Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Aunt Helen's Nutmeg Cake (DiPietro side)

                                     
Aunt Helen's Nutmeg Cake (DiPietro side)

I have been married to Bob for close to 32 years and it was not until last spring that my Mother-in-law Judy brought us out a pan of this cake. Bob had not had this cake in over 34 years and had totally forgotten about it, though it was favorite of his. Judy had never made this anytime we were around. I could not believe it. I thought I had all of the 'favorite family' recipes of hers, and then she came bringing this out and everyone was in love with it. Bob was especially enamored as this was one of his favorite cakes as a child. My grandson Joe loves this cake, too, and I think it is now his favorite. It is just the right spiciness and sweetness.

It seems every recipe I get from Judy must be revised, and this one was no exception! She knows how she makes her recipes and so they are basic recipes without any special instructions. I decided to make this special for Bob a month or so ago, and I noticed the icing didn't quite look like Judy's. No wonder! She sends the nuts and the coconut through the nut grinder to make them into small pieces, but this was not on the recipe (see what I mean by having to be revised), but it was still tasty and delicious. Bob is the one who told me I needed to grind the coconut and pecans as this was his job as a child when his mom would make this cake. That is one way to get kids to help in the kitchen!

The aunt Helen who is listed is a long ago relative whom Bob never knew as she was dead by the time he came along. Judy remembers her, and also her cake. I am glad to be able to add this to my recipe collection, and I think you will, too. It is not overly spicy, simple yet charming, moist and delicious. I think this cake looks more lovely baked in a glass pan.

Aunt Helen's Nutmeg Cake
                                             Preheat oven to 350 degrees
1 cup moist coconut (sweetened or unsweet)
1/2- 1 cup pecans
2 cups flour*
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground nutmeg*
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick real butter (1/2 cup)*
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 eggs, slightly beaten*
1 cup buttermilk*
6 Tbls melted real butter
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup coffee cream*
Butter or lard for greasing pan, about 2 Tbls*

Run coconut and pecans through a nut grinder or your food processor to make into small bits. If using a food processor, do not over-process. Set aside.

Grease well with butter or lard a 13" x 9" pan; set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together 1 stick butter, 1/2 cup sugar, and vanilla.
Add the eggs and beat well to blend.
Alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the creamed mixture, starting with and ending with the dry ingredients. Beat for 2 minutes at medium speed of electric mixer.
Pour into prepared pan and spread to make even. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until tests done with a toothpick. Remove from oven.
While cake is baking and almost done, prepare the icing as follows:
In a small pan, melt together the 6 Tbls melted butter, add in the brown sugar and coffee cream, and cook for a few minutes just to the almost boil stage. Add in the coconut and pecans and remove from heat.
Turn oven onto broil.
Spread the icing onto cake evenly. Place under broiler and brown lightly, being careful not to burn. Watch it closely. It will take 2-5 minutes.
Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Serves 24.

Tips:
* Use unbleached flour.
* Use real butter only.
* I did not have coffee cream so I used whole milk.
* You can use fresh nutmeg and grate amount needed for more fresh and intense flavor.
* I used real butter to grease my pan, taking an empty butter paper and wiping the butter in all corners and
   crevices of pan, making sure to coat well so cake would not stick.



Lori's Homemade Stuffing

                                                                             
                             
Lori's Homemade Stuffing

This is a variation on the Classic Betty Crocker recipe which I found to be good, but it needed a bit more 'oomph'. The original recipe just did not have enough taste, which I thought made it more like croutons rather than stuffing. I love good stuffing, and this one is easy to throw together.
Stuffing is comfort food that smells of herbs and spices, onions and celery, and is wonderful with a rich homemade gravy over top. You can make this for any occasion, not just Thanksgiving or Christmas as it comes together quickly and cooks on its own. And don't be afraid to play around with different ingredients and make this truly your own "Classic" stuffing recipe.
You can adjust the seasonings to fit your family's tastes and needs.

