Friday, January 29, 2010

Day 1, Cake 1 of Martha's "33 Simple Cakes": Applesauce Cake

In case you missed the previous blog, I ran across this page on called "33 Simple Cakes". I had a flashback to when I watched "Julie & Julia" and thought, maybe I could make all 33 cake recipes and share the results. If it gets boring around cake number 15 or if anyone falls into a sugar coma and threatens to sue, I might not make it through them all, but I'm going to try. At the end I can at least say I have a "cake repetoire". I like that the cakes are all simple, non-fussy and easy to make. You don't have to be a major force in the kitchen to bake any of them, and most importantly: no cake decorating skills are required!

I'm actually going to make the cakes in the order they appear online, and I didn't skip ahead to see what they all are- I'm going to just surprise myself. The only reason I did check on the first five is so I could make an ingredient list for when I go grocery shopping, but I didn't read the whole recipes, just skimmed the ingredients for what I don't have.

The first cake on the list is an especially yummy one, it's Applesauce Cake.

I realize not everyone has apples just sitting around, but I happened to have 5 Gala apples, so I did make my own applesauce. I'm going to start with that recipe first, but you can skip over it if you just want to use store-bought applesauce.
I do have to recommend you make it yourself though; the main reason being that your house will smell delicious with the scent of simmering apples, cinnamon and sugar on the stove. Also, it's so tasty! After I made mine, I found myself wishing I had some french vanilla ice cream and caramel to make a sundae- Maybe next time...!

Starting off then, Basic Applesauce!

Basic Applesauce-Recipe courtesy of Everyday Food/Martha Stewart

Prep: 20 minutes Total: 45 minutes

Use it by itself or as an ingredient in other recipes.


Makes 4 cups.

* 3 pounds apples, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
* 1 cinnamon stick
* 2 to 4 tablespoons sugar
* 3/4 cup water
* 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice


1. Peel, core, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices 3 pounds apples (try a combination of Gala, Golden Delicious, and McIntosh). In a large saucepan, combine apples with 1 cinnamon stick, 2 to 4 tablespoons sugar, and 3/4 cup water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until apples are tender, 30 to 35 minutes. (If sauce begins to stick to the bottom of the pan, add 2 to 4 tablespoons more water.)
2. Remove from heat; discard cinnamon stick. Stir in 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice.

As always, here are my notes:
I used all Gala apples because that's all I had, and it came out great. I also cut the recipe in half. I only had 5 apples, and you only need 2 cups of applesauce for the cake, so it worked out perfectly. I let my applesauce simmer for about 45 minutes instead of 30-35, but I did also keep it on a very low simmer. When the apples were mushy enough, I used a wooden spoon to break them up and make it kind of chunky, but still saucy. I was really happy with the results. In looking through a few other online applesauce recipes, I saw one by the Neely's on and instead of using water in their recipe, they used Apple Cider. I thought that was a great idea. I might try it the next time I make it. But be sure to check the ingredients in your cider. You might have to adjust your applesauce recipe if your cider has added sugar in it. If you can get plain old cider with nothing else added, that would be ideal.
Below: my apples, cinnamon sticks-which I snapped in 1/2 for extra flavor- and the other ingredients in the pan ready to simmer.

My finished applesauce: YUM! It was really hard to not eat it. Maybe I should've made double what I needed for the the future I will. Well, I'll be sure to have enough apples. This whole thing today was kind of on a whim.

Now I could make the cake-quickly before the applesauce got eaten.

Applesauce Cake courtesy of Everyday Food/Martha Stewart

Prep: 25 minutes Total: 2 hours 30 minutes

If you decide to use store-bought applesauce, choose one with a chunky texture.


Serves 10.

* 3 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
* 2 teaspoons baking soda
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
* 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cardamom
* 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
* 2 cups packed light-brown sugar
* 1/4 cup honey
* 2 large eggs
* 2 cups Basic Applesauce, or store-bought chunky applesauce
* Nonstick cooking spray
* Confectioners' sugar, optional


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cardamom. Set aside.
2. In another bowl, with an electric mixer, beat butter, brown sugar, and honey until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined. With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture; beat just until combined. Beat in applesauce.
3. Generously coat a nonstick 9-inch tube pan with cooking spray. Spoon batter into pan; smooth top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean (but slightly wet), 50 to 60 minutes.
4. Cool on a wire rack 10 minutes. Turn out of pan onto a cutting board or baking sheet; invert cake onto rack, top side up. Cool completely. Dust with confectioners' sugar before serving, if desired.

This is a good picture to illustrate why you don't want the apple chunks too large. Mine were the perfect size. You want to mash the applesauce, but still keep it a bit chunky so when you cut the cake, you can see the apples here & there inside...soooo good! Think how good this would be with a scoop of ice cream!

On to my notes:
There are only a couple. I didn't have any cardamom, so I left it out. I love cinnamon, so I was happy as long as I had that. I also don't have a tube pan (yet!) so I used my bundt pan. Same thing, just "bumpier"!

The Delicious Result:

So Cake Number One is finished. I can't wait for the next one...come back to see what it is!
...unless you peeked at it from the link in my previous blog. If that's the case, don't tell anyone, and act surprised when you read the next blog.
Thanks for visiting and let's have some CAKE!

Julie had Julia, I have MARTHA!

I got an email from Martha Stewart (not a personal email from her, but I hope to someday!). It was the e-newsletter with the Valentine's Day crafts and such...but what caught my eye was the "33 Simple Cake" recipes link.
I had a "Julie & Julia" moment and thought, why don't I make ALL 33 of the cakes?

I owe our dry cleaner a baked gift-goody because he did me a favor today. I forgot to take in my boyfriend's suit that he needs for a really important meeting on Monday. OOPS. Big Oops actually. Ben (dry cleaner) is rushing the order and will have it for me on Sunday. He rocks.
It pays to make friends with your dry cleaner, and if possible, bribe him with promises of cake, cookies, or brownies!
Sunday when I go to pick up the suit, I must bring Ben a thank you gift.
I was going to take brownies but I think he will be the receipient of some of Cake Number One from the list of 33.

The first recipe (yes, I'm going in ORDER!) on Martha's "33 Simple Cake Recipes" is Applesauce Cake. PERFECT! I have some apples that are ripe and I need to use. Yes, I will be making homemade applesauce.
So I'm off to bake. Stay tuned for the recipe step by step, pics and most importantly results.

