Sunday, December 26, 2010

Baking waiting to be eaten

Now that Christmas is past, it is time to eat up all the cookies and bars which were made.
 Although it never snowed here, we have had some amazing days of frost filled trees.
 Some of my favorite Christmas cookies to make and eat are ones I learned to make from my mom, grandma or when I was living abroad.  The photo above is this year's lebkuchen which I learned to bake in Germany.  They have been giving me some problems at high altitude, but this year they turned out perfect!  I attribute that perfection to better being able to adapt recipes for high altitude as well as the oblaten that I found at the German grocery store which makes them stick to the white wafers instead of my cookie sheets.  These cookies in particular are fabulous as they have no flour in them...just sugar, eggs, nuts and flavors.  Yum!  They definitely won't last long at my house!
These next two are also easy to make and turn out great for any chocolate lovers.  Again due to my lack of being able to follow directions even if I have made these a ton of time, the above chocolately gooey bars didn't turn out as planned, but they still taste and look good.  They should have a more consistent bar base as well as some of the crust sprinkled on the top.  However different my directions the day I made them, they still have the rich chocolate fudge-like layer which draws the eater in never to turn down another one.
The last of the Christmas cookies that were made this year are these O'Henry bars which have a tender oatmeal and sugar crust which is then baked to firm it up.  Then you simply melt chocolate and peanut butter together and smear it across the top for a sweet finish to these delectable bars.

I didn't get as many baked as I would have liked, but after giving some away and sharing more with friends, I am glad there aren't more to eat!  Now that Christmas is past, on to hearty meals with less sweets.  I hope you all enjoyed the holiday past and will enjoy the upcoming New Year's feasts and parties.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Let it frost....

Since we have been too warm for snow to stick around, it was a pleasure to wake up to a white freezing frost fog which had covered everything in the night.  The perfect crystals were everywhere making the world a lovely frost wonderland.

The last few days I have been trying to finish up my holiday baking and I think that I may have succeeded with the last of the cookie / bars being finished.

 Start with excellent ingredients...check!  I have other plans for this flour sack as well.  I was so excited to find that you are still able to find flour in a sack.  My grandma would buy them and embroider them for drying dishes.  Next step...add delicious unsalted butter.  It even has a beautiful creamy glow to it.
 Then add various ingredients to your butter...sugar, oats, nuts, spices.
 Mix it all up and make sticky rounds of cookie dough to bake up.  This set includes making wells so you can later fill them up with dark chocolate.
 Bake them up.  Cool them off and they are ready for your melted chocolate.

The baking of the bars and other Christmas cookies...repeat with slightly different ingredients to make other sweets to give away and to enjoy for yourself.  Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

What to do with leftovers?

So with Thanksgiving past and Christmas staring us in the face, I figured it was time to get rid of the last turkey and actually use it all up as I usually intend and don't always do.  So, yesterday there was turkey chili and today there is turkey stock.  If I had thought about it I would have reversed the two days so I could have used homemade stock in my chili, but that just means I have to be cooking with more stock in the next week or two!

Making stock is a lot easier than anyone would think.  You need aromatic vegetables and some bones with meat on them.  In this one there is about a cup of onion, a cup of carrots and about half a cup of celery.  In addition to a few pounds of turkey bones with meat still on them, you add about 16 cups water and seasonings like a bay leaf, fresh parsley and thyme.
All you do is bring it to a boil, reduce heat and let it simmer for several hours.  Once the meat is falling off the bones, you strain all the ingredients and squeeze the juice from the meat.  By the end of the hours of simmering, the stock has been reduced and you can use it as you would any already prepared stock.  You can also add salt or other seasonings after the stock has been boiled.  Once it cools, you need to skim the fat off the surface and use within 4-5 days or freeze or reboil.

