Sunday, May 31, 2015

Chocolate-Bran Muffins

Another favorite! My long-ago friend, Elaine McAndrew, gave me this recipe. I think of her each time I make it. Your recipes are part of your legacy. Share them! 

Delicious - and nutritious!

Chocolate-Bran Muffins:

1 - 16 oz. (500 g) pkg double-layer chocolate cake mix
1-1/3 c. water
8 large eggs
1-1/2 c. natural wheat bran (see Sickening Blech! Note)

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Combine all ingredients, mixing well (as you would for a cake, rather than for most muffins). Spoon into ungreased paper liners in muffin pan, filling each 2/3 full. Bake about 18 min., or until a toothpick comes out clean. Makes 2-1/2 dozen standard-sized muffins.

From start to finish ... Less than 30 min.!

Note: Serve with butter. These freeze well.

Sickening Blech! Note: One fine day, tra-la-tra-lee, I decided to make these with oat bran (which is pebbly) instead of natural wheat bran, which is flaked. They looked and smelled so-o-o-o delicious that I donated them to a community group before Id sampled them. This is where the “blech! part came in. I later learned that they were awful. Use only natural wheat bran!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

No-Bake Peanut Butter-Chocolate Bars

These outstanding, five-star cookies taste exactly like Reeses Peanut Butter Cups - if not 
What foods these morsels be! Delectable - and easy.

better! I’ve slightly modified the original recipe (from Cruising Cuisine, by Kay Pastorius, 1997).

No-Bake Peanut Butter-Chocolate Bars:

1 c. graham cracker crumbs
2-1/2 c. icing sugar 
1/2 c. melted butter or margarine 
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. creamy peanut butter (do not use natural)
2 c. chocolate chips, melted

To a large bowl, add graham crumbs, icing sugar, butter or margarine, vanilla, and peanut butter, combining well with clean hands or gloves. Press evenly into ungreased 9x13-in. (23x33 cm) baking pan. Place in refrigerator, uncovered, 10-to-15 min. to harden. 

Pour melted chocolate over top, swirling evenly and gently, ensuring chocolate touches edges of pan. Chocolate will be thin, but sufficient. Refrigerate, uncovered, about 15 min. or until chocolate is firm (but not fully hardened) before slicing into bars. Return to fridge, chilling until chocolate hardens completely. Makes 32. 

Finger Lickin’ Note: Because this is such an incredibly delicious bar cookie, the recipe yields just one serving!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Pommes de Terre Rissolées Rapides

Doesn’t the name of this recipe sound ... pretentious? This is how to - BING! - make Pommes de Terre Rissolées Rapides aka Instant Hash Browns without peeling, shredding, julienning, or doing anything else that requires work. 

Have you ever stared at a mountain of restaurant french fries you couldn’t eat because the serving was too big? And your Cousin Vinnie owns the joint and he’s in the mob and you wouldn’t look good in cement boots and you can’t stand the waste when the restaurant throws stuff out and you’re scared to tell Vinnie hes over-serving and his customers are getting fat and it’s all his fault. Is that what’s bothering you, Bunkie? 



Dice ’em!

Heat ’em on a griddle or on the slammers electric chair!

Dish ’em up for breakfast! And never let Vinnie know.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Thunder and Lightning

Punster Peter Battistoni aka P.B.
My Facebook friend P.B., whose identity I have sworn to keep secret, has a punny sense of humor. P.B. shares his puns with his Facebook friends almost every day. One of P.B.’s puns inspired me to make this simple scone recipe. But first, his latest bon mots: 

I was almost caught in a lightning storm. Luckily, I bolted inside.

Har-har-har-har! Um ... I guess you had to be there. My response:

Knock knock! 

Who’s there? 
Thunder who?
Thunder enlightening. 

Har-har-ha- ??? Really??? Oh. Well, now. Let
’s move on, shall we?

Thunder and Lightning:

1 c. currants or craisins  
2 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 c. shortening
Enough milk to make a soft dough, about 3/4 c.
Oil for frying, as needed

Plump currants or raisins (see Note); set aside. Combine dry ingredients. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add milk and fruit all at once, stirring just until moistened. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough with floured pin until dough is about 1/4-in. (0.7 cm) thick. Cut into 2-1/2-in. (6 cm) rounds. Fry in a small amount of oil at medium-low heat until golden, about 2 min. per side. Serve warm or at room temperature, with or without jam. Makes 2 dozen.

