saucy wench!

There are a few foodstuffs that will always be better homemade than storebought. Usually, these are recipes that require a few simple ingredients and a modicum of care. Shortbread. Alfredo sauce. Ice cream. Pesto.

Butterscotch sauce. Holy cats, I made butterscotch sauce for my mother a few months ago (a riff on this recipe, incidentally) and made the mistake of tasting it before pouring it into a pretty jar to give her.

I very nearly kept it. It’s that good.

How good? Well… this week, when I asked Mom what she might like for Christmas, she perked up. “Oooh! Butterscotch sauce!”

Yeah. Simple and utterly delicious, with a dark, faintly bitter undertone that faced up to its sweetness.

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wacky snacky cake

Remember wacky cake? For many, it’s a childhood recipe.

Why “wacky”? Because this cake flouts all the conventions of cakemaking chemistry. It contains no butter, no egg, no milk. It requires no creaming or whipping. You stir together flour, sugar, and cocoa right in the ungreased pan, then mix in oil, water, and vinegar. This suspiciously simple recipe bakes up into an improbably dark, moist cake. It’s no barn-burner, but it’s pleasant and easy, and on a few late snowy nights, wacky cake has satisfied my chocolate cravings when the cupboard was nearly bare.

It took a post by Homesick Texan to make wacky cake a weekly player in my home. Homesick Texan plays with the flavor, leaving out the cocoa and adding chopped apples and nuts.

Me, I can’t leave a recipe alone, so I’ve now made wacky-apple cake with dried cranberries, wacky pear cake with blueberries, and wacky-papple cake, which is wacky cake with apple and pear. I added extra flavor by replacing some of the water with leftover canned pear juice, increased the spices, and replaced the vanilla with kirsch. My favorite variation is documented below.

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huevos con whatnot

It’s time to document an embarrassingly simple dish. I I threw this together in desperation some months ago, and it’s become a staple dish ’round these parts. It’s not remotely authentic, it’s so easy that it barely qualifies as cooking, and it’s not even got a proper name. I’ve taken to calling it “huevos,” purely to distinguish it from the simpler egg dishes we eat daily.

Uh, except that lately, “huevos” is what we eat daily. It’s a great hearty breakfast, a fine simple dinner, or an easy lunch. We always have the few ingredients on hand, and even if we didn’t, we could pick them up in any corner market. I like it with warmed tortillas (corn or flour) on the side, or arepas, or a handful of corn chips, or a piece of toast. Garnish it with a scant palmful of grated cheese, a spoonful of diced tomatoes, a scallion quickly cut up with kitchen scissors, or nothing at all.

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velveetaFor a late-night gathering tonight, I’ll be making (among other things) this seemingly vile but confoundingly delicious hot dip, which consists of a block of gummy processed cheese food pasteurized prepared cheese product microwaved in a pool of jarred salsa, served with tortilla chips.

I know, I know! But it’s surprisingly tasty, though my brain protests up until the moment I start shoveling it into my mouth. My mouth is the boss.

I looked up the recipe not to refresh my memory, but to show a friend, and in doing so, I noticed that Kraft Foods graciously accommodates the appetites of health-conscious readers:

Healthy Living
Save 20 calories and 2.5 g of fat per serving by preparing with VELVEETA Made With 2% Milk Reduced Fat Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product.

Dear Velveeta,
This word “healthy”? I think you’re using it wrong.

Thanks for the pasteurized prepared cheese product; it’s awesome.


ice cream chocolate chip son-of-a-&!%*#wich

ice cream sandwich
curse-inspiring cookies
Once in a great while, you have a bite of food that so transports you, that so delights your tastebuds, that (not to put too fine a point on it) tastes so #^@%ing good you just have to swear. When faced with perfection, the imperfect human resorts instinctively to rage.

These cookies may trigger that atavistic urge to rage. They have no business tasting this good, and I’m both angered and thrilled that they do.

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Sandwich Party 2: The Black Velvet Elvis

black velvet elvis prep
The name came first: The Black Velvet Elvis.
I saw it in a flash: it would be a riff on the concoction — peanut butter, banana, and bacon (with or without mayonnaise, with or without honey) on white bread grilled in butter — reputed to be Elvis Presley’s favorite. That sandwich itself is a riff on the Fool’s Gold Loaf, the grand sandwich that remains Elvis’ most famous midnight snack.
I knew immediately what belonged in the Black Velvet Elvis, what was dark and rich and luxurious enough to earn that name.
For a day or two, I reveled in my cleverness, before I learned that I’ve been beaten to the pun: I never knew until today that many, many people know the original sandwich as as a Velvet Elvis. Many.
Well, hell, little lady, it’s still a great sandwich!
Thank you! Thank you very much!
Spread two slices of firm bread (I’m using a dark multi-grain from a local bakery) thickly with Nutella. On a whim, I added a light sprinkling of coarse salt. (You can see a too-fuzzy photo of that, and the whole black velvet Elvis photo set, by clicking through the above photo to my Flickr stream.) Cover one with a layer of sliced banana and top with the second slice of bread.
Heat butter in a frying pan over medium heat just until the foam subsides, and lay the sandwich gently down and cook until golden brown. Now gently flip it — careful, that hot Nutella is slippery! — and brown the other side.
Remove to a plate and slice. Let it cool a moment while you prepare your accompaniments; in my case, that’s an iced Americano and a dish of pineapple chunks.
The Black Velvet Elvis is a sensation: rich, gooey filling under a crispy crust, and the dusting of salt zings against the creamy chocolate. The salt, that afterthought ingredient, is essential; it pulls the whole mess together and gives it an almost sophisticated edge.
Doggone it. That’s a sandwich that’s fit for the King. And I wouldn’t blush serving it to Elvis Costello, either.