Monday, November 28, 2011

Memories From Home-Gooey Butter Cookies, A St Louis Original

Fall Fest on the Foodnetwork blog FN dish is having a Virtual Cookie Swap.  The blog links that will be featured at the end of this post (along with this post I hope) will give you all the cookie recipes you'll need for your holiday baking.  
I decided to post this particular recipe because it's the perfect alternative to all the chocolate cookies and candies that are found on the dessert table this time of year.  Don't get me wrong I love chocolate as much as the next person, maybe more....but these delicious little bites are amazing, simple and delicious.  Don't believe me, just try them......

And if you use twitter and would like to get in on the conversation feel free.  Just use the #pullupachair hashtag.  We'd love to hear from you.  And as always your welcome to leave a comment below too.

Happy Holidays!!!

My hometown of St. Louis Missouri is famous for lots of food items- thin crust pizza cut into squares, frozen custard, salami and toasted ravioli.  But one of my most favorite St Louis classics is Gooey Butter Cake.
Created in St Louis by a baker during the Depression.  While trying to make a yellow cake he put in too much sugar, shortening or butter (or all three) it's not known for sure.  What is known for sure is that St Louisans love Gooey Butters.  The traditional one is made with a yellow cake base but other bakeries make them with cherries or pineapple.

A few years ago a friend of mine showed me a recipe for gooey butter cookies.  I was hooked.  I can make them anytime -- they are so simple and delicious-- not to mention portion control.  Gooey butter cookies are made pretty much the same way that gooey butter cake is -- cake mix, egg, vanilla, cream cheese and butter.  Mix it all together and drop by spoonfuls into powdered sugar and bake.

Want to make gooey butter cookies?  Here's how:


1 box yellow cake mix
1 stick butter
1 egg
1 (8 ounce package) cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.  In a mixing bowl combine butter and cream cheese until fluffy.
3.  Add egg and mix completely.

4.  Once the egg is incorporated then add the cake mix.
5.  Continue to mix until a dough forms.

6.  Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

7.  Using a cookie scoop, scoop out the dough onto a cookie sheet.

Roll balls in powdered sugar before placing on the cookie sheet.

If it's a nonstick cookie sheet then it shouldn't need to be greased.  If it's not a nonstick cookie sheet then grease lightly.

Bake the cookies for about 12 minutes.

If you like you can sprinkle additional powdered sugar on top while the cookies are hot.

Serve with a big glass of milk.

Gooey butter cookies take me back to my hometown and platters of Christmas cookies.  But these cookies are easy enough to make any time of the year.  Try them and taste a bit of St Louis - my childhood home.

More recipes to add these to your recipe box.

What's Gaby Cooking: Peppermint Bark Chocolate Cookies
CIA Dropout: Walnut Wimpy Balls
And Love It Too:  Snowball Cookies (Grain-Free, Dairy-Free and Vegan)
Taste With The Eyes:  Olive Oil Oatmeal Cookies
Jones Is Hungry: A Cookie for Chocolate Lovers
The Sensitive Epicure: Speculaas Dutch Windmill Cookies
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Salted Chocolate & Dulce de Leche Fudge
Virtually Homemade: Chocolate Mint Snowballs
Sweet Life Bake:  Polvorones de Chocolate
Daily*Dishin: Cherry Topped Cream-Drop Cookies
FN Dish: Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip-Bacon Cookies
Thursday Night Dinner: Peppermint Bark Cookies
Dishin and Dishes: Pecan Sandie Thumbprints With Cherry Frosting
Mooshu Jenne: Biscotti
Cooking With Elise:  Sweet and Salty White Chocolate Cranberry Oat Cookies

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Mamatoga Monday Recipe- Hannaford Thanksgiving and Recipes With Tips Trick and Tidbits

In a previous post I told the story of how I was going to order my Thanksgiving dinner.  Well, Thanksgiving has come and gone and it’s now time to tell the tale of Thanksgiving in a Box.

Hannaford was open on Thanksgiving so we were able to pick up our complete feast just a few hours before we wanted to eat.  It came complete with a Butterball turkey (about 10 pounds), mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, butternut squash, rolls, cranberry sauce and a pie.  I decided to add a few homemade things: pumpkin soup and stuffed mushrooms as starters and roasted root vegetables and the traditional green bean casserole.

We unpacked the box, feeling more like Christmas than Thanksgiving and laid out the entire feast.  We found the reheating instructions in the bottom of the box.  They seemed simple enough.  The turkey would take about 2 hours; the stuffing and butternut squash could be reheated in the microwave.  The mashed potatoes and gravy could be reheated on top of the stove.

