Your path to fresh ideas about food, home and special occasions


Grandma's Hands

Angela Lopez - Saturday, October 24, 2015

Before my vegetable garden slips away for the season I just have to share this illustration. It’s one my cousin “liked” on social media and I am just taken with it.  I wanted to share it for quite some time but could only wish I knew who to give the credit to for capturing so much of my childhood in just one frame. After some good, old fashioned Google searching, I am happy to be able to acknowledge that it is a watercolor by artist Jill Pritchett. Her website is at www.mtnart.com.

 

This could have easily been either of my grandmothers, with their cotton dresses and aprons. The fabric looks so familiar, soft, and slightly worn and faded, reflecting the daily hard work they performed. And the hands, oh the hands – I can almost feel their touch; they are so descriptive. One can tell these hands have snapped many a bean and shelled many a pea, and looked after many a grandchild. The artist calls it “Memories of Granny’s Hands”. Thank you, Jill.


Ode to the Lady with the Heart as Big as Texas

Angela Lopez - Monday, September 22, 2014

 

 

I was recently invited to attend the "Paula Deen Live!" event in San Antonio, Texas. The show was incredible. But here's the wonderful thing about Paula and her husband, Michael. No doubt, they had been busy traveling and knew they had a long night ahead of them with the show, but they spent the day at Fort Sam Houston visiting soldiers and their families. Paula also announced plans to go back to Fort Sam to cook with some of the folks in the Wounded Warriors program.

 

 

When my husband and I were escorted to our seats that evening, we could instantly feel the energy and excitement that filled the beautiful Majestic Theater. And as soon as Paula and Michael made their way on stage, we also felt the love and warmth they exude. It's easy to tell this family is passionate about what they do, and about showing others a good time!

 

 

 

The food, games, and entertainment made for a great evening. Michael's brother, Father Hank, also made an appearance, along with his dog, Grace. Father Hank teamed up with Michael and Paula to make a big pot of jambalaya and told some adorable stories.

 

 

 

 

In addition, they made some exciting announcements about the creation of PDN, the Paula Deen Network. Originally, Paula started with hardly anything. She had $200 and 2 handsome sons to help her launch her Bag Lady business that would one day catapult her to fame and fortune. It's plain to see Paula has never been afraid of hard work, and the development of this network continues to prove that.

 

 

 

Paula Deen Ventures CEO, Steven Nanula, reports that Paula had several offers to return to broadcast television. But in true Paula Deen style, she's doing it up big in her own way. Her new online network will be available beginning September 24th and will provide a wide variety of programming. Naturally, the lineup will include cooking shows like Good and Good for You, and one called Paula's Keepers that will feature her favorite classic dishes. Shows like 5 & Dime will show subscribers how to put together a healthy, budget-friendly meal in 10 minutes with 5 ingredients. There will be game shows such as Sketch Your Supper and Name That Grub, as well as, a trivia show called Deen There Done That. The network will offer viewers a look behind the scenes and have lifestyle programs like Savannah Stories, and others with holiday themes and home decorating tips. In addition, the network will be an interactive digital experience, enabling subscribers to access recipes, shopping lists, and meal planners.

 

 

 

With Gordon Elliott producing the shows, they are sure to please. He is also the producer of the "Paula Deen Live!" tour and creator of the popular ABC program, "The Chew".

 

 

My family watches lots of Netflix and Hulu so I know PDN will a popular and convenient way to access and watch one of our favorites. Sign up and take your phone or tablet to the market to check your ingredient shopping list, or lay in bed and watch PDN 24/7, or be everyone's best friend during your morning commute when you take out your phone and turn on PDN.

 

 

Clearly, with the millions of fans Paula has, this was the way to go - to offer more of what we love in a pioneering platform for our times. Subscriptions start at $7.99 a month and include a 14-day trail. Go to www.pauladeennetwork.com or www.pauladeen.com to sign up and find out more.

 

 

 

Paula has survived, as if there was ever any doubt, after going through some of the pitfalls of fame and fortune. The goodness in her heart will always allow her to succeed in one way or another, and I think, deep down, there really isn't anyone that could argue with that.

 

Paula loves Texas and Texas loves Paula.


4th of July!

Angela Lopez - Sunday, June 29, 2014

 

Just in time for your 4th of July celebration! Add a personal, customized touch to a delicious meal with an easy, “made-from-scratch” barbeque sauce. If you have never made it, you will be surprised at just how easy it is.

Smoked meats such as briskets and ribs, or grilled chicken, pork chops and sausage links can only be made better with the addition of a fantastic sauce. There are many good bottled barbeque sauces on the market but you just can’t beat stirring up a fabulous sauce of your own. Your friends and family will be so impressed!

You may have read the stories I’ve written about “PaPaw Dub’s” homemade barbeque sauce. We first started using the recipe that he created for his award-winning briskets; but since he used to make it by the gallon, we’ve reworked it a little. I add flavors that go with the type of meal we are preparing.

This version is infused with smoky chipotle chiles and has become a classic. Use this recipe as is or change up some of the flavors to make your own signature sauce. 

Cook and prepare meats for serving and apply sauce like a paste, as much or as little as you like. Or serve the sauce on the side. This recipe makes approximately 3 cups. Cut the ingredients in half if you just need a dab, but every time I do that I dance around the kitchen eating it by the spoonful, wishing I made a full batch.

