Well, I probably shouldn't do this, but I've started another Blog. Like I don't already spend too much time at the MacBook. As some of you might have guessed, I like to cook and I love to eat. So I thought I'd share my recipes, humble as they may be and an occasional dinner menu at our house. I am somewhat "reluctant" to share this project right now, but caution to the wind. The plan is to be discovered by the Food Network for my cooking show Cranky Franky's in the Kitchen.
Am I ready for critics? Probably not. I know my instructions are not always clear or precise. Let me know if something doesn't make sense. Anyhow, if you're interested, check out "Dinner's Ready"

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Easy Carrot Cake

If you watch cooking shows or bake at all, you've all heard that baking is an exact science.  You must follow recipes exactly and measure precisely.  Yeah, right.

Well, being the rebel that I am, I never follow anything exactly.  The food scientists will probably balk at my Carrot Cake recipe.  It's pretty simple, just takes a little more pep than something out of a box.  This will make a large 9" x 13" cake and a small 4" x 8" loaf to freeze for another time.  Or pour the whole batter into the large cake pan and make a thicker cake.  Or divide it up between whatever size cake pans you have - square, round, whatever.  Of course the bake time will have to be adjusted.

Prep ahead: Amounts are approximate:
4 cups grated of carrots
2 cups chopped walnuts
1 cup raisins
Spray the baking tins with spray oil or use Crisco to grease them
Preheat the oven to 350 - 375 (My oven is a Sears Dent-and-Scratch Store propane gas and the door is slightly off so 375 is what I set my oven to get a good 350.  Adjust accordingly.

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl: (amounts are approximate, but don't go wild)
4 cups all purpose flour (plus reserve an additional 1/2 cup in case batter is too wet))
2 scant cups of sugar (scant so I think its fewer calories)
1/2 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger
oh a dash more of cinnamon, won't hurt

Combine wet ingredients, separately: (amounts are pretty much as listed)
1 cup vegetable oil (canola or whatever)
4 large eggs (You may need a little more flour if the eggs are very large or jumbo).
1 cup orange juice
2 tsp orange extract

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix with a wooden spoon or whatever just until evenly moist. The batter should be heavy and thick, but not dry; if too moist because you have jumbo eggs, add up to 1/2 cup more flour.
Add the carrots, nuts and raisins and mix just until evenly distributed.  Scoop the batter into the cake pans (or loaf pans or muffin tins) and bake in a preheated oven at 375.  Ovens can vary in temperature so be sure to adjust: 30 to 35 minutes for large muffins and up to 55 to 60 minutes for a large cake.  Test with a dry knife after 35 or 40 minutes - if the batter sticks to the knife give it another 10 minutes - test again, it may need 5 more minutes.

Simple cream cheese frosting:  2 packages room temperature cream cheese or Neufchatel.  1 1/2 cups sugar (plus or minus) - you need not use confectioner's sugar- granulated is just fine.  1 tsp or more of lemon extract.  Beat with electric mixer or by hand.  Taste test - if you like it sweeter, add more sugar.  Add food coloring if you like.

Cut a big slice and enjoy!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Chicken alla Cacciatore

(Not too many hunters shoot chickens so I think this dish was originally made with rabbit or maybe some other bird)

We are expecting a frost this weekend and I figured today was a good day to harvest the remaining green peppers.  Actually they are Cubanelle peppers, otherwise called Italian Frying Peppers; they are mild, not hot.  They were quite prolific this year, given I only had six plants.  Everything else - tomatoes, broccoli, eggplant - quit early;  beans are long gone; have only peppers and swiss chard now.

I've had my eye on the peppers and planned to put them into a Chicken Cacciatore.  It is basically chicken parts with peppers and onions with a light tomato sauce.  You want the veggies in big pieces because the long cooking time will pretty much make them virtually dissolve.  This is a bit time consuming, but its a nice fall or winter dish.

 I used about 12 Italian Frying peppers, cored and cut in quarters, (Bell peppers will hold up better and not "dissolve" into the sauce),  2 onions, a 10 oz package of white mushrooms, sliced in half. (baby bellas would be good too), parsley, basil, garlic, oregano, olive oil, 1 can of whole, peeled tomatoes, 1 cup of tomato sauce, and of course some chicken legs and thighs - six (or eight) of each.  (I've been known to add Italian sausage and/or meatballs.)

Cubanelle or Frying Peppers
Purple Basil and Parsley
Canned Tomatoes
Brown the chicken parts in a skillet - in two batches. Season with a little salt and pepper.

While the chicken parts are cooking, in a separate, large sauce pan saute some garlic in olive oil.  Add the cut up peppers and one onion, quartered.  Allow to saute and sweat, turning frequently.

Remove the chicken from the skillet, pour off excess fat leaving a little for sauteing the mushrooms.  Add the halved mushrooms to the skillet along with a diced onion and a cut up carrot (optional).  Saute the vegetables until heated through, not over cooked.  Add some wine to deglaze the pan.  Then add a can of peeled tomatoes.  Add chopped parsley and basil, a little oregano, salt and pepper.

Add the tomato/vegetable mixture to the peppers/onions and add the chickenparts along with 1 cup of tomato puree or prepared tomato sauce.   Place on low heat and simmer for at least two hours.  When thoroughly cooked, the chicken should easily fall off the bone.

You can leave the chicken on  the bone or, to be kind, remove all the bones and knuckles and return the chicken meat to the pot.

Brown the chicken parts
Chicken Thighs
Add Onions to the Skillet
Add the Mushrooms
Add a Carrot and Some Wine to Deglaze 
Add the Tomatoes
Cut up the Tomatoes into Large Chunks
Add Chopped Parsley and Basil
Add a Cup of Tomato Sauce or Puree
Allow to Simmer for Hours
After it is Cooked
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Serve with crusty Italian bread, or with pasta, rice, or potatoes.

If you are reheating this dish, be prepared for the peppers to disappear.   If you use Bell peppers, they will hold up better.