Archive for August, 2010

Cheesy Does It

Happiness experts say that simulating a smile, even if it’s not sincere, triggers your brain to lift your mood. Try it:

  • Repeat the word “cheese” over and over again.
  • Put a fat pretzel stick lengthwise between your upper and lower teeth.
  • Look in the mirror as you practice your cheesy grins.


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Ravishing Homemade Ricotta

Time for a little braggadocio. The Fresh Ricotta Cheese recipe in Italian magazine is melt-in-your-mouth perfection. (I was the project editor of the magazine, one of the Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publications. It’s on newsstands now.)

I’ve never been a fan of ricotta cheese … until I taste-tested this recipe created by Juli Hale in the BH&G Test Kitchen.

The recipe is ridiculously simple. The result is ricotta nirvana: pillow-soft mounds of fresh, creamy, sweet ricotta cheese. There’s an herbed version with lemon peel and garlic that I’ve been spreading on everything. Ummm, irresistible.

And, teaser alert. Read More >>



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Pie! Oh, my…

State Fair judging, Round 3: Pies.

I have a pie hangover.

Why did I have those warm, sugary mini-donuts as I entered the fairgrounds in the morning? Even though I wasn’t judging the pie contest until 2 p.m., I knew better. I had no idea there would be 150-some pie entries. Luckily there were about 10 judges so we divvied them up.

I only had to taste 9 pecan pies, 7 coconut cream pies, and 3 peach-raspberry pies. They brought me the 7 coconut cream pies first. Big mistake. I was so full of sugary-sweet custard and billowy whipped cream that my teeth were protesting before I started in on the pecan pies. My favorite? A pecan pie made with caramels and a generous splash of spiced rum. It didn’t take top honors tho because the caramel filling was way too runny. Good idea tho.

The overall winner of the contest sponsored by the Machine Shed? A pumpkin pie with chai spices.

Personally, I swing toward fruit pies. In case you missed this recipe some months ago, here’s my recipe for a “slab pie,” so called because it is baked in a jelly roll pan and is cut in slabs that will remind you of a bar cookie: a pie bar, if you will. I say, if you’re going to go to all the trouble of making pie, make a big, honking pie and have plenty to serve a crowd or to stash in the freezer for warming up when you’re in the mood.

My grandfather was a professional baker and served pieces of slab pie to his customers back in the day. This is my spin. Read More >>


2 Responses to “Pie! Oh, my…”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by educatedblue, Jeanne Ambrose. Jeanne Ambrose said: Judged an Iowa State Fair pie contest. A lotta pie eating. http://tinyurl.com/26sdrtt […]

  2. sue parkin says:

    Dennis is making this for me on Sunday. we’re already drooling!!!


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This cinnamon roll’s a winner

Funny thing happened as I was wandering among the 132 cinnamon roll entries showcased on table after table at the Iowa State Fair today. I shot a few overview pictures, then homed in on a few I thought were most uniquely attractive.

And I picked a winner.  This photo doesn’t do it justice, but the mahogany “icing” on the golden brown rolls captured my eye. I didn’t realize it at the time but the “icing” was barbecue sauce. These Savory Pulled Pork Cinnamon Rolls earned a second-place overall prize for Kelly McCulley (but first place in the non-tradtional division) in the Tone’s Cinnamon Roll contest. The top prize, $3,000 overall, went to Janice Nostrom for her more traditional Caramel Pecan Rolls. (Janice also won $500 for taking first place in the “traditional” category.)

But Kelly’s rolls have that wow factor. Slow-roasted pork tinged with the flavor of a cinnamon and brown sugar rub is shredded and placed on dough spread with cinnamon-butter. The dough is rolled traditionally, encasing the slightly sweet meat in its artsy spiral. When baked, the roll is drizzled with barbecue sauce.

Be still my heart. I am in love.

Kelly McCulley’s
Savory Cinnamon Pulled Pork Rolls

Pulled Pork Filling

4-5 pound pork butt or shoulder

¼ cup brown sugar

1 T Tones Ground Cinnamon

1 T kosher salt

½  tsp ground black pepper

¼ cup butter, softened

½ tsp Tones Ground Cinnamon

about ¼ cup of your favorite BBQ sauce, plus more for drizzle (I used Sweet Baby Rays Hickory & Brown Sugar)

Roll dough:

½ cup milk (2%)

½ cup butter

½ cup warm water

1 envelope Fleischmann’s Active Dry Yeast

¼  cup granulated sugar

1 large egg plus 2 large egg yolks

1 ½ teaspoon salt

4 to 4 ½ cups unbleached all purpose flour, plus more for dusting work surface

Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water)

1. Preheat oven to 300°F.  Start with roasting the pork.  Mix the brown sugar, 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, kosher salt, and black pepper.  Coat the outside of the pork roast with this mixture.  Place roast in a large roasting pan and roast uncovered  at 300°F for 6 to 8 hours, or until the meat is tender and pulls off easily.  When done, let roast rest until it cools off a little.  Then shred with two forks, discarding fat and gristle.  Set pulled pork aside.

2.  Heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan or in the microwave until butter melts.  Remove pan from heat and set aside until the mixture is lukewarm (about 100 degrees).

