Sunday, December 30, 2007

Holiday Leftovers


IMG_6605, originally uploaded by mud pie gourmet.

We still have the tree up, wreath hanging, and a list of people I need to get presents to, but I know the end of the holidays is here. Now what am I going to do with all those CANDY CANES? They SEEMED like a good idea when I saw them for 88 cents, but I am not the biggest fan, and I definitely don't want the munchkins eating all those cavity-canes. So, I came up with a recipe to get rid of them--Candy Cane Chocolate Cookies. I plan on giving them to friends and bringing them to our "Mediterranean New Years" tomorrow night (I know, not very Greek, but I need to get them out of our house).

I used bread flour for these cookies--something I learned from S.'s Aunt JoAn. They make the cookies so fluffy. Also, I rarely use margarine (like Crisco, it freaks me out), but there is a little in these, also learned from Aunt JoAn (man, we love when she visits--not just for her fun personality, but she always brings her perfectly made cookies). So, make these before you start those New Year's resolutions! Time is ticking...

Candy Cane Chocolate Cookies

2/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 T vanilla
6 T margarine (softened)
12 T butter (softened)
3 cups bread flour (I use King Arthur)
3/4 cup cocoa
1 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
24 candy canes (about two cups), broken into small pieces

Unwrap candy canes and put into a ziplock bag. Break into pieces using a rolling pin.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine sugars, vanilla, eggs, butter and margarine. Beat in a mixer until fluffy. Combine flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder and soda in another bowl. Add slowly to the butter mixture.

Add the candy cane pieces to the dough. Using a cookie scoop get dough, but then roll into a ball in your hand so they all look the same. Cook for 12 minutes. Remove from oven and let cookies sit for 5 minutes before removing them from the pan.

Note: Aunt JoAn also swears by Air Bake pans, and I went and bought some--LOVE THEM! I've had perfect cookies since.

Caution: I wouldn't advise using Spree candy canes, or Jolly Rancher candy canes in place of the peppermint.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hanukkah, Chanukah, Xanuka


Golden Latkes, originally uploaded by mud pie gourmet.

There are 16 different ways to spell Hanukkah. How would you like that on your spelling test? You'd be sure to get at least one of them!

Seeing as tonight is the last night of Hanukkah I thought I should post a latkes recipe. We had S.'s parents over for some beef brisket and latkes in celebration of the miracle of the oil last night.

I think celebrating Hanukkah and Christmas is a little confusing for Boo. Yesterday she was making a picture using a foam cut-out of the Star of David, but said it was the Star of Bethlehem and a cut-out of a menorah. She told me that they were leading the Shepherds to Baby Jesus.

Every year when we have latkes I wonder why I don't make them more throughout the year. They are so dang good. And of course, you have to serve them with applesauce and sour cream to get the full effect.

Mom Mud's Latkes
Serves 4-5



6 medium-sized potatoes
1 small onion
1 tsp salt
1 egg
3 T flour, matza meal or bread crumbs
1⁄2 tsp baking powder

Wash, peel and grate raw (I use a food processor, the grater attachment--it helps you do it faster so you don't discolor the potatoes). Strain, but not too dry. Grate and add the onion; add salt and the egg. Beat well. Mix remaining ingredients and beat into potatoes; mix well. Drop by spoonfuls onto hot oil that is deep enough to almost cover the cake. Drain on paper towels.
Serve with applesauce and sour cream.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Can we still be friends?


Gma's Orange Rolls, originally uploaded by mud pie gourmet.

We went to see Jim Gaffigan last night. One of his jokes was about when you haven't returned someone's telephone call for so long, what do you do? You think, "we weren't that close anyway" and do you just end the friendship because it would be so awkward once you called? Made me think of my food blog (flog) which I have neglected for so long. Want my excuses like I would give you if I hadn't returned your phone call? Well, for starters--teaching seminary at 6am, but still getting to bed at 11:30 and being over 6 months pregnant, a funeral, family in town (both sides)... But, can't we just be friends the way we used to be?

My grandmother recently celebrated her 99th birthday (yes, I know I already wrote about it on my family blog). For just about every family get-together that I can remember she was the one who brought the rolls. Our favorites were the Orange Rolls. I would eat about 5 within a couple minutes of dinner starting. Now that she is 99 she would have still made the rolls for Thanksgiving, but she had a cold that knocked her out (hopefully not from my kids!). I made them instead. I made them for both families (yes, we eat 2 Thanksgiving dinners--and I am wondering why my belly is getting huge). My mother-in-law gave me a recipe she had of Martha Stewart's. I made a batch of each, and I have to say, my grandma's are better!

These are fabulous because you make the dough the night before and put it in the fridge. It made my morning go a lot smoother (especially since S. was playing tag football for three hours and I had pies to make, too with the kids running around). I have only changed the recipe by using butter instead of shortening (does shortening freak anyone else out?).

My two year old definitely takes after me as he ate 5 rolls within minutes. And I'm pretty sure his cousin, Michael had even more than him.

Grandma's Orange Rolls

Rolls:

2 T. dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup hot water
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter (melted)
3 well beaten eggs
4-4 1/2 cups flour

Orange filling:

1/3 cup softened butter
1/3 cup sugar
rind of 1 orange (about 2 T)
1/2 tsp almond extract.

Orange glaze:

Juice of 1 orange
1 lb powdered sugar

Sprinkle yeast over 1/4 cup warm water. Set aside. Combine sugar, butter and salt with hot water and stir. Add beaten eggs and 1 cup flour. Mix well. Stir in dissolved yeast thoroughly. Add remaining flour and stir until well mixed. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Turn dough onto a floured board. Divide into 2 portions. Roll each portion into a rectangle 1/4 inch thick and spread with half of orange filling. Roll up as for a jelly rolls and cut into 1 inch slices and place in buttered muffin tins. Let rise until double. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Pour orange glaze of the top of rolls.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Pasta di Amy

I am loving this Fall weather. The mornings are a little too cold for me at 5:45 am, but come afternoon the crisp air is great for running around with the kids outside. Life has been a little hectic, so I picked up some shelves from Costco today hoping to do some organizing to make me feel a little more under control. As a general rule my house is clean, but WARNING: Do not go in the Utility room!! I miss "pop ins." No one lives close enough to just pop in. And this cell phone thing? Everyone always calls before they head over. But, I digress.

Here is one of my favorite pastas to make. My good friend Amy (we would do pop ins ALL the time to each other in Cville. Comes from living four little townhomes over, I guess) came up with the recipe when we had our dinner co-op down in Charlottesville. For a church event our husbands even made it for all the women in our church. Okay, so I think my husband was the only one that actually made it, with Amy and others filling in for their husbands. It reminds me of fall because of the colors of the peppers.

Pasta with Bell Peppers, Sausage and Creamy Tomato Sauce


Serves 6

1 T butter
1 T olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 pound sliced kielbasa or smoked sausage (I have used turkey sausage--healthier)
2 medium bell peppers (red, orange or yellow)
1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
2/3 cup dry white wine or 2/3 cup apple juice and 1 T vinegar
2 14 1/2 ounce can diced, peeled tomatoes with juices
1/2 cup whipping cream
6 T chopped Italian parsley
1 1/2 pounds penne or fusilli pasta
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Melt butter with oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until golden brown and tender, about 7 minutes. Add sausage and saute until golden brown about 7 minutes. Add mushrooms and peppers. Add wine to pot and boil until almost all liquid evaporates, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes with juices and simmer 3 minutes. Add cream and simmer until sauce thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Stir in 4 Tablespoons parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat (Sauce can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate).

