Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Bionic Breakfast

Computers are like God and the devil....they lift your soul up with wondrous things one minute, and send you gnashing your teeth into a fit of helpless rage the next - we give this glowing box way too much power in our lives. I remember when the only computers were giant room size machines with spinning things and flashing lights, and Steve Austin and Jamie Sommers, the most awesome bionic couple that never was.  Remember when the olden days meant covered wagons and outdoor plumbing and not bell bottom jeans and the Ford Pinto?  Criminy I'm old.

I love the computer, and now it's in my phone - anytime, night or day (as long as I haven't run my battery down playing Candy Crush or left the GPS on after driving to Milwaukie for the 50th time because my memory is that bad) I can look stuff up, play a game, check the weather anywhere in the world, look at pictures from the last 2 years, keep in contact with family, see what friends are up to, and delete the 40 emails a second that get dropped into my inbox.  After I make sure none are a real email from friends...but I apparently have none.  Convenient?  Hells to the YES....a pain in the ass?  You betcha.  Continuing to text while someone tries to engage you in conversation is quite rude but I have done it.  Laughing out loud during that exchange is boorish...done it too.  We will have cellular implants soon, and it can't happen fast enough...I hate the little rubber thingy I have to put on my phone to protect it when I drop it, it falls out of my pocket and bounces out the car door onto the street, or I fling it across the room because Candy Crush put me in time out, and having it installed in my head will keep both my hands free to work the Wii remote and still be able to drink a glass of wine.  Just not sure about where I'll have to plug in the charger...

My sister in law lost all the recipes on her computer due to some massive hardware failure, and son number 2 was not able to retrieve any of the data off her hard drive, so she occasionally will request one that I've given her in the past.  And I get why it's cool to put them on your computer, but I prize recipes like not much else....they have to get written down and put in the binder, because losing a really good one can crush my soul.  I lost the eggnog scones once for over a year...I had a little party when I found it again, and still can't eat the damn things - right, who am I trying to kid?  Someday I will write a cookbook, so the binders and this blog are my reference for that purpose - I even still have a RECIPE BOX....go to an antique store or a fossil dig if you don't know what that is.  And every recipe carries with it memories....even if I forgot where it came from, I can always recall at least one of the times I made it.

So I got a text from said SIL the other day asking for my apple coffee cake recipe, and I was busy and told her it was on the blog.  Quite a while later she txt'd back and said she looked everywhere and it wasn't there, so she made raspberry scones because that was what her work peeps requested anyway.  My first thought was that she was nipping her vanilla a bit too liberally, because I KNEW it was there, so when I went to search, was shocked to find it WASN'T.  Not sure why....I know I am holding back on one recipe in case I ever open a bakery or cafe etc, and will feature said product as "World's Best" Item and become famous when Guy Fieri shows up and lets me drive his Camaro after tasting one.  And don't get me wrong, this recipe KICKS SERIOUS ASS....sorry for the swear, but dammit it's the best coffeecake I've EVER had!  

First time I had it was when my daughter made it for Mother's Day...she was probably pre-teen, and no doubt Handsome Daddy helped, but it was and has always been the most moist and delicious coffeecake known to me and everyone I've ever made it for.  I tweaked it ever so slightly and doubled the topping - I'm a sucker for the sweet crunch and the way it melts into the top of the cake in pockets of pure delight, so why not?  The kids made it every Mother's Day until they grew up and stiffed me with diamond earrings, the Jag, and a cruise to Tahiti....I would trade it all for coffeecake.

Apple Sour Cream Coffee Cake

1/4 C. shortening
1/2 C. sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
1 C. flour
1/2 C. sour cream
1 large apple, peeled and diced

1/2 C. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 C. chopped walnuts
2 T. butter, cold

Preheat oven to 350.  Beat shortening and sugar until fluffy, beat in egg, vanilla, baking powder, baking soda and salt and mix well.  Put in half the flour and the sour cream and blend, add remaining flour and apple and stir just until mixed, spread into a greased 8x8 pan.  Mix brown sugar, cinnamon and walnuts, using a fork, smash in butter until crumbles and sprinkle evenly over batter.  Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until no longer jiggly in center and a toothpick comes out clean.  It's even better warm than cold, but cold is still better than any other coffeecake on earth....not kidding.

You can use other fruit - I've made it lots of times with blueberries, and am going to try it with rhubarb soon.  And I always double it and put it in a 9x13ish pan....if it's a bit smaller, it will take longer because it's thicker.  Nuts are a choice, of course....but walnuts go with apples, and I like that they make the top crunchy - you could use pecans or almonds too, or none at all.  It's not cakey, light, or borders on pudding-ey, but is not smooshy either - just drop dead moist and flavor for miles...the apples are heavenly!

So there you go, Pam - in a race against raspberry scones I'm sure THEY will come in a respectable second, 'cause I think you know how much this cake rocks...but can I have your recipe for scones?  You just never know, maybe you'll be riding shotgun with me in Guy's baby while he works on a plate of each...


