Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My Favorite Appliance–a Slow Cooker!


If you’re a foodie newbie, I highly recommend you ask Santa for a slow cooker.

Or don’t wait and just go get one. Fast!

You can thank me later.

This is the one appliance that has never let me down. Not once.


I have even gone so far as to dub myself the Crockpot Queen, which is pretty easy in my house because Hubs either grills or fries and culinary-school-Son uses every other tool in the kitchen.

Except the crockpot.

They don’t know what they’re missing. But I won’t tell them, if you won’t.

I won’t tell them that you dump all the ingredients in at once, turn one little dial and walk away.

I won’t tell them that cheap cuts of meat come out tender and juicy.

Or that the juices that puddle in the pot taste like someone who actually knows what they’re doing in the kitchen made them.

Truth be told, I only have a handful of recipes I use. But they’ve never failed me. Never!

I’m happy to share, but here’s a fabulous site with plenty of recipes to get you started.

After a couple of times, you’ll find you can just experiment too. That’s what I really love about this thing. Just dump, turn the knob, and let it do it’s thing.

Pot roast is one of my favorites. And it’s so easy.

I’ve used both beef roasts and pork. Both turn out good.

Here’s the ‘recipe’.

Put the meat in the slow cooker.

Tear open an envelope of this wonderful goodness.


Pour in a little bit of this.


Put the lid on, turn the knob, and you’ll have the best roast in about 6 hours, depending on the cooker.

If you want a whole meal, cut up some potatoes and throw them in there too. Or any other veggies you want.

Now, if you read about slow cookers, all the books will tell you that you need a good amount of liquid. But I’ve made this roast a bunch of times and have never added water. Maybe a little wine, if I have some.

I guess if you added some water, you’d have even more juice. But I always seem to have plenty.

So much so, that on the days when I actually feel my cooking mojo working, I make a gravy from the juice.

I can’t tell you the feeling of accomplishment I get when I make a gravy from scratch!

Why, it almost makes me think I can cook!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Cinnamon Rolls

I don’t know what it is about cold weather, but it’s when I like to bake. Or attempt to bake.

It’s not always a sure thing.

I guess that’s why I have a kitchen full of gadgets. And appliances. And tools.

Anything that might give me better odds than 50:50.

I know, I know. People who can actually bake will say it just takes experience.

That may very well be true, but don’t burst my bubble about the gadgets.

This one is really kind of fool-proof. Or foodienewbie-proof.


It’s a bread machine, for you newbies out there.

What’s so great about a bread machine, you ask?

You dump the stuff in. It mixes. It kneads. It bakes – if you want it to. Or you can just make dough. For say, cinnamon rolls. Or pizza dough.

Any of those yummy yeasty dough that you usually have to knead. And knead. And knead.

At my age, I’m all about Easy – especially in the kitchen. So if I used the bread machine for nothing other than homemade cinnamon rolls, it’d be worth it.

I actually do make bread in it – about once or twice a year.

Today it was pouring rain and windy and I was bored enough to make these cinnamon rolls.

These seem like a lot of work, but they’re not. {I’m just really, really wordy.}

If you don’t have a bread machine, and you don’t want to mess with yeast proofing and/or kneading and kneading and kneading – there is a shortcut.

Bridgford frozen bread dough.

You might have to ask for it at your store. Some stores don’t carry it, I’ve noticed.

But if you can find a package, grab it. Take out one loaf – there are 3 to a package – slather it in butter and let it thaw.

You’ll get a big, puffy mound of yeast dough. Then skip down to the Filling part of the recipe and you’ll have some scrumptious cinnamon rolls.

However if you do have a bread machine, or get one for a present, this is a good FoodieNewbie recipe.


This is the inside of mine. See the little scraper-thingy in the middle? It’s the paddle that does all the mixing and kneading. And kneading. And kneading.


Here’s the dough fixin’s.

I invested in some bread flour. What’s the difference between bread flour and all-purpose flour? These guys know.

I also got bread machine yeast. I mean, if you’re gonna have a machine, why not hedge your bets? Trying to up those 50:50 odds, you know.

Now, for the dumping part.


This is an egg in a cup of warm water. There are two reasons I did this.

1. The recipe said to do it. “one egg @ room temperature with enough water to make 1 cup”.

2. I always crack my eggs into a separate bowl.

Always. I saw them do it on TV. Plus, my cracking ability is just a notch or two above my baking. I’d rather wash an extra bowl then take 10 minutes to dig a piece of eggshell out.

