28 June 2013

Gooey Crunchy Goodness Bars

Some days I sit down at the computer to write a post and I'm just.....blank.  There's really no other word for it.  Sometimes it's because I've had a long day and my brain is just done.  Other times it's because the family is not cooperating with my need to concentrate.  There is a third reason with the blanks and that's because the recipe just escapes me.  It's too delicious for words, or at least for any words I can come up with.

I have this little pile of recipes from my grandmother.  Most of them are written on little scraps of paper from the notepad she kept near the phone in her kitchen.  The paper from the notepad was used for anything and everything she needed to keep track of or remember.  The scraps of paper are of varying sizes, depending on which notepad she had at the time.  These recipes are some of my most prized possessions  They are cooking gold -- recipes from her friends and family that she thought were delicious or they thought were worth calling and telling her about.  This is one of those recipes.  There's no name for the recipe, no note as to who it came from, and only vague directions.  In my experience, these are always the best -- nearly fail proof and as comforting as my grandmother's hugs.  

We spent the day at work today trying to come up with a name for these bars since their name was lost with my grandmother.  We didn't really have any luck.  So I gave these a most decidedly lame name, but it really is descriptive of them.  My friend Sarah said they reminded her of an Almond Joy crossed with a Payday crossed with a Chick 'O Stick that was left in a hot car all day until it's all sticky and gooey.  Only there's no chocolate.  That's the perfect way to describe these but a little unwieldy for a recipe name.  Why don't you try them out and see if you can do better with the naming thing?  If you do, let me know.

Gooey Crunchy Goodness Bars
makes about 36 bars

Print me, Please!!!

1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup + 2 Tbsp dark brown sugar, separated
1 1/4 cups flour
2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1 cup salted, roasted peanuts, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Mix together the butter, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, and flour until the mixture comes together to form little pebbles of dough.  Press the dough into an even layer in the bottom of an 8" square baking dish.

In a medium bowl, stir together 2 cups brown sugar, eggs, salt, and vanilla; mix well.  Stir in the coconut and chopped peanuts.  Spread the mixture evenly over the crust.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.  Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack before slicing into bars. (It is important to let these cool before cutting them or you will come out with a big oozy mess.)

26 June 2013

Homemade Ricotta with Honey and Balsamic

One of my colleagues at work, well, her husband doesn't like cheese.  Can you even imagine?  I totally can't and I was vegan for a while.  Granted the one thing I missed more than anything when I was vegan was cheese.  Mostly grilled cheese sandwiches and pizza.  We are getting a little cheese obsessed around my house these days because my husband has recently been put on a special diet.  One of the main restrictions has to do with any cheese that is aged.  The restrictions include cheddar, parmesan, gouda, blue cheese, stilton.  Basically all of our favorites.  He can still have all the fresh, un-aged cheeses he wants.  So, ricotta, cream cheese, and cottage cheese are rapidly becoming our new best friends.

I decided to try my hand at making homemade ricotta.  Well, sort of....  Real ricotta is actually made from the leftover whey that remains as waste from making other cheeses.  Ricotta actually means "recooked".  So, technically this isn't actually ricotta cheese, but it is remarkable similar in both
texture and taste.  This is almost stunningly smoother and creamier than the store-bought stuff.  It's also a little bit sweet, which makes it perfect to a simple little summer treat like this one.  You can use this ricotta just like any other, but it really is so well suited for desserts you're missing out if you don't try it.  I drizzled a little cup of ricotta with some honey and balsamic vinegar.  That's not really a recipe, but it is fantastic and hits all the right notes with just about every flavor in the spectrum -- bitter, sweet, salty, etc....

Making cheese from scratch seems like a daunting prospect.  At least it seems that way to me, but this couldn't be any easier.  You do need a thermometer to make you sure get your milk to the right temperature, but other than that you don't need any special equipment.  Did I mention that it only takes about 10 minutes of actual work?  How spectacular is that?

Heat your milk and salt up.  Stir in some acid to get those curds forming.

The curds start forming immediately.  Let the mixture chill out for a few minutes to give it all time to come together.

