Archive for the ‘Baking & Cooking’ Category

I like vegetables.  I really do.  Of course, I’d prefer if they were coated in sugar, battered and deep fried, or chocolate-covered, but it’s not like I have an aversion to vegetables.  Now we all know that I’m pretty inconsistent when it comes to making dinner (Dave would say I’m wrong–that I’m actually quite consistent about NOT making dinner), but when I do I rarely make vegetables because Dave won’t eat them.  Dave really won’t eat side dishes in general.  If I gave him a plate of nothing but chicken, he’d be content.  Everything else goes to waste.  And now I have a 5 year-old who eats nothing but potato chips and Rice Krispies Treats.  I’m not happy about that.  I’m not going to be one of those moms who sneaks broccoli into their kids’ brownies to trick them into eating their vegetables.  That’s stupid.  I’d rather just find really good recipes that make vegetables taste good.  I figure that if I can find something Dave will eat then Jack will be more likely to eat it when he gets a little older.  If I can’t get Dave to eat something, it’s very likely that I won’t be able to get Jack to eat it either.  So which vegetable would I chose to experiment with first?  Logically, the one that’s on sale for the week at Hannaford.  Last week that was butternut squash.  Seems like a pretty dismal choice.  I’m not a squash fan.  But I like a challenge so I printed out a bunch of interesting recipes that feature butternut squash and I was very pleasantly surprised.  I actually found two things that Dave liked!  And seriously, if Dave likes something that’s pretty much a guarantee that everybody on the planet is going to like it too.

Butternut Squash Recipe 1–Fragrant Autumn Vegetable Soup


This was a disappointment.  I wasn’t thrilled with it so I never even bothered to make Dave try it.  It seemed like the person who came up with the recipe was desperate to make dinner and just threw whatever she had on hand into a pot–chunks of butternut squash, a can of diced tomatoes, some beans, and . . . corn?  I don’t know.  Corn seemed like such an odd choice for this recipe.  But it smelled awesome.  I think it was the combination of diced tomatoes and cinnamon.  Sounds gross, I know!  But if Yankee Candle ever comes out with a Cinnamon Tomato candle, I’m suing because it was my idea first!

Butternut Squash Recipe 2–Butternut Squash Pizzas with Rosemary


Doesn’t sound very promising, does it?  This pizza was actually surprisingly good.  But the type of crust called for in the recipe didn’t seem to go with the roasted butternut squash topping.  It’s like spreading almond butter on Wonder Bread.  Of course, that didn’t stop me from eating almost the entire pizza by myself (over the course of a few days!).

Since it was a very promising recipe, I decided to modify it by changing the type of dough used for the crust.  I have a fantastic recipe for Tomato-Onion Phyllo Pizza and I figured that if I combined the two recipes I would have something that even Dave would like.  I started by preparing this crust


and then topped it with the roasted butternut squash and onions called for in the original pizza recipe.  I added waaay more parmesan cheese than the recipe called for and I used crushed rosemary instead of regular rosemary because I don’t like feeling as if I have pine needles stuck in my teeth while I’m eating.  Success!  It was amazing!  I had one slice and then Dave and Steve polished off the rest of it.

Butternut Squash Recipe 3–Butternut Squash Risotto

I’ve decided that I’m not a huge risotto fan, but as far as risotto goes–this is a great recipe.


I used 3 cups of chicken stock instead of the 5 called for, but that’s the only change I made.  Jack ate a spoonful, which is a big deal, but then he fed the rest to his monkey.

Butternut Squash Recipe 4–Squash Braid

Oh . . . my . . . word.  Make this.  It’s not like it’s the greatest thing you will ever eat, but it’s really, really good.  It reminded me of the Mallorca Sweet Bread at Starbucks–just eeeever so slightly sweet.  I’m tempted to add a dusting of powdered sugar to see if it would taste just as good as the bread at Starbucks. 


You’d never know there was squash in the bread, but the squash gives it this really intense yellow color.  Perhaps I shall rename it Jaundice Bread.  Yep, I’m definitely going to. 

The recipe calls for braiding three strands of dough, just like you would when making Challah Bread, but I didn’t expect the dough to expand as much as it did so my bread ended up looking very loosely braided.  Next time I’m going to make it into dinner rolls. 

