Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bringing Back the Bundt

Pistachio Bundt Cake

My grandmother made this moist bundt cake quite frequently, and I have been searching for the recipe frantically since I received this box! I tried once to wing it and recreated it on my own out of desperation, but it just didn't have the right texture (although everyone ate it anyways...boys).

Yesterday I was again trying vainly to find it, and finally buried in the cake section on a wee bit of folded paper, there it was! I can't tell you how easy this cake is, no wait, yes I can!

Pistachio Bundt Cake

1 box yellow cake mix
1 box instant pistachio pudding
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup canola oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour bundt pan. If using non stick pan that just spray a little cooking spray. Combine all ingredients in large mixing bowl. Beat at medium speed with electric mixer for 2 minutes. Poor batter into pan and make sure batter is evenly spread. Bake for 50 minutes or until center springs back when lightly touched. Cool for 15 minutes before removing from pan. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

"Nut Swirl" variation: Combine 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, and 1/2 cup finally chopped nuts. Put 1/3 of the batter in the pan, sprinkle with half the sugar mixture. Repeat layers and top with remaining batter. Bake as above.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Chicken Enchilada Suiza Casserole

I am posting this favorite recipe at my Mom's request. My poor Dad's birthday is two days after Christmas so I always make this for him as way to make up for the lack of gifts!

Chicken Enchilada Suiza Casserole

3 chicken breasts, on the bone, (leave skin on)
2 medium onions
1 dozen large corn tortillas
3 cups grated Monterey Jack or Colby
2 bay leaves
1 Tbs peppercorns
1 Tbs salt
Chopped black olives
Sour Cream and Guacamole* for topping

28 oz can of Tomatillos
1 can chopped green chilies
1 egg
1 pint whipping cream
1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro
1 tsp salt

Start by poaching the chicken. Place chicken breasts in large pot and cover with water. Roughly chop one of the onions and add to pot along with peppercorns, salt, and bay leaves. Bring to boil, cover and reduce to simmer for approximately 25 minutes. Remove to platter and allow to cool. Save the liquid! It is now homemade chicken broth, so drain and save in plasticware and freeze. If you are really coordinated you can store in one quart Ziploc bags and freeze. I, however, am not.

For sauce, add drained tomatillos, chilies, egg, cream, cilantro and salt to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Set aside. Finely chop remaining onion. Remove skin from chicken and shred with two forks off the bone. Mix shredded chicken in large bowl with a little more than half the cheese and chopped onion. Mix well.

I know that for traditional enchiladas you would quickly place the tortillas in hot oil for about five seconds to make them pliable. I find this a messy process that adds way too many unneeded calories. Plus we are layering, not rolling, so the most convenient way I have found to soften up the tortillas is to just place them in a large Ziploc bag and pop them in the microwave for a couple of minutes until they are hot and steaming.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a 9x11 baking dish, pour a thin layer of the sauce on the bottom to cover. Place four tortillas on the bottom (I layer three down and cut one in half to cover the "holes" on the side). Layer half the chicken mixture, top with layer of tortillas, about half the sauce, and the rest of chicken, tortillas again the the rest of sauce. sprinkle with remaining cheese and chopped olives. place in oven for approx. 25 minutes, golden on top and bubbly. Remove and allow to sit for a few minutes before cutting. Top each serving with sour cream and guacamole.


