Saturday, July 30, 2011

How to Grease and Flour Cake Pans

The luscious Caramel Cake that resulted from well prepared pans.

Much like canning tomatoes and making pickles, greasing and flouring cake pans seems to be a lost kitchen art.  With the advent of PAM for Baking, of which I am a huge fan, this step is often not necessary.  Sometimes, however, a cake baked from scratch benefits from good old fashioned greasing and flouring of the pan.

As a child, I learned how to grease and flour a cake pan from my mother.  She always welcomed me into her kitchen when she was cooking which resulted in me now having knowledge of  layering luscious lasagna, whisking lump-free gravy, and preparing cake pans for baking.

When it came time to bake a cake, she would hand me a wadded up paper towel and let me dip it into her crisco canister.  Then I had the pleasure of thoroughly smearing it onto the cake pans.  When my task was completed, she would check my work, touch up any places I had missed, and put in a scant scoop of flour.  Now for some reason she never quite trusted me to do the next step, but I watched carefully and learned that you must gingerly turn the pan while gently tapping the side of it to equally distribute the flour.  I can still hear her wedding ring clinking against the metal of the pan as she confidently tapped and turned.  When she was satisfied that it was entirely coated she would bang the pan on the counter and dump any excess flour into the trash can.

The result of my mother's skill was a fully greased and floured cake pan that released a slightly cooled cake every time.  Yesterday I made my son a Caramel Cake from scratch for his birthday and, despite the fact that the first step of the recipe was to grease and flour the pan, I reached instead for my PAM for Baking which was empty.  Crisis averted, however, when I followed the instructions that my mother taught me and greased and floured my pans by hand.  Here are the steps just in case you too need to prepare a cake pan the old fashioned way.

How to Grease and Flour Cake Pans

Add about a tablespoon of Crisco to the center of each cake pan.  

Using a paper towel smear the Crisco onto the bottom and sides of the pan.
Continue smearing until the pan is fully coated with shortening.
Get a scant scoop (a few tablespoons) of flour.
Sprinkle the flour into the center of the greased cake pan.

Turn the cake pan while tapping the sides gently.  I do this over my sink for less mess.

When the pan is fully coated with flour, tap it on the counter and then shake out excess flour.

Fill your greased and floured cake pans with your favorite batter.
Bake cake as directed.

Caramel Cake Recipe


Monday, July 25, 2011

Christmas in July Blog Party

Today I am sharing the Christmas in July blog party from Holiday Haven.  Although I love summer, it's nice to sit back and imagine that in five months the weather will have cooled and we will be celebrating this special holiday with our families.  Feel free to link up and browse.  Merry Christmas in July!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Chocolate Zucchini Cake Recipe

Today my six year old son and I hit a summer lull.  As the youngest of four children, he is used to a house filled with doors slamming, cell phones ringing, and kids talking.  Today, however, Daddy was heading home from a business trip, two siblings were at camp, and another was sick in bed.  The house was clean and quiet.  After tiring of fort building, game playing, and even TV watching, we headed to the kitchen to bake a Chocolate Zucchini Cake.

This recipe for Chocolate Zucchini Cake was shared with me  in the 1990's by an amazing early childhood teacher in Maryland.  While I was reading the big book Mrs. Wishy Washy to my class of Kindergartners, she was whipping up a Chocolate Zucchini Cake with her Pre-K class.  The chocolate and cinnamon aroma wafted throughout the halls and we were all grateful that she placed the leftovers in the staff lounge.  It was a moist and flavorful sheet cake that utilized the often prolific garden vegetable, zucchini.  She passed out the recipe to her little students and gave me a copy as well.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake is the perfect recipe to make with young children.  In addition to providing an ideal opportunity to introduce more vegetables into the child's diet and discuss gardening or the letter 'Z', this recipe also requires fun baking techniques such as whisking, egg cracking, grating, and the ever popular chocolate chip sampling.  Today I even let my six year old use the 'big knife' to chop off the ends of the zucchini.

Now when baking Chocolate Zucchini Cake you could go all Jessica Seinfeld and serve this chocolate sheet cake to your family not mentioning that it contains zucchini, but I would rather involve the kids in the cooking process and then allow them to decide if they like it or not.  When they come across a bite that contains a strand of something green they will know that it is zucchini and hopefully enjoy it all the same.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs, room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk or 1/2 cup milk plus 1/2 teaspoon vinegar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 Tablespoons cocoa
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups zucchini, grated
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9x13 pan with baking spray or grease and flour.
  2. Mix together butter and sugar until well combined.
  3. Add oil, eggs, vanilla, and buttermilk.  Mix.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa, and cinnamon.
  5. Combine the wet and dry ingredients gently until well combined.
  6. Fold in the grated zucchini.
  7. Pour batter into prepared 9x13 pan.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Blueberry Muffins Recipe

Happy National Blueberry Month!  

