Monday, December 14, 2009

Caramel Puffcorn

If you like caramel corn--and don't mind the addictive quality is has in taking over your brain telling you to have just another handful...until it's gone--you'll really like this version made with kernel-less puffed corn. I like that I don't even have to worry about the thought of cracking a tooth on those little buggers when I pop these caramel puffs in my mouth.

My mother in law sent us home with a bag of puffed corn because she knew that my husband could eat this gluten-free snack, which he would have devoured on our 21-hour roadie back home to Texas from Minnesota if I hadn't seen the caramel corn recipe on the back of the package.

I packed them away in the back of our vehicle so none of the 12 hands looking for snacks would find them and eat'em up before I returned home and had the chance to try this recipe! (Yes, this is probably considered abusive--especially when my entire family is physically restrained for 1200 miles.)

Here's everything you'll need:

Yes, I know it's a HUGE box of baking soda. You'll only need 1+ tsp. for this recipe. You really don't want to know why I have this overabundance of baking soda...and four more boxes just like it at my house. I'll just leave you with two words: mummified chicken. 'Nough said, k? Carrying on...

Here's the recipe for

Caramel Puffcorn

3- 3-1/2 oz. pkgs. puffed corn (found in the snack aisle, butter flavored--not cheese flavored!)
1 cup butter (not margarine)
1-1/4 cups brown sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1 tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 250 degrees
Combine butter, brown sugar, and light corn syrup in a 2 qt. sauce pan, cook on medium heat until mixture has melted. Once mixture has melted add the baking soda.

Note: This will cause the mixture to foam slightly.
Note 2: You may need to add an additional 1/2 tsp. soda if 1 tsp. doesn't cause it to foam or get slightly cloudyish.

Pour puffed corn into a large roasting pan. Pour caramel mixture over the puffed corn and stir until mixed.

Place in oven at 250 degrees for 45 minutes, stirring at least every 10-15 minutes.

Remove from oven, pour on wax paper or parchment and break apart/separate puffs. Allow to cool and...

*For a naughtier version: drizzle melted chocolate over the mixture after you
remove it from the oven.

Bring it to your neighbors for a Christmas treat.
Just beware they'll be looking for it again every year.

If you don't continue to deliver, they'll look at you with (as my 7 year old son would say) "angry eyebrows"...and you don't want that, do you? Unless they complain about your yard not looking good enough--then it might be okay to occasionally skip a year of caramel corn for them! :}

For all of you living north in the frozen tundra, you're in Old Dutch country--not Chester Cheetah country. Look for Old Dutch brand corn puffs in your grocer's snack aisle.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

English Lasagna :: gluten free and low lactose

Never heard of English lasagna? Me either...until just over a year ago. Grandma Doogie (as in our kids Grandma Doogie) passed this one along to me. She's made it for years and says that she now doesn't make any other kind. I didn't even have to follow her around like a little puppy to scratch down the recipe as she cooked this time (unlike when she made her tasty ribs). She had it written down!

Here's the low down:

This dish looks like a regular ol' Italian lasagna but has less tomatoey sauce and no ricotta--less cheese overall. It has a bechamel sauce instead of the regular cheese mixture. It can be made gluten free and with lower lactose if you substitute the noodles for gluten free noodles; use gluten-free flour and coconut milk for the bechamel sauce instead of the cheese and egg mixture.
All I can say is that my husband and kids prefer this lasagna over the standard Italian version. So, try it sometime and let me know what you think.

Sorry, no picture...yet.

Meat Sauce:
1 pould lean ground beef
1/2 pound Italian sausage
1 cup chopped medium onion
1 TBSP minced garlic
1 cup dry white wine
2 TBSP tomato paste
2 TBSP chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 (15 oz) can crushed tomatoes in puree

Bechamel Sauce:
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
(I use ~1/8 c. rice flour & equal parts potato & tapioca starch for the other 1/8 c.)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
3 cups 1% reduced-fat milk
(I use a can of coconut milk and add enough water to = 3 cups. Almost a 1:1 ratio)

12 sheets no-boil lasagna noodles
(I use uncooked gluten-free noodles--usually penne)
3 cups shredded aged Cheddar cheese

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Volcano cake with tropical flowers

Requested by this young lady.