Lori's Homemade Stuffing
                                                   Preheat oven 325 degrees
3/4 cup real butter*
2 large stalks celery, about 1 1/2 cups, chopped small
1 cup finely chopped onion
9 cups soft bread, cut into about 1" cubes (15 slices)*
3/4 tsp dried thyme
3/4 tsp ground sage
1/2 tsp ground poultry seasoning
Real Sea Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
Chicken or turkey broth*

In a skillet over medium heat, cook celery and onions in butter until tender, about 10 minutes.
Add the herbs and spices to the skillet and stir in well.
Place bread pieces in a very large bowl, then pour celery/onion mixture over top and toss well to coat.
Add some chicken broth to moisten. Start with a small amount, toss bread, then add some more, if needed. You do not want this to be too very wet, so you might use about 1/2 cup total. You will know by feel if it is too wet or not.
Pour mixture into a 13" x 9" pan and spread evenly.
Cover with foil.
Bake at 325 degrees for about 45 minutes, removing foil the last 15 minutes.
This will stuff a 10-12 pound turkey.

Tips: 
* Use only real butter for best results in taste and health.
* You can use any kind of bread, homemade or store-bought, but make sure it is a high quality bread that is
    free of HFCS. You can use all white, all wheat, a mixture of the two, or even multi-grain breads, the
   choice of bread is up to you.
* You can use canned or homemade broth.
* You could add mushrooms, nuts, fruits to this recipe, it is up to you.
* If you do not like onions, leave them out. Same for the celery. Adjust the vegetables to what you like.
* I like a robust flavored stuffing, yet mild enough for small children to enjoy. You can add more or less
   seasonings, depending on your taste preference. You can also sub fresh herbs for the dried, just make
   sure you adjust amounts as you would use more fresh than dried, usually around 3 x's more.





Monday, February 2, 2015

Easy Cream Cheese Onion Dip With Variations


Easy Cream Cheese Onion Dip

This is so easy that I do not understand why anyone would buy the junk sold in the dairy section of the stores. If you love onion dip, you will love this.I am going to post the basics and all the variations I have made. All are good. All are popular when served to family and friends. All are easy to make. This can also be made to use as a dip with vegetables. This is easily doubled or even tripled, if making for a crowd.

Easy Cream Cheese Onion Dip

2 packages of cream cheese, room temp*
1/2 a bunch of scallions (green onions), maybe 4-5, chopped, using the green and the white parts
1/4 cup whole milk

Allow cream cheese to sit out at room temperature for ease of mixing. Place cream cheese in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Chop onions and add to the cream cheese. Pour in the milk. Either use an electric mixer or your very clean hands and mix well to blend. Using a spatula, scrape into a bowl that will hold 2 cups (1 pint); cover and chill for a couple of hours or more before serving. Pull out and allow to set at room temp for 30 minutes before serving to soften the cheese and make it easy dip. Serve with potato chips or your choice, or on crackers, or with mixed raw vegetables of your choice.

Gilding the Lily: I have made this before by using green onions, chives, and a small amount of yellow onion chopped up, along with a beef bouillon cube. I made a double recipe with 2 pkgs, cream cheese, one bunch of scallions chopped, a small handful of fresh chives, chopped (maybe a 1/8 cup or so), and about a 1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion with 2 bouillon cubes dissolved.

You can change this up as much as you like by adding some chopped chives to the onions. If fresh, use about a Tbls chopped fine. If dry, use about 1 tsp. 

You can also dissolve a beef bouillon cube* in a Tbls of very hot water and mix in with the milk.
If you have dried a lot of your vegetables (celery, carrots, green pepper, etc) you can add about 1/4  to 1/2 cup dried veggies to the cheese to make a veggie dip, along with a dissolved cube of beef bouillon cube.

To make this a 'dilly' dip, add 3 Tbls of dried dillweed, 1/4 tsp of garlic powder, 1/4 tsp of onion powder or dried chives, and one cube dissolved beef bouillon.

You can also make this a taco dip for corn tortillas. Combine 2 tsp dried minced onion, 1 1/2 tsp chili powder, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp ground red pepper, 1/2 tsp ground garlic powder, 1/2 tsp cane sugar, and 1/2 tsp ground cumin. Add all to the cream cheese and milk mixture.

