Friday, February 25, 2011

Rainy Day in Boston

Is there anything better than waking up at 11:30 to rain pouring down outside and absolutely no obligations for the day?  I don't think so.

So what was my first thought when I woke up this morning?  Rainy day = soup.  Soup = Monica's.  So I geared up for the rain and ran down to get some of the best soup in Boston.  Don't you worry, one of these days there will be a whole post about Monica's and the great guys that run one of my favorite places in the North End.

After Kaston, Nick, and I devoured the soup, I decided that Rainy day also = baking.  So that's just what I did.  Since I started this blog I've become quite obsessed with looking at other food blogs.  One of my favorites is called Honey & Jam.  Her recipes always sound so delicious and her pictures are amazing to say the least.  As I was reading the other day I found a recipe for Gooey Cocoa Brownies that I just had to bookmark.  So today I tested it out to see if her recipes were really as good as her pictures looked.

And they were.  This is easily my new favorite brownie recipe.  Brownies are such a simple thing to make but far too often they are lacking in some aspect.  I find that they turn out to be either far too dry or just completely lack the rich flavor that they should have.  This recipe was the perfect amount of gooey combined with a rich chocolate taste and not a bit too sweet. 

Here is the recipe:
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional)

First preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Spray an 8x8 square baking dish.
Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa powder and salt in a medium bowl and microwave for 1:30 minutes.  Remove and stir until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth.  Set aside until it has cooled down just a bit.  Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon.  Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one.  When the batter is think, shiny, and well mixed, add the flour stirring until it is all blended in.  If using nuts, stir in at this time.  Spread evenly in the pan.  Bake 25 to 30 minutes.

Can't have brownies without a cold glass of milk.

The thing I loved about this recipe is that it seemed very back to basics, not using a mixer for example.  I adore finding recipes that don't involve some fancy cooking utensils (even though they can be great at times).

While I was baking the brownies, I was listening to Dave Rawlings Machine and the perfect song came on for my rainy baking Friday that I just had to share.  Sweet Tooth.  Here it is.

Get to baking and enjoy!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Cooking with Great Grandma Hattie

This past Christmas I received a gift that I will cherish for the rest of my cooking days.  It was my Great Grandmother Hattie's 1961 edition of Betty Crocker's New Picture Cook Book.

First let me tell you a little about my Great Grandmother before I move onto the cookbook.  I was around 8 years old when she died so I don't remember that much about her.  Sadly, I remember being at her funeral more than anything.  While she might have died while I was young, I've still heard plenty of stories about her.  In the words of my mother, Grandma Hattie was awesome.  This will be short and sweet (and a little feisty) but, I'm going to tell you my favorite story about her.  When Grandma Hattie had gotten too old to live alone the family moved her into a nursing home.  I'm not sure if she just wasn't having the whole nursing home get up or if she was just being a feisty old lady, but there is one thing she refused to do while there.  Keep her clothes on.  That's right, little ole' Grandma Hattie liked to be naked in the nursing home and would NOT stay dressed.  I used to giggle at this story and always asked for my mom to tell it again.  Maybe she was just being rebellious, trying to get the attention from the gents at the nursing home, or just wanted to be naked and free from her clothes (I don't blame her at that point in life.  Who cares?) but I love that story.  The other things I know about her is that she loved to cook.  And she was great at it.  A good chunk of her life was devoted to her huge garden in the backyard, and to cooking for the mental hospital in town.  I wish I had a picture of her that I could show you.

I can't tell you how much I would have loved to be in the kitchen cooking with her today.  But having her cookbook and making a recipe that she probably made at some point in time will have to suffice.

