Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Sisters Baking Day, Part Two

I told you we weren't done yet!!! The second part of our baking day we totally threw ourselves into some wild ideas, took some risks, and had some pretty good successes and a slight not-so-success. That's ok though! Not every recipe turns out perfect the first time around but this one was good enough to be shared anyway- flavors were great, just not the perfect bar. You should still try it.

Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Bars
Ok so, besides the day-long baking marathon we had some great conversation about the long discussed bakery that Jessica and I have dreamed about for an eternity. Over cups of coffee, and later an icy cold soda, since we picked one of the hottest days of the season for baking, we broke down exactly what we wanted our business to look like. Everything from what we plan to prepare to how it will be served, local sources and seasonal ideas and recipes and a very unique twist that might even bring The Chef into our plans, we hammered it out. Our passion and fierce determination to make this happen has only grown stronger over the last ten years or so and we both realize the time to do it is NOW.

Raspberry Peach Crumble Bars
We found a lot of inspiration in a cookbook Jessica picked up thrift shopping. Breakfast, Lunch, Tea: The Many Little Meals of the Rose Bakery, by Rose Carrarini, laid out in perfect detail almost exactly the same shop we had always envisioned- beautiful baked goods, breads, cookies, pastries, and an ever changing lunch menu of salads and entrees made by hand, every day, in manageable batches, and when it's gone, it's gone. Tea served in the afternoon, real English style high tea with all the accompaniments, then closed in time for an evening spent with family.  Just like Rose's delightful bakery in Paris. Could it be any more perfect than that? Up early every day with the sunshine and the birds singing, up to our elbows in flour and yeast. The smell of fresh bread permeating the air. Chopping, dicing and slicing, great old 70s music in the background. Baking bread while listening to Bread? Yes! Whipping up vinaigrettes and dressings and making salads for the lunch crowd and absolutely loving the life we have chosen to live.

Some people think it's too late for us to have these dreams. We are too old. The market isn't good. You'd never be able to compete with the big stores. We don't want to be rich, or famous, or become a national chain. We just want a simple living, something that is rewarding and fulfilling and every day I can crawl in bed beat because I worked for ME, for myself, and I loved every minute of it. That's what she and I want. Simple. Fulfilling. And you better believe, we are going to make it happen. In the coming weeks we will be doing a lot of research on everything from purchasing equipment to small business loans to finding the perfect location. We both have a dream of the perfect building for our bakery cafe, we just need to find it.

In the meantime though, you lovely people get to help us work out recipes and treats that we might or might not decide to include in our menu rotation, or a future cookbook, or just live on in our dreams. Take these two recipes, for example. I know by heart how to make a cheesecake, and everything that goes in it. What I wanted to do was turn that rich dessert into a much more diet friendly and small bite sized bar. Just enough to be satisfying without being a one thousand calorie bomb. If you want to lighten this up, switch the sugar for another sweetener but don't skimp on low fat or non fat cream cheese. It's not the same, it creates a weepy soggy mess. Besides, humans do need some fat in their diets, just choose your foods carefully and you're ok. Our raspberry bars were a take on a similar bar we have purchased at Whole Foods. Theirs was a tighter berry filling, surely a jam, where we used pie filling, so our bars were a little too soft to be bars really but still made a tasty dessert. Just use a fork and plate and you'll love them.

Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake Bars

1 1/2 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup oil
1 tablespoon milk
2 8 ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
2 lemons, zested
1 cup blueberries*

* We used a can of berries, rinsed and drained well. You can use fresh or frozen if you have them.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x9 pan with cooking spray and line with parchment. Set aside.

In a small bowl combine the flour, sugar, salt, oil and milk. Mix well. Press evenly onto bottom and a little up the sides of the pan. Bake for ten minutes, then set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese with a mixer until fluffy. Add the eggs, flour, sugar and zest. Mix well. Carefully fold in the blueberries until evenly distributed. Pour over the crust and smooth the top. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until almost set. Bars will firm up as they cool.

Make sure to keep these guys in the fridge and it's best to chill before cutting. They are rich and cheesecakey and oh so delicious. 

Our next bars recipe was a total experiment in using up what we had while trying to incorporate ideas we knew worked in other bar cookies. I'd have to say while delicious as all get-out, this was semi successful, but we now know how to improve this recipe the next time out. I'm going to share what we did today, and like I said earlier,  I recommend that you serve this with a fork- it's a little messy for eating out of hand. 

