Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Product Review: Nature's Pride Bread

It's been some time since I've done a review, hasn't it? Of course, it's been some time since I've gotten any free stuff to review. Heh. But then the delightful folks over at Foodbuzz offered to send me some Nature's Pride bread and since I love bread (and free stuff) I said yes. I was expecting coupons, like you get for a lot of these offers, but I actually got two loaves in the mail! How awesome is that? They sent me a 100% whole wheat and a 12 grain. Here's a shot of the 12 grain I've already eaten the other loaf so you don't get to see that one. So. I haven't tried the 12 grain yet, but the whole wheat is really good. Soft, but not squishy and with a good, deep flavor. To take it for a test run I made one of my favorite sandwiches: Turkey, salami, honey mustard and cheese (sharp cheddar this time). I tossed some lettuce on there too, since we had some. The bread stood up to the strong flavors just fine, without being distracting and didn't instantly adsorb all the honey mustard and get soggy. Which is good. Final verdict? I would totally buy this, as long as it's not ridiculously expensive.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Toasted Marshmallow Peanut Butter Cookies

1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 cup mini marshmallows, cut in half.

Preheat the oven to 375 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Beat butter and peanut butter until combined. Add the baking soda, baking powder and both sugars, beat until combined. Beat in the egg and vanilla, until combined. Beat in the flour (by hand is easiest, it will be a very stiff dough). Fold in the marshmallows. Roll generous tablespoons of dough into 1" balls and place them on the prepped sheet. Bake for 7-9 minutes, let cool on the tray for a minute or two then transfer to a cooking rack.
(adapted from BH&G Ultimate Cookie Book or UCB)


Ok, you ready? Here is the deep, meaningful back story to these cookies. I wanted to bake something and I didn't want to leave the apartment. I had peanut butter and marshmallows. That's it. I didn't even scour the nets for a recipe. I still haven't made that many cookies from the UCB, which I got for Christmas, so I decided to step away from my go-to recipe and try out their classic peanut butter cookie. The marshmallows were the only adaptation from me, but they turned out wicked good. It's a good recipe, different levels of butter (my go to has half shortening, making them crispier) and different ratios of baking soda/powder made these a little thinner. I think. Well, I know they are thinner, but I don't know for a fact that that's why. Anyway, they are quite good, I think I like the slightly chewier and more buttery flavor of all butter over half and half with shortening. Let's make these things.

Pretty standard cookie making here. First I mixed the butter and peanut butter. Added the sugars, baking powder and soda.More mixing. Egg and vanilla, mix again. Now the flour. The recipe said add it a bit at a time, using an electric mixer. Once it started getting hard on the mixer it said to stop and use a spoon. I said screw all that and did the whole recipe by hand. Because I'm like that. So I just dumped it all in, mixed it up and folded in the marshmallows. I didn't have minis, those would have been easiest. I had the bigguns and I cut them into half inch pieces. Or so. Then I rolled them into 1" (or so) balls and made an attempt at crosshatches. The marshmallows made that tricky, but it worked well enough. Then baked for 7-9 minutes and out. Lovely. You want to let them sit for a minute before trying to move them. Otherwise the marshmallow will be too liquid and the cookies too soft and it will just be a disaster. Crap, I should have taken a picture of that. But I ate it. Oh well. I liked the way the marshmallows toast up, it adds a nice level of flavor. So next time you want something that's familiar but a little but different or don't feel like leaving the house to get more ingredients, give these a shot. Now, when I'm making peanut butter cookies I always use chunky peanut butter. I like the texture the extra peanut bits gives. But I've known people who will only use smooth. What kind do you folks use when you make peanut butter cookies?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday Cats

So not only does Noodles need boxhab, but she is also a bag lady. I need to get shots of her whole stalking the bag process, it's most amusing. It can take her 15 minutes to finally be in the bag after circling it, batting it gently and making fake lunges at it.

