Friday, October 29, 2010

Peach Cobbler

I've done a pretty horrible job of keeping up with the blog lately. Honestly, I've just lost interest in it. I think I've gotten lazy. I still enjoy cooking, but I've gotten to where I don't want to upload pictures to my computer, then fight with Blogger to get them inserted into the posts. But I'm going to try to keep it up a little better (I know, I know...how many times have I said that lately?). I was looking through my pictures, and I've got a pretty serious backlog of food pictures, which is good, because these days by the time I get dinner ready, all of the natural light is gone. I found this picture of a peach crisp I made this summer, and it reminded me of just how delicious it was:
This summer, my mother-in-law brought me some fresh peaches from the Henry County Harvest Showcase. My father-in-law really wanted some more peach shortcakes, but I was more interested in a peach cobbler. Besides, I had a new cookbook that I wanted to use! This recipe comes from the Cooking for a Cure cookbook that was created by the Dillsburg (PA) Relay for Life, Team Lollipop. David's aunt and two cousins have tons of recipes in the cookbook, but this wasn't one of their recipes. (Sorry Aunt Mary! We'll try more soon!) Anyway, the peaches were perfect, and this crisp was delicious. I'm certainly aware that there are probably very few (if any) people who can get a fresh peach this time of year, but I don't see why frozen peaches wouldn't work.
Peach Crisp
Kim Walden
4 cups sliced peaches
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup oats
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 cup butter, softened
whipped topping or ice ream
Spray an 8x8 square baking pan with cooking spray. Arrange peaches in pan. Mix together brown sugar, flour, oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, and butter; sprinkle over peaches. Bake in 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Serve warm with whipped topping or ice cream.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Four Years

I can distinctly remember sitting in one of my Marriage & Family classes in my graduate program several years ago. One of my favorite (and best) instructors, Dr. Brenda Dew, was telling us about recent research that revealed that couples were more likely to hit serious rough patches and/or file for divorce in odd years of their marriage than in even years. At the time, I thought it was a load of crap. Now that we're celebrating our fourth year of marriage, I have to wonder if maybe there's more than a little truth in that.
Please don't get me wrong...David and I have a very happy marriage and we're devoted to one another, but this year has been tough! Over the course of our third year of marriage, we built a house, moved in, lost our first baby to a miscarriage, watched close family members struggle with some tough stuff, and made it through our September "due date" with the baby that we didn't get to have. And through all of that, there have been some really tough, dark times. Thankfully, somehow, during all of that, I recognized that the way we handle those situations together would make us or break us. There were times when for some reason, my first instinct was to snap at him or take out my frustrations, anger, and fears on him (and I probably did, to some degree), but I did my best to choose not do those things. Instead, we leaned on each other, our families, friends, and our God, and we've made it through. Things are looking great for our fouth year of marriage...in fact, we just got back from a week-long cruise vacation (which was much needed!) in order to kind of hit the "reset" button. Through it all, I can truly say that life is good, and I couldn't imagine spending my life with anyone besides David. He is an amazing husband, and I look forward to sharing the rest of life's ups and downs with him. Love you, David!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Craft Project: Decorative Letters

We moved into our new house in January of this year, and we haven't really done a very good job of getting the place decorated. More than once, David was ready to hang pictures, but I couldn't go through with it...I just couldn't bear to put the holes in the walls! I'm having a hard time committing to the placement of pictures. But strangely enough, I don't have too much of a problem with hanging "stuff" on my walls. Right now, just about the only two decorative things we have hanging in our house are a tobacco basket and an old wooden ladder from my grandfather's farm (which led one of my colleagues to say that I'm going with the "Cracker Barrel" approach to decorating). Anyway, the ladder was the springboard for this whole craft. The ladder is hanging horizontally over the entrance to our kitchen/breakfast room, but it was a little bare. I knew that it needed something extra, and then I thought about the decorative letters I'd seen all over the web. Here's what I did:
I bought some large, chipboard letters from Michael's and painted them all a cream color. (I realize that it might be hard to figure out what the heck I plan on spelling. I had intended to spell HOME. However, Michael's did not have an M that day, so I got the letters to spell LOVE along with the H. Hopefully Michael's will have the M next time I go back.)
Then, I gathered my scrapbook paper and traced my letters. It's very important to actually do the tracing on the side that you don't want showing. Also be sure you trace the letter backward!
Here are cut out scrapbook letters! As you can see, they're all turned the right way. That's because I traced the letters backward! Now I'm ready to apply the scrapbook paper to the chipboard letters. Sorry I don't have any pictures of that step, but it's pretty self-explanatory. I used Mod Podge to glue the paper to the letters, but looking back, I'd use spray adhesive instead. The Mod Podge was a little messy to work with, and the paper wanted to wrinkle.
After the letters dried, I put them in the "frames" of my letters, and here's the finished product! In this picture, you can see the whole ladder.
And here, you can see the letters a bit better. Once I finally get my M, it'll only be a matter of changing two letters to make HOME. And, if you think about it, I can cover the reverse of the HOME letters pretty easily with other papers for Christmas! This was such a quick, easy project, and it makes such a difference!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

White Castle Casserole

Is it health food? Nope. Is it gourmet? Absolutely not. Is it good? You bet.
My friends, I give you White Castle Casserole! I originally printed this recipe from RecipeZaar (which is apparently food.com now) on March 11th, 2010, and I can't figure out why it's taken me so long to give it a try! I have always liked White Castle, but there's not one that close by, so this was a great copycat recipe for those times when you want some White Castles, but a visit to the restaurant just isn't in the cards. (And yes, I know that you can buy frozen White Castles at the grocery, but it's not the same. Sometimes the bun gets hard, and they're just not as good when that happens!)
It's not exactly the same as a real White Castle, but it gets pretty close. I used the reduced fat crescent rolls for this, and they seemed a little "off". Next time, I'll use the full-fat ones. Because, really, if you're the kind of person who is making White Castle Casserole, are you really counting the calories and fat? Probably not. :)
White Castle Casserole
1 package dry onion soup mix
2 (12 oz) cans crescent rolls
1.25 lb. hamburger
American cheese slices (or shredded cheese of your choice)
Dill pickle slices
Mustard
Cook hamburger with onion mix. Drain extremely well. Lay a whole can of crescent rolls in the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking dish (do not break the rolls apart). Layer hamburger, cheese, pickles, and mustard up and down across the pan. Lay a whole can of crescent rolls on top. Bake at 350 degrees until brown. Cut in squares and enjoy! (Makes 8 servings)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

It's Been Awhile...