Ok – dump this in. The water is supposed to be 80 degrees. Almost warm. Tepid. Baby bottle temp.

Better yet, get a thermometer. If you do any cooking of meat, please get a thermometer! If you’re a Newbie, it’s a must.

You can thank me later.

(Like, after you serve up that beautiful browned chicken breast, cut into it, and see that pretty itty-bitty pink in the center.)

Then dump the oil in.

Now the dry ingredients.


Here’s a shot of leveling off the flour.

If you already knew how to do it, sorry for what seems to be obvious.

If you didn’t know how to do it, I won’t tell anyone. Scoop a heaping measure into your cup, then take the flat side of the knife and scrape the excess off. It levels your measurement – very important in baking. Now you know how to measure dry stuff.


Flour, sugar, salt, yeast – on top of the wet ingredients. Just dump ‘em all in there.


On my machine there’s a program for #7 DOUGH. There’s a PROGRAM button. Press the button until #7 shows in the window.


Press the START button.

Dump. Press button. Press other button. With me so far?

Now you see why I like gadgets, huh.

That little black box now starts churning and mixing and kneading. And kneading. And kneading.

It even beeps if you want to add raisins and nuts to the dough.

I don’t, thank you. I’ll just put mine in the filling.


While the black box is kneading and kneading – something you’d be doing if you don’t have a black box, or you can’t find Bridgford Bread Dough – you need to grease a baking pan.

This very well-used one is 9” x 13”. Not well-used by me, mind you. It’s my mother’s. I haven’t baked enough to have a well-used anything.



Yep, butter. I used it to grease the pan. You’ll also need about this much to spread on the dough when you get it rolled out.


You’ll also need a rolling pin. This is Mom’s cool silicone set. You still have to use flour, but I like having a big ol’ mat to make a mess on.


You can also chop nuts while the machine is chuggin’ away – unless you don’t want nuts.

Behind the nuts are the filling ingredients, except I see I didn’t put brown sugar on the counter. And I did put brown sugar in the filling. If you like a little toffee flavor, add brown sugar too.

I used pecans because that’s what we had. Any nut will work. I’m not particular with nuts.

I could go down an entirely different avenue with that one, but I won’t. Right now, at least.


When the bread machine dings the 2nd time, you’ll get this wonderful blob of yeast dough. Sprinkle some flour down on your work surface, and rub some more on your rolling pin. Keep a little extra nearby in case your dough gets sticky.


Roll the dough into a 12” x 18” rectangle. Yes, that is a tape measure up there. Yes, you can guess-timate the size, if you want. 50:50 odds, remember? I’m still doing nearly everything by the book.


Spread the rectangle with butter. I’m sure they make a tool for this, but I don’t have it. Pastry brush? Nope, don’t have it.

Then I sprinkled brown sugar on it. No, I didn’t measure. Shhh . . .


Add the white sugar, cinnamon and raisins and nuts if you like. Then you take the long edge of the rectangle and start rolling.


Keep rolling and rolling.


Then slice the roll up. They said 1” pieces. I wanted to make them bigger, but I chickened out.

If you’re a real baker and you make big, thick cinnamon rolls, can you tell me if I’d just cut bigger pieces?


Put them in the greased baking pain. No, they don’t look like much here. They taste great, though. Not now. After they’re baked, I mean.


Cover with a towel and place them in a warm spot – if you can find one this time of year. Let them double in size. Takes about an hour.

Pop them in the oven @ 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

While they’re baking, you can make a glaze.


Powdered sugar, a little vanilla and milk. Mix it ‘til smooth.


Drizzle it all over the rolls when they’re hot out of the oven.



They’re mighty tasty without a glaze, too. Or, you can spread some vanilla or cream cheese frosting on them.

Yummy any which way.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Food Flops

I’ll be the first one to admit I’m not a great cook. How I’ve made it 52 years, nearly 53 {gulp} and never learned to cook, I don’t honestly know.

All I can tell you is – I’m trying.

If you’re an experienced cook, maybe you’re used to flops. Maybe you like trying new recipes and it doesn’t bother you when they don’t try out. Maybe you can take a look at a recipe and know it won’t work.

Not me, obviously.

Since it’s Fall, even though the 90 degree weather is hiding this fact, I wanted something Pumpkin.

Mom had a recipe.


Mom has boxes and boxes of recipes. It’s her hobby – rippin’ and tearin’  seemingly yummy directions out of magazines and newspaper.

