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+++Enter At Your Own Risk+++ At the gentle nudging (I said gentle y'all) of a few friends, I have started these blogs in order to share my culinary goings-on and daily misadventures through my own brand of humor (ok, sarcasm). I just write about stuff! At 50, I have learned that living has gotten in the way of life - and I am going to blaze my own personal trail to fun (hopefully)! If it is feminine, great. If it is not, so much the better! Hopefully fun that does not land me in jail............

Thursday, May 24, 2012

No Icing Chocolate Cake - AKA - Chocolate Love in a Box!!!

I have been making this cake since I learned the recipe from a General's wife in Darmstadt W. Germany back in 1986-1987.  This cake, as easy as it is, will make you look like a baking rock-star at gatherings.
This is the ONLY chocolate cake I will eat HAPPILY without icing. I am an icing maniac – but with the almost ‘cheesecake’ marbling and the chocolate chips – it is great without messy icing. This makes it very portable for family gatherings – picnics and etc.

No Icing Chocolate Cake

Cream Cheese Addition:
  • 1 (8+- ounce) pkg cream cheese of your choice – SOFTENED at room temperature maybe an hour or 2
  • 1 egg beaten
  • ¼ c granulated sugar
  • ¼ - ½ tsp vanilla

Cake Portion:
  • 1 box Betty Crocker (Pudding in the mix) Devil’s Food Cake Mix
  • (Make sure you have the ingredients you must use with the mix – i.e. eggs, oil, etc)

The Love:
  • 1 (12+- ounce) package chocolate chips (regular size or mini) – semi sweet – any brand. I have never used the whole package. Usually half a package – but hey, it is YOUR cake!

  • Hand mixer (unless you are crazy enough to whip this up by hand power)
  • 1 mixing bowl large enough to handle the Cake Portion
  • 1 bowl large enough to hand the Cream Cheese addition
  • 1 scraper for scraping bowl sides
  • 1 knife to run through the batter/cheese to give the ‘marbled’ effect.
  • Cake pan of your choice
Cream Cheese Portion in 1st bowl:
  • Using the hand mixer, cream the cream cheese brick.
  • Add the sugar and cream that in.
  • Add the egg and beat that in.
  • Add the vanilla and beat that in.
  • Set aside.

Cake Portion in 2nd bowl:
  • Prepare the cake mix per the recipe on the box.
  • Pour batter into the cake pan of your choice
  • After pouring the batter into the pan, I tap the pan on the counter to help settle the batter in it.
  • I sprinkle however many chocolate chips I feel like – on the top of the batter at this point.
  • Take the spatula and place 6-8 large dollops of the cream cheese mixture around the top of batter in various spots.
  • Drop more chips on TOP of the cream cheese dollops.
  • Run the knife/flat spatula up and down the batter to create the marbled effect.

Bake per directions on box.

  • Set out the cream cheese a couple of hours ahead of when you want to make this recipe. Adjust time according to how hot/cold your environment is. And do NOT use a microwave to try to speed the process. I say THIS from EXPERIENCE….
  • Mix up the cream cheese/cheese cake portion first so the cake with its leavening components is not sitting waiting in the pan.
  • Scrape bowls periodically during mixing.
  • Shiny metal pans are the first choice for baking cakes.
  • Dark non-stick cake pans may require you to reduce heat by 25F because they absorb heat and brown faster.
  • I use the largest cake pan the box calls for. I have never tried this recipe for cupcakes or tiers.
  • Bake in center of oven.
  • I absolutely use the longest baking time called for on the box for the size cake pan I am using.
  • Cake is done with a toothpick poked in the center comes out clean.
  • Cool cakes on a wire rack away from drafts.
  • Due to cream cheese mixture, I refrigerate the cake if I am going to be keeping it for several days, but it will work at any event without cooling. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012


A very slight variation on a Pampered Chef Recipe

I had no idea I would ever willingly pass up cake for salad.

My friend Lisa invited me to a Pampered Chef (PC) party – and it happened to fall on a day that work was INCREDIBLY HORRIBLE.  I had a “run-in” with a co-worker that I did not expect.  Needless to say, I was NOT in good humor. 

Actually, I have been in ‘less than good humor” for a few months.  That is a story for another day. 

