Don’t Call it Hamburger Pie

27 06 2011

S. is off to Richmond to watch the Oscar’s with someone more entertaining and concerned about such things than I.  Whenever S. leaves town, it affords me the opportunity to eat a dinner from my childhood.   I never really questioned the things I ate as a kid, but now I look back and think “the horror, the horror.”  It’s not that the stuff was that bad, it’s just that I’m much more snobby about such things now.  Casseroles?  Psshaw!

So, in honor of the Oscars, I’m cooking up the Best Supporting Dinner throughout much of my adolescence.  Hamburger Casserole!  I’m using all store-brand ingredients to maintain the spirit of the original dish.  But because of my aforementioned budding snobbery, I’m making some upgrades.  First and foremost:  ground bison instead of ground chuck.  All you have to do is brown the bison with some onion.  I’ve decided to add some minced garlic and (what goes perfect with bison?) fresh rosemary.

While that’s cooking there are two other jobs.  First, you have to unroll crescent roll dough and line a baking dish, like a pie crust.  An important note:  remember the corner where you ended up with too much dough and had to double up.  That corner is the best corner.   The other job is that you have to shred two cups of cheese.

You then need to whisk an egg with one cup of the cheese and spread it across the bottom of crescent roll dough.  It looks terrible, and I’m not sure what purpose it serves, but I shall not deviate from the plan.

a bad picture born from a bad idea

After the bison is browned (which is also the title of my new book), you need to mix in a can of tomato sauce.  When that is warmed through, you’ve basically made spaghetti, so it smells pretty good.  Dump that into the baking dish and cover with the rest of the cheese.  325 degree for 25 minutes.  Casserole!

What, you may ask, would one serve in addition to this main course.  Well, I grew up hating most vegetables.  This is nostalgia food, so in honor of nostalgia, I will eat no vegetables with this!

How did it taste?  Quite good, actually.  The rosemary definitely added to the meal, but it was sort of like eating meat sauce on top of crescent rolls.  But, hey, that sounds delicious.

Beet Cake!

27 06 2011

Ah, the beet.  I don’t hate them.  I think they are perfectly okay.  But they don’t have much range.  Roasted root vegetables.  That’s seems to be about it.  Then I discovered that you could put beets into cake.  I was intrigued.  Intrigued or disturbed—those go hand in hand with me.  So we got some beets in our CSA, and I thought why not?  Plus, I started saying ‘beet cake’ over and over again, like some sort of bizarre David Letterman joke that only he thinks is funny.  Good thing Sarah wasn’t around to get annoyed with me.

I’ve made a cake from scratch before, though never by myself.  The recipeseemed simple enough, though.

It looks like a real cake!

When I hear ‘beet cake’ I can’t help but think it being fairly healthful.  That’s not weird, right?  Well, there seems to be a lot of sugar in this.  Also, my chocolate was old and I didn’t know how much I had.  There were no context clues to help me out, and I don’t have anything that could weigh the chocolate.  I understand you aren’t supposed to wing it when you bake, but too bad.  Because I wasn’t sure of how much chocolate I had, I augmented the recipe and added a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg just to make sure this didn’t end up tasting like dirt (which is what I thought it would taste like anyway).

The batter looked like red velvet cake batter, but it actually came out looking like a regular cake.  Wonders never cease.  The hardest part of this whole thing?  Probably figuring out how to grease and flour the bundt pan.  Then getting the shortening off my fingers (soap is the answer for those playing at home).

sugar and eggs and chocolate and butter and beets

And, you know, I wasn’t sure about the taste at first.  It’s definitely a bit earthy.  But, really, it tastes like a spice cake.  The chocolate is good and the cinnamon/nutmeg tag team do it up just right.  The first floor neighbors said it was both ‘fantastic’ and ‘excellent.’  And they have absolutely no reason to lie to me.

Beet cake.  There you have it.

I will buy your love with butter.

27 01 2011

It isn’t that we haven’t been baking.  We just haven’t been blogging.  And while our blog stats show that for the most part we are blogging out in to the great silent interwebs abyss, I still feel guilty.  So I blog.

The baking the past few months has not been particularly inventive or exciting, but it has been delicious.  And in my young life, I have learned that often the most delicious things are not the most inventive.  Something simple with a few good ingredients can go the mile.

So for your baking and viewing pleasure, some of our recent baking ventures:

Hubbard Squash Pie (from the Joy of Cooking)

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Building up a high fluted rim, line in a 9-inch pie pan with half a recipe of your favorite pastry dough.  Glaze the crust with 1 large egg yolk.
  2. Bake as directed and decrease the oven to 375 degrees.
  3. Whisk thoroughly in a large bowl: 2 to 3 large eggs.  (3 eggs gives you a softer filling.)
  4. Whisk in thoroughly 2 cups cooked squash puree, 1.5 cups heavy cream or evaporated milk, .5 cup of sugar, 1/3 cup packed brownsugar, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, .5 teaspoon grated or ground nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice, 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
  5. Warm the pie crust in the oven until it is hot to the touch leaving the filling at room temperature.  Pour the squash mixture into the crust and bake 35 to 45 minutes, until firm.  Cool completely on the rack.

