27 December 2012

A Winter Wonderland...Sort Of....

 

We don't get much snow here in Arkansas.  Maybe once a year, we'll get an inch or so.  Every few years we get a little more, but not much.  This year we got the more than we've gotten at one time in about 25 years.  We also had our state's first ever blizzard warning.  Because this sort of weather is so very, very rare, we are not at all prepared for it.  There's no salt or sand on the road, there's no plows, people don't know how to drive on it at all.  Basically we're shut in until the snow and ice go away.  This storm also has the particular downside of there being tons and tons of trees and branches down all over the place.  We lost 5 trees in our backyard alone.  Most people in town don't have power.  It's chaos. 

We are one of the fortunate few that kept our power during the storm.  I can't tell you how thankful we are, since we have already lost power for two days on two separate occasions already this year.  Since we still had heat, the boys and I got to got out and play in the snow today.  Our two and a half year old has only seen snow once in his life, and he wasn't walking yet, so this is really his first snowfall.  My almost-six-year-old has only seen snow a couple of times.  We were totally psyched to get out and run around.  They threw snowballs at me and made snow angels.  It was total awesomeness and almost worth being completely trapped in the house.


Even though I had all day at home, I am still recovering from the Christmas cooking, so all I managed to make was some slice and bake cookies and three cups of coffee with my new coffee maker I got for Christmas. 

We had a wonderful holiday around here and I hope you all did, too.  I'll be back with more recipes soon.  I promise.


21 December 2012

Merry Christmas!



I'm taking a couple of posting days off (sort of).  The glory of the holiday season is upon me.  I work in retail, so you can imagine what work is like right now.  I am also preparing my annual Christmas Buffet for the 16 people who are coming over on Christmas Day.  You can imagine the planning required to have all that food ready before the kids wake up to open presents.  So, have a great holiday with your families and loved ones!  I'll catch you after Christmas with some yummy new treats.

19 December 2012

Retha's Spice Bars

 

Retha was one of my grandmother's best friends.  Her husband, Sam, and my grandfather were fishing buddies.  Apparently, Retha was also one heckuva cook.  I found this recipe in my grandmother's recipe stash a few days ago and I knew I had to make it.  It's perfect for the season, since it is really a spice cake, rather than bars.  I almost always love a really good spice cake.  This is a really, really exceptional one, too.  It also has a brown butter glaze.  If you read the blog, then you know I am almost fanatical in my love for brown butter.  This is almost perfect.  If Retha were still around, I would totally give her a big high five for this one.  Thanks, Retha.

if you look closely, you can see the little brown butter speckles.
it's practically overflowing with raisins, too.
 
 

17 December 2012

Best. Fries. Ever.


Warning -- these fries are addictive.  They are also one of my go-to easy dinner concoctions.  I got the idea for these from a local restaurant called Big Orange.  It's a locally owned joint that serves Black Truffle Garlic Herb Fries.  These things are the things my dreams are made of...so good that my husband and I were fighting over who got to dig the crumbs out of the bottom of the bowl.  I had to come up with my own version at home, since I can't justify spending $5 on an order of French Fries all the time.

The fries at Big Orange are handcut, but since I usually make these after work and when I am short on time, I use frozen french fries and bake them until they are really crispy.  You can use any cut of potato.  My husband is partial to shoestring cut fries, but I have made these with other cuts, too, since I am partial to thicker cut fries.  Be sure to not get in such a rush that you take the fries out of the oven before they are crispy, though.  Since you are going to drizzle them with out, you'll want that crisp. 

This is not so much of a recipe as it is a list of ingredients.  You can adjust them to your preferences.  I have listed how I make them for us, but feel free to experiment.  You won't be disappointed.  I know that truffle oil is expensive, but this is totally worth it.  Plus, a bottle of it will last for a really, really long time since it doesn't take much oil to add that yummy truffle flavor.


14 December 2012

Cinnamon Sugar Quick Bread


The weather has finally turned cold this week.  Yippee!  The cold snap got me to thinking about what we used to eat when I was a kid and it turned cold.  The thing that immediately sprang to mind was cinnamon toast.  Maybe it's just my memory, but I don't think there could be anything better in the universe than my mom's cinnamon toast on a chilly morning.  This bread kinda reminds me of that cinnamon toast.

I got some cinnamon chips at the grocery store a couple of weeks ago and have been percolating on what to do with them since.  The cold snap inspired me to come up with the bread.  It's like a cross between a pound cake and bread.  It's definitely as moist as a cake, but it's still technically a quick bread since it doesn't have any frosting.  It's also a quick bread because it takes all of five minutes to throw together and you don't have any yeast to fuss with.

This stuff is straight up delicious with the crackly cinnamon sugar top and the crazy-moist cakey middle.  It's heady with tons of cinnamon and the sweetness the balanced out by the subtle tang of the yogurt.  You gotta try it.  Maybe it can take you back to a little piece of your childhood, too.


12 December 2012

Fudge Pudding Cake


This dessert has a split personality -- it can't decide if it wants to be pudding or cake.  It's my favorite kind of dessert because it's magic.  This one is magic because you do very little mixing or prep and it turns into amazing chocolate cake on top and gooey chocolate pudding sauce on the bottom.  You just scoop some out and flip it over into a bowl while it's still warm.  Voila!  Serve it up with some ice cream or whipped cream and you've got yourself one heck of a yummy treat.


