December 15, 2008

Gingerbread House Made with Love

About a week ago, TLMM used a pattern from a web site called Gingerbread Lane to make the parts for a gingerbread house.   This weekend, we assembled and decorated it!  

Icing (mortar):

1 box confectioner's sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
3 egg whites

Put in mixer and mix on high speed for seven minutes.

Yes- seven minutes and then you have very thick icing ready to be piped on to the house sections to assemble!  We bought a piece of foam core at the office store to build the house on.  

Put 1/2 a cup at a time in a decorating bag.  

First, assemble walls, using the icing as glue inside and out.

Put on foam core and then use icing to secure.  Let the walls dry for 1/2 an hour or so until the icing hardens.  It has to be dry to make it stable enough to hold the roof.

Time for the roof.  Let it all dry for an hour before continuing to decorate.

We used a variety of candies to decorate!  Green and red M&M's, Nilla Wafers, Licorice, Gumdrops, pretzels (sticks- thin and thick), peppermints, spearmint leaves, coconut...

Icing the top of the roof covers mistakes which you will have no matter how good you are at building, it also makes the gingerbread house look snow-covered.

Building the fence!

Fence close-up.  Just have fun decorating using all the candy you want!  The decorating is the fun part.  Building it takes time and patience, but it was all worth it.  So check out the Gingerbread Lane website for the gingerbread recipes and more house designs, templates and ideas.   This was challenging, even for us adults- but also a lot of fun...and the eggs.

December 10, 2008

A Beautiful Disaster- Red Devils Food Cake

TLMM's mother, Marilyn, recently celebrated her 72 birthday.  She requested a red devil's food cake and we were happy to oblige.  It all started out so well.

2 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup shortening
3 eggs (beat to creamy)
1 ounce (1 bottle) red food coloring
3 cups sifted cake flour
1 pinch salt
4 1/2 Tablespoons cocoa
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoon vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Mix sugar, shortening and already beaten eggs.

Add food coloring.

Continue to add the food coloring until you have emptied a small bottle (1 ounce of food coloring) into batter. Sift flour, cocoa, salt. Add flour mixture and 1 1/2 cups buttermilk alternately into shortening mixture- begin w/flour and end with flour. Mix the vinegar and baking soda together and then fold it into the cake batter.

Pour into 3 greased and lightly floured cake pans. They can be 8" or 9" pans. Put into oven preheated to 350 degrees for about 25 minutes.

Cake is finished when toothpick comes out clean.  Let it cool for 10 minutes and then loosen around edges with a butter knife.  Flip onto cooling racks and let cake cool completely.

That was the easy part.  Both the cake and the icing recipe were handed down by TLMM's grandmother who left vague instructions and who also baked without recipes, often inventing as she went.  


3 egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Bring the sugar and water to a boil until it forms a thin stream.  Beat egg whites until they form stiff peaks and add the sugar and water.  Add vanilla and powdered sugar.  Beat until stuff.  

Those are the only written instructions we have- and they seem fairly straightforward.  Well,  it didn't work.  We aren't sure what happened but suspect that we either beat the egg whites for too long or let them sit too long as we boiled the water and sugar.  We just don't know.  The icing was very soft but tasted fine, so we let it cool down and iced the cake.  That's when the three layers started sliding around and we lost control of our baking project.  

The beautiful disaster.  At this point, we figured that was the worst of it.  It wasn't pretty but promised to taste great.  We covered the cake and cut into it after dinner.

When we were ready for cake, we sang happy birthday (of course) and then with great anticipation, started slicing away.  The cake had undergone a transformation in the hours it sat.  It seemed that the cake absorbed the icing - or something- and had turned very dense.  It was like a scone.  The icing, once thick and slathered, had disappeared into the cake.  Even after some research, we can't figure out what went wrong.  The cake was different- not bad- but not the devil's food cake we meant to make.  As you might guess, this didn't stop us from eating it.  Marilyn loved her birthday cake anyway.  You live and you learn...and the eggs.

December 6, 2008

Pumpkin Pie Recipe!

TLMM finally gave me her family's secret pumpkin pie recipe and here it is!!

Pie filling:

1 cup condensed milk
1 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
3 eggs- beat first
1 small can pumpkin

Dry ingredients.

Warm the condensed milk and the regular milk in a saucepan.

Beat eggs and add dry ingredients.

Mix in pumpkin and then mix in warmed milks.

Pour in pie shell (we used pre-made).  The pre-made pie shells are high quality products and make multiple pie baking so much easier.  

Bake in 425 degree oven for 15 minutes and then turn the heat down to 375 degrees and bake for another 30-45 minutes until knife put in center comes out clean.  

This pie is wonderful- just wait until you smell it baking.  Mmmm.  My favorite holiday baking smell.  Make some fresh whipped cream and you have the perfect end to your holiday meal...and the eggs.

