Friday, January 30, 2015

If Sangria Married a Manhattan

I have so much fun playing around with cocktails.

Sure, it's hard work, all that pouring and sipping and whatnot. And some things aren't worthy of writing about. Other times, I come up with ideas that are just too good to not write down for next time.

This time around, my buddies at Crown Royal sent me a bottle of Crown Regal Apple. You might know that I'm a rabid fan of Crown Maple, but this apple stuff was new to me. So I sipped. And it tastes very much like apples. Not a candy-sour-apple sort of thing, but more like apple cider or boiled apple syrup. Apple-apples, and not apple-candy-flavored.

So that led me off in several directions. Caramel apples, cinnamon apples, apple pie ... and then I started thinking about other fruits. First, cherries. But not actual cherries this time, but cherry bitters.

Have you seen all the types of bitters these days? Yikes. And there are recipes online for making your own. It's a whole new mini-industry.

Once I had cherries and apples covered, I decided to add one more thing. The resulting cocktail resembles sangria on the first sip, but then the whisky taste shows up and the cherry and apple come along for the ride again. It's a simple combination, but the flavors are more complex than you'd expect.

If you're into garnishing, I'd suggest an orange slice, cherries, or both. A lemon twist could be interesting, too. But really, I think the color is pretty enough to let it go unadorned.

This would be a fine cocktail for any occasion. How about for watching that "big game" that's coming up? I think it would pair perfectly with chicken wings.

Manhattan Sangria

1 ounce Crown Regal Apple
Plum juice, as needed
Several dashes of cherry bitters, to taste

Fill a short squat glass with ice. Add the Crown Regal Apple.

Top with plum juice to fill the glass (or as desired). Add a few dashes of cherry bitters.

Stir and serve.

I received a bottle of Crown Regal Apple at no cost to me.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Simple Tomato Sauce

I have to admit that my attention has been rather scattered lately. I was working like mad in November and December, with barely time to breathe ... then I took some planned time off. Then some un-planned time. Then I decided to re-arrange my pantry and kitchen.

And now there are things hanging in various states of completion. Every once in a while, I think, gee, I need to use that stuff in a recipe. Or I'm putting a gadget away and I think, "I ought to review this."

Or I re-arrange some random stuff and a cookbook called  Dairy Made Easy falls out of the middle of the pile.


There was a bookmark sticking out. I vaguely remembered wanting to try the recipe, but for the life of me, I don't recall where I got the book. It might have come from the publisher, but maybe I bought it. Maybe someone gave it to me. Maybe it ... spontaneously transported itself to my "to-do" pile.

In any case, I decided that since I had bookmarked that particular recipe, I might as well make it right away. I mean, I had almost all of the ingredients, and I had a good substitute for the one I didn't have.

While the title, Dairy Made Easy, sounds like it might be a book about dairy products, it's actually about cooking kosher - and in this case, dairy-containing dishes rather than meat-containing dishes. But you don't need to be keeping kosher for this book to be appealing - it's great for meatless meals any old time.

And let's face it, there are plenty of dishes we serve that are naturally meatless. Or that are side dishes to meat. Because if you're not keeping kosher, you could do that, too.

The dish I chose was a simple tomato sauce for pasta, with richness from butter rather than meat.

This was a really fast sauce - done in the time it took to boil the water and cook the pasta - and it's a blank canvas for adding other flavors. Next time, I might add fresh basil at the end. Or dried oregano at the beginning.

Instead of the garlic cloves (I used my last cloves for another recipe) I used Mezzetta Garlic Spread. I used my last couple cloves of garlic for another recipe, and didn't want to use garlic powder. The Mezzetta spread is milder than fresh garlic, but it's still got good garlic flavor.

Classic Spaghetti with Buttery Tomato Sauce
Adapted from Dairy Made Easy by Leah Schapira and Victoria Dwek

1 pound dry spaghetti
5 tablespoons butter, divived
2 garlic cloves crushed (I used a garlic spread)
2 cups fresh diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
Pinch of sugar
Parmesan cheese, for sprinkling (optional)

Start the water boiling for the pasta and cook it while you're working on the sauce

Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a saute pan and add the garlic and cook for a minute to soften it, stirring constantly. You don't want it to brown because the next step is burning, so if it starts browning, take it off the heat..

Add the tomatoes and salt and cook for another 4 minutes, stirring as needed.