Cold winter meals - White Chicken Chile

When the weather turns cold, it makes me want to cook and bake good hearty soups and roasts.  Yesterday, it turned colder, becoming more like Christmas type weather and I decided after all my errands, I should cook up a hearty chili.  So this is a twist on a recipe my aunt gave me for White Chili.
White Chili is comprised of:
2 pounds of chicken
3 cans white beans (like canelli, great northern, kidney)
12 oz. drained green chilies (3 x 4oz. cans)
1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1-2 Tablespoon cilantro
1 1/2 teaspoon oregano
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1 medium onion chopped
2 tsp garlic
about 1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 cups chicken broth
1 tsp salt
6-8 oz sour cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream (or evaporated milk)

Saute chicken, onions and garlic powder in oil until chicken is no longer pink.  Add beans, chicken broth, chilies and seasoning.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for at least 30 minutes.  Remove from heat and add cream (or evaporated milk) and sour cream.  Serve immediately.  Serves 4-6.
It looks thinner than it is.  It is a hearty, slightly spicy chili.  Because I had leftovers from Thanksgiving, I used leftover turkey instead of the chicken in this version and it was also very good.  The sour cream adds a thickness and creamy texture that fills and satisfies you.  I also used fresh roasted green chilies.  I was not sure how spicy they would turn out to be as each chili is a little different, but the spiciness will be cut with the addition of the milk products.

It is delicious with bread or tortillas as well.  Enjoy!

Christmas is coming...

With Christmas on it's way, there are many traditions that come with it.  One of my favorite is Christmas baking!  Yesterday I started on one of the many bar-type Christmas cookies.  This one is derived from a 7 layer bar where you just layer the ingredients and bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes.  The only problem was as I was layering, I realized that I only had 6 of the 7 ingredients.  So this is a 6 layer bar which is layered with butter, graham cracker crumbs, coconut, chocolate chips, pecans, and sweetened condensed milk....Yum!
This one also varied in that I had a few walnuts leftover and used them in addition to pecans, which adds a more complex nutty flavor to the bars.  I am a walnut purest in that I don't like them in baked goods, but the treats went over very well.
Chocolate and nutty goodness!  Happy Christmas baking!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Glorious Gourds

Squash!  Who cannot love squash?  Well I am the one to speak since I would never eat a pumpkin or a squash in the form of it roasting in the oven.  My favorite form of pumpkin would be in a pumpkin pie.  At any rate, referred by a friend to a store with free pumpkins, my first thought was that there were only a few and why bother go and pick up a pumpkin.  I not only found many, many, many glorious gourds, but they were of every size, color and shape.  I tried to get an assortment, but sadly not all were great for cooking.
Sunday morning...I decided I needed to tackle the pounds upon pounds of squash sitting, patiently waiting fro me to do something with them.  So I began the hours and hours of chopping, boiling and pureeing the lovely squash, and I came down to many cups of squash.  Lots of purred squash.  Now I am at the point that I need to discover more to make than just pumkpin bread.

So if you, dear reader, have any suggestions of what to do with pureed squash, I would be happy to try them out.  In the meantime, if you are on my Christmas list, think pumpkin bread....lots and lots of pumpkin bread. Until then sweet dreams of squash puree.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Eggs anyone?

What's for breakfast?  I don't know how many times people have asked me this.  Most people look into the cupboard and see cereal and think that is the only thing to eat.  This however is not true, especially if you have some flour, sugar and eggs.  You can create numerous easy, quick and delicious things with those ingredients.  Since breakfast is such an easy meal to prepare, I decide to try something different for breakfast yesterday.  I came across a recipe for a sausage and cheese egg bake.  It was of course easy to make as long as you prepared everything the night before as it required the ingredient to sit overnight in the refrigerator.

Of course this particular egg bake cannot be good for has 3 -4 cups of cream in it, though I lightened it a little and added more milk and less cream.  Spicy sausage, bread, 2 cups of cheese, and 5 eggs later you have what is ready to soak overnight.  Then add one more cup of milk/cream and 2 more eggs and throw it in the over until it is golden brown and sizzling through and through.  It was served with pumpkin bread also fresh from the oven.  Oh, the wonders of breakfast!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Remains of pumpkins

As I mentioned before I like to take something and use all the parts of it.  Recreation of a pumpkin turns into boiled mass of puree of pumpkin and then pumpkin bread and pumpkin pie!  Yum!
Pumkpin puree!  This one happens to be from two different squash since they both were living at my house and needed to be turned into some good to eat.

