Tuesday’s Table: Buttermilk Glazed Pumpkin Bundt Cake

This is the recipe my husband used to make a birthday cake for a friend whose birthday fell on the day of our housewarming spooktacular this past weekend and told us her favorite flavor was pumpkin.  It came out nice and moist and fluffy and my husband’s addition of Golden Syrup and Orange Marmalade to the buttermilk icing resulted in a very nice addition to the pumpkin.

Pumpkin Bundt Cake

I did have a couple of misses this week, well one miss and one disaster:-p  I wanted to make some Monster Cookies but couldn’t find the candy eyes, probably because most stores have already decided to start putting away their Halloween stuff to make room for Christmas despite there still being a full 18 days left to Halloween but I won’t get into that now.  Anyway, I picked up some icing and decided to just make some cookies and give them eyes and fangs.  However, the mouth of the icing was wider than I’d realized and instead I got a couple of Wilfred Brimley cookies staring back at me before giving up the ghost and serving regular old chocolate chip cookies instead.

Anyone want some Diabeetus cookies?

The maple chili popcorn, however, nearly burned my house down!  One of the steps calls for the maple mixture to cook for two minutes before putting it on the popcorn, DO NOT DO THIS!!!  At about  a minute to a minute and a half the thing bubbled so badly that it began to belch forth this white smoke and was well on its way to become tar!  I ended up having to turn the fans on and open the windows to keep the alarms from going off, inhaled quite a bit of smoke in the process, and dumped what I could of the mixture since the rest of it adhered to the pot like cement:(  I may actually have to throw out my new Calphalon stainless steel pot since the stuff just isn’t soaking off!  What I would advise is bring the mixture to a roiling bubble then remove from heat immediately.  The texture and consistency should be good enough to poor over the popcorn and continue with the recipe.  I ended up trying to save it by drizzling golden syrup and cinnamon on top.  Our guests said it was good but it was the one dish we ended up having to throw out:-/

The cranberry chicken I posted last week, however, was PHENOMENAL and very easy to make, I highly recommend it!  Chow for now:)

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Whinging Wednesday: Beware the Infomercial!

As many of you know when it comes to those low budget late night cable commercials where EVERYTHING is $19.95 9 times out of 10 you’re buying a POS.  Now surprisingly a few things I’ve seen on TV actually work pretty well.  I love my PedEgg, that seemingly indestructible metal clip that holds credit cards and money really is very strong and has lasted longer than any wallet I’ve ever owned (that blue metal case that lights up however is a major POS that didn’t last my husband a week so avoid it like the plague) and those furniture slat things with the commercial that has those two supposed sumo wrestlers sitting down on a couch actually does a pretty decent job.  My couch no longer tries to eat me whenever I sit down;)

Unfortunately, I have yet to discover one of these commercials offering a kitchen utensil or product that actually works or lasts very long. Back when the OvGlove came out my neighbor enthusiastically bought one.  I was excited too because if it worked for her I was ready to buy one.  The commercial says it can withstand temperatures as high as 540 degrees and allows you to handle hot objects for longer.  After making a chicken dinner my neighbor tells me the next morning that it was an absolute POS and showed me the burns on her fingers.  This was a 425 degree oven and she said a kitchen towel would have protected her hands better!

Is it hot in here or is it me?

One product that caught my interest was the RoboStir.  A robot that slowly and constantly stirs seemed like a great idea for sauces… and that’s about it.  What would I make that would need constant stirring?  Risotto needs constant FAST stirring not slow and anything else I could use a blender or mixer for.  As it turns out, several reviewers have remarked that the RoboStir just does not work!

Another product that had me curious was the Orgreenic pan.  I admit seeing that slimy residue leftover after the food left the surface squicked me out and turned me off to the idea until I read you’re apparently supposed to “season” the pan with oil before you use it which I’m assuming is the residue you see in the commercials.  Well more research told me that although the company insists you “season” the pan twice a year to maintain its nonstick surface, after about two months as one reviewer said, “I think I might have to go rent an asphault chipper to get the egg off the bottom.”  Another problem is the non English speaking customer service reps who try to scam you into buying the entire $200+ pan set instead of one or two, purchasing speedy service instead of regular shipping, sending you items you did not order and vague order forms.  All in all, I would say buy at your own risk.

And that my friends, is theme of today’s post.  Some items will surprise you in a good way and others will be a colossal disappointment.  Before buying anything you see in an infomercial, or in general when it comes to new kitchen equipment, research it as much as possible and whenever possible try it out yourself but above all, buyer beware!

