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Megans Cookin: May 2008

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Sweet Briana

This is an appeal on behalf of a group of food bloggers who are friends of Briana Brownlow @ Figs With Bri.
Bri was diagnosed with breast cancer two and half years ago. A mastectomy, chemotherapy and two years of relatively good health later, the cancer is back. It has metastasized to other parts of her body. At the age of 15, Bri lost her 41-year old mother to the disease. Now, she's waging her own war against breast cancer. More about it here.
She is going through intensive chemo and other treatments and needs to focus single-mindedly on healing and finding what treatment works best for her. Her health insurance, unfortunately, does not cover holistic alternatives which she would like to try. Bri and her husband Marc have enough on their plates right now in addition to worrying about her medical bills.
The team organizing the June edition of CLICK at Jugalbandi has organized a fundraiser to help Bri and her family meet some of her out-of-pocket medical costs. CLICK is a monthly theme-based photography contest hosted by Jugalbandi.This month's theme is: Yellow is the color of hope. Through the work of the LiveStrong Foundation, it has also come to signify the fight against cancer.
The entries can be viewed HERE. The deadline for entries is June 30, 2008.
The fundraiser will extend until July 15, 2008. The target amount is 12,000 U.S. dollars. We appeal to our fellow bloggers and readers to help us achieve this. Bri deserves a chance to explore all options, even if her insurance company thinks otherwise.
There's a raffle with exciting prizes on offer. After viewing the list, you may make your donation HERE or at the Chip-In button on any participating site.Your donation can be made through credit card or Pay Pal and goes directly to Bri's account.This month's photo contest also has some prizes. Details HERE.
You can support this campaign by donating to the fundraiser, by participating in CLICK, and by publicizing this campaign.

If 500 people donate $25.00, we will have raised our goal! Please help.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

L' Opera Cake

This months Daring Bakers Challenge was the Opera Cake. To tell you the truth, I didn't know what an Opera Cake was. Come to find out, its an elegant French dessert made up of 5 components. There is a joconde (a cake layer), a syrup , a buttercream , a ganache or mousse and a glaze. Typically flavored with chocolate and coffee, our cake was to be made light. No dark colors at all. When I asked hubby what flavor he would like, he said vanilla bean. Since I have a rather large stash of vanilla beans, we went with vanilla bean. After seeing some of the amazing flavor combos on the DB private blog, I wish I would have done it differently. Maybe if there is ever a next time, I'll do it chocolate!

The one mishap I did encounter was, I made my cakes in too large of a pan. Instead of 10X15 pan, I used a 12X17. My layers were way too thin. But I didn't let that bother me, I just forged on! I made the cake and the syrup the night before I served my cake. My syrup was flavored with vanilla extract and brushed on each cake layer to moisten and flavor it. Next was the buttercream flavored with the vanilla bean to spread between the cake layers. Then it was chilled before adding the ganache layer. So far at this point, everything is O.K. (Besides my skinny cake layers)

Next came the white chocolate ganache. Flavored with, you guessed it, a vanilla bean. Spread out on the top of my final layer of syrup soaked cake. Here is where I messed up again. More chill time. Like 3 hours chill time to set the ganache. Oops! I didn't have 3 hours. I had like 30 minutes till serving time. So I stuck it in the freezer while I made my glaze.

The whole time I was making this cake, I kept thinking I should use some of my Chocolate Covered Strawberry Jam to flavor the frosting. But I was on a Vanilla Bean mission. Till I got to the glaze. The temptation over came me and I strained some of the jam to flavor the glaze. I was thinking I would get this pretty pink color. WRONG! Not the color I envisioned. But it tasted great. In fact, it was my hubby's favorite part of the whole cake.

I poured the glaze over the not chilled enough cake. It was a little sloppy the first serving, but the chilled leftovers sliced up great and looked real purdy.

