Saturday, February 13, 2010

Snow Days call for ice cream!

Snowmageddon-ed in? Here's a fun cure for cabin fever and bored kids, and a practical way to make the most of what Mother Nature has chosen to dump on you - just think of it as the winter version of life handing you lemons and making lemonade...with a little Absolut Citron shaken in, if you're me - ha!

....any Girl Scouts out there remember this one?

Snow Ice Cream!!!


8 cups snow, or shaved ice
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Place snow or shaved ice into a large bowl. Pour condensed milk over and add vanilla. Mix to combine. Serve immediately in bowls.

Optional fun things - mix in some frozen strawberries (or any other berries, really) or use a different flavored extract, like lemon, or almond extract with some shredded coconut mixed in. Enjoy!


Obviously, if you live next to a dog park, chemical plant, or toxic waste dump-slash-recycling area, use common sense about using tainted snow. Get it while it's fresh and pure, and enjoy this old-fashioned bit of fun.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Time for a Trifle!

It's "real" Memorial Day today - May 30th - summer's unofficially here, you can wear white all over without offending the senior set, and best of all....fresh berries are hitting the supermarkets in full force!

So for a family BBQ today, I've busted out my trifle dish (mine's an old family one, but the link will show you the general idea) so I can throw together one of the easiest and prettiest summer desserts you can make.

Here's what you need:

* A trifle dish or large glass mixing or serving bowl - preferably with a domed lid

* A pint each of washed, hulled and halved strawberries (go extra with the strawberries), blueberries, raspberries...any berries you want, really - but we're making ours a patriotic red, white and blue today.

* Stiffly whipped cream (toss in some powdered sugar and a hint of vanilla) or a container of Cool Whip*

* A prepared/store-bought angelfood cake, cut lengthwise into thirds (so you have 3 rings)

Here's what you do:

1. Take 8-10 of the strawberries - the mushy or less than aesthetically appealing ones - place in a small bowl and coarsely mash with a fork until some juice is running in the bowl.

2. Sprinkle 2 Tb sugar over the mashed berries and set aside for 5 minutes while you whip the cream and slice the cake. Stir and mash again after the berries have broken down a bit more with the sugar doing its job.

3. Place the bottom layer of the cake into your dish. Spoon a third of the strawberry mixture over the cake, then ***CAREFULLY*** apply a layer of 1/4 of the whipped cream, and a layer of strawberries, positioning them against the glass first so that they show nicely, then working your way in.

4. Repeat this process - add cake (press it down gently to smush down the layer underneath), then strawberry juice, whipped cream, thick layer of blueberries...and again...cake, strawberry juice, whipped cream, with your final layer of raspberries on the very top. Fill the center hole with a dollop of cream, remaining berries, and plug it with whipped cream, then put raspberries over the top of that, too. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and

5. Refrigerate for an hour or so to let it chill and settle, then serve!

There are two great things about this dessert The first is the presentation. If you are careful about layering, it looks pretty from the outside of the glass dish (the whipped cream is the key - if you slime it around on the sides too much, it obscures the berries). I always get compliments about how nice it looks...but it doesn't take much work or skill. A win-win!

The second is its flexibility - you can make a dessert out of just about anything leftover and it still looks good. We've used sliced bakery-outlet-stale pound cake, even chunks of leftover ubiquitous birthday/whatever event white sheet cake, topped it with homemade raspberry jam that didn't set right, ice cream, more cake and raspberry slime...leftover chocolate sheet cake, ice cream, with hot fudge and white chocolate chips on top...nilla wafers, vanilla pudding, bananas, and whipped cream for a chocolate free Lent can soak your cake with rum or creme de cacao for the adults....the possibilities are endless.

Hard to screw this one up, so give it a shot and have fun!

* Cool whip is probably better - only because it's a little more durable - if this is going to be sitting out for awhile at a party like the one we're going to today. Otherwise I prefer the real stuff with my own flavoring added.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Another Favorite Salad

I was quite annoyed several months back when I went to Arby's (I know, I know...) with the kids - they love the roast beef and ham-n-cheez [<--really can't call it otherwise, or you'd insult real cheese] sandwiches, but I was a huge fan of their now-discontinued Martha's Vineyard I was shocked to find it gone from the menu. So I made it at home to spite them.

Here's the basic ingredients:

* 2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or equivalent in "tenders"), cooked
in lite Italian dressing (put them in a 9x9 glass pan, squirt some dressing
over the top and bake for 30-40 minutes at 375*) and sliced into strips
when cooled .