One of my sisters and nieces were here a couple weeks ago (she made a pie while she was here, I'll be posting about it later this week). Bob decided he liked both her purse and her cell phone.He also slept on the air mattress with my niece at least once, she loved it. Her father is very allergic to cats so she can't have one at home. Fortunately ours are plenty friendly, so she got a good cat fix.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Italian Sausage Meatballs

1 lb 93% ground beef
1/3 lb Italian sausage
2 tbls chopped fresh basil
1 tbl chopped fresh oregano
1 clove of minced garlic
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 tbls parmesan cheese
2 tbls chopped fresh parsley
1 egg
1/4 cup finely diced onion
salt and pepper

Combine everything well. Make small balls and broil them until brown and mostly cooked. Add to some tomato sauce and simmer for an hour or two. If not finishing them in sauce, bake the meatballs at 375 til cooked through.


These are those meatballs I mentioned the other day. They were quite simple, but I just kind of threw them together so the measurements up top aren't too precise. I know some of you are probably shaking your heads at the 93% beef, but I've found that when you are mixing meats together and one is really fatty (like sausage) then using 93 works out well. The final product turns out more balanced, not greasy like if you used 85 and mixed it with sausage. These came out good, we made sandwiches with them, clearly. Heh. I also whipped up a simple tomato sauce, so why don't we start there.

First I browned up some onion. I like it nice and dark for sauce, I think it adds the best flavor. You might notice the large chunks of garlic. I didn't feel like mincing and I was planning on doing a slow, low cook for it anyway. The garlic gets soft and breaks up, eventually. Then I deglazed with maybe a cup of Merlot. Let that reduce till the booze smell was gone, then a little more to concentrate the flavors. Then I dumped in a large can (28 oz I think) of crushed tomatoes. Some basil and oregano and then it's just simmer for an hour or two. I like letting sauce simmer a long time, I find the end result is best that way. But there's nothing saying you have to do it like this if you want it faster or think it tastes fine as is. Now, meatballs. In here we've got all the stuff mentioned up top. I just mixed it up, by hand, and formed it into balls. Plopped them onto a pan and broiled them till browned. This way you can control how much of the fat from them goes into the sauce. But into the sauce is where they went. Now at this point I let them simmer for a couple more hours over very low heat, stirring frequently. See, I made this on my day off and I enjoy spending all day stirring things. I really do. But if you wanted to do this faster you could cut out a lot of simmering time. Next we just toasted some little rolls, I melted mozzarella on mine, and made sandwiches. Meatball sandwiches are the bomb. How about it kids, do you like meatballs? What kind? On pasta, in sandwiches, calzones or straight up, maybe with a toothpick?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What Do You Like In Banana Bread?

I'm feeling much better, seems it was a short bug. Thanks for all the well wishes! I even made some meatballs yesterday that I'll probably be posting about on Friday. In the meantime here's another quickie. I want to know what you like to mix into banana bread. This batch that my girlfriend made last night had cashews and it was wicked good. So, how about it? Do you like it straight up? With nuts? What kind? How about strawberries? Have you tried caramel? Curried pineapple? Butterscotch? Making the whole damn thing chocolate? I think my favorite is chocolate chips, but I'm open to new experiences. Heh.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sloppy Joe Casserole

I've managed to catch another cold, so I'm going to share this with you guys real quick and go back to bed. It's something that had been bouncing around in my head for a while and I finally got around to making it several weeks back. Why didn't I post it then? Well, I was hoping to find a way to make it more... visually appealing. Maybe a garnish? Hmm. Ok, we're just going to move along here.

I'm afraid I also don't have lots of pics for it, but it's so simple I don't think they're needed. All I did was make some sloppy Joe stuff and then fill a casserole dish with it, top it with a small mountain of pepper jack cheese (the perfect cheese for sloppy joes, just so you know) and then top that with a bunch of frozen seasoned french fries. I believe they were Zesties. I pre cooked the fries a bit to defrost and get them started crisping. But that was it, other than baking the whole thing at 375 for fifteen minutes or so, until crispy and bubbly. The Joe was still pretty hot, since I had made it right then, so it didn't need that much time. I was pretty much just melting the cheese and finishing up the fries.

