Monthly Archives: December 2011

Meatloaf Cake, Or, When Cooks Go Smug

So it was 4:30 on a Sunday afternoon and I was blasting through Amy Green‘s Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free cookbook, looking for something quick and easy. I came across a recipe for Apple Carrot Breakfast Cake and as I skimmed the ingredients list and instructions, I thought to myself, “I can do this nooooo problem.” I love having quick breads for Lupe to take to school for her mid-morning snack and this recipe looked similar enough to my muffin recipe that I felt confident.

Maybe too confident.

Too confident to read the instructions carefully. Especially the line about putting the apples and carrots and a few other ingredients into a blender or food processor.

Warning: the following image is graphic, horrific, disturbing, offensive, wrong, and unfortunate.

The saddest thing, aside from the senseless, wanton waste of apples and carrots and expensive gluten-free flours? I actually scoffed as I dumped chunks of carrots and apples into the batter. I thought, “There’s no way this is going to work. What is this author thinking? Ha. I’ll show her how wrong this recipe is when I make it and it doesn’t turn out.”

That’s right. I knew it wouldn’t work. What’s more, I didn’t want it to so I could feel superior to a published cookbook author. I laughed maniacally at my own genius, then took a closer look at the recipe.

And caught the bit about blending the apples and carrots to smithereens.

Oh, dang.

Thoroughly chastened, I gave it another go.

Ta da.

I took a moment to reflect as I bit into this cake. Here are the highlights:

a. Don’t ever assume that you’re smarter than you actually are.

b. Assume that you’re smarter than you think you are. If you think it doesn’t make sense to drop stew-sized wedges of carrot and apple into a cake batter, then listen to your gut.

c. Don’t try to be superior to others. We are all students.

d. Read instructions slowly and carefully. What’s applicable to everything from the SATs to prescription medication is good for recipes.

e. If at first you don’t succeed, laugh it off and try again. The old me would have hidden the evidence in the compost bin, but I’d like to think that I’m evolving. Plus I know that you tens of you get a bigger kick out of my food bloopers than my actual recipes. So I’m playing to my crowd.

And so, adapted from Amy Green’s recipe, which she adapted from a blender manual, is…

Apple Carrot Breakfast Cake

9 servings

Ingredients:

2 cups gluten-free flour

1/4 cup agave (or 1/2 cup sugar)

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3 extra-large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 apples, cut into wedges

3 medium carrots, washed well and chopped

1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat an 8 x 8 inch glass baking pan with nonstick spray.

2. Whisk flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl.

3. Place eggs, carrots, apples, vanilla, and agave in a blender or food processor. Blend or process until you have a smooth mixture, scraping down sides of container as needed.

4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until combined. Add walnuts if using. Pour into the cake pan and bake about 25-30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the middle of the pan comes out clean. Allow to cool completely in the pan.

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Potato, Kale and Sausage Soup

I’ve been making this meal for Nacho Man almost longer than any other meal…except my spaghetti sauce.

Which he dumped about a quarter bottle of ketchup into the first time I served it to him.

I married him anyway. And continued to cook for him.

We love this soup. It’s perfect for cold, wet weather, it’s got lots of color and texture, and it’s got meat. Meat! This is a big plus for Nacho Man, who won’t eat those pureed squash soups that I love because they remind him of baby food. Which I’d like to point out to him have the same consistency as ketchup.

Take one pound of mild Italian sausage and brown both sides of the casings in a soup pot on medium-high heat. Take them out of the pot and slice them.

They won’t be cooked all the way through. Put the slices back in the pot and brown both sides until they are cooked through. You might have to slice one open and eat it to make sure it’s completely cooked. Just sayin.’

You could remove the sausage from the casings and have crumbled sausage in your soup, but I like the bigger pieces. I think they balance the potato and kale. But to each her own.

These chicken sausages from PCC have only 3 grams of fat per serving. If you’re using a super low-fat sausage, add a little olive oil to the pot to prevent sticking. If you bought yourself some Jabba the Hut sausages, wipe the excess fat out of the pot after you’ve browned the meat. You want some fat for flavor, but you don’t want to feel like you’re swallowing Vaseline.

Gross. Almost as gross as dumping ketchup into homemade spaghetti sauce.

Add 3 cloves of whole, peeled garlic that you’ve mashed up a bit to the pot, along with a pinch or two of red pepper flakes. Saute each side of the garlic for about one minute.

Then, add 4-6 cups of stock or stock-water combo to suit your taste. If you have a little dry white wine, you can use it to deglaze the pot before adding the stock. Mmmmm.

Add 3 medium red potatoes that you’ve scrubbed well and sliced. Half a teaspoon of dried oregano would be good here, along with some salt and black pepper to taste. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pot, and simmer until the potatoes are fork tender.

Meanwhile, take a head of kale and remove the hard stems. Tear or cut the leaves into bite-size pieces, then rinse well. When the potatoes are done, add the kale to the pot.

It’s going to look ridiculous, kale-heavy, totally out of proportion. But it cooks down a lot. All that’s left to do now is stir the pot gently until the kale is blanched and cooked to your liking. Then, see if you can find those hunks o’ garlic, remove them, and serve up some soup.

