Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from us here at ShelleyBakes! I saw this article this morning in the New York Times and had to share.  R.L. Stine was a fixture of my childhood reading and this commentary was appreciated and enjoyed.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

#GreatHallowTweet: Eye (Cake) Balls


Look deep into my eyes, my pretty ... these sweet things are my #GreatHallowTweet take on cake balls.

Red velvet cake balls, to be exact.

Here's the method to the madness ...


Take and bake a boxed cake mix to the specifications on the back of the box.  (And yeah - if you're a super star, you can make your own homemade cake, but I've been traveling around the Midwest for the past couple of days - boxed cake was as good as I was going to get for this ...).  Let the cake cool completely and then crumble it into a large bowl, using a fork to make sure the cake is good and crumbled.

Then take a container of frosting - for the red velvet cake, I used cream cheese frosting, because it just felt right - and mix about 3/4 of the frosting into the crumbled cake, stirring to incorporate.

Now here's the messy part ... take the cake and form it into one-inch balls.  Place them on a cookie sheet and set in the freezer to chill and solidify (about one hour). 

After your eye, erm ... cake balls, have frozen dip them in some melted white almond bark.  Tap the excess off and place on sheets of waxed paper to harden the candy shell.  To paint the eyeballs, I used food grade color gels (thanks to Coco Cooks and her marzipan eyeballs for the hint).

Ina!

Anyone who has spent a modicum of time on this blog know that I absolutely adore Ina Garten.  So when she announced a book tour to support her latest cookbook "How Easy is That?" I admit that I was disappointed that the closest she was coming to Minnesota was a stop in Skokie, Illinois.  Then I put in a request for some time off. 

Here's the line up at the Barnes & Noble in Skokie, Illinois.  Folks started lining up at 8 a.m. for a noon book signing.

Ina!  And a very red-faced me.  And a slightly blurry Ina - I can only assume that the person who was taking this picture had shaky hands like I did.
So what was Ina like? She was incredibly gracious and friendly.  I don't know what I said to her, but I tried really hard to not come off like an idiot fan girl (and I might have failed.  But I'm OK with that.)

Some of the highlights of this trip (other than meeting Ina, of course), were the two ladies that I stood in line with.  They were incredibly friendly and made the wait fly by.  I also got to spend the evening with my cousin Kelly and her new one-month-old baby Owen.  Thank you guys for your hospitality!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

#GreatHallowTweet: Cauldron Crack Dip

You'll have to forgive me for lacking a photo on this particular dish.  I brought it to work last Friday and didn't feel like whipping out my camera in front of my co-workers to get a picture of what can only be described as "crack dip."  You know what I'm talking about ... the kind of dip that is really, really bad for you, but you can't get enough of.

So here's the deal ... over the past few months, I've really tried to eliminate processed food from my diet.  When Happy Meals can sit out for six months without getting moldy, there is truly something wrong with the make up of what we're feeding our children.  But while I can totally get up on my soapbox about that - I have a confession to make:  I have a secret love for Velveeta.  I don't eat it all the time, because I get slightly disgusted with myself, but if I have it every once in awhile, I feel like my life has achieved some sort of nirvana-ic balance.

Anyway - the story behind this dip is that my co-worker Melinda made it one night when she lured me to one of those jewelry parties.  I had toiled for an hour at a gym and had promised myself that I would be good at this party, but once I saw that she had a crockpot full of this cheesy goo, I could not help myself.  And the best part about this dip?  Have fun with it ... everything is approximate and if you don't like something - eliminate it.  Replace it with something that you do like. 

Melinda's Cauldron Crack Dip

1 small onion, diced
1 lb. hamburger, browned and drained
1 small box of Mexican Velveeta, cubed
1/2 large box of Regular Velveeta, cubed
1 can chili beans
1 small can diced green chiles
1 package/can of Spanish rice (I ended up using that Uncle Ben's stuff that you're supposed to microwave for 90 seconds.  But I didn't microwave it.)
1 c. salsa

Dice up one small onion and brown with one pound of hamburger in a large skillet.  The next part is totally up to you ... you can either incorporate all of the ingredients into said skillet and get everything melted down and THEN dump into a large Crockpot (make sure to keep the heat on low, for risk of burning the cheesy, processed goodness) or you can throw all of the ingredients in the Crockpot and then heat on low until the cheese is melted and everything is well incorporated. 