Raspberry Peach Granola Crumble (Bars)

2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
2 cups flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup granola, large pieces crushed
2 sticks melted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 can raspberry pie filling
1 cup chopped peaches (fresh or well drained canned)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium bowl toss together the oats, flour, brown sugar, granola and salt. Pour the melted butter over. Press a little more than half onto the bottom of a 10x14 baking dish. Set aside. Reserve the rest for later.

Combine the raspberry filling, peaches and extract, spread over the crust in the pan.

Add the almonds to the remaining crumble mixture and sprinkle over the top of the fruit, covering evenly. Press the crumb mixture into the fruit slightly.

Bake for 35-45 minutes until browned and bubbly. Remove from oven and cool, then chill in the fridge before cutting.

With the pie filling, this is really closer to a crumble or cobbler than a bar, but it's still insanely delicious and would be perfect topped with a scoop of ice cream, maybe slightly warmed up first. We are going to give this one another shot, using the jam instead of pie filling so we will get a gooier and more bar-like texture. But hey, sometimes those semi-fails end up delicious anyway!!

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Easy Chicken Gyros

Delicious flavors for my marinade
So I am pretty much obsessed with cooking shows. You guys probably figured that out by now. Seriously though, I am. I've watched hours and hours of Food Network and The Cooking Channel but over the last few years the type of programming has really changed. Instead of COOKING shows with recipes and demonstrations and new techniques to learn, it's become a game show wasteland. Endless competition and elimination shows sprinkled with some travel shows about food destinations. Many of the good chef are no longer on the network and even the new hosts go right to a show where they travel around sampling barbeque, or burgers, or whatever the theme of the show is. It's super hard to keep my attention with shows like that when I am on a never ending quest to learn more and more about cooking and foods.

See! I actually DO use the Moulis I keep buying!
That, my friends, is where YouTube comes in! I can watch hours upon hours of uninterrupted (i.e. NO COMMERCIALS) shows from all my favorite chefs and stars. This evening I have some time to myself. The Chef is off playing guitar with some friends, and I am taking advantage of the peace and quiet to catch up on some writing, and watching cooking shows. So who are my favorites? I sometimes talk about my favorite chefs and hosts when I'm writing a post, many times I am inspired by something they cooked or included in a cookbook or maybe I just finished watching their show and it's fresh in my mind. I always always will watch Ina Garten. I don't think I have ever missed an episode of Barefoot Contessa and her cookbooks are among my favorites. Rachel Khoo is also a favorite. Her Little Paris Kitchen and Kitchen Notebook series are some of my very favorites and I watch the reruns quite a lot. The story of her teeny tiny apartment restaurant in Paris is so inspiring. I wish I could have gone there! Lidia Bastianich is another favorite. Her restaurant in Kansas City is not very far from here- I'm soooo going to make a trip there soon! 

One of my newest chef idols is Gesine Bullock Prado. Her show, Baked in Vermont, is like watching a story of my dream life. Sister of Sandra Bullock, and a former attorney, she is a self taught pastry chef who has a cooking school right in her home and shares her wonderful creations with everyone. Other favorite female chefs I like to watch are  Alexandra Guarnaschelli, and her Chopped co-star Amanda Freitag. Watching all these amazing and highly talented women in the kitchen is very inspiring to me, and really makes me want to create new recipes all the time. After all, isn't that why I spend so much time watching these chefs? Today's recipe is not something I "created" really, I'm sure many many people out there have prepared chicken gyros, but this version has me written all over it. 

This marinade is everything, guys. The chicken stays so juicy and sooooo flavorful. You can use this marinade for all kinds of meats and for all kinds of dishes. Leftover chicken is perfect in salad too. Don't skimp on that oregano though. Yes, it sounds like a lot of that amount of liquid but trust me on this. t's delicious. Always use dried oregano, like Lidia recommends, and crunch it up in your fingers to release the oils. I do not recommend fresh oregano for this- it can overwhelm and have a chemical taste. The Chef found a package of pitas at Walmart of all places and they were so soft and delicious! They weren't the pocket kind, they were the fold kind but man sakes I haven't had a pita this good in a long long time.