Note: See Index for How to Plump Dried Fruits.

Further Note: My guess is that these scones got their name after being cooked over a fire during an electrical storm. Maybe the lights went out? Maybe P.B. presented everyone with another pun? (Lord, I hope not). As for this punster’s identity? His secret
s safe with me.

Play time’s over! I need to return to my writing project! xox Nicole

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Dinner Party Series: Fabulous Femmes Film Fest

Alice, our lovely photographer!
This year marks the 4th annual Fabulous Femmes Film Fest, a little party I try to give each May, gathering a few friends to enjoy a meal and a couple of Oscar-nominated films. I encourage you to host your own FFFF if you have a flat-screen TV and enjoy watching movies. 

As you may know, I love to play with color. This year, I used a pea-green cloth with matching plates and accessories. From time-to-time, the tables I set dont use conventional dinner table items. I like to pluck objects from all around the house, setting the table with oilcloth or newspapers (if that works with the theme I’ve chosen), tying cloth napkins with butcher twine, using an oil lantern on the table, using baskets plucked from here and there, and generally trying to put together fresh, fun ideas. 

With my mental plate piled high this year, I prepared a simple lunch that involved only minimal effort. If youre phobic about giving parties, why not do the same?

Using three cans of condensed tomato soup to make seven large servings, I prepared Looped Soup, an economical and dead-simple recipe youll find in the Index under Soup (Hot): Tomato (Looped). 

Slicing bagels in half, I arrayed three types of fillings so my guests could prepare their own sandwiches. I bought sliced turkey breast, sliced Swiss cheese, lettuce, sandwich pickles, tomatoes, and cucumbers. I also bought sliced smoked lox, cream cheese, capers, and red onion. I diced and prepared eggs so my guests could make their own egg salad sandwiches. And I bought the third course - a small, tiramisu-style cake - to save myself some time. 

My past blogs indexed as Dinner Party Series say a great deal about simplifying home entertaining, but these three points bear emphasizing:

1/ Given your level of energy, experience, and the size of your work space, don’t try to do more than you can do. Entertaining friends at home isnt a contest.
2/ Start your preparations early! Thats important. Set your table a day or two ahead. Plan your menu, taking out the utensils, serving dishes, and everything else youll need, well in advance.
3/ Place small notes on or into each empty serving bowl and tray, reminding yourself what needs to go in each. Make a tick list of each task necessary to get there, and you’ll feel more organized. Be sure to watch the clock!

So here’s how the meal looked! I set the tray of empty mugs on the table for show, removing them to the kitchen to be filled with gin-laced soup, which I served in the living room. Using a funnel will keep the soup from splashing against the sides of the mugs as theyre being filled. 

This was a casual meal - the FFFF is always a casual occasion - so after everyone had their mugs of soup, we allowed a good pause before the next course. After my guests made their own sandwiches, we once again retreated to the living room.

With lunch over, we were ready for main event - movies!with popcorn, lots more talking, and later, cake and tea. All in all, plenty of fun and not too much work. I hope these photos will inspire you to do something similar! 

Best Tip Ever: Fill a 30-cup coffee urn with water, bringing it to the boil midway through your party. When you offer coffee, use instant granules, filling your pot or cups with boiling water from the urn. When you offer herbal or regular tea, fill your pot or cups directly from the urn, too. This is my #1 tip for keeping things simple at a large party. The best place to buy these urns is on Craigslist or at a restaurant supply house. If you buy a used urn, be sure it functions as it should before you hand over your money. Getting a seven-day written warranty is also a smart idea.  

Start with a basic buffet setting: I often change it many times!

I usually add an extra setting and extra cutlery, just in case!
I served a gin-splashed tomato soup in these mugs.

Imagine where each food item will go after placing the basics.

Fresh, cold water is an essential! Water was more popular 
than the champagne cocktails I served as my guests arrived.

Among the basics: A good supply of napkins - 
with extras on hand in the kitchen, just in case!

Bagels dont dry out and are sturdier than sandwich bread
for making build-yer-own sandwiches.

Cream cheese, lox, thinly sliced red onion, and capers.
Do your grocery shopping a couple of days in advance.

Let your table be a happy jumble of candles, flowers, and food!

Use parsley to fill those otherwise-empty spaces.

Your gracious host! Let this photo be you!