Just Baked

January 31, 2010

Oatmeal Cookies

I've been complaining self-righteously about the existence of The Hollywood Cookie Diet for the past week or so, but I'll let you in on a little secret; ever since I baked a batch of Gram's oatmeal cookies, I've been accidentally doing my own version of the cookie diet. They're just such tasty little cookie bites that I can't help but eat a few of them without realizing it, and then I'm not hungry for a real meal anymore, so I just eat one more cookie and leave it at that. Oops.

I don't really think that the cookies are good for me, but if I'm going to end up overdosing on cookies, I could do worse. When you look at the ratio of ingredients, you'll see that they're a bit more than 50% oatmeal/raisin/walnut, which isn't that bad. That's what I've been telling myself, anyway, and I'll happily stick to my illusions about these cookies, thankyouverymuch.

I laughed a little when I read the ingredient list for these cookies. I had never heard of using cake mix in cookies, but my gram has a few recipes that do that. Even though she has plenty of recipes that are completely from scratch, she loved her pre-packaged shortcuts. Quite a few of her recipes start out with pre-made soups or pastry, and my all time favorite birthday cake recipe starts as a box of Duncan Hines yellow cake mix. No, that isn't really an endorsement for the brand, but my gram was very particular about brands, so it had to be that specific box of cake mix for her to make a birthday cake.

She doesn't specify the brand of mix for these cookies, but I picked up the D. Hines because I figured that would be the one she would have in her pantry. I'm sure the yellow cake mix of whatever brand you feel loyalty towards to will yield identical results.

January 27, 2010

Avocado Cream Cheese Dip

This is a dangerous recipe for me. As any of my friends will tell you, I love avocados. If I'm at a restaurant and one of the dishes lists avocado as an ingredient? Decision made, that is what I will be ordering.

I'm also a fan of dips. They're suitable for both parties and for sitting on the couch in your PJs. Also, you can dip so many things in them! Chips, carrots, broccoli, chips, cucumber, celery, chips, cherry tomatoes, chips. You get the idea.

This dip is quick and simple, creamy, but with a little bit of bite from the hot sauce and onions. I can easily imagine it at one of my gram's famous parties, comfortably sitting in a chip 'n dip*, next to carved watermelon boats full of fruit salad. If you need to bring something to a party and you're stumped, just whip this together and grab a bag of baby carrots or chips. Yum!

*The Mad Men Chip 'n Dip, as discussed beginning at 1:10 in this video.

January 21, 2010

Chocolate Cherry Ring

Enough is enough! As much as I love veggies, sometimes you have to have something sweet- hence the massive chocolate and cherry stuffed bundt cake currently sitting on my table. I'm not worried about it though, I doubt that it will be sitting there for long; cakes have a way of disappearing in my house.

I want to get back in the (maybe bad) habit of always having something fresh baked around the house, especially because friends tend to just drop in. What better way to go about that than to always have some of my Gram's cake baked up? After all, she was pretty much the queen of keeping sweets for visitors.

This cake is moist and not too sweet. It's perfect paired with a cup of tea or coffee, with just a sprinkle of powdered sugar on top. Yum!

January 13, 2010

Mock Crab Cakes

I'm pretty sure that zucchinis were my gram's favorite vegetable. I say this because almost all of her vegetable recipes revolve around them, and besides peas, they were the only green veggie I ever remember her serving me. My research is inconclusive; I should probably just ask my dad.

My gram was a huge fan of crab cakes. Most of the time when we would go out to lunch, she would order a crab cake plate, and boy was she picky about them. She was right to be, of course- who wants to get something in a restaurant that isn't as good as what you can cook for yourself?

Since her crab cake recipe was so excellent, it makes sense that she would have found an equally wonderful recipe for mock crab cakes. Anyway, her mock crab cakes are based on finely grated zucchini, which is thrilling to me, since I've been obsessed with making zucchini fritters for the past year. Trust me, these cakes, when paired with an easy pepper sauce, are way better than any zucchini fritters you may have eaten in the past. These look and smell (and taste) so good that when my friend Mike saw them, he asked me several times if I had made real crab cakes.

The sauce I made isn't a recipe of my gram's, it's just something I found online when I was looking for a sauce to dress up crab cakes. And yes, you will have to get out your food processor or blender to make it- but it is so worth it. If you're in a hurry you can just eat these with some tartar or ketchup, but if you have an extra 2 minutes, just whip up the red pepper sauce, you won't regret it.

