Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Emancipation Realization

Continued from Feb. 18 post:
Previously unaware that Nicole is suffering cabin fever with too many hours in the kitchen planning nutritious, low-calorie meals ...

A withered, 90-pound Ron proposes an idea: Adventure!

Which sounds very, very appealing to Nicole ...

Excitement: Definite! Return date: Indefinite! Ron and Nicole lock up the house and kennel the dog. Which is odd because they dont even have a dog. Details, shmetails ....

And then they hit the highway! Their carefully chosen motor home lacks a kitchen. Awww ...

Until we meet again, Dollinks, whenever that may be ...   xox   Nicole

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Banana Cream Pie Conundrum

Continued from Feb. 17 post:

Hedonism! Where Nicole once considered the word a synonym for two honkin’ slabs of Banana Cream Pie, she now revels in the thought that  - thanks to her no-cooking ultimatum - she will no longer have to stir, knead, bake, or broil anything. As Ron becomes ever-thinner, Nicole seeks reassurance from other women ...

... including thinkers such as Ayn Rand.  

Zzzzz ... Nicole had no idea that not cooking involved such ... negativity. Still, shes prepared too many meals and thrown too many dinner parties. She craves respite.  

An emaciated Ron proposes a desperate solution. To be continued ...

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Pamper-or-Perish Perplexity

Continued from Feb. 16 post:

As a selfish Nicole continues to indulge herself by not cooking and not even thinking about cooking ...

(Huh? Wha-??? Nicole nodded off.)

A desperately hungry Ron grows ever-thinner ...

To be continued ...

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The On-Strike Placard Principle

As a non-cooking, on-strike Nicole thinks only of herself ...

A weakened Ron becomes agitated ...

To be continued ...

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Bob’s Burgers and Brouhaha

It’s Valentine’s Day and Im on strike. I’m not cooking, or even writing about cooking, for quite a little while. 

Theres a popular restaurant chain near the Time Zone and at the Latitude Where I Live called Bob’s Burgers and Brew. This is not an ad: I have no connection to Bob, my family has no connection to Bob, Bob doesn’t have a clue that I like his burgers (his buns are pretty good, too), and Bob doesn’t know that I’m penning these words. Bob has a 2-for-1 Valentine’s Day Special that sounds pretty cool. I may just go there tonight, and if I play my cards right, Ron may just join me. He knows I’m on strike, so he doesnt have much choice. 

I want to make very clear that Bob’s Burgers and Brew is not the same Bob as the Bob in Bob’s Burgers (below). My Bob does not grind the meat (ooo-la-la!) in his basement. And my Bob certainly does not serve ... I cant even say the words! You’ll have to watch the video!

Happy Valentines Day, everyone!   xox   Nicole

PS: There are restaurants and there are RESTAURANTS! I’m not so sure I’d visit this one in Tokyo ...

The Big Day! Like, No Pressure, Eh?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Come and Meet Your Husband!

As Valentine’s Day creeps ever closer, you’ve caught me eating bonbons and watching films about - what else? Love! 

Now close the oven door and wait patiently for tomorrow’s Valentines Day post!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Coffee Mallow Pie

This lovely recipe dates to the mid-1940’s - but these introductory words lie flat on the page without more background. 

While there are many Coffee Mallow Pie recipes, the original comes from a little book called Mother Anderson’s Favorite Recipes from the Hotel Anderson (originally published as 500 Recipes by Request From Mother Andersons Famous Dutch Kitchens).

This 1947 book’s charming Foreword by a daughter and grand-daughter of Mother Ida Hoffman Anderson paints a picture of a hard-working Pennsylvania Dutch woman whose cooking was so renowned that Mother Anderson bought herself a large brick guest house in 1909. 

Built in 1856, the 45-room house nestled on the banks of the Mississippi in Wabasha County, MN, boasting “a glorious view of Wisconsin jungle and the majestic roll of purple bluffs beyond. The house immediately became the Hotel Anderson, Minnesota's most historic inn, now cited in the National Register of Historic Places

The Anderson family ran it for four generations, but times and expectations changed, and the patrons who passed through wanted air conditioning and television and whirlpool baths, and complained that the floors creaked and the furniture sagged and the service wasn’t johnny-on-the-spot. Along came the Internet, and the pressures increased. The reviews were mixed until, in 2009, the Hotel Anderson shuttered its doors.

Filled with stories of a gentler time (Mother Anderson fed husband William a breakfast of homemade doughnuts every single morning), the cookbook is a gem. Having said that, Mother Andersons recipe presented me with a few problems of specificity. It calls for 30 large, quartered marshmallows - but how many cupfuls is that, exactly? Is the measurement loose, or compressed? Mother Andersons recipe calls for strong, hot coffee to be poured over the marshmallows. How strong and how hot should that coffee be? Should the marshmallows be fully melted, or simply softened? The recipe directs that you cool this mixture after the coffee goes over the marshmallows. Cool it a little, or a lot? 