The recipe for the tzaziki sauce is provided courtesy of The Chef, whose cooking career was launched at a long-gone Greek restaurant in Des Moines called Papu's. He paid his early dues there in that kitchen and learned a lot about food, Greek food in particular. This is the same recipe for tzaziki that they made back in the day. It was my first time making it, and it was fabulous!

Chicken Gyros

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
zest of one lemon
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons dried oregano, crushed between fingers
2 cloves garlic, minced
red onion, thinly sliced 
tomato, thinly sliced
shredded lettuce
soft pita bread
tzatziki sauce (recipe follows)

Place chicken in large zip top plastic bag. Combine marinade ingredients in small bowl and whisk together. Pour over chicken, press out as much air as possible, and allow to marinade several hours or overnight.

Make the tzaziki sauce and refrigerate until serving time.

Preheat grill, or grill pan. Remove the chicken from the marinade and shake off excess. Discard marinade. Cook the chicken until done, let rest for five minutes.

Slice the chicken into bite size slices. Serve in warmed pita bread with sliced onions and tomatoes,  shredded lettuce and top with tzaziki sauce.

Papu's Traditional Tzaziki Sauce

1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup packed grated cucumber
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
pinch black pepper
2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Peel the cucumbers. Cut into halves and scoop out the seeds. Grate, then blot with paper towels to remove most of the moisture.

Combine the cucumbers and sour cream with all the seasonings and herbs. Mix in the lemon juice right before serving.

I just wanted to talk for a few seconds about the grill pan. Mine is a Calphalon and it's indispensable in my kitchen. There are several really good ones on the market including cast iron grills and they last a lifetime. If you prefer to grill on an actual grill, by all means do, but for small items like this recipe, a grill pan can be your secret weapon.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 55: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Sisters Baking Day, Part One

Every one in a while you should really take a day off work. For no reason. Not for an appointment, not for anything you HAVE to do. Just one day, preferably a Friday, stretching out your weekend and giving you some down time to just relax and do something just for you. Something fun and carefree. That's exactly what we did, my "sister" Jessica and I. We took a day off of adult life and had a Baking Day.

We didn't totally fly by the seat of our pants, we did write up a list and a loose plan. We started with the ingredients we already had on hand and built from there. We managed to scrape together quite a few solid ingredients to build off: cake mix, flour, sugars, a can of raspberry pie filling, a couple fresh peaches, canned blueberries, a little bit of leftover granola, some cherry chips, an assortment of extracts. We headed off to Aldi to get a last few things- we needed fresh citrus fruits for zests and juices, grabbed some cream cheese just in case, some nuts, real butter, and we were in business.

Not gonna lie here, we did grab a brownie mix at Aldi. Brownie mixes are just too easy and really very good to mess with all the melting and mixing of scratch brownies, especially when Aldi had a special buy on Ghirardelli brownie mix. We baked the brownies in mini muffin cups for the perfect two bite brownie treats.

The first recipe we put together was a super easy recipe you're going to want to remember. You start with a cheat item- cake mix. This is the easiest recipe to switch up to suit your tastes and ingredients on hand. Any cake mix, and add-ins. When using a white cake mix, you want to stick with egg whites only, so we used three. If you're using other cake mixes, two whole eggs are perfect. Here is what we did:

Almond Cherry Chip Cookies

1 box 2 layer size white cake mix
1/2 cup oil
3 egg whites
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1/2 cup mini cherry chips*
1/2 cup toasted sliced or slivered almonds

*We used Gurley Golden Recipe brand mini chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the cake mix, oil and egg together.

Stir in the chips and almonds. 

Use a cookie scoop to make evenly sized cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet. Jessica's scoop is about a perfect rounded tablespoon.

Bake for 10 minutes until just lightly browned on the bottom. Let the cookies set on the cookie sheet for 3-4 minutes before removing to a rack to cool. 

We dusted them generously with powered sugar. So so so delicious!!

Up next we were thinking about things that could also go into the freezer, so we'd have treats for future road trips or busy mornings. Naturally muffins were the first thing we thought of! A while back we had a road trip to Boone and visited the Dutch bakery there where we got the most delicious cranberry orange muffins. That's what we decided on. Jessica had some dried cranberries in the cupboard, and fresh oranges and nuts were newly purchased so here is how we made them:

Orange Cranberry Mini Muffins

2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
zest of one orange
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a mini muffin pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together and set aside. In a mixing bowl, cream the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy. Use a mixer for this, it's so much easier. Beat in the eggs and vanilla, the zest and then stir in the milk. 