I like to sprinkle a little more red pepper flakes and freshly grated Parmesan cheese on my soup. Everything’s better with Parmesan cheese.

Like homemade spaghetti sauce.

Potato, Kale and Sausage Soup

serves 4

Ingredients

1 pound pork or chicken mild Italian sausage

3 medium red potatoes, scrubbed well and sliced

1 head of kale, hard stems removed and torn into bite-size pieces

3 cloves of garlic, peeled and gently mashed but still whole

4-6 cups of low-sodium stock or stock-water

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

red pepper flakes to taste

salt and pepper to taste

freshly grated Parmesan for garnish (optional)

Directions

1. Brown sausages in a large soup pot. Slice and brown insides. If using low-fat sausages, add olive oil to prevent sticking. Wipe out excess fat, if any.

2. Add garlic cloves and red pepper flakes. Saute garlic one minute per side.

3. Add stock or stock-water combination, oregano, salt, pepper, and potatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until potatoes are fork tender, about 15-20 minutes.

4. Add kale and cook until done to your liking. Remove garlic and serve. Garnish with Parmesan cheese if desired.

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Roasted Broccoli, Or, A Mother’s Desperate Attempt to Avoid Cheese Sauce

How many of us are eating enough broccoli this holiday season? Not me, unless it’s a secret ingredient in my fudge and peppermint bark.

While Rue will down bushels of steamed or bland, boiled broccoli, I can’t get Lupe to voluntarily eat the stuff. After much coaxing and even more threatening, she’ll pinch off a millimeter with her front teeth, refusing to touch it with her lips and grimacing as she chews.

It’s a delightful sight to behold, let me tell you.

I’d become desperate. Desperate to stop throwing broccoli away. Desperate to avoid eating two servings because a certain someone has a problem with a certain vegetable.

Desperate for a win. My life is simple; my world is small. These small victories are all I have left.

Here’s my solution. Crank up the oven to 475 degrees F and set the oven grate nice and high, up close to the heating element. Toss a head of broccoli that’s been washed and roughly chopped, stems and all, onto a baking sheet. Drizzle the broccoli pieces with some olive oil and sprinkle a little kosher salt on them, then slide the baking sheet into the oven and roast until they are fork tender but crisp.

This doesn’t take long. Maybe 5-7 minutes. Don’t mosey away from your oven. Don’t get on the Internet. Don’t multitask. The broccoli deserves your undivided attention.

Toss the broccoli once or twice while it’s in the oven, and when it’s done the way you like, remove it and serve immediately. You might sprinkle a little more kosher salt on it, if you like.

I wasn’t sure how this would go over the first time I put it in front of Lupe. After all, it’s her least favorite vegetable in a slightly burned form.

Rue can’t stand it. As far as she’s concerned, boiled broccoli ain’t broke. But Lupe, Nacho Man, and I love roasted broccoli. It’s smoky, crisp, and has a wonderful, complex flavor.

Which means we can save the cheese sauce for the tortilla chips.

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Twine Wrapped Candleholders

During the holidays, it’s kinda hard not to notice that you’re supposed to be buying stuff. Which you could do…or you could make stuff. Being a producer instead of a consumer is fun, cheap, calming, artistic, and rewarding. Okay, maybe not all at once. But you get the idea. Plus you can do it with your kids. Which, as far as I’m concerned, beats standing in line with the kids at any store during the holidays.

During the next month, I’ll be writing about simple handmade things that make me happy. If at some point in the future, you receive one of these creations, you’re going to know what it cost. Sorry. Just know that it was a labor of love.

First up: dollar store candleholders wrapped in twine.

Since transitioning from working woman to stay-at-home mom, I’ve frequented some stores that used to be off my radar. The Dollar Tree is one of them. Dollar Tree is great! Everything is easily laid out and nicely organized. No fancy math to tally up your total. And you never know what you’re going to find. I think that’s rather exciting.

Last time I popped into a Dollar Tree, I found these great glasses with a wide base that would work as either a small vase or a large candle holder. So I snapped up five.

The only other things I needed were¬† a roll of twine that probably set me back about three dollars (didn’t get that at the Dollar Tree, but you could probably find some there) and a fully loaded hot glue gun.

Love the size and that great base.

Place a small dab of hot glue on the bottom of the vase and press the end of the twine into it. Then, run a short, thin line of hot glue and adhere the twine to it. You don’t want to go crazy and hot glue the entire glass because the glue will start to harden as soon as it hits the cold glass.

Um, I don’t know why I know that.

So basically you just keep going with that hot glue gun and twine until you reach the top of the candleholder. It’s not even a craft. It’s just uncoiling some rope.

I really let my Type A personality shine through while working on the first glass, and tried to glue each ring of twine as close as possible to the one beneath it so that you couldn’t see the glass underneath. But that means that you also can’t see the candlelight beneath as well, either. You want the light to play peek-a-boo.

Also, it’s a total pain to glue the twine that close, and you’ve got more of these to finish.

Lights on…

Lights out. You can probably tell which is my Type A votive.

Lesson I learned? Sometimes, things work out better when you stop trying to be perfect.

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