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Pancakes are good. French toast is good, well, great actually. A fried egg sandwich with arugula, aged cheddar cheese and bacon is really amazing. But my new favorite weekend breakfast adds a touch of class and a whole lot of deliciousness to my laid back Saturday mornings.

Eating baked eggs in individual ramekins makes me feel like I’ve gone out for a fancy weekend brunch, except I’m really sitting on my sofa in my pajamas listening to Car Talk. Making these takes the same amount of time as a good stack of pancakes, and the recipe is infinitely adaptable to whatever you’re in the mood for, or whatever you happen to have in your fridge.

Grab a ramekin, throw in some quickly sautéed onions and swiss chard, or try some diced bell peppers, mushrooms would be great, crumbled bacon would be divine. My husband would be embarrassed that I’m admitting this, but last time I actually used leftover Easy Mac as the base for my baked eggs, and it was grand. So no matter your tastes, pick something yummy for the filling, crack two eggs on top, add a dash of cream, a grating of your favorite cheese, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, then throw them in the oven.

While you’re busy making coffee, your baked eggs will take care of themselves, slowly cooking until the whites are set and the yolks are still deliciously oozy. Once they’re done, serve with toast for ultimate dip-a-bility. It’s pretty hard to add class to breakfast when you have bed head, bare feet and the cackle of the Car Talk guys from the radio in the background, but baked eggs make it almost possible.

Individual Baked Eggs in Ramekins
(4 servings)
Adapted from gourmet.com

2 cups of your favorite filling (about 1/2 cup per ramekin). Try sautéed veggies like onions, swiss chard, spinach, bell peppers, mushrooms, leeks, squash, or fresh diced tomato. Meats: crumbled bacon, diced prosciutto, cooked sausage. My favorite combo so far (and the version pictured) is sautéed onions and swiss chard.
1 T olive oil
8 eggs
¼ cup grated cheddar or parmesan cheese
4 t heavy cream (1 t per ramekin)
Salt and pepper
4 (6 or 8 oz) ramekins

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Distribute filling evenly among 4 ramekins. Crack 2 eggs into each ramekin. Spoon 1 teaspoon cream over each egg. Sprinkle grated cheese among ramekins and dot the surface with olive oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Put ramekins in a shallow baking pan and bake, rotating pan halfway through baking, until whites are just set but yolks are still runny, about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve with toast for dipping.

How could baked eggs get any better? When you have someone to share them with.

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This recipe comes from my Mom, Linda. She’s been baking for decades, so she’s tried hundreds and hundreds of desserts in her lifetime. She says these cookies are one of her all-time favorites, so I had to share.

We made these the last time I was home in Pennsylvania for her church bake sale. I tasted one fresh out of the oven before she had a chance to wrap them in cellophane and tie a bow around them, and they are definitely as good as promised!

If you’re a white chocolate fan, as my mom is, you’ll go, well, nuts. Even if white chocolate isn’t your favorite chocolate, you’ll still love these. They’re buttery, crispy, with hunks of dense macadamia nuts and creamy white chocolate. Make them for your next bake sale, or just for yourself. Thanks for the recipe, Mom!

Cookies almost ready for the oven. Flattened versions on the far left, pre-flattened on the right.

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

½ c. unsalted butter, softened

¾ c. packed light brown sugar

½ c. granulated sugar

½ c. shortening

1 egg

1 ½ tsp vanilla

2 c. flour

1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

1 ½ c. white chocolate chips

7 oz macadamia nuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Toast nuts on a cookie sheet while oven preheats. Note from Mom: Keep an eye on them—you’ll be able to smell them when they’re done, and let them cool a little before adding them to the cookie dough.

Beat butter and shortening with a stand or hand-held mixer until soft and creamy.  Gradually add the sugars and beat well.

Add egg and vanilla and beat well.

Sift together flour, soda, and salt; gradually add to butter mix beating well after each addition. Stir in chips and nuts. My Mom is a big fan of chilling cookie dough for about 20-30 minutes before scooping. I highly recommend this—it keeps the butter cold.

Once chilled, drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheet. (Note: my Mom used a cookie scoop, which worked wonders!) Flatten each ball of dough slightly with the palm of your hand. Bake for 15 minutes. Let rest about 2 minutes on the cookie sheet before removing to a wire rack.

Cookies ready for the church bake sale!