24 June 2013

Snickerdoodle Cookie Cake

Every now and again you come across a recipe that is much greater than the sum of its parts.  This is totally one of those.  The recipe itself kinda makes me shrug and ask "What's the big deal?"  This cake is the big deal.  Seriously.  It's got more flavor than really seems possible.  It's covered with cinnamon sugar, which is one of the greatest things in the world.  It's super moist and stays that way for days.  It takes 5 minutes to get into the oven.  I have to make myself not sit down and eat the entire thing in one sitting.  I'm in love.

Lately I honestly have had a lot of time to cook.  I haven't been any busier than usual, just maybe more distracted, less focused.  I'm quite sure what it is, I just can't quite get it together.  It could be the husband who's still under the weather, the three year old with roseola and covered with little red dots, myself with the double ear infection.....Okay, so maybe I DO have more going on right now than usual....  We're all on the mend, though, so hopefully this week will be a little more sane and we can get back into the regular routine.

Back to the cake....

I had some fresh cherries from the farmer's market that I was trying to stretch for a few more days, so I tossed them with a teaspoon or so of sugar and a little lemon juice.  This simple little trick is called maceration.  To macerate fruit, like berries and cherries, just toss them in a little sugar (I like to add lemon juice for a little more flavor).  Toss the fruit in the fridge for an hour or so.  The fruit will become more flavorful and release some of its juices.  It's a great trick to know if you have some fruit that is about to go bad or you need something to eat on top of ice cream.  This cake is perfectly delicious without anything added, but you can't go wrong with fresh fruit.

There is an almost obscene amount of cinnamon sugar on top of this cake.  Feel free to tone it down if you don't love cinnamon sugar like I do.

nom.  nom.  nom.

21 June 2013

Zesty Corn Dip and Lots of New Stuff...

There is a new recipe on here today, but I am way super excited to tell you about all the other new stuff I have gotten done this week.  I totally revamped the design of the blog.  I hope you like it.  I added links so you can follw me on Facebook, Pinterest, StumbleUpon (my current obsession), and Bloglovin'.  I added a search bar so you can search the recipes here on the blog a little easier since there are way more now than I ever anticipated.  I also added a nifty little gadget where you can click on the little link on any photo to pin it to your Pinterest boards.  I don't know about you, but Pinterest has an uncanny ability to suck me in for hours and hours. 

All these things took me waaaay longer than they should have.  When I started this thing a year ago I knew nothing about blogging, other than how to read one; I had never designed a web site, never written a blog post, never shared a recipe other than on handed down and passed around index cards.  I did share some recipes once in a zine in college (I don't even want to think about how long ago that was, though.)  This year has definitely had a steep learning curve, so thanks for going through it all with me.  It's been tons of fun.

The corn dip is so simple that I barely had any need to take pictures.  It's pour in a bowl, microwave, and serve stuff.  I don't know about you, but those are some of my favorites.  They're great for
snacks on a weekend afternoon.  This would also be a great snack during football season, for which I am now super anxious.  It's my favorite time of the year -- cooler weather, fall colors, pulling my sweaters back out of the closet.  So, maybe I made this just wishing it would hurry up and get here....I'm not really sure, but it's delicious anytime of year.

19 June 2013

Fresh Peach Praline Ice Cream

Part of my haul from the farmer's market lately has been fresh peaches.  It's still a little early for peaches here; the ones at the farmer's market are from Alabama, but they are definitely fresh and most juicy delicious.  They're the kind of fresh that drips down to your elbows.  That's the kind of delicious you can only get from super ripe peaches.  I wait all year for them.

The hardest thing for me with peaches is how short a time they stay fresh before they go all mushy.  That's the great thing about this ice cream.  You get to enjoy the flavor of the peaches longer than a couple of days.  Well, you could if you can make the ice cream last that long....

The praline flavor in the ice cream comes from a very generous addition of Praline liqueur.  Praline liqueur is pecan flavored and hails from New Orleans, the home of what most people think of when they think of pecan pralines.  If you can't find praline liqueur, you could use bourbon or amaretto and this ice cream would be equally yummy.  Since you don't cook this ice cream and Praline liqueur is not really kid-friendly, so you could also use peach juice or nectar, too.