I am dedicating this month's challenge to Barbara of winosandfoodies.
While Barbara is no longer an active member of the Daring Bakers, she'll always be an honorary Daring Baker for her bravery and character in the face of a challenge.
Barbara is the force behind the food blog event called A Taste of Yellow that supports the LiveSTRONG foundation started by Lance Armstrong. This year's LiveStrong Day is in May so we decided that we could show our support by dedicating our respective challenge posts to Barbara.
ht: Ivonne
Special thanks go out to Lis and Ivonne, our co-founders, as well as Fran and Shea for introducing my to the famous Opera Cake. You can get the recipe from one of these gals.
For a symphony of cakes, check out the Daring Bakers Blogroll. ******************************************************************
More Daring Baker Challenges

Bostini Cream Pie
Lemon Meringue Pie
Perfect Party Cake
Cheesecake Pops


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Monday, May 26, 2008

Portuguese Pineapple Burgers

We went camping for Memorial Day weekend.

After getting up at 4:45 for work these last few days, I was ready for sleeping in, eating good food, and taking naps.

The sound of doing absolutely nothing for a few days sounded good to me. So we packed up the trailer and headed for the mountains.

One dinner we had was excitingly different. It wasn't just a burger. It was a Portuguese hamburger. Lean ground round mixed with linquica sausage and charbroiled over hot coals.

Serve with an orange-garlic aioli, pineapple slice, and topped with fresh cilantro.

Refreshingly different!

And for dessert, a S'more with homemade marshmallows!

Portuguese Pineapple Picando Burger
Recipe courtesy Susan Mello
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
Pinch orange zest
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 pound ground Portuguese chourico or linguica
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons Zinfandel
2 tablespoons tomato sauce from a jar
1 1/2 pounds ground sirloin
Vegetable oil, for brushing grill rack
4 Portuguese sweet rolls
1 cup cilantro leaves
4 sliced rings fresh pineapple

To make the orange-garlic aioli:
In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, orange juice, zest and garlic; Refrigerate to chill until ready to use.
Prepare an open grill for moderate direct heat cooking.
See Note:
In a small frying pan, saute the ground chourico or linguica in the olive oil, add wine and tomato sauce, remove from pan and let cool.

When the chourico is cool, in a large bowl, combine chourico to the ground beef and form 4 patties to fit the rolls.

When the fire is ready, brush the grill rack with oil.
Grill the patties until done to preference, turning once, 8 to 10 minutes medium rare.

During the last few minutes of cooking, place the rolls cut side down, on the outer edges of the grill until lightly toasted.

Spread the orange aioli on the cut sides of the rolls.
Top the bottom roll with a bed of cilantro leaves, then the burger. Top each burger with a sliced ring of fresh pineapple, then the roll top.

NOTE: For the burgers, I just mixed 1 1/2 lbs of beef with the 1/2 lb of sausage and omitted the olive oil, wine, and tomato sauce.

More Beef Recipes:
Black and Blue Ribeyes
Spanish Beef Dips with Carmelized Onions
Chipotle Cinnamon Tri Tip
Ribeye with Chocolate Port sauce



Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Life is full of little surprises!

I feel like it's Christmas around here! Today has been full of wonderful little surprises.

First, I took my daughter to Kohl's to get some new shorts. It hit over 100 degrees here and that means shorts! I got a coupon with my Kohl's bill and it was for an extra 30 percent off. I read it and I reread it. It was 30 percent of the total purchase. Sale, clearance, and regular prices. Nothing was excluded from what I saw. Soooo...

I finally got my Kitchen Aid!!!
$90.00 off the sale price. How could I not get it. I mean, really. And just in time to make my Daring Bakers challenge. How exciting for me! I truly believe ever DBer should have a KA.

Check it out. My sexy new shining chrome KA.
That baby will get some miles put on it.

Then coming home, I drive by the postbox and notice that the key to the box for packages is gone. Hmmm, could that key be in my mailbox?

So I unload my treasures and run to the mailbox.

Yahoo, a package for me!

Remember when I entered my Chili Verde with Sope recipe in the Tamale Open? The one that was hosted by Coco of Coco Cooks and Ben from What's cooking.