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender, but still firm to bite (about 9-11 minutes). Drain pasta; transfer to large bowl.

Bring sauce to a simmer. Pour sauce over pasta. Add 3/4 cup cheese and toss to coat. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheese and 2 tablespoons parsley.

S. is not the biggest fan of mushrooms so we have completely omitted them and this still tastes fabulous. I also usually use whole wheat penne pasta.

Menu:
Penne with Bell Peppers, Sausage and Creamy Tomato Sauce
Italian Salad
Baguette
Profiteroles with Ice Cream and Homemade Fudge Sauce

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Haunted Halloween Party





I am always up for a reason to throw a party. Halloween is a great holiday to get your creative juices going and let the adults and children have a little fun. We had our annual Halloween Dinner last weekend. Just thought I'd pass on a few of the ideas--collected from various places: my mother-in-law, myself, and random magazines.

Here is our Haunted Menu:

Roast Beast: We chose to do London Broil this year, but usually we just do Roast Beef.
Mummies: Hot dogs wrapped with bread dough to look like mummies
Witch's Garden: Green salad
Fingers: Bread dough rolled long with an almond for the fingernail, and poppy seeds or dill for "hair"
Brains: Cauliflower with cheese (dyed red, if desired)
Moldly Mashed Potatoes: mashed potatoes with chives on top (I was going to do Martha's Ghost Potatoes, but ran out of time)
Eyeballs: Round fruit--grapes, various melons, balled.
Worm Salad: Jello w/ gummi worms (New this year--Jenny's idea)

Dessert:
Poison Caramel Apples
Pumpkin-shaped Rice Krispie Treats
Sugar cookies decorated by kids, w/ candy corns, m&ms, sprinkles
Spider Web Peanut Butter Chocolate Pie

Beverages:
Ice Water with frozen ice hand
Orange Soda
Dark Soda--Black Cherry, Rootbeer

Whenever I am hostess I never seem to have it together enough to take good pictures. Here are just a few to give you an idea of the ambiance (I might add more as guests send me some). Also, this menu is great for assigning your guests to bring something. We had guests bring the green salad, the eyeball salad, the worm jello, and some drinks. If only I had a house big enough to invite all my friends. And a maid to help clean up would be nice!

Some of our activities included: A donut eating contest for the couples, homemade pinata for the kids (using a bag--thanks Reb, for the idea!), decorating sugar cookies, pin the face on the jack 'o lantern.

Because this is a food blog, I will post a recipe for the London Broil. This is my go-to recipe for London broil when I don't feel like thinking about it. I found it on Epicurious a couple years ago.

Filipino-Style London Broil


2 medium-size lemons
1 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 medium-size onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 bay leaves, crumbled
1 tablespoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds London Broil

Rinse the lemons. Cut each in half and squeeze out the juice with a citrus press. Place the lemon juice in a large nonreactive mixing bowl. Cut the rind of 1 lemon into 1/4-inch dice and add it to the juice. Add the soy sauce, vinegar, oil, onion, garlic, bay leaves, coriander seed, and pepper and whisk to mix. Set aside half of the lemon juice mixture to use as a sauce.

Spread half of the remaining lemon juice mixture in the bottom of a nonreactive baking dish just large enough to hold the meat. Place the meat on top and spread the other half of the lemon juice mixture over it. Let the steak marinate for at least 6 hours, ideally overnight. The beef can also be marinated in a resealable plastic bag.

When ready to cook, drain the meat, scraping off most of the marinade with a rubber spatula. Preheat the grill to high; there's no need to oil the grate. Place the beef on the hot grill. Steak will be cooked to medium-rare after 6 to 9 minutes per side. To test for doneness, use the poke method; when cooked to medium-rare the meat should be gently yielding.

Transfer the meat to a cutting board and let sit for 5 minutes. Cut the meat into broad thin slices, holding a sharp knife blade at a 45-degree angle to the top of the meat. Spoon the reserved sauce over the slices and serve at once.

So, no excuses, send out those evites, and get your Halloween party planned!!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Black-Bottom Cupcakes


Black-Bottom Cupcakes, originally uploaded by mud pie gourmet.

There is a cupcake craze going on. There are shops for cupcakes alone, blogs of only cupcake recipes, and man I could really eat one right now. Enter Mom Mud's amazing Black-bottom Cupcakes. So moist, (eww, I hate that word. See Vanessa's blog), and delectable. Maybe they should be called "Rock-bottom Cupcakes." Something to eat when nothing is going right, when you're a little down. Naaa, they should be eaten anytime (especially right after your 30th birthday).

Black-Bottom Cupcakes


1 1/2 cup flour, unsifted
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1 tsp soda
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine above in a large bowl. Set aside.

1 cup water
5 T oil
1 T cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla

In another bowl, combine above (water-vanilla). Add to flour mixture and stir. Set aside.

8 oz cream cheese
1egg
1/3 cup sugar
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

Beat together above ingredients until smooth.

In lined or greased muffin cups, fill half-full with cocoa mixture. Add about 1 tablespoon of the cream-cheese/chocolate chip mixture. Makes about 18 cupcakes. Bake for 25 minutes or until cupcake springs back.



Friday, September 28, 2007

The American French Onion Soup

The weather here has been crazy. End of September and it's in the 90s?!?! Today was the first day that it was a little cooler all week, and I was craving a good soup. Maybe it's because I have a cold, maybe it's because I am ready for those Fall days, pumpkin patches and jackets to cover my growing belly (we had the ultrasound yesterday--we purposely didn't find out the sex, but the baby looks healthy!).

When we lived in Mexico City we went to Au Pied de Cochon for our last night in the city with a friend. It was just a couple blocks away from our apartment and I can't believe we didn't go all the time. The food was divine, and they had this amazing French Onion Soup. I love the crusty cheese on the top of French Onion Soup. With this recipe I recreated that crusty cheese, but with a more American style soup--Broccoli, Potato and Cheddar Soup. It definitely hit the spot after being at the playground with the munchkins as the cool evening was setting in.

Broccoli, Potato and Cheddar Soup


4 potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
2 cups broccoli (about 8 oz)
1 T butter
1 T olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cumin
1 1/2 T dijon mustard
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 cups potato/broccoli water
2 T flour
1 cup half and half
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese

Steam potatoes for 10 minutes, until tender. Set aside (reserving the water). Steam broccoli 3 minutes, until tender. Set aside (reserving the water).

Heat olive oil and butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until tender about 8 minutes. Add potatoes, salt, cumin, dijon, pepper and 1 1/2 cups reserved water. Combine remaining 1/2 cup potato water and 2 Tablespoons flour. Add to pot. Simmer about 20 minutes. Add half and half and 2/3 cup cheese. Simmer about 15 minutes more.

Preheat broiler. Using four oven-proof bowls or ramekins, fill with chowder and sprinkle with cheese on top. Broil for 2 minutes, until golden on top.

note: The soup is still good if you are too lazy to put it in the broiler. Just add all the cheese into the pot.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Farmer's Market


I heart Farmer's Markets. I don't go as often as I'd like, mainly because I forget what days there is one and where (there are tons all around me)! We went Saturday, to Reston's Farmer's Market at Lake Anne. Lake Anne has special meaning to me. Not because I went "skinny dipping" there (we had some undies on, so it wasn't ACTUALLY skinny dipping) in high school, but because it was where S. and I decided we would start dating again (ummm, yes, I was a little undecisive at first--WHY? I know, I was crazy. He is such a catch. Thank goodness he agreed to date me again).