The sacrificial squash

Asparagus and Potato Tart (from Jamie Oliver)


1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
Sea salt
1 pound asparagus spears, woody ends removed
8 ounces filo pastry
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup freshly grated Lancashire Cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Cheddar
3 large organic or free-range eggs
1 (8-ounce) container heavy cream
1/4 whole fresh nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Put your potatoes into a pan of salted boiling water and cook for 15 minutes. Meanwhile blanch your asparagus in a separate pan of salted boiling water for 4 minutes, and drain in a colander.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  3. Get an ovenproof dish – I’ve used many different shapes and sizes. Layer the sheets of filo pastry in the dish, brushing them with melted butter as you go and letting about 1-inch hang over the edge. You want to get the pastry about 5 layers thick. Put a clean, damp kitchen towel over the top and put aside.
  4. When the potatoes are done, mash them with the cheeses. In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs and cream and stir into your cheesy mashed potato. Grate in the nutmeg, season well with pepper and mix together. Spread the mashed potato over the filo pastry, then bring up the sides of the filo and scrunch them together to form a rim. Take your blanched asparagus and line them up across the filling, making sure you cover it all. Brush all over with the remaining melted butter and pop into the preheated oven for around 20 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Vegetarian Pasties with Gravy (of Young E. William’s own invention)

For the Pasties

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup shortening
1 cup cold water
½ c. green peas
½ c. cooked lentils
1 onion, chopped
½ c. rutabaga, cubed
1 carrot, diced
salt and pepper to taste
6 tablespoons margarine

  1. In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut in shortening until
    mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in water until mixture forms a
    ball. Shape into a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate.
  2. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. In a large bowl, combine vegetables. Season with salt and pepper.
    Divide dough into six pieces, and shape into balls. On a lightly floured
    surface, roll each ball into a 6 inch round. Place approximately 1 cup
    filling on one half of each. Dot each with 1 tablespoon margarine. Draw
    the other half of the pastry over the filling. Crimp edges to seal in
    filling. Prick with a fork and place on prepared baking sheet.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour.

For the Gravy

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup chopped onion
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic until
soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour, nutritional
yeast, and soy sauce to form a smooth paste. Gradually whisk in the
broth. Season with sage, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat,
and simmer, stirring constantly, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until
thickened. Serve the pasties hot with gravy over the top.

Dems some good eats.

Murder and Cinnamon

28 05 2010

I’m reading Roberto Bolano’s 2666, a novel that averages nearly one murder per page (for 898 pages), and was thinking I needed a pick-me-up.  Why not cinnamon rolls!

First of all, I did not make the dough.  My friend Toastmaster took on that responsibility.  I don’t have the skills or the trust in myself to kneed my own dough.  It all seems so scientific, and I’m not sure I have the mind for or the desire for the mind for that sort of thing.

The instructions said to roll the dough out into a 18×24 square.  I find this whole rolling out dough thing comical.  My pizzas are more of a trapezoid than a circle.  Maybe rhombus, on a good day.  I took the whole 18×24 thing with a grain of salt (baking pun!) but I did approximate those dimensions.  The dough was almost square-like as well.  Wonders never cease—next thing you know, I’ll be kneading my own dough (baking rhyme!).

Then it was time to spread an unseemly amount of butter and sugar and cinnamon on this nearly-square of dough.  I recently made the switch to fruits for desert instead of things like brownies and cake and ice cream and chocolate.  I had crazy withdrawls.  When I mixed the sugar and cinnamon together, it sorta disgusted me.  The instructions said to roll the dough tightly, like a jellyroll.  Does anyone know how African Americans in the 1920s used the term jellyroll?  Anyway, I had a good chuckle.  Also, I have no idea what a jellyroll is except how African Americans in the 1920s used it.  That wasn’t helpful for this particular step.

We got these trash bags that are supposed to eliminate food odor in the trash.  They seem to be working pretty well—though they don’t hide thrown away minced, roasted garlic that well.  Baking cinnamon rolls really takes advantage to that neutralized odor.  It smells so good in here.

Well, I baked most of them too long.  I hate the instructions, or the oven.  They were just a little too brown for me.  They didn’t turn out too bad, though.  How do they taste?  Like God is rubbing my tummy.  Why would you even need to ask?

Sometimes I get lucky.

12 05 2010

I never win anything.  Ever.  It’s true.  I really wanted to win that grand prize at the Graduation After-Party in high school.  I don’t remember what it was, but man I remember wanting it.

Somehow my luck has turned though.  I just won a fantastic print from this fantastic Etsy artist.  And what fantastic timing as well!  I’m working on a mini-makeover of our guest room which will include, what else but food photos.  Obsessed much?  Pictures to follow.

What do you give an injured lemon? Lemonade.

1 02 2010

One thing I am not:  a delegator of tasks.  It’s just not my thing to tell other people what to do.  S. put me in charge of these lemon bars.  One other thing I am not:  a decision maker.  Neither is S.

