30 December 2013

Grape Salad -- aka Fruit Crack



Going with the Southern way of thinking, there's fruit in this salad so it's good for you.  I'm just going to stay in denial and go with that since there's no way in holy heck this is good for you.  It's completely, over the top delicious, though.  The name Grape Salad is totally misleading.  This is only a salad in the loosest definition of the word.  This is absolutely a dessert. 

Obviously, this salad has grapes in it.  Lots of grapes.  Lots and lots and lots of grapes.  There's also cream cheese, sour cream, brown sugar and pecans.  It's pretty much overkill.  Overkill is sometimes a bad thing.  In this case it's a good thing.  Maybe even a great thing.  Except for the fact that I can no longer button my pants.  That's the bad thing.  Well, aside from the fact that it clinches my new year's resolution for me.  I'm setting a very specific goal for myself -- button my pants.  It's gonna be sad days if I can't get there pretty quick.....



25 December 2013

Merry Christmas!

vintage cards for Christmas and the New Year
 
thanks for a great year!  have a great holiday, folks!

23 December 2013

Super Quick Maple Whiskey Balls


I'm gonna keep this short and sweet.  If you're anything like me the last thing you have time to do in the couple of days before Christmas is sit around reading blog posts.  I can barely function I am so tired at this point.  Working retail is always exhausting, but this year seems especially draining.  Maybe I'm beginning to show my age, but I hope it's just because I'm trying to do more than I ever have before.

I wanted to squeeze this one last post in before the holiday as a little gift.  A gift of simple, boozy goodness.  These take maybe 5 minutes to make, are (in my opinion) a hundred times better than their Rum Ball cousins, and, since you can actually taste the alcohol, you can at least pretend you're taking the edge off all the stress.  You might just have everything you need to make these already in your cabinets, too.  No trips to the crazy crowded stores = even less stress.


Finely grind some nuts -- any nuts -- in the food processor.  Pour in some melted chocolate, maple syrup, maple whiskey, and vanilla wafer crumbs.

19 December 2013

Impossible Sweet Potato Pie with Brown Sugar and Pecans


I won a recipe contest!  Yea!  I didn't actually manage to get any pictures of the winning pies, though.  They didn't last long enough.  Some folks nearly came to blows over the last bites.  I'm totally serious, too.  I think my stepdad may have ended up with some fork tine stabs in his eating hand trying to get at the last bite of the pie at his house.


I did take this really adorable picture of my youngest.  That's all you get picture-wise today.  Just go make this pie.  It rocks.  There's no crust, so it's super easy.  There's bacon fat and that couldn't possibly be a bad thing.  There are sweet potatoes which are Southern comfort at their best.  There are also pecans and brown sugar.  Put simply -- this pie rocked my world.  Make it.  It'll make you happy.

16 December 2013

Super Easy Toffee Pretzel Bark



I'm back with a super-easy, super-tasty, salty-sweet, butter-brown sugary, overly-hyphenated vengeance!  This stuff is totally amazing.  It takes maybe 15 minutes to make, tastes like it took hours, and is a totally awesome way to impress your friends.  I'll concede the fact that this isn't the prettiest treat you can make.  So, don't give it to anyone who gets too hung up on appearances.  Just give it to the people you really love and have really, really good taste.  That's who deserves it.  Yes, I did say deserves because it's that good.

I've made another version of this for years, using a layer of saltines instead of the pretzels.  You can do that, too.  Use both.  Add nuts.  Whatever floats your boat.  It's toffee and chocolate.  Whatever you cover, it's gonna be delicious.  Right?

Are you ready for this.  It's gonna blow your mind how easy it is.


Put some foil on a baking sheet and lay out a layer of pretzels.  They don't need to be perfect and you can break them up if you want to.

11 December 2013

Sticky Toffee Pudding Cookies

SDC11999

I got to participate in this totally awesome thing this year – The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap.  The Cookie Swap is a big event to raise money for the organization Cookies for Kids Cancer.  There are food bloggers from all over the world participating and swapping cookies with each other.  Basically I sent three dozen cookies to three other bloggers and I got three dozen cookies in return from three bloggers.  There are also sponsors who give matching funds.  The whole big event raised nearly $14,000 this year.  It’s such a great idea and it has been so much fun.  How can you go wrong with making or receiving cookies? 