Layering for Fall

Is it fall again ALREADY??  Seems like cold and rain came overnight - altho today it's sunny and beautiful outside, but requires either something a little warm on top, a heavily padded bra, or T Rex arms to cover your God-given temp gauges.  It's soup and woodstove and fuzzy pants weather, and we are once again reaping the bounty of the gazillion acres of squash my sister in law (who will now and forever be known as "My Produce Goddess") obviously planted last spring.  There are new varieties I must try, but am hooked right now on butternut and delicata, with heart of gold in a very close 3rd place.  So many recipes, so MUCH squash!!

I love that Weight Watchers has made vegetables and fruit zero points plus, and squash is one of those that actually gives me a twinge of guilt on can be so meaty, so carby, and SO filling that it seems like I'm cheating - even as I eat it with nothing but a little salt, and not slathered in melted butter and brown sugar as I was formerly accustomed.  Sometimes when I come home from work I will cut a delicata in half, scoop out the guts, sprinkle w/kosher salt and put cut sides down on a plate w/a T. of water and cover w/plastic, then pop in the microwave for 7 is filling and warming and keeps me out of the graham crackers and peanut butter.  And marshmallow creme if I'm stupid enough to buy it again.  

Butternut is not quite as sweet, but has a texture that holds up very well in soups and other recipes - it will start to break down, but adds a silky thickness and a buttery sweetness that lends itself very well to chicken soups of any kind....cook it with milk or cream and a bit of curry and you have a wickedly good creamy soup with tons of body and a lovely taste and mouth feel.  I just tried a recipe for roasted butternut and quinoa salad that turned out pretty good, but I want to tweak it a bit to add more flavor....didn't pack enough of a punch so back to the drawing board on that. 

I actually made the salad for a party, and at the same time made another untested recipe for butternut squash lasagne as a vegetarian side dish since I knew Brisket of the Gods would be waiting there (I kid you not...I may never attempt brisket now because I don't think I can meet those expectations, thank you SO much Matthew) - it was very well received, and since there were no vegetarians there to hog it all, we each got to take some home along with a hefty bag of other leftovers....the few of us that showed up must have all been cooks in a lumber camp in past lives.  That may have been the shortest distance between trying something new and putting it on the bog I've experienced, but it was pretty darn good so here it is for your viewing/creating pleasure.

Butternut Squash Lasagna

Found this on Pinterest; Brian Malarkey's recipe on  I had to be different, however - not a big fan of lemon zest so I used gives it a somewhat floral flavor, so you can use lemon if you think that sounds better.  Also, don't try to precook no-cook lasagne sheets...they shred and fall apart, EPIC FAIL.  If you use them, I think you need to add a bit of liquid to your sauce, so maybe go w/regular ones?
1 large or 2 small Butternut squash – Peeled, cored and sliced thin 1/4  inch
Olive oil, kosher salt and pepper

10 to 14  Pasta Sheets – Cooked and put in cool water bath

1/4 C Butter
¼ Cup  Flour
3 ½ Cups Whole Milk
6 cloves  Garlic
1 handful  Spinach
1/2 bunch  Italian Parsley
Salt & pepper to taste

3 Cups  Shredded Mozzarella
½ Cup  Parmesan
1/4 C. butter
10 Sage Leaves – Sliced Thin
Zest from a lemon (or orange)
Salt & Pepper
Pre-heat oven to 375F.  Drizzle a cookie sheet/jelly roll pan (with sides) with olive oil and place the slices of butternut squash on it, season with salt and pepper, repeat another layer until all the butternut is layered.  Cover with foil and bake for about 8 to 10 minutes until the squash is cooked yet still firm enough to break apart.

While that is roasting, heat ½ stick of butter in a large skillet or deep saucepan and melt until almost browned, whisk in the flour and continue to cook for about 30 seconds, then slowly whisk in the milk and bring to a boil, Add the whole garlic cloves (yeah, that threw me off too, just do it) and continue to cook at a medium heat until mixture thickens. Transfer the mixture to the blender and blend in the Spinach/parsley. Season with salt and Pepper. It will taste very garlicky....this will mellow when you bake it.

Rub a 9x13 Baking dish with a little butter and begin the layers: Cream Sauce, pasta, Mozzarella Parmesan, butternut – Repeat. I used 4 layers of noodles, then used on sauce and cheese on the top layer. Cover with Foil (spray the side that will touch the cheese first and it won't stick) and Bake for 40 minutes at 375; remove foil and bake for another 15 or until the top is crispy golden brown. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with Sage/Lemon (or orange) Brown Butter:  In small sauté pan bring 1/4 C. butter to a light brown color – Very hot and bubbling.  Add Sage, Zest, salt and Pepper and remove from pan immediately; Spoon over the entire lasagne or a little on each piece.

I just heated up a piece to stage it for the photo (thank God for leftovers), and was forced to eat some of it - it was light, creamy, cheesy and had the bright flavors of the squash and orange zest, with the more mellow notes of browned butter, sage and parmesan...very nice!  Enjoy this beautiful season, and eat more squash....don't let The Produce Goddess down!