Smoky Chipotle Barbeque Sauce 

12 ounces tomato paste

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup cola (regular, not diet)

1/4 cup white vinegar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

2 to 3 tablespoons chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, finely minced

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons soy sauce 2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger root

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

 

Whisk together all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a slight boil. Reduce heat and to low and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring often.

Remove from heat and cover with lid until cool. Mixture will thicken as it cools. Refrigerate in airtight container until ready to use. Reheat as needed.

TIP:  When you purchase a can of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce and only intend to use a little, whop them in the blender for a couple of good turns. Spoon the mixture into an ice cube tray. Freeze, then pop out frozen chile cubes and place in a zip-top freezer bag. Take out one cube at a time to add to sauces and other recipes as needed. A standard ice cube will be about 2 tablespoons.

 

 


Cinco de Mayo

Angela Lopez - Sunday, May 04, 2014

 

One may ponder why so many Americans celebrate the anniversary of Mexican troops defeating the French Army at the Battle Puebla in 1862. Every year, the event is commemorated by Mexicans and Americans, alike. The news of the Mexican victory was celebrated immediately in the U.S., and for every year on May 5th during the American Civil War, and therefore became an American tradition.

I don’t really need a reason to celebrate to cook up a big Tex-Mex meal. But with Cinco de Mayo in mind, this light and colorful salad will go perfectly with barbeque or your favorite tacos, enchiladas, or tostadas and might just make you want to hoot and holler and take a swing at a piñata!

This quick and easy recipe will leave you plenty of time for celebrating. Enjoy food made fresh!

 

Fresh Fiesta Salad 

3 ears of fresh corn, cleaned

1 medium-size, or 2 small zucchinis, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes

4 green onions, thinly sliced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 fresh jalapeno, seeded and finely diced

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, cut into halves

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped

1/2 cup queso fresco, crumbled

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Blanch ears of corn by placing them in a pot of boiling water over medium heat for 2 minutes. Remove from water and let cool. Cut corn kernels from cob and set aside.

 

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add corn, zucchini, onions, bell pepper, and jalapeno. Sauté until tender, about 4 minutes. Add desired salt and pepper. Remove from heat and toss with tomatoes, cilantro, and queso fresco. Serves 6.


Food Trends of 2013

Angela Lopez - Saturday, January 25, 2014

As we go into a new year, I’ve been reflecting on the hot food subjects of 2013. What were the trends? What will remain popular in 2014 and which new food fads do we have to look forward to this year? Talk about diversity - in 2013, kale gained popularity like never before, as did green smoothies and anything made with pork belly. The Cronut ™, a croissant-doughnut hybrid, was all the rage. And it seems chia seeds are still going to be a great way to supplement a healthy diet in 2014. I can’t wait to see what new food fashions will make an appearance this year!

Last May, Chef Dominique Ansel created a big stir with the Cronut ™ craze and hence, the most talked about food subject of the year. Chef Ansel is a classically trained pastry chef and owner of Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York. The doughnut-croissant combination is not to be mistaken for simply being a fried croissant shaped like a doughnut. The chef reportedly prepares only 200 a day, and they sell for $5.00 each. I’ve heard of eager pastry lovers waiting in line as long as five hours at time for a bite of pastry perfection. 

As you might suspect, the recipe is proprietary and the name has been trademarked. But of course, many have tried to emulate the indulgent novelty, and giving it a try at home is less expensive than plane fare to New York!  Although, the time involved is probably about the same as traveling from Texas to New York……and then standing in line for 5 hours, but it was definitely a fun project to try at home.

Some of the classic flavor combinations at the now famous bakery have included Rose Vanilla, Apple Crème Fraiche, and Blackberry Lime. I resisted mentioning the Cronut ™ in 2013 because I felt I would be obligated to try making them. It seemed a little daunting and a shame to make dough that resembles croissants only to fry it into a doughnut, as I am more of a savory girl who happens to love croissants. But this project was well worth the time and the Raspberry-Vanilla Bean Cream flavor I went with was quite tasty. Enjoy food made fresh!

 

Croissant-Doughnuts Dough

1 cup warm water

1/4 ounce package dry yeast

1/2 cup milk

1/3 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 cup unsalted butter, cubed

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups bread flour

Extra granulated sugar for dusting

Vegetable oil for frying (or grape seed oil which is used at Chef Ansel’s bakery)

 

Dissolve yeast in mixing bowl with warm water. Stir in milk. Add sugar and salt. Place butter and 2 cups of the flour into food processor and pulse a few times.  Slowly add remaining 2 cups of flour; mixture will be crumbly. With an electric mixer, slowly add flour mixture to wet mixture until the dough holds together, being careful not to over mix.

 

Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead just until it holds a good shape. Place dough ball into greased bowl and top with plastic wrap. Let rest for 2 hours. Turn dough back out onto floured surface and roll into a 9-by-18 inch rectangle. Fold rectangle into thirds forming a smaller rectangle; give it another roll and then fold into thirds once more. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Remove dough from fridge and discard plastic wrap. Roll rectangle out to 9-by-18 inches and cut doughnuts, placing them onto a baking sheet. Let rest for 1 hour.

 

Heat oil to 350 degrees F in heavy-bottom pan over medium heat. Fry each doughnut (and holes) for approximately 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, flipping over halfway through and being careful not to over crowd. Roll in granulated sugar while hot.

