Wednesday, December 29, 2010

It's a Fruitcake, not a Door Stop!

My mom uses my Grandma Tarner's recipe for fruitcake and she makes one every year. She used to make both a dark Fruitcake (which was my favorite, but darnit she doesn't make those anymore!) and a white fruitcake.

Now fruitcakes get a bad wrap. Yes, they are the butt of a lot of jokes, but seriously the one my mom makes is out of this world!! She has had people tell her they don't like fruitcake, but they do like her's! Yes, it really is that good. Plus, the colors are amazing. I swear it is like looking at a stained glass window when you look at a slice and hold it up to the light. Ha!

I would love to say it is simple to make, but it isn't. There is A LOT of cutting and the cutting up of the fruit is TOUGH!!!!!! Then when you mix everything together there are so many ingredients that it is so HARD to stir! Okay, I'm not really a doing a good job at selling this am I? Ha! But, OMG, the end result is SOOOOOOOO worth it! My peeps, I am telling you, you really need to try one of these at least once before you die because you so won't regret it! I pinky swear!

So, here it goes:

You first cut up all of the dried fruit. These are the cherries. You need one cup of them cut (the container they have at the grocery is plenty.) You can get them in either green or red and this year we got them in green. They are kind of gooey (not sure what the gooeyness is though).

Next you cut up the pineapple. And again, you need one cup. This is incredibly hard to cut. It's dried and so that's probably what makes it so difficult to cut. Again, it comes in the festive red and green colors. Pretty right?

Next, is the citron (again 1 cup). I'm not really sure what kind of fruit this is. I really have no idea. I just know it is candied fruit that you put into fruitcake. :) I asked my mom what it was and her answer was, "the kind you put in a fruitcake". Ha! See.

And then comes the gumdrops (you need about 2 dozen or so). Ugh, now these can be the worst to cut up because of the sugar and the gumminess of them. Okay, I know, "gooeyness and gumminess" are not words, but I like them, so there! :)

The last is the fruitcake fruit stuff. It's already cut up and so that is really simple. Ha!

After you have everything cut up you want to just sprinkle some flour over them to keep them from getting even more sticky overnight. We always cut everything up the night before and then get up the next morning and make the fruitcake.

Now, after everything is cut you just mix it all together in a BIG bowl. You also add some other ingredients that I will mention as we go along.

So, first you take one cup of sugar and mix it with one cup of shortening and four eggs and 2 1/4 cups of flour.

You then mix in 1/2 tsp. of salt and 1 tsp. of baking soda and 1/4 tsp. of cream of tartar.

Next, you add in 1 cup of coconut.

Then, you just start adding in each of the dried, cut-up fruits, one at a time. So, you add in the citron,

then the pineapple,

then the cherries,

then the gumdrops,

then 1 cup of white raisins. Now before you mix the raisins in you should cook them on the stove in a saucepan with water. You just cook them long enough until they plump up. (I swear this is what my grandma's recipe says.)

Next, you add in 1 cup of walnuts,

and then finally you add in the fruitcake fruit.

So, next you grease an Angel Food Cake pan with butter. Make sure you grease it well because you don't want this cake to stick at all. Then take a brown paper bag and trace the bottom of the pan around it and then cut it out, along with a hole in the center. This fits down in the pan. It sounds weird I know, but that's the way my grandmas did it and why mess with something that works right? Just do it. :) You should grease the paper bag too once it is in the pan.

Then you scoop (trust me there is no pouring involved with this humongous cake) the cake into the pan.

Yes, I weighed the fruitcake and it weighed 7.2 pounds!!!!!! It really is heavy!

Then place the pan on the middle rack of a oven and then take two pie plates and fill them with water and put them on the rack under the fruitcake pan. This helps to keep the cake moist as it is baking. You may need to fill the pie plates again before it is done baking. Set the timer for 3 hours and that's it!

Man, is it ever good!!!! Trust me, the store bought fruitcake has nothing on my grandma's! OMG! It is fab-u-lous!!! Really, really good!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Fresh Caught Salmon from Alaska

As I've mentioned before my brother Todd lives in Alaska.He loves salmon fishing and goes many times during the salmon season. You can really only catch salmon when they are running.

I mean really look at all of those fish and the size of them!!!! My brother is the one on the right.

He catches, cleans and sometimes even smokes his own salmon. He sent us a big box of the salmon he caught and some of it was smoked. Mmmmmmm, is it ever good! Seriously, there are so many things you can do with smoked salmon. We had a family Christmas Party a couple of weeks ago and I decided to make some Smoked Salmon Dip. OMG!!! It was fab-u-lous!!! Forget about the smoked salmon from the grocery, BLEH, this is sooooo much better. I mean c'mon really, what is better than fresh caught wild Alaska salmon??? (nothing.) If you cannot get it fresh then the farm raised or wild in your local market should do okay too.

So, he sent me three pieces of smoked salmon. You will need 8-12 ounces for this recipe.

I cut it up into little chunks.

Then I added an assortment of ingredients, such as:
8oz. softened Cream Cheese
1 cup of mayonnaise
1/2 tsp. Tobasco sauce
1 bunch of green onions
1/2-1 tsp. of garlic powder
1/2-1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 pack of fresh dill (I just grabbed a bunch from the herb garden that wasn't yet frozen)
1 tsp. of Old Bay Seasoning
a dash of black pepper
and some squeezes of fresh lemon juice.