Hmmm...I hope Ben likes applesauce cake. I might have to take some brownies as back-up...but from his excited expression when I told him about my baking, I think he'd enjoy and eat just about anything I bring him.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Kitsch Cake 101: Black Velvet Cake!

I went grocery shopping several days ago and I bought what I thought was everything I needed for Red Velvet Cake. I knew I had a 4 color box of food coloring in my pantry. What I didn't know until I was too far into making the cake today was that the red was EMPTY.
Actually, it wasn't so much empty as it was dehydrated. It was unusable. I tried to think of what to do next. My creative juices flowing, I mentally blended the remaining colors in my head, trying every conceivable combination of green, yellow and blue. It wasn't pretty. Blue Velvet Cake? Hmmm...maybe good for Elvis Presley's birthday next year, but not so much what I wanted to make. Yellow? Well, that just looks like really bright basic yellow cake! Green? Let's NOT go there. First thought: Moldy Cake. Green beer on March 17th is as far as I'll go with that color. There was only one other color I happened to have, and is was Black.
I kind of smiled when I thought "Black Velvet Cake". It reminded me of all things kitschy, but mainly it was my cake tribute to the ubiquitous black velvet painting. I love black velvet paintings. They're so awful, you have to love them out of feeling sorry for how horrid they are.
So black it would be. I started to wish I did have red food coloring. The next time I do, I want to make a three layer cake with alternating layers of black and red cake. Very race car...very euro...very "Top Gear", which incidentally was the show I've been listening to in the background all day. By the way that's a show about fast cars, not something you'd associate with cake, but somehow my weird thought process connected the two in what I imagined was a very exciting way.
Now anytime you work with food coloring, you have to be careful. I wasn't as careful as I should've been and I ended up with black fingertips, a black tongue (I admit it, I'm a bowl-licker! I think I've admitted that in previous blogs...) and if you aren't cautious, black drops on your counter or floor. (I had both). So before you even think about it, either put down a drop cloth or really plan to take your time and do not get distracted! Also, don't have plans to go out anytime before your tongue has time to return to its normal color.

Here we go with the recipe then. It's from "Cakeman Raven" from the Cakeman Raven Confectionery, NYC and was on an episode of "Sara's Secrets".

Southern Red Velvet Cake

(my version: Kitschy Black Velvet Cake)

Shortening for the pans

(dry ingredients)
2 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1 1/2 C sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp fine salt
1 tsp cocoa powder

(wet ingredients)
1 1/2 C vegetable oil
1 C buttermilk at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 Tbsp. red food coloring (1 oz) Of course, I used black...
1 tsp. distilled white vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Cream Cheese Frosting, recipe follows
Crushed Pecans (optional, for garnish)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Lightly grease and flour three 9 by 1 and 1/2 inch round cake pans

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder. In another large bowl, whisk together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar and vanilla.

Using a stand mixer (Kitchen Aid) mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined and a smooth batter is formed.

Divide the cake batter evenly among the prepared cake pans. Place the pans in the oven evenly spaced apart. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through the cooking, until the cake pulls away from the side of the pans and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

Personal note: Do NOT rely on any old "cook til' golden" advice. If you use black food coloring, you won't see a change in color, but you'll notice the consistency is different once it's baked- it will look spongey. Same goes for if you make your cake the traditional red the toothpick test to be safe. Mine took just over 30 minutes, closer to 37.

Notice my cake layers aren't super black, but a nice rich dark color. It reminds me of dark chocolate brownies. All in all, I was pleased! But note how you can't tell if it's cooked through by the color at all, you have to do the poke test.

Remove the cakes from the oven and run a knife around the edges to loosen them from the sides of the pans. One at a time, invert the cakes onto a plate and then re-invert them onto a cooling rack, rounded-sides up. Let cool completely.

Another note: Don't skimp on the cooling time or frosting will be a nightmare. It will melt as you put it on, so trust me, be patient and let the cakes cool...a lot!

Here's what to do to keep you from messing with the cakes while they cool: make your cream cheese frosting.
Another thing about this cake, it's NOT for dieters! I watch what I eat and my weight constantly, but sometimes you just gotta' say: I DON'T CARE!
You could use fat-free cream cheese, but you still have to put 2 sticks of butter and 4 cups of confectioner's sugar in this frosting, so you know...why bother? Make it fattening, make it rich, then have a TINY slice (everything good in moderation is my mantra) then share it with friends & coworkers! They'll love you, you'll be every one's favorite and you won't feel guilty for eating a whole cake by yourself alone in your kitchen at 2am. Not that I'm speaking from personal experience or anything...

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 pound (16 oz. or 2 packages) of cream cheese, softened
2 sticks of butter (1 C.) softened (unsalted, of course)
4 C. sifted confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, (or use a large bowl with a hand-held electric mixer) mix the cream cheese, butter and sugar on low until incorporated. Increase speed to high, mixing until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. (stop occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula)

Personal Notes: Do NOT turn your mixer to high until ALL the sugar is incorporated or your kitchen will be covered in fine white confectioners sugar dust. Not fun to clean. Also, let it go on high for the full five minutes. You'll be amazed how the consistency changes and develops. It goes from heavy to light, fluffy and gorgeous. If you only do three Put it on high and walk away -come back only to scrape down the sides after a minute or two but be sure to give it the whole five. I went as high as "8" on my Kitchen Aid. The highest setting, 10, seemed excessive. I didn't want to liquefy it.

Reduce the speed of the mixer to low, add vanilla, raise speed to high and mix briefly until fluffy (scape sides again occasionally). Store in refrigerator until somewhat stiff before using. May be stored for up to 3 days in fridge.

Now I'm assuming you've been patient and let your frosting chill and cake layers cool, so lets move on to the fun part.

Frost the cake. Place 1 layer rounded-side down in the middle of a rotating cake stand.
My personal thought: Yes, because we ALL own one! Hey, here's my story- I don't own one. I just used a pretty platter/plate and spun the plate on the kitchen counter. No need to feel you have to be all fancy about it. I managed just find without the rotating cake stand, you will too.

One layer down, two to go.
Using a palette knife or offset spatula spread some of the cream cheese frosting over the top of the cake. Spread enough to make a 1/4 to 1/2 inch layer. Carefully set the next layer on top, rounded-side down, and repeat. Top with remaining layer and cover the entire cake with the remaining frosting. Garnish with chopped pecans if desired.

