31 May 2013

Finally a New Recipe...

Sorry I disappeared for a few days.  I had this post all ready to go on Monday night with just a little more editing to do and then life went into one of those sort of unexpected and completely overwhelming tailspins.  You know the ones -- you can't even figure out which way is up, down, left, or right -- you can't even fathom thinking about a silly cake or quick bread.  I can't really decide which one of those this recipe is.  In one way it's a cake because the praline glaze is a finger lickin' sweet, sweet frosting.  In another way it's a relatively basic quick bread with the ingredients stirred together in one bowl with a wooden spoon.  I'll let you decide which category you think it falls into.

The pictures up top are from the totally fun party we went to on Sunday to celebrate my best friend Emily's son Reece.  Last week he graduated high school and turned 18 within a couple of days.  In a lot of way I think of Reece as my first kid.  I spent a couple of summers in college basically living
with Emily, her husband Josh, and Reece (who was only two at the time).  It is almost impossible to fathom that he's already an adult and going to college himself this year.  Josh and Emily had good old Southern cookout for Reece with lost of grilling, snacks, cold drinks, and great conversation.  It was the most fun I have had in a long time.

The day after the party, the tailspin hit.  My husband went back into the hospital -- this time for the entire week -- so I have been juggling all that the hospital stay entails with being a mom to two very, very active boys by myself this week.  It's been an adventure, but I'm really looking forward to Saturday, when Eric gets to come home and life can hopefully return to some semblance of normal again.

I don't normally use canned peaches.  I'm quite sure why I even had them in my pantry; maybe the boys wanted them at the grocery store at some point in the past.  I threw this bread together as a last minute contribution to the party and I haven't been able to find good peaches yet this year.  So, I sucked it up and made the canned peaches work.  If you can get fresh peaches, please use them instead the difference in flavor is almost immeasurable.  Don't get me wrong, though, this bread was perfectly yummy even with the canned fruit.

24 May 2013

Homemade Pear Ginger Ale

The folks over at the blog Love and Olive Oil post a challenge to their readers every month and they also take on the challenge themselves.  The challenge for this month is Ginger Ale.  I was really intrigued by making homemade carbonated beverages since I had never really considered it.  So, I tackled the challenge this month.

I decided to make my ginger ale pear flavored since I found this bottle of pear nectar at Williams Sonoma last weekend.  I must admit that I'm not the biggest fan of ginger ale.  I have a friend who always drank Vernor's ginger ale when we were kids.  I was not a fan and I think that stuck with me into adulthood.  The idea of using yeast to make carbonation was too big of a temptation for me,
though.  I love science!  I just needed my ginger ale to be more than just plain old ginger ale so that I might risk drinking it.  Let me tell you, this ginger ale over ice with a little bourbon mixed in is just plain heaven.  That's the only way to describe it.

The yeast is crucial for making the ginger ale fizzy.  A drink gets its carbonation from carbon dioxide being dissolved in the base liquid.  This drink gets its fizz from the yeast releasing carbon dioxide, which then dissolves in the liquid -- same effect, different approach.  I loved watching this stuff "develop" on the kitchen cabinet over the last couple of days.  After the first day, there was a little head of foam on top of the liquid and when I tapped the bottle, little bubbles would float to the top.  This immediately made me start singing "Weird Science" by Oingo Boingo in my head.  Travel back to the 80's with me.....

Combine grated ginger, sugar, and some pear nectar.  You don't have to use the fancy stuff; you can get pear nectar at the local health food store.  Heat it until all the sugar is melted.  Also, don't be intimidated by the process of grating ginger.  If you put your ginger in the freezer the night before you need it, it will grate with a regular old grater in no time flat.

Once your sugar is melted, pour the mixture through a strainer.  You might want to do this twice if you don't like a little pulp in your finished beverage.

22 May 2013

Chocolate Oat Biscuit Bars

This week we officially began the transition into summer.  If you aren't from around these parts, then you have no idea how much so many of us dread summer coming back.  The heat is oppression taken to great heights and the humidity lies like a blanket draped across your face almost all the time.  It's sort of like being in a rain forest without the rain, since after this month we'll be lucky if we get more than a couple of drops a month until the end of September.  I'm one of those folks who dreads summer.  This year we had an unseasonably cool spring, so I got to hold onto the hope that summer would just decide not to happen this year a little longer than usual.  I got another day this week with a great deluge of rain, but I know this may well be the last good drenching we get for a while.  I'm enjoying it while I can and fighting the urge to just go stand in the rain for a while.

