Monday, August 27, 2012

Cherry and Pineapple Dump Cake

 Have you ever heard of a dump cake? It's so named because you're supposed to just dump everything into the pan and bake it. Actually, it doesn't really turn out like a cake at all. It's more like a cobbler. So, maybe it should be called a Dump Cobbler? Hmm, maybe. Anyway, this recipe has been around for years and years. It's one of those recipes that Moms and Grandmoms have been making for ages. It's also the perfect last minute dessert if you have to quick whip up something for unexpected company, or just if you're short on time. I recently made one for Lea, Katie, Brooke, and Denny when they came over for dinner and it was a big hit! Actually, I did a caramel apple variation for them and it  was SLAMMIN'. (recipe follows!) It's a great baking project for a novice baker because there's no measuring, and it's REALLY delicious! You should definitely make it! 

1 14oz can cherry pie filling
1 20 oz can crushed pineapple
1 18oz box yellow cake mix
1 stick butter
1 cup chopped pecans or other nuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease a 13x9-inch pan.
Dump pineapple with juice into pan. Spread evenly.
Dump in pie filling.
Sprinkle the dry cake mix evenly over cherry layer.
Sprinkle pecans over cake mix. Dot with butter. Bake 50 minutes or until top is lightly browned. Serve warm or at room temperature.

OK, I know it's called a dump cake, so you just dump everything into the pan and bake, but I do it slightly differently, and with better results, I think.
I've tried it several ways, and it seems to me that often some of the cake mix doesn't get any of the butter, and it winds up staying in powder form during the baking. I tried dotting it with butter, I tried melting the butter and drizzling it over the top. Same results. The best way to fix this was to melt the butter and mix it with the cake mix. You don't need a mixer, just a spoon and a bowl. It becomes sort of like a cookie dough that you can then crumble all over the top of the filling and then bake it as directed. SOOO much better. It becomes crispy and browns more evenly. Problem solved!

To make the caramel apple variation:
Use 2 cans of apple pie filling and a Duncan Hines Apple Caramel Decadent Cake mix.
Dump the pie filling into the pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Mix up the caramel as directed on the package. Spread over apple filling. Combine the cake mix and 1 stick melted butter. Crumble evenly over everything. Bake until lightly golden and bubbly.

If you'd like more of a cake than a cobbler, mix up the cake mix according to the package directions, then pour the batter over the fruit mixture and bake. It'll be a completely different dessert, but it'll still be delicious!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Fruit and Nut Oatmeal Topper

  Here's another quick recipe for my college friends who live in a dorm. It's perfect for a quick breakfast if you overslept and you don't have time to grab breakfast before class. It's also really cheap and ready in a snap. The only kitchen equipment you'll need (besides a microwave) is a knife, 2 bowls and a spoon. Easy, right? It's definitely a much more healthy breakfast option than the usual junk food and it tastes about a MILLION times better than cold leftover pizza. It's the perfect fuel to fill you up and give you a great start for a long day of classes. Try it!

1 large apple, peeled and sliced
a handful of raisins or other dried fruit
a handful of pecans or any other kind of nuts
a tiny drizzle of water

a sprinkle of cinnamon, nutmeg, or pumpkin pie spice
a sprinkle of sugar (optional)
Instant oatmeal (individual serving, any flavor)

 In a small bowl, combine raisins, apple, nuts, and water. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar and microwave three minutes. Cooking time may vary. Fruit must be cooked soft, but not mushy. Cook in 30 second intervals until the right texture is achieved. Prepare oatmeal according to package directions. Top with fruit and nut mixture.

Substitute any fruits or nuts you like! (And no, I'm not talking about your friends.)
Obviously, the amounts are to suit your taste. If you like a lot of something, add a lot! Just throw in a handful of this and a handful of that, as much as you like! 
You can take a quick shortcut and use a handful of granola instead of the fruits and nuts.
Btw, this topping goes GREAT with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. Kind of reminds me of a warm apple pie...Just sayin!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Chili and Cheese Ramen Wonder

