Thursday, April 29, 2010

Iced Molasses Oatmeal Cookies

You know, even when I'm trying to eat clean and healthy, I still demand treats. The last thing I eat before I go to bed has to be a sweet reward for making it through the day with sanity intact. Maybe there's a causal relationship between sweet treats and sanity. I think the reason I haven't gone completely off my rocker is because sugar is my prozac. Some say that sugar makes them hyper; I say it makes you calm. If you don't believe me, just try and withold my sugar tonight, and you'll see a crazed, bulging-eyed, thirty-something woman in agitated crisis. I think, anyway. I've never gone without, so this is all purely hypothetical. But why take any chances when marital bliss and a happy home are hanging in the balance? Feed me, Seymour.
Anyway, like every other woman in the America, I'm eating a little better knowing that swimsuit weather is in the forecast. But I'm also a member of Tuesdays with Dorie, my weekly baking club, that thinks nothing of nibbling on cubes of butter for an appetizer. OK, maybe a slight exaggeration, but this week, I found myself wanting to rev up the nutrition profile of our cookie assignment. (Chockablock Cookies-a molasses cookies packed full of mix-ins like chocolate chunks, coconut, nuts, and dried fruit. Umm, my cookie is only slightly related, by marriage.) By my calculations, my adapted Iced Molasses and Oatmeal Cookie, weighed in at a little less than a hundred calories, with a generous portion of fiber. But who makes a cookie because it's healthful? Make it because it's deeply yummy, especially with the sweet icing drizzled on top. And make it also because a couple of these waiting for you at the end of the night can help you make it through the laundry, homework projects, and work e-mails. And if you can do that and still look good in your swimsuit, well, you might even be able to avoid at least a mid life crisis or two.
Iced Oatmeal-Molasses Cookies
adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Chock a Block Cookies
Estimated Cost: about $2.00 for 20 cookies
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teassoon salt
1 cup old fashioned oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
For Glaze:
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1-2 teaspoons milk or orange juice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add molasses, then egg. Stir in vanilla. Sprinkle in the powder, soda, and salt and mix well. Add oats and flour. Dough should be soft and only slightly sticky, like the consistency of playdough. If dough is too wet, add in more flour 1 tablespoon at a time. Roll cookies into balls and place on cookie sheet. Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes or until just set. Let cool for five minutes. Make the glaze by combining powdered sugar and milk in a small bowl. Drizzle on warm cookies and serve.
Next Up:
Grilled Steak Salad with Carrot-Ginger Dressing

Monday, April 26, 2010

National Cornbread Festival in South Pittsburg, Tennessee

Readers, did you watch the news this weekend? Did you hear about the tornadoes in the South? I watched the news, not on the TV, but right outside my hotelroom window. I didn't have to listen to Jim the weatherman warn about the tornado warnings. Mother Nature was warning me with sheets of rain and raging wind. I felt like Dorothy, only with no little dog to keep me safe, and without the blue gingham dress and gorgeous singing voice. And plus, I was in the wrong state. I wasn't following the yellow brick road, but rather, I was after yellow culinary treasure at the National Cornbread Festival in South Pittsburg, Tennessee. A cuter small town festival, you'll never find, not even if you made your way all the way to Oz. The whole town participates as volunteers and Main street revelers. The weather didn't dampen the spirits of the bravest souls, including these blue grass high school boys. And look who's dancing along-Barney Fife! Hiya, Barney.
These kettle corn guys are my new buddies. Hi Mike, Jim, and Monty. Keep up the good work, fellas. Everybody loves kettle corn, right? But these boys at Old Mill take it to the next level with chocolate drizzled kettle corn, blue raspberry, and strawberry.My favorite part of the festival is Cornbread Alley. For a couple of bucks, you can walk along a stretch of tables and pick up an assortment of kooky cornbreads. I tasted broccoli cornbread, M and M cornbread (bad idea), berry cornbread, jalapeno cornbread fritters, Mexican cornbread, and a mini hot dog hush puppy. Sorry kooky cornbreads, I liked the jalapeno cornbread fritters best. You're supposed to wash the whole thing down with buttermilk. Oh, southerners-I tried. If you don't get buttermilk in your little southern baby bottle, you might as well just forget about it. But I wasn't there to swig down buttermilk, listen to bluegrass, pal around with the kettle corn guys or even to eat cornbread, I was there as a finalist for the National Cornbread Cook-Off. That's my fellow finalist and friend Liz from Seattle. She's the only sticker on Washington state for the map of National Cornbread finalists. I'm the two stickers from southern Utah, since I went last year also. The Southerners are clearly the cornbread lovers and festival champions. Next year, I'm going to start a campaign to get some Westerners to whip up some cornbread for the contest. Due to the weather, the outdoor stage for the cook off had to be taken down and moved over to the high school. Safe and dry is better for making cornbread. I got right down to business and made my Crunchtastic Chicken Chipotle Cornbread. I sent it off to the judges in my Lodge cast iron skillet. Coming back scraped clean is always a good sign, don't you think? I didn't get any pictures until they announced the winners-and one of them was me! I'm on the right, looking happy, but also very much like my hair has not survived the tornado warning at all. The next time I head south, I'm wearing a baseball cap. Or maybe I should try to win that first place cornbread helmet, not for the money or fame. Just so I could hide my humidity hair. I'd love to post my recipe and the recipe of the first place winner, but I didn't see it up on the National Cornbread website or the Lodge website, so I'm going to hold back and then set up a link. ONe last thing on my trip: I had a scary, white-knuckle drive to the airport in Chattanooga TN. I had to leave my hotel at 3 AM, precisely the hour the National Weather Service lifted the tornado watch. I was fine-a little sweaty and tense, but fine.
As always, it's so lovely to come home to a clean house, a happy family, a supportive group of kind readers. I've got so many recipes I'm itching to share-a healthy yummy cookie, plus lots of recipes for Cinco de Mayo and Mother's Day. I'll be back ASAP with my cornbread recipe link. Lots of love to everyone.
Next Up:
Molasses and Oatmeal Iced Cookies for Tuesdays with Dorie (late, as usual-tsk, tsk!)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Perfect Pound Cake-get it while it's hot

