Monday, August 31, 2009

Salsa Verde

Tomatillos were on sale really cheap a while back, so we picked up a whole bunch of them and decided to make green salsa, or salsa verde. We started with a fairly basic recipe from, adjusting it based on how many tomatillos we had and adding/subtracting a few things. The resulting salsa tasted so fresh and tangy - we really liked it a lot! We didn't have any jalapenos or anything, so substituted hot pepper sauce. But a jalapeno or two would have been a really awesome addition.

Salsa Verde
3 lbs. tomatillos, husked
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tbsp. parsley
1 tsp. hot pepper sauce (adjust according to how spicy you want it, or use jalapenos)
Salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in food processor (we had to do two batches, we had a lot of tomatillos!). Using the pulse setting, coarsely chop. Cover and chill in the refrigerator until serving.

This salsa is delicious served plain with tortilla chips, or used on anything you would use regular salsa for. I made some simple fajitas and we topped them with the salsa verde. It was so good!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Granola-Topped Maple Banana Bread

Wow, it's been a little while since my last post - over a week! I don't really have a good excuse, except that anything I've made in the last week that's worth posting has already been posted, or I just didn't bother taking pictures and writing it down. Oh well, back on the wagon with a delicious banana bread.

This recipe started as simple Banana Nut Bread from the Southern Plate cookbook. But I decided to get a little creative as I was making it, and came up with a fun and delicious variation. I omitted the nuts because we don't have any (but they would have made a wonderful addition), added maple flavoring, and topped it with granola. Yummy!

Granola-Topped Maple Banana Bread
1/2 cup (1 stick) softened margarine
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup milk
3 mashed ripe bananas
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. maple flavoring
3 cup self-rising flour
1/2 cup granola

Cream margarine and sugar. Add remaining ingredients (except granola) and mix well. Pour into two greased and floured loaf pans. Sprinkle granola on top. Bake at 350 for 1 hour.

The granola became browned and crispy, and the bread was so sweet and banana-y, with a delicate maple flavor. I'm sure glad it made two loaves, because one just wouldn't be enough!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Upside-Down Shepherd's Pie

This morning as I talked on the phone with my sister, she mentioned that she had the ingredients for shepherd's pie and would probably make it for dinner. From that moment on, I started craving shepherd's pie - man, that stuff is so good! It's one of those foods that my mom would make sometimes while I was growing up, and I've always loved it so much!

I wanted to make some for lunch, but by the time it occurred to me to start cooking lunch, it was already after 12, so there wasn't time to make the mashed potatoes and the filling and bake it - it would be far too late by the time it was done and we would all be far too hungry. So I came up with this faster version - serving the meat-and-vegetable filling over top of mashed potatoes. No heating up the oven and taking a long time to bake the pie. It ended up being a delicious alternative to the real thing!

Upside-Down Shepherd's Pie
1/2 lb. ground beef
1/2 onion
1 can green beans, drained
1 can diced tomatoes
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
Salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste
Mashed potatoes

Cook ground beef and onion until beef is browned and onion is tender. Add beans, tomatoes, and Worcestershire sauce. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and heat through. Serve over hot mashed potatoes.

For the potatoes, I just cut up several baking potatoes (I left the skin on because I love it so much!) and boiled them until tender. Then I mashed them up with a bit of milk and mayonnaise (which made it nice and creamy), and salt and pepper.

This turned out so yummy! It had that awesome shepherd's pie flavor that I love so much from childhood, but was so much faster than the traditional version. This little meal is definitely one I'll remember and make again.

By the way, to make this into a regular shepherd's pie, just spread the filling into a baking dish, top with dollops of mashed potatoes (mix in an egg for added sturdiness), and sprinkle with shredded cheese. Bake at 350 until heated through and bubbly, about 30 minutes.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Whole Wheat Bread

This is a special wheat bread recipe. For one thing, it comes from my Aunt Kathy, who is famous in our family for being absolutely incredible in the kitchen, so you know it's gotta be good. Plus, not only is it made from 100% whole wheat flour, but it's actually soft! It's not dense, heavy, brick-like, or anything like that. It has all the hearty flavor and chewy texture of a whole wheat loaf, but it's soft like a white bread. Best of both worlds!

