Video – Easy Lemon Cake

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Ingredients

  • lemon (or yellow) box cake
  • 3 oz regular lemon jello
  • 3/4 Cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 Cup water
  • 1/4 Cup lemon juice

Tools needed:

  • Large mixing bowl
  • Spatula
  • Measuring cup
  • 9″x13″ pan
  • Flour
  • Crisco or something like it
  • Hand mixer

Directions

  1. Grease and flour a 9″x13″ pan, set aside
  2. Preheat oven to whatever temp it says on the box cake.
  3. In large mixing bowl combine cake mix and jello
  4. Add all wet ingredients and stir until all mix is wet (batter will be all lumpy)
  5. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds. (Stop half way through to scrape bottom and sides of bowl)
  6. Mix on medium speed for 2 minutes. (Stop half way through to scrape bottom and sides of bowl)
  7. Pour into greased pan, make sure batter is even and toss in the oven. Set time for the time listed on the box
  8. While it cooks, combine powdered sugar and lemon juice. When cake comes out of oven, poke it all over with a fork and pour glaze all over cake.
  9. Let cool until it’s cool enough to cut a huge piece out of and eat it like a greedy little kid. :)

This is not a recipe I would normally post, being that it involves jello and a box cake. In fact, I can’t bake a regular box cake without it falling. From scratch I have down, but those damn boxes always screw me up. But I digress…. So I’m posting this video and recipe because it’s super easy, light and summery and I love it. It could be a nostalgia thing, but I think it’s just a super good cake. I give all the credit to my Mom, as this is her recipe that I tweaked a little to make it more lemony.

Enjoy!

Sweet tea and summer thoughts…

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So if you haven’t noticed, I have been AWOL for a month of so. I’m sorry, life got very busy and fun all of a sudden. Old best friends coming through,  music festivals etc… But the most exciting news (in the way of food) is my new job! I am now a cook at the super amazing restaurant, Chez Liberty. This is the kind of job cooks wait their whole career to find. It’s laid back, my chef is super talented, passionate and fun and the food is orgasmic. I have an amazing crew I work with, and am learning new things literally every day. I can’t wait to share some of what I’m learning with ya’ll. And the best part is that my chef loves The Hedonist Cook and has agreed to be a guest on a video soon. Ya’ll are gonna LOVE him!

Besides all that great stuff, it is hot as hell here in East Tennessee. Today is the first day of summer, and it’s so hot outside I wanted to cry earlier while driving my non air conditioned VW fox across down. If I drank I would get drunk and stay drunk until mid September. Anything to distract me from the heat. But I don’t drink, so I had to come up with another solution. And my solution is sweet tea. Sweet tea is something I discovered when I moved to the South, and it’s one of those things that just doesn’t exist across the mason/Dixon line. In the south, if you ask for tea it will come sweetened unless you request it otherwise. When my dear friend Mickayla, who is a Tennessee native, moved to South Korea she literally panicked at the idea of not having sweet tea for a year. Her parents send her packages of Luzianne on a regular basis, that’s how much it means to her.

When I first moved here I didn’t get it. I mean, it’s just iced tea with a boatload of sugar. But after 2 years here something has changed and I’ve begun to crave sweet tea, especially in the summer. It seems to cool you down better than any other beverage. An ice cold cup of sweet tea in the afternoon makes me feel like there is hope, that I’ll make it through the humidity for one more day. And it makes me feel like a true southerner, which I love. The best part of it? It’s soooo easy to make! Here’s the recipe I use. You can find all sort of recipes with additives to remove any bitterness, as the tannens in tea can give off a bitter taste. But this is how Mickayla taught me to make it, and her word is law when it comes to all things southern. Enjoy!