We picked up some apples (I highly recommend Honey Crisp), peaches, tomatoes, and fresh feta and mozzarella. Oh, and of course some Kettle Corn!

We HAD to make something with those cheeses and tomatoes! Here is our first creation.

Chicken Souvlaki with Tomato, Cucumber and Feta Relish

Chicken Marinade:

Serves 2

3 T lemon juice
2 T olive oil
1 T red wine vinegar
1 tsp dried oregano flakes
1 garlic clove, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks

Combine ingredients in a ziplock bag and marinate 30 minutes-overnight. Preheat grill or broiler. Place chicken on skewers (if using bamboo skewers be sure to soak them in water for 20 minutes beforehand). Cook about 3-5 minutes on each side. Be sure to watch closely if you are using a broiler.

Tzatziki Sauce


1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 1/2 T lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cucumber, chopped

Combine ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Note: Tzatziki sauce often has dill in it, but we are not big fans. If you are, add about 1/2-1 teaspoon.



Tomato, Cucumber, and Feta Relish


1 cup seeded, chopped tomato
1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
2 T minced red onion
1/3 cup feta (or more to taste), crumbled or cut
1 T red wine vinegar
1 T olive oil
1/2 T lemon juice
1/2 tsp dried oregano flakes (or fresh--chopped)
Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, oregano and salt and pepper. Gently toss with tomato, cucumber, red onion and feta.

Our Menu:
Chicken Souvlaki
Feta, Tomato and Cucumber Relish
Tzatziki Sauce
Whole Wheat Pitas
Cilantro Rice
Fresh fruit

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Dia de la Independencia


Mexican Chicken Salad 2, originally uploaded by mud pie gourmet.

I know, I know, I haven't posted for a while. We have been to Disney World, and I have been adjusting to teaching an early morning church class. Yes, I am completely insane. I am pregnant with my third, and I wake up at 5:15am to teach 17 and 18 year olds about the Old Testament at 6 am (and I still haven't gotten to bed before 11pm). Thank goodness I split the teaching with my husband.

September 15th is Mexico's Independence Day which might explain why I made this Mexican Salad. Who am I kidding? I crave Mexican all the time. I have been known to have to have my own bowl of salsa at Mexican restaurants.

The secret ingredient is jicama. It is an underused vegetable if you ask me. When I worked at the American School Foundation in Mexico City the teachers would eat jicama in strips--like carrot sticks, with some ranch dressing. It is really good. It has a mild taste and a fun crunch. Here's to healthy eating...

Mexican Chicken Salad

(Serves 4 hearty main courses)

Marinade for Chicken

3 T olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup lime juice
1/2 tsp cumin
1 T honey (optional)
Salt and Pepper to taste
4 chicken breasts

Combine above and place in a ziplock bag. Marinate 1 hour-overnight.
Heat grill to medium-high heat. Place chicken on grill, and cook about 7 minutes each side, until no longer pink in the middle. Let sit wrapped in tin-foil for 5 minutes, slice diagonally.

The Salad

1 cup corn (I use frozen)
1/2 cup jicama, diced
1 can black beans
1/3 cup red onions, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper,chopped
3/4 cup tomato, chopped
1 avocado, diced
1/2 cup queso fresco or feta
5 cups romaine lettuce, cut into bite-sized pieces

Combine above ingredients (saving cheese and avocado for the last minute), toss with dressing. Top with chicken and tortilla strips or chips.

Cumin-Lime Dressing

1/3 cup lime juice
1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 serrano pepper, seeded (for less heat, if desired) and minced
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 T honey
1/4 cup olive oil
3 T chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Combine all ingredients, whisk in olive oil.

Tortilla strips (optional):

Cut 6 corn tortillas into strips. Heat 1/2 cup canola oil over medium-high heat. Add strips, cook about 2 minutes (watching closely so they don't get too done). Drain on paper towels. Add salt, if desired.


If you want to use as a side salad, just omit the chicken. It is great with fajitas and tacos (really, all things Mexican).



Menu:

Mexican Chicken Salad
Oranges, strawberries and grapes
Cornbread
Dessert: Key Lime Pie

Monday, August 27, 2007

Crispy Chicken Costoletta


Crispy Chicken Costoletta, originally uploaded by mud pie gourmet.

I like to think I was one of the first to discover The Cheesecake Factory on the East coast. We would frequent the only one in the D.C. area and would even pay the horrible 10% tax back in the day. I have so many great memories that are formed around The Cheesecake Factory--waiting outside for a table and entertaining ourselves by super-gluing a quarter to the sidewalk just outside the door and watching people try to pick it up, and using the $100 to pay that someone gave us while driving on Route 95 as we were heading up to Baltimore's Inner Harbor's Cheesecake Factory (That is a crazy story). While in college we would make the 4 1/2 hour drive to Vegas to be able to go to The Cheesecake Factory at Caesar's palace.

As my sister, Mary and I were original patrons we took many a Virgin Cheesecake Factory customer. We soon discovered 4 things that everyone would say the first time they went to The Cheesecake Factory: 1) After almost spilling their water, "Whoa, this cup is a lot lighter than it looks." 2) "This menu is huge!" 3) After seeing an attractive girl in an ad in the menu, "I'll take one of those." and 4)after completing their meal and looking at the Cheesecake choices, "This really IS the Cheesecake Factory!"

Unfortunately, we haven't been as happy with the Cheesecake Factory the past few times we have gone. Mostly bad service, but there are so many great restaurants in the D.C. area we usually just try something new (latest: Central.). There is one dish that I was craving so this recipe is inspired by their Crispy Chicken Costolleta. I'm not saying it is a direct match, because I haven't eaten it in months. My sister-in-law, Amanda recommends this to everyone who goes to The Factory, and they all love it! This is for you, Amanda!

Crispy Chicken Costolleta

(Copycat of the Cheesecake Factory's Crispy Chicken Costolleta)

Serves 4

Crispy Chicken

4 chicken breasts, cut horizontally, and pounded to about 1/4 inch thick, or use chicken cutlets.
Lemon zest of 2 lemons
1 1/2 cups plain bread crumbs
2 Tablespoons Freshly grated Parmesan (optional)
2 eggs, whisked with 2 T water
3 Tablespoons flour
1 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp kosher salt

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Zest two lemons. Bake zest for about 5 minutes until dry. On one paper plate combine flour, pepper and salt. On another paper plate combine eggs and water, whisk until combined. On another paper plate combine dry lemon zest, bread crumbs and cheese. Place pounded chicken in the flour, coating well, followed by the egg mixture and the bread crumbs. Heat 2 Tablespoons olive oil and 1 Tablespoon butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Place chicken in pan and cook on each side about 5 minutes until middle is no longer pink. You will need to work in batches, adding more oil and butter as needed. Keep chicken warm in oven at 250 degrees.

Lemon Sauce


2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup plus 1 T fresh lemon juice
1/8 cup chicken stock
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Over medium heat in a fairly large saucepan heat canola oil. Add minced garlic and saute about 3 minutes. Add whipping cream and boil until reduced by one-third. Add Dijon, lemon juice, chicken stock and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter until melted.

