Thursday, May 29, 2008

Happy Hour Mushrooms

Do you have a family food that was made for every holiday, all birthdays, any gathering that involved a party type atmosphere while you grew up? You know, the foods that crossed occasion boundaries (not just a food specific to christmas or thanksgiving). These are foods that when you walk in the front door of your mom's, grandma's, aunt's house, you smell home and familiarity. And you know it's a special occasion.

Most of our family foods of this type are appetizers, since usually the main course changes based on occasion. One of my favorites is my mom's Happy Hour Mushrooms. This was a recipe she was given by a friend at a potluck back in Fort Huachuca in Arizona, where my sister was born. So, circa 1980. She liked it so much, she made it all the time for our special occasions. It was the ONLY mushroom I would eat while growing up.

Now that I'm grown up, I also make them for special occasions. Sometimes I like to make them on a random Tuesday, to surprise Tim. He loves them, and I love how his eyes light up when I say I'm making them. The oohs and ahhs from everyone else is more reinforcement to continue the tradition. I remember serving them at our housewarming, and one of the guests standing at the table inhaling the mushrooms (nothing could make me happier as a party hostess!).

Now, if you are not a mushroom fan, I still hope you'd give these a shot. They may make you a convert (or a partial convert). But don't feel obligated. Some people are just not into fungi.

Once you get the hang of this recipe, it's also easy enough to make off the top of your head, without measuring ingredients (very forgiving, and they always turn out great), and to adjust the volume you make (it's a great way to use up a few left-over mushrooms).

In 15 short minutes, you go from this:

To this:Delicious!

Happy Hour Mushrooms
from my super-mom

1/2 pound small to medium sized button mushrooms (I prefer small ones, but they are a bit harder to fill)
4 tablespoons soft butter
1 small garlic clove, minced or mashed
3 tablespoons shredded jack cheese (I use an emmentaler/cheddar mix, as they don't have jack cheese here)
2 tablespoons red table wine
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/3 cup fine cracker crumbs (Ritz work best, but any plain butter cracker is OK)
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat broiler.

Clean and remove stems from mushrooms (you can use the stems for mixed rice).

Combine 4 tablespoons soft butter, garlic and cheese in a medium bowl. Mix well. Add wine and soy sauce. Combine with cracker crumbs to make a paste.

Brush the open end of the mushroom caps with 2 tablespoons melted butter (I melt the buter in a ramekin and dip the mushrooms in - easy, but makes your fingers a bit messy). Place mushrooms on a baking sheet or heat-proof serving plate.

Put under broiler about 5 inches from heat, for about 3 minutes or until bubbly and lightly browned. Serve with tooth picks. Makes approximately 16 appetizers.

Guten appetit!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Product of the Month: Popsicle Molds

I remember summertime growing up, and my mom making popsicles. They were frozen Kool-Aid, and they tasted so great. I'm not sure if she did that as a cost-savings, or due to the lack of sugar-free popsicle options back in those days... or both. Whatever the reason, we lucked out. They were THE best.
Very few things these days are new, we mostly see new takes on the old favorites. Hey, why reinvent the wheel, or fix something that isn't broken, and yeah, all that...

Homemade popsicles are a right of summer, and Bed, Bath & Beyond currently has these star pop molds (in green) for $9.99. They're also on Amazon for $7.99, along with these cool rocket pop molds.

If we were in the states, I'd buy 2. Tim would probably shake his head - conflicted because he's excited to get a popsicle, yet wondering why we bought another kitchen item that will get used only a few times a year. Hey, what price or kitchen storage limitations can you put on summertime delight?

Guten appetit!

Thursday, May 22, 2008


I've seen a few faux-potato recipes out there. Not sure why, but I hadn't had the urge to try one until now. We were grilling salmon, and one of the blogs I'm on almost daily, was featuring this recipe. Perfect! I already had everything, except the cauliflower. I love easy recipes, with a minimal ingredient list. And when they are delicious, double score!

The blog author was touting these as the closest faux version of mashed potatoes you would ever find. And while I haven't tried any others, they tasted like the real deal to me! Move over Deceptively Delicious, this is how to sneak in a veggie on your kids. They are light, creamy and actually taste like mashed potatoes. Someone would probably know they are not real homemade mashed potatoes, but with the various versions of potatoes out there (I used to like Idahoan, instant potato mix - dont judge me), these could easily pass as potatoes.