Sweet Tea

  • water
  • 3 family size tea bags (Luzianne is best, but Lipton works for my non southern friends)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Ice
  • Gallon sized pitcher
  1. Fill a medium size saucepan with water and bring to a rolling boil. (It doesn’t matter exactly how much water. I’d say 4-6 cups)
  2. Remove from heat and steep 3 family sized tea bags in water. Cover with lid or plate and let steep for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Pour in 1 cup sugar and stir until sugar is totally incorporated. (That means no grittiness. It only takes a minute or so.)
  4. Throw away tea bags (be careful, they’re hot!) and pour into a gallon sized container. If it’s glass, be sure to warm the container first with hot tap water so it doesn’t crack. If i’ts plastic don’t melt it, duh!
  5. Fill container with ice and cold water. Cool or serve over ice.

Video – How to roll pie dough without a rolling pin

Topic: Food

A few clarifications:

  1. If you have a wine bottle you can just ignore the video and use that. It works great.
  2. Make sure to look at my video for the Apple Dumplings if you haven’t already. This recipe works wonderfully for them.
  3. I’m sorry I look like a not-as-sexy cracked out Marla Singer in this video. I decided to record it totally on the fly, which is obvious by my lack of clothing, make-up and shaky camera man.
  4. I know pie dough can be really scary and intimidating. I’m gonna do a video on it soon, but I wanted to include the recipe I used in this video. It’s super easy, promise.
  5. Thanks for watching, The Hedonist Cook loves you. Muah!

Pie Crust Recipe

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (It helps if you chill the butter again after you cut it, because it warms up as you cut it.)
  • 6 tablespoons (about) ice water (Stick the water in the freezer while you prep everything else. It gives it time to get really cold.)

Directions

Food Processor method:

Mix flour, sugar, and salt in processor. Add butter; pulse until coarse meal forms. Gradually blend in enough ice water to form moist clumps. Gather dough into ball; divide in half. Form dough into 2 balls; flatten into disks. Wrap each in plastic; chill 2 hours or overnight.

By Hand Method:

Mix flour, sugar, and salt in large bowl. Add butter; cut in with fork or pastry cutter until coarse meal forms. Gradually blend in enough ice water to form moist clumps. Gather dough into ball; divide in half. Form dough into 2 balls; flatten into disks. Wrap each in plastic; chill 2 hours or overnight. (I threw mine in the freezer for 15 minutes and it worked fine.)

“I heard she’s only a cook…”

Topic: Food

This weekend I heard a comment that someone had made about me. It went, “I heard she’s only a cook. When I’m thirty I’m going to have a really successful job.” My first thought was “Oh the blissful ignorance of youth.” Actually, that’s total bullshit. The first thing I thought was an incredibly mean (but funny) prediction for their future that sounded very similar to the Against Me! song, Thrash Unreal. ”  But anyway, that’s not the point. The point is it got me thinking about my job. Which made me think about my day yesterday.

Last night I decided to make apple dumplings for Thomas, and a friend of his showed up with a girl I don’t really know. As soon as she walked in the kitchen she said, “Oh God, this smells like my Great Aunt’s kitchen. I love it!” It started a conversation where she told me about learning to cook from her Aunt and some of her favorite recipes. I learned more about this girl in the 15 minutes I puttered around the kitchen that I would have over a whole night at the bar.

Then, I got to hear how my friends Great Grandma would always make apple pie on special holidays. You could see by the smile on his face that he was enjoying that memory. It was the most personal comment I’ve heard him make about himself to date. It wasn’t much, but it was cool to see.

Finally it was time to eat, and it was damn good. The four of us sat outside on the porch, with the twinkly lights and the sound of crickets in the warm evening air. (I know it sounds really dorky, but the South in the spring really is like a movie.)

I didn’t change any lives last night, I’m aware of that. But because of the skills I’ve learned from my job as a cook, I was able to make food for people and get to know them a little better. Cook for someone and you do more than feed them. It’s a way to show a person you value them. That they’re worth taking time out of your day to prepare something for. And you open up the conversation for people to talk about food and the role it has played in their life.  An excuse to talk about a memory that would otherwise seem strange to bring up in casual conversation.