Anywho, I was in no mood to attend the party, but Lisa needed bodies, and I committed myself to attend a whole month ahead of time. Lisa is great at reminding me when the event it coming up.  I cannot even conveniently ‘forget’.

I am not a big “gadget” girl.  I especially avoid electrical appliances. Why?
  • Cost (I always want the best – champagne taste on a beer budget)
  • Space to store them (I have a 900 Sqf house)
  • If the power goes out, I can keep cooking/prepping by candlelight and with a grill

I guess I need to list MY ‘cooking must-haves’ someday.

I had only been to one other PC party. I purchased a slicing mandolin and a set of torte pans – that I have never used. I had warned Lisa that I would probably not buy anything really, but I would go.

Famous last words.

So, in the ‘not so fabulous mood’, I meet up with Lisa and follow her to I-have-no-idea-where. I remember saying out loud ‘Hurry up, I hear banjos playing’.  Now, it wasn’t the country – but I had no idea where I was.  Thank goodness I have a GPS to get me back home, or I would be typing things like “Help, I am trapped in a cell-phone factory and I can’t get out!

When the ‘party’ started, there were 10-12 people. The PC consultant was high energy and a good saleswoman. She had us engaged and participating.  No small task with me that night.  I was the first to fall – she picks me to be the ticket-girl. I gave out tix to anyone who asked a question about the business end of PC.  Yes, PC is always looking for a few good women!  If I were ever going to be a consultant for a business such as this (Avon, Premier Jewelry, Princess House, etc.) it would be PC.

After the initial quick run-through of specials, business options, and highlights in the catalog, the consultant announced we would have food for the evening and proceeded to assign each of us a task for creating the meal of the night. 

  • No-Knead Yeast Bread made earlier
  • Southwestern Chicken Salad
  • Chocolate Lava Cake

She asked ‘who has had the worst day’? Lisa points to me…  So, I got to ‘beat the meat’.  Yes, it went hysterically downhill from there. We had spice girls, a cake mixer, a salad spinner, can openers…  But no, Cookie gets to not only beat her meat, she also got to massage her breasts with olive oil. Do you see where that went?  The atmosphere went downright dirty…  It was fun actually.

So, bottom line? I learned the following tips:
  1. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts cook unevenly due to thickness issues. So beat the meat to even it out.
  2. When beating your meat, put it in a ziplock bag to keep the mallet clean and keep meat from flying if you get too energetic with beating it.
  3. Put a little olive oil inside the bag after you beat your meat – and massage that oil around in the sealed bag.
  4. You can make ready-made salad dressing into a totally new flavor with a few added ingredients.
  5. Chocolate Lava Cakes made in the microwave are pretty darn good.
  6. If a salad is so good that I will pass up the chocolate cake and stuff myself on the salad – it is an awesome salad!
  7. If you cut up, wash and spin dry your lettuce, then place it in a paper-towel lined stainless bowl and cover, it will last like a week.  I am currently testing this one!

My Purchases:
  • 2 each Dijon Mustard Rubs
    • One for me, one for a friend
    • I just smelled it in the bottle and I was ‘up-sold’
  • 1 grill pizza pan
    • For cooking your pizza in the grill
  • 1 set of nesting biscuit cutters
    • For a friend.
    • I use my grandmother’s old cutter.
  • 1 Adjustable Measuring Cup
    • For a friend.
  • 1 Mini Adjustable Measuring Cup
    • For a friend.
  • 1 Food Processor (non-electrical)
    • Mine, all mine!!!!!!!!!!!!

Let me just say that I have made the Southwestern Chicken Salad several times in the past 3 weeks.  EVERYONE has LOVED it. Nobody has turned their nose up or thought it was simply “ok”.  This is a great salad with a different flavor.