This looked like a good recipe for Pumpkin Muffins. Look at the date – 1990. She’d kept it for 10 years. I figured she must have made it numerous times.

I figured wrong.

First I had to find some muffin liners, since I’m in her kitchen.


I thought these were sooo cute. Probably from before I was born. That’s back in the 50’s, folks. I didn’t want you to have to count this morning.

Old, very old. Just like I’m feeling today.

I’m not showing the recipe. I’ll show you the muffins though.


Don’t let this fool ya. They were horrible. Horrible!

Dry, no taste, bland. Blech!

What really bothered me, though, other than I wanted a nice, sweet muffin, was that I opened a huge can of pumpkin. I only used 1/2 cup, but that left me with the rest of the can.

A big can of pumpkin at Safeway was $3.98 last week. Four bucks? For pumpkin?

And then to have it not turn out? I was more than bummed.

And I followed the recipe. I did!

Mom always asks me that. Did you follow the recipe?

Okay, forget this recipe. I still have some pumpkin left and found a potential candidate for yumminess. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Poached Eggs – FastaPasta Style

I’m not usually a gadget person. I don’t different kinds of complicated tools that do the same thing.

BBH loves gadgets. The more, the merrier. Mom loves gadgets. Mom gives BBH gadgets when she upgrades to a newer, ‘improved’ gadget.

So between my mother and my husband, we have a ton of gadgets.

There is one area where I’ll admit to loving them, though – the kitchen. Somewhere, in my pea brain, lies a belief that gadgets will make my cooking/baking better.

It doesn’t work that way, I know. But it makes me feel better in the kitchen. And I’ll take all the help I can get, thank you very much.

So Mom has been pretty sick for a while now. Getting food down her is a daily struggle, but she a necessity. About the only whole food I can get her to eat is a poached egg.

I love poached eggs. I even have a poached egg pot with four little egg holders and it works great. But it’s packed up. With the rest of all of my wonderful kitchen gadgets.

But I’m staying with my mother. She has more kitchen gadgets than I do. Ah, but there’s always room for one more, right?

Allow me to introduce you to FastaPasta.


Mom saw it on QVC and had to have it.

We could write a book on QVC.

We shop there. A lot.  

But let’s get back to the FastaPasta. I actually did cook some pasta in it and it turned out fine. Why they call it ‘fasta’, I have no idea. Seems to me like it takes as long as cooking it in a pot on the stove.

But you don’t need a strainer/colander/drainer thing. And you don’t need to wash a pot. Just the little plastic shoebox-lookin’ thing.

Ok, fine. But Mom wanted a poached egg. And she was sure she saw them make one on QVC.

So I looked on their website video. No poached egg. I read their recipes. No poached egg. I googled it. Nope.

Well, how hard could cooking a poached egg be, anyway?

You know, I quit asking those questions years ago because in my personal experience, just about anything can go wrong when I’m in the kitchen.

But, come on. One egg. It couldn’t be that bad.

And, Surprise, Surprise – it wasn’t!


I put some water in the box. No instructions, so I just guessed.

There are little lines on the side of the box to measure your water for pasta. Not for poached eggs, though.

I cracked a couple of eggs. I figured if it turned out halfway decent, I’d want one too.


I nuked the water and eggs for about 2 minutes. Mom’s microwave is super powerful, so it’d probably take a little longer in mine.

And I’m looking at this picture and the lid is on. You’re not supposed to cook with the lid on which makes me wonder if I did. Or did I put the lid on to take the picture. Now, why would I do that, though? Hmm . . .

At any rate, the eggs looked pretty good – even thru the lid that wasn’t supposed to be on there.

Wait, maybe I put the lid on there to keep the steam in. No. I think it was to drain the water.

Yeah! That was it.


See the little drainer vents?


I was sure the egg yolk was gonna break. But it didn’t.


After the water was drained.


This was the only issue – see the white rectangle? That’s cooked egg white that settled in the bottom of the box.

It was fine, though. Tasted good. Wasn’t overcooked or undercooked.

In fact, I think I’ll go make a couple more right now.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Deviled Eggs or Egg Salad

This is one of my standards. You know, a recipe I don’t have to think about – or worry about! I’m not sure why, but it always turns out and it’s always a favorite. That’s not too common when I make something, believe me. It’s usually more of a 50:50 proposition.

I don’t usually measure, but I will today. I’m using 8 eggs, but they’re on the small side. Here’s what you’ll need.