* 1 pt. grape or cherry tomatoes

* 2/3 c. shredded cheddar (more or less to taste)

* 1/2 c. Craisins (or other/no-brand dried cranberries)

* 1 large apple, cored and cubed (I like a nice tart Granny Smith, but
use your favorite - peeled or not, up to you)

* 1 bottle raspberry vinaigrette dressing

* 1/3 c. sliced or slivered almonds

* Assorted greens - I prefer a mix of fresh iceberg and romaine, but get a
bag of whatever you like best if you're in a hurry - washed and reasonably

Toss all the ingredients together, cutting the apple up and tossing it in at the last second to avoid browning. This is a great "meal" salad or makes a nice side.

Stupid Arby's.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Coke Cake - Lost and Found!

One of my Southern Marine wife pals gave me this one years ago...I just found it slipped into an envelope with some old photos while going through a box of mementos....yummy, sweet, and SO being made here in my kitchen after Easter!

Coke Cake:


* 2 cups sugar
* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 1/2 cups small marshmallows
* 1/2 cup butter or margarine
* 1/2 cup vegetable oil
* 3 tablespoons cocoa
* 1 cup Coca-Cola
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 cup buttermilk
* 2 eggs
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1/2 cup butter
* 3 tablespoons cocoa
* 6 tablespoons Coca-Cola
* 1 box (16 ounces) confectioners' sugar (have some more on reserve)
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1 cup chopped pecans


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a bowl, sift together sugar and flour. Add marshmallows.

3. In saucepan, mix butter, oil, cocoa, and Coca-Cola. Bring to a boil and
pour over dry ingredients; blend well.

4. Dissolve baking soda in buttermilk just before adding to batter

5. Add eggs and vanilla extract, mix well.

6. Pour into a well-greased 9-by-13-inch pan and bake 35 to 45 minutes.

7. Remove from oven and frost immediately. (Start preparing frosting after
taking cake out of oven).

8. To make frosting, combine butter, cocoa and Coca-Cola in a saucepan.

9. Bring to aboil and pour over confectioners' sugar, blending well. Turn off

10. Add vanilla extract and pecans. Spread over hot cake.

11. When cool, cut into squares and serve.

Very glamourous....and not that hard to make!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The "Other" Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have been a Toll House girl my whole life. No deviations, got the recipe right on the bag, no questions asked. Until now.

While making Pane Toscana over Christmas, I was feeling a little wild-n-crazy, so I tried the so-called "Extraordinary Chocolate Chip Cookies" recipe on the Gold Medal Flour bag. "Extraordinary" may be pushing it, but they are real darn good. The Beloved and girls have declared they will only eat this kind from now on, and I have to say...I think I agree. So here you go:


1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter - softened
1-1/4 c. sugar
1-1/4 c. brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 Tb. vanilla

4 c. flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

1 bag (24 oz.) chocolate chips
2 c. chopped nuts (optional - we say yuck!)


(Preheat oven to 350*)

1. Mix dry ingredients in small bowl, whisking with fork to distribute salt and baking soda evenly in flour, set aside.

2. In large mixing bowl, blend butter and sugars at medium speed*, adding eggs one at a time, then add vanilla and beat until light and fluffy.

3. Gradually add in flour mixture until well incorporated** (dough will be stiff and even a wee bit crumbly), then fold in chocolate chips

4. Scoop onto ungreased cookie sheets by generous tablespoonful (I have a fabulous 1/8 c. scoop that is the perfect size for this recipe) and bake 11-13 minutes*** until lightly browned on top.

Yield: approx. 6 dozen

* I use my trusty KitchenAid Artisan stand mixer - as long as the butter is nice and soft, use the whisk blender attachment

** I switch over to the dough hook at this point

*** I use Baker's Secret (2 layer air pocket style) cookie sheets and a rounded 2 Tb. scoop, so the bake time increases to 15 minutes - keep an eye on 'em the first time you make these and adjust accordingly - same goes for using a SilPat on a regular flat cookie sheet or jelly roll pan, which I've also done.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Holiday Potluck #4 - Chicken Wing Dip

A big hit on game days - play with the ingredients to suit your tastes - bleu cheese instead of ranch dressing, jack instead of cheddar, etc., just keep the proportions about the same:

Chicken Wing Dip


* 2 chicken breast halves, cooked and shredded (canned chicken is ok too)

* 8 ounces cream cheese, softened

* 3/4 cup buffalo wing sauce or Red Hot sauce (more if you like it spicy)

* 3/4 cup ranch dressing (or bleu cheese, or half ranch and half bleu)

* 1-1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar or cheese blend


Mix ingredients together with fork, place in a large, microwave-safe bowl and heat on medium-high (70% power), in one minute increments, until heated through, smooth, and creamy. Place in a crock pot or fondue pot on low to keep warm. Serve with celery cut in one inch pieces, tortilla chips or even better, toasted cocktail bread rounds or bagel chips.

