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Friday, April 26, 2013

Cream Cheese Celebration Cake

Long ago there was a little cake shop in my neighborhood that made delicious bundt-style cakes, covered them all with thick cream cheese frosting and stuck ribbons and bows in the center.  They were absolutely delicious!    They were very festive. They were also pricey.  Some occasions were worth it.

A friend was celebrating a birthday recently, and I wanted to surprise her with something special.  So I pulled out my bundt pan and made a red velvet cake from scratch.  The jury is still out on the recipe, but you can make any flavor of cake you wish, simply bake it in a bundt pan which will take up to an hour.  Cool the cake completely.

Make the frosting.
1 package cream cheese, softened
1/4 C butter, softened
1 lb. powdered sugar
1 tsp. clear vanilla or regular will do

Beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Add the sugar and vanilla.
Drizzle heavily over the cake.  You can serve it just like that, or add some decorations.

A big bow from the Dollar Store.  A fun sign you make and attach to a straw to poke into the cake.  I used my Cricut to make the Happy Birthday words and the hibiscus flower.  So many options!  So many flavor possiblities and most taste great with cream cheese!

Disappearing Swiss Steak

I actually wasn't sure how much my family liked this recipe, so I followed the directions.  Big mistake.  We may have run out or maybe it made just enough for the five of us who ate dinner together that night.  Lesson learned:  I will make much more next time!  Hence, the  adjective "disappearing."  It was all gone.  No leftovers from this meal!

2 lbs. round steak or other cut of beef, sliced into serving-size portions
1/4 C flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper


1 onion sliced thinly
6-8 sliced mushrooms
2 C water
2 T Worcestershire sauce

Rinse meat.  Mix together flour, salt and pepper.  Dredge meat in this mixture and place in a heated frying pan greased with oil.  Brown on both sides.  Place in a Dutch oven and layer with onions and mushrooms.  Mix water and W. sauce together and pour over the meat.  Cover and bake for 2 -2 1/2 hours at 325-350 degrees F.

Make gravy:
Mix 1/4 C flour with 1/4 tsp. salt and a big dash of pepper. 
Make beef broth with Better than Boullion or canned broth to make 1 1/4 C.  Slowly add flour and mix well with a whisk.
When the meat is done, add the juices to the broth and flour mixture and stir until thick.

Serve over mashed potatoes or egg noodles.

Next time I will at least double this recipe!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Peanut Butter Chip Chocolate Cookies fueled the CSULB Stalkers to the Regional Competition

It is my tradition to send a tub of cookies with my Ultimate players to their games.  I know it's not healthy, but all their team mates look forward to it and after five years of cookies I can't stop now.

This last weekend my oldest son was playing in the Sectionals tournament.  Day one I sent my "regular" Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies.  One batch makes about 6 dozen.  It lasts one day.  Since there was a second day of games, I came home and made another batch of a different variety.

The Peanut Butter Chip Chocolate Cookies disappeared quickly and the team made the cut into the next level, Regionals.  It had to be the cookies which helped propel their success.  Hahaha.

Completely melt 2 cups of real butter.
Add 2 C white sugar
2 C brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
4 eggs

Mix until smooth. Add the following:
6 C flour
1/2 C insweetened cocoa
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt

Check the base of the bowl and if the dough is still runny, add up to 1/2 C flour.

Then add 2 1/4 C peanut butter chips.
Drop by 1 oz. scoops (I use a #30 scoop) onto ungreased cookie sheets. 
  • Conventional oven at 350 degrees F for 11 minutes one sheet at a time on the middle rack.
  • Convection oven at 325 degrees F for 10 minutes, up to 3 sheets at a time.
Cool for a few minutes on the sheets.  Then remove and cool on waxed or parchment paper until completely cool.  Store in an airtight container. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Chinese Chicken Salad

Today I hosted a luncheon for 10 ladies.  It was a planned potluck in that the guests had signed up for a specific item to bring to ensure a variety of foods and a complete meal.   My item was Chinese Chicken Salad.

1-2 lb. iceberg lettuce mix
1 head of Romaine, cut or torn
24 oz. mandarin oranges, drained
10 large green onions, sliced
3/4 C cilantro, chopped
5 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
6-12 oz. chow mein noodles
dressing (I used Feast from the East "Sesame Dressing" about 16 oz.)

In a 7 quart bowl combine lettuces, oranges, onions and cilantro.  If you are serving it right away, add chicken, noodles and dressing.  Toss well.

If you are serving it later, keep the chicken, noodles and dressing separate until serving time. 


Thanks to Sarah C. for your suggestions for this salad.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Ham, ham and more ham

It's not often that I serve ham at our house.  Don't get me wrong; we love it!  So we look forward to the holidays when we do serve it.

My favorite method of cooking a ham:
Start with a plain ham.  Cut off most of the fat and skin and place in a 9x13" pan, flat side down.  Spread apricot jam all over the ham.  Bake at 350 degrees F for about 1 1/2 - 2 hours.  About 15 minutes a pound.  You may wish to brush the ham with more jam while cooking.  Let set for about 10 minutes before slicing.

