Monday, March 31, 2008

Italian Wedding Soup: Just like Wawa

When we lived in NJ, one of things my husband loved was Italian Wedding Soup from Wawa. We had it at many diners and fine restaurants all over the northeast, but he would always say he preferred the Wawa soup. Today was cold and rainy and soup sounded like just the thing. My husband said he missed Italian Wedding soup, so I thought I would give it a try. I already had a great recipe for meatballs, made and frozen. I had a gallon bag of homemade turkey stock and a bag spinach in the freezer and a box of orzo in the pantry. I was thrilled when Hubby said it was just like Wawa's. With the meatballs made ahead and waiting in the freezer, it was a meal that was ready in less than 20 minutes.

Meatballs for Italian wedding soup

3lbs ground beef
1.25 lbs ground pork
1 can parm cheese
4 eggs beaten
4 garlic cloves

Mix together. Bake. Add to soup.

Meatballs simmering in just a little broth:

Add the rest of the broth (I used a gallon) bring to a boil and add orzo. Orzo takes about 7 minutes to cook so I add in the thawed spinach when there was 1 minute to go.

A big ole pot of deliciousness:

Monday, March 24, 2008

Firecracker Chicken

Sometimes it pays to tag along with your husband to Lowes. We had already spent the better part of the morning there looking some kind of screw fitting thingy and he still didn't have just what he wanted.

On the next trip to Lowes, I picked up a magazine out of the rack and parked myself in the patio furniture while he searched for the right thing. I grabbed a Cook's Illustrated because I am always on the look out for a new recipe. I thought I'd found the one. Firecracker Chicken. It sounded yummy. I planned on purchasing the magazine but my husband had already checked out and I didn't want to get back in line. (Our Lowes never has more than two cashiers working at any time) There were only two recipes in the whole magazine I thought I would actually try, the firecracker chicken and a chocolate black out cake. I decided to do without it for now, but I couldn't stop thinking about the recipe.

What is a girl to do?

Google it!

I found the recipe at Recipezaar. I was so excited and I had everything on hand. So Firecracker Chicken became what's for dinner tonight. The chicken by itself had a great flavor from the marinating.

The sauce is DIVINE! I will be making this sauce for so many meats. The one change I made was not to add a habanero, I used a jalapeƱo instead. I like heat but I'm not interested in burning off my taste buds.

To round out our dinner we had roasted Brussels sprouts and sweet potato fries. I think there is also a piece of leftover PUSDC for dessert.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Pineapple Upside Down Cake: Times Three

Pineapple Upside Down Cake (PUSDC) is such a classic. We all know it's delicious. Leave it to Paula Deen to make it something even better (and use a full pound of butter!) In Paula Deen's Holiday Baking she has a recipe for a double decker pineapple upside down cake with a pineapple buttercream. What could be better? It's so beautiful in the magazine and I love PUSDC so it seemed like just the dessert for Easter dinner.

Paula makes a 2 Layer PUSDC, but even though I used 9 inch pans like the recipe said, I had enough batter for a third layer. We started to keep the other layer just for our dessert tonight, but I really like a three layer cake better than a two layer (looks wise anyway) so I stacked it high. Her recipe also calls for a regular buttercream frosting but I prefer a cream cheese frosting so I made that instead. It was SO DELICIOUS. Everyone raved over it and I thought it was pretty damn good myself.

Here is Paula's recipe:

1 cup butter, softened
2 1/4 cups sugar
5 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups whole buttermilk
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
2 (20 ounce) cans pineapple slices in juice, drained well (reserve 2 Tbl juice for frosting)
1 (10 ounce) jar marashino cherries, drained well

Preheat oven to 350. Spray 2 (or for me it took 3) 9 inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray with flour.

In a large bowl, beat 1 cup butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; sift twice. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

Pour 1/4 cup melted butter into each prepared pan. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over butter in each pan. Arrange pineapple slices and cherries over brown sugar. Reserve remaining pineapple slices and cherries for another use. (Using 3 pans, it took all of the pineapple slices)

Pour batter evenly over fruit

Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cakes cool in pans for 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto wire racks to cool completely.

To assemble cake, carefully place one cake layer, pineapple side up on a cake plate. Carefully stack remaining layer, pineapple side up over first layer. (I added a thin layer of frosting to help anchor the layers) Frost sides of cake with Pineapple Buttercream Frosting. Press chopped pecans into sides of cake, if desired.

Pineapple Buttercream Frosting:
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 TBL reserved pineapple juice from can
3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

(I made cream cheese frosting so I added an 8 oz block of cream cheese and more pineapple juice and extra sugar. I didn't measure the sugar, I just sifted and poured until I looked right. )

In a medium bowl, beat butter and pineapple juice at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually beat in confectioners' sugar until smooth.

