29 September 2013

Oatmeal Pecan Upside Down Cake

I'm never gonna lose any weight if I keep covering things with caramel.  I covered more potato chips this weekend.  I also put some peanut butter filled pretzels and dry roasted peanuts in the mix.  It was delicious.  I would show you pictures, but we disposed of all the evidence.  Here I go again, turning a perfectly normal, almost-healthy oatmeal cake on its' head by making it an upside down cake and, in turn, covering it with caramel and pecans.

I kinda love the dichotomy of this cake -- the topping is nearly over-the-top sweet while the cake is not too sweet, a little tangy, and a whole lot hearty with all the oats.  The tanginess comes from sour cream and it's a nifty trick, too.  It adds a little balance and a whole lot of moistness, which you need since all those oats can just suck all the moisture out of a cake if you're not careful.  I threw in some raisins, too.  I love raisins.  You probably know already that I take most of my goodies to work and share with the ladies there.  One of those ladies hates raisins, so I usually leave them out of things like cookies and cakes just for her.  I like this cake enough, though, so I don't think I'm gonna share....You can leave out the raisins if you are opposed to them in any way.  I won't begrudge you for a moment.

26 September 2013

Chai Almond Quick Bread

I am so glad that Fall is finally here.  Not that it's actually here since it was almost 90° today, but technically it is Fall.  I really look forward to the cooler weather, which should arrive here in Little Rock sometime next month to stay for a while.  I really love all the fall foods.  I love the warmth of them -- chili, chicken and dumplings, apple pie, etc....  I am also a total chai tea fanatic which is kinda weird since those pumpkin pie-type spices are not typically my favorites.  Maybe they're just not my favorite when pumpkin is involved.....hmmmm....I might be onto something there.

You might know already if you read my blog is any sort of regularity, but I'm also a huge fan of quick breads.  They're quick (duh), easy, and really just a perfect vehicle for tons of flavor.  This bread is a perfect example, too.  It comes together in about 5 minutes, all you have to do is mix and throw it in the oven, and it's brimming with tons of flavor -- almond, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, brown sugar.  This is also a perfect Fall food if you are protesting the totally ridiculous overuse of pumpkin out there.  You don't need pumpkin just to make it taste all harvest-y.  This bread is my protest sign.

24 September 2013

Really Over the Top Chocolate Cookies

Lately I've have some major chocolate cravings.  This may not be noteworthy for a lot of people, but it really is for me.  I know that this is majorly weird coming from someone who writes a blog devoted almost entirely to sweets, but I don't have much of a sweet tooth.  I crave bread, potato chips, and pretty much all other things salty or carb-filled instead of dessert.  So this chocolate craving of mine has really come out of nowhere.  I figure that if I have a craving then I should really do things up right, so I made the most chocolately dough filled with as much chocolate as could be crammed into said dough without breaking the mixer.  This is fair warning -- these cookies are not for the faint of heart.

Although these are chocolate to the extreme, they are not overly sweet.  They are definitely a cookie for grown ups.  I love that about them.  Even though they are for grown ups, don't leave off the powdered sugar.  They really need that little extra sweet kick to balance out the bitter notes in the chocolate.  Oh, and the espresso powder.  Did I forget to mention the espresso powder?  Well, anyhoo, go make these cookies.  You can thank me for it later.

Really Over the Top Chocolate Cookies
makes about 50 cookies

Print me, Please!!!

1 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
4 tsp instant espresso powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chunks
Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the butter, sugars, and vanilla extract on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.  Beat in eggs one at a time, mixing to combine after each addition.  In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, espresso powder, baking soda, and salt.  On low speed, gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture.  Add the chocolate chips and chunks; stir until just combined.

Drop the dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheet about 2" apart.  Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, or until the centers are set and the tops are slightly cracked.  Cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.  Once the cookies are cooled, sprinkle the cookies with powdered sugar.  Store in a covered container up to 5 days.

