Barefoot Bloggers – Mini Meat Loaves

March 10, 2010

Yum, meatloaf!  I grew up with my mom’s meatloaf, which I have tweaked different times in my own home.  My son and husband even tell a funny story about a meatloaf where I didn’t chop the sundried tomatoes into bite-sized pieces, resulting in huge chunks of tough tomatoes in the loaf.  My son won’t go near sun-dried tomatoes to this day, and doesn’t let me forget about that experiment gone awry.

Ina’s recipe is simple, yet very tasty.  I did change the bread crumbs to oatmeal.  One, that’s the way my mom did it, but also being a diabetic, I’m teaching myself to find alternatives to breadcrumbs.  Everything else I kept the same.

I really liked the idea of the mini loaves.  There’s only two of us in our home nowadays, and this is a perfect way to bake once/cook thrice.  I rounded out our meal with some mashed potatoes (not on my low glycemic diet) and some sauteed spinach.   Thanks to Tonya of What’s on my Plate? for the great choice.


TWD – Thumbprints for Us Big Guys

March 8, 2010

This is a cookie that reminds me of Christmas.  I have a tendency to think of thumbprint cookies as more time-intensive, therefore worthy of the special time that the holidays bring. My baking challenges are helping me to readjust that mindset.  Not only were they easy to put together, why wait for the holidays for special treats, then try to cram them into a short period of a month or so?  No wonder people complain about gaining weight over the holidays.  I say spread that *holiday cheer* through the year.

I love marionberries!  Period, end of story.  So when this month’s challenge came up, I immediately knew that marionberry jam would be involved.  The recipe called for hazelnuts, also a favorite, but I decided just to use what was in the house this time around, which was walnuts.  I also contemplated pecans.  I bet they would be equally tasty.

I used my food processor to finely chop the walnuts, and then mixed the cookie dough.  It seemed crumbly when I started scooping out the cookies, and they do crumble a bit when you bite into them, so maybe I overmixed the dough a bit.  However, the taste was really great.

I’m inconsistent in my baking techniques.  So I used a scoop instead of eyeballing the size of each cookie.  I love these scoops.  I have three of them in different sizes.  Also in an effort to be consistent, I did re-press the cookies slightly when they came out of the oven.  I’m not sure I really needed to, but again, I love marionberries and wanted to make sure there was plenty of room for the jam.

These were delicious cookies, definitely a recipe I will add to my list of keepers.  I think next time I might freeze half of the dough balls, so that we don’t have a lot of them laying around the house.  Just take out a few, thaw them out, pop them in the oven, drizzle them with jam or chocolate, and, voila, Christmas any time of the year.


TWD – Toasted-Coconut Custard Tart – Part 2

March 4, 2010

I have only made custards a handful of times, mostly for ice cream, and I always have to strain them for lumps.  I thought at first I had totally messed up.  In what seemed to be an instant, the boiling custard went from liquid to lumps.  Bam!  So quickly.  I’ve overcooked custards before, but not this bad… or so I thought.  Then I added the butter as directed.  What amazed me was how the custard smoothed  out almost immediately.  Once the butter was incorporated, I did add a bit of heavy cream.  It seemed too thick.  Maybe I did overcook it a bit, but I’ve read some other TWD bloggers who experienced the same dilemma when cooking this custard.

I then blended in the toasted coconut, and let the tart set for a few hours.  The recipe works well, but since  I’m not a fan of shredded coconut, I’ll save the tart dough and custard portions of the recipe for another flavor another time.  My vote:  It’s a keeper.


TWD – Toasted-Coconut Custard Tart (Part 1)

March 2, 2010

ARGH!  I had all the ingredients gathered and ready to make my Tuesdays with Dorie challenge… or so I thought.

I went digging for my tart pan, and it’s nowhere to be found.  I think maybe it broke when I used it around the holidays, but didn’t remember that until I began looking for it.  The plan was to make the dough only, put it in the freezer, and then make the custard when I have time tomorrow morning.

So I went ahead and prepped a pie plate instead.  I froze the butter as suggested, and used my food processor to combine the ingredients.  What a beautiful dough to work with.  The recipe said it would be crumbly, and it wasn’t so much.  I hope I didn’t overdo it.  But, wow, I’m going to have to bookmark this one.  I found my perfect pie dough recipe last fall, and now this!  I’m in dough heaven!

