Monday, June 01, 2015

Come Read Me at the D&C!

When I started entering cooking contests in 2004, and made my first attempt at blogging in 2006, I couldn't have imagined it would lead to this.

Today I started my dream job: food and beverage reporter for the Democrat & Chronicle in Rochester. I am beyond excited.

As a result, this blog is dormant as I turn my efforts to my new job, but it remains here as an online source of recipes.

Come read me at: And while you're at it, subscribe, would ya?

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Peanut Butter Dip a la Football

Every year, I try to make a football-themed dish for our friend's Super Bowl party. Sometimes the dish looks like footballs, other times they pay homage to one or more of the teams.

This year cried out for a dented football. My initial inclination was to make chocolate peanut butter eggs, molded to look like a dented football. 

Then I was feeling under the weather and just didn't have the energy with molding and dipping individual footballs. 

I happened upon a version of this dip on Facebook -- it didn't attribute the original author so I have no way of crediting whoever came up with the idea.

The dip itself was easy to mix together, but the end result was a far cry from the picture I saw on Facebook. I can't imagine how anyone could fully cover the football with mini chocolate chips (or jimmies in the original photo, but they taste like wax and look like mouse poop). Also, the white chocolate I piped didn't stick right to the irregular surface.

It's hard to see the dents in the football, but they are on either side of the white laces, because that's how my husband told me a football deflates.

Anyhoo, I wasn't going to post about this homely creation, especially because I didn't feel good enough to go to the party. But when my husband put all of the dippers -- animal crackers and pretzel sticks -- around it, people pounced so quickly that he couldn't take a shot of the completed platter for me. So I thought I'd post the recipe. In the future, I wouldn't bother molding it -- I'd serve it in a bowl and garnish with mini chocolate chips.

Peanut Butter Dip a la Football

¼ cup butter, softened
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup peanut butter (I used smooth)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar
½ cup mini chocolate chips
Mini chocolate chips for the outside of the football (or chocolate jimmies)
White chocolate or frosting for the football laces

Mix butter, cream cheese, peanut butter and vanilla until mixed. Add powdered sugar, ½ cup at a time, and mix until combined. Mix in chocolate chips.

Turn out mixture on a large sheet of waxed paper. Use your hands to form into a football shape. Place the waxed paper onto your serving plate. Put a little dollop of peanut butter under the wax paper so it doesn’t move around.

Cover in sprinkles or chocolate chips, pressing them into the surface a little so they stick. They will not cover completely unless you want to spend hours on this. Once done, trim around the wax paper. Pipe on the laces using melted white chocolate or a bit of white frosting. Chill until ready to serve.

Serve with pretzels, animal crackers, cookies or graham crackers.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Pumpkin Bread from The Book of Bread

One of the benefits of working at a pumpkin farm is that I can usually snatch a few Long Island Cheese pumpkins left over at the end of the season. These large, squat buff-colored pumpkins -- the same color as butternut squash -- make a particularly beautiful pumpkin puree. (This post shows you how I do it.)  As a result, I'm always looking for recipes calling for pumpkin puree.

When I have a hankering for baking any kind of bread, the first cookbook I check is The Book of Bread by Judith and Evan Jones. The writing is great -- as well it should be, as Judith was the editor for Julia Child -- and nearly every recipe I've tried has turned out beautifully, with the curious exception of muffins. This recipe for pumpkin bread was no exception. It was very moist, and just sweet enough to be a yummy breakfast treat, but not feel like I'm eating cake. As with nearly all quick breads, I think this tastes best after an evening in the fridge.

Pumpkin Bread
Adapted from The Book of Bread by Judith and Evan Jones
Makes one 9-inch loaf, or small loaves

1 3/4 cups (217 grams) white flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt or 1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 1/4 cups (250 grams) white sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup pumpkin puree (I use fresh, but you could use canned)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
1/2 cup chocolate chips, chopped nuts or toasted sunflower seeds, optional (if using chocolate chips, toss in a bit of the flour so they don't sink the to bottom)

Preheat oven to 350. Combine the flour, salt, sugar and baking soda in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk together the pumpkin, oil, water, eggs and spices in a large bowl. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ones, enough to mix. Fold in the chocolate chips, nuts or sunflower seeds, if desired.