Combine with the dry ingredients, mixing just enough to combine. Don't overmix or the muffins will be tough. Fold in the cranberries and walnuts.

Use a scoop to fill the mini muffin pans. Bake for about 20-25 minutes until muffins are done. Remove from pan and cool on a rack. Dip tops of cooled muffins into orange glaze, or drizzle over them.

Simple Orange Glaze

3/4 cup powdered sugar
freshly squeezed orange juice

Mix together with a whisk until desired consistency. Dip muffins or drizzle over.

The glaze adds just the perfect sweetness and is a great way to use the orange left over after zesting. It's the ultimate topping for these tasty little muffin bites and sets up well so you don't have a sticky mess.

We had plenty more baking on the agenda, so stay tuned!! You won't want to miss the Bars part of our Sisters Baking Day. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 55: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Lunch Date- Gusto Pizza

Ya know, a girl has to work to support this cookbook and foodie habit of mine, and a working girl needs to have lunch so recently my friend and co-worker Belinda and I decided to go have lunch. After a couple months of training in our home office, about an hour away from home, we have finally settled into our remote office location here in the city and while we do miss the convenience of having a big cafeteria and coffee bar in the corporate office, we have the freedom to get out and check out nearby restaurants at lunch time. It's nice to get out of the office, and helps build friendships when you can get out and socialize and Belinda and I have become quite good friends since starting our job on the same day back in February. We share the same sense of humor, are the same age, bot have grown kids and grand kiddos and enjoy a lot of the same things outside of work too.

So Belinda and I decided to head over the Gusto for a little lunch time get away from the office. I have had Gusto Pizza on several occasions but Belinda, having just moved back to the city a couple months ago, is a first timer. I knew she was in for a treat. Literally a block away from our office building Gusto is in a prime location in the Clocktower Square shopping center- loads of parking, sunny and spacious patio for nice days, and a bright and contemporary dining room filled with cool art.

The staff greeted us right away and were happy to help Belinda go through the menu options. They do have a $9.00 lunch special that includes your own 7 inch pizza, choice of side and a drink. This is a great deal!! I had been craving just cheese pizza for the last week prior to this lunch so that's what I went with, the Fromage a Trois. Thin cracker like crust topped with a delicious and oh so slightly sweet marinara sauce, topped with Mozzarella, Provolone and Romano cheeses, sprinkled with red pepper flakes and fresh basil. Our server went over all the other options with Belinda and was in no way trying to rush her. He explained all the different pizza options ad she finally decided on the Spartacus- same crust, red sauce, Graziano's Italian sausage, pepperoni, mozzarella, banana peppers and cremini mushrooms. We both chose a side salad- she went with the creamy Italian dressing and I had sun dried tomato vinaigrette, and the salads were fresh, served right away, a nice serving of baby lettuces, tomato and red onion. Other side options were pasta salad or Panzanella. 

Pizzas made it to the table in just about 5 minutes, excellent timing for a lunch out. My Fromage a Trois- perfect. That crust though. Little teeny charred bits, so crispy, perfectly done. Fantastic sauce and cheese portions, this was the perfect lunch sized pie. Belinda's Spartacus was generously topped with everything and I was just a little bit jealous that I didn't choose that one!

Gusto has an impressive list of topping options if you'd like to build your own, things like Peppadews, kimchi, shrimp, maple glazed ham, chipotle bacon, Korean marinated pork and so much more. They also serve sandwiches and desserts so there is something for everyone, including vegan and vegetarian options.

Overall our experience in this new Clocktower Square location was top notch. Clean dining room, NO dirty tables, attentive staff and fantastic and fresh food makes Gusto a great date spot, lunch spot or place to meet friends for a casual dinner. Hurry over and try it- you won't be disappointed!!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 55: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Wine Experience

It recently occurred to me that we haven't paid a visit to The Chef's home away from home, The Wine Experience. Tucked inside of the large department stores at Jordan Creek Town Center, The Wine Experience offers a unique spot for lunch or dinner while shopping, a place to duck in for a quick glass of wine or two after work, or a breezy patio chair to sit, have dinner, sip from a great bottle of wine and people-watch. The restaurant is a very cozy little spot with a winding wave of a wine bar, and a creative menu with something for everyone. I've always thought it was a great date night spot- quiet, inviting and no wall of tvs blasting the game of the day. Owners Tom and Layne have amassed an eye-popping collection of wines, which changes often so you always have something new to try.