Preparing this complete feast turned out to be simple.  The turkey remained moist and flavorful.  The mashed potatoes were creamy and the gravy was smooth.  The butternut squash was pureed and easy to rewarm, it didn’t get watery but stayed smooth.  The stuffing although not my special recipe was still very tasty.
To top things off there was a pumpkin pie, spicy and warming after a delicious meal.  The only thing missing from the feast was a hot cup of coffee or cider to enjoy with the pie.

Would I order my Thanksgiving dinner again?  I think so.  By the time you figure in shopping and preparation time it’s cost effective and if you want to throw in a few of your own special touches, why not?

This complete feast turned out to be too much food for just the four of us so I had plenty leftover to create some of my favorite after Thanksgiving recipes that I thought I’d pass on to you. 

Once Thanksgiving is over and the turkey sandwiches have been eaten then it’s time to strip the meat off the carcass and make soup.  I’ve never been much of a turkey soup fan but have come up with a simpler way to cook it. 

With the meat that is taken off the turkey then you can make one of my all time favorites: turkey tetrazzini. 

With the leftover roasted vegetables I also make a soup.  By creating a flavorful rich broth first, I strain it add the roasted vegetables, puree it and then add some cream to smooth it all out.

With these 3 recipes you’ll have enough food to get you from Black Friday through Cyber Monday, next year of course.

Turkey Stock

This stock will be the basis for a couple of the recipes – turkey soup and turkey tetrazini
Simple take all the meat off the turkey and set aside.  Place the turkey carcass into a large pot and cover it with water.  Bring the pot to a boil then turn it down to a low simmer and let it simmer for 2-3 hours.  When done remove and discard the carcass and strain the broth.

Turkey Tetrazzini
¾ pound of spaghetti cooked and drained
2 cups of leftover turkey (both white and dark meat) chopped
1 can cream of mushroom soup or cream of chicken soup
1.5 -2 cups of turkey or chicken broth
3 T. butter
3 T. flour
salt pepper thyme
leftover rolls, broken up and toasted for the topping
or ready made bread crumbs

1. Cook the pasta according to the package directions.  
2. To make the sauce melt butter in a large saucepan, add flour and cook one minute on medium heat.  Be sure not to brown the flour.  3. Add the broth (warmed) and stir until smooth and thick.  
4. Add the can of cream of mushroom soup, stir until all combined.  
5. Season with salt, pepper and dried thyme.  

6. Stir in the chopped turkey
7. Break up the rolls onto a cookie sheet and put them into a preheated 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes or until toasted.  Pulverize in a food processor to make crumbs.  Pour them back out onto the cookie sheet and drizzle with oil and toss.
8. Once the pasta is cooked and the sauce is done combine the pasta and sauce together.  

<TIP>It’s better for the dish to have more sauce than to be too dry.  Pour the pasta combined with the sauce into a casserole dish and top with the bread crumbs.  Bake until bubbly about 15 minutes.

<TIP> I usually serve mine with peas and leftover cranberry sauce but if you’re not a fan of peas then just add your favorite green vegetable.

Turkey Soup

Take the remainder of the turkey broth and bring it up to a low boil then turn down to a simmer.  Taste for seasoning.  Seasoning can be corrected with salt, pepper and some sage.  Once the broth is brought up to simmer, leftover turkey and a package of frozen soup vegetables can be added.  Once all the ingredients are heated through, its time to eat!  Serve with bread and maybe a salad for a complete meal.  Guaranteed to warm you up after all the light stringing and decorating.

Roasted Vegetable Soup
My Thanksgiving in a box came with pureed butternut squash.  I could use it to make another soup or add it to the roasted vegetables and broth to add another dimension to the roasted vegetable soup.  But I think I’ll leave it out.  In case you didn’t have any roasted vegetables left over here’s a little bonus for you.

<Bonus Recipe>
The vegetables I roasted for Thanksgiving dinner were turnips, rutabagas, carrots and onions.  I seasoned them with salt and pepper and drizzled them with olive oil.  I roasted them in a hot 425 degree oven until they were tender.  It will depend on how the vegetables are cut as to the time it will take for them to cook.  The smaller they are the quicker they will cook.

For the broth:
Broth is the basis of any soup.  I think you need to create a flavorful, rich broth to create a tasty soup.  The vegetable soup can be made with store bought stock, but making it is so easy why not try to make it homemade? 

1.  First take a large stock pot.  Add about a tablespoon of olive oil or vegetable oil.  I wouldn’t use butter but if you’d like a little bit more smoky flavor then you can use a slice or two of bacon. 

