Champagne Cake

Folk who follow this here web thing-y will be aware that I have made a ton of “soda cakes” – cakes made with a cake mix and a can (12 ounces) of soda, and nothing else.

I’ve made a Dr. Pepper Espresso Cake, a Ginger Beer Spice Cake, a Strawberry Soda Cake, and more, so, I got to thinking…

If soda and cake mix works, how’s about champagne? It’s fizzy. It’s kinda sweet (even though I used extra dry sparkling wine), what could go wrong?

Nothing, as it turns out.

Champagne works a treat with cake mix and, the best part?

Just as with the soda, you only need 12 ounces of bubbly to make a fine, fluffy cake, so you get to drink the rest!

So.

Recap.

You get a cake. You get a couple of glasses of bubbly. Life it good!

A note on the bubbles. We have several very nice bottles of bubbly in our wine racks, but I was not gonna pour a $40 or more bottle of wine into a cake mix! So, bonus, Barefoot Bubbly, which our local market has on sale for $7.50, makes a pretty darned nice Extra Dry! They also have a Brut, a Moscato, and a Pink Moscato, so you are pretty well covered for inexpensive, but tasty bubbles.

Back to the cake, I went strawberry for this one, and a cream cheese frosting, but I would think a yellow cake would work as well. Play around and fine your favorite combination.

INGREDIENTS
Cake:
•1 super moist cake mix
•12 oz champagne

Frosting:
•8 oz cream cheese, softened
•1 stick butter, softened
•2 cups confectioners’ sugar
•1 tsp vanilla
•1/8 tsp salt (if you use unsalted butter)
•Black pepper – trust me on this

Heat your oven according to cake mix directions and prepare a cake pan(s). I was bringing this cake to a gathering, so chose a 13×9 pan for ease of transport.

Add the champagne to the cake mix in a bowl and mix according to package instructions.

Note: you do not need eggs, oil, water, or anything else, just the 12 ounces of champagne and the cake mix.

Don’t forget to enjoy the rest of that bottle of bubbly while the cake is baking.

Transfer the batter to your prepared pan and bake according to package instructions. I would recommend checking on your cake at the earlier end of the tome range. I checked mine at 30 minutes and the surface cracked a bit. The cake, however, was terrific; and, it’s gonna be frosted so, what’s a crack or three?

Set the cake on a rack to cool while you make the frosting.

Add the butter, cream cheese, vanilla, salt (if using unsalted butter) and black pepper to a mixing bowl and whip until blended and fluffy.

A note on the pepper: I learned this trick from a chef in Baltimore and that little bit of a peppery bite brings out the richness of the frosting.

Add the confectioners’ sugar and beat on low (you don’t want that stuff flying all over the place) until it has been blended in with the cheese and butter, then increase the speed and beat until light and fluffy.

Frost the cake and enjoy.

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Jeanette’s Salad Dressing

Who is/was Jeanette?

I have no idea, and, sadly, I neglected to note where I came across this interesting take on the classic French dressing, so…

Thanks, Jeanette, whomever and wherever you may be, you make a fine salad dressing.

I was interested in this recipe because, unlike so many others, it actually called for a kinda restrained amount of sugar, and, it skipped the more usual seasonings for…

Worcestershire sauce.

Hmmm, interesting.

I thought that this could be really bland or nice, and it turned out to be very, very nice.

Note: Jeanette was kinda sketchy about some of the amounts, making me think that this is an authentically vintage recipe. I don’t play like that, so these are the amounts I used.

INGREDIENTS
•1/2 cup canola oil
•1/2 cup diced sweet onion
•1/4 cup sugar
•1 tsp Worcestershire sauce (or more)
•1/4 cup white vinegar
•1/4 cup ketchup

Place the onion, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, and ketchup in the jar of a blender and pulse until smooth.

With the blender running, slowly stream the oil in through the hole in the lid until it has been absorbed into the dressing and you have this creamy, dark orange blender of goodness.

Transfer to a jar, cover, and stash in the fridge until needed.