I love a good holiday, especially if it involves food. Oh, and did I mention?  I actually celebrate these random food holidays.  Case in point, one evening back in November I was pleasantly surprised by a phone call from my mother-in-law.  When she asked what we were doing, I responded by telling her that we were celebrating National Bundt Cake Day.  My husband, four children, and I were actually lounging around our living room each enjoying a piece of Chocolate Pistachio Bundt Cake for no other reason than it was National Bundt Cake Day.  A family that celebrates food holidays together, sticks together.

Currently we are celebrating National Blueberry Month because, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, July is the month to feature these juicy and nutritious berries.  I started the blueberry party by making a batch of moist and flavorful Blueberry Muffins.  This tried-and-true recipe comes from my well-loved copy of Mary Washington's Cookbook that I snagged while I was a freshman at Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

I return to this recipe year after year because it calls for simple pantry ingredients, is enjoyed by my children, and has the added benefit of anti-oxidant rich blueberries.  When blueberries are plentiful in the grocery store, I buy at least one quart for snacking and another quart or two to be used in recipes.  This time my daughter assisted in the baking and commented that these muffins would make a great first-day-of-high school breakfast.  After I adjust to the fact that one of my children is heading to high school, I will agree to make her suggestion happen.

Blueberries are a nutritious fruit that is native to North America, can be easily frozen, and are as delicious straight from the carton as they are baked into a cobbler, pancake, or muffin.  All of these blueberry qualities are a reason to celebrate.  Happy National Blueberry Month!

Blueberry Muffins Recipe
     (makes 2 dozen muffins)

2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup sugar
1 cup sour cream
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh blueberries, washed with all stems removed
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease muffin pans or line with paper liners.
  2. Mix eggs, butter, sugar, and sour cream until fully combined
  3. Whisk together dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt).
  4. Add blueberries to flour mixture and toss gently to coat blueberries.
  5. Gently fold flour/blueberry mixture into egg mixture until combined.  Do not over mix.
  6. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins.
  7. Bake for 25 minutes.
adapted from Mary Washington's Cookbook
recipe submitted by Vivian S. Hubbard '73

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Oreo Cookie Dessert

As the temperatures approach triple digits most days down here in Texas, I do whatever I can to keep my home and, especially my kitchen, cool.  I run the clothes drier in the early morning and evening and try to avoid turning on my oven as much as possible.  In addition to using my crock pot and cooking dishes early in the day that can be microwaved for dinner, I also choose no-bake recipes whenever possible.  One of my favorite no-bake treats is Oreo Cookie Dessert.

The recipe for this Oreo Cookie Dessert comes from my mother in-law.  Years ago she lovingly copied it onto a recipe card and shared it with me after she served it at one of our family gatherings and realized we all loved it.  Whenever I make it now it brings back memories of family gatherings at Mommom and Poppop's house.  My husband enjoys it so much that he requested it for his Father's Day dessert.  I like the fact that it can be easily made in advance, stored in the refrigerator, and then transported to any event that requires a crowd pleasing dessert.  I used to bring this chilled layered treat to poolside picnics when we lived in Maryland.   In fact, when I first started this blog, my friend and fellow pool picnicker suggested that I feature my Oreo dessert, and now two years later I am.

This icebox Oreo Cookie Dessert is good anytime of the year, but it is especially refreshing in the summer.  Kids will enjoy assisting as you crush the Oreos, mix the pudding, and spread the layers.  Also, you can keep your kitchen cool as you create it.  This recipe is a treat at picnics, barbecues, and any family gathering.  Here's how to make Oreo Cookie Dessert:

The crushed Oreos and butter create a flavorful curst.
I use my large off-set spatula to spread all of the layers.
This layer is cream cheese mixed wit cool whip and powdered sugar.

Instant vanilla and chocolate pudding packets are mixed with milk to create the next layer.

The top layer of Cool-Whip can be floated on top like a cloud.
A few crushed Oreos are sprinkled on top of the layers.

