Saturday, October 23, 2010

Bacon, Tomato and Avocado Sandwich....

......Using Nature’s Pride® Oven Classics bread

As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker's Program, I was sent a couple loaves of Nature’s Pride® Oven Classics bread--the 100% Whole Wheat and the Oven Classics give them a whirl. I do so love getting stuff in the mail. My whole family loves it when I get stuff in the mail. Yes, even loaves of bread.

Of course, first we had to read the labels. Pete's ears perked up when he saw that the oatmeal bread had 40% less sodium than regular oatmeal bread. And Taylor will only eat whole wheat bread, so she had dibs on that. My mother-in-law only likes a certain chemical infused white bread that shall remain nameless. I didn't think she would be interested. Mybad. She ate half of the loaf of oatmeal bread before I could blink.

Now, what to make? I was kind of in the mood for a BLT, so I picked up some bacon (cover your ears, Taylor--you can put jelly on your slice).....

.....And some tomatoes....

......and an avocado (not a big fan of lettuce on sandwiches).

I toasted the bread (not that it needed was nice and soft for whole grain bread) and fried some bacon until it was nice and crispy. Why is it that someone always eats the bacon before I can get it into the sandwich? Then I slathered it with mayonnaise (only the real miracle whip) and layered it with tomato slices and avocado. Oh, don't forget some pepper.

And then I made Pete wait for his sandwich so I could take some pictures. :-D

...he's still waiting....

I made mine on what was left of the oatmeal bread. Dang...someone ate half of the bacon I set aside for my sandwich....perhaps he had to wait too long.

I'll definitely be getting this bread again. Healthy for you and tastes good...can't beat that combo....

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Chocolate-Pumpkin Cupcakes

Chocolate and pumpkin. Ever since I made that elaborate Amanda's 4-Layer Chocolate Dappled Pumpkin Cake last week (and then again two days ago...heehee), I couldn't stop thinking about how I loved that taste combination. My sister read the recipe and called me immediately to ask if I could change it up to make it easier ("Can't I just add some pumpkin to a cake mix?"....yikes!). So, when a baking opportunity arose last night---a birthday at work---I decided to compromise. The cake part of this recipe is actually pretty much the same as the one for the layer cake. I just made it into cupcakes, omitted the cream cheese filling and the chocolate ganache topping, and used a buttercream frosting instead. Then I added a little dusting of decorative sugar and some candy corn. Voila! A very cute, Autumn themed, tasty cupcake.

Chocolate-Pumpkin Cupcakes

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pumpkin Waffles

Did you know that there is a whole blog dedicated to the pursuit of the perfect pumpkin waffle recipe? No lie--someone actually made pumpkin waffles 90 times in order to get it just right! So, really, there is no reason for me to even try to make my own recipe. I used this one: Ultimate Pumpkin Waffles Recipe

I followed the recipe exactly and these really are mighty good pumpkin waffles. Of course, me being me, I had to add something, so I fried a few apples and made a little flavored whipped cream. To be honest, the waffles didn't need anything extra. A little maple syrup would have sufficed. Or maybe just the whipped cream I made (I put some booze in it--heehee). The apples are good by themselves, too, so it's ok that I made them. :)

Start by whisking those dry ingredients together.

Whip up a few egg whites...

Mix the wet ingredients: pumpkin, egg yolks, butter, and milk.

Blend the wet stuff with the dry stuff and fold in the egg whites.

While it's baking, melt a couple tablespoons of butter in a skillet. Add apple slices, sprinkle a little brown sugar over the top, and saute for about 20 minutes on medium heat.

Caramelized apples. Nothing better.

Good stuff ! This one is a keeper....

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Faux White Castle Sliders

While I'm not a big White Castle fan (blasphemy, I know), I do love burgers and it is hard to resist those little bundles of joy we call sliders. Several months ago, my friend Spryte posted this easy recipe for an easy version of the White Castle. It looked marvelous. It is marvelous. And it takes a total of 25 minutes from start to finish, with no mess. Check out Spryte's post here: Spryte's White Castle Style Sliders

Start by adding some of those dehydrated onions to the bottom of a pan.