And did I mention, they're easy? Take the faux-tatoe challenge. They're worth it.

Step 1: boil (you could also steam)
Step 2: zapStep 3: plate, done!


from Recipezaar

1 medium head cauliflower

1 tablespoon cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic *

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon chives, for garnish (chopped fresh or dried)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Set a stockpot of water to boil over high heat.

Clean and cut cauliflower into small pieces. Cook in boiling water for about 6 minutes, or until well done. Drain well; do not let cool and pat cooked cauliflower very dry between several layers of paper towels.

In a bowl with an immersion blender, or in a food processor, zap the hot cauliflower a few times until it's broken up and starting to puree. Add the cream cheese, Parmesan, garlic, salt, and pepper and continue to puree until almost smooth.

Garnish with chives, and serve hot with pats of butter.

* I will omit all garlic in the future, because in the raw, it's too strong. It took over the flavor, and I think the mix can stand on it's own. I didn't mind, but T doesn't like it as much. Our pours were oozing garlic (I know that's not a pretty picture, but tells you how strong it was).

Guten appetit!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Birthday Carrot Cake

This week was Tim's birthday. Happy Birthday, sweetie!

Fun fact for the day: When it's your birthday in Deutschland, YOU'RE expected to bring in a cake or treats for all your coworkers. What non-sense is this, you ask? I agree. However, this was the custom in Japan too. Hands down, I prefer the US style of being pampered on your birthday - someone else needs to have the duty of getting you a cake. However, I suppose it does dispose of the uncomfortable co-worker money collection to round up funds for someone's birthday card + cake. And the same person almost always gets shackled with buying everyone's cakes.

Which would you prefer: Everyone responsible for their own birthday cake? Or, coworkers buying each other cakes?

Back to T's birthday... It gave me a good excuse to make a recipe I'd been saving and toting around with us for the last 3 years! Yes, I do this a lot. I have recipes in my folder that look good, so I save, but require the right timing (and motivation). Not everything sounds good all the time, or the ingredients might not be in season, or maybe it's a stew and you are mid-summer, etc. Sometimes the stars don't align to make that particular recipe for a couple years.

Enter, stage left, my cooking light carrot cake recipe.

Not only did this cake look ridiculously good in my May 2005 magazine, making you want to lick the page, but my friend had made it and verified that it was worth keeping. Fast forward to 2008, and T's birthday, and a lack of american baking tools (food coloring, semi-sweet or milk chocolate for baking, corn syrup... and my list goes on, are not readily available here), and we had the perfect timing for a simple, delicious carrot cake birthday!

Since it would be for T's work, I made them into cupcakes. And frankly, I just like cupcakes.

Mmm, cupcakes!

BUT, then I made it a second time on Saturday night, for an impromptu friends dinner and made it sheet cake style. So we had carrot cake twice this week. Yep, we - are - sooo - lucky.

The sheet cake pre-frosting

We both preferred the cupcake version, simply due to frosting. The cupcakes can't hold too much frosting, or it will drip off. There was a nice layer, but nothing compared to the thick layer on the sheet cake. The small pieces of sheet cake I cut, gave us a serious sugar punch in the gut! If you make the sheet cake version (which I preferred for ease, and was very portable for our dinner party), I recommend using only 3/4 of the frosting. But hey, if you are a sugar hound, then go for it.

Carrot Sheet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
from Cooking Light

Cooking spray
9 tablespoons butter, softened
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg whites
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
2 cups finely shredded carrot

1/2 cup (4 ounces) block-style fat-free cream cheese
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 3/4 cups powdered sugar, divided
1 tablespoon orange sugar sprinkles (I didn't have these, as I cant find sprinkles or cake deco in Germany - ah!)

Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare cake, coat a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with cooking spray; line bottom of pan with wax paper. Coat wax paper with cooking spray; set aside. (skip this step if you are making cupcakes)

Place 9 tablespoons butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed 5 minutes or until well blended. Add eggs and egg whites, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition until pale and fluffy. Beat in 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon salt, stirring with a whisk. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix after each addition. Stir in carrot.

Spoon batter into prepared pan. Sharply tap pan once on counter to remove air bubbles.

Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Carefully peel off wax paper; cool completely on wire rack.

To prepare frosting, place the cream cheese, 1/4 cup butter, 2 teaspoons of vanilla, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Gradually add 2 cups powdered sugar, beating at low speed until smooth (do not overbeat). Stir in the remaining 3/4 cup powdered sugar. Cover and chill 30 minutes.