For you low-carbers trying to fulfill your upcoming New Year's Resolution while enjoying the playoffs, this is actually an Atkins-friendly experience if eaten with celery (2 g. carbs per large stalk).

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Holiday Potluck #3: Broccoli Casserole

From the family kitchen...a holiday staple!


1 large bag frozen broccoli florets

1 small can water chestnuts (optional)

1 8 oz. bag (or equivalent) shredded cheddar cheese (be generous!)

1/2 c. mayo (as above - more is ok, just don't use Miracle Whip!)

1 can cream of mushroom (or broc) soup

1 tube Ritz crackers, crushed fine

small bag or about 1/3 c. slivered almonds


1. Spread broccoli into bottom of casserole dish (mix in chestnuts, too, if used)

2. Use a fork to mix together mayo and soup until well-incorporated

3. Quickly add crushed crackers (tip: crush while still in unopened tube using rolling pin or serving spoon to gently whack into submission) and fold in shredded cheese

4. Spread mixture over top of broccoli with rubber spatula, covering as completely as possible

5. Sprinkle almonds over top

6. Bake 30 minutes at 375*, or until topping is lightly browned around edges and slightly bubbly throughout surface.

This family standard is great with any holiday meal (turkey, ham) and is a huge favorite with guests. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Holiday Blog Potluck Entry #2

The Most Excellent Larry's Sweet Potatoes:

This is a recipe I dug out of a Reader's Digest cookbook called "Cook Now, Serve Later". It's a hit at the family Christmas dinner, but I'm sure it'll work jes' fine for Turkey Day.


2-1/2 lbs SP's, peeled, quartered and boiled until tender.

1/3 c. OJ1 tsp orange rind, grated

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp gnd ginger

1/4 tsp black pepper

5 Tbsp butter or margarine

1 egg

1/2 c brown sugar

1/2 tsp grd cinnamon

1/2 c chopped pecans

(1) Preheat oven to 375. In a large bowl, mash the SP's. Add the OJ, rind, salt, ginger, pepper, 2 Tbsp butter and egg. Beat with electric mixer until smooth. Spooon potatoes into a buttered, shallow, 1-1/2 qt casserole or 10-inch quiche pan, smoothing the top.

*NOTE* I have never ever used a quiche pan, just so you know!!
[Yahsureyoubetcha, Larry... ;-) --Ed.]

(2) In a small saucepan, combine remaining 3 Tbsp of butter, sugar and cinnamon. Ove low heat, cook uncovered until blended. Spread the mixture on top of potatoes and sprinkle with the pecans.

*NOTE 2* I always use more pecans than 1/2 c because I can. I like to have pretty good coverage.

*NOTE 3* At this point the potatoes can be refrigerated , tightly covered, for up to 24 hours, if so desired

(3) Bake covered for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake another 15 minutes or until heated through.

Serves 6 - I double this for the holidays, and if you do, just use a bigger pan. I usually use a 13x 9 x 2 glass casserole dish.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Potluck Entry #1: Kasia's Candied Sweet Potatoes

Kasia gets a gold star for going first!

Our family's candied sweet potatoes (I suppose yams would work too, but I'm pretty sure we use s.p.'s...), courtesy of The Big Seester:

You will need: a mess of sweet potatoes (depending on size, maybe one per person and a few extra; but these make yummy leftovers even if they aren't QUITE as good as they are fresh),

a lot of butter, and a lot of brown sugar (we use light brown).

Scrub the potatoes and boil them 'til the skins are loose (don't overcook or they'll be mushy).

Pull off the skins and slice the potatoes thickly (about 1/2" thick).

In an electric skillet, melt a stick of butter and add enough brown sugar for it to get syrupy.

Fry the potato slices in the sugary buttery goop.(In case you couldn't tell, this year will be the first year I will actually be making these. So it is entirely possible that I am leaving out important information. Use the recipe at your own risk... ;-))

I'm thinking medium heat for the skillet, and you fry them 'til they're goopy outside, soft through, and a touch brown on the outside but not burnt. I hope I'm right... (worried look)

No worries allowed! Sounds like a good one....sweet potatoes, butter, brown sugar syrupy substance? Oh yeaaaaaahhh!