I think next time I'm going to do the Joe a bit different, with lots more veggies that are cut into bigger chunks. Since it's a casserole and all. Maybe even an additional layer of cheese and potato in the middle. Maybe cut the fries into small cubes to get a more jagged topping for more crunchy brown bits. But even as it was, this was awesome. It got a great crust around the edges, the creamy/spicy pepper jack goes great with the sweet/slightly spicy filling and the seasoned fries were the cherry on top of the cake. If you don't mind a mangled metaphor. Well, the cold medicine is clearly kicking in so back to bed for me. But give me something to read while I'm incapacitated. What's your favorite casserole?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sunday Cats

This weekend is wicked busy for me, so I'm just doing a quick cats on drugs bit. Here is Noodles, passed out with her head against the scratching post. Also looking particularly fat. We rub it with catnip sometimes and when we do she does this. Here's the real Bob just chilling. Soon he will get up and eat, then go to sleep. Hm, he doesn't act much different on the nip...

Ok, quick poll. How many folks out there have cats that do this? How lazy can you get? Both of our cats do this, not just crouching to drink, but lounging, Roman style. It amuses me.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Egg, Bacon and Cheese Biscuit Cups

1 tube of large size, flaky biscuits
3 eggs
2-3 tbls heavy cream
1-2 strips of bacon, cooked and cut into 1/2" pieces
sharp cheddar cheese
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375. Prep a muffin tin by spraying it with nonstick spray (or rub it down with butter). Open the biscuits and and separate each biscuit horizontally into two rounds. Gently pull or roll them until they are big enough to line the tin to the top and press them firmly into the muffin tin. Whisk together the eggs, salt, pepper and cream. Fill each cup about 3/4 of the way with the egg mixture and top with cheese and some bacon. Cook for 10-15 minutes, until the eggs are cooked all the way. If the biscuits start to get too brown around the edges cover the pan with foil.


Ok, I wasn't going to make these quite so soon but I really couldn't help myself. I was thinking about it all night last night and when I got up today it just had to happen. I had some concerns, mainly how the timing of egg vs biscuit would work, but it all turned out fine. In fact, more than fine. Phenomenal. As in "I'll give you my car if I can have the last one" kind of good. I ate six of them in about two seconds and still wanted more. But, I had to save the rest for my girlfriend or else she would harm me. And besides, those ones didn't have cheese, so they'll only be spectacular instead of phenomenal. This version is very simple, but you could put anything in the egg, provided you diced it small enough. Anything you would eat in an omelet would be awesome. But less talk, more rock.

First I cooked some bacon. I believe my feelings on bacon are fairly well known to anyone who reads my blog. Then I cracked three eggs into a bowl and added some heavy cream, salt and pepper. I had wanted to use milk, but we didn't have any. Tragic, isn't it? Mixed that up well and moved on to the biscuits. These are the ones I used. You can use any brand you like, but they need to be flaky and large. I'm sure you could use homemade too, but part of the thrill of these is the ease. Plus homemade aren't quite as pliable as the tubes of goo are. Now, if they aren't flaky you can't pull them in half horizontally like this. Which is important, if you don't do that then the cups will be too thick. You should also use two hands, it makes it much easier. Now you just pull them, a bit like pizza dough, till they are big enough to fill the muffin tins all the way to the top. It takes two hands and my girlfriend wasn't home, so I don't have pictures of that I'm afraid. You also want to be careful not to rip the dough, holes in the cups let the filling ooze out. Then you just fill the muffin tins. Like this. Press them in pretty firmly, don't be shy. It's pretty hard to hurt tube biscuits.Then you fill each one about three quarters of the way with the egg mixture. It took about one and a half tablespoons, I think. I would also like to point out that I guessed at how many eggs I would need and it came out exactly right. Score. Then you just put a little cheese on top and some bacon. I like sharp cheddar with eggs, but you could use whatever you like. It's all good. Then it was into the oven for ten minutes. I pulled them out and the egg hadn't finished cooking, but the cups were already pretty brown. So I loosely covered them with foil and popped them back in for another couple minutes. Then they were done. There was a little overflow, I think from when I covered them and stuck my thumb in one. But whatever. Here's a cross section, for those who like that kind of thing. So like I said, they were amazing. I would make them over and over. Next time I'm going to put some finely diced peppers and onions in, like a Western omelet. What would you put in them?


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