 

Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream

3/4 cup sugar

3 cups whole milk

4 egg yolks

1/4 cup cornstarch

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

 

Combine sugar with 2 3/4 cups milk in medium sauce pan. Bring to boil over medium heat to scald milk. In small mixing bowl, whisk together remaining milk, egg yolks, and cornstarch until smooth. Temper egg yolk mixture by adding a small amount of the warm milk and whisking to bring the temperature up. Gradually add in the remaining warm milk, whisking until combined. Bring mixture to a boil again and cook for about 3 minutes or until mixture is thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla bean paste.

 

With pastry tip and bag, make small holes, inserting pastry cream into 8 or 9 places around the sides of each doughnut.

 

Raspberry Frosting

2 cups powdered sugar

1/4 cup fresh or frozen raspberries, mashed with a fork

2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

 

Combine all ingredients, stirring until smooth.

 

Top each doughnut with frosting and serve.  Makes approximately 18 doughnuts.


Jam Session

Angela Lopez - Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Strawberries are looking good in the local markets right now. Big juicy berries are wonderful on their own but I can’t help but want to cook up a batch of strawberry jam. Prices are currently pretty good, as well, so I was able to purchase two pounds for not much more than one pound has cost lately. And when the cherries get a little sweeter, I’ll use this same method with pitted Bing cherries. In fact, this recipe will adapt easily to stone fruits, such as apricots, peaches and plums. And maybe you’ll have a tomato plant or two that will produce more than you can eat at once. If you haven’t tried tomato jam, it’s a real treat on bruschetta or biscuits.

 

This particular recipe can be made without pectin to thicken it. And with three simple ingredients, it’s a snap to make. You’ll have fresh, homemade jam within an hour or so. It’s perfect to spread on toast for breakfast, or shortbread biscuits for dessert. Enjoy food made fresh!

 

Strawberry Jam 

2 pounds strawberries

3 cups sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

 

Rinse fruit. Remove stems and hull. Rough chop and place in a bowl or rimmed plate. Mash fruit with back of fork tines, pressing down with hands. Pour fruit and juices into saucepan and mix in sugar and lemon juice. Let rest for about 20 minutes. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. If fruit mixture begins to stick or boil too violently, turn heat down to medium. Periodically, skim off the light colored foam that forms on top and discard. Cook approximately 20 minutes or until temperature reaches 220 degrees F.

In the meantime, place jars and lids (rings and flats) into hot water bath on stovetop for about 10 minutes to sterilize and heat. Pour hot jam mixture into warm, dry jars. Place flats on jars and screw on ring.


Broiled Baby Veggies

Angela Lopez - Monday, June 10, 2013

With warm weather coming in, I’m thinking more and more about spring vegetables. It’s great to have such an assortment of wonderful, fresh produce suppliers. And I try to push myself to look beyond the usual veggies I would normally purchase.

 

If you haven’t taken advantage of what’s available, next time you make a trip to the market, take note of all the different types of potatoes, mushrooms, even carrots and radishes, just to name a few.

We can easily bring new and interesting alternatives to our typical vegetable side dishes.

 

In this recipe, I’ve picked up an assortment of carrots and radishes with interesting, mild flavors and bright colors. Not to mention the fantastic nutritional value.

 

This would be an easy recipe to adapt to most any fresh produce you may be planting in your garden, as well. Enjoy food made fresh!

 

Broiled Baby French Carrots, Cincinnati Radishes, and Icicle Radishes With Raw Honey Butter

3 cups assorted carrots and/or radishes

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Preheat oven broiler (500 degrees F). Clean and peel carrots and radishes. Trim off most of the green tops. Pat dry and place on baking sheet. Brush them with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

 

Broil in preheated oven approximately 6 inches from heat source for about 7 to 9 minutes, shaking the pan about halfway through cooking time.

 

Remove from oven and brush with honey butter.  Recipe follows.

 

Raw Honey Butter

1 stick, or 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/3 cup raw, local honey

 

With electric mixer, mix butter and honey together until well blended.  Leftover honey butter can be kept in refrigerator for later use on tortillas, toast, biscuits, or your next batch of roasted or broiled vegetables or fruit.


Butter My Biscuit

Angela Lopez - Monday, June 10, 2013

Biscuits were always a staple in our house when I was growing up. My dad seemed to want my mom to be in the kitchen every morning donning an apron with her hair pulled back in a little bun rolling out dough. I guess that was in his dream-world; even though my mom loves to cook, she certainly wasn’t making an appearance like that every morning, especially on a busy workday. But I think he fondly remembered his mother doing it that way and longed for the memories that homemade biscuits conjured up. My mom would indulge his fantasy once in a while when she had time, but typically, she whacked open a can to unleash prepared rounds of dough. They tasted good, and definitely work in a pinch. But when she was really clever, she would tell him we were having square biscuits, as she popped the sliced bread into the toaster. 

I’ve tried recipe after recipe over the years, always hoping to perfect my own homemade biscuits, but also trying to keep it simple. I wanted the process of making biscuits to be almost as easy as using biscuit mix or running to the store to purchase a can of biscuits. It really doesn’t take much more. I use self-rising flour to eliminate the steps of measuring out baking powder and/or baking soda. And I love the tang you get from a buttermilk biscuit but often don’t have buttermilk on hand. So to cut out the part of the process where I hopped in the car and drove down to the store to get it, I started using the sour-milk method of adding vinegar to regular milk or “sweet” milk, as my dad always called it. And at times, I don’t even use a biscuit cutter; I simply cut the dough into 2 1/2 inch squares with a knife before baking. They definitely aren’t the same square biscuits we used to have!

