Sunday, March 7, 2010

Grecian Pork Tenderloin

Another winner from is this delish pork recipe. It calls for 1 1/2 cups of fresh lime juice...holy lot of limes! I squeezed an entire bag of limes and only had 1 cup. That was plenty of juice for 2.5lbs of tenderloin so you can definitely decrease the amount of marinade from what the original recipe calls for. It's simple ingredients, marinated for a few hours, then cooked. The recipe says to grill it, but I just baked it and it was wonderful.

The meat was super tender from all the acidic lime juice, and it had a wonderful flavor. Highly recommend!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Strawberry Sour Cream Ice Cream

I got a new cookbook...just in time for Spring.

The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz is full of tasty looking recipes for ice cream, sorbet, sherbet, granitas, and various toppings and mix-ins. There are the usual suspects like chocolate, vanilla, peach and coffee but then there are some really unique ones such as avocado, olive oil, and lavender and honey. If you like making ice cream, you need this book!

Publix had Florida strawberries on sale that looked good, and I had some sour cream in the fridge I got for free using coupons last week, so we tried this one:

Unfortunately neither of us really cared for it, I think it was the sour cream. It was not very sweet, and while it didn't taste at all like sour cream it was definitely more tart than what we like. There's nothing at all wrong with the recipe though, it turned out perfectly so if you are a fan of not-too-sweet desserts, you may love this one. Me? I'll have my ice cream minus the sour cream please.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Cake Success!

I tried the pound cake again (recipe from previous post) and baked it in the Razorback pan. It turned out great! The only problem with this pan is that the snout and tail sections get tough and overcooked in order to get the thickest middle part done. But that's the price you pay for a super cool Hog cake.
Honestly, the fallen-apart ugly cake from last time tasted better although this one is much more presentable. All in all, this recipe is a winner and you can do so much with it as far as mixing in chocolate chips, adding different glazes, etc.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Um...another cake flop

Sour Cream Pound Cake from

I'm not sure exactly what went wrong. Maybe I didn't adequately grease and flour the pan? The recipe actually calls for a loaf pan, so maybe that would have worked better. After I already had this one in the oven, I read the reviews on and a lot of people said they doubled the recipe to make it in a bundt pan. It was pretty short, so a double recipe would probably have fit perfectly. I only cooked it 40 min, not the 60 min that the recipe called for and it was done at 40 so start checking around 35 minutes or so.

So it looks crummy, but how does it taste? Holy sweet deliciousness, thank goodness I don't have gestational diabetes so I can eat this cake good!!!! I made a butterscotch glaze out of butter, sugar, a little water, and Buttershots butterscotch liquor (if I can't drink it, at least I can cook with it).

Maybe it's a good thing it didn't turn out pretty, now I will be forced not to take it in public but instead to keep it here and eat it know, wouldn't want to subject anyone else to ugly pound cake:)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Day of the Steak and Cake Flop

I share my successes so I'll share my failures as well.

FAILURE #1 Steak in a cast iron skillet

I read these two sets of instructions for cooking perfect steaks in your cast iron skillets and thought it looked easy enough. You start it on the stove then move to the oven.

Where I went wrong: "always salt generously" it makes a great crust and a juicy steak--I guess I salted TOO generously because it turned out so salty I almost couldn't eat it, and I like salty food. I followed the advice to cook in the oven for 10 minutes and this was WAAAAY too long if you like your steak anything other than well done. So I took a beautiful filet mignon and made it taste like salty burned beef jerky, nice.

Another problem is the smoke. I mean, like A LOT of all the doors and it's still really smoky in the house an hour later lot of smoke. The recipe warns you that it will smoke, but I have to believe that this much smoke is not normal or nobody would cook steaks in the skillet ever. I wish I had taken a picture at it's worst so you could understand just how smoky it was.

FAILURE #2 vanilla cake with oreo buttercream

In theory this should have been gorgeous and delicious but, alas, that was not the case in my kitchen today.

White layer cake:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 egg whites, room temp.
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/3 cups buttermilk

1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour 2 9-in round pans. In large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add egg whites one at a time, mixing after each. Beat in vanilla.

2. In separate bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to creamed mixture alternating with buttermilk in thirds. Mix but don't overbeat after each addition. You can do this part with a spatula instead of mixer.

