Friday, December 31, 2010

I've done it, I've Etsy'd

I was sewing the other day and my stupid tomato pin cushion kept falling over and tipping when I stuck pins in or took them out so I decided I needed a Diva Pin Cushion. I grabbed some fabric I had and viola... it even has a tassel because no self respecting sewing diva has a cushion withOUT a tassel!! It's 7 inches square and a 1.5 inch side. I stuffed it with cluster stuff and shoved a giant green plastic button in the middle and some bright yellow ribbon to tie it together.

I love it. I made two.

So, "people" have been telling me for years to get on Etsy or somewhere like it, to share that which I make that comes out of my head, through my fingers and, frankly, clutters my space :).

My foray into Etsy will be the over sized pin cushion...

To begin 2011, I'm going to. I hated 2010, should the truth be told. I felt belittled and mocked frequently through the year and lost a lot of confidence in myself.

I have decided I'm going to make 2011 mine all mine.

I'm not going to think my stuff isn't good enough, referring to the food, the writing or the crafty things.

I'm going to stand with head held high and face forward.

I'm going to produce what I do and hold before me proudly.

I'm going to try hard not to rely so much on the support of others but rather on the strength of my faith in myself.

Sort of preachy and sort of resolution-y (it is so a word!) but it's how I intend to wake up tomorrow morning.

Happy New Year and thanks for all the support, watch this space for the new and improved and cool funky stuff that is in my head and will hopefully be presented soon!


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Roast beef

Merry Merry Christmas!

I love Christmas but surprisingly it's my least favorite day to cook. In the whole year I'd rather cook on any other day. I guess on Christmas I just want to play. I want to watch Connor's eye's open wider and wider with every possible moment throughout the day. I want to see him delight in the small special somethings I found and wrapped for him. I love the squeals of delight he'd be too cool to do in front of 'them' but will happily exclaim before me when he opens a package containing a homemade scarf in it.

I live in Texas, American thanksgiving is in November so having anything to do with turkey in December is out out out. I sometimes still celebrate Canadian thanksgiving in October but when you add yet another bird or ham or enormous feast it seriously takes my desire off doing a massive feed in December as well.

This is just really a long winded way of saying that at Christmas I splurge the $45.00 on a standing rib roast. Standard fare here for the 'big meal' is roast beef, mashed potatoes, gravy (of course) and something green. This year I opted for roasted asparagus and hollandaise (my cheater blender version) and it puts dinner on the table in under an hour if you don't count the beast! Even *I* can muster up an hours worth of cooking on the "big day".

Here is big boy before I popped him into the oven. He's just shy of 10lbs. I slathered him with loads of sea salt and cracked black pepper.

My Nana used to say she cooked roast beef by the "Milwaukee method" Ok, Ivy (my Nana and the single coolest woman I've ever known), I've searched and searched and researched and have never found any authentication to the claim this method has anything to do with Milwaukee. Love you, miss you to bits but I question the connection. Unfortunately, we lost Ivy to age and the ravages of time so there's no way to ask her. I smile to the wind periodically to recall her face, her voice, and her detailed, demanding, description of the Milwaukee Method. To you, my beloved Nana, I dedicate all posts roast beef.

To the best of my recollection, this is how she did it and this is how I do it...and shall continue to do it...and it'll always be known as the Milwaukee Method.

Ivy's "Milwaukee Method" Roast Beef

Notwithstanding what size hunk of meat you have, throw it in a roasting tray, salt and pepper it and put it in the oven at 500 degrees sometime in the morning. Leave it there for an hour.

Turn off the oven. Do not open it again under punishment of...Ivy! Just leave the door closed.

An hour before you want to eat, turn the oven on 375 and cook it for 30 minutes and then let it rest 30 minutes.

Slice it, eat it, face the wind and toast my Nana because it's the best piece of meat you'll ever eat. I've done with with a 5 pound roast and a 9 pound roast and it always works. This is one of those, I don't know WHY it works, it just does.

Here's this years Christmas table offering.. (vegetarians, avert your eyes, you won't be happy)

/enjoy, oh and again Merry Christmas!!

Monday, December 20, 2010

English Muffins

English muffins.  I love them.  I love them toasted and put under anything at all.  There are few things so wonderful as a nook or cranny completely filled with little puddles of butter.  Really.

I made hollandaise sauce last night for my steamed broccoli so naturally I woke up thinking I needed something to go under the sauce this morning. Enter the English muffin. Well, I had planned on adding some bacon and a poached egg of course but, as you'll see, neither of those materialized and I was left with English muffins, nooks, crannies, melted butter and really is there anything else you need on the Monday of Christmas week? I thought not.

