Friday, October 21, 2011

Pumpkin Cake

I wanted to share this pumpkin cake recipe because it's one of the easiest cakes I've ever made, and it was moist and tasty. It got great reviews from all the folks I served it to. You might end up baking this cake several times during the holidays.

Originally this recipe was meant to be pumpkin bars, and baked in an 11 1/2 by 16 1/2 pan. You could make them instead, just bake them for 20 minutes instead of 30 to 35. Of course they would be wonderful cupcakes, too.

Tips: I do recommend using freshly grated whole nutmeg if possible. If you haven't baked in a while, do be sure your baking soda and baking powder are fresh. If you are making the frosting, don't leave out the fresh orange peel. It's my "secret" ingredient. Enjoy!


Whisk together:
1 cup granulated white sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
4 eggs (room temperature, as always when baking)
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon table salt (not Kosher)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13 x 9 baking pan with non-stick spray. (If using a glass baking pan, bake at 325 degrees.)

Mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients just until combined. Pour into baking pan and bake 30 to 35 minutes or until cake is done in center.

Optional Frosting:

Beat together:
3/4 stick of pure butter, softened (about 3 oz.)
8 oz. pkg. of softened cream cheese

Beat in:
2 to 3 tablespoons half and half, cream, or milk
A pound of powdered sugar (add sugar gradually or it will fly all over the kitchen)
A few scrapes of freshly grated orange peel--orange part only (no white part under peel)
A tiny pinch of salt

Frost when cake is completely cool.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Homemade Green Bean Casserole

Today I'm making a green bean casserole, because I found four pounds of lovely fresh green beans for .59 a pound yesterday. Last night I made a batch of beans (parboiled then briefly sauteed in brown butter) and tonight it's this casserole. I'm serving it with chicken, rice pilaf, carrots and a pumpkin cake.

This is Alton Brown's recipe, which I modified a little...I used water instead of chicken broth, more green beans, more mushrooms, but everything else is about the same. Here's a link to his recipe:
Alton's Brown's Green Bean Casserole.

Just a word about the nutmeg you can see a couple of pictures below. I really enjoy using fresh nutmeg. It keeps a long time and is easily grated with a micro-plane grater. Fresh nutmeg makes a real difference in some of the dishes I make, like sausage gravy, white sauces, and any dish that calls for "warm" spices (pumpkin pie, etc.). Some other examples of warm spices are cardamom, clove, ginger, and cinnamon.

Here's an overview of the casserole recipe. Toss thinly sliced onions with panko bread crumbs and flour and bake at a very high temperature for half an hour, stirring often. Meanwhile parboil the green beans (which I did yesterday) and make the mushroom cream sauce. Toss the beans and sauce with some of the onions, place the other onions on top and bake until bubbly. Enjoy!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Vegetarian Chili

Hi again,

Here's an easy meal everyone likes. I brought a batch to church recently and it disappeared quickly. You can spice it up or leave out the chipotle in adobo. I think it adds an important element, but use sparingly as it can really get hot. Chipotle peppers are ripe jalapeños which have been smoked, and adobo is a sauce made of tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, salt, and spices like cumin and oregano.

The "ground crumbles" are optional, but everyone I know who has tried this chili had no idea it wasn't prepared using an animal product. If you don't tell them it's vegetarian, they won't know. And, you get to avoid browning and draining off ground beef.

Be nice to your future self: make a double batch, label & date, and freeze.

Helpful hint: Recipes generally use a small amount of chipotle in adobo. Find the small cans in the Mexican/Latino area of your grocery. Chop the peppers in the can, pour and freeze them in a labeled and dated zip-top bag. They are easily available the next time you need them without any waste.


Vegetarian Chili (6 to 8 servings)

2 T. olive or vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped small
1 stalk celery, chopped small
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 to 3 tablespoons finely chopped chipotle in adobo (optional)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
½  teaspoons salt
1 12 oz. bag ground crumbles (in vegetarian section of grocer's freezer. I use Boca brand.)
1 (28 oz.) can chopped tomatoes or 4 cups finely chopped fresh tomatoes and juice (if you have a garden full)
4 cups water or tomato juice
1 can red kidney beans
1 can pinto beans
1 can black beans

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, carrots, celery, pepper, and garlic and cook for 10 to 12 minutes until veggies are soft but not browned. Mix in chipotle, oregano, cumin, chili powder and salt. Add crumbles, tomatoes, and tomato juice. Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer over low heat, uncovered, 45 minutes. Add beans and simmer 30 minutes more.