3.  In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle, mix together the warm water, yeast, sugar, egg, and yolks at low speed until well mixed.  Add the salt, warm milk mixture, and 2 cups of the flour, and mix at medium speed until thoroughly blended, about 1 minute.  Switch to the dough hook, add another 2 cups of the flour, and knead at medium speed (adding ¼ cup more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, if necessary) until the dough is smooth, about 10 minutes.  Scrape the dough into a large lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat, then cover bowl with plastic wrap.  Leave in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in bulk (1 ½ to 2 hours.)

4.  After the dough has doubled, press it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Using a rolling pin, shape the dough into a 16 by 12 inch rectangle, with a short side facing you.  Mix the ¼ cup softened butter with the ½ teaspoon cinnamon and spread over the surface of the dough.  Spread a healthy layer of pulled pork over the surface of the dough, leaving a 1-inch open strip on one of the short sides.  Roll the dough and when you get to the end, pinch it to seal.

5.  Preheat oven to 350°F.  Butter a metal 9 x 13-inch cake pan.  With a sharp serrated knife, evenly cut roll into six equal slices and evenly place them swirl side up in the pan (2 rolls x 3 rolls).  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until puffy and almost doubled (about 1 hour).  Gently brush with egg wash before placing in oven.

6.  Bake rolls at 350°F for 40-50 minutes, or until the dough reaches 185°F-190°F on an instant read thermometer.  Remove from oven and allow to cool in pan 10-15 minutes.   Drizzle with your favorite barbecue sauce and serve.

Makes 6 hearty rolls.


2 Responses to “This cinnamon roll’s a winner”

  1. Babette says:

    I think I am totally going to try these…I can see them tiny, too, as a twist on a slider, right???

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by cinnazilla, Nancie McDermott. Nancie McDermott said: Make K. McCulley's Pulled Pork Cinnamon Rolls from Iowa State Fair http://tinyurl.com/24fynuf . Let rise & read L. Funderburg's "Pig Candy". […]


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Summer Sangria


Photo: Tom Woolery, IKONIX Studio

Sometimes gorgeous doesn’t dazzle. But, this pitcher perfect sangria blanca was wowza. It’s a Lindsey-fusion recipe. Food stylist Dianna Nolin volunteered to stir it together for a summery soiree we were throwing.

The moscato d’asti makes this a standout. It’s a lightly fizzed and subtly sweet low-alcohol wine. Perfect for sitting on the deck under the stars. But when used to concoct this sangria…oh. Oh. Oh.

It’s a cocktail you can eat. And it tastes like summer.

tropical white wine sangria for a crowd
Makes 12 to 15 servings (more or less).

1 750-ml. bottle dry white wine (Lindsey likes Pinot Grigio)
1 750-ml. bottle Moscato d’Asti* or white wine
1 liter bottle club soda, chilled (Lindsey skips the club soda when she makes this.)
2 cups fresh pineapple chunks
1 cup cubed papaya or mango
1 lime, sliced and halved

1. Pour wine and club soda in a pitcher. Add fruit and stir gently. Serve over ice. Be sure to scoop some of the fruit into each glass. (If you want to make this in advance, stir the pineapple and papaya chunks into the dry white wine and refrigerate up to 8 hours. Add the Moscato d”Asti, club soda, and lime slices just before serving.)

*Moscato d’Asti is a low-alcohol wine, that is subtly sweet and with a hint of fizz. (about half the bubbly of most sparkling wines.



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Watermelon Wow

Throwing a major party this weekend and am so not ready. As always, I’m in the last-minute throes of cleaning house, and oh, while I’m at it, let’s tackle my office, and look! A box of old checkbooks, bank statements, mortgage papers—a treasure trove for identity thieves. Surely I should shred every one of those gazillion documents RIGHT NOW instead of thinking about party planning and prepping.

Aaaargh. I am so easily distracted.

That’s why the party menu is going to be somewhat easy. Since it’s the kind of humid-heavy, hair-frizzling, mosquito-friendly summer in Iowa that makes you want to do nothing but sit in the kiddy pool with a fan blowing on your face and a cocktail in your hand, we’re serving up simplicity.

Watermelon comes to mind. Crispy cool and thirst-quenching. This spin on the watermelon-mint-feta cheese dish is my new favorite sum-sum-summertime delight.

Watermelon Salad with Cotija Cheese

Makes about 3 servings (although I downed the whole bowl one day and called it lunch).

2 cups watermelon chunks
2 tablespoons snipped fresh herbs (I used parsley and chocolate mint because that’s what was abundant in the garden. Cilantro and basil are good options, too.)
1 teaspoon key lime, lime, or lemon juice
1 teaspoon olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons crumbled Cotija or feta cheese (any salty, crumbly cheese will do)
2 tablespoons roasted pepitas or sunflower seeds (or any coarsely chopped toasted nut)

1. Toss everything except pepitas and cheese in a bowl. Sprinkle with nuts and cheese before serving.

*Pepitas are the kernels of pumpkin seeds. So delish.


2 Responses to “Watermelon Wow”

  1. susan and diana says:

    Yahoo, can’t wait to see and hold your new baby… I mean BOOK!!! Many congrats for taking the bull by the horn….

  2. Justin says:

    Mhhmmm looks good!


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