OK¸ enough of the babble.  As with most ‘non-baking’ recipes, I have made a few changes and have noted them in the following recipe:

  • 16 ounce bottle of ranch salad dressing
  • 1 fresh jalapeno pepper (with pith/seeds removed and diced or run through food processor)
  • Juice of 1/2 or 1 lime (I use fresh squeezed, not bottled)
  • 4- 6 tsp. taco seasoning mix (I like a little more than the original 4 tsp) I make my own now....
  • 1 small yellow or red onion (I do not put much onion in, but that is my preference)
  • 1 ½ +- pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1-2 Tbl. Olive oil
  • 1 clove fresh garlic, peeled and minced (I use a garlic press)
  • 1 head iceberg, green leaf, or romaine lettuce (I use romaine)
  • 3 Roma tomatoes (or a package of cherry/grape tomatoes)
  • 1 fresh cucumber, sliced (you can score along the length of the cucumber with a fork to create a ‘flower’ affect after they are sliced)
  • 1 green, red or yellow bell pepper
  • 1 can (14 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can yellow sweet corn, drained
  • 1 block (8 ounces) cheddar cheese, grated (Or bagged pre-grated Cheddar – I like super-super sharp)
  • 1 bag tortilla chips, crushed
  • Your choice of ‘rubs’ for the chicken.  (I use homemade taco seasoning)
  • Optional: Sliced Avocado

  • Dressing
    • Pour salad dressing into a 2c (or larger) glass/ceramic container.
    • Stir in jalapeno, lime juice and taco seasoning and stir well. I use a whisk.

  • Chicken
    • Place chicken breasts in a ziplock bag, get most air out and seal it.
    • Use a mallet to beat your meat – down so that each breast is generally the same thickness from one end to the other.
    • Open the bag, pour your olive oil in, reseal and massage the oil around all over the breasts.
    • Open the bag, add the garlic and reseal and massage the garlic around your breasts.
    • Coat a fry pan with oil and preheat on medium heat. Or preheat your George Foreman Grill (that is what I have been doing).
    • Press ½ lime over chicken using Citrus Press (note, I have NOT done that yet. Keep forgetting!)
    • Either cut open the bag or pull your breasts out of the covering and coat with your choice of “Rubs”
    • You can use salt and pepper if you wish, but if you choose a nice “Rub or Rubs” will negate the need really.  And THAT piece of advice comes from someone who OFTEN over salts foods because I LOVE SALT.
    • I would tell you how long to cook the chicken – but that is up to you. You want it cooked through, but not dry.
    • Cut into thin slices – maybe 1”-2” in length. Do as you wish on that part.

  • Salad
    • Cut lettuce of choice
    • Rinse lettuce well and spin excess water out in spinner
    • Place in large bowl
    • Add chicken, tomato, cucumber, bell pepper, black beans, sweet corn, cheddar cheese, avocado (if used), and crushed tortilla chips.
    • Toss
    • Add salad dressing.
    • Toss
    • Serve
      • -OR-
        • Layer the salad ingredients to be pretty.
        • Serve with dressing on the side.

My suggestions:
  • The salad fed 10 people (along with a no knead bread that was made ahead of time and a chocolate lava cake). 
    • You can cut all the ingredients and store in the fridge separately to pull at a moment’s notice. 
    • Great for carting to lunch functions.
    • If you make a large salad, do NOT put the crushed chips in it until ready to serve so they do get soggy.
    • If you are serving this for a lot of people at one time and want to make sure your dressing does not run out – toss it into the salad before serving.
  • If calories are a concern, use a low cal Ranch dressing.
  • If calories are a SERIOUS concern, water the dressing down before tossing it into the salad.  You would not believe how far the flavor still goes.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Beer Chili and Rubber Fetishes – OR – Revenge is Best Served…


So what do Rubber Fetishes have to do with cooking?  Not a thing unless you are thinking “Food Porn”.  I was just watching Rubber Fetish videos, while giggling my little self silly, and decided to write this blog since this weekend I am making enough Beer Chili and Corn Bread to feed 25 people.

For me, this is a rather unique, no-bean, chili.  Since I grew up in the Eastern US, I have not had chili without beans very often.  I guess this would be considered a Texas style chili.  I had originally found the Beer Chili recipe around 12 years ago on eHow.com. I did not think to actually save the recipe and eventually it was no longer on the website.  I had to play with, and adjust, other recipes until I had what I liked.  It was worth the effort.  Feel free to play with it some more people.

Cooking, to me, is all about making food work for you! 