Well, I won. I receive this great Indian Soft Hammered Spice Box and 8 spice blends.
dried Thai Chilies,
Sansho seven spice blend,
Himalayan Pink Salt,
Quatre Epices,
Ras-El Hanout,
Chipolte Chili Powder,
and Panch Phoran).

Wow, what a package!
Check out the Tamale Open round-up at Coco Cooks.

In addition to my prize, Courtney sent me some of her fresh made canned goods.She sent me a wonderful looking Apricot Cherry Preserves with Vanilla Bean and a jar of her Watermelon Rind Preserves aka Glamah Rinds. You'll have to go read the story behind the Glamah Rinds.

A big, giant Thank You to Courtney for everything. I love the spices and the spice box. And I'm tickled to get to try your preserves!
People like you make the world a nicer place.


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Bamm! Cookie Carnival Time!

This is an Emeril Lagasse recipe picked out by our carnival host
Kate of The Clean Plate Club.
An almond flavored cookie bursting with blueberries.

Blueberry Drop Cookies.

Another delicious cookie I took to the yard sale/bake sale!!

Do some of these prebaked cookies look like little aliens to you?

This summer we are going up the Oregon coast. I always see wild blueberries for sale when I'm there and you can be sure I'll pick some up for another batch of this recipe!


One-half cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
One-fourth cup milk
One-half teaspoon almond extract
One and one-half teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
One-half teaspoon salt
1 cup blueberries, rinsed and picked over

1. In a large mixing bowl, cream the shortening, sugar, egg, milk, almond extract and lemon zest, mixing well after the addition of each ingredient. Slowly add the flour, baking powder and salt. Fold in the blueberries and mix until well blended.
2. Cover and chill for 4 hours. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Drop the dough by teaspoonfuls, one and one-half inches apart onto greased cookie sheets. Bake 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes before removing them with a spatula.
Makes about 4 dozen.


More cookie recipes:

Chocolate Truffle Cookie

Cinna-spin cookie

Vanilla Bean Thins

Sugar Cookies

Chocolate Shortbread Ole'



Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Award Winning Cookie Recipe and A Yard Sale

Last weekend, some of the ladies in my small group bible study hosted a yard sale/bake sale.. It was a fundraiser for a little boy, who we have been praying for. He's 21 months old and he has cancer. The church has helped out some and a few people have given donations to help pay the bills. The girls thought they could at least raise a couple hundred dollars more. I helped financially, prayerfully, and with baked goods.

The response was overwhelming. The donations of time, money and items to sale came pouring in. The traffic on the day of the sale brought neighbors out of their homes to see what was going on down the street. It was a huge success!

This yard sale was not only a blessing to the family of that sick baby, it was a blessing to every woman in my bible study. We saw a power that was bigger then any of us. That yard sale with it's little goal of a few hundred dollars yielded several thousand dollars. It was a true blessing!

One of the cookies I brought was the cinna-spin cookie. This is a great cookie to have the kids help out with. It taste similar to a snickerdoodle. And it all starts with a sugar cookie mix. Sometimes life gets hectic and I have to take the easy road. Sometimes I don't feel like starting from scratch. Sometimes I need a jump start. This cookie is what I needed at that time.

This was the $5,000.00 winning recipe from Lynette Spence of St. Paul, MN. The competition was called "Bake Life Sweeter" She used a pouch of Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix to create the cinnamon roll-like cookie.

1 pouch (1 lb 1.5 oz) Betty Crocker® sugar cookie mix
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1. Heat oven to 375°F. In large bowl, mix cookie mix and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Stir in butter and egg until soft dough forms.
2. On piece of waxed paper, shape 1 tablespoon cinnamon into a line about 5 inches long. Using floured fingers, shape 1 tablespoon of dough into a rope 5 inches long. Press one side of dough rope into cinnamon.
3. On ungreased cookie sheet, coil dough rope tightly, cinnamon side facing center, into cinnamon-roll shape. Press end of rope into roll to seal. Repeat with remaining dough. Place cookies 2 inches apart on cookie sheets.
4. Bake 7 to 10 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 15 minutes.
5. In small bowl, mix glaze ingredients until smooth. Drizzle over cookies.