I could have gotten dressed, gotten into my car, driven the 20 minutes to the grocery store, wandered down the aisled to find a hermetically sealed cellophane tube of English muffins, made who knows where or when. I could have then stood in line, paid, walked back to my car and then driven the 20 minutes home to have a toasted English muffin. I think we both agree that wasn't going to happen. Much preferably I chose the second option, throw some ingredients in the kitchen aide, stay in my jammies, enjoy the second cup of coffee on the back porch watching dogs play and birds do bird things just out of reach of said dogs.

You need some basic ingredients that I guarantee you have in your house, an hour or so of time and an electric griddle. Get comfy, we're heading to nook and cranny yumminess.

Gather these items;

1/2 cup scalded milk
1 Tbsp sugar added
1 1/2 tsp yeast
1/2 cup warm water
4 T melted shortening
3 cups of a/p flour
1 tsp salt
some cornmeal for dusting

Proof the yeast in 1/2 cup warm water in the kitchen aid bowl. Scald 1/2 cup milk in the microwave until steam wisps just begin and there are tiny bubbles around the edge, add 1 Tbsp sugar to dissolve.

Add the milk to the water when it's cooled down to slightly warmer than body temperature. Add the shortening and 2 1/2 cups of the flour and the salt.

Mix with the dough hook (or in a bowl by hand works just as beautifully) until it's a smooth dough that barely sticks to your hand. You want a very soft dough here.

Knead it until it's smooth and like a baby bum! (no, really, this dough is that soft and warm and squishy!) I toss it back into the kitchen aid bowl with a tea towel over it and put it in the oven with the light on for about an hour. We are looking for it to double in size.

Sprinkle cornmeal on your work surface and gently tip the dough onto it. Press it out with your fingers, gently, to a large square, about 3/4 inch thick. Cut the dough with a 3 inch biscuit cutter or a tuna can or a glass or whatever you want. Flour before you cut each time and the only trick here is not to twist when you're cutting them out, just press straight down!

You can re-flatten the scraps to make another cutting pass and then just form the last bits into a funky, cooks treat, muffin that you'll sample, all in the name of science of course. OH and cook treats don't have any calories so worry not! I made mine quite small, 2 inches, but I like the crunchy edge bits when they are toasted so making them small means I have to eat 2-3 of them at a time and thus having more crunchy edge bits. Feel free to make them a more normal size, you should get 9 'normal' English muffins. *OH and yes, you can double the recipe.

Turn the muffins over so the second side is coated in corn meal and throw a tea towel over them to rest for a bit, I left mine about 20 minutes.

Heat an electric griddle to 350 and lay the muffins on it, dry!. Cook for 9 minutes per side. I threw them on a sheet pan and finished them in the oven about 10 minutes to be sure they were cooked all the way through.

Leave them a few minutes if you can possibly stand it before you open them WITH A FORK pressed in the sides and toast them.

They are crazy delicious, light, airy, toasty, crunchy, soft, chewy and quite frankly will turn you off the hermetically sealed cellophane tube of mystery muffins forever. You're welcome! OH and yes, these are going to be in my regular weekly baking rotation.

Here's just some beauty shots, no dough shots, I didn't think to grab pics till they were cut out, ooops.

Wacky shapes, laying out in wait.

Look at the rise on these things!
and then after an additional 5-10 in the oven they look pretty darned impressive!

As I said, they're light and airy and full of nooks and crannies just waiting to be toasted and filled with whatever decadent topping you desire!

Oh, sorry, couldn't help it! you'd have done the same :) luckily there's MORE and this one screamed out for raspberry jam!! Mmmmmm


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Steamed Syrup Pudding, Oh yes baby!

Ok, we're going old school again, way way old school. This time we're going across the pond though and it's not a retro southern specialty but rather an old school steamed pudding from my homeland, England.

I don't know why steamed puddings haven't caught on here in the States, more the pity. I've been reading those 1823 cookbooks again and found a steamed pudding "recipe" that caught my eye. I use the term "recipe" lightly because they wrote like I generally do, a list of ingredients, a vague list of measurement and no real cooking instruction, it's a hit or miss and generally written for a cook. OH WAIT, I can cook and I'm fearless. Lucky for me I was in the mood so rather than vacuum, wrap presents or dust (shudder) I dove into retro recipe land with ingredients I always have here and a little time on my hands.

I futzed the recipe a little, added some, stole some and think I found a pretty good version. Well, I say I think I found a goodie, I gasped when I ate it, that's generally a pretty good indication I'm on the right track. Gasping in my kitchen is ALWAYS a good thing. Let's begin then I'll show you the beauty shots.

**Tate and Lyle's golden syrup is my most favorite thing and I am delighted anytime I'm able to use it.

Ok, let's make a steamed pudding...(yes, I measured by weight because I have a little scale I bought at IKEA and it was easier than doing the math to convert it)

In a bowl, cream
120 g sugar
120 g butter

2 beaten eggs
120 g a/p flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
drop of vanilla

Beat until it's a thick, smooth, batter. I used my beaters rather than the kitchen aide.

