Friday, May 18, 2012

My kind of baking...

I am NOT a baker.  Baking drives me has way too many rules & you need to be precise in measuring things.  I'm a cook...I like to start with the basic idea of a recipe & do my own thing as I go along.  However, the price of store bought cookies & other treats is forcing me to do some baking from time to time. 

The loaf shown above is my idea of baking...quick & easy.  I had some canned pumpkin in the pantry, along with a box of spice cake mix...I'm able to bake boxed cakes & brownies without too many failures, so we buy mixes if they are on sale.  Well, I went to Google & typed in canned pumpkin + spice cake mix & got a recipe called "Two Ingredient Pumpkin Cake".  Sounded good to me...all you needed were the can of pumpkin & box of cake mix.  I read some of the reviews & some people added a few eggs or nuts & other things, so I figured I'd give it a try.

Since the cake needed to be refrigerated after baking, I used some disposable aluminum cake tins...the mini loaf size.  They can be & are washed & reused here unless I'm giving a gift inside.  I set the oven to 350 to preheat,  sprayed the pans with cooking spray, set three of them onto a baking sheet & mixed up the batter by hand.

1 (18.25oz) package spice cake mix
1 (15oz.) can pumpkin
1 egg, lightly beaten

I added the egg because after mixing, the batter seemed a bit dry.  If I had any applesauce around, I might have used some of that instead of the egg.

The batter fit into 3 mini-loaf pans & it took about 40-45 minutes for them to bake.

After cooling, I had to do a taste test.
It was yummy.  I'm not a fan of sweet icings, so I liked the cake just fine as is.  It's also good with a bit of whipped cream, but that's not necessary.  The other 2 loaves were wrapped in plastic wrap & refrigerated.  This cake tastes even better the next day...I'll be making it again.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Our quite unorthodox Easter/Passover Dinner

If you keep Kosher...don't even look at what I made for dinner last night.  All I can say is that it's a great representation of a yummy yet quite unorthodox Easter/Passover dinner for us.  Neither of us is terribly religious.  Phil was raised in the Jewish faith & I was subjected to years & years of attempts to ingrain the WASP beliefs into me...nice try, but it didn't work. 

Anyway...the first year Phil & I spent Easter/Passover together was interesting as he called me at work one morning to make sure I had ordered our Honey Baked Ham.  After teasing him that he's not allowed to eat HAM, I assured him our dinner would be complete.  Fast forward 17 years & we're still having ham on Easter...usually with scalloped potatoes & asparagus.  The ham now comes from the grocery store...Honey Baked is too expensive for our budget these days...but I'm thankful we can still afford a ham. 

Since this year Easter & Passover occured at the same time, I experimented with a new-to-me dish that Phil remembers fondly...Noodle Kugel.  I've never tasted or even seen Kugel, but a search on Savory Noodle Kugel resulted in a very yummy & rich side dish.  I'm betting this has WAY more calories & fat than my scalloped potatoes, but it is quite wonderful as an occasional treat. 

The recipe I ended up using as my starting point was from Saveur.  I usually try to stick to the recipe the first time I make something, but I get bored just copying recipes, so some tweaking is always involved.  Run with scissors is my motto. is my slightly adapted recipe courtesy of the fine chefs at Saveur.  The original recipe is here.

Debbie's Savory Noodle Kugel
most of a 16oz. carton of sour cream (the real stuff...I like Breakstone or Daisy brands)
about the same amount of ricotta cheese (Miceli's is a local OH brand that is very good)
8 oz. of sweet butter...this will be cut down next time...I thought it was too much
4 eggs, slightly beaten
Kosher salt to taste
Ground black pepper to taste...we like LOTS of pepper
about a tablespoon or so of chopped parsley
most of a 12 oz. package of wide egg noodles
1-2 sliced red onions, carmelized in about 2oz. of the butter above

Heat oven to 350°.  Melt 6 oz. of the butter & let cool a bit.  Cook the egg noodles while preparing the rest of the dish.  Caramelize the sliced red onion in the rest of the butter.  Mix together the sour cream, ricotta, melted butter, parsley & seasonings.  Let the onions cool just a bit, then mix in.  Drain noodles & add until it looks like enough.  Place mixture into a 9"x13" baking dish...I can't find my glass one, so I used a lasagna dish that is nonstick.  No greasing of the pan as there is QUITE enough butter in here...too much for my taste.  Bake until slightly set & browned.

Here's what the unbaked mixture looked like...

And it's closeup...
Goopy with lots of moisture so it doesn't get completely dried out.

Now the baked version, right from the oven...
See how it got nicely browned?  Those caramelized red onions sure give it some nice flavor & color.

A closeup shot to show just how yummy it is...

This shot shows the still creamy interior with the slightly crunchy top layer...
Not bad for a shiksa, huh?

The verdict is DELICIOUS...but what could really go wrong with those ingredients?  I know it was a hit as Phil had some cold as a snack last night.  We also discussed how we could add to this could have sauteed mushrooms, spinach, a bit of grated nutmeg...almost any sauteed vegetable would work nicely.  Phil also came up with adding a can of chopped green chiles...which takes us to a new level as I'd also add some cayenne & hot sauce to that version.  I'm seeing this as a canvas for all sorts of combos...but cutting back on all that butter.  Some recipes called for 2 to 3 times as much butter...I can't even imagine!  It's kinda like a Jewish lasagna or mac & cheese...and a blank canvas for experimentation...just not too often...why are the yummy things always loaded with fat & calories?

Until the next time I actually remember to take pix of what I've created in my kitchen...happy eating!