As you can see, this is a very versatile base for many dips and a much better choice than the store-bought dips from the store.


Tips: 
* Use whole-fat cream cheese.
*You can double, triple, quadruple, etc, the recipe, just make sure you add appropriate amounts of
   seasonings used.
* Use whole fat milk.
* Make sure the bouillon you use is MSG-free, such as Herb-Ox.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Lori's Homemade Pancakes

                                    
                 Pancakes covered in butter and syrup.
                                 
                        See the fluffy goodness?

I do not understand why anyone would buy pancake mix when you can make homemade pancakes just as easy as the boxed kind and they taste so much better, not to mention there are no preservatives in the homemade kind. These are light, fluffy, and delicious.
You can double this recipe and make extras so you can have them for the next day, or you can freeze them for another time. Just reheat in oven or toaster to thaw.

Lori's Homemade Pancakes

1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
2 tsps baking powder*
1 Tbls cane sugar
dash real sea salt
1 1/2 cups milk*
1 egg
2 Tbls real butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla
Extra butter for frying
Extra butter for spreading on warm cakes
Real maple syrup

In a medium bowl, sift flour with baking powder. Stir in sugar and salt; set aside.
In a small bowl, add milk, egg, and melted butter. Stir well to mix in egg.
Add milk mixture to the flour mixture and stir just enough to blend. There will be a lot of lumps.
Turn heat on under a skillet (or use a griddle),. Add some butter (maybe 1/2 tsp for 6" skillet, 1 tsp for 12" skillet), using the butter knife, run the butter all over the pan. Pour in some batter (about 2 Tbls worth) and allow to cook until bubbles appear and edges are dry, about 2 minutes, then flip and cook on other side about another minute or so. Keep warm in an oven set on low. Serve with lots of butter and warmed real maple syrup. Makes about eight 4"-5" pancakes.

Tips:
*Use aluminum-free baking powder such as Rumford's.
*If you want thick pancakes, then only use 1 cup milk.
*You can serve these with peanut butter, jam, or other flavored syrups such as blueberry.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Lori's Homemade Pasta Salad

                                                                                
Lori's Homemade Pasta Salad
 
  As you can see, I made boat loads of this stuff for a community meal a couple of months back and I ended up with over 8 pounds of pasta salad! It was delectable and oh, so delicious! It was also addictive and hard to stop eating as it tasted so good! It was one of my 'throw together' recipes where I did not measure out anything, including the vinaigrette, but just added what looked right. However, I did begin with 1 cup of olive oil and added more as I needed to. I added half the amount of vinegar as oil, so that is how I came up with amounts below. Ditto for the spices.
  You won't need to make that much, and besides, I really didn't use a recipe, I just threw stuff together and it all worked.  I used the vegetables I had growing in my garden at the time: cherry tomatoes, small pickling cucumbers, red onions, green bell peppers, and then opened up a can of black olives, drained them, then sliced them into rings. Yummy.
  I cooked 4 pounds of noodles, but that is way more than what you will need or want to cook. This recipe I am putting together used just 8 ounces of noodles, though you can double the recipe to take to a pot luck, if so desired. The nice thing about this recipe is you can use any veggies you desire, and you can add chunks of bite-sized cheeses or pepperoni, if that is what floats your boat. I like it as it is above, which made a lovely and delicious salad that went well as a side dish with everything. Pasta salads are good year-round, not just during the summer.
  I sure hope you enjoy this recipe and adjust it to fit your veggie likes/dislikes. Broccoli, peas, just about any veggie can be added to this recipe. Make it once, then make it yours.
 
