Tuesday, March 31, 2009

a little pasta salad method

So I have no pictures, but wanted to send out a little post about a pasta salad of sorts that was probably inspired by the food network, but modified by myself over a few preparations. Basically, take a package of orzo pasta (it is the rice looking, short grain pasta) and boil it in salted water. I don't really care if you cook it to al dente or if you cook it to mush...cook it to your favorite texture. While the pasta is boiling: dice one small tomato, 1/3 of a peeled and seeded cucumber, chop a tablespoon of Italian, flat leaf parsley (soooo much better than curly parsley) and a couple of fresh basil leaves. Throw in a pretty bowl. On top of these veggies (of sorts) add the zest of one lemon and either some Parmesan (grated) or feta cheese. Pour the cooked and drained orzo on top and toss with salt, pepper (freshly cracked please), and a little bit of olive oil. If you prefer add more cheese! 

We like to eat this with a variety of things, but it is a nice dish that can be served hot, cold, or room temperature. It is a great addition to your recipe list for the upcoming grilling months...we had ours tonight with beer in the rear chicken...more on that later...

Sunday, March 29, 2009


I rather enjoy cake. A simple statement for what can be viewed as either a simple or very complex food. Over the years, the relationship between cake and I has changed. For my first two or three birthdays rumor has it that I did not eat my birthday cake and had a total aversion to sweets in general. Slowly, I learned to appreciate sweets, but had never been overly ga-ga over them. I have learned to appreciate cake when it is good. I can be snotty about a lot of food...cake is no exception. I rarely waste time with a cake that is what I would consider to be dry...or does not have good icing...or is just not right... I have also learned to really appreciate an enjoy a slice of cake that has been sitting in the fridge. You hand me a slice of good homemade cake that is cold and I am one happy little foodie.

As the years went on I witnessed my mother making a particular cake for friends and family. The German Chocolate Cake had been made into something of legend. Three people in particular always requested the German Chocolate Cake: my Grandaddy, my Daddy-o, and our neighbor Choc (nicknamed such because of his intense love for Chocolate). When I became old enough, I graduated from sifting flour for Dad's biscuits to number one assistant to helping mom make this cake. It is an intense and long process for the first cake maker. You have to sift the dry ingredients, you have to use a creaming method for the butter and sugar, you have to fold in the egg whites. There is absolutely no way around it if you want the lightest possible cake. Helping my mom make this cake, seeing the love she poured into it, seeing her fret over it being light enough or moist enough, then seeing the satisfaction on the faces of the people we loved as they took their first (and second and third and fourth) bite, I knew that taking an hour or two out of my time would not be a weekly occurrence, but one that was reserved and well worth it for special occasions and special people. The trickiest part of the cake is the icing. The cake itself will reward you with soft, delicate chocolate flavor if you take the time to follow the instructions. The icing will turn on you faster than a former Texas A & M basketball coach. You cannot, I repeat, CANNOT follow the instructions on the icing. If you do...it will not taste smooth, buttery, and luscious. The icing has to be cooked at least three times as long as the instructions say in order for the sugar to cook all the way. I recommend cooking this cake and icing it a day before you need it. If you let the icing settle into the cake you will be much happier with your results. Here are pictures...

The cake itself...

The cake as a Box of Chocolates Grooms 
Cake for my Step-father

The recipe is not original...it comes from Bakers Chocolate German Chocolate. The recipe can be found on any Bakers German Chocolate Box (with an ingredient list conveniently posted on the outside) or here. One day, you will have a Saturday or Sunday with little or nothing to do...make it...enjoy it...then make it for someone you love.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

you came in with the breeze...

...on Sunday Morning....

Sorry...my title is a tribute to the fact that No Doubt is on tour and will be performing in Houston! Will I be going to the show...less than likely...but I would be interested in going. However, this post (and this blog) are not about music. They are about the fine world of food. One thing we have really enjoyed lately is our Sunday morning routine (thus the song from my middle school past). We have been varying our routine a little, but we try to have a good, sit-down, Sunday morning breakfast where we dole out the bits of the Sunday paper that we are actually interested in and enjoy waking up a bit slowly (even on the Sundays that we go work out first).