I’m so grateful for the traditions my mother and my grandmothers have passed on to me, especially the love of being in the kitchen and cooking for our families. Make some memories with homemade biscuits this weekend. Whether you make them on a regular basis, or save it for special occasions, you’ll be a hero to your family as they smell that wonderful aroma coming from the oven! Enjoy food made fresh!

Basic Breakfast Biscuits

2 1/2 cups self-rising flour

1 stick, or 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold

1 cup whole milk

3 tablespoons white vinegar

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Measure 1 cup milk and add 3 tablespoons vinegar then set aside. Place 2 cups self-rising flour into mixing bowl. Begin cutting cold butter cut into very small pieces into the flour. Use pastry cutter or 2 butter knives to blend.

Milk will now appear slightly lumpy; stir to combine. Incorporate milk mixture into flour stirring until smooth. Add remaining 1/2 cup flour and continue blending. When well blended, turn dough out onto floured surface.

Separate dough into 2 balls. Roll one ball into approximately 6-by-10 inch rectangle. Fold dough in half and roll again to same size. Cut out biscuits with 2 1/2 inch biscuit cutter or glass. Place on baking sheet. Combine scraps with the other dough ball and repeat process. Bake at 400 degrees for approximately 15 minutes. Remove from oven and brush tops with additional butter. Makes 12 biscuits.

Tip:  Freeze butter then grate into the flour using a box grater. This will help to incorporate the cold butter into the flour in small enough pieces that the end result will be an even texture throughout the biscuit, but the cold butter will still leave little pockets of air creating a fluffy biscuit.

 


Little Dumpling

Angela Lopez - Monday, June 10, 2013

I've never met a dumpling I didn’t like. But I still remember my first attempt at chicken and dumplings as a young bride wasn’t too great. I put pieces of chicken, pre-cut from the store, in a pot of plain water and boiled it for a long time. I probably added some salt and pepper, but that was about it. When the chicken was done I didn’t debone it, I left it in the pot, skin and all. I then whacked open a can of biscuits and plopped them in with the chicken and cooked them until they turned into big puffy hunks of bread. I was quite proud. My “Mr.” had quite a shock! It turns out there are other ways of making chicken and dumplings that I had never heard of. His mom took the chicken off the bone and rolled out little thin noodle-type dumplings she made from scratch. This was all news to me.

 

Later on, I would learn the other ways of the world (and of my grandmother), but I still love the biscuit dumplings, and so do my kids; my daughter recently asked me for the recipe. I said, “Honey, those just come out of a can.” She said, “I know, but I need to know just how you do it.” I explained that I pull each piece of biscuit dough into 4 parts, and I’m careful not to cook them too long in the boiling broth; when they rise to the top of the liquid they are just about done. I’m much more experienced now with canned dough, as if it would take experience! And, oh yes, I do debone the chicken now-a-days. 

I’ve also tried another quick version that one of my grandmothers taught me. She said to cut prepared flour tortillas into strips and drop them into simmering broth. The first time I tried it I made the mistake of stirring the pot and they broke up and turned to mush. The next time I resisted stirring and they turned out a little better. 

Although I love eating the easy dumplings, I’d rather be known for making the “made-from-scratch” kind. Maybe someday I will do justice to this heirloom, scratch recipe belonging to my grandmother. Grandma Lowe was inventive and fun in the kitchen. She was creative and thrifty and made everything taste good – even stale saltine crackers she would re-toast in the oven. She made delicious bread pudding and delectable peanut patties. And thank goodness I learned about her dumplings. I do aspire to be like this sweet, talented lady. Enjoy food made fresh!

Grandma Lowe’s Dumplings

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons shorting

Enough milk to make a soft dough

 

Mix dry ingredients well and then cut in the shortening. Gradually add milk a little at a time until you form a soft ball, not too sticky. Drop by rounded tablespoons into a pot of simmering chicken broth and cook 15 to 20 minutes on medium heat. Keep covered. Makes 6 servings.

 


Happy New Year!

Angela Lopez - Sunday, December 30, 2012

In 2012 I was fortunate to launch this website. And I’ve been so happy to work on lots of food writing assignments this year, as well as learn more about food photography. It’s been a great year and I want to thank all of your for your wonderful support. I can hardly wait to see what 2013 will be like. I wish each and every one of you a fantastic new year!

 

For years, my family has made sure to eat plenty of black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day to ensure good luck and fortune all year long. Some years we eat cooked greens, as well. It’s so interesting to discover the different New Year traditions carried out in various regions and cultures.

 

I’ve recently learned of a little fried treat called Bunuelos. They remind me of a cross between a flour tortilla and a sopapilla. Bunuelos are quite popular to have on New Year’s Eve to bring good luck in the year ahead. Some folks like to couple the bunuelos with a creamy cup of hot chocolate.

 

I just had to give this a try. I invited the family over and fried up a batch. They were wonderful! I was quite inexperienced, some were shaped like hands, others were heart-shaped, and some resembled various continents around the world. But how can you go wrong with fried dough? My family ate them and they liked them. I was a little concerned when some of the dough disks started to puff up larger than I thought they would; I feared they would explode, but all went well. They were a hit.

 

No one may know why bunuelos are considered to bring good luck but it’s a nice way to try! Have a happy, safe New Year. Enjoy food made fresh!