Add the the tomato sauce and sugar. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring once in a while.

Add the pasta to the sauce and stir to combine.

Serve hot, Sprinkle with cheese, if desired.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Red Cabbage Slaw

I'm pretty sure than if you were blindfolded, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference between standard green cabbage and its more colorful relative - red cabbage.

Or, really, it's purple. And while we're talking about colors, some people refer to green cabbage as white cabbage.

But I digress.

While green cabbage and red cabbage taste pretty much the same, they're often used in their own specific recipes - green cabbage ends up in cole slaw, sauerkraut, and stuffed cabbage, while red cabbage is often used for a braised sweet-sour recipe that shows up as a German side dish, right next to the spaetzle.

While I like cole slaw, sometimes I switch things up and use red cabbage, just because the color is so stunning. Chances are, there's nothing else on the table that color, while green and white are pretty common food colors.

The little secret ingredient in this slaw is the horseradish - it gives the slaw a little bit of a kick - but it's subtle. The slaw shouldn't be spicy - it should just be less-than-bland.

Commercial prepared horseradish varies in strength, so feel free to adjust as needed. Start small and add more, after you taste it.

Red Cabbage Slaw

1/2 medium head red cabbage
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup mayonnaise

Cut the cabbage as desired  some folks like thin shreds while other prefer a chopped slaw. Place in a large bowl.

Add the cider vinegar, salt, sugar, and horseradish. Stir to combine. Set aside at room temperature for an hour, stirring occasionally. The cabbage will lose liquid and soften just a little.

Drain the liquid from the slaw and add the yogurt and mayonnaise. Stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. If you prefer a creamier slaw, add more yogurt and/or mayonnaise.

You can serve immediately, or refrigerate until needed. The dressing will be white when first mixed, but it will turn pink/purple as it sits.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Grilled Barbecue and Ham Pizza #Evergriller #sponsored

When I was growing up in the Chicago area, winters meant snow, mittens, freezing cold, and hibernation. When I moved to the Denver(ish) area of Colorado, I found out that winter doesn't necessarily mean "white." It snows here, but most often in the spring than in the dead of winter.

And of course it gets cold, but not as bitter as Chicago winters. And when it's sunny - which it often is - it can be pretty pleasant outside. Not shorts and flip-flops pleasant, but pleasant enough to do some grilling without turning into an icicle.

Yup, if you've got a yen for grilling, the smart thing to do is pick a sunny day, and, well, grill in the sunshine. If you wait until after dark, it feels a lot chillier.

When I got an offer through Clever Girls to work with Kraft on an outdoor, out-of-season grilling recipe, I figured it would be a no-brainer. I love barbecue sauce, and the grill was waiting. They sent along some of their revamped barbecue sauce (which they said features high-quality ingredients like tomatoes, sweet molasses, cider vinegar and cane sugar. And  NO high fructose corn syrup).

I received the Original, Hickory Smoke, and Sweet Honey; the other flavors are Mesquite Smoke (oooh, I need to try that!), Sweet Brown Sugar, Sweet & Spicy, Spicy Honey, and Thick & Spicy.

Besides the sauce, they sent some grilling gear, including an ingenious mitt called the Evergriller Grill 'N' Flip Mitt that has a pocket-like mouth on the front end, so you can insert the handle of your chosen barbecue tool and grab onto it while keeping your hand safe from both the heat of the grill and the chill of winter air. And from the chill of the barbecue tool, if you left it outside in a snowbank, I guess.

Armed with sauce and swag, I tried to decide what to make.

For inspiration, I opened the Hickory Smoke sauce first, because I was curious if I'd like it or not. A lot of hickory-flavored sauces taste fake to me, but this one was pretty darned good. As in, I'll probably buy a whole lot more of it.

I slathered the sauce on chicken wings and baked it onto chicken thighs - got to do some quality control tests, right? I was thinking about buying some ribs for the official test and post, but I thought ribs might be way too simple.

I wanted to do something different. Creative.

Then the idea hit me. Pizza. But not just any pizza. Pizza with HAM.

The idea of combining ham with barbecue sauce came from a sandwich served one of my favorite places in Chicago that served a barbecue ham sandwich. I know it's not traditional, but it's really good.

And I figured that pizza would be a perfect vehicle for my barbecue sauce and ham, because it gave me an excuse to add some melty cheese.