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Pennsylvania Dutch Baked Oatmeal

Being married means, among many other things, taking part in your significant other’s family traditions. One of these, a favorite of my husband’s family, is weekly Saturday morning breakfasts at Kuppy’s Diner in Middletown, Pennsylvania, where we both grew up. Built in the 1930s and probably still serving some of the same, classic diner dishes like fried eggs and scrapple, Kuppy’s is a Middletown institution, and everyone in our tiny town has been there at least once, if not once a week.

On a recent trip home, my husband’s family, myself now included, packed into a few cars and headed over to Kuppy’s one early Saturday morning. In the midst of mulling over my breakfast choices—chocolate chip pancakes or eggs and bacon?—my husband’s mother leaned over and recommended the baked oatmeal, which wasn’t on the menu. If I’ve learned anything in my life, it’s that off-the-menu items are awesome, partially because of the food itself, and partially because the idea that not everyone knows to order it makes it taste even better. Although in hindsight, probably everyone in Middletown knows about their baked oatmeal. Oh well.

When my baked oatmeal was placed before me a few minutes later, the warm scent of butter and cinnamon curling up gently from the bowl, I was hooked before I had even taken a bite. I added a splash of whole milk as recommended, and dove in. The oatmeal was finely ground and absolutely soaked with butter, crumbly but not dry, dense but not overwhelming, and utterly homey and wonderful. As my new family dug into plate-sized pancakes and fried slices of scrapple, I took tiny bites of what I had decided was my favorite new breakfast food, savoring the cinnamon and nuttiness of the butter.

When I returned to Pasadena, I called Kuppy’s and asked the woman who answered, one of the Kupps who owns the diner, if I could possibly have a copy of their recipe so I could replicate good, hearty Pennsylvania food in California. I was politely denied. The recipe, she said, was secret, and only known to their family. Rats.

So I embarked on a harrowing, many-months quest to re-create their baked oatmeal. After trying a few recipes, and sulkily eating several bowls of what was called baked oatmeal, but I really knew wasn’t, I finally found the winner. It’s not Kuppy’s, but it’s darn, darn close. Serve warm, with a splash of milk, and a dollop of butter if you think it’s not buttery enough, which it is, but you really can’t beat extra butter.

Baked Oatmeal

From The Barn at Strasburg

3 cups quick-cooking oats (I didn’t have these, so I ground regular old fashioned oats in the food processor until I could only see little bits of oats, and this worked just fine)

1 cup brown sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp salt

1 cup whole milk

½ c. butter, melted

2 eggs, beaten

In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients. Spoon into a greased 9-inch-square baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes. Serve warm with milk. Yield: 6-8 servings.

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Guess who's having pickles for breakfast this morning?

Prompted by my husband and the Gastronomer, I’ve finally decided to dip my toe into posting savory recipes. Not permanently, just to give me and my waistline a break from making desserts several times a month. Keep a look out for my Aunt Junie’s meatballs, and my Aunt Carol’s famous spaghetti meat sauce!

First up is homemade pickles. I. Love. Pickles. I like them extra punchy, full of vinegar and a bit of heat—I like my tongue to hurt a bit after eating them.

It’s hard to admit this, but I discovered recently that even better than classic cucumber pickles are pickled green beans. Jarred when they’re raw, they maintain a serious crunch, and don’t absorb as much of the vinegar, so it’s even easier to eat a handful without losing feeling in your taste buds for a week. I’ve also started pickling my own banana peppers, and hope to try my hand at jalapeños as soon as my window-box plants get bigger than the two inches they are now.

I really just don’t know what else to say about pickles, other than I adore them, and once you make them, you’ll never buy them from the grocery store again.

Ingredients!

Pickles

(makes 1 jar)

2-3 pickling cucumbers or 1/2 pound of green beans or 5-6 banana peppers—generally, just buy what you think will fit in a 1-liter jar
1 1/2 cups water
2 cups apple cider vinegar
½ t sugar
½ t salt
1-inch section of lemon or lime peel, white part removed
4 springs fresh thyme, or your favorite herb
1 small clove garlic, slightly crushed with the flat side of a knife (optional, but I highly recommend it)
1 dozen whole peppercorns
1/4 t red pepper flakes (optional, and I also highly recommend this, but I understand not everyone likes spicy things like I do)

1 liter jar

Cut pickles into lengthwise quarters; trim green beans; slice banana peppers into 1/4-inch disks, discarding tops. Pack into jar.

Bring all other ingredients to a boil over high heat, and keep a safe distance, as the hot vinegar will clear out your sinuses.

