Archive of ‘10. Become a better cook’ category
Every now and then, I buy bananas, resolving that I’m going to eat more fruit. But, I don’t eat more fruit, and the bananas quickly get too ripe. At which point, I’m forced to bake with them. It’s a tough sacrifice to make.
Today, having two overly ripe bananas, I decided to make miniature banana cakes. And what goes better with banana than peanut butter and chocolate? Nothing.
And thus, these were born:
Mini Banana Cakes with Cinnamon Peanut Butter Frosting
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp vinegar
2 very ripe bananas
splash of lemon juice
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Mix together flour, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add egg and vanilla and beat until mixed well. To this mixture, add the flour mixture, alternating with the milk and vinegar. Stir in mashed up bananas and lemon juice until just mixed.
Grease 5 ramekins and distribute the batter evenly. Cook until edges just begin to brown and a toothpick comes out clean (about 35 minutes). Transfer the cakes directly to the freezer and let them cool completely.
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 1/2 cups confectioner sugar
2 teaspoons (or to taste) cinnamon
Splash of vanilla
Beat together butter and peanut butter until smooth. Slowly add the confectioner’s sugar and beat until mixed well and slightly stiff. Add cinnamon and vanilla – to taste.
Once the cakes are completely cool, remove from the ramekins. Cut in half to create a layered cake. Spread peanut butter between layers and frost the rest of the cake. Garnish with chocolate chips.
I picked pumpkin for my October super food for obvious reasons. According to SuperFoodsRX, “The nutrients in pumpkin are really world class. Extremely high in fiber and low in calories, pumpkin packs an abundance of disease-fighting nutrients, including potassium, pantothenic acid, magnesium, and vitamins C and E. The key nutrient that boosts pumpkin to the top of the SuperFoods list is the synergistic combination of carotenoids. Pumpkin contains one of the richest supplies of bioavailable carotenoids known to man.”
Sounds great! Now, one question, how do I actually eat pumpkin?
I posed that question to a number of my friends and family, and the conversation always followed the same pattern:
Me: What’s your favorite way to eat pumpkin?
Friend: Definitely as a pie!
Me: Well, I was hoping for savory dish or two.
Friend: Hmmm… then soup!
Pie always beats soup in my mind, and two days ago I made my first pumpkin pie. And here’s all that’s left of it:
I based my recipe on this one from Heritage Hallow and on The Pioneer Woman’s Perfect Pie Crust.
For the crust:
- 1 1/2 cups Crisco
- 3 cups flour
- 1 egg
- 5 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- Pinch of salt
In a bowl, combine Crisco and flour, cutting with the tines of a fork or pastry cutter for 4-5 minutes. Add and mix together egg, water, white vinegar, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, and salt.
Separate the dough in half and put into zip-lock baggies and flatten the dough to make make rolling easier later. Seal the bags and place them in the freezer for 30 minutes, or until needed. This is supposed to help with the flakiness.
On a floured surface roll the slightly thawed dough, rolling in only one direction at a time (not back and forth). With a spatula, lift the dough from the surface into the pie pan. I greased the pie pan, just in case, and the crust didn’t stick at all.
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 can of pumpkin
- 1/2 cup of evaporated milk
- 1/2 cup 2% milk
- Pinch of salt
- Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and ground cloves to taste. I like a spicier pie, so used about 2 teaspoons cinnamon and 1/2-1/2 teaspoon each of nutmeg, ginger, and cloves.
Mix all ingredients together. The filling was veeeery runny and completely filled my deep-dish pie crust. The recipe instructed to cook for 20 minutes on 450 degrees and 25 on 350 degrees – but this was no where close to enough time. I left it in for another 40 minutes after the suggested cooking time was up. I used a ceramic pie dish instead of a metal one – perhaps that was the difference.
The pie crust was fantastic. Very flaky and so easy to make. The added cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar really gave it something extra. This will certainly be my go to pie crust instead of the store bought ones!