The first of many pumpkin pies for the season.  This is a simple recipe of pumpkin, sweetened condensed milk, eggs and spices.
And pumpkin bread...This is another very simple recipe with only flour, sugar, spices and eggs.  Simple, delicious and it makes two loaves so you can share this pumpkin goodness.  Pumpkin is the essence of helps us celebrate Halloween, Thanksgiving and the autumn in general with all the varieties of squash available for cooking and eating.  Happy Autumn!

Sunday, October 31, 2010


For me pumpkins represent the autumn.  They are the changing of leaves, gentle breezes and lots of color.  For my kitchen they mean, carved pumpkins, and cooked so they are ready to be made into so many wonderful things.
I like to use as many parts of things as possible.  For my Christmas tree last year that meant leaving it up for 2 months so we could breathe in the wonderful scents of fresh pine tree.  The needles were still not willing to fall off when we finally decided that we couldn't leave the tree up any longer.  At that point, it went outside to be chopped up for firewood and branches for me to use to deter weeds as well as to help my blueberry bushes grow successfully.
When it comes to pumpkins, that means the meat of the pumpkin will be roasted or boiled, but the insides will be used to roast pumpkin seeds.  They are so easy too to make delicious!  Just sprinkle with salt or whatever special seasoning you would like and baked until they smell wonderful!  Yum!

Potato Pancakes

Potato Pancakes always remind me of my grandpa who was the person in our family that always made them for us.  He would cook them up and serve them with butter.  They were so delicious!  I don't remember him putting the recipe together, just the sizzling of the pan and the lovely scent which would fill the air.

After having a guest over yesterday, I wasn't feeling more sweet food for breakfast.  I love breakfast and don't like to just have toast or cereal when I have time to cook.  After thinking about what we ate yesterday for breakfast, I decided potato pancakes would be just the thing.  After a quick preparation of the "batter" which is simply potatoes, eggs, salt pepper and onion, they were ready for cooking.  I am always careful to have the perfect balance of crispy as I love the crunch and enough cooking time for the potatoes to be fully cooked otherwise the eating experience would be ruined.  After cooking each for a few minutes and a hot oven waiting so we could eat together, the pancakes were ready and the aromatics from them were filling the kitchen with tasty smells which could not wait to be eaten.  Not long after, the stacks had been decimated and our belly's full.  Another successful breakfast story.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Sugar cookie rollouts - Halloween Style

As I mentioned, I like cookies and will eat cookies before eating any cake.  I tend to go a little overboard on my sugar cookie rollouts though as I dislike rolling out the dough, but I over compensate for the time I spend decorating the cookies.  I have a hard time deciding which cookie is the worst one left, so that I can eat each little masterpiece without guilt for having destroyed all my hard work.  These of course are the Halloween version.  They don't take long...a few minutes to create the dough, time to chill the dough, a few more minutes to roll them out and bake them.  For me the time consuming part is always decorating them.  I really need to find a quicker way to make them look presentable.  Until then, decorating them is the only reason I make them.


As much as I love chocolate, I love cookies more.  However, I have come to love buttermilk and making a buttermilk chocolate cake just can't get any better.  Especially when it comes to baking at a high altitude this buttermilk chocolate cake is the best.  It is moist, rises well, and while it is chocolaty, it is not overwhelming at all.  Of course, I embellished the chocolate in this cake with a layer of hot fudge and chocolate mouse and then covered the whole thing in a lovely shiny chocolate glaze.  All eaters were pleased with the end result of a quadruple chocolate cake that wouldn't overwhelm you at all.


