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

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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? 

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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