Thursday, January 19, 2012

Strawberry Cream Cake

Strawberries happen to be one of my favorite fruits. You can do a million different things with them. I am beginning to see them appear in grocery sale papers, marking the start of their season.  My father-in-law takes frequent fishing trips to an area of Florida where strawberries are grown and are ripe in the early spring. On his way home he likes to stop at roadside produce stands and buy some of the Sunshine State's bounty. We like it because he generously shares what he brings home....ripe tomatoes, Indian River grapefruit, several varieties of oranges, and red, juicy strawberries.

I always feel rushed to use up the strawberries while I have them and today's recipe is one of my favorite ways to do it. The actual preparartion and assemly of the cake is not difficult. But the process requires some time, i.e., cooling of the angel food cake and refrigeration time. Calories can be shaved off by using reduced or fat free ingredients. I will print the recipe as written and in parentheses I will put the lower calorie alternatives.

I like to make the angel food cake as opposed to buying a ready made one because it yields a larger cake.  I used to be intimidated by angel food cake but nothing can be easier than a Duncan Hines eggs, oil, etc. You only add water to the mix and let the mixer go to it for a few minutes. You don't even have to grease and flour the pan. On the contrary, beaters and bowl and pan should be grease free as any oils prevent the incorporation of air which gives the cake its fluffiness. The cake in the pan is turned upside over a bottle to cool for an hour and a half. I use a wine bottle for this purpose.

Slice off the top of the cake and put aside.

Using a serrated knife, cut one inch from the center hole and side of cake. Use a "sawing" action with the knife as the cake does not cut cleanly. With your fingers, pull out pieces of cake to form a tunnel. Be careful to leave the side and bottom intact.

Mix the cake pieces with strawberries, cream cheese, condensed milk, lemon juice, and almond flavoring.

Fill in the tunnel with mixture and replace the top. Frost with Cool Whip and decorate with sliced strawberries if desired.

Strawberry Cream Cake
1 (14.5oz) package white angel food cake mix
1 (8oz) pkge cream cheese (or 1/3 less fat), softened
1 (14oz) can sweetened condensed milk (or fat-free)
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
1 (8oz) carton frozen whipped topping, thawed (or lite variety)
Additional strawberries for decoration
 Prepare angel food cake according to package directions, using a 10-inch tube pan. Invert pan on funnel or bottle for 2 hours or until cake is completely cooled.
 Loosen cake from sides of pan using a small metal spatula. Remove from pan; cut a 1-inch slice crosswise from top of cake and set top aside. Cut 1 inch from center hole and outer edge of cake with a sharp or serrated knife.Carefully remove center of cake, gently pulling cake pieces out with fingers, leaving a 1 inch layer of cake on bottom. Reserve cake pieces.
 Beat cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add condensed milk; mix well. Stir in lemon juice and almond extract. Fold in cake pieces and strawberries; spoon into tunnel in center of cake. Top with reserved cake slice. Chill 8 hours or overnight. Frost with whipped topping and garnish with additional strawberries.

Happy cooking!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Chicken Burgers: A Healthy Alternative

I love a good hamburger.  I also love grilled chicken.  Combine the two and you have "Chicken Burgers".  This recipe's original name is Blue Cheese Chicken Burgers (from Weight Watchers) but rarely do I add the blue cheese.  My philosophy is why waste the calories when the burger is just as good without it.  Brandon usually ends up adding his preferable slice of cheese so what the heck, just add what you like.  Be warned, though, don't expect to bite into this burger and taste beefy goodness. No, it is made with ground chicken, which is a much different.  However, I think you'll find that after a few bites you'll be satisfied with the "burger taste" and turn into a more delightful person knowing that you've eaten way less calories.  This recipe is perfect to share for the new year when weight-loss resolutions are at a peak.

Chicken Burgers
Adapted from Weight Watchers
Serves:  4

Cooking spray
1/4 cup favorite BBQ sauce
1 1/2 tsp hot pepper sauce, or to taste
1 pound uncooked extra lean ground chicken breast
1/2 cup scallions, sliced
1/4 cup celery, chopped
1/4 cup bread crumbs, plain-variety
2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp table salt
4 mixed-grain hamburger rolls
lettuce, tomatoes, cheese of choice

Off heat, coat grill or grill pan with cooking spray; preheat to medium-high.

In a small bowl, combine BBQ sauce and hot pepper sauce. In a medium bowl, combine chicken, 1 tablespoon of BBQ mixture, scallion, celery, bread crumbs, garlic, and salt. Using wet hands to prevent mix from sticking, form chicken mixture into four 1/2-thick patties; brush top of burgers with some remaining BBQ sauce mixture.

Place burgers on grill, sauce side down. Brush tops of burgers with remaining sauce. Grill, turning once, until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Lightly toast open-faced buns on grill during last minute of cooking.



Friday, January 6, 2012

Too Prissy to Hunt? I Don't Think So!

I surprise many people when I tell them that I am a hunter.  They stand amazed with their mouths open, speechless, and I know what they're thinking..."You're too prissy to hunt." 

I'll let you decide for yourself...

That's me at a dove shoot with  In Style magazine in my left hand and my 20 gauge in my right.  How's that for prissy?!?!