Making the lemon bars wasn’t particularly difficult.  I consider myself competent in the kitchen.  I am not, however, a good baker.  It’s contradictory:  I like to have exact recipes but be able to riff off them.  Perhaps that is why the curry from the other day ended up so hot.  With baking, apparently, you have to be exact.  I have a difficult time being exact.

But we did it.  I put ingredients together, forgetting to give S. a job.  I stopped doing what I was doing as soon as I got frustrated and let S. take over (it just didn’t seem logical to me that you’d get a smooth batter from just butter and that much flour and sugar).

And then it happened:  we put the crust in to bake after a short debate on how many beans needed to be put on wax paper (and the placement of said beans) to be effective.  Then we started making the custard.  That’s when my leadership skills took off and suddenly came crashing down.  They took off in that I, rather quickly, delegated the task of egg-work to the wonderful S.  Eggs make me gag; I wanted nothing to do with them.  In the meantime, I handled the lemon juice and zest.  You know what I know about lemons?  Not a lot.  One of the things I don’t know is how much juice is in a lemon.  The lemons we had could fit in a one cup dry measuring cup.  We had four of them.  To me, that says we will have extra lemon juice.  Like all ill-considered theories, this fell apart in practice.  Those four lemons yielded just over one half cup of lemon juice.  Now what?

Perhaps I should mention there was also a snow storm that shut down the entire city.  I’ve seen snow here before, but it’s never stuck to the ground.  Now we have several inches.  The store wasn’t an option unless I was to strap tennis rackets to my shoes and trudge.


Here’s one difference between S. and I:  in considering the possibilities on how to proceed here’s what I thought:  we halve the custard part and we cut the still-baking crust and fit it into a smaller pan, then cut out one of the side pieces as a patch.  I didn’t say this out loud, thankfully; instead, I said we should just make a new crust and put it in the smaller pan.  Even though S. tries to refuse to make decisions, she does well under pressure.  Her solution wasn’t absurd, nor did it try to bend rules of physics.  She suggested me turn these into a frozen dessert.

One layer of whipped topping and a trip to the freezer later, these were some perfectly decent lemon bars.  I’m glad we didn’t have enough lemon juice; those things are lemony.  Way too tart for these old taste buds.  You add that layer of whipped topping though, and you have a tangy, refreshing treat.  S. doesn’t care for the crust.  The only thing I don’t like about it is it’s hard to get out of the pan—another job I should have delegated—and it’s hard to cut while frozen.

So this is what I learned from the lemon bar experience:  1) I do much better in a support role; 2) Even though she doesn’t want to make decisions, S. has a brain that is much more reasonable than mine; and 3) Whipped topping really is a cure-all for most baked goods.

Divas Week

19 01 2010

The second week in January is always Divas Week at work.   “Why?” you ask.  Because somehow nine months before that week, lots of couples got that romantic feeling and made babies.  Lots of them.  It’s an epidemic.  In our little library there are 5 of us that were born during the second week in January.  So it’s Diva’s Week.  There’s usually glitter, hats, and food involved.  And for the Grand Diva of us all, Davii, I made some chocolate peanut butter cupcakes.  Because really, what better way to celebrate one’s slimy, screaming entry in to this world with a little salty and a little sweet?

The recipe was copied from Annie’s Eats which was adapted from Proceed With Caution which was adapted from Good Housekeeping.  Did you follow all of that?  The recipe yielded 18 cupcakes (contrary to the 24 promised by the recipe).  The cake batter contained sour cream, an interesting addition.  While it certainly made for a moist cake, it also made for a thick batter which I may have over-mixed.  However, with the filling and frosting it didn’t seem to do too much harm.  I also halved the frosting recipe, predicting that these little puppies would be rich enough that a little dab will do ya.  And boy am I glad I did.  These are some pretty intense cupcakes.  They were a little much in regular cupcake size, so I think next time I might venture some mini-cupcakes or at least make sure there is plenty of cold milk handy.

And those are chocolate crowns or tiaras.  Whatever blows your skirt up.  Because every diva needs a sparkly topper.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

For the filling:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
¾ cup creamy peanut butter
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ tsp. vanilla extract

For the cake:
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 cup sour cream
2 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups sugar
2 large eggs

For the frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
½ cup creamy peanut butter
3¼ cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup frozen whipped topping, thawed

Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.

To make the filling, combine the confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, butter and vanilla extract in a bowl.  Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until well combined.  Roll the mixture into 1-inch balls (at least 24) and set aside on a baking sheet.

To make the cake batter, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl; whisk together and set aside.  In a liquid measuring cup, stir together the sour cream, milk and vanilla extract.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugar, and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl as needed.  With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and the sour cream mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Mix just until incorporated.

Spoon a tablespoon or two of batter into the bottom of each cupcake liner.  Place a ball of the peanut butter filling in each cupcake well and top with the remaining batter so that all the cups are filled.  Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese, butter and peanut butter until smooth.  Slowly mix in the confectioners’ sugar, beating until smooth and well blended.  Mix in the whipped topping until smooth and fluffy.  Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.

Happy Birthday, Diva!