl and sprinkle lemon gelatin over it and stir for 30 seconds. Add cake mix, oil, and eggs. Beat for 1 minute, then scrape down sides with rubber spatula. Beat 2 more minutes. The batter should look thick and well blended. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth top and place pan in oven.

Bake cake until it is light brown and just starts to pull away form the sides of the pan, about 40 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let it cool.

With wooden spoon, mix softened cream cheese, butter, lemon juice, and powdered sugar in bowl until smooth. Add more powdered sugar or lemon juice to adjust consistency. Stir in lemon zest. Set aside.

Run a sharp knife along edge of the cake and invert it onto a serving platter. Let it cool completely. Spread frosting over the top of the cake, allowing some of it to run over the sides and run down slightly. If you have some extra lemon zest left over, sprinkle over the top.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The apple pie of my eye

I've been baking this unique version of apple pie ever since I saw it on the cover of Bon Appetit in 1993. In many ways, this pie represents our Thanksgiving holiday. The magazine article explains the recipe, and its symbolism, quite well:

"Thanks to the native Wampanoags, the Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620 were quickly introduced to such important New Work foods as cranberries and corn. The newcomers returned the favor by planting apples, which flourished and were soon available in many American varieties. This wonderful holiday pie, with its cornmeal crust and mixed-fruit filling, celebrates that early culinary sharing. It's a delicious combination of some of our most traditional American flavors."

This pie takes a little more time than your traditional apple pie to prepare. Cutting out the leaves for the top crust is worth the time and effort because the end result is so pretty. The crust is not a flaky crust like most of us are used to. It's a heavier crust that has a definite texture of cornmeal, but I really liked the change. The rustic flavors of this pie blend very well together.


2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
5 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening, room temperature
6 tablespoons (about) buttermilk

1 cup fresh cranberries
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
3 pounds Pippin apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
1/2 cup dried currants
5 tablespoons all purpose flour

For crust:
Mix first 5 ingredients in processor. Add shortening and cut in until mixture resembles coarse meal. Blend in enough buttermilk by tablespoons to form dough that begins to clump together. Gather dough into ball; divide in half. Flatten each half into disk. Wrap each disk in plastic and chill 45 minutes. (Can be made 1 day ahead.)

For filling:
Position rack in lowest third of oven and preheat to 375°F. Coarsely chop cranberries with sugar and pumpkin pie spice in processor. Transfer mixture to large bowl. Add apples, currants and flour and toss well.

Roll out 1 dough disk between sheets of waxed paper to 13-inch round. Peel off top sheet of paper; invert dough into 9 1/2-inch-diameter deep-dish glass pie dish. Peel off paper. Fold under overhanging dough to form double-thick edge. Crimp edge. Roll out remaining dough disk on lightly floured surface to 1/8-inch-thick round. Using 3-inch-long leaf cookie cutter, cut out leaves. Using knife, mark veins in leaves. Slightly mound filling in pie dish. Arrange leaves around edge of pie and all over top, overlapping decoratively. Brush pastry all over with buttermilk.

Place pie on baking sheet. Bake 45 minutes. Cover pie with foil and continue baking until juices bubble thickly and crust browns, about 35 minutes more. Transfer pie to rack and cool 1 hour. Serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Creamy, dreamy cream puffs

Even though cream puffs look complicated to make, they are much easier than you’d think.

The pastry only has five ingredients; water, butter, flour, eggs and salt. The filling can either be whipped cream, pudding, or a combination of both. If I have the time, I make the pudding from scratch. If I’m in a hurry, I use Jello pudding mix and fold in Cool Whip.

All that is required for the chocolate glaze is melting chocolate chips in hot whipping cream and adding a little corn syrup. It’s all that easy!


½ cup (1 cube) butter
1 cup water
1 cup flour
4 eggs
1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Grease large cookie sheet. Melt butter in water and bring to a boil. Add all of flour at once and stir until mixture leaves sides of pan. Add eggs, one at a time, stirring after each addition until smooth. Drop heaping tablespoonfuls 3 inches apart on greased cookie sheet. Bake in 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 300 degrees and continue baking for 40 minutes longer. Remove from oven and cool.


