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The Misadventures of Mrs. B: 2010-11-28

Cook. Writer. Wife. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Klutz.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Green Bean Casserole

Last week, I shared with you the story of a food I didn't eat for decades, thinking that I hated it: stuffing.

Here's another one which I missed out on for years and years: green bean casserole.

Oh, green bean casserole.  That utterly American dish which people across our country enjoy at least once a year, at the same time they're gorging on turkey and cranberries.

And for years I said "No, thank you" when it came my way at the Thanksgiving table, and passed it on down the line while waiting for my turn with the mashed potatoes.

Silly me! Because the first time I actually said "What the hell" and tried it, I was hooked forever.

Coincidentally, that "What the hell" attitude was what led me to meet my husband.  But that's another story.  The lesson here is, a healthy dose of adventurousness can lead to a life long love affair.

Oh, and a marriage.  WHOA! See what I did there?

Okay, enough poor attempts at humor.  Back to the utter destruction of a once-healthy vegetable.

This time around, rather than following the tried-and-true canned veggie and Campbell's recipe, I thought I'd try to take things up to the next level.  So I adapted Alton Brown's green bean casserole recipe and was pleased with it - but it didn't go over too well with my traditional family, who are so used to having that tried-and-true version.  In the future I might use canned beans BUT with the homemade sauce.  Here's how it went down:

As with all good things, we start with butter.  2 tablespoons, to be exact.  Melt it down in your pan...

And in do 6 oz of well-chopped mushrooms - I didn't want any huge pieces even though I happen to adore mushrooms.  I wanted the beans to be the star, with the mushrooms taking a supporting role.  The mushrooms were cooked down until they were well browned and had released their juices, and then...

2 tablespoons of flour were added and mixed in until the juices were completely absorbed and the flour had a chance to cook a bit, maybe 3 or 4 minutes.

1 cup of chicken broth was added and stirred, stirred, stirred in order to let the flour break down and thicken the sauce, instead of clumping up and giving me lumps.  Lumps are no good.  Down with lumps.

Moving on.

Once the sauce had thickened, after a few minutes of heating up with the flour (drag your spoon along the bottom of the pan - if you leave a streak behind, which doesn't immediately fill back in with sauce, it's time), add 1 cup of half-and-half.

Add salt and pepper to taste, and allow this to simmer until thickened...

...and try to not just eat it right then and there.  Because let me tell you, this is the most heavenly soup, right here.  I would just pour this into a bowl and call it lunch - and I might have to, one day soon.

This was not for lunch, though (sadly).  This was a sauce beans!

Around a pound, in fact.  Alton calls for fresh beans and I'm sure that would be wonderful...but it's not always easy to find good fresh beans at this time of the year, especially when they've been picked over by scores of harried Thanksgiving grocery shoppers (believe me, I witnessed it and felt a little sick).  So I went with frozen.
And with beans go, of course, the fried onions.  I used a cup of the canned kind.

Into a buttered casserole dish this goes, and then it's topped with even MORE onions - another cup...or so.  Don't worry, no one will judge you if you add more.  Or even if you, say, eat one or two or a dozen right out of the can.

You're the cook.  It's your kitchen.

Into a 450 degree oven for 15 minutes and

Can we please observe a moment of silence for this perfect mix of mushroom, bean, onion and rich cream sauce? 

Okay.  Moment over - time to eat!

Green Bean Casserole

1 pound frozen green beans, thawed and dried
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 ounces mushrooms, trimmed, cleaned and chopped
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup half-and-half
2 cups French's fried onions, divided
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Melt butter in large pan and add mushroom pieces.  Cook mushrooms over medium-high heat until juices have been released and mushrooms are browning, around 4-5 minutes.  Sprinkle flour into pan and stir well, making sure all flour is incorporated into juices.  Turn heat down to medium and cook for a few minutes in order for the raw flour taste to cook out.

Add chicken broth and stir vigorously, in order for flour to fully incorporate with liquid.  Cook for several minutes until broth is thickened and add half-and-half.  Again allow liquid to simmer until thickened, around 5 minutes.

Remove pan from heat and add beans and 1 cup of onions, stirring gently to combine.  Pour bean misxture into buttered 8x8 baking dish and top with remaining cup of onions.

Bake for 15 minutes in preheated oven, until bubbly.

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Thursday, December 2, 2010

My Fantasy Christmas Wish List

Disclaimer: This list has nothing whatsoever to do with the gifts which are already wrapped and under the tree, addressed to yours truly.  It doesn't even have anything to do with reality.  This is merely a wish list.  In no way do I expect to receive these items, and in no way does their presence in the back of my mind detract from the presents I will be receiving - presents which I know I will love very much.

I'm not the sort of girl who requires fancy things.  Not at all.  In fact, it's probably for the best that I have few fancy things, seeing as how I'm not exactly the most - what's the description? - coordinated and well-organized person in the world.