High Altitude (3500-6500 ft): Decrease butter to 1/3 cup.


More simple cookie recipes:

Muskoka Cookies
Chocolate Macaroon Bars
Chocolate and Raspberry Dream Bars
Super Simple Saltine Toffee



Friday, May 9, 2008

Black and Blue Mother's Day!

My husband offered to take me to brunch on the golf course for Mother's Day. At $20.00 a pop, I said I'd rather get some beautiful ribeyes from the meat market. This is our favorite dinner, at least at the moment. It's also whats for dinner on Mother's Day!
Black and Blue Ribeyes!!!

Season your rib eyes with a blackening season. I used Chef Paul Prudhomme's Blackened Steak Magic but there are several on the market. Dont be stingy with the seasoning. BBQ it till rare or med rare.
Top with blue cheese and let it melt.

Best served with a robust zinfandel.

Happy Mother's Day


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Super Simple Saltine Toffee

My friend Channon told me my recipes were to hard. Actually she said, "to many steps." She's an admitted lazy cook, so this recipe is dedicated to Channon.

To get the recipe I first googled it. I followed the first recipe I found because it sounded right. It was screwed up. It said to melt the butter and brown sugar till oooy and gooey. I should have listened to the little voice in my head. I kind of thought it should at least come to a boil. But I followed the recipe, only to get a gritty toffee.

Second recipe = success

Melt two stick of butter and two cup of brown sugar in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil and boil for 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, line a 10x15 baking sheet with Saltine crackers.

Pour butter and sugar mixture over crackers.

Spread it out to the edges. Bake at 400 degrees for 5 minutes.

Pour one bag of milk chocolate chips over the top.

Spread out the chocolate with the back of a spoon as it melts. Let sit in the refrigerator till set. Break into pieces



Monday, May 5, 2008

Cinco de Mayo

If you need some delicious ideas for Cinco de Mayo, head on over to Courtney's blog Coco cooks. She has the round-up for the Tamale Open. There's some great looking recipes perfect for a celebration.

Then head over to Ben's blog to vote for your favorite.

If you should indulge in a margarita, drink one for me and lets celebrate Cinco de Mayo!

More mexican inspired recipes:
Chili Verde with Sopas
Mexican Breakfast casserole
Chocolate Ole' cookies
Chocolate Chipotle Cupcakes


Friday, May 2, 2008

I Love Vanilla Beans!

Recently I had a few people inquire about vanilla beans. On a recent trip to the supermarket, I priced these aromatic beans. One supermarket had two different brands of the gorgeous beans.
One brand was $9.99 for one bean. ONE BEAN!
The other was $13.29 for two beans. INSANE!

So, where do I get my vanilla beans you ask?


I have used the Arizona Vanilla Company on E-bay twice now and have been very happy with excellent quality and prompt service. Not to mention the steal of a deal I got. I almost feel guilty.


I received my order of beans today.
I got 49 certified organic, grade A Madagascar Vanilla beans with shipping!

I won two actions.

15 beans@$2.26
1/4lb (34 beans)@$1.04
Combined shipping@4.50

That's a steel!!!

What will I do with so many beans? I'm making vanilla extract!

It makes a great gift for friends.


10-12 Vanilla Beans (cut into large pieces
2 Cups Vodka (cheap stuff is fine
1/4 cup simple syrup (1/8 c. sugar, 1/4c. water)
(The simple sugar is just to take the edge off the alcohol
Combine the vanilla and vodka in a large container with a tight fitting lid. Let steep at room temperature for 4-6 weeks, shaking it about twice a week. The longer the beans hang out in the vodka, the happier the extract will be! Strain through several layers of cheesecloth and then add the syrup if you wish. The extract will keep for several years

For more recipes using vanilla beans:
French Vanilla Cake
Ricotta Pound Cake
Vanilla Bean Thins
Bostini Cream Pie