Then you mix this all up in a bowl and then put into a cute and festive bowl and walluh that's it! So easy right? You've got to try it. I know your mouth is watering right now isn't it. Lucky me for having a super awesome brother that lives in Alaska. Thanks Todd (and I think my sister-in-law Terry caught some of these too!!!) Plus, it is her recipe! And yes, she is the one that inspired me to write this blog in the first place!

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Best Kind of Date!

I think I finally got everything moved from CT. back to PA. and so, it is baking time!!! Get set because for the next couple of days there is going to be a ton of baking and cooking things on this blog. So, c'mon back often and check it out and let me know what you think.

So, my mom always makes these Date Balls each year. This year I wanted to make then on my own and so I did. They are soooooo incredibly delicious!! You've got to try them. Dates get a bad rap often, but they are so gooey and yummy and oh my garsh, so yummy!!! And they are so
You take some dates

and cut them up into pieces. You'll need a cup of them cut. I bought the fresh ones (which can be pricey though), but my mom used to always just them in a block. I'm not sure what that means exactly, but that's what she told me. Ha! :)

Anywho, next you mix 1 cup of sugar,

with 2 eggs in a saucepan.

Next you take two tbsp. of butter and melt it in a saucepan.

Then add to the saucepan the dates.

Keep stirring until the mixture draws away from the sides. Now, I'm not exactly sure what "draws away from the sides" means. Ha! I stirred and stirred and I never actually saw it draw away from the sides. I asked my mom and she said she didn't know, but that it was done when it looked like it was done! What??? Anyway, stir it until it comes to a slight boil. The remove it from the heat.

Add 1 tsp. vanilla,

and 3/4 cup of chopped nuts (I used pecans, but you can also use walnuts if you wish).

Let it cool for about 10 minutes.

Add in some 2 cups of Rice Krispies.

Now you have to let this cool a bit because otherwise it is too hot to pick up and it needs to get sticky as it cools. When it is cool to your hand, take about a teaspoonful and roll it in your hand

and then roll it in some coconut and then set aside to cool more.

That's all you do! It's really easy and quick. OMG!!! They are so incredibly fab-u-lous!!! Seriously, make some and then let me know what you think.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Loaded Sweet Potatoes

Have you ever gone to a steakhouse and gotten the delectable, delicious and oh so scrumptious loaded sweet potato? You can easily make these at home and they are so much cheaper. Ha! I made these for dinner tonight. It so quick and so simple!

All you do is take a sweet potato and jag holes all over it with a fork. Then wrap it in a paper towel and put it in the microwave for 10 minutes. Take it out and cut it lengthwise and squeeze open, put some butter and brown sugar on it and that's it! Yuuuuuummmmoooooo! Seriously this is so incredibly good. You can easily get your kids to eat these potatoes. They are healthy and nutritious too. You don't have to add that much butter and brown sugar to make it sweet and yummy. They have a natural sweetness to them. I make these all the time. OMG, really, really good!

I also made some brussel sprouts. These get a bad rap. True, when I was little I didn't like them either. One time we were at a neighbor's house for dinner and I snuck mine into a napkin and then excused myself to the bathroom and flushed them all down the toilet. I got in trouble for that one. Ha! Now, I am a big fan though. Years ago, I dated this guy Dan and he had me make them for dinner and I couldn't believe how good they were. I've been a fan ever since. They are easy too. I just cut the end off and peel a little bit of the leafy part off. Then put them into a pot of boiling water. Once the leaves start to fall off a little bit they are usually done. I also stick a fork into them to make sure they are soft. Then I take them out and put a little butter on them and some parmesean cheese and that's it! Fab-u-lous! Seriously, they are sooooo good and OMG! let's just talk about how stinkin' healthy they are!! You've got to try them. You really do. I promise you will like them.

I also made a quick salad. I've been trying to eat more vegetables (at least 2-3 with each meal) and so I just threw together some spinach, roma/cherry tomatoes, shredded part skim mozzarella, and some slivered almonds. That's it. So easy and so good.

A totally veggie meal tonight. What fresh veggies to you make on a regular basis and how do you prepare them?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Not Bogged Down with These Cranberries

My mom makes this amazing Cranberry Relish each holiday. Believe me it is fab-u-lous!!!! People who think they don't like cranberry relish have got to try this kind because you will loooooove it! It is a perfect combination of tart and sweet. And it is so incredibly simple to make.

So all you do is take a bag of frozen cranberries (You just buy them at the grocery store and freeze them) and an orange. You grind these together. You grind the orange peel and all.

My mom uses this old fashioned food grinder that suctions onto the table and you put the cranberries and the orange in the top and turn the handle which pushes the fruit through the grinder. I'm sure you could also use a food processor. But, to me, there is something nostalgic and nice about using a machine that has been used for probably well over 30-some years to make so many dishes that so many others have enjoyed. I love that idea.

Okay, so once you have the cranberries and orange ground, you simply add in 1 cup of sugar and mix it all together. That's it!! Yes, really. That's all there is to it. Next, you just take spoonful and enjoy! How do you make your cranberry relish?