Idea for cake found here.

General idea for flowers found here.

Instead of making my own hard-crack candy for the lava, I just melted down Red Hots and Jolly Ranchers. NOTE: When pouring the melted candy on parchment paper, make sure to pour various lengths of "lava" with a curve at the top to make it easier to secure to the cake. Looking back, I should have made more short lava and filled in the top more to make it look more explosive. I had longer pieces left and should have just broken them in half and used 'em.

Made to order for my daughter's ninth birthday!

2 boxes of cake mix
6 eggs
2/3 cup oil
1 pkg. prepared chocolate frosting
1 pouch green decorator icing
Cool Whip
1-6 oz. package of Red Hots
small bag of passion fruit Jolly Ranchers
(I just used the orange ones.)

$10.31 and a little putzing...
for a cake made to order,
with priceless memories
held in the heart of a nine-year old girl.

Most definitely worth it!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Solar Cooker :: Country Breakfast Casserole (gluten free to boot)

I've come out of hiding. Truthfully, I haven't been experimenting very much with new recipes since I've been a whole lot busier with homeschooling this year. In fact, the recipe in this post isn't new, it's just cooked in a new way...with my father-in-law's hard work in solar energy.

My FIL (a.k.a. Grampy) spent his entire career inventing different films and machines and made his niche with solar films. When he retired in 1996, 3M had discontinued using many of his films because there just wasn't enough demand for the the time. Oh, but with this fascinatingly new demand for solar power, they've begged, schmoozed, and pleaded for him to come out of retirement for the newbie engineers to glean as much as possible from him.

(Okay, I don't really know what they had to do to pull him out of retirement, but somehow they did it. Actually, I don't think he's getting paid, so what do you call that? A corporate volunteer?)

Anyhoo, when we visit Grammy and Grampy's house, our kids use all his old castoff films as their high-tech slippy slide. I get a little kick out of that! They also love to watch Grampy swooish down the hill on the film in his trunks that seem to be Teflon-coated. Visual: It's similar to Chevy Chase's Christmas Vacation waxed taboggon speed.

Jimmer on Grampy's "high-tech" (hill + film + water hose) slippy slide.

If you look closely, you can see Grampy's spunky trunks that make him zip like the wind.

(July '07)

For many years now Grampy has worked with a lovely couple, Mike and Martha Port, and together they came up with a design for a solar box cooker for Port's nonprofit organization. The cookers use Grampy's patented solar films as its solar secret weapon (at least it seems much more interesting and exciting if I put it that way).

So, if you want a little excitement in your life, give solar cooking a try. If you purchase one of their S.O.S. Sport ovens, you also enable the organization to send one (or almost one) to needy folks in different countries that have used up to 98% of their forests for firewood and are suffering from lung and eye diseases caused from inhaling smoke from cooking fires.

Be green and philanthropic! Using a solar cooker taps into a unique side of culinary creativity and provides you with a wonderful sense of satisfaction that we can harness that blazing sun power for good--for ourselves and our neighbors in need.

As for yer vittles, follow this Country Breakfast Casserole recipe, spray the pots to prevent sticking, pour in the fixins, and go from this... this in 3 hours of time you'd rather not heat up the kitchen, or use a bunch of energy that's not free.


Before I started cooking, I wanted to see how hot the oven would get by itself using the reflectors. It got up to 300 degrees. (I'd show ya, but the picture just turned out really blurry. See?)

Here's a non-blurry temp photo, but it was taken after I took off the lid and checked on the goodies.

When I put the mixture with the frozen potatoes into the solar cooker, it got down to 150 degrees, but then crept back up to 250 degrees as the average cooking temp.

I was thrilled with how it turned such a lovely shade of brown on top. Wasn't expecting it.

My taste buds were also thrilled.

As you can see, I'm a member of the C.P.C. (Clean Plate Club, as my Grandpa Hardie used to say).