Tuesday’s Table: Halloween Party Recipes for Adults

This year I’ll be throwing a Halloween themed housewarming party and wanted to find some fun recipes to make.  Unfortunately most of the recipes I found were for gross looking food, desserts, sweets and kid friendly.  This is all well and good but just not what I was looking for.  After a great deal of searching I did find a few very unique, very tasty looking, classy recipes for mature people who like to dress up and look funny:)

An excellent idea for a dinner party (or if you REALLY want to put yourself to work;) is the Mesclun Meanie

This is a zesty little salad served in oranges that have been scooped out and carved to look like jack o’lanterns.  Personally if I had the time (or an army of ghouls to help me) I would make this myself.  However, instead I found these scrumptious looking wings which will be making an appearance, Smoky Cranberry Chicken Wings.

Isn’t that a thing of beauty?

One thing I kept finding were chicken wing recipes like “bat wings” that sounded fun and probably are delicious but involved lots of food coloring paste which I have a real problem with.  Not only are there people out there who have a severe allergy to food coloring but these recipes seem to insist on just slathering the stuff on to the wings.  I can only imagine just how that might affect the flavoring let alone the texture and just couldn’t bring myself to serve that kind of thing to my guests.  It makes me want to gag just thinking about it!  These wings, however, are a pleasant blend of tart, sweetness and smokiness that I can really get behind and can probably be served any time of the year but I think would be most appreciated this time of year at Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and even Super Bowl parties!

Another great dinner party idea would be the Hungarian Goo-lash Stuffed Baked Baby Potatoes.

Personally the few times I’ve attempted Goulash, it sucked out loud and I’m done trying, at least for the time being anyway.  I would probably replicate this with pulled pork myself.

Now this next recipe, I think, can either be served individually at a dinner party like the recipe suggests or in a large hollowed out (properly cleaned) pumpkin or gourd for effect.

This Pumpkin Risotto sounds perfect for pumpkin lovers and super tasty although personally I would make sure to use smoked bacon and maybe add some spices like clove and nutmeg.  It seems a shame to have all that pumpkin without them.

Now that you have the food down, what about drinks?  Sure you can do the old “slap some funny labels on to soda bottles and cans” gag or make the usual fall back halloween drinks like the Bloody Mary or Zombies, but since we’re getting creative, why not go all out?  This website has some unique and delicious drinks that everyone at your party (over 21) can enjoy!  Here are some examples:

The Neon Ghost

Brain Hemorrhage

 

The Smashing Pumpkin

 

The Graveyard

So be safe, have fun and please don’t drink and drive!  Chow for now!

Let’s hear it for the Food Truck!

Ye olde food wagon

The American food truck has been around since the days of the Texas chuck wagon back in the late 1800s.  For a while the general perception was that a person would have to be crazy to eat from a “roach coach” as they have been so unaffectionately called however a recent surge in popularity has made the food truck the latest trend in gastronomy.  In most major cities around the country food trucks, owned and operated by trained chefs and foodies alike, provide diners on the street with everything from plain fare like pizza and burgers  to gourmet delights from around the world including falafels in New York, Baklava in DC, Crepes in Los Angeles and Brisket in Orlando.

While some restauranteurs have gotten wise to this growing trend and see food trucks as a way to expand their establishments, many others cry foul and have gone out of their way to block food trucks from moving into their neighborhoods citing unfair competition.  Some have even used their clout with Chambers of Commerce to influence local laws which either ban food trucks completely or make it virtually impossible for these budding entrepreneurs to do business.

In my opinion, the one thing these restaurants who have been complaining have in common is bad customer service and an uninspired menu but it’s easier to blame the new guy who offers an exciting variety of cuisine to the bored consumer’s palate than to accept fault for their own failings and try to do something constructive to rectify it.

As you may already be able to tell, I am an avid fan of the food truck industry and hope to start one myself, on the way to eventually establishing a cafe or gastropub, and have done tons of research on the subject over the years.  The following are popular misconceptions about food trucks:

You can’t trust food that comes from a food truck!

Food from a truck is no more risky than food from a restaurant.  Food trucks are held to the same rigorous health standards and regulations as eating establishments that stand still and are subject to the same amount of inspections, if not more so. These days many owner/operators are trained chefs who just don’t have the collateral to open a brick and mortar place.  In frequenting a food truck you’re putting money into the pocket of a budding entrepreneur and helping your local economy!

Food trucks have a better advantage than restaurants!

I feel like getting a taco YEAH!

Sorry but not so much, if that was the case more restaurants would be jumping ship to join the mobile ranks.  Operating a food truck means dealing with laws, some unfair, that limits operating times, parking areas, how long a truck can stay put at any given spot and how they can attract business.  Food truck business also depends on the weather and in many cities food trucks cannot park within 200-1000 feet of an established restaurant!