¾ cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
¼ tsp. salt
2 eggs
2 cups milk
1 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. vanilla
4 oz. Cool Whip
In a cold medium saucepan,whisk flour, sugar, and salt together until blended well. Add eggs and whisk until smooth and then mix in milk. Heat mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly. Bring to a boil and stir for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add butter and vanilla. Cover with plastic wrap. Cool in refrigerator. Gently stir in 1/2 of 8 oz. Cool Whip.

Cut top 1/3 of cream puff off and gently press down or remove excess dough. Fill puff with cream filling and place top back on.


½ cup whipping cream
1 cup chocolate chips
½ tsp vanilla.
1 Tbsp. corn syrup

Heat whipping cream until beginning to simmer. Remove from heat and add chocolate chips and stir until melted and smooth. Spread over filled cream puff and refrigerate until ready to serve.


If you want to do something different, you can make a ring of cream puffs. Just flour greased cookie sheet and draw a 7" ring in flour. Drop 10 mounds of cream puff batter equally around circle. Edges will be touching. Bake as directed. Cool. Cut off top 1/3 and fill with cream filling. Top with chocolate glaze.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Roasted stuffed pumpkin makes a beautiful bowl

Most women buy themselves a new outfit or a new pair of shoes when they have a little extra money at the end of the month. Anyone that knows me, knows my weakness isn't clothes or shoes, it's dishes. I don't have room to store anymore of them in my pantry or cupboards, but that doesn't always stop me.

When someone told me about using a real pumpkin as a serving bowl I was intrigued. At first I thought what a cool and unique idea. Then I realized an extra bonus... I wouldn't have to store it. When I'm done with it I can just throw it away. So, the day after Halloween I was knocking on the gate of the pumpkin patch to see if I could get some great deals on pumpkins.

I found directions for roasting a stuffed pumpkin at I made a stew in the crock pot before putting it in the pumpkin to bake, but soup, mashed potatoes, or a vegetable casserole would work well in a roasted pumpkin too. The pumpkin kept the stew warm and well insulated while the pumpkin baked to a glazed-like texture. The end result looked like a ceramic dish and made a beautiful centerpiece.


1 (8-9 lb.) pumpkin
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

Soup or stew of your choice.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Remove top of pumpkin by cutting a circle on an angle around stem with a small sharp knife. Scrape out and discard seeds and fibers from inside pumpkin (including top)with a spoon. Do not discard top. Sprinkle inside flesh with 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. pepper. Place pumpkin on a large shallow roasting pan or a sturdy pizza pan. (I used a sturdy pizza pan so I wouldn't have to transfer the hot pumpkin on to something else when it came out of the oven.)

Carefully scoop hot pre-cooked soup, stew, or mashed potatoes into prepared pumpkin. Place top on pumpkin and rub outside of pumpkin with 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Place a piece of foil over the stem to prevent it from charring. Place filled pumpkin in oven and roast for 45-60 minutes. It will be heavy, so be careful.

Carefully remove baked pumpkin from oven. I scattered colorful fall leaves around base of pumpkin to hide pan. Then sit back and listen to the oohs and aahs from your guests.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Beerock and roll

Since I have a hefty dose of German blood running in my veins (a long with a potpourri of other blood) I ate lots of German food growing up. Of all the German dishes my mom prepared, my all-time favorite was beerocks. Mom usually made them when we were having company, which irritated me and my siblings. That meant we would have to share them with others and there wouldn't be as many left over.

Now that I'm and adult, my daughter and I make beerocks about four times a year. That isn't as often as we would like, but that's not because we don't love them. It's because they take so much time, and we make such a mess in the kitchen.

Beerocks are a Russian-German dish of yeast bread dough filled with meat, cabbage, onions, and seasoning. The original recipe for beerocks was thought to have been brought to mid-west America by the Volga Germans in the 18th century. There are several pronunciations and spellings of the word beerock (bierrock, berrock), but most Americans don’t care how they are spelled or how it’s pronounced. They just know they love them.

There are several ways of preparing beerocks. I prefer using chopped up chuck roast that has simmered in a crock pot all day, but my family likes them better with ground chuck. The advantage of using ground chuck is that it decreases the preparation time by about 4-5 hours.

