Monday, January 31, 2011

Whole Grain Pain de Mie

I know its been a month since Christmas, but I just got around to using my pain de mie bread pan this weekend. I have been meaning to make my own sandwich bread ever since I got the pain, but it still hadn't happened. Well, I ran out of my normal sandwich bread and it was a Sunday...the perfect time to make bread. I save my yeast works for the weekend because my house is generally much colder than ideal and it takes a lot longer for the dough to rise than the recipes suggest.

I wasn't sure how much dough I would need, so I went to the King Arthur Flour website for some help. They had a recipe for regular white flour, but also one using 100% white whole wheat flour. Despite knowing the caveats of whole wheat (it can be dense and more difficult to work with), I wanted a whole wheat bread like I would normally buy. I found the recipe here:

This was the first time I made dough in my new stand mixer and let me tell you: it is wonderful!!!! No worrying about the stand mixer overheating or watching it thump along the counter tettering dangerously close to the edge. It was delightfully smooth running and the dough looked just right.

I let the dough rise for a bit and when I came back, it had already risen quite a bit. I was so excited! I formed the dough into a log and put it in my cook sprayed pan de mie pan. I tried to flatten out the top the best I could. I came back 30 minutes later and it was rising smoothly, but pulling away from the sides more than I wanted. I tried to push it back into place a bit better, but I think that was the fatal flaw. The bread didn't rise much more after that.

So I put the lid on and baked it like the recipe suggested. It didn't spring up to the top of the pan, but it still turned out pretty good. And the loaf is huge! I need to freeze half of it tonight because there is no way I will be able to get through the whole thing. But thats a good thing, it means I won't have to make a new loaf of bread every single week.

Now with one success under my belt I am excited to test out the pan further in the future. I have been working hard to limit processed foods from my diet and making my own bread is another step in the right direction!!!

Beef and Barley Stew

I have been craving more soups and stews recently for some reason. I guess it is that time of year with the colder weather and dreary days. Something nice and hot and filling sounds so yummy.

When I was at the store the other day, I was looking at the various grains and rices they had, wanting to try something a bit different than usual. I noticed the pearl barley was on sale and grabbed a bag. It is an ingredient that I have never used in the kitchen, but have enjoyed other places so I figured this was the perfect time to buy some for myself.

Maybe its just me, but I had no idea that there was regular barley and quick cooking barley, just like for oats and grits. I bought the regular one, which needs a very long cooking time. Which translates into it being a weekend meal (or one that is made on a weekend, then frozen for sometime in the week).

I picked up some stew beef, even though I was tempted by short ribs and lamb. I knew that the beef would be easier to accept in my household. If I wanted to introduce barley and veggies that are visible (and not chopped to the point of becoming a watery mess), I knew that it would be best to go with good old beef. One thing at a time...that increases the chance of success in my household.

I turned to my trusty Better Homes and Garden Cookbook, which has been a standby for many years and did not fail me this time. I made a double batch of their beef and barley stew this weekend. So now I will have some to enjoy now and some to put in the freezer for the next rainy day.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cake Truffles Galore!!!

I recently had a few more orders come in and I have been very busy the last few nights.

Creations include:
- Peanut Butter Delights: A vanilla cake is enhanced by peanut butter frosting, a milk chocolate coating and garnished with chopped peanuts.

- Red Velvet Cream: A decadent red velvet cake with vanilla buttercream is coated in white chocolate and decorated with a red stripes.

- Mocha Choco-latte: A rich Devil's fudge cake with hints of coffee and deep chocolate enrobed in dark chocolate and topped with a swirl of milk chocolate.

- Cookies and Cream: A Devil's fudge cake that is studded with crushed cookies, coated in dark chocolate and garnished with chopped cookies.

- Raspberry Dreams: A creamy vanilla cake that is taken to the next level with Chambourd buttercream and white chocolate then topped with a red swirl.

Monday, January 24, 2011

My last cooking creme video!!

