Thursday, October 29, 2009

Upcoming Giveway!

I hope this doesn't freak anyone out...but up and coming will be a product giveaway with a new sponsor. www.cookware.com has agreed to give away a tart pan or two as a special promotion with my blog. I'm pretty excited about it! I loved looking at the Rachael Ray Cookware they offer. Very cool bake ware. So, here's the deal, the more people who click on the link and give some feedback, the higher the chance we will get to do things like this again and again. Look forward to the actual giveaway post...but just know, it's coming along with a great Evil Think Tank with ever so Evil sidekick, Tara.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Blueberry Baked Pears with Spiced Nuts

Look at these crazy cool baked pears. They are purple or is that blue? I think it's that purple-eee color like wine (someone please tell me the technical name here...), like half the fall decorations out there. Cussing Granny loves blueberries. Have I ever mentioned that before? Well she does. Before she was diabetic, we could always count on a blueberry pie being at her house. Ace would go over with a spoon and devour most of the pie by himself. He looked like a heart attack victim with those purple lips... Granny didn't like that. See those dentures smacking together right now? On a scary note...Little Man saw Mr. Putt Putt for the first time without his dentures yesterday. I don't know if he'll ever recover. However, it has come to my personal attention that sweet little oldsters need soft food. They also pretty much have a set of things they really want to eat. Liver and onions, Ruben sandwiches...prunes. Yes I know...it's just part of the era they grew up in. Along with the diabetic needs as formerly discussed in the entry on Baked Spiced Peaches with Chocolate Raspberry Sauce... they did okay with the few nuts. Don't we all do okay as long as someone is a little nuts? At any rate, we have another baked fruit favorite.

spiced nuts:
1 cup Walnuts, Pecans or Almonds (I used almonds and Walnuts)
1/2 tsp rum extract
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp butter
1/2 tsp sugar or Splenda
melt all together in a heavy skillet until the butter is melted and the nuts are coated. Remove from the heat. Toss into the pan:
1 T sugar or Splenda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
Allow to cool.

In an oven safe baking dish, lightly coated with oil, put 3 pears, peeled and cored. Sprinkle with cinnamon and ginger to taste. I also drizzled with 2 tsp lemon juice.

Cover with 1 cup wild blueberries (fresh or frozen)
Bake 350 degrees 20-25 minutes until all the flavors melt together. Serve warm to Papa Smurf...or some kind of Cussin' Granny near you.
Total Carbohydrate 1/2 pear and 2 T blueberries:
16
Dietary Fiber:
2
5 almonds 3 gr fat 2 carbs

There you go. Denture smackin' good.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Crazy Cub Fundraiser Dinner

I am in debt to a lot of scout leaders who have been working with Little Man along the way. This is Joe, Little Man's new Weblos leader teaching him a little more about presenting the colors. Little Man did a wonderful job, thanks mostly to Joe for making sure he knew exactly what to say and how to do it. Scouting is amazing. It teaches leadership and respect. I have recently accepted the challenge of becoming a Cub Master. Not really sure I know what I am doing yet, but excited to see Little Man get even more excited about the scout program. All scout programs take money. Obviously. So this last weekend we had our annual fundraiser dinner. We planned to feed 150 people. Church Spaghetti and meatballs will never be the same.
Since it was for Little Man, I thought it highly appropriate that he help in any way possible. This of course included spending the day with me in the kitchen...chopping and chopping. 13 heads of lettuce...
Ironically, he didn't seem to mind using a large knife.
Should I be afraid? He helped slice 19 loaves of bread. Oh...for the record, no, my bread isn't so tough it needs to be sliced with power tools. It was just faster.
Banquet size garlic and herb butter:

5 lbs butter, softened
1 cup basil infused oil
1/4 cup minced garlic
1T each: minced Rosemary, Oregano, Italian Parsley
2T ground fennel
2 T sea salt
2T crushed black pepper

Combine...


Until smooth.



Butter one side of the bread and use the butter as a "glue" to put the loaf back together.
Our Bear Den Assistant was the chief bread butter-er. Is "butter-er" a word? Anyway, she did a lot of it. No complaints.
Once the evil slathering of butter and joy is nestled between the slices of tender sourdough, wrap them up. We heated ours at 200 degrees for the last hour before dinner service began. It makes for a very happy bunch of scouts.
Ace ate meat. Just for the record he can't stop when it comes to homemade meatballs. We had 25 lbs of these bad boys. 10 gallons of homemade marinara...

20 lbs of spaghetti...cooked to perfection and seasoned well with my all purpose seasoning along with basil oil.
Meatballs are evil. Molten chunks of herbs and spice floating in a sauce of tomatoes and love. Ahhh.
The good news? We earned enough money for all of our scouts to go to day camp this summer. Thank the Lord for his goodness and mercy. Scouting rocks!