The pie filling was tasty as well, although I think I’m used to a richer pie filling. I think next time I’ll try Paula Deen’s cream cheese filled recipe…
Growing up, I went through a horrible pattern of being best friends with someone for a year or two and then having a falling out and never talking to that friend again. I realize know it was an example of immaturity, selfishness, and not really knowing who I was.
I went to college and met amazing friends who helped me discover the real me and showed me what a lasting friendship looks like. They have been there for me every single day for the past seven years – even on days that I don’t see them or talk to them, I have the millions of wonderful memories we made together. I feel so lucky to have some of the very best friends in the world – friends who are loyal, kind, fun, creative, smart, pretty, funny…. I could go on with nice things to say for days.
This past weekend, three of those dear friends came to visit the farm for a girl’s weekend. See, I told you they are pretty.
They came at an exciting time on the farm – it’s time to chop corn. (I suppose exciting is subjective…) While the corn plants are still green, they are chopped to create silage for animal feed. So, we visited a corn field and watched the chopping crew finish a field. My friends had seen my previous post about “entertaining” guests with tractor rides. And they were eager for their turn on a tractor!
Emily wanted to cross “shooting a gun” off of her bucket list. Where better to do that than a farm in West Texas?
Of course, we cooked and baked.
(And, as you can see in the picture, we made a mess of my kitchen!)
Then, we put on our cowboy boots for a barn dance hosted at my brother- and sister-in-law’s barn.
We made cake balls and pops for the barn dance. Before my friends came to town, I read a bajillion different blogs about cake pops and the common problems that people have. And they still didn’t turn out just right. Too much icing, I think. But, we still had a lot of fun making and decorating them.
My friends left me yesterday to go back to the “real” world, leaving behind a bunch of new memories – and SO much left over food! Including leftover cake. (Side note – how do four women leave behind so much cake??)
I didn’t want to throw it away so decided to make trifles out of it – or at least a super easy, West Texas version of a trifle. Since I had already crumbled the cakes up for the cake balls, I just smooshed the crumbs into muffin tins and baked them for another 10 minutes. To be honest… I was surprised that worked out as well as it did.
Meanwhile, I used this recipe for vanilla pudding, tripling the recipe, substituting skim milk, and cutting back the sugar a little. It’s a great pudding recipe – creamy and not too sweet.
Once the pudding and cupcakes were cooled, I sliced some strawberries and started putting together the trifles. I cut the “cupcakes” into 8 pieces, putting 3 or 4 pieces into a jar. Next go in 4 slices of strawberry. Then, it’s covered with pudding. And I repeated that process until the jar was full.
So, I have Funfetti trifles:
And french vanilla trifles:
They’re delish and a great way to use up old cake!
NOW, as a reward for reading the LONGEST blog post ever, I’m hosting my first ever giveaway! See those super cute aprons my friends and I were wearing when we made cake pops?
You could be wearing one too! I got them as thank you gifts for traveling alllll the way to West Texas. The aprons are from Anthropologie and, in my opinion, too cute for words. But, I accidentally bought too many. I mean…. I purposely bought one extra to give away to YOU…
Winning is easy – just leave a comment below and/or follow me on Twitter (@andruswilliams) for a second chance to win. If you’re already following me on Twitter and want to enter again, just leave another comment. Enter before Midnight on Friday and I’ll announce the winner this weekend!
UPDATE – We have a winner! Congratulations Kat from Tenaciously Yours. Send your address to andruswilliams2010 (at) gmail (dot) com to claim your super awesome apron
One of my goals for this year is to eat more super foods, achieved by focusing on a new super food each month. September happens to be the month of oats. According to SuperFoodsRX.com, “Oats are low in calories, high in fiber and protein. They’re a rich source of magnesium, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, thiamine, and pantothenic acid.” And WebMD.com explains that oats and other foods high in fiber help achieve “healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels.”
So far, “focusing on oats” has meant making and eating oatmeal cookies. But, hey, it’s the beginning of the month still.