20 September 2013

Caramel Corn Cookies

 There are a lot of very surreal things about blogging.  Most of which are totally ridiculous and make me very, very glad that you can't look over my shoulder and watch the process.  Now, as I type this, I'm in my pjs, drinking a beer, and watching "The Golden Girls".  Did you know in the first episode they had a gay housekeeper named Coco?  I don't want to talk about the beer, since the quality is exactly what you would expect from someone sitting around watching 80's sitcoms (even if it is one of the best ones ever) in their pajamas.  Another surreal thing is the staging of photographs -- who over the age of 10 tries to see how tall they can stack cookies?  Food bloggers.  That's who.  I have also seen a number of very lovely blog pictures of cookies tied with twine this week.  Nothing else, but a loop of twine tied in a bow.  I can't bring myself to do it.  The twine would get in the way of eating all the cookies.  A big stack just makes it easier to eat all the cookies.  I did say this was all very surreal and ridiculous, didn't I?  It must be if that logic makes any kind of sense.

These cookies are totally worthy of eating in the serving size of "big stack", too.  They're salty, sweet, nutty, crunchy, chewy, and butterscotch-y.  They also have one slightly unusual ingredient --
cornmeal.  Grainy isn't a description I would necessarily think of as a good descriptive for most foods, but these cookies have just a hint of that cornmeal texture and it's totally positive and intriguing. 

I am totally in love with these because they are my own little ode to caramel corn.  When I lived in Chicago there were a few Garret's popcorn shops scattered through downtown.  They made fresh caramel corn and you could smell it over everything else in the city from blocks away.  They almost always had lines out the door.  I never went in and got any, but I will never forget that sweet smell.  These cookies smell a lot like that popcorn so I think they were meant to be.

Caramel Corn Cookies
makes about 60 cookies

Print me, Please!!!

1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 egg
1/4 cup honey
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup flour
One 11 oz bag butterscotch chips
1 cup chopped, salted peanuts

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the shortening, butter, sugars, and cornmeal on medium speed until very light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the baking soda, salt, egg, honey, and vanilla; beat until combined.  Reduce the speed to low and add the flour until just combined.  Stir in the butterscotch chips and peanuts.

Scoop the batter onto the prepared baking sheet by heaping teaspoons, keeping them at least 2" apart.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until light golden brown.  Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.  Store in a covered container up to 3 days.

17 September 2013

Coconut Pralines

It doesn't get much more Southern than pralines.  Well, at least this type of praline.  There are tons of variations and permutations of pralines around the world.  Pralines in Belgium are essentially bonbons.  Praline in France is a combination of finely chopped almonds and caramelized sugar.  It's often ground up and incorporated into other confections.  Southern pralines are a lot like fudge, at least in their composition.  There's one really big difference, though, and it lies in the stirring. 
Alton Brown did a really great episode of "Good Eats" about fudge.  It gives a really great explanation on what makes a nice, creamy fudge.  It basically boils down to lack of stirring, and, thusly, lack of sugar crystals.  In candy making stirring = sugar crystals.  Pralines use the opposite approach -- lots of stirring and lots of sugar crystals.  Those sugar crystals give Southern pralines their very distinctive texture, and the texture is my very favorite thing about pralines. 

16 September 2013

Caramelized Onion and Gorgonzola Wontons

I tweeted a little bit about the totally amazing dinner my husband and I had on our trip to Florida.  We went to the restaurant pretty much entirely because we thought the name, Fat Clemenza's, was funny and ended up having just about the best meal from start to finish that either of us can remember.  I have had two other meals that compared -- one at a tiny bistro in Paris and the other at one of Daniel Boulud's restaurants in New York.  Fat Clemenza's was way up there in the yumminess stratosphere.  There was a lot to love about the meal. but the best thing was how simple it all was.  No complicated names, fancy plating, exorbitant prices -- just perfectly cooked food with a perfect balance of ingredients.  It was really refreshing.

Our main course was a wood oven fired pizza topped with caramelized onion and gorgonzola.  There was a smear of olive oil on the crust (which was the best crust I have ever had) and some mozzarella.  That's it.  It was heaven and I haven't been able to get it off my mind since. 

You may know this already, but I am a huge football fan.  I have to do most of my cooking, at least the time consuming cooking, on Sunday.  Since football season has begun, I have to get it done by noon on Sunday.  It helps if what I come up with is finger food so I can munch and watch the game at the same time.  I was pushing things time-wise, since these aren't the quickest thing to put together, but they are insanely simple.  Don't be intimidated by the folding of the wontons.  It's not complicated; it just takes a little time.

