Friday, August 29, 2008

Sweet Pickles: in 30 minutes and 30 days

I started to call these cheater pickles, because making these takes shortcuts found in the store. You don't have to worry about getting the cucumbers and getting them ready. Or buying the vinegar or spices or jars. Or days of soaking, rinsing, and canning. These start out with a gallon jar of sour pickles. Some people use dill pickles too but I prefer the sour because they don't have any spice added.

1 gallon jar of sour pickles
4-5 pounds of sugar

Take one gallon jar of sour pickles

Drain them.

Slice them.

Stack them in the jar alternating pickles and sugar.

Pack it as tightly as possible and top with as much sugar as you can fit in the jar.

Be sure to wipe down the rim of the jar so the lid does not stick. Allow these to sit for at least 30 days for the pickles to soak in all the sugar. The sugar will melt and draw out some liquid turning these into the next best thing to homemade pickles. These are great because they are easier and cheaper. And delicious. Give them a try and let me know how they turn out.

Friday, August 22, 2008

What's for dinner?

As I said last time, there will be a lot of these posts in the future. I'm going back to school. I'll still be cooking dinner, but I don't know how often I'll get to bake or create anything special. Here is where I should say something cheesy like every dinner with my family is special, but I'll spare you.

Dinner was grilled salmon with lime (we seem to be on a lime kick), roasted brussels sprouts, and spicy roasted potatoes. The potatoes were made spicy by adding a tablespoon or so of Texas Pete to the olive oil before mixing it with the potatoes.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What's for dinner?

You may start to see a lot of these kinds of posts when I don't have a lot of time to blog but I'm still cooking something.

Tonight dinner was from Rachael Ray 365: No Repeats. I can't guarantee no repeats because I do repeat our favorites. This is one of them. This cookbook has become one of my favorites. I'm no where close to making all 365 recipes, but we've probably made 25 or 30. So far they've all been good except one.

This recipe is #169. Cumin and Lime Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Spicy Creamed Corn.


* 2 1/4 lbs pork tenderloins
* 2 limes, juice of
* 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
* 2 tablespoons ground cumin
* 1 tablespoon ground coriander
* salt
* fresh ground black pepper
* 6 garlic cloves (4 cloves cracked, 2 cloves chopped)
* 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 1 large yellow onion, chopped
* 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
* 1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped
* 2 (10 ounce) boxes frozen corn kernels (or kernels cut from 5 ears fresh corn)
* 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
* 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
* 1/2 cup heavy cream
* 1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
* 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves

1. Preheat oven to 500°.
2. Trim the sliver skin or connective tissue from the tenderloins using a very sharp, thin knife.
3. Place tenderloins on a rimmed nonstick cookie sheet; coat them with the lime juice, rubbing the juice into the meat.
4. Drizzle olive oil over the tenderloins, just enough to coat (about 2 tablespoons).
5. Season the meat with the cumin, coriander, salt, and pepper.
6. Cut small slits into the meat and disperse chunks of the cracked garlic cloves into the slits.
7. Roast for 20 minutes; remove from oven and let rest for a few minutes, tented loosely with foil.
8. While the pork is cooking, preheat a skillet over med-high heat with 2 tablespoons olive oil and the butter.
9. Add in the onions, jalapenos, bell pepper, chopped garlic, corn, salt, and pepper; cook 4-5 minutes, or until the onions are tender.
10. Sprinkle with the flour, and continue cooking 1 minute.
11. Whisk in the chicken stock and heavy cream; bring mixture to a simmer and then lower the heat to medium-low; cook until it is thick and creamy, about 5 minutes.
12. Add in the parsley and cilantro; taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.
13. Slice the rested roasted pork; serve with spicy creamed corn.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

We all scream for ICE CREAM! when it's homemade

One of summer's greatest pleasures is sitting under Grandma's carport listening to the whir of the ice cream freezers.

We usually make it a few times a summer, but so far this year we have only made it once. Our family is growing so it is becoming hard to find flavors everyone loves. This time we didn't succeed because one of the kids doesn't like any fruit ice cream, so he ended up with store bought. Oh well, more for me!

