30 August 2013

Strawberry Horchata Milkshakes


Life has just taken over this week.  No one part of life in particular, just life.  The boys are back in school now so there's an hour less sleep every night.  Work is total insanity.  It's been the hottest week of the year so far.  The husband's been grumpy.  I've been grumpy.  It's just life and it's just been one of those weeks.

For a couple of weeks it was downright fall-like.  It lulled me into a false comfort that maybe summer was gonna end a little early this year.  I was wrong.  This week has been the hottest of the year so far.  It's mind-numbing, fry and egg on the sidewalk hot.  On the bright side, though, that means it's totally okay to drink milkshakes with reckless abandon.  At least that's what it means at my house.

I don't think I've talked on the blog about how much I adore Mexican horchata.  If you've never had it, you should go to a real Mexican restaurant and have some.  I need to specify that it's Mexican horchata I'm digging on because the drink is pretty much a different concoction in each country that has a version.  The Mexican version is made with rice milk, vanilla, and cinnamon.

This milkshake is my own little shortcut to horchata with some strawberries and coconut milk thrown in just because I like them.  They make me happy and when life throws you a week like this one, you need whatever makes you happy.


26 August 2013

Banana Brown Sugar Muffins with Salted Caramel Glaze


I make muffins pretty often.  They're one of the few foods my six year old doesn't turn his nose up at.  The only problem is that no one in my house turns their nose up at muffins, so they're never around long enough for me to take pictures of them.  The only reason I got these pictures is because the kids were at their grandmother's house for the night and my husband was taking the opportunity to sleep in.  Now that everyone is awake and back home, they have already vanished.  Muffins are magical like that.  I think it's because they're so darn adorable -- just a few bites with the adorable paper liners (which you can find all over the place now thanks to the cupcake craze)


Muffins are also super practical.  The kiddos both started school last week and they both like to eat breakfast at home even though they both get breakfast at school.  Muffins are super awesome for breakfast for lots of reasons -- they're fast, you can make them ahead of time, they're moderately nutritious, and kids like them.  

23 August 2013

Pecan Pie Chocolate Cheesecake Bars



 Did you know that Tuesday was National Chocolate Pecan Pie Day?  There are all sorts of wacky food holidays.  There's a food holiday for almost every day of the year as a matter of fact.  Here are some of, in my opinion, the more unusual and important ones:

January 28th -- Chocolate Cake Day
The first week of February -- Shape up with Pickles Time
February 5th -- World Nutella Day
February 18th -- Crab Stuffed Flounder Day
March 5th -- National Cheese Doodle Day
March 14th (3.14) -- Pi(e) Day
March 19th -- Chocolate Caramel Day
March 28th -- Something on a Stick Day
April 6th -- Caramel Popcorn Day
April 12th -- Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day
April 24th -- National Pigs in a Blanket Day
May 9th -- Butterscotch Brownie Day
May 27th -- Grape Popsicle Day
June 10th -- Root Beer Float Day
July 15th -- National Gummy Worm Day
July 26th -- National Coffee Milkshake Day
August 3rd -- Grab Some Nuts Day
August 29th -- Chop Suey Day
September 9th -- Weinerschintzel Day
September 21st -- International Banana Festival
October 1st -- Pudding Season Begins
October 8th -- National Fluffernutter Day
October 25th -- National Greasy Foods Day
November 2nd -- National Deviled Egg Day
November 26th -- National Cake Day
December 16th -- National Chocolate Covered Anything day
December 30th -- National Bicarbonate of Soda (baking soda) Day

So, I know the list is a little long, but I left off so many good ones, too.

This recipe is my celebration of National Chocolate Pecan Pie day.  You should make them.  You won't be disappointed.  They're chocolatey, rich, tangy, sweet, caramel-brown sugary, nutty, etc....  The list could go on and on.  I've found a new love affair (at least for this week).