Because of the rain outside I wanted to make a really comforting dessert.  It's been a rough week so far, so I really wanted one of those desserts that reminds me of grandma's house, cookies baking, hugs, etc.....  This dessert certainly fits the bill.  It's crammed with chocolate, oats, and condensed milk -- basically all the best things in the world.  Plus, the crust is made from biscuits, so that pretty much makes these Southern comfort and love in one baking pan.  Make these for yourself or someone you love next time comfort is needed.

Take some canned flaky biscuits and peel them in half.  They should be in layers, so this should be really easy to do with fingers.  No knife necessary.

Lay all your biscuits out in a baking dish.  Overlap all you want because next you're gonna smoosh them out into a crust that covers the bottom and goes up the side of the pan a little.

Look!  Insta-crust!

Sprinkle some chocolate chips in your crust and then pour a can of sweetened condensed milk over them.  Yum!

20 May 2013

Chocolate Cherry Rice Cereal Treats

I knew I had to be onto something with these treats when my husband walked into the kitchen and yelled "Baby, this dessert looks evil!"  That was followed by the compliment that they were really tasty.  That compliment was echoed by my co-workers, who are my informal tasting panel of sorts.  That's sort of the cooking jackpot for me -- it looks evil, tastes delicious....

The inspiration for these treats come from this bag of sweet cherry chips I found at one of the local supermarkets.  I say local -- this particular store is about 30 minutes outside of town.  I have never actually seen this at any store in town at all.  So, I'm sorry if you can't begin to find them.  You could probably substitute some finely chopped dried cherries in place of the chips.  At the very least, then your bars would taste of actual cherries instead of cherry candy.  My thinking was that these could be sort of like a Black Forest cake, but they ended up more like chocolate covered cherries.  Sort of that semi-real chocolate and pretty fake maraschino cherry flavor. If you're a fan of chocolate covered cherries, then you'll love these treats.

Mix all the goodies up and press them into a baking dish.  Let 'em set up for 30 minutes or so.

Cut 'em into squares and dig in.

17 May 2013

Lemon Blackberry Birthday Pie

Yea!  It's birthday pie!  I made this pie for my stepdad's birthday party on Wednesday.  It was a big birthday, and I decided to make one of my very best go-to recipes.  It's not particularly flashy or huge, but it is beautiful and crazy-delicious.  Do not make this pie if you don't like lemon, though.  I pretty sure you wouldn't based on the name alone, but this pie is insanely lemon-y.  You're gonna think I'm crazy when you see how much lemon juice and zest  is in here -- especially when you see how little sugar is involved -- but this pie is pure, sweet magic.  The super-tart lemon also makes the blackberries, which are typically a little tart, taste like candy.  The tart of the lemon brings out all their natural sweetness.  Really.  I mean it.  This pie is magic and perfect for a wonderful man on his birthday.

Also, do yourself a favor -- if you don't already own a microplane zester, go buy one before you make this pie.  You will thank me when it takes about 5 minutes to zest and juice all these lemons instead of the countless time it takes with a traditional zester.

That's my stepdad on the right, rockin' the sweet 'stache.

Put your pie crust in your pie plate and prick the bottom of it with a fork until it is thoroughly pricked.  The pricking keeps it from puffing up when you pre-bake it.

Sprinkle your blackberries on the crust as soon as it comes out of the oven.

Mix up your lemon filling and pour it over the blackberries.  The berries will float to the top.  The bake that pie like you mean it.

15 May 2013

Pimiento Cheese Deviled Egg Salad

This recipe is really more of an idea than a finished recipe.  I started out making Pimiento Cheese Deviled Eggs and then my stinkin' eggs wouldn't peel (so much for the foolproof method....).  Imagine the scene in "A Christmas Story" where Ralphie snaps and finally beats up the bully with the family friendly cursing -- that's approximately what I sounded like standing over the bowl with my eggs falling apart in my hands.  I didn't want to waste really tasty eggs, so I improvised and combined merged the pimiento cheese and eggs in a different way.

I guess my husband had never had homemade pimiento cheese -- only store bought -- until I started making it fresh.  I made a fresh batch a couple of weeks ago and he got hooked.  He politely suggested that I start making batches by the bucket rather than the bowlful.  I used my trusty pimiento cheese recipe, added a couple of other things, and my disastrous hard boiled eggs, then mashed it all up.  Voila!  A delicious sandwich filling/dip/just plain ol' good eatin'.

Put your eggs, mayonnaise, and mustard in a bowl.

I used my mini food processor to grind up some pimientos, teeny tiny sweet pickles, and giant garlic stuffed green olives.  You could also chop these up by hand, but I don't have that kind of patience.  You can also customize this my putting in whatever you like.  You could use ripe olives, dill pickles, capers, garlic cloves, green onions, etc....