  Ok this one goes out to college students who live on campus in a dorm room. Maybe you're tired of eating cafeteria food. Maybe it's 1:30am, you're pulling an all nighter, you can't focus on finishing your paper because you're STARVING, and you want something more than a snack from the vending machine down the hall. Or maybe you just miss a nice hot meal. Does any of this sound familiar? Well, here's the answer! Why not cook up something delicious and hearty, right in your dorm room?
 This entire dish is made in the microwave, and you need practically NO cooking skills to make it. It's crazy cheap, and it uses just a few ingredients that you can have your parents mail to you in your next care package! Cool, huh? Oh, and the only cooking equipment you'll need (in addition to a microwave) is a 3 quart casserole dish with a lid, a can opener, and a spoon. Actually, it would be easier if you have a strainer too, but you could still do it if you don't have one. Come to think of it, if you buy cans that have a flip top lid, you don't even need a can opener!! So make sure you pack those items before you go back to school. It's easy, it's quick, it's makes PLENTY so there's enough to share, it'll fill you up, it's faster than ordering take out, and most of all it's delicious! I betcha everyone on your floor will want some!!
Try it!

3 pkgs ramen noodles
2 15oz cans chili
1 15oz can diced tomatoes
4-8 oz shredded cheese

Place about 6 cups of water in a three-quart casserole dish, and microwave on high for about 3 minutes. Meanwhile, crush the packages of noodles, slightly. Carefully open the noodles, and remove the seasoning packets, which you won't be using for this particular recipe. Carefully place the noodles in the casserole dish being sure to submerge all the bits, breaking them into smaller bits if necessary. Cover and microwave on high for 5 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking time. Remove from microwave and drain well. Open the cans of chili and tomatoes (do not drain). Add tomatoes and chili to the noodles. Toss well. Replace cover and microwave on high for another 5 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and replace cover. Let stand until cheese melts.

Use any kind of chili you like.... With or without beans, vegetarian, spicy, mild, all good. Same thing with the cheese. Any kind will do. Even a few shakes of Parmesan cheese would be fab.
Btw, this recipe is not my own, and I have no idea who came up with the cheesy name! 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Banana Bread Cake

 I always love when people send me recipes, and when I received this one, I couldn't wait to try it. It comes to me from Missouri,  specifically from Beck Zimmer's daughter's friend, Rita. (Did I get that right?? ah well, my apologies if I got it wrong!) Anyway, isn't it fun how recipes make the rounds and get passed from friend to friend to friend? I love that! And this one is so easy, you just throw everything into a bowl and mix it up. Simple!
 I made this cake for one of my Sunday dinners with Chris and Claire, and Chris said that this was the best cake I've made in a long time. It's now one of his all time favorites! I'll definitely be making it again soon. You should too!  Oh, and don't forget to send me your favorite recipes. I love hearing from you!! Thanx guys!

1 plain yellow or white cake mix
1/2 c brown sugar
2 very ripe bananas (1 cup)
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 c. canola oil
3 eggs
1 tsp cinnamon

Add all together, mix well.
I use either 2 loaf pans or a typical cake pan, but bet it would be good in a bundt pan.
I spray the pan with Pam, then coat it with sugar and cinnamon
Usually, I add mini chocolate chips and pecans just because I love both!
Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes

To make buttermilk, add a tbs of lemon juice or vinegar to a cup of regular milk, and microwave for 30 seconds. The milk will curdle, which is exactly what you want!
For a little extra flavor, try adding a teaspoon of rum extract.
For the photo, I drizzled the cake with a brown sugar glaze, but you can frost the cake any way you like, or just simply dust with powdered sugar. Chocolate or peanut butter glaze would be yummy too!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Bubble and Squeak

 This is a traditional British dish that was originally meant as a Monday night way to use up all of the veggies from Sunday night's roast dinner. It's primarily just potatoes and cabbage, fried in a shallow pan until brown and crispy on both sides. Sometimes meat or other vegetables are added, whatever is leftover. It's really easy to make and is delish!! So, here it is. I didn't list any amounts because it all depends on how much you have leftover, or how much you like. If you like more potatoes than greens or vice versa, go for it! Oh, and it's so named because it makes a bubbling and squeaking sound while it's frying in the pan. Isn't that fun????

chopped onions
boiled potatoes
boiled savoy cabbage or other greens
other leftover veggies (if you have them)
salt and pepper
butter or lard

If you're using leftovers, just chop everything up. If you're starting from scratch, peel and boil some potatoes. Boil a few large leaves of the cabbage or other greens. Chop everything up, smash the potatoes and mix together. Add salt and pepper.  Place the chopped onions in a pan with the butter and saute until they become soft. Add the potato/cabbage mixture. Press into a flat layer using a spatula. Dot with a little more butter and let it melt right in. Let it cook until it becomes nice and brown on the bottom. (This is where the bubbling and squeaking happens because of the water in the cabbage!) Now comes the tricky part. Place a plate over the saute pan. In one swift motion, invert the whole saute pan onto the plate. Now place the empty pan back onto the heat and slide the bubble and squeak off the plate back into the pan to brown on the other side. When the other side is brown, it's ready to serve!

