Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Yes, More Vintage Kitchen Things

I had the best of intentions this week to post about crafting. For weeks, I have been meaning to get on task about several projects for my kitchen (I'm kitchen obsessed, as you see). The problem is that I've only manged to make one thing, a giraffe envelope-style pillow for my mom's birthday. My sewing machine shames me every time I pass it. The alarming part is that I don't miss it all that much. I almost hesitate to say it, but could this be the end of my craft posts? Because if I have to push myself to do something that's supposed to be fun and a hobby, perhaps it isn't for me. Is everyone out there cool with seeing more recipes and kitcheny related things instead? Cool, I'm glad we're all in agreement :)

Besides, I'm having way too much fun thrifting. I've developed a real thrill for the hunt, and a real love of all things antique kitchen. I scored these Pyrex pieces over the weekend. The turquoise bowl is especially beautiful, and I was very lucky to get it from a seller who didn't know its value.

Cathrineholm was a line of mid-century enamelware designed by Norwegian Grete Prytz Kittelsen. It's very beautiful, but not easy to find. A medium sized bowl can sell for upwards of $60 on ebay. That's a bit too rich for my blood, but I have enjoyed looking at pieces from afar on flickr and pinterest.

At a thrift store this weekend, I spotted the above Cathrineholm bowl for $30. That seemed like a fair price. Not interested in paying a fair price (it's bargain basement or bust, baby), I put the bowl back on its shelf without a second thought. But then I happened to look closer at the price tag and realized I had read it wrong. The tag said $3! Needless to say, the bowl came home with me.

While not as collectable as some of the other pieces, I'm also happy to have found this vintage flour sifter. It's made by Foley, and if that's a brand that sounds familiar to you, it's might be because you own a food mill. The food mill I inherited from my great-grandmother is also a Foley. I needed a flour sifter, anyway, and this one had the advantages of being cheap and having a cute, aqua handle. I can't wait to use it!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Portobello Mushroom Burgers

Burgers have always left me cold. When I was a kid, and my mom would take me to Burger King, she would order me a cheeseburger, hold the burger. On the other hand, I'm a card-carrying mushroom lover, so I was pretty excited to try this recipe for Portobello Mushroom Burgers. I was not disappointed.

I made these burgers on my little indoor electric grill. I can only imagine how outrageously good they would taste if cooked over charcoal. The marinade for these mushrooms is their perfect compliment, bringing out their meaty flavor. Top with a slice of provolone cheese and some fresh lettuce, serve on a bakery bun, and it's out-of-this-world tasty. I spread some low-fat mayonnaise on mine for good measure.

  • 4 portobello mushroom caps
  • 1/4 c balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 slices provolone cheese
 1. Rinse mushroom caps under cold water. Pat dry with a paper towel. With a spoon, remove gills from mushrooms and discard.

2. In a shallow dish, whisk together balsamic vinegar, olive oil, basil, oregano and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Place mushroom caps in dish and allow to marinate for 15 minutes, turning once

3. Heat grill to medium-high heat (since I was using a small indoor grill, I turned it up to its highest setting). Grill for 10-15 minutes, turning mushrooms several times, and continually basting with remaining marinade. Aim for sear marks on the tops of the mushroom caps. Mushrooms are done when they are tender. Top with provolone and desired condiments.

Source: Allrecipes

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Thrifting in Pictures

Hi, my name is Abby, and I'm a thrifting addict. A few months ago, I had never stepped food inside a Goodwill store. Now I'm a regular, constantly scouting out the housewares section for amazing deals. It wouldn't be so addicting if I didn't keep finding the coolest stuff.

My latest Pyrex finds.

Mugs! I'm pretty obsessed with antique milk glass mugs lately. They're the cutest things, and I generally pick them up for 50 cents. I had to have the middle mug because my husband was a Philadelphia bicentennial baby. However, I think the "Kiss Me, I'm Polish" mug (made by Glasbake) is my favorite, even though I'm not the least bit Polish.

Some Fire King bakeware I've already put to good use.

I loved this enameled frying pan the second I spotted it, even though I have no clue what to do with it. As to who made this piece and how old it is, that remains a mystery.