In other words, I break things and I lose things.  The fact that my iPhone has survived, intact and unscathed, for over a year is a feat unbeknownst to mankind prior to now.  For real.  I think I went through 3 iPods in 2 years (service plans are a good thing).

So no fancy things required, and quantity of gifts is not an issue either.  Seriously.

Throughout my life, I have found that it's more fun to want things.  To drool.  To, dare I say, covet.  Because once I have everything I want...well, I have everything I want.  Big deal.  Now what to do with it? And there's the rub. 

It's much more fun to want things than to actually feel obligated to use all of the wonderful things I have.  Think about it.  How many items have you purchased or received, convinced at the time of their incredible importance in your life...only to see them waste away, covered in dust and the occasional cobweb? I have.  More times than I care to admit.

With that in mind, here it is.  My Fantasy Christmas Wish List.

Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer Pasta Press Attachment

Oh, the things we would do together, you and I.  The adventures we would have.  The pasta we would make.  The joy we would bring.  Rigatoni flying every which way. 

You have no idea of the imaginary damage I would do with this simple attachment.

And while we're at it...

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer

Let me immediately state that my stand mixer has served me well for 2 1/2 years (it's still a baby!).  Every recipe I've ever posted which requires beating, whipping or kneading of any kind has been tackled by my trusty stand mixer.  We have a beautiful relationship.

But.  I drool copious amounts of drool when I see this artisan mixer.  It's on my wish list for 2 reasons:

1) It's bigger than mine, and has a handle on the bowl.
2) It's red.

No one ever said that wish lists had to make sense.

Just about everything on the Wilton website

See, in my head I'm quite the little baker/decorator.  I'm, like, the Martha Stewart of my block.  I spend my spare time finding new and innovative ways to decorate cakes and cookies, and then I set them up for display in my front window in order for my less gifted slacker neighbors to hate me and my ridiculous productivity.  Therefore, it's clear that I need a whole arsenal of baking and decoration tools at my disposal.  Wilton cake pans, Wilton piping tips, and not to mention the Wilton books on how to actually decorate things. 

Not that I need to learn how or anything.  Because I totally don't.  I just need the inspiration for new awe-inspiring projects.  In my head.

A double oven
Again: It just makes sense.  Wouldn't holiday entertaining be much simpler if I could cook with two ovens at once? It's simple mathematics, people.  2 ovens get twice the cooking done in half the time.  I think that, right there, is reason enough for me to knock some space into my kitchen wall and plop one in.

This is just a small sampling of the items on my miles-long list of things I would not exactly hate waking up and seeing every day.  Hmm...notice a theme here? Well, there are less tangible (and less kitchen-oriented) wishes on my list as well.  Like wishes for employment opportunities to open up for more people, for fewer hungry families in the world, and for all of us to start caring about each other a little more because, after all, we're all the same.

How about YOU? What's on your ultimate wish list?

And here's a bonus question: Have you ever received/purchased a really wished-for item...which you hardly ever used? Tell me about it!

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sweet Potato Casserole

Back at Easter time, I shared with you the recipe I use for Sweet Potato Casserole.

This casserole...well, it's a tricky dish.  See, you may decide to experiment with the food your family eats at holiday gatherings, and say to yourself "Hey, I like sweet potatoes and so do many members of my family circle - perhaps I should prepare a lovely casserole in order to bring joy to those I care for".

Oh, you naive person you.  You remind me of me in younger and simpler times.

All I have to say is, be prepared to learn this recipe by heart.  See, if you make it once, you will end up being asked - nay, required - to make it for every gathering thereafter.  That's just how powerful it is.  There will be no stopping the force of the sweet potato casserole.  Your father will call several days in advance and ask, all innocent-like, if you're making "those sweet potatoes that he likes".  Your entire family will descend upon it like ravenous vultures, never minding the plethora of other dishes at their disposal.

It won't be pretty.  But at least it'll be completely delicious.  So there you go.

One thing I know: I'll be making sweet potato casserole for Christmas.  Will you?

Sweet Potato Casserole
4 cups sweet potato, cubed
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup chopped pecans


Prick sweet potatoes (4-5 potatoes depending upon size) and roast in 400 degree oven for 75-90 minutes, until knife can go cleanly through the flesh.  Allow to potatoes to cool thoroughly, then split in half and scoop out flesh.  Thoroughly mash the potatoes in a large bowl.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. 

Mix together the sweet potatoes, sugar, eggs, salt, butter, milk and vanilla. Mix until smooth.  Butter an 8x8 baking dish, and spread potato mixture evenly.

In medium bowl, mix the sugar and flour. Cut in the butter until the mixture is coarse. Stir in the pecans. Sprinkle the mixture over the sweet potato mixture.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until the topping is lightly brown (I usually like to go for 45).