Last note: Since I didn't do a traditional Southern Red Velvet Cake, I didn't think my garnish should be traditional pecans. Again, I got creative and used what I had, which were some Valentine's-type little thingies.
My significant other asked (while he watched me sprinkle them on) "is it a Valentine's Day cake now?" I thought, well, it could be. I could call it the "My Black Heart" cake. Perfect for the non-romantic types! Romantic on the surface, black as night on the inside. I kinda' like it. It may become a Valentine's Day tradition!

So whether you want to call it a "Black Hearted" Cake, a Black Velvet Cake, or something you make up yourself, this whole experience today proves that even if you're out of a very important ingredient -for example red food coloring for a Red Velvet Cake, you can use a little ingenuity and imagination and come up with something equally fabulous! Have fun and enjoy the utterly devilish yumminess.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010



They just beat Bobby Flay in a Throwdown...GREAT episode- the Belgian Waffle episode obviously!
Watch it when it repeats- it will make you want to go to NYC to track down the yellow truck! I know I'm going to find them, as soon as possible.
Am planning a trip to NYC soon (I live 90 mins away) and I'm definitely going to get myself a liege waffle! Will report back, (with pics, of course!) Now I'm in the mood to learn to make REALLY good waffles...stay tuned!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

I bake for my dogs too. Are you REALLY that surprised?

For those of you who might read this who aren't familiar with my "pack", I should mention that I have an army of little four-legged furry children (and a couple not so furry!).
Several years ago, Tippytoes, one of my italian greyhounds, was diagnosed with a liver shunt. It's a long story so I won't go into it. It was surgically corrected and she's fine now- a total survivor- but I did have to home cook for her for many, many months. I also learned a lot about dog nutrition in that time, mostly out of necessity.
Let me say straight up front, this book helped me a lot:
"Better Food for Dogs"
Now I'm not going to get totally into the home cooking stuff here (for dogs, anyway!) but I may do a separate blog about it someday when I run out of things to say about people food. Don't hold your breath, that could be a long wait.
I would like to share a couple of recipes for homemade treats I've found that my dogs loved. To be honest, I have some picky dogs! They usually don't like most biscuit-type treats. Italian greyhounds and hairless dogs aren't exactly known for their stellar dental histories. That's a joke by the way. They often need cleanings every year or two, lose a lot of teeth, or in the case of hairless breeds like my chinese crested, Voodoo, they don't have all their teeth to begin with. That said, if I can make a biscuit they will actually EAT, I know it must be good. In fact, I ALWAYS taste the food, treats, cookies, or biscuits I make for them. It isn't gross or weird because it isn't dog food, it's people food...for dogs!
Without further delay, I give you a few recipes that were the biggest hits over the years with my dogs. Don't be afraid to taste them yourself. They might seem a little bland to you, but I've also found that it's a Murphy's Law that if your dog sees YOU eating something, that thing all the sudden becomes the most desirable thing in the world to them. Just a tip from me, the crazy dog mom, to you...don't tell the dogs I clued you into that secret. It's just between us.

Pavlov's Pumpkin Bread
recipe courtesy of 3 Dog Bakery

*personal note: great for a doggie birthday cake or for dogs without a lot of teeth!
This gets Cairo's (aka "The Apple Burglar") seal of approval!

Yield: 1 loaf of bread

1 Med. Egg
1 2/3 C whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 c. applesauce
1/2 c. honey
1 C. 100% natural pumpkin (*note* NOT mix! just pumpkin! The "pie mix" has added sugar, etc. that you don't want or need in this)
1/2 c. water

In a bowl, combine egg, flour, baking soda, cinnamon & nutmeg.
In a medium size mixing bowl, mix applesauce, honey, pumpkin and water.
Gradually add dry mixture to wet mixture, mixing together thoroughly.

Pour into a 14 x 8 inch bread pan. Bake at 350 degrees for approx. 50 minutes to 1 hour, until toothpick inserted comes out dry. Cool bread on a rack. Store in sealed container.

Optional: glaze with a small portion of honey and sprinkle with ground peanut crumbs. Peanuts are safe, other nuts...not so much! Use peanuts to be safe. Not a time to be adventurous with your ingredients.

Practice your pup's tricks and enjoy! Don't be afraid to taste it yourself- it's actually mighty good!

Cheese Multi-Grain Dog Biscuits

*personal note: these tend to be on the "Rich" side, so do NOT overfeed your dogs! In the course of my taste-testing with my pups, these got 'burped up' after too many. oops. Hey, I had to make sure I got the right reaction...but throwing them up was NOT it. Feed in MODERATION, trust me on this...

1 C uncooked oatmeal
1/4 C butter or bacon drippings (what smells like bacon?! bacon! bacon! bacon! I can't read!)
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 C hot water
1 C cornmeal
1/2 C powdered milk
1 C wheat germ
4 oz/1 C grated cheese (your choice. Cheddar is always a safe bet)
3 C whole wheat flour

In large bowl, pour hot water over oatmeal and butter or bacon drippings; let stand for 5 minutes.
Stir in powdered milk, grated cheese, egg.
Add cornmeal and wheat germ. Mix well.
Add flour, 1/3 C. at a time, mixing well after each addition.
Knead for 3-4 minutes, adding more flour if necessary to make a very stiff dough.
Pat or roll dough to 1/2 inch thickness.
Cut into shapes and place on a greased baking sheet.
Bake for 1 hour at 300 degrees.
Turn off heat and let dry in oven for 1 & 1/2 hours or longer.
Makes approx. 2 and 1/4 lbs. of cookies.
Store in airtight container.
*another note:
I refrigerated mine due to the cheese- better to be safe than sorry, and I didn't want them to mold. Mine seemed to last well for almost 2 weeks in the fridge. You could also freeze the dough in portions and take it out to make some as needed, but I haven't tried that yet. Will try it and report back!

Peanut Butter Puppy Poppers

recipe by Nicole Curran, owned by a pug in Delaware, found on Heartland Ranch site.

*yet another note: My dogs loved these, and I love that it's only four ingredients! Simple yet effective!
Again, you can o.d. your dog on any treat. Moderation is always key, especially with milk and peanut butter in these. Sounds good to us, but dogs can only handle so much!