Or for food fights…

Or for making sexy movie scenes (9 ½ Weeks anyone?)…

The first time I made this chili from that recipe, all those years ago, my then beau had the “good graces" to inform me that one of his co-workers made chili the week before and it was much hotter than mine….  Now, I admit I was not into “hot” foods and I did cut out one of the peppers, but I was not taking this lying down.

But really?

That statement was obnoxious on multiple levels: 
  • You, my fine friend, got lucky as YOU did not have to cook, or even help cook, or do the dishes.
  • You never dis a dish without love, compassion and genuine fear.
  • You never unfavorably compare it to mamma’s or anyone else’s, especially if you want me to cook again.
  • You can do better? Bring it!
  • Never, ever, underestimate my ability to recognize and rise to a challenge.

Yes, this is a sticking point with me.  I understand we all have preferences.  I understand we do not like every dish or rendition of a dish.  THAT is ok.  What is not ok is voicing a tactless opinion when you should be happy someone cared enough to cook for you.  If you do not like a dish, it is ok to say it is not your favorite when asked.  That saves the cook from wasting time, energy and money on something you do not like.  But loosely draw comparisons because it causes animosity. 

I made the chili again a few weeks later. I MORE than doubled the heat by doubling the peppers called for, and by leave the pith and seeds in half of them.  Note:  By removing the pith and seeds from hot peppers, you greatly diminish their heat.

Uh, Mr. Mr. could hardly eat it, but had to suck it up knowing what he had said the first time I made the chili.  He could NOT lose face…  He wound up with blisters.  No, I am not kidding.  I, on the other hand, loved it.  The heat was pure and awesome.  I, the usually spicy-heat light-weight, had no problem eating the chili (to my surprise).  And, the more often I reheated the pot, the better it became.  The funny part?  While reheating it drew out more flavor, it also lent a frightening smell of acid to the whole house and served to intensify the heat…  It was a little scary really.

Lessons learned the first two times around with Beer Chili?
  • Wear gloves when cutting Habaneras
  • Wear a mask when cutting Habaneras
  • Revenge is best served hot, hot, hot

Message received Biatch!

Beer Chili Ingredients

3 or 4 bottles beer
2 pounds Ground Beef (or Ground Turkey if you want to pretend to eat healthy) well cooked - drained
¼ - ½ pound moderately cooked bacon chopped up small
1 onion chopped fine
1 can tomato sauce
1 can tomato paste
4 cloves minced garlic
3 jalapeños or habaneras without seeds/pith - diced
1 or two bell peppers cut up small
Salt & Pepper to taste
A little hot sauce or chili powder to taste

BIG Beer Chili – for those days when you are going O I N K!!!

7-8 bottle beer
4 pounds ground meat - cooked well and drained
½ - 1 pound moderately cooked bacon chopped up small
2 onions chopped fine
1-2 tomato sauce
1-2 tomato paste
8 cloves minced
5 habaneras without pith/seed
2 -4 bell pepper cut up small
Salt & Pepper to taste
A little more hot sauce or chili powder

The recipes can be made without the tomato sauce and paste – but you really have to like the beer flavor a lot to go without them.

Play with the tomato products.  Maybe you like the taste of tomato paste more than tomato sauce, vise versa, or you swing both ways

I use Mexican beer – it seems to garner the best results in my book. But typically it is not the cheapest choice.

Change up the type of hot peppers or mix and match. Jalapeños work well.  Habaneras give that pure heat. I often mix peppers… I just depends on how much heat and cutting your can stand.  It also depends on what peppers are available at the store or in your garden.

Wear gloves when cutting up Habaneras peppers, or any other hot peppers.  I can tell you, from experience, that the ‘heat’ in the peppers does hurt your fingers after a few peppers are cut up finely.  AND, no manner of washing gets that residue off right away.  If you touch yourself,or anyone else with your hands it will burn that skin as well.  And, the more you touch, the worse it gets.  Friction is not your friend where pepper residue is involved.  Just say’n… 

Yes, as with most of my recipes, change up the amount of each ingredient as you see fit.  Make it fit your desires.

Smoked bacon is fabulous in this recipe. And when I say FABULOUS, I mean “Shut the front door Becky” FABULOUS!