There you go.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Random Thoughts...pecan pie

My dad loves pecan pie and fishing. I miss him. I miss the Velveeta cheese he would wad up at the end of the fishing hook and the smelly little neon orange fish eggs I had to scoop out of the fish. Gutting was my favorite part. Yes. I am the perfect women. I also whittle and play the harmonica...but not at the same time.

My husband Ace won't eat pecan pie. Not ever. Isn't that just sad? He's not a fan of carmel custard or crunchy lightly spiced pecans. He also won't eat fish...or go fishing for the "water lizards"...which of course means I haven't had to gut a fish for 14 years. So...when in marriage does a gal just take off for a fishing trip alone and take a pecan pie in her tackle box? Velveeta and pecan pie...mmmmm. Not happening this week. Ace did however manage to prove himself worthy of Chef Tess for a wife by randomly showing up with a single slice of pecan pie for me. Fish eggs will just have to wait...I'm smooching.
There you go...fishing.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Rambling Reviews D-Dog BBQ

Darin Hearn, AKA D Dog BBQ rubs and sauce sent me a very snazzy package this week. I love samples. I've used his stuff before so I was very excited to try these new products.
I have to do a little bragging at this point. D-dog’s BBQ Original rub took FIRST PLACE and D-dog’s BBQ Maple rub takes SECOND PLACE in the COOK-OFF Dry Seasoning / Rub category of the Americas Best™ Professional Food Competition! Otis and the Bird BBQ team took first place in Ribs at the Durango Colorado BBQ Contest using D-dog's BBQ Maple Rub! Finally, the Competition BBQ Team - AZBarbeque.com uses D-dog's BBQ Original Rub on their brisket and took 3rd. place in the Arizona State BBQ Championship.
No doubt it's the good stuff. I have used all of the rubs now. It's official. Even though we are generally vegetarian we use the rubs on vegetables for the grill. Sweet potatoes are by far my favorite with the new peach rub as the seasoning and a little splash of the sassy spicy cranberry chipotle sauce. Good news...I can even read and understand what all the ingredients are!
Small words are good for my brain.
Most astonishing by far was the crisp fruity smell and taste of the peach rub. Rarely do we delve into meat, but I went ahead and got some pork chops in anticipation of the arriving package from Darin Hearn, founder, owner and grill chef extraordinaire.

I didn't add anything else but the rub. Heaven. Dear oh dear.

Would I use them again? Yes. I'll probably be ordering them by the case. Thank you so very much Darin!


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tess' Oat Bread




The main complaint I hear about using whole oats in bread is that the bread ends up really dry or hard as a rock. I think the term "oven produced bolder" pretty much sums it up. Thanks Lisa. Most oat bread recipes end up this way because the whole grains are not given enough exposure to moisture to produce a tender loaf. Another common mistake when making oat bread is using cooked oats. While a small ratio of the moisture can be replaced with cooked cereal, an over abundance of cooked cereal will give your bread a gummy nasty texture...like denture cream. Mmmm. Thanks Granny. So the last few weeks I have been working on an oat bread recipe with a very high ratio of the whole grain oats in the bread. The resulting recipe is my favorite by far. We have used it to help with blood sugar levels, as oats are a much lower glycemic index. Hopefully you will find the same joy. Please follow the directions, as I am certain this is how we have had success.




Tess' Oat Bread

Combine:



3 cups rolled oat

2 1/2 cups water or milk no hotter than 110 degrees

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tsp yeast


Allow oats to absorb the water and the yeast to get hyper active. This usually takes about 30 minutes. On the plus side, this softens the oats without cooking the starch. The main difference between using cooked oat and uncooked oats. Starch will still cook, but not be gummy. Tender loaf. Oats...soft...good.

Add 3 cups whole wheat bread flour, 1T salt. You may need more or less flour depending on the storing conditions of the flour. I usually opt for less flour whenever possible.


It makes a pretty stiff dough. Case in point, this stinky cheap wooden spoon didn't stand a chance. I'm not happy with it for snapping like a toothpick. Sassy chick with attitudes also snap. I usually use bamboo since it's pretty strong, but today I found this wooden spoon and thought I'd use it. Yikes. Totally sticking with my trusty bamboo. Random...remember that song from Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang? " Ol' bamboo, ol' bamboo" I used to babysit for the Durfee's and their kids watched that movie every time I was there...I digress.

I knead by hand in the bowl and avoid using too much flour. 300 turns if you can do.
You can use a mixer. 3-4 minutes medium speed.