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Christmas Ornament Wreath

I know that everyone and their mother has made an ornament wreath by now.

But that doesn't stop me from feeling inordinately proud of mine!

I managed to salvage a lot of what I did last year - the original wreath made it through the move pretty well.  So I removed the old ornaments and substituted some other unused ones, then strung them on my hanger.  Any empty spaces were filled by smaller ornaments which I hot glued in place.

Once the glue was dry, it was time to hang.  I knew exactly where I wanted it - right on the new dining room wall, in front of the mirror.

With the help of Rob, I looped a length of ribbon under the wire on the back of the mirror and draped both ends over the top.  I knotted the ribbon in front of the wreath and cut the ends evenly, leaving them to drape down the front of the wreath as if they were the ends of the bow.  I then used the rest of the ribbon to create a bow, which I hot glued to the knot.

And that was it! Okay, sounds easier than it was.  It took some time to get it to look right.  But I love the way it looks now!

What do you think? Have you made an ornament wreath (and if so, did you have a hard time with it at first the way I did with mine? Because I was cursing the idea when I first tried it!)?

And if you're all "What the heck?" because you've never heard of/seen a Christmas ornament wreath before, here's a link to Eddie Ross's blog, where he details the process much better than I could. 

One note, though: I notice that he has ornaments with great big metal loops at the top to string along the hanger.  I on the other hand use dollar store ornaments and the holes are much smaller.  The first time I tried making the wreath it killed me that I couldn't get the ornaments as close together as his, which is why I hot glue ornaments in the bare spots.  The cheapy tops don't allow you to get the ornaments too close together without breaking from the strain (I don't mean popping off, I mean breaking entirely).  So there's my two cents!

Side story: While snapping pics for the ol' blog, I said to Rob "Do you want to be in the picture?".  He said "No, I look terrible!".  I said "Then get out of the way, you're in the mirror".

Happy to share with...
504 Main

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

Although I haven’t actually started making my Christmas cookies yet – that’ll be this weekend – I just couldn’t let Cookie Week go by without throwing my 2 cents into the ring.

Wait, that’s not even right.  Oh well.  You get the idea.

So I share with you, friends, my favorite cookie recipe.  The most magical cookies ever.  They're super easy to make – the only time-consuming factor is the unwrapping of the peanut butter cups, especially if/when someone keeps stealing them from you as you do so.  

Not that that’s ever happened to me or anything…

These are a huge hit every year.  Huge.  I hope you give them a try this holiday season! Your hips might not thank me, but your tastebuds will.

Oh, and have some milk or another beverage ready when you dive into these beauties.  Trust me.

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

1 3/4c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 c softened butter
1/2 c white sugar
1 c chunky peanut butter
1/2 c packed brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbs milk
48 miniature peanut butter cups, unwrapped

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.
In another large bowl, cream together the butter, white and brown sugars and peanut butter.   Once creamed, add the egg, vanilla and milk and combine.  Add the dry ingredients in batches, incorporating each addition fully before adding more. 

Using an ice cream scoop, scoop dough and divide into 4 pieces, then roll each piece into a ball and drop into the cups of a miniature muffin tin (obviously you don't need the scoop, but it's helpful!).  You should end up with 48 balls total.

Bake for 8-10 minutes.  

Immediately upon removal from the oven, while cookies are still hot, press one miniature peanut butter cup down into the center of each cookie.  Allow cookies to cool in pan so as to let the chocolate firm up.  Cooled cookies should slip right out of the cups!

Happy to be sharing with...

504 Main 

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Help ME Help YOU

Okay.  Maybe this won't help you at all, but the title sounded good to me when I typed it in there so it's staying.

I need your help, friends.  I decided in typical headlong fashion to move over to Wordpress for various reasons.  Now, the actual public unveiling won't take place for some time, as I want everything to be as beautiful and brand-spankin' sparkly as possible for you when you get there.  Sorta like when you're cleaning house for new guests.  You want to make sure there's an extra roll of t.p. in the powder room and no errant crumbs on the sofa.  You get the idea.  And I'll probably announce the new site for weeks in advance of switching over completely. 

Because I just know you couldn't live without a regular dose of yours truly and I would hate for even one of you to be left out of the fun.

Here's what I need from YOU: Opinions.

Do you use Wordpress? If so, what do you think of it? Did you move there from somewhere else? Did you face difficulty? And if you don't use Wordpress, why not?

Any tips or advice would be greatly appreciated, friends!


Perfect Pecan Pie

Here at The Misadventures of Mrs B., I like to take the opportunity to showcase the recipes of relatively unknown little bloggers who need the exposure. 

After all, dozens of you read this blog every day, and I feel that it is therefore my duty - nay, my own noblesse oblige - to boost the popularity of bloggers who are just starting out.  What can I say? I'm a giver.

