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 to dip. Serve with potato chips, 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 4 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 beef 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.