Friday, October 30, 2009

A beautiful book.

Tomorrow is my birthday. My parents gave me a present today when I was home. My dad was so excited to give it to me, and rightly so. : ) It was this beautiful, classic, priceless addition to my cookbook collection. (I try to collect a cookbook from every interesting region I visit...)

It's so pretty.

I love the pattern on the dust cover and the hardback.

They're just so...classy. It makes me feel like some sort of chef just owning this famous book! Quite deceiving. ; )

I spent a good two hours just thumbing through it this evening. I love all the detailed instructions and tips it has! So handy.

I found so many interesting new things to try. With so many names! I will never be able to say any of them. : )

I did recognize a few of the names...

I've always wanted to try making lamb. Now I have a full blown guide to it! I just have to find some lamb...more challenging then you might think in small town Kansas.

And the desserts! Yum yum yum.

Anything with "flambee" in the title has to be good, right?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Age of the Squashes

Today the preschool I work at took a field trip to the pumpkin patch! It was great fun. The kids learned all about pumpkins and pumpkin farming. They got to try pumpkin seeds and apple slushes, see giant pumpkins float in water, and learn about twenty some different kinds of pumpkins, squash, and gourds. They came in so many shapes and colors! Being a squash fanatic myself (I love the stuff! Any kind of squash. Or sweet potato. Or pumpkin. I could eat it all day long.) I was like a kid in a candy store. I went a little squash happy and bought a big ol' bag of different squashes. But they were all really cheap, so I didn't feel too bad. Not to mention packed with things like beta-keratin and vitamins! Anyway, after we visited the store and had the tour, they let us go out into the pumpkin patch and pick as many as we wanted. It was a blast. Twenty plus kids, five teachers, and parents running all over acres of pumpkin field, frantically picking the biggest and best pumpkins they could find. : ) I think we all felt a little bit like kids today.
Here are some of the crazy pumpkins and squashes I got out of the deal.

Fairytale Pumpkin
I think this little gem is just so pretty. : ) When they grow they have a white, dusty frost over them. It makes them look like they came out of a fairytale! The Pumpkin Patch Lady didn't say if they are edible or not, but some sites I've looked up online say they are, so I'm going to try it!

Blue Magic
This bumpy fellow is so much fun, cuz he's blue! These are edible, so I can't wait to roast it up and give it a taste!

White Pumpkins
I got these for jack o' lanterns. They have bright orange flesh on the inside, so I think the contrast of that and the white will be gorgeous.

Buckskin Pumpkin
The Pumpkin Patch Lady said that this is the type of pumpkin they make pumpkin pie out of! It reminds me of butternut squash (my favorite!), so it's bound to be good.

Plain Ol' Punkins
These guys are just your regular, run of the mill halloween pumpkins. I look forward to lots of roasted pumpkin seeds! I did get one smaller one to roast and try...I'm hoping for a good pie, but I've heard mixed reviews, so we'll see.

Carnival and Delicata Squash
Now these guys I'm really excited about. Just read the labels! Don't they sound delicious? Yum, can't wait to try them.

Acorn and Butternut Squash
I didn't take pictures of these, since they're so normal...I figured I'd save the picture taking until I cook 'em up all yummy. Mmmm...

I plan on trying these all out in the next couple weeks, so it will be the month of pumpkin postings! Get excited!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Smoke Alarm Cinnamon Rolls

So today was a really cold day. Rainy, gray, dreary. Perfect chili weather. I left a crock pot of chili on this morning, and when we came home the house smelled sooo good.
I don't know about you, but my mom always made cinnamon rolls with our chili. I pretty much can't eat chili without them. So I decided to make homemade cinnamon rolls and try a new recipe. But see, my mother was a much wiser woman that I. She chose Pillsbury.

My fancy smanzy cinnamon rolls were pretty much a disaster. I didn't put enough flour in the dough, so it was way too sticky and soft. Then, I set them on top of the oven to raise with the oven on. By the time I went back to get them, the part of the dough touching the pan had cooked. Yes.

Anyway, I pressed on and rolled them out, pouring the butter and brown sugar and cinnamon on top. When I tried to roll them up the dough was too soft to really hold together, so it just sort of loosely hung together. Then I cut them into rolls and it got realllllly loose...but I just squished them back together, stuck them on a cookie sheet (no edges, of course) and set them to raise again.

After they had "doubled in size", they looked like "The Blob" on steroids. And those two sticks of butter I had spread over that unsubstantial dough were starting to leak out. This alone should have set off some flag in my head. But, apparently I don't believe in giving up on a recipe, even though it shows no signs of success. Waste not want not!

So, I put them in the oven and then go off happily washing dishes and watching a tv show on my computer. Twenty minutes later, I go to pull them out of the oven and lo and behold, I'm greeted by a billow of smoke. Trust me, we're not talking wisp, nor curl, nor even plume...billow. The misshapen cinnamon rolls have morphed into a Papa Blob, and all that oozing butter slipped right off the cookie sheet and onto my freshly (as in last night. not even twenty-four hours.) cleaned oven. Sigh. Out comes the baking soda.