Serve chicken with lemon sauce and mashed garlic potatoes.

Our Menu:
Crispy Chicken Costoletta
Lemon Sauce
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Almond Garlic Green Beans
Mozzarella, Basil, Tomato Stacks
Fresh Fruit

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Caterering for your Caterer

We just celebrated our seventh anniversary on Sunday. After dating for a couple of years, we were only engaged for 2 months. I had graduated college and was planning on staying in the East while S. had to return to school out West. We decided instead of having a long distance engagement we would just give our mothers heart attacks and get married quickly. Thanks to my mom, family (including the new in-laws) and friends the reception was a success. One family friend, Gaynell, catered for us and at least took that burden off of my mother. Her food is divine. I should say that our reception was a success, with one minor disaster. We arrived at the church where our reception was being held and my mother-in-law came out and told us our three layer cake had completely fallen over. My mother was freaking out a little, but we just laughed. I asked if anyone took a picture. No luck. Well, with some fancy skills the extra flat cakes were set up on pillars at different heights and it was once again presentable. In fact, many people said, "Oh, I saw that in Martha Stewart this month!"

Well, a couple of weeks ago my mom hosted an Open House for our caterer because she and her husband were moving from Virginia after 20+ years. I helped with some of the food. I was ecstatic when Gaynell took notice of my contributions. For S.'s 30th birthday in January we had an "Appetizer Dinner Party." I made these Beef and Balsamic Onion Baguette Stacks for that party as well. They are great to make ahead, and feed a lot of people.

Balsamic Beef and Onion Baguette Stacks


London Broil Marinade


1 1/2 lb London Broil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 lemons, juiced, peel chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 bay leaf, crumbled
Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper

Marinate London Broil 2 hours to overnight. Preheat grill to high heat. Place meat on grill and sear both sides. Lower heat to medium and grill both sides for about 15 minutes or until desired pink. Place in aluminum foil and let rest. Slice meat very thinly and set aside (You can do this up to 2 days in advance. Cover and refrigerate).

Balsamic Onions


3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt to taste

Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add sliced onions and saute until tender, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, saute 1 minute more. Add balsamic vinegar and coat onions and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes more. Remove from heat. (You can prepare this up to two days in advance. Cover and refrigerate).

To assemble:

Makes about 40 appetizers

1 baguette, very thinly sliced
Marinated London Broil
Balsamic Onions
About 40 fresh basil leaves
Feta, crumbled


On the baguette place sliced London Broil, sauteed onions, then basil, topped with about 1/2 tsp crumbled feta. Serve immediately once assembled.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Taco Zucchini Bread

My brother, Craig grew some huge zucchini in his garden this year and I finally got around to making zucchini bread with it. I love zucchini bread. It is connected to my childhood--my mother would always make multiple batches to give away and freeze the rest and I would sneak them for breakfast. Mmmm, cold zucchini bread with cold milk.

My father made one thing for dinner when I was growing up--Soft corn tacos with meat. He would heat oil and fry the corn tortillas just until they were soft. Afterwards he would pore the oil back into the original bottle before getting rid of it. Enter, my sister, Jeannie. She decides to make some zucchini bread. She grabs the bottle to put the required oil into her recipe. The hot zucchini bread comes out of the oven and we all dig in. And we all quickly spit it out. Jeannie had used the taco oil in her zucchini bread on accident--not a good combination. It's a wonder I still eat zucchini bread today.

I have come up with a recipe that is yummy and healthy and I can rationalize eating it for breakfast with that big glass of milk. When we were making it Boo asked me when we eat it. She didn't know if it was a dessert, bread that goes with dinner, or what. My answer? ANYTIME!I

Whole Wheat Zucchini Bread


2 cups whole wheat (I use King Arthur's White Whole Wheat)
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt (I use kosher)
1/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup olive oil
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup shredded zucchini
2 eggs
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 3 small bread pans (2 1/2 X 5 1/2--you could use one large pan, but I love the crusty parts so the smaller the better).

Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl combine oil, sugar, zucchini, eggs, and zest and mix. Add dry ingredients just until combined, add pecans, if desired. Pour into bread pans. Cook for 35-40 minutes until toothpick comes out clean (If you use a large bread pan you will need to up the cooking time to 55 minutes).

Store in the fridge, if you like it cold. If you prefer it hot, you can put a slice in the microwave for 25 seconds.

Monday, August 6, 2007

The Barbarian in me


Warm Chocolate Tart, originally uploaded by mud pie gourmet.

My stomach is divided in two. One side is for breakfast/lunch/dinner, the other side is for dessert. I was taught this theory when I was about 4 years old and it stuck. My brother-in-law, Dr. Dan would probably tell me it is scientifically impossible, but I truly believe mine is. I ALWAYS have room for dessert.

I have been at many restaurants, having a civilized dinner (usually the ones without my kids), having civilized conversation, but when dessert comes I turn into a barbarian (some might disagree that I am civilized the whole time because I usually begin a meal by sweeping my hair up into a pony-tail so that it doesn't get in my way as I plow through my food). I have actually fought friends and family over the last piece of dessert. Maybe I should learn my lesson and always buy my own. Here's a chocolate tart that you, too will fight over. My advice? Eat it slow and savor each bite (for the record, my sister told me the reason she is a little skinner than me is because she eats a lot slower than I do and knows when she's full. I guess I should listen, but sometimes I have to beat whomever is sharing with me!)

Warm Chocolate Tart

adapted from epicurious.com
Serves 8

Crust
1 cup all purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Filling
1/2 cup whipping cream
4 tablespoons whole milk
4 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 large eggs
1/3 cup sugar
Pinch of salt

Make crust:
Blend flour, sugar, and salt in processor 5 seconds. Add butter, yolk and vanilla and process until large moist clumps form. Gather dough into ball; knead briefly to combine well. Flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic; chill until firm enough to roll, about 30 minutes (sometimes I speed up the process by putting in the freezer for 10 minutes).

Preheat oven to 400°F. Roll out dough between sheets of plastic wrap to 11- to 12-inch round. Peel off top sheet of plastic. Turn dough over; press into 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Peel off plastic. Fold in any excess dough, forming double-thick sides. Pierce crust all over with fork. Freeze 15 minutes.

Bake crust 10 minutes. Using back side of fork, press crust flat if bottom bubbles. continue to bake until crust is golden, about 5-10 minutes (crust sides may shrink slightly.) Transfer to rack and cool.

Lower temperature to 350°F.

For filling:
Bring whipping cream and milk to boil in heavy medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add
chocolate; whisk until melted and smooth. Whisk eggs, sugar, and salt in large bowl to blend. Gradually whisk chocolate mixture into egg mixture. Pour filling into warm crust.

Bake tart until filling is set in center and puffed at edges, about 20-25 minutes. Transfer to rack and let cool 15 minutes. Serve warm. (Can be prepared up to 1 day ahead. Cool completely, then cover and refrigerate. Before serving, reheat in 350°F oven 10 minutes or microwave individual slices at 5-second intervals until warm.)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

I'm crazy protractor man, give me some caramel popcorn.


Caramel Popcorn, originally uploaded by mud pie gourmet.