SDC11998

I wanted to try to do something a little different for my cookie.  I started by going through the lists of cookies for the last couple of years to figure out what I didn’t want to do.  I knew anything chocolate, gingerbread, or peanut butter had probably already been done.  I was right.  There were a lot of amazing sounding (and looking) cookies that fell into those categories.  I had this little rebel sitting on my shoulder telling me to be different.  My mind went to dates.  Have I told you lately how much I love dates?  They’re like my own personal crack.  I can’t keep them in the house or I will eat them all in one sitting and I would no longer fit through the front door. 

SDC11993

One of the challenges with the Cookie Swap is that your cookie has to be stable enough to ship and moist enough that it will still be good after being in the mail for three or four days.  That’s not always the easiest thing to achieve.  I knew my dates were the key for the moistness and would also let me make a nice, sturdy dough that would survive the shipping process.  I also love sticky toffee pudding.  How could I not since it’s essentially a date cake that’s drenched in caramel?  What’s not to love about that?  It’s also one of those completely fabulous British desserts that makes you wonder how their food ended up so greatly underappreciated.  So these cookies are a brown sugar dough with about as many dates, toffee bits, and caramel bits as I could cram in without the cookies oozing apart in the oven.  Hopefully all the folks I sent them to liked them as much as I do.

SDC11996

I also want to mention the lovely folks who sent cookies to me:
Raven at True Blue Baking
Cooked with Love By Mom
Tiffany at A Clove of Garlic, A Pinch of Salt

The cookies were totally yummy and I really wanted to keep them all for myself.


07 December 2013

Sausage Harissa Pinwheels


I got some harissa at Williams Sonoma the other day.  I had never had it before.  The depth and breadth of our international food selection is not the hugest here in Little Rock.  We had a great abundance of Mexican restaurants.  Greek food is well represented.  We even have some completely awesome Indian food.  North African food is pretty much a void, though. 

If you live in most of middle America, restaurants that serve harissa paste with your meal are probably pretty rare for you, too.  Harissa is a Tunisian spice paste made from peppers and a whole bunch of spices.  It's treated a lot like ketchup.  It's common to put it on falafel in Israel.  That may be my next project.  I love falafel more than almost anything.

I decided to whip up an appetizer with my harissa paste.  I wanted something pretty easy both in time and on the tastebuds.  I was cooking for quite a few folks and some of them aren't very adventurous eaters.  This little three or four bit nibbles are super tasty.  The sausage is gives some heft.  The puff pastry is rich and buttery.  The harissa paste is spicy, smoky, and adds a ton of depth.  There's also a little cheese just to hold everything together. 

I'm probably making these again for my Christmas buffet.  Writing a blog means that I very rarely make something more than once since I always try to move on to the next recipe and the next idea, but these are definitely going to be required eating for a while.

06 December 2013

Insanely Awesome DIY Xmas Presents

Christmas is getting here way too fast this year.  We are in the middle of an "Ice Storm Warning" around here.  That means we are totally home-bound for a couple of days if you want to believe the forecast.  Since I have some extra time around the house on my hands, I thought I might give out links to some totally awesome presents you can make yourself for the ones you love.  If you have some extra crafty time, you might wanna bust one of these out.

handmade kitchen towels that are too pretty to use.
chalkboard tray.  awesome.
peppermint sugar scrub.  i heart peppermint shower stuff
sorta lovey-dovey, but we all need this sort of thing sometimes.
personalized containers for goodies!  yea!  goodies!

05 December 2013

A New Page

a beauty of a photo from Sprinkle Bakes

Looky, looky!  I made a new page!  Check out the tab at the top "Sites I Love".  It's all the cooking blogs I read on a regular basis.  They're in no particular order.  So, go look at them.  You might discover something new to love.

04 December 2013

My Cornbread Dressing

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My family’s dressing heritage is super, duper intimidating.  My dad’s mom made was I believe was the best dressing in the universe ever.  Ever.  Unfortunately she developed dementia and went downhill so quickly that I could never get the recipe.  I have been working on my own version ever since.  I don’t think I’m there quite yet.  I’m not sure that I ever could be.  There’s something about that grandmother’s touch that just can’t be duplicated.  My mom’s mom was no slouch at the dressing, either.  I get from all sides.

