Back in the Groove

Finally the thanksgiving madness is over.  It seems I have a week or two until the Christmas madness begins.

This is the time of year that I’m actually happy to have a VERY small family.

Hubby, Rat Boy and I traveled last week to Hubby’s family reunion.  For me, it was more like a “meet the greater part of his family” week.  I felt like I was in a Pauly Shore movie at times.  🙂

I had a massive meltdown the week before we went, wanting to impress with my mad kitchen skillz.  Instead I promptly turned into my mother…who does not go into the kitchen except to clean after Dad cooks!

I exploded turnovers.

I created the cracked surface of Mars instead of pie crust.

I baked cranberry muffins that could be considered deadly weapons.

We journeyed for 7 hours to the designated location.  It was totally worth it, though.  Hubby has a wonderful family.  🙂

Did I mention that I hadn’t met most of them until now? ( I had met 2…we shared turkey and tofurky with 20!)

After all was said and done, we had a fantastic feast, thanks to Hubby’s tribe.  And I got to see sea turtles in rehab, go to the beach, and fly kites.  Overall, it was great!

After another 7 hour drive it was time for some pizza 🙂 and then a shopping excursion yesterday with Mum.  Today I restock the kitchen, and might even be able to remember how to cook something edible!

Hope everyone had a fabulous Turkey Day!  And that nobody sprayed you with pepper spray if you were brave enough to go shopping on Black Friday!  😛

Advertisements

Veteran’s Day

Veteran’s Day was established at the end of World War II, when a new German government took office after the defeat of Hitler’s Nazi regime.  The purpose of Veteran’s Day is a celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

This is a day to honor our troops, both in peace and war.  A day to remember why America is free.  A day to know that only because of those who are called to duty for whatever reason, we are free.

Thank You to the men and women who served, and to those still serving.

Thank You to the families out there who serve alongside our service members.   We don’t think enough about the sacrifices these families make to support our troops every single day.

When you’re out and about today, take a moment if you see someone in uniform to thank them for their service.  It means a lot every day, but especially today.

Chicken and Squash Curry

Today, I went over to the house and hung out with Mum and Dad for a bit.  They are still bummed out about the whole dog thing, so I took them some pumpkin cake, too.

Maybe I won’t end up eating most of it now.  Rat Boy has been whining about the nuts, and Hubby is studying for a PT test. 😦

Another quick easy dinner tonight.  This took about an hour to put together!

I had l lot of squash in the fridge, and a couple of chicken breasts.

Butternut cubulets left over from the Moroccan Stew…

some zucchini and yellow…

and a bottle of curry sauce.  🙂

I sliced the chicken breasts into about 1 inch cubes, and threw them in the pan  (well, not literally) with a tablespoon of butter and some olive oil.

I’m not going to show the raw chicken.  A close up view of that tonight just isn’t in the cards.

Chopped some onion and bell pepper…I had red 😀 … into chunks about the size of the chicken pieces.

Into the pan it goes!

There’s even a decent pic of the nicely browning chicken.  🙂  I let it all brown together until the onions soften.

Then sauced it up.

Added my friend, veggie broth, to thin the sauce, and so it could stew longer without me having to stand over it and stir.

That was also not in the cards for tonight.

Stirred it and added the butternut squash.  Added enough broth so the squash is submurged, but not too much, as then the sauce is too thin.

We are walking a fine line here, y’all.  😛

The butternut  takes a bit longer than the other squashes, so added those after it had simmered about half an hour.

There should be plenty of juicy sauciness to get the squash down into the liquid.

Let it simmer about 15 minutes longer, and served with the rice I made while the butternut was cooking.

We think ahead and multitask around here.

Cuz that’s how we roll.  😛

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Maple-Cream Cheese Frosting

That’s kind of a mouthful!  🙂  An extremely tasty mouthful, at that!

It is also quite tasty.  And probably not the best for my dieting efforts.  😛

I actually made this cake twice, as the recipe also suggests a bundt version.  This cake is NOT a lie.


It was an excellent excuse to buy that bundt pan I’ve been eying for the last month or so.  Fall just seems like a very bundt-y time of year.  Especially with pumpkin.