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Grandma Doogie's Pork Back Ribs

If you like moist and tender ribs, this method of making ribs is a guarantee for the most luscious ribs you'll ever eat. Watch out though because they may just fall off the bone while you're flippin'em on the grill.

Grandma Doogie makes these wonder ribs without a recipe, so I had to watch carefully and take notes last time we were in Chelan (when my youngest boy rolled their golf cart and broke it in many places). I didn't even like ribs...until I took one bite of these. I think it had something to do with the ones I've had being kind of dry, a little tough, and somewhat fatty (blech!), and also because I realized that tough rib meat doesn't make very good floss. In fact, it really got stuck between my teeth and hurt. I don't like that so much. For THESE ribs, the secret is in the brining. If you've never had brined ribs, maybe you've been like me suffering with too much tough meat stuck between my teeth making me feel like I'm back in junior high sporting braces again.

My husband says these ribs are the best he's had either homemade or in a restaurant. He's a pretty good food critic, and let me tell ya, he knows meat. He even once ate the Big Texan 72 oz. steak meal (including shrimp cocktail, baked potato, roll...) in less than an hour--so he'd get the meal for free. First of all, I wouldn't have come close to eating a 4-1/2 pound slab of meat in one sitting, let alone one hour. Secondly, I would have been bothered by having to eat the meal on the challenge stage. When he was finished, the waitress jokingly asked, "Can I getcha anything else?" Joe said, "Yeah, I'll have a beer."

Er, scratch that. Let's try to forget that story. I don't want you to lose your appetite. I must share with you how to make these amazing ribs.

First, if you read through this recipe and get overwhelmed at the number of places you have to put the ribs, please don't be troubled. The ribs just either sit in a cooler or are baking in the oven for the majority of the time not even asking for you to check on them, or change their diaper, or wipe their noses, or get them a snack--or anything. They're pretty low-maintenance and quite independent. They like to be left alone. I appreciate this more than many wonderful things in life.

Get a cooler and cut your ribs--if you have to--so they fit inside. (A lot of ribs fit into a small-medium cooler!) In a large saucepan, heat water to dissolve sea salt. Allow the water to cool...or be impatient like me and throw a bunch of ice cubes into the brine to cool it off faster. Pour the salt water over ribs in the cooler. Add ice to the cooler to keep the meat happy and you at peace. If some ribs are exposed, sprinkle them with a bit more salt. Let the ribs sit in the brine while you hike up the butte, eat lunch, tour the area, and come back home. That's what we did in Chelan while our ribs were soaking.

After brining, rinse ribs, rub on some spices, add a little water, cover and bake. I just used a plain ol' off-the-shelf pork rub.

In the oven is where they get tender and wonderful and succulent and... (Don't forget to dump out the pretty pink brining liquid and wash out your cooler while the ribs bake.)

After baking, carefully remove the ribs from roasting pan (these suckers just want to fall apart after they're done baking), and throw 'em on the grill to get a nice barbecue crust on top. While grilling, brush on your favorite barbecue sauce and turn as needed so the ribs get lightly crisp on the outside but so that the sauce doesn’t burn.

Remove from grill, eat...and prepare for your guests to move in and never leave your home. That’s what I wanted to do when I first tasted these delectable ribs. My Dad wouldn't let me stay.

I first served them to my live-in guests, my family, on Christmas Eve. It just may be a new tradition!

Note A: Brining, baking and finishing ribs on the grill is a good solution if you've tried to fully grill ribs with a gas grill and end up with dry meat. The key is low heat, and some gas grills can be a little too hot to cook ribs fully.

Note B: Don't remove the membrane on the back of the ribs (non-meat side) using this brining/baking method. Since the brining and slow cooking makes the meat fall-off-the-bone tender, the membrane will help keep the ribs in tact. Besides, it's not very satisfying when you get excited about eating tender and flavorful ribs...and they fall apart when you pick them up to take a bite. Hmph.