I finished up my last cooking creme video last night. I will edit it and upload it tonight and submit it tomorrow. I just can't wait.

I think this video went so much better than my earlier videos. I love the recipe and I didn't have any trouble talking about it or the Santa Fe Blend cooking creme. It was a great way to end the competition, on such a high note.

For this recipe, I made a combination of a Cuban sandwich and chicken cordon bleu with a Santa Fe cooking creme sauce. A typical Cuban sandwich has pork, ham, pickles, mustard and a crusty bread. So I deconstructed it a bit. I put ham and Santa Fe cooking cream in the center of pounded out pork chops and rolled them up like chicken cordon bleu. Then I covered the outside in bread crumbs, secured with toothpicks and cooked them in the oven.

The sauce utilizes the remainder of the cooking creme, combined with butter and milk. The sauce is then poured over the pork roulades when served, accompanied by pickle spears and crusty French bread. I also made some sauteed sweet potatoes and onions to complete the meal.

I can't tell you how proud I am of the recipe and of the video. I really feel good about the video. They usually stress me out. I don't say a whole lot during the course of a normal day, so its a big leap to talk so much at one time for the videos! But I wasn't stressed this time. I had an idea what I wanted to talk about, but didn't plan it out word for word. That seems to be the best tactic for me.

I am just so very happy to end the contest on a high note. Now it is just time to sit and wait for the winners to be announced. They said on the website today that two winners will be announced next week and honestly my heart skipped a beat or two. I hope that they loved my recipes and videos!!!!

Here it is!!!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Craving s'mores!!!

Ever since I made the apple danishes the other day, I have had s'mores on the brain. The excess brown sugar that was on the cookie sheet cooked and made the house smell just like s'mores. Last night I decided that was just what I wanted to make. But the thing was that I didn't have an Hershey's bars or large marshmallows. I did have graham crackers, some semisweet chocolate chips, nutella and mini marshmallows.

Since I couldn't exactly skewer lots of little marshmallows, I figured the broiler would be the best option. So I took my graham crackers and put them on a cookie sheet. I put a bunch of chocolate chips on one side and marshmallows on the other. I moved the oven rack up close to the broiler and stuck in my s'mores. I turned around to wash two pots from dinner and the marshmallows and edges of the graham cracker were already dark, but not burnt yet.

So two things I learned were to watch the broiler VERY carefully and put the marshmallow side on top of the chocolate side, not the other way around, because all the soft melty chocolate chips will just fall right off. I was very happy with my s'mores and gobbled them up quickly.

But then I had a nagging feeling...what would it be like with chocolate hazelnut spread (Nutella!) and mini marshmallows. Hmm, I could make them again the next night, when my husband would be back from out of town. Or I could just satisfy my curiosity then and there and make another s'more without him being the wiser.

So guess which I chose? What do you think?

Of course I made another one! The Nutella was actually really good in place of chocolate chips. It has a strong flavor and it married perfectly with the marshmallows. Curiosity satisfied...chocolate craving satisfied...s'more's craving satisfied.

The only problem is that I now realize I have everything in my pantry to make yummy delicious s'mores. And they are calling me, yet again!

White wine and garlic shrimp with cheddar grits

My husband was out of town last night, so I decided to make something for dinner that he wouldn't normally eat (without lots of coaxing, anyway)...shrimp and grits.

But not just plain shrimp and grits, I made a garlic and white wine sauce with the shrimp and added peas. I was really hungry and feeling a bit lazy so I used garlic powder rather than mincing fresh garlic. Normally I would prefer a clove of fresh garlic, but it was getting late! For the grits, I used milk instead of water and added some butter, garlic and cheddar. It all made for a very yummy dinner. In fact, it was sooo good I didn't even think to take a picture before I inhaled it!

Here's how it went:

Cheddar Grits:
1 cup milk
1/4 cup quick cooking grits
dash salt
garlic powder to taste
2 teaspoons butter (ish)
1 ounce extra sharp cheddar cheese, chopped into small pieces

- Gently bring the milk to a boil over medium heat. Whisk in the grits and salt.
- Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the grits become thick and creamy.
- Remove from the heat and add in the garlic powder and cheddar. Stir until the cheddar is melted and fully combined.