I doubt that Dave loved the bread as much as I do, but he did say it was good.  And that’s good enough for me!


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Pig Pickin’ Cake

What’s in a name?  I mean, if you were to judge me by my name alone, you would assume that I was a piece of white trash living in a double-wide in a town that rhymes with Killerica.  To the contrary, I am classy, refined, elegant, soft-spoken, etc.  You know, all those awesome things you wish you were.  (It’s okay to be jealous of me.  Everybody else is.)  Likewise, when you see a recipe for a dessert called a Pig Pickin’ Cake, you’re going to assume it’s something served out of a trough.  And you’d be wrong.  But not by much.  A Pig Pickin’ Cake is a cake traditionally served at Southern barbecues where an entire pig would be roasted and the meat would be picked off the carcass (AKA a pig pickin’).  Apparently, the flavors of the Pig Pickin’ Cake are a refreshing finale to a meal of roasted pig.  In some Southern states it’s known as a Pig Lickin’ Cake, a Sunshine Cake, or a Mandarin Orange Cake, but they’re all the same–a mandarin orange cake with a pineapple Cool Whip frosting.  And it’s actually really good!  Here’s the recipe I used:


So why on earth did I decide to make this cake?  For two reasons: 1.) I had some containers of mandarin oranges in my refrigerator and I wanted to use them up 2.) I had a family party coming up and I didn’t want to go empty-handed.

As you can see from the ingredients, this is not a gourmet cake.  I modified the recipe slightly, based on other reviewers’ suggestions, by adding 1 tsp. orange extract to the boxed cake mix.

The cakes looked and smelled great when they came out of the oven.

Unfortunately, the only pictures I got of the finished cake are TERRIBLE.  I read a tutorial on food photography that recommended photographing food during the daytime in natural, filtered light.  Well, I finished the cake at night and I was in a really bad mood so I snapped a few bad pictures and ate a slice.  So despite the fact that the cake looks crappy, it tasted great.  Next time I make it I’m going to modify it so it’s GF CF.  That way, I can eat it without feeling sad and tired after.  (Man, I sound so lame!)

Oooh, Michelle would be so jealous if she saw these photos!  That . . . cake . . . is . . . stunning.  J/K!

So did my family like the Pig Pickin’ Cake?  We’ll never know.  See, I was a TOTAL LUNATIC this weekend and, for sanity’s sake, stayed home from the party.  Dawn told everyone I had food poisoning or a stomach bug, but the truth is I was just a whole bunch of crazy and pretty much needed to spend the weekend in a straight jacket confined to a rubber room (don’t worry–I know why and everything’s under control.  Trust me, it’s such a boring story).

And there you have it.  Pig Pickin’ Cake–the perfect dessert for Ed’s next pig roast.

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Fruit Cocktail Cake

Have you ever heard of Fruit Cocktail Cake?  Well there’s a reason for that.  It’s not very good.  Of course, I didn’t know that, but I had some lonely containers of fruit cocktail in my pantry.  Okay, fine!  Yes, they had expired last year and I didn’t want to throw them away so I found a recipe that called for fruit cocktail and, voila!  A cake I shall never bake again.  The recipe is surprisingly similar to chocolate chip cookies.  In fact, I found several variations of the same fruit cocktail recipe–Fruit Cocktail Cookies, Fruit Cocktail Bars, and Fruit Cocktail Cake.  Basically all the same ingredients either in the form of a drop cookie or in the form of a cookie bar baked in a 13 x 9 x 2″ pan.  Here’s a link to the recipe if you want to whip up a batch (don’t know why you would, but I won’t judge)


Of course, I modified the recipe to make it GF-CF so Jack and I could eat it, but after trying a bite I can guarantee Jack won’t touch it.

Here are some of the main ingredients.  The recipe called for a 15 oz. can of fruit cocktail.  I had 4-4oz. containers of Dole Mixed Fruit.  The recipe called for 1/4 cup margarine.  I had 1/4 cup of ghee.  The recipe called for 3/4 cup chocolate chips.  I had a bag of the best chocolate chips on the planet.  It’s funny–I feel like you can spot a really old recipe from a mile away because old recipes always call for margarine instead of butter.  Yes, this is your grandmother’s recipe.