Part of the fun in your early married years, dear soon-to-be-hitched Clam, is making stuff for the first time and sharing your kitchen triumphs AND tragedies. Makes great stories for the youngsters. Sometime I'll tell you about Christmas, 1993, and my Picasso Christmas Cookies. (NOT my fault, btw...)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Zuppa di Pane Toscana

Or...Tuscan bread soup, as promised!

Some preliminary background and considerations:

Tuscan bread soup is a staple in the region. There are literally hundreds of authentic recipes for this soup, depending on who your Nonni is. :) Genuine Tuscan bread is dense, coarse, rather non-descript in flavor (has little salt), and only comes to life if served "dipped" with a nice olive oil, balsamic vinaigre, and seasonings like minced garlic, sharp grated pecorino or parm, oregano, etc. But you can tell by its very humble nature that it is what has sustained the farmers, shepherds, and warriors of that region for thousands of years. That makes it venerable as far as I'm concerned.

The type of bread used - wherever you get it - is key. It must be a firm, tough-crusted, non-crumbly, genuinely Italian-style bread. Rustic or "artisan" style, if you will, and day-old at least. Your typical grocery store small-"i" italian bread will not suffice - it is made with white flour and will become a slimy, mushy mess in this soup. As with pasta, the preferred flour comes from durum wheat, which breaks down more slowly than, say, its Pillsbury bleached white counterpart. My Pane Toscana recipe is ideal for making this recipe, but we hardly ever have enough left! Fortunately, it's an easy recipe, so it is worth making an extra loaf to be used for soup.

You might be able to find a recipe you like better than this by searching the 'net, but this one is hard to goof up, tastes great, and is one I got in person from a restaurant in Assisi on the feast of St. Francis 4 years ago, painstakingly and very roughly translated and transcribed onto a napkin (which was destroyed by BAD WILEY!). Anyway, the memory still cracks me up. Our waitress and I were staring at each other's lips, making wild hand gestures and pantomimes trying to get it right, and laughing like crazy. Granted, I'd had a fair amount of vino...but I prefer to think she was laughing with me.

So, after that long's......

Zuppa di Pane Toscana


* 2 - 2.5 pounds stale Italian bread, sliced and toasted (or, if you are a savage like me, you can tear your slices into large chunks/quarters for easier chowing)

* 1.5 qts (6-7 c.) whole milk, heated (be'll see why in a minute)

Tomato Soup Base:

* 1 lb. fresh, sun-ripened tomatoes (buy the nicest, reddest squishy-est plum tomatoes you can find off-season)

* 1 smallish onion, chopped medium-ish

* 1 smallish clove garlic (or more to taste), finely chopped

* 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil

* 2 sweet basil leaves, shredded (fresh is great, but also hard to find in winter, so don't sweat it if you use dried)

* 1/3 pound freshly grated sharp pecorino, Parmigiano, mozzarella, or even asiago (if you're into that kinda thing...) I've also chunked up a log of buffalo mozz. and tossed it in. Not bad at all.

* salt and crushed red or fresh-ground black pepper to taste


1. To prepare the tomato soup base, sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil in a medium saucepot (not frying pan!) until the onion becomes translucent.

2. Slice the tomatoes into the pot, squeezing them in your hand as you add them.

3. Season to taste with salt and pepper, simmer for about 15 minutes, adding the basil during the last 5 minutes or so (keeps its flavor better that way).

4. While the tomato mixture is cooking, preheat oven to 350* and heat the milk to very warm, but below a simmer.

5. Dip toasted bread slices in the warm milk, dunking quickly them so they are well-moistened but not soggy (a la french toast), and let the excess milk drip back into the pot for the next slice.*** (<-- I like a creamier tomato soup, so I toss the leftover milk into the tomato base at the end...I think this is what the waitress suggested, too. Totally up to you.)

***I use a potato masher as an improvised "dunking rack" for this part - rest the bread slice on top of the masher: dunk, drip, repeat....this is where the tearing slices into chunks came from. Masher's too small to hold a whole slice, and it makes it easier to eat!

6. Put a first layer of dipped slices in a round, tall-sided casserole dish, layer it with tomato mixture, then cheese, and continue until the bread is used up. Pour remaining tomato base over the top.

7. Heat in the oven for 15 minutes, take out and sprinkle with cheese or a little fresh basil for garnish - serve it warm with a tasty Chianti, Sangiovese, or if you like whites, some Vernaccia di San Gimignano
(<--best shopping day EVER!)

This is no-fail yummy, but search about and experiment with any of the zillion recipes you find out there. I have a Tuscan cookbook with a heartier winter version of this Zuppa that involves white beans and added root veggies, which I've not yet tried. I'll let you know how it goes!