White wine and garlic shrimp:
2 teaspoons butter
1 serving precooked shrimp, thawed and tails removed
1/2 cup frozen peas
salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste
1/4 cup white wine

- Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium high heat. Add in the shrimp and peas.
- Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder (if using fresh garlic, add minced garlic to the butter and cook for 2 minutes before adding the shrimp).
- Cook for 2-3 minutes, then add the white wine. Bring to a boil and cook until the sauce has reduced about 5 minutes. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Apples and Cream Cheese Danishes

For my second original flavor Kraft Cooking Creme video, I went for another sweet option: cream cheese and apple danishes. Since I was still stuck at home from the ice and snow, I made my apple filling from scratch. But this recipe can be made even easier by using premade apple pie filling. I used premade pie dough to make these danishes easier, but there is nothing stopping you from using your own pie dough.

Other options with the cream cheese would be cherries (topped with coarse white sugar and cinnamon), chopped chocolate (topped with coarse white sugar), chopped pecans (with brown sugar and cinnamon on top), sweetened peaches (topped with coarse white sugar and a little nutmeg or ginger).

These danishes are really yummy and easy to make. They don't take a lot of effort, but really shine when it comes to flavor and presentation. I've kept leftovers in the fridge and reheat them for 17-20 seconds in the microwave. The dough isn't quite as crisp as it was from the oven, but I am still enjoying every bite!

Wish me luck in the contest!!!!

Check out the video here:

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cheesecake Pudding

Sometimes the best ideas come out of necessity. Being stuck at home and actually having time to film my cooking creme videos without stressing over finishing up at the last second resulted in a few recipes that I am actually quite proud of.

I actually started the video off planning on making a no bake cheesecake. I was a little worried about whether the spoonable cooking creme would set up like I wanted, but I forged forward anyway. That is one of the big challenges of this only get two tubs of each flavor. So to get two videos submitted for each flavor, I have been testing and filming at the same time. Sometimes this has worked out well, sometimes it has been a bit of a challenge. But nothing I couldn't fix.

This time I had to make a major fix. While the cheesecake did set up some, it wasn't quite as much as I would like within the one hour time limit. I finished the video with it like that, but overnight I had an idea that I loved. Instead of placing the cheesecake mixture in a graham cracker crust like a normal cheesecake, why not treat it more like a banana pudding...with layers of graham crackers and the cheesecake.

I was finally happy with that idea! But now I had to go back and change the video around to reflect the recipe change. I felt a little silly but I loved the pudding idea much better so I just went for it. I didn't quite have all the cheesecake since my husband and I had eaten some, but I hope that the point got across in the video.

Sometimes a little mistake can lead to a big change and in this case, I am so much happier and prouder of the change! Hope you like it too!!!

Check it out here:

Savory Garlic Pinwheels

I used my Kraft Philadelphia Savory Garlic cooking creme to make puff pastry pinwheel appetizers...all using ingredients that I already had in my kitchen.

Its amazing the flavors and ideas that can come from searching through the pantry and fridge to find ingredients that complement the cooking creme flavors. I loved this idea and it tastes so great!!!

Check out the video here:

Friday, January 14, 2011

New Cooking Creme Videos are done!

I live in Atlanta. We do not see a whole lot of winter precipitation here. Even if we do, it is usually gone by 11am. Not...this...time.

We go about 4-5 inches of snow in one evening which was then covered in about an inch of ice. That was Sunday night. The first time I was able to get out of my neighborhood was this morning (yes, Friday morning...late morning). We just don't have the equipment to plow/salt/sand anything other than the main highways so everything in the neighborhoods kept melting a tiny bit during the day and then refreezing at night.

