Saturday, June 23, 2012

Fried Green Tomatoes

There are lots of ways I can start this post, but I prefer, "Frad green tomatuhs, ya'll!"  Have you ever had fried green tomatoes?  Have you ever made them?  Trust me when I say they're one of the best foods in the history of food, and trust me more when I say I always anger the frying gods when I attempt anything involving oil, heat, and batter.  I'm terrible at frying, but baked green tomatoes might be, well, sinful.  That said, I want to internet-apologize to my roommate for smoking up the house today and my neighbors for being the freak who ran outside with a smoking pan.  The result was worth it, and an added benefit is that I'm one near-fire closer to being an expert.

Moving on... I got this recipe from my friends Christopher and Elizabeth, two very dependable recipe providers.  They kind of had me at, "Have you made Paula Deen's..."  I ate these at their house, and I've kept the recipe in my arsenal since then.  When my grandmother let me pick several green tomatoes from her garden last week, I figured it was time to get my fry on.  Then my friend Julie posted to Facebook that she'd used this recipe (I shared it with her) this week, and I knew the time was right.

Sassy Fried Green Tomatoes

1 cup self rising yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp Creole seasoning
1 cup buttermilk
4 large firm green tomatoes, cut up into 1/2 inch slices
Veg or canola oil for frying

Combine dry ingredients in one bowl & place buttermilk in another bowl.
Dip tomato slices in buttermilk; dredge in dry mixture, and shake off excess.
In large skillet, pour oil to a depth of 1/2 inch; heat to 375 degrees (I just did med to med-high heat.)
Fry tomato slices, in batches, 4-5 min per side or until golden. (Um, watch this... may be 3 min.)
Drain on a wire rack over paper towels.

Shout out to Paula Deen for a fabulous recipe, Elizabeth F. for sharing it, and Julie B. for suggesting the addition of feta cheese!

The set-up.  Green tomatoes sliced with the 4 1/2" Serrated Knife from the Forged Cutlery Collection rest on the Cutting Board, buttermilk waits patiently in the Small Batter Bowl, and the mixture of dry ingredients does whatever a mixture of dry ingredients does in a Cake Pan.  By the way, the Cake Pan Set is ideal for dredging food in different mixtures.  Deep, wide, perfect.  I also have a Measuring Cup, a Measuring Spoon, and a container of Creole Seasoning out. (Tip: Frying recipes typically call for more dry mixture than required, so put half in a 2-Cup Prep Bowl.  You can use it if needed, but it's kept dry for future use if not.  Today was a perfect example, and now I have prepped breading for next time I get my hands on some tomatoes.)

The Pampered Pantry is full of fabulous rubs, seasonings, and other food products.  The quality is unmatched, and rubs hold their flavor for a long, long time.  This is especially important for people like me who are typically cooking for one and therefore don't use pantry items very quickly.

Fry!!!  This is the 10" Sauté pan from the Executive Cookware Collection, and its thickness ensures even heat distribution, very important when frying.  Ok, let me say this about my experience this morning.  First of all, I knew my tendency to let oil get too hot, thus burning coatings on second and third batches of whatever I'm making.  To avoid this today, I prepared two pans of oil instead of one.  I had the 10" Covered Skillet on another burner... uncovered.  Sure enough, this ensured excellent results for the majority of my tomatoes. Unfortunately, the oil got too hot after that, and everything else ended up a little dark.  Then the smoke began, and it was time to stop frying.

If you're like me, a clear picture of fried food makes your mouth water and your heart beat a little faster.  In fact, this is the reaction I'm having right now despite the fact that I just finished a lunch of the above photo.  These are real, and they just happened in my kitchen!  Check out this killer method for draining fried food: Cooling Rack on top of a Cookie Sheet with a paper towel between.  This ensures the tomatoes don't steam themselves to death on a simple pile of paper towels.  It also keeps you from using, well, a pile of paper towels.

How's your appetite?  How's your supply of green tomatoes?  Make these happen.

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Friday, June 15, 2012

Chocolate Praline Cake

My grandmother and I decided to bake a cake together, and we figured we'd share it with the world while we were at it.  This is a chocolate praline cake with a boxed mix as the base, so don't be intimidated.  The reality is that this is a very easy cake to make, and it delivers impressive results.  It's perfect for making with your grandmother when you want to bake without putting too much thought into  your every move.  A box of devil's food cake mix, a few things to make a praline layer (my favorite part), and sweetened cream as the icing.  I'm talking easy, people!