Turn into a well buttered 9-inch loaf pan (or 3 small pans) and bake in a preheated 350 oven for 50-60 minutes. (For smaller loaves, start checking at 45 minutes.) Let cool for 5 minutes or so, then turn out onto racks and cool.

Monday, September 08, 2014

My Special Recipe from Joan Rivers

About 15 years ago, my Moms club decided to do a cookbook as a fundraiser. My bright idea: contact well-known local and national mothers and ask them to contribute a recipe in order to generate interest in the cookbook. Contacting those moms was a time-consuming process, but it was fun to check the mail (yes, the mail) each day to see who sent me a contribution.

Here's one of my favorites, from Joan Rivers, the way it appeared in print. Whenever I make it in the future, I'll think of her fondly. May she rest in peace.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A way to use up those CSA greens

As a member (and employee) of the Wickham Farms CSA program, I get lots of greens – sometimes by themselves, as in kale, spinach and collard greens, other times attached to root vegetables like beets and turnips. They are great in that they are packed with nutrients, are high in dietary fiber and are low in calories. The trouble with them, though, is that they have strong flavors that can be hard to work with.

Here’s a delicious recipe to use up a lot of those greens. The Cheddar cheese has enough flavor to stand up to the strong flavors of the greens. Plus it’s versatile: serve it warm or at room temperature, for brunch or for an appetizer.

Greens and Cheddar Squares

2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 ½ pounds beet greens, Swiss chard, mature spinach, Tuscan kale, turnip greens, mustard greens, bok choy, or a mixture, washed well and thick stems removed (reserve the edible stems of the bok choy and Swiss chard for another purpose)
3 eggs
1 cup flour
1 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus additional salt & pepper
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup chopped spring onion, about 2 medium (scallions may be substituted)
1 pound sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
Cooking spray

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, heat 1 Tablespoon butter until melted. Add half of the greens, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until greens wilt, about 3-5 minutes. Repeat with the remaining greens. (If you are using different kinds of greens, you may want to sauté separately as they cook at slightly different rates.) Drain the greens, pressing on leaves to extract as much water as possible. Let cool a bit.

Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, beat eggs; add flour, milk, salt and baking powder and mix well. Stir in onion and cheese.

When greens are cool enough to handle, mass them on the cutting board and chop finely. Stir greens into the egg mixture.

Spray a 9- by 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Pour greens mixture into pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, until top is golden brown.

Cool thoroughly; they will be gooey when they come out of the oven, but will set up as they cool. Cut into squares or triangles. Makes 48 pieces.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Spinach and Goat Cheese Grilled Cheese

The original
I visited Rochester's amazing Jazz Fest earlier this week and I can't get something out of my head.

Usually I've got an earworm that's a riff or a line from a song I've heard. This year I can't stop thinking about a sandwich.

I had a grilled cheese sandwich from a food truck called Cheesed and Confused. It had spinach, spicy mustard and goat cheese on a sturdy bread, and I paid an extra dollar for a couple of slices of tomato. (I was glad I did, because the tomato added sweetness and acidity.) Oh my, what a good sandwich. I had two people stop me on the street and ask me where I got it.

My version
It was on my mind so much that I thought I'd recreate it for lunch at home, using ingredients I had on hand. I had a good amount of spinach, because it's in season at the Wickham Farms CSA. I had honey goat cheese I had bought for another recipe, whole grain dijon mustard, Wegmans white bread with whole grain, and a tomato (not in season, but purchased for a recent family taco night). It wasn't quite as tasty as the original -- I wished I had a goat cheese with more tang, a mustard with more bite and bread with more texture -- but all in all, it was enough to alleviate its recurring presence in my brain.

 Here's how I'd make it next time:  

Spinach and Goat Cheese Grilled Cheese

Olive oil
A large handful of fresh local spinach, roughly chopped
A sturdy bread, preferably whole grain
Spicy brown mustard
A tangy goat cheese
Sliced tomatoes

Warm a teaspoon of olive oil in a medium pan. Add the spinach, season with salt and pepper and sautee until wilted, about two minutes. Remove the spinach to paper towels and squeeze out the moisture. Wipe out the pan.

Spread a slice of bread with mustard to taste. Crumble the goat cheese on top. Top with the sauteed spinach, sliced tomato and sprinkle with more goat cheese. Top with the other piece of bread. Brush the outer surfaces of the bread with olive oil. Grill over medium heat until the outsides are golden brown and the insides nice and warm.  
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