 As always, when I'm starting a new dish, I do a little research to try and find the most authentic recipe. For this one, I took another look at an episode of The Two Fat Ladies, because I remembered that they made it once upon a time. Well, apparently, Clarissa has VERY strong opinions about Bubble and Squeak. First, she used boiled potatoes and then sliced (and slightly smashed them) instead of using mashed potatoes (as some people usually do). OK. And then she said that you should use some sort of greens, such as savoy cabbage or turnip greens. OK fine. But then she insisted that you should use beef drippings or LARD in the pan instead of butter or any kind of oil, and if you don't have lard then you should make something else. Really? Why is lard so important?? She also stated that you shouldn't turn it over all in one piece because "It's not an omelet." So, first, I made it Clarissa's way, and then I made it my way.. Frankly, I like mine better. Yes, I used smashed boiled potatoes and savoy cabbage, but I used butter in a nonstick pan, flipped the whole thing over at once, and it was absolutely delish! The one pictured above is Clarissa's way. Mine was much browner all over, and much prettier, I must say. Maybe next time I make it, I'll take another picture. Great then.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Toad in the Hole

 Have you ever heard of Toad in the Hole? If you're from the USA, you might think of it as an egg, fried in the center of a piece of toast, but if you're from the UK, you'll think of it as a delicious  traditional dish consisting of sausages cooked in a Yorkshire pudding batter and served with a savory onion gravy. Chris and Claire mentioned it to me when I decided to do a bunch of British foods in honor of the London Olympics. As far as I'm concerned, this is one of those "How can this not be good" dishes! I had never made it until recently, but it's so easy to throw together, I'll definitely be making it again soon! And no, I have no idea why it's called Toad in the Hole. I guess the sausages are supposed to be the toads, but seriously, does that look like a toad to you??  Yeah, me neither.

1 lb. pork sausages
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. butter
1 c. milk
1 c. flour 
Salt and pepper 
Easy Onion Gravy

Fry the sausage until lightly browned and all the fat has rendered. Place sausages in a 8x10 baking dish. To prepare the batter, place milk, eggs, flour, salt, pepper and butter in a mixing bowl. Whisk (or use an electric mixer) until smooth. Pour batter over sausages and bake, uncovered in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes. The batter will become puffed, crisp and golden brown. Serve immediately with onion gravy.

To be quite honest, I can't think of any helpful hints for this one. It's all pretty straight forward. And when you're making it, your time manages itself. While you're frying the sausages, you mix up the batter. While it's baking in the oven, you make the onion gravy. It's really just that simple!

Easy Onion Gravy

This is my "go to" recipe for onion gravy. It's simple to make and it goes with EVERYTHING! Are you making Toad in the Hole? You definitely need onion gravy. Or how about a meatloaf smeatloaf double beatloaf? Yup. You definitely need onion gravy to go with it. Yes, I know it only take 5 seconds to open up a jar of brown gravy, but seriously, this is definitely one of those times where it's better when YOU make it. It really only takes a few extra minutes to make, and it goes perfectly over a pile of mashed potatoes or even just a simple bowl of rice. So, the next time you're having a roast beast or Salisbury steaks, give this one a try. I think you'll love it! Oh, and be sure to read the tips after the recipe for a few helpful ideas.
Great then!

2 large onions
several glugs of vegetable oil or olive oil
a few splashes Worcestershire sauce
3 tbs flour
2 cups beef broth
1 tbs butter
salt and pepper

Slice onions and place in a large saute pan along with the oil over medium heat. Slowly and patiently saute the onions until they're soft and caramelized. This should take about 8-10 minutes. Add the Worcestershire sauce and stir again. Stir in the flour and cook for a minute or two longer. Add the broth, salt, and pepper. Turn the heat up to medium high, just to bring it up to heat. Keep stirring as it thickens. Finish it by stirring in a pat of butter. Adjust seasoning if needed. Serve.