3. Spread evenly into prepared pans. Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Where I went wrong: My last couple of cakes have come out just a bit drier than I would like and I think it was from overbaking them, so naturally this one came out underbaked. I took them out at 25 minutes because they were pulling away from the edges slightly and the top kinda bounced back after I touched it. I guess it wasn't quite to that "spring back" stage that it should be because it is definitely a little batter-like still. Tastes good though:)

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
1/2 cup butter
4 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
5-6 Tbs milk

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter until light and fluffy. Beat in sugar and vanilla. Add enough milk to achieve desired consistency.

Where I went wrong: I think the powdered sugar/liquid ration is off in this recipe because the end result tasted way too powdered sugary and not enough buttercreamy. I think it needs less sugar and more butter. I added crushed up oreos to the icing, but the oreo chunks combined with the texture of the icing made it impossible to spread. The not-quite-done cake kept coming off in chunks because it would get stuck in the cement-like icing. Let's just say I'm really glad this was just a practice/for fun cake and not one I was taking anywhere because I would have had to start over. I still think the oreos can work, the just need to be pulverized in the food processor first so they don't impair the spreadability of the frosting.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Parmesan Crusted Salmon and Winter Squash with Cranberries and Raisins

I'm still trying to use up the giant vat of parmesan in the fridge so I searched for 5 star parmesan recipes and found up this one. We agree, 5 stars!

Parmesan Crusted Salmon- seriously try this if you like salmon. Rich said it was one of his favorites ever. Take a second to read the recipe, then I'll tell you what I did differently. Ok, once I put the fish in the pan (a large skillet not a saucepan like the recipe says) I had to keep adding more wine and teriyaki sauce because it kept reducing away. It was fine because I had plenty and it resulted in a more concentrated flavor in the end, but you'll need more on hand than what the recipe calls for. I didn't have any teriyaki sauce so I just mixed up some soy sauce, sherry, a pinch of sugar, some garlic and dried ginger as a substitute teriyaki sauce. I added more parmesan and some sea salt for a little salty crunch after taking it out of the pan.

Winter Squash with Cranberries and Raisins-
adapted from Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook

2 acorn squash, halved and seeded
1/2 cup fresh cranberries, or frozen berries, thawed
1 small apple, chopped
1/4 cup raisins, chopped
juice and grated zest of a small orange
1.5 Tbs honey
pinch of salt
2 Tbs butter

1. Preheat oven to 375. Place the squash in a lightly greased baking dish, cut size up

2. Combine the berries, apple, raisins, orange juice, zest, honey and salt in a bowl. Put half the mixture into each squash half. Place 1 Tbs (or less if you want) butter on top of the mixture in each half.

3. Bake until the squash is tender, about 30-45 minutes. Every 15 minutes baste some of the liquid from the center around the edges of the squash to keep the flesh from drying out. Remove from oven and serve warm.

Posted by Picasa

Monday, January 18, 2010

Pork Loin 2 Ways and Winter Salad with Roasted Beets and Citrus Reduction Dressing

Since the packages of pork tenderloins actually have two in them, I decided to try out a couple different recipes. One I chose because I had lots of fresh grated parmesan leftover from the spaghetti carbonara, the other because I had peach preserves on hand and thought it would go well with pork. Both are from

Parmesan Pork Tenderloin is in the skillet on the left, and Spicy Peach-Glazed Pork Chops is in the skillet on the right.

We both loved the parmesan version, but neither of us really cared for the peach. I love peaches and most things peach-flavored but I just don't think I like the combo of cinnamon and sweetness on meat. The parmesan got a nice crispy crust and was excellent. It will definitely be going in the keeper file.

We also had a salad from the Dec 2009 Cooking Light:

Winter Salad with Roasted Beets and Citrus Reduction Dressing

Rich has never had beets and it was questionable as to whether or not he would try or like it, but he did try it and he didn't hate them...success! The recipe calls for goat cheese which neither of us care for so I bought feta, but then forgot to use it. I also just used regular red leaf lettuce instead of the Boston lettuce/watercress/radicchio combo in the recipe. I tried to tell him that the shallots in the dressing were like a bigger bulb of garlic but he wasn't buying it. He said "those taste like onions" so we had to strain the shallots out, but the dressing was still great.