Get to it:

You can either cook the ground meat in a skillet/frying pan OR in the pot you will be making the chili in (to save on cleaning time and effort).  I prefer enameled cast-iron pots, but any heavy pot will work. Put on the ground meat and cook as well as you like it.  I learned that I like the ground meat cooked very well and broken up to very small pieces.  My daughter never liked chunky ground beef in recipes (pasta sauce, soup, chili) but she was fine with it when cooked well and in small pieces.  Size does matter!  Make it yours. 

Cook the bacon until firm, but not crisp.  Well, you can cook it how you wish, but I am NOT a fan of crispy crisp (or limp) bacon in dishes that I cook.

While the meats are cooking, you can cut up the veggies.  If you are smart, you will have the veggies cut ahead of time.  If you are really smart, you will have someone else suffer through the cutting of the peppers.  Especially if they have ever had the nerve to compare you food with someone else’s and yours did not come out favorably in the comparison. 

Drain the meats. I do keep some bacon grease in the chili.  Yes, let’s revisit the part where I am from the South East and believe that bacon great is a flavoring, as well as skin conditioner…

Put the meats in the cooking pot on medium heat.

If tomato paste is used, dump it into the meat mixture and mix it in well.  It helps physically break up the paste.  If you pour in the liquids first and then add the paste, it seems to take longer to mix the paste in.

Add the beer, veggies, spices, etc.  Stir well and bring to a low boil while stirring.  Be careful not to burn the chili.  Immediately turn heat down to low, cover and heat for at least one hour.  Stir occasionally.  I like to let it simmer for a few hours because the flavor develops over time.

You also have the option of sautéing the various veggies prior to adding to the pot.  I have never done that with this recipe, so I do not know how (or if) it would change the flavor.

This chili truly does get better with age (the reheating process on the stove top).  In light of this, I do not typically reheat it in the microwave.  Speed is not called for in many areas of life – this being one.

By day 3, if you can manage to make enough to keep it that long, it is splendid!

I rarely use chili powder, or use very little of it.  I realize that chili powder is a staple in “CHILI” but there is nothing wrong with being different or thinking outside the cuffs.  I mean box.  Yea, that's what I mean...

  • Many of these ingredients will fair quite well being prepared ahead of time.
  • Preparing this chili a few days ahead of serving is not only helpful in entertaining time management, but preferable taste-wise.
  • Seriously, always use protection when handling spicy-hot peppers.  A little latex goes a long way.
  • Really crisp bacon has no place in this chili, but neither does limp bacon.  Go with firmI always favor FIRM. No limp meat.
  • Adjust ingredients to make it your own.
  • Don’t take grief off of anyone eating your food.  It is ok if they do not like it, but it is in bad form for anyone to compare your food with someone else’s unless the statement includes “and yours is as good as mom makes”.
  • Never underestimate the flavor development from stovetop reheating. It might take longer than the microwave, but it is worth it. (Yes, I mentioned this how many times?  It is that important.)
  • And, as in anything worth doing, never rush…

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Zen and the Art of Boiling Eggs

Hard Boiling Eggs  
Don't you love it when you go to make pickled eggs or the perfect Southern delicacy - Deviled Eggs - and when you peel them, you end up with cut fingers AND the ever lovely ripped up, dimpled and ugly eggs?  You end up either eating the "Uglies" or being embarrassed by the 'beauty' of the eggs you serve up to guests (because how many of us make deviled eggs just for ourselves?).

When boiling eggs, there are things you can do to help make the peeling process go a little smoother.

Fresh eggs do not peel easily when boiled.  So, use the older eggs in your fridge!  Choose eggs that are “in date” of course when preparing food.

Start the pot with cold water and the eggs.  Dropping cold eggs into hot water can shock the eggs and cause the eggs to crack prematurely.  I luv the word “prematurely”.

Boil the eggs over medium high heat so as to not “hard/rapidly rolling boil” the eggs because that can cause them to bounce off one another and crack. Stay with a “low” boil.

Pull the eggs from the fridge and put into a pot.  Run enough cold water into the pot to cover all the eggs.

Bring the eggs and water to a low boil for about 1 minute. Turn the temperature down to low-medium heat and simmer for 3 minutes.  Turn off the heat and let the pot sit covered for 10 to 15 minutes. 

Pour off the hot water, cover with cold tap water and cool the eggs quickly.  I often go ahead and crack the shells at this point as I find that helps make peeling easier as well.