2-3 racks pork back ribs
1 cup+ sea salt
3-4 TBSP pork rub
1 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce or 1/3-1/2 bottle barbecue sauce, I use Stubbs


In large saucepan, put 1 cup of sea salt and fill at least 3/4 of the pot with water. Heat until salt is dissolved. Cool in pan, or add ice cubes to cool faster. Place ribs in a small-to-medium sized cooler. Pour cooled brining liquid over the ribs, add ice cubes on top to keep meat cool while brining. Most of the meat should be submerged in the liquid. Sprinkle salt over any meat sticking out of brining solution. Allow meat to soak for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Rinse the brining liquid from ribs under water. Place ribs in roasting pan meat side up. Sprinkle and rub the rubbing spices over the meaty side of the ribs. Add 3/4 cup water. Cover roasting pan with tight-fitting lid or with tightly-sealed foil. Bake for 2-1/2 to 3 hours.

Carefully remove ribs from roasting pan to a medium heat grill, meat side up. Brush on your favorite barbecue sauce over the meat. Turn ribs to heat barbecue sauce, turn back again after 3-5 minutes. Repeat with barbecue sauce and turning meat again to end up with a nice barbecue crust. Be careful not to burn the sauce on the meat. (If your BBQ sauce crust is burning, add water to the sauce before brushing on more. This will reduce the proportion of sugar, which causes burning, in the sauce.) Remove from grill onto a serving plate or cutting board. Cut into serving-sized pieces (2-3 ribs). You may serve the ribs with additional barbecue sauce, but it's really not necessary!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lamb Cake :: Almond Cherry Pound Cake

This is a fun little cake to make in the spring for Easter or 1st Communion celebration. My mother-in-law makes a number of her lamb cakes and gives them to friends for Easter!

I couldn't find her recipe in time to make my daughter's First Communion lamb cake (photo), so I modified a recipe I found online instead. I'll add her recipe in the future.

[Make in a bundt pan, two loaf pans, or halve the recipe to fill one lamb cake mold.]


½ pound (2 sticks) butter
½ cup vegetable shortening, plus more for pan
3 cups sugar
5 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
1/4 tsp fine salt
½ tsp baking powder
¾ cup half and half or whole milk + ¼ cup maraschino cherry juice
½ tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. almond extract
1/8 – ¼ cup finely chopped cherries (get all liquid out)
¼ cup chopped pecans

Frost with your favorite white or cream cheese frosting...or simply dust with powdered sugar.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

With a mixer, cream butter and shortening together. Add sugar, a little at a time. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Stir dry ingredients together in a bowl and add to mixer alternately with milk, starting with the flour and ending with the flour. Mix in vanilla and almond extract. Fold in the cherries and pecans. Pour into a greased and floured tube pan and bake for 1 to 1-1/2 hours, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

For molded lamb cake:
Pour batter into mold so it's even with the top of the base pan. Place other mold half (the one with a steam hole)on top of filled base mold. Gently poke with the end of a utensil to ensure there are no air pockets.

Place on cookie sheet and bake for 1 hour, checking doneness with toothpick through top steam hole.

Allow to cool for 15 minutes before taking top mold off. Let cool ~5 more minutes before, then gently slide a small knife around edges to ensure good mold release. Turn whole lamb cake out onto a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting or dusting with powdered sugar.

Use white frosting to frost lamb in swirls (like lamb’s wool), add flattened raisins for eyes and sliced cherries or cut fruit roll up pieces shaped for the mouth.

This white frosting recipe is truly excellent! Or, in a pinch, use prefab frosting.

(I use the whole recipe and make one molded lamb cake and one loaf.)

Recipe modified from Paula Dean's Mama's Pound Cake.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Potato & Leek Soup

A new recipe for me to make. Ooooh, this one is good. We were going to our church for our weekly Lenten soup supper followed by the Stations of the Cross, so I wanted to try a new recipe for a meat-free soup to share (I left out the bacon, and it was still superb!). This is one that I've been wanting try for a while now.

I will be making it again...soon.