Pour vinegar liquid into jar on top of vegetables. Depending on what veggie you’re using, you may need to add a bit more water to bring the liquid to the tops of the vegetables. Secure lid and allow pickles to cool to room temperature. Then place in the fridge, and after 5 days, enjoy! If you’d like to do the official preserving process to save room in your refrigerator, follow Alton Brown’s method in this recipe.

Pickles, a week later, ready to eat!

 

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A fresh slice of blueberry buckle, one of my favorite family recipes.

This is the recipe that earned me the nickname “g-ma.” The recipe came from my own g-ma, who made dessert every night when my mom and her sisters were growing up. According to my grandfather, a meal was not a meal without dessert, and blueberry buckle was one of those desserts.

After feeding my mom’s family for years, blueberry buckle finally made its first appearance in Los Angeles at my last job, where I made it for my co-workers. Apparently it was very grandmotherly of me to bake for work, so the nickname stuck.

A buckle is just a basic coffee cake, but with a cuter name. There’s the cake base, cinnamon sugar topping, and the fruit. You can use any kind of fruit (well, almost kind—watermelon would be a bit weird), but blueberries are the standard in my family. The blueberry version is also what I made for the last Eat My Blog bake sale, where I’m happy to report it sold out within the hour. In fact, the buckle was gone before my chocolate whoopie pies, which surprised the heck out of me. Who knew Angelinos would be so mad about coffee cake?

The below recipe, made in a 13-by-9 pan with 3 cups of blueberries, will result in about a 2-inch thick, blueberry-heavy slice, almost like a cake bar. My grandmother’s original recipe called for 2 cups of blueberries and a 9-inch square pan, which made a more traditional, cake-y hunk of coffee cake. When blueberries are cheap and in season, I prefer the thinner blueberry-y version, but if a pint of blueberries cost as much as a nice steak at the grocery store, my grandmother’s version is just as tasty.

Blueberry Buckle

Cake:

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoons salt
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup shortening
1 egg
½ cup milk
3 cups blueberries

Topping:

½ cup sugar
½ cup flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup butter, softened

Preheat oven to 375. Grease a 13-by-9 baking dish.

Combine all topping ingredients in a small bowl, pressing with fork or pastry blender to combine.

In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt. In a large mixing bowl, cream sugar and shortening with electric mixer—the result will be a bit clumpy. Add egg, mix to combine. Alternately mix in flour mixture and milk in batches, beginning and ending with flour, scraping down side of bowl occasionally, and mixing until smooth.

With a spoon, gently fold in blueberries. The batter will be very dense, so go easy on the berries!

Spread into greased dish. Crumble topping over surface of cake and bake 45-50 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Once cool, cut into squares and serve! I usually get 10 big slices for dessert, or you could cut it into 12 or 15 for smaller, afternoon coffee size snacks.

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Jake's hand-whipped cream cake with oranges and pineapple

On a recent trip to visit my aunt’s family in Florida, I was amazed to learn that my cousin Jake whips cream by hand.

I guess I shouldn’t really have been so surprised, since my mom’s side of the family has some serious genetic cooking chops. My mom is my favorite chef in the world, and her pies, biscuits, twice-baked potatoes, éclairs and chocolate chip cookies are rivaled by few, and I don’t know who those few are. Her mother, my gram, is a master of a substantial collection of classic family recipes, including chocolate frosting, one-egg cake and blueberry buckle (which I’m making for the next Eat My Blog bake sale). My Florida aunt makes a killer baked ziti with meatballs, and her chocolate chip cookies are usually gone before they’ve even made it in the oven.

So my cousin Jake invented this cake. When he told me that he frosts it with hand-whipped cream, I didn’t believe him, but then I watched him actually him do it. It looked hard. It made me want to take a nap.

He's faster than a speeding bullet!

The rest of the cake is pretty simple, and doesn’t require much fuss, which I guess makes up for the 15 minutes of serious aerobic whisking. The base is a boxed cake mix, and Jake has added crushed pineapple and mandarin oranges. For ultra authenticity, whip the cream by hand, but if you’re like me, and would rather watch hard work being done than actually do it, you can use a hand mixer.

Jake’s Whipped Cream Cake

1 box yellow cake mix
22 oz can mandarin oranges
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
8 oz can crushed pineapple
6 oz heavy cream
2 Tbsp confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp vanilla

If whipping by hand, chill a metal bowl in the freezer for at least an hour beforehand.