2 C whole-wheat flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 C. peanut butter- chunky or smooth, your choice!
1 C. milk

Preheat over to 375 degrees
In a bowl, combine flour and baking powder.
In another bowl, mix peanut butter and milk. (tougher than it sounds, be patient)
Then add dry ingredients and mix well. (I use a wooden mixing spoon)
Place dough on a lightly floured work surface and knead. Roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness and use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes.
Bake for 20 minutes on a greased baking sheet until lightly brown.
*note (again!) CAUTION: they can burn easily, so be sure to keep an eye on them. I recommend setting the time for ten minutes and checking every couple minutes from then on...
Cool on a rack and store in an airtight container.

BONE appetit, les chiens!

Oh no...Chocolate Craving!

I LOVE "Hobby Farm Home" Magazine. Do I have a farm? No.
It doesn't matter. They have some of the best articles and wonderful recipes. I finally bought some unsweetened cocoa last weekend, and thank goodness I did. I'm having a chocolate craving today...
In the most recent HFH (Jan/Feb 2010) they have this great recipe for "Homemade Cookie & Brownie Mix". I WAS going to make the mix to have on hand for when I want brownies.
The flaw in that plan: I ALWAYS WANT BROWNIES!

One of my favorite things about this current issue of HFH is that they had "make more of your own food" in one of the articles about the new year. This magazine is right on target with what I'm doing; making more of my own foods not only because they taste better and I have control of what goes in them, but also it helps reduce household trash and in general helps reduce my carbon footprint.
More on that later, but now, BROWNIES!

According to HFH, a "typical package at the store (brownie/cookie mix) which yields about a dozen brownies, costs about $2.80. The following mix costs about $2.06 and makes enough for TWO batches of one dozen brownies or six dozen cookies". (caps added by me. More brownies, less money- awesome!)*

2 C. Sugar
1 C. Flour
3/4 C. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1 C. Solid Vegetable Shortening

Place dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
Personal Note: You could probably also use a food processor, but I did it "old school" and used butter knives. Good arm workout too! You'll probably have to switch hands while you're doing it- mine started cramping, but I told myself that I need that arm workout to firm up my muscles since there will be a new layer of fat on them after eating all the brownies.

Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Ok, yeah...right...
I didn't even get to the "storing" part. (cut to me blushing)
In fact, I just moved on to part 2, the actual brownie recipe, and doubled it- I made the whole batch of mix. Bad, bad, bad! But good! Hey, I deserve it! (or so I tell myself)

Here is the brownie recipe for those, like me, who have NO self-control (and aren't afraid to admit it)


2 1/4 C of the homemade brownie mix, well-packed
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla **see my note after recipoe
1/2 C. choppped nuts (optional)

Mix first three ingredients to form smooth batter, add nuts if desired. Spread in greased 9 inch square pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted off center comes out clean.
Makes 1 dozen.

...unless you're me and you are using a huge pan and dumping the whole darn bowl of mix into it.
Come on, really? Who can store half of it? I dare ya', try it. I guarantee that if you DO manage to use 1/2 the mix and store the other half, you'll be making that other 1/2 the next day, or at the very least, within a few days.

Since I used my whole batch of mix on brownies (oops...) I don't have any to try the cookie recipe that goes with the mix. Here it is in case any of you make it past the brownie stage of the thing.

2 1/4 C homemade cookie mix
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 C. water
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. Vanilla
3/4 C. Flour
18 walnuts or pecans, halved (optional)

Combine ingredients. Drop spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart. If desired, place half a walnut or pecan in the center of each.
Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes.
Makes 3 dozen.

What I especially love about these recipes is that if you can make the mix and fight off the urge to make ALL brownies with it, you get a dozen brownies AND 3 dozen cookies out of it. Variety is the spice of life, but today is a brownie kind of day.

I'm off to lick brownie batter out of a giant bowl, and I'm not too shy to admit it.

Happy baking, chocoholics!

*source, Hobby Farm Home January/February 2010, pg. 16

**Note on Vanilla: I make my own and have been for years. I can't remember the last time I bought it at a grocery store. It's a very simple recipe. Acually I can't even call it a recipe. You hardly have to do anything, but you get the most amazing vanilla ever. Keep in mind, it doesn't happen overnight. I let my vanilla "brew", steep, what have you, for at least 6-8 weeks. So if you want to make your own vanilla, you have to plan ahead. When you start using it, if you want to keep using homemade vanilla, you also have to start brewing the next batch before you run out of your current one. Just a couple things you need to remember but that are super important if you're serious about not buying it (like I am). I do NOT add any sweetener to the recipe as mentioned in the recipe. I don't like to mess with the sugar contents in my recipes, even just a little bit with the vanilla. I like it to be as pure as possible, also I prefer it darker, that's why I let it age for almost two months. Again, as Alton Brown says "your rewarded!"
Try it. Once you do, I bet you won't want to buy it at the grocery anymore! Plus, you have an excuse to keep a big bottle of vodka in your house. It's also good for those Sunday Brunch mimosas-but be sure to save some for your vanilla!
If anyone is curious about the savings of making vanilla yourself, in my experience it does save you a lot of money. I've made ONE bottle (large bottle) and it's lasted over a year and a half. I find I can also use less of it in recipes because mine is so strong. When you let it go for 8 weeks and see how concentrated the vanilla flavor can become, you'll also realize how WEAK the grocery store brands are. I've found I use 1/2 the amount of my vanilla compared to store-bought varieties.
Give it a try. It's yummy.
Here's a good site to help you make it:
Vanilla Extract Recipe

Monday, January 11, 2010

I have some catching up to do...without further delay: The Snickerdoodle Bundt Cake story!