Many old-time recipes are similarly problematic. While the cook knew and the family knew the precise way something had always been done, other people do not. With great reluctance, I abandoned Mother Andersons recipe for an updated one with precisely the same ingredients presented in a better format. This easy-to-understand adaptation and the beautiful photo that accompanies it come from

Coffee Mallow Pie:

1 c. water
1 tbsp. instant coffee granules
4 c. miniature marshmallows
1 tbsp. butter
1 c. heavy whipping cream, whipped
One 9-in. pastry shell, baked
½ c. chopped walnuts or pecans, toasted
Additional whipped cream and chocolate curls (optional)

In a heavy saucepan, bring water to a boil. Stir in coffee granules until dissolved. Reduce heat; add marshmallows and butter. Cook and stir over low heat until marshmallows are melted and mixture is smooth.

Set saucepan in ice, whisking mixture constantly until completely cooled. Fold in whipped cream; spoon into pastry shell. Sprinkle with nuts. Refrigerate at least 3 hours before serving. Garnish with whipped cream and chocolate curls, if desired. Yields 6-to-8 servings.

Valentines Day draws ever closer! Enjoy, Dollinks!   xox   Nicole

Monday, February 11, 2013

Blown Away by Romance!

As I continue to find excuses not to cook, I’m mesmerized by images of love!

Another Valentine’s recipe tomorrow! Today, I’m busy painting my toenails pink!   xox   Nicole

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Ruby Slipper Cake

As an excellent party cake prepared in a bundt or tube pan, this confection is made all the more attractive by the ribbon of pink that winds its way through the contrasting yellow cake. Simple cakes appeal to me in this increasingly complicated world, so I suggest topping this with a quick and easy glaze. Sift one or two cups of confectioners’ sugar thinned with a small amount of whole milk or light cream until the mixture is thin enough to be poured or drizzled over the cooled cake.

Ruby Slipper Cake:

½ c. finely chopped pecans or walnuts 
One 16-oz. (461 g) pkg yellow cake mix
One 3.4-oz. (96 g) pkg vanilla instant pudding mix
1 c. sour cream (full-fat or light; do not use zero fat)
¼ c. water
2 eggs
One 3-oz. (85 g) pkg red jelly powder

Preheat oven to 325 deg. F. Grease and flour 10-in. tube or bundt pan. Sprinkle nuts on pan’s bottom. Set aside. Combine cake and pudding mixes. Add sour cream, water, and eggs, beating with electric mixer until very thick. Reserve ½ c. batter in separate bowl, stirring in jelly powder.

Spoon half plain batter into prepared pan. Drizzle half pink batter over plain batter, gently swirling and cutting in with knife blade. Cover with remaining plain batter, then pink batter. Repeat swirling motion. Bake 45 min., until cake springs back when lightly touched with fingertip. Cool on wire rack before glazing or sifting with sugar.

Note: There are three ways to test the “doneness” of a cake. The first and best is the “toothpick” test (the cake is done when a toothpick poked into the center comes out clean). That test doesn’t apply to cakes baked in bundt or tube pans. In that event, use the “fingertip test.” Some cooks measure “doneness” when a cake shrinks away from the pan’s sides. Dont use this test. By the time the cake shrinks away, it’s not only done, but dry. A hot cake will continue baking for about 10 min. after it comes from the oven. During that process, it’s normal for it to shrink from the pan’s edges.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Vanilla Cupcakes with Cherry Filling

As much as I enjoy cooking, doing as little work as possible often holds enormous appeal. I don’t normally buy cakes and cake mixes, but feel no guilt in doing so if I’m tired or not in the mood to produce a special-occasion dessert. 

Today’s Vanilla Cupcakes with Cherry Filling meet all of the above criteria, but with a touch of fun. I am the proud owner of a “cupcake corer,” which cuts a perfectly centered hole in any standard-sized cupcake. Fill this newly created crater at the cupcake’s center with mmm … melted chocolate or jam or fruit filling or lemon curd or just about anything you like. 

My cupcake corer is seriously cool. I have no idea how much I paid for it, but it had to be under $10, because I’m sure I wouldn’t shell out more for a gizmo like this, having never before had the urge to drill a cupcake (stifle, Dollinks; cheeky comments dont become you).

Although the teaser photo in yesterday’s brief blog showed me clutching a couple of branded products, go ahead and use any brands you like and everything will still turn out fine. No cupcake corer? Poke a little hole into the cupcake with a thimble, or use a grapefruit knife to scoop a small hole from its center. 