Post Edit:
This recipe was temporarily housed here, but is now back in the secret files...

Last summer, the charges and I visited the Quiet Man's parents in upstate New York for a one night stop over, on the way home from Nantucket Island. A family friend, Kathy, popped by for a chat. She's the kind of friend that only knows how to say nice things and really listens when you talk, the kind of friend who brings you superlative poundcake when she knows you are about to start a cross country road trip. Kathy buys her poundcake from a woman in Rochester, New York, who has a top secret recipe that she used to finance something impressive, only I can't remember what it was, exactly. College education? Daughter's wedding? Foreclosure Rescue? That's the kind of poundcake this is. I'd never really mooned over poundcake before this one, so I initially delined a bite. But Kathy persisted because this poundcake wasn't just for tasting, this poundcake was for recipe code-cracking. After one bite, the game was afoot. We ate this poundcake in paper thin slices across Ohio, through the cornfields of Illinois. Every time I took a bite, I crumpled up my eyebrows and closed my eyes, questioning the secret make up. Buttermilk? Sour Cream? Lemon Jello? Why was this poundcake so doggone good? When we finally made it back to Utah, it was the first thing that I baked. I baked pound cakes all summer long. All of them were good, but none of them were right. I was feeling discouraged. (Chubby, too.) I set it aside for a season, almost admitting defeat. If you're going to have an Achillies Heal, it ought to be one as delicious as this pound cake. Last month, I began again in earnest. This time I cracked the case. I'm almost trembling to share it with you. Scan the ingredient list and you won't find anything unusual. Aren't most of your best recipes like that? It's not the odd ingredient that makes them special, but the perfect combination of your reliable first-string baking players. The outside of the poundcake is sweet and lemony, with a crisp exterior from the lemon glaze. The inside is moist and dense with a tight crumb and the unmistakable flavor of sweet, fresh butter. It isn't cloyingly sweet, thanks to the generous addition of tangy sour cream. I hope you'll find it to be just perfect. Print out this recipe, because it won't be sticking around here for long. It'll be off my blog by Monday morning, back into the secret files to be used in the future for my cookbook that I'm always writing, but never finishing. For now, it's yours for the baking. Enjoy!
PS Pass it on. Send your friends, relatives, dog sitters, and strangers on over!
Perfect Pound Cake
Notes: This is at its best a day after it is baked. I always cave in and eat a little warm, but since you probably have more will power than I do, try to wait.
Estimated Cost: $4.00 for one loaf
Bye, Bye recipe... You'll be back soon.
The boys are on a chess kick lately, so they ate theirs around this board, built by the Quiet Man.
Next Up:
National Cornbread Festival in South Pittsburg, Tennessee
and my Crunchtastic Chicken Chipotle Cornbread recipe

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Itty Bitty Biscuits and Sweet Cherry Barbecue Chicken