Most of the time I don't actually eat at the restaurant in which The Chef is working. He thinks it's not necessary since he can truly recreate every dish for me at home. While that is true, I thought it was about time we visited the unique little restaurant that has been his home base for the last couple of years. Bonus- one of the gals who works there is a former high school classmate of mine, and we literally have not seen each other since high school! How fun to run into someone after all these years and get to know them again.

I wasn't there for a full on dinner- just a visit and meet the girls who work there, and maybe have a glass of wine. Since I would have to drive home, I reluctantly passed on the wine but stayed to visit and snack on some kalamata olives, goat cheese stuffed Peppadews and a very delish and simple grilled cheese. The menu boasts a great selection of sandwiches made with fresh ingredients. The Chef roasts whole turkey breasts in-house and slices them himself, fresh every day. Pizzas feature a cracker like crust and some interesting toppings, such as charred broccoli, nduja, arugula, pear, different cheeses, truffles, and more. Entree salads are creative and fresh with lots of tasty ingredients.

Stopping in for a couple glasses of wine? There is a fantastic selection of small plates for sharing, or not sharing!! Seared ahi tune, crusted with sesame seed and served rare is delicious and light. Deviled eggs seem to be making a big comeback in restaurants and The Chef has his own recipe here. Goat cheese stuffed Peppadews, drizzled with balsamic glaze, and blue cheese stuffed dates are tasty one bite nibbles that won't ruin your dinner later and pair beautifully with many of the wine choices. Nduja is featured on this menu as well, as a crostini. If you haven't tried this spicy spreadable pepperoni you need to!

Over the time that The Chef has worked at The Wine Experience he has made some great friends, a number of fans and quite a few really memorable dishes for Friday Night Specials. He has prepared some traditional Italian specialties, perfectly seared steak dinners, an incredible selection of homemade soups, and even stepped out of his comfort zone with a few requested dishes that weren't part of his normal repertoire. Let's take a looks at some of those.

When it comes to Italian, it's hard to beat a meaty and cheesy lasagna stacked high with tender pasta. The Chef's trattoria-style red sauce layered with ground beef, Italian sausage, ricotta, Parmesan and Mozzarella cheeses make a lot of happy tummies when that's the Friday feature. 

Garlicky Steak de Burgo is a famous Des Moines specialty that many restaurants serve, and each has their own recipe. The original was created at Johnny and Kay's Restaurant in the Hyatt House Hotel way back in the 1950s and still is wildly popular around the city. The Chef paired his with a simple baked potato and steamed green beans to keep all the focus on the steak with the garlic and herb butter drizzled over. This is one of my favorite dishes!!

Another local favorite in Chicken Marsala. The Chef has his own version of that classic as well and he is not skimpy with the mushrooms. He likes to serve it over pasta with some toasted crunchy garlic focaccia alongside. 

In the summer months The Wine Experience partners with a local heirloom tomato grower who supplies the restaurant with some truly beautiful fruit and gives The Chef a lot of opportunities to showcase these sweet and juicy Iowa treasures. Caprese Salad is a favorite in the restaurant, and at home, where sometimes this IS dinner! 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 55: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Monday, June 11, 2018

She Bakes- Very Vanilla Pound Cake

As a hoarder of cookbooks, I don't find myself gravitating to any one particular kind of cookbook, or theme,  cuisine or food type. I'm pretty much equally obsessed with it all. I've said before, in a way cookbooks are like textbooks to me. I read them like other people read best sellers, and I learn from them. I know techniques I haven't used yet, how to cook vegetables I've never seen all because I've read about it. A lot. In the past couple years though it seems like I have really been feeling a pull towards vintage cookbooks more so than current ones. I'll buy the newest release from my favorite cookbook author, for sure, but I've been enjoying time in thrift stores and antique shops, browsing through old home ec cookbooks, church cookbooks, and some really cool old cookbooks in the neighborhood of 100 years old.