 

Bunuelos

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

¾ cup milk

¼ cup butter; lard or shortening may be substituted

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs, beaten

Shortening, lard, or oil for frying

Extra sugar and cinnamon to sprinkle on bunuelos as they come out of the skillet

 

Mix flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon; set aside. Place milk, butter, and vanilla in medium saucepan and bring to a slow boil over medium heat. Remove from heat. Temper the beaten eggs with 2 or 3 tablespoons of hot milk mixture before adding the eggs to the rest of the hot milk; this will keep the eggs from cooking in the hot liquid. Whisk together until well blended. Slowly add milk and egg mixture to dry ingredients. Mix until dough ball forms.

 

Turn dough onto floured surface and knead 2 to 3 minutes. Divide into 20 balls. Heat oil, lard or shortening in skillet, (oil should be about 1 inch deep). Roll dough balls out into 6 to 7 inch circles. Fry in hot grease over medium to medium-high heat. You will know if grease is hot enough when bubbles puff up on the bunuelos. Brown one side and flip to brown other side. Remove from skillet and stand upright in bowl lined with paper towels. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mixture while still hot. Repeat. Makes 20 bunuelos.

 

 


Red Velvet Cake

Angela Lopez - Monday, December 10, 2012

Desserts and other sweets tend to take center stage during the holidays, especially for Christmas. While I typically concentrate on baking Christmas cookies, and candy making, it’s nice to have a beautiful cake to place high upon the cake stand I only take out and use once or twice a year. Red Velvet Cake is the perfect choice for that kind of drama and has made a fervent return to the trendy world of baked goods. I attribute it to the cupcake craze we’ve seen around the country for a couple of years. But right now, I’m also seeing red velvet pancakes, waffles, whoopie pies…….even red velvet brownies.  

 

There’s something visually appealing about the dramatic contrast between the creamy white frosting and the deep red color inside the cake. And the cocoa adds that rich, inviting flavor, bite after yummy bite. Most say the name came from the fact that the chemical reaction from the acidity of the vinegar and buttermilk mixed with the compounds of cocoa cause a slightly red hue. During World War II, many bakers used beet juice to intensify the color. Red Velvet Cake became very popular in the south when, during the Great Depression, Texas-based company, Adam’s Extract, became one of the first to sell bottled food coloring.

If you are not inclined to deal with a layer cake during this busy baking season, this recipe adapts well to a 9-by-13 inch pan and your guests will be just as delighted. Use an ornamental piece of holly to dress it up and you will have a splendid addition to your holiday table. Enjoy food made fresh!

 

Red Velvet Cake

2 2/3 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup vegetable oil

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

1 ounce red food coloring

1 teaspoon vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup buttermilk

 

Mix flour, baking soda, and cocoa. In a separate mixing bowl with electric mixer, cream together, butter, oil, sugar, and eggs. Add food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla. Add other ingredients, alternating one half of the buttermilk, then half of the flour mixture then repeat, just until well combined. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 2 – 9 inch cake pans with non-stick cooking spray. Cut 2 – 9 inch circles from parchment paper and place in pans on top of cooking spray. Spray again coating the paper and the sides of pan, then dust lightly with flour. Pour half the batter into each pan. Tap pans on counter to release bubbles. Bake for 40-50 minutes, testing to see when toothpick inserted into middle of cake comes out clean. Cool then remove from pans and frost (recipe follows).

 

Cream Cheese Frosting

2 – 8 ounce packages cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 tablespoon vanilla

6 cups powdered sugar

 

Mix all ingredients with electric mixer until well blended and smooth. If mixture is too thick, add a tablespoon of milk at a time until you reach desired consistency. If too thin, add a little powdered sugar at a time until spreadable. NOTE:  When baking this recipe in a 9-by-13 inch pan, use half the frosting recipe.

 

 

Asparagus Casserole

Angela Lopez - Monday, November 19, 2012

Have you started to make your shopping list for Thanksgiving? This year, I’m adding asparagus to my list. Every year, I assure my family we will have the traditional dishes they all love and associate with the holiday but I will also make at least one offering that’s trendy or has a little twist to it. 

As you know, I love the challenge of making a dish with the freshest ingredients. A few years ago, my daughter took the idea of the traditional green bean casserole and broke it down into the very best ingredients. She made a home-made cream of mushroom gravy and used fresh green beans. I’m doing a take on that this year but I will be using asparagus in place of green beans.  

Do you make stuffing or dressing? And do you use primarily cornbread, or mostly cubes of white bread? My family tends to lean toward the southern traditional with cornbread. I don’t get a lot of wiggle room when it comes to dressing; they are pretty consistent about that. But hopefully they will be open to asparagus this year! If your family bulks at the idea, this recipe can be easily adapted to make a nice, fresh green bean casserole, if you prefer.  Enjoy food made fresh!

Fresh Asparagus Casserole

6 tablespoons butter, divided

2 1/4 pound fresh asparagus

1/2 pound button mushrooms

1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons flour, divided

1/2 cups half & half

Salt and pepper to taste

Pinch of nutmeg

1 onion, very thinly sliced

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

 

Rinse asparagus. Bend each stalk to snap off tough end; it will naturally bend I the right spot. Cut the good part into thirds, about 1 ½ inches long. Brush mushrooms with damp paper towel to remove any loose dirt. Cut mushrooms into cubes. Melt 3 tablespoons butter over medium heat in large skillet. Add asparagus and mushrooms. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes until partly tender. Remove with slotted spoon and place in bowl; set aside. In same skillet, add the other 3 tablespoons butter cooking over medium heat. Once melted, add 3 tablespoons flour, stirring for a minute or two until flour turns light brown. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Whisk in half & half. Continue whisking for a minute or two until it begins to thicken. Stir in a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg, or ground nutmeg. Add vegetables back to pan and stir to coat (same 3 or 4 pretty asparagus tips to garnish the top of the casserole). Pour mixture into buttered backing dish. Cover with foil and bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. 