Once the eggs are cool to the touch, you SHOULD be able to peel fairly easily at this point.

Short of it: 
  • Do not hard boil really fresh eggs
  • Place eggs in straight from tap temperature water to start
  • Don’t cook the eggs in water at a “rolling boil”
  • Cool eggs down rapidly before peeling
If you use the above process and tips, you should have fewer "ugly eggs".

Now get to boiling those eggs because I am hungry...  And don't forget MY invite!

Pennsylvania Dutch Green Beans

This recipe falls into the Comfort Food category for me!

It is my understanding that this “Sweet and Sour” dish is an old recipe.  I have no idea about that and found no real information outlining that lineage.  I just know that I LUV it!

The story behind my receiving this recipe is vaguely funny.  I was introduced to this recipe by my one time fiancé’s OTHER fiancé.  Yes, a fellow I was once engaged to had at least 2 women he was engaged to at one time, simultaneously. The day she and I learned of one another was the day HE lost 240 pounds instantaneously.  She and I became friends and he was no longer engaged to anyone.  OK, so we thought.  Turns out he married a whole third lady four months later!  So much for 7 years of life!  I am not advocating gaining recipes this way, but this was a delish nom to come from such a nightmare!

Now, on to the recipe!

I suggest you read the whole recipe before you do your grocery shopping for it.

  • 3 slices bacon *  (can be cooked ahead and crumbled as you see fit)
  • 2-3 teaspoons cornstarch **
  • 1 small onion, diced *
  • ¼ teaspoon salt **
  • ¼ teaspoon dry mustard **
  • 2 heaping cups cooked or canned green beans ***
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar **
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar **
  • ½ cup bean water **

Optional: 1 hard-boiled egg, diced (can be cooked well ahead)

*These items can be adjusted for taste.  I LUV MORE bacon, like triple the bacon.  Let’s just say OINK!

** These items can and should be adjusted to taste.  I double these so I have more of the “saucy” part.  Plus, you may like it sweeter, tangier, or etc.

*** I use canned French Cut Green Beans.  I feel like more of the sauce flavor hitches a ride on those thin slices than on regularly cut beans.  More exposed surface to hold all that saucy goodness!  Just a preference, do it as you wish!  If you use fresh or frozen beans instead of canned green beans, cook in lightly salted water until tender.  I typically make large cans of beans because I can eat ONE can, by myself, in one sitting on a serious OINK day.  Yes, like I said, COMFORT FOOD.  I can happily eat this dish for a couple of days.

I have never actually garnished/finished off this dish with the egg.  I have no idea if it adds to the flavor, or just to the prep-time.  But, just in case you want good instructions on boiling eggs, I am posting my way of boiling them in the next entry.

As I researched various recipes for this dish, I found they typically say to cook the bacon until crisp.  Drain, cool, crumble, and set aside.  I personally only cook the bacon until ALMOST crisp.  I like the chewy firm option.

Yea, go ahead, laugh…

I find really crispy bacon, while it crumbles nicely, stays too hard and can hurt the teeth when you bite into it.  I also keep more of the bacon grease to add to the dish since I have doubled the liquids and spices.  AND, let’s face it, I am from The South, so I obviously have a love affair with it.  I want lots of flavor.  Flavor rides on fat.

Don’t talk to me about healthy.  This recipe contains beans.  I call that “healthy enough”.

With 1 tablespoon (yea, right) of the bacon grease, sauté the diced onion pieces until just tender.

Drop in the bacon pieces.

Add the mustard and brown sugar and mix into the onion and bacon.

Drain the cooked or canned bean water into another container.  Reserve at least a ½ cup of the bean water to whisk in the cornstarch to avoid lumps. 

Pour at least 1 cup of bean water into the onion mixture and heat a a few minutes.  Yes, a 'few'. You will get a feel for this.

Stir the cornstarch combination in with the onion mixture.

While the cornstarch mixture heats, I add the beans, but you can wait until the liquid has thickened if you want. Cook, stirring constantly, until the concoction comes to a low boil and the liquid thickens a bit.  Approximately 3+- minutes.

Pour into a serving dish and sprinkle the top with the chopped egg and other crumbled cooked bacon if you wish.

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