13 May 2013

Half A Cup Brownie Pie

Happy day-after Mother's Day to all my fellow moms out there.  I had a really full day for my own Mother's Day.  I got up and made pancakes for the boys.  I was going to make the Pecan Praline Toast from Friday's post, but I couldn't get away with anything but pancakes when both boys asked for them.  Those faces told me I needed to get moving and make what they wanted.  The boys loved them, so it was worth it.

As soon as we finished breakfast, the boys and I went into the front yard and planted a vegetable/herb garden.  I wouldn't normally have done this in the front yard, but there is only one tiny spot in my entire yard that gets enough sun to grow a plant that requires any semblance of direct sunlight.  We planted eggplant, peppers, carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, Thai basil, rosemary, peas, and yellow squash.  I have a notoriously black thumb, so hopefully I will manage to get some yummy veggies to cook with this summer rather than killing off the entire garden.  Last week I planted parsley and tarragon, too.  I am super excited and I will let you know as soon as they start to bear fruit (or vegetables, as the case may be).

This afternoon we all decided to just kinda veg out and we just hung out.  I made this pie.  One glance at the recipe and you will understand where I came up with the name.  The most awesome thing about this pie is that it requires only one dish -- the pie plate.  You actually mix the batter in the pie plate, so there's almost no mess.  It's delicious, too.  It was a perfect finish to a lovely day with my boys.

Melt the butter in the pie plate.  Be sure to use a pie plate that's glass instead of metal if you are melting the butter in the microwave.

Add the rest of the ingredients.

Mix it all up and pop it into the oven.

10 May 2013

Pecan Praline Toast

I started this post by trying to think of something to make for myself for breakfast on Mother's Day this Sunday.  I've mentioned before that I am not a morning person.  I'm relatively useless for the first hour or so if I have the luxury of not having to get the kids to school or myself to work.  I don't work on Sundays, so that's pretty much the only day I get to luxuriate in my nearly comatose hour in the morning.  I say I'm relatively useless, if that's our standard, then my husband is completely and utterly worthless in the mornings. Because of this I am not expecting breakfast in bed or any other pampering of the sort on Sunday, so I wanted to come up with something tasty that I am able to make for myself without really having to completely wake up.

This stuff is heaven and is by far and away the easiest recipe I have ever posted.  I know I say things are easy all the time, but this stuff is cooking child's play.  It's totally yummy.  It's basically cinnamon toast for grown ups.  The kids like it, too, but this is yummy enough that I want to keep it all for myself.  I still love cinnamon toast, since it was my favorite school morning breakfast and how could you not love it?  This praline toast has stolen the crown of the easy breakfast favorite.  It's good enough that I might just make it for my husband on Father's Day as well and let him think I actually functioned enough to slave away on breakfast for him.....

Just mix all the topping stuff together in a bowl.

Then you smear it on some bread.  I just used good old wheat sandwich bread from the grocery store.  The stick it in the oven until it's bubbly.  You can use cookie cutters to cut it out into fancy shapes if you wanna.  Or you can just dig right in.

08 May 2013

No Bake German Chocolate Cookies

These cookies are my take on the no bake cookies I just assume everyone grew up with,  That's probably just because everyone I know grew up with them.  You know, Oatmeal Peanut Butter No Bakes.  You cook 'em up on the stove in no time flat and they just little mouthfuls of comfort.  At least that's how I think of them.  They're just about my favorite cookie and they are definitely my husband's favorite cookie.

I've have German chocolate on the brain lately.  One of my readers asked me to make German chocolate cake.  I wasn't really in the mood for cake at the time, so I concocted some German chocolate brownies.  The brownies were totally yummy, but apparently didn't entirely do the trick since I am still fixated on those flavors -- chocolate, coconut, caramel, pecans.....

I love no bake cookies because they are so easy.  I especially love these since you don't have to fuss with a candy thermometer.  That makes them even easier.  These cookies are super rich, luscious, and just like tiny German chocolate cakes.  You only have to get a pan, a spoon, and a couple of measuring cups dirty, which also means fewer dishes to wash.  That makes these cookies exceptional.

Melt some chocolate chips, marshmallows and butter over low heat.  Stir frequently to keep the chocolate from burning.

In between stirs chop up some pecans and get out the rest of the stuff for the cookies.

06 May 2013

Breton Butter Cake

I didn't intend to make the least Cinco de Mayo recipe possible for my day after post, but somehow I did.  This post is most decidedly French...maybe I should have saved it for Bastille Day.  If you do a search online for Breton Butter Cake almost all of your results are going to be for a different Breton Butter Cake, the Kouign Amann.  That's a whole different creature from this butter cake.  The Kouign Amann is a yeasted dough, much like a puff pastry, that's baked in a round and contains an absolutely obscene amount of butter.  And, yes, it's on my list to make when I have a whole day to tackle all the dough folding.