Saturday, August 28, 2010


Because of my love of baking, I volunteered for the position to bake cakes at work for my coworkers.  The latest was an angel food cake speckled with sprinkles.  It turned out really good and raised well.  I love angel food cake from scratch.  It is easy and very good, plus this one was really like a party in a cake.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Old Bananas

When I lived in Germany, I took German lessons.  One day the topic of rotten food came up.  My teacher was trying to get us to figure out the word for rotten or spoiled food.  She said something about rotten or black bananas.  I spoke up in class and said that when bananas were "bad" you made banana bread.  She had never had it before, so I whipped up banana bread and brought it to class.  Never again did anyone mention throwing away bananas when they were "bad."

This recipe for banana bread comes from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman.  There is a twist in it because there is coconut in it.  Even if you don't like coconut, try it as it really adds a great flavor to this bread.

Banana Bread
8 Tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 dried coconut

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease 9x5 inch loaf pan.  Mix together dry ingredients.  Cream the butter and then beat in the eggs and bananas.  Stir wet mixture into the dry mixture.  Do not mix more than necessary.  Gently stir in the vanilla and coconut.

Pour batter into loaf pan and bake for 45-60 minutes, until nicely browned and a toothpick comes out fairly clean.  Do not overcook.  Cook on rack for 15 minutes before removing from pan.  To store, wrap in waxed paper.

It is excellent after a day or two, toasted with peanut butter.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ricotta Gnocchi

One of the things I have been experimenting in this year is cooking more Italian food.  So this lead me to find a lovely Italian immigrant cookbook with tasty recipes which are easy to make, other than sometimes being time-consuming.  This was my second attempt at the ricotta gnocchi and both time it turned out lovely.  Added to that the pesto made from my own basil and you have a simple, yet filling dinner.  The book this recipe came from is called Italian Immigrant Cooking by Elodia Rigante.  Unfortunately, it is no longer published, but you can find it in the used book stores.

Ricotta Gnocchi
1 pound freshly made Ricotta cheese
1 egg
2 cups flour (maybe a little more if your ricotta is really wet)
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

In a medium bowl, mix the ricotta and the egg.  Add the salt and pepper.  Gradually add the flour.  Knead on a floured counter.  Roll into finger-sized logs and then cut into equal length pieces (mine are usually about 3/4 inch each).

To cook: bring a pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the gnocchi and stir to be sure they don't stick.  Cook for about 10 minutes or until the gnocchi is floating.  You can serve immediately with whatever sauce you like or just some grated Parmesan cheese.  The above photo is made with homemade pesto.

These freeze well.  Or if you prefer to cook them all and not eat them all, you can reheat them in the oven with some Parmesan cheese grated over them.

Monday, July 12, 2010

What's for dinner?

It is steaming hot outside and yet here I am roasting tomatoes for a scrumptious tomato risotto.  This recipe was taken from:  It is a lovely combination of roasted tomatoes and sun-dried tomatoes.  For anyone who loves risotto and tomatoes, this is the perfect dish.  Many people don't like the time-consuming procedure which is risotto, but I simply think of it as solely needing to stir the rice while it cooks.  As long as you are prepared before you start cooking with your stock and perhaps a glass of wine and some conversation, the process is a pleasurable one instead of one that is hard to bear.

In the meantime, I had baked some rhubarb with wine which was a recipe I used from Canal House Cooking.  It tasted lovely and when asked what it was to be used for, I thought eating!  That question led me to figure out how I could incorporate this lovely baked rhubarb into something else just as tasty.  After finding another recipe for a short crust, I baked it all up nice and tasty with a streusel type topping. It turned out wonderful.  The crust tamed down the sweet cinnamon smelling streusel topping which went well with the tart and tangy rhubarb middle.  Yum!

Spicy Cabbage

I found this recipe on and it is delicious, quick and easy. Basically, it is cabbage, fennel and spice. It takes as long to make as it takes you to chop everything up and saute it in a pan. I like to eat this after a hot run in the sun when I can't think of what I want to cook, but just want food immediately.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Welcome to Invited to Dinner

Welcome to my first ever blog! I have been reading several other cooking blogs and over the years several of my friends told me I should write a cookbook, open a restaurant and now start a blog, so here I am writing a blog on cooking. Please bare with me as I learn how to blog and leave comments for me.