Be sure to keep the heat low to medium as you caramelize the onions. You don't want the heat to be too high. That'll brown the onions too quickly. Just keep it nice and slow.
For a little extra layer of flavor, try adding a few pinches of fresh thyme leaves.
You can easily use butter instead of oil. Just omit the pat of butter at the end. It's really just there for flavor and also to make everything nice and rich and glossy.
Are you serving chicken? Use chicken broth! Are you vegetarian or vegan? Use vegetable broth!
You can also make this a mushroom gravy by substituting mushrooms for the onions. Everything else stays exactly the same. You could also ADD mushrooms to it and make a mushroom and onion gravy. MMM that sounds good.... doesn't it?

and btw... don't you just love my Aladdin's lamp gravy boat???  hee hee!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Fish Pie

Years and years ago, I saw an episode of the Two Fat Ladies where they made a fish pie. I thought it looked absolutely DELISH, but I just never got around to making one. So when I decided to do a series of British foods to celebrate the London Olympics, I knew the fish pie had to be included. I didn't even realize how hugely popular it is. It's basically British comfort food at its best! And I'm told that the best way to serve it is with bread and butter so you can sop up all the yummy sauce. SO good! If you like a rich creamy seafood sauce, you'll like this! Try it!

1 cup fish stock*
1 cup milk
1/2 cup white wine (optional)
1 lb firm white fish such as cod or coley, cut into pieces
1 bay leaf
3 cups mashed potatoes
4 tbs butter
1 medium leek, washed and sliced (can substitute onions)
1 tbs chopped parsley
Salt and pepper
Bread crumbs or grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the oven to 350F.
Pour the fish stock, milk, and wine into a large saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer. Add the fish pieces and bay leaf and poach for 5 minutes. Remove the fish pieces with a slotted spoon and keep to one side. Reserve the liqueur.
Melt the butter in a medium sized saucepan over a medium heat. Add the sliced leeks and cook for 5 minutes until the leeks are soft.
Add the flour and stir well with a wooden spoon. Pour the fish liqueur into the pan and stir again, raise the temperature and cook for 3 minutes until the sauce is slightly thickened. Turn the heat off. Remove the bay leaf. Add the fish, chopped parsley and season with salt and pepper. Leave to one side.
Place the fish and sauce into an ovenproof dish, cover with a thick layer of mashed potatoes.

Put the dish onto a baking sheet and cook for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with bread crumbs or grated cheese and bake for another 10 minutes or until bubbly. Serve immediately.

 Since fish stock is sometimes hard to find, (and is a big P. I. T. A. to make), you can easily substitute half clam juice and half vegetable stock, both of which are readily available at your local supermarket.
 I used cod, but you can also use any non-oily fleshy fish. You could also use several different kinds of fish. Some people prefer to add some variety of smoked fish for extra savory flavor, such as smoked haddock. Adding shrimp or other seafood is also very common. There's really no right or wrong. It's whatever you like and whatever is fresh and available!
You can load it up with any kind of veggies too, if you like. Spinach, peas, carrots, really anything would work. Spinach and peas would cook right in the casserole, but I'd just suggest briefly blanching carrots or broccoli first before adding them to make sure they're fully cooked by the time you take it out of the oven. Another option would be to serve the veggies on the side.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Never Fail BBQ Sauce

 This is a great all purpose BBQ sauce that is ready in no time at all. When my friend Terri asked me if I had a recipe for BBQ with orange juice in it, I did a quick search and found this one for her. It's not my recipe, but it sure is yummy! She was nice enough to take the picture for me. 
Thanx Ter!

1 c ketchup, 
1/4 c brown sugar, 
1/4 c onion finely chopped, 
1/4 c orange juice
1/4 c white vinegar
2 T Worcestershire sauce
 Add orange zest for extra zing. 

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pot. Boil 5 mins. Pour over chicken, pork, ribs, etc. Marinate beef steaks for as long as you can, from as little as 30 minutes to overnight. Broil or grill!