So the meal was delicious, but you probably have leftovers.  We had an entire ham leftover as we'd baked two for Easter.  Each day I ponder how I can use ham that day.  Here are some thoughts:

Slice and freeze a portion for a future dinner.
Slice and eat in sandwiches.
Chop for use in a soup or egg dish (could freeze this, too)
Make a fritatta.
Make my favorite sauce to serve over sliced ham for dinner tonight.

My favorite sauce:
Mix together 1/4 C prepared mustard with a heaping 1/3 C of brown sugar (not packed).  Warm in the microwave for about 30 seconds.  Pour over sliced ham which is on a sided cookie sheet and bakd for about 10-15 minutes just to warm the ham.

Fritattas for Easter Breakfast or How to Use up Leftovers

When my husband and I were dating our families lived just a few miles apart.  This was great.  We could go to every holiday with both families.  The only problem was the indigestion at the end of the day from all the food we ate.  Gradually, we came to realize that we just couldn't keep doing that so we shifted to a meal with one family and dessert with the other.  That worked well, too, until we had four kids and all the moving between houses became more difficult.  Then we divied up the holidays by our personal favorite dishes.  My hubby's favorite holiday foods were served on Easter which included brunch and dinner, and my favorites were on Thanksgiving.  That was pretty easy!

I've already shared how to make his favorite stuffed artichokes.  His second favorite menu item was the fritattas.  Grandma usually made three:  cheese, bacon, and pepperoni.  She never combined the flavors.  I now make at least four and have started combining the flavors.  This year we had cheese; bacon and cheese; pepperoni and cheese; and then a mushroom, bacon, pepperoni and cheese.  They were delicious!

There are many ways to make a fritatta I'm sure, but this is how we do it.

Warm a deep-sided frying pan on the stove. Generously grease with butter, maybe 2 T. Don't skimp on this or the fritatta will not flip properly.

Crack and beat 12 eggs. Pour into pan. Reduce heat and let set a bit. I often gently move eggs so that the top will cook, but keep it flat as in preparing an omelette.

Sprinkle with your choice of the following toppings:
cheese - colby, cheddar, mozzerella, provolone (1 1/2 cups)
meats - pepperoni, crumbled bacon (about 2 cups)
veggie - as desired, but saute ahead of putting them in a fritatta

While the fritatta is cooking, warm a second pan and generously grease as well.

When the fritatta is mostly set, place the second pan over the first. Hold them TIGHTLY together (I do this with a towel instead of hot pads) and quickly flip the fritatta into the second pan. Continue cooking until completely done over a low heat.

Slip it out onto a plate and cut. You can slice it like a pizza or like a tic-tac-toe frame, just like Grandma Alice.

Repeat the process for each fritatta.  Covered with foil they stay warm until serving time.  I like to make two at a time.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Colored Easter Eggs

As is the custom with many people on or near Easter, our family still likes to have an egg hunt and color eggs.  My job is to hard-boil the eggs, and my sister-in-law handles the coloring with the cousins.  This year she did not add any water to the dye and just used straight distilled white vinegar.  The coloring was easier and the colors were more vibrant. 

The activity was fun.  The colored eggs looked great on the dinner table, but what do I do with 5 dozen colored eggs?  The first step of course, is to send some home with each of the dinner guests.  One of my favorite ways to eat hard-boiled eggs is in egg salad on fresh bread.  Here's how I make the filling:

12 eggs, hard-boiled, cooled and peeled, cut coarsely
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. garlic salt, to taste
3/4 C mayo, use fat-free to cut the calories

Mix well with electric beaters.  Spread on bread or serve as a dip with hearty crackers.

Monday, April 1, 2013

April Fool's Day Breakfast

I have always made my kids breakfast, and while that "made" could vary from Swedish Pancakes from scratch to a bowl of cold cereal placed at their seat, there is one breakfast that was especially memorable.

One of my dear children was giving me a hard time at bed time.  It was one of those push-pull matches between parent and child that I needed and chose to win.  But it had to be done right.  So I came up with a clever threat; one which I could carry out should I need to.  I cannot even remember the details only that I was forced to carry out the threat because the child did exactly what I did not want them to do. 

The next morning I got up as usual and went into the kitchen to fix breakfast.  This child's food required special care.  I put a piece of bread in the toaster.  When it was toasted I put it on a plate and went outside to get the topping - a fresh scoop of dog poop.  I brought it back in to the kitchen and placed it at their seat.  Were they ever surprised by the breakfast of "Poop on Toast!"  Or perhaps the surprise was not the meal, that had been part of the threat, but all of my children were surprised that I carried it out.
Not to worry, the dog only stole the toast.

Yes, it smelled.  Yes, it was gross.  No, they did not eat it.  Yes, I made them an edible breakfast.  But, they've never crossed me again.  I simply remind them of "Poop on Toast."  In fact, I reminded them of that breakfast just last night.  It's had far reaching consequences as a parent in that it was a 4-for-1 deal over 6 years ago showing all four of  my kids that mom will do what she says, and reinforcing the message of "don't cross mom!"

Happy April Fools Day!