Being a cook is hard work, and you’re not exactly raking in the Benjamins. You sweat, get callouses, cut yourself, constantly burn yourself, get dirty and work your ass off. You can forget going to any party, concert or event that is happening on a Friday or Saturday night. I can only imagine how it looks to someone from the outside. I can see that to most people a job selling insurance or working in a cubicle sounds like a much better way to pay rent.

What an outsider doesn’t understand is the passion that goes into cooking. The creativity, fun, challenge and straight up joy you get when you prepare something kick ass for people. (And I’m not even mentioning the fun you have with the guys  you’re working the line with.) On top of that, you get to take those skills home and share them with your family and friends.

Each day I go to work I do something I love, I learn something new and I feel more confident and competent at my trade. Every day I get to be creative,  spontaneous and work with amazing people that improve the quality of my life.

I’m not sure what other people’s definition of success is, but as far as I’m concerned I feel pretty damn successful….

Why do onions make you cry?!

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If you’re a smarty pants and want more info, check out this site.

And, for all you onion enthusiasts out there, don’t forget to visit the National Onion Association website. (I know, I was really excited they have a website dedicated to onions. Amazing!)

My Favorite Cornbread Recipe…

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Cornbread is a staple food here in the south. In fact, if you go to a southern restaurant, it’s not surprising to see cornbread listed as a vegetable side. When I first moved here I decided to try making cornbread from scratch, since up to that point I had only had it from the lovely little blue jiffy box. I bought the ingredients, looked up a recipe from a southern magazine and got to work.

You can imagine my horror when I bit into it and it was dry, crumbly and almost savory! I asked around and found out that southern cornbread is nothing like the rest of the country eats. It’s meant to be, you know, bread. In fact, most people crumble it into whatever they’re eating. No light fluffy cornbread here. In desperation I went to the store and looked for a different kind of cornmeal. I found the cheapest most enriched cornmeal I could find and used the recipe on the back, making sure there was a liberal amount of sugar in the recipe.

Finally, I had found what I had been craving. This was what I remember. At the same time, I knew something was off. Maybe it was the months of getting used to Southern Cornbread, but it seemed too sweet. I was serving it with dinner, but it felt like it should be for dessert. The following recipe is my Yankee leaning compromise. It is still  sweet, but the addition of some stone milled cornmeal gives it a bit more texture and cutting down on the sugar brought out the flavor of the cornmeal itself.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup cheapo enriched corn meal
  • 1/4 cup real cornmeal
  • (For a sweeter, cake like cornbread use all enriched. For a heartier cornbread use 1/2 cup stone milled cornmeal and 1/2 cup enriched.)
  • 1 1/4 c all purpose flour
  • 3 Tablestoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk (whole is best, but anything will work.)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil (You can use “drippings” as well, as in bacon drippings. I think it’s a bit rich, so I’ll throw in a few Tablespoons with the oil. Great flavor and totally old school.)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease an 8″ or 9″  pan or skillet with shortening or lard. (I swear by my 9″ cast iron skillet. You can get them super cheap new, and I think it’s worth if it if all you ever cook in it is cornbread. )
  2. Put greased skillet into oven and get it super hot while you mix the ingredients. It should only need to be in there a few minutes. This gives cornbread that amazing crispy, almost fried, crust. **
  3. Blend all dry ingredients in medium bowl. Mix in wet ingredients and stir until incorporated. It will be a bit lumpy but it should all be wet.
  4. Pour batter into hot pan and cook for 18-25 minutes. Anything over 18 in my cast iron skillet will burn. The original recipes said 20-25 minutes, so I assume that’s for a different kind of pan.
  5. You can tell it’s done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Makes about 9 servings. It’s best served warm with butter, honey and possibly some sorghum syrup if you’re lucky enough to live in the south. :)

**Thanks for this piece of advice from my rad boss and co-worker. It really helps to have honest to goodness southerners to bounce ideas off of!