One of the highlights of my collection is the Presidential Cookbook, adapted from the White House Cook Book. This gem was published in 1896!! Inside the cover, a previous owner, Isabelle Yost from Oakland, California signed and dated the book December 1, 1906. Besides wondering about Isabelle, I wonder how this book from Oakland ended up in an antique store 100 years later in West Des Moines, Iowa. I plan on spending some serious time with this book and maybe we'll even see a future post with some of the recipes prepared from this one. I think that would be a lot of fun!

I recently acquired a small collection of what must have been free gift cookbooks- small paperbacks from food companies like Jenny Wren Flour and Royal Baking Powder. Included are a couple cookbooks for home canning, published in 1927! Wow, how I loved flipping through that one and seeing how differently home canning is done today. This particular booklet was a gift for customers from the Bank of Dallas Center, in Dallas Center, Iowa. There were recipes for canning foods we rarely see these days- like gooseberries. It's been a long time since I've seen any gooseberries in any store, although on a rare occasion you might find them in farmers markets. Cauliflower made an appearance in there, and these days it's not recommended, but still fun to see how housewives once preserved it. 

What really got to my heart about these booklets were the newspaper clippings and handwritten recipes tucked inside the pages. Many were held together with straight pins, or pinned to a page in the book. Clipped from long-gone newspapers, they were dated 1930-1935. The handwritten recipes were on scraps of paper, then pencil so faded I could barely make out the words. I'm not kidding when I say my eyes teared up a little, wondering about the woman who originally owned these books, who she was, what her life was like.

Probably the biggest thrill in this collection is the paperback Kerr Home Canning Book. Published in 1944 this book is totally geared to the war effort consciousness of the day. With tag lines like "Food is a weapon" and "Food fights for freedom" you can really get the sense of patriotism that World War II era America was living. There were some really wild recipes in there. Canning milk, which we now know you shouldn't do, has full directions. Sweetbreads and other organ meats? Yep, housewives canned those back then. I suppose because literally nothing was wasted during the war years they found ways to preserve as much food as possible. Even artichokes made the list. This booklet was so fun to read through and the 10 cent price tag made me laugh. Times sure have changed.

The lady who sold me the cookbook collection had a couple other incredible foodie collectibles that are now Property of Me- prize ribbons from the Iowa State Fair, one dated 1922, the other 1923. Both were for prize winning fruit or vegetables grown in someones garden. I'd give anything to know who the person was who won these ribbons, and what their entry was. I've entered and won many ribbons in county fairs but never entered the state fair. What a thrill that would have been. The ribbons are very fragile now, after nearly 100 years, so they are going to be framed and given a place of honor in my cookbook room and hopefully I can do some research on past fair winners and maybe get close to finding who these were awarded to.

This stroll down memory lane made me want to dig up an old recipe and give it a new twist. I almost always have the basic ingredients for a cake, and pound cake is a wonderful, and old, recipe. My version uses half and half for richness and double the vanilla of most recipes, half of it being vanilla powder. I use a dark vanilla powder so you get those lovely vanilla specks throughout.

Very Vanilla Pound Cake

2 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 cups flour
2 tablespoons half and half or milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon vanilla powder*

* You can find vanilla powder in most spice aisles. I prefer a dark powder, it looks like vanilla bean flecks. I don't remember the brand name because I put it in a different container!!

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Generously grease a standard size loaf pan and set aside.

Look at all the vanilla flecks in there!
In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the eggs on at a time. Add the remaining ingredients and beat until smooth.

Pour batter into prepared loaf pan, smooth the top.

Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes, or until pick tests clean. Cool for 30 minutes on a rack before removing from pan, then remove and cool completely before slicing.

Sliced berries and a little drizzle of caramel sauce
This cake is the perfect snack just as it is, sprinkle with powdered sugar, drizzle with a glaze- lemon is really lovely! Top slices with fresh berries and whipped cream or ice cream. Use to make trifle or ice cream sandwiches. Pound cake is so versatile and goes with just about any flavor you can pair with it. I love a slice, just plain, with a cup of hot matcha, it's the perfect late night snack.

Another way we love serving pound cake is with boozy macerated berries. Grab some strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries- whatever you like. Slice the strawberries. Toss the fruit with a little bit of sugar and a generous splash of Gran Marnier, Framboise, Cahmbord, or Ste. Germain liqueur. Allow to rest at room temperature for at least an hour. Spoon fruit and juice over cake slices, and top with whipped cream. Sooooo luxe and delicious. Try it!!