My favorite hunting is deer hunting; although, during Christmas break I had the opportunity to hunt waterfowl and that was really cool.  My hunting days began when I about ten years old in Bartow, Georgia.  Before then, I would help my grandaddy at his hunting club prep the deer stands during the pre-season.  We would go up and down the stands, cleaning windows and carpet and replacing chairs.  A fall from the top of one of his tower stands, which resulted in a broken wrist, didn't halt my interest in hunting and it was a few years later when I asked my grandaddy if I could go hunting with him.  Well, if you know my Grandaddy Gunn well, you won't be shocked when I say that the very next day I was the proud owner of a 243, junior rifle, with a nice scope mounted on top, a ditty bag, and a plethora of camouflage.  I will never forget the first time we set out for the woods.  I was nervous as heck as my grandaddy sat me down in his cookhouse and drew a picture of a deer.  Above and a little to the right of the deer's front leg, he drew a bulls-eye (I am laughing hysterically as I write, thinking back to that day!).  Grandaddy told me if the cross-hairs in my scope were situated on that spot, all I would have to do is pull the trigger and I'd have me a deer.  Well, won't you know that I have knocked down every one since.  I like to call it "the sweet spot."  Thanks, grandaddy.

My grandaddy has taught me lots of other great things about hunting, including how to scan the food plots slowly and with minimal movement as I turn my head, how to use my peripheral vision, where to place binoculars, that it's okay to snooze but remember I may lose, and that I should only place one bullet in the chamber at a time (that's for scatter-brained people like me who often "forget".).  More importantly, he has also taught me that hunting should not just be about shooting animals but instead having meat for food.  I have tried to remember that over the years.  However, I have failed until recently at cooking venison and other game as I have not been able to find recipes that take out enough of the "gamey" taste.  Thanks to our sweet neighbors here in Augusta, who have encouraged me and given several recipes, I gave it another try and was successful.  This recipe I am sharing is wonderful and by marinating the venison overnight followed by slow-cooking all day the wild taste is barely noticeable.

Slow Cooker Venison
  • 3 to 4 pounds boneless venison roast (I used a backstrap)
  • 1/2 cup vinegar, plus
  • 1/3 cup vinegar
  • 7 teaspoons salt
  • 7 garlic cloves, chopped (I substituted with jarred minced garlic)
  • flour
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 (14 oz) cans tomatoes, chopped
  1. Put the roast or backstrap in a deep bowl.
  2. Make a marinade using 1/2 cup vinegar, 2 tablespoons of the salt, and 4 cloves of chopped garlic.
  3. Pour the marinade over the roast, adding enough water to cover the venison; cover and refrigerate overnight.
  4. Remove venison from the marinade and pat dry.
  5. Sprinkle the meat with the remaining teaspoon of salt and dredge with flour.
  6. Heat oil in a heavy skillet and brown the roast on all sides.
  7. Transfer the roast to a crock-pot and add the sliced onion.
  8. In a bowl, mix the brown sugar, mustard, 3 tablespoons of flour, and the Worcestershire to a paste; stir in the tomatoes, the remaining 1/3 cup of vinegar, and 3 cloves of chopped garlic; dump this mixture over the roast in the crock-pot.
  9. Cook on LOW setting for 8-10 hours, until tender.
  10. Allow about 5 minutes to set before cutting. Serve with rice. Can also add potatoes and carrots.



Sunday, January 1, 2012

Pineapple Casserole. It's a Personal Thing.

I know someone (a special someone) who has a relationship with pineapple casserole.  This is a love-love relationship no doubt.  The date when these two first got hooked up is unknown but that's not what matters.  What matters is this special person loves pineapple casserole so much that he will eat it for breakfast (and he NEVER eats breakfast), lunch, and dinner if there's leftovers.  In 2008, this someone married another someone who made this casserole for him at least once a week.  Unfortunately, after a month or two, the cookings decreased due to body fat increase.  Recently, it was prepared for friends at the hunting club and as my special someone sat down with his plate of food, I bet you'd never guess what he bit into first?  Let's just say that he had secretly been experiencing withdrawals and I kind of felt an instant of guilt.  I'm not going to reveal this someone's identity as I would hate to embarrass him but as I write this post, I will admit that I am not sure how I've blogged for almost six months and this recipe has not been featured.  Oh well, just make it and you'll see why it's loved so much.

Pineapple Casserole
Adapted from The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook, 1999
  • 2 (20 oz) cans pineapple chunks in juice, undrained
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups (8 oz) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 2 - 2 1/2 cups buttery cracker crumbs (we use Ritz)*
  • 3/4 stick butter, melted
Drain pineapple, reserving 3/4 cup (or just a shade more) juice**.  Combine sugar and flour; stir in reserved pineapple juice.  Stir in cheese and pineapple chunks.  Spoon mixture into a greased 2-quart casserole. 

Combine cracker crumbs and melted butter, stirring well; sprinkle over pineapple mixture.  Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes or until top is browned.  Serve hot.  Yields:  8 servings

*Crackers can easily be crushed in unopened sleeve. Helps prevent making a big mess!
**Save remaining juice and add to iced tea; makes a refreshing drink, especially in the summertime.