2. Chop one large onion, three ribs of celery with the leaves and two to three large carrots. Add to the pot and sauté for a minute or two.  Season lightly with salt and pepper. 
3.  Add a bay leaf and about 6-8 whole peppercorns.  Once you can smell the seasonings add water to cover. 

4.  Bring the water to a boil, then turn down to a simmer.  Let the liquid simmer until a rich and flavorful broth develops. 

5. Check for seasoning and strain.  That’s the basic vegetable broth.  Once the broth has cooked (probably 3-4 hours at least) then you can use it to make soups, sauces or gravies. 
6.  It can be stored in a plastic containers once it’s completely cooled.

To make the roasted vegetable soup:
1. Heat your broth to a simmer. 
2.  In a separate pot make a roux of 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of flour.  Cook the roux for about a minute.  Add you selection of roasted vegetables, coat with the roux.
3.  Add broth by ladlefuls until you reach the consistency you like.   Now puree, either with an immersion blender or in a regular blender. 
<TIP> If you use an immersion blender the soup won’t be as smooth.  If you use a countertop blender be sure not to fill it too full –hot liquid will expand and blow the top off.  Trust this really does happen.

Once the soup is pureed, check it for seasoning and then add about a cup of cream or whole milk to give the soup more smoothness and richness.

I hope these recipes and tips give you some inspiration for re-using your leftovers.  It’s possible to take leftovers and create something completely different and delicious. So don’t throw away those bits of veggies or those flavorful bones!  Use them to make some tummy warming soup or a filling casserole.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Great Chocolate Cream Pie Experiment

After a less than perfect day at work all I could think of was chocolate cream pie.  A few days before this I had seen the movie Julie and Julie and all I could think of was the scene where Julie Powell who has also had a bad day decided to make chocolate pie.  “One thing I know for certain, if you add eggs yolks to chocolate, it gets thick.” She says while her husband eats the chocolate cream filling as it spills from the bowl into the pie shell.  All he wants to know is how long before it’s ready.

What I needed to know was how to make the filling.  After some searching and tweeting with my fellow food blogger friends I found a recipe that I thought would work with what I had on hand.
I did a search to see if I could find the chocolate cream pie recipe that was in the movie.  I did find a site that says it had one based on the movie but I should have known it wasn’t since the photo they used was one of a piece of cake not pie.  But I tried it anyway…..

The basis of the pie is thickened cocoa and sugar that you add egg yolks and milk to.  It’s all cooked on top of the stove then cooled and poured into a pie crust.  Sounds simple enough? Yeah, I thought so too.  But for some reason it just didn’t work for me.
My first step was to make the graham cracker crust.  There is some debate as to whether you should use a baked pie shell or a graham cracker crust.  To me this is all personal preference, and I prefer a graham cracker crust.  They're easy enough to make.  Put broken graham crackers, sugar and some melted butter into a food processor until the mixture becomes easy to form. 

Put the graham cracker crumbs into a pie shell and firm it down.  I've found using the bottom of a measuring cup helps.

Now it was time to make the filling.  I had only 2 large eggs and the recipe called for 3.  

 I followed the recipe to a “T” up until adding the egg yolks.  Since I only had 2 large ones my husband decided he would go to the store and get more eggs.  The pudding was starting to thicken while he was gone but I decided to add the last egg yolk.  That’s when it all went wrong.  After I added the last egg yolk, the filling stopped thickening all together.  Not sure why.  I took the filling off the stove and let it cool, still did not thicken. 

So I took the heavy cream that I going to whip for the topping and whipped it and added it to the filling.  Better but still not set.

The next day I tried some.  Couldn’t slice it, it was too loose so I took a spoon and scooped some out.  Couldn’t even take a photo of it, it looked like a spoonful of pudding on a plate.  But it did taste good.  So lesson learned.  Sometimes when you want something so badly and you get it, maybe it’s not what you should have had in the first place. Or maybe even if it’s not perfect it's okay as long as it tastes good.

Here’s the recipe I used.  If you dare try it, please feel free to let me know your results.

3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1/3 cup flour
1 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1 cup water divided
2/3 cup milk
2 Tablespoons butter or margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla
baked pie crust or graham cracker crust - 9 inch

1. Mix cocoa and flour in the top of a double boiler over hot water and whisk in about half of the water, just enough to make a smooth paste.
2. Blend in the sugar and the beaten egg yolks and add the remaining water and milk.  Cook over low until thick; add butter and vanilla.  Pour into pie crust.  Top with whipped cream  and chill thoroughly.
Cook time: 15 minutes -- Serves 8.