For my crust, I used a flour tortilla, to make a super-thin-super-crunchy crust. I used the smallest ones - labeled "fajita" size - about 5 1/2 inches in diameter. While you could use a larger tortilla for larger pizzas - the burrito size are pretty big - the smaller ones are easier to handle, and you can customize the toppings, if you like. And since these are small, two of them make a nice serving size.

The key to these little pizzas is to prep the tortillas ahead of time, cooking and flipping them on the grill until they've become somewhat crisp. That can be done ahead of time, and then the pizzas can be topped and finished as needed.

Grilled Barbecue and Ham Pizza

For each pizza:
1 flour tortilla, about 5 1/2 inches in diameter
1 tablespoon Kraft Hickory Smoke barbecue sauce
1/4 cup (about 1 ounce) shredded cheese (I used the Kraft Mexican four-cheese blend)
1/2 of a slice of deli ham, torn or sliced

Figure out how many pizzas you're going to need and multiply the ingredients accordingly. You can adjust quantities to taste, but I thought this ratio worked well. Extra tortillas won't go to waste, if you grill them until they're crisp. You can break them up to make crackers, or save them for another day of pizza-making.

Make sure you've got the grill set up with direct heat to pre-cook the tortillas, and indirect heat for finishing the pizzas.

Over direct heat on your grill, cook the tortillas, flipping them regularly so they cook and get grill marks, but they don't burn.

The tortillas are done when you can pick one up and it's rigid rather than floppy. They don't need to be completely solid - just rigid enough to hold their shape.

Remove the tortillas from the grill (if it's freakishly cold out, bring the finished tortillas indoors to prep them.Spread the barbecue sauce on top of each one, almost to the edge. Top with ham and cheese.

Place the pizzas back on the grill over indirect heat and close the lid. Let them cook until the cheese has melted and the ham has warmed - this takes just a minute or two, depending on your grill.

These are nice served with a green salad, but if you want to offer additional toppings on the pizzas themselves, then diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and pickled jalapeno peppers would work well.

About that MITT:

If you're interested in winning your very own Evergriller Grill ‘N’ Flip Mitt, along with a year’s supply of Kraft Barbecue Sauce, go to between now and January 30. The winner will be randomly selected at the close of the giveaway.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and provided product samples by Kraft Foods, and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Dried Plum Bars #TheFeelGoodFruit #CG

Healthy snacking is a great idea, but I have to admit that I'm not virtuous enough to snack on foods that taste like hay and and twigs. If it doesn't taste good, I'm going to go looking for something else. It really helps if I make something at least vaguely healthy, and have it on hand.

So when Clever Girls and Sunsweet offered an opportunity to have some fun with dried plums - the fruit formerly known as prunes - I jumped right on it. I like prunes a lot, but I usually eat them as-is, just snacking straight from the bag. They're a nice combination of sweet and tart, with a little chew to remind you that you're eating real food.

My challenge was to create a healthy snack using the dried plums. Hmmm. After snacking though half of the bag of whole prunes they sent, I decided that the diced plums would make a good addition to baked goods, so I created this recipe for bars with oatmeal, white wheat flour (which is a whole grain product) and nuts. And of course the diced prunes.

Are you ready for your close-up?
Dried plums and peanuts playing the starring roles as far as the flavor, with the plums adding sweet/tart to complement the savory nuts.

Fiber is one of the good-for-you components, courtesy of the grains and the dried plum. Peanuts provide protein. And plums provide potassium.

Texture is a big component when it comes to food, and the oats and nuts add their texture to these bars - but not so much that it's a chore to chew.

Some of the oats are ground to a powder, so the bars have a slightly cakey, softer texture rather than being dense and chewy like a granola bar.

And then they're studded with the soft, sweet, squishy dried plums.

They're tasty, they're filling, and they're really easy to make. They're great for snacking any time, or for a quick running-out-the-door breakfast bar.

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Dried Plum Bars

2 cups rolled oats, divided
1 cup white wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup Sunsweet diced dried prunes
1/2 cup peanuts

Heat the oven to 350 degrees and spray an 8-inch square pan with baking spray.

Take 1 cup of the oatmeal and grind it in blender, food processor, or spice grinder until you have a fine flour-like powder. You can also buy oat flour, but if you'r not planning on using it for other purposes, you might as well just grind your own.

Combine the oat powder, rolled oats, white wheat flour (you can sub all purpose flour, if you prefer), baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

Combine the peanut butter and brown sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl where you will beat with an electric mixer.