Wooden spoon looked like this:

Form into a ball and allow to raise until doubled. For the ripe test and other information of the dough raising processes please see : overnight started bread. I have a lot of pictures.
If I am busy I will put the bread in a covered bowl in the fridge at this point and let it raise there. That gives me a couple more hours to get running around done. Crazy headless baking chicken. Now...that's a very weird visual. A chicken baking...with a little bamboo spoon in one of it's talons. "Do your chickens have large talons?" Quick...name that movie.

So. Allow the dough to raise then use the loaf molding technique. In the case of this bread I have found steaming the loaf in a covered clay crock to be by far, my favorite application. Lightly oiled and then free standing large double loaf using all the dough.


This is my fancy covered loaf crock. It's two Pampered Chef pans. One on top of the other. Very fancy-schmancy. Allow bread to raise until twice it's size and very fluffy. Bake in oven pre-heated to 425 degrees 40-45 minutes (or until internal temperature reaches 170 degrees Fahrenheit).

Allow bread to cool before slicing. This bread you will find to be very moist and have a shelf life of 3-4 days if it lasts that long. My dear friends, enjoy.

End note:
To make this bread an Italian Sourdough use 1 cup sourdough starter in place of 1 cup of the water and add 1/4 cup more water if necessary. I also use basil infused oil in place of the oil and 1 T minced garlic, 1T minced fresh rosemary, and 1/4 cup minced fresh Italian parsley. Mix all the herbs into the dough in the beginning.


There you go.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Chicken BLT Salad

Cussing Granny is hilarious. I must say I do enjoy her crazy whit. Do you know anyone who likes BL T sandwiches (that's bacon, lettuce and tomato...)? Well, Granny here has been absolutely obsessed with them for a long time. We are now to the point that if we don't buy pre-cooked bacon and keep it in the fridge at all times...there is trouble. Not that Granny ever freaks and flips her dentures...but let's just say we have an understanding. She is a very sweet lady. So, in the middle of this whole diabetic diet she has I realized a few things and one of them was that we really needed some lean protein along with the bacon. This is the recipe I came up with that she loves. It's loaded with all the good stuff. Chicken, low fat cheese, bacon, and celery, and onions.
BLT Chicken Salad

4 chicken breasts, cooked and chopped (about 4 cups)
4 slices of pre-cooked bacon, chopped fine or 1/2 cup bacon bits
1 stock of celery, chopped
1/2 medium onion, minced
1/2 cup low fat sharp cheddar, grated or cubed
1/2 cup low fat or fat free mayonnaise
1 clove of garlic, minced
cracked black pepper and salt to taste


Combine all ingredients.
I put it on an oat bread that I had been tweaking. The recipe for that will be coming soon, as I know it has been helpful for her blood sugar levels to have a lot of whole grain rolled oats in the bread. Plus the bread seems to satisfy hunger much better than other bread. It was a pretty hearty meal and the good news...her blood sugar stayed pretty regular for the rest of the afternoon. Yes!


Now here's the post script. Little Man wanted to stay home from school the other day. There was a bowl of this chicken salad in the fridge. I heard this retching noise in the bathroom. In horror, as most moms are when they hear this said noise, I rushed into the room. Little man was on the floor acting very ill. Then he said, "Look.." meaning... obviously I have tossed my cookies. There in the toilet was a huge wad of chicken salad. Yea, he totally tossed it in the toilet hoping I would think he vomited. What a waste of perfectly delightful chicken salad. Argh. Totally had to go to school. I'm so mean...
Ace, the foremost expert on skipping school, informed me however that the best medium for faking "that" is a can of vegetable soup. Great...now I'm going to have to keep my eyes open for floated alphabet noodles...ahhh. The joys of motherhood.

There you go. Um...with making the salad.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Popcorn Balls of Glory


It really isn't Fall until we make popcorn balls. Why is that? I'm not sure. Probably because there isn't any other indicator here in Arizona that Fall is really here. It's still blinkin' hot out side and the trees don't change color. So, in open rebellion against the evil hot summer staying way past it's welcome...we ushered in the Fall. Somehow it made me feel better, though I doubt it will change the weather. I called Gena and we decided to have a kid popcorn ball extravaganza. Eight children. Eight. I don't have eight on my own. God made my body capable of two. I'd be mental. Okay...no comments.The day finally arrived and so did we. It was nice to visit since we moved so far away and I was in complete Gena withdrawal!
Check this out...
In the leafy tree tops the birds say, " Good morning"...but at my friend Gena's the Nightmare Before Christmas tree was in full glory...
Little Man thought it was gross.
Face wanted to make one at home.
I opted for just taking a picture and giving away a great idea for Halloween...as morbid as it looks.

And now, the popcorn begins.