Oreo Cookie Dessert Recipe

28 Oreo cookies
1/2 cup (one stick) butter, melted
1/2 cup powdered sugar
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
16 ounces Cool Whip, divided
1 small package chocolate instant pudding mix (3.9 ounce)
1 small package vanilla instant pudding mix (3.4 ounce)
3 cups milk

  1. Crush 28 oreo cookies.  I place mine in a gallon zip-lock baggie and crush them with a rolling pin.  Place the crumbs in the bottom of a 9 x 13 dish, reserving a few crumbs for garnish.
  2. Pour the melted butter over the cookie crumbs and press lightly.
  3. Mix 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 8 ounces of cream cheese, and 8 ounces of cool-whip.  Spread mixture over the cookie layer.  A large off-set spatula works well for this.  
  4. Whisk the chocolate and vanilla instant pudding with 3 cups of milk until slightly thickened.  Pour this pudding mixture over the cream cheese layer and spread, sealing the edges.
  5. Spread the remaining 8 ounces of Cool-Whip over the pudding layer.  I like to leave a lip of pudding visible around the edges.
  6. Garnish the top Cool-Whip layer with reserved Oreo crumbs.
  7. Chill several hours our overnight before serving.
  8. Prepare to share the recipe:)
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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Low-Fat Potato Salad

For the first 42 years of my life I have accepted potato salad as a dish that my mom brings to picnics in her largest Pyrex bowl or as an item that perches in a plastic container next to deli trays.  I always enjoyed a dip of my mom's potato salad which contained peeled potatoes, lots of mayonnaise, hard boiled egg chunks, and celery salt, but I often chose to forgo the vibrant yellow potato salads from the deli section of the grocery store.  You could say that when it comes to potato salad I could take it or leave it. . . until now!

Yesterday I tried a recipe from my latest edition of the magazine Cook's Country.  I always get a thrill when I see my new edition of this periodical from America's Test Kitchen in the mail pile.  My mom gave me a subscription for my birthday and it is definitely the gift that keeps on giving.  I love to curl up in my favorite chair with a cup of green tea and my new Cook's Country.  I scan the gorgeous photos, absorb the tips, and mark all the recipes that I hope to try.  This time my recipe of choice happened to be the one for Reduced-Fat Potato Salad.  Although I was a bit skeptical I was craving some good potato salad.

Upon arriving home from church, I boiled my potatoes, prepared the other ingredients, and then mixed up this side dish.  When my daughter informed me that the two friends she had invited over for lunch happened to be big fans of potato salad, I was thrilled.  As we were all chatting in the kitchen I also learned that for the rest of the summer these teenagers are striving to eat healthier.  They were impressed when I shared with them that normal potato salad has 30 grams of fat and that this recipe only has 1 gram of fat and no saturated fat at all.  Wow!

We were all impressed when we tried our Low-Fat Potato Salad.  It is creamy and flavorful!  If I didn't know it, I would never have guessed that it is low-fat.  In fact, I liked it better than full-fat potato salad.  I wasn't planning on featuring this recipe on my blog, but it is so good that I feel I must share.  I packaged the leftovers in one cup containers and found myself enjoying a portion for afternoon snack.  That is a first for me.

So if you like potato salad even just a little bit, give this recipe a try.  It is on page four of the August/September 2011 issue of Cook's Country.  I recommend that you purchase a copy of this periodical for yourself because, in addition to the article and recipe for this potato salad, it is overflowing with lots of other desirable tips and recipes such as "Texas-Style Fruit Cobbler" and "Slow Cooker Stuffed Peppers".  After eating a couple portions of my Low-Fat Potato Salad my husband commented, "This is a keeper!" and I agree.  The folks at the test kitchens of Cook's Country have successfully taken a typically high fat side dish and converted it into a much healthier and tasty dish.  They have also converted me to a potato salad lover.

Low-Fat Potato Salad Recipe
     from Cook's Country (August/September 2011)

2 pounds red potatoes, cut into 3/4-inch pieces (do not peel)
Salt and Pepper
2 Tablespoons white vinegar
1/4 cup light mayonnaise (I used Kraft's Olive Oil Mayo)
1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt (I used Fage)
1 celery rip, chopped fine
1 1/2 Tablespoon sweet pickle relish
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 scallions, green parts only, sliced thin

  1. Bring unpeeled potato chunks, 2 teaspoons salt, and enough water to cover potatoes by 1 inch to boil in large saucepan over high heat.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer until potatoes are just tender, about 10 minutes.
  2. Reserve 1/4 cup cooking water.  Drain potatoes thoroughly, then transfer to large bowl.  Drizzle vinegar over hot potatoes and gently toss until evenly coated.  Transfer 3/4 cup potatoes to medium bowl; reserve.  Refrigerate remaining potatoes until cooled, about 30 minutes.
  3. Using potato masher or fork, mash reserved hot potatoes with 3 tablespoons reserved cooking water until smooth, adding remaining cooking water as needed.  Stir mayonnaise, yogurt, celery, relish, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper into mashed potato.  Refrigerate mixture until cooled, about 15 minutes.
  4. Add cooled potato dressing to cooed potatoes, stirring until evenly coated.  Stir in scallions, cover, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve. (Salad can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.)
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Saturday, July 2, 2011