It's been quite a while since my last post. A month at least. Things have just been crazy lately, and I haven't taken the time to add to the blog. Rest assured, I've still been cooking (and taking pictures), so I'm getting quite the stockpile ready. But I've decided that there are going to be some changes to The Sweet Life. Instead of being strictly a cooking blog, I've decided to branch out some. I've been bitten by the crafting bug lately, so I'll be adding my craft projects as I get them finished (but some of them are slow going). I'll also be adding some of the adventures that I go on with David, friends, and family. And there'll probably be some general "life" stuff on here too. But there'll still be plenty of food posts. That's what I do best, I think.
So stay tuned. There'll be something new here soon!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

And the Winner Is...

Valerie, commenter number three! (The winner was picked by the Random Number Generator at Random.org.) Congratulations, Valerie! Contact me at erinssweetlife{at}hotmail{dot}com with your mailing address and we'll have your Macaroni Grill prize pack on its way to you! Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you enjoy your frozen entree, serving bowl, and expandable tongs!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Giveaway of a Different Kind, Courtesy of Kroger

Several weeks ago, I was contacted by the good folks at MyBlogSpark.com about Kroger's Add Up the Savings Event. Of course, I was on board to join in the fun. The Kroger family of stores, General Mills, and Kimberly Clark (through MyBlogSpark.com) provided me with a $25 gift card to use on items featured in their Add Up the Savings Event, which started on August 8th and runs through August 21st. If you're not familiar with the Add Up the Savings Event, it's a promotion during which time you can purchase participating items and recieve $4 off of your purchase. There were tons of items included (think Yoplait yogurt, a variety of cereals, Pillsbury cookies, etc.). But honestly, when I saw the Kroger ad, I thought, "But we don't buy that much of that stuff..." So I wasn't sure how to approach this opportunity. I knew that I could purchase any of the participating items with the gift card, but I kind of felt bad, knowing that it was stuff that we didn't really need.
Then, today, on my way home from work, I heard Mark Hall (lead singer for Casting Crowns) on the radio, and he said something that really hit home. He has recently decided to sell off his entire collection of Star Wars memorabilia for a charity event, and he said, "God doesn't bless us so we can have more. He blesses us so that we can give to others." His words hit me like a ton of bricks. I know that I am blessed beyond measure. My life has been pretty darn close to perfect. I've never wanted for anything. In fact, right now, David and I have almost everything we want in life. So I decided to find a way to start blessing others out of the abundance I have. Earlier this year, one of my cousins mentioned that our church women's group should consider making a mid-year donation to a food bank. Everyone wants to give to a food bank around Thanksgiving and Christmas, but people are hungry all year round. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to stock up on items that my county's Family Resource Center might need.
So...I went to Kroger this afternoon after work and picked up a few things:
Look at that! I got 4 boxes of Hamburger Helper, 4 boxes of instant mashed potatoes, 8 cans of peaches, 8 cans of soup, and 8 tuna salad/chicken salad kits...for $24.32! It might sound crazy, but I had a great time going through Kroger trying to get as close to $25 as I could. I was pretty impressed with myself, and I'm hoping that these items will help out Henry County's Family Resource Center.
The Kroger Add Up the Savings Event is going on through August 21st, so if you want to help out your local food bank, now would be a great time to get an extra bang for your buck!
Thanks to Kroger, General Mills, and Kimberly Clark (through MyBlogSpark.com) for the $25 gift card. And thanks to Mark Hall for reminding me that what I have isn't mine at all...and that I need to share everything I have!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

TWD: Oatmeal Breakfast Bread

I usually bake my TWD "assignments" over the weekend, but it completely slipped my mind this weekend. In fact, I didn't fully realize that today was Tuesday until about 2pm...and of course remembered that I hadn't made my Oatmeal Breakfast Bread! Luckily, Baking: From My Home to Yours is on Google Books, so I was able to review the recipe to see if I needed to stop by Kroger on the way home for any additional ingredients. Luckily, I was in good shape. And even better, after reading the recipe, I found that I would probably even have time to get the bread baked and photograph it in natural light!
Sadly, this was the only picture I got before it got dark. And oh, is it tasty! Sarah mentioned in her post that it reminds her of fall...and I have to say that it does the same for me! Applesauce, raisins, and spices all combine in this bread to make a perfect fall quickbread. (And as a side note, I am totally ready for it to be fall. I am done with heat and humidity.)
This week's pick was chosen by Natalie, of Oven Love. Thanks, Natalie! You picked a good one!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Macaroni Grill Frozen Entree Review and a Giveaway!

It's been ages since I last ate at a Romano's Macaroni Grill restaurant, but I always enjoyed meals there. David and I both love Italian food, so when I was invited to try one of the new Romano's Macaroni Grill frozen entrees, I jumped at the chance.

This afternoon, this sample of the Basil Parmesan Chicken arrived on our doorstep, packed in dry ice. As I unpacked the box, I was amazed that the meal was still frozen. It's been incredibly hot and humid here over the last few days, but the dry ice did the trick!
I also received this very nice serving bowl and tong set as part of the sample package. The serving bowl is heavy ceramic, and it's something I'm sure that we'll use often around The Sweet Life. The tongs are coated in silicone and they extend from 10" to 14". Pretty handy!
The meal is simple and super-quick to prepare. The package suggests using a nonstick skillet, but I used my trusty electric skillet instead...I tend to slop less of my food out of it than when I use a regular stovetop skillet! The only additional ingredient needed to prepare the entree was 1/4 of milk. Then, in about 13-18 minutes, we had a delicious meal! Again, I haven't been to Romano's Macaroni Grill in ages, but I have to assume that this recipe (Basil Parmesan Chicken) is based on one of their restaurant entrees. There was quite a bit of tender chicken, loads of broccoli florets, and a nice smattering of sun-dried tomatoes. But of course, the sauce was the best part! It seemed to me like a cross between a pesto sauce and a light alfredo sauce...a pesto cream sauce, if you will. The frozen entree is intended to serve two. Honestly, David and I could have both eaten more, but we were satisfied with the portions.
We added a side salad and enjoyed a nice Italian meal at home! These frozen meals are great to keep on hand for those nights when you don't want to spend lots of time preparing a meal, but you don't want to go out, either. There are several varieties of the Romano's Macaroni Grill frozen entrees: Basil Parmesan Chicken, Grilled Chicken Florentine, Roasted Garlic Shrimp Scampi, and Spicy Italian Sausage Pomodoro. This Romano's Macaroni Grill prize pack was provided to me by Romano's Macaroni Grill through MyBlogSpark.com.
And guess what? They want you to have one, too! Macaroni Grill has generously offered to sponsor a giveaway here on The Sweet Life where you can win a prize pack of your own! To enter, please leave me a comment letting me know which variety you'd most like to try. (If you're the winner, I can't promise that you'll get the flavor you'd prefer, but we can try!) You have to be at least 18 to win. The winner will be chosen at random on Thursday, August 19th. If you win, the frozen meal will be shipped directly to you, packed in dry ice.
***This giveaway is now closed.***