There are a couple of really essential things about dressing.  First, this is dressing and not stuffing.  Stuffing goes inside the cavity of a bird and bakes along with that bird.  Dressing doesn’t get stuffed inside anything other than your mouth.  Second, Southern dressing is made using both cornbread and regular bread.  Stuffing is usually composed primarily of bread cubes and there is no cornbread involved.  To a Southerner, stuffing is more akin to bread pudding than the stuff we eat on holidays.  And last but not least, it is not possible to add too much sage.  The sage is the key, so if you think it looks like too much, just close your eyes and cross your fingers.  I promise it will all work out. 


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I made my own little twists to the dressing this year.  I added dried cranberries, which I am slightly obsessed with right now.  I also threw in some chopped pecans.  Pecans are pretty much never a bad thing (at least in my opinion).  You can leave these two things out of your dressing and end up with a really delicious traditional dressing, but leave them in and you get something pretty darn special.  You can also use any cornbread for this recipe.  You can use store bought or you can make your own.  Just be sure that what ever one you use is savory and not sweet.

03 December 2013

Just for Giggles -- The Muffin Films

http://www.muffinfilms.com/
 
 

Just for a little Tuesday pick me up, you should go to the website for The Muffin Films by Amy Winfrey and watch every last one of them.  They are totally hilarious in the best sort of way.  I have know about them for years and still go back to watch them every now and again just because they make me happy.  Hopefully they'll make you happy, too.

02 December 2013

Apple Butter Cheesecake Cake


This cake is too much.  I know it's too much.  It's too much everything -- too much time, too much effort, too much sugar, too much cream cheese.  It runs contrary to my usual methods.  I tend to go the route of minimum effort for maximum result.  I've worked for years on getting that down to a science.  Every now and again, though, I get the itch to bust out a real showstopper.  I had that itch this year for Thanksgiving.  This cake is what resulted from that itch.

I'm not quite sure why I got that itch for our family Thanksgiving.  It's too much for our little gathering.  We also get my mom's chocolate meringue pie every year.  It's one of those things that's so good and perfect, she doesn't have a choice in making one.  It is expected of her and she always pulls through for us.  Her chocolate pie is her own rendition of the one her mom made.  She's made it darker and more chocolate-y and that's almost never a bad thing.  I was also so pretty this year with the sugar beads on the meringue that I had to take a picture and share with you.  Try not to drool on your computer.  I'm having trouble with that myself as I sit here and type.


The idea of a cheesecake cake is not a new thing -- Copeland's and Cheesecake Factory keep them in their rotation.  I had totally forgotten they existed until I saw one on Bloglovin last week and then I couldn't get the idea out of my head.  I used my apple butter cake as the base because it tastes like the holidays and is dense enough to stack with a layer of cheesecake, which is obviously heavier than a shmear of icing in between the layers.  The cheesecake layer is pretty basic stuff.  The icing is even more of the too much-ness -- brown butter cream cheese.  Because cream cheese icing just wasn't enough on its own.  Plus, the brown butter works really well with the apple butter cake. 

One thing to remember about this cake -- you have to start it the day before you want to eat it.  The cheesecake layer needs to be completely set before you start sandwiching it between the layers of cake.  This involves spending the night in the freezer.  So, plan ahead if you want the over the top cream cheese, cakey goodness on your table.

28 November 2013

Happy Thanksgiving and Necklace Winners


Happy Thanksgiving, folks!  I am so very thankful for so many things this year.  I've got my lovely family, my friends, my pretty terrific job, my pretty terrific blog and the totally terrific folks who read it, my health, etc, etc, etc.....  I could go on like this for days.  I had a lovely lunch today with a bit of the family and am having another on Saturday with a large chunk of family.  A great time was had by all (except for the results of the Packers game....ugh.)  The food was amazing.  It's a good thing I wore the elastic waist pants today.

I will be back in full force on Monday and will be posting some of the Thanksgiving recipes and goodies and shifting into Christmas high gear.  You might need to brace yourself if the sugar coma-snack food overdose I have in mind comes to fruition (insert evil laugh here).

I am also here to announce the winners of the whisk necklaces.  The winners are Juliet Bell Richey and Kitty McArthur.  Please email at littlerockbaker@gmail.com or message me your addresses and I will get your prizes on their way to you.  Congrats and thanks to everyone for you support!  Happy holidays!

