Sunday, March 15, 2009

Fail: Cold Oven Pound Cake

This wasn't a success. America's Test Kitchen, you've disappointed me -- but so did my oven, so I think it's a little of both reasons.

This vintage recipe assured me that I'd have a light, fluffy, not-dense pound cake using a retro method of placing the batter in the pan, and into a stone-cold oven, and then letting it come up to temperature and baking one hour.

The *taste* of the batter was okay, but I followed it to the letter and saw my first problem almost immediately. I used the exact quantities called for in a recent The Best of America's Test Kitchen magazine 2009, and it prominently states that after scooping the batter into the pan, you should "smooth the top." My batter was so loose and runny, there was NO smoothing necessary at all, and in fact, it seeped out of the seams of the removable bottom for the angel food cake pan I was using. I quickly poured the batter back into the mixer, including using a knife to dredge it off my counters and back into the bowl (no lie), and then slowly added flour until it was less runny. Back into a freshly dredged pan, and then into the cold oven.

The instructions then warned me: Do NOT open the oven for one hour. Okay, okay. But, the problem is, after 15 minutes, I smelled too-baked cake. It was nice smelling, but far too toasty smelling to be normal after 15 minutes, so I opened the door, anyway. Good thing I did. The cake was dripping out of the angel food cake pan bottom and onto the floor of my oven. NICE. That's gonna be a bitch to clean. I quickly placed a pan under it and let it finish without disturbing it. Looked crappy anyway.

After one hour, the cake was done, and I eventually cooled it and then coaxed it out of the pan. I was amazed it wasn't adhered to the pan since it had baked into the seams of the removable bottom. The cake was not light and fluffy (my added flour?). It was tasty, but it was rather dense and a little too gummy for my taste. I took it into work and it was devoured in a few hours, but to me, this is not a signature pound cake recipe and I won't try it again.

The search for good pound cake continues.
Use it Up Points:
None, really, I had all the ingredients but they were not dated or needing to be cleared away. I just made use of what I already had instead of buying pound cake.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers: Chicken Piccata

The first of four (!) recipes we're making this month for Barefoot Bloggers is Chicken Piccata as chosen by Lindsey of Noodle Nights and Muffin Mornings, which can be found in Barefoot Contessa at Home on pages 96-97.

Well this was easy! I don't cook breaded cutlets all that often. In fact, the last time I did it, was for the BB Parmesan Chicken challenge. I'm not sure why I don't -- I must think it's too labor intensive, or messy, or too many steps, or adds too many unnecessary calories, but this is second time I've been surprised how easy it was, really not that time consuming, and didn't really take that much fat (never as much as Ina calls for).

When you actually follow directions, your cutlets get nice and crispy and golden brown, with barely any olive oil.

Reducing the butter, wine, and lemon juice to a nice sauce. I only used one tablespoon (not 3) and it still got very thick and saucy.

Yum. Lemony chicken, still crisp and hot.

This was a huge chicken breast and despite pounding the heck out of it, it was still too thick for my tastes. Next time I'd use tenderloins or fingers just because I like thin, small pieces of well done chicken. Other than that, this was very good!

Use it Up Points: Excellent -- 100%. I had everything I needed in the pantry and freezer for this recipe, except fresh parsley, so I used dried (normally not used in my house, but didn't want to go to the store).

About this challenge: The Barefoot Bloggers join forces and cook or bake recipes by Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten each month, chosen in order by members, and present them for discussion on two Thursdays each month. Hungry? Please join us at the table!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Pork Hominy Stew

I am so lame for making this post.

This Pork Hominy Stew is the best thing I've made all year. A stew of hominy, leftover shredded pork, tomato, an entire bottle of Dark Ale, carrots, onions, a bunch of salsa from Trader Joe's, cilantro and garlic up the wazoo. It was actually very easy, and I can probably never duplicate it exactly because I was just pitching stuff from the fridge into the pot, and this is what I got. Absolutely fantastic. I'm sorry it's almost gone!

I also came to a realization with this soup. While I detest drinking beer and ale (yuck, I don't want to drink anything that requires me to acquire a taste for it), I LOVE cooking with it. Why is that? Why do I love beer and ale based entrees, but dislike it as a beverage? Dunno.

And why is this post lame? Because while I did take notes, I don't have a recipe for you yet. I shouldn't proclaim this to the best thing I've made all year, and then just make you sit here and look at it, but, that's exactly what I'm doing so I can organize my photo uploads.

I'm good at soup, always have been. When I get off my ass, I'll type up the recipe as close as possible, for future generations.

Use it up points:

Off the charts, it was a frenzy of pitching things in from the fridge and pantry.