Post Edit:
My poundcake recipe will be up and ready, bright and early tomorrow morning. Get it while it's hot!I was on hiatus from cooking this weekend, since we had two family birthdays (my niece Annie Laurie, and my mom, Barbara Ann) and two consecutive nights in restaurants. I'm one of those people that would weigh approximately 2 and 1/2 tons if I ate out every night. If someone puts food out in front of me, by golly, I feel duty bound to eat it all. For Mom's birthday, we spent about 3 hours, eating course after course, starting with mini sliders, and ending with birthday cake and sugared donuts with jam and pastry cream. But still, the highlight of the night was non edible. My Dad suprised my Mom with a new violin. She doesn't play the violin, but she likes collecting instruments to fiddle around on (ha!) and for all of her visiting grandchildren. Sailor pulled out my Mom's new violin and played the obligatory Happy Birthday and a couple of rousing rounds of "For She's a Jolly Good Fellow." Excuse us for our merry revelry, if you happened to be at a neighboring table.
The day after, I laid in bed, over satisfied. Full. Maybe even a little guilty. All that merry making has made for tight jeans and a chilling terror of swimsuit season. Time for some action! First in order, a portion size adjustment. That's my favorite easy change, since it doesn't make me feel deprived. (Although a little deprivation might be in order soon.)
In keeping with my assignment and new healthful adjustments, I made my Tuesdays With Dorie biscuits, but bite-sized, and with whole wheat and half and half, instead of cream. Those were easy little changes; especially since half and half is already a decadent indulgence. I filled them with a tangy barbecue chicken, with sweet cherry preserves and bright yellow mustard. A couple of them, with a green salad, for dinner really hit the spot. It's a lot easier to be virtuous when you cook at home. Especially when it's good old-fashioned real food. Even good old-fashioned real itty bitty food.
Itty Bitty Biscuits slightly modified from Dorie Greenspan
Estimated Cost: $1.50 for about 2 dozen itty bitties
2 cups all purpose flour (I used white whole wheat)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup half and half, plus more if needed
Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment. In a medium bowl, combine flour, powde, sugar, and salt. Pour in 1 cup half and half and stir. Add half and half by the tablespoon if dough is too dry. Grab it with your hands and knead a couple of times so it can come together. Pat it down onto a floured surface, making the dough about 1/2 inch thick. Cut biscuits about 1 inch in diameter. I use an empty prescription pill bottle. Place biscuits on cookie sheet. You should get about 20-25. Bake for about 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool slightly and serve with butter and honey, or shredded chicken.
Crock Pot Sweet Cherry Chicken
Estimated Cost: $4.50
Quick and Easy!
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
1/3 cup cherry preserves
1/4 cup yellow mustard
Combine all ingredients and cook on high for 3-4 hours, or on low for 6-8 hours. Shred with a fork and season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.
Next Up:
My Secret Pound Cake Recipe
(from Friday to Sunday only-then it's going back in the Top Secret File)

Monday, April 19, 2010

My New Favorite Chipotle Buttermilk Dressing

Ever heard of Schnippers? It's a bare-bones New York City eatery made famous by a pretty straightforward but very tasty sloppy-joe. Upping the fame factor, Bobby Flay did a sloppy joe throw down with Schnippers. I'm not sure who won, but either way, Schnippers wins. With a spartan menu and decor, and Prudence Pennywise-approved pricing, anyone who is rambling around Times Square could cut over a few blocks for a satisfying dining experience.
The kids ate fries, chicken, burgers (do modern kids order anything else when they go out to eat, for pete's sake?) and the Quiet Man happily sunk his teeth into the famous sloppy joe, I ordered the salad with Chipotle Ranch Dressing. Full of colorful vegetables, fresh, and crisp, the salad was the perfect antidote to the street food I'd been muching on for days. It was the dressing, barely spicy and smoky, sumptuous and creamy, that had me craving it long after our trip to NYC was over.
I started with a basic formula for Ranch dressing and fiddled around with the chipotle and a couple of different tomato products. I got the best results with chipotle chili powder and the oft overlooked condiment ketchup, believe it or not. Since ketchup has a good balance of sweet and tart notes, it's not only great for drowning fries, but it also works very well in dressings and sauces. Get some fresh, crisp greens and some rainbow-bright vegetables to lay down and surrender underneath my new favorite Chipotle Buttermilk dressing. I hope it'll be a new favorite for you, too.
Chipotle Buttermilk Dressing
Estimated Cost: about $2.00 for 1 and 1/2 cups
1/2 cup buttermilk
scant 1/2 cup mayonnaise (low fat is fine OR swap 1/3 cup Greek yogurt plus 3 tablespoons oil)
1/4 cup ketchup
1 clove garlic
1/3 cup green onions, chopped
1 teaspoon mild chili powder
1/8 teaspoon chipotle chili powder (Add more if you like, but start small)
1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
juice of one lime
1 tablespoon honey
Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a blender and process until smooth. Store in the refrigerator for one week. It's great as a dressing for a brown rice or quinoa salad, too.
Up Next:
Sweet Cream Biscuits for Tuesdays with Dorie
PS I just noticed that we've got over 400 penny-pinching followers. That means I owe you my labor of love pound cake recipe. I'll post that recipe this Friday for three days only. On Monday, it's going back into the top secret files...