Spread frosting over top of cake. Garnish with sprinkles. Store cake loosely covered in refrigerator (no! see note below). Yields 16 servings.

CALORIES 309(30% from fat); FAT 10.3g (sat 5g,mono 4.1g,poly 0.5g); PROTEIN 4.5g; CHOLESTEROL 52mg; CALCIUM 49mg; SODIUM 358mg; FIBER 0.9g; IRON 1.1mg; CARBOHYDRATE 50.2g

Also, I feel silly writing this, but in the off chance (not likely), anyone else in the world might think the same thing... I'd like to save you a cake faux-pas. For some odd reason, I was thinking we should refrigerate the leftover carrot cake due to the frosting (what, the butter will go bad?! Bah! Silly, silly me). Even the recipe tells you to do this. Mistake! One overnight in the fridge created a dense, cold cake. While it was still edible and OK, gone was the light, fluffy deliciousness. Leave your cake out in an airtight container, or cover with saran wrap. If you are worried about it, then just be sure to eat it all up on the first night. Yum.

Guten appetit!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Morning Glory Muffins

I should do some guest posts and have my foodie friends contribute their household favorite recipes... I know some really good cooks!

This recipe comes from the east-side, Virginia yo. Michelle is one of 2 high-school best friends, and a seriously wicked cook. She participates in a cooking light supper club, hosts parties with their friends and has old-world italian recipes handed down to her from her grandmother, who lives in Lucca. Um, yeah. Yum! She e-mailed me yesterday to tell me about her mother's day plans, where she's hosting the celebration and having a mexican themed menu. I wish I could hide in her basement and have her sneak me plates of food.

But enough about my champagne wishes, and food dreams...

She happened to send me a muffin recipe 3 weeks ago, saying it was a household favorite (her 1 year old gobbles them up). Looking over the recipe, it reminded me of the Morning Glory muffins we used to buy at Macrina bakery in Seattle. If you EVER visit Seattle, do-not-miss Macrina bakery. Seriously.

After making my first batch, Tim said the same thing, reminded him of the Morning Glories and I was asked to make them again - immediately. Hey, when you know what you like, go with it! Since then, I've made this recipe 4 times. They are always gone within 3 days. Michelle said she freezes her batches and then can take 1 or 2 out of the freezer, warm them up with a pat of butter and have them ready for breakfast in a flash. I have no idea how she controls herself enough to put them in a freezer and wait to eat them.
Note: I incorrectly used cupcake cups in this picture. Unfortunately, they stick to the paper cups. Instead, grease your muffin tin, and pour the batter in directly.

If you make these muffins, would love to know how your family responds.

Morning Glory Muffins
(do not know the source)

1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour (I sometimes use whole wheat flour, or a combo- turns out great)
3/4 cup flaxseed meal (ground flaxseeds)
3/4 cup oat bran (I use a breakfast muesli, and works well. I think any oat would be OK here)
1 cup brown sugar (I dont like super sweet, so I cut this to 1/2-3/4 cup sugar)
2 tsp baking soda
1 ts baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups carrots, shredded (I use 2 medium-large carrots)
2 apples, peeled and shredded
1/2 cup raisins (optional, but I use craisins on michelle's recommendation- delicious!)
1 cup nuts, chopped (I like a mix of nuts and use raw almonds, sunflower seeds, and raw pecans)
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla

Pre-heat oven to 350 (176 in celsius!).

Mix together flour, flaxseed meal, oat bran, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl. Stir in carrots, apples, raisins and nuts.

Add milk, eggs and vanilla and stir until everything is moistened. However, do not over mix.

Grease a muffin pan (I use Pam). Fill muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake at 350 F for 15-20 minutes. Yields 15 medium muffins.

You are probably sick of reading by now, but this is worth an extra minute - I promise!

I forgot to mention how healthy these muffins are. I was going on and on about the deliciousness, and I neglected to tell you the secondary reason they are so fantastic! Flaxseeds have an abundance of omega-3 fatty acids. The benefits of flaxseeds have been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, helping with varicose veins, reducing blood pressure, reducing cholesterol, and acting as a possible benefit to arthritis conditions (click here for more info on omega-3 fatty acids). While you can gain the omega-3 fatty acids in fish (such as salmon), flax are SIX times richer than most fish oils. So go ahead, flax it up!

Guten appetit!