Grease a 4 cup pudding bowl and drop 2 healthy tablespoons of Tate and Lyle's Golden syrup in the bottom. Drop the batter on top and gently smooth out.

Cover the bowl with parchment paper and a double thickness of tin foil. Tie it down and put it in a steamer. I used a large saucepan with a pasta cooker insert. I've steamed puddings before on a shallow rack in a saucepan with an inch or so of water, also ramekins upside down under your pudding bowl works beautifully too!

Cover and steam for 2 hours. Check every once in a while to be sure there's still water.

Remove, uncover, flip onto a plate, slice, serve, eat, gasp then add cream because you need to sample it that way too (it's all research!)

Let me know what you think!!!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Beaten Biscuit update...

Ok, we're pro's now. Child and I made them again this morning. I mixed and left the dough slightly wetter, just this side of sticking and I let him WHACK WHACK WHACK. Nothing says love in the kitchen than arming the 11 yr old.

Rather than go into any long and involved process (again) Here's the glamor shots...

I mixed the dough and laid it on the counter, whacked it a couple of times then folded, turned it 90 degrees and whacked some more

it's a wonderful thing when your culinary executive assistant enjoys their work!
450, greased comal, 15 minutes.

Child ate his plain, I added butter and honey for research purposes of course, even husband tried one and enjoyed it.

No, there's none left, seriously. Get in a snit then burn off Christmas stress by beating dough on a counter...truly, make these!!


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Beaten Biscuits

Ok, so we all know I like to play with old recipes. I have been downloading e-books onto my Nook ( from Gutenberg ( and I've found a storehouse of cookbooks dating back from the 1600's! Colour me happy happy happy. I read these things like novels.

There are loads of recipes just waiting to come back into fashion and I have decided that I am the one to do it. Now, that being said, there are a number of recipes that won't make the 'current' cut. I mean I'm all for 'offal' but when you start stewing heads and eyeballs, not many soccer moms are going to jump on the innards bandwagon. I know this to be true, most of them won't even try my Marmite. Anyway, I'm trying to keep my research relatively reasonable and BINGO, I found something cool.

Beaten biscuits. They don't date back to the 1600's by any stretch and were probably made pretty frequently and regularly in the 40's and 50's and maybe even 60's but I haven't heard of them lately and they're my new thing! I made a batch this morning and I'm currently eating them, in the name of research of course.

Here they are, take a look then we'll talk about how I got them here

These aren't as flaky by any stretch of the imagination of classic biscuits. They have a roll like quality. They are moist and pull apart in layers very much like those you find in a round can at the store. I like the fact they're not dry in your mouth at all and not too 'stodgy' either. They have a superior flavor which is the name of the game. I think I like them, very much. I think they'd be fantastic with a slice of ham inside or something else savory. I might make larger versions this weekend and use them in my killer biscuit sausage egg and cheese weekend sandwich.

I may add a little sugar next time and update you on whether that makes a massive change in them. I ate them with butter, warm, with butter and jam at room temp. I think these are worth a make. One of the nice things is you can take out all manner of frustration beating the dough with a rolling pin. After the week I've had, that was the most joyful part of the experiment.

Here's what I did:

1 cup a/p flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 stick margarine (4 Tbsp) (because all the old books SAY to use margarine and I think it works great)
1/4 cup + 2Tbsp milk

Mix dry ingredients, rub the margarine in until it's like sand and add the milk in one go. Mix with a fork and turn the dough onto a floured board. Knead until it's a soft dough barely not sticky anymore (how descriptive is that?) Don't add too much flour, we want this dough soft and easy to work with, too much flour and it'll be too firm to fold even after you've beaten it.

Beat the ball of dough with a rolling pin about 10 times, fold the dough in half and do it again. I did this about 10 times. Roll the dough about 1/4 inch and fold it in half. Cut the folded dough with a cutter, I used the smallest I have, so I got 14 mini beaten biscuits out of it. You can make them any size you want. I like smaller, you can justify eating more of them if they're tiny. By my math, 10 little ones equals one large one.

Lay them in a circle pattern on a greased cast iron pan. Bake at 400 until they're done, lightly brown, which today took 15 minutes.

Eat and let me know what you think!!


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

There's turkey, I roast it with bacon on it partly for flavor and partly because my mother did and we'd snack on it as the turkey cooked. Cooks treat. There's sage and onion dressing, mashed potatoes, broccoli casserole ala Ivy, roast carrots with tarragon and brown sugar, brussel sprouts with bacon, steamed green beans, the best gravy I ever made.

There's homemade bread to have with dinner or to cut into thick slices to hold more turkey sandwiches.

Lemon cheesecake, pumpkin spice streusel muffins or gingerbread for dessert.