17 June 2013

East Meets South Coleslaw

The last couple of months it seems like every magazine has a feature in the cooking section abut how much stuff you can cram on top of a hot dog.  A fairly traditional dog here in the South features chili, cheese, and slaw (a.k.a. coleslaw).  This slaw would fit in nicely with all those hot dog spreads in the magazines and it would be delicious, but I was determined not to let this slaw come anywhere near a hot dog for this post.  I might try it on a hot dog (just for the sake of taste-testing) but I promise there will be no pictures of hot dogs with slaw here today.

I read a post on Facebook a few days ago that had maps showing how different parts of the country use certain words and phrases.  The South is the only part of the U.S. that calls it "slaw" just about everywhere else calls it "coleslaw".  So, if you don't live in the South, this is my twist on coleslaw.  It takes the basics of a traditional Southern slaw and combines it with some Asian ingredients.  What comes out is pretty darn magical and delicious.

One nice thing about this slaw is that it's lightened up by the addition of the Asian ingredients rather than a ton of mayonnaise as its base.  I love that for the sweltering heat around here.  I also don't mind too much that it's crazy delicious and doesn't have ten thousand calories per serving.  There are also about a thousand layers of flavor, which it almost always something to celebrate.

I shredded all my vegetables with my food processor and the shredding/slicing blade.  It made all that shredding super quick work and also pretty fun.  You can use a regular grater or a knife, but, if you do, be prepared to spend some time.

P.S.  I ate some on a hot dog for dinner last night and it was delicious....

P.P.S.  Happy Father's Day!

i heart my hubby.

14 June 2013

Blueberry Bake

I've realized today that my blog recipes have a pattern...recipes that don't really know what they are. Cakes that are also pudding, cookies that are truffles, etc....This is another one of those recipes.  It's called Blueberry Bake.  It's more like a cobbler than anything else, but it's also remarkably coffee cake-like.  So, I'm not really sure which it is; I guess you can have it be whichever one you want it to be.  I'm going to go with cake since I always think of cobbler as a wintertime dessert.

My entire life I've always eaten cobbler in the winter which seems counter-intuitive since cobblers are primarily fruit.  My mom always made our cobbler with canned pie filling, eliminating the need to fresh fruit.  We ate it as soon as it was cool enough to not scald our mouths beyond recognition.  We always put ice cream on top to speed up the cooling process.  I still love the feeling of the boiling hot cobbler with the freezing ice cream.  It's one of my favorite memories.  I didn't eat this with ice cream, but with some whipped cream, which is the another reason I think of it as a cake rather than a cobbler.

I went to the farmer's market this week and got quite a haul.  It's still a little bit early for all the best fruit, but, as you can see, I still got plenty of yumminess for the week.  I've got recipes coming to you using all my goodies in the very near future.  I needed to use the blueberries first, because they were right on the verge of overripe.  I have been toying with this recipe, which is a yeast batter you top with fruit, cinnamon sugar, and butter.  It's really simple, even with using yeast in the batter.  it requires no kneading and only one rise, so it's relatively quick and the yeast adds a depth of flavor you can't get from anything else.  It's scorching hot outside this week, so I put this on the back porch to rise in nature's warming box. 

Just as an extra little note, you could substitute almost any fresh fruit for this, just be sure to chop it up if it's too large or it will sink straight to the bottom of the dish and deflate all the lovely yeast risen goodness.


Pour all your batter in a baking dish and sprinkle some fruit over the top.

12 June 2013

Happy Birthday to Me!

Well, not me, but happy birthday to my blog.  We've stuck around for an entire year.  Thanks for reading!  I took a trip to the farmer's market yesterday to celebrate and spent the whole day cooking.  So much time cooking, in fact, that I ran out of time to write a post....Oops.  