Preheat oven according to the directions on the cake mix box for two 9-inch metal cake pans.

Drain oranges and mash into a strainer with a fork to remove any excess liquid. Reserve approximately one-third of oranges (no need to be exact) for frosting. Set strainer aside. Blend cake mix, oil, eggs, water and the rest of the oranges in a bowl. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans. Equally distribute the cake mixture into the two pans. Bake for 30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool cakes, still in the pan, on baking racks.

While the cakes are baking, mash pineapple in the same strainer (so you don’t have to wash it twice) to remove any excess liquid. Add remaining oranges back into the strainer and press with a paper towel to really really remove the moisture.

Combine cream, sugar and vanilla in the chilled metal bowl and whisk by hand for 15 minutes, or with a mixer, until stiff peaks form, using a towel to keep the bowl in place. (According to Jake, hand-whisking creates smoother whipped cream.) Gently fold the crushed, drained pineapple and oranges into the whipped cream. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap down until it touches the surface of the whipped cream, and keep cold in the refrigerator until the cake has cooled.

Once cake has cooled, invert pans to remove the cakes, and place bottom layer on desired serving plate. Put a dollop of the frosting in the center of the cake and spread outward until it reaches the edge of the cake. Place the second layer of the cake on top. Put another big dollop in the center of the top layer and spread outward. Spread remaining frosting on edges. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Just look at that whipped cream!

Since the frosting is soft and fluffy, icing this cake looked really easy. Which is good, because after hand-whipping the cream, Jake looked like he needed a rest. He presented this beauty to our Easter dinner table, and it was gone in 30 minutes. It was sweet and fluffy with a touch of citrus, but the star really was the frosting. It was so good it almost made me want to try whipping cream by hand back home. Almost.

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Rice Krispies treats: easy bake sale treat, or gourmet dessert? The answer: both!

It’s a sad but true fact: until recently, I’d never made Rice Krispies treats. Crazy, right? They’re so easy, and so good. They’re always the first item I head for at bake sales. Why? Because it’s almost impossible to mess them up, so they’re always consistent, and always full of crunchy, chewy goodness. Except if the person holding the bake sale serves you the Rice Krispies treat in a napkin, and therefore you end up eating little bits of flimsy paper that adhere to the marshmallow (this happened to me, sadly)…then they’re not so good. But otherwise, I love them.

Marshmallows melting in motion...mmmm....

When my friend Emily came out to visit in the spring, we decided that her California trip wouldn’t be complete without making something full of sugar and butter. This recipe, which I found on Smitten Kitchen, fit the bill, so we dove into the realm of bake sales feet first. I say feet first because this recipe involves browning butter, which I’m always nervous about. Burned butter is a terrible, terrible thing, and since we only had one box of Rice Krispies, I didn’t want to mess this up. But like I said before, it’s almost impossible to mess these things up, and as expected, they were easier than pie.

The best stirrer EVER. Thanks, Emily!

I was in charge of worrying about the browned butter, and Emily, for her part, stirred and stirred like crazy. Emily, can I hire you to come cook with me? Please? You are the world’s best stirrer.

These came out like traditional treats, but with a toasty, rich flavor from the browned butter, and a hint of salt to balance the sweetness. The only thing I would do differently next time I make this recipe is sprinkle a bit of sea salt on top of the treats while they’re cooling. I love slightly salty desserts, and I could use a bit more in these, but maybe that’s just me.

Emily dishing out the treats. I need a new camera. Sigh....

Salted Brown Butter Rice Krispies Treats
from Smitten Kitchen

4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus extra for the pan
1 10-ounce bag marshmallows
Heaping 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling
6 cups Rice Krispies cereal (about half a 12-ounce box)

Butter an 8-inch square cake pan with 2-inch sides.

In a large pot, melt butter over medium-low heat. It will melt, then foam, then turn clear golden and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty. Stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom as you do. As soon as the butter takes on a nutty color, turn the heat off and stir in the marshmallows. The residual heat from the melted butter should be enough to melt them, but if it is not, turn it back on low until the marshmallows are smooth.

Remove the pot from the stove and stir in the salt and cereal together. Quickly spread into prepared pan. I liked to use a piece of waxed or parchment paper that I’ve sprayed with oil to Press mixture firmly and evenly into the edges and corners with a silicon spatula or a piece of waxed or parchment paper.

Let cool, cut into squares and enjoy! Makes 16 2-inch square bars.

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