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

TWD: Gingered Carrot Cookies

My copy of Baking: From My Home to Yours has a flaw in it. I guess it was a misprint...it's missing about 50 pages from the cookie chapter, but I have a repeat of 50 pages of the brownie chapter. It's been a bit of a pain, but at the same time, kind of exciting because when TWD members choose a recipe from the 50 pages I'm missing, it's a surprise because I've never seen it. When I saw that this week's pick was Gingered Carrot Cookies, I thought it must have been a recipe I was missing. But when I checked, I had this page...somehow, in the 5,000 times I've flipped through this book, I've never noticed these!
When Dorie was developing this recipe, she was trying to make carrot cake in cookie form. She mentions that the carrot flavor doesn't really come through, and I would agree. These cookies are much like a scone...so much in fact that I've thought about trying to make them as scones...maybe this fall. With a cream cheese glaze! Yum. Butanyway, the only downside to these cookies is the fact that they look like the Cheddar Bay Biscuits from Red Lobster, no?
These delightful little cookies were chosen by Natalia of Gatti Fili e Farina, and she'll have the recipe on her blog. Happy Baking!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

TWD: Chewy Chunky Blondies

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie pick was chosen by Nicole of Cookies on Fridays. They were the perfect dessert for a summer pool party! David and I had a group of friends over (and their kiddos!) last Saturday for a swim, and these cookies were gobbled up in no time!
These blondies really are chewy and chunky! They're absolutely full of good stuff...nuts, chocolate chips, and Heath bar pieces. I left out the coconut because...well...I forgot to put it in until I slid the pan in the oven. But I decided that it was probably best that I left it out, because lots of people don't like coconut.
Look at the fudginess! Yum! I had a couple of problems with these, but I'm not exactly sure what caused them. First, they baked up in the same way as my Chipster Topped Brownies...with lots of gaps and holes around the edges, with super-flat middles. The other problem was with baking time. I baked them for the prescribed 40 minutes and let them cool for 15 minutes. I went to turn them out of the pan...and SPLAT! part of them plopped onto the cooling rack and the other part stayed in the pan. I was able to get it all back in the pan and cooked it for another 10 minutes. Not done. Another 10 minutes. Not done. Another 10 minutes...still not done, but I was tired of dealing with them. I let them cool overnight in the pan, then inverted it, and they were still a little moist, but not really underdone. But they were good. And sweeeet! They're pretty rich, but that didn't keep us from eating the whole pan on Saturday! These are definitely a recipe to make time and time again...and maybe next time I'll remember to add the coconut. If you want to give these blondies a try, visit Nicole's blog, Cookies on Friday for the recipe. Happy baking!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

TWD: Lots of Ways Banana Cake

I love bananas, but I'm really picky about eating them. They have to be just right, or they're no good, in my opinion. But even a banana that's past its prime for eating can be turned into a delicious dessert. And that's why I don't feel guilty when I buy 6 bananas a week and only eat 3 before they're "too ripe." Instead of going to waste, they get tossed in the freezer where they'll wait until I decide to make banana bread.
Even though this recipe wasn't banana bread, it was just as delicious (and maybe even moreso). Dorie lists at least half a dozen different variations on this recipe. You can change the liquid ingredients (coconut milk, buttermilk, regular milk, or my pick...sour cream) or the mix-ins (coconut, dried fruits). My mix-in of choice? Mini chocolate chips. Oh, yes I did. I love banana and chocolate together. I knew that these were destined to be muffins/cupcakes, so the mini chips were perfect. Dorie suggests frosting the cake with marshmallow frosting, whipped cream frosting, or chocolate ganache. I had planned on topping my cupcakes with ganache, but as you can see, they ended up being nekkid. David and I both decided that they were perfect as-is (He ate 5. FIVE!) and I was afraid the ganache would overwhelm the banana. And the chocolate chips were just chocolatey enough.
David took some of the muffins to work with him, and I took the rest with me. And I think everyone loved them. These were really moist, which is something I definitely appreciate in a cupcake/muffin/quickbread. If you want to use up some ripe bananas, you can find the recipe over at Kimberly's blog,Only Creative Opportunities. Happy baking!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

TWD: Brrrrownies

This week's recipe is one that I've considered baking several times over the last year or so. And I'm not sure why, because I'm really not that big of a fan of peppermint. So I was glad that Karen, of Welcome to Our Crazy Blessed Life chose these for this week's installment of TWD. It gave me an excuse to take the plunge!
The brownie recipe is great (a little fudgy with a crackly top), with little chunks of peppermint patty mixed in. David and I enjoyed these, but we both decided that we prefer our brownies without peppermint. I think it overwhelmed the chocolate flavor. But then again, we're not really "peppermint people." They were good, though! I made them Saturday evening, then we had them on Sunday evening (at room temperature) with vanilla ice cream. Then, we each had one last night as an appetizer before dinner (again, at room temperature). I much preferred them on their own.
I think that my future baking endeavors will probably include this base brownie recipe studded with Reese Cups, or maybe with a ribbon of caramel running through them. Yum!
Please stop by Welcome to Our Crazy Blessed Life for the recipe. Happy baking!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Luke 1:37

I'm so very sad to report that little Luke passed away Saturday morning at around 12:10am. I am amazed at the number of people that Luke and his parents ministered to over the last few weeks. I think it's safe to say that Luke did more for God's kingdom in his 12 days than many of us will accomplish in a lifetime! I ask that you please remember Benson and Kristin during this difficult time.
Even though Luke's time here on earth was short, he will continue to be an influence on everyone who hears about him. His parents have established Luke 1:37 Ministries in order to keep on bringing glory to God through Luke's life. Please continue to visit their blog, The Sexton 3...Luke's story is only beginning!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Heavy Stuff

If you stop by very often, you've probably noticed that there haven't been very many posts around here lately. Well, we've been a little preoccupied over here at The Sweet Life. The last couple of weeks have been psychologically and emotionally stressful for a couple of reasons.
Let me introduce you to someone...his name is Luke Sexton:

Isn't he beautiful? This handsome little guy doesn't belong to me and David, but he is the newborn son of Benson and Kristin Sexton. (I went to Lindsey Wilson College with Benson and worked with him in Freshman Advising for a couple of years.) Luke was born last Tuesday evening, and he's a very sick little boy. He was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, and he needs your prayers. In the past week, he's had a heart catheterization and at least one surgery. Lately, he's really impressed his doctors with his progress, but this morning, we got a bad report. It seems that Luke isn't responding well to his medications anymore, and his doctors have told Benson and Kristin that Luke's only hope of survival is a miracle. I ask that you please pray for miraculous healing for Luke, for guidance and wisdom for his doctors and nurses, and for strength and peace for Benson and Kristin. They have set up a blog called The Sexton 3, and they update it regularly to share the story of Luke's miracle. Please visit their blog to get Luke's full story, and if you'd like, leave them a comment to let them know that you're thinking of them. This little guy's situation is very serious, and I know that the family covets your prayers.
David and I have not only been thinking a lot about little Luke, but we also learned that someone else that we love has been hurt. It's hard to think about much else when someone you love is hurting. So...David and I are a little preoccupied and I'm not sure I can promise many recipes or exciting posts in the near future. I've been thinking for a couple of weeks that maybe I should switch the focus of the blog from strictly cooking and food and include some other things. I might start working on that soon.
Anyway, just wanted to let you know that The Sweet Life hasn't disappeared, but I'd love for you to spend some time in prayer for Luke and his family today. Take care!