P.S. - I only utilized my Crockpot because my cauldron is broken and they frown upon open fires at my office. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

#GreatHallowTweet: Grandma's Beef Soup

In last year's GreatHallowTweet, I got all nostalgic for my great-grandmas and their unlikely Halloween traditions.  This year, I'm all nostalgic again, but this time it's for my grandma Boots.

I grew up in a very small town in Northeast Iowa and while that town was small (literally one stoplight, my friends), I actually grew up 10 miles from that town on my folks' farm.  Needless to say, there's not a lot of opportunity to trick-or-treat in the country.  Sure, there were a couple houses that we would hit up, but we were literally the only kids that would go to those houses and that was because they were neighbors.  The serious trick or treating was done in Waukon.  My older brother and I would go with our cousins Ryan and Tracy and our moms and hit a handful of houses before we'd retreat back to my grandparents' house.  And every year, my grandma would serve this soup.



What's funny about this recipe is that I have the barest inkling of what went in it (except for the rutabagas - and that's because my old friend and classmate Aaron would supply them to my grandma).  Here's the email that I sent my mom:  "I know that I've asked you this before … but how did grandma boots make her Halloween veggie soup?  I'm doing a Halloween week at ShelleyBakes and was going to feature that recipe."

Here's my mom's response ... "She boiled soup bones (beef) and then put in some leftover roast beef  in the broth.  It's pretty much the same as hamburger soup otherwise, but no tomatoes or sugar and when Aaron brought her rutabagas she'd add some of them cut up like the potatoes.  Simmer it in lots of broth  (add canned if you need to) with potatoes, carrots, onions, and add peas or corn if you want ... sometimes she just added a bag of frozen mixed veggies...as you can tell it was never the same twice!  ...  P.S. To save time she'd do the beef stuff and bones in the crockpot with water over it."

Sigh ... that's the thing with family recipes - sometimes they aren't really written down and you have to recreate them from memory.  Even if it's a memory from about 20 years ago ... So this is my best guess.

Grandma Boots' Beef Soup

I made the soup for Sunday dinner, but it took a little bit of advanced planning.  So Saturday, I made a batch of beef stock.   I used about 8 cups of stock to make the broth for this soup and ended up using a couple tablespoons of dried au jus mix (and some Worchester sauce) to give the stock a little more color and flavor. (My stock is going to be a work in process ... it wasn't quite right this first time at bat.)



Olive Oil
1 lb. stew meat
1 medium onion, halved and sliced

4 lg. carrots, large chunks 
2 medium potatoes, large dice
1 medium rutabaga, large dice
8 c. beef stock
2 T. dried au jus (I used the LeGout au jus base)
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper

Take whatever pan you make your soup in and put in 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat.  Brown your stew meat in batches.  After the meat is browned, deglaze the pan with a little bit of beef stock to get the browned bits off of the bottom.  In this, saute onions until tender.  Add remaining vegetables, the browned beef, stock (with au jus mixed in) and bay leaves and bring to a simmer.  Remain uncovered and cook until the vegetables are tender (about 45 minutes to an hour).  Serve hot in bowls and salt and pepper to taste.

Obviously, this soup - like any others - tastes better the next day.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*


So how did reality stack up to nostalgia?  Well, the soup was good, but it definitely wasn't my grandma's.  I also know that this soup would have really done well had it featured more herbs (Thyme?  Oh most definitely.).  But I was really focusing on trying to recreate a dish that I remembered from childhood and although many years have passed, I don't ever recall my grandma having fresh herbs in her kitchen. When I make this again (because the chunks of vegetables made want to swoon), I will definitely put more of a Shelley twist on things.  


Thanks for indulging me in a little nostalgia. In case you're wondering ... here's a picture of my grandma. She was a pretty stylin' lady.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

#GreatHallowTweet: Pumpkin Shortbread Cookies

There is only one word to describe these cookies.  And that word is: "da-a-a-a-a-a-a-mn."  If it were appropriate to catcall at a cookie, this would be the cookie that I would choose to harrass in such a fashion.  Because they are like eating pumpkin pie in a cookie form.  And I love pumpkin pie.  And cookies.  You can imagine why I am so transfixed.


I got this recipe from Recipe Girl, and although the recipe takes a little bit of pre-planning (you need to chill the dough for four hours or just overnight), I think it's well worth the wait.  Especially when you consider how gloriously simple these are.