This is lovely on a tossed salad, but try it in other recipes, too. Mix in with some mayonnaise and chopped pickle to make a Thousand Island type of dressing/sauce.

It’s all good.

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Pan Grilled Reuben Sammich

So, yeh, this Reuben sammich isa thing of beauty indeed; and, the taste?

Awesome!

Here’s the thing, though…

I made the mustard glazed corned beef, and then enjoyed a moderately sized sammich for dinner for two nights in a row.

And spent most of last night gulping down glass after glass of ice water.

Take note of the ingredients I used to make the corned beef, and then note what I used to make the sammiches. No salt was added, but the process to make corned beef is, basically, to salt it; so, I would suggest mebbe having a bunch of folk over to share all this sodium laced goodness, or, portion and freeze the corned beef and have it as an oh! so tasty! treat, once in a while. I know the rest of mine is going into the freezer and I am having curried tuna salad tonight.

Another kinda cunning option, I think, might could be to just use the mustard glaze on a beef brisket, which would remove a lot of salt, though there will still be a fair amount of fat.

INGREDIENTS
Mustard Glazed Corned Beef, sliced
•Sliced Pepper Jack Cheese*
•Sauerkraut
•Thousand Island Dressing – I used Marie’s, but here is a most excellent home made version
•Unsalted butter, at room temperature
•Light or dark rye bread

*Yes, I know that Swiss cheese is the norm for a Reuben, but I like the zip of adding Pepper Jack.

Warm a skillet over medium low heat, then add the sauerkraut and cook, stirring often, until most of the liquid has cooked off and the sauerkraut is a bit browned in spots.

Transfer to a bowl and keep warm.

If you’ve made your corned beef  ahead of time, go ahead and add the sliced beef to the skillet and cook to reheat, mebbe adding a bit of a crispity spot here and there as an added bonus.

Transfer to a bowl and keep warm.

You can wipe out the pan you’ve been using, but I like few charred bits of sauerkraut that will stick to the sammich while you grill it.

To make each sammich:

Spread the Thousand Island Dressing on one side of a slice of bread, then top that with the corned beef, sauerkraut, and a slice or two of the cheese to cover.

Spread another slice of bread with the Thousand Island Dressing and place that, dressing side down, on top of the sammich.

Spread some of the unsalted butter over the top of the sammich, then place that, buttered side down, in the pan over medium heat.

Cook for five minutes or so, checking after four minutes, until the bottom is nicely browned.

Apply butter to the top of the sammich, then flip it so that the newly buttered top is directly on the pan.

Cook for another four or five minutes, until this second side is nicely browned and the cheese all ooey gooey melty.

Remove from the pan and let rest for a couple of minutes before slicing – this will give the cheese some time to “set up” a bit and hold your sammich together better while you enjoy the glory that is a Reuben.

As an option: you could also sprinkle each buttered side of the bread with some Parmesan before grilling. This is a trick I learned from one of our fave local places, and their Reuben is not to be believed.

 

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Mustard Glazed Corned Beef in the Slow Cooker

I was standing in line at the market and picked up a slow cooker recipes magazine to kill some time. Sadly, it had a ton of interesting, even a little different looking recipes, so I bought it.

One of the recipes that really appealed to me was for making Reuben sammiches – with the corned beef cooked along with the sauerkraut and Thousand Island Dressing.

It looked so very good, and when I got home, looked up the recipe on line.

Nothing.

Zip.

Zilch.

What I did find, however, was a method that looked even better to me…

The corned beef is brushed with a mustard and brown sugar sauce, then wrapped tightly in foil and cooked for four hours on high (or six hours on low).

So…

I tried it.

LOVE THIS RECIPE!

Easy, gluten free, and all of the fat is gotten rid of, instead of soaking into the sauerkraut and other stuff.

INGREDIENTS
Beef:
•1 corned beef – flat cut
•Heavy duty aluminum foil

Mustard Glaze:
•2 tbsp Dijon mustard
•2 tbsp Spicy Honey Mustard
•1/3 cup brown sugar
•1 tbsp dried onion
•1 tbsp dried shallots
•2 tsp black pepper

A note on the mustards: we love the zippy, horseradish-y bite of Trader Joe’s Dijon; and the sweet heat of the HoJo’s honey mustard makes a nice contrast.