Whole Wheat Bread
2 cups warm water
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp. yeast
1/2 cup shortening
1 tbsp. salt
5 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (or however much you can knead in, I usually can't get quite the whole amount in)

Add sugar to warm (not boiling) water, stir in yeast, and add shortening by spoonfuls to allow it to soften. Cover until yeast is dissolved. Add flour and salt, and knead for 5 minutes. Cover and allow to raise for 10 minutes, stir down (I couldn't stir mine, I punched it), and repeat two more times. Shape into two loaves, allow to rise in tins, and bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

I'm so glad that I finally tried this recipe. It came with great reviews from my mom, who was thrilled that it wasn't dense like other whole wheat breads. And now I can add my rave reviews to hers - it was soft and delicious!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Root Beer Float Cake

The latest post from Mommy's Kitchen reminded me that today is National Root Beer Float Day. Last year we celebrated by making homemade root beer and faux ice cream and made our own floats. This year I decided to take it in a completely different direction, and invented a Root Beer Float Cake. Root beer flavored cake, spread with root beer flavored custard sauce, and topped with a fluffy egg white frosting. Yummy!

Root Beer Float Cake
1/4 cup shortening
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. white sugar
1 egg
1 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. root beer extract

1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp. sugar
1 large egg yolk
1/2 tsp. root beer extract

1 egg white, chilled
1 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 c. boiling water
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9x13 inch pan, or two 9 inch round pans.

Cream together the shortening and sugar. Beat in the eggs. Add the flour, milk, and vanilla, and beat to a soft smooth batter.

Bake 20 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Poke holes in warm cake.

While the cake is baking, make the custard:

Bring milk and sugar to a simmer in a saucepan without stirring. Whisk yolk (set white aside in fridge after separating to make frosting) in a bowl until blended, then gradually whisk in hot milk mixture. Return to saucepan and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until sauce thickens enough to coat back of a wooden spoon. Immediately remove from heat and stir in root beer extract. Pour over warm, poked cake and spread around (hmm, can you tell I used a fork to spread it?).

Cool briefly while custard soaks in a bit. Cover cake with plastic wrap and chill. After the cake is cooled, make the frosting:

Combine egg white, sugar, and cream of tartar in large bowl. Add boiling water. Begin at once to beat with electric mixer. Continue beating on high speed until thick and fluffy and mixture stands in stiff peaks. Add vanilla. Spread over chilled cake (there will be frosting left over).

P.S. It wasn't until I actually started the cake and wrote up the post that I read through the entire Mommy's Kitchen post and realized that she actually mentions root beer float cake! And here I thought I was being super creative and original by inventing one! Well, of course I had to Google it, and was relieved to learn that mine is definitely different from other root beer float cakes out there. After all, I did make it up all by myself!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Biscuit Pot Pie

Here's a good, cheap meal idea that I made for dinner tonight and thought I'd share. I love having good ways to use leftovers, because otherwise they sit around in the fridge until we forget about their existence, and then they start to "multiply and replenish," growing lots of foul-smelling fuzzy creatures that threaten to take over the fridge ... yuck ...

Anyway, this is a delicious way to repurpose a good thick, hearty soup or stew. Tonight I used some potato soup made with ground beef and shredded carrots. Yum! It would be good with any soup or stew that's thick and chunky - chicken soup, bean soup, minestrone, chowder, hamburger stew, whatever! You could even use leftover casserole - just thin it to the consistency of stew with a bit of milk or broth.

Sorry about the pictures - they were an afterthought, I didn't think to take pictures and post this until after I'd already eaten my first serving and realized how delicious it was. Add the fact that it's evening and I had energy-efficient lighting - yikes.

Biscuit Pie for Leftover Soup
Leftover thick and chunky soup or stew (or thinned casserole)
Biscuit dough (recipe to follow)

Spread soup in a baking pan - you can use a small square pan or pie dish for a small amount of soup, or a 9x13 for a larger amount. You want it to spread to no more than 2 inches thick - the thicker it is the longer it will take for the biscuit topping to cook through. For reference, I had about 2 cups of potato soup and used a 9-inch pie plate.