Friday, April 16, 2010

Swedish Visiting Cake

Last night I went to bed about midnight, but I couldn't sleep. More accurately, I could sleep, but I couldn't sleep well. I tossed and turned, thinking about the stack of 100ish term papers that need grading this week. When I wasn't tossing and turning, I was grading. In my sleep. Grading in my sleep, with a red pencil and a furrowed brow. None of the papers were any good, in my sleep, that is. Finally, at 3 AM, I decided to get out of bed. I mean if I'm going to be grading term papers in my sleep, I might as well get out of bed and do it wide awake, so I can mark it off the to do list. And speaking of that to do list, here it is days away from Tuesday and I'm finally getting around to posting this Swedish Visiting Cake. (For any newcomers, Tuesday is the appointed day for my weekly baking club, Tuesdays with Dorie.)If it were any less delicious, I would have forgotten about it and forged ahead to my next assignment. But this cake is special. It has a buttery almond and vanilla flavor, and a lovely tight crumbed texture. The top is slightly crispy with sparkly sugar and toasted almonds. It's rather plain, so you may not want it for your soiree dessert, but I promise that you'll adore it with a cup of herbal tea in the afternoon, or a jug of milk in the morning. I happened to have the perfect little cast iron skillet to bake it in, small enough for perfect half batch. This little 6 inch baby was part of the prize package for all the finalists at last year's Cornbread Cook-off in South Pittsburg, TN. (And incidentally, I'm headed there next weekend to participate as a finalist again with my Crunchtastic Chicken Chipotle Cornbread. More to come on that...) It's awful cute, ain't it? Well, have a wonderful weekend, friends. I'll sleep peacefully tonight knowing that the papers are almost graded and the cake has been virtually delivered to you. Sweet Dreams.
Swedish Visiting Cake
Estimated Cost: $2.00
Notes: This one is a bargain, full of inexpensive pantry staples. For variation, you can throw in some chopped fruit, like apples or berries. You can also use the zest of an orange or tangerine, if that's what you've got on hand.
I'm posting a full size portion, to be baked in a 9 inch skillet, or cake pan.
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for preparing pan
1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
1/2 tsp almond extract (optional)
1 cup flour1/4 cup sliced almonds (blanched or not)
Center a rack in oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Butter a seasoned 9-inch cast-iron skillet or other heavy oven-proof skillet, a 9-inch round cake pan or even a pie pan. I used a my favorite pan in the whole world — a 9-inch oven proof, heavy skillet.Pour sugar into a medium bowl. Add lemon zest and blend zest into sugar with your fingers until sugar is moist and aromatic. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, until well blended. Whisk in salt and vanilla and almond extracts.Switch to a rubber spatula and stir in flour. Finally, fold in melted butter. Scrape batter into prepared skillet or pan and smooth top with rubber spatula.Scatter sliced almonds over top and sprinkle with sugar. If using a cake or pie pan, place pan on baking sheet. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden and a little crisp on outside; the inside will remain moist.
Next Up:
My New Favorite Chipotle Buttermilk Dressing

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Thank you, Babble

Well, knock me over with a feather.
Babble just named your very own Prudence Pennywise for a Top 50 Mom Food Blog.
I'm speechless. Observe the quiet created by my speechlessness.
(It's only a temporary condition. )
I'll be back to babbling in no time.
Be back after I unpack my suitcases, grade my term papers, teach my college students about Darwin, run the charges to violin lessons, and then of course, I'll have to actually make that Swedish Visiting Cake that I'll be back to write about.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Mom's Chicken Scampi

My mom, the tiny woman who's veins pulse with Sicilian blood, loves the Chicken Scampi at Olive Garden. That's saying something, isn't it? Mom's been trying to crack the code on the recipe. (Along with the Italian blood, culinary sleuthing runs in the family, I think.) A handful of Sundays ago, she invited us over to sample her copy-cat recipe. Her house smelled amazing (think butter and garlic) the minute we walked through the door. Hubba, hubba, chicken scampi, I think I love you.
The stuff was delicious, beautiful, and rib-stickingly good. All Sunday dinners really ought to be this special. But don't wait for Sunday-it could pep up a weeknight, or dazzle a table full of dinner guests. Mark it down, print it out, make some up.