*Edit* One of the links to Luke's blog wasn't working, but I fixed it.

Friday, June 25, 2010

David's Strawberry Birthday Cake

Yesterday was David's birthday, and I'd been in search of a perfect birthday treat for a little over a week. He loves strawberries, and if given the choice, will almost always choose a strawberry dessert over any other flavor. So when I found this cake on my cousin Lindsey's blog Yummy Things (which she found over at Homesick Texan), I had a feeling I'd found the perfect birthday cake.
When I found the recipe, I copied and pasted into an email and forwarded it to David while he was at work. The subject line said, "A possible birthday treat?" His simple reply was this, "Yes, please!" And it was wonderful! My favorite part of the cake was the frosting, though. The strawberry cream cheese icing is good enough (and not too overly sweet) to just eat with a spoon. I know this because I have eaten several spoonfulls of it! :) The cake recipe calls for two sticks of butter, but I only used one (because I misread the recipe), but it still turned out great! It's a very moist cake with a slight strawberry flavor. The cake isn't pink like boxed strawberry cake mixes...in fact, it comes out a little brown because of a chemical reaction between the strawberries, the other ingredients, and the heat from baking. (I'm not a very scientific person, but that's the best way I can explain it. In other words, don't be concerned when your cake is brown. It will be delicious!)
Here's a picture of David and me at the wedding in St. Louis last weekend. We had a great time on our little trip and were so glad to be there for Daniel and MaryBeth's special day.
Strawberry Sheet Cake
Cake:
12 oz. fresh strawberries, stems removed and chopped (about 3 cups)
2 cups sugar, plus 2 teaspoons
2 cups flour
2 sticks of butter (I used one, and it was fine)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1teaspoon vanilla
Over the chopped strawberries, sprinkle 2 teaspoons of sugar and 1/4 cup of water. Let them sit for an hour at room temperature so they can release some of their juices. The berries should reduce to about 1 1/2 cups. In a blender or food processor, crush the berries on a low speed for a few seconds. You want them juicy, but still with some texture. Take 1/2 cup of the strawberry mixture for the frosting and leave the remaining crushed strawberries for the cake.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease and flour a 9x13 inch pan.
Sift the sugar and flour together in a bowl.
Melt the butter on low in a saucepan and then whisk it with the eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, and baking soda. Add the liquid to the flour and then stir in one cup of the crushed strawberries.
Pour batter into the pan and bake for 20 - 25 minutes. Cake is done when a knife comes out clean from the center. Let it cool and then frost with the strawberry cream cheese frosting (recipe below).
Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 stick butter, at room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup crushed strawberries
2 tsp. lime juice (about half a lime)
1/4 tsp. lime zest
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Whip together the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Slowly add the powdered sugar until blended. Add the strawberries, lime juice, lime zest, and vanilla. Spread over cooled cake.
Note: Depending on how juicy your berries are, your icing may be runnier than usual. If this is the cake, add more cream cheese to thicken it up.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

TWD: Dressy Chocolate Loaf Cake

I sit at my computer typing this with a very full stomach. Too full, actually. It's because of this:
That's the Dressy Chocolate Loaf Cake, which was chosen as this week's TWD recipe by Amy Ruth of Amy Ruth Bakes. Once again, I almost sat this one out...David and I made a whirlwind trip to St. Louis for his cousin's wedding. We left "the 'Ville" on Friday night and got back Sunday night. I usually do my TWD recipes on Sundays, but I was just too tired Sunday night to even think about baking. So I talked myself into throwing this together last night (and finished it at a little after 10!), and I'm so glad I did. It was so good. The cake portion really reminded me a lot of this cake (which, by the way, was made for MaryBeth's shower...and it was her wedding that we attended in St. Louis this weekend), but with a twist. This cake is filled with raspberry jam and an interesting frosting. The frosting is just semi-sweet chocolate and sour cream. I was skeptical about it, but it turned out delicious!
The chocolate sour cream frosting spread like a dream when it was still warm. I put the cake in the fridge overnight, and when we had a slice after dinner tonight, the frosting reminded me of a tangy ganache. Yum! This cake was so simple to make, but it looks impressive. Amy Ruth has the recipe posted at her site. Happy baking!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

TWD: Raisin Swirl Bread

I nearly sat this week's TWD out, because I fear the yeast. And my fears were completely unfounded! I always thought yeast was temperamental stuff, but I learned that maybe that's not the case! I was so afraid I'd either kill it with milk that was too hot, or use milk that was too cold, which might not activate the yeast. I didn't want to use a thermometer, so the best advice I got came from Chet. He once told me that your liquid is the perfect temperature for yeast when it's pretty much the same temperature as your body. When you stick your finger in it, it shouldn't feel too warm or too cool.
I think his advice worked, what about you?! Isn't that a pretty, swirly loaf of bread? I had absolutely no problems making this...none at all! In fact, I really, really, really enjoyed working with the dough. I've been making a list of things for future baking, and yeast bread was on the list. But again, I was in fear of yeast and had been putting it off. But look out! I have conquered yeast, so hopefully much more bread baking is in my future!
I think this was my favorite part...rolling the dough, laying down the "fixin's", and rolling up the loaf. But see the cinnamon/cocoa mixture? I'd double it next time. I really wanted more cinnamon swirl in each bite. Other than that, I'd say this recipe was perfect! My bread the perfect texture (another fear...dense bread!), so I feel pretty confident. I didn't make the brioche that the group made awhile back, so I might have to try that soon.
If you're not afraid of yeast, or if you like cinnamon raisin bread, or if you do fear yeast and want to get over it, visit Susan over at Food.Baby! This was her pick, and she's got the recipe.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Asparagus Frittata