26 November 2013

Cranberry Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies


 
 
I didn't mean to kinda, sorta disappear.  Especially with the biggest food holiday of all directly on top of us.  I have been cooking quite a lot despite my blogging silence.  My camera broke.  I was already debating asking for a new one for Christmas, but I guess it had other ideas.  The purchasing of a new camera is not the smallest undertaking in the best of circumstances, but this purchase was more difficult than it needed to be.  The first camera we bought was defective and only took almost entirely black photographs.  The second refused to reveal any fine detail, despite reviews to the contrary.  The third time's the charm, right?  I hope so.
 
So, I have been cooking quite a bit, but I haven't been able to photograph anything.  A blog without photos isn't terrifically appealing.  At least that's my opinion.  I'm still figuring out the whole food photography thing, but I know that any pictures are better than none at all.  I made my cookies for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap and sent those out.  I did manage to get pictures of those the morning before the camera went kaput.  I also made a Sweet Potato Impossible Pie with Pecans and Brown Sugar.  It went bad before I could get a functional camera.  You'll just have to take my word for it that the pie was absolutely scrumptious.
 
 
I also made these cookies.  I just managed to get a new camera for these.  I hoarded the last three cookies just for picture taking.  My husband turned into a great cookie snatcher while these were around.  Somehow they all seemed to magically disappear whenever I wasn't looking.  The big secret for this is the awesome peanut butter blend I found at the grocery store last week.  It's by Planters.  It's called Cranberry Crunch.  It's just crunchy peanut butter with chopped, dried cranberries mixed in.  The berries are subtle, but most definitely there.  Oh, and anything involving oatmeal or peanut butter...I am so totally all over it.  These are definitely my new favorite cookie.
 

22 November 2013

It's A Giveaway!!!


Look!  It's a giveaway!  And just in time for the holidays, too!  You wanna win this necklace?  It's got a cute little wire whisk pendant made by yours truly.  I have to give my friend Sarah the credit for this idea, though.  She made me a pendant very much like this one for my birthday a few years ago and I love it so much I decided to make it myself and spread the necklace love around.  Sarah is totally the lady Macgyver of all things handmade and crafty.  She's also handy with power tools.  Those are two of the reasons I love her.


Okay, so here's what you've gotta do to win the necklace.  Leave a comment at the bottom of this post, on the Southern Sweets and Eats Facebook page (link here),  or send me a tweet (@SouthSweetsEats).  Tell me what your favorite holiday treat is.  That's all you have to do.  I'm gonna pick two (or maybe three) winners.  Be sure there's a way for me to contact you if you comment on the post.  If I can't contact you, there's no way for to send you things.  I'm planning to pick the winners on Thanksgiving, so get your comments in and tell your friends to get in on the action, too.

 
And, on a completely non food related note.  I'm the proudest momma in the whole wide world today.  My kiddo won the 1st grade spelling bee today!  He gets to be in the school-wide spelling bee later in the year.  Keep your fingers crossed.  Totally love this guy!


20 November 2013

My Best Holiday Treats


I really didn't do this post out of a need for shameless self-promotion.  I swear.  I've been super duper busy for the past couple of weeks.  I've mainly been getting everything together for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap.  Yea!!!  I shipped out my cookies today, so things can start getting back to normal around here soon.  And, yes, I will be sharing the recipe with you.  It just won't be until December.  That's part of the rules of the cookie swap.

I've got an idea for a little giveaway brewing and hopefully will post it for you later this week.  Keep watching for it.  In the meantime, and since it's the time of year for making an obscene amount of treats, I thought I would look back through my archives and give you my favorite treats for the holidays.  My criteria for picking these was achieving maximum deliciousness with minimal effort.  If you try 'em, let me know.  I'd like to know if you agree.

 
http://southernsweetsandeats.blogspot.com/2012/11/no-bake-gingerbread-balls.html
 
 
http://southernsweetsandeats.blogspot.com/2012/10/super-super-easy-fudge-two-ways.html
 
 
 

14 November 2013

Peppermint Divinity

 
 
It's beginning to look a lot like....well, you know.  Since I work retail, my holiday season really started about a month and a half ago.   Now, though it seems like everyone is getting in the swing of things.  There are decorations all over the stores and recipes all over blogs and Pinterest.  I'm getting worse and worse at planning ahead every year, so I'm a little surprised at myself for actually making a holiday-like dessert before the middle of December.  I'm kinda proud of myself.
 