Here are the beets after roasting and removing the stems and roots. You then peel and slice them.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Red Lentil Soup

Red Lentil Soup from the Vegetarian Times complete cookbook. I couldn't find red lentils at my local store and didn't feel like making another trip to go to Whole Foods so I just used regular lentils. It tastes great, but maybe next time the red lentils will make it even better. This is a pureed soup packed with healthy stuff.
3 Tbs vegetable oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 cup red lentils
3 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
About 2 cups canned coconut milk
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1 bay leaf
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 one-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 Tbs curry powder
1/2 cup chopped cilantro (I used dried)
1. Heat 2 Tbs oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring often, until they start to brown, about 10 minutes. Add 4 cups of water, lentils, carrots, coconut milk, salt and the bay leaf. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cook partially covered until the lentils are tender, about 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 Tbs oil in small skillet over medium heat., Add garlic, ginger, curry powder and cilantro. Cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add to the soup.
3. Remove the bay leaf and puree the soup in batches in the blender or food processor.
Sorry, no pic of this one.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Spaghetti Carbonara

Spaghetti Carbonara from

I made this as a way to use up leftover cooked bacon. Rich doesn't like onions so I substituted onion powder, and since I didn't have to cook the bacon or chop and sautee the onion this came together extremely fast. It was quick, easy and tasty. You could definitely make it healthier by using less oil, turkey or canadian bacon and whole wheat pasta and adding in some peas or broccoli. It's a good base recipe to play around with.

Posted by Picasa

Brown Butter Vanilla Cake with Chocolate Ganache and Caramel Buttercream

Now that's a mouthful, both the name and the cake itself.

This thing took me literally about 6 hours from start to finish, and I think every utensil in the kitchen is dirty. But it was a fun way to spend a rainy Saturday and Rich and I both give it two thumbs way up.

Here's the blog with the recipe. I made a few slight modifications. I don't have a whisk or paddle attachment for my stand mixer so I used my hand mixer for everything, just on low when it called for the paddle attachment. I wasn't sure how to heat the egg + sugar mixture over a pan of simmering water, so I heated it over medium in a saucepan and used a candy thermometer to cook to 160 degrees. The ganache was a bit of a disaster. First, I accidentally used unsweetened chocolate. Rich tasted it and made a face and I realized what I'd done, so I remelted the chocolate and added sugar. Then after chilling and mixing, it was a dry crumbly mess so I reheated again and just tried to get it to some sort of spreadable texture.

I'm not sure I'd make this very often because it is a lot of work, but the brown butter vanilla base is great and would make a great sheetcake with the caramel icing for a lot less time and effort.

Here are some of the steps in pictures:

Start by making the browned butter, which is basically just cooking the butter until it reaches the appropriate color and smell. I just googled and read about this a little to help me judge it.

This is the browned butter, poured into a bowl to go in the fridge. It has to chill and harden to be used in the cake.

To make the ganache, finely chop the chocolate (SEMIsweet, not UNsweet), then pour the hot cream over, let sit a minute, then stir. In theory...but mine didn't all melt so I had to add more cream and microwave a few seconds.

Once I realized it was unsweetened, I scooped some out and remelted with sugar then rechilled.

Bake the brown butter vanilla cake layers, put in pans on wire rack for about 20 minutes to cool, then run knife around edges of cakes and turn out onto racks to finish cooling.

This is the buttercream frosting before the addition of the caramel.

The caramel, made by cooking sugar and water then cooling slightly. You mix this with the buttercream.

The two layers with the chocolate ganache in the middle.

The finished product...looks great to me!

Ready to eat.

Granny's Chocolate Cake

Preheat oven to 350 and bring 3 eggs to room temperature. Grease and flour three 9 inch round cake pans.
Sift 2.5 cups flour, 1/2 cup Hershey's cocoa powder, 2 tsp baking soda and 1 tsp salt together.
In separate bowl, cream 1 cup crisco or butter, 2 cups sugar for 3-4 minutes with a mixer.
Add 2 tsp vanilla extract and 3 eggs, one at a time and mix after each one.
Add a total of 1 cup of buttermilk and all the flour mixture, but in thirds alternating flour/buttermilk starting and ending with flour. Do not overbeat.
Add 1 cup boiling water and mix until smooth.
Bake at 350 about 25-27 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Cool pans for 10 minutes then turn cakes out onto wire racks to cool completely. Once cakes are cool, make frosting.


Melt 1 stick butter in saucepan. Add 3.5 Tbs cocoa and stir until smooth. Add 5-7 Tbs
milk and bring to boil. Add 1 lb sifted confectioners sugar, 1 tsp vanilla and a dash of salt.

Let cool just a little but frost cakes while frosting is still warm enough to spread easily.

This is my favorite cake in the world. Granny, my mom's mom, makes this every year for my birthday and it is the best! She gave me the recipe a couple years ago and I finally got around to trying it. The writing in purple are things that she didn't include in the recipe that should be included for those of us who don't know what we're doing.