The original recipe calls for 2 pounds of ground chuck  (use something not too lean--the fat helps to reconstitute the onions) and a 9 x 13" pan, but since I was making this for just Pete and me, I halved the recipe and used an 8" square pan.

Use whatever seasoning floats your boat. I like this Trader Joe's stuff.

Just pat the meat over the onions, sprinkle it with seasoning salt, and bake it for 20 minutes at 400 degrees (I probably could have baked it 5 minutes more since my layer of meat was a tad thicker). Blot any excess fat off of the top. Add some cheese slices to cover and pop it back into the oven for a few more minutes to melt the cheese. Then just cut it into squares (I made nine--the original recipe called for 24 in the bigger pan, so mine were just a bit thicker). Using a spatula, scoop up a burger square with some of the onion, pop it on one of those tasty Hawaiian rolls, add a pickle if you wish, and voila! a White Castle look alike (albeit tastier).

No fuss, no muss---these babies are good!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Chocolate and Pumpkin in Cake....Oh My!

Julia Child once said "Whatever happens in the kitchen, never apologize." This was my mantra today, as I made mistakes over and over again with a fantastic recipe. That it turned out fantastic anyway is a real tribute to its creator.

A few weeks ago, my husband saw a recipe for a cake in one of my cooking magazines--Amanda's 4 Layer Chocolate Dappled Pumpkin Cake. He has been wanting me to make it ever since, and being that it is his birthday week, I decided to give it a whirl.

First, I hunted down Amanda, who has a fantastic blog. Before I even begin to show you what I made, let me give you the link to the recipe and blog post that started it all: Amanda's 4 Layer Chocolate Dappled Pumpkin Cake

Let me tell you, I know that the first rule of following any recipe is to read it through to the end first. And I did. A few days ago. Shoot, I had all the ingredients. Well, except that I had chocolate chips instead of a bar of semi-sweet chocolate, but I could make that work. So, I commenced with the recipe.

As with all basic cake recipes, I whisked together the dry ingredients, flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa.

Oops, almost forgot the cinnamon, allspice and salt.

Of course, next we beat together the wet ingredients. Here we start with sugar, oil and applesauce. Then we add 4 eggs, one at a time. Then the pumpkin. Oh, and 3 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla. Seems like kind of a lot. Hmm. That's because it is. 2 1/2 teaspoons are supposed to be used later. Good thing I have lots of vanilla.

I did OK with the next few steps. Parchment paper in the pans. Lightly grease and flour (I used that canned stuff with the flour already in it--love it).

I got the batter in the pans and sprinkled it with some chopped chocolate....chopping chocolate chips in the food processor wasn't ideal. It would have been better to chop a bar of chocolate with a knife. But, hey, it worked.

So far so good. I baked them for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Pretty standard. I took them out of the oven and let them cool for ten minutes and then I turned one upside down to release it from the pan. Huh. That stuff in the can is pretty slick. That cake flew out and broke in half. I was a little more careful with the second cake.

A little softened cream cheese and some powder sugar. Oh yeah. 2 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla. ;)

I couldn't quite figure out why there wasn't enough filling to spread to the ends. Kind of chintzy. But, I managed to put the layers together, carefully gluing my broken pieces. Then I read the rest of the paragraph. Oh Oh. The whipping cream. It wasn't for the ganache at the end. It was to blend in with the cream cheese. Duh. i will not apologize. i will not apologize. You know, I think I might just be able to use the whipping cream in the ganache instead of the butter. So here is where I put my touch into the recipe. I heated 3/4 cup whipping cream until it just came to a boil. Then I added it to 6oz of chopped bittersweet chocolate (and a tablespoon of whisky) and blended it until it was smooth. I drizzled this over the cake, letting it run down the sides (and covering up my little faux pas).

Seriously, it's looking good.

I made Pete wait until I took pictures before he could get a piece.