Chocolate Praline Cake

8 tbsp. (1 stick) butter, cut up
¼ cup heavy (whipping) cream
1 cup packed light brown sugar
¾ cup chopped pecans
1 box devil’s food cake mix w/pudding
1 cup water
½ cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
Sweetened cream
1 square (1 oz.) semisweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Place butter, cream, and brown sugar in a heavy saucepan.  Cook over low heat, stirring, until the butter is melted, 3 minutes.  Pour the mixture evenly into the cake pans and sprinkle evenly with chopped pecans.  Set pans aside.

Combine cake mix, water, oil, and eggs in a large mixing bowl.  Blend with an electric mixer on low speed 1 minute.  Increase to medium speed and beat 2 more minutes.  Divide batter between pans, smoothing out over pecan mixture.

Bake cakes until they spring back when lightly pressed with a finger, 35-37 minutes.  Cool on wire racks to cool 10 minutes.  Invert and cool completely.

Meanwhile, prepare sweetened cream.  Grate semisweet chocolate for garnish.

Place one cake layer, praline side up, on a serving platter.  Spread half the sweetened cream on top.  Place second layer, praline side up, on top of the first and frost the top with remaining cream.  Scatter grated chocolate on top.

Sweetened Cream
1 cup heavy (whipping cream)
¼ cup powdered sugar

Place a clean, large mixing bowl and electric beaters in the freezer for a few minutes while you assemble cake ingredients.  Pour whipping cream into chilled bowl and beat with the electric mixer on high speed until the cream has thickened, 1 ½ minutes.  Stop the machine and add the sugar.  Beat on high until stiff peaks form, 1 to 2 more minutes.

* To prepare the cake in a 9 x 13, bake 55 minutes.

You may remember my grandmother from "5-Ingredient Pumpkin Cupcakes," and you might thinking she still looks great.  You'd be right.  Grandmother is using a cup from the Measuring Cup Set to add brown sugar to the butter, etc. mixture.  The only problem with this part is that it's hard to keep your hands out of it once it's all cooked together.  I mean, it's a big pot of praline!

Heavy cream is measured into an Easy Read Measuring Cup.  Grandmother really does like these because they don't require picking them up to see measurements.

The recipe says nuts are supposed to be sprinkled on top of this stuff after it's already in the pans, but I jumped the gun and added them to the pan.  Perhaps that's why my gooey layer wanted to stay in the pans...  That's an Easy Read Measuring Cup with pecans, and I've got the Skinny Scraper in the pan.

Hello, Cake Pan Set!  These are wonderful because they've got handles.  I can't stress enough the handiness of handles when popping pans out of a 325-degree oven.

Grandmother suggested she and I take a silly picture to prove that we're human.  (Apparently people who post recipes online are found intimidating by some.)  This didn't turn out quite as Grandmother and I planned, but that's supposed to be me licking the scraper while her face says, "I'm shocked at your lack of sanitation!"  And yes, Grandmother and I licked everything - the beaters, the bowls - everything!  Grandmother said it's the most fun part, and I tend to agree with her wisdom.

Cakes are cooling on the Cooking Rack, but they're simply begging for me to pick at them in all their gooeyness.  Yum!  You may be able to tell here, but be prepared to help spread the praline topping when you flip your cakes.  By nature, it refuses to come out of a cake pan easily.

Sweetened cream: Freeze your Stainless Mixing Bowl with the beaters while the cakes bake, and then whip heavy cream with powdered sugar on high speed.  The cream is in an Easy Read Measuring Cup, and powdered sugar is in a cup from the Measuring Cup Set.  (How about that plate?  It gives me a bit of nostalgia.)

What do do after baking a cake?  How about a trip to the garden to pick an eggplant?  83 with the most impressive garden I've seen.  Welcome to my grandmother.

Me: "Grandmother, I'm happy to see how well your garden is doing this year.  I know it's a lot of hard work."
Grandmother: "You know, I'm happy to hear you say that.  A lot of people think it just grows!"

Have a great day, and make a cake!

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

DCB Chicken Pasta

I wasn't going to post this recipe because it seems too simple for a food blog, but people ask me for it all the time.  So here it is!  Welcome to the easiest pasta dish in the history of pasta dishes.  No boiling on the stove... no messy sauces... just the Deep Covered Baker, a few minutes in the microwave, and a delicious finished product.  Dinner doesn't get any easier than this.