Vanilla Cupcakes with Cherry Filling:

One 16-oz. (461 g) pkg white cake mix
Partial contents of a can of cherry pie filling

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. (Cupcakes and cakes baked in dark, non-stick pans require just 325 deg. F.) Place Valentine-themed or red paper liners into cupcake or muffin pans (see Note). Prepare cake mix as directed, using egg whites, oil, and water. While packaged cake mixes generally offer reliable baking times, I divided my batter into three portions, producing 8 standard-sized cupcakes (baking time, 30 min.), 12 mini-cupcakes (baking time, 20 min.), and a small, heart-shaped cake (baking time, 22-to-25 min.) 

Lacking a heart-shaped cake pan, I made the cake in a greased-and-floured metal jelly mold. Although the mold held 3 c. (750 mL) by volume, I poured in just 1-½ c. of batter, until the pan was half-full. The baked cake rose near the top of the pan. 

When the cupcakes were completely cool, I had some fun coring the standard-sized batch, filling the resulting hole with 2 or 3 tsp. cherry filling. Some cupcakes, I frosted fully; some, I frosted only partially, exposing some of the cherry filling. This was about as much excitement as I could stand in the hours leading up to Valentine’s Day, so the next thing on my agenda was a bubble bath. No rest for the wicked, as they say ...

Note: I spray-oiled my liners, with the result that the papers pulled away from the cupcakes. While that’s to be appreciated if you use plain liners, I’d paid a premium for decorative ones and lost some of their effect when I spray-oiled them. Next time, I won’t grease the liners when I bake white cupcakes. 

I’ve found that the color of chocolate cupcakes bleeds through expensive, decorative liners. A professional baker suggests baking dark-colored cupcakes in plain liners and later popping them into the fancier ones, but I haven’t tried that and don’t know how well it might work. Any suggestions?

Choose gaily themed paper ...

... or colorful foil pan liners

Fill standard-sized cupcake pans about 2/3 up ...

Mini-cupcakes a little higher ...

And cake pans about 1/2 full.

I sifted confectioners' sugar over this small cake ...

And cored and filled the standard-sized cupcakes.

Frosting will disguise any minor fruit over-fills. 

And there we are!

Beautiful to see, beautiful to eat!

I iced these cupcakes with pink-tinted Pastel Palette Frost, a recipe I’ve used and enjoyed for years. This frosting recipe uses red berry-flavored jelly powder: It’s the color that counts for Valentine’s Day! The recipe’s in the post immediately below this one.

Before I love you and leave you, take a gander at this little cupcake and what she’s learned to say at a very early age!

Tomorrow’s recipe for Ruby Slipper Cake also uses a cake mix and red jelly powder. I’m bound for culinary hell, and loving every minute of it!

Pastel Palette Frost

This is an easy and delicious marshmallow-type frosting. Use any color of jelly powder to fit the occasion: I chose red for Valentine’s Day!

Pastel Palette Frost:

Half of one 3-oz. (85 g) pkg red jelly powder (see Note)
1 egg white
½ c. granulated sugar
⅛ tsp. cream of tartar
2 tbsp. cold water

Combine all ingredients in the top of a double boiler or in a metal bowl balanced over a saucepan of boiling water. Using electric mixer, beat at high speed until frosting forms stiff peaks. Remove from heat, continuing to beat 1 min. longer. Use immediately.

Note: This recipe makes enough frosting for 18-to-20 standard-sized cupcakes or approximately 4 dozen mini-cupcakes. Double the recipe for the filling, top, and sides of a two-layer cake.

Mixture will initially look like this

Beat until frosting peaks. Remove from heat, beating 1 min. more

Messy business! Just the way I like it!

Show a little fruit filling - or keep it a surprise!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Love is in the Air!

I’m working! I’m working! Well, maybe not. But here’s a preview of the exotic and hard-to-find ingredients in tomorrow’s recipe for Vanilla Cupcakes with Cherry Filling

Exotic ingredients ... Are your cooking skills ready for this?

And here, too, is the first of several romantic videos leading up to Valentine’s Day. Does this woman sound like anyone you know? Naaah ... Me, neither.   xox   Nicole

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Here it is! The cake you’ve been waiting for, in plenty of time for Valentine’s Day - and it freezes well! If the history of Red Velvet Cake interests you, see

Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting:

To Prepare the Cake:

½ c. shortening
1 c. granulated sugar
½ c. brown sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 oz. (28 g) square unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
1 oz. (28 g) square bitter-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1-¾ c. all-purpose flour
1-½ tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. salt
1-¼ c. buttermilk
1 tbsp. white vinegar
1 tsp. white vanilla extract
1-to-2 tbsp. liquid red food coloring (see Cake Note)

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F.  Grease two 9-in. layer cake pans, dusting with sifted cocoa. Set aside. Using electric mixer, beat together shortening, sugars, and eggs until well creamed. Beat in melted chocolate. In small, separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Beat in vinegar, vanilla, and food coloring. Beginning and ending with dry ingredients, alternate portions of flour mixture and buttermilk  on low speed until batter is well mixed, occasionally scraping sides of bowl. 