21 August 2013

Double Chocolate Pretzel Bars


I'm pretty sure the entire world is obsessed with pretzels this summer.  Or maybe just fast food restaurants -- pretzel hot dog buns at Sonic, pretzel bacon cheeseburgers at Wendy's (which, to be perfectly frank, kinda scare me).  I haven't had either of these, but I'm finding myself to be a little pretzel obsessed, too.  I love pretty much anything salty and am absolutely over the moon when there's also something sweet in the equation, but I have gone out of my way to avoid putting pretzels in the mix.  There's a really good reason for it, too.


When I was in college I went on tour for a couple of weeks with my boyfriend's band.  We went from Little Rock to Philadelphia and then I took the Greyhound bus back home.  I don't think I can properly convey exactly how poor we were on this tour, but I believe I had $200 with me to cover my share of the gas for the van and food for two weeks.  Sensing that the money was going to run out really fast with a van that got approximately three miles per gallon, I went to a grocery store one day into the trip and bought three bags of honey mustard pretzels.  That was all I ate for the rest of the trip except for some delicious Jamaican food in Philly and a really disgusting sandwich at the bus station in Washington D.C..  I still can't eat honey mustard pretzels and even regular pretzels give me a little pause.  Don't get me wrong, though, I love pretzels.  I think they're delicious, but that trip was traumatic.


19 August 2013

Bakewell Tart Soda


One of my best friends is married to a Brit.  When Traci married Keith I developed a little infatuation with the Bakewell Tart.  I wanted to learn to make a truly British dessert so he could have a little taste of home every now and again.  There's nothing to not like about the Bakewell Tart -- almond custard and raspberry jam in pastry.  One taste of Bakewell Tart and you may just find yourself questioning the Brit's reputation for lackluster food, because Bakewell Tart is nothing short of perfect.  


There are questions about the origins of the Bakewell Tart.  Some say it originates from the 1820's, some from the 1860's, and some even say it may go all the way back to medieval times.  The one thing that most stories agree on is the fact that it was probably an accident.  What the accident was in the tart's composition is also a matter for debate.  My favorite theory is that the cook accidentally put the jam in the bottom of the crust rather than on top.  I'm not sure how that might happen, but maybe the cook wasn't the most literate chap on the island.

16 August 2013

Burnt Sugar Chiffon Cake


I have been on the quest for a passable Burnt Sugar Cake for a couple of years now because it's one of my grandmother's favorites.  I totally wanna give myself a high five because I finally succeeded in making a moist, delicious Burnt Sugar Cake.  It's hard to go wrong with a chiffon cake -- by nature they are light, fluffy, and moist.  Chiffon cakes are a more modern invention than Burnt Sugar cakes.  Chiffon cake was invented in 1927 and burnt sugar cake has been around since at least 1914.


Chiffon cake is a strange concoction.  It uses oil instead of butter.  It uses both egg whites and baking powder or baking soda for aeration since it's harder to work air into oil than into butter.  It is also pretty much the only "new" type of cake in the last century.  It was such a big hit that the inventor actually kept the recipe a secret for 20 years before selling it to General Mills.  Chiffon cakes are typically covered in sauces or frostings since the lower fat content and lack of better can make them seem dry, but I'm a big fan of the texture so I tend to leave off the toppings.  I did drizzle this with a little chocolate and caramel, but mainly for appearances sake.


Burnt Sugar Cake, a.k.a. Burnt Leather Cake, is essentially a caramel cake so the name is a little misleading.  You shouldn't actually burn anything in the cooking process.  It's also just barely caramel colored, so so freak out if your cake isn't caramel colored.  The caramel color and flavor are subtle.  This is not an in-your-face cake.  I love that about it.  It is a little time consuming with making of the burnt sugar syrup and the extra step of beating the egg whites, but it's totally worth it.