When I got home from my visit to the Texas Hill Country, I had a hankering to bake. After my run in with oatmeal muffins with Nutella frosting (which I now know are sure to improve my blood sugar….), I figured I should make something that uses up the little Nutella I had left.
And an idea was born.
Peanut butter. Oatmeal. Nutella. Cookie. Sandwiches.
Based on my favorite PB and oatmeal cookies, I substituted Nutella for some of the sugar. And this cookie was born:
With less sugar than my original recipe, the cookies aren’t too sweet. The Nutella flavor isn’t over powering – ultimately, the Nutella and peanut butter mix well.
Now, as if that wasn’t enough, I thought I should make cookie sandwiches using peanut butter frosting for the filling.
And because I’m really bad, I laid in bed last night dreaming of dipping the cookie sandwiches in Nutella and crushed peanuts. But, alas, my jar of Nutella is empty.
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup extra chunky peanut butter
3 heaping spoonfuls of Nutella
Mix together all ingredients. Place parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Use a teaspoon measuring spoon to form balls of dough, leaving plenty of room between since the cookies spread out quite a bit while cooking. Cook on 350 for 9 minutes. Makes about 28 cookies.
For the frosting, just beat together 3 heaping spoonfuls of creamy peanut butter with 2-3 spoonfuls of powdered sugar, depending on how sweet you like it. Spread between two cookies. Makes 14 sandwiches, unless you eat some of the cookies before they’re made into sandwiches. Not that I did that or anything…..
Yesterday, we found a nice man selling roasted green chiles out of the back of his truck. New York City has fake Kate Spade purses in trunks; we have roasted green chiles.
As I was laying them out to cool, Russell instructed me to put green chiles in everything I make. Even if I’m making him cereal.
So, following his instructions, I added green chiles and some fresh sweet corn to my mom’s corn bake recipe. The chiles and corn were the perfect combination of spicy and sweet, added to an already delicious dish.
Green Chile Corn Bake
2 eggs (beaten)
1 cup low-fat sour cream
1 stick butter (melted)
1 can cream corn
1 can whole kernel corn (undrained)
1 box Jiffy corn bread mix
3 roasted green chiles, de-seeded and diced
2 ears sweet corn, kernels cut off
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix together all ingredients and pour into a greased 9 x 13 baking dish. Cook for 1 hour, until edges start browning.
Easy peasy. But so delicious.
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This past weekend, Russell and I went to the Big City (I never thought I would describe a city of 270,000 as “big”) to buy a grill and outdoor furniture – neither of which we got.
Instead, we drove an hour and a half so that a piece of equipment could be stolen from his truck while we were eating lunch. Good times.
But, I did find Nutella, so I guess it wasn’t a total waste of a day.
I don’t think I’ve had Nutella since I was a kid, and Russell had never had it. For the past few days, I’ve been racking my brain trying to remember how I used to eat it, but all I can remember is eating it out of the jar with a spoon.
Or, more likely, my finger.
It turns out, Russell’s not down with eating a chocolatey spread with his finger. It’s one of his few flaws. So, I made oatmeal muffins, with a Nutella frosting. And now Russell is a Nutella convert.
I much prefer putting frosting on a muffin rather than a cupcake. Somehow it seems healthier.
And these muffins actually are fairly healthy – the whole grains make a pretty hearty muffin and not too much sugar means they’re not too sweet. They got the Russell seal of approval for healthy carbs.
Considering they are really just a vessel for getting Nutella frosting into your mouth, there’s no sense loading the muffins down with sugar and fat.
(Makes 6 muffins)
Start by soaking 1/2 a cup of old-fashioned oats with 1/2 cup of buttermilk. Soak until the oats are soft, about 30 minutes.
In a separate bowl, combine and stir until just mixed:
- a little less than 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons melted and cooled butter
- 3 teaspoons of egg whites
- a splash of vanilla
In another bowl, combine:
- 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- a pinch of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Once the oats are soft, combine all of the ingredients and stir until just mixed.
Divide into 6 greased muffin tins. Bake for 14 minutes at 375, or until it passes the toothpick test. Turn out and let cool on a wired rack.