Hope everyone is having a happy (and thrifty) weekend!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Salmon with Yogurt Dill Sauce

A while back, my husband took a business trip to San Diego. When he landed back home, the first thing he wanted to talk about was a salmon dish he'd eaten during a business meeting. The sauce served with the salmon had left a lasting impression, and he wanted to know if I could recreate the recipe.

It took some experimenting, but I did come up with a nice sauce, although quite possibly nothing like its original inspiration since all my husband could tell me about it was that it was white and not too thick. My version had sour cream as its base, which is all well and good, except for my new efforts to cook healthier. See, we love sour cream here in the Cats and Casseroles household. Loooove sour cream. Anything we can top with sour cream, we will. It's not the healthiest of habits. When I did the math, that old salmon sauce turned out to be a whopper of calories and saturated fats.

I think it's apparent I'm not a health food junkie. But I'm also not the type of cook who relishes in drowning ingredients in butter and cream. I think there's a middle ground. I hope recipes like this will help me get there.

For my new healthier sauce, I've replaced the sour cream with fat-free Greek yogurt. Unlike most reduced fat dairy products, Greek yogurt manages to remain thick and creamy. I kept the ingredient list simple, as not to strangle the dill flavor. I've noticed that different brands of Greek yogurt (I used Oikos) have a different level of tang to them. Depending on your taste preferences, you might want to add a little lemon juice to the mix.

  • 1 1/2 lb salmon, preferably a thick cut
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 c fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/4 tsp dried dill
  • salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Cut your salmon into four equal portions and transfer to a 9 x 13 glass baking dish. Brush olive oil over salmon and season with salt and pepper. Top each piece of salmon with one or two lemon slices. Bake in preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. Once out of oven, let salmon rest in dish for a minute or two. Squeeze lemon slices over salmon and discard.

3. In small mixing bowl, combine yogurt, dill, salt and pepper. Spoon over salmon. Serve immediately.

Source: Cats and Casseroles original recipe

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Garden Update

My earth garden (as opposed to my container garden) is doing pretty well. There used to be a wooden swing set in our yard where the garden now sits. But we hacked that to pieces and used its base to make our raised bed.

I read a couple of gardening books before planting, and they were all pretty clear that tomato plants need only a square foot of space to themselves. Since our garden is six feet long, I felt confident planting three tomato plants and one pepper plant along the back row. Well, the books were wrong. So wrong. My tomato plants are growing faster and larger than expected and seem to be on a quest to conquer the entire garden for themselves. One of them grew forward and eclipsed my tiny, struggling basil plant, almost completely killing it. One of them looked like it was trying to fuse itself with my poor pepper plant.

My dad is a gardening expert. This is my first year, and I occasionally ring him up for some help. My dad wound up moving the pepper plant to the front row and trying up the tomato plants with some twine. The basil plant is happily sun bathing once again.

And what's this I spy? Could it be a tiny tomato?

The onions from my container garden are doing great. My dad planted his onions from the same batch of onion sets I did, but his aren't nearly this big. I think the self-watering containers are doing their job. I'll definitely be planting onions in this same fashion next year.

How's your garden growing today?

Monday, June 20, 2011


I have to admit, I'm ridiculously excited about sharing this recipe on my blog. I'm bouncing a bit in my computer chair with glee as I type this. Hopefully, when I'm done, you'll be as excited to try this recipe as I am to tell you about it.

I love making manicotti. Why? Well, let me count the ways. First off, this recipe is great for dipping your toes into the world of fresh pasta. I remember that, as a beginner, the process of making traditional fresh pasta (the kneading, and rolling out, and cutting, and drying) seemed intimidating. However, these manicotti shells are made from a simple batter and cooked like a crepe. They are very easy. I promise. And, as an added bonus, because these manicotti shells are flat, unlike the tube-like ones from a box, they are easier to stuff with filling.

This manicotti is my "impress someone" dinner. It's a good recipe to pull out when having company. I made this for my mom's birthday luncheon last year, and it received rave reviews. Your guests will be so flattered that you took the time to make them pasta from scratch. Yet this whole dish can be pulled together in just 45 minutes. It'll be your little secret.