Beat the sugar and peanut butter until well blended. Add the vanilla and egg and beat until combined.

Add the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with two additions of the buttermilk - starting and ending with the dry ingredients. In theory, you could add all the buttermilk at once, then add the dry stuff - but, trust me - doing it in several additions is easier to get it mixed, AND it's less messy.

Stir in the diced dried prunes and the peanuts. You just want them well distributed in the mix. If you want to add more, go for it. I won't tell.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread it evenly in the pan. Bake at 350 degrees until a toothpick inserted in the center of the pan comes out clean - about 35 minutes. The edges will be slightly brown and will be pulling just slightly away from the pan.

Let the bars cool completely before slicing into 9, 12, or 16 pieces depending on how snacky you feel!

The three products that Sunsweet provided were whole prunes, diced dried plums, and plum juice.
They said: PlumSmart® Light: This juice is made from a special variety of fresh, juicy plums and has only 60 calories and 15g of carbs, and helps you stay fit on the inside by providing a good source of fiber. PlumSmart Light is a great addition to a smoothie.

I said: Okay, I haven't tried this yet, but I'm giddy excited that it exists. I love plums, but their season is so short. Plum juice sounds danged good, and if we're being honest, it's going to end up in a cocktail. Just wait.

Yeah, I ripped that prune bag right open. Yup. *munch*
They said: Amaz!n™ Prunes: These little gems are a good source of fiber for only 100 calories per serving. Amaz!n Prunes are nature's perfect way to feel good with nutrition and delicious taste. Prunes also have a low glycemic index, which means they keep you feeling fuller longer. They add a powerful boost of nutrition and fiber to snack time or your favorite recipe.

I said: I love dried fruits for snacking all on their own, and with a prune you get a quick fix of all the goodness of a plum in one bite. These don't last long around here.

They said: Amaz!n™ Diced Prunes: Grab a handful of these delicious diced prunes for nutritious snacking. Toss them in cereal, oatmeal, salad or your favorite recipes for added flavor and fiber. One serving of Amaz!n Diced Prunes is a good source of fiber for only 100 calories. Add to your favorite snacking recipe for extra fiber and a fruit flavor boost.

I said: Let's be serious for a second. Dicing dried fruit is not fun. It's sticky. It sticks to your knife. It sticks to your cutting board. You're not enough of a ninja to get pretty, even cuts. If you want diced dried plums that don't look like you cut them with a dull lawnmower, just buy the diced version. You'll save yourself a lot of frustration.

Want to know more about Sunsweet? You'll find @SunsweetGrowers on Twitter and Sunsweet on Facebook.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Gin and Fizzy Lime Cocktail

I'll admit it. When cold weather arrives, I tend to eat - and drink - and cook - heartier and richer items. But after a while, it's nice to have something a little lighter and more refreshing. Salad starts sounding like a good idea, and creamy cocktails give way to lighter, fruitier, and fizzier ones.

At least for a while.

Because of course Valentine's Day is right around the corner, with all of the chocolate that comes with it.

This cocktail is inspired by the bottle of Tanqueray 10 that was sent to me. Yeah, rough life, right? For years, I insisted that I didn't like gin, due to one experience with a cheap gin cocktail that tasted like mulched and musty Christmas trees.

More recently, I found out that good gin is more interesting and pretty darned tasty. When I tasted the Tanqueray 10, I thought the flavors would pair well with citrus, and I wanted something fizzy and ... well, light.

I suppose I could have opted for a lemon-lime soda, but I wanted something fresher So I made my own fizzy mixer. These days, lots of people have soda siphons or fancier Soda Stream machines, but if you don't happen to have one, you could use sparkling water and add the lime juice and sweetener separately.

Gin and Fizzy Lime Cocktail

For the fizzy lime mixer:
3 cups water
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon agave nectar

For the cocktail:
1 ounce Tanqueray 10 gin
Fizzy lime mixer, to fill glass

To make the mixer:
Combine the water, lime juice, and agave nectar in a soda siphon. Charge with CO2 as instructed by the manufacturer of the soda siphon.

While this is meant as a cocktail mixer, it's also refreshing on its own. It's only slightly sweet, but mostly tart. But of course, you can sweeten as desired. If you don't have agave, you can use honey or simple syrup, instead.

To make the cocktail:
Fill a short glass with ice. Add the gin and fill with the lime mixer. Serve.