The sun was starting to go down. I'm always having lighting issues. I balanced the cake on the railing of the back steps. Then the phone rang. We are very lucky the squirrels weren't paying attention.

My 88 year old  mother-in-law proclaimed this to be the best cake she has ever eaten. Imagine, if I had made it correctly.....

Seriously, I'll be making this again. And I can't wait to get that filling right. Thanks, Amanda.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Crab Cakes in Minnesota?....You Betcha!

Crab Foo delicious!

I'm going to be honest. I didn't know who Chef Tom Douglas was before I went to see him. I received notice from Macy's Culinary Council about a week ago that there was to be another cooking event, this time at the Macy's downtown. As luck would have it, I had requested the day off from work, so I decided to take a look see. This time Pete came with me (he is still upset that he missed the Cat Cora event) and we met my sister and niece at the store. What a great time we had!

For the uninformed (like me), Tom Douglas is a cookbook author and restaurateur (his restaurants are all in the Northwest, so I guess I don't feel so bad about my ignorance). In 1994, he won the James Beard award for Best Northwest Chef and, here's a fun fact, he was up against Iron Chef Morimoto on Food Network's Iron Chef America--and won! Recently, he partnered with to create an exclusive line of kitchen products to instill "confidence in the kitchen".

The theme of this event was based on his most recent book, I Love Crab Cakes!, an amazing collection of all things crab cake. His first recipe was for Avocado and Crab Salad "Cakes" with Spicy Mayo. Fresh crab salad and avocado slices are shaped with ring molds (he actually uses PVC pipe at home, although you can use tomato cans with the tops and bottoms removed). To finish it off, he topped it with a little salmon roe.

Before things really got started Chef Tom passed around a bowl of crab for us to smell how fresh crab should smell. It smelled like the ocean.

Avocado and Crab Salad "Cakes" with Spicy Mayo

Here's the sample we got. It was lovely.

That the Chef is an advocate for "confidence in the kitchen" was especially evident when he described the kitchen tools he liked to use or that he recommended the home cook to use. His advice was all about comfort, from the type of knife to use (he recommends the Wusthof brand, with a textured handle for comfort) to the best kind of saute pan (stainless steel works best for high heat--just use a scrubby to clean it out). It only makes sense that a cook who feels confident and comfortable will have success in the kitchen.

The next recipe on the agenda was for the Crab Foo egg foo yung made with fresh crab, but without the gelatinous gravy that you find at most restaurants.

This little sample was gobbled up fast.

All the while our Chef was cooking, he was keeping us engaged and interested. At one point, he asked us which chef from the Macy's Culinary Council was our favorite so far. Like an idiot, I shouted "Cat Cora". He made some amusing comment about her popularity and then my husband shouted out that his favorite chef was Tom Douglas! We all know that was the right answer----he called Pete up front and center, grabbed one of his cookbooks, signed it and practically gave Pete a big kiss. LOL

Pete makes his way up to see Chef Tom.

Pretty risky stuff---the chef's wife was in the audience.

The last recipe of the event was the absolute best, in my opinion----Mr. Joe's Tomato Gravy Crab Cakes with Smoky Bacon. Chef Tom brought us back to his childhood where his next-door neighbor, Mr. Joe, used to invite the family over and serve toast smothered in a tomato gravy--canned tomato sauce and bacon grease. The Chef grew to like this so much, that he uses it to this day.

As cliche as it sounds, it just doesn't get much better than this. Pete is bound and determined for me to learn how to make this one!

In the end, Chef Tom left us feeling like we could make all of these great recipes in our own kitchens with no problems at all. A light hand with the crab, the right equipment, fresh ingredients and confidence are really all we need.

Chef Tom Douglas and me. I can't wait to travel to the Northwest to dine in one of his restaurants.

Macy's was kind enough to offer me a $25 gift card to share my thoughts about Tom Douglas' demonstration. I think I'll put it toward a cookbook when the next chef comes to Macy's and then have a giveaway. What do you think?