So what does that mean? More Kraft Philadelphia Cooking Creme videos!!! The caveat: I could only use the ingredients that were already in my house before the storm hit. I didn't plan so far ahead as to get things for recipes past the nachos (using the santa fe blend cooking creme) and roasted potatoes and green beans (using the savory garlic cooking creme).

But that was a great test of the product. It is meant to make life easier and have lots of different applications. By me making dishes using what I had in my pantry, I am emulating what a lot of normal people would do when they came home late at night and needed to whip up a good meal. It made me get creative, which is exactly what the contest is meant to do. I just hope the reviewers like my dishes as well as I do!!!!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Sante Fe Nachos

I am actually ahead of the game for a change. Well, just for this one video. I had already planned on making nachos for the Kraft Philadelphia Cooking Creme Sante Fe blend and bought all the ingredients a few days ago. So even though the Sante Fe week doesn't start until the 24th, I have one of the two videos edited and ready to go. I am very proud of myself...but now I need to focus on formulating a recipe for the other tub of Savory garlic cooking creme, which is due by Sunday. Tick, tock, tick, tock.

Here's the video:

Garlic Potatoes and Green Beans

I tested out the Kraft Cooking Creme Savory Garlic this afternoon. I roasted red potatoes in a 450F oven for 20 minutes with salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons butter. Then I added a half pound fresh green beans, tossed and roasted for another 20 minutes. I normally roast my veggies and potatoes with salt, pepper, butter and either garlic powder or minced garlic so I wanted to see how the cooking creme would work in this situation.

As in all my recipes so far, the cooking creme really shone and made things so much easier. Like I say in the video, the dish is fancy enough for guests but simple and delicious enough for everyday.

I edited my video together and plan on uploading it to youtube tonight. I will add the link as soon as I have it up and running.

As for the second tub of Savory Garlic cooking creme, I haven't fully decided what I want to do yet. I have until Sunday to come up with something and shoot the video. But the snow storm that hit Atlanta Sunday may put a damper on all that, considering work and most of Atlanta has been shut down for two days and my work is closed again tomorrow. So I will need to get even more creative with my recipes if I can't get to the store!!!

Here it is:

Behind the Scenes: Italian Tomato Bisque

Onward and upward with the Kraft Philadelphia Cooking Creme Contest. My second submission for the first week was Italian Tomato Bisque, which got submitted just in time. All sorts of things kept happening all week to prevent me from completing the video earlier, so it all had to come together on Sunday (the day of the deadline).

One of the main challenges with the cooking contest is that we were only given two 10 ounce tubs of each of the four flavors. And each recipe needs to contain a whole tub. So that makes things kinda interesting when it comes to formulating recipes. The options include testing out one recipe and shooting with the second tub and therefore only having one entry per flavor; testing out recipes with the real cooking cream and making something that looks similar to shoot the video with, which would increase the number of possible entries, but feels a bit wrong; or testing out a recipe and filming it as it happens, hoping that nothing goes terribly wrong.

I have gone with the last option for all my videos. This makes the process all the more stressful because despite all sorts of planning, things can always go wrong. I experienced a little bit of this while filming my Italian Tomato Bisque recipe. While I thought I had all the proportions correct for the soup, when I went to puree it, the color and texture was not quite right. So I had to add another can of tomatoes, simmer it again, and then puree it. Now it looked much better. So in the video you only see me add one can of tomatoes but in the written recipe there are actually two. That is what happens when you can't test things out before filming them!

And the final bisque tasted really really good. I didn't need to worry about chopping garlic or how much oregano or other spices to add, it was all in the Italian Cheese and Herb cooking creme. Even my husband ate it, and he knew there was spinach in it. So it must really taste good!!! I just hope my video turned out well and is worth considering to be added to the back of the cooking creme tubs when they finally hit the market.

Check out the video here:

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Pumpkin Chiffon Cake Truffles

A few days ago I mentioned that I had made a pumpkin chiffon cake and had half left over. Thinking this was the ideal time to test out a cake other than a butter cake for my cake truffles, I made a half recipe of vanilla buttercream. I chose vanilla buttercream because there is already so much spice and flavor in the cake itself.