I can't claim credit for this one, though.  All the credit has to go to my grandma.  I found this in one of her recipe stashes.  I remember having this one as a kid, so she didn't keep this one all to herself.  So, please share this with the ones you love.  My grandmother would have loved that.  Hopefully you'll love it, too.


10 December 2012

Goo Goo Clusters Cookies


Goo Goo Clusters are definitely a Southern thing.  If you aren't familiar, Goo Goo Clusters are a candy.  They are composed of nougat (which is remarkably marshmallow-y), peanuts, and caramel all coated in chocolate.  They are made in Tennessee and pretty tough to find outside of very, very Southern places, like little country stores.  I love them.  I get one whenever I have the chance.

These cookies are my ode to the Goo Goo Cluster.  They are brown sugar cookies and are chock full of chocolate chips, peanuts, and marshmallows.  They're pretty darn tasty.  They are, however, not the prettiest cookies you're ever gonna make.  Blame it on the marshmallows.  When you bake these, some of the marshmallows melt and go a little crazy.  That's also why I didn't add caramel.  When the marshmallows melt, they make little crispy, caramel spots all around the cookies.  They're my favorite part.

I have to apologize for the lack of pictures to accompany these cookies.  I had my usual repertoire all ready to go, and while I wasn't looking, my two year old took the memory card out of the camera.  Now the memory card and those pictures are nowhere to be found.  I'll post some of them later if we find what he did with the card....


07 December 2012

Possum Pie


This pie does not contain any possum, opossum, or any other sort of animal.  I have to put that out there immediately.  Don't let the name scare you away, because this pie is deee-licious.  No kidding.  All the folks I shared this with made all manner of sounds and noises.  They wouldn't stop eating long enough to actually form words.

I had never heard of this pie until about a year ago.  The Arkansas Times, a local paper, ran a story by Kat Robinson (who has since written an entire book all about Arkansas pie) about the best pies in the state.  There was a little inset in the article about Possum Pie.  They talked about how it's a local delicacy made in pie shops all over.  I had to find out what I had been missing.  I finally got around to making one this week.  I can understand the why people like it so much, but it takes everything I have to actually call this homemade.  Other than the fact that you mix the components together, everything in this pie is pre-made or from a box.  I don't shy away from using these things, but I almost always use them sparingly and not as the entire composition of a recipe.

So, forgive me, but this one is just too good to keep to myself.


05 December 2012

How to Make Meringue (and put it on a Pineapple Pie)


Meringue can be intimidating.  I think I must have a little meringue in my DNA.  I've been making it since I could walk (literally).  My grandmother almost always had a chocolate meringue pie on her kitchen counter.  My mom's boss asks for those same pies every year as his Christmas present.  My mom makes hers filling a littler richer that my grandmother did, but the meringue remains the same.

There's a really simple formula for making a practically perfect meringue -- use one tablesppon for sugar for each egg white.  I typically use 4 egg whites and 4 tablespoons of sugar.  I think it makes the perfect amount for an 8 or 9" pie.  In little cafes all over the South you see them bragging on how tall their meringue is -- I don't find that to be a selling point.  In my opinion, it's quality over quantity.

There are a couple more tips for making great meringue.  Number one is to let your egg whites come to room temperature.  You get more volume out of a room temperature egg white than you do from one straight out of the refrigerator.  Number two is to not overbeat the egg whites.  It is a tendency to overbeat, when really you can underbeat meringue and it will all work out okay.  You want the whites to reach stiff peaks, which means that the meringue pulls out to a point that does not fall over when you pull the beaters out.  If the tip of the point droops a little and you are afraid of over beating, then go ahead and stop.  Dry meringue tends to shrink down to practically nothing and it loses that light-as-a-cloud dreaminess you're after.

A proper meringue will also develop some little sugar beads a little while after you bake it.  It's okay. You didn't do anything wrong.  In my house, it just meant that your meringue was gonna be extra good.

I picked pineapple filling for my meringue pie.  I wanted something a little different and I like that little hint of tart to contrast the sugary-meringue.  This filling doesn't have much tart left -- it tastes like you scraped off the top of a pineapple upside down cake and spooned it into a pie.  I think it's a glorious thing, that combination of pineapple and brown sugar.  You can also make this without the meringue.  It would be just as heavenly.


03 December 2012

Fire Snack Mix


Until a couple of months ago, there was a grocery store next door to my work.  It had been around for almost 100 years.  They almost always had "Fire Crackers" in plastic containers by the cash register.  Those crackers were super additctive.  They were made with saltines coated with oil, red pepper, and ranch seasoning.  I decided to put my own spin on their crackers with my own mixture.  You know they had to be on to something if you can charge $5 for 20 saltines and sell out almost every day.  These are so addictive.  I could make some bad jokes like "These put the crack in crackers", but I will try to restrain myself.

You could make this with any crackers, or snacky food.  Just adjust the time in the oven accordingly and also to your own taste.  I like things pretty well-toasted, so I cooked mine a little longer than some might like it.  It must be okay, though, since mine are almost gone in just a few hours, too.  These are a really great snacking food, so you might want to make some for all the big football games coming up....


 

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