The other thing that takes a little time is caramelizing the onions.  I like to do it really slowly on the lowest heat my stove can manage.  It takes about an hour, but it makes perfectly brown, sweet onions every time.  You don't have to stand over the pot the entire time since the heat is so low.  Go do something else.  As long as you give 'em a stir every ten minutes or so they'll be okay.  No matter how much you want to, though, don't turn up the heat.  Your patience will be rewarded.

Here's a little tutorial on how to fold and fill you wontons:

12 September 2013

I'm still here...Sort of.....

I know I just sort of vanished for a few days, but I'm still here.  I promise.  I don't have a new recipe to post today, but I will have one soon.  The husband, kiddos, and I went on vacation for a few days in Florida.  It was the first trip for the boys to the beach/ocean.  They had a blast.  We all had a blast.

I took a little hiatus from the computer during our vacation and the few days leading up to it.  I needed a little break.  I swear I'll be back in full force by next week.  I had a birthday a couple of days ago and got a new computer (which was needed more desperately than I care to admit).  I have to get it set up with all my blogging stuff.  I also have to learn how to use it -- a different layout, different operating system, etc....

So, bear with me.  I will be back at it sooner rather than later.

05 September 2013

Another Social Media Outlet...

I have finally managed to get a page set up on Twitter.  I know, especially since I write a blog and everything, you might think I am at least sort of technologically savvy.  I'm not really.  I'm good at hunting, searching, copying, pasting, and Googling until I finally figure things out.  I don't want to sound like a total doofus.  I am computer literate and a competent typist, but a lot of the social networking and constant connection is a little weird to me.  This is totally showing my age, but when I started college I still wrote my papers on a typewriter.  I didn't have an email account until I started college.  No one I knew did either.

So, please follow me on Twitter.  You can find me @  SouthSweetEats.

I'm probably not gonna post any new recipes for a week or so.  Me and the fams are going on vacation for a few days.  I will post pictures.  I might post them on Twitter.  The boys are getting to go to the ocean for the first time.  We are totally psyched.  Sam has a countdown going on the chalkboard in the kitchen.  Two more days.  

And, finally, a little note related to the last post and my need to coat everything in caramel.  Do not try to use Cap'n Crunch with the microwave caramel.  Bad news.  Lots of smoke.  Totally ruined bowl.  Horrid smell.  Oh, the horror..... Don't say I didn't warn you.

03 September 2013

Straight Up Comfort

Life just kept on going the last few days.  You know, the life I was talking about in my last post -- the one that's sometimes just a little too real and seems like it kicks you in the gut for fun every now and again.  Life gave us a real kick in the gut last Friday.  We lost our oldest dog, Momma Dog.  She was old, although we don't know how old, and we knew it was coming.  It still feels like having the wind knocked out of you anyway.  She was quite possibly the sweetest dog in the history of the universe.  All she wanted was love.  Pure, simple love.  We all tried to give her as much as we could.  We miss her terribly and will for a while.  How we got her is a really good story, too.

My husband (before he was my husband) used to work for Papa John's Pizza as a delivery driver.  One night he delivered a pizza to a huge house in one of the fancier neighborhoods in town.  As he got out of the car, a herd of Miniature Schnauzers came running down the driveway to greet him.  To make a long story short, the owner offered to give Eric a dog.  We went back to the man's house at 2:30 in the morning when Eric got off work and I picked Momma Dog.  One look in her sad, brown eyes and I was in love.  Momma Dog had basically been a puppy mill for him and his family and was ignored because of all the adorable puppies she was delivering.  So, she wasn't abused, but she was ignored.  We made sure that every day of the rest of her life was filled with the love she wanted so much.

So, losing Momma Dog is the reason for the straight up comfort today.  I can't really explain why, but soon after it happened, I had an intense urge to coat things in caramel.  Strange things like cheese crackers (which I did not coat with caramel, but I might sometime later) and potato chips.  So I went to the grocery store, bought a bag of kettle chips, some brown sugar, and butter, then I came home and went to town.  Eric and I ate every last one of these potato chips.  They were delicious -- salty, sweet, caramel-y, crunchy, and soul soothing in the best comfort food sort of way.  Next time you're having a not so great day you should make some.  They'll make you feel just a little bit better.


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