I had some trouble forming the cake balls, the softness of the chiffon cake doesn't lend itself quite as well as butter cakes do. But I was able to form somewhat round cake balls and put them in the freezer, as usual, before dipping in white chocolate.

I melted my white chocolate and the first cake truffle looked awesome! But things went downhill from there. By the time i finished dipping all the truffles, the last ones looked like a lumpy frumpy mess.

A taste test revealed that the pumpkin chiffon cake tasted wonderful, but the physical appearance was not something I am proud of. I brought some to our homeowners' association meeting and got rave reviews for the taste, same for the people here at work.

So I think I will make a pumpkin spiced butter cake so that the cake truffles will have a much better look to them without losing the delicious flavor that everyone seems to love so much.

In the end, my curiosity as to whether I could branch out from butter cakes into fluffier cakes like angel food, chiffon and genoise has been is possible but not necessarily pretty.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

My first cooking creme video

Well, after much thought...and dread...and anxiety...and excitement...I made my first Philadelphia Cooking Creme video last night. And ironically, it was with a recipe I came up with on the spot.

I made ham for New Years Day brunch and we have eaten it every dinner (and sometimes lunch) since. There has been ham with mashed potatoes, ham cheese and mushroom omelets and grilled ham and cheese.

It was time for something different before my husband revolted. I searched through the pantry and freezer to look for something new. There was macaroni shells, frozen spinach, lots of ham. And I had the perfect thing to put it all brand new, not yet on the shelves Philadelphia Cooking Creme, Italian Cheese and Herb. So within a flash, dinner was conceived in my mind and within the time it took to cook the pasta, dinner was practically ready.

Dinner tasted great! And my husband even ate it, even though there were visible pieces of spinach. So I guess the conclusion is that the new Cooking Creme is wonderful! It really saved dinner after a very long day at work then I came home to a living room full of fluff because my dog had torn open the seat cushion.

As for the video, I only had to restart the intro once and that was because my husband was asking me not to move the cooking creme container so much while I was talking about it so that he could zoom in on it. I restarted and flew threw the entire thing. I don't think I will ever think one of my videos is amazing, but I was fairly proud of myself on this one. I didn't feel quite so nervous as in the past.

So in the end, all my worrying over the videos the last few weeks was for nothing. It went so much smoother than I thought I would and I look forward to editing and submitting the video tonight.

Wish me luck in the contest!!!!

You can watch the video here:

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

So who's wish comes true?

This past Christmas, a most curious thing happened. My husband and I each took our grip at the 24hour air dried wish bone and it broke in a way I have never seen. The top of the wish bone broke on both sides, resulting in the exactly same sized piece for both me and my husband (and a v-shaped piece that flew through the air). So do both our wishes come true, or does neither one happen?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Cheese Blintzes

One of the many many items on my 'I want to try to make' list is a cheese blintz. These are crepes filled with a cottage cheese mixture that are browned in a skillet. This New Year's brunch was the perfect time to try them out.

I made a basic crepe batter and let it rest in the refrigerator overnight. When making crepes it is always best to let the batter rest for at least one hour to over night in the fridge.

Using a 7 inch small skillet preheated over medium high heat, I carefully poured a small amount of batter and swirled it around to get a very thin crepe. Since I have hard anodized, non stick surfaces on my pots, I did not use any oil or non stick spray. If you do not have non stick pans, then you need one of those when making crepes so they don't stick. After a minute or two, the crepes are ready to flip. A quick cook on the second side and the crepe is done. Continue until all the batter is gone.

For the filling, I placed about 2 cups of small curd cottage cheese in a strainer for a few hours, pressing out additional liquid on occasion. It doesn't need quite that long, but I was busy with other brunch preparations. Then I added one egg yolk, some sugar and a tablespoon of lemon. Place some filling on a crepe then fold by folding up the bottom half, the two sides, then the top.