I think I may have mentioned once or twice that David's grandmother has an asparagus bed that keeps us in delicious asparagus for a good part of the spring. We discovered that we both love roasted asparagus in the oven. It doesn't matter how much asparagus I roast at a time...we eat it all. But this spring, I decided that I should try something a little different.
So, I tried an asparagus frittata. It was so very good! I had a little trouble with it, but it was my first frittata and a learning experience. I absolutely despise runny eggs, so I think I went a little too far and cooked my eggs a little too long before popping the skillet in the oven. I ended up with a too-brown bottom. But overall, it was a success. It made a nice light Sunday night supper several weeks ago. Easy and tasty!
Asparagus Frittata
2 tsp. olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp. salt
1 lb. asparagus, tough ends snapped off, spears cut diagnonally into 1-inch lengths
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese
Heat olive oil into a 10-inch oven-proof frying pan over medium high heat. Add onions and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened, about 3 minutes. Add asparagus, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, covered, until the asparagus are barely tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Pour in eggs and cook until almost set, but still runny on top, about 2 minutes. While cooking, preheat oven broiler.
Sprinkle cheese over eggs and put in oven to broil until cheese is melted and browned, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from oven with oven mitts and slide frittata onto a serving plate. Cut into wedges. Serves 4.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

TWD: Tender Shortcakes

It's been awhile, hasn't it? Over a week, to be exact. I apologize. As I told David yesterday, I think I've lost my mojo. I just have been in kind of a funk over the last week or so and haven't felt like doing much of anything...even cooking. Things around here have been pretty darn boring lately. But I think I might be getting a little bit of my mojo back. At least I made my shortcakes!
Aren't they pretty? These were just right for getting back into the swing of things. As I was mixing the dough, I thought to myself, "I really enjoy this." However, I was very afraid that I would overwork my dough. It's what I do, remember? I like to knead and knead and knead! But I used some restraint, even though I thought that maybe I had kneaded too much. But it looks like they turned out okay!
David's mom and dad just got back from Florida. They brought us some delicious peaches, and as soon as Shirley gave them to me, I knew they were destined for shortcakes! They were delicious, and they were perfect with the slightly sweet shortcakes and the lightly vanilla-flavored whipped cream. YUM! These shortcakes were so good...better than the ones I used to make with Bisquick (gasp!), but really just as easy!
We've got Cathy, of
The Tortefeasor, to thank for this pick. This was a perfect choice for this time of year! If you've got fresh berries or peaches, please click here for the recipe!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Easy, Guiltless Crab Salad

I can't pass up anything that's got a recipe in it. Cookbooks, magazines, the back of jars, our electric cooperative's magazine, any of it! My husband makes fun of me because whenever I get a new cookbook, I'll sit and read it for several days. A couple of years ago, we were at my Dad and stepmom's (Theresa) house, and she had a new cookbook. It was called The Most Decadent Diet Ever, by Devin Alexander. I looked through it at least a couple of times over the course of that weekend, and she told me to write down the names of the recipes I wanted and she'd make copies for me. Well, I pretty much wrote down all the recipes in the book! So, bless her heart, Theresa bought me my very own copy!
Everything I've tried has been very good, but this crab salad is the thing I've made over and over. It's absolutely delicious, and pretty much guilt-free. It's in a mayonnaise based sauce (I love mayo!), but it's not heavy because it's mixed with nonfat yogurt and nonfat milk. The fresh herbs really stand out, and I wish I'd had more fresh dill. We had this delicious crab salad for dinner last night, because I just couldn't bear to turn on the oven. A word to the wise, though. It tastes better the longer it sits. I made it Tuesday night for our Wednesday supper. But I took it for lunch today, and it was even better! The extra time in the fridge really let the flavors meld.

Herbed Crab Salad
Devin Alexander
1/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon light mayonnaise (the olive oil mayo)
2 T fat-free milk
2 T fat-free plain yogurt
1 lb imitation crab meat, coarsley shredded
2 T finely chopped green onion (white and green parts)
2 T finely chopped red onion
2 T finely chopped fresh dill
2 T chopped fresh parsley
Whisk the mayonnaise, milk, and yogurt in a large resealable plastic container until well combined and smooth. Add the crabmeat, green onion, red onion, dill, and parsley. Stir until well combined. Seal the container and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, or overnight for optimum flavor.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

TWD: Banana Coconut Ice Cream Pie

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie assignment was Banana Coconut Ice Cream Pie, chosen by Spike (of Spike Bakes). And it was perfect timing. This week, we'll experience the first of many hot, humid Kentucky summer days. Ice cream pie was a perfect reward after working in the gardne tonight with David's grandmother.
But I'm not so sure that everyone was quite as excited about this ice cream pie. In fact, I'm sure there was lots of gnashing of teeth among the other TWD participants over this pick. This recipe includes two polarizing ingredients...coconut and banana. Before I joined TWD, I had no idea that people had such strong aversions to those two foods. I love bananas, and I don't mind coconut, so I wasn't too concerned about this week's flavor combo. And I hope that lots of people baked along, because this is one tasty pie!
I think it ranks right up there as one of our most simple (and quick!) recipes. The crust was the most time-consuming part, but it only took about 10 minutes to put together (but there was very little real effort involved: crushing cookies into crumbs, melting butter, and stirring coconut until toasted). From there, you slice bananas, whir some bananas, ice cream, and rum in the food processor, and stick it all in the freezer. Easy peasy!
David, Mama, and I really enjoyed this one. After the first bite, I wasn't sure about it, but then I was hooked. Yum! But the very best part? The crust. I could just eat the crust plain. I have a feeling I'll be using it for other pies in the near future. It's so crunchy and flavorful...not too sweet, and not too coconuty. Just perfect crispy perfection.
If you're looking for the perfect summertime dessert, please visit Spike Bakes for the recipe.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Kale Chips

I remember that when I first started reading food blogs well over a year ago, kale chips were making quite a splash in the blogosphere. It seemed like they were all over the place! People were buying kale by the bushel and roasting it in the oven, then gushing about how wonderful and healthy it was. (Okay, maybe part of that is an exaggeration, but not by much.)
I am not a picky eater by any means, but there are just some things that I haven't been able to like. Tapioca and kale are two of the foods that come to mind immediately. I have tried to like kale, I really have, but I have yet to eat any that I actually liked. Well, until today. I decided to take a leap of faith (I suppose I was feeling particularly adventurous) and make the much-lauded kale chips. There's no recipe really...it's really just roasting the leaves in a tiny smidgen of olive oil, salt, and paremsan cheese.
The roasting dries out the kale leaves just enough that they're pleasantly crunchy, but not fragile and brittle. The olive oil and the time in the oven certainly mellow the bitter taste that I've always hated about kale. They were actually pretty good! I fixed a bunch on a cookie sheet this afternoon and ate the whole thing! It's not a really substantial snack, but it sure satisfies a craving for something salty, savory, and crunchy. Give these a try...if nothing else, it's certainly an adventure in eating!