Awhile back I made this Snickerdoodle Bundt Cake.
Being a huge snickerdoodle cookie fan, I had to try it. It's another one of those "why didn't I think of that" recipes. Cinnamon is my all-time favorite spice. I put it in my coffee, I love the smell, the taste, even the color. Cinnamon in cake form: delicious!
By the way, I love the Busty Baker's Blog by the way, check it out. She has so many great recipes! I'm dying to try the raspberry lemonade cupcakes...but again, as always, I digress.
Because I'm on this kick of trying to cut out processed food, sodas, sugar (except when necessary: i.e. in a snickerdoodle bundt cake!) and other fattening things, I decided I'd try splitting the sour cream in the recipe with 1/2 sour cream and 1/2 yogurt. I know, not a big change, but mentally, I told myself the addition of 1/2 cup of yogurt somehow made this "healthier". Yeah, I know, who am I kidding? Still...
I'm sure it didn't help that the recipe said "full fat sour cream" and I used fat free.
I thought to myself, "what's the worst that could happen?" Everywhere I researched online, yogurt was an acceptable substitute for sour cream. I even used Vanilla yogurt so it had more flavor.
Long story short, everything seemed to work out great in the recipe until I heard my oven timer beep. Sixty minutes into the baking, it looked good (at first glance) and I removed it from the oven. I turned OFF the oven. I then took a closer look.
What I had was a nice outside crust, but the inside was, well, for lack of a better description, I called it snickerdoodle pudding.
But I don't give up that easily. I wasn't about to waste all the cinnamon-sugar goodness in that pan. I figured I could save it.
I turned the oven back on as fast as I could get to it, same temperature, 325 degrees.
I popped the cake back in and set the timer for another fifteen minutes. I crossed my fingers after that time and peeked at it. I grabbed my knife and stuck it in to see if it'd come out clean. Still pudding-ish. Ack. I didn't want to burn the crust on the outside, that was my main concern...I set the timer for yet another fifteen minutes. That was just about right. After an extra half hour of baking, it seemed to be a nice solid cake. I took it out, let it cool and left it alone. I didn't want to anger it at that point! Once it was cool I inverted it onto a plate and cut a slice. It was PERFECT! It was so incredibly moist, I couldn't believe it. So in the end, my weird changes were a bit scary, but I worked through them and ended up with an amazing cake.

The cinnamon-sugary goodness of the crust on the outside of the cake:
See, isn't that worth experimenting?

Try the recipe...but if you do try any subsitutions, be prepared. You might have to also make adjustments. I'm lucky, mine turned out great, but I chalk it up to patience, perservance and definitely luck, not skill. What can I say? Once a cake is in a pan, I say, never give up, never surrender! Take no prisoners! Nothing is going to ruin my cake!
Baking isn't for the faint of heart. Take a leap and enjoy!

les baguettes...or, in defense of homemade bread products

Yesterday was the second time I made homemade baguettes...
the first time they came out wonderfully, but yesterday-well, there's a fun little anecdotal story that goes with that.
Rewind to Saturday afternoon when Pinky & I were grocery shopping. He said "I need to get hot dog buns" and of course, I couldn't help doing my "eye roll" at him, saying "I can make those, you know!". What followed was a short debate on the merits of baking these types of things at home versus buying them at a grocery store. His argument was "how much is your time worth?". Yes, baking bread yourself takes time, but the actual work involved is only about 15-20 minutes TOPS. Most of the time you are letting the dough rise and you can go off and do other things. He still doesn't totally agree, but no worries, I'll win him over.

Let me say these things about crafting bread products yourself (in my defense, of course and so I don't seem like a crazy person with nothing but free time on my hands, both of which are not true. Well the first part is a little true, but I digress.)
1. making bread makes me happy. I love seeing the miracle of yeast, flour, sugar and water combining to grow, change and make something I could never make. As I told Pinky, the yeast is doing MOST of the work!
2. the whole house smells like a bakery- that amazing smell that you can't bottle and that NO can of spray, candle, incense, or febreze-type product can ever top. Who doesn't love their house smelling like freshly baked bread?
3. the taste. That's it. The taste. Top it with grocery purchased bread. I challenge you. There is NO comparison.
4. In my bread there are no "mold releasers", dough conditioners, preservatives, hfcs (high fructose corn syrup) or anything else that, as I told Pinky, "don't belong in bread". Get your loaf of grocery bread (from the big companies, like Wonder bread). How many ingredients are there? There are at least twice as many as there are in my homemade recipe for baguettes. That's all I'm saying. If you don't NEED it nutritionally or to make a yummy food item, why is it in there? Why? Because it's PROCESSED, and processed=bad. Fast forward to a big plus in my column of the argument when we got home and I pointed out to Pinky that both the white bread we got and the buns had high fructose corn syrup as the third ingredient. Yes, you need sugar for the yeast, but I'd much rather use real sugar or sugar in the raw than HFCS. He had to agree with that. (picture of me smiling, somewhat victoriously).

Yes, I could go on and on about the merits of homemade bread, but lets just get to the recipe, shall we? Also I'm sure you're dying to hear how the story ends; how Julia Child and one bite of my baguette helped win the argument for me. Well, in my opinion I won...

I started out a couple weeks ago with a recipe I found for "Baked Baguettes" on It's a Tyler Florence recipe, so I guessed it might be pretty decent and a good "basic" recipe I could play with. Here's the single best tip I've learned from using's recipes:
READ THE COMMENTS! Seriously, people have made it before you and failed. You can skip their "Fails" by reading their posts and using their advice to your advantage! I've done it on several occasions. It can turn a good basic recipe on the site into something wonderful and you don't have to make it several times to try to get it right. I found the posts on the baguettes recipe extremely helpful. Read em', use em', don't have your recipe fail. This is especially important when you're making homemade bread and are investing practically a whole day into it. It's so sad when you do that and what you made turns out inedible. I know, I've had it happen. It makes you never want to try it again, because at that point you do feel it isn't worth all that effort to have it turn out so poorly.

So the first time I made the baguettes, they turned out great (I thought). That was until I changed even more things and turned them from great to outstanding.
Here's what I did, and it's simple. Rise, rise, rise!
From the beginning, lets go through the recipe though so you know what I changed and where.


* 1 package active dry yeast
* 1 teaspoon sugar
* 1 1/2 cups warm water
* 2 teaspoons salt
* 3 1/2 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
* Cornmeal, for dusting
* Milk, for brushing
No changes in any of this!


In the bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the yeast, sugar, and warm water; stir to blend. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
I let mine sit longer, almost ten just seemed to really give the yeast time to get a jump start before I added the flour. I'm no pro bread-baker, but I'm guessing this made a difference. Eh, can't hurt, right?

Stir in the salt. Add the flour, a little at a time, mixing at the lowest speed until most of the flour has been incorporated and the dough forms a ball. Continue to mix at the lowest speed until the dough has become a sticky ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl; about 4 to 5 minutes.