So stand by for Part 2 tomorrow, and I’ve put tart pan on my shopping list for the weekend.


Yin & Yang

February 24, 2010

Today was a day that allowed me to cook and bake.  That always makes for a feel-good day for me.  I have recently been avoiding processed foods, including boxed cake mixes and frosting, but I saw a recipe on the back of a chocolate cake mix that just called my name.  I had to make it.  The name was Triple Chocolate Cherry Cake:  Chocolate cake mix, cherry pie filling, mini chocolate chips, and chocolate frosting.  It is so yummy!  However, I can’t wait to attempt the same type of cake using recipes from scratch, no processed food.  It might just equate to heaven on a plate.

In an effort to balance my day, our dinner needed to contain healthier choices.  My husband loves rice, but really isn’t a fan of brown rice.  So how do I cook brown rice that he will tolerate?  Cook it with a bit of chicken stock to give it more flavor, and create some sauteed moist vegetables with pine nuts and Parmesan cheese to go top.  It worked.  Though we both still crave those lovely white grains, this meal was a keeper.

Couple that with some baked chicken, and I feel a bit better about the piece of Triple Chocolate Cherry Cake.


Milk Chocolate Mini Bundts

February 3, 2010

How could I go wrong with milk chocolate, buttermilk, pecans, butter, sugar and flour?  Who knows.

I practiced my “mise en place.”  Thanks to Julia Child and Food Network, I have a fancy name for it, but my mom taught me the concept long ago.  Measure everything out and get everything ready before you start cooking.  Who knew back then there was a special name for it?

I have an older oven that I think is giving me grief, and I need to go get an oven thermometer to see what’s going on with it.  But isn’t it more fun to blame the oven than my baking skills?  I think so.

The recipe called for a nut mixture in the middle of the cakes, and the tops of the cakes stuck in the pan.  The nut mixture and the bottom of the cakes popped out fine.  I don’t know if that nut mixture had something to do with that or not.  Probably not.

The consistency was more of a brownie.  Though tasty, I think next time I’ll mix up my tried-and-true brownie recipe instead.


The women in my life

January 30, 2010

I am blessed to have so many great women in my life who have nurtured me, strengthened me, and taught me what they have learned so far in their lives.  They all create beauty in their lives in very different ways,  and passed on their passions to me.  Every time I pick up a needle, till my garden, can pickles, or bake a pie, I think of them.

I crave mulberry jelly and sandplum jelly thanks to one grandmother, who always had homemade cookies in the jar when we came to visit.  She also passed on her love for quilting and crocheting.  I remember watching her make rag rugs on a loom or working on some lacy tatting for a pillowcase cover or doilie.  Her hands were always busy.

I have an excellent pumpkin pie recipe from another grandmother, who also crocheted and played the organ a little bit.  We used to giggle, thinking Grandma was silly, but now it’s a great memory.  I have memories of a rose garden in her yard, with beautiful flowers in the summertime, and lightning bugs at night.

I sew and embroider well because of my mother’s attention to detail in my projects as I was growing up.  I used to grinch and complain because she would make me take out a crooked seam, or take out embroidery stitches because the back side wasn’t as neat and tidy as the front, but it taught me how those little details resulted in a nice piece of clothing or other finished project.  And though I don’t seem to have inherited my mother’s artistic abilities, she did teach me to look for beauty in everyday life.

A visit to my mother-in-law’s home always meant a great meal, and I found myself wanting others to feel the same way when they visit my home.  She has always shared her love for cooking and homemaking with me as if I was her own daughter.

We live halfway across the country from our family, so on a visit many years ago, my mother-in-law taught me to make galuskies, a type of cabbage roll that is a traditional dish for many family gatherings.  To this day I use her recipe when we crave her galuskies here.  Though I have tweaked it slightly over the years – a little leaner ground beef, long grain rice instead of short, and less salt – it’s still her recipe.  I’m confident that I will never be as good a cook as she is, but that’s cool with me.

It seems that life is coming full circle, and it is time to focus on the simpler things in life.  We eat at home more often and are cooking simple meals.  We built and grew a garden last year to raise vegetables at home, and preserved much of our harvest for the winter.  I have started sewing again and learning to quilt.  All of those things bring comfort to me, maybe because they remind me of the homes I grew up in and the women who are so dear to me.

So, thank you for sharing your passions and love through the years.  I am a better woman because of you.