Deep Covered Baker Chicken Pasta

16 oz. mini pasta (penne, farfalle, etc.)
4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 pint grape tomatoes
4 garlic cloves, pressed
2 cooked chicken breasts (or more), sliced
Salt / Pepper to taste
Basil to taste (about 1 1/2 tsp.)

Microwave tomatoes and garlic in Deep Covered Baker (covered) 4-5 minutes or until tomatoes burst.  Crush tomatoes with Mix 'n Chop
Add pasta, broth, and seasonings - Microwave 10 minutes.
Stir pasta, and add sliced chicken. - Microwave 6 minutes.

Check to make sure pasta is done, and serve with fresh basil for garnish.

See why I wasn't going to post it to the blog?

Here are all the ingredients... all five or so.  Tomatoes are in a 2-cup Prep Bowl, and seasonings are in a Pinch Bowl.  The Mix 'n Scraper is my tool of choice for stirring, and the Garlic Press, well... I can't do without it.  (You don't have to peel the garlic!)  Everything is on the Large Cutting Board.

I use the Mix 'n Chop for several things... ground beef or sausage in the skillet, guacamole, mashed potatoes, crushing tomatoes, and more.  See how the tomatoes and garlic burst all over the Deep Covered Baker?  I wish I could transmit smells through this blog because - oh, man!

So then you just add the pasta, broth, and seasonings.  Give it a good stir, and microwave everything another ten minutes.  Love the Mix 'n Scraper!

I use the 5" Santoku from the Forged Cutlery Collection more than any other knife.  It's always my first choice, and I move on from there only if it's dirty.

The Beaded Serving Spoon pairs so well with the Deep Covered Baker, doesn't it?  You can see this recipe makes a lot of pasta.  It's an excellent choice when you have several people to feed on a budget, but it's also perfect for those nights when you don't want to heat up the kitchen.  Welcome to June in Alabama, people.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

French Toast with Espresso Cream

What do you do when you have a loaf of French bread left from a dinner party?  Search for a new French toast recipe, of course!  I'd clipped this from a recent Rachael Ray magazine, and I was pretty excited to see I had all the ingredients available.  I like French toast.  I like espresso flavors.  What could go wrong?  Other than letting my butter get too hot on the second batch, nothing!  If you're in the mood for a fun recipe to try on a lazy weekend morning, I've got you covered.

French Toast with Espresso Cream

2 tbsp. instant espresso powder
1/2 cup hot water
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
4 eggs
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp. salt
8 1/2-inch thick slices challah bread (I used French)
4 tbsp. unsalted butter

In a small bowl, whisk the espresso powder with 1/2 cup hot water.  Reserve 2 tbsp. of the liquid.  Whisk the condensed milk into the remaining espresso liquid.

In a baking dish, whisk together the eggs, cream, salt, and reserved espresso liquid.  Add the bread slices to the dish, and turn to coat.

In a large nonstick skillet or griddle, melt 2 tbsp. butter over medium heat.  Add 4 slices of bread and cook, turning once, until golden-brown, about 5 minutes.  Repeat with the remaining 2 tbsp. butter and 4 bread slices.

Serve warm, drizzled with espresso cream.

The Bread Knife makes quick work of, well, slicing bread.  I know that sounds simple, but have you ever tried slicing French bread with a regular knife?  I rest my case.  Anyway, this is on the Large Cutting Board which is resting over the kitchen sink for added space.

As always, my ingredients are prepped and ready to go.  Trust me when I say this saves a lot of trouble once you begin assembling the recipe.  The espresso mixture is in a Prep Bowl, and the heavy cream is in the Mini Easy Read Measuring Cup, a fabulous tool which measures up to 1/4 cup (4 tbsp.).  Then I've got eggs in a Small Batter Bowl with a Stainless Whisk.  The Stainless Mini Whisk is beside the Prep Bowl, and I utilized both the Measuring Spoons and the Adjustable Measuring Spoons.

I can't say enough about the Smooth-Edge Can Opener.  This picture explains much better than my feeble attempt at explaining the tool's true awesomeness.  Smooth edges.  No gunk on the can opener.  No lid going in the food.  Ah, it seems too good to be true... but it's just the Pampered Chef.