This time we made peach and banana. They were both wonderful, but the banana was my favorite.

This is the way our family makes ice cream. I have made a custard first, but this was is easy and delicious.

2 packages instant pudding (vanilla for fruit flavors)
1-2 can evaporated milk
1 quart half and half
mashed fruit (5-6 bananas, 10-12 peaches)
sugar to taste
milk to fill the freezer

A lot of the measurements will depend on what size freezer you are using. The banana we made in a one gallon freezer so we only used one can of evaporated milk. The peach was made in a six quart freezer so we used two cans of evaporated milk.

Follow the directions for your ice cream freezer. This also works well in the kitchen aid ice cream attachment but you just have to scale down the recipe.

There are no pictures of the finished product because once the tops were taken off, the bowls were filled and the ice cream disappeared. I'll try to do better if we get a chance to make some more before the summer is over.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Peanut Butter Blossoms

This weekend was Bible School at our church. I signed up to make cookies. The next question was then, what kind of cookies would go over well with the kids? Of course chocolate chip was the first to come to mind, but since I didn't know what everyone else was making, I figured there would some chocolate chip cookies made by someone else. (And there was) My next favorite cookie is peanut butter so those would be it. Of course I had to figure out a way to make plain old peanut butter cookies more fun. Thanks to a bag of hershey kisses, I knew peanut butter blossoms would be it.

Here is the recipe I used, it was on the back of a bag of unwrapped hershey kisses. Boy I'm glad I didn't have to unwrap all those kisses. I made a double batch of these cookies and they were almost all eaten. The kids and the adults seemed to love them.

Peanut Butter KISSed Peanut Blossoms

* 48 HERSHEY'S KISSES Brand Milk Chocolates filled with Peanut Butter
* 1/2 cup shortening
* 3/4 cup REESE'S Creamy Peanut Butter
* 1/3 cup granulated sugar
* 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
* 1 egg
* 2 tablespoons milk
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* Granulated sugar


1. Remove wrappers from peanut butter filled chocolates; place in freezer overnight.

2. Heat oven to 375°F. Beat shortening and peanut butter in large bowl until well blended. Add 1/3 cup granulated sugar and brown sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into peanut butter mixture.

3. Shape dough into 48 balls (about 1-inch each). Roll in granulated sugar; place on ungreased cookie sheet.

4. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool 3 to 4 minutes. Press frozen peanut butter filled chocolate piece into center of each cookie; cookie will crack around edges. Remove cookies from sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. 48 cookies.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Vietnamese Summer Rolls

I'd never had anything Vietnamese until a few years ago. We were living in San Antonio and our neighbors were Thai. I learned about and tasted a lot of wonderful homemade Thai food during those couple of years they were our neighbors. They also took us to different restaurants. One of our favorites was a Vietnamese place where we fell in love with summer rolls. I found a recipe online and decided to give it a try. They were good and they really are a great summer meal.

Since these turned out, I'm excited to try more new recipes, both Vietnamese and Thai.

I found this recipe at Chow.


* 12 medium shrimp in their shells
* 2 ounces dried rice sticks or rice vermicelli
* 8 (8-1/4-inch) round rice paper wrappers
* 1/2 cup mung bean sprouts, rinsed
* 24 small mint leaves (from 1 small bunch)
* 16 basil or Thai basil leaves
* 8 small sprigs cilantro
* 1 Thai hot pepper, serrano pepper, or other small hot chile pepper, seeds removed and sliced into very thin matchsticks
* 1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/4-by-1/4-by-2-inch sticks
* 2 large scallions, trimmed, halved, and sliced into 3-inch lengths
* 4 Boston lettuce leaves, cut in half
* Peanut Sauce


1. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add shrimp and cook for about 1 1/2 minutes, or until they are bright orange and just cooked. Drain shrimp in a colander and run cold water over them until they are cool. Peel shrimp and halve them lengthwise down the center. Cover and refrigerate.
2. Cook the rice sticks according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
3. Clear a work surface, such as a large wooden cutting board, for rolling the summer rolls and prepare a pan that is roomy enough to hold the finished rolls in a single layer. Place all filling ingredients in separate containers, and arrange them in the following order around the board: rice paper wrappers, shrimp, rice noodles, bean sprouts, mint, basil, cilantro, hot pepper, cucumber, scallions, and lettuce.
4. Fill a wide, shallow dish, large enough to hold the rice paper wrappers, with hot water. Evenly submerge one rice paper in the water for about 30 seconds, or until it is soft and pliable. Remove from the water and place on the work surface.
5. Working quickly, lay three shrimp halves in a row, cut side up, just above the center of the wrapper. Layer a scant 1/4 cup of noodles over the shrimp, followed by a few bean sprouts, 3 mint leaves, 2 basil leaves, 1 sprig of cilantro, and 2 pieces of the hot pepper (if using). Place 3 to 4 cucumber sticks and 3 to 4 scallion pieces on either side of the noodle pile. Roll one piece of lettuce into a cigar shape, and place it on top of the noodle pile.
6. Fold the bottom half of the rice paper wrapper over the filling. Holding it firmly in place, fold the sides of the wrapper in. Then, pressing firmly down to hold the folds in place, roll the entire pile up to close the top. (Don’t despair, this takes some practice!)
7. Turn each roll so that the rice paper seam faces downward and the row of shrimp faces up. Place in the prepared container.
8. Serve summer rolls with Peanut Sauce.

Peanut Sauce:


* 1/2 cup natural-style creamy peanut butter
* 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
* 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
* 1 tablespoon soy sauce
* 1 small garlic clove, mashed to a paste
* 1 teaspoon chile-garlic paste
* 1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
* Juice of 1 lime
* 1/4 cup water


1. Combine all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Stir until well combined, adding more water to thin the sauce if necessary.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Chocolate Velvet Cake with Butter Pecan Frosting

Yes it is as delicious as it sounds. It makes a great ending to a meal or heck around here, it could be the actual meal itself. This is my go to cake when I have to make something for a church dinner or holiday meal. Everyone loves it, plus it's a simple recipe. The recipe came from Southern Living, December 2003. I've been making it since I first got the recipe and it's still a family favorite.

Sadly I don't have a picture of the cake sliced because this one had to go to a church function.

For the layers:

1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate morsels
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 (16-ounce) package light brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (8-ounce) container sour cream
1 cup hot water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Melt semisweet chocolate morsels in a microwave-safe bowl at HIGH for 30-second intervals until melted (about 1 1/2 minutes total time). Stir until smooth.

Beat butter and brown sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer, beating about 5 minutes or until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition. Add melted chocolate, beating just until blended.

Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add to chocolate mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Gradually add 1 cup hot water in a slow, steady stream, beating at low speed just until blended. Stir in vanilla. Spoon cake batter evenly into 3 greased and floured 8-inch round cakepans. Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool in pans on a wire rack 10 minutes; remove from pans, and let cool completely on wire rack.

For the frosting:


2 cups chopped pecans
1/4 cup cup butter, melted
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 (16-ounce) packages powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Stir together chopped pecans and 1/4 cup melted butter. Spread in an even layer in a 13- x 9-inch baking pan. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until pecans are toasted. Remove from oven, and let cool.

Beat cream cheese and 1/2 cup butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Stir in pecans and vanilla.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Hoisin Pork Tenderloin

Dinner was grilled pork tenderloin marinated in hoisin sauce, pineapple juice and garlic. It was served with jasmine rice and a broccoli slaw stir fry. It was delicious and quick, almost as quick as getting chinese take out. Plus we know all the ingredients and it's made pretty healthy unlike some chinese takeout.

This is super simple.

1/2 jar hoisin sauce
1/2 cup pineapple juice
3 cloves chopped garlic

Mix together and marinate pork tenderloins. Grill to your preference of doneness.

See, it's super simple.

For the broccoli slaw stir fry:

Put a tablespoon olive oil in pan, add broccoli slaw and sliced scallions. Add salt, a bit of sesame oil, and red pepper flake. Cook until just wilted.