Sifting the dry ingredients

Mixing the ghee and brown sugar

Adding the fruit cocktail to the dough

Adding the world’s best chocolate chips–Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet

Ready for the oven

Looks promising . . .

. . . aaaaand it’s gross

Do I regret making this cake?  Of course not.  I have to tell you, I really love finding recipes to use up these odd (and old) ingredients in my pantry.  Even if most of them produce nasty results, I’ve discovered a few recipes that have made all the bad ones worthwhile.  For instance, the Pepperoncini Beef–which I will post at some point–and the $20 Bars (they are TOTALLY growing on me!  I’m sure they’d taste even better with ingredients that haven’t expired.)  So stay tuned because I’ll be posting several more recipes that I’ve discovered this way!

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Back in 2008, I bought a jar of almond butter and a jar of sunflower butter at Hannaford.  Why?  I’m honestly not sure.  Jack and I can both eat peanut butter without having a reaction of any kind so why did I buy them?  Wait, I think I bought them because they have more protein and less fat than peanut butter.  Not positive about that though.  But the jar of almond butter was $10.99 and the jar of sunflower butter was $5.29!  And no, I didn’t have coupons for either product.  For the record, I only coupon at Rite Aid, CVS, and Walgreens for non-perishables (deodorants, paper towels, shavers).  I rarely use coupons for grocery shopping (eggs, milk, meats) because I buy “free-range” this and “organic” that–stuff for which you can hardly ever find coupons.  I use coupons for non-perishables so we can actually afford to buy expensive perishables.  Plus, couponing has become an addiction.  Much like my addictions to Coke and Burt’s Bees chapstick.  (Applying some as we speak) 

Anyway, I hate throwing things away so I wanted to find a recipe that called for almond butter instead of just tossing it in the trash.  And I wanted a recipe that wasn’t just Peanut Butter Cookies But With Almond Butter Instead.  I was intrigued when I found a recipe for Gluten-Free Almond Butter Blondies.  Here’s the link to the recipe:


The recipe called for an entire jar of almond butter so I could get rid of it all at once.  And it also called for agave nectar.  Well wouldn’t you know, I’ve got some of that too!  What a great way to use up some expensive ingredients that would otherwise go to waste!  So about an hour ago I decided to make the Almond Butter Blondies.  I took the almond butter out of the fridge and discovered that it had expired in April 2009.  And the agave nectar had expired this past August.  You know what?  Don’t care.  I’m making these anyway. 

I tried the almond butter and it tasted fine.  I think?  The recipe is really simple, but first I had to see if the almond butter would actually blend back into its original consistency.  It had become an almond butter brick with oil floating on top.

Thankfully, with help from the microwave and electric beaters it was once again usable.  As I was reading the recipe, for the life of me I couldn’t figure out how these were actually going to bake into a brownie.  No flour?  No xanthan gum?  No baking powder?  Whatever.  Gotta use up the ingredients!  Then when it’s time to pour the batter into a pan, the recipe says to use a 13 x 9 x 2 pan.  That’s a pretty big pan for a relatively small amount of batter.  Much to my surprise, they came out great!  And somehow they don’t taste like a jar of almond butter.

I won’t be making these again because the ingredients would cost me about $20, but it was a great way to use up food that was just going to be thrown in the trash. 

Oh, and in case you’re wondering–yes, I realize all the photos look ridiculous.  Each food item on a small white plate on top of a green rug.  But I don’t have the awesome kitchen we had in our last house.  Yet.  Here’s some food photos I took when I had my old kitchen:

And now?

So sad.  But we’ll get there!  Maybe another year or two . . .

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I’ve been meaning to post these pictures for over six months now!  These are more pictures from Dawn’s graduation party, which was back in January, but they’re pictures of Dawn’s cake before it was cut.  By the time I got there it had already been decimated!  Michelle made the perfect "Dawn Cake", complete with a miniature backhoe digging up a pile of "dirt".  Dennis would be so proud!
Here’s a picture of the second tier of the cake, with an outer layer of chocolate designed to look like wood grain!
And here’s the top tier, complete with ribbon
And here’s a cake Michelle created in New York
Craziness!!!  Oh yeah, I could TOTALLY do that–blindfolded with my hands tied behind my back!