December 4, 2008

Pumpkin Pie!

On Thanksgiving morning, TLMM made this gorgeous pumpkin pie! I am getting the recipe together and will post it soon. In the meantime, I downloaded the photographs, saw this one, and just had to share. Food porn at its finest...and the eggs.

November 26, 2008

Pumpkin Cookies!

Bake up a batch of these, it's easy, quick and the kids love 'em! I have seen a few recipes for pumpkin cookies, but decided to use Marilyn Moon's recipe since it has been tried and tested through a few generations!  

Follow the directions on her card, above, as I did!  I made a simple butter frosting and frosted half of the cookies.

Sift flour, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.  Cream sugar, crisco and eggs.  Add vanilla and pumpkin.  

Add flour mixture a bit at a time.  Mix well.  You can add chocolate chips (baby or regular size) at this point if desired.

Drop spoonfuls on greased cookie sheet.  We used a tablespoon amount of dough.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes.

We doubled the recipe and made enough to fill a large and a small tin.  Freeze what you don't plan to use within a day or two- it keeps the cookies fresh.  I iced half of them with the following simple butter frosting recipe:

1/3 cup butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound (3 1/2 cups) sifted confectioners sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons milk  

Frost after cookies have cooled completely. Let the cookies sit on the counter for a few minutes until frosting hardens.

Happy Thanksgiving...and the eggs.

November 19, 2008

Toasted Spiced Pecans!

It's the most wonderful time of the year... time to start planning and baking and dreaming about those foods we pour our hearts into during the holidays. This year, my holiday baking started with a trip to Robert is Here and bags of fresh pecans!

4 cups shelled pecans (do as I say, not as I do)
1 stick butter
1 tablespoon Lowery's seasoned salt
2 teaspoons Worchestershire sauce

Shell the pecans. This takes finesse. Finesse that I thought I had but found out that I don't. Hopefully you bought shelled nuts.  The close-up was meant to hide the fact that most of the nuts were in pieces instead of halves.

Melt butter in a large skillet. Add salt and Worchestershire sauce. Mix. Add pecans. Stir until well coated. Spread them out on one layer in jelly roll pan. Bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes, stirring after 15. Place on paper towels to dry and cool.

As you can see, these are quite easy.  When you taste them (as long as you bought shelled), you realize they are deceptively easy- the people you share them with will think there is a lot more to making them than there is.  These are a real crowd pleaser!  If you aren't going to eat them within a couple of days, place them in an airtight container in the freezer.  One holiday recipe down, many more to go- pumpkin cookie recipe coming next...and the eggs.

November 15, 2008

Jim's Steaks-the forgotten post!

During a recent trip to Philadelphia, we decided to stop by Jim's Steaks, in Northeast Philadelphia, for a cheesesteak. During our last trip, we went to Chink's Steaks on Torresdale Avenue, which is in my old 'hood. I knew that Chink's Steaks would be nearly impossible to top.

The menu.

The grill!

Our steaks!

As it happened, they were good- but nowhere near as good as Chink's. If you want a Philly cheesesteak to remember, go to Chink's. It's not that these were bad, but they were bland and the grease didn't do anything for the steak like it does elsewhere. There is a happy medium in cheesesteak world where you need just enough grease but not too much- and the flavor of the steak should be predominant on the taste buds. While I have to admit that none of the sandwich went to waste, I would have to give Jim's a C- for texture and flavor.

It's not hard to make a good steak at home- I did it a while ago- see the post here. For you low carbers out there, try just the filling w/out the bread. Hey- half a cheesesteak is better than no cheesesteak at all...and the eggs.

Jim's Steaks on Urbanspoon

November 8, 2008

Spinach Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing (Low Carb!)

One of my favorite salad greens has always been spinach- but I needed a new recipe to put some life back into the routine. This did the trick- and it's low carb to boot. Bacon and spinach are a match made in heaven (what doesn't taste good with bacon??!)

Cook 4-6 slices of chopped up bacon over medium heat- slowly enough so that the fat renders and the bacon cooks without burning. Remove bacon to drain- leave bacon grease in pan.

Mince about a half of a large onion and saute in bacon grease for 3-4 minutes. Add one clove minced garlic and leave in for less than a minute. You want it to cook a bit but not to burn!

Add 3 tablespoons of cider vinegar and stir. Add 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of Splenda. Add a dash each of salt and pepper. Stir to dissolve Splenda and remove from heat.

You should already have a bag of baby spinach waiting in a salad bowl. Time to pour the warm dressing over the spinach and toss thoroughly. Add the pieces of bacon and some hard boiled egg slices (if desired) and give it all a good toss.

This salad was gone in minutes. Next time I will make double! It was delicious- a great balance of sweet and sour. Tasted just like the one I used to make with sugar. Even TLMM, who doesn't much like salad was loving this! So whether you are watching your carbs or not, try it, you'll like it...and the eggs.