First things first, stir the mustards together with the brown sugar, dried onion, shallots, and black pepper in a bowl.

Place the corned beef, fatty side up, on three over lapping sheets of heavy duty foil.

Note: you can toss any seasoning packet that came with the corned beef, you don’t need it.

Brush the glaze over the top of the beef, then fold the foil up and over the beef to seal it.

Place the foil packet in your slow cooker, I used my long, low slow cooker.

Place the cover on the slow cooker and cook, as noted above, on low for six hours, or on high for four hours.

Remove the corned beef from the slow cooker and allow to rest on a board for 30 minutes before opening the packet and slicing.

Carefully open the packet and drain out and discard the cooking liquid – there will be a heckofa lot of it.

Slice the corned beef and serve as is; or…

go the next step and make yourself a Reuben.

Want those details?

Come back tomorrow!

 

 

 

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Pasta Sauce With Beer

I’ve posted my method of doctoring jarred pasta sauce, with additional herbs and seasonings and, well, stuff; to make it my own.

Now, I’ve made a couple of simple adjustments and, in my not-so-humble opinion, the sauce is even better.

The difference?

Beer! Well, beer and a bunch of those herbs and spices and seasonings and stuff.

INGREDIENTS
•Meats – for this batch, I used a leftover grilled pork chop, a bit of strip steak, some cubed pork belly, and this no-carb cheeseburger casserole that I tried. It was much better in the sauce
•Veggies – here I used some fire roasted yellow peppers and a diced sweet onion
•2 tbsp olive oil
•2 tbsp butter
•1 (24 oz) jar sauce
•1 can (14-1/2 oz) diced tomatoes
•12 oz lower sodium veggie juice
•12 oz beer
•6 oz water
•1/2 cup sliced ripe olives
•2 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*
•2 tsp Cajun Power Spicy Garlic Pepper Sauce – or your fave hot sauce, to taste
•1/2 cup sliced ripe olives
•1/2 tsp onion powder
•1/2 tsp garlic powder
•1/2 tsp dried oregano
•1/2 tsp dried basil
•1/2 tsp dried parsley
•1/2 tsp red chili flakes
•1/2 tsp sweet Hungarian paprika
•1/2 tsp curry powder
•1/2 tsp sea salt
•1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper
•1 tsp black pepper
•1 tbsp sugar
•1 bay leaf
•2 tbsp sherry
•1 tbsp sherry vinegar
•2 tbsp Parmesan cheese

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No Problem! Simply add a bit of decent sherry (none of that “cooking” stuff) and a dash or three of your fave hot sauce, to taste.

Melt the butter with the olive oil in a large pot, then add the veggies and cook for five minutes. Add the cubed and/or crumbled meats and continue to cook, stirring often, until any cooking liquids have evaporated and the meats are crispity in parts.

Stir in the remaining ingredients, except for the sherry vinegar and the cheese, and simmer, stirring often, for about 90 minutes.

Stir in the sherry vinegar and the cheese, then serve over your fave pasta.

Tasty!

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Black Bean Taco Salad

Today, we’re paying another visit to Nellie and Joe’s Famous Key Lime Juice.

Yesterday, I adapted a recipe from their web site to make a very nice marinade for shrimp (it’ll work a treat on chicken and fish, too); and today, I have mostly lifted unchanged, a recipe from their site for black bean taco salad with a Key Lime Vinaigrette. The only things I changed were, I used fresh parsley than cilantro, because I am not a fan. Then, I used Romaine lettuce in place of Ice Berg, because, that’s what I had in the fridge.

Nice salad – with or without the shrimp and Halloumi cheese on top.