The blintzes are finished off by browning both sides in butter in a saucepan heated to medium high. I dusted with confectioners' sugar and served with various preserves.

I tried the blintzes with orange marmalade, strawberry preserves and apple raisin preserves and I really enjoyed all three. I am generally not a cottage cheese person, but found these to be very good. My husband ate one without any topping and felt the cottage cheese might be a bit strong for some people. When he tried it with the strawberry preserves, he admitted he liked them much better.

Another recipe for the 'tried and true' folder, hopefully to be made again in the near future.

Philadelphia Cooking Creme Contest

So today starts off the Philadelphia cooking creme contest and I am both excited and anxious.

There are four flavors of this new spoonable cream cheese: original, savory garlic, Italian cheese and herb, and Santa Fe blend. Those different flavor combinations could yield an infinite number of unique recipes, and I need to choose what would be the most fitting for this contest.

I am excited because there are a finite number of people in the contest and we were sent their new product before it even hits the shelves. We get to test it out and submit recipes for the opportunity to have our recipes featured on the back of the tubs. That would be such an accomplishment!!! And very exciting. And the $2500 prize money would go very far in starting my own business.

I am anxious because it involves cooking videos again. Videos are not my forte, but hopefully I have learned a little bit from the last time around. And we only got 2 tubs of each of the four flavors and the recipes need to use an entire tub. So I basically need to film as I test out the recipes, which adds a bit more stress than filming something I know will work and exactly what proportions of ingredients I need.

I have been thinking through some recipes and plan to get a video or two filmed this week. Its been Philly on my mind for a few weeks, so there should be some good ideas bouncing around in this head of mine!

Cinnamon Apples

I love cinnamon apples, it just isn't Christmas or New Years with out them! I thought I could get away without them for Christmas dinner at my in-law's house, but when the last minute decision was made to make pancakes for breakfast, I couldn't get them out of my mind. It sparked a major craving for apples over pancakes that wouldn't go away. But the problem was that it was almost 7PM on Christmas eve. What store would be open?

We tried Publix and Kroger and ended up at Walmart, which was open until 8PM. Whew, we made it just under the wire. Since I wasn't in my own kitchen and I didn't want to get in the way, I chose the Country Crock tub of apples. Quick and easy in the microwave and enough to satisfy my craving.

That held me over until New Years, where I wanted the real thing from my own kitchen. Here is what I did:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored
6 teaspoons cornstarch
1 cup cold water
1 cup packed brown sugar
generous sprinkling of cinnamon

1. Sliced apples into about 1/4 inch thickness.
2. Melted butter in a large stock pot.
3. Add apples and sauteed until slightly soft.
4. Mixed cornstarch with the water and added to the apples.
5. Added the brown sugar and cinnamon.
6. Brought the mixture to a boil and cooked until the apples were soft but not falling apart.
7. Set aside to cool slightly before serving.
8. Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for 4-5 days and reheated on the stovetop or in the microwave before serving (or served cold, if desired).

Pumpkin Chiffon Cake

I know there are lovers and haters out there when it comes to Rachel Ray. I would not call myself a hater by any means but I am not the biggest fan, either. Her main concept has been 30 minute meals, but if you look at the recipes, there are always an insane number of ingredients. For me, that is a total turn off on a recipe, especially on weeknights. Now, there are times for complex and long recipes, but that those are not my 'go-to' recipes that I use all the time.

But I came across this recipe for a pumpkin chiffon cake that intrigued me. I have made an orange chiffon cake recently and have only seen citrus-flavored chiffon cakes. Pumpkin was not a flavor I had seen before and wasn't quite sure how something that heavy could work in a light and fluffy chiffon cake. Since it is still wintertime and pumpkin still fits the season, I opted to make this for dessert for my New Year's Day brunch. And since the leavening comes from egg whites, this cake is much lighter than a lot of other cake options out there (except angel food cakes, which does not contain the egg yolks like in chiffon cakes).