(for 6 muffins)
- 2 tablespoons softened butter
- 1/8 cup powdered sugar
- a little more than 1/4 cup Nutella
Beat on high until a cream frosting is made.
Once the muffins are cool, spread frosting on top.
Get more updates from our farm in West Texas on Twitter: @andruswilliams.
Instead of going to day care growing up, I was blessed to stay with my grandparents during the summers and after school. In that time we had together, they taught me so much. My grandfather taught me what true love and compassion looks like. How a man can be so strong and yet so kind. That a real man carries a pocket knife. How to garden and grow beautiful things. My grandmother set the example in our family to be a strong, educated, successful woman. She patiently taught me how to sew. She taught me to cook and instilled a passion for baking.
When I was home over for the holidays last winter, I sat down with my grandma to go through the recipes I remember her making when I was growing up. She kept insisting that I take her oatmeal raisin cookie recipe, which I didn’t remember from my childhood. After the fifth time that she insisted I copy that recipe, I took it.
I decided to make them yesterday and instantly remembered the cookies. I remember her making hundreds of them at a time for a prison ministry program that they were involved with. And I remember being a kid wondering why I couldn’t have any of the cookies she was making.
That’s one of my favorite things about making family recipes – the memories that are associated with the food. Forever, these cookies will be associated with the compassion that my grandparents had for others. And how I can – should – strive to be as loving as they were.
5 sticks of softened butter
3 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
5 cups sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
5 cups oats
2 cups raisins
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Cream together butter, sugar, and honey until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat until smooth.
Sift together dry ingredients. Add to above mixture and mix well. Add oats and raisins.
Roll dough into small balls and place on parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with a little extra cinnamon. Bake until lightly browned (about 15 minutes). Makes about 10 dozen two-inch cookies – great for freezing or sharing!
One of my 30 before 30 goals is to learn to cook better. Now that I cook 2 or 3 meals almost every day, I have plenty of opportunity to work on that goal. Over the last few months, I’ve tried tons of recipes, some of which have been truly fantastic. So, I’ve decided to start a regular recipe review on my blog. If you have a recipe that you’d like to share, e-mail it to andruswilliams2010 (at) gmail (dot) com.
I’ve always been a baker, but not much of a cook. Unless you count Kraft mac and cheese. And as you can tell by the name of this post, I’m still eating mac and cheese. But, I made it from scratch.
Emily at So Domesticated shared a recipe for “Oh So Good Mac and Cheese.” And it is oh so good. Russell and I made it a few months ago and really enjoyed it. I used skim milk, low-fat cheese, and whole wheat pasta – really, it was fairly healthy, as far as mac and cheese goes.
I was craving it again the other night and Russell convinced me to kick it up a notch with bacon. And, since we have more peppers from our garden than we know what to do with, I added some jalapeno and serrano peppers.
Holy moly. It blew my socks off.
Here’s the link to Emily’s original version: Oh So Good Mac and Cheese
And here’s the recipe as I made it:
- 1/2 box of pasta. Barilla Plus multigrain pasta with Omega-3s is my fav.
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
- 1 1/2 cups skim milk
- 1/2 cup shredded colby and moterrey jack cheese
- 1 cup low-fat cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup shredded parmesan
- 3 slices bacon
- 2 jalapenos, diced
- 1 serrano, diced
- Dash of dried chopped onion
- Approx 1/2 cup toasted panko crumbs
- Dash of red pepper flakes
- Salt to taste
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
Begin by boiling water and cooking pasta.
In a separate saucepan, melt the butter and whisk in the flour until combined. Next, alternate adding milk and colby/monterrey/cheddar cheese, whisking well between each. Once well combined and a cheese sauce is formed, and continue to whisk over medium-low heat until the cheese sauce thickens. As Emily said, You’ll know when it is ready when the sauce coats a spoon and drips off only a little bit.
While sauce is thickening, fry bacon, with the serrano pepper. Cut the bacon into bite size pieces to be added to the pasta.