Food trucks don’t pay rent or taxes!

Actually, thanks to the ordinances in place that regulate food truck movement, many have to resort to setting up in private lots or areas where they do, in fact, have to pay to use.  They also have to pay for permits and a license like any other business which of course means paying state and federal taxes.

Food trucks don’t give back to the community!

Every time a food truck enters a neighborhood, God kills a kitten!

Nonsense! Not only is contributing to the community good for business (people like knowing the business they frequent is philanthropic:) but it’s just common sense.  You’ll find most food trucks get their goods and supplies from local vendors, which again helps boost the local economy, take part in charitable events and even donate food to local food banks at the end of the day.  Also bear in mind that through social media, food trucks tend to generate traffic from people traveling from other cities, counties and sometimes even states.  When permitted food trucks can establish themselves on the streets or in parking lots of strip malls with empty spaces, generating extra traffic and revenue for the businesses still operating in those malls.

Let them eat CREPES!

Due to the hostility food trucks have faced, many have organized into groups around the country working together to form truck parks, food festivals and to unify in their fight against unfair ordinances, laws and practices being established through efforts by frightened and uninformed business owners and politicians.  So the next time you see or hear about a food truck in your area, check it out and if you would like to see food truck culture in your neighborhood, tell your local politicians or chamber of commerce to lighten up and embrace the revolution!

Chow for now.

Tuesday’s Table: Homemade Apple Pie

I ADORE cooking.  I get all tingly and stupid when I walk into a nice clean stainless steel kitchen just waiting for me to do things to it!  One of the things I love about cooking is how it allows me to get creative.  Even in school when I was given a recipe to work on I would tweak it because the flavor wasn’t right to me or I just felt the taste could be improved often with great results.  In fact, after revamping the school’s recipe for Arroz con Pollo one day and talking to the teacher about it, I understand they have since adjusted it to incorporate my changes for authenticity:)  However, when it comes to baking I just suck out loud!  You see while cooking can be an art baking is a science which involves exact measurements and a tendency for things to go seriously awry if those measurements and ingredients are not changed correctly and well..

Yo no tengo math skills

Anyway, I have dabbled in dessert making from time to time via the Sandra Lee (or perhaps any of the so called Food Network stars lately) approach except without all the alcohol, cultural insensitivity and the crazy.  For instance, I do love to make pie for gatherings with friends and family but sometimes (usually) I just don’t have to make the crust or pie filling from scratch so I kind of cheat a little.  Either way the results are pretty damn good and takes less than an hour to prep and cook in many cases.  As it is Fall I recently made my famous Semi-Scratch Apple Pie while successfully tweaking one of my favorite recipes of all time:)

INGREDIENTS:
1 box frozen pastry shells
(doesn’t have to be name brand, I go generic, just make sure there are two in the box and be aware that they need to defrost before you start the recipe)
6 apples – peeled, cored and sliced
(I like to use a blend of Pink Lady and Macintosh or Granny Smith apples myself.  If you’re a slow peeler/corer/slicer keep some lemon juice or other citrus acid handy to keep the slices from oxidizing)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons butter
1 egg (optional)
DIRECTIONS:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Place sliced apples in a large bowl.  In a small bowl combine sugars, cinnamon, and flour.  Stir well and pour mixture over apples.  Cut half of butter or margarine into small pieces and add to apples.  Toss apples until thoroughly coated.  Personally I like to put the apples into a gallon sized ziplock bag, add mixture, seal and toss.  Everything seems to blend much better and once you’re done it’s one less bowl to have to clean.
Pour apples into pastry-lined pan. Dot apples with the rest of the butter or margarine.  Place second pastry on top.  Seal edges and cut steam vents in top crust. Now I tend to take the second crust from the box, place it on a cutting board and cut into strips with a knife or pizza cutter to place over the apple mixture before sealing the edges.  I also make an egg wash (using the one beaten egg and a bit of water for those who don’t know) which I brush on to the crust before sprinkling a blend of the sugar, brown sugar and some cinnamon on to the crust. 
Bake in preheated oven for 45-55 minutes, until crust is golden brown.

Food Network eat your heart out!

And the beasties like it too!

Now if you want SUPER simple, Food Network has that covered!  Click on the pictures below for some stupidly easy recipes, of course if you can’t make ice cubes or boil water you’re pretty much out of luck.  

Don’t forget the marshmallows!

The Southern lady knows her English peas

She knows her way around sorbet too!

Chow for now!