Serve with condiments as desired: shredded cheddar jack, sour cream, corn chips, green onion, avocado, and/or jalapeño slices.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Things I've Been Cooking

Hello again, thought I'd post a list of some of the things I've been cooking and thinking about. For me it's like looking at a photo album, and remembering each meal and the people I served it to or shared it with. I keep my "Food Ideas" list handy in a Google document, for inspiration. Though not included here, I also list the things I am hoping to cook. I'm so happy to have people to cook for, people who are consistently thankful and gracious.

Note: Some of the things on the list include what others have made; for example, my sister made corn casserole for Thanksgiving and my son smoked pork another time, etc. Thanks for reading!

Frittata with asparagus, feta, roasted peppers; fried potatoes; bacon; banana pancakes and blueberry pancakes
Greek salad with creamy Greek dressing
White chicken chili 
Thick pork chops, stuffed with white and wild rice with cranberries & pecans; yellow squash casserole; green beans and tomatoes
Banana-pecan muffins
Pasta dish with Italian sausage, Kale, Parmesan
Smoked turkey (left from Thanksgiving) quesadillas with corn and black bean relish
Thanksgiving: Fried turkey and smoked turkey, ham, dressing, corn casserole, green bean casserole, deviled eggs, sweet potato crunch, mashed potatoes, gravy, macaroni salad, broccoli casserole, cranberry salad, rolls, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, apple pie, ice cream, whipped cream, tea, coffee
Sparkly Cranberry Scones
Sausage patties, fried eggs, toast
Penne ala vodka; roasted asparagus with olives 
Creole shrimp stroganoff with Cajun buttered noodles 
Pumpkin eggnog muffins
Husband's favorite chicken, mashed potatoes, steamed fresh broccoli, cheese sauce, corn
Eggs in purgatory (Eggs baked in a spicy-chunky tomato/artichoke sauce)
Roasted tomato soup
Vermicelli with creamy sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, bacon, & fresh spinach
Pan-fried grouper fillets, rice pilaf, yellow squash, salad
Mocha Bundt cake
Sweet potato cake with walnuts and molasses 
Black bean and butternut squash stew
Halloween dinner: pumpkin sloppy joes, slaw, ditalini salad, deviled eggs, apple slices with fluffy dip, pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting
Chili, apple crisp (for pumpkin carving night)
Pasta casserole with eggplant, mushrooms, roasted red peppers and zucchini; pesto garlic bread
Shrimp and sausage gumbo, rice, bread, key lime pies with cream and candied limes
BBQ chicken sliders with slaw, macaroni and cheese (Relish magazine, Oct '10)
Potato/corn/cheese soup with basil; oatmeal cookies with dried cranberries
Chicken divan
Roasted halved chickens with herbes de Provence; mashed potatoes, steamed vegetables, biscuits
Moroccan chickpea stew; zaalouk
Banh Mi sandwiches with lemongrass chicken
Asparagus sandwiches
Greek orzo pasta salad 
Smoked Boston butts, Potato Salad, beans, homemade BBQ sauce,  chocolate chip cookies 
Fettuccine alfredo with broccoli, yellow squash, mushrooms, bell pepper, tomato; garlic bread
Chicken quesadillas, black beans and yellow rice,  guacamole
Southwestern pasta salad (tri-color rotini, roasted corn, avocado, red bell, tomato, sour cream and mayo mixed with taco seasoning)
Grilled chicken breasts (marinated in pineapple/teriyaki); roasted white and sweet potatoes; sauteed broccoli with orange zest, chili flake and garlic; deviled eggs; garlic bread
Vegetable stew/soup with grilled sandwiches:  ham, gouda, strawberry jam and  a little country mustard
Chicken pasta salad in creamy curry dressing

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wednesday Flier Highlights and Soft Pretzels

Hello again,

Yesterday just for fun I made a batch of soft pretzels. Whenever I make them I remember how easy they are and then I wonder why I don't make them more often. A bit time-consuming but nothing difficult. I used this recipe,, but I modified it. I needed more flour than it called for, and I added the boiling step (most pretzel recipes call for it, and it helps the crust taste more pretzel-like, less like French bread.)
Make the dough, and rest it for an hour. Cut off equal pieces and shape by making a snake then twisting the legs twice and pressing the toes on. Let rise another twenty minutes (seen here).