14 August 2013

Being a Blogger Mom



Being a blogger is a weird thing most of the time.  It's more than a little surreal sending things out into the atmosphere and hoping people will like what you're putting out there.  It's a crazy spiral of self confidence and self doubt all mixed together.  Being a mom at the same time makes it even more strange.  I can't always make what ever bizzaro concoction I have in my head because I don't have time, the kids won't eat it, my husband won't eat it, etc....  Maybe if all those people wouldn't eat it then it isn't worth making?  I have a six year old who's "allergic" (his word) to green food, a three year old whose diet is made up almost entirely of salad, and a husband who is an insanely picky eater.  I can't begin to list what all he's "allergic" to.   My house may not be the best demographic to choose from, but that's what I'm working with.

Don't even get me started on the process of photographing the food.  I can't even fathom what a stranger would think if they walked in on me making stacks of random food and taking pictures of it.  Who stacks food?  Bloggers do.  And really overly fancy restaurants.  That's pretty much it.

Then there are the weeks like this one which are totally, randomly insane.  The stomach flu has had the entire family sitting things out for the better part of the week, of course with no two of us sick on the same day.  Stomach flu means that not a lot of cooking has been happening.  Especially since it hit me yesterday.

I work at a children's store.  It's back to school time.  I'm beyond tired when I get home at night.  You can only imagine.

On some positive notes, my six year old lost one of his front teeth on Monday night.  He is really excited about it.  My three year old, however, is really confused by it.  I wish I could have gotten a picture of Isaac's face when he saw Sam's gap-toothed smile for the first time.  Words can't describe the confusion.  That's my snaggle tooth's picture at the top.

I am totally addicted to a website -- Daily Infographic -- it's totally awesome, occasionally hilarious, usually informative, and entirely random.  Here's an example:


I've been spending most of my free time sewing lately.  You may or may not know that I have a degree in clothing design, so sewing is as much second nature to me as baking.  With the stupid-hot weather, I have been making skirt after skirt after skirt since they're the best attire for all this heat and humidity.  It's been a lot of fun, strangely relaxing, and diverting.  I also get what feels like a new wardrobe out of it.  That's pretty awesome.

I will be back with more recipes.  And soon.  I mean it.

12 August 2013

Greek Pizza Rolls



Yep, pizza rolls.  These aren't the pre-made things from Totinos that were so good when you were eight, though.  These are for grown ups.  They're basically like a fancy pizza that you would pay way too much money for that's rolled up like cinnamon rolls.  I really love the fact that it looks like I'm having cinnamon rolls for dinner, too.


You could alter the ingredients to suit your tastes, too.  If you don't like olives, use tomato sauce, if you don't like feta cheese, use some cheddar or gouda.  If you don't like oregano, use basil.  You get the idea.  I totally cheated and used store bought refrigerated pizza dough and olive tapenade.  You can make those from scratch, too.  Time and energy have really been at a premium lately.  There's been a stomach bug going around our house this last week and I'm the only one who's managed not to get it so far.  I've been up all night twice this week with sick kids, so I have absolutely no shame in using shortcuts.  So, I know I almost never have an issue using shortcuts, but this time I have a perfectly valid excuse.  

09 August 2013

Blueberry Cream Cheese No Crust Pie


Got some blueberries still hanging around?  Boy have I got a recipe for you....It takes minutes, is chock full of berries (so you can act like it's good for you), it's light, it's fluffy, and it's delicious.
Is that enough?

Is it a pie?  Is it a cake?  Is it just a big, weird shaped muffin?  I'm not really sure.  I do know that I am sure glad that I made this though.  I had been sort of working out the idea in my head for a while now.  The idea started swirling around for a no-crust blueberry pie; that mostly happened because I ended up with an overabundance of good berries this year.  So I mapped out the what the recipe might look like for a no-crust blueberry pie, using a sort of magic custard/chess pie as my starting point.  Then I got carried away (which is not all that uncommon) and figured that some chunks of cream cheese couldn't hurt.  Then I added lemon juice because lemons and blueberries are best foodie friends.  Lemon amps up the flavor of blueberries so much, you really should add at least a little lemon juice to any recipe calling for blueberries.  I'm totally serious about that, too.