*If you need a quick guacamole recipe here is mine:

2 ripe Haas avacados
2 Tbs chopped onion (You can use green onions if you like)
2 Tbs chopped tomato
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Mash avocados until smooth and mix in remaining ingredients, feel free to add some chopped green chilies or a bit of fresh chopped jalapenos if you like a kick.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Homemade BBQ Sauce and Slaw

This recipe is one that I have been making for about 10 years or so, and I love to feed it to my friends and family! You will need to start early (I usually start this around 3:30 so it is ready around 7-7:30, but it is really easy! Here is what you will need:

Pork Shoulder Roast (usually around 5 lbs)
1 medium yellow onion
2-3 Bay Leaves
A couple handfuls of kosher or sea salt (for the water)
1 1/2 tsp peppercorns
garlic powder, salt and pepper for rub
Soft Francese or Ciabatta rolls (or buns if you prefer)

Basic BBQ Sauce (you might want to double this if you are feeding more than four people)

1 Tbs canola oil
1 large shallot (or half a medium onion and 1 clove garlic)
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup Coke
2 Tbs yellow mustard (you can add more if you like for a tangier sauce, or omit mustard and add 2 Tbs apricot preserves for a sweeter sauce)
1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
few drops of liquid smoke (be very careful, this stuff is potent!)

Basic Cole Slaw

1 head cabbage, shredded (or two bags store bought pre-shredded with carrots)
4 green onions, finely chopped (about half a cup or so)
2 large carrots shredded (delete if using the pre-shredded cabbage)
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 -3/4 cup Mayo (depending on how creamy you want it)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt or celery salt or combo if you like
Pepper to taste

Mix slaw in large bowl (as it sits it will shrink). I usually start with this recipe and then adjust to taste. I also like to kick it up a bit sometimes by adding a tsp of powdered ginger, and about 1/4 - 1/2 cup of roasted peanuts, it goes great with the pork)

Place pork roast in large pot and cover with water. Roughly chop onion and add to pot along with Bay leaves, salt and peppercorns. Bring to boil, cover and reduce to simmer for approx. three hours. Meat is done when you can just pull the bone out (or if boneless, gives easily when you stick a fork in it). Heat oven to 400 degrees. I highly recommend using a foil-lined cookie sheet with a metal cooling rack placed inside. Cover cooling rack with foil also and poke all over with fork.

While oven is heating, remove meat to platter and let cool until easy to manage. Break the meat into several large chunks and spread on prepared cookie sheet. Liberally sprinkle meat with garlic powder, salt and pepper and bake for about 25 minutes, until meat is golden brown and crispy.

While meat is in the oven, prepare sauce (you can, of course make sauce earlier, but this is usually when I do it). Finely chop shallot and saute in oil until translucent (not brown), about 5-7 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes. It will be thicker and darker. This sauce is a great combo of North Carolina tang and the smokey sweetness you might find in traditional Texas BBQ.

When meat is done, remove from oven and again, let it cool until it is easy to handle. Move back to platter and shred with two forks (feel free to sample at this time!). Take half the meat and mix with half the BBQ sauce in bowl*, there will be a lot of meat, so leave the other half for leftovers - makes great carnitas tacos the next day. Place a healthy scoop of meat on bun, more BBQ sauce and top with slaw.

*I do this because some people like the pork "as is" on their sandwich and just topped with BBQ sauce. You can always mix up more sauce and meat if more is needed.


Friday, May 14, 2010

Aunt Nell's Molasses Cookies

The first time I tried to recreate my Grandmother's molasses cookies, there was just something missing; too cakey, too much spice, something was wrong. I just couldn't figure it out, and I swear I followed the recipe verbatim. Then I discovered another recipe in the box, again for molasses cookies. This one she inherited from her sister, my Aunt Nell. This had to be it, and guess what? BINGO! You can see from the picture it is simple enough to fit on one 3x5 card, probably because it is missing some instructions, which my Grandmother had, of course, just committed to memory. Luckily I committed the missing steps to memory as well, and have filled in the gaps...

Aunt Nell's Molasses Cookies

3/4 cups soft margarine (or butter of course)
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 1/4 cup flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger

Cream together margarine (or butter) with with brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add one egg and molasses until well blended. Sift together all dry ingredients and add to creamed mixture, one cup at a time. scrape down bowl to ensure everything is incorporated and chill until firm, about one to two hours. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll into balls about the size of a walnut and dip in sugar. Space out on greased cookie sheet (although I recommend a Silpat if you have one) about an inch and a half apart and bake for ten minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes before transferring to cooling rack. Makes about two dozen (plus a couple of extra) cookies.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

And now for one of my favorites...