Dust the counter lightly with flour. Knead the dough by hand for a minute and form into a ball. Transfer the dough to a bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let it sit in a warm spot for 2 hours to rise. Only change here is I put olive oil in the bowl to prevent mega-sticking. Not a lot, just to lightly coat.

Here's my big change:
I let my dough rise almost 3 and 1/2 hours. Hey, I got things to do! I also covered my bowl with a lid (my bread rising bowl is lidded, kind of nice) and I put a clean towel over that.
Side note: Julia Child said that you can slow down rising but you can NEVER EVER SPEED IT UP! Don't try! Do NOT try to make it warmer, that doesn't help. The yeast needs time, not warmth. The ideal rising temperature for rising is actually 70-72 degrees according to Chef Child. Low humidity/dryness of the air is important to and if you are dealing with humidity, that's something else you have to take into consideration. I kept wondering why, since I moved here, my breads are turning out so well. I now know: we keep our house about 72 degrees year-round, we have very low humidity here (in our house, but also in this part of the country. It's much less humid than Michigan was), and most importantly, I'm always leaving my dough, meaning, I tuck it in and put it down for a nice nap so the yeast can do its thing, and often I almost kind of forget about it! THAT'S why it's so good!
So add an hour to the rise, especially if it's cooler than 70 degrees in your kitchen. If it is, you'll need the extra time, well, in reality the yeast needs the extra time...and if it isn't that cool, you'll just get an extra boost of goodness from that extra rise time. You often read that your dough should double in size. Mine TRIPLES, and that's the way uh huh, uh huh...I like it! (nod to the 80's!)

Big Change #2: (you're all gonna kill me for this one!) I "deflate" the dough. I kind of knead it just a bit in the bowl, usually no flour required because of the oil. Fold it over a few times, turn, fold, gently! Make it into a nice little ball again and -as I interject-please don't kill me- cover and let it rise AGAIN, another hour and a half to two hours. I let mine rise two more hours.
I found that yesterday, this SECOND rise of the unformed dough made a HUGE difference. By the end of it, I had these huge bubbles in it (which you pop actually) and Pinky exclaimed "It's alllliiiive!!!!" I was all giggly and we laughed about my giant dough bubbles. It was awesome! THAT'S what makes all those swiss-cheese like pockets of airy goodness in the finished bread. (again, according to Miss Julia).

Next, "Deflate" the dough gently. Pop any big, obvious bubbles. Julia Child (in her french bread recipe) says to pop all the air bubbles. I didn't, and mine turned out great. I only popped the huge ones on the top and I didn't obsess over the smaller ones.
Now back to the "actual" recipe...
To form the baguettes: Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces.
My Change: I do TWO. If you do four, they'll be TINY. I've formed two loaves the past two times I've made this and was thoroughly pleased. Four=too small unless you want individual loaf servings for 4 dinner guests. That's cute actually, a little baby loaf for each person...hey, it's an idea anyway...but trust me, make it 2 loaves.
Press each piece of dough into a rectangle and fold the long sides up into the middle. Roll each into a log, taking care to close the seam. Taper the ends by gently rolling it back and forth. Lay the baguettes on a sheet pan that is dusted with cornmeal and cover with a towel. Let the baguettes rise for another 2 hours.

My Changes here: I normally use a pizza stone to bake my bread on, but I used a pan specifically for baguettes yesterday for the first time and I liked that too. I found the stone gave a crispier crust. But if you are serving senior citizens or don't want to have to gnaw through a tough crust, use a pan. I still recommend a baguette pan, but I also say, use what you have no matter what. Don't let not having a certain pan keep you from trying something. If you enjoy it, you can always invest in the pan later! That's what I did. I had the pizza stone, I used that. I loved the baguettes, I knew I'd be making them often (weekly, really), so I invested in a baguette pan. Mine was $10 at the kitchen supply store, and it worked great, so you don't have to spend a lot of money either! Here's my pan that my wonderful best friend Jamie bought me when he visited over the holidays. Ok, so I lied, I didn't spend $10 on the pan, he did. Thanks, Jamie!

Other than that, because I did a second rise before forming the loaves, I let my formed dough rise only an hour instead of two. See? You can forgive me a little bit for that second rise...I just shaved off an hour here.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

With sharp knife, make 4 or 5 diagonal slashes across the top of each loaf. Brush the tops of the loaves with milk. Bake for 40 minutes, until the bread is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Note here: when you do the slashes, try NOT to "pull" the dough. You need a really sharp knife, or as Julia recommends, a RAZOR BLADE. What a GREAT idea! Why didn't I think of that? Oh, wait, I know, because I'm not Julia Child! Another important thing that I learned from her chapter on French Bread, one of those things no one tells you (but Julia), when you make slashes, you shouldn't be cutting INTO the bread. How to explain...she says "these are done with a blade that cuts almost horizontally into the dough to a depth of less than a half an inch. Start the cut at the middle of the blade, drawing toward you in a swift, clean sweep...remember that the blade should lie almost parallel to the surface of the dough".* Wow. No one EVER told me that in any recipe! Did you know? I didn't! PARALLEL to the surface of the dough. Huh. I always made cuts more vertically into it. Not way into it, but I wasn't as careful or artful as Julia said to be...and my bread came out so much nicer for doing it her way.

Last but most importantly after all that work, keep an eye on your baking time, 40 minutes might be too much. You just want the crust to be a nice, golden brown.

Well, there it is, and here's the end of the story. Last night, around ten p.m. my baguettes were finally done. Pinky was already in bed. I cut a nice end off one of the baguettes, put a little butter on it, took a bite and closed my eyes, my body almost melting into the floor. The taste, the texture, everything, it was beyond amazing. All the bread I bragged about in the past didn't even compare. I'm sure it's that second rise that really did it...
so I immediately ran into the bedroom with my piece of bread with only one bite missing out of it and shoved it at Pinky. I said "THAT'S why it's worth it!" and let him taste it. After a couple "mmhmmmmm's" he nodded. I said again "Tell me that's NOT worth making it yourself, that taste! You can't buy it!" I still think he wants to argue about it because of the time factor, but at least for this battle, the taste won. The war is still on...