Today's recipe is by someone I'm sure you've never heard of, and someone who I am so proud to promote.

Her name is The Pioneer Woman.

What? You mean you have heard of her and are a devoted follower and have possibly seen her cookbook and her appearance on Throwdown? Oh...

Okay.  Clearly if you're reading this or any other blog devoted to life and food, you've heard of Pioneer Woman and are probably one of her gajillion readers.  She's everywhere.  And with good reason, of course.

Just prior to Thanksgiving, I was debating on whether or not to make a pecan pie this year.  I love pecan pie.  Looooooooove pecan pie.  But I was already making a bunch of other stuff, so making yet another dish was not high on my list of To Do's.  Plus, the pecan pie I'd made in the past was rather work intensive and I knew I wouldn't have the time.'s so good...what to do, what to do?

Well, the Good Lord must've been listening in on my hemming and hawing because He directed me towards PW's recipe, and I felt as though I'd been born again.  Never had I seen a recipe for pecan pie that was so darn easy.  You mean I don't have to heat the sugar and syrup and then temper the eggs and then spend precious time whisking and whisking and whisking nonstop until my arm feels like it's gonna fall the heck off? Pie is back on the menu, kids!

And here's how it went down.  It was so easy, I couldn't believe it.

First, let me just get something out of the way right here and now.  Please don't judge me.  I bought a pie crust instead of making one.  I know! I know! But those darn pre-made doughs from Pillsbury are just too good and seriously, I'd already been cooking for half the day and had another several dishes ahead of me.  So prepackaged dough it was.

Unroll your dough over top of the pie pan and gently press it into the corners, while taking a picture which reminds you of just why manicures are, in fact, worth the money but you're clearly too cheap to get one.

One heaping cup of roughly chopped pecans go into the bottom of the pie pan.  I was very serious about my heaping.

Then it's time for the goo that holds the whole thing together.

 1 cup of white sugar

3 tablespoons of brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon of salt

 1 cup of corn syrup

3/4 teaspoon of vanilla

3 beaten eggs and 1/3 cup of melted salted butter (around 5 1/2 tbs or so).

Yuck, right? But no worries.  Once you stir it all up and pour it over the pecans, it looks much prettier.

Can I just take a second to pay tribute to the most beautiful crust crimping I've ever pulled off? Just look at that.  It's like the fates all got together to help make this pie possible.

Now it's time for the all-important crust cover, which will keep it from browning too much and (hopefully) leave it golden brown and flaky.  If you're one of the lucky people who have a pie shield, well, hooray for you.  Now you get to use it!

I, however, do not own such a piece of kitchen toolery.  So my shield was made of four strips of aluminum foil, wrapped gently around the crust and overlapped like so, then pressed very tightly along the lip of the pan so as to keep it firmly in place.

Into a 350 degree oven this goes.  After 20 minutes, remove the foil/shield from the crust and let 'er keep baking.  PW suggests an additional 30 minutes but that left me waaaaay too jiggly, so I gently laid a large piece of foil on top and let it go for another 20, checking halfway through.  So altogether this took 70 minutes to bake.

Was it worth the wait, folks?

Well pardon my language, but hell yes it was.

Look.  At.  That.

Now look away.  Now look at it again.

It's, like...perfection in a pie pan.  And the taste? Let's just say a certain someone, namely me, announced at the Thanksgiving table that if I weren't married, I'd marry this pie.  My husband checked to make sure he'd heard me correctly.  He had.

It's just that good.

So thanks, PW, for making my Thanksgiving (and the following weekend, throughout which I ate more leftover pecan pie than is good for anyone) a bit sweeter. 

If you're looking for a fabulous pecan pie recipe (for, I don't know, Christmas maybe?), you've come to the right place.  Bake this.  I'm serious.  If you don't like pecan pie, bake it and send it to me anyway.  I'll make sure it doesn't go to waste (maybe to my waist, though).


Pioneer Woman's Perfect Pecan Pie

1 unbaked pie crust (I use Pillsbury, but you can be all fancy and make your own)
1 heaping cup chopped pecans
1 cup white sugar
3 tbs brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup corn syrup
3/4 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup melted butter (salted)
3 beaten eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line bottom and sides of pie pan with unbaked pie crust.  Pour pecans on top of crust and spread to cover the bottom of the pan.

In a large bowl mix the rest of the ingredients and pour the mixture over the pecans.

Cover the crust with pie shield or aluminum foil to prevent overbrowning, then place pan in preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove shield/foil and bake for at least another 30 minutes or until pie is only slightly loose in the center when shaken - some ovens require only 50 minutes total bake time, whereas mine took 70. 

Tip: Cover pie loosely with foil if you require the extra time in the oven.

Allow pie to cool, then chill for several hours or overnight.  And then thank the heavens that pecan pie exists for your enjoyment.

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