INGREDIENTS
Vinaigrette:
•1/4 cup tomatoes, chopped and seeded
•1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
•2 tbsp olive oil
•1 tbsp cider vinegar
•1 tsp lime rind, grated
•1 tbsp Nellie & Joe’s Key West Lime Juice
•1/4 tsp salt
•1/8 tsp ground cumin
•1/4 tsp chili powder
•1/4 tsp black pepper
•1 garlic clove, peeled

Salad:
•Romaine lettuce, chopped
•1 cup tomato, chopped
•1 cup green pepper, chopped
•1 cup red onion, finely diced
•1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
•15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
•4 cups tortilla chips

Place the vinaigrette ingredients in a blender and pulse until well blended and emulsified.

Transfer to a jar and stash in the fridge until needed.

For the taco salad, toss all of the ingredients, except for the tortilla chips, together in a large bowl.

The original recipe said to toss the salad with the vinaigrette before serving, but I served the vinaigrette on the side.

Worked out much better for leftovers, if you ask me; the salad didn’t get wilted.

So, nice salad, topped with the grilled shrimp and Halloumi, but it would work nicely with grilled chicken, too.

Hmmm…

or mebbe swordfish or shark?

 

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Key Lime Marinade for Shrimp, Chicken, or Fish

Who wouldn’t love a tasty batch of shrimp marinated in zippy key lime juice, then grilled with sliced Halloumi cheese on the side?

Note: yes, you can grill Halloumi, it is actually better grilled.

But wait, there’s more!

I know, I’m still on that Copper Chef infomercial from yesterday’s post about my favorite pan.

Tommorow, I’m gonna show you how very nicely the grilled shrimp goes over a black bean taco salad with a key lime juice vinaigrette!

I know, but patience is a virtue.

For starters, let’s talk about the key lime juice. I buy this bottle of Nellie & Joe’s Famous Key West Lime Juice from my local market, which saves a lot of juice squeezing. Look in the juice aisle.

Note: this recipe is based on a recipe from Nellie & Joe’s website.

INGREDIENTS
Marinade:
•1 cup Key Lime Juice
•2 tsp honey
•2/3 cup water
•1/4 cup mayonnaise
•1/2 tsp Seasoned Salt
•1/2 tsp black pepper
•1 tsp dried thyme
•2 tbsp veggie oil
•2 tbsp Sweet Thai Chili Sauce
•1/2 tsp ground ginger
•1 tsp Cajun Power Spicy Garlic Pepper Sauce – or your fave hot sauce, to taste
•1 tbsp Dijon Mustard
•1 tbsp sour cream
•1/2 tsp crushed red pepper

Shrimp:
•1 lb jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined

Whisk the marinade ingredients together and stash in a jar in the fridge.

About an hour before you plan on grilling, pour marinade over the shrimp to cover, then stash in the fridge.

Note: if you’re doing chicken or fish steaks, go ahead and increase the marinade time to as much as overnight.

Set half the burners on your grill to high, close the cover, and preheat for ten minutes.

Remove the shrimp from the marinade (toss the marinade) and thread on skewers.

Place the shrimp inside a flat grilling basket – you really need one of these for wrangling small, wiggly things on skewers and place directly over the hot burners.

Grill for five or six minutes, then flip and cook for another five or six minutes, until the shrimp are slightly charred, plump, and nicely pink.

Serve.

You could pass around a nice aioli with the shrimp, but we had ours going on top of that black bean taco salad, so we just used the key lime vinaigrette for that.

Tasty!

Full details, tomorrow.

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My Very Favorite Pan

One year ago today, I was killing time with friends in the living room of the hillside house we were renting in Santa Barbara watching some infomercial on teevee.

Selling this Amazing! Miracle! Lightweight! Nonstick cooking pan.

I was intrigued, and the price was decent – around $60 or so – so I resolved to order myself one once we were back home in far northeaster Illinois. I did not go through the web site, I ordered mine through Amazon,

you gotta love Prime 2-day shipping!

So, after a week of wine tastings and pink champagne cake and more wine tastings and a pretty darned terrific view from the porch; I got home and got my Copper Chef pan.

How was it?

Better than advertised!