I had found some aprons online that I just thought were adorable so my parents printed out the pics, bought fabric and the pattern and Granny made me two for Christmas. How special is that?? Here's one of them, it's got cupcakes all over it. The other is pink and brown polka dots. I'm greasing and flouring the cake pans.

Somehow even with the awesome apron I still managed to get flour on my black shirt on the hip area. Anytime I use flour or powdered sugar I wind up covered in it.

The finished product from the top looks pretty good. Check out that cake stand...another new but vintage addition to the kitchen from Ebay. Love love love it!

Side view...not so good. I let the icing cool which was wrong because it was too thick and resulted in using way too much between the layers and not leaving any for the outside of the cake. I also need some work on evening up the layers so I don't have a leaning cake. This cake stand is huge, much wider than the standard sized cake pans so for presentation I think next time I'll decorate around the edges with chocolate covered strawberries or something similar so there's not so much blank space between the cake and the fluted edge of the stand. I also need to get a glass dome to cover the stand so the cake doesn't dry out.

Posted by Picasa
Gran's are always much prettier and a little tastier, but it wasn't too terrible for a first attempt.

Cooking with the family: Lost Bread, Baked Brie, Shrimp & Grits, and She-Crab Soup

Warning: You may gain 10lbs and increase your cholesterol just by reading this post.

Rich is from south Arkansas, about 15 minutes from Louisiana and his stepdad is from LA so he grew up with a lot of Cajun foods. One of our favorites is the Cajun take on French toast, called Lost Bread or Pain Perdu in French. It originated as a way to use up leftover French bread. His mom always makes this for us for breakfast, but using regular bread instead of French bread. While my family were here visiting over the holidays, Rich took over the breakfast tradition and made Lost Bread for us all.

Cece's Lost Bread

3 eggs
4 Tbs sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
small can Pet milk

Beat eggs well then stir in sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. Add enough Pet milk
"to achieve correct consistency" (don't you just love family recipes like this:)) Melt butter in electric skillet (or on the stove if you prefer) at 350 degrees, melt enough to completely cover bottom of skillet. Dip 4 pieces of white or wheat bread, one at a time, in the egg mixture until bread feels heavy but does not tear. Place in skillet. Brown completely on one side. Pick up each slice of bread before turning and melt more butter underneath it, then turn over and place on melted butter to brown the other side. Serve warm with powdered sugar and syrup.

The menfolk cooking breakfast for the ladies. Rich was making the Lost Bread while Dad made bacon and eggs.

A couple nights we just did an hors d'ourvres style dinner with chips & salsa, a cheese/meat/cracker tray, olives, fruit and baked brie. I had never baked brie before so I made the mistake of buying a wedge instead of a wheel. Bake wedge=melted cheese runs out the side. It still tasted delicious though. I added some chopped butter, brown sugar and pecans underneath and on top of the cheese and baked in small baking dish in the oven. We served with crackers and apples..YUM!

Shrimp & Grits is the quintessential Charleston meal. There are several different varieties, some using a brown gravy sauce and some using more of a barbecue or tomato based sauce. This recipe uses brown gravy. It's not gravy like you would put on mashed potatoes, so if you're not a gravy fan I wouldn't let that deter you if the rest of the recipe sounds good to you. I'm not sure what kind of grits you're used to but the ones here are different from what I was used to in Arkansas. They are thicker, creamier and heartier..and more delicious! We made some modifications to the recipe, adding more cheese and some cream to the grits to really fatten it up and make it richer. It turned out really great but it could use a little kick if you like your food a little spicier so I think next time I will add a bit of red pepper or more hot sauce at the end.

Dad and I peeling and deveining the shrimp that we bought from a local seafood market.

Dad chopping veggies.

She-Crab Soup is also a very Lowcountry dish. It's a rich, creamy bisque-like soup. We cheated a bit and used a mix for the soup base but it was wonderful and was easily as good as what we've gotten in some of Charleston's finest restaurants. Mom cooked the soup and added quite a bit of extra butter and cream, so I think next time I'll cut that back to keep it from being quite so rich. You can order the mix online at amazon, and can used canned crab so you can bring a bit of the Lowcountry to your kitchen wherever that may be!

Mom making the soup in my very awesome new but vintage Le Creuset dutch oven from the '50s.

Everything cooking on the stove.

Time to eat! I even put my juice in a wine glass to be festive.

Of course we had to have dessert. This is my Aunt Beth making a cake. It was a boxed yellow cake with homemade chocolate peanut butter frosting.

Feel like you need to run 26.2 miles to work that off??