Monday, October 25, 2010

#GreatHallowTweet: Slime Soup

Oh, my lovelies ... it's that time of year again when everything gets a little more eerie around here.  The recipes are influenced by the season and I start sticking plastic spiders into my soup.

Oh yes - this is the second year of the #GreatHallowTweet.  This year, 18 cooks (including yours truly) are participating in this blog hop that features a week's worth of Halloween-themed recipes.  Hugs to my friend Renee for continuing the tradition.  You may also visit the other lovely hosts by clicking on the "GreatHallowTweet" sidebar.

Without further ado, here's my first offering for this year's GHT.  Nigella Lawson's Slime Soup.  Oh yes, the domestic goddess herself must like Halloween, because this was featured on a show of hers called "Fun Food."

This tastes just like you'd expect pureed peas to taste like.  The spiders are crawling in for a closer look.
Slime Soup
by Nigella Lawson

4 cups frozen peas
1 green onion
3 cups boiling water
Chicken or vegetable stock concentrate or a stock cube
1 ball mozzarella, diced (approximately 10 ounces)

Cook the frozen peas and scallion in the boiling water with the stock concentrate, to taste, or stock cube until tender and cooked through. Drain and discard the scallion, and put the peas into a blender.*

Add the diced mozzarella to the peas in the blender. Liquidize the soup until smooth.

*When blending hot liquids: Remove liquid from the heat and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes. Transfer liquid to a blender or food processor and fill it no more than halfway. If using a blender, release one corner of the lid. This prevents the vacuum effect that creates heat explosions. Place a towel over the top of the machine, pulse a few times then process on high speed until smooth.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

My thoughts on this?  Well, first off - the picture above does not do justice on how ... green ... this soup is.  I think I finally figured out what they must have used as the base for the slime they used to sling on "You Can't Do That on Television."  Secondly, you don't realize how much a whole bag of frozen peas makes until you're faced with a blender full of this soup.  If I was making this again (which I probably wouldn't, unless I wanted to seek some sort of revenge on my nephews or my future children), I would probably halve this recipe.

Finally - this tastes precisely what you would think some pureed peas would taste like.  So yes - it's a cute novelty, but likely not a dish to make a repeat appearance in my kitchen.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Ch-ch-ch-changes

After two years of lovingly writing this bad boy, I've decided to give ShelleyBakes a facelift to look a little bit more modern and streamlined.

One of the biggest changes (other than the general look) is that I've cleaned up the "labels" tab.  My old labeling convention had gotten out of hand, so I am trying to emulate the subchapters that you'd find in a cookbook.  I've also added an "About Me" page that sounded so much cooler when I was formulating intelligent things to say when I was running errands this afternoon.

ShelleyBakes (or "SB" as I affectionately call it) isn't exactly what I planned it to be - which was "Simple Recipes for Lazy People."  But we've grown together since this venture first started in October 2008.  Stay awhile, feel free to comment ... be inspired.  Or run for the hills when you check out my photography - there's a lot of love here.  And a lot of bad photography.

Peanut Bars

My brother- and sister-in-law (along with my nephew-pup Toby) recently moved cross country to Virginia.  And while my sister-in-law took only a few kitchen necessities with her (they arrived ahead of the rest of their worldly goods), she was still able to whip this dish together, which she says is reminiscent of eating a Payday Bar.

You'll have to excuse me, I'm currently drooling ... 

Peanut Bars




1. Bottom Layer:
Butter a 9x13 pan.  Pour in 1/2 of a 16 oz. jar of dry roasted peanuts (Note from my SIL: On a subsequent try you may be tempted to add more peanuts. I only recommend adding to the bottom. More on top do not stick as well :))

2. Middle Layer:
Melt 2-1/2 T butter with 10-12 oz peanut butter chips.  Remove from heat.  Add 1 can sweetened condensed milk and 3 cups mini marshmallows.  Stir to mix, pour into nut lined pan.

3. Top Layer: Add remaining nuts and press into mix.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rosemary White Bean Soup

Ryan and I had a rare weekend at home recently and after cleaning up my kitchen, I proceeded to trash it by baking scones, cupcakes and this soup from Ina Garten.

The bread is from Daube's Bakery in Rochester, Minnesota.  This is their Onion Vienna bread.  To die for ... 

Just a note ... this soup is one that takes a little bit of advanced planning to let the beans soak long enough.  I started soaking the beans on Sunday morning so we could have this soup for dinner.  Another option would be to soak them overnight.