 
Lori's Pasta Salad
 
8 ounces rotini noodles, uncooked*
1 red onion, diced small, about 1/2-3/4 cup
1 green pepper, diced, about 3/4 cup
1 red pepper, diced, about 3/4 cup, optional*
1 small pickling cucumber, diced
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
Grated carrots, about 1/2 medium or 4-6 baby carrots*
1 (6 ounce) can pitted olives, sliced*
1/4-1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese*
1 cup  extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar*
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried oregano
dash of Italian blend seasonings (mixture of herbs)*
1/4 tsp Real Sea Salt, to taste
1/8 tsp black pepper, to taste
 
Cook noodles according to package directions; strain, rinse with cold water to cool; set aside.
Dice all vegetables; set aside.
Combine olive oil, vinegar, spices, salt and pepper; set aside.
Place noodles in a large bowl. Add veggies and stir to incorporate.
Pour vinaigrette over top and stir to blend well.
Add Parmesan cheese and blend.
Cover and chill at least 2 hours before serving, though 8 hours is better. Best if left overnight.
 
Tips:
*You can use rainbow noodles, if desired.
*Use red pepper, if you like, but I did not.
*I used baby carrots, but you can use regular.
*You can buy sliced olives or keep them whole in the recipe.
*I like a lot of Parmesan cheese and tend to add a lot. Add to taste.
*I only use Bragg's unpasteurized apple cider vinegar as it has the enzymes in it.
*You can use red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar, if desired, in place of apple cider vinegar.
*I used a dash of Sylvia's Italian Blend spices.
*You can add 6-8 ounces of pepperoni, diced, if desired.
*You can add 6-8 ounces of Mozzarella, if desired.
*You can add some fresh Parsley (1/8-1/4 cup) minced, or some dried (1 Tbls), if desired.
 
 
 
 


Lori's Pork Ribs

                                                                       
                                       Pork Ribs off the grill

  I wish I had a better camera! That, or I wish I was a better photographer! It doesn't matter as this picture does not catch the essence of how good these ribs were! They were delectable! Tender, juicy, tasty, and smoky. Just the way ribs should be!
  When I was younger I never knew how to cook ribs properly. I've even seen some people boil them to death! I never did that as that seemed to be all wrong, but I did cook them in the oven with mixed results that were less than stellar. Then one of my kids went to work in a restaurant where the specialty was ribs and he told me the basics of how they cooked the ribs to make them moist, delicious, and wonderful. Once I began to cook my ribs that way, I was on my way to making the very best ribs around! These are fall-off-the-bone tender, the way ribs should be.
  I like to use rubs for flavors that you just can't incorporate any other way. The type and kind you use is up to you, but I will give you a basic of what I use. I rarely measure out ingredients or write them down, much to the dismay of my kids as it is hard for me to tell them exactly how I make a recipe with this kind of loose cooking. However, if you have a delectable rub recipe, then use it by all means as it will not hurt my feelings in any way.
  I just used a store-bought BBQ sauce on these ribs (one without HFCS in it), but you can also make your own. Whether you like Carolina vinegar-based sauces or Sweeter Memphis or spicy Kansas City, it doesn't matter, what matters is that this is the best way to make ribs.
  Ribs can be made anytime of year, but in the fall is when pigs are usually butchered and the prices of pork come down and become more affordable. Get some ribs on sale and enjoy these delectable fall-apart meats for a reasonable price.

Pork Ribs
                    
1-2 racks of ribs
1 batch of dry rub, your choice (I will post one later)
Heavy-duty foil
BBQ sauce, your choice
Grill

Buy ribs.
Take off membrane, if you know how.
Rub with a dry rub of your choice and allow to sit for 2-4 hours or overnight.
Once the ribs have marinated in the rub, place one set of ribs on a large sheet of foil, wrap tight, then wrap again in another sheet of foil.
Place in a large (15"x 20" x1") jellyroll pan, then place in pre-heated oven at 350 degrees.
If cooking another, repeat and place second set of ribs in oven, too.
Bake for 2 hours.
Remove pans and take ribs out of foil.
Place ribs on a hot grill and then swab with BBQ sauce of your choice. Allow ribs to cook on grill so that the sauce gets caramelized, then turn and do other side.
Remove ribs from grill and let set for 5-10 minutes before slicing to eat.