I NEVER make a BBQ sauce recipe without doubling, tripling, or even quadrupling the amounts. I figure, if I'm gonna make it, I might as well make a big batch! I keeps for a really long time in the fridge, so why not?

Banoffee Pie

 I first heard of Banoffee Pie on a cooking show that highlighted decadent desserts from different restaurants. Of course, it looked so good that I needed to get the recipe. Little did I know how popular the dish has been for decades! I had no idea that this was a classic British "pudding"!
I looked up the pie's origin and this is what wikipedia has to say about it:

  Credit for the pie's invention is claimed by Ian Dowding (chef) and Nigel Mackenzie (owner) at The Hungry Monk restaurant (now closed) in Jevington, East Sussex. They developed the dessert in 1972, having been inspired by an American dish known as "Blum's Coffee Toffee Pie", which consisted of smooth toffee topped with coffee-flavoured whipped cream. Dowding adapted the recipe to instead use the type of soft caramel toffee created by boiling a can of condensed milk and worked with Mackenzie to add a layer of bananas. They called the dish "Banoffi" and it was an immediate success, proving so popular with their customers that they "couldn't take it off" the menu.

 And there you have it. Actually, I do remember seeing this method on a cooking show many years ago called Two Hot Tamales, and they did the same thing with the cans of sweetened condensed milk. I never thought of making a pie with it, though. I just used it as a caramel sauce for ice cream (which is FABULOUS, btw).
So, I've listed two versions of the pie. The first is from Nigella Lawson, and is the classic British version (as least, as far as I can tell). It uses Digestive Biscuits, which are kind of like graham crackers. The second is from Paula Deen. It's slightly different, but it's still the same idea. Paula's method of caramelizing the milk is different, but is ready in half the time, and it also eliminates the worry of exploding cans!
 Give it a try!

Nigella's Version:
 2 cups crushed Digestive Biscuits
6 tbs melted butter
2 cans of sweetened condensed milk
4 or 5 ripe bananas
whipped cream
mini chocolate chips, if desired

 Melt butter and add crushed biscuits, spread on bottom of tin & chill. boil the tins of condensed milk for 2-2.5 hours. BE SURE THAT THE TINS ARE SUBMERGED IN WATER AT ALL TIMES - OR ELSE YOU WILL BE CLEANING THE CEILING!!!
When cool spread the toffee over the biscuit base. slice up a couple of ripe bananas on top of toffee whip up the cream and spread over the banana. Grate some chocolate or even chocolate curls, or drizzle melted chocolate over the top chill (or serve straight away) and serve to very happy people!

-BIG TIP- one can boil up a load of tins of condensed milk. Once they are cooked they will keep very safely for months in the larder or cupboard. Just keep an eye on water levels. This makes it the fastest dessert in town if one has the toffee already. Also the biscuit base mix freezes very well.

Paula's Version:
2 (14 ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
10 tablespoons butter, softened
 3 large bananas
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

 Mix graham cracker crumbs with softened butter and press mixture into 9" pie plate. Bake for 5-8 minutes at 350.
 To create toffee filling, caramelize the sweetened condensed milk. Pour the condensed milk into a 9x12x2 glass-baking dish. Cover with foil and place dish inside a larger poaching pan. Add water to poaching pan until half way up sides of baking dish. Bake at 300 for an hour and a half.
 Once both the crust and toffee filling are cooled, spread half of evenly inside crust. Slice the bananas and layer on top of filling. Pour remaining half of filling over bananas, spreading evenly. Whip the cream with the confectioners sugar and vanilla and spread on top of toffee filling and bananas.

Joey's Tips:
*You clearly don't have to remove the label from the cans before you boil them, but if you don't, the glue will melt and get all over the inside of your pot, which is kind of a pain to clean. It's easier just to remove the label in the first place. Then again, if you use Paula's method, you don't have to worry about that at all!
-For the crust, I used 2 cups of graham cracker crumbs (2/3 of a box) + 8 tbs melted butter. I found Paula's crust recipe to be a little too much butter and not enough crumbs.
-I prefer the graham crackers over the digestives because I find them to have a slightly different, more crispy texture. Just sayin!
-Use a second pie plate to press the crumbs into the first pie plate for an even crust.
-Digestive Biscuits are so named because of the belief that they had antacid properties due to the use of sodium bicarbonate when they were first developed.