OK, I am going to be peppering my own recipes here as well from my own "green box," which is not so much a green box, but a homely black three ring binder, full of recipes I have typed up in Word, a favorites printed from All-Recipes, Food Network, etc. This basic recipe is something I usually make once a week, and is incredibly easy and versatile. It can be used as prepared for a simple Spaghetti Marinara, or as the base a variety of Italian creations, all of which are family favorites. So let's start it up, shall we?

Basic Marinara...

First off I would like to say if you grow your own Roma tomatoes (I grow San Marzano) then by all means use them when in season, as this recipe is really meant to show off this awesome fruit. These tomatoes are what started me making this sauce in the first place, out of panic actually. The summer before last our tomato plants went rogue on us. They were frightening, really. One day they were about four feet tall, and I swear, I went out two days later and they were looming menacingly over my head, towering over six feet! I swear they were whispering, "Feed me Seymour..." More frighting then that were the tomatoes themselves, pulling the branches down at odd angles. Does anyone remember Sigmund and the Sea Monsters? Well that is pretty much what they looked like.

Needless to say we started frantically picking, and picking (rinse and repeat). I now had a mountain of tomatoes in my kitchen, Roma's, Cherry, and Heirlooms. Here is the kicker...No one else in my family likes tomatoes, especially raw, so I decided to research sauces and salsa's (we'll save salsa for another day). After several attempts, the following recipe is the end result. It has a depth of flavor you just can't find in a store bought sauce, and it freezes great if you want to double/triple the batch.

Basic Recipe Ingredients

Canned Whole Plum Tomatoes, 28oz (if you are using fresh tomatoes, about 2 lbs chopped into quarters, I usually don't bother peeling)
1/2 cup chicken stock or broth
One medium to large sweet onion
Three large garlic cloves, (minced, not crushed)
2 Tbs EV Olive Oil
1 Tbs dried Oregano
2 tsp dried basil
1 14 oz can finally diced tomatoes
1 tsp salt
pepper to taste
Optional: 1 tsp red pepper flakes, fresh chopped basil

Turn oven to 350 degrees

Dice the onion and saute in oven-proof sauce pan on medium heat, allowing them to sweat but don't brown, approximately 5-8 minutes. When onions become transparent, add garlic, oregano and basil and continue over medium heat for 30 seconds to one minute. Add can of whole tomatoes, with liquid, chicken broth and stir. For fresh tomatoes allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes to release their juices. Place in oven for 35-45 minutes. This will allow the whole mixture to soften and caramelize. When you remove from pan from the oven* you want the edges of the sauce to be a few shades darker than the middle of the pan. Carefully add contents of pan into Cuisinart (or blender) and pulse until combined well, but not pureed (this is why the skins of fresh tomatoes don't really matter). Return to pan and add the can of diced tomatoes, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes, let simmer an additional ten minutes. Stir in fresh chopped basil at this point if you are so inclined and serve on top of your favorite pasta. works especially well with raviolis, or any stuffed pasta...

*side note: You have just removed a pan, with a handle, from a hot oven, remember this when you grab the pan with your bare hands and the swearing starts...I did.

What I have learned with this recipe...I prefer my Cyphalon non-stick saute pan to my All-Clad, as sometimes tomatoes come out with slightly metallic taste. This is also why I don't use my hand held blender, which is metal, to blend the sauce. Also, the addition of more tomatoes at the end really brightens the flavor of the sauce, making it more well balanced. I don't recommend store bought fresh tomatoes, but if you can get some exceptional tomatoes at the Farmer's Market, go for it.