 

Toss thinly sliced onions in remaining 1/3 cup flour. Heat vegetable oil in large skillet over medium heat. Once oil sizzles when small piece of onion is added, add remaining onions and cook, stirring often until light brown and crunchy. If you let one of them turn black, don’t worry, just pick that one out – I’m sure Durkees burns one once in a while. Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towel lined plate. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt.

 

Remove casserole from oven after 30 minutes and top with crunchy onions. Return to oven without foil for 5 minutes. Serves 8.


Baked Pumpkin

Angela Lopez - Sunday, November 11, 2012

I was always a little intimidated about cutting into a pie pumpkin. And let’s face it - even though I promote the use of fresh ingredients, there are several canned and frozen products I like to keep on hand. Canned pumpkin is one of them. But quite a few years ago, my grandmother took the mystery out of baking with fresh pumpkin for me. While pumpkins are readily available why not try this easy process for preparing pie pumpkins; they have a great fresh color and taste.

 

I've been noticing great prices on pie pumpkins this week so this is an opportune time to prepare them and freeze until you're ready to make your pies, or pumpkin bread, or pumpkin rolls; even put some in the freezer for later in the year. I also clean and salt the seeds, then toast them on a buttered cookie sheet at 250 degrees for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Pumpkin seeds are a delicious, healthy snack. And incorporating pumpkin into any dish adds great nutrition. Enjoy food made fresh!

 

Baked Pumpkin

1 2 to 3 pound pumpkin - often referred to as a pie pumpkin

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

 

Carefully cut pumpkin in half from stem to end with sharp knife. Deseed, removing all membrane and strings. Brush cut edges with oil. Place cut-side down on cookie sheet. Bake approximately 45-60 minute in preheated 350 degree oven. The outer skin will be soft and separate easily from the flesh when it is ready. Cool, then scoop out flesh; discard the outer skin. Mash with a fork then use for any pumpkin recipe.


Wang Dang Do

Angela Lopez - Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My husband, Mikey (aka Stud Muffin) practically has a language all his own. He puts together bits and pieces of old rhymes, movie quotes, and things his mother used to say to him, and uses them in everyday conversation. It’s one of the cute things I love about him. Then there’s the part of it that I think he just makes up and tries to convince me that it’s for real. For instance – anytime he refers to eating chicken, he calls it “pimp”. (I know……this is getting weird, but just stay with me.) He says that back in the day, the rooster was referred to as the “barnyard pimp”. I mean, it could make sense, I guess – one male, and all those hens in the barnyard. I still don’t really get it. But here’s the bad thing – I actually catch myself using some of this lingo of his. I’ll be in the grocery store picking out something for dinner and I’ll call him on my mobile phone and say, “Honey, does pimp sound okay to you for dinner tonight?” Well how embarrassing. And just imagine the looks I get from the other shoppers nearby.

He even has other names he gives to certain recipes made from pimp. Case in point - his recipe for chicken wings. He calls it Wang Dang Do. It’s a catchy phrase but I don’t think he has an explanation for this one. He just matter-of-factly says, “It is what it is – Wang Dang Do.” It makes me wonder if he had trouble beginning to speak as a child, (just kiddin’ honey, I love you!).

Anyhow, Mikey can grill like a pro, make breakfast like a champ, and whip up some fantastic Wang Dang Do! Enjoy food made fresh!

Wang Dang Do (aka Chicken Wings)

2 pounds chicken wings/drumettes

1 ½ cups prepared barbeque sauce

½ stick melted butter

¼ cup hot sauce (or not)

2 or 3 dashes Worcestershire sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

 

To make wing sauce, combine barbeque sauce, melted butter, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce in a bucket (Mikey’s word for bowl/baking dish) and set aside. Rinse chicken pieces and dry with paper towel. Season with salt and pepper. Spread pieces out in a large bucket (large cookie sheet in this case). Roast in preheated 425 degree oven for approximately 20 minutes. Then brush on plenty of sauce and continue cooking for 5 minutes or until juices run clear when chicken is stuck with a fork. 

If you really want to go wild, place raw chicken in about 1 cup buttermilk and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours. Remove from buttermilk, season with salt and pepper, roll in flour and deep fry until golden brown and juices run clear. Drain on paper towels and toss in wing sauce.


Tex-Mex Cassoulet

Angela Lopez - Sunday, October 28, 2012

The appeal of fall is all around us - pumpkins, hot chocolate and football games, Frito Pie, cool mornings, early evenings. The first burst of warmth in the spring feels so good but what I really love is that same feeling of warmth in the fall. The cool air comes in and feels nice, but the left over warmth of summer fights hard to stay in place; it seems like the warm air battles to shine brighter than the cool air. That feeling is unmatched. But when warmth does give way to cool, it’s time to start thinking of soups and stews simmering in the kitchen. We often look to this kind of soul warming one-pot meals during fall and winter.  

How ‘bout a big, warm bowl of Tex-Mex Cassoulet? It may sound like a contradiction of terms – Tex-Mex and French Cassoulet, (Julia Child would probably want to give me a spanking). But hey – we make posole in the Southwestern part of the US, which is a thick Mexican soup made with hominy and pork. Cassoulet originated in the Southwestern region of France and is a bean stew or casserole often containing pork. ‘Sounds like a great marriage to me. And forgive me, but we really put the pig to work in this one with cubed pork chops and bacon! But I think you’ll like the union of flavors. Now if you have anyone in your household that refuses to eat hominy, substitute it with 1 ½ cups frozen corn, or 1 to 2 diced potatoes. Enjoy food made fresh!