And by the way, did I ever tell you, that my mom thinks her children aren't really Italian? Not really authentic Italians anyway. We don't qualify since we claim only one piddly half of her Roman inheritance. For goodness sakes, 8 out of 10 of us have those Mediterannean noses that scream "I'm Italian" to the rest of the world. My mom is just more discriminating than kin, scientists, and genealogists. You have to be 100 percent to get full credit. But then again, maybe my mom isn't a real Italian either. H
ow many real Italians do you know that copy recipes from the Olive Garden? (Just a little good natu
red ribbing. To know my mom is to love her completely. Ti amo, mama!)
Mom's Copy Cat Chicken Scampi
Slightly Adapted to make it easier, by me
Estimated Cost: $10.00
8 tablespoons butter, divided use
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
2 bell peppers, green and red, cored and thinly sliced
1 lbs chicken tenders, pounded flat
2 tablespoons butter
1 lb angel hair pasta
1 cup chicken broth
freshly grated parmesan
chopped parsley

Heat skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon butter. Cook garlic until fragrant, remove with slotted spoon. Cook onion and bell pepper until crisp-tender, about 7 minutes. Remove peppers and onions to plate. Add chicken and brown on both sides in another tablespoon of butter. Boil pasta according to package directions. Drain and return to pot. Add remaining butter and slowly stir in chicken broth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve pasta, chicken and peppers on serving dish. Sprinkle liberally with parmesan and parsley.
Up Next:
Swedish Visiting Cake, for Tuesdays with Dorie
(It'll be later than Tuesday, since I'm in Salt Lake City for my nephew's wedding.)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Shattered Glass, Restoration, and Marble Cakes

There's been a lot of excitement around here. Who would have thought one extra large pane of shattered glass could be such an event? Maybe it's because we live in a small town, where there is very little crime. When a pint size pistol impulsively hucks a few stones, it creates a bit of a stir. (Pint size pistol completely forgiven; those things can happen and often do when you are pint sized.) I have to admit without taking any credit, dear readers, that we do have a beautiful door. We didn't design it, but the previous owners (read my parents), had it made custom. It is gorgeous wrought iron and tempered glass, sturdy and imposing on one hand, but also whimsical and beautiful. I worried a bit when the glass broke-could it be fixed? Last week, the glassman came out to measure, but I was still skeptical, since the glass had a beautiful marbled design and an arched top. On Wednesday, right in the middle of an Art lesson on Japanese print making, the glassman arrived. The first thing he did was to drill out all of the remaining glass. (Not all of the pieces had crumbled to the ground on their own. ) It was a sunlit spectacle, with bits of falling crystal. The charges gathered up all the bits they could find and are saving them. I'm not sure what for, but they are like ferrets. When they see something pretty and shiny, they go into hoarding mode. The glassman was slow, thorough, and deliberate, excellent qualities for one who deals with fragile glass. (I am skittish, jumpy, and maybe I'd better stick with my current job. Kids aren't too fragile, right?) In the end, we ended up with a lovely new pane of glass. It's a little different than the previous glass, but it's every bit as beautiful. The swirled pattern reminded me of the swirls in pound cake, which reminded me that I was late for my assignment for Tuesdays with Dorie. But there is redemption and repair, even if it requires patience. And good things are always worth waiting for, whether it be glass of pound cake. And speaking of waiting, this one's even better if you let it sit for a day...if you can.
Chocolate Marble Pound Cake
adapted from Dorie Greenspan
Estimated Cost: $3.00
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 and 1/4 cup flour, divided use
1/3 cup cocoa powder
powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and vanilla. Stir in salt and soda. Add half of buttermilk. Stir in 1/2 cup flour. Add remaining buttermilk, and just 1/2 cup flour. Divide batter in half. Add cocoa powder to half of the batter, and remaining 1/4 cup flour to the other portion. Spoon alternating large dollops of overlapping batter into the loaf pan. Swirl gently with a knife just a couple of times. Don't get too crazy or you'll ruin the marble. Bake for about 40-5o minutes, or until top springs back when touched. Let cool for ten minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve.
Next Up:
My Mom's Chicken Scampi