Sunday, August 31, 2008

Ode to the Cupcake

I got a new cake pan. I have wanted it for months and months, and finally broke down and spent the $34.95 to buy it. In my defense, I used a gift card.

What's so special about this cake pan? It's a cupcake! No, not a cupcake pan with individual cakes, but one single giant cupcake. It's super cool and I can think of a million uses for it (baby showers, birthdays, potlucks, molding ice cream). The pan is divided into two sections: The frosting top part, and the paper wrapper bottom.

Follow this link and you will understand:

This week, there will be no recipe. This is because I used a boxed cake mix. Hey, I needed to test it out and didn't want to spend a lot of money or time on something that could have been a disaster. Plus, the husband likes boxed cakes (I know, right?).

So, here goes the giant cupcake. I greased and floured the pan. Now, normally I would use all flour, but I wanted my bottom part of the cupcake not to have white dust. So, I used cocoa powder. I believe I learned to use cocoa from Martha Stewart.
Exhibit A:
The instructions on the pan say that for a boxed cake, you need more than one box to fill it. Each side of the pan needs to be two-thirds full. So, here is what it looks like. I think I filled them too much. Oh well, live and learn.
Batter in:

Bake! I had no idea how long they would need to bake for, so I kept checking after ten minutes. I think total, it took about 40 minutes to bake.

Yep, I filled them too much:

I ended up having to cut off some cake on each side, otherwise, the two pieces wouldn't have gone together right.

They are starting to look like a cupcake! On goes the frosting and the sprinkles. Yes, I bought sprinkles. What can I say? I was looking for presentation.

Now THAT'S a cupcake! I really don't want to cut into it. I have a feeling it's going to fall apart. But, at least it looked pretty for a little while.


I had a dinner planned for Saturday and was really excited about it. When I looked more carefully at the recipes, I realized that I had forgotten to pick up some ingredients at the grocery store. My chili called for a 15 ounce can of tomato sauce, which I didn't have. I do quite a bit of cooking, yet I didn't have tomato sauce?!? I had spaghetti sauce, but knew that wouldn't be close enough. So, I improvised. In my pantry, I found a can of diced tomatoes. A few minutes in the food processor did the trick. It wasn't exactly sauce, but it was good enough.

So, I assembled my chili, and let it cook in the crockpot all day. Then, I went to make my jalapeno cornbread. Heaven help me, I had forgotten to buy buttermilk at the grocery store. I was going to use regular milk, but my innovative husband suggested some butter along with the regular milk. Guess what? It worked! Along with the butter, he suggested some cheese with the cornbread, so I added that as well.

The result was a tasty supper with some modifications. The chili could have used more spice. I should have chopped up a jalapeno from my garden and added it to the cooking chili. The cornbread was by far my favorite part though. It was moist, and had just enough cheese. I couldn't taste the jalapenos, but that's my fault. I didn't produce a very spicy crop of peppers this year.

Enjoy my improvisational meal (is that a word?) below. You probably are going to be more responsible than me though and make sure to have tomato sauce and buttermilk on hand.

Slow-Cooked Chili
from: Pillsbury One-Dish Meals Cookbook
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 pound bulk Italian sausage (I suggest Hot)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 can (28 oz.) whole tomatoes, undrained, cut up
1 can (15 oz.) tomato sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 to 1.5 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 can (15 oz.) spicy chili beans, undrained
1 can (15 oz.) garbanzo beans, drained, rinsed

1. In large skillet, cook ground beef, sausage and onion until beef is browned and thoroughly cooked. Drain.

2. In crockpot, combine browned meat and onion with all remaining ingredients; mix well.

3. Cover; cook on low setting for 7 to 8 hours or until thoroughly heated.

Jalapeno Corn Bread
from: with Pachey's modifications
1.5 cups cornmeal
1/2 cup flour
6 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
2 tablespoons butter melted
3/4 to 1 cup of milk
1/4 cup olive oil
3 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1. In a bowl, combine the first six ingredients. In another bowl, whisk the eggs and oil. Melt the butter and add to a 1 cup measuring cup. Pour in milk until it fills the measuring cup. Add the milk/butter mix to the eggs and oil. Add to the dry ingredients and stir just until moistened. Stir in jalapenos and cheese. Pour into a greased 9-inch square baking pan.

2. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cut into squares or wedges. Serve warm.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Spaghetti and Salad

These are usually two dishes that you would eat together. A nice spaghetti dinner with a green salad. But, what if they were actually together? The spaghetti and the vegetables. That is what this is. It's a pasta salad using spaghetti, and all kinds of fresh, crisp veggies. I usually don't like raw onions, but in this, if you use a nice sweet red onion, it's delicious. I can't get enough of this salad. I made it for a potluck a few weekends ago, and I was so glad that there were some leftovers. There were leftovers because half the people showed up at the potluck, not because it didn't taste good. I just had to clarify that for a few people.

Speaking of potlucks, this is a great recipe for one. You can chop the veggies and cook and chill the noodles the night before. Then, in the morning, throw everything together with the dressing. Or, you can make it the night before and let the flavors mingle. Either way, it still tastes fantastic.

This salad would be excellent as a vegetarian main dish, or a side with grilled burgers, chicken or steak. I have taken it as my lunch for a week in a row. That is how much I love this stuff.

Do not double this recipe. Why? Because, you will end up with pasta salad for weeks. Seriously, it makes a ton. The only time I would double it is if I was feeding an army. An actual army. The recipe by itself easily serves 8-10 people if everyone has at least a cup full.

I envy anyone that makes this. I would, but I may be pasta salad-ed out for a while.

Spaghetti Salad

1 pound spaghetti
1 (16 ounce) bottle Italian-style salad dressing
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
8 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 cucumber, peeled and chopped

1. Cook spaghetti in boiling salted water until al dente. Rinse in cool water, drain.
2. In a large bowl place chopped tomatoes, green bell pepper, onion and cucumber. Add Cheddar cheese, and salad seasoning.
3. Add cooled pasta to large bowl with vegetables and pour salad dressing over top. Toss well to coat. Chill for several hours before serving.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Barbeque Season

It's the time of year for barbeque, and that means two of my favorite things: Hot dogs and potato salad. Although we aren't eating hot dogs for dinner, we are eating potato salad.

This is my aunt's recipe which I altered a wee bit. I added some green onions from my garden and some dill. I think it tastes better now, but I won't tell my aunt that. If you don't have dill pickle relish, that's okay. You can dice up some pickles instead.

Tonight, this potato salad is being consumed with cheeseburgers from the grill. I would prefer hotdogs, but I am weird after all.

Potato Salad
from: Pachey's aunt with some alterations

8-10 medium sized potatoes
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 hard boiled eggs
1 tablespoon mustard (or more if you like mustard, which I do!)
2-3 tablespoons dill pickle relish
pickle juice
salt, pepper, dill, garlic powder to taste
3-4 green onion, sliced
paprika for garnish

1. Peel and cut potatoes into 1-inch cubes. Boil with 2 tablespoons vinegar until cooked. Drain and cool to room temperature.

2. Cut eggs with egg slicer, but do not cut any further.

3. Add all ingredients together and mix well. The eggs will break up while mixing. If mixture is too dry, keep adding pickle juice.

4. Sprinkle with paprika.

Baking Fool

I have been a busy bee this weekend. Not only did I paint our entire pantry (I refinished that hardwood a couple of weeks ago), I went to Costco, the grocery store, Petco, weeded the gardens, cleaned the house, did about a billion loads of laundry, organized our computer room, and baked.
I baked a lot. Well, a lot for me at least.

I had three over-ripe bananas that I needed to use, and due to the bounty of my vegetable garden, had tons of zucchini. You know what that means?! Banana bread, and even better: Zucchini bread!

This is my mother in-law's recipe. Ssssh, don't tell her I posted it here. It's very good and rich because it's made with brown sugar rather than the traditional white sugar. When it's fully baked, I assure you it isn't burnt. It just browns up due to the sugar. I think this would be really tasty if you used raisins in the batter, but my husband forbid me. He can't seem to understand that sometimes, variating from the norm is OK! I didn't want to give him a heart attack by changing his mom's recipe. So, no raisins this time.

Now, I just need to get my very sore and tired butt off this chair so I can go enjoy some warm zucchini bread. Oh, and if anyones know what else I could do with zucchini, that would be great.

Zucchini Bread
from: Pachey's mother in-law Lynn

3 eggs
1 cup oil
2 cups packed brown sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups grated zucchini
3 teaspoons cinnamon
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoons baking soda
3 teaspoons baking powder

1. Mix eggs, oil, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl until creamy.
2. Mix all dry ingredients in a small bowl.
3. Slowly add dry ingredients to egg mixture and stir until combined.
4. Fold in zucchini.
5. Pour into two prepared loaf pans and bake at 325 degrees for an hour.
The picture below looks funny because someone (husband) snuck some bites off my piece before I noticed.