Where’s the cheese?

February 11, 2009 by


I just “Wordle-d” our esteemed blog on a whim. As much as I like a nice cast iron pan, it seems like we could use a few more posts about cheese, cookies, bacon and gravy, am I right? Perhaps this could inspire a few posts of our favorite things that are not on the list or have a poor showing?



School lunch nostalgia

January 26, 2009 by

Mmmmm chocolate cake

Mmmmm chocolate cake

When I was a kid back in the Hendricks county public school system, there were two school lunch items I loved absolutely: pizza, which were these rectangular crusts covered edge to edge with tiny cubes of pepperoni, a sweet and salty tomato sauce, and gooey mozzarella cheese, and wacky cake.   Wacky cake was a chocolate square, not too dense, definitely not brownie-like, dusted with powdered sugar.  I remember the top crust having a special texture, unctuous but not slimy, more like batter but baked through.  I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately.

I got the new issue of Cook’s Illustrated yesterday in the mail (thanks Mom!) and there, 2/3rds of the way through, was a recipe for Emergency cake – a cake for when you are short on time or ingredients, developed during the war years.  This one called for mayo instead of butter or oil, which I didn’t have on hand (no neutral oil in the house either, so I wasn’t going to whip any up), so I substituted a bit of butter and an extra egg.  It also called for a cup of hot coffee, which I’m sure would add to the flavor profile.  But the only coffee I have in the house are the hand roasted beans gifted to me by a friend at the new year, and those are my special occasional treat.  So I used hot water instead.   It made a nice, deeply chocolate cake, moist and what I think of more as a cake brownie.  Not wacky cake, but delicious all the same.

1 1/2 cups flour

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 cup cocoa (dutch process preferred)

2 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped or chips or morsels (opt.)

2 Tbsp butter

1 cup boiling water

2 tsp single fold vanilla (or 1 1/2 tsp double fold)

2 eggs

Heat the oven to 350 deg F.  Butter an 8 or 9 inch square baking pan.

Mix the first 4 dry ingredients well in a large bowl.  Put the cocoa, chocolate, and butter into a second large bowl, pour in the boiling water and stir well until the chocolate and butter have melted.  Add the vanilla to the chocolate mixture.  Whisk the eggs into the chocolate mixture.  Pour the chocolate mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until well blended.  Spoon the batter into the prepared baking pan evenly.  Bake for 25-35 minutes, until the top springs back when lightly touched.  Cool on a rack for 1-2 hours, dust with powdered sugar.  Cut into squares and serve from the pan.

Cranberry Hazelnut Cookies

January 21, 2009 by

This cookie recipe, which I mentioned in an earlier post, is probably my favorite. Other than good ol’ chocolate chip, of course. I found it in some magazine about 15 years ago, so my apologies to the original, and now forgotten, author. It has become a bit of a tradition for me to make these chewy and chunky cookies around the holidays for my family. Cranberry and hazelnut is the perfect combination for Fall and Winter.

A couple of notes: The chopping of the dried cranberries is a bit of a chore because they are so sticky. I have used both a “chop-o-matic” style food chopper, which is a bit faster, but a pain to wash, as well as a sharp kitchen knife, which takes a bit more work, but is easier to clean. Your choice. I toast the chopped nuts under the broiler for a few minutes. Just make sure you watch it like a hawk as they burn easily. You could also toast them at a lower temperature, or by tossing them in a large skillet over medium heat. You’ll save a lot of money if you buy the oatmeal, dried cranberries, and hazelnuts in bulk.

1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup shortening
1 cup packed brown
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups chopped dried cranberries
1 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts

Preheat oven to 375.
In a mixer, cream both sugars, butter and shortening. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Mix in flour, baking powder and baking soda. Stir in oats, cranberries and hazelnuts. Spoon large tablespoons of the dough on to a cookie sheet and bake for 9-12 minutes depending on how soft or crunchy you like your cookies.


So Into Soup

December 12, 2008 by

Soups are probably my favorite thing to experiment with in the kitchen. The chances of something going truly, horribly wrong are almost nil, and in the event that the end result is inedible, I’ve probably only wasted about $2 of ingredients. Gotta love something that allows for so much creativity while being so forgiving. Last weekend’s project was inspired by some slightly elderly sweet potatoes that needed using sooner rather than later, and a vague memory of a soup I’d enjoyed years earlier. No photos this time, sorry!