Here's the recipe from Emeril. I doubled the recipe, but I didn't even make modifications--besides using dried thyme instead of fresh thyme (didn't have) in the bouquet garni that I wrapped with cheesecloth. Also, I probably would have garnished the soup with chives, but my little seedlings aren't ready for me to mow and use yet.

Here's Emeril's version--unadulterated...or unLauralterated. I'm posting it on this blog because too many times I've searched again for a scrumptious online recipe I've tried only to realize it disappeared in cyberspace.)


1 large or 2 small leeks, about 1 pound
2 bay leaves
20 black peppercorns
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tablespoons butter
2 strips bacon, chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
5 cups chicken stock
1 to 1 1/4 pounds russet potatoes, diced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 to 3/4 cup creme fraiche or heavy cream
2 tablespoons snipped chives


Trim the green portions of the leek and, using 2 of the largest and longest leaves, make a bouquet garni by folding the 2 leaves around the bay leaves, peppercorns and thyme. Tie into a package-shaped bundle with kitchen twine and set aside. (Alternately, tie 2 leek leaves, bay leaves, peppercorns and thyme together in a piece of cheesecloth.)

Using a sharp knife, halve the white part of the leek lengthwise and rinse well under cold running water to rid the leek of any sand. Slice thinly crosswise and set aside.

In a large soup pot over medium heat, melt the butter and add the bacon. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is very soft and has rendered most of its fat. Add the chopped leeks and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Add the reserved bouquet garni, chicken stock, potatoes, salt and white pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are falling apart and the soup is very flavorful.

Remove the bouquet garni and, working in batches, puree the soup in a food processor or blender. (Alternately, if you own an immersion blender, puree the soup directly in the pot.) Stir in the creme fraiche and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Serve immediately, with some of the snipped chives sprinkled over the top of each bowl of soup.

I was planning to go the Austin-laid-back-and-carefree route by not blending the soup at the end. However, when I blended a few ladles and tried it both ways, there was no going back. The extra step is well worth the effort that brings the velvety creaminess that it becomes after it's well whirled. I'm not one for extra steps, so just go with me on this and take my word. It really makes all the difference.

It was so good that we even scored a new babysitter out of it. Really! A college girl who was at church that night said if she can have more of the soup, she'd babysit for us!

P.S. If you're wonderin'...I left the skins on the taters!


I'm not one of those scoop-it-up, thick soup kinda gals. I like it to be thin enough to, soup! So add more chicken stock if you need to, and don't forget the wine!

If you'd like to reduce the amount of lactose in the soup, substitute coconut milk instead of using creme fraiche or heavy cream.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Birthday Cakes...once again!

Mikey's request: "A 3-D monster truck--with roll bars--climbing up a mountain"

Kathleen's request: "A tree with some fall-colored leaves"

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Rice Krispie Kisses

Every year for the past four years, the kiddies have looked forward to making these sweet little treats for St. Valentine's Day.

They're just rice krispy treats with tinted melted marshmallow,

...packed into a smallish funnel,

...wrapped in foil (sprayed lightly with non-stick cooking spray)

(with a cute little ribbon--or a strip of paper with a sweet message written on it).

I snip the corners off the foil squares before wrapping the krispy treat. Otherwise, there would be a big wad of foil at the top.


Now go give 'em to all the little neighbor kids!

NOTE: I made 2 regular batches of rice krispy treats. Using a funnel that holds about 1 cup of water, I was able to make 16 krispy kisses (8 kisses in each batch). If needed, more can be made using a smaller funnel or just by not filling the funnel up to the top.

For a more authentic chocolatey (and gluten-free!) kiss treat, you can use Cocoa Pebbles. Sadly, krispy rice cereals still contain gluten because of the malt ingredient.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Longhorn Hummus

I just whizzed up this "burnt orange" version of hummus in preparation for watching the Fiesta Bowl tonight. Go, Horns. Hook 'em!

Now I need to gather some fresh veggies for the dip.
Then I need to make sure everyone has on their Longhorn shirts.
Oh yes, I suppose I should prepare a real meal for my family as well.
As for me, I think I could live on appetizers.


Find this recipe in the variation section at the bottom of this hummus recipe post.