I cooked my pudding for a lot longer than 15 minutes and it still didn't get thick.  I guess the next time I want chocolate pie I'll head over to the frozen case or try again using a box of old fashioned cooked pudding.
Have an cooking experiment you'd like share?
Have a fool proof chocolate cream pie recipe?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mamatoga Monday- Thanksgiving Traditions Sometimes Change

Thanksgiving is one the most special and unique of holidays.  It’s time for family to come together and spend time enjoying each other’s company and catching up on each other’s lives around the table.  Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. Although my family was never one of those families that held hands and told each other why we were thankful.  But we did share lots of food and laughs around the table together.

Our Thanksgivings have changed over the last 7 years or so.  My father and mother have both passed away and we made our major life change and moved over 1500 miles away from our hometown.  But all in all we’ve created new traditions, with our smaller family of just the 4 of us.  I usually make some sort of appetizers, this year will be stuffed mushroom caps and a soup, probably French onion or pumpkin.  

Pumpkin soup- recipe in previous post.

Then this year I’ve decided to order my Thanksgiving dinner from a local grocery store – Hannaford.  Sounds a little strange for someone who writes a food blog to order out her Thanksgiving dinner but this year we had extenuating circumstances.  My mother in law had been in the hospital and my husband wasn’t sure if he would be here in NY with us or in MO with her for Thanksgiving. So I thought it would be more practical to order the dinner as well as simpler too.

 I would have loved to make a big turkey with my mom’s recipe for sage dressing along with loads of fresh baked breads and tons of pies, but it just didn’t seem realistic this year.  Sometimes life gets in the way of traditions.  Sometimes new traditions are born out of life’s happenings.  Our daughter was born the week before Thanksgiving which meant that it wasn’t practical for me to host the dinner all by myself so we did it pot luck style.  My mom made the turkey and dressing which became a tradition for many years after that.  I made the bread and the pies and others were responsible for all the other sides.  This always worked for us.   When we decided to have the dinner at my sister’s house, which was about 30 minutes away, we would pack up the roaster filled with the cooked turkey and dressing along with the fresh baked breads and pies.  

It was all we could do not to pull over and have a picnic, the delicious scent was too much. I still have the roaster that my mom made the turkey and dressing in along with the recipe and have used it on many Thanksgivings.
Since my parents have passed away, we’ve moved and children have had children (my brother and sister both have grandchildren) new traditions have been born out of necessity.  We’re not as close as we once were.  We’ve raised our families with 1500 miles between us, but still on Thanksgiving I still feel my family near me.  The four of us sit here at our table in NY and through the power of the internet we can “talk” to our families on our computers.  Share what we ate, share what’s been happening, even see the newest members of the family.  I know it’s not the same as being there, but it’s close.  Just like ordering my Thanksgiving dinner – not the same as cooking it, but it’s close.
Next Monday I’ll have a review of the dinner with pictures.

Hope everyone has a blessed and wonderful Thanksgiving.  
Remember: Wear your stretchy pants!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Thanksgiving Starter -- Curried Pumpkin Soup

It's that time again -- Thanksgiving.  Every foodies favorite holiday.  Food Network and their blog FN Dish decided to celebrate by asking foodies to share their favorite Thanksgiving recipe and to "pull up a chair" to their virtual Thanksgiving table.  After this post there will be links to the participants and their recipes, so that you can pull up a chair with us.

My family prefers a traditional Thanksgiving, especially since we moved so far from our family and friends and haven't had Thanksgiving with our extended family in five years.  When we lived in St. Louis with our family a traditional Thanksgiving consisted of roast turkey (made by my mom) and sage stuffing (also made by my mom), home made bread (made by me), pies - usually pumpkin, pecan, apple and possibly chocolate (also made by me) and then all the sides -- green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes (usually made by my brother in law), and various other vegetables.  I love cranberry sauce, but I prefer the kind that comes out of the can and stays in the shape of the can.  Gross to some people, a fond childhood memory for me.
But in recent years we've expanded our Thanksgiving horizons and have added a few new traditions.  One of those being pumpkin soup.  I've made pumpkin soup with cream, with craisin and apple topping and most recently curried.
When my husband said that he needed an appetizer for his office Thanksgiving pot luck I thought that this soup might be the perfect choice.
I did an internet search to come up with a basic pumpkin soup recipe that I could give my own twist -- the way I like to cook.  I found one on that had some exotic ingredients but the basic soup I could do.

With a few simple ingredients you can create an amazing soup that will get all your guests ready for the big meal.

To Make Curried Pumpkin Soup You'll Need:

Olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, grated or minced
1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, grated or finely minced
curry powder
3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
6 cups of chicken broth or 4 cans
1 large can of pure pumpkin (not pie filling)
1 can Thai coconut milk

In a large stock pot heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Turn heat to low sweat the onions until they are translucent. Add the grated garlic and ginger. 