More questions now that the pie is out of the oven....Is it breakfast?  Or is it dessert?  It really could be either.  If it's dessert, eat it with some whipped cream on top.  If it's breakfast, take a big wedge and eat it plain.  A happy life is all about choices.


07 August 2013

Pimiento Cheese Mashed Potatoes


Don't think less of me because I didn't use fresh potatoes to make these, but I'm a really big fan of the Ore Ida steam in the bag mashed potatoes.  I'm not ashamed to admit it.  They have pretty much entirely replaced fresh potatoes when I make mashed potatoes.  This is a major concern at my house since mashed potatoes are my husband's favorite food.  We eat them fairly regularly.  Not as often as he would like (which might possibly be every day), but they're definitely part of the normal dinner rotation.

I do diverge from Ore Ida's preparation instructions because I use heavy cream instead of milk and add a more than is probably necessary amount of black pepper.  It's how I like them, but the pepper is entirely optional.  I also used store-bought pimiento cheese, which I never do, but this was a thrown together weeknight dinner.  With two kids and a husband asking "Where's dinner?" from the moment I walked in the door, I did not have time to make it from scratch.  I prefer Price's brand pimiento cheese if I absolutely need to use store bought.  It's not as good as homemade, but it's the best of the stuff from the grocery store.


The potatoes, even with all the shortcuts, are crazy delicious. They're cheesy, creamy, a little spicy, and a little peppery -- just downright perfect.  Because of all the shortcuts, they're also on the table in about 15 minutes, which is every busy momma's dream.  Oh, and the kids'll eat 'em, too.  It doesn't get much better than that.

05 August 2013

Pan Fried Cheese Sticks


It's been a while since I've done a recipe this complicated.  Partly because I do try to keep all my recipes on the easy side and also because I just haven't had time to invest in anything that takes more than an hour in quite a while.  This is a bit of a departure from the norm, but it is totally worth the time and effort.  That is truly all it requires, though.  No additional skill, just time and a little more work.  


Don't let the yeast dough intimidate you.  I have empathy if using yeast scares the bejeezus out of you because I used to feel the same way.  Now yeast doughs are my friends and I am definitely the better for it.  These sticks are a lot like the cheese sticks you can get at pizza restaurants except they are pan fried instead of baked.  That difference is a huge one, too, since it means no hot oven in the middle of the hot summer.  I also took advantage of the heat outside by covering my dough with plastic wrap and putting it outside to rise.  My air conditioned kitchen isn't quite warm enough for yeast-rising, but the balmy summer temperatures are just perfect.

02 August 2013

Avocritters


I am in no way responsible for the name of this recipe -- blame it on my husband.  It was his idea.  Avocritters is short for Avcado Fritters.  He also recommended Frittercados.  Take your pick which name you would like to use.  These are a sort of fritter, hush puppy, guacamole combo.  They're straight up delicious and a wonderful combination.  You can add or subtract the stir ins at will.  In my opinion, that makes 'em even more awesome.


Some things you might not know about avocados:

1.  They're a fruit, although we use them as a vegetable.  You probably know this already, but it's good to know if you didn't.

2.  Avocados mature on the tree, but don't ripen until they're picked.  They can stay on the tree for over a year without going bad.  The tree acts like a natural preservative.  That's cool.

3.  All avocados are picked by hand.  All those extra labor costs are why they're so expensive.

4.  All Haas avocados can be traced back to the same avocado tree, which was patented by the man who grew said tree in his backyard.

5.  The name avocado is derived, at least in part, from the Spanish word for testicle.  Try not to turn that into a mental image, please.

6.  Avocados contain more fiber than any other vegetable, have no cholesterol, lower bad cholesterol, and are super duper anti aging snacks.  I should definitely eat more of them.


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