Rosemary White Bean Soup
from "The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook"

Ingredients

    * 1 pound dried white cannellini beans
    * 4 cups sliced yellow onions (3 onions)
    * 1/4 cup good olive oil
    * 2 garlic cloves, minced
    * 1 large branch fresh rosemary (6 to 7 inches)
    * 2 quarts chicken stock
    * 1 bay leaf
    * 2 teaspoons kosher salt
    * 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

In a medium bowl, cover the beans with water by at least 1-inch and leave them in the refrigerator for 6 hours or overnight. Drain.

In a large stockpot over low to medium heat, saute the onions with the olive oil until the onions are translucent, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook over low heat for 3 more minutes. Add the drained white beans, rosemary, chicken stock, and bay leaf. Cover, bring to a boil, and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, until the beans are very soft. Remove the rosemary branch and the bay leaf. Pass the soup through the coarsest blade of a food mill, or place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until coarsely pureed. Return the soup to the pot to reheat and add salt and pepper, to taste. Serve hot.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

You must have been a beautiful baby ... (Yellow Cake & Fudge Frosting)

My beloved turned 33 a couple weeks ago.  And he asked if I would make cupcakes for his regular Dungeons & Dragons group that meets on Wednesdays.  Specifically, if I would make yellow cake with chocolate frosting.  It gave me the perfect excuse to make Smitten Kitchen's Best Birthday Cake and her Instant Fudge Frosting.

At one point, this cupcake said "33" - that's before I took a bite out of it.

A couple of notes ... first off, the cake?  Wow.  This was some of the fluffiest batter that I've ever seen in my life.  So much so that I do not see myself going back to box cakes (and as you all know - I don't have kids, so these words might be foolish and rash.)  I ended up making 18 cupcakes and had enough batter leftover to make a round pan.  (I get lazy after a bit with cupcakes - and I only have one cupcake pan.)

The frosting?  Meh ... not so much.  But here's a disclaimer - I'm not a big frosting fan, so no one should be surprised that I preferred my cake without frosting.  Because I'm contrary like that.

So are you ready for some eye candy?  Here's a picture of my lovah now ...

Yup ... he's a cutie





And here's proof that at least one of us has the genetics to make adorable babies ...

18 months old.  And on a hideous couch.

Love you honey!  I am thankful every day that I got to marry my best friend ...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A warm weekend in October. With some (HCT) Mummies

Again - no words are needed.  But links to websites are probably helpful - especially if you wonder why my husband and I would drive 300 miles to see a bunch of musicians who dress up like mummies.

On Oct. 9, Ryan and I drove to Rock Island, Illinois (via North English, Iowa to see his grandma) to see Here Come the Mummies. (Their official site is offline currently, but when it's back up it will be here.)  And if you wonder why they dress like mummies, see here.


This is Java and if you have to know what he's doing, he's playing a Cow Belt.  Yup - a Cow Belt.
 








The venue was the Rock Island Brewing Co.  We got there early for dinner and refreshments - the RIBCO is one of their "signature" burgers and featured onion rings, bacon and your choice of cheese on top of a 1/2 pound burger.  Um ... yeah.  It was one of the best burgers I've ever had.  Ryan had "The Warmth" which was a marinated chicken breast with jalapenos on top.  It was so hot I would have thought that it came directly from the fires of hell.  It even made Ryan break his two beer rule because he needed something to quench what should have been called "The Blaze."

The food, the beer and the ambiance were worth the drive (we ended up logging over 540 miles that weekend to swing up to Decorah, Iowa to catch the dregs for our 10-year class reunion - sorry classmates!  You were trumped by mummies.), but the concert was indescribable.  Thank you, Rock Island, for a wonderful night.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Apple Cheddar Scones (and some fall scenery pics)

Sometimes, I don't need words.



 


The pictures above were taken at the Sekapp Orchard in Rochester, Minnesota. What the pictures don't show you are the multitude of parents and their adorable children who were out that Saturday morning picking out the perfect pumpkin to carve.

And since I'm now obsessed with all things apple and because I wanted to make something delicious for Sunday morning snacking (this was after staying up until 2 a.m. getting anihilated by my husband's mad Dr. Mario skills.  You'd think that after winning only one of six games that I'd give up, but no ... I'm plotting next weekend's revenge.), I made these Apple Cheddar Scones that were created by Dorie Greenspan and featured in her book "Baking: From My Home to Yours."