I literally go to this pan almost every time I am going to cook something – which is a lot.

Obviously, I have other pans that are more suited to certain recipes, but this is my not-so-new default.

This the pan shiny and new from last May. It doesn’t look quite like that anymore, and is a bit worn in spots, but then, I use my kitchen kinda hard, and this pan has stuck by me.

So… I am kinda thinking I might buy a second…

 

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Another Meatloaf

I don’t really know what to say; I just come across a new and different meatloaf recipe and have to try it.

As meatloaf goes, this is a pretty simple and straightforward recipe; just ground beef, ground pork, seasonings, eggs, milk, and Panko crumbs.

If you’d like, I wouldn’t say “no” to adding chopped celery and/or onion, but there are times when you just want a plain, simple, kinda basic meatloaf.

INGREDIENTS
Meatloaf:
•1 lb ground beef
•1 lb ground pork
•2 cups Panko crumbs
•2/3 cup milk
•2 eggs, lightly beaten
•1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
•1 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*
•1 tbsp chili sauce
•2 tsp dried parsely
•1 tsp garlic powder
•1 tsp onion powder
•1 tsp dried shallots
•1/4 tsp Seasoned Salt
•Black pepper

Glaze:
•1/3 cup ketchup
•1/3 cup chili sauce
•1 tbsp Spicy Sweet Mustard

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No Problem! Simply add a bit of decent sherry (none of that “cooking” stuff) and a dash or three of your fave hot sauce, to taste.

Heat your oven to 350º.

Combine the Panko crumbs with the eggs and milk and set aside to rest for 15 minutes.

Add the seasonings, Sherry Peppers, Chili, and Worcestershire sauces and stir to combine.

Add the ground meats and, working with your hands, mix until well and truly blended.

Pack into a loaf pan and bake for one hour.

Note: if you don’t make your own, check out this chili sauce. It is the only commercial sauce I’ve found with no corn sweeteners.

While the meatloaf is baking, whisk together the ketchup, chili sauce, and mustard.

Pull the meatloaf out of the oven after 60 minutes, then brush the top with the glaze and pop back into the oven for another 45 minutes, until the top is a bit blackened in places and the meatloaf has reached an internal temperature of 160º.

Remove from the oven and let rest, loosely covered, for ten minutes before serving.

Nice.

Simple.

Tasty meatloaf.

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Potatoes With Chives and Cream

A former coworker of my husband came across this recipe and shared it on the faceplace. My husband noticed and shot me an email asking to please try this, soon!

A quick look at the recipe, from the nice folk at Bon Appétit, proved it to be simple to toss together, and also nice and adaptable to my pantry and supplies.

4 Yukon Gold potatoes? Nope, but I did have a small bag of tiny red potatoes that would fit the bill.

Half and half? Again, nope, but I did have whole milk, and heavy cream, so, half of each, and we were good to go.

INGREDIENTS
•1 bag red new potatoes
•3/4 cup milk
•3/4 cup heavy cream
•1/4 cup butter
•1 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*
•1 tsp Cajun Power Spicy Garlic Pepper Sauce – or your fave hot sauce, to taste
•1 tsp Kosher salt
•Black pepper
•1/4 cup chopped chives
•Chopped fresh parsley

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No Problem! Simply add a bit of decent sherry (none of that “cooking” stuff) and a dash or three of your fave hot sauce, to taste.

Wash the potatoes, cut into uniform sized pieces, and cover with cold water. Set the potatoes aside to soak for an hour or so (overnight is fine, too), then drain and rinse well.

Transfer the drained potatoes to a pot and add the butter, milk, and heavy cream.

Add the Kosher salt, a bit of black pepper, and the Sherry Peppers Sauce, if using.

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring every now and then, until the sauce has reduced and thickened, and the potatoes are tender – about 25 minutes or so.

Splash on the hot sauce, then add the chives and parsley, and stir to combine.

Give it a taste and add additional salt or pepper, if you think it needs it.

Serve.

We enjoyed ours with slow roasted boneless beef short ribs and green beans.

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