TIP:  To grate the garlic and ginger a microplane works best.  If you don't have a microplane then mince the garlic as fine as you can using a knife.

Cook until fragrant.  Season with curry powder, salt and pepper.  

TIP: I bought an all ready blended curry powder but you can make your own curry powder blend by combining cumin, corriander and cardamom.

Add the broth and cook the stock for an hour or until the stock is flavorful and rich. Add the pumpkin and stir to combine.  Add the coconut milk.  When the soup is heated At this point the soup can be served or cooled and stored in fridge until Thanksgiving day.

As far as my husband's pot luck went-  the soup was a big HIT!!!  And it will be at your Thanksgiving get together.

Links from the participants (bloggers, cooks and chefs) of Pull Up a Chair.  You can also tweet about your favorites, your luck with these amazing recipes or to just share your Thanksgiving traditions @pullupachair.  Check out the list.  Lots of amazing recipes to try.

Cocktails, Appetizers, Soups and Salads

Sweet Life Bake:  Pumpkin Margarita
Easy Peasy Organic: Thanksgiving Ginger Cocktail
Dishin and Dishes: Easy Peasy Organic:
Mooshu Jenne:  Green Salad
Jones is Hungry: Roasted Vegetable Salad 


My Angel's Allergies: Cranberry-Glazed Cornish Hens


Cafe Terra Blog: Cranberry Pumpkin Stuffing
The Sensitive Epicure:  Oyster Dressing and Gravy
What's Gaby Cooking: Rustic Herb Skillet Stuffing
The Cultural Dish:  Cranberry Sauce


I Am Baker:  Pumpkin Cake
Ladles and Jelly Spoons: Not Your Same Old Pumpkin Pie
Daydreamer Desserts:  Cuban Diplomatic Pudding
Daydreamer Desserts:  Cuban Diplomatic Pudding
Thursday Night Dinner:   Red Wine Chocolate Cake
Napa Farmhouse 1885:  Caramel Apple Pie

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Mamatoga Monday Recipe-Dinner's Waiting, A Crock Pot Recipe

The weather is getting cooler but that doesn't mean that you're any less busy.  Kids still have activities to be driven to, you have to work and still try to get a hot meal on the table.  The solution?  A crock pot.

There are lots of different dishes that can be made in a crock pot so that dinner is waiting for you when you get home.  With a little planning you can adapt recipes to be cooked in the slow cooker.  What I decided for this blog post was to do Beef Stew in the crock pot.  It's always a family favorite.
The recipe I used is from the Better Homes and Gardens book called Crockery Cookbook.  There are actually two recipes for beef stew, I used the one that has a little more prep time but will give tips in the recipe to cut down on prep.
I used a roast and cut up one pound of it instead of buying stew meat.  I just couldn't see the sense in paying $7.99 a pound for stew meat when I could buy a huge roast for $2.49 a pound.

To make Crock pot Beef Stew:

2 Tablespoons flour
1 pound beef or pork stew meat cut into one inch cubes.
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 /2 cups cubed peeled potatoes
2 cups sliced carrots
1 cup celery
1/2 cup chopped onions
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 1/2 cups beef broth

1.  Place the flour in a plastic bag.  (I seasoned the flour with salt and pepper)  Add the meat cubes a few at a time to coat the meat with flour.  In a large skillet brown meat, half at a time in hot oil.

2. Meanwhile in the bottom of a 3 1/3- 4 quart crock pot layer potatoes, carrots, celery and onion.  Add garlic, basil and thyme; add meat.

3. Pour broth into the skillet that you browned the meat in, scraping up the brown bits.  Pour over the ingredients in the crock pot.

4.  Cover; cook on low setting for 7 to 8 hours or on high setting for 3 1/2 - 4 1/2 hours or until meat and vegetables are tender.

Here's the tips for easy prep:

If you don't want to have to flour the meat and brown it first you can put the meat in the crock pot raw, add the vegetables and seasonings along with a can of either cream of mushroom soup or cream of celery soup, along with a package of dry onion soup mix.  Or you can turn the crock pot up to high and add a slurry with is flour and water (1 tablespoon flour and 1 tablespoon water) then cook the stew for another 5-7 minutes or until thickened.

Vegetable broth can be used instead of beef broth.
You can also add 1/2 cup of red wine if you'd like.

I'll serve mine with biscuits and possibly a salad.

Have a favorite slow cooker recipe?
Need to adapt a favorite recipe for the slow cooker?
After all who wouldn't want dinner waiting for them when they get home?

Next week: Our Anniversary Dinner

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