Grilled Chicken Kabobs Recipe

Grilled Chicken Kabobs with Vegetables
Since moving to Texas three years ago, my family and I have become 'driveway people'.  What are 'driveway people' you may ask?  Well, 'driveway people' are folks who enjoy their driveway for more than just parking their cars and placing their garbage cans on trash day.  'Driveway people' fully embrace all that this slab of asphalt which lies adjacent to the house has to offer.  A place for playing four square, blowing bubbles, exploring with sidewalk chalk, socializing with neighbors, and, my personal favorite, grilling.

Our Weber Kettle is perfect for grilling kabobs and the aroma draws our children from all corners of the cul-de-sac.
Our first step toward becoming 'driveway people' was observing other families who had gathered in their lanes.  We smelled the succulent aroma of charred meat as we walked our dog and then saw people chatting, laughing, and sipping from paper cups.  We tried not to gawk as we passed by and we returned their greetings of "Howdy!" with a wave and a smile, all the while attempting to not seem too Yanky-ish.

After many encounters such as the one described above, we acquired all of the necessary materials for getting one step closer to becoming 'driveway people':  a weber kettle, camping chairs, colorful solo cups, and a folding table.  Our first attempt was even more successful than we anticipated; the chairs were comfortable, the food was delicious, the flies were tolerable, and, despite that fact that just a few hours earlier it had been 140 degrees in the shade, as the sun began to set a slight breeze picked up and it actually felt cool.  As if that wasn't enough, our four children and their friends were magically drawn to our property for food, fun, and four square.  My husband even threw out a tentative "Howdy!" to a few passerbys.

Kabobs can be made ahead of time and chilled.
My favorite recipe for our 'driveway people' evenings, which we have affectionately deemed 'Grillin' and Chillin', is Chicken Kabobs.  I can prepare this meal in advance in the comfort of my air conditioned kitchen and then sit back and watch the hubby grill.  Throw on a few veggie kabobs, open a bag of salt-and-vinegar chips, and ice down a few baby sodas, and we've got a 'driveway people' party.  Because we rarely have sodas in the house, my kids love the mini-sprites, Dr. Pepper's, and Orange Crush cans that they use to quench their thirst after our rousing games of four square.

Tabbouleh is a great make-ahead side dish for kabobs.
This recipe comes from my favorite healthy foods book YOU:  On a Diet by Michael F. Roizen, MD and, Oprah's main doc, Mehmet C. Oz, MD.  They suggest serving the recipe with tabbouleh which, as opposed to chips, keeps the calories per serving down to 397.  I always double it so we have plenty for leftovers and I often forgo the traditional salty snacks for hummus and pita chips.

Now I guess to become true Texas 'driveway people' I need to grill a large slab of meat such as brisket, but for now I am going to stick to healthy Chicken Kabobs with a side of howdy.  Happy 4th of July from Texas!  Guess where we'll be celebrating?:)

Grilled Chicken and Vegetable Kabobs with Tabbouleh
     serves 2, approximately 397 calories per serving
     adapted from You:  On A Diet

Chicken and Vegetable Kabob Ingredients:
2 skinless, boneless chicken breat halves (about 4 ounces each), cut into 1-inch cubes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes, optional
1 white onion, quartered
12 cherry tomatoes
1 bell pepper, seeded, stemmed, and cut into chunks
12 button mushrooms
1 yellow squash, cut into rounds
1 zucchini, cut into rounds

Tabbouleh Ingredients:
3/4 cup bulgur wheat
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 tomato, diced
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
1 small bunch fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

metal or wooden skewers (if using wooden, soak in water for a few hours prior to grilling)

  1. To make the chicken kabobs, prepare the grill.  Toss chicken with oregano, sage, and chili pepper.  Chill until ready to cook.  Thread chicken onto skewers.
  2. To make the vegetable kabobs, thread vegetables onto other skewers.
  3. Cook on covered grill 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are fork tender.
  4. To make the tabbouleh, place bulgur wheat in medium bowl; add boiling water and mix well.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap.  Let stand until all water is absorbed, about 30 minutes.  Pour off excess water, if needed.
  5. Add remaining ingredients, except salt and pepper; mix well.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve warm or chilled with kabobs.
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