  • saucepan & lid
  • bowl w/ice water
  • something to mash eggs with (I’m using my lovely Ninja)
  • timer – there might be one on your microwave if you don’t have one
  • tongs, to get eggs out of hot water, or a big spoon would work
  • measuring spoons (unless you just add to taste)
  • knife to cut green onions
  • eggs
  • mayonnaise
  • dijon mustard
  • green onions
  • salt & pepper, if desired
First, boil the eggs. Put the eggs in your saucepan and cover them with water. Heat to boiling, then turn fire off and let sit for 22 minutes. I’ve boiled eggs this way for years. There are other ways, but this always works for me.
Next, put eggs in ice water to stop them from cooking.

Once cool, peel eggs under cool, running water. Helps to get the shells off.

For Deviled Eggs, slice eggs in half and scoop out yolks. Then add ingredients below. I spoon it into a plastic bag, cut a small corner and then squeeze it into the whites.

For egg salad, just mash whites and yolks up together. I throw everything in the Ninja – even whole eggs.
Then add:
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 3 Tbls. dijon mustard
  • 4 Tbls. mayo
  • salt & pepper to taste
Then refrigerate for a while to let the flavors blend. You can add more mustard or mayo to taste, but I’d wait until it sits a bit. The flavors get much stronger after it’s refrigerated.

That’s it! Easy-peasy. Once you’ve made it, you’ll know how much mustard & onion you like. I personally love a lot of dijon mustard, but I’ve learned to start with a little and add more later.

Next time you have to take something to a party, try these deviled eggs. I guarantee they’ll be the first to go.

Check out some tasty recipes from these great blogs.
Beauty and Bedlam


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Blueberry Cream Cheese Pound Cake

Tonight was the third time I made this cake, and it hasn’t failed me yet. Either that means it’s extremely easy, or I’m becoming a better baker. Or maybe a bit of both.
I won’t lie – it’s rich. Any cake that doesn’t call for frosting, only powdered sugar – is probably pretty rich. Usually that doesn’t stop me, however. Me & the Hubs love our sugary frostings. But this one truly doesn’t need any frosting.
This recipe came from an insert in the Sunday paper – American Profile, I think it’s called. I usually don’t try these recipes, but I’m so glad I gave this a shot.
Tools Needed
  • Bundt pan - If you’re a new baker, it’s worth the investment, just for the array of wonderful cakes you can make in this pan. I was lucky; Mom gave me hers.
  • Mixing Bowl
  • small bowl for beating eggs
  • Mixer
  • Measuring cups for liquid
  • Measuring spoons
  • Spatula to scrape mixing bowl
  • Toothpicks to test for doneness
  • Cooling rack
  • butter or shortening to grease pan & flour to coat pan after greasing OR
  • this lovely stuff (see note below)
  • 1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened (this means room temperature or you’ll get little lumpies)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 18 oz. package yellow cake mix
  • 1 3 oz. (small) package instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries (I’ve always used frozen, but I thaw & drain them)
  • Powdered sugar (optional)
Note: My Bundt pan has all these cool nooks & crannies so I used the Crisco spray pictured above. It seemed a bit greasy after spraying so I coated the pan with some powdered sugar since I was going to top it w/the sugar anyway. Worked fine.
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Lightly spray 9-inch tube or Bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray and dust w/flour (or powdered sugar, as I did).
  3. Combine cream cheese and oil in medium bowl; beat with mixer at HIGH speed until smooth & creamy. 
  4. Beat the 4 eggs in small bowl.
  5. Add cake mix, pudding mix, beaten eggs and vanilla to cream cheese & oil mixture. Beat at MEDIUM speed.
  6. Fold in berries. Batter will be THICK. Spoon batter into prepared pan.
  7. Bake 60 minutes or until wooden toothpick comes out clean. Cool cake in pan on wire rack for 20 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on rack. (If you can’t wait, it’s really good served warm.) Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.
Serves 16. (Did they really say 16? Guess they cut smaller slices than we do!)
Just look at all them blueberries! Yum! I really must try it this summer with some fresh berries, though.
I did try this once with cranberries instead of blueberries. Dried cranberries. Didn’t turn out so good. The dried cranberries absorbed any liquid and the cake was much drier. The taste was still good – just not as moist.
I’ve since made a cranberry orange nut bread and rehydrated the berries in orange juice for an hour before putting them in the batter. That might work with this cake, I don’t know. Guess I’ll have to experiment.

Ok, I'm linking to this wonderful party for the 1st time. That's a big, big step for a newbie! But, go and check out everyone else's great ideas!

Beauty and Bedlam

Happy Baking!