Tex-Mex Cassoulet

1 cup dried Pinto or Anasazi beans, sorted and rinsed

6 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into small pieces4 boneless, center-cut pork chops, cubed

1/3 cup flour

1 medium onion, diced

1 teaspoon salt

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped - divided

1/4 cup tomato paste

2 tablespoons chipotle pepper paste*

1 teaspoon cumin

5 cups chicken broth

1 cup dry white wine

1 - 15 ounce can of hominy, drained

Cornbread croutons**

 

Rinse beans and place in bowl; cover with water and soak overnight or about 8 hours. Drain water from beans and set aside. Heat Dutch oven over medium-high heat and begin to brown bacon pieces. Toss pork chop cubes in flour. Add cubed pork to bacon pieces and continue browning. Add onions and salt and cook until onions are tender, about 5 minutes. Next add beans, garlic, 1 tablespoon cilantro, tomato paste, chipotle paste, cumin and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 1 hour or until beans are tender. Stir in wine and hominy and place Dutch oven in preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Top with remaining cilantro and cornbread croutons before serving. Makes 8 servings. 

 

*I make chipotle paste by smashing diced chipotle peppers with a fork and some of the adobo sauce they are canned in. Chopped peppers work fine but I like the chipotle flavor without biting into a piece of the hot pepper

**Cut cornbread into small cubes and toast in skillet over medium heat with a tablespoon of melted butter. Toss to coat all sides with butter, and brown for 3 or 4 minutes


Farm Stand Pasta Salad

Angela Lopez - Sunday, September 09, 2012

My resent trip to the apple orchard resulted in a couple of surprises. Besides apples, the orchard I frequent has loads of other fresh produce in the summertime. They sent me home with Armenian cucumbers, and fooled-ya-jalapeños. Well, I’m not real sure that was the actual name of the pepper, but it is a new variety designed to give us the same taste we love in the jalapeño, but without the heat. They are excellent. Another nice treat I took home was Kohlrabi. We peel it and slice it and eat it raw like radishes or jicama.

I chopped up my wealth of fresh, raw vegetables and herbs and tossed with a good vinaigrette for a refreshing, summery pasta salad. Enjoy food made fresh!

Farm Stand Pasta Salad

1 pound box dry, large pasta shells – cooked per package instructions

1 small zucchini, cubed into bite-size pieces

1 small yellow squash, cubed into bite-size pieces

1 small red onion, diced

1 red, orange or yellow bell pepper, diced

1 or 2 mild jalapeños, finely diced

1 large tomato, chopped

Handful of fresh parsley, rough-chopped

 

Dressing

1/2 cup olive oil

1/3 cup rice vinegar or other vinegar of your choice

1 tablespoon good mayo

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

3 teaspoons fresh herbs, chopped – or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried Italian herbs

Salt and Pepper to taste

 

Prepare pasta per package instructions. Drain and cool. Toss raw veggies with pasta in large bowl. Whisk together all dressing ingredients and pour over pasta and veggies. Toss to coat. For a heartier version, we like to add a small package of pepperonis cut in half, and cubes of cheddar or a good sprinkling of parmesan.


Refrigerator Spicy Pickles

Angela Lopez - Thursday, August 02, 2012

A couple of weeks ago, my Aunt Darlene called and told me she had a half-bushel of black eyed peas with my name on them. I can’t tell you how that thrilled me! My aunt and uncle used to have a fresh produce market for many years. My aunt and her family continue to plant a large garden each spring. I invited my mom and my brother and his family over for Sunday dinner because I know they enjoy black eyed peas as much as I do. The kids helped me shell them, and of course I cooked them with a little bacon for that added pork flavor.

Aunt Darlene threw a few “lemon cucumbers” in the bag of fresh peas for me. This is a variety they wanted to try. The outside of the cucumber is pale yellow and about the same size and shape of a lemon. I thought they might have a little bit of a tangy flavor, but the inside looked and tasted like most cucumbers. They were very good.

My mom mentioned a good recipe for pickles that she wants to give me and it got me to thinking about this one in the meantime. If you have cucumbers coming in good in your garden, make up several batches of these and share them with your friends. Or, if you like canning but don’t want to get into a big process, or only have a few cucumbers to put up, this is a great method. Leave out the pepper if you just prefer a nice dill flavor without the heat. I’ve been tinkering with the recipe, and this is how I best like it. Enjoy food made fresh! 

 

Note: When I can’t get a hold of any pickling cucumbers, I have found 2 pound bags of small cucumbers at Sam’s Club year-round.

 

Refrigerator Spicy Pickles

3 cups white vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons mustard seeds

1 1/2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns

1 1/2 teaspoons dill seeds

4 cups hot water

2 pounds pickling cucumbers, sliced 1/4-inch thick, skin on

3/4 cup fresh dill, roughly chopped

6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, and/or 2 to 3 whole fresh peppers if you prefer

 

Combine vinegar, sugar, salt, mustard seeds, black peppercorns, dill seeds and crushed red pepper flakes in a large bowl. Add hot water and stir until sugar dissolves. Pack cucumbers, dill, garlic, and fresh peppers into airtight containers and completely cover with brine (liquid mixture). Refrigerate overnight; shake or stir once or twice. Store in refrigerator up to two weeks. Makes approximately 1 quart and 1 pint.