Food Porn: Pizza!

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From Stefano’s Chicago Style Pizza. I have no effing idea if this is anything like pizza in Chicago and I don’t give a what. It’s amazing, cheap and really close to my house. Hooray!

Video: Apple Dumplings

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First video on Location! (Very fancy….)

Ingredients:

  • Pie crust for double crust (or two pre-made 9″ crusts)
  • 6 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a 9×13 inch pan.
  2. Mix brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl and set aside.
  3. Make your crust, or roll out pre-made crust. (I’ll post a video on making pie crust soon, so if you don’t know how, feel free to buy pre-made. It’s not the best, but it makes for a stupidly simple preparation.)
  4. Cut crust into 6 squares, or cut so that each piece can wrap around your apples.
  5. Peel and core your apples. (If you don’t have an apple corer you can cut the apples in half to make it easier to core. Like it shows in the video, it may split if you do that, but it will still be amazing!)
  6. Put a piece of butter in, then some of the brown sugar and spices. More butter and some more brown sugar. Sprinkle some cinnamon and brown sugar on the outside of the apple (but inside the crust, duh.)
  7. Wet your fingertips and bring one corner of pastry to the top. Repeat with all the corners and smoosh it together until it’s totally covered. (You may need to pinch the top together a bit to make sure it sticks.)
  8. Place apples in greased glass baking dish and set aside.
  9. In a small saucepan, combine water, white sugar, vanilla extract and rest of butter. (About 1/2 the stick.) Place over medium heat, and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, or until sugar is dissolved. Carefully pour over dumplings.
  10. Bake in preheated oven for 50 to 60 minutes. Place each apple dumpling in a dessert bowl, and spoon some sauce over the top. Don’t forget vanilla ice cream, it’s the best!

So for real, this is such an easy recipe!! It’s pretty heavy and rich, so I’d recommend serving with a lighter dinner. That being said, it’s one of my favorite desserts for summer. I’ve had two boys propose to me after eating this, so be careful who you make it for. :)

xoxo,

Mel

Video: Chicken and Dumplings

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Ingredients:

Chicken:
  • 3 Chicken Breasts with bone and skin
  • 4 cups low salt chicken broth
  • 4 celery stalks, rough chop (don’t throw any part of it away)
  • 2 mediums onions, rough chop (don’t throw any part of it away)
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 8 peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
Dumplings:
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 7 oz heavy cream or whole milk

Directions:

  1. In large stock pot over medium high heat, add first 9 ingredients (everything but butter and flour.) Bring to a boil, lower to a mild simmer and cook for 30 minutes.
  2. Remove meat and set aside and strain all liquid into a bowl, set aside.
  3. Reserve carrots in bowl and throw away all remaining ingredients (celery, onions peppercorns and bay leaf).
  4. Let chicken cool slightly and remove all meat from bones. Throw bones and skin away.
  5. Now make the dumplings!!: Mix all dumpling ingredients just till moist and set aside.
  6. Put pot on medium heat to melt butter, add flour and stir nonstop for 2-4 minutes until it’s a light brown color.
  7. Slowly stir in broth, then add chicken and carrots, bring to a light boil.
  8. Spoon dumplings over chicken and cook covered for 10-12 minutes. (Dumplings will be really wet.)
  9. Remove lid and cook for another 10-15 minutes, until cooked through.

So first off, this video is chopped all to hell! I couldn’t make the 10 minute limit so I had to cut out a bunch of stuff. I’m sorry about that. If something doesn’t make sense, just send me a quick email and I’ll get right back to you. Also, although it looks like a lot of ingredients and directions, please don’t be intimidated. It is really one of the easier things I have posted on here. It’s been suggested to me that for the new cook I leave some info out sometimes, so I’m trying to make sure I put every step on here.

I hope you liked the video and recipe. Thanks for watching!

xoxo,

Mel