Thursday, November 29, 2007

Lots of cooking....

...not so many pictures. As in, no pictures. I'm not quite certain where my camera is. So if you're Catholic, say a prayer to St. Anthony for me. Everyone else, just say a prayer ;)

One of my favorite foods--okay, my absolute favorite food-- is this:

Not the most healthy meal under the best of circumstances, and certainly not when you're pregnant and have a tendency towards high blood pressure and swelling. When my ankles started to swell Thanksgiving night, it ocurred to me that maybe now was the time to cut back on my sodium intake. Which, sadly for me, means cutting out my beloved mac 'n' cheese.

The obvious solution, for a normal person, would just be to make mac 'n' cheese. Unfortunately, I'm spoiled, and I've never liked homemade macaroni and cheese. It's always tasted grainy and gross to me. Yesterday, though, I was flipping thru my copy of America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, and found a recipe for "Creamy Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese." What the heck, I thought. I don't have much to do today, I'll give it a whirl.

I was pleasantly surprised. I'll be honest--it's not the same as the delighfully creamy Kraft version. But, for a girl who's a confessed addict of the "real" thing, it was a pretty decent substitute. It's very smooth; not at all grainy. When I reheated the left overs today, I did put in a bit of milk, and it was just as good today. Not only did I enjoy it, but Darren seems to be in love with the stuff. I felt more than a little guilty when I gave him bites of the processed Kraft version, but felt no quilt about giving him the homemade stuff. I mean, it's noodles, milk, and cheese. Certainly not a balanced diet, but in conjunction with other foods, it seems pretty healthy to me. (Recipe will follow at the end of this post.)

Last night, for supper, we had Farmhouse Chicken. This is so easy, and so delicious. I think next time I make it, I'm going to just make my own stuffing, rather than using StoveTop.

Today, on a bit of a whim, I made Burnt Sugar Cake. The first time I made it, about a year and a half ago, I had never heard of it. A friend/old man/bar patron told me I should make him one (his mom always used to make it). Always one for a challege, I went looking for a recipe. At the time, I could only find one recipe on the internet, and I had to look hard for it (it was some archived page). Of course, a couple of months later, I found several recipes in various cookbooks I owned (including my beloved Betty Crocker cookbook, listed under "Caramel Cake also called Burnt Sugar Cake").

I'll always be grateful to that man, though, because it's now one of my favorite cakes. The recipes for it vary greatly, but what follows is my favorite. I'll admit, 7-Minute Frosting is a bit of a pain to make, but it's definately my favorite frosting, so I endure the hassle.

"Aunt Mae's Burnt Sugar Cake with Burnt Sugar Frosting"
From The Pioneer Lady's Country Christmas, by Jane Watson Hopping

3 tbsp. burnt sugar syrup (recipe follows)
3 c. cake flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
.5 tsp salt
.75 c. butter or margarine, softened
1.75 c. sugar
1.33 c. milk
1 scant tbsp. vanilla
4 egg whites, beaten into stiff peaks
Burnt Sugar Frosting (recipe follows)

Burnt Sugar Syrup
.5 c. sugar
.33 c. boiling water

Place sugar in a heavy-bottomed (I used cast iron) frying pan; cook over medium heat until sugar becomes a bubbly rich golden brown syrup. Remove from heat. Very carefully add .33 cup boiling water to the sugar (the water will make the syrup boil up). Set aside until needed.

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9 x 13 cake pan. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt three times, ending with it in a medium-size bowl. Cream the butter; gradually add the sugar, beating until light and fluffy. In a small bowl, combine the milk, Burnt Sugar syrup, and vanilla. Stir into the butter-sugar mixture sifted flour alternately with flavored milk. Lightly fold the egg whites into the batter, being careful not to decrease the batter's volume. Gently spoon into pan. Bake until golden brown and firm to the touch, about 25-30 minutes. Once cool, frost.

3 tbsp. Burnt Sugar Syrup
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. cream of tartar
a few grains of salt
2 egg whites
1 tsp. vanilla

In the top of a double boiler, combine the syrup, sugar, cream of tartar, salt, and egg whites. Place over boiling water and beat with a rotary beater for five minutes. Add the vanilla and continue beating two minutes more. Remove from heat and use immediately.

Creamy Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese
From America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

2 c. macaroni
2 lg. eggs
1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk
1 tsp. dry mustard, dissolved in 1 tbsp. water
.25 tsp. Tabasco
4 tbsp butter
3 c. shredded cheese (I used half cheddar, half colby-jack)

Boil pasta until tender. Meanwhile, mix together eggs, half of the evaporated milk, mustard mixture, Tabasco, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Drain pasta and return to pan. Set over low heat and stir in butter until melted. Stir in egg mixture and half of the cheese. Continue to cook on low, gradually stirring in remaining milk and cheese until hot and creamy (about 5 minutes).