4 large-ish sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 medium onion, chopped
2 fat shallots, chopped
1-2 Tbsp smoked paprika (to taste)
1-2 Tbsp ancho chili powder (to taste)
1 Tbsp Jamaican curry powder
Water or stock
1 veg bouillon cube
1/2 C cream or half ‘n half
Salt/pepper to taste

Saute the onion and shallots in a few glugs of oil until translucent and soft. Add the potatoes and stir, then add the spices and stir to coat. Saute and keep stirring for a few minutes. Pour in water or stock to cover the potatoes, and add the bouillon cube. Bring to a boil, then let simmer until potatoes are thoroughly cooked. When they’re done, whizz the soup with some kind of blender and then stir in the cream.

My favorite pan

December 4, 2008 by
10 Lodge Cast Iron

10" Lodge Cast Iron

A few years back, I was living in eastern Washington, where only the most intrepid friends and family members came to visit.  One such adventurous soul was CW, who brought me a copy of The Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook, thinking that, the sort of cook I was, surely I’d have a cast iron pan or two around.  But though I had gotten rid of everything non-stick several years before, at that point I only had a set of stainless steel Revere-ware and some other miscellaneous SS things.  No worries though, because CW also needed a chicken waterer, so we headed out to Ranch & Home, an all-purpose everything sort of store:  chicken waterers, gun safes, Justin boots, cast iron pans inside; hot tubs and livestock trailers in the parking lot.

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Cranberry quince relish

November 28, 2008 by
Cranberry quince relish

Cranberry quince relish

I admit it – I love (LOVE!) that jellied cranberry sauce in a can.  Love how it floops out of the can whole, with the ring marks on the side.  Love the texture – that weird smooth “apple-pulpiness”.  Having a spare can in the pantry soothes me.  Remember the cranberry crisis a few years back??  I got through it okay, due to my emergency can.

This year, I was smitten and overwhelmed by a 3-lb bag of whole fresh cranberries, which I bought and then stared at for two weeks.  I knew I’d be making cranberry sauce, but put it off until Thanksgiving day.  Which was a good thing!  Because if I’d known how good this stuff was going to be, I would have made and eaten 3 batches by the time turkey day rolled around.

Hat tip to AW for cluing me in on using port for the cooking liquid!


4 dry cups of raw fresh cranberries, washed and picked over

1 cup peeled, cored, and roughly diced quince

1.5 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup port

1/4 cup creme de cassis (adds a black currant note, but just use port if you don’t have any in the house)

1 generous grind of black pepper

1 chunk of ginger, peeled if fresh, as is if dried

opt:  3/4 cup chopped pecans


Slowly simmer the diced quince in 1 cup of water until tender (approx. 30 minutes).  The water will reduce to about 1/2 cup and the quince will turn a salmon pink.

Put the cranberries and sugar in a large stainless saucepan.  Pour in the port and cassis, then add the quince with its remaining cooking liquid.  Stir over medium heat for a few minutes to dissolve the sugar.  Add the grind of black pepper, then put the piece of ginger into the pot (you will need to be able to identify it and remove it later!).  Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 10 minutes.  The pectin from the berries and quince will make this tend to boil up, so keep an eye on it and stir it down if necessary.  Remove the lid and continue to cook for 10-15 minutes more, until the berries have softened or popped and the mixture thickens.  Allow to cool, take out the chunk of ginger, then stir in the optional chopped pecans.  Serve warm or chilled.

Excellent with turkey, but also will be great with pork or sharp cheese or possibly lamb.  Pretty tasty by itself, with just you and a spoon.

A medieval goose

November 26, 2008 by

Over at Quid Plura?, there’s a description of an attempt to recreate a medieval recipe for A goos in hogepotte.

Handy holiday hint

November 22, 2008 by

I’ve been on a cream gravy kick lately and, with the gravy-making potential of Thanksgiving just days away, wanted to share this tip for smoother, faster gravy:  have your liquid as hot as possible, before you add it to the roux.  Whether it’s stock, or milk, or wine, or coffee, or some mixture, heat it up.  Adding hot liquid to hot roux helps keep things smooth and thickens things up quicker.  Adding cold milk or whatever to hot fat-n-flour is a recipe for lumps and longer stirring.

Tiny Pies!

November 22, 2008 by

Link sent by my crafty friend E:  Tiny Pies Baked in Jars!  Also, canned cupcakes, a more portable riff on the office mug cake!

Tasty new header

November 16, 2008 by

Thanks to boxofbirds for making us a custom header!