The list of ingredients is relatively short for the amazing taste of this cake!

One of the best things I’ve invested in so far has been a digital scale.  It’s the red thing hanging out on the right, under the brown sugar.

I’ve been really amazed at the lack of standardization in quantities and weights of prepackaged ingredients…butter, for instance.  While every stick says it is 1/2 cup, they weigh anywhere from 3.5 to 6 ounces!  That’s a big difference when baking.

Begin by creaming 4 oz butter with 12 oz brown sugar.  I’ve actually mixed 1 bag of light brown sugar with a bag of dark brown sugar, and I’m pretty sure I like the taste better that way.  Holy cow, what an innovation!  I’ve created medium brown sugar!  LOL

Room temperature is suggested for butter, eggs, and other ingredients from the fridge.  I’m finding the term ‘room temperature’ is pretty subjective.  Does it mean winter or summer room temp?  Texas room temp?  Mum’s house (around 80F), or mine (around 70F)?

I’ve decided what it really means is that the ingredients need to be soft enough to mix and emulsify well, but not so soft that they are liquidy and soggy.  Creaming the butter and sugar creates little air bubbles, which in turn, make the cake or muffins or whatever lighter and fluffier.

In a small bowl, bet together 2 eggs and 1 tbsp vanilla extract.  In another bowl, measure out 1 can pumpkin puree.  In a third bowl, sift together 2 cups cake flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground allspice, 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg, and 1/4 tsp ground cloves.  Set out 1/2 cup buttermilk so it warms a bit to ‘room temp’.

First, add the egg mixture to the creamed butter sugar mixture, 1 tbsp at a time, letting it become fully incorporated before adding the next tbsp.  Stop about halfway through, and scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl.

Then, alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk, starting and ending with the flour.  Allow ingredients to incorporate between additions, and stop to scrape the bowl at least once.

For the bundt, just spray the pan with non-stick of your choice, fill and bake at 350F for abut an hour.

For the frosted layer cake, spray a 9 inch round, then line the bottom with a cut circle of parchment paper.  Again, bake at 350F for about an hour.

To make the frosting, toast 4oz pecan pieces.  Blend together 12 oz cream cheese, 3 oz butter, 1/2 cup maple syrup, and 1 3/4 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar until smooth and fluffy.  Use the best maple syrup.  Not the stuff that is really coloured corn syrup, but the real stuff that comes from trees!  I get mine from Whole foods, in the bulk isle, and it’s really pretty reasonable that way.

Unmold the cake onto a cake flat or tart pan bottom, leaving the parchment paper on the cake.  Level if necessary, and then slice the cake into tow layers.  Place the cake’s top layer onto the serving plate, cut side up, and frost.  Flip the bottom half onto the frosted part, parchment paper side up.  Peel off the paper and frost.

Press the toasted pecans into the side of the frosted cake.

Use a teaspoon to create swirls on the top.

Now it looks like something from the bakery!  No action photos, though, as it was almost 2AM!

I didn’t get the two layers quite even, but it still looks great, and tastes awesome!  Since it has cream cheese in the frosting, I refrigerated it overnight, but it tastes better served at room temperature…whatever that is!

Moroccan Stew

I’m going to briefly apologize to anyone and everyone who came by to see yumtastic food last week, and I wasn’t here.  My Mum’s dog passed on to the happy green fields of Doggie Heaven last week, so I’ve been over at The Parent’s house more than at my own.

Kitchen Kat has been lonely.  😦

Today, I was feeling spicy.  Not Baby Spice or even Posh Spice, but Moroccan Spice.  Which means smoked paprika and cinnamon as the theme for this dish.

There’s a lot going on in this dish, but the flavors meld beautifully, and again…one pot cooking for the win!

It seems that I always begin with sauteing onion and garlic. Celery also, lately.

But it smells so good!  Also, I watched a couple of tutorials the other day on how to dice and onion, and now I need to practice.

This dish is vegetarian, but Hubby and Rat Boy raise such Banshee Queen wailing a fuss when I try to feed them anything vegetarian.  So I added some sausage.