I cook because I love it. I have people I love around me. They will devour a feast it took 2 days to make in 15 minutes, grunt, lay down and sleep without saying a word about the quality or quantity. No ooohs, ahh's, accolades or thanks but they love me and I love them and isn't that what it's really all about.

Happy Thanksgiving.

/cook because you love it

Pumpkin spice streusel muffins

Sometimes the name says it all. I found a shortcut recipe for pumpkin muffins online somewhere a while back and thought it sounded too interesting not to try. I'm always up for a culinary adventure including something prepared or packaged to turn it into something much more than it was ever meant to be. However, true to form, I am genetically incapable of following a recipe so mid-mix, I changed it up and I'm glad I did.

Make these. You'll be happy.

In an enormous bowl, combine:

1 box spice cake mix (really, Duncan Hines rocks here)
1 15 oz can pumpkin puree (not pie filling!)
1/2 cup of water
1 egg

*the original "recipe" doesn't include an egg. I thought these needed the additional lightness and the egg supplies that beautifully. I also sometimes sprinkle a light dusting of cinnamon on the dry mix, not always, but I'm trying to keep it real and confess to the little somethings I do to recipes to make them a little more than they were.

Fill 12 papered and greased (trust me here) muffin tin.

You can bake them off like this, if you're dull, boring and pedantic when really all they need to take you to outer space is a streusel topping!


1 stick butter (or a stick of margarine will work here actually)
1 cup flour
1 cup brown sugar

Combine until it's crumbly and yummy, lightly pack it high on the muffins and press down slightly to be sure it's stuck into the batter. There is more topping than you need here so you can pop any leftover into a ziploc and toss it in the freezer for next time you need a streusel 'hit'.

Bake at 375 until a knife comes clean, mine too 25 minutes today.

Trust me, always have the cake mix and pumpkin on hand, a $1.64 investment will give you substantially more joy every time you make them!!


Sunday, November 14, 2010

When biscuits aren't rich enough, add gravy!

I'm always looking for things that my husband likes to eat. I'm sort of a girl that way. He is usually indifferent to food and I will never understand the "I eat to stay alive" mantra. I, on the other hand, stay alive merely to cook and eat. I haven't decided if he shrugs and says, "that's ok" to whatever I place before him to drive me crazy or whether he legitimately couldn't be bothered. Either way will drive a foodie directly around the bend. I'm on a mission to get a new reaction and today I have a plan.

Since he's an original Texan, it occurred to me, biscuits and gravy. Oh ya, stodge on stodge. Thick, creamy, rich, peppery sausage gravy smothering enormous, light fluffy biscuits seems one hell of a way to start a day (I must digress here, the fact they call it "gravy" drives me mad, it's a cream sauce but hey, if these southerners need it to be "gravy" and it floats their boat, who am I to nit pick. Have at it, Texans.) I will admit I do make killer biscuits and pretty darned good bechamel sauce, so this seems like rather a breeze breakfast feast to whip up on a Sunday morning.

I'm up before everyone else and am well into it, let us begin:

1/2 chub (hehehe I said chub, yeah, I live with an 11 yr old boy, I'm infected!) of whatever sausage you like, I have HEB Pork and Sage
1 heaping tablespoon flour
enough milk to cover or to take to consistency you like, maybe 2 cups for those who need a starting point
salt, pepper and a scrape of nutmeg

Brown the sausage in a drizzle of bacon fat if you have it, none if you don't.

Brown it well, this matters, you'll get crispy bits and the flavor is truly enhanced by a few extra moments here.

When it's brown, sprinkle with flour and cook it out until the sausage is dry and there's flavor stuff stuck to the bottom of the pan. It's called "fond" but no one knows that and it sounds chefy and I'm not chefy.

When it's all dry and you can see there's stuff stuck, pour in your milk, it'll bubble up like mad, stir stir stir. It will not be lumpy, scrape up the bits and bring the whole thing to a boil.

When it boils, that's the thickest it'll get so be sure it'll coat the back of a wooden spoon. Salt and pepper to taste then add a little more freshly cracked black pepper. I also scrape in a little nutmeg because nutmeg and cream based sauces are best best friends. If you want it thinner, add a little milk but the point here is thick, rich and sausagy delicious!


Here it is, finished. I just have to make some biscuits and pour it over. We'll see if my native Texan husband approves of his British wife's offerings!

These are the biscuits I'm making to go with these:

They're the lightest and come up the biggest and if you're covering something with sausage gravy, it'd better be light and gigantic.

I'll update when it's served up and give the quoted response!

Well, well, both son and husband seemed delighted, it was all eaten and I had a "that was good" whispered. Praise indeed?

I'm sure it'll be put into weekend winter breakfast rotation :) Even money says husband spends the rest of the morning snoozing it off while child and I hit the nature center and hike.


"extremely tasty" oh ya!