Thursday, May 23, 2013

Cowboy Cake

        YEE HAW! for chocolate cake. Everyone has a recipe or a box mix. This is our most used, most eaten, most bragged about cake. My kids all knew how to make this before they started first grade. It is that easy. At that time, at our house, a 9x13 cake lasted for one night. So , yeah, we made a lot of them. This is another no fuss, no mess recipe. Mix it in the cake pan. Stick it in the oven. Take it out. Eat it.
       I don't know where the original recipe came from. It's in alot of cook books, under many different names. The iron horse cowboy always invites folks over for cowboy cake, so there you have it!

      Find your favorite 9x13 cake pan. You don't even have to grease it. Just start with the dry ingredients.
                                        2 1/2 cups flour
                                         1 1/2 cups sugar
                                        1/2 cup baking cocoa
                                        2 teaspoons baking soda
                                        1/2 teaspoon salt
      Stir these all together with a fork. Wooden fork works great! Now pour into the pan:
                                        2/3 cup cooking oil
                                        2 tablespoons vinegar
                                        1 tablespoon vanilla
                                        2 cups cold coffee  ( you can use water...I'm sketchy on if it will taste quite as good!)
        Carefully blend these wet ingredients with your trusty wooden fork. Or not. Try not to make a floury mess by folding it in slowly. Now mix:
                                         1/4 cup sugar
                                         1/2 teaspooon cinnamon
         Sprinkle this over the cake batter. Of course, you've already preheated your oven to 350. Slip it in! Bake 30 to 40 minutes. Done deal!

          Moist, chocolatey, crunchy sugary cinnamony topping. Scoop out a large piece and dollop on the ice cream or whipped cream. Sigh with satisfaction.
           ** We have made this gluten free by just using GF flour mix and even though some people think they might die or get ill if they eat something gluten free, they never know the difference. Just don't tell those kind of folks.
           ** No. There are no eggs in this cake, so its handy if you run out and you still want to bake.


              Put on your hat, and your cowboy shoes! We'll hit the trail and lope on in to the Raggedy Garden for some cake!                

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Corn Chowder for a Crowd

                 Here it is, in all its splendor! My cast iron"crock pot". Really a dutch oven. It holds six quarts ( a gallon and a half). The legs are a nice feature, as the pot doesn't sit directly on the heat source. This is nice if you keeping something hot for a longer while. It has the wire bail handle, but I always pick it up with the ears, as it just seems more stable. This pot is quite heavy, especially if you have the cast iron cover on it, too then it weighs eighteen pounds! I thoght I was crazy and couldn't read a scale. So I had the iron horse cowboy weigh it. He was all mystified at WHY, after all this time, I want to know how much it weighs. When not in use, it sits on my wood cook range, which has a fire all winter, by the way. It has squatted there for, well, alot of years.
                  Well, I was feeding a crowd on a cool May day in New Hampshire.  A perfect corn chowdah' day. For corn chowder you need:
                    Bacon (1 lb.)
                    Onion  (1 large)
                    Potatos ( how potato-ey do you want your soup?)
                    Chicken soup base Make your own, or buy. I use gluten free chicken buillion powder)
                     (You can use a vegetable base or broth if you need vegetarian)
                     Creamstyle corn (three cans)
                     Large bag frozen whole kernal corn ( you can use canned or fresh, if its that time of year)
                     Maple syrup (about a quarter cup. If you don't have this around, sugar works just fine. We make our own maple syrup, so thats what I use.)
                     Milk, or half and half
                     A flour roux or cornstarch (because of a gluten free loaded family, I use cornstarch for all my thickening. I have not tried making a roux with GF flour. It might work just fine.)

                 Cook the bacon. Spread the slices on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 for about 15 to 18 minutes. Until its nice and crisp. Take it off the pan and let it drain on paper towel. SAVE THE BACON GREASE! Thats what gives chowdah its unique flavor. Of course you skip this part if you don;t eat meat. Just sayin' won't be near as good.

                I par cook my potatoes. I just think its quicker and they stay nice and firm. Peel, or not, some spuds are better with skin. Like tiny red ones or new potatoes just from the garden. Dice then up as big as you like to find them in your soup. drain and set aside until you are ready to put the milk in.

                  Dice up a nice fat onion. Vidalias are the best. They are so sweet and they don't make you cry. Sorry, any Walla Walla Sweet fans. We just don't find them around here. In the cast iron skillet they go, with the bacon grease or a nice dab of butter.  Saute them so they turn translucent and soft.Good old wooden spoon works fine for this!

                   Dump the onions and all that good bacon flavoring into the big dutch oven. Add one quart soup base, maple syrup and corn. Bring to a boil. Now is the time to add your roux, or your cornstarch. Roux is just butter and flour cooked to a golden colored paste. If you use cornstarch, you need a lot for this much chowder. I used about 3/4  of a one pound box. Mix it with cold water, so its thick and not lumpy. Then add some of your hot broth and mix it into the cornstarch, then add it to the pot. Stir occasionally while the chowder simmers. Let it get quite thick. Then add your potatoes and milk. For this much, I used about six cups of milk. If you thicken with cornstarch, it will get thicker if you are keeping it hot for a longer time. Just thin it down with water, milk or broth.

                     Do a taste test. Add salt and or pepper if you think it needs any. Usually between the broth and the bacon, its salty enough. I confesss to be addicted to McCormacks Smokehouse pepper, so I give it a generous sprinkle. Recommend you try it! Of course, warm fresh bread, butter, and you have yourself a real deal meal. Have an iron horse cowboy who won't eat your cooking? Make him a hot dog.
                     If you don't need this much chowdah, just shrink the amounts. Its flexible. Its easy. Its delicious. Come on over!