10 June 2013

Lemon Berry Yogurt Cake

Life is more crazy and sporadic than usual these days.  Both of my children are in one of those phases where you just want to strangle them and my husband is going to the hospital three days a week.  That's enough craziness for one momma and it doesn't even include the craziness at work right now.  It's enough to make me say "Bless your heart" to myself.  And I have said it to myself a few times lately.  Because of all the craziness my attention is a little more than diverted from blogging these days.  My cooking has been distracted, too, because most of the things I have made lately have been not so spectacular and definitely not up to my own standards -- a just plain old blah pineapple upside down cake for example.  It's one of my favorites and is usually lip-smackin' good, but this time it was just okay (and that's being generous).

This cake is the one exception to the blah, though.  It's lemony, not-too-sweet, tart with berries, tangy with yogurt, and as moist as can be.  It's just everything an early summer cake should be.  I'm not a big fan of frosting in the summer; I think it's just too darn heavy and rich for all this heat, so this cake is frosting-less.  It's also just not sweet enough that I could maybe get away for eating a slice for breakfast.  I think, given all the craziness, that cake for breakfast might just be okay.  This cake is very much like a pound cake, but uses Greek yogurt instead.  Taking out the almost-pound of butter that's in a typical pound cake almost makes this cake good for you, too.  Maybe it really would be okay for breakfast.....

Put some mixed berries in the bottom of a bundt pan.  I use thawed frozen ones since I haven't found any that are just spectacular yet.  

Top the berries with the batter and throw it in the oven.  It really couldn't be easier.

You could eat it with some whipped cream or a little sprinkle of powdered sugar -- whatever floats your boat.

05 June 2013

Mocha Meringue Pie

I know, I know....more of the no-bake desserts.  I would promise that this is the last one, but I know it would be a lie.  This is also not your typical no-bake dessert since it's a pie.  It's a pie topped with meringue.  I cheated (sort of) and used my tiny blowtorch to toast the top of the meringue and a store-bought graham cracker crust.  I still didn't have to turn on my oven, though, and that's what matters.

I was practically weaned on meringue topped pies.  My grandmother made a wicked chocolate meringue pie and my mom makes one that regularly causes visible swooning.  My mom comes by her chocolate pie making skills honestly.  I think this pie is a little bit of proof that that gene may have gotten passed on down the line.  Not to go overboard patting myself on the back, but this pie is crazy tasty.  It's definitely a pie for grown ups.  It's not too sweet and rich with deep chocolate and espresso.  It's also got a super pillowy, toasty meringue on top.  I'm not quite sure it gets too much better than this.

Whisk together all the filling ingredients until they get a little bit thicker and it starts to bubble.  Pour the filling into the pie crust and throw it into the fridge for a couple of hours.

Once the filling sets it's really terrifically beautiful.  If you want to you can leave off the meringue and this pie would be perfectly fine and rich enough to send you over the top.

Heap up the meringue on top and then toast it up with a blowtorch.  If you don't have a torch, just leave off the meringue since the heat of the oven will melt the filling.

03 June 2013

Marshmallow Drops

I'm not sure if you've noticed, but lately I'm having a (sort of) minor obsession with no bake cookies.  Well, no bake desserts of all sorts.  I'm not confining my obsession to cookies alone.  These are cookies, but I made more another no bake dessert this weekend that is not cookies, just to tease you a little with what's to come.  I'm not sure where my fixation came from.  Maybe it's because summer's pretty much here and I don't want to use the oven as much, but that's never stopped me in the past.  Maybe it's just because no bake desserts are by their nature quick, easy, and generally really tasty.  I'm all about all those things.

These cookies are not what you usually think of when you think of typical no bake cookies, at least no typical in the texture category.  These were much better on the second day once they had a chance to set up completely and dry out a little.  Drying out is usually not a positive thing with desserts, but these needed it.  My husband (who's back home again) was the most weirded out by the texture.  He thinks it was the fact that these were so soft and also filled with fluffy marshmallows.  Those two things registered in his brain as the cookies needing to be cooked.  They were already cooked, though, just not baked, and after a couple of hours I think they were just plain heaven and the kids agree with me.

Melt some butter in a saucepan and stir in some sugar.  Then add some eggs and stir until the mixture gets bubbly and thickens up a bit.

After you cook the mixture it looks like this.  No, it's not color enhanced.  It really does turn really bright yellow.  Let it cool off for a bit.


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