Kale Chips
1 bunch kale leaves (stripped from the thick stems)
olive oil (not much...a couple of teaspoons)
salt
shredded parmesan
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rinse kale leaves and spin them in a salad spinner until dry. Spread on a cookie sheet and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle on salt and shredded parmesan. Slide cookie sheet into the hot oven for about 10 - 15 minutes. The kale leaves will shrink noticeably and get a little brown around the edges. When the kale chips look lightly browned, take them out and check on them. If they seem crisp (moreso around the edges than in the middle of the leaves), they're done.
Serve immediately. They'll be okay for a little while, but should be eaten within an hour or so.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Greek Marinated Pork Chops

The first time I had Greek food was in Chicago on a trip with a group from Lindsey Wilson College. I didn't like it. I can't remember what I ordered, but I remember not liking it. And if I recall correctly, nobody in the group really liked their food, either. The one exception was some kind of fried cheese that came to the table still flaming. That stuff was delicious. But something has happened as I've gotten older...I've found that I now enjoy Greek food. I love the flavors now and find that I use them a lot in my cooking. I've even found a fabulous Greek restaurant about two blocks from my office. Anyway, yesterday afternoon I was looking over some blogs for some ideas for dinner this week, and I came across a recipe for pork chops in a Greek marinade. I didn't need to buy anything (except for the pork chops, which were already on the list), so these went on the menu.
Oh my goodness! They were wonderful! They were so flavorful and moist. I absolutely loved the lemon flavor with the oregano and garlic. I usually grill four pork chops for the two of us so that there are leftovers, but we ate all four of these tonight! (They were small, though!) David and I both decided that this recipe will make it to our regular rotation, and that's saying a lot! If you're tired of having ho-hum pork chops, try these! They are delicious!
Greek-Seasoned Grilled Pork Chops with Lemon and Oregano
4 boneless pork chops
Marinade:
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. lemon zest
2 tsp. dried Greek oregano (I don't know that my oregano was Greek, but it was good!)
2 tsp. minced garlic
fresh ground black pepper
In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, Greek oregano, garlic, and black pepper. Trim all visible fat from pork chops and place in large Ziplock bag or flat glass dish. Pour marinade over pork chops and marinate in refrigerator for 4-8 hours (I think I marinated mine for more like 11 hours), turning a few times if you're home.
To cook, remove pork chops from refrigerator and wipe off excess marinade. Dry chops with paper towels and let come to room temperature while grill heats up. Grill pork chops and enjoy!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

TWD: Quick Classic Berry Tart

Dorie's description of this tart is spot-on. However, I'd add one more adjective to the list: forgiving. I did everything wrong when I was making this tart, but it still turned out great! Thank goodness...because it was Mother's Day dessert!
First, I made the crust, but when I dumped the crumbs into the tart pan, I realized I hadn't buttered it. So I dumped them back out, buttered the pan, then dumped them back in. After covering the crust with the buttered foil, I threw it into the oven. Yep...forgot to freeze it beforehand. I decided to go with it and see how it came out. It worked perfectly!
Then, I cooked my pastry cream too long. When I tried to give it a little whisk to loosen it up to pour into the shell the next day (after being refrigerated overnight), it looked like scrambled eggs. It was the consistency of scrambled eggs, too. Chet suggested that I dump it into the KitchenAid for a quick spin with the whisk attachment. We decided I couldn't make it worse than it was, so I turned my mixer on high and let it go for a bit. Still, it seemed like scrambled eggs. So I poured in some more half and half and mixed some more. Then more half and half, then more mixing. Finally, by the grace of God, it came together and looked like perfect pastry cream!
Kroger thinks an awful lot about their berries this time of year, so I just bought a pint of blueberries for the top. My tart doesn't look quite as lush as the one in the book, but it sure was tasty...especially considering all of the disasters I encountered along the way.
If nothing else, I learned this from Dorie's Quick Classic Forgiving Berry Tart: do not bake when in serious emotional distress. Bake a batch of boxed brownies, buy a quart of vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup, and make hot fudge sundaes instead. But if you're not having one of the worst days of your life, PLEASE make Dorie's tart! It's wonderful! (And forgiving.)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

TWD: Burnt Sugar Ice Cream

This time last week, I had decided that I wouldn't participate in making Burnt Sugar Ice Cream. The last time I made ice cream, I had to borrow Shirley's ice cream maker. It worked really well, but it required ice and rock salt (but at least it was electric!)...and that was more than I wanted to deal with this time. But I decided at the very last minute to put out a request via Facebook for some kind friend to lend me a countertop ice cream maker. Devona, my friend from church, happily obliged and let me borrow her shiny, stainless steel Cuisinart ice cream maker. Fancy! Sooo, I had no excuse not to participate.
Lots of TWDers were swooning over this ice cream. I couldn't imagine any ice cream being that good...especially any with the word "burnt" in the title. Oh, how I wanted to back out. I'm so intimidated of making caramel. I always chicken out and take it off the heat too quickly and it just doesn't have much flavor. So this week, I was bound and determined to let the caramel get a "deep amber color" like Dorie suggests. It took everything I had not to take the pan off the heat, but I didn't. And when I tasted the custard, I thought, "Hmmm...tastes a little...burnt." I figured I'd ruined it. I even considered dumping the custard down the drain. But I didn't! I let it chill in the fridge overnight and then churned it.
Yum! I wouldn't say that I'm in love with this ice cream like many TWDers are, but it was very tasty. It's definitely a grown-up ice cream...I don't think kiddos would appreciate the complexity of flavors. I can't believe that this delicious ice cream just started with sugar, water, eggs, milk, cream, and vanilla. This is a perfect example that illustrates why baking is sort of like "miracle-making" to me. If you plan to make any ice cream this summer, please give this one a try! Becky, of Project Domestication, picked this winner, and she's got the recipe on her site.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Honey Roasted Chicken

A few years ago, when David and I got married, my grandfather gave us a small chest freezer. It has been one of the best gifts we've ever gotten. I really enjoy stocking my freezer and I feel a little safer knowing it's full of food. But sometimes, I forget about things I put in there. A couple of winters ago, we got a huge ice storm and I was off work for a few days because my workplace had no electricity. I took some of my time off to make an inventory of my freezer and pantry. Keeping it up to date lasted about 3 days. I did do a good job of cleaning it out, and I think I've kept up with it pretty well.
Fast foward quite some time (over a year or so). While in Costco one afternoon, I spotted a really good deal on whole chickens. I don't remember the price, but I know I got two 4 lb. chickens for a steal. We had one for dinner and froze the other one. I forgot about the frozen one and "found" it when we unloaded the chest freezer to move!
Usually, when I have a whole chicken, I do the "beer butt" chicken on the grill. But I recently saw this Honey Roasted Chicken on My Kitchen Cafe and knew that it would be the recipe I'd use for my whole chicken. I think she got the recipe from Cook's Country, so you know it's good! I've recently discovered how much I love to cook with honey, and this seemed simple enough. It certainly isn't a recipe that I could pull off one day after a day at work, but since I'm on staycation this week, I knew the time was right.
This chicken is moist and flavorful, and the crispy sweet skin is just delicious! Please, please be sure that you let your chicken rest before you slice into it...it's well worth the wait. Without the rest, all of the juices will run out, leaving you with dry chicken. Nobody wants that! The recipe also includes a wonderful sauce, which has a lovely flavor thanks to some crushed thyme.