Drop large spoonfuls of biscuit dough on top of soup, spreading slightly so that they're flat. Bake at 450 for about 20 minutes, or until biscuits are browned and cooked through. If you want, spread some butter or margarine on each biscuit after removing from oven.

Yes, I agree. I really should have used a clean bowl for the picture instead of just tossing it all into the bowl I had already eaten out of. Sorry... But it really is delicious!

Biscuit dough for Pie
Small pan (8- or 9-inch square, pie dish, etc):
1 cup flour (can use part wheat flour)
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup shortening
1/2 cup milk

Large pan (9x13 or larger):
2 cups flour (can use part wheat flour)
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup milk

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in shortening with pastry cutter, two crisscrossed knives, or a fork, until the mixture resembles crumbs. Stir in milk with a fork until blended. Drop by large spoonfuls onto soup. For my 9-inch pie plate tonight, I used the smaller batch and ended up with about 7 biscuits. You'd probably get 12 or 13 from the large batch.

*To use this dough for making actual drop biscuits - simply drop dough by large spoonfuls onto greased baking pan and bake at 450 for 10-12 minutes.

Voila! A delicious and easy meal that uses up leftovers and can be on your table in half an hour. I love cheap cooking! ;-)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Raspberry Cream Pie

Yesterday was National Raspberry Cream Pie Day! Hooray, and all that jazz. I technically didn't miss this particular holiday - I did make the pie last night. It just wasn't ready to eat until after we'd all gone to bed. So the eating and the posting are taking place today.

I sorta made this recipe up. Making the pie was a last minute decision, so I was limited in what ingredients I could use, having to rely solely on what I had on hand. I thought it would be delicious to do a pie with a box of vanilla pudding, some cream cheese, raspberry jello, and cool whip. Unfortunately, I was missing three of the four ingredients, so that idea wouldn't work. Then I hit on the idea of doing a homemade cream pie filling and adding the raspberry jello to that. So that's what I did. This is a simple vanilla cream pie, with a box of raspberry jello added. Easy peasy.

Raspberry Cream Pie
3 large egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp. salt
3 cups milk
2 tbsp. butter or margarine
2 tsp. vanilla
1 small box raspberry jello powder
1 baked 9-inch pastry shell or graham cracker crust

Beat egg yolks with fork in medium bowl; set aside. Mix sugar, cornstarch, and salt in 2-quart saucepan. Gradually stir in milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils (this is the hardest part, because it takes a long time!). Boil and stir 1 minute.

Immediately stir about 1 cup of the hot mixture gradually into egg yolks, then stir back into hot mixture in saucepan. Boil and stir 1 minute; remove from heat. Stir in butter, vanilla, and jello. Pour into pie crust. Press plastic wrap on filling to prevent a tough layer from forming on top. Refrigerate several hours until set.

Remove plastic wrap. If you want to, top with whipped cream or cool whip, maybe some fresh raspberries, mint leaves, etc. I didn't have any of that stuff, so we left the pie garnish-less. Still delicious!

Here's the pie crust I used. It's the kind that you pat into the pan instead of rolling out - not only does it use oil which is a healthier fat than shortening or butter, but it's great for if you rarely have a clean surface on which to roll out a pie crust...

Pat-in-the-Pan Oil Pastry
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup oil
2 tbsp. cold water

Mix flour, salt, and oil until all flour is moistened. Sprinkle with cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing with fork until all water is absorbed.

Gather pastry into a ball. Press in bottom and up sides of pie plate.

Prick bottom and sides of pastry thoroughly with fork. Bake at 475 for 10 to 12 minutes or until light brown; cool on rack. Or if using for a baked filling (like pumpkin pie, single-crust fruit pie, etc.) - fill and bake as directed in pie recipe.

This pie was really the best of both worlds - the creaminess of a pudding pie, with the fruity flavor and sturdy structure of jello. Zaylee has affectionately termed it "yummy pink pie." We decided that this would be a fun pie to experiment with - the variety of flavors you can choose from is as vast as the flavors of jello available. Peach, strawberry, grape, lime, cherry, all would be so delicious in this fun, creamy, fruity pie. :-)