Formula for Vinaigrettes

Angela Lopez - Saturday, July 21, 2012

If you are anything like me, you’re excited about this season of fresh summer vegetables. I love backyard gardens, container gardens, patio tomato plants, farmer’s markets — really, any kind of local produce. And I sure do enjoy a light salad loaded with all that the season has to offer. My simple steps for making a tasty, healthy vinaigrette will help you top your fresh veggies perfectly.

 

Even if you are not an oil and vinegar kind of salad eater it’s handy to know how to whip up a great salad dressing. I love a little olive oil and lemon juice on my salads, but with just a little effort, I can whisk up something really special. By adding an emulsifier, such as a little mustard or mayonnaise, you will come up with a thicker dressing that will really stick to your salad greens. There are many good bottled dressings on the market, but lots of them are high in sugar, fat, and salt — not very healthy. A great dressing can be stirred up with healthy choices such as olive oil, or canola oil. And you can control the sugar and salt and still have an explosion of great flavor. Choose from an array of fresh or dried herbs, and add a little minced garlic. But this comes with a warning; once you try this it is difficult to go back to bottled dressings.

Some research shows that mayonnaise acts as a better emulsifier than mustard, and it “holds” the dressing together longer than when we use mustard alone. The only difference is that the dressing will separate a little more quickly when not using mayonnaise.

 

If you love the taste of a good mustard and simply prefer it without mayonnaise, just whisk together again when it separates. But honestly, even if you do not like mayonnaise, it takes such a tiny bit to “emulsify” that you really won’t even taste it. It’s all about choices and making it a flavor you enjoy.

I am listing a basic formula with oil, vinegar, emulsifiers and flavoring options. Mix and match, and whisk up a signature flavor to serve on your salads, or even over a dish of boiled, diced potatoes for a quick potato salad. It’s also great over a plate of freshly sliced tomatoes or cucumbers. In addition, you can use is to brush vegetables prior to roasting or grilling. Enjoy food made fresh!

 

Vinaigrette Choices:

2 tablespoons vinegar (choose from: red wine vinegar, champagne vinegar, rice wine vinegar, rice vinegar or balsamic vinegar)

6 tablespoons oil (choose from: olive oil, canola oil, vegetable oil or try using 5 tablespoons vegetable oil and 1 tablespoon sesame oil for a rich, nutty flavor)

1 teaspoon mayonnaise (choose from light or regular)

1 teaspoon mustard (choose from: Dijon, yellow, stone-ground, spicy, brown or honey mustard)

2 teaspoons fresh chopped herbs (choose from: Parsley, basil, dill or thyme)

Note: You may want to use any combination herbs, but remember to use half the amount if you are using “dried” herbs

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

 

Other flavor options (choose from: 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 1 tablespoon minced shallot, 1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, and/or a few squeezes of fresh lemon juice)

 

Combine all ingredients except oil. Whisk until smooth and there are no lumps from the mayonnaise or mustard. Slowly drizzle oil into the mixture by pouring in a slow stream as you whisk. It will thicken and look shiny. If the vinaigrette is too tart for your liking, add about 1/2 teaspoon sugar.

 

This will make approximately 1/2 cup dressing. Toss with your favorite salad greens or fresh veggies.

 


Taste of Summer Potato Salad - July 4th, 2012

Angela Lopez - Friday, June 29, 2012

My heart is so full – my husband is home from Kuwait, we have family coming in for 4th of July festivities, and I feel I am purposely aligned with events and people in my life that bring me tremendous joy. One of the joys in my life is launching this website.

 

I’ve planned for so long, and have been busy collecting and developing recipes to share with you. I write for various publications on a regular basis, mostly freelance, and mostly food-related subjects. I also blog for other sites, but I’ve wanted a place to call “home” where I can house and archive these materials in one place. It truly delights me that you have joined me on this journey down the path to food made fresh. My hope is to give you more than a list of ingredients; I want to share stories and other elements that will make your mealtime extra special. I will work hard to be a good resource for you to turn to. I’m honored you are here. Thank you for making my dreams come true.


This 4th of July I can’t help but look forward to great times in the kitchen with my daughter, preparing for outdoor get-togethers. She makes this lovely potato salad that we get lots of requests for from family and friends. The lemon zest and herbs give it a fresh, summery taste. I usually grow parsley and dill outdoors because they withstand our cold winter months. But it is equally rewarding to grow a windowsill herb garden; I recently saw a complete kit at the local dollar store for a couple of bucks. If you are not accustomed to using fresh herbs in your cooking, it’s worth trying. And if you are not interested in growing them, there are many varieties available in the produce section at the larger grocery stores. Fresh herbs can give just about any dish a clean, crisp taste. So, think about which recipes you would like to add them to for a fresh twist. I hope you enjoy lots of warm weather get-togethers with your family and friends. Enjoy food made fresh!

 

Taste of Summer Potato Salad

3 pounds baby, red potatoes
3 tablespoons rice vinegar (or other light vinegar)
Salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup mayonnaise (I like a good light mayo)
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, diced into small pieces
1/4 cup flat leaf, Italian parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest

 

Cut potatoes into quarters and cook with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and continue cooking for approximately 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Drain water and let potatoes cool. Sprinkle cooled potatoes with vinegar, salt, and pepper. Fold in remaining ingredients coating well with mayo. Makes approximately 8 servings. Note:  For a slight difference in taste use a mixture of mayo and light sour cream.