Honey Roasted Chicken
My Kitchen Cafe/Cook's Country
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons pepper
1 teaspoon paprika (I used smoked)
2 whole chickens (3.5 - 4 lb. each), giblets discarded (I only made one)
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 cup honey
5 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces and chilled
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and make sure the oven rack is in teh middle of the oven. In a small bowl, combine the salt, pepper, and paprika. Pat the chickens dry with paper towels and rub the spice mixture under the skin and over the outside of each chicken. Tuck the wings behind the back and tie the legs together with kitchen twine.
Stir the cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water together in a small bowl until no lumps remain; set aside. In a small saucepan, bring the honey and 4 tablespoons of vinegar to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook until the mixture is reduced to about 1/2 cup, 8 - 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Slowly whisk the cornstarch mixture into the glaze. Return to a simmer and cook for one minute.
Arrange the chickens, breast side down, on a V-rack set inside a roasting pan. Roast until the chicken are golden, about 35 minutes. Remove the roasting pan from the oven and carefully, with a wad of paper towels, flip the chickens so they are breast side up. Raise the oven temperature to 450 degrees. Pour 1 cup water and the broth into the roasting pan. Return the roasting pan to the oven and roast until the thigh meat registers 165 - 170 degrees, about 35 - 45 minutes. Brush the chickens evenly with a thick layer of the glaze (you'll have some remaining to brush on later) and continue to roast until the glaze is golden brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and brush with the remaining glaze and let it rest for 15 minutes.
While the chicken is resting, pour pan juices and any accumulated chicken juices into a saucepan and skim any fat. Stir in the thyme. Bring to a simmer and cook until the sauce is slightly thickened and reduced to 1 cup, about 15 minutes. Off the heat, whisk in the butter and remaining vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Carve the chickens and serve, passing the sauce at the table.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

TWD: Chockablock Cookies

This is another one of those recipes that I've looked at over and over again since I got my copy of Baking: From My Home to Yours. I loved the fact that there are so many mix-ins (and so many suggestions for variations of mix-ins) in the recipe. It was so nice to know that I could make these cookies with pretty much whatever I had on hand!
I used walnuts and dried cherries, and I included the coconut (which I really didn't even notice in the finished product) and the chocolate. I've checked out a few of the other TWDers who've made these cookies this week, and it seems like everyone used different nuts and or/dried fruit, but all of the cookies look amazing. I just LOVE that we're all making the same "recipe," but we're all getting custom cookies!
A few TWDers were afraid of the molasses in the batter. I went for it (because I had the molasses on hand from these), and I thought I might regret it when I tasted the batter. You see, I'm a batter licker. I can't resist it. If there's batter (or dough, for that matter) of any kind, I have a compulsion to eat it. And most of the time, I'd really prefer to eat the batter than the finished product. So I was a little worried when I tasted this batter (okay, maybe taste isn't the word...I ate at least 2 cookies' worth of batter) and it was really molassesy. But I perservered and baked the cookies...and I was pleasantly surprised. The molasses flavor was just right.
These cookies are great for so many reasons. Again, they are fully customizeable. They don't spread. They stay soft and chewy. And they kind of remind me of trail mix! If you're in the mood to make some of these delicious cookies, visit Mary at Popsicles and Sandy Feet. She's responsible for this wonderful pick, and she's got the recipe. Happy Baking!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Johnny Mazetti for a Living Treasure

My father-in-law, Earl, is a living treasure. Don't believe me? Click here to read all about it! He grew up in the Panama Canal Zone, and one of the local newspapers interviewed him about his childhood there, and his life after leaving the Canal Zone. It's really interesting...especially the part that explains why mosquitoes don't really bother him much anymore!
A couple of months ago, he emailed me a recipe for something called Johnny Mazetti, which is a dish he grew up eating in the Canal Zone. From what I understand, everyone in the Canal Zone loved this Johnny Mazetti stuff, and they're astounded to learn that it didn't originate there! In fact, the recipe is a variation of a different dish called Johnny Marzetti (notice the r here), which originated in a restaurant in Ohio! And after some research, it seems that Johnny Marzetti is a well-loved recipe in the Northeast (Ohio, Wisconsin, etc.). I'm just a little ol' Kentucky girl, and I'd never heard of the stuff before.

There are some differences between Johnny Mazetti and Johnny Marzetti. The Zonian version uses egg noodles, where the Ohio verison calls for elbow macaroni. The Zonian recipe requires something called Arturo sauce, whereas the Ohio version uses a spaghetti sauce. I found my recipe here (because I lost the one Earl emailed to me), and was pleased to find that it even included a recipe for the elusive Arturo sauce (because I certainly wasn't buying a case of the stuff). It seems that Arturo sauce is a key ingredient to Zonian Johnny Mazetti, because when Earl told his sister Mary that I was making Johnny Mazetti, she said, "How is she going to make Johnny Mazetti? She doesn't have Arturo sauce!" And let me tell you, this Arturo sauce is interesting stuff. Some of the ingredients: mushrooms, cider vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar. When I mixed mine up, I couldn't decide if it smelled wonderful or horrible. I decided it would be best not to decide.
The recipe is really simple to prepare...there's just a lot of chopping and shredding involved. Green peppers, onions, celery, capers, olives, three kinds of cheese, etc. As I was reviewing the recipe, I thought to myself, "This is glorified homemade Hamburger Helper!" And I guess maybe it is. But I'd call it gourmet Hamburger Helper, at the very least. There are LOTS of strong flavors going on, and I was very skeptical about how it would come together. To my surprise, it was delicious! David and I both commented on how it smelled...it reminded us both of Bacon Cheeseburger Pizza from Hometown Pizza (a local pizza place). The creamy cheese, tangy olives, and wonderfully weird Arturo sauce combined for one delicious casserole. If you're stuck in a dinner rut and need something new and delicious, you should definitely give this one a try!