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 28 oz can Italian plum tomatoes in puree (like this)
  • 6 leaves basil, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. water
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1 c. whole milk ricotta
  • 1-1/2 c. mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 c. parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • milk
  • additional chopped parsley for serving
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic. Cook for about 3 minutes, until garlic becomes fragrant. Add tomatoes and basil. Use a potato masher to crush tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Bring sauce to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Allow to simmer, covered, as you prepare the remaining components.

3. In large mixing bowl, beat eggs with a whisk. Whisk in the flour. Add the water and then the salt. Whisk until batter is smooth and free of lumps.

4. Spray an 8-inch non-stick frying pan with a light coat of cooking spray or oil. Place frying pan on a burner set to medium heat, holding hand several inches above pan to test it's temperature. Once pan is hot, add 1/4 c. batter to it, swirling the batter around the bottom of the pan to coat evenly. Heat until batter firms and turns mostly opaque (the edges will start to curl upward a bit). Flip over to heat other side. The goal with making these shells is to cook them, but not brown them like you would a tortilla. Be sure not to leave on the heat too long; they're done as soon as they are firm on both sides. Stack finished pasta on a piece of aluminum foil. You should get 8 shells from one batch of batter.

5. In small mixing bowl, combine ricotta, 1/2 c. mozzarella, parmesan, and tablespoon fresh parsley. Season with the salt and pepper. If desired, thin with a bit of milk (this makes your ricotta mixture easier to spread).

6.  Assemble the manicotti. Ladle 1/2 of the sauce into a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Spoon 1/8 of the ricotta mixture into the middle of each of the pasta shells. Fold the sides of the shells over the ricotta. Place in the baking dish, seam up. Ladle sauce over top the manicotti. Fresh pasta won't get crunchy or dry out in the oven, like boxed pasta would, so top with as much or as little sauce as you'd like. Sprinkle 1 c. mozzarella on top.

7. Bake in preheated oven for 13-15 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley and serve immediately.

Source: Cats and Casseroles original (with the caveat that although this recipe comes from no specific source it was certainly inspired by dozens of Italian cooks).

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Raspberry Oatmeal Squares

Growing up in suburban Philadelphia in the late 80s, it seemed like I ate the exact same cake at every celebration. White cake, white crisco-based frosting, raspberry filling. I ate it at baptisms, I ate it at first communions, I ate it at quinceaneras. So it's no wonder, when planning the dessert menu for my brother's graduation, I decided I had to make something with raspberry filling. It wouldn't be a real celebration otherwise.

I had a particular recipe in mind, but it turned out to have errors, leaving me with a mess the day before the party. I had to scramble to find a new recipe that would work with the ingredients I already had. Luckily, I came across this one for Raspberry Oatmeal Squares. These squares are simple to prepare and are very tasty.

  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup seedless raspberry jam
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Line an 8 x 8 inch pan with parchment paper or foil. Lightly spray the inside of parchment paper or foil with cooking spray.

3. In medium mixing bowl, combine brown sugar, flour, baking soda, salt, and rolled oats. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender. Continue blending until butter has been well incorporated into the dry ingredients. Take 2 cups of this mixture and press into the bottom of the prepared pan. Spread raspberry jam on top, leaving 1/4 inch uncovered around the edges. Sprinkle remaining oatmeal mixture on top of jam and press lightly.

4. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Allow to cool in pan. Cut into squares and serve.

Source: Allrecipes

Thursday, June 16, 2011

No Sew Cat Toy

Sorry some of the pictures are blurry. My little point-and-shoot couldn't keep up with all the fun Sundae was having with her new toy!

I have catnip growing in my garden. My dad gave me part of his plant, which was part of a plant he got from someone I used to catsit for. This stuff grows like wildfire. I've actually resorted to ripping off parts of it and chucking it into the woods behind my house, just to keep it from over-running my parsley. And, yet, even with this successful outpouring of catnip, I've been reluctant to give Sundae any. That's because Sundae eats it... and then throws it up... on my carpet, usually.