Remember, this is a base sauce, and while I use it as-is quite often, you can make it your own, by adding wine (before it enters the oven), different herbs, using it as a base for meat sauces, on chicken parmigiana, meatballs, you name it!



Monday, May 10, 2010

Opening the Box…

Alrighty then. It has begun. First recipe to enter in here is my grandmother’s lemon squares. These differ slightly from the typical lemon bars, as they contain ground almonds in the crust, and flaked coconut in the lemon topping. Keeping true to this simple recipe tested me a bit, as I am a butter snob. This recipe calls for (sigh!)… Margarine. I was sorely tempted to stray just a bit and swap this out for butter, but then that would defeat the purpose of this blog, these are her recipes, and she used margarine. In fact I have no memory of her ever using actual butter. It was Imperial Margarine for baking and the tub of Imperial Light for everything else (for its “healthy” properties, of course).

Needless to say, I went to the store and dutifully stocked up on three boxes of Imperial, which at three boxes for $3 is a deal compared to butter. I have basically just traded cholesterol-ridden saturated butter fat (Mmmmm…butter) for my personal favorite – trans fatty acids, which I have made a decided effort to avoid for years. Oh well, in respect for my grandmother I will use margarine in her baking recipes…What is a couple years off my life expectancy anyway. And do you know what it says on the Imperial box? “Great for Baking!” So, there you go!

On to the recipe:

Lemon Squares

Heat oven to 350, 325 for glass pan (8” square pan).


¾ cup sifted flour
1/3 cup powdered sugar (first mess up…I mistook this for regular sugar because she shortened it to “p. sugar” and I am dumb, so we will see what happens in about 15 minutes when the timer goes off)
1/3 cup ground almonds
1 stick margarine, melted

Blend together and press in bottom of pan. Bake 20 minutes.


2 Eggs
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. lemon zest
3 Tbs lemon juice (any lemons, but I used half Meyers lemon juice and half regular lemon juice)
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
¾ cup flaked coconut

Beat everything except coconut three minutes until fluffy and then add in coconut. Pour over hot crust and bake and additional 25 minutes. Cool completely.


Yum! Although quite a pain to get out of the pan (maybe to recipe RIGHT with powdered sugar and spray the pan with Canola cooking spray…Didn’t think you would need it with all of the “margarine”), these squares featured the lemony goodness of traditional lemon bars, but with a great added texture of coconut all toasty on top, which actually lightened the squares up quite a bit. Hit with everyone in the house, and super quick and easy to make. Thanks Grandma! First recipe try a success!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Here we go...

I decided to start this blog to honor the culinary strengths and adventures of the women in my family, specifically my grandmother, my mother, and of course, me. It all started with a green box - more specifically my grandmother's small green recipe box which was always close at hand in my grandmother's kitchen. This box was handed down to me from my mother as a Christmas gift last year.

Upon receiving this box I of course opened is straight away, and breathed deeply with my nose buried in the tattered three by five cards. Sounds strange, right? But doing this seriously brings tears to my eyes every time I do it. I know musty paper, some over 40 years old, must not sound that appealing but remember, she always had this close at hand in the kitchen, and I was always in there with her, eager to help and learn. Needless to say, I was short and the box spent a lot of time at eye level with me, as I rifled through it to find another recipe begging to be prepared. Remarkably, this box smells exactly as it did when I was five - aging paper, candle wax and some other elusive quality that puts me right back in that kitchen, every single time.

I have been pondering this box for a few months now, occasionally pulling out a recipe here and there to give them a whirl, especially her infamous cookie recipes. That woman could bake - pies, cakes, cookies, you name it, and more than anything I loved to help her when there was baking going on. My first thought was to create a cookbook based on these recipes, but then I thought, "Why not a blog?" Blogging will allow me to share these wonderful recipes (and some not so wonderful - Beet Jello Salad anyone? First ingredient is raspberry jello...), as well as share my successes, failures, and personal recipes as I start this journey. Enjoy!