Johnny Mazetti
Recipe adapted from Best Room in the House
1 lb. ground beef
1-2 tsp. olive oil
1 green pepper, chopped fine
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 stalk celery, chopped fine
1 medium can mushrooms, drained
3 cloves garlic
salt & pepper to taste
1 can tomato soup
1 can tomato sauce
1 tsp. chopped capers
1 can Arturo sauce (see recipe below)
1/2 bottle stuffed olives, drained and chopped
3/4 of 1 pkg. of egg noodles (maybe less), boiled
1/2 lb. shredded American cheese (shred your own!)
1/4 lb. shredded Swiss cheese (shred your own!)
1/4 lb. shredded mozzarella (shred your own!)
5 strips bacon, fried and crumbled
1/4 cup red or white wine (use white wine on odd days and red on even)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a large casserole dish (at least 9x13) with cooking spray. Put a large pot of water on to boil. Brown ground beef in a very large skillet. Remove from skillet and drain well. Heat olive oil and saute green pepper, garlic, onion, and celery until softened. Add ground beef back to skillet and add mushrooms, tomato soup, tomato sauce, capers, Arturo sauce, and olives. Simmer on low until thoroughly heated. While the mixture is simmering, boil egg noodles, but not until they're al dente. They should still be a little undercooked. Pour contents of skillet into a very large bowl. Add in the half of each of the three shredded cheeses and al of the egg noodles. Mix until thoroughly combined. Place into greased casserole dish and top with remaining cheese and bacon. Bake for 1 hour. Yields 6-8 servings.
Arturo Sauce
Yields approximately 1 cup
1/4 cup finely chopped mushrooms
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 Tbs. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. black pepper
pinch of ginger
pinch of nutmeg
Combine all ingredients and mix well.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

TWD: Sweet Cream Biscuits

I think that I can count on one hand the number of times I've made biscuits. We just don't eat biscuits that much around here. We love 'em though...that's for sure. Maybe that's why I don't make them! In the past, on the few occasions we've had biscuits with dinner, I've just bought the frozen ones and heated them up. (I know, I know...but they're good!) I think biscuits have a reputation as being difficult to make, so I kind of bought into it, I guess. And, being from a Southern state, a girl kind of feels obligated to make delicious, light, flaky biscuits. Well...I can't say that I've got biscuit making down to an art, but I've got a start!
Dorie (and everyone else who is good at making biscuits) will tell you that one of the keys to light, flaky biscuits is to NOT OVERWORK THE DOUGH. This is the thing I have the most trouble with in baking. I guess I just like to be stern with dough. If I get dough in my hands, I have to work it! It's a compulsion! With these biscuits, I tried not to work the dough too much. I was afraid that I had erred too far on the side of caution, but they rose pretty well. I also didn't twist my biscuit cutter when I cut my rounds. I think that helps some, too. I don't understand the chemistry of it all, but I'm pretty sure it helps the dough rise a little higher. Overall, these biscuits were very well-received at my house! David ate 5 of them. But they're teeny-tiny biscuits...cut with a 2-inch cutter. I'm not used to petite biscuits...around here, we want a biscuit the size of your fist! But I do think that these would be precious at a shower with country ham sandwiched between the two halves. YUM! If you'd like to make your own batch of super-easy and delicious biscuits, check out Melissa's blog, Love at First Bite.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Florida Pie

Last weekend, I made dinner for my father-in-law's birthday. Last year, I gave him a choice about his birthday dessert, and he chose banana cream pie. This year, I didn't really give him a choice. But Earl loves Florida, so I thought I'd make Dorie's "Florida Pie."
It was delicious, as are most things I bake from Baking: From My Home to Yours. The pie starts out with a simple graham cracker crust (which is delicious on its own!), and then it gets a little fancy. It's a double-decker pie. The bottom layer is a coconut cream, and the middle layer is lime filling. Dorie's recipe calls for Key limes, but I had no intention of juicing a bazillion little limes to get 1/2 cup of juice. I used regular limes, and they were delicious. I took the recommendation of several TWDers who made this in the past and I included the zest of one lemon in the lime filling. It was tart and limey and incredible! Of course, the top of the pie is covered in meringue.
I got a little over zealous and let my meringue whip a little too long. It was awfully stiff and not so pretty. Not anywhere near as pretty as the meringue on David's grandmother's (Mama) pies, but I guess I don't have quite as much practice as she does, either! All in all, this was a wonderful pie. It was perfect for a springtime birthday, but it would also be a welcome treat during the hot and humid Kentucky summers we'll be experiencing before too long. If you'd like to try the Florida Pie sometime soon, just click the link above, or you can find it on page 340 of Baking: From My Home to Yours.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

TWD: Swedish Visiting Cake

I've been a member of the Tuesdays With Dorie baking group for just a little over a year now. I flip through the cookbook pretty regularly, because I love the pictures (which are so delicious!), and because I like to fantasize about what I might choose when (and if) we get to my turn in the rotation. I waffle between choosing something dramatic and rich, or something simple and rustic (because honestly, I'm a little lazy in the kitchen). This cake is something that I've looked at almost every single time I've opened my copy of Dorie's book.
Every time I look at the picture and the recipe, I think it's just a sweet cake, but it's certainly simple. Look at it...it's made in a cast-iron pan, there's no frosting, and it's pretty squatty. I've wanted to make it so many times, but for some reason I never had. Usually, when I bake something from this book it's for one of two reasons: 1) it's what I'm supposed to make for TWD that week or 2) I'm taking the dessert somewhere and I want something a little impressive. I guess that's why I've never made this cake before...it doesn't fit either of those criteria. So when I saw April's selection of recipes, I was glad that Nancy, of The Dogs Eat the Crumbs, chose this one. It was so good.
When I made this cake on Saturday, I'd already had a marathon cooking session. I'd been in my kitchen cooking and washing dishes for about six hours. At about 9:45pm, I jumped up from the couch and decided to make this cake. Thank goodness it's so simple! Here are the dishes that were dirtied in the making of this cake: 1 bowl, 1 whisk, 1 spatula, 1 cast iron pan. The whole thing took about 10 minutes to throw together, and my house smelled delicious while the cake baked. David wanted to eat the cake when it came out of the oven at about 10:30, but I told him he'd have to wait until the next day. I planned to take it to my parents' house for our dessert after our Sunday dinner.
When Mom cut slices of the cake, David said, "Oooh! It looks like those Danish butter cookies in the blue tin!" (By the way, lots of things look like Danish butter cookies to David.) But I don't think it tasted (or looked) like those cookies. In fact, I think Nancy hit the nail on the head in her post. It tastes a lot like a thick, chewy, almondy sugar cookie! I loved how dense the cake was. There's lemon zest in the cake batter, but I could only taste a hint of it in the cake. It was a perfect complement to the almondy-vanilla flavor. I'm usually not a fan of almond flavored desserts, but I'm certainly a convert now. This will certainly be a cake that's in my regular repertoire. In fact, my church women's group will be going to a nursing home on Thursday night to take desserts to the residents and spend time with them...and I'm pretty sure this will be my contribution. I have a feeling that it will be well-received. If you like almond, or if you like simple, delicious desserts, please visit Nancy's blog to get the recipe.
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