To toast the panko crumbs, place in a clean frying pan. Toast over medium heat until golden brown.
After the pasta has been drained, the bacon fried, and the cheese sauce is finished, combine all, as well as dried chopped onion, jalapenos, red pepper flakes, salt, and 1/2 cup of the shredded parmesan. Mix well.
Transfer to a baking dish. Sprinkle the top with the toasted panko crumbs and remaining parmesan. Bake for about 45 minutes.
Whether you make the original recipe or my kicked up version, I guarantee you’ll love it!
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Until December 23, 2010, I was a city girl. I had daily lattes, shopped a little too often, relied on public transportation, and rejected the thought of ever living in the country. When my husband and I decided to leave it all for West Texas to farm, life changed completely. Read my “Farmwife Confessions” to learn about the transition.
I don’t know that this is actually a farmwife confession, as it’s not about farming. But, it is a confession. And I’m making this confession because Russell and I decided to move here to farm. So, in that sense, I suppose it is a farmwife confession.
Here it is: I cannot for the life of me properly bake a cake here.
It started in February when I tried to make a cake for Russell’s birthday and a Super Bowl party that his brother and his family were hosting. I decided to make him my grandma’s lemon pound cake – a tried and true family recipe, one that I have made literally hundreds of times over my life. And what a disaster it was.
First, I misread the recipe and added WAY more baking powder than I was supposed to. That, coupled with the high altitude, meant my cake rose and rose and rose and exploded all over the oven.
After cleaning it up, I tried again, using the correct amount of baking powder and trying to adapt the recipe for high altitude. A little less flour. Not too much mixing. Adjusted baking time and temperature. The cake rose properly and looked pretty while it was cooking – but when I took it out of the oven, it was as dry as a bone and half of it was still stuck to the pan.
I ended up salvaging the first cake for the party. And it tasted okay, but I knew that it wasn’t right. As a lifelong baker – and as someone who once won a competition with this cake recipe! – I was mortified that I couldn’t bake this cake properly.
So, last week, I tried again. For the first time, I followed the recipe exactly. And it still rose too quickly, dripped over the edges of the pan, and collapsed in the middle. It seemed to be another disaster. But, Russell made me fight my urges to take it out and throw it in the trash, and instead, I let it cook completely.
The bottom was an ugly, deformed mess and there were burnt pieces of cake all over the bottom of the oven. But once the cake was flipped, it started looking like the cake I grew up baking.
And when I took the first bite, I knew it truly was the cake I grew up eating. It might not be perfect – but, as I devoured the first piece, I had to call it a success.
And it was delicious to the very last bite.
As I took that last bite, I wondered how many things in my life I abandon half way through because it’s not going perfectly, when, with a little perseverance and faith, it would turn out to be a success. Just how often is perfect the enemy of good enough?
I have a friend, Muffin, who calls all of her friends Muffin. So, when we cook together, we often make muffins. Sweet, savory; it doesn’t matter.
One of my favorite recipes born out of my friendship with Muffin is for turkey meatloaf muffins. This recipe is adapted from my mom’s meatloaf – which is the only meatloaf I’ll eat. This is the healthier, easier-to-control-your-portions little sister of my mom’s meatloaf.
It’s tangy. It’s easy to make. It’s delicious. And, did I mention, it’s healthy?
Here’s the recipe:
1 pound extra lean ground turkey breast
1 slice of whole wheat bread, crumbled
1/2 white onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bottle Heinz chili sauce
Salt and pepper
You can also sneak in some veggies – carrots, peppers, mushrooms, etc. – but, I’m a bit of a meatloaf purist and don’t include these.
In a bowl, mix together turkey, bread crumbs, onion, egg, garlic, 1/2 bottle of chili sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well. It works best to mix with your hands.
In a greased muffin tin, divide mixture into 10-12 muffins. Cook for 30 minutes on 375, or until muffins are cooked through.
Cover muffins with remaining chili sauce and cook for another 10 minutes.
Get more updates from our farm in West Texas on Twitter: @andruswilliams.