But guess what, that didn't work. The butter was still bubbling and burning and pouring smoke out of the oven vent. By this time there is a definite gray cloud in the kitchen, dining room, and laundry room. So, I resort to salt. It only costs fifty cents a carton, I can afford to pile it on.

Right about this time the smoke alarm starts blaring, waking the puppy from his nice little nap. After the smoke seems to calm down some, I put another cookie sheet on the bottom rack and finish baking the rest of the doomed rolls. By this time, as you can imagine, the smoke inhalation is starting to get to me. Even in my oxygen depleted, dim state of mind, I know I need to open some windows. Of course, it's forty degrees outside. So I turn on all our fans, open both the front and back doors, and go back to my show.

Pretty soon, I realize the puppy is no longer under the table. He's moved to the back porch, out that open door that is helping pump life back into my kitchen. He's sitting about two feet away from the door, just looking at me.

Apparently, this foreign smell is reallly freaking him out. I coaxed him in for a minute, but as soon as I let him go, he was back out the door like a shot. I finally had to go drag him back inside and let him sit on my lap for several minutes. Poor guy was shaking. I even bribed him with a treat; trust me, this guy does not take treats lightly. He was all for the treat until I left him in the kitchen with it. Then he came into the dining room with me and LEFT HIS TREAT IN THE KITCHEN. That's when you know it's serious.

I finally got all the smoke siphoned out the screens and have my kitchen back. Well, mostly anyway. I still have a headache, traumatized dog, and salty oven to deal with. But, on the upside, those blobby, smokey, buttery cinnamon rolls were stinking amazing. Not even kidding. I didn't even add the cream cheese frosting (and trust me, I don't take cream cheese lightly) because they were so good the way they were.
Just goes to show, you can't judge a cinnamon bun by it's appearance... : )

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Cozy Comfort

I have finally succumbed to the reality that fall is indeed here. A few evenings ago it was cool and windy and gray, and I simply could not deny the fact any longer that the warm sunny days of summer are gone. To help ease the pain, we welcomed it in with classic comfort food- Creamy Tomato Basil Soup.

This was the first time I made this, and it was so. so. good. I will be making this a-lot this winter. The beauty of this recipe is that it has hearty chunks of tomato and onion in it, so it feels more filling than a plain creamy soup, all the while having that great rich, creamy texture. As with most of my concoctions, I started with a recipe and then altered it beyond recognition. But I was pretty happy with what I came up with. : )

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

1 small yellow onion, chopped
6 tbs butter
1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 large can of condensed tomato soup, 26ish ounces (the original recipe called for tomato juice...I didn't have it...)
1 1/2 cups of heavy whipping cream (approximately; to be honest, I just poured this in until it looked nice and creamy...)
Basil (I used dry, b/c that's what I had, but I'm sure fresh would be amazing)
Fresh Parmesan cheese (optional)

Saute the chopped onion in the butter. After the onion is nice and cooked and translucent, add the crushed tomatoes, condensed tomato soup, and chicken broth. Add basil, salt, and pepper to taste. Let the soup come to a nice, hot, steamy simmer. Smell it. Yum. Once it's nice and hot, turn off the fire and add the cream. Oh my.
Serve hot with freshly grated parmesan, if desired. I loved the added flavor and texture of the parmesan, but my husband liked it just fine all by itself. You decide. :)

We had this with my mom's wonderful biscuit recipe. These are the biscuits I grew up making and they are still hands down my very favorite.

Super Biscuits
1 pkg yeast
1/4 cup warm water
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tb. sugar
1/2 cup margarine
1 cup buttermilk (or if you don't have buttermilk, 1 tbs vinegar, then enough milk to make 1 cup)

Dissolve the yeast in warm water, setting aside. Mix dry ingredients in the order given, cutting in margarine as is normal for biscuits or pie dough. Stir in buttermilk and yeast mixture. Blend well, then turn the dough onto a floured board and knead lightly. Toll out and cut and place on a greased pan. Let rise slightly, then bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Pepperoni anyone?

There is one thing that proves to me that I can never be considered a food snob. Oh, I love my fancy cheeses, exotic ingredients, new recipes. But it's my addiction to a certain frozen food product that keeps me bound to the snob-less level forever.

Totino's Crisp Crust frozen pepperoni pizza.

Oh my. During my college years, I would buy three or four of these and have one for lunch about once a week. It would be the highlight of my day.

I would spend all morning at class, walk the long walk back home, then stick my pizza in the oven for 12-15 minutes at 450 (right on the rack, of course), grab an ice cold (and when I say ice cold, I mean packed full of ice, barely room for the pop ice cold...) cup of Dr Pepper, and go up to my room and watch the most recent episode of my favorite tv show on my computer. Of course, after that blissful half an hour I would have to buckle back down to the grind of homework. Oh how I always looked forward to my pizza lunch.

But just look at it!!

There's just something so perfectly delicious about that $1.25 pizza. The crust is so perfectly crispy, the sauce is an expertly balanced blend of spice and sweetness, the cheese gets all melty and slightly crisp, and those little squares of pepperoni...aaah.

Hm, I think I'm going to have to go to the store...Totino is calling.