Friday, July 18, 2014

One Pot Wonder Tomato Basil Pasta Recipe

This is one of those recipes from Pinterest where you wonder if the recipe is as good as it is said to be.  The answer to this one is YES!  I had pinned this a while back and kept wanting to try it and finally got around to it. It's absolutely delicious.  I had taken a picture of it when I put it all together in the pot before I cooked it but it didn't turn out to be a good pic at all.  So if you want to see what it looks like at the start just go here. This is definitely a recipe I will go back to again and again.  What's good about a recipe like this is that you can play with it - add and change things up a bit.  I can't wait to make this again!

16 oz. linguine pasta (Do not exchange this for thin spaghetti - this needs to cook a little and a thicker pasta is better for this.)
1 can 15 oz. diced tomatoes, with their liquid
1 medium onion, cut into thin strips
4 cloves of garlic, very thinly sliced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp dried oregano leaves
4 1/2 cups vegetable broth (do NOT use low sodium)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch fresh basil leaves, 10 or 12, diced
Parmesan cheese

Place pasta, tomatoes, onion and garlic in a large stock pot.  Pour in vegetable broth. Sprinkle on top with the red pepper, oregano flakes and basil. (You may want to save some basil for garnish.) Drizzle top with oil.
Cover pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and let simmer for about 10 minutes keeping covered with lid.  Stir about every two minutes. Cook until almost all liquid has evaporated.  I had a little liquid on bottom which is what you will want.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add any extra fresh basil and stir very well until all liquid has been absorbed.  Add Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Homemade Lemon Pudding Cake

Besides chocolate, one of my favorite cakes would have to be lemon. Mind you, I love all cakes with the exception of angel food cake (just could never enjoy that).  This lemon cake is delicious and Bundt cakes, for the most part are fool proof. I did hit a snag with this cake however. It stuck to the pan. It may have happened maybe once or twice over the years with this pan, but rarely.  I don't know why this cake stuck. I can only think that I may have baked the cake longer than necessary.  I would most definitely make this again, and not just use only baking spray. I would also flour the pan. Who knows...regardless it still came out, just some areas of the top were uneven.  But nothing that a little frosting couldn't hide!  The original recipe comes from here. Oh, the frosting is wonderful too!

My new puppy is driving me crazy!!! He is as sweet as pie but oh my.....he is overly energetic!  Or could it be that I'm getting old?  Nah...he has too much energy!  I'm hoping the puppy phase passes soon so I can stop passing out at night! I'll post some new pics of Skeeter, my little shih tzu soon! In the meantime, enjoy this cake if you decide to make it.

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups of white sugar
1 small box of lemon jello pudding and pie filling (I did not use instant but either will work)
2 TBS fresh lemon zest
4 eggs
1 1/4 cups whole milk (I used vanilla soy or you can also use almond)
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3 TBS cornstarch
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Grease and flour a 12 cup capacity Bundt pan.
In a medium bowl whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt.
Using an electric mixer on medium speed, with paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar for about 3 minutes or until light and fluffy.  Add in lemon pie filling mix and combine thoroughly.
Beat in the eggs one at a time making sure each one is completely incorporated into mixture.
Mix in the lemon zest.
In medium size bowl combine milk, oil and vanilla extract.
Starting with the dry ingredients, alternate pouring a third of the wet and dry ingredients into the bowl, incorporating thoroughly after adding each.  You will end with the wet ingredients. Mix on medium speed for two minutes.
Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan.  Bake for 50 to 60 minutes.  (I baked this for about 1 1/2 hours.  It was not even near done by 50 minutes. Ovens vary so start checking at 50 minutes - this could take up to 1 1/2 hours to bake.)  Test with a toothpick and when that comes out clean cake will be done.
Let cake rest for 10 minutes and invert cake onto a baking rack to cool.  Cool completely before frosting.

Lemon Buttercream Frosting

1 cup salted butter, room temperature
4 cups of powdered sugar
2 TBS lemon zest
3 TBS lemon juice
2 TBS cream or milk (I used vanilla soy milk)

In an electric stand mixer, with paddle attachment, whip the butter until smooth.  Add your powdered sugar, one cup at a time, and taste along the way.  Everyone's taste varies. You may not like your frosting too sweet.
Add your lemon zest, then add the lemon juice, making sure all is combined well.
Add your cream or milk, 1 tablespoon at a time and thin out to your desired consistently.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

General Tso's Tofu

Slowly and steadily I'm trying to get back in the swing of posting more regularly. I miss my blog and trying new recipes. Kind of fell out of it for a while there. But for the moment I am once again enjoying myself with baking and trying new dishes, so as long as that lasts, so will these posts!