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GF-CF-SF Cornbread

I so desperately wanted to make my pineapple upsidedown cake tonight, but I’m out of ghee!  So I’ve got a crock pot full of 16 sticks of butter, which should give me enough for about a month.  Of course, the ghee won’t be done til tomorrow so I’m definitely not getting my pineapple upsidedown cake tonight.  Oh well.  I’ll just have to grab another peanut butter cup.  You’re wondering:  "Tammy, have you gained weight by any chance?"  And the answer is:  "Probably.  But this Gluten Challenge is starting to take a toll on me so I’m going to eat as much comfort food as I want."  Yes, thanks to gluten I’ve been getting headaches.  I’ve been sleeeeeeeepy.  And oddly enough, I’ve discovered that my feet take much longer to warm up now that I’m back on the stuff.  On Sunday when we went out with Melissa and Gerard, I threw on my singular pair of jeans and buttoned them up.  I could barely breathe.  When I sat down in them I started feeling almost claustrophobic.  They were so tight that the thought of wearing them for an entire afternoon made me almost start to cry.  So I put on Dave’s swishy pants–the ones I wore when I was pregnant–and just counted my blessings that those weren’t also tight.  When I walked into the kitchen where Dave was, he asked "Aren’t you going to wear jeans?"  My reply?  "They don’t fit."  That would’ve felt like absolute defeat, but these were the same jeans that fit just fine last week.  What had changed?  Well I had started to eat gluten again.  In the course of a week, my stomach went from being fat and smooshy to fat and as hard as a rock.  Imagine you’ve got a balloon and you only fill it with a little bit of air.  It’s pliable.  But now completely fill it with air.  Not pliable.  And now you understand how much stomach feels.  It was honestly like trying to button a pair of jeans around a big balloon.  There was no give.  So today I got myself a big pair of pants.  A bigger size than I ever imagined myself wearing, and I don’t care.  And I also don’t care if I have a peanut butter cup for breakfast tomorrow.  And pineapple upsidedown cake for lunch.  During the remainder of the Gluten Challenge there will be no guilt.  I’m most likely going to start getting pretty depressed again soon so if a honkin’ slice of cake makes me feel less depressed SO BE IT.  The awful part is–I KNOW my biopsy results will come back negative.  According to every standard medical test I’ve ever taken I am the healthiest person alive.  But whether the results come back negative or positive, one thing is for certain–I will never go back to eating gluten again.  Yeah, I may cheat here and there.  But on a daily basis–no way.  So I’m done complaining for right now.  I’m going to grab that peanut butter cup and hope that NCIS is on.  Yes, it is one of the cheesiest shows EVER, and I love it.  It’s predictable.  It’s corny.  It’s completely unrealistic.  The perfect show for when you just want to sit in front of the TV and let it eat away at your brain.  Anyway, last night after the meeting Dave took the baby home and I went to Home Goods.  I bought a bunch of little kitchen gadgets (and a huge mirror for the living room, but more on the mirror in another post) and a cast iron skillet.  I’ve needed a cast iron skillet for my cornbread recipe and for the pineapple upsidedown cake recipe, although I’ve made both without the cast iron skillet and they’re still amazing.  When I got home I was so excited about my new pan that I HAD to make some cornbread.  I didn’t end up eating it until almost 11:00 at night, but it was awesome.  And for those of you who don’t have food intolerances–all of these recipes are recipes that I’ve modified.  They weren’t originally gluten- or dairy-free.  So instead of using the baking mix I refer to, just use all-purpose flour and omit the xanthan gum.  In place of ghee, use butter or soy butter.  And instead of rice milk, use regular milk or soy milk.  That’s how the original recipes were written anyway.  So whether you modify the recipe or leave it as is, you will LOVE it!
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cup ghee, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups baking mix (Each batch of baking mix makes 3 cups, so remember to only measure out 2 cups of this combined mix for the cornbread recipe: 2 cups brown rice flour (preferably Authentic Foods brand), 2/3 cup potato starch, 1/3 cup tapioca flour)
1 tsp. xanthan gum
1 TBSP baking powder
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 1/3 cup rice milk
1.  Preheat oven to 400.  Place 10" cast iron skillet in the oven while it is preheating.
2.  In a large bowl, beat together the sugar, salt, ghee, and vanilla until well-blended.  Mix in eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
3.  In a separate bowl, mix together baking mix, xanthan gum, baking powder, and cornmeal.
4.  Stir dry mixture into egg mixture alternately with the rice milk.  Beat until well-blended.
5.  Remove cast iron skillet from the oven and spray with cooking spray.
6.  Pour in batter and bake for 20 minutes, or until tester comes out clean and the bread is golden brown.
7.  Immediately remove the cornbread from the skillet by turning it onto a cooling rack.
*  If you’re using a smaller cast iron skillet you will need to modify the baking time.  If you don’t have a skillet, you can bake it in a cake pan or a brownie pan, but don’t preheat the pan and be sure to modify the baking time.
Here’s the finished product.  The top of the bread will be golden brown like the center slice, and the bottom will be darker like the two end slices.  It’s a really sweet cornbread so if you like authentic, Southern cornbread you will probably not like this because this tastes more like cake. 