This step feels kind of gross, but the result is worth it.  Dip the bread, flip the bread, fry the bread.  My Double Burner Griddle says, "Load me up!"  I say, "OK!"

Does the site of butter and French toast sizzling make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside?  Let's be friends.

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Friday, June 8, 2012

Spinach and Cheese Manicotti

The above picture explains why I admire food stylists, food photographers, and all others earning a living making something like a pasta dish look appetizing in a picture.  This manicotti is delicious; its picture is slightly revolting.  Sorry about that!  Moving on... I don't want to waste your time explaining why I love this recipe because that would eat into your grocery list making, food shopping, and shell stuffing.  Instead, I'll just say I've served this to many people, and I've never had a complaint.  This is one of my favorite recipes, and I even considered keeping it a secret.  Mean, right?

Spinach and Cheese Manicotti

2 cups (8 oz.) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
16 oz. fat-free cottage cheese
10 oz. frozen, chopped spinach (thawed, drained, squeezed dry)
1/4 cup (1 oz.) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
8 oz. manicotti shells (14 shells)
26 oz. tomato-basil pasta sauce
1 cup water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Combine 1 1/2 cups mozzarella, cottage cheese, and the next 5 ingredients (through black pepper) in a medium bowl.  Spoon about 3 tablespoons of mixture in each uncooked manicotti.

Pour half of the pasta sauce in a 9x13 dish (Rectangular Baker).  Arrange stuffed shells in a single layer over sauce, and top with remaining sauce.  Pour water into the dish, and sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella evenly over the sauce.

Cover tightly with foil, and bake 1 hour or until shells are tender.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Note: This is a Cooking Light recipe, but please know that if you've ever eaten this in my home, I, uh, may have added some extra cheese.  I mean, 1/2 cup mozzarella on top?  That's just cruel.

The Stainless Colanders are great for lots of things, but they're absolutely necessary when one wishes to work with frozen spinach.  Time for a confession: Frozen spinach sometimes makes me skip a recipe.  I just hate the whole thaw, drain, squeeze dry step.  Nasty texture... frostbite... ugh.

The Rotary Grater makes quick work of Parmesan cheese, chocolate, nuts, and many other things.  This comes apart to go in the dishwasher, and it can also be flipped for left-handed use.  I'm also using the Easy Read Measuring Cups, Measuring Spoon Set, and Adjustable Measuring Spoon here.

What can I say about the Bamboo Grinders?  Not enough, I'll tell you that.  These are attractive, functional, and sturdy.  Also, the pepper from the Pampered Pantry is far better than any I've ever had.  I'm talking top quality spices, people!

The mixture is in a Stainless Mixing Bowl where it's been stirred together with the Mix 'n Scraper.  I started by scooping the mixture with a Stainless Scoop, but I decided to just use my fingers.  It's so much easier that way!  Funny story... I thought I was being Ms. Awesome the first time I made this recipe because I had my shells cooking while prepping my other ingredients.  Way ahead of the game, right?  Then I realized the shells were supposed to be uncooked.  Ms. Awesome became Ms. Idiot pretty quickly, but the taste was still amazing.  Note: Always read through recipe directions before beginning.  (If you make my mistake, simply omit the water step.)

Here's a tip for those of you who are a little obsessive and want to get all the sauce out of the jar (me).  Pour the 1 cup of water in there, and give it a shake.  Whatever chunks remain in the jar will end up in the pan.  I'm using an Easy Read Measuring Cup here, and the manicotti is in a Rectangular Baker.  To add counter space, I've got the Large Grooved Cutting Board resting over the sink.

Are you looking for a new dinner recipe?  Do you have a vegetarian friend you'd like to host?  Are  you watching the grocery budget?  Do you need to take food to someone who just had a baby?  Make this manicotti.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Buckeye Cake

You know how you sometimes try a new recipe and think, Well, that one's not a keeper?  That's disappointing.  Then there are the times you think, How did I survive this long without having this?  That's what I thought after biting into this cake.  My friends Christopher and Elizabeth had me over for another fabulous dinner, and this was my contribution. (Note: Friendship is good.  Friendship with those who can cook is really good.  I'm still dreaming about Elizabeth's potatoes...)  After gorging ourselves on food and drink, dessert was vital. Forget the "let it settle" mentality.  Forget the "wipe that extra peanut butter off the plate before taking a picture for the blog" mentality.  How about the "this will pair well with red wine" mentality?  Embrace that, and then embrace this cake.