You will need 12 cups of popcorn. Microwave is fine. We used the natural butter. Honestly...you can use natural air popped love. Whatever.
Popcorn balls:
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup honey or dark corn syrup
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup butter
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp vanilla
Put sugar, syrup, butter, water and salt in a large heavy sauce pan (2 quart). Cook over medium heat...
Hold the vanilla in reserve until the end of cooking. I also use something totally un-natural for the color and flavor. In no way am I even starting to believe that somehow the addition of this stuff made this sugar goo anywhere near the range of "healthy"...let alone helping the immune system. Sorry. I think it added great flavor though.
Cherry pomegranate. Mmmm.
Now the sugar syrup will cook really nicely and bubble. Keep kiddos at bay for this part.
Note: you will need a candy thermometer.
So...my friend Gena had a candy thermometer at her house. Our friend J was there too. Now mind you she doesn't cook...much. Not without a can of cream of mushroom soup in the house anyway. So...she asked, "Is that like a rectal thermometer?" No, my dear friends, it is nothing like a rectal thermometer. Yikes. Which would be wrong on sooooo many levels to have that in the kitchen. So wrong. Sick and wrong. Behold the candy thermometer. It's the one with the clip on it to hold it to the pan...

See...pan holding. Uh-hem.
I love vanilla...but usually after dinner. It seemed a little early to be hitting the bottle. However baby was kicking it back old school. Don't you just want to snuggle this little nugget of cutie pie?
Okay...cooked to 250 Fahrenheit on the candy thermometer scale. Be sure it isn't touching the bottom of the pan or you will get a false reading. Now add the vanilla and the uh-hem...Crystal light...or food coloring...or nothing at all for the natural peeeeps.
Drizzle over the popcorn in a very dramatic way. This may involve some Mamba music and the use of your hips. However, may I also suggest having a little Elvis playing in the background.

Oh go ahead be practical. Just pour it over the popcorn without any fan fair. Boring people. I preferred to go, "boom-ba-ba-boom" and sing a funny song to make my kids laugh.
It cools down enough for little hands to stir the popcorn, however, if you are in any way sceptical, then by all means don't let the kiddos touch the spoon. We had 8 kids wash and sanitize their hands (yes...the two step cleaning method). Then we buttered them up really well and let them make popcorn balls.
It took a little squeezing to get them to stay together. Next time I double the gooey stuff. Though I really loved the lightly sweet popcorn balls. Maybe I won't double it next time.
Since Mamba music and hip dancing wasn't dramatic enough, we decided to make a popcorn ball topiary of glory. Wooden skewer in the middle. Piles of cherry pomegranate popcorn balls. Ahhh. It was pretty for about 4 minutes. Then the kids ate them all. All. Life is good...especially after the sugar buzz wears off.

There you go.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fall Apple Pie

I have to admit that Fall break AKA teacher appreciation week is in full swing down here in the Southwest. I love my kids, mind you...just really coming to full grip with the fact that teachers are angelic beings. They deserve more credit for what they do. My 6 year old son, Face wanted to bake a pie...every day for 5 days. It's been absolutely funny trying to convince him that most people don't bake pie every day unless they own a pie shop. I used to bake pie everyday...but now it takes a special kind of nag...I mean...convincing. So, here it is. One of my favorite ways to make apple pie. It has a funky crumble topping. I think you might like it.

My personal favorite apple is a Jonathan or Granny Smith for pie. Not really a fan of Red Delicious in a pie. They just get too smoooooshy. 5 crisp Jonathan apples, peeled, cored and sliced in wedges. I had face use this funky tool. I think he did a pretty good job, despite the fact that his arms are so tiny he had to use his girth...um all 52 lbs of it to press down on the apple. Argh! Go dude! I had him put them in a microwave safe bowl...


1 tsp. nice quality cinnamon goes a long way. My personal favorite also included a little ginger, nutmeg and orange zest. If however, you just have the regular cinnamon, it will do.


My little boy squeezed the lemon...juice. No comment. Need 2 T though.
If you can squeeze that much out...


2 T flour, 2 tsp vanilla and 1/4 cup honey. Combine until well coated. I put the bowl in the microwave for 5 minutes on high and stir well. This helps the apples to partially cook and reduces the baking time.


Once partially cooked, transfer into a 9 inch uncooked pie crust. I had one handy. If you make your own I love this recipe :Pie crust . For the topping I do something a little weird. It comes out like an apple crisp almost, but we love it so much I had to share it with all of you. Basically I take


1 cup baking mix or you can use Bisquick
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/8th tsp each: ground cardamom, nutmeg, and lemon zest

Combine until a crumble like topping and put on top of the luscious apple filling.
Bake at 375 degrees 25-30 minutes until golden.
Oh...it may drive the kids crazy waiting for the pie to finish baking.

He's such a special boy.



There you go.