Then I came up with an idea that makes both me and Sundae happy: the no-sew catnip toy. I took a clean sock I no longer wanted and stuffed it with fresh catnip leaves. The trick is to break the leaves to release the oils, and to rub the leave pieces all over the outside of the sock. Then tie a ribbon around the base of the cuff to keep the catnip safely inside the sock (and not inside your kitty's tummy). Remove the catnip every couple of days and replace with fresh leaves. Your feline friend will be happy all season long!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

White Chocolate Pecan Bars

I'm discovering more and more that pecans are quite the little crowd pleasers. Walnuts certainly never get that type of reaction. These white chocolate pecan bars are easy to make and very tasty. Plus, you can tell people the recipe for these bars comes from the world-famous Magnolia Bakery in New York City. Fans of the show Sex and the City will know what you're talking about and be instantly impressed.

  • 2 c all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 c unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 c light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 c pecans, coarsely chopped
  • 8 oz white chocolate, coarsely chopped (I recommend Ghirardelli)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In small bowl, combine flour and salt. Set aside. In larger bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar. Add egg and vanilla, beating well.

3. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture. Beat until well combined. Stir in 1/2 c of the chopped pecans. Transfer batter to a greased 9 x 13 pan.

4. Bake for 25 minutes, or until edges lightly brown. Remove pan from oven and place on a cooling rack.

5. Immediately after pan is out of oven, sprinkle chopped white chocolate on top. Wait 5 minutes, and then spread chocolate around with a spatula. Sprinkle chocolate with remaining chopped pecans. Allow to cool and then cut into bars.

Source: The Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook

Sunday, June 12, 2011

5 Things I Learned from My First Catering Gig

I'm being liberal with my use of the word gig, since it was my brother's graduation party, and I wasn't getting paid. But, still, it was my first chance to bake for such a large group of people, and to debut my new little catering business. Things went pretty well! The set up  looked amazing (I wish I had brought along a camera), and everyone seemed to enjoy the food. I guess I'm officially in business!

Recipes for all the food I made are forthcoming, but, for now, I'd like to share some things I learned from the experience.

1. A good buttercream can carry you. A delicious, pretty looking, frosting can hide a multitude of baking sins.

2. Follow your instincts. I wasted a pound of butter attempting a recipe I knew looked wrong from the get-go. I ignored my instincts in favor of the authority of a cookbook, and I paid the price. On the other hand, I "fixed" my standard buttercream recipe by preparing it the way my gut told me to instead of following the actual instructions.

3. Praise is nice. It can also be awkward. It's always nice to be appreciated for something you work hard on and enjoy doing. But for an extreme introvert, like me, it can be a little uncomfortable, too.

4. Cupcake toppers are stupid. You take the time to print out dozens of themed toppers, take the time to tape them to sticks, and take the risk of mucking up your buttercream to stab them into your cupcakes. And they'll all land in the trash in 10 seconds flat.

5. Make business cards. I didn't think to make any, but I did get asked for them. They're free to make and print at Even if you're not interested in baking for pay, business cards can be useful for spreading word about your website or blog.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

How to Make a Treat Box

Looking for a cute and thoughtful way to gift your home-baked goodies? Well, look no further than this useful, and easy-to-make, treat box. The finished dimensions are 10 x 4.5 x 1 inches, making this box the perfect size for cookies and brownies.

What you'll need to make this box:
  • 12 x 12 inch piece scrapbook paper
  • scoring board (or a ruler and a butter knife)
  • scissors
  • glue stick (or double-sided tape)
That's it! Let's get started!

Have you ever folded a piece of heavy paper only to have the paper crack at the fold? Scoring (or indenting) the paper helps prevent this, as well as ensuring precise folds.

Score your scrapbook paper on the wrong (non-patterned) side. Using a scoring board, score at 1", 5.5", 6.5", and 11". Turn the paper and score again at 1" and 11". Basically, you'll have scored an one-inch border around the paper and an one-inch spine down the middle.

Don't have a scoring board? Measure in with a ruler, and score using the back of a butter knife.

Using scissors, snip the flaps of the box. Fold them inward, as pictured.

Hopefully, it is clear from this photo that you're not cutting off the flaps, but merely snipping them so that they can bend inward. Only make cuts on the sides of the paper running perpendicular to the spine.

Apply glue to the right (patterned) side of each of the flaps. Adhere them to the inside of the box. This part of the project is difficult to explain but will become immediately clear to you while doing it.

I glue together the bottom of the box and then the lid. This is how it looks while in progress.