Time for me to stop talking about how amazing this was, and tell you how to make it for yourself.

January 12, 2010

Sneak Peak: Mock Crab Cakes

Oh my God, these are so good. So so so good. I may never make real crab cakes* now, that is how good these are.

I made a batch of these for dinner tonight, and I couldn't wait till I was done editing the photos and typing up the full post to share it, so here is a liiiiiittle peak at what you can look forward to tomorrow. You will make them and eat them and say "Nom nom nom," that is how good these taste.

*This is a lie, my gram has a legendary crab cake recipe.

January 10, 2010

Choices, choices

So what do you think I should make next? Something sweet or something with veggies?

January 09, 2010

Parsley Pasta

"The Usual" is, as you may have guessed, a dish that my gram made for me all the time. I would be sitting at her kitchen table, most likely practicing writing a never ending list of words in cursive (handwriting is very important), and she would ask me what I wanted for lunch.
"The Usual."
"The Usual? Okay."
So she would set a pot of water on to boil and then nudge her tiny step ladder over to the right place in the pantry, climb up and get a box of tri-colored rotini (I would have called them "spirals" at the time), and cook them with salt and margarine. After straining, she would put them in a bowl, scoop some more margarine on top, mix it around a bit, and slide it in front of me. "The Usual." Awesome. This always made me feel as if I was a regular at a restaurant, which at the time I thought was the coolest things to aspire to.

Don't worry, I'm not about to tell you how to boil water and coat something in margarine, although this isn't that much harder, if you don't count having to clean the food processor afterward. Cleaning up the food processor is my least favorite part, if you don't count having to get it out of the cupboard in the first place- I always feel as if I'm going to drop it on my head or foot (ouch ouch ouch). 

Before I tell you the recipe, I just want to say thank you to Sam (and thus The Scrivener Collider) for mentioning Honey Never Spoils the other day- I'm sure that's where many of you nice folks currently reading this came from. Thank you, and I hope you like the recipes.

Pasta time!

January 08, 2010


Just a little sneak peak at the main ingredient in lunch today.

More later, because my boyfriend is looking at his watch, and I don't want to make us late to the movie theater.

January 07, 2010

Flour Substitution

OK, so after my impulsive whole-wheat-for-white flour substitution yielded super-dense bread, I poked around online a bit to find out how I could have gotten better results (besides the obvious solution of just not messing with my gram's recipe.) Here's some of what I learned:

January 06, 2010

(Whole Wheat) Bread

My gram baked a lot of bread. There was always home baked bread in her house. Now, any of you who knew her are probably scratching your head and wondering what the heck I'm talking about.

As far as I saw, she never baked typical bread, the kind you slice and use to make sandwiches and toast to sop up runny eggs. The type of bread she did always have around were quick breads, specifically zucchini bread. I always think of them more as cakes in a sneaky disguise to make you think that they aren't really that full of sugar and calories-- How could banana bread or zucchini bread be anything less than a healthy snack?

Anyway, this is not a quick bread. I promise, I'll make her zucchini bread at some other point, because it is the best gosh darn zucchini bread ever made by anyone ever, but right now I am going to make some plain ol' bread.

Making my own bread scares me much in the same way that making my own candy scared me (until I bought a candy thermometer and realized it wasn't nearly as hard as I had thought.) The bread that I made is currently in the oven baking away, so hopefully I'll decide after this that it also is No Big Deal.

(Ok, an update on the bread, after it has come out of the oven: This was not a hard thing to do, just time consuming, and I will definitely do some things differently next time I make bread. Any less than satisfactory aspects of the bread are very blatantly my fault.)

I think part of what made me shy away from baking bread is my moms bread maker. It was one of those terrible machines that turned out OK "loaves" of bread. I put "loaves" in quotes because they were more of a cylinder, and that just won't do!

The other reason I haven't made bread is yeast. Something about those weird little packets has always worried me. What if it doesn't rise? What if it DOES rise, but it rises too much and suddenly I'm running out of my kitchen like Steve McQueen in the blob? These are serious concerns.

Potential B-horror movie outcomes aside, I bit the bullet, bought some yeast, and decided to make some bread. I had to dig around in the boxes to find a non-quick bread recipe, and almost gave up hope, except that I was sure I had seen a yeast bread recipe at some point during my poking around the boxes. Literally the last 10 unchecked cards in the box contained the bread recipes. Hooray!

The recipe and potential fallout after the jump!
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Honey Never Spoils by Temma Hankin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.