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Last Sunday’s meeting was canceled because of the snow so I knew it would take A LOT of snow to get them to cancel yesterday’s meeting as well.  But that’s just what we got.  A LOT of snow!  Dave had to go down to the Lexington Hall to fix something about their heating (I don’t pay attention that kind of stuff because it’s sooooo boring) so Jack and I traveled with him and we met up with Melissa and Gerard.  Well the timing was pretty bad for Jack.  I’m pretty sure he’s got Fifth Disease right now and on top of that he was overdue for a nap.  So when we decided to go out to lunch, that was definitely pushing it.  Yep, we were the parents at the restaurant with the obnoxious child.  By the end of lunch he had calmed down, but up until that point my nerves were fried.  He napped during the car ride home and decided he was done napping for the day.  Ugh.  This is why it’s never smart to leave the house with Jack at any point from 10:30-2:00.  He might decide that a 15-minute nap in the car is all he needs that day!
Last night I was dying for some chocolate so I decided to make my gluten-free, casein-free, soy-free peanut butter cups.  This is the third time I’ve made them since perfecting the recipe and I’m quite happy with them.  So here it is!
1 tsp. Knox unflavored gelatin
1/8 cup water
1/2 ghee (clarified butter)
1/2 cup peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup finely crushed salted peanuts
2 cups GFCF Chocolate Chips, divided
2 TBSP. Spectrum Naturals All Vegetable Shortening, divided
1.  Grease cups (or place liners in the cups) of a standard 12-cup muffin pan.
2.  Melt 1 cup of the chocolate chips and 1 TBSP. shortening over low heat.  Place approximately 1/2 TBSP to 1 TBSP of chocolate mixture into each cup of the muffin pan.  Tilt the pan in a circular motion to coat the cups about 3/4 of the way up the sides of each cup.  (If you’re not using liners, it may be better to only coat a few cups at a time.  Otherwise the chocolate may harden in some of the cups before you’ve had a chance to coat them).  Place the muffin pan in the refrigerator or freezer until chocolate has hardened.  As you can see in the photo, I use silicone liners because you have more control over the chocolate since you’re only coating one cup at a time.  Plus, they’re fluted so the end product looks more like a real peanut butter cup.
3.  Place a small empty saucepan in the freezer until cold.
Add 1/8 cup cold water to the saucepan and sprinkle 1 tsp. Knox unflavored gelatin into the water.
Let the mixture sit for one minute, until dissolved.
4.  Stir in the peanut butter and ghee and cook over low heat until the peanut butter has melted. 
5.  Refrigerate the mixture until it sets, about 1/2 an hour to an hour.  You should be able to tip the pan upside down with nothing moving or dripping.
6.  Stir the ground peanuts and confectioners’ sugar into the now gelatinous peanut butter/ghee mixture.
7.  Mix until it reaches the consistency of all-natural peanut butter.
8.  Remove the muffin pan from the refrigerator or freezer.  Place a heaping tablespoon full of peanut butter mixture into each chocolate-coated cup, gently pressing mixture down so the top is somewhat smooth.  You should have enough peanut butter mixture for exactly 12 cups.
9.  Melt the remaining cup of chocolate chips and 1 TBSP. of shortening.  Pour about a tablespoon of chocolate mixture onto the peanut butter mixture in each cup, spreading it so no peanut butter mixture is visible.
10.  Refrigerate for several hours or until peanut butter cups have hardened.  And voila, peanut butter cups!

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