I know lots of people don't care for tofu but I wonder how many of those people have actually TRIED it and not liked it?  I, for one, am a huge tofu fan.  Discovered my love for it over the past year and I make it a regular dish in my diet.  It has everything in it that is good for you. I tried it originally as a meat replacer since I gave up eating meat a year ago. Ah, tofu is truly so much better.  This version of it is really good. Tastes just like something out of a really good Chinese restaurant.  Found this recipe here.  So if you are a tofu lover like I am or just thinking of giving it a "try," just go for it already with this recipe.  I don't think you will be disappointed!

1 brick extra firm tofu
3 - 4 TBS cornstarch
1 - 2 TBS canola or vegetable oil

For the Sauce

1/2 cup brown sugar
3 TBS hoison sauce
3 TBS rice vinegar
3 TBS ketchup
2 TBS soy sauce
1/2 cup water
2 shakes (or more) of red pepper flakes
1 TBS sesame oil
4 green onions, chopped
3 TBS fresh ginger, finely chopped

Drain tofu of excess water.  I usually put the tofu on a large plate with stack of paper towels under it to absorb the water.  I put paper towels on top also and used a chopping block with a large heavy bowl on it for pressure to drain the tofu.  This will take between 15 and 20 minutes.

While waiting for the tofu to drain combine the first 7 ingredients in a bowl. Set aside.
Heat a skillet on medium (I love to use a cast iron skillet and recommend that) with about 1/4 inch oil inside. I used canola oil but vegetable oil will work too.  Once your tofu has drained slice it into 1/2 inch
blocks and cut those into thirds.  Coat each cube lightly with cornstarch and place in frying pan until browned and crisp. Remove and drain on paper towels.

Wipe skillet clean and add your sesame oil.  Add ginger and green onions until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add sauce mixture and bring to a boil.  Let simmer for 2 minutes and then add tofu and toss to coat with sauce.  Add additional green onions if desired.  I serve this on top of basmati rice.

Monday, July 7, 2014

No Bake Blueberry Cheesecake Tarts

I just came across this recipe over at Nutmeg Nanny last week and knew it would be perfect for a 4th of July dessert.  I mean, really, who wants to heat up the kitchen with an oven on this time of year if it can be avoided.  Especially when you're in the middle of a heat wave. Last week it was near 100 degrees in these parts and this week is going to be another scorcher. So this dessert is perfect!  I changed it slightly by not adding the jam on top of the blueberries and using vanilla extract instead of paste.

So if you don't want to heat up the oven and want a winning dessert then these are for you!

Start with:

8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 9 in graham cracker crust or 12 mini graham cracker tart shells (store bought)
1 cup fresh blueberries (I used raspberries also)
Whipped cream topping, if desired

In the bowl of an electric mixer cream together the cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk until smooth.
Add vanilla extract and lemon juice and beat until combined.
Pour cream cheese mixture into either graham cracker pie crust or tarts. I spooned this into each tart. Approximately 1 1/2 - 2 tbsp per tart.
Cover the tart in either your blueberries or fruit of choice.  Put in the refrigerator to set up.  Approximately 2 hours for the small tarts or longer.  I made mine the day before and put them in two 9 x 13 in. pans covered with foil.  They came out perfect.  You can top with whipped cream also if you like!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Fresh Strawberry Cake and Happy 4th of July!!!

Is it 4th of July already?  That means that we are really into summer and it is beach time.  And I have to tell you that I cannot wait to hit the beach this year. Sand, sun and saltwater all sound good to me.

In the meantime I hope you all have a great holiday weekend.  I baked this delicious cake a while back and I am an absolute sucker for recipes that use cake mixes or add jello mixes.  I do not snub my nose at those recipes...I embrace them.  To me they are fun and easy and foolproof!!!  Like my dad's expression "always a winner" are what those recipes are to me!!!

I'll be back next week with some wonderful lemon cheesecake fruit tarts that I've made for the holiday.  In the meantime hope you all enjoy this recipe it you try it!

Fresh Strawberry Cake from The Country Cook

One box vanilla, white or yellow cake mix
1 (3 oz) box strawberry gelatin (Jello)
4 eggs
1 cup of vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
1 pint of fresh strawberries (either diced up or crushed)


1/2 block of cream cheese (4 oz)
1/3 cup butter (softened)
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Spray a 9 x 13 inch pan with baking spray.
In the meantime chop up and dice your strawberries.  I used a potato masher to really crush up the strawberries.  That worked pretty well.
In a large bowl, combine cake mix and jello powder.  Mix this together well.
Stir in your eggs and oil and water.
Add your cup crushed strawberries.  Mix this part by hand.
Pour the batter into your baking pan and bake for approximately 30 minutes.  Check with a toothpick in the center of the cake and make sure it comes out clean.  Completely cook cake before frosting.

To Frost:

With an electric mixer,  mix together softened cream cheese and butter.  Make sure it is smooth and creamy.
Add vanilla. Add powdered sugar slowly and add milk as needed.  This should also be smooth and creamy.  If you have any leftover strawberries you might want to add them to the frosting.  It certainly can't hurt!
Frost cake and enjoy.  Such a pretty cake!