I passed by these Andes Peppermint Crunch baking chips at the grocery store and I had to get them.  The regular chocolate/green mint stuff Andes mints are one of my favorite candies.  I have to cut myself off when they are in the room.  Heck, if they're in the same zip code I have to show some measure of restraint.  They are one of my weaknesses.  I'm a little weird about peppermint, though.  I don't like it when it's crunchy.  I love Junior Mints, peppermint patties, tea, ice cream, truffles, taffy....  Not a big fan of candy canes, though.  I have no idea why.
 

11 November 2013

Pimiento Cheese Cornbread


I love me some cornbread.  It's a staple of the Southern diet and definitely a staple at my house both as a kid and now.  We had a cornbread festival here in town last weekend complete with a cornbread competition.  I didn't get to go because I had to work, but I was inspired to make my own cornbread and attend in spirit at least.  In conjunction with the festival I heard a semi-heated debate on the radio over sweet versus savory cornbread, a.k.a. the great cornbread debate.

I personally prefer a sweeter version even if it's served in a savory setting.  I think a sweeter cornbread just enhances the natural sweetness of the corn.  One member of my family makes theirs from scratch but doesn't add even a pinch of sugar.  I find it almost impossible to swallow.  The bread is good in every respect -- texture, lightness, etc....  It's just not right, though. 

My momma, being a good Southern cook in almost every way, always made her cornbread from scratch, too.  Even doing it all the right way in a cast iron pan and heating the pan before adding the batter to get the crispy crust on the bottom (which is totally the best part).  We usually ate it with chili or chicken and dumplings.  It doesn't get much more Southern than that.  I take cues from my mom in that I usually serve my cornbread with those same dishes.  I don't make mine from scratch, though (my cue to hang my head in shame).  I use Jiffy mix.  It's really good cornbread.  It's fluffy, light, sweet, and never fails.

Even if I do use Jiffy mix as my base I do almost always add stuff to the mix to make it my own.  I'll add some corn kernels, cheese, bacon, bacon fat, and/or green chile.  I also slather the top with an excessive amount of butter and a little sprinkle of salt as soon as it comes out of the oven.  That's another trick for extra yumminess.  I figured if all those other things work so well, then pimiento cheese would be super perfect.  It is.  It's perfect.  The extra generous dose of black pepper didn't hurt either. 

All praise the glory of cornbread!

06 November 2013

Pineapple Upside Down Cake Monkey Bread


This monkey bread is ridiculous.  Completely ridiculous.  I know that the name is overly long, but I did shorten it a little.  The whole name is Pineapple Upside Down Cake Cream Cheese Stuffed Monkey Bread.  One of my little irritations about a lot of recipes I see floating around these days is that they seem to be a little over the top.  Over the top as in let's see how much stuff I can cram into this cake pan/pie plate/cookie and have it still sort of make sense.  I've reverted back to some sort of minimalism in reaction to all the craziness.  Well, I had reverted.  This monkey bread is a completely and unapologetically excessive.  I make no apologies.  It's also completely and unapologetically rich, sweet, sticky, gooey, cream cheesy, and delicious.

I got the idea from Pillsbury.  They sent me an email a couple of weeks ago with a recipe for cream cheese stuffed monkey bread.  It sounded delicious.  I'm down for adding cream cheese to pretty much anything.  It also uses crescent dough instead of biscuits.  Since the biscuits are usually why I don't care for monkey bread all that much I was also totally down with that revision.  I don't know why, but the standard brown sugar and cinnamon coating concoction just wasn't doing it for me.  It just had to be...more.  So, I mixed my own little fancy, schmancy pineapple/brown sugar coating.  It's magical.  I wanna give myself a high five.  I done good.

I started working on ideas for the holiday goodie this week.  I make desserts and/or appetizers for three different Thanksgiving dinners.  I also do a big spread on Christmas Day.  Our day starts with breakfast and the whole spread stays out all day for snacking.  It's a little work to come up with yumminess that will survive the entire day on the dining room table.  Any ideas or suggestions are welcome.


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