I am obsessed with caramel popcorn. I don't know when it began. I remember eating caramel popcorn at my friend, Carrie's house and watching Adventures in Babysitting. When we lived in Charlottesville we had an Easter brunch with some friends with an Easter Egg Hunt afterwards for the kids, AND the adults. The adults wrote things on small pieces of paper that they would do for others and put them inside an egg. For example: a free dinner, free babysitting, or my personal favorite: caramel popcorn. The egg we found had a note which read "One large bowel of caramel popcorn." We had a nice laugh at the misspelling, and I ate almost all of that popcorn by myself. I eat it until I get sick. I can't stop myself.

I am a Nazi when it comes to what my kids eat, so you can imagine my brother-in-law's surprise when I made caramel popcorn for the cousins. He was also shocked that my kids had never had butter popcorn, yet they had had caramel popcorn (which has a whole stick of butter in it)! Some things are too good to be missed.

Wondering about that title? Gotta love S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y night. Especially the old school days. Everyday my daughter asks me when we are going to Pumpkinville. I tell her that it's not open until Halloween time. Who doesn't associate caramel popcorn with Halloween? Adam Sandler should have said "I'm crazy newspaper face, give me some caramel popcorn!"

Caramel Popcorn


5-6 cups cooked popcorn (I have even used microwave popcorn)

1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/2 can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

Combine butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, milk and salt together in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Add 1/2 tsp baking soda and stir. Pour over popped popcorn and mix.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Fairyland


Fairyland Chocolate Cake, originally uploaded by mud pie gourmet.




We finally had a birthday party for my 4 year old (her birthday was in June). We made our house turn into fairyland and the kids were fairies and elves once they earned their wings. After games and decorating our star cookie wands (sugar cookies on a popsicle stick) we ate fairy fare.

Star Cucumbers and Baby Carrots with Red Pepper Hummus
Magic Fruit Wands
Star Pizzas
Fairy Punch with Edible Flowers
Fairy Chocolate Cake

The Fairy Chocolate Cake was made by my mother-in-law and is the recipe I chose to feature (and if you're wondering why there are 5 candles on a 4 year old's cake it is a Mud tradition to put one to grow on. It's going to get confusing in the photo albums mixed with my family's tradition of putting the number you are turning). This recipe has been used for 25 + years at the Mud household. Every birthday, this is the cake that is made (except when the only girl, Mary went through a phase where she wanted store-bought cakes because all of her friends did). I have not quite perfected this cake as Mom M. has. Everyone looks forward to sinking their teeth in this cake, always with the choice of Breyers Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream or Chocolate ice cream. MMmm....one of my Mud nephew's birthday is next weekend. I can't wait.

Mom Mud's Chocolate Cake

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup margerine (or shortening)
2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs

3/4 cup cocoa
1 3/4 cup flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp soda
1/8 tsp salt

1 3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream together butter, margarine and sugar. Add vanilla and two eggs. Sift together cocoa, flour, baking powder, soda, and salt. Add dry ingredients and milk with creamed ingredients, alternating. Flour and grease two 9-inch round pans. Pour in batter. Bake for 20 minutes (until toothpick comes out clean). Wet a kitchen towel and lay out on counter. Place pans on towel to cool. Remove from pans (using a knife around the edges one at a time. Frost 1 cake, including the top, place the other round cake on top and completely frost cake.

Fudge Icing:
1 lb powdered sugar
2/3 stick butter
1/2 cup cocoa
pinch of salt
2 tsp milk
1 tsp vanilla

In a small saucepan melt butter, add powdered sugar, salt and milk (a little at a time, you might need more), cocoa and vanilla. Stir together and place on cake.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Give me a crusty


Coconut Chicken, originally uploaded by mud pie gourmet.

The first time I had coconut-crusted anything was in Hawaii. I went there for a dental convention, so in between classes on gum disease we toured the sites and ate good food (including coconut chicken). A must visit restaurant is Top of Waikiki. The rooftop restaurant spins as you eat so you can see the scenery.

I was in college my first and only time I went to Hawaii, and once I found out I was going to Hawaii with my boss (also my Uncle) and his "computer guy" and his wife I decided it would be to my advantage to bring along my boyfriend, S., now my husband. S. was dirt poor (his paleontology job didn't pay much), so I offered to pay for half his ticket and he was able to share a room with my uncle/boss. He consented (after I twisted his arm) and we had a memorable time that October.

Fast forward three months. I am in London. I move into this amazing row house. I hang a picture of S. and me on my bulletin board right by my bed. A new roommate sees the picture and asks why I have a picture of S. I reply, "Um, he's my boyfriend." (All the while thinking, "And YOU are?") She said, "Are you the one who paid for him to go to Hawaii with you?" I corrected her and told her that I only paid for half the ticket. Really, I wasn't buying my boyfriend, but I must have done something right because he proposed 8 months later.


Mango Raspberry Salsa

1 1/2 mangos, peeled and diced
2 scallions, white parts chopped
1/2 serrano pepper, seeds removed
5 raspberries
juice of 1 lime
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine ingredients in a blender or food processor. Process till finely chopped, but not completely pureed.

Coconut Chicken

Serves 4

4 chicken breasts
1 cup coconut milk
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

1/2 cup coconut flakes
1 cup Panko bread crumbs (in Asian section)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Marinate chicken in coconut milk with red pepper flakes for at least 30 minutes, up to overnight. Combine coconut flakes and bread crumbs in a separate bowl. Place marinated chicken in coconut and bread crumb mixture, turning to coat. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Cook for 35-40 minutes, until cooked through.

Serve with mango salsa and rice.

Definition for Crusty: a dirty look.

This was a word some friends and I made up. We would always say, "She gave me a crusty." This is something crusty I would want unlike those dirty looks.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Topless, I mean Tapas Bar


Tapas Sandwiches 1, originally uploaded by mud pie gourmet.

When we lived in Mexico City people often thought we were from Spain or Argentina. That was until I opened my mouth. "Ahhh, Norteamericana!" That's right, I have a gringa accent. I can't even do a good British accent and I lived there, too. However, S. is still mistaken for being Spanish or Argentine after he speaks. He has the accent. I guess that's what comes from learning Spanish living with a native Argentine and living in Argentina for two years. One time when S. was serving a mission for our church he was walking down the street with his missionary companion when a 6 foot 4, 300 pound, drunk man grabbed him by the collar and pinned him against the wall and accused S. of being an FBI agent. The man threatened to kill him. In S.'s best Argentine accent he said (in Spanish), "I don't know what you're talking about, I'm from Buenos Aires." The guy said, "Oh, never mind." Talk about the Lord protecting you.

Here is a Spanish-inspired meal. In Charlottesville were deciding where to go for dinner one night. A friend, (Mike N.) said, "What about a topless bar?" Okay, that is what I thought he said. He really said, "What about a Tapas Bar." So, Mike, next time you guys are in town we can add these sandwiches to the Topless, I mean Tapas Bar.

A couple weeks ago S. had an urge for some good cheese. When I saw the wedge of Manchego he bought at Wegmans I was inspired to invent this new Spanish dish.


FYI: Tapas is the name for a wide variety of appetizers in Spanish cuisine.

They may be cold, such as mixed olives and cheese, or warm, such as puntillitas, Andalusian battered, fried baby squid. In Spain (mainly in the southern half of the country), tapas are usually given for free to accompany a drink before lunch or dinner. In the United States and the United Kingdom, tapas have evolved into an entire cuisine; at Spanish restaurants, patrons may order many different small tapas, and combine them for a full meal.