Texas Brisket......In North Carolina

We lived in San Antonio, TX for 18 months and there we came to love true Texas beef brisket. We started our love affair with brisket with our first visit to Rudy's Country Store and BBQ. It was such a different experience where you order your meat by the pound and they hand you half a loaf of bread in a pepsi box. Our family fell in love with it as well and we had to take them there every time they came to visit. I will say the originals are much better than the franchise locations. But enough about Rudy's. It was imperative we learn how to make Texas brisket because it was so new to us and we knew we'd be back in NC where BBQ means pork so you can not find a place to eat brisket. At least not good brisket.

My husband learned from a friend how to smoke a brisket. We use a rub with basic ingredients. I don't even measure anymore. Once we got it down pat, we served it to our family. Now if there is a gathering at our house, brisket better be the main course. We love it and love to do it for everyone, so we don't mind. This one however was just for us. Yes 13 pounds of wonderful meat just for the two of us. It is so good. It has a great smoke ring thanks to the mesquite we add to the grill.

We take the leftovers, slice it into thin slices and fry it up with BBQ sauce. It's great as it is or to make sandwiches with slaw.

For the rub we use
1/4 cup each of the following:
garlic powder
black pepper
cayenne pepper

1/2 cup each of the following:
kosher salt
brown sugar
mix together. Can be stored in an airtight container. This amount will usually cover 2 10-12 lb briskets.

Let me Bake Cake! (marble cake with white chocolate glaze)

I went through my many cookbooks trying to figure out what I would bake next. I happened to have all the ingredients for Martha Stewart's Marble Cake with White Chocolate Glaze.
I'd never made it before but my love for Martha is almost as great as my love for chocolate so I knew it had to be good. And it was. My husband isn't a huge sweets fan, so this cake was right up his alley; a buttery pound cake that is not too sweet even with the glaze.

Mine was a little more marbled looking than Martha's, but it turned out tasty. It was even better the next day, especially when you used the extra glaze that puddled on the side and put it on your slice.

The Recipe: (from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook)

1 stick unsalted butter, room temp plus- more for pan
1 3/4 cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs, room temp
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup buttermilk, room temp
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbl Dutch Process cocoa powder
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbl boiling water

Preheat oven to 350. Generously butter a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan. Set aside. Whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In mixer bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating until combined after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Mix in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the buttermilk and beginning and ending with the flour. Set aside one-third of the batter.

In a bowl, mix the cocoa and boiling water with a rubber spatula until smooth. Add the cocoa mixture to the reserved cake batter; stir until well combined. this made the chocolate batter way too runny to effectively spoon it in alternately. next time I am going to wait and see if the chocolate batter will set up more so my marbling is more defined.

Spoon the batters into the prepared pans in two layers, alternating spoonfuls of vanill and chocolate to simulate a checkerboard. To create marbling, run a table knife (or wooden skewer) through the batters in a swirling motion.

Bake, rotating the pan halfway through, until a cake tester comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes. Transfer pan to a rack to cool 10 minutes. Turn out cake from the pan and completely cool on the rack. Pour glaze over cake, letting it drip down the sides. Cake can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

White chocolate glaze:
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
2 TBL milk
2 1/4 oz best quality white chocolate, melted and cooled

In a small bowl, whisk together sugar and milk. The mixture should have the consistency of thin sour cream. Add the melted chocolate and whisk until glaze is smooth. If it is too thin, add 1 Tbl more sugar; if too thick, add 1 tsp milk. Use immediately.

When life give you lots of parmesan cheese and a new oven

You make Parmesan and Black pepper shortbreads. I've been saving all kinds of recipes from food blogs all over while waiting for us to replace my oven. The computer in the oven went crazy so when I would try to bake, instead of it staying at 350 or whatever temperature I needed, it just keep right on getting hot until it turned itself off. I even had a burn mark at the vent. It took us a couple of months to get it replaced (my husband was in Iraq and then we happily celebrated his retirement!) Now that it is replaced, I'll be baking up a storm.

First the lovely grated parmesan

Put the butter, herbs, cheese and pepper in your mixing bowl.

Add the flour and mix. Roll into logs and slice off and get ready for the heavenly scent coming from your oven.

The buttery, peppery, crisp finished product.

I got the recipe from Techicolor Kitchen. I doubled the recipe then I ended up not baking all of them this time to save some for the freezer. We will be taking a road trip soon so I will bake them off before we leave so we'll have car snacks.