*From "Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume Two" by Julia Child and Simone Beck, Chapter 2, page 66

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The 8 Hour Meal, or Tempis Fugit

Hello again! I'm so happy I pre-empted this post by discussing the Slow Food Movement and sharing the linked story yesterday. If I hadn't, I worry that anyone reading this might be concerned for my sanity...
Now if you haven't seen yesterday's blog post, please read it, especially the link to "Why I Go Slow". I will admit it freely right now, if you read that, it saves me a lot of explaining and typing. I agree with it completely and it perfectly sums up how I feel about my cooking and baking. It also proves I'm not the only crazy person on the planet.
I do think that even if most people can't "do" Slow Food, they can at least appreciate it. Believe me, I'm not trying to "Convert" anyone. I completely understand that most people don't have the time or maybe the energy to try to live a Slow Food lifestyle. It also helps that I live in an area where fresh, farm-raised meat, dairy, fruits and vegetables are so readily available. We even have several local wineries. Eating locally is NOT a challenge here, it's easy and actually fun. I also admit, if I was still in Detroit, there's no way I'd be doing this! We just do not have the access to the same foods I have here in N.E. Pennsylvania. It's sad in a way. These kinds of ingredients should be available to everyone, everywhere.
It's times like this I wish I could let everyone I know taste the food I make. As they say, the proof is in the pudding (or pork in this case). Or is it "the secret's in the sauce"?, wrong movie...
let's stop joking around and get on with the menu, shall we?

A little background on how I decided to make what I did:
Back in November (2009) I bought a half a pig and half a cow from a local farmer. (that's the short version of the story) Well, you don't get only the meat you normally use, you get all different cuts. I had this very large roast labelled "Pork Picnic Roast". I've always thought I had a quite thorough knowledge of food terminology, but I had never heard of a Picnic Roast. I love searching for recipes so I thought, "this will be fun, I can cook something new and probably wouldn't have thought of making."
I went on my one of my old stand-by sites to search recipes, and found a couple pages of possibilities. The first one listed was "Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Homemade BBQ sauce" That recipe had the added bonus of great leftover ideas like pulled pork bbq pizza and Chinese Bo Buns (one of my favorites, and yes I have a recipe)
So...without further delay, here we go.
My roasting pan, very seldom used, comes out for the occasion.
This is my lovely pork picnic roast.
If it looks better than what you normally see at the grocery store, IS. This meat came from a happy piggy who until last fall was living on a farm less than an hour from my house!
Wow, when I put it that way I kind of feel bad eating/cooking this...I should mention I'm not a big "meat" person. I've flip-flopped with being vegetarian through my whole life. Now my approach is that I will eat meat now and then, but only hormone/antibiotic/cruelty-free, locally raised meat (whenever possible,which is almost always luckily). That's kind of the moral agreement I've made with myself. It may sound silly, but when I use the meat from the big meat order we got (the 1/2 pig & cow) I always think of them and give thanks for them providing us with the meal. Kind of my little "Native American" style appreciation of the animal that has given its life so we can eat. (this is where I picture my male friends who enjoy big nasty drive-thru burgers laughing at me, but no matter!)
My roast, post-spice rub. I added chili powder to mine and wasn't overly concerned with measuring. I just did what smelled/looked good. (the best way to cook!) And. after covering it with foil, into the oven it goes for 6 *yes six* hours (at 300 degrees). The foil only stays on for the first 4 hours by the way. I know it's tough, but resist the urge to peek.

So...(whistling...) what DO you do with that 6 hours?

Well, I decided to try something else new and make my own burger/sandwich buns to go with the pulled pork. I weeded through several recipes and found this one: Hamburger or Sandwich Buns Once you get the dough mixed and kneaded, happily tucked into a buttered bowl, it has to rise for two hours (first rise) so you still will have a lot of time to do other things. This is when I started the homemade BBQ sauce. I wanted the flavors to really blend so I made it and kept it on a very low simmer, stirring every time I walked by the stovetop, just to really make it come together. Also, the cider vinegar smell really needs to cook out of it, and I found the longer I simmered it, the more that mellowed the smell and taste of the vinegar. I didn't want to cut it out of the recipe, so I came up with the extra-long simmering method. It worked great!
This is my bread after about 2 hours. Nicely risen! That's some happy, happy yeast in there!

The sauce, bubbling away, about 10 or so minutes into cooking. You can see how red it is, compared to how it will look after simmering for a few hours.

After letting the dough for the buns rise for 2 hours, then get punched down, then rise again, I formed the buns. THIS PART IS TRICKY if you read the wording in the recipe I posted the link to. I was so utterly confused, but I did what it said and it was amazing how natural it felt, it was like I always knew how to make buns out of kind of surprised me. Maybe it just sunk in after 30-some odd years of watching cooking shows. Let me just say this, it might seem really confusing in the wording of the recipe, but once you start playing with the dough it all makes sense. I am going to make the buns again and have my significant other take pictures while I form the buns (maybe even videotape it). Looking back, I wish I would've had him do that last night, but he was in bed, having given up on ever getting dinner after waiting for about 7 hours...Still, until I do get pictures or videos of that process posted, feel free to email or contact me if you need tips on that particular point.
Here are my nicely formed buns (heehee)

Notice that I don't bake my buns-or any of my homemade bread- on baking sheets or in pans. I've found that my pizza stone gives the best results. It heats well and evenly and nothing ever sticks to it. Every bread or bun or roll I've made on it turns out perfectly, with a perfect crust. If you don't have one, invest in one. It's one thing in my kitchen I couldn't live without. I've been challenged by mine being round, so I'm investing in this one soon: Rectangular Pizza Stone

Fast forwarding again, let's pretend it's been six hours (feels like it from my point of view typing this...) and the roast is done and ready to come out of the oven. (note: this is when you reset the temp and pop your buns in!)Isn't it amazing? This is what six hours of low heat turns a Picnic Roast into: a work of art! The next step is actually really fun. Once the Roast has cooled enough to handle, you "pull" it with two forks. You could use one fork and your hand, or two hands and no fork, but I had the best results with the two fork method. Tip: do NOT use a knife, even though it's tempting. This isn't meat that's meant to be cut, it's meant to be shredded & pulled. I tried a knife at a couple points and it definitely took not only the fun out of it but also the whole spirit of the dish. It just didn't seem to give the meat as much character. I was actually surprised at how much meat there really was once it was all shredded. I looked forward to the Pulled Pork Sandwiches, but after all the meat was pulled apart, it made me want to make the BBQ pizza and later on after dinner, I did go into my old recipe files and found my Bo Bun recipe. I will probably make one or both over the next couple days. I'm guessing the shredded meat would freeze quite well if you properly store it in the freezer. I don't think I will have to worry about that. I'm sure mine will get eaten before I have a chance to freeze it!
By the time you finish pulling the roast apart, your rolls should just be coming out of the oven. Brush em' with butter, cool a bit, slice and you have your dinner.
I did also make a side dish, Double Baked Horseradish Potatoes.
They came out wonderfully, but I didn't get pictures. Trust me, they were delicious but potatoes aren't exactly the most photogenic things! Still, that recipe is amazing. It's simple but so good. I didn't have cream so I just used milk and I skipped the chives and caviar, and they were still incredible. Be sure to use very good quality, very fresh horseradish. The flavor of the horseradish you put in the potatoes is everything because otherwise, it's a bit bland. When you have a one note flavor like that, the one note has to be "the best".