Once you have glued all the flaps, and the glue has dried, fold the lid over the bottom, sort of like a pizza box. Ta-da!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Mushroom Bacon Quesadillas

This recipe is my little love letter to my home town. It is a place that does two things well: growing mushrooms, and Americanizing Mexican foods. So, in honor of my childhood town, I present my recipe for Mushroom Bacon Quesadillas. These quesadillas make for excellent snacking during football games, or a quick dinner. The amount of bacon is just enough to give these quesadillas some added flavor without over-powering the mushrooms. Of course, bacon fanatics (of which I am not) can feel free to add more!

  • 8 oz white button mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 4 10-inch flour tortillas
  • 2 slices thick-cut bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 2 oz (1/2 c) pepper jack cheese, shredded
  • 2 oz (1/2 c) sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1. In skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper. Cook mushrooms over medium heat until soft, about 10 minutes.

2. In the center of each 10-inch flour tortilla, place 2 tbsp of each cheese. Top with 1/4 of the cooked mushrooms and 1/4 of the crumbled bacon. Fold over the tortillas. Heat an indoor grill* to it's highest temperature. Grill quesadillas one at a time, until cheese is melted. Cut into wedges and serve.

* I use my indoor grill to make these. Alternatively, quesadillas can be cooked using a regular frying pan. Cook quesadillas over medium-high heat, flipping occasionally, until cheese is melted and tortilla is crisp.

Souce: Cats and Casseroles original recipe

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Betty Crocker Best Bread Machine Cookbook

Betty Crocker Best Bread Machine Cookbook, Wiley Publishing, 1999

I really can't say enough nice things about this cookbook. It's the reason I love my bread machine. Simply put, this book is a collection of nearly flawless and easily executed recipes. It's a must have for anyone with a bread machine.

Pretty much every thing you can imagine making in a bread machine is covered in this cookbook. There are plenty of loaves baked right in the machine, ranging from sweet to savory, but the recipes that really shine are the shaped loaves that use the machine just to create the dough. There are recipes for coffee cakes, cinnamon rolls, pizza crusts, focaccia, and more. I've personally tested about half the recipes in the book and have only had one flop. And unless you are the type who enjoys frustration, reliable recipes is essential to making friends with your bread machine. I've never had a loaf cave in. I don't think I'd like how that feels.

There's nothing particularly ground breaking or gourmet about these recipes. I appreciate the simplicity, but, as is clear from this blog, I'm not a gourmet-type chef. The book is divided into seven chapters: white-flour based loaves, whole grain loaves, fruit and veggie loaves, small loaves, rustic loaves/flatbreads, rolls/breadsticks, and sweet breads. All of the recipes use easily found ingredients. Unlike in many other bread machine cookbooks, none of the recipes call for added gluten (which can be hard to find).

A sampling of recipes included: Orange Cappuccino Bread, Pumpernickel Pecan Bread, Rosemary Apricot Bread, Greek Olive Focaccia, Curry Rice Dinner Rolls, and Chocolate Caramel Sticky Buns.

Hungry yet? In sum, this is a gold star cookbook, especially for newer bread machine owners.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Thursday Pictures

Happy 1st birthday, Sundae! I remember that day, one year ago, I went to the SPCA and a little black and white kitten racing around her cage caught my eye. I picked her up for the first time... and she bit me. Even so, something in my gut told me this was the kitten for me, and I've never once regretted taking her home. Sundae is a truly special cat, and she lights up my days.

Found this little Pyrex bowl at Goodwill. Picked it up for $2.

One of the perks of when I volunteer with my mom is the free cookbooks. Can you believe they were going to throw these away? They are Time Life books from the 60s. I don't come across too many Creole or Viennese cookbooks, and so I snatched these up. Flipping through the Austrian cookbook, I was confused at first, because half of the recipe titles were in German and half were in some Slavic-looking language. Then my 8th grade social studies kicked in and I remembered the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Can't say I've ever seen another Austro-Hungarian cookbook, and doubt I'll ever see one in the future. I consider this a good find.

Currently, I'm working on some baking projects. I've tested about a dozen recipes in the last week, all of which have been flops, and I'm working on the catering for my brother's graduation party. I'm a little stressed, but posting pretty pictures helps!