I don't keep pumpkin pie spice (or apple pie spice for that matter), I just used 75% cinnamon and the rest a mixture of cloves, allspice, ginger and mace. That is close enough to the spice mixtures that I never worry about buying them, I just mix my own since I always have all those spices on hand.

The end result was just as light and fluffy as I would expect for a chiffon cake. And it was super simple to boot. I will definitely keep this recipe and repeat it in the future.

We ate about half the cake that morning. I still have half left and I think I will make a half recipe of vanilla buttercream and attempt to make cake truffles out of the left overs. I am not sure how well this will work since the ideal cake is a butter cake, not a soft chiffon cake. But I have been curious just how many different types of cake I could use for the cake truffles so now is as good a time as any to test it out. I will let you know what happens.

Rachel Ray's Pumpkin Chiffon Cake


* 1 cup flour
* 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
* 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 4 eggs, separated, plus 5 egg whites, at room temperature
* 1 cup canned pure pumpkin puree
* Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting


1. Preheat the oven to 325°. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, the pumpkin pie spice, baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl, combine the egg yolks and pumpkin puree. Stir the pumpkin mixture into the flour mixture until smooth.
2. Using an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, whip the remaining 9 egg whites at medium speed until foamy, about 2 minutes. With the machine on, gradually whisk in the remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar; increase the speed to high and beat until stiff but still moist, 1 to 2 minutes.
3. Add one-quarter of the egg white mixture to the pumpkin batter, folding with a rubber spatula just until no streaks remain. Fold in the remaining egg white mixture in the same manner. Pour the batter into a 10-inch tube pan with a removable bottom and bake until springy to the touch and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 55 minutes.
4. Let cool in the cake pan for 5 minutes, then invert the pan onto a narrow-necked bottle and let hang upside down until completely cool, about 1 1/2 hours. Place the cake right side up and remove the pan. To serve, dust the cake with the confectioners’ sugar.

Black Eyed Peas and Tomatoes

Last year, I made a black eyed pea gumbo, which went over really well but even when I halved the recipe, it yielded a lot of black eyed peas! So I simplified things this year and the results were great! So great in fact, that I totally forgot to take a picture of the finished dish. I guess you will just have to use or imagination...or better yet, try the recipe out for yourself!

I even got my husband to take a bite for good luck! He said it looked like 'bloody eyeballs,' to which I responded 'hmmm... how would that symbolize prosperity and good luck? Maybe it is supposed to symbolize eating your enemies or overcoming any obstacles that come your way?'

Loren's Black Eyed Peas and Tomatoes

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 can black eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes with celery and onions

1. Melt butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add minced garlic and cook for a few minutes, stirring often.
2. Add drained black eyed peas and the entire can of diced tomatoes (not drained).
3. Cook until much of the liquid from the tomatoes has evaporated, about 5-10 minutes.
4. Serve warm. Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. Reheat on the stove top or in the microwave before serving.

New Year's Day Brunch

A few years ago, I started hosting brunch on New Years Day. Mostly because a lot of the people I wanted to get together with this time of year are traveling a lot for Christmas and either did not plan to stay up for midnight on New Years or had other traditions for that night. So I opted for a brunch get together where we can all talk about our holidays and what we have in store for the next year.

I make sure to include several 'good luck' foods in the brunch. Most of those come from Southern cooking, which include pork (because pigs root forward when foraging and indicates forward progress), greens (for money) and black eyed peas (for prosperity).

I believe that a tradition in northern Europe is a round bread, which I didn't make per se but I did serve English muffins, which are round. And my dessert was a pumpkin chiffon cake, baked in a tube pan. Maybe that will count for something.

In addition, I made cinnamon apples (which my mom makes for each Christmas and New Years, so I like to honor that tradition. As well as the fact that I LOVE apples!! And waffles, cheese blintzes and mashed potatoes.

So hopefully everyone had a good time to start off the New Year and enjoyed their brunch, which will give them lots of good luck this 2011!!!!