Note: If you don't have a soda siphon, you can use sparkling water. For each cup of sparkling water, mix in 1 tablespoon of lime juice and one teaspoon of agave syrup.

I received a bottle of Tanqueray 10 at no cost to me.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Buttermilk Chess Pie

Let's be honest. I don't buy a lot of cookbooks these days. I get a lot of books for review, and there are only so many hours in a day and only so many burners on the stove and only so many feet of floor space where I can pile unread books.

So I don't need to buy a whole lot of books.

However, I did buy The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook by Cheryl Day and Griffith Day. Well, technically I guess I didn't buy it since I used a gift card and not money that I earned, but the book didn't come from the publisher or PR people. And I could have used that gift card to buy a vat of lard or something.

Anyway, I like the idea of classic, old-time recipes, and this book certainly seemed to fit that category. In no time at all, I had bookmarked cinnamon-sugar-doughnut muffins, baked eggs, cinnamon - sour cream coffee cake, buttermilk chess pie, butter mints, and rustic cheddar pecan rounds ... just for starters.

I picked Buttermilk Chess Pie for my first try. For one thing, I had buttermilk on hand that I bought for a different recipe. For another, I'd heard of chess pie, but I'd never made one. It sounded like it was about time to make one.

I used my own pie crust rather than one in the book, but otherwise I followed the directions.

Except ... oops! I overcooked the pie. Not the fault of the recipe, but the fault of my inattention. Although it was obviously overcooked, it was still pretty darned tasty, which is a credit to the recipe. It was sweet, tart, creamy, and lemony. It wasn't as sort of smooth as it should have been, but I caught it before it was curdled and ruined.

Buttermilk Chess Pie
Adapted from The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook bu Cheryl Day and Griffith Day

Oops. A little over-baked. but still good.
1 pie crust, unbaked
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 tablespoons room temperature butter
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornmeal
Pin of salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Have the pie crust (home made or store bought) ready in a pie plate. Let it rest in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

Have a rack in the lower third of your oven. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or you can use a hand mixer) cream the sugar and butter until light in color. I never got it to "cream" at all - the sugar remained fluffy and sandy. But I continued, anyway.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the flour, cornmeal and salt and beat until well combined.

Add the buttermilk, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Mix until combined.

Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork, then pour the filling into the crust. Place the pie into the oven on that bottom rack and bake for 10 minutes, then turn the heat down to 325 degrees and bake for and additional 45 to 55 minutes, until the custard is golden brown and set around the edges but the center is still jiggly. It will firm up as it cools.

Let the pie cool at least 2 hours before slicing. Store in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Creamy Feta Dressing

I love it when I find a simple recipe that gives me an "aha" moment. That's what happened when I saw a recipe for a creamy feta dressing in Marcy Goldman's book, When Bakers Cook.

I make a lot of Greek-style salads with chunks of feta cheese. Little crumbs of cheese always break off and combine with the dressing, making it a little creamy.

But it never dawned on me to blend the feta with the dressing to make a creamy dressing. It makes perfect sense, though, right? You get a taste of feta in every bite.

The instructions say you should do the mixing in  a food processor, and I did that. but afterwards, I decided that I wanted it a little smoother, so I used a stick blender to puree it even more. Whether you need to do that or not might depend on the feta you have. Some are a little more crumbly than others.

Creamy Feta Dressing
Adapted from When Bakers Cook by Marcy Goldman

4 ounces (about 1 cup) minced feta cheese
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon salt
Ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 to 3/4 cup olive oil, as needed

In a food processor, blend the feta and mayonnaise until smooth.

Add the salt, pepper, lemon juice, vinegar, oregano, and smaller amount of oil and blend until smooth.

Add more oil, as desired, to get a salad dressing consistency.

Taste for seasoning and adjust as desired.

Keep refrigerated. Shake or stir well before using on your favorite salad. I found that it didn't separate a lot during storage, but it's always a good idea to give you salad dressings a little shake before serving.

Note: This dressing will thicken as it chills but it will thin out again if you take it out of the refrigerator for a short while before serving - how much it thickens depends a bit on the olive oil you use. Some get pretty thick while refrigerated.