Tips:
Make sure you wrap ribs tight in the foil so they steam inside and the steam does not escape.
Do not cook longer than 2 hours in oven or they will overcook and shred.
If you don't want to add a dry rub, then don't.
If you don't want to add a BBQ sauce, then don't.
Don't overcook on grill, but make sure the sauce cooks well on the ribs. About 5-10 minutes on each side.

 

Green Beans, Potatoes and Ham

                                                                    
Green Beans, Potatoes and Ham
 

When I was a child my grandma would always make a huge pot of this for dinner with the very first harvest of green beans from the garden, and then maybe one or two more batches before summer was
over and all the beans canned for the year. I like to make this a few times per year myself as it is a
nourishing and deliciously easy soup that uses up ingredients from the garden.
  Over the many years of my life I have eaten this made by other people. Most people gather green beans, stem and snap them, then cook them for 2-3 hours in water, adding the potatoes and ham shortly before the beans are "done". It is the way I used to make this soup as it is how I was taught, but over the years I have learned how to make this much more quickly, saving much of the nutrients in the beans, and adding other items that make this much more tasty and nutrient-dense.
  A dinner of this soup with some hearty homemade bread and butter is a meal worthy of kings. My husband loves this meal and asks for it sometimes. I have even made it in the dead of winter from canned beans, though it is not as healthy as when it is made from fresh ingredients. However you make it, you will enjoy it and so will your family. Promise.
  I have never in my life measured out or weighed the ingredients in this soup. This is one of those soups where you just add what you want and hoof it as there is no 'official' recipe that I know of where one uses exact amounts, so you will also have to "eye" the amounts you are using and make it work. In this recipe (picture above) I used a piece of ham bought as a slice from the store for convenience. but the very best ham to use is leftover ham from a whole ham as it will be more smoky and delicious tasting, besides being more tender. However, I did not have leftovers from a whole ham, so I had to use a slice, which is not smoky, is not as tender, and does not need to be added until shortly before the soup is done. Some people use bacon in place of the ham, and you can, too, but I don't like it as well. You could also use pork hocks or any other kind of pork, but I like ham best.
 
Green Beans, Potatoes and Ham
 
Fresh green beans (about a pound or so)
1 quart of homemade or canned chicken broth
4 Tbls. of real butter*
Red or white potatoes cut into bite-sized pieces
About 1 cup or so of onions, diced*
Leftover ham cut into bite-sized pieces or a slice of ham from the meat department
Real sea salt and pepper, to taste
 
Pick, clean, and snap your green beans.
Place a steamer basket inside of a large pot, add water to bottom of pot almost to the basket, then place in green beans, put on lid, and put over the fire. Allow beans to steam to desired tenderness, which for me is about 25 minutes.
While beans are cooking, peel and dice potatoes; put to the side till ready to cook.
Dice onions and put to the side.
When done, drain the beans and put to the side.
Clean the large pot, then add the quart of chicken broth and place over the fire on medium heat. Add the butter and the potatoes and cook till potatoes are almost done, about 15-20 minutes, depending on size of potatoes.
While potatoes are cooking, cut up ham into bite-sized pieces, trimming off any excess fat.
Add onions so they can cook 10 minutes or so until opaque. Also add the beans at this time.
If you are using leftover whole ham, this can be added with the onions and beans, or even when the potatoes come to a boil.
If you are using a slice of ham from the store, then add about 5 minutes before soup is done so the ham does not cook much and get tough, but gets heated thoroughly.
Once the food is all cooked, the soup is hot and bubbly, check the seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve piping hot along with bread thickly spread with real butter.
Enjoy!
 
Tips:
*Do NOT leave out the butter! This has two uses: 1) keeps the potatoes from boiling over in the pot and 2) gives a richness and depth to the broth.
*If you don't like onions, then omit them.
*For time's sake, you can snap the beans, cut the potatoes, chop the onions, and dice the ham before cooking if you are worried about the time factor. If you do this, place potatoes in cold salted water in a pan to sit so they do not oxidize and turn brown. Drain them before adding them to the broth to cook.