Turkey, Stuffing and Apple Cranberry Butter Sandwiches

Well, this sure turned out tasty! It's your basic turkey-stuffing-cranberry sandwich you see on every menu around the holidays (and maybe even in your own home), but what surprised me was the cranberry condiment.
I had sliced, roasted turkey from my freezer to use up, and I was hankering for a sage-y savory taste. I had a box of stuffing mix in the pantry to use up (I'm really going great guns with my clear-the-pantry project in March), so I made a batch of simple Stove-Top stuffing (hey, I'm not proud) to which I added a great deal more poultry seasoning, and as soon as it was finished cooking, I molded it into a buttered loaf tin and chilled it. Later, I was able to slice very thin slices of this stuffing for sandwiches.
With the first sandwich, I had just a teaspoon left of cranberry relish, but I wanted more cranberry flavor, and I remembered I had a jar of Trader Joe's Apple Cranberry Butter. So, I used two frozen (and now used up) slices of Alquonquin Molasses bread, toasted and then spread with mayo, a quick shake of poultry seasoning on the mayo, a thin slice of savory stuffing, a schmear of apple-cranberry butter, and then the sliced turkey. A quick shake of salt and pepper later, and this was heavenly.
The flavors were perefect, and so was the really tart and tangy cranberry apple butter -- I liked it a great deal more than regular apple butter. I made this sandwich all week for lunch.
Use it Up Points:
Freezer: Roasted turkey; Bread (last of this frozen bag)
Pantry: A box of stuffing mix; spices, a jar of apple cranberry butter;

Monday, March 2, 2009

Big Red Kitchen's Two Ingredient Pumpkin Cake and Three Ingredient Glaze

... except I used three ingredients in the cake, and a few extra ingredients in the glaze. Oh, and no pumpkin. I couldn't help myself.

I've long admired the concept of "Cooking the Books: A Cook Through Blog Roll" which seeks those committed enough to cook their way through an entire cookbook. I've long wanted to do this, and I even challenged myself with a vintage cookbook by Margaret Rudkin, and yet here I am, reading other blogs, and cooking from those blogs or from Tastespotting and from random Google searches.

Robin Sue of Big Red Kitchen has taken that Cooking the Books concept and is "Cooking the Blogs" -- an equally good idea, and a plan I recognized I was more likely to adopt. So, it seemed fitting I start with a recipe from Robin Sue's blog, and since one of her most popular recipes (see her sidebar) happens to fit in with my current plan of cleaning out my pantry and not doing any grocery shopping this month (I allow myself to buy only dairy, veggies, and fruit when I'm in "Use It Up Mode), it suited me perfectly.

In Robin Sue's recipe, she uses one cake mix and one can of pumpkin, mixed and baked, and nothing more, for the cake, and then a simple 3 ingredient apple cider glaze. I adapted it only slightly, and had amazing results. Not because of my adaptations I assure you -- the recipe is fine in its original form. I just was very skeptical I'd like the end product.
You see, I've had the "Diet Soda Cake" where you are guaranteed a lower fat, lower sugar cake if you just combine one can of diet soda pop and one cake mix. It was, in a word, ATROCIOUS. Heavy, wet, gummy, metallic. I still shudder.
Here I was, though, with a cake mix and a box of frozen butternut squash puree, and a raining-so-hard-it's hailing-Sunday afternoon.

I decided I was going to make a cake and watch DVR reruns of The Office. I did exactly that.

Butternut squash is often interchangeable with pumpkin puree (indeed, many commercial pumpkin pies are actually butternut squash, I'm told), so I defrosted a brick of it, and added it to a Duncan Hines French Vanilla Cake Mix, and combined thoroughly. I noted others remarked on the batter being the consistency of brownie batter, and I was not trusting enough to leave it alone. I don't like heavy, gummy cake, and since I had out the jar of apple juice (for the glaze) anywayyyyyyyyyyyy, why not? I added 1/4 cup of apple juice to the pumpkin-cake mix, and beat it until it was smooth. I poured it into a greased and floured rectangular cake pan and baked it for 30 minutes.

I was still not trusting, as I made the glaze. For the glaze, I combined 1 cup of powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons of apple juice, and a scant few shakes of Pumpkin Pie spice, and beat it thoroughly. To me, most powdered sugar glazes taste like raw powdered sugar and I always strive to avoid that. I didn't care for the sugary taste, but liked the flavor overall, so I tarted it up by adding a splash of lemon juice. That helped considerably, but it was still too powdery-sugary tasting. I added 1/4 teaspoon of corn starch, and quickly brought the glaze to a bubble in a sauce pan, and immediately took it off the stove to cool. That did it. It took away the "raw taste" and turned the glaze into a thick, glossy glaze with the consistency of honey.

The cake was now cool, and I cut into it. It was not gummy or wet, as Robin Sue promised. It was actually so light, so fluffy, it was almost TOO tender. If I could describe it as anything it would be "a cake of soft baby powder and fog." It was powdery soft, and absolutely wonderful. The flavor was like a mild pumpkin pie in cake form, and with a drizzle of the glaze, it was quite tasty. A sure fire easy cake for a pot luck or unexpected guests for breakfast, and, bonus -- it's lower fat than had you made the cake or the pie in the traditional manner, and, the pumpkin and squash are super foods, which officially makes this HEALTH FOOD.

Two thumbs up, Robin Sue!


1 cake mix of your choice
1 regular can of pureed pumpkin or butternut squash

Mix thoroughly. Add apple juice to thin, if desired. Pour into buttered, floured, rectangle cake pan and bake at 350 for 30 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.


1 cup of powdered sugar
2 T of apple juice
1 shake of pumpkin pie spice
1 splash of lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon corn starch

Mix thoroughly, heat to a bubble, remove from heat, stir, and let cool. Drizzle on your cake.