Besides serving this on a basic green salad, I also drizzled it on sliced cucumbers, chunks of tomato, and slivers of Greek pepperoncini. Looks good, right?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Classic Crumb Cake

I've been making a lot of recipes from cookbooks lately. Sure, I can come up with my own creations, and I often do, but it's nice to take a break and make someone else's recipes, too. I don't have to think too hard about it, all I have to do is follow instructions.

This time I made a cake recipe from Fine Cooking Cakes and Cupcakes, which has recipes from multiple authors you might be familiar with. I bookmarked a whole lot of recipes that sounded pretty teriffic, but ended up making a crumb cake from Abby Dodge.

I love crumb cake, but I thought a 9x13 cake would be a little too big for just the two of us, so I cut the recipe neatly in half and baked it in a smaller square pan. Now that I've made it, I realize I should have made the whole thing - it's really good.

But! This cake had a pretty large portion of crumbs compared to cake. Some people might think that's the best thing ever, but I think next time around I'll make the full cake recipe and half of the topping, and bake it in the same square pan I used, so the cake is thicker but the topping is still thick

Although I haven't tried it, I think this would also make great crumb-topped cupcakes. Oh yeah!

Classic Crumb Cake
Adapted from Fine Cooking Cakes and Cupcakes
Recipe by Abby Dodge

For the crumb topping:
12 ounces unsalted butter (plus more as needed)
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
12 ounces all purpose flour

For the cake:
9 ounces (2 cups) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
3/4 cup milk
Reserved 1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon confectioner's sugar, for dusting (I didn't use this)

To make the topping:
In a saucepan, melt the butter, the remove from the heat. Pour out 1/2 cup of the butter (you'll use the 1/2 cup for the cake) and add the sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg to the  butter remaining in the saucepan/ Stir well, breaking up an lumps of sugar. Add the flour and stir well. Set aside until needed.

To make the cake:
Heat the oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9x13 baking pan (I used baking spray instead.)

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, butter, and vanilla extract.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until combined. Pour into the prepared baking pan and spread evenly, smoothing the top.

Break up the crumb mixture with your fingers or a fork and sprinkle evenly over the cake batter.

Bake at 350 degrees until the top is lightly browned, the cake bounces back when lightly pressed in the center, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes.

Cool on a rack. Dust with powdered sugar before serving (I didn't.)

I received a digital version of this book from the publisher at no cost to me.


Monday, January 12, 2015

Gus' Puffs from Jane Snow Cooks

I participated in a cookbook exchange a while back, and I was pleased when I got a book I'd never heard of - Jane Snow Cooks by ... you guessed it ... Jane Snow.

I'd never heard of her, but she's won James Beard awards and was the food editor of the Akron Beacon Journal.

It's a pretty eclectic bunch of recipes, published in what seems to be random order. But it was fun to browse through.

I found one recipe that was weirdly intriguing. It was called Gus' Puffs, and it was apparently one of the most popular cocktail snacks in Akron.

I figured I'd give it a try, and then I made it again the next day, with a slight variation - I used a few scallions along with the regular onion to add a little color.

It still seems like a weird combination, but it's pretty darned tasty. And very retro.

And very adaptable. Like I said, I used some scallions on the second try, but you could also add herbs, sundried tomatoes, chopped olives, or whatever makes sense. Change the cheese, if you like. Use caramelized onions, or add some roasted garlic or fire-roasted red peppers.

The possibilities are endless.

The recipe called for cutting a circle of bread from each slice, which would be nicer for a party, but I just trimmed the crusts off the bread and cut it into rectangles.

Less bread waste and more snacking.

If you're making these for a themed party, you could also use a cookie cutter to cut the bread into shapes to match the theme. Or, if you happen to have bread molds to make canape bread, you could make your own bread in the molds and then all you need to do is slice it.

Or... buy cocktail rye bread. That would be pretty good, too.

Gus' Puffs
Adapted from Jane Snow Cooks by Jane Snow

4 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups mayonnaise
1 1/2 onions, minced
1 loaf day-old white bread

Trim the crusts off the bread and cut into triangles or squares, or use a biscuit cutter or cookie cutter for other shapes. Place on a cookie sheet and place under your oven's broiler to toast the first side. Watch carefully - it's fast.

Remove from the oven and flip the slices over.

Mix half of the cheese with the mayonnaise and onion.

Slather the mixture onto the bread slices and sprinkle with the reserved half of the cheese.

Place in the oven under the broiler and cook just long enough for the puffs are golden. They will puff up a bit, thus the name.

Serve warm.