Tapas Sandwiches
Serves 2

Cheese marinade:
2 green onions, chopped
1 T olive oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 cup roasted red peppers, sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 lb Manchego cheese, thinly sliced

Place cheese in a 9x9 pan. Drizzle with olive oil, green onions, cumin, salt and pepper. Top with red peppers. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to overnight.

The Sandwich:

1 russett potato, washed and thinly sliced
1/3 pound Chorizo, thinly sliced
Good bread, such as a bagette, sliced into sandwich-sized pieces (4 pieces total)

In a frying pan heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high. Add sliced potatoes and cook, turning so both sides are golden brown about 7-10 minutes. Remove from heat.

Place sliced Chorizo in a frying pan over medium high and saute about 7 minutes. Remove from heat.

Preheat oven to broil. On a cookie sheet place sliced bread. Add sauteed potatoes, chorizo, marinated cheese with red peppers on the top of the bread. Broil for 2 minutes, watching closely.



Thursday, June 21, 2007

Dreaming of a tropical island

With baby #3 on the way, S. and I are itching to get away on a vacation--by ourselves. We have never done this since having B., 4 years ago (yesterday). The only time I have been away from her was while I was at the hospital after having Little Man. I remember all the trips we took before kids. Some of my favorites: Costa Rica, Hualtuco, Mexico (all over Mexico, actually), Hawaii, London...

It does make me a little nervous to leave the kids for a long time. I mean, we don't have the best luck on trips. During our honeymoon in Costa Rica we almost died 3, yes, THREE times. Here's how it happened: We arrived in San Jose, and boarded a small, single-prop plane to Playa Langosta (no biggie, right? Keep reading). We were kayaking in a river and we saw a crocodile right by our kayak, it came a little too close for comfort. After staying a few nights at Playa Langosta we headed to the Arenal volcano that heats some hot springs at the nearby Tabacon resort. As we approached the volcano we saw hundreds of toucans flying away from the volcano, not usually a good thing. As we got closer, ash started falling on our little VW van. Uh, how do you say, "turn around" in Spanish? We arrived at the hotel, only to be directly evacuated down the other side of the mountain to another, not so posh, hotel. As we were driving down we saw a wall of volcanic ash rolling down the side of the volcano. It was the largest eruption in 30 years. So, we continued our vacation, eventually returning to the original hotel, and then to San Jose for our last night. As we were waiting to board our plane back to the states, S. was reading a local paper and saw that the same plane we had taken to Playa Langosta had crashed in the jungle the night before.

So, as we think of where we might go, my mind turns to the potential cuisines. This inspired me to make a Coconut Tart with Lime Curd.


Coconut Tart with Lime Curd


Makes 6 individual tarts
2 1/2 cups shredded coconut
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg whites

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place coconut and sugar in a food processor to blend. Add egg whites and mix. Press mixture into a well-greased 4 inch tartlet pans with removable bottoms.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden.

Lime Curd

adapted from Barefoot Contessa

4 limes at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
4 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt

Remove the zest of 2 limes with a vegetable peeler or zester, being careful to avoid the white pith. Squeeze the limes to make 1/2 cup of juice and set the juice aside. Put the zest in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the sugar and process for 2 to 3 minutes, until the zest is very finely minced. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter with the sugar and lime zest. Add-- the eggs, 1 at a time, and then add the lime juice and salt. Mix until combined.

Pour the mixture into a 2-quart saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 10 minutes. The lime curd will thicken at about 175 degrees F, or just below a simmer. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Carefully remove tarts from pans, pour curd into coconut tarts. Wait about 20 minutes until curd is set. Add sweetened whipped cream and fresh berries.

I want to try this crust with chocolate and almonds--an Almond Joy-type creation. Yum.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Kabobing along


Kabob feast, originally uploaded by mud pie gourmet.

My alma mater is not known for its partying. Students party in a different way than most universities--no alcohol. One of my most memorable parties I went to was at my friend, Brooke's house. It was packed, and it was a "Make your own Kabob Bar." They had a table set up with everything you can think of to put on a kabob--tomatoes, peppers, onion, mushrooms, beef, chicken... We were sitting around with some friends, waiting for our personalized kabobs to cook, a challenge with how many people were there, when a friend ate some chicken. It wasn't until we were talking about waiting for our chicken to cook that she realized her mistake--she had eaten the chicken raw. I guess the room was dark, but she didn't realize she had just eaten a big piece of chicken sushi. The story has a happy ending--no salmonella.

I love kabobs for entertaining a crowd because they provide guests with choices--in meats, in marinades, and in sauces. Just make sure they don't eat the chicken before it's cooked.

MENU:

Kabobs--in two to three different marinades, using meat, chicken, or pork
Cilantro Ginger marinade
Peanut Marinade
Sauces--Cilantro Pepper
Tomato, Cucumber, Feta
Peanut Sauce
Veggie Kabobs
Pita with Hummus
Cilantro Rice (or Couscous)
Grapes
Dessert--Fresh fruit tart or Baklava


Kabobs
plan for 1/4-1/2 lb of meat per person

Cut chicken, meat or pork into 1x1 inch chunks

Cilantro Garlic Marinade
for 1 1/2 lbs meat

3 garlic cloves
2 T olive oil
1/2 tsp ground mustard
3/4 cup fresh cilantro
1/4 cup chopped scallions
1 tsp cumin
1/4 cup lemon juice
Kosher salt and ground pepper

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor until well blended. Marinate meat for at least an hour or overnight in a ziplock bag. Place meat on skewers.

Grill over medium-high about 10 minutes, rotating and marinating as they cook.

Peanut Marinade

1 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup hot water
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
1 garlic clove
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 cup lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor until well blended. Marinate meat for at least an hour or overnight in a ziplock bag. Place meat on skewers.

Grill over medium-high about 10 minutes, rotating and marinating as they cook.

Cilantro Pepper Sauce

1/4 cup chopped onion
1 T minced fresh ginger
1 serrano pepper, seeded and chopped
1/4 green pepper, chopped
1/2 cup cilantro
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 T water
1/4 cup lime juice

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor to chop finely. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Tomato, Feta and Cucumber Relish

2 tomatoes, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 large cucumber, seeded and chopped
1/4-1/2 cup feta, crumbled
1 tsp salt
1 T lemon juice

Combine ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine.

Peanut Sauce

2 garlic cloves
1/2 onion, chopped
3/4 cup chunky peanut butter
2 T ginger, minced
1 T olive oil
1 cup coconut milk
2 T soy sauce
1/4 cup lemon juice

Combine ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth. Pour into a saucepan and simmer over low until thick, about 4 minutes. Thin with coconut milk, if necessary.

Veggie Kabobs

Zucchini, sliced
Yellow Squash, sliced
Red, orange, yellow, green peppers, 1-inch chunks
Onion, 1 inch chunks
Cherry tomatoes
Mushrooms
Fresh Pineapple

I just marinate the veggie kabobs in a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar with salt and pepper. We put them on separate skewers since they cook at a different speed than the meat. You can also choose not to put the veggies on on skewers and just grill them in larger pieces (i.e. peppers in fourths).

Thursday, June 7, 2007

A doll from the eighties


Strawberry shortcake, originally uploaded by mud pie gourmet.