Boil them for a minute in a baking soda bath.

Drain on a kitchen cloth (not terry cloth).

Brush with honey butter (shown here) or egg wash. Sprinkle with kosher salt. 
Hot and fresh! Good with mustard or more honey butter.

I have the Publix and Winn Dixie flier. Via Foods is out of fliers today, but I'll check back with them and report their sales. They've been consistently low on many meats. We called a friend who owns a BBQ restaurant last week, because we knew he'd know the cheapest price in town on pork shoulder (Boston butt), and he said he's been getting his at Via Foods. We went to Wal-mart with the Via Foods flier and bought pork shoulders from them at the Via Foods price, .98 lb.

Publix has asparagus for $2.49 lb., green grapes .99 lb., pears .99 lb., and their summer vegetables are once again $1.29 lb. They have a lot of buy-one-get-one-frees (bogofs): tuna, chicken broth, canned tomatoes, fruit cups, canned fruit, canned vegetables, juice, snack crackers, granola, Hebrew Nat'l hot dogs, mac & cheese, kraft mayo, pasta, juice boxes, brownie mix, V8 fusion, granola bars, oats, peanut butter, Bull's-eye BBQ sauce, Ken's dressings, Fuze, Orville's popcorn, Thomas' bagels, Arnold bread, Eclipse gum, Doritos, EB organic baby food, Klondikes, "All" brand soap, 9 Lives dry, and more. And on Saturday and Sunday only, their Kellogg's cereals are all 50% off.

Winn Dixie has a bunch of bogofs as usual, too. It's one of the ways they compete with Wal-mart, because Wal-mart doesn't honor bogofs, they just match the lowest price of area grocery stores. WD's bogofs: strawberries and blackberries, mac & cheese, Sargento cheese, Dole salads, Little Sizzlers, center cut pork chops, boneless chicken breasts, country style ribs, Luzianne tea bags, WD spices and extracts, canned tomatoes, yellow rice, various Cover Girl, taco shells, Stonyfield yogurt, Hefty trash bags, PF bread, olive oil, PF cakes,  Blue Bunny and Starbucks ice cream, Juicy Juice boxes, and more. If you buy three of their General Mills cereals, you'll get a bag of Folger's coffee, a gallon of milk, a bag of powdered donuts, and a dozen eggs free. A 4 lb. bag of sugar is $1.48, and that's a stock-up price. Whole beef brisket is $3.49 lb. Pears are .99 lb.

Save-a-Lot has chicken thighs, .88 lb.

If you want to make meals out of the items on sale this week, here are a few ideas:

To use the bogof boneless chicken (WD) and pasta bogof (Publix) and vegetables (Publix):
Chicken Scallopini (For a good recipe, )
Chicken Primavera with Parmesan Pasta ( )

To use Publix tuna bogof and pasta bogof:
Tuna Noodle Casserole (

To use thighs from Save-a-Lot, bogof chicken broth from Publix, and bogof rice from WD:
Chicken and Rice (Arroz con Pollo)

To use bogof pork chops from WD:
Smothered Pork Chops ( . You might serve rice (WD) and vegetables from Publix.

To use the bogof peanut butter and bogof oatmeal (both Publix), how about some Banana Peanut Butter Oatmeal Muffins?

To use eggs and Winn Dixie's Little Sizzler's bogof, how about a big frittata--Italian oven omelet--with sausage links arranged as spokes? Here's a recipe that uses potatoes and Italian sausage, but you can substitute the ones on sale.

If you do any extra holiday cooking, it might be a good time to stock up on WD's spices and extracts (bogof).
Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Wednesday's Grocery Specials


This week's best meat deal is once again at Via Foods supermarket, on the corner of Business 98 and Spring Avenue near East Avenue. Wal-mart will honor their prices, but I would bring along a Via ad flier. They don't add a 10% surcharge like Grocery Outlet.

Their NY strip steaks are $2.58 lb, while the uncut whole strip is .20 per lb. cheaper. Boneless basa fillets (a type of Vietnamese catfish) are $2.98 lb. A serving is about half a pound (8 oz.). These would be great fried and used in fish tacos. (For an easy recipe, visit this link: .) You can also pick up Hass avocados at Via for .79 each, to go with your fish taco dinner. Boneless chuck roast is $2.38 lb., which is cheaper than Winn Dixie's loss leader on chuck roast this week. At Via,  Boston butt is .98 lb., and most folks enjoy shredded barbecued pork. You could even make up a batch to freeze. Via's broccoli is $1.50 per bunch, but it looked awful, so I'm going to Wal-mart for broccoli and I'll have them give me Via's price unless theirs is cheaper. Via's 3 lb. bag of yellow onions is $1.49, and their seedless red grapes are .99, the same as Winn Dixie.