Buckeye Cake

2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

Peanut Butter Layer
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup powdered sugar

1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup peanut butter chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350º F. Grease 9-inch-round cake pan. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper; grease.

Cake: Combine eggs and sugar in large bowl. Stir in flour, melted butter, melted chocolate, vanilla extract and salt until smooth. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake for 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 5 minutes. Run knife around edge of cake; cool for an additional 10 minutes. Invert cake onto serving platter. Remove pan and parchment; cool completely.

Peanut Butter Layer: Beat peanut butter, butter and vanilla extract in medium mixer bowl until combined. Gradually beat in powdered sugar. Spread mixture on cake. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Ganache: Heat cream in small saucepan to boiling; remove from heat. Add semi-sweet morsels; let stand 5 minutes. Stir; refrigerate for 30 minutes or until mixture is spreadable. Spread chocolate on top and sides of cake.

Melt peanut butter chips in resealable plastic bag on MEDIUM-HIGH (70%) power for 30 seconds. Knead bag to mix. If necessary, microwave at additional 10- to 15-second intervals until melted. Cut a small hole from corner of bag; squeeze to drizzle over cake. Store in refrigerator. Let stand for 30 minutes before serving.

There's nothing quite like starting a new recipe.  Maybe I'm easily amused, but I love the feeling of lining things up, cracking that first egg, and knowing I'm diving in.  Speaking of cracking that first egg, notice my eggs are in separate bowls here.  The first went directly into a Stainless Mixing Bowl, but I'll break the second into a Prep Bowl to ensure good egg-ness.  I've only had a couple of bad eggs in all of my baking, but they were bad.  Anyway, butter and chocolate are in the 1.5-Qt. Saucepan from the Executive Cookware Collection, and a Quikut Paring Knife rounds things out.  All of this rests on the Large Cutting Board.

I can't stress the importance of proper ingredient measures when baking.  Flour and sugar must be spooned into a measuring cup and then leveled off.  Fortunately, the Measuring Cup Set includes a leveling tool.  Here you can also see the Adjustable Measuring Spoons and the Measuring Spoon Set being used.  Lots of measurements... lots of fun tools!

Properly lining a pan is the first step to ensuring cakes come out without incident.  Follow the instructions above, and you'll have no worries.  Pampered Chef Parchment Paper is wonderful... and kosher.

Look at the Cake Pan's handles - so handy!  The batter is now ready for the chocolate/butter mixture.  I'll scrape it from the pan using the Skinny Scraper, and then I'll give everything a good stir with the Stainless Whisk.  I feel now is a good time to tell you this chocolate looks delicious but isn't.  Unsweetened chocolate is gross, so just make sure you get it all out of the pan.  Don't ask how I know, but ugh...

Perfection! When a cake requires a pricey ingredient list and several steps, it's nice to see it turn out so well.

Hello, peanut butter layer!  If you don't have a Measure-All Cup, you need to get one.  This isn't me being a salesperson; this is me being a friend.  Push it to the measurement you want, fill it up, and pop it out like a syringe.  Liquids can be done on the other side, too!  That's my heirloom sifter in a Classic Batter Bowl in the background.  No, my sifter is not available for purchase.

Here's why it's important to sift powdered sugar, especially if you've had it in the cabinet a little while.  These chunks will make your icing/filling/whatever gritty.  Take the time to sift.

Is it fair for me to show you this picture?  Some would argue it's unkind, but I think it provides extra incentive for you to hit the store, but some ingredients, and get to baking.  You're welcome.

Ganache is the final step.  The method is ridiculously simple as well as reliable.  Chocolate chips and cream are measured in Easy Read Measuring Cups, and peanut butter chips (which I ended up skipping) are in a cup from the Measuring Cup Set.  The Mini Mix 'n Scraper pairs perfectly with the 1.5-Qt. Saucepan, and the Cutting Board provides a clean surface for all these ingredients.

This cake is rich.  It's dense.  It's perfect.  The pieces in the first picture were way too large because of the richness, but that doesn't mean they weren't consumed in their entirety.  This is adult chocolate dessert at its best, so make it for your adult friends.  They will thank you and extend more invitations into their homes... trust me.

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E-mail me: chefjennylyn[at]
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