I am a child of the eighties. I loved Rainbow Brite, Bonkers candy, E.T. cereal (thank goodness they came back with Reese's Cereal), jellies (as in the shoes--have you seen they have some in the dollar section of Target?!??! I'm so tempted), Pee Wee Herman (you know you can do the Tequila dance), and watching the Take on Me video over and over. Occasionally I'll get emails forwarded to me like, "You know you're a child of the eighties if..." I am always hit with nostalgia and wonder how I could have forgotten about such funny, seemingly important (at the time) things.

Well, now children of the eighties are parents, and you can see it when you go to the toy store. They have Cabbage Patch Kids, My Little Ponies, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Care Bears and Strawberry Shortcake. They know we will buy the toys--not just for nostalgic reasons, but the fact that we can (no more asking mom and dad). Man, I wanted a Cabbage Patch kid so bad. I finally got one, but by that time my friends had FIVE Cabbage Patch Kids. I have to admit, it is nice that my mom still has some of my old toys--B. can play with that Cabbage Patch Kid (it's a preemie and it's birthday is the day before mine--I still remember) and my Strawberry Shortcake dolls when we visit. I don't mind playing with her (B., that is), either.

I love Strawberry Shortcake, not just the doll. With the strawberry season here I knew I had to make my shortcake. I have made so many different recipes of shortcake and S. always asks me why when my usual is always the best. Here's the best.

Strawberry Shortcake

Makes 12 servings

2 1/4 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup milk
approx. 6 cups sliced strawberries
approx. 1 cup Whipping cream, whipped with about 2 T powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine flour, baking powder and sugar. Cut in butter until coarse crumbs form. Combine milk and egg in a separate bowl. Add milk and egg mixture to dry ingredients. Stir until just combined. Drop onto cookie sheets in large mound (about 2-3 inches in diameter). Cook for 18 minutes. Let cool. Slice in half horizontally. Place a generous dollop of whipped cream on bottom of biscuit, top with just under 1/2 cup of strawberries each. Place top of biscuit back on and add whipped cream to the top with a few more strawberries. Add more or less whipped cream and strawberries to your liking.

I always eat the leftovers for breakfast with a big glass of milk. Hey, it's fruit and an egg!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The sweet smell of dirty little kids

A roommate of my sister's was an Elementary Ed. major. After working with kids for a while she came to the conclusion that all little kids smell like pancakes. Oh, come on, you know the smell: that sticky smell of Aunt Jemima syrup, left over from breakfast mixed with the "outside" smell that kids get. After having kids, I fought hard to make sure my offspring didn't get that smell--even if it meant avoiding eating pancakes.

When my first child was 1, we were visiting my brother and sister-in-law in Boston. We had pancakes for breakfast. Uh, oh. My daughter would now have her first taste of pancakes. But, to my surprise, we didn't have that normal, fake-tasting syrup. We had homemade buttermilk syrup. I discovered the secret to letting my kids eat pancakes without smelling like syrup (B. still didn't get syrup on her pancakes until she was 3 years old, but her brother has already been destroyed by 1).

The buttermilk syrup was delicious. I have passed on the recipe to my sister and she came up with the great idea of putting orange zest in it. It is so good, not just on pancakes and waffles, but crepes and ice cream, too. I tried it with lemon zest and it makes a great combination with blueberries and raspberries.

So, here's to helping your kids smell like roses...

Buttermilk Syrup

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk (can subsitute regular milk w/ 1 tsp lemon juice--let sit 5 minutes)
1 T light corn syrup

Combine ingredients in a saucepan over medium-high. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Add 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Combine. Add 2 teaspoons orange or lemon zest, if desired.

Whole Wheat Yogurt Pancakes


1 cup wheat flour (I love King Arthur's)
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 T sugar
1 egg
1 cup yogurt (vanilla or plain)
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla
1 T oil
1/8-1/4 cup milk

Heat a skillet to 350 degrees (or on stove heat over medium-low heat).

Combine flour, salt, baking powder, sugar in a bowl. Combine egg, yogurt, lemon zest, vanilla, oil and milk in another bowl and mix. Add dry ingredients until combined.

Pour the pancake batter on the hot skillet using a 1/2 measuring cup (add more milk if it thickens too much). Cook until pancake bubbles. Using a spatula, flip pancake over and cook for another 2 minutes, until lightly browned. Keep warm in a preheated 200 degree oven or tortilla warmer. Serve with buttermilk syrup and fresh berries.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Tidal Wave


Surprise burger, originally uploaded by mud pie gourmet.

Remember that gum that had the liquid in the middle and when you first bit in it would come oozing into your mouth? I always wanted to get it until there was a rumor that it caused cancer. But then again, I have a theory that they are going to soon say that everything causes cancer. Another reason I always questioned those chips with olean in them. But, I digress...

With Memorial Day coming up I figured everyone would be deciding on their menus for BBQs. If you are in the D.C. area you definitely need to go downtown to see Rolling Thunder. It makes you appreciate those who have served our country--past and present. Rolling Thunder is the name for when some Vietnam Vets come rolling into town on their Harleys (all during Memorial Day weekend). My dad doesn't join them, though. He gave up his motorcycle when he married my mom. I think it is so touching to see these rough-looking guys standing at the Vietnam Memorial with tears streaming down their face.

Here is a DELICIOUS burger that has a middle that will surprise you just as that gum did and just how those rough-looking Harley guys do.

Surprise Burger

Serves 4

1 1/2 lbs ground beef
Kosher salt and ground pepper to taste

Season the meat with salt and pepper and divide it into 4 large, fairly thick patties (leaving some extra meat to cover the indentation). Make an indentation in the center of each patty about 1 1/2 inches in diameter; fill with 2 tablespoons of one of the fillings (you can have your guests choose and do it themselves, if you want). Cover the filling with meat. Grill over moderate heat for 8 minutes on each side or till desired doneness. Serve on good buns.


Mexican Filling

Serves 4

1 onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 serrano pepper, minced, seeds removed for less heat if desired
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
6 oz Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese, shredded

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a frying pan. Add onion, garlic and serrano pepper. Saute until tender about 8 minutes. Set aside to cool. Add the cilantro and cheese. Blend. Fill patty and grill as directed. We top with guacamole and blue chips, freshly sliced tomatoes and salsa. I have also left out the cheese in the inside and just added some to the top of the burger.

Italian Filling

Serves 4

3 T basil, finely chopped
3 T parmesean cheese, shredded
2 T sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1-2 T butter, softened

Combine all ingredients into a paste. Fill patty and grill as directed. Top with fresh tomatoes and lettuce.


Guacamole

2 Avocados, diced
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
1/2 onion, chopped (I have used just about every type of onion--so use your favorite)
1/2 serrano pepper, minced (seeds removed for less heat, if desired)
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
juice of 1 lime

Combine all the ingredients and blend gently.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Stuffed

This week has been stuffed. My 98 (99 in July) year-old grandfather fell last week, and after spending a night in the hospital and discovering that he has two fractured ribs, he is back at home with my 98 year-old grandmother (who has been taking care of him at home since a stroke in the summer of 95--she's amazing). This week I have been going to their home as soon as my schedule allows (after B's swimming, ballet/tap, Joy school--I even taught this week...) to give my grandma a break. My kids have been angels: they take a nap when we get there and then entertain themselves until we leave around 9:00pm (after arriving there around 12:30 or 2:30 depending on what day of the week it is). We then pick S. up from work and head home. Lets just say that my usually tidy home is looking a little sloppy. I have to admit, it has been nice to have an excuse to read. I was able to finish The Namesake in two days because I didn't have other things to distract me during naps (like cleaning the house, blogging) and I was able to just read as I sat next to my grandpa.