Speaking of WD, their large tomatoes are .99 lb. I'm excited about the asparagus, $2.49 lb. I really enjoy making Paula Deen's asparagus sandwiches, which we fell in love with at The Lady and Sons restaurant in Savannah. Surf laundry powder is bogof, two for $4.99. They have a lot of bogofs, as usual. Publix doesn't have any great sales this week, just quite a few bogofs, too many to list. I think I'll stock up on Pam spray, Emerald mixed nuts, and Lipton tea bags. Pasta sauce at both Publix and WD are bogof this week: Classico at WD and Barilla at Publix. If you add crushed fennel seed, jars of pasta sauce become pizza sauce. Ever make a pizza casserole? It's a kid-friendly meal. Follow this link to a Taste of Home recipe. .

My friend Julie works hard to make the Taste of Home fall cooking school a great success. It's on September 23rd this year, at South Walton High School. The tickets are $10 in advance. It's always a fun night and there are lots of door prizes.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Current sales and recipe thoughts


I got some deals at Winn Dixie and turned them into Sunday lunch. We had grilled chicken breasts marinated in pineapple juice and teriyaki. Create your own marinade, starting with an acidic ingredient such as pineapple juice, orange juice, lemon juice, or buttermilk...and then build up from there using other components (buttermilk and  pepper sauce is a classic marinade for fried chicken). Plus, when you marinate meat (or brine meat), the cells take up liquid and make the finished product much juicier. Use care with a sweet marinade if you plan to grill because it burns more easily. When I get chicken on sale, sometimes I divide it into dinner-sized portions and place it in freezer bags, then add a different homemade marinade to each bag and label. That way it's marinating as it freezes and also as it thaws.

For Sunday lunch, we also made grilled eggplant tossed with feta; garlic bread; roasted sweet potatoes and white potatoes; deviled eggs; and broccoli sauteed in olive oil with garlic, red pepper flakes, and orange zest.

A couple days ago we had a big pot of vegetable soup, so yummy with grilled cheese sandwiches. Save up your last bits of vegetables in a carton in the freezer and add them to your soup. Making soup is a cinch and one of my favorite things to do. This one contains: onions, carrots, celery, cabbage, potatoes, corn, green beans, spinach, tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, bay leaves and basil. I made vegetable stock and then pureed the aromatics I used for the stock (onions, carrots, celery) and stirred them back in.

Vegetable soup

For today's beach picnic, we had cantaloupe and strawberries, and a pasta salad everyone really seemed to enjoy. I call it "Southwestern Pasta Salad:" tri-color rotini and kernels of roasted corn, avocado chunks, tomato, red bell pepper, small cubes of pepper-jack cheese, and a dressing of sour cream and mayo mixed with part of a package of taco seasoning. You could also add some red onion and black olives but some of my crew has allergies and dislikes.

Tomorrow is the last day for this week's grocery sales. If a store doesn't have what you are looking for, get a rain check. A family pack of top round steak is $2.38 lb. at Via Foods. I'm going to put some in the freezer and then make a note of it for Swiss steak later this fall--such an easy meal. A 4-lb. bag of sugar is $1.79 with a $15 purchase. Chicken thighs are .88 lb. They are easy to marinate and grill. I'm going to debone some and marinate them for the Banh Mi sandwiches I'm still planning to make (and of course save the bones for stock). Via's zucchini is .79 lb. (I put zucchini is pasta sauces and soup or sauté as a side dish). Cukes are .33 each (cucumber salad, or tzatziki sauce for Greek pitas); and milk is $2.99 a gallon.

Summer vegetables are still on sale at Publix, and Winn Dixie has eggs for .99 a dozen (omelets or frittata for dinner) and lots more (see last Wednesday's post). Plan a week or two week's worth of menus using items on sale and in your pantry and freezer. I try not to run out of anything--buy on sale and stock up whenever you can. Make at least one meal a week vegetarian (like soup and grilled cheese sandwiches or black beans and rice). Shopping from your own pantry and freezer is often the most frugal option.

Happy shopping and cooking! Thanks for reading.