Now it's time to answer the eternal question: was it all worth it?
The short answer is absolutely! The thing is, this wasn't WORK, it was fun. It was "playing" in the kitchen. If you approach making dinner like it's work, then of course you won't enjoy it and you definitely won't want it to drag out all day.
But when you are having fun and experimenting, time flies. I was literally in my kitchen all day, for about 9 hours total, but it never felt like it! There was nowhere else I would've rather been in all that time while I was cooking and baking.

Some of you are probably wondering about now (my facebook friends!) "where's the Snickerdoodle Bundt Cake?!" Well...THAT you have to wait for. It was so special that I think it deserves its own special blog, as well as a little review of the wonderful blog it came from.
So enjoy this very slow dinner and dessert is on its way soon. In the immortal words of Alton Brown, (King of overcomplicated recipes, but I love him!), "your patience will be rewarded!"

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Slow Food Thoughts...

As I sit here waiting for my hamburger bun dough to rise (2 hours for the first rise, then 2 more rises after it), my locally raised hormone & antibiotic-free, grass-fed picnic roast to cook (6 hours total), I plan my next creation, the homemade BBQ sauce.
All of this work for a dinner of pulled pork sandwiches that I'm sure we'll love. However, I bet someone out there is thinking "what a huge waste of time! You could buy pre-made pork with Jack Daniels BBQ sauce & burger buns at the grocery store for probably less than $7, microwave it and be done!"
So why do it the "slow" way?
Well, it's hard to explain, but as I was here in my kitchen with my laptop (a.k.a. the cookbook where most of my recipes are stored), I started reading more about the Slow Food Movement. I am familiar with what it is but I really didn't know much about who invented it or any of the movement's history.
I first found it on wikipedia, but then found the "Slow Foods USA" website, which led me to a blog that I completely fell in love with and something I'd like to share here: "Why I Go Slow"
When people ask me why I put all this time and effort into my cooking and baking, I think I will always direct them to that blog post. The author, Jerusha, explains it so much better than I ever could. Have a read, enjoy, and definitely think about what you're eating, where it comes from and why you are buying it if you can make it.
Now I realize some people HATE cooking, and they won't understand the passion some of us feel for what we do in our kitchens, but if it even inspires a bit of pause, a few thoughts before someone grabs that fast food combo meal, that's at least one step...
To live the Slow Food lifestyle definitely takes a lot of time and commitment, but for me it's worth the investment. I love taking the time to really focus on what's going into my food, and consequently my body. Plus, I just plain enjoy the process. I love being able to cook or bake something, take pride in it and while I'm eating it think, "I created this when most people would just buy it pre-made. I created something wonderful that is making us happy right now". Most people just EAT mechanically because we have to. I think from now on, as often as possible I am going to eat because I want to enjoy food...big difference.

So how did I change? Honestly, at first it was money. I hate grocery shopping. I hate paying for ANYthing that I know I can probably make myself. That turned into a lot of fun with "hmm. maybe instead of BUYING bread I can just make it!"
Also, I read "The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan. The information he provided about HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) and how much corn we ingest created in me a person who started reading every label at the store, seeking out the "hidden" HFCS.
That was how I decided to start making my own dressings, sauces,'s amazing and frightening how much "Stuff" is in food that doesn't really need to be there. If you make many items yourself, you don't need all those additives and preservatives, none of which is good for you anyway! Well, that's how I began to look at it. Once I started making my own breads, sauces, dips, cakes, crackers and other things I couldn't believe how much better they also tasted. Plus, I love 'customizing'. I made my own version of Sloppy Joe sauce that was phenomenal. My "official taster" (Pinky) told me to just give him the bowl and a spoon and "cut out the middle man" (the bun & meat) To me, that's true success! I love playing with ingredients, experimenting. Since I love to paint, I can really see the connection in the way creativity comes through in both disciplines. "A pinch of this, a teaspoon of that" is similar to adding different light and shadows in a painting, blending colors...
And on that colorful note, I leave you for now. I'll be updating later tonight or tomorrow (depending on how full I am from dinner tonight!) with my recipes for the hamburger buns, pulled pork and BBQ sauce along with many yummy, drool-causing photos.
Til' then, think before you eat...

Friday, January 1, 2010


I was just posting on facebook that I have to work tomorrow, but I can't wait to get home to my kitchen, a.k.a my happy place.
It gave me the idea to start this blog about my baking & cooking. It seems like most of my posts on facebook are about recipes I'm trying, tips that I discovered while making them and many substitutions. Sometimes my substitutions are quite creative. Usually at least one or two people will ask me to post the recipes. Instead of having them all over my profile on facebook, I thought this would be a much better way for people to find all my recipes in one place. I have friends ask me for recipes for things I made over a year ago actually...I am going to add my 'classics' that are often requested by friends and family. I also want to document and preserve my mother's old Polish recipes now that she's older and doesn't really cook like she used to.
I know many people reading this will understand what I mean by my kitchen being my happy place, so I won't go into any detailed explanation. It's quite self-explanatory.
Some people might consider the kitchen their misery place in fact, and I hope I can help them get past that and actually learn to enjoy cooking or baking when they realize they can achieve success without cooking lessons or even any innate gifts in that "department". Luckily for me, I come from a family of Polish grandmothers & mom who I learned so much from. Most of my earliest memories of my dad's mom were of her in her kitchen. She was usually mumbling something in Polish, but that's another story...
Anyway, welcome to my happy place- I hope some of my recipes I've discovered (some are my own originals, or my family's) help you enjoy your kitchen and being in it as much as I do with mine. Thanks for visiting!