These Russian-German pockets of goodness freeze up nicely so I always make a double batch. They are so popular in my house that they never make it passed a week in the freezer, no matter how many I make.


3 loaves frozen bread dough (3 lbs. Brigeford) available at any supermarket.
2 pounds ground chuck
1 head cabbage, sliced
2 yellow onions, diced
Salt & Pepper, to taste
variations: Ground allspice, garlic, or cayenne pepper to taste.

• In a very large skillet, brown ground beef. Drain off most of fat. Add onions and saute until tender.
• Add the shredded cabbage and cook until limp.
• Add salt, pepper to cabbage mixture and let stand until cool slightly.

• Cut the frozen loaves into 6 sections each, working with one at a time.
• Roll out each section into an 6 inch circle on a well floured bread board and rolling pin. Place 2-3 tablespoons of filling onto the circle (pinching in four seams meeting in the center) and seal up well, pinching tightly so no juices can escape. Set the Beerocks on greased cookie sheet to rise again for 15-20 minutes. Place in 350 degree oven on lower rack and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until nicely browned.

• If you like a crusty beerock, spray the rolls with water just as they begin to brown. This may be repeated during the browning process.

• Serve hot.

Makes 18

Sometimes I add some 1/2-1 cup mashed potatoes (or instant potatoes) to help hold the meat and cabbage together and keep them moist.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

This is not your ordinary Campbell's soup

I have so many friends that are great in the kitchen. Last month I told you I wanted to share some of their recipes and wisdom on this blog. That is what today's blog is about.

My guest chef is Cyrhen. For those of you who follow this blog, you will recognize her name. She is a frequent follower and one of my best supporters. She has been a dear friend for over a quarter of a century (kinda scary, huh). She throws fabulous dinner parties and does everything with perfection, down to the smallest detail.

I'll never forget the time she put little edible flowers in every single ice cube... or the time she ornately hand-painted a personalized wine glass for every guest. When you attend a party at Cyrhen's it's a deliciously delightful experience, and everyone goes home with a unique handmade gift of some sort. She really knows how to host a party.

Last week Cryhen was telling me about a Mexican pork soup/stew she created. Knowing her and her ability to work magic on food (or anything else she touches), I told her "I'd love to try it." So, the next day there was a bowl of pork soup waiting for me. Oh, my! It was delicious.

This recipe is a cross between a black bean and corn soup and a spicy pork stew. All of the flavors blend together so nicely. If you love the flavors of pork braised in wine, cumin, poblano chilies, and cilantro you will love this recipe.


-1 1.5-2 lb pork tri-tip (or any cut of pork you like)
-1/2 bottle of red wine
-1 medium red onion, coarsely chopped
-3-4 poblano chilies*, coarsely chopped
-1-2 Jalapenos, seeded, finely chopped
-5-6 cloves of garlic, minced
-2 cans black beans
-1 bag of frozen corn ( I like Trader Joe's roasted)
-5-6 cubes of Knorr chipotle seasoning, crumbled
-Cumin (1/2- 1 tsp. or to taste)
-Cilantro, coarsely chopped ( 1/4 cup or to taste)
-Cotija Cheese

In a large crock pot, add 1/2 bottle of wine, the minced garlic and chopped onion, add pork and top with 3-4 of the Knorr chipotle seasoning cubes, cook until pork is done, but not shreddable.
Remove pork and set aside to cool slightly. Drain any fat from crock pot if necessary. To the crock pot add the chopped poblano chilies, black beans, corn, jalapeno and remaining Knorr seasoning cubes. When the pork is cool enough to handle, chop into bite sized chunks, and return to the crock pot. At this point, add water as needed to make a soup/stew broth. Cook on low until poblano chilies are tender. Add cumin and adjust seasons to taste (I added some Cayenne and a touch of garlic salt). Before serving stir in chopped cilantro (this flavor is a personal preference, but I added a lot!). Garnish individual bowls of soup with crumbled cotija cheese. ENJOY!


*Poblano chilies are also called pasilla chilies and can be found in most supermarkets.