This Breton Butter Cake is more like a cross between a pound cake and a shortbread.  The dough is very cookie-like and the cake is very dense.  It's as simple as simple can be flavor-wise and it couldn't be more delicious.  My favorite part of this cake is the way the final product looks.  Once you get this cake in the pan, brush it with egg and then make a crosshatch pattern on the top with the tines of a fork.  It comes out of the oven all shiny and fancy.  It looks like you spent hours and you really just whipped it up during the commercial breaks during Breaking Bad.....

Whip up you butter and sugar until it's fluffy, fluffy, fluffy.  Be sure to use decent quality butter for this cake, since the butter is the flavor in this cake.

This is basically a cakey cookie dough, so don't freak out when you just chunk the wad of dough into the pan.

03 May 2013

A Birthday Party and a Scrumptious Cake

We had quite the rip-roarin' party for my mom's birthday on Wednesday night.  There was some great food, great conversation, relatively well behaved kids (after the 3 year old was escorted outside for a talk), and some really scrumptious cake.  I'm not ashamed to say that my cake was scrumptious.  I put a little more effort into this cake than I usually do, since my mom is awesome and deserves a cake to match.  This cake not only tasted awesome, but it was also physically awesome -- it was so tall I had to kinda smoosh it down a little to get the lid to close on my cake carrier.  This is my 1950's vintage cake carrier made for layer cakes, too.  So if you're making this cake, make it for a crowd, because it's A LOT of cake and be prepared to improvise with its transportation because it's super tall.

The cake part of this cake is a lemon chiffon cake.  If you aren't familiar, a chiffon cake is a very light like and is essentially a cross between a traditional cake and an meringue.  There are two big differences between  a chiffon cake and a regular cake.  A chiffon cake uses oil as its fat rather than butter.  This is because oil is easier to aerate than butter, so it's easier to achieve the lightness you're looking for.  I actually used vegetable shortening, which is hydrogenated vegetable oil.  You'll still get the same lightness as oil, but personally I prefer the texture of the cake made with shortening rather than with oil.  The other difference is how you use the eggs.  The eggs are separated and the whites are beaten to stiff peaks, like a meringue, and then folded into the rest of the batter as the very last step before baking.  This also adds to that lightness you strive for with a chiffon cake.

Don't worry about wasting the egg yolks you didn't use for the cake, though -- every last stinkin'
 one of them goes into the filling.  The filling for this cake is a lemon-pineapple curd.  You could use it just on its own on toast or on a spoon....It does make a delightful cake filling, though.

Beat that sugar and shortening until it's super light and fluffy, at least 3 minutes.  Then mix up the rest of your batter.  You're gonna beat up the egg whites in another bowl.

Fold the egg whites into the batter in three batches.  Fold it gently, so you don't deflate the egg whites.  If you just start stirring, you'll literally deflate them and your cake will end up most similar to a hockey puck.

Divide the batter into three 8" round baking pans.  And, yes, I am aware that all three of my cake pans are different, but they're all the same diameter and that's all that matters.

While your cakes are baking, go back to all those egg yolks that have been waiting patiently for you....

01 May 2013

No Bake Pecan Pie Truffles

A few weeks ago I started running.  It's not something I ever imagined myself doing, unless being chased by something life threatening, but I am really enjoying it.  It's a great stress relief and the whole runner's high thing is totally real and super-awesome.  I needed to go running today and had a lot on my plate (as usual), so I asked my husband if he would write my post.  This is how his post would have read:

"I made a fucking cake....Woo hoo."  

Now read that statement dripping with sarcasm and lots of unnecessary eye rolling.  You get the idea.  These little lovelies aren't a cake, but they are totally delicious and won't get you my husband's delightful eye-rolling reception, unless it's eyes rolling back in people's heads in ecstasy.  They did get quite a lot of that.  They're totally easy, but be prepared to get messy -- the whole rolling into balls part is super messy and sticky, but is quite a lot of fun. If you've ever made chocolate truffles, then you are familiar with this mess, as making these is quite similar to making truffles.

The base to these cookies truffles is a bit of a trick.  The base is dates.  No one would ever guess since these taste just like little bites of pecan pie.  Dates are one of my favorite foods in the entire universe.  I would eat them like candy if I could get away with it.  Granted, they are better for me than candy, but have almost as much sugar.  So, putting them in cookies might give the illusion of some healthfulness, seeing as how they're majority fruit, but they are completely sugary sweet and unbelievably delicious.

Combine some butter, egg yolks, sugar, and dates in a saucepan.  Bring it all to a boil, but be sure to stir it.  You don't need to stir it constantly, but don't walk away for too long or you'll end up with chunks of cooked egg yolk.  That's not so appetizing.

After cooking, your mixture will look a lot like the frosting for German chocolate cake sans the coconut.


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