After a couple more minutes of browning, I added some veggie stock.

Then, cubes of butternut squash, sliced carrots, chopped plum tomatoes, and quartered new potatoes.

Here’s hoping the hand isn’t too scary.  🙂

I ended up using the rest of the carton of stock, to cover all the veggies.  It’s 32 oz, so that’s 4 cups.

Wow!  I just did math in my head.  Correctly!  😛

The interesting part of this stew, I think, is the spices.  Cinnamon, cumin, coriander, and smoked paprika.  Of course, salt and pepper, too.  Cook until the veggies are tender, about 30 minutes.

Then I added these groovy sweet peppers I found the other day at Whole foods, because they are pretty (and tiny).

Some coconut milk…about half a can. Plus a can of garbanzo beans, rinsed.  I always have some garbanzo beans hanging around, as I never know when I might get the burning urge to make some hummus!  😛

I let it simmer on low, no lid,  while I made some rice.  Naan would have been just awesome with this, but since I didn’t happen to have any on hand, I just went with rice.

Kitchen Kat was keeping an eye on me from his stealthy location inside the cupboard.

Please ignore how messy it is in there.  Kitchen Kat likes to rearrange things, not necessarily in the best order…

At least he is out of the dishwasher.  😛

Finally, I arrived at Moroccan stew with rice!


It was very savory, but not spicy at all from the paprika.  To give it a kick, you might use half smoked and half Hungarian paprika, as it’s a bit spicier.  Was great for a day like today, though…not hot, but not really cool, and cloudy like it couldn’t decide whether it would be worth the trouble of actually raining.

I think I would definitely make it spicier on a really cold day!  🙂

Candy for Grownups

Or for me. 😛   But I’m trying to do a bit of a better diet for the next couple of months, so I’ll try not to eat them all!

I find few things as close to perfection as the combination of pecans, caramel, and chocolate.  And with all the candy out and about lately, I decided to make some at home.

I might try to be more artistic with the chocolate next time, but today, the point was, “how do they taste?”  Will they still that little voice in my head telling me that I missed out on Haloween because I didn’t go nuts on candy?  No pun intended there, but I’m a little nuts too just now!

Grabbed a package of caramels at the store.  The last package.  The one I had to get down on my knees in HEB and reach all the way to the very back of the shelf kind of stuck in the crack back there package.  People were staring.  I NEEDED caramels.

Safely at home, I unwrapped (tedious)…

and melted the caramels (easy)  in a Pyrex bowl in the microwave.

Took a couple of minutes, with plenty of stirring in between minute 1 and minute 2.

That beautiful Granny Smith apple back there is for the caramel apple Rat Boy asked me to make.

Stir in the pecans.  Plenty of them.  I used 2 cups of large pecan pieces, and another cup of smaller pieces.  I did Rat Boy’s apple first, so I wasn’t  working with a full deck  a full bowl.  😛

Stir until the pecans are well coated.  It’s sticky and gooey and just marvelous.

Melt chocolate in the microwave for the next layer.  I decided to go with milk chocolate chips.  Easy to melt…not patient enough to temper chocolate.

I used half a bag.  Drizzled the chocolate off a teaspoon onto the pecan clusters.

Let them cool of a while on a silpat or parchment paper.  They are VERY sticky!

That’s Rat Boy’s apple over there.  He’s too old for trick ‘r treating these days, but still wants treats.  🙂

I just had to get closer to the deliciousness.  And then taste a couple…still warm….I think I died and went to Heaven!  Briefly.

Chill them in the fridge for about 2 hours, and the chocolate will set up.  You can keep them at cool room temperature (and eat them) until your candy cravings are banished!

Or mine.  That might be never though.

Maybe that wouldn’t really be such a bad thing.  I did only eat 2!  🙂

LOL  Frogs and turtles….

NOTE:  To chill, use a layer of wax paper if the silpat won’t fit in the ‘fridge!  Otherwise, you’ll need a chisel to get them off the plate.  Unless you just want to hold it up to your face and lick them until they are soft enough to slip off!  😛