Increase mixer speed to high, beating about 3 min. Spoon into prepared pans, banging each two or three times on work surface to reduce air bubbles and smooth batter. Bake 35-to-40 min., until toothpick inserted at center of cakes comes out dry. Cool on wire racks, icing with Cream Cheese Frosting.

Cake Note: With a single tablespoon of red food coloring, my cake turned out reddish-brown. For a more intense red color, use 2 tbsp. (1 fl. oz. or 28 mL). Although some cooks use even more red food coloring than that, I’m not comfortable putting that much red dye into my body. 

To Prepare the Cream Cheese Frosting:

One 8 oz. (250 g) pkg. brick-style cream cheese, softened (see Frosting Note)
1 c. butter, softened
2 tsp. white vanilla extract
5 c. sifted icing sugar (“confectioners” or “powdered” sugar)
Sugar hearts or sprinkles, as garnish (optional)

Using an electric mixer, combine cream cheese, butter, and vanilla. Gradually add sifted icing sugar. Frost center, sides, and top of cooled cake, chilling layers until set. Makes enough to ice a 9-in. layer cake or a 9 x13-in. cake. 

Note: The proportions and ingredients of Cream Cheese Frostings vary, according to taste. That’s why you’ll find other Cream Cheese Frostings in the Index. This cake is also delicious with Buttercream Frosting, also in the Index.

Beat well: Chocolate batter should be thick, creamy, and red!

Want the chocolate batter redder? Use more food coloring!

The true test ... Is it tasty? YES!

A sample is ample: This is a very rich cake!

I can see this cake being served at the end of a splendid meal ... in one of the world’s most romantic restaurants ... with ... with ... with ... Robert De Niro! Just as in the video, below. Alas! I have to start planning tonightdinner. Were having left over meat loaf. 

Coming up: A Valentines treat ... Vanilla Cupcakes with Cherry Filling.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Rice Meat Loaf

When was the last time you had meat loaf? This gluten-free dish is one of my favorites, with rice binding the meat instead of bread crumbs. The original recipe combined beef, pork, and veal. I’m philosophically opposed to veal production, so routinely substitute extra pork and extra beef. But hey! Two out out of three ain’t bad!

Rice Meat Loaf:

¾ lb. (350 g) lean ground beef
¾ lb. (350 g) lean ground pork
1-½ c. partially cooked rice (see Note)
½ c. milk (see Note)
¼ c. minced onion
½ c. ketchup, divided
2 eggs
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp. salt
¼ scant tsp. dried marjoram
¼ scant tsp. dried thyme
½ tsp. powdered mustard
¼ tsp. coarsely ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Combine meats, rice, milk, onion, ¼ c. of the ketchup, eggs, and Worcestershire sauce in large bowl, mixing well with clean hands. Combine salt and dried seasonings in small bowl. Add seasonings to meat mixture, working in with hands to disperse evenly. Pack half meat mixture into 9 x 5-in. loaf pan. Pour reserved ketchup over meat in pan, patting remaining meat on top. Bake, covered, 15 min. Remove foil and continue to bake 45 min., until meat browns and pulls away from sides of pan. Drain liquid from pan before serving.

Note: See Index for How to Cook Rice. If you remove the rice 10 minutes before it’s cooked, it will nicely absorb the liquid in this recipe. If rice is fully cooked, reduce milk to ¼ c.

Additional Note: To read about the possibility of gluten in spice mixtures, see Because you’re adding the spices yourself, I wouldn’t worry about this issue.

One Last Note: I like to minimize my time in the kitchen, so I doubled this recipe. Instead of making a second, standard-sized meat loaf, I divided the rest of the seasoned meat mixture among four mini-loaf pans measuring 3-½ x 6 in. and 2-in. high. I then popped the pans into the oven for 30-to-35 min., uncovering for the last 20 min. of cooking time. Drain liquid from pan before cooling, labeling, and freezing for future use. Mini-loaves (or meat loaf baked in muffin tins) also make a welcome gift for seniors. If you choose to share this way, use a little ketchup to gussy it up!

Add the milk ...

And the rice, mixing well

Recipe makes 1 large meat loaf ...

Or 4 mini-loaves

Cover briefly so meat cooks through before browning 

Ah, mes petits Dollinks! Nozzink but ze best for you!