Here's a recipe for stuffed chicken to fit with my stuffed week. I love experimenting with stuffing chicken, pork, and beef. It steps the meal up a notch and it's not difficult at all.


Stuffed Spinach and Feta Chicken in Red Pepper Sauce
Serves 4

Sauce:
1/4 roasted red pepper
1/2 cup whipping cream
3 T walnuts (optional)

Place ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth and slightly thickened.

Chicken:

4 chicken breasts
1 cup spinach
1 roasted red pepper, thinly sliced
4 T Feta cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cut each chicken breast in half horizontally (or you can pound it under parchment paper till it is 1/2 inch thick. Cut in half and continue as directed). Place 3 leaves of spinach, 2 slices of red pepper, and 1 T feta on top of chicken and roll. Place a toothpick in chicken to secure. Repeat with each chicken breast.

Place in a foil-lined 9 x 13 inch pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until internal juices run clear.

Top with 1/2 the sauce and bake 3-5 minutes more. Remove toothpicks and serve with the rest of the sauce.

I have also used cream cheese instead of whipping cream and add a little milk to make it more of a liquid. I have served with rice, couscous, or fresh spinach.

My kids love this, and what a great way to have them eat those nutritious red peppers.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The new french fry


Sweet potato fries, originally uploaded by mud pie gourmet.

The only time I remember eating sweet potatoes growing up was at Thanksgiving. They were always covered with brown sugar and colored marshmallows. I always shoved them to the side on my plate. They were just way too sweet. A few years ago I discovered real sweet potatoes--in a pure form: Roasted, with a little kosher salt, pepper, and olive oil. Since then, I have explored these beta carotene-packed veggies and have used them to replace the average white potato in many of my meals. My kids still dip them in ketchup.

Sweet Potato Fries w/ Cumin
Serves 4

3 large sweet potatoes
3/4 tsp kosher salt
3/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
3/4 tsp cumin
3 T olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Scrub potatoes. Slice potatoes into french-fry sized strips, leaving skin on. Place on a roasting pan (or cookie sheet), sprinkle salt, pepper, cumin and olive oil. Using hands, toss until potatoes are coated. Roast for 45 minutes.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Seis de Mayo


Lime Cilantro Flank Steak, originally uploaded by mud pie gourmet.

Do you even know what Cinco de Mayo is about? We were in Mexico City on May 5th 2002 and it was just like May 6th and 7th... Why is it such a huge deal in the U.S.? Another reason to party. Here is a short history lesson: Cinco de Mayo commemorates the victory of the Mexican Militia in a battle in Puebla, 1862. It was only one small triumph. The date of Mexico's independence from Spain is September 16th. We were also in Mexico on September 16th. That was a real celebration--fireworks, food, and even a special grito de independencia (all taking place the evening of the 15th). So, teach your friends something new, and now you have another day to have a fiesta, September 15th.

Lime Cilantro Flank Steak

1 1/2 lb Flank Steak or London Broil
3 limes, juiced and sliced (about 1 cup of juice)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, chopped
2 tsp cumin
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 serrano pepper, seeded for less spice if desired

Mix all ingredients except for steak in a large ziplock bag (including lime peels). Place steak in bag and coat with marinade. Let marinate 3 hours to overnight, turning bag over one time.

Heat grill. Over high heat, sear both sides of steak. Turn heat to medium high, with lid down cook 10-15 minutes per side, or till desired redness. Remove meat and place in aluminum foil, wrap tightly and let meat rest for 10 minutes. Slice meat diagonally and serve.

Our menu:

Lime Cilantro Flank Steak
Beans and Rice with Cilantro and Tomatoes
Corn Pudding (Barefoot Contessa's recipe--yummy!)
Quesadillas
Guacamole and Chips
Fresh Fruit

Pavlovas for dessert with kiwis and strawberries for Mexican colors!

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Miniature size me


Banana Cream pie, originally uploaded by One of the many Mudricks.

Everything is cuter smaller. We just went to a farm to see some baby animals. Animals that normally would gross me out are actually cute when they are teeny. The piglets were adorable as all 9 of them slept on top of each other, the lambs ran around chasing each other like they were playing a game of tag, and the kid had a little "MAAAA" that made you want to hug him and squeeze him and stick him in your pocket.

Between the ages of 8 and 16 I remember spending my hard-earned money on candy. Why couldn't my parents stop me? There is a strange addiction to candy when you are young. Every time I got money I thought, "How am I going to get to the candy store?" One time I remember purchasing a package of "miniature candy." It had minature gummi bears, jaw breakers (I know, it kind of defeats the purpose), licorice, and even chocolate. I loved it. I thought, "This is SOOOO cute!" (As any 11-year-old would). Yes, it was a waste of money not just because it was candy, but the fact that it probably cost more than it would have to buy the candy in it's original size. But, it was little, and cute and I just HAD to have it.

Here is my Miniature Banana Cream pie. This will be the first of my "miniature" recipes. It tastes just a little better because it's your own pie that you can eat without feeling guilty about eating the whole thing and it's "cute." I also chose to not use a special tart pan so you wouldn't have to buy more kitchen things that you never use.

Miniature Banana Cream Pie

Crust:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 tablespoons sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 egg, lightly beaten
Pinch of baking powder
Pinch of salt
Pinch of ground nutmeg (optional)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

In a bowl, beat together the butter and sugar. Beat in the flour, egg, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and vanilla. Mix just until combined. Do not overmix. Divide the dough evenly and pat into 2 disks. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in freezer for 20 minutes (you can make ahead of time and put in fridge for 24 hours).

Roll 1 disk of dough out 1/8 inch thick on a well-floured surface (you will need to work quickly so the dough doesn't get too sticky to work with. If it does, just place it in the freezer for a little longer). Cut out five 4-inch pastry circles and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Prick all over with a fork. Refrigerate for 10 minutes. Repeat with remaining disk of dough.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake the pastry for 10 to 15 minutes, until dry and lightly colored. Do not overbake, or the pastry will become too brittle. Let cool on a rack (Can be made 2 days ahead of time. Store at room temp in an airtight container).

Custard:

1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 1/2 cups skim milk (or whatever milk you have on hand)
3 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons butter

Whisk sugar, cornstarch, and salt in heavy medium saucepan to blend. Gradually whisk in whipping cream and milk, then egg yolks and vanilla. Whisk over medium-high heat until custard thickens and boils, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in unsalted butter. Transfer custard to large bowl; cool completely, whisking occasionally, about 1 hour.

Caramel: (Easy)

For a harder, but tastier version go here

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup water

Place sugar and 1/2 cup of water in a small heavy saucepan. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Bring the syrup to a boil over high heat. Boil until the syrup turns a deep golden brown, about 8-10 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and slowly whisk in the cream, until smooth. Return to low heat and cook until thickened slightly, 3-4 minutes. Let the sauce cool to lukewarm before serving.

To Assemble:

Pastry
Custard
1-2 Bananas
Caramel
Whipping cream (whipped, with sugar added to taste)


Place 2-3 Tablespoons of the custard on the pastry. Slice banana diagonally and place on top of custard (about 4 slices). Put caramel in a piping bag, or a ziplock bag with a small hole cut on a corner. Drizzle caramel over the bananas and custard. Place a dollop of whipping cream on top of bananas and caramel. Serve immediately.