The picture is a little bit of false advertising because they actually use dried apples instead of fresh, but that only makes this recipe perfect for year round.

Just a couple of warnings ... this is one hella-messy recipe, but is well worth it.  Also, when I originally made these, I wasn't sure how much they would spread in the pan (they do, so separate them a bit) and I'd also use some parchment paper on the baking sheet.
 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Where have I been? (And a recipe for some kick ass cookies)

I do love to blog.  I love the people that I've gotten to know throughout the blogosphere.  I love trying new recipes and I love weekends where I wake up and wonder ... "what am I going to bake today?"

Well ... here's what has happened to me this summer.  My gorgeous hubby and I decided to go on a bunch of roadtrips.  Over Labor Day weekend, we had a baby shower to go to for our future niece.  I don't know what she's going to be named, but I like to refer to her as Sweet Pea.  We've spent some great nights with old friends drinking a lot of wine.  I've participated in a couple of 5Ks (that balances out my wine drinking) and even helped organize one.  We've driven to many places in the Midwest.  We've just had a lot of fun.

We celebrated summer's last hurrah recently with some of our family in Wisconsin.  No, I'm not technically related to these people, but as far as I'm concerned - my dear friends Sharon and Weeve are my sisters.  Sharon's folks are my folks.  Joe is stuck with me as a sister-in-law and my husband has learned to accept that my already (ridiculously) large family is just made larger by this association.

These pictures are from the Wet Whistle Wine Fest in Algoma, Wisconsin. Every year, the Von Stiehl winery hosts this festival and this is our second year in attendance.  So far, we've been blessed by extraordinary weather every time we've been there - the food, which is made by the Farm Market Kitchen, is ... I'm at a loss for words.  Let me just say this - there are fresh French baguettes that are available for purchase.  They hand you the whole baguette and tubs of REAL butter infused with garlic.  Then you stand around and tear chunks of bread off the baguette and dip them into the butter?  And this is while drinking wine bought on site at the festival ... by the bottle?  I am not lying to you - in the week that preceded this event, I found myself salivating when I thought about the baguettes.

To my Wisconsin family - words do not say how much I look forward to this weekend.  It restores my soul in ways that I cannot express.  It also makes me participate in 5Ks.  Because the bread is just that good.


From left, Joe; Dad (Charles to most people); Mom (otherwise known as Roxanne); and Sharon.  The reddish-orange sleeve belongs to my beloved Weeve (who had an unfortunate incident last year with red wine and a white shirt) and the man in black is my husband.  Mom is holding the bread that I dream about.

Ryan and I are having an "emo" moment where I'm reenacting some crucial scene in the "Twilight" book series.  Or something.  I had been drinking at this point.

These are my sistas.  Note the empty boxes of wine in the background ... no, we did not drink that much.  But it was pretty slick how they arrange it at the wine festival - you have about five wines that you can choose from and you can either buy wine by the bottle or by the glass.  Folks work behind the scenes to make sure that the bottles are uncorked, minimizing the time you wait in line for the vino, as well as allowing me to travel corkscrew free.

This handsome fella is Joe ... I wasn't going to share this extreme close-up, but it provides a segue for the recipe I'm going to include in this blog post.

For the six-plus years that I've known Joe & Sharon, they have always been incredibly gracious to me (and later on to my husband) when it comes to letting me shack up in their spare bedroom, eat all the cheese in their house and drink their wine when I come to Manitowoc to visit.  Since I love them and since I know that Joe loves cookies, instead of the usual 12-pack of Leinie's that I bring as a peace offering to Joe, this year I baked him some chocolate chip cookies.  But not just any kind of cookies:

These are Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies with Cherries & Walnuts from the kitchn.  I wasn't sure, at first, if these were going to make a good thank you gift or what, but between my co-workers who graciously sampled them (and made them disappear in a record time of 15 minutes from when I actually opened the container and set it out from when someone told me they were gone) and my husband who almost didn't leave any cookies for Joe ... these are good. 

A couple of notes - I didn't have pecans, as the recipe specified, so I subbed walnuts.  Still good.  I used Ghiardelli bittersweet chocolate that I chopped up for the chocolate portion of the cookie.  And instead of using whole wheat flour, I used buckwheat flour.  Because I'm contrary like that.