Not too long ago, our good friends Mikey and Tami introduced us to a wonderful (and easy) concoction called cornmeal pancakes. This blog is less about snooty food and more about how to make cooking and food accessible for more people. The cornmeal pancake recipe is on the side of the Jiffy cornmeal box. You know the one...the little blue box that costs less than 50 cents in your local grocery store. There is one change suggested by Mikey and Tami (and supported by Mattie and I) to substitute corn or vegetable oil for the shortening. If you want to try the shortening, by all means, but I always have oil on hand (and don't with the shortening). In the picture we have added blueberries to the pancakes and served with venison sausage. It makes for a great breakfast, but an even better brinner (one of our favorite meals...breakfast for dinner). We both prefer fresh blueberries in our pancakes and frozen in our muffins (the frozen ones hold up better to the batter and to the longer cooking time). And while Matt will experiment with the different fruit syrups, on cornmeal pancakes I prefer Aunt Jemima. I think it is because that is the first way I had it, so that is the way I always crave it. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Ashley and the Chocolate Factory

Over the years I have developed an increasing love for chocolate. As a kid I was not crazy about chocolate. I would much prefer a white cake with white icing (with the exception of a home-made German chocolate cake...but that is different) and I figured who would want a chocolate bar when you could have sour patch kids (I might still feel that way). As I grew older however, I was slowly introduced to the fact that there was more to chocolate than store-bought cakes or a plain Hershey bar. I truly believe that, as a child, your taste buds cannot possibly understand the complexities of dark chocolate. However, dark chocolate is chocolate at it's best and it is what made me a chocolate lover. There is something almost addicting about taking a dark chocolate dove promise and eating it in four tiny little bites. The chocolate is so rich and luscious that you do not even have to chew...you merely let the bite sit in your mouth and let the chocolate infuse your senses with pleasure. Once I discovered that not all chocolate was cheap chocolate...I was hooked. I will still rarely waste my time with store bought chocolate cake and you will rarely see me choosing a Hershey bar to consume, but put a dove promise in front of me or a good slice chocolate cake from the Taste of Texas (another post, another day) and a chocolate fanatic emerges from deep inside me.

These chocolate balls (sorry- there is no other way to describe them) were quite popular this year for the holidays. They are easy to make and fun to gu
ssy up! At the party I first tried them at I was tantalized by their soft, cake like texture surrounded by the hard chocolate shell. The person I was visiting with kept on insisting that it was oreo flavored. Seeing as I had already consumed several other desserts and a huge mug of hot chocolate, my taste buds could not detect that distinct oreo flavor. She was, however, correct.
Take 1 package of Oreos and combine in food processor with 1 regular cream cheese (I like to do this in two batches- keeps it more manage
Place mixture in fridge for at least one hour (the mixture should look like tar).
Melt chocolate bark in microwave.
Use cookie scoop to dish out oreo balls a
nd drop into chocolate.
I like to use a fork to remove the balls and place on wax paper. 
They will be set in about a minute and ready to enjoy or refrigerate them for later.

If you desire, before they set up (this is better with two people) dust some of the balls with Cinnamon or crushed up candy canes.

The other yummy dessert is these chocolate chocolate chip cookies that I found the recipe for online. 

The recipe is good but I make two modifications.
 First, add a dash of cinnamon to the recipe. Second, I like to use a combo of regular chocolate chips and mini chocolate chips. The two have different temperatures at which they melt at thus creating  different textures in the cookie. This makes a big batch so you can be ready to share...or not...!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Friends and lasagna

Tonight we had the Westphals over for dinner. We know them through Mattie's sister McKay. Katrina lived with McKay and when we found out that Katrina and her husband Scott were living in Houston we thought they would be good people to spend time with. We enjoy both of them, but really enjoy Katrina because her laugh makes you feel really good inside! It is a genuine and infectious laugh!

Besides the great company and fellowship, I made lasagna! Lasagna is one of the few recipes given to me by my mother. My mom cooked very little growing up (although  I love what she would make, especially macaroni noodles with canned, diced
 tomatoes), but she always made two things for special occasions (or on request): german chocolate cake and lasagna. Her recipe follows:

"Cheese" Filling:
1 egg
1 lb small curd cottage cheese
1 cup sour cream
1 med. bell pepper (chopped)
1 med onion (chopped)

Mix and refrigerate.

Meat sauce:
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
2 lb canned tomatoes (diced is fine)
3 6 ox cans tomato paste
1 med. onion
Salt, Pepper, and Oregano to taste.

Brown beef and onion. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer for one hour.

1/2 lb shredded mozzarella with a little romano or parmesan added.

Boil a 1 lb box of lasagna noodles.


Thin layer of meat sauce. Layer of noodles. Cheese mixtu
re. Shredded cheese. Noodles. Meat Sauce. Cheese mixture. Shredded Cheese. Noodles. Meat Sauce. Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 350 for approximately 30 minutes. Let stand for 
ten minutes. Although it is better if you make it the day before and let is stand until the next day. 
We didn't take any pics of the lasagna so here is us at Aggie football instead!