Now for the cookbook.  Like I said it's a 1961 edition of Betty Crocker's New Picture Cook Book and it has the great musty smell of a bookstore piled high with old dirty books.  I've been flipping through it since Christmas, reading the funny little tips and hints given for the "modern day homemaker".  They are very 1961, I have a feeling this kind of cookbook would be hard to find these days.  For example: "Every morning before breakfast, comb hair, apply makeup and a dash of cologne.  Does wonders for your morale and your family's too!"  I can just see some feminist having a mild heart attack reading that she has to put on her make up and comb her hair so that she can be a good homemaker.
There she is.  Ms. Betty Crocker.
A little cook book love.
After flipping through the pages and reading some of the recipes I finally decided on a Shrimp Gumbo.  It looked worthy of trying so I gave it a go.  I must say I was a bit lazy and didn't have all of the ingredients so I substituted a little.  And of course I can't make a recipe and follow it exactly so I had to add some things as well.  Here it is:
Looks good already!
1 onion diced
1 pepper diced (I used yellow, but it calls for green)
1 cup diced celery (Not in the original recipe)
1 cup diced carrots (Not in the original recipe)
2 cloves garlic minced
1/4 cup butter
2 tbsp flour
1 can tomatoes
1 can okra drained (I broke a major gumbo rule and didn't include this.  I was too lazy to go to the store.  Sorry gumbo gods!)
1 small can tomato paste
1 can corn (Not in the original recipe)
3 beef bouillon cubes
4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp chili powder
pinch dried basil
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 tbsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3 cups water
1 1/2 lb deveined, raw shrimp
3 cups cooked rice (1 cup uncooked)
1/4 cup minced parsley

In large kettle, saute onion, pepper and garlic in butter.  Blend in flour; cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is bubbly and vegetables are tender.  Remove from heat; add remaining ingredients except shrimp, rice and parsley.  Simmer 45 minutes.  Just before serving add shrimp; simmer, covered,  5 minutes, until shrimp are pink and tender.  Toss together rice and parsley.  Serve gumbo in soup plates over portion of rice and parsley.  Makes 8 servings.
Yum Yum Yum!
It seems like a lot of work but it's not I promise!  And its so worth it.  The flavors worked wonderfully together.  Usually I have to doctor recipes up with spices but this one was great.  Way to go Betty Crocker.  You really knew what you were doing back in 1961.  When I opened the lid on the pot, a rush of clove and bay leaf came rushing into my nose.  It was a little smell of heaven I believe.

Get to cooking and enjoy!

Friday, February 18, 2011

A little trip to Western Mass

My first post.  I'm nervous, but oh so excited.  Alright, here it goes.

Today we (and by we, I mean Kaston, Nick and I) went on a little scenic trip to Western Mass.  It was such a delightful drive through small little towns filled with white steeple churches and colorful little houses.  Very classic New England.  The weather was a beautiful 60 degrees and it was perfect driving weather.  The destination was The Lady Killigrew Cafe in Montague, MA.

Where do I even start to tell you how wonderful it was?  We were literally in the middle of nowhere when we pulled up to this little place right on the river.  The Lady Killigrew Cafe is an old mill that has been turned into this fabulous little hipster haven.  Not only is there a little cafe for lunch, there is a music and movie store (which the boys loved), a bookstore, and the Night Cafe that is only open on summer weekends.  All of these things are bundled up into a little cluster of beautiful barn red buildings with the sound of the rushing river in the background.

Now for the food.  YUM.  The menu was very small but offered mouth watering choices.  I had the NO. 3, which consisted of country sausage, white cheddar, and stone ground mustard on toasted homemade bread.  So simple but yet so wonderful.  The sandwich was served with a house salad dressed with a yummy maple balsamic vinaigrette.  Oh, then there was dessert.  I grabbed a chocolate cupcake on the way out the door, what a good decision.  As we walked through the precious little used bookstore and music/movie store, I nibbled on this chocolate goddess of a cupcake.  It was a vegan chocolate cupcake (told you I was in a hipster haven)  with a white mint frosting, and little mint chips in the cupcake.  Delicious.  Vegan=healthy, right?
 My mouth is watering again.

Ooh I want another!
                                   Pretty cool picture, right?                                  

Here is the facebook page for it.  It's cute.  Check it out.  The Lady Killigrew Cafe
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